Early season roster moves aren’t something I’m a fan of, but bottom-of-the-roster turnover is a constant reality for fantasy owners. Let’s take a look at the shortstops who have seen their ownership percentages rise and fall the most after one week (according to ESPN) in the constant waiver wire shuffle.
Jose Iglesias, DET
Iglesias has seen his ownership percentage increase a whopping 41.3 percent thanks a 10-for-19 start with four runs and two steals. The one category in which Iglesias has the chance to contribute year round is batting average. The early steals are nice, but he didn’t run a ton in the minors and attempted just seven steals in 382 plate appearances in 2013 (he missed all of 2014 due to injury). Iglesias has been fairly efficient when attempting to steal, so he could crack double digits in that category if he plays a full season. But we’re not talking about an Elvis Andrus or Alcides Escobar who can steal 30 and hit for some average.
Iglesias hit .303 in 2013 with a .356 batting average on balls in play. Expecting that kind of BABIP to keep up is risky, but Iglesias does have the batted ball profile and a bit of the speed necessary to consistently post a higher than normal BABIP, even if it’s not .356 again. Iglesias is an extreme groundball hitter who largely avoids the batted ball type that results in an out most often, the flyball. The projection systems all had him hitting right around .255, which is about average in 12-team mixed leagues. But it’s possible he could hit 15 to 20 points better than that.
But slighty better than average batting average and a handful of steals aren’t all that useful in mixed leagues, even at a shallow position. If Iglesias would walk more and up his on-base percentage, he might score runs at a higher rate given that he hits towards the bottom of the order and is sometimes on base when Detroit’s big hitters come up. But unless he starts showing a lot more patience than he has previously, or unless he starts attempting to steal a lot more frequently, he ownership percentage will be back down around one percent before you know it.
However, if you have the room, Iglesias is worth adding on the off chance that he keeps this up a few more weeks and becomes a trade piece. If you’d have to cut someone who could possibly be useful to you, then don’t bother adding Iglesias. And if you play with nothing but sharp owners who won’t bite even in a few weeks, then don’t bother. But if there is a person or two in your league that springs to mind when I say “stupid,” then stash Iglesias if you can, and hope the hot streak continues.
J.J. Hardy, BAL
Hardy clocked in as a borderline option for a middle infield slot in 12-team mixed leagues in my preseason rankings, so it’s not surprising to see a majority of the relatively few people that drafted him cutting bait with Hardy starting the year on the DL. His ownership percentage has declined from 17.4 percent to 6.4 percent in the first week of the season. But Hardy is apparently set to start a rehab assignment on Thursday and could be back with the Orioles by the weekend or early next week.
Hardy’s stock was at its nadir this offseason after he hit just nine home runs last year. He averaged a shade over 25 home runs the three years prior, so a single digit homer total stung fantasy owners. There were a few reasons for the decline. First, he only got to the plate 569 times last year after totals of 713 and 644 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Given his age and the fact that he’s already dealing with an injury this year, it’s hard to confidently project that number going up, so a rebound in playing time isn’t the best place to start an argument for a Hardy comeback.
The other issues were a big spike in strikeout rate and his home run per fly ball rate essentially being half what it usually is.
Starting with the latter, his average home run and fly ball distance was down about six feet from where it was in 2013. But it was only down about three feet from where it was in 2012 when he hit 22 home runs (in 713 PA). If he hit home runs at the same rate as he did in 2013 in the same number of plate appearances he had last year, he would hit 17-18 home runs. Assuming maybe a little more decline in batted ball distance and/or fewer plate appearances, projecting a homer total of 15 may be more reasonable. But it’s still not nine home runs. Hardy undeniably had some bad luck last year, even if he was also partially to blame for the power outage.
Going back to the strikeouts, Hardy’s strikeout rate jumped seven points thanks to some serious problems making contact on balls outside the zone. His contact rate fell more than six points, but his contact rate on pitches inside the zone didn’t change that much. It was a 15.8 percent drop in contact rate on pitches outside the zone that did the damage. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Hardy swung a bit more on pitches outside the zone and a fair bit less on pitches inside the zone. It doesn’t seem this was the result of pitchers exploiting a Hardy they discovered to be more of a free swinger than he had been before as the percentage of pitches he saw inside the zone actually ticked up a bit last year.
Even if Hardy continues to strike out at an elevated rate, it’s not like an 18.3 percent strikeout rate is prohibitive. He should be able to hit at least .250 at that point. My preseason projection for him was 15/63/62 with a .252 average, which, again, put him right at the cutoff for being middle infield worthy in 12-team mixed leagues. If you think that projection is unreasonable, leave him on the wire. But I don’t think it’s far-fetched, and it looks an awful lot like what Jhonny Peralta is projected to do, and Peralta is owned in virtually every league.