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Friday, January 29, 2010
Carlos Quentin | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats: .236/.323/.456
“Staying healthy is not a skill at which Quentin excels,” this author understated in GP2010. An oddity about Quentin's injuries is that none of the major ones have derived from his huge HBP totals—a self-inflicted hand injury ending his 2008, followed by a mysteriously slow-healing foot problem in 2009, and even going back to his Tommy John surgery in 2003 and his labrum and hamstring issues in 2007. Oft-injured players like Quentin are such a tease for fantasy owners. Is he really a Schleprock, who can be expected to continue finding varied new ways to get hurt? Or is it really just a matter of the dice coming up “craps” twice in his three “full” major-league seasons? Even with the injury in 2008, he contributed mightily.
First off, Quentin's a guy who is going to help in a setting where OBP matters, so Sabermetrically friendly fantasy leagues and sim games are contexts where his offensive contributions will be fully appreciated. Some may see that his walk totals aren't exactly overwhelming, and while he makes good contract for a slugger (career Ct% over 82%), he really is skilled at leaning into pitches. He ranks 75th on the active HBP list, and has just 1,422 PA to his credit. If he manages to get 600 PA, the extra 25 HBP (or so) will vault him into top 50 territory, and his HBP:PA ratio is 8% higher (38% vs. 30%) than active leader Jason Kendall ... and HBP is definitely a stat that (statistically) keeps going up with age. So, anyway, don't dismiss him as a low-OBP guy based on the fact that he walks under once per 10 PA, and is unlikely to hit over .300.
The other aspect of run production is slugging, and Quentin has a career slugging of .491, which is good-not-great, considering the parks he's played in. But then again, his ISO is .237, which—thanks to the P-I tool at baseball-reference.com—is the 28th-best ISO among active players with 1000+ PA. As a player who hits a lot of fly balls, distributed in a manner which leads to a lot of homers in US Cellular field, there's really no reason to expect his ISO to drop, and (here's that qualifier again)—if healthy—his age 27 season could even see growth in this area. So, the question is really whether he can lift his .254 career batting average. Not a fast runner at his best, the foot problems were responsible for a lot of the 2009 BABIP depression (.223 on the season). The fly balls, however, are taxing on BABIP, and he may “deserve” some of the .258 career BABIP he's compiled. That said, that's an extremely low figure for a guy who hammers the ball with such authority. Expect to see this rebound to around his 2008 figure of .280, and his batting average to likewise climb back into the .280 range.
In summary, health is the issue with Quentin. It would be easy to take a “confident” stance that he's going to get nearly 600 PA and put up nice triple-crown stats (e.g. .280-35-90), and that looks good in the postseason reviews if it happens. And it's certainly a good possibility, perhaps moreso than most people think. But he still should be viewed as a player to take in a “bargain” round (or at a “bargain” auction price), or else a bit earlier by a team that needs some breaks to contend anyway (due to inferior keepers).
Alex Rios | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats (Overall): .247/.296/.395
2009 Final Stats (Chicago): .199/.229/.301
Kenny Williams became the laughing stock of the Internet blogging community when he spoke out about how “disappointing” some players were to him in 2009. But the team was one game out on Aug. 5, and after splitting a pair with LA, had upcoming series with non-contenders CLE, SEA, OAK, KC, and BAL before facing a meat grinder of Boston, NY, and MIN. That the Sox went from four games over .500 to two games over .500 in that stretch before the Boston series was not aided by the fact that Alex Rios joined the team on Aug. 12. The theory was that Rios only needed to play like he's played for over 3,000 PA in the past, and the White Sox would realize a big upgrade to their gaping hole in CF. No, in this we have to take exception to our fellow bloggers and suggest that Kenny Williams had every right to be disappointed with the ridiculously poor stats his new center fielder put up.
Projecting Rios could be a case study in the “statistical sample size” vs. “what have you done for me lately” aspects of performance expectations. On the “lately” side, only the last 10 games of 2009 gave any inkling of hope (he hit .333/.400/.556 in 40 PA). But while we know that 10 games is a “throwaway” sample size, could it be that the entire 2009 is also? BABIP is shown to track with career BABIP, and Rios still sports an excellent .323 career BABIP, due to his line-drive hitting ways (before 2009), good speed, and decent power. So, do we assume that his BABIP will rebound to the .320 range? His BB% and ISO were down a little in 2009 (5.8% vs 6.6% career BB% and .148 ISO vs .163 career ISO), but nothing that seems out of place from a random fluctuation. And his contact rate remained virtually unchanged (though he struck out more after coming to Chicago). About every projection which will be published for Rios will combine these two aspects in some manner ... usually by weighting the most recent season much more highly than previous seasons, but not excluding those priors, either. In general, the “long view” tends to be right much more often than not, and with most of his core indicators staying similar to career numbers, Rios should rebound to somewhere near his career norms, which are quite useful. On top of that, the ballpark should aid his numbers somewhat, compared to Toronto. It seems likely that he will be undervalued on draft day in many—if not all—leagues.
Josh Hamilton | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .268/.315/.426
It may seem contradictory to be bullish on Quentin and bearish on Hamilton, but that's how we see it this season. This author has been resisting trade offers for him in a keeper Strat-O-Matic league, so it's not like we're writing him off totally, but for fantasy purposes, he's too likely to miss time to be a front-line option. Further, back injuries can often sap a hitter's power, and he underwent two “root-nerve injections” in his back and ended the season not being able to play. His past personal problems—and the indications that he'd struggled with them again recently—wouldn't necessarily be a reason to stay away, but given the severe consequences if things get out of control again, his likelihood of having a career-ending “event” happen has to be considered higher than most players. Add in that hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo is now in Chicago, and the risk factors just keep compounding.
Now that we've scared off anyone with any risk aversion tendencies whatever, this is still Josh Hamilton, arguably one of the most gifted natural hitters of our generation. The .304–32–130 season he posted in 2008 wasn't a mirage or a fluke (though the RBI total has to be considered lucky). Even though the park factor in Texas has been declining in recent years, it's still a nice place to hit. So, if he's sitting there in the later rounds, and it's a choice between a “safe” pick like Franklin Gutierrez or him, it could be better to go with the “upside” guy and presume you can figure something out from “replacement level” players if something bad happens. This is a classic case of a guy having much more value in shallow leagues than in deep ones, however ... since “replacement level” is so much stronger in shallow leagues.
Franklin Gutierrez | Seattle | OF
2009 Final Stats: .283/.339/.425
Gutierrez is a runaway leader in the “outfield fielding runs” category in those roto leagues which use fielding. For the rest of us, the terse synopsis back in July still applies: “Nobody in Cleveland is surprised that Franklin Gutierrez is dominating the CF defensive stats this year (.986 RZR, 60 OOZ plays, both tops among CF qualifiers). With the [...] rotation needing all the flycatching support it can get [...], his job is virtually slump-proof. [D]on't expect a star, but for AL-only leagues, just playing every game has value."
As with former M's center fielder Mike Cameron, Gutierrez faces a tricky situation in terms of maximizing his value. Playing in a park with a huge outfield (like Seattle) saps his power, and expecting more than his 18 HR from 2009 seems optimistic. Yet, parks with smaller outfield territories reduce the influence he can have on the pitching stats. At least in his first year, his “home cooking” outweighed the “big park” effect, and he actually posted an excellent .386 OBP at home (.317/.386/.443). His good speed translated into 16 SB in 2009, and he can be expected to again have about that many in 2010. All-in-all, he seems like one of the more likely hitters to put up carbon-copy numbers in 2010.
Travis Snider | Toronto | OF
2009 Final Stats: .241/.328/.419
A high-school outfielder is drafted for his bat, and is considered the best HS hitter in the draft, yet falls outside the top 10. He reaches the majors at a young age, and posts eye-popping stats in a meaningless sample size and gets a serious “buzz” going about his future. The next year, he disappoints, despite getting on base about a third of the time. The strikeouts, many fear, are going to seriously limit his potential. Despite the obvious similarities to Jeremy Hermida, Travis Snider's situation is somewhat different. Hermida was “pretty good” at High-A and Double-A at ages 20 and 21. Snider was “pretty good" at Double-A at age 20, and has done nothing short of embarrass Triple-A pitching since then, hitting .337/.431/.663 in 204 PA there in 2009 after 70 great PA in 2008. Perhaps more important, his contact percentage (Ct%) at Double-A was 77%. We're not talking Dustin Pedroia here, but for a 21-year-old with limitless power and good plate discipline to have a Ct% that high against Triple-A pitching is a great sign.
Then, of course, came the regular gig in Toronto. Snider was so awful against LHP (20 K in 40 AB!) that he wasn't used against some tough lefties. He did draw five walks, get hit by two pitches, and even lay down a couple bunts, so he managed a .333 OBP against southpaws despite all the whiffs. The good news from the struggles against lefties is that he slugged .448 vs RHP, which is inching toward the power a team wants from a corner outfielder. At 21, there's every indication that number will skyrocket upward. And if he's bombing RHP, he'll get every chance to work on his approach vs LHP. Whether or not he will have an epiphany along the way and suddenly turn into a two-way hitter is not clear, but even if he stalls out as a should-be platoon guy, a la Jason Kubel (.240/.314/.356 career vsL), there's little doubt that he'll hurt righty pitching badly enough to be a valuable contributor both to the Blue Jays and to fantasy teams for years. Expect significant growth in 2010, but temper expectations a bit, as he'll still be just 22 years old.
Scott Sizemore | Detroit | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .308/.389/.500 (AA-AAA)
Sizemore is an interesting case. He's a “grindy” player who has overachieved what was expected. Scouts don't think much of him, and he's even ranked 10th in the thin Tigers organization in BA's 2010 list. One knock on him is that he plays no part of the second base position well enough to acquit himself at the major league level, so his bat is going to have to carry him (let this be a warning to those considering drafting Tigers pitching). Then the scouts watch his game and don't see the standout batting skills they want, other than an adequate ability to hit for average. On the flip side, his “overachieving” makes him a favorite with coaches, and the stats he's put up (he has hit for average, some power, drawn walks, and even stolen a few bases) make his projections come out just fine, if somewhat pedestrian. He's a bit of an “older” prospect, but just made his pro debut in 2006 and didn't stall out at any level, having his best half-season at Double-A in 2009 to earn his promotion—and likely earn Polanco his ticket out of Motown. It would not be surprising to see him falter somewhat in 2010, but become sort of a late bloomer a la Mark DeRosa. It's unclear how much rope he'll be given, though the Tigers don't appear to have any other reasonable options at the position.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00pm
Carlos Ruiz | Philadelphia | C
2009 Final Stats: .255/.355/.425
Philadelphia bought out the remaining years of Ruiz's arbitration with a three-year, $8.5M deal that includes a $5M option for 2013. This allowed Ruiz to cash in on a career year, and fortunately for the Phillies, the secondary skills behind that spike look somewhat sustainable, and only mildly influenced by luck.
As often happens in these spikes, Ruiz's up 2009 looks better because of a down 2008, when he hit just .219/.320/.300, thanks to a .237 BABIP and 4.9% HR/FB rate, both below normal for him. In 2009, his much-improved line was helped by a .266 BABIP and 8.1% HR/FB, much closer to expected levels.
On top of this, he improved his hit trajectory over 2008, when his GB rate rose to a career high with 54.3% and a 16.8% LD rate sunk to a career low. Even a catcher like Ruiz, who has average wheels (he's 120th among 209 1000-plus AB hitters in the past three years in 3B/H), will suffer from that kind of GB rate. It's also going to lead to fewer fly balls and (hence) HRs, which happened in 2008. In 2009, he went in the other direction, with a career high of 39.1 FB% and an 18.7 LD% that is only second to his small-sample 2006 19.4% rate. This also puts him pretty much exactly in line with the NL average in these areas.
Hitting the ball along a better trajectory is tied closely to seeing it better, something Ruiz has shown consistent improvement on since his debut. After starting with a BB/K rate of 0.63, it's risen all the way to a very judicious 1.21 last season. That comes entirely from his walk rate, which has also steadily climbed up to the 12.1% he posted in 2009, since his K% has hovered at around 12%, pointing to another solid skill Ruiz possesses: his contact skills. Check out the mini-browser to see that very sweet CT rate locked at 87-88%.
Normally, this kind of skill set would project a much higher BA for Ruiz, but with average footspeed, he's not going to leg out that many singles, and his focus on power—note that 1.67 Bash rate—is going to have him swinging for the fences more than driving for gaps in the defense. Still, that kind of contact-batting eye package means I wouldn't be surprised if he beats that BA projection.
Even if he doesn't, Ruiz is going to help you in OBP, as that improvement in the walk rate clearly foretells, and the CT rate will keep his BA in a decent range for catchers, if not a bit better. With the bar being so low for catchers, particularly in the Mauerless NL, Ruiz is still a guy you can count on for above-average production. Unfortunately for you, his great postseason, rebound year, and strong second half conspire to make other owners aware of his value, as that Sentiment shows. So beware of overpaying for a catcher who's a second-tier option, at best.
Hunter Pence | Houston | OF
2009 Final Stats: .282/.346/.472
Pence was arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career, and the Astros gave him a huge raise from $464K in 2009 to a tidy $3.5M in 2010. He didn't offer a tenfold improvement over 2008, though he did bounce back from a down year of .269/.318/.466 in 2008. Despite a30-point boost to OPS, Pence's counting numbers were largely unchanged from 08-09, with a few more SBs and a few less runs and RBIs from an Astros lineup that ranked 14th in the NL in R/G.
A midseason swoon in July and early August diluted a strong start from Pence, who also had to adjust to batting everywhere except leadoff, eighth and cleanup in that inconsistent Astros lineup. He spent much of his time in the five- and six-hole, which isn't the best place to develop a guy with a decent power-speed package. But he strikes out way too much (20% career) and walks too little (7%) to hit in the first two spots in the order and he's not going to slide into the third or fourth spot with Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee on the team, so he will likely remain there for the near future.
Pence has still stabilized his CT and H rates, no doubt why the GP and most other projections keep him in the same neighborhood for 2010. His rising GB rate is fine for a guy with speed, and an elevated HR rate somewhat compensates for the lower FB rate that results. It's also Exhibit A as to why he's not going to suddenly start cranking out 30+ HR seasons—note that if he nails his GP prediction for 2010, it'll be the third straight 25-HR season.
This moderate power production makes him a poor fit for the five- and six-holes, batting order positions that dampen another category he could contribute in: steals. With lumbering base-cloggers like Lee and Berkman in front of him, Pence isn't going to get many SB opportunities, where he could be boosting his fantasy value. Not that Pence has done much to leverage his speed. Though he's hit double-digits in steals each of the past three years, he's also been caught an increasing number of times each year, leading to a 54 SB% last year that's well below his 72% three-year average.
It seems, then, that WYSIWYG with Pence: decent power, adequate steals, and a good, but not great, BA. His BB/K rate peaked at .53 in 2009, showing some improvement over his 0.27 in his rookie year, and his CT rate is also league average. As for the lineup around him, there's little but maturing young players like Pence and Bourn to improve the Astros' offense, which essentially swapped Miguel Tejada for rookie Tommy Manzella and Geoff Blum for Pedro Feliz, an overall downgrade.
This all points to a very moderate outlook for Pence, who is as unlikely to post MVP numbers as he is to suddenly drop through the floor—although his batting eye and contact rate indicate the latter is the more likely of the two extremes. He's one of those names that still retains some cachet from his great rookie year (note the fat H% behind that performance), so other owners may go out on a limb for him. Don't do the same—as cliche as the saying has become, Pence is what he is; don't pay for more than that $21 prediction.
Bengie Molina | San Francisco | C
2009 Final Stats: .265/.285/.442
Among the Flying—er, Catching—Molina Brothers, Bengie is the one with pop (Yadier is the best all-around, and Jose is the shy one). He doesn't bring a whole lot more to the table than that power, but for fantasy owners, having a catcher who delivers nearly 20 HRs and around 80-90 RBI can be enough. His BA is never going to threaten .300 again (2008 was a combination of a spike in H% and a crazy blip in CT%), thanks to a walk rate that's slid from awful to nonexistent in the past four years (2005 was the last year he walked 20+ times).
His strikeout rate, once consistently around 10%, dipped below 8% in 2008, then shot up to almost 14% in 2009, but that's not the most worrisome trend for Molina. His FB rate has ratcheted up from 38% in 2006 to 53% in 2009, while his HR rate has fallen over the same period. Bengie's obviously changing his swing, turning it into the all-or-nothing uppercut that Charlie Brown made so infamous in Peanuts.
All-or-nothing is looking like what you might expect from Molina going forward, which (again) isn't such a bad thing, fantasy-wise. The concern in San Francisco (and therefore for fantasy owners, too) will be Buster Posey, the guy whose seat Molina's holding. They think Posey's too green to start out 2009 behind the plate, so he'll start the year in Triple-A, but he could start edging Molina out sooner rather than later. If Molina struggles or gets hurt, or if Posey quickly rounds into form, it might be much sooner. By the end of the year, Molina might be in a time-sharing situation.
Another consideration is where Molina might hit in the order. He spent nearly all of 2009 in the cleanup spot, which helped him drive in Pablo Sandoval. The Giants signed Aubrey Huff to be their cleanup hitter in 2010; if they stick to that, Molina loses a spot and has a hitter who (if you recall my article two weeks ago) is likely to struggle in that spot. If Bruce Bochy sticks to his guns and keeps Huff in the four-hole, Molina could see fewer RBI oportunities; if Molina owners are lucky, Bochy will do the right thing and slot Huff behind Molina.
GP sees a slight drop in Molina's production and value, based in part on diminished PT from his uncertain role at press time. He's going to beat those counting numbers—and that roto value prediction—in 2010, but he may not crack $15. The 2009 Giants ranked 13th in runs scored, and the 2010 version could be a bit better, depending on things like Sandoval's development, the production of newcomers Huff and Mark DeRosa, and the health of Freddy Sanchez's shoulder.
Those will all factor into that potential value increase, which you need to keep in mind when bidding on the Molina With Power. His dingers and RBIs are worth paying for, but a 35-year-old whose swing is slowly morphing into Charlie Brown's isn't the best place to invest extra dollars from your budget.
Doug Davis | Milwaukee | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.5 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.12 ERA
Remember at the fifth-grade dance when you were too shy to ask any of the really hot girls to dance, so you waited until the end of Survivor's "The Search Is Over" to find a partner, and the only one left was the kinda homely Tamara Hordinsky, the girl who lived down the street from you since first grade, but she was at least not as drop-down ugly as Agatha Pickston, and you held loosely to Mary's shoulders for the last agonizing thirty seconds or so, just so you could say you did what you said you were gonna do and dance with a girl?
OK, maybe that was just me. Me and the Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin. He swore up and down that he'd bring the Crew two starters this offseason, and grabbed Randy Wolf right off. Then he waited until the barrel was almost empty before signing Doug Davis to a one-year deal for $5.25M with an option for a second year. And Brewers fans may find themselves awkwardly embracing Davis the way I did Tamara Hordinsky those many years ago, waiting desperately for the dance to be over.
But at least Melvin signed someone, right? And Davis is, well, someone. If you can say something nice about Davis, it's that he's been consistent and healthy—consistently and healthily average. Except for thyroid cancer in 2008 (and let's face it, who can blame him for that?) Davis has pitched 190+ IP and started 33+ games every season since 2004, racking up a 62-68 record, with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, in that span. He struck out 7.2 per 9 IP but also walked 4.1 per 9, which is why his WHIP is such a whopper (say that one five times fast!).
Still, he's a lefty teams can count on to take the mound every fifth day and soak up innings without being too awful. He brings strikeouts, and has tried to keep the ball down in the zone (he had a 47% GB rate in '07 and '08, which slipped to 43.1% in '09), staying on the edges of home run tolerance, right around league-average for 10% HR/FB. As he's aged, he's also relied more on his curve and cutter than his fastball—he used to bring the heat about half the time with Milwaukee but now throws it about once every four pitches, making up the difference with those other two pitches.
That's a sure sign of an aging pitcher learning to pitch and not just throw (not that Davis could ever bring the heat), and it's also why his strikeout rates have been gradually dropping. He'll bring that durability and handful of strikeouts to Milwaukee, where he'll likely slot in behind Gallardo and Wolf. GP projects him for a similar season in 2010, with an ERA around league average, a half-decent K rate that's offset by the poor walk rate.
Milwaukee has a defense in signing Davis: It's a small-market team without the money to sign a real stud like Ben Sheets (though they may regret the $4.75M more they could have spent on a guy with some upside to him). Don't let yourself fall into the same trap, waiting till the end of the draft, only to add Davis to your roster for $1—and getting the -$2 return GP predicts. Sometimes it's better to just forget about Tamara and Agatha altogether and just wait until the next song.
Octavio Dotel | Pittsburgh | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.8 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.32 ERA
One of the big offseason questions in Pittsburgh—particularly after the departure of the intermittently effective Matt Capps to Washington—was the identity of the new closer. With few likely internal options ready for prime time, they inked Dotel to a one year deal worth $3.25M, with a team option for 2011. Dotel hasn't closed since 2007, when he went 11 of 14 in save opportunities with the Royals, with the line you see in the mini-browser.
Since then, he's served as one of Chicago's late relievers, doing a bit of setup work but appearing just as often in the sixth and seventh frame, particularly in 2009. Ozzie Guillen wisely kept him out of tight games the more he saw him, because Dotel's become what you might call a Three True Outcome pitcher: in his tenure with the White Sox, 45% of the batters who faced him ended up with a walk, strikeout or home run.
Considering that two of those three outcomes are anathema to a late-game reliever, particularly a closer, you should be as skeptical as Guillen of Dotel's ability to shut down the opposition. His strikeout numbers are quite nice, consistently above 10 K/9 the past three seasons, but his HR/9 is also consistently above 1 (peaking at 1.61 in 2008), and his BB/9 has risen from 3.52 to 5.20 since 2007.
The home run numbers are a bit of luck and a bit of pitching style. 2008 happened partly because of a really unlucky 16.7% HR rate, while 2009 saw him come a bit under average with a 9.0 HR/FB%. HR rate is particularly harmful to a flyball pitcher, which Dotel has always been, as you can see from those G/F rates in his mini-browser. That's why his ERA is always a threat to rise, and what makes him a dicey closer, both for Pittsburgh and your fantasy squad.
The best scenario for a guy like this is (1) a friendly park, (2) a bullpen that will allow him to enter the game with a clean slate, and (3 a manager who doesn't want to bring him in without a clean slate. Dotel has all of those in Pittsburgh, or at least two: PNC is a fairly good park for pitchers, John Russell only brought Matt Capps in for one-inning save situations in 2008 and 2009, and the Pirates further bolstered their 'pen with the signing of Brendan Donnelly.
So if there's anyplace that Dotel can succeed (other than a ballpark the size of Manhattan), it's in Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn't pay a huge price for him, and you shouldn't either. He'll give you Ks and saves, but your ERA and WHIP might get a little bruised in the process.
I'll get back to more reader requests next week, but please leave more in the comments field below. And don't forget to check out the new index, where you can look up all the players I've covered in the offseason—and hold my feet to the fire when the regular season starts.
And if you like the mini-browsers and the writing, don't forget to pick up a copy of the Graphical Player 2010, with more stats and writeups from the best writers on the web!
Posted by Michael Street at 1:59am
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