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. Don't hesitate to e-mail any new questions you have and I'll do my best to get to them next week.
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With Pedro Alvarez being called up for action on Wednesday, would you drop Rickie Weeks for him? I have Robinson Cano as my everyday second baseman?-- Patrick, Cleveland
Alvarez is one of the top hitting prospects in the game. There are whispers that he may not be able to stay at third base long-term because of his defense, but few doubt that his stick will play in the big leagues. He is a fairly disciplined hitter, he posted a .363 OBP at Triple-A, and the power is already there (13 homers, 53 RBI, .533 SLG in 66 games), though like many hitters he could stand to cut down the whiffs 68. The Pirates have already said he will play everyday and have sent Andy LaRoche to the bench, so Alvarez becomes a must start in NL-only leagues. As for his value in mixed leagues, he is well worth adding to a squad with the hope that he will be able to continue doing what he was doing down on the farm.
Weeks has always had across-the-board talent, but he has been as injury-prone as a Brazilian soccer player on a phantom slide tackle. Amazingly, Weeks has appeared in 64 of the 65 games the Brewers have played this season, and with that he is well on pace for season of more than 20 homers, 70 RBI and about 100 runs scored. Alas, despite all that amazing good stuff, Weeks is hitting only .256, though that isn't a shock given his .248 career average. What is surprising is that he has a mere four steals on the year. Going back a bit further, to the start of last season, Weeks has just six thefts in his last 101 games, this after averaging 20 steals a year from 2005-08.
Straight up, I wouldn't do this move -- I would hold on to Weeks. However, if you don't have a middle infield position to fill, and if you have the best second basemen in baseball on your club already in Cano (he leads the position with a .368 average, .414 OBP and .609 SLG), I wouldn't think it a horrible play to drop Weeks to add Alvarez and his potential at the hot corner.
Should I give up Stephen Strasburg for Matt Holliday?-- Frankie, New York
This type of situation arises every time a youngster bursts on the scene. If you had been proposed this trade on April 16 you would have laughed it off as hilariously stupid. Flash forward two months, and Holliday is struggling, Strasburg has had two great starts, and suddenly no one is laughing at this offer.
People that know me know my predilection for veteran players, as well as a preference for bats over arms. Given that, it's no surprise that I have some reservations with Strasburg. There is no disputing the arm that was touched by the gods, the 98 mph heater, the filthy Wiffle Ball curve, and the electricity he brings to the park. The results haven't been so bad either. In two starts he has 22 Ks in 12.1 innings, batters are 0-for-25 when he gets two strikes on them, and overall hitters have produced a mere six hits. However, I worry about that limit of 95-100 innings that the Nats have in place for Strasburg, as well as the fact that they likely won't let him throw more than 100 pitches in an outing. Those two factors limit his upside this year.
As for Holliday, I'm perplexed as to why he has struggled. His .289 batting average is .027 points below his career level, his OBP is down .018 points (.368) and his SLG has plummeted down to .439 (.099 points off his career .538 mark). Is all of this because he no longer plays in Coors Field? I find that difficult to believe after we saw him produce a .313-24-109-94 line last season for the Athletics and Cardinals. Holliday certainly isn't enjoying the home cooking this year as he is hitting just .255 with two homers in 106 at-bats in St. Louis. Given his track record includes four-straight years of hitting over .310 with 24 homers, 88 RBI, 94 runs and 10 steals -- a stretch of production that no one else in the game can match -- you have to think a pretty substantial improvement in his production is coming down the pipe, a fact that might be hastened by his move into the No. 2 hole in the Cardinals lineup in front of Albert Pujols.
Would I give up the phenom on the hill for the established force at the dish? I would.
Is time to roll the dice on Erik Bedard? I'm hearing he will be back by the end of the month and I'm in need starting pitching?-- David
Reports are that, barring another setback, Bedard and that injured shoulder of his could be back on the hill by the end of June for the Mariners. I have to tell you, though, I'll believe it when I see it, and even when I'll want to take a breathalyzer test to make sure it's not a figment of a drunken imagination.
Look, there is no disputing that the guy has been a force on the hill. In '07 he won 13 games with a 3.16 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 221 Ks in just 182 innings. Injured the past two years, he's won 11 games, posted a 3.24 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 162 Ks in just 164 innings. Basically, whenever he's been on the field, he has been a fantasy star. Are you willing to take a chance that he recovers that form after shoulder surgery? Are you willing to take a chance on a guy who has never thrown 200 innings in a season, one who hasn't started 30 games since '06? If you are in a deep mixed league, despite all the concerns, Bedard is clearly worth a shot, though I wouldn't drop an established hurler for him. At the same time don't be at all surprised if he struggles with health and effectiveness once he is activated; there's just too much white noise with him to be someone you count on at this point.
Simply put, if I receive Magglio Ordonez and Buster Posey for Matt Kemp is it a fair deal?-- Bill, Houlton, Maine
Most of the time, you want to emerge from a deal with the best overall player. In this case that player is clearly Kemp, a universally agreed upon top-10 option coming into the season. Kemp has apparently let all his time with Rihanna cloud his production of late, though, of course, if he was tearing it up we would be lauding the effect that the pop star was having on him. There is no disputing the fact that he has struggled of late with two hits in his last 17 at-bats (.118), a.200 mark the past two weeks, and a .243 average over his last 19 games. On the year his average has dipped to .268 and his OBP is down to .329, numbers that are basically league average (.258 and .320 in the NL this season). He's also been less than discerning on the base paths with nine steals and nine caught stealing tallies. Add that all up and he is on pace to roughly match his 26 homers from last season, though he looks like he will fall well short of the 101 RBI (he's on pace for about 85) and the 34 steals (he isn't even on pace for 25).
Ordonez just returned from an oblique injury that sidelined him for six games, and in that first game back he had four hits to raise his average to .324. People seem to forget that this man owns a .312 career batting average, and if we go back to August of last year we see a man who has hit .358 over the span of 374 at-bats. Granted, the days of 25 homers might be gone, he has just 12 in his last 104 games, but you can't ignore that average. It would be nice if he stole a few bases to a little sweetener to the pot, but that just isn't his game (he has 10 steals the past seven years).
Posey has been a marvel for the Giants, hitting .344 in his first 68 at-bats. Remarkably poised, he has struck out only five times, though he has walked only three times in 17 games. He certainly seems locked into the daily lineup and if he qualifies at catcher in your league, as he should, that makes him worthy of an everyday spot in your lineup. Still, I'm a little nervous about his current hit rate of .362; he likely won't be able to sustain that, and with a 1.67 GB/FB ratio, including nearly 51 percent of all batted balls ending up on the ground, he just doesn't profile as a hitter who is going to be driving the ball into the cheap seats any time soon.
As I said at the top, you almost always want the best player to end up on your squad. Given that, I would turn this deal down unless (a) you are weak at catcher, or (b) you need help in the batting average category. Posey and Ordonez will likely outperform Kemp in the average, but Kemp will steal more bases and likely hit more homers on his own than the duo of Posey and Ordonez.
I needed to rid myself of a starting pitcher since I have Chris Carpenter, Matt Cain, David Price, James Shields and Ricky Romero, so I dealt Price and Mark Reynolds for Ryan Braun and Freddy Sanchez. Was that a good choice?-- Jory, Dundas, Ontario, Canada
Price is leading the AL in victories with 10 and in ERA at 2.31, so, of course, his trade value is at an all-time high. Still, there are some reasons to be concerned. Over his last six starts he is 5-1, though that masks a 1.4 K/BB ratio, a 1.43 WHIP and a 4.88 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching mark -- based on the same scale as ERA). In addition, his K/9 rate on the year is 6.72, a 3-year low, his 3.68 BB/9 rate is worse than the AL average (3.39), and his left on-base percentage is 80.3 percent (his career mark is 73.5 while the league average is about 70 percent). Finally, Price owns a .265 BABIP mark, and it's gonna take some serious pitching to maintain that mark the rest of the way.
Reynolds is on pace for 35 homers, 110 RBI and more than 90 runs, so it's all good in the hood right? Well, not so much. Reynolds has stolen only three bases this year, partly because of a quadriceps injury and partly because he was never a 20-steal player to begin with despite last year's showing, and his average is down to .218 on the year. Three main factors are obvious reasons for the dip in batting average. (1) He's hitting almost 62 percent of all balls into the air, well above his 48 percent career mark. It's tough to get a lot of hits when you keep popping the ball upward. (2) His K-rate, always hideous, has risen to 40.5 percent. At that rate, given 559 at-bats (his average from the past two seasons), Reynolds would shatter his own major league record with 227 punchouts. (3) His BABIP mark has caved to .275. Reynolds owns a career mark of .334, and in his first three seasons was never under .323. Given his plethora of punchouts he simply must produce an elite hit rate to avoid floundering uncontrollably in the batting average category.
Braun has a line of .304/.365/.502 this season, not appreciably off his career slash line marks (.308/.364/.564). However, the vaunted power that has produced an average of 34 homers per season the first three years of his career has been somewhat MIA this season as he is on pace for right around 25 dingers. His fly ball rate is about three percentage points down, but it's his HR/F ratio that is the real reason for the lack of taters. Braun's sporting a 12.3 percent HR/F mark, which is well below the pace that saw him produce at least a 17.5 percent mark the first three seasons of his big league tenure. Given his consistency in this measure, it would seem like it's only a matter of time before he goes on a homer binge to bring everything back to "normal." The good news is that he already has 11 thefts, so a second straight 20/20 season seems highly probable.
Sanchez has been a physical mess since he was acquired by the Giants from the Pirates, but the wait has apparently been worth it. Sanchez has returned with a vengeance, hitting .337 with a .400 OBP in 25 games for the G-men. While that level of production is a bit shocking, don't forget that Sanchez owns a .300 career batting average, so the little fella can hit. Still, it would be foolhardy to expect him to maintain his current hit rate of .390 when his career mark is .326, so the batting average will likely recede. On the plus side, he is flashing a previously unseen level of patience at the dish with a 10.7 percent walk rate, a huge number for a guy who has never posted a mark above 5.5 since becoming a regular. Still, he isn't much of a fantasy performing in anything but the deepest of mixed leagues long-term since he has only 10 career steals and has never hit even 12 homers in a big league season.
Given your depth at pitching, this was a fair deal to make (that doesn't mean in a vacuum that the decision would be the same). Price will see his production regress a bit, and Reynolds is a threat to destroy any team's batting average. Braun is one of the top-10 players in the game and seems due for a power surge, and while hot, Sanchez makes a nice short-term play for a team looking for middle infield help.
Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Fanball.com Owners Edge and RotoTimes.com. His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home of fantasy baseball: Fanball.com. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at email@example.com. You can also follow Ray's thoughts at the Baseball Guys' Twitter page.