Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Waiver Wire Gold: SS/3B/OF Bill Hall


Last year, Milwaukee Brewers' super-utility man Bill Hall enjoyed a breakout season which saw him hit 35 HR and slug a ridiculous .553 while being fantasy eligible at 2B, SS, and 3B. Needless to say, if you were able to plug in 35 HR and 85 RBIs into your 2B or SS slot, you had a big leg up on the competition. This season was not completely unexpected, as Hall enjoyed a productive 2005 campaign, which saw him hit .291 with 17 HR and 62 RBIs to go along with a solid .495 slugging percentage.

The start of 2007 was a different story for Hall, as he had to learn to play center field on the job, and it took a toll on his offensive. In April, Hall's numbers were a bit misleading, as he had a nice line of 4 HR, 11 RBIs, and 6 doubles. Throw in some good plate discipline with 10 walks, and you would figure he had a good month. His .239 batting average put a damper on otherwise solid production, and one can explain that average by looking at his high strikeout rate (21 Ks in about 100 plate appearances) and probably hitting into some bad luck.

The month of May was a little better in terms of average, with the batting average up to .273, but he walked only 5 times to go along with only 2 HR and 9 RBIs. He still hit a high number of doubles, 7, but the strikeout rate was still too high (26 Ks). Hall was becoming more comfortable in center field, and his offensive production started to reflect with a strong month of June.

Hall hit .307 in June, walking 13 times to give him a lofty .388 on-base percentage. He slugged .523, and he started to finally look like the Hall of 2006. He was still striking out too much (23 times in June), but he was making enough hard contact to find gaps (10 doubles) and drive in more runners (17 RBIs). It appeared Hall finally had it all together, until a high ankle sprain derailed his season. He has spent nearly 20 days on the DL, but is due to return this week. The time has come to add Bill Hall to fantasy rosters if you are so lucky to have him available. Here's why:

1. Baseball Prospectus' sophisticated PECOTA projection system tabbed Hall to go .278 with 32 HR, 94 RBI, 100 runs, and 13 SB, with a .346 on-base percentage. He won't approach those totals, but the stage is set for him produce at that rate the rest of the way, assuming there are no linger effects from his ankle sprain.

2. His high doubles totals (24) suggest Hall has driven the ball very well all year, and it is not a stretch for a few more of those doubles to turn into home runs.

3. Motivation will not be a factor, as his Brewers are in a tight pennant race with the Chicago Cubs.

4. With his skills, he is a good bet to have more value the rest of the way over such overvalued SS eligible players like J.J. Hardy, Michael Young, Orlando Cabrera, Brendan Harris, Jhonny Peralta, Aaron Hill, Freddy Sanchez, and Troy Tulowitzky.

5. His position eligibility is priceless. In typical Yahoo Leagues, he qualifies at SS/3B/OF and CI & MI if your league plays those spots. That kind of flexibility allows you to maximize the value of your roster in this crucial time in fantasy leagues.

6. He is in his age 27 season, which is thought to be the statistical peak for hitters.

7. Given health, based on the pre-season projections and the in-season production, you can reasonably expect a line looking like this the rest of the way: .275 with 8-10 HR, 30-40 RBIs, 35-45 runs, and a handful of steals (depending on his willingness to run after the ankle injury).

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