StrategyJuly 16, 2009

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The Post-ASB Sleeper Offense

By R.J. White

Yesterday, Chris did a great job of reviewing his and Tom’s first-half suggested player adds. Today, I’m going to attempt to unearth some readily available players that should finish the season strong. All these guys are unowned in at least half of Yahoo’s free leagues, so if you need help at a particular position, give one of the following guys a chance.

Catcher: Ramon Hernandez, Cin, 23% ownership

There are a few things to like about Hernandez’s prospects for the rest of the year. His plate patience has been by far the best it’s even been, as evidenced by his outstanding 32/31 K/BB ratio. His HR output is down due to a low HR/FB% that should correct itself. He hits better at home (.286/.379/.395), and the Reds will play seven more games at home than on the road the rest of the way. For his career, Hernandez raises his OPS 69 points after the All-Star Break. In 2008, that post-ASB OPS was 125 points better than his early-season OPS.

First Baseman: Adam LaRoche, Pit, 31% ownership

Few players exhibit a more drastic pre-ASB/post-ASB split than LaRoche. He’s a .253/.326/.447 hitter with 63 HRs in 1,587 pre-ASB at-bats in his career. After the break, he’s a .297/.360/.548 hitter with 60 HRs in 1,039 ABs. He stayed true to form last year by hitting 14 HRs in 181 second-half ABs while turning in a .304/.361/.613 line. His first-half line is very close to last year’s mark after LaRoche tanked at the beginning of July, hitting .105 in 38 ABs. If he got the suck out of his system, LaRoche could contribute to winning some fantasy titles yet again.

Second Baseman: Martin Prado, Atl, 14% ownership

This has less to do with splits and more with Prado’s current hot streak, but it should be noted that the Atlanta second-baseman has hit .332 in 238 post-ASB at-bats. While earning a spot as a full-time starter, Prado hit .359/.406/.516 in June and followed that up with a .412/.483/.549 line in 51 July at-bats prior to the break. Don’t expect a lot of HR and SB help from Prado, but he should give you a big bump in average and runs.

Third Baseman: Alex Gordon, KC, 26% ownership

After hitting .232 with six HRs in almost 300 ABs in the first half of 2007, Gordon picked up the pace and hit .264 with nine HRs in 250 ABs. In a similar fashion, Gordon struggled through the first half of 2008 (.253 with 11 HRs in 350 ABs) before getting in a groove and hitting .277 with five HRs in 137 ABs during a shortened second half. He’s looked great during his rehab assignment, hitting 11-for-30 with two HRs, 10 RBIs, and five walks. Expect him back in Kansas City by the end of the week.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, Tex, 13% ownership

Since he’s a rookie, we really don’t have any post-ASB numbers on which to base a prediction. Instead, let’s look at his season thus far. Andrus did practically nothing in April before hitting .303./.347/.472 in 89 May ABs, adding two HRs, three triples, and four SBs. He couldn’t get many hits in June but did take more walks, allowing him to amass a .342 OBP. He ran wild in the month, stealing nine bases without getting caught once. While he’ll have trouble hitting for a high average, Andrus should be good for 15-20 SBs in the second half, which could be the difference in that category in your roto league.

Outfielder: Franklin Gutierrez, Sea, 25% ownership

Gutierrez is absolutely locked in right now, with a .304 average, .879 OPS, four HRs, and three SBs in 79 June ABs and a .404 average, 1.078 OPS, three HRs and no SBs in 47 July ABs. Last year, Gutierrez was awful in those two months before hitting over .300 with four HRs and five SBs in August and September. For his career, he’s upped his OPS by 78 points in the second half, and that’s after you add in this season’s great work in the first half. Pick him up at least for his current hot streak, and don’t be surprised if you hold him for the rest of the season.

Outfielder: Josh Willingham, Was, 10% ownership

I know not many people follow the Nats, but do fantasy owners not realize that Willingham is a starter now? He’s playing every day and hitting just about every day (his average is up 50 points since becoming a starter), and he has shown no signs of slowing up. After a rough April, he’s posted an OPS over 1.000 in each month. He’s even throwing in a couple steals, with two already on the board in July. The .309/.419/.576 line from Willingham deserves to be owned in far more leagues.

Outfielder: Garrett Jones, Pit, 6% ownership

With Pittsburgh trading away all their outfielders, someone has to step in and fill the void left in the lineup. Lately, that someone has been Garrett Jones. Owner of an eight-game hitting streak and a three-game HR streak, Jones has placed himself squarely in the driver’s seat for playing time by hitting .310 with five HRs and three SBs since being called up on July 1. His HR/FB% is obviously going to regress from its current 42%, but a low line-drive rate and BABIP shows that he might be able to maintain a high average while giving us possibly 10-15 HRs after the break. Deep league owners should be all over that.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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