The weather may be just starting to warm up, but a few players are already off to a hot start.
In last week’s Fantasy Lookout, we looked at a few hitters off to a slow start. This week, we take a look at a few hitters who are firing on all cylinders so far this year.
Good players off to good starts should not be news. The more interesting situations involve players that have significantly outperformed their preseason ranking.
Let’s use Yahoo rankings as our guide. All of our players had a preseason rank outside the Top 200 and have current ranking within the Top 50.
Will the hot start continue? Should we fade the hot start? Just like last week, we will give a buy, sell, or hold rating for each of the players.
The Fantasy Lookout: Hot Start; Hitter Edition
Aledmys Diaz, 2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals
As soon as Jhonny Peralta sustained a thumb injury in early March, the Cardinals were forced to find a suitable replacement. Initially, Jedd Gyorko was thought to be the guy, but Diaz has grabbed the role and run with it.
His hot start has not exactly come out of nowhere as his minor league numbers were pretty good. Over three minor league levels consisting of 586 at-bats, he posted a line of 18 home runs, 76 RBIs, 79 runs, 13 stolen bases, and a .276 batting average.
His current .380 BABIP seems ripe for regression, despite his impressive hard hit rate of over 40-percent. That being said, his 0.75 BB/K rate, which is greatly improved from his career mark of 0.40 in the minors, suggests a batting average close to .300 could be a real possibility even as his BABIP comes back to Earth.
Playing time could be an issue once Peralta returns sometime around the All-Star Break, but there has been some talk that the Cardinals want to find a way to keep him in the lineup. Don’t expect Diaz to maintain his current pace, but he should flirt with a Top 10 ranking at SS for the remainder of the year. The hot start is for real, buy Diaz with confidence.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
Everyone knows the story by now, an insane power display coupled with plenty of strikeouts. For what it is worth, his minor league stats show a .260 hitter that is a legit 20/20 threat.
His hard hit rate of nearly 44-percent shows the power upside, but even with that he will be in tough to sustain his 33.3-percent HR/FB ratio. Another interesting thing to note is his home/road splits. At Coors, Story has hit four home runs and driven in seven, while on the road he has posted seven home runs along with 17 RBIs.
When you combine the fact that the Jose Reyes situation is still up in the air and with his blazing start, a Story owner has to at least test the trade waters. If someone wants to give you a Top 50 player for Story you take it. I still think he struggles to end the year with more than 20 long balls. Despite blasting out of the gates and given his well-publicized start, Trevor Story is a great sell high candidate.
Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles
Trumbo’s hot start has not come as a surprise to some as he has done this before. From 2011 through 2013, he hit .251 and averaged 32 home runs and 94 RBIs per year. Now, with the O’s and their hitter-friendly park and impressive lineup, Trumbo entered the year primed for a bounce back campaign.
The majority of his under-the-hood statistics are in line with his career figures including his walk rate, strikeout rate, and his batted ball data. However, there are two outliers, his BABIP and his HR/FB ratio. It seems like a given that his inflated .388 BABIP will regress towards his career mark of .293, likely pulling down his batting average back towards the .250 range. Given the similarity of his 2016 batted ball profile to his career marks, it also seems unlikely that he will sustain his near 27-percent HR/FB ratio since his career mark is closer to 18-percent.
The stars aligned for Trumbo in 2016 and he seems to be taking advantage of the situation. He may struggle to maintain his current power pace, but if he finishes the season with 30 home runs and close to 100 RBIs, his Fantasy owners will be delighted. I am a buyer of Trumbo and his hot start.
Jean Segura, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
When the Diamondbacks first acquired Segura, there was a question regarding playing time given the crowded middle infield situation. The unfortunate A.J. Pollock injury fixed the problem as it allowed Chris Owings to move to the outfield and opened up an everyday job at second base for Segura.
Segura’s numbers are not sustainable even if he is hitting at the top of a potent lineup. His current BABIP of .371 is nearly 70 points better than his career mark of .305. As this regresses, his batting average will fall, as will his run and stolen base totals since he will not be getting on base as much. Also, his power pace will not be maintained as his 14.3-percent HR/FB ratio is over double his career mark of 7.1-percent. There is also nothing is his 2016 batted ball profile that suggests he is doing anything different than previous years.
He is a .270 hitter that can steal a few bases and he will not reach double digits in home runs. Given his hot start, there are probably Fantasy owners out there that are way too optimistic. Sell while you can before the Regression Police find Jean Segura.
Wil Myers, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres
Based on his hot start, Myers is on pace to hit .300 along with 30 home runs, 90 runs, 90 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. Now that would be a breakout campaign. However, Myers’ talent has never been in question, his health has constantly been the issue.
A career best line drive rate coupled with a greater focus to not pull everything has resulted in a higher than normal BABIP of .363. The seemingly inflated BABIP may actually be sustainable as he recorded a .362 mark in his rookie year back in 2013. His batted ball profile this year actually compares quite favourably to that season.
The new approach gives reason for optimism. As long as he stays healthy Myers is poised for a career year. Buy before everyone else comes to the same conclusion.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
To say Castellanos is off to a hot start would be a gross understatement. He leads the AL in batting average and is also amongst the leaders in RBIs. All of this has been fueled by an insane BABIP that lies just shy of .450.
Needless to say, regression is coming. Despite a line drive rate over 31-percent, which is impressive, but not crazy given his career mark of 26-percent, Castellanos’ BABIP and batting average will likely fall by over 100 points. In fact, his year-to-date peripherals compare quite favourbly to his rookie season of 2014 when he hit .259 along with a .326 BABIP. As Castellanos’ good luck goes away, his RBI pace will also take a big hit as he will no longer be hitting .423 with runners in scoring position.
Castellanos’ hot start is a house of cards. Sell before your fellow Fantasy owners realize the same thing.
Chris Carter, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Chris Carter is known for two things, strikeouts and home runs. This year is no different as he is currently third in the majors in terms of home runs and 20th in terms of strikeouts.
His current home pace has been the result of some great luck as his HR/FB ratio sits at 35.7-percent against a career mark of 21.1-percent. This has occurred despite a hard hit rate that essentially equal to his career rate. Carter is hitting significantly fewer fly balls (career low) and his pull rate (second lowest of career) is also well below his career mark.
I expect Carter to hit around 30 home runs coupled with a bating average that probably falls on the wrong side of .240. If anyone in your league thinks he will be much more than that, you need to sell them Carter and cash in your chips despite his hot start.
Eugenio Suarez, SS/3B, Cincinnati Reds
Suarez quietly had an impressive season last year as his full season pace would have resulted in a batting line of 20 home runs, 60 runs, 70 RBIs, along with a .280 batting average. He has picked up where he left off last year and now with both third base and shortstop eligibility, he has been a boon for Fantasy owners in the early going.
He has actually been a tad unlucky this year, as his .277 BABIP seems low given his batted ball profile. Suarez has also managed to cut down his strikeout rate from nearly 24-percent last year to just over 16-percent this year. Both of these signs suggest we should see positive and sustainable improvement with respect to Suarez’s batting average.
With an everyday role and dual position eligibility, Suarez should continue to attract more and more attention. I am a buyer of Suarez and you should be too.
All hot streaks should attract a Fantasy owner’s attention. When they happen at the start of the year, they falsely seem to take on an added importance. Either way, do your homework and make sure you can see the forest through the trees. Make sure you join us next week, when we take a look at a few pitchers that have stumbled out of the gates. Until then, enjoy the games!
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