Which players have been the most consistent for fantasy baseball owners in the first two months of the season?
When we’re constantly ranking and re-ranking and debating during draft season, we think primarily in terms of season-long stats. Any seasoned fantasy owner knows, however, that those stats don’t perfectly translate to the realities of the fantasy season (think: players' numbers rise and fall on a week-to-week basis). In head-to-head leagues, it doesn’t much matter if you win a category by one homer or one-thousandth of a point in OBP; it just matters that you win the category. A homer on Sunday when you’re already up by five isn’t quite as valuable as one that breaks a tie and wins you the category. Just like in football, consistency is key in baseball.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who have been the most consistent players in the league, based on wOBA, from April to May.
Top-20 wOBA, April:
1. Adrian Gonzalez, .512
2. Adam Jones, .480
3. Matt Carpenter, .461
4. Nelson Cruz, .459
5. Miguel Cabrera, .456
6. Joey Votto, .449
7. Paul Goldschmidt, .442
8. Joc Pederson, .440
9. Mike Trout, .437
10. Devon Travis, .436
11. Stephen Vogt, .435
12. Matt Holliday, .426
13. Corey Dickerson, .421
14. D.J. LeMahieu, .419
15. Jed Lowrie, .418
16. Jose Iglesias, .418
17. Adam Lind, .417
18. Anthony Rizzo, .417
19. Hanley Ramirez, .417
20. Mike Moustakas, .413
Top-20 wOBA, May
1. Bryce Harper, .561
2. Jason Kipnis, .512
3. Paul Goldschmidt, .500
4. Prince Fielder, .462
5. Todd Frazier, .459
6. Brandon Belt, .454
7. Anthony Rizzo, .441
8. Nelson Cruz, .433
9. Josh Donaldson, .430
10. Chris Colabello, .327
11. Stephen Vogt, .422
12. Andrew McCutchen, .420
13. Justin Upton, .415
14. Brian Dozier, .415
15. Francisco Cervelli, .409
16. Torii Hunter, .409
17. Lucas Duda, .407
18. Trevor Plouffe, .406
19. Jhonny Peralta, .404
20. Miguel Cabrera, .404
First, how about some fun with small sample sizes? D.J. LeMahieu! Jose Iglesias! Francisco Cervelli! Second, some names are surprisingly absent from one of the two lists. Bryce Harper just missed out in April, finishing 21st. Josh Donaldson was also just outside the top 20 in April, checking in at 25th. Meanwhile, despite having 15 homers this year, Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t been in the top-20 in wOBA in either month. And after leading the league in wOBA in April, Adrian Gonzalez finished 63rd in May.
Just five players appear on both lists. The title of most consistent hitter through the season’s first two months belongs to Paul Goldschmidt. The star first baseman was seventh in April and third in May. Nelson Cruz has kept up with him both months, finishing fourth in April and eighth in May. Anthony Rizzo and Miguel Cabrera have basically traded spots from April to May, with the former finishing 18th and seventh, while the latter ranked fifth and 20th. Finally, Stephen Vogt has been 11th in wOBA in each of the first two months. Unsurprisingly, all of them are among the top-17 hitters in standard 5x5 leagues, with Goldschmidt atop the list.
Hitters of the Week
Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays: .440 BA (11-for-25), 6 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI, .483 OBP
The Blue Jays went just 3–3 last week, but no one can fault Donaldson for their .500 record on a mini-tour of the AL Central. He started out by bludgeoning the White Sox in a four-game series at home, going 7-for-11 with four homers and seven RBI. He wasn’t nearly as hot in a weekend trip to Minnesota, but still hit the ball out of Target Field twice and drove in four runs in the three-game set. Donaldson has been a star for Toronto this year, hitting .312/.372/.604 with 15 homers, 39 RBI and 43 runs. He’s well on his way to a 30-100-100 season, and that would easily make him a top-10 hitter at season’s end. If Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista were hitting at the levels expected of them, the Blue Jays would likely be on top of the AL East.
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds: .500 BA (11-for-22), 4 HR, 7 R, 7 RBI, .560 OBP
After the first two games of last week, Frazier didn't appear to be on track for a noteworthy week. He hit 1-for-7 against the Rockies, though the one hit was a home run. He then turned it on over the last four games, going 10-for-15 with three bombs and five RBI. Frazier’s offense led Cincinnati in a sweep of Washington at home, scoring 21 runs (though the Reds had the good fortune to not face Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann). Frazier has kept the high times of 2014 rolling this season, slashing .287/.372/.624 with 16 homers, 31 RBI and 34 runs in 48 games. He’s on pace to surpass the 29 homers he hit last year, and while he may not put up another 20-20 season like he had last year, he does have six stolen bases this year, as well.
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies: .348 BA (8-for-23), 4 HR, 4 R, 10 RBI, .360 OBP
Arenado makes it a trio of third basemen as the best hitters of the previous week. He may have had just eight hits, but it helps when four of those sail over the fences. Arenado had a pair of homers in both of Colorado’s series last week. The best news there is that the Rockies spent the entire week on the road, visiting Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Both of those teams play in hitters’ parks, though neither is nearly as extreme as Coors Field. The Rockies still have 60 games remaining at home this season, and Arenado has yet to really get the bat going in the thin atmosphere. You can rest assured that a player of his stature will do so sooner rather than later. He’s hitting .284/.326/.563 with 12 homers this season.
Hitters of the Weak
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: .042 BA (1-for-24), 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, .115 OBP
Just when it seemed that Encarnacion was finding his stride in 2015, he turned in his worst week of the season. He started the week by going 0-for-3 with a walk in a Toronto win over the White Sox, then followed that up with an 0-for-4 day that included three strikeouts. Things got even worse for him the last day of the White Sox series, when he went 0-for-5 during an extra-inning loss in which three of his five at-bats came with runners on base. He managed to scratch out a single in the opening game of Toronto’s weekend series in Minnesota, but that would be the last time he got a hit in the week. All told, the 1-for-24 dropped his season slash line to .216/.300/.437 from .241/.325/.494. He does have 12 home runs on the year, but he has been a major disappointment through the season’s first two months.
Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox .143 BA, (4-for-28), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, .172 OBP
Sandoval had as many strikeouts as hits last week, and that typically isn’t a good sign. All four of his hits were singles, and they all came in different games, meaning he didn’t really have much of an offensive impact in any one contest. He went 2-for-12 as the Red Sox were swept by the Twins in a three-game series in Minnesota, and then 2-for-16 over the weekend, with the Red Sox dropping three of four to the Rangers. In short, both he and the team were terrible for the entire week. In his defense, he was coming off a knee injury that kept him out of the starting lineup for five days, so it’s entirely possible he was still working his way back to 100 percent. Having said that, the Red Sox may be regretting signing him to a big contract last offseason. He’s hitting just .251/.317/.371 with five homers in 46 games.
Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins: .174 BA (4-for-23), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, .208 OBP
Like Encarnacion, Ozuna seemed to be coming out of a season-long malaise over the last few weeks, and then he went and reversed all the progress he had made with one terrible stretch. It all started with a three-game set against the Pirates in which he went 2-for-12 with a pair of strikeouts and one walk. He went 1-for-9 in the first two games of a weekend series with the Mets, earning himself a day off on Sunday. He entered the game late and went 1-for-2, but that lone single didn’t do much to wash away a dreadful week’s worth of games. At the beginning of the week, Ozuna was hitting .281/.343/.388. He’s now hitting .268/.327/.366, continuing a power outage that has essentially zeroed out his fantasy value this year.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Yunel Escobar, Washington Nationals
Let’s go over some facts related directly or indirectly to Escobar. Fact: Escobar is eligible at shortstop and third base in fantasy leagues. Fact: Right now, Andrelton Simmons, Zack Cozart, Adeiny Hechevarria and Wilmer Flores are all top-10 shortstops. Fact: Escobar is hitting .317, the highest batting average for any shortstop. Fact: Escobar’s .371 OBP is tied with Brandon Crawford’s for second best among all shortstops, trailing only Jhonny Peralta. Fact: Escobar has 27 runs, third at the position behind Simmons and Hanley Ramirez. Fact: Escobar typically hits third, right in front of Bryce Harper. Fact: Bryce Harper just hit another home run (probably). Fact: Escobar is available in about 65 percent of fantasy leagues. Take all these Escobar facts together, and it’s hard to figure out why the fantasy community doesn’t want to buy into the veteran infielder. He’s not going to provide much in the way of power or speed, but he will get on base at a high rate, and his spot in the Washington lineup, coupled with that high OBP, could push him north of the 100-run mark this year. Chances are strong that you’re not happy with your current shortstop. If that’s the case, go get Escobar now.
Sell: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is finally putting together the type of year that many have expected of him since he slashed .293/.334/.465 with 19 homers as a rookie in 2011. There’s no doubt that he has, for all intents and purposes, earned his .302/.379/.505 line through the first two months of the year. He’s hitting the ball hard (34.7-percent hard-hit rate, 27.1-percent line-drive rate), he’s taking walks (10.6-percent walk rate) and he’s in the middle of one of baseball’s most potent lineups. He also has a 20.6-percent HR/FB ratio, and that’s where things get a little scary for his current owners. Hosmer has never had an HR/FB ratio higher than 13.5 percent for an entire season. On top of that, he’s hitting fewer fly balls as a share of balls in play than ever before. Hosmer’s relatively unexpected pop is helping drive his fantasy value, but there’s guarantee he keeps it up at this rate for the entire season. In fact, his track record would suggest that, if anything, he’ll slow down. At 25 years old, there’s a chance that he has grown into his power, but I’d rather put my money on the other side of that bet and cash in on Hosmer’s strong April and May while his value is sky high.
Hold: A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks
Pollock is currently a top-15 hitter in standard 5x5 head-to-head leagues, and that could have some of his owners thinking about selling him high. Understand that before you do so, this may not even be the high watermark of his season. Pollock is essentially continuing the breakout season started in 2014 and cut short by a broken hand. In 51 games before the injury, Pollock was hitting .316/.366/.554 with six homers and eight steals. In 48 games this year, he’s hitting .314/.366/.465 with five homers and 12 steals. We can crudely push those samples together and create a .315/.366/.508 hitter with 11 homers and 20 swipes in 99 games. Over 162 games, those counting stats translate to 18 bombs and 33 steals. At 27 years old, Pollock is truly coming into his own.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
You won’t have to troll milb.com to find clips of Gallo any longer. The Rangers will promote their star prospect on Tuesday, with the assumption being that he will start at third base while Adrian Beltre is on the DL. While the plan for now is to send him back to the minors when Beltre returns, it’s entirely possible he hits too much for them to demote him. After all, he has done just that at every level of professional baseball he has seen thus far in his career.
Gallo split the 2014 evenly between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco. He slashed .271/.394/.615 with 42 homers, second in the minors in roundtrippers to Kris Bryant (43). That was good enough to make him a top-15 prospect according to all three of the major ratings services, with both Baseball America (sixth) and MLB.com (ninth) placing him in the top 10. He remained at Frisco to start the season, and has made marked improvement at the Double-A level. While he hit for plenty of power with the Roughriders last year, he had a .232 batting average and .334 OBP. This season, at 21 years old, he’s hitting .314/.425/.636 with nine homers, 10 doubles and 31 RBI. He’s still striking out a lot (49 strikeouts in 146 plate appearances) but he also has 24 walks, another significant improvement from last season. Gallo looks like a star in the making, cut from a similar cloth to Bryant. He likely won’t make the immediate impact that the latter did with the Cubs when he was promoted in April, and there is the risk that he gets sent right back to the minors in a few weeks, but his ceiling is high enough to warrant grabbing him in all leagues, regardless of format.
GIF of the Week
The Pirates have won eight of their last 10 games and Andrew McCutchen is finally beyond the struggles that plagued him for the first six weeks of the season. That’s all well and good, but this is better.