As we close in on the final week of the first month of the season, it's time to take a look at some hot arms and bats that fantasy GM's have been busy adding in bunches.,
Jed Lowrie (HOLD) - Obviously, one of the hottest hitters around right now. Though he hadn't received consistent at-bats until recently, Lowrie would probably have been a regular for most major league teams. His current .432/.447/.682 line in 47 plate appearances is obviously not going to hold, but just how good can he be and will playing time be an issue?
One concern I had about Lowrie coming into the season was his high fly ball rates. However, I also kept in mind that his major league sample sizes have been too small to draw a concrete conclusion from. In 543 major league plate appearances, Lowrie has a 52 percent fly ball rate and 26 percent ground ball rate. If this trend continues, it will probably be hard for Lowrie to sustain a high AVG. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out.
As for playing-time, it may still be some time before Lowrie gets everyday at-bats. While slumping, Marco Scutaro still has the support of his manager, especially after grinding out an injury plagued 2010 season. Lowrie can still steal at-bats against tough lefties when David Ortiz sits and will be first in line should any infielder fall due to an injury.
For now, you definitely need to ride out his hot streak, just don't go trading away valuable players thinking you have a definite long-term solution in place.
Matt Capps (medium SELL) - Obviously, Capps is a must own in all leagues right now. The closer's job is his in Minnesota and saves are saves. However, if you have some depth in closers and can unload him now for some value, it might be wise to do so. There is still a chance that Joe Nathan reclaims his job at some point. Nathan's velocity has been down, but that has a chance to improve as he continues to build arm strength after coming back from Tommy John Surgery.
Jeff Francoeur (SELL) - As long as Frenchy continues to whale away at the majority of pitches thrown his general direction, I'll continue not to buy into the hype. Last season, Francoeur started out the season hot as well, hitting .284/.355/.531 in April with four home runs. However, when all was said and done, he finished with a .249/.300/.383 line and only hit nine home runs the rest of the way. So far in 2011, Frenchy has swung at pitches outside the strike-zone at a 38 percent clip, right around his career average.
Kyle Farnsworth (Medium SELL/HOLD) - Like the situation with Matt Capps, Farnsworth is a must own if you need saves. However, he's also worth selling for a bat if that fills your needs. With only 6.1 innings on the books for 2011, we can't draw many conclusions from his performance so far. If anything, I like the fact that he's throwing his two-seam fastball effectively.
Sam Fuld (BUY) - See: How good is Sam Fuld? How bad is Austin Jackson?
Aaron Harang (medium BUY/HOLD) - Could the Harangatang be back for good? As an owner in more than one league, I sure hope so. PETCO Park can do wondrous things for pitcher and Harang has only allowed two earned runs in 12 innings at home. He's been good on the road as well, but take note that in all of his four starts he has yet to face a potent offense (Giants, Dodgers, Astros and Cubs). Home runs have been a major issue for Harang over his entire career and last season he allowed 16 in only 111.2 innings. This season, he has yet to allow one in 24 innings. His current home park is a far cry from he previous dwellings at at Great American Ballpark (which was also haunted by Dusty Baker) and should help hold back any big home run issues this season.
I'll lean more towards hold for now, as he likely was acquired via the free agent pool or very late in the draft in mixed leagues. If someone comes along and offers up good value for Harang, I certainly wouldn't hold back dealing him.
Jonny Gomes (SELL) - In three seasons prior to 2009, Gomes had held an AB/HR rate of around 20, but that rate jumped to 14 AB/HR in 2009. Such a rate of home run production would have translated to about 39 home runs over 550 at-bats. Not that I was expecting 39 home runs in 2010, but I did draft Gomes in several leagues thinking that 30 was a real possibility due to his everyday job with the Reds. That didn't exactly work out. Gomes hit only 18 home runs in 511 at-bats, or an average of roughly one home run every 28 at-bats. So far in 2011, Gomes has averaged one home run every 9.5 at-bats, a pace that would result in about 58 home runs in 550 at-bats. That's insane.
Gomes's home run pace is sure to slow down, but he certainly isn't shying away from trying to jerk the ball out of the yard. Out of all of the balls Gomes has put into play, about 67 percent have been classified as fly balls. Last season, Gomes had a fly ball rate of about 50 percent, yet also had the lowest HR/FB rate of his career (nine percent).
If Gomes gets enough at-bats he certainly has he potential to crack around 30 home runs. However, those are likely to come with a very low AVG and plenty of risk for huge cold streaks. Gomes is an all-or-nothing hitter, so your either going to get a huge reward or wish you had sold high when you had the chance. I'll lead toward the latter.
Justin Masterson (SELL) - Masterson has a sparkling 1.71 ERA, but an unappealing 1.67 K/BB rate. He has been getting ground balls by the boatload early on (about 64 percent), but he's still not as affective against lefties. Left-handed batters are hitting .278 off of Masterson and his WHIP is 1.41 against them. Last season, lefties hit .288 with 10 of his 14 home runs allowed. Since nothing has really changed skill-wise for Masterson, I don't see him escaping that problem in 2011.
Besides his issues against lefties, Masterson has been getting by with a .256 BABIP against and 84 percent strand rate, both of which should regress quite a bit as the season progresses.
Mitchell Boggs (medium BUY) - Ryan Franklin is out and Boggs is in. The closer's job is his to lose in St. Louis. Since LaRussa tends to be loyal to "his guys", Boggs has a very good chance to keep the job all season long.
According to pitch f/x data from TexasLeaguers.com, Boggs has added more vertical and horizontal movement to both his fastball and slider, which might account for his current chase rate of almost 40 percent. We'll have to see if this continues on or not, as we only have 10 innings worth of data to look at.
Boggs isn't going to be a top-end closer, but he can certainly be an adequate one that gives your team plenty of saves and a mid-three's ERA.
Nick Hundley (SELL) - I've always believed in Hundley's power, he had shown the ability to drive the ball in the minor leagues, but I always would question if he'd hit for enough power to counter his low AVG. Right now, Hundley is both hitting for power and AVG, but I'm concerned that the AVG end of the deal will leave owners very dissapointed in the end. Hundley is a career .249/.309/.410 hitter and has never had more than 307 plate appearances in a major league season. His minor league career high in plate appearances was 448 back in 2006. His career minor league slash line is .253/.336/.451 over 1357 plate appearances. Nothing about his track record suggests that he can sustain a high AVG at the major league level and his current .339 AVG is being fueled by a .400 BABIP.
Catchers can wear down as a season progresses and Hundley was the epitome of this last season. Hundley didn't hit over .240 from June through August (.263 in September) last season and saw much less playing time in the season's final three months.
If you can find an owner desperate for help at catcher, see if you can't sell Hundley now, at the height of his value.