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Five Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)

by Stan Son | @Stan_Son | Featured Writer
May 11, 2017

Is Yonder Alonso’s improved production sustainable?

Here’s a look at five burning questions from around the world of fantasy baseball.

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Is Hank Aaron Reincarnating?

First, there was Aaron Judge swatting home runs into the bleachers. Now, it seems the ghost of Hank has surfaced in Aaron Altherr. A home run in three straight games, with a double dong on Wednesday to accentuate things. For the season, Altherr is batting .351 with seven home runs, 21 RBI, and three stolen bases. So, is this real?

Well, there’s obviously going to be regression coming. The BABIP is .413 and the ISO will not stay at .392. With that said, there are some very encouraging signs. The walk rate has ticked up while he’s decreased the strikeout rate. The hard contact rate is a robust 43% and swinging strike rate is a decent 10%. What I like to see is that swing percentage on pitches outside the strike zone is a low 22%. He’s locked in and waiting for his pitch.

Last season, a wrist injury really derailed Altherr’s season, and he spent the offseason shortening his swing, so this indeed could be a breakout. Altherr has shown 20/20 upside before, so the potential is there. Now, as I said with Judge a few weeks ago, adjustments are going to come. Although Altherr is 26 years old, he still only has 478 plate appearances of major league experience. Most of the projection systems have him down for a .240-ish average rest of season, but with around 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases.

So, it looks like the ghost of Hank Aaron will be surfacing up in another Aaron soon. Aaron Hill perhaps? If Hill does start smashing, then I will make a Hank Aaron shrine.

Have They Tested Yonder Alonso Yet?

Yonder Alonso currently has 11 home runs. His high in any level of professional baseball is 12. Gotta be the PEDs, right?Not so fast. He

Not so fast. He changed his approach during the offseason. “Did some mechanical things but also intent was important. I’m trying to punish it more, get it in the air.”

Alonso has always been a solid hitter with a good approach at the plate. Walk rate was around 10%, while the strikeout rate would be around 12-13%. The swinging strike rate was consistently below 10%. High contact rates, yadda, yadda, yadda. He did pound the ball into the ground, though, which depressed his average since most teams employed a shift on him.

This year, there’s been a 19% shift between ground ball and fly ball rates. In addition, the hard contact rate has gone up by 9%. The most impressive feat is that seven of his 11 home runs have been hit at cavernous Coliseum. I’m a believer. Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner are two recent examples that come to mind of very good hitters that changed their approach to consciously hit for more power. It worked for them and the same thing looks to be happening for Alonso.

Is Jayson Werth an Add?

I’m usually an ageist. Once players get old, I want nothing to do with them. There are always exceptions, though. Werth is one for me this year. He’s batting .299 with six home runs and three stolen bases. I don’t expect the stolen base prowess to continue, especially at 37 years old and with a beard that dramatically creates drag and makes him aerodynamically inefficient. The BABIP is .382 so I do expect some regression. With that said, this is all about situation for me. As long as he stays healthy, he’s going to bat second in one of the best, if not the best offense in all of baseball. Behind Trea Turner and in front of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Anthony Rendon. I can’t think of a better high-floor/low-cost with a little upside player than Werth.

Who’s Closing in San Fran?

Derek Law got the first save opportunity on Wednesday. While he closed out the game, it was not without drama, as he allowed three hits and two earned runs. Hunter Strickland, the hard-throwing, former closer-of-the-future, seems to be second in line. The poor run he had during the 2014 playoffs may still be aching Bruce Bochy’s belly. Strickland has the more explosive arsenal, but he still walks too many batters. Law is a little steadier, but not as good at missing bats. I’m going to side with Law here. Bochy is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He doesn’t care about fastball velocity. He wants dependability. Geez, sounds like I’m writing a Ford Truck commercial or something. Anyway, it seems like Strickland has still not entered Bochy’s circle of trust. Unless Law completely implodes, Strickland seems to be second fiddle for now.

How Good is Kenta Maeda?

It was an ugly start to the year for Maeda, as he got pounded for 17 earned runs in his first four starts. Two of those starts were against the Diamondbacks and one was in Coors Field, so maybe not all too surprising. He wasn’t able to pitch past five innings in any start, and he was allowing a troubling amount of home runs, seven total in fact.

With that said, he was still striking batters out. Now, he’s coming off a game in which he almost threw a complete game shutout against the Pirates before allowing two earned runs in the ninth inning. The previous two starts, he did not allow more than two earned runs and struck out eight in both outings.

I initially had my doubts with Maeda when he entered the league. Low-90s fastball. Meh. But he has a four-pitch arsenal and really knows how to pitch. The Zack Greinke comps are pretty apt. He does have trouble with lefties at times but the career home/road splits are very close. If owners are focusing on the inflated 5.03 ERA right now, I’d jump all over buying him. The xFIP is 3.67, K/9 is 9.15, and BB/9 is 2.06. The swinging strike rate is 15%!!! Will Maeda dominate and be a fantasy ace? Probably not, but you pretty much know what you are getting with him. A mid-3s ERA with a strikeout per inning. I’m good with that.

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Stan Son is a featured writer at FantasyPros. To read more from Stan, check out his archive and follow him @Stan_Son.

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