For the most part, we will profile players individually, discussing their value in mixed leagues, AL-only leagues (or NL-only discussion from Michael Street), expectations of a player being a “sleeper” (or “value pick”), and even keeper possibilities. With the wide variety of contract rules (and roster sizes) that various leagues use, keep/no-keep decisions will be different for each setting but should be clear from the discussion. And, as always, we’re here with quick answers to questions posed in the comments section.
All season long, THT has participated in a “Fantasy Baseball Roundtable” discussion, a panel which was comprised of experts from various sites, all approaching the same question simultaneously (so, it wasn’t really a roundtable, not even a virtual one, as there was no interaction). Yours truly was invited to participate in two of them, following in the big shoes of Derek Carty, who was busily putting the final touches on his fantastic LABR League championship run. The first question was whether we thought Ubaldo Jimenez was a top-seven starting pitcher for 2010 and the next was the question we’re going to discuss this week on Waiver Wire, in our first offseason installment: 2010 Sleepers – hitter and pitcher?
For those who don’t want to go to other sites, the “sleeper” picks were: Carlos Gonzalez and Marc Rzepczynski. “Car-Go” contained the caveat “he’s almost certain to be overlooked, barring a huge postseason”. Well, it was only four games long, but he’s no longer a “sleeper” to anyone who watched him massacre the (mostly lefty) pitching the Phillies sent out there in the NLDS. And, since Rzepczynski was reviewed in this column late in the season, there was little to change. So, who are some other players that might be “value picks” next year (since the concept of a “sleeper” is pretty much non-existent anymore)? Is it Brett Anderson (who has been glowingly reviewed here at Waiver Wire), or Luke Hochevar (whom we were about as harsh on as possible for someone with his K/9 rates)? These were the two other AL players noted in the Roundtable. How about some other candidates instead, just for variety?
2010 “Value Picks”
Ian Kinsler | Texas | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .253/.327/.488
There’s some risk here, as Rudy Jaramillo is departed from Texas, but Kinsler is one of the few players who has a legitimate shot as being a “Roto MVP” in the American League in 2010. The biggest reason to expect better stats from an established star is Kinsler’s ultra-low BABIP, trailing everyone at .245. Before 2009, Kinsler’s career mark was over .300. If he rebounds to his career mark, that’s 25 extra hits, and even if we assume those are all singles, that’s 39 points of OBP and 44 points of batting average and slugging(!) Kinsler reached first base just 141 times in 2009 and stole 31 bases. Adding 20-25 more times on first base should add another five SB to that total. That brings us to the one thing that has kept Kinsler from putting up huge roto $ values (just $23 in 2008, and $21 in 2009 in mixed-league values) … his health. But he finished the year strong, and his four career DL stints (each just 15 days) have all been rather fluky. Consider, also, that Kinsler is hitting his peak. His “seasonal age” for 2010 will be 28, but he’s about the youngest possible for that, as he will be 27 until June 22. It may seem like we’re assuming the best of all worlds here, but if Kinsler plays 155 games, posts rate stats as he did in 2008 (which we think is highly likely based on the BABIP adjustment), and maybe even shows a little “Age 27” magic, he could put up a truly dominant fantasy season. And while there’s some risk involved, the fact that he hasn’t yet put it all together could lead to him being undervalued in auctions and drafts (or in trade for keeper leagues).
Chien-Ming Wang | New York | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.2 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 9.64 ERA
Okay, now here is a sleeper in Wang, and a Yankee no less. The question is whether to let a sleeping dog lie, or whether there’s a fairy-tale ending to this story of sleeping royalty. Frankly, this is a really difficult call to make, either way. The “safe” play would be to invest only “mad money” on Wang, or use a late pick on him, or whatever. One might think that Wang has been trying too hard to fix something that wasn’t broken, to look at his statistical tendencies. His K/9 have increased from a stupefyingly low 3.14 in his great 2006 season (19-6, 3.63), to 6.21 in 2009. Meanwhile, his GB% has declined from 63% in 2006 to 53% in 2009. But the change has been due to the various injuries, and him losing his command (i.e., location within the strike zone), in addition to losing more than 1 mph from his average fastball velocity. The new ballpark is supposedly hell on RHP, but when Wang is right, he won’t be worrying too much about fly balls. Nothing is ever certain when predicting the ability of pitchers to return from injuries, but Wang’s serious injuries are now another year removed, and he’ll have the entire offseason to work out normally. Due to his freakish stats, no mathematically based prediction system is going to ascribe much value to Wang for 2010, and we think there’s a very good chance that he will return to be a big winner with that great Yankee offense, and help WHIP as well. He’s obviously the sort of pitcher who needs to be supported by others on your fantasy team to avoid finishing last in strikeouts, and he won’t help ERA much, even in an AL-only league, but wins are hard to come by, and a 200-IP, low-WHIP starter for the Yankees is bound to gather a lot.
Player to Watch:
Ben Zobrist | Tampa Bay | 2B/OF/SS (13 games)
2009 Final Stats: .297/.405/.543
Clearly no longer a “sleeper,” after putting up MVP-type stats (especially if you believe some of the fielding metrics that are in vogue now), we were bullish on Zobrist back in May here on Waiver Wire. But with all due respect to THT Fantasy colleague Troy Patterson, we aren’t quite sure that “Clone Wars: Chase Utley and Ben Zobrist” is setting realistic expectations for our hero Zobrist. Both +/- (the Fielding Bible metric) and UZR suggest that Zobrist had a tremendous season afield in 2009 at second base. But his reputation is that of a sub-par defender, and when Iwamura returned, Zobrist moved to the outfield. As noted, he’s proven he can hit like a corner guy now, and for most fantasy formats, the fact that he may not return to the infield in 2010 is of little or no concern, as he’ll still be rated in the middle infield (and at SS too, in generous systems). He’ll be a “young” 29 in 2010 (May 26 birthday), so expecting a lot more than his career stats of .260/.346/.459 might be optimistic. As much as he appears to have “put it all together,” players have ups and downs, and many hitters look unstoppable when they are doing well. Still, he could maintain his $21 mixed-league value (2009 stats) by adding another 10% to his playing time, a possibility given that he was used as a part-time player to start the 2009 season. He’s someone to keep an eye on, though, as he could end up back at second base again if Tampa Bay signs and trades Iwamura (or, less likely, doesn’t offer him arbitration).
It’s a long offseason, but staying a step ahead is always useful. Feel free to suggest players for review in comments, or to ask questions about values or keeper decisions. We’ll be reviewing some mixed-league and AL- and NL-only players over the months ahead, and are always happy to re-prioritize players per request.