The date is June 1. The Pirates just lost a 2-0 game against the Reds, their second consecutive game being shut out. Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout to see his average dip back below the Mendoza line to .198. After starting all but two games in April, Alvarez took a seat on the bench seven times in May and it was starting to look like he was going to continue to cede playing time.
While we can’t be sure exactly what happened, his bat began to wake up on June 2. Since that point, in a span of 82 at-bats, he has hit .329 with nine homers and 22 RBIs. One thing we have learned over his three plus seasons in the league is this guy runs about as hot and cold as anyone. His power has proven constant though, as he has averaged a home run every 17.3 at-bats for his career. That happens to be better than guys like Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton and Jay Bruce.
His recent hot streak has brought his season line to a respectable .242-33-19-51 line and taken him from a guy that was available in just about 40 percent of CBSSports.com leagues to a guy currently owned in 91 percent and rising. Obviously the question now is can he sustain his production or will he slither back into the doldrums with the rest of the Fantasy castaways?
One constant I see from him is whenever he does get on a tear in terms of average; patience at the plate always coincides. Over his first 170 plate appearances, during which he hit the aforementioned .198, he had 14 walks. He had nine walks over his last 93 plate appearances. If he continues to draw the base on ball, you should continue trotting him out there with confidence. He is currently projected to hit 39 long balls and drive in 106 runs. Both career bests.
If he continues doing a solid job drawing walks and keeps putting the ball in the air when making contact, he should have no trouble getting there. I can easily see him posting similar numbers to what Mark Reynolds did while with the Diamondbacks. For those of you that can’t remember that far back, feel free to take a look at his numbers
Since coming off the DL on May 21, Matt Garza has made eight starts. His overall numbers have been solid, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He arguably had his best start of the season on Thursday striking out 10 Brewers over seven innings of one-run ball. For the season he has given up 21 earned runs, but nine of those came in one start against the Reds on June 11. That means his ERA has been a stellar 2.89 over his other seven starts. Injuries have limited him to just 25 starts since the beginning of the ’12 season, but lets not forget that he started at least 30 games a season from ’08 to ’11 while never posting an ERA over 3.95. This guy is a quality option that I feel was really coming into his own prior to his elbow issues. He is a very likely trade candidate as we head toward the deadline. A move to a team in the playoff hunt should do put him into position to really boost his win total in the second half of the season.
The Cleveland Indians are tied for fifth in the league in stolen bases with 59. After signing a four-year, $48 million dollar free agent deal, Fantasy owners thought for sure Michael Bourn would be big source of swipes, but with just 11 in his first 54 games, he has been a huge disappointment. The fact that Jason Kipnis has 17 through 68 games and was never regarded as much of a speed threat prior to last season screams something isn’t right here with Bourn. He has played in at least 138 games in each of the last five seasons and hasn’t suffered any type of major injury to his legs. His .342 OBP percentage is right with his career average, so it’s not like he is having issues getting on base. This looks like nothing more than a confidence issue. He has been caught in five of his last 13 attempts and has only attempted five since the calendar changed over to June. His totals will go up, but I can’t see him holding more value than a guy like Ben Revere or Shane Victorino for the remainder of the season.
The Rangers Derek Holland has had a very nice first half. In his 16 starts he is 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.22 WHIP while posting a 8.24 K/9. The 26-year-old lefty has flashed promise throughout his young career, but he hasn’t really put everything together until this season. A change in his pitch usage has been the key to his success and the reason I think he continues throwing well. This year he has ditched his curveball almost completely and reduced his fastball usage by 10 percent. In turn he has upped the use of his slider 15 percent and changeup five percent. The latter of which have been his two best pitches. He needed just 92 pitches for a complete game shutout in the Bronx on Thursday, and it was a thing of beauty. If you can get your hands on this kid, buy him.
Many forget Jay Bruce didn’t hit his first homer until his 83rd at-bat. For a guy who hit a career best 34 last season, this came as an absolute shock to the Fantasy community. I am sure it resulted in plenty of owners selling low, and boy do they regret it. Since his first long ball on April 22, he has hit 17 more over a span of 230 at-bats. For those of you who aren’t good at basic math, that’s one for every 12.77 at-bats since that point. Believe it or not, but he is currently on pace to hit 37 homers and drive in 107 runs. Both of which would set new career bests. Moral of this little example is simple. If a player offers a decent sample size of quality production, do yourself a favor and don’t sell him after a slow first 20 games.
Heading into this season I absolutely loved Starlin Castro. I had him as my third ranked shortstop behind just Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki. What wasn’t to like? He had 529 career hits prior to his 23rd birthday en route to a career .297 average. He showed improved power over each of his three seasons and looked like a prime candidate to flirt with his first career 20-20 season. All he has done this season though is disappoint. He is hitting just .234 with three homers and seven stolen bases over his first 75 games. The only difference I see in this season than the three prior has been how pitchers have attacked him. Anyone with a cut fastball is using it against him, and Castro has some serious issues with the pitch. The word is out, so he is going to continue seeing it until he makes adjustments. This is the first true rough patch of what has been a bright young career. How he handles it will say a lot for how the rest of his career will be.
The Tigers Jhonny Peralta is currently hitting .322 on the season. For his career he is a .267 hitter over 5,531 career plate appearances. He has never hit over .299 in a season as well. Common sense tells you this guy is due for a correction. A look at his completely unsustainable .397 BABIP absolutely screams it. Identifying the proper time to sell high on a guy is crucial in this game. With guys like Tulowitzki and Everth Cabrera on the DL and aforementioned Starlin Castro struggling, now is the precise time to kick the tires of a few owners in your league to see if they could some help at shortstop. No sense in staying on this ride when you know it’s going to finish on a slow note.
*All statistics include the games of Thursday, June 27.
Photo via Tim’s Pics