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Monday, April 23, 2012
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Not a good slate of available starters today. Bartolo Colon is over-owned (53 percent of leagues) but he does have a nice match-up against the White Sox today. Chris Capuano might give you decent numbers against the Braves. Their offense has cooled slightly over the past few days. I'm staying away from him personally.
Lots of good hitters available today. Gerardo Parra and Jason Kubel face Kyle Kendrick. He struggles against lefty hitters. The Blue Jays face Bruce Chen, which means Rajai Davis will likely start over Eric Thames. The Red Sox are facing Jason Marquis. That should mean a Ryan Sweeney start, but the Marlon Byrd trade complicates things. I still think Sweeney will start.
It's looking pretty ugly for pitchers. Tom Milone faces the White Sox and is only 7 percent owned. You can try Randy Wolf versus the Astros if you feel like rolling the dice. He's only 5 percent owned thanks to an ERA above 8.00.
TDG regulars Gerardo Parra and Jason Kubel are set to face righty Vance Worley. The Red Sox face Nick Blackburn, which might mean another start for Sweeney. Again, Byrd complicates things until his role becomes defined. Eric Thames will hit against Tommy Hunter.
Sergio Santos is out with shoulder soreness, opening the door for Francisco Cordero. I'm not expecting great numbers from Cordero, but it looks like he'll be secure at least for awhile. He earned his first save of the year yesterday.
I mentioned him yesterday, but Jon Rauch is a good pickup for those desperate for saves.
I could have sworn I picked Parra yesterday, but I did not. He hit a grand slam. My actual picks did nothing particularly noteworthy.
Danny Duffy didn't survive the tough match-up yesterday. He got in trouble with walks, which is what happens on days he struggles. The good news is that yesterday's line will make him easier to buy: 4.2 IP, 5 K, 7.71 ERA, 2.14 WHIP
Joe Blanton's effort was plagued by errors, one of which was his own. 6 IP, 2 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Tyson Ross did the best of my picks. He earned the win on his birthday to go with: 6.2 IP, 4 K, 1.35 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
Jesus Guzman went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. He sat in favor of Mark Kotsay.
Will Venable was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
Yonder Alonso laid an egg. 0-for-4
Josh Reddick did his best impression of Alonso but added a walk to his 0-for-4 afternoon.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:50am (2) Comments
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Being the commissioner of a fantasy baseball league is often a thankless job. Not only must the commissioner consider the best interests of the league when making decisions, but he also must manage his own team and strive for the same success as other league members. Balancing those interests is not always easy. That is why league commissioners must be cognizant of any trades they make, especially when they also possess authority to approve or reject transactions. The case below is about a questionable trade on its own (made two weeks ago) and also involves a league commissioner who hypocritically sought to benefit from a decision made using his own discretion.
SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
It Byrnes When I Peavy vs. Buster Pujols
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE DAILY GRIND 2012 FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE
Decided April 11, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 35 (April 2012)
A fantasy baseball league called Daily Grind 2012 is comprised of 12 teams and has been in existence for ten years. The Daily Grind 2012, hosted on Yahoo, is a weekly head-to-head roto league that utilized a snake format for its annual draft. It is a mixed AL/NL non-keeper league where teams can make transactions and change lineups on a daily basis. Teams are limited to a maximum of 35 roster moves in one given week, and there is a weekly 35 inning minimum for pitchers. Rosters are comprised of 21 positions including: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, UTIL, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, four bench spots and one DL spot.
The Daily Grind 2012 is a 7x7 roto league using the following categories for offensive players: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; (5) stolen bases; (6) hits, and (7) walks. For pitchers, the seven categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings); (5) walks; (6) complete games; and (7) shutouts.
The league utilizes Yahoo’s default “do not cut” list. However, according to the commissioner, he “monitors every transaction for fairness to ensure the league’s balance is not thrown off by reckless or foolish adds, drops and trades.” One of the self-created rules he enforces is not allowing a team to add and drop pitchers on a daily basis by plugging them in to gain a statistical advantage in volume-based categories.
The commissioner also admits that he can be a dictator because he enforces strict penalties for violations of rules. For example, he will use his power as commissioner to pull all players from a league owner’s roster for one day and lock them out of making any transactions or lineup changes. Additionally, he admits that he tends to be in the middle of what the league perceives to be questionable trades.
On the day of the league’s draft, the owner of the team named Buster Pujols (who also happens to be the commissioner’s uncle) showed up for the first pick at the live draft but then unexpectedly left, leaving his team to autodraft. However, there was apparently a glitch with Yahoo’s autodraft because it did not fill his roster with all of the positions required. Buster Pujols was left with no catcher, only Chase Utley at second base (on the disabled list), and only four pitchers (two of which were Chris Carpenter and Joakim Soria who were on the disabled list and the weekly minimum is 35 innings). The penalty for not reaching the 35 inning minimum is automatically losing all seven pitching categories.
In an effort to fill out his entire roster and build a pitching staff, Buster Pujols began making transactions and trades. Those moves are not the subject of this dispute and will not be ruled upon, but to put the case in perspective they will be listed here:
1. Add Jonathan LuCroy-C-MIL, Drop Chase Utley-2B-PHI. The commissioner vetoed this move because Utley, when healthy, is a premier second baseman and could be put in his available DL spot.
2. Add Tyler Clippard-RP-WAS, Drop Joakim Soria-RP-KC. Approved.
3. Acquire Mat Latos-SP-CIN, Jaime Garcia-SP-STL, and Tim Stauffer-SP-SD, Trade Ichiro Suzuki-OF-SEA, Jhonny Peralta-SS-DET, and Jeremy Hellickson-SP-TB. Approved. At this time, the commissioner placed Michael Pineda-SP-NYY in his own available DL slot and added Ivan Nova-SP-NYY.
4. Add Ryan Vogelsong-SP-SF, Drop Tyler Clippard-RP-WAS. Approved.
5. Add Bud Norris-SP-HOU, move Vogelsong to DL slot. Approved.
6. Acquire Erik Bedard-SP-PIT, Trade Carl Crawford-OF-BOS. Approved.
7. Acquire Neil Walker-2B-PIT and Brandon Beachy-SP-ATL, Trade Matt Holliday-OF-STL and David Ortiz-DH-BOS. Vetoed by the league and commissioner.
8. Add Daniel Murphy-2B-NYM, Drop David Ortiz-DH-BOS. Two days later, the Porch Monkeys add Ortiz as a free agent and drop Yonder Alonso-1B-SD. The commissioner vetoes that transaction places Ortiz back on Buster Pujols’ roster and Alonso back on the Porch Monkeys’ roster.
On April 7, 2012, the commissioner (It Byrnes When I Peavy) received a trade offer from Buster Pujols of David Ortiz in exchange for Ivan Nova. The commissioner waited until Nova made his first start of the season on April 9, 2012 and then accepted the trade.
Several league members are protesting this trade between Buster Pujols and the commissioner arguing that trading a waiver wire player such as Nova is no different than the Porch Monkeys simply dropping Alonso to pick up Ortiz as a free agent.
(1) Should the trade between Buster Pujols and the commissioner be approved?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades. People pay money to participate in fantasy leagues, and generally they should be afforded the freedom to manage their team accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness. See 4 Ponies v. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).
The scope of the Court’s authority is to govern and advise when there is a dispute as to the validity of trades, rulings, decisions or other issues that arise within the league. See Silveramo v. Nation, 2 F.J. 38, 41 (October 2010) (holding that making a judgment on whether an individual did something stupid falls outside of the Court’s jurisdiction). It is not up to the Court to make a determination on what is considered intelligent.
Unwise decisions should not be scrutinized or vetoed merely because they are unwise. Road Runners v. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 47, 50 (June 2011) (holding that the main criteria for evaluating a trade is its inherent fairness, not whether it was an intelligent decision by a league member to make the deal). Rather, the Court’s role in this jurisdiction is to evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained. Victoria’s Secret v. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).
Besides evaluating the trade at issue, we must also analyze its validity given that the league commissioner is involved. Commissioners are constantly under more scrutiny than the other members of the league simply because of the power and authority that is granted with such a position. As such, league commissioners should be cognizant of the perception of whatever decisions they make because they will be analyzed under a very thick microscope. See America’s Team v. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011).
It is undisputed that commissioners who are also team owners in the league have as much right to manage their team and try to win as everyone else. However, they must do so without taking advantage of the position they are in as commissioner. A-Holes & Pujols v. Mad Cow Disease, 3 F.J. 44, 46 (June 2011); Johnny Bench’s Baseball Bunch vs,. Yuniesky Betancourt’s Revenge, 4 F.J. 13 (February 2012) (holding that a commissioner’s acquisition of free agents during his league’s playoffs should be upheld because he complied with the long-standing rules).
No evidence has been submitted indicating any alleged collusion or malfeasance. As such, the Court will operate on the presumption that there is no collusive conduct between the parties.
At first glance, the trade of David Ortiz in exchange for Ivan Nova looks uneven. Ortiz is still one of the better power hitters in baseball who normally hits close to .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. After a couple sub-par years, Ortiz has put together back-to-back seasons of his typical production. Assuming he remains healthy, there is no reason to think he will not replicate those numbers hitting in the middle of the Red Sox potent lineup.
Even though Ortiz is 36 years old and may not have many productive seasons left, we need only consider his prospects for 2012 because the Daily Grind 2012 is a non-keeper league. See Willie McGee’s Beauty Parlor vs. Sizemore Matters, 4 F.J. 29, 30 (April 2012) (holding that when analyzing a trade in a non-keeper league, there is no need to consider the long-term benefits).
On the other hand, Ivan Nova burst onto the scene in 2011 as one of the Yankees most successful starting pitchers. He amassed 16 wins with a 3.70 ERA. While those are impressive numbers for a young starter, he only has 98 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.33. Nova will certainly benefit from the run support he will get from the Yankees’ offense, but it remains to be seen whether he will become a dominant starter as opposed to a Liven Hernandez-type pitcher.
When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective. See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin). The record is devoid of the commissioner’s entire roster. However we do know that Buster Pujols was in need of pitching help because of the improper autodraft done for him. That being said, it is understandable why Buster Pujols would be seeking a pitcher like Nova. However, the price being paid for him is inequitable.
The commissioner argues that Nova would have been drafted if Michael Pineda was on the disabled at the time of the draft. While this is highly speculative, it is also without merit because Nova’s spot in the Yankees’ rotation was never in question even when Pineda was pitching during spring training. Nova was likely not drafted because of his limited value in a roto league as indicated by his aforementioned statistics. The commissioner also justifies this trade because Ortiz is only eligible as a utility player. While that does inhibit any flexibility with him on a roster, it does not diminish the value of the statistics he will accumulate.
In the submission to the Court, the commissioner was very open about his methods of running the league. He admits that he is viewed as a dictator and tends to impose his will where he sees fit. There have been challenges to various moves and transactions within the league already, and now there is an outcry against a move that the commissioner himself is making.
When a commissioner ignores complaints or differences of opinion from a majority of the league members, it is likely he is not considering what is best for the league in general. See America’s Team v. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011) (holding that a league commissioner’s credibility is endangered when he steadfastly refuses to consider logical and meritorious complaints).
It would be one thing if the trade of Ortiz for Nova was more equitable. But since the commissioner has already vetoed another team adding Ortiz as a free agent in exchange for Yonder Alonso (who was also undrafted), it is pure hypocrisy on behalf of the commissioner to acquire Ortiz for another undrafted player such as Nova. It isn’t the fact Nova was undrafted that is the problem. It is the fact that Nova is a marginal fantasy pitcher who does not possess equivalent value to Ortiz within the confines of this roto league.
Based on the foregoing, the Court hereby rejects the trade made between the commissioner and Buster Pujols. While it is unfortunate that Buster Pujols was provided an incomplete team via autodraft, it does not mean that the rest of the league, and commissioner, should be able to take advantage of his need to revamp his roster. This trade is not so grossly inequitable that it should be rejected outright. However, it is imbalanced enough that it should be rejected under the circumstances of it involving the commissioner who had recently disallowed a similar transaction involving the same player.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Posted by Michael Stein at 4:14am (9) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Tom Milone and Randy Wolf are your pitching plays of the day. They face the White Sox and Astros, respectively. I considered both players for my rosters today but couldn't stomach the associate risk. Avoid if you can.
Gerardo Parra and Jason Kubel face another righty—Vance Worley. Ryan Sweeney should get a start against Nick Blackburn. Eric Thames has a friendly match-up against Tommy Hunter.
Jarrod Parker makes his second major league start and 2012 debut against the White Sox. The other dugout will send out Chris Sale. He'd be a great streaming pick if he wasn't already over 60 percent owned. Same story for Trevor Cahill. He faces an inept Phillies lineup but is probably owned in your league. Juan Nicasio faces the lowly Pirates. A rough start for Nicasio has dropped his ownership rate to seven percent.
I've been waiting for the Brewers to face a lefty so I could recommend Carlos Gomez. He's making a case to be a full time starter over Nyjer Morgan.
The Rockies and Pirates have a double-header, so let's walk through a few options. Todd Helton might snag two starts against mediocre righties. Marco Scutaro is only 14 percent owned and can be plugged in either middle infield slot. Garrett Jones looks like he could get two starts since both Rockies starters are righties.
Jason Hammel starting for Toronto might make it worthwhile to hold Eric Thames a second day.
Think Chris Heisey will get the start against Barry Zito?
Alfredo Aceves recorded a save yesterday. Daniel Bard, who is temporarily in the pen, recorded the win with a .2 inning relief appearance. Bard might eventually end up with the job if saves remain an issue in Boston.
Jason Motte blew a save last night, but his job is secure.
Bartolo Colon had a strong outing but took the loss - 7 IP, 2 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
Chris Capuano walked a fine line all night but managed to earn the win while allowing only one run - 7 IP, 5K, 1.29 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
Parra was 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
Kubel had the money performance. He went 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBI, and a walk. His hits all went for extra bases—two doubles and a home run.
Rajai Davis went 1-for-4 with an RBI. He was also caught stealing.
Sweeny had a 2-for-4 evening.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:57am (4) Comments
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Johan Santana was one of the biggest question marks coming in to this season. Would he still be an ace? Would his pitches still be the same? Well, two starts into the season, his results looked like the Johan of old: 13 strikeouts, five walks in 11 Innings. Then in his third start, he was wild and didn't last even two innings, striking out no one. Then last night, as I was writing this, Santana struck out 11 and walked just two.
What can we expect from Santana? Is he an ace still? Can he be trusted to keep up his early dominance? Or was his start in Atlanta, his first time facing a team with an updated scouting report against him (Atlanta had faced him in his 2012 debut), a sign of things to come?
To answer that, let's compare Santana's pitches now with those same pitches in 2010, his last season in the majors.
He throws four pitches: a four-seam fastball (his primary fastball), a two-seam fastball, a change-up, and a slider. In 2010, these pitches had the following characteristics:
Note that telling the fastballs apart is extremely difficult, so my numbers above differ from the classifications at Brooks Baseball (by Harry Pavlidis). But they're good enough for a comparison. Now let's look at Santana's pitches over his last three starts (his fourth start's data was not yet available as I was writing thisy):
So how do Santana's pitches now compare to his pitches in 2010? Basically, they're the same. Each pitch is roughly a mile per hour slower than it was in 2010 and the changes to movement are all within the margin of error of PITCHf/x.
What does this mean? Well it means that we should expect more or less the same thing as we saw in 2010, maybe a slight bit worse due to the loss of a mile per hour. And in 2010, Santana wasn't really showing the most dominating peripherals —he kept his ERA low, but he certainly wasn't a strikeout master. He's definitely worth a pickup, but I wouldn't consider him an ace for fantasy purposes.
Posted by Josh Smolow at 2:15am (0) 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.
Each entry will include the player's 2012 stat-line through April 23, plus their "Rest of Season" Oliver projection in the standard rotisserie categories (average, runs, RBIs, homers, steals for hitters; wins, saves, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts 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.
Now, in week four, early performance trends are starting to weigh on our judgments. Though most should still be largely ignored, many won't be, and there are even a few that shouldn't be. With that in mind, this will be a transitional edition Trader's Corner. We'll begin to factor 2012 performances and discuss their potential relevance or lack thereof.
As always, 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.
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.
This week we'll look at a former superstar showing surprising signs of life on the basepaths and an overlooked slugger eligible at a couple positions he won't often play.
My pick: Carlos Beltran
So far: .279-13-9-5-3
Oliver RoS: .299-68-69-18-6
Oliver Yahoo value: $12
Oliver ESPN value: $15
There are few players I'm kicking myself over ignoring in drafts this year. Carlos Beltran is one of them.
Beltran was a fantasy machine from 2002 through 2008. He was one of the few players in the game who could be relied upon for at least four category production, and more often than not the full five. Leg injuries always seemed to hold him back from becoming a 40-homer, 40-steal holy grail of a fantasy asset, and in 2009, they finally began taking a toll on his ability to stay on the field as well.
After missing much of 2009 and 2010 with knee problems and subsequent corrective surgery, Beltran returned to play a full season in 2011. He played quite well, producing solid numbers in a pair of difficult offensive environments. His .300-78-84-22-4 line was once again legitimate four-category production, though one of the staples of the earlier parts of his career was now gone—speed.
Most considered Beltran's 2011 production to be instructive of what he'd be capable of as he settled into the twilight of his career. He had always been productive at the dish, even while only intermittently able to stay on the field. But we all assumed his days of stealing more than a handful of bases were over.
Beltran has come out of the gates in 2012 set to prove us wrong. It just 16 games he's already attempted four steals, and succeeded three times. That's after attempting only six steals all of last year, and only two in the first half.
Throughout his career, Beltran has been a historically efficient base stealer. He's never been overly aggressive, never a gambler, but someone who combined situational intelligence with his raw athleticism for an incredible 87.5 percent success rate on the basepaths in 338 attempts. Few basestealers ever post single-season marks that high, let alone do it over a whole career.
This suggests that his early inclination toward running may be more than a mere aberration. Beltran likely wouldn't be running if he didn't think he could do so effectively, or if he was feeling lingering discomfort from a two-years-past knee operation. He still probably won't approach the totals he reached in his heyday, but suddenly 15 or even 20 more steals this year seems plausible.
A base-stealing Beltran would be an incredibly valuable commodity. Add around 10 stolen bases onto his Oliver projection and you have more than a $20 player. While age and a history of leg ailments are certainly risks, the payoff is looking quite a bit higher than we assumed going into the season.
It would be wise to see what it would take to pry Beltran away from his owner before the price increases to match his projection.
Oliver's pick: Edwin Encarnacion
So far: .303-9-13-4-3
Oliver RoS: .262-73-86-26-5
Oliver Yahoo value: $21
Oliver ESPN value: $18
The man not-so-affectionately known as E5 has quietly been a productive hitter for years. The problem has always been that his fielding has held him back from consistent playing time. He finally found a home in the DH slot last year, and the result for fantasy purposes is a dual first base, third base-eligible slugger who wasn't on many radars heading into the year.
You might be surprised to at what you find with just a bit of basic arithmetic applied to Encarnacion's career totals. He's hit .262 with 121 home runs and 31 steals in his career spanning 3,141 plate appearances. That breaks down to roughly 23 home runs and six stolen bases per 600 plate appearances. The problem is that he's never actually gotten 600 plate appearances.
The good news for fantasy owners is that the Blue Jays have gone from a team in transition to a potential fringe contender. Their roster, particularly around the corners, is much more settled than it's been the last few years.
Juan Rivera has departed to the senior circuit. Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind have settled into either corner of the infield. Eric Thames is scuffling to keep Travis Snider in Triple-A. That leaves DH wide open for the defensively challenged Encarnacion. The coveted 600-plate appearance season may finally be within reach.
Encarnacion is already off to a rollicking start this year. He probably won't hit .300 over a full season, but he's actually a decent contact hitter. His strikeout rates have stayed between 16 and 19 percent over the last few years, very reasonable marks.
Since he relies a somewhat fly-ball heavy approach to produce his power, we can expect his BABIP to drop, but he's not a traditional all-or-nothing slugger. A neutral to slightly positive batting average is well within reach.
Add to that around 25 home run power, a few stolen bases, and a boatload of RBIs batting in the middle of the potent Blue Jays lineup, and Encarnacion may be one of the best values from this year's drafts.
If you need help at the hot corner or corner infield spot, E5 makes a fine target, even if you have to pay his owner more than draft-day price.
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.
For today's Buy Low we'll look at a pair of scuffling former top prospects who should break out sooner than later.
My pick: Jesus Montero
So far: .241-3-8-4-0
Oliver RoS: .267-58-69-18-0
Oliver Yahoo value: $1*
Oliver ESPN value: N/A*
*assumes utility-only eligibility
Like Encarnacion, Montero is lousy defender freed by the DH. However, unlike Encarnacion, he doesn't have positional eligibility yet. That will change soon, and when it does, Montero should instantly become a top 10 fantasy catcher, if not better.
Many owners who drafted Montero in the Yahoo! format were likely hoping he'd have picked up catcher eligibility by now. With both Miguel Olivo and John Jaso on the Mariners roster, those owners may be starting to get nervous about how long it's taking.
What they may not realize is that Eric Wedge is following the deployment plan for Montero almost to the letter, but that the opening series in Japan disrupted the schedule in a way that gave him less incentive to put Montero behind the dish during the team's first few games.
Since coming stateside and completing the disjointed first week of play, Montero has started four times at catcher. All four have been in the last 10 games.
In Yahoo!, where only five games started are required for positional eligibility, Montero should get there by the end of the weekend. In ESPN, where 10 games are required, it will take a bit longer, but he'll still likely get there around the second week of May.
The other issue in play is that Montero is off to a slow start. He has hit a pair of home runs, but he's also hitting just .241.
This is almost entirely a BABIP mirage. His strikeouts and swinging strikes are both down a touch, not just from the short sample with the Yankees last year but from his numbers in the high minors as well. He also has a history of consistent high BABIPs in the minors.
Then when you consider his line drive rate is a respectable 19 percent and he's yet to hit an infield pop-up, it becomes clear that this is more an issue of well hit balls finding gloves than of anything Montero is doing wrong at the dish. It shouldn't take long for that his BABIP to climb back toward .300.
There's never been a better time to strike on Jesus Montero, and there may never be again. If you can get him for a reasonable price, you'll soon have a catcher-eligible player who can give you a decent average, good power, and a 600-plate appearance season. Even playing half his games in Safeco Field with a meager supporting cast, that combination of rate production and volume at a position notorious for lacking it should yield quite a bit of value.
Oliver's pick: Giancarlo Stanton
So far: .255-4-5-0-0
Oliver RoS: .265-73-88-30-5
Oliver Yahoo value: $24
Oliver ESPN value: $21
Like Montero, Giancarlo Stanton is off to a slow start. In fact, in the previous edition of Trader's Corner, there was a comment asking if Stanton is a good Sell Low candidate. At least according to Oliver, it's the opposite that's true.
Stanton's game is a bit one-dimensional, but that one dimension is pretty impressive. Few players in the game have Stanton's prodigious power. According to ESPN Hit Tracker, only one player in the majors averaged longer home run distances last year—Justin Upton.
The problem is that Stanton's yet to hit a home run this season. Some of this may be related to a sore knee that's led to occasional days off for the struggling slugger. Ozzie Guillen and Co. have even experimented with dropping him out of the cleanup spot. Being that fantasy owners drafted Stanton for his power, it's understandable that they may be growing concerned.
This article from the Florida Sun Sentinal well describes the problems Stanton and the Marlins are going through in the early season.
Take a close look at that article, though. There are a few inconsistencies, at least in how it relates to the current season. The first is that it names Edwin Rodriguez as the Marlins manager. The second is that it was written April 19, 2011.
Last year, it took Stanton 14 games to hit his first home run. Those 14 games occurred while Stanton was recovering from a hamstring injury. He ultimately hit just two April home runs before going on to average more than six home runs per month from May onward.
Stanton has played in only 14 games so far this year. Two instances do not a pattern make, but it's also far too early to panic. At the very least we know that he's capable of overcoming a slow start to post elite power numbers.
The one issue that Oliver can't account for here is injury. While it does see that Stanton missed time last year and therefore deducts a few plate appearances from his projected total, this year's knee injury sounds like it might be a bit more of a long term concern than the hamstring problem from a year ago.
There may be a bit more risk here than Oliver is seeing. I'd might shave a dollar or two from his expected value. But his ceiling is still so high and the evidence of his demise so weak that he still makes an excellent target if his owner is ready to hit the panic button and dump him on the cheap.
There may be nothing more satisfying in fantasy baseball than selling a player at his peak value just to watch him crash and burn for another owner while you reap the benefits of that 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?
Let's check in on a couple well-regarded pitchers off to fast starts who might be worth more in trade than in your lineup.
My pick: C.J. Wilson
So far: 2-2.37-1.05-15
Oliver RoS: 13-3.21-1.19-161
Oliver Yahoo value: $18
Oliver ESPN value: $18
One of the more polarizing figures among fantasy pundits going into the year, Wilson creates an excellent selling opportunity due to his fast start. The heat of the debate between supporters and detractors combined with strong surface numbers leave judgments on the Halos' pitcher wide open for favorable bias.
Those who entered the 2012 draft season high on Wilson saw him as a left-hander leaving the pitcher's nightmare that is the Ballpark at Arlington for much friendlier confines, and a starter who had established a track record of out-performing his peripheral statistics.
Those who weren't so high on him argued that two years of data isn't strong evidence of a trend and that beneath the apparent improvements he made to his strikeout and walk rates in 2011 there was little to be excited about. His swinging strike and first pitch strike rates were both merely average, and the trademark ground ball dominance of his relieving days had declined since he'd converted to starting.
Odds are someone in your league was in the former group. There's a good chance that owner will look right at Wilson's two wins and low ERA and feel vindication. What he'll ignore is that his walks are up, his strikeouts are down, and he's allowing more contact that ever before.
Wilson's ERA is almost exclusively a product of his minuscule .189 BABIP. Even if you believe he's one of baseball's oddities who can outperform BABIP expectations, that number is clearly unsustainable.
Of course, we're talking about only three starts so far, so there's not a whole lot we can infer from what Wilson's done thus far in 2012. If you thought his strikeout and walk rates would be better than they are coming into the year, there's little reason to divert from that opinion and tremble at the thought of BABIP regression.
The point isn't that you should be looking to exploit a divergence between Wilson's 2012 ERA and xFIP, but the potential bias of those who were expecting him to have a career year. He's a perfect example of a player for whom expectations may have increased disproportionately compared to his projection.
If anything, the fresh evidence is slightly negative in regard to Wilson's 2012 projection, albeit nearly meaningless. But the combination of a charged preseason debate and quality ERA could well lead to quick judgments on the part of his supporters.
You shouldn't sell Wilson for less than you paid for him, but now is a great time to shop him around and see if you can get more.
Oliver's pick: James Shields
So far: 3-2.76-1.09-20
Oliver RoS: 12-3.72-1.22-170
Oliver Yahoo value: $9
Oliver ESPN value: $10
Shields is another pitcher who had a career year in 2011 and is again off to a fast start to 2012. But after putting these performances in the context of his career, Oliver remains skeptical.
Although there were fewer who doubted Shields' stock increase for the 2012 draft season than Wilson's, that may have been a bit of an oversight. The reason is a confirmation bias of a different kind.
Shields posted a brutal 2010 ERA over a strong xFIP, so we expected to see his performance increase dramatically in 2011. When it did, there was little reason to call for scrutiny, even though there were some signs that he also wasn't as good as he appeared on the surface.
While 2011 was a career year for Shields, he substantially outperformed his xFIP. Most of the actual improvement can be credited to career-best strikeout and swinging strike rates. Most of the illusory improvement can be credited to a .264 BABIP.
Rather than assuming Shields would simply replicate the improvements in strikeout rate, it's worth asking whether this was the beginning of a new trend, or simply a small outlier and the high water mark of an otherwise good-not-great career.
The early returns for 2012 are not as promising as they might seem upon first glance. Although Shields has once again started with a bang in terms of ERA and allowing baserunners, his strikeouts and swinging strikes are both down not only below his 2011 rates, but his career rates as well.
The lesson that follows from Wilson follows here as well. We shouldn't necessarily treat anything about Shields' early performance as strong evidence, but we also shouldn't ignore the strength of Shields' 2011 season compared to his career scope. Oliver is particularly cognizant of this issue, hence the very modest projection.
If someone in your league is looking at Shields ace-like 2011 and strong ERA and WHIP to start the year and willing to part with a high value piece to acquire him, it would be wise to oblige that owner. Shields could well post ace-like numbers again, but the better bet is that he's a second or third-tier starter who you may be able to sell for top-tier value.
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, and that's really all that matters.
We'll wrap this edition up with a look at the struggles of a couple of former top prospects for whom a rebound may not be on the horizon.
My pick: Alex Gordon
So far: .177-5-5-2-0
Oliver RoS: .273-68-65-16-8
Oliver Yahoo value: $5
Oliver ESPN value: $10
The once top prospect turned post-hype sleeper success was not only overrated in this year's drafts, but is off to about as a bad a start as a hitter can be.
The temptation to select Gordon in the late single-digit rounds of drafts was understandable. He was one of the few players to put up positive value in all five categories last year. That alone made him an incredibly valuable asset, even without the lingering third base eligibility. However, there were some big warning signs that hinted at regression.
First, his 2011 BABIP was .356, a career high by a very wide margin. His strikeout and walk rates didn't see appreciable change, meaning it was always much more likely he'd hit closer to his career .259 mark than his 2011 mark of .303.
Second, he's a pretty poor base-stealer. He's discussed as 20-steal threat, but that number's well above his career pace. Even worse, smart money is on his attempt rate decreasing. He was successful on steal attempts less than 70 percent of the time in 2011, and had just one successful steal in six attempts in 2010 as well.
The good news is that the 20-home run power is much closer to his career pace, even while he was struggling prior to 2011. A .270-20-10 projection isn't unreasonable, and as long as he remains in the leadoff spot of a quietly respectable Royals' lineup, you could add a solid run total to those numbers as well.
That brings us to to this year's early struggles. Thus far, Gordon's strikeouts and whiffs are both way up, at 28.2 percent and 11.0 percent, respectively, and his BABIP all the way down to .225. The latter will surely improve, but for the moment is supported buy an unsightly 33 percent infield fly ball rate, so it's not all a product of luck
Like all small sample size results, most of this is not objectively meaningful, but that won't prevent others from reading too much into them. In this case, the potential culprit is Royals manager Ned Yost.
With Lorenzo Cain on the mend, the Royals soon may have another option for the leadoff position. If Gordon loses his spot atop the lineup, he loses not only potential in runs, but possibly the green light on the basepaths as well. A move to fifth or sixth would add a few RBIs to his projected total, but not nearly enough to offset the difference.
Even if Gordon retains his leadoff position, its worth seeing if anyone in your league is still willing to buy into the five-category potential he's not likely to replicate. If Yost loses patience and moves Gordon down in the order, be ready to quickly enter full-on sell mode.
Oliver's pick: Matt Moore
So Far: 0-5.12-1.66-11
Oliver RoS: 9-4.52-1.43-176
Oliver Yahoo value: N/A
Oliver ESPN value: N/A
One of the most hyped pitching prospects to reach the majors this side of Stephen Strasburg, Moore is having difficulty with command in his early major league career. While the sample size is small, Oliver simply isn't surprised.
If Moore had a blemish in the minors, it was command. After posting walk rates north of 10 percent in full seasons at both Low-A and Hi-A in 2009 and 2010, he seemed to correct the issue in 2011 with an above average walk rate in Double-A and nominal one in Triple-A.
Considering his video game-like minor league strikeout totals, most drafters were willing to look past the command problems of the past and pay a hefty price on Moore's gaudy potential.
Right now, Oliver's giving us all a big "I told you so." The system sees Moore striking out plenty of batters, but also walking 87 over 169 more innings this year. Strikeouts are great, but it will be nearly impossible for Moore to post positive marks in ERA and WHIP with that many walks.
Oliver has a strong reputation for handling players with limited major league experience. Considering his pure natural ability and the Rays' strong history of handling young pitchers, I'm more optimistic than Oliver that Moore can make the necessary adjustments as he goes. But those of us who weren't expecting any growing pains are probably in the midst of a very real wake-up call.
If other owners in your league are still drooling over Moore's potential, transfer the cost of these growing pains to them while you reward yourself with what should be a more valuable fantasy asset.
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 4:34am (21) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Jarrod Parker and Juan Nicasio are the top options for the day. They face the White Sox and Pirates respectively. In shallow leagues, Chris Sale and Trevor Cahill may be available. Sale faces the A's while Cahill draws the Phillies.
Carlos Gomez is creeping toward a full-time role by never striking out. He'll start today against the lefty.
Todd Helton, Marco Scutaro, and Garrett Jones benefit from a double header. If you need to dig deeper, both rosters have a few less desirable options.
Eric Thames will get the start against Jason Hammel. He homered yesterday.
Chris Heisey will probably start against Barry Zito, but I won't pretend to understand the mind of Dusty Baker. Actually, I realized yesterday that the Reds are the only team in baseball I haven't seen play at least once, which probably explains why I don't have a firm grasp on their platoons.
Rick Porcello faces the Mariners. A common theme to this series will be: Pick pitchers who are facing the Mariners.
It's a thin crowd beyond Porcello. Felix Doubront faces the White Sox. That's a pick for the ballsy.
In the battle of the Sox, Ryan Sweeney should get a start against Philip Humber. Sweeney's getting snatched up in more and more leagues thanks to a hot start.
The Blue Jays vs. Orioles game features Drew Hutchinson and TBA. That's going to be an ugly game. Really, you could just pick up any available player from either team, although I'd focus on Thames or Rajai Davis, depending on the handedness of the O's TBA. Chris Davis is also generally available.
Luke Scott faces Jerome Williams. I still think Scott should be rostered in way over 29 percent of leagues.
Dale Sveum has powers akin to the Pope. After a Carlos Marmol blown save, Sveum absolved Marmol of his sin. In all seriousness, Marmol's job is quite safe for the time being.
Javy Guerra took the loss yesterday but did not blow a save. He still has job security.
Tommy Milone had a lovely outing, earning the win along with: 8 IP, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.38 WHIP
Randy Wolf's outing is more of a "solid" vintage. He got the win while posting decent numbers: 6 IP, 4 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Thames had a 2-for-4 evening that included a solo home run, one run, and one RBI.
Sweeney was 2-for-6 with a run and an RBI.
Gerardo Parra was 2-for-5 with a run, an RBI, and a stolen base. Both hits were doubles.
Jason Kubel completed my day of great picks. He went 1-for-4 with a solo home run, one run, and one RBI.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:49am (0) Comments
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Mike Aviles suddenly studly
Another example of why batting order might be the most important thing next to talent.
After a shoulder injury knocked Jacoby Ellsbury out of the Red Sox lineup for six-plus weeks, Mike Aviles was chosen as his replacement for the leadoff role.
A low-OBP guy, Aviles is hardly your prototypical leadoff hitter. Fortunately for fantasy owners, that doesn’t matter much. Mike Aviles is now a hot commodity, morphing from fantasy afterthought to stud overnight.
Yeah, moving from ninth to first can do that to a hitter.
A healthy Aviles, receiving a full-season’s worth of at-bats out of the nine hole, would have been expected to produce a respectable 63-13-71-13-.274 line, good for about half a point below average in 12-team leagues.
Place him in the leadoff role, with all those extra plate appearances and scoring opportunities, and his value balloons by two and a half points to 1.9 points above average (91-16-69-16-.274).
Granted, Aviles won’t remain the leadoff man for the remainder of the season, but two months in the role will do wonders for his value. Shuttling between the top and the bottom of the lineup, I don’t see any reason why Aviles couldn’t finish the balance of the season as a one-point player.
He likely isn’t available via free agency in your league, but if you’re in need of help at short, don’t be shy about kicking the tires. His ownership shot up only recently, so he can probably still be had on the cheap. Get the discussion started with the offer of a low-tiered starting pitcher (think about a low No. 4- high No. 5) or similarly valued outfielder (No. 3-No. 4). If you can pry him away for a guy around 0.5 points below average, I would say you’ve won that trade handily.
Is Phil Humber worth owning?
I think so.
His value might never be higher than it is right now, but if you can place him as a No. 5 in your rotation, I think you’re doing quite well.
This isn’t a perfect-game-hangover, either. Humber had a modest breakthrough last season, striking out 6.40 per nine to go along with a 3.75 ERA and 3.86 xFIP. He pounds the zone, as evidenced by his 54.1 zone percentage, and owns a decent groundball rate (47.1 percent in 2011).
This year, I think he improves on those K numbers to about 7.5 per nine, though he’ll have to take a step back in the ERA and WHIP department. That Chicago defense was flat-out bad last year (.686 defensive efficiency) and that will weigh down his BABIP like an anchor. The home ballpark will also hurt, driving up his HR/FB.
Overall, I see a No. 5 fantasy starting pitcher, finishing with a 4.10 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 7.5 K/9. Sure, it ain’t sexy, but that’s a serviceable hurler who will accrue stats without hurting you anywhere. That line should be good for about 0.8 points below average, and believe me, you can do much worse than that.
David Wright looking like a totally different hitter... again
I've owned David Wright on at least one team for about three years now. I can’t say that, in any of those seasons, I’ve ever really known what is going on with him.
I won’t recount his history—that would just be a waste of time. If you’re reading this, you’re well aware of his ups and downs, his injuries, and his general inconsistency.
This year is no different. He’s up, he’s down, he’s got a broken finger, he’s hitting home runs, he’s striking out twice a game, he’s not striking out for three games in a row… blah, blah, blah. Just more of the same nonsense.
But that doesn't mean he can’t be better, though.
While it's too early to say anything definitive about his power (up?), speed (down?), or batting average (does anyone know?), there are a few interesting trends in his plate discipline that suggest he may be moving in the right direction.
So far this season, his plate discipline seems vastly improve. He’s swinging at far better pitches, offering less out of the zone (17.4 O-Swing percentage, 25.6 percent career) and getting more aggressive in the zone (72.8 Z-Swing percentage, 63.8 percent career). This trend is a good one, as swinging at more strikes and fewer balls is obviously a good idea, and should lead to lower strikeout percentages (and possibly, a higher BABIP and HR/FB rate).
In true David Wright style, it hasn’t been all good news, however. Though his O-Contact rate has increased (ostensibly due to swinging at better O-Zone pitches), his Z-Contact rate is down significantly (83.1 percent, 86.7 percent career). Z-Contact is the main driver in strikeout percentage, so this is a somewhat troubling trend and bears watching.
Though his profile has changed significantly, the results don't seem to be all that different. Any gains from these plate discipline improvements should be immediately reflected in Wright's strikeout rate. However, his regressed K-rate comes in at 20.96 percent—just about the same as last season’s mark of 21.7 percent. The lack of improvement here is mainly due to the poor Z-Contact rate.
However, if you expect his Z-Contact rate to make a partial recovery to the 86 percent range, his K-rate drops to 18.5 percent and he gains another home run and about 30 points of batting average from the extra batted balls.
So, there is hope.
If you’re a Wright owner (or prospective owner), that Z-Contact rate is the number to watch. If it recovers and the other gains hold constant, Wright could reach the .300 benchmark for the first time since 2009. It will require a .330 BABIP, but that isn't an unreasonable expectation (career .341 BABIP)—though the pinky injury does complicate things.
If you believe he can stay healthy (which is another question all in itself) and build on these plate discipline gains, Wright could once again return to the ranks of the elite. I can’t image he’ll ever be a top-five player again, but top-15 is within reach.
With his new approach, a healthy Wright can turn in a 99-27.5-100-15-.300 line. That line is good for 5.9 points above average, which is comparable to an early-to-mid second rounder in 12-team leagues. Before you get too excited, however, remember this is still David Wright we’re talking about. Don’t get too bullish, but know there is room for optimism.
Posted by Mike Silver at 1:22am (1) Comments
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
Rick Porcello is your pitching pick of the day. He faces the Mariners. If you're desperate for pitching and need to reach deep, you can try Felix Doubront against the White Sox.
Speaking of Sox, Ryan Sweeney has been swinging a hot stick and will face righty perfectionist Philip Humber.
Rajai Davis will get the start against Brian Matusz while Chris Davis and Endy Chavez will face Drew Hutchinson.
Last but not least, Luke Scott has a match-up made in heaven: Jerome Williams. Anything less than a home run would be a disappointment.
Interesting crowd for tomorrow. Paul Maholm has been terrible, but so has the Phillies offense, making him worth a gamble in some formats. Same story with Mike Leake. He's had a rough season to date but he faces the Astros. Personally, I won't be taking the risk on either guy.
Jake Arrieta is 17 percent owned and will pitch against the Athletics tomorrow. That's definitely a match-up I'm buying on.
People foolishly dumped Danny Duffy after his last rough outing against a strong Tigers offense. Now he's only 15 percent owned and set to face the scuffling Twins. Buy him.
Marco Estrada draws a thin Cardinals lineup. He's volatile but can rack up strikeouts.
John Danks is scheduled to pitch against the Red Sox, which should mean that Marlon Byrd will start.
Eric Thames will face Blake Beaven.
John Mayberry Jr. should get the start against Maholm.
Hector Santiago blew his second save of the season and is officially on shaky ground. Everyone outside of the organization thought Addison Reed was the obvious closer and he's been close to perfect this season. Santiago came out of nowhere this spring but now sports an ERA over 8.00. He needs to settle down immediately to retain his job. Matt Thornton could also enter the mix.
Grant Balfour also blew the save in the same game. His job remains secure for the time being.
Javy Guerra blew his second save of the season and recorded his second loss in as many days. I was saying he was pretty safe just yesterday, but back to back imolations kind of changes that dynamic. Especially when someone as talented as Kenley Jansen is sitting two feet away.
Strong outing from Juan Nicasio, but he recorded a no decision: 6.2 IP, 5 K, 1.35 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Jarrod Parker had a similar performance: 6.1 IP, 5 K, 1.42 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Chris Sale got the no-decision with a strong performance: 8 IP, 5 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP
Trevor Cahill was rougher around the edges. The Phillies got to him a bit: 5.1 IP, 3 K, 6.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
It was a quiet double header yesterday as both lineups conserved their strength. Todd Helton was 1-for-4 with a double on the day. Marco Scutaro continued his slow start, going 2-for-8. Garrett Jones had a noisy day, though: 3-for-4 with a home run, one run, and two RBI.
Thames was 2-for-4.
Chris Heisey did not play. I warned you that I didn't have a firm grasp of the situation in Cincy.
I'm going to start arbitrarily marking my daily performances as wins, losses, or draws. I'm calling this one a win. Feel free to disagree below. Tomorrow, I'll have a count of my current record.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:43am (7) Comments
Friday, April 27, 2012
Jon Rauch | Mets | RP | 9 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.8 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 0.00 ERA / 0.50 WHIP / 3.6 K/9
Oliver Rest of season projection: 3.27 ERA / 1.25 WHIP / 6.5 K/9
First things first: Someone want to take a stab at why Rauch is owned in only 1.8 percent of ESPN leagues? Are more single-format leagues hosted on Yahoo? Did more serious owners flock to the Yahoo platform this season? Confuses the hell out of me.
That said; if Jon Rauch is on your waiver wire and saves come at a premium in your league, pick him up immediately. I am one of Frank Francisco’s biggest fans—he went for next to nothing in drafts this year, pitches in an extremely pitcher-friendly home park, and consistently puts up gaudy strikeout numbers. The concern has always been rooted in his injury history, and the concern is no less this year.
Rauch is far less talented (his career xFIP, for example, is more than half a run higher than Francisco’s) but has more career saves and is the obvious next in line if (when) Francisco gets injured. That, or Terry Collins will act irrationally, look past Francisco’s 2.36 FIP (and at his 7.36 ERA), and will replace him outright as the closer. Rauch will end the season with more than 10 saves—book it.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in all leagues.
Juan Nicasio | Rockies | SP | 7 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.4 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 4.76 ERA / 1.46 WHIP / 6.7 K/9
Oliver ROS: 4.79 ERA / 1.41 WHIP / 6.5 K/9
I pimped Nicasio after an impressive spring, and so far he’s done nothing to make me look like the prophet I feel I am. But fear not: brighter days are on the horizon for the young fireballer. Not only is his home run rate too high (even for Coors Field), but he’s been unlucky in terms of opponents making contact (read: they’ve made far too much contact).
His high batting average on balls in play is related to the 90.1 percent contact rate against, where the league average last year was 80.7 percent. Additionally, opposing hitters are making contact in the zone (Z-Contact percentage) a whopping 93.2 percent of the time, where the league average is 87.9 percent. Finally, few are swinging and missing when facing Nicasio, as his swinging strike percentage is a mere 4.4 percent (the league average is a tick below double that). His profile will regress to the mean and he’ll get more people out—few (if any) on waivers have as much raw talent as this youngster.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in all leagues.
Chris Schwinden | Mets | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.0 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: (in Triple-A) 2.05 ERA / 1.05 WHIP / 5.3 K/9
Oliver ROS: 5.00 ERA / 1.47 WHIP / 6.0 K/9
Schwinden will assume Mike Pelfrey’s spot in the rotation with news of Pelfrey’s elbow injury. In four starts with the Mets last year, he exhibited fair control (with a 2.83 strikeout to walk ratio) but an inability to strand runners. He complements a sub-90 mph fastball with a cutter, curveball and change-up, with the last pitch clocking in with the best pitch value. A flyball pitcher, he should benefit greatly from the confines of Citi, which, despite being moved in, have still suppressed any offense; (http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor" title="it is the third most pitcher-friendly stadium in 2012">it is the third most pitcher-friendly stadium in 2012, behind AT&T Park and PETCO).
The projection systems (save Oliver) like Schwinden, who was pegged for a 3.93 ERA by Marcel, a 4.29 mark by Bill James, and a 4.23 mark by Steamer, with varyingly respectable WHIPs (between 1.30 and 1.43). Don’t buy him for ratio stats, but rather as a match-up and splits play. There’s value in that, though.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in deep NL-only rosters.
Tony Campana | Cubs | OF | 3 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.2 percent ESPN ownership
Oliver ROS: .267/.305/.324
The Marlon Byrd trade left the Chicago center field job for Reed Johnson to share with Campana, a short speedster who made waves last year with excellent fielding metrics and cheetah-like speed. He stole 24 bases in a mere 155 at-bats, and while Brett Jackson is among the youngsters waiting at Triple-A (Anthony Rizzo’s imminent promotion and Bryan LaHair’s movement to the outfield is another scenario worth watching), Campana already has four steals in 16 at-bats with a high batting average.
He’ll be worth several weeks of Dee Gordon-like production at the very least, which amounts to game-changing potential considering the category at hand here. Buy now, worry later.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding on all NL-only rosters that need speed.
Speculative saves of the week
Clay Hensley | Giants | RP | 3 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.5 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 0.00 ERA / 1.11 WHIP / 11.4 K/9
Oliver ROS: 3.91 ERA / 1.31 WHIP / 6.5 K/9
A converted starter, Hensley is among those on the saves carousel in San Francisco, it seems. As a reliever, he’s found success as recently as 2010, where his 1.5 wins above replacement had him among the top 20 relievers in baseball. Key to his success is his excellent groundball rate, which hovers above the 50 percent mark for his career. So long as he can limit his walks to a respectable level (his 2010 strike to walk ratio was 2.66), he’ll vulture a couple of saves where Santiago Casilla (the clear-cut closer in my estimation) and Javier Lopez (the lefty specialist) cannot.
Recommendation: Worthy of adding in leagues with innings caps or holds, or all deeper NL-only formats.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:19am (6) Comments
Vernon Wells| Los Angeles Angels| OF| ESPN: 27 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 38 percent ownership
Oliver rest of season p[rojection: .249/.293/.435
Amidst the jokes and ridiculing of Wells' albatross of a contract, it is easy to lose sight of the fact he hit 25 home runs in 2011, and that fantasy owners aren't footing the bill. He had basically no value beyond the power, hitting .218, but a bump to his average this season could make him a solid fourth or fifth outfielder in large mixed leagues. The power has returned this year, as he has four home runs in 68 plate appearances, and—wouldn't you look at that—his average is up to .243. He won't win a batting title with that average, but it is palatable, and his high line drive rate suggests there is some upside for average.
Many anxious Mike Trout owners are waiting for him to patrol the outfield for the Angels instead of the Salt Lake Bees. That time will come some time in 2012, but it isn't a slam dunk it will come at Wells' expense. Peter Bourjos is off to a wretched start, and while he's a far superior defender to Wells, he is also a young player with options remaining. Bourjos was also a popular name in trade rumors last July, leaving open another possible path to playing time for Trout should he be dealt.
In short, don't assume Wells is a place-holder who will see his playing time reduced to nil in the near future. Owners in need of a little thump in their outfield could do worse than turning to Wells.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Matt LaPorta| Cleveland Indians| 1B| ESPN: 0 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 0 percent ownership
YTD: .364/.427/.667 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: .253/.320/.419
LaPorta's hot start, which translates to an MLE of .317/.376/.554, coincides with an ice-cold start at first base for free agent acquisition Casey Kotchman. Kotchman has an ugly .140/.234/.263 slash in 65 plate appearances this season. He has had some bad luck with a .128 BABIP, but for a player who relies on a stellar glove and high batting average to offset his lack of typical first base pop, his current line is well below acceptable. He is currently mired in an 0-20 slump, and has been benched in two of the last four games in favor of Jose Lopez. It may not be much longer before the team decides to take another extended look at LaPorta.
LaPorta has proven he can hit Triple-A pitching, but the onus is now on him to prove he's more than a Quad-A masher. There are 1,008 reasons to question whether he can hit major league pitching. In that number of plate appearances, he has a career line of .238/.304/.397.
Now 27, LaPorta isn't likely to get many more chances. He was considered a polished college hitter with thump when he was drafted, and he remains a hitter with raw power that he has failed to translate fully to the majors. If this trip to Columbus was the one that turned the light switch on, LaPorta can be an asset to fantasy owners in home runs. He makes enough contact to think that he won't be a total drag in batting average if he has truly figured it out. I remain skeptical, but he could be the next late bloomer story, and is worth keeping tabs on in highly competitive large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Recommendation: Should be added to watch lists, but not necessary to stash.
Brad Eldred| Detroit Tigers| UTIL| Not available in ESPN or Yahoo! player pool
Oliver ROS: .364/.416/.969
If LaPorta would be a late bloomer breaking through the ceiling of Quad-A hitter at age 27, what would that make Eldred, who is 31 and a veteran of 3,840 minor league plate appearances? I'm not sure what that would make him, but if it results in fantasy production, who cares?
Eldred is a large man, and will be restricted to designated hitter duties for the Tigers. It should come as no surprise his calling card is power. He has 240 round trippers in his minor league career, which prorates to 37.5 home runs per 600 plate appearances. He has seen time in the majors in three seasons—27 plate appearances in 2010, 47 in 2007, and 208 all the way back in 2005. That's not much of an opportunity to prove to prove his bat could stick.
In that limited time he was able to show off plus thump, hitting 15 home runs with a .215 ISO in 282 plate appearances. Unfortunately for him, his plus power came with a penchant for striking out (36.5 percent strikeout rate), and not enough patience (5.7 percent walk rate).
He's getting another look in no small part because the Tigers have struggled to get production from their designated hitters. That said, he's also earned a call-up thanks to crushing International League pitching. He has drilled 12 home runs, and has a .610 ISO in 86 plate appearances, and his slash translates to an MLE of .364/.416/.969. Suffice to say, he's a hot bat, and he's locked in.
The Tigers may simply be hoping to cash in on that while it lasts, but that's no reason to completely dismiss him in fantasy games. He's not going to sustain his current level of play, and there's a good chance that he'll fall flat on his face. However, owners in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats who are hurting in home runs should take a gamble on Eldred. It remains to be seen where he'll slot in the lineup, but somewhere in the five-to-seven range is a safe guess. That would plant him behind OBP machines Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, which will lead to opportunities to drive in runs.
Because he's not available in either ESPN or Yahoo! league player pools, he'll likely be only utility eligible when he is added. That hurts his flexibility, but if his power plays well enough to offset his strikeout rate and keep him in The Show, he'll be worth tying up a utility spot for.
Recommendation: Should be added by power starved owners in extremely large mixed leagues and AL-only formats after he clears waivers, or for a late waiver priority/$1-3 FAAB bid.
Luke Hochevar| Kansas City Royals| SP| ESPN: 1.9 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 9 percent ownership
YTD: 4.98 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.32 BB/9, 6.65 K/9, 42.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.39 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 6.1 K/9
This is my way of reminding you that Hochevar is under-owned. I've spouted off plenty about the skills gain he showed after the All-Star break last year, but an ugly line in his second start of the season has probably led to questions about whether they were real.
That question is reasonable given Hochevar's lackluster results in the past, but I'm inclined to continue to believe in his breakout that began last year. The ugly start isn't as bad as it appeared, something I addressed in depth in the comment section of the year's first AL Waiver Wire column. His other three starts have been much better and resulted in two wins, a 2.55 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 17.2 innings pitched.
It would be foolish to stick one's head in the sand and pretend his bad start didn't happen, but it would be equally foolish to dismiss his post-All-Star break results of 2011 and three solid turns in 2012 as a fluke. Get back on the Hochevar bandwagon; I assure you, my driving isn't that bad.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but shallow mixed leagues.
Jeff Niemann| Tampa Bay Rays| SP| ESPN: 4.5 percent ownership, Yahoo!: 10 percent ownership
YTD: 4.11 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 2.93 BB/9, 9.39 K/9, 51.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.7 K/9
Niemann is the "other guy," in a talented Rays rotation that gets plenty of fantasy love. He doesn't have fantasy ace potential, but he quietly gets by as a low-four ERA guy who fills up the strike zone (which helps his WHIP), induces ground balls at a solid rate, and strikes out batters at a hair below league average rate. When he is on, he does all three things a pitcher has the most control over: throwing strikes, missing bats, and determining batted ball type, even better. He's following up a season, 2011, in which he posted his best xFIP in promising fashion.
He's using a five-pitch mix to miss bats at a high rate thus far. He's throwing a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, curveball, and change-up according to his Brooks Baseball player card. Four of his five pitches are getting batters to miss at a significantly higher rate than that of his pitching contemporaries. The only one that isn't doing so is his curveball, which has been effective by getting looking strikes at a high rate, and coaxing ground balls often when the ball is put in play.
If he continues to rack up strikeouts at a higher rate than his career mark, limit his free passes, and keep the ball on the ground, he's got a shot to post an ERA in the mid-to-high-3s. He has produced a better than league average WHIP each of the last three seasons, and is backed by an offense that ranks eighth in runs scored thus far, something that bodes well for his chance at earning wins. All-in-all, there is a lot to like about Niemann, and he is grossly underrated, and under-owned.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats, and some shallower formats for favorable matchups.
Matt Thornton| White Sox| RP| ESPN: 16.9 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 40 percent ownership
YTD: 0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 0.00 BB/9, 7.45 K/9, 55.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.10 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 9.6 K/9
My favorite to lead the White Sox in saves at season's end remains Addison Reed, whom I wrote about during the first week of the season. Reed should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues for his ability to help in ERA, WHIP and strikeout in the short term, and saves in the long term.
However, should the club remove Hector Santiago from the closer role, something Robin Ventura doesn't appear ready to do just yet, Thornton will probably get the first crack.
Thornton put a brutal April behind him last year to finish with a stat line that falls in line with the bulk of his White Sox career. He remains a power southpaw who has success by following a simple formula of throwing tons of mid-to-high-90s fastballs. He has yet to walk a batter this season, but has hit one. He's getting ground balls at a high rate.
Considering it is Santiago's whiplash-causing home runs that have created this potentially fluid closing situation in the first place, keeping balls in the yard by keeping them on the ground is a desirable trait for Thornton to possess. Owners in need of saves, or even owners looking to dump a non-rosterable player for an asset, should add Thornton in the hopes of one more Santiago implosion opening the door to Thornton closing ballgames.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats, and most shallow formats.