“Herculean” Premature Fantasy Advice

Waiver pickups, trade bait, and more on the Fantasy rundown.

We’re roughly 35 games in to the 2012 Major League Baseball season. Baseball experts consider it a “small sample size”. Pitchers have 5-8 starts and every day players close to 150 plate appearances. So what can be gauged from this? Who’s a fantasy (see what I did there) and who’s authentic? If you’re in a deeper league with 15 or 20 teams or an AL/NL only league, you have to play the waiting game. You can’t go on the waiver wire and jump ship with a Delmon Young for an Allen Craig (and if you can you should do that immediately). There’s just not much available. On the other hand if you’re playing fantasy baseball in a shallow 10-12 team mixed league the options available are tantalizing.

Part I:

Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide,

No escape from reality

If Albert Pujols is a Queen fan those lyrics probably hit home right now. It’s interesting talking to Cardinal fans about Pujols’ start. Many claim they saw it coming. Would they feel the same way if he stayed? That’s a tough question to answer and one for a different article, but it’s hard to deny numbers. It’s a case of brain against heart. Being from Saint Louis…I want to give Pujols his due and talk about him at length. So here it is, my brain debating Pujols with my heart.

Heart: Pujols has a triple slash line of .196/.234/.275 but over his 12 year career it’s  .326/.417/.609. That’s over TWELVE YEARS. A month and a half long slump is nothing one of the greatest hitters ever can’t overcome. By the All-Star break his line should be respectable enough that he’ll scratch his way back into elite territory by the end of the year.

Brain: Look at the trends. His average and OPS has dropped the past three seasons. He’s had more walks than strikeouts every year aside from his rookie season. With the Angels he has a 17:7 K/BB rate. Very un-Pujols like. We’re seeing an aging star trying to compensate a loss of bat speed with an expanded strike zone. He’s trying to cheat on pitches by starting his swing early. This has been happening for a couple seasons now.

Heart: So what if he’s not the guy who can vie for a triple crown every year? Even if he hits .280 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s, he’s rather valuable to any team, fantasy or life.

Brain: Sure, valuable. But not worthy of the #1 pick, or a $240 million contract. Pujols is on pace for 40 walks. While that stat doesn’t matter much in fantasy, it does prove his batting eye is not as sharp as it was. He’s swinging at 48.4 percent of pitches, a career high. He’s cheating to catch up on velocity since his bat speed has declined. Last year Albert hit .327 with a 1.027 OPS in 253 plate appearances while ahead in the count 1-0. He hit a ridiculous .650 up 2-0. In 2012, he’s hit just .204 in 50 AB’s where he’s been ahead 1-0.

Heart: I can use stats too. And you keep “forgetting” to mention bad luck. Pujols has a line drive rate of almost 25%. The balls he’s hitting are right at people. Once they start dropping into gaps things will begin to turn around.  The man has a BABIP (batting average of balls in play) of .221, which is 90 points below his career average. That’s unsustainable.

Brain: Age. It is of my opinion that Albert Pujols is older than his listed age (32). Career numbers are telling, but it’s unfair to expect the same of a hitter at 37 to what he did at 27. Unless he’s on PEDs its just not comparable.

Like everything in life, you need balance. Both brain and heart have legitimate points, but the facts lie in the middle. Will Albert Pujols be valuable to a fantasy team? Without question. But Pujols will not be a top 10 player this year; so don’t treat him like such. He’ll probably finish the year with a slash of .280/.365/.560 with  25-30 homeruns and 80-100 RBI’s.

SELL HIGH

Here’s some players I would trade Albert Pujols for straight up: Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel

Oh that was 4/30; Jose is up to 8 HR’s.

Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose Bautista.

Wait. Jose Bautista? The Jose Bautista who burst onto the scene two years ago in a potential steroid induced transcendental baseball coma? Yes, the one currently hitting a whopping .198.

Bautista is walking more than he’s striking out and owns a criminally low BABIP of .170 (league average is around .275). So once the BABIP comes up he’ll be back to mashing. He’s already hit 8 home runs. He won’t finish the season as a .300 hitter but he’ll hit 40+ bombs with 100+ RBIs. Plus, Bautista is an OF and 3B. Pujols is a 1B. Easy choice.

Yu know who I’m gonna talk about next? It’s someone I was too scared to take. All I could think of was Dice-K. He had so much hype the odds seemed impossible. Keith Law pegged him as a potential Cy Young winner. Perhaps crazy, but Yu Darvish will rack up the meaningless and archaic “wins” statistic that the majority of voters love. The guy is the Yunanimous staff ace. He has SEVEN different pitches, and owns a K/9 of 10.35, which is elite. His BABIP is high at .307, so theoretically it could come down. Darvish has 18 strikeouts in 11 May innings.

Yes I am Yu. I should’ve drafted Yu. I say go after this guy. Trade anyone but the elite starters for him.

Except for…

Brandon Beachy: Maybe not a big name, but treat him as such. He’s 25 with filthy movement on his pitches. Last year he had 169 strikeouts in 141.2 IP. Good for a Darvish-like 10.74 K/9. So far in 2012 he’s at just 6.6 K/9 but expect that to increase. Beachy’s WHIP of 0.96 is insane and has a 1.60 ERA. Studly. Expect Beachy to evolve as the future Ace of the Atlanta Braves. I doubt you could buy low on him at this point, but he’s worth his price. On a playoff contender he will rack up wins, unlike Phillies ace Roy Halladay. Trading a commodity like Halladay for Beachy and a useful OF like Michael Bourn is smart.

Finally, Derek Jeter.

He went to Germany with Kobe and A-Rod what else do you need to know? But really, He’s got a BABIP of .398, which is unsustainable. Doesn’t mean it can’t be around .315 though which is still damn good. Jeter abandoned a new stride he had been working on in September of 2011 and hit .311 with an OBP of .393. So far in 2012 the trend has continued. I say ride the hot hand. SS is a tough position to fill. Except for elite players like Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez (still SS eligible) and Asdrubal Cabrera (he’s proven last year wasn’t a fluke) I wouldn’t trade Jeter for anyone besides maybe Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus (if only because of the lower injury risk and more steals ). He could easily hit .300 all season with solid steal and power numbers. Think 15 and 15. And yes, I didn’t mention Jose Reyes on purpose.

Next time I won’t spend so much time on Albert and fit some more players into the article. Bear with me.

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