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In a variety of different articles on RotoExperts.com you’ve probably seen that we’ve reached the point in the season where you should be taking a hard look at your Fantasy teams to decide whether it’s time to start working the waiver wire or piecing together a trade or two to improve production. Believe it or not, research has shown that the teams that are in or close to first place at the end of May, more often than not will be the winner in Fantasy leagues. This usually happens because the teams that are in the bottom half of the league waited too long to make necessary changes. So, if any of your Fantasy Baseball teams are currently out of the top third of the league in the standings, you need to get going. NOW!!
One exercise that I like to conduct to determine whether I need to replace hitters is to look at how they are trending at this stage of the season. Since most everyday players have amassed around 150 plate appearances at this point, I like to look at the most recent 50 plate appearances and compare that to the previous 100 plate appearances. If I see that they are fairly consistent and producing well during both of those subdivisions, then I’m satisfied that their performance will likely continue along similar lines, especially if the production is typical compared to their career norms. However, if I notice that a player had a rough first 100 plate appearances, and that the trend continued during the next 50 PA, then that player becomes someone I am interested in replacing. If a player has shown signs of reversing the earlier established trend in a positive way, I will postpone any moves and continue to be patient.
This is a great way of weeding out problem players and picking out the players you need to keep or replace if your team needs tweaking. Even if you’re sitting in first place, it’s a great way to determine whether you might need to make changes in order to stay on top. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some hitting trends over the first 150 PA to see if we need to replace, be patient, or be satisfied with what we’re getting from them.
Adam Eaton (OF, White Sox) – Eaton was just awful over his first 100 plate appearances with a triple slash of .191/.240/.266 and just one stolen base. In fact, I drafted Eaton in several leagues since he bats leadoff in a Chicago White Sox lineup that was expected to score plenty of runs. He missed the first few games at the beginning of May and I dropped him in two leagues. Lo and behold, a few days off seemed to spur Eaton to start hitting; over his last 55 PA he is slashing .294/.374/.471 with a home run but zero stolen bases. He’s making harder contact since the calendar turned to May and I’m encouraged enough by what I’ve seen recently to pick him up again in one of my leagues. Now, if he would just run a bit, he might recover some value.
Jason Heyward (OF, Cardinals) – Heyward fans were hoping that the move to St. Louis and being in a contract year would motivate Heyward to be the complete player we all thought he was when he made such a splash in his rookie season. So far? Not so much. Over his first 101 PA he slashed .223/.277/.340 with two HRs, five RBIs and 11 runs scored, which is terrible for player that spent the first 17 games batting in the two-hole. He’s since spent most of his time batting sixth or seventh and it seems to be helping. Over his last 56 PA he’s batting .300/.357/.500 with a pair of HRs, seven RBIs and 12 runs scored, already exceeding his first month’s production in half the at bats. He’s hitting way more line drives and fewer groundballs but his fly ball rate is still too low to expect many HRs from him. Still, I’d remain patient because the lineup around him creates too many opportunities to ignore and the potential for some tasty Fantasy goodness is vast.
Nolan Arenado (3B, Rockies) – This is supposed to be a big breakout year for Arenado and his April numbers certainly looked like he was on his way. He had a triple slash of .295/.327/.579 over his first 101 PA, with six HRs, 17 RBIs and 15 runs scored. However, Arenado has slumped over his last 45 PA with a .195/.267/.317 line and one HR, two RBIs and two runs scored. Even with the recent slump, Arenado’s overall numbers remain impressive and his peripherals don’t indicate trouble ahead as long as he’s healthy. This might be a good time to make an offer for the Rockies’ hot corner man, especially if his owner is down in the standings. If you own him, hang in there; the breakout will resume.
Joc Pederson (OF, Dodgers) It seems like Pederson was anointed the front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors a bit too soon. He had a solid first 101 PA with a .260 BA, seven HRs, 16 RBIs, 16 Runs and a stolen base to his credit. However, he struck out 33 percent of the time, which is never a good thing, especially for a young hitter. The strikeouts has certainly slowed him a bit over the past 56 PA, as he’s batted just .196. His healthy 19.1 percent walk rate has kept his OBP steady and he is showing some slight improvement in the strikeouts recently. Even with the low average he swatted three dingers. For now, Pederson continues to produce enough, but if the strikeouts spike upward again or the power numbers fade, you might reconsider whether he’s worth keeping. I’d even put feelers out now to see what you could get in return with a trade. You never know.
Matt Kemp (OF, Padres) – Maybe Kemp had a chip on his shoulder and wanted to prove he could still be a force, because his first month with the Friars saw him slash .326/.357/.478 with 16 RBIs and 16 Runs but just one HR. Unfortunately, he’s been epically bad ever since the calendar turned to May, batting just .172/.210/.190. Some of Kemp’s problems are due to a very unlucky BABIP of .226 in May, but that’s par for the course after an April BABIP of .381. However, Kemp has a career .350 BABIP, so things are likely to pick up, at least when it comes to batting average. Power is another issue altogether, as his groundball rate (49.6 percent) is far too high to expect much in the way of HRs. Of course, Kemp could go on a tear at any point, as we’ve seen in recent years past. So, hang in there if you own Kemp because you won’t get much back in a trade unless he starts to hit a few dingers, which may be tough for him playing half his games at Petco Park.
Chris Davis (1B, Orioles) – The first 100 PA for Davis were solid but unspectacular with a .273/.340/.534 line, six HRs, 18 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Unfortunately, that production came with a ridiculous 35.8 percent strikeout rate, which has since risen to 38.8 percent. With the rise in strikeouts has come a drop in walks, and over his last 47 PA he’s slashed a pitiful .116/.191/.302 with two homers, three RBIs and two runs scored. It’s hard not to think back to last season’s disaster and wonder whether Davis is headed down the same exact road despite his strong first month. All those strikeouts are a real problem and he just doesn’t look anything like the slugger we saw in 2013. Davis’ value is plummeting so fast that you might have difficulty moving him in a deal unless you can get someone to believe the past three weeks has been a fluke. Still, you should deal him if you can, unless you can stomach another four and a half months of sub Mendoza line batting averages.