If I asked you who the #1 ranked SS in fantasy is, chances are most of you know the answer is Hanley Ramirez. His 10 home runs and 22 RBI are tied for tops in baseball with Nelson Cruz. Fantastic production from a shortstop (or shortstop-eligible in his case).
But do you know who is #2?
Time’s up. Those of you who said Jose Iglesias after his blistering start, good guess, but no. Any votes for Starlin Castro? Another solid stab. Another incorrect venture. The correct answer is…
Adeiny Hechavarria (for those of you who couldn’t figure it out from the title and cover photo).
That’s right. The Marlins’ defensive whiz has flipped the script and become a force at the plate in April. He’s currently slashing .321/.349/.481 with a pair of home runs and 16 RBI. Those 16 RBI are tied for 14th, not at his position, not in the National League, but in all of baseball. They are also nearly half of his total for the entire 2014 season (34 RBI in 574 PA).
Let’s not even talk about if Hechavarria can continue this pace or something similar. We all know the appropriate response to that asinine inquiry, however, there is a discussion to be had. Hechavarria has shown improvement at the plate, but to what extent? Does this early season outburst warrant a valuation change? Considering he’s the most added player in ESPN leagues over the last week, we need to find the truth.
For those of you who forgot last week’s article, I’ll hit you with a quick refresher on what you should be looking for when adjusting your projections on a player. Stats aren’t enough. Not when we’ve got less than a month’s worth of data of which to go off. You need to see change in one of three areas: injury, opportunity, and/or skill set.
We can throw injury concerns out in this case, and I would argue you could throw opportunity out as well. As mentioned above, Hechavarria had nearly 600 PA last year, so it’s not as if regular at-bats are anything new to him. He’s also still buried deep in the lineup, batting eighth in all but two games (both times batting seventh). If you want to argue that he’s a part of a better lineup this year than last, I’ll agree, but not to the point where it should make a drastic difference. A combination of Ozuna, Realmuto and Ichiro hitting ahead of Hechavarria isn’t swinging the needle that much.
That leaves skill set. How much better is the 2015 version of Adeiny Hechavarria than what we’ve seen in the past? Let’s see if the peripherals give us an indication.
Because of the current inflated average (.321 vs. a lifetime .255), I first want to know if Hechavarria is making better contact. The answer? A definitive no.
Hechavarria boasts a career line drive rate of 21.3%. His 2015 rate just so happens to also be 21.3%. And while his GB/FB rate has dropped, it’s still hovering right around 1.82 (vs. a career 1.98), meaning Hechavarria is hitting the ball on the ground nearly twice as much as he puts it in the air.
That makes his HR/FB% even more unsustainable. Hechavarria’s pair of 2015 home runs bring his career total to… eight. That’s in 1,371 plate appearances and gives him a career HR/FB% under 3.0. His rate for this year stands at a sparkling 11.8%, placing him just ahead of such names as Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey and Chris Carter. What kind of odds would someone have to give you before you’d take Hechavarria to remain in front of those three? I’ll cave to the point that in his age-26 season, he could be finding his “power” stroke now, but that won’t result in any more than seven or eight home runs by October.
I’d love to say there’s been a change in his approach at the plate that explains this hot start. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to exist either. Hechavarria’s K-rate has jumped from 15.0% last year all the way up to 19.5% this year, while his walk rate has only seen a slight increase from 4.5% to 4.9%. This can be explained by his reluctance to swing at pitches in the strike zone. When you’re only taking a rip at 60.8% of strikes (down from 73.2% last year), your chances of striking out inherently go up. Even Hechavarria’s contact rate of 83.0% is a tick below his career average of 84.0%.
Then there’s the most damning of evidence. That .367 BABIP sticks out so badly when there’s nothing in the peripherals to back it up. For a player who has never relied on speed in his arsenal (only 19 career stolen bases), it’s almost impossible to believe he can keep that number so sky high. Add in a 23.5% infield fly ball rate and it all looks downhill from this point.
I really was hoping to find something in Hechavarria’s profile to suggest this start of his wasn’t a complete and 100% fluke. Honestly, I wanted an excuse to include one of the finest names in the game on a much more regular basis. But as you can see from the numbers (which apparently never lie), not only is there no basis for this torrid start of his to continue, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be much better than in previous seasons at all. If you were quick to jump on him earlier in deeper leagues, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the unexpected production. Just know Hechavarria’s a ticking time bomb, and that bonus value he’s added to your team could dry up any day now.
First Pitch Swinging – News and Notes Around the Division
- In what has become a weekly staple, the Anthony Rendon update this time around is not a good one. He missed his third straight rehab game Wednesday after “Having a little trouble getting loose with the knee”, according to Matt Williams. Rendon owners are back to playing a wait-and-see game before knowing when they’ll have his services available.
- Marlins SP Mat Latos left Wednesday’s start against the Mets after 5.0 IP with a left hamstring strain and is currently day-to-day.
- Mets reliever Bobby Parnell was shutdown for a week with forearm soreness, but believes his velocity will be back on track when he gets back on the mound.
- Former All-Star Dominic Brown was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after completing his rehab assignment. For anyone who was still holding out hope that he would return to his 2013 form, consider this the closing of the casket.
- Braves 3B Chris Johnson landed on the DL with a broken left hand. Atlanta will call up heralded prospect Mike Foltynewicz to make his first career start tonight against Cincinnati.
On Deck – What to Watch for May 1-7
Atlanta: vs. CIN(3), vs. PHI(3)
Miami: vs. PHI(3), @WAS(3), @SFG(1)
New York: vs. WAS(3), vs. BAL(2)
Philadelphia: @MIA(3), @ATL(3)
Washington: @NYM(3), vs. MIA(3)
Hitter to Watch – Denard Span, WAS
For all the early season struggles the Nationals have had, injuries are at the heart of many of them. Getting their leadoff hitter and center fielder back can only help alleviate some of those issues. Span has long been a favorite of mine because he’s a cheap source of volume runs, a stat often forgotten about in fantasy. In 10 games since being activated, Span has already crossed the plate 10 times and is hitting .302 with a homer, a steal, and seven RBI to boot. Span did leave the game early Thursday night after feeling soreness in his core, but hopes he’ll be able to play Saturday. The silver lining is that Span will avoid the only tricky pitching matchup of the week, against Matt Harvey on Friday night.
Pitcher to Watch – Aaron Harang, PHI
For as poorly as the Phillies have played overall, Harang has been one of the lone bright spots. His 2.51 ERA and 27 K in 32.1 IP certainly make him usable in all leagues. He just went eight strong against Atlanta giving up no runs and just two hits while striking out six on April 24th. Despite a subpar outing against the Cardinals this past Wednesday, I’ve got no reason to think he can’t post another strong out in his return to Atlanta on Monday. This will be his first start in A-town since heading north to Philly, so for any of you who believe in the whole revenge factor (I’m not one of them, personally), here’s a little bit of added motivation.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday May 3rd from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week we will be discussing everything out west. The A.L. & N.L. West divisions and everything fantasy relevant within.