It often doesn’t take much for fantasy owners to forget about once hyped prospects. Does anyone remember when Matt LaPorta was supposed to be the next big thing? The centerpiece of the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers, LaPorta failed time after time. That led to him opening the 2012 campaign at Triple-A, where many figured he would simply continue to rot.
Of course, the exact opposite has happened. Just look at his numbers over his first 21 games in the International League in 2012:
79 At Bats
.380 Batting Average (30 Hits)
8 Home Runs
0 Stolen Bases
.451 On Base Percentage
.759 Slugging Percentage
.423 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Obviously there’s a lot of luck involved in his numbers, but they should help lead to another opportunity for him to prove himself in the Major Leagues.
The Indians rank 17th in runs scored (92). They are 23rd in home runs (17). They are 18th in batting average (.242). Yes, they have added Johnny Damon to the mix, in an effort to help, but it’s hard to imagine him being the answer.
Part of their problem has definitely been the production at first base, where Casey Kotchman has gotten the bulk of the playing time (except when Carlos Santana moves out from the behind the plate). In 67 AB Kotchman is hitting a paltry .149 (10 H) with 2 HR and 4 RBI. That’s just not cutting it. If the Indians like him for his defense or not, they can’t continue on with that type of production from a premium position.
Is LaPorta a lock to produce this time around? Absolutely not. We all know he’s not going to hit .380, though you have to think that he should be able to hit around .270ish. In 1,008 AB at the Major League level he has posted a 20.4% strikeout rate, an acceptable number, yet has struggled with a .273 BABIP (leading to a .238 average).
In regards to the power, that is something he has shown a little bit of (30 career HR thanks to a 9.2% HR/FB). He does offer even more upside, however, with 31 career HR in 495 AB at Triple-A (the International League, not the offensive happy Pacific Coast League). Obviously you wouldn’t expect a 30 HR outburst, but would it be surprising to see him hit 12-15 in 350 AB?
In shallower formats LaPorta is an easy player to avoid. However, in deeper formats where you need a little bit of power, he’s a player that is completely off the radar that could pay dividends. Consider the price tag (grabbing off the waiver wire) and his potential opportunity to produce, he’s well worth making a preemptive claim.