Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Updates coming soon - Football & Baseball

Sorry for the lack of updates recently...but don't worry; I'll have some more fantasy baseball info along with some fantasy football strategy coming later this week. I'm sure you can't wait!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Top Performers - August 10th Edition

Here are some of the top performers from games played on Friday, August 10th:

1. Conor Jackson (1B) ARI, 3-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
Quite a game from Jackson. This hasn't been the breakout year for Conor that many projected, but he still has game & he'll be a very solid major league player. I talked about Jackson a little bit in a previous Activity on the Waiver Wire post, but injuries this season have played a part for him not being able to get into a groove. Hopefully this is the game he needed to get him going & help him have a productive final two months of the season.

2. Adrian Gonzalez (1B) SD, 3-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB
Gonzalez was my other pre-season sleeper 1B, along with Jackson (discussed some here). After starting the year like a man possessed (.309 Avg, 7 HR, 25 RBI in April), he has certainly come back down to earth. He's still produced at a solid rate for the season (.270 Avg, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 64 R, .832 OPS), but after a breakout 2006, along with the incredible April, I was hoping for more. He's still an excellent player to have on your roster, and expect him to continue to produce at an average rate for your 1B position for the remainder of the year.

3. Travis Buck (OF) OAK, 4-5, 3 RBI, 3 R
Buck has proven that he belongs in the major leagues in this, his rookie season. His season line is solid (.288 Avg, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 40 R, 3 SB, .856 OPS), although he hasn't had more than 63 AB in a month yet. Now that the OF is a little less crowded (with Milton Bradley moving on to San Diego), it looks like Buck will be getting a good amount of playing time at the top of the lineup for the next two months. He's got a good eye at the plate, and I think he'll develop more power as he sees more major league pitching. If he continues to hit leadoff, I also think he'll be a sleeper pick for a few steals (even though he's only got 3 on the year so far; he has very solid speed).

I've considered picking him up a few times this season (even though I haven't pulled the trigger), but I'm certainly keeping a close eye on him as a Player to Watch in 2008.

4. Jack Cust (OF) OAK, 2-5, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 R
Surprised that this is the second Oakland player on this list from last night's games? Well don't be, since they won 16-10 against the Tigers, exploding for 8 runs in the 6th inning alone. Cust has cooled from his great early season run, but he's still producing solidly on the year (.265 Avg, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 38 R, .937 OPS). I'm especially impressed by his great eye at the plate in August, where he's had 19 official at-bats, hitting .368, with 1 HR, 9 RBI, 9 BB against only 4 K's. He'll still mainly provide value in only HR & RBI, but he's likely got a solid career ahead of him as a 30+ HR guy at the major league level.

5. Shaun Marcum (SP) TOR, 6 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 K
Another impressive performance for the young Marcum. On the season, his line is extremely impressive (9-4, 3.43 ERA, 120 2/3 IP, 95 K, 33 BB, 1.09 WHIP). He's pitched 6 or more innings in each of his past 6 starts, allowing a maximum of 4 ER in a game during that time. He's found a home in the rotation (after starting the year in the bullpen), and I think he'll be a good sleeper for next season (if he's not already starting to show up on people's radars). If he's still available in your league, he'll make a very good pickup for the rest of '07. Toronto's rotation is looking set for the future, with both Marcum & Dustin McGowan ready to join Ron Halladay & A.J. Burnett in what is now shaping up as a impressive top 4.

Below are some other solid performances from Friday:

Josh Fields (3B) CHW, 2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
He's the 3B of the future (and of today, I guess) for the White Sox. He's hitting for solid power so far in his first 200+ major league at bats. His average is lower than I would expect long term, and he's not taking many walks, but he's proving he belongs. He only has 1 SB this year with the Sox, even though he had 8 at AAA this year, and 26 (in 31 attempts) last season. I don't think he'll put up David Wright type SB numbers as a pro, but he should be good for 6-12 / year; solid for a corner infielder.

Raul Ibanez (OF) SEA, 3-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
Ibanez is finally starting to break out of his season long funk. He's got 4 HR in his last 4 games, along with 8 RBI over that time. After a hideous July when he hit only .184 w/ 0 HR, he's hitting .433, with 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 4 BB, 5 K, and a 1.461 OPS in August. After a career year in 2006, many people thought he'd be able to duplicate those numbers again. He's disappointed fantasy owners that expected that production, but it looks like he might be turning the corner, so now might not be a bad time to add him to your roster, if he's available in your league.

Jermaine Dye (OF) CHW, 2-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R
He homered again; that gives him the following post-all star break line - .327 Avg, 12 HR, 23 RBI, 1.165 OPS. He's finally found his swing, so keep him in your lineup until further notice.

Adam Wainwright (SP) STL, 9 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, L
Wainwright had another solid start, although he didn't get a win. I discussed him in a recent Look Who's Back post, and he's continuing to produce. He now seems comfortable as a starter, so there's no reason to think he won't keep pitching well.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP) BOS, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K
Dice-K keeps pitching well & is rolling right along. He now has allowed 2 ER or less in 4 straight starts, striking out 28 hitters over this time. His season line is now 13-8, 3.59 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 158 IP, 159 K, 56 BB. Very good numbers, and he's making fantasy owners that spent a high - mid round pick on him very happy.

Phil Huhges (SP) NYY, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Hughes bounced back nicely in his second start back from the DL. Hopefully owners didn't overreact & drop him after his last performance. He's going to be a key to the Yankees rotation for a long time to come. He'll still have some inconsistency due to his youth, but he's a good one.

Eric Bedard (SP) BAL, 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Bedard struck out 7 more hitters last night. Unfortunately, he didn't get the win, which broke his streak of wins in 6 straight starts (and 8 out of 9). He has proven this year to be a top 5 starting pitcher, and he's potentially moved himself to the #2 starter after Johan for next season.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yovani Gallardo's Worst Start Ever...

2 2/3 Innings
12 Hits allowed
11 ER
3 BB
1 K
2 HR allowed

Believe it or not, that's rookie star Yovani Gallardo's pitching line from today's game against the Rockies. That hurts in every league format, but especially in roto leagues. Imagine my frustration, as I just picked him up in one shallow league before today's game - really bad timing on my part. This one start increases his ERA on the season from 2.55 to 4.20 & his WHIP from 1.04 to 1.26...Ouch!

What's amazing is his line is actually worse than Jeremy Bonderman's line from 7/29 against the Angels of 2 1/3 innings, 9 hits allowed, 10 earned runs, 3 walks & 4 strikeouts.

As frustrating as this is for Gallardo owners, I don't think there is anything to worry about down the line; I'm still going to keep him in my lineup for his next start. The Rockies offense just exploded today, and every pitcher has an off game now and then.

Oh well, Tim Lincecum had some off games too (and Phil Hughes a few days ago); it's just part of the learning process for a young phenom pitcher.

Looking at the bright side of things, since the Brewers have said that they'll limit Gallardo to 175 innings this season, he still has about 6 or 7 starts left (since he's 41 2/3 innings away from that number). This short outing may have bought him one additional start later in the season.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top Double Threat OF - HR & SB

Today I'm going to take a look at this season's top producing double threat outfielders in HR & steals. Ideally, I'll be looking for players that will finish with 20-20 type seasons, although I'll make a few exceptions to highlight players with the potential. In keeper leagues, I value these players more highly than the slugger types, since steals are not always easy to come by. If you have a few of these guys on your roster, you'll remain competitive in steals without having to include a Juan Pierre / Dave Roberts type of player on your team. I'll also give you my feedback on whether these guys are 'keeper-worthy' for next season.

Gary Sheffield (OF)
.290 Avg
23 HR
17 SB
What's gotten into Mr. Sheffield this season? He's on pace to potentially exceed his single season career best in steals (25 in 1990). He has been surprisingly consistent this season stealing bases - he has 4, 3, 4, & 6 in the four full months of the season. He's also only been caught 4 times.

Keeper Worthy?
I don't think he can duplicate this many more seasons, but enjoy the benefits of his impressive all around season this year. I would probably suggest holding onto him for at least one more season.

Grady Sizemore (OF)
.280 Avg
19 HR
28 SB
No surprise here...Grady is going to be an annual 30-30 threat for years to come. His early season steal pace has slowed (after 8 & 9 steals in the first two months of the season vs. 6 & 4 in the last two months), but he's still succeeding at an above average rate (80% on the season).

Keeper Worthy?
He's an awesome keeper, and watch out for a power surge in the next few years.

Eric Byrnes (OF)
.303 Avg
17 HR
28 SB
I knew Byrnes would be solid, but he has exceeded my expectations this season. He's having a career year thus far, and showing no signs of slowing down. He had an incredible July on the basepaths (with 12 steals in 13 attempts), but I think it's more realistic to expect 5-8 steals per month from here on out

Keeper Worthy?
I don't think he's quite keeper material, but keep an eye on him in next year's drafts, since I don't think he'll slip out of the top 10 rounds (like he did in many drafts this year).

Alex Rios (OF)
.301 Avg
20 HR
10 SB
Rios has officially arrived. He honestly hasn't been running as much as I expected this season, but he's had a good success rate. He is still young, so expect many more seasons like this from Rios in the upcoming years.

Keeper Worthy?
Yes, he'll be the player that Vernon Wells was supposed to be this season.

Curtis Granderson (OF)
.298 Avg
16 HR
14 SB
The triples machine is having a career year, in only his second full season in the majors. He has not been caught stealing this year in 14 attempts, so he's using his speed wisely. He's also scoring a ton of runs hitting at the top of the Tigers lineup

Keeper Worthy?
I probably wouldn't keep him going into next season, but expect him to continue to put up solid numbers.

Tori Hunter (OF)
.288 Avg
22 HR
11 SB
Hunter hasn't been running as much the past two months, but he's still having a very solid season. Expect him to hit in the .265 - .275 range, but consistently hitting 20 HR & stealing 20 bags per season.

Keeper Worthy?
I probably wouldn't hold onto him due to his relatively low career batting average, but he's certainly worth consideration in deeper leagues.

Alfonso Soriano (OF)
.297 Avg
18 HR
18 SB
Soriano has had a good season, but has not quite put up the numbers than some people expected coming into the year. Every year can't be a 40-40 year (like last year), or even a 30-30 year (like 2 years ago).

Keeper Worthy?
Are you serious? Even with his recent injury, he'll continue to be a top 10 overall fantasy contributor & is keeper worthy in every league out there.

B.J. Upton (OF, 2B)
.325 Avg
16 HR
13 SB
Upton has really surprised some experts this year. He entered the year as a potential utility man on the Devil Rays. He's emerged as one of the best players on the team & a certain future star. I'd be surprised to find anyone who expected BJ Upton to put up better numbers on the year than super-prospect Delmon Young (who I discuss below). Even though he strikes out at a higher ratio than would be ideal, he is a great hitter with a quick swing & superstar written all over him. Note, he'll likely lose his 2B eligibility next season, so compare him to OF when determining whether to keep him.

Keeper Worthy?
I think he'll make a good keeper, especially if he ends up fulfilling his stolen base potential (where I see him as a potential 40+ sb / year candidate).

Corey Hart (OF)
.280 Avg
18 HR
18 SB
Hart has surprised some this season, although many fantasy experts already had him pegged as a sleeper going into the year. He had an insane June, although he has cooled off since. Expect him to finish around 25-25 on the year, incredible for a 1st year starter who didn't even begin the year with a full time job.

Check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Hart's view on a 20-20 season (or 30-30).

Keeper Worthy?
You have to give him serious consideration. I think he has the potential to steal 30+ bags/year, his power is still developing, he's got a good eye at the plate, and he leads off for a very good, young lineup. Some might argue that it's crazy to recommend keeping Hart while potentially letting Hunter go, but I'd take the chance based on Hart's youth & upside.

Carlos Beltran (OF)
.263 Avg
19 HR
15 SB
Newsflash - Beltran is injured again! I have Beltran in a keeper league that's now in it's third season, and I'm beginning to lose my patience with Carlos. He's a great talent, who rivals Soriano when he's healthy for his combination of power & speed...but unfortunately, he just can't stay healthy. He's still young, so he's got many potentially great seasons ahead of him; just keep your fingers crossed for him to stay healthy.

Keeper Worthy?
Even though the missed time has owners frustrated, he's still a top 20 player & certainly keeper worthy. Even during an off year, he'll still get you 20 HR & 20 steals...

Chris B. Young (OF)
.240 Avg
19 HR
17 SB
An interesting year for the rookie Diamondback. Coming into the season, he was most often compared to Mike Cameron, a player who hits HR, steals bases, but hits around .250. This projection has proven to be spot on. I think Young will end up being a .270 hitter in the pros, and he's proven to already have major league power & speed.

Keeper Worthy?
I don't think he's a keeper quite yet. His low average will hurt most roto teams, but he's going to be a solid 20-20 + contributor for a long time.

Knocking on the Door:
Delmon Young (OF)
.292 Avg
9 HR
7 SB
He's kept his temper in check, and improved his average as the year has progressed, although this power & speed combo player has been relatively quiet in his first full season in the majors. He was the 'can't miss' prospect who everyone expected to break out in a big way this season; he's got 35-25 potential, and many expected a minimum of 15-15 or 20-20 this year. I have been impressed by his ability to hit for average this year, as his high strikeout ratio led me to believe he'd hit well below .300.

Keeper Worthy?
I think so; in deeper keeper leagues, he was kept by many after last season. Now that he'll have a full year under his belt, I think he'll only get better. I expected more this year, but there no reason to think it won't happen in the coming years.

Hunter Pence (OF)
.330 Avg
12 HR
8 SB
Although Pence is currently injured, he was arguably the front runner for NL rookie of the year before he missed time. He has not only proven to be major league ready, but he's proven that he's ready to be a star. He was incredibly consistent his first 3 full months in the majors - he hit .343 w/4 HR & 3 SB, .314 w/4 HR & 4 SB, and .329 w/4 HR & 1 SB. I think he'll be the face of the Astros for many years to come, and he's got an awesome career ahead of him.

Keeper Worthy?
Pay close attention to his recovery from his wrist injury, since other young players with wrist injuries have had a difficult time getting their groove back - see Rickie Weeks & Ian Kinsler for two examples this season. I'd be nervous keeping him without seeing some late season success after he returns from the DL, but if he picks up where he left off, he's probably worth the risk.

Justin Upton (OF)
.308 Avg
0 HR
0 SB
He's the new kid on the block; the youngest current player in the majors. He ripped up the minors this season (in A & AA), and I think he's in the majors to stay. Many compare him to Ken Griffey Jr., who also made it to the majors as a 19 year old; not a bad player to be compared to. I think he'll have bumps in the road this year, but he's an emerging talent, and he's likely going to be a star.

Keeper Worthy?
This one affects me directly, since I just used my #4 waiver priority (in a 16 team, deep keeper league) on him. So far this year, I've missed out on the following rookies via my lower waiver position:

-Hunter Pence
-Ryan Braun
-Yovani Gallardo
-Billy Butler
-Phil Hughes

I wasn't going to miss out this time, so for my sake, I hope he's major league ready. I think he's keeper worthy in deep leagues such as mine discussed above, but he'll need to stay up in the majors the remainder of the year to prove his worth. Unless he really impresses over the next two months, he probably shouldn't be kept in normal depth / shallow keeper leagues.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Top Hitters - Week of 7/30 - 8/5

Periodically, I'll be looking back at the most recent week's top performers (in this case, based on Yahoo game rankings). Today, I'm going to look back at last week's top hitters:

1. Carl Crawford (OF)
Crawford is one of those players that will put up solid, but not earth shattering, stats for months & then all of a sudden just break out; I think he's now on the verge of breaking out, after a quiet July. His line on the year is:

.303 Avg
64 R
9 HR
60 RBI
35 SB
.819 OPS

This currently puts him 28th on Yahoo's player rater (amongst hitters). This is probably disappointing for managers that drafted him in the 1st round of their drafts this year, but be patient...especially when it comes to expectations for steals. This season, July was his first month with more than 10 steals; he also already has 2 steals in the first 4 games in August. Last year, he had three months in which he stole more than 10 bases, and August & September are two of them. I'm expecting his recent trend (12 steals in 20 post-all star break games vs. 23 steals in 85 pre-all star break games) to continue throughout the next two months. He might also start hitting for a little more pop, since last season, he also hit 7 HR in a month. This year, his tops is April, when he hit 4. It's a good sign that he has more HR (2) in 4 August games than he hit in any of the previous 4 individual months (when he hit 1 in each).

Make sure he's in your lineup in every league out there. I expect him to hit double digit steals each of the next two months, and I also expect him to start hitting for a little more power. He'll probably end up finishing the year with around 50 + steals, 15-18 HR, and 80 - 85 RBI. All while hitting over .300...not bad at all.

2. Bobby Abreu (OF)
Wow, what a July! And he's started off August just as hot...
On the year, Abreu is hitting:

.286 Avg
81 R
11 HR
70 RBI
15 SB
.797 OPS

In July alone, he hit .353, with 5 HR, 29 RBI, 20 R, 2 SB, and a .972 OPS. In 4 August games, he's hitting .561 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 4 BB & 1 K. Even with his recent super-hot streak, I think he's still been a slight disappointment for managers that picked him in the top 5 rounds of their fantasy drafts. He'll continue to get plenty of opportunities for runs & RBI hitting third in a potent Yankees lineup, and it's nice to see him finally have a breakout month.

3. Ryan Zimmerman (3B)
Zimmerman has quietly improved his numbers in the past two months, picking up the slack after a very slow start to the season. He's hitting:

.274 Avg
17 HR
61 RBI
65 R
4 SB
.779 OPS

He's already got 8 RBI in only 5 August games, so he's well on his way to his best month of the year. Even though I'm a little disappointed in his full season line (especially the lower than expected Avg & steals), I still think he's going to be an excellent 3B for many years in the majors. He's not on par with David Wright (and now, Ryan Braun) yet, but I think he's a good keeper & will only improve with more playing time.

4. Big Papi (1B, DH)
He's good

5. Vladimir Guerrero (OF)
Him too

6. Robinson Cano (2B)
After a disappointing start to the year, he busted out big time in July...hitting:

.385 Avg
6 HR
24 RBI
22 R
1 SB
1.053 OPS

He's finally living up to the hype of being a top 5 2B. I don't see any reason he won't continue to produce in an impressive Yankees lineup, so keep playing him.

7. Kelly Johnson (2B, OF)
Johnson was just making it too hard for the Braves to not play him everyday. His season stats are:

.301 Avg
12 HR
57 RBI
67 R
9 SB
.895 OPS

He has been immensely better than the player he replaced, Marcus Giles, this season. I pegged him as a sleeper going into the season, but I cheated in a way, because:

-I live in Atlanta...so I've seen him play firsthand, and I knew he'd be solid
-He'd already proven he could hit major league pitching - in the 2005 season (his rookie year), he was NL Player of the Week for 6/13-19

He'll be a good play from here on out, and I think he's close to being a top 10 2B for next season.

8. Hanley Ramirez (SS)
I'll admit, I didn't expect him to put up such incredible numbers in his second season. I had to decide between him or Joe Mauer as the last player I was holding onto in a keeper league...and I picked the latter. Mauer is a very good player, and will be for a long time, but Hanley has been incredible. His season line is:

.341 Avg
19 HR
54 RBI
84 R
32 SB
.967 OPS

Going into the year, some experts saw him as a 'poor man's Jose Reyes'. It turns out, he's been what people thought Jose Reyes was going to be. Can you imagine, Hanley has the potential for 30 + HR power, with over a .300 Avg & the potential to steal more than 50 bases in a year! Quite possibly, the # 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts next year (you heard it here first!).

9. Jorge Posada (C)
10. Hideki Matsui (OF)
Insane...what a July. His July line was:

.345 Avg
13 HR
28 RBI
31 R
2 SB
1.145 OPS
14 BB
15 K

I think it's safe to say he's fully recovered from his injury earlier in the season. He's showing no signs of slowing down, so keep playing him daily.

11. Garrett Atkins (3B)
His season line is similar to Zimmerman, but he was a top 3 round pick, so he's been a bigger disappointment. He does have 11 RBI in only 5 August games, which is a good sign. He's also been much more consistent since his early season struggles, with batting averages of .305, .302, and .400 in June, July & August. He's still a top 10 3B, but he'll end up finishing the year much below most people's pre-season expectations.

12. Jermaine Dye (OF)
I'm sure he's frustrated more managers than just me this season. After keeping him in my lineup for most of the 1st half, then having him on my bench for a few weeks, and then finally dropping him just after the all star break...what happens?

He breaks out, big time. Since the all star break, he's put up the following line:

23 Games
.330 Avg
10 HR
20 RBI
25 R
1.158 OPS

I think it's fair to say that he's officially broken out of his 1st half slump. He won't end up matching last year's numbers, but he's on a hot streak, so keep him in your lineup (or if you're me, enjoy watching another team benefit from your impatience).

13. Pat Burrell (OF)
I talked about picking him up in a league a few posts back, and man, am I glad I did. He's hit 3 HR in his past 5 games, and is hitting well over .400 since July 1st. Keep playing him while he's hot.

14. Jose Reyes (SS)
Incredible player, but many managers projected a 20 HR season for Reyes. He's been solid with 8 HR, 45 RBI, 79 R, and 53 SB...great numbers, but not necessarily #1 overall (where he was drafted in some leagues).

15. David Wright (3B)
One of the best 3B in the game. His season stats are stellar:

.304 Avg
19 HR
67 RBI
70 R
25 SB
.902 OPS

I'm very impressed by his SB consistency & success rate this year; he's stolen 7 bases in each of the past 3 months, only being caught twice along the way. And obviously, the rest of his game is SOLID.

16. Jack Wilson (SS)
17. Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)
18. Ronny Paulino (C)
19. Matt Diaz (OF)
Having an excellent season platooning in LF. Might get every day playing time next year if the Braves don't re-sign Andruw Jones.

20. Mark Teixeira (1B)
He's already hit 3 HR with the Braves in 5 games; I expect a rejuvenated Teixeira & big August & September.

21. Corey Patterson (OF)
Wow, Patterson can really hit & run when he just goes all out. Earlier in the year, he seemed more selective at the plate, which lowered his K rate but also lowered his overall value (and consequentially, playing time). As long as he keeps on playing aggressively, he'll continue to swipe bases at a 10+ per month rate, along with hitting a few HR & driving in a few runs along the way. Swing away Merrill. Merrill... swing away.

22. Adam Dunn (OF)
Having another typical Dunn year:

.262 Avg
30 HR
73 RBI
69 R
8 SB
.918 OPS

I was actually a little excited about some diversity in his game after a 5 SB April, but gravity has brought the speedy Dunn back to earth since. I guess it was too much to expect a 20 steal year out of a 6 foot 6 inch, 275 lb OF.

It is nice to see him get some of his power swing back, as he's already hit 3 HR in August (vs. only 4 HR in all of July).

23. Melky Cabrera (OF)
Milky Cereal was really not even worth having on your team until his breakout July. He ended up hitting .368, with 3 HR, 17 RBI, 18 R, 4 SB, and a .939 OPS. As long as you don't expect that every month, he'll be a solid breakfast food to have on your bench (or in your lineup on a deep roster).

24. Aubrey Huff (1B, 3B, OF)
OK, I admit...I thought he was going to have a comeback year. Since I've been wrong on Huff for two years in a row now, I've decided that I might not be drafting him or hyping him next season...Although, he might end up being a major sleeper & in line for a comeback year! Oh wait...

25. Kazuo Matsui (2B)
Holy Cow; 2 Matsui's on one list!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Player Profile - Nick Markakis

Today's player profile will look at Baltimore Orioles 2nd year outfielder Nick Markakis. On the year, Nick has the following line:

.291 Avg
10 HR
64 RBI
59 R
13 SB (in 15 attempts)
.799 OPS
41 BB

So, has he performed when measured up to expectations this year? Has he been in line with, performed worse than expected, or better than expected? Well, the answer is not so simple...so let's take a deeper look at his stats.

For a 2nd year player, most fantasy managers & 'experts' will look at his 1st year performance, specifically looking at the later stages of the season, to come up with expectations for the player's sophomore season. It's fair to say that Nick improved just a tad as last season wore on...check out his monthly splits:

.182 Avg
2 HR
.558 OPS

.254 Avg
0 HR
.667 OPS

.338 Avg
0 HR
.803 OPS

.403 Avg
2 HR
10 RBI
.999 OPS

.354 Avg
10 HR
26 RBI
1.140 OPS

.224 Avg
2 HR
.599 OPS

Excluding September, which could have occurred with any young player wearing down after finishing the longest season in their career, he improved every month in OPS, the most telling indicator of success as a hitter. He also had a huge power surge in August, hitting 63% of his HR in ONE month of a 162 game season. He also kept K / plate appearance ratio (13.5%) at a reasonable level the entire season (even his subpar Sep), when combined with his BB ratio / plate appearance (8%) shows that from day one, he has had good patience at the plate. He hit both lefties (.286) and righties (.293) well, and he also played solid right field.

In 2007, some of his trends look similar yet different (does that even make sense?) from his rookie season. Let's take a look at his 2007 monthly splits:

.245 Avg
3 HR
15 RBI
.716 OPS
0 SB

.286 Avg
5 HR
18 RBI
.868 OPS
3 SB

.290 Avg
1 HR
11 RBI
.704 OPS
4 SB

.351 Avg
1 HR
20 RBI
.917 OPS
6 SB

So, his average has increased each month (similar to last year). His RBI's have been relatively steady, his OPS has been solid, but the things that stand out to me are his HR & his SB. At this stage in his career, I think the 10 HR August from last year was an abnormality. He's probably a 3-5 HR / month guy, but I think he'll hit more HR as he matures. He has 1 HR in each of the past two months, but he has found a way to drive in 20 runs in only 25 July games...impressive. He has also discovered this year that he has above average speed & is an intelligent basestealer. I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish the year with 20-25 steals. He has also only been caught 2 times on the year, so he's picking his opportunities wisely. His K / plate appearance (16.5%) & his BB / plate appearance (9%) ratios are both very comparable to last year, so he's kept his plate discipline & eye at the plate - not common in a young hitter. His average against lefties has come down some this year (.258), but he continues to hit solid against RHP (.307).

So, how should people view his performance overall this year? In my opinion, he's proven to be a very good up-and-coming hitter who is still improving & will hit for more power over time. He will likely be a 20-20 contributor before too long, and will likely hit around .300 every season...very impressive for a 23 year old who just last year made the jump from AA ball to the majors. As long as you didn't expect him to hit 30 HR this year, you're likely very pleased with his production. He's the kind of guy that will end up finishing the year with top 20 OF numbers, (he's actually #22 currently on ESPN's player rater) even though he's produced quietly all along the way. Sure, we'd like a few more HR, but they will come over time, so be patient (if you're in a keeper league).

Did you know - Nick attended Young Harris Junior College and batted .439 (98-223) with 21 HR and 92 RBI and stole 19 bases in 20 attempts in 2003; he also had success as a pitcher, going 12-0 with 1 save and a 1.68 ERA in 15 games and led all junior college pitchers with 160 strikeouts. In 2003, he was listed by Baseball America as the 2nd best junior college prospect, behind current Oriole Adam Loewen.

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