December 11, 2013
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Now that we are in the peak of fantasy baseball draft season, the Court hears about all sorts of issues and dilemmas that arise during leagues' drafts. The draft is the cornerstone of every fantasy league; league members spend extraordinary amounts of time and resources preparing to select their teams. An issue or conflict surrounding a draft must be handled expeditiously, correctly and consistently.
Recently, the Court resolved a case captioned Storm Troopers vs. One for Altuve which dealt with a fairly common draft-day problem in this era when practically all aspects of fantasy sports rely on technology, including draft room software and Internet connections.
The Keystone Fantasy Baseball League's online draft took place on March 20. During round six, the team known as One for Altuve allowed the 60-second timer to expire without making a draft pick. As a result, he was awarded Johnny Cueto, who was the next highest ranked player at the time. Immediately, One for Altuve wrote a message in the chat box of the draft room indicating that the draft room had frozen on him, preventing him from being able to make a selection. He asked the commissioner to back the draft up, undo the previous selection, and award him Paul Goldschmidt who was his desired selection.
Because no other draft picks had been made, the commissioner granted the request.
At that point, the team known as the Storm Troopers asked the commissioner to pause the draft for a discussion about what had just occurred. The Storm Troopers had the next pick and said they were going to select Goldschmidt. The commissioner indicated that his decision stood because One for Altuve raised the issue before anyone else made a selection.
While I understand the Storm Troopers' complaint, the decision was fairly simple in this case. One for Altuve did his due diligence to alert the commissioner of the problem immediately. Because no subsequent draft picks were made, no one else was prejudiced. The Storm Troopers said they were harmed because they were going to select Goldschmidt with the next pick. While that may be true, it can never be proven nor does it matter, because they hadn't submitted a pick before the commissioner paused the draft.
The commissioner made the correct decision because sometimes technological issues happen and are out of people's control. Commissioners have discretion to handle situations like this. Clearly he could have gone the opposite way as well. That would not have necessarily been the wrong decision, but the choice he did make was the best decision. This decision set a precedent for the way the Keystone Fantasy Baseball League will handle situations such as this. It should also alert fantasy players to be cognizant technological issues and be as proactive as possible in alerting your commissioner.
Typically the Court will uphold a commissioner's decision, assuming it was made impartially and in the best interests of the league overall. There is no discernible advantage or benefit gained by the commissioner in making this decision, so the Court can conclude this was done impartially. It also demonstrated an ability to fix a problem without harming anyone.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:03am (0) Comments
With a week left until the season starts, I thought it would be fun to engage the readers in lively, constructive fantasy debate. This series of articles will focus on low-risk, medium-reward $1 sleepers who could be a boon for stars-and-scrubs minded drafters and diamonds in the rough for active waiver-wire fishers. The goal of each article is to present a short, objective analysis of two players comparable in expected value. I hope this provides a chance for readers to debate in the comments below. I look forward to reading everyone's thoughts!
Domonic Brown vs. Aaron Hicks
Both players are having big springs, but neither is getting much attention outside of single-league format leagues. Hicks is not even in the top 1,000 players ranked on Yahoo (I suspect that will change in the coming days, with Hicks having locked down a full-time position with the Twins to open the season), and Brown is ranked just outside the top 250 by Yahoo. Despite the low rankings, both are arguably relevant in non-shallow mixed formats (12+ teams, four or more outfielders). The players, however, are vastly different.
Hicks is the younger player, and a top three organizational prospect in a system that boasts two promising top-100 overall prospects ranked ahead of him (third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Byon Buxton).
Now entering his age-23 season, Hicks started his minor league career young and was slow to develop. He played well in Double-A last season at age 22, batting .285/.382/.459 with 13 home runs and 32 steals. However, Double-A is the highest level of professional experience on Hicks' resume, and he's making the leap to the majors to open the season. That jump is pretty substantial for a non-pitcher prospect who is near-universally ranked outside the top 50 entering the 2013 season.
Hicks' biggest strengths are his patience at the plate (career 14.8 percent minor league walk rate), speed and defense. He also has good gap power and should be able to post a double-digits home run season over a full season of at-bats—an increasingly rare attribute of players with 30+ stolen base upside. His minuses are a relatively high strikeout rate for his power level (career 20.1 percent in the minors), and below average, but improving, contact skills. Hicks could be an underrated major league staple with a prime time ceiling akin to Shane Victorino. But is he ready for The Show now, and might a level jump hurt his development?
Brown is no stranger to the prospect tag himself. Once ranked among baseball's brightest up-and-coming hitters, Brown has stumbled his way into post-hype obscurity over the past three years. Once a perceived 20-20 threat I compared, in terms of potential long-term fantasy value, to Shin-Soo Choo, Brown owns a career .236/.315/.388 triple slash line with 12 home runs and three net steals over 492 major league plate appearances. That makes him look more like a Ben Francisco wannabe.
Now he's 25 years old, and the Phillies' expectations of Brown have mellowed. However, a monstrous spring training seemingly has pushed the Phillies to hand Brown an everyday gig in the outfield. What is different this year, and should we buy into numbers that are traditionally to be taken with a grain of salt?
If Brown's post-hype spring numbers are legit, he should be a threat to post a slightly below-average batting average with 15- to 20-home run power and double-digit steal upside. He'll likely bat in the upper part of the bottom of the Phillies lineup, which should make for good RBI opportunities but minimal runs scored. That makes Brown a potential three-category player.
However, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the quality of pitching that Brown has faced overall this spring ranks somewhere below Quadruple-A. Once he is consistently matched up against major league talent, which Brown will we ultimately see at the plate?
Time for you to chime in. Who would you rather have this season in re-draft leagues: Domonic Brown or Aaron Hicks? Check out the stats below and post your comments!
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 4:25am (6) Comments
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Here's the second in a series of articles focusing on low-risk, medium-reward $1 sleepers who could be a boon for stars-and-scrubs minded drafters and diamonds in the rough for active waiver-wire fishers. The goal of each article is to present a short, objective analysis of two or more players comparable in expected value. I hope this provides a chance for readers to debate in the comments below. I look forward to reading everyone's thoughts!
This daily dollar debate began as two separate first baseman questions. The first was to be between prospective full-time players Justin Smoak and either Brandon Belt or Kendrys Morales. The second was to be a question of prospective part-time hitters who are on the strong-side (lefties) of a prospective platoon. But the more I thought about the first question, the less I thought that Belt and Morales were fair comps to Smoak. Both are ranked within the top 200 overall per Yahoo's rankings, and neither is really unknown. At least one of them is likely to go $2 (if not a buck or two more) if you were to throw them out late in a draft. That said, i think Smoak's value is a lot closer to Morales than some think, while I am not fully buying Belt as more than a .260-.270 kind of guy with a 20-25 home runs.
That tidbit aside, let's dive into the analysis.
First up is Justin Smoak. My colleague Nick Fleder did a nice write-up on him about two weeks ago. Long story short, Smoak, the guy the Rangers traded to the Mariners to acquire Cliff Lee, has had a pretty disappointing start to his career.
He's hit for average/slightly above average power in a power-suppressing park while maintaining a strong walk rate (career 10.6 percent). His career strikeout rate is survivable, but still undesirably high at 21.6 percent. Smoak's biggest problems outside of the strikeouts have been that he gets under the ball way to often—12.8 percent of his career flyballs in play have been popups, compared to a 9-10 percent major league average—and the fact that he hits almost as many ground balls and flyballs with one of the major league's lowest speed scores to boot.
Smoak's speed score last year in the majors was lower than Prince Fielder's. Clocking in at 1.6 on a scale that ranges from 1-10, with mot players clumping between 4 and 6, Smoak's "speed" is downright Jim Thome-ian. Heck, even Jim Thome owns a career 2.4 speed score.
Because of his disappointing major league numbers, the Mariners temporarily demoted Smoak to Triple-A. He did not do much after being demoted (.242/.390/.364 in 20 Triple-A games), but that demotion seemed to light a spare in him. After being called back up, Smoak cut his popup rate down to a respectable 7.7 percent and hit five home runs in the process. His overall triple-slash line was Carlos Pena-ian (.217/.290/.364), but he still managed to float 19 home runs in one of the major league's hardest home run parks.
Entering his age 26 season, the Mariners are moving in the fences between fourand 17 feet throughout the outfield. Smoak has some cheap and underrated power upside to offer fantasy owners.
Katron's Gameday BIP Location tool data show that the shorter fences would have resulted in an additional two or three home runs at home for Smoak last year. I strongly believe that 25 home runs is in the cards for Smoak this year. He's wrapping up a hot spring batting .431/.474/.824 with four home runs over 16 games against pitching quality that falls somewhere between Quad-A and the major league level. Worrisome, however, are the 13 strikeouts in 57 plate appearances (22.8 percent). If Smoak can cut down on the strikeouts, he could end up being this season's Chris Davis.
Brandon Moss' situation presents a curious story. He is being platooned with Daric Barton despite posting a .337 wOBA (115 wRC+) against same-handed pitching last season (.419 wOBA, 172 wRC+ versus righties in 2012). Of course, there is an obvious sample size red flag considering that Moss had only nearly a quarter as many plate appearances (62) against same-handed pitching as he did opposite-handed pitching.
Then again, for his career, Moss owns a .331/.318 wOBA (103/94 wRC+) split against righties (843) and lefties (202 career PA). That is not to say that Moss is for sure a split-less hitter, or that he definitely broke out last year. At age 30, having struck out one quarter of his 1,000+ major league plate appearances, there are plenty of reasons to be bearish on Moss.
However, if you believe that last season was not a fluke, there's no reason to think he cannot be a poor man's Adam Dunn this year. Over 120 games, over which he could run away with a more full-time job, Moss should be able to muster 25-30 bombs for the Athletics. He almost certainly will not hit .290 (or anything close to it) this season, but .250 is in the cards with 150 runs plus RBIs. Ranked outside the top 500 in Yahoo, he won't cost you much.
Last, but hardly least, we have Garrett Jones. He'll turn 32 this season, and is what he is—a 20+ home run hitter who can post a liveable, but below-average batting average with marginal speed and the potential for 80-100 RBI. He also has average on-base skills, which, in tandem with the power, offers a respectable OPS for those who play in those kind of leagues. The Pirates intend to platoon Jones with Gaby Sanchez this season, which may curtail Jones' counting stats some, but increase/maximize his rate stats in the process.
Jones is a career .198/.237.353 (.257 wOBA) hitter against lefties and a career .279/.348/.504 (.365 wOBA) hitter against righties. Over 80 percent of his career home runs have come off opposite-handed pitching. Even in a reduced platoon role, Jones should see action in 110 to 120 games. That should still put him in the higher end of the 15-20 home run range based on his past three years of production.
Paired with a make-your-own platoon mate like Matt Joyce and a joyful desire to micromanage all season, a fantasy owners could Frankenstein their way into collective production to the tune of a .275+ batting average, 22-30 home runs, 80+ runs and RBIs and maybe even a few steals. Jones is clearly the least exciting of these three options, but he also offers the most consistency.
Time for you to chime in. Who would you rather have this season? Justin Smoak, Brandon Moss or Garrett Jones (plus a platoon mate)? Post your thoughts and arguments in the comments below!
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 3:01am (1) Comments
Don’t pay for saves. That’s a refrain we’ve heard over and over. Once a preferred strategy of savvy owners, this mantra has penetrated the mainstream and even many novice participants in fantasy leagues now employ this directive. But, I’m beginning to think that some folks are starting to take this statement a bit too literally… or not literally enough, depending on how you look at it.
In a typical 5X5 league, saves are worth 10 Percent of the overall points available to each team, so the category certainly can’t be ignored. It’s also among the categories easiest to ensure high team performance if an owner prioritizes it. Instead of embracing the extreme philosophy of not paying for saves, perhaps it is better to look at some principles that will help you spend wisely.
Don’t pay for saves—pay for skills
When I think about not paying for saves, I think about the “don’t” in two ways. First, don’t consider saves as the inherent value of the player. Instead, pay for is the cross-category production a player will give you while occupying a closer role. The substantial value of elite closers is not rooted in their save total, but in their extremely valuable production on a per-inning basis.
Elite closers do wonders for a team’s ERA and WHIP while racking up Ks with outstanding efficiency. That is what is worth paying for. Because of the role the player occupies, he will accumulate needed saves in the process. In this respect, the idea of not paying for saves is less an absolute and guidance akin to “don’t chase wins” for starting pitchers.
The inverse way to interpret the idea of not paying for saves is equally valid. Don’t ascribe disproportionate value to a player simply because he can earn saves. I’ve written in the past about how it is a bad sign for a fantasy team if it must rely on too many “specialists”—players who contribute significantly in one category, but are a liability in several others. So, perhaps it is more accurate to say, don’t pay for only saves.
Don’t be fooled by past randomness
Several years ago, Derek Carty did some work to try to determine whether it was possible to predict which players would get the most save opportunities and the most saves. His conclusion backs what many savvy fantasy players have felt intuitively: Saves are not particularly predictable. Therefore, something else NOT to pay for is the perception that any specific player will have a significant advantage over his peers because his team will generate a uniquely high number of save opportunities. This is another nuance of the don’t pay for saves mantra: Base your investments on what is predictable.
What we do know is that saves are generated by pitchers with opportunity to fill the closer role and the skills to convert the opportunities received. This leads us to want to pay for pitchers with a firm hold on a job (either by skills advantage over the team’s other options, or by virtue of a large contract) and the underlying skills to be a highly effective pitcher. Don’t overthink this.
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Using what we know from the two points above, the best way to derive value from our closer spend is to use the tier system and let the value fall into your lap.
When it comes to closers there’s usually a small group of elite options, a handful of corrosive situations and liabilities, and then a large chunk of B and C students that fall in the middle. Often, these players are very similar and it pays to look at them interchangeably for purposes of team building.
Acquire the cheapest players within the tiers of your target and basically just hope that random variation goes your way. If you get health and stability, you should compete in the category without much collateral damage. And, if you get some good luck on the opportunity and performance variation sides, you’ll be set up for a great run.
Of course, all the other general rules on player selection apply as well. If you have what you feel is a valid reason to bump up or demote a specific player, do so. But, generally speaking, while it’s always good to have an opinion, closers represent an area where it can be good to let the market drive your decision more than it should when filling other positions.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 3:27am (8) Comments
Thursday, March 28, 2013
The Hardball Times has had some tremendous articles on platoons over the last few weeks. Bojan Koprivica wrote a three-part series that you can read here, here, and here, and Brad Johnson outlined some predictable real-baseball platoons that you can replicate in fantasy here. Teams like the Rays and the Athletics make it easy. Half of their lineups consist of platooned players, and so if you are looking for that advantage in leagues with daily lineups and sufficient bench spots, you can just mirror their starting lineups in your own. However, just because many other teams do not employ platoons does not mean that you cannot create fantasy platoons of their players.
Last season, right-handed pitchers started 68 percent of all games. As an example, let’s say that I have two batters from two different teams that I wish to platoon against right-handed pitchers. To make the estimate easy, let’s assume that each hitter plays on the same days as the other but in different games, Game A and Game B. If we assume that the handedness of pitchers in each game on a given day are independent events, then the probability that either or both hitters will face a right-handed starter equals one minus the probability that neither hitter faces a right-handed starter:
P(A(RHP) or B(RHP)) = 1 – P(A(LHP) and B(LHP) = 1 – (0.32 * 0.32) = 0.90
With two batters, I have a 90 percent chance of having at least one of the two enjoying a favorable matchup against a right-handed pitcher. If my bench is really deep, I could even add a third platoon option that plays in Game C:
P(A(RHP) or B(RHP) or C(RHP) = 1 – P(A(LHP) and B(LHP) and C(LHP)) = 1 – (0.32 * 0.32 * 0.32) = 0.98
With three batters, I have a 98 percent chance of having at least one hitter facing a right-handed starter.
The reason such a platoon can be so effective in fantasy is that owners frequently overspend relative to expected production on hitters versus pitchers. There are several reasons that makes some sense. First, pitchers are more likely to suffer an injury. Second, pitchers are easy to stream to take advantage of match-ups against poor offensive opponents and pitcher’s parks. Still, if everyone in your league shares that mentality, elite hitters will have severe inflation, and you will need to play backward, so to speak, to capitalize.
This exact scenario played out for me before the 2012 season in the inaugural draft of my Ottoneu linear weights league. For those who are unfamiliar with the format, linear weights attempt to assign points for events that match their value in terms of run expectancy in real baseball. But, really, the specifics of the scoring don’t matter. All you need to platoon hitters is a league with daily lineups.
In last year’s draft, elite hitters were selling for 10 percent and more above my price sheet. Some owners believe that you should allow each auction to set tier prices and then look for relative bargains in the tiers based on your own preferences. I do not. To me, my price sheet represents the fair value of every player I deem is above the replacement level based on the league format. Every dollar spent over my prices or spent on a player not on my sheet represents a dollar of discount I can capture in another player. For that reason, I am particularly susceptible to a pitcher-heavy team because I always let the preferences of other owners dictate my budget allocation.
In this case, I ended up with a staff of Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, and David Price and a bullpen of Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Kenley Jansen, Glen Perkins, Chris Perez, and Jim Johnson for basically half of my $400 budget. I kept all of those pitchers except for Johnson, who I traded in-season. However, I lost my one impact outfielder, Adam Jones, to arbitration—Ottoneu allows owners to vote off a player from each team, and he was best value selection in 2012. I was left with a handful of inexpensive outfield keepers in Shane Victorino, Garrett Jones, and Tyler Colvin, a skeleton crew of players with clear splits. With most of my money tied up in keepers at other positions and with plenty of bench slots, an outfield platoon was clearly my best bet.
For a platoon to be worthwhile, it needs to replicate the production of starter-caliber players, trading bench spots for the cost savings. However, those costs savings only exist if a player’s platoon value is hidden. Sure, you can platoon a couple of players with small splits, but those players tend to be more expensive since they can be used every day. The value picks tend to either platoon in real life or to have more dramatic splits that depress their overall numbers.
I wanted to find some outfield candidates to target, and so I calculated the points per plate appearance for batters versus both left and right-handed pitchers from 2010-2012. All of the at-bat events were simple to handle, and I distributed stolen bases and caught stealings based on the ratio of plate appearances against each pitcher hand. I also included a minimum of 200 plate appearances versus right-handed pitchers over that time frame.
I cannot simply sort by points per plate appearance versus right-handed pitchers and pick out the best ones because, even though I plan to use these platoon players only in games started by right-handed pitchers, they will still face some number of left-handed relievers in those games. Therefore, I first calculated how often left-handed and switch-hitters faced left and right-handed pitchers in games started by a right-hander in 2012.
Fortunately, the ratios were fairly consistent for all players. On average, a left-handed hitter faces a right-handed pitcher in 88.7 percent of his plate appearances and a switch-hitter does the same in 90.5 percent of his plate appearances in a game started by a right-handed pitcher.
Using those two averages, I calculated the combined points per plate appearances for left-handed and switch-hitters in games started by a right-handed pitcher based on their production facing each handed pitcher from 2010-2012. I also included a column of the discrepancy between points per plate appearances versus right-handed and left-handed pitchers. Here are some interesting names, bookended by the overall points per game of select players.
Tier 1 Points Per Plate Appearance, 2010-2012:
As you can tell based on the bookends of Mike Trout and Buster Posey, these guys are the elite platoon options. As such, all of them play every day in real baseball and will fetch the price of their non-platoon peers in an auction. That said, both Morneau and Moss are fairly cheap in most leagues—though keep in mind Moss has the smallest sample—and Choo and Ethier may be cheap enough to deploy in a platoon, where they go from solid to elite.
Tier 2 Points Per Plate Appearance, 2010-2012:
For the most part, the next set of players are fairly inexpensive. I was able to buy Joyce and keep Jones at a combined $7, and I would have done more if more of the names on this list were outfielders. For owners in two-catcher leagues, take note that Jaso, Doumit, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the third tier could be combined into an above-average platoon for very little cost.
Tier 3 Points Per Plate Appearance, 2010-2012:
Tier 3 is a bit less useful from a practical standpoint, but not because of their lesser point totals. These guys have still outproduced players like Derek Jeter of the past three seasons per plate appearance in games started by a right-hander. However, Smith and Venable are in real-baseball platoons, which make them obvious to other owners that want fantasy platoons. For players in deeper leagues or in AL- or NL-only leagues, DeWayne Wise and Eric Chavez may be worth a buck or two at the end of an auction. If they find the playing time, they can be useful players versus right-handers.
In the end, I netted Garrett Jones, Tyler Colvin, Matt Joyce, and Will Venable for a total of $11 to cover my fourth and fifth outfield spots. As a basis of comparison, Nelson Cruz sold for $11. I had to forfeit some bench slots I could have used on prospects or pitchers with upside, but with an elite staff and a team ready to win now, I believe it will be worthwhile.
Posted by Scott Spratt at 2:45am (4) Comments
Friday, March 29, 2013
Another year, another trip down into the fantasy silver mine, a prospecting tour that endeavors to dig up the National League’s hidden gems, best buys and underpriced jewels. If you’re a returning customer to this column, then you know the procedure: Each week, we look at a handful of players who are sitting on the open market in too many leagues, those would-be fantasy contributors blessed with the talent and playing time to make a significant splash—if only they had a home.
As the 2013 season dawns and fantasy owners take stock of new faces and wait for position battles to conclude, here are a number of interesting players who are likely available in your league.
Patrick Corbin | Arizona Diamondbacks | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership; 0.1 percent ESPN ownership
Oliver ROS: 4.13 ERA / 1.367 WHIP / 6.58 K/9
Let’s start with a broad statement: The Diamondbacks, blessed with the likes of Corbin, Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs, aren’t hurting for a fifth starter with upside in 2013. Trouble is, with just four days to go before they play the season’s first game, manager Kirk Gibson is mum on whether Corbin or Delgado, who both continue to pitch in spring training, will get the first crack at the job.
Corbin, 23, is probably the leading candidate as of this writing. The left-hander logged 107 innings and made 17 starts last year, posting a 4.54 ERA (4.00 FIP) with a 7.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. He’s outpitched Delgado this spring, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning and coming off a strong performance last Saturday in which he allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. If you take away a bad inning against the Royals on March 6, his spring ERA is under two.
Assuming Gibson taps Corbin, look for him to build upon his 2012 stats, when an inflated HR/FB rate and BABIP conspired to boost his ERA. I wouldn’t expect lights-out production, but I could see Corbin outdoing his Oliver projections by a tad and becoming a useful fantasy pitcher on a team that should provide him with opportunities at wins. The Diamondbacks, with an off day on Thursday, probably wouldn’t use their fifth starter in the first week, but if Corbin is the man, his ownership numbers will shoot up in plenty of leagues.
Recommendation: Keep an eye out in case Corbin is not the fifth starter, but he’d be an immediate add in all NL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues.
Jordany Valdespin | New York Mets | OF / 2B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership; 0.4 percent ESPN ownership
Oliver ROS: .264 / .311 / .390
I’ll say this: Valdespin is the kind of player you want to cheer for. He’s got flair, he’s got a bit of a brash streak in him, and in all-too-brief flashes last year, showed off the kind of athleticism that says “upside guy” in a ballplayer.
Unfortunately, reality—in the form of underwhelming plate discipline numbers and an inability to walk—has kept Valdespin from making good on his promise in his rookie year. But he was hitting .323/.371/ .538 in 21 spring games entering Thursday’s action, and can add steals for a fantasy owner.
Ultimately, what might be most intriguing about Valdespin is his position eligibility. He played 16 games at second base last year, not enough for most leagues entering 2013, but with Daniel Murphy recovering from an intercostal strain, it’s possible that manager Terry Collins could use Valdespin in the infield occasionally. Murphy has begun appearing in spring action and says he’ll be ready for Opening Day, so I’d be slightly bearish on Valdespin adding another position in the immediate term.
Meanwhile, in center field, where he’ll play the bulk of his games to start the season, he’ll likely sit against lefties in a platoon with Colin Cowgill.
Oliver is a bit optimistic on Valdespin, as it expects 29 steals to go along with a .264 average, 11 homers and 69 runs batted in. Such production, coupled with the allure of positional eligibility, could make Valdespin a serviceable fantasy option in 2013.
Recommendation: Worth a look for owners who need steals in NL-only leagues.
Hyun-Jin Ryu | Los Angeles Dodgers | SP | 37 percent Yahoo / 19.5 percent ESPN ownership
Oliver ROS: n/a
I’m not a scout, and thus, I don’t have much to add to Ryu’s scouting reports, some of which you can read here, here and here. I’ll simply say this: the Dodgers, a team that could very well contend for a World Series title this year, believe Ryu is worth a $36 million, six-year contract, which leads me to think there’s something about this guy that makes him a fantasy target. In a perfect world, assuming I had the space on my roster, sure, I’d pick this guy up and see what happens.
But here’s the thing: How certain is it that Ryu will have a spot in the starting rotation? Josh Beckett and Chris Capuano’s arms haven’t fallen off yet, Aaron Harang is still hanging around, Chad Billingsley seems to be returning soon from a finger injury and Ted Lilly still receives paychecks from the Dodgers organization. Assuming Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke, inflamed elbow and all, are locked in for three slots, that leaves five starting pitchers for three spots.
We’ll start with Lilly, who’s coming off shoulder surgery and has appeared in just four spring games, posting abysmal numbers in the process. Call me defeatist, but I just don’t see the 37-year-old having much of a place in the Dodgers’ rotation, certainly not at the season’s outset.
What about Harang, who gave the team nearly 180 innings last year? Manager Don Mattingly is on record saying he doesn’t see the burly right-hander as a bullpen arm, though a rough-and-tumble spring didn’t do much to help his cause as a starter. Consider him a man in search of a starting gig for the time being. Capuano? At last check, his chances don’t seem to be all that great to crack the rotation.
Ryu is scheduled to take the ball on April 2, a decision influenced in part by Billingsley’s roster logistics. But, barring some kind of disaster, I’d say it’s a safe bet that he’ll hang around in the rotation for the long run while the Dodgers trade away or banish to the bullpen some of their excess arms.
Recommendation: Worth a pickup in mixed leagues.
Mitchell Boggs | St. Louis Cardinals | SP | 54 percent Yahoo ownership / 25.3 percent ESPN ownership
Oliver ROS: 3.10 ERA / 1.205 WHIP / 6.94 K/9
Obviously, if you’re in a tight league and were betting on Jason Motte to hold down a relief role, you’ve already picked up Boggs as a handcuff. So I guess my question is: How long will you have to roll with this guy?
What we know for sure: Motte, 30, has been diagnosed with a flexor muscle strain—considered a slight tear of the tendon—in his elbow, and a disabled list stint is likely. I’m not a doctor, but this doesn’t sound good.
Just in case, let’s say Boggs is the closer for the foreseeable future. If so, he’d bring four career saves to the job, all of which stem from a brief stint in early 2011 when he took over from Ryan Franklin to be the Cardinals’ closer. Back then, Boggs was burned so badly that that he was demoted to Triple-A three weeks after taking the job. Obviously, that’s an experience from which Boggs can learn, and there’s no reason to think the 29-year-old hasn’t matured a bit since then.
At the back end of the Cardinals’ pen, Boggs will bring mid-90s heat to go along with a slider and occasional change-up, which helped him post solid numbers last year (4-1, 34 holds, 2.21 ERA). But I have to wonder whether a .245 BABIP (more than 50 points below his career average) and lofty 82.4 percent strand rate will conspire to bring those numbers down to earth, closer’s role or not.
Boggs is talented, and in a new season, one might as well be optimistic. But if he was headed for a regression in 2013 as Motte’s caddy, fantasy owners shouldn’t look at him as a bullpen savior now that he’s stepping up to the top spot to start the year.
Recommendation: A worthwhile pickup in NL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues, but not a must-own until he gets some saves under his belt.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 2:28am (4) Comments
Ah, spring. Endless possibility. Every team is in first place. The glass is half full. Yada, yada, yada.
For many fans, this time of year is an unbearable period of nothing more than waiting for the real games to begin. Most roster debates have been settled, many for quite some time, and teams are making their way home for the start of the season next week. For fantasy leaguers, however, this time of year can make or break what happens in September. A keen eye that can identify pop-up players before others may be the difference between winning and losing down the line. Being asleep at the wheel, on the other hand, can set in motion a chain of events too horrible to really discuss.
Too dramatic? Yes? Too bad, it's my column and I had to see if you were paying attention.
This week we feature three players who were (somewhat surprisingly) named to their respective rotations.
Brandon Maurer | Seattle Mariners | SP | ESPN: 0.5 percent ownership, Yahoo: NA, CBS: 13 percent
Oliver projection: 90 IP, 5-4, 3.92 ERA, 3.89 FIP
It's safe to say if Taijuan Walker won a spot in the Mariners' rotation this spring, everyone would have noticed. Ditto that, to a lesser extent, for Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. The thing is, they did not. Brandon Maurer did.
Back in November, Jeff Sullivan touched on Maurer in a great piece about stupid labels like "The Big Three." The gist: Maurer is pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as those other guys, but labeling "The Big Three" muddies the waters when other players come into the picture, and doesn't serve any practical function.
There are good takes on Maurer making the team over at Minor League Ball and Lookout Landing. John Sickels sums it up best:
The biggest problem has always been simple health; it has never been about velocity, movement, or pitchability.Baseball America offered similarly high praise earlier this offseason, stating Maurer gives the Mariners "yet another pitching prospect with frontline potential" in its 2013 Prospect Handbook.
As a California high schooler, Maurer pitched in the same rotation as Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole. He was a 23rd round draft pick in 2008, but he more or less fell off the map as elbow and shoulder problems limited him to six games in 2010 and 13 games in 2011. Last year, though, in what was technically his age-21 season (his birthday is two days after the cutoff), he posted strong numbers at Double-A, including a 3.20 ERA, 117 strikeouts and 48 walks in 137.2 innings.
The common expectation entering spring training was that he would begin the year in Triple-A, a level he has not yet reached. But the combination of his effectiveness this spring (22 strikeouts in 20 innings), and the lack thereof from others (Erasmo Ramirez, who was once Jon Garland, who was once Jeremy Bonderman) means he will break camp with the big club, and as the No. 4 starter, to boot.
The bottom line is the guy can pitch. He has talent, including a mid-90s fastball and as many as three other major league caliber pitches of varying quality. He's healthy, and he's coming off a very impressive spring, where he beat out strong competition for a job pitching in what has been a pitcher's park (although with the fences moving in, to what extent that will continue is open for debate).
Recommendation: In dynasty formats, he's a strong buy. In deep AL only leagues, he's certainly worth a flier, especially for his debut next Thursday in Oakland. In mixed leagues, a wait-and-see approach might be more appropriate, but it also might cause owners to miss out on a pop-up player with significant potential.
J.A. Happ | Toronto Blue Jays | SP | ESPN: 0.2 percent ownership, Yahoo: 4 percent, CBS: 10 percent
Oliver pProjection: 152 IP, 9-8, 3.92 ERA, 3.74 FIP
The biggest bombshell this week, without a doubt, was the Blue Jays' decision to bust former ace Ricky Romerodown to Single-A ball. Romero was solidly effective from 2009-2011, making the All-Star team two years ago, but was beyond bad last season (in case you hadn't heard). His 5.77 ERA was the worst in the entire league among qualified starters, and his 6.17 strikeouts per nine innings and 5.22 walks per nine innings helped give him a barely-above-replacement-level WAR of 0.2.
So perhaps it should not come as a great surprise that Toronto feels a Ricky Romero-less roster gives it a better chance of winning in 2013, at least until the team figures out whatever the hell is wrong with him. The demotion to Single-A is more about keeping him in a climate where he won't get rained out, but it's still a steep fall for the guy who toed the rubber each of the past two Opening Days.
Happ is now an intriguing character heading into his age-30 season. His ERA, FIP and xFIPs have oscilated between the high threes and high fours during stints as a starter and reliever with the Phillies, Astros and Blue Jays. He seems to be trending in the right direction, though.
Last season he improved his strikeout percentage for the fourth straight season (from 17.4 percent in 2009, to 18.7 percent in 2010, to 19.2 percent in 2011, to a robust 23 percent last year), and cut three percent off his walk rate (from 11.9 percent in 2011 to 8.9 percent in 2012). His velocity is up across the board, averaging 90.5 miles per hour on his fastball last season and he also managed to generate more swings outside the strike zone, and more swings and misses than at any point in his career (31.1 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively).
Recommendation: There's no telling when Romero will reappear, and the rotation in Toronto is certainly crowded, but Happ was sneaky good last season, and could provide a nice boost to owners searching for early-season starting pitcher depth.
Dylan Axelrod | Chicago White Sox | SP | ESPN: 0.0 percent ownership, Yahoo: 0.0 percent, CBS: 1 percent
Oliver projection: 139 IP, 9-6, 3.62 ERA, 3.48 FIP
Axelrod debuted briefly with the White Sox in 2011 and threw 51 innings for the team last year, split between the rotation and bullpen. He's probably better suited for the latter, but will keep a spot in the White Sox rotation while John Danks gets up to speed.
Although you'd be hard pressed to find a glowing scouting report about his stuff (which features a high 80s fastball), it's interesting to note that Oliver is more optimistic about Axelrod than about either Maurer or Happ. It's also interesting that, lacking premium stuff, he's had healthy swinging strike rates of 9.5 percent and 10.1 percent during his two stints in the majors. The 27-year-old's 5.47 ERA, 5.04 FIP, and 4.72 xFIP from last season leave a lot to be desired, though, and there isn't much to suggest he was unlucky.
Recommendation: With limited upside, and a definitive end date to his status as a starter, it's probably safe to avoid Axelrod unless Danks gets pushed back deeper into the summer. Even then, his game is all about locating pitches where he wants them, and choosing those pitches well. I certainly wouldn't want him putting balls on a tee for Miguel Cabrera in US Cellular Field, but if you're streaming pitchers, or in need of a spot start, there are worse options. Probably.
POPSICLE STICK JOKE OF THE WEEK
I love stupid jokes, and this is the best way to start your Friday (don't fight it, I'm right), so here goes:
Question: What kind of band plays snappy music?
Answer: A rubber band.
Posted by Jack Weiland at 2:40am (2) Comments
Saturday, March 30, 2013
In light of the fairly recent merger between The Hardball Times and FanGraphs' RotoGraphs, the leadership at both sites has plans to better define the two sites as their own separate entities, while simultaneously increasing the distribution of content between them. Let me explain in further detail.
Our vision is that The Hardball Times will be a site of big-picture writing, strategically focused and research driven; RotoGraphs will continue its up-to-the-minute player analysis, roster-driven, mostly. Now, let it be said immediately that this is not a hard-and-fast classification: you'll still see some short form pieces on THT, and will see some research projects at FanGraphs. But this new system is designed so projects can run across platforms so writers from both sites can contribute more dynamically.
Stay tuned for more details. And most of all: good luck drafting.
Cheers for now,
Nick Fleder & The Hardball Times Fantasy Staff