After the first month of the season, it’s important to analyze players who are off to a great start. I wouldn’t blame you for picking up the hottest player of the previous few weeks if he’s in the FA pool, but you’d better do your homework and have an idea of whether it’s a true breakout, or whether it’s a flash in the pan due to luck and you should trade him. As such, we’ll take a look at two middle infielders who impressed in April. One is no stranger to being looked at skeptically, and the other is a rookie whose playing time in 2016 is uncertain.
I was one of the few fantasy managers who believed in Jean Segura after his 2013 breakout. Though I expected some regression, especially in power, I thought he’d be good for 30+ stolen bases with a good batting average in 2014. That clearly didn’t happen, and it took Segura two more seasons of mediocrity before Milwaukee traded him to Arizona. He’s been off to a hot start for the Diamondbacks, but is it another instance of getting our hopes up only to disappoint?
His batted ball profile is pretty close to his past results, though he’s shifted a few percentage points from GB% to FB%. He’s also hitting the ball a little bit harder than the past two years, though that’s not setting the bar for improvement very high. What’s notable is the home run binge, because he’s clearly not a power hitter. The 15% HR/FB rate he sports now won’t hold up, because even in his breakout 2013 campaign, his season total was 10%.
Still, I’m optimistic. His BABIP is high, but as a speedster he has the ability to maintain a rate above the league average, as he did in 2013. He doesn’t walk, but his swinging strike rate is a career low, and his O-Swing% is better than last year (and perhaps a career best, depending on which source you use). If he can be a little more selective and slap the ball around the infield to use his speed, he’ll have success this year. I’m hopeful he can hit over .270 for the season with 25 stolen bases. He’s running a little less often this season, likely due to Arizona’s different managing style. Still, as their leadoff hitter, he’ll provide value in runs as well. Take any more HR as gravy, and bear in mind his hot start in 2013 sizzled out, but Segura is likely to maintain his value as a starting MI option for any league with 12+ teams.
Aledmys has been the talk of the waiver wire for weeks, and Jhonny Peralta’s injury (as well as Ruben Tejada’s) opened the window for playing time. Diaz took the opportunity and ran with it. If you ask me, the Cards won’t miss Peralta in 2016. Diaz has the potential to be the starting shortstop moving forward, and though there’s some luck, I like the metrics behind his game.
Yes, his average is going to come down, because no one can sustain a .380 BABIP. However, even when you adjust for that, his expected BA is likely to be near .290-.300, so it’s not like you have to worry about him hitting at the Mendoza line and detracting from your team. He’s making a lot of hard contact, which supports his 21% line drive rate. He’s a selective hitter, swinging out of the zone less than the league average. And even though he doesn’t walk a ton, he also doesn’t strike out that often, with a BB/K of 0.71.
When it comes to the rest of his game, the power is likely to fall back a bit, because it’s hard for hitters to maintain a 20% HR/FB. That said, he’s hitting the cover off the ball, so continued hard hits will keep up his home run total even with an average FB%. This is evidenced in his 5 homers being “plenty” or “no doubt,” thanks to that high hard hit rate. As for steals, his running speed rates well, but he doesn’t profile as a big threat. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up 10 stolen bases in a full season, but for 2016 I’d consider any as a bonus. By 2017 we’ll be paying the price of a top-15 SS for Diaz, if not more. I like his chances to combine high BA and solid power for a MI. That said, redraft leagues may want to move him now while his value is high, because you certainly can’t project him to finish with over 500 AB this year.
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