Archive for August, 2009

Thursday: 08.27.2009

2010: Top 12 Second Basemen

Continuing around the diamond with the top 12 lists for 2010 with second base:

SECOND BASE
1. Chase Utley
2. Brian Roberts
3. Ian Kinsler
4. Robinson Cano
5. Aaron Hill
6. Dustin Pedroia
7. Brandon Phillips
8. Ben Zobrist
9. Jose Lopez
10. Asdrubal Cabrera
11. Orlando Hudson
12. Rickie Weeks

A position often thought to be very thin has started to show some depth mostly with veterans getting better as opposed to several significant newcomers emerging.

-What got the most feedback from my article on the first round for next year? Well it was actually the inclusion of Joe Mauer, but right there was the placement of Chase Utley in the third spot. He doesn’t get enough credit for his greatness. Coming into the season, many were worried he would miss significant time coming off of his hip surgery instead he’s on pace for his best season yet. If he keeps pace, he will set career highs in four of the categories used in standard 5×5 leagues. He would need an otherworldly September to top 2007’s .332 batting average, but his current .303 is nothing to criticize.

-I am tired of Ian Kinsler and that’s why he’s not second. More on that in a minute. Despite the drop in stolen bases for the second straight season by Brian Roberts, he is still fifth in the American League and on pace for 35. Thanks to a high powered offense in Baltimore, Roberts is on pace for a career high in RBIs with 77 and he has already set his highest total in four years. He is also on pace to set a career high in runs scored (119) and match his career high of 18 home runs so he has more than made up for his dip in speed. Roberts is also on pace for his third straight season of 155 or more games played, something you just don’t get from Kinsler and that is a big reason why Roberts slotted in behind Utley.

-Kinsler is on pace for a 30-30 seasons with 100+ runs scored and 90+ driven in, so why am I sick of him? One reason is that even though he’s on pace for a career high in games played by a huge margin, it is still just 144. This guy cannot make it through a season without getting hurt and missing a chunk of time. Secondly, his .244 is annoying. The missed time is a big hindrance to him putting it all together, but he finally creeps toward the 600 at-bat mark in a season and his batting average tanks. He is in the throes of his prime and just because I didn’t list him second as many others will doesn’t mean I think he sucks. He has got an amazing season coming within the next 2-3 years. Something that approaches or reaches 40-40 with an average above .290 in 155 games, but pinpointing when that will come is difficult so for now I have the more reliable Roberts ahead of Kinsler, but I’d happy slot any one of the three in at second base on my team at a handsome price/early draft pick.

Robinson Cano had a down season in 2008 when compared against his first three seasons, but he was still useful. Of course when you cut 48 points off your on-base percentage and 35 points off of your batting average, it’s going to depress your counting stats. Both his runs scored and runs batted in saw drops of more than 20 from 2007 to 2008, but he has rebounded remarkably well in 2009 already posting a career high in home runs with 20 and counting. He is also on pace to set a career high in runs scored in that high octane offense. In the midst of his prime and part of a remarkably strong offense, Cano has several more productive seasons ahead of him to match the four of five excellent ones already on his ledger.

-I don’t mean to toot my horn just for the sake of bragging, but I listed Aaron Hill as a sleeper back in early March. Hill has exceeded even my expectations setting career highs in home runs and RBIs already with a great shot at doing the same in runs scored. The 2007 was the gauge for Hill’s potential and the approach I took was to just strike 2008 from the record in terms of judging Hill because it was a lost season ravaged by injuries. Hill profiles as a high 20s-low 30s home run hitter (as opposed to the 39 he is pacing for right now) with a good batting average and strong counting stats for the next few seasons.

-I get the feeling based on some things I read that there were expectations of Dustin Pedroia to actually step up yet another level after his MVP campaign in 2008. I really can’t imagine why anyone would expect/bet on him topping the 17 home run total he had last year and there was no reason he couldn’t dip a little across the board and still be an elite option at second base. That said, only his power has scaled back as he paces towards 13 home runs and 73 RBIs after 17 and 83 last year. He is on pace to re-establish career highs in runs scored and stolen bases. I have mentioned several times this season that the runs scored category is highly underrated so you might hear something said like, “Pedroia isn’t elite in any one category, yet he’s solid across the board.” The latter part of that statement is true, he is very solid, but he is definitely elite as a run scorer. A lot of that comes from your teammates driving you in, but you don’t just happen into the third highest runs scored total in the American League. A .300 batting average and .374 on-base percentage create the opportunities to be driven in that often.

-His 30-30 season from 2007 is starting to look more and more like the outlier on his career, but that doesn’t mean that Brandon Phillips isn’t still a top tier second baseman. His batting average (currently at .262) is the only category that isn’t a plus-category for Phillips. He’s a great power-speed combo with very good runs scored and driven in. Apart from a nice jump in RBIs, his 2009 has been virtually a carbon copy of 2008 and that’s not a bad thing. Fantasy owners need to stop paying for the 30-30 season and let Phillips value settle properly in the range appropriate for the 2008 and 2009 numbers he put up.

-On Monday I suggested that Mark Reynolds might be the most controversial pick in 2010 because each league will react in their own way to his amazing breakout season. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for Ben Zobrist. His breakout has been even more unexpected than Reynolds’ making him tougher to project going forward, especially at age 28. His multi-position eligibility (ranging from 2B and OF in most leagues to 2B-SS-3B-OF in the most liberal of leagues) combined with an elite power-speed combo displayed in limited time this season is appealing. That he is on pace for a .292-97-30-90-20 is mind blowing enough on its own, but considering it is being done in a role pacing for fewer than 500 at-bats is just insane. The numbers are propped up by some really strong skills including 75 walks, an expected batting average mirroring his actual and a hit rate that is higher than last year’s, but hardly unsustainable. How much do you risk on a 29-year old repeating something like this?

-Raise your hand if you cut bait on Jose Lopez after his dismal May in which he hit .214 with a .587 OPS. Every single season there are several players like this that struggle early and get discarded or traded off to the patient owner that believes the player will straighten out over the season and end up at or above the levels established over the past three seasons. Lopez has already set a career high in home runs (18) and he is on pace to crush his career high of 89 RBIs set last year (pacing to 101).

-Have you noticed the growth of Asdrubal Cabrera this season? He has shown improvements in all five major roto categories. And it hasn’t just been more playing time, his OPS is up 100 points while his batting average has shot up 56 points. He will be just 24 next year so he is just scraping the surface of his potential. This year saw a major spike in speed (15 stolen bases, up from four last year) and the power spike should be next. Of course, it could be tough in that park. His slugging percentage has already jumped up 83 points from last year, but that has manifested in the form of doubles since Progressive Field is the league’s worst park for home runs. It was 3rd-worst last year, so there is some legitimacy to home run restrictions there.

Orlando Hudson isn’t exemplary at any one category. You never pinpoint a category and find that Hudson is the answer to moving that needle like Ryan Howard in home runs, Joe Mauer in batting average or Jacoby Ellsbury in stolen bases. Hudson is one of those “glue guys” that gives a solid contribution everywhere and rates higher than someone like Ian Stewart because he doesn’t decimate any of your categories.

-Wouldn’t you know it that Rickie Weeks would enjoy a great start and appear on pace for a career season only to be knocked out for the season with a wrist injury. Wrist injuries are scary with respect to power, but Weeks has been on the shelf for a long time already (since May 18th) so hopefully that will help alleviate the lingering effects heading into 2010. Though he has seemingly been around forever, he will be just 27 next year and I still think he has a breakout 20-20 season in his future. It might not come until 2011, but he will be a great value in 2010 thanks to the injury-shortened season and the career .247 batting average that tends to scare many away from Weeks.

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Tuesday: 08.25.2009

2010: Top 12 First Basemen

Continuing my way around the diamond, here is my initial thoughts on first base for next year:

FIRST BASE

1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Prince Fielder
4. Mark Teixeira
5. Justin Morneau
6. Mark Reynolds
7. Ryan Howard
8. Joey Votto
9. Adrian Gonzalez
10. Adam Dunn
11. Kevin Youkilis
12. Kendry Morales

–There is a lot of star power at first base, so it is tough to justify walking away empty-handed from this position unless you are stacked in the outfield and at third base. This list doesn’t even include Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee or Pablo Sandoval, which just goes to show you the depth at the position. Pujols has already put up a season’s worth of numbers and it’s still not even September. He clubbed his 40th home run on Sunday and is on pace for a career-high 52.

–Cabrera’s season has fallen under the radar in a sense. He’s been really good, but he hasn’t had a super hot three-week stretch or anything like that, so your natural inclination might be to think he is having a down year. But a season on pace for 33 home runs, 98 runs, 99 RBI and a .338 average is anything but down.

–Get your mind around this: Fielder won’t turn 26 until next May, yet he has got 2,235 at-bats and 147 home runs already on his record. With 50 home runs becoming special again, owning Fielder means you are rostering one of the select few capable of reaching that figure in any given season.

–Teixeira at No. 4 represents a shift in where I was when I put together my first round for 2010 a few weeks ago. I had Morneau in at 12th and Teix on the cusp. I’ve flipped the two through no fault of Morneau’s. If Teixeira is going to be playing that stadium, he can be a perennial 40-home run threat and that just barely gives him the nod over Morneau.

–Meanwhile, Morneau is as consistent as they come as plows towards his third 30-110 in four years. He is on pace for a career high in runs scored this year, as he is set to top 100 for the first time. He is batting .298 this year, which also happens to be his average over the past four seasons, with 2007’s .271 holding him just under the .300 mark.

–I debated on whether or not to include the multi-qualifiers at just the position I thought they were most valuable at or put them in both rankings. I’ve gone with putting them in both, so here is Reynolds’ debut, but we’ll see him again soon. They are going to be entire articles in this winter’s fantasy magazines dedicated on where to pick Reynolds in 2010 and no two opinions will be the same. The power is legitimate; in fact it led to his inclusion in my sleeper list this year, but beyond things get hazy. Is he a 10-12 base stealer or can he really be counted on for 20-25 a year? How much of the average gains can he hold? He is still a strikeout machine, but that didn’t stop him from hitting .279 in his 366 at-bat rookie season and then .281 so far this year. There might not be a more controversial pick in 2010.

–After all the complaining about Howard’s power being down and 2009 being an off-year for him, he is now on pace for 43 home runs and 133 RBI. Yes, it is a tick down from the last three years, but it is still an excellent season and it is just another example of why you should wait until the end of the season to make definitive judgments on a player. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Howard went off over the last 41 games and his 14-15 home runs to reach the high-40s he has the past two seasons.

–Imagine if Votto hadn’t lost 30 games of his season this year to injuries and then a bout of depression. He is pacing towards a repeat of 2008, but in 30 fewer games played, which illustrates the kind of growth he had this year. He will be just 26 next year and it wouldn’t be surprising to see another step forward. At the very least, we should get a full season of the pace he was on this year, which would mean a .300-30-100 season. He could be a great value in 2010 if people focus on the seemingly stagnant home run and RBI totals without taking into account the missed at-bats.

–What an up-n-down season for Gonzalez. He was the toast of the town after 20 home runs and 40 RBI in the first two months before falling on hard times with just four homers and eight RBI in June and a .198 average in July. He has rebounded again in August and he is back on pace to top 40 home runs. If he keeps pace, he will have the 15th season in major league history with 40+ home runs and less than 100 RBI. The list includes luminaries such as Barry Bonds, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle (twice), Ken Griffey Jr. and Hank Aaron.

–Like Mark Reynolds, Dunn has experienced an unsuspected batting average boost that has rocketed his value. He’s hitting an absurd .323 on the road, while his .257 is more in line with what we have come to expect from Dunn. Even if his average regresses as I suspect it will, Dunn might be the most bankable power source in the game. He is on pace for a 6th straight 40-homer season in an era where we have seen just 14 other such seasons in the past three seasons across all of baseball. Outfield flexibility only adds to Dunn’s value.

–I was surprised to find some outlets suggest that Youkilis’ 2008 was a fluke and project him to regress back to a mid-teens power hitter. Though clearly not much of a fighter, the guy is an excellent big league hitter and should enjoy another two to three seasons at his peak which equates to an amped up Kevin Millar clone. The tail end of his career arc will follow more closely to the Millar we’ve seen the past few seasons. I like Youkilis more at third base because of the depth here and dearth at the hot corner, but if you land an elite third basemen, then he is a solid guy to plug in at first.

–You’re probably thinking one thing when you see Kendry Morales’ breakout season: FINALLY!!! There were high expectations for the Cuban import, but he failed to get his career off the ground in three short stints since 2006. Whether it was injury or lack of performance, he was just not panning out how many expected. Of course, he was only 23, 24 and 25 years old. At 26, it’d be unfair to call him a late bloomer, especially with only 377 at-bats on his record prior to this year. This breakout isn’t a fluke, as Morales joins the ranks at what has developed into a deep position yet again.

Monday: 08.24.2009

2010: Top 12 Catchers

Today I’ll start to make my way around the diamond with a look at the top 12 for 2010 at catcher:

CATCHER
1. Joe Mauer
2. Victor Martinez
3. Brian McCann
4. Mike Napoli
5. Russell Martin
6. Jorge Posada
7. Matt Wieters
8. Geovany Soto
9. Chris Iannetta
10. Kurt Suzuki
11. Bengie Molina
12. A.J. Pierzynski

–This is a position still dominated by players with M-last names. I’ve been touting Mauer as a first-round pick in various outlets, as I believe the power is here to stay. The pace of power will likely slow, but he also doesn’t have a built in month off like he did coming into this season.

–Martinez is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t make too much out of a washed out season killed by injuries. He had four excellent seasons of work backing him up, but that didn’t keep him from dropping significantly in a lot of leagues. He’s now on pace for a career high in home runs (27).

–McCann had to suffer through an atrocious April (.195 average) before figuring out what was wrong. It turns out he couldn’t see. Once he got outfitted with a new pair of glasses, his season took off. He’s on pace for his 4th straight excellent season and he will be just 26 in 2010.

–Napoli’s ability has never been in question during his previous three seasons in the bigs. He had massive power and a batting average that was on the rise, but he just couldn’t stay on the field. His career high prior to 2009 was 268 at-bats. Now he’s at 306 and on pace for 450+, which should yield career highs in home runs and RBI. He’s continued his batting average spike sitting at .294 this season and will remain in his prime when he turns 28 on Halloween this year.

–Martin has had a busted season, but has still carried plenty of value at catcher. He will be just 27 at the beginning of next season, so it’d be foolish to write him off after a down season.

–Like Martinez, Posada had an injury-riddled 2008, but he has bounced back as good as ever, especially for a 38-year-old. In that stadium, Posada remains viable even if only in 120-130 games.

Based on the expectations and absurd draft round in many leagues, Wieters has been a bust this season. He’s on pace to top 350 at-bats, yet he’s hitting just .264 and he’s on pace for a meager seven home runs and 33 RBI. Hell hath no fury like a fantasy player scorned. Wieters will drop to a more reasonable round in many leagues and below value in many others, but it’d be dumb to give up on him for not meeting the unrealistic expectations set upon him this season. He could be a classic post-hype sleeper depending on his 2009 finish.

–The reigning National League Rookie of the Year has flopped this year to say the least. Geovany Soto has hit .217 and has just nine home runs this season. He’s been ravaged by injuries and managed to play just 81 games, which sets up a great potential value in 2010.

–I expected more out of Chris Iannetta in 2009, but the .221 batting average makes his season look a lot worse than it has been. He is on pace for a useful 21 home runs and 72 RBI, but he once again failed to play anything approaching a full season – even for a catcher (on pace for 118 games). He has a sharp eye, big power and turns just 27 next year.

–Suzuki has made big strides again in 2009, adding some solid power to his game and becoming a viable catcher option across all league formats. He is on pace to top 70 runs scored and runs driven in, which isn’t too bad in Oakland’s putrid offense.

–The emergence of Buster Posey puts Molina’s 2010 home in doubt. Regardless of where he plays, he is going to be a late-round option that is worth more than his draft position with legitimate power and an average that won’t kill you. He can be a disaster in OBP league (.280), but plays well in standard 5x5s.

–Pierzynski is like Molina in that neither are particularly exciting picks, yet both have value and are capable of being much better than their draft position.

Tuesday: 08.18.2009

Must Sleep!

No Boxscore Blasts yesterday and today as I desperately try to get myself on track after switching work schedules from 12p-9p to 8a-5p. It’s a lot harder than you’d think!

Saturday: 08.15.2009

2010: The First Round

This article appeared on Fanball.com’s Owner’s Edge on August 8th:

Today I am headed to the 2010 crystal ball and I am going to piece together how I feel the first round in next March’s fantasy drafts should go. This is, of course, subject to change from now until hours before said drafts, but it’s always fun to start this exercise early and watch it evolve.

JUST MISSED

Let’s first start with a group of players that didn’t make the dozen (by the way, I realize some places advocate a 10-team as a standard league, but I honestly can’t stand them; I think 12 teamers are far superior and even 14-16 teams is ideal).

— All Pitchers – It is a well documented fact that pitchers carry higher risk than hitters and while you will invariably roster some risk, doing so in the first round is just foolish. Tim Lincecum is fantastic as are Johan Santana and Roy Halladay, but there isn’t a snowball’s chance of any of them landing on my roster in a draft league if the asking price is going to be that high. There are countless examples that I would cite as to why I won’t take a starting pitcher that high and most of them are names of guys that cost next to nothing and excelled, but others are guys that were “can’t miss” fantasy aces and they missed. I’ll spare you time and just mention the most recent: Brandon Webb. Anyone that tells you they could’ve seen this coming is a bold face liar. Webb was the definition of a workhorse with five straights seasons of 208+ innings and an ERA below 3.60 in all of them. He raised his wins yearly and his strikeouts in the first four before dipping down from 194 to 183 in 2008. No one, and again I mean no one, would’ve predicted that he’d throw one poor four inning outing and then spend the remainder of the season on the shelf. So feel free to take your ace pitcher in the first (or second) round and absorb the massive risk. I’m comfortable scouting for next guy left for dead after one down season (Justin Verlander), or the next injury comeback that slips because of the lack of recent production (Josh Johnson, Webb in 2010), or the next prospect who has been up so long without amazing results that he’s labeled a bust when in actuality he’s just hitting his prime (Edwin Jackson) or lastly the massively skilled guy that didn’t have the performance to match who is now in a much friendlier situation and ready to explode or re-explode in this particular case (Javier Vazquez).

–Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians – Make no mistake, I love me a 2010 Grady Sizemore. He’s going to be underrated because of this wretched season (as compared to expectations) and provide some big time value a la Carl Crawford this year (of whom, if I may toot my horn a smidge, I said this about in a top 100 outfielders list this preseason, “Nothing in his foundational skills suggest that he won’t come back as good as ever in 2009 so invest the standard 50-stolen base speed with double digit power, a ton of runs, around 75 driven in and a .300 average.” He’s pacing for – 107 R, 18 HR, 78 RBI, 77 SB, .314 AVG). It’s not like Crawford was going in the 5th or 6th round and Sizemore won’t either, but you could see him drop into the 3rd for sure. Since the batting average was already an issue in his 30-30 season of 2008, it’s impossible to recommend him with your #1 pick even on the expectation that he’s at least a 25-25 guy. He should probably be moved from the leadoff spot on a permanent basis starting in 2010. Then we will finally start to see the 100-RBI seasons start rolling in.

–Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees – I was very excited for Teix to head to the Big Apple. As an aside, I’d have been more excited about 2009 had he stayed in Los Angeles with the Angels. Anyway, I still expected plenty of excellence from Teixeira once he signed with the Yanks. He sputtered out of the gate as he’s wont to do with a .200/.367/.371 line and three home runs. I wasn’t deterred. Not only did I hold Teixeira in the four leagues I had him in, I actually sought to acquire him in two others. As we know, he blew up in May with 13 home runs, 34 RBIs and a blistering 1.139 OPS. He’s re-entered the atmosphere again and maintained solid if unspectacular production ever since. Stats are stats and they all go towards the bottom line in a rotisserie league, but to see someone hit 48% of their home run total to date in one month is a bit disconcerting. It’s an odd enough sample to be considered a fluke. So while Teix’s move to New York has him on pace to finally reach the 40-HR plateau again, I’m not sold enough on him as a Yankee to believe that he is a first rounder.

–Mark Reynolds, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks – If I had to guess, I would say that Reynolds has been the catalyst for a lot first place teams in fantasy leagues across the country. His MVP-caliber numbers at his clearance bin cost represent perhaps the best value of the season. He is on pace for an absurd 48 HR/30 SB season. But even more shocking than either of those figures is the .283 average. Reynolds is a human air conditioner with a 37% strikeout rate in 1297 major league at-bats. And that lack of contact puts a batting average at risk as evidenced by his .239 last year. The power is absolutely legitimate so at worst he’s a 30 HR threat for the foreseeable future. The speed, like the batting average, is a question. He did manage 11 stolen bases in 2008, but he’s nearly doubled that this year with two months to go. Simply put, his 2009 emergence cannot be trusted as an expectations guideline going forward. Some leagues will see him go very high, but there is a lot of risk here.

–Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals – I know what you’re thinking: “Well duh, of course he’s not a first round. Why is he even in the honorable mention list?” Well for one, he’s an excellent player. After he was traded to Oakland, throngs of people thought he would suck and once he had a terrible April, they felt validated and acted as if the season was over right then & there. He righted the ship in the Bay Area and while the numbers were definitely depressed a bit because of the harder league and much less friendly home park he still ended his brief Oakland stay with an .832 OPS. Since his trade back to the National League, he’s been perhaps the best hitter in the league with a .488 average and 1.386 OPS in his small 43 at-bat sample. Despite all of the nonsense posted about how Holliday would all of a sudden become Jacque Jones or something, he is on pace for a sold 21 HR/19 SB season with totals nearing 100 in runs scored and driven in. Thanks to his St. Louis boost, he’s now up over .300, too. I think he will stay with the Cardinals and be a very appetizing pick for those with a late first round draft slot. In the end, I don’t think he makes the cut, but he is very much an elite player.

–Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets – I wouldn’t have moved him out of the first round based on one injury-riddled season if the injury wasn’t in the legs. Despite three straight double-digit home run seasons, Reyes’ value is without question in his speed. He has averaged 65 stolen bases in the past four seasons which is such an advantage in a heavily valued category. I was actually advocating him as the #1 overall pick (Albert who?) this offseason because he overwhelms in two categories (stolen bases and runs scored) while contributing significantly in the three others (average, home runs, RBIs). He’s still just 26 yet he has four full season and parts of two others before this year under his belt. If he has a clean bill of health and there is no expectation that he will be slowed by the injury that has limited his 2009 to 147 at-bats, then I will assuredly slot him back into the first round. But until then, he’s on the outside looking in because of the risk.

THE FIRST ROUND

12. Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins – Morneau already has a few brilliant seasons under his belt including an MVP campaign, but his 2009 is shaping up to be the best yet. All he did in Joe Mauer‘s absence this April was hit .318 and post a .922 OPS. And when Mauer came back and just unleashed himself on the league, Morneau was there in lockstep with him accumulating a .361/.459/.713 line with nine home runs to Mauer’s 11. I think the perception is that first base is deeper than it actually is, but really it’s star-laden at the top and then it drops. Kendry Morales‘ emergence, Derrek Lee‘s resurgence and Mark Reynolds‘ qualification there certainly helps (though he’s likely still more valuable at third). I think Morneau himself is also a bit underrated in that you don’t always hear his name when talks of the elite first basemen begin, but most certainly belongs there thanks to a fourth straight powerhouse performance.

11. Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers – See? I told you first base had star power. Fielder has 95 RBIs so far this season in 108 games, which is just seven fewer than he had all year in 2008 with 51 more games on his record. His 50-HR campaign is looking a little like Mark Teixeira‘s 40-HR season in that people thought that would become the norm when in actuality it became the high watermark that he may touch again in his career, but he is unlikely to approach perennially. This year Fielder has added a strong batting average to his arsenal as he is currently hitting .302, but don’t focus on that. The immense power and run production is why you invest in Fielder. He hit .288 in 2007 and followed it up with a .276 in 2008. The perception of a 12-point drop and the reality of it are very different and the same goes for the .276 as compared to this year’s .302. Overall, we’re really talking about a 7-8 +/- hit variance year over year given Fielder’s usual 575-580 at-bat sample. He is on pace for 39 home runs meaning he could easily reach 40 with a little luck. That means he’d have 50 and 40 home run seasons under his belt before turning 26. He is an amazing talent and the best is still on the way.

10. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers – You didn’t believe me about that first base star power did you? There might even be one more coming in this top 10. Cabrera is a bona fide stud, plain and simple. He will need an RBI surge to notch his sixth straight 30-100 season (and as a Tigers fan, I’d LOVE to see a surge like he had last year in the 2nd half, but I digress). It took him a season in the new, more difficult league, but Cabrera has found his stroke once again and is headed for his second best batting average ever at .333. It’s odd to pretend as if last year’s .292 was some sort of slump or down year, but when you set the bar that high, these things happen. Cabrera still has at least one, if not a few .340-40-140 campaigns in his future. He will turn 27 early into the 2010 season, an age which is often regarded as the beginning of a hitter’s “prime years”. It is truly frightening to think that Cabrera can and almost assuredly will get better.

9. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets – To hear it from a Mets fan, Wright’s massive power outage can be blamed on Citi Field’s cavernous ways. Of course those very same people are aghast to find out that Citi Field is at the very least hitter-neutral and on some park factor lists, actually hitter-friendly when it comes to home runs. And that doesn’t even begin to address why Wright isn’t hitting home runs on the road if it’s only his home park causing the problem. Even with the power outage, Wright has been a top 15 fantasy producer this year thanks to a strong batting average (.323) and 23 stolen bases already. Even if he hadn’t boosted those two categories to offset his power shortcomings, I wasn’t going to banish a 26 (will be 27 at the start of 2010) year old superstar from the first round. He posted four straight seasons over 25 home runs before this year including a 30-30 campaign in 2007. If I didn’t have him in a key NL-Only money league, I’d almost be wishing for him to hit 10 or fewer home runs so the knee-jerk reactors would swear off of his for 2010 and pump up his value for those of us that know enough not to place too much emphasis on this one season when he has 2650 at-bats of excellence under his belt.

8. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
– I debated about whether or not to slot him higher, but my recent comments about overemphasizing one year with respect to a down year are in play for a good year, too. Perhaps Mauer stole Wright’s power. Either way, it’s a skill never before displayed by Mauer at such a high level making it suspect moving forward. The upshot is that he didn’t sacrifice a single bit of his batting average once the power arrived, in fact he’s on pace for a career high .359. His 2009 at the deepest position on the diamond would be jaw dropping so to see them come from a catcher is just mind blowing. And because he is such a tremendous hitter I think his new found skill is here to stay, at least most of it. Think about how much value you’re getting with a first baseman’s line at catcher. I think Mauer hits .320-25-90-90 in his sleep for the next several seasons (provided health) with the capability of so much more as his 2009 injury-shortened season has shown. The talk about moving him from behind the dish has been in play for almost his whole career, but he’s apparently said he wants to stay there. I would just suggest you enjoy it while you can.

7. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees – I almost feel wrong slotting A-Rod this far down the list, but I think it’s an accurate position for him. Similar to Mauer, A-Rod is having a very strong season despite missing over a month to injury. I think if you had told A-Rod owners that they would have to absorb his weak batting average (.261) in order to get 80 runs, 33 home runs, 103 RBIs and 12 stolen bases-all of which he’s on pace for this season-they would’ve been thrilled. He was tumbling down into the 6th and 7th rounds in some leagues because fantasy owners were so paralyzed with fear. The reason I didn’t end up putting A-Rod higher is that the simple fact is because he is 34 years old and he’s not invincible. He is a world-class player that dominated his sport for years and still has several great years left in him, but as he ages the speed will continue to deteriorate and the batting average will suffer, too.S

6. Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay Rays – Welcome back, C2! After the seasons Crawford had been putting up (five straight seasons over 45 SBs, four of those w/50+), it was so completely obvious that health was what held him back in 2008. In fact it killed his season. It essentially made him waiver wire fodder. But that is all in the past now and he has decided to make up for lost time by running wild this year. If he keeps at his current pace, he will smash his career high of 59 and end up with 77! The 12 home runs he has already would have been enough to satiate most owners, but he’s got two months to match or exceed his career high of 18. Simply put: Crawford is in the midst of his prime and he is a legitimate five-category contributor when healthy.

5. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers – He just hasn’t slowed down since his amazing rookie campaign back in 2007. He is a four-category stud and maintains mid-teens speed giving him across-the-board viability. The crazy thing is that he will be just 26 years old next year meaning he likely hasn’t even come close to peaking. He definitely has 40 home run power in his bat and he could feasibly string together three or four such seasons. The speed may trickle down as he goes through his late 20s, but that’s all just gravy anyway since you’re buying the massive power production, runs scored and .300+ batting average. It’s a shame he was such a butcher at third base because he would be even more valuable on the infield.

4. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers – It’s hard to find something not to like about this blossoming 24-year old (will turn 25 before 2010). He has a better than .300 career average, incredible speed (35 SBs last year and on pace for 33 more this year) and developing power. He’s set to top 20 home runs for the first time in his career this year and he’s on pace for an incredible 104 RBIs. Why would a 104-RBI season be incredible? Because Kemp has spent the bulk of his season hitting 6th, 7th or 8th in the lineup. He’s even batted 9th 11 times! It is tough to argue with the production down there, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t excel as the 5th hitter if he were left there for a significant sample. The wart that Kemp does have is his strikeout rate. He was at 25% last year tallying 153 strikeouts. He’s on pace to cut total down by about 15 or so this season. If he keeps putting up these kinds of numbers on offense, then I can deal with his strikeout rate, but seeing how he has progressed since his first season leads me to believe he will correct that strikeout rate as he ages.

3. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
– What if I told you that I had a .300-30-100-100-15 guy available to you in the first round? In fact he’s somewhat underrated as compared to other superstars so you might get him later in the first round. Is that something that would interest you? Of course it is. Now what if I told you this guy played second base? I know, you’d do back flips. Chase Utley is just amazing. Kanye West may have made that song with him in mind actually. Though 30 (he will be 31 by 2010 opener), he has shown no signs of slowing down any time soon. I think he will stand as a viable first round candidate for at least the next two years before he starts his decline phase.

2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins – I am still not entirely certain he doesn’t deserve the top spot. What can’t he do? The move down in the lineup has curbed his stolen base production, but the 28 he is on pace for is nothing to sneeze at, either. And this year he has countered that dip in speed with a career high .344 batting average and more RBIs (which were expected in the 3-hole). It blows my mind to think that he will be just 26 next year. When you stack the numbers with the guy residing in the top spot (have you figured out who it is yet?), it’s clear to see why it’s tough to pick one ahead of the other. Then you factor in Ramirez’s position and the decision gets even murkier. The reason I eventually landed on Ramirez at 2 is because while you know you can expect greatness, it is not entirely certain where it will come from within the five categories. Will his speed continue to trickle down as a middle-of-the-order producer? Will the power go back up to last year’s mid-30s heights and beyond? Is a .330-.340 hitter or more a .300-.310 hitter? There is a pretty significant difference over the course of 600+ at-bats. What I do know for sure is that if someone flips these top two, I wouldn’t really argue. They are the quintessential 1 and 1a split by millimeters at best.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals – This guy is absurd. I really could end it right there and I don’t think anyone would find it weird. But I’ll elaborate a bit. The 2007 and 2008 seasons are what you get when Pujols isn’t really 100% and they were still both fantastic seasons. Now he is operating at 100% and we see the damage he is doing. He’s a four category superstar and he’s brought back the speed he flashed back in 2005. He’s already reached double-digit steals and he’s on pace for 15. He’s also on pace to be the first player to top 50 home runs since 2008 (Ryan Howard, 58). I think the part of Pujols’s flawless game that gets overlooked, at least to a degree, is the batting average. Getting 550-600 at-bats of .330+ batting average is incredible. As I mentioned earlier, I think Matt Holliday will stay in St. Louis to keep that lineup clicking around Pujols. He’s my #1 for 2010.

Friday: 08.14.2009

Boxscore Blast 8/13/09

My daily look around the majors…

Josh Hamilton is heating up lately including a 4-for-4 game on Thursday. He ended up going 9-for-12 against the Indians the past three days raising his average from .235 to .260 in the process. Since August 5th, he’s hitting .516 with a 1.365 OPS.

Here’s a list of 12-game winners in the American League: Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver and Scott Feldman. Which one is not like the others? The surprising Rangers staff has been the handiwork of Mike Maddux, who has gone a long way towards proving he’s the best pitching coach in baseball. Leo Mazzone’s got nothing on him!

Hot prospect Neftali Feliz is being groomed the way of Johan Santana, Joba Chamberlain and many others. He’s working out of the bullpen and that’s bad news for opponents late in the game. He threw two scoreless innings on Thursday that included five strikeouts. Though he has had just four appearances, he has made quite a splash with 13 strikeouts in his six and two-thirds innings of work.

Alex Gordon hit his second home run since returning from injury as he hopes to put together two big months to close out the season. He definitely hasn’t delivered as expected since joining the majors, but showed a lot of promise with his 2008 season before missing three months this season from mid April to mid July. He’ll be 26 next year and there is still time for him to cash in on his massive potential.

This just in: Joe Mauer is good. I could probably write about him daily. I hate that he plays on a serious competitor of my beloved Detroit Tigers, but I respect the hell out of his game. He went 2-for-4 on Thursday with a double and his 21st home run of the season. With his four RBIs, he’s now at 70 and on pace for 108. Remember, he missed a MONTH!!

Orlando Cabrera extended his hit streak to 22 games with a single.

How many versions of this story are being told on fantasy baseball message boards around the world, “My season turned around as soon as I picked up Justin Verlander off of the waiver wire!”? Going into his April 27th start, he was 0-2 a 9.00 ERA in four starts. This was on the heels of an awful 2008 and some owners were just fed up. From that April 27th start through Thursday, Verlander is 13-4 with a 2.46 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 10.4 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 146 innings. He fulfilled the role of stopper on Thursday with eight shutout innings against the Red Sox helping the Tigers save a game in the 4-game set. He hit 100 MPH on pitches 122 and 123!

Clay Buchholz was solid in defeat throwing seven strong, but he did strikeout just three while walking three, too. He’s a great example that shows just how hard it is to go from AAA to the majors. He was nearly unhittable in Pawtucket this season, but has a 4.45 ERA and hideous 1.79 WHIP in 32 innings with the Red Sox.

A quick minor league note: Jake Peavy threw three shutout innings against AAA-Pawtucket allowing just one hit & one walk while striking out five for AAA-Charlotte. Of his 43 pitches, 26 went for strikes (61%).

I mentioned Hideki Matsui two days ago and he was at it again on Thursday going 4-for-5 with 4 runs scored and 5 RBIs including a pair of 2-run homers giving him 19 on the season. I don’t think there is a single Yankee regular that isn’t worth owning in at least AL only leagues if not across the board.

After knocking a solo shot out off of Ian Snell on Thursday, Derek Jeter is now one home run away from his highest total in four years and he is nearly on pace for 20 HR/30 SB season. Who would’ve bet on that at the beginning of the season? When you factor in the elite runs scored and batting average at perhaps the thinnest position, Jeter is a top 10 hitter in all of fantasy baseball. And it pains me to say that, believe me.

CC Sabathia was brilliant against the Mariners on Thursday, not that he really had to be with the run support he got. Still he went eight strong allowing just a run on three hits while walking two and striking out 10. At 3.64, his ERA is a bit of a disappointment but he has a dominant WHIP (1.14) and he’s often in line for a win with that Yankees offense (he now has 13 on the season) and even though his K rate is below seven, he is still on pace for nearly 190 strikeouts.

Ian Snell is still garbage and that isn’t particularly surprising. He moved to a much harder league and opened up facing Texas, Tampa Bay and New York. Safeco is a nice pitcher’s park and Seattle has a brilliant defense in the outfield, but Franklin Gutierrez can’t make Snell stop throwing meatballs over the heart of the plate.

It was an ugly major league debut for San Diego Padres pitcher Cesar Carrillo. The 25 year old was ripped for eight runs in just two and one-third innings. He gave up just four hits (kind of a low number for someone giving up eight so quickly), but three of them were home runs. He wasn’t necessarily tearing it up in the minors with a 4.47 ERA, 4.7 K/9 and 1.7 K:BB in 137 innings spent mostly in AA-San Antonio.

Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Mike Rivera were the home run hitters against Carrillo, but Fielder & Rivera weren’t done. They victimized Luis Perdomo later in the game for another home run apiece. Fielder’s pair were his 28th and 29th of the season putting him on pace for 41. Even more impressive is the massive 145 RBI pace he is on.

Kevin Kouzmanoff went 3-for-4 yesterday and I considered mentioning, but in the end I let it go. He didn’t take too kindly to that and made sure to do something about it today. He went 5-for-5 on Thursday with a double and four singles. He is 12 for his 15 (.800) in the past four days raising his average 19 points to .264. I just don’t understand how he is a sub-.300 OBP guy the past two years, but he is on track for 20 HR/90 RBI season. He’s a viable option in NL Only leagues, but otherwise he’s just as good or bad as any other waiver wire fodder for mixed leaguers.

Manny Parra did his best to give Carrillo a no-decision but couldn’t quite finish the job. He gave up six runs in five and two-thirds horrible innings in which he allowed 13 hits while walking two and striking out seven. There is something seriously wrong with him right now. He is still just 26 so there is time, but he needs to make some huge adjustments if he wants to realize his full potential.

Cliff Lee is doing his best CC Sabathia circa 2008 imitation. The latest Cleveland ace to be shipped for youth, Lee has been dominant for Phillies in three starts going 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 24 innings. While I have no doubts that Roy Halladay would be doing as well or better, Lee was the perfect acquisition for the Phillies because of how much less he cost them than Halladay would have.

Not only did Ryan Howard rip his 27th home run, but he also stole a base. Perhaps even more amazing is that it was his 5th of the season!!! He had exactly two career stolen bases in three and half seasons before 2009. Do the steals make up for the power dip?

Jason Marquis is not to be trifled with during the day. With a domination of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, he ran his afternoon record to 7-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 65 innings. You would think that kind of performance would make him a great fit for the Chicago Cubs alas he had two mediocre seasons on the south side.

Dexter Fowler went 4-for-5 with 3 doubles raising his average to .271 on the season. He’s been dogged for his debut in some outlets, but I think it’s completely off the mark. A rookie that his holding his own with a decent batting average, an excellent batting eye (.368 OBP) and tons of speed (26 stolen bases) isn’t easy to come by.

Pittsburgh fielded a full lineup on Thursday. That’s about the best thing that can be said of them.

He sucks at pitching, but Mike Hampton can still hit! He went 2-for-2 raising his average to .324, but gave up three runs in five innings and took the loss moving to 7-10.

Hanley Ramirez extended his hitting streak to nine games with his 5th straight multi-hit game of the season. In fact, eight of the nine games have been multi-hit performances. He’s raised his average 13 points to .353 during the streak, too. He has a home run, 10 RBIs and 6 SBs during the nine games.

Chris Coghlan started slowly after being called up in May hitting just .212 his first month, but he has hit .309 with five home runs and 24 RBIs since spanning 230 at-bats including chipping in an RBI on Thursday night in Florida’s 9-2 rout of Houston. There are probably too many strong contenders for Coghlan to make a push for National League Rookie of the Year.

Remember Jonny Gomes? He displayed some decent power with Tampa Bay from 2005 to 2007 (21-20-17), but not too much else. He never topped 60 RBIs in any of those seasons and he appears headed for a four-peat of that feat as his three home run night on Thursday puts him on pace for 25 while the five RBIs brought his pace up to 59. He’s a proven power source that should be rostered in all NL Only leagues and some deeper mixed leagues.

Supplement lover Bronson Arroyo threw a complete game two-hit shutout on Thursday night against the Nationals in a 7-0 for the Reds. He improved his record to 11-11, but the nine clean innings only lowered his ERA to 4.74 giving a clear indication of how his season has gone.

Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 16 games with one of Washington’s two base hits while Adam Dunn got the other in two at-bats and raised his average to .282.

Thursday: 08.13.2009

Boxscore Blast 8/12/09

A daily look around the majors…

A.J. Burnett was lucky to yield just three runs in his six innings of work after allowing 12 base runners. This was due in large part to Toronto’s 1-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position. Burnett struck out seven and escaped with a no-decision as the game ended up going 11.

Robinson Cano has been overshadowed in that deep and explosive Yankee offense, but he had two more hits in five at-bats on Wednesday afternoon and actually dropped his 7-day average from .467 to .452. Regardless, the point is that he is on fire right now and has been almost all season. He is on pace for a career-high 26 home runs and needs just three to break his previous high of 19.

Randy Ruiz, who I mentioned in yesterday’s Blast, hit another home run as he does his best to keep Travis Snider in the minors until September.

Ricky Romero was alright on Wednesday allowing three runs in six innings, but he has definitely hit the rookie wall with a 4.96 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in eight starts dating back to July 6th. This is why I always recommend selling high on rookie arms in non-keeper leagues. I couldn’t trade Rick Porcello quickly enough in the leagues where I had him. Yes, there are exceptions, but as a rule rookies will have a down period spanning 7 to 10 starts and perhaps more if they were doing it with smoke and mirrors. The league makes their adjustments and it is up to the rookie to adjust back.

Mark Ellis had an interesting line Wednesday going 1-for-1 with an RBI and a walk. He didn’t come out early or anything, but he did have a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly which accounted for his other two at-bats. Definitely different, but not as weird as Bobby Abreu’s line on May 10th against Kansas City: 0-0-0-0. Abreu walked four times that day.

Aubrey Huff was one of biggest surprises in 2008 with his best season since 2004. Anyone betting on another 32 home run season was setting themselves up for failure, but Huff is pacing for a pretty solid season again despite the 50-point dip in batting average and drop in power. He could end the season with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs, which is definitely valuable especially since Huff still went late in most leagues as many realized last year wasn’t sustainable for the 32-year old.

Think Minnesota is regretting their trade with Tampa Bay much these days? Jason Bartlett has emerged as an all around shortstop with a career year at the dish while Matt Garza has been great in both of his seasons with the Rays. Delmon Young, however, sucks. I’m on record in multiple outlets saying he won’t suck forever, but to this point he definitely has. Brendan Harris, the other part going back to Minnesota, has been a complete non-factor as well. Back to Bartlett though, he went 4-for-5 on Wednesday raising his average to .343 and keeping himself right in thick of the AL batting title race. He’s hit .300 before (.309 in 2006) and had a solid .286 last year, but this year has been off the charts.

After a 2-for-3 outing today that including three RBIs and his 9th stolen base of the season, Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick is now hitting .273 which on its own isn’t particularly exciting, especially for Kendrick. But when you look and realize that he’s hitting .373 since the All-Star Break, it’s clear that Kendrick is as hot as his teammates. In fact of the first seven hitters in Wednesday’s lineup, Kendrick’s .273 average is lowest by 24 points behind Mike Napoli’s .297. Vladimir Guerrero is at .299 and the other four (Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, Bobby Abreu and Kendry Morales) are between .303 and .310.

Is Carlos Pena’s .216 average palatable when stacked against his 31 home runs? I did an article this preseason about batting average anchors and showed that their negative impact is often overblown, but that was with guys hitting .240 – .250 in a full season. Pena is on pace for 563 at-bats so that disgusting .216 average is a killer. On a regular team hitting about .280, a full season Pena’s batting average will take that team down to .275. His power impact will be dependent on the league, but it likely isn’t enough to counterbalance the average hit. If he holds pace and goes 44 HR/110 RBI then the combination impact of the HR and RBI will likely mask the average, but unfortunately the average is so awful this year that it’s basically a zero-sum game with Pena.

I realize it was against Cleveland, but Tommy Hunter was dazzling yet again on Wednesday. He went 7 and 2/3rds shutout innings allowing six hits while striking out five and walking nobody. He is now toting a 2.26 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine starts. However, I am here to let you know that it’s being done with a lot of smoke and a few mirrors so I would tread VERY cautiously here. He has a 5.6 K/9 rate and 1.8 K:BB rate portending future trouble. He qualifies as a rookie after just 11 innings last year so my previous comment from earlier holds true: sell high on rookies!

Has there been a better starting pitcher than Josh Beckett since June 20th? He has started 10 times since then and posted a 7-1 record with a 1.88 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. That translates to a 6.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio! There has been so much talk about Roy Halladay’s dominance, Edwin Jackson’s emergence and Zack Greinke’s minute ERA that Beckett somehow gets lost in the shuffle despite the fact that he’s leading all of baseball in wins with 14. The latest outing came against the Tigers on Wednesday as he went seven strong allowing two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out six.

Two of the three hits against Beckett were solo home runs by Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames. That is literally the only good thing for the Tigers in Wednesday’s game. For the record, Guillen had the third hit, too. The Tigers lineup is Miguel Cabrera-less and they look like the Red Sox did this past weekend against the Yankees.

Mike Lowell & Jason Bay stayed hot and each hit their third home runs of the series. Lowell shouldn’t even be playing except the helmet throwing pansy, Kevin Youkilis, was ejected last night after getting his ass handed to him by Rick Porcello and then suspended for five games starting on Wednesday.

Francisco Liriano allowed a first inning home run to Willie Bloomquist and had two options: immediately walk off the field to the clubhouse and cry himself to sleep or man up and lock the Royals down for the rest of the game. He chose the latter and ended up going seven innings allowing just the Bloomquist home run and two other hits while striking out eight and walk just one. But it was an inferior opponent and his first dominant start in over a month so I wouldn’t get too excited by the outing.

Every Twins starter except Nick Punto had a hit against the Royals. Joe Crede had three and everyone else had just the one.

I formally apologize to any Felix Hernandez owners out there. He’s my ace in my AL Only league and that staff is imploding so it is not surprising that I would finally get a great outing only to have it turn into a no-decision. King Felix threw seven shutout innings allowing six hits, striking out 10 and walking four. His ERA is down to 2.72 on the season. The M’s won a 1-0 thriller in 14 on a Ken Griffey Jr. base hit down the right field line that scored Adrian Beltre.

Speaking of Beltre, he went 3-for-6 on Wednesday raising his average to .390 since returning from injury. He hasn’t really done anything besides that with 0 HR or RBIs, but it’s definitely nice that he’s contributing something upon his return.

After three straight abysmal starts following his perfect game, Mark Buehrle desperately needed his brilliant outing from Wednesday. He went eight shutout innings putting seven men on and striking out three.

I guess you could make a case that Oliver Perez didn’t totally suck in his outing on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in which he went five-plus innings allowing just one run on six hits and SIX WALKS (!) while striking out seven en route to a no decision. Notice I said didn’t TOTALLY suck. The one run allowed and seven Ks kept it from total suckage.

Gary Sheffield started his first game since August 4th (he pinch hit on Monday and Tuesday) and went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Here’s a familiar headline: Jon Garland had another solid outing wasted into a no decision. Since June 19th, Garland has allowed more than three earned runs twice in 11 starts and has a 2-4 record to show for it. In that time period, he has lowered his ERA from 5.45 to 4.28.

The Dodgers needed a ninth inning run off of Tim Lincecum to force their league-high 16th extra inning game (tied with Toronto). They ended up losing on a Juan Uribe walk off shot, but they put together a valiant effort considering they were using Jeff Weaver against baseball’s best pitcher.

After a 2-for-5 game, Freddy Sanchez is up to a .324 average since being traded to the Giants. He is a great #2 hitter and if Eugenio Velez is going to keep hitting well in front of him then Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina will bat a lot with runners on. This team doesn’t need a ton of offense to be formidable with that dominant staff.

By the way, the aforementioned Lincecum actually lowered his strikeout rate despite fanning seven in eight and two-thirds innings. That’s what happens when you are toting around a 10.9 K/9 rate. The two runs he allowed did manage to drop his ERA a tick from 2.20 to 2.19. He has to be perfect to heavily impact his stats these days, that’s when you know you’re the best.

Welcome back to Atlanta, Adam LaRoche! In his second tour of duty with the Braves, LaRoche is pounding the ball out of the gate. After two home runs on Wednesday, he is up to .371 in 35 at-bats with three homers and seven RBIs. He also had his 7th walk since rejoining the team pushing his on-base percentage up to .488.

Is Martin Prado developing into a keeper in deeper NL Only leagues? Probably not, but he is definitely an unsung hero of the 2009 season that will be on a lot of winning teams as a $1 player. He hit his 8th home run and 24th double on Wednesday pushing his average up to .313 on the season. He hit .320 in 228 at-bats last year so the average looks legitimate, but he doesn’t offer enough anywhere else to merit keeping even as a triple-eligible infielder with a salary almost guaranteed to be below $5 unless he was a waiver pick up that has a set price of $10 like a lot of leagues do.

Adam Dunn knocked two singles in four trips raising his average to .281 on the season. Who would have thought that Washington would be the place that Dunn would get on a career-high pace in batting average and RBIs?? He is also set to keep his 40+ HRs streak intact needing just 10 more. I’ve always been a huge Dunn fan so I love seeing him contribute positively in batting average while delivering his usually awesome power production.

Hunter Pence didn’t appreciate me talking about his lack of RBIs yesterday so he went out and hits two home runs and drove in six. A pair of 3-run homers is always a nice way to jumpstart your numbers back on track. That said, he will need a hot 7-10 stretch to get on a pace that reaches last year’s total of 83.

It has got to be infuriating to own Ricky Nolasco this year. He had an awful start to the season posting a 9.07 ERA in his first nine starts through May. That earned him a quick two week sojourn to AAA. Upon his return on June 7th, Nolasco was the pitcher we saw dominate for the second half of last year posting a 1.91 ERA in five June starts. He stayed relatively strong in July aside from one hiccup, but still managed to shave .75 off of his ERA. He now down from 9.07 to 5.24 entering August. He started the month swimmingly with a pair of seven outings allowing one and two runs respectively before just getting obliterated on Wednesday by the Astros. He allowed 10 runs in 3.3 innings on eight hits and two walks once again tanking his ERA from 4.86 to 5.44. I don’t understand he can be alternately so great and so awful.

I still don’t think Carlos Lee gets enough run as an elite level player. He is about as bankable of a player as there is having delivered 100+ RBIs in five of six seasons, the sixth of which was a 99 RBI performance. After three RBIs on Wednesday, he is on pace to reach 104 in 2009.

The return of Pedro Martinez was nothing special as he went five innings allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. He pitched with a lead from the outset and the Phillies were up 12-1 by the 4th inning. Because of his name, he’s probably been picked up by somebody in your league, but even if not I would take a wait-&-see approach and let him pitch another start or two under his belt.

Jimmy Rollins
stayed absurdly with a 2-for-4, 3 RBI effort on Wednesday. I covered Rollins’ emergence since the All-Star Break yesterday, but another huge day allowed him to squeeze into the column again today. Can he threepeat?

Raul Ibanez doesn’t get talked about as much anymore as he has cooled a bit since his unconscious first two months posting an average in the .250s in June, July and nearly midway through August. He hit his first home run since July 26th, his 27th of the season. He was on such a torrid pace early in the season that even with the drought, he is still set to reach 43 by season’s end.

It hasn’t been very pleasant season for Jeff Samardzija thus far and his debut in a starting role didn’t help matters much. He came into the game with a 6.29 ERA and left with a 7.81 after getting torched for seven runs in 3+ innings of work. The 24 year old swingman is taking his lumps the second time through the league after a solid 28 innings of work out of the bullpen in 2008.

Shane Victorino got the two hard parts of a cycle, a triple and a home run, but the biggest headline of his night was when some worthless piece of crap idiot dumped beer on him during a play. I could punch out a 2,000-word tirade on how pathetically stupid this person is, but this isn’t the space for that. It’s just absurd, though. Buying a ticket isn’t a license to be a scumbag idiot.

Adrian Gonzalez
stayed hot with another 2-for-5 outing, but he actually lowered his August batting average to .406. He only has 1 HR this month, but he has raised his average 13 points to .264.

Will Venable had a pair of RBIs on Wednesday giving him 12 for the month. He has been insane this month adding 4 home runs, a .351 average and 1.132 OPS with the RBIs. If he’s available in your league, you might want to ride out the hot streak for as long as it will go.

Perhaps I can just get a cut-&-paste paragraph about Matt Holliday ready on standby. This guy is insane. He had another three hits last night as he does his best to replicate Manny Ramirez’s explosion upon being traded last year. He is a hit away from .500 with the Cardinals going 34-for-70 (.486) with a jaw-dropping 1.319 OPS to match.

Is it me or does it feel like Chris Carpenter has quietly put together a dominant season? He notched his 12th win of the season on Wednesday going seven strong allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out 10 and walking nobody. His ERA is down to 2.27 trailing only Tim Lincecum in all of baseball. Yet it seems only Lincecum, Matt Cain and Dan Haren have been widely discussed in the NL Cy Young picture. Lincecum is the clear front runner, but Carpenter is #2 for me.

Albert Pujols hit his 38th home run. I don’t want to see him walked every at-bat, but the fact that he continues to get pitches blows my mind.

The most interesting thing on the Reds end of last night’s game was Chris Dickerson’s 3 hits… whoop-de-do!!

You can’t stop Ubaldo Jimenez, you can only hope to contain him. OK, that’s not entirely true. He’s having a very good season, but nothing off the charts. He threw eight shutout innings allowing three hits while striking out six and walking four en route to his 10th win of the season.

Carlos Gonzalez has been white-hot this month and hit his 4th home run of the season on Wednesday. He has a .448/.485/.793 line for the month with two home runs and five RBIs. He is still just 23 and was unfairly written after falling on his face during his first month after being called up in June which totaled a whopping 62 at-bats.

Troy Tulowitzki had two more hits giving him a .366 average for August. He’s been insanely hot for the last three months posting better than an 1.000 OPS in each month. This is as good an example as any to show that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Tulowitzki was hitting .226 after May; he’s up to .278 now.

Wednesday: 08.12.2009

Boxscore Blast 8/11/09

I’m trying something out today. Essentially, I’ll go around the league pulling the most interesting tidbits from all of the boxscores. In other words, I scan all of the pertinent info and put it all in one place for you. This is a test run to see how it’s received so in the interest of time it won’t have every game included.

Adam Kennedy hit his 10th home run last night putting him on pace for a career high 16. Who would have thought that Kennedy would have a career year at age 33 and in Oakland no less?! He also has stolen 14 bases putting him on pace to match his career high of 22.

When Nolan Reimold first came up, his power was on display with nine home runs in his first two months (spanning 135 at-bats). That power stroke has disappeared with just one in 111 at-bats since, but he did his seventh base of the season last night. All of them have come in that 111 at-bat sample. He has clearly hit a rookie wall (.243 since July 1st), but the speed has given him some value while he works through it.

There is no doubting that Nick Markakis has had a good season. He had two more hits last night to bring his average up to .300 and he’s on pace for 112 runs batted in. But he is on pace for 19 home runs, which would fall just short of his 2008 output (20). Meanwhile, he has pretty much stopped running altogether, a development that doesn’t surprise me in the least. While I did project a 30-home run season in ’09, I did also believe that 2008’s 10 stolen bases would be his ceiling. He’s well short of that with just two right now. He is a middle of the lineup producer that will soon be hitting 25+ HRs regularly, but you can bank on the stolen base numbers staying down.

Lost in all of the Brian Matusz & Chris Tillman shuffle is David Hernandez’s strong 2009 debut. Hernandez went six-plus innings allowing two runs and striking out six with just one walk to even his record at 4-4 last night. His ERA is down to 3.81. The WHIP is sky high at 1.49, but you have to like the progress the 24-year old rookie is showing. He’s been up and down by month with a 1.59 ERA in May, 5.27 in June, 2.46 in July and 5.79 in August. With a strong offense already in place, the group of young arms that Baltimore is assembling has to be pleasing their fans.

Former top prospect Dustin Nippert faltered once last night against the Indians. It was in the third inning and it was costly. Nippert yielded five runs and it was good enough for Cleveland as Aaron Laffey shutout the Rangers for the 5-0 win. Nippert still managed to go six innings striking out 10 while allowing six hits and walking two. The five runs raised his ERA from 2.73 to 3.62, but there are still some things from the outing. Meanwhile his counterpart, Laffey, threw six and two-thirds shutout innings allowing six hits while walking three and striking out a pair. Laffey has been brilliant in five starts since the All-Star Break with a 1.99 ERA and 3-1 record in 32 innings of work. The measly 5.3 K/9 rate is troubling and leaves him susceptible to implosions here and there so be careful when you look at the 3.25 ERA and think he’s an easy pick up.

Shin-Soo Choo picked up his 17th stolen base continuing his excellent breakout season. Many that “discovered” him this year or late last probably don’t realize he was a heralded prospect that rated in Seattle’s top 10 for five straight seasons from 2002 to 2006. He is on pace for 19 HR-89 RBI-95 R-25 SB line in his first full season of play at age 27. He has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal season for Cleveland.

The dispatching of Alex Rios to the Chicago White Sox via waivers was expected to open the door for Travis Snider, who has been raking in AAA-Las Vegas. It hasn’t played out that way yet and Snider might not make his way back to Canada until September. Randy Ruiz was called up to DH and Joe Inglett was sent to the outfield in Rios’s place. Ruiz hit a home run in his debut on Tuesday, but he’s not a long-term option for the Jays. He’s a 31-year old journeyman who was hitting very well at AAA-Las Vegas, but is in his second tour of duty in the bigs with all of 62 at-bats under his belt. Ruiz might be a worthy speculative play in AL-Only leagues as he was hitting .320 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but it could also be a very short lived callup.

Every Yankee starter got a hit last night except one: Alex Rodriguez. I’m sure there is at least one story in a New York newspaper today how big of a loser he is and how he should probably be let go the way Alex Rios was… except nobody would take that contract. And not because he’s a bad player, just because it’s absolutely insane. Anyway, the Yanks didn’t need him to chip in as they held on for the 7-5 win.

Hideki Matsui has quietly put together a very formidable comeback season. His 17th homer of the season on Tuesday put him on pace for 25, the same figure he hit the last time he played a full season back in 2007. Of course that came in 547 at-bats, this year he is on pace for just 454 at-bats. He’s been a great value for fantasy players this season.

The Minnesota Twins got destroyed by the Kansas City Royals 14-6, but superstar Joe Mauer still managed a 3-for-4 night raising his average to .369. He is in line for his 2nd straight batting title and third in four years. The most impressive thing about his power boost is that he’s remained an excellent batting average asset. I do believe he will continue to be a legitimate power asset and as such I put him in my 2010 first round. The precedent that suggests Mauer might slip back down in power is Wade Boggs. In 1987, he went from eight home runs to 24 while keeping his average very high at .363. He was back down to five again in 1988.

Miguel Olivo went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and his 16th home run of the season for the Royals. For a $1 catcher, Olivo’s been excellent. He’s on pace for 26 home runs, but only 67 RBIs. Who cares if he’s batting .246 with a .279 on-base percentage??

Nick Blackburn was one of four pitchers ripped by the Royals. He posted a 3.07 ERA with eight wins before the All-Star Break, but did so with a 4.0 K/9 rate suggesting that trouble was on the way. And trouble has hit and hit hard. Since the break, he’s 0-3 with an 8.87 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in five starts. His K/9 rate is a dismal 2.3 during that time, too.

How lucky have the Twins been? This is now their third series against the Royals and they have yet to face ace Zack Greinke. He will go Friday against the Detroit Tigers.

Ervin Santana is an idiot. OK, that might be harsh, but I’m very upset with him. I held him on my AL-Only team for a month or two and took shellacking after shellacking until I just couldn’t do it anymore. During my league’s last free agent pickup period, I cut him. So OF COURSE he’d throw a 3-hit complete game shutout. Why wouldn’t he? Thanks Erv… for nothing.

It should be noted that Santana’s counterpart, Tampa Bay’s David Price was dealing through four in that game, but just imploded in the subsequent two innings allowing six runs to even his record at 5-5. I’m not going to kill Price for his .500 record and 5.13 ERA this year. I’d be more inclined to blow up the idiots that overrated the daylights out of him for fantasy baseball coming into the season. The expectations on him were enormous and he simply hasn’t lived up to them. Part of me is happy about that because he will be an excellent value in 2010.

John Danks threw eight strong against Seattle allowing just one run on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight netting his 10th win of the season in the process. With a 4.04 ERA, it feels like Danks has struggled this year, but in actuality he’s had three excellent months, one blow up (May) and he’s been mediocre to below average so far this month. He can absolutely pitch well enough in the final 10-11 starts and end up with an ERA around 3.70. And that wouldn’t require he pitch out of his mind from here on out, either. He would just need to be sharp and avoid any real implosions.

When is season that is on pace for 22 HR, 79 RBI, 86 R and a .294 average considered average at best? When it’s on the record of Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. The last time he was below .324 was 2005 during which he had a similar season: 21 HR, 72 RBI, 66 R and a .296 average. That came in 109 games though so the low totals had a built in excuse. This year he’s on pace for 147 games, his highest total since 2003. If I had told you he was going to play 147 games this year, first off you would have called me crazy, but after that you would expect 25-100 easily from Jones. Jones smacked his 15th HR of the year on Tuesday night and he’s hitting .393 so far in August (11-for-28), but he’ll need to keep a torrid pace to end the season anywhere near where many have come to expect his numbers.

Nyjer please!! Washington Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan swiped two more bags giving him 38 on the season and putting him on pace for 55. He’s been excellent since being traded from Pittsburgh posting a .366 average and .409 on-base percentage in 142 at-bats. At 29 years old, this is more of an “it’s about time!” situation than anything else. With regular playing time, he will continue to be a prime source of stolen bases. As a career .303 hitter, his 2009 average of .307 is certainly not out of place.

One esteemed rookie hurler who has lived up to his billing has been Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson. His 3.05 ERA has led to a nice 7-2 record after dominating the Nats for 6+ on Tuesday night. That said, his peripheral numbers haven’t necessarily matched up with the ERA thus far. He is striking out just 6.7 batters per nine innings, a rate that isn’t too bad on its own, but when coupled with his 3.5 BB/9 it suggests that trouble might be on the way. I wouldn’t be averse to trading him away in a non-keeper league.

Yadier Molina is very well known for his excellent defensive work behind the dish, but he has quietly emerged into a solid if unspectacular fantasy catcher, too. You can’t expect much more than six or seven home runs and an RBI total in the 50s, but he is hitting .290 after three hits on Tuesday night and hit a healthy .304 last year.

Matt Holliday had three more hits on Tuesday night giving him 31 in a Cardinals uniform in just 66 at-bats (.470). Rumors of his demise have been greatly overstated. Granted, we haven’t heard from those that buried since the May and he did leave the cavernous Oakland in the harder American League, but still. This performance is Manny-like circa 2008. If Holliday stays on or near this pace, he will carry many teams to victory.

Alex Gonzalez sucks so bad that a 4-hit night moves him up to .217. To put that into context, Holliday’s average would go from .316 to .321 with a 4-for-5 night.

Both Michael Bourn and Miguel Tejada have shunned the naysayers and stayed on fire all season long. Bourn’s average is up 56 points his two steals on Tuesday night put him one ahead of his 2008 total. A total a managed in 50 more at-bats than he has so far this season. Tejada, meanwhile, was buried further below the ground than Holliday (at least as far as being anything near elite) was and all he has done is hit .323 for the season including three hits on Tuesday night.

Hunter Pence is on pace for a measly 66 RBIs despite a .290 average and a pace nearing 600 at-bats. The reason is because he has been horrible at getting runners in even when they’re on 2nd or 3rd. Of the top 200 RBI totals w/RISP, Pence ranks 198th in RBI/AB at .28. Only Russell Martin (.26) and Rafael Furcal (.25) are worse. The leader, unsurprisingly, is Albert Pujols at .77. Jim Thome (.69) and Joe Mauer (.65) round out the top 3.

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs with just three hits. That’s what happens when Carlos Marmol walks three in 2/3rds of an inning and Kevin Gregg serves one up to Ben Francisco. The Cubs were set to have a dynamite bullpen thanks to that 1-2 punch, but the only punching has been in the face of Cubs fans.

How many people have noticed how great Jimmy Rollins has been since the break? After an absolutely brutal 349 at-bats before the Midsummer Classic (7 HR, .229 AVG, .642 OPS), Rollins has bounced back to become one of the best options at shortstop in all of baseball. He is hitting .291 with seven home runs (16 extra base hits in all) 20 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 110 at-bats. Even if continues to hit .290 from here on out, he can raise his average to .260 meaning he is unlikely to completely fix the damage to his value for 2010. That’d be three great months and I’d be plenty willing to take him in the 2nd or 3rd round based on his previous production and the fact that he’s a 35 stolen base guy in his sleep.

Who would have thought that a Rich Harden on pace for 162 innings, his most since 2004, would be carrying a 4.30 ERA and 1.30 WHIP? If I had promised you 162 innings and maybe more from Harden at the beginning of the season, you would have undoubtedly taken quite high as compared to his pitching counterparts alas he finally stays somewhat healthy and lays an egg with his ratios. The strikeouts are still there in massive quantities with a rate of 10.5 per nine innings. When you strike out that many, you can afford a walk rate nearing four such as Harden’s 3.8.

Tuesday: 08.4.2009

Bummer.

I’ve often said that there aren’t enough hours in the day and I’m sure I’d still say it even there were more hours in the day! But one of things that often gets cut out of my day is time for blogging. The 10-hour workdays are the main culprit. Since I usually DVR the Tigers game (I work until 9pm Central), I watch it and eat dinner first. Then I spend around an hour of time with my puppy and another hour-hour & a half reading and who knows how much time on Twitter.

Depending on the day, another hour or two is spent with miscellaneous things (softball, Xbox w/friends) so I often don’t have the energy to punch out 1,000 words of baseball thoughts. That is especially so on nights where I have an article due for Owner’s Edge. At any rate, this isn’t an “I’m closing up shop” post, just more of a lamentation at my lack of material posted. I usually dispense my baseball musings in 140-character doses on Twitter and I plan to once again fill the offseason with plenty of content.

To those that still come around to see the tumbleweeds from 2 months of no posts, I’ll make a commitment to you three or four that I will start posting again 2-3 times a week minimum. Ideally, it’d be a 7-day a week thing, but my life just doesn’t allow it. But one good thing is that I am already working on the 2010 Starting Pitcher Primer. It should be bigger and better as well available even sooner in the offseason with updates as we get closer to the 2010 draft season.