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THT's Fantasy Archives
Monday, April 29, 2013
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice for tinkerers and daily fantasy players. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective, including notice of impending weather events, new injuries, and changes to platoon situations. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
The daily picks are a mixture of Daily League specific advice and information for the more typical fantasy owner.
Pitcher (to start): Wade Davis has a favorable match-up against Ubaldo Jimenez. I expect Davis to have a bit of a bumpy season, but he's a solid pitcher and should have solid stats when all is said and done. He has a great chance to earn a win tonight.
Ted Lilly starts at home against the Rockies. Which is not a great match-up, but I don't have much to point at today.
Dan Straily will start in place of Brett Anderson
Pitcher (bum): Did I just say I don't have much to point at today? Here's a laundry list:
Hitter (power): Chris Carter has the platoon advantage against Andy Pettitte, although I'm not sure that's worth a trip to the wire.
I'm becoming infatuated with Lucas Duda. He's swinging at hardly anything this season and mashing when he does. Jose Fernandez is a talented pitcher, but I think Duda matches up well here.
New name alert! Wellington Castillo and Scott Hairston should both be happy to face Richard.
I should just put Brandon Moss and Seth Smith in the template. I recall thinking that last year, too. I love the A's.
One more, Nolan Reimold against Saunders.
Hitter (speed): Lorenzo Cain is a little too heavily owned at 53 percent, but I need a competent speedster.
I suppose Gerardo Parra could be that guy.
Pitcher (to start): Zach McAllister will face a mediocre Phillies lineup. He's opposed by Roy Halladay, who's no longer on my exploit list.
Kevin Slowey is back on the fringe of fantasy relevance. He's getting more swinging strikes, so the 2011 version of Slowey is more likely to show up than the 2012 version.
I like what Jose Quintana has shown this year, but I'm not a fan of a start against the Rangers.
Pitcher (bum): Jarrod Parker has struggled this season, but I'm more concerned about his immediate match-up with the Angels than his long term outlook.
The Orioles can be a tough assignment for a pitcher like Brandon Maurer.
Vance Worley drew the short straw and is taking on Justin Verlander.
What's more unimpressive, the Yankees lineup or Philip Humber?
Hitter (power): Travis Hafner is stuck with the UTIL only tag, but he's also available in two-thirds of leagues and seemingly loves his new home.
Gio Gonzalez has been inconsistent, so Chris Johnson may be in line for a couple more line drives.
Moss and Smith again? Garrett Richards specializes in a hard fastball, which lines up with their strengths.
Hitter (speed): Something to keep in mind: Eric Young Jr. and Rajai Davis are both getting into a lot of games lately. Davis should play against Jon Lester, although that's hardly an ideal match-up. It's uncertain if Young will play against Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Craig Gentry will get the start against Quintana.
Nolan Arenado received the call-up over the weekend and Carlos Ruiz returned to action. You may be too late to grab either guy. You can probably pass on Arenado for re-draft leagues.
Isolated storms could affect the Padres, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees, but it doesn't sound like anything to worry about.
Good enough for me
I'm going to direct you to the Mets section of my division update over at the main THT site. It has some more details on Duda's no-swinging ways.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:37am
In deep leagues, fantasy owners need to be ahead of the curve and keep a close eye on developing trends. Speculating on players who have a window of opportunity on the horizon that hasn’t quite arrived yet is one way to get a leg up on the competition. Don’t blow your whole FAAB budget waiting for that window to open.
For example, fantasy owners assuredly spent plenty of FAAB dollars on Nolan Arenado after his call-up Sunday. In one of my leagues, I picked him up two weeks ago with a $0 bid. If there’s an open bench or reserve spot on your roster and nothing exciting on the waiver wire, stashing one of the following players is a fine option.
Houston’s starting rotation is just plain awful. The Astros’ rotation has compiled a 6.44 ERA, almost a full run higher than the second-worst rotation ERA (5.48 for the Padres) in the majors. The ragtag crew of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard have combined for a staggering 1.74 WHIP. Manager Bo Porter says that there will be no immediate changes to his rotation, but only Norris and Harrell are secure in their roles.
The Astros have a few options on the major league roster, but they’re unappealing to say the least. Paul Clemens was used mostly as a starter in his minor league career, but he was awful last season in Triple-A, pitching to a 6.73 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 20 starts. Comparing those numbers to the current Astros rotation, it appears he’d fit right in, but not in a good way.
Travis Blackley made 15 starts in 24 total appearances as a swingman for Oakland last year, but while his numbers were okay (4.54 ERA, 1.24 WHIP as a starter), he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2007 and is 30 years old. Jose Cisnero was effective as a starter in Double-A in 2012 but had trouble adjusting to Triple-A to end the season and to start 2013 (5.40 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 1.56 K/BB ratio in 48.1 total innings).
Even still, Blackley or Cisnero likely will get the first shot at a rotation spot when Porter decides to make a switch, but there’s little reason to believe either would be much of an upgrade over Humber, Peacock or Bedard. Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel are in Triple-A, but neither of them would likely generate any excitement for Astros fans or fantasy owners. However, the Astros’ top pitching prospect, Jarred Cosart, is pitching well in Triple-A after impressing in five starts at that level to end 2012.
There have long been questions about Cosart’s ability to be a starter at the major league level. He generally is viewed as a two-pitch pitcher with questionable command, a combination that has late-inning reliever written all over it. Both his fastball and curveball have the potential to be plus-plus offerings, but his changeup isn’t yet a major league-quality pitch, and he hasn’t been as much of a strikeout pitcher as one would expect from a guy with stuff as electric as his.
Since reaching Triple-A last season, the 22-year-old has begun to look like he could stick as a starter. In 49.2 innings in Oklahoma City, Cosart has pitched to a 2.72 ERA, 2.96 FIP and 1.27 WHIP while improving his strikeout rate to 8.52 K/9, his best mark at any level since his Single-A season back in 2010.
When Cosart reaches the majors, which could happen soon, he is unquestionably a huge risk for fantasy purposes. He could carry over his Triple-A production and become an exciting fantasy option. On the other hand, he’s currently pitching in Houston’s wacky tandem-starter minor league system and rarely, if ever, goes more than two times through an opponent’s lineup.
This is a major concern for me. Starters with limited arsenals are prone to struggle when opposing hitters see them multiple times in a game, which is one of the main reasons starters get turned into relievers in the first place.
Cosart’s upside is worthy of a deep bench or reserve stash in AL-only leagues. It’s in the Astros’ best interests to give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter, and Cosart could be a very good one. He also could completely implode and show that he’s not a starter at all. In deep AL-only leagues, he’s worth the gamble.
I was highly disappointed to hear of Arenado’s call-up on Sunday because I had planned to feature him in this article. (I can be selfish sometimes.) While everyone knows by now that Arenado is a must-add in nearly every league, especially with the relative weakness of the third base crop this year, I was shocked to discover that Arcia has somehow gone almost completely ignored.
The 21-year-old outfielder was called up to replace the injured Darin Mastroianni and has started seven consecutive games, taking playing time away from Chris Parmelee and Ryan Doumit. Unbelievably, he is owned in just 1.0 percent of Yahoo leagues and 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues. (AL-only owners on CBS seem to have caught on, as his ownership on that site is 13 percent.)
Arcia is a unanimous Top-100 prospect who owns a career .316/.373/.539 line in 1606 minor league plate appearances. What’s even more baffling about his lack of ownership in fantasy leagues is that the major knocks on him as a prospect (below-average speed and defensive tools) have no impact on his fantasy value. Power-hitting corner outfielders aren’t expected to steal bases, and defense doesn’t matter in fantasy.
Arcia is hitting just .194, but it’s a miniscule 33 plate-appearance sample size, and he’s already hit two homers, the first of which was a no-doubter blast onto the concourse beyond the right-field bleachers at Target Field.
So why Arcia he virtually unowned, even in AL-only leagues? Maybe nobody’s been watching the Twins, or maybe people think he’ll head back to Triple-A once Mastroianni returns to health. I expect that Arcia is here to say; young stud prospects like him are the future for the Twins, not guys like Parmelee, Doumit, Mastroianni or Wilkin Ramirez.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Arcia hits .260 with 15 homers this season. He is a must-own in AL-only leagues and well worth a look in mixed-league dynasty formats, too. Plus, if you play anywhere other than CBS, you probably can just go grab him for free. What a bargain.
Posted by Scott Strandberg at 3:51am
Here at The Hardball Times' Waiver Wire desk (located in the basement of the very fine THT building), my compatriot Karl de Vries and I spend a lot of time looking at trends. We scour countless player profiles for something unusual, something unexpected, something that has been overlooked for one reason or another.
It seems helpful, then, to offer a reminder about some of the trends we talk about, and when those statistics will stabilize. There are good pieces on this here, here, and here, that expand upon previous work by Russell Carleton and Harry Pavlidis.
At this point in the season, everyday players have crossed the 100 plate appearance threshold, and many of the platoon players I mention in this space are around the 60 PA mark, which means right now the data regarding swing rates, contact rates, strikeout rates, walk rates and home run rates are either fairly trustworthy or getting close to that point. (Note: this is way more true for hitters than it is for pitchers, those fickle beasts).
So, yes, it's still early in the season, and a lot of the trends Karl and I dig up still are to be taken with a large helping of salt, but they aren't complete flukes anymore, either. Just a friendly reminder as the season's first month comes to an end. As always, let's take a look around the league at some players we've featured here, which we
Saturday brought news regarding Red Sox relievers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. It seems Hanrahan is nearing a return, and Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe states that Harahan is expected to resume closing when he rejoins the team. I'm skeptical for now, mostly because Bailey has been very good, and Hanrahan was pretty bad before getting shut down.
If you were smart and listened to Karl when he promoted Bailey earlier this year, now is not the time to drop him. Instead, wait to see how this actually plays out. It seems unlikely the Red Sox will continue propping up Hanrahan if Bailey continues to excel.
Elsewhere in the world of teams named after foot apparel, the White Sox placed starter Gavin Floyd on the disabled list Sunday. Dylan Axelrod was featured here just before the season, and while he wasn't strongly recommended, he's been quietly solid for the pale hose. John Danks is on a Triple-A rehab assignment and seems close to returning, so Floyd's injury will keep Axelrod in the rotation for longer than originally anticipated.
Axelrod still is the guy to get jettisoned when the White Sox are fully healthy, but for the time being, he can be used in a pinch or as part of a plan to stream starters in good situations. He's been decent across the board, so while he is still not a big upside play, you could do worse for a guy who is still widely available.
Jake Westbrook has made four starts for the Cardinals and currently has an ERA below 1.00. Given the good fortune he's had in a number of areas (strand rate and home run rate chief among them) and the fact that he's walked as many hitters as he's struck out, I wouldn't expect that to continue.
On to today's
Luis Valbuena | Chicago Cubs | 3B | ESPN: 0.6 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 1 percent; CBS: 7 percent
YTD: .237/.338/.475 in 68 PA
ZiPS Updated Projection: .245/.323/.398 in 538 PA
Ian Stewart | Chicago Cubs | 3B | ESPN: 0 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 0 percent; CBS: 3 percent
YTD: .100/.243./.133 in 37 Triple-A PA
ZiPS Updated Projection: .210/.296/.376 in 328 PA
I'm choosing to highlight the Cubs' third basemen for three reasons:
1. Luis Valbuena has been outstanding thus far, but nobody seems to care.
2. Ian Stewart is on his Triple-A rehab assignment and seemingly will be back in the majors soon.
3. I need to work out my thoughts on how this will all play out. So let's enjoy the journey together.
Stewart is the bigger household name, and he's had more major league success than Valbuena by a wide margin. The problem is, most of that success came before a rash of injuries derailed his career, including wrist surgery last season and a quadriceps injury that has him yet to play in the majors this year. These setbacks unfortunately leave us unsure about what he has left, how far his skill has diminished since he was last healthy (assuming there was a time when he was healthy), and what kind of player he will be going forward.
It's mostly impossible to answer any of those questions, so a lot of how this all shakes out depends on how Stewart looks at Triple-A (not very good, thus far) when/if he gets called back up to the big club, and what kind of role the Cubs give him when/if he does indeed make it back. Manager Dale Sveum has said Stewart will have to earn his starting gig back, and that might be harder to do than some would make it seem.
First the major league stuff. Yeah, Valbuena's numbers at the game's highest level are not good, this is true. He has a career .225/.295/.350 line in 337 games spread across six seasons (including the current one), but that's precisely my problem with writing him off. He's in his sixth big league season, and he's still just 27 years old. Despite varying degrees of solid numbers in the minor leagues, he's never been given a real shot to be an everyday player.
Given the majority of the playing time at third base to start the year with the Cubs, Valbuena has posted strong results despite some poor luck. His average is low, but assuming his BABIP of .233 trends up going forward, I'd expect his average to do the same. Valbuena's walk rate and ISO have been superb as well, 11.8 percent and .237, respectively, and they have not been far outside his results in the minor leagues.
At every stop of his minor league career, Valbuena has walked. He's generally been around 10 percent while striking out around 15 percent. He's also flashed impressive power, with a career minor league ISO of .157, but with stretches of brilliance, including a .218 mark in 2009 at Triple-A 2009 as a 23-year-old, and a .292 mark the following year at the same level. Granted, we're talking about sample sizes of 95 and 119 plate appearances, but still, the skill is there, and now he's getting enough playing time to put it on display. Whether or not that continues to be the case depends in large part on what's happening with Stewart.
Either one of Valbuena or Stewart can have value, but not both. This is not a case where the Cubs will work out a useful platoon using these two players. If Stewart proves healthy, it's likely he will come up. If he's playing well, he's the guy for the Cubs, and Valbuena likely will be relegated to super-sub duty, splitting time between third base and second.
It's worth mentioning that Valbuena does not have the kind of platoon splits that mean he needs to split time at third base. In fact, if anything, it might be fair to make the case that he has a reverse platoon split, despite the fact that the Cubs have been sitting him against lefties lately. So if Stewart fails to regain the ability to hit like he did during his best days in Colorado, and if Valbuena keeps up his current production, it stands to reason that the seemingly woeful situation at third base in Chicago has found an unlikely answer in Valbuena.
I suppose Josh Vitters merits a mention here, if only because some might wonder where he factors into this equation. If you ask me, he doesn't. I've never been a big fan, and he's been on the disabled list most of the season with back soreness. For now, there's nothing to see here.
Recommendation: It's a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion that much of Valbuena's value depends on what Stewart is doing, but as someone who is skeptical of Stewart after wrist surgery and a delayed start to this season, and someone who has always kind of liked Valbuena, I'm inclined to recommend the current Cubs' third baseman.
He's a great addition for the time being until the Cubs do something with Stewart, and Valbuena bears watching after that point as well. If Stewart comes up and starts hitting like the good old days, it's worth remembering that he's just 28 years old and can be a wonderful waiver wire find if healthy. I'm just skeptical about that last part.
John Lackey| Boston Red Sox | SP | ESPN: 6.5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 9 percent; CBS: 17 percent
YTD: 4.1 IP, two earned runs allowed, one walk, eight strikeouts
ZiPS Updated Projection: 5.26 ERA in 104.3 IP
One of the best ways to achieve fantasy success is to capitalize when a players' narrative overshadows his actual resume. That might be happening right now with John Lackey.
The narrative is well known. Lackey signed a huge five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Red Sox before his age-31 season in 2010, and the on-field results have not been good. He posted 3.9 WAR in that 2010 season, but mostly because he racked up 215 innings. On a game-by-game basis he was merely average, and that season was by far his best in Boston to date.
In 2011 Lackey had an ugly 6.41 ERA (which admittedly was unlucky, but he still was not very good), and he missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery. Throw in off-field issues with the media, and you have a player whose name invokes more eyerolls than analysis.
The thing is, Lackey was once very good, and he's still not that old. He made his season debut April 6 against Toronto and looked sharp, touching 94 miles per hour with his fastball and striking out eight batters over 4.1 innings. I was getting set to recommend him, right when he suffered an injury that looked terrible but turned out to be nothing more than a cramp.
Lackey is back again, tossing six strong innings Sunday against the Astros, allowing one run and striking out four while walking two. Maybe most importantly, he looked plenty healthy. If he is, he can provide value for mixed-league owners.
Recommendation: Worth adding in mixed leagues while he's healthy. He won't be a game breaker, but guys who can provide wins and toss league-average numbers across the board don't grow on trees.
Posted by Jack Weiland at 3:03am
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