Fantasy Mailbag: Beltran or Vlad?

It’s time for my first fantasy mailbag of the year. We’ve got some questions about trade offers and some questions about the value of players on the waiver wire. If you have a question of your own, don’t hesitate to send it my way. Even if I don’t include it in my next fantasy mailbag, I’ll try to answer it as quickly as possible. Please include your full name and the city and state you live in.

And without further ado, the questions and answers:

A guy in my 5×5 ML-universe roto league has offered me Vlad for Beltran, straight up. Now, I have some other runners in Renteria, Furcal, Sanders, Burroughs, and Wilkerson, but not really anyone I’d consider a lock for serious steal numbers. But, Vlad is a great hitter in a strong lineup with plenty of RBI and runs scored opportunities. Who would you take?Simon Helton

Guerrero is a great player, both in real life and in the fantasy world, but Beltran is a better fantasy option at this point without a doubt. Beltran is in his age-27 season, he hits for average and power and he’s an amazing base-stealer. Guerrero used to provide average, power and steals, but his days of racking up a lot of stolen bases are over. He has a bad back and he was never a good base-stealer in the first place, so it’s a no-brainer for him to stop attempting to steal, and you’ll notice that he hasn’t attempted a steal yet this season.

While Guerrero is a decent bet to outperform Beltran in average, home runs, runs and RBIs, it won’t be by a large margin in any category if he does, and the fact that Beltran will steal at least 30 more bases will more than make up for it. You also have to take into account that of the two players, Guerrero’s the one who’s a bigger risk of significantly falling short of expectations due to injury.

I would not have a problem with trading Beltran for Alfonso Soriano straight up. If you don’t need the steals, then I would have no problem with trading Beltran for Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols straight up, either. Anybody else, however, and you should keep Beltran.

I got offered Jose Contreras for Brad Radke in my 5×5 (IP, W, SV, ERA, WHIP) league. I am thinking Contreras will end up with better numbers and should jump on it, but was just looking for a second opinion.Trenton R.

I’d tend to agree with you. Both players are struggling right now and while Radke has been better, Contreras has much more potential. However, it’s not the slam dunk that it would be if it were a 5×5 league with strikeouts instead of innings pitched. Contreras will have a much better strikeout rate than Radke, but Radke has pitched at least 210 innings in seven of the last eight seasons.

If you do trade Radke for Contreras, you might want to leave Contreras on the bench against the better offenses. He is fully capable of dominating bad, or even average, offenses, but I think he’ll continue to struggle all year against the best hitting teams in the league.

What do you think of Nate Robertson‘s performance thus far? Could he be for real? I’m looking for some starting pitching help in my Yahoo league, and I think I’m trying to choose between Robertson and Jose Acevedo of the Reds. To get either of these guys, though, I’ll need to drop Mark Buehrle. Buehrle doesn’t appear to be any better than he was last year, and I was counting on a rebound from him. Do you think either of these kids is worth the risk?Kevin Hess, Lawrence, Kansas

Is it possible that Robertson will have a decent season? I suppose it is. Is it possible that he will continue to strike out 11.91 hitters every nine innings? Absolutely not. Keep in mind that his strikeout rate will come back to earth and also that he’s walked 16 hitters in 22.2 innings, and you have to worry at least a little bit about Robertson’s ability to keep turning in solid starts. He absolutely won’t keep his ERA below 3.00, but I guess it wouldn’t completely shock me if his ERA is around 4.00 at the end of the year.

Acevedo had three solid starts to begin the year before getting hammered in his last starts. He’s only 26 years old, he was pretty good in his brief time in the majors last year and he’s had nice success in the minor leagues. I think he’ll probably have a better season than Robertson, especially since he doesn’t have to face designated hitters and the Cincinnati offense should be better than the Detroit offense.

Now, to answer your ultimate question, I’d hang on to Buehrle, especially if it’s not a league that counts strikeouts. Buehrle looks like the kind of pitcher who shouldn’t be good and he’s gotten worse as his career’s gone on, but he still had a 3.71 career ERA coming into this season. He’s proven that he can be at least a decent pitcher in the major leagues and neither of the other two have yet.

If you want to gamble that Buehrle is washed up at age 25 or that Acevedo is going to have a breakout season, I wouldn’t make fun of you or anything, but I wouldn’t do it myself. Buehrle’s strikeout rate has actually been better thus far than in past year, but he’s given up too many home runs and too many hits. The high hit totals are probably partly bad luck, so he should be okay if he can get the home runs under control.

Can you give me the lowdown on Keith Ginter, 2B/3B for the Brewers? He seems to be having a pretty stellar year thus far, though Milwaukee seems to only be playing him as a utility player and sub. Why does Wes Helms — he of the .246 batting average and .620 OPS — have a lock on the job thus far? Are these numbers for real? I haven’t seen any discussion of Ginter in any of the fantasy articles I read.Andrew Martin

Ginter is certainly off to a fabulous start, hitting .308/.426/.667 with four home runs in 39 at-bats through Tuesday. He’s a fine player to have on a major-league roster and he may even deserve a full-time job somewhere, but Ginter’s hitting way over his head right now.

Ginter and Helms both got by far the most playing time of their career last season, and their performance was very similar. If you prorate their numbers from 2003 to 600 at-bats, the numbers are remarkably close. Helms prorates to 156 hits, 26 doubles, 29 home runs, 54 walks, 165 strikeouts, a .261 average, .330 OBP and .450 SLG. Ginter prorates to 154 hits, 25 doubles, 23 homers, 62 walks, 146 strikeouts, a .257 average, .352 OBP and .427 SLG.

Ginter has more plate discipline and Helms has more power, but they’re about as close as two players can get, right down to the fact that they were born a week apart. Helms is struggling right now, but he’ll get better and he’ll probably hang onto the starting job. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which one’s playing more as neither of them are more than a backup in most fantasy leagues.

I want to know what you think Vernon Wells‘ value is at this point. Many preseason rankings had him in the top 20. I was skeptical of this high ranking — Vernon Wells only has one quality season under his belt (granted he is only 25). While his upside might be very large, many guys never achieve what their expected “potential” is. Someone in my league has Wells, and is very eager to give him away. How high (or low) of a caliber player should I give up to get him?Brian Lestz

I didn’t quite have Wells ranked in the top 20 overall, but I was pretty high on him and put him 10th in my outfield rankings. Wells is certainly struggling early this season, but I still think he’ll have a fine season. Not only was was excellent at just 24 years old last year, he was also generally quite good in the minor leagues as well.

Since he’s had such a bad April, I’ve got to tone down my pre-season projections for him a little bit. However, I still think he’ll hit at least .280 with 25 home runs, a handful of steals, 100 runs and 100 RBIs. I don’t know if I’d trade anybody who also should be about that good for him, but if you have somebody who’s playing over his head right now (like Jermaine Dye) or if you have somebody who should get those numbers but is an injury risk (like Phil Nevin), you could see if that’s enough.

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