Welcome to Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, my new weekly feature where I’ll shine the spotlight on a handful of players who have killed it for their fantasy owners, plus another few whose struggles are killing their owners. Off we go!
Hottest of the Hot:
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh – For the season, McCutchen is hitting .371/.426/.644 (1st in the NL) and boasts a 1.075 OPS (also 1st in the NL). He’s smacked 22 homers, driven in 65 runs, scored 65, and swiped 14 bases. He’s already been worth 5.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement Player), which is a fantastic SEASON for most players. His park-adjusted OPS+ is a staggering 195. That is not a typo. McCutchen has been nearly twice as good as a league-average player this season.
In short, there is no player in either league as vital to his team.
The reason he’s at the top of this list, though, is this: recently he enjoyed a stretch where he went 49 for 100 at the plate. That’s not just a hot streak; those are high school or beer-league softball numbers. Consider this: McCutchen is on pace for about 600 at-bats this season. If that holds true, those 100 at-bats represent would about 17% of his season; that he hit .490 during that much of a season is flat-out ridiculous.
At first blush, McCutchen doesn’t seem to have the same kind of power credentials as other NL sluggers like Ryan Braun, Carlos Beltran, Giancarlo Stanton (and hey, look: Pedro Alvarez has 20 HR!). Don’t be deceived, though; McCutchen’s AB/HR ratio has dropped each year since he debuted in 2009:
• 2009 – 36.1%
• 2010 – 35.6%
• 2011 – 24.9%
• 2012 – 15.3%
If there is a weak aspect to McCutchen’s game, it is his walk-to-strikeout ratio, which is 33/67 this season. Cutch is only 25, so it seems eminently reasonable that he is able to hone his plate discipline. But this is like complaining that the picture on your new 3D HDTV is too sharp.
McCutchen is having the kind of season few players get to experience. Not coincidentally, the Pirates are in the thick of the NL Central race. It would be a shame if the Pirates fail to take advantage of their situation and acquire a big bat or two (Justin Upton? Josh Willingham? Chase Headley?) to lengthen their lineup. Imagine the kind of numbers @TheCutch22 could put up if he had the lineup support of, say, the Cardinals, Yankees, Angels or Rangers. As it is, he currently is the hands-down choice for NL MVP, and the best all-around player the Pirates have had since Barry Bonds.
Who else is hot?
Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland – The Cuban defector is tearing the cover off the ball himself this month, with three homers, nine RBI and a .852 slugging percentage in the past two weeks. He has an eight-game hitting streak, six of the multi-hit variety. He appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential, which should frighten the rest of the AL.
Felix Hernandez, Seattle – King Felix is back on track after that brief DL stay a few weeks ago, averaging over eight innings a start over his past three, with a 21/4 K/BB ratio, a 0.73 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. While the Mariners continue to insist they have no plans to deal their ace, imagine the haul of talent they could get if they change their mind.
Mark Trumbo, L.A. Angels – The man who didn’t have a set role at the start of the season has smashed five home runs since All-Star break, eight in July and 27 on the season. In the majors, only Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton have more. Trumbo is on pace to hit 46 homers on the season, which was what the Angels were expecting from Albert Pujols.
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati – Doesn’t it seem like Bailey has been around since Barry Larkin was playing short? Actually, with a name like Homer, he sounds more like he should be playing basketball in Indiana, but I digress. Anyhow, in his past four starts, the 26-year-old Bailey is 4-0 with a whopping 27/3 K/BB ration and a 0.98 WHIP. With Bailey, Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto anchoring the rotation and Aroldis Chapman slamming the door in the 9th, the Reds finally have some stable pitching to complement their lineup. Well, until Dusty Baker ruins it.
Tommy Hanson, Atlanta – Hanson just hasn’t looked right all season. His last six starts: 7.27 ERA, nine HR allowed in 34 2/3 innings. Accordingly, his hits and home runs allowed per nine innings have ballooned to career highs. For the first time in his career, his park-adjusted ERA is below 100 (league average). His sensational rookie year seems like more than four years ago.
Jose Altuve, Houston – The diminutive second baseman has become a popular Twitter meme this season, but the only thing trending with Jose right now is his sliding batting average. Altuve has gone 8 for 60 in his last 21 games, with a .183/.230/.233 line. Altuve doesn’t offer much pop, so if the batting average isn’t there, then he’s a one-category player (steals).
Ricky Romero, Toronto – The presumptive Blue Jays ace can’t win for losing. Before getting shellacked last week against the Yankees, Romero had two nice outings ruined by a lack of run support. His walks per game, hits per game, home runs allowed per game, strikeouts per game and K/BB ratio are all at career-worst levels. Yikes.
Dustin Ackley, Seattle – Bill the Cat’s favorite player has to be considered one of the season’s biggest disappointments. He is only 10 for his last 64, a batting line of .156/.228/.296. During that same time, his double-play partner, the noodle-swinging Brendan Ryan, has a line of .234/.274/.340. Ackley is on pace for only 10 home runs, far from what the Mariners were hoping from when they selected him 2nd overall in the 2009 draft.
That’s it for this week. Tune in again next week for another round of Who’s Hot. Meanwhile, follow me on Twitter (@chriscaylor) and read the rest of our outstanding writers on Full Spectrum Baseball.
(stats thru 7/21/12)