December 9, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Friday, March 02, 2012
Last year, I took my first crack at compiling a top 100 fantasy prospect list. While I was happy with the results, it was far from perfect. This list isn't perfect either, but I'd like to think it is a massive step-up from my rookie effort.
To qualify as a prospect for this list, a position player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats in the majors, and a pitcher must not have thrown more than 50 innings, or made more than 30 relief appearances. In addition, I've adhered to Major League Baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement rookie rules, meaning Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes do not qualify (though Jorge Soler does). Soler is an omission because I am refraining from ranking until he signs with a club, not because he is lacking the talent or projection to land in the top 100.
When putting together this list I weighed ceiling, floor, minor league level, statistical performance, and scouting reports in varying degrees. I read through hundreds of scouting reports, and for most players, multiple scouting reports from different sources.
My primary scouting sources for information were Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels of Minor League Ball, Keith Law of ESPN, and the outstanding stable of writers/scouts from Baseball America. With scouting being such an inexact science, the reports sometimes varied wildly from source to source. Ultimately, I found myself needing to rely on my gut in some cases.
When using this as a cheat sheet, be sure to keep your league settings in mind. There is simply no way to cater to all possible league structures, and I didn't have any specific league size or roster structure in mind when preparing it.
This article is only the first of many to look at the top 100 fantasy prospects. In the coming weeks, I will be following up with four separate posts of 25 prospects each which include write-ups. As such, I ask for you patience in asking detailed questions in the commentary section below about the individual featured prospects. Feel free to debate the merits of your favorite snubs, and lobby for players moving up and down the list. I also encourage readers to e-mail me with questions; I'm always happy to discuss baseball and answer questions.
Top 100 prospects:
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 1:32am (33) Comments
Posted by Nick Fleder at 10:37pm (2) Comments
Monday, March 05, 2012
Some pitchers qualify as both a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher. Your league settings might make such players more valuable than they would be in a typical league. Their utility can also allow you to push for more stats in certain specific situations.
Generally speaking, there are two scenarios where dual eligibility is useful. There are certainly other scenarios besides these two, but these are the most common.
In a head-to-head and/or points league, a starting pitcher with relief eligibility can really help you bulk up on raw numbers. This assumes that your innings cap is either high or nonexistent.
In a more traditional roto league, an elite reliever with starter eligibility can help shave a couple points off your ratios over the course of the season. This can be especially useful with WHIP. It's not uncommon, for instance, for third and 10th place to be separated by only 0.04 WHIP. As a bit of a spoiler, only one name below fits this ratio-assisting description.
What follows is a guide to the pitchers currently marked as SP/RP in Yahoo! Most of the links are to Brooks Baseball player cards, which might be cooler than Mike Fast's new job. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that THT staff helped put those monsters together.
No. 1 Matt Moore
He's currently only relief eligible, but that will change quickly.
Moore is a favorite of the prospect world. Some publications consider him the best prospect in baseball, which is quite the feat when your competition is Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. He's also getting some press as potentially the best starting pitcher in Tampa Bay despite the presence of David Price.
For those in the right format, Moore is the holy grail. He has the potential to provide top-20 starter value out of a reliever slot on your roster with upside for even more.
The best part is that he isn't expected to be on an innings limit. If you have a points format that counts strikeouts and innings, Moore easily could double the performance of an elite reliever. Adjust your draft board accordingly.
No. 2 Cory Luebke
I went into the offseason with personal misgivings about Luebke, but my colleagues here at THT have assuaged my doubts somewhat. The downside here is a low win total thanks to a crappy offense and some extra hits due to an outfield defense that might struggle to cover all that territory, especially if they try to squeeze Carlos Quentin and Jesus Guzman out there on the same day.
With that in mind, Luebke still should strike out a batter per inning, and if health cooperates, 200 frames isn't out of the question. In a points format, Luebke might only be half a step behind Moore in terms of value over replacement-level fantasy reliever. He'll probably be easier to draft, too, so you might want to target him rather than Moore.
No. 3 Chris Sale
Sale is the first of several relievers who will be transitioning to starting pitcher this season. His chances of sticking the landing are probably the best of the bunch since he already features an effective four-pitch mix.
Sale probably will lose a little velocity off his 96-mph heater. If you follow Tom Tango's Rule of 17—pitchers that transition to starter see a 17 percent increase in BABIP and HR/PA, a 17 percent decrease in K/PA, and a flat walk rate—then Sale appears to be destined for a very useful fantasy season. A strikeout per inning with a palatable ERA and WHIP is a reasonable expectation. He's riskier than Moore and Luebke, but he has significant upside.
An inning limit could come into play with Sale, but I suspect his performance will dictate where he gets cut off. H2H owners should keep this in mind, as there's a fair likelihood he won't be around for the playoff push.
No. 4 Hector Noesi
Noesi is so sleepy this year that I forgot about him. He has some competition in camp, which could push him into a swingman role. He essentially needs to beat out three of Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Hisashi Iwakuma, Danny Hultzen, and James Paxton. Some combination of those names will fill the final three rotation spots behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. Noesi's skill set should be enough to earn him a look over the others.
The transition to Safeco should treat him very well. He relies on a mix of five solid pitches. None of them stands out as a plus offering, but they're all useful, and the variety might allow Noesi to find a few more strikeouts as he learns to sequence better.
A decent strikeout total along with a starter's share of innings and non-deadly ratios could be in store. He's kind of a high-floor, low-ceiling pick.
No. 5 Josh Collmenter
This pick varies by format. Since points leaguers benefit from high inning totals, Collmenter gets the nod. He's a bizarre pitcher, one of those guys who might legitimately baffle a fair number of major league hitters. He's essentially a fastball-changeup righty who relies on his weird approach to succeed with two pitches. We might see him mix in his show-me curveball more often this year, but it's not a good pitch, so that might be detrimental.
Collmenter's potential innings total and low walk rate are what make him attractive as a dual-eligible pitcher. His strikeout rate is fairly low and could come back to bite you in leagues with an attainable innings cap (whether that's weekly or for the season). His job security is iffy because the Diamondbacks have a plethora of hyped arms like Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs waiting in the wings.
No. 6 Felipe Paulino
This pick probably depends on how you feel about Paulino's BABIP. He's posted three straight seasons of BABIPs above .330, so it's possible that he is simply "hittable." Perhaps he needs to learn when not to challenge hitters.
He has legit stuff, including a fastball-sinker combo that sit above 96 mph, a good slider and a changeup that generate plenty of swinging strikes, and a usable curveball. All of the tools are in place, including acceptable command and control; he just needs to figure out how to put everything together.
Kansas City is a friendly place to toil thanks to the home park and weak division. Paulino is risky as a fantasy pick, even if you're leaning on the dual eligibility. He's best in linear weights leagues where he's already a popular not-quite-sleeper.
In a points or H2H league with more traditional stats, you might actually be able to find him in the end game. He has 200-inning and 180-strikeout upside, but he might hurt you by allowing a few too many runs and hits.
No. 7 Albertin Aroldis Chapman
Did you know his first name is Albertin? I didn't.
It's difficult to gauge how Chapman will transition to starting duties. The Reds are paying him like a starter and really ought to have conducted this experiment sooner. The rotation is sort of full in the sense that Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo are considered to be starting pitchers, although neither pitcher should be a hurdle if Chapman shows some affinity for starting.
The big question mark with Chapman is if he can get his walks under control. A lot of guys built like Chapman struggle mightily with control until they flame out, although a few like Randy Johnson learn to become masters. Even so, improvement will take time, and Chapman will probably issue way too many free passes. The result will be a low innings total and too many runs allowed. He's ranked seventh because he has enormous upside, but Chapman easliy could be unplayable in all formats as a starter.
Having signed Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, the Reds shouldn't send Chapman back to the bullpen until they fully conduct this experiment. That means he could begin the season in Triple-A. An innings cap is a guarantee even if he somehow manages to pitch efficiently.
Unlike the next two guys, Chapman might be able to survive using only two pitches because they're so effective.
No. 8 Daniel Bard
Bard is the third reliever-to-starter project on this list. Unlike with Sale, Bard has leaned heavily on his fastball and slider out of the pen, mixing in the very occasional changeup. As such, things could get bumpy for Bard, especially because the AL East and Fenway leave little margin for error.
He's not guaranteed to break camp as a starter, but there's a fair chance Bard could wind up with 10 or more saves out of the pen along with his usual elite ratios. He won't be a total loss if you take a flier on him and it doesn't work out.
It's unclear if he would operate under an inning limit. Like with Sale, his performance will likely dictate the Red Sox decisions.
No. 9 Neftali Feliz
Like Bard, Feliz will jump to the rotation without a starter's repertoire. Where Bard has shown a changeup with some promise, Feliz relies on the ol' heater nearly 80 percent of the time. His slider is essentially a show-me pitch because he struggles to control it, and his sinker and cutter have gone all but unused.
Feliz will have to develop those pitches to succeed as a starter, which means 2012 could get ugly at times. He's expected to throw 140-160 innings this season, and the Rangers have the bullpen pieces in place to commit to the plan.
If the plan bombs completely, Feliz could supplant Nathan as the club's closer. However, the Rangers will probably option Feliz to Triple-A before completely giving up on the project.
No. 10 Brett Myers
The one and only reliever with starter eligibility on this list, Myers will close for the lowly Astros this season. The team could struggle to win 60 games, but how many of those wins do you think will be by more than three runs? In other words, don't worry too much about opportunities.
Myers will be most useful in bizarre, small leagues where several teams have a full docket of legitimate closers. His presence could help win the category.
From his time in Philadelphia, we know Myers' stuff plays up out of the bullpen. He can sit back and rely on his fastball and devastating curveball to get the job done. He's always had a bulldog mentality on the mound, so the role is well suited to him. His numbers are likely to be the kind you get from a solid fantasy starter rather than an elite reliever, so he doesn't fit as a guy who can help with your ratios.
The rest of the notables
Alfredo Aceves seems like he could be a reliable back-of-the-rotation starter, which means you probably need to be in a deep league to consider him.
Jason Hammel has succeeded in the AL East before, but it's still a tough assignment for a merely adequate pitcher. He should get a good chunk of innings, though, which will help his cause in points leagues.
Jordan Lyles has the upside of a No. 3 starter, but he probably needs a couple of years to get there. Maybe look at him for spot starts against bad teams.
Tom Gorzelanny is a solid starter and could fill in if the Nationals have to deal with injuries. He might get used down the stretch once Stephen Strasburg hits his innings limit. Keep in mind, John Lannan is ahead of him on the depth chart. Speaking of which...
...John Lannan. See above. He could get shipped elsewhere. Depending on when that happens, he might not gain relief eligibility or he might be worth a bit more than an end-of-the-article mention.
Alexi Ogando is expected to return to the bullpen this season. Despite last season's successful experiment, the club believes they can get more value out of Ogando in the bullpen. He could be the one guy who puts up elite ratios as a starter-eligible reliever.
Martin Perez could see some time out of the bullpen this season. It will likely depend on club need since the Texas bullpen appears secure right now.
Tommy Hunter seems like a scary choice, but if you have balls or a deep league, he'll probably throw 140 innings or more. They won't be good innings, though.
Shelby Miller could see time late this season, and he's marked as a reliever.
Ditto for Dellin Betances.
Ditto for Manny Banuelos.
Ditto for Alex Torres. Injuries would help his cause the most as he already appears MLB ready.
Arodys Vizcaino will need a LOT of Braves injuries to see enough starts to gain eligibility.
Kris Medlen is being stretched out to potentially fill in for Tim Hudson, so he could be useful early on. If he succeeds and others hit the disabled list, he could cling to a starting job.
Randall Delgado could bounce between the pen and rotation, but he'll probably just start in Triple-A until needed.
Andrew Miller could magically discover his potential. The Red Sox are giving him chances, but consider me a skeptic.
It's quite possible I missed a name or three. If you think somebody should have been mentioned, leave a comment and I'll address it.
In case you're wondering, guys like Kyle Kendrick, Kyle McClellan and Manny Parra did not make the list because they are guys like Kyle Kendrick, Kyle McClellan, and Manny Parra.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:10am (5) Comments
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, 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.
Astros move Brett Myers to bullpen
In something of a shocking move, the Astros moved one of their most dependable starters in Brett Myers to the closer’s role, shifting a perennial 200-plus-inning pitcher to a role that likely won’t mean much for a team looking to rebound from a 106-loss season. Still, we fantasy owners need not complain, since the move will likely rejuvenate Myers’ value and open up a few spots for some intriguing young pitchers.
As far as Myers, 31, is concerned, he slides into the role of a solid No. 2 closer with a deep reservoir of job security. Not only is there no clear runner-up to the job—Juan Abreu and David Carpenter both have late-inning potential and a penchant for strikeouts, but neither have demonstrated an ability to tackle control problems—but Myers has, of course, demonstrated success with the role before.
In his career as a reliever—basically, the 2007 season—Myers is 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA, 1.247 WHIP and a quite-welcome 10.2 K/9 in 63.1 innings pitched. During that season of closing out Phillies games, Myers converted 88 percent of his opportunities for 21 saves, and it’s worth noting he never lost the job; he merely was shifted back to the rotation in 2008 when Brad Lidge was acquired.
Will Myers regain that strikeout ability? That remains to be seen, but the Astros offense is putrid enough to make sure he sees plenty of close games, and Myers could emerge as a 25-plus save candidate this season.
That’s the easy part. The better question is who will take over his spot in the rotation.
We know Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris have jobs locked down, and J.A. Happ, Livan Hernandez and Zach Duke will be front-runners for at least another starting role. Beyond them, much could depend on manager Brad Mills’ tolerance of untested rookies, since none of the team’s younger starters offers much in the way of proven major league value. The most obvious candidates are Jordan Lyles and Kyle Weiland, both of whom made their major-league debuts last season.
Lyles is probably the team’s best-known younger pitcher, though he was decimated last season to the tune of a 2-8 record, 5.36 ERA and 10.2 hits-per-nine. At 21, he still has a great deal to learn about pitching in The Show, but he was a strikeout-per-inning pitcher throughout his minor league career. Lyles will need to put together an impressive spring if he wants to convince Houston management he’s ready to anchor a rotation spot.
The same probably goes for Weiland, acquired in the Mark Melancon deal that also saw the Astros acquire shortstop Jed Lowrie. Weiland, 25, features a fastball that tops out in the mid 90s, and at 6-foot-4, has an ideal pitcher’s build. But he went 0-3 during his five starts down the stretch for the Red Sox last year, and even with the relaxed Astros’ environment, there’s no guarantee he’ll begin this season as a starter.
Rounding out the candidates are Aneury Rodriguez, Henry Sosa, Brett Oberholtzer and Lucas Harrell. Harrell, 26, was released by the White Sox last year and is entering a stage of his career where he’s quickly entering the vacuum of major league obscurity, while Sosa’s 10 starts last year resulted in a 5.23 ERA and 1.444 WHIP. Oberholtzer, a lefty, could sneak into the mix if Happ is pushed out of the rotation, though Rodriguez might be a sleeper if he can conquer his awful stats at Minute Maid Park last year (7.26 ERA, 1.513 WHIP in 39.2 innings pitched).
If I had to guess—and for a team with little prospect of meaningful September baseball, that’s all there probably is at the moment—I’d say Happ and Hernandez will have starting roles, with a fifth starter job going to either Lyles or Rodriguez. Much could change between now and Opening Day, of course, so this will be an interesting position battle throughout the rest of this month.
Carl Crawford suffers setback in recovery from wrist injury
For a guy entering spring training with perhaps the most to prove in his major league career thus far, the week did not bode well for Carl Crawford, who suffered inflammation in the same left wrist that bothered him throughout his dreadful 2011 season. Crawford and manager Bobby Valentine both downplayed the injury, which will be examined by the team’s medical staff today.
Pain-free or not, Crawford, a MVP candidate as recently as 2010, was already a risky early-round draft pick, so this news does little to elevate his value beyond that of a No. 2 outfielder in standard mixed leagues even if he might have the most upside of any player chosen outside the first three rounds of fantasy leagues this year.
Bunting practice injures A.J. Burnett
As much as Burnett’s name might be verboten around Yankee circles, a freak bunting accident last week left Burnett with a shattered right orbital bone, an injury that will vaporize at least the next three months of the right-hander’s season.
That’s a shame since Burnett, 35, was sure to fare better in more pitcher-friendly PNC Park, is still capable of striking out batters at a prodigious rate, and both his FIP and xFIP last season suggested his 5.15 ERA would calm down in 2012. Now we likely won’t see him for several months, and it’s difficult to predict the length of his recovery.
Assuming Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton appear in Pittsburgh’s rotation this season, look for Erik Bedard and rookie Brad Lincoln to compete for the fifth spot.
Bedard, 34, whose 24 starts between the Mariners and Red Sox last year were his most since 2007, turned in a decent season, compiling a 5-9 record with a 3.62 ERA, 1.284 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 in 129.1 innings pitched last year. He’s obviously an injury risk, but Bedard could have some value in the National League if he’s able to hobble to the mound every fifth day.
Lincoln, 26, turned in a mediocre 47.2 innings last year, as he finished with a 4.72 ERA, 1.469 WHIP and 5.5 K/9. As usual, Pittsburgh will be joyous if they can even reach .500 this year, so perhaps there might be a spot in the rotation for a young buck like Lincoln.
Ike Davis comes down with a case of Valley Fever
What exactly is Valley Fever? Whatever it is, it doesn't sound good, especially for a guy coming off a season destroyed by an ankle injury. Blood work, apparently, doesn't prove Davis has the disease, which is a fungal infection common to the southwest region of the country. He'll undergo further tests, but in the meantime, chalk up one more reason to be a bit leery of drafting the Mets' slugging first baseman, even if he's a future star once he gets a full season under his belt.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:12am (0) Comments
Ryan Howard? Injured.
Raul Ibanez? Run outta town.
Domonic Brown? Needs more polishing.
Enter John Mayberry Jr., this year’s Michael Morse, and the Phillies' de facto first baseman for the first two months, and presumed left fielder from there on out.
Don’t believe me about the Michael Morse comparison? Their half-season breakouts are strikingly similar. Behold:
The readily apparent difference is that Mayberry possesses much more speed. Both had concerns in development; Morse’s position, focus, cleanliness (I don’t mean hygienically, but in terms of HGH testing) and pedigree was all in question. For Mayberry, it was plate discipline, plate discipline, and more plate discipline.
He’s always been a gifted athlete but finally harnessed his speed in his third go-round at Triple-A (in and of itself a glaring question mark, I know), where he stole 20 bags. He’d hit for double digit power at five previous levels, including twice in Triple-A, but scared off scouts with his consistent 20 percent or higher strikeout rates.
In 2011, though, Mayberry swung less outside of the zone, and made contact more when he did; he swung and missed, additionally, on nearly 10 percent fewer pitches. As a result, his 267 at-bat cameo (similar, again, to Morse’s 266 at-bat foreshadowing in 2010) yielded a respectable 18.6 percent strikeout rate.
So: your last pick? Make it this year’s power breakout.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 6:29am (8) Comments
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Shortstop is one of those "scarce" positions in fantasy baseball that tends to generate lots of polarization. From the inherently risky high end choices to the low upside bargain buys, even experts have a hard time agreeing on a strategic approach to the position. As much as ever, this year there are three shortstops at the top—Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes—and everybody else. So if you're among the majority of us who will wind up with someone from the "everybody else" category, the question becomes where to find the value among these lesser number-sixes. Here's a look at three different players who, despite drastically different costs, should provide similar value.
Elvis Andrus is a fine player who provides solid rotisserie value thanks to good wheels and a secure position near the top of a powerful Texas Rangers lineup. He generates plenty of runs by making contact and drawing a healthy dose of walks ahead of Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, and Nelson Cruz. He even got to hit behind Ian Kinsler last year, too, giving him more RBI opportunities than most speed-first players. Best of all, he doesn't even turn 24 years old until the end of August, so his best is likely yet to come. So why am I a bit bearish on this young semi-stud?
First things first; 60 RBI is about the ceiling for a low-powered top of the order hitter. He reached that total last season thanks to Ian Kinsler staying healthy and in the leadoff spot all year. Unless Andrus finds his way to double digit homers, that number is more likely to move down than up.
You can also say the same thing about the 96 runs. If he were to find himself leading off instead of Kinsler he'd have the potential for a triple-digit run total, but that would reduce his RBI potential. He's also no more than a break-even basestealer. With a 75.5% career success rate and a virtually identical mark in 2011, the possibility of even a slight increase to 40 steals isn't very likely—especially since Ron Washington has shown a willingness to issue red lights to inefficient basestealers in the past.
Beyond that, the most alarming thing about Andrus is that he has an absolutely terrible time getting the ball in the air. His career ground ball rate is 57.5% and he's been one of the eight most frequent worm burners among qualified hitters in all three of his full seasons, hitting balls into the ground at least 55% of the time in each one. This severely limits his power potential. While this is in part a way for him to try and take better advantage of his speed, he's also yet to show a knack for the absurdly high batting average on balls in play you see with the few ground ball machines who have turned themselves into true fantasy assets.
When you look at the stat sheets on Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Michael Bourn, and Howie Kendrick, while you routinely see high ground ball rates, you also see BABIPs that vary from .325 to as high as .390. In fact, Jeter has only once in his career posted a BABIP below Andrus' career rate of .312, and that was Jeter's miserable 2010 season, when it was .307. So without double digit homers or a BABIP that could dwarf the league average, Andrus' solid contact rate alone won't be enough to provide a superior batting average. His average won't hurt you, but without quite a bit of luck or a big change in his approach it won't suddenly spike and become an asset either.
What we have in Andrus is a two-category player who won't even quite challenge the league leaders in either of his good categories. Is it possible that he starts hitting a few more balls in the air and driving his fly balls further? Might he increase his BABIP or improve his success rate on the basepaths? Is it inconceivable that he might do this all at once? No, not inconceivable, but neither is it worth it to pay a premium for that somewhat remote possibility.
Dee Gordon is fast. He's very fast. He's so fast, his father (former relief ace Tom Gordon) should be ashamed for having already laid claim to nickname "Flash". Dee's 9.0 Spd score would have lead the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2011 had he qualified for the batting title. Even with only 313 plate appearances he tied for fourth in the league with 30 steals. He loves to run, and while his success rate in the minors fluctuated a bit, last year he managed to avoid getting thrown out an outstanding 88.2% of the time in Triple-A and a still solid 77.4% of the time in the majors.
Even better, he's already been tabbed the Dodgers' leadoff hitter, so he has a chance at 700 plate appearances as long as he holds that spot down for the duration of the season. Don Mattingly may still be a bit green as far as managers go, but he didn't give Matt Kemp any kind of restrictions following a poor showing on the basepaths in 2010, and the organization has been very aggressive with its handling of Gordon thus far. He'll have free reign to run as much as he pleases.
Gordon should steal more bases in 2012 than Elvis Andrus, and it may not even be close. He also made contact at a similar rate last year and likewise put most of his balls in play on the ground. Although the projection systems conservatively (and wisely, given the lack of data) regress his expected strikeout rate, Gordon also has the advantage of hitting from the left side of the dish. That means a shorter distance from home to first.
Combined with his superior speed, he should have an easier time leveraging his tendency to hit the ball on the ground into a naturally high BABIP. This is why the projections call for the two players to post similar batting averages, though it must be understood that there's far less certainly with Gordon. He could continue to avoid striking out while putting up a .350 BABIP and yield a monster batting average, or he might start whiffing more frequently and popping up too often and wind up with a poor one, or he could find himself anywhere in between.
That's the good news. The bad news is that he may not hit a single home run in 2012, and hitting atop a more modest National League lineup will mean fewer RBI opportunities than Andrus. Gordon's low walk rate also raises a red flag. At the very least, it implies there's a lower floor to his run scoring potential, though hitting leadoff helps offset that difference.
Overall, while Gordon could steal 10 or even 20 more bases than Andrus, Elvis will give you the benefit of a few extra homers and RBI and a far less volatile projection.
Erick Aybar isn't as sexy as the King of Rock n' Roll. He's also not as Flashy as Flash Jr. He is, however, an established talent who provides similar production. Best of all, he seems to be getting better.
Like Andrus and Gordon, Aybar makes contact at an above average rate, has good speed, and is likely to hit at or near the top of his lineup. He doesn't walk as frequently as Andrus and he doesn't have have Gordon's off-the-charts speed, but he does have a few things going for him that his counterparts don't.
First, Aybar has always had a touch of power. Though his career HR/FB is a modest 4.1%, that number plays stronger since he isn't nearly as allergic to hitting balls in the air. He also managed to jump his HR/FB up to a career best 7% in 2011, bringing with it the expected spike in ISO from his career .104 mark to .142. In fact, in 2011 he set career bests in homers, doubles, strikeout rate, steals, stolen bases success rate, runs and RBI, so as far as fantasy goes, he literally improved across the board.
He's actually attempted more steals and improved his success rate in three consecutive seasons, which bodes very well for his speed projection. His manager, Mike Scioscia, doesn't even seem to understand the meaning of the phrase "red light," so no worries on that front. And now, just to put a cherry on top, he'll have Albert Pujolsr batting just a few spots behind him in the order, giving him even more run scoring potential than he already had.
If there's so much reason to be excited about Aybar in 2012, then why does it seem as if the projection systems are slightly bearish on his prospects? There's certainly concern that his power increase was more statistical noise than actual improvement. After all, he was already 27, which is a bit on the old side for a true breakout (though hardly unheard of). Otherwise, it really comes down to just one issue: playing time.
Playing time is one of the most difficult things to project, and the three systems listed here all think Aybar is due significantly fewer trips to the plate than Elvis Andrus or Dee Gordon. If you prorate his projected numbers closer to 650 plate appearances, you'll see where the excitement is coming from. The problem is, he's never come particularly close to reaching that number. In fact he only cracked 600 plate appearances for the first time in 2011, and even then just barely.
This is the gamble that comes with Aybar, and it's a gamble that I'm willing to make. He seemed to finally earn Mike Sciosia's trust in 2011, taking over the lion's share of leadoff duties in the second half of the year. I'm cautiously optimistic that he can parlay that trust into an increased workload this season. His combination of glovework, spike in offensive production, switch hitting ability in a right hand dominant lineup, and the offense's roster squeeze at other positions create a situation ripe with opportunity, both for Aybar himself and fantasy owners alike.
Not to mention, he's in a contract year. Though I'm not convinced that type of thing has any kind of vast influence on a player's overall production, it may motivate someone like Aybar to attempt a few more steals than he would have otherwise or to more vehemently try to talk his way into the lineup on days he would have otherwise had off. Even if 2011 goes down as the best year of his career, and 2012 is simply an encore, there still could be plenty of value to be had here.
Average Draft Results
There's quite a bit of dissent between the different markets on how to treat these three shortstops. Particularly in the case of Andrus, you'll see him going as early as the mid fourth round at Mock Draft Central and as late as the ninth round at CBS. There's a bit more consensus on the values of Gordon and Aybar—both are most frequently going between between the 12th and 15th rounds—but there's tons of disagreement on how these three should be valued in relation to each other.
Of course, while one should never expect a draft to follow the market patterns too closely, these variations present three distinct scenarios that might be found in any given draft. To wrap things up, lets consider how to handle each situation.
Mock Draft Central/Yahoo!
Mock Draft Central and Yahoo! yield similar results, so we can view them in tandem. In both cases, the average draft position for Andrus is more than 100 picks earlier than that of Gordon or Aybar, and in Yahoo! Auctions the difference in price is around $14 to $17. This is far too aggressive on Andrus—he's not a $20 player without substantial improvement over his established norms—and not nearly aggressive enough on Gordon and Aybar. Let someone else invest that kind of cost in Andrus while you get one of the others on the cheap.
Even if you're not totally comfortable taking the plunge on Gordon or Aybar, you can also pick up someone like Zack Cozart for $1 or with your last pick in the draft. You would have little chance of losing more value than you'd lose by paying $20 for Andrus, and much more potential for profit.
Of the three scenarios, ESPN comes the closest to getting this one right. Drafters at ESPN not only place a considerably lower value on Andrus than those at Yahoo!, they also place slightly higher value on Gordon and Aybar. A $15 bid or a sixth round draft selection is about right given Andrus' expected return value. If he happens to fall any lower than that, he actually starts becoming a bargain.
The prices for Gordon and Aybar are similar to what you can expect to pay in Yahoo!, and still represent better values than this price for Andrus, but its not nearly as cut-and-dry. There are worse things you can do in a draft than take Andrus in the sixth round, but if you can avoid pulling the trigger and he doesn't fall any lower than that, waiting on one of the other two is still perfectly acceptable.
In the CBS market, the scarcity at shortstop is unilateraly undervalued. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes can often be found on draft boards into the third round while Starlin Castro is frequently lasting into the sixth and Andrus as late as the ninth. The stability Andrus offers at a difficult position to fill is worth considerably more than a ninth round pick, and while Gordon and Aybar are almost equally undervalued, the relative similarity doesn't necessarily mean equal value. This is especially true in a snake draft, where the deeper you get strategy naturally degenerates and instead tactics are emphasized.
Knowing where you've already invested your cost forces you to be more particular in how you proceed, whereas in auction, you simply take good values where and when you can at various cost levels throughout. If you select Elvis Andrus in the eighth round of a snake draft, that means you turn your attention to other areas in subsequent rounds.
On the other hand, if you get to the 14th round and you haven't filled the shortstop position, any pick you make that isn't a shortstop carries added risk that the remaining positive values at the position will be gone by the time it's your turn to select again. You're forced to concede precision in lieu of security during the later rounds, where during the earlier rounds there are still lots of avenues to success and you can be more flexible in adapting to the nebulous market of your own particular draft.
You can't go wrong with any of these guys at these prices, but if you project to make a similar amount of profit by selecting Andrus in the 8th or 9th round as compared to Aybar or Gordon in the 14th or 15th, there's added value in locking down the scarcer position earlier on with a low-risk asset, so Andrus becomes the slightly wiser choice.
Posted by Mark Himmelstein at 12:20am (5) Comments
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Spring training is in full swing; we have games to watch, box scores to pore over and cheat sheets to finalize.
You can’t put too much stock into spring numbers, though it can be reassuring to see players you are high on playing well. While some big springs may signify a potential breakout (Mike Morse, 2011), there are countless examples of players who had monster preseasons and then faded as the schedule turned to April.
While most of the early happenings in the spring can be considered white noise, one important thing that you should pay attention to is undecided position battles. Here are a few such situations that I am closely monitoring.
Angels DH/third baseman: Kendrys Morales vs. Mark Trumbo vs. Alberto Callaspo: This battle is more predicated on the health of its participants than on-field performance. Consensus seems to be that if Morales is healthy, he will be the full-time DH and clean-up hitter. If this is the case, he makes a very intriguing mid-round option as a first baseman or corner infielder.
Assuming Morales is ready to go and DH’ing, Trumbo and Callaspo will battle for playing time at third base. As impressive as Trumbo’s power numbers were in his rookie season, his .291 on-base percentage was abysmal. I’m also skeptical of his ability to play a passable defensive third base. As of now, I would expect Callaspo to get the majority of the starts at the position, with Trumbo bouncing around among third, first, DH and the corner outfield spots.
Athletics first baseman: Brandon Allen vs. Daric Barton vs. Chris Carter vs. Kila Ka'aihue: Daric Barton is the incumbent at the position, but was awful in his 67 games last season and is battling injury issues. He has always gotten on base at a decent clip and plays good defense, but he isn’t an option in fantasy leagues.
Allen is the guy that we all want to see win this job outright. He has massive power potential, and got off to a great start, hitting a grand slam and driving home seven runs on Saturday. If given full time at-bats in 2012, I could see Allen providing 20+ homers and 70+ RBI. He may be a drain on your batting average, but is still well worthy of a late-round flyer.
Carter and Ka’aihue have always clobbered Triple-A pitching, but are running out of chances to prove themselves at the major league level. They both have big time power potential, and both would be worth a look if they were to secure the job.
Tigers second baseman: Ryan Raburn vs. Ramon Santiago vs. Brandon Inge: As a long-time Tigers fan, I want nothing more than to see Inge fall flat on his face and lose this job. He’s not a fantasy option, even in the deepest of leagues. While he is a favorite of the fans, the smart fantasy player doesn’t want to see him on the field.
Santiago similarly isn’t an attractive fantasy option. He has struggled every time he’s been handed full time at-bats, and I doubt big things are coming in his age 32 season. If you get excited about a .260 average with six home runs and two stolen bases, hope that Ramon wins the job.
The favorite of the fantasy player is Raburn. Again in 2011, Raburn turned in an absolutely dreadful first half and then exploded after the All-Star break. He has the potential to be an impact player at second base, and given a full season could easily top 20 home runs. Plus, he already has two long balls and six RBI this spring. He’s heating up early this year!
Red Sox shortstop: Mike Aviles vs. Nick Punto vs. Jose Iglesias: Aviles is the guy fantasy players want to see win this competition. While he’s the worst defender of the bunch, he brings an interesting power/speed combo. If he wins the job outright, I could see him hitting 12-15 homers with 15-20 steals. Throw in the fact that he’s a .288 career hitter, and he has the potential to be a solid contributor across the board.
Neither Punto or Iglesias does enough to warrant consideration in most mixed leagues, and I would be disappointed to see either one wrestle the job away from Aviles.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you are finishing up your draft board. Morales, Allen, Raburn and Aviles are all big time potential impact players in 2012 should they win their projected battles.
Any other situations around the league you are monitoring? Leave 'em here or on Twitter (@DaveShovein) and I’ll be happy to give my input on how I think those will play out!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:16am (11) Comments
Bruised, beaten, tattered, torn. Mat Gamel has been thrown around as a potential masher for years now, and has been hanging out in Triple-A since late 2008. Which, with some Swiss-cheese logic, might mean he’s a crappy nobody worthy of nothing like fantasy consideration.
Gamel, a third baseman who can fill in at first, has been blocked by Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee in past years, but now will fill the glaring first base void in Milwaukee. A close look at his Triple-A numbers and projections will clearly paint him as an enticing sleeper.
At-bats – 493 Games – 128 Homers – 28 Runs – 90 RBIs – 98 Average – .310 BABIP – .326 Homers/162 GP – 35 Runs/162 GP – 113 RBIs/162 GP – 124
So, where’s the knock, you may ask? This kid looks ready to mash! Not so quick, some say. He has 171 unimpressive major league at-bats to his name, which seem to play heavily into the general perception of Gamel as a bust. His line of .222/.309/.374 is by no means impressive, but writing off a player based on such a sample size is foolish… even when the elephant in the room is a 34.5 percent strikeout rate.
His first go-round at Triple-A brought up legitimate strikeout concerns; players who have K rates above 25 percent in the minors usually fade to obscurity and rarely crack the majors. He tamed his rate with more exposure, though, and his second Triple-A appearance—this one in 2010 for 82 games—saw a much more reasonable rate trimmed by exactly 10 percent. Last year, the mark fell to a (dare I say) impressive 15.4 percent rate.
Always evident in the minors was his tendency to take the walk. Gamel, like fellow minor-league success story Paul Goldschmidt, mixes high walk rates with disconcerting strikeout rates. When they go hand in hand, the strikeouts are less threatening to one’s career prospects. A nugget of optimism: Gamel’s small sample size walk rate is 10.3 percent.
What can be gleaned from his brief cameos in the majors? His five home runs, supported by a normal 10.6 home run to fly-ball rate, extrapolate to 17 homers in the majors. Bill James has Gamel down for 19 round-trippers, and I could be coerced into taking the over.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 10:39am (4) Comments
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it
Twisted Sister’s famous tune was actually about Mike Minor; look it up. The context, of course, was the Minor kid's saying, in a February Atlanta-Journal Constitution article in reference to the Atlanta Braves: "If they dont have room for me here, then there's no reason they shouldn't trade me or just do something with me.”
Minor is an ultra-talented lefty with high strikeout potential and excellent peripheral stats. His 3.51 FIP and 3.63 xFIP supplement a 8.76 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate in 123 major league innings. Pitching in the somewhat-friendly confines of Turner Field, with a halfway adept—at worst—defense behind him, and he should see his unlucky balls in play average drop and incidentally, his WHIP.
So, what we have on our hands is a potential five category producer—the potential in the last category is very much in question, but let’s pretend his WHIP can be more than just respectable, which is the expectation—pitching for a contender, with a rotation spot with his name on it.
Minor took a step forward in the second half, harnessing his fastball—which has given him the most trouble in his brief major league career thus far, with the lowest of his four pitch values—and sending his strikeout-per-nine innings rate in the right direction. His 7.06 K/9 pre-All Star break turned into a 9.34 K/9 mark afterwards, and his walk rate fell more than 1.25 per nine.
These are legitimate steps forward for the young southpaw, and don’t be surprised if he challenges for 175 strikeouts. Just call him Mike … Major.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:13am (6) Comments
Thursday, March 08, 2012
Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie have been shipped outta town, leaving Mike Aviles as the primary shortstop for the first time in his career. Go ahead, let it out: Wahoo!
Aviles is a contact hitter with a diverse skill-set better utilized in fantasy than in real life. But we don’t care how the Red Sox make out from the Aviles signing—at least not in this sphere. The better riddle to dwell on is whether to spend a finite dollar on Mike Aviles in crunch time.
Aviles has been good for 14 steals in each of the past two seasons, which were made up of 424 and 286 at-bats, respectively. Those numbers pro-rate to 20 in 2010 and 29 in 2011, and a middle ground would be a good estimate, in my humble opinion.
Aviles has the pop too. Haven’t you heard? For a 5-foot-10, 204-pound small fry (don’t forget our context here), Aviles can clear the fences adeptly. He hit eight dingers in his 2010 stint and seven last years. Oh, and he hit 10 in 2008.
Lastly, but not least, Aviles can hit for average. His .288/.318/.419 is somewhat unimpressive, especially when the last two numbers are considered, but luckily, many of you will need to consider only his batting average.
A 10-homer, 25-steal campaign supported by a .290 average is nothing to scoff at. Mike Aviles, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing to scoff at.