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Roto Riteup: May 15, 2013

Today’s Roto Riteup focuses on guys who like to run around in the grass and get all dirty and itchy.

On today’s agenda:
1. Michael Saunders is better
2. Checking in on Nate McLouth’s improvements
3. Brett Gardner is timid

Michael Saunders is better
Long a highly touted prospect with tremendous potential, Saunders may have put it all together this year. In his age-26 season, Saunders has cut down on the strikeouts, raised his ISO, and improved his approach at the plate. A year ago, Saunders was flailing at nearly one in every three pitches thrown outside the zone, and now he’s swinging at merely one in every five or six. Even while punishing minor league pitching a few years ago, Saunders has trouble with strikeouts, but now it seems as if he’s a changed man. While I’m not entirely confident that he can hit .285 over a full season, a batting average of .275 has always been a great target for Saunders considering he hit below .250 last season. Saunders has perennially been a 20/20 threat, and he should now be owned in all leagues.

Checking in on Nate McLouth’s improvements
McLouth’s improvements at the plate have been discussed on RotoGraphs before, but this author feels it’s important to check in on him to make sure he’s not changing his ways. McLouth has revolutionized his approach at the plate, resulting in much better contact, laying off pitches out of the zone, and the return of the power he showed last year with the Orioles. McLouth feels like an old fogey, but he’s still just 31 years old and has plenty of gas left in the tank. McLouth’s hot April has given way to a miserable May, but the lowered strikeout rate remains, making this all a matter of BABIP fluctuation, whether it be real or random.

Brett Gardner is timid
Gardner used to be one of the most feared base stealers in all of baseball, making him a valuable fantasy weapon, but his approach has changed in 2013. If this were 2011, Gardner would have attempted 15 stolen bases by now, but as it stands through Monday’s action, Gardner has only tried to swipe eight bags. Gardner wasn’t able to successfully steal a base until his 17th game of the 2013 campaign, though he did attempt to twice before that. Gardner’s signature contact ability seems to have slipped, as well, making his batting average sit around the .250 mark. Gardner can overcome a .250 average if he’s stealing bags and scoring runs, but if he continues at his current pace, he’s not worth starting in mixed leagues.