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Monday, March 05, 2012
Ryan Howard? Injured.
Raul Ibanez? Run outta town.
Domonic Brown? Needs more polishing.
Enter John Mayberry Jr., this year’s Michael Morse, and the Phillies' de facto first baseman for the first two months, and presumed left fielder from there on out.
Don’t believe me about the Michael Morse comparison? Their half-season breakouts are strikingly similar. Behold:
The readily apparent difference is that Mayberry possesses much more speed. Both had concerns in development; Morse’s position, focus, cleanliness (I don’t mean hygienically, but in terms of HGH testing) and pedigree was all in question. For Mayberry, it was plate discipline, plate discipline, and more plate discipline.
He’s always been a gifted athlete but finally harnessed his speed in his third go-round at Triple-A (in and of itself a glaring question mark, I know), where he stole 20 bags. He’d hit for double digit power at five previous levels, including twice in Triple-A, but scared off scouts with his consistent 20 percent or higher strikeout rates.
In 2011, though, Mayberry swung less outside of the zone, and made contact more when he did; he swung and missed, additionally, on nearly 10 percent fewer pitches. As a result, his 267 at-bat cameo (similar, again, to Morse’s 266 at-bat foreshadowing in 2010) yielded a respectable 18.6 percent strikeout rate.
So: your last pick? Make it this year’s power breakout.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 6:29am
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, 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.
Astros move Brett Myers to bullpen
In something of a shocking move, the Astros moved one of their most dependable starters in Brett Myers to the closer’s role, shifting a perennial 200-plus-inning pitcher to a role that likely won’t mean much for a team looking to rebound from a 106-loss season. Still, we fantasy owners need not complain, since the move will likely rejuvenate Myers’ value and open up a few spots for some intriguing young pitchers.
As far as Myers, 31, is concerned, he slides into the role of a solid No. 2 closer with a deep reservoir of job security. Not only is there no clear runner-up to the job—Juan Abreu and David Carpenter both have late-inning potential and a penchant for strikeouts, but neither have demonstrated an ability to tackle control problems—but Myers has, of course, demonstrated success with the role before.
In his career as a reliever—basically, the 2007 season—Myers is 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA, 1.247 WHIP and a quite-welcome 10.2 K/9 in 63.1 innings pitched. During that season of closing out Phillies games, Myers converted 88 percent of his opportunities for 21 saves, and it’s worth noting he never lost the job; he merely was shifted back to the rotation in 2008 when Brad Lidge was acquired.
Will Myers regain that strikeout ability? That remains to be seen, but the Astros offense is putrid enough to make sure he sees plenty of close games, and Myers could emerge as a 25-plus save candidate this season.
That’s the easy part. The better question is who will take over his spot in the rotation.
We know Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris have jobs locked down, and J.A. Happ, Livan Hernandez and Zach Duke will be front-runners for at least another starting role. Beyond them, much could depend on manager Brad Mills’ tolerance of untested rookies, since none of the team’s younger starters offers much in the way of proven major league value. The most obvious candidates are Jordan Lyles and Kyle Weiland, both of whom made their major-league debuts last season.
Lyles is probably the team’s best-known younger pitcher, though he was decimated last season to the tune of a 2-8 record, 5.36 ERA and 10.2 hits-per-nine. At 21, he still has a great deal to learn about pitching in The Show, but he was a strikeout-per-inning pitcher throughout his minor league career. Lyles will need to put together an impressive spring if he wants to convince Houston management he’s ready to anchor a rotation spot.
The same probably goes for Weiland, acquired in the Mark Melancon deal that also saw the Astros acquire shortstop Jed Lowrie. Weiland, 25, features a fastball that tops out in the mid 90s, and at 6-foot-4, has an ideal pitcher’s build. But he went 0-3 during his five starts down the stretch for the Red Sox last year, and even with the relaxed Astros’ environment, there’s no guarantee he’ll begin this season as a starter.
Rounding out the candidates are Aneury Rodriguez, Henry Sosa, Brett Oberholtzer and Lucas Harrell. Harrell, 26, was released by the White Sox last year and is entering a stage of his career where he’s quickly entering the vacuum of major league obscurity, while Sosa’s 10 starts last year resulted in a 5.23 ERA and 1.444 WHIP. Oberholtzer, a lefty, could sneak into the mix if Happ is pushed out of the rotation, though Rodriguez might be a sleeper if he can conquer his awful stats at Minute Maid Park last year (7.26 ERA, 1.513 WHIP in 39.2 innings pitched).
If I had to guess—and for a team with little prospect of meaningful September baseball, that’s all there probably is at the moment—I’d say Happ and Hernandez will have starting roles, with a fifth starter job going to either Lyles or Rodriguez. Much could change between now and Opening Day, of course, so this will be an interesting position battle throughout the rest of this month.
Carl Crawford suffers setback in recovery from wrist injury
For a guy entering spring training with perhaps the most to prove in his major league career thus far, the week did not bode well for Carl Crawford, who suffered inflammation in the same left wrist that bothered him throughout his dreadful 2011 season. Crawford and manager Bobby Valentine both downplayed the injury, which will be examined by the team’s medical staff today.
Pain-free or not, Crawford, a MVP candidate as recently as 2010, was already a risky early-round draft pick, so this news does little to elevate his value beyond that of a No. 2 outfielder in standard mixed leagues even if he might have the most upside of any player chosen outside the first three rounds of fantasy leagues this year.
Bunting practice injures A.J. Burnett
As much as Burnett’s name might be verboten around Yankee circles, a freak bunting accident last week left Burnett with a shattered right orbital bone, an injury that will vaporize at least the next three months of the right-hander’s season.
That’s a shame since Burnett, 35, was sure to fare better in more pitcher-friendly PNC Park, is still capable of striking out batters at a prodigious rate, and both his FIP and xFIP last season suggested his 5.15 ERA would calm down in 2012. Now we likely won’t see him for several months, and it’s difficult to predict the length of his recovery.
Assuming Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton appear in Pittsburgh’s rotation this season, look for Erik Bedard and rookie Brad Lincoln to compete for the fifth spot.
Bedard, 34, whose 24 starts between the Mariners and Red Sox last year were his most since 2007, turned in a decent season, compiling a 5-9 record with a 3.62 ERA, 1.284 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 in 129.1 innings pitched last year. He’s obviously an injury risk, but Bedard could have some value in the National League if he’s able to hobble to the mound every fifth day.
Lincoln, 26, turned in a mediocre 47.2 innings last year, as he finished with a 4.72 ERA, 1.469 WHIP and 5.5 K/9. As usual, Pittsburgh will be joyous if they can even reach .500 this year, so perhaps there might be a spot in the rotation for a young buck like Lincoln.
Ike Davis comes down with a case of Valley Fever
What exactly is Valley Fever? Whatever it is, it doesn't sound good, especially for a guy coming off a season destroyed by an ankle injury. Blood work, apparently, doesn't prove Davis has the disease, which is a fungal infection common to the southwest region of the country. He'll undergo further tests, but in the meantime, chalk up one more reason to be a bit leery of drafting the Mets' slugging first baseman, even if he's a future star once he gets a full season under his belt.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:12am
Some pitchers qualify as both a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher. Your league settings might make such players more valuable than they would be in a typical league. Their utility can also allow you to push for more stats in certain specific situations.
Generally speaking, there are two scenarios where dual eligibility is useful. There are certainly other scenarios besides these two, but these are the most common.
In a head-to-head and/or points league, a starting pitcher with relief eligibility can really help you bulk up on raw numbers. This assumes that your innings cap is either high or nonexistent.
In a more traditional roto league, an elite reliever with starter eligibility can help shave a couple points off your ratios over the course of the season. This can be especially useful with WHIP. It's not uncommon, for instance, for third and 10th place to be separated by only 0.04 WHIP. As a bit of a spoiler, only one name below fits this ratio-assisting description.
What follows is a guide to the pitchers currently marked as SP/RP in Yahoo! Most of the links are to Brooks Baseball player cards, which might be cooler than Mike Fast's new job. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that THT staff helped put those monsters together.
No. 1 Matt Moore
He's currently only relief eligible, but that will change quickly.
Moore is a favorite of the prospect world. Some publications consider him the best prospect in baseball, which is quite the feat when your competition is Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. He's also getting some press as potentially the best starting pitcher in Tampa Bay despite the presence of David Price.
For those in the right format, Moore is the holy grail. He has the potential to provide top-20 starter value out of a reliever slot on your roster with upside for even more.
The best part is that he isn't expected to be on an innings limit. If you have a points format that counts strikeouts and innings, Moore easily could double the performance of an elite reliever. Adjust your draft board accordingly.
No. 2 Cory Luebke
I went into the offseason with personal misgivings about Luebke, but my colleagues here at THT have assuaged my doubts somewhat. The downside here is a low win total thanks to a crappy offense and some extra hits due to an outfield defense that might struggle to cover all that territory, especially if they try to squeeze Carlos Quentin and Jesus Guzman out there on the same day.
With that in mind, Luebke still should strike out a batter per inning, and if health cooperates, 200 frames isn't out of the question. In a points format, Luebke might only be half a step behind Moore in terms of value over replacement-level fantasy reliever. He'll probably be easier to draft, too, so you might want to target him rather than Moore.
No. 3 Chris Sale
Sale is the first of several relievers who will be transitioning to starting pitcher this season. His chances of sticking the landing are probably the best of the bunch since he already features an effective four-pitch mix.
Sale probably will lose a little velocity off his 96-mph heater. If you follow Tom Tango's Rule of 17—pitchers that transition to starter see a 17 percent increase in BABIP and HR/PA, a 17 percent decrease in K/PA, and a flat walk rate—then Sale appears to be destined for a very useful fantasy season. A strikeout per inning with a palatable ERA and WHIP is a reasonable expectation. He's riskier than Moore and Luebke, but he has significant upside.
An inning limit could come into play with Sale, but I suspect his performance will dictate where he gets cut off. H2H owners should keep this in mind, as there's a fair likelihood he won't be around for the playoff push.
No. 4 Hector Noesi
Noesi is so sleepy this year that I forgot about him. He has some competition in camp, which could push him into a swingman role. He essentially needs to beat out three of Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Hisashi Iwakuma, Danny Hultzen, and James Paxton. Some combination of those names will fill the final three rotation spots behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. Noesi's skill set should be enough to earn him a look over the others.
The transition to Safeco should treat him very well. He relies on a mix of five solid pitches. None of them stands out as a plus offering, but they're all useful, and the variety might allow Noesi to find a few more strikeouts as he learns to sequence better.
A decent strikeout total along with a starter's share of innings and non-deadly ratios could be in store. He's kind of a high-floor, low-ceiling pick.
No. 5 Josh Collmenter
This pick varies by format. Since points leaguers benefit from high inning totals, Collmenter gets the nod. He's a bizarre pitcher, one of those guys who might legitimately baffle a fair number of major league hitters. He's essentially a fastball-changeup righty who relies on his weird approach to succeed with two pitches. We might see him mix in his show-me curveball more often this year, but it's not a good pitch, so that might be detrimental.
Collmenter's potential innings total and low walk rate are what make him attractive as a dual-eligible pitcher. His strikeout rate is fairly low and could come back to bite you in leagues with an attainable innings cap (whether that's weekly or for the season). His job security is iffy because the Diamondbacks have a plethora of hyped arms like Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs waiting in the wings.
No. 6 Felipe Paulino
This pick probably depends on how you feel about Paulino's BABIP. He's posted three straight seasons of BABIPs above .330, so it's possible that he is simply "hittable." Perhaps he needs to learn when not to challenge hitters.
He has legit stuff, including a fastball-sinker combo that sit above 96 mph, a good slider and a changeup that generate plenty of swinging strikes, and a usable curveball. All of the tools are in place, including acceptable command and control; he just needs to figure out how to put everything together.
Kansas City is a friendly place to toil thanks to the home park and weak division. Paulino is risky as a fantasy pick, even if you're leaning on the dual eligibility. He's best in linear weights leagues where he's already a popular not-quite-sleeper.
In a points or H2H league with more traditional stats, you might actually be able to find him in the end game. He has 200-inning and 180-strikeout upside, but he might hurt you by allowing a few too many runs and hits.
No. 7 Albertin Aroldis Chapman
Did you know his first name is Albertin? I didn't.
It's difficult to gauge how Chapman will transition to starting duties. The Reds are paying him like a starter and really ought to have conducted this experiment sooner. The rotation is sort of full in the sense that Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo are considered to be starting pitchers, although neither pitcher should be a hurdle if Chapman shows some affinity for starting.
The big question mark with Chapman is if he can get his walks under control. A lot of guys built like Chapman struggle mightily with control until they flame out, although a few like Randy Johnson learn to become masters. Even so, improvement will take time, and Chapman will probably issue way too many free passes. The result will be a low innings total and too many runs allowed. He's ranked seventh because he has enormous upside, but Chapman easliy could be unplayable in all formats as a starter.
Having signed Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, the Reds shouldn't send Chapman back to the bullpen until they fully conduct this experiment. That means he could begin the season in Triple-A. An innings cap is a guarantee even if he somehow manages to pitch efficiently.
Unlike the next two guys, Chapman might be able to survive using only two pitches because they're so effective.
No. 8 Daniel Bard
Bard is the third reliever-to-starter project on this list. Unlike with Sale, Bard has leaned heavily on his fastball and slider out of the pen, mixing in the very occasional changeup. As such, things could get bumpy for Bard, especially because the AL East and Fenway leave little margin for error.
He's not guaranteed to break camp as a starter, but there's a fair chance Bard could wind up with 10 or more saves out of the pen along with his usual elite ratios. He won't be a total loss if you take a flier on him and it doesn't work out.
It's unclear if he would operate under an inning limit. Like with Sale, his performance will likely dictate the Red Sox decisions.
No. 9 Neftali Feliz
Like Bard, Feliz will jump to the rotation without a starter's repertoire. Where Bard has shown a changeup with some promise, Feliz relies on the ol' heater nearly 80 percent of the time. His slider is essentially a show-me pitch because he struggles to control it, and his sinker and cutter have gone all but unused.
Feliz will have to develop those pitches to succeed as a starter, which means 2012 could get ugly at times. He's expected to throw 140-160 innings this season, and the Rangers have the bullpen pieces in place to commit to the plan.
If the plan bombs completely, Feliz could supplant Nathan as the club's closer. However, the Rangers will probably option Feliz to Triple-A before completely giving up on the project.
No. 10 Brett Myers
The one and only reliever with starter eligibility on this list, Myers will close for the lowly Astros this season. The team could struggle to win 60 games, but how many of those wins do you think will be by more than three runs? In other words, don't worry too much about opportunities.
Myers will be most useful in bizarre, small leagues where several teams have a full docket of legitimate closers. His presence could help win the category.
From his time in Philadelphia, we know Myers' stuff plays up out of the bullpen. He can sit back and rely on his fastball and devastating curveball to get the job done. He's always had a bulldog mentality on the mound, so the role is well suited to him. His numbers are likely to be the kind you get from a solid fantasy starter rather than an elite reliever, so he doesn't fit as a guy who can help with your ratios.
The rest of the notables
Alfredo Aceves seems like he could be a reliable back-of-the-rotation starter, which means you probably need to be in a deep league to consider him.
Jason Hammel has succeeded in the AL East before, but it's still a tough assignment for a merely adequate pitcher. He should get a good chunk of innings, though, which will help his cause in points leagues.
Jordan Lyles has the upside of a No. 3 starter, but he probably needs a couple of years to get there. Maybe look at him for spot starts against bad teams.
Tom Gorzelanny is a solid starter and could fill in if the Nationals have to deal with injuries. He might get used down the stretch once Stephen Strasburg hits his innings limit. Keep in mind, John Lannan is ahead of him on the depth chart. Speaking of which...
...John Lannan. See above. He could get shipped elsewhere. Depending on when that happens, he might not gain relief eligibility or he might be worth a bit more than an end-of-the-article mention.
Alexi Ogando is expected to return to the bullpen this season. Despite last season's successful experiment, the club believes they can get more value out of Ogando in the bullpen. He could be the one guy who puts up elite ratios as a starter-eligible reliever.
Martin Perez could see some time out of the bullpen this season. It will likely depend on club need since the Texas bullpen appears secure right now.
Tommy Hunter seems like a scary choice, but if you have balls or a deep league, he'll probably throw 140 innings or more. They won't be good innings, though.
Shelby Miller could see time late this season, and he's marked as a reliever.
Ditto for Dellin Betances.
Ditto for Manny Banuelos.
Ditto for Alex Torres. Injuries would help his cause the most as he already appears MLB ready.
Arodys Vizcaino will need a LOT of Braves injuries to see enough starts to gain eligibility.
Kris Medlen is being stretched out to potentially fill in for Tim Hudson, so he could be useful early on. If he succeeds and others hit the disabled list, he could cling to a starting job.
Randall Delgado could bounce between the pen and rotation, but he'll probably just start in Triple-A until needed.
Andrew Miller could magically discover his potential. The Red Sox are giving him chances, but consider me a skeptic.
It's quite possible I missed a name or three. If you think somebody should have been mentioned, leave a comment and I'll address it.
In case you're wondering, guys like Kyle Kendrick, Kyle McClellan and Manny Parra did not make the list because they are guys like Kyle Kendrick, Kyle McClellan, and Manny Parra.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:10am
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