They say, I say: bold predictions for the last 15 teams

Last time, we looked at teams one through 15, alphabetically. Here are the rest.

16. Minnesota Twins
They say: There are essentially no Twins worth drafting, assuming the fact that Joe Mauer isn’t even worth consideration at whatever draft position he’s at.
I say: I certainly don’t want to pay much for Mauer (whatever “much” may be), but Denard Span, drafted for a couple of dollars at the back end of AL-only drafts and for only a buck in most mixed leagues, returns from his battle with concussions to steal 25 bags with a .290 average and a couple of homers.
My rationale: Span, a career .285 hitter, battled injuries throughout 2011, playing in only 70 games and putting up very pedestrian numbers. That said, the speedy leadoff man managed to swipe at least 23 bags in his previous two seasons, and hit .311 in his impressive 2009 season. He can certainly steal 30 in the right situation (which might still be a trade to Washington, where he would probably have a more constant green light), as his speed score of 6.9 is in the 90th percentile of all major leaguers. He’ll return to a starting gig in center, a spot at the top of the lineup, and hope for a better situation within the year. That opportunity, plus his talent and past performance, make him worth at least a dollar, no?

17. Milwaukee Brewers
They say: Mat Gamel is the only Brewers corner infielder worth a flier with Prince Fielder out of town.
I say: Taylor Green has something to say about that. Green puts together 400+ at-bats when Gamel stumbles and new addition Aramis Ramirez gets hurt. In the process, he hits 15 homers and hits .280.
My rationale: Gamel has been less than impressive in his three limited auditions in Milwaukee, putting together a .222/.309/.374 stat line over 85 games and 194 plate appearances. His strikeout rate remains a big question mark as well, as his 34.5 percent major league mark and 19.1 percent career minor league mark aren’t exactly the staple of “consistent contact” and “booming batting average.” Green comes with question marks, too, but can man both corner positions and shortstop, and has similar (if not slightly less) power than Gamel, hitting 22 homers in Triple-A despite only 487 plate appearances.

The injury concerns on the left side of the Brewers’ infield are real (Ramirez has averaged 118 games per year over the last three years; Alex Gonzalez has averaged roughly 128 games per year over the last five years), and Gamel’s inexperience and shaky record add one more potential place for Green to vulture at-bats. He’s worth a pick as a current utility man and future everyday player in 2012.

18. New York Mets
They say: Frank Francisco will not thrive in the friendly confines of Citi Field, because he is Frank Francisco.
I say: The man finally breaks out and saves 30-plus games, despite the shortened Citi Field fences. He flirts with a sub-3.00 ERA, as well, and leads the Mets to the Promised Land.
My rationale: Just kidding about the last part, but Frankie should fit in all right in Flushing. Home runs kept his ERA a bit high last year (he surrendered 1.24 per nine innings), but his xFIP has remained below 3.50 for the last four years and his fly-ball tendencies won’t cause too many problems in his new home park. Francisco also has four straight robust K/9 postings and should find his WHIP on the right side of 1.30 as his BABIP straightens out a bit. Look for him late and reap the rewards.

19. New York Yankees
They say: Ivan Nova will win 16 games again; after all, he pitches for the offensive juggernaut that is the New York Yankees.
I say: He might, and still won’t be worth a standard league draft pick. His ERA jumps to 4.25 and his WHIP hovers around 1.40 and his K/BB ratio remains the culprit.
My rationale: The aforementioned ratio was an ugly 1.72 in 2011, and his minor league numbers don’t support any kind of jump to expect in the strikeout department. So what you have is a man with pedestrian ratio stats that are due for regression (a 4.08 career FIP and 4.20 career xFIP mean a 3.70 ERA will be hard to duplicate; his 1.33 WHIP might even jump, as Bill James predicts a 1.43 number) who provides only wins. Wins are fickle, and it’d be best to take a flier on a starter in a friendlier home park than Nova’s; he received so much publicity only for his 16-4 record.

20. Oakland Athletics
They say: Brandon McCarthy only did it for 25 starts, and didn’t win enough games or strike out enough folks to be worthy of more than a mixed league late-round flier.
I say: McCarthy provides top 25 starting pitcher value with a 3.00 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 14 wins in 200 innings. He performs substantially better than rotation-mate Gio Gonzalez and is drafted four rounds later.
My rationale: The numbers speak for themselves, as they often do: McCarthy put together a 2.86 FIP, a 3.30 xFIP, and a ridiculous 4.91 K/BB ratio (ridiculous, in italics, because he struck out only 6.49 per nine innings… meaning yes, he did walk fewer than 1.50 per nine innings). He simply won’t get the love he so clearly deserves. Yes, his strikeouts leave a lot to be desired, but he makes for a better end-game option than Tim Stauffer, Mike Leake, Trevor Cahill or Ricky Nolasco, all guys with similar K/9s in 2011.

21. Philadelphia Phillies
They say: Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence are the only Phillies outfielder worth owning in mixed leagues.
I say: John Mayberry Jr. is swiped off the waiver wire after just two weeks—in which he hits four home runs. And he hits a total of 25 in just about 500 plate appearances.
My rationale: Those 25 don’t seem like such a stretch when you consider that Mayberry hit 15 in 296 plate appearances in 2011. Sure, his HR/FB rate was 17.4 percent, and three or four of his homers, according to Hit Tracker Online, were aided by a bit of luck or just barely cleared the fence. The bottom line, however, is that Mayberry turned some heads with his performance, and the Phillies front office is considering handing him a starting gig. At the very least, Mayberry will play against lefties, against whom he hit .306 in 111 at-bats last year. Draft him as a late-round flier before someone can pick him off the waiver wire next year; he might be poised for a Michael Morse-like power display.

22. Pittsburgh Pirates
They say: Never draft a Pirates starter. Ever. Not even James McDonald.
I say: Erik Bedard starts only 20 games for the Bucs, but puts together a nice 3.50/1.25/10 win line after going largely ignored on draft day.
My rationale: Bedard was a superb signing by Huntington & Co. (well, it would’ve been worth more if the Pirates had much of a shot to contend next year) at one year, $4.5 million, as he’s put together between 1.0 and 5.4 WAR over the last four years, all of which were bogged down by injuries. Injuries are a staple at this point for Bedard, and even counting on 20 games started is no sure thing, but he’s been supremely effective over the last three seasons in particular (in which he pitched at most 129.1 innings) when he’s taken the hill. Bedard has put together a 3.67/2.82/3.62 ERA split, with fair WHIPs to boot (1.32/1.19/1.28), and will benefit from pitching in the friendly PNC Park. Don’t count on even 25 starts, but enjoy him while he’s there… for cheap.

23. San Diego Padres
They say: Huston Street has too many health concerns to be drafted even as a second relief pitcher.
I say: Street puts together a glorious season in Petco, dropping his ERA around 2.50 and saving 30 games, though he does hit the DL at least once.
My rationale: Street has a career 3.11/3.09/3.38 triple slash, and last year’s xFIP was a gleaming 3.14. Street’s been as good as a 1.72 ERA in his rookie year in Oakland (albeit aided by a huge amount of luck), and has twice (rookie year included) bested a 3.00 ERA. He has the ability to keep his WHIP below 1.00, and has as good a chance as any to save 25+ games. Yes, health is a glaring red flag in Street’s case, but he’s saved 29+ three times previously in seven seasons. If you’re feeling lucky….

24. San Francisco Giants
They say: Madison Bumgarner is the third best pitcher on his own team. No way he should be drafted ahead of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. No way.
I say: Drafted as a No. 3 in mixed leagues, Bumgarner provides top 10 starting pitcher value in San Fran as his ERA slips below 3.00 and his WHIP below 1.10.
My rationale: He rediscovered his velocity, harnessed his control, and avoided the injury bug. In 2011, Bumgarner was superb with a 5.5 WAR. He was pretty much equally superb in fantasy terms: a 3.21 ERA with 13 wins, nearly 200 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP is nothing to sniff at. So why is he now going to perform like a No. 1 fantasy starter? My gut tells me he might mix in the change-up more in 2012, after throwing it only 4 percent of the time in 2011 and resorting to his slider a big 32 percent of the time. If his strikeout rate jumps, his ERA will probably inversely drop. Bumgarner’s FIP speaks for itself, though: a sparkling 2.67 mark means he preformed even better than his 3.21 ERA.

25. Seattle Mariners
They say: Dustin Ackley, the rookie sensation, he of the No. 2 pick behind the immortal Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 amateur draft, is a top 10 fantasy second baseman in the 2012 season.
I say: Ackley puts together a 4+ WAR season, but doesn’t return top 10 value for second basemen, struggling to hit above .250 in his sophomore campaign.
My rationale: Ackley was aided in his .273 batting average by a .339 BABIP, which should go down a bit (his Triple-A BABIPs were .308 in 2010 and .324 in 2011). Additionally, Ack Attack was on pace for only about 10 dingers and 10 stolen bases with about 60 runs and 60 runs batted in last season. That’s fine in its own right, but not top 10 material when matched with a sub-.260 average. Should he find himself lucky again with batted balls, and should he get the green light to the point where he steals 20 bases, Ackley may squeak out top 10 value, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

26. St. Louis Cardinals
They say: Jaime Garcia took a step backward in 2011.
I say: Sneaky as it was, Garcia improved as a pitcher in 2011 from his rookie campaign, and could be an undervalued guy on draft day.
My rationale: Garcia had vastly similar stats in his rookie and sophomore years. Behold:


Indeed, the major differences existed only in BABIP, stranding runners, and as a result of those two peripheral stats, ERA. Garcia saw a number of balls fall in play in 2011 that didn’t the previous year, and stranded nearly 10 percdent less men on base. As a result, his ERA jumped nearly a point. All told, Garcia did not become a worse pitcher in 2011 but rather a better one. As the graph above illustrates, he kept almost all his major stats (including purely aesthetic ones like wins) in line, while decreasing his walk rate per nine innings from 3.53 in 2010 to 2.31 in 2010.

He got more love on his way to finishing third in the 2010 Rookie of the Year voting, but Garcia was a better pitcher in 2011, and should be drafted accordingly.

27. Tampa Bay Rays
They say: Matt Moore won’t strike out 200 guys.
I say: Matt Moore will strike out 200 guys.
My rationale: This.

28. Texas Rangers
They say: Ian Kinsler is too injury-prone to be worth a high-second-round draft pick.
I say: Kinsler is a top 10 player as his batting average rebounds to support another 30-30 campaign.
My rationale: While Kinsler may not post another 7.7 WAR season, he certainly can match his shallower counting stats (32-117-77-30 in 2011), and he had twice previously gone 20-20 and once went 30-30. Kinsler’s been over 100 runs three times in his career (and had 96 one other year), and is a career .275 hitter who hit .255 in his career year. The injury concerns are real, and as such, Kinsler doesn’t make for the most comforting first-round pick (he played in an average of 129 games in his first six seasons), but if you’re feeling a tad bit risky, take Kinsler in the early second round and don’t look back.

29. Toronto Blue Jays
They say: Ricky Romero is an ace in AL-Only formats. Hell, he’s a solid No. 2 in mixed leagues after a 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 15 wins in 2011.
I say: A couple (er, a ton) more balls drop in play for Romero in 2012, and as his BABIP jumps to .285, his ERA balloons to 4.00 and his WHIP to 1.30.
My rationale: People ignore his incredibly pedestrian 2.04 K/BB rate over his career because he wins games and puts up anywhere from passable to excellent ratio stats. His 4.04 career FIP speaks more to his true value, though, and it’s important to remember that he’s facing some inevitable regression to his own mean this year after winning the battle against luck in 2011. His ERA might not jump all the way to 4.00 in 2012, but it certainly won’t stay below 3.00, and his 3.80 xFIP might predict best of all.

30. Washington Nationals
They say: Bryce Harper was more hyped than hype itself. He’s got to be snagged in the last few rounds because of his imminent call-up… he’ll lead my team to the promised land.
I say: Have you seen his underwhelming minor league numbers? Harper makes it to the majors on June 2 only to find himself straddling the Mendoza Line. He finishes with only eight homers and breaks a ton of hearts along the way.
My rationale: I’m not sure why Harper is worthy of competing for an Opening Day roster spot on the Nationals given his so-so minor league showing. Upon making it to Double-A, Harper hit .256 with three dingers in 37 games, good for three percent above league average (a 103 wRC+). The numbers simply don’t support a promotion, especially not one of two levels. Harper will surely have an incubation period in Harrisburg, but even when he comes up, there are concerns about his strikeout rate, maturity, and how much of his power is still untapped. Stay away and let someone else deal with the headache.

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  1. philosofool said...

    You’re the second person I’ve recently seen talk about Harper’s strike outs. Where does this come from? He was league average a A ball and slightly better than his league at AA this season. He was the youngest player in both leagues. Mendoza line is uncalled for pessimism. He’s not draftable outside keeper leagues, but if he could do 20-20-.260. It’s jus the may not ply until September adn he might do somehting like 15-10-.230 instead.

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    Oliver seems to disagree with Nick. His MLE from 2011 was a sturdy .261/.334/.442 with 19 HR and 16 SB.

    In 2012, Oliver projects 477 PA, a .260/.330/.463 line (.342 wOBA) with 19 HR and 12 SB. For those in keeper leagues, that wOBA projection jumps to .364 in 2013 and peaks above .400.

    Personally, I’m not inclined to disagree with Oliver. Then again, I traded Carl Crawford for him last year (and Mat Latos) and I’ll be keeping him for $8, so perhaps I’m self-rationalizing

  3. Nick Fleder said...

    Yeah, sorry about the Hunter Pence gaffe. We’ll get that fixed.

    Brad’s right about Matt Moore; I actually pinned 180 and 10 as roughly my numbers.

    I could be totally wrong about Harper, and yes, the counting stats will more likely be there than not, but I’m simply illustrating the fact that: 1) even top prospects struggle in their first go-round at the major league level (hello… Mike Trout?), and 2) he did not blow people away at Double-A and I think it’s incredibly premature that Davey Johnson has come out and said he’s fighting for a spot on opening day.

    I don’t doubt he’ll be good, but I’d stay away next year.

  4. Brad Johnson said...

    Harper can’t possibly open the season on the Nats roster. With the new CBA, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up by early May though since he’d have to be held back most of the season to avoid super 2 status.

    It’s very simple. 2-3 weeks of 19 year old Bryce Harper cannot possibly be more valuable than his entire 2018 season (in which he’ll be 25). Not to lean too heavily on a projection system, but has that .342 wOBA projection for 2012, but his projected 2017 wOBA (projections only go 6 years) is .408.

    They’ll figure out how to make Mike Cameron and Roger Bernadina work for a couple weeks. Bank on it.

  5. rbt said...

    I hear you on Harper, Nick, and I agree.  I’ve watched the kid play on several occasions; he swings at EVERYTHING.  That approach won’t cut it in the bigs.  He needs some more seasoning.  (PS:  Nobody has projected him as a high average hitter anyway.  It’s all about the power.)

  6. philosofool said...

    If “nobody projected him to be a high average hitter” why did Baseball America rank him as the best hitter for average going into 2011? (Rendon took that title this year.)

  7. philosofool said...

    (Clarification: he was ranked as best hitter for average in the Nats system.)

    Also, to follow up on the point, if Harper were just about the power, he wouldn’t be the best prospect in baseball. It sounds’ to me like rbt is misinformed.)

  8. JoeC said...

    I understand the case against Ivan Nova, but isn’t there a possibility that his 2010 was the result of actual improvement of his skills? It seems that statisticians are obsessed with noticing season which go against a player’s past performance, but this seems to rule out when a player actually improves during a season (ala Jose Bautista in 2010).

    Now of course regression to a past mean is going to be the norm, but there is a possibility that Nova improved simply by pitching in the majors every fifth day. His K/BB ratio did improve every month during the season except for the last month, reaching a high of 3.43 in August until falling to 1.42 in September. Then there’s just the basic “he had a much better 2nd half than 1st half”.

    Maybe he just got better. Just sayin’.

  9. Nick Fleder said...

    Joe, your point is well taken. As a Yankees fan, I’m hoping Nova booms into a solid #3 or low-end #2 pitcher in a first-division, division-leading rotation, but I have my doubts. His GB% in particular inspires hope but I can’t imagine that much success for a guy with a 14% K rate in a nasty home park, and no matter how good he is as causing ground balls and no matter how good his team’s offense is, I’m highly skeptical his fantasy upside.

  10. Brad Johnson said...

    It’s possible that he got better throughout the year. Observationally, I didn’t notice anything (not that I necessarily would, I avoid Yankees games whenever possible), so I’m inclined to call the statistical variations noise.

    Which leaves you in an interesting position. Almost everybody thinks Nova will regress, but you think there are underlying skills improvements that are being overlooked. This is fantasy gold. Take that information and use it to your advantage.

    There are always 10-15 players who I think are much better than the expert population rates them. I always make a huge profit on these guys as a group.

    Last year, it was Sandoval, Zobrist, and Beckett (and a couple others). I picked up that group at a draft cost of about $25 and they were easily worth $50. Sure I lost out a little on $10 Chacin and $4 Manny, but I had other hits like $1 Madson and aux pick Walden to make up for that.

    The secret that most of us fantasy writers don’t want you to know is that we’re wrong pretty frequently – especially when it comes to players becoming physically better or worse. We could watch 300 games a season and still not learn much about changes to most player’s physical skill sets. In a competitive league, the best way to win is to properly identify when the experts are wrong.

  11. Brad Johnson said...

    Case in point, I saw maybe 20 Blue Jays games in 2010. And by saw, I mean it was the game I watched when the four others I had on were in commercial. So I didn’t really see much of the Jays. Yet I was happy to trumpet, via statistical analysis, that Jose Bautista owners should expect 25-30 homeruns and a better batting average in 2011.

    Last season, the Jays were one of my most watched teams. Probably 30+ games as Game #1 (full screen w/ volume) and another 40-50 games on my auxiliary screen. I specifically focused on watching Bautista’s at bats. And it was a treat. Had I done that in 2010, I would have been all over Bautista, but the opportunity slipped through my grasp – and the rest of the fantasy community in general.

    The moral of the story is your original point – don’t assume a fantasy expert knows anything about a player’s physical skills. 9/10’s of online player analysis is almost purely statistical.

    (Thankfully I traded $41 Longoria for $8 Bautista in a keeper simply because I wanted to cut cost for the draft – whoo-eee! That owner now refuses to discuss $1 Matt Moore with me regardless of my offer.)

  12. Mike said...

    Regarding Harper and K’s, he improved on his rate on the jump to AA.  It just might be possible that he is working on certain facets of his game peace-meal in order to advance smoothly.  A strikeout rate in the high-teens coupled with an ISO around .200 wouldn’t cripple his average.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it around .260-.270 at the next level right away.

  13. Nick Fleder said...

    Yes, but while he improved his K rate his entire game slipped otherwise. Granted, he was at a new level, but maybe he overcompensated in trying to cut strikeouts out of his game. My entire point was that strikeouts are only one the many questions surrounding Harper, though, and his production at AA doesn’t warrant a promotion at all—strikeout rate improvement or not.

  14. Mike said...

    On the Bautista note, it is similar to where Granderson is now.  One of the reasons for the jump with Bautista is that he began to pull more and of the ones he pulls he also launched more FB (which he elevated more as well).  When Grandy went to NY, everyone had the idea that the short porch would help and in 2011, he finally adjusted to using the park to his advantage via pulling the ball.  I fully expect him to maintain a large degree of his 2010 performance.

    Regarding Matt Moore, don’t be surprised to see 220 K’s.  All told, he pitched about 175 innings in 2011.  In the 2 starts he had, he went 12 innings and 182 pitches.  I can easily see him go 30 starts for 190-200 innings.

  15. Mike said...

    By the way, love the approach of the articles.  I end up digging over my projections and adjusting when I find myself viewing certain facets differently.

  16. Nick Fleder said...

    Glad you agree on the Moore note. It was late, I was writing this for several hours, and I decided the Moore dominance spoke for itself in that video.

    I also agree wholeheartedly about Grandy. Both Grandy and Bautista had clear, believable changes in their swings that accounted for the HR boosts and power dominance. Neither seemed fluky, especially if you saw the before and afters of the swings.

    Thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoyed.

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