We here at RotoGraphs preach patience. There is nothing worse than making a reactionary transaction based on a small performance sample and then a month later looking back and realizing your mistake. Unfortunately, every league has at least a couple of owners who simply cannot stop themselves from dropping the slow starter after a week and adding the flavor of the day. This means that your patient approach is going to almost guarantee you will miss out on the breakouts who went undrafted. So with that in mind, let’s look at the ultra tiny sample of one game to analyze some of the lesser owned hitters who launched a home run on opening day.
In his first full season, Alonso’s power was non-existent, as he posted just a .120 ISO and 6.4% HR/FB rate. He was never a big power hitter in the minors though, so he wasn’t your prototypical first base prospect. But! He’s listed at 6’2 and 240 pounds, so he’s a big man and you would think that his frame would lend itself to better power numbers than he has shown. In fact, his average home run plus fly ball distance was actually above the league average last year, which suggests his HR/FB rate skill is closer to 11%-12% or so, nearly double what he actually posted. The fences are also now closer at PETCO Park, plus he’s hitting third in the Padres lineup which should provide a nice boost to his RBI and run totals.
Furthermore, while I think John Dewan’s oft-cited spring training slugging percentage study is flawed, looking at ISO changes might have merit. If that were the case, then Alonso’s .261 spring ISO might hint at an impending power surge. I wouldn’t yet bother with him in shallower leagues such as 12-team mixed or smaller, but where he’s available in deeper formats, might as well take a shot if you have an obvious drop candidate.
The mess that is the Mets outfield has allowed Cowgill to earn the every day starting center field job for the time being. Besides reminding me of those funny mooing animals grazing on a pasture, he also looks like someone who should earn some fantasy value for brave owners. He is not a big power hitter and is expected to contribute more with his legs, but he does possess some and could provide a nice combination of the two. Unfortunately, he’s already 26 years old, so he’s not some young prospect. The projection systems aren’t too kind to him, projecting a high wOBA of just .321, which looks generous considering it’s from the optimistic Bill James system. In his favor is that the Mets crop of alternatives is just as underwhelming. I can’t guarantee how long he’ll hold onto the job, but as long as he remains the lead-off hitter and keeps getting the starting nod, he’s worth a look in deeper leagues.
Flowers has some serious power. It’s a small sample of just 12 home runs and fly balls last year, but those balls traveled a whopping 336 feet on average (league average is around 275-280 feet). In 2011, 29 balls traveled 291 feet on average. He sports a career HR/FB rate of nearly 18% in about a half a season’s worth of at-bats, but that’s all he’s good for from a fantasy perspective. He strikes out a lot. In fact, he’s kind of like a poor man’s, catching version of Adam Dunn. I think the Fans projections, which easily project the most at-bats, are going to prove closest. He’s going to kill you in average, but contribute above average home run production. If you’re in an OBP league, he makes for a nice sleeper.
Iannetta is a hitter I like this year, but even more so in OBP leagues, which is why I drafted him in Tout Wars which uses the category instead of batting average. If he could avoid injury, he should easily eclipse his previous career high at-bat total of just 345. The park admittedly isn’t great, but he’s in what should be a fantastic lineup. Iannetta’s average home run and fly ball distance has bounced around, sometimes sitting way up near where the leaders would sit, but dropped toward the league average the last two years. How much injuries played a role we don’t know. But he’s healthy now, makes acceptable contact, has above average power and has always shown excellent plate patience. He has always struggled with BABIP, so he’s still near replacement level in 12-team mixed leagues that use batting average, but he’s a nice choice in leagues that use OBP instead. In deeper leagues, he’ll provide value no matter the category that is counted.
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