Saturday, April 30, 2011


The drafts and auctions are over. Other than checking boxscores every hour or two, what should we do now?

A lot of owners say just let them play awhile. But that’s second division thinking. There are a couple of ways you can help your squad improve right now. Both take a considerable amount of effort, but can yield substantial results.

Step 1: Many leagues provide the opportunity for owners to add new players to their rosters, either by free agent purchases or waiver claims. Some leagues allow you to pick up anyone from your fantasy league web site, while others require that a player be active before you can bid on him or claim him. Either way, it's a good idea to study the free agent list very thoroughly.

The time to get a player at a good price is before he pops up on everyone's radar. There are usually signs that an excellent opportunity is about to take place. If it looks like a player is scuffling so badly that the club may send him down, someone stands to pick up that playing time. It might be a fourth outfielder moved into a full-time job, or it might be the guy tearing up AAA who almost made the team out of Spring Training.

Take Casper Wells as an example. It may be that the only thing keeping him from playing every day is Austin Jackson, who has been terrible so far. If Wells hasn't already been taken in your league, he might be a good speculative play, given his combination of power and speed.

On the pitching side, anticipating a change in the way a reliever is used can bring rewards. For those of you in keeper leagues, an investment of a buck or two could have netted you a great freeze in Joel Hanrahan.

Another example is Fernando Salas. The owners who grabbed last week (or who might grab him this week) are optimistic, as he has now picked up two saves for the Cardinals.

Step 2: If you haven't already done so, it can be a good idea to analyze the rosters of every other owner. Doing so will show you where the other owners have weak areas which need to be improved, as well as areas of surplus from which they might deal. I make notes of my impressions of each of the other teams, and pull out those notes when a trade opportunity comes along.

Many owners just aren't very proactive when it comes to trading. The odds of making a deal with one of these passive owners can be increased significantly if you can demonstrate how your trade proposal can help his team. "You have plenty of pop on your roster, probably the most in the league. It looks like you could use a little speed, though. How about I give you X for Y. X might be good for three or four points in the standings, since stolen base totals are so closely grouped". It never fails to amaze me how many trade offers I receive that would do absolutely nothing to make my squad better. My usual response is "How would this help my team?"

Step 3: Even though every owner knows that it is still April, there's still a psychological tendency for some owners to hit the panic button when three or four of their players are hitting .160, or their team ERA is over 6.00 and rising. This can create some excellent opportunities to help your squad. I realize that everyone says "buy low" and "sell high", but doing so successfully requires finding the player who is badly under-performing now, but who should get it rolling any time.

Buying low also requires finesse. If your approach makes it obvious you are looking for a motivated seller, you may frighten away your prey. Similarly, if you are trying to trade away your $5 outfielder who is playing like an MVP, but is bound to come down to earth soon, be careful how you approach. Everyone has a different approach to trading, and sometimes the approach which is best depends upon owner across the trading table.

In summary, a vigilant owner can help his team this time of year. Lineups and pitching staffs are still shaking out. A free agent you buy now can help you for five more months, as opposed to a player purchased in August. Stay calm, but if others around you are growing impatient with their players, be ready to step in with a trade offer.

Well, that's it for this week's article. I hope your teams have gotten off to a good start, but if they have stumbled out of the gate, there are ways to get them back on track.

Good luck, and have fun!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pauly's Pickups of the Week: Ryan Roberts & Sergio Santos

I am drinking the Kool Aid. I am a believer. This is a storybook kind of player. His name is Ryan Roberts. While the Diamondbacks were desperately looking for a third baseman in the offseason, and settled with an aging (to put it kindly) Melvin Mora...little did they know that there was a home-grown guy ready to step it up.

So is this guy ready for the big time? Will there be a typical baseball movie deal in his future? Let's see:
"In 2003, Baseball America analyst John Manuel described Roberts as the best player on the University of Texas at Arlington's squad which also included Hunter Pence."
"On August 3, 2006, Roberts connected on a solo home run in Yankee Stadium for his first major league hit in his second ever major league game."
"hit .290 in 2009 in his first true major league regular job at the age of 28, taking over the everyday second baseman's job around midseason....and tore up August with a .352 average and 4 HR."
"Stunk it up in 2010 and spent most of his time in Reno."

Sounds like a decent script to me. In any case, this guy has shown in the past that he can hit in the majors. He is extremely versatile (he is eligible at nearly every position in one of my leagues), has decent power and decent speed. I'm calling 2010 Roberts' wake-up call, and now he is taking advantage of his chance. And finally, there is no way Melvin Mora is going to stand in his way any longer this season.

Now it is true, I should have posted this last week....but family obligations, etc. etc. But if Roberts is still out there, take the shot -- he is still only 50% owned on CBS.

Sergio Santos....I'm going to be honest, I have only seen him pitch once or twice. But when you are trolling for cheap saves, it means jumping now on guys you know you probably won't have on your roster for a very long time. That means biting the bullet and signing Darren Oliver for two weeks (has anyone played for more major league teams?).

It also means taking a shot on Santos, who has converted two straight saves in the back of the murky ChiSox bullpen -- and I think he has yet to piss off Ozzie Guillen, so roll with it while it lasts!

Definitely helps that when you check out his last 7 game log, Santos has posted goose eggs all the way down the dreaded ER column...and that's how you don't piss off Ozzie, and that's how you move up in the standings.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Links You May Find Interesting

Whither Clay Buchholz’s Fastball?

Something is clearly off with Buchholz if he is seeing nearly a three mph drop from the end of last year, but last year’s velocity increase throughout the season is encouraging news for anyone concerned that his fastball is gone and never coming back.

Frank McCourt to make longshot pitch to league officials

The result of that meeting could determine whether McCourt proceeds with legal action against Commissioner Bud Selig, but one longtime major league executive said Tuesday he is convinced nothing McCourt might say could sway Selig from moving toward new ownership of the Dodgers.

Still No Joe Mauer?

Today, Joe Mauer should be coming off the DL. He’s not. We don’t know why. We don’t know why he went on the DL in the first place, because after 2 weeks, it seems unlikely that it was just the flu. We don’t know what the specialist in Baltimore told him. And we don’t know what needs to happen for him to return, or how long that will be. I’m starting to wonder if anyone in the Twins does know.

24 Consecutive Games With A Hit Makes ESPN's Karabell Notice Ethier

Fantasy owners have a tendency to assume that a player performing above and beyond his past history early in a season is an automatic sell-high option. But in the case of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who is in the midst of an April-record hitting streak (extended to 24 games Wednesday!), I'm not so sure that's the case. In March, I recommended numerous Dodgers as bounce-back choices, led by Matt Kemp, Ethier and Rafael Furcal and, to a lesser degree, James Loney and Jonathan Broxton (OK, so that's not working out), but as I watch Either hit against the Florida Marlins on Wednesday afternoon, I'm reminded that he can flat-out hit, and he looks versatile at the plate, stinging line drives all over the field.

Segura and Trout Continue to Break Out

Meanwhile, Jean Segura persists in simply dominating Cal League pitching, and launched his first two HRs Wednesday night with the 66ers in a 17 hit onslaught against the Mavericks in High Desert. This was coupled with two stolen bases to give him eight bags on the young season. Segura, who turned 21 in March, has made the transition to shortstop effortlessly, with only a single error in the first 18 games.

The Jose Bautista Cleanup Project

While more and more opponents may be intimidated of facing Jose Bautista, is it possible the Blue Jays aren't maximizing his potential by batting him in the three slot? On any other team, their best hitter would be hitting cleanup, but Bautista remains hitting third.

Are you enjoying the NBA Playoffs?

Oklahoma's Stars Have Words

Don’t get me wrong, Westbrook is a fantastic player, and at 22 he’s going to be one for a long time. But he’s a fantastic player with a Colorado-sized chip on his shoulder, and his quest to leave his imprint on every possession of every game often takes him racing past the nuances that could make him a better point guard and a better basketball player.

How the Grizzlies Came to Be

The process of returning the Grizzlies to respectability began in the summer of 2008 when the team traded for the draft rights to both O.J. Mayo and Darrell Arthur. To get Mayo’s rights they had to trade the rights to Kevin Love, but even though Love is currently the better player, Mayo has been a solid contributor to this year’s team. Arthur was disappointing in his first two seasons with the team, but has emerged as an athletic, energy guy off the bench for Memphis this season and is in the conversation for Most Improved Player.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Season Thus Far...

It has been a great season so far.

Maybe, they all seem great to me. But I'm having fun watching the game this year. Really enjoying baseball. The Boston Red Sox are fighting their way back to a .500 winning percentage, a feat never accomplished by a team starting 0-6. But we all knew they were better than this. Their starters got off to a rough start but have been lights out lately. Dice-K Matsuzaka has been great in his last couple of starts, truly great, great like the hype said he would be five years ago. The starter that hasn't really come on as expected is Clay Buchholz. But we knew he was not quite what he seemed to be last season. Too much of that bad start is being credited to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and too much credit for the resurgence has gone to Jason Varitek. If you can afford to hold on to Salty, I would do it. Kevin Youkilis is hitting but not at the levels we know he can reach. Carl Crawford is slumping but has shown signs of emerging lately, he's way too good to give up on.

The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are shocking a lot of baseball fans with their hard-fought wins and losses. The Tribe's Jack Hannahan (an unlikely starter at third base by most reckonings) hit two homers last night against those Royals and their staff's number one starter Luke Hochevar. Hochevar has been a mixed bag this season. He has a decent whip but his era is a bit high at this point. Stick with him if you have nothing to lose or you can stash him against certain teams. But he is the kind of pitcher that will frustrate you over the course of the season. I have my eye on every player these two teams call up, because their best players have yet to arrive.

A ton of great players haven't really hit their rhythm yet. Albert Pujols has shown signs of breaking through his funk lately only to suffer a mild hamstring pull. Josh Hamilton is injured (again) and after a great start Nelson Cruz is slowing down a bit more than we like to see. Mark Teixeira also tried to break his slow start trend but hasn't really delivered the batting average. But it could be worse...

The Most Disappointing Ten (by fWAR) Thus Far

1. Raul Ibanez OF Phillies - He's losing at-bats to John Mayberry Jr.
2. Carl Crawford OF Red Sox - He'll be fine.
3. Aubrey Huff 1B/OF Giants - Is he back to that every odd year thing?
4. Juan Pierre OF White Sox - So much for speed never slumping...
5. Alex Rios OF White Sox - Now you know why the ChiSox are struggling to score runs...
6. James Loney 1B Dodgers - The man Jerry Sands will eventually force to be traded.
7. Chris Johnson 3B Astros - I'm shocked.
8. Miguel Tejada SS Giants - No, he doesn't have much left but he's still better than this.
9. Nick Markakis OF Orioles - He'll probably never be what we hoped, but trade for him now.
10. Brett Gardner OF Yankees - Supposedly his swing is messed up. I'm a little worried.

and so we're not dwelling on the negative...

The Best of the Best Thus Far... (another Top Ten by fWAR)

1. Jose Bautista 3B Blue Jays - Now do you believe?
2. Joey Votto 1B Reds - MVP, MVP, MVP!
3. Troy Tulowitski SS Rockies - I thought those picking him 2nd overall would be disappointed, opps...
4. Matt Holliday OF Cardinals - "I don't need no damn rehab games or time off!"
5. Howie Kendrick 2B Angels - Finally!
6. Ryan Braun OF Brewers - Already rewarded with a new contract. Groundball hitter...HAH!
7. Curtis Granderson OF Yankees - Ok, coach you fixed Grandy but you screwed up Jeter and Gardner!
8. Colby Rasmus OF Cardinals - This might be the season he puts it all together.
9. Matt Kemp OF Dodgers - I never doubted you, buddy!
10. Andre Ethier OF Dodgers - Outfielders are ready, just need an owner.

In case you care, I've not been well lately. Nothing tragic, but I've been exhausted. Too much so to do much more than work my crazy stressful day job and deal with my four hours of commuting back and forth. I hope you've enjoyed reading Pauly and Lucky's work, I'm praying they'll stick around. But this site isn't going anywhere but up and to better places in the future.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pauly's Pickup of the Week: Nick Hundley

OK I may be a tiny bit biased about this one, but here's my case.

Back on draft day, I put Hundley up for auction as my second nominee at my 10-team NL-only auction. I put him up for a dollar, since I only bid $1 for catchers, just to see what would happen. Would it become a nightmare when low-ranked guys like Hundley actually went for more than a dollar? Well, it wouldn't, because I put up Hundley and all I heard were crickets.

So, I landed him for a buck, but I wasn't that worried. Hundley was tearing the cover off the ball in spring training, he is the magic age of 27, and he has three good years under his belt with a steadily progressing OPS.

Catcher, as a fantasy position, is the closest thing to a barren wasteland of contributors as you can get, and most people are just trying to find a guy that wont hurt them, as opposed to helping them. With a guy like Hundley, you can likely have your cake and eat it too -- at least the way he is raking right now.

Needless to say, Hundley has already earned his dollar this season, batting .361 and slugging .639 through his first 11 games. Let's compare that to the 12 catchers who were picked before him (excluding the big-money guys, who, outside of McCann, Hundley is outperforming anyway).

Hundley: .361 avg 2 HR 1.081 OPS

  1. Geovany Soto: .220 avg 1 HR .646 OPS
  2. Miguel Montero: .444 avg 2 HR 1.262 OPS
  3. Mike Napoli: .333 avg 3 HR 1.312 OPS
  4. Matt Wieters: .212 avg 1 HR .661 OPS
  5. Yadier Molina: .189 avg 0 HR .539 OPS
  6. Carlos Ruiz: .351 avg 2 HR .982 OPS
  7. Kurt Suzuki: .186 avg 1 HR .581 OPS
  8. Jorge Posada: .189 avg 5 HR .825 OPS
  9. J.P. Arencibia: .323 avg 2 HR 1.110 OPS
  10. Chris Iannetta: .207 1 HR .866 OPS
  11. Russell Martin: .289 3 HR .904 OPS
  12. John Buck: .217 1 HR .641 OPS

As you can see, of everybody who spent more than you on draft day for a catcher (forget the dudes who banked on McCann, Mauer, Posey, Martinez and Santana -- that's a discussion of craziness for another article), only those who drafted Miguel Montero, J.P. Arencibia and Mike Napoli are feeling as good as Hundley owners right now -- and those owners undoubtedly spent much more at the draft to earn those stats.

Can Hundley keep it up? Sure, a .440 BABIP isn't going to last, but Hundley has already been moved up into the heart of the San Diego lineup (he hit fifth on Thursday), with the rest of the team struggling offensively. The bottom line for me is Hundley is a guy who was trending upward heading into the season, had a great spring training, and is continuing that rise to start the season.

Nick Hundley isn't Carlton Fisk, but if you own some of those guys above, it may be time to consider a change. Go pick up Hundley and pawn dead weight like Wieters or Soto to a less-savvy owner for something that can actually help you in the short- and/or long-term. The longer these high-priced catchers suck, the less time you have to cash in on their perceived value.

My pitcher pick for this week remains Alexi Ogando. Go get him!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pauly's Pickups of the Week: Brennan Boesch & Alexi Ogando

For all of you who missed out on the Jordan Walden sweepstakes, here are a couple of guys to keep a close eye on (and potentially make a move). I understand that everyone's league is different, but my pickups of the week should apply to your standard 12-team formats.

And if last week's recommendation is any indication, these choices are merely suggestions :)

Hitter of the week: Brennan Boesch OF Det
Those of us who rode the Boesch roller coaster last year know how good it can be when the young outfielder is running hot. They key is to get while the gettin's good -- and now is that time. Why? Because this guy is about as free as a free-swinger can get, which usually translates into the highest of highs and rock-bottom lows.

Boesch hit .342/.397/.593 in the first half last year, was actually snubbed (arguably) from the all-star team, and was leading the AL Rookie of the Year race by a mile. But of course, his ultra-aggressive approach eventually caught up to him, and he hit an almost unbelievable .163/.237/.222 the rest of the way.

As of now, Boesch is getting a lot of playing time, and even opened the season with hits in four of his first five games. Sure, he didnt have any walks in that span, but he does have two free bags in his last three games (albeit with no hits) -- for a guy with only 40 walks in 464 ABs last year, this might actually be an improvement.

In any case, it doesnt hurt to pick up a hot player, and Boesch certainly fits that category right now.

Pitcher of the Week: Alexi Ogando, Tex
Last week I was in Vegas blowing $ with my uncanny ability to pick the wrong side of baseball games -- and during an incredible streak that saw me pick 9 games and win only ONE (ouch), I did happen upon this rookie starting pitcher with the Texas Rangers.

For my bet, I had taken the underdog and much more heralded rookie, Michael Pineda of Seattle, to upset Ogando and the Rangers. But the young Dominican converted outfielder stole the show (and my cash) with a downright nasty fastball that was hitting 95-plus routinely with movement, along with a very good-looking slider and splitter.

Ogando may be a risk, since he does not have extended time pitching (only 112 IP over four years in the minors), is only filling in for Brandon Webb right now (well that's not so bad), and lets face it, the Mariners hitting lineup might be worse than the University of Virginia's.

However, with this kind of electric stuff, be sure to see what Ogando does in his next start, which comes today at 1 p.m. against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander.

UPDATE: Ogando looked awesome today, pitching 7 innings with 4 K, 1 BB, 2 hits allowed and no runs. If Neftali Feliz shuts the door, Mr. Ogando is 2-0 and has himself a pretty decent ERA (that's under 1.00, kids). Mark my words, he will be the hot pickup across fantasy baseball....probably in less than 2 weeks.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Pauly's Pickup of the Week: Takashi Saito

Time to throw out those multi-sheet projections (better yet, recycle them) was opening day yesterday, which means it's time to start going on some real numbers.

When you have 6 total MLB games to go on, the player pool for the first pickup of the week is rather thin, but thanks to Ramon Hernandez, it was pretty easy to pick the first one - Brewers RP Takashi Saito.

Heading into the season on those projection sheets, John Axford looked pretty decent -- he was a good strikeout guy last season and was very successful in the closer's role, converting 24 of 27. What a difference a day makes, as the second-year pitcher got utterly torched with an inherited three-run lead, looked bad doing it, and the debacle was capped by a three-run walk-off HR courtesy of the light-hitting Hernandez.

Yes, it is just one game, and yes, Axford only gave up one HR in 58 innings last year, but -- in all honesty -- my eye was on Saito even before this mess.

Saito may be flying under the radar because of his more limited (than he is used to) role with the Braves last season. Even so, he was still extremely effective (2.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP) -- something that happens with Saito just about every season. Take away his one year with the Red Sox (the year his closer role was stripped away), and the career WHIP is in the 1.05 range.

Let's not forget that Saito was a big-time closer for the Dodgers for three straight years from '06-'09, where he averaged 20-plus saves with some of the best ratios you could hope for; and not only that, but he is also a true contributor in Ks for an RP. Yesterday Saito came into the 8th inning with a 3-run lead and gave up two singles, but he also struck out two and got out of the inning unscathed.

For all Axford accomplished last season, he is still not the most experienced closer on Milwaukee. If you aren't willing to take Saito now for the ERA, WHIP and Ks, you'd best keep an eye on him and Axford in Milwaukee.

I will be on the road in Vegas next Friday, so Pauly's Pickups of the Week will next appear on Monday April 11. From then on, this column will appear on Fridays. --Pauly