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THT's Fantasy Archives
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
As part of the Fantasy Department here at THT Enterprises, part of our job is to play fantasy baseball. (It's a tough gig, believe me).
For me, that means having teams in ESPN, Yahoo! and CBS so I know the ins and outs of each site, and their respective mobile applications as well. CBS has long been the home of my dynasty league, because it allows for the most customization and the deepest rosters of the three major fantasy baseball providers. The site's user interface has always lagged significantly behind, however. It wasn't as flashy as ESPN (both in terms of aesthetic appeal and the actual use of Flash, the program), and it has never worked quite as well as Yahoo. CBS has been making strides recently though, and the company unveiled another cool feature yesterday.
Through the use of an application designed to cleverly mine team and player statistics, CBS now automatically posts a weekly recap after each contest. Here's a screenshot from my league Monday (Kane County Cougars is my team name, Hanshin Tigers were my opponent in Week 8):
Very cool stuff, and impressive technology. The story reads like a real human wrote it, and it accurately captured what happened and the trends that matter. I can dig it. I have yet to see something like that from either ESPN or Yahoo. All of which makes me wonder: which site is your favorite? Which features are your favorite? What matters most to you as a fantasy consumer? Let us know below, or via Twitter. I'm always interested to hear what others think and prefer.
Before we get to this week's waiver finds, a recap of some recent players we've featured:
Jerome Williams (the Junkyard Dog!) threw eight shutout innings against the Mariners last Wednesday.
I'm throwing Brandon Maurer in my lineup this week, mostly because I like his starts at home against San Diego and on the road against the Twins. His peripheral stats are not bad (15.5 percent strikeout rate, 8.3 percent walk rate), and his 6.80 ERA is indeed ugly, but I still like him long term, and think it's conceivable I won't get burned in two sheltered appearances this week. Or not.
Roy Oswalt did not have a great rehab debut at Double-A, and remains three starts away from joining the Rockies. I'm still cautiously optimistic about his return to the major leagues. My advice is to watch his next few starts in terms of velocity, strikeouts and walks and act accordingly.
Eric Chavez has continued to crush the ball at levels not seen since his prime, and while he won't see everyday playing time in an effort to keep him healthy, he can still be a huge addition to fantasy teams in need of a bat that can help in almost all categories when he is in the lineup.
I've had bad luck (heh, luck) with catchers this year, as Welington Castillo, Derek Norris and John Jaso are no longer guys I can recommend using. So today let's take a stab at three more options behind the plate.
Yan Gomes | Cleveland Indians | C/1B/DH | ESPN: 5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 19 percent; CBS: 17 percent
YTD: .292/.309/.631 in 68 plate appearances
ZiPS Projection: .248/.286/.453 in 320 plate appearances
We write about all sorts of interesting cases here at the Waiver Wire desk, and Yan Gomes certainly fits that bill as well. The first Brazilian major league player, Gomes was briefly a flavor of the week last May when he made that historic debut for the Blue Jays. It didn't go well, to the tune of a .204/.264/.367 triple slash line in 111 plate appearances. He was traded to the Indians over the offseason, along with Mike Aviles, and while his playing time hasn't improved noticeably on the high-octane Indians, his performance has improved in a number of areas.
His triple slash line of .292/.309/.631 is pretty striking, even when considering he's put up those numbers in just 68 plate appearances and he's been on a power tear recently, hitting three of his five home runs in the past seven days. There are other reasons to like what Gomes has done this year, however.
He's not walking much (just 2.9 percent) and that's never been a huge part of his game, but Gomes has cut his strikeout rate considerably (from 28.8 percent with the Blue Jays to 19.1 percent). Both major league stints are incredibly small sample sizes, but Gomes' plate discipline has been markedly improved this season. He's swinging at way fewer pitches outside the zone (41 percent to 32.6), his contact rate is way up (from 70.1 percent to 85.3), and he's managed to cut his swinging strike rate in half (from 15.9 percent to 7).
His biggest success this season comes in terms of power, though. His current .338 ISO would be among the league leaders if he had enough playing time to qualify. That ISO rate is indeed much higher than it's been at any stop of his professional career, but it's not as if his HR/FB rate is completely unsustainable, at 20.8 percent. Even anticipating a modest drop, Gomes would still have enough power to make him a useful catcher in fantasy leagues.
All of this boils down to one thing: Gomes could be of great use with increased playing time. He's going to struggle to get that in Cleveland, splitting time behind the dish with Carlos Santana, and at first with Nick Swisher, and getting some at-bats as designated hitter. His career numbers don't suggest a lefty/righty platoon split is very necessary, so a case could be made that Gomes could be a good fantasy player with full-time at-bats. It remains to be seen if he will get that chance.
Recommendation: Gomes bears watching closely. An increase in playing time could make him very useful in mixed leagues. As is, he's well worth rostering in AL-only leagues where owners can manage his playing time.
Jason Castro | Houston Astros | C | ESPN: 5.4 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 13 percent; CBS: 40 percent
ZiPS Projection: .262/.322/.416 in 458 plate appearances
This is going to be a controversial statement, but things have not gone well in Houston this year. Some might even say the 14-36 Astros are not even watchable at this point, being that their incompetence is rivaled only by that of the Marlins.
This has been generally true in fantasy baseball as well, but one unheralded bright spot could be crouched behind the plate.
In his third season in the majors, Castro is getting a majority of the playing time at catcher, and he's been hitting third to boot. He's already matched his 2012 home run total and has put up generally good numbers across the board.
His ISO of .195 is very useful, particularly from this position, and his healthy line drive rate of 26.1 percent indicates he's been making hard contact consistently this year. His home run rate might be a tad high at 14.6 percent, but not overly so. He could be due for a dip in BABIP, which is currently at .358, but if he maintains such a high line drive rate it's plausible that he can maintain an elevated average on balls in play. He's been a tad under the radar for now, but that changed on CBS this week, as his ownership jumped from 18 percent to 40.
Recommendation: He can be a low-end mixed league option, and a stellar find in AL-only leagues.
Yasmani Grandal | San Diego Padres | C | ESPN: 0.5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 4 percent; CBS: 27 percent
ZiPS Projection: .255/.353/.396 in 498 plate appearances
PED suspension return alert! Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal will return to major league action this week.
Of catchers with at least 200 plate appearances last season, Grandal had the fourth highest wOBA. His .376 mark was better than that of Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero and Carlos Santana. The dude can swing it. Or at least he could, before his PED suspension this past offseason.
It remains to be seen what kind of effect that had on Grandal's skill, and last year's impressive stat line, but this is a player who should be owned more than he is. As Dan Wade pointed out last week, "unlike most of the chaff on the wire, Grandal has a high ceiling and a decent shot of hitting it."
Wade's concern with Grandal is playing time, as he sees an initial platoon pitting Nick Hundley against right-handed pitching, and Grandal against lefties. That's a plausible scenario, particular as Grandal eases back into the lineup, but at the same time there's no reason Grandal should be out of shape, given that he wasn't sidelined with an injury, and in theory has been hitting this entire time (albeit not in major league game conditions). There also isn't a lot to suggest to me that Grandal needs to be platooned strictly, and plenty to suggest to me that Nick Hundley just is not that good (career platoon splits of .257/.308/.422 against RHP, and that's by far his good side).
If Grandal comes up and starts punishing left-handed pitching, and holding his own against righties, my guess is he'll get the lion's share of the workload behind the plate, and Hundley will steal fewer and fewer at-bats against righties to spell him.
Recommendation: Worth picking up in mixed leagues now.
Posted by Jack Weiland at 3:06am
This week features the debuts of two of baseball’s top prospects, both of whom are worthy of consideration in nearly any size league. Let’s take a look at where your FAAB bids should go today.
It’s a foregone conclusion at this point that Michael Wacha will be joining the starting rotation in St. Louis this week. Wacha was scheduled to start for Triple-A Memphis on Monday, but was scratched from that start, likely a sign that he’s packing his bags and heading to the bigs.
I’m always more comfortable recommending prospect pickups when I’ve had the opportunity to see the player in person. I was fortunate enough to see Wacha start twice in college, including this gem in 2011, which was his first collegiate complete game. It was also on the road against the No. 2 team in the nation. I took notice.
Being the nerd that I am, I’ve been taking scouting notes at games since well before I started writing about baseball. Here are some excerpts from my notebook from that day in 2011:
His Triple-A strikeout rate of 5.81 K/9 so far this season leaves plenty to be desired, but Wacha has the stuff to be a 7+ K/9 starter in the majors, and what sets him apart from so many pitching prospects is his consistency. Wacha has allowed no more than two earned runs in any of his nine starts this year, and that level of reliability is extremely rare for a 21-year-old getting his first taste of Triple-A.
The Cardinals have as many starters on the disabled list right now (Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, John Gast) as they have in their rotation (Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons). With Garcia out for the year, Carpenter shutting down his rehab work and Westbrook headed for Dr. Andrews’ office with elbow discomfort, expect Wacha to join the club this week and stick in the rotation for the balance of the season.
Considering the success the Cardinals have had recently with young starters such as Lynn and Miller, the sky’s the limit for Wacha and he needs to be owned in all formats. In his brief minor-league career, he has a 1.71 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 74 strikeouts and 19 walks in 73.2 innings. That’s a guy I want on my team.
Dustin Ackley headed to Triple-A on Sunday to spend some quality time with his buddy Jesus Montero, and Franklin has been summoned to replace him at second base. Franklin was absolutely mashing in Tacoma to the tune of a .324/.440/.472 slash line with a .410 wOBA, whereas Ackley was well into his second season of “Jaw-Dropping Regression Theater,” with a .205/.266/.250 line with a .237 wOBA in the majors. The Mariners have clearly seen enough of this from Ackley, who has done a fantastic job of making everyone forget about his solid rookie season and former prospect status, and the future is here in the form of Franklin.
The 22-year-old has developed elite plate vision, as evidenced by his 30 walks to just 20 strikeouts in 177 Triple-A plate appearances this season, which should help him adjust to major-league pitching relatively quickly. The upside is there for a solid batting average with low-double digit homers and steals. If a middle infielder who can do that would improve your team, Franklin’s your guy.
Speaking of Montero, as I speculated in this column several weeks ago, he has played exclusively first base since being sent down to Tacoma. Watch your back, Justin Smoak.
Posted by Scott Strandberg at 3:02am
Umpire performance seems to be a hot topic right now. ESPN has enough material to create countless segments of recent blown calls, and the prospect of expanded replay review is becoming ever more likely. For the foreseeable future, though, umpires will continue to retain full control over all ball and strike calls. While the strike zone is supposed to be uniform, we see considerable variance in the zone from umpire to umpire.
We are fortunate to have more than five years of PITCHf/x data on most umpires, so I thought I’d use this data to pick out a few umpires who add a little personality to their strike zones. It is extremely hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that, while this technology allows umpires better evaluate previous decisions, umpire-specific called strike zones don’t seem to be changing much.
The heat maps below plot ball and strike calls for each umpire relative to major league average. Yellow zones indicate areas in which an umpire calls a pitch a strike at least 10 percent more often than other umpires, while blue areas indicate areas in which an umpire is more likely to call a pitch a ball. Umpires tend to struggle most with pitches that are thrown hard, so most heat maps plot only the different types of fastballs that pitchers throw.
Ideal match-up: Pitchers who can pound the lower part of the zone with a sinker or running fastball.
As the strike zone can vary on any given day, players tend to gripe the most about inconsistency. Bucknor has won the coveted “worst umpire in the majors” award by player consensus vote in three of the last eight years. While most gripe about inconsistency from Bucknor with regard to ball and strike calls, he has actually developed a tendency to call a tight zone laterally. It’s easy to see why many complain about pitches on the left and right edges of the plate when Bucknor is behind the plate; he rarely calls these pitches strikes.
BB/9: 3.6 (lowest in the majors)
(Really) weak match-up: Left-handed hitters.
Pitchers with control issues can breathe a sigh of relief when Eddings puts on his mask. The veteran umpire operates with a liberal zone from top to bottom, even if he does squeeze the right corner of the zone a little bit. I included ball and strike calls for Eddings going back to 2008, because he calls one of the clearest and most difficult strike zones in the league for left-handed hitters.
K/9: 18.3 (highest in the majors)
Unfortunately ideal match-up: Pitchers who often throw (hanging) breaking balls up in the zone… Barry Zito, anyone?
I included Everitt primarily because he leads the league in strikeouts per game. He also is unique because he calls a fairly liberal zone for breaking balls to left-handed and right-handed hitters. Everitt’s high strikeout rate should regress. He has, after all, called two Houston Astros games. He also doesn’t call a wide zone for fastballs.
Match-up: Timmons calls a zone that is perfect for left-handed power hitters with solid plate discipline.
The former head of the minor league umpires’ union likes low fastballs on the corners, but that’s about it. Going back to 2008, Timmons has exhibited the desire to be picky when it comes to breaking balls on the corners of the zone and fastballs up in the zone. Given his track record, his high walk rate this season is entirely believable.
*Thanks to baseballheatmaps.com for the heatmap data and thespread.com for other umpire statistics.
Posted by Noah Woodward at 3:01am
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