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Friday, February 26, 2010
Asdrubal Cabrera | Cleveland | SS (+2B)
2009 Final Stats: .308/.361/.438
If the Indians hadn't spent the first two months digging their graves, and the rest of the season lying in them, Asdrubal Cabrera's first full season would have gotten more attention, as he ramped up his all-around offensive game significantly while making an in-season position shift from second base to shortstop. He reversed his bias toward hitting LHP, hitting .311/.364/.456 while batting lefty. He showed great basestealing skills, going 17-for-21, easily the best he'd done at any level besides his 2007 in Double-A (23-for-30 in 425 PA). He mashed 42 doubles and four triples to go with his six homers. Overall, he had the seventh-best wOBA among MLB shortstops in 2009!
It may be for the best that Asdrubal is getting out of the danger zone that is second base. He wrestled with knee, hamstring, and elbow issues in 2009, and had minor surgery to clean out his elbow after the season. Reducing the plays on which runners are trying to do him harm has to be to his advantage. And he has plenty of range and arm to play shortstop, by all indications. In just over 1,000 innings played at shortstop, his UZR is below average, but MLB average for a shortstop is very rangy, and the Indians have every reason to believe that he will improve his defensive statistics with a steady position, as opposed to changing back and forth between the two middle infield spots. Besides, he has the luxury of following Peralta, who has very limited range at shortstop, so the bar will be set pretty low at first.
2010 will see Cabrera's BABIP decline from the unreasonably high perch at .360, but his seasonal age will be just 24 years old, and some maturation can be expected. He wouldn't really help his game by trying to hit more homers, but expect at least a handful of that copious batch of 2009 doubles to turn into homers in 2010. In what should be a quietly potent lineup, he should have ample run production, regardless of his lineup slot, which is currently slated to be No. 2 again.
Kevin Youkilis | Boston | 3B/1B
2009 Final Stats: .305/.413/.548
In Sabermetric scoring systems or sim games, Kevin Youkilis really shines. He's been seventh in WAR in the AL each of the past two years, and—despite playing a position where offense is plentiful—is just a notch behind the top dogs like Mauer, A-Rod, Longoria. Without stealing bases, hitting homers, or racking up 650 AB (in addition to nagging injuries such as back spasms limiting him to around 600 PA, his walks drag down the AB total—and the value of his batting average—somewhat), he's not going to excel in many 5x5 categories, though runs and RBI should continue to be ultra-strong, totaling near the 200 mark. And being 3B-qualified really amps up his relative value for 2010. While there's always a nagging fear that he's playing over his head (he slugged just .439 in his lengthy minor-league career and .453 was his high before 2008), he's not really a huge HR guy even slugging .550, so his value wouldn't drop too much if his slugging fell below .500. CHONE projects him at .473, and the Fans at .532, we'll split the difference and suggest he'll check in around .500. Don't pay for his 2009 levels, but don't fear much of a decline, either.
Nick Markakis | Baltimore | OF
2009 Final Stats: .293/.347/.453
The helium seems to have drained out of the fast-rising Markakis baloon in 2009. Strat-O-Matic players may not have noticed, since he still womped RHP (.312/.376/.504) and got his “1” (the best) range rating on defense. But his +/- and UZR fielding metrics collapsed (-5.8 fielding runs on Fangraphs), and his overall batting line represented a sharp decline from his stellar 2008 season, which, in turn, was a step up from a very good 2007 campaign. So, what's to come in 2010? Is he on the Ben Grieve Death Spiral? Is the .262/.305/.376 batting line against LHP a sign of future platoondom? Will he remain anchored at first base after swiping 18 bags in 2007?
In one of those ultra-imprecise judge-from-a-distance verdicts, our short answers to the above are that we think Markakis will be just fine as a hitter because he was mostly just fatigued in 2009 ... with a few caveats. His fade at the end of the season came after a long (bad) season for the O's, and he was at .306/.358/.481 on August 29. Facing the tough pitching of the top AL East teams down the stretch didn't help, but even the Indians got him out in September. As for his speed and fielding, we don't have any good reason to expect those to return to form. The bunting he's been working on—as noted by Heater e-Magazine Orioles expert Brian Joseph (though it didn't make the cut for this week's edition)—isn't likely to help his value any, either in real life or in fantasy leagues. Player statistics show variance, and Markakis' 2008 was buoyed by a .350 BABIP, and his .317 BABIP in 2009 was probably lower than expected, assuming he's retained some of his once-good speed. So, entering his age-26 season, coming off a “down” year, we can certainly expect some rebound ... just don't expect him to vault right back up to the curve he'd been on pre-2009.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. Acta Sports is currently SOLD OUT. Until they publish more, the book can be ordered through major booksellers.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Cameron Maybin | Florida | OF
2009 Final Stats: .250/.318/.409
In their 2009 edition of the Prospect Handbook, Baseball America predicted a starting gig for Maybin out of spring training, saying: "Only a disastrous showing would send him back to the minors." Maybin fulfilled the prediction by making the squad as the starting CF, then hitting a limp .202/.280/.310 in the first 23 games and 95 PAs, earning him a quick demotion to Triple-A.
He didn't return to the Marlins until the end of the season but hit .293/.353/.500 the rest of the way, giving at least the appearance of improvement in those final 104 PAs. He did show some strides forward, tweaking his BB/K from 0.26 to 0.45 and his contact rate from 63% to 78%, despite a walk rate that stuck at 8%. He was also helped by a H% that rose from 32 to 38, but much of those trends are good ones, even if they are expressed over a fairly small sample size.
Like many gifted young hitters, Maybin struggles in allowing his peripheral skills to catch up with his athletic talent. He's got five-tool potential, but he'll only reach that level if he can harness his aggressive approach at the plate. In the minors, he struck out in 24% of his PAs and followed that up by whiffing in 29% of his MLB plate appearances in 2009. He's got great bat speed and has power potential (.473 minor-league SLG), so every pitch must seem hittable to him.
The good news is that he's made strides in these areas throughout his minor-league career—his K% dropped from 32% to 20% between 2008 Double-A and 2009 Triple-A, and his contact rate rose from to 68% to 81%. His BB% dipped from 13% to 11% over that same period, but that's not precipitous, and it remains well above acceptable minimums. He's going to start to make those same advances in the big leagues, too, but it will take some time. He's been up-and-coming for so long (he debuted in 2007 and was the key piece of the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit) that it's easy to forget that Maybin turns 23 this year.
The nice part, as always, is that his speed doesn't need further development, though his opportunities to show it do. While not an elite SB threat, he managed to swipe 81 bags in 103 attempts in the minors, at yearly success rates in the 70-80% range. Fredi Gonzalez didn't really let him loose in 2009 (one SB in four attempts), no doubt because he spent most of his time hitting second or eighth, as well as his need to focus on other areas of his game. But that speed will come, as he gets on base more and learns the opposing pitchers. Like his batting, you shouldn't expect that to advance too quickly, particularly since Gonzalez projects him in the two-hole in 2010, behind Chris Coghlan, who rarely steals, and ahead of Hanley Ramirez, who may be able to deliver Maybin to the plate no matter what base he's standing on.
Maybin remains extremely talented, as well as very young, so you can't get too excited about him too soon. With his history of swinging and missing, as well as the usual bumps you expect from a young player, he's not likely to be too reliable this season. I like most of the GP prediction for him, though those steals seem awfully high, given where he's hitting. Keeper owners will clearly want to be all over him, if they aren't already, given his long-term prospects, but don't let that enthusiasm affect your bid in a redraft league. Other owners are likely to overpay for Maybin based on his reputation, so you should let them. Even the most optimistic predictions don't see him doing amazingly well in 2010, so don't go too much over that $13 GP prediction.
Chris Volstad | Florida | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.1 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 5.21 ERA
Marlins fans were ready for Volstad, a former first-round pick, to shine in his first full year in the bigs after the impressive 2008 season you see in his mini-browser. Instead, he disappointed, putting together the 2009 numbers you see just below that line. If you had the full browser and graphs available in GP 2010, you'd see one of the reasons why: his BB/9 suddenly went through the roof in August and September, while his never-impressive K rate bottomed out.
Despite his lanky 6-foot-7 frame that makes you think he's gonna bring the heat, his fastball sits only in the low 90s. But it's what he does with it that counts—he gets ground balls. His curve and change will keep batters guessing, but getting them to pound the ball into the dirt is how he gets guys out. In 2008, he collected grounders at a 53% rate, leading to a very nice 1.9 GB/FB ratio. He also had a 77% strand rate, a sure sign of ERA regression, even for a groundball pitcher.
Sure enough, he regressed in 2009, and not just in that three-plus-point rise in ERA. He also left the ball up in the zone, dropping his overall GB rate a few points to an even 50%, while his GB/FB rate fell to 1.5. The consequences of this can be seen in his HR/FB rate—in 2008, it was a measly 3.9%, low even for a groundballer, and in 2009, it went the other direction, to an incredibly unlucky 17.5%. That's why his xFIP for '08 (4.59) and '09 (4.35) are very close; in fact, after normalizing the HR rate (which is what differentiates xFIP from FIP) we can see that Volstad controlled the game better in 2009 than 2008, despite much poorer results.
The altered hit trajectory helps account for the shift in home runs, particularly with the lucky/unlucky shift in HR rate he experienced between 2008 and 2009. It also shows you Volstad's narrow margin for error, a margin that's narrowed even further by a defense that put up a -3.4 UZR/150 in 2009, much of that courtesy of the infield, from the -28.6 Jorge Cantu at 3B to the -9.6 Dan Uggla at 2B. More traditional metrics like Defensive Efficiency also put Florida pretty low on the defensive totem pole (.686, 12th in the NL).
So even when Volstad can induce ground balls, there's no guarantee that the Marlins' gloves will gather them in. Except for 1B Gaby Sanchez, the infield is likely to remain the same in 2010, giving him a similarly low margin for error. He can help himself with a better walk rate, which sat above 3 BB/9 in both '08 and '09, higher than his minor-league 2.4 BB/9 average over five seasons. Ground ball pitchers can use double plays to eliminate some of those walks, but when you combine an elevated walk rate with a sudden jump in fly ball and home run rate, you have a recipe for disaster.
GP is pessimistic that Volstad will be able to keep all these moving parts in sync for 2010, and its prediction isn't far off from most other systems. Low-strikeout pitchers like Volstad have diminished worth in fantasy, which explains that low value, plus don't forget that he's only 23 this year. He might push that return into positive territory with a mild breakout, but he remains a late-draft, low-dollar gamble, even in NL-only leagues. Florida has lots of pitching talent to gamble on, but your money's better spent elsewhere than Volstad.
Jonny Gomes | Cincinnati | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.338/.541
He tried to test free agency, but like many others dipping a toe in the shallow pool of free-agent dollars, Gomes didn't find too many takers, so he ended up taking a one-year deal this week to return to Cincy. A glance at his mini-browser shows the inconsistency that might have led to such reluctant suitors, particularly at a time of hesitant spending. What's the difference between that devilish .666 OPS with the Devil-free Rays and the .879 OPS with the Reds?
Hit rate and home venue helped, as his 26% hit rate valley with Tampa Bay became a 38% mountain in Cincinnati, while going from Tropicana Field (0.85 HR park factor in 2008) to Great American Ballpark (1.18 HR park factor in 2009) had to help him dispense souvenirs to fans in the cheap seats. Gomes also managed to hold his own against RHP for the first time in years in 2009, registering an .859 OPS against righties and a .914 against southpaws—in his career, his OPS is 127 points better against lefties. Luck was a factor even beyond his hit rate, as he converted 22% of his fly balls into longballs, a career best for him and even more impressive considering that he also had his lowest fly ball rate since 2005.
Amid this fluctuation, the one constant you can see in his mini-browser is that 70% contact rate, something that will always deflate his batting average. When he's not giving the cheap-seat fans souvenirs, he's stirring up a nice breeze in the muggy Cincinnati summers, a tendency that's unlikely to change. In his career, Gomes' best K% rate was the 29.9% he had in Tampa Bay in 2008; his worst was in 2007, when he struck out 36.2% of the time. In 2009, he whiffed 30.2% of the time, a bit below his 32.2% career average, but well within expectations. Neither the K% or CT% bode well for leagues that count BA, and it will be a consideration in whether you'll want to draft him. Unlike TTO monsters like Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena, you can't rely on Gomes for walks, as his 8-9% walk rate—another constant in his career—is merely adequate.
A further consideration with Gomes is the all-important playing time factor. When they signed Gomes, the Reds speculated that he could slide into a platoon, probably with Dickerson; knowing that the short side of a platoon is your perceived ceiling isn't particularly comforting. He was considered a backup in 2009, and only got on the field so often thanks to injuries to outfielders Jay Bruce, Willy Taveras and Chris Dickerson. While Taveras is gone and Bruce is a lock for RF, Dickerson is back, along with LF candidates Laynce Nix, Wladimir Balentien, Chris Heisey and Josh Anderson. Even all-or-nothing power-hitter Juan Francisco is a possibility in the long-term outlook, though Dusty insists Francisco's going to learn the infield first (an absurd proposition for the corner infielder, given the presence of Scott Rolen at 3B through 2012 and Joey Votto at 1B for hopefully much longer).
As Gomes saw in 2009, anything can happen, and injuries can open the door for him again in 2010. But just as that kind of "luck" can go his way, it can go against him, too, and his H% or HR rate could plummet. With this kind of volatility and playing time potential, Gomes' value is likely to be less than that $6 prediction. As streaky as he is, he should be bouncing on and off the waiver wire all season long, which is why you should lay off him on Draft Day, unless a massive case of exploding hamstrings suddenly lays low all the other LF candidates in Cincy. He's definitely someone to watch and ride when he's hot, but Gomes is a bench player at best for any league other than the deep NL-only variety.
John Maine | New York | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.1 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.43 ERA
While everyone knows the Mets ace is Johan Santana, how many fans outside New York could name Maine as the man following him in the rotation? Whether you can or not, seeing a guy with his 2008 numbers in the No. 2 slot shows why Mets fans have acid reflux just thinking about their 2010 starting pitching. Even Maine's career year of 2007 looks more like a No. 3 or lower pitcher on a contending team, and he'd have a hard time even hearing the word "rotation" if he were pitching for the Mets' free-spending crosstown rivals.
Part of Maine's problems of late has been his tendency toward injury; he's missed 184 days in the past four seasons due to various ailments, including most of last season to weakness in his pitching shoulder. Appropriately, he started 2009 weakly (11 starts, 5-4, 4.52 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 1.2 K/BB) but finished it relatively strong (4 starts, 2-2, 4.12 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.3 K/BB). That's a good, but not amazing, turnaround, which is a good way to describe Maine himself: good, but not amazing. His 2007 peak, after all, was a 15-10 record with a 3.91 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, to go with a 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 K/BB.
The same could be said for his assortment of pitches, something he seems to be tweaking year to year. In that peak year of 2007, he threw 21% sliders and 66% heat; in 2008, he cut that slider rate in half, while increasing his fastball percentage to 71. Last year, he threw 72% heat and 16% sliders. This shifting repertoire has led to those predictably mediocre results.
As that peak year shows, he's had good strikeout numbers in his Mets career, around 7 K/9, though that fell to 6.1 K/9 last year, worse at the end of the year than the beginning. But that decent strikeout rate is dragged down by walk rates that push 4 BB/9. Worse, Maine's walk rates have climbed as his strikeout rates have fallen, not a good direction for growth. As a marginal flyball pitcher, he's further damaged by HR rates above 1.0 HR/9 in his career. He's gotten better (or luckier) in keeping the ball in the yard since that 2007 peak—last year was helped a bit by a 7.5% HR/FB rate. All this leads to a FIP and xFIP that have both climbed each season since 2007, making it hard to blame his struggles on the dysfunctional antics of the team behind him on the diamond.
Taking a step back to see the whole picture—or whole pitcher—we see a guy with slightly above-average skills at a moderate risk for ERA inflation and injury. Things could break his way, and Maine might leverage those strikeout numbers and keep the walks and home runs down, beating that $7 prediction (something he hasn't done since 2007). Or luck could break the other way, and he could return significantly less, even getting injured and losing all value entirely.
Doesn't much sound like a good investment, does it? Sure, you can gamble a few bucks on Maine, and it's not the worst place to spend your budget, but don't depend on him to be your No. 2 (or even No. 3) starter. Leave that to the New York Mets.
Johnny Cueto | Cincinnati | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.9 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.41 ERA
Except for a slight dropoff in strikeout rate from 2008, Cueto actually did fairly well in 2009, producing numbers almost identical to his 2008 rookie season. The big hiccup came in July, his worst month of the year (1.026 OPS against, 4.7 BB/9, 8.16 ERA), which followed four straight months of dropping strikeout rates.
Cincinnati put him on the DL with an inflamed shoulder after a disastrous August start where he gave up 7 ER in just 2.2 IP against the lowly Nationals. This came at the tail end of a string where he lost 7 of 8 starts, beginning with a 22-1 lambasting at the hands of the Phillies, who hung 9 ER on him in 0.2 IP. During that losing stretch, he gave up 4+ ER in six of the seven losses, the exception being a start against the Cardinals when he left with a tight hip flexor after two innings of work, having surrendered "just" one run.
The speculation is that Cueto's World Baseball Classic work may have tired him out or left him ill-prepared for the season, yet another strike against the international tournament in the eyes of MLB fans. Whatever the reason, he missed the minimum before returning, refreshed, to the rotation. He rebounded to win five of his final six starts (.711 OPS against, 3.9 BB/9, 3.63 ERA). It doesn't look like that shoulder problem will be any concern going forward for one of the bright spots in a young Reds rotation that gets more impressive each season.
The only area of Cueto's game that's significantly different from 2008 is that strikeout rate, which fell by a little more than a strikeout per game. That's undoubtedly from that midseason tired-arm spell; his K rate after returning from the DL was 7.8 K/9. Expect to see his strikeouts return to more robust levels in 2010. Otherwise, he improved his walk rate slightly from 2008, held home runs down, and even nudged his groundball rate downwards from 0.95 GB/FB to 1.02. You can see all of these changes on the GP mini-browser except the last one, which only looks the same due to rounding. His FIP dropped as a result of this improvement between 2008-9, while his xFIP rose a bit (again, due to HR rate normalizing).
All this consistent production makes for remarkable agreement among us prognosticators. GP is at the high end of the ERA scale for Cueto in 2010, but nearly everyone sees an ERA in the 4.2-4.5 range, a WHIP around 1.30, and about 7 strikeouts and 3 walks per 9 IP. Cueto's young, and the Reds have held his innings down below 175 IP in the past two seasons, reducing any injury questions that last year's DL stint might have raised. With Edinson Volquez out for TJS, Cueto rises to No. 3 in the rotation and becomes the best young pitcher the Reds have in the majors, at least until Aroldis Chapman shows his stuff.
Because he's young and is still learning to keep the ball down and in the yard, he's an ERA risk, and the fringe-y walk rates give him that decidedly average WHIP (within .02 of league average in both '08 and '09). So don't be taken in by the youth and the strikeout rates, as he represents moderate risk, and will still get shelled now and again, particularly with the Great American Home Run Park as his home venue. Some luck and slight improvement could see him beat that $4 GP forecast, but it won't be by much. Unless you're in a keeper league, 24-year-old power pitchers with elevated HR tendencies and mild control problems aren't the best investments.
Spring Training is just beginning, but there's still plenty of time to download a 16-page sample of Graphical Player 2010 and buy a copy to prep for the season. And don't forget to check the index for all the players I've covered this offseason, and leave suggestions for other players to cover in the comments below.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Rookie catchers normally won't help your fantasy squad. The good news is that you shouldn't have to rely on any of these guys in standard, shallow leagues, but participants in deep leagues or ones that employ two everyday catchers need to take notes.
Buster Posey and Carlos Santana seem to be on equal footing heading into the fantasy baseball season. It appears that both will start the year at Triple-A with the possibility to take over at the major league level in a couple of months. While the odds of that scenario coming true for Posey don't seem good while Bengie Molina is blocking his ascent, Lou Marson is the only player standing between Santana and the full -ime gig in Cleveland. I'll take Santana over Posey.
Truth be told, Tyler Flowers isn't far behind. Flowers could be first in line if an injury happens at catcher, first base, or designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox.
If you're in the market for someone who has a better shot at starting, and therefore producing, Alex Avila may be the safest investment of any rookie catcher. A quick start could cement him as the starter in Detroit, as the light-hitting veteran Gerald Laird is the only man standing in his way. Adam Moore is worth keeping an eye on, too. I'm not a fan, but he could win Seattle's catching job by default, and at 25 years old his prime is approaching quickly.
The odds of seeing significant playing time in the majors are long for Jesus Montero and Jason Castro. On the subject of Castro and the Houston catching situation, how does J.R. Towles sound as a post-hype sleeper? I like his odds more than any of the rookie catchers.
If you're looking for a deep rookie sleeper, keep Jonathan Lucroy in mind. For some reason Milwaukee has decided to rely heavily upon Greg Zaun, and if his body can't handle it, Lucroy could get a shot sooner rather than later. All indications are that Milwaukee prefers Lucroy at catcher over Angel Salome.
Chris Carter, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Brett Wallace, Yonder Alonso, and Brandon Allen are strong talents, but they are all blocked at the major league level. It will take an injury or an absolute trouncing of Triple-A pitching to get them to the majors. Long term, Pedro Alvarez is still hanging onto his third base title, but he may get his first crack at the majors as a first baseman. But he too won't get there anytime before midseason. Keep an eye on all of these guys as June hits, but none of them are worth a draft investment.
Freddie Freeman may be closer than people realize, but his bat is too unpolished at this point for my taste. Mike Carp is a deep sleeper and may get a look in Seattle, but he doesn't have the talent of the others.
And that's it for first basemen capable of making a fantasy impact. You want a non-rookie post-hype sleeper? I don't like giving away my main targets, but if he's still there, I'm taking Chris Davis late in every single draft I am a part of. But even Davis' potential breakout won't prevent me from targeting this year's top overall first basemen above most other positions.
Scott Sizemore is on radar screens, but he is still supremely underrated. This year at second base, I feel very comfortable passing on the first couple of tiers in order to land Sizemore and a backup plan later in the draft. It's all about value, and I think that Sizemore is a serious Rookie of the Year contender. Even if you pass on the first couple of tiers and someone steals Sizemore from under you, the position is deep enough to recover.
Adrian Cardenas could get a full-time shot at some point this season in Oakland. His main position is second base, but I'm sure he could play a passable shortstop.
The only other rookie second baseman that I could see making an impact in 2010 is Eric Young, but he will probably be relegated to Triple-A thanks to Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes. But if the bad Barmes shows himself, Young's speed could come into play.
Ian Desmond is getting some looks, but he doesn't have enough bat to invest in. Dustin Ackley seems to be getting some pub as a second baseman, but I wouldn't count on it until he mashes at the higher levels.
For the sake of balance, and because finding them can make you a fantasy champion, if you're on the prowl for a post-hype sleeper at second base . . . there isn't one. But if Rickie Weeks falls in your draft, he's worth a shot. Orlando Hudson and Freddy Sanchez don't seem to be getting the respect that they deserve either. As I said before, it's a deep position.
Rookie third basemen who could make an impact are few and far between.
Pedro Alvarez was mentioned earlier as a player to watch as midseason approaches, but Carlos Triunfel and Lonnie Chisenhall should spend 2010 gaining experience in the minors. The one guy who could prove to be a solid contributor is David Freese, but he doesn't have much upside.
Mat Gamel may not technically qualify as a rookie, but he is one guy I would consider late in the draft. Even if you don't draft him, keep an eye on him. If he starts the season hot, you need to pounce, as Casey McGehee won't hold him back from playing time.
If Chris Davis is third-base-eligible in your league, he's your slam dunk post-hype sleeper. If not, I would feel OK about my team if I had a third base combination of Kevin Kouzmanoff and Edwin Encarnacion. Just ride the hot hand. You should be fine as long as you can make up for it at other positions.
Alcides Escobar is rated properly by most prognosticators. As a team philosophy under manager Ken Macha, Milwaukee doesn't steal bases very often, which will eventually be Escobar's main fantasy strength. But not this year. He's a backup plan in standard leagues.
Reid Brignac and Adrian Cardenas are ready for the show, but both are blocked at this point, Brignac more so than Cardenas, and are not worth a draft investment.
There isn't much out there for post-hype sleepers, but Cliff Pennington is worth keeping an eye on, and for where he is being ranked, J.J. Hardy could turn into a great investment. There is a large drop-off from the top two tiers of shortstops, which means I will be nabbing one early.
The outfield crop is always deep when you consider rookies and post-hype sleepers, but I will try to get to as many of them as I can.
If you can only afford to stash one guy on your bench for a potential midseason call-up, make it Jason Heyward. He has the potential to set the league on fire, a la Ryan Braun in 2007.
Desmond Jennings, Michael Saunders, Fernando Martinez, and Michael Taylor have the potential to become instant impact players, but none of the four are projected to break spring training with their respective big league clubs, meaning we're looking at more potential midseason call-ups. The one guy who could surprise and join the big leagues sooner than expected is Jennings, as Tampa Bay has a plan at right field, but it's of the shaky, platoon variety.
Michael Brantley is draft-worthy late based on his stolen base and run scoring potential. Austin Jackson should follow closely with his similar skill set.
The real value this year is in the talented pool of second-year players encompassing later rounds. Unless I'm staring a great value in the face, generally, I'll be passing on the first couple of tiers of outfielders. Dexter Fowler, Travis Snider, Colby Rasmus, and Matt LaPorta are the guys to target, as I honestly would not be surprised if they were all playing in the All-Star Game this year.
Unless he drops to the last couple of rounds and you have room to stash him, let Stephen Strasburg go this year, as it's hard to know when to expect him to arrive in Washington. Madison Bumgarner is getting some deserved respect, but like Strasburg, he is not a must-have in my mind. But if he's there in the last couple of rounds, I will gladly roll the dice.
The guy I like more than Bumgarner and Strasburg in 2010 is Brian Matusz. I'll be picking him up late every chance I get.
Wade Davis is the highest-rated rookie starter at this point, but I think his stock is overinflated. Plus, Tampa Bay won't hesitate to replace him if he starts slow. Jeremy Hellickson would be the top replacement option, and he is worth a late-round look.
Neftali Feliz is late-round-worthy, but his role makes him a question mark. Don't draft Jonathon Niese, but he has a permanent rotation spot within reach in New York. Hector Rondon, Jhoulys Chacin, Tim Alderson, Brad Lincoln, and Jake Arrieta are pitchers to watch as midseason approaches.
Heading the list of non-rookie late-round breakout candidates are Brandon Morrow, Trevor Cahill, Mat Latos, Derek Holland, Bud Norris, Chris Tillman, Homer Bailey, and Brett Cecil.
I want a couple of entrenched aces at the top of my rotation, but just like every year, the young depth at starting pitcher with the potential to break out is tremendous in later rounds. Let other teams use valuable draft picks on the Kevin Sloweys, Derek Lowes, Jorge de la Rosas, and Tim Hudsons of the world. And in most cases, you can be patient and wait for the breakout. If you can stay unattached to your bench players and are quick enough, nabbing these guys from the ranks of the undrafted after a breakout performance can win you a league championship.
This should be short and sweet, because rookies rarely pitch high-leverage late innings.
Neftali Feliz could slide into the closer's role with an injury or inconsistent showing from Frank Francisco. If holds is a category in your league, Feliz's strikeout rate could make him one of the more attractive setup men in baseball.
Drew Storen is the only other rookie that I could see effectively closing games at some point this season. He has a whole lot of proving to do in the minor leagues, though.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:00am
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Some weeks I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the topic for this column. Other weeks inspiration comes naturally and organically. This week, the latter is the case.
I write this column on a Saturday afternoon in between trips to bathroom. Sure, being sick is never fun, and even less so on a weekend. But right now I’m supposed to be away for the weekend at one of my best friend’s bachelor parties. My duffle bag sits on the floor, still fully packed. My cell phone is off, partially because I was holding out hope to take a nap, and partially because I don’t want to be taunted when the drunken phone calls start, detailing the debauchery I both fear and love that I will never grow out of. I’d rather not live vicariously though this one; I’d rather isolate myself and do my best to pretend this is just another quiet weekend at home. I’d rather pretend this is just another opening paragraph to another column.
I love my friends and I am disappointed I am not sharing this weekend with them. I’m sure they are disappointed that I am not there as well. So, it seems only natural this week’s column should deal with disappointment.
But, first a few more words about friends, and more particularly—friends and fantasy sports. Most of the owners in my main league were supposed to be at this party this weekend. My foremost league is the best kind of fantasy league there is—a league of friends. I’m recruited for tons of leagues every year and many have encouraged me to play more established expert leagues, or high-stakes national leagues. While, I’m not necessarily opposed to joining these leagues, they could never replace the leagues in which I participate with my friends.
As people grow older and more successful, new obligations and responsibilities emerge. We have to work longer hours, we build families and must accommodate the demands of partners and children, we have to help with homework, fix things around the house (or break ‘em worse), we have to help care for older, ailing family members. It’s not surprising that we often lose touch with friends, or at least see them much less often. For many groups, fantasy sports helps to preserve the fabric of a group’s friendship. It’s an experience we all can share and a source for bonding. It’s an uninhibited, private forum for us to prod one another in ways we might not want to do on Facebook or the like. And even as our wives and girlfriends complain incessantly about how we are always talking sports and fantasy sport, they are unknowingly bonding over fantasy sports too, indirectly.
I don’t mean to knock anybody who plays public leagues, or hig- stakes national leagues exclusively, nor am I trying to flaunt my situation to my readers—I’m aware that for many, building a league that includes many of their best friends that is also functional and competitive is just a circumstantial impossibility. But, I must say, you guys are missing out.
In a given year, if I was offered the proposition of either winning Tout Wars or my home league, I wouldn’t even think twice. No amount of e-fame among my fellow fantasy dorks can replace a year-long mandate to talk trash to James, Joe, Andrew, Pete, Chris and the rest of the crew.
If you have a league situation that is like mine, take a moment to realize that you are very lucky, and take another to thank your crew! In the meantime, I’ll look forward to finding out what ridiculous offseason trades were made this weekend, among the renally-corrosive revelry that was James’ bachelor party.
Now, let’s get into a few players who are likely to waken with explosive diarrhea on the morning of your fantasy team’s bachelor party.
Jones’ price has remained largely in check this offseason. At the peak of his hype last year, I was expecting to see Jones pushing for top 50 consideration in 2010 pre-ranks and ADP. Yahoo has him pre-ranked at 73 and MDC has his ADP at 89. At his ADP, I couldn’t really blame somebody for taking a shot on Jones and his talent, but I’m skeptical for a few reasons.
First, after his torrid April and May, Jones was beyond pedestrian, posting a .764 OPS in July, sandwiched between two marks in the low sixes in June and August.
Second, his power numbers just didn’t seem to add up. In 2009, he hit fewer balls in the air than in 2008 while retaining an almost identical line drive percentage, yet he hit twice as many homers. While this may just be the normal development of power that can happen in players Jones’ age, the pattern stands out to me. Jones’ BABIP and increased ground ball percentage indicate that he should have hit higher than the .277 mark he posted last year, but I’m just not sure what to make of the power surge, especially since 11 of his 19 dingers came in that first two-month hot streak. I should note that Hit Tracker indicates that he did not benefit much from “lucky” or “just enough” homers; his clouts did register as legitimate.
Perhaps there just isn’t enough data yet to make a solid determination about Jones’ power quotient, but I’m not convinced. For perspective, Jones did hit 25 homers in 101 games in his final season of minor league ball.
Third, I’m skeptical of Jones’ speed. Jones swiped 10 bags last year, giving his owners fantasies of 20/20 or 25/25 potential. However, Jones never stole more than 13 bases in a season in the minors. I don’t see his speed as a legitimate asset for fantasy purposes. While 10 to 15 steals don’t hurt, they’re not much of a reason to draft Jones over more established power threats at the outfield position. I’d rather take my chances with Andrew McCutchen going one spot behind Jones according to ADP, though his power breakout upon call-up was inconsistent with his minor league history.
Most offseasons, I like Vazquez. He’s often been a target of mine because he fits the criteria of durable, low-profile, boring veteran with low walk and high strikeout rates. Players like this usually represent bargains. However, this season ADP has him as the 12th-highest-drafted starter.
To be sure, if Vazquez tosses 200 innings again, he’ll flirt with 20 wins and he’s as good a bet for 200 strikeouts as anybody not named Tim Lincecum (or Mark Reynolds). However, it is also worth remembering that we are talking about a pitcher who will be 34 this season and who is moving back to the slugfest that is the AL East, and pitching in a telephone booth to boot. Vazquez sharply lowered the percentage of fly balls he gave up last year; if that dip does not hold this year, he could be in trouble.
There are 68 places of ADP between Vazquez and teammate A.J. Burnett. This seems strange to me, as Burnett and Vazquez possess similar upside, as far as I can tell. The points in favor of Vazquez are better control and established durability.
Finally, let’s remember that we’ve been here before with Vazquez. In 2005, he came over to New York coming off what was then a career year. He started the season well, even making the All-Star team, but ultimately flopped. Personally, I think the Yanks gave up prematurely on Vazquez. That not withstanding, a younger, stronger Vazquez was not a fantasy ace in the AL East in 2005, nor is he likely to be worth the price for such in 2010. I normally like to grab one stud starter and then fill out with underrated veterans and high-upside pitchers. My advice would be either pass altogether and take two pitchers in the pick 75–100 range, or to take the plunge a round earlier and grab yourself a true, sure-thing stud, like Dan Haren.
With an ADP of 133, Furcal is certainly not fetching premium prices. Still, he’s the ninth-taken shortstop overall and, frankly, I don’t see any reason to believe he is a viable starting option in a shallow league. Furcal was never much of an asset in any categories beside runs and steals. Hitting atop the Dodgers order enabled Furcal to score 92 runs in his dismal 2010 season, so it seems fair to expect he’ll figure out a way to eke out a valuable runs totals again. But last year he didn’t even run much, attempting only 18 steals and succeeding at a mere 2:1 ratio. I’d much prefer taking my chances 20 spots earlier on Alexei Ramirez or holding off 20 picks and rolling with Asdrubal Cabrera or Elvis Andrus.
Early Sunday afternoon as I was getting out of the shower, my doorbell rang. It was a delivery, inscribed on the card were lyrics from O.D.B.’s "Brooklyn Zoo" and the package, from 1-800-FLOWERS, was this, and I assure you the sentiment was more sarcastic than sympathetic:
See, wouldn’t you want to play fantasy baseball with these guys? This is a rather grandiose way to kick off the trash talking. The teddy bear will be my team’s logo this season!
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:04am
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Yesterday, the Cincinnati Reds officially re-signed outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year Major League contract with an option for 2011. Gomes returns to Cincinnati after an impressive showing in 314 plate appearances there last season, during which he hit 20 home runs and posted a 126 wRC+. Like another former Devil Ray who failed to follow up on a breakout performance, Jorge Cantu, Gomes came to the Reds after being let go by Tampa Bay due to issues primarily with plate discipline and defense.
At 29, Gomes is still relatively young, but he's a very poor defensive outfielder (career UZR/150 of -22.3) so his value lies almost entirely in his ability at the plate. While Gomes is relatively limited as a hitter, his career strikeout rate is over 32% and his walk rate hasn't been above 10% since 2006, he's got big time power (.230 ISO ) and a track record of mashing left-handed pitching (career wRC+ of 135 vs. LHP). He seems likely to slot into a left field platoon with Chris Dickerson, which should enable Gomes to get around 300 plate appearances once again this season, primarily against lefties. His fluctuating line drive rates are concerning, as you can see from his marks from 2005 to 2009: 23.3%, 16.9%, 21.2%, 10.1% (!), and 19.7%, although the pathetic 10% mark was in just 177 plate appearances. On the other hand, he's also seen an uptick in his contact rate in the past two seasons, as he's at about 74% in 2008/2009 after being in the 68%-71% range during his other three years in Tampa Bay.
But what really interests me about Gomes is that there seems to be some potential for even more power in his bat. In 2009, Gomes' fly ball rate was a career low 46.0%, far below his previous percentages, which generally sat in the mid-50's. But Gomes made up for that decline in power by posting by far the best HR/FB of his career, a 22.0% mark. A decent amount of the change in his HR/FB can be attributed to the move from Tropicana Field to The Great American Ballpark. According to StatCorner, The Trop's home run factor is 98.8, with a score of 100 being neutral, while The Great American Ballpark has a home run factor of 112.3. If Gomes can get his fly ball rate back to where it was in previous seasons while maintaining a high HR/FB, which is reasonable given the change in ballparks, then he could potentially be an impact power bat for both the Reds and fantasy owners alike if he gets the proper playing time.
So while it's more likely that Gomes is once again good for around 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a .250 average, there's upside for a lot more, especially in the the counting stats if he can take away playing from Dickerson while holding off Chris Heisey, Wladimir Balentien and Laynce Nix. Gomes shouldn't be a starting option for anyone in fantasy, he's got a long swing that leads to a lot of strikeouts which holds down his batting average, he's a poor baserunner which holds down his runs scored accumulated and he's unlikely to bat higher than sixth in the Reds' batting order, so realistically he's only a guy to look at in NL-only leagues if you're in need of some pop.
But whenever you see a guy with notable power like Gomes who has shown flashes of thriving in the majors (he's got two seasons in which he's posted a wRC+ over 125 in at least 300 PA), he's worth looking at, and Jonny's no different, especially given how much he benefited from the move to Ohio last season.
Posted by Satchel Price at 10:30am
Knowing the ADP of players is an important tool for fantasy owners to help them maximize value during a draft. If you can, for example, strongly suspect that a player will likely still be available in the next round because of his ADP, then you can maximize value by drafting a different player in the current round while still getting the original player you waited on in the next.
Waiting too much is risky and reaching too often is wasteful. The trick, as you might presume, is to find the balance between waiting and reaching, which, although it is certainly important, will not be the focus of this article. Instead I will reveal the times when—or rather the players for which—ADP can be slightly misleading. And to help illustrate my point, I would like to point our collective attention to an anecdote describing the 1989 New York City mayoral election found in the book Freakonomics:
In New York City's 1989 mayoral race between David Dinkins (a black candidate) and Rudolph Giuliani (who is white), Dinkins won by only a few points. Although Dinkins became the city's first black mayor, his slender margin of victory came as a surprise, for the pre-election polls showed Dinkins winning by nearly 15 points.
The conclusion of the authors is that a decent amount of voters must have lied in the pre-election polls, saying they were going to vote for Dinkins so as to not seem racist, meanwhile actually voting for Giuliani when the vote counted.
The way I intend to parallel this episode to fantasy baseball is not through the issue of race—I would argue baseball fans are relatively color blind when evaluating players, considering baseball does not have the same circumstance with any particular race that, for instance, football does with non-quarterbacking white players or hockey with black ones. Instead I would like you to think of the pre-election poll as a mock draft and then the actual balloting as a real draft. Clearly in the political landscape voters could not be trusted to tell the truth and knowing this, how confident can we be that the results of mock drafts will best reflect what will actually happen in our real drafts?
I would answer that we should be very confident and that ADP values from mock drafts is by far the best estimator we have of when a player will be drafted in a league before most fantasy providers start holding drafts. And once real drafts begin, the results of those are even more applicable to your league. The biggest problem with sites like Mock Draft Central, which by the way is a tremendous resource, is that their ADP values come along with a tremendous bias based on the order the players are listed in their draft window. If every site used the same order then this bias would not exist but unfortunately it does.
So far I've only talked about players on a macro scale. The next question to ask is whether there is any specific subset of players that can be expected to have larger discrepancies than normal in their mock draft ADPs and actual draft ADPs. Inspired by reader Jimbo's comment on this article over at Fangraphs, I would answer yes. Jimbo disclosed in the comment:
Guys like Soto, and even Cantu, are the sort that tend to fall below preseason ADP. At least in my league/experience. Mocks are one thing, but on draft day they’re among the first players teams wait on “that one extra round” while value pitchers or upside OF are taken. Relievers and catchers go much later than average, and so on.
Couldn't agree more. Although it is hard to get the hard data necessary to prove it is true that closers and catchers are drafted more aggressively in mock drafts than real ones because of the aforementioned bias inherent in ADP values, my personal experiences lead me to believe it is true.
First off, Mock Draft Central forces your mock roster to conform to norms, meaning you have to draft exactly one or two catchers and also the exact number of required pitchers. It does not require for a specific number of your pitchers to be relievers, however, people seem to have conservative approaches to mock drafts and take a standard two or three closers by default—a standard they may forgo in their actual draft. It is also common for people to finish a real draft without a catcher, opting instead to hold one more of their deep sleepers on the bench.
It is this forced roster conformity during mock drafts and also a greater sense of desperation to extract maximum value during real drafts (leading to more waiting as opposed to reaching) that leads to catchers and closers getting drafted slightly later than their ADP numbers would indicate.
I am not sure whether this theory has a practical application beyond simply adding a plus five or plus 10 (or whatever you think it should be) to closers' and catchers' ADP numbers, but what compelled me to write a full article on the subject is more the innovative thought process that goes into finding out small inefficiencies like this one than practical application. That is not to say though, that combined with the xADP model introduced in this article, one day we might be able to generate numbers significantly more accurate than standard ADP data of when players will most likely be drafted, which would be something rather significant.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:30am
Monday, February 22, 2010
After weeks of posturing and rumors, Johnny Damon has finally signed with the Detroit Tigers. The deal is for one-year, $8 million dollars with none of the monies deferred. While Damon will easily be “worth” the contract in terms of WAR, it seems strange that the Tigers paid that much given the lack of market and dollars out there. Nonetheless, Damon and his love for squids can enjoy a few Red Wings home games.
Damon is coming off a year in which he tied his career high in home runs (24) and posted a career best ISO (.207). These numbers are a little elevated thanks to his former home ball park, the new Yankee Stadium. In an indirect switch of roles and teams with Curtis Granderson, Damon’s new digs at Comerica are less friendly. Granderson, on the other hand, should see a similar benefit at Yankee Stadium as Damon did.
Even if Damon regresses in the power category he is still a very useful player. His career slugging percentage of nearly .440 shows he has always had home run pop. A career .288 hitter, Damon is likely to be in that .280 area once again. He will likely lead off for the Tigers and that means more plate appearances.
In 2009, Damon walked 11.3% of the time. This is yet another career high. However, unlike the power numbers, an older, wiser Damon is likely to take his fair share of walks which will help his on-base percentage.
Damon, 36, is not getting faster. His speed score dipped below 6.0 for the first time in his 15-year-career. In addition to the drop in speed score, Damon stole just 12 bases. This is also a career low for a full season. While his speed is dropping, Damon is still an efficient base runner. He scored high marks in the 2010 Bill James annual and was not caught stealing at all in 2009 (12 for 12).
The addition of Damon likely shifts Austin Jackson towards the bottom of the lineup and presents Jim Leyland with some line-up shuffling opportunities. Damon is just the latest named added to an already crowded outfield corps that includes: Jackson, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn.
I would expect the power numbers to decline and I doubt Damon goes back to stealing 30 bases again. That said, his batting average is solid. His new affinity for walks is a plus and he’ll likely drive in 75 runs in a talented lineup. While I like the man he’s replacing (Granderson) a lot more, I think Damon at .280-15-75 is still a decent option in the mid to early double digit rounds.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 4:45am
Friday, February 19, 2010
After spending most of his nine major league seasons in the American League Central, Mike MacDougal will remain in the National League East in 2010. MacDougal, 32, was picked up by the Washington Nationals in 2009 after starting the season with the Chicago White Sox. He proved to be serviceable in the Nationals pen as he racked up 20 saves in 21 opportunities. In his first NL action, he posted a 3.60 ERA in 52 games. Those numbers didn't fool anyone this offseason and now MacDougal will have to battle for a roster post with the Florida Marlins.
Despite the shiny, 3.60 ERA, MacDougal was a below average reliever. In 54.1 total innings last season, he walked more batters (38) than he struckout (34). 2009 marked the third straight season in which his walks per nine innings(BB/9) topped 6.25! In his time with the Nationals, he was helped by a lower than normal BABIP of .276. This helped to keep his ERA lower than it should have been. Over the past three seasons he has struckout 85 batters while handing out 83 free passes. If he wasn't blessed with a fastball that settles around 95 MPH, he most likely would've been out of baseball a while ago.
Nonetheless, he does possess that blazing heater and as long as he does he will continue to get jobs. He also really likes that fastball as he threw it over 95% of the time he spent in D.C. Despite the heat, MacDougal doesn't strikeout as many batters as you would expect. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) is an okay 7.66, but was just 5.63 last season.
The two good skills he brings to the table are ground balls and the ability to keep his fly balls in the park. In his nine-year career, MacDougal has gotten 58% ground balls. That number jumped up to 62.1% last season. His career home run per nine innings (HR/9) is a nifty 0.60 despite a relatively normal home run-to-fly ball ratio of 9.2%.
In recent years, the Marlins have done a fantastic job of taking fungible relievers and getting fantastic use out of them. From Kevin Gregg to Joe Nelson to Kiko Calero this past year, the team has excelled in getting something for nothing. They are hoping that either Seth McClung, Jose Veras, Derrick Turnbow or MacDougal can be that guy this year.
Although his contract is a minor league deal, there is a decent chance MacDougal starts the season as Leo Nunez's primary set-up man. If something should happen to Nunez physically, or should he just suffer from ineffectiveness, MacDougal could get an opportunity to close some games. That will bring some fantasy value to the table, but saves are about all he'll offer your team.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 7:05am
Scott Kazmir | Los Angeles | SP
2009 Final Stats: 7.1 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.89 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 3.66, 3.56, 3.71, 4.40
First the bad news: Kazmir's K/9 rate has dropped annually since posting 11.4 K/9 in 2007. Worse, he went from 7.4 to 6.4 after his move to LA from TB. Through 2008, he averaged 9.7 K/9, so he was entering 2009 with sky-high expectations for 2009, as he was still just 25 years old. Of course, all the various “stuff” metrics, such as FIP and its descendents (LIPS being the current front-runner), suffered mightily. These are all highly reliant on the strikeout rate, to the point where it can obscure the other factors of a pitcher's skill set.
So, who is this guy who showed up in Cali after seemingly forgetting how to pitch in Florida? His velocity suddenly returned, with an average fastball velocity of 92.5 mph. His tERA was a killer 2.70, even if his “stuff”-based metrics didn't seem “ace-like” (his LIPS in LA was 3.83, while his xFIP was 4.79). Part of his success can be attributed to facing lesser opponents; getting Seattle (twice), Oakland, and Chicago among his six starts led to an average opponent OPS of .730, but carving up .730-OPS-level MLB hitters like he did is still impressive ... even if his K/9 didn't rebound to levels he'd reached in previous seasons.
As with the Liriano summary, the only really important information here is probably that he was healthy and had his velocity back. This is a guy who has a proven track record of knowing how to get batters out when he has his good stuff. Escaping the clutches of the AL East can only help him. Neither Seattle nor Oakland appears to be very interested in scoring runs, and while he's not Mark Buehrle, he's created about as many outs (29 CS and 25 PkOff) in his career as he's allowed stolen bases (50 SB total). That's important with the speed in the division. Further, Texas isn't the same offensive powerhouse it was recently, with none of their batter projections ranking in the top 50 by wOBA using CHONE (thanks to fangraphs.com); and if Borbon makes the lineup, the Rangers would have two elite speed guys as well. In conclusion, we're as bullish about Kazmir as is possible for a guy who's coming off a 4.89 ERA season. He's unlikely to ever rack up tons of innings, but should be high-impact when he pitches.
Rich Harden | Texas | SP
2009 Final Stats: 10.9 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 4.09 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 2006-7: 3.84, 2008: 3.26, 2009: 3.50
This author will start off by suggesting a well-written THT article by fellow Cubs fan Harry Pavlidis as a must read.
Jim Hendry said he was looking for 25 games in 2009 from Harden, and the “rest on occasion” strategy Lou Piniella used eked 26 starts out of the fragile righty. Of course, that was only good for 141 innings, and Cubs management was clear that the pressure of having such a limited-playing-time pitcher was the primary reason for not bringing him back in 2010 despite his good contributions to the Cubs.
Mr. Pavlidis begins: “The scope of most Rich Harden articles usually ends up including his gaudy whiff rates...”, and then proceeds to discuss other important aspects of Harden's performance. At the risk of being shallow, we'll happily jump into the “most articles” camp and rave about those K's. But 2009 showed something which had previously seemed impossible—Harden was uninjured and not great. Even with his average fastball velocity dropping to 92 mph over 2008-2009, Harden is one of those pitchers who makes everyone around stop and watch when he's pitching; his “stuff” is so terrific. Batters shake their heads, pitchers drool with envy, and opposing managers start wondering how they are going to scratch out a run or two and when they will be able force him out of the game.
We'll unabashedly suggest that Harden will be great in 2010 primarily because he's still fanning batters at a “striking” rate. Add to that the unsustainable 15% HR/FB% he suffered in 2009, the popgun offenses in the AL West, and the fact that his quick move to home makes him good at preventing steals compared to other righties. Top that off with Pavlidis' conclusion that the Andrus/Kinsler tandum and a return to “normal” luck should pare down his BABIP, and there's every reason to expect him to perform at an ace-like level again in 2010...
… until he gets hurt.
Julio Borbon | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .312/.376/.414
In a Jan. 22 comment, I put off writing about speed-burner Julio Borbon with this comment:
As a brief preview, I can tell you my initial take on Borbon is that his roto value will be based almost entirely on playing time, and he seems to be just good enough—or bad enough—that spring training could have a big role in determining his first-half PT. If he plays, he’s a force. A knee-jerk projection would be something slightly better than Bourn’s first season in Houston. I may put him off a couple weeks in the hope that maybe some more clues to the OF situation in Texas arise.
Wednesday, Derek Ambrosino discussed the generalities of this type of high-risk player, using Borbon as an example.
So, what's not to like? Well, either of Nelson Cruz or Josh Hamilton is able to play center field. The team clearly does not want this to happen, and will probably try swapping Andrus and Borbon in the lineup at the first sign of struggles. But it's safe to say that if Borbon isn't hitting by June, the team will take other measures (think 2009 Jordan Schafer in Atlanta), either playing one of their corner guys out of position in CF or making a deal.
Counting stolen base opportunities (SBO) the way baseball-reference.com does, his rate of SBO/PA was about what could be expected given his OBP, at .43, but a lot of that is dependent on what the batters do behind him. Brian Roberts (.356 OBP and a goodly number of extra-base hits) was .38 in 2009, higher than it had been in previous years when his OBP was higher. Jeter, with his .406 OBP, was .58. If Borbon's OBP is reduced to the projected .350 level in 2010, that will offset the advantages of leading off. Bundled all together, he's very likely to have between 250-300 SBO in 2010. If he's allowed to run as often as in 2009 and is successful at a similar rate (he had 19 SB in just 77 SBO), that's upwards of 60 steals! Of course, it would be unwise to rely on some of these assumptions. Given that his peak SB season in the minors was 53 in 594 PA, it's clear he was getting more opportunities against some of the easier batteries in 2009 (the four steals he had in five AB against Carl Pavano—33-6 opponent SB-CS against in 2009—jump out from scanning his BvP stats, for example). But we'd say that CHONE's 35-SB projection is very conservative, and with a full allotment of playing time, he'll sail beyond the 40-SB mark.
Matt LaPorta | Cleveland | OF/1B
2009 Final Stats: .254/.308/.442
Elvis Andrus | Texas | SS
2009 Final Stats: .267/.329/.373
Ryan Rowland-Smith | Seattle | SP
LIPS ERAs (2007-2009): 3.93, 4.42, 4.32
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. Acta Sports is currently SOLD OUT. Until they publish more, the book can be ordered through major booksellers.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Adam Kennedy | Washington | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .289/.348/.410
In 2009, Kennedy went from failing to crack the Rays' Opening Day roster to starring for the A's, putting up his best numbers in years. It's tempting to see this as a case of an older player enjoying a youthful resurgence after being challenged, and the Nationals certainly bought into this when they signed Kennedy. Despite having Cristian Guzman and Ian Desmond as infield options, Washington shelled out $1.25M to Kennedy to be their starting 2B in 2010.
Having Desmond and Guzman in hand may be the key to understanding this signing, as Desmond is expected to slide into the SS role at some point this season, at which point either Guzman or Kennedy would emerge as the starter, or even share the position in a platoon. Though a switch-hitter, Guzman has always hit better against LHP (43 points better than vs. RHP), while Kennedy hits 111 points better against RHP. Why platoon a 2B who had a .758 OPS in 2009? Well, for one thing, he's a 34-year-old, and they don't tend to break out suddenly. His H% spiked, particularly at the start of the year and the end of the year, two months when his production also soared. In between, he was the same old Kennedy we've seen before, putting up a .246/.294/.343 line that's more like what we'd expect.
The other spike was in SB, cracking 20 for the first time since 2003. But that only stands out in comparison to his weak numbers the past two seasons, in a part-time role playing for Tony "What, Me Steal?" LaRussa. The fact is, he had just as many opportunities in 2009 as he had in 2006 (before he joined the Cards), but he just made more of those chances last season. That's probably equal parts luck and veteran savvy; given decent PT, I'd expect around 15 SBs, but probably not 20+ again.
And that PT is definitely an issue. If Kennedy or Guzman struggles, Riggleman may not wait long before inserting Desmond into the lineup, assuming he's not already there at the end of spring training. Even if Kennedy does stay in the starting lineup all year, long, GP sees him putting up numbers just like he did in 2008, which are not that impressive. A full-time gig will add to Kennedy's counting stats, which could push his value into the double digits, and since he can play 3B, he could sneak in some starts there if Zimmerman has a minor injury, but he's not a long-term replacement there.
Even if everything comes together for Kennedy and he plays all (or most) of the time, he's still not going to be much of an option in mixed leagues. Deeper NL leagues can use him as a MIF option, but he's not starting 2B material in your fantasy league, which could also be true of his time with Washington. He's a late-round, low-dollar gamble at best for you; don't believe his feel-good story from 2009.
Chien-Ming Wang | Washington | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.2 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 9.64 ERA
A season and a half lost to injury can make you forget how incredible Wang was in his first three Yankee seasons. He won 50 games in 85 starts, the fastest Yankee ever to that mark, and recorded the first back-to-back 19-win seasons since Tommy John in 1979-80. Then he hurt his foot running the bases in interleague play, demonstrating one good baseball reason to nix the popular scheduling twist: AL pitchers aren't used to running the bases. He rushed his rehab, screwed up his mechanics, and spent 2009 stinking it up on the mound before going under the knife for shoulder surgery.
Teams were interested in signing Wang, however, even though he still hasn't thrown off a mound, and won't do so until April or May. When he does, the Nats (and everyone else) will see if Wang can return to the form he showed in New York, as a devastating sinkerballer who could keep the ball in the yard better than any pitcher in baseball. As you see in his mini-browser, he's got unimpressive K and BB rates, but those groundball rates are amazing. When you combine that with HR/9 rates that were the best in MLB in 2006 and the best in the AL in 2007, you get the kind of seasons Wang had with the Yankees.
Sinkerballers manage to succeed despite those low ratios and other warning signs—his elevated LOB% rates would suggest regression, but when you induce as many ground balls as Wang, you can escape more situations with men on base. With all the balls that get pounded into the ground when he's on the mound, he can maintain that 4.4 HR/FB% he had before the injury. It's also hard to predict someone with these kind of peripherals, which is why GP and other projection systems are so pessimistic about him; from a statistical perspective, everything screams "regression," but I don't think most systems correct for extreme groundballers like Wang.
The truth is, his skills and his injuries make him difficult for anyone to get a handle on how he might do after nearly 18 months of being off his game. The Nationals did about as well as can be expected, given the circumstances, as they paid just $2M to find out what he'll do. The story about his signing indicates there's "no timetable for his return," which is never a good sign, and all the more reason why you should take extreme care with Wang. He's moving to a new town, a new league, and a new ballpark, an awful lot of variables to throw on top of a guy who's also coming back from injury.
The ballpark may not be too important, given Wang's ability to hold down the home run, and the league is also less important when you're looking at a guy who throws his sinker 75% of the time ("Scouting report? We don't need no stinkin' scouting reports!"). What's more important is the defense behind him. New York's defensive efficiency in 2006-7 (when Wang was with them) was among the best in the league, while Washington's was third-worst in the NL in 2009. The UZR/150 of the 2006 Yankees (-10.9, worst in baseball) was significantly lower, but their 2007 rating at least got them into positive territory (1.1)—the 2009 Nats (-3.2) fell somewhere in between.
It's hard to compare the 2009 and 2010 Nats, as the 2009 version had 115 different lineups, but looking only at his future infield, so important to a sinkerballer, Dunn-Kennedy-Guzman-Zimmerman comes out to a career 9.5 UZR/150, largely on the shoulders of Zimmerman's 12.0 rating (Dunn is an unsurprising -17.9). And it should be noted that Kennedy's rating over the last four years at 2B was 1.8; he gets a big boost from his younger years.
That's not too bad and could help Wang overcome some of the other changes he'll be facing in 2010. The injury recovery is clearly the biggest issue, and his late start will also detract from his value. His history makes him a great late-round pick or low-dollar gamble, but let other owners throw more than a buck or two away on him. If you're in a straight draft league, Wang is one of those shrewd DL picks you can grab at the end of the draft or early in the season to stash until you see whether he returns to his old ways.
Elijah Dukes | Washington | OF
2009 Final Stats: .250/.337/.393
The clock's running out on Dukes, who managed to once again disappoint. Between injuries and a general tendency to cause more fireworks off the field than on it (remember the foofaraw in '06 about his declaration that he was quitting baseball?), Dukes has failed to deliver on his considerable promise. He didn't build on his impressive 2008 performance in 2009, a season highlighted by a little of Everything Dukes from him: a DL stint for a strained hammy, a court-ordered $40K settlement paid to his ex-wife for child support payments, and a month-long trip to Triple-A in July, when he became the odd man out after the Nats dealt for Nyjer Morgan.
With that kind of sporadic playing time and off-field distractions, it's not surprising that Dukes would regress from 2008, when he had much more consistent playing time. He did so poorly that when the team reportedly tried to deal Dukes midseason, they found no takers, so he enters 2010 as their starting RF, basically by default. But it's hard to imagine Dukes getting through a season without more bumps and bruises, either to his body or his psyche. If he can, he's still relatively young, and has speed and strength to burn.
In the minors, he has 49 HRs and 19 3Bs in six seasons, as well as 98 SBs in 134 chances. His .51 batting eye—200 walks and 389 strikeouts—isn't too impressive, but he improved on that each season in the minors, topping out at a .94 in Triple-A in 2006, his last lengthy stretch there. He's shown those same skills in the majors, more or less. His 970 PAs include 39 doubles, 8 triples, and 31 HRs, while his .64 BB/K ratio has fallen each year in the majors.
Fangraphs' breakdown reveals some interesting trends among that blur of numbers. His BB% and K% both dropped last season, thanks to a more aggressive approach at the plate. His contact rate improved slightly, as you can see from the mini-browser, though he's swinging more at everything in and out of the strike zone, mostly those inside the zone (78.4% of them, in fact). That hacktastic approach could come from his inability to handle the breaking ball, a weakness he's confessed to. He seemed to handle the curve fairly well in 2008 (5.47 wCB/C), then gave back those gains in 2009 (-1.74), but he's never handled the slider (-1.08 wSL/C career). As a result, he's seeing fewer fastballs than ever (49.1%) while more than a fourth of the pitches he sees are sliders. Maybe he needs Pedro Cerrano from Major League to sacrifice a chicken for him.
Until Dukes can straighten out his plate approach, pitchers are going to exploit that increasing aggressiveness, when coupled with the futility against a breaking ball. Barring a trade, there's not any competition for him within the organization, and Washington's unlikely to be terribly competitive, so he should get the chance to work out those kinks. This might be the last season he gets to see if he can straighten out his life, however, on and off the field.
If he can, his walk rate bodes well for a decent BA and his power-speed package is enticing. Other owners are likely to be soured on him (check out that -47 Sentiment), so he could turn out to be a good gamble. But with his track record, a gamble is certainly what he is, and hardly a lock even for the modest totals predicted by GP and most other scoring systems. An outfielder who hits in the .260s without cracking 20 HRs and barely registering double-digit SBs isn't too valuable outside an NL-only league. He could be worth a late-round flyer or lowball bid, but you'd better have a backup plan.
Josh Willingham | Washington | OF
2009 Final Stats: .260/.367/.496
Like Dukes, Willingham fought through some injury and off-field issues, but with Willingham, at least the latter don't seem endemic to him, and neither seem to be his fault. He's had some injury problems in the past, and this year those visited him in the form of a stomach virus, which combined with PT issues to slow his start considerably. A few days after the virus went away, his brother died, knocking him out for another week. When he returned, however, he stuck in the starting lineup, hitting .261/.358/.481 the rest of the way.
He had some definite fantasy highlights along the way, like the two grand slams on July 27 (part of a stretch where he hit in 15 of 16 games), his 2-HR, 6-RBI night on August 25, or a 2-HR, 4-RBI performance on July 11. That likely won a few head-to-head games for his owners or made the difference in some fantasy championships, and it certainly made a difference to his owners in Washington. They repeatedly entertained deals for him, which evidently involved a tap dance and maybe a few slow-dance numbers, since they did no more than entertain them—Willingham remains a Nat, with the starting LF job his going into spring training.
That's not to say that Washington won't deal him for the right package before Opening Day, since he's got definite value, and his mini-browser shows a guy with consistent and marketable skills. His contact rate has dropped a touch, but his walk rate has risen alongside it, keeping his BA in the mid-.260s. Last year's HR total was partly the product of a 17% HR/FB rate, but he's always had a fairly high HR rate in his career. That could mean a slight dip in his SLG next year, but full-time play should keep his home run totals steady, too.
GP agrees, giving him an RBI boost from a combination of full-time action and a slightly luckier HR situation—as GP's Nationals writer Paul Bugala points out, 15 of his 24 homers were solo jobs. He won't dazzle you with a sudden breakout at age 31, but more of the same would be just fine from Willingham. That's what makes him a nice mid-round selection worth that $16 projection, though not a lot more than that—note how he's been in that same neighborhood three of the past four years. And if he brings you a few of those awesome fantasy performances, so much the better.
Yovani Gallardo | Milwaukee | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.9 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 3.73 ERA
Gallardo broke Brewers' fans hearts in 2008 when he came roaring out of the gate, only to blow out his knee in his fourth start of the season—that he'd already come back earlier than expected from arthroscopic surgery on his other knee in February only made it worse. But he certainly looked impressive in 2009, with a 3.76 xFIP that almost makes you forget he's just 23, and an awesome strikeout rate that's second only to Tim Lincecum in the NL. A strong groundball rate adds an extra dimension to his skills, while the home run rate has more to do with bad luck (his HR/FB was 12.3%) than poor pitch placement. A little bit of luck helped in his hit rate as well, as a .288 BABIP should see some correction in the future.
The one big blemish on Gallardo's mini-browser is his 4.6 BB/9 rate, which isn't all that surprising from a young power pitcher, but it is a blemish nonetheless and one of the reasons why his ERA and WHIP are elevated. Looking behind the numbers, his 78 LOB% points towards potential ERA regression, possibly by as much as a run. That's mitigated a little bit by that groundball rate, but it's also cause for mild concern. GP sees this as being a bit of a wash, with a year almost identical to the one he had.
The great thing about Gallardo is his age, which will allow him to improve and adjust and refine his skill. He should learn control and bring down that walk rate, possibly at the cost of some strikeouts, but it's a tradeoff that his new pitching coach Rick Peterson is likely to encourage. And his age also helps his health profile, which is only marred by his knee problems. Fortunately for him, those knee surgeries shouldn't concern a young pitcher, and the Brewers wisely shut him down early last year instead of pushing the limits of his arm.
As for his 2010 prospects, he plays in a good pitcher's park, and has strong defense up the middle from Escobar and Gomez, though Weeks and McGehee could use some help. Elsewhere on the diamond, Hart and Fielder hold their own, while Ryan Braun has been fairly miserable from a UZR perspective; if Mat Gamel ends up at third, he might compete with Braunie for Worst Mitt in Milwaukee.
This still makes Gallardo an excellent keeper choice, and a very good value for next season for redraft leagues. Some regression is certainly possible, particularly with that defense, but so is a nice step forward for a kid who's shown guts and determination on his fast path to stardom. That $15 return seems very reasonable, and I see no reason to not go a few bucks beyond that if you really love this guy. Just keep in mind he's still pretty green, and some bumps are quite likely.
There's still time to download a 16-page sample of Graphical Player 2010 and buy a copy to prep for the season. And don't forget to check the index for all the players I've covered this offseason, and leave suggestions for other players to cover in the comments below.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, February 18, 2010
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Russell Branyan has a Major League offer on the table from the Cleveland Indians and is receiving interest from the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Rays may be in the running, I'd imagine they won't be signing him unless they are able to move Pat Burrell. If the Rays do decide to sign Branyan, even if they are unable to move Pat Burrell, he would seem to be a better fit with the Rays than with the Indians. Pat Burrell's splits show a positive slant toward slugging lefties better than righties, and Branyan has slugged righties while struggling against lefties during his career, making for a solid designated hitter (DH) platoon.
When looking at the Indians depth chart it is tough for me to see a clear role for Branyan. Hafner is locked up as the DH and struggles against left-handed pitchers, making Branyan a poor platoon mate at DH. That said, Hafner has struggled to stay healthy the last few years, so it's likely he'll miss time due to his bum shoulder, making Branyan solid insurance. Matt LaPorta appears as the starting first baseman on the depth chart, and given the fact the Indians are rebuilding and he's a prime piece, he'll most certainly play everyday. However, a caveat with LaPorta is that he did play left field for 29 games and right field for 10, thus he could play left field instead of Michael Brantley leaving first base open for Branyan.
Russell Branyan should be a cheap source of power in deep leagues and AL-only leagues if he's able to receive 400 or more at bats. His batting average (AVG) is likely to leave a lot to be desired given his high strikeout rate. That said, if Branyan's at bats are limited almost exclusively to facing right-handed pitchers, his AVG could sit in the .250 range. If Branyan is able to receive 500 or more at bats, it's likely his batting average would be hurt with the extra at bats against left-handed pitchers, but his counting stats should be bumped up to a possibly useful level in deeper leagues. As a fan of Russell Branyan, I'll be curious to see where this three true outcomes machine ends up signing.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:46pm
After receiving numerous requests to compile all of my team-by-team top-10 lists into one large article, I have decided to do just that. I also find this format to be a great way to rank each team's farm system and get caught up on offseason activity, whether it be the Yankees selling off their young assets or rising stars unexpectedly calling it quits in Oakland. This compilation also gives me a great template on which to base my upcoming off-season top-100 list.
Pitching wins championships, and the Rays are flush with talented arms who will provide strong rotation options for years to come, and a position player like Jennings can make all the difference in their lineup.
1. Desmond Jennings OF / 2. Jeremy Hellickson SP / 3. Wade Davis SP / 4. Matthew Moore SP / 5. Tim Beckham SS / 6. Reid Brignac SS / 7. Nick Barnese SP / 8. Jake McGee SP/RP / 9. Kyle Lobstein SP / 10. Cody Rogers OF
Texas is flush with high-potential pitching at various levels of the minor leagues, even though much of it is unproven. The track records of Feliz and Main make up for it, though. The system does lack bats beyond Smoak, which keeps it from the top spot.
1. Justin Smoak 1B / 2. Neftali Feliz SP/RP / 3. Martin Perez SP / 4. Robert Ross SP / 5. Kasey Kiker SP / 6. Michael Main SP / 7. Tanner Scheppers SP / 8. Max Ramirez C / 9. Wilfredo Boscan SP / 10. Wilmer Font SP
The graduation of Matt LaPorta hurts, but Cleveland has high-potential players, and most with track records, at the top of its system, and great depth throughout.
1. Carlos Santana C / 2. Hector Rondon SP / 3. Lonnie Chisenhall 3B / 4. Jason Knapp SP / 5. Alex White SP / 6. Michael Brantley OF / 7. Alexander Perez SP / 8. Nick Weglarz OF / 9. T.J. House SP / 10. Carlos Rivero SS
Atlanta boasts the best position prospect in baseball, loads of pitching talent in the low minors, and a few more quality hitters sprinkled throughout. Their overall depth is merely average, however, as there isn't much of note beyond the top 15.
1. Jason Heyward OF / 2. Freddie Freeman 1B / 3. Julio Teheran SP / 4. Mike Minor SP / 5. Randall Delgado / 6. Zeke Spruill SP / 7. Arodys Vizcaino SP / 8. Craig Kimbrel RP / 9. Christian Bethancourt C / 10. Brett DeVall SP
The top of the Giants' system is excellent with Bumgarner, Posey, and Wheeler, and they have a decent mix of hitters and pitchers beyond that. But their depth fades dramatically after the top 12 or so.
1. Madison Bumgarner SP / 2. Buster Posey C / 3. Zack Wheeler SP / 4. Thomas Joseph C/1B / 5. Thomas Neal OF / 6. Rafael Rodriguez OF / 7. Nick Noonan 2B / 8. Dan Runzler RP / 9. Ehire Adrianza SS / Brandon Crawford SS
The Royals combine high-potential impact players with strong depth, as I found it difficult to cut five others from their top-10 list. The only problem is that their potential stars are unproven at higher levels, knocking their ranking down a peg or two. With continued success, however, they could be at the very top of this list next year.
1. Mike Moustakas 3B / 2. Eric Hosmer 1B / 3. Danny Duffy SP / 4. Mike Montgomery SP / 5. Tim Melville SP / 6. Aaron Crow SP / 7. Wil Myers C / 8. Johnny Giavotella 2B / 9. John Lamb SP / 10. Chris Dwyer SP/RP
Anderson's studly status took a hit in 2009, leaving the Red Sox without a star in the high minors. But their farm system is one of the deepest in baseball, diverse, and well-rounded, headed up by the likes of Kelly and Westmoreland, who provide tremendous promise in the low minors.
1. Lars Anderson 1B / 2. Casey Kelly SP / 3. Ryan Westmoreland OF / 4. Michael Bowden SP / 5. Stolmy Pimentel SP / 6. Ryan Kalish OF / 7. Junichi Tazawa SP / 8. Josh Reddick OF / 9. Reymond Fuentes OF / 10. Jose Iglesias SS
The Rockies have put together the type of starting pitching that makes me think "perennial contender." They don't have an impact bat, but there is some underrated depth, highlighted by the playmaking ability of Young.
1. Christian Friedrich SP / 2. Jhoulys Chacin SP / 3. Tyler Matzek SP / 4. Eric Young 2B/OF / 5. Rex Brothers SP/RP / 6. Mike McKenry C / 7. Nolan Arenado 3B / 8. Wilin Rosario C / 9. Chris Balcom-Miller SP / 10. Tim Wheeler OF
Escobar and Lawrie provide the star power for a deep system. They feature some universally underrated position players in Gindl and Lucroy, and, while not possessing one standout at this point, feature a good amount of pitching depth.
1. Alcides Escobar SS / 2. Brett Lawrie 2B/3B/OF / 3. Caleb Gindl OF / 4. Jonathan Lucroy C / 5. Eric Arnett SP / 6. Zach Braddock RP/SP / 7. Angel Salome C / 8. Mark Rogers SP / 9. Wily Peralta SP/RP / 10. Jake Odorizzi SP
The Pirates have built up their system nicely in recent years, and they have to in their position. They have a good mix of pitching and hitting, a star at the top in Alvarez, and underrated depth. I feel like I could have put together a top-20 list comfortably. There is hope, Pittsburgh fans.
1. Pedro Alvarez 3B/1B / 2. Tim Alderson SP / 3. Tony Sanchez C / 4. Brad Lincoln SP / 5. Robbie Grossman OF / 6. Brett Lorin SP / 7. Jose Tabata OF / 8. Victor Black SP/RP / 9. Brooks Pounders SP / 10. Daniel McCutchen SP
Strasburg was a slam-dunk addition, and a breakout year from Norris and Espinosa helped, but the Nationals' depth is weak. Yet, they may be just one more strong draft away from one of the best systems in baseball in terms quality and quantity. Owning the No. 1 pick helps.
1. Stephen Strasburg SP / 2. Derek Norris C / 3. Danny Espinosa SS / 4. Chris Marrero 1B / 5. Drew Storen RP/SP / 6. Ian Desmond SS/2B / 7. Eury Perez OF / 8. Destin Hood OF / 9. Michael Burgess OF / 10. Marcos Frias SP
San Diego's top 10 is well-balanced with potential versus production, but the talent drops off soon after. Tate and Decker are an exciting duo who contrast each other well.
1. Donavan Tate OF / 2. Jaff Decker OF / 3. Simon Castro SP / 4. James Darnell 3B / 5. Edinson Rincon OF/3B / 6. Wynn Pelzer SP / 7. Logan Forsythe 3B/OF / 8. Rymer Liriano OF / 9. Aaron Poreda RP/SP / 10. Everett Williams OF
The A's have some talented bats at various levels of the minors and strong overall depth, but the top-notch reinforcements for their starting rotation have thinned now that Anderson and Cahill are full-time big leagers.
1. Chris Carter 1B / 2. Grant Green SS / 3. Jemile Weeks 2B / 4. Michael Taylor OF / 5. Michael Ynoa SP / 6. Adrian Cardenas / 7. Max Stassi C / 8. Sean Doolittle OF / 9. Tyson Ross SP / 10. Josh Donaldson C
Highlighted by Matusz, the Orioles believe they have the young arms to regain their former glory. Impact bats would help in that quest, and that is where the system falls short now that Matt Wieters has graduated.
1. Brian Matusz SP / 2. Jake Arrieta SP / 3. Brandon Erbe SP / 4. Matt Hobgood SP / 5. Zach Britton SP / 6. Josh Bell 3B / 7. Xavier Avery OF / 8. Mychal Givens SS / 9. Brandon Snyder 1B / 10. Ryan Adams 2B
Montero is a standout who manages to cover up some of the organization's shortcomings, and Banuelos is a promising young arm, but New York's farm system is thinner than in recent years.
1. Jesus Montero C/1B / 2. Manuel Banuelos SP / 3. Jairo Heredia SP / 4. Austin Romine C / 5. Kelvin De Leon OF / 6. Slade Heathcott OF / 7. D.J. Mitchell SP / 8. Zach McAllister SP / 9. Gary Sanchez C / 10. John Murphy C
The Angels lack a blue-chip prospect in the high minors, but they have tremendous depth, a well-rounded system, and players like Trout, Richards, and Martinez at the lower levels who have the potential to break out.
1. Hank Conger C / 2. Trevor Reckling SP / 3. Mike Trout OF / 4. Randal Grichuk OF / 5. Jordan Walden SP/RP / 6. Peter Bourjos OF / 7. Garrett Richards SP / 8. Chris Pettit OF / 9. Fabio Martinez SP / 10. Tyler Skaggs SP
Stanton and Morrison form a great and farm-system-saving middle-of-the-order duo, but is it just me or has Florida's depth dried up? It would be difficult forming even a top-15 list with players that deserve it.
1. Mike Stanton OF / 2. Logan Morrison 1B / 3. Chad James SP / 4. Matt Dominguez 3B / 5. Kyle Skipworth C / 6. Ryan Tucker SP / 7. Jake Smolinski 3B/2B / 8. Brad Hand SP / 9. Isaac Galloway OF / 10. Gaby Sanchez 1B
Turner and Crosby form a good one-two pitching punch, and Sizemore has All-Star ability at second base, but Detroit's farm system is one of the thinnest in baseball, even with the addition of Jackson and Schlereth.
1. Jacob Turner SP / 2. Scott Sizemore 2B / 3. Casey Crosby SP / 4. Alex Avila C / 5. Austin Jackson OF / 6. Ryan Strieby 1B/OF / 7. Andy Oliver SP/RP / 8. Daniel Schlereth RP / 9. Cody Satterwhite RP / 10. Wilkin Ramirez OF
The Mets' ability to scout international talent has saved their farm system. They have a nice mix of talent from different places on the diamond, but very little depth beyond the top 10.
1. Jenrry Mejia SP / 2. Fernando Martinez OF / 3. Wilmer Flores SS / 4. Ike Davis 1B / 5. Reese Havens SS/3B/2B / 6. Jonathon Niese SP / 7. Jeurys Familia SP / 8. Ruben Tejada SS/2B / 9. Brad Holt SP/RP / 10. Josh Thole C
The Reds lack depth and one true standout, but they have a nice mix of near-ready players, like Alonso and Leake, and high-potential players, like Chapman and Mesoraco.
1. Yonder Alonso 1B / 2. Mike Leake SP / 3. Aroldis Chapman SP / 4. Juan Francisco 3B / 5. Travis Wood SP / 6. Todd Frazier OF / 7. Chris Heisey OF / 8. Matt Maloney SP / 9. Devin Mesoraco C / 10. Brad Boxberger SP/RP
The Astros don't have much depth to speak of, but they are much improved overall from recent years. Lyles, Mier, and Castro together are a solid 1-2-3.
1. Jordan Lyles SP / 2. Jiovanni Mier SS / 3. Jason Castro C / 4. Sammy Gervacio RP / 5. Tanner Bushue SP / 6. Ross Seaton SP / 7. Jonathan Gaston OF / 8. Brad Dydalewicz SP / 9. Chia-Jen Lo RP / 10. Jay Austin OF
The Mariners have some strong middle-of-the-order bats that they can lean on, but their minor league pitching is in ruins and there is very little depth beyond the top 10.
1. Michael Saunders OF / 2. Carlos Triunfel 3B/SS / 3. Dustin Ackley OF / 4. Alex Liddi 3B / 5. Johermyn Chavez OF / 6. Rich Poythress 1B / 7. Mike Carp 1B / 8. Michael Pineda SP/RP / 9. Gabriel Noriega SS / 10. Nick Franklin SS
The Dodgers possess average overall depth and some promising young pitching. They lack a standout, but the likes of Lambo, Withrow, Martin, and Gordon have the ability to become that standout.
1. Andrew Lambo OF / 2. Chris Withrow SP / 3. Ethan Martin SP/RP / 4. Dee Gordon SS / 5. Aaron Miller SP / 6. Scott Elbert SP/RP / 7. Josh Lindblom RP/SP / 8. Garrett Gould SP / 9. Allen Webster SP / 10. Ivan DeJesus 2B/SS
The Cubs have invested well in the international market in recent years, and it shows in their much-improved depth. They lack a stud at the top, but Castro is on the cusp.
1. Starlin Castro SS / 2. Josh Vitters 3B / 3. Brett Jackson OF / 4. Jay Jackson SP / 5. Hak-Ju Lee SS / 6. Kyler Burke OF / 7. Andrew Cashner RP/SP / 8. Chris Archer SP / 9. Chris Carpenter SP/RP / 10. Ryan Flaherty 2B
Perhaps more so than any other team in baseball, Minnesota's farm system is based on projection and tools. It's a wait-and-see scenario, but the talent is there to pull it off.
1. Aaron Hicks OF / 2. Ben Revere OF / 3. Kyle Gibson SP / 4. Miguel Sano SS / 5. Adrian Salcedo SP / 6. Wilson Ramos C / 7. Angel Morales OF / 8. Joe Benson OF / 9. David Bromberg SP / 10. B.J. Hermsen SP
Miller and Lynn have good potential but much to prove, and St. Louis has a couple of major-league-ready players, but none that possess star ability. St. Louis is on shaky ground both in terms and quality and quantity beyond the top eight.
1. Shelby Miller SP / 2. Lance Lynn SP / 3. Jaime Garcia SP / 4. David Freese 3B / 5. Allen Craig OF / 6. Robert Stock C / 7. Anthony Ferrera SP / 8. Daryl Jones OF / 9. Pete Kozma SS / 10. Eduardo Sanchez RP
The Blue Jays were destined for dead-last on this list, and it took trading Roy Halladay to pull them out. Wallace and Drabek are great additions, but the system is still quite thin and in need of more work.
1. Brett Wallace 3B/1B / 2. Kyle Drabek SP / 3. Chad Jenkins SP / 4. Travis D'Arnaud C / 5. J.P. Arencibia C / 6. Tyler Pastornicky SS / 7. Zach Stewart RP/SP / 8. David Cooper 1B / 9. Henderson Alvarez SP / 10. Moises Sierra OF
Parker's Tommy John surgery has crippled the system. In an attempt to resuscitate it the Diamondbacks had a stellar and deep 2009 draft, but each and every one of their draftees has a lot to prove before I raise the team out of the cellar.
1. Jarrod Parker SP / 2. Brandon Allen 1B / 3. Ryan Wheeler 1B / 4. Bobby Borchering 3B/1B / 5. David Nick 2B / 6. Mike Belfiore SP/RP / 7. Wade Miley SP / 8. Chris Owings SS/2B / 9. A.J. Pollock OF / 10. Marc Krauss OF
With the question marks surrounding Flowers' ability to stay at catcher, the lack of top-of-the-rotation arms beyond Hudson, and dearth of overall depth, White Sox fans don't have much to look forward to.
1. Tyler Flowers C/1B / 2. Dan Hudson SP / 3. Brent Morel 3B / 4. John Ely SP / 5. Jared Mitchell OF / 6. Jordan Danks OF / 7. Dayan Viciedo 3B / 8. David Holmberg SP / 9. Josh Phegley C / 10. John Shelby OF
Philadelphia's farm system is on life support due to recent trades. Brown is overrated by many, and there is very little starting pitching and quality depth.
1. Domonic Brown OF / 2. Tyson Gillies OF / 3. Phillipe Aumont RP/SP / 4. Domingo Santana OF / 5. Anthony Gose OF / 6. Trevor May SP / 7. Antonio Bastardo SP/RP / 8. J.C. Ramirez SP / 9. Sebastian Valle C / 10. Vance Worley SP
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I’d like to follow up on some issues surrounding Jonathan Halket’s most recent column about backward induction. One of the questions raised by the column is that of holding off on high-round options at positions you’ve confidently targeted sleepers for. How do you balance the appeal of getting high value late in the draft against the risk of not acquiring your targeted sleeper and being left high and dry?
The nightmare scenario would go something like this. An owner pegs Julio Borbon as a great value late in the draft. In the third round, at pick 26, this owner notices Carl Crawford is still on the board. The owner considers Crawford here, as he thinks this is a good value. However, he thinks Borbon could be an even better value a hundred picks later (great players are at a disadvantage here because there’s only so far a highly ranked player can outproduce his cost) and doesn’t want to clog that outfield-speed slot. He thinks rostering both Crawford and Borbon would be overkill and leave him power-deficient. So, the owner drafts Kevin Youkilis instead. Then, several rounds later, somebody else drafts Borbon a round before this owner was planning to. Now, this owner is behind in steals and doesn’t have another player to fit the archetype he needs. He ends up drafting Coco Crisp and hoping he surprises and fills some of the need he was hoping Borbon would (and he knew Crawford would.) To make matters worse, Crawford outproduces Youkilis and other quality corner bats were available the round following the Youkilis pick.
(I realize I could have just used Jonathan’s Ryan Doumit/Victor Martinez/Rod Barajas example here, but then I’d be tangentially entertaining the “should I invest highly in a catcher argument” and if you read my columns you know that I’m anti-high pick catcher. Unless I’m in an AL-only league, Joe Mauer could be sitting on the board in the third round and I’ll most likely pass without giving a second thought.)
Now, I can’t tell anybody how to balance the risk of not getting Borbon versus the perceived value gap between Crawford in his draft position and Borbon in his. This is a rather abstract concept to try to quantify. The answer depends on a number of dynamics, as discussed in Jonathan’s article and the comments section. What other options will be there if I get sniped on my sleeper and how do I feel about those options? How likely is it that others are on the same wavelength as I am regarding my sleeper targets?
There’s another important question though—the most obvious one—that somehow often gets lost in the mix of the more abstract components of this discussion: How do the elite option and my sleeper compare in terms of absolute value and what are these respective players’ realistic downside potential?
To prime this discussion, it seems that a refresher on the actual workings of the market in relation to elite players is in order. Jonathan is actually an economist; I, on the other hand, am just a pedantic know-it-all, so I hope I’m not speaking out of school here.
Everybody must be aware of two factors that go into the price of an elite player. One is dependability. You or I may interpret Borbon as a great value, but it's also possible that he's demoted to the minors before the All-Star break, or that he can't hit lefties at the major league level (he barely even played against them last year) and therefore winds up only getting 400 ABs for the season. I'm not trying to throw water on Borbon optimism, just expressing legitimate possibilities that people tend to totally dismiss once they've bought in to a player. Our evaluations don't matter—only his manager's and organization's.
Those risks don't exist for Carl Crawford. There are no risks that apply to Crawford that don’t apply to Borbon.
So, Borbon has significantly more downside risk than Crawford. This is an important determinant of the price points of the respective players. But, wait … isn’t some of that downside potential difference mitigated by the price I pay for the commodity? Isn’t Crawford’s smaller risk of not producing elite (by his standard) numbers magnified by the amount I invest in him, while Borbon’s greater downside risk cushioned by the fact that I invested less in him?
In an economic sense, yes. That’s an astute observation. (See how I pretended to compliment you, but I really complimented myself—I told you I’m kind of a douche.) But not so fast there, imaginary devil’s advocate.
The goal isn’t really to just accrue the best bang for you buck; the objective is to win your league. Maximizing your value per dollar (or pick) invested is just a tactic by which you do that, not an objective in and of itself. Commenter Jonathan Sher makes a rather poignant point about this in relation to his strategy for one of his leagues, which we will get to a bit later.
If you are relying for Borbon for big-time production, you are still out that production if Borbon flops, or even just performs acceptably but fails to exceed his draft position. What you invested in him is less important than what you depended on him for.
Here’s a real world example: David Wright is a borderline MVP-caliber player, but he only happened to make $7.75M last season. His hugely disappointing 2009 campaign was probably “worth” his salary, but that doesn’t mean the Mets were satisfied with his performance. And more directly, the Mets certainly didn’t do a lot of winning last year! So, in practice, the value consolation is largely irrelevant to a struggling team.
Plus, there’s the third-party production that enters the final equation, which is the opportunity cost of taking Youkilis over Crawford (plus the added value the owner behind you got in Crawford over what would have been his pick. Drafts are particularly conducive settings to see “the butterfly effect” in action.
If Crawford performs exactly as expected, Borbon performs 20% better than expected (and still substantially below Crawford), but you had “budgeted” for 40% better, and Youkilis performs 10% better—are you ahead of where you’d be if you just took Crawford (and some other undefined player in Borbon’s round who performed as expected)? ... Hmm … In overall value, you probably are. But do you have the right mix of categories or is some of your value tied up in categorical surplus irrelevant to the standings?
This gets very complicated, so I’m just going to end this part of the discussion and let it stand as a rhetorical. I can only carry on a debate with one imaginary devil’s advocate at a time without devolving into full blown schizophrenia. So, let’s move on to the second market force.
The other market force relevant here is the non-linear value of luxury goods (there’s probably a 10 dollar economics term for this, but I don’t know it). Superstars are luxury goods. If you are buying a car, for example, there's something of a "you get what you pay for model" for most options along the price point chain—Ford, Honda, Lexus. However, as you approach the extremes this somewhat linear relationship falls apart. It's virtually impossible for a Bentley to be something like six times the car a Lexus is. In fantasy baseball, there reaches a point of production at which there are so few players who can replace that player's value, his production value versus his cost ceases to be linear.
This happens with players in the real game too. A-Rod is nowhere near the best value in terms of, say, cost per win share. But, how many players can produce at his level? The way the market works in real life is that as a player’s production rises, the cost per unit of production rises a bit too. Hypothetically, win share 1–10 costs one price per win share; each win share between 10–20 an escalated price per unit, 20–30 even more, and then the price explodes at the superstar level. If you need one player to produce 35+ win shares, there aren’t many options. So, you pay a premium for A-Rod’s ability to produce virtually unequivocal value (and to protect against other teams usurping that value from you—this is a facet many never bother to consider).
So, what does all this mean in relation to our original question about studs and sleepers? Why did I go through all of that? Do I just like to run on and take advantage of the attention spans of the five people who would actually listen to me? Well, yes, but I also have a point, though it’s not one I haven’t made here before.
You should not let your late-round sleeper targets affect the highest rounds of your draft. At least through the first 50 picks, you should be selecting who you determine to be the best overall player available to you at your pick. Personally, I extent this rule notably further than the top 50, but I think the top 50 is the shortest acceptable period to apply this principle.
Here are a few reasons why I preach this:
First, you need elite producers to win. Everybody is going to have some luxury goods, so pick the ones that are best compared their alternatives. If you are in the market for a $350,000 luxury sedan (which you are, by definition, in the top 25) you should be weighing your options in that price range. You should be comparison shopping the Rolls Royce Phantom against the GT Bentley. The fact that you think a Lexus LS430 represents a far better value than either isn’t relevant. … Your debut rap album isn’t going platinum with a Lexus on the cover; this isn’t 1994 (unfortunately!).
Just to nitpick the metaphor, if you’re considering Ellsbury or Crawford you are really more in the market for a luxury sports car, right? OK, I’m officially getting to close to the Bill Simmons zone now, aren’t I?
So, here’s a big piece of advice I try to give to fantasy players. Don’t outsmart yourself!. Often times, us more advanced players get too wrapped up in our ability to spot value that we forget that leagues are won by absolute production. Don’t romanticize your sleepers to the point that you think they can actually replace studs. Occasionally it happens, but if there was a good chance a player could provide legitimately elite value, he likely wouldn’t be pre-ranked outside the top 100.
By the way, the outsmarting yourself phenomenon is even more dangerous and frequent in fantasy football. I don’t know how many times I had to talk friends off ledges this past year, as they were considering benching their first-round running back or second-round wide receiver for some injury replacement or secondary target blessed with an “attractive match-up.”
Here’s Jonathan Sher in the comments section to Halket’s column, as he talks about this issue in relation to an auction league (emphasis mine):
One’s willingness to [pass on a stud in favor of a sleeper] should also be related to one’s risk tolerance, and not in some generic sense, but the circumstances of one’s auction. This year, for example, I have what I believe is the best keeper list in my league and certainly one of the top 3—high value guys at very low salaries. So rather than risk waiting for a sleeper, I’m much more inclined to pay inflation-adjusted prices for top talent like Longoria than count on Beltre being under-valued. Beltre probably has a greater upside compared to what I expect others will value of him. But I don’t need more high value guys to win. Rather, I need high production guys (since I have most of my budget) and can afford inflation-adjusted prices or even more and still win or finish near the top. My greater risk is running out of available talent before I run out of money.
Second, what is precluding you from taking a stud and your sleeper, even if they are similar in make-up? Drafting is about both building a team and stockpiling value. If your sleeper pans out as you predicted, you have a valuable trade chip either in him or the higher-priced similar player. You can cash either of those chips in for elite production where you need it. In this specific case, you can jump out to a huge lead in SBs, dump one of the players and not even have it affect your standings in that category too much, as the low volume of the steals category makes large leads difficult to overcome.
Third, you should have sleeper targets for all categories. So, if picking the best available player for six or seven picks starts to develop clear categorical needs for your squad, you should have a plan to address them, whatever they are. I much prefer a large list of less profound sleepers than a few pet sleepers to whom I am extremely committed. You will never be able to draft your whole list, so the way I work is to build the best team I can with my top picks and then start to go after the sleepers whose skill sets make the most sense for my team. Obviously, there are exceptions. I drafted Josh Johnson regardless of my pitching staff’s strength in literally every league I played in last year.
Finally, here’s another question for you guys to ponder. I avoided temptation to get into this in this column because my columns are already long enough. But … what exactly even constitutes a “sleeper"? Borbon was discussed a fair amount both in Jonathan’s article (including the comments section) and mine. He’s pre-ranked 113th on Yahoo’s draft; is he even a sleeper? Can you be a sleeper while projected to go in the 10th round of a 12-team draft? I always thought sleepers were much more obscure. Scott Sizemore is a sleeper; Julio Borbon is not. That’s how I see it at least.
While others use the term to refer generically to anybody who they feel will considerably outperform draft pre-draft rank, I tend to reserve the term for either players few know about, or those most have written off as being unable to fulfill their potential or clearly past their tenure of usefulness.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:53am
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
After watching former starter, Brian Schnieder leave New York for National League East rival, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets were linked to Bengie Molina and Yorvit Torrealba among other available backstops this winter. With Molina back in San Francisco and Torrealba settling down in San Diego, the Mets are left with a collection of back up catchers and no clear cut option. Apparently they think that four back-up catchers equal two complete ones.
With four catchers already on the 40-man roster, the team added former Rays’ catcher Shawn Riggans into the mix on a minor league deal this past weekend. Riggans, 29, has opened the past few seasons as Tampa Bay's primary back-up catcher, but injuries cost him playing time in each season.
This is nothing new to Riggans who is constantly battling the injury bug. His medical history as well as the much maligned Mets training staff should make for an interesting pairing. As a Rays fan, I've witnessed his gritty-ness first hand. In 2008, Riggans took a Fernando Rodney fastball to the chest only to stay in the game and score the winning run minutes later.
When he was on the field, Riggans showed a decent bat with noted "pop." As a minor leaguer, his cumulative OPS is nearly .800 and he owns a career ISO of .154 in the majors. Unfortunately, a knee injury in 2008 and an arm injury in 2009 prevented him for getting any resemblance of consistent playing time. That said, if he does find some good health he could be an offensive sleeper at the position.
As it stands right now Omir Santos figures to get the nod as the Mets catcher most days. Santos saw his first significant playing time in 2009 and finished the season with a slash line of .260/.290/.381. As a right-handed batter, Santos was surprisingly better against pitcher with the same handiness. Against righties he hit .283/.321/.406. Of course, the sample size is rather small and in any case you would like to see him get on-base more. He walked less than 5% of the time this past season.
Behind Santos is a pair of major league veterans. After spending parts of four seasons with the Phillies, Chris Coste was signed to a minor league deal. Coste spent time with the Phillies and Astros last season.
Of all the potential candidates, Coste represents the best offensive potential. A career .272/.329/.416 hitter, his .325 wOBA is the closest to league average among the candidates. Unlike his fellow right-handed colleague, Santos, Coste enjoys platoon split against left-handed pitching. With a slash line against southpaws of .294/.345/.476, Coste would represent a fine platoon partner. Add in his decent .713 OPS against righties and his ability to play first base and I can easily see a spot for him on the Mets bench.
The other veteran in this group is Henry Blanco. A career back-up, Hank White has spent parts of 12 seasons with seven major league teams. Blanco's career slash line of .228/292/.366 is not pretty, but his game calling and defense behind the plate is highly regarded.
The final piece of the puzzle is 23 year-old Josh Thole. Mets fans briefly saw Thole's talents last year when he hit .321/.356/.396 in 59 big league plate appearances. Now that 34% line drive rate is unsustainable, but he has been a fine hitter over the past two seasons in the minors. After hitting .300/.382/.427 in High-A ball in 2008, Thole crushed Double-A pitching to the tune of .328/.395/.422. He skipped Triple-A completely and represents hope for the positions' future.
Due to their relative below average-ness, and questions about playing time, I would avoid all candidates until further notice. Thole represents the best talents, but could use
some minor league seasoning. In the interim, I would keep an eye on Coste as a platoon partner as well as Riggans if he can stay on the diamond long enough.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 7:00am
After outdoing myself last week, I figured I'd return my roots and write an article a little simpler, a little less theoretical, and more practical. Picking up from where I left off two weeks ago, today I will evaluate pitchers who have large discrepancies in their highest and lowest draft position. As Bud Light commercials say: "Here we go."
Javier Vazquez | ADP: 61 | Earliest: 46 | Latest: 92 |
Pitchers who have renaissance years and then switch leagues make good candidates to be on a list such as this one, so it is no surprise to see Vazquez's name here. Last season on the Braves he posted Cy Young-esque numbers of 15 wins with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 219 innings of work, vindicating Derek Carty on his man-crush of him last year.
As impressive as last year was, people are still wary of owning Vazquez because of his age (33), the mileage on his arm (2,500 career innings), his switch to the offensive powerhouse AL East, his terrible season in his last go-around with the Yankees back in 2004, and finally his flyball tendencies in the flyball haven that is the new Yankee Stadium. Whew! That is a lot to not like about a guy. On the flip side people like Vazquez for his durability, his high strikeout and low walk rates, because he is now backed by the scary-good Yankees offense, and well, because of how spectacular he was last year.
A generally unlucky pitcher, Vazquez was bestowed with a little bit of luck in 2009 as his 3.24 LIPS ERA indicates. Making adjustments from that LIPS ERA number based on the work Derek did last offseason on the impact of switching leagues we can expect his ERA to rise .40 points from the league switch and then a couple of tenths more due to the higher run environment of Yankee Stadium. With a strikeout rate regressed back into the high eights partially from the 0.6 penalty from the switch to the AL, Vazquez is looking at a season with an ERA from 3.75 to 4.00, around 200 strikeouts, and 16-20 wins.
Nothing makes that line stand out from the lines of the pitchers taken around him, though if you are going to take a pitcher around this point in a draft, Vazquez's durability does make him a viable option.
Wandy Rodriguez | ADP: 125 | Earliest: 78 | Latest: 188 |
Like Javy, Wandy is coming off a tremendous 2009 season in which he finished with a 3.02 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 206 innings pitched. Despite his first name, Rodriguez is someone who has flown under many people's radars the past two years, over which he has proven himself a quality starting pitcher. His LIPS ERA of 4.03 in 2009 reveals that luck buoyed him to his 2009 ERA and he is not ready to join the elite ranks of pitchers.
As was the case with Vazquez, there is little to distinguish Wandy from the other pitchers, such as Matt Garza and Chad Billingsley, who are taken around him, making it difficult to say whether it is worth the investment in him. With starting pitching a relatively deep position, avoiding elite pitchers and nabbing a few starters at this point in drafts is a solid strategy that can lead to powerful offenses with still-respectable pitching staffs and Wandy is a solid No. 2 or 3 on any fantasy team.
Jorge de la Rosa | ADP: 195 | Earliest: 132 | Latest: 245 |
DLR is an emerging fantasy pitcher with tons of potential given his ability to punch batters out. Last year was a breakout season for the late-blooming 28-year-old, throwing 185 innings, posting a 4.38 ERA, and racking up 193 K's. Covered nicely in this Waiver Wire article, de la Rosa appears primed for an even more impressive season in 2010 with an ERA closer to his 2009 LIPS ERA of 4.03. Couple that ERA with 200 plus strikeouts and a healthy win total, and you are looking at a pitcher who is currently undervalued in drafts.
Especially considering the similarities between DLR and the pitcher we just covered, Rodriguez, de la Rosa emerges as another solid option to be that second or third starter on your fantasy team—except at a more palatable price.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:24am
Monday, February 15, 2010
Before last season Damon had never had a strike out rate over 15 percent, but in 2009 he struck out nearly 18 percent of the time. That is not surprising as he is getting older and contact is one of the skills to decline at this age. At the same time, Granderson has taken a step forward the past two years with a K percentage of 20 and 22 percents the last two years. That is still a significant difference, but much closer than it would have been in Damon's prime.
As for plate discipline, Granderson has again made huge strides getting his walk rate over 10 percent these past two seasons. That is better than the career rate of Damon at 9.2 percent, but very similar to the rates he has posted for the past four seasons.
Granderson had a very tough year on his BABIP at .276, but with a career rate of .323 that should help his OBP return to much better numbers. He had some learning to do, much like Damon, as his OBP was below .340 for his first three years before his skills grew. He had two seasons with an OBP over .360 and would have done the same in 2009 if his BABIP had been neutral.
Of course the big question is the power. Damon had a great year for home run power, but his ISO also had a huge bump. It was at .207, which was a career high with only 2006 coming close at .197. He just doesn't have this type of power away from Yankee Stadium and could suffer wherever he winds up.
Granderson had a good year for homers with 30, but his overall power was down with a ISO of .204. His career rate is similar at .211, but being moved to Yankee Stadium can only help. Perhaps this is where the two will differ. Granderson should see a bump in his power, homers and OBP.
On the base paths Granderson does not appear to have the numbers of Damon's prime, but once again he is very similar to where Damon is now. Granderson had a speed score of 6.1 in 2009 and Damon was at 5.8, which was his lowest rate of his career.
Damon is a better bet for run totals as he is a leadoff hitter unless his new team in 2010 doesn't ask him to fill that roll. This means his RBI chances are quite low, but his run totals are impressive. Granderson is a candidate for the top of the order, but his power should keep him in a lower spot and in New York his run and RBI totals should be great.
Granderson is the better option this year and going forward, but mainly due to the decline in Damon's skills. He would be behind Damon in runs, steals and batting average in their prime, but now it's much closer. With Granderson's ability to hit 30 homers outside of Yankee Stadium he gains that much more.
The Yankees not only get similar numbers in Granderson, but his much better defense and younger legs. Your fantasy team will get somewhat similar results as well with no worry about Damon's noodle arm. Granderson is currently the No. 51 pick according to MockDraftCentral, but Damon is going at 121. While Granderson has the better situation right now, I wouldn't take Granderson that far ahead of his clone.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 4:12am
Friday, February 12, 2010
Elvis Andrus | Texas | SS
2009 Final Stats: .267/.329/.373
We'll give ourselves a bit of a “pat on the back” for predicting that Andrus wouldn't slip from his early July levels when many thought he would. But the harder question is estimating the amount of growth he will show in 2010. It seems like a safe bet that if he's a dedicated worker, he'll eventually improve his offensive game, given the clearly remarkable hand-eye coordination and body control he has.
On the one hand, his 82 OPS+ was identical to that of The Wizard back in '78, but Ozzie was 23 that year, compared to just 20 for Andrus. Ozzie collapsed to a pathetic 48 OPS+ the following season, and it took him four years and a move to the “old school” turf (and a manager who understood how to utilize said playing surface to its fullest) to top 80 again. Another slick-fielding shortstop—Tony Fernandez—posted an 84 OPS+ when he was 22, and quickly improved upon that. Among projection systems, most seem to think that Andrus is due for a reprise of his 2009 stats, which would be quite satisfactory to the Rangers. Somewhat surprisingly, Marcel sets the curve for Andrus expectations in 2010 at .280/.346/.410. The flaw in relying on Marcel is that—as a player who puts 55% of his balls in play on the ground—Andrus is very unlikely to follow the “typical” power growth expectations, as measured across the entire population of baseball players. Since Marcel projects growth along these curves, without considering uniqueness factors of various players (it's supposed to be a monkey, remember? “See no groundball, hear no groundball, speak no groundball...”), it lumps in Andrus' age-20 performance (6 HR, 25 2B+3B in 480 AB) with all other players.
The majority opinion certainly makes the most intuitive sense for the immediate future of Andrus, as well. It's too much of a stretch to suggest that Andrus will break the .340 OBP. So, don't expect him to be on base a lot more often than he was in 2009. He should, however, get a full complement of plate appearances and should easily top 40 SB, even playing for a manager who doesn't allow players to try to steal very often. With that in mind, lightning-fast players who put the ball on the ground a lot can rack up some great BABIPs. If Andrus switch-hit (or batted lefty), he'd be more likely to post .350 BABIPs as he did in the minors, with the step of a head start to first base. As it is, his best chance of expanding his BABIP is going to be to keep hitting extra-base hits to keep fielders honest enough for him to surprise them with bunt singles and infield choppers. In case it needed to be written, he's great on defense, and will undoubtedly get as much time as he needs to accomplish the growth in his offensive game, as did Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel before him. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that that time will come in 2010.
Nelson Cruz | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .260/.332/.524
It's not often when a hitter entering his age-29 season is projected to have stats better than both his previous season and his career line, but that's what's happened with Cruz in almost every projection system. Marcel The Monkey is “confused” by these other systems, weighing recent seasons as he does and coming up with a .261/.332/.483 batting line. But numerous other systems are predicting a .340+ OBP, with PECOTA going all the way to .363! Mock drafters over at Mock Draft Central are on board, taking him 64th in Average Draft Position, the 18th outfielder taken—ahead of roto stalwarts like Bobby Abreu and Carlos Lee. That's what happens when a guy jacks 33 HR and steals 20 bases in just 462 AB, as Cruz did in 2009.
There's a slight measure of “bad” news with Cruz. His owners will be annoyed that Ron Washington sits him against pitchers he can't handle well, but that (presumably) helps his overall rate stats somewhat and he's shown that he can be an excellent contributor with just 500 AB. The worse part is that not being valued by one's own manager is often a precursor to a trade, and Texas is a great setting for hitters. Another slight worry point is the loss of Rudy Jaramillo. Not to overstate a hitting coach's role too much, but it's hard to conceive of a way that losing Jaramillo's support could have a positive impact on Cruz.
By both reputation and stats, Cruz is a very good defensive outfielder, covering lots of range, making few errors, and throwing out lots of runners. Assuming that 2009 was an “up” year for his homers, and that he won't suddenly receive 700 PA and mash 45 HR (the pace he was on), the most likely situation for Cruz is probably a slight reduction in his rate stats (a la Marcel's projection), with his HR/SB totals increasing very slightly (or remaining the same despite more playing time), though his runs and RBI should increase with the extra PT. A .265-35-100-20 season should be considered an above-average result from Cruz in 2010, but it wouldn't be surprising at all. And his “upside” is even higher, though obviously much less likely.
Kurt Suzuki | Oakland | C
2009 Final Stats: .274/.313/.421
Has anyone noticed lately how many players on the A's fail to draw a high number of walks. And it's not like walks have become “expensive”, which would reduce the “market inefficiency” of buying them ... free agents such as Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell can attest to that fact. Anyway, Suzuki's walk total in 2009 was a paltry 28 in 614 PA, after drawing 44 in 588 the previous year. Other than that, he's a typically average MLB hitter playing in a bad park for hitters. He's good at the agility and game-calling aspects of defense and until the “youth movement” pitching rotation in 2009, he'd thrown out runners pretty well in 2008, too. Of course, 190 innings of Greg Smith can help those stats a ton (he's arguably the best pitcher at thwarting the running game active today). It's safe to say that when the pitcher holds the runner, Suzuki is capable of making accurate throws, but doesn't have the cannon arm of the top defensive catchers. And that's sort of his entire game in a nutshell ... he's “adequate” to “good” at almost every aspect of baseball, with no appreciable weaknesses (other than the evaporating walk rate); he even stole eight bases in 2009! As a fantasy pick, he's about as safe as a catcher can be—he's durable and very projectable. He's not quite a good enough hitter to force his way into DH duty unless a team is devoid of hitters like the '09 A's, but you know what you're getting. Expect a marginal improvement across the board from 2009, as he enters his age-26 season.
James Shields | Tampa Bay | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.8 K/9, 3.2 K/BB, 4.14 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 4.12, 3.67, 3.97, 4.05
In some ways, Shields is a “chuck and duck” pitcher like the two Twins we covered last week: Baker and Slowey. His fastball barely averages over 90 mph, and he's allowed well over 1.0 HR/9 IP while walking fewer than 2.0. If anything, he tried to be more in this mold in 2009, posting a career-high “F-Strike%” (from fangraphs.com) of over 63%, compared to his career norm of 60%. As usual for AL East pitchers, he was among the top pitchers in “opponent OPS” (courtesy of baseballprospectus.com), finishing 12th among 73 pitchers with 162+ IP (.761 OPS for his average opposing hitter). So, when Shields is able to post LIPS scores averaging under 4.00, that's more significant than Baker and Slowey doing so.
Some may worry about Shields' walk rate going up from 1.51 to 1.67 to 2.13 the past three seasons, and the trend this suggests, especially since it's dropped his K:BB rate from 5.11 to 3.21 in that span. But he's throwing with the same velocity, throwing more first-pitch strikes, and is generating about the same percentage of swings, with just as many missed swings on balls in the zone. In 2007, the contact% on swings against balls he threw outside the zone was particularly low, but his overall contact% allowed has been very consistent. In short, all his peripheral numbers point to consistency, and there's every reason to expect him to put up a season in keeping with his past three seasons ... so about a 3.80 to 3.90 ERA
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. Acta Sports is currently SOLD OUT. Until they publish more, the book can be ordered through major booksellers.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Jason Bay | New York | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.384/.537
Bay, always a pull hitter, put some loft on his swing in 2009 to clear the Green Monster, with somewhat predictable results. He recorded a career low of .68 in GB/FB and, not coincidentally, a career high with 49.1 FB%. Aided by a 19.7% HR/FB, his highest since 2004, he put up his best SLG since 2005, and set a career high in HRs, while also exceeding 2.00 Bash. On the downside, his BA dropped to its second-lowest level ever, right behind that awful 2007 you see in his mini-browser. You can also see his poor contact rate in 2009, which is partly to blame for that low BA; the rest is likely due to that new approach at the plate.
Much of his other skills are pretty much where you might expect them—his K% was higher than it has been lately, as was his BB%, but both are in line with his career averages. He was better in both departments with the Pirates, so his return to the NL might see him reverse some of those trends. Of greater importance would be the new environment he finds himself in: Citi Field. Gone is the Green Monster, 310 feet from home (and 37 feet high), and in its place is a fence 335 away and 15 feet high. The Mets announced this week that they're cutting the center field wall in front of the Home Run Apple in half, but that won't do much for a righty pull hitter like Bay.
The changed LF dimension could encourage him to try and lift the ball a bit less, however, even as it cuts back his power numbers. Fenway gave him more doubles (18 vs. 11 away from home) while it took away his homers (15 at home vs. 21 away), combining to drop 11 points of SLG at home, not all that significant. That says to me that it's unlikely that power shift in Citi will be all that dramatic, but it should still happen.
His counting numbers should drop somewhat with the Mets, who scored a massive 201 fewer runs than Boston did in 2009. New York will have a healthy Jose Reyes and (post-surgery) Carlos Beltran, while David Wright should have a better year, so it's not as bad as it looks at first blush, and they'll give him chances to drive runs in. He might not score as many runs, but getting into that 100-R/100-RBI neighborhood in his mini-browser isn't too much of a stretch.
GP also sees more steady production from Bay, though that low contact rate keeps us pessimistic that he'll crest .300, as he did in 2005. Combined with his modest HR potential, that drops his value in most leagues, counteracted a bit by the just-double-digit steals he'll bring you. He remains a top-flight option in OBP or other sabermetric leagues, where having a .900+ OPS outfielder is a great asset. For most owners, however, he's an excellent bet to return that $25 investment GP recommends—just don't go too much higher than that, as he remains just on the fringes of elite OFs, but is a solid investment nonetheless.
Billy Wagner | Atlanta | RP
2009 Final Stats: 14.9 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, 1.72 ERA
The Braves replaced the talented but injury-prone lefty-righty endgame combo of Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano by signing the talented but injury-prone lefty-righty endgame combo of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito. Saito's elbow scared everyone but Boston off before the 2009 season, while Wagner woke up from 2008 Tommy John surgery to find that K-Rod had taken his closer's role in New York.
Unlike the Gonzo-Soriano combo, Wagner is clearly the closer in Atlanta, with Saito as the righty setup man and closer-in-waiting they hope they'll never have to use. And the one question that can't be definitively answered with Wags is how he will rebound from that TJS. The good news is that he got to work his way back with about 22 innings of work last year, some of it at the minor-league level, and he's had the offseason to recover.
There isn't much bad news here, since Wagner looked strong in the short time he was on the mound in 2009, even if almost none of it was in high-leverage situations. We can't draw too many conclusions, as most of the work was with an AL team in Fenway, a rather idiosyncratic park. Still, what little we saw looked good, with strong strikeout numbers, and a 94 mph fastball that's consistent with the mild velocity decline he started showing in 2007. He threw the slider, too, which probably tells us the elbow is OK.
One way to project his potential in 2010 is to look at the team and park he's going to. Atlanta was below average in defensive efficiency in 2009 (their .685 was 5 points below NL average, and only four teams did worse), and (as I detailed in my Tommy Hanson writeup), the Braves' defense will be largely the same in 2010. He does move to a slightly more pitcher-friendly park, at least when compared to his time in Philly—Shea is nearly identical to Turner Field, both in terms of Park Factor and actual dimensions. Atlanta plays in a tough division and may not win a ton of games, but there's not always a direct correlation between saves and victories. If anything, their somewhat-tepid offense may lead to more close games.
The health question is the overriding one, undoubtedly why the Braves felt the need to sign both Saito and Wagner. Wags passed a physical, and TJS recovery has become so mundane as to be a virtual ritual for young pitchers. Wagner, however, is not a young pitcher, and surgery recovery combined with the natural aging process of a guy who'll turn 39 midseason raises a moderate red flag.
GP remains rather bullish on his prospects, and most projection systems see him with an ERA around 3 and a WHIP in the 1.15 territory, both excellent marks. His reduced velocity will likely lead to fewer strikeouts, and a rise in walks is also possible. Considering the injury factor, Wagner certainly drops from the top tier of fantasy closers, but he's still a very strong option with an outstanding track record. I'd call him a good buy, particularly if other owners are scared off by his TJS.
Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado | OF
2009 Final Stats: .284/.353/.525
Two different teams—Oakland and Arizona—gave up on CarGo's massive potential before Colorado finally saw him blossom. After getting called up in June, he took a little while to get going, and then exploded in August, part of the Jim Tracy Revival that launched the Rockies into the postseason. Gonzalez hit .371/.432/.714, vaulting to the leadoff spot, where he hit a tidy .300/.379/.573, including a whopping .333/.409/.654 leading off an inning and .391/.481/.913 as the first batter in the game.
While he's obviously a lock for a starting role as Colorado's left fielder, it's unlikely he'll lead off in 2010. As I discussed in December, that honor probably belongs to Dexter Fowler, who has better wheels than CarGo (54 SBs in 83 attempts over seven minor-league seasons) and a better batting eye. Tracy has yet to tip his hand about his leadoff man, and he could stick with what worked last season and leave Gonzalez there. But his power-hitting abilities (.484 minor-league SLG, including 161 2Bs and 88 HRs in 2729 PAs) and those aforementioned slow wheels (relative to Fowler, anyway) should put him lower in the order in the long term.
Of greater concern should be his plate discipline, as well as the small sample space we're looking at. He was certainly excellent in the last two months of 2010, but those represent just 209 PAs, and the 38% hit rate shows that a few balls fell his way. As for his aggressiveness at the dish, that 8% walk rate is an improvement over his career averages, as is his 25.2 K%, but neither are much better, and both spell a fair amount of streakiness for Gonzalez. Putting up contact rates in the mid-70s will also suppress any rise in batting average.
GP, as ever, is restrained in its estimation, and it's easy to see why with these markers. Decent power, decent speed, and decent batting average all add up to that $12 valuation, which is likely to seem like heresy to Rockies fans. That's because his breakout has been so long expected that when it arrived, people expect it to just continue. But experience with other prospects, as well as supporting stats like this, says that you should expect some struggles from Gonzalez in 2010.
That he's been so highly touted and had such a great finish to 2010 means other owners will overpay. Let them waste their money and save yours for more profitable investments. If you can get CarGo at a discount, do so, while keeper owners will have to exercise patience through the inevitable ups-and-downs of 2010. Gonzo's going to be good, but that trajectory's going to be a bit flatter than most people expect.
Ricky Nolasco | Florida | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.5 K/9, 4.4 K/BB, 5.06 ERA
Nolasco could be the poster child for FIP and its limitations. After extremely solid ratios in many areas, Nolasco ended 2009 with a 3.85 FIP, yet he had that awful ERA you see above. By all accounts, he had a fine year, but ERA, the metric that so many baseball fans (and fantasy leagues) use to measure pitchers completely failed to reflect that. But FIP tells you how good (or bad) a pitcher was, not what his ERA should have been, if only because ERA is based on lots of factors.
As always, luck is one the factors in Nolasco's 5.06 whopper—his career-worst .336 BABIP was well north of where it should have been. His 61 LOB% was another career low, and a further indicator that he ran into some bad luck. Fortunately, that kind of lowball LOB% performance usually indicates a rebound the following year. Because strand rate can indicate poor pitching as well as bad luck (bad pitchers are bad whether the bases are empty or full), it's not a lock that he'll improve, but it's very likely.
That he should do better is shown by those very nice strikeout and control rates you see in his GP mini-browser, which also tells you that both have been improving the past few years. His Fangraphs pitch data shows the improvement coming from his offspeed stuff, including a better slider and a new splitter. His fastball was actually his worst pitch, plummeting from 4.7 runs above average in 2008 to -15.5 in 2009. That could point the finger at John Baker; batters had an OPS 108 points higher with him behind the plate in 2009. Maybe he's calling for the fastball when he shouldn't, something we'll find out in 2010, when he's behind the plate again.
Another sign of caution comes from his weak home run rates, a result of being a borderline flyball pitcher with a slightly above-average HR rate in a home-run friendly home park. That's not likely to change, which gives his ERA a fair amount of instability. But if you're looking for a bargain pitcher with a very good upside who will deliver strikeouts and keep the WHIP down, Nolasco fits that bill.
Other owners might be scared off by that 5.06 ERA, or lose him in the long shadow of Josh Johnson, but Nolasco represents a great investment opportunity for you. The risky home run rates in one of baseball's toughest divisions should warn you against overbidding, but unless the other owners in your league read this column, you may not have to.
Chris Young | Arizona | OF
2009 Final Stats: .212/.311/.400
Chris Young nearly joined the 30-30 club as a rookie in 2007 (one double and three steals away from a 30-30-30 season, in fact) and placed fourth in ROY voting. That made 2008 a letdown for Young, when he failed to exceed 20 SBs or 25 HRs, even as he cracked 42 doubles. But that 2008 letdown seemed like a miracle next to 2009, in which Young did so miserably that he was sent down to Triple-A to straighten himself out. This seems insulting, except when you see that he was hitting .194/.297/.359 at the time, with 95 strikeouts, 45 walks, just 7 HRs and 11 steals. Young spent two weeks in Triple-A, and did well enough when he returned (.263/.351/.508) to bring his final BA to the still-sad state you see above.
So what happened to Young in 2010?
His swing, for one thing. Whether he wanted to reach that 30 HR plateau again or just wasn't seeing the ball well (or both), he started hitting the ball in the air more than ever before. His fly ball rate rose from 43% to 56%, pushing his infield fly rate to an absurd 22.4%. A guy with wheels like his should be hitting the ball on the ground more. A lot more.
His batting eye is clearly off, too. His strikeout rate has risen for the past four seasons, even as his walk rate has risen. That's happened while he's actually become more selective in his swings, taking cuts at fewer pitches outside the strike zone while maintaining excellent contact rates (85%) on those pitches inside the strike zone. From a statistician's perspective, that's not just contradictory, it's worrisome. If a hitter becomes less aggressive, and makes better contact, but his strikeouts continue to rise, that suggests he's losing confidence.
Another troublesome part of Young's skill set are his platoon splits. In his career, he's hit just .223 against RHP, which hovered around .235 in 2007-8. That plunged to .196 in 2009, while his .262 performance against LHP was only 9 points off career norms. And looking at some of the 2009 trends through the platoon lens yields even more interesting results. While an insane 63% of the balls he hit against lefties are fly balls (compared to just 53% vs. RHP), 25% of those fly balls vs. RHP became infield flies, and just 8% turned into home runs. Against lefties, 15% of those fly balls stayed in the infield, while 11% of them left the yard. This is no doubt why his 2009 BABIP against lefties was .319 (8 points higher than usual), while his 2009 BABIP against righties collapsed to .254, 14 points below normal.
Those are the most severe splits in those areas of his career, indicating a much different approach depending on who he's facing—or at least, radically different effects. That's got to mess with a guy's swing, and it may also mean that Young is just thinking too much, often the worst thing a batter can do. In any case, Young was clearly a mess in 2009, and that small 135-PA sample at the end of the season does little to inspire confidence.
BP sees a rebound coming, and that kind of dead cat bounce isn't too surprising—Young's got nowhere to go but up. Assuming that happens, he'll bring some SBs and HRs, while punishing your batting average. I don't like his skill set to beat that GP projection; even reaching it would seem like a triumph. The D-backs are on the hook for Young until 2013, and the poor return they've gotten on their investment makes him utterly unpalatable as trade bait. Still, Gerardo Parra could step in at any time, and A.J. Hinch has shown no compunction about removing struggling starters.
About the only advantage to Young is that other owners will be so sour on him that you could pick him up at a bargain price. In spite of how awful his 2009 season was, and how his skills are failing to coalesce, he could end up being a steal at the right price. You may find him available for much less than that $16 valuation, and he makes a great late-round gamble in snake drafts. Just don't push your luck, or that auction price, very much.
Pitchers and catchers report next week, but you can still download a 16-page sample of Graphical Player 2010 or buy a copy to prep for the season. And don't forget to check the new index for all the players I've covered this offseason, and leave suggestions for other players to cover in the comments below.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Yesterday, the Giants signed Todd Wellemeyer to a minor-league deal with an invitation to join the team in Scottsdale for Spring Training. Although the plan calls for Madison Bumgarner to be the team's fifth starter when camp breaks, that didn't stop the San Francisco Giants from adding a bit of insurance. It might not be good insurance, but the kind you need to have because you don't have it. Wellemeyer, 31, made 28 appearances, including 21 starts, for the St. Louis Cardinals last season after posting career best numbers in 2008.
In his first four and a half seasons, Wellemeyer made over 100 appearances as a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals. Upon his arrival to St. Louis in 2007, he was converted to a starter, and as mentioned, had a pretty decent 2008 campaign for the Cardinals. He won 13 games while pitching 191.2 innings over 32 starts with a 3.71 ERA. All of those numbers reflect career highs.
In 2009, the glass slipper fell off and so did part of his shoulder. Whether it was due to the increased workload or not, he made just 21 starts and threw 122 inning of unimpressive 5.89 ERA ball. Looking at his LIPS ERA, it's not surprising that his 2008 season had a little bit of luck sprinkled on top. LIPS had him pegged with an ERA of 4.24, or a little more than half a run higher than his real total.
On the other hand, LIPS suggest that his 5.89 ERA in 2009 includes a bit of bad luck. Last season's LIPS ERA of 4.90 was a full run lower than his actual number. His BABIP also suggest more of the same. A career .300 BABIP pitcher, he enjoyed a .273 mark in 2008, but saw that shoot up to a .346 in 2009 despite actually seeing a slight decrease in line drives allowed.
Regardless of metric, Wellemeyer was below average in 2009. Throw in an additional candle on the birthday cake and a questionable shoulder and you can see why he signed a minor league deal. Throughout his career he has posted strikeout rates around 6.5 per nine innings, but not surprisingly those numbers have dipped to around 6.0 as a starter. He also walks more than you would like and gives up home runs at a sightly elevated pace.
Unless Bumgarner is just not ready, I find it hard to see Wellemeyer beating him for a rotation spot. Nonetheless, should that happen or if there were an injury to one of the other starting pitchers pop up, then Wellemeyer is a cheap band-aid option for the Giants. Unless you are just desperate for a starting pitcher, I would avoid Wellemeyer in any league.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:55am
1. Christian Friedrich / SP / Friedrich heads a terrific group of starting pitching prospects with his four-pitch arsenal, highlighted by his knee-buckling curveball. He needs to adapt more of an attacking style, and his command could use more work, but he has the look of a future ace.
2. Jhoulys Chacin / SP / Chacin induces a tremendous groundball rate from his varied arsenal. His velocity and command are average at this point, but he could be an effective Coors Field No. 2 starter.
3. Tyler Matzek / SP / Matzek has the raw tools necessary to be a future ace. He has a strong four-pitch repertoire, and every one of them has the chance to be at least average. His command needs serious work, but the potential is through the roof.
4. Eric Young / 2B/OF / Young is an underrated fantasy sleeper heading into 2010 due to his exceptional speed and ability to get on base. He should hit the ground running in Colorado, and could be a top-of-the-lineup force for years to come.
5. Rex Brothers / SP/RP / With sharpened command, Brothers could have a great fastball/slider combination. His lack of a change-up and questionable endurance are strikes against his bid to become a starter, but Brothers has a promising left arm. We'll know more about his future role very soon.
6. Mike McKenry / C / With his solid all-around game, McKenry is an underrated catching prospect. His bat combines together strong contact skills, above-average plate discipline, and a bit of power to give Colorado a potentially solid everyday catching option very soon.
7. Nolan Arenado / 3B / Fresh out of high school, Arenado has shown a quick bat and terrific contact skills. He also has raw power in his bat, and if it develops his stock could explode.
8. Wilin Rosario / C / Rosario posted a mildly disappointing 2009. His bat and defense both have a long way to go, but he was young for the California League. My guess is that he will get another chance to conquer Advanced-A competition. Next year I'll be looking for more power, a better contact rate, and signs of improved plate discipline.
9. Chris Balcom-Miller / SP / Balcom-Miller had a terrific 11-start debut in the Pioneer League, showing off a solid three-pitch mix, highlighted by his superb change-up. This is an aggressive ranking, but one that may be more than justified after we see him in full-season ball.
10. Tim Wheeler / OF / Wheeler has plus speed, but his contact skills appear to be a lot of hype at this point. He doesn't have much power either, but he does have upside in every aspect of his game. I'm willing to give him a year to win me over.
San Diego Padres
1. Donavan Tate / OF / Tate has the raw tools to be a star. He has plus raw power and speed, but he has some serious refinements to make before those tools result in home runs and stolen bases. San Diego made him the No. 3 pick overall for a reason. They think he is a five-tool talent who, given enough time to develop, has a good chance to be an impact player. I'm buying it.
2. Jaff Decker / OF / Decker is a 20-year-old with some of the best plate discipline in the minor leagues, and some serious power in his bat to back it up. He still has major holes in his swing to clean up, but with another uptick in his overall development and similar production at a higher level, he could challenge Tate for San Diego's No. 1 prospect spot.
3. Simon Castro / SP / Castro's command hit a new level in 2009, meaning his mid-90s fastball was too much for the Midwest League to handle. I can't wait to see if his slider takes a leap forward in 2010 and becomes his out pitch.
4. James Darnell / 3B / Darnell has good plate discipline and average current contact ability. Combine that with his solid, demonstrated power and San Diego appears to have a future asset at third base on its hands.
5. Edinson Rincon / OF/3B / Rincon has shown an advanced bat for his age, with some developing power and terrific plate patience backing it up. I need to see him against better competition, but his potential is immense and underrated.
6. Wynn Pelzer / SP / Pelzer has a solid low-90s fastball and an emerging slider. His command comes and goes, and his violent delivery leads many to believe that his future lies in the bullpen. But if his command improves and his change-up takes a step forward, his bid to start will be strengthened.
7. Logan Forsythe / 3B/OF / Forsythe has the patience at the plate to play in the majors right now, but his swing still has some holes and, more importantly, there isn't much power to speak of, which is disconcerting for a player who will have to make his living at a corner position.
8. Rymer Liriano / OF / At just 18 years old, Liriano is understandably undisciplined at the plate, and he has some gaping holes to iron out, but the athletic young man has a great-looking swing and some raw power to work with. He is one to watch.
9. Aaron Poreda / RP/SP / Poreda's lack of secondary stuff, troublesome delivery, and shaky command lead me to believe that he will be a bullpen arm. But he has time to develop into a late-inning role, as his mid-90s fastball and track record of success cannot be ignored.
10. Everett Williams / OF / Williams is a wholly untested high schooler who is known for having a bit of a power/speed combination to work with, but on the downside he is also known for having an undisciplined bat that is littered with holes. I'm willing to give him a shot to impress me, though.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:30am
When it comes to draft or auction strategy, it is always extremely useful to plan ahead and to think about what you want to do later in the draft/auction (from now on, I'll just refer to a draft) when planning your first moves. But, don't get too caught up in your masterful late-round strategies.
Whether you're the type of player that comes into a draft with a full ranking and/or dollar values for all players or if you're the type that comes in with a few gut feelings and casual sentiments, I bet that you always think at least several moves in advance during a draft. If you use a draft queue to remind yourself of some players you're interested in in your league's "draft room," then you're definitely planning ahead.
Planning ahead is inescapable and helpful. Perhaps you "reach" for a particular second baseman because he's the last one left that you put any decent value on. That's planning ahead. Perhaps you decide to first draft a shortstop because there are still many acceptable closers left. That's planning ahead.
A form of planning ahead is called "backward iterating" or "backward induction." The above examples are fuzzy cases of backward iteration. Basically, you think about what you're going to do several steps ahead and that, in some way, helps you decide what to do in the first or present step. So much expert advice, if you listen closely, is a form of backward induction.
Here's the thing, though: You must work in the element of chance, of uncertainty. Whether or not you backward iterate, there's no getting rid of chance. But a common mistake is to put too much faith in your end-of-draft strategies, leading you to make early-round mistakes.
An example: You've done your valuations and compared them to some ADPs or consensus valuations. You see, perhaps, that you project Ryan Doumit to be a 15th-round value but that his ADP is (just making this up) in the 21st round. "Ah ha," you say, "I can wait on drafting a catcher and still get a good late-round value." Moreover, even though Victor Martinez is still on the board at the end of the sixth round (making him a good value, according to your projections), you wait on getting a catcher, prioritizing other positions first. You'll draft Doumit in perhaps the 17th round and still make an expected profit.
But what happens if by then someone else has taken Doumit? You may be left with Rod Barajas or some such character.
The problem is that your strategy was contingent on a very distant forecast—in this case, at least 10 rounds into the future. Ten rounds is likely an eternity in drafts—equivalent to forecasting the rain a month out or presidential elections 20 years hence. There's lots and lots of potential variance. Sure, you can probably forecast where a player will be drafted on average (ADP does a pretty good job of this, almost a fortiori). But strategies such as the one above aren't built on average; they are built on forecasting extremes. You really don't want to be too late drafting a position if you're backward iterating in such a risky manner.
The use and misuse of backward iteration casts a tightrope that we all must walk. On the one hand, drafting a "steals guy" in the second round just because you drafted a "power guy" in the first round seems excessively precautionary. Don't give up the chance to draft another "power guy" who may be the better value at that point; you'll be able to get steals later. However, you shouldn't put all your eggs in the Nyjer Morgan basket for the 10th round either, drafting only non-steals guys till then. Same goes especially for closers. Whether or not you subscribe to some version of the "don't pay for closers" mantra, planning on getting a specific closer in the late rounds is folly.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:10am
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
After breaking into the league in a big way by hitting 11 home runs in 30 games with the Mets in 2005, first baseman Mike Jacobs was dealt to the Marlins as part of the Carlos Delgado deal. After a brutal year in Kansas City after another offseason trade, he hit the open market when they declined to tender him a contract. At 29, he's still relatively in his prime, and his power is plus: he hit 32 home runs in 2008 with the Marlins and his career ISO is .222.
The Mets are projected to start the season with Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis dominating the playing time at first base, but Jacobs could actually offer the Mets something the other two options can't, and that's the power potential. Murphy's career ISO is .161, unimpressive for a first baseman, and Tatis isn't exactly anyone's image of an everyday first baseman on a contending team. Jacobs certainly shouldn't play everyday, but it's worth noting that he has a career wOBA of .350 against right-handed pitching, with a 16.4% HR/FB and significantly better strikeout and walk rates.
Jacobs looks the part of a nice left-handed portion of a platoon if he can take time away from Murphy, who also happens to be a left-handed hitter. His defense is below average and he'll never get on-base enough for a corner position player, but the 30+ HR power is real, and a lot of his issues can be masked to an extent by shielding him from left-handed pitching.
The former top catching prospect has some work to do to push his way into New York's depth chart, but given the lack of options in Queens and Jacobs' monster home run potential, he's a name to keep an eye on if he manages to make his way onto New York's roster. Honestly, New York would probably be better off with a bench of Thole, Jacobs, Cora, Tatis and Pagan, but there's a decent chance that they settle for Blanco, Tatis, Cora, Pagan and Matthews Jr. A lot of people have written off Jacobs, but he could be a good sleeper in NL-only leagues.
Posted by Satchel Price at 10:38am
One of the most frequently recurring complaints from fantasy leaguers is that of deadbeat owners, those who cease to improve their team, or even regularly rotate their players, once it becomes clear that he/she has no shot at winning the league. We know that the best way to prevent such a situation is to carefully vet and select participants in your league before it begins. However, we also know that sometimes it’s not so easy to find 10 to 14 committed players with a proven track record of taking fantasy sports seriously. Further, sometimes an otherwise reliable league mate with a good track record goes rogue and inexplicably becomes a deadbeat. In one of my leagues last year, a participant who had been reliable for several seasons inexplicably went deadbeat on the group. In one of my football leagues this past year, one of my league mates (and one of the best players) went deadbeat out of spite to protest what he felt was insufficient communication surrounding a last-minute change to the scoring system. The point is, these situations can arise even when there is sufficient foresight when populating the league.
If selecting quality participants is the first line of defense against deadbeat-ing, the actual league rules, settings, and, in some cases, keeper structure, comprise the second line. I’ve read several subtle wrinkles in league structures to dissuade deadbeat-ing, but few radical fixes. For the sake of discussion, I’d like to propose a radical alternative league structure that will do more to dissuade a potential deadbeat than the most common tweaks to the current system.
Let’s just be honest about things; most leagues are played for stakes. And it is participants in those leagues who are much more resentful of deadbeats. I find it relatively strange that there aren’t more popular alternative payout structures to fantasy leagues, especially when opening up the door to tweaking such structures creates myriad opportunities to build incentives for players to remain competitive throughout the season. Allow me to theorize one example.
For the sake of simplicity, presume you are organizing a five-by-five rotisserie style league consisting of 10 teams, with each participant throwing 100 units in the pot. This is not an uncommon structure (though 12-team leagues are probably the standard). It’s also not uncommon for the payouts to be structured something like 600/300/100 for first, second, and third place respectively. This traditional model rewards the top two finishers with profit and the third-place finisher with what is ostensibly a mulligan. The problem is that by midseason, it becomes clear for nearly half the league that they are out of contention for first place, and for some out of contending for any of the “money” spots. Without substantial disincentive for finishing last, and no meaningful difference, beyond pride, for finishing fourth over ninth, it’s tempting for some participants to de-prioritize even the minimum standard of team maintenance. We all know how this story plays out, and we all know how deadbeat teams and owners affect the entire dynamic of the league. They skew point distribution in roto leagues and win totals in head-to-head leagues (especially if the schedule is imbalanced), they cut large chunks of players out of the trade market, and not only do they make the league less competitive, but they make the league less fun too!
When analyzing the motivation to deadbeat, three dynamics of the traditional league (compensation) model seem to enable a potential deadbeat: lack of sufficient penalty for finishing last, no meaningful distinction between “non-money” finishes, and seemingly insurmountable climbs from the bottom of the league to “the money.” Well, can’t we easily fix this by manipulating a league’s pay structure? What if you set up a model, in which you cut the base entry fee in half and then instituted a secondary tiered payout scale based on the final standings?
Hypothetically speaking, let’s slash the base entry fee of our ten team, five-by-five, league, from 100 units to 50, and pay out the first, second, and third place winners, 300/150/50. Then, in addition let’s institute a secondary payout model based on point differential that matches teams up directly and becomes arithmetically more punitive down each level of the standings, starting from the bottom half. So, sixth place pays out fifth place one unit per each point he is behind in the standings. From there we match 7-4, 8-3, 9-2, and 10-1, while increasing the factor by which they pay per point differential by a half.
Let’s take a look at hypothetical final standings for this league. (I’m totally picking these numbers out of my fanny [Keith Hernandez™], but they seem fairly reflective of a normal league.)
1st place: 76
2nd place: 68
3rd place: 58
4th place: 54
5th place: 51
6th place: 43
7th place: 41
8th place: 40
9th place: 37
10th place: 32
So, in this case:
Six owes five 8 units (8 point difference at a factor of 1)
Seven owes four 19.5 units (13 point difference at a factor of 1.5)
Eight owes three 36 units (18 point difference at a factor of 2)
Nine owes two 78.5 units (31 point difference at a factor of 2.5)
Ten owes one 132 units (44 point difference at a factor of 3)
When combined with the base contributions, the final profits look like this:
1st place: 432 (350 + 132) - 50
2nd place: 128.5 (100 + 78.5) -50
3rd place: 36 (50 + 36) -50
4th place: -30.5 (19.5 – 50)
5th place: -42 (8 – 50)
6th place: -58 (-8 + -50)
7th place: -69.5 (-19.5 + -50)
8th place: -86 (-36 + -50)
9th place: -128.5 (-78.5 + -50)
10th place: - 182 (-132.5 + -50)
Total pot: 774 (500 base + 274 secondary)
In this model, the total pot isn’t fixed. We know that there will be five hundred total points among a ten-team, ten-category league, but the differentials between the teams determine the overall size of the secondary pot. The differential between teams gets more costly when middle of the pack is more tightly clustered while the extremes are further apart (because of the increasing multiplier of the point differential as we approach the outliers).
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at our hypothetical in comparison to an extrapolation of the traditional model. A traditional pot with a total value of 774 would mean that each participant contributes 77.4 units, and the first, second and third finishers take a 60/30/10 split, respectively (464.4, 232.2, 77.4, or profit after entry fee: 386.6/154.8/0). So, the top three finishers all profit more from this model because they aren’t even contributing to the secondary pot, and therefore their entry fees don’t cut into their shares of those profits.
The fourth through seventh place teams pay less than their “fair share” (10%) of the total pot either because their winnings mitigate some of their entry fee, or their debts on the secondary pot are minimal enough that they fail to represent 10% of the total pot even when combined with the base entry fee.
The bottom three teams in the league pay out more than 10% of the total pot each, in this hypothetical. Here, the eighth-place team ostensibly breaks even versus the traditional model, being on the hook for 8.6 extra units, while the true cellar dwellers really get punished, coughing up 51.1 and 104.6 extra units respectively.
Philosophically, this model addresses all the would-be motivations to deadbeat. There is a clear disincentive to finishing in last place as well as clear relative rewards/punishments for each successive position outside the top three, and to “climb” into the money spot of the secondary pot, a team must only catapult itself to the top half of the standings, a much more realistic leap for a team sitting at the bottom of the league 40% through the season.
It should be mentioned that as you add more teams and/or additional categories to the league, there are more points available. Usually those points aren’t spread out evenly. It seems like a fair estimate that in most roto leagues, the champ acquires 75-80% of the points available to a single team, while the last place team acquires in the 25–30% range. Adding two extra categories to our league, and using a 75-25 model for the first- and last-place teams, you would increase the point differential between these teams from 50 (75-25) to 60 (90-30). It is these extremes who also face the highest multipliers, which means that adding categories could “run up the bill” pretty quickly. Adding teams also adds points and could add levels of multipliers—though it’s not necessary to add another level for every two teams.
Expanding the model above to 12 teams, you could either tweak the escalation of the factors (1, 1.4, 1.8, 2.2, 2.6, 3), group the factors 7/6 and 8/5 at 1, 9/4 and 10/3 at 2, 11/2 and 12/1 at 3), or simply cut the 7/6 out of the secondary market, keeping them neutral and starting the secondary market payouts at the 8/5 level. Really, there are infinite ways to tweak the model to make it more or less aggressive and to alter the proportionate profits between each level (you can make the system more top heavy or more balanced if you so choose).
You could also adapt this model for head-to-head leagues, using “games behind” as a substitute for point differential.
This is just one alternative model for structuring a league. I’ve toyed with other ideas that center on paying out each category by performance within it, and I’m sure there are viable structures down that path as well. I presume this would actually affect the way teams strategize more than the model proposed at length in this column, though I’m not sure whether that’s something that should be considered a demerit of the system simply for its own sake.
There are probably some who would think any of these alternative models are blasphemous, but I’m not sure I see it that way. While I love fantasy baseball in its conservative, traditional form—deadbeat-inducing shortcomings and all—I also see the game, on a broader level, somewhat similarly to how I see poker. There are lots of different kinds of poker games and lots of different betting structure options, sometimes even relative to a single game (no limit, pot limit, etc.). I’m sure there are those who think that, say, five-card stud with nothing wild is the only true, pure, form of poker as well. That would be their opinion, but they are certainly in the minority with it. And, since I’m postmodern and iconoclastic in so many other areas of my thinking, I can’t possibly reject any of these other models on the basis that they would be “weird,” “too complicated,” or “(non-fundamentally) alter the premise of the game.”
As always, when it comes to determining rules and league structures, the idea is to work to develop a model that works best for the group it will be governing. Some groups prefer a more equitable distribution of the spoils and more spots that “place,” while others prefer more of a winner-take-all paradigm. While I do think this proposed model has some very attractive merits, I’m not endorsing it as, per se, superior to the conventional system. Above all, I encourage people to take a needs-based approach to developing their league structures and seek to maximize the fun factor and competitiveness of their leagues by tweaking set-ups, and even thinking outside of the box when doing so, if necessary.
Here’s an example of an experiment I recently tried. In fantasy football, I often run into the problem that people get angry and dejected when they have a very good week, outscoring all the teams in the league except the one they were matched up against. So, in a couple of my football leagues, we’ve paid out most total points in addition to regular season champ, and playoff winner and runner-up. This year in one league we experimented with a further tweak to that model. Instead of most total points, we paid out small weekly prizes to the team with the highest point total of the week, in addition to the regular season winner, and playoff champ and runner-up. In an endeavor like fantasy football, where there’s much more randomness than fantasy baseball, people seemed to like that there were more ways to win something and that every week they had a chance to win something even if they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Sometimes you may have to sacrifice the weight of the grand prize to create additional incentives to keep the league as engaged and competitive (and “pure”) as possible throughout the course of the season.
There are some dynamics likely to be present in each group of participants. Usually a first and second division emerges among the owners in a specific league and it influences preferences regarding league settings. For example, in my main league we operate in four-year cycles with escalating entry fees and in increasing number of keepers each year before starting from scratch (full redraft after each cycle). When we negotiate entry fees, the more historically successful owners are more likely to endorse higher entry fees and larger year-to-year jumps, while the less successful owners usually vote for lower fees and often stipulate when fees hit a certain level, it trigger an additional “money spot.”
One of the attractive features of the model proposed in this article is that it can appeal to owners in both groups. As you saw, the overall champ and runner-up took a greater share of the pot than a traditional model of the same pot would offer. Additionally, finishing in the top 70% was softer on the wallet in this model. Only the lowest performing teams get soaked in this model, and there is still incentive to fight for every last point because everything counts, from place of finish to margin of victory.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:51am
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
For someone who writes about fantasy baseball, ADP (Average Draft Position) is a fun statistic. For instance, doing something as simple as graphing ADP against itself can visualize some aspects of what occurs during a draft. This ADP data, by the way, are from Yahoo drafts for the 2008 season, meaning these drafts occurred before the season began.
The interesting part of this graph is not where the dots are located, but their distance from each other. Noticing how they are relatively bunched at the edges and less dense in the middle reinforces my sentiment in this article—that drafting in the middle rounds is the most difficult.
Fantasy baseballers cannot agree where to take players in these rounds and therefore few players end up with an average draft position in the 100s. Because it is more of a "who" to take rather than a "where" at the end of a draft, you end up with the clustering after the 200 ADP mark that you see.
Ostensibly the reason people drafted these players where they did is because of the stats these players accumulated in the previous year. Comparing a player's 2007 numbers with his 2008 ADP can provide us with some insight into which of the fantasy stats we target the most in drafts. Before we get buried in numbers, though, let's first look at some graphs starting with home runs, since I figure they will be an important determinant.
This graphs shows us that it is not imperative to hit a ton of home runs to be taken early, as depicted by the dots toward the lower left of the graph. Also, hitting around 25 home runs seems to be the magic number to get a hitter out of the 200+ ADP cluster and from there a nicely defined linear slope brings us to Alex Rodriguez' 54 home runs in 2007 and his corresponding 1.2 ADP in 2008.
Next we will look at stolen bases, which might present a graph that looks radically different from the plateau-shaped home run graph.
This graph actually looks somewhat similar to the home run graph; it features the same basic shape except with more players on the left extreme and fewer to the right one. Simply looking at the graph, though, the dispersion appears more random, whereas on the home run graph there was a more visible downward slope.
Even more random than the stolen bases graph is the one comparing batting average to ADP.
Since batting average is a rate stat, I increased the at-bat threshold to 400 to eliminate possible fluky batting averages attained over a couple of hundred at-bats. Despite that, a player's batting average appears to have a small effect on where he is drafted. Intuition tells me there must be some degree of correlation, but compared to home runs and stolen bases it appears to be small.
Last we will look at the graph of runs, which appear to correlate well with next year's ADP, although later we will find out that may not be the case.
As you can see there is a well-defined, generally downward slope to the right, suggesting a correlation. Sometimes with graphs looks can be deceiving, as the next section will show.
Looking at pretty graphs is nice, but let's not get distracted from the purpose of the data. What the data can tell is which of the five main fantasy stats have the largest impact on where a player gets drafted in the following year. For this I used a multivariate regression, two multivariate regressions actually—one using the stats as counting stats with average converted to hits, and the second with them as rate stats, so for example home runs became home runs per at-bat. The results of the regressions are summarized in the following tables.
For the coefficients column, a lower coefficient means the stat is more significant. So in counting form home runs edge out stolen bases as the most significant with runs and hits the least important. The "P-value" column shows the significance of the coefficient with anything under .05 statistically significant, meaning home runs, RBI, and especially stolen bases pass the significance test. As I hinted before, runs were extraordinarily insignificant compared to the other stats.
Once again home runs and stolen bases jump out as the big players, with not surprisingly batting average rising in importance since this is its home court, so to speak. And once again runs display their general lack of relevance.
The one part of these charts I have failed to mention yet is the coefficient of the intercept. The fun activity you can do with these is create a rough estimate of where a player will be drafted given his stat line for a season. Multiplying a player's stats in each category by its coefficient, adding those numbers up and then subtracting from the intercept coefficient will generate a rough estimate of that player's ADP. For example if you took Todd Helton's 2007 line of 86 runs, 17 homers, 91 RBI, no stolen bases, and 178 hits and plugged it in:
Estimated ADP = 370.6 - (86 * .3829) - (17 * 2.25) - (91 * 1.1258) - (0 * 2.1) - (178 * .3875) = 128.5
Helton's estimated ADP of 128.5 is remarkably close to his actual ADP that year of 135.4 given the crudeness of the model (using only one year of data from one website) and the fact that it does not take into account any positional adjustment. This model worked well for this set of data with an R-Squared of .8, but that is not overly surprising considering the model was created off the 2007 season-2008 ADP data. At this point this ADP model probably will not work tremendously well for the 2009 season stats, but given a few more years of data added it could become an interesting tool for leagues that draft early in the offseason, or for some historical context on a player's ADP.
I know this article does more of confirming what we might have already suspected—that home runs and steals are the most significant when it comes to determining ADP—instead of providing us with new information, but there still are lessons to be taken away.
First, the insignificance of runs in the regressions points to a possible inefficiency in the fantasy marketplace. People most likely assume runs are a byproduct of other skills and ignore them when ranking players. A system that would take into account position in batting order, team runs per game, and of course the player's skill level could more accurately predict expected run totals and make rankings more accurate.
The xADP model I debuted is something that could become a powerful fantasy tool given a few more years of ADP data, and hopefully you saw a glimpse of that.
I'll end with a confession and display of gratitude to colleague Nick Steiner, who ran the multivariate regressions that spewed out the coefficient values that were instrumental to this article. I am more statistically illiterate than you might assume and do not have the savvy to run such regressions. I owe a big thanks to him for his time and effort.
Posted by Paul Singman at 8:29am
Monday, February 08, 2010
It is one of those things you remember just because. Although he only played seven games for the Yankees that season, I still remember June 10, 2002 when the rookie Marcus Thames smashed a home run off Randy Johnson for his first career hit. Nearly eight years later, Johnson is newly retired and Thames is back in the Bronx. Signing a minor league deal with Yankees, Thames' job will remain similar to the one he had on in his first major league assignment;hit left-handed pitching.
The new version of the Yankees must ball on a budget; a $200 million dollar budget, but a budget nonetheless. After finding the price tag for Johnny Damon a bit too rich for their taste, New York has turned to cheaper alternatives to solve their left field void. With Brett Gardner already in-house, they have added Randy Winn and now Thames. Depending on the opposing pitcher, left field figures to be a rotating door.
When Winn signed there were immediate questions about his ability to hit left-handed pitching. A switch-hitter, Winn owns a career slash line of .280/.330/.432 against lefties. However, in 2009 he hit just .180/.184/.200 against them. When Looking at those numbers, I tend to go with the career sample size of nearly 1,200 plate appearances over the 125 of last season. There is also the 2009 .179 BABIP against southpaws vs the .301 career BABIP that would suggest '09 as an outlier. Nonetheless, the addition of Thames should easy any fears of Winn's potential shortcomings against left-hander.
As mentioned, Thames career started with a home run off a left-hander. From there he has continued to hit well against lefties to the tune of a career slash line of .256/.329/.516 against them. Combine that with Winn's slash line of .294/.353/.430 against right-handed pitching and you have the makings of a good, not great platoon. However, there is a problem; Thames is an awful outfielder.
In just over 2,200 innings in the outfield, Thames has put up a -15.8 UZR and a UZR/150 of -9.5. In a smaller sample size, his numbers in left field are worse. This is where Brett Gardner comes in. Less of a hitter than the other two pieces of the puzzle (although he was at least average in 2009), Gardner is a plus defender with speed. He would make a nifty caddy for Thames as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement.
Of course the Yankees could stick to the plan of a Winn/Gardner platoon and still use Thames. Assuming the Yankees carry Gardner, a back-up catcher, and a reserve middle infielder, there would be one spot on the bench for Thames as a right-handed power bat. He could also spell Nick Johnson a DH and would serve as an insurance policy in the event Johnson gets bit by the injury bug again. As far as fantasy is concerned, right now Thames is not a good option in any league. However, I would closely track his progress during Spring and if he does win himself a platoon job he could provide some cheap power for your squad.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:47pm
Clay Buchholz has struggled to establish himself in the Red Sox rotation ever since starting with a bang. Since his no-hitter he has held a major league ERA of 5.73 in the following two seasons. I was running a review of him a few weeks ago and found an interesting comparison though when looking at his skills. That pitcher is none other than Felix Hernandez, although he was much quicker to establish himself in Seattle.
Looking at his number so far you might wonder where the comparison comes from. So far their strikeouts and walks have been far from identical.
K/9 BB/9 Buchholz 7.65 4.11 Hernandez 8.06 2.85
Buchholz has closed with strikeouts, but is quite a ways away from him in walks. Like most pitchers he has struggled with his walk numbers early on and even Hernandez has been over 3.50 in his career. Buchholz has a minor league BB/9 of 2.50, so it's fairly reasonable to expect that rate to come down to a solid number.
We saw that this past season he made some adjustments late in the year and saw some changes in his rates. In the last seven games of 2009 his K/9 was 7.53, but his BB/9 dropped to 2.38. What changed is tough to say, although his changeup rate dropped game by game and as Evan Brunell discussed here perhaps that has been why he struggles with left handers. I have my doubts about this theory on the whole as it's a small sample size in the majors and for his overall lefty/righty splits. If you compare his tOPS splits (92/109) to the 2009 American league average (92/108) there isn't much to say that he was any more interesting than anyone else.
So what changed in those last seven games that allowed him to gain control and can he repeat it? His number of sliders per game rose and his number of changeups dropped as well. He's also still dealing with a change in arm slot the Red Sox requested of him in 2008. That change coincided with a huge spike in walks in 2008 and it seems he is still figuring out how to pitch from the new slot. This should help keep him healthy, but hopefully he has figured this out.
Getting outs and limiting walks is not the only challenge for Buchholz to be like King Felix, though. He needs to maintain his elite groundball numbers. Not only does Hernandez pitch half his games in a great stadium for pitchers, he also keeps the ball on the ground to great levels. His numbers have dropped recently, but his career rate of 56.8 percent grounders is sixth among pitchers with 900-plus IP since 2002.
Buchholz has grown in his ability to keep the ball on the ground going from 38.5 percent in 2007 to 47.7 percent in 2008. He then made a bug step forward last year reaching 53.8 percent. There is reason to believe he can maintain these levels as his 2009 Triple-A rate was 52.5 percent. This isn't the elite levels of Hernandez first few seasons, but near his 52 percent and 53 percent of 2008 and 2009.
Other things going for Buchholz this year is the defense surrounding him should be improved. He had a BABIP of .289 last year, so he didn't suffer from that, but that shouldn't suddenly swing the other way either.
Buchholz is looking at finally getting that shot he has earned to start a full season with the big team. The fan base and fantasy owners will be looking for big things and a comparison with King Felix will surely make those expectations even higher. Perhaps this might be the farthest apart two players have been that I compared in ADP. Buchholz currently has an ADP of 190 and Hernandez is at 28 according to MockDraftCentral. While they aren't going to finish neck and neck, this comparison can show us how much more valuable Buchholz can be than his draft position.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 4:21am
Saturday, February 06, 2010
The Twins recently signed Orlando Hudson to a one year $5 million contract to take over every day second base duties from Nick Punto. In examining the deal, it would appear to offer a slight boost to Hudson's fantasy value for the 2010 season. As the Twins lineup is constructed currently, it would appear Hudson will be slotted second in the lineup, meaning he'll be hitting behind Denard Span (2008 OBP: .387; 2009 OBP: .392) and in front of high batting average slugger Joe Mauer (2008 AVG: .328; 2009 AVG: .365). While projecting run and RBI totals can be tricky, it would be a pretty safe guess that if Orlando Hudson is able to stay healthy for 600 or more plate appearances he should be able to contribute positively in one, if not both, counting stat categories given his respectable batting average ( 2008 AVG: .305; 2009 AVG: .283) and solid on-base skills (2008 OBP: .367; 2009 OBP: .357). Hudson will likely lag in home runs and stolen bases as his career high in home runs is only 15 (2006) and stolen bases is only 10 (2007).
While the signing doesn't signify a major increase to Hudson's value, it does put him on the radar in deep leagues, AL-only leagues, and leagues that use a middle infield (MI) position. Hudson won't hurt owners in BA, has a reasonable shot to eclipse 15 home runs plus stolen bases, and contribute positively in runs and RBI's, all of which adds up to a fairly ho-hum MI option. Perhaps the most important aspect of Hudson's signing with the Twins is that it could be a domino that sets off other second base signings (Adam Kennedy also recently signed with the Washington Nationals, a team that had talks with, and interest in signing Orlando Hudson) such as that of Felipe Lopez.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 7:06pm
Friday, February 05, 2010
Kevin Gregg has quietly remained available on the market while watching other closers and set-up men find new addresses. With two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, Gregg has settled on a new home and will take his slider and sunglasses north to Toronto. Although the deal isn't final at this hour, Gregg is expected to finalize a one-year contract worth a reported $2.75 million dollars with the Blue Jays. There is also some option years included that could push the deal over the $10 million dollar mark.
Nearly $3 million dollars seems like a pretty penny to pay a man who lost his closers role mid-season and finished the season with an ERA 4.72. However, there is more than meets the eye with Gregg’s 2009 season. Looking at his peripheral stats, he enjoyed one of his better seasons. The 9.31 strikeouts per nine innings was one-tenth off of his career high of 9.32 and his 3.93 walks per nine was the lowest total he’s put up since 2006.
Gregg’s 2009 struggles came in the form of the home run. After allowing just 10 home runs over the previous two seasons with the Marlins, he served up 13 round trippers in his only years with the Cubs. I guess after allowing back to back seasons with a home-run to fly-ball rate of under six percent, the baseball gods served some extra regression his Mr. Gregg’s plate. His HR/9 of 1.70 was easily a career high as was his HR/FB of 15.3%. This led helped contribute to that ugly ERA and an even uglier 4.93 FIP.
According to LIP ERA, Gregg received nearly a half run extra on his ERA. LIPS had him pegged at a 4.2 ERA with a xHR/FB nearly 5% less than his real total. For comparisons, he had an xFIP of 4.18 which jives with the previous sentence.
Trying to look for other theories other than some bad mojo, I did notice that Gregg used his slider nearly 10% more than his career average (up 5% year over year) and threw less fastballs than normal. That’s strange since his fastball has historically been his best pitch according to pitch values. I also noticed he lost a little over velocity across the board.
Whatever the reason behind the home run barrage, it’s not likely to last. And like the end of last season, Gregg is not going to be asked to close in Toronto; at least not right away.
With Jason Frasor and Scott Downs in the mix, Gregg is now the third wheel. However, at his salary, I would guess that the Blue Jays may expect a little more than just setting up. If the expected regression in home runs takes place, I would expect his FIP to settle in around 3.80.
Over the course of 70 innings, that would make him nearly a 1 WAR reliever. If the Jays are not contending in mid-July, which they aren’t expected to, at a relatively modest price, Gregg could be an attractive name to a contender at the deadline. As a fantasy target, he’s definitely of a name to keep your eye on as the back of the Jays bullpen takes form.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:00am
Francisco Liriano | Minnesota | SP
2009 Final Stats: 8.0 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 5.80 ERA
Rotoworld.com's latest blurb - January 28 - about Liriano begins:
Francisco Liriano allowed just one hit and struck out 10 over five innings Thursday in the final game of the Dominican Winter League championship.
Liriano looked incredibly sharp, hitting 95 MPH consistently with his fastball and displaying a tight break on his slider.
Expounding on the good news further, MLB.com's Winter League stats report that he walked just 2 batters in 11.2 IP in the DWL. Now, he wasn't facing too many guys like Miguel Cabrera in the Dominican Winter League, but the “buzz” seems very much warranted with him, as he's proven in the past that when healthy he's able to mow down MLB hitters just about as easily as Winter Leaguers. Barring a reversal in spring training – either a negative health report or unexpected control problems ala Rick Ankiel or Rich Hill - we recommend being very aggressive about acquiring him for 2010. In most contexts, it's easy enough to find “filler” innings, but the subset of pitchers who are able to make an significant impact to ratio stats is very small. With the potent Twins offense behind him, he'll be a 4-category difference-maker for the innings he's able to go.
Scott Baker | Minnesota | SP
2009 Final Stats: 7.3 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 4.36 ERA
Baker is something of a Sabermetric “sweetheart”, in that his low walks and good strikeout numbers send hearts of analysts a-fluttering, regardless of the way the numbers are broken down. GP2010 is the least bullish on him, suggesting 4.29/1.25, which are about his career norms. His LIPS ERA's the past two years have averaged about 3.90, so right in line with his composite 2008-2009 ERA. His projected ERA's using other systems likewise shows him in the 3.90 ERA range. The one concern with Baker, of course, is the high FB% and the resultant homers. The leverage these longballs create can be seen clearly between his 2008 and 2009 stats:
2008 – 7.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.4 K/BB, 1.18 WHIP, 45.8% FB%, 3.86 LIPS
2009 – 7.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.4 K/BB, 1.19 WHIP, 47.1% FB%, 3.93 LIPS
Yet, in 2008, his ERA was 3.45, and it rose all the way to 4.37 in 2009! Why? Well, the observant readers notice that HR/FB% wasn't included in those nearly carbon-copy stat lines (or even HR/9). And, honestly, going up from 8.5% to 9.7% doesn't sound like an immense increase. But it jacked the HR/9 up from 1.04 to 1.26.
Aside from GP2010, most projection systems seem to think Baker's HR/9 will split the difference between 2008 and 2009, and so his ERA will likely also split the difference. But an HR/FB% of 9.7 isn't particularly high. So much will depend on the new park with Baker, in fact. Despite the outdated monicker of “Homerdome” the Metrodome played like one of the better pitcher's parks in the AL for years before 2009, when it played “smaller” again. The new park design has left the center-to-right dimensions the same, including the high wall in RF (presumably NOT a “baggie” again). But – as the New Yankee Stadium's environmental factors surprised everyone - it's unknown how the weather will play at the new park. Without a good reason to assume that his HR/FB% will decline, and with Carlos Gomez no longer around to pair with Span and turn flies into outs, it's hard to find any reason to be more optimistic than GP2010 is about Baker. In most leagues, where people are reading the widely available Sabermetrically-guided projections, it's unlikely Baker will be much of a bargain.
Kevin Slowey | Minnesota | SP
2009 Final Stats: 7.4 K/9, 5.0 K/BB, 4.86 ERA
That's right, Kevin Slowey posted a 5.0 K:BB ratio! He also allowed 15 HR in 90.2 IP, and watched batters post a .352 BABIP against his junk, which must have seemed little more than batting practice to MLB hitters. That he was able to throw strikes so often with a wrist injury in 2009 is somewhat amazing, but he's expected to be fully healthy in 2010. Much of the same analysis of Baker applies to Slowey, though he's even more adept at pounding the strike zone and throws even slower – even when healthy. Don't expect him to have a .290 BABIP or a sub-.10% HR/FB%, but even at .310 and 11%, he's going to rack up a lot of innings, strikeouts, and wins... while keeping his WHIP low enough to help a fantasy team. Due to ending 2009 with an injury, he could end up being one of the best players to target in 2010.
Colby Lewis | Texas | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.3 K/9, 6.8 K/BB, 2.68 ERA (Hiroshima Toyo in Japan Central League)
In 2008, Colby Lewis led the league in strikeouts, shutouts, K/9, H/9, and WHIP. In 2009, he backed that up with another strong campaign, posting a 2.98 ERA (8th in league). NPB Roto players everywhere are bemoaning/celebrating the loss of this dominant ace pitcher from the Central League (depending on whether they owned him). Will the Rangers be as happy as the Carp were? Will US fantasy players be hailing Lewis-san? Well, BP has never been shy about projecting Japanese players, and PECOTA's translations/comparables suggest that Lewis will post a fine 3.89 ERA and a great 1.23 WHIP... in over 160 IP. That would make the $5MM Jon Daniels and the Rangers have invested in him (over the next 2 years) seem like chump change if it came to pass. And why not?
That said, we're impressed with the “positive” atmosphere in Texas these days, especially among the pitchers. We like guys who post full-season BB/9 rates of 1.4, no matter which league it's in. And, as noted, the usual reaction is to rely on the numbers... and Colby's numbers have been very good and promise to convert nicely to the US. It's still Texas, so the ballpark won't help him. And we don't expect a heroic ERA, but something around 4.00 seems reasonable, though we'd expect it to be slightly above that mark instead of below. Further, pounding the strike zone should allow him to pile up innings while keeping the WHIP low.
Jack Cust | Oakland | DH
2009 Final Stats: .240/.356/.417
It's sort of a shame for Oakland fans and Cust - and hence prospective fantasy owners in OBP/SLG leagues - that the organizational philosophy doesn't acknowledge that there's such a thing as a player who has a pronounced platoon split. Cust has hit an “okay” .226/.353/.382 against LHP in his career, but that's nothing compared to the hearty .244/.382/.483 feast he's enjoyed from “Northpaws” (most of this done while calling an adverse hitter's park “home”). Well, they ran him out there for 26.5% of his PA against LHP again in 2009, far exceeding the AL average of 20.4% (for LHB against LHP). And, again, he contributed against the non-LH hurlers with a .247/.369/.461 line. Many worry overly much about players with “old player skills” aging faster, and while that's true, Cust isn't really old yet, being 3 years younger than Russ Branyan for example. The ability to play an outfield position without hurting himself (notice we didn't add “or the team” here) sets him ahead of Jim Thome in the “must DH lefty power bats” category, and his higher salary represents that. He would have done wonders for the South Siders in US Cellular, though the Twins may be out of reach this year anyway.
Alex Avila | Detroit | C
2009 Final Stats: .279/.375/.590
2009 Final Stats (minors): .264/.365/.450 (AA)
Back on August 21, when Avila was first recalled, we had this to say about him:
Oh, the nepotism! The son of assistant GM Al, Alex was taken in the fifth round in 2008 out of Alabama, where he just became a full-time catcher in 2008. But wait, this guy can play ball! He's burst into the Tigers' pennant race and wrested at least half the playing time already. After showing great hitting and on-base skills in the tough Midwest League in 2008, the Tigers vaulted him over High-A to Double-A. He didn't slow down at all, and even added power (12 HR) and a 44% CS% to his game. If the “True Talent” projection represents his ability now, it will soon be outdated. This guy is on the fast track, and not just due to his family ties.
For the record, “True Talent” at the time projected .241/.311/.358. Somehow, his unexpectedly great performance in Detroit worsened that for the GP2010 projection. And other projection systems don't think he'll do much in 2010 either. And BA's scouting department thinks he's only good for 6th-best in their organization. But – frankly – it's unclear what they don't see in this guy. We'd never suggest taking him expecting a 2010 contribution, and part of his value is in his defense, which won't show up in fantasy ball. But in trading Dusty Ryan, the Tigers have made it clear that they expect Avila to be their catcher as soon as Laird's “expiration date” arrives. And he won't be a bad 2nd catcher in an AL-only league for this year, though there are probably better to be had if you can't keep him long-term.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Lance Berkman | Houston | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .274/.399/.509
Big Puma is still just as big, but he looked more link a rhino than a puma in 2009, and fantasy owners probably had more colorful names for him than Big Rhino during August, when he failed to go yard, particularly since it followed a July when he cleared the fence just once. Injuries certainly held him back, both in time played and in the quality of his ABs when he did take the field. His calf, which landed him on the DL for 20 days, hampered his speed and power, while his back and his wrist diminished his power. All these dings and dents aren't a good sign for a guy turning 34 next week, even if that DL stint was his first since '05.
Still, his core skills remain solid. In the mini-browser, you can see that Berkman's BB% climbed a bit, while his contact skills stayed right around his career norms. The 2% differential in contact and the 4% drop in H% explain part of the change in his stats from 2008 to 2009. His steady Bash and HR/FB over that same two-year period (he was actually a bit luckier in the latter category in '09) also shows that he performed largely as expected when he was on the field in 2009. Looking over his career marks shows that these HR/FB rates were much more consistent with Berk's career norms than the spike in 2006-07.
So there's very little other than injuries to explain 2009, and little other than typical age-related decline to expect from Berkman going forward. That crazy rash of steals in 2008 isn't going to come back again anytime soon, though he should toss 5-10 swipes into the mix in 2010—remember, he did collect seven in 2009 despite that gimpy calf. He should rebound in the power department, too, with most predictions putting him back into the 30-30 2B-HR category.
The one problematic trend in Berkman's game has been his increasing struggles against southpaws. 2009 saw his OPS sink 272 points lower against lefties, a gap that's been widening every year since 2007. His switch-hitting is supposed to protect against this—he's obviously too old to go back to being a lefty, but it does make him a better bet against RHP than LHP. Don't expect a platoon anytime soon, but it is a caution flag to wave over an otherwise excellent hitting profile.
2010 will tell us a lot about his overall health, and a further rash of dents and dings would be troubling. Though he's not of the Babe Ruth-David Wells school of conditioning, a little more slimming down would set my mind at ease in this category—less Big might lead to more Puma. Now that he's entrenched at 1B, however, there's little chance that the coaching staff will push him in that direction. Too bad on both accounts, as more SBs and OF eligibility would drive Berkman's value up nicely.
But he remains a very good bet to rebound strongly in 2010, and that drop in Sentiment means your fellow owners may read too much into 2009. He's no longer among the 1B elite, but he's a virtual lock to push (or crack) .900 OPS again, making him still top-10 material.
Colby Rasmus | St. Louis | OF
2009 Final Stats: .251/.307/.407
Considering 2009 was just his fourth year as a pro, and his first in MLB, he didn't do too horribly. But expectations were so high for him—some had him as a preseason ROY fave—that his not-too-shabby performance was regarded as a letdown, particularly after his OPS slid 215 points after the break. But even that's to be expected from a kid grinding through his first MLB season, on a team making a playoff push in a competitive division.
Looking behind the stats, there's some good news and bad news, but nothing catastrophic from a kid who just turned 24 in August. His 80% contact rate was consistent with his minor-league averages, and his uninspiring .38 BB/K isn't too far below his .57 minor-league average, which did improve from .27 to .69 as he rose from rookie ball to Triple-A. Patience might be hard to preach to Rasmus, who had his best month (a .333/.333/.556 June) without drawing a single walk in 84 ABs.
June was also his best month for BABIP, an ungodly .377 that plummeted to .224 in July, dragging his OPS down nearly 200 points. Since that was the beginning of the end for Rasmus, BA-wise, it's safe to assume that his bat was losing steam as the season progressed. He was also suffering from a heel problem that began bothering him in June and continued to plague him most of the season. That had to affect his production down the stretch, too.
The one surprising trend was his punchless performance against lefties. In his minor-league career, Rasmus only showed a .34 OPS preference towards RHP, but in 2009 that yawned to a .309 chasm. Given his history, that should reverse itself in the future, but it's something to keep an eye on.
You can see from his GP projection, as well as the ones on Fangraphs, that he's not expected to improve all that much in 2010. Rasmus is valuable for his overall athleticism and has a ton of tools, but they're not quite ready yet. Assuming his heel is—er—healed in 2010, there's some upside to those projections, but his underlying skills don't merit a lot of speculation, even in SBs. Erik Manning, who covers the Cardinals for GP (and writes for Fangraphs), notes in his commentary that you can "cut his SB forecast in half" because of LaRussa's conservative tendencies in that department.
Rasmus' place in the batting order also bears watching, since hitting in front of Albert Pujols is better than hitting behind him, at least until Rasmus starts to deliver on his power expectations. He hit all over the lineup in 2009, slotting everywhere except third, and spent most of his time in the No. 2 spot, where he also had the most success (at least among 20+ AB samples). Giving both Pujols and Matt Holliday an opportunity to move him over and in would give another boost to his worth.
Keeper owners shouldn't sour on Rasmus so quickly, but redraft owners can safely let him sink, particularly since he's a slow starter. As a low-dollar/late-round selection, Rasmus could be the kind of guy who hits the waiver wire early. Moderate your expectations and don't believe the hype, while still respecting his obvious talent. He'll bring you some value, just not too much, and not in proportion to expectations.
Everth Cabrera | San Diego | SS
2009 Final Stats: .255/.342/.361
In its 2009 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America cautioned against the Padres moving Cabrera to the bigs too quickly: "It's hard to envision him going straight from low Class A to playing regularly in the big leagues in one year." Because he was a Rule 5 draftee, he had to be on their 40-man roster or the Padres would lose him, so they ignored BA's advice and brought him up when the Josh Wilson/Luis Rodriguez tandem wasn't cutting it.
Cabrera is a prototypical shortstop prospect before we got used to hitters like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez: he's got a great glove, speed to burn, and knows which end of the bat to hold. Actually, the latter categorization is a bit unkind. That mini-browser shows he held his own well enough in contact rate and did quite well in the walk department, particularly when you remember that this guy only has 29 PAs above Single-A.
That kind of accelerated timetable is usually reserved for the most elite prospects, not Rule 5 draftees, who are the baseball equivalent of sloppy seconds. That the Pads allowed him to be moved up so quickly speaks to their lack of institutional depth at this position, but also to their evident confidence in Cabrera. And it's a confidence that you should share—with some reservations.
No matter how much he was rushed to the majors, one area that needs no further development in Cabrera is his speed. His coaches called him the fastest guy in Low-A South Atlantic League. In the Sally League, he reached base 195 times, and stole 73 bases. That's a pretty astonishing number (even for Class A ball), particularly since he was only caught 16 times. It means he tried to steal nearly half the time that he got out of the batter's box safely. I've got a new nickname for Cabrera: "Greenlight." (By comparison, the 2009 SB leaders Michael Bourn and Jacoby Ellsbury attempted a steal about a third of the time they reached base).
Those kind of stats are what make fantasy owners go all ga-ga over Cabrera. As you might imagine, Cabrera wasn't nearly as aggressive in 2009—he reached safely 142 times and attempted just 33 steals, getting caught eight times. Big-league pitchers and catchers are much better than their Class A counterparts, and they got wise to Cabrera quickly: he swiped 10 of 11 in July, his first full month with the Padres, but never had another double-digit month, declining to 7 of 9 in August and 5 of 10 in September.
So don't expect Cabrera to swipe 70 in 2010; GP sees him getting about halfway there, which feels pretty good. Before he steals second, Cabrera's got to get to first, though he shows very good core skills in that department. His BB% of 10.5% is entirely consistent with his minor-league trends, as is his 62% groundball percentage, an excellent mark for a kid with his wheels.
What he doesn't have is power, probably the only thing you could really quibble about in a player like this. His minor-league SLG was .387, with just seven home runs in 877 ABs. That speed will deliver him doubles (40 in the minors) and triples (13), and if he can find the gaps at PETCO, he'll manage a respectable SLG. He just won't do it next year—only Marcel sees him cracking a .400 SLG. GP is more pessimistic than most, but that's typical of how it treats younger players.
Whether his SLG is above or below .350, Cabrera's a hot commodity in fantasy, and if he ends up atop the Padres lineup (as he did more and more as 2009 progressed) his value gets another bump. He and a platoon-bound Tony Gwynn Jr. will share time at the leadoff spot, at least until one or the other emerges, so you can pencil Cabrera in for at least 40% of the time at the top spot. Granted, San Diego's not the most productive lineup in the game, and PETCO isn't the friendliest for run-scoring, but having Adrian Gonzalez to drive you in is a nice place for a leadoff hitter to be.
So take Cabrera for what he is: a potential fountain of steals and good source of runs who might drag at your BA a bit, while delivering virtually nothing in the power department. If you can handle that kind of baggage, he'll be a great addition to your lineup.
Drew Storen | Washington | RP
2009 Final Stats (minors): 11.9 K/9, 6.1 K/BB, 1.95 ERA
Matt Capps | Washington | RP
2009 Final Stats: 7.6 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 5.80 ERA
Looking at their 2009 numbers, you'd wonder why there would be any competition at all for the closer's role in Washington, but this isn't the whole picture. The GP projections give a better idea of how much more similar these two are projected to be, plus Washington has signed quite a few endgame options. The Nats signed Brian Bruney and Eddie Guardado, either of whom have a leg up on a youngster like Storen, who was just drafted in 2009.
Let's look at the frontrunner first. Capps had a career-awful 2009 in Pittsburgh, putting up career worsts in ERA, WHIP, BB%, H/9 and HR/9. Some say this goes back to shoulder problems that shut him down for nearly two months in 2008, which screwed up his mechanics, leading to elbow problems early in 2009, as well as that lost season. According to Capps, he just didn't have a lively fastball, his bread-and-butter pitch, which neither confirms nor denies the injury theory.
For what it's worth, his excuse is supported by Fangraphs' pitch stats on him. He used his heater nearly 10% less than he did in 2008, and his wFB plummeted from 9.6 to -3.9, the biggest drop in a year when all his other pitches also stunk. On the other hand, that the Pirates would nontender a guy whom they still have under team control until 2012 could indicate that they knew something was seriously wrong.
Whatever its roots, the problem showed itself in Capps' BABIP, which shot up to .370 in 2009 from .272 the year before. His HR rate also doubled itself from 2008, hitting a 13.5% career high. These trends either represent luck or, if his stuff was as bad as he says, a serious change in his pitching repertoire. He passed a physical in Washington, which would seem to rule out any serious injury, but a certain amount of caution has to be exercised in a Capps evaluation. As you can see, GP predicts his second-worst year ever, while other predictions are a bit kinder—only Marcel comes as close in its pessimism.
That risk is no doubt why Washington picked up Bruney and Guardado, but no matter who's coming into the ninth inning, he's just keeping the seat warm for Drew Storen. Washington chose Storen, a Stanford sophomore, as the 10th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft. By the end of the same year, he had made it all the way to Double-A, and the GP mini-browser shows how completely he dominated three levels.
Storen was a starter and reliever at Stanford, but he's quickly become a reliever because of his two excellent pitches. His two-seamer hits the mid-90s, while he's got a breaking ball (either a slider or a hard curve, depending on whom you listen to) with nice tilt. With a good changeup, he could be a starter, but his rocketing trajectory is clearly aimed at an endgame role. Paul Bugala, GP's Washington writer, sees him sliding into that role by the end of 2010. In that scenario, Capps, Bruney and Guardado would be excellent (if reluctant) mentors for Storen, while also providing plenty of fallback options.
Whether that's going to happen or not, it throws a wrench into the gears in deciding which Nat to draft in 2010. Capps has enough downside to him that the presence of Storen could tank his value entirely; the GP prediction you see was based on him remaining with the Pirates, since they were still expected to tender him a contract at presstime. It remains a fair assessment of his potential in 2010, though Capps could beat that projection if he proves healthy and successful, Washington exceeds expectations, and Storen's development stalls. That's a lot to ask for, of course; the good news comes in the form of that shockingly low Sentiment (100 is the lowest). Most of your fellow owners will be similarly skeptical, making him a very good bargain. Throw him into the mix early in your auction to see if you can grab him cheaply.
Storen, on the other hand, carries his own risk. His value will depend entirely on whether and when he makes the big-league club, and in what role. If Capps or Bruney manages to grab hold of the closer's job, Storen might not see the Nats at all in 2010. Keeper owners can speculate on his future, but it's hard to spend a lot of money on a player with just one year of professional ball under his belt.
The Nationals' very good decision to spread the risk around their bullpen makes things very tough on fantasy owners, as it complicates matters considerably. You could even draft both Capps and Storen and then watch Bruney end up in the closer's spot. And let's not forget that this is still the Nationals we're talking about—they're better than they were in 2009, but they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Dividing up potential saves among three candidates piddles in the pool for all of them. If you take Capps or Bruney, it should be for cheap and with a strong backup plan.
Nate Schierholtz | San Francisco | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.302/.400
Schierholtz has proven himself in the minors without a doubt, hitting .308/.355/.516 in seven seasons, including two full tours at Triple-A Fresno. That's earned him some MLB time, but he's never gotten the traction to stick. As you can see in the mini-browser, 2007 was good enough for a 23-year-old, 2008 was small-sample awesome, and 2009 was a major letdown. Some of this had to do with the fact that the Giants seemed to want to corner the league in mediocre outfielders, preferably ones with long contracts.
San Fran finally got out from under its three-year, $23M deal to Randy Winn (who responded with an underwhelming .290/.346/.410, with 56 steals, in that span), but is still on the hook for the five-year, $60M deal they dished out to Aaron Roward before the 2009 season (he's returned the favor with a .266/.329/.414 line since then, including 251 strikeouts, 74 walks, and a disappointingly low number of exciting wall collisions). That doesn't count other young outfielders who've gotten time, like Fred Lewis (.258/.348/.390 in 2009), Eugenio Velez (.267/.308/.400 in 2009), John Bowker (.194/.247/.373 in 2009), or Andres Torres (the standout in the bunch, with .270/.343/.533 in 2009 in a platoon role with Velez).
With guys like these, it's hard to find room for Schierholtz, or so Giants' management says. Some of that's not entirely fair, since Schierholz missed some time with a strained left hip, and had a problem with a bulging disk in Spring Training. But still—this guy only gets 285 ABs against that kind of competition?
That's not to say that Schierholtz is amazing in every respect. The biggest knock against him is the breeze he generates at the plate—he whiffed at an 18% clip in the minors, which he's matched in the majors, while dropping his .33 BB/K rate in the minors to .25 in MLB. And Fangraphs shows that his pitch recognition and contact skills are hurting him, too. While he makes contact with 90% of pitches inside the zone, he swung at 35% of pitches outside the zone, making contact with a scant 57% of them. Hackers Pablo Sandoval (who swings at 43% of pitches outside the zone, making contact with 76% of them) and Vladimir Guerrero (who swings at 38% of pitches outside the zone, making contact with 66% of them) can afford that kind of wild swinging. Schierholtz can't.
If he can overcome this lack of selectiveness, he could thrive in the majors, and that power he showed in the minors can finally show itself in the majors, too. Right now, his primary competition comes from John Bowker or possibly Eugenio Velez, neither of whom should offer much of a battle. They could, however, eat into his playing time, particularly if Bochy continues to manage in such an egalitarian style. It's a battle to watch in Spring Training, but the more important subject for scrutiny should be his plate discipline. He spent the winter in Puerto Rico to work on his eye, so see if it's gotten any better before thinking of picking him up.
Assuming he gets the starting role—or even most of it—he offers moderate value, though he's below my personal threshold for outfielders of .800 OPS. NL-only leagues will find value there, but I don't see Schierholz breaking out. Solidifying his minor-league skills to cross that .800 threshold would be enough for me.
Spring Training's getting closer, but you can still download a 16-page sample of Graphical Player 2010 or order the book directly from ACTA Sports. And don't forget to check the new index for all the players I've covered this offseason, and leave suggestions for other players to cover in the comments below.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Andrew Lambo / OF / Am I crazy for liking Lambo as much as I do? Most scouts seem to be very down on him due to his mildly disappointing 2009. Sure, his power and plate discipline didn't take the step forward that I was hoping for, but I'm still a believer that his ability to make contact is good enough for the majors right now. And I'm still a believer that his power potential could result in a 30-home-run prime. He is young enough to pull it off.
2. Chris Withrow / SP / Withrow has overcome some early-career injury concerns to become L.A.'s best pitching prospect. His curveball has the makings of an out pitch, and the natural movement on his fastball is enviable. With some work on his command and change-up, he could become a No. 2 starter.
3. Ethan Martin / SP/RP / Martin has the same fastball/curveball combination that Withrow possesses, but Martin brings more pure velocity to the ballpark. Holding him back, though, is his inconsistent command and questionable endurance. The upside is immense, however.
4. Dee Gordon / SS / In my opinion, Gordon gets too much hype. His speed is game-changing, despite his lack of current baserunning instincts, and his defense will be an asset going forward, but his bat doesn't do much for me. His swing is inconsistent and I don't see home run power developing. But he is still raw, and the fact that he put up the numbers that he did in 2009 based on athleticism and tools alone is incredible.
5. Aaron Miller / SP / I was not a fan of L.A.'s selection of Miller in the 2009 draft, mainly due to the fact that he was soon to be 22 years old and just beginning to figure out how to pitch. But his initial numbers have shown much more polish than I was expecting, and his fastball/slider combination has turned heads.
6. Scott Elbert / SP/RP / Elbert has had a couple of opportunities to carve out a place in L.A.'s bullpen, but I think his future still lies in the rotation. He may never have anything more than average command of his fastball/curveball combination, but I still feel that he has the arm and work ethic necessary to be a middle-of-the-rotation stalwart sometime soon.
7. Josh Lindblom / RP/SP / Lindblom doesn't have the projected out pitch needed to be a closer or top-of-the-rotation starter. But he does have a solid repertoire that is highlighted by his above-average fastball. The question is, will he earn his living as a starter or setup man?
8. Garrett Gould / SP / Gould has good projection in his right arm with a low-90s fastball and a potentially devastating curveball. His mechanics, command, and change-up need some real work, but he has lots of time to straighten everything out.
9. Allen Webster / SP / With some hard work, Webster solidified his delivery and improved his command immensely in 2009. He has an impressive three pitches for a kid just one year removed from high school. Having never pitched beyond rookie ball, he has much to prove.
10. Ivan DeJesus / 2B/SS / DeJesus suffered a lost 2009 season due to a broken leg. His best offensive skills are his plate discipline and contact ability. He has no power to speak of, but he is a solid defender at either shortstop or second base and could have a long career as a pesky hitter who is difficult to strike out and keep off base.
San Francisco Giants
1. Madison Bumgarner / SP / The low strikeout rate in the Eastern League and over-publicized drop in velocity are somewhat concerning, but, beyond that, what more could you ask for in a 20year-old pitcher? His 10 innings of major league work showed that he will not be intimidated at the next level.
2. Buster Posey / C / Posey is a strong all-around catcher with sky-high potential, as his contact skills and power could spell an All-Star future. Bengie Molina could keep him from a deserved full-time catching gig, however.
3. Zack Wheeler / SP / Wheeler sports a low-90s fastball with great movement and has a great shot at increasing his velocity to the mid-90s consistently. His curveball has all the makings of an out pitch, even though his change-up has a long way to go. His command and delivery need some work, but San Francisco has a potential ace on its hands.
4. Thomas Joseph / C/1B / Joseph has some serious raw power, but the inconsistency and holes in his swing leave much to be desired. He may be a true boom-or-bust type, because if his bat can develop fully and he is able to stick at catcher, the Giants may have a star on their hands.
5. Thomas Neal / OF / Neal clobbered California League pitching in 2009, and then proved that his breakout season may not have been a Cal League apparition with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. His plate discipline and contact ability continue to get better, but I want to see how much power he shows in the Eastern League in 2010. Power is ultimately the name of the game for a corner outfielder.
6. Rafael Rodriguez / OF / You can't expect much more from a 17-year-old than what Rodriguez showed in 2009. He displayed strong contact skills and plenty of raw tools. I'm excited to see if he gets to play full-season ball from the outset in 2010.
7. Nick Noonan / 2B / Noonan didn't have the breakout that many were expecting, causing him to drop off the radar screens of many scouts. As he's just 20 years old, I'm giving him more time. With a good combination of skills, he has a chance to be an above-average second baseman.
8. Dan Runzler / RP / No relief prospect was more impressive in 2009 than Runzler. His command still comes and goes at times, but his fastball/curveball combination is built for high-leverage innings.
9. Ehire Adrianza / SS / Adrianza is talented young prospect with the tools to stick at shortstop and impressive plate discipline and contact skills for a player of his age. His questionable power potential is holding him back a bit, however.
10. Brandon Crawford / SS / Roger Kieschnick was a tough player to leave out, but Crawford's position gave him the edge. His glove looks average but workable at shortstop, meaning his bat could become above average for his position. He has above-average power potential, but he needs to work on being more patient and cleaning up the holes in his swing.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:10am
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I'm not quite sure of the fantasy impact this group may have overall, but excuse me for being smitten with the current outfield group of the Oakland Athletics. With the off-season additions of Coco Crisp and the newly signed Gabe Gross, the A's are all making a conservative effort to make sure a fly ball does not hit the ground at Coliseum.
As offensive players, all four rank eerily similar overall. Going down the list the career wOBA leaderboard is: Rajai Davis .330, Gross and Crisp at .325, and Ryan Sweeney at .322. None of them flash much power with Gross having shown the most pop from the bat.
In 2009, Davis had an above average .354 wOBA fueled by a .360 OBP. Buyer beware, his .366 BABIP and average walk totals suggest that is likely to regress. What likely won't regress is his speed; Davis is fast. According to speed score, he is like Carl Crawford/Michael Bourn fast. We all know fast doesn't necessarily lead to steals, but in Davis' case it does. He was just one of seven players to steal 40 or more bags in 2009 and did so with a 77% success rate.
Crisp has the most experience of the group and also has the more attractive career slash line of .277/.331/.407. That said, he is far from an offensive machine. I wouldn't put to much stock in his .228 batting average of 2009 since he did have a torn labrum in his shoulder and his BABIP was just .247. Although he is creeping up in age, Crisp will give you 20+ steals should he get enough playing time.
Ryan Sweeney opened eyes in 2009 with his 4.1 WAR season. Take a completely average bat (wOBA .330 in 2009) and add +20 defense and that's how you become a 4 WAR player. An above average defender in center field, Sweeney is likely to become one of the better defensive corner outfielders in the game. However, his bat, as mentioned above, is completely average and his speed is nowhere near Davis or even Crisp for that matter. In 282 games at the major league level he has just 22 stolen base attempts.
Satchel covered Gross's value yesterday. Oh-so-average Gabe is the ideal fourth member of the Oakland quartet. Sightly more powerful than his new teammates, Gross is a .240 hitter who takes his walks; not very sexy to a fantasy player. He is adequate enough defensively in center field to fill in, but is a +10 defender in the corners. Should Oakland have an injury in the outfield, Gross can easily be inserted in the lineup, and with some defensive shuffling, the team wouldn't miss a beat.
Of course this average offense plus very good defense sounds good in terms of real world value, but none of the above is really music to the fantasy crowd's ears. Because of his stolen base ability, Rajai Davis is clearly the best option of the group. If you trust Coco Crisp to remain heathly over the course of the season, he can give you some value as he'll rack-up some decent plate appearances and swipe a few bases. Sweeney is the most average of the group, and Gross is basically an older Sweeney on the bench.
I wouldn't pay this group much fantasy attention in terms of drafting, however, their impact on defense to a team that has Ben Sheets, Mike Wuertz, Dallas Braden, Vince Mazzaro and Andrew Bailey (all career FB% around 40%) may prove to have a different kind of fantasy value.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:00am
Taking a trip over to Mock Draft Central and looking over their ADP report can yield some interesting topics for discussion. For today's article I scanned furiously for players with relatively large differences in their highest and lowest draft positions, assuming these were players people are confused about.
Keeping in mind it only takes a lone nut to exaggerate the disparity between a player's highest and lowest draft position, let's begin our inspection of these players.
Jason Bartlett | ADP: 101 | Earliest: 56 | Latest: 133 |
Bartlett's breakout 2009 campaign has perhaps been overshadowed slightly by his sometimes-double play-partner Ben Zobrist's even more impressive season. Putting the spotlight on Bartlett though, he had a truly remarkable fantasy season, hitting .320 along with 14 home runs and 30 steals from the shortstop position! I didn't even own him last year in any league and those numbers still make me excited!
As far as replicating the past season in 2010, it is unlikely Bartlett fully retains the jump in both batting average and home runs he experienced. A .300 average and high single digit homers are not stretches though, and if you miss out on the elite shortstops, there are much worse things you could do than pull the trigger on Bartlett in the eighth to 10th round. As you can tell from my wording, I am not thrilled with picking him here, but then again it is hard to get thrilled over any shortstop not named Hanley. There is no shame in taking Bartlett around his 101 ADP, but do not reach for him as some people have since those people most likely are not going to be properly reimbursed for their fifth-round investment.
Jason Bay | ADP: 26 | Earliest: 18 | Latest: 46 |
Over the past five years, Bay has been one of the most dependable hitters in baseball, both in terms of production and time on the field. He has played in at least 145 games in all five seasons, hit 30 home runs and stole 10 bases in four of the five, reached 100 runs and RBIs in four of the five, and has hit above .285 for three of the five. Dependability like that might not be the most appealing—fantasy owners tend to love the lure of the undefined ceiling compared to the well-defined one Bay drags along—but at least come the end of the season there is a good chance Bay will not be on the list reasons why you did not win a championship (if you do not).
Bay's raw stat line does not justify a second-round selection, but his decent production coupled with his dependability make a third-round selection understandable and warrant a fourth-round one. While it may be more fun to draft that indefinite upside player, winning fantasy players will also be able to identify when the safe production from the proven veteran is worthy of being owned.
Michael Bourn | ADP: 68 | Earliest: 51 | Latest: 107 |
Bourn is a player I covered in this article and based off his current ADP of 68, you can see he is being drafted earlier than I would like in most drafts. Unless I feel my team is super-light on steals coming out of the early rounds, Bourn is getting picked a round or two earlier than I would prefer, though in some drafts he is falling as far as the ninth round. If I am in a draft and Bourn falls past the sixth, chances are I will pounce on the opportunity to secure my team's elite standing in steals with him in the seventh.
Chone Figgins | ADP: 79 | Earliest: 46 | Latest: 115 |
Of the players I've highlighted so far, Figgins is the one I understand the most why he is on this list. First of all, he is far from your prototypical third baseman, generating most of his value from his feet rather his arms. Figgins is a great contact hitter and although another season of a .280s to .290s batting average is in store, can we expect another season of 40-plus steals? Even 30-plus?
Not promising are the several factors working against him. First off his age, 32, certainly makes him a good candidate for a regression in steals totals. Next his stolen base success rate has fallen each of the past three years—from 77 to 72 to 71 percent—meaning he is approaching that point where it is no longer valuable to his team for him to steal. And finally he is leaving the aggressive base running environment of the Angels and heading to the Mariners, who most likely will be more conservative with him on base. When all of these factors are put together, I start to get the feeling Figgins will be lucky to break 25 steals in 2010.
Overall, Figgins is not somebody I would to reach for in drafts and even around his current ADP I am extremely hesitant to draft what I think will be mostly an empty batting average.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:50am
When dismissing the skills or impact of a player with an impressive statistical profile, mainstream baseball pundits often like to quip: “This isn’t fantasy baseball.” Such an inane rambling is usually followed by some nebulously baseball-relevant and platitudinal comment indicating David Eckstein’s superiority to Adam Dunn, to take an arbitrary example. (These commentators fail to realize that indomitable will to achieve mediocrity is a category in my league, and that Darren Erstad is also kicker-eligible in my fantasy football league.) Though it is true that some players are more valuable assets to a fantasy team than they are to an actual baseball, this door swings both ways.
The mainstream media often acts like we fantasy junkies are the only ones beholden to stats. However, it wasn’t the fantasy community who clamored for Jimmy Rollins to be chosen as the 2007 NL MVP, when he posted an OBP only .01 above the league average. It wasn’t us swooning over his 20-20-20-20 season, ignoring the fact that he made 527 outs in the process of compiling those numbers. It’s not only us who are gaga for numbers; the mainstream baseball community and its pundits are too. Further, I’d attest that most astute fantasy players know more about statistical analysis than the average mainstream pundit and therefore are savvy enough to appreciate a player’s common baseball card numbers for what they are, and attach no greater significance to them than they merit.
We know what a 40-40 season from Alfonso Soriano is worth in our game. We know that many of players' real faults are beneficial to their fantasy value. Soriano, for example, was never anything resembling a top 10 player in the actual, physical sport of baseball. This was something I never debated, even as I drafted him multiple times in the first round of drafts in the early to mid-2000s. High-level fantasy players are very smart and we are able to recognize disparities in player values in various arenas. We understand that fantasy and reality is not an apples to apples translation.
We know that Ichiro’s unwillingness to walk helps add even greater weight to his stellar batting average. We know that Jimmy Rollins and Soriano can pad their counting stats by not taking walks (though they might be able to make up for that value by stealing more bases and scoring more runs if they did). Therefore, Jimmy Rollins is an elite, top 15-ish fantasy baseball player, or was so going into last season. However, Jimmy Rollins is not really that good.
Even in his MVP season, Jimmy Rollins was not, by any means, one of the 15 best players in baseball; he was the second-best middle infielder on his team, and the second- or third-best shortstop in his own division. However, Rollins is not the type of player who is the target of the “this is not fantasy baseball” criticisms. (Those criticisms are usually reserved for high-slugging, high-OBP players who hit below .280.) Quite the opposite, Jimmy Rollins is the subject of endless hagiography by the mainstream baseball press. So, the next time you’re hanging with Joe Morgan and he tells you what a great ballplayer Jimmy Rollins is, you should calmly remark to Little Joe that “this is not fantasy baseball.”
I didn’t just write this whole preamble simply to imply that mainstream baseball pundits are often blowhards who don’t know much at all about how players actually accrue “value” and to advertise the superior knowledge of people like you and me. OK, maybe I did. But, I’m supposed to make the columns somehow practically relevant to your fantasy experience, so let me attempt to do that.
The hype surrounding a player, even for fantasy purposes, is not created in a vacuum. Even a fantasy columnist is subject to the unavoidable swell of opinions about players and their abilities. Most of these interpretations are not in the context of fantasy baseball, and are not based on statistically sound analysis. A player’s popularity and reputation is something that affects many draft decisions. And, even if you are astute enough to minimize its impact, it may affect your league mates. Few phenomena are more exploitable in fantasy sports than the gap between perception and reality. And, contrary to the proclamations by many of the baseball talking heads, in my anecdotal opinion, often it is actually the same players who are overrated and underrated by them who are overrated and underrated in terms of, say, ADP.
The over- or under-valuing of players often plays out in terms of archetype.
The following is a woefully incomplete list of some of the things that go into a player being overrated, offensively only. Some are relevant to fantasy baseball and some aren’t.
The following is the inverse list, an incomplete list of either undervalued offensive traits or traits that are perceived as being more hurtful to a player’s value than they really are.
If you start to think about the players that fit these respective lists, you’ll probably reach the realization that many of the players who fit the first list are actually often overdrafted in your fantasy leagues: Ichiro, Rollins, Jeter (underperformed ADP several years before last year’s resurgence), perhaps Jacoby Ellsbury in the near future. Many of the players who fit the second list are often bargains: Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Nick Markakis (disappointed a bit last year, but has that unsexy, yet valuable game).
I see a few valuable ways to use this information. Least relevant to fantasy baseball, but perhaps most personally gratifying, you can paraphrase this argument to debunk baseless potshots from traditionalists as projections of their own biases and simultaneous statistical fascination and illiteracy. … Look at us; we love non-meaningful, arbitrarily selected, round numbers!
In terms of budgeting, either by dollar bid or draft position, looking at the player’s archetype (along with overall popularity) can often give insight into whom you can lowball and whom you may have to be willing to reach a bit for. If you have calculated actual dollar values of rankings, perhaps you might want to mentally add or subtract 10% from those values to get a more accurate view of the actual market. You want to avoid putting yourself in a position where you need to acquire a skill set that is overvalued by the market, but sometimes you can’t avoid it, especially when it comes to star players. It’s easier to build your supporting cast on the cheap than it is to get bargains on the high-ticket players.
Another important skill this concept relates to is being able to view the fantasy advisory industry though the looking glass. Since we are generally sabermetrically oriented, but also aware that the currency of fantasy leagues isn’t Win Shares Above Bench, we’re probably equally likely to miss by over-predicting the production of a Chris Davis as we are to over-predict an Alexei Ramirez. We have to engage in something of a two-step process where we try to determine the core competency of a player in terms of value, and then extrapolate that into the less sound signifiers and juggle overlapping but differing ontologies (as long as we’re talking about archetypes, we might as well through around some semiotic terms, right…)
Your individual leagues are all microcosms of this larger dynamic, in which various streams of external opinion mix with self-possessed knowledge to form an ecosystem of perception and value. In fantasy baseball, the profits are always most easily made on the disparity between the market value of a commodity and the actual value of that commodity (either objectively, or in the specific context of your team). The fact that teams have equal financial/opportunistic resources mitigates the potential for an owner who surmises these gaps incorrectly to compensate for that. Therefore, it is important to determine patterns relating to how your leagues value different skill sets and players, as well as to find out where your league mates get their information. Some fantasy sites are big and influential enough that they themselves can begin to create echo chambers for their perceptions. One thing that’s great about THT is that you get highly regarded expert opinion, but it is still niche enough that every single one of your league mates isn’t reading the same exact articles. (Though they should be, gosh darn it!)
To sample the tried and true feeding/teaching proverb, it is more valuable to know how your opponent thinks in general, than it is to know what he thinks about any given issue. In the economy that is fantasy baseball, only knowledge that is predictive in nature has any long-term value.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:27am
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Considering that there hasn't been much big news in the hot stove world lately, with the exception of the big Aaron Miles-Willy Taveras swap of course, I thought that it would be a good time to review some of the smaller deals that haven't been touched on yet. Specifically, I'm looking at the smaller outfield signings that have happened over the past few days. Let's dive in:
Randy Winn to the Yankees
Of all of the guys I'm going to talk about, Winn may have the best odds of being a legitimate fantasy option next season. He's coming off of a rough offensive season in San Francisco (82 wRC+), but he managed to land a one-year, $2M deal with New York thanks to a good track record and impressive defensive numbers, he's been at least 16.5 runs above average in each of the past two seasons according to UZR. Before his poor 2009, he had posting above average offensive numbers in six of the previous seven seasons. The drop in 2009 can be explained somewhat by bad luck, as his BABIP was uncharacteristically low given his batted ball data, and his 1.4% HR/FB is far below his 7.8% career mark. He's likely to get solid playing time considering his durability and the unclear situation in left field, and there should be lots of opportunities to knock in RBIs and/or score runs considering the quality of New York's offense. If Winn gets the everyday job in New York, there's reason to believe that he could provide solid numbers across the board. The upside is relatively limited, but he could be an underrated option in deep leagues and AL-only leagues.
Jim Edmonds to the Brewers
Edmonds may not have played in 2009, but he was shockingly good with the Cubs in 2008 after he was released early in the season by San Diego, posting a .394 wOBA and knocking out 19 home runs in 298 plate appearances. He's a legitimate platoon player at this point, he posted a .441 OPS against LHP in 2008 and a .631 mark against lefties in 2007, but he continued to show his trademark power/patience combination against right-handed pitching. The Brewers' outfield is relatively set with Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez and Jody Gerut as the primary four outfielders, but Gomez has proven to be a fraction of the hitter that Edmonds is thus far in his career, Hart has historically been much better against lefties than righties, and Gerut was pretty awful in 2009. If Edmonds can make the roster, he may be able to provide some pop as a late draft option in NL-only leagues, but that isn't a sure thing as he was only given a minor league deal.
Gabe Gross to the Athletics
One of the most underrated players to hit free agency this offseason, Gross didn't get much attention before signing on to presumably be the fourth outfielder in Oakland's revamped unit, which also includes offseason addition Coco Crisp. A quality defender with a good approach at the plate and solid power, his numbers have consistently been dragged down by a propensity to pop the ball up, but he's apparently improved that skill in recent seasons. He's also got a major platoon split for his career, but he's a solid bat against right-handed pitchers. He had a rough 2009, but like Winn, had a track record of solid performance beyond 2009, and there's reason to believe that he should revert back to what he was in 2006-2008, which is a solid 2.0 WAR player in a platoon. Gross's skill set doesn't fit particularly well into the fantasy game though, as he's a low contact guy (career BA of .239) and much of power is gap-to-gap. A good low key signing by Billy Beane, but given that Crisp, Ryan Sweeney and Rajai Davis seem likely to dominate the playing time, not to mention the presences of Jack Cust, Jake Fox and Travis Buck, Gross doesn't seem likely to accumulate a ton of playing time in 2010 barring some major injuries. It's not very likely that Gross is a major fantasy player in 2010.
Reed Johnson to the Dodgers
Similar to Gross, it's not particularly likely that Johnson makes a major impact fantasy-wise barring a major injury to the team's everyday outfield. Also like Gross, Johnson has a major platoon split, but his is reversed, as he's crushed lefties to the tune of an .841 OPS for his career. He likely won't take much playing time away from stars Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier, but he's a good fourth outfielder that could capably step into an everyday role if necessary. This signing was similar in nature to the Gross signing on a fantasy level: solid real life signing, unlikely to matter much in the fantasy game barring major injury.
When looking at what these guys signed for, it shows you why you shouldn't give $1.75M to Scott Podsednik, or $850K to Jason Michaels.
Posted by Satchel Price at 10:34am
Monday, February 01, 2010
J.J. Putz (from CSNChicago, h/t Metsblog):
When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training... I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.
How can an MLB team be run so poorly? This is a guy who spent 64 days on the DL the year before (three separate stints) and walked 5.44 batters per nine. How do you not make sure you're thorough with his injury analysis?
Moral of the story: don't take anything for granted with the Mets, guys.
Posted by Derek Carty at 4:24pm
Last year Matt Wieters entered the season with plenty of hype, and after PECOTA projected a weighted mean of 106/31/100/4/.311 it was an all out blitz for him in just about every league. He was limited by playing time first, but ended up playing in 96 games for the season. His PECOTA comparable also called his No. 1 comp Mark Teixeira. They were both drafted fifth overall in the MLB draft, in 2001 and 2007, respectively. Let's see after that first season how they still look next to each other.
Wieters didn't quite have his power going in his first year as he totaled only a .124 ISO. That was much lower than expected after his PECOTA number was .244. I think expecting that much power in his first season and after starting at Triple-A is a lot to ask. Teixeira did not have trouble in his first year, hitting 26 homers with a .221 ISO.
While Teixeira had a quicker start to his career, they had more similarities from their minor league numbers. They each spent a first season split between High-A and Double-A to start their careers with Wieters spending 39 games at Triple-A in his second season. During that first season they totaled the following stat lines.
Teixeria: .318/.413/.592 Wieters: .355/.454/.600
Wieters compiled that line in 530 plate appearances and Teixeira only had 375. That is quite a line for Wieters and gives reason to believe the hype.
At the plate both players have a similar approach.
O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% Wieters 25.4 % 70.2 % 47.1 % 61.2 % 83.7 % 77.5 % 48.5 % 53.0 % Teixeira 23.8 % 74.6 % 49.2 % 37.7 % 87.8 % 75.6 % 49.9 % 57.6 %
This is rookie season numbers for both, and show how close they are in plate discipline and contact skills. Wieters is better in this sample at contact on pitches out of the zone and slightly better in overall contact. They both had walk rates around 7 percent and strikeout rates around 22-24 percent. Obviously Teixeira has had some different numbers since, but in everything but power they were very close in their rookie years.
Heading into 2010, the projections systems don't like Wieters to reach the second season numbers of Teixeira. The power again seems to be a concern with Bill James giving him the highest SLG at .484 where Teixeira posted a .560 SLG in his second season.
Being only 24 this season Wieters has plenty of improvement headed his way as he continues to grow. Hitting only 20 homers this year would seem to be low for him after the power he showed in the minors. The projection systems seem to weight the rookie season more and place his power closer to the 2009 numbers.
Perhaps the comparison will lose some basis going forward, but the only failing of Wieters in year No. 1 was his power swing. His home park shouldn't hurt him at all and of course his power will come as he grows. For fantasy purposes this all makes Wieters an extreme value again. He should be one of the top catchers off the board in 2010 and with a comparable like Teixeira it makes sense to value him there.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 4:42am
The second part of this middle infield tango is Melvin Mora. Spurned by Orlando Cabrera, the Rockies turned their attention to Mora, who agreed to a one-year deal worth just over $1.3 million dollars. Essentially filling the vacated role by Ian Stewart, who now is a full-time starter, Mora will be asked to play second base, short stop, third base and some outfield; a super-utility player.
The role is something Mora is familiar with especially during the early stages of his career. However, for the past six seasons he has almost exclusively held down the hot corner for the Baltimore Orioles. A career .344 wOBA hitter, he saw that number drop all the way down to .302 in 2009. After crushing some numbers, I think Mora is a bounce back candidate and here's the man reason why.
Throughout the course of his career, Mora has shown pretty decent pop from his bat. However, that pop was almost non-existent in 2009. His slugging dipped down to .358 (career low min. 50 PA) while his ISO of 0.98 was also a career worse. Not surprisingly, his HR/FB went from 11% career to just 5.4% in 2009. Add in his new home of Coors Field and we have some potential for a bounce back in power. In a smaller possible regression note, his BABIP of .285 was 25 points lower than his career total.
In his new role, Mora will see likely see less at-bats than the 500 plus he has become accustomed to. Nonetheless, there should still be enough playing time to get him 300+ plate appearances. If the Rockies should have a major injury on the infield, Mora’s stock will rise. However, like Cabrera, Mora is limited to a deeper NL-only league at this point, but is definitely one to watch if his role is increased.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 1:15am
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