Tuesday April 21st, 2015

We had our fun with small sample sizes for pitchers in our Pitching Report on Monday. Now let’s do the same with hitters in this week’s Hitting Report. Here are the top 10 hitters in 5x5 head-to-head leagues through two weeks.

  1. Adrian Gonzalez
  2. Adam Jones
  3. Paul Goldschmidt
  4. Nelson Cruz
  5. Lorenzo Cain
  6. Dee Gordon
  7. Joey Votto
  8. Mike Trout
  9. Alex Rodriguez (!)
  10. Devon Travis

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Here, too, we see the volatility of a two-week sample, though not as significantly as we did with pitchers. Cain, Rodriguez and Travis all had ADPs outside the top 200. At the same time, Jones, Goldschmidt and Trout were all first-round picks, with Trout and Goldschmidt both off the board within the first five picks of mostly every draft. Gonzalez, Cruz, Gordon and Votto, meanwhile, were all mid-round selections.

Even small samples can help reinforce what we already knew: Hitters are more predictable than pitchers, making them wiser investments with your most precious resources.

Hitters of the Week

Nelson Cruz, Mariners: .500 BA (12-for-24), 6 HR, 7 R, 10 RBIs, .556 OBP

Cruz bookended his week with multi-homer games, belting two against the Dodgers to start the week and two more against the Rangers to end it. He hit two more in between and is riding a nine-game hitting streak heading into Tuesday. Cruz topped off his week by adding a walk-off single in the 10th inning of Sunday's game, completing the Mariners’ come-from-behind victory over the Rangers.

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Cruz has provided exactly the powerful righthanded bat the Mariners were looking for when they signed him. Even better for Seattle and Cruz’s fantasy owners is that he’s doing damage at home: In six games at Safeco Field, he's hitting .320/.320/.560 with two homers. Cruz did hit 40 homers last year, but he did so while playing half his games at Camden Yards, so it was understandable to expect his power numbers to slip in Seattle. That has not been the case so far.

Steven Souza, Rays: .379 BA (11-for-29), 3 HR, 5 R, 9 RBIs, 3 SB, .419 OBP

Souza was the prize of the Wil Myers trade for the Rays, and he proved why over the last week by belting three homers, including one that traveled a ridiculous 463 feet. That big week pushed his season slash line to .289/.373/.533, and he’s starting to look like a good bet to hit 20-plus homers this season. He had 18 in 96 games with the Nationals' Triple A affiliate last year and 15 in 77 games at Double A the year before. He’ll turn 26 the last week of April, so he’s not really a prospect, but he should be a factor in the AL Rookie of the Year race all season.

Souza’s ownership rate suggests that most leagues have caught on, but this is a guy who should be universally owned. He’s the only player in the majors thus far with at least three homers and three steals, and he can bring that power-speed combo to bear all season.

Adam Jones, Orioles: .520 BA (13-for-25), 3 HR, 6 R, 9 RBIs, .536 OBP

Like his former teammate Cruz, Jones bookended the week with huge games and filled in the middle with solid production, resulting in a monster week for his fantasy owners. He kicked it off by homering in consecutive games against the Yankees, driving in a pair of runs in each contest, then put a bow on things by going 4-for-5 with a bomb and five RBIs in an 8–3 win over the Red Sox, helping the O's to a 4–2 week against a pair of division rivals. The ever-consistent Jones is now hitting .457/.490/.848 with five homers, 16 RBIs and 12 runs scored this season. A fifth straight season with at least a .280 batting average and 25 homers appears likely at this exceedingly early stage.

Hitters of the Weak

Chris Carter, Astros: .095 BA (2-for-21), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBIs, .208 OBP

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Carter has been featured in this section in each of the first two weeks of the season, rendering himself not playable for fantasy owners. Both of Carter’s hits last week were singles, and he still does not have an extra-base hit this year. What’s worse, he struck out nine times in his 21 at-bats and now has 16 whiffs in 44 plate appearances, good for a strikeout rate of 38.6% on the season. This was always the risk with Carter, a career .218 hitter in just shy of 1,600 plate appearances. He swings and misses a lot, and that means he will be a batting average sinkhole. Each of the last two years, he has managed to offset that with big power numbers, but when he isn’t hitting for power, he brings absolutely nothing to the table. He belongs on fantasy benches until he turns it around.

Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays: .115 BA (3-for-26), 0 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .200 OBP

Encarnacion is not supposed to be a guy who turns up on this list. Sure, he’s going to have his bad weeks from time to time, but he’s supposed to be steady enough to not be one of the three worst fantasy hitters in a given week. That was not the case last week, however, as he posted two 0-for-4s and one 0-for-5 on his way to a .115 batting average.

Any fantasy owner worth his or her salt isn’t going to consider dealing Encarnacion simply because of a poor start, but the fact of the matter is that not every fantasy owner is good at this. It’s worthwhile to check in with Encarnacion’s owner this week, just to see if his price has come down a bit over the last two weeks. This is nothing more than a slow start for one of the game’s best power hitters. He hasn’t been squaring much of anything up, but that should change in short order.

Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: .167 BA (3-for-18), 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBIs, .250 OBP

Gonzalez’s fantasy owners would have been better off if he just didn’t play last week, and by the looks of the Rockies’ box scores, it’s as if he did just sit out for a week, as he reached base a total of five times, failing to score or drive in a run. Colorado has been mashing the ball, but Gonzalez has largely been left out of the fun, hitting just .222/.250/.378 with one homer on the year. Part of that has to do with the fact that the Rockies have played just three of their 12 games at home this year. Gonzalez’s bat should come around as the Rockies start playing more games at Coors Field. They spend this entire week at home, hosting the Padres and Giants.

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Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Buy, Sell or Hold

Buy: Corey Dickerson, Rockies

Dickerson has slowed down since his hot start, going just 4-for-23 with eight strikeouts in his last six games. That may have created a buying opportunity, and if that’s the case, you would be wise to strike. The issue with Dickerson coming into this season was always going to be his struggles away from home (he hit hit .363/.415/.684 with 15 homers at Coors Field last season and just .252/.305/.431 on the road), and his poor six-game stretch came in AT&T Park and Petco Park, two of the worst places to hit in the majors. The Rockies have played just three games at home, and Dickerson went 5-for-12 with three RBIs in those games. As just stated in the section on Gonzalez, the Rockies will be home this entire week. That could very well result in the buying window on Dickerson slamming shut, so check in with his owner while you still can.

Sell: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

Whether or not you agree with this recommendation will have a lot to do with the version of Carpenter you believe to be more real. If you think the 2013 version is back in '15, then you likely won’t trade Carpenter for anything short of Mike Trout. If you think the '14 version is the real Carpenter, you’ll understand that his value is higher now than it ever will be again this season, making him the ideal sell-high candidate.

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What makes Carpenter particularly attractive as a sell-high guy is the fact that he is a very good player with attractive qualities, such as his presence at the top of a strong lineup. No matter how well someone has played, you can’t fetch a big return for him if he doesn’t actually have a strong foundation. But any remotely seasoned fantasy owner can smell that rat from a mile away. Carpenter is a legitimately talented player who could very well end the season as a top-five third baseman. At the same time, he’s just not going to hit for very much power, and the Cardinals’ lineup is not what it was two years ago when he scored 126 runs. Now is the time to test the market and see what you can get for him.

Hold: Howie Kendrick, Dodgers

There could be similar logic with Kendrick as there is above with Carpenter. The Dodgers' new second baseman is hitting .370/.431/.674, and that simply isn’t going to last. But there are a few reasons to be more patient with Kendrick. First of all, he likely isn’t going to bring back what Carpenter can right now, as most fantasy owners are going to dismiss what he has done a lot quicker than they will with Carpenter. Second, I have more faith in Los Angeles’ lineup than St. Louis’, and Kendrick is holding down the fourth spot in the former, giving him a ton of RBI chances all season. Finally, Kendrick is still a second baseman, while Carpenter only qualifies at third. For now, you’re likely better off holding onto Kendrick and turning a huge profit at the second base position, unless you’re bowled over by a trade offer.

Prospect Watch

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers

We’ve seen a number of prospects rise all the way from Double A to the majors in a season. Seager may become the latest guy to do that this year. Heading into the season, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com all rated him as a top-10 prospect, with BA giving him the best ranking of the three at No. 5 overall. The soon-to-be–21-year-old is making them all look good at Double A Tulsa, where he's hitting .500/.488/.762 with two homers, three doubles and a triple in 10 games, going a ridiculous 21-for-42. He doesn’t yet have a walk but has struck out just four times. In other words, there’s little left for him to prove at Tulsa.

Want proof of that? Here’s video of Seager's first homer of the year. Watch how he gets his hands around on an inside fastball and makes the pitcher pay for missing his spot.

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The issue for fantasy owners, if and when Seager shows that he’s ready for the majors, is where he plays with Los Angeles, which is pretty well set up the middle with Jimmy Rollins at short and Kendrick at second. Seager has never played third in the minors, but it’s something they could look at once he advances to Triple A. Still, the unfortunate truth is that he’s going to be blocked from making much of a fantasy impact this year. Still, monitor his progress this season. Depending on the state of the Dodgers and your fantasy team, he may be worthwhile if he gets the call to the majors later this year.

Gif Of The Week

It’s safe to say that anyone selling Bryce Harper coming into the season already feels foolish. He’s hitting .267/.411/.556 with four homers, including this 452-foot mammoth shot off Aaron Harang from last weekend.

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