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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
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