Things are still a little skewed in Major League Baseball heading into the third week. The Red Sox are still in last place, the Indians Clevelands are still flying high, and Coco Crisp’s hair has yet to devour a teammate. Things are strange indeed.
This week, for your dose of fantasy baseball here at Getting Blanked, I’m going to talk about those swooning Clevelands.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Cleveland reeled off an eight-game winning streak after dropping their first two games of the season and currently sit at 11-4, top of the pops in the AL Central. They’ve been getting solid pitching and timely hitting (and let’s face it, a whole lot of luck) and are surprising just about everyone with an opinion.
A good friend of mine who happens to be a Cleveland sports fan (poor bastard) is saying now that the Clevelands will be at least a .500 team this year. I think maybe he’s been drugging himself since the departure of LeBron James and has become delusional, but there’s no denying it’s a promising start.
SELL HIGH: Justin Masterson
Masterson has looked very good in his first three starts, winning all three with a 1.33 ERA and 2.62 FIP, but if you pick him up in your pool, be wary; Masterson hasn’t been striking many out this year with a K/9 rate well below his career average and even if he brings that up, his 1.77 BB/9 rate is unsustainable, especially considering his career rate is nearly 4.00.
Another red flag is Masterson’s inordinately high left-on-base percentage (LOB%) which sits at 85.0% even though his career rate is just 70.9%. Masterson is pitching like a number one right now and it won’t last; if you have him, move him for something of higher value than a pitcher with a middling walk-rate and an ERA in the 4.00s, because when midnight strikes that’s where he’ll be.
BUY-LOW: Shin-Soo Choo
Now, before you jump all over me, I’m aware that the idea of buying Choo low is ridiculous since anyone with a baseball I.Q. is aware that Choo’s slow start should not be permanent, but you never know until you try. Maybe the owner that has him in your pool is unaware of just how good Choo is. I mean, he does play in Cleveland which isn’t exactly the baseball media-center of the world, so who knows, maybe you can trade for him without giving up a stud.
Choo’s slow start can be explained by a few things: First of which is his low BABIP, which sits at .250 despite a career .347-mark. There’s no way Choo stays that far below what he’s done in the past. The low BABIP can be partially explained by a lack of line drives. Despite cracking liners at a 21.2% rate throughout his career, he’s only done it at an 11.9% rate this season. That will change.
Another factor is Choo’s slow start has been his low walk-rate, which is odd simply because he appears to be more disciplined than normal. Choo normally swings at balls outside the strike zone about one-quarter of the time and this season, he’s cut that rate to one-sixth meaning he’s seeing the ball well. At the same time, his in-the-zone contact rate when he does swing has fallen dramatically which could indicate nothing more than an easily tweaked timing problem.
SELL HIGH: Travis Hafner
There was a time when Travis Hafner was a great hitter. However, it has been a while. His hot start, evidenced by his .354/.407/.646 slash line and four homeruns has been helped by two rather fierce luck dragons: BABIP and HR/FB rate. His BABIP is a stupidly high .382 compared to his career mark of just .317 and his HR/FB rate is nearly double his career average.
Hafner hasn’t been as bad as some suggest in his last two seasons, posting a .275/.365/.459 slash line in 2009 and 2010, but his lack of positional availability hurts his value as he’s really only available for a utility spot in your lineup. If you’ve picked him up to fill a hole, try and trade him before he stops hitting for power again, which will happen eventually.
BUY-LOW: Asdrubal Cabrera
Here’s the thing about shortstops that can hit well enough to provide real fantasy value: There aren’t many. Last week, Cabrera was available on the waiver wire in over half of all Yahoo leagues; this week, he’s only kicking around in 17% of them. If you have a hole at short and he’s still available, grab him while you can.
Cabrera’s not going to light the world on fire for the whole season, but his batting average and on-base percentage are almost identical to last season’s marks. The inevitable fall of his .541 slugging percentage will be countered by the fact that he’ll hit in the .275-.280 range all year and will provide some power, certainly more than he did last year.
Considering the lack of options at the position, Cabrera might be worth the pickup if you can still get him.
Just a reminder, you can read my non-fantasy-related work on Baseball Canadiana and if you have any suggestions of players to profile in this feature, feel free to follow me on Twitter here and send me a direct message, or send me an email.
Until next week, Happy Baseball!