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Wednesday, September 09, 2009
This week I’m going to delve a bit deeper and look at some players who project to be drafted outside next year's top 50. These players were seen as pretty reliable producers but have disappointed this year. Some of these players may have even been drafted in the top 50 this season. I believe all the players discussed here are good bets to bounce back, to varying degrees. Without speculating on potential keeper structures out there, suffice to say that although these players did not produce to their draft positions this year, if you were able to acquire them on the cheap, they may be worth considering going into next season.
You may notice a trend in that the position players discussed in this article are better counting numbers producers than they are percentage players. This is not a coincidence and should be considered yet another lesson in being cognizant of the peripherals underlying a player’s superficial star-level production. Beware of the reliability of poor percentage players.
Hamels is having, superficially, a pedestrian season to say the least. Those who drafted him in the early rounds ahead of the likes of Dan Haren have been kicking themselves all year, and his perceived value has likely taken a hit as a result.
While I was a bit worried about Hamels coming into the season because of his injury history and the ballpark he pitches in, those issues haven’t been his undoing. Hamels looks to be on pace to toss around 200 innings again, and his K, BB, and HR rates are all almost identical to last season’s. Frankly, Hamels has been the victim of BABIP. Hardly shocking, Brad Lidge has also blown two wins for Hamels; 10-8 would be a lot prettier than 8-8.
Hamels still has what it takes to be an ace, and his performance this year has been a lot closer to the Hamels we have come to expect to see than his numbers indicate.
Hart looked to be reliable 20/20 outfielder with the potential to a emerge as true stud. This year he got off to a mediocre start and then had his season derailed when he was sidelined due to an emergency appendectomy.
Hart has a pretty reliable track record throughout his young career though. He should be considered a four- to five-category contributor and his outlook going forward should remain strong.
Hitting in an order with the likes of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can only help, but Hart is a free agent after this season, so keep an eye out for where he ends up.
Although this season has been something of a disappointment for his owners, I’m not ready to give up on Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez kind of reminds me off Alfonso Soriano; especially in the sense that his fantasy potential is much higher than his actual potential. But, that’s what we’re supposed to care about here, right?
I thought Alexei was a little bit overhyped coming into this season and I view his “disappointment” as being a bit more of a recalibration of expectations than an actual failure. Taking this season at face value, the picture changes a bit. It’s hard to really label a season that looks to end in the vicinity of 20/20, 80/80 with a neutral batting average as a failure for a second-year middle infielder. Ramirez still has very strong fantasy potential, and a few circumstantial factors hampered this season as well.
First, Ramirez got off to a terrible start. Second, he seems to have something of a contentious relationship with Ozzie Guillen. Guillen has been displeased at times with Ramirez’s defense, effort, approach at the plate, or the way he puts the dishes away. It's always something. Now, granted, most of these things are legitimate criticisms of Ramirez, but Ramirez has been benched at times, shuffled around in the order, and in general been at the mercy of Guillen’s whims. Originally pegged as a No. 2 hitter, Ramirez has played more time in the seventh, eighth, and ninth slots. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of his runs scored came when hitting second, even though that accounted for only about half of his PAs.
Gordon Beckham is a natural SS, so who knows what the offseason holds for Alexei and the White Sox. If Ramirez is able to ingratiate himself to Ozzie and move himself toward the top of the order, or if he finds himself in a different situation next season, Ramirez could conceivably provide production not too dissimilar to Brandon Phillips.
Rios has been somewhat enigmatic over his career. Many thought 2006 was the beginning of great things for him and he pretty much delivered in 2007. Then, in 2008 we saw the power take a step back, but he was able to make up for that, in terms of overall value, by swiping a career high 32 bags. This year has been considered a disappointment for Rios. The Blue Jays agreed, and now he’s in Chicago.
Like Ramirez, this season hasn’t been as bad for Rios as it looks at first glance. First of all, he’s been victimized by a terrible BABIP even though his GB/FB/LD percentages haven’t changed all that drastically from years past. His strikeout and walk rates are in line with his career averages too. So, the .250 batting average is surely misrepresentative of his performance at the plate. Since Rios does not walk very much, that has jettisoned his OBP to the point that it is difficult to score a lot of runs. Rios should still wind up hitting around 20 homers and stealing about 25 bases.
While it seems clear that his ceiling isn’t as high as we had once thought it may be, Rios is still 28 years old, and I don’t see his long-term prospects as being much different coming into next year as they were coming into this year. Expect at least a moderate rebound.
In 2007 and 2008, James Shields had two key assets that pegged him as a great value among fantasy pitchers, strong peripherals and low name recognition. This season, Shields may have taken a step backwards, but not as far as his superficial numbers may indicate. All things considered, Shields is basically still showing the same overall skill set that made him a valuable asset over the previous two seasons.
One of the strengths Shields has been able to boast is a very low walk rate. In ’07 and ’08, he walked 1.5 and 1.7 batters per nine, respectively. This season that rate has risen to just above 2, which is still a very strong number. What has really bitten Shields has been a higher BABIP than the past two years. He’s already given up more hits this season than he had in either of the previous ones, despite having more thrown more than 20 fewer innings. Part of this is a result of Tampa’s defense not being as strong as it was last year, but part of it is also due to luck. His home run rate is in line with what it has been throughout his career as well.
The one element of his game that is mildly concerning is his strikeout rate, which has fallen again and now sits at just about league average. One other point of note is that Tampa Bay has Shields locked up for several years, which restricts his prospects of getting out the AL East.
However, I’m confident that Shields has what it takes to rebound in his upcoming age 29 season. Ratcheting the strikeouts back up would be great, but even if he floats around seven per nine, Shields should be in line for a favorable regression.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:03am (8) Comments
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Hitter of the Year
Brady Shoemaker / OF / Chicago White Sox
Nobody stood head and shoulders above anyone else this year in the Appy League. But Chicago's new 19th round pick posted a .351 batting average and 1.011 OPS while displaying his power hitting prowess with 21 doubles and nine home runs in just 205 at-bats.
Pitcher of the Year:
Christopher Masters / LHP / Atlanta Braves
No other pitcher in the Appy League can touch Masters' top to bottom stat line domination. He posted a 9.44/1 strikeout to walk ratio and allowed just one home run over 69.2 innings on his way to a 1.42 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
Best Hitting Prospect
Jiovanni Mier / SS / Houston Astros
Mier is one of my favorite players from the 2009 draft. His skill set reminds me so much of Tim Beckham, yet Beckham will always get the hype associated with being a No. 1 pick. Mier has the glove to stay at shortstop and the bat speed to one day be an impact player in the big leagues. He has some hard work in front of him, though.
Best Pitching Prospect
Matt Hobgood / RHP / Baltimore Orioles
Hobgood was a bit of a surprise selection by Baltimore at No. 5 overall in the 2009 draft. He doesn't seem to possess the pure, electric stuff that some of his fellow first round picks have, but Baltimore has displayed a great eye for talent in recent years. And if Baltimore's sees enough in Hobgood to select him at No. 5, who am I to judge? He will have to prove himself to me, but my eyes are open and firmly locked on this kid's right arm.
Hitter of the Year
Brian Cavazos-Galvez / OF / LA Dodgers
The Pioneer League lived up to its reputation as a great hitter's league in 2009; and nobody was more impressive than Cavazos-Galvez. The Dodgers farmhand put his full arsenal of tools on display with 29 doubles, 18 home runs, and 16 steals in 295 at-bats. His .325 batting average, .979 OPS, and 63 RBIs were icing on the cake.
Pitcher of the Year
Chris Balcom-Miller / RHP / Colorado
Balcom-Miller, Colorado's 2009 sixth round pick, was untouchable this year, as far as Pioneer League standards are concerned. There isn't another pitcher in any rookie league that posted the relative stats that this kid did. His eye-popping stats are too numerous to mention here, but looking at his 4-0 record, 1.58 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts over 57 innings gives you a good feel for the type of year he had.
Best Hitting Prospect
Bobby Borchering / 3B / Arizona
Borchering has the type of all-around hitting prowess that scouts drool over. He does everything well at the plate, but it will be his ultimate power production that solidifies his prospect status.
Best Pitching Prospect
Eric Arnett / RHP / Milwaukee
Milwaukee's 2009 first round pick has the look of mid-rotation starter with his above average movement, velocity, repertoire, and control. He was a safe pick, and a good pick, in the late first round. One could make a case for Wily Peralta, but I think Arnett has immediately become Milwaukee's best pitching prospect.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:57am (0) Comments
Friday, September 11, 2009
Juan Uribe | San Francisco | UT
True Talent: .252/.298/.419
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .246 BA, 0.1 SB
Uribe's a very streaky hitter, and that streak is hot right now. He's hitting .303/.361/.758 on the month, and has started the last 15 games as a result. Uribe's other benefit is his flexibility—depending on your league's eligibility restrictions, he could qualify at 2B, SS, and 3B. Clearly, he's most valuable at those MIF spots, but realize that his numbers are going to drop again, which is what happens when you've got a career .29 BB/K ratio. His Achilles heel is that BA, which is how he'll hurt you. He's worth riding while you can, but be ready to dump him at the first signs of trouble, as SF has other options and he'll be back on the bench. True Talent tells you he's gonna fall off the table at some point, and he's still a good SS play in 12-team NL-only leagues when that happens, but he's got to be in the Giants' lineup to be of value to you.
Jeff Suppan | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 4.3 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 5.05 ERA
True Talent: 4.7 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 6 K, 4.94 ERA
Soup's an easy punching bag for fans of Brewers (and financial common sense), since he's making $12.5M for the sort of awful numbers you see here, and will make that same sum in 2010 for what's likely to be similar production. True Talent's got him pretty much nailed, with perhaps a few more Ks to be expected down the stretch. Milwaukee's a formidable offensive club, so he's more likely to pick up a win than other similarly subpar pitchers, but he's still only managed six wins this season. If you've got him on your roster, you'd better be an NL owner in at least a 14-team league, since he's not worth the risk otherwise. Innings eaters are nice, but you'd like a better return on your ratios than this.
Daniel Murphy | New York | 1B/OF
True Talent: .262/.322/.406
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .265 BA, 0.3 SB
Murphy has hit two home runs this month, bringing his SLG over .400 for the first time since May. That should tell you plenty about his 1B value, but he should also qualify in the OF, where he'll bring your team a touch more. He's actually got halfway decent speed—20 SBs in 259 minor-league games—but his spot in the middle of the Mets' order hasn't given him the chance to run. At 24, he's young enough to still develop more power and speed, and he's hitting .273/.306/.454 in the second half. Just note that the surge has brought him right around his True Talent numbers, so he's not going to suddenly go through the roof. No matter where you put him in your lineup, he's an NL-only player, where his versatility makes him suitable for 15-team leagues.
Clayton Richard | San Diego | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.88 ERA
True Talent: 5.2 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 5.26 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.1 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 5.73 ERA
Rob and I discussed Richard in the comments soon after his swap, but I figured it was time for another look. Since coming to a different team, stadium and league, Richard hasn't been so great. His numbers have declined across the board, with the rise in HR/9 from 1.0 to 1.4 perhaps the most surprising drop from a guy who moved from The Cell to PETCO. Most worrying has been the spike in walks, from 3.7 to 5.2 BB/9, which has more than offset the uptick from 6.7 to 7.0 K/9. That's all led to a rise in ERA from 4.65 to 5.40, which isn't what's supposed to happen when a player moves from the AL to the NL. He's only logged two quality starts out of his eight turns on the mound from the Padres, and seems to be getting worse with each one. In spite of all that, True Talent tells you he's got even farther to fall. He's got talent and should turn it around next year, but he's not someone you want on your roster in 2009, unless you're in a deep NL-only league—and desperate.
Ronnie Belliard | Los Angeles | 2B/3B
True Talent: .269/.327/.410
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, .263 BA, 0.1 SB
There's something about wearing Dodger blue that brings out the best in some guys. The Belly has been hitting .314/.333/.543 since putting on a Dodger uni, but that's in only 10 games. He's been helped by the injury to Casey Blake, who should be back fairly soon, so keep that in mind if you want to ride Ronnie while he's scorching. Also realize that he's struck out 8 times in those 10 games, against just one walk, and that will catch up with him soon. A short-term addition in NL leagues, Ronnie's fun to watch when he's slugging, but he's headed for the bench as soon as Blake's hamstring heals up.
Wade LeBlanc | San Diego | SP
YTD: 3.5 K/9, 0.7 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
True Talent: 6.7 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.2 IP, 0.7 Wins, 9 K, 4.79 ERA
Don't let that YTD line fool you, as it's dragged down by two bad outings early in the season, when he racked up 7 ER in 4.1 IP. LeBlanc was promoted from Triple-A Portland at the end of August, and has looked good in two of his three starts since then. Though he doesn't have anything better than a great change-up, LeBlanc succeeds with fantastic control (3.41 K/BB in minors) and even manages a fair share of strikeouts (8.3 K/9 in minors). He's a well-regarded arm in their system—Baseball America only ranks two other SD pitchers higher—and he could have a promising future. Remember that he still pitches for San Diego, so the wins will be few and far between, but he's not a bad play for ratios and occasional Ks. Deep NL keeper leagues should have him on the outside of their radar screens, and he'll be a good 2009 addition to NL-only leagues 10 teams and deeper.
Felipe Paulino | Houston | SP
YTD: 8.3 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 6.34 ERA
True Talent: 7.3 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 5.17 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 5 K, 4.62 ERA
If Paulino hadn't missed all of last season with a bad shoulder, we'd all be talking about him a lot more. He's got a heater that has touched triple digits and a solid curve, but is still crafting a third pitch, which he'll need to be a successful starter. His struggles to find that pitch led to an ugly 6.0 BB/9 in the minors, but his 7.5 K/9, 0.3 HR/9, and 7.8 H/9 all added up to a 3.12 ERA in Triple-A. In the majors, he's bounced between the rotation and the pen this season, and has had some bad luck as a starter, winning just one of his 13 starts despite some occasionally good outings. In his past two starts, he put up almost identical lines—6.0 IP, 2 ER, with 6 K in one start and 7 K in the other—but he lost them both. He's been susceptible to the HR, with 1.9 HR/9 this season, and gave up three longballs in those last two starts. That makes him a risk to explode your ratios, even if his Ks are tempting. NL owners in 15-team leagues can use him with moderate confidence, while other owners who want to gamble will face a high-risk/high-reward situation.
Cameron Maybin | Florida | OF
True Talent: .253/.335/.403
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .249 BA, 0.2 SB
He's back in the majors, and Maybin looks much improved after his stint in the minors, where he hit .319/.399/.463. His plate discipline improved to .65 BB/K (from a career .51), something he's carried over to the majors, as he's got five BBs and four Ks in his six starts since returning, hitting .350/.462/.750 in that span. His value's in his speed and, while he has yet to swipe a bag since coming back, he will. That weekly projection is only based on a 20% PT share, but he's bound to get more than that while he's hot, and those numbers will be stronger. Teams needing SBs (and who doesn't?) should grab him now, particularly in keeper leagues, while others can hold off unless they're in NL leagues 14 teams or deeper, since his BA and power aren't that impressive ... yet.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (2) Comments
Edwin Encarnacion | Toronto | 3B
True Talent: .261/.346/.447
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .260 BA, 0.0 SB
Understandably, “EE” is on a lot of transaction wires, as owners are trying to shed the dead weight. So far, he's been nothing short of a complete disaster for the Jays, on both sides of the ball. We don't think there's a great reason to expect an immediate turnaround, but it also wouldn't be shocking to see a two-HR game, launching him into a September-long hot streak. Very high risk, but upside is playable in most formats.
Chad Gaudin | New York | SP/RP
YTD: 8.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.81 ERA
True Talent: 8.1 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.40 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 4.11 ERA
He's not overly tall, and his “heat” comes up around 90 mph. He's very long odds to get Cy Young votes, ever. He's not even a master at thwarting the running game (27-10 against lifetime), or inducing grounders (44%). But his career ERA is 4.53 in 578 IP, and he's just 26. It's simply baffling how he keeps getting treated like a “free resource.” It will be interesting to see what free agency brings him—this season should keep his three-year IP average at about 140/year. TT projection tells you what you need to know. Playing for the Yanks will increase win potential, though endangering the rate stats. Some of our comments following an earlier WW mentioned Gaudin with some additional points.
Chris Getz | Chicago | 2b
True Talent: .258/.321/.352
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, .260 BA, 0.2 SB
We visited Chris Getz before, making the comparison to Adam Kennedy. But Getz is stealing bases much more prolifically than AK did. And since July 9, he's hit .313/.375/.409, going 11-1 on SBA. We still think the rate stats will line up with Kennedy's in the end (.276/.329/.390 career), but he now has 23 SB in 387 career PA. We doubt he'll continue quite that roto-delight rate of theft, as it's about twice his minor-league rate (and his OBP was higher in the minors). But it's difficult to picture him having fewer than 30 SB in 2010.
Austin Jackson | New York | OF
YTD: .300/.354/.405 24-4 SB-CS(AAA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
With his team up 1-0 in the Triple-A playoffs, don't expect Jackson for a couple weeks. And with CF in decent shape for the Yanks (.273/.337/.414 season line combined), it's hard to envision Jackson getting much time, though he should be similarly adequate if he does. The real question is how much he is worth as a keeper. He was explosive to start '09, hitting .324/.389/.452 before the break, with 15 SB. But he was so bad in July/August that even a hot September hasn't really restored his stat line. As a 22-year-old at Triple-A, the opposite would have been more expected. We think he is almost a lock to earn $5-plus in “normal” AL-only formats in 2010, and $10-plus thereafter, as a five-category contributor.
Felix Pie | Baltimore | OF
True Talent: .270/.329/.429
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .266 BA, 0.5 SB
May 29 was Pie's 166th career game, after which his career line was .216/.281/.326 in 385 PA. But he got a pinch-hit double his next game and hasn't looked back, hitting .317/.380/.537 since (137 PA). He was a career .299/.355/.470 hitter in the minors, and that's consistent with his TT projection. But he's always been a low-percentage base thief, and has stopped running this year altogether. In AL-only leagues, you have to respect the PT boost with Jones being out, but he's not overly exciting for mixed leagues.
Landon Powell | Oakland | C?
True Talent: .216/.304/.378
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .220 BA, 0.0 SB
Powell is a better hitter than that TT projection suggests. He's lost huge chunks of time to injuries over the years. This, combined with the usual rigors of catching, beat down his BABIP artificially in 2008. The thing TT does capture is that he's patient and has good power, as noted from how high the OBP and SLG are, given such a tiny BA projection. Seems likely to follow Ramon Castro's path of showing tantalizing offense from the “2” position, yet having injuries and perceptions keep him as just a No. 2 catcher instead.
Robinson Tejeda | Kansas City | SP
YTD: 11.6 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 3.21 ERA
True Talent: 8.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.26 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 6 K, 4.52 ERA
Good news for glass-half-full people in KC, in a season where they seemed to deliberately avoid debuting players while giving playing time to bad veterans. Tejeda seems to have finally found a home for his mid-90s fastball and almost Marmol-ian lack of control in the bullpen. He's allowed just 54 hits with KC ... in 2 seasons! (92.2 IP) But leave it to the run-amok Royals to mess with one of the few things that was working, moving him back to the rotation. At least it's a move that has very good upside, but we're thinking it's more likely to leave the half-full glass cracked.
Dan Wheeler | Rays | RP
YTD: 6.4 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, 3.55 ERA
True Talent: 7.3 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.70 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a Saves, 3.70 ERA
One might think that having a closer collapse (Howell since Aug. 1: .375 OBP and .569 SLG allowed, 3 BS, 3 L) would open the door for the guy with a WHIP that starts 0.8. And Wheeler did indeed get a save in that period. But Maddon seems to be taking an “if it ain't broke” approach to Wheeler, and it's almost as likely that the extra SP will end up closing if he does give up on Howell. Wade Davis did strike out six in his first two IP, after all.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 3:59am (0) Comments
Monday, September 14, 2009
Last week there was a comment request to do a Clone Wars on Adam Lind and Andre Ethier. I had recently reviewed Ethier when comparing him to Raul Ibanez, so I substituted Kendry Morales, another .300 average, 30 home run, 100 RBI player.
R HR RBI SB AVG BB% K% HR/F% BABIP Adam Lind 80 28 97 1 0.301 8.80% 19.40% 16.50% 0.330 Kendry Morales 73 30 98 1 0.307 7.10% 19.60% 18.20% 0.332
When 2009 began it looked like Lind was going to be spending much of his time at DH and might soon lose his outfield eligibility. This would be a bit of a loss for his value, but with Travis Snider's early struggles, the left field spot opened up and he has already gotten into 54 games at left field. He'll at least hold on to outfield eligibility for another year, but his defense out there won't keep him there long. His UZR/150 currently stands at -14.8, though Snider hasn't shown much defensively either, with a UZR/150 of -12.7 in 51 games (small sample size caveats apply, of course).
His BABIP this year is .330, which is higher than his career rate of .319. However, this is his first year with real playing time, he has increased his line drive rate from 18 percent to 20.6 percent. He also has had a large spike in his power. All signs indicate that he should have a high BABIP so far this year, but could regress in the future.
Looking at his HitTracker data it looks like Lind's power is for real. He has only five "just enough" homers, which better than average. This suggests his power is still growing and 2010 could be another big year for Lind. His home run scatterplot also demonstrates his ability to hit for power to all fields on
One other thing to note is that his splits show he still is much stronger against right-handed pitchers. His batting average is respectable against both, but against lefties his walks and power drop. It isn't a big enough split that he shouldn't start full time, but on his career his OPS does drop from .855 against right handers to .722 against lefties.
Lind is looking to enter 2010 as a top 10 outfielder, but even if the power is for real there are some possible regressions in average. He also looks like someone headed to a DH spot more often and could eventually lose is outfield eligibility.
In 2008, Morales struggled and was behind Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira on the depth chart. The Angels tried to re-sign Teixeira for 2009, but so far Morales' production means that the Angels haven't lost much. Morales has posted a .381 wOBA Morales to date, compared to Teixeira's .392. Unfortunately his walk rate is closer to Lind's than Teixeira's by a good margin.
This season, Morales also has a raised BABIP above his career rate, but unlike Lind his line drive rate has decreased this year. His power numbers are obviously up, but he does have a higher number of "just enough" homers. He has 10 "just enough" homers, which is 33 percent of his total homers. That is above the league average and a possible sign that he will regress next year.
As a switch hitter he has also been much better against righty pitchers with a .871 OPS and dropping to .721 against lefties. Both have risen this year at .971 versus righties and .778 versus lefties. Much like Lind he has trouble getting walks against lefties, but also not so bad he needs to be platooned.
Here are a couple guys who should finish with 30 homers, 100 RBIs and a batting average around .300. These two are extremely similar even when you look at their peripherals, but there are a few numbers that make Lind look like the better offensively of the two. His power numbers and line drive rate are better. Lind's eligibility in the outfield also makes him a better choice. Eleven first basemen have 30 homers and Miguel Cabrera is at 29 right now. Only five outfielders are at 30 or more with four others including Lind at or above 27. Lind should be the better value, but both will still be good players in 2010.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:20am (3) Comments
It’s hard not to be influenced by pre-ranks. A novice owner may simply defer to authority. An owner use a pre-ranking to confirm a preference for one player over another. And even the savviest of owners may be taken aback if there is a large chasm between their opinion of a player and his pre-ranking.
This week I want to dive into the volatility and accuracy of Yahoo pre-ranks and see if there’s anything we can learn relating to keeping or drafting highly pre-ranked starters, closers, and position players. In most of my keeper leagues, we don’t declare keepers until relatively soon before the season begins. That means pre-ranks are up already and may be a tool one uses when making decisions.
How reliable are those rankings? Are they more reliable for batters, starters, or relievers? Here, I’ve decided to take a snapshot of Yahoo’s top 100 players coming into the season and what the current top 100 actually looks like. This is hardly scientific, as it is only one season, which isn’t even complete yet. But, let’s see if there are any clear trends that emerge.
For 2007 and 2008, I can’t access the pre-ranks, but here’s the final composition of the top 100 for each year:
Here are some trends that emerge from the data:
At some point, the pre-ranks start to become nearly meaningless. Next week, I’ll delve into the 51-100 segment of the list, where presumably the bulk of the variation occurs, and explore whether the pre-ranks are a viable tool at all once decisions start to get a little more difficult.
Let me also add two quick notes before I close. First, I chose to remove players who didn’t perform at top-100 level because of injury, being that injury is a constant every year that is more or less random depending on the particular player. Two, if anybody has information about the year-to-year volatility of fantasy production for pitchers vs. batters, that would make a great companion resource to this piece.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:01am (7) Comments
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
As the season finishes, there are the usual injury question marks lingering around prominent players for next year. Grady Sizemore, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb and half of the Mets are each keeper candidates whose values are hazy because of injuries. In the past, if you gambled on Albert Pujols' elbow or Chase Utley's hip, you won. If you bet on Justin Duchscherer or Ervin Santana this year, you lost. Since sizable discounts are often applied to players with injury risks, any informational advantages would be very valuable. Sabermetrics to the rescue?
I'm not a medical doctor, but I know a few things about statistics. And yet, when it comes to my own valuations for players with injuries, I often base my forecast for games missed due to injury on innuendo, rumor, and now personal experience. "Sabermetrics" (i.e. the use of the Law of Large Numbers) is not very useful because, when it comes to injury forecasts, the numbers aren't large enough. Why? Here are several reasons followed by something that I've learned through personal experience.
1) There are too many different kinds injuries and players. (Or alternatively, not enough players getting injured). If all injured players only had a sprained ankle, we'd have a large sample of past histories to use. We could look at how that injury affects speed, power and pitching statistically using averages. Unfortunately, there are lots of different injuries (and lots of grades of injuries—tear, partial tear, sprain, etc...). This complicates things.
2) Historical data isn't that helpful. Simply put: Tommy John's post-surgical recuperation was a lot different than players undergoing "his" surgery these days. Only the very recent past is helpful. For instance, Utley's post-surgery performance was the main data point for forecasting Alex Rodriguez's post-hip surgery performance. It doesn't help that we're trying to forecast both recovery time and post-recovery performance.
3) Information is sketchy. Utley's surgery was helpful for forecasting A-Rod's because we knew exactly what A-Rod's problem was and exactly what procedure was going to be performed. I'm a bit iffy on Sizemore's lower abdomin. There are often players who limp into the offseason (all puns intended)—Alfonso Soriano this year is one likely example. These types of players are big candidates for a surprise spring training visit to the hospital.
This isn't to say that we can't take some averages—for instance, I think it is safe to say that most injuries affect pitchers more than hitters. But it does mean that we should be prepared for a lot of variance and, therefore I think, many temptations to make "eyeball" adjustments based on hearsay and personal opinion. Which isn't to say personal opinion is useless.
This summer, I've been recovering from broken ankle for the past four months and I've learned a lot from my sample size of one. I've learned (from my orthopedist) that physical therapy speeds up recovery time but doesn't change the end result—no amount of legwork is going to make my ankle 100% again (though I'm not quite sure what 95% of an ankle means). I've learned that healing takes a long time and getting old stinks. If I was a baseball player, I'd still be in my "prime years," but I felt the effects of this surgery a lot more than I did eight years ago when I had my last one.
All this means that I'm still going to use a rule-of-thumb adjustment to the values of players with injury concerns. Only this time around, due to the, perhaps excessive, coloring of my recent experience, I'll be more conservative than I have been in the past.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 3:06am (1) Comments
I would imagine that one of a ballplayer's hardest games is his first major league one. Therefore, I find it impressive whenever a player does well in his first game.
Ian Desmond did just that in his first major league game on Sept. 10, when he went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Since then Desmond has gone 6-for-11 to start his major league career hitting the ground running. Let's take a look at how he got here and what we can expect of Desmond in the future.
Desmond was a third-round pick out of a Florida high-school back in 2004 and was slow to develop out of the gate being so young.
Prospects young for their level are at first forgiven for underachieving, but after 2008 Desmond was 22 and coming off a disappointing campaign at Double-A. He did show some pop and a little speed but still frustrated with a .250 batting average and poor plate discipline numbers. Prospect guru John Sickels had this to say of Desmond after the 2008 season:
I thought he was capable of better, but Double-A transition has exposed flaws.
Evidently, coming into 2009 expectations were significantly lower than in past years. Sickels dropped him from the 12th-best prospect to the 20th-best in the Nationals system and 2009 had the looks of a make-or-break season for Ian Desmond.
With the pressure on, he delivered.
As you can see in both Double-A and Triple-A, Desmond improved his production across the board. In this B-Pro interview, he attributed his success to reducing stress and not letting a bad at-bat affect his later ones.
However he accomplished it, it is hard to ignore the surprising success Desmond found in his first taste of Triple-A action. The possibility remains that his 2009 numbers are more of a fluke than his true talent, but given where I'd expect him to be taken in 2010 drafts—in the double-digit rounds—it might be worth the risk of investment to assume his gains are real.
Desmond may have the skill set to be a major league regular, but not every player with the skills to be a regular gets the appropriate playing time (ahem, Seth Smith). Right now Christian Guzman is the Nationals shortstop, although they reportedly do not want Guzman as their shortstop next year.
This plays well for Desmond's hopes; the better he does now to end the season, the less of a chance the Nationals go out and spend money on another shortstop. If given a full season of at-bats, Desmond could hit in the .270 range with around 8-13 home runs and 20 steals. Obviously he could also do much worse, but that inherent risk only makes him available later, making the possible reward sweeter.
The picture of Desmond's 2010 will become a lot clearer after the offseason is over and Spring Training begins, so for now Desmond is simply someone to keep on your radar. In NL-only and deep (16+) mixed leagues he can also be someone to possibly add for the rest of the season, though his playing time situation is currently supported by pillars of sand (read: unstable).
Drafting shortstops early worked out remarkably poorly this year, so next year drafting a sleeper-type late like Desmond might be a more attractive option. For now, let's welcome Ian Desmond to the big leagues and see if he's got what it takes to stick around.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:53am (2) Comments
Ever since Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was called up to the major leagues in 2006, I’ve enjoyed a love/hate relationship with this player. I became one of the first in fantasy leagues to pick him up. A few weeks later, during that 2006 season, I became one of the first to drop him.
Two years later in 2008, Kemp started to show more consistency at the plate and earned regular at-bats. I traded for him and he was unbelievably productive for my team. In the midst of a championship run, however, I decided to cash him in by trading his keeper value for a bevy of superstars who helped me win a title.
At the time, I had Alex Rios on my team and noted the amazing similarity in the statistical profile of Kemp and Rios. Last year, Kemp had 18 HR, 35 SB, 93 R, 76 RBI, and a .290 BA. Meanwhile, Rios had 15 HR, 32 SB, 91 R, 79 RBI, and a .291 BA. The two were virtual clones.
This season, Kemp has taken a monumental leap forward whereas Rios has totally lost the good will of the fantasy community.
The Dodgers outfielder is approaching a 25-35 season with a batting average over .300. He’s been tremendously valuable, and fantasy pundits from Ron Shandler to RayGu have started to hype him as a viable top-five player overall going into the 2010 season.
Not so fast, I say.
I believe there are several reasons to still be slightly cautious about Kemp going forward. Obviously, Kemp is still young (he’s turning 25 next week so happy birthday, Matt) and has the ability to improve—a factor that no doubt counts in his favor. Yet, I see Kemp as being the type of player who carries far more risk than many people acknowledge.
Strikeouts/Batting Average: This season to date, Kemp has struck out 126 times and walked 48 times in 593 plate appearances. His strikeout rate (23.4%) is very high and his walk rate (8.2%) is below average. With a .305 BA, it’s evident that he’s getting quite lucky on balls in play (.362). Throughout his career, Kemp has maintained a high BABIP and according to the xBABIP calculator, he’s due a .337 xBABIP. Still, that’s 25 points of good luck in the average department. How would Kemp look if he only sported an average in the .270/.280 range?
Troubles versus right-handed pitchers: Kemp has some of the most noticeable handedness splits in all of baseball. One of the major factors behind his success this season has been utter domination of left-handed pitchers. He’s hitting .381/.451/.669 versus lefties compared to just .283/.335/.452 against righties. A closer look at the splits reveals a very good batting eye versus left-handers (16 strikeouts to 15 walks) and a horrible batting eye versus right-handers (110 strikeouts to 33 walks). His splits suggest room for some regression downward against righties, unfortunately. Opposing managers would also be wise to either avoid pitching left-handers against him or, when they do, walk him intentionally. After all, Kemp rarely steals when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound.
Power: Kemp hit 18 HR last year. Currently, he’s got 23 and counting. Many scouts projected he’d have 40 HR upside and the growth trends are encouraging. Still, his Isolated Power percentage is only .195—the territory of Hunter Pence, Mike Cameron, and Marlon Byrd. Furthermore, as long as he remains a member of the LA Dodgers, he’ll have to battle the power valley that is Dodger Stadium, particularly unkind to right-handed sluggers.
Speed: As mentioned above, Kemp is on a path toward surpassing 35 SB this season, an extraordinary achievement for a player who is 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds. Players measuring those dimensions aren’t typically speed demons and when they do surpass 30 SB, as Alex Rodriguez did in 1998, it tends to be followed by a few years of more moderate steals production. In 2006, Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein wrote this about the then-prospect outfielder: “At 230 pounds, Kemp’s plus speed could dissipate quickly.” Reportedly, Kemp showed up to spring training this year in excellent condition, and his success rate on the base-paths this year (81%) show no cause for concern, yet we’ve likely seen the best from Kemp in the steals department.
Positional scarcity: People will disagree about the level of depth next year at outfielder, but in my mind, it’s pretty deep. For instance, take PECOTA’s No. 1 most comparable player to Matt Kemp—Hunter Pence. He won’t go in the top seven rounds, in all probability. With batting average regression and less speed, Kemp could easily fall back into Hunter Pence/Alex Rios/Corey Hart territory. These players will carry about as much upside but a lot less risk thanks to depressed valuations. Kemp, on the other hand, has become a fantasy darling and that could be reason to stay away.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 4:28am (13) Comments
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Freddy Garcia presents a rare opportunity for both fantasy owners and MLB GMs to partake in the thrill of raising the dead.
Freddy Garcia is no new phenomenon in fantasy baseball. The hurler is a holdover from the '90s, a vestige of days gone by when dial-up modems and the United States Postal Service ruled the world. The man is a vet, no, a grizzled vet, in every sense of the word. He has struggled with shoulder injuries since 2004, yet continues to chug on, though his arm is being held together by sheer will power, grit and duct tape. Garcia has not played a full season since 2006, throwing all of 101.2 IP over parts of the last three seasons.
Yet, despite all this, Garcia continues to produce ... when healthy. 2009 is no different.
When assessing the health of a starter, there are a few key indicators to watch for. One, of course, is velocity. When a player is hiding an injury or has lingering effects from surgery or a previous DL stint, he often sees a reduction in velocity. Fortunately for Garcia, his velocity is right where he left it in 2006, his last full season in the majors. While this is a good sign that he has recovered well from his latest shoulder escapade, this does not mean that he is back to form from his days in Seattle. In the early 2000s, when Garcia was at the best of his career, he was sitting in the 91 mph range (with a season at 93 mph in 2002). His arm has not been the same since 2006, when he dropped 2 mph on his fastball from 91.4 in '05 to 89.3 mph in '06. The Garcia of 2009 sits at 88.5 mph. While not the Garcia of old, a 0.8 mph drop in velocity is not much to be concerned about, considering all his arm has been through.
The second, and often more important, indicator is his command ratios. Even if a pitcher has a decrease in velocity, hitters will not be able to slug his stuff until he starts leaving it over the plate or getting into lots of hitter's counts ... and then there's the walks. Even with diminished velocity, should Garcia be able to control the strike zone and keep his walk totals down, he should be a relatively effective pitcher. Luckily for him, he has been able to do so, as his 2.83 BB/9 and 56.3 first-strike percentage are right in line with his career averages.
So where does this leave Freddy Garcia?
With below-average velocity but above-average command, Garcia should be in relatively good hands. He's not a keeper, so what really matters is what he'll be able to provide for the stretch run in the next few weeks. His shoulder should be able to hold up. So, what does he have left? We should be able to find some hints in his rate statistics.
When fishing for information on a pitcher's strikeout and walk profile, three important characteristics tell the tale: batter swing percentage, contact percentage, and pitcher zone percentage. These three indicators go a long way in reporting how patient batters are with a pitcher and how hard the pitcher is to hit. This season, Garcia has put together a 43.2 percent swing percentage, a 74 percent contact percentage, and a 49.3 percent zone percentage.
The zone percentage is not ideal, as it is low for a starting pitcher. This means that Garcia is frequently missing the plate, leading to more hitter's counts and more walks.
His swing percentage is also low, which exacerbates his problems commanding the zone. If batters are not offering at pitches, especially with the number he is throwing outside the zone, Garcia is almost assured to give up lots of walks.
But the money maker, contact percentage, is an excellent 74.0 percent. This actually piqued my interest as I was evaluating Garcia. While this season is the best he has had on record since this stat became available in 2002, Garcia has always had very good contact percentages, with a career rate (since 2002) of 77.5 percent.
It almost seems as if Garcia is pulling a trick on all of us.
Since 2002, Garcia has posted a 2.59 BB/9 along with a 6.66 K/9. Those are the numbers of a control pitcher who doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff. However, with a 77.5 contact percentage since 2002, Garcia should have been striking out far more batters than this, with seasons possibly in the 8s and 9s K/9. Factoring in his other plate discipline attributes, Garcia profiles more as a pitcher who strikes out 8 batters per nine innings, while walking 3-4. This is not at all the Freddy Garcia we have grown accustomed to, however.
So where does this leave us? On the one hand, questioning how a pitcher ever had such a profile but was never able to strike out 8 batters per nine innings. On the other hand, fascinated and curious that maybe Garcia is one of those pitchers who really does pitch to contact, despite having stuff to strike out batters.
With just over two weeks left in the season, feel safe to play Freddy Garcia. He is owned in very few leagues at the moment, so you have the opportunity to get a quality pitcher for nothing off the waiver wire. There is no reason to believe that his shoulder cannot hold up over his next few starts and he will certainly be able to deliver quality starts, a good ERA, and a few wins. While sample size is an issue when considering Garcia's 2009 performance to date, his steady velocity, F-strike rate, and contact rates all bode well for his future.
Expect Garcia to continue to pitch to contact as he has done throughout his career. While this won't be great for your strikeout numbers, it will help with the WHIP and ERA. Garcia's current 3.33 FIP seems low and is more a reflection of his low HR rate, currently at 6.5 percent HR/FB. From here on out, he should be able to provide an ERA in the high 3s, at around 3.80, with a WHIP around 1.30. All told, Garcia rates as a slightly below-average starting pitcher. However, when you can get him for nothing on the waiver wire, he becomes quite the asset. Start him with confidence. This reclamation project could end up acing his test, or at least passing.