May 24, 2013
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Thursday, March 22, 2012
Kenley Jansen or Javy Guerra the top dog in LA?
I think Kenley Jansen—even if he records zero saves all year—will be more valuable than Javy Guerra. (I also think that Jansen, assuming he stays healthy, will be more valuable than about half the closers in the league even if he gets only five saves. But, that's a whole other discussion.)
I don't think this is an unreasonable conclusion, considering how much value he will generate in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. Just imagine what he could do if he were able to unseat Guerra as the closer!
But without him owning the closer's role, many will ignore him. Which begs the question, is Jansen or Guerra the guy to own in LA?
While the knee-jerk reaction is always to go with the man who has the job its not that simple in this case. Fantasy owners seem to have recognized this, drafting Jansen just four spots behind of Guerra in ESPN drafts (ADP 215.4 to 219.7).
While I think the small difference in ADP has more to do with owners hoping Jansen seizes the role, he really doesn't need the closer role to be worth the pick. All he has to do is pitch like Kenley Jansen and keep striking batters out.
It goes like this:
Regressing both Jansen and Guerra's plate discipline characteristics and batted ball profiles, Jansen—not surprisingly—grades out as the far superior pitcher.
Actually, his numbers point to something truly remarkable.
I've got his final line at a 1.97 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, with a 15.01 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and 4.11 walks per nine innings (BB/9)—meaning he could very well be the next incarnation of Craig Kimbrel, Carlos Marmol circa 2010, or Brad Lidge c. 2004, albeit without the saves. Though he doesn't have a clear pathway to the closer's role, 100-strikeout setup men are a very underrated commodity in fantasy. Jansen's overall line could be worth more than many of this year's closers—even if he finishes the season with only a handful of saves.
Over 60 IP, I've got his line being worth about 0.61 points above the average reliever. Ratchet his line up to 12 saves and all of a sudden he's worth a full point above the league average in the standings. That's in comparison to guys like Huston Street (Steamer's line comes in at 0.36 points) and Jose Valverde (-1.18 points by Steamer's line) who have a full season of saves under their belt.
On the other hand, Guerra posts a more modest 3.48 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, to go along with a 7.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9—not far from his 2011 rates of 7.33 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9. Last year's sparkling 2.31 ERA will likely fade, however—and with it comes the possibility of a change at closer (or so Jansen owners hope). Still, at 35 saves on the year over 65 IP, and he still comes in below average (-1.02 points).
And while we're talking about Jansen, I think it's worth pointing out that his control is far better than he is given credit for. Because of his high walk rates (4.36 BB/9 in 2011), he has undeservedly earned the reputation of being wild. But, that statistic is very misleading.
In actuality, he had very good control last season, posting a 53.2 percent zone rate and 59.2 percent on first strikes. The zone percentage, in particular, is very impressive for a reliever. While you wouldn't expect a pitcher with that kind of control to walk so many batters, he does so because he generates so many swings and misses. So, instead of batters ending the at-bat by putting the ball in play (where there is no chance of a walk), those extra swings and misses keep more at-bats alive, resulting in inflated walk totals.
Bumping his O- and Z-Contact ratings up a notch (to .713 O-Contact and .858 Z-Contact—Guerra's numbers), he all of a sudden finds himself walking 3.29 batters per nine. Going one step further, if batters chased him out of the zone at a reasonable rate (Jansen had a 25.4 O-Swing last season), he would find himself at 2.7 BB/9.
To sum up that tangent, please don't fool yourself into thinking that Jansen is your typical high-strikeout, poor-control reliever. He's much, much more than that!
And getting back to the main point: Be sure to take advantage of his underrated value. Jansen is just one of a handful of hurlers who doesn't get credit for the value he contributes to a fantasy team. Though he's the No. 2 man in LA, don't discount him too much on draft day. You'll regret it!
What batting in a Boston (not San Diego) uniform does for your value
Lineup strength is one of the more underrated parts of a player's fantasy value. A few things that many fantasy players do wrong is to ignore, or significantly underrate, the effect that a batter's teammates have on his value.
Now, let's not get carried away on that last statement. Everyone in fantasy recognizes that batting in the Yankees lineup is better than batting for the Astros. However, you get the feeling that only the keenest of owners know the true value of this switch.
Let's take Jacoby Ellsbury for example. Out of the leadoff spot in Boston, he turned in one of the finest seasons of 2012—119 runs, 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 39 stolen bases, and a .321 average.
His regressed numbers state that he was a little unlucky in runs scored, but made up for it with slightly inflated RBI totals. That regressed line is a stunning 126 runs scored and 92 RBI. Also outstanding!
Now, for the kicker—throw him in San Diego. Keep his exact same profile intact (732 plate appearances, 32 home runs, 39 stolen bases, .321/.376/.552), but change the team around him.
How does he do?
...very well, but the lineup around him has certainly taken its toll. He cedes 18 runs and 12 RBI to finish at 108 and 80. An excellent player, no doubt, but not the same guy by any means. In fact, he cedes a full 1.7 points in the standings (similar to the difference in value between Evan Longoria and Michael Young, by many pre-draft estimates).
So, the obvious (but now quantified!) moral of the story: Think carefully about lineup strength before you draft anyone. Yes, the Boston to San Diego exchange is extreme—and I'm sure you already take lineup strength into account—but don't forget about those five or six runs and RBI that can come from moving from, say, Toronto to Washington. Those little bits of value really add up to a lot and can make you a nightmare to play against. Add a half a point here and a quarter of point there and you'll find yourself way ahead of the pack in September.
Posted by Mike Silver at 5:44am (12) Comments
Friday, March 23, 2012
Today, we play the brand name game. According to Yahoo's most up-to-date preseason ranks, Anibal Sanchez is ranked as the No. 154 overall player in standard 5x5, mixed league roto formats. Matt Garza is ranked No. 103 overall. Is that gap really justified? At the outset, my gut says no.
First, let's look at the surface statistics. Here is how the fantasy numbers of Matt Garza and Anibal Sanchez compared in 2011, especially against the average qualified starting pitcher in 2011:
Off the bat, a few things stand out. First, Garza was the better fantasy player, but not by enough to matter. Their ERAs and WHIPs are close enough that a few extra good or bad starts for either pitcher could have a drastic impact on who ended the season with better rate stats. Although elite pitching has become more clustered in recent years, a third of a run and .02 base runners differential in ERA and WHIP are relatively marginal.
More shocking, however, might be the average qualified major league starting pitcher numbers. Would you have seriously guessed that they produced those numbers, even in the second coming of the era of the pitcher? Essentially, the league average qualified starting pitcher, in terms of ERA and WHIP, was a little better than what it took to win a fantasy league with your pitching staff in 2009. That's down right crazy, if you ask me.
Of course, here at The Hardball Times, we preach looking beyond the numbers. Single season surface results, particularly ERA and WHIP, are generally not the best predictors of future performance. So let's look at the overall peripherals:
From the perspective of peripherals, we find the two players near identical. Their strikeout and walk rates, in addition to their first pitch strike and whiff rates, are marginally divergent. All of SIERRA, FIP, xFIP and eFIP agree that both pitchers flashed legit ace-type talent last season, and their expected ERAs are essentially within .05 runs per nine innings of each other no matter which ERA estimator you use. Likewise, xWHIP thought both pitchers were near identical in talent at limiting baserunners in a vacuum last season.
This confirms, at least to some degree, the initial hypothesis: that a significant gap in their rankings/ADP is not justified on functional/substantive grounds—at least not based on 2011. A comparison of their career numbers, though, with Garza pitching in the harder league and division before 2011, would certainly give Garza the rankings edge, all else considered and nothing else relevant, heading into 2011. But consider a couple of other points.
First, compare the past two years of performance by the two pitchers. They are as eerily similar as their 2011 performances standing alone:
Second, a look at both pitchers' monthly strikeout rate and xFIP splits reveals that Sanchez was substantially more consistent in his month-to-month production:
Sanchez: 23.4% K%, 3.34 xFIP
Garza: 30.5% K%, 2.09 xFIP
Sanchez: 26.0% K%, 3.24 xFIP
Garza: 22.7% K%, 3.90 xFIP
Sanchez: 25.4% K%, 2.73 xFIP
Garza: 16.5% K%, 3.71 xFIP
Sanchez: 24.3% K%, 3.27 xFIP
Garza: 21.1% K%, 3.70 xFIP
Sanchez: 19.7% K%, 3.75 xFIP
Garza: 26.1% K%, 2.98 xFIP
Sanchez: 26.6% K%, 3.24 xFIP
Garza: 21.5% K%, 3.30 xFIP
These splits might be less of a concern in Roto leagues, where patience is king, rather than H2H formats, but the volatility raises some question as to where Garza's true talents in the National League lies. Is Garza the pitcher he was in July or August? April or May? June or September? Likely, it's somewhere in the middle, putting Sanchez and Garza on near equal footing in terms of process and talent last year and over the past two years. At the very least, Garza's volatility is enough of a question mark to make the prospective value of the two pitchers a closer question than their career numbers would otherwise indicate.
The bottom line is this. You should be happy to have either pitcher on your roster anchoring your staff. xFIP and SIERRA do not tell the whole story and are far from the be-all, end-all, but the consensus of the most popular ERA estimators (plus my own calculations) seem to indicate that both starters are capable and likely to repeat and outperform last year's surface stats.
Both have the potential to be equally or more valuable than starters like Yovani Gallardo, James Shields, C.J. Wilson and Daniel Hudson, all of whom rank substantially higher in Yahoo. The only real difference between them that I see is that one is going to cost you your ninth or 10 pick, assuming no one reaches given his hype, while the other is going a full five rounds later in 12-team mixed leagues. Garza has popped up in plenty of non-expert discussions that I have had in the offseason as a trendy starting pitcher and sleeper for 2012 (much in the same way as Zack Greinke). Why pay for that name brand, when you can have the equally functional "knock off" at a fraction of the price?
As always, lave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:07am (10) Comments
50: Anthony Gose/OF/Toronto Blue Jays/8-10-90/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Best MLE wOBA is .290 in 2011. Poor defense record. Peak .253/.317/.394.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Gose's play in the AFL was essentially an extension of his play in Double-A all year. His .250/.348/.433 slash in the AFL was a near carbon copy of his .253/.349/.415 slash with New Hampshire in the Eastern League.
He understands the value of a walk, but struggles to make contact. After struggling with inefficiency stealing bases in 2010, he became a great base stealer in 2011. While hitting is a completely different skill, if his growth as a base runner foreshadows his ability to be coached up elsewhere, Gose could really turn the corner in 2012. He's primed to enjoy the friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League, but is stuck behind a crowded outfield on the parent club.
October 2011: Forecast doesn't like his defense, but most scouting grades suggest his best attributes are his range and arm in the outfield, and his speed. His hitting is what comes under the most scrutiny. Some reports suggest he'll be able to make enough contact to take advantage of his speed and post a decent average. Others see a guy who strikes out too frequently to hit for average.
He offers some pop, and is capable of drawing walks. If he's can get on base at even a moderate rate in the majors, he can be an impact stolen base threat with better than negligible power. If he isn't able to cut back on the strikeouts, he'll be a defensive-minded center fielder or fourth outfielder. Either of those scenarios would make him a fantasy non-contributor. The ceiling may not be high enough to offset the floor and justify this ranking. I'm buying in based on the leap he was able to make in stolen base success, and hoping that's evidence of him being coachable.
51: Michael Olt/3B/Texas Rangers/8-27-88/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Breakout 2011 result in a projection of useful home run power from the hot corner, with a poor batting average.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Olt had a huge showing in the AFL. He hit .349/.433/.764 and his power was in full force. Olt crushed 13 home runs in 127 plate appearances, leading the AFL, and six more than the next closest hitter. He struck out often, but also walked at a high rate. Basically, his play in the AFL was an extension of his minor league play with some BABIP luck sprinkled in, and the aid of a home run friendly environment. Olt should get his first taste of the upper minors in 2012, opening in Double-A.
October 2011: Olt suffered a broken collarbone which shortened a season that was off to a solid start. He projects to hit for power, but he'll need to cut back on his strikeout rate to hit for average. His defense is quite good at the position, but a move to the outfield may be necessitated by Adrian Beltre's long-term deal in Texas. If he moves to the outfield, he drops entirely off this list. Plus power at third base with the potential for a passable average is too much to pass up at this point on the list.
52: Matt Harvey/SP/New York Mets/3-27-89/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: Yet to have a major league quality season; 2011 is best with 4.3 BB/9, 8.4 K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Harvey spent half of the season toying with High-A hitters before a promotion to Double-A. In Double-A, he retained a high strikeout rate, though, it did drop a bit. His walk rate rose from 2.84 BB/9, which is quite good, to just a passable 3.47 BB/9. Both component stats should have resulted in better than his 4.53 ERA, something his 3.23 FIP can attest to. He induces more groundball outs than flyball outs and he may not even require a full season in the minors before making his big league debut. It's possible the Mets could send him back to Double-A for more time there, but I expect he'll open the year in Buffalo with their Triple-A affiliate.
October 2011: Harvey follows Wheeler on this list, but it is debatable which is the better prospect. That's good news for the Mets assuming both reach their ceiling. Harvey throws a plus fastball in the low-to-mid-90s and can touch the 95-97 mph range. He also throws a hard slider, a plus curveball that could develop into a plus-plus pitch according to Goldstein, and a developing change-up. The development of his change-up is going to determine whether he just lives up to his high floor, or reaches his front-of-the-rotation ceiling.
53: Jarrod Parker/SP/Oakland Athletics/11-24-88/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Oliver's six year forecast is that of a replacement level player, almost exactly.
Scouting notes: March 2012: The most important stat for Parker in 2011 was his 136.1 innings pitched. He remained healthy, and regained much of his pre-Tommy John injury stuff according to most reports. Parker found his name in the transactions as he was dealt from the Diamondbacks to the A's in a multi-player package that saw Trevor Cahill head to Arizona. He'll no longer call the pitcher-friendlier National League home, but he'll offset the change of leagues by swapping hitter-friendly Chase Field for the O. co Coliseum (previously just called the Oakland Coliseum).
At his best, Parker uses a low-90s sinking fastball to induce groundballs, and his slider to strike batters out. His slider was graded as the best in the Diamondbacks organization before surgery, and it reportedly gained much of its sharpness back as 2011 wore on, and he was further removed from the operation. His other secondary offerings include an above average change-up, and a show-me curveball. Parker's control has been shoddy in the spring, walking six in 7.1 innings. He was sent down to the minors on Monday, but remains in the mix for the A's fifth starter spot as they don't need one until April 17.
October 2011: John Sickels wrote an outstanding Prospect of the Day piece recently about Parker. In short, his stuff is still there, but he's still working to regain control after Tommy John surgery shelved him last season. He isn't throwing his slider as much, but it remains a plus offering. Before his injury he'd have ranked much higher. If he goes back to using the slider more frequently as a punch-out pitch and his strikeout rate climbs, he'll shoot up the list.
54: Randall Delgado/SP/Atlanta Braves/2-9-90/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: 2010 only year with MLE ERA under 6 (4.21)
Scouting notes: March 2012: Delgado got a taste of life in the majors last year, starting seven games for the Braves. He could begin the year in the major league rotation filling in for Tim Hudson while he recovers from offseason back surgery. Delgado's 2.83 ERA in 35 major league innings suggests he's big league ready, but his advanced measures paint a different picture. His control needs work, and his strikeout rate was low and could stand to improve.
His low strikeout rate was largely a result of a low whiff rate on his fastball. Most scouting reports grade his curveball as being ahead of his change-up. With that in mind, it was surprising to see that his change-up generated a whiff rate of 19.29 percent, per his Brooks Baseball player card, compared to 10.0 percent whiff rate on his curveball. His ability to generate empty swings with both secondary pitches should help him improve his strikeout rate substantially in time.
October 2011: The Braves have a glut of young talented pitchers, but not everyone views Delgado as being in the same class as the rest. He throws a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, a plus curveball and a developing change-up that is described as average with plus potential.
His command is lacking, and is his biggest problem at this point in his young career. His strikeout rates have been solid, but have slipped a bit at each level he's moved up (with the exception being 21.2 innings in Triple-A this year). His walk rate has fluctuated between passable in the mid-3s BB/9, to mildly concerning in the lower-to-mid-4s BB/9.
There is no reason to rush the youngster with all of the rotation under contract (or team control) next season, and other more polished arms like Teheran, Mike Minor and Vizcaino to turn to, so expect to see Delgado spending a significant chunk of next year in Triple-A (barring a trade).
55: Brad Peacock/SP/Oakland A's/2-2-88/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Breakout 2011 and two years of 8+ K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Parker wasn't the only prospect starting pitcher the A's acquired this offseason. In a separate trade, the A's further overhauled their pitching staff sending Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in return for a prospect haul that included Peacock. A breakout season in the minors earned him three appearances, two of which were starts, with the Nationals in 2011. His 12 innings pitched are too few to draw firm conclusions about his ultimate major league value, but they did provide some PITCHf/x data.
According to his Brooks Baseball player card, he threw two fastballs, but primarily leaned on his four-seamer that averaged 93.19 mph. He also threw a change-up and curveball. His secondary pitches were thrown with near equal frequency. He turned to his change-up 18 percent of the time, and his curveball 15 percent of the time. Of the two, his curveball was much better at creating empty swings from opposing hitters, and the data lined up with his scouting reports, which grade his curveball more favorably than his change-up. Peacock is in the mix for one of three remaining rotation spots. He has been pummeled this spring, and may end up in Sacramento pitching for the A's Triple-A affiliate to begin the year as a result.
October 2011: He was one of John Sickels' breakout prospects coming into the year, and boy, oh boy, was he right. Peacock put together a monster season and now is on top-50 prospect lists left and right. His fastball is a plus pitch and sometimes is described as a plus-plus pitch. He also throws a curveball that some, such as Baseball America, describe as a knuckle curve. It is a swing-and-miss pitch that is a nice pairing with his fastball.
What will determine how successful he can be in the big leagues is how good his change-up becomes. Some still question its ability to develop into an average third offering and think Peacock will end up in the bullpen. I'm willing to gamble it becomes good enough to work through lineups multiple times and pile up strikeouts.
56: Trevor May/SP/Philadelphia Phillies/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: MLE of 6.1 BB/9 in 2011 is career best, as is 10.5 K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: May is one of the minor leagues' finest strikeout artists. He made major advances to his control, and was much better in his second go-round with High-A Clearwater. He's now ready for the challenges of the upper minors, and is ready to open the year with Double-A Reading.
October 2011: May's stock is rising after he cut his walk rate from a ghastly 7.84 BB/9 last year to a palatable 4.05 BB/9. His strikeout rate is elite, as the Forecast MLE suggests. He repeated High-A as a 21-year-old this year, so he'll need to prove himself against Double-A hitters next year before moving up this list. He's a tall pitcher 6-foot-5 and has a body that is projectable to add on to. In addition to a fastball that is a plus pitch and can hit the mid-90s, he throws curveballs and change-ups plus potential. If he can develop his secondary stuff and refine his control, his ability to miss bats could put him on the fast track through the upper minors, making the mild age concerns due to repeating a level a moot point.
57: Arodys Vizcaino/SP/Atlanta Braves/11-13-90/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Two good years. Cut BB/9 to below 3 with a 7.5 K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Uh oh, my words last October cautioning that Vizcaino may not have been out of the woods simply resting and rehabbing a partial tear of the UCL appear prophetic now. Of course I'm not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be, but this isn't the first case of a player eventually needing surgery after suffering a partial tear. That's not to say he should have simply had surgery and gotten it out of the way. As Will Carroll tweeted to me, you always attempt to avoid surgery.
Thankfully, medical advances mean this injury is no longer a death knell to a pitcher's career. Unfortunately, it means Vizcaino will miss all of this season, and likely some of next year. It also probably assures him a future role in the bullpen. He's still in the development stages of his career, he has never shown the ability to stay healthy, and working as a starter would require a longer time to build his innings up. His fantasy value drops significantly with a move to the pen, and he won't appear on the next top-100 fantasy prospect update.
October 2011: He's a former Yankees farmhand. The Braves are reaping the benefits of the prospect they received for Javier Vazquez. His stuff grades out well by all scouting outlets, and his performance has been tremendous. Just taking those into account, he'd rank considerably higher.
Not all is good with Vizcaino, though, which is why he lands on the list here. Last year he opted to rehab a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament (the Tommy John ligament). Thus far, that appears to have been a good choice. That said, it's possible, if not probable, that he'll tear it completely and require surgery in the future. Another knock against him is that this is his first season eclipsing 100 innings pitched, meaning he still has to prove he can stay healthy and build up his innings.
The last, and not least, knock against him is that being part of a loaded Braves pitching stable makes his future role uncertain. In most organizations he'd be a slam dunk to continue development as a starter, but the Braves have a number of young pitchers both in their major league rotation and knocking on the door. They may use him as a high-leverage late innings reliever to keep him healthy, and not test his small frame's limits. Those who trust his front-line starter three-pitch mix of a plus velocity fastball, curveball and change-up should move him up the list.
58: Archie Bradley/SP/Arizona Diamondbacks/8-10-92/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Has thrown only two innings in Rookie Level ball, so he doesn't have a forecast yet.
Scouting notes: March 2012: In most draft classes, Bradley would have been the top prep arm. In 2011, that distinction was reserved in the eyes of most for fellow Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy. Bradley has a high ceiling in his own right; in fact, his ceiling is that of an ace. He has many hurdles to clear in his development, but the seeds of something special are there.
October 2011: He throws a fastball that has hit 101 mph. If that's not enough to get the juices flowing, he also throws a hammer curveball that's praised by all outlets. He also throws a change-up that gets mixed reviews. His control lacks consistency, so expect him to be brought along slowly by the Diamondbacks. His ceiling is extremely high, high enough that Sickels suggests he may have been a steal at pick seven.
59: Mike Montgomery/SP/Kansas City Royals/7-1-89/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: Poor 2011 after good 2009-10 with too many walks (3.9, 3.6, 5.2 BB/9).
Scouting notes: March 2012: Expected by most to be the leader of a wave of young pitchers reaching the big leagues for the Royals, Montgomery went backwards in 2011. His walk rate jumped to north of four batters per-nine innings. He was at his worst prior to the All-Star break with a 4.88 BB/9. Montgomery's control was much better post All-Star break with a 2.99 BB/9. As long as he possesses a power arsenal, he'll remain a high ceiling prospect. He has been brutal in two spring appearances for the Royals, and looks to tackle Triple-A yet again to begin the 2012 season.
October 2011: He's still left-handed, and he still has electric stuff. The results have been lackluster, though, as his control is less than I'd like to see, and his strikeout rate isn't high enough to offset it. He's just 22, so he has time to iron out his issues. The scouting industry remains high on him, but Sickels hints he may downgrade him from a B+ grade to a B and Keith Law suggesting a potential drop of 30- plus spots on his list. He doesn't look like a slam dunk to reach his high ceiling, but if he puts it together this ranking will look foolishly low.
60: Cory Spangenberg/2B/San Diego Padres/3-16-91/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: The data are limited, but Oliver translated his professional work in 2011 into an MLE slash of .285/.351/.380.
Scouting notes: The Padres selected Spangenberg with the 10th pick in last June's amateur draft. He played third base in college, but has been switched to second base as a pro. His power is of the gap variety, and won't be done any favors calling PETCO park home. It's the other facets of his offensive profile that will appeal to fantasy gamers.
Spangenberg projects to hit for a plus average, and work walks. When on base, Spangenberg will look to use his plus-plus speed to steal bases in bunches. In just 275 at-bats split between Short Season ball and Low-A, he used his wheels to swipe 25 bases in 33 chances (75.6 percent success rate). He should open the year in High-A, and may not need more than this year and next to hone his craft in the minors.
61: Billy Hamilton/SS/Cincinnati Reds/9-9-90/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Great steals, good glove, no bat, lots of strikeouts.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Hamilton followed up his 103 stolen base season in Low-A with a trip to the Puerto Rican Winter League. His offseason was a rough one. He broke a bone in his hand, though, he's fully recovered now. Prior to suffering the injury, he struggled to hit, finishing with a line of .194/.286/.194 in 36 at-bats. That sample is way to small to freak out about, but it's obviously always better to see top prospects performing well in any setting and over any period of time.
He'll begin the year in High-A, and after reading his scouting reports, I'm not overly optimistic he'll move faster than a level at a time. His speed is off the charts, though, and he's worth dreaming on for now.
October 2011: Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks has described his speed as a 90 on the 20-to-80 scale—quite high praise. He's raw and developing, and he'll need to continue to improve making contact, but his plus-plus speed tool and insane stolen base upside at shortstop make him worth a gamble. He's unlikely to bring any power, but young Jose Reyes-type steal numbers would look quite nice if he's able to hit enough to reach the majors.
62: George Springer/OF/Houston Astros/9-19-89/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Some home runs, some walks, lots of strikeouts.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Springer is often described as toolsier than your average college draftee. The Astros nabbed him in the first round of last June's draft, and signed him quickly enough that he was able to play in eight games in the Short Season New York-Penn League. He has the plus power/speed combo that fantasy gamers crave, but his ability as a hitter is more questionable. His strikeout rates were very high in his freshman and sophomore years at the University of Connecticut. He struck out in 25.0 percent of his at-bats as a freshman, and in 28.8 percent of his at-bats as a sophomore. He cut his strikeout rate back substantially to 16.0 percent as a junior.
If he's able to keep his whiffs in check as a pro, his prospect stock will rise rapidly. He'll open the year in Low-A, and the amount of time he spends in the minors will likely come down to how real his gains as a hitter in his junior year were.
October 2011: The words "upside," "tools" and "raw" are thrown around in just about every notable scouting report on Astros first-round pick George Springer. He has plus speed and plus power potential, but his swing mechanics have come into question and he isn't as developed as your typical high first-round college hitter. He's a high risk/high reward prospect, but because he's older than prep boom-or-bust prospects Bubba Starling and Josh Bell, he's finds himself rated lower.
63: Javier Baez/SS/Chicago Cubs/12-1-91/ETA: 2015
Forecast notes:Too small a sample as a 2011 draftee
Scouting notes: March 2012: Baez didn't sign until the Aug. 15 deadline, but that didn't prevent him from playing in three Arizona Rookie level league games, and two in Short Season ball. He has the type of power and batting average projection to suggest he could eventually hit in the heart of the order at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. He'll begin the year in Low-A.
October 2011: Baez is a high offensive ceiling 2011 draftee who currently plays shortstop. Some think he'll need to move to third base, which is why he slots here instead of a dozen or more spots higher. Another knock against Baez is that his makeup has been questioned by a number of scouts. As far as positives, he has plus bat speed that should allow him to hit for power, but Project Prospects' Steve Carter questions if the way he generates plus bat speed will allow him to reach his ceiling as a hitter. Whether he plays shortstop or third base, the potential for both a plus power and hitting makes him an exciting prospect.
64: Dante Bichette Jr./3B/New York Yankees/9-26-92/ETA: 2015
Forecast notes: Data limited, but his MLE .756 OPS in his professional debut is pretty impressive for a young man who was an 18-year-old last season.
Scouting notes: Bichette was selected in the supplemental first round of last June's draft by the Yankees. He signed quickly, and absolutely annihilated Gulf Coast Leauge pitching, hitting .342/.446/.505 with 23 extra base hits and a 30:41 walk-to-strikeout rate in 240 plate appearances. Perhaps more impressive than his bat was how well he performed in the field. Drafted as a third baseman, many thought he'd end up being forced to the outfield. He showed enough fielding skills at the hot corner to provide hope he can stick there.
Bichette is a below average runner. That won't hurt his fantasy value too much, as he projects to hit for above average power, and add a solid batting average. As his outstanding walk rate suggests, he's got a mature approach at the dish in spite of his youth. He will play in his first full season league in 2012, opening in Low-A.
65: Starling Marte/OF/Pittsburgh Pirates/10-9-88/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: .280s type hitter with a little bit of power and speed.
Scouting notes: March 2012: In over 1,400 career minor league at-bats, Marte has hit .309/.366/.453. It would be nice to see him improve his walk rate, but that .309 batting average is spectacular. Extended a spring training invite, he made the most of his 25 at-bats, hitting .520/.520/.920 with three long balls. Alas, the inevitable demotion to the minors came on Sunday.
He'll open the year in Triple-A, but should be promoted during the season. With Alex Presley impressing last year, and Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata cemented in the other two starting outfield positions, Marte's first taste of the majors could come in a fourth outfielder capacity. Because of that, the Pirates may choose to keep him in the minors most of the year so that he can get regular playing time.
October 2011: Marte is a tremendous athlete learning to play baseball. He's a plus defender who may force the Pirates to move Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position. His most salivating tool, especially from a fantasy perspective, is his plus-plus speed. His success rate (just 66.6 percent) indicates he's still learning, but his 24 stolen bases are solid. His power is average-ish, but he has a chance to contribute a bit in the future.
He hit for a ton of average (.332) in Double-A and projects to have a plus hit tool. The fly in the ointment with Marte is his incredibly aggressive approach at the plate, which may not allow him to fully take advantage of his plus-plus speed and his hitting skill if more advanced pitchers make him hit their pitches. His walk-to-strikeout rate was 22:100 this year; he'll need to learn to be patient if he wants to reach base at a high rate. Walking is considered an old person skill, so there is hope he's able to learn.
66: Nick Franklin/SS/Seattle Mariners/3-2-91/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: 2011 saw a regression in power. Oliver still likes him to hit upper teen home run totals in the next six years, but with few walks and a low batting average.
Scouting notes: March 2012: It appears at least some, but perhaps most, of Franklin's struggles in 2011 can be attributed to poor health. He suffered a concussion and broken jaw that caused him to miss time, and fought through a case of mononucleosis.
Franklin was able to make up some of his missed time by accumulating 102 plate appearances in the AFL. There, he hit .258/.333/.393, showing a bit of pop, hitting two home runs, and some patience, walking 11 times. He also showcased a propensity for striking out, recording 26. A healthy season that will start in Double-A should better help in gauging Franklin's future offensive projection. He finished the year strongly there in 2011, and if he picks up where he left off, he could end up in Tacoma before long.
October 2011: Franklin is the Sudoku puzzle of prospects. Last year he ripped 23 home runs in his full season debut while swiping 25 bases. This year he opened in the hitter friendly confines of the High-A Cal league and his power took a dive, producing just five home runs in 258 at-bats. The Mariners promoted him to Double-A, and his power output and his hitting in general improved substantially (albeit in a small sample). He's playing passable defense at shortstop, but some, such as Jim Callis, suggest he'll eventually move to second base. He's set to play in the Arizona Fall League, and is the most likely player on this list to see his stock soar or plummet based on his performance there.
67: Oswaldo Arcia/OF/Minnesota Twins/5-9-91/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: MLEs regressed in 2011 but projected for 25-30 homers with few walks.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Arcia didn't participate in any offseason leagues, but he did receive nine at-bats in spring training. They were uneventful, and do nothing to change his timetable or future projection. He remains a prospect with the potential to hit for average and power. Arcia was good, but not great in High-A, and he'll open the year there to further refine his craft. Already a veteran of 228 plate appearances there, he may not spend more than a half season with Fort Myers.
October 2011: He's young with plus power projection and a solid average. He's a ways away, but has shown enough for Keith Law to rank him in the middle of his Midseason Top-50 Prospect List. He'll need to tighten his command of the strike zone to really flourish (9:53 walk-to-strikeout in 213 High-A at bats).
68: Nick Castellanos/3B/Detroit Tigers/3-4-92/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Projects to have below average power for a corner position in the next six years.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Surfing around the internet after the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and announced Miguel Cabrera's move back across the diamond to the hot corner yielded some comical, but expected, overreaction to what it meant for Castellanos' future.
Castellanos has finished just one full season of minor league ball, and is a few years away from competing for a major league roster spot. What that means is, the speculation is likely much ado about nothing. After spending all of 2011 in Low-A, he'll begin the year in High-A in 2012.
October 2011: His bat gets good grades from most, and most scouting reports expect him to develop his power as he matures and eclipse 20 home runs annually. He has what some describe as a sweet swing with good bat speed that allowed him to hit over .300 in Single-A this year. He may have to sacrifice some average to generate power, but most would sign up for a .280 average if it comes with 20 plus home runs from their fantasy third baseman. Toss in his respectable 8 percent walk rate as a 19 year old in full season minor league baseball and the seeds of a middle-of-the-order hitter are in place to bloom in Detroit.
69: Robbie Erlin/SP/San Diego Padres/10-8-90/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: Great walk rate with above league average strikeout rate.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Erlin is a control guy, but but some question whether he has a put-away pitch capable of striking out major league hitters. Just over four innings in spring training isn't enough time to determine anything, but he has yet to strike anyone out, so I'll mention it.
Reports of his change-up having deception and a double-digit disparity in velocity from his fastball lead me to believe he'll do enough to keep hitters off balance to continue to succeed. Control of multiple pitches and the ability to change speeds can go a long way. Erlin will begin the year in Triple-A as part of a prospect-laden rotation that includes fellow hurlers Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland. Could be a photo finish in the race to the majors for this trio.
October 2011: Erlin is a left-handed pitcher whose fastball operates in the upper-80s to low-90s. He throws an above- average curveball and change-up, but neither pitch is described as being exceptional. Most scouting reports peg his ceiling as a solid No. 3 starter.
How is a pitcher with this description ranked among the top prospects in baseball? It's a perfect storm of positives for Erlin that land him here. Every scouting report I've read lauds his control and high pitching IQ, which he uses to sequence his pitches in ways that maximize their effectiveness. His results have been great in Double-A, where he's struck out more than eight times as many hitters as he's walked (92 strikeouts to 11 walks in 92.2 innings). The final factor is his new organization. He was dealt from the unfavorable home confines in Texas to San Diego, where he can now call PETCO home.
70: Derek Norris/C/Oakland A's/2-14-89/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: How much are you willing to pay in the average category for around 20 home runs? Classic low average slugging catcher projection, gets boost in value in OBP leagues.
Scouting notes: Norris was a three-true-outcomes (home runs, strikeouts, and walks are defined as those "true outcomes") machine in 2011. Over 50 percent of his plate appearances ended in in a home run, strikeout or walk. He hit for a lowly .210 average in Double-A, but his walk rate helped him post a solid .367 on-base percentage.
Can he continue to walk at such a high rate in Triple-A and in the majors? The answer likely comes down to whether he can make enough contact on pitches in the zone to force pitchers into throwing quality strikes. If they are only required to throw strikes, and not necessarily quality strikes, it's unlikely he'll continue to earn ball fours moving up the ladder.
Norris does have the type of raw power to punish a mistake, as he hit 20 home runs last year. It should also be noted that according to his Stat Corner page, a large percentage of his strikeouts the last two years have been looking, not swinging. A converted third baseman, Norris is a plus athlete for a catcher. He used his athleticism and decent speed to steal 13 bases in 17 chances. He shows the defensive chops to stick behind the plate, according to his scouting reports.
Norris found himself behind young Wilson Ramos in Washington. An offseason trade to the A's help clear his path to the majors. Incumbent A's catcher Kurt Suzuki is signed through 2013 with a club option for 2014, but could be used as a trade chip for a rebuilding squad. Norris will open the year in Triple-A with Sacramento.
71: Sonny Gray/SP/Oakland A's/11-7-89/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Gray's underwhelming college stats in 2009 and 2010 likely play a big role in his poor six-year forecast.
Scouting notes: Gray made himself at home in professional baseball immediately. The A's selected Gray 18th overall out of Vanderbilt, and he made a splash in five Double-A starts. In those starts which spanned 20 innings, he allowed only one earned run. That's right, just one. Now, here is the part where I need to caution that stats aren't the be-all, end-all in grading and evaluating a prospect.
Gray is a short right-handed pitcher, standing 5-foot-11. In spite of being undersized, he packs a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can hit 96-97 mph. His best pitch is a nasty curveball that Baseball America rated as the best in the 2011 draft class. He's working on a change-up, but it lags behind his fastball and curveball. If the pitch fails to develop as hoped, Gray has a nice floor of being a late inning reliever, and potentially a closer.
While Double-A hitters would like to have bid him adieu once and for all at the end of 2011, he returns there to open the year, and hopes to continue to dominate. By starting the year in the upper minors, he leaves open the chance that he could reach the majors this year.
72: Yonder Alonso/1B-OF/San Diego Padres/4-8-87/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Not nearly enough power or average to be more than a stop-gap corner infield option in large mixed leagues.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Alonso is finally free from Cincinnati, and no longer is blocked by Joey Votto at his natural position. Unfortunately, he trades Great American Ballpark for Petco. Though his minor league stats don't suggest it, Alonso has above average power. He finally began to tap into that pop in his limited major league time. He's likely more of a threat to hit 20-25 home runs annually than 25-30 like some of his other mashing first base contemporaries. He makes up for some of the difference in power by showcasing a well-balanced approach. Alonso should hit for a high average, and reach base regularly by walking often.
The Padres may not wish to overwhelm him with the responsibility of slotting him in the third or fourth spot in the lineup initially, but he eventually projects to hit in the heart of the order. He'll begin the year with the Padres, and is a worthwhile gamble as a corner infield option in large mixed leagues.
October 2011: Alonso is a finished product for the most part, and thus, his floor is about what you see. His home run rate in the majors won't last, as he is more of a high teens home run hitter than one pacing for 30 plus. His hitting is good enough that he may be capable of flirting with .300 annually. He's playing outfield now because he's blocked at first base by Joey Votto, but make no mistake about it, he's a first baseman in the outfield.
If he isn't traded in the offseason to a team in need of a first baseman, he'll find himself battling Chris Heisey for playing time in Cincinnati and will almost certainly be lifted regularly for a defensive replacement late in games he does start. If he is dealt, his value will take a huge hit as soon as he sheds outfield eligibility.
Potentially further hurting his future value would be a change in home ballparks. Few parks enhance home run hitting as much as Great American Ballpark, so any move likely will hurt his already modest power potential. Think Gaby Sanchez type value with a touch more average. In the outfield, that gets him on this list. As a first baseman, he'd just miss.
73: Matt Davidson/3B/Arizona Diamondbacks/3-26-91/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Projects to hit 20+ home runs in the majors in the near future.
Scouting notes: Davidson was one of two third base prospects drafted in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Diamondbacks. He was drafted in the supplemental first round, after Bobby Borchering. He has since passed Borchering in the third base pecking order. In fact, Borchering will be making the move to the outfield in 2012. Davidson had to share third base duties, and is a below average defender at the position. He has shown enough to provide hope he can stick there, but he'll never receive accolades for his play there.
He strong batter with plenty of thunder in his stick. Just how much average he hits for will be contingent on how much progress he's able to make with reducing his strikeouts. Davidson isn't a free swinger, and he's shown the ability to walk at a decent rate in his young career. He finished last year on Mobile's roster in the Double-A Southern League championship series, and will return there to start this year.
He'll likely spend the entire season in the minors, but should Ryan Roberts turn into a pumpkin, it's possible Davidson could slug his way to the majors a la Paul Goldschmidt in 2011.
74: Addison Reed/RP/Chicago White Sox/12-27-88/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Gaudy strikeout rate as a top-flight reliever.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Reed saw his fantasy stock climb before even throwing a pitch this season. The White Sox dealt Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays, clearing the path for Reed to claim the closer role in the near future. Matt Thornton is expected to begin the year as the Pale Hose closer, but it could be Reed who closes (get it, closes) the year with the gig.
Until he's able to contribute in saves, owners in deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats can expect Reed to be a positive contributor to ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
October 2011: Reed was an equal opportunist in embarrassing hitters at four minor league stops before reaching the majors (where he hasn't stopped striking batters out). He throws a plus-plus fastball and a plus-plus slider. He also throws a change-up, but it isn't as consistent as his other two pitches. He started and closed games at San Diego State, but it appears the White Sox are content with him dominating in a late-inning role. Sergio Santos did a fantastic job closing games for the White Sox, so Reed may not pick up saves anytime soon, but he should still be a fantasy asset.
75: Luis Heredia/SP/Pittsburgh Pirates/8-16-94/ETA: 2015
Forecast notes: Too small a sample size for a meaningful projection.
Scouting notes: If you are over the age of 16, think back to what you were doing at that age. My guess is that none of you were thinking about pitching in professional baseball. The fact Heredia pitched 30 innings in the U.S. as a 16-year-old (for most of those innings) is pretty astonishing. The stats won't jump off the page at readers, but he didn't embarrass himself against competition a couple years older than himself.
Heredia is a 6-foot-6, right-handed pitcher. He throws his fastball in the 92-93 mph range, and can pump it up to 96 mph. He backs it with a pair of offspeed pitches, a curveball and a change-up. Both show plus potential, but are a ways away from getting there. His ceiling is that of an ace, and Kevin Goldstein says it rivals that of fellow Pirates prospect arms Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. Heredia is expected to move up a level this year, and play in the Short Season New York-Penn league for State College. Heredia may be the prospect furthest from reaching the majors, but his ceiling is too high to ignore.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 2:43am (0) Comments
Monday, March 26, 2012
Well folks, it’s that time of the year once again. Let me climb out onto a limb and pontificate on my boldest predictions for the upcoming season.
If you’re curious about my predictive prowess, feel free to check out my column from last offseason where I made my bold predictions for 2011.
Let me first clarify that these aren’t necessarily what I absolutely believe will happen, hence bold predictions.
Adam Dunn hits 35+ home runs: Many fantasy players and prognosticators are predicting a rebound of sorts for Dunn in 2012 (how could he possibly be any worse?). While most project him for a 20-25 homer season, I think that he regains most of his previous power form.
Even during his abysmal 2011, he still managed a nice walk rate (15.1 percent) and flyball rate (47.5). The culprit for the drop in homers was simply the weak contact he made, leading to a homer-per-fly rate of only 9.6 percent (atrocious by Dunn's standards). While you can’t place too much stock in offseason fluff stories, Dunn has by all accounts worked extremely hard. He swung a bat over the winter for the first time in his career and is in fairly good shape (for his body type, at least). I think we see the Grande Mule of old in 2012. I expect Dunn to look in vintage form, hitting 35-plus home runs with a .240 average.
Jason Motte finishes as the No. 1 closer in baseball: In terms of pure stuff, Motte is an off-the-charts talent. With Mike Matheny settling into the managerial role and naming Motte his closer, he doesn’t have to deal with the psychological mind games from Tony LaRussa any longer and can focus on dominating National League hitters.
His strikeout-to-walk rate has improved each of the last three seasons, as has his homers-per-nine rate. Hitters facing Motte last season managed only a .198 batting average against him. Pitching for a competitive Cardinals team, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to rack up saves. Combining 45 saves with outstanding ratios and solid strikeout numbers, Motte finishes as your top closer this year.
Mat Gamel hits 30 homers and drives in 100 runs: Mmmmm, post-hype sleeper. Gamel has always had the pedigree for stardom and now he finally looks poised to receive his first real shot at extended playing time. I have a feeling that Gamel will start off hot and settle comfortably into the fifth spot in the lineup behind Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, providing him with ample RBI opportunities.
He’s made significant progress in his plate discipline, cutting his strikeouts each of the last three seasons in the minor leagues, putting up a very respectable 15.4 strikeout percentage last season. If he can bring that with him to the major league level, he will have a major breakout season in 2012.
Francisco Liriano wins 15 games and strikes out 200-plus: Maybe I’m a sucker, but I’m completely buying the hype and what I see out of Liriano this spring. His velocity is good and his slider looks sharp. Most importantly, his control has been outstanding with an 18/2 K/BB ratio in 13 innings pitched. It looks like Liriano is poised to have a very nice season, provided that he can stay healthy enough to log 180 innings. Don’t be surprised when he posts the best season of his still young career.
Yonder Alonso hits .300 with 20 home runs and drives in 100: Here’s a guy who is extremely undervalued in drafts right now. He’s always displayed solid hit tools and the ability to drive in runs. Many people are devaluing him with the move to Petco, but I think it’s a mistake. Playing in San Diego, he’s assured of getting full time at-bats, and should hit in the middle of the order. While he doesn’t provide prototypical power, he’s a “professional hitter.” I expect big things from this young hitter in 2012.
Well, there you have it! These are just a few of my bold predictions for 2012. If you agree or disagree with any of these, I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments here or find me on twitter @DaveShovein.
Posted by Dave Shovein at 2:20am (1) 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.
Sean Marshall likely to assume closer role in Cincinnati
Remember all the praise heaped upon the Reds front-office this offseason for not rushing to hand a closer a multi-year deal? In a macabre sort of way, the Reds' prudence could not have been more validated than it was this weekend when Ryan Madson learned he’ll need Tommy John surgery, thus nuking his 2012 season.
Obviously, fantasy owners with plans to draft the Reds' late-inning man should slam the brakes on Madson immediately and begin looking for replacements. Dusty Baker’s reputation suggests he’ll tap a veteran over a younger pitcher for the job, which in this case would favor lefty setup man Sean Marshall. One of baseball’s best setup men over the past few years, Marshall, 29, compiled a 2.45 ERA, 1.104 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 over the past two years with the Cubs, and should slot in as a nice No. 2 closer with some upside.
Madson’s bad news also helps ensure Aroldis Chapman will stay in the bullpen this year. With lefty Bill Bray recovering from a strained left groin, Chapman’s services as a situational pitcher will be more necessary than ever, though his strikeout potential means he could make a run at the closer’s job if he can find a way to cut down on the 7.4 BB/9 he posted last year. Rounding out the closer candidates is Nick Masset, a guy who posted strong numbers in 2010 as a middle reliever but regressed last year, and has dealt with a sore shoulder this spring.
Tommy John surgery ruins Joakim Soria's season
Speaking of closers with elbow issues, Soria did, in fact, choose Tommy John surgery this past week, throwing the Royals’ bullpen into disarray. For his part, manager Ned Yost is still tantalizing fantasy owners as he dances around the decision to name either Jonathan Broxton or Greg Holland as Soria’s replacement, so for the time being, try grabbing both of them in deeper leagues as we await the news.
Both men are intriguing fantasy options; Broxton, of course, has posted some terrific seasons as LA’s closer, but elbow problems over the past season and a half have raised serious questions about his durability, even if his velocity has hovered around the mid-90s this spring. Holland, meanwhile, had an outstanding 2011 (1.80 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 11.1 K/9), but the 26-year-old has no major league closing experience and has enjoyed only one full season at this level so far.
Drew Storen at risk to miss Opening Day
Wait, the bad news on closers isn’t over yet. Nationals fireman Drew Storen is still dealing with elbow inflammation, and there’s a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day. Manager Davey Johnson has already ruled out bumping up Tyler Clippard to the job, since he wants to make sure his number-one setup man keeps doing what he did so well last year, leaving offseason acquisition Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez to fight for the job.
Obviously, a healthy Lidge would be an ideal candidate, given his 223 career saves. But Lidge, now 35, threw fewer than 20 innings last season, the third straight year in which his innings count has declined, and signed with Washington after realizing no team was prepared to hand him the keys to a closer’s job this year.
Rodriguez, whose fastball averaged 98 mph over more than 65 innings last year, brings an ideal closer’s makeup to the table, though he’s coming off a 6.2 BB/9 and 1.508 WHIP, number that are unacceptable for a team looking to make a postseason run this year. But he picked up two saves toward the end of last year, has been dominant so far this spring and Johnson is well-known for supporting younger players in their bids to establish themselves as major-league ready.
If I had to guess, I’d say Rodriguez is the front-runner to spot Storen at season’s outset, and could be an interesting sleeper depending on how long the Nationals’ star reliever is sidelined.
More injury news for Chris Carpenter
Here are two words fantasy owners never want to hear about one of their players: “out indefinitely.” Especially when the news centers on a soon-to-be 37-year-old pitcher with a history of injury problems.
While Carpenter’s latest setback likely comes as little surprise, fantasy owners should look upon him as nothing less than radioactive as the season gets underway. Dealing with nerve irritation, Carpenter’s well-traveled shoulder has left the team with “no timetable” (another scary word coupling) for his return, and this news follows the disclosure of a cervical disc injury that had already cut down on his innings this spring.
I’m no doctor, so I’m not going to speculate on how long these injuries will keep Carpenter out of action. (It’s worth noting that general manager John Mozeliak has compared this injury to the one that ruined Carpenter’s 2004 season and obstructed his return from elbow surgery in 2008.)
Since there are plenty of other starting pitchers available to draft, there’s little incentive to gamble on a guy with such question marks. As far as St. Louis is concerned, Lance Lynn, 24, is probably the guy who stands to benefit the most from Carpenter’s absence. Although he’s made only two major league starts in his young career, he posted a 3.69 ERA, 1.330 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 over a minor league career, during which he started almost exclusively. Lynn’s enjoyed a strong spring so far, so he could make for an interesting sleeper in deeper NL-only leagues.
No timetable for Chase Utley's return
Okay, so Chase Utley didn’t announce his retirement Sunday, but there’s no real timetable for his return due to his ailing left knee, and talk of microfracture surgery is never a good sign. When will he return? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess, so you might as well avoid him altogether in most leagues.
Meanwhile, Freddy Galvis, a shortstop by trade, is the guy most likely to see at-bats at second the early going. Problem is, he’s an all-glove, no-hit player, and might not be worth drafting even on a competitive Phillies team.
Skip Schumaker injures right oblique
The Cardinals lost another key player early last week when a MRI revealed a tear in Schumaker’s right oblique, sidelining him indefinitely and surely zapping his odds of making the Opening Day roster. In his place at the keystone position, keep an eye on Tyler Greene and especially Daniel Descalso, who’s posted a .961 OPS so far this spring (through Saturday). Descalso doesn’t hit for power or steal bases, but he did hit .264 in 326 at-bats last year, so the 25-year-old might be worth a look in deeper NL-only leagues.
Other news and notes from around the majors
• Arodys Vizcaino, one of the Braves’ best pitching prospects, will miss the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. His absence certainly helps the major-league cases of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado as they look to secure starts.
• Mike Trout returned last week after battling the flu all spring. But his lack of spring training service could give the Angels an excuse to have him start the year at Triple-A, which was foreseeable anyway given the team’s currently crowded outfield.
• Chipper Jones may be on his way to the Hall of Fame, but the start of his final season will be delayed due to arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. He’s not expected to miss significant time, and is currently projected to make the Braves’ April 13 home opener.
• Ryan Vogelsong (strained back) and Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) will both likely start the season on the DL, though indications suggest they’ll be back by mid-April.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:13am (3) Comments
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Fantasy baseball season is heating up as drafts are taking place every day. On March 21, I participated in the second of my four fantasy league drafts. This is the Hardball Times 12-team, mixed AL/NL roto auction league comprising several THT Fantasy writers and bloggers. Overall I am happy with my team, but what do you think?
Here is my team with some commentary and analysis for each pick:
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston. I admittedly do not care at all about catchers in fantasy baseball leagues. While other people were spending big bucks on catchers such as Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, Brian McCann and Joe Mauer, I waited until the end of the draft and grabbed Saltalamacchia for $1.
Is he a superstar? No. Will he hit .300 with 20 home runs and 75 RBI? Probably not. But he is the starting catcher on a good team in a dynamic lineup and will give me sufficient production for a player who will likely play only four or five times a week.
First base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston. I got A-Gone for $42, which was less than Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto. I have always been a big fan of Gonzalez. Obviously, hitting at Fenway Park in the middle of the Red Sox lineup means we should expect similar numbers to 2011.
He was sapped of some of his power in the second half last year, so assuming he is fully healthy I anticipate he will approach 40 home runs. He will be right up there with the other elite first baseman and may even gain outfield eligibility if the rumors coming out of Boston are true.
Second base: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh. I was somehow able to steal Neil Walker for $1 later on in the draft. I had held out for a second baseman hoping to sneak Rickie Weeks or Ben Zobrist, but they went well above what I could afford.
Walker is a solid second base option who should thrive in a blossoming Pirates lineup. I expect .280 with 15 home runs, 75 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Not too shabby for a $1 second baseman.
Third base: David Wright, New York Mets. He hasn't played in spring training due to an abdominal injury, but I am still confident that Wright will have a bounce-back season. He is the lone face of the franchise and should benefit from the improved hitting dimensions at Citi Field. He is motivated to prove he can carry a team on his shoulders, so for a position as weak as third base is in fantasy, I have no regrets spending $21 for a third baseman who should hit .290 with 25 home runs, 95 RBI, 90 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. I admit I am a Mets fan (hold your laughter).
Shortstop: Marco Scutaro, Colorado. After the big boys went off the board early, I scooped up Scutaro for $3, hoping to cash in on his move to the thin air of Denver and gaining second base eligibility as well. Scutaro is a late bloomer and has proven he can hit for a good average and score runs. My hope is that the Rockies commit to him at second base and let him play instead of giving some of their younger players an opportunity.
Middle infielder: Ryan Raburn, Detroit. This was another $1 bargain late in the draft. Rayburn has been tearing it up in spring training and has all but locked up the primary second base job with the Tigers. If given sufficient playing time, he should reach 20 home runs this year. He needs to show improvement in his plate discipline and cut back on the strikeouts. Once he can do that, his batting average will start to increase. I am excited about this pick, especially at the price.
Corner infielder: Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee. After already drafting Wright, I didn't need a third baseman. But the bidding was slow and low on Ramirez and I did need a corner infielder. So for $13, I was able to grab A-Ram, who will be the new protector of NL MVP Ryan Braun in Milwaukee. Ramirez stayed healthy in 2011, and if he can remain healthy he should replicate his usual numbers of .280 with 25 home runs and 85 RBI.
Outfielder: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees. I had Curtis Granderson in a couple of leagues last year where I was able to draft him for under $10. Not so this year. He was the first player I acquired by spending $31, which is a good value for him because of his power and speed potential. It may be too much to expect a repeat of last year, but he should still easily reach the 30 home run, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored and 20 stolen base marks again. With better plate discipline and big improvements against lefties, his batting average should increase as well.
Outfielder: Hunter Pence, Philadelphia. I have been targeting Pence in all of my drafts. I thought I could get him for $15, but a bidding war ensued and I eventually won at $20. Pence will have his first full season in the bandbox in Philadelphia and should be productive in all five roto categories.
The only downside to him, at least for the beginning of the season, is that he will be sole focus of the Phillies lineup with Ryan Howard recovering from his Achilles surgery and Chase Utley likely starting the season on the DL as well. But Pence has always been a free swinger with technique that would make Tom Emanski vomit, so he may not let teams pitch around him.
Outfielder: Alex Gordon, Kansas City. In 2011, Gordon established himself with his across the board production. Now firmly entrenched as Kansas City's leadoff hitter, Gordon should score plenty of runs this year with the Royals young and talented lineup. As he gets older, he should develop more power, which could translate into 20-25 home runs. I targeted him as I did Pence and got him for $19 which I think is a fair price for Gordon at this point in his career.
Outfielder: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle. Granted he's old, in decline, and playing for one of the worst offensive teams in the league. However, I was able to get him for only $5, which surprised me. He won't hit .360 or steal 60 bases anymore, but it's not like he has been terrible for several years in a row.
I realize I will not be winning the steals category if I am relying on a 38-year old player to be my primary source of stolen bases, but Ichiro will certainly help keep me competitive. He was well worth the gamble for only one Lincoln.
Utility: Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels. Wells should have sent flowers every day to Adam Dunn because if not for Dunn, we would probably be paying a lot more attention to the horrendous season Wells had in 2011.
Saddled with a ridiculous contract, the Angels will keep sending Wells out there to reap whatever benefits they can from that albatross. Despite how bad Wells was last year, he is a strong bounce-back candidate because he has worked hard in the offseason and is motivated to win with the presence of Albert Pujols in their lineup. For only $2, I bought myself a fourth outfielder or utility player capable of hitting over 20 home runs and driving in 75 runs.
Utility: Jason Bay, New York Mets. Ugh. I did it again. This time it was sort of intentional, because I knew I could get Bay for $1. I really think Bay will have a better year than he has shown in his first two seasons with the Mets. Besides being healthy, he will have the shorter fences at Citi Field, which should increase his home run totals.
He was a solid player for seven years and all of a sudden forgot how to play baseball once he came to Queens. Now he sees light at the end of the tunnel with potential trades and being more than halfway done with the contract. Bay will be motivated to prove he does not suck. I will reap those benefits for only $1.
Bench: Ryan Howard, first baseman, Philadelphia. I thought I got Howard as a steal for $10 in my previous draft. Here, I did even better, getting him for $5. He will miss a month, maybe two, depending on how his rehab progresses. So by the time he gets back, it will be like making a huge trade because he will still end up with 25 home runs and 80 RBI. I see no downside to this pick because he was cheap enough to not hinder anything else I was doing. Whatever he does provide will be well worth $5.
Bench: Ryan Roberts, third baseman, Arizona. His tattoos are cool and he has eligibility at multiple positions. He should be the starter at third base for Arizona, so if any of my guys go down on the corners I at least know I have Roberts, who plays every day and can hold his own.
Bench: Russell Martin, catcher, New York Yankees. Continuing my trend of not caring about catchers, I grabbed Russell Martin for $1 with one of my last picks. So near the end of the draft, I got two starting catchers on good teams with good lineups around them who do not suck and have the potential to put up decent fantasy numbers.
Starting pitcher: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia. While I would have rather had Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, they both went for a lot more money than Hamels did at $22. Hamels is in a contract year and will be extra motivated as he looks to cash in on the next big deal given out to a pitcher. I was very happy with this pick because I think Hamels will be a Cy Young Award candidate this season with 15-18 wins, a sub 3.00 ERA and over 200 strikeouts.
Starting pitcher: Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels. I was also very happy with this pick as I have always been a fan of Haren. He has the third most wins by a right-handed pitcher since 2005 and is as consistent as they come. I consider him a bargain at $23 because he is a lock for at least 15 wins, a 3.00 ERA and 175 strikeouts.
Starting pitcher: Jon Lester, Boston. For some reason Jon Lester lasted until fairly late in the draft. I had reserved money to spend on closers and a second baseman, but when the bidding stalled around $15, I got involved and landed Boston's ace for $17. He had a bad second half in 2011 and will be motivated to rebound. This could turn out to be one of my best picks of the draft for the value.
Starting pitcher: Gio Gonzalez, Washington. I may have overspent a little on this one, but I think $10 for Gonzalez was worth it. He had a very solid 2011 season and now is part of the up and coming Nationals rotation. He has the benefit of pitching in a big ballpark and gets to face the Mets several times. He should be in line for 12-15 wins with a 3.50 ERA.
Starting pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland. It has been a tremendous fall from grace in a short amount of time for Jimenez. He has been awful since the second half of 2010 and was traded to Cleveland last season. He has pitched fairly well this spring and is a good bounce-back candidate if he can maintain his velocity in the mid-90s. For only $5 it was worth the potential upside.
Starting pitcher: John Danks, Chicago White Sox. I have had John Danks on at least one of my fantasy teams for several years in a row now. He had a terrible first half in 2011 but ended the season strong. He is now one of the anchors of the White Sox staff and is a bargain for just $1.
Relief pitcher: Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs. I waited until the very end to get a closer, and that move paid off. While other teams spent significant dollars on closers such as Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon and John Axford early on, I waited and was able to land Marmol for only $6. Granted he had a rough year last year and the Cubs won't be very good this season. But Marmol can be a dominating closer and should reach 35 saves.
Relief pitcher: Joe Nathan, Texas. After landing Marmol, my goal was to get at least one other closer on the cheap. I was able to land the Rangers' new closer, Nathan, for $3. He is now two years removed from his surgery, which is usually when everything starts getting back to normal. Texas will be very good this year so he should have plenty of save opportunities.
Relief pitcher: Brett Myers, Houston. This pick was made purely on gut instinct. Myers was awful last year along with the rest of the Astros. However, they have moved him into the bullpen to be the closer, which is something he thrived at a few years ago with the Phillies. For $3, I figured I would take a shot on him and an additional 20-25 saves and actually make a run at that category.
Bench: Chad Billingsley, starting pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers. Last year was miserable for Billingsley, who has fallen off everyone's fantasy radar. He has talent and potential, so for only $1, I took a chance on him making a comeback.
Bench: Doug Fister, starting pitcher, Detroit. Because I enjoy making Fister jokes, I am glad he is on my team. He was phenomenal last year after being acquired by the Tigers. He won't blow anyone away, but he should win 12-15 games with good run support and a very good bullpen. For just $2 he is extra pitching insurance.
So that is my team. I recognize that it has some deficiencies, but it should be competitive. I am banking on several players having bounce-back years, which is a risky proposition. My biggest weaknesses are in the outfield and saves. As I said earlier, I don’t care about my catchers as long as they play regularly and don’t completely suck. I will certainly need to be creative and aggressive in the trade market depending on how things progress.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:01am (2) Comments
Welcome to Trader's Corner, your one-stop shop for bargains and busts. I've partnered with our good friend Oliver to look at the recent performances of a few players and why they could present a major profit opportunity for you. This won't just be your typical buy high/sell low column, though. As much opportunity as those situations may present, we'll also try to identify the hot streaks that figure to last and the cold spells that could spell doom.
Every two weeks, I'll look at a pair of players in each of four categories: Buy High, Buy Low, Sell High, and Sell Low. The first player will be my own selection and the the second based strictly on the Oliver projections.
Trader's Corner is geared toward those owners who have already constructed their teams and are trying to find ways of improving their rosters. But fret not, tardy drafters; you too may find some pearls for your upcoming draft or auction.
I'll keep a tally of all my recommendations, the date I made them, and the players' performances from that point forward. From time to time, I'll share the results in an attempt to evaluate how I'm faring and if there are trends to be found.
Each entry will include the player's Rest of Season Oliver projection in the standard rotisserie categories (in the format AVG-R-RBI-HR-SB for hitters and W/SV-ERA-WHIP-K for pitchers). Also provided will be the accompanying projected dollar values according to THT Forecasts' Custom Price Guide for both the standard Yahoo! and ESPN formats.
Dollar values are based on a $260 draft budget with $2 allocated to each bench spot and a 70/30 hitter/pitcher split.
For the first few weeks of the year I'll also include Average Auction Cost (AAC) figures for both ESPN and Yahoo, since they provide a reference for each player's market price heading into the season.
Buying high is one of the most difficult and frequently overlooked strategies at a fantasy manager's disposal. We all love to discuss player trends that look promising in the offseason, but somehow, once the season begins, every sample size becomes too small and every unexpected performance a matter of mere luck. The consensus bias shifts from heavily weighting recent performance and "upside" to nigh unshakable temperance and prudence. For the savvy, risk-seeking owner, this can present a great deal of profit opportunity.
For this edition's Buy High, we'll look at a high priced outfielder who may actually be undervalued and a pitcher I was shocked to find at the top of Oliver's projected rankings.
My pick: Justin Upton
Yahoo! AAC: $38
ESPN AAC: $32
Oliver says: .293-98-97-28-22
Oliver's Yahoo! value: $48
Oliver's ESPN value: $35
It's hard to find profit in the upper ranks, but outside of the top five or six players, Justin Upton may be the most likely to work his way into the conversation for next year's top overall pick. Already established as a five-category performer at the ripe age of 25, he seemingly has everything going for him.
In 2011, Upton set career-best marks in both ISO and strikeout percentage—a common theme you'll find among Buy High hitters. There's room for improvement in his stolen base success rate, but he actually was actually worse in 2010 than 2011 and there's no indication he'll be getting the red light any time soon. He also has a cushy lineup spot, a solid supporting cast, and while Chase Field is a great ballpark for hitters (1.146 home run park factor in 2011 according to ESPN), in Upton's case it may not even matter.
If you were to speculate, who would you think, on average, hit the longest home runs last year? The most common guess I've come across is Giancarlo Stanton, but according to ESPN Hit Tracker, it's wrong (he was second). The correct answer is Justin Upton. His 31 home runs averaged a whopping 423.65 feet in 2011. His average home run was over 423 feet. Let that sink in.
Oliver agrees that Upton may, in fact, be undervalued this year. This is particularly true in the Yahoo! standard format, where Oliver sees potential for a $10 profit—a stunning figure for someone who costs so much.
If you feel your outfield could use a major face lift, Justin Upton makes a fine target.
Oliver's Pick: Yu Darvish
Yahoo! AAC: $16
ESPN AAC: $10
Oliver says: 15-2.60-0.98-201
Oliver's Yahoo! value: $40
Oliver's ESPN value: $35
Oliver takes a somewhat unique approach to projecting players with little-to-no major league experience, and has historically been successful at doing so. Still, it's stunning to see Darvish listed as this year's top projected fantasy pitcher.
Oliver thinks that Darvish can make the transition from Nippon Professional Baseball to the harsh environs of the Ballpark at Arlington seamlessly, becoming an instant fantasy ace in the process. This will be an interesting test for how Oliver handles pitchers from the Japanese ranks, but based on these projections and prices, Darvish sure seems worth a gamble.
While I tentatively trust Oliver's bullish attitude towards the Japanese right-hander, its obviously foolish to expect a pitcher with zero major league experience to be the most valuable arm in the game. Specifically, there's one major uncertainty I'm not convinced Oliver is properly accounting for—the difference between the seven-day schedule of Japanese baseball and the five-day schedule of American baseball.
Even if Darvish isn't the best pitcher in the majors for the 2012 season, there's clearly profit opportunity here. If you're more inclined to invest risk than dollars to try to beef up your fantasy pitching staff, there are few better targets than Darvish.
Everyone loves a buy low candidate. The problem is the owner who owns the buy low candidate usually loves him too, so you may not be able to buy as low as you wish you could. Still, it's always helpful to identify guys who could see their performance improve in the not-too-distant future.
Let's take a peek at a pair of outfielders who saw their stock fall considerably over the course of last season, but could very easily bounce back in 2012.
My Pick: Jason Heyward
Yahoo! AAC: $13
ESPN AAC: $9
Oliver says: .270-85-81-22-11
Oliver's Yahoo! value: $19
Oliver's ESPN value: $19
It was merely a year ago that Heyward was the National League's version of Eric Hosmer—a sure-fire stud on the rise who did a little bit of everything. He was a bigger prospect thanMike Stanton or Jesus Montero, and everyone was sure that if anyone could avoid the cliché sophmore slump, it was Heyward.
A year and a bum shoulder later and Heyward is caught in fantasy purgatory—not quite an afterthought but not someone anyone really wants to talk too much about either. So lets talk about him.
Even with the shoulder injury, not a whole lot beneath the surface of Heyward's offensive profile changed. His ISO and home runs per fly ball both dropped, but not substantially. His batting average was a miserable .227, but his BABIP was an equally miserable .260, though much of that can be attributed to his ugly 21.8 percent infield fly ball rate. Still, he did manage to hit 14 homers, steal nine bases, and keep his walk rate north of 10 percent through 456 plate appearances. That's plenty to like from a 22-year-old who was baseball's top overall prospect less than two years ago.
There is obviously plenty of room for growth from Heyward as well, but the one significant wart he had in 2010 did remain in 2011—his unsightly 50 percent groundball rate. Hitting 20 homers would be a feat in itself with a rate like that, but it does suggest that if and when the young slugger starts putting more balls in the air, he could put up some gaudy power totals.
Oliver sees Heyward as roughly a $20 player for 2012. While lingering injury concerns still exist, all signs are go for his health so far this spring. I wholeheartedly endorse targeting him as an outfield asset this season. If he's your third outfielder in a 12-team league, you're well ahead of the game.
Oliver's Pick: Angel Pagan
Yahoo! AAC: $1
ESPN AAC: $3
Oliver says: .278-81-59-9-28
Oliver's Yahoo! value: $10
Oliver's ESPN value: $15
Oliver is pretty confused as to why the fantasy baseball community is sleeping on Pagan, and we should all thank Oliver for pointing him out to us, myself included.
The line Oliver projects for Pagan is in no way outlandish—it's pretty much right smack in between his stellar 2010 and his poor 2011 and probably even rates as slightly conservative on the stolen base front. Pagan should hit leadoff in an improved Giants lineup, which means plate appearances and stolen base opportunities aplenty.
AT&T park isn't an ideal environment for any hitter, but neither was Citi Field—Pagan's former home. Power isn't Pagan's game, but he's already shown that even in a poor hitting environment he can chip in enough four-baggers to keep from sinking your power totals.
The back end of the outfield ranks are not exactly rich with talent this year, and finding a tidy $9-12 profit from a player like Pagan could go a long way toward completing a competitive roster, especially one that needs a touch of speed and a few extra runs.
There may be nothing more satisfying in fantasy baseball than selling a player at his peak value, only to watch him crash and burn for another owner while you reap the benefits of said owner's former studs. It happens every year—whether it was Michael Pineda's second half swoon in 2011 or that time that closer saved 20 games in the first half only to blow four in a row and lose his job. You remember that guy, right?
For today's Sell High, we've got a couple of infielders who are looming a bit too large on some owners' fantasy radars.
My Pick: Mark Teixeira
Yahoo! AAC: $29
ESPN AAC: $25
Oliver says: .255-74-88-28-0
Oliver's Yahoo! value: $12
Oliver's ESPN value: $11
Mark Teixeira is someone both Oliver and I feel may hit a sudden and sharp decline, and that it may be soon. The only difference between our opinions is that Oliver doesn't see Teixeira reaching 600 plate appearances, while I do. Otherwise we're right on the same page, and we agree that there's far more risk than reward left in the slugger's bat.
On the surface, Teixiera seems like your typical three-category slugger. He'll hit his share of homers and help himself to plenty of counting numbers batting in the heart of the potent Yankees lineup. Unfortunately, age may be catching up to both Teixeira and his teammates, costing him in both departments.
While some point to Teixiera's low BABIP in 2011 as reason for optimism in 2012, consider the following trends:
Year BABIP HR Avg True Dis HR Avg Spd 2007 .342 415.5 106.9 2008 .316 398.2 104.1 2009 .302 399.3 104.0 2010 .268 393.4 103.5 2011 .239 386.9 102.6
The two right hand columns above represent the "Average True Distance" and "Average Speed off Bat" of Teixeira's home runs for each of the corresponding seasons (data courtesy of ESPN Hit Tracker). Not only has his BABIP declined in four consecutive seasons, but the distance and velocity with which he's been hitting his home runs has declined in an incredibly corollary manner. In 2011, the American League averages for home run distance and speed were 394.7 and 103.4, respectively. For the first time in his career, Teixiera was well worse than the league in both marks.
In fairness, Teixeira's 2007 BABIP was way above his career norm, and the subsequent drop can be written off to regression to a large extent. Still, the same can't be said for the subsequent drops, and it does seem as though he's gone from one of the preeminent sluggers in the game to someone who absolutely requires the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium to keep his power numbers aloft. He's simply not hitting balls with as much authority as he used to, and as such, I would advise caution in regressing his BABIP too far.
Teixeira's fantasy production is now directly tied to his ability to produce the long ball. If his power drops off, the results for your fantasy season could be disastrous. Even if he hits .260 with 30 home runs, you'd be better off with fellow aging slugger Paul Konerko, who is less of a liability in batting average and has shown fewer dents in the armor in recent years.
If he falls off the way Oliver and I are predicting, Teixeira would be one of the largest potential drains on your fantasy wallet this year. Let someone else take that risk—sell high while you can.
Oliver's Pick: Howie Kendrick
Yahoo! AAC: $15
ESPN AAC: $9
Oliver says: .277-62-58-10-10
Oliver's Yahoo! value: N/A
Oliver's ESPN value: $2
While he's a popular sleeper in some quarters, Oliver sees almost no value in Kendrick this year. In fact, in the MI-less Yahoo standard format, Oliver sees Kendrick as worth less than $1, not even bothering to rank him in the price guide.
Why the hatred? Well, for one, Oliver sees Kendrick getting merely 519 plate appearances, putting a serious dent in his fairly balanced skill set. But even if we assume he'll crack 600 plate appearances (something he's done only once in his career, for the record) and add 20 percent across the board to that projection, it takes him only to a line of .277-74-70-12-12. That's still a modest return on a $15 investment.
The problems Oliver sees are two-fold. First, Kendrick's strikeout rate shot up last year. Second, the system doesn't lend much credence to the power gains he made.
I agree that both issues are troubling, though not nearly to the same extent. Despite hitting 18 homers in 2011, Kendrick still pounded the the ball into the ground more than 50 percent of the time. If this didn't come at the cost of all the added whiffs, I might be calling Kendrick a sleeper myself. The problem is all those whiffs will make it much harder for Kendrick to produce the batting average profit some are still hoping for, and the high quantity of ground balls also mean it's unlikely he repeats his home run total from 2011.
The best case scenario for Kendrick would be if he reverted to his old game of avoiding strikeouts while hitting the occasional home run and stealing the occasional base. This could well put him in the $10-15 range. Unfortunately, the changes to his profile from last year don't add a whole lot of upside, and they do add a bit of risk. If another owner is buying the power gains and still seeing the batting average upside, there may never be a better time to sell.
If selling high is one of the most enjoyable acts of a fantasy baseball season, selling low is one of the most painful. Admitting sunk cost is difficult, but there is opportunity in these situations when the admission is managed. Many times other owners will pay above a player's projected value out of a misguided instinct to buy low or on name value alone. Even if the return price is below the price you paid, it may still be well more than the price you'd earn in keeping a broken player on your roster.
Finding sell low candidates for week zero has proven quite a challenge. Thanks to a powerful combination of Loss Aversion and the Halo Effect, negative trends are given much more weight than they deserve. Players who are trending downwards are almost universally devalued, whether justified or not. This creates lots of buy low opportunity, but scant sell low opportunity. This is especially true during the offseason, when all we can do with all the information we have is let it simmer.
Once the season begins and new trends emerge, things change. People will have less time to inundate themselves with analysis on how Francisco Liriano's no hitter wasn't actually a very well pitched game or why Chris Perez didn't really have a very good year. Everything happens at a faster pace, meaning markets have less time to adjust.
Despite my struggles, I did find someone worth discussing, and Oliver had quite a few suggestions as well. So let's look at a pair of pitchders being drafted at a much lower price than they were last year, but might still be better served off of your team than on it.
My Pick: Ubaldo Jimenez
Yahoo! AAC: $5
ESPN AAC: $9
Oliver says: 14-3.56-1.25-219
Oliver's Yahoo! value: $11
Oliver's ESPN value: $13
My first major disagreement with Oliver in this series, Jimenez is also a popular sleeper pick in some circles. It's that very reason that I'm calling him a sell low candidate.
Proponents of the Ubaldo Jimenez sleeper campaign are quick to point out that both his strikeout and walk rates have been relatively stable, and that he's still only a year removed from fantasy acehood.
The first problem with this is that his 2010 season was at least as much of a mirage as his 2011 season, just in the other direction. Even in 2010, he had a 3.60 xFIP and 3.68 SIERA. Those numbers are solid, but considering the declining run environment they're more middle-of-the-pack than ace-like for fantasy purposes.
The second is that a stable 10 percent walk rate is not a good thing. That's a WHIP-killing mark, and I'm quite surprised to see Oliver expect such a nominal WHIP from Jimenez.
The third is that his velocity, swinging strike rate, and first pitch strike rate all took a major nosedive in 2011. In fact, all three were the worst marks of his career. He wasn't throwing as hard, was getting ahead in the count less frequently, and got fewer swings and misses than ever before. So even though his strikeouts remained solid last year, there's quite a bit of sneaky risk here as well.
In checking the other projection systems available on Jimenez's FanGraphs player page, it does turn out that Oliver is more optimistic than any of the six projections featured (Steamer, Bill James, RotoChamp, Marcel, Fan Projection and ZiPS) in all four rotisserie categories. They all still see him as a reasonable value at this cost, but to an extent, they help vindicate my side of this disagreement.
Just to be clear—I do think that at this draft cost Jimenez is a fair value. I just know a lot of other people think he's actually undervalued. I see him as something like the 'anti-Jeremy Hellickson'—a guy who looks like he was very unlucky in 2011 but whose components could also regress toward his surface numbers rather than vice versa. That's a risk a lot of very savvy owners are missing. If you own Jimenez, take advantage of it and sell him while you can still get some positive value compared to his actual projections.
Oliver's Pick: Jon Lester
Yahoo! AAC: $24
ESPN AAC: $16
Oliver Says: 13-3.68-1.27-203
Oliver's Yahoo! Value: $8
Oliver's ESPN Value: $11
Once a lock to be a Top 50 draft selection, a combination of small losses across the board and the declining run environment have caused some of the shine to wear off on Jon Lester's fantasy prospects. Even worse, Oliver sees him as having nowhere to go but down.
Oliver actually views Lester as inferior to my pick, Ubaldo Jimenez. Although I politely disagree, there are some striking similarities.
Like Jimenez, Lester has never been a control guy. In 2010 and 2011, his walk rate started inching up toward the double-digit range, reaching about 9.5 percent both years. In 2011, his strikeouts dropped off a bit as well, from an excellent 26 percent rate in the previous two seasons to a still solid, but less-than-spectacular 22 percent. This was also supported by a decline in swinging strikes and a drop in velocity, so it may be more than just statistical noise.
If you were too tempted by Lester's appearance on your draft board in the fifth or sixth round to pass, Oliver would suggest that now is the time to cash that value in and try to find a payoff elsewhere.
If you're curious about the projections and dollar values provided, make sure to check out the THT Forecasts section. For $14.95, you get full access to the Oliver projections for thousands of major and minor leaguers, including six year Major League Equivalency forecasts on every player card. And best of all for us fantasy junkies, you get full access to THT's Custom Fantasy Price Guides, which allows you to create your own price guide based on your league settings and play-style preferences using the Oliver projections, with projections and dollar values updated throughout the season.
Posted by Mark Himmelstein at 5:28am (15) Comments
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Following up upon part one of this two-part series, let's look at the potential effect of elite non-closing relievers.
First, let's assume the standard 1,400 innings pitched cap that is the Yahoo default. Second, let's assume you draft the league average pitching staff, plus three elite non-closing relievers from last year who currently have ownership rates under 15 percent this season. For the sake of example, let's use Eric O'Flaherty (13 percent Yahoo ownership), Joaquin Benoit (13 percent), and Koji Uehara (8 percent), who combined for 199.2 innings last season. That leaves us with 1,200.1 innings of "league average" production.
So first, let's recap the league average pitcher production from 2012.
These data include reliever numbers, but also include the bad starting real-life pitchers who no way in heck would ever end up on anybody's roster, so let's assume those two factors cancel each other out. Applied to our 1,200.1 inning sample, we get the following aggregate numbers:
Next, let's aggregate our elite non-closer numbers.
Put it all together, and here is the potential effect on the "league average" line:
At this point, it is essential to address a couple of points. First, I am not advocating that these specific relievers are going to be this good again this year. Certainly O'Flaherty will not post an ERA under 1.00, and it's unlikely that you can absolutely identify three players who will cumulatively put up an ERA of 2.03. Second, the "overall impact" does not seem extreme enough to win. Taking note of Tim Dierkes' series on what it takes to win, you would still fall short of where you'd ideally like to be.
So what does this mean?
First and foremost, you are likely not going to draft a team with a league average ERA or an ERA just under 4.00. Between intelligently playing the match-ups, finding sleepers off the waiver wire, and good team management, you are likely to produce much better numbers from the smaller pool of fantasy relevant starters plus your closers. The better than league average that you can make your pitching staff, the closer these elite non-closing relievers will bring you to the top of the pitching categories.
Keep in mind as well that you do not have to win every fantasy category to place if you can offset losses in one category by placing higher in other categories. Dierkes' estimations are based on what he thinks will net you a top four or five placing in every Roto category. Every point you shore up on the hitting side, however, is a point you can slice from the pitching side.
Finally, while you might not be able to target a group of pitchers able to put up a 2.00 ERA, you should be able to find a handful of relievers with sub-2.80 ERA. Their impact on your bottom line will be lesser, but again, if you draft/stream smartly, then all you need is these guys to shore you up and "upgrade" your staff versus form the basis of the staff.
Noting this, look at the total impact that three elite relievers from last year could have had on your team—noting that the highest current ownership rate of any of them is 13 percent. You could lower your ERA by a quarter of a run, and bolster your WHIP by a very substantial .05 points. That's your best case scenario when you trade for both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee midseason to fix a middling staff. Sure, these three pitchers combined for only eight wins, but there are always plenty of relievers like Tyler Clippard in 2010 and Alfredo Aceves in 2011 who are in "vulture" middle relief roles (look for relievers with high leverage and/or "lock down the rest of the sixth or seventh inning" usage). They tend up put up equally useful numbers plus wins.
New elite non-closing relievers come out of the woodwork every year, and they go chronically unowned. It's hard to predict just how good a reliever will be, and given their smaller sample of innings, they can be even more volatile than starters. However, some relievers (like Mike Adams) have a certain level of projectability that clearly outweighs their cost.
Given this potential impact on your bottom line, why not risk the $2 flier on such relievers in the draft? Especially if you use the waiver wire to rotate match-up-friendly pitchers, you should have plenty of roster space for the elite non-closing relievers. Even if you do not stream starters, the transferred budget from pitching to shoring up your hitting positions under LIMA means there is a lesser need to keep a deeper bench of hitters to micromanage your offense.
So who are some $1 pitchers you can pair with your elite non-closing relievers to produce a competitive pitching staff? Here are some of the $1 pitchers I have gotten with regularity this offseason, including in my experts leagues:
In a game where every advantage counts, elite non-closing relievers are a potential difference maker. If they bust, they cost you almost nothing, and can be safely dropped and readily replaced. Pitching volatility is a worry, but relievers as a whole tend to product better numbers than starting pitchers, so the risk seems no worse than taking a flier on pitcher matchup.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:16am (2) Comments
It is a foregone conclusion at this point in spring training, with regular season games gearing up this week, but I had an epiphany this offseason in preparing for my fantasy auctions. And that epiphany is this: Now, more than ever, the LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) strategy, explained below, is the most viable option to winning your fantasy league. With robust pitching aplenty in the return of the era of the pitcher, why invest in elite arms?
Now let's get one thing straight: Leagues are not won at the auction/draft table. They can be lost there (coming back from a poor draft can be a devastatingly difficult uphill battle), but one cannot sit idly by after the league drafts and hope to go for gold. The waiver wire is a key component to a successful fantasy season, both in acquiring players for your team and preventing other teams from acquiring players that help theirs. My motto is that drafting is only 60 percent of the battle. The other 40 percent is a diligent and careful use of the waiver wire (in addition to trading).
That said, drafting is undeniably important. In the context of auctions, you are given a limited budget—usually $260—to acquire a 28-man roster out of 336 players out of the given baseball universe, give or take a few spots based on your league's size and roster requirements. Economizing is key, as is game theory. You need to maximize your resources by guessing not only what a player's expected relative value will be, but how other participants in your league are going to value said player.
If you have to pay $50 to acquire $38 of production, is that the wisest use of your limited budget (even assuming the value of concentrated production in a single roster spot)? Likewise, if the next highest valuator in the league values that $38 of production at $30, then do you really need to bid $38 to acquire him? This game of bid chicken, price enforcing and value-seeking is fun, complex, and nerve-wracking at times. Guessing all of these moving parts is no easy task, and a high-priced mistake can be devastating. Likewise, leaving $25 at the table could have meant the difference between having Matt Kemp instead or Drew Stubbs, or upgrading multiple positions.
Given all these complexities, limitations, and dangers of mistakes on spending, why spend money when you do not have to? Enter the LIMA strategy.
While most fantasy drafters tend to split their auction budget somewhere between 60/40 and 70/30 on hitting and pitching, the LIMA method splits the "excess" budget something like 85/15, or, in its most extreme form, 100/0.
Excess budget is defined by the amount of money you can spend on a player in excess of $1 per position, the minimum required to be kept unspent until all slots are filled. So in a league with $260 auction budgets and 28 players to be drafted per roster, the excess budget is $232.
The theory behind LIMA is that a good-enough-to-compete pitching staff can be cobbled together through playing match-ups, streaming and economizing late-round sleeper picks. LIMA revolves around the notion that pitching is so deep and volatile that it is a better use of resources to invest in elite hitting. LIMA requires a lot more micromanagement of your team, knowledge of up-and-coming pitchers, activity on the waiver wire, and the use of a value-seeking lens that ignores brand name and bankable production in favor of those "unsexy options" that no one else likes. (An example: drafting a pitcher like Edinson Volquez this year with the intent of streaming him at home.) LIMA is almost an extreme version of playing stars and scrubs, with almost all of your stars being hitters and almost all of your scrubs being pitchers.
The version of LIMA I usually play is to draft one ace and two to three cheap closers and surround them with $1 pitchers that I draft late. Last year, those $1 pitchers included Brandon Beachy, Michael Pineda, Javier Vazquez and Brandon McCarthy. In 2010, they included Colby Lewis, Phil Hughes and Kris Medlen (pre-injury). This year, with the exception of Yu Darvish and Anibal Sanchez in a couple of leagues, I almost exclusively drafted $1 pitchers.
Noting that the LIMA strategy has been around a long time—popularized and given its name by, Ron Shandler—why is this strategy more viable now than ever before? And why do I feel so comfortable drafting $1 pitchers across the board when I have never done anything so extreme before? The answer lies in recent trends in pitching.
It is no secret that over the past few years, the pitching standard has evolved towards a lower mean. Look at the 10-year trend in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, walks, swings-and-misses (SwStr%) and first pitch strikes (F-Strike%):
A few things worth noting: While the league average ERA and WHIP have hardly been steady over the past 10 years, there is a clear difference between the pitching results from 2010 and 2011 compared to 2002-2009. From 2002 to 2009, the league ERA fluctuated from a low of 4.28 to a high of 4.53. That's a maximum variation of a quarter of a run per nine innings. Noting that, it is pretty huge that the league average ERA from 2009 to 2010 varied by 0.24 runs per nine innings. That's an ERA difference of 0.20 from the previous low mark in the 10-year sample, which came all the way back in 2002 (oddly, the season that Barry Bonds was walked to death). That's a huge outlier right there, and it was thought of as just that by many people heading into 2011.
But then 2011 happened, and the league average ERA dropped to 3.94. That's almost as big of a drop between 2010 and 2011 as the drop between 2010 and 2002 (again, the prior low league average ERA in the 10-year sample). The 2011 league average ERA of 3.94 is just over a third of a run per nine innings, or approximately a run per game, lower than the 2002-2009 league low. That's a pretty substantial 8 percent change in runs allowed against the lowest league average ERA between 2002 and 2008. The 3.94 major league average ERA is a 10-plus percent—almost half a run—difference from the 2002-2008 major league average ERA. That is pretty substantial.
A similar trend is observable in league average pitcher WHIPs, though to a much lesser degree. What is the cause of this? The answer is pretty murky, as detailed below
Second, walk rates have been more or less stable over this time. They have varied by no more than five percent in any year-to-year change, and the changes have moved in both directions an equal number of times in this set. You'll notice also a similar stability in first pitch strike rates, with only one season (2005) having a change in rate greater than one percent (and in that year, it was 1.2 percent). This is unsurprising given my rudimentary findings a few years ago that first pitch strike rates are highly relevant to a pitcher's overall walk rate.
Third, strikeout rates overall seem to be on the rise, despite a decline in swinging strike rates and the decline of big-strikeout, big home run hitters that defined the 1990s and early 2000s. Given the relationship between swinging strike percentage and strikeout percentage, this seems a bit odd. But this trend is not new. It is part of a larger overall trend that has been going on in baseball for more than 50 years, as eloquently detailed by Christina Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus in an excerpt from the upcoming book Extra Innings" (a sequel to the must-read Baseball Between the Numbers).
Kahrl points to the rise of micromanaging relief pitcher usage (bullpen assembly and management) against the decline of the "nine-inning starter" as one probable cause for this spike. Fresh arms that haven't been out there earlier in the game are harder to guess.
Steve Treder, in the 2011 Hardball Times Annual, had this to add about strikeout trends, as relayed to me in a recent email:
In July of this year, on his website The Diamond Appraised, the iconic sabermetrician Craig Wright published an excellent article titled “What is Behind the Offensive Decline?” Wright methodically considers various factors potentially causing scoring rates to decline over the past several years, including the crackdown on steroids. His take is that PED testing is at most a minor explanation, for two good reasons:
There is no shortage of recent literature on the recent trends in pitching, and the specific causes are still up for debate. Regardless of exactly why pitchers are showing better results, the fact is that they are, and some research shows that this trend might be more sustainable than one would have thought at the end of the 2010 season.
Let me point out some additional key observations. First, the difference between the top starters and the average major league starter has not changed by too much over the past five years. Below is a chart that compares the difference between the ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate and walk rate of the cumulative top 10 qualified starting pitchers by ERA against the major league average:
You'll notice that not too much looks out of place comparing 2010 and 2011 to 2007-2009. Likewise, the variation between qualified starting pitcher ERA and WHIP, a measure of "clustering," do not seem to indicate any substantial trend over time either:
Getting the top guys is still much better for your team than grabbing the league average pitcher, assuming you can successfully identify them (there is a lot of turnover).
So why LIMA? Does ignoring pitching really make more sense when the differentials between the top and middle are not overly substantial at best?
The answer, looping back to Kahrl's Baseball Prospectus article, lies in the increased availability of elite non-closing relievers. Check out the stats of qualified relievers over the past decade:
For whatever reason—better micromanagement and usage of bullpens, better evaluation in bullpen composition, or something else—it seems that over the past few years, relievers as a whole are putting up more elite numbers. I have written about the value of drafting elite, non-closing relievers on many occasions.
Saves are only one statistic. There are plenty of players like Jonny Venters, Tyler Clippard, David Robertson, Addison Reed, Mike Adams and Kenley Jansen out there who have the potential to be worth double-digit dollar values by the end of the season despite a lack of saves. The additional upshot of some of these guys, like Sergio Romo and Sean Marshall (before Ryan Madson's injury) is that they are often "next in line" for saves. Some can even net you five to 10 wins to boot.
As more and more of these guys are available, or as more of these elite non-closer relievers are more often and better used, they become more and more useful for fantasy teams. No one really drafts these guys, and fewer people pick up emerging elite non-closing relievers in the middle of the season. You'll of course have to watch the leverage usage statistics (if your elite non-closing reliever is coming in only to face guys like Adrian Gonzalez, you might want to opt for someone else), but why not invest a dollar or two into a couple of players who can arguably turn Bud Norris into Tim Lincecum.
It might burn an extra roster space, but with innings caps and only so many hitters you can start in one day, maximization can take on many forms. They include playing the LIMA method by drafting elite non-closing relievers to boot. I call this method of maximization LIMAPER (LIMA Plus Elite Non-closing Relievers).
Winning in fantasy baseball is about adjusting, and it is essential to adjust to this trend to win in more competitive leagues. Every advantage counts. Fantasy baseball is about finding market inefficiencies and exploiting them. The biggest names in elite non-closing relievers—Jonny Venters (60 percent Yahoo ownership rate), Kenley Jansen (74 percent), Tyler Clippard (44 percent) and Aroldis Chapman (45 percent)—are are pretty heavily owned, but outside the name brands, and the farther the player is from vulturing saves, the lower the ownership rates.
Notice the drop in ownership rates to even Mike Adams (31 percent), David Robertson (32 percent), Sergio Romo (33 percent), Fernando Salas (33 percent), and Vinnie Pestano (26 percent), and then compare them to Koji Uehara (8 percent), Eric O'Flaherty (13 percent), Joaquin Benoit (13 percent) and Kris Medlen (1 percent, and he might even take the fifth starter role for April in Tim Hudson's absence).
Take Oliver's projections and THT Forecast's customizable auction price guide set for a deep, 12-team league with nine pitching spots. Assume a $260 budget heavily skewed 70/30 in favor of hitting. Guys like Adams, Benoit, Uehara, Romo and Joel Peralta are pegged to be worth $6-8, while Craig Kimbrell, arguably the most valuable closer in baseball for 2012, is worth only about $12. That's more than double what Oliver thinks you can expect out of Johan Santana, but he's owned in over three-quarters of leagues.
Elite non-closing relievers are a market inefficiency. How much is one of these guys going to cost you? A buck? Two bucks? Maybe three to five dollars if you get a top name early on? Plenty will be available on the waiver wire. Some, like Luke Gregerson, Rafael Soriano and Hong-Chih Kuo last year, will surely bust. But you can drop them without much worry. They did not cost you much of your budget—maybe 1 percent of it. And there will be plenty of guys like Takashi Saito and Kerry Wood to replace them with even in league-only formats.
Let's come full circle and note a few things:
Hitting is about concentrating production. You can play the match-ups and try to Frankenstein your way to success, but the best strategy is to install the best players possible at each hitting position. It is harder to "stream" hitters day-to-day than it is pitchers. By using the LIMAPEN strategy, you are freeing a greater amount of your resources to confidently invest in positional upgrades. It could mean the difference between making a few Mark Reynoldses into Pablo Sandovals, or upgrading Asdrubal Cabreras into Hanley Ramirez. It's harder to play the matchups to replicate Ramirez at shortstop than it is to combine breakout potential players like Juan Nicasio, Mike Minor, Brian Matusz, Jeff Samardzija, Luke Hocheaver or flawed/risky pitchers on the cheap like Brandon Morrow, Bud Norris, Carlos Zambrano with elite non-closing relievers like Robertson, Adams, and Benoit to replicate the production of Daniel Hudson, James Shields or C.J. Wilson types.
It cannot be any riskier than drafting Adam Wainwright or Josh Johnson at plus-market rates. You might have more wins risk, but there's plenty of Alfredo Aceveses in the season. Further considering the lower bust/flop rates of hitters compared to pitchers, it makes more sense to invest in the former over the latter. And the LIMAPER strategy enables you to do that with less worry. Combine that with the "do not pay for saves" strategy* and you have a lot of extra money to spend maximizing lesser risks.
*I do advocate paying something for saves, just not too much, because you by and large cannot punt any category in a non-H2H format and reasonably expect to end up on top. I suppose you could even "overpay" for saves from guys like Craig Kimbrell, who will bolster your bottom pitching line in addition to netting you saves, if you want to play it safest. I covered this issue, very crudely, in one of my very first fantasy articles.
Now if only I had written this article a month ago... at least you still have plenty of time to scour the waiver wire!
Check out part two of this article for the quantification of this argument.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 4:52am (14) Comments
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Diversifying your portfolio is one of the most basic tricks of the trade in the stock market. If you don’t bank too much on a single company’s success, but rather create a portfolio of varied, cross-industry stocks, the old adage says that you’ll succeed. In it’s most basic and unscientific form, is the same strategy worthwhile?
Pictured below are some pretty pie graphs of my draft breakdown thus far in 2012. I’ve drafted in five out of the seven leagues I’m participating in this year, and found myself building a core, generally, around a whole slew of different guys each time.
Is that a keen strategy—using my end game, and even centerpiece picks, on a variety of guys, assuring—in theory—the chances for success? Or, like in Vegas when you’re feeling good about a certain game or a certain line, should I have “whacked” a certain player, gone all-in, and drafted him in every single league (say, an Alejandro de Aza, Cory Luebke, or Carlos Gonzalez, all of whom I own in three out of five leagues so far)?
I own 16 percent of my hitters in more than one league, and 23 percent of my pitchers twice or more, for reference. But it all comes down to personal preference. Feeling a big year coming from Carlos Gonzalez like I do? Not so risk-averse? Bid him up in every league and put all your money where your mouth is.
My personal bend is to diversify my assets and simply look for the best deals where available. This draft season, I’ve found my strategy pretty straightforward and repetitive: draft a couple of studs, spend a good deal on pitching, but generally hold my money until the mid-range players come around and buy whomever I choose. Jordan Zimmermann and Cory Luebke, to a certain extent, fit that mold; I’m not targeting them, but they’re falling to me. I’m paying less for their value than what I should, and that, in it’s simplest form, is how to win any given league.
A couple of reminders when chasing a player you love:
What’s the difference?I’ve seen, by nature of participating in a good number of drafts over the past few weeks, a bunch of guys bid past the projected value of a player on a site like Yahoo, only to be pushed one number further and drop out. Sometimes—and this is what doesn’t work for me—the chat box will read, from the recently outbid, “I was willing to go (insert arbitrary number here) but wasn’t willing to go (insert arbitrary number plus another bid, usually $2) on him.” Err… If you’re willing to spend $27 on Clayton Kershaw, for example, but aren’t willing to spend $29 on him, you’re letting self-doubt rule the day. I’d put the likelihood that Kershaw’s actual value lies in the $27-$29 range at “very low.” What one is really thinking when they self-confirm their dropping out of the bidding is, I’d think, “Crap, maybe I oughtta spend my money elsewhere! Or let this guy or gal with a fat stack left burn some of their cash so I can have the most money left!” Don’t self-doubt, and don’t back down at such levels. Target your guys and go get ‘em.