May 21, 2013
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Wednesday, February 01, 2012
So I guess I’m next in line to talk about the THT Fantasy mock draft and my team. Instead of going pick by pick, I’m going to address this in more of a narrative-based way. I have to say that my first observation is that I was not nearly prepared enough had I been having to participate in a real draft with fellow “experts” at this time. Is that obvious from the team I drafted? I don’t know; I’ll let you be the judge of that.
For what it’s worth, the Mock Draft Central projected standings had my team mid-pack. Due to how it counts the bench, I think I was shortchanged a bit because my “bench” consists of pitchers who would be playing regularly, who are per-inning K-monsters and big helps in the rate stats, areas in which the tool projected me as weak.
So, here’s my team:
C: Brian McCann (5 - 56)
C: Joe Mauer (6 – 65)
1B: Justin Morneau (11 – 128)
2B: Robinson Cano (1 – 8)
SS Erick Aybar (14 – 152)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman (4 – 41)
CI: Gaby Sanchez (17 – 200)
MI: Ryan Roberts (13 – 137)
OF: Carlos Gonzalez (2 – 17)
OF: Carl Crawford (3 – 32)
OF: Jayson Werth (9 -104)
OF: Lucas Duda (20 – 233)
OF: Andres Torres (23 – 272)
DH (UTIL): David Ortiz (10 – 113)
BN: Casey McGehee (24 – 281)
P: Tommy Hanson (7 – 80)
P: Mat Latos (8 - 89)
P: Ervin Santana (14 – 161)
P: Wandy Rodriguez (18 – 209)
P: Jhoulys Chacin (19 – 233)
P: Johan Santana (21 – 248)
P: Ryan Madson (15 – 176)
P: Andrew Bailey (16 – 185)
P: Matt Capps (22 – 257)
BN: David Robertson (25 – 296)
BN: Tyler Clippard (26 – 305)
And, here are the full draft results.
You waited a long time to grab a pitcher
I was the second-to-last drafter to select a starting pitcher. Only Brad Johnson waited longer, selecting his ace in the same round as I chose mine but a few picks later, as per the snake format. Given that dynamic, I think I actually assembled a fair competitive rotation without investing too much. I certainly could struggle for wins, but I don’t advocate drafting for wins too much anyway.
I thought I supplemented my middling rotation well by taking two closers who should help with the rates and then fortifying the K-potential and rate stats of my team further by adding Robertson and Clippard in the last rounds. Madson, Bailey, Robertson, and Clippard should combine for 260-plus innings of 2.00-ish ERA, 1.15-ish WHIP and 280-plus strikeouts. This certainly helps a staff that may lack a true ace.
If Latos and Hanson are fantastic, as they might be, I actually could make out really well on pitching. I’m optimistic about Ervin Santana as well. And, if Johan Santana can provide anything, that would be great. At pick No. 248, I had to be willing to find out.
That’s fine, but stop pretending you also don’t have Matt Capps on your team
Okay, guilty as charged. I’ll muster lukewarm four-sided defense of this though.
One, I’ve written before about how I feel it’s important to have more than your “fair share” of closers. Going from two to three closers in a league that averages 2.5 closers per team attacks the standings at a leverage point. Therefore, if I get some saves from him, those saves will have direct impact on the standings and ensure that I stay in the top half of the standings. So, having a third closer is more important than who that actual closer is.
Two, Capps was the last remaining closer with a designated job heading into the season. Refer back to (1) as to why it I thought it was important to draft him there.
Three, unless Joel Zumaya can prove his health, the Twins bullpen doesn’t look to have many other “closer types,” so I’m not sure there are great candidates to challenge Capps for his job even if he falters.
Four, the rest of my relief corps will compensate for any poor rate stats Capps may post.
You have a lot of players who need to rebound from last season
Why, yes, I do. I put my money where my mouth is. I often claim that I prefer betting on established talent to bounce back than on less proven younger players to live up to the hype or make the leap. Mauer, Morneau, Zimmerman, Crawford, Werth, Torres, Latos, Hanson, Santana, Capps and McGehee are all players I’m betting on bouncing back from either injury of disappointing performance.
Do I think all of these players will rebound to their vintage form? Of course not. Some will bounce back all the way, some will bounce back part of the way, and some will founder again. But I don’t need most of these players to bounce back all the way to draw value from most of these picks.
I can buy that argument for most of your picks, but Justin Morneau?
I didn’t think it was THAT early to gamble on Morneau, but many in the draft room did. My selection of Mourneau was really a double-down on the risk/reward proposition. I did not have a first baseman on my roster—note, first base isn’t as deep as many think it is—and he (and Kendrys Morales) seemed to be the only two players left who had the potential to produce big-time numbers at a position most rely on heavily for fantasy production.
I figured if Morneau bounces back, I get a big reward. If he falls, how different is the production I’d get at that point from the expected production of the next crop of first sackers? In fact, there were only four first basemen selected between Mourneau and Sanchez, two of whom were Morales and Mark Trumbo, neither of whom have guaranteed jobs.
So while I did risk the opportunity cost of that pick at another position, I think that sequence actually improves the overall range of possible outcomes for me at first base. Sanchez could just as easily return No. 128 value and Morneau No. 200. That would work out fine, too. I also have Big Papi at my DH/Util spot, who helps shoulder the classic first base-production archetype load, as well.
What about the two-ace catcher move; did you plan that?
Not really, but I saw the opportunity and wanted to try it. My normal strategy in two-catcher leagues is to get both of my starters in about rounds nine–14, looking for wherever I think I see value in acquiring two catchers in roughly the No. 8-16 ranks at the position—one guy toward the back end of the first distribution and the second toward the front end of the second go-around of options.
Here, I thought McCann would have gone sooner than he did, so I decided to pounce. Then I told myself that Mauer could be a huge steal in a two-catcher league if he’s healthy and my second catcher, so I decided I would take the plunge if he stuck around for my next pick, and he did. This gives me a big-time positional advantage, which is more important in a two-catcher league because the back-end players are really questionable.
Further, it’s not as if there were so many players with ceilings higher than Mauer’s when I took him anyway. The two other options I strongly considered were Brandon Phillips and Kevin Youkilis. But in a mock scenario, I really want to see how this strategy would work out.
So, how do you think it did work out?
Not so bad. I don’t think I sacrificed my first pitcher there because both Latos and Hanson were in my group of the next five or so best pitchers out there, and I got both of them anyhow.
Where I think I did sacrifice is in my outfield. I’m known for building real strong outfields early in my regular leagues—sometimes I feel like I shoot myself in the foot by doing this because I often wind up not drafting my outfield sleepers because I fill so many of those spots with studs early on.
This time the pendulum swung a bit too far in the other direction. The back end of my outfield is weak, especially if Morneau is not just bad but hurt again, and I have to press Duda into first-base/corner-infielder duty.
I guess the lesson here is that with other drafters as savvy as the ones in this mock, it’s not so easy to pull solid outfield sleepers/values late in drafts. There were a number of outfield picks between me taking Werth in Round Nine and Duda in Round 20 that made me think, “Maybe I should have taken that guy here instead.” Perhaps the one that made me kick myself most was Paul’s pick of Chris B. Young in Round 12.
Any concluding thoughts?
I think I assembled a team that is unlikely to bottom out. I don’t think there’s as much risk on this team as last season’s performance from some of its members might indicate. If a few things go right, this team could be pretty dangerous. Those are the teams I like to assemble—likely not to bottom out, a contender if more things go right than wrong, and a downright problem if most things go right!
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:35am (13) Comments
Thursday, February 02, 2012
The first Hardball Times Mock Draft was conducted last week, if that isn’t already abundantly clear from analysis articles written by participants Derek Ambrosino, Michael Stein, and Ben Pritchett. The draft results can be found here, and my team:
1B Eric Hosmer KC R4 P2
1B Paul Goldschmidt ARI R11 P11
2B Ian Kinsler TEX R2 P2
2B Jason Kipnis CLE R9 P11
3B Brett Lawrie TOR R5 P11
3B Brent Morel CHW R24 P2
SS J.J. Hardy BAL R12 P2
C Carlos Santana CLE R3 P11
C Ramon Hernandez COL R26 P2
OF Justin Upton ARI R1 P11
OF Adam Jones BAL R8 P2
OF Logan Morrison MIA R13 P11
OF Lorenzo Cain KC R15 P11
OF Brandon Belt SF R19 P11
OF Carlos Lee HOU R20 P2
DH Edwin Encarnacion TOR R17 P11
SP Stephen Strasburg WAS R6 P2
SP Matt Garza CHC R7 P11
SP Dan Hudson ARI R10 P2
SP Max Scherzer DET R14 P2
SP Doug Fister DET R16 P2
SP Mark Buehrle MIA R21 P11
SP Edwin Jackson FA R22 P2
SP Ricky Nolasco MIA R23 P11
SP Brett Anderson OAK R25 P11
RP Rafael Betancourt COL R18 P2
In no particular order…
Ramon Hernandez, 26th round, second pick (302nd overall)
In two catcher leagues, the strategy is often either one of two: invest heavily in your backstops—and draft two highly regarded catchers in the single-digit rounds—or bottom-feed for “the guy who will hurt you the least.” Ding, ding! Hernandez may be the best dollar catcher you can find (we’ll call the 26th round equivalent to the dollar-player point in auctions), providing home run value without low batting average. Where a guy like Rod Barajas will kill you in batting average with what seems like a nightly 0-fer, Hernandez will provide an above-average batting average with the same power potential. Yes, he was a 12-team mixed league catcher last year, clocking in at No. 20 overall in catcher value (thank you, Baseball Monster), and add Coors Field to the list of pros. I know… enough about my second catcher, already.
Stephen Strasburg, sixth round, second pick (62nd overall)
Somewhat embarrassing love for Strasburg aside, I feel as though he’s is an excellent value in the early sixth round. Pitching is extremely deep this year, and it’s comforting to know that I had the choice among Strasburg, Yovani Gallardo, and Madison Bumgarner here. Ultimately, if you have an innings cap, it’s a no-brainer—Strasburg may not give you 180 innings this year, but you won’t be able to tell, in all likelihood, from his strikeout totals. His WHIP and strikeout upside is immense (like you need me to tell you that), and acquiring Strasburg gave me the freedom to select a Doug Fister type later in the draft without worries of his strikeout shortcomings.
Brandon Belt, 19th round, 11th pick (227th overall)
Curse you, Aubrey Huff. Belt, a preseason favorite after his excellent Triple-A season and spring training, was teased with irregular playing time, demotions and promotions, and unwise managerial decisions all while gathering 209 underwhelming plate appearances. I say the injustice is over! Huff was incredibly inept per a number of metrics (a negative WAR, a sub .300 wOBA, a below-average .306 OBP, and a .246 batting average), and Belt is itching to break out just as he was a year ago. He might get time in whatever part of the outfield not being occupied by Melky Cabrera, and Aubrey Huff will yield more plate appearances to him, all contributing to what will surely be his breakout season. If he has a clear-cut job and a way to 500+ plate appearances, my money’s on him being a top-20 first baseman option. Couple that with his outfield eligibility, and you have a downright steal in the 19th round.
Lorenzo Cain, 15th round, 11th pick (179th overall)
All aboard the Cain train! He may not know how to take a walk, but Cain has the potential to be an asset in all five categories, depending on whether his Triple-A power output was smoke and mirrors. Cain will beat out enough infield hits to maintain a high batting average, and, if given the green light, easily has the speed to steal 20+ bases. Perhaps Bill James is bullish, but a 10/73/58/22/.284 line from Cain would be robbery if acquired in the 15th round.
Edwin Encarnacion, 17th round, 11th pick (203rd overall)
He has a lot going for him, including tri-position eligibility. The ninth ranked third baseman last year (thanks again, Baseball Monster) can be found in the 17th round. He’s hitting in an offensive juggernaut, perhaps, based off of RotoChamp speculation, behind Jose Bautista and Adam Lind, with Brett Lawrie providing protection. I bet he gets more than 480 at-bats this year, and last time he hit the 500 at-bat threshold, he hit 26 homers. Just sayin’.
Rafael Betancourt, 18th round, second pick (206th overall)
After a relief-pitcher binge in the 16th and 17th rounds, in which question marks such as Andrew Bailey, Brandon League, Jordan Walden, and Chris Perez were taken, I was ecstatic to get Betancourt near the end of the closer wave. Just because Betancourt has never held the closer job before doesn’t mean he is incapable, and he’s a far superior pitcher to many of the incumbents who went before him. Home runs didn’t ruin his first two (and a half) seasons in Colorado, so why assume that to happen now? Top 10 closer potential.
Ian Kinsler, second round, second pick (14th overall)
Pitching is so deep I didn’t even consider one of the elite bodies in the first two (nay, four) rounds. Kinsler clocked in as the 12th best position player (I love you, Baseball Monster), trailing slightly my first round pick Justin Upton only because of his .253 batting average. His BABIP was nearly 40 points below his career mark, and with just a .260 batting average, he would’ve been a top five-position player last year (trailing Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun and Curtis Granderson).
Adam Jones, eighth round, second pick (86th overall)
Risky call, but if Jones can take a step forward from his fairly excellent (in fantasy terms, at least) 2011 campaign, he could be a huge steal. As it is, he’s a good value pick; he returned mid-sixth round value in a 12-team league last year.
Matt Garza, seventh round, 11th pick (83rd overall)
More fun with numbers: If Matt Garza had won two more games last year, he would’ve been the 18th ranked starting pitcher in terms of fantasy value. If he had 13 wins instead of 10: the 15th ranked starter. One more than that, and he would’ve been the 10th ranked starter. Maybe he gets a trade out of Chi-town, or maybe there is a fire lit under the collective bum of the Cubs by new manager Dale Sveum, but Garza’s a steal in the seventh round, and if the wins go his way, he could be propelled to ace-status.
Carlos Santana, third round, 11th pick (35th overall)
Here I’m torn. Santana is a huge asset in three categories (runs, runs batted in and home runs), yet may be a batting average liability even with a bit more luck. His strikeout rate rose and caused the dip in batting average more so than his BABIP did, and owners might have to live with a sub-.250 average. He was only the fourth most valuable catcher last season, though, and Victor Martinez is gone and Alex Avila isn’t such a stud as it seems. Thus, the top drafted catcher will be a fight between Santana, who is younger and therefore possessive of some untapped upside (in theory) and Mike Napoli, who will never have a better season than his 2011 one. I’d rather have Miguel Montero in the 10th, I guess…
Paul Goldschmidt, 11th round, 11th pick (131st overall)
Upton, Kinsler, Santana, Hosmer, Lawrie, Jones and Kipnis all might hit 20 home runs next year (perhaps Kipnis’ inclusion on the list is too bullish, but it’s more for illustrative purposes), so Goldschmidt’s selection here was pretty silly, in retrospect. I needed speed and starting pitching more than I did power, and already had my first baseman drafted. Still, in the 11th round, Goldschmidt has some value. I suppose, in a legitimate league, I would’ve been happy to have Goldschmidt as an asset to sell in later trading.
Eric Hosmer, fourth round, second pick (38th overall)
I’m as big of an Eric Hosmer fan as any, and he has the chance to be a five-category asset unlike any other first baseman (he’ll likely lead all first baseman in steals). That said, first base is fairly deep, and seeing Freddie Freeman taken at the end of the 10th round bummed me out. Freeman won’t steal more than a handful of bases, but he has otherwise similar numbers and perhaps some batting average upside beyond .282. Additionally, a guy like Michael Cuddyer put up similarly valuable numbers to Hosmer and now plays in Colorado. He was taken in the late eighth round. I wouldn’t call myself disgusted, but I’d take back this pick in a minute.
Doug Fister, 16th round, second pick (170th overall)
Definitely underestimated the Fielder signing domino effect, and also overestimated his 2011 season (uh, don’t forget, Nick, that he put up 4.00+ ERAs in back-to-back years… with a stout defense behind him, in a pitcher’s park). Would rather have Shaun Marcum in retrospect.
Ricky Nolasco, 23rd round, 11th pick (275th overall)
In 2008, he was the 12th most valuable fantasy pitcher.
In 2009, he was the 53rd most valuable fantasy pitcher.
In 2010, he was the 68th most valuable fantasy pitcher.
In 2011, he was the 238th most valuable fantasy pitcher.
I’ve shamed myself. I’ve shamed myself. I’ve shamed myself.
Mark Buehrle, 21st round, 11th pick (251st overall)
Yikes. What was I thinking here? Well, I’d been looking at Buehrle’s WAR numbers a lot to dissect his signing with the Miami Marlins, and realized he was quite a solid pitcher. I guess it snuck into my head during the proceedings and I had the devil on my shoulder saying, “Go for it! You have Strasburg and Garza and Scherzer! No need for strikeouts!) Little did I know that Marky Mark barely cracked the top 70 starting pitchers? Can I use my mulligan?
Brent Morel, 24th round, second pick (278th overall)
It was the 24th round, so I can cut myself some slack. That said, I should’ve burned this pick on a player with more upside than Morel. Maybe he’ll go 15-10 with a little bit of luck, but better fliers would have been: Pedro Alvarez, Jason Kubel, Casey McGehee, or even Yonder Alonso if you wanted another hitter, and David Robertson, Daniel Bard, and Rex Brothers if you wanted another pitcher.
J.J. Hardy, 12th round, second pick (134th overall)
If Hardy plays in 150 games, then I’ll take back this disgust and have a more neutral attitude towards this pick. Still, how could I have been so blinded by his resurgence? A good player by all means, Hardy was worth a lot last year in real life (fWAR of 4.8) and in fantasy (30 homers), yet still lagged just behind Jhonny Peralta in value. I bought him on a bit of a power binge, but didn’t need another 25-home run hitter at this juncture. I did deserve it for taking Daniel Hudson before Dee Gordon, expecting the latter to be there for me in the late 11th. He was taken, of course, with the next pick.
What did I learn?
Pitching is deep, but don’t be blind…
Just because pitching is deep doesn’t mean you need to load up on position players in the single-digit rounds. I took Jason Kipnis, for example, in the eighth round, which strikes me as somewhat unnecessary in retrospect considering the offensive juggernaut I put together in the first five rounds. I was coming off of back-to-back starting pitching selections, but I wasn’t quick enough to self-critique; If I said pitching was deep, and therefore waited heavily on pitching, it’s okay to select three in a row. I let my subconscious rule the day, and missed out on Jordan Zimmerman, Brandon Beachy or Anibal Sanchez because I couldn’t scrape the thought that pitching was deep. Shame.
Don’t have a quick trigger finger…
Also known as “study the draft board before you pick.” Perhaps it was an aberration, but it did not even occur to me that Ryan Zimmerman was on the board in the beginning of the fourth round, and I would have at least considered Zimmerman over Hosmer, which would’ve altered the entire course of my draft. It was a silly mistake—and we all make them—and there are no extra points for drafting your guy after 23 seconds of consideration instead of a minute and 23 seconds.
I made the mistake of chatting with co-drafters and watching basketball during the mock draft, and the nature of online drafts is such that the Internet might distract you, as it would during your day job. I should’ve, in retrospect, been constantly tweaking my “wish list,” targeting sleepers, and looking at strengths and weaknesses in my roster at various points in the draft, and I should’ve been studying my competition for points of weakness and demand in the market.
Draft who you want, when you want…
Gosh, how many times have you heard this one? I’m reminded of it every single time I draft, though, and Dee Gordon was taken one pick after I made an ill-advised bet that he’d be on the board for an entire go-round, and I missed on Jason Motte because I thought the early 16th round was a reach for him. That’s nonsense. In context, you can justify most any borderline decision in one of these drafts, and a Jason Motte, who has never had a full-year of closer experience anywhere, may be a reach if he’s drafted in the early 16th on average (again, I use the phrase “may” because he could very well provide great value at that draft position). But you are not the mean; you are a random value that feeds into the mean! Reach away (within logical limits).
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:22am (16) Comments
Friday, February 03, 2012
This is the second of two articles covering my top young fantasy players for dynasty leagues who are starting the season aged 25 or younger. In case you missed part one, which covered the players I ranked No. 1 thru 15, you can catch it by clicking here. Before breaking down players No. 15 through 30, a quick recap of my list is in order:
Rank Name 1 Justin Upton 2 Mike Stanton 3 Clayton Kershaw 4 Desmond Jennings 5 Felix Hernandez 6 Matt Moore 7 Stephen Strasburg 8 Carlos Santana 9 Andrew McCutchen 10 Jay Bruce 11 Jesus Montero 12 Mike Trout 13 Bryce Harper 14 Jason Heyward 15 Mat Latos 16 Michael Pineda 17 Yu Darvish 18 Buster Posey 19 Pablo Sandoval 20 Madison Bumgarner 21 Brett Lawrie 22 Eric Hosmer 23 Daniel Hudson 24 Logan Morrison 25 Tommy Hanson The next five 26 Starlin Castro 27 Matt Wieters 28 Yovanni Gallardo 29 Dee Gordon 30 Paul Goldschmidt And five more 31 Jason Kipnis 32 Jeremy Hellickson 33 Craig Kimbrell 34 Dustin Ackley 35 Cameron Maybin Plus two guys it pained me to cut 36 Anthony Rizzo 37 Brandon Belt
16. Michael Pineda: In my mind, Pineda has a slightly lower ceiling than Latos despite being a few years his junior. Like Latos, Pineda has a mid-90s fastball and power slider that he leans heavily upon (31.5 percent slider usage in 2011), resulting in a high strikeout rate (9.1 K/9). Pineda is an extreme flyball pitcher (36.3 percent groundball rate) with a potential platoon split. That's not to knock on Pineda's value, only to justify why he is ranked below Latos.
Pineda has been healthy for the past two seasons, but he had elbow issues that limited his workload in 2009. His heavy slider usage also has to be a red flag on any dynasty list. Some are questioning Pineda's 2012 potential given his move from spacious Safeco to batter-friendly New Yankee Stadium. Do not count me as one of the skeptics. I do not consider it conclusive by any means, but a glance at Katron's batted ball data for 2011 shows that Pineda's batted balls at home last year would not have resulted in any additional home runs if produced at New Yankee Stadium. To the contrary, Pineda might have allowed one or two fewer home runs if he called New Yankee Stadium his home park last year.
That is not to say that the change of scenery will help Pineda, but it does say that that the "leaving Safeco argument" might be a bit overblown here, leading to some improper perceptions about Pineda's 2012 potential. Surely, the AL East will likely be a greater challenge for Pineda than the AL West, but there is no reason he can't repeat and improve upon his 2012 numbers. Oliver forecasts a 3.33 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and just under a strikeout per inning for Pineda this season, and wins should be plentiful for the new Yankees pitcher. Work the anti-hype to your advantage this offseason. If you can get Pineda even at his "market value" right now, you could easily end up with a hugely profitable asset over the next few seasons.
17. Yu Darvish: Japan's top pitche is an enigma because it is hard to accurately forecast what a Japanese player is going to do in the majors leagues. For most, even the highly touted ones, the results have been pretty underwhelming. For every Hideki Matsui (who was supposed to be more powerful), there are 10 Kaz Matsuis. For every Ichiro Suzukis, there are many Tsuyoshi Nishiokas and Kosuke Fukudomes. And we all know how Daisuke Matsuzaka turned out for the Red Sox.
But then again, look at how Colby Lewis and Ryan Vogelsong's numbers played out when they returned stateside. Ditto on Takashi Saito (when healthy) and the early career of Hideo Nomo. My take on a player's Japanese league numbers is that they should be viewed on par with the performance of a player either in Double-A or Triple-A.
Even in that context, though, Darvish's numbers are undoubtedly elite. In the Nippon League, NPB, Darvish owns a career ERA just under two (1.99), with a sub-0.90 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning with less than two walks per inning. That's not a great single season. That's his friggin' career.
Oliver, the projection system behind THT Forecasts, has a reputation as the best system at projecting players without previous major league playing time and has a major league equivalency chart that converts minor league and foreign league data in to "equivalent" major league production. In other words, Oliver gives us a decent sense of just how good a player's non-major league numbers would have played out in the major leagues.
Oliver's "worst" major league equivalency (MLE) calculation for Darvish was 2010. In 2010, Darvish's MLE was "only" a 2.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9 in a season where the major league average FIP and K/9 rates were 4.20 and 7.1, respectively. Oliver projects a +7.9 WAR campaign for him in 2012, the highest WAR it projects for any major league player next year—but even if you temper expectations, you have to expect something pretty elite, right?
Daisuke Matsuzaka's career NPB numbers pale in comparison to Darvish's (2.95 ERA, 8.9 ERA, 1.12 WHIP), he was not nearly as healthy in his career as Darvish, and even his "last season in the NPB" numbers did not stack up. Furthermore, Dice-K never had control anywhere near Darvish's caliber. Despite all that, you'd have to call Dice-K's first few major league seasons a relative success, right?
That's not to say Darvish is any guarantee. Just that lofty expectations that might need to be tempered should not be over-tempered. A Tim Lincecum or Dan Haren-like season is totally in the cards. Darvish is not ranked accordingly only because you cannot rank players based merely on your best expectations or their upside. You need to consider their downside and risks as well, and Darvish has no major league track record and the NPB tends to produce numbers that do not always translate well in the majors.
18. Buster Posey: Sidelined by a freak injury last season, Posey was well on his way to disappointing his drafters before losing the rest of his season to surgery. After a Rookie of the Year-worthy season, Posey hit only .284 with four home runs and 21 RBI over 45 games. Some were severely disappointed by Posey's power output last year (.105 ISO), but I did my best to temper his power expectations heading into 2011. As I discussed in the comment section of my 2010 dynasty rankings article:
"I do not buy into [Posey's] 2010 power...I rarely judge baseball players with my eyes, but I expect a .300/20 line and view 2010 as above his talent level... His home run profile is very pedestrian....I’m not discounting room for improvement, just my tempered expectations."I pegged Posey's ceiling at 20 then, and there's no reason to bump that ceiling this year. Posey should certainly see an uptick in power from the .105 mark he posted last season, but I wouldn't expect anything above .180. Something closer to .165 might be more reasonable.
Still, that slightly-above-average power comes with a good batting average and middle-of-the-order slotting, so a .290/17/80 season could be in order. For a catcher, those numbers are golden. I rarely pay a premium for catchers (every time I have, the strategy has backfired), but if you are going pay a premium for any catcher, Posey might be the best "bargain" among the elites after Carlos Santana is off the board.
19. Pablo Sandoval: I was a big believer in Sandoval last year, and was rewarded handsomely for my faith. I was lucky enough to nab Kung Fu Panda is roughly 75 percent of my leagues, paying no more than $16 in any single league (well, other than Ottoneu). Last year, I did not rank Sandoval, noting that I "love[d] the potential, but his body type will not age well and he needs to prove that 2010, not 2009, was the fluke."
Sandoval did indeed show that 2010 was the fluke, and even lost a ton of weight in the offseason (don't worry, Pedro Alvarez found it all). Although Panda gained a little extra bulk as the season wore on, there is no reason to feel he cannot be equally as productive in 2012 as he was in 2011. Expect a .300 batting average this season (in addition to the next few years, barring some BABIP luck going the wrong way) with 25 home run power and 90 RBI potential out of the middle of the Giants lineup. He might even steal a couple of bases, and with Posey back, Pablo should get driven in more often (unless he gets too winded on the way to the plate).
With third base getting shallower and more injury-riddled every season since Alex Rodriguez signed baseball's most mammoth mistake of a contract, Sandoval is a solid source of above-average production where it counts. I would not be shocked to see the Panda off the board by the end of round five. And that's about where he belongs.
20. Madison Bumgarner: After instilling Giants fans and fantasy owners with a healthy dose of skepticism after dead arm and velocity dips issue a couple of years ago, Bumgarner used 2011 to show everyone why he was a top 10 overall draft pick in 2007.
Over 204.2 innings of work, Bumgarner produced a 3.21 ERA (a 3.10 xFIP, 2.67 FIP, 3.18 SIERRA, 3.12 tERA) with 191 strikeouts to 46 walks (4.2 K/BB) and a 1.21 WHIP (.322 BABIP-against). Among qualified pitchers last year (94), Bumgarner's ERA was merely "top 25." However, his xFIP ranked seventh in the league, his xFIP ranked fourth, his tERA ranked seventh and his SIERRA ranked eighth.
Bumgarner's numbers qualified him as a top 10 talent last season, which was leaps and bounds ahead of where I ranked him in the preseason (No. 31 overall among starting pitchers). Why the huge increase in value? A lot of it had to do with his vastly increased strikeout production. Bumgarner leaned hard on an electric slider (from 20.4 percent usage in 2010 to 32.4 percent usage in 2011) to induce a much higher number of whiffs (7.6 percent swinging strike rate in 2010, 9.2 percent in 2011), resulting in more strikeouts (22.6 percent, up from 18.2 percent the previous year). Bumgarner did this without sacrificing control—his walk rate remained constant, while his percentage of first strike pitches increased slightly.
Alas, sliders are a two-edged sword, and the very tool that has enabled Bumgarner to step into elite pitcher territory is the very thing that could make him a huge injury risk in subsequent seasons. Consider the following list of starting pitchers who have averaged a slider rate of or above the 25 percent threshold over the past 10 years (minimum 200 innings):
PLAYER SLIDER% Randy Johnson 38.6% Armando Galarraga 37.4% Bud Norris 35.1% Jon Lieber 34.3% Brett Anderson 33.7% Jorge Sosa 31.4% Matt Clement 30.9% Francisco Liriano 30.9% Ryan Dempster 30.9% Ervin Santana 30.9% John Smoltz 30.7% Brian Lawrence (who?) 30.2% Jeremy Bonderman 30.2% Tony Armas Jr. 29.1% Ramon Ortiz 28.4% Madison Bumgarner 28.2% Felipe Paulino 27.7% Ian Snell 27.1% Johnny Cueto 27.0% Byung-Hyun Kim 26.9% Tommy Hanson 26.7% Edwin Jackson 26.3% Hiroki Kuroda 26.1% Jason Jennings 26.0% Randy Wells 25.9% Josh Johnson 25.9% Doug Waechter 25.6% Chad Gaudin 25.5% Ross Ohlendorf 25.2%Almost every one of them has either undergone Tommy John surgery, sustained a serious arm shoulder/elbow injury, or just plain stinks at pitching. The latest victim was Brett Anderson, who I had ranked one slot ahead of Bumgarner heading into the 2011 season. Bumgarner clearly has top 10 or so starting pitcher talent potential, but when you consider the Giants' poor defense, the Giants' lack of offense (Posey's return should seriously enable that, as well as a consistent Brandon Belt presence), and a serious looming injury red flag (high slider usage), then you realize that that Bumgarner needs to be ranked lower than guys like Matt Moore. Upside + downside = cautiously optimistic.
21. Brett Lawrie: Lawrie was the Blue Jays' big prize for trading away talented starting pitcher Shaun Marcum. Heading into 2011, Lawrie was ranked the No. 40 overall prospect in the minors. His 2009 and 2010 seasons in Single-A and Double-A ball had been solid (composite .777 OPS in 2009 and a .797 OPS in 2010), but nothing special. He projected as a major league capable player with a relatively modest, but appealing ceiling. Most scouts loved Lawrie for possessing enough bat speed to hit for average with the upside to develop decent pop over time.
Last season saw that power develop in a big way. After hitting a combined 21 home runs over 253 games split between Single-A and Double-A in 2009 and 2010, Lawrie blasted 18 home runs in Triple-A for the Jays over the first half of the season. That, plus his .347/.414/.647 triple slash line over 73 games, left many wondering just what the Blue Jays were waiting for before giving Lawrie a cal-lup (maybe we can blame how the team previously developed Travis Snider, or sheer service time greed).
Upon graduation to the majors, Lawrie continued to produce at a similar rate as his 2011 MLE indicated, hitting .293/.373/.580 with nine home runs. Those numbers are excellent for a third baseman. When you consider his 13.7 percent stolen base per time on base rate in the minors (68.9 percent success rate) and seven stolen bases over 43 games at the major league level, the whole picture of Lawrie's production becomes elite.
So why is he ranked 21, behind fellow hot corner player Pablo Sandoval? The answer again lies in the risk. Lawrie's 2011 power breakout could be legit, but how legit is it? After posting a .180 ISO in Single-A and .154 ISO in Double-A, you have to wonder how much of his .308 Triple-A ISO and .287 major league ISO Lawrie can repeat in 2012, especially given his two hand injuries last season. I am not saying that he is not healthy by now; I am just noting the things you need to be aware of.
Oliver projects a solid .180+ ISO from Lawrie this year, with 20 home run potential if he stays healthy enough to accumulate 600+ plate appearances. Oliver also forecasts a .280 batting average and 10-15 stolen bases. Those are undoubtedly strong numbers, and Lawrie, of course, has the potential to top them. I think Oliver's forecast is pretty spot on, though I would project Lawrie for a slightly higher batting average. You find me another .285/20/15 capable third baseman for 2012 that is not named David Wright and I will call you a liar.
22. Eric Hosmer: Last year, I got some flak for leaving Hosmer and Mike Moustakas off my top 25 dynasty players list. I feel a little vindicated noting that only Ben Pritchett ranked Moustakas in his top 30 this year (Josh Shepardson ranked Moustakas No. 35 and Nick Fleder did not rank him at all), but Hosmer was clearly a mistake.
My logic on keeping Hosmer, like Harper, off the list is that I thought he was too far away from the majors. I did not expect to see Hosmer until 2012, and spending a few bucks to get in on the ground floor of a prospect like Hosmer, who might spend a year-plus in the minors before making his major league debut, seemed like a silly waste of resources, especially for leagues with escalating salary rules for players.
Well now, Hosmer is up and he needs to be recognized. His big knock is that he is a only a first baseman and positional relativity sets the bar high. The average AL first baseman hit .271/.340/.452 last year with 24 home runs and 89 RBI. Hosmer projects for similar production, but with a much more elite batting average. And the batting average for a slight power hitter is what separates him from the rest of the pack. With no real speed or elite power, Hosmer is likely not going to crack any top 30 fantasy player lists as a first baseman anytime soon—at least without some luck or a little breakout—but he should consistently rate within the top 60 or so.
23. Daniel Hudson: The White Sox gave up an ace-caliber arm to acquire Edwin Jackson for only a year. If you think that that sounds an awful lot like what they did with Gio Gonzalez and Nick Swisher, you are not crazy. There are few pitchers in the majors who throw a mid-90s fastball, hit first pitch strikes 60 percent of the time, and induce swings-and-misses 10 percent of the time. Say what you will about his sub-7.9 strikeouts per nine rate last season. I fully expect that figure to rise this year.
Oliver sees Hudson capable of at least an extra strikeout per nine innings for each of the next six years while keeping the walks just as low as they were last season. Oliver's six year average forecast for Hudson is a 3.50 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP with 7.7 strikeouts per nine rate and a 3.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. How many pitchers can you say that about? Oh, and his groundball rate rose five percent last season. His home ballpark and the defense behind him are his only real knocks.
24. Logan Morrison: Just 24 years old this year, LoMo turned in a solid rookie campaign last season that was limited by a demotion for
But fantasy owners do not have to worry about a player's defense (just Google Adam Dunn for proof). LoMo's overall line was a solid .247/.330/.468 last year, but his BABIP (.265) was a bit lower than it should have been based on his peripherals. By xBABIP standards, a .270/.370/.500 line is entirely in the cards this season and in the near future.
For what it's worth, Oliver seems to agree, projecting a .266/.360/.455 line over the next four seasons. LoMo is an All-Star in the making, and with foul-mouthed, filterless Ozzie Guillen replacing Jack "what is this new twitter-fangled-thing" McKeon as the Marlins' manager, it's much less likely LoMo, even if he does not throttle back on the twittering, gets demoted for
25. Tommy Hanson: Enough has been written about Tommy Hanson that little needs to be added about his upside. I ranked him top 20 among all starting pitchers heading into the 2011 season, and before the shoulder injury, at least through the first half of the season, Hanson was poised to do that and more.
Of course that shoulder injury was severe enough to drop Hanson's production off the map and end his season prematurely. Shoulder injuries scare me as much as elbow injuries, and are always something to be seriously concerned about. That is why Hanson is ranked so low here. If he is fully healed and healthy and can stay healthy, he'll again be a top 10-20 overall starting pitcher barring bad luck. If not, he could be a total bust for fantasy owners. I think the former is more likely than the latter, and Hanson could make for a good "buy low" dynasty candidate if you have faith in his arm long term.
For what it's worth, the Braves are going to be cautious with Hanson in 2012 and do not plan to rush him back to full arm strength, which could limit his 2012 value at "the expense" of a healthier 2013 and beyond. Invest accordingly.
26. Starlin Castro: Shortstop is a shallow position for offense these days, but I need to see more power and little more speed before I crown Castro an elite young player. Entering his age 22 season, Castro has plenty of time to meet those expectations and fill out some of his projectability. A lot of Castro's real life value is based on his defense (at least if he stops making so many errors). Don't call me a homer, don't call me a hater. Castro is a guy I really like, but I need to see a little more before I rank him in my top 25.
27. Matt Wieters: 2011 was a big brea out year for Wieters, especially in the second half, but it was not long enough a performance to make me forget about 2009 and 2010. Wieters turns 26 this year and is far from old, but he is entering the peak years of his prime without much of a track record. Last season could have been a legitimate breakout, but I need to see a little more before I am a firm believer that he's worth spending big on at the draft board.
28. Yovanni Gallardo: Tons of potential, but too wild for my taste. Gallardo has improved his control over the past few years, but last year was the first season where his walk rate was below the league average. Not many players have Gallardo's strikeout potential, but Gallardo seems to be a fantasy player with more hype than substance. Maybe that's just because I am living in Wisconsin right now, or maybe I am just over-thinking his declining strikeout numbers over the past few years. Regardless, I think people are a bit optimistic about what Gallardo can do.
Last season saw Gallardo post the best ERA of his career in any season in which he reached the 100 innings pitched mark, but even then his ERA was still a tad over the 3.50 threshold in a year where seemingly every pitcher had a sub-4.00 ERA. On the bright side, Gallardo's xFIP has improved each of the past few years -- from 3.71 in 2009 to 3.29 in 2010 to 3.19 in 2011. On the flip side of that coin, however, that improvement in raw numbers has actually been only a four percent improvement in xFIP relative to the league..., The point here is that Gallardo has too many question marks, at least in my estimation, to rank ahead of the guys I put ahead of him on this list.
29. Dee Gordon: Elite raw speed is always valuable, and Gordon has plenty of it. How much speed is elite raw speed? Try 73 stolen bases in Single-A ball in 2009, 55 stolen bases in Double-A in 2010, and 56 stolen bases between the majors and minors (combined 129 games) last season. Gordon does not strike out much, but he walks even less and hits for almost no power. On-base percentage is the key statistic for base stealers, and because he does not walk much, Gordon is going to need to post high batting averages to be truly valuable.
If hitting for a high batting average, he'll be a super-elite shortstop. If not, he'll be Everth Cabrera-like. Who? Exactly. Oliver projects a .270 batting average and .310 on-base for Gordon over the next few years, meaning luck might decide his ultimate value. Do you want to buy a young Juan Pierre-ian lottery ticket this season?
30. Paul Goldschmidt: Is he the next Adam Dunn or the next Rob Deer? Only time will tell. The only thing I can affirm is that his power is legit. Unless he cuts down that strikeout rate, though, his batting average risk may outweigh his home run and RBI upside...
LIGHTNING ROUND: Covering the "and five more" guys:
Jason Kipnis has position eligibility on his side with solid 15+/15+, possibly 20/20, potential as he enters his prime, but he's going to have to prove he's capable of hitting higher than .270 and cracking the 15/15 plateau before we start giving him serious consideration as one of baseball's elite. Kipnis has plenty of potential, but there's more "projection" and a lower ceiling than some of his above ranked peers, which slots him just outside the top 30. He is the most likely person on the outside looking in who can rocket up the rankings with a strong season in 2012.
Jeremy Hellickson could easily be the next David Price, and 2011 could have been his Price-ian sophomore season with less-than-exciting peripherals following plenty of minor league hype and a solid end-of-season debut for the Rays in 2010. Seeing a player's strikeout rate fall by a third in the AL East while his walk rate nearly doubles and his groundball rate falls slightly (albeit while simultaneously producing elite pop-up numbers, which may or may not be a pitcher skill) raises too many red flags to safely slot him ahead of players like Gallardo, with a stronger track record and weaker competition, or Tommy Hanson, who is one of baseball's top 10-20 starters when healthy. A strong peripheral bounce-back could make this ranking look silly.
I think relief pitchers, particularly closers, are overrated, but if any closer deserves recognition of value on his own merit, it's Craig Kimbrell. Kimbrell posted super-Marmolian strikeout numbers with respectable control numbers (his 3.74 BB/9 last year was above the major league average walks per nine rate of 3.11 last year, but his 3.97 K/BB ratio was leaps and bounds ahead of the league rate of 2.30). As with any pitcher who logs under 80 innings, his value is too limited to warrant top 30 consideration. Sure, the strikeout numbers will likely be elite for a reliever, and the saves aplenty, but we're still looking at a one-category player who will merely help in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Stated otherwise, Kimbrell is a player who is more valuable rounding out a team than anchoring it. You can likely find 80 percent or so of Kimbrell's non-saves value at a fraction of the cost in drafting elite non-closing relievers like Jonny Venters. Sorry Craig.
Is Dustin Ackley really the consolation prize for the Stephen Strasburg sweepstakes some thought he was a few years ago? My best comp in terms of expected production from a second baseman fantasy hitter, at least at this point in his career based on his professional league record, is the Braves' vintage version of Kelly Johnson from back in the day. Take that as positively or pejoratively as you might.
Much of Cameron Maybin's value comes from real life stuff like defense and position. Even if his power never materializes, the Marlins will likely come to regret trading him for a middling reliever. If the power ever comes, Maybin will be as valuable as B.J. Upton. Based on his handedness, Petco is a better home park for his "touted" power than the Marlins' own stadium ever was. If his power plateaus, however, Maybin will be just another waiver wire outfield speedster with limited batting average value and decent runs contributions. That may be useful, but it's nothing you can call the cornerstone of a fantasy roster.
That leaves us with with two players from my list, the guys I ranked 36 and 37. I view both of them as lottery cards and strong late-round fliers for dynasty formats. Rizzo has top-tier left-handed power potential, and his move from Petco to Wrigley should do wonders for fantasy owners. Until he learns to hit both handed pitching, however, he's just going to be a Seth Smith type. Brandon Belt, meanwhile, cannot be faulted for his unproductive major league numbers last year because he did not get consistent playing time or a real chance. I am a lot more bearish on Belt's upside than most, but if given consistent a- bats he could be a Freddie Freeman type—a solid corner infield or fifth outfielder type.
PHEW! That was a lot. Are you still there? If so, give yourself a pat on the back. Heck, give me a pat on the back for finding the time to write all that. I would love to get your feedback on the rankings, individual player analysis, and your own lists below. Also, look out starting mid/late February for my preseason Top 20 players by position lists.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 3:15am (24) Comments
Monday, February 06, 2012
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions.
So here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
Edwin Jackson signs with Nationals
An otherwise slow week in fantasy news was interrupted Wednesday when Edwin Jackson agreed to a one-year, $11 million contract with the Nationals. Jackson, 28, finished last season with a cumulative 12-9 record, 3.79 ERA, 1.437 WHIP and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate as he split time between the White Sox and Cardinals.
Despite reports that agent Scott Boras was seeking a five-year contract for the right-hander, Jackson ended up settling for a shorter deal in hopes of testing the market again next year. That’s a bargain for the Nationals, who acquire a mid-rotation pitcher in the prime of his career who has made at least 30 starts in each of the past five seasons.
Fantasy owners, meanwhile, will stare once again at the Rorschach test that is E-Jax, a live arm who’s been touted as a potential breakout candidate in past years even if he’s yet to become a top-level hurler.
The good news is, several indicators last year provide hints to better results in 2012, as Jackson posted the best strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio and full-season home run rate (HR/9) of his career. His solid ERA is matched by a 3.73 xFIP, and his 3.8 WAR last year was tied for his career best.
And yet, he still finished with a very pedestrian WHIP, an alarming 10.1 hits per nine innings (H/9) rate and suffered a spike in line-drive percentage.
So even if we might not see anything new from the right-hander this year, there’s hope his new environment will provide a boost to his fantasy value. Joining a rotation headlined by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, Jackson enters spring training with a guaranteed job but without the pressure of carrying what should be a competitive Nationals ballclub.
Park-wise, Nationals Park plays fairly neutral, so he while his new digs might not do him any favors, he shouldn’t fear pitching there, either.
The team’s lineup boasts several intriguing pieces in guys like Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos, all of whom have the potential to build off their 2011 campaigns. But for a squad that finished 12th in the National League in runs scored, it’s hard to project Jackson working with run support to spare, especially when much of the team’s offensive output depends on Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth bouncing back from sub-par 2011 seasons.
Still, the best aspect of being a rotation man for the Nationals is enjoying the air support of the team’s sterling bullpen. The late-inning tag team of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard just gained a new friend in Brad Lidge, who will only help a pen that finished fifth in baseball with a 3.20 ERA last year. And although the team missed out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, they won’t have to deal with his iron glove at first base, either.
So while you shouldn’t expect Jackson to learn any new tricks at this point in his career, he’s certainly someone who brings upside to this year’s draft (especially with an average draft position currently around 226) and perhaps stands to break the 15-win mark that has eluded him so far.
Indians add Casey Kotchman, Russ Canzler at first base
Still not ready to sign off on Matt LaPorta as a full-time major-leaguer, the Indians Thursday signed Casey Kotchman to a one-year, $3 million deal. Kotchman, who turns 29 later this month, posted an .800 OPS and .351 wOBA in 563 plate appearances for the Rays last year after signing a minor-league contract, though his .306 average was boosted by a .335 BABIP, a mark more than 50 points above his career average.
Five major-league plate appearances aside, Canzler, the 2011 International League MVP, has spent his entire career in the minors, where he’s posted a .280/.351/.469 line. Designated for assignment by the Rays in order to make room for Jeff Keppinger, Canzler, who turns 26 in April, has spent the bulk of his playing time at first base, though he’s also appeared at third and both corner outfield positions during his eight minor league seasons.
His versatility and right-handed power could give him a leg up on making the club out of spring training, though as FanGraph’s David Golebiewski points out, Canzler enjoyed home fields at the Double- and Triple-A levels that favor right-handed hitters.
Of course, the biggest obstacle facing both players is available playing time. Carlos Santana started 63 games at first base last season, a trend unlikely to be reversed given his status as the team’s best offensive player. Shelley Duncan could challenge Canzler for a spot out of spring training. And LaPorta, forever to be branded as the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade, wouldn’t spend much time toiling in the minor leagues if he comes out swinging in 2012.
So while both Kotchman and Canzler have value, I’d be leery of drafting them in all but the deepest of AL-only leagues.
Odds and ends from around the majors
• The Padres added another starter—and right-handed bat off the bench—by inking Micah Owings to a one-year, $1 million contract. Owings, 29, made 33 appearances (29 in relief) for the D’Backs last year, posting a 8-0 record with a 3.57 ERA and 1.254 WHIP. A crowded rotation of Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Cory Luebke and Dustin Moseley likely will push Owings to the bullpen full-time, though a significant injury could change that.
• The ageless Livan Hernandez agreed to a minor-league contract with the Astros, giving the team some rotation depth as it enters its final National League season. Hernandez, who turns 37 later this month, has made at least 29 starts each season dating back to 1998 and posted an 8-13 record, 4.47 ERA and 1.397 WHIP last season in 175.1 innings for the Nationals.
In nine career starts at Minute Maid Park, Hernandez is 6-2 with a 3.98 ERA and has allowed five home runs in 61 innings.
• Carlos Guillen has returned to the Mariners in the form of a backup infielder thanks to a spring training invitation. At 36 years old, Guillen’s previous two seasons have been decimated by injuries, and he was limited to just 28 games last year due to knee and wrist injuries. If healthy, he could see action backing up Kyle Seager at third base and/or Mike Carp in the outfield.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:27am (3) Comments
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
When I participate in an expert draft, I am contractually obligated to write about it. Astute readers may have noticed that Derek Ambrosino, Michael Stein, Ben Pritchett, and Nick Fleder already fulfilled their obligations.
Since it is customary, I will open with a very brief rundown of my final product. We can discuss things more in depth in the comments.
C. Mike Napoli - 4/37
C. Miguel Montero - 10/109
1B. Prince Fielder - 2/13
2B. Chase Utley - 5/61
SS. Starlin Castro - 3/36
3B. Mat Gamel - 23/276
CI. Michael Morse - 5/60
MI. Ben Zobrist - 8/85
OF. Curtis Granderson - 1/12
OF. Bryce Harper - 15/180
OF. Matt Joyce - 16/181
OF. Dexter Fowler - 17/204
OF. Jose Tabata - 18/205
DH. Jim Thome - 25/301
P. Matt Moore - 7/84
P. Jordan Zimmermann - 9/108
P. Anibal Sanchez - 12/133
P. Chris Sale - 13/156
P. Clay Buchholz - 14/157
P. Erik Bedard - 20/229
P. Jonathan Papelbon - 11/132
P. Grant Balfour - 21/252
P. Javy Guerra - 22/253
BN. Chipper Jones - 24/277
BN. Nolan Reimold - 25/300
BN. Nyjer Morgan - 19/228 (whoops)
The league featured some notable peculiarities that tripped up my general strategy. We're dealing with a very small, three man bench. In a traditional, five bench player environment, I would have liked to add one more utility infielder, another outfielder (in place of Morgan, more on that in a moment), and an elite set up man or two.
In terms of structural rules, we were forced to select a DH rather than a UTIL. I ignored that particular imperative (hence the Thome choice). There was no IP limit in place, but Derek said something about pretending it was 1600 innings so that's what I drafted. Typically, I draft only four starters I love and fill in the blanks later. In this case, I would have drafted a position player rather than Clay Buchholz.
My biggest mistake of the draft was Morgan. The selection was an error between the user (me) and the draft interface. Bedard was highlighted on my wish list and thus I thought he was the name in my cue. The reason Morgan had been clicked on in the first place is because I was investigating last round picks while waiting for my turn. Unfortunately, I clicked the draft button and wound up with Morgan rather than Bedard. I no longer remember who I wanted to pair with Bedard on that particular turn.
If you want to talk more generally about my team, I'll be happy to discuss in comments land.
Lessons from the turn
I chose to draft from the turn. I was the third owner to sign up and only slots one and two had been taken. The reason for my choice was twofold, to challenge myself and to practice. My only snake draft is a linear weights, keeper league where I will be picking twelfth.
Practicing from the turn in serious mocks can be very informative because there is absolutely no temptation to wait on a player. The lesson of the offseason from multiple outlets has been to draft based on your board, not ADP. Most THT readers are going to be in above average leagues and the more competitive a league is, the less that ADP should inform our decisions.
One example from my list—I came very close to selecting Pablo Sandoval in the third round turn. That pick would have been before Ryan Zimmerman, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Rodriguez. All three players tend to be unanimously ranked above Sandoval, but I lean towards preferring Sandoval. The Giants lineup is a little fugly, which will hurt his runs and RBI totals, but I love his combination of batting average and power for a standard league. I ended up with Starlin Castro and Mike Napoli with those picks.
This is not to say that I necessarily project Sandoval to have better stats than Zimmerman, but I do prefer to roster Sandoval for a variety of reasons.* At that point in the draft, I knew that if I did not pick a third baseman, catcher, or shortstop, that I would be waiting a long time to finish filling out that position. I was more comfortable with my backup plan of Mat Gamel and Chipper Jones (which I nailed, whether you agree with it or not) than my backup plans at shortstop (Mike Aviles) or catcher (Ramon Hernandez).
*I can see the question marks above your heads, let's talk about this in the comments.
This transitions nicely to my lesson about reaching. I reached early and often in this draft and I feel pretty good about the results. I plucked Chase Utley, Matt Moore, Chris Sale, Bryce Harper, Dexter Fowler, and Jose Tabata off the draft tree before they were fully ripe.
Those reaches fall into convenient buckets. Utley is the formerly elite player who has been relegated to the second or third tier by injuries. He called my dad about two weeks ago and told him he was going to have a great season (literally, this happened), so I figured I'd bite. That's not the most analytical explanation, but Utley is also my favorite player and has the potential to return first round production if he can stay healthy (an admittedly unlikely 'if').
Moore, Sale, and Harper are all hyped, unproven youngsters with incredible skill sets. Harper is probably the pick people disagree with the most, I sandwiched that pick between Nick's choice of Lorenzo Cain and my choice of Matt Joyce. Other outfielders selected around that time include Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson, Yeonis Cespedes, Angel Pagan, Mike Trout, and Michael Brantley. Harper might debut at any time, but his floor is comparable to most of those players and his ceiling made him a favorable choice to me.
Fowler and Tabata fall in the team need bucket—in this case, speed. My team lacked bonafide burners, Curtis Granderson and Ben Zobrist were the main providers in that category. With Fowler and Tabata (especially the latter), I put my team in the position to be one waiver move away from competing in steals.
The last major lesson I learned is more of a theory. It goes something like this—the more informed a league is, the less prone it is to position runs. Closer and catcher are the two most common positions to be drafted "too early."
No true run on closers ever occurred. Dave picked the first closer, Craig Kimbrel, in round six. He struck again in round nine with a (baffling) Drew Storen pick. I picked the third closer, Jonathan Papelbon in the 11th round - a position where he is rarely available. Two more closers went in the 11th including another to Dave. Dave selected a FOURTH closer in the 12th, and Josh picked the first non-closer reliever - Kenley Jansen. A pseudo-run started in the middle of the 15th through the 16th round, but that's so late in the draft that they might have been value picks.
Catcher picks were scattered throughout the draft with most owners waiting until the late rounds to address the position. This might have been because a lot of those owners play one catcher leagues and didn't care to adjust their strategy, or it might have been several smart owners agreeing that it often doesn't make sense to fight over a weak position. Why fight for table scraps at one table when there's an untouched cake at another?
This concludes today's lessons. What do you think I should have learned?
Posted by Brad Johnson at 2:07am (17) Comments
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
I’ve been asked a number of times to provide advice for those who play in public leagues who want to graduate to more competitive leagues and possibly increase the stakes of the leagues in which they participate. I don’t have any earth-shattering wisdom to impart on the matter, but I’ll offer up some thoughts and perhaps others will be able to offer their experiences in the comments section as well.
For the most part, those looking to graduate into more competitive, higher stakes (and those two dynamics are often, though not always, tied together) leagues have three general paths to pursue: create your own league, find an existing league, or join a league through a third-party provider that offers fantasy sports for stakes. Let’s briefly discuss each of these options.
Start your own league
All things being equal, this is the best option if it is feasible. By creating your league, you get to set out the initial league structure, rules, stakes, etc. There are many advantages to doing this, most of which are intuitive. It is best if you can start this league with friends, or mostly friends and maybe a few friends of friends. This is important because you want to have a rapport with the league.
You have to collect dues, and most likely you’ll run into some situations early on where you’ll have to make some commissioner decisions, and all that works much more smoothly if you have a pre-existing, cordial and respectful relationship with most of the league. It gets easy to vilify a commissioner who is a stranger.
Sometimes these leagues take a while to grow in competitiveness and enthusiasm, but be patient. If you can put a league together, I think it’s a good option to do so. Even if you also want to try for a quicker fix to satiate your competitive jones at the same time, plant this seed as well.
I enjoy my home leagues so much that I basically don’t even accept the invites to the expert leagues I get. While that sentiment right there may be worthy of a #humblebrag, it also reflects the origin of rotisserie baseball. At its best, it’s a social activity, and who better to be social with than your own friends and associates?
Join an existing league
A second way to get into a more serious league is to seek out existing leagues looking for owners. Many baseball discussion boards have fantasy baseball forums, and there are always people in there looking to fill out their leagues with more teams. Here, you can do a bit of vetting of the other participants, though you’re still entering at least a partial unknown.
Best practices here are to try to build some level of communication with the other league members before committing to anything. Get a sense of the history of the league. Many times there are generally established leagues that retain a core of participants, but that core isn’t enough to complete a league and so the established players take to the message boards to try to recruit the last few teams, which may change owners frequently.
This approach gives you at least a chance to get into an already established, fairly healthy league. You’re also not necessarily committed to return if you don’t enjoy yourself (unless it’s a keeper league).
When you start your own league, sometimes it can be hard to get out of it if your friends enjoyed it because they’ll pressure you into re-upping. I was part of a league with some old co-workers, and I told myself I would quit three straight seasons before actually doing so. I kept falling for the guilt trip of them telling me they might not be able to fill out the league if I left. Who knew people would be so anxious to bring back somebody who won the league four out of five seasons? (#notsohumblebrag tag for that one!)
All in all, this can be risky because you are kind of going the third-party route without the “protections” offered by the third party. You really have no recourse if others are shady with money or act collusively, etc., and that’s why it’s incumbent to do your homework. But it’s important to also keep an open mind and be willing to take a chance if it feels right.
In addition to fantasy baseball, I’m active in I guess what most people would call the “sneaker collecting” hobby, another area that forces me to deal with many people over the internet and broker deals with people I don’t really know. The codes I live my there are protect yourself, trust your instincts, but keep and open mind. Anybody—no matter how reputable—can be a scammer, and anybody—no matter how unknown or obscure—can be a stellar, honest person.
Joining third-party for-stakes leagues
A third option for stepping your game up is to enter leagues through sites like Fantasy Sports are Us (FSRU) or National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). I’ve personally never joined a league through sites like this, but both FSRU and NFBC are well-established in the industry.
For those with really heavy pockets or who are just supremely confident in their skills, there’s the NFBC league that costs $1,400 per team and includes 300 total teams that compete for divisional and overall prizes. Fellow THT author Dave Shovein shares a team in this league.
I contemplated joining this league last year and discussed it with an associate of some note in this industry who also has achieved success in this league, and he encouraged me to do it. There are plenty of experts involved in this league, but there are also well-to-do average joes with money to blow, or at least that’s the impression I was given. I wimped out anyway, though.
Another variation of the idea of joining third-party leagues is to get into daily fantasy gaming. Daily fantasy sports gaming allows you to draft (auction) a whole new team every day. You can also play for smaller stakes. The dynamics of chance and skill are different than seasonal leagues, but the contained excitement can be fun. Fanduel is a leading daily fantasy gaming site provider and a friend of The Hardball Times, but there are other providers, as well.
Here are a few resources for those looking to take the plunge on something new from former THT writer and daily fantasy gaming expert, Alex Zelvin.
An introduction to daily fantasy baseball contests
Keys to winning daily fantasy baseball contests
Finally, a cautionary tale. The World Championship of Fantasy Football was a mega-institution in the fantasy gaming world, organizing huge-money competitions with the appearance of plenty of funding behind it. The organization recently folded, and many recent winners are unlikely to receive their entry fees back, let alone the jackpots they were guaranteed.
ESPN’s Outside the Lines ran a story about this for those who want more information on this scandal. I include this piece of information not to scare anybody off, but moreso to underline the point I made earlier; it’s not always so easy to determine what people/outfits are reliable. Of course, that internet problem is not unique to searching for fantasy baseball leagues.
At the end of the day, you have to both be willing to walk away and willing to take a few chances, depending on what your research and your gut tell you. In that way, seeking a league is not really all that different from building a fantasy team.
I was lucky enough to start my fantasy gaming with friends, but for those of you who may have started by joining public leagues but have since elevated your game and league experiences, please share your insights below.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:36am (9) Comments
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Baseball Monster is a rankings website that caters player values and projections to your league's settings. They describe the way in which they calculate the player values as such:
"Player values are based on the standard score statistic, where a value of 0.0 is the average for your league. Anything positive is better than the league average, negative worse. As a general guideline, a value of 2.0 and above for an individual category is very good, -2.0 and below, really bad."
Easy enough, right? The league I used for experimental purposes was a standard, mixed league with 12 teams. In the numbers below, I tweaked the player values based on numbers that I thought were realistic projections for 2012. For example, I looked at what Matt Kemp's value might be if he had hit 25 points lower in the batting average department and, further, where he might have ranked if he only hit 30 home runs.
My findings and observations...
30 Had Matt Kemp hit 30 home runs rather than 39 last year, he would have still been the second best offensive player (trailing, then, only Jacoby Ellsbury). Some regression can be expected; after all, his home run rate was five and a half percent above his career average, and he never hit more than 28 home runs before his 2011 campaign.
.294 Had Matt Kemp hit 30 home runs with a .294 average (his career mark) last year, once again he would’ve found himself near the top of the value leaderboards. This time, he’d also trail Ryan Braun. Kemp won’t hit .324 again—it was aided by a whole lotta luck—but I wouldn’t say it’s the largest stretch of the imagination to assume 30+ homers and a .300 average. Don’t overestimate the regression that’ll hit him; he’s worthy of consideration at #1 overall.
12If Dee Gordon meets his Oliver projections of two homers, 40 RBIs, 76 runs, 40 stolen bases, and a .270 average, he would’ve been the 12th most valuable shortstop of 2011.
61 If Dee Gordon meets his Oliver projections in all categories except one—stolen bases—and beats his projection in said category by 21 steals, he’d be the seventh most valuable shortstop of 2011. I think he can steal 61 (he was on pace for that precise number with 600 plate appearances last year), and perhaps he can best his runs projection, too (on pace for 87 last year). I’d rather have him than Elvis Andrus when price is considered.
3.38 Heath Bell’s ERA projection from Oliver. Projected numbers of a 3.38 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 36 saves, three wins, and 56 strikeouts would’ve had Bell as the 50th most-valuable relief pitcher last year. Sure, the list includes a slew of middle relievers, but there are a dozen or so closers I would prefer to Bell.
3.18 Heath Bell’s career ERA away from PETCO in the last four seasons.
44 Heath Bell’s average saves total in the last three seasons. Let’s cut the man some slack.
.239 Evan Longoria’s BABIP last year, which led to a .244 batting average.
.319Evan Longoria’s BABIP over the previous three seasons, which led to a three year average of .283
78 Evan Longoria’s 2011 runs scored total.
98 Evan Longoria’s previous two-year runs scored average.
3 Evan Longoria’s 2011 stolen base total.
12Evan Longoria’s previous two-year stolen bases average.
5 Evan Longoria’s ranks among third basemen last season, clocking in (well) behind Jose Bautista, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Aramis Ramirez.
2 Evan Longoria’s retrospective ranking among third basemen with a “should have been” 31/98/99/12/.283 line.
17 Evan Longoria’s retrospective rankings among all position players with the aforementioned “should have been” line, which makes still him a “Don’t Draft,” in the first round for yours truly.
10 The number of position players who, per linear weights, were above average in all five major offensive categories in 2011. Their names: Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia, Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Brandon Phillips, Jeff Francoeur.
0 The number of players listed above who play shortstop.
.276 League average batting average.
.273 Asdrubal Cabrera’s batting average in 2011.
4The number of categories Asdrubal Cabrera was above average in last season: home runs, stolen bases, RBIs, and runs scored.
~0.001 The percent chance that I budge and take Troy Tulowitzki in the first round, knowing that Asdrubal Cabrera can be had in the seventh (at least in our recent mock draft).
19 David Price’s ranks among starting pitchers in 2011, when he put up a 3.49 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and 218 strikeouts while he garnered only 12 wins.
14 David Price’s ranks among starting pitchers in 2011 if he had won 19 games, as he did the previous year.
11 David Price’s ranks among starting pitchers in 2011 if he had won 19 games, as he did the previous year, and if he had pitched to a 3.32 ERA, like both his FIP and xFIP suggested.
9 The number of pitchers taken before David Price in drafts, on average, per Mock Draft Central. Shame. I’d feel comfortable, still, with Price as my ace, but perhaps the early fourth round is a little early to draft a pitcher for some, especially when Ian Kennedy can be found much, much later.
21 The number of wins last year by Ian Kennedy. Cut the number to 16, the 2011 wins total of his Arizona counterpart, Daniel Hudson, and you still have a top eight pitcher when last year’s other stats are used. A lot of people credit Kennedy’s hefty (and likely unsustainable) win total to his value last year, but forget that he was excellent without too much luck aiding his success. His home-run rate was a tad low, so factor in a few more of those, but otherwise, draft him as an ace with confidence. But wait…
20 The number of pitchers taken ahead of Ian Kennedy in our recent mock draft.
7 The round in which Ian Kennedy was selected in our recent mock draft.
0 How much sense that makes.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:27am (9) Comments
Friday, February 10, 2012
I'm a bit late to the party in terms of following up the dynasty rankings article from a few weeks back, which can be found here. That said, Jeff's excellent supplementary piece has spurred me to follow up with one of my own. As is abundantly clear, there are wildly varying opinions on where these youngsters should be ranked. Hopefully this follow-up piece will shed some light on the thinking that went into my ranking.
1. Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Upton is oozing with talent, and is an across-the-board performer. The decision was easy for me to rank him at the top. Playing most of the 2011 season at 23 years old, Upton boasts in game power that few of his peers can match. In previous years, that power came with the expected eye-popping strikeout totals of a young slugger. This past season, however, Upton made massive strides in that department, shaving nearly eight percentage points off of his 26.6 percent strikeout rate of 2010, reducing it to 18.7 percent. The result was a 16-point jump in batting average, in spite of a 35-point drop in his BABIP.
He is a prototypical heart-of-the-order batter who offers power, average and solid on-base skills. For gravy, Upton has stolen around 20 bases a season. Unfortunately, he hasn't been efficient doing so. If he fills out any further and loses a step, the brakes may be pumped, and 20 stolen base seasons turned into a thing of the past. Of course, if that's the case, a further bump in power production could also result, making the net result a wash of sorts.
2. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
It pained me to rank a starting pitcher this high (let alone follow it up with two more at spots three and four). Strasburg is a special talent, though, and has toyed with hitters in his 92 innings of major league experience. In his brief return in 2011, Strasburg showed he'd reclaimed most of his explosive pre-Tommy John velocity, and exhibited pristine control (often the last thing to return).
Reports such as that of Tom Verducci, which Jeff quoted in his own dynasty rankings article, are worth noting. But how much weight should be placed on them? Before suffering a series of injuries, Mark Prior was lauded as having picture-perfect mechanics. Post-injury, everyone and his brother wanted to claim “they knew” his mechanics would lead to injury. Many questioned how a starter like Tim Lincecum would hold up with such a high torque, awkward delivery.
All of this leaves me questioning the validity and worth of most mechanical arguments. Sure, an easy, clean delivery is much preferred to a high effort one. Ultimately, though, I believe some pitchers' bodies are built for the unorthodox motion of throwing a baseball overhand and some aren't. Strasburg has yet to prove whether he fits into the former or the latter group. He'll have to build up his innings again, and is no sure thing to maintain his mind-blowing performance over a 200-plus-inning grind. Even with that in mind, he has room for regression with his level of play being so high.
3- Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Much of the commentary in the initial rankings article revolved around Kershaw ranking behind Strasburg. A very valid argument could be made for him ranking higher. That argument could start with him winning the National League's pitcher triple crown (he led the league in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts). That alone makes him an incredibly desirable young pitcher, something that is reflected in his ranking on this list.
One reason he ranked behind Strasburg for me was his record of passable to poor control. Last season was his first with a walk rate below 3.50 per nine innings, and only his second below four per nine. How much of his control gains will he be able to sustain? He doesn't need all of the gains to flirt with the top fantasy pitcher ranking year-to-year, but one season isn't enough for me to completely ignore nearly 500 innings of previous work in the majors.
What I found most promising about his electric 2011 campaign was that he didn't need to sacrifice strikeouts for control gains. Kershaw is a special talent, make no bones about it, but if I'm going to gamble on a starter as the face of my dynasty franchise, I'm going to shoot the moon with Strasburg.
4. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
It is hard to believe Hernandez, at just 25, is already a veteran of nearly 1,400 innings in the majors. This vet is a model of consistency. In all but his 2008 season, and his 2005 rookie debut, Hernandez has posted xFIPs that are a near carbon copy of his career 3.31 mark. He has two seasons under his belt in which he has compiled an ERA under 2.50 as well. He doesn't strike out as many batters as the two pitchers ranking ahead of him, but his 8.18 K/9 career rate is plenty good enough, especially when it is coupled with excellent control, 2.75 BB/9, and a truck load of ground balls—a 55.2 percent groundball rate.
As far as controllable components go, Hernandez has shown himself to be a model performer in all three. Perhaps the most overlooked element of his value is his ability to be counted on for a high volume of innings. Not only can owners comfort themselves in knowing they'll get star level stats from Hernandez, they can count on them coming over the course of 230-plus innings (he's bested that total each of the last three years). If you're a King Felix owner, just kick back, relax, and enjoy.
5. Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins
I was very tempted to rank Stanton directly behind Upton, as Jeff did. His power is prodigious, and even though he strikes out frequently, he made gains in that regard from his rookie season to year two. How much further improvement to his strikeout rate can be expected? Tough to say. He's a power hitter, and strikeouts are often times an unwanted side effect. Upton has illustrated that it is possible to hit for power without selling out completely and whiffing at a clip that rivals the league leaders. If Stanton hopes to hit for more average, he'll need to make the same strides.
Unlike Upton, Stanton hasn't shown much base-stealing acumen. In 250 games, Stanton has stolen five bases and been caught stealing seven times, so don't expect him to suddenly get the green light. He's not some sort of Adam Dunn-like lurching creature, so a handful of stolen bases annually is within reason. Stanton is just about as desirable a fantasy asset as one could own starting a dynasty franchise, but his questionable batting average and modest stolen base contributions hold him back just a bit for me... for now. If given a redo, I very well might put him above the pitchers, especially considering the sheer depth of quality arms.
6. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
This was as high as I could reasonably rank Harper. Unreasonably, I was tempted to move him and Stanton above the pitchers. Unlike many young power-hitting prospects, Harper's power is an 80 grade tool now on the 20-to-80 scale. He played the entire minor league season as an 18-year-old, and reached the Double-A level. He'll likely debut in the majors as a 19-year-old, meaning sometime this season. His most arduous backers give him an outside chance at breaking camp with the team. While I think that's unlikely, he's not that far off.
He crushed the ball in the Arizona Fall League, and shows patience at the plate that exceeds what should reasonably be expected of someone so young. Then again, Harper has done nothing but exceed expectations on the diamond, so this should come as little surprise. As a commenter alluded to in the initial article, Harper has six more years that he'll qualify for this list! His age, present tools, ceiling, professional performance to date, and near major league readiness are staggering. He could easily top this list next year, and the year after, and the year after, and... you get the idea.
7. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Most prospect talk revolving around Harper eventually turns to Trout, and this shall be no different. Unlike Harper, Trout already has major league experience. He received his time as both a 19- and 20-year-old. Trout didn't light the world on fire, but wasn't completely overwhelmed either. He flashed some power—five home runs and a .171 ISO in 135 plate appearances—and speed—five stolen bases—but his average was lackluster. The biggest culprit for his ugly batting average was an unlucky .247 BABIP. With a 20.7 percent line drive rate, a low pop-up rate, and the wheels Trout possesses, his BABIP, and consequently his average, should have been considerably higher.
The Angels have a crowded outfield, and may opt to unclog it temporarily by sending Trout to Triple-A to start the year. Injury or ineffectiveness from one of the players ahead of him could open the door for him to become a full-time regular, of course, there is always also a chance he kicks the door open himself by slaughtering the Pacific Coast League. His power isn't as great as Harper's, but it is above average, and his speed is elite. He also projects to hit for an excellent average. So much to like here.
8. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Lawrie has the position-eligibility argument working in his favor for ranking ahead of at least Trout and Harper. He also has an explosive rookie year under his belt in which he showed power, speed, and the ability to hit for average against major league pitching. Even with that in mind, the power output is significantly greater than he'd ever produced in prior years. Part of that is undoubtedly that he's more physically mature now, but how big a part? I suspect he can hit 20-25 home runs regularly, which is good, but not a total out of the reach of Trout, who I believe will steal more bases and hit for a smidge more average. Harper should also blow away Lawrie's power output, and chip in stolen bases in his early years (though not to the extent Lawrie will). Positional scarcity does matter, which is why this is a tough call, but ultimately I decided the difference in ceiling was great enough to slot him behind the others.
9. Carlos Santana, C/1B, Cleveland Indians
Santana is already in the discussion for the best fantasy option at his position. He's coming off a year in which he hit 27 home runs, scored 84 runs, had 79 RBIs, showed extreme discipline (14.7 percent walk rate), and even added five stolen bases. The lone fantasy-relevant category I neglected to mention was his ugly .239 batting average. His low BABIP in 2010, low line drive rate, and high pop-out rate make it debatable as to how unlucky his .263 BABIP in 2011 really was. Should he iron out some of his pop-out issues, and turn some of his ground balls from 2011 back into the line drives he hit in 2010, his average could spike a great deal.
Since he had the best bat in the Indians' lineup, they found time for him routinely at first base. Anytime a catcher is able to get playing out of the crouch, it should be considered a plus. However, what is a blessing now could be a curse down the line. The Indians have continued to give Matt LaPorta opportunities to prove he's the long-term option at first base, and he has disappointed. The farm system lacks an impact bat at the position, and the team could decide it is in its best interest to move Santana to the less grueling defensive position. For now, the scare isn't great enough for me to punish him too much for it, but it does warrant monitoring.
He turns 26 in early April, so he won't be eligible for this list next year. For now, as my ranking suggests, he's a desirable dynasty league option.
10. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
I'm crazy about Hosmer's swing. I'm not a scout, but when I hear about short swing paths, I picture Hosmer's cut. His walk rate is below league average, but he offsets that with a low strikeout rate. Ideally, he'll learn the old man skill of walking as he gets more major league experience.
Hosmer showed ample power, cranking out 19 home runs in 563 plate appearances. That total doesn't stand up well against his first base counterparts, but it should go up some as he physically matures. It would also be aided greatly by hitting left-handed pitching better. Hosmer hit 18 of his home runs against right-handed pitching, and slashed .315/.355/.531. He hit only one home run and .237/.282/.303 against southpaws. One notable difference in the batted ball data is that his 56.8 percent groundball rate against lefties is almost 10 percent higher than against righties. If I were to guess, I'd say it's the result of him rolling over pitches against southpaws. Hosmer's a talented batter, and should be capable of making the necessary adjustments to close the gap on his big platoon split.
The bar is set high offensively at first base, but the names Pujols, Votto, Fielder, Gonzalez, Howard and Teixeira have shown in recent years that even with that the case, a first-round or second-round draft slot isn't out of the question.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 2:55am (0) Comments
Monday, February 13, 2012
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions.
So here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
Orioles trade Jeremy Guthrie to Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom
With less than a week to go before pitchers and catchers report, Colorado and Baltimore shored up their starting rotations by swapping pitchers who can eat up innings.
Guthrie, who turns 33 in April, has averaged more than 30 starts over the past five years but has never realized the potential the Indians saw when they made him a first-round draft pick 10 years ago. Last year, he finished 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.341 WHIP and allowed more hits than innings pitched.
For a guy who’s surrendered an average of more than 26 home runs a season since 2007, moving to Coors Field won’t exactly help his fantasy value next year. But at least he enters spring training with a guaranteed spot in the rotation, and could benefit from facing National League lineups for the first time in his career.
Hammel is a similar case, a guy with a career 4.99 ERA who should at least hold down a steady rotation job but offer fantasy owners little else on a team headed toward another 90-loss season. Entering his age-29 season, Hammel comes off the highest BB/9 and HR/9— and lowest K/9—of his career since becoming a full-time starter, and was shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen during the season’s final two months.
By far the most interesting variable to come out of the deal is Lindstrom, a guy with closing experience who could give current ninth-inning man Jim Johnson a possible challenge in the season’s early months. Manager Buck Showalter expressed interest late last year in moving Johnson to the rotation, but that was before the team acquired Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen, fleshing out a top five that should include Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta. If things fall apart, a pile of warm bodies, including Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland and Tommy Hunter could step in to eat up innings.
That means Johnson will likely stay at the back end of the bullpen, where he posted decent numbers last year after taking over for Kevin Gregg. But Lindstrom’s presence—along with that of newly signed Luis Ayala—gives Showalter backup options, and could make for an interesting position battle next month.
Rangers sign Conor Jackson to minor league deal
Jackson’s stock has fallen sharply since he posted three straight .800-plus OPS seasons several years ago. Last year, in 390 plate appearances split between the A’s and the Red Sox, Jackson, 29, posted a .244/.310/.341 line with just five home runs and 43 RBIs. But he can play at all four corner infield and outfield positions, and could provide Mitch Moreland with a right-handed-hitting platoon partner if the Rangers so desire. Jackson might be far from an exciting fantasy candidate, but while his prospects for a steady job are less than clear, any slugger calling Arlington home could have some fantasy value, so keep an eye on how his spring training unfolds.
Russell Branyan receives spring training invitation from Yankees
Although the Yankees are still looking for a left-handed designated hitter to complement Andruw Jones, the team agreed to terms Wednesday with the 36-year-old Branyan. Obviously, there’s little guarantee Branyan will make the team, let alone hold down a regular job, but it’s worth remembering he swatted 31 and 25 home runs in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Last year, Branyan compiled a .197/.295/.370 line in 146 plate appearances between the D-backs and Angels, and never earned a full-time job with either club. He’s strictly an afterthought as far as fantasy is concerned, though anyone wearing pinstripes in a premier hitters’ park retains the potential to make an impact, so he might be worth keeping an eye on in spring training.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 1:11am (0) Comments
As a Yankee blood, A.J. Burnett is not a welcome name in my household. I don’t enjoy watching him play baseball—he’s made it easy to hate him, with a 5.26 ERA in 2010, a 5.15 in 2011, and a bad attitude for the whole ride—but he may well end up on several of my teams this year if (when) he becomes a Pirate. You might ask why. I might even ask why.
Not long ago, Burnett was a valuable commodity in all baseball spheres. He had a World Championship under his belt in 2003, an 18-win season in 2008, a sick strikeout rate along the way, and two five WAR seasons to his name (2005 and 2008). As such, he was signed to a (cringe-worthy) five-year, $85 million contract in 2009. He’s tumbled and fumbled since then, though, and fantasy owners and Yankees fans alike have come to hate the man.
In a 12-team, AL-only league, he was, in his first Yankee season, worth a rock-solid but unsexy $12 as the 23rd ranked pitcher. The subsequent year, he clocked in as the 118th most valuable American League starter, worthless on fantasy rosters in every sense of the word. A slight rebound made him the 72nd starter in the AL last season, worth less than Rich Harden (82.2 innings pitched with nearly identical ratio stats: 5.15 ERA and 1.43 WHIP), Matt Moore (who started two games), and Fautino de los Santos (who was wrongly classified as a starter but pitched only 33.1 underwhelming innings). Burnett, in other words, was fantasy kryptonite.
Throughout his demise, though, he’s remained well above league average in strikeout values and wins. According to Baseball Monster, his strikeouts had a value of 2.02 in his first Yankee year, 2009 (rated as very good), and maintained a 0.85 value and a 1.33 value in the following two years, respectively. Additionally, he won only 10 and 11 games in 2010 and 2011, both rated as above average in a standard 12-team AL-only league.
Let’s look at his Yankees years and dissect, as well as we can, his fantasy value.
Year 2009 2010 2011 3-Yr. Avg Career ERA 4.04 5.26 5.15 4.79 4.10 BABIP 0.295 0.319 0.294 0.302 0.290 WHIP 1.4 1.51 1.430 1.44 1.33 HR/FB% 10.8 11.6 17 12.8 11.3 K/9 8.48 6.99 8.18 7.88 8.22
The problem with Burnett, clearly, lies in his inability to limit base runners and his sky-high ERA. He still possesses some semblance of his former ability. In the past three years, his high-water marks (found in bold above, mostly in the 2009 category) make for a pretty valuable $12 season. A quick look at his rate stats might lead one to believe that Burnett has become a vastly inferior pitcher to his former self. Not so quick…
His home run to fly ball ratio will surely go down, as his rate was 17 percent last year while the league average clocks in around 10.5 percent. Burnett’s 2011 might not have looked so ugly with a league-average ratio, as his xFIP was more than respectable at 3.86. PNC Park will have a lot to do with the regression to the mean, as Yankee Stadium had a 1.267 HR factor in 2011 while Burnett’s (likely) home park had a HR factor of 0.799. The difference, for illustrative purposes, is nearly the same as that between Coors Field and PETCO Park in 2011.
These are likely here to stay, but shouldn’t ever look so bad as they did in 2011. Burnett’s walk rate has hovered around his career mark for the past several years (which never produced great WHIP numbers), but the difference in his recent performance is that he’s simply much more hittable (204 hits in 186-plus 2010 innings paints the picture pretty well). Perhaps there’s a little luck involved, though. His three-year BABIP was .302 in pinstripes, while his career mark is .290.
If Burnett can channel his 2009 version and find himself on the right side of the luck equation, he might be a golden dollar. You know, the one found in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? His home run to fly ball percentage will surely go down, we’ve concluded. If his BABIP can stay as low as it did in 2011, then the HR/FB tumble will bring his ERA down to respectable levels and his WHIP won’t ever touch the mid-ones again.
Bad luck in several forms—BABIP in 2010 and home run rate in 2011—has kept Burnett in the fantasy dumpster, but I’ll bet my final dollar he returns to respectability (or better).
Even if he leads me to a championship or two, though, I’ll never love him.