Archive for January, 2011

Sunday: 01.30.2011

Lies!!

Remember that lie-filled post I made about Three Questions schedule for the weekend?  I wouldn’t say it was a blatant lie since it was far from intentional, but my time opened up on Saturday and I decided to dive headfirst into the Starting Pitcher Guide instead of dedicating time to Three Questions.  Don’t worry, they aren’t going away, but I saw an opportunity to bust through a couple of teams so I took it.  I actually finished three teams: the Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres which is even better than I expected.  I may get through another couple today, which would be excellent.  The target release date is still mid-February and I’ll give out more details we get closer to that date.

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Thursday: 01.27.2011

Three Questions – San Francisco Giants

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

I paid a lot for Pablo Sandoval last spring, WTF?

Yeah that was a tough one to swallow.  He certainly didn’t come close to expectations, but at the same time he wasn’t the season killer he is made out to be, either.  Season killers are multiple month injuries on April 12th.  You can overcome guys who underperform expectations, but still play 152 games.  Plus it isn’t like his season was a complete & utter disaster, he had streaks of excellence mixed in, namely his April and August where he posted 1.008 and .907 OPS marks, respectively.

In many leagues, Sandoval’s down season (.268/.323/.409 w/13 HRs) will actually create a buying opportunity as owners overreact to what essentially amounts to a sophomore slump at age 23.  Most guys aren’t even in the big leagues at 23 and Sandoval has 1400+ plate appearances under his belt.   We have seen the best of Sandoval and we have seen the worst of Sandoval and with his price being driven by the latter, now is the time to invest.  In the SiriusXM/FSTA Draft during their conference out in Las Vegas on Monday, he was taken in the 8th round (101st overall) of a 13-team mixed league.  Last year he was a 3rd-4th round pick.

Third base is still pretty thin so his value won’t completely plummet, but I would consider that 8th round value to be the high end of where he will go in drafts so you might be able to get him a few rounds later depending on your league.  Once you get past the top 10 of Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Pedro Alvarez, Martin Prado, Michael Young and Casey McGehee then I think Sandoval is just as good of a pick as the other guy.

He won’t offer nearly as much power as Mark Reynolds, but his overall profile is much more stable.  He doesn’t carry the age/injury risk of Scott Rolen & Chipper Jones and factoring in reasonable improvement regression, he should be better than them even if they manage to stay healthy.  Bottom line is you should pay for a guy hitting .300 with 18 home runs and 75+ runs scored and driven in, but be willing to go the extra buck or two for the potential he has as a 24-year old still coming into his own.

Andres Torres was a prototypical fantasy All-Star last year, what about 2011?

At 33, we’re not dealing with a growth profile here.  Torres’s 570 plate appearances last year eclipsed his career total by 115 spread across parts of five seasons.  That said, he gave us a taste of 2010 in 170 plate appearances in 2009 when he had six home runs and six stolen bases along with eight(!) triples.  After an amazing July, he sputtered down the stretch no doubt suffering some fatigue from his first whole season.  For 2011, it is going to be all about cost.

I’m confident he can put together another solid power/speed season as a “glue guy” for any fantasy team, but is the price tag going to be that of a glue guy or second tier fantasy star?  Early returns are mixed.  His ADP (average draft position) at one popular mock draft sites is off the charts ridiculous.  He is checking in as the 35th outfielder off the board (116th overall) ahead of guys like Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones, Carlos Lee, Vernon Wells and Nick Markakis.  While I said I don’t doubt he can repeat 2010, drafting him ahead of those guys means he has to repeat for me to get proper returns on my investment.

In the industry draft I mentioned earlier, he went in the 20th round (250th overall) which actually hits the other end of the spectrum as a great value.  I doubt he will go that late in most drafts, but anything before 15th-16th round is really ramping up the risk on your end.  He is a great story who has overcome his ADHD to have success in the big leagues, but you still have to remember he is a 33-year old strikeout machine with solid speed in a lineup that is still only decent at best.

Look for a .260-76-12-55-22 line which has value, but let your team construction dictate if he is a fit or not.  If you have a lot of high risk/high reward youth on the team, then Torres is a great stabilizing vet who’s downside isn’t  going to kill you.  But if you have a veteran-laden team on offense, then bet on the upside of a Travis Snider or Logan Morrison before taking a low ceiling Torres.

Is there anyone off the radar who could make an impact for the reigning Champions?

Yes there is and it is someone who has already been covered in depth here, first baseman/left fielder Brandon Belt, who was my favorite player to watch that Arizona Fall League back in November.  As presently constructed, the Giants lineup is essentially Posey, Sandy and Six Old Dudes.  Now those old dudes came through huge last year, especially in the playoffs and helped bring home a title, but older players aren’t bastions of health.  Injuries create opportunities which is where someone who is just about ready for the big leagues, like Belt, comes into play.

The reason Belt now has left fielder attached to his defensive description is because first base, his normal position, is pretty well sealed up for the time being.  Aubrey Huff parlayed his excellent 2010 season into a deserved contract and though he is 34, he has averaged 152 games per season since his age 26 season.  In that time, he has played fewer than 150 just once.  That said, age is fickle.  But the real opportunity could come in left field where Pat Burrell was something of a savior for that lineup in 96 games last year but is neither young (34), agile (-39.7 career UZR) or super healthy of late (122 & 120 GP the last 2 years).

Belt was a breakout prospect last year crossing three levels before heading to Arizona where he continued to stay hot.  Only 13 of his 136 games came at AAA-Fresno so he will start the 2011 season down there to get some more seasoning so he isn’t someone who should be drafted as anything other than a minor leaguer right now, but don’t be surprised if he earns an early summer call-up to spark that offense.

Make no mistake that the Giants won the World Series because of their pitching and that remains their overwhelming strength for 2011.  The offense is far from perfect and the veterans will have to produce with Posey if the team expects to contend out west and if not, GM Brian Sabean will have to find guys who can with Belt being the best minor league option for the Giants.

Wednesday: 01.26.2011

Three Questions Schedule

After finishing up the AL West yesterday with the Seattle Mariners, I’m staying out west and shifting to the National League starting tomorrow:

1/27 – San Francisco Giants

1/28 – San Diego Padres

1/29 – Arizona Diamondbacks

1/31 – Colorado Rockies

2/1 – Los Angeles Dodgers

I spent this evening working on the Starting Pitcher guide.  It’s coming together nicely and I couldn’t be happier to be honest.  I’ve got four great guest contributors committed with offers out to a handful of others, too.  Targeting a mid-February release date which should be well in front of most if not all scheduled drafts and auctions.

Also on tap here at PaulSporer.com, I’m planning a chat in mid-February shortly after the guide is released.  I’ll answer any & all questions related to the guide as well as anything fantasy baseball-related in general.  More details on that in the coming days.

Tuesday: 01.25.2011

Three Questions – Seattle Mariners

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Will Justin Smoak start to look like the guy who was the centerpiece in a deal for an ace?

Smoak, a blue chip prospect coming up through the Rangers’ organization, drew rave reviews in three minor league seasons ranking 13th (2010) and 23rd (2009) on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list the last two years.  He was being compared to former Ranger Mark Teixeira, likely due to the easy surface comparison of switch-handedness, a deft eye at the plate, first round draft status and first base positioning on the diamond.  It will be tough to find out how apt those comparisons were as Smoak is now a Seattle Mariner.

His career started off with a whimper in 275 plate appearances with the Rangers, but he still showed the ability to draw walks with a 105-point split between his batting average and on-base percentage, although both lagged with the latter topping out at .316.  His 8-home run total wasn’t horrible either.  Across a full season, that projects to the low-20 power Smoak was projected for in his young career.  Results on the whole were slightly better in Seattle (93 OPS+ v. 79 in Texas) though they came at the expense of his batting eye as the difference in average and OBP dwindled to 48 points.

As the centerpiece return for the M’s in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers the expectation for Smoak to hit Teixeira likely won’t go away, however the capacity to do so will be seriously diminished in his home park of Safeco Field.  According to StatCorner.com, Safeco Field has a park factor of 91 on home runs for left-handed batters and just 84 for righties.  For the uninitiated, anything below 100 favors pitchers.  So for 81 of his games, Smoak is going to be playing in an environment that eats away at his ability to do the thing fantasy owners need most out of a first base/corner infield option, hit for power.

Factor in the historically bad lineup which has no chance but to improve but will still struggle and you’ve got a player bringing very little to the table in terms of production.  If the low-20s was Smoak’s ceiling for the early part of his career in Texas, then 15-17 is the new ceiling playing in Seattle.  Combine that with below average runs scored and driven in totals and you have waiver wire fodder in most league formats.  He will get drafted because of his name and because of his hot September (.340/.421/.580, 3 HR, 9 RBI), both of which are factors that will price me out for sure.  I don’t need a hit before I pass this Smoak.

Where do I draft Ichiro now that he’s 37 & stuck in that lineup?

I am less concerned about the age than I am his awful supporting cast who last year cashed in Ichiro’s .359 on-base percentage for a whopping 74 runs.  SEVENTY-FOUR!!!  He hit .315 with 214 hits and scored 74 runs.  We have already seen within his early-to-mid 30s that Ichiro isn’t aging normally.  He continues to be an age-defying star and there is no reason to bet that he drops off the table suddenly in 2011.  As I have mentioned many times before, I would be careful subscribing to these trends, but he has an on-off trend with his batting average that is schedule for an on year.  His last four years in order have been .351, .310, .352 and .315 meaning if the trend held he would be in for another transcendent batting average year that can carry a fantasy team.

On-off trends are hardly the statistical work of Baseball Prospectus and company, but maybe he dedicates himself in a different way during the offseason of those “down” seasons to come back and have another huge year.  Flimsy at best, so don’t use it as the reason to draft him.  Draft him because he hits .300+ in a ton of at-bats with 35+ stolen bases.  Unfortunately he cannot be counted on for runs until further notice, but he is a stud in two categories.

In a recent “Experts” Draft held over at CBS, he went at the top of the 5th round.  I might be more prone to take him in the back of the 4th round when all of those picks were being wasted on starting pitchers, but it’s inconsequential to say he is late 4th instead of an early 5th round pick.  Anywhere in that pick 40-60 range suits me just fine.  The age is scary to many so you may even be able to hold off until the 6th round or get a few dollars shaved off of his auction price.  When you are dealing with superstar once-in-a-lifetime players, things like natural age progression and mistrusting the stats is how you get burned.  He is as solid as they get in this game on unpredictability.

Is there anyone besides Ichiro worth caring about in this lineup?

Yes, there is some hidden value.  Off the top, I would be willing to bet on a Chone Figgins rebound.  The price is likely to be ripe for a profit as his .259 average left a sour taste in the over-reactionary populace of fantasy baseball while you are smart enough to wade through the belly-aching and see a guy who still stole 42 bases and hit much better from June on (.280) after entering the month with a .211 average.

But for the purposes of this question, I would like to shift your attention to the former AL West foe who was brought to the Mariners to provide some punch to their lineup, Jack Cust.  You may recall about 500 or so words ago I lamented Safeco Field and what it does to a hitter’s power.  However the “hitter” in that example is a mere mortal when it comes to power hitting, he is no Jack Cust.  Cust’s power isn’t to be stifled by cavernous stadiums whether in the Bay Area or the great Northwest.

Cust popped a .501 slugging percentage in McAfee Coliseum, his former home in Oakland, which has a home run park factor just a point higher at 92 for lefties than his new home.  This means his power won’t be stifled, just as the power of the guy whose shoes he is filling, Russell Branyan, wasn’t during his two stints with Seattle.  Cust has a legitimate shot to replicate Branyan’s 31 home run season from 2009 and he certainly doesn’t cost what 31 home runs should (went 29th round in the aforementioned “Experts” League) so put a star next to him on your draft list.

Saturday: 01.22.2011

Three Questions – Texas Rangers

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Michael Young. Go.

OK, that’s not really a question, but his offseason has been one of uncertainty with the signing of Adrian Beltre and Baseball-Reference.com referring to him as Mike Young for some reason, so what does 2011 have in store for him?  For fantasy purposes the movement on the diamond whether over to first base or off the field to designated hitter has no real impact on his fantasy value because he will still qualify at third base based on last year.  That is where his value is highest without question.  I can’t really see the position move impacting his offense too much, either, though sometimes guys just don’t respond well to DH’ing.

Young has been a legitimate fantasy asset now for eight straight seasons and even at 34 years old there is nothing in his profile to suggest that will change.  The batting average dipped below .300 for only the second time in the eight year stretch since 2003, but with his flyball rate climbing yearly since 2007, that is hardly shocking.  The tradeoff is the likelihood of his power staying in the upper teens, lower 20s area.  His team dependent numbers should remains strong as the lineup actually gets better than its 2010 iteration with addition of Beltre.  With third base still one of the thinner positions on the infield (shortstop is the thinnest), Young remains a quality asset whether at third or filling your corner infielder spot.

Can Mitch Moreland hold the first base spot all year or does Chris Davis take that job and run with it?

Moreland joined the Rangers late in July and enjoyed a solid 47-game stint, but the results aren’t indicative of what you should expect over a full season.  He showed uncharacteristic power (9 HR in 145 AB; 12 in 353 minor lg. AB) thanks to a 21.2% HR/FB which would be tough to sustain over an entire season and would certainly qualify as an upset if he did it.  With a 29 AB/HR rate in 1398 minor league at-bats, no one is betting he is going to sustain his 16 HR/AB over a full season in the majors.

Conversely, he showed a much better knack for getting base hits in the minors than he did in his short time at the big leagues.  A career .313 hitter in the minors, Moreland hit just .255 in his time with the Rangers.  In essence, I would bet on the two trends reversing where he a low double-digit home run total for the season would be paired with a .285+ batting average and above average plate discipline.

But will it be enough?  For your fantasy team, not in mixed leagues as he profiles as a slightly better Daric Barton.  For the Rangers, that is to be determined.  Davis is a prototypical AAAA guy who has mashed his way through the minor leagues on multiple occasions, but failed to carry it into the big leagues in his last two years after a strong rookie debut in 2008.  Of course despite being written off as a complete bust by most, he is still just 25 years old.  Plenty of guys don’t even start their major league career until age 25 and he already has 872 major plate appearances under his belt so it’s far from over for him.

On the whole, Davis has more upside than Moreland related specifically to his prodigious power so inking Moreland in at first base on your Texas Rangers lineup projection is dangerous.  A lot can change between now and Opening Day.  It is a situation to monitor closely throughout the spring, but in the end it is one to avoid in anything but the deepest leagues where I would be more willing to gamble on Davis with a late pick if he has a solid spring than invest in Moreland’s higher floor, but much lower ceiling.

Is this the year that Ian Kinsler finally puts it *all* together?

Kinsler, a fantasy favorite for a few years now, has a 30-30 season (2009), a 20-20 season (2007), a .319 season (2008), a .517 slugging season (2008), two 100 runs scored seasons and two All-Star appearances (2008, 2010) yet his career still feels like something of a disappointment when you realize it could be so much better.  In the 30-30 and 20-20 seasons, he hit .253 and .263 respectively.  In the All-Star seasons he only played 121 and 101 games.  In fact he’s only played more than 130 games once in his five year career.  He is either putting up an incredible minus one key factor and/or having injuries cut dream seasons short.

So is 2011 the season of 150 games, 100-30-90-30? … No, of course not.  Sorry, but there is just no way you can realistically project that at 29 he is all of a sudden going to make it through an entire season.  Health is a skill and it’s one he lacks.  That said, he is still generally putting up a season’s worth of numbers in the 100-odd games he does play so he is still worth drafting relatively given the risk, but I think it would be foolish to reach for him at a position that has a lot more depth than many seem to realize.

Maybe shortstop’s stink drifts over to second base or fantasy owners just associate middle infield positions with scarcity, but second base has plenty of viable option.  Those automatically ahead of Kinsler for include Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Dan Uggla and Brandon Phillips.  After that group, Kinsler’s power-speed combo is just too rich to pass up for guys like Rickie Weeks and Martin Prado, who are very good, but just don’t offer Kinsler’s robust fantasy excellence.  Plus you can always dream that everything goes his (and your) way and he finally plays a full set of games.  Just don’t bet on it.

Friday: 01.21.2011

Three Questions – Oakland A’s

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

How will the playing time be split between the 947 outfielders on the roster?

After their offseason acquisitions, the Oakland A’s have the following outfielders on the roster: Chris Carter, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Conor Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Ryan Sweeney, Michael Taylor and Josh Willingham.  With Jack Cust no longer on the team, you pretty much pencil Matsui into the DH spot for most of the season.  That leaves seven players for three spots.  So the ideal setup would be DeJesus in left, Crisp in center and Willingham in right.

Ideal is the operative word here because though the A’s would love to get 150 apiece games out of that trio, they are far from the modicum of health.  DeJesus played just 91 games last year and has only once topped 144 in his career (157 in ’07).  Crisp has never reached the 150-game plateau.  In the past three seasons he has played 118, 49 and 75 games, so he is far from a sure thing.  Add in that he is now on the wrong side of 30 years old (31), too.  Like Crisp, Willingham has never reached the 150-game plateau, either.  He has only topped 500 at-bats twice in his career and they were in his first two full seasons as a major leaguer (2006 & 2007).  In the subsequent three years, he has 351, 427 and 370 at-bats.

So like I said, in a dream world the A’s would give the bulk of time to those three players but history says that you really shouldn’t bet on that with any level of certainty.  Since he can play all three positions, Sweeney is natural fit for the fourth outfielder as he can be plugged in for any of the three starters.  Jackson primarily plays left, but could play right in a pinch.  He can also play first base so he could end up rotating around the diamond to get his playing time.

Carter and Taylor might both start the season in AAA.  The former can’t really play anywhere so he projects as the backup DH right now while the former is on the cusp of being a busted prospect.  He was rated 29th by Baseball America before the 2010 season and went out and laid an egg with a .740 OPS and just six home runs after seasons of 19 and 20 and OPS marks of .968 and .944 in 2008 and 2009.  He can play all three outfield spots so he can back anyone up or take over a starting job if he establishes himself at the plate in AAA.

The A’s have great depth in the outfield which suits them quite well, but does little inspire fantasy owners.  All of their outfielders are likely to be discounted both because of health concerns and the lack of clarity around playing time so if one or more of them manages to play a full season, they will be very profitable for their team.  I would pick one you think is most worth gambling on, but avoid rostering multiple A’s outfielders.  Ranking them, I’d go: Crisp, Matsui, Willingham, DeJesus, Sweeney, Jackson, Carter and Taylor.

What’s up with Kurt Suzuki?

That is kind of a vague question, but looking at his 2010 season against 2009 season shows significant decline in total player value, but more so to the A’s than to fantasy owners.  His runs and RBIs sunk, but a lot of that is tied to the 75 fewer at-bats as opposed to a production drop.  His power output was essentially the same as he hit two fewer home runs in the 75 fewer ABs.  The big drop came in 32-point batting average decline which shades his season as much worse than it actually was, again from a fantasy aspect specifically.

Calling it a 32-point drop sounds a lot worse than calling it what it really is, a 3.2% dip over the course of 131 games.  Playing 131 games is essentially 21 weeks of a 26 week season and in that span the difference between a .274 batting average and a .242 batting average is 16 hits, or less than one a week.  When you think about it like that, he needed less than one extra bloop a week to fall in and all the talk about “what was wrong with Suzuki?” would be non-existent.

This is why I don’t flip out over batting average fluctuations from one year to the next within a certain range.  Some raise an eyebrow and there is something within their skills that points to a long-term problem, but mostly it’s statistical noise.  For Suzuki, he suffered a very weird anomaly where he had a 20% infield flyball rate, more than double his previous career high.  It contributed to an ugly .245 BABIP which obviously held his batting average down.

Use Suzuki’s 2009 as a baseline projection for his 2011 season and draft accordingly.  Catcher is deeper than usual thanks to the recent influx of young talent (namely Carlos Santana and Buster Posey) and Suzuki projects as a borderline top 10 candidate at the position.

Does Daric Barton have any value in standard 5×5 leagues?

In a word?  No.  Because standard leagues don’t use on-base percentage which eliminates his most value asset: the ability to draw walks (AL high 110 last year).  And that leaves you with a first baseman or corner infielder hitting a blasé .265-.275, barely scraping double digit power with fewer than 60 RBIs (due at least in some part to his team setting) and not turning his high on-base percentage into a high number of runs scored (again, due at least in part to his team setting).  That’s trash.

There were 15 first basemen that hit 20+ home runs, which is double Barton’s output and there were 27 in all who hit more than his pitiful 10 home runs.  There were 22 first basemen with more RBIs than his 57 including Kevin Youkilis who topped him by five in nearly 200 fewer at-bats.  Slotting him at corner only makes things look worse as there were another 11 third basemen with 20+ home runs, 21 topping 10 as well as 19 guys who topped his RBI output.

Unless you play in a specialty league that counts walks and/or on-base percentage, Barton is waiver wire fodder until further notice.  And I’m only leaving the door open slightly because he is 25 years old and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities for him to develop some power and for the Oakland lineup to stay healthy and generate plenty of run scoring and driving in opportunities, but the opening is very minimal and I certainly wouldn’t advise you to bet on it.

Thursday: 01.20.2011

Three Questions – Los Angeles Angels

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Will Howie Kendrick finally be the batting title contender he was thought to be as a prospect?

If there was one thing Kendrick could do in the minor leagues, it was get base hits.  He hit .363 or better in four minor league seasons from 2003-2006 leading many to believe he would be a perennial batting title contender once he hit the major leagues.  It hasn’t quote turned out that way in his first five seasons as a big leaguer.

First off, last year was the first in which he topped 105 games played, but it was also the first one he hit below .285 (.279 in 616 at-bats).  Then there is the fact that his batting average dropped year since a 2nd-season peak of .322 back in 2007.  From there he hit .301 then .291 and then last year’s .279.  So is a .350+ batting average in store for Kendrick?

No, probably not.  Coinciding with his batting average decline is a BABIP decline (not surprisingly), but while pitchers generally tend to cluster around .300 for BABIP, a hitter sets his own over time.  Kendrick’s is declining rapidly (.313 last year, career high of .381 in 2007) as both his groundball and line drive rates erode while his flyball rate ticks up in the last three years.

The case for him (however thin) would be that he is just entering his prime and despite having logged five years of major league time, it’s really just parts of four seasons and one full one.  He has shown the mix of skills needed for a batting title worthy average (high contact rate, high BABIP, significantly more groundballs & line drives than flyballs and decent speed needed to beat out a handful of hits over the course of the season) and 2011 could be the year that all of those skills combine for the breakout we have been waiting on for a while.

I am fine endorsing Kendrick as an asset to buy, just make sure your expectations are in the right of frame of mind.  You can dream of the scenario where he has the unexpected breakthrough season, but don’t pay for more than a double-double (10+ HR/SB) with a batting average floor that won’t ever hurt and a ceiling for much more.

What does Kendry Morales’ late-May broken leg do to his 2011 value?

In a word?  Nothing.  Not for me at least.  He will be nearly nine months removed from perhaps the most embarrassing walkoff grand slam celebration ever when Spring Training fires up next month and all reports indicate he will be 100% ready to go.  As such it is reasonable to expect that he will start 2011 where his breakout 2009 season and excellent start to the 2010 season left off: mashing.  In the 203 games spanning that time, he had a .302/.353/.548 triple slash with 45 home runs, 147 RBIs and 115 runs scored.

Even with the incredible depth at first base, I have Morales just making the cut of the top 10: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard and Morales.  Though if we knew Justin Morneau was going to be 100% and ready to go by Opening Day, he would crack that list and push Morales just outside.  Look for Morales to settle into a cozy .290-80-30-100 prime for the next few years.

Is Brandon Wood… nevermind, who cares?  What does a full season of Peter Bourjos look like?

Bourjos is a bright 24-year old prospect for the Angels who few had penciled into the 2011 lineup when the offseason began back in November.  The Angels were heavy favorites in the Carl Crawford Sweepstakes which would have left them with a Crawford-Torii HunterBobby Abreu outfield.  Abreu would take some days off at DH sliding Hunter to right and getting Bourjos some burn, so it’s not like he was expected to head back to AAA-Salt Lake, but after the spectacular failure that was their offseason, the Angels will now look to him for 500+ at-bats in centerfield.

Known primarily for his blazing speed (and exemplary defense), Bourjos will have fantasy value even if he isn’t ripping the cover off of the ball.  Obviously he will have to hit enough to merit everyday at-bats, and extrapolating a 51-game sample is dangerous so you can’t just look at Bourjos’ six home runs and 10 stolen bases and expect 17/27 over 500 ABs.  However, his minor league record suggests he can be a .270 hitter with 10-12 home runs and 30+ stolen bases.  His .204 batting average from last season was driven mostly by a .228 BABIP so the bulk of the 66-point increase I am projecting is tied to regression improvement of his abnormal BABIP.

Sunday: 01.9.2011

Announcing the 2011 Startng Pitcher Guide

If you have been coming to this site during the baseball off-seasons for any of the last three years, you are probably familiar with my starting pitcher lists.  It started back in 2008 with a top 100 list that was pretty well-received so I brought it back in 2009 expanding it to a top 154.  Again it went pretty well and so I dedicated more time and more space to the 2010 offering that ended up as an 11 part epic covering 264 pitchers when it was all said & done  (BTW, you can check out any of the previous versions in the sidebar to the right).

The 2011 Guide is already well underway and I think it is the best offering yet.  Put together more thoroughly than ever before, this year’s offering goes beyond the individual player capsules to include so much more.  With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide in tow, you will be prepared to tackle the hardest part of fantasy baseball regardless of the strategy you want to employ and the league format used in your league.

Introducing the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide:

  • Over 500 pitchers included
  • Deep Minor League coverage for dynasty/ultra league players
  • Team-by-team breakdown
  • Tiered rankings for mixed and single leagues
  • Essays on Starting Pitcher Strategy
  • Contributions by respected industry members of the fantasy baseball community
  • Categorized Sleepers (Not all surprises are created equally)
  • PDF form for easy reading & printing
  • Detailed Charts & Graphs
  • Free!!!
  • Chance to win a Tim Lincecum or Justin Verlander jersey

As mentioned above, the guide will remain FREE as it has in past years, but this year I will have a PayPal donation button in the sidebar for anyone interested.  The guide is my favorite project every year.  I happily do the work gratis, but a handful of last year’s readers expressed interest in monetarily showing their appreciation for the work and I didn’t have anything set up to accept such a sentiment.

I decided that if I was going to put up anything that would allow even a nickel to come my way for the work then I was going to make the guide even better and much more comprehensive than the previous years.  And for those who do decide to go that route, you will be entered in a drawing for an MLB jersey.  On the line is a gray Tim Lincecum jersey and a white Justin Verlander one.  I will put the email address of anyone donating into the drawing and the first two out will win.

To give you an idea of how the team pages will look, below you can download the Arizona Diamondbacks PDF.  The team page layout is where you will find the analysis of each pitcher as the tiered breakdowns will have just the names & rankings.  Just click the PDF logo to download your free sample.

Stay tuned for more details including release date information.

Monday: 01.3.2011

Comparing My Top 24 w/a Mock Draft, Part 2

Yesterday, I began looking at the players drafted in the first two rounds of a mock draft I’m hosting over at CouchManagers.com against my Top 24 list from earlier this Fall. I highlighted those players who didn’t make top my 24 yet found their way into the first two rounds of our draft while today I will look at the draft positions of my group of players.

I’ll start with the group that “hit” with a hit being someone who was either dead even in my list and draft position or +/- two spots. There were eight direct hits, seven of which came within the top 10 suggesting that the first round might not bring much surprise in your draft. A lot can and almost certainly will change from now until draft day, though. There were three others who were within the two pick margin. All three were favored the two spots by me as opposed to the drafters. Here is the list of 11 players:

PLAYER My List Draft Diff.
Pujols, A 1 1 0
Ramirez, H 2 2 0
Cabrera, M 3 3 0
Longoria, E 6 6 0
Votto, J 7 7 0
Cano, R 8 8 0
Rodriguez, A 9 9 0
Utley, C 19 19 0
Wright, D 11 13 2
Hamilton, J 15 17 2
Youkilis, K 20 22 2

Next is the group that drafters “overrated” in my eyes. That is they took them three or more picks higher than I had them rated. The most egregious example is a bit skewed because it’s Adrian Gonzalez and when I rated him 21st, he was with the San Diego Padres. He has since gone to the Boston Red Sox which will certainly constitute a bump in value, but I still don’t think I will have him 10th, which is where he ended up in our draft.

PLAYER My List Draft Diff.
Gonzalez, A 21 10 -11
Tulowitzki, T 12 4 -8
Gonzalez, C 10 5 -5
Teixeira, M 18 14 -4
Halladay, R 14 11 -3

I knew I was lower than most on Troy Tulowitzki, but I was still a bit surprised when he went 4th overall. My concerns with him are as follows:

…though he has three good seasons out of the four he has been in the league, he still hasn’t cracked 100 RBIs, he has only topped 11 stolen bases once and though his .290 career average is damn good, 2010 was his only season above .300 (he hit .315). Mix in significant injury risk as he has missed 40 and 51 games in two of the last three seasons and there is reason for concern with Tulowitzki.

I just think you are inheriting too much risk taking him that high. I understand that if you want him and you have the 4th pick, that is going to be your only shot so you have to take your guy, but I would play it safer. He is a dynamic talent, but he could be this year’s Matt Kemp/Joe Mauer first round flameout.

Similarly, I come in a bit lower on Carlos Gonzalez because despite his huge 2010 season, I think he is rife with risk like his teammate, albeit different risk tied mostly to the fact that this is the first season he has actually paid dividends on his prodigious minor league talent. Tread cautiously.

And finally, there was an 8-player group that could be tabbed as “underrated” as they were three or more picks away from my top 24 ranking. Of course, they are only underrated to me and those who agree with my rankings.

PLAYER My List Draft Diff.
McCutchen, A 16 45 29
Braun, R 5 18 13
Rios, A 24 35 11
Crawford, C 4 12 8
Holliday, M 13 21 8
Hernandez, F 22 28 6
Zimmerman, R 17 20 3
Kemp, M 23 26 3

Soooo let’s just say I like Andrew McCutchen a smidge more than the general populous at this point in the draft season. He went almost two and a half rounds after where I had him slotted. Now the first question would obviously be “why didn’t I take him?”. Well, I only had one real shot where I really could have gotten him and I decided to take Jose Reyes with the first pick in the 3rd round. Shortstop remains a wasteland again in 2011 and I felt like Reyes was a nice value at that point. When McCutchen fell throughout the remainder of the 3rd and deep into the 4th, I thought I was going to get him at the end of the round, but he went three picks before mine. I settled for Ichiro Suzuki.

My jaw about hit the floor with Ryan Braun’s descent into the mid-2nd round. As you are probably tired of hearing by now, I put a lot of consideration into how high a player’s floor is with my early picks and I think Braun has one of the higher floors while still maintaining an appealing ceiling making him one of the best early round picks. He was a steal at 18 by Jason Collette.

I would have much rather taken Matt Holliday than the first base run from the early 2nd round I discussed yesterday, but it wasn’t an egregious fall for Holliday as the players taken from my ranking of Holliday to his draft position are clustered pretty tightly together.

I promised news soon about my 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide and I wanted to get it out today, but it didn’t happen, so stay tuned. I should have some details out at some point this week. I think those of you who have read it the last three years are really going to enjoy this year’s version.

Sunday: 01.2.2011

Comparing My Top 24 w/a Mock Draft, The Misses

As I’m wont to do around this time each year, I started a mock draft up over at CouchManagers.com with a group of diehards if for no other reason than to forget about the luck-ridden awfulness that is fantasy football. While I do have severe issues with fantasy football, that isn’t really why I fire up baseball mocks so quickly after the season. A couple reasons are that I like to see how much the previous seasons figures in on 2011 expectations, especially in the early rounds and I am just a baseball junkie so I like to keep it on the brain year-round.

We started the 27 round (1 ea. of 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, COR, MID, UT, 2 C, 5 OF, 9 P, 4 BENCH) draft back on December 14th and surprisingly (given the holidays) we’re at the end of round 21 as of 11pm Sunday night. I’ll be sharing different aspects of the draft with you in this very space in the coming days, but today I wanted to look at how our first two rounds coincided with my top 24 from back in November.

What I wanted to see was who would come out as the biggest “values” in that they went much later than where I rated them in my top two dozen. Of course, I also wanted to see who came out the most overrated by the same measure. There was a subset of guys who I didn’t have on my top 24 that were drafted in the first two rounds of our mock. Let’s look at them first before we delve into how my top 24 fared against the draft.

Prince Fielder (15th overall) – The entire first round fell within my top 24 which isn’t terribly surprising, but I knew things would start to come off the tracks eventually as I only rated two additional first basemen after the Power Three (Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto) and our first two rounds saw four other 1Bs leave the board after the power three. Fielder was the first. I don’t hate the pick, mind you, even after a down 2010. He’s just 27 and I think he’s more likely to top 40 HR again in 2011 than he is to be just over 30 as he was in 2010. On the whole, I think a second round pick is better spent elsewhere especially when Adam Dunn was available 26 picks later.

Ryan Howard (16th overall) – I can get behind Fielder on some level (although his owner had just taken Adrian Gonzalez), but I won’t support Howard in the top 24 let alone 16th. At 31, you can’t bank on the gaudy HR and RBI totals that he needs to set himself apart from that middle tier of first basemen. The offense in Philly struggled last year, is a year older and now missing Jayson Werth. I’m avoiding Howard at his current cost.

Joe Mauer (23rd overall) – I fell hard for Mauer last year up until around March when I was swayed by the contingent screaming that he wasn’t a first round (or even second round, really) pick. I remain in that camp after his 2010 season. He’s a great player and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if he went 2009 on us again this year or sometime soon, but I’m not taking that high-priced risk in my draft.

Dustin Pedroia (24th overall) – This one is essentially semantics since I cut off my list at 24 because it’s two rounds of a standard draft and happens to be my favorite number, but Pedroia is 25th on my “official” list. I don’t think he will have any lingering issues with the foot in 2011 and thus he will be back to his All-Star form. Oh yeah, I also don’t have any issue with this pick because I am the one who made it.

None of the four names are particular surprisingly as they have all been early round staples the last couple of years, but I can’t envision any scenarios where I would take either Howard or Mauer. Maybe I got Carl Crawford or Troy Tulowitzki in the first round, I would come back around with Fielder, but by and large, he is a pass for me too. Pedroia, as I already mentioned, was my second round pick so obviously I can envision a scenario where I would bump him up (that scenario was getting Pujols and not wanting an outfielder in the second round).

Next up, I’ll look my 24 and how they fared in the draft.