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Monday, May 04, 2009
Saturday saw one of the most anticipated call-ups of the 2009 season. The Cleveland Indians recalled one of the games top right-handed power prospects, OF Matt LaPorta. And promptly sat him on the bench so lefty hitting Dave Dellucci could DH against right-hander Zach Miner.
A week and a half earlier, the Los Angeles Angels saw their top power threat, OF Vladimir Guerrero, go on the disabled list with a torn pectoral muscle. With the team’s top power prospect Brandon Wood ripping up Triple-A, many in the baseball and fantasy industry saw his recall inevitably leading to the full-time at-bats we richly believed he deserved. Instead, manager Mike Scioscia batted the likes of Macier Izturis and Robb Quinlan in the three-hole and/or at DH and has used Wood in just three games over that period.
Other than the excitement of rostering the next hyped rookie, playing time enigmas like Wood and LaPorta mean close to nothing to the typical mixed league player. With an abundance of free agent hitters in the player pool, there is nothing to compel the mixed leaguer to add a player whose professional production consists entirely of rosy projections rather than one whose production has been demonstrated at the major league level.
In single league formats, though, rostering the next hyped rookie is imperative. With a player pool consisting of little used back-up catchers, fifth outfielders and obligatory back-ups in the middle infield, there exists only the potential of rosy projections. Even when those projections prove to be more thorn than rose, fantasy players in AL- and NL-only leagues still get more production than otherwise was freely available.
Addtionally, the AL/NL-only player cannot allow a potential full-time player to go to a competitor's team because the free agent pool already reflects the number of these players at any one time: zero. Very rarely are there more than a team or two in an AL/NL Only league who doesn't have a dead spot on their active roster. A typical mixed league free agent pool is filled with multiple starting players at each available positions, and every team has everyday players on their active rosters
Because the opportunity cost for hyped rookies is so low in AL- and NL-only leagues (losing nothing relative to the freely available players nor by cutting productive active players), getting excited about the chance to add a Brandon Wood or Matt LaPorta becomes an event in fantasy baseball. The question that remains unanswered at this point is why an industry currently dominated by mixed league formats generates any excitement at all about a prospect.
Others call-ups to watch who can still help AL- and NL-Only leaguers without a marquee role:
3B Mat Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers: The lefty masher is toying with Triple-A the way Matt LaPorta did. The Brewers currently play Craig Counsell at 3B against left-handed starters. Gamels’ bat would seem to be quite an improvement over that. Left sides of platoons make for quality options in single format leagues.
RP Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox: The converted starter does nothing but strike out hitters or keep the ball on the ground (23 strikeouts in 13.2 innings with a 2.20 GO/FO ratio at Triple-A). He has no chance at closing in Boston but has the type of arm that makes LIMA adherents drool. Mixed leaguers need not apply.
OF Will Venable, San Diego Padres: The Padres have outfield at-bats for the taking. First baseman Kyle Blanks would be a no-brainer NL-only grab if the Padres played him in the outfield. That doesn’t seem likely as he only plays there before Triple-A games and not during them. Venable, however, is the starting center fielder and could help NL-only teams if recalled.
OF Justin Maxwell, Washington Nationals: In a week long stint with the Nats, Maxwell stole three bases to remind fantasy leaguers of the 27 home run, 35 steal season he had between Low- and High-A in 2007. There doesn’t appear to be anywhere for Maxwell to play with Lastings Milledge awaiting the end of his Triple-A banishment and Elijah Dukes currently in center field for the Nats. This would prevent any mixed leaguer from adding him, but NL-only ones can benefit from 10 at-bats per week if they come with a steal and a home run every other week.
Last Week Follow-Up: Kansas City Royals middle reliever Jamey Wright pitched in the ninth inning of a 9-1 loss and the eighth inning of a couple games but did not pitch in the ninth of any of the four games the Royals won while closer Joakim Soria was recovering. Juan Cruz received the only save opportunity and converted it successfully.
Posted by Eric Hinz at 2:23am
This past week was surely an active one for owners scrounging for saves, with changes coming in five bullpens. Manny Corpas was overtaken by Huston Street in Colorado, Jose Valverde and Brandon Morrow were placed on the disabled list, Trevor Hoffman returned from the DL, and Joel Hanrahan was removed in Washington.
While most of the replacements were obvious, the situation in Washington is still unsettled. We've yet to see a save opportunity come, so we're still mostly just speculating who will be the favorite for the role. Manager Manny Acta said that he'll go with a committee of Julian Tavarez, Kip Wells, and Joe Beimel (once he comes off the DL, probably on Wednesday), but one of those guys will likely get the majority of the saves. Today, I'd like to speculate a bit on who it will be.
To do this, I'd like to reintroduce an old friend: Leverage Index (gmLI). I first talked about its uses for fantasy owners in this article last year. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. For those too lazy too, here's a quick excerpt:
What I believe this will tell us is how much a manager trusts a particular reliever in important situations. This could be a conscious thing the manager is doing or an unconscious one; either way, it can give us valuable insights into how he views the various members of his bullpen...
Let's take a look at how gmLI would have predicted a couple of the other changes that occurred this week:
Seattle Mariners Closer
David Aardsma - 2.02
Shawn Andrew Kelley - 1.88
Chris Jakubauskas - 1.49
Miguel Batista - 1.34
Roy Corcoran - 1.27
Mark Lowe - 0.62
Sean White - 0.52
With Morrow hitting the DL, everyone pretty much knew that David Aardsma was next in line. gmLI nailed this one. Note for AL-only leaguers: Shawn Andrew Kelley is having a great year with terrific peripherals. He has a pretty good minor league track record as well, so he might be a nice ratio helper. Definitely worth a flier in deep leagues.
Houston Astros closer
Tim Byrdak - 1.51
LaTroy Hawkins - 1.43
Chris Sampson - 1.12
Geoff Geary - 1.11
Doug Brocail - 0.99
Felipe Paulino - 0.99
Wesley Wright - 0.46
Russ Ortiz - 0.36
Jeff Fulchino - 0.38
As we know, with Valverde on the DL, LaTroy Hawkins will be closing games in Houston. He was second in Leverage Index to Tim Byrdak, whose number may be inflated as a lefty or who may have been passed over because he is a lefty. Doug Brocail was drafted in many leagues as Valverde's backup, but he's given up a lot of runs and clearly isn't trusted as much as he was last year. Manager Cecil Cooper said that Chris Sampson (third in gmLI) and Brocail (fifth but probably with some residual trust) might also see some occasional saves.
Overall, gmLI was pretty solid.
Washington Nationals closer
Now for the Nats.
Mike Hinckley - 1.42
Julian Tavarez - 1.28
Kip Wells - 1.25
Garrett Mock - 1.23
Joe Beimel - 1.16
Saul Rivera - 1.09
What we know so far is that Tavarez, Wells, and Beimel are the three candidates. Hinckley comes in No. 1 in gmLI, but as a lefty, perhaps he can be discounted.
Mock comes in above Beimel, but his number is influenced by early season trust. If you remember a couple of weeks ago, when Hanrahan's job was first in jeopardy, he and Beimel were the two candidates discussed. He's since been removed from contention.
Logan Kensing is the only other reliever on the 25-man roster, but he was recently acquired (and thus doesn't have a gmLI yet) and his name hasn't been discussed as a potential closer.
So that leaves us with an order of Tavarez, Wells, and Beimel (pre-injury number, naturally). Does that mean Tavarez is the best bet? Well, he and Wells are very close, yet Beimel was the only one being talked about two weeks ago. Overall, this is still a very murky situation.
So what else do we know? Wells has a 1.42 ERA, but his skills are the worst with an xFIP of 5.79 and a 2008 figure of 6.46. Even if he gets the first few save opportunities and wins the job, I just can't see him keeping it for very long. It's hard to imagine him posting an ERA under 5.00, and that just won't fly.
Tavarez has solid skills but a 4.50 ERA. He's an extreme ground ball pitcher and has done well enough when restricted to a relief role (see: 2004, 2005, 2008). His 2004 and 2006 (a few starts mixed in) were pretty bad, however. Still, he posted an 8.4 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, and 53 percent GB% last year and is off to an even better start in 2009.
Beimel had a 1.23 ERA before his injury and hasn't posted an ERA north of 4.00 since 2004 (with two years under 3.00). His xFIP's have all been in the mid-to-high 4.00s, but there is a chance that he can control his HR/FB. It's just 7.1 percent for his career (league average is 11 percent-ish), and he's allowed just one homer since 2006 (123.2 IP).
So that leaves us with two legitimate candidates: Tavarez and Beimel. It's close, but I'm putting my money on Tavarez. There is one big warning flag with Beimel that leads me to believe he just couldn't last long as closer. He is awful against right-handed batters. Almost every year he walks more batters than he strikes out against RHB. That's just not going to cut it for a closer.
If he comes back healthy (or, rather, appears healthy to Manny Acta), I imagine he'll get the first couple save chances. It's fine to pick him up and then try to deal him, but long-term, Tavarez is the only one of the three who I think has any chance of lasting.
Please caution, however: don't sleep on Hanrahan. He's mostly just been unlucky and is by far the best option of the bunch.
One final note: don't discount the Nationals' save situation because they're a poor team. Poor teams close plenty of games.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:13am (1) Comments
Let's see what we have for today.
Player Pool: Mixed
No. of Teams: 10
Scoring Type: Head-to-Head
Other Notes: Keeper League
C: Chris Iannetta
1B: Miguel Cabrera
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Jimmy Rollins
3B: Chipper Jones
OF: Josh Hamilton
OF: Ryan Ludwick
OF: Adam Jones
Util: Aubrey Huff
BN: Corey Hart
BN: Adam Lind
BN: Kelly Johnson
BN: Marco Scutaro
SP: Cole Hamels
SP: Francisco Liriano
SP: Derek Lowe
SP: Javier Vazquez
SP: John Danks
SP: Kyle Davies
RP: Brandon Morrow
RP: Frank Francisco
Today’s roster is provided by Eric, who questions why his team has been having trouble this season. Obviously, every manager who owns Chris Iannetta and (especially) Jimmy Rollins has been frustrated by their performances thus far this season. While it wasn’t specified in the email, any troubles in the stolen base category can be explained by Jimmy Rollins’ struggles at the plate. Its awfully difficult to steal bases when you have an on-base percentage of less than .300. But, I think both Rollins and Iannetta will be just fine and, in fact, both have hit over .300 this past week. So with Rollins heading in the right direction, this team should be a little more competitive in the stolen bases category.
I think its fairly clear that this team could use some help in the power categories, especially since Josh Hamilton was recently placed on the disabled list. The good news is that this team has some depth, and I would plug either Lind or Hart into the lineup, depending on the match-up. Lind has hit in the fifth spot all year for the Blue Jays and should provide more home runs and RBIs while Hart should net more runs and stolen bases.
I would actually consider trading Ludwick and try to deal for more power. I don’t see Ludwick maintaining his performance for the entire year, and I would trade him while his value is essentially at its highest. I would consider dealing him in a two-for-one package deal, along with someone like Scutaro, who is on fire but very unlikely to maintain the rates he has been posting thus far. I would target someone like Ryan Braun who is more valuable all-around but who hasn't been playing up to par yet this season.
I’m not sure what the position eligibility is like in this league, but in many leagues, Brandon Morrow qualifies as both a starter and reliever. If he qualifies as a starting pitcher, I would definitely look to start three closers, especially since this is only a 10-team league. And considering this league depth, I’m not sure its worth holding onto Kyle Davies. If there isn’t a serviceable starter on the waiver wire, I’d recommend picking up a reliever who qualifies as a starter, and plug him in to help keep the ERA and WHIP numbers down. It just seems like Davies would do more damage than good to your team at this depth.
Also, since second base is a fairly deep position this year relative to previous years, I might drop Kelly Johnson to pick up more power. Again, this league is not that deep so Johnson loses some value especially since similar players like Mike Aviles can most likely still be found on the free agent list. The added player may not get much playing time, but that addition could help in the future, whether to help compensate for injuries or as a toss-in player in trade proposals. I just don’t think Kelly Johnson is worth a roster spot in this league.