Monday, March 30, 2009

Gaston Considering Scott Downs as Closer

Scott Downs is an excellent pitcher who had a great 2008 season. Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is concerned that B.J. Ryan may not be ready to close. He would install Downs as the temporary closer until Ryan is ready.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston expressed concern about closer B.J. Ryan after he pitched a shaky eighth inning in Toronto’s 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday. Ryan gave up one run and two hits, including Angel Berroa’s RBI double to left-center. The left-hander, who skipped the World Baseball Classic to work on his mechanics, has a 9.00 ERA this spring. Gaston said he might consider making Scott Downs the closer and putting Ryan “somewhere else for a while and go from there.” He said he wants to see how Ryan does in his final two spring appearances. “I haven’t checked the velocity yet,” Gaston said, “but it looked like it might have been down today. So there are still some concerns about him.”

All Ryan owners should seek out Scott Downs as saves insurance. Even if he doesn't become even the temporary closer, Downs is a quality middle reliever worthy of a roster spot in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.

Braves Deal Center Fielder to Tigers

The Atlanta Braves sent outfielder Josh Anderson to the Detroit Tigers for reliever Rudy Darrow. This is pretty clear evidence that top prospect Jordan Schafer has won Atlanta's center field job.
Anderson was in competition for the center-field job with the Braves, but immediately hit the trading block when he apparently lost out to Jordan Schafer. He'll be an extra outfielder in Detroit, where the starting trio of Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez is set. The 26-year-old Anderson played 40 games with the Braves last year, batting .294 with seven doubles, three home runs, 12 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. His Minor League numbers give a better glimpse of his speed, he swiped 42 bases in 49 attempts over 121 games at Triple-A Richmond last year and boasts 280 stolen bases in his six-year Minor League career.
Jordan Schafer should add speed and power to the Braves lineup. I see him becoming an eventual 20/20 type on an annual basis. I hardily recommend him in all NL-only leagues and he should contribute in deeper mixed leagues as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Cubs Name Kevin Gregg Closer

From the Chicago Tribune:
MESA, Ariz. - Cubs manager Lou Piniella named Kevin Gregg the team's closer on Sunday over Carlos Marmol. Piniella spoke to both pitchers this morning and made his announcement after batting practice at HoHoKam Park. Piniella's difficult decision was made even harder because he knows what Marmol can do while he’s only just learning about Gregg.

Statistically speaking, Gregg has outperformed Marmol this spring, throwing 8 1/3 shutout innings in nine appearances. Marmol has compiled a 4.50 earned-run average and hit five batters in eight innings, not counting his numbers from the World Baseball Classic. Marmol and Gregg both have 10 strikeouts, while Marmol has walked one and Gregg has walked two.
I think this is the right decision for the Cubs but there are going to be a lot of disappointed Marmol owners as this news spreads. Gregg should be a perfectly compentent source of saves without the gaudy strikeout numbers that Marmol provides. Marmol of course is a perfectly fine choice as a middle reliever with saves potential.

Hot Prospect: Rick Porcello

With Nate Robertson injured and Dontrelle Willis now on the disabled list with "performance anxiety" (sounds pretty bad) it appears that top prospect Rick Porcello has a very good chance to begin the season in the major leagues. Few who have seen him pitch doubt that Porcello would eventually be at the top of the Detroit Tiger's rotation. However, who knew it would come after just one full season in the minors?

While we all hate it when teams rush young players, Porcello appears to be ready. He has always had an advanced approach to pitching and is very good at conserving his energy and keeping his pitch count low. He has a fastball that can hit 97-98 but prefers to pitch in the 90-94 range where he has greater movement. He could probably pile up huge strikeout numbers were that his preference but he would rather conserve pitches and induce groundballs.

If you can live with middling strikeout numbers (I expect he'll be in the 5.5 to 6.5 K9 range) from a great groundballer, Porcello makes an excellent late-rounds selection.

Scouting Report: Rick Porcello

Willis to focus on health

Bonderman likely to miss first start

Perry continues to impress Leyland

The New Mariners Closer is Brandon Morrow

According to reports from Larry LaRue of the News Tribune, Brandon Morrow is returning to the Seattle Mariner's bullpen. The young right-hander and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu both want Morrow in the closer role which should cinch the deal. The only potential obstacle is apparently Morrow's handling of his diabetes. Morrow suggested his own return to the bullpen as the closer when it became apparant he was failing to make the starting rotation.
The only thing Morrow needs to prove now is that he can close regularly despite diabetes, a disease that can rock him unexpectedly. On Sunday, for instance, Morrow’s blood sugar level was high and his energy level down.
Morrow has the stuff to close but still has occasional control issues. He will need to be going strong when Chad Cordero is ready to return in late May. Cordero still makes a nice low risk/high reward reserve stash.

Morrow wants to close - and he almost certainly will

Sleeper Alert: Emilio Bonifacio

It looks like the Florida Marlins have chosen a winner in the battle for the job of starting first baseman. That winner appears to be Emilio Bonifacio who has started the last few games at the position. This results in Jorge Cantu moving from third base to first base and Gaby Sanchez going to triple-A. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez has also suggested that if he makes the team he will hit leadoff. Cameron Maybin would hit second (an excellent place for a talented rookie to hit).

In most leagues Bonifacio will only qualify at second base. However, he should soon qualify at third base and may give Hanley Ramirez the occasional day off at shortstop. Most analysts expected the switch-hitting Bonifacio to be a utility player and that may be his ultimate role but he does have good on-base skills and the speed to steal bases. As with most speed reliant players he hits more than 50 percent of his balls in play on the ground. He does not have much power but will crush a mistake pitch.

Presently you can draft Bonifacio in the later rounds of NL-only drafts and he'll probably be available in shallow mixed leagues. If given 500 at-bats the upside looks something like this:

.270/.340/.400 w/3-5 homeruns, 70 runs, 40 RBI, 40 stolen bases

Bonifacio Leading Off

The Marlins' Prized Possession

Friday, March 27, 2009

Five Spring Training Questions Without Answers

There is no longer any doubt that Chase Utley will be ready and in the lineup for the Phillies on Opening Day. His plate discipline and patience should be unaffected. Judging by the small example we've seen in spring training he'll have no problem driving the ball. The only aspect of his game that we have yet to see is the stolen base. If the stolen base is no longer part of Utley's arsenal how will that change his value? He would still be one of the better second basemen in the National League due to his ability to hit for average and power in a loaded lineup.

If Joba Chamberlain can duplicate his performance as a starter in 2008 for the entire 2009 season he will easily be a top ten starter. The question remains if health and the Yankees will allow him to do it. He hasn't had a very encouraging spring for anyone concerned. His velocity has been down and he has appeared to be far less intense than would be ideal. It could be just a spring training issue. His velocity was down last spring and it exploded when he moved to the bullpen. Is this a Joba who is being ultra careful not to get hurt and to preserve his arm for a long season? Or is this a Joba already injured and trying to pitch through pain?

What about the Red Sox pitching staff? There are too many available bodies with another collection of arms that should be ready for the majors in in May/June. Justin Masterson is still in the running for a starting role according to recent reports and so is Clay Buchholz. What will happen with Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz if they are all effective and ready if Masterson and Buchholz are pitching well behind Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Jon Lester? Rather than become clearer, this situation has become murkier. Let's not even get into the bullpen...

What is the right price to pay for Alex Rodriguez? There is noise about his rehab going well but when have you ever heard that rehab was going horribly? The cloud of controversey around him seems to get bigger and darker everyday. Even if he comes back and is effective in say June the injury risk will remain huge since effectively his injury has been patched not fixed. Will this make the problem worse in the long run? What if he comes back in 2010 and has lost a step? Minus stolen bases doesn't A-Rod become Aramis Ramirez? Not bad but not someone you want to pay first round value to have.

It probably isn't bugging others as much as me but who the hell is going to be in the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield, especially in left field? Nyjer Morgan is a speedy fourth outfielder who the Pirates seem willing to give an extended opportunity. Andrew McCutcheon is the most talented option but the Pirates will want to send him down long enough to delay arbitration by a year. Steve Pearce deserves an opportunity but doesn't seem to be very appreciated by management considering the way he's been dismissed as a possibility for two straight seasons. Brandon Moss has battled injury and is probably another fourth outfielder ultimately but maybe he's another David Murphy (another Red Sox cast away). The one lock is Nate McClouth who is probably the center fielder but if the Pirates are going to start a mediocre offensive option like Morgan wouldn't make sense to have him in center to maximize the defensive possibilities? I personally believe it may be a mish-mash of option the entire season.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Wire... Waiver That Is...

I have a an article about ten sleeper outfielders up at Crucial Sports which you can check out by clicking the link below:
The Wire and Sister Aloysius

A list of the players featured:

Travis Buck

Nelson Cruz

Elijah Dukes

Jeff Francoeur

Brett Gardner

Daniel Murphy

Felix Pie

Nate Schierholtz

Ryan Spilborghs

Justin Upton

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fantasy Football: Pick Me

Okay, one more diversion for this awesome series of videos...This is just a small sample of them.

Josh Hamilton’s Toughest Interview

A quick diversion away from Fantasy Baseball to indulge in loving one of my favorite players give an interview to the young daughter of one of my favorite bloggers.

A tip of the cap goes to The Gear Up Sports Rangers Blog.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Expert Leagues: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

NOTE: Apologies to those that received the incomplete version of this in their feeds. My big fat fingers struck the wrong keys.

In the last week I've had two expert league drafts - The Fantasy Baseball Search Expert League - a 12 team, mixed, 5x5 (OBA/Strikeouts), Head-to-Head league, and The Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge - a fairly standard AL-only draft league. The two drafts could not have gone more differently.
The Fantasy Baseball Search Expert League

This draft took place on Mock Draft Central. It went quickly and smoothly. I was pretty much able to follow my very simple plan. The plan - draft a balanced offense but with an emphasis on power and pad the reserve list with lots of cheap steals and saves.

C Jorge Posada, New York Yankees

1B Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
3B Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
CI Lance Berkman, Houston Astros

2B Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
SS Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
MI Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners

OF Johnny Damon, New York Yankees
OF Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers
OF Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

U Mark DeRosa, Cleveland Indians

SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
SP Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
SP Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins
SP Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
SP Justin Duchscherer, Oakland Athletics
SP Anibal Sanchez, Florida Marlins

RP Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs
RP Joey Devine, Oakland Athletics

Res C John Baker, Florida Marlins
Res 1B Jason Giambi, Oakland Athletics
Res 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Cincinnati Reds
Res OF Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels
Res OF Juan Pierre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Res SP David Huff, Cleveland Indians

Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge - American League

This draft did not go so well for a variety of reasons. I spent two days inserting my draft lists into the system. I had another relatively simple plan - Draft an amazing offense and a low cost LIMA style pitching staff. I signed in 30 minutes early to queue up all of my sleeper picks and the pitchers I liked best. The draft began okay but then I and other noticed that the DH's were not listed under DH's. the draft was stopped to correct this problem. Then with the problem fixed autodraft took over and starting picking formy team and others. This required us to once again stop the draft. For some reason which I don't understand, we were unable to back out to the point the draft was originally stopped. It was decided that we would start the draft over an hour later and rebuild the draft thus far.

When we returned the draft was not rebuilt and owners who had previously been on auto-draft were now present. We attempted several times to rebuild the draft but it proved impossible. In addition the re-boot deleted my pre-ranks and all of the players I had put in my queue which meant I was going to have to wing it. The result was a pretty good offense and a bullpen dominated pitching staff.

This is not really intended as an excuse for my sorta lousy draft but just a description of the chaos of the draft itself. I should have been better prepared with a paper list but I was not. As a result I will probably be spending the first half of the season scrambling for innings.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Texas Rangers

1B Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
3B Chris Davis, Texas Rangers
CI Mike Jacobs, Kansas City Royals

2B Mark DeRosa, Cleveland Indians
SS Bobby Crosby, Oakland Athletics
MI Ronny Cedeno, Seattle Mariners

OF B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays
OF Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers
OF Xavier Nady, New York Yankees
OF Delmon Young, Minnesota Twins
OF Justin Ruggiano, Tampa Bay Rays

U Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox

P David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners
P Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays
P Dallas Braden, Oakland Athletics
P Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays
P Scott Downs, Toronto Blue Jays
P Chris Ray, Baltimore Orioles
P George Sherrill, Baltimore Orioles
P Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles
P Joel Zumaya, Detroit Tigers

Res Max Ramirez, Texas Rangers
Res Brett Anderson, Oakland Athletics
Res Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
Res David Huff, Cleveland Indians
Res Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels

Okay, lets hear your thoughts...

Potential Breakout: Lastings Milledge

Lastings Milledge will turn 24-years old on opening day. Although it appears that he broke out in 2008, I believe there is quite a bit more fantasy baseball goodness coming in 2009. Milledge was moved around a injury (and talent lacking) lineup often last year. He also appears to have been a little unlucky with his BABIP judging by his line drive and ground ball rates and very good speed.

Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta recently announced more good news for Milledge owners. Milledge will act as the Nationals leadoff hitter this season with the manager's blessing to steal bases. An improved on-base percentage and a stable place in the batting order should significantly increase his stolen base opportunities. The Nationals have an all-star cast of former center fielders and leadoff hitters (Marquis Grissom and Devon White among them) in camp working with Milledge on improving his defense and his base stealing techniques and early reports have been very positive.

The Nationals' healthier (and more talented) 2009 lineup should also allow Milledge to score more runs and provide more RBI opportunities. Adam Dunn, a momentarily healthy Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham, a fulltime contribution from Elijah Dukes, and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman should transform a weak lineup into a potential powerhouse.

2009 UPSIDE: 600 at-bats, .280/.340/.440 with 20 HR, 50 RBI, 90 Runs, 40 SB

Trevor Hoffman and the Milwaukee Brewers Bullpen

Thanks to a strain in his rib cage it appears that the Brewers slightly used closer, Trevor Hoffman, will not be available to start the season. This of course kicks speculation about the next in line into overdrive. A serious oblique injury (and it appears that Hoffman's is serious) can take four to six weeks or more to heal properly. The wise money should be on the 41-year old coming in on the long side of that healing time.

"It's looking dim," manager Ken Macha said. Macha made that pronouncement after head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger told him that Hoffman won't be back on a mound for another week or so. Because he would probably need to work a few side sessions before getting into a game, it's increasingly likely that Hoffman will be sidelined, and perhaps on the disabled list, when the Brewers play their regular-season opener on April 7 in San Francisco.
Ken Macha seems to prefer right-hander Seth McClung as the temporary replacement. McClung has improved significantly since joining the Brewers and has the stuff to close. Many fantasy analysts have projected Carlos Villanueva as the next in line to close. Villanueva showcased awesome skills as the 2008 season came to an end and many expect him to breakout this season. Unfortunately, Villanueva has pitched poorly in camp, bad enough for Macha to announce publically that he has been disappointing thus far.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Daniel Murphy Moving Up

I was already excited about Dan Murphy but this news has me positively giddy. This will ensure that his RBI and Runs totals are approaching the century mark. I see his value approaching $20-25 which is awesome considering his 216.17 ADP in NL-only leagues.

2009 UPSIDE: 500 at-bats/ .300/15/80/90/15

From the New York Daily News:

Daniel Murphy recently took some ribbing from teammates after adding his few-year-old Honda Civic to a sign-up sheet for transport to New York. After all, the car stood out on a list that included new Mercedes, BMWs and Cadillac Escalades.

Murphy, frankly, is more concerned with his hitting. And it's his bat that will land him in the No. 2 spot in the Mets' lineup on Opening Day and beyond.

Despite only 131 big-league at-bats on his resume, Murphy's approach at the plate has impressed Jerry Manuel so much that the skipper plans to place Murphy directly after Jose Reyes in his lineup. The plan would also entail placing Luis Castillo in the No. 8 hole.

Manuel didn't list his complete lineup, but it's reasonable to expect Murphy would be followed by Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Ryan Church, Brian Schneider, Castillo and the pitcher.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sleeper Alert: David Murphy

David Murphy is expected to open the 2009 season as the starting left fielder for the Texas Rangers. Yet in AL-only leagues he has an ADP of just 209.69 behind odd choices such as Andruw Jones, George Kottaras, Daric Barton, and Melky Cabrera. The Rangers expect Murphy to set a career high in at-bats as Club President Nolan Ryan thinks he should be left in the lineup everyday to achieve his full potential. What is that potential?

Murphy should draw more walks and his plate discipline still has room for growth. However, he is a good contact hitter with plenty of power. He hits too many groundballs which limits his homerun potential to about 25 in a full season (without a major adjustment). He should hit for a solid average in the .280-.290 range. Murphy will bat in the middle of a loaded lineup which boads well for his Runs and RBI potential.

At his present draft position Murphy makes a great bargain selection in the later rounds of AL-only and even deeper mixed league drafts.

Hot Prospect: Stephen Strasburg

Usually, when a pitcher is able to throw his fastball with triple-digit velocity you can be almost certain that he'll also have trouble controlling it. This is not the case with San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg regularly blows up radar guns and he does it with a minuscule walk rate.

Strasburg is almost guaranteed to be the first pick of the 2009 Amateur Draft and become the property of the Washington Nationals. The Nationals cannot afford to screw up another first round pick and that is exactly what they would be doing by selecting anyone else. Scouts and analysts are rating him higher than even the very best picks of recent years. Only freaks like Doc Gooden and pitchers of that rare ability even come close.

Pitching Statistics

2007 18 NCAA 1 3 2.43 25 0 0 7 37 4.4 0 3.6 11 0.89
2008 19 NCAA 8 3 1.57 13 13 4 0 97 5.6 0.1 1.5 12 0.79

San Diego State Aztecs Profile Page

Jason Churchill's Prospect Insider - Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg's WikiPedia Page

The Washington Post collects gushy quotes about Strasburg

Bust Alert: Dontrelle Willis

I am certain no one is surprised that Dontrelle Willis is counted among this season's near certain disaster picks. It has been a few years since he was even worth drafting. He was once one of my favorite pitchers in baseball and in fact I still like him and root for him. But he will not anywhere near my fantasy teams.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong for Willis. His velocity is down at times which is certainly a problem but he still flashes low 90's with his fastball at times. He is certainly no longer deceptive which makes his jerky mechanics even more of a problem (as they are hard to repeat and stay consistent with). The Tigers experimented with changing his mechanics altogether but halfway through spring training, Willis has abandoned the new motion and returned to his old form.

I believe it is very possible that Willis has an injury that he is either not revealing (for some stupid reason) or just plain has not discovered yet. If I ran the Tigers I would be putting him through all the full body scans medical technology have to offer. I would consult with independent pitching coaches about his deception problems and whether he is somehow tipping his pitches.

In any case, until the source of his troubles is found and addressed Willis cannot be drafted.

The Dontrelle Willis Problem

Pitching Coach Advises Willis


The Fantasy Baseball Roundtable - Week Five

This week I have the privilege of hosting this week's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. The question I posed to my fellow analysts?

What is your favorite source or method of uncovering sleepers?

Brett Greenfield - Fantasy Phenoms

An effective method for finding sleepers is to use sabermetric statistics. I use K/9 ratio, ERC differential and DIPS differential.

When looking for strikeouts, the K/9 ratio is much more important than the overall number of strikeouts tallied. Jonathan Sanchez, for example, struck out 157 batters in 158 innings last year. While 157 strikeouts may not seem so impressive, Sanchez struck out nearly a batter per inning. His K/9 ratio of 8.94 was ranked 7th in the majors behind only Tim Lincecum, AJ Burnett, Edinson Volquez, Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir and Chad Billingsley. Sanchez could strike out 200 batters, given 200 innings.

Sanchez also finished with a 5.01 ERA, which is far from impressive. However, looking at his DIPS and ERC differentials can shed some light on how much better his numbers should have been. His DIPS was 3.87 and his ERC was 4.32. Both of those ERA's are far lower than his actual ERA of 5.01.

Using sabermetric pitching statistics is definitely my favorite method for finding sleepers.

Patrick Cain - Albany Times Union
How to find sleepers?

One thing I do - and I'm sure there is an easier way - is I have a program that I wrote that collects first and second half splits for players. I then make them into rate stats and look for sizable jumps. I'm a big fan of players who make strides in their second half, assuming there is a reason for the gain.

Take for example Alex Gordon. Last year he made big gains in the second half...was this just luck or was it he's finally adjusting to major league pitching. Well, I hope for my sake, it's the later. Or, not-so-much-a-sleeper but Miguel Cabrera. Perhaps his second half improvement was he adjusted to the AL. These types of reasons, mixed with realistic increases (not something like Manny's) puts a man on my sleeper list.

Adam Ronis - Newsday
A lot of people like to look at last season's numbers and harp on those too much often ignoring a track record and a history of good skills. I like to examine these players and figure out why they had poor seasons. These are good players to look at because they come at a discount or minimal cost. Ian Snell is one example. He barely gets drafted in mixed leagues after being highly touted last season. He had some bad luck and an injury, but the numbers from 2008 get etched in the mental hard drive of many owners. That's a good thing. He's a good sleeper that should bounce back and won't cost much.

I also look at young players that came into the big leagues with a lot of hype and have failed to live up to the lofty expectations. When this happens, people tend to forget about these players. Alex Gordon is an example. Brandon Wood is an even more extreme example. Not everyone is Ryan Braun. Sometimes it takes longer for younger players to adapt to the major leagues. These players can often be sleepers, too.

Rudy Gamble -
I base sleeper candidates on two criteria: skill and opportunity. My main method for hitters is to scour depth charts and look for soft spots. If the 'soft spot' player has shown skill in the past, they may be worth a low investment (think Cantu and Ludwick last year). In addition, hot prospects who have seatwarmers or injury-prone players above them on the depth chart are worthwhile gambles. It's tougher in shallower leagues to make these gambles as 'Super 2' status means it'll likely be May before even the most obvious prospect is brought up (Braun, Longoria, this year Wieters).

For starting pitchers, I look at their league (favor NL), division (NL West is best), home park, ability to K guys (walks don't bother me as much), and fastball MPH. For good pitching prospects, I look to see if there's a potential opening (most staffs there are) and look at their MLE (major league equivalent) data from the minor leagues. This could either be gotten directly through a Baseball HQ (although last year's 'can't misses' of Cueto and Parra didn't help me) or gleaned by the current year projections of a CHONE or ZiPS.

For relievers, K rate and opportunity.

Tim Dierkes -

In the preseason, it has become somewhat difficult to come up with sleepers no one else has. If we all write about the same 20-30 sleepers and play in leagues against each other, those sleepers start getting drafted before similar established players. I like Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, even to the point of taking them a round or two early. But when they go earlier than that I have to let them go. It's kind of win-win for me - I look good for the rec if they succeed, and don't have them on my team if they fail!

To find the Cruzes and Davises it's just a matter of coming up with good projections and dollar values and comparing them to average draft position reports. If a $15 player is going after the 10th round you might have a sleeper, until the hype machine rears its ugly head. The power of that hype machine depends on the level of your competition, because the magazines everyone uses typically lag behind the web in quality of analysis.

I've started to turn toward players where the strict statistical projections aren't impressive but the tools are there for good years. Could be youngsters like Jordan Zimmermann and Josh Fields or veterans like Gary Sheffield and Brad Penny. Hopefully late-round flyers on these types will pay off.

Jon Williams -
For hitters I like to look at players about to experience a huge increase in at-bats. Often players going from bench roles to fulltime (or close enough) will be underrated due to small sample sizes of their ability. One of my favorite examples for this coming season is Russell Branyan. Branyan has rarely received more than a token role in the major leagues for a variety of reasons. What is clear however is that if given 400-500 at-bats he begins to look a lot like Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, and Ryan Ludwick who will certainly cost up to ten times as much.

When it comes to pitchers I do my best to ignore roles altogether. I love to find pitchers that have shown the ability to induce groundballs and collect strikeouts. These are the pitchers who are helping themselves the most by eliminating as many park and team factors as possible. One of my favorite examples for this season is David Huff of the Indians who I expect to play a huge role in the Indians 2009 season.

Andrew Cleary - Fantasy Pros 911

My favorite method comes from the end of the previous season. In the last weeks of any fantasy season, I usually find myself scrambling for the few remaining free agents that can give the least, final benefit to my run at the title. By this time in the year, the breakout stars and proven veterans are long since entrenched on everyone's rosters, and the free agent list is full of new call-ups and streaky sometime-stars. Since I'm already evaluating pitchers and hitters to guess at whether their skills will give a good boost to my stats or not, I also keep a list of those that look like they have the skills for future success.

That's why I found myself last year adding pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine, Dallas Braden, and Chad Gaudin for some last-minute wins and strikeouts. They all had some good outings at the end of the season, and so were tantalizing bait for nervous managers like me. But I also was able to get a close enough look at their skills to know that they also each had a fair chance to make significant contributions in 2009.

Keeping this list helps me scout out some players that might be under the radar in the following year. And having that focus on the future helps keep me from going nuts over the fact that only a few more wins and strikeouts could keep me in the money. Whew!


Spring Training Report: Barry Zito

Barry Zito was always a little overrated when he was a member of the Oakland Athletics. That meant that rather than an annual Cy Young contender he was more like a slightly above average starter. There are a million theories about what has happened to him since then -- everything from growing lazy to missing his old pitching coach. But what is absolutely certain is that thus far he has been a disaster for the San Francisco Giants and the fantasy owners that have drafted him. This period may be coming to a close.

Barry Zito has shown increased energy and a real desire to recover what he has lost this spring. And while this is certainly subjective noise, it is starting to bear out in his spring stats. Observers like manager Bill Bochy and center fielder Aaron Rowand have noted that his control has been much sharper and he is pitching in a sytle closer to the way he pitched in Oakland. His spring stats still don't look very good but they have been much better in his last two starts and the new found energy has been present throughout spring training.

Fantasy owners shouldn't target Zito in fantasy drafts but in leagues where you have the ability to hold him in reserve or easily replace him -- Zito is becoming worthy of a late round speculative pick. Report on Zito's latest start


Injury Report: Joe Mauer Not Likely for Opening Day

According to La Velle E. Neal's Twins Insider Blog, Joe Mauer is very questionable for opening day. After multiple consultations there is consensus that the problem is indeed inflammation of the sacroiliac joint - the joint that connects the bottom of the spine to the top of the pelvis. However, no one seems to have any idea how the problem arose in the first place.

Fantasy owners should avoid drafting Mauer unless they are receiving a deep discount on his usual price. Owners in non-keeper leagues would be wise to avoid him altogether at this point. I would not project more than 350 at-bats just to be on the safe side. If this means Mauer is undraftable then so be it.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paper Sports: Short Fantasy Baseball Tournaments

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by Rod Yancy, the founder of about reviewing his site's short season fantasy baseball tournaments. He provided an account with enough in it to enter a few of the games. I came away pretty impressed with the product despite not being able to truly test the system due to baseball season still being weeks away. It feels a lot like playing poker but with baseball players instead of cards. So, if you love fantasy baseball and you're also the type to participate in online poker tournaments this will be right up your alley.

This would probably be a blast to play in sports bars while you watch games. I haven't tried creating a custom tournament yet but I imagine you could use just one specific game for the contest. That would make watching the games an intense blast. Kinda like that old bar game for football for which I cannot think of the name. I encourage everyone to check it out.

Here's how it works:

1. Open an Account - Get $5 Free
Sign up and deposit money into your account with a credit card or PayPal. If you sign up now, we'll start you with $5 and you have to deposit nothing. This is a limited time offer and will end soon.

2. Pick Your Tournament
You will never have to wait to play. Tournaments generally last one day and there are multiple entry levels.You pick the tournaments you want to play when you want to play. Tournaments start 24/7 You can play for as little as $1. There are multiple tournament types, like head to head, four man, six man, and ten man. You can test your skills in public tournaments, or create a custom tournament and invite your friends.

3. Pick a Fantasy Baseball Team
Pick your team for one day's worth of match-ups. Your roster will include: 1-1st, 1-2nd, 1-SS, 1-3rd, 1-Catcher, 3-Outfield, 3-Pitchers.

4. Watch The Games
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Future Tense: Top 50 Prospects

Mark Haverty has written the Sporting News Annual Top 50 Prospects reports for years. This year the report is exclusive to Crucial Sports - Haverty's own website. This is a great list whether for fantasy purposes or just a general love of prospects because it helps readers understand the true value of prospects. The prospect with years of experience in the minors is usually rated higher than the prospect with awesome tools but no track record. Check out a sample below and check out the full report and the write-ups at the link below.

Check out the Full Top 50 Prospect Report

1. Matt Wieters, Catcher, Baltimore Orioles

The best catching prospect in the minors, Wieters possesses not only plus power potential but also impeccable plate discipline. Wieters barely struck out more than he walked in High-A Frederick (44 walks, 47 strikeouts), and he drew more walks than strikeouts (38:29) while in Double-A Bowie. The trading of Ramon Hernandez by the Orioles this offseason was one with one thing in mind – clearing room for Wieters to be the starting catcher in 2009.

2. David Price, Starting Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays

3. Tommy Hanson, Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves

4. Madison Bumgarner, Starting Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

5. Jason Heyward, Outfielder, Atlanta Braves

6. Colby Rasmus, Outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals

7. Travis Snider, Outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals

8. Cameron Maybin, Outfielder, Florida Marlins

9. Brett Anderson, Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics

10. Trevor Cahill, Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics

Check out the Full Top 50 Prospect Report


Monday, March 16, 2009

Sleeper Alert: Gordon Beckham (from the Waiver Wire)

The Waiver (Wire) is a column I will be writing for Crucial Sports this season. It should appear on Mondays. It will feature write-ups of players that are available in a lot of leagues. I think you'll find it very useful. You can click the link above to check out the most recent version.

This week one of the player's featured is Gordon Beckham. His performance this spring is making it difficult for the Chicago White Sox to settle for one of their more mediocre options. This is just a small sample from a much larger article.

Gordon Beckham 2B Chicago White Sox

He belongs in the big leagues. Every scout and general manager that has seen Gordon Beckham play this spring has said that he looks ready. He has just 56 at-bats at single-A but White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams would love him to begin the season as the starting second baseman. Though it seems unlikely, Beckham only has to be a better option that the underwhelming group of Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, and Brent Lillibridge. Beckham came from the University of Georgia, which has a level of play comparable to the lower minors. He projects to hit for average and power with the speed to steal bases. He was a shortstop at the University of Georgia but the switch to second should not be a problem. Beckham hit .411 with 28 homers and 77 RBI in 71 games for the Bulldogs. He also stole 17 bases. In 14 games at Class A for the White Sox he hit .310 with 3 homers and 8 RBI. He then went on to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .394 with 3 homers and 13 RBI in 18 games. As of his first ten appearances this spring, he has hit .364 with two homers, five doubles, and six RBI. He belongs in the big leagues.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Training Things (lotsa links)

Lots of leg room at New Yankee Stadium
Wherever you are sitting this morning, be happy it is not in those seats. Obviously, they are not in their permanent home (we hope!), but with how this new stadium relocation process has been going, anything is possible. After all, the Yankees did build a restaurant that blocks the view for half of the people in the bleachers!

Joe Mauer diagnosed with inflammation
Catcher Joe Mauer has inflammation in his right sacroiliac joint, the Twins said Wednesday, but the team is waiting to consult with other doctors before determining a course of action to treat it.

Dustin McGowan is now out indefinitely
McGowan, who underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in July, complained of discomfort in his arm this past week and visited his surgeon, Dr. Timothy Kremchek, on Sunday in Sarasota, Fla. According to Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, Kremchek didn't find anything wrong besides the expected wear and tear.

Free Emerald Guide to Baseball from SABR
Edited by accomplished and acclaimed baseball historians Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer and published by SABR, The Emerald Guide distills the 2008 season down to 586 fact-filled pages that contain the pitching, fielding, and hitting statistics for every player active in the major and minor leagues in 2008. A bound version is available via print on demand at for $23.94. .Every page in the bound edition is in the PDF.

Posada Sets Joba Chamberlain Straight
"I caught him in the bullpen after that and I told him what I saw was embarrassing," Posada said yesterday before being used as the designated hitter against the Tigers in a 7-4 loss at Joker Marchant Stadium. "I told him to throw the fastball and stop waiting for things to happen. I told him he has to pitch like he can every time no matter what. Whether it's as a starter, reliever or even in the bullpen, people are watching."

The THT Guide to Tiered Drafting
The ranking part of the tier system recommends paying more time and attention to slotting players into tiers, both overall and by position, rather than worrying too much about rankings within tiers (i.e. getting more exact dollar values or rankings). In general, I think this is useful. I would rather have system that put all of the players into their actual, true tiers but then got the ordering within the tiers somewhat wrong, than a system that got many of the exact rankings rights but messed up on some players' tiering. In other words, many small mistakes are usually better than several big ones.

Is Cashman bluffing about starting Cody Ransom?
I e-mailed with a major league GM, who has a third baseman very available, who said he has not been contacted by Brian Cashman. This could mean the Yankees aren't looking around, don't like this particular third baseman or something in between.

J.A. Happ is impressing the Philadelphia Phillies
Happ, who had a lengthy discussion about pitching with Jamie Moyer during Wednesday's game against the Braves at Bright House Field, had his mind turning in the visitors' clubhouse afterward. He allowed a home run to Gape Kapler on a first-pitch fastball in the sixth, and he issued a two-out walk to Morgan Ensberg in the seventh.

Cleveland Indians Camp
Still, I'm not completely sold on Cabrera, and neither, apparently, are the Indians. I think part of the reason they didn't keep Mark DeRosa at second base and shift Jhonny Peralta to third to move Cabrera to short is because they want to see if Cabrera can contribute offensively for the duration of a season first. But there's no reason Cabrera should have to compete with Barfield for a starting spot here in Spring Training.


Sleeper Alert: Joe Mather

The St. Louis Cardinals have sent both David Freese and Brett Wallace (their two best third base prospects) to minor league camp. This leaves Joe Mather, a converted outfielder, as the favorite to begin the season at third base. As I am certain most of you realize that the Cardinals expected third baseman, Troy Glaus, will begin the season on the disabled list and miss at least the first month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. This will be the winner's chance to shine in the eyes of Tony LaRussa who already seems to have a slight man-crush on Mather.

"But", you might say. It will only be for a month or so and then Glaus will be back and our man will be out of a job. "Well", I would answer, "not exactly."

If Joe Mather impresses Tony LaRussa (and I obviously believe that he will), he is very likely to favor him coming off the bench as an extra infielder and outfielder. This is easily a recipe for finding 350-400 at-bats. I also happen to think Mather is a 30-plus homerun hitter waiting to break out.

Mather was drafted in the third round out of Mountain Pointe high school in Phoenix, Arizona - as a shortstop. He spent way too long in short season leagues and did not develop as quickly as the cards would have liked. But for two years he has been solid (if a little old in AA and AAA). He did not embarass himself in short stents in the major leagues either.

The best news for fantasy owners is that you're likely to get him for just a few bucks in even the deepest leagues. The Cardinals have another guy who began his major league career playing out of position as a temporary replacement for a more established but injury prone player. Damn, I wonder who that was???

Total - - - 133 147 7 8 20 18 12 32 1 0 0.241 0.335
2006 Cardinals (A+) 432 482 33 15 63 71 36 89 9 0 0.266 0.359
2007 Cardinals (AA) 234 272 17 18 48 46 29 32 4 0 0.303 0.426
2007 Cardinals (AAA) 249 283 10 12 30 29 22 51 5 0 0.237 0.337
2008 Cardinals (AAA) 211 254 14 17 45 41 32 36 7 2 0.303 0.44
2008 Cardinals 133 147 7 8 20 18 12 32 1 0 0.241 0.335
2009 Bill James 162
9 10 26 24 17 28 3 1 0.253 0.354
2009 CHONE 415
22 19 63 61 41 88 6 2 0.253 0.343
2009 Marcel 245 274 13 10 35 33 24 51 3 1 0.261 0.334
2009 Oliver 360 401 22 19

30 77

0.253 0.343
2009 ZiPS 428
22 18 53 63 34 79 7 1 0.243 0.325
More on Joe Mather: Scouting Report
Future RedBirds Profile Statistics Page
The Baseball Cube Report
WikiPedia Page


Monday, March 09, 2009

Book Reviews by Alex Patton

Anyone that receives BaseballHQ's Free Friday Newsletter has likely seen this already. Alex Patton, one of my favorite fantasy baseball analysts and one of the longest lasting, wrote a piece for the newsletter reviewing a few Fantasy Baseball publications. For those that did not see it you can find it here.

Here are the books he reviewed and a very brief sample of the reviews:

The Bill James Handbook 2009 $23.95

This is the first stat book that appears in print each fall, and everyone who's even remotely into fantasy baseball snaps it up immediately, so there's no reason to dwell on it. I'll just point out some of the very cool things that are new...

Ron Shandler's 2009 Baseball Forecaster $24.95

It's probably fair to say that more people reading this article buy the Forecaster than the Bill James Handbook, so there's no point in me praising it too lavishly. I'll praise it briefly, then offer just a couple of criticisms.

Baseball Prospectus 2009 $21.95

This is the other publication that throws a ton of fancier metrics in with the standard stats in the stat scans. At more than 600 pages, space is no object. Thus, while the Forecaster combines Aviles Triple-A and MLB stats last year into a combined 633 AB, BP gives Aviles two lines of stats. In fewer than 50 words, the Forecaster basically says, Beware. In approximately 180 words, BP says beware.

Graphical Player 2009 $21.95

I bought this annual for the first time this winter, and so far, to tell the truth, have been finding it a tough go.

Fantasy Baseball Magazines

The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2009 $6.99

Gets check marks ahead of all the other ones out there, except, well, it's not all that pretty. Reluctance to say so is based on the fairly well-known fact that my friend Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman) is the editor.

Sporting News Fantasy Baseball '09 $7.99

Here I have paid the extra dollar for glossy pages and wider columns, and I love it! Only one problem: 700+ profiles.Are they kidding me? What am I supposed to do when someone says Gil Velazquez in the end game and I go speed-dialing down to the V's and he's not there?

Fanball Fantasy Baseball 2009 $7.99

The big thing here is multiple cheat sheets, each clearly spelling out what the prices are based on. There are three sets of prices: 5x5 AL-only, 5x5 NL-only, and 5x5 mixed. It's hard to figure what the reasoning is for the prices in the mixed leagues. Hanley Ramirez costs more in mixed than in NL-only, which I happen to agree with. But Grady Sizemore costs less in mixed than in AL-only, which I don't agree with and is totally inconsistent.

Fantasy Sports $5.99

I'm looking at the April issue, the one with (at least in New York) David Wright on the cover. Kind of ironic that this is the cheapest of the magazines, since the editor, Greg Ambrosius, is the driving force behind the high-stakes National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Greg has opted to deal with the pricing issue by offering AL-only dollar values by position, NL-only dollar values by position, and mixed-league rankings by position. All for 5x5 leagues.

2009 Major League Baseball Yearbook & Fantasy Guide $9.95

Almost ten bucks?? Yes, I admit it. I can't resist any of them. This one's got a lot of things going for it. 850+ players in the profiles. Hitters alphabetized, pitchers alphabetized. Three-year stat scans, with 2008 also broken into first half, second half. Prices for 5x5 AL-only, NL-only and mixed leagues. That's good. They are the same for all three, though, and that's not right.

Wise Guy Baseball 2009

Not sure what the price is. Gene McCaffrey sent it to me. He doesn't even give contact information, but I'll give you his email address anyway: Gene is the original wise guy of the title. John Menna and Ken Magna are his "special guests." Tom Zownir contributes something called The Hitmen. It's basically a crank-press item directed at the CDM contest leagues. But baseball is baseball and good comments are good comments.