Five Hitters Destined to Cool Off

Houston Astros Chris Johnson rounds third base after hitting a two run home run in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 4, 2010.   UPI/BIll Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

This late in the season, fantasy owners should be jumping on any hot streak. However, there are a few players currently helping fantasy teams that seem destined to cool off. When they do, it could be a drastic drop.

Chris Johnson l HOU l 3B

Since his call-up, Johnson has hit .360/.384/.551 with six home runs in 190 plate appearances. That is one hell of a hot streak. It is also completely unsustainable.
One look at his five-year minor league track record shows us the true Chris Johnson. Over those five seasons, Johnson collected a career OPS of .744, which is very poor for a corner infielder. He also never showed anything more than average power.
Johnson’s hot streak has been aided by an astronomical .426 BABIP. Over his 190 plat appearances, Johnson has displayed very poor plate discipline striking out over 20 percent of the time while walking in less than five percent. He has also chased at almost 42 percent of pitches outside the strike-zone.
If you can target an unsuspecting owner before the trade deadline, I’d move fast on a deal. If not, I’d make plans for a replacement player right about now.
Starlin Castro l CHC l SS
What Castro is doing at the very young age of 20 is quite impressive. It’s also a bit too much to ask of him to hit .320 the rest of the way.
Castro is doing a great job of spraying line drives all over the field, but even a 20 percent line drive rate shouldn’t result in a .355 BABIP. Castro is fast, but he doesn’t have elite speed, so more of his ground balls (almost 50 percent ground ball rate) should result in outs. His plate discipline has been decent for a 20-year-old rookie, but he has a high chase rate (over 30 percent) which pitchers will start to expose.
I like his long-term potential, but Castro is a great sell high candidate as he continues to play in his most games as a professional.
Jon Jay l STL l OF
It’s not that Jon Jay is doing anything wrong, it’s just that he’s not Joe Mauer good. Jay has been in the Cardinals minor league system since 2006 and put up decent numbers (.301/.367/.432 career minor league slash), but he has flashed only medium power and speed. In 175 plate appearances with the Cardinals this season, Jay is hitting .365/.415/.538. Impressive, but really it’s just the result of a .412 BABIP over a small sample size.
Neil Walker l PIT l 2B, 3B
Walker has been a decent prospect for the Pirates since being drafted 11th overall in 2004. His minor league development wasn’t exactly what the Pirates had hoped as he just couldn’t stick at catcher and didn’t hit for enough power to play a corner infield spot. This season they decided to work him all over the field and now, as a second baseman, Walker is looking like he could be a real big league contributor.
The problem going forward will be maintaining a .367 BABIP. For having only medium power at best (.134 ISO), Walker strikes out a bit too much and will expand the strike-zone from time to time. If he falls into a slump, it might be hard to get out of. With no value in power or speed, everything is hinging on his AVG, which is a risky bet to remain over .300 for long.
Mike Stanton l FLA l OF
Look, I’m not a Stanton hater. I think he is going to have a tremendous career and I can’t wait to see him in a home run derby someday. However, fantasy owners are getting pretty excited now that he has his AVG up to .275 on the year. The problem, much like with the other names on this list, is an inflated BABIP, which currently sits at .347.
Stanton has hit .333 over the last 30 days with a .379 BABIP during that span. All the while, he continues to strikeout at a rate of over 30 percent. There are only six players with a higher whiff rate than Stanton (minimum 200 PA’s): Adam Dunn, Russell Branyan, Jack Cust, Pedro Alvarez, Miguel Olivo and Mark Reynolds. None are hitting over .285. Three are hitting over .270 and three are hitting below .250.
While it is certainly possible that Stanton hits .275 or better the rest of the way. The odds are against it. Of course if you need power there aren’t many better options out there. But if a drop in AVG would hurt you in the standings, it might be a good idea to sell high in non-keeper formats.