Posts tagged ‘Colby Rasmus’

Saturday: 02.2.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 21 Days – Jason Heyward

Only 21* days until live game action…

With 30 days to go, I started profiling a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

*Sorry for missing Friday’s entry, but I’m doubling up today so technically there are 20 days until live game action, but we’ll get to that later today!

JASON HEYWARD

On the heels of a brilliant 2009 campaign at age 19, Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward entered the 2010 season as the #1 prospect in all of baseball. You’d have thought it was a full season when you saw his numbers with a .323/.408/.555 line including 17 HRs, 63 RBIs, 10 SBs, and 25 2Bs, but injuries limited him to just 99 games which he split pretty evenly between High-A (49) and Double-A (47) tacking on three more at Triple-A to close the season out. Despite the hype there was no guarantee he’d start the 2010 season with the Braves, but then a big Spring Training during which he hit .305 with five extra-base hits, four stolen bases, and a near1:1 K:BB ratio (11 K/10 BB) sealed his fate as the starting rightfielder for good in Atlanta.

Well, for good so far.

You know what happened next. He hit a three-run home in his first major league at-bat and went on to have an excellent, near-Rookie of the Year campaign falling short to Buster Posey by just 22 points.  Unfortunately that was followed by the fabled sophomore slump in which he dropped 50 points from his batting average, saw his walk rate & OBP tumble in concert, and he missed 34 games due to injury including right shoulder injury that sent him to the disabled list in late May. He first missed time with the shoulder on May 11, but looking at the numbers suggests it was plaguing him throughout the month before finally hitting the DL on May 22nd:

heywardmay2011

Ouch. And that doesn’t even show the fact that he managed one line drive all month. He had 12 groundballs, nine flyballs, four popups, and the one line drive. So while it is speculation on my part that the shoulder was ailing him all month, I think the evidence is strong. He rebounded a bit when he returned on June 15th finishing out the month relatively, but then fell back into a deep slump that last all of July and August. In the two months he hit just .212/.281/.394 with 6 HRs, 20 RBIs, and 2 SBs. Perhaps most alarming was that his usually solid walk plummeted to seven percent.

He was lost.

A major problem facing Heyward in his dismal 2011 season was an inability to hit anything with a wrinkle. This is not a new problem facing youngsters and he didn’t exactly crush off-speed in 2010, but his 2011 work against the pitches especially awful and the 2012 rebound no doubt aided his resurgence:

heywardoffspeed

He didn’t exactly pound the ball against off-speed stuff last year, either, but the bar was so low that just returning to 2010 levels was enough to really help his overall numbers. Isolating his work against curveballs specifically shows that to have been his problem pitch above all in that 2011 season. Though his .143 batting average against the changeup in 54 plate appearances wasn’t carrying him to any batting titles, either.

heywardcurveball

He still has to get better to become the superstar that many see him becoming (myself included). His 35 percent strikeout rate against off-speed stuff in 2012 was the 13th-highest in baseball. That put him in the company of new teammate B.J. Upton (36.4%) and Colby Rasmus (36%), a pair of supremely talented, highly touted prospects (Upton peaked as the #2 overall prospect in ’04; Rasmus at #3 in ’09) who have never quite lived up to their expectations. Look at their numbers against off-speed since 2009 (as far as back as the data goes):

prospectOFvoffspeed

Heyward is the “best” of the three, but the lead is marginal and entirely tied to his extra plate discipline with a walk rate that is nearly two times that of the other two guys. It might worth noting that within the 2012 season, Heyward did show some improvement against non-fastballs from half to half posting a 689 OPS against the pitches through the All-Star break and followed it up with a 761 OPS from mid-July to the end of the season. The splits were small samples of about 115 plate appearances apiece, but maybe he adjusted something in-season to improve.

One thing that stuck out was that he killed changeups in the first half hitting .346 with a 991 OPS against them albeit in just 30 plate appearances before falling back to a .174 average and 513 OPS against them in the second half, again in a scant 24 plate appearances. Perhaps his luck was just evening out and the split in halves has no real significance.

The bottom line is that pitchers are beating him with off-speed pitches on a consistent basis and he will need to adjust if he is to become a superstar, face of the franchise-type who will take the torch from the now-retired Chipper Jones. For those wondering how he fares against fastballs, he has an 867 career OPS against them with single season marks of 903 in 2010, 827 in 2011, and 860 last year. He does have one particular trend that has been going in his favor year-over-year: his groundball rate is shrinking while his flyball rate climbs. He started with 55 percent groundball and 27 flyball rates in 2010, moving to 55 and 33 percent in 2011, and finally 44 and 37 percent a year ago. He was very close to the league average batted ball profile of 45 groundball, 34 flyball, and 21 percent line drive.

I hope y’all realize how much restraint I showed by not once referencing that Heyward has Trouble with the Curve.

You’re welcome.

Tuesday: 08.2.2011

Fantasy Impact of NL Players Moving to AL

Fantasy Impact of NL to AL Guys

I’m going to take a look at the guys moved all around during the deadline, but only from the fantasy angle.  So it is less about judging the team’s front office on the returns whether short or long term, but rather about how these players can have fantasy impact for you in the next two months and beyond (for prospects).

Ubaldo Jimenez (COL to CLE) – There is a lot of talk about much Jimenez has struggled this year which is expected because comparing his 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 to his 4.46 and 1.37 marks this year tells us he has been significantly worse.  But has he really?  The one significant cause for concern is the drop in fastball velocity from 96 MPH to 93 MPH.  Velocity drops are often an indicator of trouble, but beyond that there isn’t a great deal of difference in Jimenez’s profile.

He has a 2.3 K/BB rate for the third straight with virtually identical components to last year’s: 8.69 K/9 & 3.74 BB/9 in 2010; 8.63 K/9 & 3.73 BB/9 in 2011.  I don’t usually go two places after the decimal point, but I wanted to show just how close it has been.  His xFIP and SIERA are remarkable steady over the last three years with xFIPs of 3.59, 3.60, and 3.56 this year while his SIERAs are 3.77, 3.68 and 3.56 this year.

I realize most leagues don’t use xFIP or SIERA but the point is that he is pitching better than his ERA suggests.  The big differences are a career-high .312 BABIP (.280 and .271 the last two years) and severe struggles with men on base leading to a career-worst LOB% of 67% (74% and 77% the last two years; league-average is around 72%).

Another concern for many is his moving from the NL to AL as it is a league generally tougher on pitchers due in large part to replacing the pitcher batting with a designated hitter.  I would theorize that the change in park factors from Coors Field to Jacobs Field (shut up, Flo from the insurance company) would mitigate the league difference.  Coors Field significantly plays up 1B, 2B, 3B and HR while Jacobs Field plays essentially neutral or pitcher-heavy to all eight (each category for righties and lefties) except left-hander home runs (107 park factor, which is still an improvement from Coors’ 113).

This is the prize of the trade deadline for AL-only leaguers and if you need an arm then you need to take your chances on Jimenez.  He leaves a massively under-performing and disappointing team in Colorado for a pennant race in Cleveland which can only help.  At the very least, I think it would be a neutral factor.  His K/9 when slotted into the AL leaderboard is 6th-best so he is even better in 5×5 leagues.  The velocity drop may in fact be problematic, but his profile says there isn’t a reason for grave concern.  He could be a game-changer down the stretch for any team capable of real traction in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.  Wins are always a crapshoot, but there is no denying that the Indians have been sticking around for four months and this kind of big time trade could spark the whole team.  Or not.  Don’t chase wins.

Colby Rasmus (StL to TOR) – The Blue Jays earned raved reviews for plucking Rasmus from the Cardinals for what amounts to a pile of parts since Edwin Jackson wasn’t really a Jay except in passing.  I do think it was a nice pickup for the long term especially in light of what they gave up, but for the rest of 2011 it might not make that much of a fantasy impact.  Since the potential is there, I understand putting a significant portion of FAAB on him and even encourage it, but you have to be prepared for it to not work out.

The simple fact is he is regressing by the month.  After an .867 OPS in April, he has fallen to .777 then .684 and then most recently .544 in August.  A player of his caliber is unlikely to show up on the wire throughout the remainder of the season so take a chance on the upside if an offensive spark is what you’re missing.  Last year he ended the season on a very high note with a .318/.403/.514 line and four home runs, 12 RBIs, 19 runs scored and two stolen bases in 107 at-bats in September.  Let’s hope this fresh start rejuvenates him and gets back to the Rasmus we saw in 2010 and the first month of 2011.

Mike Adams (SD to TEX) – His move in home ballpark is just about the opposite of Jimenez’s, but as a short reliever there is less chance that it will greatly impact his rock solid skills profile.  He strikes out more than a batter per inning (9.2 K/9), doesn’t walk anybody (1.7 BB/9) and induces a decent amount of groundballs (46%) so I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to excel despite the move to a hitter’s park in the more hitter-friendly league.

As a reliever, it’s not like he was facing pitchers in the 7th and 8th innings anyway.  He is worth a few bucks as the last man on your pitching staff and might be worth even a few extra bucks if you’re in dire need of saves and don’t mind speculating.  Rangers manager Ron Washington has publicly soured on Neftali Feliz a bit and while that might just be his way of motivating him, he might also be looking for a reason to make a change (even though it’s his fault Feliz is there in the first place when he should be in the rotation).

Kosuke Fukudome (CHC to CLE) – Those in OBP leagues take note, Fukudome has gotten on base at a 36% or better clip all four years in the majors and 37% or better in each of the last three years.  That’s really ALL he does, though.  He has three home runs and two stolen bases on the season.  I understand that leadoff is hardly a run-producing spot in the lineup, but despite more than 300 plate appearances there, Fukudome has 12 RBIs.  The next worst is Austin Jackson with 24.  Of course a lot of that goes on the Cubs and their anemic offense, but he has never had more than 60 RBIs in a season.  He should be looked at as a 4th or 5th outfielder at best.

Brandon Allen (ARI to OAK) – This feels like a pretty typical Oakland pickup, doesn’t it?  Allen has thwarted AAA quite handily alas he is headed back there for now, but many suspect the A’s will give him a legitimate shot to see if they finally have a first basemen who is fantasy relevant (sorry, Daric Barton).  Allen has only gotten 65 games spread out across the last three years and while his line is a meager .213/.325/.404, he does have eight home runs and 27 RBIs, numbers that pace out to 27 and 91 in 600 at-bats.  A dollar reserve player in leagues where reserves are applicable, otherwise keep an eye out for his return to the majors which should happen at some point this year.

Tuesday: 07.19.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Outfield, Part 1

Outfield has a lot of great centerpiece players that would be worth giving up any un-keepable entities you have to in order to land them.  In fact, a number of them are “arm & a leg guys” meaning, of course, that they will cost you an arm and a leg.

You have to give something to get something and as long as you aren’t blowing up your team completely (e.g. trading a few expiring contracts/high-priced un-keepables AND some guys you were planning on keeping), then they are worth it.  Situations will vary depending on league format & keeper rules, but don’t overdo it just to get one guy or you may be worse off than you were before you got him.

Based on talent, age and the likelihood of studs on a cheap contract, outfield is the best position in this Keeper Building Block series to find your truly elite cornerstone.  The first 7 or 8 guys fall into that category and while all won’t be cheap in your league, several should be giving you options.  And it is likely that at least one of them is on a contender and hopefully you the missing puzzle pieces for them to seal a title and be willing to give their star.

There are several more OF building blocks than at any other position, so I broke it up into two pieces.

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

Third Base, Addendum

Jose Bautista (TOR, 30) – See the third basemen piece for info on Bautista.  He is almost certainly on a cheap contract and it’d take just about any viable piece you to get him, but it might be worth it if you still have a few keepers around him.  His value is much, much higher at third base, but since he qualifies at outfield, I made sure to list him here.

Carlos Gonzalez (COL, 25) – When a season of .287 with 22 HR, 27 SB, 88 RBI & 100 R is your come down season from a career year, you are an elite player.  Plus he is getting better month-over-month so he just might improve those paces.  Either way, he still ranks 26th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater and 8th amongst outfielders.  His 2010 breakout came on the heels of an 89 game debut in Colorado that went well (.284/.353/.525, 13 HR & 16 SB), but still left him with a reasonable average draft position (ADP) of 120.  So he is either on a minor league contract or a regular one that is no doubt affordable.

Andrew McCutchen (PIT, 24) – I am pleased to have this burgeoning star locked up for two more years in my NL-Only league for just $15.  He is a dynamic, five-category (his .279 isn’t elite, but the league-high is .272 and my team average is .262 so he is definitely a positive contributor in that category) stud who appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.  Next year will likely be his first full season in a run production lineup spot (third or fourth) and that should allow to knock in 100+ runs for the first time in his career.  That is if he doesn’t increase his pace of 98 this year and make 2012 his second stab at the century mark.  He is the face of the budding Pirates franchise and he can be the same for your fantasy team.

Mike Stanton (FLO, 21) – This kid is incredible.  He hit 22 home runs in 100 games (hitting one every 16.3 AB) and while the lofty strikeout rate (31%) made it clear that batting average would be a challenge, the power was undeniable.  He has made incremental gains on his power (HR every 15.8 AB and .267 ISO up from .248), his strikeout rate (down to 28%) and walk rate (up from 8.6% to 9.2%, OK so that is essentially the same) putting him on pace for 34 home runs and 96 RBIs… at 21 years old!

If there is one concern, it’s slight and it’s his age combined with the strikeout rate.  His inexperience and lack of contact could lead to prolonged slumps as he continues to grow.  It doesn’t dissuade me from targeting him, but keep it in mind.  In most keeper leagues, he will be on a minor league contract which is no doubt much cheaper than his actual value and with power on the decline league-wide; he should be a premier target.

Jay Bruce (CIN, 24) – He is essentially a look into Stanton’s future on some level, a pure power hitter with batting average liability.  Bruce doesn’t have the strikeout woes that Stanton does, but they profile similarly.  As a 21 and 22 year old Bruce hit 21 and 22 home runs in 413 and 345 at-bats, respectively.  His walk rate has steadied at 10% the last three seasons and while his BABIP-influenced.281 batting average (.334 BABIP) from 2010 hasn’t held (.265 w/.293 BABIP), the .265 he has posted doesn’t hurt too much in this low-offense environment of 2011.  I have him and Stanton pretty close, but I gave Stanton the edge because he likely cheaper and he is three years younger.

Jason Heyward (ATL, 21) – The ideal situation would be finding Heyward on a contender because his 2011 has been a disappointment (have I mentioned that young talents, no matter how good, don’t improve linearly?) due at least in part to injury.  There is a bit of concern around his massive groundball rates (55% and 58% in his two pro seasons) and how that affects his power potential, but the kid is 21 and even when he is underperforming it is easy to see while watching him that he is a special player.

Colby Rasmus (STL, 24) – Generally when a guy needing a “change of scenery” is thrown around, it is an excuse for his struggles when the truth is that he probably just isn’t as talented as originally believed.  However with Rasmus, I think it is one of the few cases where the change is necessary.  Rasmus has a permanent front row seat in manager Tony LaRussa’s dog house and it seems to have finally crept on the field full time and affected his play.  Instead of aiding his first place Cardinals with a season that builds on his strong 2010, Rasmus looks out of place and appears to pressing with increasingly worse numbers month-to-month:

April: .301/.392/.476

May: .253/.370/.407

June: .213/.268/.416

Generally teams don’t discuss trading mid-20s talents like Rasmus alas his name has come up in some preliminary rumors as we near the trade deadline.  I have no doubts that he can flourish out from under LaRussa’s thumb and his modest 2011 output might allow you to get a discount via trade.  Or he could be a primary reason why you’re building for 2012 already.  If it is the latter, sit tight with Rasmus.

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