Showing posts with label Fantasy Baseball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fantasy Baseball. Show all posts

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blog Wars 2013 Mixed 5x5 League...Let's Root for the Home Team!

In hopes that late is in fact better than never, I present herewith my Advanced Fantasy Baseball roster from the Blog Wars expert league. As I have mentioned time and again, I greatly prefer auctions to drafts, but a draft was the format selected for this league, so my duty was to "improvise, adapt and overcome".  As it turns out, things went fairly well.

By a stroke of bad luck, I drew the #7 pick, a universally despised position.  At #7, you will not get one of the three "premier" first round players.  You are not close enough to the wheel to have the advantage of having two picks close together. But, as with most things in life, you can make it work to your advantage.

The first round went pretty much by the book.  Ryan Braun fell first followed by the Triple Crown winner and then the Boy Wonder, Mike Trout.  Of the three, Cabrera would have been my pick.  Braun may put up better numbers, but it is no secret that MLB is on his case for PED issues.  Whether he will be suspended for some time during the year is yet to be seen.  I also worry a little about the psychological pressures he must be under as the target of a massive investigation.  As for Trout, his 2012 season was truly one for the ages.  But, take a long breath and tell me what should make us believe he can do it in his second big league season.  He may do as well, or even better, but he lacks a track record...something Miggy clearly has.

The next three picks were Kemp, Cano, and McCutchen, in that order.  None of these selections give me any particular heartburn, but with high first round picks one should maximize predictable value, not upside.  With Kemp, whose talent is unquestioned, there are some nagging health issues.  Robinson Cano has a history of monster seasons, but it takes him 650 at-bats a year to pull this off.  With so many Yankee stars on the DL or ready for retirement, one must wonder who there will be to drive Cano in, or who will be on base for him to drive in.  Andrew McCutchen is clearly a fantastic young player, but one who has not yet reached his peak or established a level of consistency.  Had this been a keeper league, though, McCutchen would have been my pick.  As it is, I probably would have gone with Cano and crossed my fingers for his mates to get healthier.

That left it up to me at #7.  Generally, the first round means find the best player available.  In addition, I planned to grab power, batting average, and reliability.  I found all those things in a very large package named Prince Fielder.  This meant passing up on numerous legitimate first round candidates, including Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez, both of whom I love, but both of whom present some health issues.  Ditto Albert Pujols and his knee.  As for Giancoarlo Stanton, I was bothered by the quality of the hitters around him.  When your sole protection is Placido Polanco, you have some issues.  Justin Upton and Jose Reyes would have been fine picks as well, but I reminded myself that my first rounder had to be a person with good reliability as well as mammoth power and an excellent average.  Welcome to the team, big man!

Three big name pitchers went early in the second round...Strasburg, Verlander and Kershaw.  I was a little surprised that the three went 3, 4 and 5 in the second round.  Kershaw I can see as a second round pick, but Verlander was, IMO, overdrafted here.  As for Strasburg, my thinking was similar to that regarding Trout - show me you can do it for a full season, twice.

So for my second round selection, I went with Dustin Pedroia.  He's not a true masher, like Fielder, but he does have 20-25 home run power.  There were two more factors I considered here. One is that second base is a very thin position at the top.  The other is that Boston may run more this year than we've seen in a while, due to the tendencies of their new manager, John Farrell.  Pedroia will be on base plenty, and has the wheels to pick up 30 or more steals if he gets the green light.  Plus he gives me more plus average, which may be a scarce commodity this year.

Before my third round pick, four more top line starters would fall, including Price, King Felix, Hamels and Matt Cain.  It became abundantly clear to me that I would not get one of the top starting pitchers if I didn't take one in the third round.  Available were Cliff Lee, Yu Darvish, Bumgarner, Weaver and Dickey.  But I was still looking for reliable power, and it came in the form of Yoenis Cespedes, a hitter I believe could turn in an MVP season. No, he does not meet my test of "do it twice", but he is a hitter we have watched for years in his native country, and there are few who doubt this guy's ability to rake.

The fourth round presented a difficult decision.  I had not planned to take pitching early, yet I had seen all the top starters fly off the board.  I was also mindful of the fact that "closer" has even less job security than "NFL placekicker". 

A really good closer, in addition to providing you help in the Saves category can, essentially, turn an average starting  pitcher into a Cy Young candidate.  By that I mean that in addition to saves a really good closer will give you a ton of Ks, an ERA around 2.00 or less, and a Whip of 1.00 or less, as well as a handful of wins.  Add those numbers to an average starter, and his resulting numbers are outstanding.  By contrast, some closers will not only fail to help you in ERA and Whip, but can actually hurt you there.  And, they can lose their jobs in the process.

In my opinion, the closer who provides the best projected stats and job security is Craig Kimbrel.  He is the only closer I would consider taking early in a draft (with the possible exception of Aroldis the Red).  Plus, given the fact that so many starters had already been taken, I figured that I had to get Kimbrel right then if I expected to roster him at all.  So, welcome Craig Kimbrel.  Of course, the next owner in line took Chapman. He told me he would have taken Kimbrel had I not done so.

The next four rounds were used to fill out my infield and add a couple of outfielders. Some players I believed were being undervalued, and should have strong years in 2013 are Shane Victorino, Martin Prado, Erik Aybar and Melky Cabrera.  Melky may have been a reach, but I think there's a good chance he'll have a big year, unless he was nothing more than a product of PEDs.

I took my first starting pitcher in Round 9, and the honor went to Ian Kennedy.  He was the 30th starting pitcher taken, and a bit of a bargain as the 127th player overall.

The rest of the draft consisted of picking the best offensive players available. I tried picking as many pitchers with high upside as possible.  Among the hitters I was very happy to roster were Chris Davis in Round 10 and Dexter Fowler in Round 13.  Happily, each of them has gotten off to a hot start.  They will undoubtedly slow down some, but I think they are both guys who will exceed expectations and deliver big in 2013.

My other hitters were Yonder Alonso, Aaron Hicks, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila and Rajai Davis. Nakajima appears to be a miss, but I think the Athletics would like to get him back up and playing ASAP in order to justify their investment in him.

I chose relievers Casey Janssen, Ryan Cook and David Hernandez to join Kimbrel in my bullpen.  I think Janssen is being undervalued this year, mostly by people who think Santos will claim the job.  Janssen has the stuff to close.  As for Cook and Hernandez, they should put up stellar qualitative stats, and could work themselves into position to garner a few saves.

The starters I picked (including my four reserve round picks) were selected primarily on the basis of upside potential.  They were as follows:

Kyle Lohse (signed the morning of our draft),
Mike Fiers,
Chris Capuano,
Wandy Rodriguez,
Dan Straily,
Wade Davis,
Brett Myers. 

I think each of these guys have the potential to turn in solid seasons.  Davis and Myers have looked pretty bad so far, but fantasy baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.  And while they won't put me on top of any of the pitching categories, I'm counting on my offense to make up the difference or at least give me someone to trade for another starting pitcher.  In the meanwhile, I will be diligently working the waiver wire.  Already, I have placed Nakajima on the DL and purchased Maicer Izturis as a free agent.  I also added some outfield depth with Chris Heisey, dropping David Hernandez in the process.  With some luck and good health, this lineup should produce 1100 runs, 250 homers, 1000 ribbies, 200 stolen bases, all with a .282 average.  On the pitching side, I'm projecting 85-90 wins, 85-90 saves, and around 1150 Ks.  ERA and Whip may  be an issue.  Right now I'm thinking 3.65 and 1.23, which won't place very well in this league.

So there it is...the Advanced Fantasy Baseball entry in the Blog Wars league.  I'll be posting progress reports from time to time.  In the meantime, any comments, critiques, or suggestions will be appreciated.

Thanks, and have fun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Triple Crown National League Auction Results

This is the time of year for expert leagues, and the Triple Crown NL Auction is in the books.  I was happy to represent Advanced Fantasy Baseball in this NL-only 5x5 rotisserie auction redraft league.

In order to make a good showing, I knew I had to deal with two difficult sets of circumstances:  1) the other owners are industry experts, and I expected them to be disciplined and make very few mistakes; and 2) this was going to be my first NL-only auction. 

To even the playing field, I decided upon two strategies I have used successfully in other leagues.  The first was to select a core group of players I wanted on my team, even if I had to pay a little extra for them.  My belief was that the other owners would be fairly conservative, and not go beyond a players value range, even by a couple of dollars.  The second was to search for inefficiencies in the market...players I believe will be worth more than generally expected.  I hoped that savings from the second strategy would offset the extra money spent buying my core players.  Having a firm idea who I wanted before the auction made up somewhat for my lesser knowledge of the player pool.

Here's how I wound up:


10    Bryce Harper, Wsh OF      $28
47    Norichika Aoki, Mil OF      $16
54    Angel Pagan, SF OF      $16
56    M. Bumgarner, SF SP      $20
59    Juan Pierre, Mia OF      $12
63    Yadier Molina, StL C      $20
70    Yovani Gallardo, Mil SP      $19
71    Yonder Alonso, SD 1B      $14
83    Neil Walker, Pit 2B      $17
87    Aaron Hill, Ari 2B          $21
89    Mat Latos, Cin SP          $18
97    Josh Rutledge, Col SS      $16
153    L. Morrison, Mia OF      $12
159    Kyuji Fujikawa, ChC RP      $11
161    Sean Marshall, Cin RP      $2
172    Jordan Pacheco, Col 3B      $6
198    Travis d'Arnaud, NYM C      $5
236    Chris Heisey, Cin OF      $2
239    Bronson Arroyo, Cin SP      $1
251    Placido Polanco, Mia 3B      $1
263    Fernando Salas, StL RP      $1
274    J.J. Hoover, Cin RP      $1
284    Eric O'Flaherty, Atl RP      $1
292    Edward Mujica, StL RP      $1
299    A. Bastardo, Phi RP      $1
306    John Baker, SD C          $1
310    Tim Stauffer, SD SP      $1

The number to the left shows where the player was nominated (for example, Bryce Harper was the 10th nomination).  To the right are my winning bids.

Bryce Harper is one of the core players I intended to buy all along.  I expect growth this year, and I was happy to pay $28.  It wasn't until the 47th player that I purchased again.  In the meantime, way too many guys had gone for more than my conservative budget would allow (no more than $30 for a hitter, no more than $20 for a pitcher).  Eventually, Aoki joined the fold.  I didn't have him targeted in advance, but I classified him as a bargain at $16. 

Other players on my "must buy" list:  Angel Pagan, Yonder Alonso, Yadier Molina, Yovani Gallardo, Mat Latos, Neil Walker, and Kyuji Fukiwawa.  Of these, I was able to get some at discounts, such as Pagan at $16, Alonso at $14 and Neil Walker at $17.  I later added Bumgarner to my staff, with Bronson Arroyo a nice pickup at only $1. 

I knew I wouldn't be able to make it through the year on four starting pitchers, but the ones I got are high K/9 guys, and I filled in with high K relievers.  Of those relievers, Fujikawa should wind up closing soon, and a couple of others could be in good shape for vulture wins and/or a few saves.  Keep in mind that a large portion of the pitching value in a given year is not on a roster after the auction, so choosing the right free agents will be essential.

The middle infield came about a little oddly.  I had grabbed Neil Walker with some confident, aggressive bidding, and thought he was a good buy.  I was happy, because 2B is thin, and I thought I had one of the best.  Then someone nominated Aaron Hill, my choice for best of the 2B heap. I was sure he would go for $28 or $30.  So, for the heck of it, I waited until the bidding went $1, $2, $3, and then I jumped the bid to $21.  Crickets. I don't know whether everyone else thought $21 was to much for Hill, or if they were shocked just long enough to take no action.  I was happy to have an excellent 2B and an MI.  Things got even better with the shortstop position, when I picked up Josh Rutledge for only $16. So, with Hill, Walker and Rutledge, I would stack my middle infield up against just about anyone.

My spree of buying 11 players between #47 and #97 drained my budget and put me behind the eight ball a bit.  I was forced to battle for Logan Morrison, the last decent CI out there, and Jordan Pacheco for my 3B.  He cost me $5 precious dollars at a time when I had very little money left.  The word now is that Arenado may start at third in Colorado, but I believe Pacheco will get enough ABs at third, first and even catcher to justify his price.  He could even qualify as a Catcher, which could make him decent trade bait.

After Harper, Aoki  and Pagan, I set out to finish my outfield.  The outfield is pretty thin in the NL this year, with a lot of glove men manning the posts.  We start with only 90 or so who qualify, then we take 60 of them for the outfield position, another handful as DHs, and a few in other positions.  That probably strips at least 70 to 75, leaving only a little more than a dozen left.  And with our four-man bench, those few stragglers were certain to get roped.

So, I went first with Juan Pierre.  Seldom have I seen a guy for whom the posted values vary so greatly.  Some value him at $26 in an "only" league, while others say $4 to $5.  Here's what I know...he can still fly, he will get a chance to run, and his average should help your team.  For $12, he's a gamble worth taking in my book.

The rest of the draft was spent struggling through dollar days, trying to find a pearl here and there.  It was frustrating to be down to a dollar a player, a harsh reminder to save some money for the end game, even if it means letting someone go that you would like to have.

The next night, our first free agent period, I purchased Yorvit Torrealba to replace John Baker as my emergency catcher, and said goodby to Fernando Salas in return for Alex Castellanos.  I look at that LAD outfield, and figure Castellanos should get some ABs on sick days.

So, what does the team look like?  The post-draft projection app at ESPN picked my squad to finish a strong third, only four points out of first.  Of course, my projections for many of my players are more optimistic than CBS...which is why I got those particular players.

Here's my roster again, by position:

Advanced FB Crumpler

C Yadier Molina 20
C Travis d'Arnaud 5

1B Yonder Alonso 14
2B Neil Walker 17
3B Jordan Pacheco 6
SS Josh Rutledge 16

MI Aaron Hill 21
CI Logan Morrison 12

OF Bryce Harper 28
OF Norichika Aoki 16
OF Angel Pagan 16
OF Juan Pierre 12
OF Chris Heisey 2

UTL Placido Polanco 1

P Madison Bumgarner 20
P Yovani Gallardo 19
P Mat Latos 18
P Kyuji Fujikawa 11
P Sean Marshall 2
P Bronson Arroyo 1
P  Antonio Bastardo 1
P J.J. Hoover 1
P Eric O'Flaherty 1

BE Edward Mujica 1
BE John Baker 1  (now Yorvit Torrealba)
BE Tim Stauffer 1
BE Fernando Salas 1  ( now Alex Constellanos)

Here's what I figure these guys can generate if my projections hold true:

Runs:     825
HR:    180
RBI:    750
SB:    180   
Avg:     .279

Ws:    75
Sv:    24
Ks:    1050
ERA:    3.35
Whip: 1.18

We should do very well in Runs, SBs and Average, and pretty well in HR and SBs.  I do see a need for some more pop, though, and that will be a priority in trading.  I'll also scour the free agents each week looking for a serviceable pitcher.  I would settle for a guy I could only start at home, when the match-up is right.  A guy may go 4.90 ERA on the road, but have a cozy little 3.45 in his home part.

Well, that's about it, at least for now.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to make yourself heard. And again, thanks to Jon and Advanced Fantasy Baseball for giving me the chance to play in this challenging and exciting league.

Check in for more updates on the Triple Crown NL League, and be sure to check AFB regularly for tips and information which will help you in your league.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The 2013 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Tiers

No fancy intro this time nor is there a featured player. But the player comments are longer than usual.

Tier One Shortstops

Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays - Many of you will be surprised to see Reyes ranked first. Reyes hits for average and is an excellent leadoff hitter.He also has better power than is apparent by his homerun totals. He has averaged just under ten homers the last three seasons but has a career high of 19 homers hit back in old Shea Stadium. He now moves into the newly stacked Toronto Blue Jays lineup and they play in Toronto's Skydome which is easily the most favorable hitters park Reyes has ever enjoyed. A possible 20 homer season with his usual stolen base totals makes Reyes number one.

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies - He has averaged 103 games played over the last three seasons. Yet he remains the top choice at shortstop for most fantasy owners and analysts. This is partially based on his superior talent but also an indication of just how this this position has become. If he is healthy for close to a full season he is the best at the position. I am not willing to bet he plays an entire season but he has had at least 470 at-bats in three of the last four seasons.

Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs - At just 22-years old Castro has three years of experience as a Major League shortstop. On the surface it does not appear that he has improved much from his rookie season. His power has improved seeing his ISO improve from .108 in 2010 to .147 last season. He is not patient but makes excellent contact despite swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone. He has excellent speed and has begun to be more aggressive on the bases but Castro is not a very skilled base stealer. He has received a lot of attention from the Cubs coaching staff with the goal of improving his baseball skills. His placement in the top tier has as much to do with his incredible ceiling as a player as with his above average production as a shortstop. There is a breakout coming.

Tier Two Shortstops

Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers - Ramirez is a player that has proved capable of batting .300 or better, hitting 30-plus homeruns, and stealing 50 bases. Hanley Ramirez has been an excellent contact hitter in the past but in the last three seasons has begun to swing at more pitches out of the strike zone. Maybe because of his success with that approach in 2010 he has continued with that approach. He it could also be that he became bored playing for the Marlins, a team that never truly seems to be committed to putting and keeping a true contending team on the field. In any case he seems rejuvenated this spring playing in Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic. The Dodgers have certainly made an effort to make Hanley happy and his team has a ton of talent. We could see him bounce back to a higher level of performance. He is capable of being the best player on this list.

Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays refuse to leave him at one position. He began the offseason as the starting shortstop but was moved back to second when they acquired Yunel Escobar. Then he was placed back in the outfield when the Rays acquired Kelly Johnson. He hits for average and is usually good for close to 20 homers and 20 steals.

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies - He is getting older but he still performs at a high level especially relative to his position. He is unlikely to bat for average but he should hit 10-15 homeruns and steal 30-plus bases. Rollins has been incredibly consistent. He may not be a top tier choice but he is easily one of the safer ones.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees - Jeter will hit for a high batting average with a high on-base percentage and 10-15 homeruns with a similar number of stolen bases. The Yankees are beginning the season with more injuries than usual so his Runs and RBI rates could start slow, at least until Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are back in the lineup.

Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals - If you have been cruising various fantasy baseball sites looking for information on Ian Desmond's breakout season you have probably seen similar reports. They celebrate his great season and predict that there will be some regression to both his power and batting average. While that is a solid approach there are some signs that his develop was more real than fluke. He has shown impressive power in small samples in the minors but he has been such an undisciplined hitter that he usually missed the opportunity to achieve better homerun numbers. Last season he started to take a more all-fields approach to hitting. He was no more patient and still swung at everything but learned how to better handle pitches on the outer edges of the strikezone. He sits in the middle of the second tier because he needs a lengthier track record to rank higher. But if he does indeed repeat, and I believe he has solid chance of doing just that, he will belong in the top tier of shortstops.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians - Some owners were disappointed that Cabrera did not match the 25 homers he slammed during the 2011 season. His 2011 power was fueled by an uptick to his flyball rate and a surge in his HR/FB rate. In 2012 his flyball rate regressed closer to his typical levels and he had a HR/FB rate closer to the league average. Cabrera is a solid offensive catcher and should be good for at least a .270 batting average, 15-20 homeruns and 10-15 steals. He does have the potential for greater numbers. Perhaps the new coaching staff can help him reach it.

Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers - Owners will not get much power out of Elvis (I like calling him Elvis) but he is a near lock for 30 stolen bases. He does have some power potential but he will never achieve it as long as he hits 60 percent of his batted balls on the ground. Most of his flyballs are mistakes but he does hit the ball hard. He is still very young and not yet in his prime. His very high potential is still available should he commit to being the best player he can be. Things like the tattoo incident this spring are an indication of his continuing immaturity.

Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels - Aybar is an aggressive swinger who makes excellent contact albeit with  little power. He usually manages to hit for a solid to very good batting average with the odd homer here and there. He is usually good for 20-plus stolen bases. This year he could see a boost to his Run and RBI totals based simply on the depth of talent in the Angels lineup.

Tier Three Shortstops

Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies - Everyone loves a Colorado shortstop who can hit. His debut with the Rockies went very well in 2012 until a hamstring issue slowed him down from August onward. His minor league track record (short as it is) seems to support his 2012 performance. He makes excellent contact but tends to swing at anything he can reach. He has 20-plus homerun power and the more speed than was evident by his 2012 stolen base total. He seems to have the speed and skill to steal 15-20 bases or more with an aggressive manager. He is not likely to be a draft day bargain but looks like a good bet to equal or better his current market price.

Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals - The only thing that changed between 2011 and 2012 was his batted ball rates. He hit fewer flyballs and hit more ground balls and line drives. The LD rate of 23 percent drove the increased BABIP which drove the increased batting average which drove the better on-base percentage which led to the increase in stolen base opportunities. If he he can maintain the same batted ball rates he should repeat. Better to bet that he regresses a bit towards his career averages. The stolen bases make him worth the risk.

Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants - Scutaro has the patience to draw walks and usually has a solid on-base percentage. Since becoming a regular starter his ability to hit for average has improved and has been above .275 the last four seasons. He does not have much power or speed but will hit 8-10 homers and steal 5-10 bases in a good season. At most positions the lack of power and speed would hurt your fantasy team. But the over a full season the average shortstop hits just ten homers and steals around 15 bases. Scutaro will approach those numbers while pumping up your team batting average. As I keep repeating, hitting for average is a fading skill in Major League you can make up the few homers and stolen bases if you are unable to acquire one of the top two tier shortstops. 
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox - He seems to be fading. His power numbers have gone down the last two seasons. His stolen bases rebounded a bit last season but that may have been the result of manager Robin Ventura's commitment to an aggressive running game. This is not to say that he will not steal 20 bases again but rather to emphasize that his base skills are fading.

J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles - Hardy is a solid defensive shortstop. He has a solid contact rate and excellent power but is an impatient and undisciplined hitter. He is unlikely to hit for a great average but 20 homers are usually in the cards with a middling batting average.

 Zach Cozart, Cincinnati Reds -  He enjoyed a solid full season debut batting .246/.288/.399 with 15 homeruns and four stolen bases. His .282 BABIP seems rather low but we do not have much track record to go on. His combination of power and speed leads me to believe he can do much better. There is definitely some stolen base upside as well. He is no speed demon but he did steal 30 bases his first season at Triple-A. If you find yourself digging for a shortstop or middle infielder this far down the list at least Cozart still has some upside potential.

Tier Four Shortstops

Hiroyuki Nakajima - There are not many scouting reports (that I can actually read) on Hiro as he likes to be called. I expect him to hit for a solid average a steal a few bases. He should get on base at a decent rate and score a bunch of runs in the Athletics lineup.

Cliff Pennington, Arizona Diamondbacks - Simply moving from Oakland Coliseum to Chase Field should improve Pennington's fantasy stock. Oakland Coliseum tends to reduce offense in almost every category. It shrinks left-handed power by around 18 percent! Chase Field, the home park of the Diamondbacks, has the nearly opposite effect on hitters. Boosting offense in almost every category. With better BABIP luck and the change in ballparks, Pennington should hit for a much better batting average. He is not a great hitter but neither is he as bad as he looked in 2012. He has patience at the plate and will take a walk and has average plate discipline. He has a little pop that might allow him to hit around 10 homers in his new home park. He has the speed to steal 30-plus bases if he gets on base enough to make the attempts and the Diamondbacks love to run. It also does not hurt that he and hitting coach Don Baylor are working on shortening his swing this spring. Pennington is a decent late round choice.

Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers - He has become the favorite sleeper of many owners thus ensuring he will not be much of a bargain for those of us with late drafts this year. He has fantastic speed and will steal bases with every opportunity. He does have some power potential that seems unlikely to be reached any time soon. He currently slaps most balls down into the ground, he had a 65.6 percent groundball rate in 2012 and just a 19.2 percent flyball rate. Draft him for the stolen bases at this point and do not pay for anything else.

Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics - Injuries took a large toll on Lowrie's career. He might have been established as a star at the position if he could have stayed healthy. He has better power than most at the position and he had a great opportunity to establish himself with the Astros but he failed to stay healthy once again in 2012. The Astros traded him for a handful of players this spring including Chris Carter and Brad Peacock. Lowrie will be a full-time utility player playing often but without a position of his own.

Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves - The Braves young shortstop has great speed and a great glove. Some question his bat but he seems to have some patience at the plate and makes excellent contact. He hit the ball fairly hard judging by his 17 percent line drive rate. His short minor league track record suggests he will hit for a solid batting average. He has been a dynamo during the World Baseball Classic. I think ten homers and 20-plus stolen bases with a solid batting average is a decent bet.

Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers -In re-draft leagues you can ignore him but in keeper leagues you have a few things to consider. First, the 25-year old was very good in each and every season in the minors. No, he does not have much power. However, Gordon has always made excellent contact and has shown solid patience at the plate. He has crazy, mad, ludicrous speed. In a full season given a decent OBP he would easily steal 50-plus bases. This spring manager Don Mattingly has insisted that Gordon work on his on-base percentage and defense. As of this writing he has a .400 on-base percentage. I have a hunch he'll make the team. He has nothing to prove in the minors and he is more talented than the players manning two of the three spots he could theoretically handle. Even off the bench he could steal 25-plus bases.

Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox - Like his brother J.D. Drew, Stephen Drew cannot stay healthy. He should be able to hit .20 or better with 15-20 homeruns but that would be in an uninterrupted season. He's already struggling with injuries this spring in case you were wondering.

Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers - The Tigers always seem to be searching for Peralta's replacement. Fantasy owners might agree due to his wildly inconsistent performance with the bat. But the Tigers are probably more concerned about how his lousy defense impacts their pitching staff. He should hit 15-20 homeruns but his batting average could be anything from .230 to .300 making him a difficult player to forecast.

Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers - He is the best prospect in the game by most accounts and the Texas Rangers do not have a spot for him. He has a good glove, solid power and the speed to steal 20-plus bases. He isn't even 20-years old so another year spent mostly in the minors is not the end of the world for his development.

Tier Five Shortstops

Ruben Tejada, New York Mets - I have seen him get lots of love from fantasy owners but I really do not get it. He hits the ball hard as evidenced by his career LD rate of 27 percent. That alone drives his decent batting averages that last two seasons. He has a swing at everything approach but does not strikeout much. He does not hit homeruns or steal bases in any significant numbers. He ranks here based on BA potential alone.

Yunel Escobar, Tampa Bay Rays - His personality quirks and despicable attitude have resulted in him being a member of four teams in the last two years. He has some talent and could make some valuable improvements if he could  just shut up and listen to the coaches and players that try to help him.

Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers - Thanks to a very productive 296 at-bats Cruz is a near lock to start the season as the Dodgers starting third baseman. Even the Dodgers seem to realize that Cruz is not a long term starter. They tried to convince Scott Rolen to come out of retirement and take the job but they could not work it out with him. I think he is probably a fair hitter at this point in his career. Older players are still capable of developing new skills and improving their production at the plate. But the Dodgers are still likely to replace him the first chance they get.

Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres - I hate to mention it but Cabrera was one of the players revealed in the Biogenesis mess. So there is some risk of suspension. Cabrera has little power and slaps everything on the ground which is not a horrible strategy for a player with his speed and lack of homerun power. He has improved his strikeout rate a bit but still strikes out nearly 25 percent of the time. If you draft him it is in hopes that you will receive 40-plus stolen bases on the cheap.

Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee Brewers - He has good power for a shortstop and has a solid opportunity to receive at-bats with the Brewers. The Brewers have a rookie shortstop and an injured first baseman. Gonzalez is expected to fill in at first until Corey Hart returns. He does not walk much and swings at everything. He does make lots of contact but has little clue what to do with a pitch he can not knock out of the park.

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins - He has few exceptional tools. By few I mean none. Scouts like his approach and he is one of those guys that makes the most of his limited tools. He has pretty decent speed. He looks like someone that can hit for a decent average thanks to decent patience and contact skills. You could do worse as a one dollar MI in an AL-only.

Tier Six Shortstops

Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians - He has decent power and the speed to steal 15-plus bases and despite some lousy BABIP luck the last two seasons should hit for a solid batting average. He doesn't have much patience at the plate but makes solid contact. He has been a beast during the World Baseball Classic and you may someone to overpay based on that. He is coming off the bench for the Indians but the Indians have an inexperienced third baseman and second baseman so he could find a decent number of at-bats. The new Cleveland manager is Terry Francona who is definitely a fan of Aviles.

Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees - Despite all the Yankees' injuries and departures this season Nunez still does not have a starting role. He does not have a great glove but has a decent bat. He won't really hit for a high batting average but it should be a solid one. He can take a walk though it obviously is not his favorite thing to do. His best fantasy asset is speed. In a full season of at-bats he could steal 30-plus bases. He needs an opening at shortstop or third base to get a real opportunity to play.

Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins - A skilled hitter without any power, Carroll was usually good for a high batting average and around ten stolen bases. This year it appears he will lose his starting role and come off the Twins bench.

Tyler Pastornicky, Atlanta Braves - He is less tool laden than Andrelton Simmons and his glove is inferior and that was enough to push him to the bench. He is probably a more skilled hitter but unless there is an injury he is not likely to get the chance to prove it.

Tier Seven Shortstops

Clint Barmes, Pittsburgh Pirates - Boy this guy sucks. He is still living off his years with the Rockies. He has a good glove but nothing to offer a fantasy team.

Brendan Ryan, Seattle Mariners - Another all glove guy. He has a bunch of young talented shortstops eying him from the Mariners minor league system.

Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants - Proof that you can get to the major leagues with just a good glove, cuz this guy cannot hit.

Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals - He is out for the season after deciding to have TJS surgery this spring.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Chase Headley Became a Fantasy Baseball Stud

As intelligent fantasy owners most of us were aware that Chase Headley was a talented player working in a ballpark that was not an ideal hitting environment. His 2012 season totals were a little shocking. I have heard many reasons for his new found power, some more reasonable than others.

  1. The natural development of a talented player with an improved approach.
  2. The perfect storm of atmospheric conditions that resulted in the wind blowing out of Petco Park the last two months of the season.
  3. Luck, just a hot streak with amazing results.
  4. Drugs.
  5. All of the above.
I have listed the above theories in order of my willingness to believe them.

His homeruns were headed towards a career high even before the big boost. He had 12 homers at the end of July which was just one short of his former career high. But nothing appeared to be drastically different until August when he hit ten homers and he followed that with nine more in September/October. Before August his high month of the season was just four homeruns.

For the season Headley hit more groundballs than in seasons past and fewer flyballs. But in July, August and September/October his flyball rate saw a significant jump from the high 20s to the low to mid-30s. Could he have changed his swing? Did he make an adjustment that did not start to click until the second part of the season? It would explain his rather poor start to the season (in all but homeruns). Well according to an article in Sports Illustrated that is exactly what happened.

That plan to inflict damage on a baseball and an opponent drove Headley's approach last year, aided by a refinement to his switch-hitting swing paths to produce more backspin on the ball. Headley has always been a patient hitter, who in the previous year concentrated too much on swatting pitches to the opposite field. In learning to be more aggressive early in the count and adjusting the mechanics of his swing, he saw a power explosion from four home runs in 2011 to 31 in 2012, the most by any National League third baseman.

"My job is to drive in runs and to do damage, not to see pitches," Headley said in camp last week. "The year before I worked so hard on hitting the ball the other way that I was pretty good at that, but then I'd get a pitch that I could handle and I couldn't take the right swing to it. I was getting a pitch that I could drive, and I'd topspin it because I was pulling off the ball a little bit on the pitch in.

"I had four home runs the year before and had three opposite-field home runs. I just couldn't pull the ball in the air. It was about getting back to a swing that would allow me to put the ball in the air to the pull side." 
What can we expect from Headley in 2013? It is important to note that the Padres have decided to move in their outfield fences in hopes of becoming a less extreme pitchers park. We can probably expect something less than 31 homers from Chase as the August through October numbers still seem a bit crazy. I think a projection along the lines of .285/.375/.480 with around 25 homers and 15 stolen bases is fair. That makes him an excellent selection at third base in mixed leagues and arguably the best choice for NL-only leagues.

Tier One Third Basemen

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers - It would be easy to make a case for Cabrera being in a class by himself. But whatever the tier it is clear Cabrera is the best hitter at his position. Now, the glove...

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers - Beltre is the best he has ever been. A true professional hitter with serious power playing a major role in a great lineup in a favorable hitting environment. The distance in skill between he and Cabrera is probably not as much as you think.

Tier Two Third Basemen

Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays - Longoria has it in him to be at the top of this list. The primary obstacle between Longoria and a tier one ranking is durability. The rate of production is top notch he just needs to have better luck with injuries.

Chase Headley, San Diego Padres - A player in the prime of his career playing in a park that has stolen some of his glory. But his improved swing mechanics and the changes to Petco promise a run of nice power numbers.

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals - Zimmerman is solid in every aspect of the game and he is presently hitting in the middle of one of the better lineups in the game behind a player being compared to Mickey freakin' Mantle. Expect those RBI totals to take a big jump up.

Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers - At his age the risk of decline is rather high. He looks like a second half player these days - if you believe in that sorta thing. The production has been very good overall.

David Wright, New York Mets - The ballpark and his approach to it has stolen some of the homeruns from his game. But he is a great hitter who could win a batting title in any given season. He has solid power and steals more bases than most at the position.

David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals - Freese hits for average (a disappearing skill) and has 20-plus homerun power in the middle of a great lineup. His problem in the past has been with injuries but his 567 plate appearances in 2012 is a positive sign.

Tier Three Third Basemen

Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants - His production has been as inconsistent as his commitment to conditioning. He can hit and he has nice power but until he learns to own a consistent focus on improving his game he won't be the player he could be.

Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays - Some were disappointed with his full season debut but those folks were expecting too much. He proved to be the type willing to run through walls and his manager and fantasy owners wish he would stop. A season with 20 homeruns / 20 stolen bases with a decent batting average could be in his near future.

Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals - Injuries slowed him a bit but he flashed that big time power potential. The hopes of the Kansas City fan base have created high expectations for Moustakas and the other young Royals. This could be their year.

Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners - His 20 homeruns and 13 stolen bases surprised a lot of people. The walls are coming in Seattle so there is hope that Seager has even more to offer in a more neutral hitting environment.

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds - He showed nice power hitting 19 homeruns in just 465 at-bats. He should start from wire to wire this season in a great lineup. He still has some power upside.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates - By becoming more aggressive at the plate Alvarez put his power on display. His HR/FB may come down a bit but the power is real. Even with high BABIPs you should not expect to see much of a batting average.

Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox - This ranking probably gives him a little too much credit for a solid half season of production. He swings at too many outside pitches. His k-rate has always been high and I'm actually a little surprised it was not higher in 2012. His 2012 HR/FB of 21.4 percent seems kind of high but he doesn't have much track record to go by either way. Bid cautiously as you could own him during an adjustment period this season.

Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles - Every baseball fan who knows who Machado is also knows that he was rushed to the majors last season. He did well under difficult circumstances and his ceiling is very high, especially if he finds his way back to shortstop. Expect some some struggles as he adjusts to the Major Leagues.

Tier Four Third Basemen

Trevor Plouff, Minnesota Twins - All the flyballs drive his average down but there is some potential for a decent batting average. The power was nice but could have been a bit over his head. He seems destined for full-time at-bats this season as the regular third baseman so the playing time could help him repeat or even slightly better the power numbers.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees - I have seen A-Rod go for single digits in AL-only auctions this season. It could be that owners in general are afraid that Rodriguez will not return this season. He has several years left on his contract and is still productive when healthy (I know that is becoming rarer) so keeper league owners should scoop him up at single digit prices and find a replacement in the deep third base pool.

Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees - When a player has a poor season blaming it on the manager is pretty stupid. When every key player on the team has an off season blaming it on the manager becomes something closer to understandable. Youkilis still has the great patience, plate discipline, strong contact rate (even with the slowly rising K-rate) and solid power. A bounce back to 2011 levels is a reasonable expectation with some upside if he can stay healthy.

Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies - In 2011 Young had one of his better seasons with a line of .338/.380/.474 and by far his worst in 2012 by batting just .277/.312/.370 with just 8 homeruns. If you read a lot of advanced statistical articles on sites like you are probably very well scared off of Young forever. But for fantasy purposes Young's 2012 line was just disappointing. We don't much care that his lousy defense resulted in a negative WAR. He had lousy BABIP luck relative to his career levels (.334) and his O-swing was the worst of his career. He is aging and slowing but I expect his bat to come back. If it helps, Young says he identified a flaw in his swing over the offseason.

Tier Five Third Basemen

Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians - This former top prospect did not post any mind blowing numbers in the minors but proved to be patient at the plate with strong contact skills and some nice power potential. Some fantasy analysts think they have him pegged based on his less than a half season combined in the Majors but I doubt they do. Expect a solid batting average (.270-plus) with 15-20 homeruns (maybe even more) if he gets to play the full season at third base.

Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves - We have not seen Chris Johnson produce for a full season but we have seen some impressive streaks of production. He does not walk enough, strikes out a little too much - mostly the result at swinging at tons of pitches out of the zone. He does have good power but his poor approach limits the results. The Braves have been good at fixing swing flaws in the past, maybe they can do something for Johnson.

Matt Dominguez, Houston Astros - Dominguez has made quite a few improvements with his swing over the last year. He has eliminated a lot of movement and changed the position of his hands to create a shorter swing path. Of the players in this tier he is my favorite for a big move upward.

Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics - He finished the 2012 season well and his minor league statistics suggest it was not a fluke. He has had some BABIP issues that made him look worse than he really is. The potential is there for a strong season. A solid batting average with 15 or so homers and 5-10 stolen bases is not out of the question.

Placido Polanco, Miami Marlins - He is becoming old and brittle and signed with the lowly Miami Marlins hoping to rejuvenate his career. At his best he hits for average but without the power of even the average third baseman.

Tier Six Third Basemen

Wilson Betemit, Baltimore Orioles - If we knew he would play every day Betemit might qualify as a sleeper of sorts. But he has a ton of competition for at-bats as the designated hitter and he has very little chance of taking over at first or third where Chris Davis and Manny Machado are quite secure.

Alberto Callaspo, Los Angeles Angels - Frankly, I am a little shocked that he somehow still the Angels third baseman. He only ranks this high because he a starter in a loaded lineup and should get runs and RBI even with his poor production.

Macier Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays - Izturis is batting for the starting job at second and I hope he doesn't get it. He is not much better than Callaspo as a fantasy option and he would be putting better players on Toronto's bench.

Jerry Hairston, Los Angeles Dodgers - He never has a starting job these days but he seems to find at-bats anyway. The Dodgers have what appear to be holes at second and third base. Mark Ellis is in there for defense and Luis Cruz is living off a strong finish to the 2012 season. Hairston should find at-bats again, he's an excellent guy for your bench.

Eric Chavez, Arizona Diamondbacks - Eric Chavez produced like his old self for the Yankees last season. Why the Yankees chose not to re-sign him will remain a mystery that only Brian Cashman can solve. The Diamondbacks were smart enough to sign him but then blocked him with the Martin Prado acquisition (some call it the Upton Trade but I prefer the Prado Acquisition).

Luis Valbuena, Chicago Cubs - Frankly, Valbuena is probably a better hitter than Stewart at this point but the power pedigree dies really hard and the solid all around skills guy is quickly forgotten. 

Ian Stewart, Chicago Cubs - I think it is safe to call Stewart a bust. He still has great power but could not hit his way out of a wet paper bag.

Brent Morel, Chicago White Sox - He seems to be the forgotten man on the South Side. He is young enough that it is worth keeping him in the back of your mind. This is especially true if you do something like draft Jeff Keppinger as your starting third baseman.

Tier Seven Third Basemen

Chone Figgins, FA - He went from a fantasy favorite to irrelevant with the lightning speed he used to show on the bases. Still, I bet someone picks him up.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, Miami Marlins- I finally learned to spell his name and he became irrelevant.

Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays - I will be shocked if the Rays give him any significant at-bats.

Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers - He lost something when he came to Los Angeles. Is it mean to suggest it was a PED connect?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Is Adrian Gonzalez a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Bust?

I have been writing quite a bit lately about the various position tiers of fantasy baseball. If you have been following here and in Big League Magazine (you should subscribe!) you will know that I believe the top tier at first base to be much smaller than most seem to expect. I am about to share with you my reasoning on one of the players typically expected to be in the first tier this season but who I believe is in the midst of a serious decline in production - Adrian Gonzalez.You will find my first base tiers and some brief comments on each player below the Adrian Gonzalez portion of this article.

First basemen have a reputation in MLB as well as in fantasy as being the biggest bats in the game. These are the guys that find their way into lineups regardless of defensive limitations or lack of running speed based on the quality of their hitting skills alone. We expect them to hit for average and for lots and lots of power. If we ran a poll of what fantasy owners wanted from their first baseman I have no doubt power would rule the day. Personally, I believe that high batting averages and big power are essential qualities in a top tier first baseman. First baseman typically do not steal bases so if they do not hit for average they become three category players. I don't know about you but if a player covers less than four categories he is moving way down my list. 

When Adrian Gonzalez was with the San Diego Padres he was a very good first baseman with outstanding numbers, especially considering he was playing most of his games in the sport's least favorable hitting environment. His batting averages were usually in the .275-.285 range with 30-plus homeruns per season. As a Padre he was a serious threat to score 100 runs and collect 100 RBI every season. He probably peaked during the 2008-2009 seasons when he hit 36 and 40 homers. His isolated power has declined in each of the three years since that peak. He went from a high ISO of .274 in 2009 with 40 homeruns to just .164 in 2012 when he hit just 18 homeruns between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gonzalez suffered a shoulder injury in May of the 2010 season. He played through the pain the entire season and had what was initially expected to be relatively simple surgery in October of that same season. The surgery was often referred to as "cleaning up the shoulder". Later it was revealed that the rehab could take up to five months. This meant that even if he started the season on time there was a significant risk that he would still lack ideal strength in the joint. This had the potential to sap his power and make him a far less productive power hitter. That did not happen but his skill indicators still took a fall even as his production remained strong.

While rehabbing the shoulder Gonzalez, who had implied he would not be returning to the Padres when he reached his impending free agency, was traded to the Boston Red Sox. They were very aware of the shoulder problem but did not seem at all worried about it. Fenway Park tends to boost batting average and slugging percentage while robbing batters of homeruns. So Gonzalez seemed quite productive in 2011 despite power numbers that might seem disappointing when compared to his San Diego numbers. Few noticed that his .380 BABIP seemed very much out of character. His groundball rate rose dramatically with a corresponding decrease in flyballs. He was swinging at many more pitches out of the strike zone but he was making slightly better contact as well, even as he drew fewer walks. Before the 2012 season the Red Sox signed Gonzalez to a seven year $154 million dollar contract.

Gonzalez started very slow in 2012. He had just 6 homeruns through the end of June. His batting average was relatively mediocre until a brief BA surge in June. This was despite a first half .327 BABIP. His line at the end of June was just .283/.329/.416 with 6 homeruns, 45 RBI and 42 runs. That would have been a pretty good line for your shortstop (assuming you were getting steals somewhere else) but for your first baseman it was atrocious. There are lots of theories about what happened. For some it was the Bobby Valentine Effect. Just about anything that went wrong in Boston during the 2012 season has been laid at the feet of their former manager. However, there had been a clear change in skills and approach. The trade to the Dodgers seemed to make him happy. He was back on the West Coast and overall his second half was much more productive - .317/.361/.517 with 12 homers, just 33 runs but 63 RBI and even two stolen bases.

But can you count on Gonzalez to repeat his second half numbers? His second half BABIP of .342 is high but not ridiculous for Gonzalez given his career .324 BABIP. His walk rates have come way down since his peak. That has a lot to do with earning fewer intentional walks but that is not all of it. It could be a sign that his bat is not as feared around the league as it once was though it could also be that he now plays in deeper lineups. He is now a far less discerning batter, he has begun swinging at just about anything within reach. His power has declined three years running in dramatic fashion. His batted ball types tell that tale. He has become more of a groundball hitter with declining FB%, ISO, HR/FB% and obviously homerun totals.He has been hitting more doubles but that was primarily in Fenway Park. The Boston doubles could become long outs. If the BABIP scores regress to career levels or worse he could be a complete disaster at his present ADP.

Tier One First Basemen

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds - The ideal first baseman is like Votto a five category contributor in a great lineup. The knee injury should not a concern. This could be his career year.

Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers - Fielder has been very durable but has up and down power numbers. If the pattern holds this should be a up year for Fielders homerun totals.

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels - The best player in the game until 2012, I don't think this is the end. Other than April and September he was pretty much Pujols as usual.

Tier Two First Basemen

Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals- The power everyone wanted arrived but it was mostly a HR/FB illusion. His ridiculous slow (I mean Bug Bunny slow pitch slow) running speed will keep his run totals low.
Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees - The shift is killing his batting average but he still has serious power. The imploding Yankees could erode his RBI totals.

Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals- If he could stay healthy he might move up a tier. He hits for average and could hit 35 homers if he ever got a full season of at-bats.

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays - A few years later than expected, E5 has arrived. An improved O-Swing was a big factor. He steals a few bases too.

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks - Everybody's new favorite has even more power than this. There is some average downside in his O-swing, and strikeout rate and it would be foolish to expect 18 stolen bases again.

Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox _ He is starting to slow down but he is such a good hitter that it may take a few more years to convince most fans. The White Sox have no one to replace him with anyway.

Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers - A talented player holding a lot of risky indicators. He should probably move down a tier. But unless you skipped the above article you know all that. You might have known anyway.

Tier Three First Basemen

Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals - He might be in the second tier if he was consistently healthy. If I owned him this season I would move Tyler Moore up my list of reserve picks.

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves - He swings at too many pitches out of the zone but is becoming more patient and his power is improving. He is young enough that his breakout could be shockingly good.

Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs- Rizzo made nice improvements to his long swing and had another very impressive minor league season and a promising major league debut.

Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins - Injuries have kept his promise under wraps. He has the skills to hit for power and average. He is a patient powerful and disciplined batter. Health and at-bats are the key to his breakout.

Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers- Hart has solid power and a decent bat. His knee injury could mess up his base to start the season, so expect a slightly lower homer rate.

Ike Davis, New York Mets - He deserves an article of his own. His power arrived in the second half of the season but he spent the first half recovering from the effects of Valley Fever.

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies - His peak was not very long but it was great while it lasted. He still has big power but the batting average could be disappointing.

Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins - He finally appears to be healthy. He expects to get a full season of at-bats this season. If he gets them and recovers his former skills he is an MVP candidate.

Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers - Berkman is brittle but very productive when healthy. He is aging quickly and is apparently just playing for the money at this point.

Tier Four First Basemen

Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates- A solid hitter with pretty good power. Unfortunately the Pirates are always trying to improve on him.

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies- He's really the right fielder but he serves as Todd Helton's understudy at first base. Cuddyer is a five category contributor without any elite skills.

Mike Morse, Seattle Mariners - Has big power but has yet to prove he can be a consistent contributor from season to season. Injuries have been a factor and his new home park could be intimidating.

Hosmer's beard makes him look stupid.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals - Everyone's favorite sleeper going into the 2012 season was a huge disappointment. His ADP still has him as a top 100 pick. He swings at too many outside pitches but he does have the patience to draw walks and makes strong contact. A good portion of his problems could be related to his .255 BABIP.

Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants - Belt has not exploded on the major league scene the way some prospect junkies expected. He draws walks but still swings at too many bad pitches. He is very BABIP dependent.

Chris Carter, Houston Astros - The power has been obvious for a long time but the platoon helped him be a bit more productive hitter. The Astros can give him a ton of at-bats. He has some upside potential, if you want to understand his ceiling better read this Minor League Ball article.

Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres - Alonso had a pretty good full season debut. He showed patience and discipline at the plate. His power was a little disappointing but his 39 doubles hold some promise for greater homer totals in the future. A nice pick in leagues where you can be patient with him. The power will improve.

Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays - The lineup around him is vastly improved. The expectations for the Blue Jays are higher than they've been in years and almost all the pressure if off Lind as the DH hitting near the bottom of the lineup. He showed improvement in the second half after his stint in the minors.

Tier Five First Basemen

Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies - Had his worst season in the majors. It was not quite the fantasy disaster that it was for real baseball unless you drafted him based on his 2011 season.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles - He finally got a full season of at-bats and showed his power potential. He is not a great bat but the power is as real as it gets. I expect more of the same.

Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox - The news about his hip injury has been a bit blown out of proportion because of how anxious the Red Sox were to protect themselves. According to news that went under reported the condition caught early enough that treatment should be very effective. Napoli has been very productive in Fenway Park.

Brett Wallace, Houston Astros - The Astros are determined to give Wallace as many at-bats as possible. Wallace spent some time in the minors getting his swing back and was quietly productive on his return. This kid has experienced a lot in his very short career.

Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox - His homeruns came back in a big way but his power adjustment did not improve his batting average much. Despite 41 homers his slugging percentage was just .468 as he hit just 19 doubles. He is closer to done than those in love with the homerun totals would have you believe.

Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies - If Howard were to go down to injury Ruf would be better suited to first base than the outfield role he is bound to have. Ruf is not an empty power hitter nor a one hit wonder. Some guys just take a bit longer to develop. He reminds me a lot of young Ryan Howard.

Tier Six First Basemen

Tyler Moore
Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics - Based on his track record I will have to see Moss do it again before I'll have any faith in him.

Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians - He has serious power and strikes out a ton. He is now is a lineup full of similar hitters. It should be fun to watch. Indian fans will want to wear windbreakers this season.

Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners - The Mariners are giving him another opportunity based on how he finished the 2012 season. He looks good this spring and the addition if veteran bats mean there should be less pressure on the young players in Seattle.

Tyler Moore, Washington Nationals - A player I like more than most people. Davey Johnson is not a huge fan of rookies and held off using Moore as long as possible in 2012. he knows that Moore can be a very productive bat now. He should have a bench role to start the season.

Juan Rivera, New York Yankees - Rivera is not a great bat but thanks to the brittle and aging bats in the Yankees lineup Rivera should have plenty of at-bats this season.

Tier Seven First Basemen

Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies - A former fantasy stud reduced to hitting for average and trying to stay healthy enough to complete his ridiculous contract.

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals He could be the starting second baseman if all goes right but he does not qualify there. He has some potential with the bat if he can find a position.

Jordan Pacheco, Colorado Rockies - A decent hitter but he has no power and no start role.

Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates - A better player than he showed in 2012. The Pirates will give him another opportunity to steal the first base job. He'll end up getting at-bats even if he doesn't start on a regular basis.

Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers - He has not improved while in the majors and looks to lose at-bats this season to Lance Berkman and eventually Mike Olt.

Mike Carp, Boston Red Sox- A favorite sleeper from 2012, Carp is now a bench bat for the Boston Red Sox. He should find at-bats at first and the outfield corners.

Casey Kotchman, Miami Marlins - Kotchman will battle Logan Morrison for at-bats but unless Morrison remains injured is unlikely to play much.

Carlos Pena, Houston Astros - The new Astros designated hitter. His power is in decline and he has not hit for average in years.

James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays - Why the Rays prefer James Loney to someone like Carlos Lee is a mystery. Loney does not hit for average or power anymore.

Friday, February 15, 2013

2013 Closer Update: Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics
Closer – Grant Balfour
Next – Sean Doolittle
Sleeper – Ryan Cook
Super-Sleeper – Pat Neshek

Grant Balfour should be considered a lower tier closer. This was made obvious by his inconsistent performance during the 2012 season and the team's willingness to change closers. Balfour gained the closer role twice during the 2012 season and also lost it. He comes into 2013 as the favorite for saves but circumstances are already working against him. The San Francisco Chronicle announced that on February 13th, 2013 Balfour underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He is expected to be out of game action for the next 4-6 weeks of Spring Training which bumps right up against Opening Day. But Balfour and his teammates and organization seem confident he will not need to miss any regular season games though that seems very optimistic.
"I'm not even worried about it, to be honest," reliever Jerry Blevins said. "He's a guy who works hard, and if he's true to form, he'll be back very quickly."
"He'll definitely be back in day one," left-hander Travis Blackley said. "The only thing he'll need is some fine-tuning, finding his release points. And he'll just lock it in, like he always does."
"I feel good about getting it done now," Balfour said. "It will allow me to get ready for Game One of the season. I knew the way I was feeling I wouldn't have been able to pitch through it all season."
Manager Bob Melvin noted that the A's planned to lighten Balfour's spring load anyway, because his workload was heavy last year; this means his arm will get some extra rest. "That's a little underlying positive," Melvin said. Should Balfour not be ready to start the season, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle could close games. 
Without the benefit of Spring Training, Balfour is likely to come into the season with weaker control which almost always leads to problems. We believe that Sean Doolittle will ultimately close for the Athletics but in a short term situation such as this Ryan Cook who closed at times in 2012 is probably the first option.

2013 Closer Update: New York Mets

New York Mets
Closer – Bobby Parnell
Next – Frank Francisco
Sleeper – Brandon Lyon
Super-Sleeper – Josh Edgin
Frank Francisco has been shut down with inflammation in his elbow. Francisco did have surgery to remove bone spurs in December. According to and the New York Post, manager Terry Collins has already decided that Bobby Parnell will begin the season as the team's closer. 
“I think [Parnell] is the future,” Collins said. “We keep talking about 2014, [expletive], why not get a head start?”
Parnell could be a long term closer if he can increase his strikeout rate which could easily be better given his stuff and above average swinging strike rate. The extra strikeouts would mean less balls in play and thus fewer balls in play and less BABIP impact and hopefully more consistent results.
Frank Francisco may be out for quite a while longer than supposed considering he has already been replaced as the closer. The New York Post reported Francisco was to be shut down for two weeks. That would seem to leave him enough time to prepare for the regular season. This could just be the excuse that Collins was looking to use as reasoning to bump Francisco from the closer role. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This coming weekend marks the deadline for a lot of keeper leagues to turn in their freeze lists. This deadline is often accompanied by a profusion of trade activity, in addition to owner anguish over whether to keep this hitter or that pitcher as the last freeze. Many of these are as simple as knowing and applying your league rules. Let’s review a few important last-minute items which can help you make sure your keeper list is the best it can be.

1. Opening Day Roster Issues. Sounds simple, but many of us play in multiple leagues, all with different rules, and some of us are in new leagues this year. Rules regarding keepers vary significantly from league to league. Here are some things you should consider in making your final freeze list.

a) What if you freeze a player who doesn’t wind up on the Opening Day roster? Some leagues let you cut him. Some make you keep him, charging you with his slot and salary toward your 23/260. Some more liberal leagues allow you to move him to your reserve with no penalty. What does your league do?

b) What if you freeze a player who is seriously hurt between freeze day and Opening Day? Again, leagues differ. Some allow you to cut him. Some allow you to fill the slot with another player, but charge you his salary. There may be other variations. Which approach does your league follow?

2. Freezing minor leaguers. Many leagues have rules which allow you to keep a small number of “minor leaguers” in addition to your frozen active players. Minor leaguers are typically defined in the same manner MLB determines who is eligible for rookie status, namely pitchers who have thrown no more than 50 innings, had no more than 130 at bats, and accumulated no more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club during the period of the 25-player limit (excluding D.L. time and military service). Many leagues also require the player must not have appeared on an active league roster at any time prior. Many questions, however, can arise:

a) Say you have fewer than the maximum number of active roster freezes, plus some minor league freezes. Say further that after the freeze date, one of your minor league freezes makes the big club and is on the opening day roster. What are your options? Some leagues make you, prior to the auction, either activate the player or waive him. If you activate him, his slot and player salary count against your 23/260. Others allow you to leave him on your reserve, with no penalty.

b) Say you have a situation similar to that above, except you have frozen the maximum number of active roster freezes. Then one of your minor leaguers makes the OD roster. What are your options? Some leagues hold that since you cannot have over the maximum number of active freezes, you must either waive the minor league freeze, or waive one of your active roster freezes and promote the minor leaguer to the active roster. However, some leagues will simply allow you to leave that minor league freeze on your reserve roster.

3. Aging of contracts. Again, leagues differ on this crucial point. It is generally accepted that the contracts of all roster players, minor leaguers or active players, age each year. However, some leagues do not begin aging minor league contracts until the minor leaguer is activated by his owner or loses minor league status under the MLB rookie rules outlined above. How your league approaches this can be critically important, as it can substantially impact your choices of who to freeze as minor leaguers.

4. Oddball rules. There are some oddball rules around, some of which I add interest to the game. One example is the rule which allows each owner, on the day of the auction, to waive any single player layers from his/her freeze list, without penalty. In other words, if you wind up regretting that freeze of Hanley Ramirez at $57, you can simply drop him back into the pool, adding a roster slot and some serious cash back to your auction arsenal. Other non-standard rules include “topper” rights. If your league uses these, make sure you know how they work and how they can help you best structure your freeze list. Does your league have any unusual rules that can help or hurt you?

5. Freeze deadlines and extensions. All too often I see owners who either do not know or simply forget the deadline for keeper lists. Things can come up at the last minute, but we can plan for contingencies by having our lists as finalized as possible in advance. Personally, I send the commissioner an email a few days before the freeze deadline saying that “subject to last minute changes, these are my freezes”. Should I be unconscious in a ditch, at least I will have submitted my keeper list. When is your league’s freeze date?

Bear in mind that the deadline for submitting keeper lists is usually the deadline for submitting contract extensions. This is sometimes forgotten in the excitement of getting those freezes in. Be aware, or you might find that your cheap superstar is playing out his option year for you when he should have been anchoring your team for at least another couple of years.

(While on the subject of extensions, let me briefly climb upon the soapbox. I think they are overused. Too often, owners fall in love with their players and sign them to huge long-term contracts. In most leagues, the extended contract salary begins immediately. So, that $10 stud you sign for three extra years becomes $25 for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Unless your guy is Babe Ruth reincarnate, hitting and pitching for you, such an extension would likely suck the profit right out of your guy, now and in future years. Plus, depending upon league rules, an extension like this could put you in a serious bind in the event of a sudden lack of effectiveness. I’ve been in leagues where dropping a player with a long-term contract reduced your auction budget by the amount of the contract, a harsh penalty indeed. So, my advice is to make sure you know all the rules on contract extensions, and to use them sparingly, enjoying your profits while you can.)

6. Keep working until the very end. A diligent owner will continue to explore ways to improve his/her freeze list until the last possible opportunity. The keys are hard work and persistence. For example, I start my serious work in January, assessing the player pool, analyzing the other team’s winter rosters, and projecting potential freeze lists for each team. This year, based upon built-in profit expectations, I found my own freeze list to rank well toward the bottom of the league. I had a lot of work to do. Starting in February, I began negotiating and finalizing trades, upgrading players and draft picks whenever possible. I made a total of 15 trades in seven weeks. How can that be done? We all know that different owners view players differently. This means a guy who is not a keeper for you may be just what another owner needs. But you have to get out there and do the legwork. In the old days, you had to negotiate all your trades by telephone. It’s easier today with email and instant messaging.

As a result of all this trading, I now have my maximum ten freezes plus two minor leaguers and some excellent draft picks. Only three of those twelve players were on my roster in January. It is now a team I believe to be much improved, and with a strong auction I should be in a position to contend.

Be persistent. Know what the other owner needs, and show him how the trade helps him. Pick up a better draft pick when you can. If you can avoid it, don’t do anything to strengthen a contender. Keep plugging until the end. My league’s keeper deadline is Friday night. And even though I‘m pretty sure I have my ten keepers, you can bet I‘ll be working the trade routes until the last minute, trying to pick up another draft pick or a better minor leaguer. Whatever the outcome, I‘ll know that I did everything I could to build the core of a competitive team…one that I‘ll have to live with for the next six months.

I hope something in here can help you, either this year or next, as you wind down to the freeze deadline in your keeper league. Not all of these suggestions are easy to follow, but all have been proven to be effective.

And now for something completely different….

DEAD TO ME. I kept seeing articles here and there talking about players who were designated as DTM. I had no idea what that meant. Finally my daughter explained the meaning: Dead To Me. This doesn‘t imply that you wish for harm to befall this person, merely that you finally refuse to acknowledge their very existence. Yet, somehow, you just can’t shake that fascination.

In fantasy baseball, there are a number of players who certainly would fit into that category, from back in the day until the present season. I guess my current King of DTM would have to be my old buddy, Alex Gordon. Truly, the man has been my nemesis for years, my Moriarty. How man times will he have to pull that football away at the last minute before I finally figure this out?

But hey, I hear he looks really good in Spring Training this year….

Want to vent? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section…who is dead to you? Who are the players you can’t avoid, but who continue to break your heart.

Well, that’s the article for this week. I hope you have enjoyed it, and hope that you enjoy the site. Jon puts an awful lot of work into AFB, so if it adds to your knowledge base or enjoyment of our hobby, be sure to tell your friends about us.

Good luck, and have fun!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Get Ready for Rookies, Rookies Everywhere

As more and more Major League Baseball teams reshape their team-building philosophies from "sign free agents and trade minor leaguers" to more development-centric methods, we will see a greater and greater number of rookies and young players making rosters out of spring training. Rookies will be given longer chances and more opportunities to contribute than we are used to seeing from most teams. Conversely we are going to start to see older veterans, who have begun to fade, shuffled out of the majors sooner than was once the case.

For fantasy owners this is both good and bad news. The good news is this will mean that there are lots of interesting new players available on an annual basis. Rather than filling out the ends of your rosters with the Shawn Dunston, Omar Vizquel, and Ken Griffey Jr types, you will find yourself drafting more Daniel Murphy, Justin Masterson, and Ben Zobrist types. These are players whose upside has often been higher than their initial roles might indicate. Insouciant owners who continue to waste their endgame picks on old guys will be far less effective.

The bad news is this means more work for fantasy owners. You will have to work hard to gain an edge. That geek in your league (it could be you) that reads every page of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook and the Baseball Prospectus will suddenly be more of a contender than he was before. Sure there are many websites that publish Top 100 lists but they won't help you much if you don't understand why a player is ranked the way he is. You need to immerse yourself into reading the work of writers like Kevin Goldstein of, John Sickels of, Adam Foster and his extremely talented staff at (a lot of their focus is on gathering and filtering information for people who play in deep fantasy baseball leagues, so they can help you quite a bit), or any of the talented guys like Jim Callis and John Manuel at Baseball America, the standard for tracking minor leagues and top prospects. If you just commit to reading the work of these writers you will be way ahead of the curve of the changes coming to baseball's player population.

This happens to be the start of that point in the season where you start to see rookies added to the major league roster of contending teams. The trade deadline has passed and the stretch run has begun. Every team wants their best hands on deck. Sure, you will see even more rookies added in September but they will be there to watch and learn on the contending teams. This is when you should be using low FAAB bids to acquire players, especially if you can reserve them or you are not really in contention for a title. They may be very useful next season.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Russell Branyan - Fantasy Baseball Stud

I am not one to say I told you so but I so did. In January I told you just how good Russell Branyan could be if he received the playing time that Seattle seemed to be promising him. I drafted him on quite a few teams this year and he has more than rewarded me for it.
In 2008, Branyan hit 12 homers in 132 at-bats. And he has essentially always performed that way. Last month, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a one-year guaranteed contract approaching a million bucks a year to be their primary first baseman. This was an excellent move. Branyan has a low contact rate but has a career fly ball rate over 50 percent and approaching 60 percent the last few seasons. This translates into homeruns because of his excellent career HR/FB of 21.9 percent. Do the math – (500 at-bats)*(70 percent contact rate)*(50 percent fly ball rate)*(22 percent HR/FB) = 38 homeruns. Branyan's best-case batting average is probably no better than .270 and reality suggests an average closer to .250, but if Ludwick can hit .290, anything can happen.
David Cameron over at just posted an article lauding Jack Zduriencik, the Seattle Mariners general manager for signing Branyan and giving him the opportunity that no one else would.
So far, he looks like a genius. Branyan entered the day hitting .306/.395/.590, and he just hit a Trevor Cahill fastball about 750 feet for his 11th home run of the season. Given a chance to hit against left-handed pitching for the first time, he’s responded by showing a fairly normal platoon split - .312/.407/.634 vs RHPs and .294/.373/.529 against LHPs.
Even Branyan's most fervent supporters don't believe he'll continue to hit over .300 but I and a growing number of others do believe that he can approach (if not surpass) the 40 homerun level.

Did you draft Russell Branyan? Do you believe he can continue his present rate of production? Please share in the comments section.