RotoWire Partners

MLB Barometer: Down Goes Ellsbury

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

I'll be staying with the same format from last week during the next two weeks. Extremely small sample sizes are still at play, so owners should be patient with their selections. Remember to stick to your draft plan, and it shouldn't be discarded after a week and a half of games.


Hiroki Kuroda P, NYY - Many have been doubting whether or not Kuroda can handle the tougher opponents in the American League (especially after his poor start against Rays) while pitching in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium for half of his starts. Kuroda's performance against the Angels on Friday may squash some of those question marks. He was able to generate a 57.1 percent ground ball rate in the game, and that rate will be a key to his 2012 performance since his strikeout rate won't be as high. I'm still forecasting an ERA of 3.70-3.90 for the veteran this season with a 6.4 to 6.8 K/9.

David Wright 3B, NYM - Wright returned to the Mets lineup on Saturday despite his broken pinky, and went 3-for-5 with a home run, one RBI and two runs scored. He has improved his overall line to .588/.636/.941. It looks like the injury will not impact his immediate performance at the plate, and he shouldn't miss any more time except for any regular days off. Owners should be pleased about how hard Wright has hit the ball so far, he came into Saturday's game with a 50 percent line drive rate, and he has only struck out once in 22 plate appearances. Again these are small sample sizes, but it looks as if Wright has already forgotten about his sub-par 2011 numbers.

Matt Harrison P, TEX - Harrison has gotten off to a strong start this season winning both of his starts and posting an ERA of 0.64 in 14 innings this season. Some owners might be concerned about his low strikeout rate (4.50 K/9), but this is just another small sample size problem. His swinging strike rate of 9.4 percent is actually an improvement over last season (7.6 percent), so I expect that strikeout rate to improve as the season progresses. In addition, Harrison has produced a staggering 68.2 percent ground ball rate in his two starts while improving his chase rate to 33 percent (would be a career best).

Kelly Johnson 2B, TOR - Johnson has gotten off to a good start to the season with the Blue Jays compiling a .281/.410/.563 slash line along with three home runs and fie RBI. While his power numbers remained steady last season, Johnson's batting average took a hit because of a lower BABIP and higher strikeout rate. So far in 2012, owners have seen his swinging strike rate drop to 9.2 percent (12.9 percent in 2011), and his chase rate has dropped by six points to give him a strikeout rate of 15.4 percent. I am little worried about his ground ball rate (53.8 percent), since his HR/FB ratio is extremely high. Either way it's better hitting more than ground balls than striking out over 23 percent of the time.

Javy Guerra P, LAD - Guerra has started strong in 2012 saving all five of his save opportunities to start the season, and not allowing a run in the process. He has shown a better ground ball rate while throwing more strikes. I'm still a little worried about him in the long term, he does not generate enough swing and misses for my taste (8.6 percent last season), I think his job is safe for a while. This upgrade is about Guerra's success this is also about Kenley Jansen's struggles. I've presumed that Guerra would eventually lose the closer role, with Jansen ready to step in. However, Jansen has been a little shaky allowing two home runs in six innings despite striking out eleven, in addition to showing decreased velocity. I still think Jansen is the better option in the ninth inning, but I would be surprised if the club made a move any time during the first half of the season that's not injury related.

Sergio Romo P, SFG - With news that Brian Wilson might need surgery on his structurally damaged elbow, Romo seems to be the logical choice to take over the ninth inning in Wilson's absence. Javier Lopez might get some save opportunities against left-handed hitters, and Santiago Casilla might be too wild for Bruce Bochy in the ninth. Romo was the one of the most effective relievers in baseball in 2011 compiling a 1.50 ERA, 0.96 FIP, 1.49 xFIP and 13.13 K.9. Furthermore, Romo's career 2.80 FIP against left-handed hitters indicates that he can handle hitters from both sides of the plate. Bochy might not make him the closer outright immediately, but I expect him to have the full time job eventually.

Check Status/Downgrade:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF, BOS - Ellsbury left Friday's game in severe pain after injuring his right shoulder sliding into second base. Jon Heyman was the first to report that he suffered a dislocated or subluxation of the joint, which could cost him a minimum of four to six weeks, but the timetable could be worse depending if any other ligaments were damaged. Whatever the timetable in the injury is a serious one, and owners should be setting up a contingency plan in case this injury wipes out most of Ellsbury's season. Cody Ross is expected to play center field in the meantime with Darnell McDonald and Ryan Sweeney playing the corners. Carl Crawford is expected to see game action soon, so he will slide into left field with McDonald and Sweeney platooning in right and Ross in center.

Joe Nathan P, TEX - Nathan has gotten a lot of attention this week after blowing a save and appearing very inconsistent on the mound. He did not pitch the ninth inning during a save opportunity on Friday, but he did finish out the Rangers 6-2 victory on Saturday night. Despite Nathan's pedestrian numbers so far, there are plenty of encouraging signs. His average velocity is up from last season (92.7 mph in 2012 compared to 92.3 mph 2011), and he came into Saturday's game with an impressive swinging strike rate of 15.3 percent. Nathan has been hurt primarily by his inability to strand runners in his first couple of games, which should normalize once he gets more innings under his belt.

Marlon Byrd CF, CHC - Byrd's batting has gotten off to a poor start due in large part to a strange discrepancy in his batted ball rates. He is 2-for-31 mostly because of some poor luck, .091 BABIP with a 28.3 percent line drive rate, but he has shown little because he is barely getting the ball in the air (14.3 percent fly ball rate) to the outfield (33.3 percent infield fly ball rate). Byrd is the perfect example of how these small sample sizes can give completely different messages. While he is showing better plate discipline, Byrd is swinging and missing more (12.4 percent). Owners just have to be patient and wait out players like Byrd for another week or two, as hitters fortunes can change in a day or two in April.

Adam Wainwright P, STL - Wainwright has gotten to a terrible start in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. The Cubs for eight runs roughed him up in three innings on Friday, and he was an ERA of 11.42 through two starts. His velocity is down (89.4 mph average fastball) compared to his 2010 season (91.1 mph), but he should build up arm strength as he gets more innings. I'm encouraged by some of the other numbers he has put up so far. His swinging strike rate of 10.3 percent would be a career best along with an improved chase rate (33 percent) and ground ball rate (51.9 percent). His walk rate will improve, as command is usually the last thing to return coming back from the surgery. Owners should be patient. He is well worth the wait.

Freddie Freeman 1B, ATL - Freeman's sophomore season has gotten off to a nightmarish start. The first-baseman has zero home runs, one RBI and a .182/.229/.212 slash line. What has been so troubling about Freeman during these first weeks, has been his strikeout totals. His BABIP of .300 shows he has not been hurt by poor luck with balls in play, but mostly due to a 37.1 percent strikeout rate. His swinging strike rate has increased from 11.5 percent to 15.6, and his is chasing more pitches out of the strike zone. Freeman won't continue to produce this high of a strikeout rate, but the numbers are worth pointing out. He will eventually turn it around, but he needs to show better discipline at the plate.

Luke Hochevar P, KC - It seems like for the last few seasons some have forecasted the former first round pick to have a breakout season. This season was no different, and so far he has disappointed once again. In two starts Hochevar is 1-1 with an ERA of 7.84. What has been troubling has been how many hard hit balls he has allowed (34.1 percent line drive rate), and how few ground balls he has generated (28.6 percent). While his strikeout rate has been steady, Hochevar's swinging strike rate currently stands at 6.1 percent, which would be a career worst. It's still early, but Hochevar's track record speaks for itself.

Miguel Olivo C, SEA - Olivo has been atrocious for the Mariners at the plate to begin the season. He has zero home runs, three RBI and a slash line of .121/.147/.152 in 34 plate appearances, and he might be trying the Mariners patience considering he has an OBP of .212 since June of last season. Jesus Montero made his second start behind the plate in four days, and the organization might be ready to have him split time with John Jaso behind the plate. Olivo's batting average has been unlucky due to a .154 BABIP, but he is still striking out over 20 percent of the time. Considering he is not a good defensive catcher, his days of getting consistent playing time might be coming to an end.