This week’s edition of Reds Fantasy Roundup will be a bit different from what we’ve seen in the past. For the past 5 weeks, I’ve mainly talked about basic standard stats like average, homers, OBP, etc. While I’ll still be doing that, as they are the critical components to fantasy baseball, I’ll be adding in a level of sabermetric analysis to actually back these observations and claims up. The reason that I’ve waited until this point is that, before four or five weeks into the season, talking sabermetrics is pretty silly. For the first few weeks, it’s not unusual to see players with BABIPs nearing .600, or pitchers with FIPs over 10. However, as things begin to groove out and the numbers begin to start to make sense, sabermetrics become relevant yet again. While you’ll still have the odd stat or two (does anyone really think that Chris Johnson can keep up with a .446 BABIP?) the numbers are beginning to enter this phase. So, hopefully, this would mean that my predictions can begin to make more sense, and that I don’t end up advising to sit Brandon Phillipsbefore a week where he hits .300. With that being said, here are the pitchers that the Reds will be squaring off against at Great American Ballpark this week:
Week Six Projected Matchups:
April 12th: MIL @ CIN — Marco Estrada vs. Bronson Arroyo
Position Player Recommendations
1. Jay Bruce
Bruce has had a downright awful start to the 2013 season, there’s really no getting around that. He’s triple slashing an absolutely dreadful .256/.309/.357, with only one home run and 14 RBI, all while being among baseball’s strikeout leaders. It really isn’t unusual to see Bruce struggle for prolonged periods of time, but starting the year off at this pace doesn’t really bode well for the left handed slugger. Bruce’s struggles are particularly concerning because of the fact that he sports a .381 BABIP, meaning that he’s actually getting very lucky on balls put in play. However, his high line drive rate of 29.4%, fourth in the majors, means that he’s hitting the ball well, and that more of his line drives are going to start falling in for doubles and home runs.
A return to Great American Ballpark will bode well for Bruce, but the Reds do face off against some great pitching in their upcoming homestand. Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Kyle Lohse have all pitched excellently this season. Bruce is still, comparatively, clobbering left handed pitching for some reason with a .341/.357/.512 triple slash against southpaws (versus only .216/.289/.284 against right handers.) This split makes absolutely no sense, as Bruce has had a normal split his entire career. Don’t count me as a believer in Bruce’s sudden ability to hit lefties though, as his .419 BABIP against left handers is completely unsustainable. The more worrying stat here is his .358 BABIP against right handers, which suggests that he’s actually lucky to have the triple slash that he does against rightys.
2013 has been an absolute mess for Bruce, and if he doesn’t start to pick it up, you might want to consider a permanent solution, as he’s basically been a black hole in fantasy lineups all year. If Bruce is going to pick it up, though, this might just be the week that he does it. Bruce doesn’t have much experience against Atlanta’s starters, with only 20 at bats in his career against all 3 of them (and only 2 hits- 2 homers off of Paul Maholm) to show for it. However, he has absolutely destroyed Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and Kyle Lohse, going 26-72 (.361) against the 3 of them with 7 home runs. Throughout his career, he’s feasted on Brewers’ pitching, particularly these three, so if a resurgence is in the cards, this week seems the most likely candidate, with the Reds returning home and facing 3 pitchers (all rightys) who Bruce has clobbered in his career. However, if his struggles continue, you might want to consider trading Bruce while there is still time.
Week Six Line Prediction: .300 average, 2 HRs, 6 RBI.
Final Recommendation: Start.
2. Todd Frazier
It really seems like it was only a little while ago that we were talking about how torrid of a start Frazier was off to. He was hitting for average, clubbing homers, driving in runners, and getting on base. Well, so much for that. Frazier has been mired in a big slump for the last 2-3 weeks, and has brought his season numbers down to a paltry .226/.306/.453 with 6 homers and 21 RBIs. The home runs and RBIs are actually pretty good for a late round third baseman, and the slugging percentage really isn’t bad, but he’s been a pretty big hit on average and OBP so far. As pedestrian as he has been on the road so far this season, hitting just .122/.214/.184 (with zero home runs and 4 RBI) on the road, he’s been great in the close confines of Great American Ballpark, where he has hit .316/.385/.684 with 6 homers and 17 RBI, in only 8 more at bats at home. However, his struggles on the road this year may be more luck based than ballpark based, as he has a BABIP of just .162 on the road, the seventh unluckiest mark in the bigs.
For this alone, he’s a definite start whenever the Reds are home, and perhaps a platoon guy when the Reds are on the road (that is, until he starts reversing his luck and hitting on the road), depending on who your other infielders are. As for matchup statistics, Frazier has only had a combined 5 at bats against Atlanta’s 3 pitchers, going 0-5 with 3 strikeouts against them. He’s also been limited in his at bats against Milwaukee’s starting 3, going 3-9 off of them, so the matchups don’t really tell us much. He does have a homer off of John Axford though but really, who didn’t last season? Frazier should provide solid counting stats this week, as well as a decent average and OBP.
Week 6 Line Prediction: .300 average, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs.
Final Recommendation: Start.
3. Zack Cozart
I’ll go ahead and quote myself from week one now just to get it out of the way- “[Speaking of Cozart] I firmly believe that [his ownership] will be 100 percent by the end of the year, because I expect Cozart to have an excellent 2013 campaign.” Well, that hasn’t exactly panned out so far, and really, why should it have? Aside from one month in 2012, where MLB pitchers really had no experience against him, he has been a mediocre hitter, and I’m not sure why I expected that to change. I suppose he could turn into Troy Tulowitzki for a few months and prove the doubters wrong (it’s still early) but there’s no definite reasoning to say that he should. Dusty has hit him in the 2 hole- he’s responded by not hitting. Dusty has hit him in the 7th hole- he’s responded by not hitting. His slashline on the year sits at .204/.240 (wow)/.336 and, aside from the 4 home runs he has hit, has been, like Jay Bruce, a black hole in fantasy lineups.
It is important to note that Cozart has gotten pretty unlucky this year, as his .200 BABIP would indicate. However, he also has the worst line drive rate in baseball so far at 7.1%, indicating that he’s not really hitting the ball too hard (this is one of those examples where you can really see the stats with your own eyes- how many times has Cozart gotten to a hitters count and then weakly popped up or softly grounded out?) He’s also 16th in baseball with a 55.6 ground ball percentage, which is a pretty terrible rate for a number 2 hitter (especially with Choo getting on base at such a torrid clip) as his 4 GIDPs would indicate. Cozart has erased a Reds rally more than a few times, and why Dusty chooses to give him at bats over guys like Todd Frazier or Devin Mesoraco is beyond me. But, that’s the way it is. Cozart is still somewhat fairly fantasy relevant because of his 36.3% ownership in ESPN leagues, but there’s no real reason why he should be on your roster. If you missed out on Jean Segura, it might be a good idea to replace Cozart with a good waiver pickup if you still can- Marwin Gonzalez, Erik Aybar, and Didi Gregorius are all solid pickups to replace him and could be available in your league. I think we’re going to have to accept the fact that Cozart will never be a good major league hitter. However, his glove (and the lack of a replacement) should guarantee him at bats.
Week Six Line Prediction: .200 average, 1 home run, 2 RBIs.
Final Recommendation: Sit. Drop.
1. Mat Latos
Mat Latos’ career April struggles have been well documented, so it’s really unusual to see him pitching like an ace so early in the year. In fact, since allowing 3 runs against Pittsburgh on April 14th (which was the infamous Jonathan Broxton explosion game), Latos has allowed 1, 0, and 0 runs in his last 3 starts, and is currently on a 13 inning scoreless streak. He is, however, dealing with some hip soreness, so keep an eye on that situation. He’s not expected to actually miss any time, but keep a watch on his start today vs the Cubs. If he does end up needing to miss a few starts (which is exactly what the Reds don’t need right now), you’ll want to set your lineup accordingly.
Latos really has pitched at an ace-like level this year, though, with a 2-0 record and 1.83 ERA (with a solid 1.09 WHIP.) If he can keep this up throughout the year, we could be looking at a dark horse Cy candidate. These results are especially encouraging because, as of right now, he doesn’t appear to be getting particularly lucky in his starts, so his success is fueled by actual performance alone. His BABIP of .299 is actually slightly higher than league average, and his FIP and xFIP are a very solid 2.80 and 3.12 respectfully. While a 2-0 record at this point in the season isn’t bad, Latos really should be 5-0 or 4-1, but has been the victim of offensive vacations and untimely bullpen implosions (Jonathan freaking Broxton much?)
To get the bad stuff out of the way with Latos, his pitching style doesn’t really allow him to sustain a 0.69 HR/9 rate, and his 8.3% HR/FB is about what it was when he was pitching in Petco Park, instead of in GABP. He’s also throwing his fastball about 1.5 mph slower than he was at this point last season, which could be a factor in his impeccable control. He had good control last season, but his 37:8 K:BB ratio this season is really good. Latos’ success so far has been dependent on 2 things, really- his slider and his cutter. He’s actually thrown his slider nearly as much as his fastball (147 to 162) and hitters are still only hitting .206 off of it. He’s used his curveball sparingly, but when he has it has gotten results- hitters are only hitting .056 off of his hook, as the 14.1 mph difference in his average fastball speed and curveball speed.
Over the past 3 years, Latos has pitched very well against the Brewers, compiling a 2.34 ERA against them. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez are the only 2 Brewers on the the current roster who have hurt Latos in his career, as they each have 2 homers in 25 combined at bats against him. As good as Gomez has been this year (he’s been worth 2 WAR already- the Brewers are looking pretty good on that deal so far) he’s not enough to power an entire team, and Latos should mow through them easy enough (Latos owns his current high in strikeouts- 13- against the Brewers.)
Week Six Line Prediction: 1 win, 0 losses, 7 IP, 8 Ks, 1 ER, 1.29 ERA.
Final Recommendation: Start.
2. Bronson Arroyo
I don’t like Bronson Arroyo in fantasy baseball for 3 very simple reasons. 1) He doesn’t strike anyone out. 2) He has a propensity to blow up. 3) He really really struggles after the 5th inning, but Dusty likes to leave him in there because he’s our ‘innings eater’ or ‘workhorse’ or whatever. Really, someone off of the waiver like Kevin Slowey, Jose Fernandez, Marco Estrada, or even Jeff Locke would be better.
Week Six Line Prediction: 0 wins, 1 loss, 12 IP, 7 Ks, 7 ER, 5.25 ERA.
Final Recommendation: Sit. Drop.
3. Homer Bailey
Homer Bailey has been an interesting pitcher this year. Against any team not named the Cardinals, he’s pitched like John Smoltz, but against the Redbirds he’s been more like John Burkett. Seriously, 11 of his 14 earned runs on the year have come in his 2 starts against the Cardinals, and he has a 1.04 ERA against any and everybody else besides them this year. Like Latos, he has been the victim of bad run support and bad bullpen work, as well as has had neutral luck like Latos. Bailey seems to have really discovered his 2 seam fastball this year, as he’s actually thrown it more than his 4 seam (where in 2012 he had thrown it less than 1/3 as much as his 4 seamer.) Even already this early in the season, he’s already surpassing his average fastball velocity from last season by nearly a full MPH, which is a result of another offseason of weight gain.
He pitched well against Atlanta last year, going 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA, and over the last 3 years with a 2.41 cumulative ERA against them over that time. While, regardless of what he’s done so far this year, Kris Medlen is still a tough guy to beat, Bailey should have the upper hand in this one. Start with ease.
Week Six Line Prediction: 0 wins, 0 losses, 6 IP, 5 Ks, 2 ER, 3.00 ERA.
Final Recommendation: Start.
4. Mike Leake
Why do you still have Mike Leake on your team?
Week Six Line Prediction: 0 wins, 1 loss, 5 IP, 3 Ks, 4 ER, 7.20 ERA.
Final Recommendation: Sit.
5. Tony Cingrani
It finally happened, Tony Cingrani pitched like, well, a rookie. His worst start of his big league career was actually not that bad when you consider that all the damage came off of the bat of Alfonso Soriano and his 2 two run home runs, which is pretty respectable since Soriano is hitting over .400 against LHPs this year. Aside from those 2 homers, he only allowed one hit and one walk, but hit 2 batters. His fastball command wasn’t where we’ve seen it before, but hopefully that was just jitters from pitching in front of his hometown team and family. It didn’t appear, at least to me, that facing the Cubs for the second time around had any real effect on his performance- laying a fastball right down broadway belt high to Alfonso Soriano is going to get you in trouble no matter whether it’s against the Cubs for the first time or the 10th time. Everyone besides Soriano, though, looked as lost at the plate this time as they did last time. Home plate ump Alan Porter also wasn’t helping anything, as his zone was very hitter friendly on both sides. I would expect Cingrani to bounce back.
Week Six Line Prediction: 1 win, 0 losses, 6.2 IP, 10 Ks, 2 ER, 2.70 ERA.
Final Recommendation: Start.
Week 6 Predicted W/L
April 6th (ATL @ CIN): L, 6-2.
April 7th (ATL @ CIN): W, 4-2.
April 8th (ATL @ CIN): W, 6-5.
April 10th (MIL @ CIN): W, 5-3.
April 11th (MIL @ CIN): W, 4-3.
April 12th (MIL @ CIN): L, 9-2.
Thank you for reading! Comments are appreciated.