Dan Schwartz

With the season impending and drafts occurring, we would like to provide you with some last minute rationalism and grounding. I would like to preface this post by saying I myself get caught up in hype (i.e. my drafting of Ryan Raburn last year as my starting 2b), but usually bring myself back to reality last minute with a simple regression to the mean reminder – and memories of my very Irish undergraduate ‘Calculus for Management Decision Making’ professor. Research should be directed at understanding when fantasy baseball-related judgments will be valid and the types of biases that might be expected.

In this case, that bias is an exacerbated recency effect combined with over-generalizing a small sample size, or the phenomenon occuring when you are more likely to be drafting players who are romping in Spring Training.

First, I’d like to reference a solid list by Scott White at CBS who references many sleepers that you probably have pushed up on your lists, including Mike Minor, ground-ball master-flex Alex Cobb, Brandon Belt & Domonic Brown, and while I agree that these guys are sleepers, I wouldn’t associate them as creepers – don’t creep them up your rankings too much.

So let’s take a look at a few hitting sleepers and creepers and bring you back down to (fantasy) reality:

Hitting to date (3/24 from MLB.com):

Brandon Belt (1b): .433AVG-7HR-17RBI; 12K/3BB in 60 AB

     Discipline: Belt just belted his 7th HR of the spring yesterday. What is as unimpressive as the 7HR is impressive, is his 12:3 K:BB ratio. While he walks enough, his Ct% and other discipline stats require growth (or a jump) to be a solid fantasy option.

     BABIP: While a .350 BABIP looks high, Belt has had a lot of his BIP fall for hits throughout his career so you can be comfortable projecting a .272-.278 AVG with a .280 cap.

     HR: Belt’s Average HR and FB distance and SFO Park Factors (especially for lefties) don’t bode well for his HR total. Last year, his FB% was slightly above average and his HR/FB was below average. Again, he’s only 25 so with age, he will lift the ball more and should have some growth in the HR/FB department although I would cap it at the 2012 League Average (11.30%) until he shows otherwise.

     Projection: Bill James usually has optimistic lines. I think his 64R-16HR-74RBI-14SB is a healthy counting stats line with a few less stolen bases. For now he’s a CI or U at best – think of him as a poor man’s Eric Hosmer.

Howie Kendrick (2b): .481AVG-4HR-10RBI; 4K/1BB in 54 AB

     Ct% and HR/FB: Many called for him to be a perpetual batting champ, but he will be 29 next year and his Ct% has already capped in 2010 at 83.1%. While it shouldn’t tail off anytime soon, assume we’ve seen his best in 2011 when he had 18 HR (came with outlier HR/FB ratio) and a .285 AVG (which came with his best Line Drive % and career average BABIP). A matter of fact, his .287 AVG last year was lucky due to his BABIP and more zone contact yet incurred some discipline dips (BB% drop, out of the zone swing% increase and an overall swing% increase trend).

     BIP: While Kendrick’s GB/FB ratio will probably regress positively (1.90>1.94>2.81), it’s obvious he’s in a negative overall trend. The 2012 league average FB% was 34%. Kendrick had an abysmal 20.8%. Anyone projecting more than 11 HR is banking on another HR/FB outlier or a large unrealistic FB% jump.

     Projection: I would still consider him a MI asset and 75 RB’s are possible with a ton to drive in this year. Go with Rotochamp’s projection of 62-11-69-13-.279 with the potential for < 11 HR and > 70 RBI.

Matt Carpenter (if): .365AVG-0HR-5RBI; 8K/10BB in 52 AB

It sounds like he has won the 2b job. Draft him late as your MI, but don’t get all Allen Craig on him.

Small sample size or not, he is showing off the fact that he walked more than he struck out in the minors with a stellar BB/K ratio this spring.

     Projection: In 2012, he had a HR and FB distance within a foot of Albert Pujols and Matt Wieters. In 450 AB, which I’m pulling out of a hat, a slight increase in FB% and a slightly below average HR/FB, I’m projecting 12-14 HR. I’ll go with Oliver’s line on him: 62-15-62-4-.271 with an AVG up to .280.

Domonic Brown (of): .389AVG-7HR-16RBI; 10K/6BB in 72 AB

I never really saw anything in the minors to warrant the prodigious power/speed combo some have associated him with. The huge numbers he did put up in the minors always came in very limited AB and over-elevated BABIP’s that didn’t continue at the next level. The BIP data needs to reverse for long term success and at 25 with guaranteed playing-time, now is his chance. While there is talk he can bat higher up in the lineup, the best case is really in the 5 spot, which should provide ample RBI opps. Think 60r-17hr-70rbi-5sb-.266avg. in 450+ AB.

Again, average BIP data, but he’s only 25 with solid enough Ct%, talent and solid HR-related park factors.

Mike Moustakas (3b): .455AVG-4HR-12RBI; 8K/3BB in 55 AB

Supposedly injuries caused the 1st Half (15 HR/.268 Avg) and 2nd Half (5 HR/.211 Avg) splits. I’m more comfortable with the first half, where he outputted a BABIP identical to 2011 and a HR/FB ratio more in-line with his average FB and HR distance. In 575 AB, he should spank 22 HR, but at 24 and his FB%, don’t be surprised with 27.

Lonnie Chisenhall (3b): .409AVG-4HR-12 RBI; 6K/7BB in 44 AB

The Indians brought Aviles on board to presumably platoon at times with Lonnie, and if you need a starting 3B at the end of the draft then you can land on worse. He’s only 24 and I want to assume some growth. While his Ct% was a solid 86.1 last year, 73% of his AB came against righties. Could approach 20 HR with enough AB. More valuable to me in daily leagues where I can sit him against lefties.

Justin Smoak (1b): .408 AVG-4 HR-11 RBI; 13K/3BB

Solid spring and 19 HR in 480 AB last year. Growth across the board and he could be a sneaky 56r-22hr-70rbi but that comes with a .240-.245 avg. so draft only if you can stomach that.

‘Tis our season. Stay rational.

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