Hitting Report: Checking in on players suspended for Biogenesis
Last summer, 13 MLB players linked to the Biogenesis clinic were suspended for 50 or more games for obtaining performance-enhancing drugs. What's the fantasy value of some of these players a year later?
• Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers -- Entering this season, fantasy baseball owners had to determine whether they could trust a PED-less Braun. At least one owner in every draft was quite forgiving, as his 1.11 ADP this March tells us. He's currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique, but if he stays healthy for the rest of the season, he could still hit 30 home runs and knock in 90 RBI, with a dozen or so steals.
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Baltimore Orioles -- After signing with the Orioles in the offseason, Cruz stepped right in to hit mostly second and third in the Orioles' lineup. He's currently among the AL leaders in home runs (10) and RBI (30), and he's on pace for a career year. You have to expect that to regress a bit, but he doesn't seem to be experiencing withdrawal from the PEDs.
• Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals -- Speaking of career seasons, Peralta is crushing it in St. Louis, with eight homers on the season. His ISO is up almost 80 points from a career .160 to .242 this year -- but his BABIP sits low at .247 (career .313). He's playing well in his first season in the NL, but I love the 2013 All-Star as a sell-high player right now. He's about to turn 32 and all of his non-HR numbers are just OK (just 16 RBI and a .242 batting average).
• Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres -- Speaking of 2013 All-Stars, Cabrera is struggling to get on base (.286 this season, compared to .326 lifetime), and while he's on pace for 660 at-bats, he's not doing enough with those at-bats to make fantasy owners happy.
• Antonio Bastardo, RP, Philadelphia Phillies -- He's been inconsistent for much of this season already, and he's still working as the left-handed setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. However he's on pace to allow a career-high in walks and hits allowed.
• Francisco Cervelli, C, New York Yankees -- Currently resting his hamstring on the 60-day DL for the Yankees, but he works as the part-time catcher when he's not hurt.
• Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets -- Batting .227 with no homers, two doubles and two stolen bases in 28 games at Triple-A Las Vegas does not bode well for his fantasy future.
• Jesus Montero, C, Seattle Mariners -- He's hitting .274 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in 30 games at Triple-A Tacoma, with an .873 OPS. Was there a player that did less while being accused of PEDs?
The list of the players coming back from that Biogenesis suspension is a mixed bag of success and failure in 2014, but it appears the fantasy status of Braun, Cruz and Peralta is good -- or at least, close to what it was before the suspension.
Hitters of the week
Seth Smith, OF, San Diego Padres -- Stats this week: .500 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 runs scored, 0 stolen bases
A great argument can be made here about small sample sizes, as Smith is a 31-year-old outfielder that has been on three teams in four seasons. He's a short-term answer in Rotisserie leagues, as he picked up half of his RBI for the season (14) this week.
Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays -- .280 BA, 2 home runs, 3 RBI, 10 runs, 4 stolen bases
Look who's healthy again (for now)! His five steals should climb -- quickly -- but he is still just batting .214 on the season. It's part of the deal when you draft Reyes: Great healthy weeks, bad unhealthy weeks.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies -- .375 BA, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 7 runs, 0 stolen bases
Two weeks in a row, Tulowitzki ranks among the top three hitters of the week. He still leads the majors in batting average (.395) and the National League in homers (11, along with Giancarlo Stanton). Is he a sell-high candidate? Unfortunately, you'll be trading him to others who likely have discounted him because of his injury history. At this point, let's just thank whoever sold their soul to the fantasy devil to see Tulo's MVP season.
Hitters of the weak
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland A's -- Stats this week: .179 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 4 runs scored, 0 steals
The A's started out like gangbusters, and even now, they're the third-highest scoring team in the majors behind the Rockies and White Sox. But their run scoring has calmed down, and Donaldson's hot start has cooled considerably (just two RBI in May, after knocking in 23 runs in April). Some of that can be blamed on their past three opponents (Washington, Boston and Seattle) with above-average team ERAs.
Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals -- .136 BA, 0 home runs, 1 RBI, 1 run, 1 stolen base
Chalk this one up as a mini-slump during a long road trip in which he played in just five games (22 at-bats). He's still among the top-five catchers in fantasy, in spite of his team ranking 25th in the majors in runs scored.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees -- .174 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 runs, 0 stolen base
Nothing to see here, as Ellsbury still has a .370 on-base percentage this month. It's interesting, though, that Ellsbury has been a rare success story for a hitter signing a big contract with a new team.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Jurickson Profar, 2B, Texas Rangers
With just a couple weeks left before Profar (shoulder) makes his 2014 debut, the 21-year-old sophomore has seen his fantasy stock drop considerably -- owners are likely worried that his injury may hamper him for the rest of the season. Check in to see if his owner is desperate at any other position, and see if you can get him thrown in as part of a bigger deal.
Sell: Marlon Byrd, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Byrd ihas four homers, 23 RBI and a .312 batting average, but he's a 36-year-old who has hit over .300 just once in the past 10 seasons. His BABIP leads the majors right now at .424, in spite of his career .327 number. Finally, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is toying with using him in center field, which is a more physically demanding position with more defensive responsibility. Move him if you can.
Hold: Derek Norris, C, Oakland A's
We mentioned how strong this A's offense is this season (and last season), and Norris has been among the many good hitters chipping in. While he has never been much of a power guy, Norris is batting .385 this season, and his K-rate is much lower (11.1 percent) than in his career (23.3). While his batted balls are finding their way past defenders (.406), but that doesn't have anything to do with his improved eye at the plate.
Rookie hitter spotlight
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates -- The Pirates continue to tease fantasy owners by not bringing up one of the best hitting prospects in the minors. This past week, they had a chance to bring up the 22-year-old lefty, but they went another route. Polanco is batting .357 with four homers, 29 RBI and eight steals at Triple-A Indianapolis, and he'd fit right in at right field and in this lineup. Nobody's hitting the ball farther on a more consistent basis than his teammates, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates appear to be waiting to bring Polanco up so that his service time would be around 120 days, which means they'd likely avoid an extra year of arbitration with him. He's available in about three out of every 10 fantasy leagues right now, so consider trying to work him into a two-for-one package for one of your hot hitters/pitchers.
By the numbers
148 -- Bases on balls that Jose Bautista is on pace for this season, which would mark a career-high for the 11-year veteran. In the two seasons he had more than 100 walks, he also hit over 40 home runs. (He's on pace for 39 now.)
102 -- Number of steals Dodgers SS Dee Gordon is on pace for, which would be the first time someone hit triple digits since Vince Coleman stole 109 in 1987.
32 -- Hitters with a .500 slugging percentage so far this season, compared to just 16 over the entire course of 2013.
21.1 -- Percent for Evan Gattis' HR/FB ratio this season, after posting a solid 17.1 ratio last season in his rookie effort.
4 -- Rockies ranked in the top 25 in batting average, with Tulowitzki, Charlie Blackmon, Justin Morneau and Nolan Arenado.
3 -- Middle infielders ranking in the top 10 in Head-to-Head points so far this season, including Tulowitzki, Brian Dozier and Dee Gordon.
1 -- Strikeout every four plate appearances for Red Sox rookie SS Xander Bogaerts one quarter of the way through the season.
.179 -- Jedd Gyorko's BABIP through 37 games this season, over 90 points lower than it was last season. His strikeouts aside, he's going to be on the rise in coming weeks.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.