PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 04: Jason Kubel #13 of the Arizona Diamondbacks breaks his bat on an inside pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on June 4, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
In this week's fantasy column, writer Cody Ulm takes a look at Jason Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill while deciding which blazing hot hitter will continue to be valuable for the rest of 2012.
It may have took till mid-June, but the Arizona Diamondbacks finally have a big three that's beginning to make their offense look like a force to be reckoned with. But before you automatically assume Justin Upton, Miguel Montero and Chris Young have awoken from their deep slumber, I'm going to respectfully ask that you put away your jump to conclusions mat and check the numbers.
This under-appreciated bunch is the real reason the D-backs have averaged 7.2 runs during this five-game winning streak. In fact, in the past week, the monster known as Jason Goldhill (see what I did there) has totaled 25 hits in their past 53 at bats; that's a .462 average to go along with a combined total of five home runs, 22 RBI and 13 runs.
Still, those numbers are cute and all but which of these blazing batsmen will continue to be a viable fantasy option for the remaining 102 games? Well, if your league gives bonus forearm circumference points, then Goldy is your man. If not, than the answer may be more surprising than you would think. Let's break each gentleman down individually as we sift through the fire for reality:
Hey remember when everyone thought that $15 million we handed Kubel was a terrible idea? Yeah, I'm fairly confident Arizona would be closer to the NL West cellar than a possible wild card if Kubes was wearing other colors.
Through sixty games, Kubel has put up arguably the most quiet .299/.379/.485 split I can remember in recent memory. With Upton struggling mightily, Kubel has been raking from the third and fifth spots, hitting .357 in those 53 at bats from arguably the two most important positions in a lineup.
And what is the biggest reason for his success you may ask? Well, the 30-year-old outfielder is somehow mashing a very respectable .309 AVG off lefties after hitting a combined .240 in his previous 430 at bats against southpaws from 2009-2011.
Obviously there's going to be some regression since he's still striking out against lefty pitchers at the essentially the same rate (23.5% in 2012 compared to 25.1% from 2009-2011) but the reigning NL co-player of the week could still be in line for a career year.
I predicted back in March that Kubel would hit around 25 homers and 90 RBI and those numbers are easily still in reach. Although 20 bombs are more realistic, he's going to have a solid OBP while hovering in top-35 outfield territory which is a solid starter in my book.
I love Gooooooooooold! And I'm not afraid to admit it. Nor am I afraid to admit that I was wrong when I said Goldschmidt would be a poor fantasy backup first baseman. In fact, Goldschmidt is currently ESPN's 12th best first baseman ahead of the likes of Mark Teixeira, Joe Mauer andFreddie Freeman.
Now that I've admitted Goldy has made me look stupid, let's get one important fact out of the way: his current average is about as sustainable as the sport of boxing following the Bradley Pacquiao decision.
Then again that's what a MLB best 17-game hit streak will do for you. But no one drafted this 24-year-old slugger with hopes of him hitting .293. Those who took the chance did it for his raw power and that investment is paying off with Goldschmidt smacking six of his eight homers this season in the past 13 games alone.
The benefit of these streaky ways is that manager Kirk Gibson is finally building up enough confidence in his young first baseman to keep him in the lineup more consistently. After get one or less at bats in 13 of the first 46 games, Goldschmidt has now not been in the starting lineup once over the past 14 contests.
Yes, he'll still get more days off than any other first baseman in the top ten with Lyle Overbay hitting .345 against righties and Gibby's tendency to prefer the veterans but he's still a very valuable commodity in leagues with daily lineup changes. You'd be better off pairing Goldy with someone like Adam LaRoche or Bryan LaHair (depending on matchups) then running someone like Corey Hart or Eric Hosmer out there every day. I wouldn't be shocked at all if Goldschmidt finishes this season on the cusp of top ten glory with his power numbers in this offense but you better be able to sustain the blow from his inevitable .260 average.
Of these three, Hill, in my opinion, is the most difficult to project. After hitting .315 in the final 33 games following his trade to Arizona, Hill hit a more reasonable .262 in the first two months of 2012. While that should come as a surprise to no one as he's a .267 career hitter, Hill's coveted power at the middle infield position may actually be back.
What most forget is that it was merely two years ago that Hill clubbed 26 homers in 138 games. Following two seasons of battling the Mendoza Line in Toronto, a good majority of folks may have considered the former all star over the hill (no pun intended) a few seasons too early.
Hill already has six homers on the season, which is only two short of what he had all of last year. To put it simply, Hill just loves hitting at Chase Field but it doesn't take a genius to see that with his .336/.196 home vs. away split.
What has changed with Hill as he's aged is that he's became a craftier base-stealer. The seven year vet stole 21 bases last season after stealing only 23 from 2005-2010. With five swiped already on the year, odds are Hill will easily reach at least ten especially when you factor in Gibson's aggressive managerial tactics.
So as long as Gibby continues to use Hill in the two-hole in front of the likes of Upton, Montero, Kubel and Goldy, the speed and power combination make Hill a useful 10-team mixed league option.
Well...make a decision already!
Okay, sorry! I told you this ones too close to call!
If you haven't caught on yet, each one of these men definitely deserve to be owned in every single fantasy league. As for trying to make a trade, you're probably too late for Kubel or Goldschmidt. Unless their owners have a glut of quality players at their respective positions, you're probably going to have to overpay for either since this is most likely the high point of their seasons. If you can afford to wait, Goldy should come for cheap as soon as he goes on one of his predictable cold streaks but you'd be wise to have a backup option as he's a up and down as they get.
Hill, on the other hand, could still probably be had for pennies on the dollar. Most seem to not have caught on yet, as he was available in my 14 team league as recent as about a week ago. For the rest of the season, I prefer Hill over the likes of Omar Infante, Dustin Ackley, Howie Kendrickand even Mike Aviles. If I had to bet, I'd say Hill finishes somewhere in the 9 to 11 range for second baseman. Sure, he's not going to blow anyone away with his numbers but he'll contribute in each category across the board at a position that's historically thin as they come.
Still, for my final prognosis, I still have to go with Kubel as the most valuable. Kubes is firmly entrenched in the middle of one of the NL's best lineups and should continue to put up quietly productive numbers even if that average against lefties plummets. But if we're going value by position, Hill is the winner without a doubt thanks to his 20-10 upside at the top of a lineup full of power bats.