December 9, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011
Houston Astros: Top 10 Prospects
1. Jordan Lyles / SP / Lyles doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but his change-up makes it look better than it is. He has plus command and movement on everything he throws except for his curveball, which shows promise but is a long way off. He has a chance to be the next Oswalt-level Houston hurler.
2. Jiovanni Mier / SS / His defense should be an asset going forward, but he showed that improvement and consistency is needed. Offensively, his slight power and speed potential didn't play much of a factor in 2010 and his strikeout rate was too high, but he showed effective plate discipline. He is still one of my favorite players in the minor leagues but needs to bounce back.
3. Delino DeShields / 2B/OF / DeShields looks like a bit of an overdraft at No. 8 overall in the 2010 draft. He has speed to burn, is a solid defender, and has a little bit of power potential, yet is raw in his plate approach. But that's to be expected of a high schooler. I like him but don't love him.
4. Mike Foltynewicz / SP / Foltynewicz fits the high-upside high school mold with his tall frame, athleticism, low-90s heat, and feel for his secondary offerings. The tools are likable, but there is so much to prove.
5. Tanner Bushue / SP / Bushue had a so-so full-season debut. His body has not taken a jump forward to this point, leaving his velocity in the low 90s at best. His curveball has shown promise, but his overall command has been inconsistent.
6. Jonathan Villar / SS/3B/2B / Villar's strikeout rate and fielding percentage don't inspire much confidence, but he is 19 years old, has some speed to work with, and a nice line-drive swing.
7. Jimmy Paredes / 2B / Paredes is an intriguing athlete with good speed, solid contact skills, and power potential, but is too undisciplined at the plate to fully buy in. Whether or not his power develops could be his make-or-break factor.
8. Austin Wates / OF / Wates has pretty much average skills across the board and still has some projection in his bat. Some say his power could take off, while others think his plate discipline could separate him.
9. J.D. Martinez / OF / His displayed home run power is pushing Martinez up prospect boards, but his flat swing makes me think it won't show at higher levels. His strong approach at the plate should translate, giving him a shot at the majors.
10. Jay Austin / OF / After Martinez, Houston's system thins out considerably. Austin has game changing speed, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't doing him any favors. He still has considerable upside and the ability to improve.
Houston Astros: Top 10 Players Under Age 26 (as of 4/1/11)
1. Jordan Lyles / SP
2. Brett Wallace / 1B/3B
3. Jason Castro / C
4. Jiovanni Mier / SS
5. Delino DeShields / 2B/OF
6. Mike Foltynewicz / SP
7. Tanner Bushue / SP
8. Jonathan Villar / SS/3B/2B
9. Jimmy Paredes / 2B
10. Austin Wates / OF
Arizona Diamondbacks: Top 10 Prospects
1. Jarrod Parker / SP / Reports are positive regarding Parker's return from Tommy John surgery. I am cautiously optimistic. Even though he is a question mark, he is still the best that Arizona's farm system has to offer.
2. Tyler Skaggs / SP / Skaggs has one of the best curveballs in minor league baseball. His fastball sits in the low-90s and his change-up is a below-average offering. He is intriguing but will need to show he has something else to scare hitters with besides his breaking ball.
3. Wade Miley / SP / Miley's curveball isn't far behind Skaggs'. He does a great job of inducing groundballs, and his defense aided him on his way to a breakout 2010.
4. Bobby Borchering / 3B/1B / Borchering is still whiffing more than anyone expected, but posted a stellar 2010. His best tool, his power, took a great first step. Defensively it got ugly at times. It would be a shame if he needs to move to first base, as his arm would be wasted there.
5. Pat Corbin / SP / Corbin has sharp command of a balanced and advanced-for-his-age three-pitch mix, plus he is young enough to gain velocity and potentially develop his slider into an out pitch.
6. Matt Davidson / 3B/OF/1B / Davidson posted a year that was very similar to Borchering's, although I don't see as much future power projection for Davidson. Other than the power, they are similar prospects.
7. Charles Brewer / SP / Brewer showed superb command of a modest repertoire against Single-A competition. He will be 23 when he hits Double-A in 2011 and will either sink or swim.
8. Chris Owings / SS/2B / Owings is young but rather limited in his upside. The best thing he has going for him is that his defense looks stellar at shortstop. He also has some speed to work with and a short, disciplined swing.
9. Marc Krauss / OF / Krauss has disappointed with his contact rate, which was supposed to be a skill that was at least average. His power played up in the California League (whose doesn't?), but doesn't project to be anything more than average.
10. A.J. Pollock / OF / Mike Belfiore and Ryan Wheeler received consideration, but Pollock is the better all-around prospect and also the better bet to reach the majors one day, despite his lack of a standout tool and injury history.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Top 10 Players Under Age 26 (as of 4/1/11)
1. Justin Upton / OF
2. Daniel Hudson / SP
3. Jarrod Parker / SP
4. Brandon Allen / 1B/OF
5. Tyler Skaggs / SP
6. Barry Enright / SP
7. Wade Miley / SP
8. Bobby Borchering / 3B/1B
9. David Hernandez / RP/SP
10. Gerardo Parra / OF
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:01am (7) Comments
Friday, January 14, 2011
Other 2011 fantasy rankings by position:
Catcher || First Base || Second Base || Shortstop || Third Base || Corner and Middle Infield || Outfield
To remind everyone: These rankings are based on position eligibility. Players who are eligible at multiple positions will be ranked in comparison with others at each relevant position. You will also note asterisks next to the names of certain players. These indicate health risks. Health concerns have been taken into consideration, as have expected talent and expected playing time to yield expected production.
Position eligibility and evaluation criteria for these rankings are explained here. The "O" in front of ERA, WHIP and K/9 stands for Oliver-projected*.
*Oliver's 2011 projections have been updated since I wrote down all of the prospective pitching statistics for my pitcher rankings. Due to the sheer volume of time it would take to update my positional rankings for pitchers, I am going to keep the Oliver 2011 category listed as is. Most of the projections are essentially similar, but for the most up to date projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here. If you are unsure of whether to subscribe to THT Forecasts, you can read about why I love THT Forecasts by clicking here
Rank Name Team oERA oWHIP oK/9 1 Roy Halladay Phillies 3.32 1.13 7.2 2 Tim Lincecum Giants 3.27 1.21 10.0 3 Felix Hernandez Mariners 3.35 1.23 7.7 4 Adam Wainwright* Cardinals 3.27 1.17 8.0 5 Josh Johnson Marlins 3.40 1.22 7.9 6 Cliff Lee Phillies 3.34 1.15 6.9 7 C.C. Sabathia Yankees 3.59 1.24 7.4 8 Jon Lester Red Sox 3.74 1.25 8.6 9 Dan Haren Angels 3.68 1.19 8.3 10 Zack Greinke Brewers 3.49 1.21 8.3 11 Justin Verlander Tigers 3.67 1.28 8.8 12 Chris Carpenter Cardinals 3.49 1.20 6.5 13 Francisco Liriano Twins 4.18 1.37 8.4 14 Cole Hamels Phillies 3.78 1.23 8.1 15 Max Scherzer Tigers 3.77 1.27 9.0 16 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 3.33 1.26 9.2 17 Mat Latos Padres 3.37 1.18 8.4 18 Jered Weaver Angels 3.77 1.25 8.3 19 Tommy Hanson Braves 3.41 1.19 8.3 20 Ubaldo Jimenez Rockies 3.35 1.25 8.5 21 Yovani Gallardo Brewers 3.93 1.36 9.1 22 Roy Oswalt Phillies 3.56 1.20 7.2 23 Ricky Nolasco Marlins 4.09 1.26 7.9 24 Jeremy Hellickson Rays 3.72 1.22 8.5 25 Shaun Marcum Brewers 3.82 1.24 7.0 26 Chad Billingsley Dodgers 3.94 1.35 7.9 27 David Price Rays 3.86 1.32 7.6 28 Hiroki Kuroda Dodgers 3.64 1.24 6.2 29 Colby Lewis Rangers 3.33 1.16 8.4 30 Brett Anderson Athletics 3.87 1.27 7.1 31 Madison Bumgarner Giants 3.51 1.21 6.9 32 Ted Lilly Dodgers 3.67 1.18 7.4 33 Jhoulys Chacin Rockies 3.60 1.27 8.0 34 Wandy Rodriguez Astros 4.00 1.33 7.6 35 Josh Beckett Red Sox 4.26 1.31 7.9 36 Phil Hughes Yankees 3.87 1.29 7.7 37 Daniel Hudson Diamondbacks 3.94 1.26 8.4 38 Matt Cain Giants 3.78 1.27 7.4 39 Ian Kennedy Diamondbacks 3.92 1.29 7.7 40 Ryan Dempster Cubs 4.02 1.34 7.7 41 Gavin Floyd White Sox 4.07 1.33 6.8 42 Jaime Garcia Cardinals 3.86 1.34 7.3 43 Brandon Webb* Rangers 3.86 1.31 6.8 44 Ricky Romero Blue Jays 4.59 1.49 6.7 45 Tim Hudson Braves 3.92 1.32 5.4 46 Jordan Zimmerman Nationals 4.20 1.32 7.7 47 Gio Gonzalez Athletics 4.40 1.46 8.4 48 Travis Wood Reds 3.69 1.27 7.3 49 John Danks White Sox 3.79 1.29 6.8 50 Matt Garza Cubs 4.15 1.33 6.9 51 Clay Buchholz Red Sox 3.78 1.32 6.8 52 Scott Baker Twins 4.37 1.32 7.2 53 Brian Matusz Orioles 3.89 1.29 7.9 54 Marc Rzepczynski Blue Jays 4.40 1.44 7.8 55 Trevor Cahill Athletics 4.00 1.31 5.9 56 C.J. Wilson Rangers 3.91 1.36 7.5 57 James Shields Rays 4.62 1.37 7.1 58 Kyle Drabek Blue Jays 4.10 1.37 6.8 59 Jason Hammel Rockies 4.21 1.34 6.8 60 Wade Davis Rays 4.36 1.41 6.7 61 Dallas Braden Athletics 4.18 1.34 5.7 62 Jonathan Sanchez Giants 4.19 1.39 9.3 63 Jorge de la Rosa Rockies 4.07 1.35 8.8 64 Brandon Morrow Blue Jays 4.26 1.41 8.7 65 Javier Vazquez* Marlins 4.16 1.31 7.7 66 Carlos Zambrano* Cubs 4.06 1.41 7.2 67 Jake Peavy* White Sox 3.86 1.29 8.0 68 Derek Holland Rangers 4.12 1.33 7.3 69 Brett Myers* Astros 4.24 1.35 7.0 70 Johan Santana* Mets 3.82 1.27 7.0 71 Rich Harden* Athletics 4.36 1.40 9.2 72 Kevin Slowey* Twins 4.47 1.30 6.8 73 Johnny Cueto Reds 4.33 1.35 6.9 74 Justin Masterson Indians 4.43 1.44 7.0 75 Edinson Volquez Reds 4.15 1.40 8.5 76 Ervin Santana Angels 4.50 1.37 7.1 77 Bud Norris Astros 4.57 1.47 8.3 78 Randy Wells Cubs 4.12 1.36 6.2 79 Tom Gorzelanny Cubs 4.34 1.45 7.5 80 Jair Jurrjens Braves 4.12 1.37 6.5 81 Aaron Harang Padres 4.81 1.44 6.9 82 Bronson Arroyo Reds 3.97 1.28 5.4 83 Edwin Jackson White Sox 4.45 1.42 6.9 84 Chris Young* FA 4.82 1.50 6.7 85 Homer Bailey Reds 4.43 1.45 7.4 86 Joel Pineiro Angels 4.10 1.29 4.9 87 Daisuke Matsuzaka Red Sox 4.46 1.44 7.5 88 Rick Porcello Tigers 4.19 1.34 5.1 89 Anibal Sanchez Marlins 4.10 1.40 6.8 90 Derek Lowe Braves 4.25 1.39 5.6 91 Carl Pavano Twins 4.52 1.34 5.2 92 Mike Leake Reds 3.52 1.21 7.5 93 Mike Pelfrey Mets 4.62 1.46 5.1 94 R.A. Dickey Mets 4.26 1.38 5.1 95 John Lackey Red Sox 4.37 1.36 6.5 96 Hisanori Takahashi Angels 4.12 1.34 7.3 97 Clayton Richard Padres 4.37 1.43 6.3 98 Jeff Niemann Rays 4.30 1.37 6.5 99 Joe Blanton Phillies 4.72 1.42 6.3 100 Chris Tillman Orioles 4.28 1.39 7.1*Assuming health, which means assuming the amount of health I expect from them (which in the case of Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, Javier Vazquez, Johan Santana, and Carlos Zambrano, is a guessing game at best), and being tendered a contract.
This list is massive to say the least. I recommend digesting it in parts, and thus, beyond the intro, I have broken my analysis down by tiers of 10. A hundred starting pitchers seems like a lot of names to rank, and to be frank the bottom 30-40 ranked pitchers are mostly dart throws. Nonetheless, I tried my best to accurately index my perceived values and so many names are included here to help distill the "top talents" for those participating in AL/NL-only leagues that require digging into a deeper pool.
Absent from this list are several names which could provide useful fantasy value in 2011—in particular Stephen Strasburg, Justin Duchscherer, Mike Minor (uncertain role and P.T., though clearly talented), and Kris Medlen. The Duke's health is a perpetual question mark, and hence his value is impossible to gauge, but he is solid when healthy. The other two will be returning from Tommy John surgery mid-to-late season and could provide 30-40 valuable innings. That might not seem like much from a starting pitcher, but employing either's services would be the equivalent of rostering an elite reliever for most of the season. Chris Sale might also prove valuable as a Sean Marshall-like swingman for the South Siders. I have no clue how the White Sox plan to use Sale, however, or whether he'll be on the major league roster to open the season. Because of this, he is unranked, but should be kept on your radar as draft day approaches.
Likewise, unranked pitchers Erik Bedard (4.45 oERA, 1.42 oWHIP, 7.70 oK/9), Chien-Ming Wang (4.52 oERA, 1.45 oWHIP, 5.20 oK/9), Andy Pettitte (4.29 ERA, 1.39 oWHIP, 6.40 oK/9) and Andrew Cashner (4.15 oERA, 1.41 oWHIP, 7.60 oK/9) could prove valuable depending on how their respective teams use them, whether they remain healthy, and whether they play big league ball in 2011. These are names to keep an eye on. I have intentionally omitted Cardinal Jake Westbrook (4.42 oERA, 1.39 oWHIP, 5.60 oK/9) because he offers little-to-no upside in fantasy or real life—he's a fourth or fifth starter and innings eater, no more —and because he made me look like an idiot for predicting he would sign with the Rockies.
Aroldis Chapman is also unranked because the Reds plan to keep him in the bullpen next season. Look for him on the relief pitcher rankings.
Of the pitchers ranked above, some of my favorite names likely to turn a 2011 fantasy profit—that is to say, they outproduce their cost/average draft position—include Max Scherzer, Mat Latos, Tommy Hanson, Ricky Nolasco, Colby Lewis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jhoulys Chacin, Josh Beckett, Shaun Marcum, Daniel Hudson, Gavin Floyd, Ian Kennedy, Gio Gonzelz, Traviz Wood, Brian Matusz, and Marc Rzepcynski. I even expect stud pitchers Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren to be relatively underrated heading into the draft.
Below I have broken down pitchers by tiers, focusing on pitcher picks likely to turn a fantasy profit or, in the case of early-round, top-tiered picks, guys likely to give you the best dollar value for your investment.
Tier 1: Starters ranked No. 1-10
While the top 10 names here are all universally accepted "safe pick" fantasy studs, not all will provide you with a good value for the upcoming fantasy season. Between luck and random events, even the best and most talented pitchers rarely end up being the most valuable. and thus you want to hedge risk and downside against upside and cost. Roy Halladay is going in round one, like it or not. Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright and likely Josh Johnson will be off the board before pick 30. While these guys are bona fide studs, they are going to cost upwards of $35 or your first/second round pick. Even though the talent gap between these names and lower names in this tier like Jon Lester or Zack Greinke, who I recently profiled here, might be noticeable, the cost gap is significantly lower, increasing the potential return rate.
To win a fantasy league, you need to produce not the best stats, but the most balanced and above-average team. Accordingly, you do not need to sink high funds or your first overall pick, a potential five-category hitter, into a four-category pitcher like Halladay. At least, you shouldn't do so unless you plan to gamble the rest of your starting staff with $1 fliers. Hence, "settling" is the best way to acquire a pitcher from this tier. Aim for Lester, Greinke or Haren in the fifth round, rather than Felix in the early second.
Among names on this list, I particularly like Greinke and Lincecum to provide the highest value per dollars invested. Lincecum is coming off his worst major league season, has seen his velocity decline over the past several seasons, and had a horrible regression in control last year. He also burned a lot of fantasy owners with a god-awful August line (7.82 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 27-to-13 K/BB ratio over 25.1 IP) that he more than made up for in September (1.94 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 52-to-8 K/BB over 41.2 IP). It was Lincecum's worst season since his rookie year: He pitched "only" 212.1 innings of 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.79 K/9, 3.22 BB/9 baseball.
Still, beneath that nonetheless solid surface, Lincecum posted elite peripherals: a 3.21 xFIP (No. 5 among 92 qualified pitchers, on par with Wainwright and Johnson), a 3.15 FIP (No. 15) and a 3.46 tERA (No. 21). If that's a down year, then sign me up. Lincecum will not come cheaply—he is inevitably off the board by the first few picks of round three—but this is probably the cheapest Lincecum will ever go for in a fantasy baseball draft while he is in his prime. It's a better deal than paying a higher cost for Felix or Halladay when he's at least as good as them with plenty of strikeout upside to spare.
Likewise, Greinke and Haren should come at tremendous values. Each are being drafted in the 50th overall range in mock drafts I have participated in, which is not "profitable," but cheap enough to break-even, which is what you look for in your early round draft picks who anchor the team. Surprisingly, Greinke and Haren are being drafted after other solid, but less talented pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Carpenter, David Price and Yovani Gallardo. That seems criminal in my mind.
Even more criminal is Mock Draft Central's (MDC) current average draft position rankings. Wainwright is indexed at No. 55, behind all the above names. Even with the elbow concerns, that's too low, and if that is the case on draft day for whatever reason, you pounce a full round earlier (fourth) and laugh at your opponents.
Tier 2: Starters ranked No. 11-20
Names No. 11 through 20 on this list have high ceilings but are less proven and offer more risk than their No. 1 through 10 counterparts. Each of these names could easily be top 10 by season end, but they could also be lower. From Carpenter's lack of strikeouts and health problems and Francisco Liriano's up-and-down past and injury history to Clayton Kershaw's walk rate/flyball rate to Mat Latos' limited sample, each of these has some perceivable flaw that is easily outweighed by upside. (Carpenter's been a top flight ERA/WHIP/Wins starter when healthy. Liriano, if healthy and back to form, might be one of baseball's five best starting pitchers, Kershaw's strikeouts are elite, and Latos does everything right and plays in the perfect park (Petco) in front of a projected average-or-better defensive posture.)
I doubt that any "brand names" in this tier, including Carpenter, Justin Verlander and Jiminez, will be on the board by pick number 60. Likewise, last year's most underrated pitching asset, Cole Hamels, is likely to go pretty high in 2011. Weaver might be a break-even pick, as his "brand name" and perpetual peripheral over-performance downside is likely to be outweighed by legitimate improvements in his pitching approach, detailed here.
Of the remaining names on this list, I particularly like Liriano, Scherzer, Latos and Hanson, in that order, as the most valuable picks of the tier. But hey, call me a sucker for strikeout upside.
Before his Tommy John surgery in 2007, Liriano was just ridiculous: 121 innings of 2.16 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 2.35 xFIP, 201-to-32 K/BB. On his road to recovery, 2008 was a sign of hope, but 2009 (5.80 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 1.88 K/BB, 4.87 FIP, 4.55 xFIP, 4.86 tERA) made many abandon hope. His ADP entering the season was ridiculously low for a potential bounce-back candidate, with Yahoo ranking him past No. 900, and he paid off for those who gambled on him, tossing 191.2 innings of 3.62 ERA, 14 win, 201-to-58 K/BB baseball with a solid 1.26 WHIP. Those numbers are strong, but a .340 BABIP on the season indicates room for improvement, while a look below the surface shows Liriano returning to his pre-Tommy John surgery form last year.
In 2010, Liriano posted a 2.66 FIP (No. 3 among 92 qualified starters last season), a 3.06 xFIP (No. 2, behind Halladay's 2.92 mark), and a 2.93 tERA (tied with King Felix and Wainwright as one of only seven qualified pitchers who posted a tERA below 3.00). Perhaps I want to outbid myself in my fantasy leagues, as most of my league mates read my articles, but Liriano is going to be my ace target for 2011.
If not Liriano, why not Scherzer? Despite a rough start to the season, he was almost uncountably filthy after a brief minor league stint in May. The former first-round pick posted an insane 2.47 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and a 96-to-35 K/BB ratio in the second half (102 innings). Oliver likes Scherzer's K/9 to sit right at 9.0 next season, which is entirely feasible given his 23 percent strikeout rate last season. Scherzer is another strong fantasy ace target and his ADP is somehow 205 right now on Mock Draft Central. Crazy, right?
Hanson and Latos are also good gambles with substantial upside and relatively low downside. We all know what Hanson's minor league numbers look like and he showed a good ability to whiff hitters in 2009 (8.18 K/9) that somewhat eluded him in 2010 (7.68 K/9). Still, Hanson showed improved control last season (2.49 BB/9, from a 3.24 mark in 2009) and Oliver expects a rebound in the whiffs (expected 8.3 K/9 mark) next season. Hanson should provide a solid season akin to what he did in 2010, albeit with more strikeouts, and given his improved control, that is worth gambling on.
Latos also offers substantial upside. His fastball averages about 94 mph and he commands it well (2.44 BB/9 last season). He also induces a lot of swings-and-misses (9.21 K/9 last season, 11 percent swinging strike rate) while inducing a decent number of ground balls (44.7 percent mark in 2010). Petco is the place to pitch, and for this talented pitcher, it makes his upside that much better.
Tier 3: Starters ranked No. 21-30
Of this tier of pitchers, Ricky Nolasco is my clear "underrated guy." I've been called a fool repeatedly over the past two seasons for continuously putting heavy stock into Nolasco's numbers, but he is a pitching talent of the highest order, primed for a breakout.
Nolasco has underperformed based on his talent over the past two seasons. In 2009, Nolasco posted a 5.06 ERA, but a 3.35 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, and a 3.83 tERA. His strikeout rate (24.8 percent) was superior and although he was seemingly prone to the long ball despite a neutral GB/FB ratio, he limited hitters from becoming baserunners to the extent within his control (2.14 BB/9). What killed Nolasco in 2009 was poor luck, plain and simple. His left on base rate was 61 percent (the major league average was around 72 percent) and his BABIP-against was an inflated .336.
Last season was no kinder to Nolasco. His BABIP-against remained high at .328, and while his LOB percentage normalized, his homer per fly ball rate spiked at 12.4 percent. Nolasco continued to limit free passes in 2010, walking only 1.88 guys per nine ) and throwing a first pitch strike to essentially two out of every three batters. His swinging strike rate increased from 10.3 percent in 2009 to 10.5 in 2010, but his strikeout rate (22.1 percent) and K/9 (8.39) dipped slightly. I expect a rebound in strikeouts, still strong in 2010, in 2011.
Despite these strong peripherals in 2010, Nolasco's surface stats unimpressed and his season was cut short by injury. Despite a 3.55 xFIP, 3.86 FIP, and 4.06 tERA (inflated by the HR/FB percentage), Nolasco's ERA was well below league average at 4.51. Nolasco has been progressing well enough back from his injury that the penny-pinching Marlins offered him a three-year contract ($26.5 million). That is a positive sign that he will be ready to go full throttle by spring training.
Many have given up on Nolasco by now, burned by two under-performing seasons. His ERAs have been ugly, but his BABIP-inflated WHIPs have still been strong, at 1.25 in 2009 and 1.28 in 2010. While Nolasco might be a Javier Vazquez in his prime, perpetually underperforming, we all know how amazing Vazquez's numbers looked when his surface stats did match his peripherals in 2007 and 2009. Nolasco deserves a chance, is likely to end the season as a top 20 pitcher, and should be bid upon accordingly.
The remainder of the names in this tier seem almost as risky as Nolasco, but offer more downside. Gallardo has elite strikeouts and solid groundball tendencies, but his control is poor and his WHIP is far from elite. As I tweeted on THT Fantasy a couple of weeks ago, the average ERA of a starter with a BB/9 greater than 4.00 over the past three seasons is 4.51. Of the 32 starters (minimum 150 innings) with BB/9s greater than 4.00 over this time frame, only Edinson Volquez, Rich Harden, Clayton Kershaw, C.J. Wilson, Carlos Zambrano and Gallardo have posted ERAs below 4.00.
Most of these pitchers' ERAs are in the upper 3's and the downside is more than apparent. This is not to say that pitchers like Gallardo are not valuable, but they offer appreciable risk to go with their upside. Gallardo is being drafted within the first five rounds according to MDC. That is way too high for the amount of risk he offers, irrespective of upside. While you can't win a draft in the first few rounds, you certainly can lose it by stomaching too much risk.
Other names in this tier include Roy Oswalt (solid ratios, questionable strikeouts, and the concern that Citizens Bank Ballpark is the most home run inflating in baseball), Shaun Marcum (I love him, but he does not throw even 90 mph, is a flyball pitcher, and is only one year removed from serious injury), Chad Billingsley (his K/BB ratio keeps him from being unquestionably elite), David Price (Billingsley, only with fewer ground balls and pitching in the AL East), Hiroki Kuroda (strong ratios and solid strikeouts, but a perpetual injury risk playing in front of a poor defense), Colby Lewis (he carried my fantasy staff in 2010, but I have questions about his groundball rate and home ballpark effects), Brett Anderson (a young Roy Oswalt-type with strikeout upside pitching in spacious Oakland, but plagued by injuries over his first two major league seasons), and Jeremy Hellickson (a top 20-capable pitching talent who is likely going to see his innings limited (170 max?), even in light of the Matt Garza trade to Chicago, to help build arm strength and mitigate health risks, especially given the Rays' pitching depth. Re-enter Andy Sonnanstine?).
Tier 4: Starters ranked No. 31-40
Matt Cain ranked 38? Yeah, that's right. I hate Matt Cain. I wish I could justify slotting him even lower, but I can't. Cain has poor control, gives up too many fly balls, and has seen his strikeout talents and induced-whiffs decline each of the past several seasons. His mid-4's xFIPs seem like a ticking time bomb, waiting to screw someone over. Do not even try to cite Cain's 2.46 BB/9 last season. Walk rates can be lucky and Cain's F-Strike% (both for 2010 and his career), one of the largest components of future walk rates, does not support the "improved control" theory.
This tier is riddled with guys who are getting drafted ridiculously late in mocks according to MDC's ADP data. Each has some higher risk than the previous tier, but offers at least one elite skill and much more upside than downside. For example, Jhoulys Chacin has control problems and pitches at Coors Field, but he induces an incredible number of ground balls and struck out 23.7 percent of batters he faced last season. He is one of my favorite 2011 pitchers.
Madison Bumgarner is also in this list. He's been very up-and-down in both the majors and minors, but finished 2010 strong. His minor league numbers indicate strikeout upside, but let's see where the velocity registers in 2011 before we crown him with top-25 potential.
Josh Beckett offers injury risk, "can't pitch at home" (according to most analysis), and gives up a ton of fly balls. Still, Beckett has good control, strikes out a lot of batters, even in the AL East, and still throws 94-plus mph consistently. You know you want him, despite the tendency to underperform his peripherals.
I detailed Ted Lilly last month, so to avoid redundant rhetoric, just note his final expected line: 196 innings of 3.94 ERA, 174 strikeouts, 1.15 WHIP baseball.
Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy are two other names I really like for 2011. As dueling No. 2 starter types for the Diamondbacks, they are not Scherzer and Haren good, but solid arms nonetheless. Both probably give up way too many fly balls for Chase Field, particularly Kennedy, but strong strikeout rates and respectable control, particularly on the part of Kennedy, will keep their numbers strong.
Tier 5: Starters ranked No. 41-50
Once you reach pitcher No. 40 (Ryan Dempster), the upside of the available pitchers starts being limited to mostly three of the four starter categories. WHIP becomes particularly scarce here, though some of the injury-prone players in this tier (particularly Brandon Webb) could offer WHIP upside if you can stomach the injury risks. Likewise, Tim Hudson offers WHIP upside, but his lack of strikeouts is a real turn-off. I do not particularly believe in his WHIP either, but I have perpetually been wrong about it.
Most of the names in this tier are groundball pitchers with strikeout upside (Hudson excepted), capable of logging a high 3's ERA. Floyd offers a high seven or low eight K/9 and some win opportunity with the reinvigorated White Sox lineup, while Jaime Garcia is a former top prospect who is finally staying healthy and is capable of above average strikeout totals. Ricky Romero and Gio Gonzalez had breakout years in 2010, but their control rates remain a mystery for the future. If they can continue to limit the walks, both pitchers should outperform their ranking on this list in 2011. Likewise, Travis Wood flashed a lot of potential in 2010, but his innings were of a small sample size and more major league data is needed before I can comfortably rank him higher.
Jordan Zimmerman is the wild card of this tier. On one hand, 2011 will be one more year removed from Tommy John surgery and he came back from surgery well in 2010, striking out 20 percent of the batters he faced, while walking only 10 (2.70 K/BB ratio). His velocity is also around where it was in 2009. Zimmerman could easily strike out 140-plus batters if given 150 or more innings next season, while posing a respectable WHIP and mid-to-high 3 ERA. Keep him on your radar on draft day, as his ADP is beyond 200 at this point.
Tier 6: Starters ranked No. 51-60
Tier 6 is where risk starts to settle in with upside. Pitchers like Clay Buchholz and Trevor Cahill have minor league numbers that show clear strikeout upside and offer strong groundball rates at the major league level, but the potential has not materialized beyond BABIP-induced luck. Both Cahill and Buchholz posted sub-3 ERAs in 2010 and will likely be overvalued in 2011. If neither steps forward in the strikeout department, owners will be disappointed. These two pitchers represent negative fantasy assets in my mind, their value (due to groundball rates) being much higher in real life than fantasy.
Wade Davis is a lot like Cahill in terms of strikeout upside with BABIP-induced luck last season, but he offers a lower groundball rate and plays in the AL East rather than spacious Oakland.
I like Marc Rzepczynski, aka The Repo Man, a lot in terms of what he can do (high strikeouts, decent WHIP, sub-4 ERA), but the Blue Jays have shown little faith in his abilities. Whether he has fantasy value next season will hinge largely upon whether he breaks camp as the Blue Jays' No. 4 starter behind Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Ricky Romero. He is the second most talented Jays pitcher in my view.
C.J. Wilson is another groundball machine with poor control, but I question his strikeout abilities. His transition from reliever to starter came with a huge whiff rate tumble (from 10.2 percent in 2009 to 6.7 percent in 2010). His K/9 remained above average despite being below average in whiff-inducement last season. Additionally, only Jonathan Sanchez (96) walked more batters than Wilson's 93 free passes. Considering the arm stress of going from 73.2 innings in 2009 to 204 innings in 2010 at age 30, a lot of question marks surround Wilson's 2011 potential.
My favorite two names in this tier are Matusz and James Shields. I repeatedly mentioned last year that Matusz was giving up way too many flyballs for an AL East pitcher whose home ballpark inflates the homers-per-fly ball rate by 19 percent and for not striking out enough hitters, despite strong control. Matusz, however, finished the season strong and improved his whiffs toward season end. As one of the minors' top prospects prior to 2010, Matusz could take that leap forward next season, despite underwhelming first-half numbers. I always regret not taking Tim Lincecum in 2008 because of his 2007 performance (I ignored his minor league track), and while Matusz is no Lincecum, he could finish top 30-40 among starting pitchers next season and cost you a mere flier in shallower leagues.
Like Ricky Nolasco, Shields could provide owners with a lot of value after underperforming his statistics in 2010. A WHIP machine in 2007 and 2008, Shields took a slight step back in 2009 with slightly regressed (but still elite) control (2.13 BB/9) and some poor BABIP-against luck (.317 mark). Last season saw Shields greatly improve his whiff talent, with a career-best 8.28 K/9. Shields' xWHIP for last season is barely under 1.20, which shows that he has a lot of room for luck-correction in 2011. Still, Shield has seen his whiff rate fall each of the past two seasons and he posted a career best K/9 despite a career low swinging strike rate. He is not without risk.
Garza also ranks in this tier with his move to the NL (previously ranked in the low 60s on the Rays), but that does not mean that I like him. This is just a recognizance that he continuously outperforms his peripherals. He, like new teammate Zambrano, has not posted an ERA of 4.00 over the past three seasons. However, Garza is not a special pitcher, by any metric. Garza does not strike batters out (K/9 of 6.6 or lower in two of the past three seasons). He has a 4.17 career tERA, 4.45 career xFIP, 4.26 career FIP, and his career ERA is essentially 4.00 on the dot (3.97). He has average control at best (career 3.17 BB/9) that has improved of late, I suppose, being below league average in two of the past three seasons (but 3.50 in 2009). Garza throws hard (career 93.3 mph fastball), but he has also become an increasingly flyball-oriented pitcher.
If Garza continues to outperform his peripherals, he might make a decent fourth or fifth starting pitcher for someone's fantasy roster, but he's not a top target. Thanks to his high infield-fly induction rate, Garza's defense independent expected WHIP for the Cubs (using 2008-2010 data) is somewhere between 1.30 and 1.36. Garza is a lock to be drafted well above what he is going to be worth. His brand-name cost, as it did for the Cubs in real life, will easily outweigh his production.
Tier 7: Starters ranked No. 61-70
If you draft a pitcher from tier 7, you'd better have a WHIP anchor. These are pitchers without control, but with strikeout upside. Jonathan Sanchez, Brandon Morrow, and Jorge de La Rosa all have 200-strikeout potential, but will likely post WHIPs north of 1.35. Zambrano has never posted an ERA of 4.00 or higher, but his xFIP has been consistently in the mid-4's range each of the last four seasons. While Zambrano has rekindled his strikeouts over the past two seasons, his improved control of recent memory has gone out the window. That would be all fine if Zambrano were inducing groundballs over half of the time like he was in 2003 and 2004, but he is not.
There are also a handful of injury-prone names in this list. Outside Zambrano, who has not logged 190 innings since 2007, Brett Myers, Harden, Johan Santana and Javier Vazquez all present appreciable innings risks. Santana is set to start the season on the disabled list, has not been an elite peripheral pitcher (or struck out a good number of batters) since 2007, and has had season-ending surgery each of the past two years. Likewise, Rich Harden (moved down two spots, and hence a tier, in my rankings update) is Rich Harden, has always had control issues, and while the flyball-prone pitcher is back in spacious Oakland where he started his career, he had issues striking guys out last year when healthy. Oliver expects a K/9 rebound, but who knows how many innings Harden can last next season.
Vazquez is a particular pitcher of concern. He's getting old and while he's been a healthy workhorse before 2010, pitching 2,163 innings over the past 10 years may have taken its toll on Vazquez's arm. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs gave a detailed explanation of why Vazquez's past form is probably not returning.
There's also Brett Myers, whose velocity has eroded in recent years. He could be better than his rank, but again, this is Brett Myers we're talking about. I do not trust him as a source of innings, strikeouts, WHIP or ERA, but hey, I said the same thing last year. Take that cop-out analysis for what it's worth.
Tier 8: Starters ranked No. 71-80
Tier 8 is when pitchers largely thin out into two-category "hole fillers" and spot starters, rather than reliable staff mainstays. There is a lot of risk in this tier, and these players' peripherals should be closely monitored if you roster them.
Some may question my low rankings of Reds Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. Cueto is ranked this low because his ever-declining and below-average F-Strike percentage does not inspire confidence in a sustained walk rate of quality (2.71 BB/9 in 2010) going forward. Additionally, while Cueto's above-average swing-and-miss rate (career 9 percent) inspires hope for improved strikeouts in the future, his K/9 is nonetheless lackluster (below 7.0 in each of the past two seasons), while his neutral flyball tendencies are hardly inspiring at the Great American Ballpark (1.19 HR/FB index).
Volquez, on the other hand, seems to offer more downside risk than upside hope. While his post-Tommy John surgery velocity is strong (93.6 mph fastball in 2010 is on par with his career rate), he lacks control (career 4.68 BB/9) and was not particularly sharp last season (5.03 BB/9). While Volquez is an elite source of strikeouts (career 8.69 K/9) and a good source of ground balls (career 46 percent rate), his lack of command over his electric 3.5 pitch mix (he rarely throws that slider these days) could give owners a heart attack. Volquez is not recommended for head-to-head leagues, where consistency is the key to winning, but even Rotisserie owners might want to spot start him for strikeouts and wins rather than toss him out regularly every five days.
Other questionable names on this list are Drabek and Ervin Santana. The former is one of baseball's premier pitching prospects, but his major league equivalent numbers in the upper minors do not inspire a higher ranking yet and he will have to take a few steps forward in his game before proving he belongs in the upper tier of starting pitcher rankings. Santana, on the other hand, shows signs of being less than what he used to be. While he had a nice fantasy season last year, returning from performance limiting injuries in 2009 (17 wins, 3.92 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in 2010), his peripherals looked more like his pre-2008 numbers and in light of his career averages, 2008 may have been the fluke, not the step forward. Santana is a wild card in my view, worth a flier, but my expectations for him are tempered. Oliver seems to concur.
Of the other names in this tier, Bud Norris is likely a good spot start or stream option for periodic strikeouts, while Justin Masterson shows top-of-the-rotation potential mixed in with an absolute inability to deal with lefty batters. Kevin Slowey was once a high-potential guy, but nowadays is just a WHIP stabilizer due to an overwhelming diet of fly balls and ever-eroding groundball rate that cannot be offset by either his elite career walk rate of 1.50 BB/9 or strong control (4.57 career K/BB). Oh, and I do not believe in Jair Jurrjens one bit. His peripherals indicate a likely line that is hardly fantasy-useful.
Tier 9: Starters ranked No. 81-90
The names on this list not only contribute in only one or two fantasy categories, but they start hurting you in others. Joel Pineiro might contribute some ERA/WHIP upside, but will kill your strikeout rate, which can be crippling in innings-capped leagues. Daisuke Matsuzaka Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson are likely good for a few strikeouts and wins, but they will destroy your ERA/WHIP in the process. Chris Young is outside Petco, where the super majority of his fantasy-useful numbers came from. Unless Young signs with the Mets, you might want to avoid him except when he plays in those spacious ballparks. Derek Lowe and Carl Pavano might provide average ERAs and some wins, but they will, like Pineiro, kill your strikeout rate.
Two names on this list stand out as potential bounce-back candidates and are the ideal targets if you must reach for this tier: former Red Aaron Harang and current Red Homer Bailey. Harang is now pitching in spacious Petco, which is ideal for his flyball-heavy style. No longer capable of being abused by Dusty Baker, Harang could bounce back to his high-seven strikeout form and end up a top 50 or better starter. His arm might also be useless, given the abuse Baker infamously dealt to it in 2008. Harang is not ranked higher, despite his upside, because 2009 and 2010 showed us the downside that modern Harang is capable of. Still, his 2006-2007 potential gives us a glimmer of hope.
Baily is another interesting name, as a former top prospect. Bailey has seen both his strikeout talent and walk rate erode as he rose through the upper minors and while his strikeout (8.26 K/9) and walk numbers (3.30 BB/9) were strong in 2010, (3.91 xFIP), Oliver does not believe the 24-year old will sustain them in 2011. Given Bailey's pre-2010 struggles with higher level batters between the majors and Triple-A and the limited sample (109 innings) that 2010 gave us, I am proceeding cautiously with him. Bailey could end the season much higher than his ranking, but I would not place too much money in his risky stock.
Tier 10: Starters ranked No. 91-100
Here, we find the dregs—guys who might be useful if the fates smile kindly upon them. I do not like any of the names in this tier, but some have a relatively recent record of success that could re-emerge next season. I find the likelihood remote.
John Lackey was once a very useful starter, but his peripherals have been eroding for a few seasons now and 2010 saw him collapse. At age 33, there is little upside left in Lackey's stock. Likewise, Joe Blanton has always been a Carl Pavano-type pitcher who had a great 2008, but has not shown himself capable of repetition. His below-average strikeout rate is hardly offset by a solid walk rate, while neutral flyball tendencies tend not to play well in baseball's most home-run exaggerating ballpark. I suppose Felipe Paulino's strikeout potential might be useful for a few turns, but do you really want to take that gamble?
Oliver seems to like Mike Leake, but he skipped the minors and did not flash much whiff tendency in the majors last season (5.92 K/9). His groundball rate (50.2 percent) and walk rate (3.19 BB/9) were strong and average, which is nice for a guy who is barely 23, but he is going to have to show that he is capable of something more than the the 4.23 ERA, 4.31 xFIP, and 1.50 WHIP he posted in 138.1 major league innings last season before I rank him higher. xWHIP 2.0 believes that Leake's performance was worth a 1.29 WHIP last season, while Quick xWHIP thinks it more akin to 1.40. Leake posted a .319 BABIP-against last season, and since he skipped the minors, there is much uncertainty surrounding his "true talent" line. Keep Leake in mind as the season progresses, but he should not be on your roster following your league's draft.
I hope this behemoth of a post was useful. If you have questions, comments or criticisms, about the above analysis or regarding any players in particular, please post them in the comments below and I will respond the best I can. Tune in next week, for the final set of preseason rankings—relief pitchers.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:10am (106) Comments
Monday, January 17, 2011
As I accepted my first ever Shake ‘N Bake Football Championship trophy this past week, it got me thinking about the similarities between fantasy football and my first love, fantasy baseball. I examined my success on the gridiron and found that there was a direct correlation to my “handcuffing” of my running backs, which got me thinking if “handcuffing” could be useful in baseball.
The term “handcuffing” is well known in the fantasy football community. It is the strategy of taking a backup to a starting player on the chance the starter were to lose his job by way of injury or ineffectiveness. It’s fascinating to watch as natural selection will bring relatively obscure players to the surface. These obscure players can perform similarly to their counterparts and give enough value to salvage seasons in the process.
The inner wheels of my simple mind began to churn, and I posed two questions to myself, “Have you ever ‘handcuffed’ in fantasy baseball?” and “When would you ‘handcuff’ in the future?” My results will follow in the next several sentences.
Have you ever “handcuffed” in fantasy baseball? Before I began writing this piece, I had never heard any baseball analyst suggest the strategy of handcuffing, ever. I don’t know if it’s the difference in the actual games of football and baseball, but you just don’t see too many managers or experts going the “handcuff” route.
The game of baseball is much more of a skill-based game than football. It’s hard to replace Alex Rodriguez’ power with Eduardo Nunez or Zack Grienke’s pitch sequence with Tim Dillard’s. The skill and production would be vastly different.
So I looked over some of my successful fantasy teams that I’ve had over the past few years to see if I ever used the handcuff method and really couldn’t find much. There were a few instances where I stashed rookies like Matt Wieters on the hopes of future playing time, but I, by no means, was starting Greg Zaun while waiting for Wieters to bust out in June.
When would you handcuff in the future? Let me preface this by saying a standard ESPN or Yahoo! League should not look to this strategy. I am only addressing leagues where at least 75 to 80 percent of the player pool is used, which is basically deeper mixed leagues or NL/AL-only leagues.
Maybe it’s my propensity to root for the younger talent as they break into the big leagues, but I can’t think of any better time to handcuff than with a marginal, older player and his backup, star prospect. Here are some examples of handcuff duos I like for 2011.
Russell Martin and Jesus Montero: The last of the big, talented, prospect catcher threesome awaits his chance in Scranton. While Buster Posey wins Rookie of the Year and Carlos Santana cements himself as the Indians catcher for years to come, Montero waits. It’s not his fault.
The Yankees' brass has used Montero as trade bait for the past two years now. There are rumblings coming out of Yankee camp that he still could be moved for an impact starting pitcher, but with Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria out, the Yanks have even less to gain.
Most thought the move of Posada from behind the plate would bring in the reign of Jesus. The signing of Martin then puzzled those same people. Montero hit .352 after the All-Star break in 2010 and maintained a .220+ ISOPower. You probably couldn’t ask for a better catching prospect except for that whole defense thing.
We play fantasy, and defense doesn’t matter in fantasy. So if you are struggling to find a catcher in your draft, taking Martin and his handful of home runs and steals while you wait for Montero would get the Ben Pritchett Stamp of Approval. I personally would recommend getting a catcher earlier, though. While I am a Montero fan, I am equally a Martin detractor.
Mike Aviles and Mike Moustakas: My love for the “Moose” is well documented in my article, “Overspending for Players in 2011,” so I won’t spend too much time detailing the skills this young man has used to obliterate minor league pitching. His major league equivalents are some of the best we’ve seen in years.
Aviles finished 2010 on a high note, going .333 BA/6 HR/20 RBI in Sept./Oct. He was that good in ’08, then struggled with injuries in ’09. That glimpse he gave us in the final months of 2010 may just point to a return to 2008 levels. I wouldn’t bet on that extreme, but he could be a great fill-in at third until the Royals finally bite the bullet and hand the franchise over to Moustakas.
Aviles should retain his SS position eligibility, also. If you are stretching for CI or waited too long for your third baseman, then this could be a great handcuff situation for you. Note your league settings, as you may have to wait on Aviles to gain 3B eligibility. If that is the case, this handcuff isn’t for you.
Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel: Venters went from a lefty specialist to groundball specialist. He led all relievers with a groundball rate of 70 percent. He had the best OPS on his fastball in the game at .590 (Bill James Handbook min. 125 batters faced). He pitched in 79 games and was still able to keep his ERA at 1.95.
As for his competition at the back end of the Braves bullpen, Kimbrel, he only profiles as the Braves closer of the future. He is blessed with a laser rocket for an arm and was able to handle the transition to Atlanta rather well with a 0.44 ERA and 40 Ks in just 21 innings. He may be the most exciting young reliever in the game behind Aroldis Chapman.
Drafting both Venters and Kimbrel guarantees you the Braves' closer and another top talent in the pen. Venters could take the job out of spring, but the closing duties will be Kimbrel’s before season’s end.
Francisco Cordero and Aroldis Chapman: It’s hard to debate Cordero’s 40 saves in 2010, but his age is creeping up (35) and his strikeouts and ERA are in a freefall. As stated by Jeremy Greenhouse in The Hardball Times Annual 2011, Chapman’s fastball grades out as the best in the game. His 105-mph pitch against the Padres was the fastest recorded pitch in major league history. What about the other 24 pitches he threw that night? Well, they were all over 100, also. He is an extraordinary talent and should be owned in a deep league whether he is closing or not.
Matt Thornton and Chris Sale: This may be my favorite handcuff of them all because Sale is quite possibly the best young left hander in baseball and should be given the chance to start in 2011. Sale shouldn’t be handcuffed with any expectations other than that he will contribute and be successful whether as a closer or a front-of-the-rotation starter.
At the age of 34, the hard-throwing Thornton isn’t getting any younger. He combined a 12.0 K/9 ratio with a stunning 4.1 K/BB in 2010 and deserves the closer job in Chicago. Sale can close if Thornton falters, but this handcuff has even more value if Sale starts.
To sum all this up, there are better ways to “handcuff” than in the fantasy baseball game. The need for skill is essential for success in baseball. The need for opportunity is more important in football. So I wouldn’t hedge your championship dreams on a “handcuff.” I like this idea of using a stable veteran while waiting on your stud rookie. Let me know what you think or if you have used a “handcuff” strategy in your baseball leagues.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 4:02am (25) Comments
Going into 2010, Ubaldo Jimenez was known as a potential big-time ace. He had just finished the 2009 season with a 3.47 ERA and had a 3.63 xFIP to make it clear that this improvement was, in fact, real. In 2009, Jimenez had two fastballs that both averaged over 96 MPH, and he touched triple digits in velocity 10 times.
Meanwhile, he had a groundball percentage over 50 percent (52.5 percent according to fangraphs). Thus, Jimenez looked to be the rare pitcher with the ability to be both a power-strikeout pitcher and a groundball pitcher, a combination even more appreciated in Coors Field. Needless to say, his potential seemed quite great.
Then in April and May of 2010, Jimenez appeared to break out, with a sub-1.00 ERA through April and May. Of course, if you're reading The Hardball Times, you were probably warned to be wary of Jimenez's .251 and .202 BABIP in those months, which indicated that a good bit of regression was coming.
And boy did it come, with a 4.41 ERA in June and a 6.04 ERA in July to drive fantasy owners crazy. Still, if you kept Jimenez all year, you were probably happy with the overall 19-8, 2.88 ERA line that he put up.
Still, there are some odd things about Jimenez's year:
First of all, he increased his strikeouts, but this increase mainly came against left-hand batters (Ks have actually decrease against righties).
Second, Jimenez's walk rate remained lower than it was in 2008 for the second straight year. However, this change is also odd, as the BB rate against righties increased, while the BB rate against lefties dropped a good bit.
Finally, Jimenez's ground ball percentage dropped to 48.8 percent, the lowest over the last three seasons. This appears to have been caused by the increasingly-extreme groundball splits of his pitches: against left-handed batters, Jimenez's is a terrible groundball pitcher (39.4 percent GB rate), while against righties he's a clear groundball pitcher (57.8 percent). This split was not as extreme in 2009 or 2008 at all. So what caused this?
These oddities raise the question: what can we expect from Jimenez next year? Let's look at the pitches:
What Jimenez throws
Jimenez historically has thrown six pitches—a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, splitter, slider, and curveball—during his career. However, he appears to have broken out a seventh pitch in 2010: a cutter. That said, the slider was barely used in 2010 (it was thrown 37 times), so its impact on Jimenez's performance is negligible and not worth any further discussion.
Other than the cutter, the movements of all six of Jimenez's other pitches remained the same in 2010. The same was true of the velocity of these pitches. There also isn't a large difference in the frequency of use of any of these pitches. No, whatever caused the odd results of Jimenez in 2010 appears to be in the location of where Jimenez threw his pitches.
Jimenez' fastball and the location changes in 2010
The key pitches, of course, when discussing Jimenez are his two fastballs, which he throws a combined 60 percent of the time. The two-seamer is thrown twice as frequently as the four-seam fastball against both left- and right-handed batters, but both pitches are thrown fairly frequently. The four-seam fastball is slightly faster than the two-seamer (by about 0.5 mph), has about two inches more hop ("rises" two inches more), but has around three inches less tail.
As two-seam fastballs go, Jimenez's pitch does not have a great amount of sink. However, this lack of sink is countered by the pitch's great velocity, which increases the pitch's ability to get ground balls (for more on this phenomenon, see here).
That said, it's this pitch that seems to be the greatest cause in the emergence of Jimenez's odd groundball splits and his improved ability to get strikeouts against left-handed batters in 2010. Take a look at the following table, which shows the results of these two fastballs against left-handed batters each of the last three years:
Now, of course, the question is what caused this dramatic change in the results? The answer is where Jimenez has located his fastballs against left-handed batters. In 2009, Jimenez threw both fastballs at a higher location in the strike zone than he did in 2008, but he kept the horizontal location in the strike zone around the same location.
Higher sinkers will still get ground balls against same-handed batters, but will be less effective against opposite-handed batters: in this case, left-handed batters. Of course, high fastballs are more likely to result in swinging strikes, as well, which explains the increase in strikeouts.
In 2010, Jimenez kept his aim high, but altered his horizontal aim as well: he tried to throw both fastballs against right- and left-hand batters more away from hitters than he did previously. Against right-hand batters, this put the ball more in the middle of the zone (Jimenez had previously aimed inside on these batters). Against lefties, however, this resulted in these pitches being in the outside part of the plate more often than before.
The end result was an increase in swinging strikes (Jimenez's best spot for getting swinging strikes the last two years against LHBs has indeed been away and high). However, as you could guess from the table above, the result was a drop in the groundball rate (the high-and-in pitches did get ground balls more frequently than high-and-away pitches.)
All in all, these appear to be real changes in Jimenez's pitching habits, and we should expect the increasingly extreme strikeout and groundball splits to continue in the future.
But what about the decreased walks?
You may have noticed that the oddity regarding the reduced walks of Jimenez over the last two years is not accounted for yet in this analysis. This is because it's hard to understand why Jimenez is getting a better BB Rate. Jimenez did do a better job in 2010 throwing strikes on three-ball counts. Of course, he threw more pitches in three-ball counts in 2010 than in 2009 (and in a roughly equivalent amount to 2008), negating the effect of this improved accuracy.
Moreover, Jimenez's ability to hit the strike zone didn't seem to change against either hand too much in 2010 as compared to 2009 or 2008. One theoretical explanation you might think of is that batters were swinging more in 2010 and 2009 at pitches out of the strike zone. Indeed, Fangraphs' BIS data would tell you that was the case in 2010.
Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the BIS data is incorrect....according to PitchF/X data, batters did not swing at pitches out of the strike zone significantly more frequently in 2010 or 2009 as compared to 2008 (For an explanation as to why BIS data is inaccurate in this area, see Colin Wyers' article here.
The end result is that, without a discernible reason why Jimenez's BB rate has dropped, don't bet on it staying as low as it was in 2009 or 2010, and don't be surprised if it returns to being above 4.0 BB/9.
Ubaldo Jimenez has tantalizing stuff. And at times he looks like an ace. But as aces go, he's a riskier proposition than other No. 1 starters for your fantasy team. This is the case for two reasons:
1. His walk rate is likely to increase in the future, resulting in his numbers not being as impressive as they were in 2009 or 2010.
2. While his changes in where he locates his fastballs have resulted in increased Ks, they also have increased the volatility of his pitch results. Because he no longer will get as many ground balls against LHBs, he's more likely to give up home runs, which will ruin quite a few fantasy starts. Jimenez had a HR/FB of 3.3 percent (according to Fangraphs) against LHBs in 2010. That's due for a good bit of regression, especially considering he plays in Coors Field, humidor notwithstanding.
The end result is that against teams with a large number of left-handed batters, Jimenez is more likely to be a feast-or-famine pitcher than he was before 2010: he could give you a start with a lot of Ks, or he could end up giving up a few gopher balls.
Thus, I probably wouldn't have Jimenez too high on your list of choices to be your No. 1 starter in your 2011 fantasy league.
Posted by Josh Smolow at 4:05am (20) Comments
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It is no secret that I personally am not a big fan of Roto leagues for fantasy baseball. My criticism of Roto leagues is well documented dating back to a Roto vs. H2H article I had written in 2009. This may be considered blasphemy to some in the industry, but I just can’t get excited about standard 5x5 Roto leagues. In my opinion, they do not represent any semblance to real baseball with regard to the valuation and talents of professional baseball players.
That being said, I am not complaining about the popularity of Roto leagues because they represented a majority of the customers who signed up for Fantasy Judgment dispute resolution services in 2010.
For some background, Roto leagues typically are based on five offensive categories (batting average, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, and stolen bases) and five pitching categories (wins, saves, earned run average, WHIP, and strikeouts) — hence they are called 5x5 leagues. There are variations of this as some leagues employ 4x4 or even 6x6 format, either adding or subtracting certain categories. The gist is that Roto league members accumulate season totals and are ranked based on where they stand in each category. The other type of fantasy baseball played is referred to as head-to-head (H2H), where a point value is associated with a litany of statistics (much more extensive than just the few categories in Roto leagues) and teams play games against a direct opponent each week. The winner is the team who has accumulated more points from his players during a particular scoring period. In my estimation, this format is more representative of real baseball.
Because of my bias and preference towards H2H leagues, I am always frustrated every year when I read the fantasy baseball magazines and website rankings and evaluations for players because they are purely based on Roto league performance. I can’t explain why, but I get so irritated hearing about why Michael Bourn and Juan Pierre are so revered simply because they steal a lot of bases.
I understand there are not a lot of players who amass impressive stolen base totals, so winning the steals category requires a certain amount of strategy. But besides that, what value do they bring to a fantasy team? Neither has any power whatsoever, they are not high on-base percentage players so they do not score a lot of runs, they hit near the top of their respective orders so they don’t drive in runs, and they are not typically hovering near .300 for their batting average. In my personal opinion, Roto leagues do not promote a sophisticated or realistic evaluation of a player's true worth.
Maybe I am making unfounded assumptions that people who play fantasy baseball want to somehow simulate the feeling of being a general manager. Maybe I am overemphasizing the importance or desire to have fantasy baseball resemble real baseball. I am in no means attempting to insult anyone or criticize anyone’s personal preferences. I am merely trying to point out that the old standard way of evaluating players in fantasy baseball needs to evolve because H2H is arguably just as popular.
For those like me who play H2H, there is no reason to rely on magazine’s rankings and analysis because it does not translate to H2H formats—at least not very well. Two more examples of this are Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford. Both of them are superb baseball players with loads of talent, and they are also very valuable fantasy assets. Ramirez is especially revered because he is a shortstop, and that is one position with major scarcity and lack of depth beyond the few top-tier options. He is universally considered the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in almost every draft that is conducted and analyzed in fantasy magazines and websites.
After Albert Pujols, is Ramirez really the second best player in baseball? I think most would agree that he is not. But because he plays shortstop and is a 30-30 candidate every year, he shoots up the list to No. 2. In a H2H league, he has a ton of value as well. But I don’t think he would universally be penned the No. 2 pick in a H2H draft because there are plenty of other players who can amass significantly more points than him. Crawford is a more direct example of Roto love. While he is a tremendously talented baseball player who has put up consistently impressive statistics every year, is he really worth a top five pick in a draft? Over his nine-year career, he has averaged .296, 14 home runs, 78 RBI, 100 runs scored, and 54 stolen bases. He has never reached 20 home runs or topped 90 RBIs in a single season. He is revered in Roto leagues because of his speed and his propensity for stolen bases.
As he gets older and enters his 30′s, his legs will not have the same strength or endurance so it is likely his stolen base numbers will continually decrease as he ages. This is perfectly normal. Just watch as the years go on as his value in Roto leagues slowly but surely decreases. That is, unless he takes advantage of his new surroundings and powerful lineup in Boston and amasses 25 home runs and 100+ RBI while also sporting a .300-plus batting average and scoring 100-plus runs. That is certainly possible, but the love of his stolen bases will wane. In sum, if Crawford wasn't stealing 50-plus bases per season, he wouldn't even be a third-round pick.
I am aware that I may be in the minority with my opinions. But when I read an article in Lindy’s 2011 fantasy baseball magazine written by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, I was pleasantly surprised to see that others felt there were things that needed to be done to improve fantasy baseball so as to make it more representative of real baseball. Without so much as explicitly saying it, Cameron was constructively criticizing Roto leagues. He made several recommendations to make fantasy baseball more enjoyable and similar to real baseball.
In all fairness, these suggestions could be employed by both Roto and H2H leagues, but they are more likely geared towards Roto leagues. First, Cameron suggested that we value statistics that win games as opposed to statistics that are simply scarce. This goes directly to my point regarding stolen bases. Cameron expands this suggestion by also mentioning saves and used Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez (both on the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010) as examples.
Qualls and Gutierrez combined for 27 saves and neither was likely drafted before the season. Teams that acquired them in midseason were rewarded with some saves to help bolster that category in Roto leagues. But when you look at their entire body of work, they also combined for an ERA of over 6.00. In a Roto league, that doesn’t matter. All that counts are the saves. In a H2H league, fantasy teams are likely penalized for giving up earned runs, issuing walks, blowing saves, and any other category that may have a point value associated with it. The most poignant point made by Cameron in this argument is that “this leads to some truly bad baseball players being elite fantasy talents, and a huge disconnect between reality and the way fantasy is scored.” Well said Mr. Cameron.
The next suggestion made by Cameron is directly pointed to Roto leagues and their use and value of batting average as a category. As he points out, batting average only deals with plays that happen when a batter swings the bat. The example Cameron used compared Carlos Gonzalez and Joey Votto. Gonzalez hit 12 points higher than the NL MVP but made 25 more outs than Votto in 12 fewer plate appearances.
Cameron suggests using on-base percentage in lieu of batting average as the measure for a player’s true offensive value. As my father preached to my little league team when I was seven years old, “a walk is as good as a hit.” This is absolutely true. Good offensive players typically have good plate discipline and pitch selection, and this usually translates into high walk totals which helps increase on-base percentage.
Cameron then makes a similar argument for pitchers when he recommends utilizing innings pitched as a category. The example he used was the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. His lack of victories was well documented, and fortunately this was overlooked when he was given the award despite only winning 13 games.
But as we all know, a pitcher’s true value and talent is not based on the number of wins he accumulates. As a way to reap the benefits of pitchers like King Felix who pitch well but are hampered by inept offenses, Cameron thinks that including innings pitched as a category will help offset “an increase in roster strategies that emphasizes relievers and cheap starting pitchers that would just clear league minimums in innings pitched, allowing bullpen arms to drive the ratio stats of ERA and WHIP down even further by taking a larger percentage of a team’s total innings.” Well said Mr. Cameron.
As a way of demonstrating my objectivity, I do not agree with everything that Cameron suggests. He recommends that defense be considered and valued in fantasy leagues. This I wholeheartedly disagree with. While no one would mistake Carl Crawford with Adam Dunn with regard to their defensive capabilities, their talents in the field have no place in a fantasy league.
I am a strong advocate for fantasy baseball being as close to real baseball as possible, but the fact of the matter is that fantasy baseball is not real baseball. The intangibles for which Derek Jeter is so revered mean nothing in a fantasy league. If he rebounds and hits .320 with 20 HR, 85 RBIs, 110 runs scored and 25 stolen bases, no one will care whether he makes 20 errors or dives into the stands to catch a ball.
I also disagree with Cameron’s recommendation to delineate outfielders at a specific position. He argues that having a team with Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez and Carlos Lee as your three outfielders is something no major league manager would ever do. While that is true, that makes no difference in fantasy baseball.
Each outfield position does take specialized skill and talent. Center field is clearly the most important outfield position and it cannot be played by just anyone. A center fielder needs to have speed, agility, a strong arm, and leadership to cover the gaps and make calls on a ball. But at the end of the day, every outfielder has the same job description: cover the field, catch the ball, throw to the correct base, back up plays in the infield when necessary. These tasks must be completed by left fielders, right fielders and center fielders. To require fantasy baseball players to draft individual outfield positions doesn’t make much sense and would devalue all outfielders overall.
Where I do agree with Cameron regarding positional delineations is to do away with the “corner infielder” and “middle infielder” labels. While these are usually reserve or bench positions, it is completely unrealistic to have Billy Butler, Derrek Lee or Carlos Pena as a backup third basemen. Having specific positional players in the infield is much different than the outfield, and I do agree with Cameron’s point about this.
In summation, I love baseball—both real and fantasy. I love playing fantasy baseball for many reasons, and I do want my leagues to be as close to real baseball as possible. But it can never truly replicate the real thing, and no one should ever expect it to. But there are many ways to simulate leagues to make them as comparable to real baseball as possible. The verdict is that H2H leagues do that more than Roto leagues.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:03am (28) Comments
With minor league call-ups filling major league rosters, and part-time players thrust into full-time roles, the final month of the season is notorious for producing big numbers from relatively unknown players. Some of those September performances are indicators of future success, and some can be written off as hot streaks against watered-down competition. In looking back at the final month of 2009, we see that some dude named Jose Bautista led the league with 10 homers (he only totaled 13 the whole season), and a Cincinnati Reds outfielder arrived from Triple-A to hit five homers and steal seven bases, which he followed up by totaling 22 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2010. That player? Drew Stubbs, of course. We also met Julio Borbon, whose four homers in 37 games proved to be a result of a fortuitous HR/FB ratio rather than a sign his power was blossoming. (He managed just three in 137 games last year.)
Moving our attention to September 2010, let's look at four of the top hitting performers during the final month that will have owners debating whether to believe in, or bypass come draft day.
September Line: .261 AVG/15 R/6 HR/18 RBI (110 PAs)
2011 Oliver Line: .260 AVG/76 R/26 HR/80 RBI (582 PAs)
After being stranded at Triple-A for three straight seasons, the Royals finally made room for Ka’aihue in early August. He struggled initially, prompting some to prematurely label him a "Quad A" All-Star. When September hit, though, so did Ka'aihue.
Oliver Thinks ... the skill set that made Ka'aihue one of the most patient boppers in all the minors will translate nicely to the big leagues. In over 1,110 Triple-A plate appearances, the Big Pineapple averaged a bomb every 16 at-bats, and his BB/K was an excellent 1.2. Slated to see every day action at first base and DH in 2010, Oliver projects a home run every 18 at-bats, and a still stupendous 0.97 BB/K for Ka'aihue, which, if he does that, will place him firmly in the top 15 of fantasy first basemen.
I Think ... if he amasses close to 600 PAs, the Oliver projection may even be on the low-end. Ka'aihue's penciled into the cleanup role for the Royals, right behind .300 machine Billy Butler, which should lead to plenty of RBI opportunities. And considering his ability to draw a free pass, he'll be on base enough to put up a sneaky-good run total for a lumbering 1B/DH (think a young Adam Dunn).
His 49.3 FB% was on the extreme end, which isn’t such a bad place to be; of the 11 qualified players (400 plate appearances) to post a FB% of 49 or greater last season, only Jonny Gomes (18) failed to hit at least 23 home runs. If Ka’aihue avoids a massive slump, and if he sees a slight bump in his HR/FB ratio (it sat at 11.4 last year), he has a legitimate shot at 30 homers over a full season.
The .217 batting average he posted last year is worrisome, but it was primarily due to a crummy .231 BABIP. The .260 average Oliver projects appears spot-on—his MLE average came in it at .264 last year. Although, with some extra luck on top of his already anticipated improvement in the BABIP department, his average could easily hit .280. My suggestion: draft him based on the 2011 Oliver line, but feel free to secretly hope for a little more.
September Line: .358 AVG/18 R/5 HR/18 RBI (116 PAs)
2011 Oliver Line: .275 AVG/53 R/17 HR/60 RBI (415 PAs)
The versatile Raburn, in his age-29 season, finally received extended playing time late in the year. He didn't disappoint, smacking 13 homers in the final two months, with an average well north of .300. Impressive as his stats were, questions still abound as to whether he's the next Jayson Werth, or simply a utility player who burst into flames for a two month stretch.
Oliver Thinks ... he was unconscionably hot in August/September, but that there's legitimate pop in his wood, and the average will be usable. If we use the THT Forecast for ABs (499), and extrapolate his Oliver projections out, Raburn comes in with 71 runs, 23 homers, and 80 RBIs—numbers befitting a third outfielder in 12-team leagues.
I Think ... if he can handle a full-time role over the length of the season, he’ll hit those projections and then some. I don’t know that he can, though. As a part-timer in '09, he bopped an impressive 16 balls out of the park, while registering a 17.0 HR/FB ratio and .241 isolated power number. As his playing time increased in 2010, those numbers regressed, though still remained healthy at 12.2 and .194 respectively. Whether those totals simply normalized, or if they’ll continue to fall as pitchers see him on a more consistent basis is where the questions come in.
While he’s currently the Tigers starting left fielder, he’s not without competition. Last season’s surprise rookie, Brennan Boesch, will be breathing down his neck, and Raburn will undoubtedly feel the pressure to produce right out of the gate, something he’s never been able to do—in 152 career at-bats in April and May, he's posted a .209 average, failing to go yard a single time. If Raburn doesn’t receive the same kind of luck he experienced over the final two months of last season, which is probable considering his BABIP sat at .380, a slow start could easily morph into a prolonged slump, and removal from the starting lineup.
If you can use him at second base—Raburn played 18 games there last year—bump him up your cheat sheets considerably, but as an outfield-only commodity, it'd be wise not to extend yourself too much on a 30-year old player with such an untested track record.
September Line: .206 AVG/11 R/4 HR/8 RBI/6 SB (106 PAs)
2011 Oliver Line: .254 AVG/73 R/11 HR/55 RBI/23 SB (589 PAs)
The speedy Bourjos made it the bigs on the strength of his elite defensive skills in center field, and once there, flashed the kind of speed/power combo that makes fantasy owners salivate on draft day. The average, though, was low enough to trigger the gag reflex.
Oliver Thinks ... you can pencil in a 10/20 season for the man Torii Hunter referred to as "the fastest white guy I ever saw." And the average, while still not appealing, should be closer to the .293 number he posted over five minor league seasons than the Mendoza level he performed at last year.
I Think ... the upside is unmistakable—in 415 ABs at Triple-A last season, Bourjos hit .314 with 13 homers, 12 triples, and 27 stolen bases—but his inability to draw a walk, combined with a high strikeout rate (he registered just two walks against 25 strikeouts in September), make me leery. His BB/K ratio of 0.36 in the minors doesn't suggest his big-league performance was terribly flukey, and if it continues, he’ll struggle to reach base enough to avoid a minor league recall, elite defense and base-stealing prowess or not.
Interestingly, and you can make of this stat what you want, but only five players saw a larger majority of pitches inside the strike zone than Bourjos last season. As you would expect, the guys ahead of him were of the slap-hitting variety, suggesting opposing pitchers weren't afraid to serve up hittable balls to players with such low power outputs. Bourjos looks the part of those players, but as his .177 ISO indicates, he's not.
My take: without a lengthy scouting report on the books, pitchers saw a speed guy hitting in the nine-hole, and approached him as they would others of that ilk. As a result, Bourjos saw an inordinately high volume of drivable balls. As pitchers become more familiar with the type of hitter he is, they'll predictably adjust their approach, in turn, forcing Bourjos to adjust his. Whether or not he's capable of doing so is up for debate, but I'm not willing to invest more than a buck to find out.
September Line: .214 AVG/16 R/6 HR/15 RBI/0 SB (112 PAs)
2011 Oliver Line: .244 AVG/73 R/19 HR/69 RBI/15 SB (599 PAs)
Espinosa didn't get called up until rosters expanded in September, but when he arrived, he arrived with a bang, hitting three homers in his first five games, and finishing the month with six bombs. Of his 22 hits, 11 went for extra bases, though 22 hits in 103 at-bats was a tad disconcerting.
Oliver Thinks ... the middle infielder is ready to produce elite counting numbers in his first full season. The average won’t be pretty, but compared to his competitors—the second base position produced just 10 qualified players with a batting average above .270 last year—his power/speed production will still be enough to make him a top 15 player at the position.
I Think ... one look at his minor league numbers—40 HRs, 145 RBI, 56 SBs in 275 games—is enough to ignore the .214 average, which was held down by a .239 BABIP in his brief stint with the Nats last year. His ISO of .233 was bettered by only Troy Tulowitzki and Jed Lowrie among middle infielders with 100 plate appearances. To be fair, it’s a small sample size, and his best number in that category in the minors was .202, but even if he registers an ISO of .176 this season, as Oliver projects, that’s still a reasonably high number for his position.
Some may question the lofty steals total since he only attempted two stolen bases in a month of action, and was thrown out both times, but that was more likely a result of only finding himself on first base a measly 21 times in 28 games, rather than an indictment on his speed. He'll need to cut down on his strikeouts (29.1 K% with a 14.3 SwStr% last year) to keep the average from killing his value, but if he continues to drive the ball, he’ll be afforded a fairly long leash during his rookie season, providing him enough opportunities to make a late-round pick in 12-team mixers well worth the investment.
Posted by Chris Ryan at 7:28am (6) Comments
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
A few weeks ago, Josh Shepardson, Paul Singman and I put out our lists of our top 25 fantasy players under the age of 25. Last week, Paul took a second look at his list, reworking his rankings and expanding the list to 32. In a petty attempt to one-up Paul (to pay Peter), here is some insight into my top 35 or so dynasty players under the age of 25 when the season starts:
+-----+---------------------+----------+ | New | Name | Old Rank | +-----+---------------------+----------+ | 1 | Evan Longoria | 1 | | 2 | Felix Hernandez | 2 | | 3 | Carlos Gonzalez | 4 | | 4 | Stephen Strasburg | 3 | | 5 | Jason Heyward | 7 | | 6 | Justin Upton | 6 | | 7 | Clayton Kershaw | 14 | | 8 | Mat Latos | 5 | | 9 | Jay Bruce | 8 | | 10 | Carlos Santana | 9 | | 11 | Domonic Brown | 10 | | 12 | Andrew McCutchen | 11 | | 13 | Desmond Jennings | 12 | | 14 | Tommy Hanson | N/R | | 15 | Jeremy Hellickson | 13 | | 16 | Mike Stanton | 15 | | 17 | Buster Posey | 16 | | 18 | Yovani Gallardo | 17 | | 19 | David Price | 18 | | 20 | Colby Rasmus | 19 | | 21 | Gordon Beckham | 20 | | 22 | Billy Butler | 21 | | 23 | Jesus Montero | 22 | | 24 | Brett Anderson | 23 | | 25 | Madison Bumgardner | 24 | | 26 | Pedro Alvarez | 25 | | 27 | Jhoulys Chacin | N/R | | 28 | Mike Moustakas | N/R | | 29 | Kris Medlen | N/R | | 30 | Neftali Feliz | N/R | | 31 | Elvis Andrus | N/R | | 32 | Daniel Hudson | N/R | | 33 | Jordan Zimmermann | N/R | | 34 | Matt Wieters | N/R | | 35 | Mike Minor | N/R | +-----+---------------------+----------+
As you might notice, almost all of the top 25 guys on this "redone" list were on my original top 25 list. The exception is Tommy Hanson, whom I just plain forgot about (oops!). I still believe these 25 players (plus Pedro Alvarez) represent the best current dynasty players in fantasy.
I emphasize the phrase current for two reasons. First, a major league read player with statistics under his belt is more proven and less risky for the short term, in my view, than a player with no major league statistics, let alone a lack of Triple-A numbers. Second, I include each player's expected 2011 value in his ranking. Playersd are penalized if they are not expected to play in 2011. This is why guys like Jesus Montero, Mike Moustakas and Kris Medlen are ranked so low.
Stephen Strasburg is the exception because if he is truly progressing back from injury as positively as reports indicate, his talent is just too superior to ignore. He is the kind of guy worth paying a premium for to retain in the future, despite limited expected 2011 contribution (pitching 40 innings down the stretch, however, might make some nice quality reliever-equivalent production).
Some very talented players who are unlikely to play much, if at all, in 2011 (I'm looking at you, Mike Moustakas) are not on this list this year, but will likely creep in to the top 25 in coming seasons. If you want more information on why Moustakas is not on this list, consult the original rankings post comments section, which beat the topic like a dead horse. I'm shocked no one gave me any flak for my man-crush on Gordon Beckham (a .285/20-plus/10-plus capable second base talent on par with Rickie Weeks, but with more batting average).
The notable changes to the original top 25 rankings regard a slight bump down for Strasburg (from No. 3 to No. 4 because I just love that CarGo guy), a jump up in position for Jason Heyward, who now rounds out the top five (because he is just that good, walking more than 90 times in his age 21 rookie year), Clayton Kershaw moving up from No. 14 to No. 7 (because I did not realize that Kershaw is younger than Jeremy Hellickson, bumping Latos down a few slots to make room for Heyward and Kershaw, and Alvarez getting kicked off the top 25 to make room for Hanson. If anyone has further questions about my updated top 25 rankings, please post them in the comment below. The rest of this post will focus on the new names, players ranked No. 27-35 (note that Alvarez, originally in my top 25, is ranked No. 26).
First, the nine names that just missed the cut for my top 35 list. These include Brandon Beachy (like his potential, but I have no firm indication as to his future role and full-time major league ETA), Starlin Castro (loads of defensive talent, but his offense needs more proving before I am convinced he really is 15/30 capable), Aroldis Chapman (his lack of control and below-average change-up will limit his value, as will his short term role as a reliever), Travis Snider (I love the potential, but he needs to prove some production first), Eric Hosmer (too far away), Bryce Harper (even further away), Pablo Sandoval (again, love the potential, but his body type will not age well and he needs to prove that 2010, not 2009, was the fluke), Logan Morrison (the White Sox should have traded Ozzie Guillen for him) and Freddie Freeman (others love him, I want to see what he does first). These players all have high ceiling and could vault up the value chart in 2011, but there are too many question marks surrounding downside, role, playing time, etc. that limit their prospective value.
Of the newly ranked names, Jhoulys Chacin is my favorite. He is only 23 years old, but has struck out 23.9 percent of the 631 batters he has faced in his brief major league career (148.1 innings, 151 Ks). Chacin also profiles as a solid groundball pitcher (46.6 percent GB, 32.2 pedrcent fly balls), which should play well at Coors Field.
Though his control, like that of teammates Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge de La Rosa, is well below average (bottom quintile among all pitchers to toss 10-plus innings last season), it is not entirely unbearable in light of his strikeout and groundball rates. Chacin posted a 3.54 FIP and 3.74 xFIP last season, which squares nicely with, though slightly higher than, his 3.28 ERA mark. I expect a mid-to-high 3s ERA, an average WHIP (around 1.32, according to the xWHIP calculator), and a bellyful of strikeouts with wins upside. Chacin could be a second-tiered ace in the making.
Moustakas is a big talent who, despite suspect defense, might stick at third base if not Ryan Braun-bad due to a glut of first base/DH types on the Royals' 40-man roster (Billy Butler, Kila Ka'aihue, Eric Hosmer, etc.). Moustakas will likely change positions eventually, however.
Oliver thinks Moustakas is capable of hitting .280 with around 30 home runs and a handful of stolen based in the immediate future, and, assuming the Royals bring Moustakas up in 2012, he will provide great fantasy value at third base. Moustakas is certainly a player worth owning now in keeper leagues, but I think he is not yet a top 25 talent under the age of 25 because he is at least a year away from full-time play.
I love Kris Medlen. I think he is a top 25-capable starting pitcher with strong strikeout upside. He is ranked so low only because he will be recovering from Tommy John surgery for most of 2011. Medlen should return in the second half, and, assuming he is not too rusty, should provide 50-90 strong innings for the Braves. Keep him on your radar.
Like Paul, I really have no interest in ranking relievers on my list. That is why I did not create a top 40 list, which would have undoubtedly included Chapman. Neftali Feliz, however, is an exception for two reasons. First, Feliz was raised as a starter throughout most of his tenure in the Braves/Rangers minor league systems and was quite successful in that role before being converting into an emergency reliever in 2009. There is a realistic chance that the Rangers convert Feliz back into a starter in the near future. Second, even if Feliz is not re-converted into a starter, he established himself as one of baseball's premier closers last season, striking out more than a batter per inning, keeping the walks under control (6.7 percent BB rate, 2.34 BB/9), and setting the rookie saves record (40) in the process. Feliz is something special.
According the Bill James 2011 Handbook, Elvis Andrus was baseball's fastest baserunner. He was nothing short of elite in getting from first to third on singles and scoring from both first and second base. Unfortunately, raw speed does not always translate into smart baserunning and instincts.
While Andrus stole 32 bases last season, he was also caught 15 times and Ron Washington, taking notice, often gave Andrus a red light. Andrus could easily steal 40-plus bases, but to be given the opportunity, he will have to be more efficient. That is not to say that he won't be in the future, only that, as a largely 2.5 dimensional player (runs, stolen bases, mediocre batting average), he is going to have to prove he is capable of remaining "elite" in at least one of his production categories before I am going to rank him higher.
In short, the White Sox got (pale) hosed when they traded Daniel Hudson, a No. 2 type with upside, for Edwin Jackson. Hudson has good strikeout stuff (22.6 percent strikeout rate last season) and slightly above average control (2.55 BB/9), but the groundball rate (only 35.2 percent last season) might be an issue at Chase Field. A concert of Hudson's groundball rate and home park is the only thing keeping him outside the top 25 list.
Jordan Zimmermann. He throws hard, strikes out a good number of batters, and has good control over his pitch mix. Zimmermann is an exciting talent to watch in 2011 as he removes himself further in time from Tommy John surgery. I expect big things from him, but his injury past forces me to temper expectations.
In light of impressive Double-A numbers entering the 2009 season, Matt Wieters was once touted as a premier hitting talent capable of sticking at catcher. Two seasons later, like Alex Gordon before him, this Double-A wonder has been a large disappointment, hitting only .266/.328/.393 with a mere 20 home runs over his brief major league career (226 games).
For a guy once projected to easily ding 20-plus a season, Wieters' 98 RBI for his career to date has to be slightly underwhelming for those who have had him in keeper leagues for the past two seasons. Nonetheless, Wieters is only 24 and has the upside/pedigree such that we don't want to give up on him yet. I am expecting a .280-plus batting average with 17 home runs from him next season, but do not hold me to it. This is a case of perceived downside canceling out upside.
What is Mike Minor's role in 2011? Like many a Braves prospect (like Brandon Beachy and Julio Teheran), Minor is a talented pitching prospect with a lot of strikeout (9.00-plus K/9) and control (sub-3.00 BB/9) upside who could make a huge impact for both the Braves and fantasy owners. Minor seems to be both the closest to the majors amomg him, Beechy and Trout and also the likeliest of the three to round out the back of the Braves' deep starting rotation in 2011. If Minor accumulates 150 or more innings next season, I will kick myself for not ranking him higher.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 1:26am (32) Comments
The bell has made its final toll for Trevor Hoffman, Mo can't be the same ol' Mo forever, and excuse me for not wanting my crème de la crème closer to be coming off Tommy John surgery. Looking at the closer landscape for 2011, it appears to be lacking the lights-out, no-questions options that existed a few years ago.
The ageless Mariano Rivera showed the first signs of his mortality with a K/9 rate that dipped below 7.0 for the first time since 2000. While I still expect him to remain effective in 2011, I certainly don't feel I can trust him as much as I did a few years ago.
The once-considered "dominant closers of the future," Jonathan Papelbon and Jonathan Broxton, are now precariously situated as the closers on their respective teams. Joakim Soria could be traded, and Neftali Feliz may find himself in the starting rotation someday.
NL West nutcases Brian Wilson and Heath Bell share none of the concerns of the closers just mentioned and have been extremely effective the past two years, but do not have nearly the security of a Rivera or Joe Nathan circa 2007.
To sum it up, 2011 is looking like a good year to avoid drafting that elite closer in round six, seeing how there is a lack of "elite" options at closer.
Consequently, it should be more tempting to make a minimal investment in closers on draft day and instead plan to ride the closer carousel throughout the year.
However, no one likes to come out of the draft without at least one fairly secure closer, so you may be inclined to draft a middle-of-the-pack closer after the top-tier options come off the board. In theory, I have no problem with that strategy, but here are a couple of closers I would avoid selecting for that role:
Andrew Bailey | Team: A's | 2010 Stats: 49 IP, 25 SV, 1.47 ERA, 7.71 K/9, 2.39 BB/9
Since taking over the A's closing role in 2009, Bailey has been lights out, posting an ERA below 2.00 both years. After a dominating rookie season in which he struck out over a batter an inning and saved 26 games (and won him a Rookie of the Year award), his sophomore campaign was less impressive.
Performance-wise, it was still impressive, netting the shiny 1.47 ERA listed above; however, he missed time with back injuries and underwent surgery on his right elbow at the end of the season. Even though reports say Bailey will be ready to assume his closer role by opening day, I have my concerns about how long he will stay in that role.
First off, the noticeable drop in strikeout rate from 9.83 to 7.71 is mildly concerning. I do not believe ineffectiveness is the most likely cause for his removal; however, the more a reliever relies on balls in play to generate outs, the more vulnerable he is to a change in luck. That said, Bailey is pitching in a spacious park with a tremendous defense behind him.
More concerning are the recent signings of Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes. Although I do not believe these signings indicate that the A's don't trust Bailey or believe he is healthy, they do make him much more expendable. Billy Beane is not one to sit idle at the trading deadline, and Bailey is exactly the type of expendable piece he would move for prospects.
When I sum the injury and trade risk Bailey represents, I probably will let someone else draft him as their "elite" closer.
Francisco Rodriguez | Team: Mets | 2010 stats: 57 IP, 25 SV, 2.20 ERA, 10.52 K/9, 3.30 BB/9
Despite the punching-of-his-girlfriend's-dad fiasco that ended his season, Rodriguez is heading into 2011 with a contract and the Mets' closer role. The funny thing is, the Mets are likely to do everything in their power to make sure he does not keep that position for the whole season.
This is because Rodriguez has a ridiculous $17.5 million option for 2012 that vests if K-Rod finishes 55 games. As Eno Sarris at Amazin Avenue explains, 55 games finished is not an easy number for a closer to reach, though most established closers will reach 55 if they stay healthy.
In terms of performance, Rodriguez actually had a good year, with his strikeout rate going up to 10.5 while his walk rate fell to 3.3. Still, I don't want to own the closer whose management is looking for any excuse to strip of him of his role.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:01am (4) Comments
This past weekend, I started reading Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan. I held off on reading it for a while because I heard him speak a few times and read enough about the book to figure I had the general gist, but I received a copy as a gift last year and so, I decided to dive in. Already, I can see this book being a potential gold mine for fantasy sports ruminations. In fact, one of the fields he makes reference to early in the book—when talking about the relevance of this train of thought—is gambling, which is essentially the way I choose to approach fantasy baseball and something I’ve also been reading more about recently.
Some of the core tenets of the book aren’t exactly revolutionary at face value, but they’re the type of thoughts that become increasingly consuming the more you think about them. This is because they are nearly infinitely applicable. A main premise of Taleb’s is that the impact of difficult-to-predict, outlier type events on the arc of the world’s history is extremely profound.
The real fantasy implication in the early part of the book comes from two points. First, what we don’t know is more important than what we do know. Because we have done as much possible to account for what we do know, that information—or the resulting events there from—has very little opportunity to harm us compared to that which we don’t know.
Second, due to both an excessive reliance on what we do know and an inflated perception of the completeness of our knowledge, we both lack the imagination to conceive of and tend to underestimate the likelihood and impact of the extreme outlying events that shift paradigms do so much to shape the world – Black Swans.
Jose Bautista was a Black Swan. Black Swans emerge each year to varying degrees. As Taleb states, unpredicted highly impactful events occur more often than we expect them to and their impacts are huge. We can parse the idea of how predictable the emergence of players like Ryan Braun and Francisco Liriano were (both were indeed making mockeries of their competition in the minors), but ultimately they succeeded beyond even the wildest of expectations. The main point here is that these types of events will occur and we need to consider them within the realm of possibility—even if they’re highly unlikely.
An unknown Blue Jay jacking 54 dingers, Albert Pujols getting hurt and missing 130 games, or playing a full season and hitting .287, Mark Prior recapturing something like his 2003 form—a small number of events like these happen each year, invariably. Now, it would be beyond foolish for us to try to predict what those few absolutely inexplicable things will be and it would be even more foolish to “bet” on those types of things occurring when assembling our team. The risk is just too great. Practically speaking, what we should do is keep aware that a few of these kinds of things will happen and be open to such occurrences.
As high level fantasy players, we sometimes talk ourselves out of the reality of what is occurring on the field. I talked myself out of believing in Jose Bautista for a long time; I wanted no part of him. Yet, Bautista was doing basically unprecedented things, smacking homers seemingly every night. My reaction was to retreat deeper into my shelter of “advanced knowledge,” his further defiance of the tenets of such knowledge paradoxically reinforcing my belief that he was just that much more due for that much more drastic a regression.
Instead of looking at dramatic outliers as a way to reinforce the rules they are presently defying, perhaps we should also pause and consider whether we may be passing up the truly game-changing opportunity by trying too hard to disregard such performance. Obviously, I’m not recommending one go crazy and drop proven valuable commodities to chase an obscure player who hits three homers in five games. Also, I’m certainly not advocating that we abandon the knowledge base and empirically-based decision-making processes we’ve developed. What I am saying is that perhaps we should integrate the mere fact that inexplicable cases are bound to occur more soundly into our models of thought.
Further, from an investment standpoint, there’s no way I and so many others should have passed on the opportunity to inexpensively acquire Bautista for so long in 2010. Hindsight is 20/20 and all, but quite simply, the impact catching that Black Swan lightning in a bottle is so disproportionate to what you lose by taking a few unsuccessful lost cost shots to nab it, that it’s a good bet from a simple leverage point of view.
In a sense, I think this is a skill that really separates the handicapping sharps from the square public bettors. I’ve recently been reading more and more about professional sports gamblers and thinking about what I should incorporate into my fantasy perspective. One point that seems to also jibe with my take on some of Taleb’s writing is that in addition to thinking about playing the team, sometimes you have to think about just playing the number.
Before wrapping up, I’d like to mention one more point that Taleb makes in the early part of Black Swan. Taleb cautions us about being too secure in our knowledge about things. He implies that our tendency to try to “Platonify” an incredibly complex world often, in turn, precludes us from seeing the Black Swans. It urges us to explain them away, to ignore them because doing so protects that which we know against the uncertainty of that which we don’t know and the potential implications of the unknown on the known systems – systems we build lives, careers, institutions, and societies on.
Remember, the fantasy community is going to get many, many things wrong. In fact, there’s a good chance that none of the folks you might look to for guidance about fantasy baseball will predict a single one of the three most profound influencers of the 2011 season. But that’s perfectly fine, because the flip side of knowing your capabilities is to know your limitations. We must retain a healthy skepticism, but also continually remind ourselves not to cast as false all that doesn’t adhere to our current understandings
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:34am (9) Comments
Thursday, January 20, 2011
On Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, 12 baseball analysts from around the web mock snake-drafted a fantasy baseball team on Mock Draft Central for a 25-player team, using the standard 5x5 categories and a 1500 IP limit.
Teams were constructed to resemble team rosters with three starting pitchers, two relief pitchers, four "generic" pitchers (starter or reliever), one of each of catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, middle infielder and corner infielder, five outfielders and three bench players.
Who drafted who, where and why? We have broken down this 25-round draft into four parts—rounds 1-6, 7-12, 13-19, and 20-25—and in the following weeks, on Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, and Feb. 18, each of the participants in the draft, in attempt to answer this question and provide you with insight as fantasy baseball drafts begin to gear up for 2011, will give their insight into each of their picks.
Below is a list of who participated in the draft and their respective teams. The draft order was random. I have asked each participant to vote on the three teams that they believe were the best drafted and have assigned point values, based on the results of that vote, in parentheses next to each participant's name.
First-place votes were worth three points, second-place votes were worth two points, and third-place votes were worth one point. By the author's own votes system, the three "best" perceived draft teams belonged to Ben Pritchett (Big Ben), Dave Chenok, and me. Who do you think drafted the strongest teams? We welcome everyone to civilly weigh in with their thoughts in the comments section below.
You can access a chart of the entire draft, by round, by clicking here. Below is a simplified breakdown of each team by position. Yes, in hindsight, I do realize that I forgot to draft a corner infielder. Oops. I guess I will have to put out a mock waiver claim on Chase Headley or David Freese!
Though a few teams got virtually no love (votes) from the other drafters, I usually take that as a sign of one's prized assets flying under the radar on draft day rather than that of a bad draft...at least assuming you didn't draft Yuniesky Bentacourt.
Remember, drafting is only 40 percent of the game. The other 60 percent is monitoring the waiver wire over the course of the season (for which Josh Shepardson and I will have you covered with analysis, weekly!)!
Draft Position No. 1: Vincent Carmela of The Hardball Times
Vote Points: 1 (11th)
Position Player Team C Geovany Soto Cubs 1B Paul Konerko White Sox 2B Rickie Weeks Brewers SS Hanley Ramirez Marlins 3B Casey McGehee Brewers MI Reid Brignac Rays CI Ike Davis Mets OF1 Shin-Soo Choo Indians OF2 Corey Hart Brewers OF3 Vernon Wells Blue Jays OF4 Nick Swisher Yankees OF5 Peter Bourjos Angels UTIL Dustin Ackley Mariners SP1 Yovani Gallardo Brewers SP2 David Price Rays SP3 Clay Buchholz Red Sox RP Joe Nathan Twins RP Kyle Farnsworth Rays P Matt Garza Cubs P John Lackey Red Sox P Ervin Santana Angels P Derek Holland Rangers BN John Buck Marlins BN Aaron Harang Padres BN Daniel Bard Red Sox
Draft Position No, 2: Josh Shepardson of The Hardball Times
Vote Points: 9 (4th)
Position Player Team C Carlos Santana Indians 1B Albert Pujols Cardinals 2B Ian Kinsler Rangers SS Alexei Ramirez White Sox 3B Alex Gordon Royals MI Eric Young Jr. Rockies CI Kevin Youkilis Red Sox OF1 Jay Bruce Reds OF2 Drew Stubbs Reds OF3 Delmon Young Twins OF4 Carlos Beltran Mets OF5 Magglio Ordonez Tigers UTIL David Ortiz Red Sox SP1 Cole Hamels Phillies SP2 Chad Billingsley Dodgers SP3 Ryan Dempster Cubs RP Joel Hanrahan Pirates RP Craig Kimbrel Braves P Jeremy Hellickson Rays P Jordan Zimmermann Nationals P Aroldis Chapman Reds P Joel Peralta Rays BN Kila Ka'aihue Royals BN Marc Rzepcynski Blue Jays BN Matt LaPorta Indians
Draft Position No. 3: Ray Flores of Fantasy Baseball Cafe
Vote Points: 7 (5th)
Position Player Team C Matt Wieters Orioles 1B Miguel Cabrera Tigers 2B Martin Prado Braves SS Starlin Castro Cubs 3B Ian Stewart Rockies MI Alex Gonzalez Braves CI Prince Fielder Brewers OF1 Matt Kemp Dodgers OF2 B.J. Upton Rays OF3 Carlos Quentin White Sox OF4 Andres Torres Giants OF5 Jason Kubel Twins UTIL Billy Butler Royals SP1 Ubaldo Jimenez Rockies SP2 Cliff Lee Phillies SP3 Roy Oswalt Phillies RP Jose Valverde Tigers RP Jonathan Broxton Dodgers P Johan Santana Mets P Javier Vazquez Marlins P Scott Baker Twins P Marco Scutaro Red Sox BN Raul Ibanez Phillies BN Johnny Damon FA BN Jose Lopez Rockies
Draft Position No. 4: Adam Kaplan of Game Of Inches
Vote Points: 6 (6th)
Position Player Team C Mike Napoli Angels 1B Mark Reynolds Orioles 2B Dustin Pedroia Red Sox SS Asdrubal Cabrera Indians 3B Evan Longoria Rays MI Kelly Johnson Diamondbacks CI Michael Young Rangers OF1 Alex Rios White Sox OF2 Jason Heyword Braves OF3 Ben Zobrist Rays OF4 Logan Morrison Marlins OF5 Franklin Gutierrez Mariners UTIL Scott Rolen Reds SP1 Roy Halladay Phillies SP2 Chris Carpenter Cardinals SP3 Ricky Romero Blue Jays RP J.J. Putz Diamondbacks RP Fernando Rodney Angels P Brandon Lyon Astros P Gavin Floyd White Sox P Kevin Slowey Twins P A.J. Burnett Yankees BN Jesus Montero Yankees BN Coco Crisp A's BN James Loney Dodgers
Draft Position No. 5: Dave Chenok, the winner of The Hardball Times "Compete Against The Experts" fantasy league competition
Vote Points: 10 (T-2nd)
Position Player Team C Jorge Posada Yankees 1B Adam Dunn White Sox 2B Chone Figgins Seattle SS Troy Tulowitzki Rockies 3B Ryan Zimmerman Nationals MI Jose Reyes Mets CI Chipper Jones Braves OF1 Justin Upton Diamondbacks OF2 Carlos Lee Astros OF3 Nick Markakis Orioles OF4 Bobby Abreu Angels OF5 Austin Jackson Tigers UTIL Vlad Guerrero Rangers SP1 Adam Wainwright Cardinals SP2 Francisco Liriano Twins SP3 CJ Wilson Rangers RP Jonathan Pappelbon Red Sox RP Francisco Rodriguez Mets P Jonathan Axford Brewers P Brad Lidge Phillies P Jair Jurjens Braves P Edison Volquez Reds BN Lance Berkman Cardinals BN Freddie Freeman Braves BN Clayton Richard Padres
Draft Position No. 6: Zach Sanders of RotoHardball and Fangraphs
Vote Points: 4 (T-8th)
Position Player Team C Brian McCann Braves 1B Aubrey Huff Giants 2B Robinson Cano Yankees SS Ian Desmond Nationals 3B Michael Cuddyer Twins MI Neil Walker Pirates CI Derrek Lee Orioles OF1 Matt Holliday Cardinals OF2 Hunter Pence Astros OF3 Juan Pierre White Sox OF4 Jose Tabata Pirates OF5 Rajai Davis Blue Jays UTIL Mitch Moreland Rangers SP1 Jon Lester Red Sox SP2 Mat Latos Padres SP3 Shaun Marcum Brewers RP Brian Wilson Giants RP Heath Bell Padres P Brandon Morrow Blue Jays P Ted Lilly Dodgers P Ryan Madson Phillies P Luke Gregerson Padres BN Brian Fuentes Athletics BN Johnny Cueto Reds BN Kyle Drabek Blue Jays
Draft Position No. 7: Ben Pritchett of The Hardball Times
Votes Points: 12 (1st)
Position Player Team C Joe Mauer Twins 1B Joey Votto Reds 2B Howie Kendrick Angels SS Stephen Drew Diamondbacks 3B Jose Bautista Blue Jays MI Juan Uribe Dodgers CI Adam Lind Blue Jays OF1 Andre Ethier Dodgers OF2 Jayson Werth Nationals OF3 Michael Bourn Astros OF4 Adam Jones Orioles OF5 Alfonso Soriano Cubs UTIL Hideki Matsui Athletics SP1 Tim Lincecum Giants SP2 Zack Greinke Brewers SP3 Jered Weaver Angels RP Carlos Marmol Cubs RP Francisco Cordero Reds P John Danks White Sox P Ian Kennedy Diamondbacks P Brian Matusz Orioles P Kevin Gregg Orioles BN Chris Sale White Sox BN Edwin Jackson White Sox BN Kurt Suzuki Athletics
Draft Position No. 8: Brett Greenfield of Fantasy Phenoms
Vote Points: 4 (T-8th)
Position Player Team C Buster Posey Giants 1B Justin Morneau Twins 2B Brian Roberts Orioles SS Rafael Furcal Dodgers 3B David Wright Mets MI Yunel Escobar Blue Jays CI Kendry Morales Angels OF1 Carl Crawford Red Sox OF2 Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox OF3 Colby Rasmus Cardinals OF4 Shane Victorino Phillies OF5 Will Venable Padres UTIL Luke Scott Orioles SP1 Tommy Hanson Braves SP2 Trevor Cahill Athletics SP3 Madison Bumgardner Giants RP Chris Perez Indians RP Evan Meek Pirates P Frank Francisco Rangers P Jhoulys Chacin Rockies P Tim Hudson Braves P Brett Myers Astros BN Homer Bailey Reds BN Mike Minor Braves BN Rick Porcello Tigers
Draft Position No. 9: Jeffrey Gross of The Hardball Times and Game Of Inches
Vote Points: 10 (T-2nd)
Position Player Team C Russell Martin Yankees 1B Carlos Pena Cubs 2B Chase Utley Phillies SS Derek Jeter Yankees 3B Pablo Sandoval Giants MI Danny Espinosa Nationals CI NONE (Oops…) N/A OF1 Ryan Braun Brewers OF2 Nelson Cruz Rangers OF3 Mike Stanton Marlins OF4 Desmond Jennings Rays OF5 Angel Pagan Mets UTIL Manny Ramirez FA (Rays?) SP1 Josh Johnson Marlins SP2 Dan Haren Angels SP3 Max Scherzer Tigers RP Drew Storen Nationals RP Matt Thornton Tigers P Koji Uehara Orioles P Colby Lewis Rangers P Ricky Nolasco Marlins P Travis Wood Reds BN Brandon League Mariners BN Joba Chamberlain Yankees BN Takashi Saito Brewers BN Ryan Raburn Tigers
Draft Position No. 10: Tim Heaney of KFFL.com
Vote Points: 2 (10th)
Position Player Team C Chris Iannetta Rockies 1B Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox 2B Dan Uggla Braves SS Jimmy Rollins Phillies 3B Alex Rodriguez Yankees MI Gordon Beckham White Sox CI Pedro Alvarez Pirates OF1 Andrew McCutchen Pirates OF2 Chris B. Young Diamondbacks OF3 Denard Span Twins OF4 Jason Bay Mets OF5 Dexter Fowler Rockies UTIL Julio Borbon Rangers SP1 Justin Verlander Tigers SP2 Wandy Rodriguez Astros SP3 Josh Beckett Red Sox RP Joakim Soria Royals RP Huston Street Rockies P Gio Gonzalez Athletics P Jorge De La Rosa Rockies P Ryan Franklin Cardinals P Matt Capps Twins BN Bud Norris Astros BN Gaby Sanchez Marlins BN J.J. Hardy Orioles
Draft Position No. 11: Paul Singman of The Hardball Times
Vote Points: 5 (7th)
Position Player Team C Victor Martinez Tigers 1B Mark Teixeira Yankees 2B Aaron Hill Blue Jays SS Alcides Escobar Royals 3B Adrian Beltre Rangers MI Tsuyoshi Nishioka Twins CI Sean Rodriguez Rays OF1 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies OF2 Ichiro Suzuki Mariners OF3 Grady Sizemore Indians OF4 Brett Gardner Yankees OF5 Travis Snider Blue Jays UTIL Domonic Brown Phillies SP1 CC Sabathia Yankees SP2 Brett Anderson A's SP3 Dan Hudson D'backs RP Mariano Rivera Yankees RP Neftali Feliz Rangers P Jonny Venters Braves P Octavio Dotel Blue Jays P Rafael Soriano Yankees P Hiroki Kuroda Dodgers BN David DeJesus A's BN Jed Lowire Red Sox BN Cliff Pennington A's
Draft Position No. 12: Lane Rizzardini of Bruno Boys
Vote Points: 0 (12th)
Position Player Team C Miguel Montero Diamondbacks 1B Ryan Howard Phillies 2B Brandon Phillips Reds SS Elvis Andrus Rangers 3B Aramis Ramirez Cubs MI Mike Aviles Royals CI Adam LaRoche Nationals OF1 Josh Hamilton Rangers OF2 Curtis Granderson Yankees OF3 Torii Hunter Angels OF4 Tyler Colvin Cubs OF5 Ryan Ludwick Padres UTIL Omar Infante Marlins SP1 Felix Hernandez Mariners SP2 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers SP3 Matt Cain Giants RP Andrew Bailey Athletics RP David Aardsma Mariners P Jonathan Sanchez Giants P James Shields Rays P Phil Hughes Yankees P Jaime Garcia Cardinals BN Placido Polanco Phillies BN Nyger Morgan Nationals BN Miguel Tejada Giants
A great big thank you to Mock Draft Central for hosting the draft and to everyone who participated.