|Player||HR YTD||xHR Wk 12 - 26||Year-end Total|
|Nelson Cruz, BAL||21||17||38|
|Edwin Encarnacion, TOR||20||22||42|
|Jose Abreu, CHW||19||24||43|
|Giancarlo Stanton, MIA||18||23||41|
|Troy Tulowitzki, COL||18||16||34|
|Victor Martinez, DET||17||11||28|
|Josh Donaldson, OAK||17||16||33|
|Albert Pujols, LAA||16||14||30|
|Brandon Moss, OAK||16||19||35|
|Brian Dozier, MIN||15||12||27|
|Paul Goldschmidt, ARI||15||22||37|
|Jose Bautista, TOR||15||24||39|
|Todd Frazier, CIN||15||14||29|
|David Ortiz, BOS||15||13||28|
|Evan Gattis, ATL||15||15||30|
Though many within my circle of roto friends consider me to be liberal and heavy-handed with my offensive projections, it certainly would not be a stretch to see Abreu, Encarnacion and Stanton finish 1-2-3 in home runs this year, hitting more than they've hit so far and finishing north of 40. Though I love Nelson Cruz and think this is finally the year he hits 40, he is always a strong candidate to hit the DL with recurring hamstring issues. Tulowitzki has a bit of DL time built in as well, though if he plays the full season, we may easily see 40 plus, especially as things heat up in Coors. Gattis is one of this week's risers - if he can match his power output from here on out, he would be the first catcher to hit 30 in 12 years when Jorge Posada hit 30 and Javy Lopez mashed 43. Brian Dozier and Victor Martinez just feel strongly like candidates for a regression in power from here on out while Jose Bautista, Paul Goldschmidt and Brandon Moss have a good shot at pumping out 20 plus from week 12 on and making a run at 40.
Players with fewer than 15 homers right now who potentially have 20+ left in their bats and can make a run at 35 or more include Anthony Rizzo 14, Chris Carter 13, Miguel Cabrera 12 and Pedro Alvarez 11. Pedro Alvarez hit 24 before the All-Star break last season (36 total) and is showing more patience at the plate (24% strikeout rate this year, 30%+ from 2011-2013).
Projections are a fun part of fantasy baseball. They can be helpful in a variety of ways - as long you err on the conservative side and consider factors like HR/FB%, ISO, previous seasons' splits, bat speed and home run distance. So, have some fun. Go ahead and sort the top 30 or so home run leaders, make some educated guesses and measure the variance from the year-end results in October.
Evan Gattis, C ATL - The man teammates call El Oso Blanco has been tearing up major league pitching of late, swatting 3 HR with 8 RBI, hitting a scorching .480 last week. In fact, Gattis leads all catchers with 36 homers since the beginning of the 2013 season. Gattis' NFBC ADP of 131 reflected fantasy owners' doubt (myself included) that he could repeat his fine rookie season (21 HR, 65 RBI in 382 PA) and that uber-prospect Christian Betancourt would eventually take his spot. Yesterday, a Braves team blog discussed the possibility of Gattis moving to the outfield to take B.J. Upton's spot and Betancourt taking over catching duties - a move that may prove futile as Gattis is a horrendous fielder and Betancourt doesn't appear to be ready (.269/.298/.368 slash line, .098 ISO in 205 Triple-A plate appearances). Meanwhile, Gattis looks to be well on his way to leading all C's in a couple of offensive categories (HR, RBI) even if the .293 regresses dramatically. His .298 ISO sums up the story of his first half well, and it appears that The White Bear is here to stay.
Matt Adams, 1B STL - After missing 13 games with tightness in his calf, Adams returned with a bang hitting home runs in three consecutive games this weekend, which doubled his 2014 power output in one fell swoop (3 HR in 52 games prior). His five RBI in the weekend sweep of the Nationals accounted for half of the Cardinals runs for the entire series. Fantasy owners expecting big power from the 6'3", 260 pounder instead received a fairly empty .325 BA (.184 with RISP, .375 with no runners on base) through his first two months. The expectation now might be a trade off in average for power, but owners can, indeed, have both. That Adams can't hit for average is actually a big misconception - he hit .329 in Triple-A in 2012 and .300 in Double-A the year prior. Unfortunately, I didn't do a good enough job of moving Adams up my preseason draft target list as I missed him in all seven of my NFBC leagues, and I'll regret not reaching for him big time, though I do have him salary cap games and a few other teams. Adams will be one of the most talked about players over the next several months and the offseason. I'm expecting BIG things.
Billy Hamilton, OF CIN - Hamilton is still nine steals behind Dee Gordon for the major league lead as we head into Week 12 and is closing in quickly. He leads the majors in steals this month with five, but what's more surprising is the power surge. Hamilton crushed two homers and hit a robust .346 in Week 11. The Reds, who have struggled on offense lately, have received a nice boost from Hamilton and from the return of Joey Votto, winning four of their last five games. The arguments over whether Hamilton would last in the Reds lineup have been quelled and his 60.8 ADP looks like it may actually end up being bargain. Sure, we are not even at the halfway point in the season and anything could happen, but something tells me the Reds will begin to crawl their way out of the basement of most offensive categories and that Hamilton will play his part getting on base and aggressively attacking the base paths. Even the .299 BABIP feels a bit low and that perhaps his .257 batting average can stand to increase 15-20 points over the next 15 weeks. I'll put my money on Hamilton leading the majors in steals this year.
Charlie Morton, SP PIT - Affectionately known as "Doc Jr." for his similar delivery and pitch arsenal to future Hall of Famer Roy Halladay, Morton has pitched exceptionally of late, winning all three of his starts this month. Morton has allowed more than two earned runs only once in his last nine starts and enters week 12 with a respectable 3.09 ERA allowing only 0.41 HR/9. Morton went relatively undrafted in 10- and 12-team leagues after missing the first part of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery. After the All-Star break last year, Morton managed a 6-2 record with a 3.28 ERA, yet for some reason, was glossed over in drafts this spring. With recent injuries to Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, the Pirates will rely heavily on Morton every fifth time out, though Cole is expected back in the rotation soon. Don't expect much of an uptick in K/9 (6.9 now, 6.6 in 2013), but do count on solid contributions towards your ERA and WHIP and some run support towards his win totals from a studly, young Pirates offense.
Henderson Alvarez, SP MIA - Alvarez is another pleasant surprise for fantasy owners - his value at an ADP of 391 is another example of the importance of doing our homework when scouting for late round pitching value. Alvarez's sparking 2.56 certainly has some regression ahead towards his 3.49 xFIP, but in 14 starts, Alvarez leads the majors in complete games and shutouts (three of each). The strikeouts (5.6 K/9) will never be anything to write home about, but Alvarez's 54% ground ball rate and 1.78 walks per nine inning are notable and tell the tale of a young prospect who is learning to harness his control and making the most of his starts. Alvarez is extremely athletic and does a great job fielding his position, which helps him get outs and stay in control of his starts. The Marlins surprisingly rank second in the NL in both runs and RBI, but have not supported Alvarez well as the 3-3 record attests. Look for some luck to go Hendo's way in the wins column and for him to be a steady and safe fantasy commodity for years to come.
Hitters: Eugenio Suarez, SS DET, Josh Rutledge, MI COL, Starling Marte, OF PIT, Gregory Polanco, OF PIT
Pitchers: Jordan Zimmermann, SP WAS, Shelby Miller, SP STL, Jon Niese, SP NYM, Kevin Gausman, SP BAL
Not Falling For It: Mike Moustakas, 3B KC, Erasmo Ramirez, SP SEA
Joe Mauer, C MIN - If you're a Mauer owner like me, you're sorely disappointed with his 2014 thus far. A career .320 hitter - considered one of best in the game - Mauer is hitting .261 through 61 games including .240 in the month of June. Despite hitting third in a lineup bolstered by the likes of Kendrys Morales and Josh Willingham behind him and Brian Dozier ahead of him, Mauer has no homers or RBI so far this month. His 29 HR season in 29 was a universally noted anomaly so we'd be happy with any home run total in double-digits - but we're getting crushed across all five categories except maybe runs, and there are no real signs of waking up. But there really are never signs with Mauer - he'll just wake up one morning very soon, start hitting and we'll consider this a small blip on the radar of an otherwise fine career. Late last April, Mauer awoke from his only prolonged slump (2-29) to go on a 15 game hitting streak (26-61 - .426) finishing the year at .324. Perhaps his struggles are linked to his transition away from full-time catching duties. Whatever the case may be, Mauer's "falling" must be noted, but he won't hang around with my fallers for long. Trading Mauer away at such a low point in his career would be foolish given his amazing track record. It's only a matter of time before he joins in on the fun Twins fans are expecting to witness this summer.
Ryan Zimmerman, OF WAS - Zimmerman has been one of baseball's most consistent third basemen, hitting at least 25 homers in four of the past five seasons (2011 was an injury shortened season). 2014 has been his toughest season to date, spending 51 games on the DL with a broken right thumb and management moving the Gold Glover to left field due to positional fielding issues (a chronic shoulder problem that affects his throws to first base). Zimmerman has had a tough time adjusting at the plate despite playing good defense in the outfield and was only 3-27 (.111) in week 11 and .180 so far in the month of June. A thumb injury is always something to worry about, especially when it comes to its effect on power. As Zimmerman's thumb continues to heal we'll see an uptick in his production, but for now tread lightly. His value is too low to trade away - owners will have to deal with the adjustments and pains for now and hopefully have options to play in his stead until he returns to form - which, unfortunately, does not appear to be in the short term.
Josh Donaldson, 3B OAK - After an incredibly hot 12-game stretch where he hit seven homers and 15 RBI, Donaldson is now 1 for his last 33 at-bats, striking out nine times, looking completely lost at the plate. Heading into week 12, Donaldson's batting average sits at .250 - which looks a little more human than when you look at his accompanying stats - 17 HR, 51 RBI, 52 R - good for first among all third basemen in the majors. Delving deeper, Donaldson's walk rate (11%) is in line with last year, but his strikeout rate has increased slightly (from 16.5% to 20.7%). Donaldson hits in the middle of an extremely potent lineup that ranks top three in R, HR, RBI and OBP so far this year, though the Athletics slumped as a whole in in week 11 before their 10-run outburst against the Yankees on Sunday. As the team begins to heat back up, so will Donaldson. A 30 HR - 100 R - 100 RBI plus season is still in the cards but a repeat of the .301 BA appears doubtful as Donaldson strikes out too often and is prone to highs and lows like many power hitters are. The numbers from here on out in comparison to Evan Longoria will be interesting to track. Despite the slump, Donaldson looks like the best hitting 3B in the game right now, fooling fantasy owners who expected an extreme regression.
Everth Cabrera, SS SD - In the tale of two steroid suspensions, Nelson Cruz is looking like the guy who either didn't need them in the first place or has taken to a newly undetectable substance. Meanwhile, ECab has been one of many busts on a sad Padres team that ranks dead last in the majors in runs, RBI, BA and OBP. In fact, Cabrera is 5-49 (.108) in the month of June with only two stolen bases in his last 17 games. Cabrera still is tied for 15th in the majors with 13 steals but has been caught six times and .260 OBP isn't doing him any favors in terms of stealing opportunities. He came at a high price in NFBC drafts - seventh shortstop off the board (ADP of 84) and is looking like a guy who really needs his roids back. The question is how much do performance-enhancing substances actually enhance the performance of MLB speedsters with little to no pop. There's something else wrong here. ECab is certainly slumping, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him pick up the pace at some point. But it appears that those 37 SB in 90 games last year really fooled us into drafting Cabrera at an overvalued draft spot. His lifetime BA is .248 and he possesses subpar on-base skills for a leadoff hitter. He'll steal bases when he gets on - but you can't put the cart before the horse - you've got to hit to get on base before you can run.
A.J. Burnett, SP PHI - AJB's stock has been trending downward lately after a decent start to the season. Through six April starts (37.1 IP), Burnett gave up only one homer, eight earned runs and a .230 OBA - in May, five homers and 22 earned runs in 36 innings and a .279 OBA. So far in June, 10 ER in 13 IP. His K/9 is down considerably from last year (9.9 in 2013, 7.25 now) while the walks per nine innings have gone up a full walk (from 3.16 to 4.07). The 37-year-old's best days are behind him - the full point drop in fastball velocity is not shocking given his age (from 95.7 to 94.5 mph), and he has turned more to his sinker and knuckle curve than in previous seasons. Burnett is still capable of an occasional double-digit strikeout game to help you win a DFS matchup here or there, but the steady decline is now noticeable and Burnett will continue to stay and play on season-long rosters mostly on name recognition and memories of past performances.
Hitters: Dee Gordon, 2B LAD, Howie Kendrick, 2B LAA, Michael Bourn, OF CLE, Austin Jackson, OF DET
Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi, SP MIA, Mike Leake, SP CIN, Ryan Vogelsong, SP SF, Ian Kennedy, SP SD
Not Falling For It: Freddie Freeman, 1B ATL, Julio Teheran, SP ATL