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Thursday, February 11, 2010
1. Christian Friedrich / SP / Friedrich heads a terrific group of starting pitching prospects with his four-pitch arsenal, highlighted by his knee-buckling curveball. He needs to adapt more of an attacking style, and his command could use more work, but he has the look of a future ace.
2. Jhoulys Chacin / SP / Chacin induces a tremendous groundball rate from his varied arsenal. His velocity and command are average at this point, but he could be an effective Coors Field No. 2 starter.
3. Tyler Matzek / SP / Matzek has the raw tools necessary to be a future ace. He has a strong four-pitch repertoire, and every one of them has the chance to be at least average. His command needs serious work, but the potential is through the roof.
4. Eric Young / 2B/OF / Young is an underrated fantasy sleeper heading into 2010 due to his exceptional speed and ability to get on base. He should hit the ground running in Colorado, and could be a top-of-the-lineup force for years to come.
5. Rex Brothers / SP/RP / With sharpened command, Brothers could have a great fastball/slider combination. His lack of a change-up and questionable endurance are strikes against his bid to become a starter, but Brothers has a promising left arm. We'll know more about his future role very soon.
6. Mike McKenry / C / With his solid all-around game, McKenry is an underrated catching prospect. His bat combines together strong contact skills, above-average plate discipline, and a bit of power to give Colorado a potentially solid everyday catching option very soon.
7. Nolan Arenado / 3B / Fresh out of high school, Arenado has shown a quick bat and terrific contact skills. He also has raw power in his bat, and if it develops his stock could explode.
8. Wilin Rosario / C / Rosario posted a mildly disappointing 2009. His bat and defense both have a long way to go, but he was young for the California League. My guess is that he will get another chance to conquer Advanced-A competition. Next year I'll be looking for more power, a better contact rate, and signs of improved plate discipline.
9. Chris Balcom-Miller / SP / Balcom-Miller had a terrific 11-start debut in the Pioneer League, showing off a solid three-pitch mix, highlighted by his superb change-up. This is an aggressive ranking, but one that may be more than justified after we see him in full-season ball.
10. Tim Wheeler / OF / Wheeler has plus speed, but his contact skills appear to be a lot of hype at this point. He doesn't have much power either, but he does have upside in every aspect of his game. I'm willing to give him a year to win me over.
San Diego Padres
1. Donavan Tate / OF / Tate has the raw tools to be a star. He has plus raw power and speed, but he has some serious refinements to make before those tools result in home runs and stolen bases. San Diego made him the No. 3 pick overall for a reason. They think he is a five-tool talent who, given enough time to develop, has a good chance to be an impact player. I'm buying it.
2. Jaff Decker / OF / Decker is a 20-year-old with some of the best plate discipline in the minor leagues, and some serious power in his bat to back it up. He still has major holes in his swing to clean up, but with another uptick in his overall development and similar production at a higher level, he could challenge Tate for San Diego's No. 1 prospect spot.
3. Simon Castro / SP / Castro's command hit a new level in 2009, meaning his mid-90s fastball was too much for the Midwest League to handle. I can't wait to see if his slider takes a leap forward in 2010 and becomes his out pitch.
4. James Darnell / 3B / Darnell has good plate discipline and average current contact ability. Combine that with his solid, demonstrated power and San Diego appears to have a future asset at third base on its hands.
5. Edinson Rincon / OF/3B / Rincon has shown an advanced bat for his age, with some developing power and terrific plate patience backing it up. I need to see him against better competition, but his potential is immense and underrated.
6. Wynn Pelzer / SP / Pelzer has a solid low-90s fastball and an emerging slider. His command comes and goes, and his violent delivery leads many to believe that his future lies in the bullpen. But if his command improves and his change-up takes a step forward, his bid to start will be strengthened.
7. Logan Forsythe / 3B/OF / Forsythe has the patience at the plate to play in the majors right now, but his swing still has some holes and, more importantly, there isn't much power to speak of, which is disconcerting for a player who will have to make his living at a corner position.
8. Rymer Liriano / OF / At just 18 years old, Liriano is understandably undisciplined at the plate, and he has some gaping holes to iron out, but the athletic young man has a great-looking swing and some raw power to work with. He is one to watch.
9. Aaron Poreda / RP/SP / Poreda's lack of secondary stuff, troublesome delivery, and shaky command lead me to believe that he will be a bullpen arm. But he has time to develop into a late-inning role, as his mid-90s fastball and track record of success cannot be ignored.
10. Everett Williams / OF / Williams is a wholly untested high schooler who is known for having a bit of a power/speed combination to work with, but on the downside he is also known for having an undisciplined bat that is littered with holes. I'm willing to give him a shot to impress me, though.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:30am (7) Comments
Friday, February 12, 2010
Jason Bay | New York | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.384/.537
Bay, always a pull hitter, put some loft on his swing in 2009 to clear the Green Monster, with somewhat predictable results. He recorded a career low of .68 in GB/FB and, not coincidentally, a career high with 49.1 FB%. Aided by a 19.7% HR/FB, his highest since 2004, he put up his best SLG since 2005, and set a career high in HRs, while also exceeding 2.00 Bash. On the downside, his BA dropped to its second-lowest level ever, right behind that awful 2007 you see in his mini-browser. You can also see his poor contact rate in 2009, which is partly to blame for that low BA; the rest is likely due to that new approach at the plate.
Much of his other skills are pretty much where you might expect them—his K% was higher than it has been lately, as was his BB%, but both are in line with his career averages. He was better in both departments with the Pirates, so his return to the NL might see him reverse some of those trends. Of greater importance would be the new environment he finds himself in: Citi Field. Gone is the Green Monster, 310 feet from home (and 37 feet high), and in its place is a fence 335 away and 15 feet high. The Mets announced this week that they're cutting the center field wall in front of the Home Run Apple in half, but that won't do much for a righty pull hitter like Bay.
The changed LF dimension could encourage him to try and lift the ball a bit less, however, even as it cuts back his power numbers. Fenway gave him more doubles (18 vs. 11 away from home) while it took away his homers (15 at home vs. 21 away), combining to drop 11 points of SLG at home, not all that significant. That says to me that it's unlikely that power shift in Citi will be all that dramatic, but it should still happen.
His counting numbers should drop somewhat with the Mets, who scored a massive 201 fewer runs than Boston did in 2009. New York will have a healthy Jose Reyes and (post-surgery) Carlos Beltran, while David Wright should have a better year, so it's not as bad as it looks at first blush, and they'll give him chances to drive runs in. He might not score as many runs, but getting into that 100-R/100-RBI neighborhood in his mini-browser isn't too much of a stretch.
GP also sees more steady production from Bay, though that low contact rate keeps us pessimistic that he'll crest .300, as he did in 2005. Combined with his modest HR potential, that drops his value in most leagues, counteracted a bit by the just-double-digit steals he'll bring you. He remains a top-flight option in OBP or other sabermetric leagues, where having a .900+ OPS outfielder is a great asset. For most owners, however, he's an excellent bet to return that $25 investment GP recommends—just don't go too much higher than that, as he remains just on the fringes of elite OFs, but is a solid investment nonetheless.
Billy Wagner | Atlanta | RP
2009 Final Stats: 14.9 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, 1.72 ERA
The Braves replaced the talented but injury-prone lefty-righty endgame combo of Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano by signing the talented but injury-prone lefty-righty endgame combo of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito. Saito's elbow scared everyone but Boston off before the 2009 season, while Wagner woke up from 2008 Tommy John surgery to find that K-Rod had taken his closer's role in New York.
Unlike the Gonzo-Soriano combo, Wagner is clearly the closer in Atlanta, with Saito as the righty setup man and closer-in-waiting they hope they'll never have to use. And the one question that can't be definitively answered with Wags is how he will rebound from that TJS. The good news is that he got to work his way back with about 22 innings of work last year, some of it at the minor-league level, and he's had the offseason to recover.
There isn't much bad news here, since Wagner looked strong in the short time he was on the mound in 2009, even if almost none of it was in high-leverage situations. We can't draw too many conclusions, as most of the work was with an AL team in Fenway, a rather idiosyncratic park. Still, what little we saw looked good, with strong strikeout numbers, and a 94 mph fastball that's consistent with the mild velocity decline he started showing in 2007. He threw the slider, too, which probably tells us the elbow is OK.
One way to project his potential in 2010 is to look at the team and park he's going to. Atlanta was below average in defensive efficiency in 2009 (their .685 was 5 points below NL average, and only four teams did worse), and (as I detailed in my Tommy Hanson writeup), the Braves' defense will be largely the same in 2010. He does move to a slightly more pitcher-friendly park, at least when compared to his time in Philly—Shea is nearly identical to Turner Field, both in terms of Park Factor and actual dimensions. Atlanta plays in a tough division and may not win a ton of games, but there's not always a direct correlation between saves and victories. If anything, their somewhat-tepid offense may lead to more close games.
The health question is the overriding one, undoubtedly why the Braves felt the need to sign both Saito and Wagner. Wags passed a physical, and TJS recovery has become so mundane as to be a virtual ritual for young pitchers. Wagner, however, is not a young pitcher, and surgery recovery combined with the natural aging process of a guy who'll turn 39 midseason raises a moderate red flag.
GP remains rather bullish on his prospects, and most projection systems see him with an ERA around 3 and a WHIP in the 1.15 territory, both excellent marks. His reduced velocity will likely lead to fewer strikeouts, and a rise in walks is also possible. Considering the injury factor, Wagner certainly drops from the top tier of fantasy closers, but he's still a very strong option with an outstanding track record. I'd call him a good buy, particularly if other owners are scared off by his TJS.
Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado | OF
2009 Final Stats: .284/.353/.525
Two different teams—Oakland and Arizona—gave up on CarGo's massive potential before Colorado finally saw him blossom. After getting called up in June, he took a little while to get going, and then exploded in August, part of the Jim Tracy Revival that launched the Rockies into the postseason. Gonzalez hit .371/.432/.714, vaulting to the leadoff spot, where he hit a tidy .300/.379/.573, including a whopping .333/.409/.654 leading off an inning and .391/.481/.913 as the first batter in the game.
While he's obviously a lock for a starting role as Colorado's left fielder, it's unlikely he'll lead off in 2010. As I discussed in December, that honor probably belongs to Dexter Fowler, who has better wheels than CarGo (54 SBs in 83 attempts over seven minor-league seasons) and a better batting eye. Tracy has yet to tip his hand about his leadoff man, and he could stick with what worked last season and leave Gonzalez there. But his power-hitting abilities (.484 minor-league SLG, including 161 2Bs and 88 HRs in 2729 PAs) and those aforementioned slow wheels (relative to Fowler, anyway) should put him lower in the order in the long term.
Of greater concern should be his plate discipline, as well as the small sample space we're looking at. He was certainly excellent in the last two months of 2010, but those represent just 209 PAs, and the 38% hit rate shows that a few balls fell his way. As for his aggressiveness at the dish, that 8% walk rate is an improvement over his career averages, as is his 25.2 K%, but neither are much better, and both spell a fair amount of streakiness for Gonzalez. Putting up contact rates in the mid-70s will also suppress any rise in batting average.
GP, as ever, is restrained in its estimation, and it's easy to see why with these markers. Decent power, decent speed, and decent batting average all add up to that $12 valuation, which is likely to seem like heresy to Rockies fans. That's because his breakout has been so long expected that when it arrived, people expect it to just continue. But experience with other prospects, as well as supporting stats like this, says that you should expect some struggles from Gonzalez in 2010.
That he's been so highly touted and had such a great finish to 2010 means other owners will overpay. Let them waste their money and save yours for more profitable investments. If you can get CarGo at a discount, do so, while keeper owners will have to exercise patience through the inevitable ups-and-downs of 2010. Gonzo's going to be good, but that trajectory's going to be a bit flatter than most people expect.
Ricky Nolasco | Florida | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.5 K/9, 4.4 K/BB, 5.06 ERA
Nolasco could be the poster child for FIP and its limitations. After extremely solid ratios in many areas, Nolasco ended 2009 with a 3.85 FIP, yet he had that awful ERA you see above. By all accounts, he had a fine year, but ERA, the metric that so many baseball fans (and fantasy leagues) use to measure pitchers completely failed to reflect that. But FIP tells you how good (or bad) a pitcher was, not what his ERA should have been, if only because ERA is based on lots of factors.
As always, luck is one the factors in Nolasco's 5.06 whopper—his career-worst .336 BABIP was well north of where it should have been. His 61 LOB% was another career low, and a further indicator that he ran into some bad luck. Fortunately, that kind of lowball LOB% performance usually indicates a rebound the following year. Because strand rate can indicate poor pitching as well as bad luck (bad pitchers are bad whether the bases are empty or full), it's not a lock that he'll improve, but it's very likely.
That he should do better is shown by those very nice strikeout and control rates you see in his GP mini-browser, which also tells you that both have been improving the past few years. His Fangraphs pitch data shows the improvement coming from his offspeed stuff, including a better slider and a new splitter. His fastball was actually his worst pitch, plummeting from 4.7 runs above average in 2008 to -15.5 in 2009. That could point the finger at John Baker; batters had an OPS 108 points higher with him behind the plate in 2009. Maybe he's calling for the fastball when he shouldn't, something we'll find out in 2010, when he's behind the plate again.
Another sign of caution comes from his weak home run rates, a result of being a borderline flyball pitcher with a slightly above-average HR rate in a home-run friendly home park. That's not likely to change, which gives his ERA a fair amount of instability. But if you're looking for a bargain pitcher with a very good upside who will deliver strikeouts and keep the WHIP down, Nolasco fits that bill.
Other owners might be scared off by that 5.06 ERA, or lose him in the long shadow of Josh Johnson, but Nolasco represents a great investment opportunity for you. The risky home run rates in one of baseball's toughest divisions should warn you against overbidding, but unless the other owners in your league read this column, you may not have to.
Chris Young | Arizona | OF
2009 Final Stats: .212/.311/.400
Chris Young nearly joined the 30-30 club as a rookie in 2007 (one double and three steals away from a 30-30-30 season, in fact) and placed fourth in ROY voting. That made 2008 a letdown for Young, when he failed to exceed 20 SBs or 25 HRs, even as he cracked 42 doubles. But that 2008 letdown seemed like a miracle next to 2009, in which Young did so miserably that he was sent down to Triple-A to straighten himself out. This seems insulting, except when you see that he was hitting .194/.297/.359 at the time, with 95 strikeouts, 45 walks, just 7 HRs and 11 steals. Young spent two weeks in Triple-A, and did well enough when he returned (.263/.351/.508) to bring his final BA to the still-sad state you see above.
So what happened to Young in 2010?
His swing, for one thing. Whether he wanted to reach that 30 HR plateau again or just wasn't seeing the ball well (or both), he started hitting the ball in the air more than ever before. His fly ball rate rose from 43% to 56%, pushing his infield fly rate to an absurd 22.4%. A guy with wheels like his should be hitting the ball on the ground more. A lot more.
His batting eye is clearly off, too. His strikeout rate has risen for the past four seasons, even as his walk rate has risen. That's happened while he's actually become more selective in his swings, taking cuts at fewer pitches outside the strike zone while maintaining excellent contact rates (85%) on those pitches inside the strike zone. From a statistician's perspective, that's not just contradictory, it's worrisome. If a hitter becomes less aggressive, and makes better contact, but his strikeouts continue to rise, that suggests he's losing confidence.
Another troublesome part of Young's skill set are his platoon splits. In his career, he's hit just .223 against RHP, which hovered around .235 in 2007-8. That plunged to .196 in 2009, while his .262 performance against LHP was only 9 points off career norms. And looking at some of the 2009 trends through the platoon lens yields even more interesting results. While an insane 63% of the balls he hit against lefties are fly balls (compared to just 53% vs. RHP), 25% of those fly balls vs. RHP became infield flies, and just 8% turned into home runs. Against lefties, 15% of those fly balls stayed in the infield, while 11% of them left the yard. This is no doubt why his 2009 BABIP against lefties was .319 (8 points higher than usual), while his 2009 BABIP against righties collapsed to .254, 14 points below normal.
Those are the most severe splits in those areas of his career, indicating a much different approach depending on who he's facing—or at least, radically different effects. That's got to mess with a guy's swing, and it may also mean that Young is just thinking too much, often the worst thing a batter can do. In any case, Young was clearly a mess in 2009, and that small 135-PA sample at the end of the season does little to inspire confidence.
BP sees a rebound coming, and that kind of dead cat bounce isn't too surprising—Young's got nowhere to go but up. Assuming that happens, he'll bring some SBs and HRs, while punishing your batting average. I don't like his skill set to beat that GP projection; even reaching it would seem like a triumph. The D-backs are on the hook for Young until 2013, and the poor return they've gotten on their investment makes him utterly unpalatable as trade bait. Still, Gerardo Parra could step in at any time, and A.J. Hinch has shown no compunction about removing struggling starters.
About the only advantage to Young is that other owners will be so sour on him that you could pick him up at a bargain price. In spite of how awful his 2009 season was, and how his skills are failing to coalesce, he could end up being a steal at the right price. You may find him available for much less than that $16 valuation, and he makes a great late-round gamble in snake drafts. Just don't push your luck, or that auction price, very much.
Pitchers and catchers report next week, but you can still download a 16-page sample of Graphical Player 2010 or buy a copy to prep for the season. And don't forget to check the new index for all the players I've covered this offseason, and leave suggestions for other players to cover in the comments below.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (4) Comments
Elvis Andrus | Texas | SS
2009 Final Stats: .267/.329/.373
We'll give ourselves a bit of a “pat on the back” for predicting that Andrus wouldn't slip from his early July levels when many thought he would. But the harder question is estimating the amount of growth he will show in 2010. It seems like a safe bet that if he's a dedicated worker, he'll eventually improve his offensive game, given the clearly remarkable hand-eye coordination and body control he has.
On the one hand, his 82 OPS+ was identical to that of The Wizard back in '78, but Ozzie was 23 that year, compared to just 20 for Andrus. Ozzie collapsed to a pathetic 48 OPS+ the following season, and it took him four years and a move to the “old school” turf (and a manager who understood how to utilize said playing surface to its fullest) to top 80 again. Another slick-fielding shortstop—Tony Fernandez—posted an 84 OPS+ when he was 22, and quickly improved upon that. Among projection systems, most seem to think that Andrus is due for a reprise of his 2009 stats, which would be quite satisfactory to the Rangers. Somewhat surprisingly, Marcel sets the curve for Andrus expectations in 2010 at .280/.346/.410. The flaw in relying on Marcel is that—as a player who puts 55% of his balls in play on the ground—Andrus is very unlikely to follow the “typical” power growth expectations, as measured across the entire population of baseball players. Since Marcel projects growth along these curves, without considering uniqueness factors of various players (it's supposed to be a monkey, remember? “See no groundball, hear no groundball, speak no groundball...”), it lumps in Andrus' age-20 performance (6 HR, 25 2B+3B in 480 AB) with all other players.
The majority opinion certainly makes the most intuitive sense for the immediate future of Andrus, as well. It's too much of a stretch to suggest that Andrus will break the .340 OBP. So, don't expect him to be on base a lot more often than he was in 2009. He should, however, get a full complement of plate appearances and should easily top 40 SB, even playing for a manager who doesn't allow players to try to steal very often. With that in mind, lightning-fast players who put the ball on the ground a lot can rack up some great BABIPs. If Andrus switch-hit (or batted lefty), he'd be more likely to post .350 BABIPs as he did in the minors, with the step of a head start to first base. As it is, his best chance of expanding his BABIP is going to be to keep hitting extra-base hits to keep fielders honest enough for him to surprise them with bunt singles and infield choppers. In case it needed to be written, he's great on defense, and will undoubtedly get as much time as he needs to accomplish the growth in his offensive game, as did Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel before him. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that that time will come in 2010.
Nelson Cruz | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .260/.332/.524
It's not often when a hitter entering his age-29 season is projected to have stats better than both his previous season and his career line, but that's what's happened with Cruz in almost every projection system. Marcel The Monkey is “confused” by these other systems, weighing recent seasons as he does and coming up with a .261/.332/.483 batting line. But numerous other systems are predicting a .340+ OBP, with PECOTA going all the way to .363! Mock drafters over at Mock Draft Central are on board, taking him 64th in Average Draft Position, the 18th outfielder taken—ahead of roto stalwarts like Bobby Abreu and Carlos Lee. That's what happens when a guy jacks 33 HR and steals 20 bases in just 462 AB, as Cruz did in 2009.
There's a slight measure of “bad” news with Cruz. His owners will be annoyed that Ron Washington sits him against pitchers he can't handle well, but that (presumably) helps his overall rate stats somewhat and he's shown that he can be an excellent contributor with just 500 AB. The worse part is that not being valued by one's own manager is often a precursor to a trade, and Texas is a great setting for hitters. Another slight worry point is the loss of Rudy Jaramillo. Not to overstate a hitting coach's role too much, but it's hard to conceive of a way that losing Jaramillo's support could have a positive impact on Cruz.
By both reputation and stats, Cruz is a very good defensive outfielder, covering lots of range, making few errors, and throwing out lots of runners. Assuming that 2009 was an “up” year for his homers, and that he won't suddenly receive 700 PA and mash 45 HR (the pace he was on), the most likely situation for Cruz is probably a slight reduction in his rate stats (a la Marcel's projection), with his HR/SB totals increasing very slightly (or remaining the same despite more playing time), though his runs and RBI should increase with the extra PT. A .265-35-100-20 season should be considered an above-average result from Cruz in 2010, but it wouldn't be surprising at all. And his “upside” is even higher, though obviously much less likely.
Kurt Suzuki | Oakland | C
2009 Final Stats: .274/.313/.421
Has anyone noticed lately how many players on the A's fail to draw a high number of walks. And it's not like walks have become “expensive”, which would reduce the “market inefficiency” of buying them ... free agents such as Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell can attest to that fact. Anyway, Suzuki's walk total in 2009 was a paltry 28 in 614 PA, after drawing 44 in 588 the previous year. Other than that, he's a typically average MLB hitter playing in a bad park for hitters. He's good at the agility and game-calling aspects of defense and until the “youth movement” pitching rotation in 2009, he'd thrown out runners pretty well in 2008, too. Of course, 190 innings of Greg Smith can help those stats a ton (he's arguably the best pitcher at thwarting the running game active today). It's safe to say that when the pitcher holds the runner, Suzuki is capable of making accurate throws, but doesn't have the cannon arm of the top defensive catchers. And that's sort of his entire game in a nutshell ... he's “adequate” to “good” at almost every aspect of baseball, with no appreciable weaknesses (other than the evaporating walk rate); he even stole eight bases in 2009! As a fantasy pick, he's about as safe as a catcher can be—he's durable and very projectable. He's not quite a good enough hitter to force his way into DH duty unless a team is devoid of hitters like the '09 A's, but you know what you're getting. Expect a marginal improvement across the board from 2009, as he enters his age-26 season.
James Shields | Tampa Bay | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.8 K/9, 3.2 K/BB, 4.14 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 4.12, 3.67, 3.97, 4.05
In some ways, Shields is a “chuck and duck” pitcher like the two Twins we covered last week: Baker and Slowey. His fastball barely averages over 90 mph, and he's allowed well over 1.0 HR/9 IP while walking fewer than 2.0. If anything, he tried to be more in this mold in 2009, posting a career-high “F-Strike%” (from fangraphs.com) of over 63%, compared to his career norm of 60%. As usual for AL East pitchers, he was among the top pitchers in “opponent OPS” (courtesy of baseballprospectus.com), finishing 12th among 73 pitchers with 162+ IP (.761 OPS for his average opposing hitter). So, when Shields is able to post LIPS scores averaging under 4.00, that's more significant than Baker and Slowey doing so.
Some may worry about Shields' walk rate going up from 1.51 to 1.67 to 2.13 the past three seasons, and the trend this suggests, especially since it's dropped his K:BB rate from 5.11 to 3.21 in that span. But he's throwing with the same velocity, throwing more first-pitch strikes, and is generating about the same percentage of swings, with just as many missed swings on balls in the zone. In 2007, the contact% on swings against balls he threw outside the zone was particularly low, but his overall contact% allowed has been very consistent. In short, all his peripheral numbers point to consistency, and there's every reason to expect him to put up a season in keeping with his past three seasons ... so about a 3.80 to 3.90 ERA
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. Acta Sports is currently SOLD OUT. Until they publish more, the book can be ordered through major booksellers.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am (3) Comments
Monday, February 15, 2010
Before last season Damon had never had a strike out rate over 15 percent, but in 2009 he struck out nearly 18 percent of the time. That is not surprising as he is getting older and contact is one of the skills to decline at this age. At the same time, Granderson has taken a step forward the past two years with a K percentage of 20 and 22 percents the last two years. That is still a significant difference, but much closer than it would have been in Damon's prime.
As for plate discipline, Granderson has again made huge strides getting his walk rate over 10 percent these past two seasons. That is better than the career rate of Damon at 9.2 percent, but very similar to the rates he has posted for the past four seasons.
Granderson had a very tough year on his BABIP at .276, but with a career rate of .323 that should help his OBP return to much better numbers. He had some learning to do, much like Damon, as his OBP was below .340 for his first three years before his skills grew. He had two seasons with an OBP over .360 and would have done the same in 2009 if his BABIP had been neutral.
Of course the big question is the power. Damon had a great year for home run power, but his ISO also had a huge bump. It was at .207, which was a career high with only 2006 coming close at .197. He just doesn't have this type of power away from Yankee Stadium and could suffer wherever he winds up.
Granderson had a good year for homers with 30, but his overall power was down with a ISO of .204. His career rate is similar at .211, but being moved to Yankee Stadium can only help. Perhaps this is where the two will differ. Granderson should see a bump in his power, homers and OBP.
On the base paths Granderson does not appear to have the numbers of Damon's prime, but once again he is very similar to where Damon is now. Granderson had a speed score of 6.1 in 2009 and Damon was at 5.8, which was his lowest rate of his career.
Damon is a better bet for run totals as he is a leadoff hitter unless his new team in 2010 doesn't ask him to fill that roll. This means his RBI chances are quite low, but his run totals are impressive. Granderson is a candidate for the top of the order, but his power should keep him in a lower spot and in New York his run and RBI totals should be great.
Granderson is the better option this year and going forward, but mainly due to the decline in Damon's skills. He would be behind Damon in runs, steals and batting average in their prime, but now it's much closer. With Granderson's ability to hit 30 homers outside of Yankee Stadium he gains that much more.
The Yankees not only get similar numbers in Granderson, but his much better defense and younger legs. Your fantasy team will get somewhat similar results as well with no worry about Damon's noodle arm. Granderson is currently the No. 51 pick according to MockDraftCentral, but Damon is going at 121. While Granderson has the better situation right now, I wouldn't take Granderson that far ahead of his clone.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 4:12am (1) Comments
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
After outdoing myself last week, I figured I'd return my roots and write an article a little simpler, a little less theoretical, and more practical. Picking up from where I left off two weeks ago, today I will evaluate pitchers who have large discrepancies in their highest and lowest draft position. As Bud Light commercials say: "Here we go."
Javier Vazquez | ADP: 61 | Earliest: 46 | Latest: 92 |
Pitchers who have renaissance years and then switch leagues make good candidates to be on a list such as this one, so it is no surprise to see Vazquez's name here. Last season on the Braves he posted Cy Young-esque numbers of 15 wins with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 219 innings of work, vindicating Derek Carty on his man-crush of him last year.
As impressive as last year was, people are still wary of owning Vazquez because of his age (33), the mileage on his arm (2,500 career innings), his switch to the offensive powerhouse AL East, his terrible season in his last go-around with the Yankees back in 2004, and finally his flyball tendencies in the flyball haven that is the new Yankee Stadium. Whew! That is a lot to not like about a guy. On the flip side people like Vazquez for his durability, his high strikeout and low walk rates, because he is now backed by the scary-good Yankees offense, and well, because of how spectacular he was last year.
A generally unlucky pitcher, Vazquez was bestowed with a little bit of luck in 2009 as his 3.24 LIPS ERA indicates. Making adjustments from that LIPS ERA number based on the work Derek did last offseason on the impact of switching leagues we can expect his ERA to rise .40 points from the league switch and then a couple of tenths more due to the higher run environment of Yankee Stadium. With a strikeout rate regressed back into the high eights partially from the 0.6 penalty from the switch to the AL, Vazquez is looking at a season with an ERA from 3.75 to 4.00, around 200 strikeouts, and 16-20 wins.
Nothing makes that line stand out from the lines of the pitchers taken around him, though if you are going to take a pitcher around this point in a draft, Vazquez's durability does make him a viable option.
Wandy Rodriguez | ADP: 125 | Earliest: 78 | Latest: 188 |
Like Javy, Wandy is coming off a tremendous 2009 season in which he finished with a 3.02 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 206 innings pitched. Despite his first name, Rodriguez is someone who has flown under many people's radars the past two years, over which he has proven himself a quality starting pitcher. His LIPS ERA of 4.03 in 2009 reveals that luck buoyed him to his 2009 ERA and he is not ready to join the elite ranks of pitchers.
As was the case with Vazquez, there is little to distinguish Wandy from the other pitchers, such as Matt Garza and Chad Billingsley, who are taken around him, making it difficult to say whether it is worth the investment in him. With starting pitching a relatively deep position, avoiding elite pitchers and nabbing a few starters at this point in drafts is a solid strategy that can lead to powerful offenses with still-respectable pitching staffs and Wandy is a solid No. 2 or 3 on any fantasy team.
Jorge de la Rosa | ADP: 195 | Earliest: 132 | Latest: 245 |
DLR is an emerging fantasy pitcher with tons of potential given his ability to punch batters out. Last year was a breakout season for the late-blooming 28-year-old, throwing 185 innings, posting a 4.38 ERA, and racking up 193 K's. Covered nicely in this Waiver Wire article, de la Rosa appears primed for an even more impressive season in 2010 with an ERA closer to his 2009 LIPS ERA of 4.03. Couple that ERA with 200 plus strikeouts and a healthy win total, and you are looking at a pitcher who is currently undervalued in drafts.
Especially considering the similarities between DLR and the pitcher we just covered, Rodriguez, de la Rosa emerges as another solid option to be that second or third starter on your fantasy team—except at a more palatable price.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:24am (7) Comments
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I’d like to follow up on some issues surrounding Jonathan Halket’s most recent column about backward induction. One of the questions raised by the column is that of holding off on high-round options at positions you’ve confidently targeted sleepers for. How do you balance the appeal of getting high value late in the draft against the risk of not acquiring your targeted sleeper and being left high and dry?
The nightmare scenario would go something like this. An owner pegs Julio Borbon as a great value late in the draft. In the third round, at pick 26, this owner notices Carl Crawford is still on the board. The owner considers Crawford here, as he thinks this is a good value. However, he thinks Borbon could be an even better value a hundred picks later (great players are at a disadvantage here because there’s only so far a highly ranked player can outproduce his cost) and doesn’t want to clog that outfield-speed slot. He thinks rostering both Crawford and Borbon would be overkill and leave him power-deficient. So, the owner drafts Kevin Youkilis instead. Then, several rounds later, somebody else drafts Borbon a round before this owner was planning to. Now, this owner is behind in steals and doesn’t have another player to fit the archetype he needs. He ends up drafting Coco Crisp and hoping he surprises and fills some of the need he was hoping Borbon would (and he knew Crawford would.) To make matters worse, Crawford outproduces Youkilis and other quality corner bats were available the round following the Youkilis pick.
(I realize I could have just used Jonathan’s Ryan Doumit/Victor Martinez/Rod Barajas example here, but then I’d be tangentially entertaining the “should I invest highly in a catcher argument” and if you read my columns you know that I’m anti-high pick catcher. Unless I’m in an AL-only league, Joe Mauer could be sitting on the board in the third round and I’ll most likely pass without giving a second thought.)
Now, I can’t tell anybody how to balance the risk of not getting Borbon versus the perceived value gap between Crawford in his draft position and Borbon in his. This is a rather abstract concept to try to quantify. The answer depends on a number of dynamics, as discussed in Jonathan’s article and the comments section. What other options will be there if I get sniped on my sleeper and how do I feel about those options? How likely is it that others are on the same wavelength as I am regarding my sleeper targets?
There’s another important question though—the most obvious one—that somehow often gets lost in the mix of the more abstract components of this discussion: How do the elite option and my sleeper compare in terms of absolute value and what are these respective players’ realistic downside potential?
To prime this discussion, it seems that a refresher on the actual workings of the market in relation to elite players is in order. Jonathan is actually an economist; I, on the other hand, am just a pedantic know-it-all, so I hope I’m not speaking out of school here.
Everybody must be aware of two factors that go into the price of an elite player. One is dependability. You or I may interpret Borbon as a great value, but it's also possible that he's demoted to the minors before the All-Star break, or that he can't hit lefties at the major league level (he barely even played against them last year) and therefore winds up only getting 400 ABs for the season. I'm not trying to throw water on Borbon optimism, just expressing legitimate possibilities that people tend to totally dismiss once they've bought in to a player. Our evaluations don't matter—only his manager's and organization's.
Those risks don't exist for Carl Crawford. There are no risks that apply to Crawford that don’t apply to Borbon.
So, Borbon has significantly more downside risk than Crawford. This is an important determinant of the price points of the respective players. But, wait … isn’t some of that downside potential difference mitigated by the price I pay for the commodity? Isn’t Crawford’s smaller risk of not producing elite (by his standard) numbers magnified by the amount I invest in him, while Borbon’s greater downside risk cushioned by the fact that I invested less in him?
In an economic sense, yes. That’s an astute observation. (See how I pretended to compliment you, but I really complimented myself—I told you I’m kind of a douche.) But not so fast there, imaginary devil’s advocate.
The goal isn’t really to just accrue the best bang for you buck; the objective is to win your league. Maximizing your value per dollar (or pick) invested is just a tactic by which you do that, not an objective in and of itself. Commenter Jonathan Sher makes a rather poignant point about this in relation to his strategy for one of his leagues, which we will get to a bit later.
If you are relying for Borbon for big-time production, you are still out that production if Borbon flops, or even just performs acceptably but fails to exceed his draft position. What you invested in him is less important than what you depended on him for.
Here’s a real world example: David Wright is a borderline MVP-caliber player, but he only happened to make $7.75M last season. His hugely disappointing 2009 campaign was probably “worth” his salary, but that doesn’t mean the Mets were satisfied with his performance. And more directly, the Mets certainly didn’t do a lot of winning last year! So, in practice, the value consolation is largely irrelevant to a struggling team.
Plus, there’s the third-party production that enters the final equation, which is the opportunity cost of taking Youkilis over Crawford (plus the added value the owner behind you got in Crawford over what would have been his pick. Drafts are particularly conducive settings to see “the butterfly effect” in action.
If Crawford performs exactly as expected, Borbon performs 20% better than expected (and still substantially below Crawford), but you had “budgeted” for 40% better, and Youkilis performs 10% better—are you ahead of where you’d be if you just took Crawford (and some other undefined player in Borbon’s round who performed as expected)? ... Hmm … In overall value, you probably are. But do you have the right mix of categories or is some of your value tied up in categorical surplus irrelevant to the standings?
This gets very complicated, so I’m just going to end this part of the discussion and let it stand as a rhetorical. I can only carry on a debate with one imaginary devil’s advocate at a time without devolving into full blown schizophrenia. So, let’s move on to the second market force.
The other market force relevant here is the non-linear value of luxury goods (there’s probably a 10 dollar economics term for this, but I don’t know it). Superstars are luxury goods. If you are buying a car, for example, there's something of a "you get what you pay for model" for most options along the price point chain—Ford, Honda, Lexus. However, as you approach the extremes this somewhat linear relationship falls apart. It's virtually impossible for a Bentley to be something like six times the car a Lexus is. In fantasy baseball, there reaches a point of production at which there are so few players who can replace that player's value, his production value versus his cost ceases to be linear.
This happens with players in the real game too. A-Rod is nowhere near the best value in terms of, say, cost per win share. But, how many players can produce at his level? The way the market works in real life is that as a player’s production rises, the cost per unit of production rises a bit too. Hypothetically, win share 1–10 costs one price per win share; each win share between 10–20 an escalated price per unit, 20–30 even more, and then the price explodes at the superstar level. If you need one player to produce 35+ win shares, there aren’t many options. So, you pay a premium for A-Rod’s ability to produce virtually unequivocal value (and to protect against other teams usurping that value from you—this is a facet many never bother to consider).
So, what does all this mean in relation to our original question about studs and sleepers? Why did I go through all of that? Do I just like to run on and take advantage of the attention spans of the five people who would actually listen to me? Well, yes, but I also have a point, though it’s not one I haven’t made here before.
You should not let your late-round sleeper targets affect the highest rounds of your draft. At least through the first 50 picks, you should be selecting who you determine to be the best overall player available to you at your pick. Personally, I extent this rule notably further than the top 50, but I think the top 50 is the shortest acceptable period to apply this principle.
Here are a few reasons why I preach this:
First, you need elite producers to win. Everybody is going to have some luxury goods, so pick the ones that are best compared their alternatives. If you are in the market for a $350,000 luxury sedan (which you are, by definition, in the top 25) you should be weighing your options in that price range. You should be comparison shopping the Rolls Royce Phantom against the GT Bentley. The fact that you think a Lexus LS430 represents a far better value than either isn’t relevant. … Your debut rap album isn’t going platinum with a Lexus on the cover; this isn’t 1994 (unfortunately!).
Just to nitpick the metaphor, if you’re considering Ellsbury or Crawford you are really more in the market for a luxury sports car, right? OK, I’m officially getting to close to the Bill Simmons zone now, aren’t I?
So, here’s a big piece of advice I try to give to fantasy players. Don’t outsmart yourself!. Often times, us more advanced players get too wrapped up in our ability to spot value that we forget that leagues are won by absolute production. Don’t romanticize your sleepers to the point that you think they can actually replace studs. Occasionally it happens, but if there was a good chance a player could provide legitimately elite value, he likely wouldn’t be pre-ranked outside the top 100.
By the way, the outsmarting yourself phenomenon is even more dangerous and frequent in fantasy football. I don’t know how many times I had to talk friends off ledges this past year, as they were considering benching their first-round running back or second-round wide receiver for some injury replacement or secondary target blessed with an “attractive match-up.”
Here’s Jonathan Sher in the comments section to Halket’s column, as he talks about this issue in relation to an auction league (emphasis mine):
One’s willingness to [pass on a stud in favor of a sleeper] should also be related to one’s risk tolerance, and not in some generic sense, but the circumstances of one’s auction. This year, for example, I have what I believe is the best keeper list in my league and certainly one of the top 3—high value guys at very low salaries. So rather than risk waiting for a sleeper, I’m much more inclined to pay inflation-adjusted prices for top talent like Longoria than count on Beltre being under-valued. Beltre probably has a greater upside compared to what I expect others will value of him. But I don’t need more high value guys to win. Rather, I need high production guys (since I have most of my budget) and can afford inflation-adjusted prices or even more and still win or finish near the top. My greater risk is running out of available talent before I run out of money.
Second, what is precluding you from taking a stud and your sleeper, even if they are similar in make-up? Drafting is about both building a team and stockpiling value. If your sleeper pans out as you predicted, you have a valuable trade chip either in him or the higher-priced similar player. You can cash either of those chips in for elite production where you need it. In this specific case, you can jump out to a huge lead in SBs, dump one of the players and not even have it affect your standings in that category too much, as the low volume of the steals category makes large leads difficult to overcome.
Third, you should have sleeper targets for all categories. So, if picking the best available player for six or seven picks starts to develop clear categorical needs for your squad, you should have a plan to address them, whatever they are. I much prefer a large list of less profound sleepers than a few pet sleepers to whom I am extremely committed. You will never be able to draft your whole list, so the way I work is to build the best team I can with my top picks and then start to go after the sleepers whose skill sets make the most sense for my team. Obviously, there are exceptions. I drafted Josh Johnson regardless of my pitching staff’s strength in literally every league I played in last year.
Finally, here’s another question for you guys to ponder. I avoided temptation to get into this in this column because my columns are already long enough. But … what exactly even constitutes a “sleeper"? Borbon was discussed a fair amount both in Jonathan’s article (including the comments section) and mine. He’s pre-ranked 113th on Yahoo’s draft; is he even a sleeper? Can you be a sleeper while projected to go in the 10th round of a 12-team draft? I always thought sleepers were much more obscure. Scott Sizemore is a sleeper; Julio Borbon is not. That’s how I see it at least.
While others use the term to refer generically to anybody who they feel will considerably outperform draft pre-draft rank, I tend to reserve the term for either players few know about, or those most have written off as being unable to fulfill their potential or clearly past their tenure of usefulness.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:53am (9) Comments
Thursday, February 18, 2010
After receiving numerous requests to compile all of my team-by-team top-10 lists into one large article, I have decided to do just that. I also find this format to be a great way to rank each team's farm system and get caught up on offseason activity, whether it be the Yankees selling off their young assets or rising stars unexpectedly calling it quits in Oakland. This compilation also gives me a great template on which to base my upcoming off-season top-100 list.
Pitching wins championships, and the Rays are flush with talented arms who will provide strong rotation options for years to come, and a position player like Jennings can make all the difference in their lineup.
1. Desmond Jennings OF / 2. Jeremy Hellickson SP / 3. Wade Davis SP / 4. Matthew Moore SP / 5. Tim Beckham SS / 6. Reid Brignac SS / 7. Nick Barnese SP / 8. Jake McGee SP/RP / 9. Kyle Lobstein SP / 10. Cody Rogers OF
Texas is flush with high-potential pitching at various levels of the minor leagues, even though much of it is unproven. The track records of Feliz and Main make up for it, though. The system does lack bats beyond Smoak, which keeps it from the top spot.
1. Justin Smoak 1B / 2. Neftali Feliz SP/RP / 3. Martin Perez SP / 4. Robert Ross SP / 5. Kasey Kiker SP / 6. Michael Main SP / 7. Tanner Scheppers SP / 8. Max Ramirez C / 9. Wilfredo Boscan SP / 10. Wilmer Font SP
The graduation of Matt LaPorta hurts, but Cleveland has high-potential players, and most with track records, at the top of its system, and great depth throughout.
1. Carlos Santana C / 2. Hector Rondon SP / 3. Lonnie Chisenhall 3B / 4. Jason Knapp SP / 5. Alex White SP / 6. Michael Brantley OF / 7. Alexander Perez SP / 8. Nick Weglarz OF / 9. T.J. House SP / 10. Carlos Rivero SS
Atlanta boasts the best position prospect in baseball, loads of pitching talent in the low minors, and a few more quality hitters sprinkled throughout. Their overall depth is merely average, however, as there isn't much of note beyond the top 15.
1. Jason Heyward OF / 2. Freddie Freeman 1B / 3. Julio Teheran SP / 4. Mike Minor SP / 5. Randall Delgado / 6. Zeke Spruill SP / 7. Arodys Vizcaino SP / 8. Craig Kimbrel RP / 9. Christian Bethancourt C / 10. Brett DeVall SP
The top of the Giants' system is excellent with Bumgarner, Posey, and Wheeler, and they have a decent mix of hitters and pitchers beyond that. But their depth fades dramatically after the top 12 or so.
1. Madison Bumgarner SP / 2. Buster Posey C / 3. Zack Wheeler SP / 4. Thomas Joseph C/1B / 5. Thomas Neal OF / 6. Rafael Rodriguez OF / 7. Nick Noonan 2B / 8. Dan Runzler RP / 9. Ehire Adrianza SS / Brandon Crawford SS
The Royals combine high-potential impact players with strong depth, as I found it difficult to cut five others from their top-10 list. The only problem is that their potential stars are unproven at higher levels, knocking their ranking down a peg or two. With continued success, however, they could be at the very top of this list next year.
1. Mike Moustakas 3B / 2. Eric Hosmer 1B / 3. Danny Duffy SP / 4. Mike Montgomery SP / 5. Tim Melville SP / 6. Aaron Crow SP / 7. Wil Myers C / 8. Johnny Giavotella 2B / 9. John Lamb SP / 10. Chris Dwyer SP/RP
Anderson's studly status took a hit in 2009, leaving the Red Sox without a star in the high minors. But their farm system is one of the deepest in baseball, diverse, and well-rounded, headed up by the likes of Kelly and Westmoreland, who provide tremendous promise in the low minors.
1. Lars Anderson 1B / 2. Casey Kelly SP / 3. Ryan Westmoreland OF / 4. Michael Bowden SP / 5. Stolmy Pimentel SP / 6. Ryan Kalish OF / 7. Junichi Tazawa SP / 8. Josh Reddick OF / 9. Reymond Fuentes OF / 10. Jose Iglesias SS
The Rockies have put together the type of starting pitching that makes me think "perennial contender." They don't have an impact bat, but there is some underrated depth, highlighted by the playmaking ability of Young.
1. Christian Friedrich SP / 2. Jhoulys Chacin SP / 3. Tyler Matzek SP / 4. Eric Young 2B/OF / 5. Rex Brothers SP/RP / 6. Mike McKenry C / 7. Nolan Arenado 3B / 8. Wilin Rosario C / 9. Chris Balcom-Miller SP / 10. Tim Wheeler OF
Escobar and Lawrie provide the star power for a deep system. They feature some universally underrated position players in Gindl and Lucroy, and, while not possessing one standout at this point, feature a good amount of pitching depth.
1. Alcides Escobar SS / 2. Brett Lawrie 2B/3B/OF / 3. Caleb Gindl OF / 4. Jonathan Lucroy C / 5. Eric Arnett SP / 6. Zach Braddock RP/SP / 7. Angel Salome C / 8. Mark Rogers SP / 9. Wily Peralta SP/RP / 10. Jake Odorizzi SP
The Pirates have built up their system nicely in recent years, and they have to in their position. They have a good mix of pitching and hitting, a star at the top in Alvarez, and underrated depth. I feel like I could have put together a top-20 list comfortably. There is hope, Pittsburgh fans.
1. Pedro Alvarez 3B/1B / 2. Tim Alderson SP / 3. Tony Sanchez C / 4. Brad Lincoln SP / 5. Robbie Grossman OF / 6. Brett Lorin SP / 7. Jose Tabata OF / 8. Victor Black SP/RP / 9. Brooks Pounders SP / 10. Daniel McCutchen SP
Strasburg was a slam-dunk addition, and a breakout year from Norris and Espinosa helped, but the Nationals' depth is weak. Yet, they may be just one more strong draft away from one of the best systems in baseball in terms quality and quantity. Owning the No. 1 pick helps.
1. Stephen Strasburg SP / 2. Derek Norris C / 3. Danny Espinosa SS / 4. Chris Marrero 1B / 5. Drew Storen RP/SP / 6. Ian Desmond SS/2B / 7. Eury Perez OF / 8. Destin Hood OF / 9. Michael Burgess OF / 10. Marcos Frias SP
San Diego's top 10 is well-balanced with potential versus production, but the talent drops off soon after. Tate and Decker are an exciting duo who contrast each other well.
1. Donavan Tate OF / 2. Jaff Decker OF / 3. Simon Castro SP / 4. James Darnell 3B / 5. Edinson Rincon OF/3B / 6. Wynn Pelzer SP / 7. Logan Forsythe 3B/OF / 8. Rymer Liriano OF / 9. Aaron Poreda RP/SP / 10. Everett Williams OF
The A's have some talented bats at various levels of the minors and strong overall depth, but the top-notch reinforcements for their starting rotation have thinned now that Anderson and Cahill are full-time big leagers.
1. Chris Carter 1B / 2. Grant Green SS / 3. Jemile Weeks 2B / 4. Michael Taylor OF / 5. Michael Ynoa SP / 6. Adrian Cardenas / 7. Max Stassi C / 8. Sean Doolittle OF / 9. Tyson Ross SP / 10. Josh Donaldson C
Highlighted by Matusz, the Orioles believe they have the young arms to regain their former glory. Impact bats would help in that quest, and that is where the system falls short now that Matt Wieters has graduated.
1. Brian Matusz SP / 2. Jake Arrieta SP / 3. Brandon Erbe SP / 4. Matt Hobgood SP / 5. Zach Britton SP / 6. Josh Bell 3B / 7. Xavier Avery OF / 8. Mychal Givens SS / 9. Brandon Snyder 1B / 10. Ryan Adams 2B
Montero is a standout who manages to cover up some of the organization's shortcomings, and Banuelos is a promising young arm, but New York's farm system is thinner than in recent years.
1. Jesus Montero C/1B / 2. Manuel Banuelos SP / 3. Jairo Heredia SP / 4. Austin Romine C / 5. Kelvin De Leon OF / 6. Slade Heathcott OF / 7. D.J. Mitchell SP / 8. Zach McAllister SP / 9. Gary Sanchez C / 10. John Murphy C
The Angels lack a blue-chip prospect in the high minors, but they have tremendous depth, a well-rounded system, and players like Trout, Richards, and Martinez at the lower levels who have the potential to break out.
1. Hank Conger C / 2. Trevor Reckling SP / 3. Mike Trout OF / 4. Randal Grichuk OF / 5. Jordan Walden SP/RP / 6. Peter Bourjos OF / 7. Garrett Richards SP / 8. Chris Pettit OF / 9. Fabio Martinez SP / 10. Tyler Skaggs SP
Stanton and Morrison form a great and farm-system-saving middle-of-the-order duo, but is it just me or has Florida's depth dried up? It would be difficult forming even a top-15 list with players that deserve it.
1. Mike Stanton OF / 2. Logan Morrison 1B / 3. Chad James SP / 4. Matt Dominguez 3B / 5. Kyle Skipworth C / 6. Ryan Tucker SP / 7. Jake Smolinski 3B/2B / 8. Brad Hand SP / 9. Isaac Galloway OF / 10. Gaby Sanchez 1B
Turner and Crosby form a good one-two pitching punch, and Sizemore has All-Star ability at second base, but Detroit's farm system is one of the thinnest in baseball, even with the addition of Jackson and Schlereth.
1. Jacob Turner SP / 2. Scott Sizemore 2B / 3. Casey Crosby SP / 4. Alex Avila C / 5. Austin Jackson OF / 6. Ryan Strieby 1B/OF / 7. Andy Oliver SP/RP / 8. Daniel Schlereth RP / 9. Cody Satterwhite RP / 10. Wilkin Ramirez OF
The Mets' ability to scout international talent has saved their farm system. They have a nice mix of talent from different places on the diamond, but very little depth beyond the top 10.
1. Jenrry Mejia SP / 2. Fernando Martinez OF / 3. Wilmer Flores SS / 4. Ike Davis 1B / 5. Reese Havens SS/3B/2B / 6. Jonathon Niese SP / 7. Jeurys Familia SP / 8. Ruben Tejada SS/2B / 9. Brad Holt SP/RP / 10. Josh Thole C
The Reds lack depth and one true standout, but they have a nice mix of near-ready players, like Alonso and Leake, and high-potential players, like Chapman and Mesoraco.
1. Yonder Alonso 1B / 2. Mike Leake SP / 3. Aroldis Chapman SP / 4. Juan Francisco 3B / 5. Travis Wood SP / 6. Todd Frazier OF / 7. Chris Heisey OF / 8. Matt Maloney SP / 9. Devin Mesoraco C / 10. Brad Boxberger SP/RP
The Astros don't have much depth to speak of, but they are much improved overall from recent years. Lyles, Mier, and Castro together are a solid 1-2-3.
1. Jordan Lyles SP / 2. Jiovanni Mier SS / 3. Jason Castro C / 4. Sammy Gervacio RP / 5. Tanner Bushue SP / 6. Ross Seaton SP / 7. Jonathan Gaston OF / 8. Brad Dydalewicz SP / 9. Chia-Jen Lo RP / 10. Jay Austin OF
The Mariners have some strong middle-of-the-order bats that they can lean on, but their minor league pitching is in ruins and there is very little depth beyond the top 10.
1. Michael Saunders OF / 2. Carlos Triunfel 3B/SS / 3. Dustin Ackley OF / 4. Alex Liddi 3B / 5. Johermyn Chavez OF / 6. Rich Poythress 1B / 7. Mike Carp 1B / 8. Michael Pineda SP/RP / 9. Gabriel Noriega SS / 10. Nick Franklin SS
The Dodgers possess average overall depth and some promising young pitching. They lack a standout, but the likes of Lambo, Withrow, Martin, and Gordon have the ability to become that standout.
1. Andrew Lambo OF / 2. Chris Withrow SP / 3. Ethan Martin SP/RP / 4. Dee Gordon SS / 5. Aaron Miller SP / 6. Scott Elbert SP/RP / 7. Josh Lindblom RP/SP / 8. Garrett Gould SP / 9. Allen Webster SP / 10. Ivan DeJesus 2B/SS
The Cubs have invested well in the international market in recent years, and it shows in their much-improved depth. They lack a stud at the top, but Castro is on the cusp.
1. Starlin Castro SS / 2. Josh Vitters 3B / 3. Brett Jackson OF / 4. Jay Jackson SP / 5. Hak-Ju Lee SS / 6. Kyler Burke OF / 7. Andrew Cashner RP/SP / 8. Chris Archer SP / 9. Chris Carpenter SP/RP / 10. Ryan Flaherty 2B
Perhaps more so than any other team in baseball, Minnesota's farm system is based on projection and tools. It's a wait-and-see scenario, but the talent is there to pull it off.
1. Aaron Hicks OF / 2. Ben Revere OF / 3. Kyle Gibson SP / 4. Miguel Sano SS / 5. Adrian Salcedo SP / 6. Wilson Ramos C / 7. Angel Morales OF / 8. Joe Benson OF / 9. David Bromberg SP / 10. B.J. Hermsen SP
Miller and Lynn have good potential but much to prove, and St. Louis has a couple of major-league-ready players, but none that possess star ability. St. Louis is on shaky ground both in terms and quality and quantity beyond the top eight.
1. Shelby Miller SP / 2. Lance Lynn SP / 3. Jaime Garcia SP / 4. David Freese 3B / 5. Allen Craig OF / 6. Robert Stock C / 7. Anthony Ferrera SP / 8. Daryl Jones OF / 9. Pete Kozma SS / 10. Eduardo Sanchez RP
The Blue Jays were destined for dead-last on this list, and it took trading Roy Halladay to pull them out. Wallace and Drabek are great additions, but the system is still quite thin and in need of more work.
1. Brett Wallace 3B/1B / 2. Kyle Drabek SP / 3. Chad Jenkins SP / 4. Travis D'Arnaud C / 5. J.P. Arencibia C / 6. Tyler Pastornicky SS / 7. Zach Stewart RP/SP / 8. David Cooper 1B / 9. Henderson Alvarez SP / 10. Moises Sierra OF
Parker's Tommy John surgery has crippled the system. In an attempt to resuscitate it the Diamondbacks had a stellar and deep 2009 draft, but each and every one of their draftees has a lot to prove before I raise the team out of the cellar.
1. Jarrod Parker SP / 2. Brandon Allen 1B / 3. Ryan Wheeler 1B / 4. Bobby Borchering 3B/1B / 5. David Nick 2B / 6. Mike Belfiore SP/RP / 7. Wade Miley SP / 8. Chris Owings SS/2B / 9. A.J. Pollock OF / 10. Marc Krauss OF
With the question marks surrounding Flowers' ability to stay at catcher, the lack of top-of-the-rotation arms beyond Hudson, and dearth of overall depth, White Sox fans don't have much to look forward to.
1. Tyler Flowers C/1B / 2. Dan Hudson SP / 3. Brent Morel 3B / 4. John Ely SP / 5. Jared Mitchell OF / 6. Jordan Danks OF / 7. Dayan Viciedo 3B / 8. David Holmberg SP / 9. Josh Phegley C / 10. John Shelby OF
Philadelphia's farm system is on life support due to recent trades. Brown is overrated by many, and there is very little starting pitching and quality depth.
1. Domonic Brown OF / 2. Tyson Gillies OF / 3. Phillipe Aumont RP/SP / 4. Domingo Santana OF / 5. Anthony Gose OF / 6. Trevor May SP / 7. Antonio Bastardo SP/RP / 8. J.C. Ramirez SP / 9. Sebastian Valle C / 10. Vance Worley SP
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am (8) Comments
Friday, February 19, 2010
Adam Kennedy | Washington | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .289/.348/.410
In 2009, Kennedy went from failing to crack the Rays' Opening Day roster to starring for the A's, putting up his best numbers in years. It's tempting to see this as a case of an older player enjoying a youthful resurgence after being challenged, and the Nationals certainly bought into this when they signed Kennedy. Despite having Cristian Guzman and Ian Desmond as infield options, Washington shelled out $1.25M to Kennedy to be their starting 2B in 2010.
Having Desmond and Guzman in hand may be the key to understanding this signing, as Desmond is expected to slide into the SS role at some point this season, at which point either Guzman or Kennedy would emerge as the starter, or even share the position in a platoon. Though a switch-hitter, Guzman has always hit better against LHP (43 points better than vs. RHP), while Kennedy hits 111 points better against RHP. Why platoon a 2B who had a .758 OPS in 2009? Well, for one thing, he's a 34-year-old, and they don't tend to break out suddenly. His H% spiked, particularly at the start of the year and the end of the year, two months when his production also soared. In between, he was the same old Kennedy we've seen before, putting up a .246/.294/.343 line that's more like what we'd expect.
The other spike was in SB, cracking 20 for the first time since 2003. But that only stands out in comparison to his weak numbers the past two seasons, in a part-time role playing for Tony "What, Me Steal?" LaRussa. The fact is, he had just as many opportunities in 2009 as he had in 2006 (before he joined the Cards), but he just made more of those chances last season. That's probably equal parts luck and veteran savvy; given decent PT, I'd expect around 15 SBs, but probably not 20+ again.
And that PT is definitely an issue. If Kennedy or Guzman struggles, Riggleman may not wait long before inserting Desmond into the lineup, assuming he's not already there at the end of spring training. Even if Kennedy does stay in the starting lineup all year, long, GP sees him putting up numbers just like he did in 2008, which are not that impressive. A full-time gig will add to Kennedy's counting stats, which could push his value into the double digits, and since he can play 3B, he could sneak in some starts there if Zimmerman has a minor injury, but he's not a long-term replacement there.
Even if everything comes together for Kennedy and he plays all (or most) of the time, he's still not going to be much of an option in mixed leagues. Deeper NL leagues can use him as a MIF option, but he's not starting 2B material in your fantasy league, which could also be true of his time with Washington. He's a late-round, low-dollar gamble at best for you; don't believe his feel-good story from 2009.
Chien-Ming Wang | Washington | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.2 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 9.64 ERA
A season and a half lost to injury can make you forget how incredible Wang was in his first three Yankee seasons. He won 50 games in 85 starts, the fastest Yankee ever to that mark, and recorded the first back-to-back 19-win seasons since Tommy John in 1979-80. Then he hurt his foot running the bases in interleague play, demonstrating one good baseball reason to nix the popular scheduling twist: AL pitchers aren't used to running the bases. He rushed his rehab, screwed up his mechanics, and spent 2009 stinking it up on the mound before going under the knife for shoulder surgery.
Teams were interested in signing Wang, however, even though he still hasn't thrown off a mound, and won't do so until April or May. When he does, the Nats (and everyone else) will see if Wang can return to the form he showed in New York, as a devastating sinkerballer who could keep the ball in the yard better than any pitcher in baseball. As you see in his mini-browser, he's got unimpressive K and BB rates, but those groundball rates are amazing. When you combine that with HR/9 rates that were the best in MLB in 2006 and the best in the AL in 2007, you get the kind of seasons Wang had with the Yankees.
Sinkerballers manage to succeed despite those low ratios and other warning signs—his elevated LOB% rates would suggest regression, but when you induce as many ground balls as Wang, you can escape more situations with men on base. With all the balls that get pounded into the ground when he's on the mound, he can maintain that 4.4 HR/FB% he had before the injury. It's also hard to predict someone with these kind of peripherals, which is why GP and other projection systems are so pessimistic about him; from a statistical perspective, everything screams "regression," but I don't think most systems correct for extreme groundballers like Wang.
The truth is, his skills and his injuries make him difficult for anyone to get a handle on how he might do after nearly 18 months of being off his game. The Nationals did about as well as can be expected, given the circumstances, as they paid just $2M to find out what he'll do. The story about his signing indicates there's "no timetable for his return," which is never a good sign, and all the more reason why you should take extreme care with Wang. He's moving to a new town, a new league, and a new ballpark, an awful lot of variables to throw on top of a guy who's also coming back from injury.
The ballpark may not be too important, given Wang's ability to hold down the home run, and the league is also less important when you're looking at a guy who throws his sinker 75% of the time ("Scouting report? We don't need no stinkin' scouting reports!"). What's more important is the defense behind him. New York's defensive efficiency in 2006-7 (when Wang was with them) was among the best in the league, while Washington's was third-worst in the NL in 2009. The UZR/150 of the 2006 Yankees (-10.9, worst in baseball) was significantly lower, but their 2007 rating at least got them into positive territory (1.1)—the 2009 Nats (-3.2) fell somewhere in between.
It's hard to compare the 2009 and 2010 Nats, as the 2009 version had 115 different lineups, but looking only at his future infield, so important to a sinkerballer, Dunn-Kennedy-Guzman-Zimmerman comes out to a career 9.5 UZR/150, largely on the shoulders of Zimmerman's 12.0 rating (Dunn is an unsurprising -17.9). And it should be noted that Kennedy's rating over the last four years at 2B was 1.8; he gets a big boost from his younger years.
That's not too bad and could help Wang overcome some of the other changes he'll be facing in 2010. The injury recovery is clearly the biggest issue, and his late start will also detract from his value. His history makes him a great late-round pick or low-dollar gamble, but let other owners throw more than a buck or two away on him. If you're in a straight draft league, Wang is one of those shrewd DL picks you can grab at the end of the draft or early in the season to stash until you see whether he returns to his old ways.
Elijah Dukes | Washington | OF
2009 Final Stats: .250/.337/.393
The clock's running out on Dukes, who managed to once again disappoint. Between injuries and a general tendency to cause more fireworks off the field than on it (remember the foofaraw in '06 about his declaration that he was quitting baseball?), Dukes has failed to deliver on his considerable promise. He didn't build on his impressive 2008 performance in 2009, a season highlighted by a little of Everything Dukes from him: a DL stint for a strained hammy, a court-ordered $40K settlement paid to his ex-wife for child support payments, and a month-long trip to Triple-A in July, when he became the odd man out after the Nats dealt for Nyjer Morgan.
With that kind of sporadic playing time and off-field distractions, it's not surprising that Dukes would regress from 2008, when he had much more consistent playing time. He did so poorly that when the team reportedly tried to deal Dukes midseason, they found no takers, so he enters 2010 as their starting RF, basically by default. But it's hard to imagine Dukes getting through a season without more bumps and bruises, either to his body or his psyche. If he can, he's still relatively young, and has speed and strength to burn.
In the minors, he has 49 HRs and 19 3Bs in six seasons, as well as 98 SBs in 134 chances. His .51 batting eye—200 walks and 389 strikeouts—isn't too impressive, but he improved on that each season in the minors, topping out at a .94 in Triple-A in 2006, his last lengthy stretch there. He's shown those same skills in the majors, more or less. His 970 PAs include 39 doubles, 8 triples, and 31 HRs, while his .64 BB/K ratio has fallen each year in the majors.
Fangraphs' breakdown reveals some interesting trends among that blur of numbers. His BB% and K% both dropped last season, thanks to a more aggressive approach at the plate. His contact rate improved slightly, as you can see from the mini-browser, though he's swinging more at everything in and out of the strike zone, mostly those inside the zone (78.4% of them, in fact). That hacktastic approach could come from his inability to handle the breaking ball, a weakness he's confessed to. He seemed to handle the curve fairly well in 2008 (5.47 wCB/C), then gave back those gains in 2009 (-1.74), but he's never handled the slider (-1.08 wSL/C career). As a result, he's seeing fewer fastballs than ever (49.1%) while more than a fourth of the pitches he sees are sliders. Maybe he needs Pedro Cerrano from Major League to sacrifice a chicken for him.
Until Dukes can straighten out his plate approach, pitchers are going to exploit that increasing aggressiveness, when coupled with the futility against a breaking ball. Barring a trade, there's not any competition for him within the organization, and Washington's unlikely to be terribly competitive, so he should get the chance to work out those kinks. This might be the last season he gets to see if he can straighten out his life, however, on and off the field.
If he can, his walk rate bodes well for a decent BA and his power-speed package is enticing. Other owners are likely to be soured on him (check out that -47 Sentiment), so he could turn out to be a good gamble. But with his track record, a gamble is certainly what he is, and hardly a lock even for the modest totals predicted by GP and most other scoring systems. An outfielder who hits in the .260s without cracking 20 HRs and barely registering double-digit SBs isn't too valuable outside an NL-only league. He could be worth a late-round flyer or lowball bid, but you'd better have a backup plan.
Josh Willingham | Washington | OF
2009 Final Stats: .260/.367/.496
Like Dukes, Willingham fought through some injury and off-field issues, but with Willingham, at least the latter don't seem endemic to him, and neither seem to be his fault. He's had some injury problems in the past, and this year those visited him in the form of a stomach virus, which combined with PT issues to slow his start considerably. A few days after the virus went away, his brother died, knocking him out for another week. When he returned, however, he stuck in the starting lineup, hitting .261/.358/.481 the rest of the way.
He had some definite fantasy highlights along the way, like the two grand slams on July 27 (part of a stretch where he hit in 15 of 16 games), his 2-HR, 6-RBI night on August 25, or a 2-HR, 4-RBI performance on July 11. That likely won a few head-to-head games for his owners or made the difference in some fantasy championships, and it certainly made a difference to his owners in Washington. They repeatedly entertained deals for him, which evidently involved a tap dance and maybe a few slow-dance numbers, since they did no more than entertain them—Willingham remains a Nat, with the starting LF job his going into spring training.
That's not to say that Washington won't deal him for the right package before Opening Day, since he's got definite value, and his mini-browser shows a guy with consistent and marketable skills. His contact rate has dropped a touch, but his walk rate has risen alongside it, keeping his BA in the mid-.260s. Last year's HR total was partly the product of a 17% HR/FB rate, but he's always had a fairly high HR rate in his career. That could mean a slight dip in his SLG next year, but full-time play should keep his home run totals steady, too.
GP agrees, giving him an RBI boost from a combination of full-time action and a slightly luckier HR situation—as GP's Nationals writer Paul Bugala points out, 15 of his 24 homers were solo jobs. He won't dazzle you with a sudden breakout at age 31, but more of the same would be just fine from Willingham. That's what makes him a nice mid-round selection worth that $16 projection, though not a lot more than that—note how he's been in that same neighborhood three of the past four years. And if he brings you a few of those awesome fantasy performances, so much the better.
Yovani Gallardo | Milwaukee | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.9 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 3.73 ERA
Gallardo broke Brewers' fans hearts in 2008 when he came roaring out of the gate, only to blow out his knee in his fourth start of the season—that he'd already come back earlier than expected from arthroscopic surgery on his other knee in February only made it worse. But he certainly looked impressive in 2009, with a 3.76 xFIP that almost makes you forget he's just 23, and an awesome strikeout rate that's second only to Tim Lincecum in the NL. A strong groundball rate adds an extra dimension to his skills, while the home run rate has more to do with bad luck (his HR/FB was 12.3%) than poor pitch placement. A little bit of luck helped in his hit rate as well, as a .288 BABIP should see some correction in the future.
The one big blemish on Gallardo's mini-browser is his 4.6 BB/9 rate, which isn't all that surprising from a young power pitcher, but it is a blemish nonetheless and one of the reasons why his ERA and WHIP are elevated. Looking behind the numbers, his 78 LOB% points towards potential ERA regression, possibly by as much as a run. That's mitigated a little bit by that groundball rate, but it's also cause for mild concern. GP sees this as being a bit of a wash, with a year almost identical to the one he had.
The great thing about Gallardo is his age, which will allow him to improve and adjust and refine his skill. He should learn control and bring down that walk rate, possibly at the cost of some strikeouts, but it's a tradeoff that his new pitching coach Rick Peterson is likely to encourage. And his age also helps his health profile, which is only marred by his knee problems. Fortunately for him, those knee surgeries shouldn't concern a young pitcher, and the Brewers wisely shut him down early last year instead of pushing the limits of his arm.
As for his 2010 prospects, he plays in a good pitcher's park, and has strong defense up the middle from Escobar and Gomez, though Weeks and McGehee could use some help. Elsewhere on the diamond, Hart and Fielder hold their own, while Ryan Braun has been fairly miserable from a UZR perspective; if Mat Gamel ends up at third, he might compete with Braunie for Worst Mitt in Milwaukee.
This still makes Gallardo an excellent keeper choice, and a very good value for next season for redraft leagues. Some regression is certainly possible, particularly with that defense, but so is a nice step forward for a kid who's shown guts and determination on his fast path to stardom. That $15 return seems very reasonable, and I see no reason to not go a few bucks beyond that if you really love this guy. Just keep in mind he's still pretty green, and some bumps are quite likely.
There's still time to download a 16-page sample of Graphical Player 2010 and buy a copy to prep for the season. And don't forget to check the index for all the players I've covered this offseason, and leave suggestions for other players to cover in the comments below.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (2) Comments
Scott Kazmir | Los Angeles | SP
2009 Final Stats: 7.1 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.89 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 3.66, 3.56, 3.71, 4.40
First the bad news: Kazmir's K/9 rate has dropped annually since posting 11.4 K/9 in 2007. Worse, he went from 7.4 to 6.4 after his move to LA from TB. Through 2008, he averaged 9.7 K/9, so he was entering 2009 with sky-high expectations for 2009, as he was still just 25 years old. Of course, all the various “stuff” metrics, such as FIP and its descendents (LIPS being the current front-runner), suffered mightily. These are all highly reliant on the strikeout rate, to the point where it can obscure the other factors of a pitcher's skill set.
So, who is this guy who showed up in Cali after seemingly forgetting how to pitch in Florida? His velocity suddenly returned, with an average fastball velocity of 92.5 mph. His tERA was a killer 2.70, even if his “stuff”-based metrics didn't seem “ace-like” (his LIPS in LA was 3.83, while his xFIP was 4.79). Part of his success can be attributed to facing lesser opponents; getting Seattle (twice), Oakland, and Chicago among his six starts led to an average opponent OPS of .730, but carving up .730-OPS-level MLB hitters like he did is still impressive ... even if his K/9 didn't rebound to levels he'd reached in previous seasons.
As with the Liriano summary, the only really important information here is probably that he was healthy and had his velocity back. This is a guy who has a proven track record of knowing how to get batters out when he has his good stuff. Escaping the clutches of the AL East can only help him. Neither Seattle nor Oakland appears to be very interested in scoring runs, and while he's not Mark Buehrle, he's created about as many outs (29 CS and 25 PkOff) in his career as he's allowed stolen bases (50 SB total). That's important with the speed in the division. Further, Texas isn't the same offensive powerhouse it was recently, with none of their batter projections ranking in the top 50 by wOBA using CHONE (thanks to fangraphs.com); and if Borbon makes the lineup, the Rangers would have two elite speed guys as well. In conclusion, we're as bullish about Kazmir as is possible for a guy who's coming off a 4.89 ERA season. He's unlikely to ever rack up tons of innings, but should be high-impact when he pitches.
Rich Harden | Texas | SP
2009 Final Stats: 10.9 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 4.09 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 2006-7: 3.84, 2008: 3.26, 2009: 3.50
This author will start off by suggesting a well-written THT article by fellow Cubs fan Harry Pavlidis as a must read.
Jim Hendry said he was looking for 25 games in 2009 from Harden, and the “rest on occasion” strategy Lou Piniella used eked 26 starts out of the fragile righty. Of course, that was only good for 141 innings, and Cubs management was clear that the pressure of having such a limited-playing-time pitcher was the primary reason for not bringing him back in 2010 despite his good contributions to the Cubs.
Mr. Pavlidis begins: “The scope of most Rich Harden articles usually ends up including his gaudy whiff rates...”, and then proceeds to discuss other important aspects of Harden's performance. At the risk of being shallow, we'll happily jump into the “most articles” camp and rave about those K's. But 2009 showed something which had previously seemed impossible—Harden was uninjured and not great. Even with his average fastball velocity dropping to 92 mph over 2008-2009, Harden is one of those pitchers who makes everyone around stop and watch when he's pitching; his “stuff” is so terrific. Batters shake their heads, pitchers drool with envy, and opposing managers start wondering how they are going to scratch out a run or two and when they will be able force him out of the game.
We'll unabashedly suggest that Harden will be great in 2010 primarily because he's still fanning batters at a “striking” rate. Add to that the unsustainable 15% HR/FB% he suffered in 2009, the popgun offenses in the AL West, and the fact that his quick move to home makes him good at preventing steals compared to other righties. Top that off with Pavlidis' conclusion that the Andrus/Kinsler tandum and a return to “normal” luck should pare down his BABIP, and there's every reason to expect him to perform at an ace-like level again in 2010...
… until he gets hurt.
Julio Borbon | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .312/.376/.414
In a Jan. 22 comment, I put off writing about speed-burner Julio Borbon with this comment:
As a brief preview, I can tell you my initial take on Borbon is that his roto value will be based almost entirely on playing time, and he seems to be just good enough—or bad enough—that spring training could have a big role in determining his first-half PT. If he plays, he’s a force. A knee-jerk projection would be something slightly better than Bourn’s first season in Houston. I may put him off a couple weeks in the hope that maybe some more clues to the OF situation in Texas arise.
Wednesday, Derek Ambrosino discussed the generalities of this type of high-risk player, using Borbon as an example.
So, what's not to like? Well, either of Nelson Cruz or Josh Hamilton is able to play center field. The team clearly does not want this to happen, and will probably try swapping Andrus and Borbon in the lineup at the first sign of struggles. But it's safe to say that if Borbon isn't hitting by June, the team will take other measures (think 2009 Jordan Schafer in Atlanta), either playing one of their corner guys out of position in CF or making a deal.
Counting stolen base opportunities (SBO) the way baseball-reference.com does, his rate of SBO/PA was about what could be expected given his OBP, at .43, but a lot of that is dependent on what the batters do behind him. Brian Roberts (.356 OBP and a goodly number of extra-base hits) was .38 in 2009, higher than it had been in previous years when his OBP was higher. Jeter, with his .406 OBP, was .58. If Borbon's OBP is reduced to the projected .350 level in 2010, that will offset the advantages of leading off. Bundled all together, he's very likely to have between 250-300 SBO in 2010. If he's allowed to run as often as in 2009 and is successful at a similar rate (he had 19 SB in just 77 SBO), that's upwards of 60 steals! Of course, it would be unwise to rely on some of these assumptions. Given that his peak SB season in the minors was 53 in 594 PA, it's clear he was getting more opportunities against some of the easier batteries in 2009 (the four steals he had in five AB against Carl Pavano—33-6 opponent SB-CS against in 2009—jump out from scanning his BvP stats, for example). But we'd say that CHONE's 35-SB projection is very conservative, and with a full allotment of playing time, he'll sail beyond the 40-SB mark.
Matt LaPorta | Cleveland | OF/1B
2009 Final Stats: .254/.308/.442
Elvis Andrus | Texas | SS
2009 Final Stats: .267/.329/.373
Ryan Rowland-Smith | Seattle | SP
LIPS ERAs (2007-2009): 3.93, 4.42, 4.32
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. Acta Sports is currently SOLD OUT. Until they publish more, the book can be ordered through major booksellers.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am (0) Comments
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Knowing the ADP of players is an important tool for fantasy owners to help them maximize value during a draft. If you can, for example, strongly suspect that a player will likely still be available in the next round because of his ADP, then you can maximize value by drafting a different player in the current round while still getting the original player you waited on in the next.
Waiting too much is risky and reaching too often is wasteful. The trick, as you might presume, is to find the balance between waiting and reaching, which, although it is certainly important, will not be the focus of this article. Instead I will reveal the times when—or rather the players for which—ADP can be slightly misleading. And to help illustrate my point, I would like to point our collective attention to an anecdote describing the 1989 New York City mayoral election found in the book Freakonomics:
In New York City's 1989 mayoral race between David Dinkins (a black candidate) and Rudolph Giuliani (who is white), Dinkins won by only a few points. Although Dinkins became the city's first black mayor, his slender margin of victory came as a surprise, for the pre-election polls showed Dinkins winning by nearly 15 points.
The conclusion of the authors is that a decent amount of voters must have lied in the pre-election polls, saying they were going to vote for Dinkins so as to not seem racist, meanwhile actually voting for Giuliani when the vote counted.
The way I intend to parallel this episode to fantasy baseball is not through the issue of race—I would argue baseball fans are relatively color blind when evaluating players, considering baseball does not have the same circumstance with any particular race that, for instance, football does with non-quarterbacking white players or hockey with black ones. Instead I would like you to think of the pre-election poll as a mock draft and then the actual balloting as a real draft. Clearly in the political landscape voters could not be trusted to tell the truth and knowing this, how confident can we be that the results of mock drafts will best reflect what will actually happen in our real drafts?
I would answer that we should be very confident and that ADP values from mock drafts is by far the best estimator we have of when a player will be drafted in a league before most fantasy providers start holding drafts. And once real drafts begin, the results of those are even more applicable to your league. The biggest problem with sites like Mock Draft Central, which by the way is a tremendous resource, is that their ADP values come along with a tremendous bias based on the order the players are listed in their draft window. If every site used the same order then this bias would not exist but unfortunately it does.
So far I've only talked about players on a macro scale. The next question to ask is whether there is any specific subset of players that can be expected to have larger discrepancies than normal in their mock draft ADPs and actual draft ADPs. Inspired by reader Jimbo's comment on this article over at Fangraphs, I would answer yes. Jimbo disclosed in the comment:
Guys like Soto, and even Cantu, are the sort that tend to fall below preseason ADP. At least in my league/experience. Mocks are one thing, but on draft day they’re among the first players teams wait on “that one extra round” while value pitchers or upside OF are taken. Relievers and catchers go much later than average, and so on.
Couldn't agree more. Although it is hard to get the hard data necessary to prove it is true that closers and catchers are drafted more aggressively in mock drafts than real ones because of the aforementioned bias inherent in ADP values, my personal experiences lead me to believe it is true.
First off, Mock Draft Central forces your mock roster to conform to norms, meaning you have to draft exactly one or two catchers and also the exact number of required pitchers. It does not require for a specific number of your pitchers to be relievers, however, people seem to have conservative approaches to mock drafts and take a standard two or three closers by default—a standard they may forgo in their actual draft. It is also common for people to finish a real draft without a catcher, opting instead to hold one more of their deep sleepers on the bench.
It is this forced roster conformity during mock drafts and also a greater sense of desperation to extract maximum value during real drafts (leading to more waiting as opposed to reaching) that leads to catchers and closers getting drafted slightly later than their ADP numbers would indicate.
I am not sure whether this theory has a practical application beyond simply adding a plus five or plus 10 (or whatever you think it should be) to closers' and catchers' ADP numbers, but what compelled me to write a full article on the subject is more the innovative thought process that goes into finding out small inefficiencies like this one than practical application. That is not to say though, that combined with the xADP model introduced in this article, one day we might be able to generate numbers significantly more accurate than standard ADP data of when players will most likely be drafted, which would be something rather significant.