Tag Archives: blue jays

New Spot, Same Guy?

Every once in a tasty, tasty Blue Moon, Dave, who once wrote things for this site, comes up with a good idea.  He posed this question to me, and I thought it was an excellent one:

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Filed under Baseball, MLB, Opinion, poll

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

Are You Left-Handed? You Could Be ‘THAT Guy.’

You know when you’re watching a movie and you see ‘that guy?’  The surly beat cop.  The troubled scientist.  The grizzled war general.  The character actor.  They do not land glamorous roles, they’re never stars but they come up again and again in similar roles across mediums (The King? Clint Howard.  He’s my all time favorite. Or this guy.).  These actors and actresses make a living doing small but crucial roles in a larger scheme.  We have lots of character actors in baseball.  For every Albert Pujols, there is an Alex Cora.  We give them monikers like ‘character guys,’ ‘defensive specialists’ and, in some sports ‘glue’ guys.  I would like to take a moment to recognize one of the finest character actors we have in sports today, Mr. Darren Oliver, lefthander extraordinaire.

Oliver is about to sign with the Blue Jays on a 1-year deal.  When he does, it will mark the start of his 19th season in the MLB.  Oliver is such an interesting case to me.  Proof, if you will, that every left-handed child should learn to throw a curveball.  Oliver was a mediocre but effective back-end starter for those Rangers teams in the late 90’s when they time and time again failed to defeat the Yankees despite putting up video game numbers on offense (actually, he threw a really nice start in game 3 of the ALDS against the soon-to-be World Series Champs Yanks, poor Braves).  But his mediocrity caught up to him and by 2005, he was not signed to a major league team.  By then, he had become a 6th starter, a swingman.  Starting games and mopping up messes.  Then he wised up and became a situational lefty.  There are very few careers in the world so beautifully, specifically designed.

very dramatic pose.

And this is when and why I find him so endlessly delightful.  You can see here in some sortable stats and pretty-colored charts that Oliver is rarely touching 90 on the radar gun.  There is something undeniably fun about seeing major league batters pop up on an 80 mph fastball and clearly mouth some truly foul expletives as they head back to the dugout.  It humanizes them.  There’s no solid logic for what makes Oliver so effective as a reliever.  Barely throwing swiftly, let alone hard, Oliver gets the job done time after time out of the pen.  He held lefties to a .225 batting average in 2011 and had the same batting average against with men on base last year.  He is the consummate ‘crafty lefty.’  Straight out of baseball’s central casting.  He’ll never sign a deal for $25 million a year, but Oliver and guys like him win championships and don’t go away easily.  Congratulations, Mr. Oliver.  Your fastball-slider combo gives hope to every high school lefty worrying that, while it might send you back in time, 88 mile per hour won’t get you to the big show.

 

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, pitchers, Random Thoughts

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…

—————————————————————————————————————-

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

So What’s the Deal With the Vernon Wells-Mike Napoli Deal?

Mike Napoli________+_________ Juan Rivera                           = Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells is going to the Los Angeles near Anaheim within the State of California Angels.  Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera are headed to Toronto.  If you follow baseball, you know what this means for the teams.  Toronto is thrilled to be rid of Wells’ contract as they attempt to rebuild, and picked up two great pieces in the process.  Anaheim missed out on the big names this offseason (unless you count Scott Downs…), so they’re happy to add a big name bat in the middle of their lineup (Vernon Wells bounced back in a big way last year if you don’t buy that- look it up).  This is all well and good, two teams likely very happy with an  trade- but what does this mean for fantasy?  Quite a lot actually.  The move means Bobby Abreu is likely a full time DH, which means Vlad the Impaler is not coming back to LAA-LAA land.  It means Peter Bourjos will not be manning center field in 2011.  Nor will Torii Hunter.  The trade means Juan Rivera is still not going to get enough AB’s to be a full time outfielder.  It also means Napoli will take time from both J.P. Arencibia (who I wrote up here) and likely Adam Lind.  But don’t get me wrong- Napoli is a great fit in that lineup/ballpark.  Clearly, the fantasy implications are plentiful, so let us take a look at a few of the moving parts.

The Angels Lineup

The Angels have a nifty 3-4-5 now, assuming Vernon Wells continues to progress on the comeback trail.  A projected lineup with Abreu at 2 and Kendrick at 6 or 7 is formidable in my book.  The slide to DH should be great for Abreu and his aging body, so I would imagine his ailing numbers from last year would bump up.  Assuming Morales comes back healthy and Torii Hunter plays his usual ball, Wells should have ample opportunities, that is to say more than in Toronto, to drive in runs.  Those 31 homers and 88 RBI in a weaker Toronto lineup could suddenly be 35 and 115 in a stronger Angels squad, so draft Vernon accordingly now in his new digs.  However, this is not all roses, as Peter Bourjos (who I wrote up here) could end up losing time if Abreu doesn’t get relegated to a strictly DH role.  Also worth noting- the Angels have some good catchers.  From Jeff Mathis to Hank Conger to Bobby Wilson, all are Major League viable and Conger is supposed to be a powerful backstop (fangraphs here, hardball times here).  If you’re in a 2 catcher league, Conger could be an interesting late round grab.

The Blue Jays Lineup

The Jays like to mash.  They hit an astounding 257 homers (and whiffed hundreds and hundreds of times) so Napoli should fit right in with his swing-mash-whiff mentality in a swing-whiff-mash lineup.  He had a career year, smushing 26 homers in just 510 plate appearances, but only amassing 68 RBI.  While I cannot guarantee an upturn in either of those numbers, I can certainly tell you Napoli should have no problem replicating them.  Also, there is the possibility of him moving around to 1B and DH, getting more at bats, which should, inevitably, lead to more homers.  Juan Rivera is interesting here too.  Should they decide to give him regular playing time, that slides Jose Bautista and his bazooka arm to third (useful) and gets Rivera regular AB (very useful).  The last time Rivera got regular AB (572 PA), in 2009, he was more than a capable fantasy resource, posting a .287 AVG, whacking 25 homers, and driving in 88 runs.  In a retooled Toronto lineup, Rivera could be batting 6th/7th so the RBI’s might not be there, but my goodness could the power show up.  I’d watch him to start the year as the Jays figure out who they’re going to play where.  Speaking of playing time, an astute fantasy owner has a red flag go up from this deal – what is going to happen to J.P. Arencibia?  He is of a similar profile to Napoli with worse plate discipline, so perhaps the deal is the best thing for the rookie, as he will not have to shoulder all the catching duties as Lind, Arencibia, and Napoli rotate through the 1B/C/DH carousel.  Given this assumption, Arencibia should still put up useful rookie numbers because, as we know, catching can be a fantasy black hole at times.

 

 

It’s a good deal for both squads and it’s a good deal for fantasy.  Sort of came out of nowhere, but man it has some implications going into 2011 for those of us monitoring such guys as backup catchers and fourth outfielders.  Hope no one’s snowed in, and thanks for the comments we’ve been getting, we love the feedback.  Stay warm.

 

-w

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Filed under Cajones, Fantasy Baseball, first base, MLB, offseason, Opinion, outfield, Posted, Rookies, Sleepers

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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The Bautista-led Blue Jays Covet their 3rd place spot in AL East

This is ”swear to god wrote this  days ago'” from nillyDANGLE,

this is important to his importance (and competence) as this post is still relevant… though messy  so go ahead and do your worst…

grr baby                                  the bautista.

With a division in baseball as tough as the American League East, it would only make sense that a team in “just don’t be too shitty” mode like Toronto would be clinging on for dear life to 3rd place.  Well, much to the dismay of us Red Sawx (yeah I said ‘Sawx’, ’cause I like to get drunk and talk in a Boston accent) fans, the damn Jays are in fact clinging and clinging hard…real hard.

It all begins with Jose Bautista, a 3b/utility man who has played much of his career with Baseball’s worst team (of the decade): The Pittsburgh Pirates.  Yesterday Bautista hit his team-leading 14th home run – to go with his team-leading 38 rbi’s.

On the flip side…Bautista’s batting avg: An astounding .242.

So how does a less than attractive utility man turn on such ridiculous power numbers (which have come fairly consistently might I add; he should be owned in most leagues)?

Couldn’t be steroids…you have to be partially brain-dead to make that mistake now.

Perhaps he took fertility drugs, but Bautista has suffered no really serious injuries in his 6 year major league career.

Could it be that he’s just pulling a Chris Shelton circa 2006?  Nah Shelton hit 9 hr’s in his first 13 games.

The fact of the matter is: Jose Bautista has just bought into the entire offensive philosophy of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The same mindset that destroyed the 50 double seasons for Lyle Overbay, and enabled Aaron Hill to hit 36 home runs in 2009 (a feat that our own Dave White feels he can repeat, BOO Dave!)

The coincidence: C John Buck has 8 home runs at a .269 clip where he has struck out 36 times already as a time-splitting catcher; AND out of never-never land SS Alex Gonzalez (a former powerless Red Sox nonetheless) has 10 home runs while hitting .275 (an avg. that will likely drop considering it was at a whopping .260 just five days ago).

It is evident that Jays manager Cito Gaston tells his team to swing for the god damn fences because in all reality, a couple of big flies have to happen each game in order for the Blue Jays to keep place at the middle of the AL East.

So keep swining it like Johnny Gomes with a fungo bat Joseph, if ya’ll get some pitching to go along with your crafty offense you guys may just earn yourselves the ‘Bush League’ award…and you personally will not be ranked in the top 300 fantasy players next off season…again.

-dangle

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WHAT DID I SAY???

I hope you guys listened to my advice. (Check out the time of the comment if you doubt me). As it has been said in several places, we are very confident in our fantasy knowledge and don’t wait to jump on the bandwagon like some other sites (Espn, ahem).

That being said, Brett Cecil has great stuff and a bright future, but do not expect him to be a stud, yet.  His minor league stats are intriguing, but he lacks the consistency needed to take the jump to fantasy stardom.  His upside is 2009 Jonathan Sanchez…but in the AL East and not the Little League known as the NL West.  Cecil is worth grabbing in deeper leagues (14+) and definitely worth a spot on your watch list.  Keep an eye out for favorable matchups.  If you can’t tell given the number of “but”s, keep your expectations in check.

Spread the word.

ducksonthepondkid.wordpress.com

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Blue Jays Tab Frasor as Closer- Fantasy Implications

Gaston has tabbed Jason Frasor as the closer for Toronto.  This is a very interesting move for several reasons.  First, the Jays signed Kevin Gregg this offseason. Second, Scott Downs was very effective in the 9th inning last year.  All signs indicated to Gregg getting the job or the Jays going with a closer by committee.  Naming Frasor as the closer is clearly a move to showcase him for a trade.  He was very solid last season in relief and certainly has the stuff to close.  Ever since Joe Nathan went down, the Twins have been in the market for a closer.  Frasor is certainly a man of interest for Minnesota.  Make sure to watch this situation as a trade could also increase the value of Gregg and/or Downs.

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