Kevin Gregg l Toronto l CP
True Talent: 8.0 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 4.28 ERA
Throughout this column you’ll notice a re-occurring theme: bullpens are volatile. We start off with a favorite of mine in Kevin Gregg. I wrote about Gregg on our buy on the rumor section, and still feel strongly about his chances of rebounding in 2010.
Despite solid strikeout and walk rates last season, Gregg’s ERA with the Cubs was a whopping 4.72. Thanks to a 15.3% home run-to-fly ball rate, Gregg allowed 13 home runs last season compared to 10 in the previous two combined. His LIPS ERA of 4.20 suggests his ERA was a half-run higher that it should have been.
Now that he is the closer, look for Gregg and his regression-ready home run rate to put up solid numbers. Also keep in mind that Gregg has upped the usage of his split-fingered fastball and cutter, which have produced favorable groundball rates.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.
Neftali Feliz l Texas l CP
True Talent: 8.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 3.37 ERA
Like Gregg, Neftali Feliz has been promoted from set-up man to closer in just a week’s time. One of the top prospects in all of baseball, the 21-year-old flame thrower has transitioned from minor league starter to major league closer. The move is far from permanent, but Feliz is definitely an attractive option.
Since joining the big leagues late last season, Feliz owns a strikeouts per nine (K/9) of nearly 12. As a starter in the minors, Feliz struck out over a batter per inning, so it’s entirely possible for him to keep an elevated strikeout rate as a closer. In addition to the dazzling K-rate, he has showed fantastic control with a walks per nine (BB/9) of less than 3.0.
Despite passing the ninth inning ball around the last few seasons from Francisco Cordero to C.J. Wilson to Frank Francisco, the Rangers, as a team, have averaged at least 40 saves over the past three seasons. Many feel this is the most talented Rangers team in quite some time, so there could be 40-45 saves to be had on the 2010 team. While we are not 100 percent that Feliz is going to be the full-time answer, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one who passed up on him worrying about it.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12+ team mixed leagues and AL-only.
Ty Wigginton l Baltimore l 1B/2B/3B
True Talent: .265/.318/.425
When Brian Roberts went down on the DL, two players stood a chance to see an increase in playing time: the newly acquired Julio Lugo and Ty Wigginton. Either way the Orioles will experience a drop in defense, but only Wigginton can really provide adequate offense. No, Wigginton will not give you the same qualities as the speedy, leadoff-hitting Roberts, yet he does have value.
Even without a permanent address on or off the diamond, Ty Wigginton has averaged 126 games played over the last four seasons. Once again, without a full-time gig he has averaged 20 home runs, 25 doubles and 60 RBIs in each season since 2006.
Roberts may not miss more time than the required 15 days; however, Wiggy’s value is not tied (pun not intended) to Roberts. With the ability to play first, second, third and some corner outfield, he gives the Orioles, as well as your fantasy team, some additional flexibility.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team mixed leagues and AL-only.
Jeremy Hermida l Boston l OF
True Talent: .263/.344/.432
In one of the lower-key moves of the offseason, the Boston Red Sox quietly acquired Jeremy Hermida from the Florida Marlins. It’s the type of move that drives me nuts as a Rays fan. Hermida had become overpriced for the Marlins and Theo Esptein was able to scoop up the talented, yet inconsistent, 26-year-old for pennies on the dollar.
Hermida has been unable to replicate his impressive .296/.369/.501 campaign from 2007. Through injuries and inconsistencies, his power numbers have declined. Since that time, his isolated power has dipped from .205 to .157, down to .133 last season.
So far this year, Hermida has enjoyed life in the American League. His strong start for Boston could be just in fact a strong start; however, his early season play could lead to more playing time.
Jacoby Ellsbury has already missed time with a rib injury. Mike Cameron sat out yesterday’s game with an injury. J.D. Drew will get days off in addition to being an annual risk for injury. And David Ortiz continues to struggle and could see more days off. All scenarios could open the door for more Hermida at-bats.
Recommendation: Worth a flier in 14-team AL-only or mixed leagues with five outfielders. Could change if Ellsbury or Cameron go on DL.
Dioner Navarro l Tampa Bay l C
True Talent: .242/.294/.352
Twelve months ago, Dioner Navarro was the all-star catcher for the defending American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays. However, these days he’s just a catcher on the Rays roster.
Navarro followed up his 2008 all-star season by hitting .218/.261/.322 in 2009. He was arguably the worst-hitting player in the majors, and just a Yuniesky Betancourt away from being considered the worst overall. By the end of the season, he was platooning with Gregg Zaun. The Rays traded for Kelly Shoppach this offseason and extended his contract soon thereafter.
Luckily for Navarro, he plays a position where talent is extremely thin. The Rays went into the season with no clear plan in regards to playing time for Shoppach and Navarro; however, the plan is now simple since Shoppach is on the DL with a knee strain. The Rays have recalled John Jaso, but it was Navarro who started both games of a night/day back-to-back tilt with Baltimore.
Shoppach’s injury isn’t considered serious, but expect Navarro to rack up playing time in his absence. Even when Shoppach returns, Joe Maddon is known for playing the “hot hand.”
Recommendation: Should be owned in deeper greater than two-catcher leagues or extremely deep AL-only.
Jose Guillen l Kansas City l OF/DH
We’ve seen enough studies to know that the “increased production contract year” theory is largely a myth. But don’t tell that to Jose Guillen. In the third, and final, year of his deal with the Kansas City Royals, Guillen has smashed five home runs in the first nine games.
Of course small sample size, early season hot streaks, and contract-year rules apply, but Guillen has done this before. In his contract year before signing with the Royals, he hit .290/.353/.460 with 23 home runs and 99 RBI.
Hitting a home run once every third fly ball is a bit absurd, but a healthy (and motivated) Guillen has 25-30 home run power. Even with Alex Gordon‘s return in the near future, Guillen is expected to retain his status as the team’s primary DH.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team leagues with five outfielders, and deeper AL-only leagues.
Fernando Rodney l Los Angeles l RP
True Talent: 7.9 K/9, 5.1 BB/9, 4.83 ERA
Many rolled their eyes when Fernando Rodney received a two-year, $12 million dollar contract from Los Angeles. Moon-lighting as a mid-reliever in the closer’s role, the bulk of Rodney’s value came in the form of saves. As a set-up man, a $6 million dollar price tag looks silly, but with Brian Fuentes on the DL, the Angels will look to get some saves from Rodney.
Rodney’s career strikeout rates are decent to go along with his mid-90s fastball. He owns a career strikeouts per nine (K/9) of 8.51, but that number was 7.26 last year. Meanwhile, his walks per nine (BB/9) was near 5.0. But hey, he converted 97 percent of his save opportunities.
Luckily for Angels fans, Fuentes’ injury doesn’t appear to be serious and he should be eligible to come off the DL once his time is up. Until then, Rodney will continue to get the ball in the final frame.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team mixed leagues, and AL-only leagues.
Jim Johnson l Baltimore l RP
True Talent: 5.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 4.45 ERA
In somewhat of a similar situation to the one above, the Orioles paid big bucks for Mike Gonzalez to be their closer this offseason. It’s not that Gonzalez isn’t good, but why pay for a closer on a team that might win 70 games? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know the Gonzalez era in Baltimore is off to a rocky start.
Gonzalez has appeared in three games and already has two losses to go along with blown saves. In his other appearance he did register the save but loaded the bases in a one-run game before the final out.
I guess in a bit of good news, he was placed on the DL with a shoulder strain. I say this is good news because what looks like a minor injury is better than flat out ineffectiveness.
In the interim, Jim Johnson figures to get the bulk, or should I say any, save opportunities for the Orioles. Johnson does have some experience in the role as he had 10 saves a year ago. Johnson’s strikeout rate of 5.5 per nine doesn’t match his mid-90s fastball; however, his stellar groundball rate is nice. Unfortunately, the current group of Oriole infielders is uninspiring defensively.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team mixed leagues, and AL-only leagues.