In fantasy baseball, hot streaks are everything. Unlike football, baseball is an everyday thing. Seven day and fourteen day streaks are what make players "hot or not" and you so want to be "Hot"
Hot players not only help guide you to necessary victories, but are excellent "Sell High" candidates. However, there are two kinds of hotness. There's the kind that you only expect to stay hot for awhile until they cool down to unstartable levels and then there are the guys that you still expect to be good all season long.
This early in the season, numbers are so supremely magnified that its prime time to sell on the hottest of all hitters. One driving factor of a hot hitter can be a high BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) If a player is extremely outhitting his expected BABIP, then we must certainly expect him to come back to earth at some point. Fantasy baseball, like the stock market, is a risk in this way. But it's the risks we take that lead us to victory.
So, here I give you the 10 leaders in BABIP to open the season, and what it means to their fantasy prospects for 2011.
1. Matt Kemp, .470 BABIP
Matt Kemp is so lucky right now that he should go on Wheel of Fortune. He'll undoubtedly spin the wheel, get the million dollar piece of cardboard, win a Prize Puzzle trip to Jamaica, make the bonus round with $41,521, and win the million while answering the puzzle for "You Lucky Dog"
Kemp was a woefully bad player last year. Though he hit a career high 28 home runs, nearly across the board he had all-time lows. .249/.310/.450, 28% strikeout rate.
Kemp also stole 19 bases, nearly making him a 20/20 player for the 2nd straight year, but the 19 SB was down from 35 the year before. Not nearly what fantasy owners were expecting.
This year, he's trying to show that last season was just a fluke and he's off to an incredible start: .396/.471/.648, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 8 SB, 19 R. And while we can believe that Kemp is going to be better than he was last year, I don't buy that he is quite this good.
ZiPS rest of season projections are .285/.343/.477 and a .339 BABIP. All of which seem much more reasonable for Kemp. It's easier to believe that Kemp might get back to the 30-40 SB range than it is that he will slug above .600, and there's a lot of value in a 20/30 outfielder, but not as much value as you may be able to get by trading him before the end of the month.
2. Andre Ethier, .452
Question: How far do you have to go to find the next highest BABIP leader?
Answer: Not very.
Last seasons Matt Kemp was none other than Andre Ethier. He seemed to be pushing for a Triple Crown award before he went down with an injury in May. By this time he already had 11 HR and 38 RBI in 43 games. When he returned, he lost that hot streak and OPS'd just .773 in the 2nd half.
So far this year, Ethier has seen somewhat of a turnaround and he's hitting .380 to start the year. What he's struggling to do thus far however is hit for power. He's not getting the ball in the air like he's used to, and those fly balls aren't turning into home runs. He is instead hitting a lot of line drives and a lot of pop-ups.
Rest of season ZiPS has him at a .320 BABIP, which should settle him nicely into Andre Ethier territory. Expect the average to drop to .300, and the power to increase to the 20-25 HR range. If you have someone that's in love with batting average, let them take the bait.
3. Alex Gordon, .437
He's breaking out! He's breaking out! YAY!!
Not so fast on the Comissioner Gordon bandwagon. It's cool to see Alex Gordon doing well, but if anyone wants to buy the hype - let them. And sell them volcano insurance while you're at it.
I wouldn't be so concerned with the BABIP if Alex did other things better, but so far, he hasn't. Gordon is walking only 5.2% of the time. He has a .167 ISO and just 1 HR. He's hitting over 45% of his balls on the ground. When the BABIP goes, so goes Alex Gordon's value at this point.
It's possible that Gordon could start to show some decent power and settle into the .300 range. Maybe he'd produce something like .298/.333/.493, 21 HR, 112 RBI and a few stolen bases. That's not horrible. In fact, maybe you recognize that as 2010 Delmon Young. It's also not "elite" Sell if you can.
4. David Freese, .429
Hi. This is David Freese. He has a high BABIP. Do you have him as your starting third baseman in fantasy? You do? Pick up somebody else. This is David Freese.
5. Dexter Fowler, .421
Fowler has been an interesting case since he came into the league as the #15 prospect in baseball. He was a high contact speedster who you might expect to hit a few homers in Colorado. And at the top of that lineup, you'd hope for 35 SB and 100+ runs. Thus far, he has not produced that in the majors.
In 302 career games he has stolen just 42 bases and scored 167 runs. He's a guy you'd expect to have a high BABIP, but not this high. (Career .342)
Fowlers getting on base and walking 14.7% of the time, but he's also striking out at an alarming 34.1% clip. Also, just 2 stolen bases? I'm not sure what Fowler is going to become, but right now he's a fourth OF on fantasy teams at best.
6. Travis Hafner, .417
The Pronk is back!
From 2004-2006, Pronk hit .308/.419/.611 and average 34 HR and 111 RBI. Even as a DH, he was must-start in fantasy. The last 3 years have pretty much degraded any good memory we have of Travis Hafner.
Pronk would like to formally declare himself "back" and he's done so by hitting .348/.395/.580, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 12 R.
Unlike most of the other players on this list, I might actually have to agree with him.
No, he will not hit .348. He's a career .282 hitter. But the power return might be real. His ISO is .232, the highest its been since 2006.
ZiPS really hates Pronk, projecting him for .263/.357/.436 for the rest of the season and only 12 HR in 359 PA's. But I'm going to disagree this time. I think he'll settle in for about what he did in 2007: .266/.385/.481, 24 HR, 100 RBI, 80 R. Coming from a DH, take that as you will.
7. Michael Young, .413
Did you know Young has 0 HR and 1 BB? I prefer Hafner.
8. Peter Bourjos, .412
Two extremes: Bourjos had a BABIP of .228 in his debut last year. He hit .204 then. He's hitting .299 now. Split the difference and you might have a guy that hits .250 with 20-30 SB (ZiPS projects 30) and maybe 10 HR. Which has its place in fantasy.
Bourjos will still be a guy mainly known for his defense however and the Angels will still struggle to score runs.
9. Joey Votto, .403
Sometimes a guy has a high BABIP because he's just really good and really on fire. Don't sell high on Votto unless the offer is too good to be true.
10. Jason Kubel, .400
This was set out to just be a top 10 list, but I suppose it could just be a "Above .400 BABIP list"
When Kubel maintained a .327 BABIP in 2009, he had a career year and was very useful to fantasy owners. In 2008 and 2010 his BABIP was below .300 and his averages were .275 and below, losing much of that value as a guy who could accumulate hits, home runs, and RBI.
Its possible Kubel could be his 2009 version, but the safer bet is that he's closer to what he was last year. Very "meh"