May 18, 2013
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Friday, October 21, 2011
Jedd Gyorko| 3B| Peoria Javelinas (San Diego Padres)
AFL stats: .459/.500/.757, 37 AB
Gyorko had a tremendous season split between High-A and Double-A, and his hot bat has carried over to the Arizona Fall League. He leads the league in batting average, and has ripped three home runs and two doubles with 11 RBI. He's making a ton of contact, having struck out only four times. His ability to pile up hits is his calling card, and going to be what eventually gets him to the majors. He finished the year in Double-A, and it isn't unreasonable to think he'll begin next year in Triple-A. If that's the case, he's got a chance to put up jaw-dropping numbers in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.
Nolan Arenado| 3B| Salt River Rafters (Colorado Rockies)
AFL stats: .408/.423/.592, 49 AB
Yet another prospect at the hot corner from an National League West organization finds himself featured this week for the right reasons. Arenado, like Gyorko, had a big season in the minors. He spent the full year in High-A and took advantage of playing in the favorable environment provided by the California League, launching 20 home runs in 517 at-bats. He has hit two more home runs in his 49 AFL at bats and recorded a league best 19 RBI. Arenado rarely struck out in High-A, and has been even more impressive with just three strikeouts in the AFL. He's not walking often, but when you get hits in 20 of 49 a-bats, it's tough to find fault with your approach. He also had no problem working ball fours during the minor league season, so just marvel at his scorching bat.
Josh Vitters| OF| Mesa Solar Sox (Chicago Cubs)
AFL stats: .395/.438/.605, 43 AB
Nope, that's not a typo, Vitters is learning to play the outfield corners, while still getting time at third base and perhaps even dabbling at first base, according to Paige Schector of the Cubs official website. A full-time move to the outfield would hurt his fantasy value, but Cubs fans, and dynasty league owners, would just be happy to see his bat develop as it was expected to when he was selected third overall. He's stinging the ball, but more importantly, he has four walks. Vitters has always been a free swinger, and the key to getting the most out of his hitting skills might be learning a little bit of patience. He didn't crack the Top-100 Fantasy Prospect List, and got no consideration for it, but he's still just 22 and just finished a full season in Double-A, so don't write him off yet.
Tim Beckham| SS| Surprise Saguaros (Tampa Bay Rays)
AFL stats: .263/.391/.605, 38 AB
Don't let the batting average fool you—Beckham is doing a great job at the plate and displaying reasons for optimism about the upcoming season. Beckham's 8:11 walk-to-strikeout rate is a big step up from the 42:120 rate in his minor league season. In addition to his outstanding OBP, he has seven extra base hits that include two home runs. The Rays got little offensive production out of the shortstop position, and Beckham finished the year in Triple-A. Connecting the dots, the Rays could stand to upgrade the position and Beckham would provide a cost-controlled, in-house option if his strong AFL performance continues and he plays well in Triple-A to start next year.
Wil Myers| OF| Surprise Saguaros (Kansas City Royals)
AFL Stats: .343/.511/.686, 35 AB
It would be next to impossible to spin Myers' 2011 season as anything short of a disappointment, but he's doing his best to redeem himself in the AFL. Myers' strike zone judgment and patience are fantastic for a 20-year-old, especially one who spent all year in Double-A. Even in a down season, he walked 52 times in 354 AB. In the AFL, Myers has more walks than strikeouts with a 12:9 BB:K rate. He has hit two doubles, two triple, and two home runs, and is looking like the prospect who excited so many pundits before this year.
Mike Trout| OF| Scottsdale Scorpions (Los Angeles Angels)
AFL stats: .225/.225/.300, 40 AB
Trout exceeded even the most optimistic expectations by reaching the majors before his 20th birthday. His AFL play has been bad, though. He's struck out 11 times, and hasn't walked once. His power hasn't shown itself eithe,r with three doubles being the only extra base hits. Such a small sample is nothing to panic over, or conversely, get overly excited about. Trout remains a top two fantasy prospect.
Bryce Harper| OF| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFL stats: .211/.302/.395, 38 AB
Harper's season ended early due to a hamstring injury, and his stats suggest he may be a little rusty after the layoff. Nothing in his stats stands out as being awful, other than the average, but with just 38 at-bats, a small sample size warning is obviously in order. He's still walking regularly, five times, and isn't striking out at an alarming rate with seven. His three stolen bases and one triple are encouraging because they are positive signs that his hamstring is completely healthy. In such a hitter-friendly environment, it wouldn't be surprising to see Harper go on a home run binge and find himself here once again with a glowing update next week.
Nick Franklin| SS| Peoria Javelinas (Seattle Mariners)
AFL stats: .188/.316/.313, 32 AB
Franklin's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde differences between his 2010 and 2011 seasons have a lot of folks watching him closely in the AFL in hopes of getting a better grasp on his future. He was ranked 36th on the Top-100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect List, where I said this to say about him: "He's set to play in the Arizona Fall League, and is the most likely player on this list to see his stock soar or plummet based on his performance there." With 10 strikeouts, just two extra base hits, and an average below the Mendoza-line, it's safe to say which direction his stock his headed at the moment.
Neil Ramirez| SP| Surprise Saguaros (Texas Rangers)
AFL stats: 2 starts, 7 IP, 1 BB, 5 K, 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
Ramirez had a breakout season this year and has been excellent in two AFL starts as well. He struck out better than a batter an inning this year (10.93 K/9), but also walked a few more hitters (4.04 BB/9) than would be ideal. All things considered, it was a great year for a player who barely cracked Baseball America's top-30 prospects in the Rangers organization. He's primarily a three-pitch pitcher, throwing a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s, a change-up and a curveball. According to his AFL PITCHf/x data, he is leaning heavily on his four-seam fastball and change-up, while occasionally mixing in his curve. He has thrown three sliders, and one cutter according to PITCHf/x. He just missed the cut for the Top-100 Fantasy Prospect List. If C.J. Wilson leaves as a free agent, there will likely be some chatter about Neftali Feliz moving to the rotation, but don't be surprised if that rotation spot ends up filled by Ramirez eventually.
Gerrit Cole| SP| Mesa Solar Sox (Pittsburgh Pirates)
AFL stats: 2 starts, 5.1 IP, 2 BB, 5 K, 5.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Cole's pro debut was a bit messy: He allowed three earned runs and four base runners in just two and a third innings. His second start was more befitting of a prospect regarded as highly as Cole is. He went three innings, allowing no earned runs, walking just one, and striking out three. Unfortunately his PITCHf/x data for two AFL starts is no available, but suffice to say, no one questions his stuff. Keep tabs on his results in the AFL; they may help the Pirates decide what at level to start Cole's minor league career.
Danny Hultzen| SP| Peoria Javelinas (Seattle Mariners)
AFL stats: 3 starts, 9 IP, 3 BB, 2 K, 2.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
The surprise No. 2 overall selection in this year's draft, Hultzen has pitched effectively in three turns. His start on Oct. 19 garnered some attention: He threw four no- hit innings, walking just one batter. On the surface, it looks like he had a dominant game, but that wasn't necessarily the case. He struck out no batters, and the bulk of his outs, 10 of 12, came on flyballs. In fact, since striking out two batters in his two-inning debut, he has struck out zero in his next seven.
PITCHf/x data isn't available yet for his Oct. 19 turn, but it is up for his previous start on Oct. 13. In that start, he threw his four seam-fastball 42 times out of a total of 63 pitches thrown. His fastball velocity sat just below 93 mph, which is plus velocity for a southpaw, and maxed out just under 95. The second most frequent pitch he threw was his two-seam fastball, which he threw 10 times (though his average fastball velocity on that pitch makes me wonder if some of them were misclassified). His final 11 pitches were six change-ups and five sliders. The average velocity on his change-up was 80.5 mph. The difference in velocity between his four-seam fastball and change-up bode well for tying up batters if he's able to throw both with similar arm action. The lack of strikeouts is disappointing, but the fastball velocity and results are promising.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 5:46am (4) Comments
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Posted by Nick Fleder at 3:05pm (0) Comments
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
In continuing my retrospective on the nexus of some fantasy baseball league rules that I have implemented or created over the years, this week’s edition will focus on mid-week injury substitutions. From the time I started the OBFBL in 1999, I never permitted any changes to lineups after they were set for the week. This meant that everyone was on an even playing field with the same risks of losing players to injury. There were several times over the years where teams had players miss games or be placed on the disabled list causing a big fat zero to be placed on the board for them. But there was nothing inherently unfair about this because the same rules and conditions applied equally to everyone.
After the 2007 season, there was some discussion among a few league members proposing a new rule to allow a limited number of injury substitutions. I kept an open mind about it and allowed a well-versed league member to write a formal proposal for the new rule with specific procedures and conditions for how the substitutions could be used. After some more roundtabling and modification, I enacted the Droid DL Substitution Rule in effect for the 2008 season. [Editor’s note: the rule was named after the league member who made the proposal and annually chose a team name related to Droids.]
The following was the exact language in the 2008 OBFBL Constitution laying out the rules for the injury substitutions:
THE DROID DL SUBSTITUTION RULE : Each team will be allotted two DL Substitutions to use during the regular season. If a player in your starting lineup gets injured and is subsequently placed on the DL in the middle of the week, you may replace that player with one of your reserve players. The original disabled player’s points already accumulated will be lost and replaced with the substituted player’s points. These DL Substitutions can be traded during the season in exchange for players. However, each team must then make a subsequent transaction to return rosters to the maximum allowed 22 active players. In the playoffs, each team that advances will be permitted one (1) DL Substitution, regardless of whether they had any remaining at the end of the regular season.
The key to this rule was that the player actually had to be placed on the disabled list. The rule was not intended to be in place for players who just miss a few games with a nagging injury. To see how this rule was utilized and whether it affected the outcome of any games during the season, I kept track of all DL substitutions. There were a total of 16 substitutions made, and not one of them made a difference in the outcome of a single game. This was proven comparing the points scored for the injured player to the points scored by the replacement. There were also some other problems with the rule as it did not account for all potential applications. Several questions and issues were raised about the substitutions, such as whether a team had to use a reserve player at the same position as the injured player. Further, it was questioned whether a team being allowed to use a substitution at or near the end of the week was fair. The moral of the story was that the rule needed to be closely looked at and amended to plug up any ambiguities that existed.
After the 2008 season, I rewrote the Droid DL Substitution Rule trying to patch the holes and make it more clear how the rule applied. Here is how the rule was written in the 2009 OBFBL Constitution:
DROID DL SUBSTITUTION RULE
After thinking I had all my bases covered, sure enough another issue came up that proved to be a flaw in the rule. The eventual 2009 OBFBL champion had Grady Sizemore on his team during the league playoffs in September. Sizemore suffered a season-ending injury which required two surgeries. However, the Cleveland Indians never placed him on the disabled list because it was September and they had expanded rosters at the time. The future champion argued that he should be entitled to use a DL substitution based on the spirit of the rule. His opponent obviously disagreed and said the substitution should not be allowed because Sizemore was not officially on the disabled list. After much consideration, I decided to allow the DL substitution because Sizemore was effectively out for the remainder of the season, and had this injury occurred at any other time of year, he would have been placed on the disabled list.
So for the 2010 season, I carved out this exception for players injured in the month of September if the league owner could provide me with documentation or proof from a reputable online source showing the injured player was out for the remainder of the season. I also set Thursday night as the deadline when teams could utilize a substitution. Despite all of these changes and modifications, there were still questions and shades of gray interpreting this rule. So after the 2010 season, I decided to abolish the DL substitution rule altogether. It is back to where all teams run the risk of having an injured player stuck in their lineup until the end of the week.
While I concede that there are valid arguments why I may have made the wrong decision with the Grady Sizemore issue, I do stand firm that the spirit of the rule was to permit such a move. But that is not what is up for debate now. The point is that I had good intentions when I enacted the DL substitution rule; however, I never anticipated that it would cause so much controversy and have so many gray areas. This was a perfect example of “live and learn” in running a fantasy baseball league. I listened to people who wanted to be able to make mid-week substitutions and created the rule to allow it. But the rule proved to be worse than the initial problem. So after three years, I wished the Droid DL Substitution Rule the best in its future endeavors.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:03am (2) Comments
I'd be willing to guess that most of you hardcore fantasy baseball fans out there have had these kinds of debates countless times with your buddies. Who had the greatest fantasy season of all-time?
"Man, Babe Ruth would have been a monster if there were fantasy leagues back in the 1920s!" "Naw, Ty Cobb would've been even better!" What about those ridiculous pitchers from the early 1900s like Walter Johnson?
Now, finally, we have a means to find the answers to these questions.
Sure, a bunch of guys sitting around at a bar arguing about which players were the greatest ever can be a lot of fun. But this idea takes that to a whole new dimension. Fifteen NFBC veterans, using their finely tuned analytical skills, poring over all of the available major league data from 1901 to the present. Developing strategies and game theories, trying to outsmart and out-maneuver some of the brightest competitive minds in the industry. Monster spreadsheets and systems to rank every individual hitting and pitching season in the history of the game. There is some serious stuff going on here.
I'm incredibly surprised that something like this hasn't been done before. I wish that I could take credit for this insanely wonderful idea, but it's the brainchild of NFBC Hall of Famer Shawn Childs. Shawn decided to get these highly decorated drafters together to compete in what's currently known as the Al- Time Draft. Here is the basic premise:
You can draft any player who played in the AL or NL starting from 1901 to present (no Federal League players). We are using a 20-game minimum in season for the batting positions. If a player qualifies at multiple positions, you can move him around during the draft until you fill your roster.
For pitching, we are using two relief slots on the roster. A reliever needs to have 30 relief appearance to qualify (total games for a pitcher minus starts equals relief appearances).
This is a standard 15-team Roto league. Each team will be drafting 23 players (14 hitters—two catchers, one each for first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner infielder, middle infielder and utility, five outfielders and nine pitchers (1,500 innings minimum) with two required relief pitchers). There are 10 categories: five hitting (batting average, runs, homers, RBI and steals) and five pitching (wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and saves). Each team will be ranked in each category from first to last. The top team will receive 15 points and the lowest will receive one point. Teams will split points if they are tied in a category. Average, ERA and WHIP will go to the furthest decimal point to break ties.
In each round a contestant will declare the player he selects plus the year he wants to use that player's stats.
If an owner drafts a player in the early years and he has pitching and hitting stats, he will get only the stats for the position he decides to use him at. A hitter will receive no pitching stats and pitching will receive no hitting stats.
If a team fails to get enough innings, it will receive one point for all pitching categories. If a team selects a starting pitcher when there are only two relief slots left, it must make another selection.
Not only am I excited about the opportunity to participate in this draft, but I was also lucky enough to draw the No. 1 pick. So it's really up to me to decide which individual player had the greatest fantasy season of all time. No pressure or anything.
For those who think this is merely a fun exercise, this is a pay league, with the winner taking home a free entry into the NFBC Main Event this season and second place also taking home prize money. Also at stake, and even more important to most competitors here, is the pride and honor that would come from winning this inaugural event.
Since you already know what stats you are getting once you select a player, there is no uncertainty played out over the course of the season. As soon as the draft is over, everyone will know who the winner is. To make things more interesting, and add just a little uncertainty to the proceedings, rounds five,10, 15 and 23 will be "blind" rounds. This means that we will, in order, submit our pick and the year we want to use to a neutral party. At the end of each of those rounds, that neutral individual will reveal in no particular order the 15 players selected, then the draft will proceed as normal.
If you think this is the greatest idea ever conceived, you would be correct. To make things even better, this is a slow draft in which each owner has 24 hours to make his selection. On top of that, the draft is being conducted on the NFBC message boards for all to observe, comment and share any opinions they may have. In addition, after making each pick, drafters and observers alike are encouraged to link to the player's career stats and Wikipedia site, as well as share about that player. This has already helped me, and I know many others, learn even more about the great players and the great history of the game we all love.
We are also encouraged to share our thought process while drafting and any insight that we feel we can add, without giving away too much information about our individual draft strategies. This draft began Thursday night, and we are only in round three, but the thread on the message board already has 283 replies. If you love the history of baseball, and think this is an awesome idea, feel free to drop on by the message board and share your thoughts. Or, if you have specific insights, sleepers or strategies that you think would work tremendously in this format, leave 'em here or feel free to send me an e-mail
For the record, here's how I kicked things off, and who I decided had the greatest individual fantasy season in the history of major league baseball.....
Let me first say that I’m honored to have the first selection and to be kicking off the greatest fantasy draft of all time. The owners who are competing in this draft truly are among the best of the best in the industry. Whoever comes out on top, will surely have earned it, and will command all sorts of respect.
Many people that I’ve talked to seem to think that this first selection is an easy choice, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This one selection literally dictates the direction that we want our entire draft to go. Take the top pitcher, and start your offense 28 picks later? Grab the top power bat, but miss out on those huge innings-dominating pitchers, and then have to chase steals as well? What about grabbing that high average, high speed, foul-mouthed ol’ southern boy? That leaves a lot of power to be made up later.
In all honesty, this pick came down to a decision between two very worthy players. After constructing several mock teams through the first six-plus rounds, I made the executive decision that I like the possibilities better overall with this man.
Without further ado, I’ll select The Sultan of Swat! The King of Crash! The colossus of clout! The colossus of clout! THE GREAT BAMBINO!
Babe Ruth, OF, NYY, 1921: .378 (204/540) / 177 R / 59 HR / 171 RBI / 17 SB
I'll update again next week on how things are progressing here. If you wish to visit the thread yourself: http://nfbcboards.stats.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=007986;p=1
Posted by Dave Shovein at 9:39am (26) Comments
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
While gathering some info for an upcoming mini-project, some THT Fantasy writers began kicking around the concept of evaluating—really, self-evaluating—the level of difficulty of the leagues in which they play. No matter how one attempts to do this, there will be a considerable dose of subjectivity driving each diagnosis, but I wanted to share my thoughts on some of the characteristics I consider material to an analysis of this nature. I have a feeling many people wonder how their leagues stack up on the “expert” index, or whatever you’d call it, so I’d like to get your input as well.
First, let's get some syntactical issues out of the way. I’m attempting to judge the degree of difficulty of a league and not other attributes, which may sound similar. For example, I’m not judging the competitiveness of the league, per se. Competitiveness is a precondition of a league of high difficulty, but it is not an indication in and of itself. What I’m trying to identify is what makes a league hard for a good player to win. A league full of inept participants can be highly competitive. Also, I’m not evaluating the league’s features so much as the dynamics within it. I’ll touch more on these topics throughout. But, now here's a list of characteristics that help establish a high degree of difficulty for a fantasy league.
Attentiveness of participants
Durability is the most fundamental and unsung element of talent, though it is also most often ignored. The same dynamic holds true in fantasy sports. The single dynamic that most heavily drives the difficulty of a league is the level of engagement and responsiveness of the participants. In very good leagues, the window of opportunity made available by actionable information is very short. News with fantasy league implications is consumed quickly and acted upon quickly. In daily roster move leagues, for example, this means that a newly anointed closer is added in near real time to the announcement of such decision. If the depth of the league rosters and other dynamics allow, perhaps such news is anticipated and therefore not even actionable when announced, as savvy owners have planned for such shifts in advance.
I’ve mused before about what constitutes an expert player from an individual standpoint, but Patrick DiCaprio laid out a pretty thorough blueprint and extrapolating from that, a high quality league will have players who take reasonable risks and are confident in their own assessments of players. This dynamic means that you can’t necessarily draft straight from a cheat sheet because a player’s listed price may not jibe with the opinion of others. Therefore, you too have to be opinionated. You must identify the players you like and go out hard to get them while being flexible and attentive to the dynamics of a fluid player pool. Sometimes, entire leagues react to collective impulses or strategies and develop their own unique dynamics. While this can verge on a group think scenario, leagues that develop their own senses of value, nuance, and character are generally of a high level. After all, the standard league in which everybody drafts off the provider’s pre-ranks is the epitome of group think.
A difficult league may have a lot of trading or it may have little trading. While trading is a way to increase the efficiency of the supply and demand sides of commodities, that does not mean that good leagues trade more than poor ones. Engaging in trading is also an individual managerial decision, and some players are more prone to trade than others. What is important is that there are active trade discussions and that the deals that do go through are seen as fair by the third parties.
The one blanket statement I’ll make in this regard is leagues in which mega blockbuster trades are consummated with multiple top 50 players changing hands on each side are unlikely to be high quality leagues. In one of my leagues last year, my key deadline move was an Alex Avila for Angel Pagan swap that required considerable negotiation. The existence of trades that involve non-superstar players is an indicator of high quality owners because it means they see the value of players deeper in the talent pool.
Another topic I’ve previously written on is the notion that a more complex league design does not inherently make for a better or more difficult league. Keeper systems, auction formats, deeper rosters, minor league ownership, and shallow player pools can just as easily function to widen the competitive gap in an already mismatched league. The reason such features are often included in “expert leagues” is to give well studied players the opportunity to use and benefit from the full gamut of their baseball and fantasy baseball knowledge. I have a friend who developed a beautifully constructed league with all kinds of nuanced and in-depth features, but it fell apart very quickly because there weren’t enough players who sufficiently understood all its aspects. Quickly, the league was left with a few super teams and several exploited have-nots.
In a high quality league, most, if not all, the participants have a robust understanding of how roster construction, management and point scoring works. These systems are sensible and balanced. I always ask to see league design info whenever anybody asks me to join a league and if I see loopholes that would allow me to coast to victory, I either decline or suggest changes. The ability to exploit scoring dynamics is an essential skill of an expert player, but an expert player in a subpar league is of no use to either party. The best leagues balance pitching and offense, rate stats and counting stats, etc. A well-designed league is also an indicator of commitment and care by the league’s participants, and a difficult league is one that doesn’t confer significant advantage on some players based on its essential design.
After somewhat dismissing parity in the introduction to this column, I will now give it its due. If these other fundamental characteristics are met, chances are parity will occur. Parity is a dynamic created by high quality, difficult-to-win leagues—it’s the natural outgrowth, not a foundational element. As a quick indicator, if you’re winning a league over and over again, it’s not a high-level league. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10-team, draft, mixed, or 14-team, auction, NL-only with minor league slots. Bad leagues come in all shapes and sizes.
Are there owners you know who are not threats to place every year? Are there teams you can count out immediately following the draft? Are there owners who are known to be exploitable trading partners? The fewer owners you can answer yes to in regard to these questions, the higher above average the quality of your league is.
Like parity, the consistent return of participants in a league is really just an indicator of the underlying engagement of those who constitute the league. Still, I feel it is worth a small mention. A league that returns its members indicates engaged participants who don’t feel exploited and who think they have a chance at winning. Returning is a behavior that indicates the individuals in the league perceive the inherently important factors to exist within the league. One of my better quality leagues even has a waiting list. At the end of each keeper cycle, we consider replacements or expansion.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:12am (12) Comments
Thursday, October 27, 2011
J is for Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2012 value
Jacoby Ellsbury screwed me in 2010. I drafted him in the second round in one of my two leagues and watched helplessly as he compiled a .192/.241/.244 triple slash over 84 plate appearances. Worst of all, he played games in April, May, and August, and his DL stints fell in such a way that I expected his damned rib injury to heal all freakin' year. Couple this with the fact that I’m a diehard Yankee fan, and yeah, you could say my feeling towards Ellsbury is pure, unadultured hate.
And Ellsbury knows how much I hate him.
Why else would he go and hit .321 with a glowing .376 on-base percentage, a sizzling .552 slugging percentage, a .402 wOBA, a 150 wRC+, 9.4 fWAR, 39 steals, 105 runs batted in, 119 runs, and the sickest part of all: 32 home runs?
Ellsbury played like a maniac all year, and won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Excuse me, I need to go and punch a wall.
There were only two months in which Ellsbury hit under .300, and his .266 line in April sat at the low end of the split batting average spectrum.
He hit .378 in July, and per wRC+, was 111 percent above league average for the month. His teammate, Dustin Pedroia, won Player of the Month with a 223 wRC+, but let’s not brag—the Sox were watching TBS all October (he he).
The point of this article is not to praise Ellsbury overwhelmingly, but to explain why he should not be drafted as a first-round pick next year. Unsurprisingly, it gives me great pleasure to do so, or else I wouldn’t do it.
Ellsbury was projected by Bill James to hit eight home runs in 2011 over a hefty 674 plate appearances. ZiPS projected a more modest six, albeit over only 467 PA, and the average of the 59 fan projections on FanGraphs predicted the Boston Boy to hit eight home runs over 603 PA.
Needless to say, no one expected the man to hit 32 dingers, and to raise his HR/FB percentage from the 7.0 to 9.5 percent range to a gaudy 16.7 percent mark.
Ellsbury was among the top 30 in HR/FB, but the stat fluctuates wildly on a yearly basis, and besides the perpetual outliers (for example, Ryan Howard or Jim Thome), any name in the top 30 can slip out from one year to the next. Even a man like Prince Fielder can find his name at the top of the list in one year (2007: 23.9 percent) and fall out of the top 20 the next (2008: 18.2 percent). It’s all the luck of the ball.
It’s intuition to figure that a lanky 6' 1", 165 lb. frame will not yield 32 whoppers without a lot-a-bit o’ luck, even in the friendly confines of Fenway Park, and even if Ellsbury may have taken a step forward in his development as a player. He did mash his first pair of home runs to left field this year, and according to Home Run Tracker, eight of his 32 round trippers were classified as “No Doubters,” meaning they cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.
Only five of Ellsbury’s homers were classified as “Lucky” or “Just Enough,” which means, respectively, fly balls that were carried by wind or ones that “barely made it over the fence.”
Here’s a look at how each of Ellsbury’s blasts fell in terms of distance and direction, taken from HitTrackerOnline.com:
If you eliminate Ellsbury’s five lucky home runs and account for fluctuation in HR/FB ratio (we’ll stabilize his ratio at 10.5 percent, the league average in 2010), you’re looking at a total under 20 homers. I think it’s a fair estimate.
This is simply accounting for one stat. Ellsbury, you argue, is a five-category producer and therefore justifies a first-round pick.
At this point, there will be little dispute if you say Ellsbury will hit .300. He’s a .301 hitter in 2245 plate appearances and has hit over .300 in two out of three of his full seasons. His BABIP was only 11 points higher than his career BABIP, yet his batting average was 20 points higher than his career batting average. In fact, Ellsbury is hitting more line drives and fewer ground balls, and the changes in his batted-ball types could help account for his xBABIP of .346 and xAVG of .329.
It would be nitpicky to say Ellsbury is a health concern, but he’s played in an average of 118.5 games over his last four years. Yes, take out the outlier (18 games in 2010) and you have an average of 152 games, but consider the fact that this is his baseline. Expect 10 games missed from Ellsbury, and then account for his explosive and all-out playing style, his demanding position, and his previous injury history (before you say that the rib problem was a “freak” injury, don’t forget the fact that it proved his recovery time to be painfully slow, suffering multiple setbacks due to soreness).
Even if his injury concerns aren’t realized, the larger point looms true: Taking Ellsbury with a top pick or top dollar possesses more downside than upside in principle. He was worth $45 dollars in a standard 12-team league, per Baseball Monster numbers with 70 percent of a $260 budget spent on hitters, leading Ryan Braun at $43, Curtis Granderson at $40, and trailing only Matt Kemp at $50. In a typical auction league, the studs go off the board at $40-$50, meaning Ellsbury’s likely $45 price tag will mean that, at best, he’ll break even on his price.
Ellsbury isn’t worth the top dollar.
K is for killer Ks
The best fantasy starters tend to be strikeout artists, and as such, they have higher value. Even relatively high-WHIP guys find themselves consistently overrated (hello, Yovani Gallardo) because they can hit the coveted 200 mark of Killer Ks. Don’t be the one that bites the bait and drafts Gallardo as their No. 1 or reaches for him as their second “ace.” Check out the following under-the-radar K masters.
Ryan Dempster’s 8.5 K/9 bested Roy Hallday, Ian Kennedy, James Shields, and Cole Hamels in that category. He’s also a solid bounceback candidate with a low FIP and a high BABIP in 2011. He could conceivably be drafted as a fifth starter or worse on a mixed-league team.
Anibal Sanchez’s 9.26 K/9 number was a bit flukish, as his 10.9 percent SwStrk% was 1.4 percent higher than his career number. He generated a roughly two percent Swing% while throwing close to five percent fewer sliders and five percent more changeups than in the previous season. Sanchez’s value is capped by the Marlins offense (he has won four, 13, and eight games in an average of 160 innings pitched over the last three seasons) and his injury history, but he is a Gallardo-lite if you will, and can be gotten at a much lower price.
Javier Vazquez’s K value is dependent, of course, on his returning to the majors for another year, but he put up a 0.71 September ERA and a 2.48 August ERA while striking out 76 in 78 innings. His 7.57 K/9 mark was below his 8.04 career mark, and he did put up 9.77 in a superb 2009. He regained some fastball velocity (90.4 mph in 2011 compared to 88.7 mph in 2010), and his SwStrk% can regress more to his mean (8.9 percent in 2011 compared to 11.1 percent career). If he’s back, he may not be as cheap as you’d hope due to his second-half resurgence, but his previously-reached upside makes him worth drafting as a fourth starter on a mixed-league staff.
L is for lefty troubles
Eric Hosmer was terrible in 2011. He was 41 percent under league average per wRC+ and had an anemic .282 OBP. He was a colossal failure, a rookie bust, an overhyped prospect who had a .585 OPS, a league-worst .262 wOBA and a .237 batting average.
Of course, those stats and that description of Hosmer are taken completely out of context. Those numbers were put up against lefties in 163 plate appearances and, unsurprisingly, the no-show against the southpaws did severely stunt Hosmer’s value and will continue to do so if history can tell us anything.
Adam Lind and Andre Ethier are excellent comparisons. Lind is a 6' 1" lefty who weighs 215 pounds. Ethier is a 6' 2", 205-pound lefty, as well, and Hosmer, though slighty bigger than both at 6' 4" and 229 lbs., also hits from the left side.
Both Ethier and Lind have strikingly similar numbers from 2007-2011 against lefties as Hosmer did in 2011. Lind has 648 PA against lefties in that time span and has a .266 wOBA and a 57 wRC+. Ethier has 790 PA against lefties in that time fram and has a .285 wOBA and a 72 wRC+.
Hosmer has the pedigree and opportunity to be a successful major leaguer and a possible franchise cornerstone for the Kansas City Royals, but his fantasy value is limited, much like Lind’s and Either’s values are, by his inability to hit the ball with authority—or hit the ball at all really—against lefties.
M is for Mr. No. 1 overall fantasy producer
Let’s see some context for Justin Verlander’s No. 1 overall fantasy season.
Linear weights tell us that Justin Verlander had the best overall fantasy season in 2011.
The above linear weights apply to a 12-team league with a $260 cap, 14 offensive players, nine pitchers of any kind, and a 60-40 hitter-pitcher money split. Matt Kemp led the offensive players with $42 dollars of value. To spend 40 percent of your money on 40 percent of your players makes sense, but in reality, many people spend far more on hitting than pitching (I've seen 80-20 splits before). We'll go with the more logical solution for this exercise.
Above are the 2009 leaders.
Above are the 2010 leaders.
In all three cases, the best fantasy player of the year was a pitcher, and, at least in the cases of Greinke and Verlander, a pitcher likely in the midst of a career year. Halladay is about as stable as starting pitchers get, consistently putting up sub-1.10 WHIP and sub-3.00 ERA years, and on the offensive juggernaut that is the Phillies, he will more often than not put up 18 or more wins.
We should first applaud Verlander’s superb season, which, for the record, was also worth 18 dollars more than Halladay’s 2008 Fantasy MVP season, and, as shown above, was worth $14 more than 2010 Halladay and 2009 Greinke. He was out-of-this-world good, and a 0.92 WHIP will make up for the drafting of at least two John Lackeys. (That’s imperfect math, but you get the point.)
But I should explain that Verlander shouldn’t be the first pitcher off the board in 2012. Grienke in 2010 was vastly different than Greinke in 2009, and he ended up being worth less than -$7. That means if he was drafted with the expectation $40 of value (some regression from 2009-2010 that was expected accounted for), he was $47 overvalued. Halladay is a case study in and of himself in consistency and low-risk drafting, and he’s been performing at this level for so long that you can rightfully expect $40 of value year in and year out.
But Verlander will be a classic case of drafting last year’s performance. Greinke was an early-to-mid third-round pick come draft day, and Verlander may go higher given his ceiling ($60). But consider the fact that Verlander was worth $14 in 2010 and realize that most human pitchers (non-humans would be Halladay and Mariano Rivera) are extremely volatile. Draft undervalued starters around rounds four and five (see: Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain) and even later (see: Mat Latos, Daniel Hudson, Chris Carpenter) and hope for a Verlander-like breakout.
But don’t draft last year’s Mr. Fantasy.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 6:02am (2) Comments
Friday, October 28, 2011
Mike writes in,
14 team league. We get to keep 11 players, any combination. I mention SP, RP because we use "Holds" and I like to put them in when I have a opening at SP.
I will have the first pick when we have our draft (won the consolation bracket).
Roster positions: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, Util, Util, 3 SP, 2 RP, 3 P, 11 BN, 3 DL
Batters stat categories: runs, triples, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, walks, OPS
Pitchers stat categories: wins, saves, strikeouts, holds, ERA, WHIP, quality starts
Nick Hundley C
Victor Martinez C,1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Robert Andino 2B,3B,SS
Jimmy Rollins SS
Nolan Reimold LF
Vernon Wells LF,CF,RF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Josh Hamilton LF,CF
Juan Pierre LF
Shelley Duncan 1B,LF,RF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Mike Carp 1B,LF
Wesley Wright SP,RP
Alfredo Aceves SP,RP
Phil Coke SP,RP
Jim Johnson RP
Brandon League RP
David Robertson RP
Brian Fuentes RP
Francisco Rodriguez RP
Joe Smith RP
Frank Francisco RP
Joe Saunders SP
Ervin Santana SP
Fausto Carmona SP
Jason Vargas SP
Cory Luebke SP
Bruce Chen SP,RP
David Aardsma RP (DL)
Alex Cobb SP
Brandon Lyon RP (DL)
Even for a 14-team league, your keeper options are rather thin. Obviously Cano and Martinez should be kept. However, Martinez should be your catcher. You need to find a better option through the draft (maybe target someone like Ike Davis who isn’t likely to be kept) or via trade for first base. If need be, trade Martinez for a solid first base option.
Rollins and Ramirez are strong keepers too. In a 14-team league with no corner infield or extra outfield spots, strong players at weak positions are particularly valuable (though this is somewhat mitigated by the extra utility spot).
Josh Hamilton should be kept even with any injury concern because of his center field eligibility. Pierre and Suzuki both kill your OPS. But they help you with stolen bases and triples (though last year was not a good triples year for either). They are both getting long in the tooth and there are always some doubts Pierre’s playing time. But as of now, I’d look to keep them.
Four spots remain. The only remaining batters who warrant consideration are Reimold, Carp and Wells. Your pitching, as far as keepers are concerned, is particularly thin. The only two starters worth looking at are Santana and Luebke.
Santana is enigmatic, but at least this past season was one of his good ones. His low 3’s ERA isn’t supported by his peripherals—a decent but unspectacular strikeout to walk ratio provokes yawns. His ground ball rate leaped from a career norm of mid 30’s percent to 43.5 percent this season but I’m not sure why. He is basically a fastball-slider pitcher and hitters are making more contact against him, not usually a great combination.
Luebke’s peripherals, on the other hand, certainly support his performance this season. He’s in a better park and in a better league than Santana. He’s on the weaker team, but quality starts don’t care about how many runs your team scores (though obviously wins do). So I’d keep Luebke first.
Even though your league counts holds, I wouldn’t target any pitchers purely for holds. Relief pitchers, especially setup men, change roles more than any other player - in part because any change in team or manager can radically change how that player is used. Holds really vary season by season. One name to consider though, because the rest of his stats are so strong, is Robertson. I’d keep him.
Francisco Rodriguez will likely be closing next season and if he’s not closing, I imagine he’ll be setting up for someone. Even with the uncertainty over where he ends up, Rodriguez remains your best likely source of saves. So I’d keep him. If something drastic befalls him—like another domestic blowup—you can cut him closer to the keeper deadline.
So that leaves one spot for the following names: Wells, Santana, Reimold and Carp. We all know the disappointment that is Wells. This past season he had an Adam Dunn-like .220 batting average and an equally low BABIP. The low BABIP points to a likely recovery for his batting average next season, though his high flyball rate means that I’d expect something like .255-.260 and not .275. Still, his power is probably decent enough to make him the best keeper option among the batters.
I’d look at the rest of the league and see what is likely to be available in the draft next season. Wells would be a utility spot for you at this point, so if there are going to be some good power hitters (which is where you need help) available, I’d consider Wells expendable and keep Santana instead. On the other hand, if it looks like there’s going to be abundant starting pitching available to draft, then maybe Wells is the better bet.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 3:22am (1) Comments
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Bryce Harper| OF| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFL stats: .260/.333/.520, 50 AB
Last 10 games: .333/.405/.694, 36 AB
Because quoting myself is incredibly fun, here is what I wrote about Harper last week after a poor start to his Arizona Fall League (AFL) season: "In such a hitter-friendly environment, it wouldn't be surprising to see Harper go on a home run binge and find himself here once again with a glowing update next week." Lo and behold, the wunderkind appears this week having raised his batting average 49 points and having hit a home run in two of his last three contests. He's doing nothing to diminish his superstar future projection.
Derek Norris| C| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFL stats: .361/.457/.583, 36 AB
Last 10 games: .400/.512/.667, 30 AB
Harper's Scorpions teammate and fellow Nationals prospect Norris is scorching the ball. He may not have made the Top-100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect List, but he wasn't far off. Norris is a patient hitter with good pop. In 334 Double-A at-bats he hit 20 home runs and had a 77:117 walk-to-strikeout (BB:K) rate. Thus far in the AFL his patient ways have resulted in eight walks. He has also shown off his power hitting two home runs. The biggest question surrounding Norris is whether he'll be able to hit for enough average to take advantage of both his power and his ability to work ball fours. He hit just .210 this year, and .235 in 2010, so it will take more than a 36-AB sample to shed that lingering question, but it's at least promising. If everything comes together, he could provide J.P. Arencibia-like fantasy value with good power tied to a poor average. Keep tabs on this three-true-outcomes poster child.
Mikie Mahtook| OF| Surprise Saguaros (Tampa Bay Rays)
AFL stats: .311/.373/.422, 45 AB
Last 10 games: .316/.381/.447, 38 AB
The Tampa Bay Rays used one of their many early picks, No. 31, to select LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook. John Sickels considered him a top-20 talent and praised the pick at Minor League Ball. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said before the draft that he has power to all fields with average to above-average speed. None of his tools get glowing reviews, but the total package is that of a player who could be a fantasy contributor down the line. He has two extra base hits, a triple and home run, in his 14 AFL at-bats as well as four stolen bases in five attempts. His 3:9 BB:K is respectable in his pro debut. It will be interesting to see where the Rays send him to begin next year. High-A is probably the likeliest destination, but if he continues to play well, as a college draftee, Double-A may not be entirely out of the question.
Robbie Grossman| OF| Mesa Solar Sox (Pittsburgh Pirates)
AFL stats: .370/.469/.642, 81 AB
Last 10 games: .395/.520/.737, 38 AB
After I completed last week's article, an e-mailer asked me my thoughts on Grossman. His question prompted me to scour the web for updated scouting reports on the Pirates prospect. What I found was mixed reviews on a player who showed a ton of patience walking 104 times in High-A. Keith Law said in an ESPN chat on Oct. 20 that he would rank Grossman among the top 100 prospects. On the other side of the coin, Jim Callis views him as a tweener who doesn't quite profile for center field or the corner. He'll need to hit for more power than he did in High-A if he hopes to see his high walk rate translate to the higher levels. His power has taken off in the AFL, having hit six home runs and four doubles, so it is possible he could be unlocking some of his raw power. If nothing else, his stock is up, but don't go overboard with projecting special things from Grossman just yet. He is a perfect example of why scouting reports need to be taken into account along with statistics when grading a prospects future outlook.
Jean Segura| SS| Scottsdale Scorpions (Los Angeles Angels)
AFL stats: .356/.388/.489, 45 AB
Last 10 games: .400/.405/.550, 40 AB
Segura played in only 52 games in the minors this year because of hamstring injuries that dogged him all year. He's an up-the-middle infielder working on transitioning from second base to shortstop. In his time at shortstop, he has shown enough to convince most notable onlookers that he can stick there. He projects to hit for average power at his physical peak. He has above-average speed (stole 50 bases in 2010), and can hit for average, too. That total package would make him quite appealing at an offensively devoid position. He'll need to prove he can stay healthy, but his strong AFL performance nearly assures him of a Double-A assignment to begin 2012.
Matt Purke| SP| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFLsStats: 1 start, 2 relief appearances, 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 1 K, 29.70 ERA, 3.60 WHIP
Uh oh, not the start the Nationals were hoping for from their third-round selection this year. There were many questions about Purke's health entering the draft after he struggled with his velocity most of the year at TCU and had to visit Dr. James Andrews. Both Law and Goldstein say that he's throwing in the upper-80s to low-90s, but struggling mightily with his control. His slider and change-up haven't been particularly good either. Purke's got a long way to go to get back to being viewed in the same light he was when made the 14th pick in the 2009 draft by the Texas Rangers.
Aroldis Chapman| SP/RP| Phoenix Desert Dogs (Cincinnati Reds)
AFL stats: 2 relief appearances, 2.2 IP, 2 BB, 2 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
The Reds have sent their flame-throwing southpaw to the AFL to begin the process of stretching him out. Chapman will be starting winter league games, and I looked at the potential fantasy repercussions elsewhere earlier this week. According to Law, he mostly threw at 93-95 mph early in his first appearance Oct. 24, but flashed more velocity before wrapping things up. Working a longer appearance his second-go-round Oct. 27, he sat a few ticks lower at 91-94 mph. Chapman's control remains a work in progress, as just 13 of his 27 pitches went for strikes in his second appearance. His secondary offerings, slider and change-up, didn't get good reviews from Law, and he'll need both to be truly successful as a starter. Though he's not a prospect, he is still raw and the AFL is a good environment for him to work on his craft before heading to winter ball.