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Monday, July 08, 2013
This time of year, most of the top prospect call-ups have already happened, and there’s not likely to be many more between now and September. There hasn’t been much action on the trade market yet, so searching for fresh talent for your fantasy roster isn’t easy. This week, I’m digging pretty deep, but for those of you in AL-only leagues, there’s someone working his way back to the big leagues who may be of interest.
Manny Ramirez (Ownership rates: Yahoo 0%, ESPN 0.3%, CBS 4%)
Feel free to snicker all you want, but I did tell you we were digging deep this week. We’ll get all the obvious caveats out of the way first. Manny is 41 years old and hasn’t produced at the major-league level since 2010. Sure, he put up some gaudy numbers and launched some ridiculous homers in Taiwan this year, but from everything I’ve heard, the Taiwanese league is approximately equivalent to High-A ball.
The other side of this issue to consider is that Manny hasn’t had a chance to succeed, or fail, at the major-league level since that 2010 season. His 2011 stint with the Rays was cut short after just five games due to a failed drug test, and he played in just 17 games last year in Triple-A for the Oakland organization after serving a 50-game suspension. If you want to read anything into those samples, be my guest.
He’s three years older than he was in that last productive season, when he posted a .298/.409/.460 slash line over 90 games, and that obviously should give any fantasy owner pause. He also hasn’t faced high-level competition for an extended period in those three years. There’s bound to be some rust to knock off, even if Manny has something left in the tank.
Still, we’re talking about a man with 555 major-league homers and a career .312/.411/.585 slash. He’ll never have to play the field, so all he has to focus on is hitting baseballs, which in case you’d forgotten, he used to be very good at. There’s probably some steroid-related noise in his career power numbers, but steroids have nothing to do with plate discipline, vision or mechanics at the plate, and those are all things that Manny always has excelled at.
Furthermore, if Manny can make it back to the majors and regain even a little bit of his former glory, he’ll be playing half his games in the hitters’ haven of Rangers Ballpark, and in the hottest months of the year at that. Also, there’s the fact that the Rangers need a right-handed bat and designated hitter in a bad way.
Lance Berkman has been playing essentially replacement-level baseball as the Rangers’ designated hitter, with a WAR of 0.1 on the season, and Adrian Beltre is the only right-handed or switch-hitting bat on the team who is hitting above .300 against righties, an area Manny always has handled quite well.
Realistically speaking, do I expect Manny to be a solid fantasy contributor in August and September? The answer is an obvious no, and I think any reasonable person would agree. I do, however, think there is still a chance that he has enough left to provide some value for both the Rangers and your fantasy team for a month or two.
Absolutely avoid him in any sort of mixed league or shallower AL-only format, but if you’re in a deep AL-only and you have some wasted space in your reserve slots or on your bench, he’s worth a speculative stash. You can’t just completely ignore a player with 555 career home runs in leagues that deep. Just make sure you’re not dropping anything of value, because the chances of Manny being Manny again are admittedly slim.
Posted by Scott Strandberg at 3:04am
Happy birthday, America! While we celebrate the legacy of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and a whole host of other super patriots, we continue to pay tribute to the gods of fantasy baseball, who, in their most charitable moments, reward our long-shot waiver claims with enough production to boost our teams as we near the season’s home stretch.
This week, we’ll take a look at three once-heralded fantasy names who, despite falling recently on hard times, still could provide some help in our ongoing excavation of the fantasy silver mine.
Wilson Ramos | Washington Nationals | C | 8 percent Yahoo ownership; 7 percent ESPN; 19 percent CBS
YTD: 60 PA / .304 / .350 / .518 with 3 HR and 0 SB
ZiPS updated: 178 PA / .278 / .329 / .456 with 7 HR and 0 SB
It’s been a tough couple of years for Ramos. After a 2011 season in which he bashed 15 home runs in just 435 plate appearances, the 25-year-old established himself as one of fantasy’s hidden gems at the backstop heading into 2012.
But a harrowing offseason kidnapping incident was the prelude for a torn knee that ruined his season, and after entering 2013 in a battle with Kurt Suzuki for dibs behind the dish in DC, he first suffered a recurring left hamstring injury in May that has relegated him to fantasy Palookaville so far as his ownership levels are concerned.
But not only is Ramos back, he’s back with a bang after knocking in eight runs in his first two games since returning on July 4. With Suzuki’s .608 OPS not doing much to help what’s been a lackluster offense, the door certainly is open for Ramos, still considered the team’s top catcher, to get some playing time.
Ramos, who was at the heart of the 2010 Matt Capps trade between the Nationals and the Twins, certainly has pop, though his recent hot streak shouldn’t be confused with the second coming of Mike Piazza. But he is a guy with a nearly .300 lifetime average at Nationals Park, and with the season-killing knee injury to Yasmani Grandal, alert owners should pounce on Ramos before he returns to prominence in standard fantasy leagues.
Recommendation: A relative glut of catchers this year should allow owners in 12-team leagues to wait on Ramos a bit, but he’s a must-add in 14-team mixed leagues and beyond.
Edinson Volquez | San Diego Padres | SP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership; 2 percent ESPN; 35 percent CBS
YTD: 99.1 IP / 5.26 ERA / 7.7 K/9 / 4.2 BB/9 with 6 wins
ZiPS updated: 174 IP / 4.75 ERA / 7.9 K/9 / 4.4 BB/9 with 10 wins
What’s more depressing: that it’s been five years since Volquez busted out with a 17-win season, or that his 4.74 ERA and 1.50 WHIP since have relegated him to the ash heap of fantasy mediocrity?
Whether you want to blame Tommy John surgery, a PED suspension or just plain bad luck, Volquez has never been able to return to the glory of his old Cincinnati days, and while the ERA in 2013 isn’t pretty, we’re still talking about a 30-year-old hurler who has proven MLB success and just maybe isn’t as bad as his numbers might indicate.
Consider the 3.86 FIP and the low 65.4 percent strand rate, or the fact that over his past five starts, Volquez has posted a 2.73 ERA and 10.9 K/9. Yes, two of those starts was against the hapless Marlins and pitching-dependent Giants, but the Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers all feature competent batting orders, and three of those outings were on the road away from pitcher’s haven known as Petco.
In terms of pitch selection, Texas Leaguers says Volquez has leaned more heavily on his slider than his fastball over that stretch, which, as far as FanGraphs’ pitch values data is concerned, means he’s relying less on a heater that’s been ineffective throughout his career.
Whatever the reason, his swinging-strike rate has spiked to 11 percent over those 29.2 innings, helping to reverse a season-long trend that was headed in the wrong direction.
The command, forever an issue for a guy with a career 4.8 BB/9, didn’t drastically change course over the last month, and the words “Edinson Volquez” and “consistency” will never be found alongside each other in the dictionary.
So while Volquez has a lot more to prove before he regains fantasy owners’ confidence, I guess I’m trying to say that some recent success provides hope that a guy with a career 8.5 K/9 is worth keeping tabs on in case he magically rediscovers the 2008 success.
He lines up for two home starts in Week 15, though one of those appearances is against the Rockies, a team that has positively abused the right-hander in three starts so far this year (19 earned runs in 11.2 innings), though his matchup against Tim Lincecum and the Giants provides a bit more optimism. I wouldn’t trust Volquez in any league where I have alternative options, but he might be worth a flier if you’re looking for two-start options.
Recommendation: Still largely an NL-only league option.
Brian Roberts | Baltimore Orioles | 2B | 8 percent Yahoo ownership; 20 percent ESPN; 24 percent CBS
YTD: 33 PA / .267 / .281 / .400 with 1 HR and 1 SB
ZiPS updated: 114 PA / .252 / .298 / .376 with 3 HR and 4 SB
I’m not exactly sure what to say about the 35-year-old second baseman who, entering Sunday, was hitting a measly .167 since returning from right hamstring surgery, other to say that he’s a) still alive and b) offers some upside at a shallow position.
Yes, it’s just a matter of time until Roberts gets hurt again, but until then, he’ll be hitting in one of baseball’s most productive lineups. Although he’s been back a week, his ownership levels clearly indicate that most fantasy owners are either too scared to waste a waiver claim on him or forgot that the two-time All-Star compiled a .290/.365/.438 line from 2004 through 2009 while averaging more than 100 runs and 35 stolen bases in that period.
Okay, that’s not exactly recent history we’re talking about, but Roberts did smack a home run on Tuesday and is playing for a new contract after this season. He’s strictly a churn-em-and-burn-em candidate right now, but you could probably do worse on the wire in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Deeper mixed-league material.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 3:03am
The trade deadline is an exciting time of the year for baseball fans—at least those who are fans of contenders—but it is a more nebulous time for fantasy players. As you scan the news to see which players have switched leagues and can now be bid on in your AL or NL-only leagues, remember that new teams can have other implications for players. Here are four players I expect to improve their numbers if they end up on different teams.
If Justin Morneau is traded…
He will hit 12 home runs in the second half.
At his peak, Justin Morneau hit 30 or more home runs in three of four seasons. However, since 2009, Morneau has been derailed by concussions. From 2010 to 2011, Morneau fell short of a single season of playing time, and even in 2012, in 134 games, he failed to reach even 20 home runs.
While concussion symptoms will remain the narrative for Morneau’s steep decline from his MVP production, another factor has sapped his power. Opening in 2010, Target Field has proven to be the death of all left-handed power. In fact, in 2012, only PETCO Park in San Diego and AT&T Park in San Francisco have been more penalizing of left-handed power.
Here are the bottom-five parks for left-handed home runs in 2012:
You may recall Joe Mauer hitting 28 home runs in 2009 and then dramatically falling off to nine and 10 the next two seasons. The new ballpark is a major reason for that.
Last season, Morneau hit 12 home runs on the road versus only seven at home. This season, he has just six total, all at home. However, with a 38.0 percent flyball rate, slightly up from last season, Morneau is due to see more homers regardless of where he plays. A new team will only help.
If Alex Rios is traded…
He will have 50 RBI in the second half.
Alex Rios hasn’t exactly disappointed so far this season. His 11 home runs and 45 runs are near his full-season pace from a year ago, and he already has 16 steals, nearer the pace of his career-best 34 in 2010. The major problem for Rios has been run production—Rios has just 38 RBI—and no wonder. It can be pretty difficult to knock in runners when there are none on base.
The White Sox have scored the second-fewest runs in the majors this season. Their 311 runs are 22 fewer than the hapless Astros. They are one of five teams with an on-base percentage below .300. Rios’ .268 average with 11 home runs is practically identical to the line of Brandon Phillips, who has 64 RBI. Of course, most teams don’t have Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto at the top of their order, but even a middle-of-the-pack offense will dramatically improve Rios’ RBI totals if he is traded.
Since Ricky Nolasco was traded…
He will win eight games in the second half.
Max Scherzer is the first pitcher to start a season at 13-0 since 1986. You may not be surprised, then, that Scherzer leads baseball with 6.29 runs of support per game. Near the other end of that spectrum, with only 2.89 runs of support per game, is Ricky Nolasco, who has started this season with a record of 5-8 despite a 3.85 ERA and 3.50 FIP.
Nolasco has made 18 starts this season. He has pitched at least five innings in every start. Twelve times, he has pitched six innings or more. And Nolasco has allowed more than four runs only twice. The Dodgers, his new team, are near the bottom of the league in runs scored this season, but they have been in the upper half of teams in runs scored over the last month with Yasiel Puigin the majors.
If Nolasco duplicates his performance from the first half, he should win more than half of his starts on the Dodgers.
If Jake Peavy is traded…
He will have an ERA under 3.50 in the second half.
Jake Peavy has a 4.30 ERA so far this season, nearly a run higher than his 3.37 ERA last year. However, his 3.74 FIP is nearly identical to his 3.73 FIP from a year ago. There are several factors pointing to improvements for Peavy.
First, there is his 11.8 percent home run to flyball rate. Peavy never has had a rate over 10.1 percent in his previous three seasons in Chicago. Second, Peavy has stranded only 70.8 percent of baserunners, down from his 75.5 percent career average.
Both the home run-to-flyball rate and strand rate should improve no matter if Peavy stays or goes. However, the one thing that almost certainly would improve for Peavy if he were traded is his defensive support. The White Sox defense has cost its pitchers an estimated 33 runs this season according to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved numbers. Only the Angels, Mariners and Phillies have been worse this year.
The Diamondbacks, Pirates, Reds, Braves, Rangers, Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees all are in the thick of their races, and each has double-digit Defensive Runs Saved. Only the Tigers, Athletics and Cardinals are in the negative double-digits among contenders.
Posted by Scott Spratt at 3:01am
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