Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Martinez,Garland, Huff, and More

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgivings or at least went to the movies. I'm digging through the AFL results and reports and thinking about the Rule V Draft, so you should see stuff about that soon. I also have a report on Elvis Andrus, who believe it or not some have been labeling overrated.

Major Free-Agent Signings

The Detroit Tigers signed free agent catcher Victor Martinez.

The Detroit Tigers signed Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50 million contract to become their primary catcher (catching about half the time), part-time designated hitter and occasional first baseman. The contract is not a bad one for the Tigers. Martinez is one of the better available bats in free agency and is a solid versatile player. He may not be catching in 2013 when the Tigers' other catcher, Alex Avila, will have either proven himself or been replaced. However, he should still be a valuable designated hitter. What this means for players like Ryan Raburn and Carlos Guillen hasn't been made clear yet. Be patient before reacting to changes on the Tigers, there is still a lot of Hot Stove Season left.

The Tigers pitching staff could be cringing at this news considering Martinez has problems on the defensive side of the catcher position. Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka all pitched considerably better during the 2010 season when Martinez was not behind the plate.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed free agent right-hander Jon Garland.


Garland will be guaranteed $5 million for 2011 with an additional $3 million in incentives and an $8 million option in 2012 that will become guaranteed if he reaches 190 innings pitched in 2011. He has reached that number in all nine seasons since he became a full-time starter.
By most measures, Dodger Stadium is not quite the pitchers' haven that Petco Park has become. Still, if the Dodger defense bounces back, Jon Garland should be a very effective fifth starter for the Blue. Garland had a nice 2010 season with a boost in his k-rate and the Petco effect complementing well. He is very likely to take a step back in 2011. However, if I owned Garland at a reasonable price in a NL-only league I would definitely consider adding him to by list of keepers. In mixed leagues it depends on the depth of the available pitching but it would still be a consideration at the right price.

The San Francisco Giants re-signed free agent first baseman Aubrey Huff.

The Giants rewarded their best hitter of their 2010, World Series winning season with a two-year $22 million deal to continue to hit in the middle of their lineup. Huff isn't an elite first base option, and has had problems with consistency but was a solid option at first base in a short term contract such as this one. Huff should be a nice keeper option in most NL-only leagues and a solid middle round connection in mixed leagues. Brandon Belt owners should have no fear of Huff blocking him. One of them, most likely Huff, will move to left field when the time comes.

There seems to be a perception out there that Huff was playing over his head. He clearly was not. He did not have a great 2009 season and that was the reason he was available on the cheap for the Giants. His 2010 stats while very good were much different than his other good seasons. I would not want to bet on him at full price in a fantasy league but at the price he was available at last year, he makes a great keeper.

The Detroit Tigers signed free agent relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit.

Joaquin Benoit banks the huge season he had for the Tampa Bay Rays. He will receive $16.5 million over three years to become the primary set-up reliever for closer Jose Valverde. Many analysts believe this contract is too long for benoit who has not been durable in the past. I think it is fairly reasonable. When Benoit is healthy he is one of the better relievers in baseball and deserves to be paid as such.

The Trades

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded lefty Zach Duke to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Pirates designated Zach Duke for assignment and made him available to every team in the process. The Arizona Diamondbacks stepped in and offered a Player To Be Named Later for Duke. Chances are the Diamondbacks will make Duke a decent contract offer. If he accepts he'll be in the rotation this season, if not he'll be non-tendered.

It's easy for prospect-crazed analysts to look at the Pittsburgh Pirates young stars and see a brighter future. They certainly have the bats of a future contender to build around. They have a few big arms on their way up the minor league system. Things are brighter than they've been in a long time, so tossing Zach Duke away like so much garbage seems pretty easy from the perspective of a Pirates fan and possibly even Pirates staff. the unfortunate part is the Pirates never put Duke in a position to succeed.

Zach Duke is a pitcher that relies heavily on the defense behind him. He has better than average control, He induces a fair number of groundballs, but does not have the stuff to rack up strikeouts in large bunches. In the estimation of many analysts Duke would seem to have two thirds of the stuff we like to see in our pitchers (as far as results are concerned, tools/stuff is another thing altogether) control and groundballs. Now, consider that the Pirates had one of (if the absolute worst) defense in MLB in 2010. In 2010 Duke was worth 0.4 WAR in an awful season. In 2009, the Pirates had one of the better defenses in MLB. In 2009, Duke was worth a solid 2.5 WAR. Now the Diamondbacks, owner of one of the better 2010 defensive teams, own Duke, and a sleeper (for NL-only leagues at least) is born.

The New York Yankees traded first baseman Juan Miranda to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor leaguer Scottie Allen.

Juan Miranda had no place to go in the Yankees organization. He was trapped behind Mark Teixeira and the aging Yankees who will populate the designated hitter spot over the next few years. The trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks could be a blessing in disguise for both Miranda and fantasy owners. Miranda projects as a solid MLB first base option. Offensively he is probably a little better than Diamondback first base prospect, Brandon Allen. Allen can play left field, where the Diamondbacks presently have penciled in the weak-hitting (but defensively superior) Gerardo Parra. Miranda is capable of batting around .260-.270 with 25-35 homeruns with a solid walk rate and decent defense in a full season. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on this situation.


Scott Allen, meanwhile, goes to the Yankees in the Miranda deal. The 19-year-old was an 11th round draft pick in the 2009 draft. In 2010, he posted rates of 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 78 innings pitched at South Bend of the Low-A Midwest League. According to Baseball America, the 6-1, 170 pound Allen sits 87-91 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a decent high-70s slider and changeup and a fringy curveball. Allen didn’t crack either Kevin Goldstein’s or John Sickels’ recent lists of top Diamondbacks prospects.

Other Significant Transactions

Kansas City Royals released RHP Bryan Bullington.

Seattle Mariners signed free agent LHP Fabio Castro.

Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Charlie Haeger.

Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Chris Smith.

Cincinnati Reds signed free agent LHP Dontrelle Willis.

Minnesota Twins signed free agent 1B Justin Huber.

New York Yankees released RHP Jonathan Albaladejo.

St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent LHP Raul Valdes.

Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent 2B Josh Barfield.

Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent 2B Pete Orr.

Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent LHP Dan Meyer.

Kansas City Royals signed free agent RF Brett Carroll.

Other Thoughts...

The Minnesota Twins were the top bidder for the rights to sign Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins are trying to add speed to their lineup. Nishioka has it but is not an elite base stealer, just a competent one. How his stolen base rate translates to MLB will be something to watch, I would not set my hopes at middle infield Ichiro, as some have suggested.

Catching prospect Derek Norris could be a nice sleeper. He has a higher upside than Wilson Ramos who has a solid shot at being the primary catcher for the Washington Nationals in 2011. Watch for Norris owners who are ready to give up on him due to the poor batting average and the Ramos acquisition. Norris is still one to watch.

Gary Sanchez is the long term future of the Yankees at the catcher position. He has tremendous offensive potential and the instincts to be a dynamic defensive catcher. He is a primary target in AL-only leagues with minor league systems.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hot Stove Update: John Buck, Clint Barmes and Rajai Davis

I am a baseball fan. I live for baseball news during the Fall and Winter months. But I also love football. I was stunned by Michael Vick's performance last week (especially since it cost me two wins) and I can't wait to see what he does against the best defense in the NFL this weekend. However, what is most on my mind this morning is a question. Why are Matt Kemp and Justin Upton so clearly on the trade market and where will they land?

So far, the Boston Red Sox seem like the most aggressive suitor of Upton. Our friend DJ from Fire Brand of the American League believes the Red Sox should have been in on Dan Uggla as a left fielder or even a third baseman. I disagree, but then we also disagree about how much Red Sox fans want Adrian Beltre back (I think a lot, he says they don't care).The Red Sox definitely have the major league ready prospects the Arizona Diamondbacks are looking for, but are they willing to satisfy the quantity that general manager Kevin Towers is demanding, three major league ready prospects and two other prospects. But Upton's shoulder problems may force him to lessen his demands or take Upton off the market.

There are a few teams interested in Kemp as well. The Washington Nationals seem like a long shot, they have a few nice prospects but they don't seem deep enough to get the job done. But that is without actually hearing what it is the Dodgers want. I'd think a lot but you never know... The Los Angeles Dodgers have plenty of prospects anyway, but I think they want players to help their major league team right now.

The Phillies are definitely interested. Bradley Schlegel of thinks the Phillies should send stud second baseman, Chase Utley, to Los Angeles for Kemp. I think that's a very interesting idea. Schlegel is even prepared to add Dominic brown to the deal as a sweetener. That may be a little much in my opinion. Brown or Utley I can see doing either but both doesn't make much sense in the long term.

Meanwhile, teams like the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins are investigating the talent available from Japan. The Athletics have already won the bidding for Hisashi Iwakuma, thought to be the second best pitcher in Japan last season. They have thirty days from the date they won the bidding to sign him. The Twins are interested in infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who can play either second base or shortstop. The Twins apparently want to add his speed to their lineup which Nishioka can do, even if he isn't a great base-stealer.

Major Free Agent Signings

Florida Marlins signed free agent C John Buck to a three-year $18 million contract.

This transaction has been slammed, almost universally. John Buck has some power (for a catcher) but he is a terrible hitter. He is severely lacking in patience and discipline at the plate. He also isn't so great a defensive catcher that he warrants the huge contract the Marlins are giving him. To boot, his fantasy value will take a hit moving from the homer haven of the Rogers Centre to the pitcher's dream that is Sun Life Stadium. Don't be as excited about him as the Marlins seem to be and consider him as a second catcher at best.


The Houston Astros sent right-handed starter Felipe Paulino to the Colorado Rockies for middle infielder Clint Barmes.

On the surface perhaps you can understand what Ed Wade, the general manager of the Houston Astros is trying to do. His team lacks power and is especially poor in the middle infield. Adding Clint Barmes who has had some successful seasons for the Colorado Rockies might ring as a good idea. But that depends on what you're giving up and what you can reasonably expect Barmes to produce outside of Coors Field which significantly boosts offensive statistics.

Barmes is a very good defensive infielder at both second base and shortstop. He is a very poor hitter. He lacks plate discipline, swings at far more pitches out of the strike one than most batters. He does not draw walks, although he did reach a career high in walk rate in 2010. But he does have decent power, and hits a lot of flyballs. Unfortunately, Barmes is moving from one of the best parks for hitters in 2010 to one of the worst, Minute Maid Park.

In exchange for good defense (which they already had) they sent the Rockies 27-year old right-handed power pitcher, Felipe Paulino. Paulino has some potential thanks to nice stuff but has lost a ton of time to injuries in his career thus far. Paulino's largest failings are mediocre control and the lack of durability. He has a nice strikeout rate and has gotten better at keeping the ball in the park and draws a decent number of groundballs. tERA liked his performance a lot in 2010. Still, the results have not been there so you can understand why the Astros would be willing to trade him.

The problem is the Rockies had no further use for Barmes with Eric Young, and Chris Nelson ready to battle for the second base position and the rest of the infield in good hands. There is a very good chance that Barmes would have been non-tendered and the Astros could have had him for just money. For fantasy purposes both players are less desirable than they were before. I might make a low dollar bid on Felipe Paulino in my NL-only leagues but I'd pass on Barmes unless I were truly desperate.

The Oakland Athletics traded outfielder Rajai Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays for two prospects : RHP Danny Farquhar and RHP Trystan Magnuson.

The Blue Jays have not made it clear what their plans for Rajai Davis are. He could become their new center fielder with Vernon Wells moving to either left or right field (Jose Bautista would move to third base in that scenario). They could also use him a fourth outfielder if the rumors of a Manny Ramirez signing have some truth to them. Manny would become the designated hitter and push Adam Lind to first base.

Either way, you can be certain that Davis is in town to add speed and defense to the Blue Jays powerful lineup. He should continue to provide bunches of steals but it is difficult to say how many until we know what role he will fill. As a full time player he could easily steal 50-plus base or provide 20 or so coming off the bench. We'll have to wait and see.

The Blue Jays parted with a pair of decent prospects who both project to be decent major league middle relievers. It may be a bit much for a player like Davis but the Blue Jays are swimming in pitching prospects and middle relievers are easy to find.
The Prospects:

Danny Farquhar was the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year. He was selected by the Blue Jays with the 309th overall selection. A relief pitcher, he employs a deceptive delivery to induce strikeouts, but control problems have limited his effectiveness. The Blue Jays thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League.

Trystan Magnuson was the 56th overall pick by the Blue Jays in 2007. Because of a sore elbow Magnuson did not make his pro debut until 2008. After struggling as a starter he was moved to the bullpen in 2009. In 2009 he had a 2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings for High-A Dundein and Double-A New Hampshire. Magnuson continued to make strides with New Hampshire in 2010. His strike-out rate rose from 6.50 K/9 to 7.73 K/9 and his walk rate improved from 3.80 BB/9 to 1.23 BB/9. He was an Eastern League All-Star and a member of the World Team in the 2010 Futures Game.
Other Transactions

Minnesota Twins signed free agent LHP Phil Dumatrait.

Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Justin Miller.

Seattle Mariners signed free agent SS Sean Kazmar.

Chicago Cubs released 1B Micah Hoffpauir.

Colorado Rockies released RHP Manuel Corpas.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Dan Uggla, Cameron Maybin, David DeJesus

Well the Hot Stove season certainly seems to have cranked up early. The Florida Marlins have made two trades, their star second baseman and their center fielder for three middle relievers and a glorified utility player. Meanwhile the Oakland Athletics have stuck with their recent pitching and defense first strategy, except they seem more willing to spend money than they have been in decades. The San Diego Padres want to win despite their budget and they just might. As usual the Atlanta Braves are fearlessly re-shuffling the deck and stretching their resources to strengthen their contending team.

The Trades

The Kansas City Royals sent outfielder David DeJesus to the Oakland Athletics for lefty reliever Justin Marks and right-handed starter Vin Mazzaro.

The last few seasons have seen the Oakland Athletics move a few steps away from the emphasis on on-base percentage and power that made the organization famous after
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game became a huge hit. Those that actually read the book and listened to general manager Billy Beane, understand that it was never about OBP. It was about exploiting weaknesses in the market. Presently, if the composition of the Athletics roster tells us anything, the A's are looking for quality defensive players that are major league average offensively. David DeJesus fits into that mold almost perfectly.

***The Athletics also seem to be exploiting the prejudice against players with injury history, DeJesus fits into that mold as well.

The Kansas City Royals have been dangling DeJesus as bait for almost a year. He has a competent bat capable of producing from various spots in a lineup and plays very good defense in the corner outfield spots. He makes extremely good contact with the ball and hits lots of line-drives with mediocre power, typically in the 8-12 homer range (he's capable of hitting around 20 homers in the right park, the Oakland Coliseum is not it). He has slightly above average speed but is a poor base stealer, which will probably reduce his steal totals in Oakland to none. DeJesus possesses outstanding plate discipline and would make an excellent number three hitter for the Athletics. He could very well pile up the RBI batting behind Oakland's speedy outfielders
Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp (if healthy).

Both Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks have above average stuff but neither has been seen that stuff translate into above average results. Mazzaro came out of the minors with a powerful sinker that in the majors has failed to induce grounders. Without either groundballs or strikeouts he has depended almost entirely on the excellent defense of the Athletics. Unfortunately for Mazzaro, the Royals defense has been nearly as good. Mazzaro still has excellent potential but needs to work on locating his sinker better to induce those grounders. If the Royals can help him with this, they may have done very well acquiring Mazzaro alone. Fantasy owners looking for cheap starters to get lucky with could do a lot worse than Mazzaro.

Justin Marks has nice strikeout stuff but has struggled with a groin injury that required surgery in 2009. He was slowed to start 2010 because of it and his initial results proved that he had quite a bit of re-adjusting to do.
(Re-Adjusting, was that funny? I can't decide...) Marks does have excellent potential and is one to watch.

The Boston Red Sox traded lefty relief prospect Dustin Richardson to the Florida Marlins for the disappointing (but still potential laden) left-handed pitcher, Andrew Miller.

Dustin Richardson has two great fastballs and a decent slurve but has struggled to gain command over his pitches. He will pitch in 2011 at 27-years old. He has potential but is running out of time to make use of it. This is not dissimilar to the man for whom he was traded. The difference is Andrew Miller was supposed to have even greater potential. The Red Sox do have excellent teachers in their system but I would bet against Miller having a fantasy impact this season.

The Red Sox gain the player with the greater potential. The Marlins get a similar player who may be fired up to play for a team that may actually have a spot for him. But I expect Richardson will be little more than a lefty specialist who isn't all that great at his job.

The San Diego Padres send right-handed relievers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb to the Florida Marlins for center fielder Cameron Maybin.

The Marlins struggled with their bullpen in 2010. They obviously needed some help in that area and Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb are pretty good additions to their bullpen. But I do not understand why they decided to send the incredibly gifted
Cameron Maybin to the Padres to acquire them. It seems like a massive overpay to me.

Cameron Maybin has not been good in his brief major league stints but has shown some real progress in the minor leagues. He will never be a real power hitter hitting as many ground balls as he does, but in Petco that's almost to be expected. He does have power potential, if he can adjust his swing to add power to the gaps he can be an extremely effective player for San Diego.

For the Padres he should play pretty good defense in center field and has the potential to be a dynamic leadoff hitter. His plate discipline is approaching average in the major leagues. He actually needs to be more aggressive in my opinion. He watches a lot of pitches go by and swings at far fewer in the strike zone than the average hitter. I think in a full season he could hit for a decent (.265-.275) average with a bit of power (the 8-12 homer range I guess) and 20-30 steals.

Bill James is projecting .277/.349/.424 with 14 homers, 85 runs, 60 rbi, 20 sbs, 7cs which would make the Padres extremely happy. I think Maybin owners would be pretty happy with it as well.

Mujica is a good middle reliever with excellent control but has had problems keeping the ball in the park. This problem will only get worse moving out of Petco. He has some value in deeper fantasy leagues but shallow-mixed league owners probably won't gain anything by owning him.

Ryan Webb is a potential closer candidate. He has a decent (not great) strikeout rate complemented by pretty good control and the ability to induce groundballs at an above average rate. The Marlins have
Leo Nunez in the closer role in the short term but I can see them making a change in the long term to Webb. That makes him a nice reserve round or dollar days pick-up.

The Atlanta Braves traded power lefty reliever Michael Dunn and Utility Infielder Omar Infante to the Florida Marlins for second baseman Dan Uggla.

The Atlanta Braves sacrifice some defense to put their three year need for a right-handed power bat to rest. Dan Uggla has averaged 31 homers per season in five major league seasons. He is coming off his best season having hit .287/.369/.508 with 33 homers, 100 runs, 105 rbi and four stolen bases.

Uggla experienced a career high BABIP of .330 in 2010. When compared to his career BABIP of .302 it appears he was pretty fortunate to hit for as high an average as he did. However, Uggla is an extremely disciplined hitter who swings at very few pitches out of the strike zone and makes good contact within the zone. However, his batting average suffers because he hits the majority of his pitches into the air which results in far more flyouts.

Uggla is moving into a much better homerun park and could see a significant boost to his power numbers. His batting average could even be aided by seeing a larger number of his flyballs leave the park. He should also have a much better lineup around him with
Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, and promising rookie Freddie Freeman (not the boy who becomes the super-hero...Captain Marvel Jr.). They should help Uggla pile up lots of RBI opportunities.

Martin Prado becomes the left fielder, a position he has apparently played in the Venezuelan Winter League. For a year at least he should have nice dual position eligibility in most leagues.

Omar Infante has had a few nice seasons since coming to the Atlanta Braves from the Detroit Tigers. He has very little power but makes a lot of contact with the ball. He has fairly average plate discipline but refuses to take walks. He isn't a great defensive player but is not a liability which is a huge defensive upgrade over Uggla for the Marlins. But without any power or even speed to contribute he is probably miscast as an everyday player. His fantasy value depends on his BABIP staying high as it has the last couple of years, which results in strong batting averages. He won't contribute in any other fantasy categories.

Mike Dunn is a decent strikeout loogy but has poor command. He is unlikely to have any fantasy value.

Other Transactions of Interest

Oakland Athletics claim Edwin Encarnacion off waivers from Toronto Blue Jays.

"The Oakland A's are excited to have had our bid for Hisashi Iwakuma accepted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles," the team said in a statement. "Out of respect for the posting process and for Mr. Iwakuma and his representative, we will not have any comment until the 30-day negotiation period comes to an end."

The A's continued a busy offseason by reportedly signing Vicmal de la Cruz, a sought-after center-field prospect from the Dominican Republic. The A's also inked third baseman Renato Nunez of Venezuela in early July for $2.2 million and signed top Venezuelan catching prospect Argenis Raga later that month.

Boston Red Sox claim Taylor Buchholz off waivers from Toronto Blue Jays.

St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent RHP Jake Westbrook.

The new-look Florida Marlins?

It is uncanny. I go ahead and vent my bellyaching for the Marlins trade of Cameron Maybin and what do they do?

Of course, they one-up me.

In case you hadn't heard, the Marlins just traded Dan Uggla for career utility man Omar Infante and LH reliever Mike Dunn.

I think we just found #11 on the list of worst trades in the last 25 years in my previous posting. Holy cannoli!

It's hard to ascertain what the Marlins are doing here. They just traded their CF and 2B for three relievers and a utility infielder for heaven's sake....but there may be a silver lining on this very dark cloud (more on this in a second).

First, I understand the reasons why the Marlins needed to trade Uggla away. Forget the fact that he is the club's all-time home run leader, because he refused a decent $48 million offer from the Marlins earlier this offseason. Yes, Florida had to get some kind of return on investment -- and as a my good friend Adam reminded me yesterday, the Marlins got Uggla for nothing way back in 2005 in the Rule 5 Draft.

But Omar Infante? I'm not a fan. In his last five seasons with Detroit and then Atlanta, he has averaged 88.8 games played per season. Forget his ridiculous all-star selection last season -- this guy is simply a career backup infielder (8 years worth of being one, too) who has played well recently -- although his defense is extremely suspect. In 29 games as a third baseman (the position he projects to play in Florida), he committed 30 errors last season. Yeah -- that's more than one error PER GAME.

Dunn offers the Marlins some much-needed bullpen help; however, did they not just trade away their prospect center fielder for two relief pitchers?

It has been a fast start to the hot stove season for the Marlins. Not only have they made two pretty awful trades, but they also spent $18 million for three years on a middle-of-the-road catcher, John Buck, who probably could have been signed for half that amount. Sure, Buck hit 20 homers last season for the Blue Jays -- but guess what, he isn't going to do that next year in spacious Dolphin Stadium...although I suppose the new ballpark would be more suitable to his power.

The Silver Lining
Everything above has been undoubtedly bad for the Marlins so far. Some people on the message boards are calling for an official intervention! However, there is some good news....

First, assuming Infante is placed at third base, Chris Coghlan will move to his natural position of second base for next season. This is great news for his fantasy owners, because Cogs' production was middling at best for an OF, but should be above average production for a second baseman.

Right now, Florida does not have a center fielder (unless you count the god-awful Emilio Bonifacio) it even remotely possible that the Marlins are clearing some payroll and roster space to make a run at Carl Crawford? This is total speculation on may part, but it kind of makes sense. If you are going to trade your power-hitting second baseman to a division rival and dump your center fielder for some bullpen help in the same may be just a setup for a huge maneuver.

Then again, this IS the Marlins I'm talking about.

As of today, here is my projected Marlins lineup (assuming they make the humongous signing):
1 - Carl Crawford (CF)
2- Chris Coghlan (2B)
3- Hanley Ramirez (SS)
4- Mike Stanton (RF)
5- Gaby Sanchez (1B)
6- Logan Morrison (LF)
7- John Buck (C)
8- Omar Infante (3B)

They are definitely depending A LOT on Stanton in this lineup. But once again, the Marlins would have a very young, competitive squad that is just not quite good enough to compete with the Phillies and Braves. --Pauly

Monday, November 08, 2010

Five Keys to a Great Hot Stove Season

This article was originally published in an older blog of mine. It still makes a ton of sense.

One of the factors that annually separate the champions from the also-rans is off-season preparation. There are two types of Fantasy Owners, the first kind spends the winter playing Texas Hold-em and watching World Series of Poker re-runs. Many of the other owners mistake time spent during the winter tracking every trade rumor and constantly updating their player rankings as good preparation but it is not. Below I present you with five ways to can ensure that your Hot Stove season is a productive one without abandoning your spouse and children in favor of re-reading last season’s fantasy baseball magazines.

Reflect on last season

This very valuable step is often missed, especially when your fantasy baseball season ended in frustration. By looking back we can uncover where we went wrong. Did we take too many chances at the draft? Have you become predictable? Was that drunken Fourth of July trade you made with your weasel of a cousin a bad idea? Did you dump CC Sabathia on some “sucker” after his second terrible start in April? Making these self-evaluations, we can stop ourselves from making the same mistakes again.

We should also take the time to study our rivals. How did your league champion win? Does he make amazing trades? Did he rebuild for two years? Maybe your rival has a weakness for players on the Boston Red Sox that you can exploit. Does he have what looks like an unbeatable collection of young stars he can keep? Perhaps he exploited a loophole in the rules. We need to know our rivals as well as ourselves.

Set some goals for next season

Now that you have a better appreciation of what you did last season, you can decide what you need to do in the next one. This is more than just deciding to win a championship. Perhaps you want a more fruitful farm system. Maybe you want to improve your selection of pitchers or refine your draft strategy. It could be you just want to come up with all new strategy. By setting your goals early, you give yourself more time to achieve them.

You can also set goals you want your rivals to achieve. You can see to it that your chief rival pays full price for those older veterans he always acquires cheaply. You might need to stay in better touch with the other members of your league so your rival is not the only one involved in trade talks with the quiet guy in your league. Whenever you can make your rival change direction, pay more, or work harder you’ve done something valuable.You may want to check your poker deposit options because you should plenty of disposable income coming your way (along with a championship trophy).

Separate the noise from the knowledge

I am a true Hot Stove Junkie so I understand the temptation to read everything.


But it just isn’t necessary. The trade rumors and the speculation can be fun but most of it is noise that means very little in the long term. A far more effective course would be to discover a few good sources that report the facts that you need to know. Check in with those sources once or twice a week and you will save yourself a lot of time and effort. is one great source.

Be careful not to put too much importance on what teams and their managers and general managers say. Lou Pinella just said that his Chicago Cubs do not need any more pitching. How long will it be before you hear him say you can never have enough pitching? The Boston Red Sox are already committed to Jed Lowrie as their starting shortstop. Does it seem likely that a team that has had five shortstops since 2004 would never consider an upgrade? If we can avoid giving too much importance to the noise, we can develop a much clearer picture of the truth.

Put moves into context

To evaluate events we need to put that event into the proper context. If the Yankees were to actually sign CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Derek Lowe as they have been rumored we would learn much more than who fills the spot that retired (and should be Hall-of-Fame) starter Mike Mussina left open. We also learn that the Yankees have more questions about their starting pitching than they might be willing to admit. Is Chin-Ming Wang going to be ready to start the season? Are they worried about Joba Chamberlain’s durability as a starter? What happened to the so-called youth movement? Are they giving up on Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy after just one injury plagued season?

Understanding why a team makes the moves that it does makes our fantasy predictions and projections a lot more accurate. In the above scenario, you might not want to buy low on Phil Hughes. You might also decide that even though you own a cheap Joba Chamberlain it might be wise to see what the obsessive Yankees fan in your league is willing to offer. If Sabathia becomes a Yankee, LeBron James to the New York Knicks is a lock, right?

Do not obsess

Relax. Take time to breathe and enjoy the holidays. So you let a few news items get past you. You will catch up with them the next time you check in with your trusted sources. Fantasy Baseball is supposed to be fun. If you are pulling the hair from your scalp and losing sleep so you can scour the internet all night you are not having fun – you’re obsessed.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

2011 Sleeper: Eduardo Nunez SS New York Yankees

The 2010 Major League Baseball season is officially over. Congratulation to the San Francisco Giants for winning their first championship since leaving New York for the West Coast. I am certain that few fans (outside of California) expected the Giants to get past the Philadelphia Phillies. Actually winning the World Series was the ultimate fantasy. It makes you want to check the Belmont Sportsbook for the odds. And while it is sad that we won't have much baseball to watch over the winter months, now, in a lot of ways, is when the 2011 Fantasy Baseball season truly begins.

I have missed on plenty of sleepers in the past (you're shocked I'm sure...) and hit on more than my fair share (I despise your doubting chuckles) of undiscovered gems. One of the most galling misses was Robinson Cano. I am an avid follower of the New York Yankees but I did not see him coming. He looked like a mediocre infield prospect without much patience at the plate. A lot like Eduardo Nunez before the last two seasons of rapid development during which he became the Shortstop of the Future(read with a super-cool Space Ghost style voice).

Okay. You may be wondering how I can get excited about a Yankees shortstop prospect when Derek Jeter is as close to a lock to spend his entire career in pinstripes as any active player of the last fifty years. The easy answer is I'm not alone. The Yankees themselves were willing to part with stud catching prospect Jesus Montero in a trade for Cliff Lee back in July, but they refused to sub Nunez for injured infielder David Adams and forced the Seattle Mariners to deal with the Texas Rangers instead. It is easy to assume that Nunez is just a contingency plan in case Derek Jeter does something unexpected like become one of Buck Showalter's Baltimore Orioles. But according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News the Yankees could have other ideas:
Though no one in the Yankee high command is ever going to even speculate about the future after 2011 - especially with the very sensitive contract negotiations with Jeter about to get underway – but it's becoming increasingly clear the plan is to phase out Jorge Posada next season when his contract expires, opening up the DH slot for Alex Rodriguez, thereby allowing Jeter to move to third, making room for a more athletic shortstop, which would be the 24-year-old Venezuelan, Nunez, who hit .289 with 50 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton this season.
Yes, that could very well be just ridiculous speculation on the part of Madden but it makes a lot of sense. General Manager Brian Cashman has been adamant about incorporating more younger talent into the 25-man roster. You have seen evidence of this on the pitching staff (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson) and in the outfield (Brett Gardner). Shortstop has not been an area of great need, but even the most fervent Jeter supporters will admit it would be nice to improve the defensive range at the position. Even if Jeter does stick at shortstop Nunez is likely to see an ever increasing role off the bench - subbing at shortstop and third base as New York's aging superstars spend more time at Designated Hitter and resting on the bench.

So pretend you buy that Eduardo Nunez will receive meaningful at-bats. The question then is about his worth to fantasy owners. Obviously, I believe he will have greater value than his cost. He should come very cheaply because most will not expect him to play at all. Nunez was highly touted as a Five-Tool Prospect when the Yankees signed him as an non-drafted free-agent in 2004, as a 16-year old. Nunez is an excellent contact hitter but has struggled with patience and plate discipline in the past. He has shown very little power but has begun to pack solid muscle weight onto his once skinny frame. He is now a very solid 215 pounds. When drafted he was a frail 155 pounds. Adding power to his game is about learning to wait for his pitch, he has the potential to become a 20-plus homerun hitter. Nunez also has plus speed and is learning to become a better base stealer. He has the potential to steal 20-30 bases annually.

The last two seasons have seen massive improvements from Nunez. Some of this is the result of giving up switch-hitting to bat exclusively right-handed. Although there is still a lot of room for improvement, his plate discipline and selectivity at the plate have improved dramatically. He is waiting for his pitch more often and is more willing to take a walk. Anthony Dorunda of Pinstripes Plus ('s Yankees Site) received this quote:
"He's matured mentally a lot," hitting coach Butch Wynegar said. "I didn't know him much before but from what I've heard and what I've seen now, he's done a nice job of mentally maturing and he's got a better idea of what he's doing up at the plate. He's done a lot of battling with two strikes. whereas last year he didn't battle as well."
Defensively (relevant to playing time questions), Nunez has great hands, a cannon arm and tremendous range. He struggles with consistency and staying focused on the job at hand. He has struggled with taking bad at-bats into the field, but has shown improvement here as well. He routinely makes plays that many shortstops could not. With maturity he should become a Gold Glove caliber (in the very best sense of the phrase) shortstop in the majors.

When you bet on baseball, play in a big money fantasy leagues, or vote independent you embrace risk. Rostering Eduardo Nunez is a risk but a small one relative to price. I place his ceiling as a player somewhere around Robinson Cano's but with much better stolen base potential. He should eventually hit for a good batting average, average power, and provide great speed and excellent defense. Acquiring him in your fantasy league should be a risk well worth taking.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hamilton and Votto Win BBA's Stan Musial Awards

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance concluded their award
season today by naming the best player in each league for 2010. When
all the votes were tallied, two men were comfortably ahead.
outfielder Josh Hamilton, who hit 32 home runs and fashioned an OPS of
1.044 while leading the Rangers into the playoffs, won the award
in the American League. Hamilton received sixteen first place votes
and 261 points overall, which put him ahead of his nearest competitor,
Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, by roughly 70 points.

In the National League, helping Cincinnati to an unexpected divisional
title paid off for first baseman Joey Votto. After a season where he
cracked 37 home runs and posted a 1.024 OPS, Votto also received
sixteen first-place votes toward his total of 252 points. He also
denied St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols the chance to win
back-to-back BBA awards. Pujols was selected as MVP by the BBA in
2009, but placed second with 197 points in this year’s voting.

Winners of other Alliance awards also received votes in the Musial balloting. In the American League, Walter Johnson winner Felix Hernandez received 21 points, while Goose Gossage selection
Rafael Soriano had a single mention. On the senior circuit, Walter Johnson winner Roy Halladay placed fourth in the voting with 101 points.

The complete voting results are as follows (first place votes in parenthesis):

American League
Josh Hamilton, Texas (16) 261
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (4) 188
Robinson Cano, New York 158
Jose Bautista, Toronto (1) 146
Adrian Beltre, Boston 107
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay (1) 102
Paul Konerko, Chicago 65
Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay 56
Joe Mauer, Minnesota 50
Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland 44
Felix Hernandez, Seattle 21
Vladimir Guerrero, Texas 13
Justin Morneau, Minnesota 12
Delmon Young, Minnesota 10
Cliff Lee, Seattle/Texas 8
CC Sabathia, New York 8
Alex Rodriguez, New York 7
Clay Buchholz, Boston 4
Mark Teixeria, New York 3
Jon Lester, Boston 2
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle 2
Nick Swisher, New York 2
Jim Thome, Minnesota 2
Kevin Youkilis, Boston 2
Brett Gardner, New York 1
David Ortiz, Boston 1
Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay 1

National League
Joey Votto, Cincinnati (16) 252
Albert Pujols, St. Louis (3) 197
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado (1) 118
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia (1) 101
Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego 98
Troy Tulowitski, Colorado 98
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington 93
Matt Holliday, St. Louis 84
Aubrey Huff, San Francisco 32
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis 17
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado 16
Josh Johnson, Florida 16
Dan Uggla, Florida 16
Jayson Werth, Philadelphia 16
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee 13
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee 10
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia 9
Martin Prado, Atlanta 7
Jason Heyward, Atlanta 6
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee 5
David Wright, New York 5
Adam Dunn, Washington 4
Kelly Johnson, Arizona 4
Andres Torres, San Francisco 1

Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage
cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major
league teams as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As
of this writing, the organization consists of
233 blogs spanning all 30 major league squads as well as general baseball writing.

BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of
America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into
“chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award
are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball
were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same
league or split between the two leagues.

generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot.
Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for
voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their

Ballots are posted on the respective blogs and for this award,
were tabulated on a 13-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 point scale for first through
tenth place. In the interest of transparency, links are given below for
the ballots. Chapter affiliation is in parenthesis. Those chapters
that decided on the group method are noted with an asterisk.

American League
Camden Crazies
The Bottom Line
The Tribe Daily
Motor City Bengals
Switch Hitting Pitchers
One Royal Way
(Kansas City)*
Twinkie Talk
Seth Speaks
Bronx Baseball Daily
(New York)*
Contract Year
Rise of the Rays
(Tampa Bay)
Infield Fly
The Blue Jay Hunter
Advanced Fantasy Baseball
Victoria Seals Baseball Blog
Misc. Baseball
Blogging From The Bleachers

National League
Blog Red Machine
Marlin Maniac
Marlins Diehards
Feeling Dodger Blue
(Los Angeles)
The Eddie Kranepool Society
(New York)*
Dugger’s Corner
Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?
The Outfield Ivy
(St. Louis)
Pitchers Hit Eighth
(St. Louis)
Friar Forecast
(San Diego)*
(San Francisco)*
Advanced Fantasy Baseball
Victoria Seals Baseball Blog
Misc. Baseball
Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf
Blogging From The Bleachers

Prior Winners: 2009: Joe Mauer, Minnesota; Albert Pujols, St. Louis

The official website of the BBA is located at
The BBA can be found on Twitter by the handle @baseballblogs and by
the hashmark #bbba. Members of the BBA may be heard at Blog Talk Radio
every Tuesday night with their call-in show,
BBA Baseball Talk, which may also be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes. For more information, contact Daniel Shoptaw at