I’m not sure about you, but there always seems to be that one player that ends up on my team(s) year after year. Right now that guy is Ryan Raburn, but over the least few years it was Brad Hawpe. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, Hawpe was a slam dunk .280+ AVG, .380+ OBP, 20+ HR, 80+ RBI guy for nearly half-a-decade, which is pretty good value when you consider that he always seemed to be going later in the draft. He betrayed my fantasy loyalty in 2010 though, hitting just .245/.338/.419 (.330 wOBA) in 346 PA with the Rockies and the Rays, finishing the season on a 60 game schneid that featured a .197/.304/.350 batting line (181 PA). Needless to say, I avoided him on draft day this year like a lover scorned.
Hawpe looked done during the first few weeks of the 2011 season, and I mean done done. Like go see a sports psychologist, end up in an independent league done. He hit just .098/.145/.118 with 22 strikeouts in 55 PA through his first 18 games, prompting me to write him off as a non-factor in our updated position rankings for May. It wasn’t all dumb BABIP luck (.172 in those games), Hawpe just looked terrible at the plate, hacking at bad pitches and getting tied up on stuff that a big leaguer should crush. San Diego gambled $3M on him returning to his 2006-2009 form, but he just wasn’t having any of it.
To his credit, Hawpe has turned it around after that awful start, and is hitting .353/.413/.529 in the 19 games since. He’s cut his whiff rate down to a much more tolerable 16 K in 75 PA and started to be more accepting of ball four. A third of his hits have gone for extra bases in that time, including two over the fence, and his line drive rate has risen while the number of fly balls and grounders declined…
More line drives means more good things will happen, we all know that. ZiPS is understandably not bullish on the turn around , projecting just a .225/.325/.383 (.315 wOBA) line with ten long balls the rest of the way. Hawpe isn’t a true talent ~.430 wOBA hitter even though he’s performed at that level for close to a month, very few are that good, but there’s definite value here. He’ll continue to be limited by a) Petco Park (59 HR park factor for lefties according to StatCorner), and b) his awful teammates (team .310 OBP,.300 wOBA), but Hawpe has hit his way into “solid option” status in NL-only or deeper mixed leagues.