Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hot Stove Update: Vazquez, Rodney, Duchscherer and more

Happy Holidays!

I am a bit surprised not to have a better idea on where the big free agents (Jason Bay and Matt Holliday) are going to land. At one point I was certain that Holliday would re-sign with the Cardinals and Bay would be a New York Met but that seems far from certain. The Red Sox seem suddenly obsessed with defense after having a poor showing in 2009, though essentially the same team wasn't so bad in 2008. The Cardinals are acting as if they didn't realize that Holliday wanted a contract befitting a player ranked among the best in the sport.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets continue to act (as excellently described by the New York Post before Christmas) like a small market team. They act as if they want Jason Bay but they make offers they know he will not accept. They desperately need pitching but are chasing retreads rather than attempting to acquire talent that could make a real difference. But at least they aren't the Los Angeles Dodgers who seem more obsessed with dumping payroll than improving the team. It is hard to take a team seriously that dumps, Randy Wolf, Orlando Hudson and Juan Pierre only to bring in Jamey Carroll.

It would be a massive understatement to say I have been distracted the last couple of weeks. I have a ton to catch up on. I've been banging out e-mails this week. If you've been waiting for a response from me you should be getting one very soon. The team reports will continue and hopefully appear much more frequently. My big secret project is going very well. It will be extremely useful to any fantasy owner and free to my loyal readers. I also have the annual All Sleeper Teams in progress, and a report on my Shortlist pitching strategy.

Braves trade Vazquez to Yankees for Melky Cabrera and prospects

The Yankees acquired Javier Vazquez at a bargain rate but the Braves received exactly what they wanted. For the Braves, outfield depth, bullpen depth and a quality prospect was an extra added bonus to the millions of dollars in salary relief. Atlanta would have preferred to deal Derek Lowe who had the larger salary and the worse season in 2009. But make no mistake the Braves are happy with the return.

You have already been hearing how Vazquez was thought to lack gumption, grit, fortitude, and doggedness but that's all so much baloney. Vazquez was fine the first half of his first season in New York but a shoulder injury that he kept quiet trashed his second half stats.It may have looked like a choke but it was not. If more evidence is actually required you can look to the 2009 season. The Braves were in playoff contention the entire season and Vazquez led the staff.

Vazquez does have a history of underachieving. But this looks like a combination of bad luck and playing for bad defensive teams in launching pad stadiums. His strikeout rates and walk rates have been great. His groundball rates have typically been around 40 percent. He isn't like to match his 2009 season pitching in the American League East but he should be one of the top starters. For fantasy owners he is likely to provide a ton of strikeouts and more than acceptable ratios. but pitching for the Yankees also gives owners reason to hope for a high win total. Wins are unpredictable but a fantastic offense backing a great pitcher is what you hope for and you'll find it here.

The Diamondbacks and right-hander Bob Howry have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with a team option for 2011.

The Diamondbacks are building a solid bullpen with Bob Howry added to the earlier acquisition of Aaron Heilman. Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls were already in place. Any of these names could find save chances but until we hear differently Qualls is the primary closer. Fantasy owners in deeper leagues should feel confident buying any of these relievers in the $2-3 range as cheap saves speculation. The Diamondbacks seem to be strengthening their bullpen as a method of protecting their younger arms (though the best of them was traded away recently).

Howry is a solid pitcher who does not own spectacular skills but also owns few weaknesses. He is a solid complement to any bullpen. He has the veteran savvy to handle the closer role, though he has received few opportunities. He is likely to settle into a vital set-up role with the D'Backs.

The Oakland Athletics have re-signed Justin Duchscherer to a a one-year deal pending a physical. The base salary is $2 million, but Duchscherer could earn as much as $5.5 million with incentives, should he reach benchmarks of 30 starts and 200 innings.

My first thought is that if the Athletics are spending money on him it can be taken as an indication that he is past the worst of his back, arm, and confidence problems. The A's know him better than any other team. There is no question in my mind that a healthy Duchscherer is going to pitch well. If fantasy owners can sign him at bargain rates than I heartily recommend doing so.

Duchscherer's strength has always been in his control. If he struggles early with walks, it may be a sign that things are not right. the Athletics have brought in an interesting group of players with rumors of more in the works. They feel like an underrated team to me.

The Angels have come to terms with free-agent reliever Fernando Rodney on a two-year deal reportedly worth $11 million, according to

Brian Fuentes may not be the perfect closer but unless he gets hurt there is little chance of him losing his job to Fernando Rodney. The Angels may see him as a potential replacement and he is capable of getting the job done but his skills are nothing special. He should be a fine back-up plan if you own Fuentes and have room on your bench. Otherwise, Rodney is just another reliever with consistency problems. His control stinks, and even with a 4.40 ERA, his BABIP and FIP both indicate that he was a little luck last season.

Free agent corner infielder Troy Glaus and the Atlanta Braves have reached a tentative agreement on a contract, a baseball source told on Wednesday.

When Troy Glaus is healthy he has been a productive and powerful bat in a lineup. But staying healthy has been a problem. The Braves obviously believe that he should be healthy this season because they seem to be counting on him to fill the role of power hitting first baseman. As long as he comes dirt cheap this is a good risk for fantasy owners as well.

Nick Johnson returned to the New York Yankees on Wednesday, finalizing a $5.5 million, one-year contract.

The Yankees have plenty of thunder in their lineup. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano can probably deal with the difference between Hideki Matsui and Nick Johnson. Brett Gardner is also a better bat than you think. Johnson will bat second and his primary function will be to get on base and score runs. However, in the Yankee lineup he is likely to have more RBI than the typical number two hitter.

Jamey Carroll and Blake DeWitt "will share second base," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Friday after Carroll passed his physical exam, making official his two-year, $3.85 million deal with the club.

Carroll is a solid player but this is obviously an attempt by the Dodgers to fill a hole without spending any money. Carroll and DeWitt will only be of marginal value in deep NL-only leagues.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fantasy Spin on the Halladay Trade, Pierre Trade, and Much More!

Photo from fOTOGLIF

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired ace right-hander Roy Halladay (and $6 million) by sending prospects RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor and C Travis d'Arnaud to the Toronto Blue Jays. reported that Halladay will receive $20 million per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The extension also includes a $20 million vesting option for 2014 based on innings pitched, games started or both. The Phillies required an extension with Halladay to make the trade.

Roy Halladay is going to be incredible for the Phillies. He does move to a worse ballpark but he gets a better defense, offense, and league in exchange. He instantly becomes the number one fantasy pitcher in the game in my book. You can't predict wins very easily but I see a ton of them in Halladay's future.

The Blue Jays send freshly acquired prospect Michael Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for top prospect 3B Brett Wallace. Brett Wallace was sent to the Athletics in exchange for Matt Holliday last season. To me this indicates that the A's either saw something in Wallace they did not like or they really like Michael Taylor.

Wallace is ready to make his major league debut. Moving to the Blue Jays should not delay that debut any further. Edwin Encarnacion would have to have a very good spring to look like a better hitter than Wallace and he isn't much better defensively (if at all). Wallace will hit for a high average and solid power.

The Phillies are also sending LHP Cliff Lee (presumably for salary reasons but also to re-stock the farm system after sending some of their best to Toronto) to the Seattle Mariners for group of prospects including RHP Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies and RHP J.C. Ramirez. Lee was apparently determined to reach free agency so he could sign a Sabathia-like contract.

Playing in front of Seattle's defense and in Safeco Field also provides Cliff Lee with a huge statistical boost. If he wasn't already he now looks like a top five pitcher. If the Mariners find a couple of middle of the order hitters to go with their great set-up hitters they should make a very nice run in 2010.

From (Not really fantasy relevant, just something to know)
A group headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg has been selected by Rangers owner Tom Hicks to enter into exclusive negotiations to buy the franchise, according to an official announcement made by Hicks Sports Group on Tuesday.

Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan has committed to being a part of Greenberg's group and would remain in his current position as club president. Greenberg is expected to hold the position of managing general partner.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have sent outfielder Juan Pierre to the Chicago White Sox for two minor leaguers. Pierre will play left field and hit leadoff according to reports in According to, those two Minor Leaguers are starter John Ely, who won 14 games in 2009 at Double-A Birmingham, and Jon Link, who was once thought of as a potential late-inning reliever. Juan Pierre is one of those players that is a better fantasy player than real player (not that he's useless, just better for fantasy).

I expect Pierre to return to his fairly good average, lots of stolen base ways in 2010. He is not the player he used to be but he should be a quality fantasy player if you can deal with the lack of power.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Tampa Bay Rays Fantasy Report

Photo from fOTOGLIF
The Tampa Bay Rays are like many fantasy owners, they want everyone on their team to come at a bargain price. It is not a bad idea. However, a major league roster with this strategy will find they struggle to compete in a division like the American League East. Considering the massive store of talent collected on Tampa Bay’s major league roster and within their minor league system, you would be right to believe they have the talent necessary to acquire any player that might be available. However, the Rays prefer a spread the risk approach. They make small trades and signings for undervalued veterans and cost-controlled prospects. It is a solid approach to team building that emulated by other small market franchises hoping to influence their divisions. The only question is if this approach weakens or strengthens their ability to grow from a small market franchise into a medium or larger one. The Milwaukee Brewers are living proof that it can be done.

The 2009 season was a disappointing one for the Rays, mostly due to disappointing performances by key personnel. Scott Kazmir clearly had one of those disappointing seasons. Before the Rays sent him to the Los Angeles Angels (a deal that reduced the payroll and brought in even more prospects), Kazmir pitched 111 innings in 20 starts that resulted in a 8-7 record with a 5.92 ERA, and 1.541 WHIP. B.J. Upton was expected to start slowly due to his recovery from shoulder surgery but few would have anticipated the season long absence of power and production. Free agent acquisition Pat Burrell batted just .221/.315/.367 with just 14 homeruns in 476 plate appearances. Dioner Navarro failed to build on his lucky but still promising 2008 season. In fact, Navarro had the worst season of his career with a 52 OPS+ in 410 plate appearances, but this may have been due to an injured ulnar ligament in his left elbow. Akinori Iwamura missed most of the season due to injury but that may have been a blessing in disguise. The Rays were happy to trade Iwamura after the season knowing they had Ben Zobrist to fill his position.

However, it was not all bad news. The studly Evan Longoria is a Tampa Bay Ray. The aforementioned Ben Zobrist had an MVP quality season that by some measures ranked him as the best hitter in the American League in 2009. Shortstop Jason Bartlett had a career season with a slash of .320/.389/.490 with 14 homeruns and 30 stolen bases. Carl Crawford returned to first round form by slashing .305/.364/.452 with 15 homeruns and 60 stolen bases. The pitching staff is loaded with talent with more in the pipeline. James Shields, Matt Garza, and Jeff Niemann were all above average starters in 2009 with two extremely high quality former prospects, David Price and Wade Davis, expected to fill out the rotation in 2010. The Rays may face an uphill battle in the American League East but with a loaded minor league system and a roster full of high-end young players, there is a lot to be optimistic about.

Fantasy Focus

Ben Zobrist, 2B
If you were paying attention, you saw that Ben Zobrist stepped up his performance beginning in 2008. His spectacular 2009 season was just proof that the improvements he made were not just the result of a small sample size. He has always demonstrated the ability to draw walks and make solid contact. He has shown improving power the last four years but especially in the 2008 season. Zobrist gives a considerable amount of credit for his improvement to private hitting coach Jaime Cevallos, known as the swing mechanic. Here is a quote from an interview that Cevallos gave Tommy Rancel of D’Rays Bay in April of 2009.
I asked if a team gave Zobrist 500 at-bats in a season how many home runs he'd hit. Cevallos didn't hesitate, "30 plus."
We all know what happened after that. Coincidence? Probably. Clearly, the training that Zobrist was receiving had a result and it was the result intended.

Zobrist’s 2009 slash of .297/.405/.543 with 28 doubles, 7 triples, 27 homeruns, and 17 stolen bases may seem impossible for Zobrist to duplicate but I do not think they are. Obviously, Zobrist had an otherworldly first half, and a merely great second half. Nevertheless, even if we double his second half numbers (an interesting but not predictive practice) Zobrist would have a line of .298/.395/.490 with 26 doubles, six triples, 20 homeruns, and 12 stolen bases in just 510 at-bats. Hitting high in the batting order and likely to play every day at second base, almost guarantees that Zobrist will receive closer to 600 at-bats.

But besides the positive trending in his stats there is also his superb plate discipline. He swings at pitches outside the strike zone just 20.2 percent of the time in his career – far below the major league average. He has a career walk rate of 11 percent and has exceeded that mark the last two seasons. He has strong linedrive rates (an indication of strong BABIPs), and a 17.45 HR/FB percentage the last two seasons. There is very little not to like.

Zobrist needs a repeat to convince most fantasy owners that he can maintain a high rate of production. The fan predictions on are solid but far short of his 2009 marks. This may indicate that his auction price could stay in a reasonable range. He will qualify at 2B and OF in most leagues and even shortstop in some leagues. He should be a solid value pick in most leagues in the third or fourth rounds and could provide first round value.

Jason Bartlett, SS
There is little question that Jason Bartlett had a career season in 2009. The question to answer is how much of that stellar performance we can expect to see in 2010. Bartlett’s .368 BABIP is significantly higher than his career .330 BABIP. His 2009 8.7 percent HR/FB is more than double his career average. His 26 percent linedrive rate is high, his career average is 21.8 percent. His isolated power increased to .170 when his career mark is just .107 including the 2009 season. These are all stats I expect to see closer to his career rates in 2010. However, Bartlett showed some increased skills not to be ignored. His plate discipline was very good. He swung at just 20.9 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. Bartlett’s walk rate increased (along with his K-rate, but he still makes excellent contact).

Many Rays fans on the better fan sites seem to believe that Bartlett’s improvements were almost entirely fluke but I do not believe that is the case. I have also heard that the Rays would rather move Bartlett than prospect Reid Brignac. I can see the logic in the idea but I doubt the Rays are trying to move either at this point. The 2009 season may always be the best in Jason Bartlett’s career but I expect another good one in 2010.

David Price, RHP
After a reign as the best pitching prospect in the minors, many fantasy owners believed that Price would come to the majors and immediately dominate the competition. That was a mistake. Price struggled with his control at AAA Durham in both 2008 and 2009 in small samples. Therefore, it was not a complete surprise that those control problems followed him into the major leagues. However, as the season progressed Price saw his control improve. His strikeout rate fluctuated as he learned to harness his stuff. As the season ended (especially in August) Price was once again looking like a potentially great pitcher. His walk rate was falling and his groundball rate was increasing. His K9 was just 5.9 in the second half but I would not worry about it at this point. I expect a better season in 2010 for Price though not without a few more growing pains. In the end, it should be worth it.

Searching for Sleepers

Jacob McGee, RHP
If you take a brief glance at Jacob McGee’s Baseball-Reference page, you will ask why the Rays are not making room for him in their major league rotation. He will appear in the majors this season. McGee could even debut in the bullpen out of Spring Training. His ability to strike out batters and to induce groundballs indicates that he can be a potentially dominating closer. The Rays have no one else in their bullpen (without demoting someone that projects into their rotation) with the potential to dominate like McGee. The Rays have just acquired Rafael Soriano who may become their 2010 closer. But McGee qualifies as a sleeper candidate for this year and in the near future.

Best Team Blogs for the Tampa Bay Rays

Drays Bay -

Rays Index -

Rays Report -

Dock of the Rays -

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Granderson to the Yankees and the Rest of the Big Trade

Photo from fOTOGLIF

It is not quite official yet but it appears that the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks have completed a three-way trade at the Winter Meetings (and on Peter Gammon's last day at ESPN).
From ESPN:

The Yanks would acquire center fielder Curtis Granderson (from the Tigers), the Diamondbacks would get right-handers Edwin Jackson (Tigers) and Ian Kennedy (Yankees), and the Tigers would pick up center fielder Austin Jackson (Yankees), left-handed relievers Phil Coke (Yankees) and left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth and right-handed starter Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks).
The Yankees do a good job of replacing Johnny Damon in left by acquiring Granderson. I do believe he will wind up in left field. This is primarily because I believe that Brian Cashman wants to put his best possible defense on the field and that includes Brett Gardner in center field. Melky Cabrera should be the fourth outfielder in that scenario with Nick Swisher staying in right field.

Granderson is at his best when he pulls the ball which makes Yankee Stadium a great place for him to play. last season Granderson went through a dramatic transformation from a groundball hitter to a flyball hitter. It caused his BABIP and subsequently his batting average to fall dramatically. It also resulted in a career high homerun total. I believe that there should be a happy medium in there somewhere and I'm absolutely certain the Yankees and hitting coach Kevin Long will work to find it.

The Tigers make out with two great arms from the D'Backs and a few odds and ends that should prove useful. Austin Jackson should be an adequate center fielder who steals bases well. But he will not provide much beyond that. He has always been expected to develop power but it would be a surprise if he found it in 2010. Max Scherzer has fantastic stuff (and violent injury-inducing mechanics) and could be either a frontline starter or a top-notch closer, Daniel Schlereth is similar (from the left side) to Scherzer but will definitely be in the bullpen. At this point he has to be considered at least a mild sleeper to become the closer. Phil Coke is better than the average lefty specialist and should be an asset in the Tigers bullpen.

Edwin Jackson has amazing stuff but often pitches like a fringy finesse guy. He wore down as the 2009 season continued thanks largely to a heavy workload. I believe he'll be a fine starter for the D'Backs who should benefit from the AL to NL switch. Ian Kennedy is not a hard thrower but has potential as a mid rotation starter or bullpenner.

Better Fantasy Value: Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy

Same Fantasy Value: Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke

Worse Fantasy Value: None

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Yankees Trade Brian Bruney to Nationals

From the Washington Times:

The Washington Nationals made the first trade of the 2009 MLB winter meetings Monday, acquiring right-handed reliever Brian Bruney from the New York Yankees for a player to be named and making an early, if marginal, move to improve a bullpen that often struggled to protect leads last season.
Brian Bruney is a solid bullpen arm that the Yankees always seemed to like. The rumor is that the Yankees have traded Bruney for the Nationals' number one selection in the upcoming Rule V Draft. The Nationals have the first overall pick. The Yankees must really like someone who will be available to make a move like this. The Yankees just don't need the typical Rule V pick hanging around on their roster. This should be fun.

Bruney should be an asset to the Nationals' bullpen. He has good stuff and has been called a possible closer in the past. But the results have not been very exciting so far and he probably is not a massive improvement over Saul Rivera who was released as a consequence. Bruney has solid strikeout rates and poor walk rates. He is not particularly fantasy worthy but the Yankees' interest in this trade makes it interesting.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Free Agent Signing Updates

I am constantly updating the free-agent posts I made last month with all the new signings. To make them easier to find I'm going to periodically update this post to the top of the page. I list all the free agents by position, and include what they signed for and a link to an article with more details.

Free Agent Catchers

Free Agent First Basemen

Free Agent Second Basemen

Free Agent Third Basemen

Free Agent Shortstops

Free Agent Outfielders

Free Agent Starting Pitchers

Free Agent Relief Pitchers

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ten Fantasy Baseball Resources for 2010

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving weekend. I worked. I'm working on a huge project for this blog that I think you will enjoy very much. I also worked at my day/night job. So it didn't seem like much of a holiday to me. But with December having finally arrived (or having already arrived - depending on your perception) it is time to get serious about preparing for the 2010 season. To kick things off I'm going to talk about ten resources that I believe that every serious fantasy owner will find invaluable.

2010 Baseball Forecaster
- has become the standard to which all fantasy sites must compare themselves. They revolutionized fantasy analysis before sabermetrics became so popular. The Forecaster is the annual guide that includes projections for major leaguers and minor leaguers, strategy ideas, advanced pitcher evaluations, and thought-provoking articles that will leave you pondering new ways to think about baseball players and the ways they perform. This is a must have for every serious owner.

Baseball America 2010 Prospect Handbook
- Many owners in leagues without farm systems think that they can do without books like this. Perhaps they can, but not if they truly want to be the best at what they do. BA's Prospect Handbook is (as it says in the subtitle) the comprehensive guide to baseball's rising stars from the definitive source on prospects. No one does it better. There are plenty of prospect websites and publications that do good work but in my opinion they work best as compliments to this handbook. It includes organization reports on every major league team, and scouting reports on the top 30 prospects in every organization. In serious fantasy leagues you need to know not only who today's players are but who tomorrow's stars will be. I use it almost everyday of the season. I would be lost without it.

Baseball Prospectus 2010
- When you are really playing Advanced Fantasy Baseball, it is essential that you have a deep understanding of all the major league teams and how and why they do the things they do. Nothing you can buy will increase your understanding as this gigantic book will. I have the Prospectus, the Forcaster, and the Prospect Handbook next to me as I research players, write my articles, and answer e-mails. The Prospectus has long reports on every team as well as scouting reports on all the major leaguers and most of the minor leaguers worth mentioning. It is the size of a phonebook but you'll read it in a week or so. Every page is filled with knowledge and a sense of humor that makes this one of my favorites reads of the year.

The Message Board
- This site is where some of the best fantasy players on the planet go to hang out and share their thoughts. Many experts visit these pages and offer their opinions on what's going on in baseball and the fantasy sports industry. Further, members (it is entirely free by the way) can post their rosters and receive keeper advice, trade advice, and opinions on players 24 hours a day. You can find me there posting as Bigjonempire. - When I want to understand a player's performance this is where I go. You will find all the basic stats, advanced stats, batted ball stats, defensive stats, plate discipline stats, pitch type stats, and good looking graphs for almost everything. But that is just part of it. You also find the same stats for teams and sortable lists and stats for every minor league as well as the major leagues. On top of all this valuable information are two blogs that have become regular reads for me - the Fangraphs Blog, and the RotoGraphs Blog. I do not always agree with their analysis but the thought process is always interesting and worth reading. This is a great community for those into advanced statistics or trying to learn more about them. I am on this site daily.

Fantasy Pros 911 - If you are anything like me, you could not possibly read enough fantasy articles. Fantasy Pros 911 covers every fantasy sport year round. They have a large roster of professional writers including Lenny Melnick one of the original (and still the greatest) fantasy experts. Lenny's podcasts are a must listen, every morning. I recently realized just how much I was missing by being just a casual listener. learn from my mistake and make Fantasy Pros 911 one of your regular stops. - This site is the perfect compliment to your prospect guide and it is entirely free. This site has a group of writers who are not only obsessed with prospects but also into fantasy baseball. They publish prospect rankings year round. They have an invaluable channel where you can see video of the prospects you are researching. They get access to the players and interview them for bits of news on the injuries and mechanical adjustments that just does not often find its way into the mainstream media. Check out this site and their great forum everyday and you will find it incredibly easy to keep up with the happenings in minor league baseball.

Baseball Team Blogs - It is nearly impossible for a person with a job and a family (that they care about being with) to follow the nitty gritty of every team in the kind of detail that we would like. So why not let the people who are most obsessed with their favorite teams do most of the work for you? Obviously not every team blog is created equal. Some blogs have clearly risen above the others and you can find links to many of them in the sidebar of this blog's main page. Some of my favorite blogs are The Newberg Report (Rangers), USS Mariner, Drunk Jays Fans, Let's Go Tribe, and Only Baseball Matters (Giants). Look for the blogs that post regularly and that seem to understand the organization as a whole, rather than obsessing over a particular player or two. If I could only have one resource on this list I'd pick the blogs. Every site in my sidebar is worth checking out.

MLB Depth Charts
- It can be impossible to keep up with team rosters, especially during Spring Training (when it happens to be most important). This is why I like having someone do it for me. The guys at MLB Depth Charts have a knack for keeping the rosters for every Major League team in order.'s Player News
- I am not a fan of their analysis (especially in the news blurbs) but the actual news blurbs themselves are invaluable. There is no better site for tracking the injuries, the transactions, and the events both major and minor that have an impact on our fantasy seasons. Checking in everyday is well worth it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The New York Yankees Fantasy Report

If you are a Yankees fan, you are used to seeing the team bashed as if they a dimwit with an unlimited credit card ran the team. Nevertheless, the fact is this is one of the best-managed teams in sports. They should be a model for other teams rather than just the envy of them. They have a very deep farm system. Although not filled with many elite prospects, the depth of B and C prospects is impressive. The vast majority of those prospects are pitchers. The Yankees recognize that nothing is more valuable or more difficult to acquire than pitching. After years known as an organization that would not give a rookie a chance – they are successfully integrating youngsters onto the team on a regular basis. Then they use the savings that these young players provide, and the massive revenue (that years of winning and good business bolstered) to sign the very best players available.

Last year the very best players were CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Mark Teixeira. It should be noted that these players took the roster spots of players whose massive contracts had finally expired – Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, and so forth. The depth in the system had also made trades for Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady possible. Now that depth may result in the acquisition of Roy Halladay and the level of hatred for all things Yankees would certainly reach new heights. However, it makes some sense. George King of the New York Post calls the Yankees and Red Sox favorites for Halladay because of their ability to part with major league ready talent (or close enough) and to provide Halladay with the Sabathia-like contract he is certain to demand.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could be losing two key players to free agency. Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Andy Pettitte are free agents. Pettitte is not as likely to leave for another team, as he is to retire. However, Damon and Matsui look like prime targets for teams seeking outfielders but unwilling or unable to meet the contract demands of players like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Ironically, if the Yankees do lose both Damon and Matsui, it increases the chance that they will go after a Holliday or a Bay. Despite their willingness to include young players in the mix, it is unlikely that the Yankees would go into the season with Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Melkey Cabrera starting in the outfield.

Fantasy Focus

Alex Rodriguez, 3B
After Alex Rodriguez’s gutsy season, he has won quite a bit of respect from me. After a pre-season that included accusations of (and later admitting) PED use, a tell-all book from Selena Roberts, and surgery to repair a muscle tear in his hip, I had no faith that A-Rod would perform. But he did. He had some help. Derek Jeter turning back the clock and Mark Teixeira providing an MVP quality season took away much of the unwanted attention. For the first time since coming to New York, Rodriguez just played baseball. In just 124 games, he managed to hit 30 homers and collect 100 RBI.

However, there are still some questions to answer. Does he need further surgery on his hip and how will that affect his play offensively and defensively? Do you believe his story about quitting PED use after the 2003 season? If not, how will he react? If he is only stopping their use now, how much will his performance degrade? Right now, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe many players stopped their PED use after the 2003 season with serious testing implemented. There are many rumors that A-Rod may not even need the more invasive version of the hip surgery. In any case, Chase Utley’s season provides a ton of reasons to hope for the best. I think A-Rod belongs back in the first round. He needs to prove some things before he returns to the Top 5, but Top 10 is a lock.

Phil Hughes, RHP and Joba Chamberlain, RHP
After the General Manager meetings, the New York media swarmed onto GM Brian Cashman with questions about the direction the team would take in 2010. One of the revelations was that Cashman and the Yankees had not yet made a decision about the starting/relieving status of either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Cashman indicated that he thought of both players as starters who could also pitch in relief. Both will be part of a large group of starting candidates in Spring Training. The acquisition of Roy Halladay would almost certainly cost the Yankees one of the two pitchers. In that scenario, I believe that the remaining young player would be in the rotation with Sabathia, Burnett, Halladay, and Chien-Ming Wang or Andy Pettitte.

Phil Hughes had a great season for the Yankees. Fans tend to forget just how highly the Yankees think of Phil Hughes. When Wang went down to injury, Hughes stepped up and performed in the rotation. He was not untouchable as a starter but his talent was on obvious display and it would have been nice to see him stay there. However, when Wang returned (it was a short-lived return) Hughes campaigned to stay and pitch in the bullpen. He not only pitched well there but he may have been the MVP of the pitching staff by bridging the gap between the starters and Mariano Rivera.

Hughes finished the season with excellent fantasy stats including an 8-3 record, 3 saves (3BS), 3.03 ERA (3.22 FIP), 1.12 WHIP, and 10.05 K9. Looking a little deeper, Hughes had solid control (2.93 BB9), kept the ball in the park (0.84 HR9) – the Homerun rate may look on the lucky side but he has been displaying that ability his entire career despite being a flyball pitcher. One of the skills that Hughes seems to have is inducing infield flyballs, which obviously do much less damage than the other sort does. Hughes did not seem to have his previously excellent curveball this season. However, in the bullpen it wasn’t needed. His fastball was excellent and his cutter was a solid pitch. If Hughes can rediscover his curve I believe he will be an excellent starter and is worthy of fantasy consideration. If only one of the two is in the rotation, I believe it will be Hughes.

Joba Chamberlain seems to pitch better in the bullpen because he does not attempt to conserve his energy to make it through multiple innings. However, that is not the only reason he looked better as a reliever in 2009. In the first half of the 2009 season, Chamberlain pitched like an average major league starter (with excellent potential) which is just fine for a young player in his first season in a major league rotation. It is even more impressive when you consider that Chamberlain spent just one season in the minors has pitched just 364.3 innings since being drafted. Even for a college player that is a miniscule amount. Now consider that this young and inexperienced pitcher was skipped whenever it was possible in the first half as part of the attempt to limit his innings. Then in the second half, the Yankees hit on a plan to give him 8-10 days between starts. This quickly proved to be a disastrous idea. The Yankees adjusted the plan to allowing him to pitch regularly in the rotation but with a ridiculously low pitch count that made it difficult for Joba to escape even the third inning. The second half was a disaster.

Chamberlain has excellent stuff and if he works on developing his other pitches, he can be a very good starter. There is little point in going into the numbers. He was below average and way off his previous career marks in almost every category. The Yankees still see Chamberlain as a starter but they may not have a spot for him in the rotation in 2010. He will have to earn it. Keeper League owners whose rosters allow Joba to be benched indefinitely should definitely consider holding onto him. With experience, Joba still projects to be an impressive pitcher. However, those in year-to-year leagues are cautioned to avoid Chamberlain as a starter. He will experience ups and down consistent with young pitchers. If Chamberlain in a reliever he should be treated as a very good set-up reliever and next in line for saves should anything happen to Mariano Rivera (knock on wood). In fact he should probably be considered next in line even if he spends the season starting.

Searching for Sleepers

David Robertson, RHP
The most underrated player on the Yankees is probably David Robertson. Illustrated beautifully by the way manager Joe Girardi ignored him during the playoffs. Despite a high walk rate (4.74), Robertson earned a 3.30 ERA and 3.05 FIP. He seems to strikeout batters (12.98 K9) almost at will and despite being a groundball pitcher he keeps the ball in the park, which looked like quite the feat at times this season. He has the stuff to close and probably should become next in line for saves should Joba be established as a starter when Rivera retires.

Francisco Cervelli, C
It is strange the way the Yankees have used Cervelli. He played at four different levels in 2008 and then played at four different levels again in 2009. The Yankees obviously like him as a defensive catcher and he looks like the favorite to backup to Jorge Posada in 2010. Posada is bad enough defensively that I can easily see the Yankees giving Posada lots of at-bats at designated hitter, especially if they do not re-sign Hideki Matsui. If that happens, I believe that Cervelli would make a fine one-dollar catcher. However, this is where the Yankees strange usage makes it hard to predict what he’s capable of doing with consistent at-bats. I think he will make solid contact and hit for a good average but without any real power. Batting in the Yankees lineup on a regular basis should be good for his Run and RBI totals, making him of use in AL-only leagues.

Best Team Blogs for the New York Yankees: -`

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog -

Was Watching -

Respect Jeter’s Gangster -

Bronx Banter -

LoHud Yankees Blog -

River Ave Blues -

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hot Stove Update: Heilman, Thompson, Grabow and Stuff!

(This bad-ass photo of Cy Young Winner Tim Lincecum was taken by Brad Mangini of

You should see the Yankees Fantasy Report later this afternoon. The Hot Stove season has wasted little time getting going. We have already seen a handful of trades and signings. The Rule V draft is coming and there always seems to be someone drafted that has a major league impact. Last year it was Everett Cabrera who I attempted to grab in my primary NL-only but failed to acquire. The lesson I learned is not to wait until dollar days for the guys you really want. Even if you expect to get them for $2, there is always some owner who hasn't spent his money hanging around to steal your guy! Okay, maybe it was his guy too, but you take my meaning.

The Arizona Diamondbacks strengthened their bullpen by acquiring right-hander Aaron Heilman from the Cubs for a pair of minor leaguers. (LINK)

I like this move for the Diamondbacks. Heilman is not an ideal closer but he has stuff that I think he can rediscover if he's over his pouting about being a starter. Oddly, Heilman was dealt to save the Cubs a few bucks which they used to sign a lesser pitcher. But more on that later. The D'Backs are thin enough in the bullpen that Heilman becomes a potential saves candidate should anything happen to Chad Qualls. The minor leaguers don't appear to be worthy of fantasy consideration at this point.

The Royals agreed to a Minor League contract with former Cardinals right-hander Brad Thompson. (LINK)

This is a good move by the Royals. If Dayton Moore understands anything about team building it is that good relievers can be had. Thompson is unestablished by showed some tools in the past. It was worth the minor league contract to find out if he can harness them. We will have to wait to see how things develop for the Royals before deciding on his chances of having some fantasy impact.

The Cubs and left-hander reliever John Grabow have agreed on a two-year deal worth $7.5 million. (LINK)

Dave Cameron of went off on this earlier but Grabow is a lefty specialist who is overrated due to his ERA. We fantasy owners like it when our relievers experience good fortune but we smart fantasy owners don't bet on it happening again.

Free-Agent outfielder Jason Bay rejected an offer believed to include four years and around $60 million. This comes from's Jon Heyman. (LINK)

I have no inside information on how far the Red Sox are willing to go to sign Jason Bay. However, if this report is true and Bay really wanted to return to Boston he probably should have taken the deal. Bay will probably find someone willing to give him more years but I doubt he'll do much better on an annual basis. I do think Bay will continue to be a pretty good fantasy player for a few more years but we've already seen his steal totals erode along with his defense. It is all downhill from here.

Tom Hicks may manage to hold on to the Texas Rangers. Hicks is putting together a group of local investors, including Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, for a bid that would enable him to keep majority ownership of the team. (LINK)

I hope Hicks pulls it off. The Rangers have been doing incredibly good work lately. I would hate to see it screwed up by some idiot looking to make an impact.

Tim Lincecum won the 2009 NL Cy Young Award, and became the first repeat winner since Randy Johnson won four straight times from 1999-2002. (LINK)

I love Timmy. There is no pitcher I would rather have on a fantasy team right now.

Zack Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young beating Felix Hernandez by a wide margin. (LINK)

I love Zack. There is no pitcher I would rather have on an AL-only fantasy roster right now. If you listen to Greinke's comments you can see that he still suffers quite a bit of social anxiety. I hope he's continuing to get help.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boston Red Sox Fantasy Report

Last offseason the Red Sox made a concerted effort to bolster their offense by signing Mark Teixeira. There were also several rumors of them attempting to trade for various offensive stars. They also seemed determined to upgrade their captain Jason Varitek with a younger, more offensively oriented catcher. They pretty much failed in every effort. However, the team projected as stacked and there were few public concerns. Then David Ortiz, the heart of the sox lineup began the season with a horrendous months-long slump. The Red Sox were still scoring runs but after every loss, fingers were pointed at the offense and the lack of it from the designated hitter. Eventually Ortiz did pull out of his slump and had a strong second half but the doubts remains as he heads into the last year of his guaranteed year of his contract (the club holds a $12.5m option for 2011).

As David Ortiz slumped, Jason Varitek was as inconsistent as expected from an offensive viewpoint. Lauded as a great leader and fair defensive catcher, Varitek did many intangible things to help the team win. Nevertheless, the Red Sox wanted offense from the catcher position and got it when they sent several prospects to the Cleveland Indians for Victor Martinez who will be the starting catcher in 2010. Varitek will return by virtue of utilizing his player option for $3m and incentives after the Red Sox passed on using theirs.

The Red Sox run the risk of losing slugging left fielder Jason Bay to free agency. A loss that will be difficult for the Red Sox faithful (an unsabermetricly inclined crowd to say the least, despite the clear beliefs of the teams management) to understand. Most analysts believe that signing Bay to the rumored deals that include several years and over 100 million dollars would be a colossal mistake. Granted, it is a mistake the Red Sox can afford to make. Unlike the rival New York Yankees, the Red Sox have avoided including extra years into contracts as incentives to sign. But Bay is an aging player (who some describe as a Three True Outcomes type) who is mediocre at best defensively and a perhaps a future designated hitter. Paying full price for Bay seems like something the Theo Epstein Red Sox would never do but then you hear things. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on the Extra Bases Blog this series of events:
So we're talking to Theo Epstein Monday afternoon and he mentions that restructuring Tim Wakefield's deal will save the Sox $1.5 million on the CBT, which is GM-speak for the payroll luxury tax, or collective bargaining tax. "That's important because there's some things we want to do this winter and we don't have a ton of room under the CBT," Epstein said. The tax threshold for 2010 will be $170 million. Are the Red Sox actually planning to approach that? I mean, zowie. They were around $125 million this season. Keeping in mind that is an extremely rough estimate, I have the Red Sox committed to approximately $109 million for next season. That's figuring arbitration raises for Jonathan Papelbon, Jermey Hermida, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez and $500,000 each for the assorted 0-3 service-time players. Let's say they sign Jason Bay for $18 million. So now they're at $127 million. Where is that extra $43 million coming from that Theo seemed concerned about? Are the Red Sox leaving room for Roy Halladay and some other superstar? This is total conjecture, of course, and perhaps Epstein was just musing out loud. But perhaps that was a clue that the Sox are, if nothing else, giving themselves the option to make a huge splash.
It seems impossible that the Red Sox could worry about approaching the tax threshold without planning to devote a substantial amount to re-signing Jason Bay. Maybe they plan to sign Bay AND Holliday and put Bay at designated hitter. That would be out Yanking the Yankees, no doubt.

Fantasy Focus

Clay Buchholz, RHP
The Red Sox have a very strong pitching staff. They have a clear ace in Josh Beckett. Jon Lester is among the top starters in the American League and he has room in his development to become a dominating lefty ace. Daisuke Matsuzaka has been a slight disappoint for the Red Sox but he still has that amazing talent which made him such a desirable roster addition. Tim Wakefield is the versatile, and effective veteran that has the ability to throw opposing lineups into weeks-long slumps. But the pitcher who has the potential to have the biggest impact on the Red Sox staff as it now stand may be Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox have been huge believers in his incredible talent and have refused to include him in potential deals for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Felix Hernandez, and even Roy Halladay. After several brief appearances in the Red Sox rotation and some rumored (but hard to document) fiddling with his mechanics over the last three seasons (which include a no-hitter in his second major league start), he appears to have finally cemented a place in the Red Sox rotation for the 2010 season.

Coming through the Red Sox farm system Buchholz displayed double strikeout rates and solid groundball rates. He reportedly owned a potentially plus slider, plus fastball, plus-plus change up, and a plus-plus curve ball --The curve being his devastating out pitch. The strikeout rates have fallen in the higher levels (which is to be expected). However, the 6.65 k-rate Buchholz displayed in the majors in 2009 was much lower than we had come to expect. The 7.85 mark for triple-A Pawtucket was also an unexpected low but it may have been a price paid to deliever something else – an increased groundball rate. Buchholz delivered a career best 52.5 GB percentage for Pawtucket in 2009 (discounting small sample sizes). He brought that powerful skill with him to the majors in the second half where he produced a 53.8 percent mark in 92 innings and 16 starts.

FIP says that Buchholz was not as good as he looked this season (4.69 FIP, 4.21 ERA) probably due to his relatively low .289 BABIP. It does not look quite so much like good fortune when compared to his .270 minor league career BABIP. Buchholz has a minor league career K/9 of 10.12, a ML career GB% of 47.6 percent, and a HR/FB of 8 percent. This makes the 15.7 percent HR/FB in the majors look like more of an aberration than his .289 BABIP. The skills are there and even if his development has not gone exactly as expected he does not have anything left to prove in the minors.

Buchholz is an extremely talented pitcher and the Red Sox view him an extremely valuable. In fact, if what we know of trade negotiations is true, they see Buchholz as untouchable. This places him in a very elite class of prospect. I think the Red Sox look at Buchholz and see a pitcher that will eventually compare well to Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay. While Fantasy Owners should be very careful not to expect too much of young pitchers without a full season of experience in the majors, I think there is a lot of reason for optimism here.

Jonathan Papelbon, RP
They have died down recently but not long ago, Red Sox Nation was flooded with rumors about a possible change in the closer role for the Red Sox. These rumors found fertile ground in a few areas. One, Red Sox General Manager, Theo Epstein, does not believe in paying exorbitant prices for closers. He has learned well the PR lesson of not actually having a closer but I doubt that his core beliefs on building bullpens has changed. Two, Jon Papelbon has refused attempts to sign a long-term contract. He has indicated that he will not accept anything that does not pay him as one of the best closers in the league. In other words, he wants to be paid like Mariano Rivera. This makes it unlikely that he remains in Boston past his arbitration seasons. Three, rookie Josh Bard came up from the minors and justified all the talk of him being the closer of the future. In fact, Bard was dominating in the playoffs. Meanwhile, many fans have blamed Papelbon for the Red Sox failure to advance past the first round.

Papelbon was not his usual self in 2009. His control was way off and his fastball was much less effective than it has been. This is not to say that Papelbon was bad. In fact, he was a fine closer. Nevertheless, he was less deceptive, less dominating, and less intimidating in 2009. It does make some sense that the Red Sox in their search for offense use Papelbon as bait. Bard is definitely a closer-quality talent who the Red Sox love. They have a deep bullpen and plenty of help in the minors should Bard fall apart. With the Detroit Tigers in dump mode, perhaps the Sox can pry Miguel Cabrera away to fill the role they failed to fill with Teixeira. It would give the Tigers a real closer finally, and dump enough salary that they could keep Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson. Just a thought…

Searching for Sleepers

Jeremy Hermida, OF
Red Sox fans were surprised by the acquisition of Jeremy Hermida. They were expecting news regarding Jason Bay, one of several shortstops, or maybe even Roy Halladay, not a fourth outfielder. This is what Hermida represents to Red Sox fans these days. If you aren’t a huge name with a huge contract, what good are you? The thing is Hermida has it in him to be good…very good. I will not re-hash Hermida’s development as a prospect. Since the trade, a million and one blogs and newspapers have related the story of Hermida’s high minor-league walk rates and impressive plate discipline. However, what they have neglected to share is that Hermida was probably a bit overrated based on numbers put up in the low minors. Yes, he had good walk rates but his strikeout rates were not very impressive and this is part of his problem.

I am not going to pretend to completely understand strike zone dynamics, but I am going to share my theory anyway. Despite the ability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone, Hermida still has high strikeout totals. He is not missing pitches in the zone; he has an upwards trending contact rate in the strike zone. I am guessing that he is being called out on strikes in the zone (I could not find this data – I know it is out there somewhere, but I wanted to get this published). Perhaps he is being stubborn about a personal strike zone, or Umpires just are not respecting his judgment. Whatever it is, I think he needs to start swinging at more pitches. Hermida had a 90 percent contact rate in 2009, and swung at just 23.9 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. Either he has been just unlucky (possible), or he is being called out on borderline pitches, pitches that Hermida needs to do something with. There is more evidence that Hermida needs to swing more in his BABIPs. His MLB career BABIP stands at .322, yet his career batting average is just .265. How can his discipline be good, his BABIP be high, and his batting average low, when he does not swing at many pitches? If you look at the image below, it appears that he does receive a lot of called strikes out of the zone but I have no idea if this is typical or not.

Here is what we do know. Hermida makes better than average contact in the strike zone, and less than average at pitches outside the zone. When he makes contact the result is better than average. His walk rate is back on the rise and has been better than average anyway. He is trending more fly balls and line drives and fewer groundballs. He looks (in my eyes) like a player just on edge of a leap forward. The Red Sox obviously see things they like and believe he can be a productive player for them. They certainly did not acquire him for his defense. Therefore, they must believe that he can contribute with the bat. The Red Sox are excellent evaluators and have top notch coaching, that in combination with Hermida’s talent make me willing to take a chance on Hermida in AL-only leagues. I would have to be very impressed during Spring Training to recommend him to shallow mixed-leaguers, but anything can happen.

Best Team Blogs for the Boston Red Sox

Firebrand of the American League -

Yawkey Way Academy -

ProJo Sox Blog -

El Guapo’s Ghost -

Sox Prospects -

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dock Ellis, LSD, and the No-Hitter

This is getting around but its so funny that I want to share it too. It was made by one of the guys at No Mas - a New York Yankees blog. It features former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Doc Ellis and the story behind his no-hitter, which he says he did on LSD. He even claims that he could not see the hitters, just the catcher and a general impression of whether the batter was on the left or the right. You want to watch this and definitely check out No Mas.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Fantasy Report

The Baltimore Orioles are very close to re-emerging as a force in the American League East. They have the core of a solid lineup in place. The offense is led my right fielder Nick Markakis (.293/.347/.453) and features several emerging young hitters. Matt Wieters will catch and although he did not look like it in 2009 could be the best hitter on the team. Adam Jones, the center fielder who constantly frustrated the Seattle Mariners with his injuries and uninspiring performances, was arguably one of the best hitters in baseball for the first two months of the season. Left fielder Nolan Reimold led the team with a .365 wOBA (of players with at least 140 at-bats) and an .831 OPS. Veteran second baseman Brian Roberts continues to be a steady presence in the lineup providing surprising power and steals in bunches. Luke Scott (.229 ISO) enjoyed his first season in the AL very much, providing power from multiple positions(but mostly DH).

The 2009 rotation fronted by names like Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Berken, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, and Rich Hill was largely a disaster. None of these guys were very successful but they won’t need to be in 2010, which is when a highly touted group of pitching prospects is expected to have a major impact on the future of the Baltimore Orioles. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton should debut in 2010. These names should be on the long-term radar of fantasy owners searching for the next Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, or Brandon Webb.

Fans of other teams or ones too young to remember may forget just how much financial muscle the Orioles can muster. It was not that long ago that the Orioles had one of the highest payrolls in baseball. They can hang with the big boys in the AL East when they judge that it is once again time to reach into the wallet for that missing slugger or ace starter. This is very important. Unlike the Tampa Bay Rays or Minnesota Twins who struggle to hang on their talent past their arbitration years , the Orioles can go dollar for dollar with almost anyone.

Fantasy Focus

Nick Markakis, OF
Before the 2009 season, Nick Markakis signed a six-year, $66.1 million contract. Then he had a disappointing season. It happens a lot. Players try to justify the money they are earning and become more aggressive and slip out of the game that won them the contract in the first place. You can see it pretty clearly in his stats. His walk rate went down quite a bit. He was swinging at more pitches out of the zone, and fewer pitches in the zone. The result is a drop in almost every meaningful stat. On top of this, he was probably a little unlucky as well. His BABIP dropped to .323 in 2009, which is only high when not compared to Markakis’ previous career average. Even his defense suffered. This is a player out of sorts. Fortunately, Markakis is such a talented and disciplined hitter than even when he not focused he is capable of producing decent stats.

The 2010 season should see a resurgent Markakis kicking butt in the American League East. His tools, patience, discipline, and pitch recognition are too high to predict anything else. He has good (not great) speed and can steal 10-15 bases if the desire is there. He has good power that has not yet peaked. His homerun totals may never be very high but I expect his HR/FB to return to their normal levels and that should be enough to push his homerun total back into the 20-25 area even if nothing else changes. However, just a small improvement in his FB rate might have him surpassing 30 homers as has been predicted for Markakis in the past. At his 2009 fly ball rate and a 12 percent HR/FB rate 600 at-bats would leave him just a fraction short of 30 homeruns. Fantasy owners should be very careful not to believe that they have seen the best of Markakis. He is just reaching what should be his peak years. Unless there is an injury that we do not know about I am much more comfortable predicting a career year than another down season.

Matt Wieters, C
One of the big stories of 2009 was the wait for Matt Wieters. The Orioles wisely as it seems, sent Wieters back to the minors to begin the season to cries of “cheap bastards” and worse from those believing they did so solely to save a few bucks and delay arbitration another season. As it turns out, Wieters did not dominate in the fashion of his 2008 season. He was producing, especially relative to his position. His late May promotion did not come with the offensive explosion that many fantasy owners were awaiting. For the season, he produced at about the level of the average major leaguer, which from the catcher position is super. It just is not what a fantasy owner is looking for out of his stud, catching prospect.

Wieters has shown signs of being a highly disciplined hitter. I expect him to improve in almost every area in 2010. His walk and contact rates should edge closer to his minor league levels as he gains experience. He is a linedrive hitter who rarely swings at pitches out of the strike zone. I also have to imagine that a more confident Wieters will manage a better HR/FB than the 8.4 percent mark produced in 2009. The Orioles have worked hard to keep from putting immense amounts of pressure on their young catcher. That should pay off for fantasy owners very soon.

Searching for Sleepers

Josh Bell, 3B
Josh Bell became an Oriole via the Los Angeles Dodgers by being the primary return in the George Sherrill trade. There is a strong possibility that he begins the 2010 season as the starting third baseman. Oddly, it seems his development as a switch hitter is going to be a major factor in the decision. Bell is extremely good from the left side of the plate facing right-handed pitchers. According to, Josh Bell hit .340 with 19 homers in 315 at-bats as a left-handed hitter, and .198 with one homer in 131 at-bats as a right-handed hitter in 2009. Most reports say his mechanics are fine from both sides of the plate though ESPN’s Jason Grey has said he can “get a little big” swinging from his heels on the right-handed side.

There are those that believe that Bell should abandon switch-hitting and become a left-handed batter. This is the possibility most likely to send Bell to the minors (assuming he has a strong spring and the Orioles do not make a huge move to fill the position). In this scenario, the Orioles would be unlikely to allow Bell to adjust to seeing left-handed pitching from the left side in the majors. Fortunately, those closest to the Orioles believe they are happy with Bell as he is and want to see him continue to switch hit. The belief there (and here) is that Bell can develop enough as a hitter from the right side to be an asset.

Josh Bell just became more dangerous as the season and the post season passed. He was a monster in the AFL. He posted an Isolated Power of .281 (for reference Alex Rodriguez has a career ISO of .271) after the trade, during 114 at-bats at double-A for the Orioles. On the season, he slashed .297/.370/.538 with 35 doubles, 2 triples, 20 homeruns. He also received a very favorable projection from theThe Bill James Handbook 2010. He probably will not be much of a sleeper come draft season but he is an incredibly talented prospect that is worthy of fantasy attention even as a rookie.

Zach Britton, LHP
He has not received as much attention as Matusz, Tillman, Arietta, and even Brandon Erbe but Zach Britton may outperform them all. Nothing attracts me to a pitcher like the combination of strikeouts and inducing groundballs. In the last three seasons, Britton has GB rates of 64.5, 63.8, and 65.0 percent and K-rates of 6.36, 6.96, and boosted it to 8.42 in 2009. His rates are only getting better as he increases levels, which is a very nice indication of his development. His walk rates do show room for improvement, but are not high enough to be a major problem. I keep looking at him and thinking Brandon Webb. I like this guy a lot.

Best Team Blogs for the Baltimore Orioles:

Orioles Hangout -

Camden Crazies -

Oscar Salazar 3B 17 31 13 0 0 2 4 6 2 4 0 0 0.419
Nick Markakis OF 161 642 188 45 2 18 94 101 56 98 6 2 0.293
Michael Aubrey 1B 31 90 26 7 0 4 12 14 5 10 0 0 0.289
Matt Wieters C 96 354 102 15 1 9 35 43 28 86 0 0 0.288
Brian Roberts 2B 159 632 179 56 1 16 110 79 74 112 30 7 0.283
Jeff Fiorentino OF 24 64 18 1 0 0 8 8 8 16 2 0 0.281
Nolan Reimold OF 104 358 100 18 2 15 49 45 47 77 8 2 0.279
Adam Jones OF 119 473 131 22 3 19 83 70 36 93 10 4 0.277
Ty Wigginton 1B/3B 122 410 112 19 0 11 44 41 23 57 1 2 0.273
Felix Pie OF 101 252 67 10 3 9 38 29 24 58 1 3 0.266
Melvin Mora 3B 125 450 117 20 0 8 44 48 34 60 3 3 0.260
Chad Moeller C 30 89 23 8 1 2 6 10 7 16 0 0 0.258
Luke Scott DH 128 449 116 26 1 25 61 77 55 104 0 0 0.258
Cesar Izturis SS 114 387 99 14 4 2 34 30 18 38 12 4 0.256
Aubrey Huff 1B 110 430 109 24 1 13 51 72 41 74 0 6 0.253
Gregg Zaun C 56 168 41 10 0 4 23 13 27 30 0 0 0.244
Robert Andino SS 78 198 44 7 0 2 31 10 15 47 3 3 0.222
Lou Montanez OF 29 82 15 5 0 1 5 6 5 16 0 1 0.183

George Sherrill 0 1 2.40 42 0 20 3 41.1 3 13 0 39
Brad Bergesen 7 5 3.43 19 19 0 0 123.1 11 32 2 65
Cla Meredith 0 0 3.77 29 0 0 0 28.2 3 12 0 17
Danys Baez 4 6 4.02 59 0 0 2 71.2 8 22 2 40
Koji Uehara 2 4 4.05 12 12 0 0 66.2 7 12 0 48
Jim Johnson 4 6 4.11 64 0 10 6 70 8 23 2 49
Mark Hendrickson 6 5 4.37 53 11 1 2 105 16 33 2 61
Brian Matusz 5 2 4.63 8 8 0 0 44.2 6 14 0 38
Brian Bass 5 3 4.90 48 0 0 0 86.1 11 44 6 54
Jeremy Guthrie 10 17 5.04 33 33 0 0 200 35 60 1 110
Dennis Sarfate 0 1 5.09 20 0 0 0 23 3 14 0 20
Chris Tillman 2 5 5.40 12 12 0 0 65 15 24 4 39
David Hernandez 4 10 5.42 20 19 0 0 101.1 27 46 3 68
Matt Albers 3 6 5.51 56 0 0 4 67 3 36 3 49
Jason Berken 6 12 6.54 24 24 0 0 119.2 19 44 0 66
Chris Ray 0 4 7.27 46 0 0 3 43.1 8 23 0 39
Rich Hill 3 3 7.80 14 13 0 0 57.2 7 40 1 46
Adam Eaton 2 5 8.56 8 8 0 0 41 9 19 1 28