Playing with fire: Hitters’ ed. 1.0

“There is a house in New Orleans

They call the Rising Sun

And it’s been a ruin of many a poor boy

And God I know I’m one.”

-Alan Price/Traditional

I am a fantasy optimist; the Sleepless in Seattle of player evaluation. I really can’t help it, nor do I think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I will always live and die by the theory that once a professional baseball player exhibits a skill set he can always return to that skill set. Now, there are several other factors like age, environment, or mechanical flaws that play into the equation, but no matter how you mask it, the skill set remains. There is no place that this rings more true than on the disabled list.

Give me your wounded, your weary, your downtrodden. Chew on this number: 468. Dustin Pedroia (97), Jacoby Ellsbury (158), Kendry Morales (126), and Justin Morneau (87) spent a combined 468 days on the DL. They undoubtedly dashed dreams of 2010 championships for their managers along the way. If you are like myself and hold a grudge against any of these guys, I totally understand. You may stop reading here. I would click on an advertiser and help support The Hardball Times.

If you’re still with me, I implore you to run the names Vladimir Guerrero, Rickie Weeks, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton through your head. These DL All Stars spent over 270 days on the pine in ‘09. In 2010, they were all integral fixtures for the managers who had the fortitude to take the risk on them.

I think I like working the injured guys the most because they will always yield the highest return on investment. Ron Shandler in his 2011 Fantasy Forecaster showed that an “end gamer” or late-round pick who was injured in ‘09 actually yielded a greater profit that any other projection indicator. There is always a warning label. Even though injured players yield high rates of return, they can be highly volatile and can fade into the forest of Ian Kinsler. Remember for every Adrian Beltre there is an Aramis Ramirez.

I absolutely love Dustin Pedroia for an injury rebound in 2011. He now sits atop the best lineup in all of baseball, a lineup that could easily create runs at an historic clip. He was well on his way to another great Pedroia season when his injuries derailed him. All the fantasy gurus love to throw around the term positional scarcity. Normally I would tell them to take a hike, but Dustin has now perennially exhibited a strong skill set and will deliver a 120+/18/20/.315 line in 2011. The 120+ is a number I left for extreme growth.

With Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis batting behind him and Ellsbury batting before him possibly from the nine hole, I think I could lose some credibility if I said he could approach Jeff Bagwell runs scored levels (143 in 1999 and 152 in 2000), but I just did, bad boy.

My favorite deuce bagger is another wounded warrior in Chase Utley. I refuse to believe that a thumb injury will keep this first-round talent from recapturing his 110/30/15/.295 skill set. Utley has to get better protection from Ryan Howard, and the absence of Jayson Werth could send some shock waves up and down the Phillies’ lineup until Domonic Brown discovers his inner Jason Heyward. Utley’s injuries are starting to accumulate as ol’ Father Time sets in, but if you can stomach the risk, there isn’t a more talented player you can get at his current market value. Our lovely Oliver isn’t nearly as optimistic, projecting a line of 85/24/12/.278. So be diligent to yourself and do your research, but if Mr. Utley can be had in the second, there’s no way I could pass on him.

Without further ado, the winner of the 2011 Josh Hamilton Look-alike Contest hails from La La Land, and I’m not talking about the Cuban Morales Crisis. We’re talking the other Dodger outfielder, Andre Ethier. Before his pinkie boo boo, there was no player better in the game. He was hitting .392 with 11 homers through just 125 at-bats. His power has been quietly ticking upwards over the past couple of years, and he gives me Ryan Braun-like goosebumps with his lunch pail approach. According to Mock Draft Central, he is averaging in as a 36.9 pick. That’s a third- to fourth-round selection for those of you keeping count. Without a doubt this guy will hit around .310 and eclipse the 100 RBI mark in 2011. His home runs are probably the most intriguing stat for next year. Assuming that as he reaches 28 years old he will be able to better handle left-handers, he should be a lock for 30 home runs and has potential for 40+.

Most of all, always remember that I am a firm believer in drafting players that you like. Ben Pritchett doesn’t manage your team. You manage your team. If you really like Kendry Morales then you should intelligently spend to get him. Now don’t go crazy, but I will always overspend for a guy that I like. Stay tuned and we’ll have my list of guys on whom to overspend.

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Comments

  1. yummy said...

    I have my radar on a few of the players you listed and I am also targeting Brian Roberts and Grady Sizemore. Any thoughts on those two rebounding?

  2. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Jeffrey Gross- Oh you’re right. We are talking some huge risk/reward guys. The way I see it, you can’t hedge all your bets on these guys, but you can definitely pepper them throughout your lineup on draft day. Pegging the right injured guys can be the difference in a first and third place finish.

    Example- If I were to get Utley in the second, I would be alot more weary about getting Ethier in the fourth. If I were to get Utley and Ethier, I would draft like Mother Teresa until the later rounds.

  3. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Yummy- First of all, “Yummy” is a great pseudonym.

    Secondly, refer to my comment to Mr. Jeffrey Gross. If you are starting to target these guys, make sure you are determining your favorites along the way.

    Let’s address these two players seperately. Grady Sizemore had microfracture surgery on his in early June. There is a chance he’s not fully recovered by the start of the season. He’s 28 and in seemingly great shape otherwise. He seemed to be pressing alot in 2010 even when he was healthy. He can’t hit lefties and his speed isn’t elite even though he tries to steal alot of bases. Who knows how he’ll be next year. His best case scenario is a 25/25 season with a horrid batting average. So if you’re targeting him as a fourth or fifth outfielder or a bench player, I have no problem with that.

    As for Brian Roberts, he differs from Sizemore in that he is 33, and he may have a little more risk involved than Sizemore. You’ll definitely have to pay a little more for Mr. Roberts. Don’t get me wrong. I do like Brian Roberts for a solid comeback. His second half line was 27/4/15/10/.287 through 216 ABs. Project that over his normal 600 ABs, you get something similar to 2009. His line drive percentage of 22 was in line with previous years. His stolen bases were already ticking downward from ‘07-‘09, 50 to 40 to 30. I don’t see that trend changing much, but if I can get him in the 130s like Mockdraftcentral has him going, that’s really a no brainer. He’d be my second baseman.

  4. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Ben,
    Agreed. I wouldn’t touch ethier with a clown pole, though I have him ranked #21 in my OF rankings. Will he hit 20 or 30+? Stay healthy or get injured? Steal bases or sit on his thumbs. Ethier’s a solid guy and he’s what everyone always thought Nick Markakis would be, but I’m not sold on him as a #2 (though I’d take him as a #3).

  5. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I like the theory, but some of these gambles are going to cost high picks and you do not want to gamble too much too early. I agree that Utley in the second round is criminal, however.

  6. William said...

    MDC has your three going 19, 33, and 36; Vlad, Weeks, Beltre and Hamilton were not, I don’t think, nearly that low last year. I hear what you’ve responded on that issue in terms of just risking one of them since they’ll be a higher pick, but do you have any ideas for the sort that fit Shandler’s finding that LATE round recently injured guys offer best value?

    (And are pitchers different?)

  7. Ben Pritchett said...

    @William- Very good point, Hamilton was about a 60 to 80 pick last year, and Weeks, Beltre, and Vlad were all 150+.

    I was moreso trying to point out the usefulness of using the Disabled List as a tool to find bargains, but you are right there are some Late round injured value plays that I could and should have addressed. Per your request, here are some more guys I like Carlos Beltran, Brad Hawpe, and Aaron Hill.

    Beltran (199 pick MDC)- Injuries are really becoming more of a nuissance than I like, but if he looks healthy in spring training, he’s definitely worth a look because of his proven track record of playing well when HEALTHY (see healthy part ‘09 and Sep ‘10).

    Hawpe- He’s going to have to be the man in San Diego. He’s 31 so he’s been around the block, but he’s not old enough to where I’d be worried about a skill deterioration. He hit 20+ homers, 80+ RBIs, and a .280+ average for the prior four years before last year’s tragic season. He hits well in every park, I believe in the Hawpe.

    Hill (179)- Now Hill didn’t spend much time on the DL last year, and his days of a .280 batting average are over. The power is legit, but in 2010, you saw his line drives drop and his flyballs drop into alot of gloves. A little unlucky, maybe he was, but if he can drive the ball a little better, he still has a great power skill set for a middle infielder.

    Regarding injured pitchers, I do believe that they have a similar trend and have great potential for profit (Edinson Volquez). I don’t know about you, but an injured pitcher scares me to death i.e. Brandon Webb. Hopefully I’ll have an article for you soon on pitchers, but as you know, there are value plays all over the 200+ pick range in the pitchers ranks without having to touch the injured guys. Look at Scherzer (217), Bumgarner (250), C.J. Wilsom (251), Hellickson (255), Matusz (289), Bailey (289), and Volquez (314). In my opinion you could make a great 2011 pitching staff out of these guys.

    Thanks for the comment. It helped me look alot deeper into my points and points I missed.

  8. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Ben,

    I have Volquez ranked barely in the top 75 of SP next year due to WHIP issues and ERA volatility. Just curious for the reason as to why you’re on the Volquez wagon?

  9. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Bobby Clox- Lots of ways I’d like to address this one, but you are right. E.D. shouldn’t affect the way the hitters handle the bat.

  10. Ben Pritchett said...

    Jeff, you are really on top of it. The gentleman requested some late round plays so I gave him some. Typically pitchers do much better the second year after their TJ surgery. He’s the magical age of 27. Yes, he does have a high WHIP and can be disastrous at times. He’s also a very dominant pitcher (avg. of 8.775 k/9)  that batters have a hard time hitting (.230 oba). He’s got good stuff, but the walks can get to his head. I’m not in love with him, but if I’m still picking in the 300’s I would definitely go there and I’d probably roster him over the Derek Hollands of the world.

  11. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Ben,

    Interesting, but I think I’d rather have Holland. I’m a notorious “board better” wanna wage on who is ranked higher on the Yahoo player rater at the end of the season? I’ll take Holland.

  12. Ben Pritchett said...

    Jeff

    Let’s do it. I, too, am quite the fantasy betting enthusiast. I think we should do some more of these, and we can get a collaborative piece together and bring it to the masses. I’m also interested to see your xWHIP piece.

  13. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Thanks Ben. My OF rankings will be out a week from Friday and the SP rankings a week after that. Love to catch your insight and comments on it. I rate Beltran a bit high!

    I’m guessing you got the xWHIP email I sent out, but there was an error in the file. Email me independently and I will shoot you the final version without the error.

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