I’m always getting questions about what to do with certain players who are over/under performing, so today I’ll break it down for you by discussing the National League players I’m asked about all the time (to see my AL list, click on Buy or Sell – AL Version).
* Buy/Sell designations are based on a mixed league with 12 teams.
Pedro Alvarez: I’m telling you, this guy will be a 30-100 man at some point of his career. You can bank on it. Every scout in the world will tell you that Pedro has an elite power bat. Now there are concerns about his ability to keep his weight under control, whether his glove is good enough for third base, and if he will ever make enough contact to be more than a .270-ish hitter, but the power is an elite tool – period. People expect so much out of youngsters anymore. I mean, this guy has 242 at-bats at Triple-A and just 455 in the majors. Are we really going to label a guy a failure based on 700 at-bats against elite level competition? Two things. (1) Ramirez has 17 homers and 71 RBI in 455 at-bats with the Pirates. (2) He’s always been a slow starter. Don’t forget that he hit six bombs with 27 RBI over his last 28 games last year so it remains wise to be patient here.
Chris Carpenter: The sky is clearly falling here. I mean the guy has been awful with one victory and a 4.32 ERA through eight starts. Oh how some numbers can deceive. Last year Carpenter posted a 3.22 ERA with a xFIP of 3.70. This year his ERA is more than a run higher, but guess what, his xFIP is lower at 3.63 (xFIP tells you what a pitchers ERA should be based upon the events that he can control). In each of Carpenter’s eight seasons with at least 175.1 innings pitched his BABIP has never been higher than .309, and he owns a career mark of .297. That would seem to suggest that his current .327 mark is a bit driven by bad luck, especially since his K/9 and BB/9 marks are pretty much spot on his career levels. If you can buy low do it – the only real concern is if he can take the ball every five games.
Kyle Lohse: In seven starts this year Lohse has allowed more than one earned run just three times, and five of the seven outings its been two or fewer earned runs. Clearly he is as locked in as he could possibly be. You already know I’m going to say he can’t keep it up, right? (1) He hasn’t thrown 120 innings since 2008. (2) His current K/9 rate of 4.99 would be his worst mark since 2005. (3) He’s the owner of a 2.74 career BB/9 mark. Currently he’s at 1.72. (4) His career HR/9 mark is 1.12. He’s halved that so far at 0.52. (5) His career left on base percentage is 69.9 percent. Currently it’s 79.0 percent. I could go on and on but here’s the gist of it – Lohse is performing, across the board, at rates he has never been able to sustain. His 2.24 ERA and 0.86 WHIP simply aren’t sustainable with his K/9 rate, and his lack of anything other than an average GB/FB rate of 1.19. He could continue to do this, it’s possible, but his skills and history (a decade of work) suggest now is the perfect time to sell.
Aramis Ramirez: He’s hitting .925 with a .352 OBP, numbers that are slightly better than his career marks of .282 and .340. There’s no issue there. The concern is obviously with his lack of pop since he has only one homer. Will that lack of power continue? It sure seems unlikely to. At 33 years of age his power stroke should still be there. While he’s not Adam Dunn, Ramirez is a pretty established power bat in his own right. In eight of his nine seasons in which he has accrued 450 or more at-bats Ramirez has gone deep 25 or more times (he had 18 homers in 522 at-bats in 2002). Ramirez currently has a 42.5 percent fly ball rate. Each of the past five years that mark has been 44 percent or higher. In addition to the dip in fly balls, he just isn’t converting them into bombs right now with a sickly 2.1 percent HR/F ratio. That will not continue since each of the last eight years he has produced a mark of at least 11.6 percent. I’m not giving up on Ramirez, and neither should you.
Jose Tabata: Mired in a hideous slump that has seen him got 9-for-67, Tabata’s hot start to the year is a distant memory at this point. Here’s what I see. First, Tabata has doubled his walk rate from last season helping to push his BB/K mark up to 0.74, a solid number (the big league average is usually around 0.50). I also see that he’s continued to hit the ball on the ground almost identically matching his 59.4 percent mark from last year at 60.2 percent. Given his game, that’s ideal. However, the issue is that he simply hasn’t been able to produce hits given his line drive rate of 9.7 percent. There’s no way that mark stays that low this season, no way. Last year Tabata produced a 16.1 percent mark, still slightly below average (19-20 percent), but that’s alright because his wheels will allow him to turn more grounders into hits than most. This is an ideal time to add a player with 30 steal wheels who has a reasonable chance of matching his career batting average (.283) over the next four months.
By Ray Flowers