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THT's Fantasy Archives
Friday, October 30, 2009
Victor Martinez | Boston | C
2009 Final Stats: .303/.381/.480
From a fantasy perspective, Martinez is like Joe Mauer “lite.” He contributes in four categories, doesn't get credit in most formats for his good OBP, and plays a lot of games elsewhere when taking days off from catching. Entering 2009, there were serious concerns that his 2008 injuries had diminished Vic's skills, but nothing could be further from the truth—it's almost like the rest rejuvenated him, as at age 30 he surpassed all his excellent career norms. And, with his newer, friendlier ballpark and lineup, don't be surprised if he keeps it up. Getting at least 100 more PA than a typical catcher, and a lot less hype than Mauer or Wieters, Martinez may actually be undervalued on draft day, considering the huge dropoff after the Big Three to the rest of the pack of AL catchers.
Miguel Cabrera | Detroit | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .324/.396/.547
As a fan of “the game of baseball”—even above any team fandom—the “incident” involving Cabrera's personal life late in the 2009 season was very disappointing. With less fanfare than Pujols, Miguel Cabrera has staked out a claim as the second-best young hitter with his .311/.383/.542 career batting line (though ex-teammate Hanley Ramirez may dispute said “claim”). Entering his age-27 season in 2010 with 4,441 PA already, he has a chance to post some amazing career totals still. He had to drive in 19 runs in the final 24 games to get over 100 (103) this year, but expect his RBI to “rebound” to more than 110 again as Granderson's OBP rises back above .327. We won't profess to know what will happen in M-Cab's off-field life, but while we're hoping for the best—that he lives his life as excellently as he hits baseballs—we'd suggest tempering mathematical valuation projections by $1-2, since off-field events that generate public backlash can occasionally spiral out of control. Not much of a hedge, though, since when it comes to racking up fantasy stats, he's about as good as you'll find in the AL.
Adam Jones | Baltimore | OF
2009 Final Stats: .277/.335/.457
Two months do not a season make, as Adam Jones will attest. On June 2, he knocked two hits against the team that drafted him, the Mariners, putting his stat line at an amazing .347/.402/.611! The former shortstop prospect looked great defensively in center, putting him among the most valuable players in the league at that stage. Rumors of Felix Pie and a voodoo doll weren't substantiated, but Jones hit like Pie had the rest of the way—.230/.290/.353 (and Pie picked up the pace shortly thereafter ... things that make you go “hmmm”?). Mystic explanations aside, Jones is starting to show signs of being one of those players who is constantly injured, which isn't much fun for anyone—fan or fantasy owner (though Pie benefited). Here is a list of injury reports from 2009:
April 20 – hamstring
May 19 – hamstring
June 14 – shin
June 30 – neck/shoulder (after collision with wall)
July 12 – fluid drained from both knees
August 23 – back injury
September 1 – ankle – out for season
No direct causality around the June 2 collapse, but it's easy to understand how he wasn't able to break out of a slump when he was constantly injuring different body parts. Expect to read about how he's “worked harder than ever” and is “in the best shape of his life” in spring training—the usual pablum. But he's clearly in the “high risk” category now. The awesome start to his 2009 season indicates that he's a guy who has almost unlimited four-category upside, but don't be the team that pays full value for his “potential.”
Michael Cuddyer | Minnesota | OF
2009 Final Stats: .276/.342/.520
Where did THAT come from?! Long thought to have great hitting skills, for which the Twins made him the ninth overall pick in the 1997 draft, Cuddyer hadn't been very impressive, hitting .268/.344/.441 in his first eight seasons with the Twins (2,646 PA), and playing mediocre defense. It wasn't totally a surprise that he slugged over .500, as he'd done so in 2006, also. Nor was it a surprise that he drove in 94 runs (he had 109 in 2006), but he was coming off a brutal .249/.330/.369 season, which followed a sub-par 2007, and gave him a distinctly downward-pointing trend line. With the way he kept the team alive after Morneau went down, he has cemented his role on the team, almost certainly insuring that his 2011 club option is picked up. Since he appears totally healthy, expect slightly more than his .270/.344/.457 career stat line, and lots of Mauers—er, baserunners—on base to drive in.
Jon Lester | Boston | SP
2009 Final Stats: 10.0 K/9, 3.5 K/BB, 3.41 ERA
By request, we're discussing what to expect from Jon Lester. The short answer is: Expect more of the same. His ERA was 3.41, his FIP 3.25, his xFIP 3.33. His second-half improvement of over 1.00 ERA bodes well for his 2010, though much of it was “luck balancing,” as his first-half BABIP was .336, compared to .286 in the second half. He's not only unperturbed by pitching in Boston, he's been better at home, allowing just five HR compared to 15 on the road. When his biggest claims to fame were being a cancer survivor and wildness that limited his effectiveness, it seemed quite the reach for Steve Phillips (formerly of ESPN) to tab him as the first pitcher he'd take to build around, but that's not looking so absurd anymore. He had some trouble throwing strikes to the Angels this year in the postseason, but his career postseason ERA stands at 2.57 (in 42.0 IP), so “clutch” pitching doesn't appear to bother him. We wouldn't take him first, but he's a very good bet to have an ERA under 3.5, and a WHIP under 1.3, both of which he's accomplished each of the past two seasons.
Justin Verlander | Detroit | SP
2009 Final Stats: 10.1 K/9, 4.3 K/BB, 3.45 ERA
What number is next in this xFIP sequence: 4.67, 4.38, 4.78? If you said “3.41,” you win! And the Tigers won with Verlander, as he went 19-9 in 2009. His 2008 season had many of the warning signs of a pitcher who'd been overused in his formative years, including a decline in average fastball velocity (“down” to 93.6 mph, but he'd been around 95 the previous 2 years). Well, he rediscovered the triple-digit heat that got so many raves pre-draft, averaging a career-best 95.6 mph on his fastballs. And he also reined in his control, reducing his walks to a scant 2.5 BB/9. Verlander is a flyball pitcher, and can be expected to give up a homer about every 10 IP, so he was slightly “lucky” in 2009, but his BABIP was .323, which can be expected to adjust downward. With the Central being the weakest division, Verlander is arguably the preeminent AL fantasy pitcher to get in 2010, though we'd probably rank a couple of the other heavyweights above him for now, until he shows he can maintain his great control for another season.
In answer to the reader query, we'd take Verlander over Lester, but either should be great. Mike should be commenting on Carpenter on the NL side, but it's presumed that he'd be third in that group, just due to the uncertainty of his injury history.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Ryan Doumit | Pittsburgh | C
2009 Final Stats: .250/.299/.414
Stick your thumb up like you're hitchhiking. See that triangular pocket formed by your tendons? It's called the "anatomical snuffbox," and underneath it is the scaphoid bone, one of several bones that make up your wrist joint. It's also the same bone that Doumit broke on April 19, knocking him out for nearly two months and possibly leading to his awful season.
For what it's worth, this bone is nearly always broken by a fall, the kind where you try to stop yourself with the heels of your hands. Doumit claimed he hurt it while swinging a bat, but it's more likely he hurt it at some other point. There wasn't a play at the plate on the day he hurt it, and his swing was no more violent than usual, at least to my eye. Is this one of those hidden off-the-field injuries? Do with it what you will.
Whatever its cause, Doumit's wrist certainly seemed to bother him for the rest of the season. He wasn't really tearing off the cover in the dozen games he'd played before losing seven-plus weeks, but he limped through most of the season after he returned. His best month was September, when he hit .329/.406/.459, displaying unusual patience, with a .58 BB/K ratio—if that doesn't sound so hot, compare it to the .30 he put up the rest of the year.
Overall, however, 2009 simply stunk for Doumit. His .268 BABIP and .164 ISO were the lowest since 2006 and 2005, respectively. That low BABIP could either signal bad luck or hitting with less authority; that his 17.9 LD% was his lowest since 2006 would point towards the latter. Since it's rare for a guy's power to suddenly vaporize at his age 28, this is most likely wrist-related. To wrap up the anatomy lesson from above, some people can take up to six months to heal completely from a scaphoid fracture, and loss of hand and wrist strength (sometimes permanent) isn't unusual.
On the bright side, his .73 GB/FB ratio, 11.6% HR/F and 3.3 HR% all held steady, so he hasn't changed his swing and he's managing to get the ball out of the yard when he does get a hold of it. He's probably going to recover some of that power as his wrist heals completely.
Pittsburgh fans can also expect to see him behind the plate for the next several seasons—he's signed through 2011, and they've said they have no plans to move him from catcher. Given Doumit's injury history, they may change their tune eventually, and he did get a few starts in RF partway through the season when they were looking for more offense, but that's not going to happen soon. That's more good news for fantasy owners, since his value is clearly tied to his position. The Pirates actually look like they might be a bit better next season, so he might even have a chance to knock in some runs.
Doumit's still a free-swinger, but that power and a CT% in the low- to mid-80s is what makes him such a great option at C. Next season, he's going to be undervalued because of his downer 2009, and you should exercise caution, too. But he's still a good early mid-round gamble with a good upside. I'd expect a year somewhere between 2008 and 2009, but don't be surprised to see him hit the DL again.
Jay Bruce | Cincinnati | OF
2009 Final Stats: .223/.303/.470
Bruce is another power hitter who ran into serious wrist problems. The difference with him was, he didn’t seem to be performing all that well before the injury. Bruce was hitting .207/.283/.411 when he fractured his wrist on July 11—sorry, guys, couldn’t get the scoop on which bone he broke, so there’s no anatomy lesson this time around. When he returned in mid-September, he only got to play in 18 games, but he mashed, hitting .326/.426/.652.
Of course, that screams small sample size, and it probably didn’t hurt that he hit down in the order after he returned, in more low-pressure spots like sixth and seventh. But overall in 2009, he had an OPS almost identical to 2008; he actually improved from .767 to .773, all of that improvement coming from SLG, which went from .453 to .470.
And behind those numbers, he showed even more improvement. He sharpened his batting eye and contact skills, going from .30 BB/K and 73 CT% to .51 and 78% in 2009. He boosted his extra-base hits, too, going from 8.6 XBH% in 2008 to 10.1% in 2009, with 51% of his hits going for extra bases in 2009, as opposed to 37% in 2008.
On the downside, he saw reductions in LD% from 21.1% to 13%, and his HR/FB% also dropped slightly, from 18.5% to 15.4%. That suggests he wasn’t making consistently solid contact, a notion further supported by a BABIP that fell from .296 to .221. Coming back strong from his injury says to me that these are likely to turn around.
Plenty of players have sophomore slumps, and Bruce didn’t really get the chance to figure his out in 2009, even if he showed signs that he was beginning to do so. Though he dropped in OPS each of the two months before getting hurt, he demonstrated a clear shift in his approach to the plate in June. After two months of a free-swinging .37 BB/K, he changed dramatically to a .93 BB/K in June, when he also started making better contact. It’s very likely that he would have pulled out of his apparent nosedive, one that—it should be noted—really was only two months long, hardly something to be concerned about in such a young player.
All of this bodes well for 2010, assuming his wrist injury is behind him. Hideki Matsui (who is much older) suffered a very similar injury in 2006, and saw his SLG dip six points the following year. Not a significant drop, and one that can’t even be reliably attributed to the wrist injury, as Matsui was 33 at the time and some dropoff, or at least leveling off, isn't unusual at his age.
Doctors were pleased with the cleanliness of Bruce’s break, and (again) he came back stronger after returning. Given an offseason ahead of him to continue rehab and strengthening work, and the fact that he’s only 22, I think we can assume Bruce will be fine next season. Try to remember when you were 22 and healed quickly from injuries like this—he’s gonna be fine.
He’ll return to a Reds squad with several young hitters, and picturing him in the midst of guys like Votto, Phillips and Stubbs should make fantasy owners and Reds fans very happy. If you find him undervalued in your draft because of his perceived dropoff in 2009 or concerns about his wrist, go the extra dollar or two. He’s young, he’s talented, and he’s going to keep getting better.
Chris Carpenter | St. Louis | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.7 K/9, 3.8 K/BB, 2.24 ERA
Among pitchers, arm injuries are obviously far more serious, and Carpenter missed most of the past two seasons after two separate procedures: Tommy John Surgery and a repair job on a compressed nerve in his shoulder. In fact, The Original CC hasn't had a DL-free season since 2005. That includes this year, of course, when he missed more than a month with a torn oblique muscle.
But when he's healthy, he's amazing. Of the past three healthy seasons ('05, '06, and '09), his worst WHIP was 1.069 in 2006, a number that led the NL. That's because he gave up about 7 H/9 and under 2 BB/9 in all three years; that plus his .63 HR/9 tells you why he registered a sub-3.00 ERA in that time.
This year, he was as impressive as ever. In 26 starts after coming back from that oblique tear, he reeled off 22 Quality Starts. Two of those were moderate shellings: a six-run, 5.0 IP outing against the Giants on June 30 and a seven-run, 6.0 IP outing against Atlanta on September 13. Chuck those out, and he's got a 1.72 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He's got a solid defense behind him, as evidenced by the .731 DER, but his FIP-ERA was a measly 0.57. This is a guy that deals.
It's hard to read this season as an anomaly, either. His 79.5% strand rate was a touch high, his .274 BABIP and 5.2% HR/F both low, but those are the only stats that look especially skewed. He walked 13 in 41.0 September innings, likely due to fatigue, something that carried over to the middling postseason performance against the Dodgers where he walked four, struck out three and gave up nine hits (including an uncharacteristic dinger).
Overall, his strikeouts have dipped as his GB% has risen, so his fantasy points might be a bit depressed, but he's still one of the top pitchers in the game when he's healthy. That's the crux of the problem with Carpenter: When might he hit the DL again? He'll be 35 in 2010, but with the recovery from TJS behind him, you've got to like his health chances, at least in the short term.
With my crystal ball currently in the shop, I can't tell you if he'll tear another oblique, but pitching coach Dave Duncan is now expected to wear his wizard cap for at least another season, so his mechanics should remain solid. Some of the slightly depressed numbers outlined above say to me he's due for a but of a correction, and I'd expect to see those strikeouts continue to dwindle down the road. He's signed with St. Louis through at least 2011, giving him the comfort of familiarity (and hopefully Dave Duncan) for some time to come.
Carpenter's health concerns push him out of the top tier of pitchers, and keeper owners have to calculate the chances of a serious injury shutting him down again, but he's not far out of that top tier. As a rule, I don't blow a lot of bucks on my pitchers and try to minimize risk, so I'd only take him for my team if he seemed especially undervalued. But I'd put his chances at another excellent season far higher than his chance at serious injury or sudden collapse. And another run at the Cy Young is well within the realm of possibility.
Next week, I'll be looking at Eugenio Velez, Ian Desmond, and Dan Runzler; then, I'll cover Jeff Francoeur, Kyle Blanks, and Scott Elbert; followed by Jake Fox, Matt Latos and Joe Blanton.
Keep offering your suggestions for other players you'd like to hear about, particularly those with offseason questions—injuries, contracts, playing time—looming.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, October 29, 2009
2010 top 10 prospects: New York Yankees
1. Jesus Montero: His bat has all the makings of a perennial All-Star. The only question is what position Montero eventually ends up playing.
2. Manuel Banuelos: As an 18-year-old, Banuelos has an attacking approach beyond his years. With some refinement and added velocity he could be an ace in the making.
3. Jairo Heredia: After battling an injury for most of 2009, Heredia posted some respectable numbers in a short period of time. His 2010 Double-A excursion will be the first true test for his mid-90s fastball.
4. Austin Romine: The Yankees are developing Romine with a one-level-at-a-time approach, to fine success. A solid all-around catcher could be in the works.
5. Kelvin De Leon: De Leon's five-star potential is very real, and the Gulf Coast League got a taste of it in 2009. Patience is the key with this terrific young man.
6. Slade Heathcott: This first-round pick has a full toolbox to work with, and he has the ability to be a .300 hitter with a good power/speed combination. But Heathcott has a long way to go.
7. Arodys Vizcaino: His fastball touches the mid-90s, and his change-up/curveball secondary combination has Yankee fans excited. Keep an eye on Vizcaino.
8. D.J. Mitchell: While there isn't much upside left in his right arm, Mitchell sports strong command, a good groundball ratio and an eye-popping low home run rate.
9. Austin Jackson: His power and plate discipline may be his downfall, but there is still time for development. Jackson's speed could be a weapon at the next level.
10. Zach McAllister: His best asset is the consistency that he brings to the mound. McAllister's low-90s fastball and heavy sinking action have all the makings of a back-of-the-rotation starter at the very least.
2010 top 10 prospects: Boston Red Sox
1. Lars Anderson: His 2009 season was nothing short of forgettable, but Anderson's power potential is among minor league baseball's best. I haven't given up on him.
2. Casey Kelly: Boston won't be experimenting with Kelly at shortstop for too much longer, as the mound is where his future lies. For a player of his age, his overall arsenal and polish are virtually unrivaled.
3. Ryan Westmoreland: Even though it may be premature, I'm not afraid to say it: The start to Westmoreland's career has me seeing stars. His true breakout could come in 2010 with Greenville.
4. Michael Bowden: He has middle-of-the-rotation stuff and little left to prove in the minor leagues. But Bowden's brief major league outings have been unsuccessful so far.
5. Stolmy Pimentel: Added velocity is coming, and his overall repertoire is impressive. I can't wait to see Pimentel against advanced competition.
6. Ryan Kalish: As a generally unheralded prospect, Kalish has taken his development one step at a time, and his true breakout season could be coming soon.
7. Junichi Tazawa: He doesn't bring much velocity, but Tazawa has a plethora of secondary offerings at his disposal and a good amount of command over all of them.
8. Josh Reddick: He has the makings of an average major league corner outfielder, but Reddick's questionable power will hinder his stock in the long run.
9. Reymond Fuentes: The best tool is his plus speed, and while Fuentes has good bat speed and line drive power, ultimately, I don't think he has All-Star potential.
10. Michael Almanzar: His tools have not suddenly disappeared, but Almanzar has a long way to go and needs to show a better work ethic if he's going to reach his outrageous potential.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:10am
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Clayton Kershaw looks like one of the best young pitchers in the game. With a 2.79 ERA in 171 innings in 2009, it seems as if Kershaw can do almost anything. It may be so, as no level to date has posed a challenge for the lefty.
Kershaw was drafted seventh overall out of Highland Park High School in 2006 by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After signing for a $2.3 million bonus, he debuted in the Gulf Coast League, where he wreaked havoc on all competition. In 37 short innings, Kershaw used "Public Enemy Number 1" and his blazing fastball to post 54 strikeouts against just five walks. This utter domination was good enough to place him as the Dodgers' second-best prospect and 24th-best in MLB. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
The 2007 season saw Kershaw open at A-ball in the Midwest League. Kershaw again wowed, registering a whopping 134 strikeouts in 97.1 innings—good for a staggering 12.39 K/9 rate. However, he also walked 50 batters, dragging down his K:BB ratio to 2.68. Still, this showing was more than good enough for the Dodgers to promote Kershaw to Double-A, where he finished the season with 24.2 innings of whiff-inducing, walk-centric ball. His 29 Ks were again very impressive. His 17 walks were reason for concern. Still, Kershaw's raw stuff, his lean 6-3 frame, and his left-handedness made the Dodgers the envy of MLB, as Kershaw ranked as the best Dodgers prospect and seventh-best overall. The sky was the limit for the flamethrowing youngster as he set out for a repeat of Double-A in 2008.
Kershaw's second stint in Double-A was another showstopper, as he once again showcased his excellent stuff in dominating fashion. Though his strikeouts were down somewhat at 8.66 K/9, his walks also dropped precipitously to 2.79 BB/9, which was a very exciting development. After these 61.1 innings, the Dodgers saw it fit to promote the 20-year-old to the majors. Once there, he proved why he was among the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, as he registered a 4.26 ERA and 4.08 FIP in 107.2 innings, to go along with 100 Ks—but 52 walks. For such a young pitcher, the results were tremendous, though, again, the walks bared watching.
Kershaw's 2009 was another excellent campaign and a tremendous one for such a young pitcher. Through 31 appearances spanning 171 innings, Kershaw dominated major league hitters to the tune of a 2.79 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and 9.74 K/9. The walks reared their ugly face again and were problematic. However, he proved that he was among the best young pitchers in the league and that there was much to be excited about. Still, there are reasons to be skeptical of his 2009 performance.
Looking over his overall line, Kershaw has two primary indicators in his performance that point to a regression in 2010. The first is his low BABIP, at .274. While this is in some ways attributable to Los Angeles' league-leading defensive efficiency rating (.714), a rate this low cannot be sustained. While it could still be lower next season due to L.A.'s great D, it is nonetheless due to fall back closer to .300. The second indicator is his miniscule HR/FB%, which sits at 4.1 percent. This rate is certainly unsustainable and contributed in a big way to his impressive ERA and FIP. Don't discount the importance of these indicators. Together, they present a big challenge for Kershaw repeating his 2009 performance. Had the HR/FB rate been closer to league average and his BABIP been closer to that of his team's defensive results, Kershaw would have been expected to post an ERA in the mid-3s. While this is still very good, it is a far cry from 2.79.
Still, there is no denying that Kershaw has some of the best stuff in the game—for any pitcher, at any age. He throws hard, with a fastball averaging 93.9 mph, has a knee-buckling bender, and mixes in a change-up. To top it all off, he even developed a slider this season, which could make him one of the toughest starting pitchers against lefties in all of baseball—if he isn't already. His splits confirm this, as lefties hit a total of .173/.234/.252 against him in 2009, including just one home run in 139 at-bats and, wait for it ... 72 strikeouts (51.79 percent strikeout rate) against just 11 walks. Those are other-worldly numbers. So, even if he becomes washed up by the age of 40, he should still have a career as a LOOGY. But that's beside the point. His numbers against righties are very impressive as well, as they totaled a .208/.320/.291 line against Kershaw this past season.
Looking Kershaw over, there are three obstacles that stand in the way of him becoming possibly the best pitcher in baseball. First, he will have to "improve" against right-handers. It may sound like a silly thing to say about a group of batters who hit for a .611 OPS against him. However, if he is able to refine his change-up, he could combine a fastball-curve-change mix against righties that could be unhittable. While some have said that he has "flashed" a plus change-up in the past, it was by far his worst offering in 2009, registering at -1.78 wCH/C on the season. His low usage rate of the pitch (4.2 percent) suggests that he doesn't have much confidence in it either. As a result, he will need to improve the pitch to step to the next level against righties.
The second item on the to-do list involves him solving his command issues. Pitchers who walk more than four batters per nine innings never reach the pinnacle of their profession. With Kershaw's stuff, he will still be very good, a la Jorge de la Rosa. However, the free passes have a tendency to derail great pitchers and if Kershaw can't solve this problem, he'll never be more than very good. If he can shave one or one-half of a walk off his BB/9 rate in the next couple seasons, the results would be remarkable. This is a tall order, however, so keep your fingers crossed.
The third factor is that he will have to maintain his strikeout rate. This may not be much of an issue, as he has always had excellent strikeout rates in the past. However, his contact percentage of 76.7, while great, is not quite elite. His overall rates point to a pitcher who should have a K/9 in the low 8's rather than the mid 9's. Still, with the success he's had in the past, the higher-than-expected strikeout rate could be due to any number of reasons—luck, extra called third strikes, or having such a great curveball for on strike two. While I would like to provide an answer, I cannot claim to have watched Kershaw enough to address this last point. However, while we are on the topic of regressed strikeout rates, it is worth noting that Kershaw's expected walk rate is in the high-3's currently, which indicates that he already has the command necessary to shave down the walk rate.
In the end, Kershaw is an incredible pitcher who is one or two tweaks away from being one of the best pitchers in baseball. Still just 21 years old, he has to be one of the best keeper league pitching prospects in all of fantasy baseball. On 2009 performance, he was among the better pitchers in fantasy, despite winning just eight games. For next season, Kershaw will have to improve his walk totals and maintain his strikeouts in order to better last season. In particular, hope for an improvement in his overall contact rate and performance of his change-up, as well as pitching later into games. If he can do this, he'll be extraordinary. Nevertheless, expect his BABIP and HR/FB to level out, so the defensive efficiency of the Dodgers bears watching. In all, he should be able to again post high strikeout totals, a good ERA and WHIP, and again be one of the better pitchers in fantasy baseball. When it comes to Kershaw, expect great production, with the chance of an otherworldly breakout.
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Posted by Mike Silver at 4:19am
Monday, October 26, 2009
Alex Rodriguez is making just about as much news this postseason as he made this past preseason. Between the PED revelations and his injury, which carried a somewhat undefined timeline, when to draft A-Rod was a big question back in March.
I was a huge proponent of drafting A-Rod anytime around picks 20-25. I thought there were a fair amount of question marks creeping around the top 20, and figured that anywhere between 400 and 500 ABs from A-Rod, along with 75 to 150 from a replacement would very likely produce top 15 value. I made a firm commitment to myself that I would much rather order the A-Rod combination special than draft somebody like Carlos Quentin, counting on a repeat performance. I also figured A-Rod plus his replacement would, at worst, only be outproduced by three 3Bs: David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, and Evan Longoria. If Aramis Ramirez was even remotely on my radar screen while A-Rod was still available, I was going to pounce.
I was able to nab Rodriguez in two of four straight draft leagues. Let’s see how the experiment turned out. To establish a basis of comparison, Cabrera finished the season as the highest ranked 3B-eligible player, at 18th overall according to Yahoo. His numbers were:
AVG: .324 (198/611)
Let’s look at the composite of A-Rod and his replacement in four different leagues. I’ve looked back at team logs and tried my best to put together the main replacement players used for A-Rod and put together the stats. I’d venture that they are close, but probably not entirely accurate, as line-ups were shuffled here and there, and so forth.
League 1: (A-Rod drafted 17th overall)
Replacements: Melvin Mora and Josh Fields
AVG: .275 (171/621)
This was the highest A-Rod was picked in any of the leagues. This is a draft/keeper league, so that makes sense. Cabrera went fifth overall in this draft. The A-Rod owner did not spend high picks on either replacement. In fact, I believe he didn’t even draft Mora. He simply waited for the draft to end, placed A-Rod on the DL and used that extra spot to pick Mora off waivers.
Some may say that the hidden cost of drafting A-Rod is the opportunity cost, meaning that if you need to draft a replacement, you also lose the production you would otherwise get from the player you would have otherwise drafted in the round you drafted A-Rod’s handcuff. Theoretically, you could miss out on a sleeper who pays off. For two reasons, I don’t think this is a major concern.
First, more of those picks bust than boom, so the odds aren’t on your side to begin with. Surely, you want to maximize your opportunities, but when you’re trying to quantify sunk cost, you can only put down on the ledger that which you’re confident you can account for.
Second, when you draft a player who is on the DL, you get a free roster spot. So, the opportunity cost of the handcuff pick is mitigated by the fact that you have an extra roster spot and first pick of all non-drafted players to occupy that slot. That player can be a breakout too.
All things considered, it looked like A-Rod and his replacement seemed like they were a fine value here.
Cabrera was drafted fifth overall in this league.
League 2: (A-Rod drafted 24th overall, by me)
Replacements: Hank Blalock, Hanley Ramirez
AVG: .290 (164/565)
I’m sure the placement of Ramirez as my replacement raised eyebrows. I’ll get to that in a second.
First, what I loved about this draft was that it gave me the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. I wanted A-Rod, and I thought Blalock was definitely worth a late flier and thought he might even play himself into having some trade value.
Here’s how it played out for me: I drafted Blalock as A-Rod’s replacement and played him until A-Rod came back. Once A-Rod returned, I began receiving trade offers for A-Rod from the team who had Han-Ram, but those offers didn’t include him. I wasn’t prepared to give up A-Rod for anybody but Ramirez or Pujols. (If I wanted your third-round pick, I would have picked him when I picked A-Rod, you dolt!).
Blalock had gotten going around the time A-Rod returned and he was actually accruing some trade value. I had also taken a chance on David Ortiz in that draft, so I took the opportunity to bench the struggling Papi and inserted Blalock at my utility spot. Once Papi started picking it up a bit, I offered Blalock and A-Rod for Hanley, and the other owner took it. (I only included Blalock’s production from the start of the season through May 7 in my composite figures above). This whole orchestration would look even better if I tried to estimate the composite production of Blalock and Ortiz at the utility spot, as I got the best part of Blalock’s season there and then traded him in time for Papi to have a very good second half. Blalock’s value plummeted not so long after I shipped him off.
I’m extremely proud of my choreography here; this was one of those instances in which everything goes right. My first- and fifth-round picks in this league were Jose Reyes and Brandon Webb, and yet I was able to win this league for the third time in the four years I’ve played it. (First place and third were separated by two total points at season’s end.) My execution of this strategy may very well have won me the championship.
Cabrera was drafted seventh overall in this league.
League 3: (A-Rod drafted 26th overall, by me)
Replacements: Adrian Beltre, Emilio Bonafacio
AVG .265 (162/612)
This was the worst composite production of the four. Still, it was somewhat mitigated by the fact that this is also the latest Rodriguez was selected in any of the drafts. The subpar batting average makes this composite line a little weak for the 26th overall pick.
This foray left a bit to be desired mainly because my replacements did not produce. I thought Beltre would produce well and that he’d potentially be worth holding on to when A-Rod returned or even play well enough to have some trade value. But, he stunk and he was hurt. I then jumped ship after somebody who had ridden the early Bonafiacio wave dumped him during a cold spell. I hoped for a Bonfacio resurgence, or maybe one of those six stolen base weeks. But, it was not to be.
Cabrera went sixth overall in this draft.
League 4: (A-Rod drafted 21st overall)
Replacement: Ian Stewart
AVG: .279 (140/502)
Stewart was a very nice surprise this year. Unfortunately, in April his playing time was inconsistent and his production was not stellar. I presume this owner had another replacement who put in a few dozen ABs in A-Rod’s absence as well. But, I was not able to determine who that was from his team records.
Cabrera went fifth overall in this draft.
Taking a step back, I think the A-Rod experiment was a rousing success. He played well enough upon return to accrue a good chunk of value on his own, and when paired with a suitable replacement, the returns were similar to the top-ranked 3B, who was often drafted more than 15 picks ahead of Rodriguez. Further, between injuries and poor production there were a high number of underperformers and full-on busts at 3B.
Wright, Garrett Atkins, Chris Davis, and Aramis Ramirez were all premium picks. All besides Wright were total busts, while Wright was merely a substantial disappointment. So, unless you scooped up Ryan Zimmerman or were wise enough to grab Mark Reynolds, it was pretty difficult to have gotten better value out of your 3B spot than A-Rod plus a replacement.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:16am
The next few years should be quite exciting in the Yankees and Red Sox matchup. They control two of the best pitchers in the A.L. and both still in prime ages of their careers. Jon Lester is only 25 and is fully healthy after a few years dealing with his cancer and the recovery. CC Sabathia has several more years under his belt and many more pitches, but will enter 2010 at only 29 and looks to have many more years at the top of his game.
W K ERA BB IP K/9 BB/9 K/BB GB% FIP Jon Lester 15 225 3.41 64 203.1 9.96 2.83 3.52 47.7% 3.15 CC Sabthia 19 197 3.37 67 230.0 7.71 2.62 2.94 42.9% 3.39
Not many can see how much better Lester was this year since the ERA is worse and the wins and losses are about the same as a season ago. If you look at the large jump in strikeout rate you can see how much better he really was. His K/9 went from 6.50 last year to 9.96 this season. That was second overall in the American League.
This year also saw a confirmation of Lester's ground ball rate that was at 47.5 percent last year which was the highest of his career. This year he had a rate of 47.7 percent, confirming he could do this for the long term. When you combine his ability to control the strike zone and force hitters into ground balls he is headed for continued success as the new "ace" of the Red Sox.
His success has stemmed from an increase in pitch velocity this year. His fastball averaged 93.6 mph this year, which is up from his 92.1 last year and much higher than 90.2 mph in his rookie season. His cutter has also gotten faster, going 85 mph in 2007 to 89.0 this season. His pitch value on the cutter has reached 1.96 per 100 pitches. This was by far his best pitch. You can see some pitch f/x analysis by Lee Perrault here for his improvements this season.
I took a look at Sabathia earlier this season and attempted to calm some nerves about his slow start. He has a tendency to start slow and also struggled with his control when he first went to Milwaukee, as well.
Since his early season struggles he has returned to the Sabathia we are familiar with. He hasn't been as good as he was last fall, but putting him back in the American League was sure to return his K/9 to career levels. His numbers are all within a very small amount of career levels for K/9, BB/9 and GB percentage. The Yankees are getting exactly what they paid for.
Something to keep in mind with Sabathia is his HR/FB percentage in 2009. It was only 7.4 percent and his HR/9 was only 0.51 at home while 0.86 on the road. This should be a bit of a concern, although he has maintained lower HR/FB rates in his career. His lower rates previously can be attributed to pitching in Cleveland's Progressive Field which has ranked favorably to pitchers in regards to homers against.
We are talking about the best in the league here and getting either one should benefit your fantasy team next year. Lester has age on his side as well as many less pitches thrown in his career. Sabathia does not strike out nearly as many as Lester did this year and relies much more on controlling his walks. This makes Lester more valuable for his strikeout totals.
They were close in 2008 for win totals, but Sabathia ran away with wins this year. They both pitch in front of very good offenses and neither should be expected to run away with wins. WHIP is a solid category for Sabathia where he has been under 1.20 for four years now, but Lester has never registered a WHIP under 1.20.
Again you could take either one and have your team's No. 1 pitcher, but in a close contest I would choose Lester for his strikeout totals. Even if he regresses slightly in his K/9 he stands ahead of Sabathia in this. Even if Sabathia can throw the extra 30 innings or so again next year he likely won't catch Lester in strikeouts.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:37am
Friday, October 23, 2009
While we won't be doing the deep dig, we're always happy to go into more detail in comments, per request. If something takes more research, we'll either field it the next week, or see if another member of the team wants to dig into the subject matter even deeper. Some of the other THT Fantasy writers have been doing some deep digs into AL players, such as Mike Silver's piece on Billy Butler, and Troy Patterson's compare-and-contrast piece on Chone and Denard. We recommend reading these if you haven't.
Joe Mauer | Minnesota | C
2009 Final Stats: Walked/On/Water
OK, he didn't really walk on water, or turn water into wine, but he did play in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and hit .365/.444/.587, with his defense making this season the best ever for a catcher, by most estimations. Given that he racked up 606 PA (second among all MLB catchers to Kurt Suzuki, though he got “off days” at DH 28 times), it's easy to forget that his spring was marred by very serious-sounding back issues, and he didn't get started until May 1. For perspective on how great his season was, he entered that rarified air where his “mixed league” roto values were higher than his “AL only” values. This comes into play because the standard deviations are significantly lower for mixed leagues, and a player is so far above the replacement levels that the extra variance makes up for it. Caution warns that his back issues, and the huge amount of playing time and his height will catch up to him someday soon (no pun intended). And paying for the $33 to $37 that he earned in 2009 won't be prudent, but if bidding starts to slow down in the early 20s, he's as likely to hold his value as almost any hitter. And if OBP is a category, look out!
Zach Greinke | Kansas City | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.5 K/9, 4.8 K/BB, 2.16 ERA
There are really only two questions with Greinke: 1) How close was 2009 to his true talent level, and 2) Will the Royals start scoring runs? The answer to (1) is “very close.” His HR/FB% was a bit low (just 5.4%), indicating that he was probably lucky on his fly balls in play. But his BABIP was also higher than typical at .313 (we'd like to blame this on the Royals middle infielders, so … we will!). His xFIP was 3.36, which is much higher than his ERA, but ERA diverges from FIP at the extremes, so that's not all fluke. He's throwing 94, and he still has his pinpoint control. There are few starting pitchers more sure to post great ratios in the game. The answer to (2) is “we doubt it, but he's so good that even a great offense would likely only net him another 3-4 wins.”
Matt LaPorta | Cleveland | 1B/OF
2009 Final Stats: .254/.308/.442
In these days when good college players seem to be jetting to the majors and making an impact quickly, it's easy to lump a guy like LaPorta in with the guys who have disappointed recently, such as Jeff Clement or—to a lesser extent—Alex Gordon. LaPorta got to start 12 games in May and didn't make much of that semi-opportunity, hitting a paltry .190/.286/.286. The Indians were trying to save a season that was going quickly down the tubes, and sent him “down” to Triple-A. And, while Triple-A is below the majors, LaPorta hadn't played there before 2009, hitting .279/.386/.539 in Double-A in 2008. Well, he made the most of the demotion, abusing IL pitchers with his .299/.388/.530 batting stats, and cutting his strikeouts from his past seasons. Called back up on Aug. 20, he hit .273/.315/.489 the rest of the way (149 PA). From a winning baseball perspective, we'd like to see more OBP, but that doesn't matter in most fantasy formats, and the power is undeniable. Also, he's never walked a ton but has always augmented his OBP with many HBP, which get overlooked in some points-based systems. While he's young and has options, there's almost no reason to expect him to do poorly enough to lose his job. Expect more of what he brought to the table upon his recall in 2009, probably with an uptick in OBP.
Ervin Santana | Los Angeles | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.9 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 5.03 ERA
Normally, when a pitcher's xFIPs read—year-by-year—4.98, 5.11, 4.93, 3.64, 4.77, there are not a lot of reasons to presume that he's better than a 4.50-plus pitcher. But, Santana may be the exception. He really came into his own in 2008, averaging 94.4 mph on his fastball for almost 9.0 K/9, and walking fewer than two batters per nine IP. But a scary elbow injury with a visit to Lewis Yocum, followed by triceps problems, led to a very slow start to 2009 for the fireballer and took 2 MPH off his fastball. His control predictably declined to 3.0 BB/9, as well. But after reaching a “low point” (and a high 7.20 ERA) on Aug. 6, the Santana of 2008 started showing up again, as he held hitters to just .259/.316/.414, with a 49:18 K:BB ratio in 69.2 IP. And he's shown adaptability in pitching out of the bullpen in the playoffs, and doing great. Expect a full offseason of rest and workouts to have his arm back in peak form for 2010, and performance approaching 2008's greatness should be considered a possibility.
Jason Bay | Boston | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.384/.537
Sure, Jason Bay produced $25-$29 worth of roto value in 2009. But what will he do in 2010? And for which team? As a short answer, we're going to suggest being very careful with Bay. His BABIP wasn't particularly low, considering aging and his past BABIP. While he didn't feast in Boston, the park should have helped him significantly (even if it didn't in a one-year sample), and he had an amazing plus-16 clutch rating (hitting .357 with RISP, 100 points above his bases-empty AVG), leading to his second-in-AL RBI total (and much of his roto value). With teammates who don't get on base as much, and a less-friendly ballpark, his chances of repeating that level of production are small. That said, he has a good chance to hit 30-plus HR, steal 10 bases, and approach 100 RBI, so don't forget about him completely.
Felix Hernandez | Seattle Mariners | SP
2009 Final Stats: 8.2 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 2.49 ERA
Here's a piece of auction advice: Whatever “player values” list you are using, add a few dollars to Felix Hernandez's value, and don't be afraid to bid that amount. The reason pitchers get dinged in values (most valuation systems used either 70/30 or 67/33 for hitter dollars and pitcher dollars) is that pitchers are unpredictable, and you are avoiding paying for the “downside” risk. Well, if you want to use only 30% of your budget on pitchers, go with more cheapies, but get Felix. This is a case of a guy who has been progressively learning more and more the “how to pitch” part of the game. And he's in a great setting—the M's have a clear intention of putting one of the best defensive teams on the field possible. The ballpark is very forgiving to flies, and the A's can't hit. It's unclear how well either of the other two divisional foes will hit in 2010, but having one team that can't hit out of three is a big enough bonus. As with Greinke, he'll suffer from run support but should be great enough to still post very good win totals without it.
Enjoy, and keep the suggestions coming!
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Seth Smith | Colorado | LF
2009 Final Stats: .293/.378/.510
What's an .888 OPS OF to do? I called him an "instant pickup" when Jim Tracy finally named him the starting LF in mid-August, and Smith responded by hitting .315/.379/.641 for the next month, with six HR, eight 2B and 22 RBI in 22 starts. Then Carlos Gonzalez got hot, too, and Dexter Fowler returned from a bruised knee, and suddenly there was no place for him to play. Despite this, Smith's PT declined only slightly down the stretch, as Tracy tried to juggle all the options he had, even giving time to Ryan Spilborghs in LF, to keep him sharp for the postseason.
Going into the 2009 offseason, Colorado's blessed with an embarrassment of OF riches. Gonzalez and Fowler are young, cheap and have high upsides, while Hawpe is due $7.5M next season with a $10M option for 2011. These three seem the most likely configuration, but Hawpe has been rumored in trades, and he seems the most likely to go, given his higher price tag.
Even if Hawpe departs, Smith might not see FT duty, since Colorado's thick with left-handed hitters—currently, only Tulowitzki and Ianetta/Torrealba are regular right-handed hitters—and Spilborghs is their only right-handed option in the outfield. It would seem absurd to platoon Smith, whose OPS vs. LHP was .868 in 2009 (.893 vs. RHP), but his career platoon splits are much wider: His OPS against RHP is .153 higher in the majors and .168 higher in the minors.
Having said that, I think a platoon of a guy this young is not terribly likely, though it remains a possibility. More likely would be a trade to make room for him, either in Colorado or (if he's the one who's traded) elsewhere. A move from Coors Field could be a disastrous career move for Smith, however, since he hits .319/.410/.588 at home and .267/.345/.425 on the road. Then again, they said the same thing about Matt Holliday, and it turned out that the move to the AL had much more of an effect on him than moving to a stadium named after a different beer.
Wherever he might end up hitting, Smith owns solid skills, with an 83% contact rate in the minors and an 80% rate in the majors. His rising FB% (34.1% in 2008, 41.6% in 2009) combined with a steady 12% HR/F means his power should hold steady or even grow in 2010. Colorado has quite a few choices to make before next season, but the packed outfield may contain the majority of them. Smith and Spilborghs are both too good to warm a bench, but if Colorado manages to hold onto all their current outfielders, that may be where both end up.
Eric O. Young, Jr. | Colorado | 2B/OF
2009 Final Stats: .246/.295/.316
The Junior version of Colorado's Original Second Baseman Eric Young arrived at the end of 2009, even though there really wasn't any room for him on the team. He played CF while Fowler was hurt and CarGo was cold, then got a few starts at 2B when Clint Barmes took a seat during his second-half skid. And Eric O. made the postseason roster for his blazing speed, the same ticket that's gotten him so much attention in the minors.
He's in the same mold as his dad: fleet afoot, with a decent glove and an underwhelming bat. Unlike his dad, he's a switch-hitter, but Junior might take some lessons from his righty-hitting dad. E.Y. Jr. has a .682 OPS from the right side of the plate, and an .890 OPS from the other side. Overall, he hit .293/.385/.416 in the minors, which shows you he's also much more aggressive than his old man. Junior's .71 BB/K ratio in the minors isn't amazing, but, combined with his 82% contact rate, it should help keep his BA high.
What keeps fantasy owners drooling are those 303 swipes in six minor-league seasons, including a whopping 78 at Single-A Asheville. He's been caught 90 times, but that's been improving, showing that he's learning his craft. Colorado would love to see him on top of its 2010 batting order—if there's room. As we've seen above, he's not going to be playing in the outfield, but that's not his natural position anyway: He played all of 16 games there in the minors.
Barmes and Ian Stewart manned the Colorado keystone most of 2009, but Stewart is a much better fit at 3B (which depends on the fate of Garrett Atkins, another likely trade candidate). And Barmes, who is eligible for arbitration, hardly impressed with his .245/.294/.440 season, which included a .205/.259/.394 second half that only underlined how inconsistent he is.
Barring a really strange and unexpected offseason move, Eric Young will get every chance to win the starting 2B job in spring training, and the Rockies will be much happier if he wins it. His situation doesn't bear the close scrutiny accorded to the Colorado OF, but fantasy owners should still keep an eye on Rockies spring training to see how he handles his first extended look at big-league pitching. I'd expect him to be their starting 2B and to face the usual rookie hills and valleys—but, as the old saying goes, speed never slumps, so he should be good for 30-plus SB with that starting role.
Jorge de la Rosa | Colorado | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.4 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 4.38 ERA
Remember when you'd never touch a Colorado pitcher? That was one of my few hard-and-fast fantasy rules, but in the Humidor Era, that's no longer true. Colorado had several valuable pitching commodities this year, and none of them was named Jeff Francis. And while Ubaldo Jimenez got more press for the velocity of his heater, he only had five more Ks than the lefty de la Rosa, who had the best strikeout rate of any Colorado starter.
Was this a fluke or a step forward? De la Rosa's 2009 numbers were his career best in virtually every significant category, which suggests he's finally come into his own. Where he hurts himself is with his walk rate, one of the few categories where he didn't record a career high. His career walk rate is 4.6 BB/9, making this year's 4.0 rate seem good. But either is worlds better than the 6-8 range he was hitting in his early career, and this year's is actually his second-best BB/9 rate, with 2007's 3.7 beating it out.
His HR rate is also marginal, as his 1.0 HR/9 rate is fairly consistent with his 0.9 from 2008 and his 1.1 rate overall. Putting extra batters on and giving up home runs isn't a formula for success, but de la Rosa managed to limit the damage with a 72% strand rate that was also second-best in his career (and right near league average). And he bails himself out with all those Ks, which can erase a lot of mistakes.
Still, you have to like how he's coming together, with overall improvement in both of his years with Colorado, hardly the best environment for a pitcher to find his groove. The strand rate rise may mean a correction is coming, but he seems to have found the plate with more consistency in Colorado, a far more important trend.
He missed the NLDS with a strained groin, an injury that's unlikely to linger in the offseason, and was actually fortunate to get it when he did. So close to the end of the year and just before Colorado's early exit from the playoffs, he wasn't tempted to push himself. That can lead to arm trouble if a pitcher alters his delivery because of lower-body issues (look what it did to Chien-Ming Wang's year).
With the return of Francis next year, Colorado has an extremely formidable rotation that includes Cook, Jimenez and de la Rosa. The Two Jasons, Marquis and Hammel, both had very nice years, and the Rockies should let Marquis walk, as Hammel would be a very cheap No. 5. De la Rosa most likely projects as an amazingly strong No. 4 in this scenario, or even a No. 3 if Cook continues to slide from a career year in 2008.
Don't be surprised to see Colorado try to lock up de la Rosa to a contract this offseason, with free agency looming in 2011. They could be better off waiting to see if he continues to improve in 2010, as long as he doesn't really break out and become too expensive. Fantasy owners can look at him as a very solid middle-round pick with a decent upside and a great source of Ks.
Next week: a look at Ryan Doumit and Jay Bruce, with Eugenio Velez and Ian Desmond the week after. Submit your own suggestions in the comments section, focusing on guys with uncertain offseason prospects.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Icons of the International League
Matt LaPorta is one of the game's top power-hitting prospects, despite his somewhat disappointing 2009. LaPorta's prime is coming on fast, and his strong plate coverage and natural home run swing are too much to ignore. He still has the ability to turn into a superior middle-of-the-order hitter, and he is one of my very top fantasy breakout players for 2010.
Scott Sizemore finally lived up to his skill set in 2009, blossoming into one of minor league baseball's best second basemen. His combination of power and speed really stands out, leaving his ultimate upside at an elite level. In his prime Sizemore could produce 20 home runs, 20 steals and a .280 batting average; and his prime may not be that far off. Place Sizemore on your 2010 fantasy watch list.
Wade Davis has an above-average and varied repertoire that could catapult him to the top of Tampa Bay's rotation in the near future. But, if that is his upside, his control, which is already suspect in the minor leagues, needs a makeover. Davis doesn't dominate as he should, but the light switch could go on at any point, as his prime is approaching quickly, and that could solve his control issues and turn him into one of the game's top pitching prospects.
Michael Bowden doesn't stand out as a blue-chip heat thrower, but he has all the makings of a strong middle-of-the-rotation type that combines sometimes brilliant control with average stuff. Bowden's ability to control the strike zone projects well to the big leagues, but carving out a spot in Boston's 2010 rotation will be a difficult task.
Prime Prospects of the Pacific Coast League
Alcides Escobar brings gold-glove leather to the ballpark, and, frankly, it's too good to be wasted in the minor leagues, which Milwaukee realized halfway through August. What is most impressive about Escobar's swing consistency is that it has improved at every stop he has made up the minor league ladder. But if he wants to be an exceptional major leaguer, his plate discipline and patience will have to make similar strides.
Brett Wallace has the makings of an above-average major league third baseman, but, as most of you know, I'm not overly excited by his upside. He has a consistent swing, with solid contact ability combined with displayed plate patience. He can be a .300 hitter, but I'm just not sure that he has the home run power to take his game to the next level.
Neftali Feliz has an elite, electric fastball that he had issues controlling early in the year. But he soon found his groove, and his year culminated in a terrific major league stint in Texas' bullpen. No one will deny Feliz's stuff or ability to miss an opponent's bat, but it is certainly fair to question his secondary offerings and endurance. And when it comes right down to it, Feliz may be best coming out of the bullpen.
Bud Norris sneaked up on most people in 2009, when in fact he should have been on everyone's radar screen heading into the year, as evidenced by his year-to-year improvement since his 2007 full-season debut. He finished his season in Houston enjoying a successful major league debut, solidifying his 2010 rotation spot. With further development, Norris' curveball could be one of the game's best.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am (1) Comments
The fantasy postseason can be long, very long—especially if you, like me, are stuck listening to the Yankees' postseason games on the radio. Their broadcasters have nothing more than shtick. If I had a TV right now (long story), I would prefer to listen to Joe Morgan; his wrong-headed theories only grate when I actually pay attention to them. John Sterling doesn't even work as background noise. The Mets' performance on the field may have been low comedy, but at least their radio and TV announcers gave us something closer to high art.
A more satisfying baseball fix is to start readying for next year's fantasy season. Even if you are planning on following your lifestyle guru's advice and taking a few weeks or months off from baseball, there are a few things that may be best to do right now to help you for next season. Even if you won your league, there's always room for improvement, and looking back at your past is as important as scouting for the future. Next spring, the foregone trades and free agents that you avoided may not be as fresh in your mind. Here are some steps for self-assessment.
1. What strategies did you use?
Try to recall why you did what you did during the draft or auction. (I'll just call this "the draft" from here on.) Did you decide to not pay for saves this year or perhaps not draft pitchers until the late rounds? Did you only draft players with androgynous names like Sidney or Drew?
Try to personalize the strategy a bit. If you didn't "pay for saves" during the draft, were you active on the waiver wire throughout the season? Were the other players in your league equally active?
2. Separate bad luck from bad strategy.
This is the hardest part—whole volumes could be written about it. No strategy is luck-proof—which means that even the very best strategies will fail to win the league, probably more often than not. It would be excessively capricious to simply throw out a sound strategy because you didn't win or you even finished last.
Distinguishing after the season what you should have known before the season started versus unforeseeable luck is incredibly tough. Using some very basic statistical analysis can help quite a bit. For instance, if you developed a valuation system or used someone else's, compare the predicted values that you had at the beginning of the season with their resulting values at the end. Don't just use the players you drafted; try to use as many fantasy-relevant players as possible.
Ask different questions from these before versus after comparisons: How well did your system do on average? How well did it do by position? Did it project the, say, top 40 players well? What about late-round ($5-$10) players? Of course, much of the difficulty here lies in determining what "well" and "poorly" mean. How many projected top-40 players have to stink for a system to fail? There will always be some.
Often times, though, the least sound part of your strategy will be glaring and you won't need to do much mathematical heavy-lifting to fix the largest mistakes. For instance, were you focusing too much on high-upside players during parts of the draft when there were still good value players available? Look at your league's draft. Maybe shortly after you took Lastings Milledge, one of your competitors took Jim Thome. Trying your best to not use the benefit of hindsight, try to recall why you didn't take Thome when you had the chance. Perhaps he just wasn't on your radar then, in which case you should make sure that next year you have a list of late-round value players with you.
A dirty, little secret of the fantasy world is that virtually no one sticks strictly to his valuation system. Our regressions may say that stolen bases are worth 1.2 times as much as a home run. Still, we can't help adjust values a bit based on factors that we didn't put in our system, like newly developing injury concerns or tips from a psychic hotline. Try to recall the adjustments you may have made. What types were helpful? Maybe your hunches about injuries (like the one to Ervin Santana) were better than the ones about blossoming players (Rickie Weeks, anyone?).
3. It's strictly business, kinda.
Your strategies aren't your favorite stuffed animals from your childhood. Don't let raggedy strategies with no stuffing left in them clutter your fantasy team. Some strategies are fine as they are, some need a bit of improving, but some belong in the rubbish or at least at a rest stop. If some of yours performed marginally, don't be afraid to experiment in different ways next year. Granted a season's a long time to be stuck with a lemon of a strategy, but even the best experts have taken ages to craft their philosophies. That's part of the fun.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:30am
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Billy Butler made big strides at the plate in 2009. It was about time as well, as the Royals placed a lot of hope in the progression of their hulking DH-first baseman. Through his first two years, the young slugger seemed to be a bit timid at the plate, falling short of the power numbers his potential and size suggested he was capable of.
Drafted 14th overall out of Wolfson (Fla.) High School in the 2004 June draft, Butler made his debut later that year in Rookie ball. It was a very good start for the 18-year-old, as he showed good power (10 HR in 260 at-bats) and a very advanced approach at the plate (57 walks against 63 strikeouts in 321 plate appearances). This all culminated in a sensational .373/.488/.596 line. With his size and polish, Butler seemed destined for stardom, ranking as Kansas City's No. 1 prospect and 75th-best in MLB. As a result, the Royals promoted their prized prospect to High-A in 2005.
Starting out in the California League for his second professional season, Butler defied even the most gaudy expectations, going on to post 25 homeruns in 379 at-bats en route to a .348/.419/.636 line. His youth showed at times, however, as his excellent strike zone control from the previous year lagged a bit, leading to a 42:80 BB:K rate at High-A. Still, his overall line was more than good enough to earn Butler a midseason promotion to Double-A Wichita, where he continued to rake. There, he posted a .313/.353/.527 line with five homers in 112 at-bats. With 30 home runs on the year in '05 as a 19-year-old, the experts fell head over heels for Butler, ranking him the 29th-best prospect in MLB, though dropping him to No. 2 in the KC system, behind the incomparable Alex Gordon.
After his stellar 2005, the Royals thought it prudent to allow him to refine his approach and gain some polish at Double-A for the 2006 season. Butler was able to make noticeable gains at the plate, improving his BB:K ratio to 41:67 in 528 plate appearances. However, his power took a considerable hit for the first time, as he was only able to launch 15 balls into the Double-A stands. This was a somewhat troubling development, as Butler's power ceiling seemed to be limitless following his 2005 season. It was particularly confusing because of Butler's advanced command of the strike zone. Often times, when young hitters have sudden drops in power, it is due to being uncomfortable at the plate against good pitchers, which often manifests itself as strikeouts. This was not the case for Butler, however, as he was still working the count well and driving the ball. Power doesn't go away—barring injury or a drastic change in a player's swing. With a .331/.388/.499 line, Butler seemed good to go, so the Royals again promoted him.
The 2007 season saw Butler begin his season at Triple-A. His 249 plate appearances saw Butler regain all of his former 2005 glory and more. He torched Triple-A pitching, showed expert control of the strike zone and the power returned. With a 43:32 BB:K ratio, 13 homers in 203 at-bats, and a .291/.412/.542 line, Butler resolidified himself as an elite minor league hitter. As a result, the Royals gave him his first taste of the big club, which was a little up and a little down. On the one hand, his plate discipline showed up relatively well for a rookie, with about a 1:2 BB:K ratio (27 walks against 55 strikeouts) and a respectable .292/.347/.447 share in 358 plate appearances. However, his power deserted him, as he mustered just eight long balls. In addition, Butler's large platoon splits surfaced in the bigs, as he hit just four bombs against righties with a .272/.323/.392 line in 232 at-bats, and four homers in 97 at-bats against lefties with a .340/.404/.577 line.
As a result of his good premier, the Royals started Butler in the majors in 2008. Butler struggled in his second showing, however, as he had .249/.310/.330 line with two homers in 233 at-bats in the first half of the year, including a demotion on May 30. He found himself again at Triple-A, slugging five homers in 101 at-bats, with a 14:7 BB:K ratio, showing that, while he was not yet ready for big time, he was too good for the minors. Brought up again on June 29, Butler made great strides in the second half, showing good power with nine homers in 210 at-bats, a 12:24 BB:K ratio and a .305/.341/.476 line. Still, Butler's struggles against righties hit a new low, with a .244/.290/.308 line with just three homers in 299 at-bats.
Coming into 2009, Butler showed plenty of potential but not enough results for fantasy owners. Still, Kansas City gave Butler another chance in the majors and deservedly so. In his third season in MLB at age 23, Butler showed some serious development as a hitter. In 672 plate appearances, Butler was able to post 21 home runs with a .301/.362/.492 line. He improved against all pitch types, regaining his prowess against fastballs (1.27 wFB/C in 2009 versus -0.65 wFB/C in 2008) and hitting curves and change-ups much better in 2009.
In addition, Butler's struggles against righties were solved to an extent, though he remains a much better hitter against lefties. This may be connected to his struggles against sliders (-0.65 wSL/C in 2009; -0.93 wSL/C in 2008; -1.94 wSL/C in 2007), as righties can attack Butler with this pitch, while lefties have a harder time doing so, due to their large platoon splits. It does not help that the book has gotten out on Butler, as well, as pitchers have gone after Butler with sliders in 2009, throwing them 16.6 percent of the down. However, his relative improvements have shown up in opponents' pitch selection, as the percentage of sliders he faced was down from 20.1 percent in 2008.
What is most exciting about Butler's 2009 performance was his overall improvement in the power game—his overarching tool. As a pure hitter, he is quite good, but his ultimate power output will determine where he goes as a hitter. Besides slugging more homers in 2009, he also saw a considerable change in the distance his balls were hit, as he had many more drives to the warning track. These will likely cross the fence with higher frequency as he develops at the plate. And, if you're a Bill James disciple, you can take comfort in knowing that Butler crossed the 50-double threshold this past year, with 51.
Still, one key factor that stands in the way of Butler achieving fantasy greatness is his ground-ball oriented swing. With a career 1.40 GB:FB ratio, Butler will have to hit more flyballs if he wants to threaten the home run leaderboards. His raw power and strength may be enough to crack 30 homers, but he won't hit rarified air without more flyballs. However, he does have lots of potential to improve the home run totals even if he does not up the fly ball totals, as his 11.9 HR/FB percentage is quite middling, especially for such a big hitter.
His strikeout rate, while it did increase this season from 12.9 percent to 16.9 percent, is still quite good and should allow him to continue to post good batting averages, despite a very high .335 BABIP in 2009. Consistent .300 averages are a possibility. If he can keep his strikeout numbers low and up his power, as he should, this will mitigate any drop in BABIP.
In the end, Butler looks like he may be on his way to a considerable breakout in 2010. He is a great hitter, uses all fields, and has excellent latent power potential. The breakout could come as early as next season, so there is good reason to reach on Butler a little bit. He likely won't be among the league best, but an average to above-average first baseman is an incredible asset at any point in the draft. League average first basemen often go in the early rounds, so he could become quite the steal. His performance against righties is his biggest hurdle to becoming a fantasy stud, so it bears watching. If he starts hot against righties, it may be a good idea to trade for him. If he is underwhelming, it may not be his year. Watch the performance against sliders as well, as this could be a leading indicator for success or lack thereof against right-handers. In addition, don't forget about the groundball-flyball ratio. If he ups the fly balls, he'll be hitting the bleachers quite often this season, with or without the righty success. For next year, draft Butler expecting slightly below-average to average production at first base, with around 25 home runs and a batting average in the .280-.290 range, with the potential to be an above-average fantasy first baseman.
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Posted by Mike Silver at 6:22am
Speed: As mentioned above, Kemp is on a path toward surpassing 35 SB this season, an extraordinary achievement for a player who is 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds. Players measuring those dimensions aren’t typically speed demons and when they do surpass 30 SB, as Alex Rodriguez did in 1998, it tends to be followed by a few years of more moderate steals production. In 2006, Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein wrote this about the then-prospect outfielder: “At 230 pounds, Kemp’s plus speed could dissipate quickly.” Reportedly, Kemp showed up to spring training this year in excellent condition, and his success rate on the base-paths this year (81%) shows no cause for concern, yet we’ve likely seen the best from Kemp in the steals department.
This theory intrigued me, and I wanted to take a deeper look into it. Is this actually the case? And if it is, what's the extent of it?
To start, let's look at an age curve for three groups of players: league average (all players), players 6-3 or taller, and players 5-10 or shorter. These groups will be known as "average," "tall," and "short," respectively, from this point forward. The stat we'll examine will be SB/SBO (steals divided by opportunities to steal), or the rate at which a player both attempts a steal and succeeds given that he reaches first base. We'll use data from 1919 to 2008. To form the graph, we'll look at year-to-year changes and display them as a percentage of Year 1 so that all three groups of players will start at the same place and will be easier to compare.
The main takeaway here is that "tall" and "average" players maintain the speed they had at age 21 longer than "short" players, who start trending downward at age 23. Tall players start that downward trend at age 24, but it's much less pronounced as they're able to keep at least 93 percent of their Year 1 speed all the way until age 28. Once those tall players start their decline, however, they face a steeper drop than the short players.
To illustrate this a bit better, here's a chart showing raw year-to-year changes as opposed to the gradual aging approach we just took. We'll also condense our age range to 24-37 to use ages with a little bit larger sample and to hone in a little bit more on what we're looking at.
In this light, we see that short and average players behave very similarly. The short players show some wider swings, but that's simply a sample size issue. The pattern is essentially the same. Tall players, however, follow a much different pattern, as we started to see in the initial age curve. Hopefully this graph makes it a little clearer. Each year from age 27 through 32, tall players unfailingly see a drop in their speed. Then there's a bit of a resurgence at age 34 (almost certainly a sample-size issue—in all likelihood, there is probably a plateau for ages 33 to 35) and then some more decline.
To circle back on the short players for a moment, there is one noticeable difference between them and average players. At age 33, notice that their line begins to slope upward. This doesn't mean that they gain speed, but rather they lose it at an increasingly smaller rate. In fact, from age 33 to 37, short players lose a total of just 6 percent of their speed. After that, of course, they decline.
Summing it all up
Essentially, short and average players see their skills decline at a pretty steady rate, short players easing up a bit from 33 to 37. They seem to lose roughly 5 percent of their speed per year until they reach 33. Tall players behave differently, seeing little overall change from 21 to 25, dropping a bit and leveling off until 27, then taking a nosedive until 33. They level off again from 33 to 35, then plummet until the end of their careers.
Application to Matt Kemp
So what can we deduce about Kemp (who turned 25 at the end of last month) going forward? Well, I think it's relatively safe to say that his speed will stay in tact, for the most part, next year. Unless he puts on some weight, he should remain in that "initial plateau" area for tall players (lasting from age 21 through 25). After 2010, these age curves tell us to expect a small dip until age 27, then a precipitous fall off.
Overall, the Kemp Speed Theory seems to hold some real credence, it's just that Kemp himself hasn't reached the point where he's likely to be affected.
Side-note on caveats and bias
You probably noticed that I didn't use weight as a parameter, as Eriq's theory suggested. While I think this would be an important variable, unfortunately the data we have available to us doesn't allow it. You see, a database doesn't seem to exist (at least publicly) that assigns a weight to a player for each individual season. Instead, we only get something like career-to-date or end-of-career weight data. This will create problems if we try to use it for age curves.
For example, when Barry Bonds was 25 years old and stealing 40 or 50 bases per year, he probably weighed around 150 pounds. At the end of his career, he weighed around 240 pounds. If we were to create a weight parameter in our age curve, Bonds would not be lumped in with the 6-2, 150-pound guys at the age when he actually was 6-2, 150 pounds. Instead, he would fall into the 6-2, 240-pound bucket at every age—even though that's not who he was at age 24. This creates lots of problems and bias.
Using only height does introduce some problems, but not nearly as many, and it's mostly just an offshoot of not having weight. For example, we have no idea which players are gaining weight and slowing as a result. If we're predicting the future for a modern-day player, we'll know that he's maintained his weight, so ideally we'd want to eliminate guys who added weight from our study, but we simply aren't able to do that. Instead, we'll have "tall players who gain weight" and "tall players who maintain weight" all lumped together, despite the fact that "tall players who gain weight" will likely be skewing our results a bit. Overall, though, using just height is much sounder than including weight.
At some point I may run these age curves again, including a weight parameter, using data from just the past four years or so to eliminate some of the issues with weight, although that might just lead to a small-sample-size issue.
There's also some selection bias inherent with age curves in general, and I've taken some precautions to avoid them, but some just can't be completely eliminated, so I wanted to make note of it.
Finally, because we're using stolen base opportunities as our denominator, our sample is much smaller than if we were using something like at-bats or plate appearances. I included 90 years worth of data to compensate, but the sample sizes are still less than ideal, especially for ages on the extremes. The general points should probably hold, though.
I'm not yet ready to say that I'm drafting Kemp in the top five, but I'm not nearly as worried about his speed as I might have been a few weeks ago.
If you guys have any questions, feel free to ask away.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:36am
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Everybody prepares for drafts differently in the offseason. On one extreme there are the people who go all-out, creating models to predict player performance or using some other mathematically involved method to create their rankings. And on the other extreme there are the people who do very little to prepare, at most maybe purchase a magazine and have it open next to them while they draft.
In the middle of those two extremes are the people who spend some time creating personal rankings, probably from looking at last year's stats—making adjustments based on age, playing time, and luck—and then creating a rough prediction for each player's stats for the upcoming season. Today, I have a question for those people in the middle about how they come up with their rankings.
Do you think that when making your rankings if you looked solely at the players' stats without any names attached, your rankings would look different than if you made them as you usually do, with names?
My feeling is that most people would answer yes to the above question. Some people at the beginning of 2009 just had this feeling about Matt Kemp and they knew that he would have a good year. Obviously these people were rewarded for bumping up Kemp in their rankings in this example, but had they felt the same way about Chris Iannetta then it would not have worked out so well. This leads me to my next question:
Do you think it is harmful to allow your instinctive feelings about certain players affect your player rankings?
Some will say "No, that is not such a bad thing" while others will argue vehemently against allowing irrational feelings on certain players take effect. Personally, I suggest that you use player names along with their stats to make rankings, despite knowing they would look different if the names were not attached.
Some people might call allowing a player's name to affect your opinion of him an irrational bias, but I do not believe it necessarily is. There are many subtleties that are unique to each player's situation—such as playing time or contract situation—that the numbers do not capture. By associating a player's name with his situation and then adjusting your projections slightly based on feelings, I do not believe you are hurting your team's chances of winning by any significant degree. You might even be helping.
So do not feel guilty about sliding James Loney up a few slots in your rankings if you feel he is in for a breakout 2010 campaign. For the most part you should have statistical backing to your rankings, but there is no problem in indulging in a few of those feelings of yours while making them.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:00am
Monday, October 19, 2009
Both my most recent column and Paul Singman's touched obliquely on how league settings affect the dynamic of play. Commenter, Andrew, mentioned his opinion that daily transaction leagues “lose a bit of credibility” as compared to leagues with free-agent auction budgets. I’m not going to use this column to discuss that point in depth, but the comment did get me thinking about the determinants of a competitive and credible league.
Let’s face it: Many of us here at THT are guilty of at least some degree of roto-snobbery; this goes for both writers and commenters. One of the, perhaps shortsighted, assumptions common to us roto snobs is that leagues with more advanced designs are “better,” more “legitimate/credible” or more competitive. I’m not necessarily sure this is the case though.
Let me digress briefly to state for the record that I don’t mean to use the term “roto-snob” as an insult. I think it is important that there are those out there who take fantasy sports seriously and treat it as a discipline worthy of study and analysis. Although fantasy sports comprise an extremely lucrative industry and are undoubtedly good for the corresponding leagues, fantasy sports is still treated as a frivolous and naïve endeavor. This is evidenced by the way the term is used as a de facto pejorative in the mainstream sports lexicon, i.e. “[Player X] put up great numbers, but this isn’t a fantasy league.” Us fantasy snobs represent a voice to refute these misguided ad hominems.
Getting back to the question of fielding a competitive and legitimate league however, I think the most important determinant of such a dynamic is an evenly matched and consistently engaged group of participants. In fact, when considering competitiveness this is even more important than the particular level of skill or knowledge the body of the league shares. To make a simple baseball analogy, the various levels of minor league baseball are not necessarily any less competitive than MLB, in terms of games themselves. And, while the overall quality of play may be inferior, that does not make the sport that is being played any less legitimate than that sport being played at higher levels.
I don’t think the above paragraph is particularly controversial, by any means. But, I’d like to dig a little deeper into the perceived connection between how advanced or difficult a league is, and how “pure,” “legitimate” or “good” it is. This may get a little messy because we’re often dealing with terms that are more value judgments than empirical observations, but it should be a fun, if pedantic, ride.
Theoretically, it is harder to build a high quality team in a (perhaps AL- or NL-only) league that involves auction dollars, keepers, pay-scales and minor league rosters. Such a league requires higher competency in additional skill sets, as compared to a simple mixed league that utilizes a draft. So, depending on the subjective criteria one uses to judge the “quality” of a league, such a league may be “better.” However, that does not mean that your experience participating in such a league will be better or more competitive than in a more simply designed league—and that, I believe, to be a very important point.
It seems that before going any further, it is a good idea to try approximate what is meant when people use terms like “legitimate,” or “credible” when referring to a fantasy league. I think there are two primary meanings of these somewhat subjective terms. The first refers to leagues being designed with characteristics that increase the likelihood of the most knowledgeable and skilled managers triumphing. Of course, even this definition is somewhat existential as it begs the questions of what kinds of knowledge and which particular skills should be privileged. Further, it prompts questions as to whether certain advantageous behaviors are even to be considered “skills” in the first place. Is getting to the wire quickly a skill? Depends on how you define “skill,” I presume.
The second is more straightforward; are the categories representative of the breath of skills baseball players have and are they weighted sensibly? For example, I’ve played in a number of leagues that use both OPS and batting average as categories and that doesn’t make sense to me. Everything that counts toward batting average counts toward OPS as well; OPS is ostensibly a more comprehensive way of measuring offensive prowess. Why not just choose the more accurate metric attempting to measure the same general principle? I’m not as heavily concerned with this second point for the purposes of this article though.
Considering the first principle underlying legitimacy, we arrive at a fundamental question:
Do deeper and more advanced leagues, by virtue of their design, lead to results that more accurately reflect the relative skills and knowledge of the league participants than simpler leagues do?
I think the instinctive answer is yes, but I’m not so sure it’s correct. I think many people may confuse the selection bias of these league designs with a perceived meritocracy inherent in the design of such a league. That is to say, the complexity of the design attracts more seasoned and knowledgeable participants as opposed to the league design itself doing anything tangible to promote meritocratic results.
For the sake of discussion, I would just like to mention a few reasons why a more advanced league may actually be less conducive to meritocracy. Many of these points deal primarily with league depth and one may also be able to argue that some of these dynamics, for reasons not unrelated to those I discuss, indeed help to separate the wheat from the chaff.
At the end of the day, I think the overall competitive dynamic of a league is largely determined by the relative skill level of the participants. As for a league’s quality, credibility or legitimacy, I might offer an alternative, though still subjective, barometer by which to measure these subjective qualities.
There are different philosophies regarding the overall aim of designing a league. Should it most accurately reflect actually running a baseball team? Is fantasy baseball an entirely different animal from real baseball, with its own rules, dynamics and view of long- and short-term returns? Should the league aim to neutralize individual circumstance of each participant’s life that may lead to advantages or disadvantages?
I think it’s important for the body of a league to discuss these issues from a philosophical perspective and agree on the type of league they want to create. For example, what are the relative merits of using more advanced statistical categories—increased accuracy in terms of reflecting what actually wins baseball games, but an introduction of more esoteric principles, which may further stratify the participants. Perhaps a league’s legitimacy, credibility or overall quality is largely determined by how accurately it mirros its collectively agreed upon vision. In some respects, this is a $10 way of saying that a league’s overall quality can be largely approximated by how much fun the league participants have playing it out.
What does your ideal league look like, and what are your anecdotal experiences regarding the overall “quality” of advanced and simpler leagues?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:10pm
Chone Figgins became an all around multi-position player in the infield who could gain plenty of steals and most years go in at second base, shortstop or third base. He has lost his eligibility at every position now except third base, though. His value is in his speed and a sudden ability to get on base. On the other hand Denard Span is a classic one-position player. He doesn't have the value that Figgins had as a multi-position guy, but what about Figgins as just a third baseman?
R RBI HR SB AVG OBP SLG K% BB% Spd Chone Figgins 114 54 5 42 .298 .395 .393 18.5% 14.1% 6.7 Dernard Span 97 68 8 23 .311 .392 .415 15.4% 10.8% 6.6
He spent two seasons working himself into the lineup only earning 282 PA in his first two seasons. Then in 2004 he reached 600 PA and totaled an impressive number of runs (83) and stolen bases (34). Getting on base wasn't one of his strong suits early on, though. He had a 7.8 percent walk rate and his OBP was only at .350 for much of his early career. This definitely limited his steals and run totals early on.
His on-base skills have gotten remarkably better as his walk rate has climbed a percentage or more each season going from the 7.8 percent in 2004 to the 14.1 percent he held this year. Many players will lose some contact skills when adding that many walks, but his contact rate has climbed right along with his walk rate.
His speed took a hit in the past few years with some injury problems. In 2007 he went to the 15-day DL for a fractured finger, but in 2008 he took two separate trips to the DL for an injured hamstring. His speed score was a career low in 2008 at 5.6 and his ability to steal as many bases was a question coming into 2009. His speed score was below career averages at 6.7 this year and his total steals were down. He stole 52 bases in 2006 before the injuries started. This loss of speed is a possible concern fantasy wise.
His ability to get on base is something he comes with right away. Unlike Figgins who took a few years to learn this skill, Span is already walking more than 10 percent of the time. The skill wasn't something he always had shown in the minors, though. His two seasons at Double-A resulted in walk rates around 6 percent and his first season at Triple-A also had a walk rate at 7.6 percent. He has solidified this in the majors though with a 11.5 percent rate in his two seasons so far.
While he gets on base very well, he does not seem to have the speed of a younger Figgins. He has had approximately 40 extra times at first base than Figgins did in 2004, but has only 23 steals. Figgins had 34 in that season. He was also caught stealing 10 times this year, giving him a less-than-ideal 70 percent success rate. He needs to work on his steals for 2010 to really gain value since his power is lacking.
Speaking of power, he hit eight homers this season. With 145 games played and 676 PA, his ceiling right now looks to be 10 homers. At only 25 years old, he is entering the stage of his career where he could add some power to his swing, but it might be worth a gamble in 2010 with the new stadium in Minnesota.
Span has a head start on Figgins by getting on base so well, but his limited position eligibility and speed make him slightly behind the younger Figgins. Moving forward, they are much closer than that. Figgins' speed has taken a step back, and third base is usually a position at which you want a power bat, and he is not that. Putting a speed guy who is limited to third base on your team can be a handcuff in building your lineup. It requires an abundance of power throughout the rest of your lineup. On the other hand a 10/30 guy in the outfield, like Span, can fit in nicely.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:03am
Friday, October 16, 2009
I am not a big fan of fanfare; generally speaking, it is simply something I don't need. However when I win a fantasy league, the morning after the season ends I expect to go to my league homepage and see in big, bold letters "Congratulations Paul, You Finished in First!" or something similar with virtual confetti and balloons flying everywhere. Maybe that is a little over the top, but I think at least some change to league homepages should occur.
Right now the homepages to my Yahoo and CBS leagues this year look exactly the same as they did the day before the season ended and it leaves me with a very anticlimactic feeling. I was not in an ESPN league this year so I do not know how they handle the situation, but in general do you agree that some sort of fanfare should occur at the end of season?
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:07pm
For the most part, we will profile players individually, discussing their value in mixed leagues, AL-only leagues (or NL-only discussion from Michael Street), expectations of a player being a “sleeper” (or “value pick”), and even keeper possibilities. With the wide variety of contract rules (and roster sizes) that various leagues use, keep/no-keep decisions will be different for each setting but should be clear from the discussion. And, as always, we're here with quick answers to questions posed in the comments section.
All season long, THT has participated in a “Fantasy Baseball Roundtable” discussion, a panel which was comprised of experts from various sites, all approaching the same question simultaneously (so, it wasn't really a roundtable, not even a virtual one, as there was no interaction). Yours truly was invited to participate in two of them, following in the big shoes of Derek Carty, who was busily putting the final touches on his fantastic LABR League championship run. The first question was whether we thought Ubaldo Jimenez was a top-seven starting pitcher for 2010 and the next was the question we're going to discuss this week on Waiver Wire, in our first offseason installment: 2010 Sleepers – hitter and pitcher?
For those who don't want to go to other sites, the “sleeper” picks were: Carlos Gonzalez and Marc Rzepczynski. “Car-Go” contained the caveat “he's almost certain to be overlooked, barring a huge postseason”. Well, it was only four games long, but he's no longer a “sleeper” to anyone who watched him massacre the (mostly lefty) pitching the Phillies sent out there in the NLDS. And, since Rzepczynski was reviewed in this column late in the season, there was little to change. So, who are some other players that might be “value picks” next year (since the concept of a “sleeper” is pretty much non-existent anymore)? Is it Brett Anderson (who has been glowingly reviewed here at Waiver Wire), or Luke Hochevar (whom we were about as harsh on as possible for someone with his K/9 rates)? These were the two other AL players noted in the Roundtable. How about some other candidates instead, just for variety?
2010 “Value Picks”
Ian Kinsler | Texas | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .253/.327/.488
There's some risk here, as Rudy Jaramillo is departed from Texas, but Kinsler is one of the few players who has a legitimate shot as being a “Roto MVP” in the American League in 2010. The biggest reason to expect better stats from an established star is Kinsler's ultra-low BABIP, trailing everyone at .245. Before 2009, Kinsler's career mark was over .300. If he rebounds to his career mark, that's 25 extra hits, and even if we assume those are all singles, that's 39 points of OBP and 44 points of batting average and slugging(!) Kinsler reached first base just 141 times in 2009 and stole 31 bases. Adding 20-25 more times on first base should add another five SB to that total. That brings us to the one thing that has kept Kinsler from putting up huge roto $ values (just $23 in 2008, and $21 in 2009 in mixed-league values) ... his health. But he finished the year strong, and his four career DL stints (each just 15 days) have all been rather fluky. Consider, also, that Kinsler is hitting his peak. His “seasonal age” for 2010 will be 28, but he's about the youngest possible for that, as he will be 27 until June 22. It may seem like we're assuming the best of all worlds here, but if Kinsler plays 155 games, posts rate stats as he did in 2008 (which we think is highly likely based on the BABIP adjustment), and maybe even shows a little “Age 27” magic, he could put up a truly dominant fantasy season. And while there's some risk involved, the fact that he hasn't yet put it all together could lead to him being undervalued in auctions and drafts (or in trade for keeper leagues).
Chien-Ming Wang | New York | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.2 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 9.64 ERA
Okay, now here is a sleeper in Wang, and a Yankee no less. The question is whether to let a sleeping dog lie, or whether there's a fairy-tale ending to this story of sleeping royalty. Frankly, this is a really difficult call to make, either way. The “safe” play would be to invest only “mad money” on Wang, or use a late pick on him, or whatever. One might think that Wang has been trying too hard to fix something that wasn't broken, to look at his statistical tendencies. His K/9 have increased from a stupefyingly low 3.14 in his great 2006 season (19-6, 3.63), to 6.21 in 2009. Meanwhile, his GB% has declined from 63% in 2006 to 53% in 2009. But the change has been due to the various injuries, and him losing his command (i.e., location within the strike zone), in addition to losing more than 1 mph from his average fastball velocity. The new ballpark is supposedly hell on RHP, but when Wang is right, he won't be worrying too much about fly balls. Nothing is ever certain when predicting the ability of pitchers to return from injuries, but Wang's serious injuries are now another year removed, and he'll have the entire offseason to work out normally. Due to his freakish stats, no mathematically based prediction system is going to ascribe much value to Wang for 2010, and we think there's a very good chance that he will return to be a big winner with that great Yankee offense, and help WHIP as well. He's obviously the sort of pitcher who needs to be supported by others on your fantasy team to avoid finishing last in strikeouts, and he won't help ERA much, even in an AL-only league, but wins are hard to come by, and a 200-IP, low-WHIP starter for the Yankees is bound to gather a lot.
Player to Watch:
Ben Zobrist | Tampa Bay | 2B/OF/SS (13 games)
2009 Final Stats: .297/.405/.543
Clearly no longer a “sleeper," after putting up MVP-type stats (especially if you believe some of the fielding metrics that are in vogue now), we were bullish on Zobrist back in May here on Waiver Wire. But with all due respect to THT Fantasy colleague Troy Patterson, we aren't quite sure that “Clone Wars: Chase Utley and Ben Zobrist” is setting realistic expectations for our hero Zobrist. Both +/- (the Fielding Bible metric) and UZR suggest that Zobrist had a tremendous season afield in 2009 at second base. But his reputation is that of a sub-par defender, and when Iwamura returned, Zobrist moved to the outfield. As noted, he's proven he can hit like a corner guy now, and for most fantasy formats, the fact that he may not return to the infield in 2010 is of little or no concern, as he'll still be rated in the middle infield (and at SS too, in generous systems). He'll be a “young” 29 in 2010 (May 26 birthday), so expecting a lot more than his career stats of .260/.346/.459 might be optimistic. As much as he appears to have “put it all together,” players have ups and downs, and many hitters look unstoppable when they are doing well. Still, he could maintain his $21 mixed-league value (2009 stats) by adding another 10% to his playing time, a possibility given that he was used as a part-time player to start the 2009 season. He's someone to keep an eye on, though, as he could end up back at second base again if Tampa Bay signs and trades Iwamura (or, less likely, doesn't offer him arbitration).
It's a long offseason, but staying a step ahead is always useful. Feel free to suggest players for review in comments, or to ask questions about values or keeper decisions. We'll be reviewing some mixed-league and AL- and NL-only players over the months ahead, and are always happy to re-prioritize players per request.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
While everyone else is done for the season and watching the playoffs, Waiver Wire keeps on going! It's time take a look at some guys who finished 2009 strong and whose 2010 value will be greatly affected by offseason moves.
Chris Coghlan | Florida | OF
2009 Final Stats: 321/.390/.460
I almost listed Chris among my Hits for 2009, since I'd given him a thumbs-up way back on May 15, noting his awesome batting eye in the minors and his 80% SB rate. "Expect doubles power and stolen bases," I said. "Good keeper pickup."
Coghlan came through for me in all ways except the SBs and only got stronger as the year went on. He had one of the best second halves in baseball—.372/.423/.543, with 21 doubles, 54 R and 32 RBI, along with 40 multi-hit games (including two separate streaks of six straight multi-hit games). He's one of my ROY faves, though he gets little chatter from the big-market focused commentators out there. Overall, his .321/.390/.460 was incredibly impressive, with 31 2B, 84 R and 47 RBI, an 85% contact rate and a .69 batting eye.
He really came alive after the Marlins put him in the leadoff spot in late May; he hit .336/.397/.473 as the No. 1 hitter, and he stuck there even when speedy (but struggling) Cameron Maybin returned in September. Coghlan profiles more as a No. 2 or No. 3 hitter, but his flexibility to hit in that difficult spot bodes well for his future.
Another bright spot in his future—as far as fantasy owners are concerned, anyway—is the fate of Dan Uggla. Widely considered trade bait, Uggla and his ever-heftier price tag shouldn't be with Florida next year, opening up a spot at 2B. Coghlan played at the keystone in the minors as well as at 3B, another question mark in the Marlins' future, and either spot should boost Coghlan's fantasy value even further.
If he doesn't win ROY, it will be because of the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back (it could also be because of the next guy I'm gonna write about, but hold your horses already!). Coghlan's a bright star who's only going to grow brighter, particularly if he moves out of the outfield. Keeper owners ought to have this guy rostered already, while other owners should watch the Marlins' offseason plans and keep Coghlan in mind come Draft Day.
Casey McGehee | Milwaukee | 3B/2B
2009 Final Stats: .301/.360/.499
Another ROY candidate, McGehee took advantage of the injury to Rickie Weeks and lack of production by Bill Hall and Mat Gamel to become a 2B/3B qualifier in most leagues, and a starter for Milwaukee. His .300+ BA is a teeny bit hollow, as manager Macha yanked him after his first AB in game 162 in order to preserve it (he'd been hitting .299 before the start of play).
McGehee battled knee tendinitis most of the season and took a while to work his way into the starting lineup, so he accumulated only 355 ABs, albeit productive ones. In that slightly-more-than-half-season, he cranked 16 dingers, 20 2Bs and 66 RBI, largely providing protection to the large Prince Fielder. Over 600 ABs, that projects to 34 2Bs, 27 HRs and 111 RBI—not a bad year at all, and one which would have placed him squarely in the ROY discussion.
The question for fantasy owners, however, is whether he'll get those 600 ABs or not. Rickie Weeks should be back next year, while Mat Gamel is considered the Brewers' 3B of the future. McGehee has played at 1B, but Prince shouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon, either. McGehee played C in the minors, but Milwaukee's well-stocked there, too. It's possible that Gamel gets shifted to the OF, but otherwise it's hard imagining McGehee holding Gamel down at Triple-A for another season. This gives Milwaukee some tough decisions to make in the offseason. They've admitted that they'll trade offense for starting pitching, meaning Gamel, Corey Hart, or even Weeks or McGehee could be gone.
This is another situation to keep a close eye on, since McGehee's value is certainly tied to his playing time in 2010, as well as where he plays. It's hard to see any team benching him after this kind of debut, but anything's possible. Not a solid keeper due to these issues, but absolutely someone who could be way up or down by your draft day in 2010.
Randy Wolf | Los Angeles | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.7 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 3.20 ERA
Wolf put together his best overall season since 2002, when you look at his ERA, 214 IP, and 1.10 WHIP (the latter was a career high for him) and his 11-7 record is not only his second-highest win total in his career, it represents his second-best winning percentage ever.
Down the stretch, he was also one of Los Angeles' best arms in September—though both Padilla (3-0, 3.15 ERA) and Garland (3-2, 2.72 ERA) did better than Wolf's 2-1, 3.16 ERA, his 1.02 WHIP was one of the best in baseball for the last month of the season, as was the .207 BAA. Sixteen of his final 18 starts were Quality Starts, showing the groove he got into after the All-Star break, part of a year when he notched a career-high 24 QS.
Has the 32-year-old, injury-prone lefty finally put it together? Should he be on your radar screen for 2010?
Well, the injury question is only available to those with a crystal ball, but let's focus on Wolf's underlying skills. From a strikeout standpoint, his K/9 is his lowest since 2004, but so is his 2.4 BB/9, and his 7.5 H/9 (lowest since 2002) kept his ratios stable. His .227 BAA and .256 BABIP are also his best year in those categories since 2002. And his 129 ERA+ was a career high.
THT's stats will tell you he was helped by the Dodgers' defense, with a .749 DER that was his best for as long as they've been keeping that stat for him. Interestingly, however, Chavez Ravine (generally regarded as a good pitcher's park) didn't help him, as he was better on the road in virtually every area, from BA to HR surrendered. Dave Gassko's Pitcher's Runs Created tells you that his 97 was amazingly high for him, his best in PRC's recorded history (since 2004).
This all means that Wolf benefited from a team that helped him on defense in a year when his control was very good and his strikeouts were down. That's consistent with the profile of an aging pitcher playing for a good defensive team.
His wins and career-high IP tell you he's playing for a good offensive team, too, since he threw deeper in games (his 6.3 IP/G was his best since 2002) and had the offense behind him to help collect those wins. That's further emphasized by the seven losses the Dodgers erased from his ledger by coming back (the most a team's helped him since 2000) while the bullpen only lost four of his 24 QS.
What does this mean for 2010? Plenty, depending on where he ends up. The Dodgers have plenty of young arms and could re-sign Wolf as a veteran presence. If Wolf is smart, he'll take what they offer him, even if it's less than he thinks he'll find elsewhere. He could reproduce 2009 somewhere else, but those peripherals scream (1) career year, and (2) team play behind him.
Sure, Wolf could continue to mature and improve those ratios with another team, but my gut—and the stats—say to bet against it. As a Dodger starter, he becomes a Draft Day sleeper; with another team, he is downgraded to a late-round gamble. Keep watching to see which one he becomes.
Are there NL players you'd like to see written up? Let me know in your comments and I'll write 'em up for next week!
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Southern League's Finest
Desmond Jennings has come of age and catapulted himself toward the top of many prospect boards due to his dynamic offensive prowess. A Dexter Fowler clone in many respects, Jennings was the MVP of the Southern League during his time with Montgomery. His breakout 2009 has made him the hottest leadoff-hitting blue-chipper in all of baseball.
Mike Stanton has more development in front of him, but it's safe to say that he has the best raw power in the minor leagues. Stanton strikes out too much, but a lot of power hitters do. It's his plate discipline that needs to be cleaned first and foremost. Everything else should fall in line, including those advantageous 2-0 and 3-1 counts. Stanton has superstar power, and that's what makes him a hot property.
Travis Wood blew through the Southern League in his nineteen starts for Carolina. In some ways Wood came out of nowhere in 2009, but he has always had solid talent. His control and confidence improved by leaps and bounds this year, leaving him right in line to join Cincinnati's rotation sooner rather than later.
Jarrod Parker had a good news/bad news season in which his powerful right arm was the talk of the town in more ways than one. Looking around the minor leagues, it is awfully hard to top Parker's pure velocity and balanced repertoire, but an elbow strain that he suffered late in the season gives one reason for pause. He has ace-like ability, but the warning flag is in full effect.
The Toast of the Texas League
Chris Carter backed up his eye-opening 2008 campaign with a monstrous, MVP follow-up season. Despite graduating to stiffer competition, his strikeouts went down, his walks went up, and, much to the chagrin of opposing pitchers, his power was every bit as devastating as advertised. His ascent is eerily similar to that of Texas' promising young slugger, Chris Davis. Oakland may have a permanent middle-of-the-order centerpiece on its hands.
Hank Conger can be a handful when healthy. He has all of the necessary catching tools to succeed at the major league level, including an offensive skill set rounded out by strong contact skills, a good amount of plate patience and a dash of power. He is a difficult guy to get out, no matter what level he's playing at. And when it comes right down to it, that is sometimes all you can ask of your catcher.
Jhoulys Chacin cemented his place in Colorado's future rotational plans with his impressive 2009 performance, which followed up a mammoth 2008 campaign. Chacin has all the makings of a well-rounded, average major league starter, but the potential is still there for a truly special career to emerge. It is hard to envision that type of career at this point, but I have a hard time doubting Chacin's always-improving control and mound presence.
Kasey Kiker, with his short stature, doesn't intimidate anyone when he takes the mound. His low-90s fastball isn't making anyone's knees shake either, but, at times, Kiker brings fearlessness and masterful control to the ballpark. If he can pitch with more consistency, his average three-pitch mix could spell middle-of-the-rotation for the young Kiker.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:10am (1) Comments
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Carlos Gonzalez is starting to look more like a peace pipe than a major league ball player. Though scouts love his tools and his ability to play all three outfield positions, it took Gonzalez a few years to find his approach at the plate. When he did, however, the results were tremendous, as shown by his 2009 season in Colorado. But, as always, there's more to a player than meets the eye, so let's take a look at his minor league stats to see what we can find.
Gonzalez's story begins way back in 2003 as a 17-year-old playing Rookie ball for the Missoula Osprey. The young outfielder flashed some good potential, hitting four homers in 275 at-bats, but walked just 16 times against 71 strikeouts. Still, the batter was young, so he had time to hammer out his approach as he moved along. With a .258/.308/.404 line under his belt, the powers that be in Arizona thought it was time for a different test, promoting him to Low-A in 2004.
The 2004 season was a little better for Gonzalez. Still just 18 years old, he was able to post a .273/.327/.427 line in 300 at-bats before being promoted to A-ball in the Midwest League. Through 377 plate appearances, Gonzalez hit 10 home runs though, again, he struggled with his plate approach, posting just 23 walks against 83 strikeouts. Much like in 2003, the line wasn't the best, especially the K:BB ratio, but he was a young, toolsy player with a lot of potential. Players make careers from those credentials, so Arizona was content letting Gonzalez slug his way out by letting him repeat A-ball in 2005.
Finally, after two years of frustration, Gonzalez showed some real signs of growth during a repeat performance in A-ball in 2005. As a 19-year-old, the Venezuelan finally showed some semblance of a workable plate approach, while hitting for more power. With 18 home runs in 568 plate appearances, Gonzalez put together a .307/.371/.489 line on the shoulders of a much improved K:BB ratio (48 BB, 86 K). This was quite the season for Gonzalez, as his improved walk totals gave hope for him to become more than a free-swinging slugger, while his strikeout totals gave even greater reason for optimism, as he struck out in just 15.1 percent of his plate appearances. With burgeoning power and improving plate discipline, Gonzalez seemed close to realizing his full potential. Only time would tell. The pundits certainly agreed, ranking him the 32nd-best prospect in MLB.
The 2006 season, initially filled with great optimism, was very much a mixed bag for Carlos. After earning a promotion to High-A, (with an appearance in Double-A to conclude the year) Gonzalez's plate discipline regressed quite dramatically, as he would go on to post a combined 37 walks against 116 strikeouts in 512 plate appearances between the two levels. Still, the California League aided his power numbers, as he launched 21 homers in 404 at-bats en route to a .300/.355/.562 line in High-A. Still, his poor plate discipline (30 BB, 104 K) made the appearance bittersweet. He flopped at Double-A later that year to the tune of .213/.294/.410, which tempered even the most optimistic of his supporters. Still, Gonzalez's hitting abilities, with or without the plate discipline, were too much to deny, as Arizona punched his ticket to Double-A for 2007. Still brimming with potential, Gonzalez was ranked No. 3 in the Arizona system and No. 18 in MLB.
2007 was definitely a downturn in Gozalez's career path. Already a full season removed from his 2005 breakout, 2007 was definitely a forgettable year in many ways. Though still a very young player at age 21, Gonzalez's performance at Double-A left much to be desired. Despite again hitting for good power (16 HR in 458 at-bats), he did not fulfill expectations of becoming a great slugger, while also failing again to improve his plate discipline, posting a weak K:BB ratio (32 BB, 103 K). Though he was able to cut down on the strikeouts slightly, his walks took a hit. With a .286/.330/.476 line in Double-A, followed by a nice, quick stint in Triple-A (.310/.396/.500 in 42 at-bats, 6BB, 6K), Arizona leveraged Gonzalez's great, but fading potential into a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Athletics, including him as part of the Dan Haren deal. As a result, Gonzalez became the No. 1 prospect in Oakland, while still ranking 22nd in MLB.
2008 was, again, a lackluster season for Gonzalez. Playing for Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, Gonzalez's season was perhaps his worst since becoming a professional. Though he finished with a respectable .283/.344/.416 line in Triple-A, he hit just four home runs in 173 at-bats, while walking 16 times against 35 Ks. The plate discipline was a moderate improvement, though nothing to write home about. Later that year, though he was not ready for the bigs, Oakland decided to call him up. The results were ugly, as his power all but left him and he looked completely lost against major league pitching. In 302 at-bats, he was able to post just 13 walks against 81 strikeouts, hitting only four home runs. His .242/.273/.361 line was quite the debacle.
With the shine fading fast off Gonzalez's star, the outfielder was moved to the Colorado organization as a key piece in the Matt Holliday trade. Though many left him for dead or the scrap-heap home of former prospects, Gonzalez began to put together a quality season in Colorado Springs, the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate. Through 192 at-bats, Gonzalez was finally able to produce the kind of year many expected of him, slugging 10 home runs with a 22:32 BB:K rate. His .339/.418/.630 line seemed to be partially the product of playing at a high altitude, though, when the major league club plays there too, who really cares?
In early June, Gonzalez was promoted to the big leagues, where he would stay for good. After accruing 278 at-bats, the 23-year-old was finally able to prove that he could hit major league hitting, posting a .284/.353/.525 line in 278 at-bats. Gonzalez had arrived. However, while there was much to be thankful for, there were also many reasons to temper the praise showered upon him by his supporters.
When analyzing Gonzalez's sudden ascension to the ranks of very good outfielders, the first thoughts go to how much of this was a Coors Field/altitude affect. On the one hand, there are those who say, rightfully, "who cares," since, as fantasy owners, it doesn't matter how good he is as long as he can put up his stats. The other thought is to determine whether this improvement can be sustained and whether or not the Coors affect in reference to Gonzalez is real—or even important.
Let's start with the Coors affect.
First, there is every reason to believe that Coors Field and Colorado Springs had a good deal to do with Gonzalez's turnaround. Coors Field is one of the best hitting environments in MLB or any level. Any hitter will experience a jump in his power numbers and hitting indicators when switching to the cool environs of Coors. While the stadium is usually credited for its ability to awaken sleeping bats, there may be more to the process than balls flying out of the park at a greater frequency. Of particular importance is the amount that breaking pitches move in Colorado versus other stadium. In the thinner air, there are fewer particles with which a baseball can create friction, air pressure differences, and, thus, break. This has a profound affect on the ability of pitchers to throw breaking pitches. Judging by Gonzalez's pitch-type numbers, this could have been part of the reason why he was able to break out in Colorado.
Approaching this with the disclaimer that the sample size involved is small, and thus vulnerable to random fluctuations, it must be noted that Gonzalez saw some serious improvement in his ability to hit curve balls in 2009 when compared to 2008. While he was just above average against benders in 2008 (-0.22 wCB/C), he destroyed them in '09 (1.66 wCB/C). While this change could reflect an overall improvement in his ability to hit major league pitching, Coors certainly didn't hurt.
On the other hand, giving credit to the theory that Gonzalez merely became a better hitter was his improved success against fastballs and change-ups (-1.66 wFB/C in 2008, 1.86 wFB/C in 2009; -1.74 wCH/C in 2008, -0.28 wCH/C in 2009). This showed an improved ability to adjust to changes in speeds, which may mean that he's either waiting longer before making decisions on pitches, he's getting better at reading the break of pitches, or both. Either way, while the Coors air probably had something to do with his ability to hit curves, there is significant evidence that he became better at diagnosing pitch types.
Of concern, however, are Gonalez's struggles against sliders. While sliders were the only pitch he could hit with any regularity in 2008 (0.19 wSL/C), he was absolutely awful against them in 2009 (-1.84 wSL/C). Given that Gonzalez is a lefty, this may be one of the biggest challenges facing the young hitter, as lefties who struggle against sliders often end up having terrible platoon splits. This may or may not become a problem for Gonzalez, who posted a respectable line against lefties in '09 (.276/.343/.466) but was terrible against them in '08 (.188/.207/.247). However, much of Gonzalez's plate discipline struggles resurfaced when he faced left-handed pitching, as he had a 5:19 BB:K ratio, albeit in 65 plate appearances. Though he hit for good power, his BABIP was through the roof at .378. As a result, expect a hard regression next season, albeit with two caveats—there are some sample size issues involved and he could still learn to hit same-handed hurlers.
As for his overall 2009 and outlook, Gonzalez was quite the hitter. He cut down his K rate to 25.2 percent, while walking in 9.2 percent of his plate appearances. Given his plate discipline characteristics, he seems to be a bit better than his numbers indicate, as he could up his walk percentage over the 10 percent mark this year, while dropping his K rate into the low 20s. Should he do this, there would be some nice implications for his overall numbers, particularly his batting average and OPS. In addition, his Zone percentage, at 47.4 percent, is low, so if he can somehow learn to lay off pitches outside the zone (30.6 percent O-Swing), it will put serious pressure on pitchers to adjust their approach, forcing them to throw him more strikes and more hittable pitches. Either way, the Rockies would be excited at just an improvement in his walk rate to 11 percent and his strikeout rate to 22 percent. These improvements should be enough to hold his batting average in the .275-.285 range even if his BABIP (.338) drops.
And then there's the speed. Gonzalez's stolen base numbers were quite the welcome surprise to his owners this season. It is difficult to make sense of this, as he has been noted in the past as having an intriguing power/speed combination, as he stole 12 bases in 2003 and 16 bases in 2006. As the old adage goes: "Once it's part of your skill set, you own it." Therefore, maybe Gonzalez could steal 30 bases some day. Still, it would be prudent to exercise some skepticism when reviewing his stolen base numbers, though there are definite indicators as to his speed: He managed 1.1 RangeRuns above average in center field in 2009, while being caught only four times in his 20 stolen base tries. In the end, he is probably more of a 15 -base stealer than a 30-steal guy. But, if he decides to run at a high frequency, maybe he can pull it off.
With an excellent line drive rate (23.4 percent line drives), flyball tendencies, and good power, Gonzalez looks like a good outfielder for fantasy leagues in the 2010 season. He'll be just 24 next season, so there is still some considerable development left in him. As he is expected to stay in Colorado, fantasy owners should expect only good things going forward. As a result, a 27 home run, 15 stolen base, .275-.285 season in 2010 seems about right. Keep your eye on the strikeouts and his platoon splits, but have confidence that the power will be there. Since he should also toss a few swipes into the mix, he looks like an above-average major league outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues. If he makes the requisite improvements to his K and walk rate, he could turn in quite the year. Grab him next year if he's available.
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Posted by Mike Silver at 3:30am
The notion of being true to yourself is a somewhat trite cliché. Closely related, however, is the virtue of self-awareness, an extremely valuable trait in fantasy baseball (among other aspects of life, to say the least). As one plays out more and more fantasy seasons, that manager aims to become more astute and deliberate in terms of applying strategy, but no less important are the lessons one may learn about him/herself. It is important for managers to understand their own tendencies, appetite for risk, behavior patterns, etc. and implement safeguards against those that repeatedly get them in trouble.
For example, I’ve realized that one of the tendencies that can hamstring me is my conservatism and reliance on track record. While I think these traits are generally sound principles, I’m aware that I can over-commit to them, so let me briefly describe how I have attempted to address them.
First, I think that “boring” veterans often make very cost-effective choices on draft day; solid but unspectacular known quantities are frequently undervalued. However, my dependence on these types of players sometimes leaves me short of break-out candidates, and while contending is often largely dependent on a solid core, you generally need a few break-out contributors to take home a title. The situation I’ve decided to try to avoid is having the second half of my roster cluttered with players who are just good enough to not want to drop, but devoid of the potential to be difference-makers. To address this potential paralysis, I’ve quite simply made a concerted effort to take a few more well-calculated risks on draft day.
As the other side to that same coin, I’m often reluctant to drop underperforming players with sound track records even when they are egregiously underperforming. Even in retrospect, it was important not to jump ship immediately on Garrett Atkins and Aubrey Huff, but I readily admit I held on to both of them for too long. Luckily, I didn’t absorb all of their ineptitude because I adapted another one of my beliefs to minimize the impact of holding on to Atkins. Normally, I favor using nearly my entire bench for pitching slots, which allows me to stockpile rate-helping middle relievers and potential future closers. My decision to keep an offensive bench this year allowed me to have other options and enabled me to hang on to Atkins until I was convinced he was done without having to play him regularly.
Certainly, the above accounts do not constitute any form of advanced strategy. But, it is important to note that no matter how accomplished we are as fantasy players, we are prone to do things that are somewhat irrational or counterproductive often because we hold too tightly to our own, otherwise sensible, principles. The more aware we are of our own potentially counterproductive tendencies, the more we can protect against them.
Sometimes these issues are not philosophical or strategic so much as practical. If you’re active on the wire perhaps you can go light on closers on draft day and take advantage of the inevitable shake-ups by finding closers on the wire and capitalizing on breaking news before your leaguemates. If circumstances dictate that you are rarely first to the wire, perhaps it makes more sense to bump up the top closers on draft day, as you are more dependent on reliable options than others.
These are just a few examples of how being aware of your own proclivities can help you evolve as a manager and prevent the repetition of mistakes. It is important to take a bit of time at season’s end to reflect and analyze where you may have erred throughout the season. Many of the tendencies that manifest throughout the course of running a fantasy baseball team are far from endemic to fantasy baseball, so it’s folly to think that you will cease to exhibit the same tendencies simply by virtue of experience. If patterns develop related to your shortcomings, then it’s time to make a conscious effort to protect yourself from yourself.
I invite readers to share the lessons they may have learned about their own behavior (specific to fantasy baseball or even beyond) through seasons of competing, and especially to share the conscious adjustments they’ve made to address them.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 1:00am
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Ian Kennedy is a name I haven't heard in a while, but that's what might make him an interesting sleeper in 2010. It's way too early to tell what the Yankees will do, especially if they don't win the World Series, but Kennedy makes for an interesting guy to keep an eye on — especially given his 1.59 ERA at Triple-A.
Kennedy's minor league numbers have always been good, though some have questioned his stuff, and he's been given little time in the majors to prove himself (or provide us with a sample adequate to condemn the playability of his stuff at the MLB level). This season at Triple-A, he posted a 9.93 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9 following a 2008 with 9.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Combined, that's over 90 innings with very good rates — not a huge sample, but encouraging.
What caught my eye today, however, was his PITCHf/x data in the Arizona Fall League. His 91 MPH fastball was 2 MPH faster than it was in his 2007/2008 major league stint, his change-up looked solid, and his curveball looked quite good. It showed a very pronounced 12-to-6 break with over 10 inches of vertical drop. In his brief time in the majors, it was more slurvy with less vertical movement and more horizontal movement. Granted, it's one game and we have no idea what kind of adjustments these cameras might need, but it's worth noting. Keep an eye on Kennedy throughout the course of the AFL and again at your AL-only draft table in 2010.
Posted by Derek Carty at 9:26pm
Imagine you are at a sports bar watching the (insert favorite team) game. Your team is winning in the ninth inning, so (insert favorite team's closer) comes in to pitch. You have two reasons to root for him to convert the save: 1) it would mean your favorite team gets a win and 2) you own this closer on your fantasy team so you would get a save.
Keep imagining, there are now two outs in the ninth with no one on base. Things appear to be going well until the last batter hits a short chopper back to the mound, the closer goes to field the ball, turns, and fires to first for the final out. Instead of celebrating, however, you are mainly concerned because your closer is now laying on the field grimacing and holding his right leg. The replay shows how his knee landed awkwardly while fielding the ball and your first thought is: "I better go add his probable replacement."
OK, maybe you have some compassion for this closer as a human being and your first thought is one of concern for his health, but definitely your second thought is about his replacement.
Unfortunately your phone is some old, barely functioning mechanism and does not get internet access, so you will have to wait until you get home to add the backup closer. I suppose you could ask someone near you if they have a 3-G capable phone and if you could use it quickly, but let's say everyone around you is creepy and you would rather not. So you wait until you get home and a few hours later when you are home, you find someone else has already added the replacement. Too slow! If your closer is out for any extended period of time, not adding the backup could easily cost you a point or two in saves and just as easily a spot in the standings.
And that is just for one example—over the course a season a bunch more situations of the sort occur, obviously having a large impact on the final standings. Now, this is not true for all league types, so before we move further let's discuss the leagues this impacts the most.
In weekly leagues obviously this has no impact since there is one waiver deadline per week and nothing can be done in between each deadline. Only daily updated leagues are involved in this conversation.
Another thing to note is that the scramble for free agents is more prominent in deeper leagues because—and sorry for the analogy—they play more like fantasy football leagues when a running back get injured. In deeper baseball leagues people may be looking for anyone who gets playing time, meaning several teams may want to pick up a player likely to receive more at-bats given an injury to a starter. In these leagues free agency is like the 19th century Wild West; it's a free-for-all and anything goes. May the man who gets there first win.
In a shallower league, however, there is a good chance you will not add an injured starter's real-life replacement since a better option might already exist in free agency. In shallow leagues the scramble will only occur with injured closers and promoted rookies—an injury to an everyday player does not necessitate whipping out your iPhone or rushing home since you are likely the only person looking for a replacement at that time and you will have several options to choose from.
So the question remains: In a shallow, daily updated competitive league is an internet-capable phone necessary to win? Of course you can win without one, but at how large a disadvantage are you putting yourself? I do not intend to try to quantify this amount, that would be a very Cistullian pursuit (nothing against you, Carson); instead I will focus on how it affected me in the Yahoo! Friends & Family league this year to give a tangible example.
I will preface this by saying that I finished in a respectable fourth of 14 in the league (especially considering it was my first year in it) and that I myself own one of those decrepit phones mentioned earlier. Let's run through some of the players I was unable to add because I was late jumping on breaking news and how things might have played out differently.
Below is a breakdown of the league standings by points per category (click to enlarge).
I made quite a few terrible picks in this draft, and one of the worst was Brandon Morrow in the 12th round. When he was ousted from the Mariners' closer job early in the season, I was late to pick up replacement David Aardsma, who ended the season with 38 saves. I also missed out on adding C.J. Wilson the first two times Frank Francisco headed for the DL.
Because I missed out on these saves, late in the season I decided to trade Denard Span for Andrew Bailey to gain some ground in the category. Bailey did pitch great for me in August and September and earned me a few points in saves, but Span also hit surprisingly well over that stretch. In this league where most of the hitting stats were ultra-competitive, losing Span's bat to add saves easily cost me a point in steals and a half-point in average that I otherwise would not have had to sacrifice had I gotten saves from Aardsma or any other reliever that inherited a closer role for however long a time. With some of those saves I also would have gained a full point in saves by breaking free from the annoying three-way tie I finished in for that category.
I can conclude that not being quick enough to add at least one or two replacement closers cost me around 2.5 points in this league.
On my team you won't find many of the better "emergency pickups" of 2009 since generally I was beat out by the other managers to add them. Some examples of those players are Nolan Reimold, Gordon Beckham, Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones. I did have some good pickups throughout the year—Zach Duke, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Martin Prado were all pickups that contributed to my team. All of these players are more of the "non-emergency" variety however, meaning there was no scramble to add them at the time. Had I waited another day to add them, they probably still would have been floating in free agency. I chalk those adds up to good thinking more than fast fingers.
It is hard to quantify the impact owning one of the emergency pickup players would have had, though I do feel comfortable saying one of those players is worth a couple points in terms of league points. Overall, by being slow on adding players—a slowness caused largely by not having a 3-G cell phone—I forfeited around 4 to 5 points in this league. Looking at the league standings those points certainly could have propelled me into third place and who knows what could have happened.
Missing out on free agents over the course of a season can have a large impact on the standings, as shown in one of my leagues this year. The race to add players is an aspect of leagues that some enjoy and others do not. If you are against it, consider playing in leagues with weekly free agent addition periods.
If you are all for it, make sure you have your Blackberry or iPhone available at moments notice, a Twitter account that follows the breakers of news in the baseball world, and—getting progressively more eccentric—an MLB.TV subscription. Going back to the comeback chopper situation at the beginning of this article, no one saw that closer get injured earlier than the guy watching the game live.
I am not advocating that most people go to such lengths to ensure they are able to add players faster than anyone else; most people do not care enough. However, if you are in a highly competitive league and are consistently getting beat in adding the desirable free agents, not only will it be frustrating, you probably will not win the league.
You have to decide how much of a "fantasy baseball geek" you are willing to be.
Posted by Paul Singman at 6:00am
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Colby Rasmus gets to take home some brand-new hardware – with a side of public scrutiny and embarrassment. Hey, there’s a price for fame and stardom. Deal with it.
Ever since his electric 2007 campaign, fantasy owners have waited in earnest for Rasmus, their next five-category stud. Once expected to be a shoo-in for the top two rounds over the next eight years, Rasmus has since turned in consecutive underwhelming seasons. Though his rookie season was, for the most part, a positive experience, it was not what fantasy owners expected of him, nor was it in line with his pedigree or potential.
Rasmus was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft, 28th overall, by the St. Louis Cardinals. Hailing from Russell County High in Seale, Ala., the 18-year-old premiered at rookie ball later that year, where he put up a nice .296/.362/.514 line in 240 plate appearances. The young lefty showed some pop (7 home runs), good speed (13 SB) and a tendency to take walks, drawing 21. He struggled with strikeouts, however, registering an alarming total of 73. Still, there was so much to like about him that this small imperfection could be overlooked, especially from an 18-year-old.
Rasmus was promoted to A-ball the following year, moving up to High-A by the end of 2006. Rasmus again showed promise with 16 homers in 558 plate appearances between the two levels. His triple-slash totals were positive, but a mixed bag. He was able to post a .310/.373/.512 share in 335 plate appearances at A-ball, but he struggled a bit in high-A, posting a .254/.351/.404 line in 223 PAs. Still, his plate discipline indicators improved, as his walk rate remained relatively stable (10.03 percent), while he simultaneously dropped his strikeout rate to 16.1 percent of his plate appearances (90 total K's). And, to impress future fantasy owners, Rasmus added 28 steals. Not too shabby.
Then came 2007.
Promoted to Double-A, Rasmus dominated the league and rocketed up the prospect charts, rising to fifth in the majors by the end of the season - and for good reason. The 20-year-old was able to post a .275/.381/.551 line, showing off his power with 29 homers while making tremendous strides in his approach, totaling 70 walks in 554 plate appearances (12.63 percent). Though his strikeout issues resurfaced to an extent, as he whiffed in 108 at-bats (19.4 percent), his swing was so good at such a young age that there was every reason to be ecstatic about his future. With 18 more steals thrown in for good measure, fantasy owners began to salivate, writing five-category star all over him. 20-20 seemed his floor; 30-30 with 100 RBIs was a legitimate possibility.
Then came 2008.
As Ted Williams liked to say, “Hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing in all of sports.” Though many sources concur with Baseball Prospectus’ TINSTAAPP theory (“There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect”), it may be more true that there is no such thing as a hitting prospect. Rasmus is a prime example.
After narrowly missing out on the major league roster, Rasmus got off to a terribly slow start in Triple-A, which dragged down his season totals to .251/.346/.396. His power disappeared, as he hit just 11 out of the park in 380 plate appearances. His strikeout rate remained relatively steady as he registered 72 punchouts (18.94 percent), as did his walk rate, with 49 free passes (12.89 percent). The steals were still there, too, as he nabbed 15 bags in 2008. However, with poor triple-slash line and missing power, Rasmus had suddenly lost his mojo, and with it, some of the shine off his prospect star.
Still, his track record, his defense and his No. 1 team prospect status were enough to get him the starting job in center for most of 2009.
In his first taste of the bigs in 2009, the 22 year-old Rasmus was able to post a respectable—but not great—line (.251/.307/.407), which looks somewhat better when taking into account his age, the small measure of power, and that he didn't embarrass himself as many other young center fielders did. However, after looking at Rasmus’ statistical indicators, two things stand out: First, there is nothing out of the ordinary about his peripherals that would suggest Rasmus played any better than his stat line. In short, he was the same below-average outfielder the numbers described. And second, he has a number of issues to work out at the plate if he is to become the hitter St. Louis expects him to be.
Translating what was said above, know this: Rasmus was not a good hitter last year. He didn't walk much, he struck out often, and didn't do much with the ball when he did make contact. However, he has a number of encouraging trends that give him a good base to work from.
The best place to start is with his batted ball data, so let's peruse these numbers. First, and perhaps most importantly, his line-drive rate was right around league average. This is a very good sign, as it means he’s driving the ball and is not overmatched by big-league pitching. His flyball data is particularly interesting, as well. Depending on whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty guy, this point might make or break your opinion of Colby Rasmus.
To begin, he had a less-than-ideal home-run-to-flyball rate of 9.4 percent. This, when coupled with his flyball tendencies, means that he will have trouble hitting for high averages with his current HR/FB ratio. As he gets older, however, he will add strength, meaning this rate should improve.
But, by how much you expect it to improve is the real question, as Rasmus possesses the second-most-important trait of a home run hitter: the ability to hit lots of fly balls (45.7 FB%). Most hitters hit slightly more ground balls than fly balls. Rasmus, on the other hand, hits far more fly balls than grounders, meaning that if he does add weight and strength, he could become quite the power threat. When a player can combine a flyball approach with a good HR/FB ratio, he will put up good home run numbers.
However, depending on how much juice you think Rasmus has in his bat, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s good in that, if he adds the requisite strength, he'll club home runs at a high rate. On the other hand, it’s a bad thing if you don’t want to bet on a strength turnaround. Without the added power, his fly balls will land in the gloves of outfielders, not in the hands of fans. This will drag down his batting average and BABIP, like it did this season.
In the end, this is most likely a good trend, as you would reasonably expect a hitter to add power as he gets older. As long as no one tries to tinker with and level out his swing, Colby will continue hitting fly balls and add the power back to his game in the next few years.
Another encouraging trend among his batted ball data is the low frequency at which he hits pop-ups, 5.3 percent. Like Garrett Jones last week, a low pop-up rate means that Rasmus is not often late on fastballs, particularly inside ones. This means that pitchers will have a hard time throwing him inside, which is a big advantage. In addition, it doesn’t seem like Rasmus needs to worry about turning into the next Chris B. Young, whose career has been derailed by a rampant pop-up problem. A good hitter, Young’s batting averages were annihilated by these giveaway outs.
There is more to like about Rasmus, however, than just his batted ball data. His relative success against fastballs (-0.35 wFB/C) and change-ups (0.61 wCH/C) for a rookie show that he is able to adjust to different speeds, which will help him as his plate approach matures. He will need to refine his ability to hit curves (-1.72 wCB/C), as they eat him up. However, he still has time on his side to fix this flaw.
But there is reason for skepticism, particularly surrounding Rasmus’ plate discipline.
Though his ’07 and ’08 minor league walk and strikeout rates suggest that Rasmus was a patient hitter with a good knowledge of the strike zone, a different hitter emerged in 2009. While first exposure to the big league pitching will have a negative impact on any hitter’s strike zone judgment, Rasmus never seemed to have a grip on it from the get-go.
This is perhaps his biggest area of concern, as he seems to have left his patient approach behind in the minors, becoming somewhat of a free-swinger.
While his strikeout and walks rates are not poor (7.1 BB%, 20.0 K%), they are disappointing from the standpoint of what could have been. It would be nice to say that his underlying indicators suggest an improvement; in fact, his Swing%, Contact% and Zone% all place him right around this range.
His 50.1 Swing% is possibly the most disturbing of all, as any hitter who swings this often will never garner many free passes. In addition, his 78.6 percent Contact% shows that he is missing on pitches too often. The Contact% is fixable. However, if he can’t refine his swinging tendencies, his OBP outlook will be severely capped due to lack of walks and strikeouts.
Assuming pitchers continue to throw him in the zone at approximately the same rate as in '09 (50.9%), Rasmus would have to drop his swing percentage by a few points to see any real gains in his walk rate—and this kind of approach overhaul is not easy to do. Therefore, Rasmus’ best bet is to focus on improving his Contact%. If he can get into the low-80 percent range, we could be talking about him striking out once every six plate appearances instead of once every five. That would be a huge boost to his batting average.
But let's shift to a more exciting topic. After all, what made Rasmus so intriguing in the first place was all his steals. What happened to those?
This one is quite confusing. After Rasmus showed off his speed in the minors, the Cardinals seemingly put the breaks on his running, as he attempted just four steals on the season. This is a disturbing trend, though some batters just have down years in the speed department. His recurring heel problems probably contributed to the low totals, as it was affecting him in mid-June and cropped up again at least once more in late July. Put your money on the steals to return in 2010, as he still has the know-how and the speed to swipe bags from major league catchers. And don’t worry about his wheels. He played quite the center field last season, posting a +11.2 UZR/150. You can’t do that without speed, so don’t be too concerned. The numbers will be there next season.
Before the final conclusion arrives, it is worth noting that Rasmus displayed a very large platoon split this season, registering a useful .277/.332/.451 line against righties, against an abysmal .160/.219/.255 one versus lefties. Some hitters are able to cure their ails against lefties, but there is always the need to beware of those who don't. Imagine what kind of player Trot Nixon could have been had he not struggled so mightily against left-handers.
Overall, Rasmus is a raw player with some work to do at the plate. Still just 23 years old, the young outfielder has a lot of potential. However, it goes without saying that he could just as easily remain the hitter he is, much in the same way Jeremy Hermida has stagnated since his own Double-A breakout in 2005. It would hardly be the first time a hitter failed to live up to expectations.
In a perfect world, Colby Rasmus would become a perennial 25-25 anchor, with enough walks to post an OPS in the mid-.800s. However, this is not a perfect world, and Rasmus is far from a perfect hitter. In 2010, a .260-.270 average with 20+ home runs and 10-15 steals sounds about right. While the line is useful, it is below average for 12-team mixed leagues. His potential makes him a worthy gamble in the later rounds, but this batter just requires too much growth and has too large a platoon split to give him a sound endorsement.
Still, Rasmus remains a great prospect, one to keep a watchful eye on. And should you choose to own or track him next year, follow his contact rate and his HR/FB rate, in particular. Should either of these rates show substantial improvement, he will be an asset. After all, he’s still got all five tools.
VOTE ON NEXT WEEK'S PLAYER PROFILE
*Feel free to also use the text box to nominate players for next week's poll.
Posted by Mike Silver at 6:20am
Florida State League
Hitter of the Year
Kirk Nieuwenhuis / OF / New York Mets
Nieuwenhuis' power/speed combination went unrivaled, mostly due to his league-leading 35 doubles. His strikeout numbers weren't where one would like them to be, but his league-leading .467 slugging percentage and .824 OPS certainly outweigh that one blemish on his record.
Pitcher of the Year
Darin Downs / LHP / Tampa Bay Rays
Charlotte's Downs may have been old for the Florida State League, but his stellar control and attacking style was certainly too much for his Advanced-A competition and may eventually find a niche in the major leagues.
Best Hitting Prospect
Caleb Gindl / OF / Milwaukee Brewers
Don't be fooled by his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame. Gindi is a grinder. There is a powerful bat behind the small body, along with plenty of hard work to back up his continually improving swing, plate discipline and consistency. But, while I love his bat, I'm not sure that the speed portion of his game will be anything more than average in the big leagues.
Best Pitching Prospect
D.J. Mitchell / RHP / New York Yankees
The Florida State League saw an alarming lack of pitching talent spend any significant amount of time in the league this season. Standouts such as Kyle Drabek and Jenrry Mejia came and went, leaving D.J. Mitchell to take this crown. His aggressive nature and fearlessness have won me over.
Hitter of the Year
Carlos Santana / C / Cleveland Indians
Akron rode Santana all the way to a first-place finish in the Eastern League. It's rare to find a catcher who can do the things that Santana does offensively, but Cleveland is just as excited over the way that he managed Akron's pitching staff. The Eastern League didn't stand a chance.
Pitcher of the Year
Zach McAllister / RHP / New York Yankees
No other pitcher who spent the entire year in the Eastern League could touch McAllister's 2.23 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Trenton would have had a hard time even being competitive without its rock-solid ace.
Best Hitting Prospect
Carlos Santana / C / Cleveland Indians
Sorry to continue the Santana love, but the young man's follow-up season to his breakout 2008 exceeded everyone's expectations. Usually it is the adjustment to Double-A that trips up a young hitter, especially a catcher, but Santana continued his upward career progression, and he isn't far away from the majors. An All-Star career could be in the works.
Best Pitching Prospect
Madison Bumgarner / LHP / San Francisco Giants
It's hard to say something about Bumgarner that hasn't been said already. Entering the Eastern League as a teenager, this young man went right after every single hitter he came across with his impeccable control and movement. With the way 2009 played out, Bumgarner may start 2010 on the Giants' 25-man roster.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:00am (2) Comments
This year I got walloped in my home league—the second year out of four that I've finished further down than I'd have liked. Thankfully, I finished at the top last year, so I don't feel like a total schlum. What went wrong this year? I was desultory in RBIs and runs and mediocre in WHIP and ERA almost from the get-go. It is a 12-team league with BA, runs, RBIs, HR, SO/BB and SB on the batting side and K, WHIP, ERA, W-L, S and HD on the pitching side.
I had the 12th pick in the draft. Here were my picks, in order: Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, Brandon Phillips, Vladimir Guerrero, Curtis Granderson, Chipper Jones, Jay Bruce, Joakim Soria, B.J. Ryan, Derek Lowe, Yovani Gallardo, Aaron Harang, Milton Bradley, Matt Cain, Randy Johnson, Mike Pelfrey, Jason Isringhausen, Clayton Kershaw, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman.
I later picked up the likes of Fernando Rodney, Jed Lowrie and Jarrod Saltalamacchia during the reserve draft.
There are some doozies in my draft. I'm happy with Kershaw in the 18th, Hoffman in the 20th and Cain in the 14th. I expected good things from Gallardo and wasn't disappointed. If Lowe and Harang had pitched anywhere close to my expectations, I should have been fine, even with the risky Johnson and Pelfrey.
Alas, Harang looks like he has become a Dusty Baker special. I followed some of his games and it always seemed like he'd have one bad inning and then pitch really well for the rest of the game. More often than not it was the other way around: He'd be pitching well, reach about 100 pitches and Baker would leave him in long enough to get worked over in the late innings.
I ended up having a fairly solid closer core with Hoffman, Rodney and Soria. I would later trade Rodney in the second half. I was hoping that Isringhausen and Ryan would get a shot at closing in Tampa and Toronto, respectively. But if they didn't, I also hoped that they would at least be decent setup men and garner some holds for me. Obviously picking Ryan that early (or really at all) was incredible folly.
As the draft was progressing, I realized that I wasn't going to get any particularly interesting shortstop or catcher, but I also saw that by the mid-teen rounds, all my competitors had drafted at those positions already. So I mentally targeted Elvis Andrus and A.J. Pierzynski for the late, late rounds. As it happened, two teams swooped in to pick them up as backups literally just a couple of picks before I was going to, leaving me in a real bind. My hope was that my consolation picks—Lowrie and Saltalamacchia—would at least give me something by virtue of being on strong offensive teams. Saltalamacchia also had a bit of upside potential. Nevertheless, I had two big holes in my offense. Thankfully, my hole at shortstop would lead me to pick up Ben Zobrist early on.
I had a lot of power in my lineup. I was second in home runs for most of the first half of the season. At the same time, I was last in runs and RBIs—a juxtaposition that is hard to achieve. Bradley's inconsistency and Guerrero's injury quickly opened more holes in my lineup. Bruce would hit 22 home runs in 345 at bats, but yield only 47 runs and 58 RBIs. Jones' 2009 season wasn't half as good as his 2008.
So, while I got reliable performances from four out of my first five picks and picked up a dynamo in Zobrist, I still lacked competitive production from my third baseman and two (out of four) outfield spots. Since I had Thome as my DH, I had no suitable backups either.
Hindsight is always better, but what lessons can I draw from this year? If I had one pick to do over, it would be the Ryan pick at the end of the ninth round. I think I might have been trying to rush to the bathroom or something at that point in the draft (he says to himself charitably). I wasn't working from a solid strategy there.
Lowe was a strategic pick. I wanted a dependable innings eater on a good team to give my rate stats some ballast. I figured 200 innings of 3.60 ERA and 1.25 WHIP would let me take some other risks. Many of those risks paid off, but the ballast sank my ship. I won't be buying ballast early again.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:10am
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
The final Fantasy Baseball Roundtable of the year was hosted by FantasyPhenoms. Rob McQuown took the reigns for THTF this week. The question:
As we look towards next year, give one pitcher and one hitter who make for great 2010 sleepers.
Here's the link for those who would like to read the answers.
Posted by Derek Carty at 10:46pm
They do not stand out in any one category, but these players contribute in all categories. Who are the players that offer the most consistently adequate production across the board, yet do not display flashing skills in any one of the five fantasy categories? I've taken a look at the 2009 season numbers to find these players—these kings of above-averageness.
I started with an arbitrary threshold of 400 plate appearances. Yeah, I hate those too, but I've got to draw the line somewhere on what constitutes playing almost a full season. That left me with 222 players who amassed 400 PAs in 2009. Then I ranked the players number 1 through 222 in the five main hitting categories, I'm sure you know what they are—runs, home runs, RBI, steals, and batting average.
Anyone in the bottom 50 percent in any category got thrown out, and anyone in the top 25 percent of any category was tossed as well.
After first eliminating players by their run totals, I was left with 60 players, ranging from a slew of players with 72 runs just inside the top 50% to Skip Schumaker, Justin Morneau and Franklin Gutierrez, whose 86 runs were just outside the top 25%. For players with 400 plate appearances, Geoff Blum and Cesar Izturis got the fewest runs, with 34 each. They get eight runs per 100 PAs, compared to Albert Pujols, who gets 18 runs per 100 of his plate appearances.
Next the players outside the 25-50 percent range in home runs were dropped, leaving 15 players remaining. Hanley Ramirez headed a group of seven players with 24 home runs who were the first outside the top 25%. At least 15 home runs were required to be in the top half of home run hitters. Only one player with 400 plate appearances did not hit a home run in 2009, and not surprisingly that player was Juan Pierre.
Everyone's favorite stat, RBI, was next. Required to be in the range was between 86 and 66 RBI. Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard continued their slugging ways in 2009, tying for the league lead with 141. Willy Taveras and his .259 wOBA accrued an astounding 15 RBI. Despite that total, he did not have the largest discrepancy between his run and RBI totals—that title belongs to Michael Bourn with his 97 runs and 35 RBI.
You guessed it, stolen bases are next. Less than 15 steals and more than five steals were the stipulations, and 60 players met them. Exactly 25 players with the required 400 PAs got zero steals in 2009, and 63 percent of players were in the single digits in steals totals.
Finally I came to batting average—a little weary at this point—but nevertheless managed to determine a .294 to .274 batting average were within the 25-50 percent range. The difference between the league-leader in batting average, Joe Mauer and his .364 average, and the league-laggard, Jason Varitek and his .209 average, is .155 points of average. Over 442 at-bats (which is the average of Mauer and Varitek's at-bats) that difference equates to 69 hits. Yes, a lot.
Now for the question that should be on everyone's mind: Has any player made it through all five cuts? The answer, thankfully, is yes. In fact two players have survived, one is Adam Jones and the other is Jeff Francoeur. Here is what these two player's stat lines looked like this year:
Interestingly Jones' and Francoeur's seasons followed opposite paths. Jones kicked off the season hot and finished May as one of the best hitters in baseball. From that point on, however, he cooled off significantly until his season ended in early September because of an ankle injury.
Conversely Francoeur got off to a slow start with Atlanta, at midseason was traded to the rival Mets in the swap for Ryan Church, and then proceeded to have his best two months of the season—August and September—in New York.
It is not my intention to draw any type of conclusions about these two players, like whether they are over- or under-valued. Generalizations of the sort are usually better handled on a case-by-case basis. What probably is true about these type of players is that they have slightly lower fade rates because they have multiple skills to fall back on if one falters.
And for those interested, the next closest player was Mike Cameron, who would have made the cut were it not for his .250 batting average. Oh well.
Posted by Paul Singman at 6:00am
Monday, October 05, 2009
The 2009 fantasy baseball season officially came to a close in many formats last night, leaving a select few owners dousing themselves in coolers of Gatorade (I swear, I'm actually going to do this one of these years) and leaving many others to simply wait for next year. For THT Fantasy, there's a good deal of celebrating in our virtual office today.
LABR NL — 1st place — Derek Carty (13 teams)
Along with Tout Wars, LABR is one of the top two expert fantasy competitions in the world. In 2009, yours truly is bringing home the trophy (or ring, actually... I bought myself a championship ring to most effectively gloat each time I see one of my fellow participants). In addition to simply winning, this championship makes me the youngest person to ever win a major expert league competition.
I'm especially proud because most have called this one of the toughest LABR fields ever with the likes of Baseball HQ's Ron Shandler, ESPN's Nate Ravitz and Tristan Cockcroft, Rotoworld's Rick Wolf and Glenn Colton, Baseball Prospectus' Clay Davenport, USA Today's Steve Gardner, Yahoo!'s Brandon Funston, and several other top competitors. It truly was an All-Star field. Back in March, there were 11 LABR and Tout championships sitting in the draft room with me. They should all still be there next year, but the funny thing is, the target will now be on my back.
Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge (FSIC) — 2nd place — Derek Carty and Paul Singman (12 teams)
We were in 1st just 10 or 12 days ago, but our team fell flat in the final week. Still, a quality finish against some good competition from FantasyBaseball.com, Fanball, SportingNews, and several others. Perhaps the saying "You can't win a league in the early rounds, but you can lose it" is true. Paul and I were unlucky enough to pick Jose Reyes and Garrett Atkins 1-2. Considering, I think a finish likes ours is pretty good.
Razzball League — 2nd place — Jonathan Halket (90 teams)
This league wasn't strictly for experts but, rather, followed the NFBC style of massive amounts of teams, including representatives from ESPN, FanGraphs, Fanball, FantasyPros911, Beyond the Boxscore, MVN, and Razzball (of course), among others. Terrific showing in a huge field, Jonathan.
KFFL Expert League — 3rd place — Derek Carty and Eriq Gardner (12 teams)
Really competitive league that came down to the wire. We were in first entering the week, but this team also fell flat in the final days. No shortage of competition, though, as participants included LABR commish Steve Gardner, KFFL's own Nick Minnix and Tim Heaney, and reps from Baseball HQ, Baseball Prospectus, CREATiVESPORTS, RotoExperts, and FantasyPros911, among others. Eriq and I actually ended up making 204 transactions throughout the course of the season.
Yahoo! Friends & Family League — 4th place — Paul Singman (14 teams)
Our own Paul Singman was tied for second on Saturday, but just barely got edged out at the last minute. There are some big names here, including Yahoo!'s big four of Funston, Behrens, Evans, and Pianowski as well as Tout Wars vets Jeff Erickson (Rotowire), Chris Liss (Rotowire), Mike Salfino (SNY), and several other industry guys.
Overall, I think it was a very good showing for THTF in expert leagues this season. As you know, we've expanded very quickly, going from just one full-time writer (me) at the end of last season to a staff of 12 terrific guys today. For me, to see our guys have the opportunity to participate against such tough competition — and what's more, to see these kind of results — in what really is the early going of the site, is something I'm very proud of.
Thanks to all of the great writers I now have the privilege of working with and even more thanks to all of the readers who have helped make THTF what it is today — and who will help it continue to grow. Hopefully we were able to help you win your own fantasy leagues this year and will be able to help you again in 2010. If you have any stories you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them. Any suggestions for what you'd like to see from us going forward, I'd love to hear those too.
Unrelated — Where have I been?
For those wondering where I've been lately, worry not, I'll be back soon. I'm currently in Arizona participating in the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program (aka Scout School). I'll be back and ready to write in another week or so.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:59pm
When I was offered this writing job, I told myself that I would try to stay away from posting self-indulgent anecdotes about experiences in my own leagues. Ah, the best laid plans… In actuality, I had a revelation on the second-to-last day of the season in my head-to-head league that I found interesting and also touches on some of the larger debates in the fantasy baseball world. So, I’m going to share it here, for purposes of establishing the context for the larger point.
I’m in the finals of a head-to-head (non-keeper) league and facing the league's most hyperactive manager. Naturally, at season’s end there is even more motivation than normal to spot start and manipulate your roster for short-term gain. Thus his managerial style has become a caricature of itself, but strategically so.
I knew how he was going to manage the finals, and I tried to take the advice I always give. Be flexible and opportunistic; force him to commit to a paradigm before I do. So, for the first week I picked up a fair amount of attractive spot-starting match-ups, but did not overindulge. The idea was to keep myself in contention in the counting stats and control the rate stats. I accomplished that goal, and did so well enough to put me in a difficult position.
Not surprisingly, as I write this on Saturday morning, I am ahead in the rate stats and trailing in wins (and saves). However, there is one dynamic I did not expect. I actually enjoy a small lead in Ks (thank you, Ricky Nolasco) but have fallen behind in K/BB. My opponent had a full slate of starters for Saturday and Sunday. Even though I am losing the overall match-up, I’ve chosen not to protect the K lead, as I think he is goading me to risk my rate stats. Instead, I’m hoping his cadre of bottom-of-the-barrel starters causes him to give back the K/BB category. Ostensibly, I’m hoping to trade the K point for the K/BB point, which would leave the pitching match-up at 3-3 and put the overall battle in the hands of the offenses, neither of which have really shown up by the way.
The most questionable element of my strategy is that I am voluntarily relinquishing control of a category, in favor of betting on my opponent’s self destruction. He just has too many innings coming to him for me to match, so I don’t think I can win playing his game, at least not without severely risking two other categories in the process. Will it work? I guess I’ll know by the time this column runs.
The revelation I referred to earlier is really not some foreign concept. It’s simply the idea that he with less to lose is more dangerous. Whoever was losing the rate stats in this battle actually controlled the dynamic of the whole match-up because rates are the only categories you ever have to “protect.” You don’t protect leads in counting categories so much as you keep up with, or outpace your opponent. With games, innings or at-bats, counting stats will come; they can never be less than they were before, they can only grow at an insufficient rate. My opponent does not have to think as much as I do, his strategy is simple - pick up as many pitchers as he can and try to make the best choices available.
Over the long term, he can’t act this way to this degree. However, the end of the season removes the opportunity cost from dropping quality players for immediate stats. I can’t keep up with his level of activity if I am concerned about protecting the rates, which is why even though I happen to be leading in Ks, I’ve identified a category I’m currently losing as a more viable category to actually win.
This particular experience has drawn me toward the conclusion that while it is preferable to invest in quality pitching throughout the season (with an eye toward opportunism); it is wise to invest in counting stats down the stretch in head-to-head leagues. The tenets underlying this theory are manifold.
The first important point is that over weekly scoring periods quality often takes care of quantity without trying. Better pitchers will amass more wins and more Ks. It takes fewer good pitchers to amass the same number of strikeouts as several poor pitchers. The opportunity cost of committing too heavily to the revolving-door roster strategy is enough of a stick to prevent an opponent from jumping over the edge. In the playoffs, it’s win or go home, so a manager has more incentive to ramp up the hyperactivity to the point that it is hard to compete against without his opponent adopting that strategy, at least to some degree.
A second factor is that small sample size enables the possibility of a manager not being heavily penalized for running out a parade of subpar pitchers. While over the course of the season a manager who does this will suffer horribly in the rate stats, in one playoff series it’s entirely possible to get a good run of performances from inferior players. Or, conversely, it’s quite possible that a series of good pitchers perform poorly over one playoff week.
The conclusion of my not-so-novel revelation seems to be that when you eliminate long-term security from the equation, chasing counting stats is the wiser strategy, and it allows you to dictate the dynamic of a head-to-head series.
The larger question this situation brings forth is that of regulation in fantasy baseball. Namely, should moves be limited?
Normally, I’m a libertarian on these matters (highly ironic for those who know me personally). I’m against limiting moves. I’m against distinguishing pitching roster spots between starters and relievers, and so forth. But, it does appear that full deregulation of transactions skews the incentive to invest in what are otherwise equally valuable categories during the most important time of the season. Is that a problem? I’m not sure.
During the offseason, I plan to write several pieces dealing with overarching strategy and models of league construction. To limit moves or not will certainly be one issue I explore.
But, for now, I ask the readership two questions. What say you about investing in counting stats versus rate stats down the stretch in head-to-head leagues? And, if the conclusion in this piece is true, is that a viable argument for limiting moves in head-to-head leagues?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:02am
Javier Vazqeuz has been one of the most interesting studies in sabermetrics throughout his career. He breaks all the ERA predictors by consistently having a higher ERA than his FIP, xFIP, tRA or DIPS expect. His ERA has been higher than his FIP in eight of 12 major league seasons, posting a career FIP of 3.83 and ERA of 4.19. On the other end is Matt Cain who consistently beats expectations by maintaining a very low HR/FB% year after year. This year was his highest at 8%, yet he had his best full season yet.
Name W-L ERA K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB% Javier Vazquez 15-10 2.87 9.77 1.81 5.41 .297 76.6% 41.7% 10.1% Matt Cain 14-8 2.89 7.07 3.02 2.34 .268 81.6% 38.9% 8.4%
I have looked into Vazquez before as his numbers always draw attention. He has continually drawn bad luck against his FIP especially once he went to the AL. The last time I looked at him was back in April and found he had a large change in K/BB while pitching from the stretch. In 2008 his K/BB went from 3.94 with the bases empty to a 2.43 with runners in scoring position. In his career it went from 4.10 with the bases empty to a 2.07 with runners in scoring position.
He also played for some poor defenses recently and had BABIP numbers of .284, .311, .321, .297, .328 while with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and White Sox from 2004-08. His career BABIP still stands at .309. This all helps explain why he has struggled against his FIP, but what has happened this year?
Well he still has a significant split in his work from the stretch. His K/BB with the bases empty is 6.21, but with runners in scoring position he has a 4.25. That is much better from the stretch than any season and surely has something to do with playing in the National League and facing the opposing pitcher. This has led his numbers to match up much better as his ERA stands only 0.1 higher than his FIP.
For years Cain has been listed as a potential pitcher to fall as his xFIP was consistently higher than his ERA. His HR/FB rate has been 7.1% or lower for 3 years and has only crept up to 8.4% this year. This has to do with playing in the NL West. Pitching in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles for a large number of your games will do that.
His strikeout rate has taken a hit this year with his K/9 down to 7.07. Offsetting that is his walk rate falling to a career low of 3.02, and his K/BB is a career best 2.34. This is still not that great for a pitcher with a 38.9% groundball rate. His career BABIP is .278 and down to .268 this season. This is partly due to a team defense that has ranked in the top 10 in MLB for the past four years.
While his overall numbers don't match that of a great pitcher, he has the ability to maintain solid numbers as long as he stays in the NL West. He has another year left on his contract with the Giants and a 2011 option for $6.25 million. This could be an issue next year as his value to trade will start to decrease, but the Giants could just as well keep him through the end of his deal. If he was moved, he stands to suffer an increase in homers against and an increase in BABIP.
Both of these pitchers are staring at the reality of regression to the mean next year, but they both have history of being solid pitchers. They will be overvalued for sure, but Javier Vazquez is definately the better and safer pitcher to choose. There has been talk he could be expendable to the Braves if they bring back Tim Hudson next year. I find it extremely unlikely that the Braves will let a pitcher with a K/BB over 5 go, but he is entering the last year of a contract that guarantees him $11.5 million. His biggest downside would be a return to the AL, but Cain would be a downgrade going to any team outside the NL West.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:01am
Maybe it's fate, maybe it's just an accident, but, in case you're living under a rock, you should know that the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers are playing on Tuesday for the AL Central Title and ... your fantasy title?
Yes, it's true - at least for ESPN.com fantasy players: the final game of the season will count for fantasy points, giving you the opportunity to capture that single or half-point to snatch your fantasy title from the jaws of defeat, or tie.
The probables for the game are Detroit's Rick Porcello and Minnesota's Scott Baker. If you're in a deep league, they're probably already gone. But, should that not be the case, pick them up immediately at the expense of your non-keepers, as they won't be kept for next season anyway. Think about it: if you're down in ERA or WHIP, you can make the decision on game day whether you want to play them. Should you be up in the standings by merely a strikeout or two, don't let your adversary get that single point to drop you in the standings.
Do the same with any other position players out on the wire, as long as it doesn't affect your keepers. After all, it's happening in more leagues than you think. Two of my leagues have ties at first after 162 games. Though, sadly, I'm not leading in either one.
Hurry, there's no time to waste. Why are you still reading this article?
Posted by Mike Silver at 12:33am
Friday, October 02, 2009
As the 2009 season winds down, it's time to look at the NL Waiver Wire recommendations I've made this year to check out the Hits and Misses in my prognostications. I was pleased to see that most of my calls were good ones, with caution advised when appropriate, along with stronger recommendations to pick up good guys and leave the ugly ones on the wire.
I wasn't as good as True Talent, the predictive system you'll find only in Heater Magazine, which typically was spot-on in telling you who'd succeed and who wouldn't, even for guys with minimal major-league experience. To take a random example, Eugenio Velez's True Talent line of .266/.314/.398 almost exactly nailed his actual .266/.310/.408 line—and he's not alone.
John Burnson's great stat work often made me look like a genius, as you'll see in the "Hits" below, counting up from No. 5 to No. 1. Now and then, either True Talent or my own instincts steered me wrong, and you'll read about those in the "Misses," arranged from near-miss to worst miss.
Additionally, I invite the THT readers out there to share their own stories of success or failure based on the Waiver Wire columns. Did we help you win your league with that one crucial HR? Blow your lead in SB? We only get better when you let us know how we're doing, so feel free to comment, and I look forward to the offseason, 2010 season (and beyond) with THT Fantasy!
5) Mike MacDougal | Washington | CL
YTD: 5.4 K/9, 0.8 K/BB, 4.42 ERA
True Talent: 7.9 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.18 ERA
Performance Since Column: 4.9 K/9, 0.8 K/BB, 4.29 ERA, 18 Saves
This is a little Hit, a little Miss, but it's mostly a Miss. I said in my June 12 column that MacDougal "can throw strikes—he just doesn’t know when they’re coming" and that he was suitable for "any team that needs saves without strong ratios." That much was right. But True Talent was way off on strikes and K/BB, just as I was wrong in saying "he's a short-term pickup" and that "Manny Acta has hinted he won't be closing for long." I didn't expect him to outlast his manager, and nobody saw his whacked ratios, let alone how they'd translate into a half-decent ERA.
Most importantly, I didn't advocate strongly enough to pick up a closer who's still closing games more than three months later, and that's why this is a Miss. That MacDougal did so without striking batters out doesn't matter; he got the job done, blowing just one save in 19 chances, and that can easily make the difference in the fantasy standings for your team.
4) Chris Snyder | Arizona | C
True Talent: .250/.354/.442
Performance Since Column: .147/.272/.221 in 20 starts
On May 29, I said Snyder had grabbed the D-backs' starting backstop job and that he'd "continue to gain ground on Montero, particularly since he’s added a career-best batting eye of .84 BB/K to his power. If he can hold his plate discipline gains, he’ll beat that True Talent OPS. ... Grab this guy in 8+ team NL leagues and all 10+ team leagues." Well, he didn't come close to True Talent or my expectations, but I've got a legitimate excuse here. Snyder lost a month to back problems, a problem that would lead to season-ending back surgery in late August. Now it looks like Snyder, whose massive $17.25M contract extension through 2012 makes him untradeable until he proves himself healthy, will be Montero's hugely overpaid backup.
It's hard to predict injuries, and there were a few other guys who missed the mark because they got hurt, but I was way off here, particularly in my exuberance about the urgency of grabbing Snyder. At least I got Montero right a few weeks later, as you'll read below.
3) Joel Pineiro | St. Louis | SP
YTD: 4.3 K/9, 3.9 K/BB, 3.44 ERA
True Talent: 4.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.78 ERA
Performance Since Column: 4.7 K/9, 4.75 K/BB, 3.40 ERA, 14-13 record
When I reviewed Joel Pineiro on May 1, I said, "His ERA exceeds his expected ERA by almost a full run, and those peripherals (1.0 K/BB, 2.1 K/9) are awful. ... Don’t expect much more than a few extra luck-inspired wins, very few Ks and a sub-par ERA." To my credit, I didn't say he'd be awful, and a lot of forecasters got Piniero wrong. True Talent slightly undershot his expected Ks, and who would have thought Pineiro would lead all of baseball with 1.1 BB/9? That's where he got that gaudy BB/K ratio, and how he beat ERA expectations by almost a run and a half. He also tossed two shutouts (tied for the NL lead), and gave his owners 21 Quality Starts in 31 outings, for an overall record of 15-12.
This wasn't the worst Miss in the world, but I wouldn't have picked Pineiro up based on my own recommendations—as, in fact, I didn't, not in any of my leagues that count QS. And as a further hedge to my Miss here, I'll add that Pineiro has slowed down significantly in September, with a 2-3 record, 4.0 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, and 4.93 ERA in six starts. But Miss it was.
2) Garrett Jones | Pittsburgh | OF
True Talent: .245/.303/.421
Performance Since Column: .297/.377/.569, 18 HR, 19 2B, 40 RBI in 70 games.
I don't feel as bad about this pick since reading Mike Silver's excellent column on Jones, calling him "among the most confusing players in fantasy baseball." But on July 10, I said Jones was "worth a short-term flyer in NL-only leagues, and all owners should watch to see if his hot start continues." Which sounds nice out of context, and I'll freely admit I was hedging my bets, but most of my writeup focused on his long time in the minors, his strikeouts, and his problems against LHP. And True Talent was similarly pessimistic, so we both got a Miss here.
All in all, it wasn't the worst recommendation, but I was pretty tepid about someone who went on to produce at amazing levels. And, as regular readers know, I continued to advocate against his ability to maintain his production levels in comments after future columns. I missed the boat on Jones pretty badly, and if you were following my advice, you probably did, too.
1) Milton Bradley | Chicago | OF
True Talent: .280/.390/.479
Performance Since Column: .280/.383/.429, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 51 games, 1 suspension
What was I thinking? What was True Talent thinking? What were the Cubs thinking? Like TT and Chicago ownership, I couldn't believe that Bradley would continue to stink up the joint as much as he had. And, if you look at his performance since my July 17 column, he actually did improve over his .243/.379/.381 line at the time. But my final recommendation was pretty inflexible: "If you've got a spot, stash him; if you own him, wait if you can; if you need an OF, watch him. He's coming around."
He came around a little, and his final line came close to the OBP projections of True Talent, but it's doubtful that any reader expected his SLG to lose almost 100 points. I said "he's not a .760 OPS hitter" and I was right on there—he finished with a .775 OPS. My writeup was positive and pumped him up, and his minor improvement didn't merit that sort of enthusiasm. Though I also dabbled on predicting guys like Barry Zito and Mike Hampton, and did well there, my mistake was trying to scrutinize the inscrutable Milton Bradley. A big Miss here.
5) John Smoltz | St. Louis | SP/RP
YTD: 8.4 K/9, 4.1 K/BB, 6.35 ERA
True Talent: 7.8 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 4.04 ERA
Performance Since Column: 9.5 K/9, 4.4 K/BB, 4.26 ERA
Very few people thought that Smoltz would do much with St. Louis after bombing in Boston, but I pointed out on Aug. 21 that "his secondary ratios were about in line with TT predictions. Now that he's back in the NL, on a competitive team with a strong defense, he's definitely going to improve in ERA and wins." I recommended him as "definitely worth a gamble for a handful of wins and Ks in any league." Not the strongest recommendation in the world, and I did note that his risky age and health meant you shouldn't "expect him to blow the doors off in ERA or IP." True Talent did a good job everywhere but his ERA, which is bloated from all that trouble he had in the AL. Smoltz proved me right with five innings of three-hit ball two days later, with nine Ks and no walks. He then reeled off three quality starts in his next six outings, though St. Louis couldn't give him any wins.
Smoltz wasn't amazing, but he was solid, and I give myself the Hit here because of my contrarian stance—few other folks wanted to stick their necks out for Smoltzie, and I did. Owners who followed my advice reaped the reward, albeit a winless one.
4) Seth Smith | Colorado | OF
True Talent: .284/.364/.470
Performance Since Column: .296/.363/.539 7 HR, 27 RBI
Smith was hitting .292/.395/.489 when I wrote about him on July 24, noting that Tracy named him the starter, making him "an instant add in all NL leagues and mixed leagues, as his True Talent OPS projects him in the top 30 of all OFs, with peripherals to match." Tracy backtracked a bit when Gonzalez got hot, but Smith still started 36 times in 52 games since my column and continued to produce. My strong recommendation was definitely a Hit here.
Smith did better across the board than True Talent expected, which is what happens when a guy with strong contact skills keeps improving his batting eye, as I'd noted in that column. Colorado won the wild card thanks to guys like Smith—hopefully he helped your team in similar fashion.
3) Leo Nunez | Florida | RP
YTD: 7.8 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.12 ERA, 25 SV
True Talent: 7.3 K/9 2.1 K/BB 3.68 ERA
Performance Since Column: 7.8 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 4.23 ERA, 23 SV
Because of a goof in my record-keeping, I actually covered Nunez twice, but I'm going to look at the first recommendation on June 12, when Nunez was far from the closer candidate he became two weeks later. He'd mopped up a few times for Lindstrom, but manager Gonzalez insisted that there was no change at the back of his bullpen. I pointed out Lindstrom's 7.0 BB/9, and called Nunez "mandatory Lindstrom insurance and a strong roster addition for NL-only teams and any deep league where you’re speculating on saves."
Speculators who heeded my advice got the results above, with 23 saves that hopefully helped you in your fantasy pennant race, once Nunez became the closer and hasn't let the job go since. True Talent was right on in estimating Nunez's control, very close in strikeout rate, and close to that slippery ERA mark. Nobody who got those saves is going to quibble about the .44 ERA difference, nor in the scant three Ks that the different K/9 projection translates to.
2) Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado | OF
True Talent: .264/.312/.421
Performance Since Column: .283/.358/.519, 8 SB, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 23 R
CarGo also got two writeups from me, but I'm focusing on the later one this time, because it was more emphatic, unlike the wishy-washy June 12 column, which noted "every owner should watch to see if this talent finally arrives." It took Gonzalez a little longer to prove himself, but on Aug. 21, I wrote him up again. In that column, I pointed out the difference in his .289/.350/.547 YTD line and True Talent's predictions, noting "the truth is somewhere in between; let's not forget that Gonzalez was once a top prospect, and he may have finally figured it out." I reminded readers of his superior numbers outside of Coors, and called him "a must-add for all NL leagues and 10-team mixed leagues in the short term, and those in keeper leagues should strongly consider holding onto him even after he cools off."
As you can see, he didn't cool off, and his numbers slipped a bit, but not as low as TT said, so those keeper owners (along with everyone else) should still have him in their lineups. True Talent shot a bit low on his final lines, an easy thing to do for a guy who'd shown so little ability in his big-league ABs up to now. Despite this, I gave him a strong thumbs-up, and I hope that THT readers followed that advice.
1) Miguel Montero | Arizona | C
True Talent: .254/.334/.421
Performance Since Column: .308/.358/.497 7 HR, 30 RBI
On June 23, the D-backs put Chris Snyder on the DL, and my June 26 column advised, "True Talent tells you Montero will improve his power, and NL owners should certainly take notice of this opportunity to pick him up. He's worth a roster spot in 8-team NL leagues and mixed leagues deeper than 12 teams." I don't mind pointing out that Montero did even better than expected—you might call understatement a Miss, but I'm counting this as a Hit, especially since I noted that "he might hang onto the starting role" if he continues to impress, which he did; he's now the starter in AZ, undoubtedly into 2010.
Trying to get value from the catcher's spot is difficult, particularly in midseason. Getting this kind of production from a backstop who hits in the middle of the Arizona order is a difference-maker. I'm betting Montero affected the balance of power (literally) in quite a few fantasy pennant races, and I'd like to think I had a small part in that.
Thanks again to all you THT readers for reading and commenting, and I invite you again to comment below. Any other Hits or Misses you want to point out? Did the naysayers at the beginning of the year feel like we turned it around? Is there another aspect to the stats or writeups you'd like to see?
THT has the smartest, most articulate readers of any fantasy Website, and I welcome your thoughts and comments below. Thanks again for a great season, and I look forward to many more!
True Talent Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 6:10am
Some “hits” and “misses” in this season of Heater-sponsored Waiver Wire columns...
First off, Heater writers really know their stuff. A site recently computed RMSEs for various pre-season prediction systems, and so I went back and looked at the Heater writers predictions from the last preseason issue, and the RMSE came out at 9.51, which was better than anything except the CAIRO system (9.30), and significantly better than any human-based prediction (though the betting Over/Under lines weren't bad at all. Those casinos know how to make money!). The usually-strong PECOTA system clocked in at 11.49, virtually the same as if you projected an 81-81 season for each team. Maybe considering the “human input” on guys like Wieters, Guzman, and Gerut would have helped some, because PECOTA is a great system usually. The THT system was excellent, as expected, at 9.86, though with Marcel at 9.77 this year, it's hard for anyone to beat their chest too much.
So, what do we have for individual player predictions made weekly here at THT? We started Waiver Wire on May 1, making for five months of predictions (though September predictions are probably too recent to evaluate at all). Most of the “hits” and “misses” will be from the earlier predictions, as there's been more time to see how accurate they were:
8) July 17:
Magglio Ordonez | Detroit | OF
True Talent: .294/.359/.449
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 Runs 2 RBI, .292 BA, 0.1 SB
Fans have collectively “forgotten” what typical aging curves look like thanks to PEDs, and Maggs is of an age when many in the past have collapsed. But ... we're guessing the manipulative Jim Leyland is tearing him down and platooning him to “inspire” him. He's an exceptional “buy-low” candidate now, though obviously high-risk. He has a career Ct% of almost 88%, giving him one of the better combinations of contact and power in the game.
This looks even better this week, as “Maggs” is killing off the Twins. As expected, he was quickly back into a significant role after this was written, and hit .356/.421/.500 in 202 PA from July 17 onward.
7) May 1:
Russ Branyan | Seattle | 1B/3B
True Talent: .243/.339/.485
Next Week Forecast: 1.0 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, .252 BA, 0.2 SB
Seattle used to have “Big Richie” Sexson, now they have Russell “Paul Bunyan” Branyan. There has never been much difference (other than batting side) between the two. Branyan’s five-hit game against Danks should maintain him in the lineup against LHP, so it's safe to count on more than the projected stats. Just don’t panic when Branyan goes into an 0-for-25-with-12-strikeouts slump. Because he will.
It wasn't quite 0-for-25, but Branyan did in fact post a 12-for-73 (with 27 K) stretch. Worse for those of us who had him on a team, he got injured. His actual stats from May 1 onward? .238/.337/.505. Score one for True Talent!
6) June 12:
Scott Podsednik | Chicago | OF
True Talent: .266/.328/.358
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, .261 BA, 0.8 SB
2005 postseason hero “Scotty Pods” is back on the South Side! How thoughtful of the team to leave the lead-off spot “vacant” until he returned. Ozzie will have tough decisions when Quentin is back, since even when Pods regresses, they need him leading off (never thought we'd say that...). Expect a 25-SB pace and batting stats better than his “True Talent,” since Podsednik will be rested (and also get to avoid the toughest LHP).
Sort of a bold prediction, since Podsednik was out of baseball when Kenny Williams signed him to a minor-league contract. He's hit .304/.351/.415 in 412 PA since June 12, with 21 SB, exceeding even our optimism.
5) June 19:
Jason Frasor | Toronto | RP
YTD: 7.2 K/9, 6.3 K/BB, 1.90 ERA
True Talent: 8.0 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 3.39 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 1.5 Saves, 3.52 ERA
Listed at 5-9, Jason Frasor has probably earned significantly less money in his career than if the same 95-plus heater and nasty slider came in a larger package. But hitters know about him (8+ career K/9), and his righty presence in the mostly gauche Blue Jays pen is perfect in a complementary role. But Cito rewards good play, not size of pitcher or size of contract, so Frasor should get the biggest share of the saves “pie,” at least until Downs' toe is healed. And we'd call him 1-in-3 to keep getting the most saves even after that.
The Jays are calling it 50-50 now for 2010, so perhaps even 1-in-3 was pessimistic, though it seemed bold at the time. Frasor has allowed a tiny batting line of .219/.293/.304 against him since June 19.
4) July 17:
Brian Bannister | Kansas City | SP
YTD: 5.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 3.66 ERA
True Talent: 5.3 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.61 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 W, 3 K, 4.83 ERA
Bannister won lots of Internet fans a couple years ago by using BABIP in a sentence, and people were wondering if he'd figured out a way to suppress his below that of a typical pitcher with his mediocre peripherals. He's at it again in 2009, but we think that he's due for some rough times. His career second-half stats are awful (5.37 ERA, .285/.341/.491 against), he doesn't strike out many, and he has the Royals' popgun barrage “supporting” him. Consider him only for one-day pickups against A's and M's.
Not much to say here. Bannister is a dog of a pitcher, and though every dog has his day, we try to avoid them.
3) July 24:
Ryan Rowland-Smith | Seattle | SP
YTD: 2.7 K/9, 0.3 K/BB, 0.00 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Rowland-Smith is a thoroughly unremarkable lefty “contact” pitcher with a career K:BB ratio of 1.79, FB% of 43.5%, and a fastball that averages under 90 mph. And he's a must-play in AL Leagues! Why? The Mariners were built for this guy. Even last year, he had a fine 3.42 ERA in 118.1 IP. This year, the outfield defense is even better, with a staggering .955 team RZR and 181 OOZ plays, both tops in the AL.
This is the sort of pitching advice we like to provide. When a synergy of assorted factors combine to make a less-talented guy a good play, players can be had at a relative bargain. “RRS” only went 4-4 since this was published, and had a 4.04 ERA (not great), but he did have a great 1.14 WHIP, with 47 K in 86.1 IP.
2) August 7:
Adrian Beltre | Seattle | 3B
True Talent: .262/.308/.415
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .253 BA, 0.6 SB
As with other third basemen with “bad wings” (Chavez, Rolen, etc.), there's a huge concern about whether Beltre's power will return, limiting the team's deadline options, and a yellow flag for fantasy teams. Still, he's a career .270/.325/.455 hitter, and has actually been stealing bases. For his career, he's hit just .249/.304/.405 in Safeco, as is to be expected for a righty power bat. The everyday role makes him valuable in AL-only leagues, but not very.
We also feel good when we can warn owners off of a guy with “name” value who looks like he's going to struggle, as with Adrian Beltre upon his return. He has hit .262/.328/.361, which qualifies as “not very” in our books.
1) May 15:
Andrew Bailey | Oakland | RP
YTD: 10.5 K/9, 3.7 K/BB, 1.61 ERA
True Talent: 7.5 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.55 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 saves, 7 games, 4.59 ERA
In the California and Texas Leagues the past two years, Andrew Bailey has been used primarily as a starter, and a rigorous projection system like “True Talent” weighs his good-but-not-great numbers in those years. However, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound fireballer has lately stepped into a relief role like it’s his calling. The main reason that Bailey is not already closing for Oakland is so that the A’s can squeeze more innings out of him. Pick him up now, and even if he doesn’t help you immediately in saves, he’ll help you in ERA and WHIP. “Ziggy” owners, beware!
If the worst “miss” can be a closer, so can one of the best “hits.” Who would have guessed that the Angels would arguably have the weakest closer situation in the AL West entering 2010?
6) June 19:
David Huff | Cleveland | SP
YTD: 5.7 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 7.09 ERA
True Talent: 6.6 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 4.97 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.2 IP, 0.7 Wins, 9 K, 4.73 ERA
2006 first-round pick David Huff didn't enter the Indians rotation with the fanfare of some other top prospects this year, largely because his fastball tops out around 92. And while we disapprove of throwing out data, his ERA is 4.44 if you write off his first two starts as “debut jitters.” He's not ready to make anyone forget CC Sabathia, but if he's spotted intelligently, he should be good for some across-the-board help in AL-only leagues.
Um, it sounded good at the time? Oddly, his ERA has been in line with TT (5.10 since June 19), but even that low is a fluke (and we were expecting better), as he's struck out just 44 while walking 29 and allowing nine HR in 95.1 IP. The 117 hits allowed have generated a .300/.347/.459 batting line against. He's been 9-6, so he hasn't been an “across-the-board” failure, just nearly so.
5) May 1:
Josh Anderson | Detroit | OF
True Talent: .283/.332/.380
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .288 BA, 1.0 SB
Anderson's True Talent isn't so much different from Jacoby Ellsbury's, and Anderson has a ton of speed. Leyland wants Anderson’s glove in the lineup, so he should keep getting substantial playing time even when Thames returns, which could be two more months. Being unestablished, Anderson could play his way back to the bench, but it seems unlikely. He's no .350 hitter, but he could keep stealing two bases per week.
Well, his True Talent prediction is down to .272/.317/.360, but still far better than his actual stats since May 1 (.222/.256/.276) between his two teams. The only thing we got right here was the speed, as he's chipped in 19 SB—not two SB/wk, but he's only played 50%.
4) July 3:
Andy Sonnanstine | Tampa Bay | SP
YTD: 5.5 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 6.61 ERA
True Talent: 5.6 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 5.22 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Sonnanstine is an example of how fine the line is for pitchers ... the combination of two games started at the New Yankee Bandbox, some bad luck (BABIP up 18 points from '08, HR/FB of 15%), and slightly worse control (1.7 BB/9 up to 2.4 BB/9) ... and suddenly he's back in Triple-A. He should still be the same pitcher when he returns; about 90% as good as he showed in 2008. Hear that, Omar Minaya?
Anyone who read this back in July—and needed a starting pitcher in September when Sonnanstine was called up again—had to be cursing our column. Andy's line in six games (three starts) was an awful 0-2, 7.94, with just nine strikeouts. He even lost control of the strike zone, walking 11 in 17.0 IP.
3) August 14:
Derek Holland | Texas | SP
YTD: 7.5 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 5.04 ERA
True Talent: 6.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 5.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 4.2 IP, 0.2 W, 4 K, 6.36 ERA
Over at Baseball Daily Digest, I had some observations on the Rangers leading the league in run prevention this season. Part of the reason is that they appear to be intent on keeping their talented pitchers. Holland's fastball averages 93 mph this year. He's still a young pitcher with a crappy home park, so fatigue may wear him down, but for a guy who was expected to begin the year in Double-A to have allowed a batting line of just .190/.272/.306 in the past month is impressive, even if starts against Seattle, Oakland, and KC are in there. Expect hiccups, but this guy is for real. Don't be surprised if his ERA is almost two points under that TT projection the remainder.
With as great as Texas' pitching turnaround has been this year, and as skeptical as we've been here about it, it's surprising that the biggest clear “miss” on their staff is on the negative side. We were lukewarm on Tommy Hunter (likening him to Joe Blanton pitching in texas) and that seemed like it would be a miss, but his ERA has been 4.83 since he was reviewed. Holland, on the other hand, has been downright miserable since Aug. 14: 3-6, 8.18 ERA, 31 K, 17 BB, 12 (yes, 12) HR in 47.1 IP. Batting line against of .321/.382/.592, which could bat cleanup for almost any team.
2) July 17:
Alex Gordon | Kansas City | 3B
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Seemingly everyone wrote a “who to get” article about players who would do well in the second half. Well, here's the guy. If he's on a roster, don't hesitate to trade for him. The ugly stat line (in just 26 PA) is friendly for a good trade price. With Inge, Rolen, Crede, and Teahen playing over their heads, 3B doesn't seem like a shallow position, but Lowell is dinged, Beltre out, and DeRosa gone. The aforementioned overperformers should decline, and Gordon could vie for fifth-best behind Longoria, A-Rod, Figgins and Young.
It's roughly three times as humbling to be dead wrong on a hitter as on a pitcher, since they are so much more predictable, usually. And it's no consolation to know that others are still fanatically high on his potential—it was a bad call; he hit .242/.327/.348 the rest of the way, getting into just 39 games. Sure, there were reasons, such as his health, but those same warning flags were there at the time of his recall, and were ignored.
1) May 8:
David Aardsma | Seattle | RP
YTD: 8.0 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.40 ERA
True Talent: 8.2 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.20 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 saves, 4.45 ERA
In the grand tradition of Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, David Aardsma will need a nickname if he keeps closing. “BB-rdsma” doesn't quite cut it, but at least it's truth-in-advertising, as Aardsma has walked 98 men in 157 career innings. With Morrow returning this weekend, the window for Aardsma closing appears to be closing, in spite of Shawn Kelly's injury. However, Morrow's diabetes and injury concerns could easily net Aardsma another 5-10 saves this season. OK if you can stand the hit to your WHIP.
Next to the Garrett Jones quips in the “Comments” section on the NL side, this is clearly the worst miss of the season for this author. Nothing much to say here, other than sometimes guys with good stuff find the strike zone, and then LOOK OUT. Putz had a similar transformation in Seattle, and both pitchers vaulted from questionable to among the elite closers. Predicting the timing of such gold strikes is virtually impossible, which is why active roto owners pick up all such candidates ASAP.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 6:00am
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Hitter of the Year
Koby Clemens / C / Houston Astros
Overall, Lancaster had a bad year, but Clemens, as the team's catcher and best hitter, did his best to get a rise out of the offense while rallying the pitching staff day in and day out. By the end of his journey, Clemens managed to lead the league in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, doubles and RBIs.
Pitcher of the Year
Craig Clark / LHP / San Francisco Giants
At 25 years old, Clark could be considered an old man among the California League's general populace, but there is nothing old about contributing a 2.86 ERA, a league-leading 1.13 WHIP and a 16-2 record to a first-place team.
Best Hitting Prospect
Buster Posey / C / San Francisco Giants
Although he only spent two-thirds of the season playing for San Jose, Posey was a main ingredient in its first-place finish. He cemented himself as not only one of the best catching prospects in the game, but also one of its finest overall talents. He has so far justified San Francisco's investment as the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Best Pitching Prospect
Christian Friedrich / LHP / Colorado Rockies
Friedrich utterly dominated the California League for a good stretch. Along the way he showed the baseball world his jaw-dropping curveball and often pinpoint control. Friedrich will be, without a doubt, one of the most hyped pitching prospects in baseball come 2010.
Hitter of the Year
Danny Espinosa / SS / Washington Nationals
No one single player stands out from the pack, which closely resembles the league's final standings, but Espinosa, with his 18 home runs and 29 stolen bases, was an important offensive difference maker who played one of the more important positions on the field for Potomac.
Pitcher of the Year
Paolo Espino / RHP / Cleveland Indians
Espino did what he could to help Kinston compete every time he took the mound. His 9-6 record and 101 strikeouts compared with just 34 walks can't be ignored, and his 2.59 ERA and 1.04 WHIP are the toast of the league.
Best Hitting Prospect
Mike Moustakas / 3B / Kansas City Royals
Moustakas' stock took a bit of a nosedive this season after a standout 2008 campaign, but there is no denying his bat speed, swing mechanics and overall ceiling. I'm still a big believer in this young man's future.
Best Pitching Prospect
Danny Duffy / LHP / Kansas City Royals
Duffy has consistently been one of the more underrated pitching prospects in baseball ever since his brief debut in 2007. He does all of the little things well, including strong control, a solid feel for his secondary pitches and good movement. With more patience, Kansas City may have a top-of-the-rotation starter on its hands.