Fantasy Baseball Mechanic: Colby Rasmus, Jeff Francoeur

      May 29, 2012 @ 17:27:27 PDT


My older brother took things apart to learn how to put them back together. I'm not a car, computer or construction guy, but I've emulated that sticktoitness in dissecting baseball players. Fantasy baseballers forget how real-life fixes can yield better numbers.

Every so often I'll don my Fantasy Baseball Mechanic uniform and dive into the nuts and bolts of players' struggles and success. No additional overcharges, either.

At this time last week, I was sunning (OK, burning) on San Diego's Ocean Beach with a few friends after partaking in the tasty tradition of Taco Tuesday. (South Beach Bar and Grille ... go there.) Though dreams of microbrews and shark and oyster handhelds continue dancing in my head, it's back to the shop.

Since most of us shut down the fantasy baseball analysis brain quadrant this past weekend, you might've missed significant tweaks that might have flipped the switch for two frustrating bats working under two of the best hitting coaches in the bigs.

Just like the pair of tacos I engulfed, take a bite or 20 of this duo moving forward.

Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto made sweeping changes to their offense in the last few weeks but has stuck it out with their prized trade acquisition from last summer. Oozing with talent and teeming with inconsistency, Rasmus was hitting .203 following May 18 action.

In his eight games since then, he's 12-for-34 with two homers, six ribbies, two steals and five runs scored. Before the first game of that stretch (May 20), he made a key but familiar adjustment, moving up in the batter's box by about eight inches to a spot he had used early in his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. More from MLB.com:

"When he was deeper in the box, it gave him a little bit more time to read the pitch," manager John Farrell said. "I think some of that added time, maybe allowed some opportunity for some additional thoughts to get in there.
"[He began] thinking about other things other than just see the ball and hit the ball and take a more aggressive swing. I think at times he has tried to work the ball around the field, staying inside some pitches, hitting some balls into left-centre field. His strength is on the pull side, he showed that last night, and I think that's the swing that makes him most productive."

Extra movement and thinking can foul up any approach in any facet of baseball. Rasmus has had a lot on his mind the past few years, considering the tabloid-laden back-and-forths with manager Tony La Russa and his tumbling long-term stock.

Kansas City Royals OF Jeff Francoeur
French quarter now a dollar?

Luckily, Rasmus had already been hitting more liners of late than in the past, though he had been hitting rawhide into the ground more frequently, as well. He's not a contact bat, but attacking pitches sooner - especially fastballs - should do wonders for increasing his thump. Getting a natural head-start out in front should also aid his same-field mentality. Dwayne Murphy encourages his mashers to be aggressive and, more importantly, natural; if that means embracing your pull tendency, go nuts.

If Rasmus' owner hasn't noticed his turnaround, take advantage. After all, he's giving John Farrell more reason to extend his leash and keep center field as his domain. This could be the step forward we've been waiting for in the last few years.

Jeff Francoeur, OF, Kansas City Royals

That 0.44 BB/K is a landmark in the free swinger's career, and his interaction with fans has become the stuff of legends. But following a growth season in 2011, the late bloomer had disappointed in the counting categories for most of 2012.

Frenchy, however, recently built on the fine work he did under Kevin Seitzer's watch last year while experiencing a revelation of his own:

Francoeur attributed the turnaround to an adjustment he made during batting practice on May 20. Instead of wrapping the bat around his body, Francoeur has been holding it at more of an angle, allowing him to get to pitches more quickly and make better contact. The faster swing gives Francoeur a chance to wait longer and see the ball deeper into the strike zone.

His quicker swing trigger has led to four homers and a 16-for-32 effort in the eight games since his BP breakthrough.

One of Francoeur's well-known flaws was his premature hacking - jumping the gun, not waiting for the pitch to reach him. This gives him more time to define his strike zone. His contact peripherals were up even before his changes.

Oddly enough, Francoeur's path to success is the opposite of Rasmus' - allowing pitches to penetrate the black a bit more. It's more reason to consider each hitter on a case-by-case basis when it comes to what can help them. Different swings and approaches require different diagnoses and repairs.

Count Francoeur as a solid 20-10 bet, and his rediscovered raking should accelerate that pace. It's also looking like hitting above .280 again isn't as much of a pipe dream as once thought, though it's more likely he'll settle somewhere near .270. Regardless, you can strongly believe that 2012 Frenchy will wind up a lot like 2011 Frenchy. Tres bien....

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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