May 28, 2009

The toughest job with a column like this is giving so many pieces of advice and knowing that some of them won't pan out. Every analyst wants to be right all the time, just like every ballplayer wants to bat 1.000. Baseball, while predictable to a point, is filled with uncertainty. That's the intrigue of fantasy baseball: trying to puzzle together a successful team, based on what you think will happen, against a handful of other people who are doing the same exact thing. Sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong.

While I've made a lot of correct predictions, there's one I missed that really stands out. In my initial column I suggested that people consider Brian McCann and Russell Martin over Joe Mauer. I cited his poor power numbers as the main reason. Well, I need to eat some crow. I was flat out wrong in this suggestion. Mauer has been absolutely unconscious since his return from a bad back. In just 80 at-bats he has 10 HR, 29 RBI, 24 R and a .438 BA. Mauer isn't just having a sensational start, he's put himself in position to make a run at the AL MVP. While McCann and Martin are sure to have great seasons, they don't come close to the kind of production that Mauer is currently providing.

We have a lot more to cover, so let's get to this week's T.I.P.S.

All statistics through May 25.

Mark Reynolds running wild

Quickly, how many players have a 10-10 season going on? Five? Ten? The answer is two. One is the manbeast they call Ian Kinsler, while the other is more known for his prodigious strikeout rate. You guessed it, Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is currently sitting at 12 deep flies and 10 stolen bases. Although half the steals (five) came when he Dexter Fowler-ed the Marlins in a double header this past week. While not considered a stolen base threat, Reynolds did have 11 a year ago and has a pretty solid success rate of 80 percent. All Reynolds advanced statistics show he's in line with years past, so expect a decline in average while he approaches 35 HR, 100 RBI and 20 SB. For someone who's owned in only 57 percent of mixed leagues, there's no reason you can't put up with his abysmal average.

Jason Bartlett: Run producer specialist

Those waiting for the inevitable slump to befall Bartlett will have to sit tight for another week as the newfound slugger hit .385 with 8 R, 2 HR, 3 SB and a ridiculous 13 RBI his past seven games. He now sits as the fifth overall ranked player and has been rewarded with a promotion to the five-spot in the Rays lineup. Listen, he's not going to hit .373 all season, which his abnormally high .417 BABIP confirms, but were you really expecting that from him anyway? He was drafted as a backup middle infielder who could hit .290 and steal 20 bases, and he's on pace to give you far more value than what you paid. Prepare yourself for a slight correction in average, but accept the fact that this isn't the light-swinging, singles-happy Bartlett from years past. Oh yeah, he's also on pace for 50 steals.

A.J. Burnett in a giving mood

With nine starts in the books, Burnett's debut season with the Yanks hasn't gone according to plan. The strikeout extraordinaire has seen his K/9 rate slip from 9.39 last season to 7.76 in 2009. Even more concerning is his 4.19 BB/9 rate, his worst since 2003. In four of his nine starts he's walked at least three batters. Chalk it up to the pressures of pitching in New York, simply a slump, or whatever else strikes your fancy, but the result is a Kamirian 1.43 WHIP. The good news is that Burnett had a 4.96 ERA with 57 walks pre-All Star break last season only to bounce back with a 2.86 ERA, 29 BB second half. April and May are historically two of Burnett's worst months, so plan for some strong outings in the future.

Matt Cain finally getting some run support

A quick look at Cain's 8-14 record in 2008, and it's no wonder that he found himself drafted in the mid-rounds. In fact, in the past two seasons Cain has compiled a 15-30 record, all while having an ERA in the mid-3.00's. Allergic to run support, Cain put up No. 2 starter numbers, with few wins to show for it. 2009 has been a different story as the Giants offense has produced, and the 24-year-old has a 5-1 record. He's prone to a bit of control problems (3.75 BB/9), but you can categorize it as "effective wildness" as his WHIP stands at a respectable 1.32. He's a Top 20 pitcher and one that many people still don't value due to issues that were outside his control.

Mike Aviles finally relieved of his miserable season

Aviles was one of last year's biggest surprises, but after a brutal start to 2009 he has landed on the 15-day DL with a strained right foreman. Owners aren't likely to miss his .183 AVG and one home run, so he was probably on most teams' bench to begin with. In his stead, Willie Bloomquist will move to short. The move makes Bloomquist a nice add in AL-only leagues. Alberto Callaspo may also get the occasional start at short.

Scott Kazmir injury sends uber prospect to the mound

In one of the most highly anticipated call-ups of the year, David Price was promoted to the bigs to start on Monday. While his numbers in the minors weren't all that impressive, Price was a man playing a boys game. He spent much of his time working on his control and perfecting his secondary pitches. After witnessing his dominance last postseason, there's no reason to suspect he can't stay in the Rays rotation and post 10 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA. He's a stud.

Kelly Johnson gets second chance

After a sluggish start, Johnson was demoted to spot-start status as Omar Infante began to get a majority of the starts at second where he impressed before a fractured left hand left him on the DL. There isn't a sure timetable for his return, but Johnson has been starting in his place. Johnson is back at the top of the Braves lineup and has homered in two consecutive games. His power from the 2B position is rare, so Johnson deserves a look in mixed leagues.

Adam Kennedy finds a home

Kennedy has seen it all this season and it's only been two months. The 11-year veteran has been waived, traded, demoted to the minors, and now finds himself starting for the A's. After Mark Ellis went down with an injury, the A's needed a second baseman to step up and Kennedy answered the call. He's hitting .400 through 55 at-bats and has two homers, 11 RBI and five runs in that span. He's easy to overlook, but Kennedy can help both AL-only and mixed leagues alike.

Juan Rivera raking like it's 2006

Rivera saw extended playing time when Vladimir Guerrero went down with a pectoral injury, and has recently stepped up his game even further as Guerrero nears a return. Rivera has homered in three of the past seven games. He first raised eyebrows in 2006 when he hit 23 homers and knocked in 85 runs, but he has since suffered through a myriad of injuries. With Vlad returning, the Angels suddenly have too many options in the outfield, so Rivera may find his playing time cut. If you can, now would be a good time to sell high.

David Murphy heating up

Murphy was in the dog house after batting a whooping .097 in April, but has since joined the rest of the slugging Rangers, batting .314 in May. Murphy had an under-the-radar season a year ago, batting .275 with 15 home runs and 74 RBI. The Rangers don't have problems scoring runs, and Murphy has scored 13 in 16 May appearances. He's hitting .269 against righties, so consider him as a platoon start in AL-only leagues that allow daily lineup changes.

See what it takes to get Matt Holliday

I know that RotoExperts has been feeding you the "sell, sell, sell" line when it comes to Holliday, but I think now may actually be the time to buy. What we meant early on was that Holliday's stats won't prove consistent with all the other talent being drafted around him. Which was true. Now that it's basically been confirmed he won't bring his Colorado numbers to Oakland, owners will be more willing to give him up for less. He's actually been pretty solid in May, batting .295 with 17 R, 5 HR, 15 RBI and 2 SB. In the last month he's been the 19th-rated OF in mixed leagues. If you can get him for an equivalent talent, he should bat .300 and finish with 25 homers, 85 RBI and 15 steals.

Keep an eye on Kenshin Kawakami

Kawakami has been generally disappointing in his short tenure with the Braves, but a further look reveals that he hasn't been that terrible. Besides an 8 ER outing on April 26, Kawakami has only given up more than three runs in a start once. His most recent start saw the Japanese rookie throw eight innings of shutout ball, with seven strikeouts. Susceptible to the long ball in April (five homers allowed), he hasn't given up one dinger in May. In fact, his May ERA has been a sparkling 2.64 with 24 Ks in four starts. He's only owned in 25 percent of leagues, so he may be worth an add if you have the roster space for a high-upside SP.

Check BABIP when looking for value

Nowadays, you can use plenty of different statistics to determine a player's overall worth, but it's tough to predict hot streaks and slumps. BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play) gauges what a players average is when they put the ball in the field of play. Cristian Guzman, for instance, has an unusually high BABIP of .398 while somebody like Troy Tulowitzki has a BABIP of .262. Someone with a BABIP approaching .400 is likely to see a regression in his average, whereas someone in the low .200's should start seeing his luck reverse. Sites such as Fangraphs and Baseball Reference have an abundance of advanced statistics, including BABIP. Similarly, pitchers use BABIP as well. If a pitcher has a BABIP of .400, they have been fairly unlucky with the hits they have given up. Their ERA should lower as this number returns to its norm. How much you rely on BABIP is up to you, but these type of stats can help you predict a breakout or a slump.

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