Archive for October, 2009

Saturday: 10.31.2009

2010 Focus: Matt Wieters

If someone asks you how you thought Matt Wieters performed in 2009, your answer will likely give the questioner a lot of insight into how you rated Wieters coming into the season. If you say something like, “Oh that stupid bum ruined my team. He was a total bust!”, then it is clear that you were part of the (HUGE) group that massively overrated the rookie backstop. If your answer is more along the lines of, “Well he wasn’t anything terribly special, but his September/October gave us a taste of why he was the consensus #1 prospect coming into the season.”

You didn’t have to search very far to find a favorable outlook for Wieters in 2009. Joe Mauer with power was the tagline as projections ranged as high as 30+ home runs while many fell in the mid-20s. Even Bill James initially put Wieters down for 24 with 85 RBIs and a .311 batting average. This piece over at FanGraphs.com openly encouraged reaching for him in drafts. And there were countless others using different ways to say the same thing: Wieters will be an instant hit in the major leagues.

I can honestly say I’m not using 20/15 hindsight to chastise those that were over the top in their predictions of Wieters. I was in the vocal minority that believed it was a foolish risk to jump headfirst into a marriage with Wieters with expectations of an All-Star caliber season. I expressed this belief on Twitter and on a pair of message boards I used to frequent. I also marveled at Wieters’ draft position being above Chris Iannetta’s in this review of a mock draft I was in. While I was decidedly wrong on Iannetta, it does show that I’m not blowing smoke re: Wieters.

Razzball was on target, too. Any outlet that suggested caution with Wieters wasn’t downing his merits as a top prospect in the grand scheme, just tempering expectations for his debut season. It is one thing to move from the minors to majors as a position player in the infield or outfield and it is quite another to do so behind the plate. Geovany Sotos surprise 2008 season was fresh in the minds of those highest on Wieters with the rationale that if Soto can do what he did, the better, more heralded Wieters can TOP those numbers.

What you may not realize is that Wieters’ debut wasn’t abnormal of what we should expect from a rookie catcher. And while he wasn’t exemplary, he wasn’t a bust either. Over the past 20 years, there have been just seven catchers to log 300+ at-bats in their first season (note: the Play Index doesn’t differentiate between rookie qualified and 1st seasons, so while Mike Piazza and Geovany Soto [and others I’m sure] had excellent rookie seasons, they weren’t factored in because of the PI limitations). Of those seven, Kenji Johjima posted the best Adjusted OPS (OPS+) with a 103 and he was 95 years old (actually, 30). Wieters’ 95 OPS+ was 4th. Rarely is a catcher even given a legitimate chance out of the chute and in the instances where they are, there isn’t instance success at the dish. Furthering the point, in the last 30 years, there have been four Rookie of Year winners (Soto, Piazza, Sandy Alomar and Benito Santiago) that played catcher.

So that’s all the long way of saying that my relatively high opinion of Wieters hasn’t changed based on his first 354 at-bats. In 2010, he will take a big step toward the lofty projections heaped upon him last year. He still might not do the .300-30-100 dream season many foresee now and for years to come, but he should build off of the positives he showed throughout the season and specifically in final month of the season while learning from struggles he experienced upon being called up. His value will vary from league to league with some downing him after last year while others boost him as a perfect post-hype sleeper candidate. I don’t think he will have much sleeper value because he certainly hasn’t fallen off the radar. Sure, there is a contingent that over drafted him and might swear off of him, but the phrase is “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” not “like a fantasy baseball owner scorned” so that group should just get over their own stupid move and realize that Wieters is a much wiser pick this year than he was in 2009.

Wieters in 2009: .288-35-9-43-0
Wieters in 2010*: .292-86-25-82-0

(*–this assumes Wieters is moved up in the order batting 4th or 5th with some combination of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold flanking or ahead of him. )

Friday: 10.30.2009

2010 Focus: Carlos Beltran

When you lose 81 games on your season, you tend to be forgotten by a large group of the fantasy baseball population. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a bona fide superstar like Carlos Beltran either. He made the 2009 All-Star team, but he won’t show up near the top of any 2009 leaderboards and though he played 19 games in September, those were meaningless ones for the out-of-contention Mets so he was absent from the public eye virtually all summer. It would be a BIG mistake to forget about Carlos Beltran for 2010. (And by forget, I don’t mean he’ll go in the 12th round. He’s a 2nd round guy in most leagues and his 81 games missed could drop him as many as two rounds. Injury bounce backs make championship seasons. Just ask Aaron Hill and Chris Carpenter owners.)

Barring injury-shortened seasons, Beltran has had 100+ RBIs in all but one season, 100+ runs scored in all but two, 23+ stolen bases in all two and 22+ home runs in all but one. His 2000 and 2009 seasons were cut to 98 and 81 games, respectively while 2005, his first in New York, is the only real “bust” season on his record. He played 151 games, so you can’t classify it as injury-shortened, but he battled nagging injuries throughout that year because he didn’t want to sit out for extended periods of time as he wanted to justify his new fat contract in the spotlight of New York.

Since that debut season, he has posted a .286/.379/.531 line with 111 home runs, 386 runs scored, 388 RBIs, 77 stolen bases and a 136 OPS+ in 1978 at-bats. He will turn 33 shortly after the 2010 season starts which is an automatic red flag for some, but if you get caught up in age too much without any context for the individual player then you will do yourself a huge disservice. A-Rod turns 34 in 2010 and you’d better believe that he is still a first round pick. The age factor would be viable if Beltran was showing any signs of slowing down, but he had seasons of 150, 126, 129 OPS+ leading into 2009. And he was on a killer pace with a 141 OPS+ before getting hurt this year. He may run less, but no one should be looking for much more than 20 these days anyway. The last four years prior to 2009 have yielded two low 20s and two high teens outputs (17, 18, 23, 25 since 2005).

So what should we expect from a 2010 Beltran? Based on where he has been since 2004, it would be unwise to bet on the .325 average we saw in a half season of 2009 or even anything close to that. Had he held that pace, it would have been a career high and 51 points than the .274 he has established since 2004. He will earn a high OBP with his eye and there is never a shortage of extra base hits pumping his SLG up. I expect something along the lines of: .280/.375/.510 with 100 runs, 24 home runs, 115 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. That is an elite season worthy of at least a 2nd round pick, if not a late 1st depending on your league size.

Don’t believe it’s anything special? Since 2005 there have only been 10 seasons where a player scored 100 runs, drove in 100 runs, hit 20+ home runs and stole 20+ bases. One of them belongs to Beltran (2008) while Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu are the only two players to repeat the feat. The other five players are among the elite, too: Jason Bay (2005), Ryan Braun (2009), Hanley Ramirez (2009), Alfonso Soriano (2005) and David Wright (2007).

In the last 10 years, there have only 15 instances of that season and Beltran owns five of them. Even loosening the criteria to R>=90, HR>=20, SB>=15 and RBI>=90 shows how amazing Beltran has been. There have been 45 of those seasons since 2000 and he is second to A-Rod (eight) with seven. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Beltran is discounted in drafts because of his age and injury, don’t chance it by letting him hang out there too long. I’d rather lock him up on my terms than keep waiting and hoping he falls. For auction leagues, Beltran is the perfect kind of player to target. His cost is front and center so you will know if there is a discount to be had or not.

Beltran in 2009: .325-50-10-48-11
Beltran in 2010: .280-100-24-115-23

Wednesday: 10.28.2009

The Top 12s – v1.0

I was originally going to post my weekly NFL piece, but I realized that Wednesday was in fact too late as Wednesday is usually when everyone kind of turns the page on the week that was and starts to look at the week ahead. Instead, I will post my first edition of the top 12 lists at every position for 2010. I posted a few here already and all of them were featured at OwnersEdge.com recently. I am just going to post the lists here without the commentary on everyone since 1) I’ve already posted it elsewhere and 2) a lot of it is dated because it was written awhile back and I don’t think it’s necessary to update it until the calendar turns to 2010.

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

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

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

SHORTSTOP
1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Jose Reyes
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. Jimmy Rollins
5. Derek Jeter
6. Alexei Ramirez
7. Jason Bartlett
8. Asdrubal Cabrera
9. Yunel Escobar
10. Elvis Andrus
11. Miguel Tejada
12. Erick Aybar

THIRD BASE
1. Alex Rodriguez
2. David Wright
3. Mark Reynolds
4. Evan Longoria
5. Ryan Zimmerman
6. Chone Figgins
7. Kevin Youkilis
8. Aramis Ramirez
9. Pablo Sandoval
10. Michael Young
11. Chipper Jones
12. Gordon Beckham

OUTFIELD
1. Matt Kemp
2. Ryan Braun
3. Carl Crawford
4. Jacoby Ellsbury
5. Grady Sizemore
6. Matt Holliday
7. Ichiro Suzuki
8. Carlos Beltran
9. Bobby Abreu
10. Justin Upton
11. Jason Bay
12. Adam Dunn

STARTING PITCHERS
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Johan Santana
3. Roy Halladay
4. Felix Hernandez
5. Dan Haren
6. CC Sabathia
7. Zack Greinke
8. Josh Beckett
9. Javier Vazquez
10. Cliff Lee
11. Justin Verlander
12. Chris Carpenter

Top 12 Overall
1. Albert Pujols
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Chase Utley
4. Matt Kemp
5. Ryan Braun
6. Carl Crawford
7. Alex Rodriguez
8. Joe Mauer
9. David Wright
10. Miguel Cabrera
11. Prince Fielder
12. Justin Morneau

Just Missed: Jose Reyes, Matt Holliday, Mark Reynolds, Mark Teixeira, Grady Sizemore, all starting pitchers

The collection on OwnersEdge.com (sub. req.) –
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

Wednesday: 10.28.2009

The Offseason

Now that the regular season has wrapped and the offseason is upon us, it’s time for another season to start for me: Blog Season. I do the bulk of my writing here during the offseason dispensing the bulk of my fantasy information over the winter and early spring in preparation for upcoming season. I was fortunate enough to work with Fanball at OwnersEdge.com this year which made it virtually impossible to write here regularly since I was committed to 2 columns a week, 2 live advice sessions, watching the Detroit Tigers every night, working my 40+ hour/week job and still finding enough time to spend with puppy!! Fanball didn’t restrain my topic choices at all, so it was essentially like I was blogging in long-form two times a week, it was just in a different location. And if you came here during the season at all, you saw that I shared a few of the articles in this space.

I’ve already begun looking closely at 2010 and you can expect a lot of content in the coming months, including something brand new. Despite the name of this site being “Baseball by Paul”, there will be a football piece every Sunday night/Monday morning reviewing the week’s action. I started this last week in a different space and it was received pretty well. I didn’t do one this past Sunday because I was in Las Vegas and I didn’t take my computer with me. Even though it’s a little dated on Wednesday, I’m still going to post one today. In addition to that, I’ll be posting –

– Report from First Pitch Forums: Arizona (including reviews, pictures and analysis from AFL games)
– Top 12s for the infield and at closer
– Top 100 outfielders
– Top 200 starting pitchers
– Sleepers
– Various strategy pieces
– A breathing top 24 (updated weekly starting in February)
– Podcasting (which should include interviews with some awesome guests)
– Book reviews (not limited to baseball, but there will be plenty on the great game)

As well as plenty of other stuff, too! Anyway, it should be similar to last year, but hopefully even more content. I’m starting earlier this year (in fact, I started in August for cryin’ out loud!) which only means more, better content.