Thursday, January 29, 2009

MLB Front Office Manager Review

I have been dying to play this game. MLB Front Office Manager offers the player the chance to control every function that a real MLB GM does (with the exception of dealing with shareholders and politicians as Mike puts it). The guys at River Ave Blues give us a great review of the game and its features. It is much more important for me to hear about the game from a baseball guy rather than a video game guy. The baseball guy doesn't care if the interface could be a little smoother, as long as you get to make trades with Billy Beane.

...The backbone of the game is player development, just like today’s MLB. There’s six freaking levels of minor league affiliates (AAA, AA, Hi-A, Lo-A, short season and rookie) and the scouting network is insanely deep. You’re given a scouting budget and must allocate those funds as you see fit. You can “invest” in a long list of regions, including different parts of the U.S., Latin America, Asia and Australia, and the more money you spend the better the job your scouts do. Scouting Japan is an entirely different undertaking, as it’s more expensive but also more rewarding (because the players are ML ready). The Japanese posting process is in the game, so to land the next Dice-K you have to outbid the other clubs...
I am buying it very soon.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

ESPN and RotoWorld Park Factors

Recently Aaron Gleeman, a writer and analyst whose work I enjoy and respect, posted an article that ranked the Major League Baseball Park Factors. It was a bit unusual. It does not match ESPN's, at all. I have no idea what either site did to calculate their version and I'm really not interested in doing it myself. I like using and looking at the numbers --not crunching them. My gut says to go with ESPN's since they fit my subjective sense of the rankings. But that isn't very logical. So, what to do...

Also interesting is this article that attempts to find truer park factors. It comes with a link to an excel file of more than 50 years of data that I haven't made much sense of yet.

Roto World:

Boston Red Sox – 108
Colorado Rockies – 107
Arizona Diamondbacks – 107
Chicago Cubs – 106
Chicago White Sox – 105

Cincinnati Reds – 104
Philadelphia Phillies – 103
Baltimore Orioles – 103
Tampa Bay Rays – 103
Cleveland Indians – 103
Los Angeles Angels – 103

Detroit Tigers – 102
San Francisco Giants – 102
Texas Rangers – 101
Washington Nationals – 101
Los Angeles Dodgers – 100
Milwaukee Brewers – 100

Houston Astros – 99
Toronto Blue Jays – 99
Florida Marlins – 99
Atlanta Braves – 99
St. Louis Cardinals – 99

Kansas City Royals – 97
Seattle Mariners – 96
Pittsburgh Pirates – 95
Minnesota Twins – 93
Oakland A's – 93
San Diego Padres – 89

And then ESPN's

RkPark NameRunsHRH2B3BBB
1Rangers Ballpark (Arlington, Texas)1.1421.2291.0701.0422.2271.030
2Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)1.1351.0681.0721.2421.4060.955
3Coors Field (Denver, Colorado)1.1261.2991.0981.0481.3870.919
4U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago, Illinois)1.1221.3530.9740.9070.5641.087
5Fenway Park (Boston, Massachusetts)1.0770.8501.0561.5891.0001.095
6Comerica Park (Detroit, Michigan)1.0771.1881.0740.9721.1140.877
7Great American (Cincinnati, Ohio)1.0691.2301.0101.0171.0381.013
8Wrigley Field (Chicago, Illinois)1.0681.1631.0320.9750.6580.939
9Turner Field (Atlanta, Georgia)1.0631.0141.0681.0281.2061.109
10Camden Yards (Baltimore, Maryland)1.0511.3591.0440.9890.5660.948
RkPark NameRunsHRH2B3BBB
11AT&T Park (San Francisco, California)1.0450.9921.0141.1321.8751.029
12Yankee Stadium (Bronx, New York)1.0400.9820.9800.9971.0451.000
13Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.)1.0380.9421.0141.0131.1011.009
14Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas)1.0361.1551.0121.1020.9081.002
15Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)1.0291.0221.0360.9570.7430.991
16Angel Stadium (Anaheim, California)1.0170.9331.0280.9930.8280.807
17Progressive Field (Cleveland, Ohio)0.9950.8241.0201.0160.6541.187
18Rogers Centre (Toronto, Ontario)0.9590.9260.9811.0861.8641.102
19Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Florida)0.9550.8500.9340.8131.2261.043
20Dolphin Stadium (Miami, Florida)0.9540.8440.9460.9261.4811.025
RkPark NameRunsHRH2B3BBB
21Shea Stadium (Flushing, New York)0.9461.0810.9260.9350.5001.088
22Miller Park (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)0.9450.8930.9630.8571.3751.130
23Busch Stadium (St. Louis, Missouri)0.9430.9150.9620.8681.0000.969
24Safeco Field (Seattle, Washington)0.9320.9000.9920.9211.2221.021
25Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)0.9290.7881.0031.0970.8160.980
26McAfee Coliseum (Oakland, California)0.9160.9880.9600.9530.5360.974
27PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)0.8980.8691.0241.0640.9290.977
28Metrodome (Minneapolis, Minnesota)0.8870.8960.9410.9890.9600.844
29Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, California)0.8420.8570.8920.8660.4250.891
30Petco Park (San Diego, California)0.7960.7430.8960.7800.9311.024

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Understanding BABIP and Groundball Rates

I'm still processing the information I just absorbed in a Baseball Analysts article entitled: BABIP: Slicing and Dicing Groundball Out Rates. I believe this study could have a huge impact on future player evaluations. Anyone that even attempts to make their own player projections should read this article. This is the type of stuff that transforms you from an average fantasy baseball player into an Advanced Fantasy Baseball Player.

Also read these interesting and related articles:

What’s the best BABIP estimator?

What I Hate About Line Drives

Working the Numbers: On BABIP estimation

BABIP, Projection, and New Statistics

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Sleeper Alert: Russell Branyan

Before the 2008 season outfielder Ryan Ludwick was known to be a powerful hitter that had probably missed whatever chance he had to be a major league regular. Then the St. Louis Cardinals actually needed him enough to give him an extended series of at-bats. He carried the Cardinals offense the entire season. This year no one questions that Ludwick belongs in the Major Leagues and the Cardinals need to figure out how to work top prospect into the mix with Ludwick, Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel, Brian Barton, Chris Duncan, Joe Mather, and Skip Schumaker.

Russell Branyan is a similar player. Great power but too high a strikeout rate to win a regular job at this point in his career. In 2008, Branyan hit 12 homers in 132 at-bats. And he has essentially always performed that way. Last month, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a one-year guaranteed contract approaching a million bucks a year to be their primary first baseman. This was an excellent move. Branyan has a low contact rate but has a career fly ball rate over 50 percent and approaching 60 percent the last few seasons. This translates into homeruns because of his excellent career HR/FB of 21.9 percent. Do the math – (500 at-bats)*(70 percent contact rate)*(50 percent fly ball rate)*(22 percent HR/FB) = 38 homeruns. Branyan's best-case batting average is probably no better than .270 and reality suggests an average closer to .250, but if Ludwick can hit .290, anything can happen.

Eventually, Bryan LaHair will eventually present Branyan with a challenge for the position but almost no one expects that to happen in 2009. Chris Shelton has also been brought in as a platoon partner for Branyan. This is a good development. Less at at-bats against lefties against whom Branyan has hit .204 during his career gives Branyan better odds at a fantasy tolerable batting average.

He should be owned in every AL-only and the deeper ,mixed leagues.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Monday, January 26, 2009

My mind on my money and the Yankees on my mind

It feels like I haven't slept in weeks. That may be because I rarely seem to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. I've been sick (I just read that honey is better than cough syrup - not surprising) and for the past week added a aching back to my problems but I'm sure you don't give a damn about that.

The big news around baseball right now seems to be Joe Torre's new book, "The Yankee Years" which was actually written by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci. The book supposedly exposes lots of juicy gossip and jealousies. But the major story points picked up by the New York Post were based around Torre supposedly trashing Alex Rodriguez and Brian Cashman. There are no direct quotes of Torre doing this in the book according to recent articles. Bronx Banter picks up most of the links if you want to follow the story.

My Twitter Buddy and RotoExperts boss, RotoTommy is asking for the biggest fantasy baseball disappointment predictions. I'm going with Brad Lidge who has had some serious bouts with disaster the last few years.

If you are like me and can't afford to subscribe to those big prospect sites you are in luck. Keith Law has been prospect crazy lately and has put together all sorts of great lists. He has a ranking of the Top 10 Farm Systems. The Rangers come out on top and I'm not surprised. If you are an insider you can see how he ranks all of the teams. You would think that with the amount of advertising on that they would make the content free. Law also has prospect rankings by teams this week.

It could be that the guys at Chop-N-Change (MVN's Braves Blog) are onto something with their placement of Brian Cashman in the second tier of General Managers in their article : Best GMs in baseball? If Cashman were truly taking advantage of all his resources the Yankees would have one of the top ten farm systems and Keith Law would have given us a complete top ten list. Fortunately it seems to be prospect season. Baseball-Intellect has posted their top 15 Yankees Prospects - albeit in two parts. Part One: 6-15, and Part Two: 1-5.

I love that they place my favorite Yankees prospect at number two on their list, which has not happened on any other list that I've seen. River Ave Blues profiles that same prospect. His name is Dellin Betances and he dominated with a 10.59 K9 in the second half of last season. Though Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts has an article suggesting that K per 100 pitches may be a far more relevant statistic.

Is this too much Yankees talk? If you're a Yankees hater you may enjoy this article by Bert Blyleven that suggests the Yankees are an incomplete team despite their heavy spending this off-season.

Alan Horne who turned himself into a prospect a couple of years ago is looking to make a comeback from a tear in his rotator cuff.

“The tear was causing my shoulder to bind up really bad, so he cleaned it up so it would work a little better,” he said. “It feels good so far.”

Horne couldn’t throw for three months following the surgery, but since resuming his workouts in early December, he has had no complaints.

“I feel great so far. I’ve been real pleased with how the rehab’s gone,” he said. “I feel no pain so far. I feel like I’ve got the problem fixed and I can continue to move forward toward my ultimate goal, which is pitching in the big leagues.”

It was a struggle for Horne last season, starting off by losing three of five decisions in the International League, then dropping his only decision in three starts in Tampa.

For the year, Horne was 2-4 with an 8.77 ERA, a far cry from his 2007 success.

In retrospect, Horne said it’s obvious why the struggles were so great.

“(The injury) was a big struggle for me,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge pain, it was just pretty uncomfortable. My arm wasn’t working like it was supposed to work and it just wasn’t allowing me to extend a long way.

“It took more effort to be able to throw. I was having to work a lot harder to do things I normally do without a problem. Towards the end of the season, my stuff started deteriorating.”
Speaking of New York general managers. Steve Phillips is joining Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN this coming season. I know its an unpopular feeling among sabermetrically inclined baseball fans, but I actually like listening to Jim Miller and Joe Morgan. Yes, I cringe sometimes but they are fairly entertaining if you can get around that. Having more studio time from Peter Gammons is good for me too.

Non-Fantasy, Non-Baseball Links: (just cuz I can)

There is a new version of Ad-Aware available. A really cool free option for fighting spyware.

Do you love web comics? I do and one of my favorite artists has a new one out. The Flobots.

My friend's father trashes Obama. Peter David opines.

Joe Posnanski
picks the most Iconic songs of the Rock 'n Roll Era. And gets a lot of it wrong!

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Hot Stove Action

I neglected to post here about my most recent Hot Stove Junkie. It was definitely an abbreviated version since the Hot Stove Action has been at a minimum the last few weeks. I know the substantive posts have been a little slow coming here the last two weeks. I was nearly killed by a monster virus while feverishly (get it?) on lots of stuff for the RotoExperts Draft Kit. This week I have more deadlines, more work and an aching back. Still, I roll on...

But here's the latest Hot Stove Junkie.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Thursday, January 22, 2009

American League Catcher Depth Chart

This is the first part of a series of articles that will go position by position and league by league into the depth charts of every team.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles did not sign Gregg Zaun to become their starting catcher. They signed him to serve as a mentor and potential insurance policy for top catching prospect Matt Wieters. The Orioles are publicizing Zaun as the starter because the Orioles want Wieters to grab the job rather than have it handed to him. If Wieters fails to win the job in Spring Training he will go down to the minors but expect it to be a brief stay unless he really struggles. Zaun batted .237/.340/.359 with 6 homers and 30 RBIs in 86 games with Toronto last season. In a poetic baseball twist, Zaun returns to the organization that raised him to finish his career.

The Future: Matt Wieters is the future and the future is now for the Orioles at catcher. Although he is often compared to Mike Piazza with the bat, he has a far superior glove and arm. If all goes as planned (never a guarantee, even with someone this good) Wieters will be the Orioles catcher for at least the next six or seven years.

Gregg Zaun

Matt Wieters

Guillermo Quiroz

Robby Hammock

Chad Moeller

Guillermo Rodriguez

Adam Donachie

Jose A. Reyes

Boston Red Sox

There is still a strong possibility that Jason Varitek (the Red Sox Captain) returns for another season. Boston would love to acquire a young catcher like Jarrod Saltalamaccia (Rangers) or Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks) but so far, they have not been willing to meet the asking price of their respective teams. Until further notice, Josh Bard is the starting catcher. Bard has a career .318 wOBA, which is not the end of the world for a catcher. Bard draws a few walks and has a strong contact rate. His BABIP was just .230 in 2008 which when compared to his career mark of .296 indicates that his .202 batting average was mostly bad luck. He should bat somewhere around his career slash of .265/.333/.395 but batting in the Red Sox lineup should leave him with more run production opportunities than a line like that would usually warrant.

The Future: The player that will eventually fill the role of Red Sox catcher of the future probably is not in the organization yet. George Kottaras will serve as the Red Sox reserve catcher until the Red Sox find someone to knock Bard down a notch. Kottaras is a fair offensive catcher. He draws walks and has a little pop but strikes out too often. Mark Wagner has shown the potential to be the next Red Sox catcher. He appeared to be a future fantasy stud by hitting for both power and batting average until he hit a wall at Double-A in 2008, the Red Sox are hoping it was just bad luck as a result of his .256 BABIP.

Josh Bard

George Kottaras

Mark Wagner

Chicago White Sox

A.J. Pierzynski does not get much respect as a fantasy option. He will receive around 500 at-bats, hit for a decent batting average in the .280-.290 range. You can expect 15-20 homeruns and a fair number of runs and RBI. Maybe the fact that he has few friends in real baseball has trickled into fantasy owner’s mind. He is on the perfect team with a manager like Ozzie Guillen, who keeps most of the negative attention on himself. Those that know this already are okay with drafting Pierzynski late or buying him cheap.

The Future: Ozzie Guillen almost forced general manager Kenny Williams to trade pitcher Javier Vazquez by questioning the right-hander’s heart. A key part of the return in the trade with the Atlanta Braves was Arizona Fall League standout, Tyler Flowers. In the minors Flowers has hit for both average and power but in the 2008 Arizona Fall League his power exploded even further with 12 homeruns in 75 at-bats. A.J. Pierzynski is signed very reasonably through the 2010 season and that perfectly coincides with Flowers’ development schedule were he to spend most of a season in Double-A and most of another season in Triple-A.

A.J. Pierzynski

Tyler Flowers

Corky Miller

Chris Stewart

Donny Lucy

Cleveland Indians

Victor Martinez could be playing for his next contract this season. The slugging catcher signed through the 2009 season, was a non-factor due to injuries in 2008. The Indians hold a 2010 option for $7 million that Martinez will have to earn. When right, Martinez is a fantasy stud at the catcher position. He bats for average and power. However, catcher is a position where the Tribe has options. Kelly Shoppach filled in admirably for Martinez in 2008 by blasting 21 homers in 352 at-bats. Shoppach figures to receive between 350-400 at-bats by frequently pushing Martinez to first base and first baseman Ryan Garko to the bench or the outfield.

The Future: His acquisition from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for third baseman Casey Blake was a surprise. However, Carlos Santana has become the catcher of the future. Santana looks a lot like Victor Martinez with the bat, hitting for both average and power. He still has to prove himself at the higher levels of the minors but his development timeline has him in the majors just as Martinez’s contract runs out after the 2010 season.

Victor Martinez

Kelly Shoppach

Carlos Santana

Damaso Espino

Chris Gimenez

Wyatt Toregas

Detroit Tigers

The trade for Gerald Laird cleared up the immediate future at catcher for the Tigers. Laird possesses great potential. However, he has also been very inconsistent with the bat. Laird’s BABIP has been all over the place --.344, .288, .250, .357, .278, and .324. He was trending upward in fly ball percentage until it took a sudden drop in 2008. It is by no means certain that hitting flyballs would help much given his very low career HR/FB rate of just six percent. The offensive peak for catchers is different from most position players and Laird is entering that peak but predicting what the real Laird is capable of doing is next to impossible. Matt Treanor, formerly of the Florida Marlins, becomes the new back-up catcher. Treanor has no offensive potential and thus zero fantasy value. If Brandon Inge makes more than a token appearance as a catcher, everything will have gone wrong for the Tigers.

The Future: Defensively, Dusty Ryan was ready to join the Detroit Tigers the day he was drafted. Unfortunately, the Merced College product needed a few years to get his bat major league ready. However, if we can judge by his 2008 season he’ll be there soon. In 2008, he had a .363 wOBA at Double-A in 296 at-bats. He was promoted to Triple-A, where he posted a .397 wOBA in 73 at-bats. He capped his best offensive season by excelling in a Major League cup of coffee where he achieved an impressive .380 wOBA albeit in just 44 at-bats. He will have a shot in Spring Training but unless Laird truly struggles, Ryan will return to the minors for most of 2009. Further off, Alex Avila has a bat a fantasy owner can appreciate but could be changing positions before he gets a chance to help.

Gerald Laird

Matt Treanor

Dusty Ryan

Brandon Inge

Dane Sardinha

Alex Avila

Jeff Kunkel

Max Pierre

Alex Avila

Kansas City Royals

This is by far the worst catching tandem in the American League. Miguel Olivo has a little pop but is such a disaster at the plate that it is rare anyone notices. How horrible must Olivo be? When a .255 batting average is the second highest mark of his career? A good batting average is hard to come by with a 66.8 contact percentage. John Buck has failed to be a better option. Buck has better power than Olivo, and draws more walks (not that many more) and has a slightly better contact rate of 75.2 percent. Despite better skills he has failed to fight off Olivo for the starting job. Both will get their share of at-bats but neither is worth rostering.

The Future: Any catcher in the Royals system that has any chance at a major league career is either an older veteran like Vance Wilson or a failed prospect like Brayan Pena or J.R. House. Vance Wilson never could hit and after Tommy John surgery, his throwing has to be a huge question mark too. Pena at least makes excellent contact and has a good glove. That gives him the best chance of providing quality for the Royals at catcher.

Miguel Olivo

John Buck

Brayan Pena

J.R. House

Matt Tupman

Vance Wilson

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Jeff Mathis is probably a better defensive option than Mike Napoli is. However, Napoli is so much the better offensive option that it is difficult to imagine Mathis matching even the 94 games he played in 2008. According to measurements, Napoli was not only the more valuable catcher but also the most valuable player on the Angels. Napoli had a wOBA of .399 (in 227 at-bats). Mathis posted a pathetic .260 wOBA in 2008 and has just a .261 wOBA for his career. ‘Nuff said.

The Future: Napoli is just 27 years old and under the Angels control for another four seasons. Napoli is the present for the Angels and likely the future. Ryan Budde is an okay option if an emergency pops up for the Angels but you do not want him on your fantasy team. Bobby Wilson could also make things interesting in the next year or two. He has not had a wOBA below .342 in the minors and little to prove at Triple-A. Hank Conger has potential but needs to work on his plate discipline and staying healthy.

Mike Napoli

Jeff Mathis

Ryan Budde

Bobby Wilson

Hank Conger

Minnesota Twins

Joe Mauer is the best catcher in the Major Leagues. As long as his knees stay healthy and the Twins cough up the bucks, he should be behind the plate in Minnesota for another decade. Mauer is a fantastic hitter who annually puts up .300-plus batting averages and steals a few bases. He could still develop some power but at this point, it does not matter anymore. He is the best in the business just as he is. Mike Redmond is not in Mauer’s class as a hitter but he does a fair job hitting for average. In AL-only leagues, Redmond is a better option than players like John Buck.

The Future: When you start at Joe Mauer, the Twins system seems barren of anyone who could even tie his shoes in the majors. Wilson Ramos is beginning to show some nice power in the minors. He still needs to develop a little plate discipline but he has better offensive potential than most catchers do.

Joe Mauer

Mike Redmond

Drew Butera

Wilson Ramos

Jeff Christy

Danny Lehmann

New York Yankees

If the Yankees could count on Jorge Posada being healthy, they would not need such a long list of secondary options. Posada provides great power and a decent to good batting average…when healthy. Because he had major shoulder surgery last season there are some who suggest the Yankees sign a more serious second catcher like Ivan Rodriguez or even Jason Varitek. But the Yankees are betting that Posada will be back to full strength at some point this season if not to start the season. Most reports suggest that he will not be ready when Spring Training begins, but should be available for the season opener. Jose Molina will receive the bulk of the at-bats when Posada is unavailable. Molina has almost zero fantasy value as a hitter. It would be zero were he not in the loaded Yankee lineup. Kevin Cash, because of his major league experience, has the best chance of backing up Molina if Posada is placed on the disabled list. Cash is just as worthless with a bat in his hand as Molina.

The Future: In very limited at-bats, Francisco Cervelli has shown skills at the plate (.386 in 73 Double-A at-bats. He draws walks and hits for a decent batting average. He does not have much power but any hitting skills from a catcher are worth noting. He does not appear to be suffering any ill effects from the Spring Training accident that broke his wrist. I find it interesting that the Yankees called on Cervelli rather than Jesus Montero (.388 wOBA in 2008) when they needed a catcher considering Montero’s greater experience. Cervelli is probably superior behind the plate, but still needs to complete an entire season. The Yankees’ Austin Romine may be the best overall catcher of the bunch. In his first (almost) full season, Romine finished with a .355 wOBA in 407 at-bats. He displayed excellent contact skills and homerun power.

Jorge Posada

Jose Molina

Kevin Cash

Francisco Cervelli

Jesus Montero

Austin Romine

Kyle Anson

P.J. Pilittere

Oakland Athletics

Kurt Suzuki has very little power but rarely strikeouts and knows how to draw the occasional walk. There have been rumors that Suzuki has the speed to steal bases. The Oakland Athletics typically neglect to utilize base-stealing skills. Suzuki will provide you with a decent batting average, a few homeruns, and a couple of stolen bases. He is no Russell Martin but he is better than many of the alternatives. Rob Bowen is the back-up catcher. Bowen takes walks but strikes out at an absurd pace that renders him nearly useless for fantasy purposes.

The Future: Kurt Suzuki is only 25-years old and not yet arbitration eligible. However, the Athletics have a habit of dumping players before they become expensive provided they have a capable (and cheap) replacement. The A’s signed Joel Galarraga out of the Mexican Summer League. He’s a giant question mark at this point. John Donaldson projects to be a fantasy worthy catcher but his defensive skills (or lack thereof) may force him to another position. Petey Paramore (you have to love the name) draws walks but seems to lack any other skills with the bat. He does have the glove to remain at catcher however.

Kurt Suzuki

Rob Bowen

Joel Galarraga

John Donaldson

Petey Paramore

Seattle Mariners

Had Jack Zduriencik been the general manager a year ago, chances are the Mariners would never have signed Kenji Johjima to a new three-year contract. However, he was not and the contract was signed thereby blocking the less expensive and better hitting option, Jeff Clement. This season the pair will split the catching duties almost equally with Clement also collecting at-bats as the designated hitter and occasional first baseman. Johjima is a better hitter than he appeared to be last season. He has the ability to hit for average and power and rarely strikes out. Unfortunately, he will be losing at-bats this season to Clement, which will dramatically reduce his usefulness to fantasy owners. Jeff Clement has excellent contact skills, draws walks, and hits for power. He is exactly the type of fantasy option the catcher position needs.

The Future: Somehow or another, the Mariners will find a way to install Jeff Clement as the full-time catcher. The Boston Red Sox would be an excellent option for them considering Boston’s bountiful farm system and need for a major league catcher.

UPDATE: I thought Jeff Clement was a lock but in a recent public statement new minor league director by Pedro Griffol:

“Adam Moore will probably start the season in Tacoma, but he’s going to be a catcher who can lead a staff and bat in the heart of the order,” Griffol said. “He’s going to be an impact player.”

Moore, caught in the traffic jam with catchers Kenji Johjima, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson and Jamie Burke, batted .319 with 14 home runs and 71 RBI in 119 Double-A games in 2008.“He’s got an outside shot to come up this year,” Zduriencik said of Moore, “but next year, he’s coming. He’s a good young player with a lot of promise.”

Jeff Clement

Kenji Johjima

Rob Johnson

Jamie Burke

Adam Moore

Luis Oliveros

Tampa Bay Rays

Dioner Navarro is an excellent contact hitter and knows how to draw a walk when necessary. He has no power worth mentioning. Shawn Riggans is presently the back-up catcher but will have to fight to keep that role in Spring Training. Riggans is a lousy hitter with a little power. Navarro is a fine catcher and could probably be signed rather inexpensively through his arbitration years. However, the Rays like their future options.

The Future: John Jaso is going to be a fantasy worthy catcher. He has plate discipline, draws walks, makes excellent contact, and has good and still improving power. He isn’t quite ready but will be allowed to battle Shawn Riggans for the reserve role during Spring Training. The most likely scenario has Jaso spending another year in the minors before emerging during the 2010 season.

Dioner Navarro

John Jaso

Shawn Riggans

Michel Hernandez

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have a better collection of catchers than any other team even after trading Gerald Laird. All three catchers will do battle in Spring Training for the starting catcher’s role. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the key piece in the Mark Teixeira trade. Salty is the most likely starter this season after an impressive winter ball performance. He should hit for both a decent average and power. He should develop into an excellent fantasy option but still needs to improve his plate discipline. Taylor Teagarden is probably the best defensive option of the three. Teagarden has excellent power but the rest of his hitting skills are still developing. Max Ramirez has the worst glove of the three but is a monster with a bat in his hands. He is easily the best bat of the bunch but may be moved to another position to fit into the Ranger lineup.

The Future: Everyone seems to be waiting for the Rangers to make a decision about their catching. The Rangers are in no rush to decide. For now, the most likely scenario is for Saltalamacchia to start in the majors with Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez both returning to the minors. But if any or all of the three prove ready for the majors, the Rangers will not hesitate to find a way to fit them all into the major league lineup.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Taylor Teagarden

Max Ramirez

Toronto Blue Jays

Rod Barajas will start behind the plate for the Blue Jays. Barajas possesses power but very little plate discipline. The Blue Jays brought in veteran Michael Barrett to compete for a job. Barrett was once a top fantasy catcher but injuries and ineffectiveness have ruined the last few seasons for him. Barrett is apparently healthy now and if he has retained the skills he showed a few years ago he is easily the best fantasy option on the team and worth a small gamble. Curtis Thigpen has no chance of starting for the Blue Jays. However, he will compete for the reserve role. Thigpen has none of the hitting skills that might make him fantasy worthy.

The Future: J.P. Arencibia is the catcher of the future. He has steadily improved his defense and displayed power with the bat. Arencibia’s lack of plate discipline is his greatest weakness. But by hitting 27 homeruns between two levels he has placed himself firmly into the fantasy baseball landscape. Brian Jeroloman could work himself into the picture as well. He draws walks like a veteran but lacks power, which limits his upside.

Rod Barajas

Curtis Thigpen

Michael Barrett

Raul Chavez

J.P. Arencibia

Brian Jeroloman

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crooked Pitch Mock Draft

Knox over at Crooked Pitch has put together a slow mock draft. What is unique about this mock draft is that all the participants required to explain their pick and the strategy behind it as they go. I think this will be very interesting to follow --especially with quality of the participants. Jason Collette (@jasoncollette), Paul Sporer (@sporer ) and Knox Bardeen (@crookedpitch) are a few of my favorite fantasy baseball analysts.

Check out the Crooked Pitch Slow Mock Draft.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winning Takes More Than Player Knowledge

Todd Zola, one of my favorite number crunchers, posted an article at the Mastersball Blog wherein he questioned his own ability to contend every time against the biggest fantasy baseball sharks. Todd explains his weakness as a lack of preparation.

...By preparation, I am not talking about having rankings and depth charts average draft positions. I am not talking about reading about each player, deciding in a vacuum if they are a breakout or bust candidate. I am not talking about knowing the next-in-line closers for each team. What I am talking about takes the aforementioned information to the next level and best might be describes as fantasy baseball game theory...
He goes on to describe the process by which he hopes to fill this void in his gamesmanship. Namely by doing as many mock drafts as possible. While Todd is right about needing to intimately know the player pool and have the ability to adapt to any draft scenario, I'm not sure he's right about how to get to the level he hopes to achieve.

Mock Drafts are a fine form of practice and participating in them will make you a better drafter. But what you learn from this is not really how to be a better shark but how to react to what other owners do. I think Todd knows this better than he thinks he does. It is a fine line, but what Todd really needs (in my own humble opinion of course) is to learn to draft the team he needs despite anything that his opponents might do.

Here is the difference:

Todd wants to be better at picking between player M and player J when the perfect player would have been player A who was taken just before Todd's pick.

What Todd needs to be better at is knowing that he needs quantity A to win and that it doesn't actually matter which player he takes so long as it adds up to quantity A in the end. In other words, rather than focus on better player selection as a one by one process over and over again, what he should be doing is studying the many different ways to make 23 selections add up to quantity A.

Relax your focus on each player and concentrate on the team as a whole.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Monday, January 19, 2009

Emily Stecher Survey Part Two

Emily Stecher needs our help one more time. Help her out and you could win a $50 Visa Gift card.

Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for participating in my first survey. The results raised more questions than I could have imagined. I have condensed those questions into a few very important ones and I am hoping that you all can take a few minutes to fill out this follow up survey.

The survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete. Please follow the instructions and answer all of the questions to the best of your ability. Do not consult any outside sources. All responses will remain completely anonymous and will only be used for the purposes of this study. Please finish the whole survey in one sitting as you will not be allowed to re-enter the survey to update or change your responses.

All participants will be eligible to win a additional $50 Visa Gift Card upon completion of the survey. On January 20th I will be drawing two names of people who have completed both surveys. At the end of this survey, please be sure to leave your e-mail address. Your e-mail address will not be linked to your responses to ensure anonymity.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

Emily Stecher


Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fantasy Phenoms Mock Draft

I want to thank Jason Sarney of Fantasy Phenoms for inviting me to participate in the second of their series of mock drafts. The league details are the standard 12-team mixed 5x5, rotisserie format. The draft was a serpentine 23-round session, with two catchers, a first baseman, a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, a middle infielder, a corner infielder, a utility player, five outfielders, and a staff of nine pitchers.

I have been using a slightly modified form of the projections that come with the Diamond Draft Fantasy Baseball Software, but I did not have time to load them into the Mock Draft Central system before the draft. Therefore, I had to do my best with the rankings they provided. You can be the judge.

I enter every re-draft league (and thus all mock drafts) with the same simple strategy. I try to draft players with upside potential in every round especially pitchers. I tend to avoid players I see as in decline unless they come at a major discount. I usually speculate on saves in the end game unless someone good falls to me. In addition, I do not pay much attention to position scarcity except at the catcher position. This strategy has worked for me repeatedly, but this was some other plan.

R1 P2 Ramirez, Hanley SS FLA

The first round held no real surprises. I am a just a bit impressed that Matt Holliday (OF, OAK) has maintained his first round status. His 12.53 ADP according to Mock Draft Central is a sign that no one will be surprised to see Holliday provide a typical performance as an Oakland Athletic. I have taken Hanley Ramirez (SS, FLA) first overall in more than one mock draft already. I think his combination of 30 homerun/50 stolen base potential is very tough to ignore, especially when it comes from a shortstop.

R2 P11 Phillips, Brandon 2B CIN

I love that Tim Lincecum (RHP, SF) was the first pitcher drafted. I think he deserves the position and this comes from someone who loves Johan Santana (LHP, NYN) as much as ever. However, Lincecum’s ADP has him going almost a round later than Santana, so this is a little early. Brandon Phillips (2B, CIN) has 30/30 potential but 25/25 is a much better bet. Somehow, despite ignoring position scarcity, I have already built a very strong middle infield.

R3 P2 Fielder, Prince 1B MIL

In retrospect, I should have taken Matt Kemp (OF, LAD) in this spot. I like Prince Fielder (1B, MIL) and I think he will have another productive season bit I have been targeting Matt Kemp because I see him having first round value. I should have known he would not be around for my next pick. Choosing Prince also ensured that I would not have an elite outfielder. Carl Crawford (OF, TAM) would have been another good choice. He lost some status due to his injury-plagued season but I expect him to be back on top of his game this season. With first base being deep, I could have waited a while and still drafted a quality corner.

R4 P11 Victorino, Shane OF PHI

I was a little shocked to see Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, BOS) go this soon. His present ADP has him going in the early sixth round. With the second half slump Ellsbury experienced I did not expect to see anyone in a rush to draft him. Shane Victorino (OF, PHI) was the best outfielder on the board. I had to select him if I wanted to have a half-decent outfield I had to start filling it. Victorino is just a notch below elite level but provides power and steals in bunches.

R5 P2 Hart, Corey OF MIL

Had I been on my game I probably would have targeted one of the elite catchers at this point. This round sees the first closer come off the board when Chris Lynch selects Jon Papelbon (RHP, BOS).

R6 P11 Ordonez, Magglio OF DET

A small closer run ensues but fortunately, I am not so out of sorts as to follow suit. I am attempting to make up for not having an elite outfielder by drafting a strong and deep one. Magglio Ordonez (OF, DET) is an old favorite. He does not have his former speed and his power is fading but he still hits for a strong average and enough power to stay productive.

R7 P2 Uggla, Dan 2B FLA

At this point I decide that since the outfielders I like are going fast that I’m going to select the best middle infielders I can. Now that I am thinking more clearly I wish I had taken Geovany Soto (C, CHC). Nevertheless, the team I have this point is still a strong one. Dan Uggla (2B, MIA) is good for 30 homeruns.

R8 P11 Hardy, J.J. SS MIL

Some experts seem to have a problem with J.J. Hardy’s (SS, MIL) streakiness. This might matter a little in head-to-head leagues, but in reality, this is a silly argument against him in most leagues. Fantasy Baseball is a marathon you do not judge a player by a few cold streaks or even a few hot ones. Darryl Strawberry (OF, Retired) was streaky, so was Reggie Jackson (OF, also retired). Without his famous end of the season hot streak in 2008, we would all have Manny Ramirez (OF, Free Agent) outside of our top 25 outfielders. Hardy’s 118.7 ADP which places him well behind one year wonders like Troy Tulowitzki (SS, COL) and Stephen Drew (SS, ARI) and declining veterans like Miguel Tejada (SS, HOU) and Derek Jeter (SS, NYY) is a travesty of fantasy baseball justice (I just made it up).

R9 P2 Rivera, Mariano RP NYY

Even non-closer people have limits. I could not allow the best closer of all time to remain on the market for another round. Mariano Rivera (RHP, NYY) still displays every skill you want to see in a closer candidate. He is as safe a closer pick as can be made. I always find it easier to take closers in expert leagues and other tough leagues because everyone waits on closers and drafting the best ones in the middle rounds of the draft is tolerable to me. This team does not resemble my typical ones at all.

R10 P11 Lester, Jon SP BOS

I expect Jon Lester (LHP, BOS) to move into the top tier of starters this season. He has the magic combination of a good strikeout rate, groundball rate, and decent control that lies in the heart of every dominate starter. I am shocked by the selection of Carlos Marmol (RHP, CHC) ahead of so many established closers. Marmol will compete with Kevin Gregg (RHP, CHC) and Jeff Samardzija (RHP, CHC) for the role. Gregg of course was the Florida closer for the last two years and was acquired by trade earlier in the offseason. Samardzija is just the young fireballer that Lou Piniella fell in love with last season. Marmol is not even close to a lock so selecting him at this point takes a giant leap of faith.

R11 P2 Chamberlain, Joba RP NYY

If Joba Chamberlain (RHP, NYY) can stay healthy (and in the Yankees rotation), he has a chance to be as valuable as any pitcher in baseball. I really like the odds that he can do it. If I can draft Lester and Chamberlain in my real leagues this spring, I will be a very happy man. However, I will not hold my breath expecting that to happen.

R12 P11 Doumit, Ryan C PIT

In a shallow league like this, you need to get quality at the catcher position. Ryan Doumit fits the bill. I like the Adam Jones (OF, BAL) pick. I expect him to take a real step up this season. The closers are coming off the board, which does not bother me at all.

R13 P2 Beltre, Adrian 3B SEA

The last time Adrian Beltre (3B, SEA) was in a walk year, he blasted 40 homeruns. Even if he does not step up quite like that again, I still love having Beltre in a walk year. Matt Wieters (C, BAL), the catching prospect that everybody wants went in this round. Is it just a coincidence that David Price (RHP,TAM), the pitching prospect that everyone wants, also went in this round? Kevin Slowey (RHP, MIN) went with the third pick of the round and could be a very nice bargain.

R14 P11 Byrnes, Eric OF ARI

I did not want to be left with the dregs of the outfield so I grabbed Eric Byrnes (OF, ARI) here. If healthy, I expect him to bounce back with 15-20 homeruns and 25-30 stolen bases, which is a nice value for this round.

R15 P2 Johnson, Josh SP FLA

Josh Johnson (RHP, FLA) had a very strong second half after returning from Tommy John Elbow Surgery. He should continue to grow stronger this season.

R16 P11 Lowe, Derek SP ATL

The Atlanta Braves were willing to overpay because Derek Lowe (RHP, ATL) is as steady and durable starter as there is in the majors. He has never been on the disabled list. How many veteran starting pitchers in the majors can make that claim?

R17 P2 Scherzer, Max RP ARI

I drafted another great arm with upside this round. Max Scherzer (RHP, ARI) has an incredible ability to incur strikeouts. He should excel as either a starter or a closer. I tend to believe he will stick in the rotation but you never can tell.

R18 P11 Saltalamaccia, J C TEX

This is probably the riskiest pick I made. Jarrod Saltalamaccia (C, TEX) does not have a guaranteed starting job. I expect that he will and based on his winter league performance I think the Rangers will have a hard time keeping him out of the lineup now that Gerald Laird (C, DET) has been traded to the Detroit Tigers.

R19 P2 Duchscherer, J SP OAK

When healthy, Justin Duchscherer (RHP, OAK) is one of the most effective pitchers in baseball. For most of the 2008 season Duchscherer was one of the American League leaders in ERA. He ended last season badly due to a hip ailment but he expects to be ready to start on Opening Day.

R20 P11 Giambi, Jason 1B OAK

No, Jason Giambi (1B, TB) is not the player he was ten years ago, but who is? He still draws walks in bunches and has the power to hit 30-35 homeruns. He is likely to ever bat .300 again but in the 20th round I’ll take what I can get.

R21 P2 Hughes, Philip SP NYY

I know there were better bets available than Phil Hughes (RHP, NYY)who not only has to fight for a rotation spot but also against the expectations of fans that went from sky is the limit to “trade ‘em” in the space of one season. I expect him to make all of his doubters eat their words.

R22 P11 Ziegler, Brad RP OAK

I am confident that Joey Devine (RHP, OAK) is going to close for the Oakland Athletics. However, Brad Zeigler (RHP, OAK) held that job for a portion of last season and at this point in the draft, I am willing to take a few chances.

R23 P2 Church, Ryan OF NYM

For some reason, I ended up in auto-draft for the 23rd round and rather than select J.D. Drew (OF, BOS) I was given Ryan Church (OF, NYM). Church is a solid player and if he can remain healthy and the regular starter in right field he will exceed his draft position in actual value.

C: R. Doumit, J. Saltalamaccia

1B/3B/CR: P. Fielder, A. Beltre, J. Giambi

2B/SS/MI: B. Phillips, H. Ramirez, D. Uggla

U: J.J. Hardy

OF: S. Victorino, C. Hart, M. Ordonez, E. Byrnes, R. Church

SP: J. Lester, J. Chamberlain, J. Johnson, D. Lowe, M. Scherzer, J. Duchscherer, P. Hughes

RP: M. Rivera, B. Zeigler

The result is teams that should hits lots of homeruns and steal tons of bases. The offense should be one of the better ones in every category with the possible exception of batting average. The pitching staff could not be loaded with more potential. It is that potential being reached that will make the difference between a good team and a great one.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams