Chris Coghlan: Waiver Wire

The mantra of FanGraphs is “Do not put too much faith into small sample sizes.” We all have it tattood on our chests, just below a picture of the site’s founder, Dave Appleman.

In the world of fantasy baseball that mantra can be twisted a bit, as we will gladly ride a player on a hot streak as far as he will take us. That doesn’t mean we believe in the statistics the player is putting up – more often than not he’s dumped when the hot hitting ends. A lot of fluky things can happen over the course of ~100PA. It’s up to you to decide what is legitimate and what isn’t. Take Chris Coghlan for example.

Coghlan is best known for winning the 2009 Rookie of the Year award with the Marlins. He’s also known for practically ending Akinori Iwamura‘s career by breaking his leg with a hard slide into second that season, but that’s just me being a bitter Rays fan. Coghlan’s 2009 season was better in real life than fantasy, his .321 average being the only category in which he helped owners in most leagues. But he got on base at an extraordinary .390 clip and posted a respectable, but not great, .139 ISO for a second basemen. Usually a good sign of things to come. Well, his 2010 didn’t live up to his freshmen campaign even though his BABIP was still a very high .336 (compared to .365 in 2009). He hit just .268 with a .335 OBP and an ISO that dipped to .115. He was limited to just 400 PA due to injuring his knee while delivering a shaving cream pie to a teammate’s face.

Flash forward to 2011. Coghlan is hitting .299/.354 (AVG/OBP) thus far in 99 PA. That’s about what we’d expect from him. Nothing strange there. Take a glance at his home run total, however, and there might be something interesting going on. He has four home runs so far. He had five in 400 PA last season, and just nine in 565 PA as a rookie. This is where things get tricky. Over his first two seasons his FB%’s have been 29.9% and 24.7%, with HR/FB percentages of 7.1% and 7.5%. This season his FB% is 34.3% while the HR/FB is 17.4%(!). To give you perspective, in 2010 the MLB average HB/FB was 10.6% and Rickie Weeks finished at 17.3%.

Is Coghlan going to pull a Rickie Weeks and hit 29 home runs? No, probably not. It’s unlikely that his HR/FB percentage will remain that high as well. As I said in the opening, a lot can happen in ~100 plate appearances. He could be working out a new swing, we don’t know. We’ve seen light hitting infielders come into power seemingly over night the last few years, namely Ben Zobrist and Jose Bautista. I’m not lumping Coghlan in with those two, but considering he’s owned in less than half of all legaues, I do think that his increased power thus far is worth keeping an eye on.

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Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

17 Responses to “Chris Coghlan: Waiver Wire”

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  1. JohnnyComeLately says:

    He was just pulled from last night’s game because of a sore shoulder (right), which is his throwing shoulder and lead hitting shoulder. He reportedly ASKED to be taken out of the game in the 7th because of the pain. My guess is that he’ll have some power zapped because of this, which is too bad because I’ve been riding him the last couple of weeks.

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  2. chulton says:

    dude, he plays outfield. come on

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  3. Rummy says:

    He was a 2nd baseman in the minors but has never played 2nd in the majors. Has always been in the outfield, the last two seasons in left and this year in center.

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  4. Rummy says:

    Correction: He’s played one game at 2nd and the other 240 in the outfield, still shouldn’t be called a 2nd baseman.

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  5. donnie baseball says:

    love Coghlan, but is he really not owned in half of leagues.

    There’s got to be a beter way to judge what percentage players are owned than by going be espn, yahoo, cbs leagues. Where more than half of the leagues are abandoned.

    No knock on you or the article, it was great. Just not as a waiver wire post.

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    • nolan says:

      What would be a better way to judge the percentage players are owned than… the percentage players are actually owned?

      Why I won’t be picking him up: That HR/FB rate is completely unsustainable. ZiPS has him hitting 12 in their updated rankings. He doesn’t have a great stolen base rate and I think the 15 SBs projected are really his ceiling. So you’re looking at a 15/15 OF (remember, this is best case scenario) in the deepest position outside of starting pitching. Of course he’s owned in 5-OF leagues and NL-only leagues, but what about 3 OF 12-teamers aka the most common league out there? You have to be pretty optimistic to say he’ll be a top-40 OF in mixed leagues.

      Also, he was a much-hyped breakout candidate for 2010 and subsequently disappointed. There are a lot of fluke ROY winners out there. He plays in a small market for a team that has been mediocre offensively for a long time.

      After that two HR game, a lot of people (including myself) were wondering if he was worth a pickup. And at this point I agree with Hahmann – wait and see.

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  6. captain_oblivious says:

    Why I picked him up: he’s crushing RHP; now up to .355/.406/.694(!). That and leading off for a team with pretty decent offense at the least makes him an excellent head-to-head option. My leagues have distinct OF positions, and LF thins out quickly, so he’s been dynamite thus far.

    On top of that, he’s been known to go on ridiculous streaks for a month at a time, if not more. Case in point June 2010, August through September 2009. And for what it’s worth, pre-season 2010 a lot was made of his desire to swipe more bags; bore out by a 5% output jump.

    All told, don’t drink the haterade. Grab him now if he’s still available, assuming he does not go on the DL as of Friday night, and ride him as far as he’ll take you. Don’t be a slave to projections, they don’t account for changes in approach at the plate which could be exactly what we’re seeing here.

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    • shamus mcfitzy says:

      those splits are the big reason to own him. If you’re in a league with a larger number of bench spots and you’re set at most of your lineup spots there’s no reason not to just have Coghlan to play against righties. Of course, if your league has a large number of bench spots I can’t imagine why he would be available on your waiver wire.

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      • nolan says:

        Wow, you’re right. He’s a career .308/.370/.464 against RHP in three years. Almost the bizarro-Seth Smith with less power and more steals. He’s still only a career 9% HR/FB percentage against righties so that depresses his value in home runs, but some steals and a .308 average (and the runs that follow) make him valuable for that reason. I guess the question is, how long do you think his streak would last?

        I’ve shifted my opinion on Coghlan due to his splits but I would still like to see him sustain the performance for longer before I would add him in a 12-teamer. Nice plug-and-play against righties if you can afford it.

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      • Jason B says:

        “Of course, if your league has a large number of bench spots I can’t imagine why he would be available on your waiver wire.”

        People do rash things in response to hot/cold starts. I bid on, and won him, off waivers in my NL-only league (!) with four bench spots after he got dumped following a poor first week. Also added Morse (we’ll see how that works out) and saw where Dempster got jettisoned last night.

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  7. nolan says:

    Actually Seth Smith and Chris Coghlan are rather similar. Smith also boasts a large platoon split from the left side.

    He’s a career .286/.362/.516 hitter against righties and he’s OPSing .908 this year with a .375 BABIP. Smith also has an abnormally high (for his career) strikeout rate this year. Smith has a lot more power than Coghlan but never steals bases. Similar batting average, less runs, more RBIs and home runs. Which one you target depends on what you need, really

    There has been something unusual with Seth Smith this season: he has two runs from right-handed pitching in seventeen games – both from home runs. Meaning the only person to drive Seth Smith home is… Seth Smith. Either he’s that bad of a base-runner or he’s been really unlucky at getting knocked in this season. Expect him to post better rates in a stacked Rockies line-up.

    Smith is only owned in 21% of yahoo leagues. If you’re picking up Chris Coghlan because of splits you should also consider Smith, particularly if you are looking for more power in your lineup and already have plenty of steals.

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  8. captain_oblivious says:

    Big fan of Seth Smith, hoping he’ll run with the extra AB’s and turn them into a breakout season. That said it is best to deploy him carefully, if possible. He has a pretty massive career home/away split: .308/.385/.594 versus .243/.317/.401.

    I was looking at him as a potential Coghlan replacement, should Coghlan need some more time off, but if it comes to it I’ll hold off until the week after next when the Rockies start an 8-game home stretch.

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  9. Daniel says:

    He was great in Double A Jacksonville as a Sun in the IF

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  10. nolan says:

    Can I just say: told you so?

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