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Monday, February 08, 2010
It is one of those things you remember just because. Although he only played seven games for the Yankees that season, I still remember June 10, 2002 when the rookie Marcus Thames smashed a home run off Randy Johnson for his first career hit. Nearly eight years later, Johnson is newly retired and Thames is back in the Bronx. Signing a minor league deal with Yankees, Thames' job will remain similar to the one he had on in his first major league assignment;hit left-handed pitching.
The new version of the Yankees must ball on a budget; a $200 million dollar budget, but a budget nonetheless. After finding the price tag for Johnny Damon a bit too rich for their taste, New York has turned to cheaper alternatives to solve their left field void. With Brett Gardner already in-house, they have added Randy Winn and now Thames. Depending on the opposing pitcher, left field figures to be a rotating door.
When Winn signed there were immediate questions about his ability to hit left-handed pitching. A switch-hitter, Winn owns a career slash line of .280/.330/.432 against lefties. However, in 2009 he hit just .180/.184/.200 against them. When Looking at those numbers, I tend to go with the career sample size of nearly 1,200 plate appearances over the 125 of last season. There is also the 2009 .179 BABIP against southpaws vs the .301 career BABIP that would suggest '09 as an outlier. Nonetheless, the addition of Thames should easy any fears of Winn's potential shortcomings against left-hander.
As mentioned, Thames career started with a home run off a left-hander. From there he has continued to hit well against lefties to the tune of a career slash line of .256/.329/.516 against them. Combine that with Winn's slash line of .294/.353/.430 against right-handed pitching and you have the makings of a good, not great platoon. However, there is a problem; Thames is an awful outfielder.
In just over 2,200 innings in the outfield, Thames has put up a -15.8 UZR and a UZR/150 of -9.5. In a smaller sample size, his numbers in left field are worse. This is where Brett Gardner comes in. Less of a hitter than the other two pieces of the puzzle (although he was at least average in 2009), Gardner is a plus defender with speed. He would make a nifty caddy for Thames as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement.
Of course the Yankees could stick to the plan of a Winn/Gardner platoon and still use Thames. Assuming the Yankees carry Gardner, a back-up catcher, and a reserve middle infielder, there would be one spot on the bench for Thames as a right-handed power bat. He could also spell Nick Johnson a DH and would serve as an insurance policy in the event Johnson gets bit by the injury bug again. As far as fantasy is concerned, right now Thames is not a good option in any league. However, I would closely track his progress during Spring and if he does win himself a platoon job he could provide some cheap power for your squad.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:47pm
Saturday, February 06, 2010
The Twins recently signed Orlando Hudson to a one year $5 million contract to take over every day second base duties from Nick Punto. In examining the deal, it would appear to offer a slight boost to Hudson's fantasy value for the 2010 season. As the Twins lineup is constructed currently, it would appear Hudson will be slotted second in the lineup, meaning he'll be hitting behind Denard Span (2008 OBP: .387; 2009 OBP: .392) and in front of high batting average slugger Joe Mauer (2008 AVG: .328; 2009 AVG: .365). While projecting run and RBI totals can be tricky, it would be a pretty safe guess that if Orlando Hudson is able to stay healthy for 600 or more plate appearances he should be able to contribute positively in one, if not both, counting stat categories given his respectable batting average ( 2008 AVG: .305; 2009 AVG: .283) and solid on-base skills (2008 OBP: .367; 2009 OBP: .357). Hudson will likely lag in home runs and stolen bases as his career high in home runs is only 15 (2006) and stolen bases is only 10 (2007).
While the signing doesn't signify a major increase to Hudson's value, it does put him on the radar in deep leagues, AL-only leagues, and leagues that use a middle infield (MI) position. Hudson won't hurt owners in BA, has a reasonable shot to eclipse 15 home runs plus stolen bases, and contribute positively in runs and RBI's, all of which adds up to a fairly ho-hum MI option. Perhaps the most important aspect of Hudson's signing with the Twins is that it could be a domino that sets off other second base signings (Adam Kennedy also recently signed with the Washington Nationals, a team that had talks with, and interest in signing Orlando Hudson) such as that of Felipe Lopez.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 7:06pm
Friday, February 05, 2010
Kevin Gregg has quietly remained available on the market while watching other closers and set-up men find new addresses. With two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, Gregg has settled on a new home and will take his slider and sunglasses north to Toronto. Although the deal isn't final at this hour, Gregg is expected to finalize a one-year contract worth a reported $2.75 million dollars with the Blue Jays. There is also some option years included that could push the deal over the $10 million dollar mark.
Nearly $3 million dollars seems like a pretty penny to pay a man who lost his closers role mid-season and finished the season with an ERA 4.72. However, there is more than meets the eye with Gregg’s 2009 season. Looking at his peripheral stats, he enjoyed one of his better seasons. The 9.31 strikeouts per nine innings was one-tenth off of his career high of 9.32 and his 3.93 walks per nine was the lowest total he’s put up since 2006.
Gregg’s 2009 struggles came in the form of the home run. After allowing just 10 home runs over the previous two seasons with the Marlins, he served up 13 round trippers in his only years with the Cubs. I guess after allowing back to back seasons with a home-run to fly-ball rate of under six percent, the baseball gods served some extra regression his Mr. Gregg’s plate. His HR/9 of 1.70 was easily a career high as was his HR/FB of 15.3%. This led helped contribute to that ugly ERA and an even uglier 4.93 FIP.
According to LIP ERA, Gregg received nearly a half run extra on his ERA. LIPS had him pegged at a 4.2 ERA with a xHR/FB nearly 5% less than his real total. For comparisons, he had an xFIP of 4.18 which jives with the previous sentence.
Trying to look for other theories other than some bad mojo, I did notice that Gregg used his slider nearly 10% more than his career average (up 5% year over year) and threw less fastballs than normal. That’s strange since his fastball has historically been his best pitch according to pitch values. I also noticed he lost a little over velocity across the board.
Whatever the reason behind the home run barrage, it’s not likely to last. And like the end of last season, Gregg is not going to be asked to close in Toronto; at least not right away.
With Jason Frasor and Scott Downs in the mix, Gregg is now the third wheel. However, at his salary, I would guess that the Blue Jays may expect a little more than just setting up. If the expected regression in home runs takes place, I would expect his FIP to settle in around 3.80.
Over the course of 70 innings, that would make him nearly a 1 WAR reliever. If the Jays are not contending in mid-July, which they aren’t expected to, at a relatively modest price, Gregg could be an attractive name to a contender at the deadline. As a fantasy target, he’s definitely of a name to keep your eye on as the back of the Jays bullpen takes form.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:00am
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I'm not quite sure of the fantasy impact this group may have overall, but excuse me for being smitten with the current outfield group of the Oakland Athletics. With the off-season additions of Coco Crisp and the newly signed Gabe Gross, the A's are all making a conservative effort to make sure a fly ball does not hit the ground at Coliseum.
As offensive players, all four rank eerily similar overall. Going down the list the career wOBA leaderboard is: Rajai Davis .330, Gross and Crisp at .325, and Ryan Sweeney at .322. None of them flash much power with Gross having shown the most pop from the bat.
In 2009, Davis had an above average .354 wOBA fueled by a .360 OBP. Buyer beware, his .366 BABIP and average walk totals suggest that is likely to regress. What likely won't regress is his speed; Davis is fast. According to speed score, he is like Carl Crawford/Michael Bourn fast. We all know fast doesn't necessarily lead to steals, but in Davis' case it does. He was just one of seven players to steal 40 or more bags in 2009 and did so with a 77% success rate.
Crisp has the most experience of the group and also has the more attractive career slash line of .277/.331/.407. That said, he is far from an offensive machine. I wouldn't put to much stock in his .228 batting average of 2009 since he did have a torn labrum in his shoulder and his BABIP was just .247. Although he is creeping up in age, Crisp will give you 20+ steals should he get enough playing time.
Ryan Sweeney opened eyes in 2009 with his 4.1 WAR season. Take a completely average bat (wOBA .330 in 2009) and add +20 defense and that's how you become a 4 WAR player. An above average defender in center field, Sweeney is likely to become one of the better defensive corner outfielders in the game. However, his bat, as mentioned above, is completely average and his speed is nowhere near Davis or even Crisp for that matter. In 282 games at the major league level he has just 22 stolen base attempts.
Satchel covered Gross's value yesterday. Oh-so-average Gabe is the ideal fourth member of the Oakland quartet. Sightly more powerful than his new teammates, Gross is a .240 hitter who takes his walks; not very sexy to a fantasy player. He is adequate enough defensively in center field to fill in, but is a +10 defender in the corners. Should Oakland have an injury in the outfield, Gross can easily be inserted in the lineup, and with some defensive shuffling, the team wouldn't miss a beat.
Of course this average offense plus very good defense sounds good in terms of real world value, but none of the above is really music to the fantasy crowd's ears. Because of his stolen base ability, Rajai Davis is clearly the best option of the group. If you trust Coco Crisp to remain heathly over the course of the season, he can give you some value as he'll rack-up some decent plate appearances and swipe a few bases. Sweeney is the most average of the group, and Gross is basically an older Sweeney on the bench.
I wouldn't pay this group much fantasy attention in terms of drafting, however, their impact on defense to a team that has Ben Sheets, Mike Wuertz, Dallas Braden, Vince Mazzaro and Andrew Bailey (all career FB% around 40%) may prove to have a different kind of fantasy value.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:00am
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Considering that there hasn't been much big news in the hot stove world lately, with the exception of the big Aaron Miles-Willy Taveras swap of course, I thought that it would be a good time to review some of the smaller deals that haven't been touched on yet. Specifically, I'm looking at the smaller outfield signings that have happened over the past few days. Let's dive in:
Randy Winn to the Yankees
Of all of the guys I'm going to talk about, Winn may have the best odds of being a legitimate fantasy option next season. He's coming off of a rough offensive season in San Francisco (82 wRC+), but he managed to land a one-year, $2M deal with New York thanks to a good track record and impressive defensive numbers, he's been at least 16.5 runs above average in each of the past two seasons according to UZR. Before his poor 2009, he had posting above average offensive numbers in six of the previous seven seasons. The drop in 2009 can be explained somewhat by bad luck, as his BABIP was uncharacteristically low given his batted ball data, and his 1.4% HR/FB is far below his 7.8% career mark. He's likely to get solid playing time considering his durability and the unclear situation in left field, and there should be lots of opportunities to knock in RBIs and/or score runs considering the quality of New York's offense. If Winn gets the everyday job in New York, there's reason to believe that he could provide solid numbers across the board. The upside is relatively limited, but he could be an underrated option in deep leagues and AL-only leagues.
Jim Edmonds to the Brewers
Edmonds may not have played in 2009, but he was shockingly good with the Cubs in 2008 after he was released early in the season by San Diego, posting a .394 wOBA and knocking out 19 home runs in 298 plate appearances. He's a legitimate platoon player at this point, he posted a .441 OPS against LHP in 2008 and a .631 mark against lefties in 2007, but he continued to show his trademark power/patience combination against right-handed pitching. The Brewers' outfield is relatively set with Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez and Jody Gerut as the primary four outfielders, but Gomez has proven to be a fraction of the hitter that Edmonds is thus far in his career, Hart has historically been much better against lefties than righties, and Gerut was pretty awful in 2009. If Edmonds can make the roster, he may be able to provide some pop as a late draft option in NL-only leagues, but that isn't a sure thing as he was only given a minor league deal.
Gabe Gross to the Athletics
One of the most underrated players to hit free agency this offseason, Gross didn't get much attention before signing on to presumably be the fourth outfielder in Oakland's revamped unit, which also includes offseason addition Coco Crisp. A quality defender with a good approach at the plate and solid power, his numbers have consistently been dragged down by a propensity to pop the ball up, but he's apparently improved that skill in recent seasons. He's also got a major platoon split for his career, but he's a solid bat against right-handed pitchers. He had a rough 2009, but like Winn, had a track record of solid performance beyond 2009, and there's reason to believe that he should revert back to what he was in 2006-2008, which is a solid 2.0 WAR player in a platoon. Gross's skill set doesn't fit particularly well into the fantasy game though, as he's a low contact guy (career BA of .239) and much of power is gap-to-gap. A good low key signing by Billy Beane, but given that Crisp, Ryan Sweeney and Rajai Davis seem likely to dominate the playing time, not to mention the presences of Jack Cust, Jake Fox and Travis Buck, Gross doesn't seem likely to accumulate a ton of playing time in 2010 barring some major injuries. It's not very likely that Gross is a major fantasy player in 2010.
Reed Johnson to the Dodgers
Similar to Gross, it's not particularly likely that Johnson makes a major impact fantasy-wise barring a major injury to the team's everyday outfield. Also like Gross, Johnson has a major platoon split, but his is reversed, as he's crushed lefties to the tune of an .841 OPS for his career. He likely won't take much playing time away from stars Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier, but he's a good fourth outfielder that could capably step into an everyday role if necessary. This signing was similar in nature to the Gross signing on a fantasy level: solid real life signing, unlikely to matter much in the fantasy game barring major injury.
When looking at what these guys signed for, it shows you why you shouldn't give $1.75M to Scott Podsednik, or $850K to Jason Michaels.
Posted by Satchel Price at 10:34am
Monday, February 01, 2010
J.J. Putz (from CSNChicago, h/t Metsblog):
When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training... I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.
How can an MLB team be run so poorly? This is a guy who spent 64 days on the DL the year before (three separate stints) and walked 5.44 batters per nine. How do you not make sure you're thorough with his injury analysis?
Moral of the story: don't take anything for granted with the Mets, guys.
Posted by Derek Carty at 4:24pm
The second part of this middle infield tango is Melvin Mora. Spurned by Orlando Cabrera, the Rockies turned their attention to Mora, who agreed to a one-year deal worth just over $1.3 million dollars. Essentially filling the vacated role by Ian Stewart, who now is a full-time starter, Mora will be asked to play second base, short stop, third base and some outfield; a super-utility player.
The role is something Mora is familiar with especially during the early stages of his career. However, for the past six seasons he has almost exclusively held down the hot corner for the Baltimore Orioles. A career .344 wOBA hitter, he saw that number drop all the way down to .302 in 2009. After crushing some numbers, I think Mora is a bounce back candidate and here's the man reason why.
Throughout the course of his career, Mora has shown pretty decent pop from his bat. However, that pop was almost non-existent in 2009. His slugging dipped down to .358 (career low min. 50 PA) while his ISO of 0.98 was also a career worse. Not surprisingly, his HR/FB went from 11% career to just 5.4% in 2009. Add in his new home of Coors Field and we have some potential for a bounce back in power. In a smaller possible regression note, his BABIP of .285 was 25 points lower than his career total.
In his new role, Mora will see likely see less at-bats than the 500 plus he has become accustomed to. Nonetheless, there should still be enough playing time to get him 300+ plate appearances. If the Rockies should have a major injury on the infield, Mora’s stock will rise. However, like Cabrera, Mora is limited to a deeper NL-only league at this point, but is definitely one to watch if his role is increased.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 1:15am
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Down to two suitors, Orlando Cabrera chose the Cincinnati Reds offer of one-year and $4 million dollars ($3 million base + $1 million buyout) with an option for a second year over non-shortstop offer the Colorado Rockies had on the table. Cabrera, 35, will join his fifth team in the last four seasons. He will team with Paul Janish at the position once held by Barry Larkin.
Once a perennial 3 WAR player, O-Cab was worth less than win this past sesaon as his watched his range (and in turn his UZR) plummet. The Reds are hoping that his -15.3 UZR in 2009 was an outlier after averaging above average marks over the previous seven seasons. I would normally agree with this theory, but he is pretty long in the tooth at the short stop position and I've heard a knee injury may have been involved.
Offensively, Cabrera has been below average over the course of his career. Sure, he’ll hit between .275-.290 on an annual basis, but that’s pretty much the extent of his offensive value. He walks under 7% of the time and his career slugging percentage is under .400. Playing in the Great American Sandbox will help, however it probably won’t boost his .123 ISO enough to make him a power threat at shortstop. He was never much of a stolen base threat to begin with, and has seen his steals decline from 20 to 19 to 13 over the past three seasons.
That said, if you look at his main competition, Paul Janish, Cabrera’s offensive numbers look like Hanley Ramirez in comparison. Small sample size rules apply, but Janish has a career slash line of just .205/.290/.292 in 128 career games. Looking at his minor league numbers, Janish hasn’t posted an OPS over .715 in any level above A-ball. In nearly 600 innings at shortstop last season, he did prove to be a very good defensive player. Personally, I would like to see Drew Sutton given a real chance, but I don't get paid enough to make those decisions.
The Reds will have to choose between Cabrera’s nearly average bat and Janish’s nearly pitcher-like slash line. Janish is probably a safer bet defensively, but a larger sample size is needed. If at all possible I would avoid both players on my team; however, Cabrera might be worth a flier in a deep NL-only league.
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NL Central Notes: Hart, Choo, Arroyo, Cardinals
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