h2h Corner ~ I’m a Believer: April Edition

Apparently, I like to write serial columns (Keep, Trade or Drop, Closer Carousel and Katy Perry All-stars), and this will be no exception. Welcome to April’s “I’m a Believer” column.

Yes, I got the name from a Monkees’ song. And yes, I like the song. Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote it, as well as many other songs by the Monkees? Isn’t Neil Diamond cool (Red Sox fans)? Therefore – fantasy baseball love notwithstanding – aren’t I cool (hello, transitive property)?

Didn’t think so. But at least you now have “Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer…” stuck in your head (Co-Stan-Za, by Mennen).

April is very early in the season. In April, you should not drop or sell low on any player you drafted in the top 15 – 20 rounds. Sure, you can jettison late round speculative picks for newly coronated closers, but don’t overreact and drop or trade the Ricky Nolascos of the world because they haven’t looked so good yet. Pitchers get shelled, batters have o’fers – it’s a long season, so be cool/be nice.

Once May arrives, however, we start to get some legitimate early evidence on the way the season will unfold. Those who pick the right starting horse to ride will reap the benefits for the rest of the season. I did profile some hot starters in early April – I’m happy that I discussed Adam Lind, Adam Jones and Nyjer Morgan.

That said, what speculative picks should you be jumping on? Well, I’m here to provide background on fantasy baseball’s April darlings.

Albert Pujols – First base, St. Louis Cardinals – he is this good.

Aaron Hill – Second Base, Toronto Blue Jays – I paid $1 for him in my 20-team ROTO league and he has almost made up for the fact that J.J. Hardy and Mike Aviles suck. I don’t think his current power numbers are an aberration. At age 25, in 2007, Hill hit 17 HRs. His 162-game average, which is buoyed by his hot start this year, is 34 HRs. He certainly won’t hit that many, but somewhere between 17 and 32 seems right. That’s not bad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hill was a top seven second baseman by the season’s end.

Adam Lind – Outfield/First base, Toronto Blue Jays – Lind was this close to being labeled an AAAA player. But then he finished off strong last year, posted a good spring, and is now off to a fantastic start to the season. His full season major league numbers suggest 20+ HRs, 90+ RBIs and 90 runs. He could also post a .270 batting average. That’s pretty good potential.

Adam Jones – Outfield, Baltimore Orioles – In 132 games last year, Jones hit nine homeruns and stole 10 bases. He is off to a hot start and would not surprise anyone with a 20-20 season, while scoring 75-90 runs and knocking in 55 or so. Hitting between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis sure is nice.

Nick Swisher – First base/Outfield, New York Yankees – I thought once the Yankee’s outfield situation was settled, Swisher would revert to his 2006 – 2007 form. Swisher’s AVE dropped to .219 last year, which makes his 24 HRs somewhat useless. However, if you look under the numbers, Swisher had a ridiculously unlucky BABIP (batting average on balls in play). His BABIP registered at just .249 for the season and just .202 for the second half. This had to correct itself; no one is this unlucky. Swisher’s performance so far isn’t a huge mirage – he wont hit .312, but should smack at least 25 HRs with a .250 or so average.

Jason Bay – Outfield, Boston Red Sox – Last year, in only 184 at bats with the Red Sox, Bay hit 9 HRs and had 37 RBIs (only 27 fewer RBIs than he had the bulk of his season with the woeful Pirates). With nearly 69 percent of his at bats occurring in Pittsburgh in 2008, Bay managed to total 111 runs, 31 HRs and 101 RBIs. So far, Bay is batting .316 with five HRs and 20 runs and RBIs. His OBP, owing to a league-leading 25 walks, is a ridiculous .486. Looks like my prediction of 120 runs, 35 homers, 125 RBIs and a .295 average might not be out of line.

Brandon Inge – Catcher/Third base/Outfield, Detroit Tigers – How should Inge’s hot start (.316 AVE and seven HRs) be interpreted? Inge has a career .199 AVE as a catcher, but hits .258 as a third baseman. It is unlikely he will continue to hit over .300, but he could settle in around .260 or so. He also managed 27 HRs in 2006, and has a career 162-game average of 16. It isn’t implausible that Inge could knock out 20 HRs, which makes him a nice buy as your starting catcher. If you can find a trading partner willing to buy his batting average and pace, feel free to deal. Otherwise, I’d ride the hot streak.

Bobby Abreu – Outfield, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – First, “Abreu left Friday’s game because of tightness in his lower back but the injury is not considered serious.” On April 9, I said:

Bobby Abreu was my 24th ranked hitter, I unabashedly believe in him to be a 20-20 talent with great OBP/AVE potential, which leads to great run scoring and RBIs, especially if he bats third or fourth in the lineup.

I didn’t think he’d run out of the gate, literally, with 11 SBs in just 22 games. Clearly he won’t steal 80 bases, but could easily swipe 30 at this point. So far, the power hasn’t been here (zero HRs), but he should be good for 15 or so. Abreu will be a 15-30 player instead of the 20-20 talent I thought. Still, that is eminently valuable.

Marco Scutaro – Second base/Third base/Outfield, Toronto Blue Jays – There is a reason Scutaro remains available in 21 percent of Yahoo leagues: he is 33, he has never hit more than nine HRs (which he did in 2005), knocked in more than 60 RBIs (2008), scored more than 76 runs (2008), or stolen more than seven bases (2008). A lot of his performance this year is tied to him tripling his walk rate, which cannot continue – he has 23 walks this year compared to 57 total walks last year. This won’t continue, nor will his batting average or OBP. He could score 90 runs or so, but double-digit HRs still seems unlikely.

Nyjer Morgan – Outfield, Pittsburgh Pirates – Morgan bats in a nice spot of the order and should get some scoring love. So far, he is a career .299 hitter with a .355 OBP in 364 at bats. He is still early in his career, but, in addition to being a good source for steals (six already this year), he could add decent batting average (unlike say Michael Bourn) and a good amount of runs.

Russell Branyan – First base/Third base, Seattle Mariners – in his major league career, Branyan has struck out 812 times in 781 games. Despite his amazing ability to swing and miss, Branyan has always had great power upside. With a full-time gig in Seattle, he could hit 30 HRs and add 70 RBIs this year. He is a batting average liability, so be careful. If you buy in, enjoy the cheap home runs, they should continue.

Asdrubal Cabrera – Second base/Shortstop, Cleveland Indians – Cabrera is off to a scorching start (17 runs, 13 RBIs, 4 SBs, and a .333 AVE in just 23 games) and has been elevated to the second spot in the order. Las year was a disappointment, mostly due to his inability to get on base (.346 OBP). So far, his OBP has increased by 90 points (.435), which is out of whack with his minor league average of .350 OBP (only .325 in AAA). There is a lot of buzz around Asdrubal; so if you can get value based on his April performance, do so. If not, he should continue to bring you decent returns.

Zack Greinke – Kansas City Royals – I had Greinke as the 19th best pitcher in the pres-season. In 2009, he is leading the majors in wins (five), ERA (0.50), complete games (two), strikeouts (44) and WHIP (0.89). Wowsers! Greinke has always had promise, and while he won’t continue to be the Albert Pujols of starters, I’d enjoy the ride while it lasts. A top-10 starter this year? Yeah, I’m buying that.

Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers – Gallardo has been a fantasy tease for what seems like forever. He debuted in 2007, going 9 -5 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 101 Ks in 110 innings. Gallardo was injured last year, only pitching 24 innings. If he is healthy, Gallardo should be nasty. So his stats so far this season aren’t out of line with what a healthy Gallardo can produce.

Wandy Rodriguez – Houston Astros – Ask my leaguemates, I’ve always loved Wandy – he is consistently awesome at home. So far, this year, in two away starts, Rodriguez has posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, while striking out nine in 13 innings. Last year, Rodriguez struck out 131 batters in just 137 innings. Rodriguez could be ready to take the leap and be a 180+ K pitcher. If so, awesome.

Edwin Jackson – Detroit Tigers – In 2008, Jackson posted a 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in March/April, and 3.57 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in May. So Jackson has flirted with useable fantasy stats (not including the WHIP) early in the last two seasons. I’m cautiously optimistic that he can continue the trend. However, if someone really believes this is possible, I’m selling fast. Simply put, you can’t predict pitchers.

Javier Vazquez – Atlanta Braves – Vazquez has 42 Ks in 32 innings so far. I love Vazquez like Selena Roberts loves AROD. One salient detail:

He now gets to face a pitcher at least twice a game, so his strikeouts will improve and his ERA/WHIP should go down.

Vazquez has posted a 1.22 WHIP, which is awesome and would suggest his 3.38 ERA is not out of line. I’m buying his start as the real Vazquez.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] might remember that I profiled some hot starters in late April – I’m happy that I discussed Adam Lind, Adam Jones, Nick Swisher, Jason Bay, Russell Branyan, Zack G…. But that’s the past and this is the […]

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