December 13, 2013
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As Derek announced yesterday, this is All-Star week at THT Fantasy. Yesterday, Troy listed his “bargain” players for the second half. Today, I’m focusing on batters I believe have the potential to seemingly come out of nowhere to become fantasy studs in the second half.
I’m taking a high-risk approach here. These players might hit it big. They also could produce close to zero value. I have two basic criteria:
1) Identify batters who are owned in less than 25 percent of leagues currently.
2) Identify batters who have the potential to be owned in more than 75 percent of leagues by the end of the season.
So here we go:
Catcher: Chris Snyder
Since 2007, among catchers with at least 600 at-bats, only three catchers in baseball have better HR-to-AB ratios than Chris Snyder. The three catchers? Brian McCann, Geovany Soto, and Mike Napoli. Snyder always has had the sneaky ability to put up good power numbers, and he combines this skill with improving plate discipline. His current average isn’t great, but peripherals show he’s gotten a little unlucky on balls hit into play. Snyder’s biggest block to great value is teammate Miguel Montero, who also deserves consideration as a catcher who could see a giant leap in value with more playing time. Others we’d watch for sneaky value include David Ross in Atlanta, Ramon Castro in Chicago, and Jeff Clement in Seattle.
1B: Justin Smoak
Last week, Baseball America rated Justin Smoak the fourth-best prospect in baseball. What’s astounding about this is Smoak’s position—first base. Typically, scouting services like BA take defensive value into account and, as a result, rarely give prospects who play the defensively limited position of first base much thrift. For example, when Joey Votto came into the majors, he never made it past No. 44 despite the big bat. Smoak’s killer bat projects to do damage whenever he gets a chance in the majors, and thanks to the recent demotion of Chris Davis, and a surprisingly competitive Rangers ballclub, that opportunity could come quite soon. One of the best hitting prospects in baseball in Texas? Sign us up.
2B: Eric Young
At the Futures Game this past weekend, Eric Young astonished onlookers by hitting a home run. Young is not expected to provide much power whenever Colorado calls him up, but he will provide speed. A ton of it. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Young may have a season in the majors where he puts up 100 stolen bases. In the past three and a half seasons in the minors, Young has swiped an astonishing 254 bags. What separates Young from most speedsters his age is very good plate recognition. Young knows the value of putting the ball in play and taking walks. The semi-reappearance of Clint Barmes temporarily blocks Young’s ascension in Colorado, but everyone expects Young to arrive quite soon. He’ll be the hottest commodity on the waiver wire when that happens.
SS: Ty Wigginton
Wigginton doesn’t qualify at shortstop. Yet. But he’s gotten seven games at the position and Orioles manager Dave Trembley has been getting more comfortable with sticking Ty at shortstop in recent weeks. Should Wigginton land a job as the everyday Orioles shortstop, he’d be a hot commodity in fantasy leagues. After all, how many shortstops have averaged 23 home runs a year like Wigginton has in the past three years? Just Hanley Ramirez.
3B: Troy Glaus
OK, you’ve heard of Troy Glaus. Still, the Cardinals 3B is owned in less than 15 percent of leagues and is reportedly set to begin a rehab stint. Recall that only a year ago, Glaus hit 28 home runs and 99 RBI. He’s coming off a shoulder injury so we can’t finger certain second half breakout value but if we’re talking high upside, you can’t beat a player who has routinely knocked the stuffing out of the ball while maintaining a very good approach at the plate. We were also tempted to give this slot to Chris Shelton, recently called up in Seattle, because hey, you never know.
OF: David Murphy
The summer weather at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is a hospitable environment for fantasy value. Especially for a 27-year-old outfielder who has flashed decent power and speed since arriving there last year. The Rangers outfield is always a tad crowded, so we can’t guarantee Murphy’s playing time. But as a left-handed bat who is hitting .300 against right-handed pitching this season, we see opportunity for Murphy to potentially shine. Since May 1, Murphy also leads the Rangers ballclub in OPS and contributed a handful of steals to boot.
OF: Nate Schierholz
One recent development that many fantasy pundits have seemingly overlooked has been Nate Schierholz winning Fred Lewis’ former job in the San Francisco outfield. Where has the buzz gone on this potential 20-15-.300 player who was touted as being a sleeper coming into the season? Currently, Schierholz is hitting a very respectable .288 with three home runs and two steals in 160 at-bats. Schierholz is hitting right in the middle of the lineup and, at 25 years old, has the potential to grow.
OF: Jonny Gomes
Jay Bruce was knocked out of action this past weekend for up to two months with a fractured wrist. This news opens the door for someone in Cincinnati’s outfield. Who? Right now, the smart money seems to be on Chris Dickerson, but we’ve always had a small thing for his teammate Gomes, who never got the chance he deserved in Tampa. Look at Gomes’ career numbers and you’ll see a batter who would be projected to hit 30 HR if given 500 at-bats. Gomes also takes his share of walks. Call him a cross between Adam Dunn and Russell Branyon, and if given some playing time in Cincy, he could put up eye-popping value in a short time frame.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 2:18am (4) Comments
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
While it would be nice if we were all sitting with a comfortable lead in first place right now, I'm sure many readers don't find themselves in that position in their fantasy leagues. If you're in the middle of the pack, it might be time to embrace some risk. Making fair value trades likely won't propel you the necessary distance in the standings, but trading for a player with high variability in his rest-of-season projection would provide big dividends if he hits the high end of the projection.
Today, I'll be going position-by-position and picking out some players who could "boom or bust" in the second half of 2009. I'll talk about each and then give my opinion on which way they'll end up going.
Catcher: Matt Wieters
Coming into 2009, Wieters was the can't-miss prospect of the century. That was until he was recalled and hit .259 with just three HRs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs in 108 at-bats. Still, this is the same guy PECOTA projected to have a .311/.395/.546 batting line (however ridiculous that may have been) and who all projection systems agreed would be at least a top 10 catcher, if not top five.
If there's something the projection systems missed on Wieters, his owners could be in for a rough second half. Given the way he has severely undershot his expectations, however, he could come pretty cheap in redraft leagues, and there is monster potential here (and his MLB peripherals aren't even that bad).
Which way am I leaning?: Very Positive
1B: John Bowker
Probably a name some of you are unfamiliar with, Bowker was just recalled by the Giants this week. He didn't impress many people when he got a shot in the bigs last year, but his minor league numbers are good and the Giants have said they'll play him every day for the forseeable future. If he finds a way to hit, he'll stick with the team and provide nice value to his owners. If he can't, he could be back at Triple-A within a couple weeks.
If he does hit, the upside looks like a dozen or so homers to match a handful of steals and a .270 batting average. The Giants have hit him fifth, sixth, and seventh so far, and if he finds a way to stick in the No. 5 slot he could provide decent RBI and runs as well.
Which way am I leaning?: Positive (in the interest of full disclosure, I did just purchase him in LABR NL).
2B: Kelly Johnson
Uggh. Coming into the season, Johnson looked like a pretty safe bet for a .280 average with double-digit steals and homers and the upside to pop as many as 20. That hasn't panned out, and before he was placed on the DL before the All-Star Break, manager Bobby Cox announced that Martin Prado would receive the majority of the playing time at second base.
The positives here are that he has improved his contact rate and fly ball rate, and a potentially unlucky BABIP looks like the main culprit for his poor first half. If we plug in his simple xBABIP of .313, his batting average would be at .275 right now. I also hold some hope for his power, so the real concern now is the playing time. Unfortunately, Prado doesn't look too much like a fluke, but if Johnson starts hitting, I have a hard time seeing him riding the bench the rest of the way, especially if the power comes back.
Which way am I leaning?: Somewhat positive
3B: Garrett Atkins
Atkins is probably the biggest name in baseball right now with boom or bust prospects for the second half. If he stays with the Rockies and hits like he did in the first half, he could be benched outright for Ian Stewart. If he hits like he did over the past couple weeks, he could justify his draft position and provide monster value to those buying low, whether he stays with the Rockies or is traded elsewhere.
There are both some good signs (improved contact rate, unlucky BABIP) and some bad signs (line drive rate well below established levels, not hitting his home runs as far as previous years), so it's tough to say with any certainty what will happen. Let's say I'm cautiously optimistic about Atkins. It isn't often we see a 29-year-old with a good track record fall off a cliff like Atkins has.
Which way am I leaning?: Somewhat positive
SS: Stephen Drew
I wasn't a big Drew supporter coming into the year, and he hasn't been particularly good thus far. His line drive rate regressed and his BABIP followed suit, his contact rate has fallen a bit, and his power regressed to 2007 levels. His upside for the rest of the season looks like his 2008 rates (and at some point the upside may be well above that), but I think, over the next couple months, it's more likely we see him cruise along at the rate he went in the first half.
Which way am I leaning?: Negative
OF: Chris Young
We've known he can't hit for average, but .196? Eww. And worse, his power has evaporated. He was drafted high for a reason, though, and it looks like there's some bad luck at play. His .250 BABIP compares favorably to a .283 simple xBABIP, and he's still hitting the ball as far as he was last year, so the power could spike as well. With the speed still there, we could see Young post a .235-.240 average, 12 homers, and 10-15 steals the rest of the way. If that looks good to you, Young could be a worthwhile pickup.
Which way am I leaning?: Somewhat positive
OF: Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes
A couple of guys with high expectations who are now rotting in the minor leagues. With Pittsburgh out of contention (what else is new?) and unstable corner outfield spots, I think it's quite probable that Milledge gets recalled before the end of the month and finds some regular playing time. Very good speed, pretty good power, decent enough batting average is better than you'll find on most waiver wires. Of course, he could also struggle or pull some stunt and find himself back at Triple-A. Still, I think the time to move on him is now.
Dukes will need to do more to prove himself, especially with such a crowded Nationals outfield now that Nyjer Morgan is on board. He's hitting pretty well in Triple-A thus far, but if he isn't recalled until mid-August there might not be much time for him to help fantasy owners (and that's assuming some of his early 2009 struggles were luck-related). There is talk of a trade, which could really jumpstart his value if one were to go down. He's got great power and speed potential, but going 2-for-9 in steals with a HR/FB that was half of what it was in 2008 isn't exactly a good sign.
Which way am I leaning?: Positive on Milledge, somewhat negative on Dukes
OF: A few more
Lots of these high-variability types in the outfield, so here are some quick thoughts on a few more:
Delmon Young: I wasn't a fan coming into the year, hasn't performed very well, and the Minnesota outfield is still crowded. Very negative
Carlos Gomez: SB potential is still there, but the power hasn't developed as I was hoping, the BABIP doesn't look very unlucky, and the outfield is crowded. Somewhat negative
Ryan Spilborghs: Love his skills, but he's a fifth outfielder in Colorado without much hope for regular playing time unless he's traded. Unfortunately, the team doesn't seem to want to do that, and not all of the teams interested would use him as a regular anyway. Poor Spilly. Negative
SP: Francisco Liriano and David Price
Two pitchers I'm sure many fantasy owners are unsure what to make of. We've seen Liriano's monster potential in 2006, but he's been unimpressive since his return from Tommy John surgery, culminating in a first-half ERA of 5.47. While we may never see the old Liriano, I am somewhat bullish on him. Despite a BB/9 over 4.0, his LIPS ERA is a respectable 4.26, and his numbers have been quite good over his last nine starts: 9.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9. Of course, that means the downside could be his first nine starts: 7.3 K/9, 4.6 BB/9.
Price is a player I've never seen all the hype about. I suppose it comes from scouts who see the long-term potential and the possibility of him harnessing that potential at any time, which I won't argue with, but on a single-year basis he just wasn't deserving of such a high draft position. His starts have either been boom or bust this year (either 1 ER or 5+ ER), and some are pointing to those flashes of brilliance and his 9.6 K/9 as reason for optimism. Me? I point to his 6.3 BB/9, 35 percent ground ball rate, and unimpressive minor league track record and call him a terrible play for the rest of 2009.
Which way am I leaning?: Positive on Liriano, very negative on Price.
RP: Chad Qualls and Huston Street
High-skill, trade candidate closers. If traded, they'd lose most of their value. If not, they keep it all and could come cheaply for the time being from a nervous owner. We're hearing that the D'Backs are getting offers on Qualls that could be too good to pass up, while it's been relatively quite on the Street front (no pun intended).
Which way am I leaning?: Somewhat positive on Street, somewhat negative on Qualls.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:44am (6) Comments
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I'm playing the part of a doom-monger, an inveterate pessimist and I'm in a bad mood. Instead of telling you which players I think will become the hit at your party, I'd rather tell you which ones are likely to poop in your swimming pool. Here are some frontline players that I believe are due for a second half fall.
C - Joe Mauer
This one's pretty easy and so obvious that I was tempted to go with someone like Mike Napoli instead. Mauer's BABIP, at .383, is going to fall, though perhaps not too far. Historically, Mauer's had fairly high BABIPs. Mauer hits a ton of ground balls though and our stats have him at zero (0!) infield flies. Instead he has a Chris Davis-like home run per flyball rate that is about three times his normal rate. Unsurprisingly, most of his rates are starting to revert back to their expected levels.
1B - Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez's numbers could go either way. So far, he's shown a lot more patience at the plate, with a BB/K ratio double it's normal level. His BABIP is way below his historical level, so his batting average should go up in the second half. However, his power numbers are way above normal levels and have been lately trending downwards. Considering the rest of the San Diego lineup, teams are pitching around him (which helps explain his better patience numbers). If you're looking for walks or batting average, AG's probably a good bet. But don't expect the same production in the counting stats.(Special Mention: Joey Votto)
2B - Ben Zobrist and Aaron Hill
Second basemen aren't really playing way over their collective heads this year. Zobrist and Hill are two breakout players (though Hill's been highly touted for a while), which means that they don't have much of a track record to go on. Zobrist has delievered on all counting stats so far, but with a HR/F rate of 23 percent, I would bet that his power numbers in the second half are going to be inferior to his first half numbers. Hill's numbers are even better, in the sense that his BABIP seems completely sustainable and his linedrive, IF/F and groundball rates all seem normal. Still, the big question is the HR/F. At 13 percent, it isn't at Mauer-ian or Zobrist-ian levels, but it is way above his historical levels. One way to crosscheck his HR/F rate is to look at his home runs versus his doubles. Hill hasn't hit more extra-base hits per at-bat. Instead, many of Hill's home runs are Fliners that in the past may have stayed in the park for doubles. This is probably a good thing, but compared to his peers (Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler and Zobrist), the HR/2B rate looks a bit high.
SS - Jason Bartlett
Bartlett's BABIP and HR/F rates are .392 and 9.5 percent, respectively. His line drive rate is 27 percent. None of these is going to stay so high. When his batting average drops, so will his stolen base rates, since he doesn't walk much.
3B - Brandon Inge
Inge has been fantasy gold for those that picked him and played him at catcher. His extra-base ratios are even more skewed than Hill's—Inge has gone from a two-to-one ratio of doubles to home runs to a one-to-two. He's not playing catcher anymore, sure, but he's not playing the role of Ryan Howard either. (Special Mention: David Wright: will his power numbers go back up or will his BABIP fall?)
OF - Carlos Beltran and Michael Bourn
Sure, Beltran's injured, but what about when he returns? His power numbers are below their historical rates, but I'm inclined to believe that the downturn is real and due in part to the Citi Field effect (his ISO shows a tell-tale home-road split). Meanwhile, his BABIP is way above his trend, even if we want to factor in a Citi Field effect here too. There's not much data on Bourn, but he seems to be getting more hits than he deserves given his batting eye (low BB/K) and high line drive rate. If he can't get on base, he can't steal.
SP - Kevin Millwood and Matt Cain
Millwood is walk rates are up but his BABIP is down. The latter should revert to expected levels while the former may not. Mix in the Arlington stadium in the summer and, despite the fact that he's pitching for a new contract, Millwood's bound for trouble in the second half. Cain's a pitcher who has always defied usual conventions on hit rates. His strikeout rate is trending down, but he seems to be pitching deeper into games. That may be helping his other numbers, though I'm not sure why that should be the case. Nevertheless, the troubling number is his strand rate, which at 86.5 percent is very high.
RP - Ryan Franklin
Franklin's ERA is 0.79 but his FIP is 3.02 and his xFIP is 3.62. As disturbing is his strand rate and BABIP, which are a ridiculous 99.2 percent and .206, respectively.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 1:04am (2) Comments
Average year and prime year projections for multiple prospects are coming next week. For now, enjoy this latest batch of prospect breakdowns as well as the latest incarnation of THT's Top 100 Prospect List.
Elvis Andrus / SS / Texas / MLB / 8/26/88 / ETA: 2009 / High: #33 / Low: #44 / This Week: +10
Andrus' adjustment to the majors has gone better than expected, and Texas couldn't be more pleased. One of the bright, up and coming shortstops in the game.
Average Year Projection:
Prime Year Projection:
7/15/09 - Coming into the year, I wasn't sure how well Andrus' bat would play in the majors at such a young age, but the young man has held his own. His base stealing ability has taken center stage earlier than expected as well. There doesn't seem to be much pop in his bat, but Arlington Park will certainly aid his home run production moving forward. With just a couple years of big league experience, Texas could have a throwback, All-Star caliber shortstop on their hands.
Brett Wallace / 3B / St. Louis / Triple-A / 8/26/86 / ETA: 2010 / High: #38 / Low: #49 / This Week: +10
Wallace's bat appears major league ready, and St. Louis might just give the young man the privilege of a September call-up.
Average Year Projection:
Prime Year Projection:
7/15/09 - Make no mistake, Brett Wallace will be a strong, productive major league hitter; but I wonder about just how much upside he possesses. Either way, Wallace is one of the surest bets in the minors.
Mat Latos / SP / San Diego / Double-A / 12/9/87 / ETA: 2010 / High: #40 / Low: UR / This Week: +24
Latos, with his immense potential, has torn through his first, true full year of professional action. His dominant 2009 has him knocking on the Padre's door.
Average Year Projection:
Prime Year Projection:
7/15/09 - Latos has shown ace qualities for a few years now. His large frame supports his plus stuff perfectly. San Diego has babied him a bit, but they have released the reigns this year; so much in fact that it has been reported that Latos will join the big league Padres upon their return from the All-Star break. The promotion seems a bit silly to me, as I don't understand the reasoning behind starting his arbitration clock in order to help a last place team. But I am excited for Latos and his potential for dominance in his new stomping grounds, Petco Park.
Alcides Escobar / SS / Milwaukee / Triple-A / 12/16/86 / ETA: 2010 / High: #41 / Low: #65 / This Week: +17
Milwaukee may have no choice but to call up slick fielding Alcides Escobar, that is if they want to stay in the NL Central race. Escobar's game may not be all that fantasy relevant initially, but the Brew Crew needs the defensive jolt.
Average Year Projection:
Prime Year Projection:
7/15/09 - No matter how much people may doubt his bat, Escobar has worked hard to refine his swing, and he will continue to get better. His fantasy potential lies in his future batting average, run scoring, and stolen bases, as power is not a big part of his game. That leaves his real world value, complete with a Gold Glove-caliber glove, much higher than his fantasy value. But his impressive plate adjustments over the last couple of years has me thinking Escobar's offensive future is a strong one.
Andrew McCutchen / OF / Pittsburgh / MLB / 10/10/86 / ETA: 2009 / High: #42 / Low: #60 / This Week: -2
Pittsburgh was able to trade away Nate McLouth largely in part because they felt McCutchen was ready to take over in center field. McCutchen has rewarded the Pirates' confidence with a great first month and a half of play. He is a good #3 outfielder for 2009.
Average Year Projection:
Prime Year Projection:
7/15/09 - I sometimes forget that McCutchen is still just 22 years old, as he has been on the prospect radar screen for a long time. Since arriving in Pittsburgh on June 5, McCutchen has taken over as the team's lead-off hitter and has had nothing but success. Expect him to grow in his permanent role as Pittsburgh's primary playmaker. His long-term fantasy value ultimately lies in his stolen base and power production, which are both up in the air. But all of the tools that made him a first round pick in 2005 are still there.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:16am (6) Comments
Our friend Brian Joura of RotoGraphs posted an article today citing my own article about the problems with FIP from earlier in the year. My assertion from then, which I still stand by completely:
While the original, underlying premise for FIP is sound, and while it’s absolutely better to use than simple ERA, and while there are certainly uses for FIP in some circumstances, for 99 percent of fantasy purposes, I ignore FIP completely and absolutely.
I noticed a few comments to Brian's article that didn't seem to completely buy my explanation, so I thought I'd run some quick numbers to help provide further evidence that a stat like LIPS or xFIP is better than FIP.
By definition, the only substantial difference between FIP and xFIP is that xFIP adjusts each stat line to assume a league average HR/FB, so this crude study will focus entirely on HR/FB.
I looked at all pitchers with at least 12 games started in adjacent seasons from 2004 to 2008. Over this period, we find 63 pitcher seasons where a pitcher's HR/FB strays at least four percent from league average* in Year 1. In Year 2, just 5 of those 63 pitchers (7.9%) failed to regress in the direction of league average. That's a very small number, especially when you consider that Chien-Ming Wang (who may be one of the rare exceptions I mentioned) and Brett Myers (who almost certainly is one of those rare exceptions) accounted for 2 of those 5 seasons. Exclude them, and the percentage becomes 4.8%.
This is a very crude study, but hopefully it reestablishes my point. HR/FB is unstable and because FIP makes no alterations, it will be misleading and less accurate than other indicators. David Gassko did some much more thorough work on HR/FB in the THT Annual 2007 (which can be read for free here), but the short version is that for pitchers with 350+ TBF, the previous season's HR/FB explains just 3% of the variance of the following season's HR/FB.
*I used a rough estimation of league average, using the aggregate league average for all five years. This is the lazy way to do it but won't change my point.
Anecdotal evidence and precision
One comment from Brian's article that I thought would be useful to answer for everyone:
"Well…FIP definitely helped predict Ricky Nolasco’s turnaround. Not sure what his xFIP was…."
We must remember that FIP is not so utterly useless that it will be incorrect in every scenario. In scenarios where the pitcher has a lucky or unlucky BABIP or LOB% (Nolasco's BABIP was over .400 at one point), FIP will be able to predict the general direction the pitcher's ERA should move as long as the HR/FB isn't too far away from league average.
While we'll know that Nolasco isn't a 6.00 ERA pitcher, it is important to make a distinction over whether his ERA should be 4.50 or 4.00 or 3.50. Even the difference between a 4.25 and 4.00 ERA is the difference between 'solid starter' and 'waiver wire material' in many leagues. FIP is ill-equipped to make this distinction.
We can't allow anecdotal evidence to rule our decision making. While FIP may have worked in Nolasco's case given a very rough objective, the numbers tell us that a stat like xFIP or LIPS will be more accurate, for more pitchers.
Posted by Derek Carty at 4:11pm (23) Comments
Friday, July 17, 2009
John Baker | Florida | C
True Talent: .261/.343/.401
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .260 BA, 0.1 SB
Baker's awful .184/.245/.204 June had him riding the pine in Florida, and fantasy owners ditched him, too. Then he rebounded to a .367/.387/.600 July, pushing his numbers closer to True Talent's prediction. He's actually accumulated exactly as many PAs this year as in 2008, but his numbers have slipped, partly because his BABIP has dropped from .367 to .318, and partly due to the wear-and-tear of catching nearly every day. He's not likely to continue his July production—not with a 53.9 GB% in 2009—and you may see some more swoons and spikes as he goes along, but he's about as good a waiver-wire catcher option as you can expect at this point in the season. Eight-team NL-only leagues can definitely find a spot for him, as can mixed leagues twice as deep.
Manny Parra | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 7.8 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 6.78 ERA
True Talent: 7.5 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.87 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 5 K, 4.69 ERA
After an awful start to the year, Parra was banished to Triple-A to work out the kinks. If it hadn't been for injuries to Dave Bush and two awful starts by Seth McClung, he might be there still, but they recalled him—and he pitched seven shutout innings against Pujols and the Cards, with seven Ks and just one walk and three hits. He pitched well in three of his four minor-league starts, but still walked 13 while striking out 19 in 24.2 IP. Control is everything to Parra, who has yet to crack the 3.0 BB/9 threshold in the majors; he led all of baseball last season with 17 wild pitches. True Talent doesn't see his control improving enough to make him a lock for a roster spot, but he could break out at any time. Mixed-league owners should monitor his walk rate for a start or two before deciding, and to be sure he's going to stick in the rotation when Bush returns; NL owners shallower than 12 teams should do the same. Other NL owners can take a chance on a turnaround right now.
Jeff Francoeur | New York | OF
True Talent: .267/.313/.412
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 Runs, 4 RBI, .275 BA, 0.2 SB
Frenchy has inspired more fantasies than Brigitte Bardot, and broken just as many hearts, making his brief surge after his trade to the Mets (4-for-9 in two games) sound like just another tease. A change of venue can sometimes inspire a player, and Francoeur was perhaps too comfortable in Atlanta, but it might not be enough to redeem his once-promising potential. He's shown a few good signs in 2009, including a 6.6% rise in FB% and a dropoff in strikeout rate (6.7 AB/K, up from 5.4 in 2008). Since he's also dropped his walk rate (3.6 BB%, down from 6.0 in 2008), however, his K/BB has plummeted from 2.85 to 3.92. He's been extremely durable, and will get the chance to play every day in New York, so inveterate optimists will no doubt grab him. If he makes his lowly True Talent projections, he'd be barely suitable for 15-team NL-only leagues, but reaching that will require some improvement. Deeper NL leagues can certainly take the gamble, but mixed leagues shallower than 20 teams need to wait, no matter how enticing those potential HRs are.
Ramon Troncoso | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 5.4 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 1.75 ERA
True Talent: 6.3 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 3.53 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 Saves, 3.39 ERA
Jonathan Broxton, the best closer in all of baseball before the break, started slipping at the end, giving up five total runs over two straight outings. Turns out he's got an irritated nerve on his right foot, something he didn't divulge immediately to the Dodgers, and which kept him out of the All-Star Game. He got a cortisone shot over the weekend, but Joe Torre said he'd be dealing with the toe for the rest of the season. That doesn't sound good, and it's likely to mean a diminished workload for Broxton, if not an eventual DL stint. Broxton owners would be well advised to take out an insurance policy in setup man Troncoso, who's had a solid year; others could certainly speculate on the righty groundballer (60.8 GB% in 2008, 56.8% in 2009). He won't bring typical reliever Ks, but those grounders are going to get vacuumed up by the Dodgers' solid infield. Even if Broxton gobbles up all the saves and the anticipated ERA adjustment hits, Troncoso is still going to help your ratios.
John Bowker | San Francisco | 1B/OF
True Talent: .259/.312/.416
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .261 BA, 0.1 SB
Hours after submitting my column last week, Bowker was called up to eat some time away from Travis Ishikawa (covered in last week's column) and a stagnating Randy Winn. The contending Giants need more offense to support their ever-improving pitching, and Bowker was ripping up the minors to the tune of .347/.448/.614. Bowker started strong in the majors in 2008, then plummeted from a .766 first-half OPS to a .559 in the second. He struggled against LHP (.323 OPS in 2008), a trend that's continued in the minors this year, at least comparatively (.826 OPS vs. LHP, 1.167 vs. RHP). The Giants have said he'll play every day, but that's hard to imagine if those platoon splits continue, and True Talent's pessimistic line predicts Bowker won't be any better than either Ishikawa (755 TT OPS) or Winn (745 TT OPS). Even as a platoon player, it's hard to see how he'd share time with the lefty Ishikawa or the switch-hitting Winn (who has also struggled against LHP this year). He'll get the chance to prove himself, and offers power potential, but I'd hold off in all formats until his position in the lineup becomes clearer and he shows some stability. Right now, his projected production is nearly identical to Francoeur's, making him also suitable for 15-plus team NL-only or 20-plus team mixed leagues.
Pedro Martinez | Philadelphia | SP
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Phillies finally found another starter, and it's a future Hall-of-Famer. Whether or not the 38-year-old Pedro pitches like the Pedro of old—by which we'd take even 2005, when he won 15 games with a 2.82 ERA and a MLB-leading 0.95 WHIP—is another question. He looked very good in the WBC, with two scoreless outings for the Dominican Republic, with six Ks, no walks, and just one hit in six IP. Both of the outings were against the Netherlands squad, the Cinderella team that advanced to the second round despite the third-worst WBC OPS of .636. Several teams passed on Pedro, but the Phils liked him enough, which could be a measure of their desperation; if you're also contemplating rostering him, it might also indicate yours. He'll start the season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, which makes him a great grab if you've got a vacant DL slot, but he's certainly a dice-roll. Assuming he's truly healthy—the team expects him to be ready in 2-3 weeks, after minor-league work—there's no reason why he can't achieve at least league-average form, with a good number of strikeouts and a few wins with an improving Phillies offense behind him. NL-only leagues of at least 10 teams should definitely watch him, if not pick him up, and mixed leagues deeper than 14 teams should do the same.
Milton Bradley | Chicago | OF
True Talent: .280/.390/.479
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .281 BA, 0.2 SB
Owners are starting to give up on the 5,000-piece puzzle that is Milton Bradley. An early round draftee in most leagues, he started 2009 by producing like a waiver-wire contributor, where he resides right now in some leagues. But he's hitting .250/.500/.393 this month, with a 2.2 BB/K ratio that shows his batting eye and patience are intact. His career OPS in July is .924, with a .512 SLG, his best monthly numbers in those categories by far. He's suffered from a .288 BABIP this year, but his career BABIP is .321; he hasn't had a BABIP below .300 since 2002. Whatever you might think about Bradley—and he's bound to miss some time due to mental and physical problems—he's not a .760 OBP hitter, another number he hasn't hit since 2002. Wrigley is a better place to hit in warmer weather, and Bradley's bound to have a good month, if not a better second half. If you've got a spot, stash him; if you own him, wait if you can; if you need an OF, watch him. He's coming around.
Jonathan Sanchez | San Francisco | SP
YTD: 9.0 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.69 ERA
True Talent: 8.7 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.43 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.0 IP, 0.7 Wins, 12 K, 4.51 ERA
If you didn't know Sanchez before last week, you know who he is now. His ERA and overall stats made him one of the less-likely pitchers to ever throw a no-no, but his True Talent ratios are certainly roster-worthy. While it would be foolhardy to expect a repeat of his no-hitter, and his value is definitely inflated, Sanchez may very well have turned a corner. He hasn't suddenly become an ace, but he has definitely cemented the Giants' rotation spot he'd lost before, and he'll deliver about a K per inning and a smattering of wins. If you're a NL-only owner in a 10-team league, he may not be there anymore, but grab him if he is, while mixed leagues 14 teams or deeper can definitely use him in their rotation, too.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (27) Comments
Erick Aybar | Los Angeles | SS
True Talent: .275/.317/.377
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .278 BA, 0.4 SB
Maicer Izturis is avoiding injuries by resting against LHP. That's great news for their other slick-fielding shortstop who doesn't play other positions, Erick Aybar. Aybar is a winning ballplayer in the mold of Orlando Cabrera (.273/.321/.396 career). With the injuries, Scioscia doesn't have to bench one of his three middle infielders, as Kendrick can DH. Aybar is adequate “filler” in mixed leagues until Vlad and Torii return, when his PT should again be reduced to 70% and his lack of HR or SB really hurt.
Brian Bannister | Kansas City | SP
YTD: 5.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 3.66 ERA
True Talent: 5.3 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.61 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 W, 3 K, 4.83 ERA
Bannister won lots of Internet fans a couple years ago by using BABIP in a sentence, and people were wondering if he'd figured out a way to suppress his below that of a typical pitcher with his mediocre peripherals. He's at it again in 2009, but we think that he's due for some rough times. His career second-half stats are awful (5.37 ERA, .285/.341/.491 against), he doesn't strike out many, and he has the Royals popgun barrage “supporting” him. Consider him only for one-day pickups against A's and M's.
Clay Buchholz | Boston | SP
YTD: 8.1 K/9, 3.0 K/BB, 2.36 ERA (AAA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Supposedly only called up for one start, Buchholz is arguably the third-best option for the Red Sox right now. His strikeout rate is down a little from almost 9 K/IP between majors and minors last year, but he's inducing over 53% ground balls, and basically proving that he's far too good for AAA. For now, he's a high-risk/high-reward pickup in any format. He's an excellent SP waiting for Smoltz or Penny to falter.
Jeff Clement | Seattle | C?
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
You have to respect new GM Jack Zduriencik for being uncompromising about defense like an “Old School” guy, while using every latest piece of data (and the tools to analyze them) to the fullest. But at some point, enough is enough! In case nobody noticed, the M's are still in the race this year. This despite hitting an anemic .261/.313/.396 against RHP. Catchers have hit .217/.261/.332, DH .236/.330/.389. So, maybe Clement isn't a great defender, and not a top-tier hitter. But he's hit .292/.378/.496 against RHP in his minor-league career and even in the unlikely case that he's awful like 2008 again (.227/.295/.360 in 224 PA), even that's an improvement for the M's. A good preemptive pickup in AL Leagues, if allowed.
Alex Gordon | Kansas City | 3B
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Seemingly everyone wrote a “who to get” article about players who would do well in the second half. Well, here's the guy. If he's on a roster, don't hesitate to trade for him. The ugly stat line (in just 26 PA) is friendly for a good trade price. With Inge, Rolen, Crede, and Teahen playing over their heads, 3B doesn't seem like a shallow position, but Lowell is dinged, Beltre out, and DeRosa gone. The aforementioned overperformers should decline, and Gordon could vie for fifth-best behind Longoria, A-Rod, Figgins, and Young.
Shaun Marcum | Toronto | SP
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Another high-risk pitching possibility, the Blue Jays could have some good news for a change this season, as he's due back soon. Marcum is a strike-thrower (99 BB in 310 IP in 07/08) who allows too many home runs to be a truly top-notch starter. Don't expect much ERA help, and the IP should be low as he's coming off an injury, but he could be a nice boost for WHIP in any format and pick up a few wins.
Gary Matthews | Los Angeles | OF
True Talent: .254/.324/.386
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 4 Runs 4 RBI, .257 BA, 0.5 SB
Time for a round of, “How desperate are you?” Seemingly in another lifetime, GM Jr. hit .313 for the Rangers, earning a sweet contract from the desperate Angels. He even helped fantasy owners somewhat the following year, with 18 HR and 18 SB. Normally, we'd say the extra playing time boost he's getting due to the Hunter injury just makes him more damaging to rate stats. Yet, for an AL-only team that needs a miracle to catch up, an owner can encourage himself with the Shandler-ism, “once a player shows a skill, he owns it,” and desperately clutch for Matthews.
Magglio Ordonez | Detroit | OF
True Talent: .294/.359/.449
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 Runs 2 RBI, .292 BA, 0.1 SB
Fans have collectively “forgotten” what typical aging curves look like thanks to PED's, and Maggs is of an age when many in the past have collapsed. But ... we're guessing the manipulative Jim Leyland is tearing him down and platooning him to “inspire” him. He's an exceptional “buy-low” candidate now, though obviously high-risk. He has a career Ct% of almost 88%, giving him one of the better combinations of contact and power in the game.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 2:00am (6) Comments
Monday, July 20, 2009
So J.A. Happ has stormed through his first 10 starts and won six of them with no losses. I know we discussed Zack Duke a few weeks ago, but the similarities between his 2005 season and Happ this year called for a revisit. I found Duke was headed down in the second half, but does Happ have the same prediction? Let's take a look at their current seasons and find out.
IP ERA W K K/9 K/BB HR/FB BABIP LOB% xFIP Zach Duke 126.0 3.29 8 65 4.64 2.03 8.60% 0.271 77.40% 4.48 J.A. Happ 87.0 2.90 6 61 6.31 1.91 9.40% 0.242 85.90% 4.78
Not only was 2005 a great season for him, but his numbers did look very good. He had a K/BB of 2.52 in his first major league callup and although the 1.81 ERA was way over his head he had a xFIP of 3.66. It looked like he could have much better seasons ahead, but the strikeout rate was not for real. His K/9 dropped from 6.17 to 4.89, and his ERA ballooned to 4.47, 5.53 and 4.82 over the next three seasons.
What caused the drop in K/9 following 2005 season and his poor showings since then? In 2006, his fastball was almost 2 mph slower, resulting in batters swinging on 47.6 percent of his pitches to 43.9 percent of them. On top of this hitters improved their contact rate from 81.6 percent to 86.2 percent. Some of these rates have returned slightly, but this hasn't brought his K/BB back to 2.5.
As far as fantasy goes his value is really low even when his ERA is down like this season. He still can't strikeout anyone this season with a K/9 at 4.64, but is helped by a solid GB% of 45%. This has helped his BABIP, with the Pirates owning a top three UZR/150 among NL teams. Having strong defense will help his BABIP this season, but it won't be enough to help him keep his ERA this low all year.
There has been a lot of excitement over Happ in his first 10 starts this season in Philadelphia. The numbers have been good in the minors, but so far his numbers this years point to a regression. His K/9 looks like a 2005 Duke at 6.31, but his BB/9 has always been around three in the minors.
Unless he can raise his K/9 in the second half there is going to be some regression for Happ this year. His pitches out of the zone right now are not fooling anyone. His O-Swing% of 18.6% is lower than any starter with more than 80 innings pitched. As long as that keeps up he will continue to keep a BB/9 over 3 and a K/BB around 2.
Looking at his splits so far this season you can see his ability to get lefties out (2.44 K/BB against lefties), but with a K/BB of 1.70 against righties he would make a good play against lineups heavy with left handers. He was never seen as anything more than a back of the rotation starter while he was progressing through the minors. Unless he can get more righties out his stuff will limit him to that or back to the bullpen. Perhaps he could even end up in a LOOGY role, which would end his fantasy relevance.
Happ has caught the attention of many with the 6-0 record so far, but his numbers don't back it up. His 2.90 ERA is sure to rise and at a xFIP of 4.78 he could really hurt your team in the second half. Duke is a little tougher to deal with since he has a track record, but you could still try to move him. Neither should be given away, but with the trade deadline looming in many leagues you could move them for solid value.
If I had to pick one of these two I would go with Happ for 2009 and even beyond. He has a much better team and a better strikeout rate. There is some concern though as his flyball rate is high at 47 percent and his home park is going to let more than the current 9.4 HR/FB. Long term though neither can do anything like this continuously. Expect both to go higher in 2010 drafts and not be worth the value for their owners.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 3:10am (0) Comments
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
11 team mixed roto with 2 UT spots in the lineup
Hitters: R, H, HR, RBI , AVG, SB, BB, OPS
Pitchers: W, L, SV, K, ERA, WHIP, K/BB
C Jorge Posada
1st Russell Branyan
2nd Aaron Hill
3rd David Wright
SS Michael Young
OF Carl Crawford
OF Adam Jones
OF Adam Lind
UT Alex Rodriguez
UT Franklin Gutierrez
BN Garrett Jones
BN Casey McGehee
BN Seth Smith
BN Colby Rasmus
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Javier Vazquez
SP Roy Halladay
SP John Lackey
RP Mariano Rivera
RP Andrew Bailey
RP Matt Capps
RP Leo Nunez
BN David Price
BN Kevin Millwood
DL Matt Lindstrom
I have a few trade offers on the table:
1. Branyan and Nunez for Mark Reynolds
2. Branyan, Young, Rasmus, Lackey for Jimmy Rollins, Alexei Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis
3. Bailey and McGehee for Brian Wilson
I would do the trades in the following order: Branyan et al for Youkilis et al, then Bailey and McGehee for Wilson and then lastly, maybe, Branyan and Nunez for Reynolds.
The Youkilis trade is great for you. You are getting the best player in the trade, which is usually a good sign in leagues with less than 12 teams. In fact, Ramirez vs. Young is probably a toss up, depending on how much you need speed. Finally, who wouldn't want to be sitting on Rollins' upside but not be forced to start him?
I'd give up on McGehee, particularly now that the Brewers have filled some infield needs through trades. Bailey's a good, young reliever but Wilson should be a better source of saves coming down the stretch.
Lastly, I'd probably do the Branyan trade, particularly if you can also do the Wilson trade. I think you're getting the best player in this deal as well as long as you can sacrifice Reynolds' lower batting average for his added speed. If you don't need stolen bases, then maybe I'd think twice.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 2:30am (2) Comments
If you ask an analyst to identify the statistical category that fantasy teams will find toughest to make up ground in roto leagues, chances are the reply will be “batting average.”
The premise behind such logic is typically based on the notion that average is a rate stat, and with a few thousand at-bats already accumulated, the opportunity to move AVG significantly becomes tougher as the season progresses. For example, a team that maintains a batting average of .272 at the half-way point and wants to get it up to .282, will need to accomplish a .292 average for the rest of the season.
That might seem daunting and we’re guessing that a lot of fantasy teams simply give up on chasing average thanks to the army of pundits who declare moving average upwards at this point of the season to be a Sisyphean task.
I have doubts about this logic. I think it’s quite foolish to assume that catching up in average is any bit more tough than making up ground in any other category. In some regards, I believe there's benefit to chasing a high average despite what conventional wisdom might say.
The first problem with typical analysis on batting average is one of perception.
Making a .292 average the rest of the year might seem intimidating. But what if I told you that you only needed to get 30 more hits than your competitors? Would that change your mind?
After all, average is merely hits divided by at-bats. If we normalize the denominator by assuming that teams in a given league will achieve roughly the same amount of at-bats, all that’s left is hits. (There are some factors why teams won’t get the same number of at-bats, but the spread in a typical league isn’t that large.) If teams in your league each accomplish roughly 3000 at-bats from here until the end of the season, the difference between your competitors’ assumed .282 average and your desired .292 average over those remaining at-bats translates to 30 hits.
Is 30 hits more daunting than, say, a gap of 10 steals? I’ll leave that up to you do decide.
“But wait,” you say. “Doesn’t the fact that I’m stuck with a .272 average at this moment indicate that I don’t have the players to achieve a .292 average the rest of the way?”
Answer: It depends.
The second problem with conventional wisdom that states that moving AVG up at this point of year is a fool’s errand is that it ignores economics—specifically supply-and-demand curves concerning available player talent. Sure, moving your average up with your current roster might be tough, but how about all those players who might potentially help you in the free agent pool?
People who play fantasy baseball love batters who hit home runs and steal bases. Typically, they give less respect to high-average players who don’t contribute in the power and speed categories.
Look at every hitter in baseball this year with at least 15 HR so far. How many of them are owned in your league? All of them?
Look at every hitter in baseball this year with at least 15 SB so far. How many of them are owned in your league? All but one or two?
Now look at every hitter in baseball this year with at least a .300 BA in at least 200 plate appearances. Are players like Martin Prado, Nick Johnson, Skip Schumacher, Maicer Izturis, Cristian Guzman, Scott Podsednik, Alberto Callaspo owned in your league? Would they be that hard to attain in trade? Unless you play in a very deep league with a shallow player pool, I’m guessing there’s good supply and mediocre demand on a batter who makes good contact with the ball and can be expected to put up a high average.
(Bonus note: Alberto Callaspo has 31 more hits than Jay “Batting Average Killer” Bruce to date. Did someone say 30?)
Often in fantasy leagues, we’re forced to make choices at this point of the season. Our teams might not be in position to dominate every category and finding a few extra points may be the difference between winning and coming in second place. We may choose to attack a certain category and give up on another category because that’s where we see the best opportunity for standings gain.
But be careful how decisions on punting one category can influence your team’s standing in the other categories.
The third and last problem with advice that tells teams that chasing AVG is a foolish endeavor at this point of the season is that it ignores the full ramifications and trade-offs of a team that elects to punt the category.
To drive this point home, I took the top 150 batters in the 2008 season. I wanted to determine the correlation between a batter’s success in an individual category and that batter’s overall value. The table below measures the degree of correlation on a scale of -1 to 1. The higher the number, the stronger relationship between a batter’s single category success and overall category success.
Category: Correlation with Overall Value
Home Runs: 0.54
As you see, average is roughly as important to a batter’s overall success as home runs, and certainly more important than stolen bases. Another way to look at this is to say that a fantasy team stands a better chance of giving up on steals without damaging their position in the other categories than to give up on average without hurting their team in categories such as runs and RBIs.
Ask most analysts to identify the statistical category that fantasy teams will find it easiest to make up ground in roto leagues, and many may answer, “steals,” because it’s a counting category that’s relatively scarce and having one good speed threat can make quite a difference. However, this advice ignores the fact that most batters who steal a lot of bases do little much else to help out.
The same can't be said about average. A batter doing well in average has a better shot at doing well in other categories. This could be reason alone not to give up on the category.