We're almost at that point in the season when we can sit down and officially analyze our team(s) and determine strengths and weaknesses based on an adequate sample size. The season is about 10 percent over, and that gives us a pretty good indication of what kind of year a player is going to have. We are beginning to see trends in playing time, coaching tendencies and any of the other attribute that make us decide if a player is worth rostering. I'm going to sit tight for one more week and the second we hit May 1, all bets are off when it comes to my roster. I've advocated giving all players the first month of the season to prove themselves -- and that is what will be done.
In the meantime, let's take a look at what took place this past week and see if we can make some decisions on recent trends.
(All stats and records are through Monday.)
Fukudome is my homie
No one looks worse when they swing and miss than Kosuke Fukudome (OF, CHC). The look of him corkscrewing himself into the ground is just an embarrassing display of baseball. But after a rookie season which included plenty of highs and lows, Fukudome has begun play in 2009 as one of the NL's hottest hitters. You've seen this story before though, right? He starts out raking and then his average drops every single month. What's going to stop it from happening this season? Well, his most marked improvement is his patience, where he's upped his walk percentage from 13.9 percent last year to 20.7 percent this season. He has as many walks (12) as Ks. His K rate is similar, but he's making much stronger contact with the ball. Fukudome's line drive rate is 34.1 percent compared to 19.1 a year ago. His .395 BABIP will result in his batting average dropping sooner or later, but you have to like his chance to produce while the rest of the Cubs power hitters heal from nagging injuries. Site his continued adjustment to America and an improved discipline at the plate as reason to add him to your squad.
Jason Bartlett (SS, TB) finding himself on the basepaths regularly
Known more for his stellar defense, Bartlett was a throw-in on the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade. Now in his second year as the Rays' shortstop, he's starting to make his mark in the Tampa Bay offensive attack. His .286 average in 2008 was a bit deceiving, as a .336 BABIP inflated his average. In 19 games, Bartlett has scored 11 runs, which is interesting considering he only scored 48 runs in 2008. He is still firmly planted at the tail-end of the Rays lineup, but is that such a bad thing with B.J. Upton (OF, TAM), Carl Crawford (OF, TAM) and Evan Longoria (3B, TAM) there to knock you in? Bartlett is also a threat to steal a bag, with 43 stolen bases over the past two seasons, and five to start 2009. The average should revert to his career norm of .280, but if he contributes 80 runs and 25 steals, there's some value there.
John Danks (SP, CWS) WHIPing the competition
Danks is walking more batters and giving up more home runs than he did last year, so it's likely that his WHIP is suffering, correct? That would be the case if batters were hitting better than .144 against him. Almost all his numbers are consistent with his career norms, with the exception of the low BAA. His career BABIP is .301, but currently sits at a ridiculous .157. This will even out over the course of the season, but it doesn't change the fact that Danks is getting better and better. Mark Buerhle (SP, CHW) may have more name recognition, but Danks is one of the most underrated lefties in the game. He won't maintain his current WHIP of 0.84, but you can expect it to be better than the 1.23 mark he had last year.
No Laffing Matter
In three starts, Aaron Laffey (SP, CLE) has arguably been the Tribe's most consistent starter, but is he worth a spot on your mixed-league roster? His 2-0 record and 2.41 ERA make him pretty enticing, but a further look into his advanced statistics shows this streak of productivity may be a time-limited offer. Laffey may be getting a lot of guys out, but it isn't at the expense of a 4.38 BB/9 rate. In his first two stints with the Indians, Laffey had a BAA of .280, which is close to his career average of .276. This year, Laffey has limited opponents to a .223 BAA, which is surely to change. With a 5.84 K/9 rate, the 24-year-old southpaw simply doesn't make enough people miss to suggest that his ERA can hover even around the 3.00 mark. In deep AL-only leagues, give him a chance, but don't consider him for your mixed-league team.
Jack Wilson (SS, PIT) goes down
Wilson hits the 15-day DL with a sprained left index finger and is replaced by Brian Bixler (SS, PIT). Bixler went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in his first game and brings a little more speed than Wilson. He's only going to be active for a few weeks while Wilson recovers, but the Pirates organization is very high on Bixler. As he tries to stake his claim as MLB-ready, you may benefit from starting him the next two weeks in deep NL-only leagues. However, he may split time with Ramon Vazquez (3B, PIT).
DL-stint a good thing for Stephen Drew (SS, ARI)?
Like Troy Tulowitzki (SS, COL), Drew has struggled to begin the year, with only three runs, one homer, five RBIs and a .205 BA. Now he gets some time to clear his head as he recovers from a strained left hamstring. Expect Drew to work on some things with the time off and come back in a few weeks ready to expand on his impressive 2008 campaign. Augie Ojeda (SS/2B/3B, ARI) has been filling in at short, but won't provide much outside of a decent batting average.
Matt Diaz (OF, ATL) filling in for the injured Garret Anderson (OF, ATL)
With Anderson officially on the disabled list due to a strained left quad, Diaz has been getting the at-bats in left field. In 21 at-bats last week, Diaz had only five hits, but he cranked one out of the park, added three RBIs and a stolen base. Diaz is a career .305 hitter in 953 at-bats, so the average should begin to rise. Anderson isn't exactly the healthiest ballplayer around, so handcuffing him to Diaz in NL-only leagues is a must. At the moment, he doesn't have much mixed league value, but that could change if he continues to run.
Maybe the Braves should have given this guy a chance?
In a sign that Jordan Schafer (OF, ATL) had the Braves centerfield job locked up, his main competition Josh Anderson (OF, DET) was shipped off to Mo-Town. Expected to be a role player for the Tigers, Anderson has proven to be a valuable commodity. In the past week his 17 at-bats have resulted in five hits, one double, one triple, three RBIs and four stolen bases. It's obvious that Jim Leyland is trying to give the 26-year-old a chance, so those in AL-only leagues may get a cheap source of steals with him. Considering Magglio Ordonez's (OF, DET) injury history, Anderson might find himself in the land of mixed-league viablity sooner rather than later.
On Your Mark ... Getz set ... Go!
It took him two weeks to get going, but Chris Getz (2B, CHW) finally showed a glimpse of why Ozzie Guillen had so much faith in him. He managed to hit .429 the last week with five runs, four RBIs and two stolen bases. He's now batting .340 with three stolen bases on the young season. He has limited power, but he's hitting leadoff and playing regularly for a pretty solid ball club. He doesn't walk a ton, so his OBP should remain close to his BA, but a .300 season with 80 runs and 15 stolen bases can be expected. Monitor his broken finger, but feel free to add him in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.
Jose Bautista (3B/OF, TOR) making life miserable for Travis Snider (OF, TOR) owners
For those awaiting a true breakout from Snider, it may be awhile as Bautista continues to make the most of his limited opportunities. In 10 at-bats last week, Bautista laced six hits, including a home run. There's no question Snider is the future, but the Jays quest to bring him along as slow as humanly possible is frustrating. Those in weekly leagues must deal with the fact that Snider is only going to play four games a week and that probably leads to his stay on the bench. It won't last all season, but Bautista's presence, and consequent production, is making it seem like Snider's true evolution is one year away.
If he's still there, pick up Ryan Franklin (RP, STL)
While Chris Perez (RP, STL) and Jason Motte (RP, STL) have been serving up long-balls, Franklin has quietly ended any closer-by-committee talk in St. Louis. Franklin closed three games this past week and now has five on the season. Unlike Perez and Motte, Franklin throws strikes, much to the satisfaction of Tony LaRussa. He won't overpower you with his stuff, but he gets people out, and the Cardinals look to be a team that will give him plenty of chances. He's not the future, but he's the now, and that's all that matters.
Feel free to Drop Emilio Bonifacio (3B/2B, FLA)
I supported him before the season started, but Bonifacio is clearly out of his league after a torrid start. The Fish aren't going to deal with their leadoff batter striking out 25 percent of the time, and it's beginning to show as he's getting the occasional day off more often. He's always a threat to steal, but it doesn't matter if he can't get a hit or draw a walk. A career .248 hitter, Bonifacio lacks the patience (19:4 K/BB ratio) to consistently hit big league pitching. He's bounced around the majors for a reason, and after five multi-hit games to start the year, he has only one since. He may not get replaced immediately, but his position as the leadoff hitter is seriously in question.
Don't be afraid to sit your studs
I know a lot of people say you always have to start your best players, but what good is it doing to start Tulowitzki these days? Is he going to break out of his slump soon? Yeah, probably, but don't let his daily 0-for-4's ruin your batting average. I have a simple rule that if you are batting under .200 at this point, you ride the pine. Once a player gets the average above .200, you are re-instated into my lineup. I don't care who you are. Sure, I run the risk of sitting a player when he goes off and breaks out of his slump, but it's better to avoid the previous bout of futility all together.
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