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Who to Trade, Who to Acquire? Baltimore O-verachievers & Other Surprising Studs

If you haven’t checked out our Three Up Three Down series, I strongly encourage you to do so. In addition to this week’s featured players, I took a look at some other hitters I’d think hard about moving or trying to acquire.

The basis for my sample was the most surprising names in the top 40 of ESPN’s player rater for the season. To put some structure around the criteria of “surprising”, I took the average difference between each player’s current ranking, compared to their ADP and preseason Yahoo rank, and identified any player with a +125 or greater differential. As we’re about 30% into the season, there’s enough data to start identifying actual changes in player tendencies which should represent more than just streaks. Here are the results with some thoughts on how I would treat each player going forward.

Current 2013 Ranking Preseason Ranking Preseason
Average Difference
Nate McLouth 26 260 319 263.5
Jean Segura 2 264 260 260
Starling Marte 19 225 212 199.5
Everth Cabrera 33 224 195 176.5
Manny Machado 32 187 211 167
Chris Davis 6 121 158 133.5

Manny Machado – There’s a lot to like about the second year 3B for Baltimore who is hitting .330/.362/.537. His plate discipline numbers are significantly above the league average in all respects which explains his impressive 13.4 K%. And because, he swings at the pitches he should, it makes his low 4.6 BB% rate a little more acceptable and explains his .34 BB/K rate which is below the league average. Because fewer of his PAs end up as BBs or Ks, and he doesn’t hit HRs at an alarming rate (his 9.8% HR/FB rate is actually a little lower than you would expect given Camden Yards is a hitters’ park), his BABIP can be a better predictor of his BA. Currently sitting at .367, there is definitely some regression coming even with 22.6% LD%; unfortunately, he doesn’t run much either.

Recommendation – I’m certainly not giving him away, but I would see what the market will bear for Machado in a redraft league. I expect a slight uptick in the power department, but his contributions there are still just average at best. And while his plate discipline is great, fewer of those balls will find holes as the season goes on which will likely mean you’ve seen the best he has to offer and are selling a sub .300 rest of season (ROS) BA at a .320+ price. I’ll caveat if you’re in a keeper league, my feedback will differ significantly as we’re talking about a guy who doesn’t turn 21 until July and may likely shift to SS later in his career and develop the 25-30 HR power with a solid BA we covet there.

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Chris Davis") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Davis

Chris Davis – Another Oriole on this list, Davis historically hasn’t walked quite enough to be a true three-outcomes player, but he has the Ks and HRs covered as evidenced by a 30.3 K% and .224 ISO for his career. What’s interesting though in 2013 is he’s improved his BB% by 5.4 points up to 12.5% and shaved about 6 points off his K% which now sits at 24.5%. The power numbers have seen a spike, too. So while his .370 ISO is going to drop, his 44.9 FB% and 28.3% HR/FB rates aren’t terribly far off his career norms. Digging even deeper, it appears his plate discipline has improved significantly, and he’s swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone, getting behind in the count less, and has improved his contact rate. What’s even more encouraging is his 188 PAs are actually enough data to give some credence to all the changes we’re seeing (except ISO which we have only about half the “necessary data”). On pace for 52 HRs and 152 RBIs, I would feel comfortable taking the over on ROS over / under’s (o/u) in HRs and RBIs of 24 and 69, respectively which would keep him as an elite power option.

Recommendation – I’m holding Davis everywhere I have him and inquiring to see if I can acquire him from any managers who are worried he might go back to his free-swinging ways.
Nate McLouth – The third Oriole on this list, McLouth once put up 26 HR / 23 SBs with an .853 OPS for the Pirates in 2008 but has flopped around ever since.  More valuable in fantasy than real-life (he’s only registered a 1.0 WAR this year), owners have to be pleased with his .285/.365/.437 triple slash and 15 SBs. Looking for the underlying cause of the  return to circa 2008 form, it’s pretty simple to see Showalter and McLouth have realized what he can do best, and that’s focus on being a more patient contact hitter who is most successful on the strong side of a platoon against RHP (of his 171 PAs for the season, 88% have come against RHP). He’s also made amazing strides with his plate discipline and contact rates (tip of the cap to Baltimore’s hitting coach, Terry Crowley, as that seems to be a theme there). Like every player on this list, regression will set in to a point as it’s unlikely he’ll continue making contact on pitches in the zone 96.5% of the time and keep his swinging strike rate below 3%.  But if he continues to swing at fewer than 18% of pitches outside the zone, you have to like his chances to stay relevant. The other thing to really like about McLouth is his sneaky “speed”. He’s not a burner but he’s very smart on the basepaths as evidenced by his MLB career 87% success rate! 15 for 16 so far on the year and mostly hitting lead-off, an ROS o/u of 26.5 SBs seems about right all things considered.

Recommendation – What’s most interesting about McLouth is he’s actually still available in 30% of leagues, so you may be able to get him nothing, and if you’re in a daily league where you can bench him when the Orioles face a southpaw he’s even more valuable.
Moving on to the non-Orioles...

Everth Cabrera – I wrote about this speedster at the beginning of May when looking at some undervalued Padres noting he owned a career SB success rate above 80% and had attempted a steal once every 11.5 PAs. Since then, he’s gone on to swipe 11 bags in 12 attempts over his last 20 games while attempting a steal every 7.5 PAs. Unfortunately, Cabrera is a bit of a one-trick pony albeit a very good one so any contributions you get outside SBs are a bonus (although he’s on pace for 88 runs, too, in the recently productive San Diego offense). He’s cooled off some at the plate, but overall his BB% and GB/FB rates are up and his K% is down which is what you want to see from your SB specialists who typically have a higher BABIP. These factors should improve his OBP and give him more opportunities to terrorize the basepaths. A realistic rest of the season over/under (ROS o/u) SB total for Cabrera is 30 which would outpace his 2012 total by 4; I would probably take the over.

Recommendation –If someone in your league needs MI and SBs help (and Cabrera isn’t the only thing keeping you afloat in SBs), I would try and use these stats to see what I could get in return. Because he did it last year, you can probably overcome the one-year wonder argument, too. My concern is you’re not getting enough overall bang for your buck with Everth, and I think his current ranking could bring back more in return than he’ll produce collectively the rest of the way.
Jean Segura – In another example of a rental not paying off, Segura was shipped to Milwaukee from Anaheim as part of the Greinke deal last year. With Erick Aybar hitting a paltry.260/.284/.344 with no HRs and 1 for 3 in SB attempts, one can only imagine how much the 19-27 Angles wish they still had the San Juan native, but I digress.  With a .351/.390/.563 triple slash accompanied by 14 SBs and 7 HRs, it’s been a nice couple months to start the season. Like Cabrera, his speed will keep his BABIP above average so long as he’s avoiding too many flyballs (so far so good with a 2.16 GB/FB), but we should still expect his .383 BABIP to drop some as his batted ball profile suggests balls his hits are doing a nice job of finding holes rather than being regularly lined to center. And like Machado, Segura Ks or walks less than 20% of the time while maintaining an average BB/K ratio so a drop in his BABIP will impact him more so than others. The power has been nice so far, but I’m sceptical as most of his HRs barely made it out of the park which seems more in line with his HR/PA rate of 1.4% over 1,764 PAs across all levels including 0 in 166 2012 MLB PAs compared to the 3.7% 2013 rate (7 in 187 PAs if you’re keeping score at home). Is there a decent chance he develops more power down the road? Yes. Can he hit 8 more HRs ROS? Yes, that seems fair, but where you’ll really make your salt with Segura is his speed and contact rates. His 80% career success rate and the green light he’s receiving regularly should allow him to pilfer another 25-30 bases on the season.

Recommendation – I’ll always listen to offers, especially when dealing with a player who is playing at the top of his game and sure to regress some, but it would have to be a very impressive and realistic offer for me to move Segura. ROS, I’m happy with a .290 BA, 30 SB, 8 HR SS hitting in front of Braun, Ramirez, Aoki and Gomez which should allow him to rack up plenty of runs, too. And because of his good but not great 2012, it wouldn’t surprise me if other managers are sceptical of his fast start and the high price you’d try to command for him. Unless you’re really wowed by an offer, I think you enjoy the ride with Segura. Even when he slows down some, you’ll still be getting very solid all around production from SS which is not too easy to come by these days. And if you’re in a keeper league, it would take a very, very special “win now” offer for me to part ways with him.
Starling Marte – Fueled by some decent prospect hype and a respectable 2012 rookie campaign where swiped 12 bags in just 47 games, Marte was a popular sleeper heading into 2013. So far, owners who took a shoot on the young Pirate have been rewarded with a .310/.377/.462 triple slash to go along with 35 R, 11 SB and 5 HRs. Of all the players on this list though, he’s the one I’m most concerned about keeping it up for 2013. His 0.4 BB/K rate is not ideal, and he’s actually had as many HBP (10) as he’s had walks. His 15.6% HR/FB rate will drop and turn more of those flyballs into outs. Also, while speed is on his side having always posted above average BABIPs in the minors, .391 in the current year is not sustainable. He is good but not elite basestealer, too, having gone 11 for 16 in the current year and converting only 70% of his opportunities across all levels. He averages an attempt every 12 PAs, but you wonder if that will continue if he doesn’t improve his success rate a little.

Recommendation – For those in keeper leagues, it’s important to remember Marte is still young (24 years old) and some of the power, speed and plate discipline I question above may very likely manifest itself as he continues to mature. If I’m in a redraft league though, I worry regression will move the needle on Marte quite a bit. My predicted ROS line for Marte shows a .260 BA with 52 R, 23 SB and 8 HR which is nothing to scoff at, but it’s not necessarily elite OF production either. If you can find a trading partner who’s willing to fill a positional need elsewhere on your team and pay 90% for what he’s done so far, I would give a trade like that some strong consideration.

If you’re curious about how pitchers shook out in this exercise, the top 2 differentials and 5 of the top 7 overall were actually starters although part of this is because once you get past the top 300 or so players, the results get skewed as many pitchers go undrafted/unranked. I will tweak my analysis slightly given the available predictive statistics, but next time out I’ll do a similar analysis on arms you might want to be buying or selling. For what it’s worth, here are the 7 pitchers with a +125 differential or greater.

Current 2013 Ranking Preseason Ranking Preseason ADP Average Difference
Justin Masterson 37 401 260 293.5
Patrick Corbin 18 346 260 285
Hisashi Iwakuma 31 283 231 226
Clay Bucholz 12 241 221 219
Shelby Miller 34 279 225 218
Jason Grilli 30 185 185 155
Matt Harvey 11 135 163 138

For any specific fantasy baseball questions, feel free to send me a note on Twitter @Roto_Hawk or email me Until next time, Dominate.
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