Posts tagged ‘Edwin Jackson’

Sunday: 07.31.2011

Fantasy Impact of AL Players Moving to NL

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).  You’ll see what I mean right away with this first guy…

Edwin Jackson, SP (CHW to TOR to StL) – Jackson is pretty easily the best player who switched from the AL to the NL and for teams in dire need of starting pitching, he will be the perfect jumpstart to their rotation and comes for “free”.  Free in that he simply costs FAAB and your worst pitcher as opposed to going out and trading for a starter which can be costly.  Judging Jackson by his 3.92 ERA at the time of trade is foolish at best and horribly misguided at worst.  Anyone paying attention sees how well he’s been pitching since a rough April (5.86 in 35 IP) having posted a 2.99 ERA in 93 innings including his first start with the Cards.

His second-level numbers are even better with a 3.21 FIP, 3.49 xFIP and 3.69 SIERA.  The WHIP is a bit hefty for the year at 1.41, but again that is inflated by April’s 1.71 mark.  His 1.31 WHIP in the subsequent three months still isn’t great, but it is quite a bit more palpable.  Keep in mind also that WHIP is especially tough to move this late into the season for better or worse.  Over the final two months, Jackson at a 1.31 WHIP might move a team up 0.01 in WHIP and that depends entirely on how the rest of the team’s staff pitches around him.  So don’t overrate that aspect of his game.

Jackson’s 7.1 K/9 rate ranks 27th among qualified starters in the National League and could stand to tick up facing non-DH lineups the rest of the way.  Combine that with his already favorable rates and a better home park and all of a sudden you have an “all-in” type of player when it comes to FAAB if pitching is your biggest need down the stretch. 

Corey Patterson, OF (TOR to StL) – It is Jon Jay who will benefit most from the trade of Colby Rasmus, but Patterson becomes the backup at all three outfield positions so he will get some at-bats on the Cardinals.  A .251/.284/.375 line in 347 plate appearances this year should tell you all you need to know about Patterson and his fantasy prospects.  He does have six home runs with 13 stolen bases so he has a tick of power-speed potential, but at what cost to your batting average?  If you have a dead spot at UTIL or your OF5 and you want to start getting some ABs that could result in something then Patterson warrants a few bucks of FAAB.  Otherwise, pass, because he isn’t an impact player even if he were somehow guaranteed regular playing time.

Derrek Lee, 1B (BAL to PIT) – My thoughts on Lee to Pittsburgh can be found here in greater detail, but from a fantasy perspective his value is similar to what it was in the AL with the Orioles which is to say minimal at best.  He is the 30th rated first baseman according to ESPN’s Player Rater.  In fairness, he has been 14th over the last month so if he stays warmish (.250/.294/.510 w/6 HR, 19 RBI) then he could be a low-level corner infield/utility option.  Then again, I say warmish because most of that 14 ranking is RBI driven which has little to do with actual skill.  He hasn’t been much of a power source in a friendly home like Camden Yards, so don’t expect a sudden uptick in PNC Park.

Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-chin-skee), RP (TOR to StL) – Dynasty NL-only leaguers might want to file The Chin away for a buck or two looking forward to the future because this 25-year old could move back to the rotation eventually.  He started 23 of his 25 appearances in 2009-2010 before shifting to the bullpen full-time this year.  After two years of a 51% groundball rate in the rotation, he has upped that mark to an eye-popping 65% in 41 relief innings.

All the while his 8+ strikeout rate has maintained (8.1 K/9 the last two years, 8.8 in 2009) suggesting some legitimate promise going forward.  His major hurdle will be figuring out righties more consistently as his strikeout to walk ratio against them is 1.7 while he posts a much healthier 3.2 mark against lefties.  Similarly his OPS allowed goes up 200 points from .578 to .778 when facing righties.

Brad Ziegler, RP (OAK to ARI) – If Jackson’s WHIP in 60+ innings the rest of the way isn’t really going to hurt you then Ziegler’s (1.35 this year and last, 1.50 in 2009) in far fewer innings (maybe 20 or so) will barely register.  Ziegler is a solid real-life reliever, but he doesn’t strikeout enough batters (career best 6.9 K/9 this year, career total of 6.0) to even have much NL-only value as your ninth pitcher on the staff.

Octavio Dotel, RP (TOR to STL) – Dotel does have the strikeouts that Ziegler doesn’t (9.2 K/9 this year, 10.9 career), but his ERA is always around the mid-3.00s and you can definitely find a high strikeout, low ERA guy who would better fit that middle reliever last spot on your staff.

Orlando Cabrera, SS (CLE to SF) – When bringing in a guy with a  .268 wOBA improves you at a position, there is trouble at that position on your team.  Cabrera, owner of the aforementioned .268 wOBA, is marginally better than Miguel Tejada (.260) and Brandon Crawford (.239), but he has been abysmal defensively at second base so why would the Giants think he could be better at shortstop?  He has zero fantasy value so don’t let the name recognition fool you into a bad move.

The only way I could see justifying so much as a dollar of your FAAB on him is if you have a dead spot at shortstop and your standings are tight in runs scored and driven in and you want to get something out of the roster spot.  And even then, you better not have a tenuous hold on your batting average spot because his .244 isn’t doing you any favors.  Perhaps he gets back to the .263 level he showed in the NL a year ago and hurts less.

There will be several pieces like this including:

  • NL players moving to AL
  • NL players changing teams in NL
  • AL players changing teams in AL
  • AL prospects moving to NL
  • NL prospects moving to AL
  • NL prospects changing orgs in NL
  • AL prospects changing orgs in AL

I think this is easier for fantasy purposes that analyzing every single trade one-by-one.  I’ll have them all out as soon as possible, but it might not be finished until Tuesday.  In the meantime, if you want my opinion on a traded player for your FAAB or waiver pickups that happen sooner, mention something in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (@sporer) and I’ll get to you there.

Monday: 07.4.2011

Hail Mary Team, Part 4

Now we take to the mound with the Hail Mary Team.  As I mentioned in the introduction piece, fixing rate stats (ERA & WHIP most commonly) is harder than piling up counting stats.  The more the innings pile up, the harder it is to make a significant move in ERA or WHIP without Justin Verlander-in-June-type numbers from a pitcher or three (0.92 ERA, 0.71 WHIP in 49 IP).  OK maybe you don’t need guys to throw that well, but you need some heavy innings of quality work to move the needle.

Of course that also depends on how stratified your league’s ERA & WHIP standings are to begin with and given how plentiful pitching has been this year, they might be pretty tight top to the bottom.  All that said, the guys on this list have the kind of skills to lower their ERA and WHIP totals by a decent margin over the second half, but the results haven’t been up to expectations so they can likely be had at a discount.  This group will contain a lot of strikeout upside and hopefully their continued display of strong skills will start to net the results they deserve leading in turn to wins along with several innings of quality ERA and WHIP.

Catchers, First Basemen & Second Basemen

Shortstops & Third Basemen

Outfield

STARTING PITCHER:

Zach Greinke (MIL) – The ultimate Hail Mary Teamer, Greinke should be your first target for pitching to see if that ugly 5.66 ERA can bring in a heavy discount.  For a lot of owners it won’t (as they realize he has been better than a 5.66), but even if he comes with a small discount he is worth it.  His skills have been amazing (11.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 6.4 K/BB), but he has been brutalized by absurd LOB% (55%) and HR/FB (15%) rates that just can’t continue or at least I certainly wouldn’t bet on them continuing.  His .341 BABIP is a career high, too.  That could be equal parts his 24% line drive rate (highest since 2006) and a poor infield defense.  Adding it all together, there just seems to be no way that he can continue to post the base skills he is and yet carry an ERA that high.  Perhaps you can turn your best hitter or pitcher into Greinke plus something else to start your Hail Mary Team.

Matt Garza (CHC) – I was worried about Garza heading into Wrigley especially with an escalating flyball rate the last few years.  Without a skills change, I thought he would get knocked around for plenty of home runs, especially on afternoons when the wind was blowing out.  Alas, he made a major skills change.  His flyball rate has gone from 45% down to 28%(!) with his groundball rate rising in concert from 36% to 50%.

However his work with men on base has ailed him this year thus what should have been the makings of a career year (2.87 xFIP, 2.98 FIP) has resulted in modest improvements from a 3.91 ERA last year to 3.77 this year.  There is room for more and Garza is one to target.  His current ERA won’t earn you a clearance price via trade, but a 3.77 doesn’t quite get his current manager what it used to either so don’t buckle into your trade partner’s demands without some push & pull.

Chris Carpenter (STL) – Too bad I didn’t think of this strategy a few weeks ago because Carpenter would have been a perfect selection back in mid-June.  However he has started to turn a corner with back-to-back one run outings in seven and nine innings, respectively, lowering his ERA from 4.47 to an even 4.00.  Of course that is still a decent bit below average as he has just a 90 ERA+ for the season.

His hit rate has leapt from 8.2 to 9.8 H/9 this year.  He allowed 8+ hits nine times all of last year and has already matched that total in 2011.  He has doubled his outings of 10+ hits allowed from two to four.  While part of it may be the downgrade from Brendan Ryan to Ryan Theriot at shortstop, a bigger part is a massive surge in line drive rate to 24%, a three year high.  His groundball rate has dipped 5% as a result, too.  His skills suggest an ERA of about three and a quarter so there’s still room to go even in the midst of his current mini-hot streak.

Ricky Nolasco (FLO) – Is there a more maddening pitcher in fantasy baseball?  After slightly outperforming his skills in 2008 (3.52 ERA/3.69 xFIP), he has massively underperformed against his skills the last two and a half years.  ERAs of 5.06, 4.51 and this year’s 4.08 have left us scratching our heads standing next to xFIP totals of 3.23, 3.37 and 3.50.  Like Carpenter, Nolasco has seen a dramatic rise in his line drive percentage up to a career high of 25% after sitting 19-22% for his career.

The dip in strikeouts from 8.4 to 6.5 is a bit alarming, too, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio remains very strong at 3.1 so he should still be better than a 4.08 ERA.  I am still willing to bet on a guy who had three straight years of 4.4 K/BB spanning 555 innings coming into this year, especially if I’m going all-in on a season that hasn’t panned out as initially planned.  The Hail Mary Team is obviously about embracing risk, it is really the only way for the strategy to succeed.  Well the risk panning out is the only for it to succeed, but the first step is not being afraid of risk.

Edwin Jackson (CWS) – I have put him in my spot starter picks several times this year.  His talent is starting to shine through more often than in years past, but the results haven’t yet caught up as his ERA (4.24) is nearly a run higher than his xFIP (3.28).  He is yet another guy suffering from an outlier line drive rate as his is also at a career high of 25% after just once topping 19% since he became a full-time starter back in 2007 (21%, 2008).  So if that evens out this year, his hit rate will come down from 10.1 and with it the WHIP will drop and his results will start to resemble his true skill level.  I find that a lot of fantasy managers don’t really like Jackson so if you present them with an opportunity to remove him from their team, they may happily oblige at less than full value.

Mat Latos (SD) – We saw the kind of heights that Latos can reach last year and there aren’t any glaring issues in his profile that suggest he can’t get back there again this year.  The flyball rate has ticked up from 40% to 46% while the groundball rate is down from 45% to 40%, but that hurts a lot less in his home ballpark and a few others within his division where it is reasonable to assume he will find himself pitching throughout the second half.  He isn’t pitching like the sub-3.00 ERA guy from 2010, but you don’t need him to in order for him to be worth your while in a trade.  Test the waters on him in your league and if the Latos manager in your league is in a tight ERA battle, maybe you have someone with a shiny ERA he would be more interested in.

Chad Billingsley (LAD) – Billingsley appears to be coming out of his funk a bit having lowered his ERA from 4.65 on June 15th to 4.15 after Sunday night’s start.  Of course that is still below average with an 87 ERA+ and a buying opportunity is there even if the price hasn’t dropped significantly.  His skills remain rock solid with very little movement in his strikeout and walk rates since 2007. If he can just avoid those full-on implosion starts (6+ ER), he should be able to chisel his ERA down to 3.50ish by season’s end if not better.

Max Scherzer (DET) – Even if he isn’t on your team this year, you probably have an idea of how maddening his season has been.  And now 18 starts in, I can’t imagine a fantasy manager sticking to his guns and making someone pay full price for a 4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  Now he might just say “I have come this far and I’m going to stick it out,” and if so you just move on.  But more likely you can find something even on your down-trodden team that will entice his manager to make a move at something well under preseason costs.

For your end, you are getting a guy who is still posting very strong skills (8.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB), but one who has been bitten hard by gopheritis (1.4 HR/9, 12% HR/FB).  Not only have his home run and home run per flyball rates hit career highs, but he is also allowing a career high 44% flyballs making it that much worse.  The Tigers fired their pitching coach on Sunday and perhaps newly promoted bullpen coach Jeff Jones can figure out what Rick Knapp couldn’t and get Scherzer back on his 2010 second half track.

Brandon Morrow (TOR) – In what was supposed to be another step forward if not a full on breakout season, Morrow has actually regressed in 2011 despite maintaining his 11.0 K/9 and lowering his walk rate from 4.1 to 3.6 BB/9.  Alas his efforts with men on base have continued to plague him as his LOB% has dropped from 69% in 2010 to 65% this year.  The talent is in there and we saw last August what it can deliver as he went 30 innings with a 2.97 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 14.7 K/9 en route to a 3-0 record in five starts.  Roll the dice on that potential without question, especially in a redraft league where you are taking a shot.

Edinson Volquez (CIN) – Another live arm (9.3 K/9) with an ERA that seems to belie his true skill (5.65 ERA, 3.97 xFIP).  A lot of his problems have been tied to home runs.  His insane 18% HR/FB has done a number on his ERA and even if that just evens out to his career mark of 12% (as opposed to league average around 9-10%), his ERA will feel it in a big way.  His ownership rates are way down so he is guy you might be able to get without a trade.  Hell, he may be a big reason you are in this place to begin with in which case just hold on.  The talent is there.  Let’s see if it comes to fore in the second half.

Brett Anderson (OAK) – Originally we were worried he would need Tommy John Surgery, but that appears to be out of the question now.  His return this year is still a question, but we’re throwing a Hail Mary here, so if a contender in your league has him, he might opt to get out from under that risk and get someone into his rotation who is actually pitching every fifth day.

Thursday: 03.24.2011

2011 Bold Predictions-Part 2

Continuing on with the AL Central…

Chicago White Sox:

Carlos Quentin hits 44 home runs – He hasn’t quite captured the magic from his 2008 season when he hit 36 home runs in 130 games and missed September of what could have been an MVP campaign.  Since that breakout season, he has continued to display very good power, but injuries have remained a huge issue limiting him to 99 and 131 games in the last two seasons.  So I’m betting on health as much as anything else combined with playing in a great park for home runs.

Edwin Jackson strikes out 200+ batters with a sub-3.50 ERA – White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has done more with less so I’m excited to see what he can do over a full season with someone as talented as E-Jax.  We saw a glimpse of things to come in his 75-inning sample after the trade from Arizona and I don’t think that was a fluke.  I’m not sure why people are so quick to dismiss his post-trade success, but believe that Daniel Hudson’s (sent to Arizona in the deal) is a slam-dunk precursor of things to come (which is leading to an overvaluing of Hudson, even though I really like him).  Jackson’s slider is 4th-best in baseball from 2008-2010 and it will be the primary weapon in his 2011 strikeout fest.

Cleveland Indians:

Lonnie Chisenhall has 400+ at-bats hitting .290/.370/.430 – He probably should have been given the job for Opening Day, but Jack Hannahan edged Jayson Nix in a placeholder duel for the third base job.  Chisenhall will head to AAA and polish his game up a bit more, but he will be up quickly and I think he takes over the job upon arrival.  There won’t be a ton of power right away and perhaps never, but I think he will lace plenty of singles and doubles while drawing a significant number of walks.

Shin-Soo Choo goes .330-30-30 – After a pair of nearly identical .300-20-20 seasons that have put him on the map as the excellent player that he is, it’s time for Choo to have the career year.  I see him going off with 34 home runs and 31 stolen bases and another .400+ on-base percentage, too.

Detroit Tigers:

Victor Martinez hits .372 – I wrote last week about why I thought Martinez was the top catcher for 2011.  I think the lack of catching should make him not only more durable, but also better.  As such, we could see a special season where this “professional hitter” wins a batting title.

Kansas City Royals:

Alcides Escobar steals 57 bases – His speed did not manifest itself in a full season of at-bats in which he grossly underperformed expectations.  A year older and on a team ready to unleash his speed, Escobar could provide sneaky value at the back end of that shortstop pool with a big time speed season.  He might still only hit .260, but he’s going to run a ton.

Kila Ka’aihue hits 37 home runs – He has shown prodigious power more than once in his nearly 1,000 games at the minor league level and at 27 years old, it is time to give him a legitimate shot at the major league level.  I have seen the Kila Monster multiple times as the AAA Royals affiliate plays against the Round Rock Express, who play minutes from my place.  Granted it was against AAA competition, but I am a believer and he could have a huge season if they stopped jerking him around and just let him get a full season of at-bats.

Minnesota Twins:

Kevin Slowey pitches 170 innings – This is bold for two reasons: 1) because he inexplicably lost out to Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing for a rotation spot on the Twins and 2) because he’s never topped 160 innings in his four major league seasons.  His 170 might not come with the Twins as he is rumored to be on the trade block, but even if he sticks around in the Twin Cities, he will get his shot.  He will finally stay healthy and pay the dividends his skills portend.  A small investment in him now could bring huge returns by season’s end as too many fantasy owners get short-sighted when it comes to these situations.  A little patience in April can make your October much sweeter.

Delmon Young picks up where ’10 left off hitting .325 with 30 home runs – Even after last year, you will still hear some analysts dismissing him as a “terrible player”.  That’s just stupid.  No, he doesn’t draw as many walks as we would all like, but to write him off as quickly as so many have makes no sense.  Especially when most of the people doing so are the condescending stathead snob-types.  I wonder if they ever realize they sound as stupid as they think non-stathead types like Joe Morgan sound when espousing the virtues of RBIs.  OK, a bit of a tangent there.  Longtime Rays fan and friend of mine Jason Collette is decidedly not a Young fan, but he doesn’t across like a douche about it.  It’s the one player we vehemently disagree on.  I think Young can build on his 2010 for a huge 2011.  Go Delmon, go!

Next Up: AL West

Tuesday: 03.22.2011

Walking the Walk

Have you ever wondered how much analysts follow the advice they dole out?  I get curious sometimes when I’m listening to various podcasts or reading different sites.  In case that is something you have wondered about me, I wanted to share some information from a 15-team mixed league draft I just completed.

All told, I drafted five of the pitchers from the list of 18 favorites for 2011:

Chad Billingsley (95th overall, 7th round)

Ricky Romero (176th overall, 12th round)

Edwin Jackson (245th overall, 17th round)

James McDonald (296th overall, 20th round)

Tim Stauffer (326th overall, 22nd round)

I had a few others queued up and watched as they were swiped right before I could take them.   Of the many interesting picks throughout the draft, one that is pertinent to this discussion was Brandon Morrow being taken 101st overall (7th round).  Remember what I said about him yesterday, “I think he is getting a little trendy raising his value, but that doesn’t dissuade me.”

Going that early does dissuade me.  I like him a lot, but I have my limits.  Notable names taken shortly after him that I value higher include: Shaun Marcum, Wandy Rodriguez, Colby Lewis, Brett Anderson, Hiroki Kuroda and Romero.  And that was just in the subsequent two rounds.  In a 15-team draft, you will have to extend out at times to get your target, but that was a bit egregious as far as I’m concerned.

Even though there is a near-100% chance nobody cares, here’s how my whole team turned out.  I picked 5th and it’s a hold + saves league otherwise standard 5×5 categories:

C – J.P. Arencibia

C – A.J. Pierzynski

1B – Billy Butler

2B – Omar Infante

3B – Evan Longoria

SS – Derek Jeter

CI – Gaby Sanchez

MI – Danny Espinosa

OF – Shin-Soo Choo

OF – Ichiro Suzuki

OF – Jay Bruce

OF – Nick Markakis

OF – J.D. Drew

UT – Adam Lind

BE – Juan Uribe

BE – Mark DeRosa

BE – Bill Hall


P1 – Chad Billingsley

P2 – Ricky Romero

P3 – John Lackey

P4 – Edwin Jackson

P5 – James McDonald

P6 – Tim Stauffer

P7 – Aroldis Chapman

P8 – Mike Adams

P9 – J.J. Putz

BE – Rick Porcello

BE – Randy Wells

BE – Jordan Walden

BE – Bobby Jenks

Miguel Cabrera was available at 5, but I went with Longoria because third base dries up in a hurry and I didn’t think Ryan Zimmerman would make it back to me in the 2nd round (I was right, he went 5 picks before me in that round).  I was going to build my infield with Dustin Pedroia in the 2nd round, but he went the pick before more so I shifted to outfield with Choo.  The same exact thing happened in the 3rd round as I was looking infield again with Jose Reyes and he went three picks before me so I shifted again to the outfield.

I think the depth/scarcity of outfield is consistently misperceived in these leagues with five outfield spots.  I do think there is some scarcity within the position in that middle area so I decided to build a beastly outfield since I covered the two scarcest positions very well (Longoria) and pretty well (Jeter).

I trust myself enough with pitching that I can work with this group and on the wire to put together a strong staff.  I would rather have enough offense at the outset and have to work on the pitching aspect than vice versa.  Consider one team that has Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, Tommy Hanson, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Marmol, Brian Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon giving them the makings of a tremendous staff, but a severely lagging offense after Miguel Cabrera including an outfield “highlighted” by Brett Gardner along with Franklin Gutierrez, Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce and Seth Smith.

That’s just one example, of course.  But I got “my guys” on that pitching staff and if they perform as I expect/hope, I may not have to do much work on the wire, anyway.

Monday: 03.21.2011

18 of My Favorite Pitchers for 2011, Part 1

Any fantasy baseball magazine, book or website is bound to have a sleepers section somewhere.  They are a fantasy staple loved by all and for good reason as everyone is looking to get the next big thing at a great price that will propel them to a title and help them for years to come if they play in a keeper league.

Of course in the Information Age we live in these days, it is really hard to get anything by your leaguemates in terms of a legitimate sleeper.  The more obvious sleepers turn up in seemingly every one of these articles all of sudden making them overvalued or at least just fairly priced sapping the value.  I am not here to bash sleeper articles as I have done them for the last five or six years whether here or at the various outlets I have worked for in the past.  I wanted to try a different approach this year.

Instead of worrying about sleeper label and pretending like we are pulling a fast one on our leaguemates, let’s just look at some guys I like for 2011.  These aren’t necessarily sleepers as many will be firmly entrenched on the radar of your opponents.  Nor are they necessarily breakout candidates, either.  After all, who really knows what defines a breakout?  It can mean 10 different things to 10 different people.

If you read the Starting Pitching Guide then you won’t be surprised by some of these guys as I made it clear how much I liked them there by suggesting you aggressively buy in or go the extra dollar or a host of other ways I used to convey my excitement for them.  Essentially if they are on this list, I like them more than their current projection meaning there is profit to gained.  There isn’t a uniform theme to this piece so let’s just get started with the names and you’ll see what I mean.

1. Cole Hamels – Seeing Hamels on a list like this might come as a surprise after all he doesn’t fall too far out of the top 10 starting pitchers in most drafts.  His inclusion is due to the fact that I have him as a top 5 guy for 2011.  He has Cy Young-quality stuff.  It was a travesty that his pitching led to just 12 wins, but that’s why judging pitchers on wins is foolish.  He is a bit overshadowed by teammates Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, but I think he’s the best bet from a production-to-cost ratio.

2. Tommy Hanson – Like Hamels, this is a superstar in the making, but an overreaction to a 10-11 record from 2010 is depressing his value a bit.  Guys like Hamels and Hanson are the ones who will be my aces in 12-team mixed leagues because I refuse to pay the premium attached to the Lincecums and Felixes of the world.  If you’re looking for guys to take Ubaldian leaps from good to great, target Hanson and this next guy…

3. Chad Billingsley – Noticing a trend with these first three guys?  Billingsley also had a record that belied his true value going 12-11 for the second straight season masking his return to 2008’s 2.5 K/BB and a career best 0.4 HR/9.  Are you surprised to learn that he is just 26 years old?  In a standard 12-team mixer, I’m building my hitting base filling in some scarcity fields like shortstop (if I can get Hanley or Tulow), third base and outfield (remember, we need five) while taking advantage of the first base depth with those first 6-8 picks then pairing Hanson and Billingsley as my 1-2 punch.  My offense is going to be better than the guy who took Halladay in round 1 or 2 and my pitching is going to nearly on par and potentially better even if he paired a Sabathia or Weaver with him using yet another early round pick.

4. Brandon Morrow – I think he is getting a little trendy raising his value, but that doesn’t dissuade me.  Last year, I loved Gio Gonzalez and Jonathan Sanchez to make big leaps forward and they didn’t let me down.  Morrow is my guy of that class this year.  If he can shave a full walk off of his rate like Gonzalez did, he would be near 3.0 and if it didn’t cost him over two strikeouts in the process (as it did Gonzalez), he can be truly elite.

5. Ricky Romero – I love me some Blue Jays this year.  I will lift a quote from myself from the Guide re: Romero, “Romero meets the three criteria of Sporer Trifecta of Excellence (patent pending) with a strong strikeout rate (7.5 K/9), a truly elite groundball rate (55% career) and an above average changeup (though it was valued higher in ’09)”.  He has the stuff to take a step forward, but even a 2010 repeat has value at the cost I’m seeing for him in the two drafts I have already done and the expert leagues that have already taken place.

6. Hiroki Kuroda – A victim in the W-L column going just 11-13 last year despite a very strong skill set.  He has managed three straight sub-3.80 ERA seasons in the majors despite failing to reach even 70% LOB% let alone the league average 72% mark.  His age (36) undoubtedly scares some off, but nothing in his profile warrants fear (50%+ GB rate, 2.2 or better BB/9 and improving K/9 reached 7.3 last year).  He comes cheaper or at the same cost as the likes Matt Garza and Tim Hudson despite a more stable set of skills and even a tick of upside if that LOB% bumps up to average.

7. Edwin Jackson – Not much love out there for Jackson for some reason.  Maybe because it took him so long to begin paying any sort of dividends on his elite prospect status (4th in baseball in 2004) or because he teased and tantalized with so many false starts prior to that breakout year in Detroit back in 2009.  In Don Cooper I trust.  In 75 innings he righted Jackson’s season from the disaster it was in Arizona assisting Jackson to eight quality starts out of 11 including a run of three in which he struck out 11, 10 and 11.  I think Cooper and the Sox will finally extract the best out of Jackson for a full season returning a sharp profit on his current value.

8. James McDonald – This is the third year of me driving the McDonald Bandwagon.  He’s just getting going after a trade to the Pirates finally got him into a rotation so I’m not going anywhere now.  He went for $4 in NL Tout Wars over the weekend.  He is the kind of endgame play that can yield $10+ dollars of profit and be integral to a championship run.  Frankly I’m surprised he was so cheap as he has popped up on a lot of sleeper lists this offseason, much to my chagrin.

9. Jordan Zimmermann He got a nice little 71-inning (31 in the majors) tune up last year coming back from Tommy John Surgery displaying 99% of his velocity from 2009 (92 of 93 MPH) and posted some decent stats albeit in smallish sample.  I am quite intrigued by what he can do in a full season (though a full season this year may mean  approx. 170 innings) having displayed strikeout an inning stuff throughout his minor league career as well as the 91 innings from his rookie year.  Injury returns are often a great source of profit and Zimmermann will be a prime candidate in this field for 2011.

Tomorrow’s portion of the list will feature nine names geared more towards single leagues and deeper mixed leagues.  That doesn’t mean they are entirely out of play for 10 and 12 mixed leaguers, especially if you have a reserve roster or taxi squad, but a lot of those leagues will have several of these guys on the waiver wire after the draft.

Ed. Note – if you’re wondering where Dan Haren is on this list, I figured he was too obvious to include.  If you’ve been reading my work at all this offseason, participated in the chat I hosted a few weeks back or talked with me via Twitter, you know how much I love this guy for 2011 (and beyond for that matter).  He is an unheralded ace with one of the best and most stable skills profiles in all of baseball.  He was tied with Max Scherzer as the 6th most expensive starter in AL Tout Wars ($20), a bargain in my book.  I have him 3rd-best in the AL behind Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester, just ahead of Justin Verlander.

Monday: 06.8.2009

Roy Halladay: The Complete Picture

It wasn’t always bubblegum and lollipops for the American League’s best pitcher. Roy Halladay notched his major league-leading 10th win of the season on Sunday with a complete game shutout of the Kansas City Royals. The complete game was his third of the season and second of the week as he continues to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the junior circuit’s best pitcher. In fact he is right on the heels of Johan Santana for baseball’s best overall. It was an up-&-down path to stardom for Halladay, though.

He came to the majors for a cup of coffee in 1998 getting just two starts totaling 14 innings. He made the club the following season as a 22 year old and went 8-7 in 149 innings with an incredibly lucky 3.92 ERA. He had essentially a 1.0 K:BB rate with 82 strikeouts against 79 walks and allowed better than a hit per inning for a 1.57 WHIP. You can understand why I declared his ERA so fortunate. Things came to a head the following season as he maintained his 1.0 K:BB ratio and was decimated to the tune of a 10.64 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in 68 innings of work. He stayed down for the rest of the year save three relief appearances in September.

Then he had to work his way up from High-A at the beginning of the 2001 season. Toronto’s 1999 #1 prospect according to Baseball America was essentially in remedial classes as a 24-year old working his way back to the bigs from High-A, where he was a reliever. He made seven starts between AA and AAA before coming back up in July. In his first appearance (a 1st inning bailout of Esteban Loaiza, who had given up 5 runs in just 1/3 of an inning), he was destroyed, allowing six runs in 2+ innings of work and it looked like all of his hard work was for naught. But the Blue Jays stuck with him. He had come a long way having displayed the best control of his career during the minor league stints of 2000 and 2001. And though just 71 innings of work, his strikeouts were way up, too.

The rest, as they say, is history. He started 16 times the rest of 2001 and put together a 5-3 record with a 2.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 103 very strong innings. The next season he made the All-Star team and he followed that up with a Cy Young Award winning performance. His only hiccups in the run up to becoming one of baseball’s elite were a bum right shoulder in 2004 that limited him to 133 innings and a freak accident broken leg the year after that again held him under 150 innings (141.7). Since 2002, he has been the gold standard for complete games with his 40 (including Sunday’s) standing as a major league best in that timeframe (Livan Hernandez and CC Sabathia, 28).

Outside of just being fascinating on its own accord, I wanted to write about Halladay on the heels on my piece of patience that I wrote yesterday. I’m not suggesting you should’ve held over Halladay yearly since 1999 if you owned him, but rather that you can’t just write off young players at the first sign of distress. Halladay was a highly thought of prospect, but it took 336 innings spanning parts of four years for him to really break through. Today’s fantasy owner would’ve discarded him after the 2000 meltdown and then been baffled by his emergence two years later. In fact, it’s unfair to limit it to just fantasy owners. The baseball watching public and media would’ve behaved similarly on both fronts. This is speaking generally of course, as there are pockets of people and certain outlets that don’t hastily judge prospects on minuscule samples.

Brandon Phillips is another example. He was a highly touted prospect for several years ranking 9th, 2nd, 1st and 1st in his organization from 2000-2003. He was in the top 20 for all baseball in 2002 (20th) and 2003 (7th). After a 31 AB stint in 2002, he came up for over 100 games in 2003, but struggled mightily in 370 at-bats. In fact, he put up a .206/.246/.310 line in his first 432 at-bats spanning parts of four seasons, but 86% of those at-bats came in one season as a 22 year old. Alas, the Indians gave up on him and let him go in a trade at the beginning of the 2006 season. He finally got a full season’s worth of work at the age of 25 and performed quite well with 17 HR, 25 SB and a .276/.324/.427 line. He got even better in his age 26 season, going 30-30 and garnering a shred of MVP consideration. He had paid dividends on the prospects from the early 2000s and it’s not like he was a late bloomer at 25, just that the Indians were wildly impatient.

The latest iteration could be happening before our eyes in the form of Edwin Jackson. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 17 back in 2001, it feels like Jackson has been around forever. The Dodgers afforded him a whopping 75 innings in the big leagues before discarding him at the age of 22 to the Rays for Danyz Baez and Lance Carter. The Rays gave him a sample even larger than Halladay’s 336 innings as they saw him through 381 innings spanning three seasons with varying degrees of success. The only thing is, they didn’t stick around for the payoff. Instead they dealt him to Detroit for Matt Joyce. Jackson is enjoying a career year at age 25 (just like Halladay) thanks in large part to massively improved control (just like Halladay). In fact, Jackson has improved his walk rate four straight seasons going from 6.2 BB/9 in 2006 to 2.1 BB/9 through 83 innings in 2009. I’m not saying Jackson is going to be the next Roy Halladay based on 83 excellent innings of work, but there are some nice similarities.

In fact, when I started this piece, it was for the sole purpose of showing Halladay’s path and how it had bumps in the road to stardom. As many of you may know, I’m a diehard Detroit Tigers fan so I don’t want this coming off as a spin job to say my favorite team’s new shiny toy is headed towards the top 3 starting pitchers in all of baseball in the coming years. Jackson is just one of many examples that shows that major league teams are sometimes hasty in their judgment of youngsters and expect too much of kids that haven’t fully matured. That effect trickles down to the fantasy baseball community and creates these seasons deemed as “out of nowhere” that shock everyone even if the player was highly thought of coming up through the minors and is still very young. They are actually just breakouts due to the maturation of mid-20s players. Not everyone will come up and be Ryan Braun, Tim Lincecum or Evan Longoria.

Ervin Santana went through this last year. His breakout was seen as a “rising from the dead” because he had been solid if unspectacular in his first two seasons and then hit a major road bump in season three with a 5.76 ERA in 2007. That season included a trip back to AAA to try and “fix” him. The thing is, his skills hadn’t just fallen off of a cliff that year. He was actually striking out more than ever (7.6 K/9) leading to his career-best K:BB ratio of 2.2. The walks were up a tick at 3.5 BB/9, but he wasn’t nearly as broken as was perceived. Then last year, his control improved dramatically and he had a breakout season at age 25. So far this year he has stumbled out of the gate after starting the season on the disabled list. Two flameout starts have inflated his numbers, but he took a huge step forward on Friday with 8 and 2/3rds of 1-run ball against the Detroit Tigers. It was the first start I had seen of his all year and he looked so 2008 as he brought the boom, boom pow on the Tigers. (I really won’t blame if you stop reading and never come here again after that…)

Who will be the next player written off at far too young an age only to meet or exceed his prospect promise?

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