by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The deeper into the season we get, the harder it is to overlook a quick start. Sooner or later we have to look at it as more than just aberration, but the potential for a big season. Let’s take a look at two of the faster starters from around the league to determine if they are players we should be keeping or selling (all stats are through Sunday):
Justin Morneau – Colorado Rockies
Early in his career Justin Morneau was a prototypical fantasy first baseman, bringing the potential to hit 30+ HR every season (something he did three times in four seasons). However, the last time came in 2009 before injuries took hold.
The past two seasons have been particularly poor, pairing the lack of power with subpar averages as well (.267 and .259). However, now healthy and in Coors Field, Morneau has reemerged onto the fantasy scene.
Before declaring his renaissance solely on his new home, take a look at his split:
- Home – .364 with 3 HR and 12 RBI
- Road – .384 with 2 HR and 7 RBI
In other words it’s not just home cooking that’s serving Morneau well. One of the keys to his success this season has been reducing his strikeouts. Given his recent production this year’s 12.4% mark may seem unmaintainable, but that’s not the case. Early in his career he routinely posted marks under 15%, including an 11.9% mark in 2008.
While his HR/FB may be elevated at 19.2%, he also has not put the ball in the air as much as he has throughout his career (32.5% vs. career mark of 40.1%). In other words, while the power may slow down a bit it also will not simply disappear.
Throw in a .360 BABIP and Morneau actually looks like a player capable of maintaining his early season success (at least reasonably so, given his 21.3% line drive rate, though the average will fall). While there is going to be some risk and if you can get a good haul I would still consider moving him, he’s hardly a “Must Sell” option.
Alexei Ramirez – Chicago White Sox
Viewed as a player with 20/20 potential, Ramirez always seemed to find a way to disappoint fantasy owners. Early in his career he wasn’t running and over the past few seasons the power had disappeared. Suddenly he’s showing both skills, so we are left to wonder if this is the season he finally puts it all together.
The average is going to regress (.353 BABIP), but that’s not really the question. After stealing 30 bases last season we know that he’s capable in that regard. He already has 4 this season and there is no reason to think that the White Sox are now going to reign him in. You would think that 25+ is in his future.
Can he maintain the power, though? While he only hit 6 HR last season, he did add 39 doubles and 2 triples so there was hope. However, his fly ball rate (36.0% in ’14) and popup rate (21.9%) are not really conducive to maintaining his early season success.
You also can question if his HR/FB rate of 12.5% is for real. In other words, we shouldn’t expect a sudden 25/25 candidate to have fallen in our laps.
Could he hit 15? It’s not impossible, though the power could also completely dry up from here. I could understand wanting to hold onto him thanks to the upside, but I would also shop him around and see what’s out there. It’s possible one of your league mates view him at his ceiling, with the allure of 25/25 dancing in their head, and that would allow you to extract maximum value.
Source – Fangraphs