Waiver Wire Offseason: AL

Carlos Quentin | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats: .236/.323/.456

“Staying healthy is not a skill at which Quentin excels,” this author understated in GP2010. An oddity about Quentin’s injuries is that none of the major ones have derived from his huge HBP totals—a self-inflicted hand injury ending his 2008, followed by a mysteriously slow-healing foot problem in 2009, and even going back to his Tommy John surgery in 2003 and his labrum and hamstring issues in 2007. Oft-injured players like Quentin are such a tease for fantasy owners. Is he really a Schleprock, who can be expected to continue finding varied new ways to get hurt? Or is it really just a matter of the dice coming up “craps” twice in his three “full” major-league seasons? Even with the injury in 2008, he contributed mightily.

Quentin… when healthy(Icon/SMI)

First off, Quentin’s a guy who is going to help in a setting where OBP matters, so Sabermetrically friendly fantasy leagues and sim games are contexts where his offensive contributions will be fully appreciated. Some may see that his walk totals aren’t exactly overwhelming, and while he makes good contract for a slugger (career Ct% over 82%), he really is skilled at leaning into pitches. He ranks 75th on the active HBP list, and has just 1,422 PA to his credit. If he manages to get 600 PA, the extra 25 HBP (or so) will vault him into top 50 territory, and his HBP:PA ratio is 8% higher (38% vs. 30%) than active leader Jason Kendall … and HBP is definitely a stat that (statistically) keeps going up with age. So, anyway, don’t dismiss him as a low-OBP guy based on the fact that he walks under once per 10 PA, and is unlikely to hit over .300.

The other aspect of run production is slugging, and Quentin has a career slugging of .491, which is good-not-great, considering the parks he’s played in. But then again, his ISO is .237, which—thanks to the P-I tool at baseball-reference.com—is the 28th-best ISO among active players with 1000+ PA. As a player who hits a lot of fly balls, distributed in a manner which leads to a lot of homers in US Cellular field, there’s really no reason to expect his ISO to drop, and (here’s that qualifier again)—if healthy—his age 27 season could even see growth in this area. So, the question is really whether he can lift his .254 career batting average. Not a fast runner at his best, the foot problems were responsible for a lot of the 2009 BABIP depression (.223 on the season). The fly balls, however, are taxing on BABIP, and he may “deserve” some of the .258 career BABIP he’s compiled. That said, that’s an extremely low figure for a guy who hammers the ball with such authority. Expect to see this rebound to around his 2008 figure of .280, and his batting average to likewise climb back into the .280 range.

In summary, health is the issue with Quentin. It would be easy to take a “confident” stance that he’s going to get nearly 600 PA and put up nice triple-crown stats (e.g. .280-35-90), and that looks good in the postseason reviews if it happens. And it’s certainly a good possibility, perhaps moreso than most people think. But he still should be viewed as a player to take in a “bargain” round (or at a “bargain” auction price), or else a bit earlier by a team that needs some breaks to contend anyway (due to inferior keepers).

Alex Rios | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats (Overall): .247/.296/.395
2009 Final Stats (Chicago): .199/.229/.301

Kenny Williams became the laughing stock of the Internet blogging community when he spoke out about how “disappointing” some players were to him in 2009. But the team was one game out on Aug. 5, and after splitting a pair with LA, had upcoming series with non-contenders CLE, SEA, OAK, KC, and BAL before facing a meat grinder of Boston, NY, and MIN. That the Sox went from four games over .500 to two games over .500 in that stretch before the Boston series was not aided by the fact that Alex Rios joined the team on Aug. 12. The theory was that Rios only needed to play like he’s played for over 3,000 PA in the past, and the White Sox would realize a big upgrade to their gaping hole in CF. No, in this we have to take exception to our fellow bloggers and suggest that Kenny Williams had every right to be disappointed with the ridiculously poor stats his new center fielder put up.

Projecting Rios could be a case study in the “statistical sample size” vs. “what have you done for me lately” aspects of performance expectations. On the “lately” side, only the last 10 games of 2009 gave any inkling of hope (he hit .333/.400/.556 in 40 PA). But while we know that 10 games is a “throwaway” sample size, could it be that the entire 2009 is also? BABIP is shown to track with career BABIP, and Rios still sports an excellent .323 career BABIP, due to his line-drive hitting ways (before 2009), good speed, and decent power. So, do we assume that his BABIP will rebound to the .320 range? His BB% and ISO were down a little in 2009 (5.8% vs 6.6% career BB% and .148 ISO vs .163 career ISO), but nothing that seems out of place from a random fluctuation. And his contact rate remained virtually unchanged (though he struck out more after coming to Chicago). About every projection which will be published for Rios will combine these two aspects in some manner … usually by weighting the most recent season much more highly than previous seasons, but not excluding those priors, either. In general, the “long view” tends to be right much more often than not, and with most of his core indicators staying similar to career numbers, Rios should rebound to somewhere near his career norms, which are quite useful. On top of that, the ballpark should aid his numbers somewhat, compared to Toronto. It seems likely that he will be undervalued on draft day in many—if not all—leagues.

Josh Hamilton | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .268/.315/.426

It may seem contradictory to be bullish on Quentin and bearish on Hamilton, but that’s how we see it this season. This author has been resisting trade offers for him in a keeper Strat-O-Matic league, so it’s not like we’re writing him off totally, but for fantasy purposes, he’s too likely to miss time to be a front-line option. Further, back injuries can often sap a hitter’s power, and he underwent two “root-nerve injections” in his back and ended the season not being able to play. His past personal problems—and the indications that he’d struggled with them again recently—wouldn’t necessarily be a reason to stay away, but given the severe consequences if things get out of control again, his likelihood of having a career-ending “event” happen has to be considered higher than most players. Add in that hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo is now in Chicago, and the risk factors just keep compounding.

Now that we’ve scared off anyone with any risk aversion tendencies whatever, this is still Josh Hamilton, arguably one of the most gifted natural hitters of our generation. The .304–32–130 season he posted in 2008 wasn’t a mirage or a fluke (though the RBI total has to be considered lucky). Even though the park factor in Texas has been declining in recent years, it’s still a nice place to hit. So, if he’s sitting there in the later rounds, and it’s a choice between a “safe” pick like Franklin Gutierrez or him, it could be better to go with the “upside” guy and presume you can figure something out from “replacement level” players if something bad happens. This is a classic case of a guy having much more value in shallow leagues than in deep ones, however … since “replacement level” is so much stronger in shallow leagues.

Franklin Gutierrez | Seattle | OF
2009 Final Stats: .283/.339/.425

Gutierrez is a runaway leader in the “outfield fielding runs” category in those roto leagues which use fielding. For the rest of us, the terse synopsis back in July still applies: “Nobody in Cleveland is surprised that Franklin Gutierrez is dominating the CF defensive stats this year (.986 RZR, 60 OOZ plays, both tops among CF qualifiers). With the […] rotation needing all the flycatching support it can get […], his job is virtually slump-proof. [D]on’t expect a star, but for AL-only leagues, just playing every game has value.”

As with former M’s center fielder Mike Cameron, Gutierrez faces a tricky situation in terms of maximizing his value. Playing in a park with a huge outfield (like Seattle) saps his power, and expecting more than his 18 HR from 2009 seems optimistic. Yet, parks with smaller outfield territories reduce the influence he can have on the pitching stats. At least in his first year, his “home cooking” outweighed the “big park” effect, and he actually posted an excellent .386 OBP at home (.317/.386/.443). His good speed translated into 16 SB in 2009, and he can be expected to again have about that many in 2010. All-in-all, he seems like one of the more likely hitters to put up carbon-copy numbers in 2010.

Travis Snider | Toronto | OF
2009 Final Stats: .241/.328/.419

A high-school outfielder is drafted for his bat, and is considered the best HS hitter in the draft, yet falls outside the top 10. He reaches the majors at a young age, and posts eye-popping stats in a meaningless sample size and gets a serious “buzz” going about his future. The next year, he disappoints, despite getting on base about a third of the time. The strikeouts, many fear, are going to seriously limit his potential. Despite the obvious similarities to Jeremy Hermida, Travis Snider‘s situation is somewhat different. Hermida was “pretty good” at High-A and Double-A at ages 20 and 21. Snider was “pretty good” at Double-A at age 20, and has done nothing short of embarrass Triple-A pitching since then, hitting .337/.431/.663 in 204 PA there in 2009 after 70 great PA in 2008. Perhaps more important, his contact percentage (Ct%) at Double-A was 77%. We’re not talking Dustin Pedroia here, but for a 21-year-old with limitless power and good plate discipline to have a Ct% that high against Triple-A pitching is a great sign.

Then, of course, came the regular gig in Toronto. Snider was so awful against LHP (20 K in 40 AB!) that he wasn’t used against some tough lefties. He did draw five walks, get hit by two pitches, and even lay down a couple bunts, so he managed a .333 OBP against southpaws despite all the whiffs. The good news from the struggles against lefties is that he slugged .448 vs RHP, which is inching toward the power a team wants from a corner outfielder. At 21, there’s every indication that number will skyrocket upward. And if he’s bombing RHP, he’ll get every chance to work on his approach vs LHP. Whether or not he will have an epiphany along the way and suddenly turn into a two-way hitter is not clear, but even if he stalls out as a should-be platoon guy, a la Jason Kubel (.240/.314/.356 career vsL), there’s little doubt that he’ll hurt righty pitching badly enough to be a valuable contributor both to the Blue Jays and to fantasy teams for years. Expect significant growth in 2010, but temper expectations a bit, as he’ll still be just 22 years old.

Scott Sizemore | Detroit | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .308/.389/.500 (AA-AAA)

Sizemore is an interesting case. He’s a “grindy” player who has overachieved what was expected. Scouts don’t think much of him, and he’s even ranked 10th in the thin Tigers organization in BA’s 2010 list. One knock on him is that he plays no part of the second base position well enough to acquit himself at the major league level, so his bat is going to have to carry him (let this be a warning to those considering drafting Tigers pitching). Then the scouts watch his game and don’t see the standout batting skills they want, other than an adequate ability to hit for average. On the flip side, his “overachieving” makes him a favorite with coaches, and the stats he’s put up (he has hit for average, some power, drawn walks, and even stolen a few bases) make his projections come out just fine, if somewhat pedestrian. He’s a bit of an “older” prospect, but just made his pro debut in 2006 and didn’t stall out at any level, having his best half-season at Double-A in 2009 to earn his promotion—and likely earn Polanco his ticket out of Motown. It would not be surprising to see him falter somewhat in 2010, but become sort of a late bloomer a la Mark DeRosa. It’s unclear how much rope he’ll be given, though the Tigers don’t appear to have any other reasonable options at the position.

Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.

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  1. David said...

    Some pitcher suggestions (sorry if you have covered any of them before):
    S.Baker, K.Slowey, F.Liriano, J.Shields, S.Kazmir, D.Holland

  2. Mark Driscoll said...

    I 2nd the Baker & Holland nominations & want to Borbon, Harden & Colby Lewis.  Thanks for the great work you guys do with the site!

  3. MFG said...

    I really enjoy the Waiver Wire series. But one comment:

    Sometimes the commentary presents a picture that is in direct conflict with the GP2010 forecast. Case in point, Trav Snider. His 2009 line was .241/.328/.419 in 241 ABs. The forecast projects no growth whatsoever (538 ABs of .247/.321/.424). Yet your commentary says to expect “significant growth.” The total picture this entry gives readers, then, is pretty confusing.

    Humble suggestion: in these circumstances, maybe include a stab at what sort of stat line your commentary would support.

    Just a thought. Keep up the great work.

  4. Rob McQuown said...

    MFG -

    That’s a great point, and I often try to do give some indication of what I exect to see.  I respect the system which we used in GP2010, and for the Heater “True Talent” throughout the season, but I’m also not going to slavishly defend each individual projection when I don’t agree it. 

    As for Snider in specific, I think his ‘vsR’ stats will creep up toward a .500 slugging (call it .280/.360/.500), and his ‘vsL’ stats will go from “useless” to “horrible” (call it .220/.310/.320 just for the sake of argument), but – as noted – sometimes lopsided guys have a breakthrough vs their weak side.  Assuming that his struggles vs southpaws limit him to an 80/20 PA split (80% of PA coming vsR) and he doesn’t magically start hitting LHP, that makes his season stat line .270/.350/.465, give-or-take.  While that’s stronger than most other projection systems, they don’t project him to see only 20% LHP, so it’s more similar than it would first seem.

    I just double-checked fangraphs.com, and I see that this is almost identical to the “Fans” voting, which usually seems to be much more optimistic than “system” projections.  Meanwhile, the Bill James Handbook has a really nice .493 slugging projected, but even back to the days when I worked at STATS in the 90s, that system has been overly sensitive to small sample sizes of extreme performance at AAA (in addition to being “tuned” higher than “reality” despite the BIS protestations to the contrary, as Mr. Carty has been writing about in some detail).  Anyhow, this is one player where I think it’s safe to be more optimistic than the “normal” projections, even if you don’t go all the way to the BJHB levels.


  5. Larry said...

    Great columns and love GP2010.  If you get a chance, would like to hear your thoughts on Nelson Cruz, Alexei Ramirez and Youk.

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