It’s never too early to change

Even though the season started just yesterday, I’m sure most of you are itching to make adjustments to your team. That’s what overreacting to small sample sizes will do to you. Worry not overreacters, Julio Borbon will get plenty of hits this season.

Still, if you are looking to add another element to your team, consider the following two players—unowned in most fantasy leagues—who could supplant the talent already on your team. One of the players is a “Steady Eddy” with not much of a ceiling to tap into but almost guaranteed decent production. The other player has a great minor league track record and has recently won over playing time. For the sake of suspense he will remain anonymous and I’ll kick things off with the consistent producer.

Ryan Sweeney

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Sweeney erodes his power with swings like these. (Icon/SMI)

Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing 220 pounds, and batting left-handed you would think Ryan Sweeney would be a prototypical home run hitter. Instead, however, this 2003 second-round pick out of high school prefers to square his bat to the ball and hit mostly line drives and ground balls. So far that approach has netted him a respectable .290 batting average over his first two full seasons in the majors, but it has also left people wondering if there is power potential inside of him remaining untapped.

Sweeney is unlikely to change his hitting approach at the plate, so whatever power numbers he could produce with slightly tweaked mechanics and a different mindset will remain a mystery; despite his contact-driven approach, he can still be of use to fantasy owners.

First off, his average should remain in the .290s and will push the low .300s. It is harder for most people to conceptualize the value in a high batting average compared to, say, a high home run total, but be aware that a .300 average over the 550+ at bats Sweeney should accumulate batting second in the A’s lineup is valuable to any fantasy team.

In terms of power, Sweeney did progress some last year, turning more of his singles into doubles and raising his slugging percentage above .400. This season he will be entering his third season in the majors and assuming some continued improvement, he could reach the low double digits in home runs, though somewhere around nine homers is most likely.

Nine home runs may be nothing to tell your grandchildren about, but with an young player like Sweeney that number is more likely to be eclipsed than remain unreached. At least his gap power should keep his run and RBI totals respectable, even in the A’s lineup.

Overall we are looking at a line of a .300 average, 10 home runs, 85 runs, 60 RBI, and somewhere between 7-10 steals. It is important not to overdraft this type of player, though Sweeney is not being overdrafted the same way James Loney—a very comparable player—is in some leagues. As a fifth outfielder in a deep mixed league, or a mid-late selection in an AL-only league, or as a $1 flier in an auction, Sweeney is a solid role player unlikely to disappoint.

John Bowker

The name John Bowker—not the most memorable name—is one you might want to start paying attention to a little more. With his scorching spring in which he hit .312 with six home runs, Bowker has secured himself the Giants’ starting right field job, though his leash is undoubtedly relatively short.

Instead of attributing those numbers to small sample size, a look at his past minor league seasons—and especially his 2009 Triple-A season—shows that Bowker has actual talent. Last season in Triple-A, Bowker batted .342 over 450 plate appearances, blasted 21 home runs, and walked nearly as much as he struck out. Overall his performance was good for a Cruzian (in Triple-A) wOBA of .447.

Bowker has gotten chances at the major league level before and has performed poorly in the past, but there are no reasons to suggest this time he won’t have more success. Most projections systems predict a batting average in the .260s-.270s and about 15 home runs for Bowker, which is solid already. However as a 26-turning-27-year-old, he has the breakout potential to surprise everyone and post a valuable .290 average, 20+ home run season.

And his spring is just another reason for optimism.

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Comments

  1. penpen said...

    huh?  we are only two games into the season, ergo “never too early”; gentle wordplay, yeah; but nails on chalkboard?

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