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Friday, August 03, 2012
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every-morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
The Fanduel picks are a mixture of Daily League specific advice and information for the more typical fantasy owner.
Those in leagues with same-day moves should refer back to yesterday’s table.
The Fanduel Daily League Players of the Day are:
Pitcher (to start): It's another day where the pitching options are dangerous. Joe Blanton has pitched very well lately, as he often does in the second half of the season. His match-up against the Diamondbacks isn't a walk in the park, though.
Felix Doubront has been merely solid all season long. He has the top number I look for in a fantasy pitcher—about one strikeout per inning. He also has the second number—a tolerable walk rate. But the results just haven't really been there all season. The Twins lean lefty with some of their better hitters, so it's a solid match-up for him.
He's on waivers in most leagues, but Dan Straily leads baseball in strikeouts this year and he's making his debut.
Pitcher (bum): I disrespected the Braves yesterday and it prevented me from winning some Fanduel cash for once. Today I'll overcompensate by placing Armando Galarraga on the bum list.
Jonathan Sanchez is always some kind of terrible. I'm shocked he's still getting starts. He could challenge Nick Blackburn for most superbly bad pitcher of 2012. As such, the Giants should benefit.
The Rangers should bash Jeremy Guthrie to pieces.
Hitter (power): There's quite a few power options. Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter are squared off against Brett Cecil and Scott Hairston draws Clayton Richard.
Hitter (speed): David Murphy's not really a true speed threat, but he could swipe one if the Rangers aren't too busy forming a conga line. Quintin Berry, Rajai Davis and Jemile Weeks have truer speed match-ups.
Wei-Yin Chen will face the Rays tomorrow. He's generally solid and is coming off a 12 strikeout performance.
Paul Maholm is rostered in way more leagues than he ought to be—41 percent. He has a middling option against the Astros.
If I had more balls, I'd recommend Mark Rogers against the Cardinals. Instead, I not-so-subtly hint that maybe you can make use of your cojones.
A few match-ups stand out as better than the rest. There is the usual mix of A's hitters—Gomes, Carter and Weeks. If that's not your style Travis Snider has a friendly match-up against Mike Leake. Last and potentially least, Craig Gentry will find himself facing Will Smith.
Chris Perez blew just his second save of the season. Prior to the season, I had written him off as a Kevin Gregg-quality nightmare to manage, but he's really helped out his owners.
Frank Francisco is nearing return, which shouldn't mean anything but somehow does...
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:53am
Last week, Carlos Gomez and Nate Schierholtz were plus-plus recommendations, with the former sharing NL Player of the Week honors and the latter landing an everyday job in a hotter park to hit in (Citizens Bank). Paul Maholm might enjoy his new home, too, and his first match-up in a Braves uniform will pin him against the lowly Astros. Edward Mujica, once a low risk speculative saves guy, is that no longer as a St. Louis Cardinal, but all in all, it was a successful week of recommendations. What about week 15?
Nate Schierholtz | Giants | OF | 2 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.6 percent ESPN ownership
Labeled a “speculative add” last week, Schierholtz finds himself promoted to a “must add” in NL-only leagues. Ruben Amaro’s outfielder fire-sale shipped out once-glorious Shane Victorino and struggling Hunter Pence, with Schierholtz returning in the latter deal. Domonic Brown will get burn in center field, but the Phillies should be expected to do good on Schierholtz’s wish, and will play him mostly every day. What do such days hold in store? He’s hit as many as 15 homers in a season (429 at-bats in 2008) and should benefit from moving out of San Francisco, where fly balls go to die on AT&T Park’s warning track.
A telling stat about Schierholtz’s power: From 2009 until 2011, he hit 17 homers. His rate at home was 77.4 at-bats per home run; on the road, the number fell to 38.3 at-bats per home run. He’ll play 31 games at Citizens Bank Park, four in Milwaukee, three in Cincinnati, and three in Atlanta. In other words, he’ll hit a few dingers.
Recommendation: Worth an add in all NL-only leagues.
Brett Wallace | Astros | 1B | 2 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.3 percent ESPN ownership
With zero alternatives and nothing holding him back, Brett the Beast has been unleashed for the final two months of the season. Can we expect the small sample (four homers in 14 games, and a .333 batting average) from 2012 to hold up, or will Wallace flop to last year’s struggle (five homers in 115 games, and a .259 batting average)? The answer, unsurprisingly, should be somewhere in-between.
Wallace is an enigmatic one. Once, he was a highly regarded top prospect, it seemed; the catch was that he occupied a spot in four farm systems despite his pedigree and high draft position.
His first go-round at Triple-A was disappointing—he was barely above league average with the Cardinals in 2009—and he didn’t light the world on fire with the A’s. The A’s turned into the Blue Jays and the Jays turned into the Astros, and suddenly, Wallace looked (and played) more like a cast-off than a cornerstone to any franchise. And his big shot in 2011 with the major-league Astros was a disappointment in every sense: His defense and base running were below average, and his near .700 OPS was unacceptable considering his corner-infield position. He’s hitting the ball with some authority in Triple-A, and in the majors, "some authority" has turned magically into "some authority and so much more." It won't last at this level or anything near it, but Wallace, at the very least, will be an able-bodied filler.
Recommendation: Worth an add in all NL-only leagues.
Josh Vitters | Cubs | 3B | 0 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.1 percent ESPN ownership
Vitters isn't entirely unlike Wallace: high pick, good makeup, but struggled to hit the ball with much authority and stalled in the minors. His shot may finally come, though, on the lowly Cubs, who are fishing for pieces to build around. They have no reason not to give Vitters a chance to play himself into a job, what after his .365 Weighted On-Base Average and nice power showing (16 homers in 402 at-bats) in Triple-A. Third base options are hard to come by at this point in the season, and Vitters projects to hit a handful of homers in the friendly confines of Wrigley.
Recommendation: Worth an add in deeper NL-only leagues.
Wade LeBlanc | Marlins | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.5 percent ESPN ownership
It's too early to tell, I concede upfront. That said, it certainly looks like Marlins Park plays pretty well as a pitcher's park. It's as helpful in keeping balls in the park, perhaps, as PETCO, where LeBlanc functioned in the last two years as a good NL-only stream option. Over his Padres career, LeBlanc pitched to the tune of a 2.91 ERA at home, and matched in with a playable 1.25 WHIP.
And while I'm not here to argue LeBlanc's merit as a major league starter—he hardly profiles as one with an 87 mph fastball that hardly works with his fly-ball tendencies—but he can be a worthy fantasy stream half the time. Nothing wrong with using him and Jason Marquis each at home, and divorcing them every time they hit the road. You'd be smarter than most.
Recommendation: Worth streaming in all leagues.
Patrick Corbin | D'backs | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.1 percent ESPN ownership
A sneaky streaming option, too, is Pat Corbin, who will likely learn to hate Chase Field. Corbin, though, put up a 3.01 FIP at Triple-A Reno, and if his control follows him to the majors, he'll survive well on his ground-ball heavy profile. About Chase: Diamondback starters collectively have a 4.40 ERA and .269 batting average against on their home turf, while those numbers drop to 3.36 and .235. Corbin and LeBlanc sounds like a good tandem.
Recommendation: Worth streaming in all leagues.
Oliver has experienced some troubles this week, so rest of season projections are not available at the moment. Many apologies.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 4:54am
First, it was Josh Shepardson. Then it was Paul Singman. Now, I'm taking over THT's AL Waiver Wire column, looking at some less notable names lurking on the scrap heap of fantasy baseball leagues the nation over. As August dawns, here are a few names that might be overlooked in your league.
Chris Carter | Oakland Athletics | 1B/OF | ESPN: 4.9 percent ownership; Yahoo: 6 percent
YTD: .275 / .405 / .652
If you’re a THT reader, I’m going to assume you’re a bit more hardcore than the average fantasy baseball fan, which means I can probably skip the introduction to Carter. But for those who haven’t been acquainted, Carter, 25, has been a perpetual prospect for seemingly forever—one incapable of making his mark at the big league level. A centerpiece in trades involving both Carlos Quentin and Dan Haren, Carter has been named to Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list three times and was the A’s organizational player of the year in both 2008 and 2009. A sturdy 6-foot-4, 245-pound right-handed slugger, Carter can mash, as evidenced by his career .535 minor league slugging percentage.
Trouble is, in his previous major league stints in 2010 and 2011, his mighty bat turned to putty, as he combined for a helpless .167 average with just three home runs in 124 plate appearances. Carter didn’t make the major league roster to open 2012, and was called up in late June after hitting .279 / .367 / .486 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs in the Pacific Coast League. Since then, he’s steadily become a fixture at Oakland’s first base, playing nearly every day since mid-July and becoming a big part of the A’s mid-summer surge.
All well and good. But what assurances do we have that Carter’s recent stretch has finally made him fantasy viable?
The biggest knock on Carter over the years has been his propensity for strikeouts; he compiled a 23.5 rate during his lengthy minor league tenure. That’s certainly not a crime at the big league level—isn’t that right, Adam Dunn?—but it’s also not going to make many friends among the fantasy flock if the power numbers and on-base production aren’t there. While Carter’s strikeout rate hasn’t changed much, he has maintained an on-base percentage above .400 since July 13, when he more or less took over as the everyday first baseman.
And the power is still there, proven by his five home runs, 12 RBIs and .558 slugging percentage over that period.
A quick glance at Carter’s plate discipline figures suggests he’s maturing as a hitter. After posting O-Swing rates approaching 30 percent during his first cups of coffee in the majors, Carter is learning to lay off pitches outside the strike zone, dropping that mark to 22.7 percent entering Thursday night’s action. His nearly 70 percent contact rate represents a new career high, such as it is, despite the fact that he’s seeing fewer fastballs, according to FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x data.
True, he’s benefited from a ridiculous 38.1 percent HR/FB rate, which will steadily come back down to earth over the coming weeks. But as long as he can draw enough walks to offset the strikeouts, he should be dependable enough to provide some pop at the middle of Oakland’s order, especially if Yoenis Cespedes can stay healthy enough to provide him some protection. It’s too soon to say whether Carter is flowering into the prize pig the A’s were once sure they had, but he’s moving in the right direction and right now has an everyday role in the A’s lineup.
Recommendation: Worth a pickup in all AL-only leagues, though it’s not yet clear whether he’s a viable mixed-league first baseman.
Hisashi Iwakuma | SP | Seattle Mariners | ESPN: .7 percent ownership; Yahoo: 3 percent
YTD: 4.10 ERA / 1.382 WHIP / 7.6 K/9
OK, so a back-of-the-rotation arm on the Mariners likely isn’t burning up the waiver wire in too many leagues right now. Then again, Iwakuma did post 13 strikeouts in a dazzling eight-inning gem Monday night against the Blue Jays, walking three batters and allowing just one earned run en route to a convincing 4-1 victory. Combine that performance with his previous two starts (1.89 ERA, 10.9 K/9, 3.32 BB/9 over 19 innings overall) and you have a guy who, at the very least, has popped up on the waiver wire radar.
The skinny: Iwakuma, 31, was one of Japan’s top pitchers entering the 2011 season, when he was courted by Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s for a reported four-year, $15 million deal. But the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, making Iwakuma’s case the first time a Japanese player had gone through the posting process and did not agree to a contract. Back in Japan, a sore shoulder limited the right-hander to just 17 starts last year, and this time, Iwakuma took a one-year deal with the Mariners in the hopes of boosting his value for the upcoming offseason.
He’s spent the bulk of the 2012 season in the bullpen, but was promoted to the rotation after Mariners fans learned the Hector Noesi couldn’t get anyone out. In his five starts, Iwakuma has posted a nearly strikeout-per-inning rate, as well as a 4.03 BB/9 and a meh 1.345 WHIP. His overall numbers (4.10 ERA, 7.58 K/9, 1.67 HR/9 in 59.1 innings) aren’t too pretty, but then again, we’re talking about someone who’s spent his entire career up until April as a starting pitcher, and besides, he’s had to deal with a nasty 22.9 HR/FB rate, even while calling pitcher-friendly Safeco Field home.
I’m not ready to herald this guy as the second coming of Hideo Nomo (pre-Mets, post-Mets Nomo, that is), but he’s certainly showing improvement, and comes with a pedigree that suggests he’s capable of doing big things. True, the Mariners bullpen didn’t get any better over the past week with the Brandon League trade, but Iwakuma is definitely someone to keep an eye on, as he’s one or two starts away from becoming a popular waiver wire pickup.
Recommendation: Worth a look in AL-only formats and a pickup in deeper ones, though he’s not yet mixed-league material.
Daniel Straily | SP | Oakland A’s | ESPN: N/A; Yahoo: N/A
What do Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander have in common? They all have fewer strikeouts than Oakland’s newest starting pitcher, Daniel Straily, whose eye-popping 11.38 K/9 (175 strikeouts) was summoned to the big leagues Thursday. Expected to make tonight’s start, Straily, 23, features a low to mid-90s heater, along with a strong slider and a change-up. Although he wasn’t a tremendous prospect entering the 2012 season—he wasn’t even invited to big league camp in the spring—improved mechanics caused Straily’s trajectory to take a sharp upward turn in 22 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A, where he combined to go 8-6 with a 2.60 ERA and .969 WHIP and keep his walks at a very manageable 2.4 per 9 rate.
I haven’t yet heard anything about an innings limit, but it’s worth noting he pitched 138.1 frames so far this season. And although his promotion pushed Travis Blackley to the bullpen, both Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson could be back with the team in a matter of weeks, forcing manager Bob Melvin to consider a six-man rotation, or demote Straily to make sure he’s receiving regular work.
It’s tough to speculate on what to expect from Straily, since we’re only talking about one season of elite minor league performance. But I’m a believer in stocking my fantasy squad with upside guys, risk/reward players with the potential to put up big numbers. Straily certainly seems to qualify in that respect.
Recommendation: We’ll find out more about this guy over the next few weeks. In the meantime, get him on your AL-only roster if you have the space, and for that matter, dump any extra cargo overboard in mixed leagues to see if you can grab a piece of the action down the stretch.
Mike Olt | 3B / 1B | Texas Rangers | ESPN: .5 percent ownership; Yahoo: 0 percent ownership
Speaking of upside guys, I’m sure you’re already familiar with Mike Olt, who was killing the ball in Double-A to the sound of a .288 / .398 / .579 line with 28 home runs and 82 RBIs. No. 43 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list entering the season, Olt, who turns 24 later this month, profiles as a bopper, and was shielded by the Rangers all summer long despite sustained interest from other clubs leading up to the trade deadline.
This blurb is not to tell you about how wonderful Olt is, since either you believe in his ability, or you can go to any number of other places to read about how other people look at him. Instead, I’m more interested in how much he’s going to play, as he doesn’t do fantasy owners a lot of good if his name isn’t being scrawled on the lineup card on a regular basis. In the immediate future, it seems as if Olt will face lefties and will play mostly at first base and DH, though he could spell Adrian Beltre at third base, which is his primary position.
Granted, it’d be great if we were assured out of the gate that Olt was guaranteed a position all to himself. But sharing first base with Mitch Moreland (.278 / .326 / .503) isn’t the worst fate in the world, either, because if you take away the 26-year-old’s hot May, you’re left with a guy who’s hit .248 with just five home runs this season. Moreland still offers pop against right-handed pitchers, and Olt’s leapfrogging over Triple-A suggests his learning curve could be a bit longer, but Moreland doesn’t represent an immovable roadblock by any means.
Recommendation: Olt’s ceiling is too high to ignore in AL-only leagues, and owners in mixed leagues might as well roster him, too. Just don’t expect instant results, and stay tuned to see if he eats up more playing time as the season progresses.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 4:39am
Most fantasy rankings are forged on "gut calls" and the whimsical notions of whoever is compiling the list. Some experts don’t pay for saves, some don’t pay for steals, some wait on pitching, some value upside, some value reliability, and so on. While it might be nice to see plenty of different opinions, it probably doesn’t truly help unless you understand the biases of each individual ranker. This is why some of the writers here at The Hardball Times have created their own, objective valuation methods, outlined here and here (reading, or at least skimming, these introductory articles will give you a much better understanding of the rankings that follow and should help to answer most potential questions).
In accompaniment with
These rankings will assume a 12-team league in adjusting for league average. The ordering of players, however, is unaffected; players will rank in identical order for leagues of all sizes.
*Full season = the raw (non-adjusted) full season pace roto score using the roto points-above-replacement method. This is, essentially, the amount of expected roto points each player would score above an empty spot in a lineup over a full season.
Alex Rodriguez— Rodriguez will have X-rays on his fractured hand sometime in the near future. Until then, we won’t have a timetable for when he might return. The general sense is that he may be out up to two months. With roughly two months left in the season, this could mean that Rodriguez misses anywhere from 75 to 100 percent of the remaining games this year.
Since ZiPS doesn’t know his timetable, it still has him projected for 161 at-bats. This is probably far too high, especially with the Yankees’ position six and a half games ahead of Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the AL East. They could play it safe and wait until the playoffs to bring Rodriguez back. This injury should probably push Rodriguez out of the top-40 third basemen entirely, as he won’t be very useful in fantasy until 2013.
Mike Olt and Michael Young—The Texas Rangers summoned third base prospect Olt on Thursday, leaving Michael Young’s playing time in serious jeopardy. As Dave Cameron mentioned in his analysis of the call-up, Young hasn’t hit a home run since May 7 and has hit just .247/.275/.306 since then.
Young has been an above league-average player every year since 2003, but his -1.5 WAR in 2012—second worst in baseball (Jeff Francoeur)—became too much for the Rangers to take. Olt's arrival likely means the end of Young as an everyday player. Despite Young’s overall ineptitude this year, he has remained solid against lefties, hitting for a 104 wRC+ against them, so he could still see at-bats in a platoon situation against lefties.
In the first game of the Olt era last night, he hit eighth and played first base, while Young remained in the lineup and hit sixth against lefty C.J. Wilson. We still don’t know if Young will be a strict platoon player for the rest of the year, but the Rangers didn’t call up Olt to sit on the bench, and with Young’s wRC+ of 50 against right handers, they would be best served to keep Young on the bench against them in favor of Mitch Moreland and his career 114 wRC+ against righties. However this situation ends up shaking out, it is not going to be good for Young's fantasy value.
Arbitrary adjustments: For Michael Young, it would probably be safe to assume he loses close to half of the 219 at-bats that ZiPS has him projected for the rest of the way, which moves him out of the top-40 third basemen completely.
As for Olt, getting a gauge of what he will do in a two-month sample is tricky. He hit .288/.398/.579, with 28 home runs this year at Double-A, but he also struck out in 24 percent of his plate appearances. ZiPS does not have a projection for Olt yet, but he should provide good power with a low batting average, and will benefit greatly from his home park and the dangerous Rangers lineup. Putting a specific ranking on him is almost futile, due to the excessively large range of reasonable outcomes, but he is absolutely worth an add if you have a need a third base or a corner infield slot.
Juan Francisco and Josh Harrison — I am not sure why ZiPS is so aggressive in the playing time projections for Francisco and Harrison. Both players have been used primarily as pinch hitters. Since the beginning of July, Francisco compiled more than one plate appearance in just five games, while Harrison has had six such games. Both have skill sets that would be worth keeping an eye on should either of them stumble their way into regular at-bats, but as of now, they should probably be left on the waiver wire in mixed leagues.
Will Middlebrooks— ZiPS projects Middlebrooks for a 15/6/21/2/.259 fantasy line in 180 plate appearances the rest of the way. I have no problem with the projected batting average regression, and, while six home runs translates out to only 20 over a 600-plate appearance sample, I don’t have a huge problem with being cautious on a player with a 66-game major league track record and horrible plate discipline. I do, however, have an issue with the low run and RBI totals that ZiPS projects for Middlebrooks.
So far this year, Middlebrooks has 32 runs scored (0.125 runs per plate appearance) and 48 RBI (0.188 RBI per plate appearance). ZiPS, however, projects just 15 runs (0.833 runs/PA) and 21 RBI (0.117 RBI/PA). Runs and RBI are difficult to predict and there is surely regression coming in these two areas for Middlebrooks, but that seems too steep.
ZiPS projects a .294 OBP and .165 ISO for Middlebrooks for the rest of the season. Using FanGraphs' new leaderboard filter, I extracted all hitters who have posted an on-base percentage between .290 and .300 in either 2011 or this year. The average runs scored rate for these players was 0.109 runs per plate appearance. I also extracted the hitters who had an isolated power between .155 and .175 over that same time period. The average RBI rate for this batch of players was 0.118 RBI per plate appearance.
The players on these two lists came from various teams, but most teams aren’t the Boston Red Sox. Despite losing key players in Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury for long periods of time this year, Boston still ranks eighth in baseball in wOBA. The lineup looks fully healthy now and could easily hit like it did in 2011, when it produced a league-best 116 wRC+.
Arbitrary adjustment: If we adjust the average run and RBI rate of players similar to Middlebrooks to reflect a 110 team-wRC+, something Boston should easily be capable of coming close to going forward, then he would average 0.120 runs and 0.130 RBI per plate appearance. I would also bump his playing time projection to 200 plate appearances. Under these circumstances, Middlebrooks’ rest of season projection looks like this: 24 runs, seven home runs, 26 RBI, two steals and a .259 average. Since he typically hits sixth or seventh, we could probably add a couple of RBIs and subtract a couple of runs from that line, but the overall result would be similar, a boost into the 17th spot among third basemen.
Posted by Jesse Sakstrup at 3:38am
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