CARL CRAWFORD LOOKS BACK TO NORMAL
Heading into this season Giancarlo Stanton had 93 career home runs over 1,498 plate appearances. One for every 16.1 times he came to the plate. To start this season he has gone without hitting one over his first 38 plate appearances. I find myself already fielding questions on what is wrong with him. My answer is absolutely nothing.
Fantasy owners are a "what have you done for me lately" crowd, and start squirming relatively quickly when their first or second round draft pick struggles out of the gate. All anyone should do is look to what happened with him last April. He hit just one homer over his first 22 games. He played 123 games in total last season, meaning he launched 36 long balls over his other 101 games played.
If you own him, hold tight. When Stanton gets hot, he puts the ball out of the park like no other. If you happen to be in a league with an owner who is talking about being nervous about his start or even mentioning wanting to deal him, do yourself a favor and pounce. Buying low and selling high are paramount in this game, and there isn’t a better buy low candidate out there right now than Stanton.
[caption id="attachment_42312" align="alignright" width="300" caption="<em><strong>Carl Crawford has settled in quite nicely for the Dodgers.</strong></em> <em>Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cultureshlock/">Culture Shlock</a></em>"][/caption]
After missing just about all of Spring Training courtesy of his elbow, I would be lying if I said I was expecting Carl Crawford to do all that much to open the season. There is nothing wrong with being pleasantly surprised, though. His last two seasons in Boston damaged both his Fantasy stock and his ego. This year, he is comfortable again and raking as a result. It’s inevitable he is going to come back down to earth, but there are a few things I see that tell me he is in for a bounce back season. For starters, he is taking walks. Over his career he has walked 5.3 percent of the time. This season he is walking 10.8 percent of the time. Also, now that he is batting lead-off you can expect more swipes. He has converted two of his first four stolen base attempts. He only attempted five in 31 games last season and 29 over his last 161 games.
Brett Lawrie has begun rehab in extended spring training, meaning he is one step closer to returning. Estimates have him back playing third base for Toronto in less than two weeks. That means one of two things. Both Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio shift into a platoon at second base, or one turns into a super utility player. Based on how bad Bonifacio has been in the field (he has made four errors over his first eight appearances at second base), I am going to have to say he gets shifted into that super-utility role. Ultimately, that means he plays no more than four games a week, making him a guy that owners in leagues with weekly lineup changes will likely have to glue to their benches. He is going to need to really turn things on with the stick and his legs over the next week or so for this to change. A start would be improving on his swinging strike percentage, which currently sits at 18.3 percent.
When the A’s went and traded for Jed Lowrie during the offseason they knew they were getting their hands on a guy who fit exactly into their organizational plan. He works the count and will take a walk. His issue has been staying healthy. He has never played in more than 133 games in a season at any level. He was limited to 97 games last season courtesy of knee and ankle injuries, but he still managed swat a career best 16 homers. He is off to a huge start, posting a .410-10-3-8-0 line over his first 45 plate appearances. I expect the good times to continue, and gambling that he'll actually stay healthy and on the field this season. Should that happen, I predict a .275-90-24-75-5 line from him. Those would make him a Top-5 shortstop.
I was picking through some stats and there was something that really jumped out at me about Jedd Gyorko. The rookie with all of 37 plate appearances is getting some serious respect from opposing hurlers. He is currently seeing fastballs in just 37.4 percent of the pitches he has seen. That is the second lowest total in the league behind the Pirates Pedro Alvarez. To his credit, he hasn’t performed badly, hitting .250 with 4 RBI and five walks while batting fifth for the Friars. Consider this his floor. Gyorko was a beast in the minors, posting a .319/.385/.529 triple slash. He can and will hit at this level, and just needs a bit more time to settle in. He is available in 28 percent of leagues on CBSSports.com and his multi-position eligibility provides even more value to your roster. This kid will not be the next Gordon Beckham.
Mariners prospect Mike Zunino is flat out mashing at Triple-A right now to the tune of a .385-7-4-17-0 line over his first 26 at-bats. The big club, however, already finds itself four and a half games back of Oakland in the AL West and hitting a paltry .220 as a team. Zunino’s hot start officially puts Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak on notice. Both have averages below the Mendoza line and over 70 combined at-bats have managed just one extra base hit. Zunino is already a better catcher than Montero, and if he struggles for a few more weeks I think we see a move made. I think Zunino comes up and catches five games a week. Montero backs him up and then splits time with Smoak at first base, rendering them both close to useless in mixed leagues. If you need help at catcher, now is the time to pull the trigger on Zunino.
The biggest gripe associated with the Tigers Austin Jackson has always been that he strikes out too much. The 26-year-old has struck out in just about 25 percent of his 1,999 career plate appearances. This season, though, things are starting to look different. He has struck out just four times over his first 45 plate appearances. But wait, it gets better. Over his career he's swung at 26.5 percent of the pitches he's seen outside of the strike zone, and he swings and misses at 9.0 percent of all pitches he sees. So far this year, he is swinging at just 9.5 percent of the pitches he has seen outside the strike zone and only swinging and missing 1.9 percent of the time. I don’t know about you folks, but it sure does look like he is finally getting a handle on the strike zone. He is a lock to score over 100 runs leading off for the Tigers and should flirt with career bests in homers (16), RBIs (66) and batting average (.300) as well.
*All statistics include the games of Thursday, April 11.
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