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THT's Fantasy Archives
Monday, January 30, 2012
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions.
So here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
Prince Fielder to the Tigers
As if anyone expected anything less from Scott Boras.
Sure, it took the superagent some time to complete his latest masterpiece, but from a business standpoint, it’s hard to argue with the success of a nine-year, $214 million contract, especially when it’s signed by a player who is almost certain to be significantly overpaid by the second half of the deal.
For us mere fantasy-playing minions, who own no such financial stake in Fielder’s future fortunes, Detroit’s acquisition will likely prove to be the most consequential transaction of the offseason for its impact on not one, but two, superstars.
Let’s start with the obvious. Very much in the prime of his career, Fielder, 27, is an OPS machine on wheels who’s nearly a lock to put up monster numbers this season. Having played in no fewer than 157 games since his first full season in 2006, Fielder’s lifetime triple slash line of .282/.390/.540 provides a baseline of consistency that hints at another 30-plus home run season in 2012.
Granted, Stat Corner’s data note that, unlike Miller Park, Comerica Park suppresses left-handed home runs by 12 percent. Then again, a typical Fielder home run isn’t bound to the same limits of mortal major league hitters, as the big fella’s 38 home runs, on average, would have escaped the playing fields of 25 major league parks, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.
As THT’s Nick Fleder points out, the trio of Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera should provide similar table-setting opportunities compared to the Brewers’ 1-2-3 of Rickie Weeks, Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Braun. And I’m willing to bet Fielder will see worse starting pitching in the AL Central compared to his old division, as the Twins, Royals, Indians and White Sox all finished in the AL’s lower half in team ERA last year.
Fielder’s arrival, as you already know, bumps Miguel Cabrera over to third base in what will likely be the worst trial since the Stanford prison experiment. But that’s just Detroit’s problem, right? Well, not necessarily. As we look forward to watching Miggy gain eligibility at third base, keep an eye out for an eventual shift to DH, a spot currently occupied by the likes of Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge, all of whom could spell Cabrera in the field.
If (when) he’s demoted to DH, Miggy’s productivity runs the risk of a 10-percent decline, and although 111 plate appearances is hardly conclusive, his career .230/.306/.370 line doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. That said, Cabrera still enters 2012 as the most desirable third baseman in fantasy and probably surpasses Albert Pujols—if not Matt Kemp—with regard to candidacy as the first overall pick.
Francisco Cordero to set up Sergio Santos
In the end, Cordero was the closer left without a chair when the offseason music stopped, as a guy who’s averaged nearly 39 saves over the past five seasons settled for a one-year, $4.5 million deal to serve as Santos’ caddy.
Of course, at 36 years old, Cordero is entering a stage of his career when he’ll begin experiencing a natural decline, a trend already evidenced by several drooping numbers. At 5.4, Cordero’s K/9 rate was his worst since 2001—when he hurled all of 2.1 innings—and his average fastball velocity has lost two mph since 2009. Last year’s 4.02 FIP is out of sync with his 2.45 ERA, as were his .214 BABIP and 82.3 LOB percentage, numbers well outside his career norms.
Still, Cordero improved upon his walk rate and WHIP and still retains significant value in leagues that reward holds. And while his presence at the back end of Toronto’s bullpen will boost Santos’ fantasy value, he now represents the most immediate threat to the new closer’s job security if things go haywire this season.
Cody Ross to enter right-field platoon for Red Sox
Three years removed from a season in which he posted 24 home runs and 90 RBIs, Ross is a classic platoon player, featuring a career .912 OPS against left-handed pitchers that’s nearly 200 points above his mark against righties. That’s important, since he projects as a platoon partner with Ryan Sweeney as they anchor Boston’s right field.
Of course, his fantasy value will be limited so long as his at-bats are capped, but he could be an intriguing option in deeper AL-only leagues, especially if he’s fully recovered from the left hamstring injury that plagued his second half last year.
Odds and ends from around the majors
• The Phillies agreed to a minor-league deal with 34-year-old Juan Pierre, who will have to contend with John Mayberry, Jr., Laynce Nix and possibly Scott Posednik for playing time in left field. A steady job could return steal-happy Pierre to fantasy relevance, though his stolen-base success rate last year was an abysmal 61.3 percent, and his 44 attempts were nearly a career low over a full season.
• Ryan Theriot enters spring training as Brandon Crawford’s most threatening competition for shortstop appearances, though manager Bruce Bochy has reiterated his plan to hand the position’s keys to the 25-year-old this season. If Crawford runs into trouble, Theriot’s old buddy from Chicago, Mike Fontenot, also could compete for regular playing time.
• Jeff Keppinger will likely see utility work on the Rays this season, though it’s possible he’ll be relegated mostly to action against left-handed pitchers. He hit .255/.285/.333 in 230 plate appearances last year between the Astros and Giants.
• Brad Lidge has signed with Washington to help set up Drew Storen, but it’s not clear if he’s next in line following Tyler Clippard’s excellent 2011 season as the Nationals’ eighth-inning man. At 35, Lidge's injury history is also unavoidable, particularly after a partially torn rotator cuff zapped the first half of his 2011 season and probably helped slow his fastball to an alarming 89 mph.
Obviously, there's no guarantee Clippard will replicate last year's magic, and if something disastrous strikes Storen, opportunity may come knocking for the veteran reliever.
• Cincinnati’s currently projected starting rotation doesn’t leave a lot of room for Jeff Francis, who signed a minor-league contract this week. Then again, it remains to be seen whether Aroldis Chapman finally will make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation, or whether Homer Bailey—whose first name not only serves as a distinctive moniker but a source of ironic black humor—will hold down a starting job this season.
True, no one's running out to buy Jeff Francis t-shirts just yet, but in his defense, several teams were reportedly interested in his services this year, and his contract allows him to opt out before March closes if he feels he can find a better opportunity elsewhere.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:40am
First of all, if you haven't gotten the chance to familiarize yourself with the results of THT's recent mock draft, you can do so by clicking here.
When I took on the duty of organizing and putting together the mock draft, never did it occur to me that I would be forced into the No. 1 pick. I hate drafting first, and not for the reasons you may think. Sure, it’s a nice problem to have. You get your choice of anybody. Who could have a problem with that?
Personally, I really hate the length of time in between picks, which is probably the reason why I am a proponent of the auction draft. I like to pick players on my terms. I enjoy taking the bidding process to decide how much I value a guy. In a snake draft, you are a slave to the draft order and the clock. I digress.
Upon learning of my first pick, I narrowed my selection down to four guys: Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, and Jose Bautista. I labored through several different scenarios. I had it all narrowed down to Pujols, then God and Mike Ilitch gave Cabrera back his third-base eligibility. For me, my decision became clear. Miguel was my man.
Even though third base isn't as bad as it was last year, that distinction is just enough to set Cabrera above Pujols. Cabrera is old in baseball years, but not in real life. He’s only 29. He’s every bit as capable as Pujols to put up the same stats, but I would much rather my third baseman flourish than my first baseman.
One note I made in my head during our mock draft was that first base isn’t quite as deep as you may think. So I wouldn’t sleep on the middle tier, because once those guys are gone, it gets really nasty.
Here I am, ecstatic with my selection of Cabrera. I was set on drafting another big first baseman like Prince Fielder or Mark Teixeira and either Mike Stanton or Ryan Braun during my swing picks. I had underestimated the stock of both Stanton and Braun as they flew off in the second round before I got the chance. I adjusted and grabbed Tex. So I decided the remaining hitters weren’t quite up to the talent level of the starting pitching so I nailed Tim Lincecum down as my ace.
With Lincecum, Cabrera, and Teixeira in my quiver, I aimed my sights on speed and talent. Nelson Cruz was the most talented player on the board, and Michael Bourn was the best source of speed to help offset all the power I was starting to amass. Bourn is a very undervalued commodity even if he loses some of his batting average in 2012. With an assumption that Cruz could stay healthy, I am very happy with the way my team is starting to look.
As we entered round six, I really wanted a studly catcher, but Derek Ambrosino decided he needed to not only draft Brian McCann but also Joe Mauer, a sleeper pick of mine. Ambrosino’s greed forced me to go back to the starting pitching. I struggled with the safe pick of Matt Cain or the riskier, more-talented Adam Wainwright. Anybody that knows how I play fantasy baseball knows the decision I will make here. When in doubt, draft talent, so the result was Wainwright.
I paired him with Kevin Youkilis, who had dropped way too far. I understand the age, health, and production problems he displayed in 2011. But I don’t need him to mash 30 home runs. Throughout Youky’s career he’s been an OBP monster. That’s what he gives me. He also gives me some flexibility at the hot corner if I were to need to trade later. I know this is a mock draft, and it’s silly to prepare for trading, but that’s how you prepare, people!
Okay, here’s where I start taking some chances. Lured in by the two front-end aces and underwhelmed by the hitters available, I paired Yu Darvish with Josh Johnson to complete a solid front four in my rotation. I’m not usually so pitcher-heavy, but I absolutely love the talent of all four starting pitchers I’ve assembled.
Everybody is wrong about their hesitation against Darvish, and I’m tired of saying why. Johnson is ridiculously good when he toes the rubber. How often he toes that rubber is the real question, but I think that’s worth a ninth-round pick to figure out.
I spent the next four picks filling out my positional needs with upside. Andre Ethier will bounce back now that he’s healthy. Ike Davis will benefit from the cozier home park and natural growth. I’m not usually a Dustin Ackley fan, but he was far-and-away the best second baseman available, and he should help my average. Alexei Ramirez gives me a solid shortstop. I have him pegged as an upper-middle-tier option up the middle. He still has potential, but if he continues to do what he’s been doing, then that would be fine for this roster.
I decided to go all talent with the next four picks. Cory Luebke is a stud in the making. For those that don’t know, you should really acquaint yourself with this guy. Part of the reason the Padres were ready to let Mat Latos move on was because Luebke is ready to take that next step and lead that staff.
Yes, I did draft Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes. I literally looked at the players available, and I couldn’t get the scouts' comparison of his power to Mike Stanton. With a 70-plus scouting grade on his speed, we really don’t know how good this guy really is. He’ll strike out, I’m sure, but I’m all about spending a fifteenth-round pick sheerly on chance, especially in the outfield position.
My next two picks were pretty obvious and easy for me. I still felt like I could add some more speed, and I still hadn’t garnered the services of a closer, hence my selections of Jason Motte and Mike Trout.
I believe Carlos Quentin has the power to still hit home runs in Petco if he stays healthy. That’s a really big “if,” but there’s little risk this late. Quentin will serve as a solid backup to Trout and Cespedes.
I absolutely love Jim Johnson. I’m glad he’s getting a chance to close, but I secretly hoped he would get his chance to start. He’s a special talent that the rest of the baseball world doesn’t know yet.
Round twenty marks a stretch of five out of seven picks I do not like. Gordon Beckham was really the best available middle infielder, but I’m by no means sold on a breakout. I don’t know if I’d draft him on a real team, but he’ll do as a middle infielder. If not for the forcing of Jason Kubel as my last pick (we had to roster an actual DH), I would have drafted Tyler Pastornicky to back up the unstable Beckham.
I learned my lesson that I will need to draft a catcher, earlier than I did especially in a two-catcher league. I drafted Geovany Soto and prayed that Devin Mesoraco would last to me in the next pick. Well, he didn’t, and I settled with Salvador Perez.
Perez hit very well in Kansas City last year, but I’d be fooling myself if I thought he could replicate those stats. However, the full-time gig is his to lose, and Wil Myers has moved from behind the plate to the outfield, so he doesn’t have that talented rookie pushing him. It’s worth a wait-and-see.
I don’t like Francisco Liriano anymore, but I didn’t have much choice. I probably should have drafted Matt Thornton with this pick, but hindsight is always twenty-twenty.
My other two pertinent picks were Yonder Alonso and Jair Jurrjens. I was very excited to get Alonso this late. He has pole-to-pole gap power, and he’ll finally get his chance to show the baseball world his skill set. It’s a shame it’s taken this long.
I’m not a huge believer in Jurrjens, but at some point, the hate has to end. Round 25 is about that time. Jurrjens enters 2012 still recovering from his injuries, but that has been the theme with my pitching staff. Why stop now?
Here’s the final product:
C- Geovany Soto CHC
C- Salvador Perez KC
1B- Mark Teixeira NYY
2B- Dustin Ackley SEA
3B- Miguel Cabrera DET
SS- Alexei Ramirez CHW
CI- Kevin Youkilis BOS
MI- Gordon Beckham CHW
OF- Nelson Cruz TEX
OF- Michael Bourn ATL
OF- Andre Ethier LAD
OF- Yoenis Cespedes FA
OF- Mike Trout LAA
DH- Ike Davis NYM
B- Carlos Quentin OF SD
B- Yonder Alonso OF SD
B- Jason Kubel OF ARI
P- Tim Lincecum SP SFO
P- Adam Wainwright SP STL
P- Josh Johnson SP FLA
P- Yu Darvish SP TEX
P- Cory Luebke SP SD
P- Francisco Liriano SP MIN
P- Jair Jurrjens SP ATL
P- Jason Motte RP STL
P- Jim Johnson RP BAL
I’m not overly impressed, but I’m not embarrassed. I was able to get a lot of my guys, and I missed a lot of my guys. Personally, I felt Paul Singman’s team was the best, but I enjoyed the practice.
I hope that I, along with you, will take this opportunity to refine some of my flawed draft practices. I won’t make a real team this volatile. I know that, but I don’t see where I necessarily would have strayed too far from the guys I drafted. I like eighty percent of my team, and that’s not too bad. I look forward to seeing your opinions and comments.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:39am
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