Two weeks into the 2014 MLB season, things are starting to normalize. This is such a pivotal time in the year, because it’s the time when people are either feeling overly confident in their hot starters or uneasy about the players who are crawling out of the gates. There are plenty of guys that are severely under- and over-performing, and the question becomes whether the smart decision is to sell high, buy high, sell low or buy low on these players.
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies OF
Because of his surprisingly strong season last year, namely a .331 average with 74 runs, 20 homers and 84 RBIs in only 489 at-bats, all the experts pegged Cuddyer as the guy most likely to regress this season.
So what has he done to prove those haters wrong? Only hit an even more astronomical .386 average with numbers that, if extrapolated over the rest of the season, would end at 120 runs, 36 homers and 120 RBIs.
Clearly this guy isn’t a fluke, right? Unfortunately for Cuddyer owners, the explanation for his career year, aside from his new move to the hitting haven Coors Field, is the .380 batting average on balls in play, a metric used to determine luck (a .280-300 BABIP is normal). What is his BABIP this year? A similar .341. That number has to come down to earth, and so will the rest of his stats.
Honorable Mentions: Carlos Gómez (MIL), Adam Laroche (WAS), Alexei Ramírez (CWS), Dee Gordon (LAD) and Michael Morse (SF).
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants 1B
The Giants’ first baseman of the future was so close to being traded. It was just last year that he was in manager Bruce Bochy’s doghouse after struggling for the first half of the season. After a stronger, albeit still disappointing second half, many baseball experts saw this progress and perceived it to be a sign that a big breakout was coming.
Well, any fantasy owner who put his or her chips in the Belt basket is looking real good right now. Hitting a meager (for a first baseman) 17 home runs last year, he is already on pace for 60, clearly proving to everyone that he’s found the power stroke that he hadn’t located since his stint in the minor leagues. The improved power numbers, however, have come at the expense of Belt loosening up his plate discipline. The former Texas Longhorn holds a 17:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio so far.
I anticipate that his plate discipline will improve with more time to adjust and, with the newfound power swing, Belt will be this year’s version of Paul Goldschmidt.
Honorable Mentions: Jose Abreu (CWS), Freddie Freeman (ATL), Ángel Pagán (SF), Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) and Anthony Rendon (WAS)
Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers 1B
Sorry to all those who invested in Fielder high in their drafts. Though you wouldn’t find Fielder anywhere near my teams this season, that’s more of a reflection of my belief in positional scarcity than it is anything against Fielder.
I actually believed in him, but it’s clear, even through just two weeks in the season, that Fielder isn’t going to rebound after last season’s disappointment. He is what he is at this point, and a change in ballparks isn’t going to cure his diminishing skills.
Obviously there’s still a chance that Fielder’s current dry spell is just a slump and he’ll return to 2012 form, but at this point, it’s just not likely. It’s in your best interest to trade Fielder to someone who shares that opinion. Cut your losses and go with a safer option.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Seager (SEA), Brandon Phillips (CIN), Allan Craig (STL), Robinson Canó (SEA) and Josh Donaldson (OAK).
Edwin Encarnación, Toronto Blue Jays 1B
It’s always surprising to see a top-five hitter in baseball begin his first 54 at-bats under the Mendoza line with a .174 average, but that’s where we find ourselves with the Blue Jays slugger.
I should say, that’s where we find ourselves again with the Blue Jays slugger, as he more or less started in a similar disappointing fashion last year. Being only a few years removed from being a huge in-season surprise, many owners might feel as though Encarnación has regressed to the afterthought he was before 2011. But there’s no way he just loses all his skill.
For those who can remember, the great David Ortiz had a horrible slump that carried all the way until June — when Big Papi broke out in a big way and finished with numbers in line with his career norms. Encarnación will similarly realign his numbers with the standard, and you should be the one to take advantage of that. Once he regains his plate discipline, he should be back to his 40 homer ways.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Holliday (STL), Pablo Sandoval (SF), Miguel Cabrera (DET), Bryce Harper (WAS) and Joe Mauer (MIN).
Daniel Scheiner is a sophomore majoring in music industry. His fantasy baseball draft picks run Mondays.