There’s nothing I love more than a cliche for the title of a post.
Today I want to take a look at a few of the players who have seen some of the biggest drops in ownership percentage on ESPN.com so far this season. Because we’ve only played a few games this year, determining whether I think these guys should be snatched off the wire comes down to whether I liked them in the preseason. I put hundreds of hours into preseason prep work, so I might as well milk it for all it’s worth while I can.
Dillon Gee — 7-Day % Change: -27.6%
There was a point where four of the five most recent articles that showed up on Gee’s player page were written by yours truly. I loved what he did in 2012 when he saw a big spike in swinging strike rate which pushed his strikeout rate comfortably above league average. He also had a solid ground ball rate just over 50%, and he limited walks. But his ERA was north of 4.00 thanks to a strand rate that was in the lowest quantile among pitchers with at least as many innings as Gee. I was all over the guy with solid strikeout, walk and groundball rates going into 2013.
Gee delivered in a way with a 3.62 ERA last year. But he didn’t do it like I wanted him to. His swinging strike rate and strikeout rate fell back below league average to where they had been prior to 2012. His groundball rate also fell significantly as well, but his walk rate did hold. The main reason he was able to post a sub-4.00 ERA was a reversal of strand rate fortune. His strand rate went from 68.9% to 77.9%. To repeat his 2013 ERA he’ll either have to regain the above average strikeout and groundball rates or get lucky again. The good rates of 2012 seem to be the exception and not the rule, and you can’t own a guy banking on strand rate. Leave him on the wire, and use him as a streamer if the right matchup comes along.
Colby Rasmus — 7-Day % Change: -26.9%
This is a weird one. Rasmus had a very nice year on the surface last year, and he still has a little name appeal from his days as a top prospect. Sure, he has only two hits in eight games, but I’m surprised so many owners are cutting bait this quickly. There were reasons to be concerned about Rasmus coming into this year. Namely him having the lowest contact rate of his career (and the highest strikeout rate) as well as a .356 BABIP propping up his .276 batting average. But despite that, he was drafted in a healthy majority of shallower mixed leagues.
Power is a rare commodity, and Rasmus has it, so you have to think about adding him if he’s available. I had him projected for 22 home runs in 550 PA this year, which might be a little conservative given he hit that many in only 458 PA last year. But for the sake of discussion, let’s go with that conservative projection. The real question is how bad his batting average will be. His career average is .247, but, in the last four years, his average has been well above or below the career average thanks to wild swings in BABIP. If you think his average could actually hit that .247 midpoint, I would have had him ranked 45th among outfielders in my preseason ranks. If you think his average is going to be .230 or lower because of the declining contact rate, I’d have him as a borderline top 60 outfielder.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to add Rasmus depends on whether you have the bench space to sit him against left-handed pitching. For his career, his wRC+ with the platoon advantage is 112. But it’s only 75 when facing same-handed pitching. If you’ve got more than three bench spots available to you, Rasmus should be added if available. And if you think his average will be closer to .250 than .230, you should add him if available.
Kole Calhoun — 7-Day % Change: -17.4%
If Calhoun is available, grab him. My preseason projection of him was very bullish with an expectation of double digit home runs and double digit steals along with an above average batting average. The only concern I had was his position in the batting order. But that concern has been alleviated as he has hit lead off in each game he has started this season. People are bailing on him because he’s hitting .188, but it’s only been 34 PA. I still expect the double digit power/speed along with a decent batting average. But now I think he could easily top 80 runs. In the preseason I was expecting his run total to be in the 70s, and I had him as a top 40 outfielder. But with the potential for more runs than I initially expected, I think he’s a borderline top 30 outfielder. He’s a must-add if available.