American League Outfield Stock Watch

Wednesday is known hump day, so to help get you over the hump is a weekly update on the goings on of the American League outfield. Every Wednesday some attention will be brought to players with rising or falling stock in the American League outfield, with the exception of the first Wednesday of each month where a full tiered rankings update will take place.

Chris Davis
After being placed in the fifth tier of the preseason rankings, the author is willing to admit that he made a mistake. It has been just 54 plate appearances thus far, but Chris Davis has shown his power to be true and the initial signs of his plate discipline look good. He has cut his strikeout rate while simultaneously increasing his walk rate; always a recipe for success. Granted K% and BB% take longer to stabilize, what is already reliable is Davis’ swing rate. He is swinging at just 29% of pitches outside of the strike zone, a career best mark if it were last the season. His overall Swing% is just 41%, also a single season best. With Swing% stabilizing much more quickly than other statistics, Davis appears to have finally refined his approach.

Chris Carter
No, it isn’t a Chris bias, but both Davis and Carter have proven — at least in the early going — that they are must owns in fantasy. Carter currently is currently tied for second in the AL OF in home runs with four following his semi-breakout 2012 season of 16 homers in just 260 PA’s. Some people may be skeptical of his ability given his strikeout rate, and yes, his current 35% strikeout rate is alarming. We are still in the infancy of the season however, and while the strikeouts have been there, Carter’s overall approach seems to be solid. He is swinging at a league average rate — 45% overall swing% — but he is actually swinging at pitches outside of the zone at a lower frequency than league average. Carter does have an elevated SwStr%, but that is something that he has always had. It is built-in to his hitting process. One can easily live with a 25% strikeout rate if Carter is able to put up 30 home runs this season. Pick up Carter if he is somehow available, but otherwise trade for him. Tell his current owner that Carter’s strikeout rate is going to catch up to him, while deep down you know that his strike zone peripheral statistics look great.

Aaron Hicks
It is hard to imagine a worse or more frustrating debut than the one Aaron Hicks is going through. After appearing in 12 games and receiving 11 starts, Hicks has managed a .044/.157/.044 batting line. That equates to a -38 wRC+, the lowest in the AL OF. His 72% contact rate falls just shy of the bottom 10 in the AL OF and his slugging is the lowest by 150 points. To say that he needs to work on things would be an understatement. From a subjective point, in the few PA’s that the author has seen of Hicks, he looks lost at the plate and baffled by the opposing pitchers. In redraft leagues Hicks is droppable at this point. One could reasonably imagine a case in which Hicks gets sent to Triple-A to work out the kinks. Baseball is hard, but Hicks is a very good prospect who just wasn’t ready for the big leagues.

Josh Hamilton
Originally ranked in the third tier, Hamilton has started the season in a bit of a funk and real questions are arising about his continued lack of plate discipline. His Swing% is over 10% above league average and his Contact% is 8% below average. Obviously this is less than ideal. Hamilton is seeing the fewest amount of fastballs of any player in the American League and the second fewest in all of baseball, behind only Pedro Alvarez. Pitchers are throwing Hamilton more and more breaking balls and he is failing to adjust. When he connects, he still has power to drive the ball when he does connect, but he is the AT&T of baseball. His failure to connect is as frustrating as it is infrequent. Add in the injury risk that Hamilton carries at all times and you have yourself one heck of a gamble.

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Bearish on Hicks? Interesting…good insight.