Player Focus 5.24.08

Sheffield Tops Mendoza Line; Hits 3rd HR
Gary Sheffield has been pretty awful this season as he topped .200 for the first time since May 13th. He hit his third home in a 1-for-5 effort on Friday night. Despite his colossal struggles (his average has been over .222 one time this season: .286 on 4.8.08), he is still seeing the ball very well as evidenced by his .336 OBP.
Usually that wouldn’t be an OBP to get excited about, but a 134-point difference between batting average and on-base percentage is strong. I am a huge believer in sample sizes so I fully realize how little three games means, but it isn’t completely useless when judging a potential forthcoming surge. Sheffield represents a decent buy-low candidate at this point. He is likely to come very close to last year’s totals though probably fewer than the 22 steals he had in 2007. If he does match 2007 in the run production categories, he is set to accumulate 22 home runs, 66 RBIs and 91 runs scored while hitting for a .286 batting average. He is currently on pace for 10 stolen bases and I think he hits that or maybe 2-3 more.

Uggla on Pace for 51 HRs
Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla is absolutely dialed in. With a 2-for-4 effort on Friday that included his 15th home run, he is now hitting a white-hot .414 with 11 HRs and 22 RBIs in May. Uggla’s sophomore season delivered more power than his great debut, but a 37-point drop in batting average cut deeply into his value.

This pace will slow considerably and right now might be the prime time to try and sell Uggla for maximum value. His strikeout rate is up yet again, currently creeping on 30% and players simply can’t perform at the highest levels in the game when they’re missing the ball this much. See also: Reynolds, Mark.

In the 19 games that Reynolds reeled off his 7 home runs, he struck out 32% of the time. Starry-eyed owners started discussing his 40-HR potential and dreaming about him as a low-priced keeper for years to come. Since the 7th HR, Reynolds is hitting .182 (14-for-77) and striking out 40% of the time. Uggla is unlikely to have such a precipitous drop because he has proven he can succeed with a high strikeout rate, but it’s going to be much closer to the .270-30-90 projections (give or take) than his 51-HR pace. If a legitimate selling opportunity exists in your league, you owe it to your team’s success to entertain it.

Cano’s Buy-Low Opportunity Slipping Away
Speaking of streaking second basemen, Robinson Cano is rebounding nicely from a terrible April. He is hitting .313 and has matched or exceeded his April totals in HR, RBI, SB and R in 39 fewer at-bats. A look at the peripheral numbers identified Cano as a remarkably buy-low opportunity during April and even for the opening days of May. A 7-game hitting streak from May 4th to 12th brought him to the cusp of the Mendoza Line. A 4-for-4 effort on May 14th brought the average to .205 and with another 4-for-4 game today, he is up .232 and likely off the block in most leagues.

If for some reason the owner of Cano will trade him at a discounted rate, you should still pounce. Cano is a bona fide .300 hitter and should end the season with 18-20 home runs, as well. At 25 years old, he has yet to his “prime”, but he already has three very productive season under his belt. If you have a hole 2B, don’t be afraid to pay regular price for his services, but definitely lean on his .232 average and sub-.300 on-base percentage to get his owner to drop the price.

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