Category Archives: Pickups

Can’t Be Worse in 2013… Right?

This picture made me very happy but has little to do with the article. Fair warning.

This time of year presents some of my favorite baseball writing. Beat writers struggling to make PFP drills and AAAA scrimmages as exciting as the real thing, often with weird and hilarious results. Authors rating the “best” offseason, analyzing rookies and naming sleepers. These are all fun, but one of my favorite types of articles is the “bounceback” story. Call me a sucker for redemption.

I read dozens of these every spring, yet it has only now occurred to me the amusing subtext in many of these pieces. Sugarcoat it all you want, throw in fancy words and compliments both back and front-handed, many baseball “bounceback” stories boil down to a most basic human sense of dread – it can’t get much worse.

So without dancing around the issue, here are the guys who can’t get much worse in 2013. Seriously.  If they did it might break math or something:

Michael Young

static lip reading: “shooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot”

Maybe Michael Young got old (let’s be clear: he’s 36, so in real-people years his life is just kicking into full-on grown up gear – but in baseball years…).  I doubt that has to do with his crappy 2012.  If indeed he did get old…. damn did it happen fast.  Bizarrely so.  No, I imagine such suckitude was an anomaly.  Young has long been compared to Paul Molitor (or at least I always have), another guy who played wherever he was asked to, DH’ed a bit, and always went bout his business – the business of hitting.  Young had 9 straight years of 170+ hits, and that is with a 2009 season cut short with a hammy injury.  He had been a model of consistency.  So just how bad was he?  Let’s look at some numbers!  Hooray numbers!

Young had a negative WAR, -1.4.  You need to know very little about numbers and even less about WAR to know that a negative stat is probably bad.  In this case, that number signifies that a replacement player would have been a BETTER OPTION THAN MIKE YOUNG.  Yikes (For those of you unfamiliar with this and any following statistics, I refer you here, to Fangraphs’ Glossary, where much smarter people have explained them in much more intelligent ways).

Wanna know who had a better WAR than Young, just for kicks? Carlos Pena did, and he hit below .200.  Jemile Weeks did, and his WAR was zero – they could’ve put any schmo in the minors in his spot, right statistics?  Both Juan Uribe AND Juan Pierre had a better WAR’s and they’re, well, Juan Pierre and Juan Uribe.

WAR is not the be all, end all – just ask Mike Trout – but it is a useful measure in comparing players against the league norms.  Maybe you don’t like WAR.  Maybe you like ‘old school’ ideas and stats.  Sabermetricians and old fogie scouts can all agree that a great measure of a player (given enough At Bats or sample size, depending on your era) is OBP.  If a guy gets on base, whether you see it in numbers on paper or with yuor own fading eyesight, he’s generally a useful player, as Mike Young had once been.  In 2012, Young had an OBP of .312.  Which is gross. Howie Kendrick was 20 points better, and he swings at everything (154 BB career).  Hunter Pence’s OBP was higher and if he doesn’t swing 48% of the time the bomb in his bat detonates (Hunter Pence is a big, big Keanu Reeves fan).

Toss aside numbers for a moment, though.  If you had the misfortune of rooting for Mr. Young last year, whether it be for your fantasy team (me) or your real team (Rangers) or both (sorry, friends), you could see he looked plain bad.  Some skills fade with age, sure.  Young won’t be stealing double digit bases again.  But his hand eye and batting eye have simply not fallen off the map.  With an ADP well over 200 (230 at the time of this article), I assure you Young is worth taking a flyer on in Fantasy Baseball.  As for the real thing?  The Phillies also took a flyer, betting that Young will hit until he quits ( Molitor had 225 hits when he was 39 years old).  After all, it can’t get much worse.

Thanks, Vin! You’re welcome, Mike.

Eric Hosmer

shucks.

Pairing Hosmer and Young together in this list seemed… poetic.  Young is riding out his last few years in the league, striving to be productive.  Hosmer is the cornerstone of what is a recurrently ‘up-and-coming’ franchise.  We all assume he is really, really good.  He demolished each minor league level, then stepped up into the bigs and had a damn fine rookie year.  Dare I say sophomore slump?  Sophomore slump.  Yes, I dared, it’s right there in the previous sentence.  I even remembered that stupid ‘O’ in ‘sophomore.’  Pay attention.

As good as Hosmer’s 2011 was, so too was his 2012 not (good, that is).  Sentence structure aside, many were left disappointed by the young slugger’s campaign.  He declined in every important offensive category, save for steals.  So at least he was trying.  When you dive into the numbers, his season is just plain yucky.  

Here’s another fun statistical measure: wRC+ (ahem, Fangraphs).  Here’s what you need to know about Weighted Runs Created (wRC):  it’s an improved version of Bill James’ Runs Created (RC) statistic, which attempted to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs.  Cool right?  That James guy is a superweirdo, but he’s wicked smaht.  The stat itself makes sense in a very basic way, right?  Well Hosmer sucked at it.  Technically, he was ‘above average’ with his wRC+ of 81 (80 is above average, in general), but when looked at a comparative, larger context, we see the idea of ‘above average,’ measured statistically or not, is subjective.  Here are four players (minimum 400 PA, which Hosmer had easily) with better wRC+ than Hosmer.  Tell me if any of them are guys you MUST have on a team in a non-ironic way:

Andres Torres (87) // Omar Infante (92) // Rajai Davis (86) // Justin Smoak (85)

None of these guys are genuinely BAD players, but Hosmer is a Franchise player and once played like one.  Skate Play better, man.  Not to pick on Carlos Pena, but damn, Hosmer, even HE had better value metrics.  Speaking of sexy new player-value statistics, Hosmer also clocked in under zero at a robust -1.1 WAR  (RAR, Runs Above Replacement, is not only hilarious thing cats say, but also a negative measure of Hosmer badness (-10.4)).

Tired of these WAR’s and LOL-ing and RAWR’s and tweetsnapping?  Forget the new statistical measures, his basic numbers stunk too, from BA to RBI.  Check his splits.  He stunk prior to the AS break.  He stunk after.  He had a decent month of August… and that’s about it.  LHP/RHP splits – both bad.  I could go on.  He stunk.  On top of all that, anecdotally, you will not find a person who said he looked good last year not named Hosmer (and his Mom even admitted he ‘probably could have been better against off speed pitches’).  The best news?  You can draft him in fantasy at a bargain price.  The further good news?  Sophomore slumps only apply to Sophomores and Freshmen who decide to go to private school and get held back a  year so they can still somehow be ‘Freshmen.’  Also?  He can’t get much worse.

right back at you, dawg

Honorable Mention: Carlos Pena, who might actually get worse than his sub-.200 batting average.  Sorry Carlos.

he seems okay with it.

Ricky (retch noise) Romero

(sobbing)

Where to start with Ricky?  As someone who is unfortunately a Red Sox fan, I witnessed the abomination that was 2012 Ricky Romero several times closely.  As someone who drafted him in fantasy baseball 2012, I said horrible, horrible things about Romero regularly.  He made the 2012 Valensox look like sluggers and in several games I streamed on MLB.tv looked like he was throwing a damaged wiffle ball, having no idea where his (hopefully) better thought out pitches were going to end up.  I know, I know – cool story, bro.

More numbers?  More numbers.

FIP/xFIP or (Expected) Fielding Independent Pitching are really cool measures, far more relevant as they attempt to look deeper and normalize (in statistical, not Stepford, terminology) the crude measure of ERA and how good/bad a pitcher was.    As a general (ahem, Fangraphs) rule, an FIP/xFIP of 4 is average and an FIP/xFIP of 5 is AWFUL (Their word).  Romero’s line?  FIP: 5.14   xFIP: 4.86

Whether you want an expected or calculated measure (a difference of how HR rates are calculated), Romero was about as bad as it gets.  To pile on the crappy numbers, his K rate, usually a high point, fell to just over 6 (mediocre).  His BB/9 inning rate was an absurd 5.22.  His swinging strike rate dropped a full percentage point – it’s easy not to swing and miss when the guy has to groove it over the plate in desperate need of a pitch in the strike zone.  The best thing you can say about his 0.5 WAR season? He pitched.  In an injury plagued year for Toronto pitchers, Romero started 32 games.  So… good job, good effort.  He didn’t even have a better year than the internet’s favorite SP (starting punching-bag), Bruce Chen (more wins, higher K/9, 1.4 WAR on and on…).  The good news for Toronto?  They made a few move this offseason, I think.  As for Romero?  It cannot get much worse.

it’s good to have hobbies.

Ervin Santana

keep askin’

You may be saying, “gosh, Romero was bad, but is there a guy who threw a random 1-hitter in June yet somehow managed even worse numbers?”  IF you are saying that, I’m guessing you were an Ervin Santana owner in 2012.  He gave up 39 homers.  Honestly, I thought about ending the paragraph right there.  That’s really bad.  I’ll add a few more.  He had a -0.9 WAR, a 5.63 FIP (jeebus christ!), and had a HR/Fly Ball rate of 18.9%, which is simply bananas.  I will not pile on Santana, as his issue was more inconsistency (numbers were FAR better second half of the year).  However, his numbers were not good, and given his up and down nature, I assure you – it can’t get much worse actually, he might get worse. Heads up.

Honorable Mentions/Tie: Heath Bell / John Axford / Alfredo Aceves

An he held his arm there for 4 days, but no one would give him that pound

Aceves blew at least 8 games in spectacular fashion for a 2012 team that captured awfulness in spectacular fashion.  He was inconsistent on the field, unhappy off the field and was (well, is, I guess) a weirdo overall.  Just when you though it was safe to own him in fantasy baseball or root for him in real baseball, he would walk 4 guys in an inning and look wholly uninterested.  He had an unseemly 5.36 ERA but that was helped by a few decent spurts.  Even when he was pitching “well,” he would walk a batter for every strikeout.  The numbers fib, in this case.  As someone who watched more of the turd stain that was the Boston Red Sox 2012 season, I can attest to the fact that Aceves, save for perhaps one 15 day stretch in the spring, was a bad guy to have on any team, in any sense.  Plus, his disgusting sweatiness made me uncomfortable watching games and must be very difficult on the hardworking laundry staff at Yawkey Way.

His FIP was a poor 4.33.  He pitched worse as the god-awful season went on.  He blew saves and holds. He had a BB/9 inning of 3.33.  But most important of all, when he came into a game, there was an audible groan in the Northeast.  This guy made an awful season worse.

Axford blew 9 saves and forced the Brew Crew to realign their bullpen.  Bell blew 8 saves and was the first domino to fall (2nd game of the year) in a disastrous Marlins season.  Bell looked old and lost, regaining and losing his job and looking like a man who lost his mojo.  Axford, on the other hand had enough sense to regain his gnarly facial construction when chopping it off caused catastrophe.  I include Axford because he led the league in blown saves and did so in a short period of time in mesmerizing fashion (his June-beginning of August was BRUTAL).  For Axford, it can’t get much worse.  As for Bell and Aceves… Relievers are notoriously up-and-down, so one would assume they’ve already bottomed out.  I’ll say it – they can’t get much worse, either.

distracting.

There you have it, the players who scraped the bottom of the barrel in 2012.  Here’s to new beginnings and sneaky ADP’s going forward.

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Filed under Baseball, Closers, Fantasy Baseball, first base, GOOSE, JUAN URIBE, MLB, Pickups, pitchers, Posted, Sleepers

2nd Basemen ADP: While You Were Sleeping…

He's actually throwing her in front of that train. Real twisted film, that one.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012.  It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie.  C’mon.).  We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need.  And what you need is good value.  Second Base, for a while, was exceedingly top-heavy position to draft.  Then slowly (see what I did there? Those words don’t go together!), the bottom rose up.  There is value to be had at second throughout the draft, so be alert.  You don’t want a bargain to pass you by… while you were sleeping… (boom, nailed it.)

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

2ND BASEMEN

Second Base may not wow you for fantasy purposes.  Sure there is some elite talent in the likes of Cano, Kinsler and Pedroia, but after that you’re worried about Utley’s health, Rickie Week’s health, or, sigh, Dan Uggla.  But have faith, there are a unique combination of rising young talents and forgotten veterans just waiting to contribute to your team.  Admittedly, some of the second basemen lower in drafts do not offer the same impact across the board as, say, Cano, but if you miss out on the top there are a slew of guys who can contribute to a variety of categories for you.  If you’re looking for some pop from your second baseman and are thinking of taking Dan Uggla, wait a tic, there’s value to come (like Danny Espinosa or Jason Kipnis).

Jemile Weeks (OAK)- ADP 150.55

The younger Weeks is sandwiched in-between two other high-value picks, the aforementioned Espinosa (ADP 147) and Kipnis (ADP 165).  I’ll delve into them briefly.  They’re hot sleepers for most prognosticators  and deservedly so.  Espinosa is an awesome snag for 20-20 in 2012 (he came close in 2011), but he still has some holes in his swing and shouldn’t be trusted to hit above .250.  Kipnis, on the other hand, also has solid 15-20 homer potential with less speed but a higher average.

Weeks is a very different type of player.  Sometimes I think my judgement is skewed on the entire Weeks family due to our buddy Tim’s infatuation with both brothers (it’s intense.).  But I’ve seen Jemile with my own two, borderline superhuman, eyes, in addition to sorting through both his minor league and 2011 numbers, and he’s a unique talent for fantasy, especially in leagues where people are reaching for Ackley or are inexplicably drafting Neil Walker (ADP – 141 – I just don’t get it).  He’s a solid hitter and runs extremely well.  He was impressive if unspectacular in 2011, but imagine these hypothetical numbers: 30 doubles, 10 triples, 30 steals and an average around .300.  Add on his solid eye and manageable K rate and you’re looking at a very productive player at a very reasonable price.  If, by some miracle, the Oakland offense outperforms your local little league team, Weeks could also be a real quiet source of runs.  Even if the A’s stink (likely), Weeks’ ‘individual’ stats, so to speak – triples, steals – will be high production at a low slot.  Orlando Hudson was a pretty valuable chip in fantasy for a while back in the day, and Weeks could put up comparable, solid numbers with a lot more speed. Keep an eye on Jemile and for the love of OshKoshBaGosh don’t draft Neil Walker.

Marco Scutaro (COL) – ADP 253.7

I know, I know, he’s listed as a SS all over, but it is both documented and common sense that he’ll slide over to second in Colorado.  Unless you thought he was unseating Tulo after the deal.  Silly Goose.  You may be reading some of the names on these lists thinking, what the hell kind of league is he in to be looking at Marco Scutaro?  It happens, people.  Our Ducks on the Pond League has 16 people in it, and when you get that large, you need to find production at value.  Scutaro is an excellent example.  Sure his numbers with Boston were fairly tame by fantasy standards but this is an issue of both value and situation.  Scutaro won’t win any foot races or batting titles but he hits productively and gets on base.  Given the proper at bats, he has shown excellent doubles power and in a good lineup, always seems to score runs.  He hits line drives and doesn’t strike out often.  And now he’s in Colorado.

The days of guys suddenly adding 25 homers at Coors are gone (Sorry, Vinny Castilla), but that doesn’t change the park dimensions.  With his solid eye and those gaps, it’s not unreasonable to think Scutaro could push 40 doubles if he stays healthy.  He’ll probably hit somewhere around .275 and have an OBP around the .340-.350 range.  And Colorado has a good lineup, one which he figures to be a sparkplug for (hitting second, according to RotoChamp).  I don’t care what a projection says, if that lineup hits and he’s in that spot, he’ll score 85+ runs.  With double digit-ish homers (in the 7-12 range), isn’t he a steal over a guy like Cliff Pennington in a similar rank (ADP 252)?  Isn’t a safer value pick than Allan Craig (ADP 239), a sleeper for many, but who’s a guy that has struggled to find his way into the lineup?  Maybe that was LaRussa’s doing, but for my money, Scutaro is worth taking a look at as your draft winds down.  Or in a larger league, as you scramble in the teens to find a MI.

This last one is going to make you wonder what I’m on but…..

Freddy Sanchez (SF) – ADP doesn’t even really count but: 445.65!!!!!!!!!

Seriously!  Where’s the love!  Sure lately the man has been more delicate than a house of cards but he’s a very good hitter when healthy (‘professional hitter’ is the term many people with real blogs use).  So let us assume he stays healthy enough for 450-500 AB, which isn’t outside the range of projections (except for RotoChamp, those Debbie Downers).  Given that amount of time, he has demonstrated the ability to hit for a good average with a bunch of doubles.  If you can take a guy who could hit .300 with 30 doubles with the last pick of your draft, wouldn’t you?  More importantly, people based on ADP at Mock Draft Central are taking Brett Hayes and Jamey Carroll ahead of Sanchez.  Take the flier to fill that MI position.  Seriously, Jamey Carroll?

Second Base provides more interesting options than I can remember in years past.  Though it might seem like a Giants bias, discussing Aubrey Huff in the 1B ADP post and Sanchez here is more due to my surprise at their ADP’s than any affinity towards San Francisco.  Not everyone winds up with Cano.  In deeper leagues, you often need to backup your backup.  There are sleepers and there are fillers, second base can provide you with both.  There’s a crop of youngn’s in Espinosa, Weeks, and Kipnis who could soon be considered top-tier.  There are also some old stalwarts who are probably worth a flier in the latter rounds.  Sure someone like Scutaro might be boring.  But sometimes boring helps you win.  Otherwise, Placido Polanco would have been out of a job a long time ago.

But if you want some excitement, there’s always Juan Uribe…

this is in the middle of the 4th inning. He got tired after running down a pop-up. Cuz that's how Juan Uribe rolls. Know about it.

-w

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Filed under Baseball, JUAN URIBE, MLB, Pickups, Posted, second base

1st Base ADP: Chasing What You Can’t Have

Chasing Amy (1997), folks, get with my 1990’s program.

great movie.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012.  It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie.  C’mon.).  We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need.  And what you need is good value.  And to watch Chasing Amy.  Don’t try to attain the un-attainable, you low pickers, you.  You’re chasing the unnecessary.  Settle.  So go.  Go now, and be ready for the alternative to fall into your lap.

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

1ST BASEMEN

First Base is a solid, deep position in fantasy this year.  4 of the top ten players in fantasy are first basemen, with Prince Fielder just outside the top ten list.  That’s a strong showing.  There is a lull, then another cluster of really solid options with upside in the mid-rounds (helllllllo Ike Davis ADP 175).  This is a position that even a fantasy noob can pick.  ‘Names’ like Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff, Todd Helton and Derek Lee litter the later rounds- all known entities in various stages of decline.  Though you may miss the big guns through either draft position or human error (Egads! You passed on Paul Konerko?  For shame, sir or madame), there are a bevvy of players to put your faith behind, for a variety of reasons.  Some are older guys coming off down years, some are coming off injury, some are simply too boring to really stand out- there are lots of first basemen to have faith in in 2012, depending on your rationale.  I’m here to remind you of a few guys you already knew about, because they’re simply going to outperform their draft slots.

Freddie Freeman (ATL) – ADP 122

looks like he's 15

The thing with first base, as I said, is that it is loaded with draftable players.  Therefore, this game of value is more comparison shopping than dumpster diving.  Freeman is an excellent example.  Mike Morse (ADP 77) and his tantalizing power is being drafted several rounds earlier than the young Bravo, yet there is an argument to be made that Freeman is the more desirable player (in keeper leagues, this is a common sense, as Freeman is 7 years younger).

50 spots later is a lot.  I will admit to two things; 1) I distrust Mike Morse.  It might be his late breakthrough, I may just have a healthy skepticism of late-onset power hitters maintaining a high average.  2) The sophomore slump is very real and very relevant.  It happens.  The fear with Freeman is that his production will take that all-too-familiar sophomore stink.  Here’s where the projections get helpful/interesting. Bill James, Rotochamp, and ZiPS all foresee Freeman maintaining a similar level of production.  This rarely happens, in my experience.  Clearly, the prognosticators believe in his consistency.  The three options, to get obvious, for Freeman’s 2012 season are to regress, remain close to the same, or improve.  Overly simple, sure, but true.  He could regress- but the experts don’t seem to be worried about that.  He might remain neutral, which is what the projections point to.  Or he may improve, as good young players often do.

So here’s how I see it- normally, I would be more concerned with a rookie’s second season.  Even the best players experience those year two blues.  The experts (much more intelligent and invested in projecting in both James’ and Szymborski’s case) seem confident in his ability to maintain that 20 homer – 80 RBI – .285-ish average.  So there’s our baseline.  Given that, and playing the hypothetical that Morse’s power drops slightly, an owner could get an equally valuable player 50 slots later.  Not bad, in my book, and that’s assuming Freeman remains as-is, not taking that next step towards his potential (.300 average, 20-25 homers, 80-90 RBI, .375+ OBP) his minor league numbers suggest.

Gaby Sanchez (MIA)- ADP 198

Sanchez is a classic example of the fantasy/reality divide.  A manager would greatly his durable, if unexhilarating numbers.  Who wouldn’t want a guy who will play 150-160 games, hit 20-ish homers, knock in 70-80 runs, and hit around .275?  The fact that these numbers come from relatively uneven monthly splits and he plays solid defense mean absolutely nothing to us in fantasy baseball.  Wait, scratch that.  Have you looked at the splits?  His months jump all over the place!  No wonder he’s not consistently owned!  Thinking back on the Marlins teams for the last two years, however, that’s not entirely his fault- the team itself was up and down offensively.  So the new-look team in Miami could be the best thing that happened to Sanchez since his parents gave him an ambiguous name.  Jose Reyes completely alters the dynamics of that offense.  Hitting behind Reyes, Han-Ram, and Mike Stanton (throw in Emilio Bonifacio and Logan Morrison too), with proven 20 homer power, Sanchez is bound  to fall into ample RBI opportunities and that team will put up more than a few crooked numbers on the board.

Everything about Sanchez is solid.  Solid can be boring in fantasy baseball.  But you need solid players to build a championship team (both in reality and fantasy) and it takes relatively minor improvements to go from solid to game-changer.  For example, let us say the Miami Marlins turn out to be an improved offense, as many predict.  Even if Sanchez treads water in his development, he’s hit 19 HR and scored 72 runs (that is weirdly consistent, right?) the past two years, so pencil him for about the same numbers there.  In a better offense, it follows he’d score more runs AND with more men on base, see more pitchers from the stretch i.e. not at their best.  Given his solid plate discipline, you would expect either more walks or a few more RBI.  But be honest, you don’t want to hear about the boring.  So let’s give him some minor, realistic improvements based on an improved lineup with improved consistency.  His BABIP has been .299 & .287 in 2010 & 2011, respectively and his batting average was .273 and .266 those same years.  Based off his minor league numbers, an uptick in BABIP of very reasonable proportions (say a shade over .300) could point Sanchez towards being a .300 hitter rather than a .270 one.  That’s a start.  His already excellent batting eye means he’ll walk, have a good OBP and generally swings at good pitches.  Think about his line with minor improvements or, at the very least, improved consistency – 30-ish doubles, 20+ homers, 80-90 RBI, 80-ish runs, an OBP around .375 and a .290 average – none of these are ridiculous numbers.  Doesn’t that sound like a pretty worthwhile player to own?

People are drafting Mark Trumbo, Paul Goldschmidt, and Ike Davis well ahead of Sanchez.  I like Davis as a sleeper a bunch for 2012 and Trumbo/Goldschmidt have undeniable power upside.  But when it comes to drafting this type of player, I like to think about both the basement and the ceiling.  At best?  You get an absolute steal of a first basemen at nearly pick 200.  At worst?  You have a guy on you bench who is going to have 2 or 3 hot months and likely end up with 17-20 HR, 70-80 RBI and a solid OBP.  The risk is minimal, the reward is there.  There’s little danger of Sanchez suddenly dropping off in a category or two making him a detriment to your team, but if you want to roll the dice and see Trumbo or Goldschmidt hit .211 with 20 homers and 200 K’s, by all means, ignore me.  It’s all about being realistic, folks.

Aubrey Huff (SF) – ADP 256

heh.

Aubrey, Aubrey, Aubrey what are we going to do with you.?  If we follow his career, he’s due for a nice bounceback year.  His numbers since 2007, when he turned 30, yo-yo pretty reliably. For example, his HR totals from 2007 on?  15, 32, 15, 26, and a measly 12 last year (despite these ups and downs his 162-game average for homers is 24).  You cannot deny the pattern of up and down, resulting in 2012 being an up year.  As always, one must be reasonable about expectations.  Admittedly, Huff is old.   His numbers are not going to be what they once were and he will likely continue to lose at-bats to younger players (see; Belt, Brandon).  However, over these past 5 yo-yo years, his advanced stats do not differ wildly, leading me to believe he’s a decent player who has often rode the wave of statistical fluctuation.

That was a fun phrase to write but really means very little, so let’s be more simple.  I think Aubrey Huff is closer to a 20 homer guy than a 10 homer guy, closer to a .290 hitter than a .260 hitter.  Given the opportunity in 2012, you could do worse fishing for a first baseman at the bottom of a draft/ top of the waiver wire.  But OH, the at-bats.  Bill James projects him at 391 AB.  Rotochamp says 405  AB.  These are not unlikely numbers.  Huff is a guy to monitor in spring training, because if he genuinely looks old, those AB numbers may turn out to be overestimation.  My point in including him on this list is the converse.  If Huff has a solid, healthy camp and figures into a regular lineup rotation spot, he could end up with 450-500 AB very easily.  With that many at-bats, he could provide 20-ish homers, right?  Right?  If this were a telecast, the producer would now be cutting to a room full of Giants fans slowly shaking their heads.  Luckily, this is fantasy baseball, so the potential for snagging a 20-homer guy in the last round or off a waiver greatly outweighs the more realistic mindset of reality.  Again, a nonsense sentence that only holds significance if you play fantasy.

All this being said, if you’re going into a baseball season with Aubrey Huff as your starting first baseman, you are in serious trouble.  But it’s always nice to have a back up plan.

BONUS INJURY TWO-FER SPECIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Justin Morneau (MIN – ADP 161) and Kendrys Morales (ANA – ADP 215)

This is merely a public service announcement.  You all know Morneau and Morales were excellent, near-elite first basemen.  They are also both attempting to overcome uniquely challenging situations but appear right on schedule.  There is no game with their ADP, as caution is perfectly warranted.  Morales faces not only recovery from that crazy-horrific leg injury but a logjam of big ol’ power hitters in Anaheim.  Morneau has been battling concussion symptoms ever since he got his noodle rocked in 2010, in addition to the nagging injuries that have sprung up during his comeback(s).  Morales will eventually be back in the lineup, it is just a matter of time and his comfort level.  I will be watching closely and reading reports carefully as he makes his way back to the bigs, because he has serious pop in his bat, regardless of other categories.  Morneau is a scarier case, as he has faced numbness in his fingers and surgeries on important parts of his body (neck, wrist, knee).  I hope Morneau gets well, because he is not only a fantasy asset, but by all accounts a real good guy, but if I had to put money on who would have a more productive season, I’d pick Morales.  having Pujols in your corner as you try to regain your swing can only help.

First Base is both top-heavy and deep.  There are ample fill-ins, sleepers, and prospects who could step up big for whatever reason in 2012 (They always do.).  I highlighted names I kept coming up with in fantasy drafts, but know that this is a very narrow list.  Carlos Pena (ADP- 222) could hit you 30 bombs.  James Loney (ADP-240, and often overlooked) could turn a corner.  Anthony Rizzo (ADP – 330) could make Theo Epstein look like a genius for re-obtaining him.  Heck, Chris Davis (ADP-300) could make the leap to 40-homer superstar.  That last one will truly be the sign of the 2012 apocalypse and I’d love to see the Vegas odds, but you get my point; first base is crucial but also manageable.  You can’t be frustrated if you don’t get a top-tier guy.  You just have to dig a little deeper.  There’s no sense lamenting over something you could have never had in the first place.  Just ask Ben Affleck.  And for god’s sake, go watch Chasing Amy.

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, first base, MLB, Opinion, Pickups, Posted

The Mercurial Miami Marlins Moving Money Making Moves: Angels Add Additional Assets to Arsenal, Alliterations Abound

go ahead and do a quick google search for "will smith welcome to miami".... waiting.... now tell me he hasn't had that video taken down or altered at every turn. He has this type of pull. I believe it.

UPDATE: Loria throwing money for his club til the players show him love

 

This is why you wait.  More Alliteration!

I planned on writing about the flurry of activity for the Miami Marlins.  They have gone out and obtained an outstanding manager, an excellent closer, a dynamo shortstop and one of the most reliable lefties in the game.  They’ve committed almost 200 million dollars to these folks in the hopes of creating considerable interest as they move into a new ballpark.  This was going to be the story, and an interesting one at that.  You can say one thing for the Marlins in 2012 – things are going to be exciting.  The new-look Miami Marlins are looking to make a splash.  I’m hating myself a bit for that pun, but alas, it had to be done.  It’s great the Marlins are moving into a new house and have lots of shiny new toys (personally, I dig the new logo and hats), perhaps they will be a better team, perhaps not.  If we’ve learned anything the past couple of years in sports, buying a bunch of singularly talented players does not equate in a championship (see the Eagles and Heat of Philly and Miami, respectively).  That excitement I’m anticipating stems not from their success but rather their turmoil, their trials.  Already, Hanley Ramirez has expressed his distaste for being asked to move positions- and Ozzie Guillen backed him up, kind of.  Though he is expected to move to third, Hanley is a crybaby (as I’ve said before, a few times) and Ozzie Guillen is no fan of bullshitters- sounds like a recipe for some fun and soundbites to me… oh, did I mention they’re making Reyes cut his dreadlocks?  Hilarity forthcoming.

But I digress.  Yes, I initially thought I would be writing an article (with an AMAZINGLY CLEVER alliteration for a title).  I was going to go on and on about the Marlins, what they were trying to do, and what they mean for baseball.  I still will, later on in the article, but the Winter Meetings, and baseball in general, have taken a drastic turn.  In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California just signed Albert Pujols for 10 years.  For over a quarter of a billion dollars (if my math is correct).  Clearly, new Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was not going to waste time making an impact.  Despite evidence of budgetary constraints (specific article here) or that the Halos were going to obtain one ‘ big’ name impact player, likely a pitcher, Dipoto has locked up Albert and seems to be close to signing C.J. Wilson to an almost $78 million, 5 year deal.  Once again, some simple math tells us the Angels are locked into over $325 MILLION for two players going forward, and all on the last day of the meetings, no less (oh, they traded for Chris Ianetta, too.  He is a damn good catcher in my opinion.).

This is a very wealthy man. Dare I say a Mexican Jack Donaghy? Look at that mustache. I have invented a new name for him. I hereby dub thee, Arte "F#@% it, let's boogie" Moreno. Now look back at this pic and tell me that name doesn't fit....

There are a handful of issues with the Angels offseason so far.  To clarify, these are ‘issues’ in the sense that they need to be addressed in some way, not issues like the issues Dave has with the ladies.  BAA-ZING.  Nailed it.

For one, the Angels now have three desirable first basemen.  It would be foolish to think in baseball that you could have too much of a good thing.  Life, that’s a different story (too many Skittles?  Bad news.).  Obviously, Pujols will start at first.  I’d bet a quarter of a billion dollars on that one.  Kendry Morales was great before his injury and figures to be good again after rehab.  Though Mark Trumbo lost the AL Rookie of the Year to the very deserving Jeremy Hellickson, Trumbo had a stellar rookie campaign, slugging 29 homers and 87 RBI and was named team MVP.  I understand he would never unseat Lord Albert, however this is an interesting predicament the Angels have, as Trumbo is under team control for several more years and is therefore an additionally useful player.  Normally, the Angels could shift him to a corner outfield spot but the Angels find themselves in a logjam in the outfield as well.  This is a good situation for the team, but it creates an odd dynamic when they look to make more moves.  Other teams know the Halo’s have to trade someone.  There is simply not enough room for all those players on the Angels.  Just sayin’.  How the Angels deal with their seeming surplus is an intriguing storyline to follow up until the season.  The team will also have a good two-headed monster at catcher with promising Hank Conger and Chris Ianetta dueling for at bats and have a slew of young talent, headed by Mike Trout, looking to put a stamp on the big leagues both offensively and in the bullpen in 2012.

I hate disappointing just one person. And I really hate disappointing everyone. But I love Burlington Coat Factory. You go in there with 645 dollars, you are literally a king.

I will argue til I am blue that signing C.J. Wilson to a five year deal was financially imprudent.  Only two years removed from being a set-up man, I think it is unrealistic that he will be the same pitcher 5 years down the road.  This is less a reflection of Wilson’s talent (he is an excellent pitcher, undeniably) and more a statement on the fragility of pitching in general.  Poo-Pooing aside, it took me a moment after reading Wilson had signed with the Angels to fully comprehend the video game-worthy pitching staff the team has assembled.  Not that the order particularly matters, these pitchers are all likely to get hot at any given point in a season, but here’s the basic 1-5 for the Halos: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Ryan Seacrest.  I think I’m kidding.  But my point is this: their fifth starter could be anyone, really.  Jerome Williams showed flashes in 2011.  Brad Mills was recently acquired for Jeff “Mendoza Line” Mathis and shows promise.  They could bring someone else in or a prospect could emerge.  Who knows?  But take a look at that starting 4 again.  Every team not located in Philadelphia would KILL to have Ervin Santana as their number 4 starter!  Hmm… let me think… as a Red Sox fan, would I rather have John Lackey or Ervin Santana?  The Yankees, Freddy Garcia or Ervin Santana?  Lackey is a bad example because I would rather have Pee-Wee Herman start for me than that fat goof at this point, but still.

There are certain variables we cannot know.  We don’t know what the chemistry of either the Marlins or Angels will be like.  Both have strong managers so one would think that is not going to be an issue, but as I said, history tells us that throwing money around at excellent players does not necessarily mean the team will succeed.  We don’t know how positional movement and changes will affect the teams mentally and roster-wise.  What we do know is this: both the Marlins and Angels just became serious, serious players in their respective leagues.  My father and I debated all through the 2011 playoffs about the value of a singularly talented player in the playoffs.  He argued that someone, like Pujols, can completely alter the DNA of a series simply by being that good.  I firmly stuck to my notion of baseball being a team sport and pitching winning championships.  I was wrong.  Pitching determines winning and players like Pujols and Reyes alter pitching.  It’s an equation worthy of the transitive property.  Both teams have good if not great closers.  Both have good managers.  Both have lineups with power and superstars.  Given the new playoff system, I would be extremely wary of meeting either team come September.  Money in both life and baseball does not mean success.  But it undeniably alters landscapes.  The baseball landscape has just changed, folks.  Here’s to hoping Ozzie has lots to talk about.

-w

No Will Smith, but the best I could do:

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Filed under Baseball, BOOMSHAKALAKKA, Cajones, first base, MLB, offseason, Pickups, Posted, shortstop

2011 Favorites: Outfielders

The outfield is a wonderful place.  Playing center most of my <ahem> illustrious career, I have an appreciation to the boredom coupled with rapid excitement that comes from playing in the space past the infield diamond.  But before I start digressing about outfield arms and covering ground, let’s talk fantasy.  No one cares about outfield defense in fantasy, we want power.  Or speed.  Or power AND speed.  The fantasy outfield landscape is vast and varied.  So let’s jump on in…

 

YOUNG STUDS

 

Mike Stanton

Mike Stanton can MASH.  That’s actually the scientific term used by physicists when describing his swing.  He hit a homer every 18 times he stepped up to the plate and had a stellar .248 ISO.  He hit 21 homers in AA then then jumped and hit 22 more in the majors.  The kid’s got serious power.  CAIRO, for some reason, has him down for abbreviated AB and only 21 homers.  This is still a good ratio considering they have him down for only 418 AB.  Slightly more realistically, RotoChamp has him hitting 34 in 562 AB and GUESS WHAT?  The usually stingy Bill James has Stanton hitting a whoppin’ 38 homers in 2011 (and an improved ISO of .288).  Sure, he’s going to strike out a ton but how many young studs are out there?  Actually quite a few, but not many who are very very likely to hit 35+ homers and doubles and knock in near 100 runs.  He’s not going to hit .300 next year, but with 40 bombs and 100 RBI, you better be able to stomach a .270 average.  Stanton is a stud, and is here to stay.  Get him.

very artsy shot here

Desmond Jennings

Jennings is one of the many young players I could have thrown into this space.  However, he distinguishes himself in one of my favorite areas: speed.  While there are questions about his power developing immediately, his speed is the real deal.  Call him Crawford 2.0.  He tore up the bases in the minors, stealing 45, 37 twice and 32 in rookie ball.  No one seems to think that will change in the majors.  CAIRO and RotoChamp seem to fear that he will lose AB’s to Damon and Manny, keeping him under 400 AB, yet both have him stealing 20+ bases.  Now it gets interesting.  Bill James, notorious for conservatism about rookies has him down for FIFTY-FOUR STEALS!  That’s instant stud-dom!  Jennings has always had a pretty good eye, but you gotta figure that, as a rookie, it is unreasonable to expect a .300 average.  Look for .275 and be thrilled when he does better.  As I said, his power is still (allegedly) developing, so don’t expect more than 10 homers.  But 10 homers, 20+ doubles, 5 triples and FIFTY-FOUR STEALS sounds like a pretty good ‘low’ expectation to me.  Jennings has enormous (read: the next Crawford) ceiling, but temper your expectations- he is a rookie, after all.

Domonic Brown

Great name, right?  And we all know that’s the first step towards stardom.  And the general consensus is just that – Browns headed to stardom.  He looks like a player, standing (or towering) at a lanky 6’5” 200, he projects to hit for nice power but is also fleet of foot.  He’s the whole package, basically.  Now in my thinking about his 2011 season, I figured a safe starting bet was numbers similar to Jason Heyward’s 2010 campaign… good, very good even, but really just a teaser for the NEXT season.  Again, I’m no expert, but this seemed reasonable.  So imagine my surprise when I got to Domonic Brown’s Fangraphs page and saw Bill James’ projections.  Apparently he likes the kid – 26 homers, 33 doubles, 4 triples, 94 RBI, 84 runs (breath), a .288 AVG AND 28 steals?!?  Bill James gone wild!  Ew.  Gross.  Seriously, though, is that a projection or what?  Even if he doesn’t reach James’ lofty projections – and I expect he will not – somewhere between the low end (my theory) and the astronomical (James’) is a happy medium.  20+ homers and 20+ steals is ownable right there, throw in some other stats and it’s all gravy, baby.  Tasty, tasty gravy.

 

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DON’T FORGET ABOUT THESE GUYS

Shane Victorino

I should admit that I’ve always been partial to the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  I admire the speed in which he plays the game and the hustle he shows.  That said, he was a major disappointment last year… or was he?  Yes, his average slipped all the way down to .259 but the dude still swiped 34 bags and hit 18 homers!   He is more than capable of producing a 15 homer, 35 steal, 100 run, 10+ triple season, making him at the very least interesting.  But what do I know?  Let’s see what the projectors say… just as I thought.  CAIRO, RotoChamp, and Bill James all have similar numbers: .280 average, 90-100 runs, 15-ish homers, 30-ish steals… and that wonderful threat of the triple.  I’m not saying go out and reach for Victorino in drafts – quite the opposite.  I’m suggesting that when he drops (and he WILL drop), be mindful of letting him by in the later rounds.

Grady Sizemore

How’re you gonna forget a face like that?

Easily, actually.  Sizemore is a serious red-flag injury risk at this point.  But for the bold, all signs seem go.  Bill James seems to think he can play 150+ games but RotoChamp and CAIRO have him at limited (mid 400’s) at bats.  It’s really a matter of how much faith you have in his health.  I happen to think he’ll break down again, others are very optimistic.  James has him for 23 homers, 105 runs, 81 RBI, and 23 steals in roughly a full season, hitting .265.  Given a full year, this seems about right to me.  There comes a time in every draft you take a player you’re scared of, and I’ll say that when you get to it, you might as well take a flier on a healthy Grady Sizemore.  You remember healthy Grady Sizemore… right?  He was a fantasy dreamboat.  Good luck if you snag him, and I hope he does well – he seems like a good dude.

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THE INCEPTION PLAY(s)

Matt Joyce

Do you know Matt Joyce’s ISO off the top of your head?  That’d be incredible, rain man, but let me just tell you – it was .227.  He hit 10 homers and 15 doubles (3 triples too, woot.) in just 261 plate appearances.  That’s good for an extra base hit every 9.32 AB, a delightfully high rate for a guy who just needs a chance to play.  Joyce has real pop – it’s just a matter of whether the Rays will let him use it.  He figures to split time on the corners, so I’d hope for 500 AB and be happy with 400.  Why?  Well, let’s once again go to the projectors:  RotoChamp has him at 21 homers in 444 at bats, an amazing amount and Bill James thinks 18 in 388 AB (with 28 doubles to boot).  Point is, his power projects.  Now if only it would come out on a regular basis… put him on your watch list or stash him while you monitor his playing time.

Travis Snider

So, first off, yes I’m including him because I want him to follow us on twitter (@duckfromthepond).  But more than that, this is the year for Snider, who is only 21 (actually his birthday is coming up so 22), to make a big step in his progression.  With an improved batting eye, Snider could be a late-round power bargain.  He put up two very promising months, May and September, which are hopefully indicators of what might be.  Now the 24:2 K:BB ratio isn’t going to cut it, but that’s easily improved marginally.  What sticks out in those months are his 6 homers in September and .543 SLG.  Bill James doesn’t seem to think he will get regular PT, so I’m ignoring his projections (16 homers in 311 AB).  CAIRO and RotoChamp, however, have him at 19 homers in 466 AB and 23 homers in 521 AB, respectively.  These numbers are a better base if you look back at Snider’s power potential from the minors.  Plus, the dude just looks like he can swing the lumber (link evidence of a BOMB).  Snider is a great guy to take a flier on this year at the end of a draft, as, once again, he’s only 21.  He’s improving every year and could pop off at any time.  He was a major prospect who has since cooled in the majors so grab him before he heats up again.  And see if he’ll follow us on twitter, damnit.

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There we go, the outfielders to keep an eye on this year in drafts.  With the exception of Sizemore, I would readily own them all (and I’d take Grady, just knowing that the injury bug could burn me).  Outfield is a funny position in fantasy, as you can play it fast and loose with guys like Juan Pierre and Raja Davis, you can go for boppers like Snider, or you can play it safe with guys who emerge like Pagan or Torres.  Only the season will tell, and it is fast approaching!  Two weeks til Spring Training starts, so get ready.  DotP is taking off so be prepared – fantasy baseball excellence is at the tip of your finger.

Later, ducks, and happy drafting.

-w

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Filed under Fantasy Baseball, MLB, offseason, Opinion, outfield, Pickups, Posted, Sleepers

Closers – Can’t Live With ’em, Can’t Win Without ’em

 

As I’ve talked about, I hate closers. Let us start off with that simple fact. Every time I try to go big with one they end up biting me in the rear. So I punt them, then go to the scrap heap or the last 5 rounds. It’s just my way of coping. So every year I am acutely aware of closer situations on mediocre and bad teams, as they are my favorite place to pick up saves. This year figures to be no different, with uncertainty in the air for some teams and certainty (that they’ll be bad) on other teams.  Bad and mediocre teams inherently play closer games, especially ones with a decent pitcher or two (like, say the team I just wrote up, the Diamondbacks).  Notice it’s closer as in fewer runs, not ‘Closer’ games for the back end of the bullpen, though the play on words is not lost on me.  So without further ado and a distinct lack of jibberjabber, here’s a list of guys and situations to be aware of in the late rounds when you’re scavenging for saves…

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J.J. Putz

It was not long ago that Putz was a bona fide stud closer (2007).  Remember that.  In more recent history, he put up outstanding numbers as a setup guy for the White Sox, in case you weren’t paying attention.  He’s now headed to my favorite place to snag closers, land of the 2-1 game, the NL West.  There’s no reason to think Putz won’t return to full closer form in 2011 as he builds off last year and what better place to do it than a league known for tight games on a staff of mid-level pitchers?  While Bill James doesn’t have him projected for any saves (result of him being a FA), other sources have him coming back in full.  CAIRO has him at 32 saves, as does RotoChamp.  CBS thinks he’ll get all the way back to 40 saves.  I think this is a very reasonable range for Putz in 2011.  Peripherals aside, projections aside, I rest my hat on the fact that he’s done it before.  He’ll be around later than most and will be well worth the investment.

The Pittsburgh Situation:

Evan Meek/Joel Hanrahan

This one’s pretty up in the air.  Meek is the better pitcher, but Hanrahan has the experience.  As someone pointed out (astutely) on Twitter (@MLBreports), the most likely scenario is to have Hanrahan close, build up his value, then trade him and allow Meek to slide into the role.  Meek has the stuff and the makeup, having been groomed as a setup man for the past season and a half.  All this being said, the breakdown could go several ways.  Hanrahan could go on a tear and save 20+ games, as some predict… and so could Meek after he’s gone.  Neither of these players, being in (arm)Pittsburgh, is very sexy.  But I would watch Meek or draft him for the long haul (seasons are won in August in fantasy, too) and pick Hanrahan off the scrap heap to start the year if you need cheap saves.  This could all be wrong, however, if Meek just flat-out outpitches in Spring Training.  I’ll be sure to update you while we’re down in Florida and the spring battles heat up, but as of now, I’m comfortable in saying Hanrahan is going to start out getting the saves.

Drew Storen

What was it I so smartly said about young guys missing bats?  Hmm…. Storen came up and had no trouble missing bats, posting an 8.46 K/9 in about 55 solid major league innings.  He was developed as the closer of the future and for the Nats, the future starts now(ish).  The Nats also figure to be in lots of close games with a shaky staff and improving offense (honest) and the ‘perts seem to agree that he will get the opportunities.  CAIRO and RotoChamp have him for 31 saves and CBS thinks he’ll score an even 30.  This seems about right, though that number really has to do with the Nats (lack of) winning ways.  Storen has great stuff and will definately be available at the end of a draft for you to pluck and enjoy like a tasty peach.  Not sure why I went with the colorful terminology, but the point remains – Storen will pitch well.  Whether he saves 20 games or 30 games will depend on the Nats.  That’s just a risk you’ll have to take when you play Closer roulette.  Heck, if they improve drastically down there in D.C. (unlikely) he could save 35!  What a bargain!  Wishful thinking, maybe, but Storen should be worth owning should you pass on closers for better teams.

Someone on the Blue Jays:

Frank Francisco / Octavio Dotel / Jason Frasor/ Jon Rauch

I listed them in a particular order – the order in which the closer ‘competition’ should turn out.  All of these men will enter… one will emerge the closer… OK, so there’s really not that much drama, Francisco is the clear choice here, but it warrants mentioning that the Jays have collected 4, count ’em FOUR, guys who have had a nice season as a closer.  They all provide value, whether it be from holds or K’s, but my bet is on Francisco to be the man in Toronto with Dotel the backup.  Francisco should save between 25 and 30 games in Canada, with a decent WHIP and a K/9 north of 9.  Solid numbers.  Should the Jays improve, as they very well could, he could see that save total jump 5-7 saves.  Dotel could certainly pick up a handful of saves along the way – things happen- and is ownable in many leagues because of his outstanding K value.  As long as the walks don’t get in the way, he’s a solid own in leagues where you need that extra bump in strikeouts, regardless of WHIP.  Both Rauch and Frasor are similar in that they are established relievers who are wholeheartedly unexciting if not in a closer’s role.  They will provide value as 7th/8th inning hold guys but this is a classic case of a reliever being more valuable in real life than fantasy, that’s just how it works most of the time.  Francisco might go earlier than those Pirates’ guys, but I’d put him around the same level as Putz.  No need to reach, as one of them will be there at the end for you to snatch.


Chris Perez

Classic case of closer for a bad team.  Did you realize he saved 23 games last year (they won 69 games)?  The Indians are a very young team and are bound to improve this year but even if they do not, Perez figures to be right around 30 saves.  But who am I to say?  Let’s see what the expert panel thinks: Bill James?  31 saves.  CBS? 30 saves.  CAIRO? 33 saves.  RotoChamp?  33 saves.  Sounds like I’m not the only one who thinks he’s going to have a solid year.  Actually, forget solid – he’s going to have a very GOOD year.  His K/9 should hover right above a batter an inning and my guess is his ERA will be 4 or below.  If he gets his ground ball percentage up close to 40%, his WHIP could easily be sub-1.20.  Sounds like a very solid Closer to me (just like the Cardinals thought he’d be).  I’d bet he’s getting a look at the end of some drafts and if he’s on the scrap heap to start your season, grab him.  I’m looking forward to a good 2011 from Perez.

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There’s my list.  I know I left some guys out – Venters and Kimbrel in Atlanta are sure to impress – but these are guys on the REAL cheap.  I hate closers so if any of these gentlemen blow up in your face this season… well… s#!& happens.  But if you’re like me and you look for saves on the cheapest of cheap, I think this list is a good place to start (let me know if you think otherwise).

 

-w

 

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Filed under Closers, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, offseason, Opinion, Pickups, pitchers, Posted, Sleepers

Raising Arizona

 

GREAT FLICK

The Diamondbacks are in the interesting position of being in ‘rebuilding’ mode while having some very interesting pieces which in case you couldn’t tell, I find very… interesting.  Knew I should’ve bought that thesaurus…

With young talent like Chris B. Young, Justin Upton, and yes, Brandon Allen (Gotcha post right here), not to mention Miguel Montenero, Kelly Johnson and Stephen Drew, the offense is looking up and could use its own separate post.  I, however, am not interested in the offense.  They are interesting (hah) for fantasy purposes, suffice to say.  Where there’s more room for intrigue, for depth, for some fantasy detective work is on the pitching staff.  With six good-not-great arms who could surprise and provide fantasy depth, it is time for a closer inspection.  No one appears to be an ‘ace’ in the rotation.  And since I just finished watching 10 Things I Hate About You (arguably the finest High School movie of all time), never wrote for the paper or yearbook, and needed a gimmick to organize the contenders, voila!  Superlatives:

Best Looking

Dan Hudson

Daniel Hudson just sounds like a handsome pilgrim name.  He also happens to be a fine, fine pitcher.  Dave and I were discussing young pitchers and we agreed- K/9 is one of the best indicators for a young pitcher’s future success.  The ability at a young age to miss bats means the pitcher will be able to mature into a better pitcher while always having the K card in his back pocket (my example was Clay Buchholz who has become a better pitcher though his K numbers have declined as he learned the league).  Hudson fits the bill.  With a K/9 of 7.93 last year and a projected (Bill James) K/9 of 8.19 in 2011, the kid knows how to make guys whiff.  He was lucky in some senses with an amazing BABIP (.241) and less than a homer/9 (0.76), but even if those become more regular, as most predictors have him down for, he should still keep the ball in the park and have a mid-3’s ERA.  Bill James has him down for a 1.35 WHIP.  CAIRO has him down for 1.18.  I think it is a safe assumption that his WHIP will fall somewhere in between.  So let’s review: a sub 4 ERA, 1.2-ish WHIP, a K/9 around 8 and a good young offense?  Does that sound like a solid pitcher to you?  It certainly does to me.  Throw on the double digit wins and near 200 innings everyone expects and I say this  man is draftable.  And I’m usually one to shy away from young pitchers.  Unless the Diamondbacks rapidly improve, Hudson won’t win more than 15 games.  But if you need a solid guy at the back of your rotation, I recommend you look at Hudson.

Most Likely to Succeed

Ian Kennedy

Much like Hudson, Kennedy’s peripherals suggest he will be just fine at the major league level.  What he has on Hudson is that he has actually been successful in the Majors for a full season.  Also with a K/9 around 8 and a BABIP below .300 (a very very good .256), Kennedy profiles as a pitcher who guys don’t hit the ball well off of (I think that is proper English).  Did you realize he threw 194 innings last year?  In my opinion, any pitcher who can eat innings (read: get close to 200 in a season), have a good K/9 and an ERA at or below 4 is worth having on your staff.  Those are the numbers that will consistently help you on a week to week basis.  Think of the old Aaron Harang, when even on a bad day he’d go 6 and K 8… ah the good ol’ days.  Kennedy just needs to keep the ball on the ground.  He gave up a large number of homers (26), but this actually makes his other stats more impressive to me.  If he can bring the homers down (no small feat at the BOB), his ERA will plummet and he becomes even more valuable.  Following Dave’s idea of K/9 being a good indicator and my belief that innings eaters are worth owning even on mediocre teams, you arrive at the same conclusion: Ian Kennedy is a guy to have on your team (in most leagues) or top on your list of streamers (in some leagues).  Plus, he’s years removed from that Yankee stink, so he’s smelling rosy for 2011.

Most Likely to go Into Politics

Armando Galarraga

Completely unrelated to this blog (honestly), Chris Cwik over at Fangraphs has an article about Armando joining the DBacks rotation.  I merely wanted to use the title ‘Raising Arizona’ and write about Barry Enright, his article goes into the rotation sucking a bit.  I have little to say about Galarraga, as he is an intensely boring fantasy baseball pitcher.  If he doesn’t keep his walks down (as Cwik mentions), he doesn’t have the stuff like Kennedy or Hudson to make guys miss and pays accordingly.  But I have an immense amount of respect for him for the way he handled the whole ‘near-perfect’ game situation, so he gets a blurb.  Who knows, maybe the move to the NL will be for the best and Galarraga become a useful spot starter in fantasy.  Stranger things have happened, like an ump stealing a perfect game from a young man…

Class Couple

Joe Saunders and Zach Duke

I in no way mean to insinuate that these two are a couple, merely that I was going to write the same thing about both, so I’ll conserve space by coupling them.  Political correctness crisis averted.  Remember how I talked about K/9 being a good indicator of future success?  Yeah, these guys are kind of the opposite.  Both have (miraculously) had good seasons while posting atrocious K/9 rates, Duke in 2009 and Saunders in 2008 ( he had a decent 2009, with 16 wins but poor other numbers).  Neither wows you with stuff, both relying on smarts from the left side of the rubber and the hopes of a ground ball.  Both are capable of going many innings (both have 200 inning campaigns under their belts) when they are on their game.  But they are both the classic case of being a perfectly decent real pitcher yet next to worthless in fantasy.  With the exception of the occasional spot pickup, I’d stay away from both dudes.

Class Clowns

aka WILD CARDS, BITCHES

Barry Enright and Aaron Heilman

With the (smart) signing of J.J. Putz in Arizona to close (SAVE ALERT!  Bad team in the NL West- the best kind of closer!), Heilman will get his shot to start… or go back to his super-long man role he plays to perfection.  I can’t figure Heilman out.  He seems to have a rubber arm (innings, check), has good enough K numbers (check) and generally keeps the ball on the ground/in the ballpark.  He just cannot seem to put it all together as a starter.  As a 2-3 inning man, he was ownable a few years ago, putting up some extremely useful numbers.  With his move to the rotation though, there was something lost in translation.  I’ll watch him this year if he wins a spot because I owned him in 2005 and he helped my team, but my reason for hope is out of loyalty more than anything.

Enright is an interesting case.  Our buddy out in California goes to school with his brother so we had the inside scoop as he ascended to the Majors and surprised a lot of people with his immediate success.  An excellent BABIP helped him to a 1.27 WHIP and allowing a staggering 20 homers (I had to triple check to make sure that was right) in just 99 innings did nothing to help his 3.91 ERA, which is actually impressive if you think that he was giving up 1.82 homers/ 9 innings- that means he wasn’t giving up too many runs other ways, or allowing many homers with men on base.  Like Saunders and Duke, Enright must control his walks and lessen his homer burden.  Unlike those two jamokes, scouts think he has some life to his ball though.  If he can drop the homers and get his GB rate up from around 35% to closer to 50%, he could prove to be a valuable matchup play during the year.  Again, I’m a bit biased in my optimism, but what fun is it to look forward on a fantasy season like a Debbie Downer?

 

 

So there you have it, 1200 words about a relatively crappy rotation.  Hey, when you’re good, you’re good.

Enjoy the prospect show tonight!  If you haven’t seen it recently, go watch 10 Things I Hate About You, it’s a delight.

 

-w

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Put up or Shut up: Chris Young

he probably hurt himself on this pitch

Chris R. Young

 

 

Has this man hurt you?  Tell Will where the bad man hurt you.

Are you tired of drafting Chris Young thinking ‘this could be the year he gets healthy/puts it all together?’

Have you been burned at the end of a draft as pitchers who actually provided some fantasy value passed you by as you clung to the hope of Chris R. Young?

Are you fed up?

Well this is your year, ladies and gents.  Chris Young is going to have ‘that’ year this year.  Well, he better.  In all seriousness, the stars are alligned for Young to have a great year.  Year removed from arm trouble?  Yup.  Playing for an offense better than the Padres’?  Well, the little league team I coached would fit that bill so, Yup.  Pitching in a pitcher’s haven?  Yup.  Young demonstrated that he could be quite a good pitcher in the friendly dimensions of PETCO Park (splits here), and Citi Field proved to be a similar-type field, playing fly balls long and generally squashing many an offense.  If he can keep his ground ball rate above 30%, the long dimensions of Citi should keep his 50-ish% fly ball rate in the park.

Let me throw some numbers at you: 189 IP, 164 K’s, 12 Wins, a 1.21 WHIP and a 7.8 K/9 (to go with a 2.21 K/BB ratio).  That’s what Chris Young’s 162 game average is, according to Baseball-Reference.  Now if he could only stay healthy.  A healthy and smart Young (and the guy went to Princeton, let’s not forget he’s a smart dude, so sitting around 92-93 MPH should be no problem as he’s a smart pitcher) should keep a K rate around 8 and not walk many – his GB, FB, and K/BB rates are all pretty consistent regardless of the amount of innings he has pitched.  This means his WHIP should be between 1.1 and 1.25 in a normally good year.  The wins are really up to the Mets, who hopefully should be not such a mess this year.

That’s it, time’s tickin’ for Chris Young…

 

 

 

 

…time to put up or shut up.

 

 

 

-w

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Put up or Shut up: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

looks like a catcher

I like to think that the people who run baseball organizations are all smarter than me.  This idea gives me comfort when it comes to prospects and moves and whatnot – the higher ups, scouts, and people in the know are just better informed.  So when I look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia, I am perplexed.  On the one hand, my Red Sox bias begins to take over: “sure he’ll hit, there’s a reason the Bravos were so high on him,” I tell myself.  On another hand, he will share time with Jason Varitek.  On yet another hand, presumably someone else’s (don’t get any ideas), he hasn’t hit above .270 in the majors.  All this weighs heavy on my considerable brain.  But as TO might say, if it looks like a catcher and smells like a catcher, by golly, it’s a catcher.

First things first:  there has to be something there.  Scouts from multiple organizations can’t be totally off on a guy, right?  Let’s talk about the minors – the pedigree is there… back in 2007.  A .309 ISO in AA????  WOW.  Scouts all saw/see Salty as a potential 20-30 homer guy.  Now we may have to concede at this point that he will not be a .300 hitter.  Not many catchers are.  The power is legit.  So is the fact that he swings the stick from both sides of the plate.  A catcher, with power, who also switch hits?  Sounds like a recipe for success to me.  Only it hasn’t quite worked out like that for Jarrod.

The situation for Salty is ripe for a comeback, though.  He’s playing in a great hitters’ park in Fenway.  He doesn’t have the same pressures he once did as a hyped rookie.  Heck, he won’t eve be asked to catch 150 games, Tek will likely get a lot of AB’s too.  So why Salty?  The power.  Bill James and I are on the same path with this one.  he has Jarrod hitting 12 homers in 110 games (371 PA).  That’s a good number of homers for infrequent at-bats.  I’ll argue that given those times in the box (and probably closer to 400 PA than 350 – V-Tek, sorry but you’re old), Salty can provide in the high teens for round-trippers.  Now tell me how many fantasy catchers are good for that?  How many that you can get in the last round?  I’ve been of the belief that there are maybe 3 catchers worth owning if you have to draft them above the 15th round.  5, now, because of Posey and Santana.  After that, you might as well wait until the end of a draft to snag someone.  I offer that it’s time for Salty to put up, and time for you to take one last flier on him.

 

 

Short and sweet, but that’s the point.  No numbers really, just time for Salty to put up or shut up.

 

-w

 

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Damon, Ramirez could prove to be darn good in Tampa

The two deals the Devil Rays (I refuse to call them the Rays; they will always be the Devil Rays no matter what they try to call themselves) made last night show that they are still committed to winning in even after losing key pieces this off season. There have been a lot of articles praising the moves, and I agree, these two additions could keep the Tampa offense relevant this year.

What they lost:

Tampa’s lineup took a hit in the off-season losing Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. Last year Crawford put up a line of .307 AVG, 19 HR, 90 RBI, .356 OBP, .495 SLG and .851 OPS. Pena also put up decent numbers last year, (.196, 28, 84, .325, .407, .732).

Their departure is huge. The Devil Rays have to replace their production and they have started to by signing Damon and Ramirez. Let’s look at what they got in these two players.

What they got:

Manny Ramirez, in 90 games last year, put up pretty good numbers (.298, 2, 42, .409, .460, .870) and will do the same in Tampa. Johnny Damon, in 145 games, put up good numbers too (.271, 8, 51, .355, .401, .756) and the combination of these two players can arguably make up for the loss of Crawford (with the exception of speed and general athleticism) and Pena.

Fantasy Value?

So, they made up for Crawford and Pena, what does this mean fantasy wise?

A lot.

“Thank God I don’t have to use this thing anymore.” -Manny Ramirez

By adding Manny as a DH, it allows for another legitimate power threat in the Devil Rays line up behind Evan Longoria. He will more than make up for Pena’s departure and will hit for a higher average. In fact, if Manny hits in front on Longoria, it will force pitchers to actually pitch to Manny rather than pitch around him. Also, by just using him as a DH, literally all he has to do is focus on his favorite thing: hitting. Finally, he is back in the AL East, where he knows the parks and the pitchers.

WWJDD? Go play for the Devil Rays.

This is the same for Damon who returns to the AL East after previous stints with the Red Sox and Yankees. He is also important to the Devil Rays and actually had more doubles (36) than Crawford did last year (30). While I am not putting Damon and Crawford on the same level offensively (because there is no way Damon can touch Crawford in terms of ability), hitting in front of Longoria will also let him see more pitches and will score more runs. In short, these two players still have some value. Damon is a better buy because he brings more to the table (like some speed and not being a space cadet) than Ramirez, who will hit for power but not much else. What is also important about these moves is that it protects Longoria, maintaining and even raising his fantasy value.

Do these moves make the Devil Rays playoff contenders? I say yes. I think with the combination of their young pitching and their now pretty good offense will allow them to hang with the Sox and Yanks. Damon and Ramirez will be a major part of their playoff push and will get the playing time to make them more than an after thought in fantasy leagues.


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