April 21, 2011
On April 19, 2011 at 8:11 PM, Skynet acquired self-awareness, spawning an apocalyptic robot war against mankind.
Protecting fantasy franchises, or John Connor from permanent extinction, has been a laborious task for the 21-year-old. Pegged to be an efficient home run hitting machine, Stanton has malfunctioned in April. Through 13 games, he's batted a ghastly .216 with zero homers and three RBIs. He's also tallied an uncharacteristic 1.25 GB/FB. Demoted earlier this week from clean-up to sixth in the Marlins order, he has struggled to overcome a nagging quad injury. Though the setback is the primary reason for his early tumble, skipper Edwin Rodriguez also believes the youngster's narrow-minded approach is also to blame. From the Miami Herald:
"I still can't run full speed or bend over fast,'' Stanton. "[But] I've just got to deal with it. ... I'm the one who says whether I can play or not. It's no one's fault but mine."
Rodriguez said Stanton is too locked in to "looking for one pitch, one zone and still not ready to cover that outside part of the plate and reacting to the inside part."
"I think it will come with time,'' Rodriguez said. "It's a matter of throwing him out there and getting him at-bats...''
How soon could Stanton return to the cleanup spot?
"That all depends,'' Rodriguez said. "If Gaby [Sanchez] keeps swinging the bat he's been swinging and LoMo also, if that lineup works, why not? We'll keep it that way. But we all know if Mike starts swinging the bat and showing the power we expect from him, he should be our No. 4 hitter."
Entering the season, the fantasy community was abuzz over Stanton's 2011 prospects. His beastly power has already become the stuff of legend. The atomic bomb he dropped against Pittsburgh to cap the 2010 season definitely stirred the juices. Down the road he will be the frontrunner in the home run race. After averaging a homer once every 14.8 at-bats after the break last year, 35 homers were a forgone conclusion, even 40-plus jacks were not unreasonable. But those projections were the subject of much hyperbole.
Intoxicated by his spectacular September (.316-8-19-16-1), most blindingly ignored Stanton's Mark Reynolds(notes)-like profile (34.3 K%, 0.28 K/BB in '10). As a result, owners flipped couch cushions, scrounging every last dime in an attempt to afford his services. Crazy stories of $40 spending sprees began to emerge, even in prestigious leagues. Standard drafters, too, paid an exorbitant price. Rotowire's Chris Liss, who six weeks ago laid down a brick of cash on Stanton to win the NL home run title (25:1 odds) at the Las Vegas Hilton, suffered a dislocated shoulder after he reached for the Marlin in Round 4 of the Friends and Family draft (Read his justification here). Before the first meaningful pitch of the season was thrown Stanton mania bankrupted millions.
Of course, dropping or selling an expensive pick this early in the season would be inexplicably foolish. Based on what he was recently swapped for in Yahoo! one-for-one deals — Adam Jones(notes), Chipper Jones(notes), Michael Pineda(notes) and Edwin Jackson(notes) to name a few — he simply won't recuperate the initial investment via trade.
At this point, patience needs to be a virtue. Sage owners with viable secondary options should bench Stanton until he shows signs of life. Eventually, he'll flex his muscle. However, this season, 25-30 homers might be his upper-limit. His ongoing quad issue raises a red flag. Once the bopper heals, he should heat up, but his tree-uprooting profile arrows to a sub-.250 BA. When that happens his supporters might want to send out feelers. Sophomore slumps do happen, especially to an undisciplined, relatively inexperienced hitter in a pitcher-friendly park.
Though it's quite possible Steve Jobs, who behind his fleshy exterior is a titanium killing machine hellbent on exterminating the human race, will command all Apple devices to violently turn on its owners Thursday night, a cyborg revolt is complete science fiction.
For the Schwarzenegger-esque Stanton, meeting lofty preseason expectations might also be a stretch.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 515 at-bats, .248 BA, 29 HR, 83 RBI, 73 R, 2 SB
Other passengers riding southbound (or about to) on the Lames Train …
Delmon Young(notes), Min, OF — Last season was an awakening of sorts for the former No. 1 pick. The then 25-year-old established new career benchmarks in batting average (.298), homers (21) and RBIs (112). Just now entering his prime, most expected him to live an opulent fantasy existence. So far, he's taken up residence in the slums, going 13-for-57 (.228 BA), with zero homers and six RBIs. Sore ribs and a bout of the flu are primarily to blame (Mauer!!!). The Twins' team-wide slump has also been contagious. The outfielder's underlying profile is fairly consistent with last year's. Eventually, once Young gets healthy, he'll produce. Dealt recently for Coco Crisp(notes), Chad Billingsley(notes) and Jose Valverde(notes), he's an excellent buy low candidate.
Matt Harrison(notes), Tex, SP — In the case of the Rangers southpaw, looks are definitely deceiving. After a largely dreadful 2010, Harrison has roared out of the gates. Through his first four turns, he's totaled three wins with a 1.99 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. The starter credits a slowed down approach, which has helped improve his overall rhythm and decision-making. Still, despite his advancements, there are ominous signs of a catastrophic breakdown. Analyzing the peripherals, he's been extremely fortunate, evident in his .192 BABIP, 8.9 line-drive percentage and 4.02 FIP. Throw in his unexciting 5.97 K/9, and an ERA correction seems imminent. If he finishes with an ERA below 4.00, the Mayans will be right. It's time to take a profit. In Yahoo! leagues this week, he's attracted such prominent names as Denard Span(notes), Nick Swisher(notes) and Jeremy Hellickson(notes) via trade. Prey on the naive.
Kelly Johnson(notes), Ari, 2B — Something valuable has been stolen from fantasy owners. And, believe it or not, Mike Leake(notes) isn't responsible. So far this season, Johnson, one of last year's biggest surprises, has plundered owner BAs, tallying a stomach-churning .182 mark through 15 games. Many fanalysts, particularly one named Funston, were down on Johnson entering the season. To naysayers, his generous BABIP, unusual ISO, bland contact rates and propensity for strikeouts were a formula for failure. Over the early season, their doomsday forecast has been accurate. Overpowered inside, he's struck out an ugly 33.3 percent of the time. Despite the horrid start, Johnson should come around. His 6.8 line-drive rate (career 21.0) is completely unsustainable. The second baseman admitted a nasty head cold plagued him, clouding his head. With four hits in his past three games, including a solo homer at Cincinnati on April 19, NyQuil hangovers no longer appear to be an issue. Yes, Johnson's BA will likely finish some 20 points lower than 2010, but because of his spot at or near the top of the D'Backs order, he should contribute soundly across the board (FF (rest of season): .265-18-60-75-12). Steal him from an impatient owner.
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Images courtesy of US Presswire and the AP