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Monday, August 05, 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.
Today’s weather watch
Games in St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City all have a 30 percent chance of scattered storms.
It's a bit thin today, but you may be able to find somebody at the last minute.
Pitcher (to start): Edwin Jackson heads another thin day for starters. He's 32 percent owned and most notable for his 3.45 FIP.
Jenrry Mejia is the prospect of the day, although I worry about his ability to contribute at the major league level. He's succeeded by not allowing walks (one in 13 innings), but his minor league numbers predict a more average rate going forward. With his merely adequate strikeout totals, that makes him questionable as a fantasy starting pitcher.
I'm more willing to believe that Tyler Chatwood has discovered improved control. He will be prone to blowups simply because his stuff is merely adequate, but he can be started against weak offenses like the Wright-less Mets.
I don't actually recommend that you use Steven Wright against the Astros, but I feel obligated to point out that a relatively unknown knuckleballer is starting.
23 percent owned Bud Norris gets the start at Petco Park tomorrow.
Pitcher (bum): With health, Jordan Lyles may grow into a good major league pitcher, but as of tomorrow he's an unfinished product facing a difficult Red Sox lineup.
I'm comfortable betting against Joe Kelly versus the Dodgers.
Josh Johnson has had the worst season of his career, taking a 6.60 ERA into tomorrow's game. It's easy to see why he's struggling—nearly 20 percent of the fly balls he allows are home runs.
Hitter (power): Andre Ethier's ownership is barely above 50 percent, making him a nice stream option against righties like Kelly.
Justin Smoak will face Johnson, who has been prone to blowups this season.
The Royals acquired Justin Maxwell specifically to face lefties like Andrew Albers.
Hitter (speed): Give Will Venable a try against Norris.
Gerardo Parra remains a well-rounded option versus right-handers like Jeremy Hellickson. You can give Adam Eaton a try too, although he hasn't been sharp since returning from the disabled list.
Eric Young Jr. is playable if you need steals.
Pitchers to come
Wednesday: I wish I could switch from Hector Santiago to Danny Salazar for Wednesday's pick, but Salazar faces the Tigers—one of the few teams I have trouble recommending many pitchers against.
Thursday: Thin Thursday remains Gerrit Cole's day.
Friday: I'm once again split between Dan Haren and Brandon Beachy. Both have excellent match-ups: the Phillies and Marlins respectively.
The Biogenesis fallout hasn't hit quite yet. It looks like Alex Rodriguez will be usable for about three weeks for anybody needing to replace David Wright.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 7:02am
Xander Bogaerts (Ownership rates: Yahoo 9%, ESPN 2.1%, CBS 38%)
Despite a slow start to the season, Bogaerts bounced back strong in Double-A to a .311/.407/.502 slash line, featuring six homers in 259 plate appearances, before moving up to Triple-A. The 20-year-old shortstop didn’t slow down much after his promotion, posting a .276/.372/.471 line, and he has increased his home-run production, with eight homers in 196 plate appearances.
Even more importantly for fantasy purposes, his window of opportunity at the major-league level appears to be wide open. With the Red Sox trading away Jose Iglesias, the club is running out a platoon of Brandon Snyder (.243/.263/.486 in 38 plate appearances) and Brock Holt (.261/.302/.304 in 56 plate appearances) at third base.
Snyder is 26 years old, has a 29.2 percent strikeout rate in his major-league career and he hasn’t drawn a walk in his last 67 plate appearances in the majors (the discrepancy in his batting average and on-base percentage is the product of a hit-by-pitch). The 25-year-old Holt has never hit a major-league home run and has just 12 career homers in 1,889 minor-league plate appearances, half of which came at Low-A in 2009. These are clearly stopgap options.
What about Will Middlebrooks? The 24-year-old was a complete disaster in the majors this year, falling flat on his face and compiling a .192/.228/.389 slash line in 53 games. He’s been okay in Triple-A since his demotion (.255/.316/.433), but is clearly being outperformed by Bogaerts and has never been considered half the prospect Bogaerts is. The fact that he remained in Triple-A after the Iglesias trade makes it pretty clear that the Sox aren’t convinced he’s the answer.
Meanwhile, Bogaerts has been getting a couple of starts a week spelling Middlebrooks at third base in Pawtucket. This has led many, including manager John Farrell, to speculate on whether Bogaerts might be Boston’s answer at third base sooner rather than later:
Look, when “the discussion” involves guys like Holt, Snyder and Middlebrooks, that choice starts to look pretty obvious. None of them has the upside of Bogaerts, and it’s difficult to claim they’re more reliable or consistent. I’d be shocked if Bogaerts got the call and failed to outperform what the Sox have gotten from those three. I’m not exactly alone in this belief, either.
What we have here is a situation much like Manny Machado found himself in last year with Baltimore. There’s a clear opening at third base with the major-league team, and there’s a highly touted shortstop prospect waiting in the wings. There could be some adjustment period for Bogaerts defensively if he does move from short to be Boston’s everyday third baseman (although there sure wasn’t for Machado), but we don’t care about that in fantasy.
Bogaerts, the top prospect in the organization, has developed fantastic plate discipline (24 walks, 33 strikeouts in Triple-A) and possesses plenty of pop (.493 career slugging percentage in 1,563 minor-league plate appearances). A huge bonus for fantasy purposes is that, while he likely will play third in the majors, he is listed as a shortstop on Yahoo, ESPN and CBS, meaning he should have multi-position eligibility at two premium positions shortly after getting the call.
I just don’t see any reason for the Sox not to give Bogaerts a shot. He’s clearly a better long-term choice than any of the club’s other options, and the Boston media is clamoring for the guy who could be the next Machado. If your fantasy team has a weakness on the left side of the infield, stash Bogaerts now and reap the rewards when he arrives in the majors. You won’t be waiting long.
Posted by Scott Strandberg at 3:06am
Oh, August, the month of sunsetting fantasy seasons. It seems like only yesterday we were introduced to the 2013 campaign, watching waiver wire seedlings with names like Patrick Corbin, Starling Marte and Felix Doubront blossom into productive fantasy talents. Now, we’re hitting the stretch run, and with playoff hopes on the line, we’re more desperate than ever to catch fire on the wire, to dig up this year’s Kris Medlen in our pursuit of postseason magic.
I’m not sure either of the next two names can deliver on that scale, but this week we’ll look at two arms that have been thrust into new situations and, hopefully, ample opportunity to prove their fantasy mettle.
Bud Norris | Baltimore Orioles | SP | 22 percent Yahoo ownership; 16 percent ESPN; 57 percent CBS
YTD: 132 IP / 3.89 ERA / 6.7 K/9 / 3.1 BB/9 with 7 wins
ZiPS updated: 188 IP / 4.08 ERA / 7 K/9 / 3.2 BB/9 with 10 wins
Ah, good old Bud Norris, a mainstay of waiver wire dreams for the better part of four years now. After all, guys with a lifetime 8.4 K/9 typically aren’t hanging around the scrap heap, but that’s where many a fantasy owner has found Norris, thanks to a lifetime 4.32 ERA and a tendency to get bitten by the gopher ball.
Now that he’s on a team that wins more than once a week, however, his value certainly has climbed and perhaps offered him a shot to take the next step from fringe fantasy starter to mixed-league hoss.
Regrettably, the strikeout numbers are down significantly for the 28-year-old so far in 2013, as his sub-7.0 K/9 hasn’t made him much more valuable in that category than Rick Porcello. It’s not his fastball velocity’s fault, which remains in line with his career norms, but a spike in his contact percentage and a 9.5 percent swinging strike rate that marks not just a career low, but the continuance of a five-year downward trend.
Has Norris been trying to pitch to contact? His first-strike and overall strike percentages are at career highs and go along nicely with a strong walk rate, but despite an average line-drive clip, he’s still allowing better than a hit per inning, which has resulted in a mediocre 1.39 WHIP. Overall, he’s dealing with a .312 BABIP, which is by no means out of bounds but could stand to drop a tad.
But if the BABIP stands to decrease, his home-run rate might see a spike in his new ballpark. For one thing, a flyball pitcher with a lifetime 1.13 HR/9 rate has benefited from a soft 7.9 HR/FB rate so far this year, easily the best of his career and responsible for pushing his xFIP to 4.41.
And while Minute Maid Park was never a great fit for Norris, Camden Yards isn’t going to do him any favors in suppressing home runs, either, especially when his flyball percentage is the highest it’s been since his rookie year. Now pitching in an AL East that features two of the top three teams in RC+ (Red Sox and Rays), Norris’ ERA certainly could jump above 4.00 by the time 2013 comes to a close.
Still, wins are wins, and for Norris and his strikeout potential, that absolutely gives him increased value. Although he pitched well in his Baltimore debut Thursday (six innings, eight strikeouts, two earned runs), that was against the pitiful Astros lineup, and he still coughed up two longballs. We’ll see what the future brings for Norris now that he’s on a contender, but I’d say his value has only received a modest uptick after the trade deadline.
Recommendation: Norris is useful with a start against the Padres in Week 19, but he remains just a deeper mixed-league option for the time being.
Tyler Thornburg | Milwaukee Brewers | 1 percent Yahoo ownership; 0 percent ESPN; 7 percent CBS
YTD: 24.1 IP / 2.22 ERA / 6.3 K/9 / 3 BB/9 / 1 win
ZiPS updated: 54 IP / 3.78 ERA / 7.1 K/9 / 3.8 BB/9 / 2 wins
A quick look at Thornburg’s 2013 Triple-A stats—0-9 record, 5.79 ERA, 1.59 WHIP—suggest that the Brewers right-hander doesn’t belong in the major leagues, much less part of the team’s starting rotation. But now that Yovani Gallardo is down with a strained hamstring, the 24-year-old is picking up starts and likely stands to make a few more down the stretch.
About those stats. Yeah, they’re ugly, even for the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. But Thornburg does own a career 10.3 K/9 in the minor leagues, has largely kept the walks in check, and was considered one of the best Brewers prospects not too long ago.
Since arriving in The Show last year, Thornburg has put up some solid numbers in 46.1 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen—3.30 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9—though he’s also posted a ridiculous 91.3 percent strand rate, which will land with a thud in the near future.
Speaking of Thornburg’s future, the club has not yet decided whether he’ll make his mark as a starter or reliever, so it’s quite possible he will find himself back in the pen before August is over. But he looked sharp in his first start of the season last week, a six-inning shutout performance against the lowly Cubs.
One start alone won’t solidify him as a starter for the rest of the year, but he’ll get a shot at the Giants tonight and stands to pick up another start later in the week against the Mariners.
That’s two mediocre offenses for a guy who’s pitched well in his seven appearances thus far, so assuming Yovani’s hamstring doesn’t magically heal—or that the Brewers won’t rush back their ace considering his dreadful season and the fact that the team has nothing to play for in 2013—Thornburg, despite his rawness, is someone to watch as a potential depth starter as the fantasy season draws to a close.
Recommendation: Thornburg is an intriguing NL-only starter for Week 19.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 3:05am
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