Fantasy baseball Hitting Report: Analyzing top one-category hitters
The best players you draft for your fantasy baseball teams are usually one of two types: Players who are faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive in a hitter's park, and the one-category beast who can be the difference between fourth place and 10th place in a fantasy category.
The first set of players generally selected in the first few rounds of every fantasy draft, barring injuries or off-the-field issues, while the second set is usually peppered throughout a fantasy draft. We're going to take this time to chat about that second group -- and which guys should continue to dominate their categories, along with other players that might still be available in your leagues.
• Mike Olt, 1B/3B, Chicago Cubs (Available in 67 percent of CBSSports.com leagues and 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- Olt has nine homers and 20 RBI, but his .176/.254/.451 slash line pretty much explains his ownership percentages. Even so, if you're already lurking near the bottom of the batting average category, adding Olt can help you elsewhere.
• Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (47 percent, 67 percent) -- True, he was just placed on the DL with a hamstring injury, but that means his availability will also rise. His strikeout rate is painful (32.9 K-rate, fifth-worst in the majors), but he's on pace for his first 30-homer season.
• Juan Lagares, OF, New York Mets (87 percent, 96 percent) -- The 25-year-old middle infielder is playing great defense and hitting atop the Mets' lineup. Hitting .304 this season, he's starting to mature into his own at the plate. He's striking out too much (more than once every five plate appearances), but he has earned at-bats going forward.
• John Jaso, C, Oakland A's (81 percent, 93 percent) -- David Pincus suggests picking up both Jaso and Derek Norris (available in 47 percent of leagues) as a set, and start them both -- just like Oakland is doing.
• Rajai Davis, OF, Detroit Tigers (37 percent, 37 percent) -- Before the season started, Davis was expected to share left field with Andy Dirks, which made him a less valuable fantasy player. Dirks had back surgery in late March, and now Davis is getting the lion's share of the starts in left. His 14 steals in 113 at-bats is the best SB/AB ratio among players with at least seven steals.
• Jonathan Villar, SS, Houston Astros (44 percent, 93 percent) -- Check his status before picking him up, as he suffered a hand injury Sunday afternoon. If he's fine, he's a good under-the-radar base thief to consider in fantasy. His batting average will pull you down a bit (.221), but he's the youngest guy (23) in the Astros' lineup, and he hits ninth -- which means his poor average won't hurt you as bad. Head-to-head owners will want to avoid him, though, with his 30.8 K-rate.
Hitters of the week
Brandon Moss, 1B, Oakland A's -- Stats this week: .455 BA, 3 home runs, 11 RBI, 8 runs scored, 0 stolen bases
It's time to start giving some credit to A's hitting coach Chili Davis, along with manager Bob Melvin. They've taken a relatively unimpressive group of minor-league hitters and turned them into the second-best run-scoring team in the majors, behind Colorado. This is all in spite of the huge differences in hitting parks between Coors Field and O.co Coliseum. The great start to Moss' season is directly related to the fact that his contact rate has improved -- he's striking out just 18.3 percent of the time, compared to his 29.5-percent rate he has posted over the past two seasons combined.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland A's -- .471 BA, 3 home runs, 10 RBI, 9 runs, 0 stolen bases
Another great example of why small sample sizes can really hurt us. Last week Donaldson ranked first as a hitter of the weak. After starting May with just one RBI in the first eight games of the month, he's really ramped it up against the White Sox and Indians. Not only does he rank as the best third baseman in fantasy right now, he also has the seventh-most head-to-head points among all major-league hitters. He could go from a fantasy fifth-round pick in 2014 to a second-round pick next season.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees -- .370 BA, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 6 runs, 3 stolen bases
Three steals in a week? Actually, it's the grand slam he hit against the Mets Monday that got him into this top three. While he might not ever reach the 48 steals he averaged in 2010 and 2011, he's still a 35-steal candidate at 30 years old. Along with Jacoby Ellsbury (11 steals), the Yankees have an improved success rate on steals, with 30 so far this season. The bigger picture, however, is that Gardner is striking out a bit more this season, without many power category numbers to show for it.
Hitters of the weak
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays -- Stats this week: .100 BA, 0 home runs, 2 RBI, 1 run scored, 0 stolen bases
Jennings, who's been slowed by a hand injury after getting hit by a pitch two Sundays ago, went on the bereavement list over the weekend, further hampering his numbers. While he's still on pace for career highs in several categories (at-bats, walks and steals), the Rays' offense does not seem to be promising enough to expect those numbers to continue.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates -- .158 BA, 0 home runs, 0 RBI, 2 runs, 2 stolen bases
Considering McCutchen is trying to get past a foot injury, we can forgive him this weak week at the plate. Even so, his HR/FB ratio is down to 9.3 percent, from 12.4 percent last season and 19.4 percent in 2012. His contact rate is still at a solid 16.1, so expect those other numbers to even out. He's not a bad buy-low superstar candidate at this stage of the season. He is on pace for 134 walks ,which would blow past his career-high (96).
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers -- .208 BA, 0 home runs, 1 RBI, 3 runs, 0 stolen bases
Over the past two weeks, the two players I ranked atop the leadoff hitter rankings earlier this season have found themselves as a hitter of the weak (Choo and Ellsbury). Choo has dropped back a bit after starting hot, especially with Prince Fielder dealing with a back injury. Choo is on pace for just 14 homers, 44 RBI and 11 steals, after another 20-20 season was expected.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Junior Lake, OF, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs do have a ton of talent waiting to come up in the farm system, but Lake has really come on in recent weeks. He's not being platooned much, and he's on pace for 450 at-bats. He should eclipse the 20-HR mark, with 15 or more steals, and he's available in 80 percent of leagues. His K-rate of 36.9 is obscene, but that number should dip back a bit to the 23 percent or so he averaged over the past two seasons between the majors and minors. We've learned that he's a super streaky player, and he's hitting .326 in May, after a .219 average in April.
Sell: Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
While Longoria's thin power numbers (four homers and 22 RBI) might make it tough for you to get back what you think he's worth, it's important to note a few things. His walk rate is just 8.4 percent (down from a career-high 10.8 percent, and while he's not striking out much more, he's just not getting distance on his flyballs. Only 9.3 percent of his flyballs have left the playing field -- well below his career numbers of 16 percent. This Rays offense has been resilient, but things aren't looking good for this team this year at all.
Hold: Ben Revere, OF, Philadelphia
Revere's ownership numbers have dropped a lot in recent weeks, but he's still a 26-year-old speedy leadoff hitter that is on pace for close to 50 steals. Sure, he has no power to speak of (he still hasn't homered in the majors), but if he can increase his walk rate (just 2.1 percent so far) closer to his career average of 4.9 percent, then fantasy owners will benefit greatly.
Rookie hitter spotlight
Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
He's a low-key middle-infield prospect you haven't really heard much about in recent seasons. But over the weekend, with two three-hit games, Owings is quickly rising on the ownership rankings. He doesn't have a ton of power, he's pretty good at the plate and while he's fast, he only eclipsed 20 steals once -- last season. For a middle infielder, he shouldn't hurt you in any category, while he also provides some punch and speed. His BABIP appears high (.359) until you realize his career BABIP is .358.
By the numbers
2,790 -- Total bases the Rockies are on pace to record this season, which would be the most since the Red Sox posted 2,832 total bases in 2003.
151 -- Home runs each MLB team is on an average pace to hit this season, which is 14 fewer per team that they hit in 2012, and fiver fewer than in 2013.
101 -- Batting average points difference that rookie Charlie Blackmon is hitting in May (.288) compared to his red-hot April (.389).
29 -- Home runs hit by Brian Dozier since the start of the 2013 season, which leads all second basemen during that span.
24.6 -- Strikeout rate for Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton this season, which is a career-low so far.
21 -- Age of Red Sox SS/3B Xander Bogaerts, who happens to be the youngest hitter in the majors right now. He hasn't been great at the plate so far, but his peripherals aren't horrible, and he's getting on base at a .369 clip.
1 -- Home runs hit by Mariners 2B Robinson Cano this season. Michael Beller and I debated over who would be better this season -- Cano or Jason Kipnis? They're both not playing well, at this point, but better days should be ahead for them.
.208 -- ISO number for catcher Yan Gomes, who leads the position in that category, although Devin Mesoraco (.370) is crushing it, but only has 61 plate appearances. Gomes isn't the best defensively, but his bat helped move Carlos Santana over to third base.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.