Each week, Collin Hager uses his HVaC Scoring System to let you know whom to start and drop this week in head-to-head fantasy baseball leagues. This week’s must-starts:
White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez started the season hot and has not cooled off as many would have expected. In fact, he is a candidate to continue hitting the way he has. The HVaC scores him out as the No. 4 shortstop through the end of the season even when taking into account the fact his power numbers may not be as strong as they have been in the early going.
Ramirez is crushing fastballs, both the two- and four-seam variety. Overall, he is hitting .310 when he sees the pitch.
While pitchers are showing it to him less than they have in the past, Ramirez takes advantage of his opportunities. While there is legitimate concern about his production against breaking pitches, Ramirez has shown the ability to produce on pitches that suit his strengths.
In addition, Ramirez has seen his BABIP rise each year since 2008 and his hits per plate appearance metric in the HVaC is helping push his value up. Couple this with his projection to beat the positional mean in stolen bases and he creates strong value in two key categories in the middle infield.
Beltran has not been healthy enough to perform consistently in 2014, but his historical numbers should have him more widely owned than the 73 percent of ESPN teams that have picked up him. His BABIP is at its lowest level at any point in his career while his contact rate is up and swing percentage consistent with past years.
Some of these hits should start to fall, especially in that home ballpark. At No. 47 in the outfield the rest of the way, there is good value to be had.
This is a case where there is a need to normalize for the number of at-bats a player will have the rest of the season. Given his recent activation, it is not unreasonable to see him outperforming his projections in home runs and RBI the rest of the year. As we adjust his plate-appearance totals, Ramirez projects into a borderline top 12 player at third base. Given the injuries here, this is worth mentioning.
The Kansas City catcher is gaining some traction, and for good reason. His numbers are beginning to mirror those of his 2013 season. While struggling in terms of run production, his power numbers and average should provide a boost for owners. Perez has shown improvement in swinging at pitches in the zone to go with consistent contact rates. His improved walk rate and plate discipline will help make him a starter in most mixed formats the rest of the way.
Two Royals? Yes, two Royals this week. Vargas is owned in only a third of ESPN leagues yet has already posted five quality starts and six wins overall. The one statistic a pitcher has more control over than not is where Vargas struggles. With a 6.51 K/9 rate and just 67 strikeouts overall, there is room for improvement. That said, he piles up innings, has a strong WHIP and has numbers very much in line with his nine-win season from last year and his 14-win season from 2012. He comes in as a top 80 pitcher and a strong add in deeper leagues.