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Fantasy Baseball Month In Review: April Hitters

Jose Abreu (ESPN.com)

The first full month of baseball is history folks, and hopefully by now you can tell the general fate of your fantasy baseball team. Whether you got unlucky with an early draft pick, or stumbled upon this season’s hot free agent, everyone is affected by a little luck when it comes to fantasy sports.  That’s where we come in, as we’re here at Sports of Boston to help eliminate this thing called “luck”, and assist you in humiliating you’re friends, family and co-workers.

With so much time left in the season, and new players showing glimpses of potential greatness, we’re here with a list of hot and cold batters for the month of April (and some of March) to help give you the edge you need. Covering both the American and National League, here’s the quick rundown of who to keep, drop, add or trade with some of the early 2014 season highlights.

Hot

Charlie Blackmon, OF Colorado Rockies

This guy knows how to hit a baseball. Coming into the 2014 season people knew who Charlie Blackmon was.  His above-average speed, athleticism and solid power made him a solid candidate to be a run-of-the-mill NL corner outfielder. But with questions about his discipline people were unsure of what to expect; good things if he could lower that strike out frequency, great if he could almost eliminate it.

In 82 games with 246 at-bats last season, Blackmon struck out 49 times, while walking only seven. That gives Blackmon about one strikeout per five at-bats, and seven strikeouts to every walk.  Compare those numbers to 2014 of a strikeout per 15 at-bats, and seven walks to only seven K’s. This guy has become efficient, leading the league in batting average (.379) while helping the Rockies boast one of the best offenses in the game today (with an assist by both Troy Tulowitzki, and of course, Coors Field).

Charlie Blackmon seems to be this year’s breakout player, and is even being mentioned in the same breath as Sir Michael Trout. If he’s on your squad you’re most likely near the top of your league and should be praising the beard that graces his face. If not and some idiot is holding onto him, it may be worth offering up some big names to bring him in as the numbers will be good from him from almost every angle.

Jose Abreu, 1B Chicago White Sox

The next Cuban sensation is here, and this man has not disappointed. Jose Abreu enters the line of sluggers from the island country as Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes have before him. Coming into the 2014 season, Abreu came in with similar expectations to Cespedes in 2012 after posting video game numbers in Cuba’s Professional league (.322, 13 home runs, 37 walks and an OPS of 1.262 in only 136 at-bats.)

Abreu has transitioned quite well here in the States, having one of the greatest months of April in baseball history, and the best ever for a Rookie.  Coming into the season many scouts foresaw high output from Abreu, but none predicted it to start like this.  Abreu finishes the month of April with a solid .270 batting average, while leading the league in home runs (10) and RBI (32).  While it’s obvious to say he won’t keep the same pace throughout the season, those numbers at this point in his rookie campaign translate to an insane 53 home runs and 171 RBI’s if he lasts only 150 games.

While he has probably brought you or a lucky friend a ton of success, my radar says sell. This by no means is an indication that keeping him will harm your team, as Abreu will most likely continue to hit the ball well.  It is however, a game of value, and Abreu is most likely hovering around his peak. The longevity in first year Cuban player has not been positive in the history books due to the much longer season in the MLB (162 regular season games) compared to that of the Cuban league (90 regular season games).  Take for instance Abreu’s Cuban League numbers as only once in 10 seasons did he ever have more than 300 at bats (2006). In their Major League rookie seasons, Yasiel Puig took 382 at-bats, with Cespedes tallying 487. With Abreu already at 115 at-bats, it’s tough to say how much longer he’ll continue his power streak, or how long he’ll hold up through the rigors of a full Major League season.  With no real speed in his game one cold streak could do some serious damage to his value as it is with any power hitter, so be wary.

With the recent story on Yasiel Puig’s journey to America (Coming to a theatre near you, seriously, look it up) it’s amazing what these star athletes go through just to play in the Major Leagues.  Many household names have gone through the same battle as Puig to play baseball in America, such as Aroldis Chapman, Jose Fernandez and Yoenis Cespedes.  It’s incredible to watch these men play, even more so after hearing the journey.  Hopefully an easier way of bringing Cuban talent to the MLB can be found soon to keep these guys from harm.

Cold

Allen Craig, 1B/OF St. Louis Cardinals

Coming into the 2014 season, Craig fell into the category of one of those above-average hitters that could have a breakout season, or continue to hit at a “7 out of 10” level, think a Brandon Belt or a Ben Zobrist type of production level.  But to start of the season Craig has been pretty lackluster. Batting .192 with home run and RBI numbers low enough to have to spell out in AP format (two and eight respectively), Craig has been quite the disappointment with owners looking for him to build on his .310, 20 HR, 100 RBI potential this season.

Despite playing right field on an average night, Craig maintains first base position eligibility as well, which does add value.  However with so many better options at that position, Craig barley seems to be worth the start, even in an outfield.  So what to do? Drop? Trade? Go to his house and demand better play?

Craig has put out three straight seasons with a batting average of .300 or better, and actually has a career average of .297.  Look for Craig to bounce back with some hitting ability soon, as he’s always good for quite a extra-base hits.  St. Louis has been a safe haven for batters for quite some time from both a park, and coaching stand point.  Busch Stadium currently stands as the fourth best park for hits in the Major Leagues (Check out these awesome rankings from ESPN: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor/_/sort/hitsFactor). While he should be spitting seeds and chewing gum on your bench, wait for any sign of better contact, and start him.  If a friend has him you know you can fool, get him for cheap now as his career batting average in May is .356, and .330 in June (and even has 26 home runs in 27 June games).

Prince Fielder, 1B Texas Rangers

The big guy is back on a new team this season, and unlike his start in Detroit, his opening act isn’t going so well.  Moving to a hitter’s park in Arlington was said to boost the numbers that slugger Prince Fielder would put up, but a month into the 2014 season has Fielder sitting with a .202 average, with two home runs and only nine RBI (surprisingly, no stolen bases in case you were wondering).

Besides his struggles hitting the ball, the 275 pound veteran has a certain birthday looming on the horizon, as he turns the big 3-0 on May 9th. Aside from being an age where a majority of athletes begin to decline, one major factor of turning 30 years old goes back to his father, Cecil Fielder. A 3-time all-star, and two time Silver Slugger Award winner, Cecil Fielder made four consecutive MVP ballots from 1990-1993 at the ages of 26-29.  After hitting 30 years old however, he saw a massive decline in numbers, and didn’t receive a single MVP vote, or all-star nomination again.  Will Prince follow in the footsteps of his Dad? Probably not.

While it’s easy to say he’ll bounce back, it’s also easy to say he can do it hitting in Arlington half the season. April and March have been one of the Fresh Prince’s worst months throughout his career, his second best average however, comes in May at .291 (compared to his March/April average of .277). Be patient on the big fella and good things will come. With the rise of fellow slumping Ranger Elvis Andrus, Fielder should see a rise in numbers very soon. This makes him a great steal from friends, offer up an out-performer such as a Justin Morneau and see if they bite.  You could see another 30-40 home runs from the Fresh Prince of Arlington if all works out.

About Mike Swartz - @@mswartz19

My name is Mike Swartz, I am a graduate of the University of Mississippi and grew up in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Sports has played a major role in my life since I was young, whether it was playing them, watching games on TV or reading box scores every morning before school. I have held jobs with the Ole Miss men's and women's basketball teams, and also worked for the media relations department there. I contributed to stories on the school's athletic website and helped develop annual media guides among other jobs while at college. While I am a huge Red Sox fan, I had the difficult task of growing up in New England during the days of Tom Brady as a Jets fan. While I may not support every team, my love for the city of Boston, and adoration for the fiery passion that each fan holds is something I have come to respect. You can find me writing about fantasy sports, baseball, football, basketball and collegiate athletics. I am excited to be writing for Sports of Boston and ready to cover one of the greatest sports town in America!

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