The usual suspects

I participated in four mixed league drafts over the past week. So, I decided that for this week’s column, I’d look at some players who have made appearances on more than one of my teams. I figure that if I was able to land a player in multiple league that is an indicator that he was either undervalued by the market, overvalued by me, or perhaps a bit of both.

Just to provide a bit of context, in all four of these leagues I chose to abstain from drafting a pitcher until somewhere in the neighborhood of pick 100. I was hoping to get Cole Hamels as my ace in as many leagues as possible, figuring he was the most undervalued truly elite pitcher. So, a fair amount of my repeat offenders will be upside pitchers who were there for the taking in the pick 150-240 range.

Without further ado, let’s get into the players who will make me very happy or rather frustrated over the next seven months.

4 for 4

Roy Oswalt. Full disclosure: I love Roy Oswalt and he was very good to me back when he was a perennial Cy Young candidate. So, there is a bit of the late night meet-up with the old flame thing going here. But there were other reasons Oswalt found his way to me so often. I think players returning from injury are generally undervalued. I was also shopping for a lot of high risk/reward types, so I felt Oswalt represented something of a more balanced risk asset. I still think there is fairly nice upside potential, especially considering how late I got him, but I also think that aside from injury, he doesn’t have nearly the bust potential of a Scott Kazmir or Jonathan Sanchez.

Max Scherzer … or Max Scherzer. Scherzer is one of my favorite of the high-ceiling, late-round starters though. If he can toss 185-200 innings, which remains to be seen, he could put up 200 Ks. Oliver seems to love him as well. The move to AL is reason for some concern, but any step forward in Scherzer’s development should easily outstrip the penalty of switching leagues. His run support should increase as well.

3 for 4

Nelson Cruz. Cruz is another player whom Oliver seems to really like, and I can’t say I disagree. He hit 33 homers and stole 20 bases (while getting caught just four times) in 128 games last year. He hits in a great park and in a potent line-up and he’ll start the season at 29 years of age. The only thing not to love is his batting average, which I tried to account for in my drafts.

I actually made a cognizant effort to draft better batting average candidates in my earliest picks than in years past. This was because as I kept looking for offensive players I thought would be bargains, the emerging trend was that batting average appeared the most common risk/deficiency. So, I thought to myself that in order to be able to carry such players, I’d need to have a strong core of .300 hitters. Cruz is likely to be a stud regardless, but even more so if you’ve already accounted for his potentially questionable batting average.

Aramis Ramirez. Although I thrice selected Aramis, I did so with a bit of trepidation each time. Every year there are high-ranked players whom I have every intention of avoiding but who slip far enough that it forces me to give serious consideration to said player’s upside. Basically, three times I was unable to resist Ramirez’s price. With 3B being fairly thin this year as well, I often looked at Ramirez as the last player available with the true elite potential. Ramirez has done it before and continues to do it so long as he remains in the line-up. And, frankly, I think his injury history is a tad overstated. Considering where I got him in some of the drafts, I think 130 games plus his replacement would actually be fair value.

Ted Lilly. I discussed Lilly last week. He’s the definition of underrated and he gets snubbed every year. This season he’s coming of an injury to boot but is only slated to miss the first two weeks of the season. Anything resembling his past three seasons will be a tremendous value considering how late I was able to snag him.

Brad Lidge. In one of my drafts, closers without any job security, including guys still in competition for a job (Matt Lindstrom, Chris Perez) were being drafted before Lidge. Now, I understand the reason to be skeptical of Lidge and I didn’t go into my drafts targeting him, per se, but if last year proved anything, it’s that he has as long a leash as any closer in the game. We also kind of went through this whole “what’s wrong with Brad Lidge?” act already, back in 2006. I made very small investments in a guy who has shown that he can be a truly elite closer in this league, even on the biggest stage there is. Once he comes back, how bad can it be? … Famous last words, I know.

2 for 4

Though I will not go into these players in depth because it’s not as strong a statement that they found their way onto two of my teams, it’s still quite possible they are undervalued.

Ryan Braun – one of these was a keeper, the other time I took him with the fourth pick, so no undervaluing going on here
Victor Martinez – similar to the Aramis Ramirez dynamic, but I was actually more comfortable drafting him
Aaron Hill – even though I got him twice, I wouldn’t necessarily say I clearly saw him as a bargain
Andre Ethier – love the power potential, and at age 28, who’s to say his best isn’t yet to come?
Joakim Soria – the crop of top-tier closers was thinner than ever, and I like to get one
Lance Berkman – injury is a concern and he may not start the season with the team, but Puma’s never been this cheap, bonus points in OPS leagues
Cole Hamels – as I mentioned, my vote for best potential value among luxury brand pitchers
Ricky Nolasco – my first starter selected when I missed out on Hamels, ceiling is through the roof … even though I believe that’s architecturally impossible
Jake Peavy – twice my second starter selected, classic risk/reward pick
Rafael Soriano – top-five closer if he stays healthy
Hunter Pence – solid value, discipline improved last year, would love to see him score more runs though, not sure if that’s possible in the Astros line-up
Ryan Ludwick – would have to slip into a coma to not drive in 100 batting behind Pujols and Holliday
Rajai Davis – I love him, and so does Oliver. As high speed potential as Juan Pierre and likely more useful in other categories. I could totally see him out-producing Michael Bourn
Jonathan Sanchez – another potential 200 K starter way deep
Scott Kazmir – injury concerns started already, but the guy did lead the AL in Ks in 2007
Cody Ross – another player Oliver loves
Ryan Doumit – it’s criminal how far he slipped in some of my drafts

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Comments

  1. trent said...

    Yeah, alot of injuries.  A recent draft I was in had him going first.  WOW!  Potential is there.  I too love Oswalt, but he has burned me the last 2 years.  Davis good pick and will out produce Bourn.  Doumit needs to stay healthy.

  2. Kyle said...

    How is he in trouble?  He went for the best high reward/risk guys.  Last season is the first time Oswalt threw for less than 200 innings since 2003, and his fastball is still one of the better ones according to Fangraphs(he throws 92-95 mph regularly.)  If Peavy stays healthy, he’ll be a beast.  His WHIP is still great, and in his 3 stars for the White Sox, he was 3-0 with an absurd ERA of 1.35.  He’s less likely to get hurt since he doesn’t have to bat, and will be able to really own the inside part of the plate. 

    I’d say Lidge, Kazmir, Hamels, and Berkman are the biggest risks…  but he probably stole them considering how low they’re being drafted.

  3. T A Hoppe said...

    Very informative piece. I too like Scherzer, Lilly, Pence.  I traded for Doumit to upgrade my C in one of my leagues. I’m hoping to slip Lidge onto the DL if he doesn’t start the season.
    Ludwick is highly underrated and its nice to read something positve about him. The other OF that seems to be putting it together this spring is Rowand. He is off everyones radar after his numbers dipped last season but he is in the batting cage before everyone else and his spring stats are impressive enough to move him off move watch list and on to my bench.

  4. Andrew P said...

    I generally like what you did here.  There’s a little bit more risk than my liking with some of the earlier and mid-round picks (Aramis, Soria, Berkman, Peavy) but for the other guys that present risk, I agree that they’re easily going late enough to represent good value.  Bench players that either become starters or waiver fodder are more valuable than bench players that will only start if thrust into the role due to injury.

    I agree 100% on your analysis of Cruz, and made a bet with a friend awhile back that he’d outperform Markakis in 2010.  I also fully agree that a number of the potential better values later on have lower batting averages (Bruce, Quentin, Ian Stewart, many later round catchers with pop, etc.)

    My deep (post-hype?) sleeper this year is Sean Rodriguez.  Upside is probably Dan Uggla with a handful of steals (it’s the Rays we’re talking about here) and maybe even multi-eligibility.  It looks like he’ll split time with Zobrist at 2B, but if he mashes, he might move Zobrist to RF full time.  Downside, of course, is that he doesn’t get enough ABs to be meaningful (Desmond Jennings could be a big factor here), or that he flops in limited ABs.  For the cost, though, I think he’s roster-worthy in deep, AL-only, and deep AL-only leagues with potential to be mixed-league relevant.

  5. Kyle said...

    Hey Andrew P, I don’t think Peavy is really a risk.  Kazmir may have led the league in k’s in 2007, but Peavy won Cy-Young award, and triple crown for pitchers that year.  Kazmir is the guy I’d be most worried about, because of his absurd control issues, dying fastball, and the fact he’s only once thrown more than 200 innings. 

    Peavy’s career record is misleading, because he’s never gotten the run support others have.  And he’s still a strikeout pitcher who always has an other-wordly WHIP plus low ERA.  Not to mention the White Sox rotation looks far better than what the Angels have.  Berkman might actually be the riskiest, because he’s already on the DL and just turned 34 with two seasons of mediocre power seasons(for Berkman.)

    Nelson Cruz was a great pick.  He’s in his prime, and looks like he could easily have 35 to 42 homeruns, 20-25 stolen bases, and his average will only go up.  He had 33 homeruns while playing in 128 games.  This season he should be an all-star, and put up some pretty massive numbers in that ballpark.

  6. Derek Ambrosino said...

    Not to be defensive here, Bill, but how am I necessarily in trouble based on what you see here? Most of the picks here were acquired in the twelfth to twentieth rounds.

    And – this is perhaps the key in executing the boom or bust strategy for rotation building – I don’t expect all my risks to pan out. My strategy is to get one or two fairly stable, high performing commodities, and then draft more boom or bust candidates than I need. For example, I may not select a single starter until pick 100, then another at pick 125, and then pick 5 starters in a row starting in round 14. Now, if all my starters reach their potential, I’ll run out of innings in the last week of July. But, I know that won’t be the case, nor will it need to be for me to prosper.

    Many “sure bets” will get hurt or bust anyway. And, given that offense is more reliable anyway, my sticks should be among the best-in-class in the league. If half of my upside pitcher picks work out, I’ll be fine amd remain competitive in pitching while having a marked advantage on the offensive side of things.

    If I would have made this list last year, with 5 leagues, among the players who would have appeared are Josh Johnson (5 for 5, btw), Joba Chamberlain, Ubaldo Jiminez, Wandy Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano, Ted Lilly, and Oliver Perez. Some busts to be sure, but the hits were so big that they more than compensated for the misses. And, I finished 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. …Batting average is nice, but on these picks, I’m looking to put up slugging percentage, so to speak.

    And, FTR, any player who starts the season on the DL is basically a free pick. If I select Erik Bedard in the 18h round, what I’m really doing is trading my 18th round pick for the rights to Erik Bedard (placed on my DL) and the best undrafted player (as I get that roster spot back when I send Bedard to the DL).

  7. Andrew P said...

    Kyle- the difference is in where they are drafted.  I’m not a fan of Kazmir at all, as his control issues are ever-present, even if his stuff isn’t.  Comparing him to Peavy, however, is a straw man, as Kazmir will get drafted significantly lower than Peavy.  In my original post, notice that I qualified my sentence on risky players with draft position. 

    If you draft Kazmir in the late rounds, you’re not costing yourself as much if he flames out.  Peavy, though, demands a higher pick, thus increasing his risk.

    Though the AL Central isn’t a hitting powerhouse, it will still provide more offense than the NL West has in Peavy’s days with the Pads.  Further, Petco is easily the best pitcher’s park in the league, while the Cell is consistently a hitter’s park.  Even in 2007, Peavy’s xFIP was 3.54.  If one were to adjust for park effects, the numbers would be even worse.

    I have nothing against Peavy.  He’s been a great pitcher, and is very capable of dominating the AL Central lineups.  I just think citing his 2007 stats is a gross misrepresentation of his current situation.

    I question his ability to stay healthy.  Even when he was just a prospect, scouts had questions about how healthy he’d be with his violent delivery (Scherzer comes to mind as a contemporary analog… yes, i know they’re different pitchers).  Now, with his age creeping upwards, and a history of back and arm problems, I consider him to have a pretty high chance of flameout in the next couple years. 

    Combine that with a HR/FB rate that’s essentially a lock to rise and no longer facing the pitchers in the NL West, and I think you overestimate both his performance ceiling and his ability to stay healthy.

    Ultimately, I expect him to perform admirably when healthy (though not as well as his years in Petco), but I expect the injuries to continue to catch up to him.

  8. Derek Ambrosino said...

    I agree with Andrew that even under best case scenario, 2007 Peavy-form is unattainable. But, I think he has a higher upside than several similarly valued pitchers.

    No players are without risk, and certainly the deeper you get, that risk only increases. What you begin negotiating as you get deeper into the draft is the types of risks you take. One of the classic mid round risk dilemmas is the guy who you know at least had the goods but has to bounce back from a bad season or injury vs. the guy who we are actually sure has the goods to begin with, but we think he does. Peavy is the former, obviously. I don’t unilaterally pick one over the other, the cases are individual. But, in this case, I accepted risk A over risk B.

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