May 26, 2010

Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in an attempt to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore. Need your questions answered? Drop me a line.

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Randy Wolf for Randy Wells is a deal that's on the table. Which of the Randys is the better play?-- Peter, Houston

The chances of either of these Randys replicating their work from last season was always questionable -- Wolf because of his uneven track record of health and Wells because he surpassed his minor league performance with the Cubs last season.

Wolf was the big ticket acquisition of the Brewers after a strong season for the Dodgers (3.23 ERA, 1.10 WHIP 2.76 K/BB in 214.1 IP). At the same time, thinking he was going to replicate those numbers this season was like thinking if you only met Olivia Wilde she would surely fall in love with you instantly. Come on now. Here are the facts with Wolf, and they aren't encouraging. From 2003-08:

• Wolf never once posted and ERA under 4.20. His current mark this season is 4.52.• Wolf never posted a WHIP below 1.27. It's currently 1.56.• Wolf Never posted a K/BB mark over 2.41. It's currently 1.46.• Wolf posted only two seasons of more than 140-innings pitched.

Last season is starting to look an awful lot like a free agent money drive is it not?

Wells has a power sinker that induces a lot of grounders, and that will never change. As such, he can be effective in any outing if he induces batters to pound the ball into the turf. Still, the man owns a 3.75 ERA and 1.34 WHIP during his minor league career, so it was pretty obvious that everything broke right for him last year with the Cubs when he had ratios of 3.05 and 1.28. Therefore, it's not at all surprising to see him sporting a 3.99 ERA through nine starts this season, but there are a couple of really intriguing reasons to think that he is the better "Randy."

Wells has boosted his K-rate from 5.66 to 7.19 while, at the same time, cutting his walk rate by three quarters of a batter, causing his 2.26 K/BB mark to swell to an impressive 4.09. If he can hold on to that gain he's gonna have a long and productive career on the bump. It's a little early to make any definitive calls with something like his line drive rate, as he does have only 227 innings in the bigs, but his current mark of 22.8 percent does seem a tad high. If that number were to regress closer to the big league average of 20 percent, and if he can sustain the K/BB growth, and if he can continues to induce grounders (1.69 GB/FB), there is little reason to think that Wells is someone you wouldn't want to give a place of honor on your mixed league staff.

Jose Bautista continues to rip the ball. I've been getting offers for him but I'm afraid I might be letting go of a guy who will have a huge season. Should I hold steady or move him to fill other holes like in my relief corps?-- Ryan, Virginia

There may be no player in the game who is referenced more in questions I receive than the 3B/OF from the Great White North. With each passing week of success -- Batista has 15 homers to lead all of baseball while his 39 RBIs are fourth -- it seems more and more likely that this is a true "breakout" campaign -- but is it really? Let history be our guide.

Bautista has 15 homers, just one off his career best. He has done that damage in 201 plate appearances, while he racked up 469 of them during his 16-homer season. If that doesn't cause you some pause -- his rate has more than doubled -- get a load of these next two pieces of data.

Bautista currently has a 52 percent fly ball rate, which is driving this home run binge. Only once has he produced a mark over 43.4 percent and has a 43.7 percent career mark even with this year's surge. Second, Bautista is piggy-backing a career best HR/F rate of 22.1 percent on top of the major increase in fly balls. Oh, and the increase here is even more pronounced as Bautista is doubling his career rate in the HR/F category (11.6 percent). These substantial increases have led to a massive power production spike that has seen a man who posted a slugging average between .405 and .420 the past four years rise to a whopping .583 mark this season.

Do you really think a player who has established such a consistent track record the past four years is really going to morph into Adam Dunn over night? And I bring up the name of Dunn to remind you that when Bautista stops hitting bombs, that average will become a killer. Jose has hit .239 in his career, has never hit even .255, and currently is sporting a .244 mark. There's also a chance that he could lose playing time if he were to struggle if Edwin Encarnacion continues to hit (six homers and 11 RBIs in eight games since returning from the DL) and Fred Lewis and Travis Snider are healthy and productive.

Guys come out of nowhere every year to surprise, but I just find it hard to believe given his track record and the massive increase he is currently sporting that Bautista will be able to even remotely sustain his early season work into the dog days of summer.

I have the chance to move Justin Morneau to a Twins' fan for Miguel Cabrera straight up. Is this a lateral move, or does it make sense?-- Chris, Reno, Nevada

It's rare to see a 1-for-1 deal with players of such magnitude, but the good news is that no matter what side you end up on, it's not like you're gonna end up holding a sack of rocks. Here are their numbers so far this season.

Morneau: .381-11-34-31-0 with a .497 OBP and .697 SLG

Cabrera: .331-10-40-29-2 with a .415 OBP and .598 SLG

Those numbers clearly favor Morneau, who leads baseball in AVG, OBP and SLG. Yeah, he's been hot to say the least. Of course, he isn't going to continue at his current pace, common sense and a .285/.358/.510 career line dictate that, but he has been terrific so far without question.

Let's take a more long-term look here and compare each player's performance, per 162 games played, in their careers.

Morneau: .285-31-117-91-1 with a .868 OPS

Cabrera: .312-33-119-98-4 with a .928 OPS

Clearly the numbers in their careers are pretty close, other than the rather substantial batting average advantage that Cabrera owns. Think of it this way. In each of the six full seasons of his career Cabrera has hit at least .292. Morneau has only bettered that mark twice in five years.

Given that Morneau is certain to regress the rest of the way, at least in the slash line categories, it would seem that Cabrera is clearly the better option for the rest of 2010.

Here's the deal. I have lots of pitching but a poor offense. For Jeff Niemann and Tim Hudson I was offered Casey McGehee? Seems like a no brainer to me.-- Sam, Texas

I agree it's a no brainer, but in the other direction. I'd say keep the pitchers.

McGehee is hitting .308 with nine homers, has an OPS of .912, and his 40 RBIs are more than any third sacker in the game and the best mark in the Senior Circuit. I can't envision a scenario that leads me to believe that Casey will be able to continue at this pace. McG posted a .409 SLG in over 2,500 at-bats in the minors, so when he posted a .422 mark in 371 at-bats the past two years in the bigs no one noticed.

Somehow this season that number is up to .538. So do you trust nearly 3,000 professional at-bats or 169 this season? McGehee's total of nine homers is only three behind his career best mark, and it's difficult to be a 30-homer bat if 50 percent of your batted balls are on the ground (his current ground ball rate is 49.7 percent). As for the batting average, the man owns a .279 career minor league mark and has never, not once, hit .300 at any minor league stop. I just cannot see this continuing for mighty Casey.

Niemann has been wonderful this season as the Rays sport the best starting rotation in baseball. He would seem to be slightly over his head this season, but his work last year serves as a nice guide (3.94 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). He has produced a reduction in his strikeout rate to below six, which has been offset by a slight improvement in his walk rate, leading to an identical 2.12 K/BB mark from last season. Niemann has also pretty much maintained his GB/FB ratio (1.17) and his HR/9 rate (0.79) from last season (1.03 and 0.85). So why the improvement in his ratios? His batting average against has dropped to .220; it was .266 last year, and his left-on-base percentage has gone up 10 percent to 84.5. Again, I think Niemann is a solid arm, but last season should be your guide.

I love Hudson. I like his fire and his stuff, and his performance is pretty top shelf, too, as he's sporting a 2.09 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Given his rather lengthy big league career, its fair to say those marks will not continue given that his ERA hasn't been below 3.17 since '03, and that only once in the last six years has his WHIP been under 1.20. His 2.86 GB/FB will allow him to remain successful and he has always been a groundball machine, but there are some troubling numbers in the strikeout and walk categories. Hudson has a 3.88 K/9 mark -- it's been at least 5.30 in each of the past five seasons -- and a 3.43 BB/9 mark (that would be his worst mark since '00). Combine those facts with a line drive rate of 11.5 percent and there is nothing more than tepid optimism that he'll be able to hold on to these gains (his LD-rate has never been under 16.5 percent in his career). Still, he is healthy, and with that you know that you are getting a pitcher who should win his fair share of games, post solid ratios (3.45 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in his career), and there is no reason you wouldn't want a guy like that on your staff.

Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Owners Edge and His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home of fantasy baseball: To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at or you can follow him on the BaseballGuys' Twitter page.


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