Here are the answers to some of the questions that I have recently received at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
Am I crazy to Consider dropping Adam Dunn for Anthony Rizzo? Dunn is killing me.-- @Dorman06
Allow me to be stupid for a moment.
For each of the past seven years Dunn has averaged 38 homers with 92 RBI. How many such seasons has Rizzo ever had? Obviously, the answer is zero. In fact, Rizzo's minor league high for homers is 25.
Dunn has been beyond horrible, causing people to flee like he has the bubonic plague, so let me ask you -- do you really think that a guy who is 31 years old just lost "it" overnight? My point is that his history, as well as common sense, should be telling you that at some point the light will click on and he will return to being the power bat he always has. The question is, will that occur in time for him to be a more productive bat than Rizzo in 2011?
Rizzo is a luminous prospect who is killing it in Triple-A this season, hitting .365 with 16 homers and 63 RBI through 52 games. The Padres have started to use Brad Hawpe in the outfield with the expectation that Rizzo will take over at first base at some point in the very near future (perhaps this week). However, there are some real concerns that should be voiced here.
(1) For every Eric Hosmer who just shows up hitting, there are 20 Justin Smoaks who take a while to figure it out. The transition from the minors to the majors is a massive step, and not all youngsters are capable of making the needed adjustments right away.
(2) The Padres have the worst batting average (.231), the lowest OBP (.300), the worst SLG (.335) and the fewest runs scored (231) in the National League. That sure doesn't sound like there is a great supporting cast awaiting Rizzo in San Diego, does it?
(3) Petco Park is murder on power hitters. The last three years, according to Park Indices, Petco is the worst park in the National League for home runs (22 percent below the league average). It's even more dreadful when it comes to left-handed power hitters. Oh, it's still dead last in the NL, but for lefties the Park Indices mark is 59 or 41 percent below the league average. There isn't a harder park in baseball for a left-handed power hitter, and it's just not power that Petco saps. Over the past three years the yard is also last in the NL in average, doubles, and runs scored.
So what would I do? As great as Rizzo has been this season down on the farm, and as poorly as Dunn has performed in his first year with the White Sox, I'm still going to suggest staying with Dunn. I keep coming back to the fact that Rizzo doesn't have a single at-bat in the majors while Dunn is still working on a steak of seven-straight seasons of at least 38 homers and 92 RBI, the second longest streak in the history of the game (the record of nine is held by Rafael Palmeiro, while Babe Ruth is tied with Dunn at seven). Rizzo could easily be an All-Star one day, but for now, I'm going with the proven commodity, even if he is struggling right now.
I'm curious why you have Jaime Garcia out of the Top-50 in your ROTW pitcher rankings?-- Mike
For those of you wondering what Mike is talking about, I released my Rest of the Way rankings recently, and I listed Garcia at 51st among starting pitchers (for the entire list you can read ROTW Rankings: Pitchers. There is also a link in that piece to my ROTW rankings for hitters). So we are all clear, by ROTW rankings I mean from here on only, i.e. I'm not counting numbers that have been posted to this point of the season.
So why am I so "down" on Garcia? Some thoughts.
(1) Even at No. 51 overall, if we are talking about a 12-team mixed league, I'm saying Garcia will have a shot to a No. 4 starting pitcher in the fantasy game the rest of the way, so I'm not really that down on him.
(2) Garcia's never thrown 175 innings in a season. Garcia has had multiple issues with his arm, and with it being so valuable, there are more than a couple of reasons that the Cardinals could limit him to 180-190 innings this season after keeping him to 163.1 innings last season. Such a decision would obviously curtail Garcia's value, that is if he can stay healthy.
(3) Garcia has upped his K/9 mark from 7.27 last year to 8.33 while seeing his walk rate per nine dip from 3.53 to 2.11. It's tough to believe he will be able to keep his K/9 rate a batter above last season while also keeping his walked rate a batter and a half below his '10 mark. Pitchers just don't make jumps like that in both categories from one year to the next.
(4) A first-rate ground ball pitcher, Garcia's GB-rate has regressed slightly from 56 percent to 53 percent. It's still a superb mark, and perhaps the level will raise the rest of the season, but it should be monitored, especially when we consider that his fly ball rate is up five percent from 26 to 31 percent.
Garcia's taking his whole game to the next level. Can he stay there? That is certainly possible. But his numbers were already strong last year before this season's growth, and when you add in his career long durability issues I'm just leery that the rest of the season will match his hot start.
Brent Lillibridge continues to see PT. Is he worth a bench spot in a 14-team mixer?-- @baseballjunkie
With Alex Rios continuing to hit like a fifth outfielder just hoping to hold on to a big league roster spot (.199/.253/.301), Lillibridge has been getting a look in the outfield for the White Sox.
Let's keep things in perspective here. Lillibridge had three homers in 273 at-bats entering the year, so his total of seven in 77 at-bats sure seems like an outlier. Coming into this season Lillibridge had hit .194 with a .551 OPS as a big leaguer. His average is up about .100 points to .286 this season and his OPS has nearly doubled (1.008). During nearly 2,000 minor league at-bats he has hit .268 with a .758 OPS, so obviously his current level of production seems ridiculous. Lillibridge can steal bases, and with a full season of work 20 steals, his current pace, does seem like a pace he can keep up. Still, other than the steals, there seems to be no way that Lillibridge would be capable of sustaining his current level of production.
Do you add him in a 14-team league? You can if you need a pick-me-up, especially since he qualifies at second and the outfield, but realize nothing he did in the previous three years in the bigs, or in his six seasons in the minors, supports the bat that he is swinging right now.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.