Every season, Major League Baseball teams have to make a decision come trade deadline time: Are we buyers or are we sellers? The decision can have a huge impact on the present and future of any given franchise. Keeper leagues give fantasy GM’s the pleasure — or pressure — of having to make the same sort of decision. Below are five players that are having sub-par 2011 seasons based on their current five-category numbers, but should see a spike in value for next season or even the rest of 2011.
Dan Uggla, 2B, ATL
While not many people expected Uggla to hit for a high AVG this season, it was almost impossible to fathom him reaching the all-star break with a slash line of .185/.257/.365. We can perhaps point to his .198 BABIP as a source of bad luck, but Uggla has a weak 14.4 percent line-drive rate as well as an infield fly-ball rate of 13.6 percent, which is about five percent higher than his career average. Given that amount of weak contact, we can actually justify such a low BABIP.
Sometimes hitters struggle to adjust to new surroundings — as you will see is a mini theme in this article — and Uggla’s stats back up the assumption that he may be trying a bit to hard to impress in his new surroundings. Uggla has walked in over 10-percent of his plate appearances in every season since 2008. His walk rate is down to 8.3 percent so far in 2011. He’s also chasing more pitches outside the strike-zone than he has in the past (28 percent chase rate).
The good news is that Uggla is still hitting for power (15 home runs) and that his power numbers should spike even further if he regains his former swing and plate discipline. Given his age (31) and track record, there is a very good chance that he can bounce back in 2012, if not in the second half of 2011.
Adam Dunn, 1B, CHW
Speaking of players who had to adjust to a new environment, try Adam Dunn’s season on for size. Not only did he change leagues after about nine full seasons in the National League, but he went from playing defense to spending most of his time trying to come up with ways to stay busy in between at-bats. Obviously, Dunn has struggled to adjust and he has given us very few reasons to believe that things will get better.
Before the season, many people thought Dunn might set a career high in homers playing home games in the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Now, we’re wondering if he will even reach 20 homers.
That being said, Dunn’s track record speaks for itself. If there’s anyone in the game who has a chance to do a complete 180 for next year, it’s Dunn. We have about 300 plate appearances worth of straight-up miserable production, but we also have about 6000 more plate appearances that suggest he can’t be this bad forever. It’s not as if he’s over the Hill — he won’t turn 32 until November — and he still has very good plate discipline (14.6 percent walk rate). This could all come down to something as simple as a mechanical correction in his swing. Whether he fixes that problem in this season’s second half or takes the offseason to do so, the chances are that eventually he does work things out. When he does, the power numbers should skyrocket.
Carlos Santana, C/1B, CLE
Like many FB365 man-crushes, Carlos Santana hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations over the first half of the 2011 season. That’s in a fantasy sense anyway. While his AVG sits at .233, his OBP of over .360 shows just how valuable he has been in a real-world sense. Add on top of that 14 home runs and you have one of the best offensive catchers in baseball.
Santana is clearly starting to settle in at the plate. He’s a patient hitter anyway, which is an understatement — his 17.2 percent walk rate is second in all of baseball to Jose Bautista’s 19.8 percent walk rate — but now Santana is starting to drive the ball more often.
Santana has not only upped his line-drive rate, but has begun to put more balls in the air than on the ground, which has put his ISO well over .200 since the start of June.
It’s only a matter of time before this super-talented hitter puts it all together. Now may be your last chance to try and buy low in both Keeper and non-keeper formats.
Mat Latos, SP, SD
There was a debate this past offseason about how Lato’s innings count from 2010 would affect him this season. He threw 184.2 innings last year, an increase of about 61 innings from all levels combined in 2009. The concern seemed to have proven right early on as se missed time in April due to shoulder inflammation. However, his overall numbers to this point are only a little off from where he finished last season. His K/9 and BB/9 are both about one K/BB per nine off of his 2010 rates, which still puts him at a very good 2.5 K/BB rate. Both his chase rate and whiff rate are in line with what he did last season, so his deceptiveness and ability to miss bats is still present.
While Latos’s average velocity is down about one MPH overall his season, it is something that is trending upward. The combination of innings last season and the shortened spring training to go along with his shoulder injury may have played a role in that early on.
Latos currently sits with a 4.04 ERA, but his underlying numbers suggest that he’s been a bit unfortunate. His .309 BABIP might not look very abnormal, but consider how often he has induced weak contact (15.6 percent line-drive rate). On top of that, Latos has only stranded 69 percent of his baserunners, which is not a crazy low strand rate, but one that shows the defense may not be holding up their end of the bargain, especially when Latos has a better K/BB rate and lower HR/9 rate with runners on base.
In keeper leagues, Mat Latos is one of the most valuable commodities you can add to a pitching staff. Given his youth and electric stuff, he should be a top-end fantasy starter for years to come, especially since there should be no worries innings wise after this season. For those playing for this season, buying low on Latos could be a jackpot type of move, as he has every chance to put up much better numbers for the rest of 2011 as well.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP, BOS
When it comes to relievers, small sample size can play tricks on us. Just based on the numbers below, which pitcher would you rather have?
Player A: 12.5 K/9, 2 BB/9, 2.15 FIP
Player B: 5.9 K/9, 4 BB/9, 4.70 FIP
Player A is Jonathan Papelbon (3.93 ERA, 20 saves)
Player B is Chris Perez (2.43 ERA, 23 saves)
Papelbon has been hurt by a robust .363 BABIP while Perez has skated by with a .232 BABIP. Both pitchers have gotten hurt when they’ve left pitches out over the plate, but Perez has been able to strand about 83 percent of his baserunners compared to only 70 percent from Papelbon. As of right now, Papelbon’s small sample size of 36.2 innings is the culprit. If Papelbon throws five shutout innings in his next five outings, he lower’s his ERA to about 3.46. Ten straight scoreless outings would drop his ERA to 3.06.
As far as K/BB rate goes, Papelbon has the third best K/BB rate out of all relievers in baseball with at least 30 innings pitched. Even if he doesn’t resign with the Red Sox this offseason, he’ll more than likely end up with a closer’s role somewhere. At age 30, Papelbon still has plenty of good seasons ahead of him.