Posts tagged ‘Justin Masterson’

Monday: 06.27.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 26th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

Ari – David Hernandez was crushed for 5 ER w/out recording an out on 6/7. Since: 8.7 scoreless IP w/9 K, 1 H, 3 BB. Nice MR option w/10 K/9. (Ed. note: The Tigers bombed him shortly after I wrote this up.  He is prone to the occasional implosion, but the numbers from implosion-to-implosion are really good at least.)

Det – Justin Verlander is 6-0 in 49.7 IP (8+/start) w/0.72 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 8.5 K/BB over his last 6 starts. He is the AL’s best.

Det2 – Al Alburquerque has stifled 21 of 22 inherited runners. A great pickup if you’re high on IP: 2.05 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 15 (!) K/9.

Col – Ubaldo Jimenez has a 3.31 ERA/1.29 WHIP since 5-17; even better 2.43/1.20 in June w/7.8 K/9 & 4.1 K/BB

Col2 – Ty Wigginton hitting .298 w/7 HR, 16 RBI & 14 R in June. Scarcely owned depsite 1B-2B-3B elig: C 63%, Y! 41%, E 62%. Must-own.

Col3 – Wiggy (cont.) He’s a fantasy Swiss Army Knife & has had 20+ HR in 4 of last 5 yrs and now in Col. How wasn’t he drafted more?

NYY – CC Sabathia was winless in his 1st 4 starts despite a healthy 2.52 ERA; on Sat. he became 1st SP to 10 W going 10-3 w/3.43 in last 13.

Oak – Hiccup or problem? Trevor Cahill was rocked in 4 straight, but has a 1.15 ERA in 16 IP w/13 K in his last 2. Just beating up the NL?

Phi – Saturday was 35th time Cole Hamels has gone 8+ IP in his career. The Phillies offense has averaged 3.3 runs per game in those starts.

LAA – Jered Weaver fell off the radar a bit after his insane April; he’s on fire again: 3-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 7.1 K/9 & 3.1 K/BB in last 47 IP

LAA2 – Dan Haren gets 4.3 R/G of support, 4th-lowest in AL. One of those 3 “ahead” of him? Teammate Jered Weaver: 3.9. #neverchasewins

LAD – Dodgers haven’t scored 2+ R in an innings for 2 wks. So why did Dan Haren give their only 2 guys (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier) anything?

LAD2 – LAD (cont.) He still won, but those two went 5-for-6 against Haren scoring all 3 of the runs he gave up. C’mon, Dan. Just face Loney.

Cin – Maybe Dusty Baker is using Chris Heisey best by rarely starting him. Starter: .225/.299/.382 in 279 PA; Sub: .356/.402/.644 in 102 PA. Odd.

Bal – Don’t confuse Jake Arrieta‘s 9-4 rec. w/success. His 1.2 HR/9 & 1.7 K/BB scream caution, his rec. is built by MLB-best 9.4 R/G of support.

Was – Roger Bernadina is worth owning (E 41%, Y! 14%, C 26%) as a pwr/spd mix. Hitting .400/.426/.644 w/3 HR & 2 SB in last 11; .333 for June.

CWS – At some point, Ozzie Guillen has to be held accountable for playing Adam Dunn v. LHP. He’s now 1-52 (.019) w/24 Ks. Let Lillibridge DH. (Ed. note: Or as reader Paul Bourdett suggested, call up Dayan Viciedo and let him take the hacks at DH against southpaws.  He is killing it in AAA.)

CWS2 – Dunn (cont.) Yes, it’s a small sample overall, but as much as Dunn is struggling, he needs some time off v. southpaws.

Bos – Andrew Miller isn’t an insta-pickup just bc he’s on Boston. He put on 10 baserunners against SD in 5.7 IP. The 6 Ks were nice, but…

Bos2 – Miller (cont.) He has done nothing to earn our trust at the MLB level. Facing Pitt today, then @HOU & v. BAL, proceed w/EXTREME caution

Pit – Jose Tabata was carted off w/an inj. on Sunday & AAA OF Alex Presley was pulled out of his gm shortly thereafter. NL-Onlys take note.

Pit2 – Presley (cont.) He could be in line for some of Tabata’s PT. The 25 y/o is hitting .336/.389/.500 w/8 HR & 18 SB.

Pit3 – Pirates (cont.) But I’d bet on Xavier Paul (speed) & Garrett Jones (power) seeing legitimate increases in their PT first.

Atl – Jason Heyward hitting .297/.381/.405 in 10 G since return from DL. Overall #s miiiight offer buying opp., espec. in non-keeper lgs.

SD – Chase Headley is still widely available & might be worth platooning on the road. Hitting .474 on latest rd trip; .304 AVG/.806 OPS career.

TB – James Shields bumps Verlander to co-best. Last 3: 27 IP (yes, 3 CGs) w/0.33 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, 8 K/9, 6 K/BB & of course 3-0. AL ASG starter?

TB2 – Nice wknd for BJ Upton in Hou: 4-11, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB. Hitting .297 in last 9; prob just means a 1-20 upcoming. He hates batting avg.

Hou – Matt Downs .272/.381/.556 w/5 HR in 97 PA. Rakes RHP & at home; so sit him for Clint Barmes at home v. righty. You wonder why you suck Hou?

Min – Ben Revere is the likely benefactor from Delmon Young inj. Revere hitting .284 w/11 R, 4 SB in June. Serves specific purpose & comes cheap.

Mil – Nyjer Morgan at .309/329/.471 in June, but just 1 SB. Perhaps it’s all of his XBH: 7 2B, 3 3B & 2 HR! A slightly better NL ver. of Revere.

CHC – Reed Johnson picked up where he left returning from the DL w/a .933 OPS w/2 HR & 4 RBI in 10 gm. No shallow mixed appeal, but deep & NL-Only

KC – Joakim Soria is back. His June: 12 IP, 12 K, 6 SV, 6 K/BB, 4 H. I hope you pounced on him as soon as he was cut on Memorial Day. Saw it in 3 lgs.

Tor – Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .283/.353/.522 in June w/2 HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB. Hardly overwhelming, but he quals at DH for lgs that requie true DH.

StL – The Cardinals sans Albert Pujols have not had a good week: 1-5 record, .240/.292/.373, 4.57 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

StL2 – In ’10 Jon Jay hit .383/.433/.583 in 115 AB over 49 G (2.4 AB/G); Aug-Sep as a reg. (42 GS), he hit .244/.309/.314 in 172 AB over 56 G (3.3)

StL3 – Jay (cont.) Same in ’11 w/reg PT: .349/.408/.514 thru May (54 G/22 starts); .239/.276/.324 in June (22/17). Sell now while #s still high.

NYM – Daniel Murphy‘s June .318/.355/.386, overall .296/.343/.408; mostly AVG, but 2B/1B elig w/10 G at 3B, too. He’s a playing time glue guy.

Tex – Nelson Cruz is coming out of his funk: .364/.389/.818 w/6 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI & 1 SB in his last 8. Overall #s might offer small discount. Buy.

Cle – Cle is 8-16 in June bc despite success of Masterson & Carrasco, other 3 SP have 5.32 (Talbot), 6.60 (Tomlin) & 7.62 (Carmona) ERAs.

SF – Ryan Vogelsong does not care that he is Ryan Vogelsong, still has allowed more than 2 ER just once in 13 starts. Skills remain strong, too.

SF2 – Vogel (cont.) Doesn’t mean he isn’t some to sell. 13 starts convinces ppl he’s legit, but 86% LOB% & 5.1% HR/FB = SOME regression on 1.86 ERA

SF3 – Vogel (cont.) Let’s say he ends yr w/a 3.00 ERA. He’d be 3.83 ROtW. Oddly enough, that’d be a sub-100 ERA+. 3.10+ = 4.00+ ERA

SF4 – Vogel (cont.) You’re not going to rip someone off for a 33 yr old journeyman, but any upgrade to your tm would be worth moving him. Sell.

Sea – I shy away from low-K SPs, but Doug Fister is criminally under-owned (high of 31% @ CBS): 3.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.9 K/BB + Safeco & great D

Flo – Mike Dunn has K’d at least 1 batter in all of his last 13 outings, but otherwise been terrible: 6.60 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 4 HR, 18 K… ouch.

Flo2 – That’s why you never spend a lot on middle RPs, you have to be able to cut bait at a moment’s notice. Aroldis Chapman stung ppl this yr.

Friday: 06.24.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 12 The Weekend

Some quick picks for the weekend

SATURDAY:

John Danks (CHW v. WAS) – In three June starts, he’s 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 7 K/9.  Take out the butt-kicking he suffered in Toronto at the end of May and he has a 3.31 ERA since April 30th.  He’s coming back around and this is a guy who should be owned across all formats.

Justin Masteron (CLE @ SF) – Masterson’s Achilles heel is lefties and SF only has three: Brandon Crawford, Aubrey Huff & Nate Schierholtz.  Crawford is an all-leather rookie in there for his defensive chops at short while neither Huff nor Schierholtz has been able to post an OPS better than .700 this year.

Jason Vargas (SEA “at” FLO) – Florida is only the home team in that they will bat last, but the game is in Safeco where Vargas has allowed a .650 for his career and .631 on the year. 

SUNDAY:

Doug Fister (SEA “at” FLO) – Taking full advantage of the U2 concert that forced this series to Seattle, I’ll go with another Mariners pitcher who takes advantage of his home park.  Fister allows a .68 OPS at home and just a  .590 OPS against right-handers.  The Marlins have just one regular lefty in their lineup (Logan Morrison) and the only other one who could start is the non-threatening Dewayne Wise.

Tuesday: 05.24.2011

Fixing the Contenders – American League

As we near Memorial Day (less than a week away) and turn the calendar to June, we usually see the MLB standings start to stratify a bit with the contenders separating themselves from the rest of the pack.  That may not happen in the 2011 season, at least not for a while.  Right now there are just three teams who are 10+ games out two of which are the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, a pair of teams many still refuse to bury given the uncertainty of the Cleveland Indians and the expectations on those two teams coming into the season.

The other is the Houston Astros who were out of it before the season started.  Only three other teams are more than five games away from .500 (Padres, Dodgers and Cubs) so there could be a dearth of sellers as trading season in the MLB heats up.  Nobody really thought Seattle was going to be much of anything this year, but alas their rotation is running five deep headlined by two aces (Felix Hernandez & Michael Pineda; Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas & Doug Fister round out an impressive rotation) meanwhile Jamey Wright, David Pauley and Aaron Laffey have been nails out of the pen masking the fact that they still have a completely horrible offense.  The pitching has them just one game below .500 and a game and a half out of the division lead.

Similarly, expected bottom-feeders Arizona (23-23), Pittsburgh (22-24), Kansas City (22-24) and Baltimore (21-24) continue to linger.  While the league lacks a truly great team, there are still a group of contenders to be found within the 30, teams that should be focusing their attention on 2011 and doing what they can, whether internally or through trade, to get those October playoff tickets printed as soon as possible.

Today, I will go through the contenders who are ripe for a trade and identify the potential move(s) they could make.  I have seven teams on the list.  There are eight other contenders who I didn’t feel needed to make a significant trade because they are either getting some significant pieces back from injury and/or have the available talent in their minor leagues to fill their holes.  Or, at least in one case, I simply didn’t see a move to be made.  That doesn’t mean that it is a perfect team, just that their path to improvement is either a minor trade or sticking with what they have already.

Cleveland Indians (30-15)

Team Needs: 3B, SP, RP

Let’s start with the league’s best team record-wise.  Wow, that reads weird when in reference to the 2011 Cleveland Indians, but you can’t deny the fact that they have the best record in the baseball after 45 games.  If this team stays as is, I can’t see them holding on for 162.  I just don’t buy in the pitching outside of Justin Masterson, and he isn’t without his flaws (lefties still destroy him).  I think Masterson can be a solid pitcher, but their “best” pitcher to date, Josh Tomlin, will not hold up at all, in my opinion.  The 1.2 HR/9 will soon bite back in a big way and the 4.5 K/9 is just too low for this kind of success.

Jack Hannahan’s hot start (hitting .284 w/.837 OPS on May 3rd) has bought Lonnie Chisenhall some time to try and iron out his issues against southpaws (.208 in 48 AB), but now Hannahan has returned to Hannahandom (.238, .691) and it is time to give Chisenhall a shot.  It actually works out where they wouldn’t have to throw him in the fire right away against lefties as Hannahan is actually crushing them with a .387 average and 1.135 OPS in 31 at-bats.  They could run a straight platoon and improve their lineup.  Currently rated 4th or better in runs, average, on-base and slugging, the Indians lineup is performing beautifully to date, but you can never have too much offense.

To fix their starting pitching, I think they need to focus on someone who can miss some bats. With Alex White and his team-best 7.8 K/9 headed to the disabled list for up to three months with a finger injury, Masterson is the leader with a 6.7 K/9.  That is barely above the AL average of 6.5 among starters, so they should call up the Astros and inquire about a trade for an arm.

TRADE: Prospects Joe Gardner and Zack Putnam to the Houston Astros for Wandy Rodriguez – A pair of upper minors arms who ranked 9th and 17th in the org. list from Baseball America for the 32-year old lefty.  With two years left on his contract plus a 2014 option, Wandy won’t come cheap, but given his age the Astros should be open to trading him as he won’t be a part of their next great team.  Their minor league system is disgustingly low on talent so it’s time to start replenishing in earnest via trade.

They might still need to shore up the bullpen a little bit, too.  But that may be handled internally with the recent call up of Josh Judy, who struck out 20 in 17 innings at AAA prior to his call up.  Elsewhere, Nick Hagadone, their #10 prospect, has recently hit AAA after striking out 24 in 23 innings at AA and he could be there to shore up the relief corps early in the summer.

Moves:

  1. 3B – Promote Chisenhall up to platoon w/Hannahan
  2. SP – Trade Gardner & Putnam for Rodriguez, W
  3. RP – Judy recently called up; Hagadone en route

New York Yankees (25-21)

Team Need: SP

The Yankees are having the exact issue that everyone thought they would back in Spring Training with C.C. Sabathia as their top starter and a giant question mark after that.  Bartolo Colon has been a godsend with a strong ERA (3.77) and WHIP (1.20) and great skills (8.8 K/9, 3.7 K/BB) backing the rates up, but how long will it last for the 37 year old?  A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova have been up and down while Freddy Garcia, filling in for Phil Hughes, has been better (3.12 ERA) than his skills suggest as a 34-year old journeyman.

There is nothing at the AAA level that stands to be any better than what they have and Manny Banuelos in AA has gone more than five innings just once in his eight starts so he isn’t the savior that fans want him to be after seeing him excel in Spring Training.  That leaves the trade markets.  And while delusional fans might think Felix Hernandez is available, he’s not.  But they should venture out for a trade.

TRADE: Prospect Adam Warren to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Hiroki Kuroda – The 36-year old veteran is a free agent after this year so despite how well he has pitched since coming over to the States in 2008, he won’t net the Dodgers an overwhelming return of prospects.  That said, Warren was just outside of the top 10 on org. lists and the Yankees system is a deep one so that’s not chopped liver.  He has struggled with his control at AAA (27 K, 24 BB in 45 IP), but he is still just 23 years old and the Yankees have moved him aggressively (just 54 IP in AA).

The Dodgers system has a crap-ton of pitching and while you can never have too much, they might opt for a bat instead and I could see a toolsy, raw bat like Melky Mesa being dealt for Kuroda.  Mesa has 16 extra-base hits out of just 30 (.204 avg in 147 AB), seven stolen bases but also caught seven times and 16 walks aiding a solid 83-point AVG-OBP split, but also 50 strikeouts (34% K rate).  The 24-year old has been much better lately (.290/.372/.507 in May) after a horrid April (.129/.209/.256) which may elevate his trade stock a bit, though front offices focus more on pure talent & projectability than stats when it comes to prospects.

The Yankees might need more than one starting pitcher so they could also be in for someone like Jon Garland, Livan Hernandez, Aaron Harang or Francisco Liriano, too.  Again, they have a remarkably deep system so trading for a second level arm like one of the above (can you believe Liriano is now regarded as a second level arm?!) as well as a bigger impact arm would be doable.

Moves:

  1. SP – Trade Warren or Mesa for Kuroda
  2. SP2 – Trade David Adams for Harang

Detroit Tigers (24-23)

Team Need: RP

Relief pitching was supposed to be a strength of the 2011 Tigers after signing super-setup man Joaquin Benoit and pairing him with Jose Valverde at the back end of the bullpen.  The constant stream of power arms drafted and traded for recently was supposed to fill any gaps from starter to Benoit with guys like Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, specifically.   Al Alburquerque has been a pleasant surprise with a 15.3 K/9 in his 15 innings, but walks have been a problem (11) for the rookie.

Chance Ruffin is doing well in his debut season as a pro, but he is just 22 and in AA, so the chances of him as a savior are slim.  Plus, the bullpen is young enough already.  Charlie Furbush was just called up from AAA and thrown right into the fire on Monday night after a Phil Coke injury in the fourth inning left the Tigers scrambling.  He responded admirably with 3.7 shutout innings striking out three and walking one.

He has been huge strikeout guy as a starter in the minors (9.5 K/9 career, over 10 the last two years) and he has a legitimate shot to keep those kind of rates in short stints out of the pen.  But with no reliever toting a sub-3.00 ERA, the Tigers will need more than one arm to cure those bullpen woes.

Thankfully for the Tigers, relief pitching is usually one of the most plentiful items in the trade market year in and year out.  And oftentimes, it is the cheapest commodity to acquire, too.  The Padres seem like a great trade partner as I count five arms that could (and should) be up for trade ranging from ace closer Heath Bell to the reborn Pat Neshek.

TRADE: Bruce Rondon and a throw in C-rated (or lower) prospect to the San Diego Padres for Mike Adams – Rondon is a 20-year old flamethrowing reliever (14.6 K/9), but control is a big time issue right now (8.6 BB/9).  He is allowing next to nothing when it comes to hits (1.6 H/9), though, so he has a 1.62 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  Adams is 32 years old and a free agent after this year.  Plus he comes with loads of injury risk having never put together back-to-back full seasons.

As such, I’m not sure the Padres could really ask for too much from a prospective trade partner even given how great he is when he does pitch, especially this year with his otherworldly 10.5 K/BB in 22 innings.  His 8.7 K/9 is pretty good, but it’s the disgusting 0.8 BB/9 that is powering his insane season.

Luke Gregerson is five years younger, but also a free agent after the season.  He might draw a little more in return than Adams, but he hasn’t been the Gregerson from 2009 and 2010 so far this year.  His strikeout rate has seen a precipitous drop from 10.2 to 6.0 and he has become a lot more hittable allowing 10.3 H/9 (after 5.4 last year).

I can’t see the Tigers trading for Bell as the cost would be too much and Valverde isn’t going anywhere while Neshek would be too much of an injury risk having pitched just 34 innings since 2008 including his 12 this year.

Moves:

  1. RP1 – Promoted Furbush
  2. RP2 – Trade Rondon + PTBNL for Adams, M

 

Oakland A’s (22-25)

Team Need: Bats… about nine of them.

I covered the A’s a good bit last week specifically tied to them addressing their need of a bat (or several!) so I won’t do an entire re-hash.  Internally, I think Jemile Weeks should be called up soon because he is healthy for once and hitting really well in AAA while Mark Ellis is not.  Ellis had a stretch where he had multi-hit games in three out of six (10-for-24) and it moved his average up to a blistering .208.  That wouldn’t cut in 1968 much less now (OK, it might cut it in ’68… but it really doesn’t in ’11 even with the down hitting).

If they don’t want to try Weeks out just yet, then they should look to Adrian Cardenas, who continues to hit well having raised his batting average yearly since 2007 up to .357 this year while finally adding some pop, too, with a career high slugging percentage of .478.  He has shown a strong eye at the plate throughout his career as well, especially at the high minors with 136 walks to 150 strikeouts in 306 games at AA and AAA.  One of the two prospects deserves a look to jumpstart their anemic offense if they want to realistically contend this year.  I also think a trade is in order as they match up really well with another team in contention.

TRADE: Andrew Bailey to the Cincinnati Reds for Yonder Alonso – I covered this in great detail in this piece about Bailey a week ago.  Assuming he comes up back healthy and as good as we’ve seen him, this is a great fit for both teams involved.  Alonso doesn’t really have a future in Cincinnati being blocked by Joey Votto, Chris Heisey and Jonny Gomes and the Oakland bullpen is stocked.  Alonso can move directly into Daric Barton’s spot at first or into the outfield which would allow Josh Willingham to take Barton’s place.  Either way, Barton’s vomit-inducing .280 SLG has to get out of the everyday lineup.  They just can’t expect to win with that lack of production at a power position.  Hell, you can’t really take it on at any position, but especially first base.

The A’s could make another move closer to the deadline, but it would hinge on Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross coming back from their recent injuries to pitch like they were before getting hurt and recently returned Josh Outman to pick up where he left off in 2009 (which he showed he might do on Monday night with 7 strong innings).  That would give them some rotation depth which they could flip for another bat.

TRADE: McCarthy to the Detroit Tigers for Brennan Boesch – Starting pitching isn’t a primary need for the Tigers, but you really can’t have too much and the back end is tenuous with Phil Coke (who left his last start injured) and Brad Penny, meanwhile their outfield has developed some depth with Casper Wells and Andy Dirks joining the club.  Plus Magglio Ordonez will be back at some point which would give them six outfielders plus Don Kelly for three spots (DH is locked up by Victor Martinez most days).  This one would really be contingent on McCarthy’s health, of course.

Boesch isn’t tearing the cover off of the ball or anything, but David DeJesus has been awful and Boesch has at least shown the capability for some power in his time as a major leaguer.  McCarthy was a million dollar flier for the A’s and netting a 26-year old outfielder with some potential would probably be much more than they truly expected when they took the gamble on the former top prospect pitcher.

Moves:

  1. Bat1 – Trade Bailey for Alonso
  2. Bat2 – Trade McCarthy for Boesch

That covers the American League contenders.   I left out the Rays, Red Sox, Rangers and Angels, all of whom are contenders in my eyes, but don’t have an obvious trade scenario for a high-impact move.  The Rays, Red Sox and Rangers have pretty deep systems to attack needs or can be expected to play better once their current set of 25 begins to meet expectations (Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford; Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz returning from injury).

Meanwhile the Angels don’t have a glaring flaw they can attack via the market.  There aren’t any major first basemen available that would be a huge upgrade over Mark Trumbo.  If Vernon Wells performs anything like expected upon his return from the DL, he will help their power woes and they could shore up their pen via trade, but Scott Downs, Rich Thompson and Jordan Walden give them a solid trio and they can probably manufacture one more reliable arm without having to make a move.

Next up, the National League contenders.

Wednesday: 02.9.2011

Daily Dose – February 9th

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.

  1. Joe Mauer
  2. Victor Martinez
  3. Brian McCann
  4. Buster Posey
  5. Carlos Santana
  6. Mike Napoli
  7. Geovany Soto
  8. Miguel Montero
  9. Matt Wieters
  10. Kurt Suzuki
  11. Carlos Ruiz
  12. Chris Iannetta
  13. Jorge Posada
  14. Yadier Molina
  15. J.P. Arencibia
  16. A.J. Pierzynski
  17. John Buck
  18. Miguel Olivo
  19. Ryan Doumit
  20. Alex Avila
  21. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  22. John Jaso
  23. Russell Martin
  24. Jesus Montero
  25. 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:

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