Welcome back to the Roster Doctor’s office, where the reading material is so objectionable it would make Tim Whatley scoff.
This week, Eric implores us to take a look a look at his club’s power deficiency. He writes:
I find myself in the most competitive fantasy baseball league I’ve ever played in. I’m 10.5 games out of first place (standard ESPN 12-team 5×5 H2H). I have one of the best run-scoring teams, but am in the 5th-10th spots in the rest of the hitting cats. My pitching staff has been strong, centered around Lee and Kershaw, streaming the rest of my games (5 transactions and 10 starts per week max). I’ve held on to Teheran for a couple of weeks, recently picked up Cingrani again, and just today grabbed CJ Wilson off of waivers.
Anyway, here is my roster. Where do I go from here? I have an obvious weakness at catcher (I had Jesus Montero out of the gate), and could use another OF/UTIL with pop.
C: AJ Pierzynski
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Jose Altuve
3B: Martin Prado
SS: Ben Zobrist
2B/SS: Daniel Murphy
1B/3B: Anthony Rizzo
OF: Shin-Soo Choo
OF: Nick Markakis
OF: Starling Marte
OF: Michael Brantley
UTIL: Neil Walker
Bench: Angel Pagan *DL
Bench: JP Arencibia
Bench: (rotating whoever is playing in Colorado, currently Will Venable)
P: Clayton Kershaw
P: Cliff Lee
P: Sergio Romo
P: Kenley Jansen
P: Jason Grilli
P: Julio Teheran
P: Tony Cingrani
P: C.J. Wilson
P: Koji Uehara
DL: Brandon Beachy
This an extremely well-constructed baseball team. You have a wealth of young talent; tons of on-base ability; speed at the top of your lineup; Joey Votto in the middle; an unimpeachable 1-2 punch in your rotation; and a formidable bullpen. If I was to assemble a big-league roster, I would most assuredly use this as a template. Unfortunately, this isn’t real baseball. Your standard 5×5 league hearkens back to simpler times when productivity was measured solely in primitive metrics like batting average, RBIs, and wins. As such, despite the undeniable merit of your ballclub as, well, a real ballclub, as a fantasy squad, there are some deficiencies that need to be rectified.
It’s practically fait accompli that you won’t get much power out of your middle infield. Entering Thursday night, shortstops have produced a collective .113 isolated power, a figure that hardly pales in comparison to the .118 mark achieved by second basemen. Your middle infield contingent has dutifully contributed to these modest averages, as Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Neil Walker, Jose Altuve, and Daniel Murphy have averaged 4.4 long balls apiece this season.
And that’s okay; you’re not really supposed to get power there. You are, however, supposed to get power from your outfielders. This is a principle that seems to have eluded you thus far into the 2013 season —only one of your outfielders, Shin-Soo Choo, has eclipsed seven home runs— and it would behoove you to move some of your high-average, premier run-scorers for some pop.
Provided this is not a keeper league (and this is a very important caveat) and you can afford to sacrifice the stolen bases, I’d consider moving Starling Marte, who’ starting to pay the price for his indiscriminate approach at the plate. After grabbing the league’s attention with a monstrous April (.327/.395/.477), the 24-year-old has slowed considerably of late. He’s left the yard just once over his last 21 contests, while his 0.19 BB/K ratio ties him for fifth-worst among qualified hitters.
Considering his unwavering refusal to take a walk, Marte’s on-base success will wane as his BABIP regresses (his batting average has fallen 40 points since May 1, for the record) and the contingency stats like runs and stolen bases will start to suffer. As exciting as he is—did you see that catch on Monday? Mercy!—he’s an inexperienced hitter with an unrefined approach who’s going to struggle before he makes some adjustments. As such, I’d move him (presumably to a manager desperate for steals) for a bopping corner outfielder of the Mark Trumbo, Yoenis Cespedes, or Matt Holliday variety—players with reliable power who won’t hurt you in other categories.
As you mentioned, your pitching has been an area of strength, anchored beautifully by Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee, and so I’d recommend moving one of your other reliable starer for someone who can help you in the offensive categories. With a 2.16 ERA and 40 strikeouts over his last six starts (a stretch encompassing 41.2 innings), Julio Teheran has finally started to realize the potential so many scouts and analysts raved about, and has whittled his ERA on the season down to a tidy 3.36. That said, four of those outings have come against the Twins, Mets, Padres, and Harper-less Nationals, respectively.
Additionally, Teheran’s lofty 81.5% left-on-base percentage is a little perplexing given his ground-ball rate—11 of the 16 qualified hurlers with a LOB rate above 80 percent induce ground-balls more frequently than Teheran. Should his batted-ball profile proceed as it has, not only are more of those runners going to score, but his home run rate, currently at 1.08 per nine innings, will continue to pose a problem. Like Marte, he’s a talented young player with a bright future ahead of him, but (and again, I’m operating under the presumption yours isn’t a keeper league), he should be worth shopping for someone who can help you on offense. If parting with Teheran is simply too unpalatable (and I really wouldn’t fault you if it is) try shopping C.J. Wilson in his stead and perhaps lowering your asking price a tad. Consider augmenting deals with one of your closers, another area where you boast impressive depth.
I’d also advise employing a middle-infield-by-committee with the quintet mentioned above, plugging in Walker or Murphy for the tremendously disappointing Prado whenever a favourable matchup presents itself and reserving your utility spot for a home run specialist that you can pick up immediately. Some names that come to mind are Josh Willingham (available in roughly 31 percent of ESPN leagues), the resurgent Raul Ibanez (90 percent availability) or even the struggling Evan Gattis (56 percent availability).
As far as your catching situation goes, anointing J.P. Arencibia your everyday backstop would help assuage some of your offensive woes, as he’s doing everything better than A.J. Pierzynski besides hitting for average. Arencibia currently leads all catchers with 15 home runs, and has compiled a respectable 35 RBIs and 28 runs. Though exasperatingly streaky, Arencibia still represents a better option* at this point than Pierzysnki. If you’re so inclined, you could employ a timeshare whereby you start Arencibia in home games only—he’s fashioned a .392 wOBA at Rogers Centre, and a .199 mark everywhere else.
*This is merely a fantasy recommendation and should not be construed as an endorsement of Arencibia as a real-life player. I’m a Jays fan and he keeps me up at night.
Jonah Birenbaum is a recent graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program who spends his time pontificating about baseball (fantasy and otherwise) while subsisting on an inglorious retail job. He welcomes questions, comments, and even constructive criticism via