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No April For Old Men: Ramirez, Youkilis, Rodriguez

It seems every team I’m running this year has a glaring issue. I have some with issues at catcher, others with some pitching issues, but there’s one in particular where I have just no solution at third base. We’re just a handful of games deep into the season, but there might already be fertile ground for trying to cherry pick brutal starts to the season by few old dogs. Yes, the small sample size applies throughout, but I like these guys as fantasy targets early on since there were enough question marks about age, health, and/or production before the season began which likely gave their current managers pause when they ultimately selected them. Now that the stats count, you might find a second-guesser willing to listen.

Aramis Ramirez

Ramirez has been a slow starter for the last few seasons, but he’s taken it to new levels so far. His .114/.179/.182 line is so bad it makes it hard to see beyond the fact that it’s just 39 plate appearances. He’s hit no home runs, two doubles, and he’s struck out eight times and generally been useless on the real and the fake field. He’s had little fortune from the bouncing ball with a paltry .143 BABIP, his swinging strike rate isn’t completely out of control at 11%, his contact rate is down a tick, but not overwhelmingly so. Aside from having a detached retina or something, I’d fully expect the proverbial pendulum to swing the other direction and he’s either going to start getting a little luckier, he’s going to start driving the ball, or both. It has typically taken him until June to really put things together — and that has been exacerbated in the last couple of seasons — but another week of falling on his face and you might have a real opportunity on your hands.

Alex Rodriguez

ARod rolled a couple singles out yesterday to pull his batting average up to .250 but so far he hasn’t shown the typical pop that we expect from him when healthy as his SLG sits at just .375. If his current owner is cognizant of the fact that Rodriguez finished the 2011 season with a .241, .276, and .334 wOBA, hitting just .212/.322/.333 from July through September, they might be concerned enough to be in a dealing mood. It would probably be a little pushy to point all this out to someone, after all – why would you bother to target him if you didn’t think he’d rebound. But floating an e-mail wondering if you could get an ear on ARod might not be a terrible idea if you’re hurting at the hot corner. You’d be wagering on decent health of course, but as of now, Rodriguez is still walking at a good clip, striking out at normal rates for him (actually lower), and his swinging strike rate is well below career averages. If he’s not hurting, the power is going to come, and it’s probably going to be soon – his next two series are at Boston and at Texas, both parks where he has historically raked in his career. In my mind, he would be a great guy to grab for a (hopefully) big power surge, and then flip in another deal.

Kevin Youkilis

Already nursing a groin injury and dealing with the little problem of being publicly called out by his new manager, the start to 2012 couldn’t have gone much worse for Youkilis owners. He’s striking out more, he’s not hitting for any power whatsoever, and even the Greek God of walks has lost his path with “just” an 8.8% walk rate. But his eye is still there it seems as his swinging strike rate is well within normal range and he’s not chasing many pitches outside the zone. Pitchers don’t appear to be too afraid of him thus far, giving him 70% first pitch strikes and although he’s making contact, everything is getting pounded into the turf at this stage. At some point, that’s going to change.

With Youk, you either believe or you don’t – and although he comes with the same warning flags that everyone gnashed their teeth about all spring long, I’m not buying that he’s going to continue to be this bad. He will always drive you nuts with his frequent ailments, but Youkilis owns a career .201 ISO, so it’s just unrealistic (ridiculous) to think that it will stay at .033 for long. Clearly, if you own him, try to have the patience to ride this out because if he can stay on the field, he’ll produce for you. But if you don’t own him, this whole Valentine controversy and the ineffectiveness might have created enough panic/angst/frustration to get him at a discount.