Buy, Sell or Hold? Hot Royals Hitters Edition
Let’s get right to it. We are going to examine some hitters who have performed much better than expected so far this year.
Mike Moustakas, Royals — .322 AVG, 5 HRs, 28 Runs, 16 RBI, 1 Steal
A month ago I talked about Moustakas HERE. I told you to avoid him like the plague despite his hot start. He has not been as bad as I thought he would be, but he has not been as good in May as he was in April. In April he was awesome, putting up a .356/.420/.522 slash line for a .942 OPS. In May he has fallen off to a .286/.330/.440 slash for a .770 OPS. That is still pretty good, but remember this is a guy with a career .686 OPS, and that includes his excellent 2015 stats. Moustakas’ BABIP this year is .349, which is 81 points higher than his career BABIP. That is a very strong sign that he has been quite lucky, especially when you consider his batted ball profile is less impressive than it usually is. The narrative we hear on TV is that he has improved his approach by hitting the ball to the opposite field to beat the shift. That is true because his Oppo% is 35% this year compared to his career 23%. However his Soft, Medium and Hard hit percentages are exactly the same as his career. In fact he hit the ball much harder last year than he is this year. That is a strong sign that his improved BABIP is unsupported by anything in his batted ball profile that would make you think his luck is going to continue. Verdict: Sell. Cash him in while you can still get something for a proven below average hitter.
Kendrys Morales, Royals — .309 AVG, 6 HRs, 32 Runs, 37 RBI, 0 Steals
Sticking in Kansas City, I am much more optimistic about Morales than Moustakas. While Kendrys is currently playing a little over his head, this is a guy with a track record of being a quality hitter. He was awful last year, putting up a 72 wRC+ (league average is 100), but that was the outlier not the rule. Morales has a career 113 wRC+, which is not great but is solidly above average. He has hit as many as 34 home runs in a season, and can be expected to deliver at least 20 if he stays healthy all year. Health has been the problem for Morales throughout his career. He had the famous broken leg while celebrating a walk-off home run a few years ago. The Royals have a solid offense all-around, so he should continue to see plenty of Runs and RBI. Morales may cool down a little bit but he will still be a benefit to your starting lineup. He is a proven hitter having a bounceback season. Verdict: Hold. Ride him if you have him, but don’t go out and overpay to get him.
Eric Hosmer, Royals — .302 AVG, 7 HRs, 30 Runs, 31 RBI, 3 Steals
Let’s go for a Royals hat trick. Hosmer has been erratic throughout his career. His wRC+ stats by season are 113, 80, 120, 99 and now 145. Hosmer is having the best season of his career thus far and I think the boost in his performance is real. His .348 BABIP is almost identical to Moustakas’ .349, but Hosmer is much more likely to sustain that lofty number or close to it. Hosmer’s career BABIP is .308 whereas Moustakas’ is only .268, so Hosmer’s is not nearly as much of an aberration. Hosmer’s Hard Hit% is 35% to Moustakas’ 25%. Hosmer also has much better Soft and Medium Hit%s as well. In short, when you look at Hosmer’s batted ball profile you see a player who should have a high BABIP so we should not call him lucky at all in terms of BABIP. Hosmer has been lucky on his home run rate however. His fly ball rate is the lowest of his career but his HR/FB rate is double his career average. That is due for a large measure of regression. Moving forward, expect Hosmer to maintain a near .300 batting average but expect his power to decline quite a bit. He is a valuable fantasy player but not a star. Verdict: Hold. He is a solid contributor but will likely leave you always wanting more from your first baseman.
Lorenzo Cain, Royals — .304 AVG, 3 HRs, 34 Runs, 20 RBI, 9 Steals
Might as well go all-Royals this week. Cain is the type of player who is very dependent on his teammates to help him create fantasy value. Now that the Royals have a very good offense top to bottom, it gives a guy like Cain a chance to rack up lots of RBI and Runs. He does not hit home runs and until this year has been a big disappointment in Runs and RBI, never having tallied more than 55 of either in a single season. This year he is on pace to blow way past those numbers and reach the 70-85 range in both. Cain can be relied upon to hit for a good average close to .290 or even .300. His career BABIP is .347 so there is no reason to think his .364 BABIP this year is a lucky fluke. He will also steal enough bases to gain your squad three or four points in that category on the season. Like Morales, Cain has had trouble staying healthy long enough to rack up big counting stat piles. Cain is not a youngster at 29 years old. What you see is what you get, there is no room for growth here. Verdict: Hold. If your team is weak in Steals or batting average you could make a move for Cain if the price is reasonable, but you will take a hit in home runs and you should not expect his RBI and Runs to continue at their current pace.
After evaluating the four hot Royals hitters I am not advocating you go out and buy any of them, but three of the four are good holds that you should continue to roll with on a daily or weekly basis. Each will see some minor dropoff but should not fall off a cliff (except for Moustakas). You might think I would recommend selling them now since I expect their stats to decline in the future, but none of these guys has all that much trade value despite their lofty rankings on the player raters after two months of the season. Most fantasy owners are wary of these guys due to their past struggles, so I really don’t think you could get enough for them in trade to justify letting them go (except for Moustakes, if you can get anything of value for him you should take it!)
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Are there any other players off to bad/good starts that you would like some advice on?