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Friday, March 05, 2010
Even before the 2009-2010 offseason started, I was a fan of Kiko Calero. Calero returned to the big leagues in 2009 after missing most of the 2008 season (4.2 innings) with a rotator cuff injury. Not only did he return, but he enjoyed in his best season to date.
The 35-year-old pitched in 67 games for the Marlins going 2-2 with a 1.97 ERA and a sparkling 2.56 FIP. However, Calero remained unsigned until yesterday when the Mets agreed on a minor league deal with the right-hander. It seems strange that a player with those types of numbers was reduced to a minor league contract, but whispers have floated around about his medical records.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to those records, but we can still look at his numbers. The biggest reason for Calero’s success in 2009 was keeping the ball in the hard. He allowed just one home run in 60 innings which gave him a microscopic 0.15 HR/9. The low HR/9 was a product of a ridiculously low HR/FB rate of 1.4%. If we normalized that rate, we see his xFIP jumped to 3.92 and his LIPS ERA to 3.69. Both are still very good numbers from a middle reliever.
Assuming he’s healthy, Calero will experience some regression in the home run department. That said, his career HR/9 of 0.71 and HR/FB of 6.7% show that he has been good at keeping home runs to a minimum throughout his career. In addition to home run regression, he is likely to see a slight BABIP correction (.259 in 2009, .286 career)
On top of the wonderful home run rates, Calero was pretty good at making the opposition to swing and miss at his pitches. Working mostly off his slider (54.4%) and fastball (41.4%), Calero struck out more than a batter per nine innings last season (10.35). Unlike the home-run rate, this was pretty close to his 9.63 career K/9 mark.
The Mets go into 2010 with Francisco Rodriguez as the unquestioned closer. However, behind K-Rod is a bunch of question marks. The Mets signed another favorite of mine, Kelvim Escobar, this offseason, but Escobar’s injury concerns are even greater than those of Calero’s.
Despite the minor-league deal, Calero has a legit chance of becoming the Mets set-up man. If something should happen to Frankie Rodriguez, Calero may steal a few cheap saves.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 7:00am
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Yesterday, the Cincinnati Reds officially re-signed outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year Major League contract with an option for 2011. Gomes returns to Cincinnati after an impressive showing in 314 plate appearances there last season, during which he hit 20 home runs and posted a 126 wRC+. Like another former Devil Ray who failed to follow up on a breakout performance, Jorge Cantu, Gomes came to the Reds after being let go by Tampa Bay due to issues primarily with plate discipline and defense.
At 29, Gomes is still relatively young, but he's a very poor defensive outfielder (career UZR/150 of -22.3) so his value lies almost entirely in his ability at the plate. While Gomes is relatively limited as a hitter, his career strikeout rate is over 32% and his walk rate hasn't been above 10% since 2006, he's got big time power (.230 ISO ) and a track record of mashing left-handed pitching (career wRC+ of 135 vs. LHP). He seems likely to slot into a left field platoon with Chris Dickerson, which should enable Gomes to get around 300 plate appearances once again this season, primarily against lefties. His fluctuating line drive rates are concerning, as you can see from his marks from 2005 to 2009: 23.3%, 16.9%, 21.2%, 10.1% (!), and 19.7%, although the pathetic 10% mark was in just 177 plate appearances. On the other hand, he's also seen an uptick in his contact rate in the past two seasons, as he's at about 74% in 2008/2009 after being in the 68%-71% range during his other three years in Tampa Bay.
But what really interests me about Gomes is that there seems to be some potential for even more power in his bat. In 2009, Gomes' fly ball rate was a career low 46.0%, far below his previous percentages, which generally sat in the mid-50's. But Gomes made up for that decline in power by posting by far the best HR/FB of his career, a 22.0% mark. A decent amount of the change in his HR/FB can be attributed to the move from Tropicana Field to The Great American Ballpark. According to StatCorner, The Trop's home run factor is 98.8, with a score of 100 being neutral, while The Great American Ballpark has a home run factor of 112.3. If Gomes can get his fly ball rate back to where it was in previous seasons while maintaining a high HR/FB, which is reasonable given the change in ballparks, then he could potentially be an impact power bat for both the Reds and fantasy owners alike if he gets the proper playing time.
So while it's more likely that Gomes is once again good for around 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a .250 average, there's upside for a lot more, especially in the the counting stats if he can take away playing from Dickerson while holding off Chris Heisey, Wladimir Balentien and Laynce Nix. Gomes shouldn't be a starting option for anyone in fantasy, he's got a long swing that leads to a lot of strikeouts which holds down his batting average, he's a poor baserunner which holds down his runs scored accumulated and he's unlikely to bat higher than sixth in the Reds' batting order, so realistically he's only a guy to look at in NL-only leagues if you're in need of some pop.
But whenever you see a guy with notable power like Gomes who has shown flashes of thriving in the majors (he's got two seasons in which he's posted a wRC+ over 125 in at least 300 PA), he's worth looking at, and Jonny's no different, especially given how much he benefited from the move to Ohio last season.
Posted by Satchel Price at 10:30am
Monday, February 22, 2010
After weeks of posturing and rumors, Johnny Damon has finally signed with the Detroit Tigers. The deal is for one-year, $8 million dollars with none of the monies deferred. While Damon will easily be “worth” the contract in terms of WAR, it seems strange that the Tigers paid that much given the lack of market and dollars out there. Nonetheless, Damon and his love for squids can enjoy a few Red Wings home games.
Damon is coming off a year in which he tied his career high in home runs (24) and posted a career best ISO (.207). These numbers are a little elevated thanks to his former home ball park, the new Yankee Stadium. In an indirect switch of roles and teams with Curtis Granderson, Damon’s new digs at Comerica are less friendly. Granderson, on the other hand, should see a similar benefit at Yankee Stadium as Damon did.
Even if Damon regresses in the power category he is still a very useful player. His career slugging percentage of nearly .440 shows he has always had home run pop. A career .288 hitter, Damon is likely to be in that .280 area once again. He will likely lead off for the Tigers and that means more plate appearances.
In 2009, Damon walked 11.3% of the time. This is yet another career high. However, unlike the power numbers, an older, wiser Damon is likely to take his fair share of walks which will help his on-base percentage.
Damon, 36, is not getting faster. His speed score dipped below 6.0 for the first time in his 15-year-career. In addition to the drop in speed score, Damon stole just 12 bases. This is also a career low for a full season. While his speed is dropping, Damon is still an efficient base runner. He scored high marks in the 2010 Bill James annual and was not caught stealing at all in 2009 (12 for 12).
The addition of Damon likely shifts Austin Jackson towards the bottom of the lineup and presents Jim Leyland with some line-up shuffling opportunities. Damon is just the latest named added to an already crowded outfield corps that includes: Jackson, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn.
I would expect the power numbers to decline and I doubt Damon goes back to stealing 30 bases again. That said, his batting average is solid. His new affinity for walks is a plus and he’ll likely drive in 75 runs in a talented lineup. While I like the man he’s replacing (Granderson) a lot more, I think Damon at .280-15-75 is still a decent option in the mid to early double digit rounds.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 4:45am
Friday, February 19, 2010
After spending most of his nine major league seasons in the American League Central, Mike MacDougal will remain in the National League East in 2010. MacDougal, 32, was picked up by the Washington Nationals in 2009 after starting the season with the Chicago White Sox. He proved to be serviceable in the Nationals pen as he racked up 20 saves in 21 opportunities. In his first NL action, he posted a 3.60 ERA in 52 games. Those numbers didn't fool anyone this offseason and now MacDougal will have to battle for a roster post with the Florida Marlins.
Despite the shiny, 3.60 ERA, MacDougal was a below average reliever. In 54.1 total innings last season, he walked more batters (38) than he struckout (34). 2009 marked the third straight season in which his walks per nine innings(BB/9) topped 6.25! In his time with the Nationals, he was helped by a lower than normal BABIP of .276. This helped to keep his ERA lower than it should have been. Over the past three seasons he has struckout 85 batters while handing out 83 free passes. If he wasn't blessed with a fastball that settles around 95 MPH, he most likely would've been out of baseball a while ago.
Nonetheless, he does possess that blazing heater and as long as he does he will continue to get jobs. He also really likes that fastball as he threw it over 95% of the time he spent in D.C. Despite the heat, MacDougal doesn't strikeout as many batters as you would expect. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) is an okay 7.66, but was just 5.63 last season.
The two good skills he brings to the table are ground balls and the ability to keep his fly balls in the park. In his nine-year career, MacDougal has gotten 58% ground balls. That number jumped up to 62.1% last season. His career home run per nine innings (HR/9) is a nifty 0.60 despite a relatively normal home run-to-fly ball ratio of 9.2%.
In recent years, the Marlins have done a fantastic job of taking fungible relievers and getting fantastic use out of them. From Kevin Gregg to Joe Nelson to Kiko Calero this past year, the team has excelled in getting something for nothing. They are hoping that either Seth McClung, Jose Veras, Derrick Turnbow or MacDougal can be that guy this year.
Although his contract is a minor league deal, there is a decent chance MacDougal starts the season as Leo Nunez's primary set-up man. If something should happen to Nunez physically, or should he just suffer from ineffectiveness, MacDougal could get an opportunity to close some games. That will bring some fantasy value to the table, but saves are about all he'll offer your team.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 7:05am
Thursday, February 18, 2010
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Russell Branyan has a Major League offer on the table from the Cleveland Indians and is receiving interest from the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Rays may be in the running, I'd imagine they won't be signing him unless they are able to move Pat Burrell. If the Rays do decide to sign Branyan, even if they are unable to move Pat Burrell, he would seem to be a better fit with the Rays than with the Indians. Pat Burrell's splits show a positive slant toward slugging lefties better than righties, and Branyan has slugged righties while struggling against lefties during his career, making for a solid designated hitter (DH) platoon.
When looking at the Indians depth chart it is tough for me to see a clear role for Branyan. Hafner is locked up as the DH and struggles against left-handed pitchers, making Branyan a poor platoon mate at DH. That said, Hafner has struggled to stay healthy the last few years, so it's likely he'll miss time due to his bum shoulder, making Branyan solid insurance. Matt LaPorta appears as the starting first baseman on the depth chart, and given the fact the Indians are rebuilding and he's a prime piece, he'll most certainly play everyday. However, a caveat with LaPorta is that he did play left field for 29 games and right field for 10, thus he could play left field instead of Michael Brantley leaving first base open for Branyan.
Russell Branyan should be a cheap source of power in deep leagues and AL-only leagues if he's able to receive 400 or more at bats. His batting average (AVG) is likely to leave a lot to be desired given his high strikeout rate. That said, if Branyan's at bats are limited almost exclusively to facing right-handed pitchers, his AVG could sit in the .250 range. If Branyan is able to receive 500 or more at bats, it's likely his batting average would be hurt with the extra at bats against left-handed pitchers, but his counting stats should be bumped up to a possibly useful level in deeper leagues. As a fan of Russell Branyan, I'll be curious to see where this three true outcomes machine ends up signing.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:46pm
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
After watching former starter, Brian Schnieder leave New York for National League East rival, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets were linked to Bengie Molina and Yorvit Torrealba among other available backstops this winter. With Molina back in San Francisco and Torrealba settling down in San Diego, the Mets are left with a collection of back up catchers and no clear cut option. Apparently they think that four back-up catchers equal two complete ones.
With four catchers already on the 40-man roster, the team added former Rays’ catcher Shawn Riggans into the mix on a minor league deal this past weekend. Riggans, 29, has opened the past few seasons as Tampa Bay's primary back-up catcher, but injuries cost him playing time in each season.
This is nothing new to Riggans who is constantly battling the injury bug. His medical history as well as the much maligned Mets training staff should make for an interesting pairing. As a Rays fan, I've witnessed his gritty-ness first hand. In 2008, Riggans took a Fernando Rodney fastball to the chest only to stay in the game and score the winning run minutes later.
When he was on the field, Riggans showed a decent bat with noted "pop." As a minor leaguer, his cumulative OPS is nearly .800 and he owns a career ISO of .154 in the majors. Unfortunately, a knee injury in 2008 and an arm injury in 2009 prevented him for getting any resemblance of consistent playing time. That said, if he does find some good health he could be an offensive sleeper at the position.
As it stands right now Omir Santos figures to get the nod as the Mets catcher most days. Santos saw his first significant playing time in 2009 and finished the season with a slash line of .260/.290/.381. As a right-handed batter, Santos was surprisingly better against pitcher with the same handiness. Against righties he hit .283/.321/.406. Of course, the sample size is rather small and in any case you would like to see him get on-base more. He walked less than 5% of the time this past season.
Behind Santos is a pair of major league veterans. After spending parts of four seasons with the Phillies, Chris Coste was signed to a minor league deal. Coste spent time with the Phillies and Astros last season.
Of all the potential candidates, Coste represents the best offensive potential. A career .272/.329/.416 hitter, his .325 wOBA is the closest to league average among the candidates. Unlike his fellow right-handed colleague, Santos, Coste enjoys platoon split against left-handed pitching. With a slash line against southpaws of .294/.345/.476, Coste would represent a fine platoon partner. Add in his decent .713 OPS against righties and his ability to play first base and I can easily see a spot for him on the Mets bench.
The other veteran in this group is Henry Blanco. A career back-up, Hank White has spent parts of 12 seasons with seven major league teams. Blanco's career slash line of .228/292/.366 is not pretty, but his game calling and defense behind the plate is highly regarded.
The final piece of the puzzle is 23 year-old Josh Thole. Mets fans briefly saw Thole's talents last year when he hit .321/.356/.396 in 59 big league plate appearances. Now that 34% line drive rate is unsustainable, but he has been a fine hitter over the past two seasons in the minors. After hitting .300/.382/.427 in High-A ball in 2008, Thole crushed Double-A pitching to the tune of .328/.395/.422. He skipped Triple-A completely and represents hope for the positions' future.
Due to their relative below average-ness, and questions about playing time, I would avoid all candidates until further notice. Thole represents the best talents, but could use
some minor league seasoning. In the interim, I would keep an eye on Coste as a platoon partner as well as Riggans if he can stay on the diamond long enough.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 7:00am
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Yesterday, the Giants signed Todd Wellemeyer to a minor-league deal with an invitation to join the team in Scottsdale for Spring Training. Although the plan calls for Madison Bumgarner to be the team's fifth starter when camp breaks, that didn't stop the San Francisco Giants from adding a bit of insurance. It might not be good insurance, but the kind you need to have because you don't have it. Wellemeyer, 31, made 28 appearances, including 21 starts, for the St. Louis Cardinals last season after posting career best numbers in 2008.
In his first four and a half seasons, Wellemeyer made over 100 appearances as a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals. Upon his arrival to St. Louis in 2007, he was converted to a starter, and as mentioned, had a pretty decent 2008 campaign for the Cardinals. He won 13 games while pitching 191.2 innings over 32 starts with a 3.71 ERA. All of those numbers reflect career highs.
In 2009, the glass slipper fell off and so did part of his shoulder. Whether it was due to the increased workload or not, he made just 21 starts and threw 122 inning of unimpressive 5.89 ERA ball. Looking at his LIPS ERA, it's not surprising that his 2008 season had a little bit of luck sprinkled on top. LIPS had him pegged with an ERA of 4.24, or a little more than half a run higher than his real total.
On the other hand, LIPS suggest that his 5.89 ERA in 2009 includes a bit of bad luck. Last season's LIPS ERA of 4.90 was a full run lower than his actual number. His BABIP also suggest more of the same. A career .300 BABIP pitcher, he enjoyed a .273 mark in 2008, but saw that shoot up to a .346 in 2009 despite actually seeing a slight decrease in line drives allowed.
Regardless of metric, Wellemeyer was below average in 2009. Throw in an additional candle on the birthday cake and a questionable shoulder and you can see why he signed a minor league deal. Throughout his career he has posted strikeout rates around 6.5 per nine innings, but not surprisingly those numbers have dipped to around 6.0 as a starter. He also walks more than you would like and gives up home runs at a sightly elevated pace.
Unless Bumgarner is just not ready, I find it hard to see Wellemeyer beating him for a rotation spot. Nonetheless, should that happen or if there were an injury to one of the other starting pitchers pop up, then Wellemeyer is a cheap band-aid option for the Giants. Unless you are just desperate for a starting pitcher, I would avoid Wellemeyer in any league.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:55am
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
After breaking into the league in a big way by hitting 11 home runs in 30 games with the Mets in 2005, first baseman Mike Jacobs was dealt to the Marlins as part of the Carlos Delgado deal. After a brutal year in Kansas City after another offseason trade, he hit the open market when they declined to tender him a contract. At 29, he's still relatively in his prime, and his power is plus: he hit 32 home runs in 2008 with the Marlins and his career ISO is .222.
The Mets are projected to start the season with Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis dominating the playing time at first base, but Jacobs could actually offer the Mets something the other two options can't, and that's the power potential. Murphy's career ISO is .161, unimpressive for a first baseman, and Tatis isn't exactly anyone's image of an everyday first baseman on a contending team. Jacobs certainly shouldn't play everyday, but it's worth noting that he has a career wOBA of .350 against right-handed pitching, with a 16.4% HR/FB and significantly better strikeout and walk rates.
Jacobs looks the part of a nice left-handed portion of a platoon if he can take time away from Murphy, who also happens to be a left-handed hitter. His defense is below average and he'll never get on-base enough for a corner position player, but the 30+ HR power is real, and a lot of his issues can be masked to an extent by shielding him from left-handed pitching.
The former top catching prospect has some work to do to push his way into New York's depth chart, but given the lack of options in Queens and Jacobs' monster home run potential, he's a name to keep an eye on if he manages to make his way onto New York's roster. Honestly, New York would probably be better off with a bench of Thole, Jacobs, Cora, Tatis and Pagan, but there's a decent chance that they settle for Blanco, Tatis, Cora, Pagan and Matthews Jr. A lot of people have written off Jacobs, but he could be a good sleeper in NL-only leagues.
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