Eric Surkamp | Giants | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership percentage
YTD (Double-A): 2.02 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 3.75 K/BB
Oliver MLE: 3.51 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.3 K/BB
With Jordan Zimmerman‘s innings cap reached, he is safe to drop in all non-keeper formats. With Zimmerman’s season over, however, a new young star’s season is just beginning at the major league level: Giants stud pitching prospect Eric Surkamp.
Check out his minor league numbers: a combined 465:110 K/BB ratio (10.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9) over 392 innings. In Double-A this year, Surkamp’s highest minor league level, he threw 142.1 innings of 2.02 ERA, 1.08 WHIP baseball, striking out 165 (10.4 K/9) while walking only 44 (2.8 BB/9). Those numbers are eerily reminiscent of Tommy Hanson (in terms of their results, not their pitching styles), though Surkamp has shown better control in his young career.
Minor league difficulty curves tend to be exponential, not linear, so the jump from success in Double-A to the major leagues is nothing like a jump from success in Triple-A, but Oliver’s forecasting engine really likes Surkamp’s minor league numbers. It pegs his 2011 minor league campaign as equivalent to a 3.51 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 season at the major league level. Oliver was also similarly positive regarding Surkamp’s 2009 campaign (3.37 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.4 K/9).
Surkamp’s major league debut against the Astros last week (6.0 innings, one run allowed, four strikeouts, three walks) was promising. All three walks came in the first three innings (including a leadoff walk in the first inning). Surkamp seemed to settle in as the game went on, walking none and giving up only three hits (one earned run) over his final three innings. Also encouraging was the fact that half of Surkamp’s strikeouts came on swings.
Only 24 years old, Surkamp has a bright future as part of an already deep starting rotation. Heading into the season, he was ranked among the Giants’ top 10 prospects as the No. 2 pitching prospect behind the recently departed Zack Wheeler. Though Surkamp does not have overwhelming velocity, he is touted as having a great curveball/changeup combo with plus-control. With rosters expanded, Surkamp figures to start Sept. 6, and could get a handful more (spot) starts down the stretch with both Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito out for the foreseeable future. On any other staff, he would be a strong candidate as a No. 2 type.
Recommendation: Surkamp is a very ownable pitching prospect, though with most fantasy teams likely pushing an innings cap, he is likely best used as a spot starter in mixed formats.
Javier Vazquez | Marlins | SP | 44 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.42 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.33 K9, 2.68 K/BB, 32.2% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.09 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 3.0 K/BB
How is Vazquez still available in 56 percent of leagues? His last outing was absolutely brilliant: 7.0 innings pitched, six strikeouts, one walk, three hits, and zero runs allowed. Over his past five starts, Vazquez has a 2.72 ERA over 33 innings, with a disgusting 36:6 K/BB ratio. I do not know how much more fervently I can advocate for him. Vazquez is at least as good as Madison Bumgardner (77 percent owned), Hiroki Kuroda (82 percent owned), and Jhoulys Chacin (79 percent ownership) in my book, and he’s certain been better than Chad Billingsley (85 percent owned) and Colby Lewis (73 percent owned) over the past three-plus months.
If Vazquez does not retire this offseason, and provided his velocity maintains itself next season, I could see Vazquez as a top 40 (very ownable) mixed league starter, or borderline No. 3 in 12-team formats. A strong September could convince me to bump him up into the top 35. Given Vazquez’s severe struggles over the first two months of the season, his surface stats are still pretty
Uggla ugly: 4.42 ERA, 1.32 WHIP. Even his peripherals (7.33 K/9, 4.10 xFIP) are deflated due to an April/May (combined 52.1 innings, 30:27 K/BB, 5.2 K/9, 6.02 ERA) that are a complete 180 from his numbers since regaining his velocity toward the end of June (84 innings pitched, 2.63 ERA, 76:14 K/BB ratio, 8.2 K/9 since June 21).
Due to these stark splits, Vazquez will likely be undervalued next season, and given his risk, he is unlikely a keeper in most formats. Still, for the rest of the year, this is a guy you spot sit, not merely spot start.
Recommendation: Vazquez, a top 40 rest of season pitcher, should be owned in most eligible formats, though his velocity and fatigue should be monitored down the stretch.
Tommy Milone & Brad Peacock | Nationals | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (minors): 3.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 9.7 K/BB || 2.39 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 3.8 K/BB
Oliver MLE: 3.41 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 8.0 K/BB || 3.24 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 2.47 K/BB
As earlier anticipated, Milone and Peacock are headed to the majors.
Milone’s major league potential was covered at the beginning of August, and none of the hype has abated since. Over his past five Triple-A starts (31.1 innings pitched), Milone struck out 35 of the 120 batters he faced (29.17 percent, 10.1 K/9) while walking only six (5 percent, 1.7 BB/9). He’s also surrendered only seven runs (six earned), while accruing a spectacular 1.64 FIP. Milone’s MLE performance this year, per Oliver, is an exciting 3.41 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9. A high 3’s ERA, mid-1.2’s WHIP, and Scott Baker-sh strikeout rate are entirely in the cards for Milone, who is a highly ranked 2012 pitching sleeper for me if he locks in a rotation spot (in place of Livan Hernandez?).
Peacock is another talented Nationals pitching arm. Though he has shown less strikeout stuff than Milone in Triple-A (9.0 K/9) and his minor league career (8.3 K/9), while walking more batters (4.5 BB/9 in Triple-A and 3.1 BB/9 for his career), his career minor league FIP is still a strong 3.40 for his minor league career (3.93 FIP in Triple-A this season).
Peacock is a year younger than Milone, and at 23, there is still room for his control to improve. Oliver likes Peacock’s combined Double-A and Triple-A 2011 stats—a 2.39 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 177:47 K/BB (3.77) over 146.2 innings pitchedVas worth a major league equivalent 3.24 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 9.2 K/9, though Oliver’s forecast engine is more pessimistic regarding Peacock’s ceiling than Milone’s.
Between the two pitchers, I think Milone’s control will help him pitch better in the major leagues, especially out of the gate. Neither figures to get the ball regularly this year, but each should get roughly three starts down the stretch. For those who missed out on nabbing Stephen Strasburg in time and own Jordan Zimmerman, Michael Pineda or Jeremy Hellickson, make room for some pretty strong spot starters.
Recommendation: Milone and Peacock are worth streaming down the stretch in mixed formats, though shallower leagues and near-capped owners should play only the “favorable” matchups.
Devin Mesoraco | Reds | C | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (AAA): .289/.371/.484
Oliver MLE: .269/.346/.450
In 2007, the Cubs selected Josh Vitters, marking the second time that decade that they missed out on an immensely talented backstop bat in the first round: Devin Mesoraco. Whereas Vitters has floundered like most high-round Cubs prospects since…well, forever, Mesoraco has flourished.
In five minor league seasons, Mesoraco has accumulated a less-than-exciting .800 OPS, but over the past two seasons he has really come into himself as a prospect. Over his past 950 plate appearances, Mesoraco has launched 41 home runs, walked 10 percent of the time, and hit .295. In Triple-A this year, Mesoraco has continued to develop as a hitter, slashing .289/.371/.484 and striking out a mere 16.6 percent of the time.
Oliver’s OPS MLEs for his past two season performances are .824 and .796, respectively, and Oliver sees Mesoraco capable of a .270 batting average and 15-20 home runs per 500 plate appearances. Those numbers are about what Cubs fans have come to expect from Geovany Soto, who seems to alternate really good years with disappointing ones.
Unfortunately, Mesoraco, like Jesus Montero, does not figure to get full-time play down the stretch. Both Ramon Hernandez (free agent after this season) and Ryan Hannigan (a solid backup) sit ahead of him on the depth chart, but Mesoraco could run away with the job as soon as next year. Hence, as a keeper, Mesoraco should be on fantasy owners’ radars this month. Mesoraco could develop into a top 10 fantasy catcher in the near future. As a guy to help you win this year, however, his prospects are likely limited unless you have a deep bench and the time to micromanage your team and check whether he is playing each day.
Recommendation: Mesoraco is worth owning in NL-only and keeper formats, but (deeper) mixed leagues can likely ignore him as anything more than a bench player.
Jason Motte | Cardinals | RP | 15 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 1.65 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 4.1 K/BB, 47.6% GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.68 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.7 K/BB
I would not let Tony LaRussa babysit my kids, let alone manage a baseball team for me. Still, he’s the skipper in charge, and despite Fernando Salas‘ emergence as a strong late game reliever this year, TLR has and said that he intends to periodically give Motte the ball in the ninth inning of close games. That means that Motte needs to be owned in more leagues by owners scrounging for saves (as does Bobby Parnell, who is available in 82 percent of leagues).
This is no knock on Motte—he is certainly a talented reliever, and one worth owning irrespective of saves. He is talented enough that his 1.65 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 54.2 innings this year make him a top 160 overall fantasy player per Yahoo’s rankings. Just make sure you keep Motte, who has not allowed a hit since Aug. 6, on your radar as the Cardinals make one last Hail Mary push to pull ahead of the Brewers in September.
Recommendation: Motte is a very ownable elite reliever who needs to be owned if getting save chances.
Anthony Rizzo | Padres | 1B | 2 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver MLE: .256/.337/.494
With rosters expanding, Rizzo figures to get a second chance to shine in San Diego this year. Though he struggled to make contact through his first 35 major league games, hitting a mere .143/.282/.265 and striking out 30.8 percent of the time, there were good signs mixed in with the bad results. For one thing, Rizzo showed patience at the plate with a 12.8 percent walk rate. Equally encouraging, he showed that he could hit for power at the major league level. Do not let the .122 ISO fool you; nine of Rizzo’s 14 hits were for extra bases, and according to Katron.org’s batted ball map, Petco, as one might expect, took a particularly harsh toll on Rizzo’s production. Here’s what his batted balls at Petco would have looked like at his old park, Fenway:
Rizzo still has to work on his struggles against same-handed pitching, and as a lefty in Petco, the park’s effects will always take a particularly harsh toll on his home run totals, but as a whole, Rizzo’s star status still shines brightly. Since his demotion, he’s done nothing but pick up where he left off when called up earlier this year: crushing the ball. Since getting sent down late July, Rizzo is hitting .310 with 10 home runs and 14 doubles in 36 games. More keeper leagues needs to own this guy before it’s too late.
Recommendation: As a first baseman with elite power, Rizzo is a top 10 mixed-league prospect to keep for 2012.
Jerry Sands | Dodgers | OF | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver MLE: .256/.337/.494
There is no way the Dodgers can justify keeping James Loney over first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands as a first-baseman/outfielder next year. Though Sands hit only .200/.294/.328 in 41 games, the Dodgers patiently let him play this season, “good” for a .279 wOBA. Loney has not been much better. Save for a red hot August in which he batted .367/.433/.633 (.452 wOBA) with five home runs, Loney has been just as bad. Even with that hot August, he’s still produced only a .309 wOBA, 5 percent below the major league hitting average—atrocious production for a first baseman.
Meanwhile, Sands, like Rizzo, is still hitting in the minors. Though Sands is hitting just .270 since getting sent back to Triple-A, he has 23 home runs, 19 doubles and a pair of triples over his past 307 plate appearances. Sands may not hit for average in the majors, but he does take a good number of walks. He walked 11.8 percent of the time in during his cup of coffee in the majors this year, and his minor league career walk rate is 11.7 percent as well.
Oliver’s forecasting engine still projects Sands as capable of a .250 batting average with plenty of pop and decent on-base results despite a poor batting average, good for .800 OPS-type production. He has fallen a lot from his 2010 and early 2011 performance level, but Sands is still an exciting young hitter who needs to be monitored as rosters expand and Andre Ethier takes some time off to recover.
Recommendation: Sands should be monitored in NL-only and deep mixed leagues.