The Cincinnati Reds boast one of the most intriguing pitching staffs in fantasy and real baseball, but their offense without Shin Soo-choo at the top of it….looks more than a little questionable. They could very well be replacing a .423 OBP with a sub-.320 OBP at the top of the order. That’s not a smart baseball move. It’s time for Cincinnati to face FP911’s Top Five Questions for 2014.
5. Will Devin Mesoraco be useful in fantasy baseball? Any catcher with a job is worth starting in a two catcher league or an NL-only league. Mesoraco’s usefullness depends on your league’s format for now. He has flashed power at the minor league level, but he’s yet to get a real extended look at a full-time catching job. He’ll probably come with poor platoon splits which will limit his batting average, but yeah, he could be useful depending on your format. He’s a waiver wire guy in 12-team mixed leagues with only one catcher.
4. Zack Cozart or Todd Frazier? Death is not an option. Todd Frazier and it’s not close. Zack Cozart doesn’t walk enough (4.5% BB % for his career), strikes out too much (17.6% K % for his career) and doesn’t hit for much power (.141 career ISO). He’s managed to compile his way to 70+ runs scored each of the last two seasons, but that’s because he hasn’t had much competition at shortstop or missed much time to injury. What’s odd about Cozart is that he showed he was capable of running in Triple-A (30 steals in 34 attempts), but has only four steals in two full seasons. He might be more interested if he was allowed or attempted to run more, but he’s a borderline MI option in a 12-team mixed league.
Frazier doesn’t walk much (7.8% career BB %) and strikes out more than Cozart (21.5% K %), but his strike outs come with power (.197 career ISO and 38 homers over the last two seasons). His BABIP underwent a statistical variance in 2012 and regressed back under his career average in 2013. He’s a solid bet to post an average above .234 in 2014.
3. Is Tony Cingrani overrated, underrated or correctly rated? At this point, he’s correctly rated with a chance to become overrated as Opening Day draws near. Cingrani is a modern marvel. He’s essentially a one pitch pitcher who is capable of generating ridiculous strikeout totals with his one pitch. He used his fastball in 511 counts with two strikes. Hitters posted a .096 BAA with a .136 SLGA. Everything he did in 2013 appears to be repeatable. There’s no reason not to invest heavily in Cingrani for 2014.
2. Is Joey Votto a first round pick? Probably not. Joey Votto will continue to do Joey Votto things. He gets on base. He hits a lot of line drives. He doesn’t hit much power. Joey Votto’s 37-homer season in 2010 came with a 25.0% HR:FB ratio. He hasn’t cracked 20.0% in any other season. His fly ball percentage dropped under 30.0% for the first time in his career last year and it’s been on a downward trend since 2010. Votto will protect your batting average and score some runs, but he simply won’t provide the power numbers that fantasy GMs traditionally rely on from first base. He’s a fine second round pick, but there are other, more productive options in the first round.
1. Will Billy Hamilton earn his draft status? Again, probably not. He’s essentially a one category player. He could win you that category, but he’s just as likely to be back at Triple-A by June. We’ve seen this before with guys like Dee Gordon and Ben Revere. Weren’t fantasy GMs falling over each other to draft these guys? How did that work out? They’re phenomenal athletes, but a phenomenal athlete isn’t necessarily a competent hitter. Hamilton could very well be Joey Gathright with a job opportunity. There’s a reason that Gathright is out of baseball and it’s not because he was a great athlete. Gathright managed three seasons of 20+ stolen bases at the major league level before his inability to swing a bat took him from major league basepaths to minor league buses. Hamilton strikes out a ton (18.6% K % at Triple-A) and struggled to draw enough walks to use his speed effectively (6.9% BB% at Triple-A). Neither of those numbers project to major league success against legitimate starting pitchers and relievers who dedicate their careers to getting hitters out.
Hamilton has shown some ability to get on base in a very limited sample size in Spring Training that he hasn’t shown in the upper minor leagues. Spring Training numbers need to be ignored unless a player might have an injury or lose a job. Ignore the Spring Training stats and let someone else overpay for Billy Hamilton.