Can I Rely On These Streaking Hitters? Gordon, Moss, Frazier, Alexei and VMart
Let’s take a look at some raking hitters who having been filling up the stat sheet. All of these guys have performed as top 25 hitters this season but none of them were ranked in the top 100 hitters prior to the season. Will they be able to continue shining brightly or will they fade to black? Should you trade for them, hold onto them or sell high?
Dee Gordon — 34 Runs, 1 Home Run, 19 RBI, 36 Steals, .280 AVG (Yahoo Overall Ranks: #268 preseason, #26 now)
Coming into this season Gordon was a post-hype prospect who generated very little enthusiasm among fantasy owners. The Dodgers gave Cuban defector Alex Guerrero $26 million to take over second base this year but during Spring Training they felt he would need some extra time to improve on his defense, giving Gordon the chance to hold down the job for a short while in the meantime. But Gordon shocked everyone by going on an epic hot streak for the entire month of April. That combined with Guerrero’s freak ear injury sustained in a fight with a teammate in the minors should enable Gordon to remain in the starting lineup for quite some time yet. Can he keep up the excellence?
All of 2011 – .686 OPS
All of 2012 – .561 OPS
All of 2013 – .612 OPS
April 2014 – .821 OPS
May 2014 – .620 OPS
June 2014 – .681 OPS
Gordon’s stellar month of April was a clear outlier compared to the rest of his career. Don’t expect him to be a good hitter in the future. Gordon is not a young prospect any more. He is already 26 years old and well beyond the age where we would expect to see any major improvement at the plate. He is never going to hit for any power. With the stick Gordon is a huge liability for your team in terms of batting average, home runs and RBIs. On the basepaths however he is fantastic. At his current pace you can expect him to steal about 75 bases for the full season, which is enough to win your team the SB category in your roto league nearly single-handedly. Gordon has large lefty-righty splits, hitting a pathetic .217/.260/.238 vs LHPs for his career compared to .281/.327/.371 vs RHPs. Not only does he struggle mightily to hit against lefties, he doesn’t steal many bases against them either. That is not a big surprise given it is much harder to steal against lefties than righties. I am not optimistic regarding Gordon’s long term value. Verdict: Flash in the Pan. Bench him vs LHPs. Shop him on the trade market to contending teams that need Steals.
Brandon Moss — 32 Runs, 16 Home Runs, 53 RBI, 1 Steal, .267 AVG (Yahoo Overall Ranks: #194 preseason, #32 now)
The 30 year old Moss has been in the major leagues off and on since 2007 but until recently had never really gotten a fair chance to play. This is his 8th season but he has totaled only 1610 ABs in his career, barely 200 per year. He has the reputation of a guy who is a decent part-time platoon hitter who isn’t good enough to earn an everyday starting role. That must be the reason why his preseason rank on Yahoo was only #194 and #210 on CBS, even though he hit a whopping 30 home runs last year and was a top 40 hitter in fantasy leagues! Maybe now people will finally start to realize that Moss is a legitimately talented hitter who deserves to be valued much higher than he is. People are under the impression that Moss is having a breakout season, but in reality he broke out two years ago in 2012 when he hit .291/.358/.596 for a .954 OPS with 21 homers in only 265 ABs. He followed that up last year with a .256/.337/.522 slash line for an excellent .859 OPS with 30 homers in 446 ABs. This year he has finally been given a chance to play every single day without being pinch-hit for against LHPs and he has continued to rake at a .267/.361/.552 clip for a .913 OPS with 16 home runs in 221 ABs. Brandon Moss is not a fluke. He is a star. Verdict: Fantasy Gold. Use him with confidence. Don’t sell high on this guy.
Todd Frazier — 39 Runs, 14 Home Runs, 34 RBI, 6 Steals, .272 AVG (Yahoo Overall Ranks: #227 preseason, #34 now)
Frazier may have one of the most unorthodox swings you will ever see, although he did hit a home run with no hands. He also has woefully poor pitch recognition skills that leave him flailing at unhittable breaking balls low and outside. But despite these flaws he still manages to satisfactorily rack up the fantasy stats for his owners. He is slashing .272/.348/.511 for an .859 OPS. He doesn’t sit in the top 10 in any statistical category but he contributes nicely in all of them, even stolen bases. After his breakout 2012 campaign Frazier struggled last year, especially in batting average at .234. But he still managed to score well enough in the remaining categories to be worthy of starting in fantasy lineups. Some of his struggles last year can be blamed on unlucky BABIP and HR/FB rates, so it is not surprising that his stats have picked back up now that those rates have returned to normal. In fact he is on pace to hit 35 home runs this year. I doubt he gets that many but 25-30 long balls is highly likely — and that has a ton of value in today’s low power environment. Moving forward I wouldn’t expect to see any drastic changes from what he is doing now. He is 28 years old and already in his prime years so I don’t see any major improvements coming. Verdict: Solid fantasy starter for several years to come.
Alexei Ramirez — 34 Runs, 7 Home Runs, 36 RBI, 12 Steals, .311 AVG (Yahoo Overall Ranks: #191 preseason, #28 now)
The 32 year old Cuban defector is playing better than he ever has, putting out career-best rates of .348 wOBA, 117 RC+ and .790 OPS while also stealing bases faster than he ever has. Ramirez is at the top of his game right now. The only one of his peripherals that is significantly out of sync with his career rates is his .338 BABIP, which is 40 points higher than normal. What this tells me is that his stats this year are not flukish, although perhaps we should expect a slight regression as the season progresses. He is healthy and playing at the best of his abilities. In recent years his home runs were steadily declining while his stolen bases were steadily increasing. This year his power has returned and he is still stealing lots of bases. So it is the best of both worlds. How long can he keep this up? I don’t know, but I can say there are not any big red flags hiding under the surface waiting to ruin his performance. He has always been a good fantasy player and this year has gone really well for him. Consider this an extended hot streak, but he is still a good player even when he is not streaking. Verdict: The Real Deal, but getting to an age where some decline will be expected. If your team is contending you should keep him and ride him. If your team is rebuilding you should sell high on him.
Victor Martinez — 29 Runs, 16 Home Runs, 41 RBI, 2 Steals, .329 AVG (Yahoo Overall Ranks: #156 preseason, #21 now)
Just like with Ramirez, VMart is playing better than he ever has. He is way above his career averages across the board. We shouldn’t expect him to continue to hit at the superstar level he is right now, but even after he cools off he will still be very good. He has always been a very good hitter. He has a .304 career batting average and has been amazingly consistent year after year after year. After being a perennial early round draft pick in fantasy leagues for a decade, Martinez’s stock has been way down the last few years. There are three good reasons for this: he missed the full 2012 season due to a devastating knee injury, he no longer qualifies as a catcher and he is now 35 years old. Those things haven’t stopped him from being a potent hitter, so leverage those facts to pry him away from his owner in your league. An owner who isn’t in contention for a championship this year would likely be willing to sell high on Martinez. Hitters with a swing as sweet as Martinez’s can often succeed into their late 30’s (like David Ortiz or Carlos Beltran), so I don’t think Martinez is close to being finished just yet. You can count on him to bolster your lineup for a few more years. Verdict: Fantasy Stalwart. If your team is contending you should keep him and ride him. If your team is rebuilding you should sell high on him.
If you have any questions about any other players ask them in the comments below. I will reply ASAP!