Prince’s Return to Royalty (and other notes from 5/23/15)

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After suffering a season-ending neck injury last season that limited him to just 42 games in his first season as a Texas Ranger, first baseman Prince Fielder has not missed a game this season and has already surpassed last year’s games played total this year by playing in his 43rd consecutive game on Saturday.  Fielder actually has been sort of a modern day iron man, not like the Tony Stark version of Iron Man, but like Cal Ripken Jr. and his incredible games played streak.  Nobody will ever come close to Ripken’s amazing streak in this day and age where players are babied a lot more, but Fielder has played in all 162 games in 4 of his 9 full seasons and never having played less than 157 games in a season until the unfortunate neck injury from last year.

Given his nearly immaculate health history, it should come as no surprise that Fielder has roared back with a vengeance, but many (myself included) had doubts about his ability to.  Here is what I said about him in the pre-season:  “Players of his body type do not have a history of aging well as they reach 30 years old (see Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Ryan Howard), and Prince was already beginning a decline before he got traded to Texas before the 2014 season. Of course his 2014 season was a lost cause as he struggled out of the gate and then had a season-ending neck injury.  A bounce back effort could be in store for the big guy, especially with a full season calling the Ballpark in Arlington his home, but I would also not be surprised if he never hits 30 HR in a season ever again.”

Fielder is making me eat my words as much as he eats tofu burgers (which is likely a lot since he is reportedly a vegetarian), as he is on an incredible terror hitting .368 with 6 HR and 17 RBI in the month of May.  The outburst has brought his season line to .351 AVG, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 20 R, and 0 SB, putting him amongst the top first baseman in fantasy baseball. His batting average is inflated due to a .364 BABIP, and his batted ball profile shows us that there is no significant differences to his career rates to tell us that he can maintain an batting average this far over .300.  However, he is putting the ball in play at a career high rate as he has only struck out 11.1% of the time.  Fielder has shown improvement in this area over the recent years, and in 2012 his very good strikeout rate of 12.2% allowed him to hit for a career high .313 AVG.

While there’s no doubt that his BABIP will come down, with the excellent rate he is putting the ball in play, Fielder may have little issue hitting .300 for the second time in his career.  His walk rate is also significantly down to 6.3% (compared to his career rate of 12.8%), but that’s not too much of a concern when his strikeout rate is low as well. As for his power, Fielder’s HR/fly ball rate has been on the decline since 2011, but his rate this season is right around 14.0%, which is very comparable to his 13.5% rate in 2013 with the Tigers and it is around that mark that I expect him to settle in at by season’s end.  It’s not the 35-40 HR that was expected from him in his prime, but 25-30 HR for the season is still going to be quality and he is on pace for defeating most people’s expectations of him for the 2015 season.

For the remainder of the season, I will give Fielder the line of:  .294 AVG, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 60 R, 1 SB

Now let’s check out the rest of the action from Saturday. 

Shin-Soo Choo – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB.  Choo continues his solid month of May and is only hitless in 3 games this month.  As I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of Choo this year, but his team’s offense is hot right now and he has played a good role in that.  He is now at a .238 AVG, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 19 R, and 0 SB.

Delino DeShields – 1 for 4, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K.  DeShields hit leadoff again and for the second straight game, as Shin-Soo Choo moves to the 2-hole and Elvis Andrus has slid down the order.  The result of it for the Rangers as a team has been 25 total runs in those 2 games.  DeShields may not be able to maintain too great of an AVG, but he has superior plate discipline skills to allow him to keep a good OBP, which could keep him in the leadoff spot.  I’ll keep saying to pick him up…until you actually pick him up.

Nick Martinez – 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K with the W.  Martinez continues to pitch way above his head.  At 4.91 K/9, he has zero strikeout appeal, which means that I personally would never have him on my teams.  But go ahead and fall in love with his 1.96 ERA, that ain’t my style.

C.C. Sabathia – 2.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the L.  Sabathia continues to receive some abnormally high BABIP bad luck, but with his average fastball velocity under 90 MPH since last year, maybe this is the new norm for Sabathia in regard to BABIP.  Yes, a .349 BABIP is high and should come down some, but maybe not as much as one would like to think.

Chris Colabello – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K.  Colabello gone and did it again.  Several days ago I referenced his hot first month of the 2014 season before he fell into oblivion.  I expect the same to happen to him after this hot start.  He is hitting .379 with 3 HR, 10 RBI, 11 R, and 1 SB in 18 games played, but the .524 BABIP is inflating is AVG a lot and even though he does possess power potential, I don’t think that he is going to be this year’s J.D. Martinez.

Kyle Seager – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Seager has had a relatively quiet season, but he is now riding a 9-game hitting streak.  He started to get hurt by defensive shifts last year, so he worked a lot in the off-season to drive the ball the other way and it has showed in the fact that he is hitting the ball to the opposite field 5.8% more this year than last year. Unfortunately, it’s not yielding any better results yet as his .265 BABIP is down from his .290 career mark.  He should start to see some better results soon.

David Wright – Wright has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and has been shut down indefinitely.  Before the season I said this about Wright: “What is wrong with Wright? Well, he had his 2014 season cut short due to a recurring shoulder injury.  That doesn’t sound promising.  That injury took away all his power and I would be very cautious with him when considering him this year.  That power may still be sapped and he could be in for another frustrating season.”  Now it’s not the same injury that he had last year, but if it’s not one thing it’s another, right?  There’s no way I would have drafted him. 

Matt Harvey – 4 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the L.  A tough one to swallow for the Dark Knight, but consider it nothing more than an off day.  He’s now 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 60 K/10 BB in 58.2 IP.

Josh Harrison – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB.  Harrison is on a 10-game hitting streak (.488 AVG during that time) and continues to reestablish himself as the guy that the Pirates believed him to be when they handed him 4-year/$27.3 million contract in the off-season.

Andrew McCutchen – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI 1 R.  He still has a long ways to go to get back on the pace that we have become accustomed to seeing from him, but at least McCutchen is out of his early season funk now.

Pedro Alvarez – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  Alvarez is now hitting .233 with 8 HR, 20 RBI, and 22 R and is showing a bit of a bounceback in the power department after a disappointing showing last year.  However, he is getting pinch hit for a lot due to opposing teams bringing in left-handed pitchers to face him in the later innings.  So if by chance you own him, you have to be aware of that.

A.J. Burnett – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K with the W.  Burnett who is the self-proclaimed biggest Batman fan, and even has a Batman tattoo on his pitching arm, ironically defeated the man that they call the Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, and he did it in extremely dominant fashion.  I just think there’s something about pitching in the Pittsburgh black and gold that compels him to bring out his best.  Obviously there is going to be regression from his 1.37 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, but he is proving to be a pretty good option.  It might not last because of his diminished velocity, but he does know how to get hitters out via the ground ball a lot too.

Stephen Strasburg – 3.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K with the L.  Strasburg struggles yet again.  Yes, it’s true that he’s got a league high BABIP of .390 and his 57.8% strand rate is 2nd worst, but he’s definitely not right.  To backtrack, it was previously reported that Strasburg exited his start on May 5 with shoulder irritation, but we have come to learn that it was actually his ankle that was bothering him, possibly causing him to alter his mechanics.  If so, then he still hasn’t found the right mechanics to succeed.

Ryan Howard – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  Between Howard, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira hitting balls out like crazy, it feels like it’s 2007 again.  Howard is still a shell of his former self when it comes to plate discipline, but he’s got 10 HR in 40 games and could reach the 30 HR mark for the first time since 2011.  If you can handle the low AVG and all the strikeouts then have it.

Maikel Franco – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 K.  Franco’s 2nd HR of the year and he’s showing some nice contact skills.  The jury is still out on him though, but as I’ve said before, I am not a big time fan of him for this year.

Cole Hamels – 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the W.  Any early season concerns about Hamels and his control can be safely dismissed as he has only issued 5 free passes in his last 4 starts.  He is now 5-3 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 67 K/24 BB in 66.1 IP.  Treat him like an ace.

Jose Altuve – 0 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 K.  The slump continues, but he’s too good of a hitter to keep this going on for much longer.

Lance McCullers – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W.  McCullers got his first Major League win and it came against a good Tigers offense.  He might be here to stay in the Astros rotation, but control issues are going to plague him.  Taking a flier on him isn’t the worst of ideas.

Luke Gregerson – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV.  A solid bounceback outing for Gregerson who got into some trouble in his last outing in a non-save situation.  Good to know that he’s still the guy for the Astros as I own him in a couple of leagues.  I would definitely like to see a few more of these in a row.

Jason Kipnis – 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  As I said in Friday’s notes, I present to you Kipnis, the man on fire!

Corey Kluber – 8 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W.  Kluber continues his amazing run with another gem of a game.

Anthony DeSclafani – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K.  This solid performance comes as a bit of a surprise for DeSclafani as he had been struggling with his control with 15 walks in his previous 4 starts.  In the Minors he was a bit of a control artist, so if he can get back to doing that then he can still be a quality option.  But any struggles and he could get the boot.

Trevor May – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K with the W.  The 9 strikeout outburst was overdue for a guy who had strong strikeout numbers in the Minors.  Coming into Saturday, May’s previous high was 5 strikeouts in a game.  He is a decent prospect for the Twins and has a current walk rate of 1.96 BB/9, but it is hard for me to overlook his past control issues.

Jose Abreu – 0 for 4, 2 K.  Abreu hasn’t been the same kind of beast that he was last year and he is now hitting just .283 with 6 HR, 22 RBI, 20 R, and 0 SB.  Not terrible numbers, but far from ideal.  He should be fine, but his post-All-Star break HR total of 7 last year coupled with only 6 HR so far this year is concerning.  Since then, that equates to one HR every 30 AB.

Chris Sale – 8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K with the L.  Ever since I posed the question of whether or not Sale should be using his slider more instead of his fastball, he rattled off three successful starts of relying on the same type of pitch usage that he had previously this season.  But his start on Saturday he finally used his fastball a lot less and his slider a bit more.  We’ll see if that trend continues.  He is now 3-2 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 54 K/14 BB in 51.1 IP.

Nate Karns – 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the L.  After his May 13 start I said this: “He is bound to get knocked around soon as the .190 BABIP for a groundball pitcher is going to skyrocket.”  After Saturday’s start, Karns’ BABIP now is at .241 and it will continue to rise.

Billy Burns – 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 BB, 1 K.  Burns’ 6th SB of the year.  If you need the steals then there’s few better options that you can find than Burns.

Kendall Graveman – 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  Graveman really struggled after opening the year in the A’s rotation.  He spent four weeks at AAA before getting recalled for the start on Saturday.  He pitched 6 shutout innings but I think he’s going to be in for some more struggles if he gets a longer look.  Back in AAA he had very mediocre rates of 5.18 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9, which is what I would expect from him if he were to stick in the Majors for the duration of the season.

Shelby Miller – 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.  It was a decent follow up to his near no-hit bid in his last start, but Miller clearly wasn’t as sharp on Saturday.  However, I am still a believer in him and you can see why here.  Yes, there will be regression but I don’t think it will be a complete implosion.

Mike Wright – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K.  Another impressive start for Wright of the Orioles who now has pitched 14.1 scoreless Major League innings.  He can be decent, but I still don’t think he will continue to produce at a good enough level to be given fantasy consideration in most leagues.

Dan Haren – 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.  Would still try and sell Haren.  He should not be this good anymore with his diminished velocity.

Johnny Cueto – Cueto is going to miss his next start with elbow tightness.  Obviously any injury to a pitcher’s elbow sounds scary.  But to add more concern is that his average velocity has been the lowest it’s ever been, so with the news of this elbow tightness we have have a reason why the velocity hasn’t been the same.  He has only pitched 2 full seasons in the last 4 years, so Cueto is no stranger to extended absences due to injury.

Mike Napoli – 2 for 3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Napoli’s power has been on a stead decline ever since he blasted 30 HR in 2011 with the Rangers.  The 2 HR game on Saturday brings his season total to 5 and his AVG is now just .193.  Napoli’s BABIP is at .204, but that is the result of him just not hitting the ball hard at all.  A 12.2% line drive rate and 30.6% hard hit rate are not numbers that are going to produce great batting averages.  At this stage of his career he might be best suited to be the right-handed hitting part of a platoon.

Brandon Crawford – 3 for 9, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Crawford just keeps on hitting!  This is turning into a real breakout season for him.

Rubby De La Rosa – 6 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.  Rubby was dominating most of the game until he hit a batter with the bases loaded in the 5th inning and then gave up a bases clearing double.  It still can be considered a quality outing for De La Rosa with all the strikeouts though, and I expect him to be a quality and underrated fantasy pitcher if he can stay healthy.

Anthony Rizzo – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Big game for A to the Rizzo with a bases loaded double and the game winning 3-run HR.  I kinda love him and wished I owned him everywhere, but alas, I own him nowhere.  Sigh.

Joc Pederson – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 3 K.  Yung Joc seems to be back on his HR binge.  Also the strikeout binge.

Mike Bolsinger – 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W.  I already had made Prince Fielder the headline piece of Saturday’s notes before the late evening games had much action going in them, otherwise Bolsinger would have earned the top billing.  So I will soon dedicate an article just to Bolsinger to show exactly what he has been doing for the Dodgers and what can be expected of him the rest of the way.

Yasmani Grandal – Grandal hits the DL with a concussion.  He will have to resume his quest for the breakout season in a week or two.  He is hitting .291 with 4 HR, 17 RBI, and 17 R in 33 games played.

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3 thoughts on “Prince’s Return to Royalty (and other notes from 5/23/15)

  1. Pingback: Billy Burns the Base Paths (and other notes from 5/24/15) | The Backwards K

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