Editors Note: This column can be found at RotoInfo.com in the near future.
At this point in the fantasy baseball season it may be hard to take advantage of most market efficiencies in certain statistical categories. A lot of owners are either jumping on trending players quick or jumping at any ghost of a player that goes on a hot streak just to try and gain some momentum and get back into the league race.
One thing popped out at me this weekend though while watching Kansas City and Boston split a four-game series – the Royals’ batters have some decent batting averages.
Before running into the Clay Buchholz/Jon Lester buzz saw in the final two games of the series and watching the its team average drop from .280 to .278, Kansas City was leading the majors in batting average (the Yankees jumped them at .282 entering Memorial Day). The Royals have a plethora of contact hitters led by Billy Butler who has a .348 batting average and is emerging as a great second-tier first base option and a force in the mid-West.
But there is more to the Kansas City batting spree than Butler. Alberto Callaspo is hitting .287, David DeJesus .286, Scott Posednik .296, Yuniesky Betancourt .281 and Jason Kendall .286, all of which are not misnomers based on number of plate appearances accumulated thus far. Add to that Mitch Maier at .272 and Mike Aviles at .327 (in three-quarters at-bats, granted) and there are things to like about these hitters and their sky-blue uniforms.
This is where the market efficiency comes into play. The Royals, by definition of being, well, the Royals, tend to only get serious fantasy consideration when there are players like Butler or Zack Greinke playing like their heads are on fire (or for that next contract that will get them out of western Missouri). Except for Butler, the rest of the Royals are a flawed team and it is actually hard to call them a terrific offense. They have a cumulative .338 on-base percentage (eighth in the majors) and are just about average in slugging percentage at .412 (12th in the majors). That adds up to 224 runs thus far, 17th in the majors. Those are not numbers that create the type of fantasy buzz around a group of hitters that make them much sought after commodities.
Which is a good thing for you, especially if you need to pick up some points in the batting average category.
The specific players to keep and eye on and go after if they are on the free agent junk pile in shallow to middling leagues are Aviles, DeJesus, Podsednik and Callaspo. Aviles is getting a lot of time at second base recently and hit .330 in 100 plate appearances in May after missing most of April. He had a respectable 17 runs to show for it, so he will not kill you in that department either. He is definitely a player to look at if you are a Dustin Pedroia or Chase Utley owner and are frustrated by their extended slumps that show little signs of turning around any time soon. Granted, Pedroia and Utley are basically the two best second basemen in the majors, but giving your fantasy roster a little breather to test Aviles out for a week and let the two All-Stars get back on track may be a worthwhile short term investment. You can always stash Aviles on your bench in the meantime as insurance.
DeJesus has been a solid fantasy contributor since 2005 and his career slash line of .286/.358/.426 has is right in line with his 2010 line of .286/.369/.444. He is not a first tier outfielder but he does sneak into the bottom of the second tier and would be a good pickup in a trade that included a couple other pieces. He will probably score another 40 to 60 runs this year that would definitely be decent production on your roster.
Callaspo is nowhere near being your everyday starting third baseman but he offers decent power to go along with his batting average to make him worthwhile. He has seven homeruns already this year with a .480 slugging percentage and looks at least double his career high of 11 homeruns from last year. Callaspo would be more or less a straight batting average pick up because his ISO (Isolated Power Rating, slugging percentage minus on-base percentage) of .191 is well above his career average of .131, promising a regression closer to his career mean later in the season. He is also versatile and, depending on your league, he may be available at third, shortstop and second base depending upon league availability formats. Players that can fill in across the lineup are always valued on fantasy rosters (with Ben Zobrist being the gold standard in that venue).
Podsednik is a little bit of a blast from fantasy baseball past. He was a must-have from 2004-06 with the Brewers and White Sox in terms of stolen bases, average and runs scored before falling off in 2007-08 before bouncing back to be viable last year. He continues his reemergence in the fantasy realm this year with 16 stolen bases thus far to go along with his near .300 hitting. You could do a lot worse than target him in a trade, especially if you are falling too far behind in the stolen base category.
Kendall has been, and will always be, a lower end fantasy catcher. The problem with Kendall, and yes, this is a bit oxymoronic, is that he plays too much. In reality, he is a great catcher to have on a major league roster. He plays hard, hates to sit and always has a decent batting average. He averages 134 games a year, great for a catcher and his career .290 batting average is nothing to sneeze at. Then again, he also average three homeruns a year with 58 RBI, so yes, there are better options behind the plate. Kendall always seems like the catcher that is readily available either on the waiver wire or via trade for teams that have missed out on the top-tier fantasy catchers and end up more or less wasting that roster spot with the hopes that guys like Dioner Navarro will somehow decide it is 2008 all over again.
Then there is Betancourt. Under no circumstances would I ever endorse Betancourt who is considered by many to be one of the very worst players in the majors. While a lot of the Royals offer some value in multiple categories, Betancourt is good for his average with a .275 career mark but that is about it. Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, noted for his lack of sabermetric acumen, likes players like Betancourt because they have good batting averages even if they have historically bad on-base percentages (Betancourt’s career on-base mark is laughably horrific). If you are looking at any of the Royals, better just to stop if Betancourt’s name is mentioned.
Overall though, Kansas City as a group has distinct skills that can provide at least some temporary benefit to your fantasy roster. Being that that they are the Royals, you might be able to pick them up on the cheap as well. As the calendar turns to June, that is not something to be overlooked, even if everybody else does.
Dan Rowinski is a Fantasy Baseball Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at Dan_Rowinski.