December 9, 2013
And here's the full roster.
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
Or you can search by:
THT E-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Friday, April 09, 2010
With all teams having played fewer than a week's worth of games, it's obviously way too early to be making drastic decisions. Hopefully, you're taking my THT Fantasy colleague's advice and not changing course just yet.
Of course, every team can use tweaking, and if there's real value sitting on your waiver wire or free-agent list, you probably don't have much to lose by acting early.
With that in mind, here are a few of the players who are available in at least 50 percent of both ESPN and Yahoo leagues that Oliver projects as being useful fantasy contributors.
Some notes, once again, about the the two types of rankings I'll be using when discussing pitchers.
One of them I used a version of last week when discussing undervalued pitchers. In that one, I rank all the players in Oliver's "Rest of Year Forecast" in each of the 5x5 rotisserie categories. I then add those up and take the average. The players are then ordered by that average. Now that Oliver includes Wins and Saves, I'll use all five categories to get an average. I'll refer to these as 5x5.
The other ranking system you may already be familiar with, as it was brought to my attention in the comments of my undervalued batters column from two weeks ago. It was apparently the winner of a Tom Tango contest and it goes like this: 2*W + SV + K/5 + IP - (H + BB + ER)/2, for pitchers. These will be called Tango.
The point, once again, is that these rankings are not perfect but do serve as a decent window into finding valuable players whose stats in one category or another may not jump out at you but who have strong value across the board. I include two different rankings for precisely this reason.
For batters, I dispensed with the rankings since the fact of the matter is most of the players with legitimate across-the-board value have been scooped up in most leagues. Aside from a few stragglers, the batters I discuss here have value because they play a relatively shallow fantasy position or have obvious value in specific categories.
Colby Lewis (6, 5x5; 8, Tango)
If you've read any of my previous columns, you know that Oliver is pretty optimistic about Lewis' return to the majors. I don't plan on making him a staple of this column, but since he's available in at least 97 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, he bears mentioning again. Look, the price is never going to be better. You can probably pick him up at the cost of cutting the last player on your bench. I'm not suggesting that he will, in fact, be a top-10 pitcher this year, but if he comes anywhere near his projected line of 3.10 ERA (sixth), 165 Ks (33rd) and 1.09 WHIP (fifth), you'll look like your league's oracle. He makes his debut tonight against punchless Seattle; don't wait to see how he does and risk someone picking him up on a lark. UPDATE: Lewis tossed seven innings, allowed one run, gave up five hits, walked four and struck out four to pick up the win.
Shaun Marcum (43, 5x5; 56, Tango)
In his first major league game since 2008, the Blue Jays starter allowed three baserunners, struck out six and settled for a no-decision in seven innings. While not exactly predicting a Cy Young, Oliver seems to think that start is reasonably indicative of what we can expect of Marcum. There's no one category in his projection that draws your attention, but he's pretty steady across the board. I'm a little skeptical that he'll pitch the 180 IP we're projecting, but if he can stay healthy Oliver suggests a line of 4.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 12 wins and 125 Ks, which certainly makes him intriguing in weeks that he'll get two starts or face weak lineups. He's still available in at least 65 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.
Ian Kennedy (62, 5x5; 67, Tango)
This is another player I pumped up in my undervalued pitchers column. He's still available in well over 90 percent of leagues, so I'm guessing not too many people took my advice. The biggest concern I'd have is, again, that projected IP of 160. That would be a career high. His previous best was the 159.1 IP in 2007, when he shot through three levels of the minors before finishing the season with three starts in Yankees pinstripes. Since then, his stock has fallen dramatically, and he was traded to the D'backs as part of the Curtis Granderson three-way trade. Oliver likes him for 10 wins, a 3.76 ERA (67th), 1.31 WHIP and 155 Ks. Those numbers won't blow you away, but they're solid enough for the back end of your fantasy rotation. By the way, he looked pretty good in his debut Wednesday. He essentially threw one bad pitch that was hit for a three-run homer. He recovered, striking out eight and finishing five innings without giving up another run to salvage a no-decision.
Joel Pineiro (66, 5x5; 65, Tango)
No one gets excited about the Angels' newest starter, and I can't blame them. His value is really derived from an ability to limit walks (projected 1.15 BB/99) and eat innings (200 IP). His projected 4.12 ERA and 1.30 WHIP are admittedly pedestrian. Those are useful attributes, though, when scouting players to fill out your rotation. If he hits those numbers, I'd be willing to bet he outperforms the 10 wins Oliver projects. He's available in a little more than half of leagues.
The fact that he's injured is probably adding to the Indians first baseman's availability, but I'm a little surprised that a guy who's coming off 31-homer campaign is still available in almost 90 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. Obviously, his game has flaws, and Oliver projects a whopping 172 Ks, but it also projects 36 homers (fifth-most in baseball) and 99 RBIs (18th). The key for him is whether he'll get the nearly 600 plate appearances we project. Again, though, we're talking about making room on your roster by dropping whoever your worst player is. I sincerely doubt any projection system has that player finishing in the top five in homers.
Truth be told, I found far fewer batters who I felt were legitimately worth mentioning here and had to reach, I must admit. The Indians first baseman, who is probably moving back to the outfield once Branyan is healthy, is here as much for his potential as for the line he actually projects. Oliver suggest a line of 25 HRs, 88 RBIs and 79 runs to go along with a .250 batting average. I don't know if those numbers alone warrant inclusion on your roster, but he's going to get playing time for the rebuilding team and he slugged .530 in Triple-A last year. He's available in about 85 percent of leagues.
I realize I need to focus on some players who are in the more shallow positions, and according to Oliver the Dodgers third baseman is probably the best out there who fits that criteria and is actually available. Using those rankings, using Tom Tango's system (HR + SB + (H - .27*AB) + R/3 + RBI/3) he's rated as the 13th-best third base option and is available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues but only about 40 percent of Yahoo leagues. He projects a line of 20 homers, 79 RBIs and a .270 average. Nothing to get excited about but enough to keep you treading water until you find a better solution.
Similar to Blake, Kouzmanoff is more place holder than candidate for permanent starter. Still, there's a good chance he'll end up hitting in the middle of the A's lineup all season, and the 86 RBIs Oliver projects are the sixth-most among third basemen. Oliver also projects 22 homers, which ranks him ninth at his position. Tango's system rates him one spot behind Blake. He's still available in at least 60 percent of leagues.
I guess you could call him the poor man's Mike Napoli. Like Napoli, the Rays catcher is stuck in a platoon with someone with fewer fantasy-helpful numbers. Our projections seem to be taking that into account, though, and see just 415 plate appearances. In that limited time, Oliver projects 19 homers—more than all but three catchers—and 61 RBIs. If he ever wins the starting job outright, watch out. His .477 projected SLG is 53rd in all of baseball. He's available in more than 95 percent of leagues.
Kelly Johnson has the name recognition, and after his two-homer game on Wednesday, he's been pretty widely picked up. Well, the Indians middle infielder actually projects to put up better numbers and is available in about 98 percent of leagues. He also has the added bonus of being eligible at both second base and shortstop. His 14 projected homers are ninth among second basemen and his 68 RBIs are 10th. That .245 batting average is pretty unsightly, but beggars can't be choosers, right?
Posted by Jeremiah Oshan at 4:24am (3) Comments
Ryan Madson | Philadelphia | SU/CL
True Talent: 7.7 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 3.73 ERA
According to league ownership percentages over at Yahoo, Madson is available in 35 percent of leagues. Since Brad Lidge is starting the season on the DL, and was a train wreck last season, Madson should be owned in far more leagues. Madson's K/9 was 9.08 last year (a career high), his BB/9 was solid at 2.56, and his GB% was quite favorable at 46 percent (actually down from 2007 and 2008, lending hope to more upside). With solid rate stats like that Madson should do fine in the closer's role to open the season. He'll likely relinquish the role to Lidge when he returns from the DL, but it remains to be seen if Lidge can hold onto that role when he returns to his perch atop the reliever pile in Philly. Because Lidge has an up and down history, Madson seems like an awesome speculative saves option in the short term who could end up being a season-long contributor in the saves department.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Matt Lindstrom | Houston | CL
True Talent: 6.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.62 ERA
When Houston dealt for Matt Lindstrom it appeared he was a lock to be the closer to open the 2010 campaign for the Astros. However, the picture became more clouded when Drayton McLane inexplicably paid Brandon Lyon closer money to sign with the Astros. Since that signing Lindstrom has gone on to recapture the closer role that it would have appeared he lost with the Lyon signing. Given Lyon's currently mild health issues, and his currently major performance issues in the spring, it appears Lindstrom has a bit of a leash. He likely won't post great ratios, but saves are saves. Lindstrom's career GB% is 46.5 percent, his BB/9 is a tolerable but slightly high 3.70 and his K/9 is a bit lowish for a closer at 7.56. What his career stats lead me to believe is he's probably closer to a low 4 ERA closer as opposed to the disastrous 5.89 ERA he posted last year. Closers are a volatile bunch due to the small number of innings they work, so pay for the saves and hope for some luck and perhaps you have a breakout reliever in the mold of 2009 David Aardsma.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 10-team mixed leagues and all 12-team mixed and NL-only leagues.
Octavio Dotel | Pittsburgh | CL
True Talent: 9.9 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 4.50 ERA
See a theme with the early NL Waiver players emerging? Dotel, like Madson and Lindstrom, is a currently under owned closer, at least according to Yahoo, where he's only owned in 44 percent of leagues. Dotel landed with an ideal team in terms of where he could provide the most fantasy value when he signed with the Pirates to be their end-game stopper. The key to Dotel's success this year, other than remaining in Pittsburgh where he can close all year, is going to be maintaining a tolerable BB/9, ideally at or under 4.00. Dotel has always been a FB pitcher with an elite K/9, so if he's able to limit the free passes, and with it the damage inflicted when some of his FB's leave the yard, he can be a top-20 closer this year. If he's able to get lucky with his HR/FB rate, he may be able to even crack the top 15 closers this season. The biggest concern for Dotel owners should be that the Pirates flip him for prospects at the deadline. Otherwise, Dotel is a relatively safe closer option who is vastly undervalued and underowned.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.
Franklin Morales | Colorado | SU/CL
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 4.71 ERA
Morales is currently filling in for Huston Street as the closer for the Colorado Rockies. Morales has history of poor control, thus he is a risky start for the damage he's capable of inflicting on ERA and WHIP, but one worth taking a chance on if desperate for saves, namely in roto leagues. In H2H points leagues I'd likely pass in all but the deepest of leagues due to the potential damage he can do in two categories outweighing the value of him helping in one. Morales offers a three pitch mix of a mid 90's FB, low 70's CB, and high 70's-low 80's CH. If he's able to harness any control of his repertoire he could be valuable in all leagues, but given his track record to date, that appears to be wishful thinking. Pay for the saves in the short term, and understand there is some untapped potential here. Also keep in mind that while the MRI on Street's elbow showed no structural damage, he has complained of pain, and had to be shut down after trying to throw through it.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Mat Latos | San Diego | SP
True Talent: 7.7 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 3.53 ERA
PETCO is well known as a pitcher's park, and considering Latos will be playing half his games there, should be of tremendous help to this young hurler. His debut last year was promising though not spectacular and offers some hope for a solid season in 2010. Latos will almost certainly have his innings restricted, likely throwing under 150 innings (Oliver has him pegged for 130), but if he's able to be successful in those innings, is worth owning. He throws electric stuff and mixes a four pitch arsenal that consists of a mid-90's FB, high-80's SL, low-80's CB and low-80's CH. His control in the minors last year was impeccable and was respectable in his 50.2 Major League innings. If he's able to cut down even a smidge on his BB/9 and see a slight uptick from his already respectable 6.93 K/9 Latos could be a solid back end of the rotation fantasy starter this year with upside for better than that.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
John Bowker | San Francisco | OF
True Talent: .261/.328/.433
While the Brian Sabean did the norm this off-season signing ho hum veterans such as Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff to try and catch lightning in a bottle and jump start the offense, the best addition to the lineup may be John Bowker who played almost all of 2009 in Triple-A Fresno. Bowker beat out Nate Schierholtz this spring for the starting RF job by knocking the stitches out of the baseball. Unfortunately for Bowker he'll be playing half his games as a left-handed hitter in AT&T, which will limit his power upside. That said, there is hope for a 20-25 HR season, and a lot more to like about Bowker than simply power. Last year he completely re-worked his approach in Triple-A and posted a 16.4% walk rate and a 17.5% strikeout rate which were both career bests, and more than doubling his previous best walk rate (7.2% in High-A in 2006). Another point working in the favor of Bowker is that if he shows success at the dish early, there is a chance he could move up from his current spot in the lineup to a more favorable spot such as the cleanup spot or 5th spot. Likely limiting Bowker's AB's a bit is that he'll almost certainly be lifted late in games for a defensive replacement as the Giants have better fielding options on the bench, this shouldn't hurt Bowker's value too greatly though for those playing in leagues he'll be a viable option in.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team leagues with 5 OF's, and all but shallow NL-only leagues.
Ian Desmond | Washington | 2B/SS
True Talent: .242/.302/.381
On the strengths of a strong September and Spring Training, and with the help of Cristian Guzman not demonstrating he's completely healthy, Ian Desmond has tentatively won the starting SS job for the Washington Nationals. Given the fact the Nationals would probably like to showcase Guzman in the hopes of trading him, and the offseason addition of Adam Kennedy, Desmond is likely on a short leash. With that in mind, Desmond is by far the most intriguing middle infielder of that trio. Desmond appears to have put his tools to good use last year in Double-A, Triple-A and his September callup to the Majors by slashing .306/.372/.494; .354/.428/.461; .280/.318/.561 respectively. For 2010, Desmond looks like a threat for 10-15 HR's, 15-20 SB's and an AVG in the .275-.285 range, which is more favorable than Oliver's True Talent projections.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team mixed leagues that use a MI, all 14-team or greater mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Drew Stubbs | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: .221/.293/.319
While living with the maddening day-to-day lineup variations that Dusty Baker will almost certainly throw out for the Reds can be frustrating, it's probably worth dealing with to own Stubbs and his upside. Stubbs has always had tools that exceeded his production on the field, but he was able to put it together enough last year to gain fantasy relevance. While the downside is certainly steep, the upside of power/speed makes the gamble worthwhile. Because Stubbs strikes out a lot (over 25 percent of the time in the minors/majors) his AVG is not likely to be higher than .265-.270 at best and possibly considerably worse. He has shown a decent eye in the minors and tolerable one in the majors, leading to hope for more SB opportunities than his low AVG would imply. In 2009, Stubbs exploded for eight HRs in just 196 PA for the Reds, which was far and away his best HR rate to date but not as much of an aberration as it first appears. Stubbs plays in a favorable home ballpark for hitting HRs and has always teased scouts with his power, but for the most part he has been unable to translate it to games. The Reds OF also features Chris Dickerson, who is capable of playing CF passably, so it is likely Stubbs will get a few more days off than a typical non-platoon starting CF. Overall, Stubbs is a worthwhile player to own in shallow leagues with deep benches as well as deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team leagues with five OFs, all 14-team leagues or larger that start 5 OFs and all but extremely shallow NL-only leagues.
Jeff Clement | Pittsburgh | C/1B
Once a prized catching prospect for the Mariners, Clement will now be starting at 1B for the Pittsburgh Pirates as he was dealt there last year as part of a package to acquire Jack Wilson and Ian Snell. While it's highly unlikely Clement will ever reach the lofty expectations once bestowed upon him, that is irrelevant to whether or not he can be useful as a catcher for fantasy squads in 2010. Clement is a classic case of a fantasy catcher who is aided by the fact they hold the eligibility but will no longer be playing the position, and thus avoiding the rigors and wear and tear of donning the tools of ignorance. To date, Clement has proven all he can in Triple-A but has been unable to translate that success to the major league level, and has the look of a Quadruple-A player. That said, others who have recently appeared to be Quad-A types have found success in the majors, and Clement may be the next to join that group. Most projection systems, including Oliver, see him as a low AVG/decent power (for a catcher anyways) player in 2010. For those that use OBP in place of AVG, Clement gets a bump up in value given his minor league walk rate. I could see Clement hitting 20-25 HRs this year, and if things click, perhaps posting an AVG in the .265-.270 range. Clement's runs and RBIs will vary depending on where the Pirates opt to slot him as the year goes on, but even with low run and RBI totals a .265 AVG with 20 HR's would be ownable in most one-catcher leagues and all two-catcher leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team one-catcher leagues, all 10-team or greater two-catcher leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Conor Jackson | Arizona | 1B/OF
True Talent: .266/.345/.404
Conor Jackson missed almost all of the 2009 season with a case of Valley Fever, but after an offseason in which he played in winter ball and all of Spring Training he appears healthy and ready to go for the 2010 season. Jackson is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none type. He doesn't wow fantasy gamers with prototypical 1B/corner OF power or great speed. However, Jackson has a nice blend of 10-15 HR power (with the upside of 20 given his home ballpark and age) and 15-20 SB speed (he's never topped 10 in a season, but opened last year with five in 110 PA, thus the optomistic 20 SB ceiling). Toss in that he possesses a career .281 AVG (.361 OBP) and a spot atop the Diamondbacks order as the leadoff hitter and I see a lot to like. Hitting leadoff will almost certainly hurt his RBI numbers given that he'll be following the 7-8-9 hitters, which obviously includes the pitcher, but should bump up his runs scored given his top-notch OBP. Also, keep in mind hitting in the leadoff spot should, barring good health, increase his PA to a new career high, allowing for more opportunities to slug home runs and steal bags, further helping to prop up his mediocre power/speed combination to date through volume. Jackson's Oliver projection is one that I have pegged as being on the pessimistic side, and I've targeted him most leagues I'm participating in this season. Others don't appear to be following suit over at Yahoo, as he's still available in 87 percent of their leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team, 5 OF leagues.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 4:41am (2) Comments
Eric Chavez l Oakland l DH/IF
The Oakland A's surprised us a bit this weekend when they cut designated hitter Jack Cust loose for the second time since the end of the 2009 season. Instead of Cust as the team's primary DH and part-time outfielder, the team has chosen former star Eric Chavez as the DH/Utility infielder.
Chavez has been a staple in the organization for more than a decade, but injuries have derailed his once-promising career. By giving him the DH role, the A's are trying one last shot of getting production from Chavez's bat; that's sounds easy enough.
Since 2007, Chavez has played in just 124 games. Aside from the injury concerns are production concerns. He is no longer the .270/.350/.500 hitter he once was, and is more likely to hit .250/.330/.470. Those numbers are decent, but only if sustained over a larger period of time.
If you have the room to stash him on your bench, Chavez may provide positional flexibility should he gain eligibility at multiple positions as the season progresses. Otherwise, keep tabs on him, especially in a deeper AL-only league, as a healthy-enough Eric Chavez is capable of putting up 20 home runs and driving in some runs.
Travis Buck l Oakland l OF
In another tidbit of Oakland A's news, projected starting outfielder Coco Crisp was placed on the DL prior to the start of the season with a broken pinkie. In his place, the A's have turned to Travis Buck to start the season. Buck, 26, has bounced around the upper levels of the organization—appearing in 159 games since 2007.
His slash line of .257/.336/.435 is largely average, and he does not do one thing particularly well. Despite his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame, he has shown little power and is not a stolen base threat. The one positive is his patience with a walk rate around 10 percent.
There are plenty of Travis Buck types available on the wire, so don't be in a rush to grab him in any format. Also factor in that Crisp's injury is not considered serious, so he will be taking Buck's place when healed. That said, if you are completely desperate this early in the season, Buck is going to get some at-bats and does get on base at a decent clip.
Dontrelle Willis l Detroit l P
Perhaps no star in recent memory has fallen as quickly as Dontrelle Willis. With issues both on and off the field, Willis has gone from World Series star to fighting for a roster spot in just a few seasons. On the other hand, we all love a comeback story and Willis is attempting to write one this season.
Since joining the Tigers in 2008, Willis has gone 1-6 in 15 games with 63 walks in just 57.2 innings; terrible. Nonetheless, his performance this spring was good enough for the Tigers that they shipped Nate Robertson to the Marlins, while picking up over $9 million of his $10 million dollar salary.
It's easy to see why the Tigers are giving him this opportunity. Willis is left-handed, newly turned 28 years old, and owed a lot of money. As for fantasy owners, Willis is a wild card, but that's what early season waiver-wire moves are all about; buy low in hopes of reaping big rewards or selling high.
It also helps that Willis will face the Royals in his first two turns through the rotation. If you have a space on your staff in a deeper AL-only league, he's worth the flier. If he starts off hot you can sell on the hopes that he is regaining his old form, or you can keep him if you believe that for yourself. If he falters, he will be an easy drop.
Taylor Teagarden l Texas l C
Whenever one player goes down with injury, another player ultimately benefits from the newly found playing time. With the Rangers placing Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the DL, Taylor Teagarden is the beneficiary of some increased reps.
Even if Saltalamacchia returns in 15 days, Teagarden may be worth the look in the deepest of leagues. Saltalamacchia has not played in more than 93 games in a season, and has been unimpressive (.701 OPS) even when healthy. On the other hand, Teagarden is just as questionable; however, he is the healthy player right now, and is likely to get the bulk of the playing time over new back-up Matt Treanor.
He is three years removed from his breakout season of 2007, and won't live up to the hype he once had, but few catching prospects do. If Teagarden is able to just be an average hitter, he presents a decent option as a fantasy catcher in a large AL-only environment.
Joba Chamberlain l New York l P
Yes, that Joba Chamberlain. Yes, the onewho was not chosen as Yankees' fifth starter this offseason. Since “losing” to Phil Hughes in the fifth starter’s race this spring, Chamberlain has been discarded and ignored in many fantasy leagues, especially shallow mixed leagues. However, because he has eligibly as a starter and phenomenal rates as reliever, Chamberlain is the ultimate swing-man for your staff.
While I think Chamberlain, would make a fine starter if given a true chance, we know he is a really good relief pitcher. In 52 games as a reliever, Chamberlain has a 1.60 ERA—striking out 81 batters in 62 innings. That's good enough for a K/9 of 11.8. Another positive is Chamberlain is without restrictions for the first time in his major league career. There are no more Joba Rules, which frees him up for a full workload in any role. If he remains a reliever, you can simply rotate him in the place of a starting pitcher who is off and get some production from a spot that would otherwise be unused.
In addition to all this, Phil Hughes, who “beat” Chamberlain, is likely to be shut down at some point in the season. This means Chamberlain could return to the rotation to take his spot or another spot vacated due to injury. Be quick to pick up Chamberlain in larger leagues, but also some shallow ones that put value on strikeouts and holds.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 4:41am (4) Comments
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
A diverse group of players in the major leagues share one commonality: the last name Young. Today we will take a look at what these unrelated Youngs can offer in 2010.
The perplexing outfielders
Delmon Young's struggles in his first few major league seasons have been well documented. While it is extremely unlikely Young will ever develop into half the hitter people thought the former first overall pick could, from a fantasy perspective he has settled into decent contributor in the outfield. The past two seasons he has provided—despite his horrid plate discipline—a .280s average and low tweener power numbers.
Those numbers are not quite good enough for mixed leagues but ownable in most AL-only leagues. Seven games into the season Young has impressed, blasting two homers and already stealing a base in 2010. Paint me skeptical that Young has a breakout season in store, but any owner not overrating his abilities is likely to be pleasantly surprised by his trending upward flyball and home run per flyball rates that indicate around 15-17 home runs.
I would not trade for Young or necessarily expect to "sell him high," but if he is available in your deep mixed league or AL-only league, I would pick him up. And if he is on your team already, be happy that you are getting quick return on your low investment but do not believe you own the Adam Lind of 2010.
Chris Young is another scarcely picked outfielder off to a blazing start. With three home runs to his name already, Young is looking increasingly likely to reach the 20 home run plateau he's shown he can reach. Regardless of how he fares this season, Young's batting average is unlikely to break .250, but the value of a 20-homer/15-steal player in fantasy baseball is evident.
Similar to Delmon, I wouldn't trade for him, and if he's available—not sure how, but if he is—I'd pick him up in almost all leagues.
For Michael Young this will be his 10th season in the majors and after his impressive .322 average, 22 home run campaign last year, he has shown little signs of slowing down. With third base eligibility now, this Young is still a valuable fantasy contributor.
The revitalized pitcher (sort of)
Another Chris Young patrols the stadiums of major league baseball but unlike the Arizona outfielder, this Chris Young is a pitcher in the friendly confines of San Diego's Petco Park. Coming off an injury-ruined and ineffective 2009 season, Young looked rejuvenated in his first start of 2010, throwing six scoreless innings with five strikeouts.
Any future success will have to wait as Young promptly felt shoulder tightness following his start and was placed on the DL. Nevertheless, he will likely be pitching again in a few weeks and is capable of a great ERA and WHIP with solid strikeout numbers. If he is available in your league, I would not hesitate to pick him up and stash him on the DL since a solid season is in store for this 6-foot-10 right-hander.
The deep options
Eric Young Jr. is a name that has become synonymous with speed. This Rockies middle infielder is currently in the minors buried behind Clint Barmes on the depth chart, but later in the season Young could find himself in the majors to the delight of fantasy owners. If given regular playing time, Young Jr. would join the club of elite basestealers but for now he is simply a name to keep in the back of your head.
Unless you are in a deep NL-only league, Delwyn Young is a name you are probably unfamiliar with. The Pirates experimented with him as their starting second baseman for a time last year, but for the most part Young did not perform up to expectations. To express their lack of confidence, the Pirates went out and signed both Akinori Iwamura and Bobby Crosby, making many think Young would be left without a place on the team this year.
So far Delwyn has been utilized more than expected, pinch-hitting and also filling in at third base and the outfield whenever a player gets a day off. In terms of production, Delwyn won't offer much more than mild pop and a decent .270s average but in an NL-only league sometimes you are only looking for at bats, and Delwyn will accrue a solid amount this year all over the diamond.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:05am (3) Comments
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
First, let me proactively respond to what I assume many of you will say to yourselves while reading this column; yes, I’m aware it probably would have been a better idea to write this column during the preseason…
I had some discussion over the past few days about how player value might be affected when by toggling a league’s format between rotisserie (roto) and head-to-head (H2H). The initial question was whether an individual category could be inherently more valuable in a H2H league than in a roto league. Not being aware of any research on this topic, I chose to offer a response that was more strategic than data-driven, which I will now tweak and appropriate into a formal column.
Simply stated, my thesis statement regarding value disparity between roto and H2H leagues is that discounting speed and/or saves can serve as viable strategy in a H2H league but not in a roto league. Secondly, streakier players may be preferable in H2H leagues, but only theoretically.
Perhaps most fundamental to my opinion on player value in respect to H2H leagues is the notion that punting a category is a legitimate strategic direction in the H2H format, so long as such a direction can be accomplished without massive ripple effects. What makes punting possible in H2H formats is the fact that the margin by which you lose a category does not matter and that you don’t actually need to “dominate” your league to win. Let me just offer a little more detail on both these points.
In neither roto nor H2H leagues does margin of victory doesn’t matter. But in roto leagues, margin of defeat is critical because you are still competing against the rest of the field for second through Xth place. H2H leagues are broken into scoring periods which produce binary results—either you get one point or no points.
One can easily win the regular season of a H2H league by winning two-thirds of the possible points. Roto leagues are traditionally less closely bunched than that; 80 points is not likely to be enough to win a 12-team, 5x5 roto league. In fact, I just looked back at my two most competitive 5x5 roto leagues going back to 2004 and calculated that the average league champion took 83.5% percent of the highest possible point total (which would be 100 points in a 12-team, 10-category league). The bottom line here is that there is a margin for error in a H2H league that does not exist in a roto league.
Taking the thumbnail above for the sake of illustration, this means you can forfeit only 16.5 percent of your highest possible score if you want to win a roto league. Taking a “1” in a single category in a 12-team roto league eats up roughly half of that leeway right off the bat. And, mind you, this margin for error could be smaller in any given season.
Now that I’ve beaten these not so revolutionary insights into the ground, we reach the question of which categories would make the most sense to punt, should one choose to do so. To me, the most likely categories are stolen bases and saves—the specialty categories. It’s obviously a bad idea to punt power because a homer is literally a run and at least one RBI as well and therefore by doing so you really take a hit in other categories. I mean, do we even meaningfully differentiate home runs and RBI as distinct categories during the mental process of making draft day decisions? And, while there are some players for whom prodigious power comes at the expense of dead batting average weight, there are plenty of neutral and even plus-batting average options who are plus sources of power as well.
Stolen bases are, by far, the most specialty category on the default offensive menu. So, by punting them entirely you can certainly supplement your power supply and go two-for-one, building strength in two categories as opposed to one. And, while one might be tempted to think that SBs are highly correlated with elite run totals, only one of the seven players who stole 40 or more bases last season scored 100 or more runs (Chone Figgins), while three of the five who hit 40 or more homers scored 100 or more times.
When it comes to pitching, a strategy I’ve implemented in the past, though rarely so, is punting saves completely. It is very difficult to consistently win the pitching rate stats without elite relievers; however, you can gobble up elite setup men for pennies on the closer dollar to fill that role for you. As a bonus, many of them also earn more vulture wins than closers do.
Without having to spend on closers, you can either invest more heavily in your starting staff (reducing the need for the elite relievers) or you can strengthen your offense. Then in the last few rounds of your draft, snatch up the Joba Chamberlains and Daniel Bards, and you’ll be fine. Middle relievers are fickle from year to year (there are many reasons for this, a column perhaps better suited for the non-fantasy side of this site), so there will almost always be options that emerge from nowhere for the plucking.
Another factor making both of these categories punt-able is that one’s advantage in such a category is relatively less reliable from week to week because of the combination of small supply and small sample size. Categories like saves and steals are likely to be close every week by nature. Additionally, a greater proportion of a team’s total prowess in saves/steals is wrapped in a lesser number of players than any other category—another factor exacerbating the potential evils of random variation.
I could beat these two horses even further, but I’ll trust I’ve made my case sufficiently.
The one additional point that I will make though is that H2H leagues also offer more opportunity to make strategic shifts with agility. In roto leagues, you can build cushions in categories and then deal from strength to retool with minimal impact on the overall standings, but H2H leagues are structured such that categorical leads have no carryover value from scoring period to scoring period. Therefore, if you choose to punt steals, you can immediately switch course and retool via trade and free agency if you feel it’s prudent to do so. You will not be facing a pre-existing categorical deficit you must make up before you begin gaining points. You may also wind up winning a week here and there anyway by accident. In essence, you are never truly punting anything for the entire season because the hole you dig is refilled periodically.
Aside from statistical profiles of players, the other thing to consider in terms of how a player’s value may be affected from format to format is whether he is a consistent or streaky producer.
In the theoretical, you'd expect that streakier players are better assets in H2H leagues because their hot streaks have more leverage on that week's outcomes than the consistent but unspectacular contributor. The issues around this are manifold though. First, is consistency actually a discrete, predictable quality? Second, how stark would such a quality have to be to have meaningful impact? Third, the increased streakiness also increases the likelihood of the player producing meaningless surplus value in a given scoring period (not a problem in a roto league, as we just covered).
All in all, I’d consider the streaky versus consistent issue to be way more noise than signal and could not see an instance in which such a quality (real or perceived) could be a deciding factor in how I construct my team. Sure, it may be worth trying to ride a hot free agent for a stretch, or similarly mix and match your roster rotation from bench to starter, but these strategies don’t seem to be any more advantageous or dangerous in H2H leagues than roto leagues. The nature of the H2H league does leave you in more agony over each start/bench decision though.
Thus far, I’ve been fairly mitigating in the way I’ve talked about the possibility of punting, so I guess I should make it clear whether I would actually advise these strategies as opposed to merely acknowledging them as having some undefined amount of philosophical and strategic merit.
My preference is to attempt to stay competitive in stolen bases, but in H2H leagues I am less likely to draft the high-priced speedster than I am in roto leagues (something I’m already fairly unlikely to do). I would draft a Jacoby Ellsbury or Michael Bourn only if I think that player is legitimately the most valuable player on the board … and by a fair margin. But I can’t say that I punt. I still try to build a well-rounded team and spread my stolen base risk (and reward) across a wider cross-section of my roster.
As for punting saves, this is certainly something I consider a very legitimate strategy. I don’t always, or even frequently, practice it. However, that’s actually more because I’ve fallen into a pattern of doing something of the reverse. I often wind up building my pitching staff somewhat backwards, focusing heavily on offense and dominant closers, while picking upside pitchers and streaming opportunistically. I’ll use middle relievers too, if I have the room and they are actually that good, but I often depend on double-digit innings of high-quality bullpen innings on a weekly basis. I also think closers are more of a numbers game than basestealers, figuring that there are only 30 jobs to go around, while every player is a potential basestealer once on base. So, if I have more closers than my “fair share” and my closers are generally of good quality, I think I can win that category fairly consistently, while strengthening my staff’s rate stats.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:52am (12) Comments
Thursday, April 15, 2010
These 15 pitchers represent Nos. 16 through 30 on my preseason Top 100 list, which is gaining new content every week. Shuffling of that list is taking place quickly. Expect an update in the next couple of weeks.
Wade Davis / SP / Tampa Bay
Davis holds down the No. 5 job in Tampa Bay's rotation, but having Jeremy Hellickson waiting in the wings cannot be comforting. Davis will have to perform if he is going to hold his ground.
194 IP / 4.22 ERA / 1.36 WHIP / 13 W / 11 L / 162 SO / 191 H / 73 BB
205 IP / 3.75 ERA / 1.28 WHIP / 15 W / 10 L / 180 SO / 194 H / 69 BB
Jordan Lyles / SP / Houston
Lyles has taken the Double-A plunge much sooner than expected. Count on him remaining there for the rest of the year.
Matthew Moore / SP / Tampa Bay
Moore is starting the year in Advanced-A Charlotte, but with success he will see Double-A Montgomery sometime later in the year.
Jason Knapp / SP / Cleveland
Coming off an offseason shoulder surgery, Cleveland will play it safe with Knapp. He will stretch out in extended spring training and should see Single-A Lake County before too long. I don't expect him to advance any further than Advanced-A Kinston.
Daniel Duffy / SP / Kansas City
Duffy is walking away from the game for personal reasons. Whether it's a temporary leave, no one knows. I don't expect him back at all this season. He will drop from my Top 100 with the next update.
Michael Montgomery / SP / Kansas City
Montgomery has started the year in Advanced-A Wilmington, but if his first two starts are any indication, he will be in Double-A Northwest Arkansas soon.
Alex White / SP / Cleveland
White has debuted with Advanced-A Kinston, but he should move fast, finishing the year in Triple-A Columbus.
Julio Teheran / SP / Atlanta
Due to Teheran's age, I expect him to stay in Single-A Rome for the season.
Mike Leake / SP / Cincinnati
Cincinnati has catapulted Leake all the way to the majors, despite his having never pitched a single minor league inning. The jump is too much. I honestly do not think Leake will hold up. Over the course of the year I expect him to spend more time in Triple-A Louisville than Cincinnati.
Aroldis Chapman / SP / Cincinnati
Chapman is getting his feet wet in Triple-A Louisville, but Cincinnati seems to be determined to get him to the majors in a hurry. Even though he may not be deserving of a promotion, I expect him to get serious major league consideration by June.
Kyle Drabek / SP / Toronto
Drabek should spend a majority of the year in Double-A New Hampshire, but should get a crack at Triple-A hitting as well.
Simon Castro / SP / San Diego
Castro has bypassed Advanced-A and is getting his shot at the Texas League, where he will spend the entire year.
Jake Arrieta / SP/RP / Baltimore
Arrieta is starting the year at Triple-A Norfolk, but a promotion to Baltimore is coming this summer, whether it's as a starter or in a bullpen role.
189 IP / 4.38 ERA / 1.36 WHIP / 12 W / 12 L / 161 SO / 188 H / 69 BB
199 IP / 3.92 ERA / 1.29 WHIP / 14 W / 11 L / 179 SO / 191 H / 65 BB
Mike Minor / SP / Atlanta
Minor is in Double-A Mississippi now and should see some Triple-A time as well before the season is up.
Brandon Erbe / SP / Baltimore
I was anticipating some more Double-A time for Erbe, but now that he is in Triple-A Norfolk I expect him to spend the entire year there.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am (0) Comments
Friday, April 16, 2010
I was planning to do a piece about figuring out a way to value position scarcity. Thing is, that's really a discussion for pre-draft. And even then, I was pointed to this great site that seems to do a lot of the heaving lifting for you. So, after much consternation (I actually wrote a column and scrapped it), I decided to use that information instead to draw up a list of players worth targeting in trades.
If Oliver is right, these players will probably be largely off limits within a few weeks. For all the players I list, I'll give the Average Draft Position in ESPN Live Drafts and their ranking in Last Player Picked based on Oliver's "Rest of Year" projections. The league setting I used was based on a 12-team, both-league format with three starting middle infielders, three corner infielders, five outfielders, two catchers, a utility and nine pitchers.
Matt Wieters (ADP: 87.5; Ranking: 19th)I'm not going to try to convince you that Wieters is going to, in fact, be the 19th-most-valuable player. What I can tell you with much more confidence is that Oliver is projecting him to essentially perform at the same level as Victor Martinez (ADP 47.2) and better than Brian McCann (ADP 42.4). If you offered one of those two players straight up for Wieters, I'm guessing the other owner would jump at it. Chances are, you could probably even get a little something extra in return. Either way, you'd end up with a switch-hitting catcher who's still just 23 and trending in the right direction. He's not ripping the cover off the ball yet, but he's posting a .402 on-base percentage. I wouldn't bat an eye at trading either of those guys for Wieters.