About a month ago, we took a look at possible replacements at first base for Chris Davis owners, as he was on his way to the disabled list. A month later, fantasy baseball owners are in even more of a panic as a slew of first basemen have recently been placed on the disabled list. And we’re talking some really big names here:
And to further complicate matters, Chris Davis has been placed on paternity leave and won’t be back until Tuesday. Luckily for owners, there are some decent options that might be available on the waiver wire.
BEST AVAILABLE OPTION
Adam LaRoche–Ownership Rate in CBS Sports Fantasy Baseball Leagues: 80 percent
LaRoche returned from injury and played his first game on Sunday. He has five home runs and 21 RBI. Most importantly, he’s posting his highest Walk Rate of his career and the lowest Strikeout Rate since 2005. He is hitting .319 with a BABIP of .373 however, so he’s seen a lot of luck on his balls in play, aided heavily by a Line Drive Rate (LD%) of 31.8 percent. Nevertheless, he’s still showing off the power as he’s slugging .504, which is not too far off his 2012 mark of .510.
The new found patience is a result of a low O-Swing Percentage (percentage of swings outside the strike zone) of 21.2 percent–lowest mark since 2004, his rookie season. His Swinging Strike Percentage is the lowest of his career, while his Contact Rate is the highest it has been since 2008. His contact rate would place him 11th among all qualifying first basemen. So there’s a lot to like about LaRoche and his return comes at a perfect time when so many owners are in need of a first baseman with some good hitting skills.
Adam Dunn–54 percent
Last month, Dunn was at 52 percent ownership rate. So not much has changed in that respect, but Dunn continues to produce as much as he can. His power is real and he has been working hard on cutting back on the strikeouts, currently below 30 percent for the first time since 2009. Last month, Dunn was ranked 11th in Walk Rate among all qualified hitters. This time around, he’s in first place at 19.8 percent. If he continues at this pace, that would be a career high for the big, burly first baseman.
Despite the .300+ BABIP, Dunn is only hitting .244 which might ward off owners from picking him up. His Contact Rate will justify owners’ wariness, but for Dunn, the 73.1 Contact Rate is a career high. And just like LaRoche, Dunn is laying off those pitches outside the strike zone and his Swinging Strike Percentage is the lowest of his career.
James Loney–64 percent
Last month, Loney’s ownership rate was at 46 percent. So owners have paid attention to Loney as a viable option at first. However, Loney, in his last 56 plate appearances, has hit .259 with an identical slugging percentage as he has no extra base-hits to his name in that time span. That’s discouraging from a guy who lacks true home run power. We also see Loney press a bit more as he’s swinging more, especially outside the strike zone in these 56 appearances. Also, his Walks:Strikeouts (BB:K) is at an uncharacteristic 0.20. He still has an LD% of 25 percent in that time span, but has seen his Ground Ball Rate (GB%) rise to 50 percent. An increase in ground balls increases his BABIP, but clearly, that has not led to an increase in production.
When Loney is on, he provides some stability at first, in terms of batting average and on-base percentage. But his lack of extra base-hits during this recent stretch makes him nearly unusable in any format. You can’t get extra base-hits if you’re constantly grounded. Now would not be the time to grab Loney, but keep him in mind if his fortunes begin to turn around.
Garrett Jones–69 percent
G.I. Jones has been on fire. When we last evaluated Jones in early May, the only appealing thing about him was the power that he can provide. But the rest of his questionable skills makes him a suspect add at both first base and outfield. However, in his last 57 plate appearances, Jones has been crushing the ball. For the season, Jones has a 0.40 BB:K, on par with his career average. In the last 57 appearances, has improved that figure to a whopping 0.73. That’s Freddie Freeman territory. No doubt the improved plate discipline has helped with his hitting prowess, but in that short time span, Jones has an LD% of 21.6 which is much better than his year-to-date mark of 17.9. It’s doubtful, based on his history, that Jones can continue this hot streak, but considering the circumstances, it is not a bad idea to pick up Jones right now and see how long you can take advantage of his hot bat.
THE REST OF THE FIELD
Casey McGehee–57 percent
Good: Improved plate discipline…good Contact Rate…versatile: qualifies at first and third base…
Bad: High GB% leads to increased BABIP…only three extra base-hits in last 57 plate appearances…going through a slump, caused by high rate of pop ups and ground balls…
Mark Reynolds–34 percent
Good: Fly ball hitter with legit power…also qualifies at third base…
Bad: It’s Mark Reynolds…leads league in Strikeout Rate at 34 percent…worst contact rate among first basemen
Ike Davis–23 percent
Good: Good batting average, on-base skills, and plate discipline…improved LD%…
Bad: High BABIP suggests luck involved in production…size suggests that he should be hitting the ball with more authority…still pops up way too much…
THERE’S ALWAYS THE BACKUPS
In Chicago, Abreu’s injury gives more playing time to Paul Konerko (4 percent). We know the type of hitter Konerko can be, but the question is can he still be a viable option at first? So far, since he started playing full time again, Konerko has not shown much.
Brayan Pena (5 percent)has been getting more at bats for the Reds since Votto went on the disabled list. Pena’s only skill is his ability to put the ball in play, but does not offer much of anything else.
In Boston, Mike Carp (1 percent) looks to benefit from Napoli’s injury. Carp has decent contact skills, but is a free-swinger.
Finally, Mitch Moreland (25 percent) will be given yet another chance in Texas. Once a promising prospect, Moreland has not lived up to expectations at first base. Moreland can rack up the strike outs, but has some pop in his bat. Has not done much in his last 42 plate appearances.
All stats are courtesy of fangraphs.com and are good through May 24, 2014.