Although it feels like the All-Star break is right around the corner, the season isn't even two full months in yet. That means there is plenty of time for things to change and for hot hitters to cool off dramatically. I recently received an email asking about the futures of seven hitters who are off to great starts, but have major question marks attached to their performances. Who will fade and who will stay the course?
Today we look at some veteran big leaguers that have seen somewhat of a resurgence so far in 2010.
Paul Konerko .272/.386/.656, 14 HR
Already halfway to last season's home run total, Paul Konerko has averaged about one home run every nine at-bats and is on pace for 55-plus bombs with over 500 at-bats. That, however, would be an extremely unlikely outcome.
From 2008 through 2009, Konerko averaged about 20 at-bats per home run. During those seasons Konerko also posted his lowest SLG numbers since 2003.
What has changed so far in 2010? Konerko is generating a ton of loft in his swing. There has not been a season in his career where over 50 percent of his balls in play were classified as fly balls. So far this season, Konerko has had 50 percent of his balls in play classified as fly balls and, in April, an astounding 34.4 percent of those fly balls cleared the fence. That HR/FB rate has dropped significantly in May to only 13 percent, despite the fact that Konerko has hit a higher percentage of fly balls this month than he did in April.
Needless to say he has already cooled off and at age 34, we shouldn't expect a huge power boost the rest of the way. In the end, Konerko should be exactly the hitter he has been the past two seasons: Good, but not great power and very few line drives, which will hold his AVG down.
Kelly Johnson .261/.354/.599, 12 HR
Now four home runs away from tying his career high, Kelly Johnson has already made a major impact on fantasy teams. However, after hitting nine home runs in April, Johnson has only managed three so far in the month of May.
Much the same as Paul Konerko, Johnson ran into an incredible streak in April where an amazing 45.5 percent of his fly balls hit became home runs. On the season so far, eight of his 12 home runs have come at home and his HR/FB rate at home is 47.1 compared to a mere 17.4 percent on the road. That's no real surprise, given that Chase Field is one of baseballs most hitter friendly parks, but it is still an unsustainable rate.
Johnson has always had power, but maybe his little home run streak got into his head a bit too much. Since the start of May, Johnson has struck out over 33 percent of the time while drawing fewer walks than he did in April. He is also swinging and missing more often. Those factors have driven down his AVG, but are also likely to return to normal as the season moves along.
While Johnson is not likely to put up the numbers he did in April, he certainly has the talent to hit around .275-.285 with 3-4 home runs per month. That means your fantasy team has already reaped the rewards of Johnson's best month, but unless you can trade him for big value, he'll be worth hanging on to the rest of the way.
Vernon Wells .309/.367/.611, 11 HR's
With a career high SLG of .550, (Only Pujols and Fielder topped a .600 SLG last season) Wells is obviously not going to keep this current pace, but that doesn't mean he won't have his best season in four years.
The HR/FB theme continues here with Wells, but to a lesser extent than Konerko and Johnson. 25 percent of Wells's fly balls went for home runs in April, which is a bit high, but not off-the-charts high. That rate has cooled off in May, resulting in three home runs so far. Still, it has been a while since Wells has been this healthy over a full season. I looked at his track record with regards to this back in April:
Based on his track record, a healthy Vernon Wells should be able to maintain an AB/HR rate between 20 and 23. If Wells can stay healthy and get 500 more at-bats, that would translate to between 20 and 22 more home runs this season giving him 27 to 29 by season's end.
If Wells can stay healthy, that seems like a reasonable goal.
Andruw Jones .248/.352/.550, 9 HR, 7 SB
Jones has seven stolen bases on the season. He hasn't stolen more than seven in seven years.
Conditioning has been an issue for Jones ever since his last few seasons with the Braves, but he was never worse than he was in his first season with the Dodgers. Now, after more than a year spent trying to get his body and baseball career back in shape, Jones is showing signs of his old self.
As a hitter, Jones is who he is. He swings and misses a lot and doesn't hit a ton of line drives, but he has plus power. His AB/HR rate is a bit skewed right now (12.1), but it's not all that far off from what he did in his pre-Dodgers seasons and what he did last year in 281 at-bats. Given the at-bats, Jones could certainly hit between 20 and 25 home runs this season.
As for the AVG, well, that is another story. Jones struggles big-time against right-handed pitching which, combined with the factors listed in the paragraph above, should keep him from making much of an impact in that category.
Next up we look at some of the "out of nowhere" surprises including Jose Bautista and Austin Jackson.