Fantasy baseball players in decline - NL

by Nicholas Minnix on February 3, 2010 @ 14:00:00 PDT


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The Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones is more brittle than ... well, brittle. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez staved off the set-in of reality for a short period (How? We don't know!) before resuming his slide.

Despite his solid bounce-back campaign, Miguel Tejada (Houston Astros), like the aforementioned former studs, has been displaying downward trends for a few seasons.

Veterans make up a reliable group in fantasy baseball. However, at some point, they fade. Who is, and who will?

In progress

Aramis Ramirez, third baseman, Chicago Cubs

Houston Astros OF Carlos Lee
Gen. Lee losing the battle w/ time

Injury risk aside, A-Ram is a producer. His days as a top-notch one are headed for the horizon, though. The pattern isn't evident in his batting eye or other peripherals, really. Don't worry, they're next.

You already noticed two straight sub-30-homer rides. Ramirez, 32 next season, might have finished with 30 in a complete 2009. Note the rise in doubles, reflected in the slow fade of isolated power. The big fly-per-fly rate has already hit the low teens. Do the math as the flyball rate dives.

Carlos Lee, outfielder, Houston Astros

The 2009 dip was a bit drastic, but signs point to a shift in Lee's impact and, perhaps, approach. The pace of his glorious 2008 was astounding, and perhaps effects of the broken pinkie lingered into last year. His second half looks fairly similar to his first, though.

Lee, 33, is certainly exiting his prime power era. Expect the gopher ball-per-flyball rate to remain in the low teens. In addition, Lee's contact rate has steadily improved, suggesting he's shifting to a more fundamental, less aggressive style. Don't consider 2009 his power baseline yet, but note the tide.

Jimmy Rollins, shortstop, Philadelphia Phillies

This comes as no surprise because J-Roll, 31, is coming off an atrocious season. In fact, signs point to a moderate rebound in batting average and perhaps stolen bases.

Rollins' batting eye has never been elite, but it's the slow rolls in walk rate (save for a ridiculous 2008) and aggressiveness that cause pause. Rollins' frame and work ethic will prevent a sharp drop-off. That could earn money in keeper leagues, but acknowledge his direction.

Roy Oswalt, starting pitcher, Houston Astros

Oswalt's ERA has steadily risen - almost unfairly, last season - so this isn't new. Some possible correction may make him a potentially modest value buy in single-year leagues. The right-hander's dominance rate has been about his norm for the past five seasons, and his velocity remains steady.

It's likely losing some bite, though, given that he relies on it less. Back troubles, in fact, magnified errors, so don't overreact. It's a slow jam, but the walk rate is slipping. Indicators for homers allowed and hit percentage affirm: The peak is in the past.

Francisco Rodriguez, relief pitcher, New York Mets

New York Mets CL Francisco Rodriguez
K-Rod not your typical 28-year-old

ERA up, WHIP, walks per nine, command, flyball rate and more rising. Among other things, dominance and velocity falling. It hasn't been an encouraging five-year stretch for K-Rod, who's a mere 28. The righty has experimented with his arsenal quite a bit, so lay some of the blame there.

His 2009 wave was full of New York's bad breaks. However, fastball command is a concern. Rodriguez isn't this bad, and save opps can't be that few and far between on a regular basis, but some sort of youthful burnout began awhile back.

Watch out

Ryan Howard, first baseman, Philadelphia Phillies

He possesses graceful power and hits 45 homers without breaking a sweat! What gives? You can't complain about 140 RBIs, but his best days may soon be memories. Home run totals of 58, 47, 48 and 45 don't tell the entire story, but they preface it: The tater-per-flyball rate has been heading south.

Howard is 30 - easy to forget because the Phils gave him a late big league start. (Thanks, Ed Wade.) Recent efforts to shape up will extend his shelf life, but Howard's body type isn't conducive to long-term health. A robust line drive percentage means he won't be a liability, but in a few years, do you want to be justifying Howard's cost with his average?

Dan Uggla, second baseman, Florida Marlins

You know the round-trippers rhyme: 31, 32, 31. Power at second base? Uggla, 30 entering the 2010 campaign, is a decent consolation prize if you can stomach the batting average. Heck, the dinger-per-fly rate is still in the upper to mid-teens. Why would the Fish want to trade him?

Price tag is going up; level of performance may be headed down. Beware the slight slide in his in flyball rate. He's becoming more patient - a positive, but Uggla is highly unlikely to profile as Teddy Ballgame. He's becoming less aggressive; pitchers are becoming more so. A friendlier locale will offset this for a bit, but beware.

Brad Hawpe, outfielder, Colorado Rockies

Watch the batting eye: 0.61, 0.60, 0.59, 0.57, 0.54. You might attribute some of that to Hawpe's evolution into an everyday player, but that no longer appears to be on the docket; he has never recorded more than 516 at-bats. His batting average is going, ever so slowly.

Power is following suit. Follow the flyball percentage: 42.7, 39.3, 36.5. Home runs per flyball remain steady, but the latter trend helps to explain his reduction in homers from 29 to 25 to 23. If you own Hawpe stock, get out before the fallout in value becomes more obvious.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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