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Friday, August 13, 2010
Mike Minor | Atlanta | SP |4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 5.00 K/BB, 36.8 GB (one start, six innings pitched)
Oliver ROS: 5.88 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.00 K/BB
Last year's seventh overall pick, Mike Minor tore through the minors this season and has reached the majors. Minor's high minors numbers were fantastic, 120.1 innings pitched, 146 strikeouts, and 46 walks, good for a 3.44 ERA. Baseball America rated Minor as the fourth best prospect in the Braves organization coming into the season. He features a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball, change-up, curveball and slider.
Minor's greatest asset is his pitching acumen. He possesses an only high-80s heater, but it has good movement, and is helped by the other three pitches he throws. His control is fantastic for a pitcher of his age, and will help him along with his polish. He'll suffer some bumps in the road, but could prove useful for those in re-draft leagues as well this season, and not just keeper and dynasty leaguers.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues and most 14-team mixed leagues; should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Sam Demel | Arizona | RP | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.88 K/9, 4.20 K/BB, 47.9 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.47 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 1.78 K/BB
Apparently I am a glutton for punishment: I'm once again going to speculate on the closer carousel in Arizona. Sam Demel, the best pitcher in the Diamondbacks bullpen, picked up his first save of the season this week, and may see opportunities the remainder of the season given Arizona's place in the standings and Demel being a long term candidate to close.
Demel's strikeout rate leaves a bit to be desired, but is offset nicely by his stingy walk rate (1.88 BB/9), and worm burning ways. His skill set is reminiscent of a 2008 and 2009 Bobby Jenks or a 2010 Matt Capps, so if you are looking to gauge value, think in those terms.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues by owners in need of saves, and should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Dan Hudson | Arizona | SP | 10 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.28 K/9, 2.07 K/BB, 31.1 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.66 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.08 K/BB
Since joining the Diamondbacks via trade, Hudson's surface stats have been lights out, and his underlying stats are solid too. In August, Hudson has thrown 22.2 innings, allowing 13 hits, four earned runs and four walks and striking out 17 batters, good for a 1.59 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP and a 3.88 xFIP. Hudson's biggest problem will likely be his propensity for allowing too many fly ball; he has only a 36.1 GB percentage in August.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Freddie Freeman | Atlanta | 1B | 0 percent Yahoo! ownership (not in player pool currently)
YTD: .305/.367/.506 Triple-A
Oliver ROS: No projected playing time
Freddie Freeman has clobbered the ball this season in Triple-A, mostly against right handed pitching, slashing .317/.384/.536. While it seemed unlikely at the beginning of the year that Freeman would play a role in re-draft leagues, it doesn't seem so anymore. Troy Glaus is slashing .241/.348/.403 for the season, and the Braves are in the playoff hunt, and would likely promote him if it appeared he'd help the team.
While Chipper Jones' season-ending surgery may lead to speculation of Glaus shifting back across the diamond, the Braves have already said that Glaus has lost range and is now a first baseman. Those in deep keeper leagues should consider adding Freeman when he's available, as he's almost a shoo-in to take over first base next year.
Omar Infante | Atlanta | 2B, 3B, SS, OF | 21 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .300/.345/.401
National League All-Star Omar Infante is still somehow unowned in 79 percent of Yahoo! leagues (sarcasm applies). On a serious note, the news of Jones' injury helps Infante's value, since he'll now see everyday at-bats. Infante's value lies entirely in his ability to hit for a good average, and with it, score runs and chip in some RBIs. He has only three home runs on the season and four stolen bases.
Infante's .376 BABIP is almost certainly going to regress, but his 4.9 percent walk rate is likely to improve; his career mark is 6.0 percent and his walk rate last year was 8.3 percent. The greatest value Infante provides is with his position versatility, since he's eligible at four positions, and is a good option to slot at middle infielder or fill in for a regular getting the day off.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues using a MI, and should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Chris Johnson | Houston | 3B | 47 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .260/.294/.407
Sometimes you have to look past a player's minor league numbers and underwhelming prospect status and enjoy riding the hot hand. Chris Johnson would qualify as a sometime type of player. Johnson's career minor league slash was only .272/.311/.415 coming into the year, and his slash in Triple-A last year was .281/.323/.461 with mediocre pop playing in the hitter-friendly PCL. All that said, his current torrid pace makes him a must-own in all leagues while he's hot. Keep in mind regression from his insane .430 BABIP is going to happen, and his 4.5 percent walk rate to a 21.7 percent strikeout rate won't cut it as the season moves along.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues while hot, or dealt at his max value.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 7:10am (4) Comments
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
We've got a month and a half of baseball left to play. A lot can happen and anything can happen over that stretch. To illustrate my point, guess who has been the most valuable hitter over the past 14 days? No, not Roger Bernadina. Its Albert Pujols, believe it or not. You don't need the best to win, but you will win most often with the best.
With that in mind, here are notes on a few players of interest.
Not a rock?
Before the season started I made the ill-fated prediction that Todd Helton would be a solid late-round option at first base. While that didn't work out, I stand by my method, seeing how he could easily be matching the seasons of comparables Billy Butler and James Loney, who were both picked well before Helton in drafts.
Unfortunately Helton was the wrong old dude to throw your chips behind this year as his .252 average, four home runs, and balky back scream "retire." However, in August he is showing there are some reserve tanks to tap into, batting .300 with two home runs already. If Helton has been forgotten in your league, I think he warrants remembering, and a roster spot.
If you ignored my Twitter advice earlier in the season and missed out on Coco Crisp's speedy goodness, worry not because his clone Eric Young Jr. will be batting leadoff for the Rockies for the foreseeable future. Like Crisp, his batting won't impress much, but for any team looking for steals, Young is your best option to get them cheaply.
Everyone deserves a fifth chance
If you are looking for a suggestion for an even deeper league, Chris Dickerson gets my vote as someone to watch. He is in line for a stretch of semi-regular playing time in Milwaukee after impressively going 19-for-43 during his Triple-A rehab assignment. Dickerson has good on-base skills and is a stolen base threat.
Tigers second baseman/oufielder Ryan Raburn is on an absolute tear at of late, with four home runs in his last five games. Raburn had a solid season last year so he makes for a good play down the stretch.
Above replacement level
Filling in for the oft-injured Rafael Furcal, Jamey Caroll has proven his fantasy worth, collecting hits and stealing his fair share of bases. Furcal won't be out that much longer, but Caroll is worth playing in deeper leagues until the status quo changes.
Out of misery
Rookie Chris Carter of the A's went 0-for-19 to start his major league career and two players returning from injury may spare him from being devoured by more major league pitchers. Travis Buck and Conor Jackson returned to action Monday with Jackson hitting a solo shot—the A's only hit off Shaun Marcum—in the seventh.
Both Buck and Jackson have had their careers derailed by injuries somewhat but with the A's out of contention, they could get more playing time down the stretch than they probably deserve. In AL-only leagues where playing time alone is a basis for ownership, don't overlook these two.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:07am (0) Comments
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
When it comes to embracing injury risk, I have to say that I’m more willing than most. I feel that bargains are to be had on players returning from injury, or players who are set to begin a season on the DL. I view players with higher injury risk as a way to increase a team’s upside. In many cases, I’d rather simply just worry about a player staying healthy than invest in players whose capabilities I’m reticent about.
When in a head-to-head league, I’m even more aggressive in terms of drafting players who are banged up to begin the year. My philosophy is that I do not need to have the best team in the league during the first quarter of the season as much as I need to do so for the final quarter of the season. So, this year in a shallow mixed, head-to-head league, I consciously assembled an injury-laden roster, figuring all would be all right come playoff time. As I was drafting, I wondered if I was overdoing it, but felt it was worthwhile to test the boundaries. Now, we’re approaching the stretch run, so let’s see how things turned out.
One of the risks of this strategy is that you are going into the season knowing injuries will be a problem, so if you experience unexpected injuries to boot, you can really find yourself in a pickle. So, did I get those unexpected injuries? Yes, I got all kinds of injuries. Sixteen of the 25 players I drafted have spent at least one stint on the DL this year; that’s beyond even my wildest expectations. Let’s look at how these injuries break down by likelihood.
Injured to begin the season
Known injury risk
Non-elevated injury risk
Named Ben Sheets
I suffered a pretty even distribution of injuries across risk categories. Also, I must say that perhaps my zealous infatuation with Nelson Cruz during draft season was partially due to underestimating his fragility; I did not see him as all that risky. Nelly and Manny have three-peated in DL trips this year.
Overall, despite these injuries, my team has been quite productive. My pitching staff has remained fairly healthy, and I’ve done a nice job of streaming to supplement needs on a weekly basis (shameless back-patting for spot starting Bud Norris for his 14K performance on Saturday). I’ve spent most of the season in second and third place, but as the stretch run begins, I don’t exactly have the juggernaut I was hoping for.
Part of the problem is that some of the injured players I drafted did not return to vintage form upon regaining their health. Berkman, Lidge, and, to a lesser extent, Reyes fit this bill. Some of the players turned out to be largely worthless regardless of health, like Ben Sheets and Chipper Jones. Some of the players have spent so much time hurt that it was like not having them at all. I’m thinking Manny Ramirez and Mike Gonzalez here. To be sure, all these possibilities were known at draft time, I just anticipated a greater balance of near returning to form, stinking it up, and being non-entities.
At the most basic level of analysis, among the players with elevated injury risk or pre-existing injury, only Lilly and Lidge are likely to finish the season ranked higher than where I drafted them. So, one might call this endeavor a failure. However, there is another factor to consider here, and that is replacement value. This is a shallow league, so there are plenty of quality bats on the wire. For example, somebody dropped Adam Laroche two weeks into the season after he had failed to homer in his first 50 plate appearances and looked like he was heading for one of his patented putrid starts. I snatched him up and he’s gotten much of my playing time at first.
Reaping the rewards of others’ impatience is also something I’ve come to expect of myself, so I also considered that dynamic when drafting the walking wounded fantasy gods of yore. This was just another reservoir from which I could draw talent to mitigate the effects of injury. When you factor in the production of replacement players, the Cruz pick will likely still pay dividends and the Reyes pick could flirt with breaking even.
Berkman and Manny were clear busts, but none of the other expected-to-be-injured players were supposed to be core components of my team, so their injuries didn’t hurt too badly. One fortunate thing (and not coincidental either) was that I drafted Ben Zobrist. Zobrist has certainly had a disappointing year, but his versatility has been invaluable. I knew I’d have holes to plug throughout the season, and Zobrist has acted as a super sub. Meanwhile, I’ve been active on the wire, playing match-ups and keeping close tabs on the category wars in my weekly battles, so I think I’ve done a good job of maximizing the utility of my replacement value by alternating between speedier players and bigger RBI threats as needed.
I should have a pretty strong team for the stretch run. Howard should be back. Cruz is expected to be sidelined for only the minimum DL bid, which means he should be back late first round of my playoffs. Bailey should be returning too. I hope Reyes will remain a factor, and whether Berkman and/or Manny can play contributing roles is still largely a mystery.
All things considered, I’m not sure whether taking this strategy to more of an extreme than I had ever done before made much difference in where my team is right now. The team leading the league has pretty much been running with a comfortable lead from the gate and did so largely by assembling a dominant pitching staff, a strategy I never employ. He was also the beneficiary of overall good luck regarding health of his players.
Perhaps I’m just echoing my bias, but I’m inclined to say that this experience bolsters my confidence in this strategy. In terms of individual outcomes, my attempt at execution largely went wrong, but the impact doesn’t seem awful. I’m still competitive and still have a chance of having one of the best rosters going into the playoffs. Had more of these decisions turned out well, I’d likely be neck and neck with the leader. So, perhaps I made a fine strategic play, but made some poor individual choices in terms of execution.
Still, it's not like there’s an infinite supply of injury-prone stars and players beginning the season on the DL who would enable me to toggle my choices. Perhaps, either you like the crop of players who fit this bill, or you don’t.
Most importantly, I will reiterate that embracing this much injury risk seems possible only in a head-to-head league where I can often get by, by the skin of my teeth, with savvy and hustle, where it’s viable to punt a category one week when outmatched, and try again next week. In a rotisserie league, the volume of injuries I had to deal with would have caused me to fall into widespread categorical holes that would likely have proven insurmountable.
So, the cardinal rule is at play again: Optimize your strategy for your league structure. And, it seems that shallow head-to-head leagues may enable you to take on nearly infinite injury risk.
Update from last week’s column: I was able to acquire Ryan Howard for David Price and Andre Ethier, and Ichiro for Cole Hamels.
Remember, this is a straight draft keeper league where you keep your five best players. Ethier was my fifth highest prized bat and David Price is a pitcher, and I don’t see the need to keep any starting pitcher who isn’t a nearly guaranteed top 25 player, because replacement value on starting arms is so high. I don’t consider Ichiro keeper-caliber, but he does make nice offseason trade bait. I plan to attempt to package him with either Nelson Cruz or Victor Martinez and send him to a team that needs a fifth keeper, netting me that other team’s best or second best player.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:01am (3) Comments
There's been some good discussion going on today that I thought I'd bring to your attention. Chris Liss mentioned my post from a couple weeks ago on Dan Haren, luck, and randomness in a column at RotoWire, and some interesting debate sprang up in the comments. As usual, I ended up writing a book for my comment, so I posted the majority of it over at the CardRunners site as well. There's been some comments on both sites since then, so you might be interested in checking the discussion out.
Posted by Derek Carty at 3:53pm (7) Comments
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Forgive me for making this short and sweet. The hard work can be found here. And forgive me for the lack of recent additions and changes to the average-year and prime-year projections. I hope to update the projections in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, the 2010 draft class has entered the fray and joined this year's large collection of soon-to-be major league graduates and the best that the minor leagues have to offer. This time of year offers the deepest and most talent-laden prospect list of the year. So enjoy and let the debate begin.
Top 100 Prospect List.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:57am (5) Comments
Saturday, August 21, 2010
With September quickly approaching, major league rosters will expand from 25 to 40 players. This means that many top minor league prospects will get some major league playing time, though most will likely see only sparse action (see Buster Posey, circa 2009). Next week, I will take a look at a handful of the top AL prospects who might get a call.
Thereafter, the AL waiver wire will likely cut back to four or five players per week and focus on hot bats and arms that are widely available and might give you that needed edge to win your league. It is also worth noting at this juncture that Luke Scott has not cooled off. Scott is hitting .286/.400/.476 over the past seven days with a .326/.392/.522 line over the past 14. Beyond comprehension, Scott is still available in 34 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Apologies for the light material, but I am diligently moving to Madison this week and transitioning back into "law school mode." Look out for a Keeper League Mailbag piece on THT sometime in the next week.
All stats current through at least Aug. 18.
Jose Bautista Watch (Aug. 9-15): .227 AVG, 2 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, 1 SB. Not the best (or worst) week for Bautista, who is mashing in August. His ownership rate in Yahoo! leagues stayed stable at 91 percent this week.
Adam Lind | Toronto | OF | 70 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .245/.303/.425
Most people would not think twice of a player hitting a pedestrian .236/.294/.412 (.307 wOBA, 10 percent below the MLB average) this late in to the season. Especially if said player had only one successful year under his belt. However, despite what you may think of his composite 2010 season, Adam Lind is secretly having a very good second half. Normally, I would not cover a player owned in 70 percent of fantasy leagues, but considering that he was available in two of my primary four (competitive) fantasy leagues until I picked him up, I feel it relevant to discuss him.
After posting a less-than-spectacular .214/.271/.370 (.640 OPS) line in the first half, Lind has turned things around in the second half. Since Chris Young proved to America that he did not belong in the Home Run Derby, Lind has hit a cool .300/.364/.539 (.900 OPS) with 5 HR in 110 AB (a 25-30 HR pace per full season). Even when he struggled in the first half, Lind provided fantasy owners with plenty of power output, blasting 12 home runs (and 40 RBI) through his first 213 AB of the season.
Per THT's xBABIP calculator, is .321. This mark is right around his xBABIP for last season, .319. My xBABIP-based 2010 player forecast for Lind spit out an expected .302/.368/.560 (.927 OPS) line for him in the preseason based on a minuscule -0.007 xBABIP-BABIP split in 2009. Lind seemed like the real deal heading into the season and, from what I can observe, not much changed about Adam Lind between 2009 and 2010 (outside a small dip in LD% which has been offset by a larger decline in IFFB%). The only real difference between Lind in 2009 and 2010 is the 27-year-old has further developed his power stroke, regressed a bit in his strikeout rate (though that too has improved in the second half) and simultaneously been bit by the bad luck spider.
Just to dwell on the K/BB ratio for a moment, Lind posted a 1.90 mark with an 18.7% K% in 2009. In 2010, Lind's splits reveal a 3.52 K/BB and 27.3% K% in the first half and a 20.9% K% and 2.55 K/BB in the second half. Clearly there has been some regression this year, but much of Lind's 2010 failures seemed to be exaggerated by some first half hiccups.
Going forward, I recommend all owners pick up Lind where available. He should be 100 percent owned in eligible leagues. If we adjust his current triple slash line to reflect his xBABIP, pessimistically assuming that all additional hits gained would be singles, Lind's overall line on the season inflates to a much more reasonable .267/.323/.443 line. That's far from elite (and top-60 player status), but when paired with good power output and plenty of RBI opportunities, Lind starts to look almost as attractive as other outfield-eligible sluggers like Adam Dunn.
Recommendation: Pick up Lind in all qualifying leagues where available. Immediately.
Kevin Slowey | Minnesota | SP | 61 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.22 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 6.57 K/9, 1.67 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
Kevin Slowey is a relatively high ownership player flying under the radar in the second half. Since the NL broke its losing streak to the AL in the midsummer classic a month and a half ago, Slowey has accumulated three wins in six starts with a 3.13 ERA and a 30/6 K/BB ratio over his last 37.1 IP. Yahoo! fantasy ranks Slowey thus far in the second half as a top-30 player, while Baseball Monster values Slowey's past 30 days of production as worth No. 25 overall amongst all fantasy baseball players.
Considering Slowey's current level of production, the fact that he is on the waiver wire of almost 40 percent of fantasy leagues and that many fantasy leagues have a Aug. 31 trade deadline (especially keeper leagues), I included Slowey in this week's AL Waiver Wire column (like teammate Scott Baker before him).
Slowey's is a fickle pitcher with plenty of flaws and upside. He's got average stuff (career 7.5% SwStr%, 6.83 K/9), but pinpoint control (career 1.49 BB/9). He's also an extreme flyball pitcher (posting a major league worst 29.6% groundball rate), but he's also very good at inducing popups (11.3% IFFB%, ask old Barry Zito how that can work out for you) and pitching roughly half of his games in what has so far played out as a desolate pitcher's park.
Slowey has some risk built into his game, but he's got plenty more upside. The rule of investment is asking yourself whether the expected outcome is greater than the expected cost. Given the high popup rate and stingy walk rate, Slowey seems like a WHIP specialist (1.26 career, 1.22 in 2010). This is so despite his "hittability" (career .314 BABIP against). Slowey, however, is no Cliff Lee and his high flyball rate often ends up doing noticeable damage. Note the career 1.39 HR/9 rate (10% HR/FB). That is not the byproduct of bad luck (if anything, Slowey has been slightly lucky). Though Slowey's low WHIP will oft translate into solo shots and mitigated damage, his home run downside inflates his ERA upside to somewhere around the low 4.00s (or high 3.00s at best).
Though we've already noted Slowey's moderate stuff and hinted that strikeouts are not really part of the package, this "Scarlet Letter" is offset by the quality of the team behind him—both on the field and behind the plate. The Twins (+24.3 team UZR) have the fourth-best defense in the AL (behind the Rays, A's and Rangers) and the third best team wOBA (.345) in all of baseball, trailing only the Red Sox (.351) and Yankees (.347) in offensive prowess. These two factors (and the small sample park factors) indicate that Slowey is plausibly capable of outperforming his peripherals and racking up the wins.
Wins+Decent Peripherals+Likely to Overperform is what makes Slowey profit-investment upside attractive. He is completely worth the investment, but he should be monitored carefully due to his ever-present downside risk. Slowey's dividends could be huge—especially if you do not start him against unfavorable matchups (at the Cell, against the Yankees/Red Sox/Rangers).
Recommendation: Slowey is a must own commodity in AL-only and mixed leagues.
Jim Thome | Minnesota | DH | 7 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .223/.333/.441
Here is a quick trivia question. Among all major league hitters with 250+ plate appearances not named Jose Bautista, who leads in ISO? No it is not Miguel Cabrera (.304), Albert Pujols (.276), Luke Scott (.278), Adam Dunn (.294) or a Rangers corner outfielder. It is none other than Old Man River himself, 40-year old Jim Thome (.316). The same Jim Thome who the White Sox passed up last offseason, despite a sub-$2 million dollar salary, because a rotating DH and the incorrigible Mark Kotsay seemed like a good idea at the time. The same Jim Thome who last year posted the second-lowest ISO of his career since 1994 (.232 versus a .155 MLB average) and walked "only" 15.9 percent of the time (8.9% MLB average). The very same Jim Thome who was nonetheless the fourth-most-valuable designated hitter in baseball, whom I ranted and raved about plenty in the offseason.
Over a mere 257 plate appearances this season, Thome has smacked a ridiculous 17 bombs out of the park and posted a .389 OBP. His production, worth a .412 wOBA, has been 62 percentage points better than the major league average hitter (per wRC+). Hit Tracker Online says Thome's long balls are averaging just under 400 feet, with all but two of his home runs on the season having "home run distance" in over 60% of all the major league parks. Sure, almost 70 percent of Thome's plate appearances have come against right-handed pitchers, but his left-handed pitcher splits on the season (65 PA, 5 HR, .378 wOBA) are nothing to sneeze at or dismiss.
Despite all of this, fantasy owners, like Kenny Williams this offseason, seem hellbent on passing up Thome in favor of less productive players in their utility spot. Somehow, only 7 percent of leagues feature a team that enlists Thome's services. Sure, Thome does not play every day, but when he does play, his production more than makes up for his periodic absence. Even with Jason Kubel starting to pick up his offensive game, Thome has seen a continuous trend of increasing playing time from month to month (a slightly injured June excepted).
Heck, even if Thome is not your primary DH, he is certainly worth a roster spot for spot starting and off-day streaming. His current BABIP (.303) is well below his career average (.321) and xBABIP (.336). Even with age and "declining bat speed" considered, Thome's numbers are legitimate and warrant consideration in all but the shallowest of leagues. Even as a (part-time) DH, Thome should not be making less than $2 million this season and he should surely be owned in more than 7 percent of fantasy leagues.
White Sox fans wonder why they are five games behind the Twins in the AL Central standings (at least as of this writing). Do not be a Kenny Williams.
Recommendation: Thome is a must-own player in all AL-only leagues and should be owned in mixed leagues with four-plus bench spots.
Mitch Moreland | Texas | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
Who is Mitch Moreland? He's another first baseman in the "guys who aren't Chris Davis and play first base for the Rangers" bloodline. Moreland was posting solid numbers in Triple-A (.289/.371/.484, .316 BABIP) before getting called up to the show, but Minor League Splits is less than bullish on his major league equivalent production. Per MLS's manual MLE calculator, Moreland's .855 OPS in the PCL is worth a .702 OPS in the majors (.242/.312/.390 triple slash line).
Though Moreland's 29 doubles in 412 PA indicates doubles power which may translate into HR potential at the Arlington, Moreland's AAA stint came in the hitter friendly PCL. His .195 ISO ranks 69th overall amongst all PCL hitters with 100+ PA. Let's pretend that somehow, by some miracle, Moreland's AAA ISO were to directly translate into his exact MLE ISO. Then you would essentially have Jason Kubel, who is going to get more PT down the stretch than Moreland (even with Thome around and mashing) and play in a more premium lineup spot (almost exclusively batting fourth, fifth and sixth in a more premium lineup (the Twins, as a team, have a .344 wOBA, third best in baseball)).
Though Moreland's MLE numbers are better than Jorge Cantú's .270/.325/.324 line for the Rangers thus far, his numbers are nonetheless lackluster, his playing time is questionable and his prospective lineup placing (bottom third) is less than enticing. (Though batting in the bottom third of the Rangers' lineup means a lot more than it would compared to, say. the Royals' lineup.) Moreland's been productive in the majors thus far (45 at-bats), but he is hardly someone worth picking up (let alone watching). No stamp of approval here. Just pick up Jim Thome.
Recommendation: Moreland should not be owned in even 1 percent of fantasy leagues.
Dallas Braden | Oakland | SP | 33 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.69 K/9, 1.72 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.98 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
Trevor Cahill may have a better ERA (2.50) and more wins (12) than his teammate Dallas Braden (3.44, 8 wins), but Braden has been pitching strong in the second half. Braden has won four of his last six starts and has a 2.57 ERA (2.80 K/BB) in the second half. Though his xFIP (4.08) says the seasonal ERA (3.44) may have some luck involved, I say the true factor is team and park effects. Braden pitches in one of baseball's more cavernous parks, and the A's have one of baseball's top defensive teams.
It would be nice to see Braden, who threw a perfect game earlier this year, induce a few more whiffs (7.7 SwStr%, 5.69 K/9), but you take your wins how you get them and Braden's been hot of late. Sure, the A's .312 team wOBA is less than inspiring, but it only takes a few runs to win when you don't let any score. I am hardly saying Braden is top-shelf material, but this late in the season, when the waiver wire gets thin and the championship approaches, every hot hand helps. Braden's been strong in the second half and teams in need of wins/WHIP might do well considering Braden for streaming/spot starts. Oliver's projection seems to agree.
Recommendation: Braden is worth a spot-start/stream in mixed leagues and a roster spot on AL-only teams.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 8:00pm (0) Comments
Jhoulys Chacin | Colorado | SP | 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.33 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9.58 K/9, 2.16 K/BB, 44.7 GB
Oliver ROS: 3.96 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 1.8 K/BB
Despite control issues at times (4.43 BB/9), Jhoulys Chacin interests me greatly. Chacin was a relatively well thought of prospect in the Rockies organization, and thus far he's done nothing to hurt the rosy outlook scouts had of him, in fact he's likely helped further his future outlook thanks to an improved strikeout rate. He has been a bit unlucky with a 3.84 xFIP that sits below his 4.33 ERA on the season.
Chacin's 11.1 percent swinging strike percentage (swstr%) is 2.7 percent better than the 8.4 percent league average. Also helping Chacin's strikeout rate is a glowing 72.6 percent contact percentage (contact%) in comparison to a 80.9 percent league average. Those looking for cheap strikeouts with some wiggle room in ERA and WHIP, should look to add Chacin to their roster. While he may have some ugly outtings, in large part due to bouts of wildness, he also has the talent to string together some solid starts while striking out better than one batter per inning. Those in dynasty leagues should be thrilled to roster him, as he's got a chance to be a fantastic starter with some refining of his control and command.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team mixed leagues or larger leagues, or by owners with innings to burn and strikeouts to gain ground in, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Wilton Lopez | Houston | RP | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.75 K/9, 7.8 K/BB, 51.7 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.47 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 5.0 K/9, 4.5 K/BB
Matt Lindstrom has headed to the DL after a string of implosions in the ninth inning for the Houston Astros, leaving the closer role open. The first save in the wake of Lindstrom being removed temporarily from the closer role (prior to being placed on the DL Thursday), was nailed down by Wilton Lopez, in spite of reports of Brandon Lyon being the interim closer. Initial reports following the game were that Lyon was simply unavailable that evening. Regardless, it is clear who the next in line is should Lyon falter as the temporary closer.
It is reasonable to speculate that Lopez is the best candidate for the job, and while he doesn't have the always valuable closer experience (sarcasm intended), he may end up recording the most saves for the Astros between now and the end of the season. Lopez doesn't post the typical high strikeout closer profile, but his K/BB has been sparkling, thanks to a decent strikeout rate, and an elite walk rate (0.90 BB/9). A 3.14 xFIP illustrates that Lopez's current season ERA isn't a fluke. In addition to his elite K/BB rate, Lopez's GB rate is fantastic, which will limit his home run damage. At this point of the season, every win in H-2-H leagues count, and every point in the standings is a battle, time to speculate and throw some hail-marys.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners in desperate need of saves in any size league, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Brandon Lyon | Houston | RP | 17 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.70 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.27 K/9, 1.50 K/BB, 37.6 GB
Oliver ROS: 3.98 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.0 K/BB
As mentioned above, Lyon is almost certainly going to be handed the closer role while Lindstrom is shelved. Even with the first crack, I find it hard to endorse a pitcher with a 4.92 xFIP, a mediocre strikeout rate, and a less than league average walk rate (4.18 BB/9 as opposed to a league average of 3.30 BB/9). Toss in that Lyon allows batters to air the ball out, and he has the potential to put the blow torch to your team ERA and WHIP. Owners with significant cushions in ERA and WHIP, and a penchant for walking on the wild side, may want to ride the spectacular Lyon roller coaster of doom (something you'd expect to see in a crappy Final Destination-esque horror movie). Ffor those with a weak heart, I suggest passing.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners desperate for saves with room to take a hit in ERA, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Homer Bailey | Cincinnati | SP | 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.92 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.15 K/9, 2.14 K/BB, 40.0 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.94 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 1.78 K/BB
Homer Bailey will one day make me look great for continued faith in his raw abilities, or will make me look like a fool in the same vein as Daniel Cabrera once did. He has done very little this season to justify my continued belief in him being a player of value, but he has posted a slightly better than league average strikeout rate (7.04 K/9 is league average) and only slightly worse than league average walk rate (3.30 BB/9 is league average, Bailey's is 3.34 BB/9) all with the potential for more.
Bailey has shown all he needs to in the high minors. The question now is will he simply be a league average pitcher, as he is now, or will he succeed to the degree he has in the high minors? Those in need of significant help in pitching categories should strongly consider the high upside of Bailey and take the gamble. Those in a comfortable spot in their league standings in pitching categories may be better suited riding out a slightly lower upside player with a higher floor, and watching as others gamble. Those in dynasty leagues should hold out hope on Bailey, as the alternatives on the waiver wire almost certainly don't offer the same potential Bailey does.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team mixed leagues or larger leagues, or by owners with innings to burn and strikeouts to gain ground in, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Eric Young Jr. | Colorado | 2B/OF | 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .254/.320/.346
Need steals? Eric Young Jr. is your guy. Currently seeing an extended audition in the leadoff spot for the Rockies, while splitting time playing second base and outfield, Young has the potential to string together stolen bases in bunches. Small sample size issues abound, but a 12.5 percent walk rate and a .357 OBP bode well for Young being on base and having opportunities to steal bags. Also helping Young is a great success rate, with seven stolen bases in eight chances.
I again caution about sample sizes, but Young's batted ball data suggest that he understands his skill set as he's slapping line drives (23.3 LD rate) and putting the ball on the ground (53.5 GB rate). Arguments can, and have been made, that even speed merchants should look to air the ball out some because of the extra bases that come with fly balls falling for hits, but fantasy owners shouldn't concern themselves with that in Young's case, as singles help his stolen base cause much more than extra base hits.
Hitting atop the Rockies lineup, and posting a solid OBP means that Young should be more than a one trick pony, and should also contribute in runs scored. With an x of .310, and an actual BABIP of .302, only a 12.2 strikeout rate, and the aforementioned batted ball distribution, it's likely he can positively, or at least not negatively, contribute to fantasy owners' batting average as well. As if owning Young didn't offer enough perks, the possibility of slotting him in the outfield, at second base, and at middle infielder also offers the benefit of roster flexibility.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues or larger using a MI, should be owned in all leagues by owners in need of stolen bases, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Pat Burrell | San Francisco | OF | 12 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .232/.339/.410
The revival of Pat Burrell since his move back to the National League continues as he's still raking, yet he's still unowned in 88-percent of Yahoo! leagues. In 300 plate appearances Burrell has hit 14 home runs thanks to airing the ball out (50.8 FB) and a 14.6 HR/FB. Likely due to small sample size issues, Burrell has a UZR that doesn't resemble what a statue might post in the outfield (a respectable for Burrell -0.8 UZR).
Since being dealt back to the National League, Burrell has two months of batting averages north of .300 (June and August) sandwiching an ugly sub .200 batting average in July, largely driven by a poor BABIP (.237) which can be attributed to a sky high fly ball rate (61.5 percent) coupled with an insanely low for him 4.2 percent HR/FB rate with a 7.7 percent line drive rate sprinkled in for good measure. Because of his fly ball centric ways, and his high strikeout rate, Burrell's batting average will hinge largely on his HR/FB rate, so if Burrell is hot, he's a good player to ride out due to home runs in bunches and a solid batting average with it. Unfortunately, a Burrell ice cold streak similar to his July can come at any time, so the time is now to hop on the Burrell bandwagon if he's available in your league.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Nyjer Morgan | Washington | OF | 33 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .277/.330/.345
Nyjer Morgan returned from the DL on Thursday night, and has a chance to pay immediate stolen base dividends to those who have stashed him on their fantasy DL and are now activating him themselves, or those who choose to scoop him off the waiver wire. The biggest black cloud hovering over Morgan's stolen base opportunities is a putrid stolen base rate (29 stolen bases with 14 caught stealing). What should be comforting for fantasy owners is that in spite of constantly getting gunned out, Morgan has still been allowed to attempt to steal a base 43 times.
Morgan is the epitome of a one-trick pony, as his poor OBP will limit his runs scored, his batting average is mediocre, and he offers zero power. Look Morgan's way in fantasy only if you are in need of stolen bases. Those in dynasty leagues need to hope to see Morgan cut back on a poor strikeout rate (16.8 percent) and improve on his low walk rate (6.8 percent) if he's going to hold any value over the next few seasons.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues or larger using five outfielders, should in all leagues by owners in desperate need of stolen bases, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Jose Guillen | San Francisco | OF | 27 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .248/.299/.400
Jose Guillen was acquired at the end of last week by the San Francisco Giants when they claimed him off waivers from the Kansas City Royals. The move is largely irrelevant, as Guillen is a mediocre power source (12.6 HR/FB rate on 41.3 percent FB rate) with a poor walk rate (6.0 percent) and the fielding skills of a designated hitter (which he served almost exclusively as with the Royals) in a league that doesn't use the designated hitter. Unlike Burrell, who is also a designated hitter masquerading as an outfielder, Guillen's stick isn't likely going to prove good enough to warrant the type of regular playing time Burrell has been seeing. Expect to see Guillen settle in as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter for the Giants, which makes him all but worthless. Those in medium or deep NL-only leagues may want to consider giving him a look and hoping he gets off to a hot start, but those are the only leagues worth owning Guillen in.
Recommendation: Should only be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 10:00pm (1) Comments
Monday, August 23, 2010
I traded Jesus.
Montero, that is. There. I said it. I have confessed my sin. I am prepared to repent. But not quite yet. There's still seven weeks left in the baseball season.
Jesus Montero and I go way back. It was March of 2008. I had returned to fantasy baseball after a nearly two decades hiatus in which I wandered the wilderness, got married, had kids and worked like a dog. Invited by a colleague to join an American League-only roto league, one with keepers and a deep reserve list, I agreed, then spent the few weeks I had trying to make up for spending more time changing diapers than watching what makes a good change-up.
My cram skills, finely honed by 20 years of schooling, were badly rusted. So when I walked into the basement of Dan Grindstaff's basement, which would soon be filled with pizza and beer, I sat down having done an admirable job studying the available major league talent. But the minor leagues -- whoa Betsy -- I came armed with nothing more than someone else's ranking sheet and some vague notion that I would target catchers because they were so scarce (and so speedy to develop -- not).
I braced myself for the ride that is an auction and survived with only one inexcusable blunder, out-bidding a smarter rival for Richie Sexton when I didn't really need another first baseman (I guess that's two blunders).
Then I turned my focus, or what remained of it, to the reserve draft, a snake draft with each team to have 17 picks. I began with minor leaguers closer to the the Show, but soon they were gone and I had crossed out most of the top-rated prospects. Not willing to simply give in to random guesses, I looked at what was left on my list and noticed something striking: There were a few guys with really strange names, at least in my part of the world.
Beau Mills. Got 'im
Lars Anderson. Check.
And finally Jesus. No, not Jesus Rafael Montero, who has since batted 340 times and swatted one home run for the Cardinals organization -- quick aside: If you can afford a dead roster spot next year nominate this Montero and see if anyone bites. No, I drafted the real deal, the one with no middle name, who had played all of 33 games the year before in rookie ball.
It was only later as the season would unfold that I had picked him a year or two early: While ours is a keeper league, we can only keep a player for three years at their auctioned or drafted price -- or boost the salary by signing a long-term contract before the third year. I had the golden boy but it was too early, a case of premature anticipation, something I'm told is treatable.
So I dropped Montero by season's end, then grimaced when the following season, he was taken in the reserve draft a few slots before my turn by a rival sipping tropical drinks drafting from a cruise ship via an Internet connection.
By July I had decided to trade for the following year, swinging deals for bargain-priced Sin-Soo Choo and Adam Lind. Then I turned my gaze toward Montero and pulled the trigger, giving up a moderately-priced Hideki Matsui along with Ronny Cedeno and Mike Moustakas.
Jesus had returned. I was saved. (Quite a feat as I'm Jewish.)
I kept Montero for this year, one of the building blocks for my dynasty along with Desmond Jennings, Justin Smoak and Brian Matusz. I began the year as a heavy favorite, confident because of what seemed an unparalleled keeper list. Over-confident, it turned out.
Lost to injuries for chunks of the season were Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Cameron, Kelly Shoppach and Kendry Morales.
By the time Morales was carted off it was clear my dream of dominance was illusory. I turned to the one owner in the league whose circumstance seemed a perfect match for my own. His team appeared out of contention and he was openly talking to trade. He had a struggling and moderately-high priced Mark Teixeira and two studs in the last year of their contracts, Justin Verlander and Dustin Pedroia. I had Morales locked up for another year at a bargain basement price of $6. The proposal was straight forward: Teixeira would replace Morales and Pedroia would replace Cabrera in my lineup while Verlander would shore up a staff that was chronically short of wins. My rival would get the best-priced slugger for next year and, if that wasn't enough, I'd add a prospect -- I had half of the top 20 prospects in the league.
What followed wasn't negotiations. My rival was ambivalent. He didn't have the time to do the research needed to come to a conclusion about what he wanted -- he had just too much going on his life to slavishly devote himself, his pursuit of fantasy hobbled by more trivial things like work, family, friends and hobbies. Our non-talks stretched out weeks. Time was running out for me: One of my other rivals had quietly assembled a team that was starting to blow away everyone else. With a Internet-less trip looming to Italy, I stepped up the pressure, but there was to be no exchange of players or vows. I left the continent with the light of first place growing ever dimmer, my only solace weeks of wine, food, natural beauty and invigorating history.
I returned resigned to second only to realize even that consolation prize was slipping from my grip. Dumping season had begun, a few rivals had strengthened their squads, and then my bad luck with injuries tag-teamed with a nasty and unexpected turn of events at the trade deadline: Ron Gardenhire decided John Rauch, my second closer, wasn't mediocre enough, and traded for Matt Capps.
There weren't a lot of dance partners left: Most teams were still in contention to finish in the money. I didn't have excess to trade except prospects. I sent out offers to two team owners I thought had given up the current season, one a blockbuster that was lost in email -- he traded instead with a rival. A second owner was slow to get back. I sat by the computer, awaiting a response. It was my high school prom all over again.
Then, just to stir the pot and vent, I placed all my studs for next year on the trading block. At long last the second owner replied. Over the course of a day we hammered out a deal: I traded away Lonnie Chisenhall and Tanner Scheppers for two months of Josh Beckett, injury risk and all.
Later I was to swing a deal with the rival that leads the field by 30 points, trading Max Scherzer and Jemile Weeks for Colby Lewis, Alexei Ramirez (who is in the last year of his contract) and Mitch Moreland.
Neither trade upset me: I don't think Chisenhall or Scheppers will contribute too much next year, Lewis and Scherzer are a wash and I really like Moreland's chances to surprise as a poor man's Billy Butler.
But between those trades I pulled another. With Rauch out as closer I needed another and I still had to make up ground in wins, batting average and steals just to hold on to second place.. I called the only owner in our league who seems always cool, and said Hey Jude (he gets that a lot), let's deal. He asked me who I wanted. Brian Fuentes, Brett Cecil, Nick Markakis and Jacoby Ellsbury, all either in the last year of their contracts or over-priced. Now who would I give back, he asked. Marco Scutaro, I said, J.D. Drew. And then the words came tumbling from my mouth like a Mookie Wilson ground ball slipping through the wickets of Bill Buckner.
In the back of my mind I was already rationalizing the move: He was entering his third year next season and probably would begin in the minors, he still couldn't catch all that well, first base wasn't an option and the Yankees seemed intent on trading him. He had only been hitting well for a couple of weeks. I already had Matt Weiters on my squad and could get by without a second stud catcher. I liked Eric Hosmer, only in his first year of a contract, even more.
But for the second time in two years I had lost Montero and it still feels like a kick in the gut, a self-inflicted one at that, no small feat when you consider my lack of flexibility. Ellsbury going down for likely the rest of the year, a risk I knowingly assumed, makes it even worse.
Which brings me to this: In your time playing fantasy baseball, which one move caused you the most anguish? And for those whose wound is not so fresh, what, if anything, have you learned?
Posted by Jonathan Sher at 4:50am (21) Comments
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
As someone who writes an article a week for a fantasy baseball website and also plays fantasy baseball (imagine that!), I have a number of small strategies that I use in my leagues. Some I do subconsciously and all of them are too trivial to warrant their own post, but hopefully you find at least one you like as you read down the list.
No %$ing bench hitters!
The exclamation above is something I routinely would angrily say to my leaguemates when they would offer me a trade involving one of their bench hitters. Although it is illogical to automatically dismiss the potential value in a player simply because he is on another team's bench, this tendency of mine allowed me to realize something when sending trades myself.
If i am going to include a marginal hitter in a trade—usually as a throw-in or small piece compared to the main players in the deal—it is best to place that hitter in my starting lineup while my trade is offered. Theoretically this should not make a difference, but people will perceive your player much differently when he is in your starting lineup compared to when he is out.
Never been dumped
This is the most trivial of the group and to be honest I have not used it this year, but one of you may use it. First of all, it can only be done in daily updated leagues where free agents can be added and dropped indefinitely.
Lets say you want to add a player but are having a tough time finding a player you are comfortable dropping. What you can do to increase the chance the player you drop does not get added, is make a series of useless transactions after dropping the valued player, in effect pushing the transaction listing with his name further down the list of recent transactions.
Mondays and Thursdays
In baseball terms the days Monday and Thursday have significance in that there is not a full slate of games on these days. In daily leagues this means that in order to maximize your hitting, adding extra hitters on these days is optimal. On the other days of the week, you may then pick up a starter to spot-start or a reliever, ideally one who could possibly earn a save that night.
Open DL spots are roster spots
If you are lucky enough to not have all of your DL spots taken up at a point in the season by injured players, it is sometimes a good idea to add an available player who is currently on the DL since you won't have to drop anyone from your team for more than a day to do so.
I used this strategy this year with Coco Crisp, who has been insanely productive when healthy. Even though it was hard to justify even rostering him on my DL when he was hurt for the third time while barely playing, it was certainly worth the trouble looking back.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:29am (4) Comments
Over the next seven days, Brad Johnson, Derek Carty and I will answer seven Fantasy Mailbag questions with a strong focus on keeper leagues. We will attempt to cover one or two per day, with the series rounding out by Friday or Saturday. I hope these answers will help you during the offseason and as Aug. 31 trade deadlines arrive (at least for leagues that have such a late deadline). Thank you to all who sent in questions; we greatly appreciate your feedback and participation. We apologize to those whose questions weren't chosen for answering and hope you find answers (and solace) here nonetheless.
Without further ado, I present question No. 1, which comes from Amit, who writes:
League: 14 Team Mixed 5x5 Roto w/ 2 Catchers
Can keep 5 at listed prices (did a lot of trading for low priced rookies).
Any Sept. Call-ups to pick up now, and hold until next year?
C. Santana - $4
Arencibia - $4
Ike Davis - $4
Ian Stewart - $13
B. Wallace - $4
Aybar - $14
Walker (PIT) - $4
Coghlan - $5
Gardner - $4
C. Young - $6
D. Jennings - $4
Smoak - $4
D. Brown - $6
CJ Wilson - $4
Feliz - $4
Hellickson - $4
Bumgarner - $4
Amit, of the players you can keep, I would recommend you at least keep Carlos Santana, Neftali Feliz and Jeremy Hellickson.
Santana and Arencibia may have similar power upsides (though I give the edge to Arencibia), but in both AVG and OBP leagues, Santana will be the more valuable player. Arencibia's MLE production this season (per Minor League Splits equivocates into a .242 AVG and .286 OBP. Arencibia is a player with plenty of power (.235 MLE ISO), but his poor plate discipline (MiLB career: 350/92 K/BB ratio, 22% K%, 5.4% BB% in the minors), his extreme flyball ways (MiLB career: 47.4% FB%, good for ISO but bad for AVG) and an unhealthy popup propensity (MiLB career: 12.6 IFFB%) will forever limit his AVG/OBP upside and fantasy value. In AVG leagues, Arencibia is a Jack Cust-type eligible at catcher. In OBP leagues, he’s a John Buck clone. On the other hand, Santana’s numbers this year translate into an MLE of .275/.385/.500. Furthermore, Santana was producing a .260/.401/.467 line with six HR (and three SB) in less than 200 PA before going down with a knee injury. Of course, recovering from a knee injury has risks of its own, but in terms of productive upside, Santana clearly has the edge on Arencibia if for no other reason than his AVG/OBP potential. I personally peg the Indians offensive lineup to be much more potent in 2010 (especially with a healthy/productive Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo in the nucleus of the order), so there should not be lingering R/RBI concerns for Santana (assuming they slot him back in the middle of the lineup again next season).
Next, you have to take Hellickson because he is not only the best pitcher of the names listed above, but he’s also one of the best (pitching) prospects in baseball. Hellickson not only toyed with minor league hitters this season (2.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 123:35 K/BB ratio over 117.2 IP, 3.45 MLE FIP), but he also proved himself capable of holding his own in the majors. In four starts this season against the Twins (.344 wOBA, third-best in baseball), the Tigers, Orioles and A's, Hellickson produced a strong 2.05 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP and a ridiculous 25:4 K/BB ratio over 26.1 IP. Though Hellickson will be almost exclusively used in a relief role for the rest of 2010, there is a strong likelihood that he will garner a rotation spot in 2011—he has nothing left to prove in the minors.
Finally, I recommend Feliz as a “must keep” because he has been strong as a closer on a contending team that should also contend in 2011 (3.57 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 31-for-34 in save chances), but there is always the possibility that Texas returns Feliz to the starting role that he was born to play. Even with Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis hanging around, the Rangers' 4.36 xFIP ranks in the bottom half of baseball's pitching staffs. Rich Harden’s 2011 option is almost certain to be declined by the Rangers’ and Feliz compiled a strong 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 325:119 K/BB ratio (2.73) over 276 innings (mostly as a starter) en route to a 2.87 FIP in the minors. MLS pegs Neftali career numbers as a starter as worth a 4.10 FIP in the Arlington. That mark would best all of the Rangers’ starters this year short of Lee and Lewis.
The rest of the keeps are personal suggestions. I like Gardner’s pricetag given his AVG/SB upside (7.9 speed score this year) and improving walking skills. If Gardner continues to get on base more than 35% of the time, he will easily bust the 50 SB mark in 550 PA. Swisher and Granderson will almost certainly occupy two of the three available OF spots for the Yankees in 2010, but there is no reason (short of Carl Crawford) that the 27-year-old Gardner (.357 wOBA, +21.6 UZR/150 as an OF this season, +26.8 career) won’t see the majority of the playing time in 2011—even if Thames (.388 wOBA in 2010, .338 career) or Kearns (.418 wOBA, .343 career), both of whom have expiring contracts, returns to wear pinstripes in 2011. If you think Crawford is going to sign with the Yankees (and not re-sign with the Rays), however, perhaps Domonic Brown (.292/.330/.472 MLE) would be a better OF keep.
With your final keeper spot, I would also recommend stashing away Desmond Jennings for 2011. He's torn up minor league pitching in his MiLB career (combined .300/.382/.443 line) and while "the next Carl Crawford" has not flashed much Carl Crawford power (MiLB career: .102 MLE ISO), he’s stolen his fair share of bases (168/200 in stolen base attempts over 413 MiLB games). MLS is bearish on Jennings’ career MLE (.241/.303/.343 (.646 OPS)), but Jennings’ increased line drive propensities in Triple-A this year, combined with an increased groundball rate, should lend to a higher MLE AVG (and OBP, when paired with his above average 10.5 percent walk rate in the minors).
Other guys like C.J. Wilson, Domonic Brown and Madison Bumgarner are certainly enticing options based on their minor/major league performances this year (as is Justin Smoak if for no other reason than his minor league career numbers), but some combination of xFIP splits, high xBABIPs and LOB%'s, a history of injuries or a lack of a proven track record in the majors makes these four guys more risky in my view. Brown is the most enticing keeper of the four listed here, as his MiLB numbers are nothing short of superb (plus, if someone won't trade you for Roy Halladay, you are probably pretty good). As someone who likes to evaluate players not absolutely, but in terms of profit (risk-production-cost analysis), I see Santana, Hellickson, Feliz, Gardner and Jennings as the best options to keep.
In terms of September call-ups to watch out for, at least in the AL, I would keep an eye on Dan Johnson, Ivan Nova, Chris Davis, Kila Kaaihue, Brandon Allen, Chris Tillman, Mike Moustakas and Lars Anderson. This will be the topic of this week’s AL WW column (No. 1), so I’ll leave this analysis for later in the week.