Just a few short weeks into the 2014 mlb campaign and it’s see panic time… My slugger is homerless (Prince Fielder)! My ace is winless (Max Scherzer)! My closer is out (any)! Yes, April gets the best of us. Those small samples can look painfully depressing at times, but that’s nothing a little two-homer game can’t fix(hellooooo, Dan Ugglad… well, I guess Uggla’s not really “fixed”). Still, if you’ve got the itch to tinker with your team after ajust a few weeks, there is value to gain from your impatient league mates. Head to the trade market if you must, just be smart about it.
Buy Low: Angel Pagan
A forgotten man at the draft table, Pagan has proven over the first couple of weeks of the season that he is well beyond last year’s injury issues. Slashing at a ridiculous .412/.455/.549 rate over his first 51 at-bats, Pagan has shown a solid contact rate (6 K vs. 4 BBs), a touch of pop (5 extra-base hits) and some nice speed. He’s setting the table for San Fran’s offense and becoming, once-again, a very solid fantasy contributor.
The performance is not entirely out of line from a guy who averaged a very tasty .285-95-11-68-34 line per 162 games from 2009-12 giving you some very Shane Victorino-ian production at a fraction of the cost. In fact, I’d swap Victoriono (drafted as a top-30 outfielder) for Pagan today. Others outfielders we are taking Pagan over: Carlos Beltran, Will Venable, Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Carl Crawford.
Sell High: Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon is off to a furious start to the season, taking hold of the Rockies job in center field and finding himself batting at the top of the order every night for the Rockies. A 2-for-5 effort Monday actually dropped Blackmon’s average to a ho-hum .478 through 14 games played with four doubles, a triple, a home run and three steals. We like the solid average and on base skills that Blackmon brings to the table and batting in front of a healthy duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez for 81 games at Coors field puts him in the mix for 100 runs scored based on volume alone.
The question, however, remains: will the juice be there?
It’s easy to get swept up in an amazing April performance and we can point to a .309/.336/.467 average over 246 at-bats with the Rockies to know that this kid can hit. His platoon splits are safe. He’s got the home park. But where’s the power? Where’s the speed?
Last season in in 150 games between the majors and minors, Blackmon slugged nine home runs and swiped 14 bags — while getting caught five times. The modest power stroke is passable for a high-average top-of-the-order hitter, but those expecting speed to come may be sorely disappointed. Blackmon has already been gunned down on two of his five attempts this season and has broken the 20 steal plateau just once in the minors, way back in 2009.
Blackmon is certainly a waiver wire gem and worth an add in every format for his ability to get one base and score runs. Still, with his ceiling being ( a still very solid) .300 average with 100 runs scored a handful of homers and 15 steals, perhaps it’s time to hit the open market and try and flip Blackmon for a top-50 bat ( or a guy like Pagan who will give you 20 more steals).
Hold Steady: Joey Votto
No one is questioning Joey Votto’s talent as a baseball player. He’s clearly one of the smartest and most patient hitters in the game, sporting a ridiculous .430 OBP since the start of 2009. He’s also, however, seen a three year decline in RBI/game, dropping from 0.75 in 2010 to 0.63 in 2011 to 0.50 in 2012 and just 0.45 last season. Of course, RBI totals are not entirely on the hitter as someone’s gotta be on base for him to drive in. He’s been given very little help in that department this season, as the Reds exchanged on-base monster Shin-Soo Choo batting out of the the lead off spot for the speedy-but-inconsistent Billy Hamilton.
Votto’s own position in the lineup is likely not doing hum any favors as an RBI producer and with the Reds sliding him up to the two-spot, they have all but dashed his hopes of driving in more runs than he scores. It’s simply impossible to really ding Votto for this, however, as he figures to see an increase in at-bats hitting higher up in the order, giving him more opportunities to score runs and have a positive impact on your bottom line with that elite average and on-base skills. Votto’s power stroke has responded to the lineup shuffle and he’s now hit in four straight games with three homers, five RBI and five runs scored over that span.
Votto’s .186 ISO slugging last season ranked just 13th among qualified first baseman and if there is a hole in his game from a fantasy perspective, it’s his good-but-not-great pop. These concerns are legitimate, but we continue to have faith in Votto as an elite contributor and top-5 first baseman. Now is simply not the time to panic when it comes to stud bats and Votto’s power surge over the last couple of days shows you how quickly things can turn around. With the move up in the order and Billy Hamilton’s struggles some owners may foolishly panic and look to sell the Reds’ first baseman, but we implore you to stay patient and hold the course. Downgrade the RBI totals and we are still staring at a legit .310-100-25-85-5 line from the first base position, plenty of production from your second round selection.