When it comes to questions about players to start the season, Dexter Fowler is quite possibly the name that comes up most often. After launching his seventh homer
through 14 games it isn’t exactly surprising, though. The question everyone wants to know is: can the 27-year-old take another step forward as a hitter and vault himself into elite status?
My answer is no, and here is why. For starters, Fowler hit a career best 13 homers over 454 at-bats last year; prior to that he had only 42 through 3,144 at-bats. Sure, you can argue that he is now reaching the prime of his career and plays half of his games in Coors Field. But I can easily counter with the fact that he had eight homers over his first 128 at-bats last season, before fizzling out to hit just five more over his final 326.
Nothing in this kids profile screams power breakout, no matter how fast he has started. If you own him and someone is kicking the tires for a trade, sell high while you can. If your team needs an injection of power, buy low on a guy like Edwin Encarnacion or Jay Bruce. Fowler is nothing more than the NL’s version of Nick Markakis; a serviceable fourth outfielder in mixed leagues.
Brandon Morrow struck out 119 batters over his last 140.1 innings pitched. For a guy who we have come to know and love as a strikeout king throughout most of his career, it is enough to make one start to worry. His velocity has remained steady, so it isn’t declining stuff that is causing the issue. What I do see, though, is a guy who is slowly working away from his moneymaker; the slider. His out pitch happens to be what has helped keep him from throwing more than 180 innings in a season. He hasn’t scrapped it totally, but its decreased use in favor of a new cutter has undoubtedly resulted in Morrow having issues with missing bats so far this season. It’s clear he is willing to sacrifice whiffs in favor of his health. Unfortunately, that makes him much less appealing to Fantasy owners.
For his career, Ryan Braun has struck out in 18.0 percent of his plate appearances. This season he has struck out 33.3 percent of his plate appearances. He has also swing and missed 12.6 percent of the pitches he has seen and made contact with just 69.2 percent of the pitches he has swung at. To put that into perspective, that morphs him performance- wise from reigning NL MVP into Drew Stubbs. He has been dealing with neck issues dating back to April 5, and based on his early season performance it’s hard to believe he still isn’t suffering. He says they aren’t bothering him anymore, but a funky neck issue is enough to throw anyone completely out of whack for a bit. He will snap out of it, but don’t be surprised if it takes him another couple of weeks to do so.
Since coming over to the A’s back in 2010, Coco Crisp has stolen 124 bases over 334 games. He’s been a reliable source of stolen bases (more on that importance to come soon), while also solid providing solid batting average and run totals. Since going hitless in his first two games he has ripped off an 11-game hit streak that has saw him hit four homers, drive in eight runs and steal four bases. Oakland currently leads the league in runs scored, with 96 through their first 16 games. They also lead the league in walks with 70. That, my friends, is the best of both worlds for Crisp as their leadoff hitter. He will get to score plenty of runs while also seeing his fair share of RBI opportunities. I am predicting that Crisp will set career best marks in runs scored and RBI this season. He is someone I will target via trade as soon as he starts slumping.
In my first OSR Report of the season, I touched on noticing that the league was off to a slow start in terms of stolen bases. Last year, there was an average of 1.33 stolen bases per regular season game played. As things currently stand after Thursday’s games, the league currently is averaging 1.04 swipes per game played. It’s an improvement over the first week of the season but still significantly lower than last year. A look around the league shows a bunch of guys that we have come to expect to run just not doing so. Michael Bourn (1 stolen base), Matt Kemp (0), Brett Gardner (0), Mike Trout (1), Jose Altuve (1), Carlos Gomez (0), Ichiro Suzuki (0) and Emilio Bonifacio (0) are all stuck in slow motion. They all will get going, but if this trend continues you would serve yourself best to hold on to any stolen base threats you own. If you are light on swipes, once again, do your best to get your hands on some speed now, before your league catches on about the drop in stolen bases.
Aside from Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds have gotten practically zero production from their outfield to start the season. Ryan Ludwick suffered a torn labrum on Opening Day and won’t be returning until sometime in July. In his stead, Cincy has been using a combination of Chris Heisey and Xavier Paul. The two have them have combined to post a .200-9-2-11-2 line with a .229 OBP over 70 at-bats with 21 strikeouts. Most of the work has gone to Heisey thus far, and he has been borderline abysmal. Speed demon Billy Hamilton is waiting in the wings at Triple-A, but he has also gotten off to a slow start, posting an OBP of just .273 over his first 55 plate appearances. Remember, this kid stole 155 bases last season and already has nine this year. All he needs is one hot streak and my money has him coming up. The guys in front of him just aren’t performing with the big club. His game-changing speed alone makes up for his current shortcomings with the bat. If you need speed and have room on your bench, go out and make the pickup.
Red Sox manager John Farrell went on the record Wednesday stating he was not ready to guarantee Joel Hanrahan regains his job as closer upon his return from the DL. Being that I had him listed as one of my pitching busts to start the season, I can’t exactly say I am surprised. Last season, he walked 14.2 percent of the batters he faced en route to one of the luckier seasons in baseball. His start to his first season in Boston has been brutal. Opposing batters are hitting .300 against him, he has walked 20 percent of the men he has faced and he has given up three homers in just 4.2 innings pitched. Andrew Bailey is a better pitcher and is finally healthy. This is a no-brainer. If Bailey is still available on your waiver wire, go out and get him. He will hold the job for the remainder of the year and save 30-plus games.
*All statistics include the games of Thursday, April 18.