The Butler Did Do It, But Can He Continue To? (and other notes from 6/12/15)

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Joey Butler of the Tampa Bay Rays has been the team’s primary DH since being called up and he has been scorching as of late and with a 3 for 5 game on Friday night, Butler is now hitting .342 with 4 HR, 16 RBI, 14 R, and 3 SB in 34 games.  Now I am all for riding hitters while they’re hot, so by all means let the Butler service your team for now, but before picking him up you need to know that the Butler might start hitting like an old maid in short time.

Up to this point, Butler has been a career Minor Leaguer who is now with his third organization.  Butler had received just 21 Major League appearances before this season, and at 29 years old he is not some emerging hot shot prospect who is taking the baseball world by storm.  He has had some nice success as a Minor League hitter with a career .294 AVG, 15-20 HR power, and some sneaky double digit SB speed.  So I am not meaning to say that Butler is a terrible player who doesn’t deserve any consideration, but we need to see the reality in this fantasy situation.

The reality is that Butler should soon begin a swift downfall.  His excellent batting average is being driven by an astronomical .456 BABIP, which would rank as the highest in the Majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.  It is true that his 27.7% line drive rate would rank favorably  as the 9th highest and his 10.8% soft hit rate would rank as the 11th lowest, but those rates are likely to trend in the wrong directions soon.  But even if he does happen to keep up those rates, no player can sustain a BABIP like that and he has his strikeout rate working against him as another factor that should bring his AVG down.  Butler has struck out 27.9% of the time, which is a pretty high rate.  It’s not quite in the territory of his teammate Steven Souza, but it’s still up there and it is very realistic since his swinging strike rate of 16.3% would rank as the 5th highest in the league.  To make things worse in the plate discipline area, his high strikeout and swinging strike rates are paired with a horrific 1.6% walk rate.  Butler had a 11.1% career walk rate in the Minors, so he does have some upside to do better there, but it’s not likely something that is going to change over night to make a drastic turn.

The fact of the matter is that Butler has been an extremely free swinger and while free swingers can succeed in the league, like Adam Jones or the retired Vladimir Guerrero, free swingers with high strikeout rates will have much more limited success in the long term, if any success at all.  But like I said, using hitters in fantasy while they are hot is a fine strategy, but it’s knowing when to cut them loose that is equally as important.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Friday’s action.

Starlin Castro – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Castro is now hitting an underwhelming .262 with 5 HR, 29 RBI, 22 R, and 4 SB.  I find it really hard to believe that Castro peaked at 22 years old, but now in his age 25 season he has been a disappointment for the last two and a half seasons now.  This year in particular, his line drive and hard hit rates are significantly down while his ground ball and soft hit rates are up, and his ISO is as low as it’s ever been at a very weak .093.  Shortstop is a shallow position so in comparison to the rest of the position he doesn’t look too bad, but so much more has been expected of him ever since his 207 hit season in 2011.  I’m sure sometime within the next three seasons he will have a career year.

Hector Rondon – 1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 K with the L.  After recording the save in the previous day, Rondon allowed an unearned run to cross in his inning of work to take the loss in the 10th inning while Pedro Strop pitched the top of the 9th inning in a tie ball game.  I mention this because the situation that Strop pitched in is usually reserved for the closer, so this just goes to further show that the Cubs bullpen is a free for all at the moment.  Rafael Soriano will be joining the bullpen after the All-Star break, so there may be some more clarity at that point, but a lot can happen between now and then.

Todd Frazier – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB, 1 R.  Frazier is now on pace for 49 HR and 19 SB, which would be pretty ridiculous if he reached that level in the HR department.  But he is continuing to showoff his skills.

Aroldis Chapman – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the SV.  Chapman converted his 13th save in 14 opportunities, but there are rumors swirling that the Nationals are looking in to acquiring the services of the fireballing lefty.  With the Nationals already having Drew Storen in place as their closer, acquiring Chapman would give them quite a tandem and they could be looking at a timeshare for saves if this situation arises.  For the Reds, if Chapman were to be traded, lefty Tony Cingrani, converted to a reliever this season, would be the more attractive option to step in as closer for fantasy purposes, but righty J.J. Hoover could also be given a crack at it.

Michael Pineda – 4.1 IP, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K with the L.  The last time Pineda met the Orioles it was on his home turf and he struck out 16 batters, but visiting Camden Yards this time he didn’t have nearly as much success.  He now has a 3.74 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, which aren’t spectacular, but his 78 K/9 BB in 74.2 IP is pristine.  He’s mostly getting hurt by a .352 BABIP that can be expected to come down a lot, but somehow transforming into a ground ball pitcher this season with little change in his pitch arsenal, his BABIP should finish well above the career mark of .275 that it is currently at.

Chris Davis – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R.  Crush Davis hit his 13th HR of the year, but still with all those strikeouts and getting much more hurt by the defensive shifts, his batting average will remain relatively low.

Caleb Joseph – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R.  With Matt Wieters back in the saddle as the Orioles primary catcher, Joseph has gone back to a reserve role, but he still will get some starts.  If he ever does fall back into a regular role then he does have nice power potential.

Gregory Polanco – 0 for 7.  Polanco had seemingly earned his leadoff job back, but over the last 5 games he is now 1 for 19 as his batting average dropped 20 points to .246.  Polanco is a talented hitter and should be able to do better than this.  However, he is only 23 years old and in his second season, so he appears to still be working on his consistency.

Kevin Correia – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.  Journeyman Correia made his first start of the season for the 5th team of his career and very surprisingly came away unscathed.  I wouldn’t expect this to become habit.

Miguel Cabrera – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Getting Miggy wit’ it.  .330 AVG, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 33 R, and 1 SB in 60 games.

David Price – 9 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W.  The Price was definitely right on Friday as he tossed his third career CGSO.

Wilmer Flores – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Flores hit his 10th HR of the season and is really proving to be a legitimate power threat at shortstop.  I’ve been saying that it wouldn’t surprise me if he got to 20 HR and he’s well on his way to that goal at the moment.  At just 23 years old, he also could develop even greater power in the future.

Alex Wood – 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K with the L.  It looked like Wood could have been back on track after a brilliant start last week at Arizona and then another decent start hosting Pittsburgh, but he reverted back to some early season shenanigans at Citi Field versus the Mets on Friday.  He’s becoming a difficult one to predict and he is clearly not the stud that we saw last year.

Jake McGee – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV.  McGee converted another save for the Rays and while he may not have regained the closer’s role full time, he still needs to be owned in fantasy leagues because this situation in Tampa Bay is certainly in flux.

Jose Abreu – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Abreu has now homered in three straight games and we are finally seeing him turn things on this season.  He’s hitting .287 with 12 HR, 39 RBI, and 32 R in 55 games.

Corey Dickerson – 1 for 3, 1 K.  Dickerson made his way back from the DL on Thursday and needs to be reinserted into fantasy lineups, especially at home versus righties.

J.T. Realmuto – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  Realmuto is hitting .371 in June to bring his season batting average up to .246.  He appears to be finally settling in as a Major Leaguer and could go on to be a fairly productive catcher, especially if he can start stealing bases like he showed in the Minors (18 SB in 97 games at AA last year).

Dustin Pedroia – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Pedroia with another bomb for his 9th of the year.  The power keeps on rolling in for the rejuvenated second baseman.

Pablo Sandoval – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Sandoval hadn’t homered in almost a month and also saw his batting average drop over 30 points since then.  With a homer on Friday, he now has 6 on the season, but the .246 AVG is pretty ugly.  With a 22.9% hard hit rate, Sandoval is shattering his previous career low mark of 29.3%.  Also not helping is his 50.0% ground ball rate, which is way above his career rate of 43.6% and most certainly not ideal for a guy with his body type and base running limitations.  The Kung Fu Panda has a long road to travel to get back to fantasy goodness, and as a friend of mine so eloquently put it: “You could duct tape a bat to a real live panda and get more production.”

Mookie Betts – 1 for 1, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Betts finally showed a sign of life at the plate in June by hitting his first HR since May 6, but then he had to exit the game with back soreness after crashing into the center field wall.  Tough break for the sophomore, but at least the word is that he should be able to avoid the disabled list.

Justin Smoak – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Once upon a time, Justin Smoak was supposed to be the next Mark Teixeira.  Well that certainly won’t be happening, but the Smoak Monster did homer on Friday and isn’t doing terribly in a part time role with the Blue Jays.  If Edwin Encarnacion ever needs to go on the DL for his shoulder ailment, then Smoak could be given some fantasy consideration as a bit of a desperation play.

Drew Hutchison – 2.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.  Hutchison had been on the right track for over a month and in his last start he worked to get his ERA under 5.00 for the first time since his first start of the season.  But he got absolutely crushed on Friday to balloon his ERA back up to 5.75.  He’s just not cutting it and for some reason he can’t seem to solve right-handed hitters this season as they are hitting .325 off him with a .401 wOBA.  That’s a rather horrible sight and he can be safely left on the waiver wire after such a disgusting performance.

Brett Cecil – 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K with the SV.  Despite Hutchison’s blow up, the Blue Jays somehow came back to create a save situation for Cecil to record his first save in over a month and 3rd of the year.  It’s not that Cecil has been bad, but the save opportunities have been very few and far between since he regained the closer’s role.  The Jays are now on a 9-game win streak to put themselves back in playoff contention, and I would imagine that they would be in the market for a more proven relief pitcher with closer experience and one that is right-handed so that the left-handed Cecil can be used in a setup role versus lefties.  So while Cecil may be a decent bet for saves for the time being, it may not last the whole season and if you can get a good offer on him then it might be wise to take it.

Brian Dozier – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Bull-Doziering again for his 12th HR of the season.

Tommy Milone – 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.  Impressive showing for the soft-tossing lefty, but he’s probably not going to miss enough bats on a regular basis to give much fantasy value.

Elvis Andrus – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  With Andrus having only hit .200 in the 2-hole and the emergence of Delino DeShields, Andrus got bumped toward the bottom of the order a while ago and has been doing a lot better since.  However, obviously batting toward the bottom of the order is limiting his fantasy value.  Most of his projected value is in his speed potential, but he’s currently only on pace for 21 SB this season, which would tie a career low.  Unless he makes his way back up to the top of the lineup somehow then he’s going to prove to be a fantasy disappointment for the second year in a row.

Wandy Rodriguez – 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.  Wandy is pitching a tad over his head right now with a 3.03 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, but outside of an injury plagued 2014 season he has always been quality ever since 2008.  With him being healthy again this year, the Rangers seemed to have found a nice pitcher on the bounce back and he could be given a whirl in fantasy in the appropriate matchups.  Beware of him pitching at home in the friendly confines of Arlington, as he has a 5.06 ERA there and a 1.89 ERA on the road.

Carlos Correa – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Correa hit his 2nd HR of the year in his first home game to give the fans a lot to be excited about on Friday and for the next 10 years or so.  He’s got skills and they’re multiplying, he’s electrifying.

Brett Oberholtzer – 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K with the W.  We saw Shaun Marcum shutout the anemic Mariners offense on Thursday, so it really should come as not too much of a surprise that another run of the mill pitcher in Oberholtzer did it to them again on Friday.  The Mariners have now not scored in 20 innings.  Oberholtzer is the typical soft-tossing lefty who doesn’t strike many guys out, so he shouldn’t be of too much interest to the fantasy community.

Felix Hernandez – 0.1 IP, 5 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the L.  The Astros really took it to King Felix to make him feel like a peasant at Minute Maid Park.  Felix has been susceptible to the occasional blow up, but this is now his 2nd blow up in the last three starts.  It’s probably not too much of a concern, but we’ll see how he fares next week.

Bryce Harper – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Harper homered again for this 21st of the year.  Something that is rather impressive for Harper this season is his 49 RBI in 60 games.  Harper leads the league with 51 walks already and obviously if a hitter is walking then that takes away an RBI opportunity (unless the bases are loaded).  So for him to be tied for 2nd in the Majors in the category despite the extremely high walk rate is very impressive and just shows how productive and awesome he has been when he has put the ball in play.

Jordan Zimmermann – 3.1 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the L.  Zimmermann had been on a roll, but he’s now given up a total of 10 earned runs in his last 8.1 IP to push his ERA up to 3.74 and his WHIP is now at 1.38.  I’ve mentioned all season long how he’s had a loss in velocity, so perhaps I really was onto something and maybe he will not be able to overcome it to post numbers like he has the last 4 seasons.

Aramis Ramirez – 3 for 4, 5 RBI.  Aramis has really been trudging along in what is probably going to be the final year of his career.  He’s still got some fight in him though as he showed with a big game on Friday.

Mike Fiers – 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K with the W.  It wasn’t a great start from Fiers, but it wasn’t bad and it was good enough for a win.  He’ll look to continue to improve, but he’s really got to find some way to limit that hard contact allowed if he’s going to turn his season around.

Jaime Garcia – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K with the W.  Garcia continues to pump out the nice starts and now has a 2.06 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 24 K/5 BB in 35 IP in 5 starts since returning from the DL.  I’ve said it all along that he is a quality pitcher and fantasy option when he’s healthy, but I set the over/under for his next DL stint as the All-Star break and I took the under because he has been a walking injury over the last few seasons.

Yordano Ventura – 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the L.  Ventura departed his start early on Friday with what is being called numbness in his right hand.  Uh oh.  Remember the times I have commented on his loss in velocity this year and how he might have flamed out last year and how I perceived him as a significant injury risk this year?  I’m no doctor, but numbness in a pitcher’s pitching hand sure sounds ominous.

Mike Trout – 3 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Troutstanding!  It was his 18th HR of the year and he has his batting average back up above .300.  A few days ago I projected his average to keep on rising because of line drive and hard hit rates, so I would expect it to keep on going up some more.

Clayton Kershaw – 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K.  Kershaw was a bit uncharacteristic with the free passes, but he racked up the strikeouts again to put the K in Kershaw.

Chase Anderson – 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the W.  It was a great effort by Anderson to shut down the Giants.  He’s shown some good stuff this season, but he’s surely got potential for more.  His strikeout rate is just 6.01 K/9, but last year he was up at 8.27 K/9, which resembled his Minor League numbers and he gets most of his swings and misses on a nice changeup that also helps him to neutralize left-handed hitters.  With a 2.82 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and some untapped strikeout potential, Anderson makes for an intriguing fantasy option.

Madison Bumgarner – 8 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K with the L.  Bumgarner really hasn’t made a lot of noise this year, but he is 7-3 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 79 K/16 BB in 85 IP.  That’s pretty much right in line with a lot of projections on him.  There was thought by some (not me) that due to his huge workload last season that ended up totalling 270 IP (including the post-season) that he would not be as effective this year, but that really hasn’t been the case as he’s just barely behind his 2014 rates at the moment.  The guy is a workhorse and I didn’t think the heavy workload would affect him this year.  Keep rolling him out there as a fantasy ace.

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One thought on “The Butler Did Do It, But Can He Continue To? (and other notes from 6/12/15)

  1. Pingback: A Ray of Light for the Diamondbacks (and other notes from 7/7/15) | The Backwards K

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