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Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Earlier this week, Ben Pritchett dispensed some fantasy trade deadline advice and inspired me to offer some up as well. Perhaps the single piece of advice that I give most frequently is to make sure you don’t get left at the altar because you made the good the enemy of the perfect.
Often times, fantasy owners conflate “value” with production, wins, or points. If you are in a position where you need to make a trade, then, well, you need to… make a trade. You certainly shouldn’t make an unreasonable or unfair deal. But you should understand that it is not always prudent to prolong your pursuit of a transaction to extract every last drop of value you may be able to squeeze from your trade bait. With each passing day, the very deficiencies compelling you to trade in the first place get further entrenched; the window of opportunity through which you can emerge victorious closes ever so slightly tighter. Getting 90 cents on the dollar today may, in fact, actually be a better move for you than getting 97 cents on the dollar 10 days from now.
Indulge me for a paragraph while I make a drawn-out analogy. Say you are parked at a meter that just expired and you don’t want to move your car. You see the meter maid a 100 feet from you, walking toward your car ticketbook in hand. The problem? You have no quarters. But, you do have a dollar. If somebody offered you three quarters for that dollar, wouldn’t it be in your interest to take it? By steadfastly refusing to concede value in a transaction, you risk paying the greatest price of all, the large fine you’ll be given if you do nothing at all. At such a point, those quarters are just a better “fit” for you than your dollar, even if they are “worth” less.
The parking meter will expire on every team in your league but one. If you’re not in first place in your league, you need to be conscious of the ticking meter and understand that in the vast majority of cases, the status quo is not going to save you from expiry.
By no means do I encourage taking a deal that isn’t reasonable, or trading just for the sake of doing so. I’m telling you to be proactive. Understand that value is relative and that a one-to-one exchange of “value” is not always possible. Do not cut off your nose to spite your face; be active, reasonable, and address your needs. Hoping the wiles of randomness also work out in your favor never hurts either.
As a matter of practicing what I preach, not long ago a co-owner and I engaged in a deal like those discussed here. We traded Clayton Kershaw straight-up for Hunter Pence. We were both a bit surprised at how low the market for Kershaw was and agreed that he was “worth” more than Pence, but we’re running away with Ks in the league and needed some upgraded across-the-board offensive punch. Pence was more valuable to our team than Kershaw. We had been shopping Kershaw for a little while, targeting players like Matt Holliday and Andrew McCutchen but didn’t seem to be making much progress, so when this offer came our way, we decided it was in our best interest to take it, check it off the list, and move on to the one or two other deals we’re planning to try to get done before the deadline.
Remember, the fantasy baseball trading market is imperfect and inefficient. Positioning the good as the enemy of the perfect is a recipe for complacency, which is to say a recipe for the bad.
Since most of the advice given around this time is aimed at those not currently in first place, let me also throw a bone to the haves and help them out a bit, too. As I mentioned in my previous column, one of the fist things a leading team’s owner must do is to assess his team honestly and determine whether the team’s performance is sustainable, and whether its leads in categories are “real.” Assuming an owner performs that exercise and is still confident in his team’s superiority, his mantra going forward should be risk-aversion. The teams behind the first place team are most likely going to attempt to alter their strategies either subtly or profoundly to challenge the leader. Once the team behind you makes the first move, the first place team is presented with three options: stand pat, follow suit, or zig when your opponent zags.
When you’re leading the league, it is important to remember this self-evident, but critical, truism—since you can’t really improve your standing (other than the relative strength of your standing), a bold move or change of course is generally more likely to hurt you than help.
In some rare cases, for example this one, as described by one of my favorite fantasy writers, Patrick DiCaprio on THT a few years ago, you may even be able to exercise a “dominant strategy.” However, the number of externalities, variables, and workings of the game imply that pure dominant strategies aren’t always available to an owner.
If your rival gets fires the first salvo, you’re left to make one of three choices—stand pat, follow suit, or zig to his zag. Responding to another team’s move with one of your own isn’t technically a “dominant” strategy, but the underlying philosophy can be similar.
Holding steady, following suit, or zigging in response to a zag can all be reasonable moves for a first place team. Regardless of coursed of action, my approach in these scenarios is like my approach in the first rounds of a draft; I consider downside more strongly than upside. The shared premise in these scenarios of pseudo-dominant strategy and actual dominant strategy is that protection is key—you’re not playing for the big inning, but for the one insurance run.
Upon the passing of the trade deadline, your opponents will largely lose the opportunity to alter the standings through swaps of player personnel, so in many ways this is one of the last strategic battles a first place team has to fight until the very end of the season. From the deadline on, there’s still plenty of opportunity for strategy to influence outcomes, but on more of a micromanaging level. The post-deadline season is when everybody’s got their money in and the dealer starts flipping over cards. A bad bet is an acceptable reason to lose—reckless betting isn’t.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:56am (0) Comments
Earlier today, Colby Rasmus was acquired by the Blue Jays in yet another shrewd "if you don't like 'em, we'll take 'em" move by the unabashedly aggressive Toronto General Manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Formally an eight-player deal between the Blue Jays and the Cardinals, the deal is practically a three-team triangle trade involving 11 players and the White Sox, who managed get rid of Mark Teahen, save $9 million and net No. 2 starter-type pitching prospect Zack Stewart. Similar in form to last year's deal between the Blue Jays and Braves for Yunel Escobar, this move has the potential to be a major win for the Blue Jays if Rasmus pans out. But will he develop as anything more than just a clubhouse headache for Tony LaRussa?
Only just about to turn 25, there is plenty of upside for Rasmus, but his ceiling and "projectable" room to grow shrinks more and more with each passing year and every major league at-bat that pins down his true talent level. Hitters tend to peak around age 25 and 26, while fielders tend to peak a couple of years earlier. Rasmus is right in that "sweet spot" between 24 and 26 where hitters tend to make their biggest leaps forward offensively and retain most of their fielding value.
I am neither a scout nor a forecaster. That "magic leap" forward is not an easy thing to predict, and it is certainly not something I will pretend to know how to do. All that my expertise can tell you is that as a player gets older, his peak potential attenuates into plateau probability. Our own Brian Cartwright and his Oliver Forecasting engine (half-season subscriptions are now available for only $7.50) does a fantastic job at forecasting younger players. Here is what Oliver forecasted for Rasmus, per 600 plate appearances, through age 30:
Those are pretty good numbers, let alone for a center fielder. In our brave new world of the pitcher, where the league-average OPS and wOBA are .711 and .315, respectively, those numbers look even better. Still, an .800 OPS, 20-ish home run hitter* is probably on the low-end of the type hitter Cardinals' fans expected their former first-round pick to develop into just a few short years ago.
*In the preseason, I boldly predicted Rasmus would not reach 25 home runs this year and was skeptical of him eclipsing 20. Some, mostly Cardinals fans, called me crazy, but with only 11 on the season and fewer than 60 games remaining in the Cardinals schedule, I seem destined to win this wager.
The Rogers Center is much different from Busch Stadium. For example, whereas Busch has depressed lefty home runs by about nine percent over the past three years according to the 2011 Bill James Handbook, the Rogers Center is a dead-neutral park, with a lefty batter home run park index of 100 on the dot. The differences is the parks can be observed, courtesy of Katron.org, by mapping out Rasmus' batted ball data at Busch Stadium over the Rogers Center:
Last year's map of data, when Rasmus was hitting for better power, looks much better:
Had Rasmus been a righty, rather than a lefty, the change in setting for Rasmus would likely have a more substantial impact than it will. Being a lefty, however, Rasmus' move north is postured to give him a small boost in power with some offset in walks. If we boldly and fallaciously assume James' park factors from 2008-2010 will remain constant for the next six years, here is how Rasmus' age 2012-2017 seasons might look:
Comparing the two charts, you might notice a roughly +.010 point, or 1.25 percent, change in Rasmus' expected OPS. That is improved raw production overall, but nothing substantial. On-base is more valuable than slugging, so the change in wOBA caused by the change in parks is likely to be nil. Thus, if we look at what to expect, Rasmus will probably be the same low-.800 OPS player for Toronto he was in St. Louis unless he takes that "magic leap" forward.
This is not to be overly critical, however, because .800-OPS types have been getting scarcer and scarcer over the past two seasons. Rasmus is capable of playing a good-enough, though not elite, center field to stick and provide plenty of positional value, as well. Despite a relatively high strikeout rate that offsets a good walk rate, Rasmus should be capable of producing a combined +10-15 WAR over the next three seasons for the Jays before hitting the free agency market.
That is a lot of potential value, and all it really cost the Jays was pitching prospect Zach Stewart, who could be pretty good, but is still just a prospect, and prospects are always fickle. I will also always take three-plus years of team control for a young .800 OPS hitter, let alone center fielder, over six years of a pitching prospect.
All in all, this was a good move for Alex A., and if the Jays are able to lock Rasmus up for the next six years (through age 30) at, say, $35 million, it could be a steal for the Jays, who have become a very strong up the middle team over the past 12 months. But what does it mean for fantasy owners?
As a fantasy hitter, Ramus is still overrated, particularly in 5x5 standard leagues. Rasmus is more likely to remain a 20-25 home run hitter going forward, but he is still only a .260/23 HR/11 SB type batter. That kind of production is valuable, but probably not top-36 (OF3) material. Rasmus is a brand-name player who was drafted as a top-25 outfielder and top-100 overall player this year, and given that kind of love, he is unlikely to be someone to turn a profit and is probably capable of returning a loss.
Ramus takes a good number of walks (11.7 percent BB rate over the past two seasons), but strikes out too much (20 percent of the time this year, 22 percent career) given his power output (.185 career ISO), and that will keep his potential batting average—and in turn on-base percentage—lower than what it could be.
Rasmus has good instincts on the basepaths (+13.9 UBR over his 385-game career), but just average-ish speed (career +5.3 speed score) that, paired with a good-but-not-great on-base rate, will not lead to much more than ten stolen bases a year.
If another owner is your league is excited about Rasmus and willing to pay for him at preseason rates, I would recommend exploiting the opportunity. Rasmus does not particularly overwhelm as a keeper, particularly at his probable preseason price. Good, reasonably attainable outfielder trade targets for Rasmus include B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward, and Michael Morse. If post-trade Rasmus does not meet up to the hype surrounding his name at the trade deadline, do not be surprised.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:20pm (6) Comments
Friday, July 29, 2011
All stats current through at least Monday, July 25
Hey everybody! Did ya miss me? A hearty thank you to Paul Singman and Derek Ambrosino for taking over my weekly column the past few weeks. I was able to catch their pieces, and they made some fantastic recommendations which I hope helped everyone's team. Today marks my 24th birthday, so make sure to give me a shout-out in the comments below!
Let's look at this week's best waiver wire fodder and trade deadline trade targets as I rediscover the sitcom "Sports Night" on Netflix.
Johan Santana | Mets | SP | 31 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: N/A (injured)
Oliver ROS: 3.68 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.25 K/BB
Johan Santana is finally beginning his rehab stint this week. Unless I am mistaken, a player can do this for a maximum of 30 days, so Santana should be on track to rejoin the Mets rotation by the end of August. Santana will likely get a maximum of 30 or so innings and could be rusty, but he's always been a reliable pitcher when on the mound. Owners of young pitchers like Jordan Zimmerman and Michael Pineda (despite what the Mariners have previously said) should monitor Santana's progress and stash him on an available DL spot now, before he gets closer to returning.
Recommendation: Santana should be owned and stashed on the DL in mixed leagues with 12 or more teams and all NL-only formats.
Dexter Fowler | Rockies | OF | 17 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .258/.348/.398
Like Travis Snider, Dexter Fowler is a post-hype prospect (albeit to a substantially lesser degree) who got sent down after struggling in the majors, subsequently struggled in the minors, and has been red hot since getting called back up. Despite going yard exactly zero times thus far this year, Fowler's ISO sits as a surprisingly league average .131 mark. More importantly, however, the speedster, despite all his batting average woes, continues to float a robust walk rate, getting on base over 35 percent of the time despite barely finding a hole in the opposing team's offense one out of every four at bats.
Fowler has good wheels (6.2 speed score this year, 7.0 mark career), and at only 25 years is still quite capable of using them. Since being recalled 10 games ago, Fowler has hit .324/.439/.588 with three stolen bases. Fowler is not a .300 hitter, but .270 could be in the cards courtesy of a career and in-season line drive rate north of 21 percent—if he cuts down his atypically high in-season popup rate (10.6 percent this year, 5.4 percent career) and can get his strikeout percentage back down to about 20 percent. This late in the year, waiver wire talent tends to be slim pickings in all but the shallowest of leagues, with most owners having caught on to the good/breakout players by now. Embrace the post-hype sleeper market inefficiency; it may be your best shot at making up points.
Recommendation: Fowler should be owned in all NL-only leagues and mixed leagues that employ 60 or more outfielders.
Bud Norris | Astros | SP | 50 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.70 RA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.93 K/9, 2.67 K/BB, 38.6% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.46 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 2.03 K/BB
The past 28 days have been particularly rough for my good friend Bud Norris. Over his past four starts (25 innings), Norris has allowed 14 earned runs and 36 baserunners, good for a 5.04 ERA and 1.48 WHIP on the season. Norris' ownership rate has sunk 15 or so percentage points over that span, including a drop by a fellow owner in the THT Fantasy Experts League.
All pitchers go through some struggles each year, Norris has retained all the gains he has made in his game this season. In July, Norris has faced 109 batters and walked only eight, plunking zero. His walk rate in July (21.1 percent) is down from his season rate of 23.8 percent and career rate of 23.1 percent, but most of that low strikeout rate over this small sample of innings comes from a single seven-inning, three- strikeout performance against Pittsburgh. In his other three outings this month (18 innings), Norris has punched out 20.
All in all, for all his struggles this month, Norris has maintained a walk rate under 3.0, a strikeout rate above 8.0, and a K/BB ratio of 2.9. The Astros of course will not win many games behind any pitcher—their offense outside of Hunter Pence and perhaps Carlos Lee is absolutely atrocious—but Norris, for all the damage those sliders may do to his arm in the future, is emerging as a legitimately good Astros pitcher in the vein of Wandy Rodriguez. In fact, did you know that Norris has six intentional walks, but only one plunk? That gives him an unintentional walk rate per nine under three. He is certainly worth owning down the stretch, and if an owner in your league has foolishly cut ties, be ready to pounce.
Recommendation: Norris must be owned in all NL-only leagues, and should be owned in all mixed formats with an innings cap of or above 1,400. Shallower formats would be wise to stream him in favorable match-ups.
Ubaldo Jimenez | Rockies | SP | 96 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.20 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.56 K/9, 2.47 K/BB, 46.8 GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.57 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.2 K/BB
Ubaldo Jimenez does not like the spotlight. When no one's paying attention, he's great, but when people do start to catch on, something in his genes say "ughhhh, I better start being bad for a little while so no one pays attention to me."
Do not get me wrong, he's great—when on, he has some of the best velocity in baseball with a great groundball rate and plenty of strikeouts to over-match his poor walk rate. However, for all the talent, he seems to frustrate owners annually. In 2008, he started to show flashes of brilliance that led some to think 2009 was his year. That was pretty good, but too inconsistent to call an "arrival" or breakout year—his ERA by month, April thru September: 7.58, 2.88, 2.89, 4.18, 1.77, 4.17. Last season was clearly great, but owners who bought into his first half (127 IP, 15 W, 2.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) were probably sorely disappointed by his second half (94.2 IP, 4 W, 3.80 ERA, 1.30 WHIP).
So far, 2011 has brought the same kind of frustration for owners who bought into the total package in 2010. Over 122 innings, he has turned in a below-average ERA (4.20) and WHIP (1.34), with just six wins. Hidden in those struggles, however, is an Ubaldo Jimenez with a strikeout rate (22.2 percent rate is a career-second best) that is at least as good as it has been over the past few years, a walk rate that is back to 2009 levels (9.0 percent walk rate is a career best), and seven strong starts over his past eight games. You should use those selective stats to sell him to an overly ambitious owner.
Since the middle of June, Jimenez has won five of his past eight outings. Over his past eight games, he has a 3.96 ERA, but five of his past 22 runs allowed (23 percent) came in his outing on July 24 at Arizona (10 percent of past eight outings' innings total). Despite the poor ERA in these past several starts, he has struck out 23.5 percent of the batters he has faced, walking only 7.1 percent of them for a robust 3.3 K/BB ratio.
Those are strong peripherals, but there are plenty of signs that the wheels are more likely to continue to come off rather than turning the season around. For the improved strikeout and walk rate on the year, Jimenez is struggling to get ahead of batters with a first pitch strike (a near-career low rate (55.3 percent F-Strike%, versus a 59.1 percent major league average) and inducing swings-and-misses from batters at a career low 7.7 percent rate that is well below both his career (9.0 percent) and the major league (8.5 percent) average.
More concerning, however, are his ever-declining groundball rate (career low 46.8 percent this season, 47.8 percent in his past eight outings, 60.5 percent career) and fastball velocity (93.4 mph on the season, 93.9 mph over his past eight outings). That's more than 1.5 miles per hour lower than his 2009-2010 level (96.1) and a full tick lower than his career velocity (95.4). He has flashed all the right makings over his career to not only succeed as an ace-style pitcher, but also flourish in Coors Field. However, "flashes" is the best way to describe how his talents seem to ebb and flow. For all his worth, he might be worth most on the trading block.
Recommendation: Ubaldo Jimenez is a sell stock who is not to be bought from other owners in the second half.
Pedro Alvarez | Pirates | 3B | 34 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .244/.329/.448
Despite their romantic fling with first place in the NL Central, the Pirates are not a good team. Outside of Andrew McCutchen (great) and perhaps Garrett Jones (average), they are not even a decent team. To the contrary, they are a team with a poor offense (collective .300 team wOBA, 86 wRC+), league average defense, and a lackluster pitching staff (4.01 xFIP 4.02 FIP that ranked sixth worst and ninth worst in the league, respectively).
Fact: the only major league team that Oliver projects to perform worse than the Astros for the rest of the season is the Pirates. So how have they risen from worst to first? Unlike the Rays, who did it with great scouting, the Pirates have done it with incredible, unsustainable luck. No team has performed better than the Pirates in "clutch" situations according to the Fangraphs' clutch metric that compares high leverage situation performance to overall performance.
Think about it: The Pirates are playing Michael McKenry (.269 wOBA) at catcher. They're rotating over-the-hill players Lyle Overbay (.293 wOBA) and Matt Diaz (.291 wOBA) with the league-average Jones (.322 wOBA!) at first base and right field. Brandon Wood (.284) keeps getting major league chances, even though his career has played out exactly like that of fellow Quad-A player teammate Ronny Cedeno, albeit with more strikeouts. McCutchen and Alex Presley, who has been "good" for only about a year and a half, are the only two players on the Pirates offense other than slightly better than average Neil Walker who have actually done something constructive for the team. The Pirates' pitching staff, meanwhile, has the largest ERA-FIP split in the major leagues, as the Pirates are the only team with more than a half-run differential between their pitchers' "talent" and results.
Not to rant about why the Pirates should not consider themselves contenders, but this contextualizes Pedro Alvarez's recall. Before getting injured on May 21 and subsequently getting sent to the minors, Alvarez was hardly tearing up the league. His .208 batting average, sub-.100 ISO and .587 OPS were a far cry from the .265 batting average, .850 OPS and 25+ home runs projected by many this preseason. Those numbers underwhelm even in light of Wood's 217/.287/.355 line since coming over from the Angels.
Since coming back from his quad injury, however, Alvarez has turned over a new leaf. In 18 games with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate, Alvarez hit .265/.461/.587 with three home runs (.222 ISO) and 12 walks (15.8 percent) to 18 strikeouts (23.7 percent) over 76 plate appearances. Those rates are on par with what he did for the Pirates' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in 2009 and 2010, good for a .422 wOBA. Of course major league pitching is light years ahead minor league pitching, and it is Alvarez's major league strikeout rate, which would be second only to Adam Dunn if he had enough at bats to "qualify" for the batting tittle this season, that is of most concern. Alvarez, however, has done everything a fantasy owner could ask to position himself to be back in "the circle of trust," short of losing all the weight that he found after Pablo Sandoval lost it.
In a world where every third baseman not named Michael Young falls prey to injury and ineffectiveness, a .265/10-plus homer capable rest-of-season bat is a valuable commodity in short supply at the hot corner. In the preseason, I had barely ranked Alvarez as a starting third basemen for 12-team mixed leagues because I was concerned about his major league strikeout rate. Though those strikeout concerns have not abated, the current state of play would make lead me to rank Alvarez as a top 10, borderline top eight, third baseman the rest of the way.
If Travis Snider and Dexter Fowler can tear it up as post-hype sleepers who struggled in their minor league rehabs, then surely we can give some faith and credit to Alvarez's attempts to become fantasy-relevant once again.
Recommendation: Alvarez is a must-own player in any mixed league with 10 or more teams.
Jason Isringhausen | Mets | RP | 32 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.79 K/9, 1.88 K/BB, 35.8% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.49 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 1.55 K/BB
There is not much to say about Jason Isringhausen. At age 39, what you see is what you get.
Izzy is a mid/high sevens strikeouts per nine late-game reliever with poor control (4.15 BB/9 this year, 3.88 career). His 4.33 xFIP and 4.14 FIP on the season are quite above career rates of 4.98 and 3.89, respectively, but xFIP/FIP are generally poor predictive measures for relievers, while his dwelling in spacious Citi Field, where he should remain for the rest of the season, should mask most of the effects of his declining groundball rate.
Despite his mediocrity, however, Isringhausen needs to be owned in more leagues because of his saves potential. Despite all of the "time-share" claims that Mets manager Terry Collins has propagated, Isringhausen has racked up all three of the Mets' saves since Francisco Rodriguex was traded during the All-Star break. If Isringhausen and Bobby Parnell are truly sharing ninth inning duties, for all Parnell's triple-digit gas, Izzy and his unquantifiable "experience" are probably the head of that closing committee until he loses Collins' trust. This late in the season, you get your saves where you can get them, and Isringhausen is looking more and more like a more stable source of saves than the Dodgers or the Cardinals. Despite a 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, be forewarned that Izzy, like Todd Jones before him, probably will not get the job done cleanly. Still, he will get it done.
Recommendation: Isringhausen is a must-own player in any league that values saves, particularly ones where Javy Guerra is also owned.
Marc Rzepczynski | Cardinals | SP, RP | 2 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.97 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.55 K/9, 2.20 K/BB, 65.7% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.41 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.83 K/BB
Banished from the starting rotation, "The Repo Man" has quietly turned in a nice season out of the pen for the Blue Jays. As might be expected of a starter-turned-reliever, Rzepczynski has seen his strengths amplified and his weaknesses palliated with batters seeing him less frequently. His velocity is up over two ticks this season (from 89.1 mph to 91.3), while his strikeout rate (20.9 percent), swinging strike rate (12 percent), and groundball rate (65.7 percent) all sit at career bests.
Meanwhile, his classically fickle control (4.11 career BB/9) has improved this season (3.43 BB/9) despite getting ahead of batters less often (60.3 percent F-Strike% in 2010, 53.2 percent in 2011, 59.1 percent major league average). Rzepczynski's splits—a 2.00 FIP/2.29 xFIP verus left-handed batters and 4.78 FIP/4.46 xFIP versus righties—indicate that he may be ticketed to a permanent LOOGY role. However, Dave Duncan has the magic touch, and the Cardinals' fourth (Jake Westbrook) and fifth (Kyle McCllellan) starters have not exactly been effective this season.
Given Rzepczynski's high groundball rate and strikeout talents, do not be surprised to see the Cardinals give the him another shot at the starting rotation, even if those walks remain a problem. His move out of the AL East into spacious Busch Stadium should do wonders for his peripherals and surface stats. I would keep a close eye on Rzepczynski. If given regular starts, I would consider him a deep mixed streaming option down the stretch capable of a high 3's ERA, 1.30ish WHIP and good strikeout numbers to go with wins potential ahead of Albert Pujols/Matt Holliday/Lance Berkman.
Recommendation: If re-crowned a starter, Rzepczynski is worth spot starting in deeper mixed leagues (14+ teams, 1,500+ innings cap) and NL-only formats.
Jose Altuve | Astros | 2B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .280/.309/.399
Given the relative shallowness of the middle infield this year, the Astros' recent promotion of Jose Altuve makes for an interesting deep league play. Altuve has always hit for a good average in the minors (.327 career batting average) and shown a good ability to steal bases, swiping a bag every three games. He does not walk much and offers little, if any, power, so OBP and OPS leagues should probably avoid him. Deep 5x5 standard formats, however, could always use another player who is .290/15 capable for the rest of the way. Just do not expect many runs scored or RBI opportunities from the empty speed that Houston is loading its roster with.
Recommendation: Jose Altuve should be owned in NL-only formats and mixed leagues with 14 or more teams and middle infield requirements.
Brandon Allen | Diamondbacks | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .239/.340/.429
For deep league owners starved for power, Brandon Allen makes an interesting short-term play. I say short-term because outside of power, Allen will offer owners little else and is likely to be dispelled by Paul Goldschmidt sooner than later, with the Diamondbacks trying to fight for first against the Giants.
Allen owns a minor league career batting average of .268 and a strikeout rate north of 23 percent, so owners should expect a Carlos Pena-meets-Russell Branyan like batting average from Allen. His power stroke (.220 minor league ISO, 139 home runs in 797 games) is legit, however, and if Allen sticks for whatever reason, he could pop five to 10 home runs down the stretch. Allen is also known to steal a few bases now and then, so I would not be surprised to see him end the season with three stolen bases to go along with eight home runs and a .230 bating average and above average on-base percentage (is .340 out of the question?).
Allen, a placeholder, is not exactly an enticing option, but deep mixed leagues tend to be short on quality corner infielders this year due to the sheer volume of slots that can hold a first basemen (three per team in most formats) and the shallowness of third base. You could do worse, particularly if you just lost Luke Scott this past week. Allen is most interesting in OBP-utilizing formats.
Recommendation: Allen is ownable in deeper mixed leagues (14+ teams) as a serviceable corner-infielder or bench player in 12-team mixed.
Edwin Jackson | Cardinals | SP | 43 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.92 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 7.18 K/9, 2.49 K/BB, 46.9% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.17 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.27 K/BB
When pitchers go from the AL to the NL, they tend to gain 0.57 strikeouts per nine, lose 0.41 points off their ERA, and see their groundball and infield flyball rates rise ever so slightly. While we can reasonably expect Edwin Jackson to experience these effects, moving from U.S. Cellular Field (111 park index for runs, 135 park index for home runs from 2008-2010) to Busch Stadium (93 park index for runs, 82 park index for home runs from 2008-2010) will only exacerbate the expected improvements to his overall value.
For the White Sox this year, Jackson has struck out 18.6 percent (7.18 K/9) of batters faced, while walking only 7.5 percent (2.88 BB/9, 2.49 K/BB). This, paired with a 46.9 percent groundball rate, gives Jackson a 3.42 xFIP on the season that is half a run lower than his league-averageish 3.92 ERA. Edwin Jackson's expected WHIP based on his current output is lower than his current WHIP of 1.42, but is still poor at 1.35. eFIP pegs Jackson's move to the NL worth a 3.70 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, while his adjusted ERA and xFIP would figure around 3.50 and 3.35, respectively.
Jackson's first assignment comes at home against the anemic Cubs, which should prove fruitful for Jackson owners. Jackson's return to the NL probably makes him the best rest of season starter available in more than 55 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Recommendation: Jackson should be owned in all NL-only formats (does a $34 FAAB bid seem appropriate?), and mixed leagues should at least engage his services as a stream starter against weak offenses and at home. Capable of a strikeouts per nine.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 12:47am (16) Comments
Colby Rasmus| Toronto| OF| 79 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .251/.332/.423
Already owned in most leagues, Rasmus finds his way into the article this week based on his changing of leagues. Those in AL-only leagues should be prepared to spend their entire FAAB budget on him, as a better player may not cross the line from the Senior Circuit to the Junior Circuit.
Lost in looking at Rasmus' slash line this year is that he's been a better hitter, in spite of the "step back." He has managed to retain his strong walk rate while cutting back on strikeouts by 7.8 percent. The biggest difference between this season and last is his drop in BABIP from .353 to .286 (a number closer to his 2009 rate of .282), and a reduction in his home run-per-fly ball rate from 14.8 percent to 9.3 percent (his 2009 rate was 9.4 percent). His batted ball profile is nearly a carbon copy year-to-year with the most notable change being an increase in pop-ups from 5.3 percent in 2009 and 5.2 percent in 2010 to 13.6 percent this year. Knowing his record, I'd expect to see his pop-up rate regress to his previous percentages.
While Jeffrey Gross does a fantastic job of looking at Rasmus, I chose to look at David Gassko's park factors from this season as opposed to Bill James indices. The change from playing his home games in Busch Stadium to the Rogers Centre certainly would have been more substantial for a right-handed hitter, but it is hardly insignificant. The home run park factor for left-handed batters this season at Rogers Centre is 114 (100 is neutral), while the park factor is 82 at Busch Stadium, a difference of 32 percentage points. Over his first two season's Rasmus had a noteworthy platoon split, which he made strides in changing last year. However, this is the first year that he's hit for a higher average and a better ISO against southpaws than right handers. If he's able to retain the growth against left handers that he's shown this year, while reverting back to a player who hits right handers hard, Rasmus best days are to come.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Leonys Martin| Texas| OF| Not available in Yahoo!
YTD: .332/.407/.500 (Minor league totals across three levels)
Oliver ROS: No projection
The Texas Rangers this spring added yet another talented player to their farm system: Cuban defector Leonys Martin. Since I'm not a scout, I'll defer to John Sickels and suggest reading a brief write-up of his from early June. What I do know is that Martin's stats have been impressive for any player, let alone one playing professional baseball in the United States for the first time. His major league equivalent for the season is .306/.359/.455, a line that would look real nice in the Rangers lineup from a center fielder. Endy Chavez has been playing above his head, so when he cools down, expect whispers of a Martin promotion to grow to a fever pitch with the Rangers well on their way to another postseason. To be eligible for the postseason he'd have to be on the active roster by Aug. 31. I'll venture a guess that means we'll see Martin sometime in August.
His power is showing itself in the form of gap doubles and triples as opposed to home runs, and his above average speed hasn't resulted in great stolen base success, but Martin can be helpful this year thanks to his average and the lineup he'd be playing in. For those in keeper leagues and dynasty formats, his outlook for further development is good.
One of the most promising numbers in his minor league stat line is his strikeout total of just 21 in 184 at bats. His walk total is identical, and when paired with his batting average makes him a prototypical leadoff hitter with a top-notch on-base percentage and above average speed. If he's called up in August, Martin is a nice option in large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats for head-to-head owners looking for some batting average help. It will be much more difficult for him to make a difference in roto leagues as it is difficult to move the average needle so late in the season. Nonetheless, owners who are nearly deadlocked in average have a chance to get a boost as well. It's hard to believe that the Rangers will plop him in the leadoff role out of the gate, so temper run and RBI expectations.
Recommendation: Should be monitored, but not added yet in non-Yahoo! leagues that he's available in.
Wily Mo Pena| Seattle| Util| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: No projection
News of mammoth man Wily Mo Pena signing a minor league contract, and perhaps finding his way to the Mariners roster this summer to help a struggling offense, is no longer a laughable footnote these days with power at such a premium.
The book is unchanged on Pena: He still punishes fastballs and embarrasses himself against breaking balls. The Mariners brass has previously been unfazed by high strikeout rates with Russell Branyan and Jack Cust serving as prime examples. That doesn't mean fantasy owners should ignore it, but it does mean that those in need of some power with wiggle room in batting average should monitor Pena's situation. If he receives semi-regular at bats, he's capable of giving team home runs a slight jolt.
In just 46 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks, he popped five home runs, only one of which came at the launching pad that is Chase Field. That somewhat lessens the concern of moving to a home ballpark that is death on right-handed power. A one-trick pony, Pena won't appeal to most, but specialists have their place in this game.
Recommendation: Should be monitored, and added by owners in desperate need of power in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats if he plays semi-regularly for the Mariners.
Rich Harden| Oakland| SP| 10 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.63 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.87 K/9, 3.09 BB/9, 36.4 percent GB rate
Oliver ROS: 4.32 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 4.2 BB/9
His ERA may not inspire much confidence in gamers looking for pitching help, but Harden is back to striking out hitters at a high clip, and he's doing it while keeping his walk rate in check. The numbers that best support Harden's strikeout rate are his better than league average swinging strike rate and his outside the strike zone swing (o-swing) rate.
The number one key to Harden being a fantasy asset the rest of this year is staying healthy. That could obviously be said about any player, but most players don't own the lengthy injury history of Harden, making it far from a sure thing. Harden is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so there are times it would behoove owners to sit him, but playing his home games at spacious McAfee Coliseum will help. It's surprising to see a name brand player like Harden available in so many leagues. Those in need of pitching help should add Harden and reap the benefits of his bountiful strikeout rate until the wheels fall off the bus.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Alex Cobb| Tampa Bay| SP| 7 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 5.14 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, 56.0 percent GB rate
Oliver ROS: 4.54 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
It's difficult for me to strongly endorse a player with such a low strikeout rate and such an unimpressive walk rate (his walk rate has improved greatly since May), but Cobb's success in the majors and high minors success make him worth mentioning. His stuff isn't overwhelming, but it is good enough that, combined with his pitching polish, allowed him rack up better than a strikeout per inning in the high minors this year and last.
That success hasn't carried over to the majors, but suggests he might be able to add to his paltry current rate as he settles in. His ability to induce ground balls at a high rate lends hope he'll be able to compete against American League East offensive behemoths like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. For now, Cobb is a pitch and ditch option when the match-up is right, but he has potential to be more if he's able to recapture some of his minor league strikeout success.
Recommendation: Should be started against weak offenses in large mixed leagues and AL-only leagues.