Friday, July 30, 2010

Capps to Minnesota; Cantu to Texas

What a nightmare for NL-only owners! You have lost Haren, Capps and Cantu and have gained Joe Saunders, Miguel Tejada and Scott Podsednik. OUCH.

Matt Capps has been traded to the Minneotoa Twins for catching prospect Wilson Ramos and pitcher Joseph Testa. This is bad news for owners of Jon Rauch, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has already announced that Capps will become his closer and Rauch will move to a setup role. For the Nationals, it appears they will be moving to a "closer by committee" approach with Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, according to CBS Sports. Ramos performed admirably when Joe Mauer was injured, but Pudge Rodriguez stands in his way right now. But Ramos is certainly the Nats' new catcher of the future.

I can write quite intelligently on Jorge Cantu, and as a Marlins fan, I will miss chanting "hip hip Jorge!" any time he did something good. The Marlins were correct in trading Cantu's expiring contract for two AA pitchers (one of whom is recovering from Tommy John surgery); but as a Cantu fantasy owner, I just finished doing a little happy dance.

Cantu struggled mightily in the month leading up to the All-Star break, and while he has not found his power stroke yet, he was starting to make good contact lately and was collecting a bunch of singles (a good sign). Now, he moves from one of the most hitter-unfriendly parks in baseball to what may be the most hospitable home park in the Majors in Arlington. He is guaranteed a lot of playing time (at first base), and you can once again say sayonara to Mr. Chris Davis, one of the biggest busts of the year (he was optioned back to AAA after the trade). I predict a big spike in Cantu's production, and it is worth it to spend big $$ for him in an AL-only league (if you don't need Capps' saves). If you land him, I promise you will find yourself saying "Hip Hip Jorge!" in no time.

Also, Miguel Tejada has been traded from the Orioles to the Padres. Tejada will probably take Everth Cabrera's spot and will play a bunch at SS and third base. I guess the power-challenged Tejada will fit right in with San Diego's offensive strategy. According to ESPN, the Padres gave up Double-A right-hander Wynn Pelzer to get Tejada, who is expected to be in uniform on Friday night for the series opener against Florida.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Astros and Phillies Agree on Oswalt Trade

From Fox Sports in Houston

Houston - Major League baseball sources told FOX 26 Sports the Houston Astros have a deal in place to trade pitcher Roy Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies if Oswalt agrees to waive his no-trade clause.

Sources told FOX 26 the Astros have approached Oswalt. He is aware of the deal that is on the table and the club is waiting for his response.

MLB sources told FOX 26 the Astros and Phillies have agreed on the amount of money Houston will take back in the deal and the two teams have agreed on the players Philadelphia will be sending.

Oswalt is owed about $5 million for the rest of this season.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jhonny Peralta and Scott Podsednik Traded

Trading season is in full effect. Today saw Cleveland third baseman Jhonny Peralta sent to the Detroit Tigers for pitching prospect Giovanni Soto. A few hours later Scott Podsednik was sent from the Kansas City Royals to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a couple of intriguing but C-level prospects - C Lucas May and RHP Elisaul Pimentel.

From Bless You Boys (a Detroit Tigers Blog)

Peralta will take over 3rd base until the return of Brandon Inge. At that point, he could become an option at short. The operative word being "could."

Peralta has been a starter at either short or 3rd for the Tribe since 2005. There had been rumors he was being actively shopped, as his numbers have been tailing off for three seasons. Peralta was putting up a not good at all line of 246/.308/.389 in 2010, well down from his '05-'08 peak where he was a 20+ HR, 80+ RBI threat.

As for his contract status, Peralta is making $4.6M this season, with a $250K buyout on a $7M club option for 2011. According to Jason Beck, the Indians will continue to pay Peralta's contract for this season.

Considering what the Tigers gave up to get him, Peralta isn't a bad get. There is still some pop in his bat, and a change of scenery may be just what Peralta needs.

From Let's Go Tribe! (a Cleveland Indians Blog)
The Indians got for Peralta a skinny 6'3" teenage left-hander named Giovanni Soto, not to be confused the Cubs catcher named Geovany Soto. This Soto was picked in the 21st round of the 2009 draft, and even though he's only throwing his fastball in the high-80s is still missing bats in the low minors (8.3 SO/9 in the Midwest League). He's listed at 155(!) pounds, so you'd figure that he should be able to add some mphs to his fastball as he adds weight to his frame.
From Royals Review (you guessed it, a Kansas City Royals Blog)

Pimentel is a 21 year old pitcher who has been in A-ball. (B-R page) Pimentel has a 3.49 ERA this year, with good strikeout numbers. A definite interesting live arm. He is the second Pimentel from the Dodger organization to be acquired by Dayton Moore. Since 2008, the Dodgers have used him as a reliever. He has a 3.68 career minor league ERA.

Lucas May / Luke May is a 25 year old catcher with an .848 this season in AAA. (B-R page) May also hit decently last season in AA. I'm sure Albuquerque is a good hitters park, but for a catcher in his first AAA season, those are interesting numbers. I would have taken one of these guys for Pods.

From True Blue LA (a Los Angeles Dodgers Blog)

Perhaps the Pierre comparison is a bit unfair. Both are speedy left-handed corner outfielders with similar career numbers (career 89 OPS+ for Podsednik, 84 OPS+ for Pierre), both have a ring in a box, but the 34-year old Podsednik has actually enjoyed a bit of a resurgence the past two years. Since the beginning of 2009, Podsednik has hit .306/.353/.407, for a 101 OPS+. His .335 wOBA this season is higher than anyone currently on the Dodger bench.

Podsednik has 30 stolen bases this season, but also led the American League being caught 12 times.

The acquisition of Podsednik at the very least means dramatically less playing time for Xavier Paul, who has started 13 of the last 21 games since Manny Ramirez was placed on the disabled list. Podsednik will likely become the everyday left fielder at least until Ramirez gets back, and even then given Manny's fragility, Podsednik figures to see quite a bit of playing time down the stretch for the Dodgers.

Domonic Brown Has Arrived

Domonic Brown has arrived. Unfortunately, it took an injury to Shane Victorino, the Phillies center fielder. Check out his minor league statistics:

2006GCL PhilliesGCL18PHIRkof
3411713253017133123010102 .214.292.265557
742854384115332147274920031 .295.356.400756

39241017002000000 .444.545.8891434
114444771292339542276472440410 .291.382.417799
2009GCL PhilliesGCL21PHIRk

310450200011110000 .500.583.9001483


6623841721231144158344823063 .303.386.517903


3714720419432081143713003 .279.346.456802

Minor League Totals - 4 Season(s)33112502003605917281647227154237111011319 .288.368.430798

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Post All-Star Break Prospects to Watch

I have been asked by a couple of readers for lists of prospects to look for in the second half of the season. Apparently you guys want to know both the prospects that should be up soon and the prospects that will be making cameos before making their impacts next season. I am nothing if not obliging.

Impact Call-Ups to Expect
(in no particular order)

Dominic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies - At two levels, he has already surpassed his high home run total. He doesn't have the discipline of Jason Heyward or the power of Michael Stanton but he is in their class as a prospect. Brown has often been compared to Daryl Strawberry and that is a very good comparison. He has 30-plus homerun power and he has the speed (if not the skills) to steal 20 to 30 bases annually. He has solid plate discipline (for a 22-year old and should draw enough walks to provide strong on-base percentages. He does strikeout a bit but more in the power hitter range than the outrageous (Mark Reynolds) range. Brown is waiting for something to happen in the Phillies outfield, whether that is Jayson Werth* being traded or Raul Ibanez being benched has yet to be determined.

*For some reason I keep reading that Jayson Werth is having a bad season. That is simply not the case. The only real difference (at least in a negative sense) between 2010 and 2009 is the homerun pace. Otherwise he is batting for a better average, getting on base and slugging just as much. His teammates are collectively having an off year due to injuries and slow starts and slumps and that has slowed his Runs and RBI pace. But Werth was a .382 wOBA player in 2009 and is at .376 so far in 2010. He may not be having the perfect fantasy season but his real baseball season is just fine.
Brett Wallace, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays - One of my favorite hitting prospects, Wallace is showing improved homerun power. He is a disciplined hitter, although his patience seems to have slipped just a bit. He should eventually hit for high averages, with very nice OBAs, good power (say 20-30 homers annually), and provide zero speed. Lyle Overbay is still in the way at first base. Overbay's sub-par season has not helped the Blue Jays in their attempts to move him. The Jays are also trying to move Jose Bautista (selling high, just as you would) which would also open a spot, though Travis Snider may get the first opening.

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
- Hellickson has everything you want to see in a pitching prospect. He wins. He induces strikeouts. A large chunk of the flyballs he allows are of the harmless infield variety. When you subtract the infield flies from the other variety he induces more groundballs than fly outs. He has excellent command (3.55 K/BB) and is just 23-years old pitching in the International League. He should already be in the majors.

Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins
- He induces groundballs on almost 60 percent of the balls put into play. He induces strikeouts at nice rate and his improving changeup promises that that rate can improve even further. With the Twins appearing reluctant to part with their better prospects in a trade for pitching, Gibson looks like a nice option down the stretch.

Jerry Sands, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Right now, no one is talking about Jerry Sands, but all he does is hit. He hits for average (batting .319/.422/.636 at two levels) and he hits for power (27 homers in 332 at-bats). He draws walks and makes pretty good contact for a slugger. This 25th-round pick from the 2008 draft looks unstoppable right now. The Dodgers could certainly use an unstoppable slugger in their lineup. Who couldn't?

Thomas Diamond, RHP, Chicago Cubs
- He was left for dead by the Rangers. Okay, they sacrificed his place on the roster for a fresher crop of prospects. This is all to the Cubs benefit. He looks exactly like the talented rotation starter he was expected to become a few years ago. He is still just 27-years old. The Cubs have absolutely nothing to lose by promoting him into the major league rotation.

Brock Bond, 2B, San Francisco Giants
- Bond is not the type of player that usually gets put on fantasy-oriented prospect lists. But his .417 OBP in 4 seasons is exactly the style of player the Giants need at the top of their lineup. If they make the move watch him get on base and score runs like crazy.

Cameo Appearance Only
(the real impact will come in 2011)

Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle Mariners - He pitches in the high 90's. He has three plus or better pitches and he has the ideal power pitcher's body. He will also graduate into the best pitchers park in the American League. The hype is growing. He induces strikeouts, groundballs and infield flies. He has excellent command and is going to challenge Felix Hernandez for his throne atop the Mariners rotation.

Blake Beavan, RHP, Seattle Mariners
- He has become more of a pitcher and less of a hard thrower since being drafted by the Rangers. He was one of the prospects sent to the Mariners in the recent Cliff Lee trade. He does not strike out batters at the rate we fantasy owners like to see but he can still toss it past a batter when he needs to. He survives with incredible command and by inducing a ton of groundballs and infield flies. He should look spectacular behind King Felix and Prince Pineda some day.

Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays - A spring wrist injury and slow start probably conspired to keep Jennings from contending for American League rookie of the year in 2010. He has the tools and is developing the skills to be the perfect replacement (or complement) to Carl Crawford. If I ran the Rays, I'd toss B.J. Upton out on his butt and let Crawford, Jennings, and Ben Zobrist man the outfield for the next ten years.

Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles - I have expressed my great man-love for Zach Britton many times. He has a 65.8 percent GB rate this season and that isn't even a shocking number for him. He strikes out batters at a decent rate (enough to know he can deceive batters). Baseball America has pushed him into their mid-season Top Ten Prospects. The 2011 rookie of the year, you heard it here first.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals - Many fantasy analysts were jumping off the Moustakas band wagon after a couple of not bad but disappointing seasons. He has roared back into their hearts. He was contending for the Texas League Triple Crown and has already pushed former phenom Alex Gordon out of the Royals infield. The Royals are getting it together.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds - The Cuban lefty is impressive but has not developed as quickly as some expected. He has the raw stuff to blow it past any batter but lacks the finesse and command necessary to dominate in the long term. I think it was a mistake to start him at Triple-A. I think a quick journey from the lower minors as the Nats did with Stephen Strasburg would have been the better move. It would have built his confidence and given him a chance at Strasburg-like hype. The Reds have moved him to the bullpen (it seems like a short term move but that's hard to say) to speed his advancement and for possible help in a late season playoff run. Don't let the cooling of the hype turn you off, he's still going to be very good.

Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics - Carter hasn't hit for average this season but his power is top shelf. However, thanks to a nice hot streak he has dragged his slash to .241/.350/.504 with 23 homers in 365 at-bats. Most prospect junkies thought Carter would be up by now, but apparently the Athletics want to see improvement in his plate discipline first.

You Will Not See Them in 2010 But DAMN!
(Damn = Drooling Already so Make Note)

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels - He has all the tools, and is developing the skills to become one of the great ones. He has a .353/.445/.519 slash with 45 steals (just 11 cs) and developing power. Grab him now while you still have a prayer of getting him on the cheap.

Aaron Hicks, OF,Minnesota Twins - The tools are way ahead of the skills at this point. But this potential Torii Hunter clone is going to put it together very soon.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
- The Royals system is getting stronger and stronger. Hosmer has more power than his numbers may suggest and he even steals a few bases to go with his awesome batting average. Dayton Moore is doing something right at least.

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians - When you watch him swing you get the sense that he could be the next Chipper Jones but the numbers aren't there yet. He is an excellent player to stash in deeper farm systems.

Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners
- He has 18 homers and 18 stolen bases in 332 at-bats. Franklin has probably surpassed Carlos Triunfel as the Mariners' shortstop of the future. Can you hear the pigs in space like reverb on that?

Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves - Every prospect analyst in his right mind is drooling all over Teheran's tools. He has the potential to be as good as any pitcher out there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Swisher's Sweet Season

At the age of 30, Yankee class-clown and dude-brah supreme, Nick Swisher has been enjoying a career year. Making his first all-star team on the back of a goofy promo, it's easy to forget how damn good he's been. While you could file Swish's performance under "player put into position to succeed, succeeds," the guy still has to put wood on the ball and that he's done at a career best pace. Currently Swisher's sitting on a solid 17HR/61R/56RBI/.303/.371 line.

Sure Swisher regularly hits in one of the most enviable slots in baseball - second in the fearsome Yankee order - behind Derek Jeter and in front of a fearsome threesome of Texiera, A-Rod and Cano. We know that studies have shown that protection in the batting order is largely a myth, but who would you rather take your chances with out of that group of hitters? If you're an opposing pitcher, do you really want to walk the eagle-eyed Swisher with those three sluggers looming? That goes a long way towards Swisher's seeing more strikes, but a player still has to make the most of his opportunities and he's done that.

What's been the secret of Swisher's success? One word: Contact. Currently posting a career high 82.6% contact rate (77.2% lifetime), the switch-hitter, known better for taking walks than taking the ball to all fields, he's driving the ball like never before - his 21.6% line drive rate (also a career best, next to his lifetime 18.9% rate) is testament to that. Swisher himself attributes a great deal of that improved contact to work he did in the off-season with Yankee hitting coach, Kevin Long. While he's hardly quieted down outside the batters box, at the plate Swisher's quieted down the seemingly constant motion that he used to display while at bat and his decreased motion has paid off big time.

Swisher has always shown power (career .218 ISO) and he continues to do so (.233), while not at the stunning rate he showed last season (.249). His increased batting average will more than make up for that though. While fantasy pundits and opponents alike have screamed "regression," I find little cause to think that Swisher's final tally will stray too far from his .303 rate. Some might say that this is an aberration but there's plenty of signs pointing to perfect storm of success for the Yankee rightfielder. Good players make adjustments and it seems Swish has done just that.

Some will look at his career low 9.8% walk rate as a sign of hard times to come, but I'll counter with a full-season's best 22.2% K rate. Simply put, Swisher's locked into pitches in the strike zone and driving the balls he's supposed to drive. A late round steal in most leagues, Sweet Swish has been paying big dividends despite the naysayers and I think he'll continue to do so going forward in 2010.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top 10 Fantasy Players Who Might Get Traded

The MLB trade deadline is July 31, and with that in mind, here are the top 10 fantasy-relevant players who may be moved by then. Fantasy owners in “only” leagues should be playing close attention, because you definitely don’t want to be blindsided by a player changing leagues on you as we head into the home stretch. Luckily for Cliff Lee owners, that didn’t happen.

So here they are, in my own order of likeliness to be moved, with the potential fantasy impact of being traded:

1. Roy Oswalt – Rumors are swirling all around Oswalt right now, and thankfully for his owners, most of the talk surrounds the Philadelphia Phillies. If Oswalt is moved to Philly, you can expect his mostly stellar season to continue – he obviously gets a better offensive and defensive squad behind him; and the ballpark change should have little effect, considering that neither park is pitcher-friendly. The only other team rumored to be in the hunt for Oswalt are the Yankees, the only team that can truly afford to take on Oswalt’s big contract (see Jayson Werth below). A move to the Big Apple would be fine for mixed league owners, but "only" leaguers would pay a huge price if it happened. I have also read that the Dodgers are contemplating making a run at Roy, but that’s hard to believe considering their financial situation.

2. Jayson Werth – In order for the Phillies to take on a contract like Oswalt’s, they must move Werth to free up some money. Werth has been largely off his game this season and has resided in Charlie Manuel’s doghouse for quite a while now. The latest rumor has the Phillies in negotiations with Tampa Bay – which could definitely use Werth’s services. NL-only Werth owners are sitting on pins and needles, and for just reason. In related news, if Werth is traded, hot prospect Domonic Brown will be getting the call.

3. Octavio Dotel – Dotel owners better be rushing to the wire to add Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan, just as insurance, because every day, Octavio looks more and more like a deadline deal candidate. And the worst part is that there is a 98-percent chance that whatever team acquires him will move him into a middle relief role. This is pretty much an emergency situation for fantasy owners, and you MUST try to deal him NOW to someone who may not be quite as much in-the-know as someone who, say, reads Advanced Fantasy Baseball. The Mets are the latest to be rumored to be first in line for Dotel, and there is zero chance he takes the closer role from K-Rod – but you already knew that.

4. Ted Lilly – The Cubs are out of it, and the Mets are trying all roads to land a starting pitcher – which is good for Lilly owners. A change of scenery and a pitcher-friendly home ballpark could be just what the doctor ordered for Lilly, who is 3-8 in 16 starts this year. The Yankees, however, fresh off the Andy Pettitte injury, may be throwing their hat into the Lilly mix as well. The Tigers, Twins and Dodgers are also in the mix, and the rumor is that the Cubs want a catching prospect in return. The Twins and Yankees definitely have the prospects to make them happy. A league change may be imminent here.

5. David Aardsma – ESPN reported on July 21 that Aardsma will be traded between now and the deadline. First of all, if you own Aardsma, you absolutely hate him and have been cursing yourself for ever believing that his 2009 season with 38 saves was “for real.” His trade – likely coming soon to the Detroit Tigers – would be the cherry on top of his 2010 fantasy stink pie, as he will lose any of the very little fantasy value he already has. The Twins and Red Sox are also reportedly interested in Aardsma, but none of the teams he will go to will install him as the closer.

6. Jake Westbrook – Westbrook is certainly available for the right price, but there is an escalator clause in his contract that, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, gives Westbrook a $2 million lump sum and a pro-rated $1 million salary increase if he is traded. Of course, that probably doesn’t mean squat to teams like the Yankees and Mets, and the same teams in the bidding for Lilly are in on Westbrook (although St. Louis is also in the mix). The pitcher has been “just OK” for the Indians this season, with a 4.67 ERA in 114 innings with just 5 K/9; however, all his suitors are contenders, so that should help.

7. Alberto Callaspo – All indications are that Callaspo will be dealt soon to the Anaheim Angels of Los, I mean the California Ang....nope errr, the LA Angels of middle California...uhh, errr...well you know which team I mean. ESPN’s Mark Saxon recently reported that the Angels “are believed to have offered” Sean O’Sullivan and a fringe prospect for Callaspo, only to have Royals GM Dayton Moore turn the offer down. Callaspo could play second or third for the Angels, and I think it’s only a matter of time before this deal goes down. It should definitely help Callaspo’s numbers when it happens.

8. Dan Haren – He is arguably the unluckiest pitcher in baseball, so a change of scenery should do wonders for Haren – and the Cardinals are the lead pony in this show. Haren’s owners would absolutely welcome the move, as the Cards provide more offensive pop, a batter home ballpark, a better defense – shoot a better anything – than Arizona has to offer these days. Haren can veto deals to 12 teams, thanks to a clause in his contract, and said recently that he wants to stay on the West Coast. That’s bad news for the other team rumored to be pursuing him, Philadelphia; and I guess you have to include the Yankees as potential buyers – if only for the fact that they buy everyone and everything that they want and that’s how they have done it for decades.

9. Matt Capps – A fantastic April and May have turned the Nationals’ closer into a hot commodity, and it is unlikely that Washington will want to keep him because he is arbitration-eligible and figures to get a big raise next year. With Drew Storen waiting in the wings and the Nats out of the hunt, a trade makes sense from both the financial and baseball standpoints. And there are loads of teams that are looking for relief pitching. All that said, Washington management is being very tight-lipped about their trade efforts, and Capps himself has asked to stay in D.C.

10. Jose Bautista – The Blue Jays are rumored to be asking for an elite prospect in exchange for Bautista, which says to me that a deal probably isn’t going to materialize. The Major League Home Run leader is arbitration-eligible, and his contract next season is expected to take quite the hefty bounce. That said, rumor has it that the Braves wanted to include Bautista in the recent Alex Gonzalez-Yunel Escobar deal. If Nate McLouth – who is returning from injury tonight – can’t find his stroke, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Atlanta make another deal with the Jays. That’s big, huge bad news for his AL-only owners. Still, it’s unlikely.

One extra tidbit: Ty Wigginton has been linked to interest from the New York Yankees. If he is traded to the Bronx, he will likely lose his full-time job and his fantasy status will obviously take a major hit. Just an FYI for ya!

Have some fun and post your comments below.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Grading the Rookies

Here’s a look at rookies who are making a fantasy impact – either positive or negative – this season. Much like a kindergarten teacher, I don’t have the heart to give any rookie an “F” – if only for the plain fact that they are rookies and they deserve a little bit of slack. I hope I don’t leave anybody out. Here we go…

The A’s: The Future Has Arrived - Guys who should be rostered and/or starting in just about any league
1. Brennan Boesch (OF-DET): 243AB 12HR 49RBI .341/.397/.593: Go to the head of the class, Mr. Boesch. Jim Leyland surprised most people when he called up Boesch so early, but the rookie slugger has proven Leyland to be a genius. Despite being a free-swinger, the ROY candidate should continue to see plenty of RBI opportunities batting behind AL triple crown challenger Miguel Cabrera.
2. Jaime Garcia (SP-STL): 98 IP (8-4) 80K/40BB 2.17 ERA 1.25 WHIP: As I have written in the past, Garcia has the best ERA of any starting pitcher in the league outside of Josh Johnson. His success is yet another testament to the effectiveness of Tommy John surgery. While I expect his numbers to slide a bit, a strong second half is looming.
3. Neftali Feliz (RP-TEX): 38 IP (1-2) 42K/13BB 3.82 ERA 1.06 WHIP 23 Saves: Feliz took over the closing duties in April and has never looked back. He is tied for fourth in MLB with his 23 saves; his K:BB ratio is terrific; he has nasty stuff; and he looks to have locked down the closer’s job in Texas for years to come.
4. Jason Heyward (OF-ATL): 259AB 11HR 45RBI .247/.362/.448: Once a shoo-in for ROY after an amazing start to the season, a thumb injury and the resulting decline in power and batting average have thrown a wrench into the machine. However, don’t go rushing to trade, him, I expect him to surge to the head of the rookie class once again in the second half – he is just way too good not to.
5. Mike Leake (SP-CIN): 110 IP (6-1) 70K/39BB 3.53 ERA 1.40 WHIP: The man who took what was supposed to be Aroldis Chapman’s job out of spring training has proven that the brass in Cincinnati knew exactly what they were doing.
6. Buster Posey (C/1B-SF): 141AB 7HR 26RBI .355/.392/.567: In the week before the All-Star break, Posey posted the best statistical week of any hitter this season. He scored more in my points league than any other hitter in any other week by nearly 20 points. Here was the amazing line: 15-27, 0.556 BA, 8 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 9 R, 3 BB. Now that Bengie Molina is gone to Texas, nothing is standing in Posey’s way.
7. Carlos Santana (C-CLE): 95AB 5HR 16RBI .284/.425/.568: While the raw numbers don’t match Posey’s, Santana’s OBP and SLG are proving that he is no run-of-the-mill catcher. Expect a huge second half.
8. John Axford (RP-MIL): 26 IP (5-1) 32K/11BB 3.12 ERA 1.27 WHIP 10 Saves: Like ships passing in the night, the career of Axford is taking off just about as fast as Trevor Hoffman’s is sinking. And he shouldn’t see much competition for saves in Milwaukee.
9. Gaby Sanchez (1B-FLA): 315AB 9HR 38RBI .302/.365/.467: A red-hot June and July have thrust Sanchez into the ROY discussion, and he shouldn’t be available in your league any more.
10. Ike Davis (1B-NYM): 279AB 11HR 40RBI .255/.332/.430: Davis keeps chugging along, and the return of Carlos Beltran should offer him even more lineup protection. However, Davis could be in another rough stretch – he hit just .243 in the 10 games leading up to the break.
11. Austin Jackson (OF-DET): 313AB 1HR 20RBI 14SB .300/.354/.403: Despite the usual ups and downs you would expect from a rookie, Jackson is showing that he has the potential to end up being a prototypical leadoff hitter for years to come – if he can cut down on his strikeouts (88 – way too many) and improve on his OBP. I’d like to see more steals too, but it’s hard to complain about this line from a rookie.
12. Stephen Strasburg (SP-WAS): 43IP (3-2) 61K/11BB 2.32 ERA 1.01 WHIP: I wasn’t going to include Strasburg on the “A list” – mainly because of the rumors that Washington is going to shut him down early. But how can you not include him on the A list with those numbers and that potential?

The B’s: The Future is Almost Here - Major contributors mostly rosterable but with consistency issues
1. Sean Rodriguez (2B-TB): 219AB 6HR 30RBI 7SB .265/.302/.425: The guy has terrific numbers in June, but he limped into the All-Star break, and I need to see extended production in July/August before I’m a 100% buyer. That said, he isn’t really being challenged for playing time, so there is ample opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle again.
2. David Freese (3B-CIN): 240AB 4HR 36RBI .296/.360/.404: The average is great, but we are still waiting for some power. An ankle injury doesn’t help matters.
3. Jonathan Niese (SP-NYM): 90IP (6-3) 73K/28BB 3.61 ERA 1.36 WHIP: For the most part, Niese has looked very good despite battling a few injuries here and there. Note that he – like the rest of the Mets squad – is a much better player at home than on the road. His home ERA (3.23) is a full point better than on the road (4.24).
4. Brian Matusz (SP-BAL): 104 IP (3-9) 80K/38BB 4.775 ERA 1.45 WHIP: The Baltimore factor makes starting him difficult – especially in H2H leagues; however, the K:BB ratio is something to hang your hat on.
5. Justin Smoak (1B-SEA): 247AB 8HR 34RBI .202/.307/.340: To say that anyone hitting .202 is inconsistent would likely be an understatement. He still has great potential and a job in Seattle, but I don’t think the Mariners gig is nearly as promising as one in Texas – less protection in the lineup and a more difficult home park for hitters.

The C’s: Pure Futures - Keep them on your radar, but don’t stampede anyone to get to the waiver wire yet
1. Tyler Colvin (OF-CHC): 183AB 12 HR 32RBI .268/.320/.536: He slowed down in July (.200 average), but his power numbers have been consistent. Playing time should not be an issue in the second half – meaning he can definitely help you in the power department.
2. Madison Bumgarner (SP-SF): 28IP (2-2) 21K/5BB 2.57 ERA 1.04 WHIP: Another guy to keep a close eye on, Bumgarner is 2-0 with one run allowed over 14 innings with 11 strikeouts in his last two starts. A big second half could be looming here.
3. Drew Storen (RP-WAS): 26IP (2-1) 20K/11BB 2.45 ERA 1.21 WHIP: He is on this list because the rumor is that Matt Capps is going to be traded – and Storen should step immediately into the closer’s role, and he should probably keep it for the next few years at least.
4. Mike Stanton (OF-FLA): 108AB 5HR 20RBI .231/.276/.435: The Marlins rushed him up to the majors, and he is paying the price. Major League pitching has proven to be quite a difference from the double-A level. Still, he showed some flashes of his power potential right before the break.
5. Wade Davis (SP-TB): 94 IP (6-9) 62K/42BB 4.69 ERA 1.46 WHIP: He hasn’t lost his job and he has good stuff. Just waiting for it all to come together consistently with that offense behind him. It looks to me like next year will be his year to shine.
6. Alcides Escobar (SS-MIL): 287AB 2HR 24RBI 7SB .240/.297/.324: Highly touted on draft day, his lack of steals and plate discipline has been his downfall this season. But he shouldn’t be losing at-bats in the second half.
7. Jhoulys Chacin (SP-COL): 77IP (5-7) 80K/35BB 4.09 ERA 1.32 WHIP: I have a true aversion to Colorado pitchers, but Chacin has been solid as rookie pitchers go.
8. John Jaso (C-TB): 175AB 3HR 29RBI .274/.393/.377: It escapes me why Tampa isn’t playing Jaso even more than he already is. He’s a good contact hitter who can get on base for the power bats in Tampa, but he is in a time-share with Kelly Shoppach right now.
9. Starlin Castro (SS-CHC): 200AB 2HR 24RBI 2SB .280/.341/.405: Castro has shown some flashes of brilliance (mostly when he was first called up) – but he has been unspectacular in the fantasy world, unable to produce great numbers in the stolen base, OBP or runs categories.
10. Ian Desmond (SS-WAS): 271AB 6HR 36RBI 8SB .254/.297/.395: He has been better in July than June (which was a disaster). He has a decent combination of power and speed, so check his numbers at the end of the month and look for a positive trend.
11. Pedro Alvarez (3B-PIT): 84AB 3HR 11RBI .214/.272/.381: A recent call-up, Alvarez is batting .289 in July with all three of his HR. He is the 3B of the future in Pittsburgh, and it looks like the future is now. Keep an eye on him.

The D’s: The Future ISN'T now - not likely to contribute to your fantasy team this season
1. Jason Donald (SS-CLE): 146AB 2HR 12RBI .274/.329/.425: Besides being known as the guy who was out, but he was really called safe during Armando Galarraga’s perfect game, he entered the All-Star break on fire, hitting .389 in his last six games. Asdrubal Cabrera’s impending return, however, will put a damper on Donald’s production.
2. John Ely (SP-LAD): 80IP (4-7) 59K/25BB 4.63 ERA 1.32 WHIP: To me, Ely looks overmatched in the majors right now – and the Dodgers are doing everything they can to pick up another starting pitcher. He was optioned to AAA on Sunday of this week.
3. Roger Bernadina (OF-WAS): 181AB 5HR 24RBI 7SB .282/.345/.437: Since being called up, Bernadina has played well, but often sits against left-handed pitching.
4. Neil Walker (2B/3B-PIT): 142AB 3HR 12RBI .247/.318/.423: He has respectable hitting numbers and plays just about every day, but he just isn’t producing enough in the counting categories.
5. Reid Brignac (SS-TB): 189AB 2HR 25RBI .265/.329/.365: Sean Rodriguez has stolen his thunder; and despite Jason Bartlett’s struggles, Brignac isn’t much more than a pinch hitter right now.
6. Jose Tabata (OF-PIT): 116AB 1HR 6RBI 8SB .241/.323/.328: He’s a speed guy, but his lack of power and disciplined hitting puts him on the D-list.
7. Scott Sizemore (2B-DET): 97AB 1HR 8RBI .206/.297/.289: He was drafted in many leagues this year, but he has proven to be a bust.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Welcome To Splitsville: Part 2

...Continued from Part One

Here's the rest of my 2010 All-Splits team for players owned by 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo.

Vs. Righties

C: John Jaso (6% owned) Although he's cooled considerably since May, the 26 year old catcher came seemingly out of nowhere to perform admirably behind the plate for the Tampa Bay Rays. Jaso has put together nice numbers against righties, going .295/.412/.397 in 177 PA, while struggling against lefties in limited action. Interestingly enough, Jaso's MiLB Splits are pretty even throughout his five years on the farm. With enough plate appearances against big league lefties (since returning from injury, the struggling Kelly Shoppach has been getting a lot of appearances against southpaws), Jaso might be able to prove he's deserving of a full-time gig.

1B: Lyle Overbay (4% owned) It seems like you could pencil Overbay into this list every year and still somehow he manages to hold down a full-time job in Toronto. The veteran first baseman has always done better against right-handers (.264/.353/.443 in 269 PA so far in 2010) while doing little against lefties, but that split is even more dramatic this season as he's stunk it up to a tune of .192/.232/.308 so far. With first base so rich in talent, there's no reason to have to roster Overbay outside of the deepest of leagues. If you do however (maybe you own Kendry Morales and Todd Helton, both shelved with injuries), you'd do well to sit him against lefties or platoon him with a guy like Daric Barton or Adam Rosales.

2B: Omar Infante (9% owned) The man who may forever be known (through no fault of his own) as the worst All-Star selection ever is the only 2010 All-Star to also make my All-Splits team. The jack-of-all-trades has been consistently mediocre from both sides of the plate through out his nine years of mostly part-time, MLB play. This season however, the right-handed Infante has shown infinite prowess if not power against righty hurlers, posting a .364/.384/.447 in 138 PA in while disappearing against lefties in limited time (.262/.303/.311 in 67 PA). If he receives regular playing time, I would expect that gap to close quite a bit before season's end.

SS: Wilson Valdez (3% owned) Wait, what? Yeah I put Valdez on this list, what of it? That's how shallow SS is and the 32 year old journeyman plays in a hitter's paradise. While starting in place of the injured Jimmy Rollins at short and now Chase Utley over at second, Valdez has proved useful against righties (.283/.300/.449 with all 4 of his HR in 133 PA), while doing next to nothing against southpaws. Outside of a hot streak, I don't think he's rosterable in 12 team mixed, but I did have him for a cup of coffee on my 15 team mixed league a few weeks ago.

3B: Chase Headley (45% owned) The Padres every day third baseman started off like a ball of fire in April, only to come back down to earth with a thud in May and June. He's been picking it up again lately however, and remains solid against right-handed pitching going .306/.351/.427 with 5 of his 6 homers in 251 PA. His weakness against left-handers remains glaring however, as he's been shut down to the tune of .197/.258/.248 in 129 PA. His sneaky speed makes you want to pencil him in every day in case he swipes a bag, but his ineptitude while facing lefties removes that option unless you like zeros. Cavernous Petco Park saps his power and that weak Padre lineup does him no favors either, so unless you've got another 3B eligible guy to platoon him with, I'd stay away from Headley in all but deep leagues.

OF: Hideki Matsui (37% owned) Godzilla is a shell of the player he was a few years ago with the Yankees and he's been absolutely dreadful against lefties this year - .188/.224/.366 in 107 PA. Against righties however, Matsui can still hit and he's put up a useful .281/.381/.408 line in 231 PA. Consider him rosterable in deeper leagues, when platooned with an outfielder who can rake lefties like Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur or Cody Ross.

OF: J.D. Drew (44% owned) The captain of my all-splits team, J.D. Drew is the epitome of a platoon player - when healthy, of course. Drew demolishes right-handers with a .315/.400/.586 line, along with 9 of his 10 home runs in 210 PA. Conversely, he's atrocious against lefties, going .185/.265/.235 in 91 PA. If you've got Drew on your team, platoon him or else!

OF: David DeJesus (50% owned) The Royals outfielder is quietly having a very nice year all around - 45 R/5 HR/ 36 RBI .326/.395/.460 and his career splits aren't that far apart, however this season he's really shined against right-handers, going .344/.403/.478 in 275 PA. I've currently got him in my 12 team mixed league and I sit him against lefties in favor of Dexter Fowler, since his .272/.372/.407 line with little pop or speed in 95 PA doesn't offer much in that format. DeJesus has been mentioned in trade talks with the Red Sox, where I see him in a platoon with Mike Cameron, once Jacoby Ellsbury gets back, which would certainly help his counting numbers against righties.

UTL: Angel Pagan (50% owned) Currently the Mets leader in batting average (.315), Pagan will get the bulk of the playing time in a platoon with Jeff Francoeur, once Carlos Beltran gets back. His speed makes him playable every day right now, but if you can afford to, it's best to platoon him to take advantage of his splits. Against lefties Pagan has been pretty underwhelming with a .273/.309/.386 line in 96 PA. Facing righties though, Angel has been heavenly, belting out it out at a .335/.398/.512 clip. Platooned with a lefty killer and you're looking at steady production in the second half.

I'm ending my list here, but there are lots of other players around, who if platooned properly can provide your fantasy team with a nice lift. Who do you think are some other players who could have made the Splitsville All-Stars?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Welcome To Splitsville: Part One

It's common knowledge in baseball today that hitters generally find it easier to bat against pitchers of the opposite hand. It's easier for the hitter to pick up the pitch as it leaves the pitchers hand and most breaking balls will break into the center of a hitter's field of vision, rather than away from it. When a team's roster allows, managers regularly deploy platoons to gain the upper hand on the day's opposing starter.

Ever since Bob "Death To Flying Things" Ferguson (how's that for a great nickname?) first took to hitting from both sides of the plate, back in the formative days of our pastime, players and managers alike have understood the advantage that a hitter has when facing a pitcher of the opposite hand - even if teams were not actively platooning players to get the most out of this advantage until years later. According to Bill James' essay, "A History Of Platooning," featured in "The Complete Book of Armchair Baseball" the first manager known to utilize the lefty/righty platoon was Detroit Tigers manager, Bill Armour, who juggled catchers to take advantage of their handedness in his final year in The Bigs, 1906. As roster size expanded and the dead-ball era waned, managers such as John McGraw and later Casey Stengel would popularize the strategy and make it common practice in modern baseball.

In deeper fantasy baseball leagues, owners often roster players whose splits are extremely weighted to one side or another. With awareness of these splits, astute owners can make daily lineup decisions (if league rules allow of course) just as real managers do to get the most out of their players strength and minimizing their weakness.

In keeping with this week's All-Star theme, I present to you my position player picks for the 2010 all-left/right-splits team, based on a pool of players who are generally rostered on approximately 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo. So without further ado, or a profanity-laced Ichiro speech, here are some guys to consider platooning when the opportunity arises.

Note: In a one catcher league, I would not recommend rostering two catchers unless one is also playing another position and his currently catcher eligible.

Part One: Vs. Lefties

C: Ivan Rodriguez (20% owned) The man who's caught the most baseball games in history has shown slightly more aptitude hitting left-handers over his career. In 2010 however, his splits are quite notable in an admittedly small sample size. Against lefties, Pudge has raked to the tune of a .383/.413/.500 line in 63 PA, while posting a pedestrian .263/.291/.346 triple slash against righties in 166 PA.

1B: Gaby Sanchez (34% owned) In his first year as a starter in Florida, the 27 year old first baseman is showing surprising hitting prowess against both lefties and righties. His .285/.347/.434 line against right-handers is nothing to sneeze at for a guy who you probably took a late-round flyer on or possibly even picked up off of waivers. Against lefties however, Sanchez has raked up a gaudy .350/.416/.563 line in 89 PA. He's good enough to start every day in my league, but against lefties he's been money.

2B: Clint Barnes (47% owned) With a .289/.337/.496 career line against lefties versus .247/.290/.384 against righties, The Rockies middle infielder has always displayed lefty-heavy splits. Seeing more playing time since Troy Tulowitzki has been on the shelf, Barnes has used the opportunity to display even more extreme splits this year. Against lefties Barnes has gone .304/.371/.430 in 89 PA while posting a pedestrian .238/.301/.386 against right-handers.

SS: Orlando Cabrera (45% owned) We may not find more extreme splits than those of the the Cincinnati Reds shortstop. Cabrera has been stellar against lefties - .344/.394/.427 in 105 PA and absolutely awful against righties - .207/.241/.291 in 272 PA. I wouldn't roster him with your team, but you have him in a very deep league, I'd pair him up with another SS capable of hitting righties well, such as Mike Aviles or Omar Infante - both of whom hit right handed but do their best work against hurlers coming from the same side.

3B: David Freese (20% owned) In his first full year in the majors, Mr. Freese was offering the Cardinals and fantasy owners alike surprisingly solid offensive numbers through the first three months of the season, before hitting the DL on June 28, with a deep ankle bruise. He's hit lefties at a .357/.416/.457 clip in 78 PA, while posting a respectable .271/.339/.382 against righties. You're likely to want more out of your hot corner, but paired with Chase Headley (who can only seem to hit right-handers), you have a potent 3B duo that can do damage.

OF: Cody Ross (41% owned) With an honorable mention to Rajai Davis - who's 27 steals makes him pretty much an every day player on most rosters even with his struggles against righties. Ross makes for a good platoon candidate, going .303/.354/.513 with three of his seven homers coming in 82 PA against southpaws. His power numbers are markedly improved facing lefties, as he's hit 40 career jacks against lefties and only 39 against righties in more than twice as many plate appearances.

OF: Dexter Fowler (13% owned) Since coming back to the big club from AAA, the Rockies outfielder has been a huge spark for the resurgent Rox. With only 773 PA in the majors since debuting with a cup of coffee in 2007, we'll use his entire MLB resume here to find that Fowler's noticeably more effective against lefties with a .314/.388/.462 line versus the paltry .221/.338/.354 he's posted against righties. At 24, Fowler's still young though and his recent success leads me to believe he'll close that gap enough to give him full-time playability in 12 team mixed leagues.

OF: Lastings Milledge (3% owned) Once thought to be a "can't miss" prospect, Milledge has just about disappeared off of the fantasy radar the past couple of years. In 2010 however, Milledge makes an appearance on my all splitsville team. While righties are still giving Lastings a hard time (.255/.297/.327 in 177 PA) the 25 year old has found his stroke against the southpaws going .318/.431/.518 in 102 PA. Notably, he's hit all three of his homers against lefties and perhaps even more telling he has a 17/11 BB/K ratio, a lot better than the lousy 8/36 BB/K split that he's posted against righties.

UTL: Jeff Francoeur (27% owned) Free swinging Frenchy has always hit lefties much better (.302/.345/.484 in 924 career PA versus an anemic .256/.297/.406 in 2341 PA against righties). With Carlos Beltran returning to Flushing to roam centerfield, it seems that the sizzling hot Angel Pagan will slide over to right and form a potent platoon with Francoeur. With the switch-hitting Pagan wielding a better bat from the left side of the plate, Francoeur will be relegated to taking his cuts against lefties, who he's pounded this season (.348/.403/.449 in 77 PA). In deeper leagues where he might rostered, this could be used to a fantasy owners' advantage by pairing him with a righty killers like Pagan or David DeJesus.

No this isn't an NL only team, that's just how it worked out. I assure you that when we see who's carrying the righty heavy splits, you'll see some A.L. players. Tomorrow, I'll flip around and swing from the other side in Part Two...