Fantasy baseball Hitting Report: Analyzing the best Cuban sluggers
It seems that recently we've seen more and more great hitters coming out of Cuba. Sure, there are a few pitchers, like Jose Fernandez and Aroldis Chapman who hail from the Caribbean island, but much of the conversation revolves around the Cuban sluggers. Here's a few to keep an eye on for fantasy:
Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox: Abreu has helped resurrect a White Sox offense that ranked among the worst in 2013. Despite missing two weeks in late May with an ankle injury, only two hitters have more home runs than Abreu. However, he's on pace for about 150 strikeouts. At this point of the season, he has to be considered a fantasy MVP candidate for his value.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: It's not unreasonable to think that Puig could eventually have a shot at the NL Triple Crown. He's a special talent whose fantasy value we'll likely see bounce up and down throughout his career, as he adjusts and readjusts. A hip injury has slowed his June after a smoking-hot May (.398 BA, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 20 R, 4 SB).
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland A's: Abreu's big season is overshadowing the breakout year Cespedes is having in Oakland. While he's still striking out a lot, his K-rate (20.0%) is down from last year (23.9%). He's on pace for over 30 homers and 100 RBI, which would both be career years.
Kendrys Morales, 1B, Minnesota Twins: Morales signed with the Twins this weekend, and with his presence at DH, the Twins sent down Jason Kubel to Triple-A. Morales, who goes from one pitcher's park in Seattle to another in Minneapolis, has averaged a .275 batting average, with 23 homers and 77 RBI over the last two seasons. Grab him if you can.
Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers: On pace for over 30 stolen bases again, Martin has served as a light-hitting speedster hitting for average.
Alex Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers: Since signing with the Dodgers, Guerrero hasn't had much luck in the majors. He traveled with the team to their opening series in Australia, but was designated to the minors upon returning. He may be there for a while, as Dee Gordon, the player ahead of him, is having a breakout season. Also, he had part of his ear bitten off by Miguel Olivo in a scuffle. However, he is batting. 376 with 10 homers and 29 RBI in 33 games at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Yunel Escobar, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays: A bad season for the Rays means they're not knocking in Escobar as much as they should. He's on pace for just 25 runs scored, compared to the 65 runs he's averaged over the past three seasons.
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs: Hamstring issues have limited him to just seven minor league games this season. But he appears to be the next big Cuban prospect in 2015.
Without question, most of these Cuban hitters are impacting every fantasy baseball league out there, so it's good to get familiar with them now -- and look ahead to future Cuban sluggers on the way.
Hitters of the week
Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals -- Stats last week: .421 batting average, 2 home runs, 5 RBI, 7 runs scored, 1 stolen base
Sadly, Gordon is the only thing going right in the batter's box for the Royals this season, who line up with the Rays as one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Gordon leads the Royals in home runs (six), RBI (34), batting average (.288), extra base hits (24), runs scored (34) and walks (29). Gordon's strikeout rate has decreased by about 30 percent -- from a career average of 20.4 percent to 13.7 percent this year.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers -- .480 BA, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 8 runs, 1 SB
He's the best fantasy catcher -- by far -- right now, and while he doesn't have a ton of power (four homers so far), neither do most of the other catchers. There are just two catchers with more than eight home runs this season. Even among non-catchers, Lucroy (.335) is third in batting, behind just Troy Tulowitzki and Yasiel Puig.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers -- .478 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 6 runs, 0 SB
Lo and behold, Beltre can still mash even without Prince Fielder in the lineup. We're about one-third of the way through the season, and the 17-year veteran remains one of the best at his position in fantasy. His power numbers are down quite a bit, but he has been a streaky player in past seasons.
Hitters of the weak
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers -- .043 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 runs, 0 SB
With just one hit over his past 23 at-bats, Gonzalez is going through a rough stretch. The Dodgers have been pretty good offensively this season, with Puig dominating most of the power stats, and Gordon doing well as a table-setter. But while Gonzalez leads the team in homers (12), he's just not getting on base.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees -- .115 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 runs, 0 SB
Those hoping for a big final season out of The Captain are likely disappointed, but don't say you didn't expect it. He's on pace for his worst statistical effort of his career, batting .254 on the season so far. What makes that even more painful for fantasy owners is that he's still on pace for about 575 at-bats.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets -- .130 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 runs, 0 SB
It was just a bad week for New York team captains. Wright, who had started every game of the season for the Mets until Sunday, is hitting .279 with just four home runs this season; that's just killing those that paid a high price for Wright. Logic would tell us he's in line for a much better second half of the season, but the 31-year-old third baseman will really need to find the motivation.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
The sophomore scoots under the radar in most fantasy circles, as he's a middle-of-the-road fantasy second baseman, a position with flashier names and some breakout 2014 stars, like Brian Dozier and Dee Gordon. He injured his hand this past week and he had a very bad month of May, which is your opening to acquire him in trade. He has both second and third base eligibility and he has a good power bat for a middle infielder (on pace for 23 home runs). Don't worry about the thumb injury, since he and the team agreed it's not bad enough for a trip to the disabled list.
Sell: Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Markakis is having one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .309 and putting him on pace for 13 homers, 64 RBI and his first 200-hit season. Those numbers are good enough to get something for him in a trade, but they're not good enough to make you miss him very much. For a leadoff hitter in front of one of the most lethal middle lineups in the game, he should have much better counting stats. He doesn't offer enough speed or power to warrant keeping him, if you can make a deal for a pitcher or a decent middle infielder.
Hold: Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals
Ramos is batting just .238 on the season, and a hand injury cost him most of the beginning of the season. He looked pretty good in May for a catcher coming off injury, but now he's regressed, batting just .211 in June. The point is that he's a catcher at a prime age (26, about to turn 27), and he could hit 25 home runs if he stays off the DL. Unfortunately, his health costs him games (he has played more than 80 games just once in his career), but in leagues that start two catchers, he's worth using when he is healthy.
Rookie hitter spotlight
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
After a quiet first month of the season, Wong went on to hit .333 with a .418 on-base percentage in May, to earn Rookie of the Month honors. Then he fell right back off the shelf again, hitting .154 so far this month. That dip in production can partially be blamed on a sore shoulder that kept him out of the lineup over the weekend. He's expected to return Tuesday, and this is a rookie roller coaster you might have to deal with in 15-team mixed leagues, since he hits in the two-hole of a good, albeit struggling, Cardinals offense.
By the numbers
2,108 -- Plate appearances for Cubs SS Starlin Castro over the past three calendar years, which leads all hitters. He's having a nice bounce-back season so far.
212 -- Strikeouts Ryan Howard in on pace to record this season, which would tie him for third-worst all time for a single season.
37 -- RBI at home for Giancarlo Stanton, which leads the majors for home RBI, despite playing in cavernous Marlins Park.
12 -- Runs scored by the Padres so far this month, by far the fewest in the majors. Their NL West counterparts, Arizona, lead the majors this month with 47 runs scored.
7 -- Rookie hitters on pace to record at least 55 RBI this season.
4 -- FAAB price in the 15-team Tout Wars Mixed League this week for OF Michael Choice of Texas.
2 -- Rookie hitters with over 55 RBI last season.
1 -- Home runs from Brian Dozier in his past 20 games, after belting 11 HR in his first 40 games.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.