In Memoriam Chris Shelton
From the time the words “Play Ball!” are first belted out on Opening Day, until the first week comes to a close, there are always hundreds of storylines that nobody could have predicted. Wacky stories will often be accompanied with “You can’t make this s**t up.” It’s why some of the best movies, especially lately, are based on “true” stories. This world is filled with incredible, sometimes unbelievable, happenings.
One such story came about in the first month of the 2006 season. Detroit Tiger’s first baseman, Chris “Red Pop” Shelton, selected in the 2004 Rule 5 draft from the Pittsburg Pirates, devoured American League pitching for the first 13 games of the season. Shelton had nine home runs before playing in his 14th game, the fastest American League player to do so. Needless to say, Shelton was a sought after commodity in fantasy leagues. Managers salivated over the power potential he possessed. The second coming of Mark McGuire was in our midst.
Sadly, after that 13th game, Shelton’s monstrous power retreated as fast as it had materialized. He only had one more home run that month, and only six more before being demoted at the end of July. Since that demotion, “Red Pop” only played in 63 more games before leaving the game for good. His magical fairy tale was over, and he turned back into an orange pumpkin.
Even though fantasy managers shouldn’t be surprised by fluke success stories like Shelton, it is still very tempting to think that this guy might be the real deal. For every Shelton, there is a Jose Bautista. Let’s take a look at some hitters who have jumped the gun and are treating this marathon like a sprint, and we’ll try and determine who is going to make it to the finish line and who is going to flame out.
Chris Davis, 1B/OF, BAL (5 R, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB, .455 BA): 2012 was a “breakout” year for the former Texas prospect. He’s got all the power in the world, but the knock on him is his inconsistency to make contact. Davis isn’t going to hit 50 HR with 130 RBI, but he’s also not going to disappear either. A repeat of last year’s numbers is very likely.
Michael Morse, OF, SEA (5, 5, 8, 0, .310): Here at Rotoballs, we’re giddy over this guy. He’s getting playing time (something that wasn’t guaranteed in Washington), the fences are in, and he’s healthy. Morse wasn’t a bad player for the Nationals, so this hot start doesn’t completely come out of left field, but he’s on a complete tear. The power is real. But with little help around him, how many RBI can we expect? We see a lot of solo home runs in his future.
Todd Frazier, 1B/3B/OF, CIN (5, 3, 9, 1, .480): Last year’s NL ROY runner up, Frazier is the boyfriend of Rotoballs very own, Ryan Butler. In that small ballpark, with that dynamite lineup, it seems Frazier is on his way to improving on last years stats. Just don’t expect his 8.3 AB/HR rate to continue (20.0 career).
Jedd Lowrie, SS, OAK (7, 3, 6, 0, .500): We’ve come to our first “be careful” player. In 360 career games, Lowrie has 38 home runs. He did have a career high 16 HR with Houston last year, but he also hit .244 to go with only 42 RBI. He plays a position not deep with talent, so if you’re in a 12-team league or higher, he probably should be owned. But he might also be a sell high candidate if he continues to rake.
Dexter Fowler, OF, COL (7, 4, 5, 1, .370): Ride this guy while he’s hot. Last year he finally showed some consistency at the plate (.300 BA, career-high), but his power isn’t going to last (career 58.1 AB/HR). He won’t hurt you as a fourth outfielder, but look to trade him before you’re stuck holding this Cameron Maybin-type player.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, BOS (7, 4, 6, 0, .320): Of all the players on this list, this guy has the biggest boom or bust tag on him, mainly because we don’t have much to analyze. Last year as a rookie, he hit 15 HR in 267 AB (17.8 AB/HR). He has a good fly ball to ground ball rate, too (0.75 career). The only thing that concerns us is his AB/RBI rate (4.9 career). The MLB average is nearly double that. Expect this kid to hit some bumps, but he could just be that good.
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, COL (3, 2, 7, 0, .450): After a pretty mediocre and injury plagued 2012, Cuddyer is off to a quick start. He was a trendy pick last year, moving from terrible Target Field to cooperative Coors Field. His ceiling isn’t very high, but he’s very capable of posting a 20/90 line, and his fast start is a good sign.
Coco Crisp, OF, OAK ( 9, 3, 5, 0, .333): Not normally known for his power, Crisp is off to his fastest home run start with three in his first 30 AB. Considering three home runs is 19% of his career high (16), we don’t expect the power binge to continue. But look for him to push 40 SB once again.
[Stats as of April 7, 2013]