In my previous article, I talked about the difficulties in trying to predict a player’s future performance who has changed his swing. Below are three examples of fantasy-relevant players who have made swing changes this season who could provide great returns for owners savvy enough to invest now.
Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals): The once and (maybe still) future king of baseball has struggled mightily this season, between being decidedly average and stints on the DL Harper has disappointed owners who invested during the draft. Even a pre-All Star Break power surge has done little to provide hope that there are better days on the horizon for Harper.
Enter the “stack and jack”. No, that’s not a breakfast special at your local diner, it’s the name of Harper’s new batting stance. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post describes the change below:
“Harper made three changes. He stood upright with less bend in his knees. He held his hands lower, level with his chest. He relaxed his left elbow so it pointed at the ground behind him.
The overall effect made him calmer in his actions. Harper had been “jumpy” upon his return from the disabled list, Williams said. The new stance seemed designed to eliminate the anxiousness, to allow Harper to stay back and wait on pitches.”
Last night, Bryce went 3-for-4 with a solo shot, and while one game does not a robust sample size make, given his upside I’d trade for him like he’s a Top 20 OF going forward.
Chase Headley (3B, Padres): I was skeptical of Headley prior to draft day, and, thanks to US Airways, he was autodrafted onto my team. The only good thing I can say about the Padres’ 3B is that his mediocrity forced me to add Todd Frazier to my team early on in the season, a move that has paid huge dividends. Recently, Headley returned to the “natural grip” (the one he used in his torrid 2012 season) that apparently gives him more leverage and allows him to be “shorter” to the ball. In 12 games since his grip switch he’s slugged .788 with 6 RBI and one dinger. A 2012ish Headley is a Top 10 3B, but the real upside here is that he gets traded to a more hitter-friendly park and a better team (e.g. Toronto Blue Jays), which changes him to possible Top 5. Regardless, he’s worth a look in leagues where Todd Frazier or Migue Cabrera isn’t your 3B.
Steve Pearce (DH, Orioles): The second coming of Raúl Ibañez finally figured it out at age 31, and in a huge way. Pearce has changed his stance to an extreme closed one– even when he makes contact with the ball, it remains mostly closed. This has allowed him to lay off bad inside pitches and crush those that grab a piece of the plate. In particular he’s crushed fastballs this year, to the tune of a rediculous Pitchf/x wFA of 9 and a wFT of 4.6. That .343 BABIP is not sustainable, but if that .247 ISO is even close to real, as long he gets playing time he should be owned in most mixed leagues.