Starlin Castro or Eric Hosmer, which one is the better keeper? I’ll tackle that question before getting into the miraculous turnaround of Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols.
KEEPER LEAGUE â€“ CASTRO OR HOSMER?
Starlin Castro or Eric Hosmer? I recently was asked which player I’d prefer in a keeper league. The obviously answer is Castro who has had multiple good seasons and plays shortstop. After all, with Hanley Ramirez looking like he might lose shortstop eligibility next season, and Troy Tulowitzki as likely to be in a game as on the bench, there aren’t many options at the position that you would rather have than Castro (he’s also been the #2 shortstop in fantasy this season behind just Ian Desmond). Still, I don’t look at this as a slam dunk.
Hosmer hit .293 with 19 homers, 78 RBIs, 66 runs and 11 steals in a 128 game rookie season. That five category production had many listing Hosmer as a top-10 option at first base this season. Why not? The guy produced last year, had the pedigree that suggested greatness, and the old eyeball test â€śprovedâ€ť that this kid was gonna be special. I still think he can be special, but his 2012 effort is going to go down as a massive disappointment. Hitting just .228, he has nine homers, 42 RBIs, 45 runs and 10 steals this season, where has that greatness been? The steals are nice, but the rest of his line still makes him a spotty play in an AL-only league, let alone a mixed league. There are still things I like here though. His BB/K ratio went from 0.41 to 0.58 as he has increased his walk rate from last season. His line drive rate last season was 18.7 percent. This year it’s 18.6 percent. So why has his batting average fallen more than .060 points? Part of that can be blamed on the shift defenses are employing against him taking away a few hits, but I’m going to lay a lot of the blame at the feet of BABIP which has dipped from .314 to .251. Given that he’s hitting as many line drives and striking out at the same right, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. He has hit a few more balls on the ground than I’d like to see, his 50 percent ground ball rate last year isn’t great for a run producer and his 54 percent mark this year is even worse, but that obviously doesn’t explain the major fall in his BABIP. I’d expect that number to pick up, and when it does this guy will prove to be at least a .280 hitter. Better times certainly lay ahead for Hosmer.
Do better times lay ahead for Castro? Of course that is the natural assumption given that he’s only 22 years old. At the same time, I have concerns.
(1) Castro hit .300 and .307 his first two years. That number is down to .285 this year.
(2) Castro had a .347 and .341 OBP his first two years. That number is down to .311 this year.
(3) Castro had a 0.41 and 0.36 BB/K ratio the past two years. That number is down to 0.23 this year thanks to a three year low in his walk rate an a three year high in his strikeout rate.
(4) Though he has 16 thefts this season he’s stolen ZERO bases since June 10th. It’s August 3rd people. That’s 43 games without a single steal, forty-three. It should also be noted that in his career he has 48 steals in 75 attempts, a mere 64 percent success rate. If you aren’t stealing bases at a 67 percent rate you are HURTING your teams chance to score runs, so for all the running he has done in his career the Cubs would have actually been better off if he hadnâ€™t even attempted a steal.
(5) There’s also the guys head to consider. He’s not paying attention out there on the field. He’s forgetting how many outs there are. He’s not watching pitches. He’s seemingly spaced out a lot of the time. Maybe he can get past that, but there have been many a player who has been unable to perform at the level their talent dictates because of issues with their noggin.
I wouldn’t tell anyone they were wrong to chose Castro, but it may not be as clear cut as many make it out to be.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
What the hell happened to Jason Bay? His body wore down? He stopped caring? He was abducted and replaced by a cyborg from a planet that has no understanding of how to play baseball? I hate to bash the guy, but he’s been so abysmal that I feel like I have to. I’ll be a bigger person and just pass. I’ll just let the numbers speak for themselves: .157 with a .546 OPS in 121 at-bats.
Matt Holliday was hitting .215 with a .654 OPS at the end of April and there was panic in the streets. ‘Ray, my second round pick, an I only took him cause you told me to, has been awful. You’re a moron.’ OK, I may not have received that exact note from someone, but I can certainly tell you that I did receive a bunch of responses from people questioning how on earth I could have had Holliday in my top-25 this season. I mean, didn’t I see how bad he was performing? We all know I was right about this call, though it really shouldn’t have been all that surprising given the overall excellence that Holliday has flashed for years. Over his last 77 contests Holliday has been doing his best to prove to the world that he’s still an elite hitter. Not only is Holliday hitting .360 but he’s also sporting a 1.066 OPS. The righty slugger from the Cards has also hit 17 homers, knocked in 62 runners and scored 60 times. In the end he’s right where I thought he would be as one of the elite hitters in baseball with a fantasy line of .325-21-75-70-4. The guy is money in the bank.
Since we’re talking about slow starters who picked up the pace, our eyes should naturally be turned to Albert Pujols. The gazillionare hit .217 in April, .217, with a .570 OPS reminding people of the exploits of a guy like Brandon Wood, and that’s a truly shocking comparison to draw. Moreover, he didn’t go deep until the 28th game of the season. We’re talking about the most accomplished hitter in baseball the past decade, a certain HOFamer, hitting like a AAAA player who just doesnâ€™t have the goods to hit big league pitching. Did you stay the course or panic and jump off the Pujols bandwagon? Hopefully you held on tight. Over his last 61 games played Pujols has blasted 19 homers, knocked in 53 runs and scored 45 times. Basically, he’s been the same old Pujols we’ve always witnessed on the field. In addition to those counting numbers he’s also hit .338 with a 1.079 OPS. That furious push actually has Pujols on pace for 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 90 runs scored, and that average is up to .284. Do you really doubt that he’s still got a shot to go .300-30-100? Doubt greatness at your own peril.
Ruben Tejada has been pretty impressive for the Mets as the anti-Bay. He has no power (one homer in 248 at-bats) and no speed (one steal in 60 games). So how in the world has be been â€śimpressiveâ€ť? Well, dude is hitting .319 on the year and he’s scoring runs at a pace that would equate to 90 runs in a 150 game season. Hey, we’re at the time of the year that finding solid performers off the waiver-wire is getting harder and harder to accomplish. When that player also qualifies at second and shortstop, like Tejada does, that player becomes a valuable commodity even if he also has some deficiencies.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 7-10 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.