They say, “in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king.” I say, “in the land of fantasy baseball, the man with updated statistics is king.” Season-long numbers are nice to project the future, but 30-day trends are more telling of who’s already hot or likely to get hot in the future. Poor starts suppress present cumulative value, and it’s today forward you are concerned with when you acquire a player. Try to catch other owners off guard and keep an eye on the trends, not the totals. That is my professional, non-legal (sorry, can’t give that yet) advice for the week. Hopefully you were able to acquire Gavin Floyd (two great outings, including a one-hitter against the Cubs) and J.J. Putz (11 consecutive scoreless appearances). He’s not an AL-only guy, but Chase Utley has struggled mightily the last 45 games. His BABIP (and batting average) are both floating around .260, and some owner may be willing to move him for the right price. Utley will be worth every penny. And now, let’s look at this week’s value docket . . .
All stats current through at least June 15, 2010.
Jose Bautista watch (6/8-6/14): .080 AVG, 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB. His ownership down to 98.2% in ESPN leagues. It’s been a rough week and a half for Bautista owners.
Julio Borbon | Texas | OF, DH | 30.4% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .290/.325/.360
Julio Borbon was one of the top reasons that I recommended you don’t overpay for stolen bases this offseason. The logic was why pay the big bucks for Ellsbury’s .290 AVG, 60 SB and 90 R when a comparable outfielder was available a full 100+ picks later. Of course, to date, Borbon has been nothing short of a disappointment for fantasy owners. He was projected for a .300 AVG and .360 OBP with 50-70 SB to boot from atop the Rangers’ powerful lineup. Instead, he’s been on base less than 30% of the time, slotted down to ninth in the order, and has stolen only eight bases in 192 PA after swiping 19 in 179 PA late last season. I took a look at Borbon three weeks ago (May 28) and concluded that he was a prime buy-low guy. “Borbon won’t cost much and has too much upside to ignore. Bottom line: in a world where Juan Pierre is owned in 96.2% of leagues and Rajai Davis is owned in 80.4%, Borbon’s 34.2% ownership rate is criminally ignorant.”
Since June 1, Borbon has scorched out a .472/.487/.611 with a handful of R/RBIs and one SB. Borbon’s hot streak raised his BA from .240 to .280 in less than 20 days, and since May 8, Borbon is hitting .370. Unfortunately, as Derek Carty pointed out via Twitter the other day, both Andrus and Borbon are getting the red light on the basepaths for now. Borbon may have some of the fastest wheels in baseball (in college, Borbon ran the 60-yard dash in 6.29 seconds), but he’s currently only 8-for-14 (57 SB%) in stolen base attempts. As Baseball for Dummies notes, “a good base thief should be successful on at least 75 percent of his stolen base attempts. If your percentage is below that, your attempts are probably hurting your team.” Baseball Prospectus’ ESQBR (a stat that calculates the runs value a baseball player has added/subtracted from a team based on stolen bases) confirms this, as Julio Borbon has been the 15th-worst base-stealer in the game right now (Andrus is No. 16).
Borbon still packs a lot of stolen base potential, but if the Rangers won’t let him run, his fantasy value becomes substantially impaired. Given Borbon’s recent torrid streak, some other owner in your league (who does not follow us on Twitter) in need of speed might have taken notice and be willing to buy at 90% of his preseason value—especially now that his batting average is up to .280. If you have the opportunity to sell Borbon at a good price to fill a team need, I would highly recommend taking it. Borbon is not worth dropping—he still offers too much value and someone will likely pick him up—but he is far from the scrub anchor of a stars-and-scrubs team we all thought he was preseason. Now is the time to shop.
Recommendation: Must be owned in all AL-only and all 12-plus-team or five-outfielder mixed leagues
Adrian Beltre (30 days) | Boston | 3B | 100% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .280/.320/.470
I know what you’re thinking. “Why is Beltre on this list?? He’s owned in 100% of ESPN public leagues, hitting .333 and now has nine home runs on the season.” The answer is simple. Beltre started the season with only two homers in 158 PA and gave owners quite a scare. Over is past 28 games, however, Beltre has smacked seven balls out of the park, propping up his total season numbers. Some owners may be panicked. In late May, Brian Joura of Fangraphs recommended owners actively shop Beltre, noting that “Beltre has a career-low 28.9 FB%, making a big HR season virtually impossible. Right now Beltre’s value is tied up in his .327 AVG, which is the result of his .381 BABIP. Beltre has topped .300 just once in his career. He has a .293 lifetime BABIP and his career-best is the .325 he posted in 2004.” Beltre’s FB% still sits at the lowest mark of his career in the modern Fangraphs data era (post-2002, 33.7%). Against what you might expect, the HR/OF_FB index ratio from Safeco (.952) to Fenway (.879) is less than 1 (0.928), so a turnaround in power to the 30 HR mark was probably unlikely. Thus, I must concur with Joura. Thanks to a recent torrid streak (.371 BA, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 104 PA), Beltre’s high AVG is no longer “empty” and his value is likely at its apex. Beltre is very unlikely to top 25 HR this season, and its very possible he falls short of that mark. Owners scrambling for a quality 3B (i.e., Gordon Beckham/Alberto Callaspo) this deep into the season might be willing to pay a premium for Beltre service. Meanwhile, quietly comparable (or better) alternatives might be available on the waiver wire (Pedro Alvarez in mixed leagues, Kevin Kouzmanoff in AL-only). Beltre’s worth owning, but he won’t keep this pace up. Maybe you can convince someone otherwise using the “Fenway distorts offense” myth.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only, should be owned in 12-plus-team or CI-position mixed leagues
Scott Baker | Minnesota | SP | 81.6% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 4.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.35 K/9, 3.68 K/BB
True Talent: 3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.45 K/9, 3.60 K/BB
Minnesota has become famous over the last few years for
game 163 no-walk control pitchers. Twins pitchers currently lead the majors in BB/9 by a mile. Their 2.09 mark is over half a walk per game lower than the Phillies’ second-best 2.70 mark. With Carl Pavano (1.44), Kevin Slowey (1.92), Nick Blackburn (1.94), Francisco Liriano (2.34) and Scott Baker (2.00) leading the charge, the Twins are giving out fewer free passes than … uh … some place that doesn’t give out free passes.
After getting rocked early in the season (5.72 ERA in April, 1.55 WHIP), Baker has recently righted the ship (last 28 days: 3.56 ERA, 1.22 WHIP). A quick look at the peripherals reveals many encouraging signs. As mentioned above, Baker’s 2.00 BB/9 is incredibly low. His 38.3% GB% is at a career-high mark, and his current 7.35 K/9 essentially ties a career high set in 2008. The result is a career-best 3.88 xFIP (half a run better than his 4.41 ERA), and there are plenty of reasons to believe Baker’s success is sustainable. Baker’s swinging strike rate of 10.1% is right where’s it been each of the past two seasons, his F-Strike% is at a career-high 66.2% mark, and Baker has induced more swings with more misses at pitches outside of the zone. Baker is using his fastball slightly more this year, but it is a two-seam fastball that has more gas on it now than 2008, so there are reasons to believe that the GB%, though still below average, might be realistically improved rather than the byproduct of random noise.
Wednesday night against Colorado, Baker threw a gem: 7 IP, 1 BB, 2 H, 12 K, 0 R. Thanks to a pair of poor outings prior, Baker’s value has remained relatively suppressed this season. However, the buy-low window for Baker is closing, and some owner may try to use Baker’s last start as a basis to sell him for value. If so, exploit said seller. Baker won’t be the hero you need, but he’ll help stabilize your team’s overall numbers and provide you with plenty of value as you (and the Twinkies) make a playoff push in September. In fact, if you had a team of all Scott Bakers, you’d probably destroy everyone in every pitching category except saves and maybe K’s. Go get him now, before it’s too late.
Recommendation: Must own in every format. Top-40 SP.
Brett Cecil | Toronto | SP | 79.5% ESPN Ownership (+33.1% hot add this week)
YTD: 3.55 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 6.53 K/9, 2.83 K/BB
True Talent: 3.85 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.00 K/9, 2.50 K/BB
Brett Cecil has been quietly effective this year. He started the season strong (20.2 IP, 2 W, 6 R, 4 BB, 12 H, 21 K) and, his most recent start aside, has been pitching well ever since. Cecil’s ERA by month is 3.55 (April), 3.89 (May) and 3.05 (June). Meanwhile, this season, Cecil has shaved 1.3 walks per nine from last year’s rate and upped the groundball rate to 44.4%, perhaps thanks to less below-average fastball usage and better offspeed pitch mixing. Cecil’s K/9 is down this season to a 6.53 mark from last year’s 6.65 mark, but his swinging strike rate has jumped from 7.9% last year to 9.4% this year, which leaves me to believe that his K/9 will probably experience a rebound and increase as the season progresses (assuming all remains the same). Cecil’s 3.58 ERA and 7 W are backed by a 3.55 FIP/4.05 xFIP, and the only MLB team with a .200+ ISO. In terms of No. 5 fantasy starters, Cecil is money.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only, should be owned in 12-plus-team mixed leagues (especially those with innings limits of 1,400 or more)
Erick Aybar | Los Angeles (AL) | SS | 79.3% ESPN Ownership (+13.0% hot add this week)
True Talent: .288/.340/.385
Entering this season, many had lofty projections for Erick Aybar. Fangraphs’ several listed projection systems (including Bill James’) almost unanimously pegged Aybar for a .290+ AVG with 5-10 HR, 90+ Rs and 20-30 SB over the course of a 700 PA season. Through May 29, Aybar fell somewhat short of his expectations, especially on the AVG end: .231 AVG, 1 HR, 28 R, 7 RBI, 6 SB (5 CS). Since May 29, however, Aybar has been on fire: .400 AVG, 13 R, 5 RBI, 5 SB (0 CS) and, most important, only 7 strikeouts (10.3% K%). That streak has propped his full-season line up to (but still below par at) .272 AVG, 41 R, 13 RBI, 11 SB, 1 HR, putting him on pace to match or beat all of his preseason projections short of AVG and power (which was sub-marginal to begin with). In roto, it’s not about when you get your numbers, just that you do, and Aybar owners who have been frustrated this season should keep hold for better times ahead. Those in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues with MI requirements with subpar shortstops should try making a play at Aybar. With Kendry Morales out, the Angels only have Mike Napoli providing big wood, so it’s very likely that Mike Scioscia will
attempt to “manufacture more runs” green light more stolen base attempts. Someone might be frustrated with Aybar’s two-month slump and willing to sell, and if so, you should take advantage. Aybar just might steal 40.
NOTE: AYBAR DECIDED TO GET INJURED, SO HE MOVES FROM “GO GET” TO “WAIT AND SEE” STATUS
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only and deeper (12-plus-team, MI requirement) mixed leagues.
Trevor Cahill | Oakland | SP | 18.9% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 3.23 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 5.14 K/9, 1.67 K/BB
True Talent: 4.00 ERA. 1.30 WHIP
Last year, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden anchored the rookie pitching staff of the Oakland A’s. Both Cahill and Anderson were top-rated prospects entering the season, and while Anderson, sans injury, has been Roy Oswalt good and Braden has thrown a “#### you, A-rod” type of perfect game, Cahill has been holding his own quite well as well. Through 61.1 IP this season, Cahill has a solid 3.23 ERA and a surprising 6 W with a sub-1.20 WHIP. Anyone who had him has surely been more than pleased to date, but is he worth a roster space?
Compared with last year, when he posted a below-average 4.63 ERA/4.92 xFIP, Cahill has upped the ground balls (52.5%), has thrown more first-pitch strikes, has shaved the walks by half a walk per nine (down to 3.03), is getting more mustard on his hot dog (90.4 mph fastball), is mixing pitches more, and is striking out more batters. Unfortunately, Cahill is still inducing fewer swinging strikes than the MLB average (and thus producing a below-average strikeout rate despite high K totals in the minors), but his 4.35 xFIP is significantly improved over the previous season. Right now, the A’s are only average in terms of run prevention, and over the past year and a half, the Coliseum has been playing like much less of a pitcher’s park than normal. Thus, that full-run ERA-xFIP split is more likely to subside than subsist as the season progress.
If you see an owner in need of ERA/WHIP help, trying packaging Cahill as an add-on piece in a trade to get something pulled off to help your team. Cahill is significantly more replaceable than his numbers indicate. Heck, try Dallas Braden (4.03 xFIP, I’ll likely take a look at him next week), who has inappropriately garnered the “overrated” label from many, instead.
For more on Cahill, consult this article by Joe Pawlikowski of Fangraphs or your local library.
Recommendation: Should be owned in AL-only formats. Cahill is a decent/fringe SP5 option in deeper (1,500-plus inning limits) mixed leagues.
Max Scherzer | Detroit | SP, RP | 48.8% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 6.14 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, 2.36 K/BB
True Talent: 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.75 K/9, 2.60 K/BB
Since I recommended acquiring him a few weeks back, Max Scherzer has been pitching like his old self, short of the ERA. In 24 IP, Scherzer has 33 strikeouts (12.4 K/9) to only nine walks (league average 3.38 BB/9). Scherzer’s ERA is a bit inflated (4.10) due to a poor turn in Kansas (5 ER in 5 IP), but he has been money otherwise. With the velocity and strikeouts back, Scherzer is likely primed for that breakout I predicted in the preseason. The window to buy (cheap) is likely closed, but some impatient owners worried about his outing against Kansas and his early-season struggles may be willing to sell at a slight discount. If you have the opportunity, take it. Otherwise, you should listen to me sooner.
Recommendation: Must own in all formats. Top-40 SP.
Unfortunately, that is all I got for you this week. Meanwhile, I leave you with a pair of quick AL fantasy notes:
David Ortiz (DH | 87.2% ESPN Ownership) has been classic Big Papi the last 28 days: .275 BA, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 19 R, 0 SB. He’s certainly contracted Mark Teixeira disease (painfully slow starter) through mid-May of each of the past two seasons.
Matt Joyce (OF | 0% ESPN Ownership) has been destroying the minors this season for a combined High-A/Triple-A line of .354/.484/.583 (1.067 OPS). Per Minor League Splits, that is worth a major league triple slash line of .284/.393/.451 (.844 OPS). The Rays outfield is certainly crowded and there is no room for Joyce at the moment, but keep an eye on him and the health of current Rays outfielders. Maybe he’s finally ready to live up to his potential.
Final note: Do you miss the days of FJM? With articles like this one trolling around the internet unlampooned, it makes you wish someone would smack the Diamondbacks organization upside the head. Alas, feel free to lament in the comments.
And, in case you haven’t noticed, I have tried to honor the Ken Tremendous shrine weekly by working food metaphors into my AL Waiver Wire articles. If you have any food metaphors you would like to see in next week’s column, please suggest them in the comments.