May 21, 2013
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
We’re roughly a quarter of the way through the season and this means that fantasy teams are beginning to show their legitimate strengths and weaknesses. To be sure, sample size is still an issue; there are still many players struggling mightily who will ultimately have fine seasons and many Cinderellas who will turn to pumpkins come September. My leash is usually longer than most other’s and I believe that if I liked a player and selected him, I did so for a reason. So it follows that I will not toss that reason aside simply out of frustration or on a whim. Rarely do I jettison players before mid-May. But, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do…
At the outset of the season, I wrote about a selection of players who found their way on to multiple teams of mine, so let’s check and see if they’re making me look brilliant or foolish.
On 4 of 4 teams
Roy Oswalt. Your check is in the mail, buddy. Oswalt has been fantastic and he’s on every single one of my teams. His ERA will not be in the mid-2.00s all season, but then again he also won’t continue to win a mere 25 percent of his starts. The peripherals are fairly supportive of his performance. His hit and strand rates may be a little fortunate, but his homer rate and walk-to-strikeout ratio don’t raise red flags. His ground ball and fly ball rates have also swung back to what they looked like when he was a perennial Cy Young contender; the past two years hitters were getting more balls into the air off of him. I’m tempted to sell high, but I’m also salivating at the possibility he gets traded to a contender.
Max Scherzer. Well, you can’t win them all. The other player to sweep my drafts has turned in an impressive string of Oliver Perez-like performances. Scherzer was averaging 3.5 walks per game, had given up nine homers in 42 innings and had seen his ERA balloon by five runs in his last four starts before being demoted to the minors. I still think Scherzer has a bright future, but unless your league is set up to include players in the minors, you have to cut bait.
On 3 of 4 teams
Nelson Cruz. Not much to say about this guy. He rakes, he runs and hits in a lineup that produces like a beer-league softball team. (If you are reading this, Eric Byrnes, holler at me if you are planning to visit New York and are free Sunday afternoons.) Cruz should continue having a phenomenal season, I’m not selling high.
Aramis Ramirez. Again, just when I start tooting my own horn, I get slapped with a reality check. Ramirez’s struggles are frustrating because I invested fairly highly in him. I thought I was getting a steal, but all those who passed are now smiling and saying, "told you so." There’s not much you can do with a player like Ramirez. I don’t want to trade him for pennies on the dollar – why would anybody be more interested and patient with him than I should be? At the same time, you absolutely can not drop a player of his stature 40 games in. If you have a good replacement, the best option is likely to ride a hot bat and bench Ramirez until he gets going. His BABIP is .190, so have some faith. But his strikeout rate is through the roof, so not an overabundance of it.
Ted Lilly. Lilly has been up and down a bit since his return. As a clearance priced item, I’m still highly confident he’ll prove to be a perfectly sound and reasonably profitable investment.
Brad Lidge. Lidge was fine for the week or so he was in a Phillies uniform, but now he’s back on the DL. For the price I paid, I’d be happy with 20 saves for the season, so all is not yet lost. Keeping things in perspective, I would almost always rather have a risky player with upside suffer an injury than perform poorly. Injuries make decisions easier and they don’t clog up a roster spot or soil your rate stats.
On 2 of 4 teams
Ryan Braun. I got a bit scared when Braun got hit on the hand last week, but it only kept him out of the lineup for a few days. Simply put, this man is a beast and has a legitimate shot at finishing the season as the top ranked player. Strikeouts are down, walks are up, OBP is through the roof, and the slugging is mammoth but generally sustainable. What would Braun have to do be the top overall player? .320, 30/30, and 120/120? Though certainly not a given, that line is totally possible.
Victor Martinez. At the beginning of the month, it looked as if V-Mart was headed toward righting himself, but then he regressed before homering twice on Monday. I have to have faith he will get it going, but slow starts are even tougher to accept from star catchers. I know V-Mart will get more off days than just about any other player selected in his round or purchased at his price and I also know that his value is really tied up in being a lot better than his peers. It’s a delicate balance, 23/105 fully vindicates his draft day price while 18/88 would make you feel like a sucker.
Aaron Hill. Injury has precluded Hill from getting a full quarter season’s worth of reps. The jury is still out on his slow start so I’m still exercising patience.
Andre Ethier. Not much to say except that I got him on two of four teams, but tried to get him all four times. Andre the Giant is the real deal, and although everybody has their price, I would not be looking to sell high. He’s on the DL right now and that’s a huge blow to any team that boasts him on their roster. Remain patient, that’s what sound drafting and roster depth is for.
Joakim Soria. I’ve pretty much gotten what I paid for in Soria. No rave reviews, no complaints. Soria is a solid ace closer. He converts his opportunities, limits baserunners and racks up strikeouts.
Lance Berkman. After a slow start coming back from injury, Big Puma seems to be rounding into form. If he can stay healthy, Berkman will prove a nice value for my teams. If you are struggling at your corners and don’t want to give up what it takes to make a play for a really expensive player, Berkman might make a nice target. If his progress toward vintage form comes to fruition, though, he’ll be very hard to acquire. So, the time to act is now.
Cole Hamels. Hamels was my vote for best potential value among luxury brand pitchers. He’s been a mixed bag, but I remain optimistic. The good news is that his strikeouts are up, but the bad news is that his walk rate is up too. Hamels is being victimized by BABIP once again, and that’s partially because his groundball rate has spiked, giving way to a drop off in flyballs. This wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible thing, especially given his home ballpark, but what compounds the problem is that Hamels has also seen his homer rate rise.
So, the Cliff’s Notes for his struggles basically look like this: more walks, more hits, and more homers. This is partially legitimate and a partially bad luck.
Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco’s recipe for success is simple. He has filthy stuff and he doesn’t walk batters. Although I’d like the strikeout rate to inch up a tad, Nolasco is basically doing what he does, but has not gotten into a zone yet. Nolasco is the type of pitcher who can put up a month’s worth of utter domination. I look forward to when this happens.
Jake Peavy. Peavy has been better than his numbers indicate. All but one of his first five starts were stinkers, but since then he’s been great, with 22 strikeouts to two walks over his last three starts. I’m going to chalk up the slow start to ramping back up off of last year’s injury and have a lot of faith going forward with Peavy.
Rafael Soriano. Originally, I said that Soriano would be a top 5 closer if healthy. Right now, he’s ranked sixth among them. Performance has never been the issue for Soriano.
Hunter Pence. After a very slow start to the season, and an extended period on my bench, Pence is producing again. His OPS is in the mid .800’s for the month of May and he’s inching toward respectable run and RBI totals. The overall numbers still look relatively ugly though, and that’s partially due to a BABIP in the neighborhood of .240. Now may be a good time to make a play for Pence. In my main league, I have too many outfielders though and am trying to shop one of them for a closer; Pence is among those on the block. I should note somewhere in this article, that Pence is currently averaging more than 40 plate appearances per walk, which certainly mitigates any optimism I had regarding his increased walk rate from last year.
Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick has been methodically and quietly adequate. The move to the second position in the batting order has changed his statistical profile a bit, switching him from a 80/100 candidate to a 100/80 candidate. The value is still there and I’m content with what he’s given me but would love to see him tap more of his power potential.
Rajai Davis. I was really high on Davis coming into this season and was hoping to get him in more than the two leagues I did. Davis is very frustrating, often inspiring the old baseball truism that you can’t steal first base. Davis simply has to find a way to get on base, no matter if he’s hitting leadoff or last. He’s far too aggressive for a player with his skill set; he’s currently going about 25 plate appearances between walks. I am worried about Davis, knowing that the Athletics are a young team who should be willing to mix and match and experiment. The case of Davis is instructive for all those who tout the ubiquity of “cheap speed.” Some of this speed potential is cheap for a reason, and right now I have my ability to be competitive in a category firmly attached to a bad baseball player.
His BABIP is floating at around .280 right now, so it’s a bit low, especially considering his speed should keep his true BABIP above .300, but it’s not low enough to be blamed for anything approaching the totality of Davis’ struggles.
Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez has looked great thus far. His performance does reveal some holes upon closer inspection though, specifically a lucky BABIP and a high walk rate. The higher-than-average walk rate was expected though so that’s not really a red flag regarding my true expectations, just another piece of evidence that he is not this good, at least not yet. I was expecting a season similar to Ubaldo Jiminez’s 2009 for Sanchez that would be bolstered by a much more pitcher-friendly home park. So far, I’ve been on point and Sanchez looks like a notch in my hits column.
Scott Kazmir. I selected Kazmir assuming he’d be fully expendable on my rosters, and he has been fully expended. I have a feeling he’ll find his way back on at least one of my rosters again sometime this year, but this was clearly a swing and miss on my part.
Cody Ross. Oliver’s darling, Ross has basically been the apotheosis of “meh.” He’s been nothing exciting but generally solid. I’d love to see more power from him, but his flyball rate has been drastically down, along with his HR/FB rate. The good news though is that his line drive rate is the highest it’s ever been, accounting for a higher than normal BABIP.
Ryan Doumit. He was a cheap catcher and has basically performed like one.
Overall, I had some hits and some misses, as I expected. When selecting your supporting cast overachievers are more valuable than underachievers are detrimental in most league formats though.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:40am (2) Comments
Thursday, May 20, 2010
If you're a regular reader here, you're probably already familiar with the endowment effect. It is just a theory of human behavior—not a fact. But if the theory is correct, then people tend to value things more once they are given the object. Ask someone what's the most he'd be willing to pay for something—say, a 1958 Ferrari California Spyder—and it is less than what he'd be willing to sell it for right after being given the Ferrari as a gift. Once someone's endowed with the object, he values it more, maybe for no particularly rational reason.
In fantasy baseball, we've mostly considered how the endowment effect colors trade negotiations. In short, it makes trading harder because the owner of a player overvalues him. Today, I want to discuss a different sort of endowment effect—let's call it "The shiny new toy effect." The shiny new toy effect is in play after you make a trade or pick up a player in free agency.
In February, pre-draft, I traded one of my keepers in my home league to another team for Jose Reyes. I let the other owner, David, choose which one of Miguel Cabrera or Mark Teixeira he wanted in exchange. I had both as two of my three keepers and didn't feel I needed so many first basemen to start off, even though I had them individually ranked much higher than Reyes. I was also pretty much indifferent about them: I had higher expectations for Cabrera, but his "weight" problems made him a bit riskier. Letting him choose was a way to make him feel better about the deal. Anyway, he chose Cabrera and shortly afterward the Mets announced Reyes would miss the rest of spring training.
Just before the start of the season, I grabbed Brendan Ryan for the week that I knew I would be missing Reyes. Ryan ended up being desultory for that first week, getting one hit in 15 at-bats. So when Reyes was ready for the second week, I readily dropped Ryan and started Reyes. I knew that Reyes wasn't going to be in peak form, having not played for 10 months and having missed spring training. Nevertheless, I eagerly daydreamed about my imminent steals harvest. Reyes was my shiny new toy and I wanted to take him out for a spin. Sure enough, he stunk up my lineup for quite a while, looking incredibly rusty.
I fell victim to the shiny new toy effect again when, more recently, I picked up Jhoulys Chacin (before his first start). I waited "patiently" for two weeks, keeping him on my bench, to see how he would do. I didn't even need to keep him on my regular bench, since he was still minors-eligible in my league, so he was hardly costing me anything.
Still, after two weeks and some good performances, I felt it was time to throw him in for real. I was still skeptical (or rather unsure) about his ability and knew that he'd probably regress quite a bit. But I had him and I wanted to "use" him. So in he went. And regress he did.
A player who you've just picked up from free agency is almost surely just slightly above replacement level (except for some quirky players or rules). Your expectations for the player may grow over the season as (and if) he performs better and better. But try to restrain yourself from starting him too soon.
Same goes for players coming off of the DL, particularly when the injury is closely related to their skills—like a wrist injury for a batter, a hamstring injury for a speedster or an elbow injury for pitcher. Unless you need the roster spot, you might be better off keeping and using for another week or so the replacement player you were using in the DL player's stead. Don't treat the newly healed player like your mother did when you came home from college for the first time.
I just traded for Curtis Granderson, and while he's still on the DL I've been using some combination of Dexter Fowler and Ty Wigginton in that spot in my lineup. I've just traded Wigginton away, too (for Bobby Jenks). So in a week or so, I'll have to decide between using Fowler or a rusty Granderson. I'll try not to let novelty guide me.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:40am (3) Comments
When following and reacting to the minor league baseball prospect universe, patience can occasionally be rewarding. My reactionary restraint toward Lars Anderson's head-scratcher of a 2009 season is a recent, personal example. But far too often, if you don't react accordingly to the stats, trends and updated scouting reports, you get left in the dust.
My updated reactions to the game's top 100 prospects have been posted. Dissect the rankings if you dare. There were plenty of risers, fallers and new arrivals. But is the glass half full or half empty?
Mike Stanton, up 11 spots to No. 4 overall, has been rewarded with the biggest rise into the top 10. In the past I have been cautious toward Stanton, always waiting for more evidence of his elite power and improved plate approach. The evidence is at hand, and it has come against strong Southern League competition. The slow-play-it excuses have run dry.
Starlin Castro is backing up last year's numbers and his early major league success has yielded a massive stock upgrade, from No. 44 to No. 12. He may never have the home run power or elite base-stealing ability to become a superstar, but even if he finds a developmental middle ground, Castro will be a true asset as a big league shortstop. Cubs fans would love nothing more than a long-term mainstay up the middle.
Michael Montgomery has received a massive bump up the board, from No. 54 all the way to No. 21. Julio Teheran, up 36 spots, has been slotted in right behind Montgomery at No. 22. Both of these young hurlers possess oodles of talent, not only with respect to their velocity, but also in their respective secondary offerings.
Eric Hosmer's near-.400 batting average and impressive early-season contact rate have him flying high, up 17 spots to No. 30. We're all still waiting for the home run power, however.
Right behind Hosmer, Domonic Brown is gaining some momentum, up from No. 65 all the way to No. 31. I still have to question how his bat will ultimately translate to the majors, but I understand why so many are excited. His home run power has been the main question mark, but his 2010 total is jumping off the stat sheet at this point.
A trio of 2009 first-round picks named Mike have made significant moves upward. Mike Leake, Mike Trout and Mike Minor are proving my initial, modest draft reactions wrong. But, be honest, I'm not the only one who questioned drafting these three in the first round last year.
Another 2009 first-round pick, Kyle Gibson, is firing on all cylinders in the early going. His stock has skyrocketed, up an incredible 48 slots to No. 42, now that the injury concerns seem to be behind him. He has surpassed Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere as Minnesota's top prospect.
Wilmer Flores, up 32 spots to No. 48, is reminding people why we were all drooling over his potential after his jaw-dropping 2008 production. We all want to see him perform against better pitching, yet he is just 18 years old. He may be the ultimate long-term investment.
Two position players for two high-profile major league teams have surprised many with their success. Reid Brignac and Ike Davis come in at No. 55 and No. 56, respectively. These two are long-term major league starters, and if they can keep up the pace they could rise even further.
And for one last giant rise up the board, Dee Gordon is up 27 spots to No. 68. I wasn't sure if he could get it done against Double-A competition, but, so far, he has fit in nicely at Chattanooga. I'm believing more and more in Gordon's future.
Continuing with the positive spin on my top 100 update, Randall Delgado is the highest-ranking new arrival at No. 58. He was squarely on my watch list when the season started, and his early dominance of the Carolina League, coupled with his terrific upside, has catapulted him into the heart of the prospect debate.
Nick Barnese gets lost in the Tampa Bay young-hurler shuffle sometimes. But no longer, not in my book. The Florida State League would agree with me. He debuts at No. 69.
Chalk up another Tommy John surgery success story. Jaime Garcia is flying under the radar right now, but St. Louis fans couldn't care less. Debuting at No. 74, he has been fantastic in the early going, slotted behind a couple of veteran stalwarts who have a tendency to take some pressure off in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
Jose Iglesias and Tanner Scheppers have been slotted back-to-back at No. 78 and 79, respectively. Bringing his age and experience into the equation, Iglesias has transitioned remarkably well to the Eastern League. The Texas organization is allowing Scheppers to face some good competition, and his skills have held up extremely well out of the bullpen, but, overall, they are obviously taking things slow with regards to his notorious right shoulder.
Jay Jackson, at No. 82, is proving that last year's breakout campaign was no fluke. In the short term, he is being transitioned to the bullpen in an attempt to give the Cubs a lift this season.
Another young pitcher has been turning heads in the St. Louis organization. Debuting at No. 88, Lance Lynn is holding his own in the Pacific Coast League and is looking more and more like the mid-rotation bulldog that I envision him becoming.
Injury concerns have held back Michael Pineda's development. And yet here he is, just 21 years old and pitching extremely well in the Southern League. Pineda is at No. 90 on the top 100 list.
Some considered Jacob Odorizzi the best high school arm in the 2008 draft. Milwaukee limited him to the rookie Pioneer League last year, while his fellow draft mates were gaining more exposure in bigger and better leagues. Odorizzi's stock suffered accordingly. It turns out the Brewers were simply protecting their investment. He is in an exposure-worthy league now and his strikeout numbers are through the roof, resulting in a debut at No. 91 in my rankings.
One year ago, many were writing off Devin Mesoraco as a first-round bust. I still held out hope, and Mesoraco has ratcheted his game up a couple of notches into top 100 territory. He has a long way to go, but his promise and performance have been rewarded.
And, finally, Andrew Cashner has made my list at No. 93. I'm still not a true Cashner backer, but his 2010 performance deserves respect, as he is finally showing what the Chicago Cubs have been hoping for.
Brain surgery is a scary situation. Ryan Westmoreland is currently going through the long road to recovery from brain surgery, and no one is sure whether he will be able to play baseball again. He has taken the biggest and most obvious drop from No. 39 in my preseason rankings. I wish him all the best in his recovery.
Danny Duffy shocked the baseball world when he decided to take a leave of absence, and it's unclear as to whether he will ever return. The uncertainty has dropped Duffy from everyone's top 100.
Tim Beckham has arguably had the most head-shaking season in minor league baseball. Last season left his doubters with ammunition, and it seems that this season has seen his stock completely drop off the radar screen. I couldn't find one reason not to drop him completely from the top 100.
Brandon Allen needed to continue last season's success in order to stay firmly planted on the prospect landscape. That hasn't happened, to say the least. His bat hasn't been as bad as it appears on the surface, but there is no reason not to downgrade him significantly.
Perhaps I put too much stock in Tim Melville to begin with. The Carolina League has been way too much for the young man, which could be demoralizing for this stage in his career.
Ben Revere has held his own in the Eastern League, but I originally placed him in the top 100 with the hope that his bat would truly take off. He still has the upside of an average big league leadoff hitter, but his plate patience and baserunning skills are holding him back. When it comes right down to it, Revere just doesn't look like he will do anything special in the future.
For his age, Alex Liddi has transitioned relatively well to Double-A ball, but it appears that the California League inflated last year's numbers across the board. Much like Revere, if everything bounces right, Liddi has the look of a potential big league regular. He has a lot of work to do to get to that point and has dropped from my top 100.
Johermyn Chavez is the kind of player that is always either rising or falling in my eyes. There's no holding steady. Chavez has moved up to the California League and is just treading water at a time when his bat should be exploding in his hitting-friendly surroundings.
Manuel Banuelos has yet to pitch in 2010, which is disheartening for a 5-foot-10 youngster with average but developing stuff. He has dropped from my top 100 and will have to earn his way back.
Being extremely young for Triple-A is no excuse. Trevor Reckling's command continues to be maddening. He won't make it very far on his current career path and had to be downgraded accordingly.
James Darnell's stock is withering in the Texas League. Moving up to Double-A is a tough transition to make, but Darnell is age-appropriate for the move yet doing nothing to prove his detractors wrong.
Madison Bumgarner has taken the biggest fall from those previously in the top five, as he drops from No. 5 to No. 13. His secondary stuff is his biggest question mark right now and needs to develop if he is going to live up to his potential.
Speaking of San Francisco starting pitching prospects, Zack Wheeler has taken a dive from No. 22 to No. 43. He hasn't been terrible, of course, but perhaps I had him rated too highly to begin with. If he is going to rejoin his fellow top 2009 high school draft mates in the top 30, he will have to earn it.
Hector Rondon has had a disastrous start to the season, resulting in a 35-spot drop from No. 17 to No. 52. Some of it has been bad luck, but he needs to get his flyball rate under control if a turnaround is coming. His arsenal and velocity are accounted for, so he will be an interesting case to watch as the season progresses.
Despite his age, I was expecting a lot more out of Jiovanni Mier's bat to begin the season. His Mendoza-line average and goose egg in the home run department have dropped him 24 spots to No. 64.
Jason Knapp is coming back from a minor shoulder surgery and has yet to pitch this season. I will chalk up his drop from No. 46 to No. 70 to being over-optimistic. I would be wise to wait it out and see how he responds to the surgery.
I was expecting big things from Grant Green in the California League, prompting a fast rise through Oakland's farm system. He hasn't done much yet and is a bit lost in the crowd at this point. He has fallen 28 spots to No. 76.
Brandon Erbe has been awful at times in 2010 for Triple-A Norfolk. His flyball rate has been high, his command inconsistent and his strikeout rate disappointingly low. His most recent outing showed some promise, however. But the damage has been done. His stock dropped from No. 69 to No. 94.
Finally, we have the curious case of Tim Alderson. I'm beginning to wonder if he will ever be anything more than a smoke-and-mirrors kind of pitcher. Yet there was a point last year before the trade to Pittsburgh that he was being favorably compared to Madison Bumgarner. Nevertheless, his arsenal is currently average, and his stock has dropped from No. 74 to No. 95.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:30am (6) Comments
Friday, May 21, 2010
Note: Hello, everybody. My name is Jeffrey Gross. I am the new guy around here at THTF and I will be doing the AL component of the Waiver Wire weekly feature from now on. You can also catch me blogging baseball over at the Game of Inches blog under the pseudonymous David "MVP" Eckstein. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail with any questions, comments or feedback you may have. And now, on to the show ...
All stats current through May 17, 2010.
Jack Cust | Oakland | OF, DH | 0.4% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .245/.380/.460
Once a prodigious three-true-outcomes guy, Jack Cust's power and plate discipline have steadily eroded (while the strikeouts have remained quite high) over the past three seasons. After posting a .240/.356/.417 (.342 wOBA) line—which was almost completely erased by subpar defense in the outfield—last season, Cust was non-tendered and later re-signed by the A's to a minor league contract. With Eric Chavez hitting a Ronny Cedeno-like .250/.297/.360 (.291 wOBA), the A's have demoted Chavez and called Cust back up to the majors. Cust was hitting .273/.444/.436 (23 percent walk rate) with four home runs for Oakland's Triple-A Sacramento affiliate, which translates into a less-than-inspiring .229/.367/.347 (.715 OPS) triple slash per Minor League Splits. Though Cust is no longer the .250 ISO guy he was two or three seasons ago and though the offensively struggling A's are unlikely to give Cust nearly as many RBIs as his home-run-slugging contemporaries, Cust still possesses above-average home run talent for those in need of power and strong on-base abilities for leagues that count OBP as a category. ZiPS pegs Cust for a .242/.375/.428 triple slash line with one home run every 25 plate appearances, though I think Cust has a little more pop left in his bat. Think of him as Adam Dunn-lite.
Recommendation: Ownable in AL-only formats and OBP leagues, player to watch in deeper 12-team mixed leagues.
Justin Masterson | Cleveland | SP, RP | 2.9% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 5.92 ERA, 10.18 K/9, 3.87 BB/9
True Talent: 3.90 ERA, 8.70 K/9, 4.20 BB/9
There is a lot to both love and hate about Justin Masterson. Among all major league pitchers who have tossed 20 or more innings this season, Justin Masterson's 10.18 K/9 ranks 10th highest overall (3rd in the AL), and his 58.8 percent groundball rate ranks seventh overall (and second among AL starters). These peripherals have translated into a quietly quality 3.41 xFIP/4.09 FIP and the sixth-highest FIP-ERA split in the majors. His putrid 4.74 BB/9 (3.61 MLB average) ranks in the bottom 10 among major league starters with 20+ innings (bottom 15 overall), and his inability to get out lefties, who are hitting .366/.469/.537 (1.006 OPS) against him this season, has led to an ugly 5.92 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. Given his history of struggles with lefties (career .871 OPS against) and control (career 4.22 BB/9), Masterson is a high-risk pitcher, but his pure dominance against righties, his obscenely low 63.8 percent LOB% and his obscenely high .412 BABIP suggest a high ceiling of potential as well. Tread with caution at your own risk. Consider Masterson the AL's answer to Charlie Morton.
Recommendation: A must own in AL-only formats, while ownable (but not yet playable) in mixed leagues with 12 or more teams.
Brandon Morrow | Toronto | SP, RP | 5.0% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 6.15 ERA, 11.85 K/9, 5.93 BB/9
True Talent: 4.15 ERA, 10.20 K/9, 5.65 BB/9
Like Masterson, Brandon Morrow is another high-risk, high-reward pitcher with big stuff (MLB-leading 11.85 K/9) and no control (his 5.93 BB/9 is the fifth worst among major league starters). Also like Masterson, Morrow has an ERA (6.15) well above his xFIP (3.89). Morrow, however, is not a groundball pitcher (39.2 percent GB%), and the Blue Jays are not exactly defensive wizards (-1.3 team UZR/150 this season). Morrow's high K upside makes him an enticing option, especially if you are desperate for strikeouts, but the poor control will make Morrow a rocky ride. If you can stomach a poor WHIP and patiently live start to start by the seat of your pants, Morrow's your man.
Recommendation: Rosterable in AL-only formats, spot starter in deep 12-team mixed leagues.
Gio Gonzalez | Oakland | SP | 6.7% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 4.08 ERA, 8.39 K/9, 4.31 BB/9
True Talent: 3.90 ERA, 8.65 K/9, 4.40 BB/9
Gio Gonzalez is the definition of a post-hype sleeper. After being traded by, to and by the White Sox for Jim Thome, Gavin Floyd and Nick Swisher, this former first-round pick was finally given a cup of coffee in the majors in 2008 and a half-season gig in 2009. Though Gio destroyed the minors (3.58 ERA, 10.3 K/9) with a low-90s fastball and plus curveball, he struggled heavily with his command in the majors and posted a 6.24 ERA over his first 132.2 innings pitched. Given Gio's ever improving trends in control and groundball tendencies, however, there is plenty of room for improvement for a guy who is already posting useful fantasy numbers. Over his last 24.2 innings, Gio has only issued nine walks (3.28 BB/9). Perhaps these are signs of better things to come, but for now Gio's xFIP (4.02) and FIP (3.33) say that he is a legitimate high-strikeout guy worth owning.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only formats, roster-worthy in most mixed leagues (especially those with higher innings limits)
Derek Holland | Texas | SP, RP | 10.2% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 0.00 ERA, 10.50 K/9, 1.50 BB/9
True Talent: 3.80 ERA, 7.30 K/9, 3.00 BB/9
There is a lot to like about Derek Holland. For one thing, his minor league numbers suggest strikeout potential (9.7 K/9) and good control (2.5 BB/9). Additionally, he is not a flyball pitcher, which is always a good way to succeed when you play half your games at Arlington. Though Holland's first go in the majors was superficially disappointing (6.12 ERA), a deeper look at his numbers reveals a bloated HR/FB rate (14.7 percent) and an unsustainably low 64.7 percent LOB%. Holland's 4.38 xFIP last season made him a candidate to watch this year, and his 2010 minor league numbers (38.2 IP, 0.93 ERA, 5.93 K/BB) and first major league start (6 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, 1 BB) hint that Holland is ready for something big. Get him now, while he is still obscure. Like teammate Colby Lewis, people will catch on quick.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only and deeper/keeper mixed league formats, should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues.
Brennan Boesch | Tigers | OF | 26.1% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .272/.305/.425
The Tigers must feel pretty satisfied at the moment with rookie outfielders Boesch and Austin Jackson leading the charge for AL Rookie of the Year through mid-May. Per Minor League Splits, Boesch's career minor league numbers do not translate into anything major league worthy (.203/.240/.314), but his limited 2010 Triple-A work translates into a tidy .317/.379/.500 triple slash line. Honestly, I had never heard of Boesch before the Tigers promoted him, and nothing about his peripherals catches my interest outside of the .313 ISO (and ISO takes 550+ plate appearances to become statistically significant). Though Boesch does not strike out with the propensity of Jackson, his allergy to walks (2.9 BB%) flags him as a hot hitter with nothing to offer once he cools down. If you like riding a hot hand, go for it, but Boesch is not worth the roster spot—even if over 25 percent of all ESPN owners think otherwise.
Recommendation: Watch/roster while hot in (deeper) AL-only formats, not worth a bench spot in mixed leagues.
Hank Blalock | Tampa Bay | 1B, DH | 0% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .258/.325/.485 if in a righty platoon, otherwise .240/.305./.450
Entering this season, Bill James predicted Blalock to post a .234/.320/.460 (.336 wOBA) triple slash line with 15 homers in 364 plate appearances. CHONE, likewise, saw a .254/.308/.449 (.328 wOBA) line with 20 homers over 493 plate appearances. So far this season, Blalock has hit .355/.412./.514 (.926 OPS) with four homers in 118 plate appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays' Triple-A affiliate. Per Minor League Splits, this translates into a .312/.361/.431 (.792 OPS) major league line. With Pat The Bat out, Blalock has been recalled from the minors as the righty-masher in a DH platoon for the foreseeable future with Willy Aybar. Do not expect a .300+ batting average from Blalock, but if he has rekindled his 2003-2006 form, a .270 average with above-average pop and plenty of RBI opportunities is not out of the question when he plays. Given how fragile Carlos Pena has been in recent years, do not be surprised to see Blalock get some time at first base, too.
Recommendation: Ownable in AL-only formats, player to watch in deep 12-team mixed leagues.
Armando Galarraga | Detroit | SP | 0.1% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 1.59 ERA, 7.94 K/9, 4.76 BB/9
True Talent: 4.65 ERA, 6.30 K/9, 3.80 BB/9
Two and a half games behind the Twins in the AL Central, the Tigers recently demoted a struggling Max Scherzer to work out his kinks and called up Armando Galarraga in his stead. The former Ranger, however, has not seen much major league success in the past (career 4.77 xFIP), nor was he blowing hitters out of the water at Triple-A this year (3.92 ERA). Fantasy owners should be wary of any major league pitcher who has Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen manning the corners behind them, let alone a semi-flyball pitcher with league-average control and poor strikeout abilities. Unless you are in a deep AL-only league, do as Officer Barbrady does: "Move along, people. Nothing to see here."
Recommendation: Not ownable in any formats.
Mike Aviles | Kansas City | SS | 18.2% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .296/.320/.415
After missing most of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, Mike Aviles has returned to the Royals and unseated incumbent Yuniesky Betancourt for the starting shortstop job (though unseating a shortstop who can't hit or field is generally nothing difficult). Through his first first 41 plate appearances, Aviles has hit .366/.366/.537 with two home runs. Though he's been successful in the past (.325 batting average and 10 home runs in 441 plate appearances in 2008), most of it was luck (.357 BABIP, .316 xBABIP). Right now, Aviles' BABIP sits high at .371, but his bat nonetheless profiles like a .290 hitter. Given his lack of pop (career .138 ISO), average speed (career 5.1 speed score) and inability to walk (career 3.6 percent BB%), Aviles' upside is very limited (though he might reach double digits in both stolen bases and homers). Aviles is likely not a top 12 mixed-league shortstop for the rest of the season, but for your middle infield position, you could do a lot worse than Aviles.
Recommendation: Ownable in AL-only formats and as a middle infielder in mixed leagues.
Gordon Beckham | Chicago (AL) | 2B, 3B | 63.1% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .278/.355/.470
Though I universally drafted him as my starting second or third baseman, I have either traded away or dropped Beckham (or Bacon, as he is ostensibly known in Chicago) in every one of my fantasy leagues by now. Though his upside pegs him as one of the better (top 10) 2B/3B-eligible players in fantasy (think pre-2008 Kevin Youkilis with a little less power and a little more speed), there are too many question marks surrounding Bacon at this point in his young career to recommend him. Let's do a cost-benefit risk analysis. On the positive, Beckham's walk rate is up this season and his BABIP is quite low at .245. On the negative, however, Beckham's strikeout rate is way up (24.2 percent this year versus 17.2 percent last season), his power is way down (from .190 ISO last season to .056 this season) and he is hitting the ball into the dirt almost 50 percent of the time. When Beckham does hit the ball in the air, almost one-fifth of the time it is coming in the form of an infield fly ball. As slugging percentage (and ISO) are inversely related to GB% and IFFB%, Beckham's batted ball profile through the first month and a half of the season is quite disconcerting. Though ISO takes about 550 plate appearances to become statistically significant, batted ball data requires only 200 plate appearances. Bacon did struggle though his first 50 or so plate appearances last year, so maybe he is just a slow starter. THT's xBABIP calculator pegs Bacon's xBABIP at .309, which would translate into a .243 batting average. Gordon Beckham is worth monitoring and perhaps a good buy-low option from a disgruntled owner, but his high risk and moderate upside says he's not worth paying a speculative premium.
Recommendation: Must own in all keeper leagues, ownable in AL-only formats, and benchable in deep mixed leagues (though you can cut ties with him in shallow mixed leagues).
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 6:00am (7) Comments
Madison Bumgarner | San Francisco | SP
YTD: Triple-A stats; 6.86 K/9, 2.46 K/BB, 3.64 ERA
True Talent: No projected major league stats at the moment
At the beginning of the 2009 season, the talk was of just how fast could Madison Bumgarner join Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in mowing down major league batters? By the end of the season, Bumgarner reached the majors, but all was not right as his velocity was down and his strikeout rate plummeted as he ascended from high Single-A to Double-A and ultimately to the majors. The 2010 season began with Bumgarner competing for the fifth starter spot in the Giants rotation, and ended with him in Triple-A after struggling to recapture his 2008 velocity and strikeout rate. His 2010 Triple-A season began about as poorly as it possibly could have, with him allowing 21 hits, two walks, three home runs and 11 earned runs in just seven innings pitched, and his velocity remained in the high 80s to low 90s.
Then something funny happened: He turned it all around, thanks to a mechanical adjustment and the addition of seemingly every improving pitcher's new best friend, a cutter. The velocity that had scouts drooling is returning to Bumgarner, who has been throwing consistently in the low 90s and pumping it up occasionally to the mid-90s, according to numerous sources, including minor league baseball's official website. Bumgarner has allowed no more than two earned runs in his last six starts. He has only allowed one earned run in five of those starts, and zero earned runs in his most recent gem.
With June rolling around, it's time to start speculating on prospects, and Bumgarner seems like a good speculative add for those who need some pitching help and have some bench wiggle room. It's possible that he's off the radar of some owners given his poor spring and previously bad radar readings, but make no mistake: It's only a matter of time before fantasy feature articles start discussing Bumgarner regaining his velocity and his previous stud prospect status. Be ahead of the curve, and hope Bumgarner is able to supplant the incredibly underwhelming Todd Wellemeyer in the Giants rotation. Because Bumgarner has so few innings of major league experience, bumps in the road should be expected. However, it's likely those bumps will be less severe than some rookies', as he will be pitching in the friendly senior circuit and will be playing half his games in a fairly neutral home ballpark.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all 12-team mixed leagues, added in some 14-team mixed leagues, and owned in all but shallow NL-only leagues (or those with little to no bench spots).
Anibal Sanchez | Florida | SP
YTD:6.57 K/9, 2.25 K/BB, 3.28 ERA
True Talent:6.6 K/9, 1.66 K/BB, 4.32 ERA
Looking at Anibal Sanchez's numbers for the season thus far, it's easy to see at least one reason why he's having success: He's issuing far fewer free passes than last year. Three full seasons removed from his stellar (albeit very luck-aided) 2006 debut, it is easy to forget that Sanchez was a well-thought-of enough prospect to be a key piece (along with some guy named Hanley Ramirez) in the Red Sox trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Sanchez has suffered through some injuries over the last few seasons, but at least for the time being, he appears to have put them in his rear-view mirror.
While Sanchez's strikeout rate isn't jaw-dropping, it is useful if he's able to maintain his current walk rate and continues to induce an acceptable number of ground balls (currently 42.5 percent) thus keeping his ratios in check. Right now Sanchez's HR/FB rate is unsustainable at 1.8 percent, but his BABIP seems to be a bit high at .322, and with a little more luck in the strand rate department, his HR/FB correction damage could be mitigated a bit. I expect Sanchez to post an ERA that is a hair under 4.00. The two biggest things to keep an eye on with Sanchez going forward are his walk rate and his health. If he keeps his walks in check and stays healthy, he's ownable in a great deal of leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Taylor Buchholz | Colorado | RP
True Talent: No current projections.
Following a solid 2008 season in which Taylor Buchholz hurled 66.1 innings of 2.17 ERA (3.82 LIPS ERA) baseball, Buchholz threw zero innings in 2009 and was shut down for the season in June after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Currently rehabbing in the minors, Buchholz isn't far from a return to the Rockies bullpen that is still missing its closer from last year, Huston Street. Street has yet to throw a pitch in the majors this season due to shoulder inflammation and more recently a groin strain that has delayed his rehab further. While all signs point to Street returning to his closer role sometime in June, given his initial injury being to his shoulder, one has to wonder if it will be recurring.
In the event Street is unable to stay healthy, Buchholz won't be the first option the Rockies turn to, as they are currently using Manny Corpas in the closer role in Street's absence, and for the most part, Corpas has been successful this season. That said, given that Corpas' sparkling numbers are being aided significantly by a .164 BABIP, it is possible he loses his grip on the top Street-handcuff status. Though a bit of a shot in the dark, at this point in the season, some owners are desperate for saves any way they can get them, and Buchholz is an intriguing option. Those in holds leagues should also be keeping tabs on Buchholz's rehab, as many owners may have already forgotten about him given the high volatility and turnover of useful holds relievers season to season.
Recommendation: Should be watched in 14-team or larger mixed leagues, watched in all NL-only leagues, and owned in medium to large NL-only leagues.
Jeff Keppinger | Houston | 2B/3B/SS
Though Jeff Keppinger has already gotten the bulk of the playing time at second base this season, it is still comforting seeing Kaz Matsui out of the picture, as he's been waived by the Astros. Jeff Keppinger is the type of middle infielder whom owners are most likely always looking to upgrade from, but who is useful because he holds eligibility at three positions and is receiving everyday at-bats. No one should be going crazy to acquire Keppinger if he's already owned, but if he's unowned, there is something to be said about regular playing time when filling out a roster in deeper leagues with shallow or nonexistent benches.
Keppinger is a player who should be counted on to post a batting average of at least .280 (though Oliver disagrees) given his stellar contact skills and his 20.7 percent line-drive rate (career mark of 20.1 percent). Not only does Keppinger keep his strikeouts in check, but he also manages to walk at a useful clip (7.6 percent), allowing him to reach base so that he might be driven in. Given the fact that he's slotted in the two hole almost exclusively, his RBI totals are likely to be low. Another knock on Keppinger is that he's not likely to post more than five to 10 home runs and one to two stolen bases. That said, if he's able to turn his high line-drive rate and high contact rate into a .290 batting average with 80 or more runs scored, his total stat line could be useful slotted in at middle infielder, shortstop or second baseman, depending on the depth of your league.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues that use a middle infielder, and owned in all medium to large NL-only leagues.
Freddy Sanchez | San Francisco | 2B
YTD:.000/.000/.000 (4 at bats)
True Talent: No projected stats from Oliver
Freddy Sanchez made his season debut for the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, May 19, batting third, and promptly went 0-4. Sanchez's batting average can only go up from here; joking aside, it was interesting to see the Giants slot Sanchez third in the lineup, though he followed that up Thursday in his more customary spot second in the order. Regardless of whether he's hitting second or third, Sanchez's usefulness remains tied to his batting average—and subsequently the runs and RBIs that come as a result of it.
Sanchez is a career .299 hitter with a batting title to his credit. He doesn't walk much, but also doesn't strike out much. If Sanchez has actually recovered entirely from offseason shoulder surgery, and his knee is also able to hold up, it seems reasonable to expect him to continue to drill line drives and post a batting average in the .290-.300 range. Given his low walk rate, his OBP, and thus his runs-scored totals, will be almost entirely attached to his ability to smack hits, so his shoulder's health is of great concern. Most likely Sanchez is available in your league; he's owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues. For those in need of a batting average boost, potentially 70-80 runs scored and 5-10 home runs, Sanchez is a widely available option whom you can slot in at second base or middle infielder. Much like Keppinger, Sanchez is a guy most owners would like to upgrade if he's occupying a roster spot, but there is always something to be said about playing time, and batting in the top four of a team's lineup.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues that use a middle infielder, and owned in all medium to large NL-only leagues.
Miguel Montero | Arizona | C
YTD:.500/.538/.583 (12 at bats)
Miguel Montero was a popular pick to finish in the top five to eight among catchers in the 2010 season coming into the year. Unfortunately for Montero, he had some bad luck and suffered a knee injury, which has sidelined him for much of the year to date. Obviously knee injury and catcher don't go together well given how much time they spend in the squat, but reports are promising about his rehab, and a return in June looks likely. Given that there was no structural damage, come July I'd expect Montero to have wrested away his regular duty from Chris Snyder after likely being eased back into things in June.
It appears many owners in Yahoo leagues didn't care to wait out his rest and rehab, as he's owned in less than half of the leagues. In two-catcher leagues he is most likely occupying an owner's DL spot, but in single-catcher leagues now is the time to pick Montero up, as it's better to be a bit early than miss the boat when another owner reads about his likely June return and decides he's worth a DL stash. Given Montero's strong season last year (.294/.355/.478 with 17 home runs), his pedigree and the lofty expectations of many smarter than I, I'd expect that once he shakes the rust off a bit from his layoff, he should pick up where he left off last year and provide solid numbers going forward. Double-digit home runs with a solid batting average and useful counting stats should be expected if Montero is able to remain healthy enough to log 250 or more at-bats, which I expect.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-catcher mixed leagues, all 10-team or larger single-catcher mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:20am (5) Comments
Monday, May 24, 2010
Assessing the value of a given player is not a science. You can never really account for one owner placing an inordinate amount of faith in a player. That doesn't stop us from trying, of course.
What I'll be doing today is going through five players who I think are currently undervalued and five more who are overvalued based mostly on their Oliver projections. I'll also attempt to assess what kind of value they may draw. You'll probably disagree with some of my assessments. (I know some of you definitely did with last week's column regarding pitchers.) So, bear with me. The main thing I would hope you take away from it isn't so much my attempts at assessing trade value, but Oliver's projections as run through the Tom Tango ranking system.
I'm not going to waste your time by telling you that Jose Guillen is bound to fall off—I'm willing to bet players like him have very little trade value. In some cases, I'm going to suggest going after players who are not going to keep up their current pace but who I think may still be undervalued. In other cases, I'm going to talk about players who will still be good but not quite as good as I think the hype would have you believe.
Austin Jackson: I'm in one league where half of the owners are convinced the Tigers outfielder is the second coming. They see his prospect status, his .337 average, 31 runs and six stolen bases and they have visions of Ichiro Suzuki running through their heads. If you own him, capitalize on those perceptions. He's currently the 34th-best offensive player, but Oliver projects him to finish as the 184th-best. His .265 batting average, nearly 1:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio, nine stolen bases and 53 runs that Oliver projects are hardly the stats of a fantasy starter and may not even make him worthy of a roster spot. I'm sure you could get Nyjer Morgan (31 SBs, .287 average and 63 runs) and could probably do considerably better.
Colby Rasmus: Sense a theme? Another young guy who's off to a good start who Oliver thinks could be due for a considerable fall-off is a great trade candidate. He's already hit seven homers and driven in 25. Plus, he plays on a great offense; what's not to like? Well, Oliver is not impressed. We're projecting 473 more at-bats and still Oliver sees just 55 more runs and 56 more RBIs. Right now, he's rated as the 68th-best player, but Oliver projects him finishing out as the 174th. Could you swap him for Michael Young (currently 79th, but slated to finish out as the 46th-best)? I bet you could.
Elvis Andrus: OK, OK, I promise this will be the last young player on whom I'm harshing your buzz. If you own Andrus, as I do in one league, you know that he's been great, especially lately. You know, as well as Oliver does, that he's not going to continue being the 17th-best player. Probably the most remarkable thing about his start is the nearly 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio he's currently rocking. That .312 average, 17 steals and 30 runs aren't bad either. It's now time to cash in those chips, though. Oliver foresees his BB:K ratio reverting to a much more expected 37:85, and the rest of his numbers (other than steals) will likely drop along with it. That .262 average, 27 steals and 57 runs aren't useless from your shortstop, but they are way off what you're currently getting. If you can get someone like Jason Bartlett (currently 129th, but projected to finish out as No. 83) you'll be much better off.
Vladimir Guerrero: See! No one can accuse me of picking just on young'ins. Guerrero has been proving his critics wrong all year, bashing 10 homers and 37 RBIs while posting a .341 batting average (making him the fourth-best player). Well, Oliver is not impressed. Oliver foresees just 15 more homers and 58 more RBIs and a ranking of 80th. Those aren't bad numbers, but why not try to upgrade?. Combined with the not-so-distant memories of his glory days, I'm willing to bet he would fetch a decent return.Torii Hunter has a very similar rough profile, is off to a decent start (currently ranked 30th), but projects to be much more stable (finishing out as No. 31), mainly on the strength of similar power numbers but more steals (14-3) and more runs (63-49).
Carlos Gonzalez: I guess there's a middle ground between the two types of players I've been talking about, and CarGo represents that pretty well. He's off to a strong start (28 RBIs, .303 batting average and 25 runs for a ranking of 40th) that seems to suggest he's well on his way to fulfilling the promise he's been showing for several years. Well, Oliver has a different vision. Oliver projects significant fall-off in all those areas (just 59 more runs, 55 RBIs and a .269 batting average for a ranking of 100th). Adam Dunn would seem to be a solid exchange (currently 100th, but trending toward 41st).
Adrian Gonzalez: The Padres first baseman is not playing poorly (nine homers and 26 RBIs for a ranking of 70th), which likely means his price is still pretty high. Almost whatever you have to pay, though, Oliver projects that you'll be happy. Oliver is usually pretty conservative, but it's projecting MVP-like numbers from here on out—94 RBIs, 33 homers and a .298 average. I'm not going to try to figure out what it would take to get him, but do whatever you have to.
Pablo Sandoval: I think the Kung Fu Panda probably fits the more classic profile of a buy-low candidate. After a breakout season, he's off to a slow start (just three homers and 14 RBIs, good for a ranking of 114th) and owners are probably getting a little antsy. No one is just going to give up on him, but if you offer something that seems like fair value (maybe someone like Josh Hamilton, current rank 37th but projected to finish out as No. 86, maybe). Sandoval is projected to finish up strong with 16 homers, 72 RBIs and a .318 batting average, and a ranking of 29th.
Alex Rios: The White Sox outfielder was one of our draft-day bargains at the beginning of the season. So far, he's making those who got him early look pretty smart with eight homers, 21 RBIs and 13 steals for a ranking of ninth. This is one of those guys who many owners believe is a sell-high candidate. No, he's not going to keep up that pace, but he's probably going to be a lot better than many people think. He's projected to hit 12 homers and steal 19 more bases while sporting a batting average of .281 the rest of the way. If you can get him without having to spend too much, maybe someone like Brett Gardner, who's projected to finish as the 106th best player but is currently the 14th, he's still a great buy.
Nick Markakis: The Orioles outfielder was supposed to continue his recent play, but has instead gotten off to a slow start (just two homers and 14 RBIs, despite a .305 batting average and a ranking of 104th). Well, Oliver isn't ready to give up on him and neither should you. Despite predicting a slight decline in batting average (.297), Oliver projects that he'll finish the season as the 41st-best batter (12 homers, 62 RBIs and 63 runs the rest of the way). Has Chase Headley (currently ranked 55th) shown enough to fetch Markakis? Maybe not, but Alfonso Soriano (currently ranked 28th but projected to finish out as 89th) surely has.
Gordon Beckham: Big things were expected out of the White Sox infielder this year. His slow start (one homer, nine RBIs and a .187 batting average good for a ranking of 180 among batters) has many owners dropping him (he's down to about 50 percent ownership in ESPN leagues). If he's available, pick him up. Assuming he can show enough to stay with the big club, Oliver likes his chances to finish strong (11 homers, 57 RBIs, 59 runs, eight steals and a .275 batting average would make him the 67th-best batter the rest of the way). I wouldn't give up much, but maybe someone like Ryan Theriot would do the trick.
Posted by Jeremiah Oshan at 4:25am (9) Comments
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Consider this: Fantasy teams that make more moves during the season tend to finish higher overall in the standings. Admittedly I don't have the data from fantasy leagues on a team's moves made compared to the final standings to prove it true, but I would bet a lot of money that the two correlate positively fairly strongly.
One could interpret this fact to mean that the moves themselves led to winning, but I would consider that a misinterpretation. Instead I'd argue that a team's moves made indicate which owners followed the league most intensely and it is that intense following that breeds winning.
This means that making moves purely for the sake of making them will not increase your chances of winning. However, it is important to make moves throughout the season in response to changes in playing time or even the exceptionally hot or cold starts that some players experience in the beginning of a season. In other words, do not remain too prideful of the players you drafted—especially your later-round picks—because chances are a player will emerge early in the season who is worth owning over one of the players on your team.
I am not suggesting you give up on your drafted players at the first hints of struggling or jump blindly onto the bandwagon of a hot starter with a poor underlying skill set. The most important thing to do is evaluate every situation independently because every player is different.
On an individual basis every move you make should be made with the common goal to make your team better. If Player A in free agency is better than Player B on your team, add A and drop B. It sounds simple enough in theory, but when it comes down to deciding on whether to add a player or not in reality, things can get murky.
And when things get murky, people get indecisive.
I'm sure everyone reading this knows the bad feeling you get after seeing someone else add a player you were considering adding. And god forbid that player plays well for the other team, it is hard not to get a headache after checking the box scores on a nightly basis.
Indecisiveness, though, is not necessarily a bad thing. If you researched the players thoroughly—both the one you are considering adding and the one you are possibly dropping—and decide that you need to see a few more at-bats before making a decision, then there is nothing to regret.
However, if you check the stats of the possible pickup a little more closely and take him more seriously only after he was added by someone else, then the indecisiveness is the result of laziness and a lack of confidence on your part. In a highly competitive league where free agency is combed through like a beach filled with metal detector-wielding scavengers, winning the league is probably impossible with such indecisiveness. With a good draft you can place reasonably high, but the winner without a doubt will have combined a solid draft with effective use of free agents and maybe a few trades.
So, do your research on free agents and don't let indecisiveness make you apathetic and leave your season filled with regrets.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:54am (12) Comments
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
A demand for all prospective patients: Don't just send your roster - you don't just turn up to a hospital and throw yourself on a gurney. Tell us what you're thinking - what you think is going wrong and what you're thinking about doing to make things right. Think of us as a bit more like Dr. Phil and a little less like Dr. House - we're not going to break into your apartment to find out the things you aren't telling us.
Here's a nice case from Chris - his subject line was "Great Team + (Bad Luck*DL)=Roster Doctor"
"I've been stuck in the bottom half of my 20-team league all year and am currently in 13th place overall, third in my division. I've made some big moves along the way but am outpacing my transaction cap 31/50 for the year...."
Player Pool: Mixed
No. of Teams: 20
Categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OPS, W, SV, Holds, ERA, WHIP, K
Four divisions with Playoff Seeding Options: Eight teams; Division winners advance but seeded by overall standings
C - John Buck
1B - Kendry Morales
2B - Ian Stewart
3B - Pablo Sandoval
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
LF - Chris Coghlan
CF - Andruw Jones
RF - Justin Upton
Util - Brad Hawpe
SP - Clayton Kershaw
RP - Brian Wilson
P - Jonathan Sanchez
P - Ricky Nolasco
P - Brad Penny
P - Anibal Sanchez
P - Homer Bailey
BN - Luke Gregerson
BN - Koji Uehara
BN - Kevin Jepsen
BN - Jhoulys Chacin
BN - Andres Torres
DL - Grady Sizemore
Certainly this team hasn't suffered from that much good luck (with the exception of Andruw Jones, perhaps). But sometimes you really do make your own luck and a good part of Chris' bad luck was in the stars. Sizemore's coming off a series of injuries and a down year last year, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the trend is continuing. He hasn't been performing well and may be out for the season. Unlucky? Perhaps, but he was (or should've been) acquired at a discount in the Spring for a reason.
Justin Upton and Pablo Sandoval are two other disappointments, I'm guessing. Upton's put up some nice numbers, but nothing first-round worthy yet. ZIPS has him on pace for 26 home runs and 15 stolen bases but an OPS of around .850. His problem has been that's he's striking out in one third of his at bats, in part because of a low contact rate. Meanwhile Sandoval's power hasn't shown up yet this year. My bet is that it returns eventually but both he and Upton are still relatively unknown quantities. They are hugely talented but we simply don't know what their patterns and proclivities are yet. Sandoval could be another Mark Teixeira, starting most seasons cold. We just don't know yet and that's the price you pay with youth.
My recommendations lie with the management of your pitching staff, though I do like the NL heavy approach. I'm guessing that with that starting lineup you often win the strikeouts and maybe wins categories. With only one closer and no middle relievers, you lose holds and probably saves.
You've gotten a bit unlucky with Nolasco, but karma's been on your side with Jonathan Sanchez (except for the wins). Most of these pitchers are enigmatic, so you can't be totally shocked when Penny, Bailey or even Kershaw deposits a stinker. All of which means that if you go up against a team with a solid bullpen, you're probably more likely to lose ERA and WHIP than win them.
Actually, you have gotten a bit unlucky with your bullpen. If you could land one more closer and/or a middle reliever or if Jepsen can settle in a bit or Uehara can come back and pitch, you could pitch one of them and Gregerson and make a run at winning holds and saves. Jepsen might be a candidate to start for you if he can bring down his walk rate; he's gotten unlucky with his strand rate. As it is, he's been getting plenty of holds even though he's been on a losing team.
Digging up valuable middle relievers can be costly in numbers of transactions so be careful. It looks like you have a pretty good eye for them though, so I'd recommend going for one or two more and "resting" someone like Penny or Bailey. Penny's low ERA is not long for this world (I think his FIP is overly rosy too - that walk rate and home run rates are going to go back up). I'm sure Jose Contreras is long taken in your league, but keep an eye out for someone like that - a starter helping out a decimated bullpen.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 5:07am (3) Comments
Jonathan Halket recently wrote about a variation of the endowment effect and I just wanted to throw my two cents in on the original endowment effect topic. I am not particularly well researched on the endowment effect theory and I don’t expect any of these thoughts to be groundbreaking, but I think they can be relevant to the pursuit of an improved team.
In a nutshell, the endowment effect posits that once somebody is given a commodity, he/she immediately values it more than he/she would have before acquiring it. That is to say that we’d never be able to make a deal with ourselves because we wouldn’t be willing to pay our own asking price, and we’d never accept our own offers.
First, I reject this theory on, perhaps, its most fundamental grounds. My feeling is that one’s unwillingness to sell a commodity for its market value is not compelling evidence that the commodity’s owner has any delusions about the value of the commodity. Let me support this assertion by stating two fairly incontrovertible principles.
1. In any chain of transactions from producer through ultimate consumer, profit is derived from the gap between what an item is worth to the seller and the buyer’s interpretation of that commodity’s value, either intrinsically or on a secondary market.
2. The value of all commodities is fluid and subject to context, to varying degrees.
The reluctance to swap a commodity for what one perceives to be its fair value is entirely rational in respect to the actual workings of a market, especially for an individual commodity. Remember, nobody is producing a factory of Ryan Brauns and a fantasy team does not sustain itself by commerce, but by the return on investment it makes in its players. As owners, we are not mandated to move any units, ever. The question is not what Ryan Braun is worth to me, or even by the general market consensus. The question is what any individual in your league may be willing to pay for him.
I’ll reiterate more simply. It is not your goal to determine a price point at which you can sell an inventory of Ryan Brauns. Your goal is to extract the greatest disparity of value in your favor from a single transaction.
As a part of the sneaker enthusiast community, this is a dynamic I’m very familiar with. Individuals who sell extremely rare sneakers at consignment boutiques often price them astronomically. Recently, I had read a discussion on a message board where some of the more savvy collectors were complaining that this phenomenon sets entirely false valuations of these commodities. They were talking about the endowment effect without referring to it as such. But, the fact is that without the endowment effect, there’d be almost no secondary market for collectible or limited edition goods, a category whose general qualities apply to a player like Braun. I might only be willing to pay $500 for a pair of Entourage edition Air Force Ones, but if I had a pair I wouldn’t sell them for anything below two and half times that price. Why?
One, for $500, I’d simply rather keep the kicks. (Yeah, I know this sounds pathological, but just substitute sneakers for whatever equally inane and frivolous material vice you indulge in and delude yourself into thinking is culturally superior to rubber and leather.)
Two, I don’t care about the fair market price. I only care about the “one dumb schmuck” price.
Three, the $500 doesn’t replace the sneakers it just gives me a different commodity that may be valued differently by an entirely different demographic of people. And, further, if I do want to replace the sneakers, I must combat the endowment effect again and therefore I know that I will not be able to acquire that commodity for what I perceive its actual value to be.
The lesson here is that when it comes to elective transactions, the general laws of the market aren’t necessarily material.
The first two points above relate to the first of my original two premises in fairly obvious ways. The third point relates more to the second premise.
Quite simply, there is no objective value for any player. Well, perhaps there is, in a vacuum, but those are not the values the prospective seller and buyer are considering when making the transaction. All players’ values are relative to their own teams. The best way to get a trade done is to trade surplus of one asset class to somebody who is deficient in asset class for a largely distinct asset class, of which the other owner has a surplus. Simply, you trade a player that is worth less to you, and in the context of your team, than he is to another owner for a player who is worth less to that owner than he is to you. This is hardly rocket science.
In fantasy baseball, a commodity’s value is very much contextual. When Ariely and Carmon ran their experiment to establish the gap between what a Duke student would pay to go to the Final Four versus the price at which he/she would be willing to sell that ticket, the assumption was that the students didn’t have tickets prior to being presented with the opportunity to acquire one and that they would no longer have one once they sold it. Well… that’s not exactly how the trade market works in fantasy baseball, is it?
It was found that the proposed selling price of the ticket was inordinately higher than the proposed buying price. But, how would that change if the subjects had two tickets to a game and were only asked to sell one? What if I’m only asked to sell my courtside seat, but I would still be left with a mezzanine level seat. I can only presume the gap between what you think the objective value of that seat it and what you’d be willing to sell it for would shrink considerably.
As a potential trader in a fantasy league, I’m generally only actively in the market for certain types of commodities at different times and I’m naturally more reluctant to make certain types of transactions. I feel that the endowment effect is profoundly at play only in fairly limited types of transactions. For example, if I own Alex Rios, am offered Justin Upton, and refuse, then that’s likely the Endowment Effect. These are two fairly similar commodities in the sense that they are five-tool outfielders and in this case I would be getting the better player, but subject to the endowment effect, which drowns out the fact that Rios is overproducing.
However, if you offered me something like Carl Crawford for Kendry Morales, that may just not be a great fit for my time and I might decline for that reason.
Surplus value in the form of stats beyond what it takes to win a category or quality bench players who can’t crack your starting line-up are materially worthless; I say “materially” because their value exists but in the form of depth, insurance, or flexibility. So, once again we return to the theme of absolute value being less meaningful than optimal distribution of value across asset classes.
Thus, the endowment effect is only necessarily detrimental to the extent that it prevents you from trading a player you feel like you have to trade – if you are too attached to your surplus value. And, once you recognize said asset as surplus value, chances are your attachment to said asset wanes therefore decreasing one’s sense of endowment. In the absence of this scenario, the endowment effect may be either beneficial or detrimental depending on whether you can find somebody willing to pay your price – not a market, but a single buyer.
It does bear repeating that value is only one part of the equation when making a deal; asset class often trumps small differences in absolute value. While I agree that all players have a price and that you should be open to trading any of your players at any given time, for the right offer, I think that point is actually a bit rhetorical. Your team is assembled the way it is for a reason. There’s a balance of asset classes that is important to maintain and there's risk involved in simply making any deal that nets you more value because there is no guarantee that you can swing the next trade that would be needed to restore that balance.
Savvy owners recognize when another team has an imbalance of assets and will refuse to give you fair value when they see you are backed into a corner. When making a deal the key is to determine how valuable the player you are targeting is to his team. I used to play in a league that I dominated by drafting a disproportionate number of closers and selling them off after amassing a big lead. If the league would have stonewalled me, it would have been very difficult to win. Many owners, however, focused exclusively on the value of my closers to their teams without considering what would have happened to my team had I been unable to deal those closers.
Now, from a seller’s perspective I only needed to find a few buyers at different points throughout the year, so even if the majority of the market is just waiting while I dig my own hole, all it takes it one guy to say, sure, I’ll trade you Dan Haren for Mariano Rivera for me to solidify my title.
From the buyer’s perspective, he’s getting a valuable commodity and the more the rest of the league avoids my closers, the more valuable it becomes to him to add one. But he’s only offering fair value because he believes that my commodity’s market value reflects its value to my team and that the market for my player is competitive relative to that market value. In reality, that wasn’t the case.
And, with that, I’ll pose this question to the readers: You have a deal on the table that will help your team, but it may help a team that is already ahead of you even more. Should you make this deal? Of course, this is a very general question. So, take it where you wish.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:05am (18) Comments
Thursday, May 27, 2010
1. Bryce Harper, C
Harper has a chance to be a very special hitter and, based on his bat alone, is a legit No. 1 pick in almost any draft. Some will tell you that he should be moved from catcher so he has a better chance to reach his full potential offensively. Personally, if I drafted him I would find it difficult to move him, as he has the potential to be an impact player with his defense as well. Unless you are absolutely desperate for an arm, Harper is the unquestioned best talent in the draft.
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP
Taillon is the best high school arm in this class, and I would even rank him ahead of every member of last year's top tier of prep arms. As with any pitcher his age, his control needs work, but he has a bona fide mid-90s fastball with solid movement and the makings for three strong supplemental pitches in his curveball, slider and change-up. He is considering college, but if he gets selected early (call it in the top 10) I would feel very confident in his signability.
3. Manny Machado, 3B/SS
Machado reminds me of Mike Moustakas entering the draft. He has a good, polished plate approach for his age, plus bat speed and above-average power potential for any position. But, just like Moustakas, Machado's future is most likely at third base, where his bat may get lost in the crowd. Unless he takes off in much the same way that Moustakas did when he arrived on the scene. I wouldn't put it past him.
4. Chris Sale, LHP
I like to describe Sale with two words: tenacious and crafty. Everything I have seen on him leads me to believe he is a tremendous competitor. He does a great job of mixing his three-pitch arsenal because he trusts every variation he throws. Every pitch has good polish and movement. He has faced weak competition for the most part, yet he has succeeded in every chance he has had against advanced competition. He doesn't blow hitters away with velocity, and his arm slot looks a bit odd for a starter, but it's hard to find much weakness with Sale.
5. Michael Choice, OF
Choice has some serious pop in his bat, perhaps even the best power potential in the draft. His swing has holes and needs to be cleaned up, but the potential is there for him to succeed as an overall hitter as well. His speed is an asset that will provide solid range in the outfield and the threat to steal bases in the future. He has the best upside of any four-year college hitter.
6. Kolbrin Vitek, OF/2B
Vitek has tremendous hitting skills and perhaps the quickest bat in the draft. His speed is on the plus side, but probably won't be a major part of his offensive game. His power is the question mark. Defensively, he may be limited to a corner outfield position, and his power may not play there.
7. Zack Cox, 3B/2B
Much like Vitek, Cox is a very polished college hitter who sports plus bat speed. He looks like a future .300 hitter. And also just like Vitek, the offensive question Cox needs to face is his power potential. The only edge that Cox truly has over Vitek is the likelihood that he will stick at an infield position. Cox is a safe-bet selection with above-average, but not great, upside.
8. Deck McGuire, RHP
McGuire's best asset is the sharp, consistent command he brings to his three-pitch mix, and his body and mound presence give off an intimidating vibe at times. He doesn't have electric stuff or great upside, but he consistently pumps the strike zone, and he could help a big league club fairly quickly because of it. Eventually, he could settle in as a No. 2 starter if things go in his favor.
9. Karsten Whitson, RHP
Whitson is a skilled high school right hander with strong upside. His fastball is consistently in the low 90s now, occasionally touching the mid-90s, but his frame and work ethic suggest that there is room to grow. He has above-average feel for his slider and change-up now, and both pitches could be extremely dangerous down the road. His mechanics may need some tweaks and his control needs work, but Whitson is a firm top 10 pick in my book.
10. Yasmani Grandal, C
Grandal is reminiscent of Tony Sanchez from last year's draft in that he really doesn't do much for me from a skill set standpoint, yet he is expected to go in the top 10, possibly even top five. Looking back, I did underrate Sanchez last year, as he has the makeup to be an average big league catcher, so he has obvious value. Grandal has a similar feel. He has a bit more power than Sanchez, but also represents a downgrade in the bat speed and contact skills departments. Nevertheless, he should immediately jump into the game's top 100 prospects as soon as he signs.
11. Stetson Allie, RHP
Allie may have the most electric fastball in this draft. Even though it may be relatively straight, his velocity is something I can buy into. But he has his downsides. His control is inconsistent and simply average at its best. His endurance and focus are questionable, leading many to feel that the bullpen is in his future. I like him, but I'm not betting the farm.
12. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Pomeranz sits in the low 90s with his fastball and has a strong curveball and change-up. There are more concerns with him than one would like when investing a top draft pick. His command is frighteningly inconsistent, for one, and his arm action looks strangely robotic. And that robotic action doesn't lend itself to much natural, consistent movement. Pomeranz gets a lot of hype, but he also has a lot of work to do.
13. Brandon Workman, RHP
14. Dylan Covey, RHP
15. Justin O'Connor, C/3B/SS/2B
16. Austin Wilson, OF
17. Josh Sale, OF
18. James Paxton, LHP
19. Delino DeShields Jr., OF
20. Christian Colon, SS/2B/3B
21. Bryce Brentz, OF
22. A.J. Cole, RHP
23. Jesse Hahn, RHP
24. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
25. Nick Castellanos, 3B
26. Gary Brown, OF
27. Alex Wimmers, RHP
28. Asher Wojciechowski, RHP
29. Kaleb Cowart, 3B
30. Brett Eibner, RHP
31. A.J. Vanegas, RHP
32. Chad Bettis, RHP
33. Seth Blair, RHP
34. Peter Tago, RHP
35. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
36. Kyle Parker, OF
37. Barret Loux, RHP
38. Jacob Petricka, RHP
39. Matt Harvey, RHP
40. Chance Ruffin, RHP