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This week, Are You For Real is going to take a look at three such players. Despite early-season struggles, they are owned in a large percentage of ESPN leagues and are difficult for their owners to assess. Are they worth holding onto in the hopes of a season-saving rebound, or will they remain dead weight all year?
Adam: For Real. In 2004, Delgado had a similar start to the season, blasting 15 home runs yet hitting .220 through the first three months. He then proceeded to hit .333 for the rest of the season and finished with a .269 batting average and 32 home runs. The point is that Delgado is an extremely streaky player and always has been, and it is possible for such a player to stay in a prolonged funk. Delgado's walk rate is down, but he is still seeing a good number of pitches; he's seeing 3.74 pitches per plate appearance this season, compared to 3.80 in 2006. While there is a possibility Delgado is experiencing an actual decline to his skill set due to age, he is still in a great position to provide value simply because of the team he is on. Delgado has a ton of opportunities to hit with men on base -- he has already hit with 197 men on base, 20th in the majors -- and when he gets hot, he makes up on lost time rapidly.
Will: For Real I agree that Delgado has to be kept in all formats. His track record is too strong, and his opportunity to produce counting stats is solid even while struggling. Plus, a 25 percent hit rate is contributing to the low batting average. However, Delgado is still not hitting the ball with authority this season. It's possible that offseason surgeries on his wrist and elbow are still troubling him. Expect a rebound in the second half, but know that there is more health risk here than usual, and be willing to trade Delgado if a hot streak generates interest from your leaguemates.
Adam: Unreal. Cano hasn't yet developed the secondary skills to become more than just a batting average-dependant player. His rookie year was superb for a 22-year-old: He hit .297 with above-average power for a second baseman. He couldn't take a walk, but few 22-year-olds can even handle the majors. But since Cano brings no speed to the table, he is only going to be a fantasy asset when he is able to hit near .300. The really disconcerting thing is the loss of Cano's power; he has only three home runs and is slugging .415. A 22-year-old slugging .458 could lead to future stardom, but now he has seemingly taken a step back. Cano was overvalued from the start of the season, and with the influx of productive second basemen, there is now too much quality depth to wait for Cano to consolidate all his potential skills into one package.
Will: Unreal. Cano's 2006 batting average was fueled entirely by an incredibly high hit percentage on balls in play. Owners shouldn't expect anywhere near a rebound to that level. Cano posted a career batting average of .278 over 1,930 minor league at-bats, with a slugging percentage of .425. His current numbers are well in line with his true skills, and owners shouldn't expect a "rebound" to 2006 levels at all. Even the power production isn't as far off as it may seem. Cano's minor league track record tells us that he's capable of performing at the 10-15 home run level. He hit 14 and 15 home runs in his first two major league seasons and is currently on pace for nine. That's a difference barely worth noting. Expect Cano to hit around .275 and average a dozen homers for several years to come.
Adam: Unreal. The problem with Garciaparra is that there is no potential upside. Even at his best, Nomar wasn't a monstrous slugger, because the root of his power came from his batting eye. Last year he slugged .505, which is about right, and at shortstop or third base, that's an asset; at first base, it's on the wrong side of marginal. Nomar will be 34 in a month, and with so many injuries throughout his career, this could easily be the beginning of the end. Even if he rebounds, his skill set is more of a Sean Casey, not a Jim Thome, and at first base, that's an anchor you can't afford, especially with the last remnants of his speed now gone. And that's without even factoring in the ever-present injury risk, too.
Will: Unreal. Garciaparra's batting eye is still strong, and although age does seem to be slowing his bat a bit, he still owns excellent hitting skills. His power, however, is disappearing for good. For the last five years there has been a steady trend of Garciaparra hitting more balls on the ground and fewer in the air. That metamorphosis is slowly sapping Garciaparra's power production, and it's not likely to reverse itself. Nomar isn't finished as a useful baseball player, but Adam is dead on in pointing out that his skills are those of a middle infielder, not a first baseman.
Will Harris and Adam Madison are fantasy baseball analysts for TalentedMrRoto.com. Will can be contacted at WillHarris@TalentedMrRoto.com and Adam at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com