Category Archives: shortstop

Fantasy Mustache: Shortstop

Loyalty, Above All Else: Sean Rodriguez

I cannot tell you exactly why there are so many articles and mentions of Sean Rodriguez on this silly little site.  I think some time after he broke into the league my buddy Dave and I decided he was primed to break out, given our expert opinions.  He plays multiple positions, a favorite fantasy attribute of mine, and fit the ‘Swiss Army’ profile both Dave and I enjoy so thoroughly it inspired a series of posts.  Rodriguez did not break out.  What he did was become a useful glue player, playing solid defense at 2B, SS and 3B capable of hitting an occasional XBH and stealing a few bases.  He does nothing. spectacular, despite the wishes of many here at DotP.

Bill James is so un-enthused with Rodriguez’s mediocrity that he has chopped the guy’s plate appearances to a mere 256 in 2013:

14 2B / 1 3B / 8 HR / 37 R / 32 RBI / 6 SB / .246 AVG / .328 OBP / .730 OPS

According to James, Sean Rodriguez is on a hill, and he will continue to tumble down.  These projections are one big MEH-fest.  I refuse to hear that.  Not our guy.  Not Sean Rodriguez.  The Rays are a likable team and Rodriguez is a likable guy.  And that’s the problem, clearly.  Studies have shown that nice guys, in fact, finish last (Dr. B. Armstrong et al).  Or at the very least don’t bring home that World Series Trophy.  To save his career, Rodriguez must top being nice and start getting…. evil.  Or real, I guess.  Point being, the man’s getting a villain-esque makeover

evilseanrodriguez

Evil Sean Rodriguez: Part Terminator, part Captain Hook, ALL hitting machine.  This is no mere mustache awakening, this is a hostile position takeover.  Note the glare.  The sinister eyebrows.  The dastardly twirl of his facial hairs.  This is a man fed up with being told by Bill James he will be below average.  This is a man who is going to make sure Elliot Johnson doesn’t take another ground ball at SS.  Evil Sean Rodriguez will seize the position.  He will bat 568 times.  He will prove his doubters wrong.  Haters will perish under his lazereyed gaze.  Observe the Mustache-bot 2000’s calculations:

37 2B / 9 3B / 19 HR / 73 R / 81 RBI / 33 SB / .301 AVG / .398 OBP / .963 OPS

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to create a new Sean Rodriguez.  Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.  MANIACAL LAUGH…. MANIACAL LAUGH… MANIACAL LAUGH!

But seriously, Sean Rodriguez.  Grow a mustache.  Play better.  Or I’m going to have to stop writing about you.

Stay groomed,

-V

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Filed under Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, shortstop, Sleepers

Spring Training 2013: Non-Roster Invitees With Great Names

Spring Training is upon us, thank goodness, and there is baseball to be seen.  MLB.tv is in full swing and might be the greatest technological advancement of all time until Google starts augmenting reality and we begin living in a real-life science fiction movie (happening).  Anyone can see any team from anywhere.  It’s wonderful to see live baseball, poorly timed swings, and poorly chosen facial hair (here, for example).  The real fun comes in the sheer NUMBER of players involved in this magical time of year.  Sure, the games are therefore often mismatched in terms of competition and sure, some games end in ties (which is gross, but understandable).  But as someone who prides myself on having a widespread knowledge of the most intimately useless knowledge of baseball, Spring Training always serves as a magical time to discover some truly obscure players and some stupendous names.  You might not have had the time to look over the spring training rosters, so I did (thanks, wikipedia!) and culled the best and oddest names I came across, limiting the search for Non-Roster invitees only for the sake of rarity.  Sorry L.J. Hoes – you have my favorite name of the spring, but you’re a 40-man roster man.  Without further ado, some of the most interesting non-roster invitees of the spring:

Gary Sánchez   C   NYY

Though NOT affiliated with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay in ANY way, the name warranted inclusion.  He’s actually a solid prospect.

Slade Heathcott   OF   NYY

Do you know any non-fictional person named Slade?  Exactly.

Matt Buschmann   SP   TB

I’m more of a Coors man, myself.

Brock Bond   IF   SF

Simply an awesome baseball name.  Sounds like one a video game would generate.

Kevin Quackenbush   P   SD

You are welcome.

J. B. Shuck   OF   LAA

Oddly, speaks fluent jive

Kyle Knudson & Dan Rohlfing   C   MIN

twins

Great names.  More to the point, great MLB catcher names.

Adam Weisenburger   C    MIL

wesienmil

Made me think of this (one of my favorite scenes ever).

Nick Struck   P   CHC

I await the day where we can see N. Struck and J. Outman in a boxscore.

Wirfin Obispo   P   ATL

Considering naming my first-born Wirfin.

Yangervis Solarte   IF   TEX

From the club that gives you Elvis…

Sugar Ray Marimon   P   KC

Can’t decide between jokes here.  I just wanna fly?  Something about frosted tips?

BAKER’S DOZEN DOUBLE BONUS!!!

Josh Booty (yes, him)   Knuckleballer   ARZ

Josh Booty

Heh, booty.  Booty-Booty-Booty-Booty Kunckin’ everywhere?  Anyone?

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Filed under Baseball, catchers, Closers, Fantasy Baseball, first base, JUAN URIBE, MLB, Posted, Rookies, second base, shortstop, Sleepers, Spring Training, third base

Fantasy Mustache: Shortstop

Babyfaced Shortstop pf the Future: Didi Gregorius

i (1)

There is a bit of pressure on Didi Gregorius.  Not so much due to the Diamondbacks’ need for him to be a superstar – Gregorius is NOT that – but due to the fact that he is stellar in an otherwise unspectacular position (side note: remember the late 90’s when there was that crazy boom of SS who were just all out nasty?  How much  of that was steroid related, huh?  Sorry for any childhoods ruined.  Damn you, Nomar).  Bauer might be good, for sure, but Gregorius plays a position where few organizations have any sort of competent depth.  As other-worldly prospect hunter Mike Newman put it over at Fangraphs, “In Gregorius, the Diamondbacks found a cost controlled shortstop of the future when their best internal option was suspect prospect Chris Owings.”  And no, Chris Owings is not Micah Owings batswinging alter-ego.  I don’t know who Chris Owings is either.

Gregorius may very well spend much of 2013 in the minors.  A recent elbow injury assures he will be slow out of the gate.  Hence, the Fangraphs Steamer projections:

13 2B / 5 3B / 4 HR / 30 R /32 RBI / 4 SB / .234 AVG / .277 OBP    (in 346 PA)

Womp womp.  That’s lame.  That is not gonna cut it.  Those aren’t franchise stalwart numbers – I don’t care if you’re 23. I love Willie Bloomquist and all, really I do, but the D-backs need Gregorius to be an MLB shortstop sooner rather than later.  You know what the glue of franchises has resting oh-so-manly on their upper lips?  What his (former franchise glue) manager Kirk Gibson once ROCKED?  What his hitting coach (and former franchise glue) STILL ROCKS?

Have you guessed?

Yup.  A kick. Ass. Mustache.

oh my oh my we have a new silent assassin, Mr. Bloomquist

oh my oh my we have a new silent assassin, Mr. Bloomquist

Sure, Didi (is he in the running for silliest first name for a professional athlete?) will start the season slow with a bum elbow but while rehabbing that, let us assume he also rehabs his naked lip.  Then take a look at the numbers he puts up.   Fire up the Mustache Predictorator 4000!

20 2B / 9 3B / 6 HR / 55 R /40 RBI /15 SB / .279 AVG / .312 OBP  (now with 460 PA)

That’s how you start a very solid, shortstop-of-the-future career.  These numbers are not so far off from Elvis Andrus’ and he ain’t half bad.  With excellent defense and these mustache-enhanced numbers, Gregorius is ready to roll.  Those numbers could shoot up with better health and some confidence from his manager (leading to more AB).  And hey, Kirk Gibson knows the power of the ‘stache:

fear. my. facial. follicles.

fear. my. facial. follicles.

stay groomed,

-V

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Filed under Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Posted, shortstop, Sleepers

Shortstop ADP: The Position You Hate to Love

my favorite non-Batman movie of all time.

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.

There are 3 Shortstops worth actively seeking in a draft, and one of them is going to play Third Base (whoops, didn’t really mention Hanley “Wah-Wah’ Ramirez in my 3B post…).  After that, there are a series of relatively boring guys who fill a position you need (Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alexi Ramirez all fit the ‘usable-but-unspectacular’ mold in declining amounts of value), aging players not worth the draft position based on the past (Rollins, Jeter), and a bunch of one-trick ponies (Elvis Andrus, Dee Gordon come to mind).  For most people’s teams, shortstop is going to be a drain, plain and simple, compared to other positions.  I’m no Nostradamus, but I’m betting Asdrubal Cabrera doesn’t hit above 20 homers (there is no reason in his past to expect that).  Nor do I think Jhonny Peralta will sniff batting .300 again.  Shortstop is the best exercise in finding value.  In larger leagues, you’d consider yourself lucky to wind up with J.J. Hardy or Stephen Drew.  But really, do either of those players excite you?  And they’re already going pretty late in drafts.  When it gets down to the rinds, why take Jason Bartlett when you could roll the dice?  Shortstop’s your chance to take a, well… chance.  It’s not like most of the guys you’d draft are going to wow you anyway- you won’t be overwhelmed, you might not even be underwhelmed.  Maybe you’ll just be whelmed.

Bam. Streak alive.  You know you hate how much you love this movie.

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

SHORTSTOPS

Shortstop is a funny position.  Since Cal Ripken Jr., there has been a revolution of middle-of-the-order hitters playing the position.  In fantasy terms, there are shortstops now who provide just as much value as, say, a top outfielder.  There was Nomar-Jeter-A-Rod.  Now there’s Tulo-Reyes- and, until recently, Hanley Ramirez.  But shortstop is also one of the most important defensive positions on the field (the other two being Catcher and Centerfield, in my opinion), so a guy like Omar Vizquel can be equally valuable to a team in terms of the runs they save.  Sadly, most leagues don’t have a ‘Web Gems’ category, otherwise Rey Ordonez would have been an absolute stud.  So we have a mix in fantasy.  At the top, there are the studs, in the middle some very solid all-around players and towards the bottom?  Defensive specialists and young, unproven talent.  When is that next trio of top-tier talent arriving?  Again, I’m no Nostradamus.  So while we wait for the next big thing, here are some stopgaps.  Who knows?  Maybe someone will surprise you.  LIKE HEATH LEDGER DID IN THE MOVIE!!! It all comes full circle, folks!

P.S. I’m perfectly comfortable admitting that scene is my favorite.

Ian Desmond (WAS) -ADP 253

#awesomesauce

I guess I have a man-crush on Ian Desmond, for fantasy purposes.  I snagged him in countless mock drafts and several of my leagues.  On the face of it, he is not really worthy of such fascination.  However, consider the rising Nationals and the power of good vibes.  Over the past two years, Desmond has demonstrated that he is very capable of hitting double digit homers and 20+ steals.  What kills Desmond’s value is the holes in his swing.  His poor OBP, high K rates, and overall lack of discipline hurt what appears to be an untapped fantasy talent.  He hits doubles, with speed for triples.  His minor league numbers suggest his untrained eye is a function of his adjustment to major league pitching (very high OBP in AA and AAA).  There is a seriously good feeling going into the 2012 Nationals.  Ryan Zimmerman will be back healthy.  Jayson Werth has to be better, it’s a borderline statistical fact.  And, of course, the inevitable coming of Bryce Harper, prospect extraordinaire.  It is not unreasonable to think the Nats offense is bound to improve, and I think Desmond is going to be part of that.  At base level, without any improvement, Desmond gives similar production to Stephen Drew (who is going over 100 spots earlier) without the injury risk.  Given an improvement, Desmond could jump up a level in fantasy shortstop value.  Part hatred for the Drew clan, part unabashed drinking of the Washington Nationals Kool-Aid, but Ian Desmond has my Fantasy Spidey senses tingling this year.  Wait around folks, don’t sell yourself short and draft J.J. Hardy.  There are more valuable players to snag while you wait for shortstop.  Either you get one early or you don’t.  Wait for Desmond, and enjoy his breakout 2012 campaign.  Mistress Cleo told me so.

Mike Aviles (BOS) – ADP 244

no one sits by Mike when he doesn't change his 'lucky' socks...

I’m going to keep this one brief because I don’t want to waste space when Bobby Valentine inevitably pushes Jose Iglesias into the shortstop void in Boston.  That’s an entirely different story, and my personal feelings are that Jose should get one more (partial, maybe) year to refine his offense before being unleashed on the big-league diamond.  The kid was imitating MLB players’ swings for chrissake!

Anyhoo… Mike Aviles was impressive in limited time with the Sox in 2011.  Defensively, he doesn’t hold a candle to Iglesias.  Offensively, he strikes me as a good line-drive pull hitter who could benefit ENORMOUSLY from batting towards the bottom of a potent Boston lineup.  Will he hit .325 as he did in his rookie year, 2008?  No.  But given the time (with utility-wunderkid Nick Punto) in a good lineup, it seems like Aviles could be a sneaky source of a .280-ish average with 80 runs (and double digit steals).  Saltalamacchia scored 53 runs in 386 PA last year and he hit .235!  Aviles, as is the case with the following players, will be on a sliding scale of value in 2012 based on playing time.  His versatility adds value, the opportunity adds numbers.  He’s definitely one to track through spring training to see if Valentine loves or sours on him.

Forgive the ADP disparity but these two are in very similar situations…

Eduardo Nunez (NYY) – ADP 309.17  &  Sean Rodriguez (TB)- ADP 261.46

both of the baseball players are pretty ugly. real weasel faces. so here's a dramatic picture of the awesome Craig Ferguson, on weeknights @ 1235 on CBS

Both of the men mentioned above have value in versatility.  The could get time at second, short and third (in addition to the outfield), depending on team needs.  But they’re elligible at SS and that’s what matters for our purposes.  Where they play for their ‘real’ team is not nearly as important as where you can plug them into your virtual lineup.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Where they play on their real team does matter, and here’s why; the Yankees are old and the Rays’ alternatives are underwhelming (what a useful word).

Nunez gets to play the ‘super-utility’ role on a New York team that has A-Rod and Derek Jeter.  Both need rest.  On top of that, at their age, and with A-Rod’s history, it is highly likely that either one or both is shut down for a period of time due to injury.  Enter Mr. Nunez.  Now you may be saying, ‘that already sort of happened last year, why’s he of value?’  The man stole 22 bases in only 338 plate appearances and only got caught 6 times.  That’s nice.  In the dwindling rounds of a draft, Nunez could be an absolute steal (pun intended), especially if due to circumstance he gets 400+ at bats.

Sean Rodriguez is a favorite of Dave’s, which makes me dislike him as a player.  But I am putting my bias aside for your benefit.  Rodriguez demonstrated excellent power as a prospect for the Angels but has not seen the same production in the bigs.  I’d blame a lot of that on his inconsistent playing time, as he has had strings of games where he has contributed as a useful power/speed combo.  So what’s holding back Rodriguez this year?  Defense, I guess.  Who is he competing for playing time with in 2012?  Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson?  Rodriguez might be the perfect storm of sleeper for 2012 (unlike, say, the premature sleeper in past years…).  He’s turning the magical age of 27, has crappy competition at the position for now, plays all over the field and is in his 3rd year of any semblance of regular playing time.  It makes a lot of sense that things could click for him in 2012.  And at his ADP and with multiple elligibilty, a guy who could hit 15 homers with 15 steals sounds like a good grab for your hole at short (WORDPLAY!)

Yup.  That’s all I’ve got.  Shortstop can be a very frustrating position folks.  That’s an understatement.  But I think I’ve laid out several players above who could greatly outperform their ADP at the position, if not break out.  And honestly, unless you have Reyes or Tulo, you may be forced with that kind of compromise.  Or there’s always Willie Bloomquist…

Always, awlays, beware the Bloomquist.

-w

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Filed under Baseball, MLB, Opinion, Posted, shortstop, Sleepers

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

MLB.com Posts Top 50 Prospects

In one of my favorite moves of the offseason, MLB has released its top 50 prospects list, to be discussed tonight on MLB Network by its excellent, goofball hosts.

Here are the positional breakdowns for all you prospect junkies, hoping for that next big thing.

Enjoy!

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Third Base

Shortstop

Outfield

Left-Hand Pitchers

Right-Hand Pitchers

I love lists like this.  Be sure to check out the discussion at 9 tonight on MLB Network and the Chat on MLB.com on Wednesday.  And for all 4 of our loyal readers, let us know what YOUR thoughts on the prospects for 2011 in the comments (Trevor has lots of opinions)!

 

-w

 

UPDATE: Here’s the list, an article breaking it down a bit, and VIDEO!

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Filed under catchers, Fantasy Baseball, first base, MLB, offseason, outfield, pitchers, Posted, Rookies, second base, shortstop, Sleepers, third base

Cheap Thrills, Speed Kills

WARP SPEED!

Every year, I play fantasy baseball.  Every year I come up with a new strategy.  Generally, it consists of eschewing closers in lieu of snagging some extra steals.  Every year I come up short.  Often this is because I stray from my strategy and take a closer over, say Juan Freakin’ Pierre.  Or Jacoby Ellsbury gets soft ribs.  But I digress.  My point is- speed kills.  If you can win the speed categories (3B, SB, R), I maintain that gives you an edge in most leagues.  With that in mind, let us look at some players you can get on the cheap that are going to bring you serious return by way of speed…

Eric Young Jr.

There are really only two things you need to know about EYJ: 1) He’s eligible at 2B AND OF 2) in limited AB Bill James has him stealing 46 bases.  That right there should probably be enough to warrant a late round pick.  But you being the cunning fantasy owner you are, you want more, don’t you?  I’ll oblige.  CAIRO has him stealing 34 bases in similarly few AB’s and ZiPS has him stealing 38.  Believe whoever you like, all these projections are for around 460 AB.  The lack of at bats is due to the presence of the likes of Ian Stewart and Jose Lopez.  I’ll argue til I’m purple (pun intended… you’ll get it) that EYJ’s talent (i.e. SPEED) will give him a leg up (god I’m on fire with the puns) on one of those two.  Now I’m no math major but if the wise Bill James thinks the kid can steal 40+, scouts all think he can steal 40+, and he suddenly gets 550 AB rather than 450, don’t you think he could steal 50 bases?  Maybe?  He’ll be a target of mine in many a draft as a back 2B/MI – but don’t forget he could be Juan Pierre-esque with 40+ steals late in a draft.  If you have a distaste for Pierre as I do, Young Jr. is your late round gem.  And honestly, if you hadn’t heard about him already, you’re probably gonna miss out on him anyway.

Lorenzo Cain

Lorenzo had one of my favorite catches of the year, smashing into the wall in Cincinnati.  As a former center fielder, it is pretty ridiculous if you go back and watch the amount of ground Cain covers to pull in the line drive.  Seriously, it is worth watching.  I’ll wait…

While this has nothing to do with Cain’s fantasy potential, it  kind of does.  Cain’s speed is going to be a fantasy asset on a bad Royals team.  While I will not preach that any KC player not named Butler or Soria is instantly ownable, Cain will steal you some bases.  I am not basing this solely off of his spectacular catch, but it honestly gives me reason to believe his speed.  Bill James has him at 33 steals in 512 AB.  ZiPS has him at 21 in 484.  CAIRO thinks he’ll swipe 14 in 433.  These all could be low estimates.  If Cain plays decently, he could quickly find himself atop the KC order.  Heck, even if he bats 9th, he will be getting closer to the 500-600 AB’s than 400-500 range.  Given the opportunity, the fantasy community (hah.) seems to think the kid has 30+ SB potential.  I agree.  And in a young KC lineup, he should be given every opportunity to shine.  by shine I mean steal 40 bases.  I wouldn’t advise drafting Cain, but monitor his Spring and start of the year.  If he can manage to hit between .260 and .270, he could easily steal 30+ bases for you.

Peter Bourjos

I wrote up Bourjos here earlier this month.  I suggest you read it, as I am a very talented man.  While you’re at it, read about Jose Tabata, if you want some slightly-more-expensive steals.  Bourjos figures to get a real shot and given that, is a real threat to steal 30+ bases.  So he’s got that goin’ for him… which is nice…

Coco Crisp

If you know baseball, you know Covelli can fly.  The question now is can he get the healthy At-Bats necessary to be a fantasy impact player again.  Crisp stole 32 bases in 328 plate appearances in 2010, good for one steal every 10.25 times he stepped up, when he managed to stay healthy enough to play.  His base-stealing prowess is undeniable.  What could be problematic this upcoming year is playing time, as the A’s OF looks crowded if that’s where the team plans on using Chris Carter and his Thor-Hammer power.  But you know what Crisp can do with merely 400 PA – steal 35 bases.  Once again I look at projections, none of which have Coco getting 500 AB or even 400 AB, but all seem to think he’ll steal 30 bases- including Bill James, CAIRO, and ZiPS.   So what happens if he gets regular at bats at the top of a revitalized A’s lineup?  He could steal 45-50 bases and score a ton of runs is the answer.  Once again, track his spring training and how the AB’s play out to start the season, but I think Crisp is a heckuva pickup candidate in 2011.

Erick Aybar

The Angels love to run.  Aybar figures to hit first in their lineup, or at least near the top.  This seems like a scheme for stealing success (hooray alliteration and rhyme!).  Aybar stole 22 bases in 2010 at the bottom of the lineup and has a 32 steal season in AAA just 5 years ago.  Bill James undershoots here and has him at 19 steals, as does CAIRO which has him at 18.  CBS has him pegged for 20 and I think these are all not taking into account his spot in the lineup and the lineup’s sudden need for speed.  Let me be the first to beg Mike Scioscia “LET ERICK RUN!”  I don’t care if he spells his name in a silly way, given the green light and top-of-the-order at bats, I bet you a box of jelly donuts Aybar can steal 30 bases.  We shall see.  But he will most likely be available at the end of drafts and is worth a flier on a MI spot, a notoriously weak position in the later rounds.

Cliff Pennington

Great name, let me start off by saying.

Moving on, did you know that Cliff Pennington stole 29 bases last year even though he only hit .250?  I did.  But that’s only because of my considerable knowledge on all things irrelevant in all of life except fantasy baseball.  29 bases!  Let me do some quick math… carry the 7… that’s one off of a 30 steal campaign!  Bill James thinks he can match that in 2011 but I think he can do better.  Let me explain.  With a better lineup & favorable spot in the order ( doublecheck), a better BABIP (check) and a better base stealing eye that only a year of experience can give you (uh… check), shouldn’t a player be able to increase his steal total?  Pennington is likely to be the #9 hitter for the A’s, free to run.  His BABIP last year was a decent .296.  It is not unreasonable to think he could improve that, even slightly, and get on base more often, increasing to the .260-.270 BA range and an OBP of around .340.  These are not unreasonable terms and are only slight improvements on what most projections have him putting forth in 2011.  I am optimistic, if for no other reason because I want to believe.  Like Aybar, you could do worse than Pennington at the end of a draft to fill your MI spot.  I expect 20 steals at a minimum and 35 is not unattainable.  Be aware.

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So there you have it, some really cheap sources of steals (with an unintentional wild wild west coast skew).  More to the point, these guys provide one quality in spades – speed.  Speed kills.  Speed gets steals.  Speed gets runs.  These categories make or break fantasy seasons.  You want more?  Check out my posts about some other cheap-ish speedy guys: Peter Bourjos, Jose Tabata, Will Venable, and Dexter Fowler.  I am of the firm belief that speed can be the ‘X’ factor in winning a fantasy season.  So draft Juan Pierre if you must.  Waste a pick on Nyjer Morgan.  Spend hours debating whether or not Rajai Davis will produce in Toronto (he will, but he was too obvious for this post).  I’ve outlined for you some guys you can have in the last rounds, as pickups, or for less than a few bucks, if you’re into that auction crap.  What you do with the fountain of knowledge that I’ve supplied is up to you.  Just remember, in fantasy, you want cheap thrills.  And speed kills.

 

-w

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Filed under Cajones, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, offseason, Opinion, outfield, Pickups, Posted, Random Thoughts, Rookies, second base, shortstop

The all-contract year team

Every year there are a few guys who are in a contract year that put up crazy numbers that land them a large contract (Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson come to mind). Sometimes, they are just guys who already produce while others are coming off poor seasons (or careers) and need to rebound (badly). But no matter what they did last year, everything they do this year will be watched and scrutinized, giving them extra incentive to have a huge year. Keep an eye out for these guys:

C: Dionar Navarro

Once the one of the top prospects in the Yankees system, Navarro has fallen on hard times and had a terrible season in 2010. However, he is poised to become the Dodgers starting catcher and may finally tap his talent to prove he can stay in LA for the long haul. He is playing for his major league life and might respond well to the pressure.

1B: Prince Fielder

This is an obvious choice in early rounds but he could put up even bigger numbers this year than he did last year. He has a lot of pressure on him after signing a record arbitration contract, but also has a lot to prove. He is out to prove that he is not an after thought in the 2012 first baseman free agent class which could include Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez. Pujols and A-Gon are primed for huge seasons (and contracts) no matter what but Fielder is the real wildcard. He needs to show constant improvement especially after his down year last year in order to get the 7-10 year deal Scott Boras will be looking for.

2B: Rickie Weeks

Looking to build on his solid fantasy season last year, Weeks is in a great position to land a pretty big contract in the offseason. Weeks needs to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and that he can be an elite second baseman in the league. He played more games that he has in any other season with the Brewers and his durability will be a factor. Rickie will want to put to bed any doubt that he is a soft player who can put up mediocre stats. If last year is any indication, he will rise to the occasion.

SS: Jose Reyes

Remember when this guy was a one of the top players in all of fantasy? I do too and it wasn’t that long ago. Like Weeks, Reyes put up solid fantasy numbers after a year plagued by injuries. At 27, Reyes is entering his “prime” and will want a contract that will reflect that. Look for him to be a bright spot on an otherwise pretty bad Mets team.

3B: Aramis Ramirez

Yes, he is 32. Yes, he had a bad year last year. But the contract he signs next offseason could be his last professional contract and he will want to make it count. The Cubs should be improved this year which will help him, and the addition of Carlos Pena to the line up will also do wonders. I am not saying you should draft him early (or at all), but look for him to put together a streaky season and pick him up while he is on a hot-streak. As I said before, he is 32 and he knows he has an expiration date, he needs to show teams he hasn’t already past his. This should motivate him to a better season than last year.

OF: Jose Bautista

Another guy who will go early in drafts but also another guy who has a lot to prove. Can he put up the same numbers he did last year or will come back down to earth. (Also, just a note, he is recovering form offseason hernia surgery so keep an eye out for his recovery from that.)

OF: Grady Sizemore

The Indians have an option for Sizemore for $8.5 million or a buyout of $500,000 in 2012. Sizemore needs to prove his worth to the Indians or he might be facing free agency a year early. Especially after two down seasons (including one almost completely lost last year) Sizemore has to come up big. He was once the next can’t-miss superstar, but now he is looking like almost the exact opposite of that. This is a make or break year for him, and he knows it.

OF: Josh Willingham

This should be an interesting season for Willingham who will have to adjust to a new league and a new coast. Other than Navarro, he has to most to lose this season. If he puts up big numbers, he will get a large contract. A real boom-bust guy.

SP: Edwin Jackson

Another guy who is entering his “prime” Jackson has a lot more questions than answers. He can throw the ball nice and fast but can he improve his ERA and WHIP?  There have been other pitchers who had control problems who put together a solid contract year season (see Wright, Jaret) and Jackson could be poised to do just that.

CL: Jonathan Papelbon

Talk about a guy who is pitching with a chip on his shoulder. Pap has more than enough motivation to rebound after last season’s subpar performance and especially after it was reported he would have been non-tendered had the Red Sox signed Mariano Rivera this off-season. This guy is really pitching for his contract because it looks like Daniel Bard (or Bobby Jenks) is poised to take over the Sox  closer role after next season. Paps will come out on fire and put together an extremely impressive fantasy season.

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You should probably draft some Rangers

The unofficial mascot and motto of the 2011 Texas Rangers offense

And by Rangers, I mean the Texas offense, which has the potential to be absurd this year. Let’s take a look at the Ranger’s possible starting nine, (last years numbers are provided).

SS: Elvis Andrus (.265 AVG, 0 HR, 35 RBI, .342 OBP, .301 SLG, 32 SB)

2B: Ian Kinsler (.286, 9, 45, .382, .412)

1B: Jorge Cantu: (.256, 11, 56, .304, .392)

3B: Adrian Beltre (.321, 28, 102, .365, .553)

C: Bengie Molina (.249, 5, 36, .297, .326)

OF: Josh Hamilton (.359, 32, 100, .411, .633)

OF: Nelson Cruz (.318, 22, 78, .374, .567)

OF: David Murphy (.291, 12, 65, .358, .449)

DH: Michael Young (.284, 21, 91, .330, .440)

Other than Molina, those numbers are insane. Plus, Beltre’s numbers were from when he was playing for the Red Sox last year. What the Rangers lost with Cliff Lee in terms of pitching, they made up for in offense with Beltre. It should be noted that the Rangers put up those numbers without him in the lineup. If Beltre produces like he did last year, the Rangers are going to be an offensive force and with the sixth-highest park factor in the majors, the offensive numbers should continue.

While there are some obvious players to draft on this team (Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz) the lesser players like Young and Murphy should also put up better numbers with all the star power around them. Pitchers will be worn out after facing the Rangers 1-5, allowing ample opportunity for the bottom of the order to produce some big numbers.

Especially in deeper leagues, look for the likes of Young in the middle rounds (who will have added value because he will be eligible at multiple positions and will also be forgotten about because of Beltre) and Murphy in the later rounds. Another player to watch this year will be Taylor Teagarden. Due to Molina’s age (36) and lack of offensive production (see above) Teagarden might get a legitament shot this year, and could succeed without so much pressure. (The same goes for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but that is for another post).

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2011 Favorites: Shortstop

 

Shortstop is a tough fantasy position.  While the guys at the top are top notch (Tulo, Han-Ram), the guys in the middle leave lots of questions (I mean, have you ever drafted Jimmy Rollins?  Immensely frustrating), and the guys at the bottom leave much to be desired (think Felipe Lopez).  So while every kid dreams of being a SS and many play the position, few make it to be of fantasy relevance.  That’s where I come in.  With my silly knowledge of all things baseball, here I provide you with a cheat sheet of guys to look out for in the middle-to-late rounds when you don’t get Troy Tulowitzki.  Notice Jed Lowrie, though he is in the above video, is not mentioned.  This is because I am fighting my extreme Red Sox bias.  Lowrie belongs in the ‘Inception play’ category and could be a late round steal if you like him.  Anyway, enough chit chat.  Swing it round the horn and here we go, shortstops I like going into 2011:

 

 

Young Studs

kid just looks like a ballplayer

Starlin Castro

What a guy.  My team was abysmal last year, but one of the bright spots was my genius pickup of Castro when he first started getting playing time.  A good hitter right off the bat, one could worry about a sophomore slump for Starlin.  Not me.  And not Bill James, who’s a heckuva lot smarter than I.  Castro proved to be a great gap hitter, smashing 31 doubles and 5 triples in just 125 games (506 plate appearances).  Both Mr. James and I think he will maintain that type of hitting this upcoming year.  James has him as a .310 hitter, which I could see as being a bit high, with 39 doubles and 8 triples.  Couple that with a decent BB:K ratio (he does neither particularly often), and Castro should prove to be a very useful fantasy player at a position owners are generally stretched pretty thin for.  For both a starting SS and a MI position, you should be able to grab Castro much later than some of the bigger names and lose very little in production.

 

high-flying stud.

Elvis Andrus

Hard to miss this guy.  I way overdrafted him in an early draft pretty much because I couldn’t believe how fast he was in watching the Playoffs this past season.  With some minor growing pains, Andrus put up good months and bad months, all leading to a respectable .265 average (.342 OBP).  Settling into his role this year, Bill James (whose word, if you haven’t guessed, I take as near-gospel) has Andrus with a .274 average and a .344 OBP.  As he is wont to do, this is a conservative estimate.  But even with those numbers, James has him (again, conservatively) swiping 34 bags.  He is easily capable of stealing more, and I think he will both find his way on base more often than James does and will therefore cause more havoc on the bases.  Either way, Andrus figures to be a contributor to some important fantasy categories (read: runs and steals) that are invaluable coming from the SS position.  With that lineup, James’ 82 run prediction is woefully low.  I think Andrus is poised to have a great year in a stellar lineup.  But even if Bill James’ line is closer to reality, he’s a SS you want on your team if you miss out on the likes of Tulo and Han-Ram.

Don’t-Forget-About-These Guys


Asdrubal Cabrera

Remember in 2009 when he had 42 doubles and 68 RBI?  I do, because he seriously helped my playoff push with a monster August, hitting .370 and being a general MI monster.  He was limited to 381 AB’s in 2010 with that freak leg injury so his numbers are kinda irrelevant to my discussion here.  Available at both 2B and SS, Asdrubal is useful player even on a bad Indians team.  He is more than capable of hitting .285-.300, with 35+ doubles, 50+ RBI, and a handful of steals (by that I mean around 10).  Does this not convince you?  Back to Lord James… who has Cabrera at a .292 average, .354 OBP, 33 doubles, 78 runs, 59 RBI, and 13 steals.  I’m not saying Asdrubal Cabrera is a fantasy superstar, but it is guys like him who are the difference between winning and losing a fantasy championship.  When you’re at the end of a draft and need a MI, or when you’ve punted SS in an effort to sure up other positions, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Asdrubal.

The Inception Play


Alcides Escobar

Oh to be young and in Kansas City… er… or something.  I would have included Alcides here regardless of what team he was playing for but on the young Royals, I now know he’ll get starter at bats, so it’s a no brainer.  Let’s just be clear: this is the ‘Inception play,’ the deep, deep, oh-crap-I-went-all-25-rounds-without-a-middle-infielder situation.  Alcides Escobar is not going to carry your team.  This is strictly a value proposition here- you can get him late, later than his production will be valued at when the year ends, says I.  He has 20+ steal potential, and any projection you look at has him around 20 steals- before he went to the lowly Royals, where he figures to be able to run freely.  James has him hitting .272- very nice.  If he hits around .275, he’ll hit around 20 doubles, and 5 triples, with those 20+ steals, don’t you think he’s worth a last round flyer?  I do.  He’s on my watch list in case he really starts running wild in KC, but I doubt he’ll be drafted in many leagues.  Keep him in mind if you’re stuck with a mediocre SS in your draft and are looking for a buy low candidate.

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That’s it, my guys for 2011 who play the much coveted SS position.  As I said, I’m mancrushing on Andrus and drafted him waaaay early but I made this list so you don’t have to.  Be patient, let someone else take Jimmy Rollins and you’ll be just fine in your middle infield as long as you listen to this.  Again, watch out for super-sleeper-sub Lowrie, I’m done, enjoy the Tron Legacy soundtrack, it’s spectacular.

 

 

 

-w

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Filed under Fantasy Baseball, MLB, offseason, Opinion, Pickups, Posted, Random Thoughts, Rookies, shortstop, Sleepers