I’ll be hosting a chat later this morning to discuss the Starting Pitcher Guide. Come by and hit me with any & all starting pitcher-related questions. And frankly, I will answer anything fantasy baseball-related, but I suspect most questions will be tied to the SP guide.
I’d set you up with an intro here, but there are 73,375 words in this guide, you don’t need to waste time reading me reiterate what you’re going to read in the opening of the book anyway. I truly hope you enjoy this guide. It was a max effort project and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my esteemed guest writers:
- Jason Collette from Baseball Prospectus, Rotowire and Dock of the Rays
- John Halpin from Fox Sports
- Tim Heaney from KFFL
- Zach Sanders from FanGraphs and RotoHardball
- Mike Siano from MLB
A huge thanks to them for coming onboard to make this far & away the best version of my SP guide yet. I would LOVE to hear your feedback on the guide so please feel free to comment here, hit me up on Twitter (@sporer) or email me directly sporer at gmail. I’m interested in what you thought worked, what you thought didn’t work, what you’d like to see in the future, etc… Enjoy!!!!
Also don’t forget that while the work is free, if you choose to donate using the Paypal button in the upper right corner, you will be entered to win a Tim Lincecum or Justin Verlander jersey. The drawing for that will likely take place sometime just after Opening Day.
I am very proud to present to you the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide in all its glory and the Charts & Rankings right below:
The Charts & Rankings:
Today was supposed to be the release date for the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide, but alas it’s not yet completed. I had all of last week off to work on the guide and while I got a ton of it done, there was just too much to push through in a week. I didn’t want to take any shortcuts on the over 500 pitcher profiles or the nine articles I had to write or edit or the handful of useful (hopefully) charts and graphs for your viewing pleasure.
That said, I’m almost done. There is only one more team to write up and then editing. I’ve only got two more articles of my own to write and then editing the guest articles. I am aiming for a Wednesday release. I am still planning on having a chat a day or two after release where I will answer any and all pitcher-related questions (well, I’ll answer anything fantasy baseball-related to be honest).
I appreciate the patience. Even with the pushed back release, there should still be more than ample time to utilize the guide for your draft or auction prep as most leagues don’t even turn in keepers until the calendar flips over to March. I’m very excited about the final product and I think it will be worth the extra wait. Also, with the time being invested into the guide, the Daily Dose won’t be back up & running until later this week. Stay tuned for more.
I have been so engrossed in SP Guide work that I haven’t been reading much on the ‘net or scanning my Twitter for the best pieces, so today’s Dose will be a little light. The book has been priority #1 with my time off from work so while it has cut into my time dedicated to the Daily Dose, I think you will find that it is well worth it upon its release.
I finished the Kansas City Royals today and I must say that even accounting for the attrition they will undoubtedly suffer, their system is still overflowing with ridiculous pitching talent. It’d be a minor miracle if all four of the lefties (Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer) panned out 100% as expected, but they have at least seven other high-ceiling youngsters coming through their system ready to step in for anyone who falters. It would take an epic collapse and absurd string of bad luck for this not to pan out well for KC. There are no guarantees of pennants and World Series appearances, but a rise from the depths of the AL Central is very likely for this once proud organization.
I will be appearing on Joel Henard’s (@joelhenard) Baseball Daily Digest Fantasy February podcast Wednesday evening at 6 PM Central. There will be plenty of starting pitcher talk as we preview the book and discuss some second and third level options for you to look at as you prepare for your drafts.
I referenced a couple of tweets about Indians stars Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana last week, but here is a piece by their MLB.com beat reporter Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) covering things in much greater detail.
FanGraphs has purchased a fantasy game that they are rolling out for a special $9.99 price for the rest of this month. I met the creators of the game at BaseballHQ.com’s First Pitch Forums in Arizona back in November and I was definitely intrigued by it. I’m going to see if I can get a league together as I would prefer to play with friends as opposed to be part of a league of strangers. If you’re looking for a more detailed, intense fantasy baseball experience, this could be right up your alley.
ESPN unveiled their 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit recently. It’s a little light on analytical content, especially compared to what seemed to be a robust fantasy basketball guide, but I think they will be adding to it throughout Spring Training.
If you enjoy good baseball analysis on a wide variety of topics delivered straight to your inbox, I recommend Joe Sheehan’s Newsletter. He hasn’t asked me to or paid me to promote the Newsletter, but on the heels of his fantastic breakdown of the Albert Pujols contract negotiations, I figured I would let y’all know about it just in case you’re not already subscribing. It’s $29.95 for a minimum of 180 editions (more if his time permits) and after subscribing last year, I can honestly say it’s well worth the price.
CBS Sports hosted a 12-team AL-Only Auction among industry insiders and posted the results for our viewing pleasure. With the deep rosters (7 reserves), things got pretty thin with that many teams drawing from a 14-team pool. If this were a league being played out, I think I’d have a problem with the league size, but as an instructional device, I think it works just fine.
A host of different strategies employed and some very interesting player costs , too. I liked Jamey Eisenberg’s stars & scrubs approach on its face, though I think he may have incurred too much risk with his particular set of stars as Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are both coming off of injury-shortened seasons and Alex Rodriguez may be descending into the twilight of his career. I really liked Scott Pianowski’s (@scott_pianowski) team as a whole as he mixed quality stars (Shin-Soo Choo, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Joakim Soria and Derek Jeter) with high upside cheap guys (Derek Holland, Marc Rzepczynski, Johnny Damon and Juan Rivera to name a few).
Finally, having watched IBM’s computer Watson positively destroy two of Jeopardy’s best players ever, Eriq Gardner at Fantasy Ball Junkie wonders aloud if a computer could compete in a fantasy baseball league. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if a computer held its own given how amazing technology is these days and getting better by the second.
I’m neck deep in the Starting Pitcher Guide right now and I want to keep that momentum going. I have barely taken breaks to eat much less do anything else. Still plenty of work to be done, but is it really work if you enjoy doing it?! I’ll get a DD posted tomorrow, so check back.
A link-less, abbreviated Dose heading into the weekend as I drop some first base-related knowledge bombs on y’all:
Knowledge Bomb 1: A couple days ago, I released my top 25 catcher rankings to kick off my positional rankings. Let’s continue our way around the diamond and head over to the ultra-deep first base. On the offensive side of things, first base is hands down the deepest position with several superstars and plenty of talent to go around. The best way to utilize the depth is to also grab your corner infielder (in leagues that use the spot) from this pool. Some feel that the depth at first base allows you to wait on the position altogether, but I don’t think that is the right play at all.
I think you should be ready to double and perhaps triple dip (1B, CI, DH) into the plentiful bounty of first base. There are other strategies to be employed, but my feeling is that with the excess of power potential at the position compared with the dwindling power supplies in the league at large, why not maximize the position and its four-category contribution: power (HR, RBI, R and AVG as each HR contributes a hit, too)?
Even if you played up position scarcity and chose a shortstop in the first round and an outfielder in the second round (it’s thinner than you think, folks), you will still have stud potential available in the next two or three rounds. Let me show you what I mean (guys who have dual-eligibility at first base aren’t going to be included in the actual top 25 as they don’t have nearly the value at first that they do at their normal position. That means there won’t be any Victor Martinez, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, etc.. Kevin Youkilis will show up because he won’t start the season with 3B eligibility after playing just 2 games there last year.):
- Albert Pujols
- Miguel Cabrera
- Joey Votto
- Mark Teixeira
- Kevin Youkilis
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Prince Fielder
- Adam Dunn
- Ryan Howard
- Kendry Morales
- Justin Morneau
- Paul Konerko
- Billy Butler
- Derrek Lee
- Gaby Sanchez
- Adam LaRoche
- Aubrey Huff
- Ike Davis
- Carlos Pena
- Lance Berkman
- Kila Ka’aihue
- Justin Smoak
- James Loney
- Daric Barton
- Matt LaPorta
Overvalued: Ryan Howard – this one is relative as I still think he is plenty valuable as a major power source, but I’m not sure he returns to his truly elite power self as some of the warning signs are to be taken seriously. He’s been going off the board as the 5th or 6th first baseman in a lot of industry mock drafts that I have seen and his ADP (average draft position) is 6th and 7th at Mock Draft Central and Couch Managers, respectively. I’ve got him 9th, so it’s not a huge dip, but I wouldn’t make him down for 40-140 automatically in 2011.
Undervalued: None – no one being seriously overlooked, at least not by more than a slot or two which isn’t enough to get up in arms. There is some value at the position because the depth pushes some guys down, but no one is being criminally passed over in lieu of lesser options.
Target: Kendry Morales – Yes, he is coming off of the big leg injury, but that isn’t something that will sap his power or hamper him at all this year. He had a breakout 2009 and was in the midst of an excellent follow-up in 2010 when the accident happened, I expect him to pick up right where he left off and continue as one of the best first basemen in the league. Even if you already locked up an elite first baseman in the first or second round, there would be nothing wrong with coming back in the fifth round and slotting Morales’ 30-home run power into your corner infield spot.
Best of the Rest: Adam Lind – he doesn’t yet qualify at first base in standard league formats, but as his assumed position for Opening Day, your league may allow you to draft him there. Even if that isn’t the case, he will earn his eligibility there quickly and he has elite power potential with the ability to hit .275+ yet he is going behind LaRoche and Pena (who he is a rich man’s version of) according to current ADP numbers. If he were first base eligible right now, I would slot him between Konerko and Butler.
Rookie to Watch: Freddie Freeman – He strikes me as James Loney-esque right now lacking enough power to be a starting first baseman. He could be a .280 hitter with mid-teens power, though, which is still worth rostering even in mixed leagues given the late round cost attached. He’s really the only rookie 1B with a chance to start in 2011.
Knowledge Bomb 2: There were 13 first basemen to hit at least 20 home runs and drive in at least 80 runs:
- 10 of the 13 scored 85+ runs
- 5 of the 13 scores 100+ runs
- 6 of the 13 hit .290+
- 10 of the 13 hit .260+ (a .260 AVG will cost a team just .002 in team AVG over a full season)
- 4 of the 13 chipped in 7+ stolen bases (Votto  & Pujols  doubled the contribution)
Knowledge Bomb 3: Check out the home run season totals at three key thresholds broken down by position:
Few leagues use each outfield position individually, but even if I had lumped all three together the point of first base’s power prowess would have still held. You need three to five outfielders in all leagues whereas you need just one first baseman (but could feasibly roster up to three with corner and DH). First base is the only elite power source on the diamond. If you leave your draft or auction with Billy Butler (who I really like, so don’t get me wrong there) as your starting first baseman, you have messed up and you will likely be struggling for power all year long.
I will reiterate that you needn’t take a first baseman in the first or even the second round to cash in on the power surplus. So if you wanted to go shortstop and third baseman to attack some of the scarcity around the infield, that would be a feasible strategy and you would still have plenty of power first basemen available to you in the third and fourth rounds. However, if you’re looking at a blank 1B spot on your roster in the back end of the fifth round, chances are you are well behind your leaguemates at the position.
You don’t have to read complaints about the weather today, let’s instead jump right into the Daily Dose:
The Los Angeles Angels beat writer for the LA Times, Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) quoted GM Tony Reagins on the likelihood of Mike Trout making it to Anaheim this year: “I would say it’s unlikely”, which is definitely the right thing to say right now. There’s no reason to put undue pressure on the top prospect and get him worrying about playing up to a standard that will earn him a trip to the show.
Do not take Reagins’ comments as a definitive guarantee that Trout won’t be up all year, though, because things can and will change as the season evolves. Looking at two of the best prospects to make their mark on the league last year, Jason Heyward and Buster Posey, they each elevated through minors pretty quickly. Posey was a college star at Florida State, though, so he’s a bit different than Heyward and Trout so let’s just look at Heyward.
Trout and Heyward both signed early as mid-to-late first round picks, but Trout signed earlier got 32 more games in than Heyward. Both sample sizes are too small to draw much from, but a nice taste for fans to see what their team’s first pick garnered. Both exploded in their second season and became top five prospects across baseball (Heyward 5th, Trout 1st). And that brings us to this year, Trout’s third. In his third, Heyward, after crushing A-ball with a taste in High-A, went back to High-A for 49 games and acquitted himself quite well. Trout crushed A-ball last year, too, but 50 of his 131 games were at High-A unlike Heyward who only had seven in his first go-round.
Is Trout ready to make the jump to AA after 50 High-A games? Heyward needed just 56. Of course Heyward only played 99 games in his third professional hampered by injuries so he only saw another 50 games between AA (57) and AAA (3) before reaching the majors last year. Barring injury for himself, Trout could start AA and play 60-70 games there. If he continues to mash as he has thus far, he could get another 50-60 at AAA before possibly earning a late season call-up to the majors.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out, either. That said, anyone in a re-draft league needn’t waste their time drafting Trout in March, not even if there is a reserve roster. There is no reason to tie up a roster spot on a slim chance. Besides, even if he comes up this year there is no guarantee he would be a contributor. I can’t wait to see how Trout progresses after his explosive 2010, but we will likely be waiting until Opening Day 2012 to see him suit up in Anaheim.
RotoAuthority has released their second basemen rankings for 2011 and they are veeeerrrry interesting to say the least. I’m already on record about the depth at second base, which I think is significant, and looking at this list only reinforces that belief. I don’t, however, fully agree with the ordering of the players. It starts off with a bang by not having Robinson Cano atop the list.
I like Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia plenty, but why you’d take either ahead of Cano is beyond me. Tsuyoshi Nishioka at #7 and Sean Rodriguez at #9 ahead of Brandon Phillips at #10? I wish there were projections tied to this list because I’d love to see the fall off in production that puts Martin Prado at #15 behind Danny Espinosa (#13) and Howie Kendrick (#14). If we all drafted using the same lists and valuations then this game wouldn’t be much fun, but some of these are real head-scratchers to me.
Second base was a hot topic today as Ross Tremblay over at Fake Teams compared Utley and Cano and their projections for the 2011 season. He ended up with Utley ahead of Cano in terms of who he would want. The biggest problem I see in Tremblay’s analysis is that he vastly underrates the injury risk and age-related decline of Utley. He compares the two at full health which is already a bit of a hypothetical stretch meant to strengthen the Utley side.
Second base, as Tremblay correctly points out, is a position that shows age-related attrition more than any except catcher. Add in that Utley has three significant injuries (hand, hip, finger) in the last three years (though he didn’t miss time due to the hip surgery in the offseason) and there is legitimate risk. Utley’s biggest statistical edge for Tremblay’s projections is in the stolen base department. Again, I find this somewhat tenuous as his running could be in danger in order to mitigate some of the injury risk.
He’s a remarkably efficient base-stealer and ran plenty in September, his first full month after the injury, but Tremblay has him down for 15-20 bags which strikes me as the high end best case scenario. He has topped 15 just once in the last five years, three of which were full seasons. A year older and coming off of a season in which he played just 115 games, I would have him down for 12-15 bags.
Tremblay concedes that Cano is slightly better than Utley on the whole, but the cost of each sways him toward Utley. Cano is a bona fide first round pick while Utley is going somewhere in the second round. I’m all for value, but I’m more for mitigating risk, especially in the early rounds. That reason alone is enough for me to value Cano a good bit higher than Utley, even if he costs my first round pick. I didn’t like the hypothetical comparison Tremblay used to show Utley had higher value.
He paired each with a first baseman and determined that the Utley and Mark Teixeira/Adrian Gonzalez combo is better than a Cano and Ryan Howard/Prince Fielder pairing. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement on its own, but more to the point, who says you have to take a first basemen in the first two rounds? It’s the deepest position along with starting pitcher. It’d be great to get a stud, but I think he is once again using a hypothetical device to strengthen his Utley position. When you’re talking about a one round difference at most, you definitely want the best player, especially when he is less risky, too. That is Cano.
Adam Rossi has a fun piece over at RotoHardball comparing players to various Hollywood starlets. He does a great job combining my favorite things in the world: baseball and women. Rossi points out early in the piece that those are his two favorite things, too! He was right to believe he wasn’t the only one. I take issue with his suggesting that Natalie Portman wasn’t still very attractive with the shaved head and that Carrie Underwood is the end all, be all of celebrity women.
She’s definitely pretty, but even he points out that she’s boring. And that’s just it, there’s nothing particular distinctive about her and thus she can’t be the #1 famous hottie. As I told him in the comments section, I could find a handful of girls as pretty or prettier than Underwood on University of Texas campus on any given day when school is in session. Silly disagreements aside, I like these kinds of different articles that offer a fresh way to look at things.
Knowledge Bomb: I want to share something I learned yesterday that you may already know. I absolutely love MLB.tv. I love how it works across many platforms and you can choose your broadcast and they are working to improve it yearly. One issue I always had was the fact that when you made it full-screen in your dual monitor setup, you couldn’t work on the other screen without it shrinking back down to regular size. I made this known to the @MLBtv Twitter feed yesterday and whoever runs it promptly messaged me letting me know that this feature is in place and I had just been missing it this whole time!!
If you go to this MLB.tv FAQ page, it will show you that the dual monitor feature is in the Settings able to be toggled on and off and allow you to have your game on one screen in full mode while you work on the other. This seriously (or sadly?) made my day yesterday. I knew the technology was available because Netflix Instant allows it. I’m just glad it’s now part of one of my favorite products. Sorry if you already knew this, but if you didn’t and have been clamoring for it, then it’s about as explosive as these knowledge bombs can get.
As much as I hate the miserably cold (relative to our climate) weather that has besieged Austin, I am comforted by the knowledge that baseball is on the way and we are seeing more baseball preview content up every single day. Soon MLB Network will start their 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and with that hopefully the bitter cold of mid-20s with near single digits wind chills will head back to the Midwest and Northeast where it belongs. I wish this kind of weather understood how unwelcomed it was here in central Texas. Go back to the people who are insane to actually crave four seasons of weather. I’m fine with one: summer.
Ray Flowers (@BaseballGuys) has a fun series over at RotoTimes.com called “I Like Because…” where he digs deeper on some second and third tier players to show their upside. He makes his case for getting away from the term “sleeper” positing that in the information age, they don’t really exist. I see where he is coming from on the whole sleeper thing mainly because I think there are different levels of players being undervalued and putting them all under the header of sleeper simplifies it too much, but no need to rabbit-hole on that right now. I still use the term, but I like to categorize my sleepers when I do articles dedicated to identifying them.
I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I do like that he gives some love to Justin Masterson, someone I’ve been a fan of for a couple of years now. Masterson didn’t perform as I expected last year as he continues to get positively obliterated by left-handers. He needs to figure that out if he is ever going to reach his potential. For his career, lefties have a .291/.381/.433 line against him while righties are much worse at .228/.304/.322. Until he shows noticeable improvement against southpaws, he is a spot-starter against right-handed-heavy lineups only.
Over at FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli (@cistulli) did some great analysis in examining some of the top scouts of the last five years. Through his own admission, this piece is merely a jump off point to further analysis, but it is a very interesting study that I look forward to seeing fleshed out either by Cistulli or others.
As the baseball season draws nearer, so too does the release of MLB 2K11 (March 8th), the latest of a series that just keeps getting better annually. Initially the bar was pretty low, but last year was a huge stride forward and 2011 is setting up to be yet another large step toward perfection. Jon Robinson got a chance to interview Roy Halladay, this year’s cover, and discuss aspects of pitching a perfect game in 2K11 which is again will be worth a million bucks as it was last year, though Halladay admits it will be tougher. I took a few no-hitters into the 8th inning last year and one into the 9th, but I was never more than six innings into perfection. Operation Sports has plenty of MLB 2K11 coverage, too, including screenshots and previews.
MLB.com has released their fantasy baseball positional previews. It’s a great primer to kick off your 2011 fantasy prep work. They go deep at every position with 73 catchers, 83 first basemen, 95 second basemen, 85 third basemen, 81 shortstops, 202 outfielders, 21 primary DHs, 230 starting pitchers and 128 relievers. Each player capsule has the pertinent previous 3 years of stats, projections for 2011, a dollar value, a paragraph with their outlook and a “Fantasy Bottom Line”. Best of it, it’s all free. It would be a value at $8-10 which is what you would pay for a fantasy magazine that is outdated long before it hits the shelf.
Want another opinion on players? How about four more opinions? Yahoo’s team of guy has released their positional rankings as well as a top 100. These rankings are short on analysis containing just the 1 through however many deep each position goes, but the Y! gang will have plenty of content coming out throughout February and March so this is just something to whet your appetite for now.
Over at AOL Fanhouse, Frankie Piliere (@FrankiePiliere) released his top 100 prospects list for 2011. His #1 player won’t surprise, but his #2 might as might a noticeable absence from the top five. Piliere has experience as a talent evaluator and scout so this is far from a dartboard approach to he is using. He certainly doesn’t tow the industry line either. I scanned the list 1-100, but I’ve yet to read every capsule so I’m interested to see his analysis on players (1-50 have a paragraph of breakdown included).
Bill Ladson was on the Beyond the Boxscore podcast this week and he said he expects Stephen Strasburg to be pitching in September of this year. That’s probably the most aggressive projection for Strasburg’s return as many have had him out for all of 2011. If this is true, it possibly raises an interesting question for non-keeper drafters about whether or not to take Strasburg and when. Obviously if you have to keep him in the active roster all year, there is no way you would draft him in March.
However, if there is a reserve roster system in your league then you have to weigh the potential of him helping you for a stretch run against killing a precious roster spot for a guaranteed five months. For me personally, I wouldn’t even entertain it, but that’s my conservative approach. Who knows what he would even deliver in six or seven starts to close out the season. He could be like teammate Jordan Zimmerman who went 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 in seven starts or slightly better like Tim Hudson in 2009 who went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 6.4 K/9 also in seven starts. Neither was a game-changer for their owner down the stretch, but neither has the talent of Strasburg, either.
OK, I like Blake Griffin as much as the next guy, but what the hell is going on here?? It’s pretty hilarious if you ask me, but definitely in a creepy kind of way.
In addition to being hilarious, this is also awesome: Saved by the Bell Megacast! I don’t have a clue who Rob Cesternino or Eric Stein are, but by listening to the podcast I eventually learned that they are reality TV people of some sort. That information is totally irrelevant. All that matters is that they did a 2 hour and 51 minute podcast devoted solely to Saved by the Bell. If you grew up loving the show like I did, watching the 2 hour blocks on cable during the weekdays and then the new episodes on Saturday mornings on NBC, then this is a must-listen.
Knowledge Bomb: In keeping with the theme of ranking lists being released today, I’ll share my top 24 catchers for 2011 in today’s KB. Catcher remains top-heavy in terms of star power, but the next level down is much deeper than it has been in past years. Catcher is a tough position to figure in fantasy baseball because it’s the only position with built in days off and the grind of catching can easily add extra days off to that total thanks to nicks and bruises throughout the season.
It is rare that the top catcher will be on par with the top guys at the other positions. The exceptions are transcendent seasons like Joe Mauer’s 2009 campaign. One strategy to consider is find catcher-eligible guys who will spend a lot or even most of their time elsewhere on the diamond this year. Their value will still be highest at catcher on your roster, but if their team plays them at first base, outfield or DH, that’s a good thing for your team.
- Joe Mauer
- Victor Martinez
- Brian McCann
- Buster Posey
- Carlos Santana
- Mike Napoli
- Geovany Soto
- Miguel Montero
- Matt Wieters
- Kurt Suzuki
- Carlos Ruiz
- Chris Iannetta
- Jorge Posada
- Yadier Molina
- J.P. Arencibia
- A.J. Pierzynski
- John Buck
- Miguel Olivo
- Ryan Doumit
- Alex Avila
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- John Jaso
- Russell Martin
- Jesus Montero
- Jason Castro
Overvalued: Buster Posey – his great debut and playoff exposure has him going in the 4th round of a lot of drafts. That’s really high for most catchers, but especially for those with just 423 at-bats on their record, even for a wunderkind like Posey.
Undervalued: A.J. Pierzynski – he’s not great by any stretch, but he’s often overlooked. 2011 will be no different as a putrid April and weak May tanked his numbers and covered up a .299 AVG/.719 OPS in the second half (up from .247/.664).
Best of the Rest: Josh Thole – a great approach at the plate (24 BB/25 K in 227 PA) plus a wide open chance at the full-time gig gives the 24-year old a chance at a solid season. He’s never had even a modicum of power (10 HR in 1733 minor lg PAs) and that’s really what you want from your backstop which is why he didn’t crack the first 25.
Rookie to Watch: Jesus Montero – it’s hard not to be impressed with the prospects of Montero as he has ripped through the minor leagues like few before him, but the presence of Posada and Martin make it tough to project much playing time for the 21-year old right now. Given that he needs to work on his defense if he expects to stay behind the dish, he’s like to spend a lot of time in AAA to hone his defensive skills.
I’ll leave you with a breakdown of reporting dates for each organization as we get closer & closer to the beginning of Spring Training:
I can’t believe how close pitchers and catchers are to reporting. Baseball season is right around the corner, I can feel it!! It’s the only thing getting me through this awful cold weather. Let’s hit the dose for Tuesday:
I’ve been a fan of Daniel Tosh (@danieltosh) since he was an unknown comic doing Taco Bell commercials years ago. I saw him at the local comedy club around that time and the next time he was in Austin, I was one of the three comics who got to open for him. Once I heard he was going to have a show, Tosh.0, I didn’t really care what it was going to be about, I knew I’d watch it. I have not been disappointed as it’s easily one of, if the funniest show on TV. As much as it makes me laugh on a week to week basis, this clip might be my favorite of all-time:
A while back, Unreality Magazine did a piece covering the 10 Hottest Girls in TV Comedies. I figured it was a pretty good idea for a column. While I disagree with some inclusions and the order, it is hard to argue with the content otherwise. Alison Brie and Katrina Bowden were far too low given that they actually excel in both the hotness and the comedy whereas some were included merely because they are very pretty and part of comedy shows even if they aren’t particularly funny themselves.
No arguments for the picture of Kaley Cuoco they used as she looks great there, but anyone who watches Big Bang Theory knows that that particular picture is definitely Ms. Cuoco at her peak. I’d have had a bit further down the list despite the fact that she’s pretty funny on BBT. By the way, I’m sure I’m one of many, but I was saying that the eldest daughter on Modern Family looked like a younger Mila Kunis from the very first moment I watched the show. It’s a pretty easy link so I’m not trying to suggest I started it or anything. Any time you are getting compared to Mila Kunis, you know you’re awesome.
A pair of tweets about two of the best Cleveland Indians players had to give fans some hope for the upcoming season. Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) tweeted that Grady Sizemore is running and taking swings with April 1st, Opening Day for the Tribe, not out of the question. Meanwhile the Cleveland Indians Twitter feed (@tribeinsider) tweeted that Carlos Santana has been cleared for batting practice and catching activities. Olney mentioned that Santana is a bit ahead of Sizemore in the rehab process.
Over at Beyond the Boxscore, Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) created a sweet picture of Albert Pujols’ spray chart from last year. Click on the picture itself and it enlarges to about 3x the size. He also did one for Carlos Gonzalez last month. I’m a sucker for infographics like this which is why I can’t get enough of Craig Robinson’s work over at Flip, Flop, Flyball. If you’re familiar with Robinson’s work, you might want to pre-order the FFFb book due out in July. Hell, even if you’re not familiar with it, you’ll love it once you click the link and you’ll still want to pre-order the book.
ESPN is running a series of columns grading each team on their offseason grouped by division. Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) and Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) have done the first four (East & Central) and I’d assume they’re going to do the whole series. Crasnick covered the American League East and Central while Stark had the National League East and Central.
Sticking with the Worldwide Leader, they have been posting videos from their Fantasy Baseball Summit a few weeks back and it could be (read: most definitely is) because I’m kind of a dork, but I’m loving them. They started with a Mark Teixeira v. Kevin Youkilis debate and have since released clips on Jayson Werth, Joe Nathan and Adam Wainwright. The Wainwright clip is especially interesting and I suggest everyone in mixed or NL-Only leagues take a look.
One thing I really enjoy about John Sickels’ Minor League Ball site are his series articles. The ones I can think of off the top of my head that he does are Crystal Ball, Prospect Retro and Career Profiles. He’s been doing a lot of reader request Career Profiles of late and I recommend you check them out: Eric Chavez, Francisco Liriano, James Loney, Rickie Weeks and Jayson Werth are just a few that I really enjoyed. You can look through the rest here and find players that interest you most. In addition to Project Prospect, who I mentioned yesterday, Sickels’ site is another must-read for anyone interested in the minor leagues. Whether you already consider yourself a prospect maven or you’re interested in becoming one, his stuff is great.
Twitter Recommendation: CNBC sports business report, Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell), is an absolute must-follow on Twitter. Don’t let the sports biz moniker deter you either, he covers more than just sports and posts tons of interesting facts and great links about a wide variety of topics. If I could only pick five people to follow on Twitter, Rovell would easily earn a spot.
Knowledge Bomb: Be careful with stats, they can be dangerous. Houston Astros third baseman Chris Johnson came out of nowhere last season to put up 94 games of fantasy goodness including 11 HR, 52 RBIs and .308 AVG. Some will look at his line and think that a full season will bring about even better numbers for the 26 year old in 2011. In fact, I’ve seen him being trumpeted over Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez based on one stat: OPS.
In his 362 plate appearances, Johnson posted an .818 OPS. Make no mistake, that’s a pretty solid figure especially for an unknown like Johnson. Not many think he can repeat next year (including me), but those that do have dangerously wielded that .818 OPS around like a sword. In his 386 plate appearances, Alvarez “only” had a .788 OPS, 30 points away from Johnson.
While OPS is a useful stat for quick and dirty catch-all production estimations, not all OPS marks are created equally. The problem here is that OPS brings batting average into the equation so a fluky batting average, like Johnson’s which was powered by a .387 BABIP, can artificially boost one’s OPS. Alvarez had just a .256 average which cut deep into the OBP end of OPS. But when you go second level and look at the Isolated Power of each, Alvarez clearly has the brighter future based on their first 90+ games.
Isolated Power is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average. Alvarez popped a .205 IsoP, 5th among National League third basemen. Johnson had a .175 mark, good for 9th. Alvarez probably won’t hit .300 in 2011, he may not even top .270, but as Johnson’s luck regresses his average will sink and he may end up struggling to stay above .270 himself. Without the batting average advantage, you start comparing the two in runs scored, driven in and home runs and Alvarez wins a walk.
Alvarez has legitimate 25 home run power already with the potential for more while Johnson is a middling power contributor who will likely top out in the mid-teens. He’s one to avoid for 2011 as his 2010 numbers, including his OPS, will undoubtedly inflate his value to a level that won’t be commensurate with his performance this year. If you want a bargain at the thin hot corner, talk up Alvarez’s down average and strikeout tendencies and then swoop in and take him and reap the hefty rewards.
Pitchers and Catchers report in five days…