I am very happy to be able to bring you today's edition of Vantage Point, because for a large portion of the weekend, I was unsure it was going to happen at all. I was one of the many victims of Friday's derecho, a word that until this weekend, I had no idea actually existed.
A derecho is sort of a "ninja hurricane" that strikes with just as much force as a hurricane yet gives absolutely no warning that it is on its way. Trust me when I tell you that when you get woken up in the middle of the night to sheet lightning, 70 mph winds and the sound of your roof getting pelted with balls of ice raining down with more force than a Giancarlo Stanton home run blast, you'll not soon forget what a derecho is.
So I spent most of the weekend unexpectedly without any power, which -- to link this story back to the world of fantasy sports -- is what can often happen to owners who have sluggers who suddenly aren't hitting the ball over the wall nearly as much as they used to.
It's not just a matter of checking the home run leaderboards and making sure that your power hitter still ranks in the top 20 and deciding that all is well. If you do that, this kind of dip in power can often sneak up on you. You need to see how frequently your top bats are rounding the bases, and then compare their recent rate of success to that from earlier in the season in order to see if the change is worth getting into a panic about.
In the following cases, the past month has certainly been something to take seriously in terms of a huge dip in home run production:
We're not saying that there's no chance at a rebound for these guys. But certainly, there's enough of a dip where you'd want to take some notice and perhaps supplement your lineup with some guys who have been surging as of late until they do come around. Players to consider include Jim Thome (8.8 AB/HR in June), Brandon Moss (9.6), Justin Maxwell (10.4), Mark Trumbo (11.6) and Paul Goldschmidt (11.7).
On the flip side of the equation, if you want to look at some power hitters who may be due for a regression of sorts, the following names have been well outpacing their typical rate of home run success to the point that their production may well decline slightly over the next 30 days:
TOP 100 OVERALL PLAYERS
Note: AJ Mass' top 100 overall players are ranked based on statistics that have already been accrued in ESPN standard points formats and should be used as a supplement to the ESPN Player Rater.
Billy Butler, DH, Kansas City Royals: Congratulations to the 2012 All-Star on receiving the well-deserved honor. Week 12 marked the fourth straight scoring period in which Butler (.433 OBP in his last 7 GP) increased his points production. With only 16 strikeouts in his last 27 games, Butler is a rare commodity -- a player who can give you decent power without damaging your overall points total.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: By averaging 23 fantasy points over the past five weeks, Lawrie has been able to overcome a relatively slow start to the 2012 season and break into the Top 100. Since May 30, he's hit 63 percent of his home runs and batted .303 in that stretch. He's also still getting a green light on the bases; though his success rate is only 58 percent, at least in leagues where getting caught stealing doesn't deduct points, you needn't worry.
Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals: Certainly, Desmond's stock rose a ton thanks to the .474 batting average, two home runs and five RBIs he amassed during a four-game set at Coors Field. However, Desmond's value has actually been solid for the past month. Since June 2, he's hit .302 and driven in 20 runs. That's an uptick in production at the shortstop position that can't be traced back exclusively to one solid series at altitude.
Jonathon Niese, SP, New York Mets: Perhaps more impressive than the fact Niese went 3-1 in June with a 1.89 ERA is his 3.78 K/BB rate for the past month. In fact, he's walked just a single batter in each of his past five starts, including a 17-1 blowout victory at Wrigley Field in which he very easily could have fallen victim to laziness while pitching with a huge lead.
Mat Latos, SP, Cincinnati Reds: Yes, his ERA in June was an unimpressive 4.19, but if you take away the one stinker of an outing on June 18 against the Cleveland Indians -- a team he was facing for the second time in a week -- his ERA is a far more respectable 2.85. Again, without that one bad outing, he's struck out an average of nine hitters in his past three starts and is clearly headed in the right direction.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians: Choo has managed to hit .317 since June 5, and all but six of those 25 games came on the road. For his career, Choo has hit .300 at home, a good 19 points better than away from Progressive Field. That gives us every reason to be optimistic that his recent hot streak (52 fantasy points over the last two scoring periods) is no fluke.
Felix Doubront, SP, Boston Red Sox: It's one thing to be a little wild. It's quite another to walk five against the Seattle Mariners, the team with the worst OBP in the American League. With a 5.93 ERA in his past five starts, the only reason Doubront's stock isn't lower is that he won two games in which the Boston Red Sox gave him double-digit run support.
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees: Every hit brings him closer and closer to the top 10 performers in that category all time, so Jeter's successes get him a lot of attention. That said, we're still looking at an aging veteran who needs time off more often than his younger counterparts and a .216 batting average over his past four series. The clock ticks ever faster.
Lance Lynn, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: Now it's three straight outings (and four of his past six) in which he's earned negative points in ESPN standard scoring. Sure a regression was bound to take place, but four home runs allowed in his past two games and an ERA approaching 10.00 in his past three? Perhaps now is the time to take advantage of the All-Star luster and sell before it gets any worse.
Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians: On June 18, he had 22 saves. Two weeks later, he has 23. Sure, a large part of that is the fact the save opportunities have been few and far between, but it just goes to show that when it comes to closers, their value is often hamstrung by things completely out of their own control. The strikeouts should continue to mount when he gets into games, but how often those appearances will mean anything going forward is the concern.
Sean Rodriguez, 2B/SS/3B, Tampa Bay Rays: In a recent stretch in which he hit .313 and drove in three runs, it looked like Rodriguez might be turning into one of those players whom you could selectively spot start and utilize on your studs' off days to boost your stats. Then Tampa Bay claimed Brooks Conrad off waivers, and since June 26, Rodriguez is 0-for-9 and his ownership has dropped to below 10 percent. Back to the drawing board!
Cliff Pennington, SS, Oakland Athletics: Few players have performed worse in the past two weeks than the Oakland shortstop. Since June 19, he's batted just 3-for-32 (.094) with nine strikeouts and only two walks. Aside from a solo shot this past Thursday, his run production has been completely nonexistent. And don't think recent call-up Brandon Hicks will be the answer for the A's, either, as he's earned an F with a 3-for-19 in his six appearances during Pennington's slide.