Archive for July, 2011

Sunday: 07.31.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 18 Monday-Friday

With the trade deadline week as well as end of quarter at my day job, I was hyper-busy and didn’t get a chance to put out any weekend spot starters.  I didn’t want to rush some poor picks and end up burning people.  If the picks are going to be poor, then I want them to be thoroughly researched so I can at least stand behind them confidently.

Let’s take a look at how the last two weeks have gone for the spot starter picks:

There was a nice stretch there last weekend to close out week 16, but the damage was done as Dempster, Holland and Vazquez gave up a combined 18 runs in 13 innings.  The only silver lining to my worst week of the season from an ERA & WHIP standpoint is that the picks struck out 7.9 batters per game, the highest mark since week 11 when the picks had the same rate.  It’s better than nothing, but that’s perfume on a turd, the week still stunk.

Week 17, with just seven picks, ended up pretty strong everywhere but strikeouts so it was sort of a mirror image of week 16.  The week could have been quite exceptional had Collmenter not imploded to cap off the shortened week.  For the season, I am still quite happy with the results of 3.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.8 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB rates.

Let’s take a look at week 18…

(remember, these are ranked in order of preference on each day so if you only have one spot then pick the first guy listed if you want who I am most confident in.)

MONDAY:

Cory Luebke (SD v. LAD) – Back-to-back losses aren’t dissuading from this bandwagon, especially at home.  Strikeouts remain elite (30 K in 30 IP during July) and he doesn’t walk anyone either (6.0 K/BB in July).

Bud Norris (HOU v. CIN) – After being snapped up from most waiver wires earlier in the season, he is now appearing in free agent pools despite his 8.9 K/9 and 3.39 ERA.  What is the problem exactly?  Buy.

Paul Maholm (PIT v. CHC) – He is a low strikeout guy for the year (5.9 K/9), but had two 8 K outings in July.  Rates have been strong and Cubs are hardly imposing.

Blake Beavan (SEA v. OAK) – Pass if you are in dire need of strikeouts and/or have an innings cap (4.1 K/9).

TUESDAY:

John Danks (CHW v. NYY) – Been excellent in 2 starts since DL return; even more brilliant since a 4 IP/9 ER outing to close out May: 0.98 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 & 5.0 K/BB in 37 IP.  Always dangerous to go against NYY, but this is more about picking up and holding Danks the rest of the way (E-53%, Y!-51%, C-81%) than it is this one start.

Rich Harden (OAK @ SEA) – Only rough outing has come in Texas (unsurprisingly) and he’s allowed 3, 2, 2 & 2 in rest of his starts.  Outside of last year with Texas, he’s been great when healthy and this year is no different (9.2 K/9, 3.0 K/BB).

WEDNESDAY: (random note – Doug Fister & Charlie Furbush both start on Wednesday for their new teams)

Edwin Jackson (STL @ MIL) – Looked sharp in his first outing with the Cardinals and there is no reason to bet on that continuing.  He is another guy I like as a permanent pickup even if this start in Milwaukee doesn’t go exactly like his 7 IP/1 ER outing against the Cubbies.

Tim Stauffer (SD v. LAD) – If you’ve been following Trolling for amount of time this year, you know how much I like Stauffer.  I have no reason why he isn’t heavily owned in ESPN & Yahoo! leagues, he’s available in 21% of CBS leagues.

Gavin Floyd (CHW v. NYY) – He is perennially better in the second half and he is tracking that way again with an 0.81 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 5.3 K/BB in 22 IP spanning 3 GS since the break.  Like Danks, it’s tough to go against the Yanks, but this is more about the rest of the way.

 

THURSDAY:

James McDonald (PIT v. CHC) – Getting knocked around at Philly isn’t a major crime, but just the second time he’d given up more than 3 ER since April 27th.

Brett Cecil (TOR @ TB) – Welcome back to the big leagues, Mr. Cecil.  Under the radar he went off in July posting a 2.19 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 37 IP along with 6.6 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB rates.  That includes two outings against the Rangers (one in Texas) and another in Boston.  Oddly enough his worst outing of the month was a 7 IP/5 ER start against the Seattle Mariners.

 

FRIDAY:

Derek Holland (TEX v. CLE) – Holland has appeared in Trolling three times, but unfortunately none of league-leading four shutouts (tied w/Cliff Lee) have been picked.  It has been feast or famine in July with three of those shutouts and six scoreless innings in another outing during the month while in his other two starts he went a combined six innings allowing 12 earned runs.  His opponent for his first shutout of the year?  Cleveland.

Jeff Niemann (TB v. OAK) – Has been excellent since his return from injury back in late June: 1.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 3.4 K/BB in 43 innings across seven starts.  That includes outings against the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and Brewers so a start against the Athletics is a no-brainer.

Rick Porcello (DET@ KC) – Bounced back from a dismal June (6.97 ERA, 1.81 WHIP) to have a really strong July (3.06 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) including very healthy 6.7 K/9 and 4.8 K/BB rates.

More trade analysis pieces coming out throughout Monday & Tuesday, too.

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Sunday: 07.31.2011

Fantasy Impact of AL Players Moving to NL

I’m going to take a look at the guys moved all around during the deadline, but only from the fantasy angle.  So it is less about judging the team’s front office on the returns whether short or long term, but rather about how these players can have fantasy impact for you in the next two months and beyond (for prospects).  You’ll see what I mean right away with this first guy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be several pieces like this including:

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

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

Friday: 07.29.2011

Junk Wins

With the Cy Young victories of Felix Hernandez last year and Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum in 2009, the emphasis formerly placed on wins when deciding the award has clearly been downgraded and with good reason.  Hernandez beat out beat out C.C. Sabathia (21 wins), Jon Lester and David Price (19 wins apiece) last year.  Mind you all three of them had much more than just gaudy win totals, but the only place they really thwarted Hernandez was with those wins, a stat that a pitcher has very little control of when you really consider everything.

It is almost as bad as assigning a win-loss record to a quarterback, who is one of 22 players (plus special teams).  No doubt that a quality quarterback is essential to long-term success, but crediting or knocking a down a quarterback for successes or shortcomings of those around him on his offense, but also in the other two facets of the game is just plain ridiculous.  It has become more commonplace to look at the aspects of the game a starting pitcher actually controls and judge him accordingly instead of hammering him for an inept offense that doesn’t support his quality outings or an inept defense that fails to turn poor contact into the outs it should become more times than not.

Of course one place that wins remain very important is the fantasy baseball landscape where the majority of leagues still use a standard 5×5 format that judges pitcher wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and saves.  Everyone remembers an instance or three where their guy gets knocked around for five earned runs in just over five innings yet pulls out a W because his offense came to play against a pitcher or pitchers more inferior than their own.  That was the case with St. Louis Cardinals starter Kyle McClellan on April 28th of this year in Houston.

He gave up five on eight hits and two walks in five and two-thirds, but a nine run outburst in the sixth inning led by a 3-run home run from Lance Berkman not only took him off the hook for a loss, but put him in line for the win which he eventually “earned” as four relievers combined to yield just two more unearned runs the rest of the way.  How often does that really happen, though?

Are starting pitchers scooping up wins left and right during bad performances because they have the good fortune to be going up against weaker teams while playing behind superior lineups?  Or do we just remember a handful of incidences that either helped our team or worse, went against us and subsequently we make it out to be a bigger deal that is truly the case?

To the Play Index!

Looking at starting pitcher wins with 4+ earned runs so far this year (through July 27th) returns 97 results.  Unsurprisingly the top two pitchers in this category are Sabathia and John Lackey with three apiece.  Not unsurprising because of anything inherent about them as individuals, it could have just as easily been A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett, it’s unsurprising because of the beastly lineups that support both of them.  The Yankees have 529 runs scored good for 3rd in baseball while the Red Sox are pacing all of baseball with 567.

The two arrived at these three wins in different ways.  It would be hard to label any of Sabathia’s three wins as ill-begotten in that he went seven or more innings in all three including a complete game in one of them.  No one is raving about a 5.14 ERA (4 ER in 7 IP), but you have to consider the context of all three.  First of all, he had a 12-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio in the three games with just a single home run allowed.  The eight hits allowed in each game could easily be BABIP noise when you come right down to it.  The things in his control were dynamite by and large.  Let’s look game-by-game for Sabathia:

  • In the first game, the complete game, he was down 4-1 after four innings, but was pitching brilliantly by all accounts otherwise.  He allowed just one extra-base hit of the eight and took just 103 pitches to go the distance.  He battled Ricky Romero pitch for pitch and then his offense took care of the Blue Jays bullpen for four runs in the final two innings earning Sabathia a well-deserved win despite his 4.00 ERA in the game (which at that point in the season was well below league average, even in the AL).
  • The second outing, on June 14th against Texas, saw Sabathia with a 6-0 lead after the second inning, 7-0 after three and 9-2 through four.  Again he allowed just one double as the lone extra-base hit and while he ended the game with a 5.14 ERA, he pitched quite well including six strikeouts and zero walks.  I don’t think many would find the win he received undeserving despite what is no doubt a ghastly ERA in a one game sample.
  • The last of his games, June 19th against the Cubs, was by far the worst outing and the one where you could no doubt tab him as lucky to escape with a win because his offense gave him a slim one run lead that he held through seven before they exploded for three more in the eighth and ninth innings.  Sabathia again went seven, but of his eight hits, this time there were three doubles and a home run while he struck out just three walking one other.  His least deserving win of the bunch for sure, but he pitched well enough and still went seven innings in an era when some are praised for going five.

The point is here that all junk wins (junk in that the end game ERA is pretty ugly and their offense had more to do with the win than the pitcher in many cases) are not created equally and you shouldn’t immediately scoff at the notion of someone giving up 4+ earned runs and still garnering a victory.

Lackey had one ugly junk win in which he went the minimum five innings allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks striking out two others.  A pretty terrible performance for his season debut, but lucky for him that Phil Hughes bested “worsted” him by also giving up six runs on seven hits but lasting just two innings.  In the his other two outings, he combined for a 13-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 innings allowing four in each outing.  Had he allowed just three in the outings, they wouldn’t be looked upon so negatively, but that one extra earned run changes the perspective so much.

If you want a really ugly junk win, look at Jo-Jo Reyes‘ from July 14th against the Yankees when he went 5.3 innings and allowed seven runs on 10 hits and a walk while striking out just two and allowing two home runs yet still coming away with a win as the Jays bum-rushed Bartolo Colon for eight runs in the first inning.  See what I mean about them not all being created equally?  I used four runs as the cutoff because six innings and three earned runs is the baseline for a quality start.  Of the 97 junk wins so far this year, 34 saw the pitcher allow 5+ earned runs while the other 63 were the baseline four.  And of those 63, 51 of them saw the starter go 6+ innings.

Looking at the trend of 4+ earned runs allowed wins shows no significant trend one way or another.  Last year was tabbed the Year of the Pitcher and thus it is hardly a surprise that it registered the lowest amount of such wins since 2007 including when you pace out this year’s total.

Of course, this year is supposed to be Year of the Pitcher, Part 2 so perhaps the pace will drop.  Either way, it still well below the average of the previous four years.  The win is so far from perfect, it’s not even funny and while its use in judging Cy Young candidates bothers me to no end, I’m far less worried about its usage in fantasy baseball.  I think it has to do with the fact that this is a game and the parameters of this game determine the various paths to success that you can take and you have a lot of control over how you will try and succeed.

If your league counts wins, then you should value the better starting pitchers on the best offensive teams a bit more even if you like Seattle’s ace more.  If you want to go the other route and draft skilled pitchers with lesser offenses backing them in hopes that the wins break their way more often than not when they “deserve” them, then that is another strategy and it will likely be cheaper, but also with higher risk.  The fantasy game is a different universe than real baseball and while wins aren’t a great measure of a pitcher’s true skill, ERA isn’t necessarily one either, but you don’t see as many people clamoring to remove it from the game as you do with wins.

Meanwhile, a player’s career can be seriously impacted with season awards for better or worse and doling out those awards based on things that are out of their control is crazy.  It could cost them a chance at the Hall of Fame or compensation bonuses.  No matter how times proponents of removing wins from fantasy baseball spout some iteration of the phrase “this game is emulating or at least is meant to emulate the one on the field”, it doesn’t get any less untrue.

This game does little to mirror the game on the field.  In a standard 12-team 5×5 league, you don’t set a 1-9 lineup, you don’t create a rotation and a bullpen and defense has zero value.  So wins can be a part of the fantasy game without negatively affecting the integrity of said game.  Everyone knows the rules ahead of time and they have all of or at least most of the season to strategize on how to best succeed within those rules.  Hernandez couldn’t really pitch any better than he did last year and yet his supporting offense was historically awful and thus he was credited with just 13 wins.  Put him on a mediocre offense and he probably pushes 20, let alone on a top offense where he may have been gunning for 25 late in September.

To abandon pitcher wins would be a major change to the game and we all know how scared people are of change.  We are all used to playing the game this way so the overwhelming majority isn’t all of sudden going to go from standard 5×5 to a league with wOBA, wRC+, xFIP and SIERA overnight.  Are there better options than wins?  Quite possibly and I will examine one very soon.

Until then, I will happily accept some more Max Scherzer  junk wins like the two he has gotten me this year despite allowing six and five earned runs in a pair of five inning outings because I need any win I can get in my very tight pennant race.  Plus it means my Tigers won another game and they, too, are locked in a furious pennant battle.

By the way, 21 players have two or more junk wins this year:

Thursday: 07.28.2011

Trade Deadline Analysis: Rasmus, E.Jackson

For those looking for my analysis on the Colby RasmusEdwin Jackson moves yesterday, I did write ups at RotoHardball and there is no need to re-hash the exact same stuff here.  I like both players quite a bit so if you are FAAB’ing in your AL or NL Only they are both “all-in” types who should command just about all of your budget assuming their skills (power potential for Rasmus, strikeouts & quality rates for Jackson) are the missing piece or one of the missing pieces on your team.  As the dust settles on Sunday afternoon, other pieces may jump above them, but if your league runs those two through the FAAB machine first, don’t wait and hope something better comes over because there is a good chance you will end up with nothing.

Colby Rasmus Analysis

Edwin Jackson Analysis

I am working some of pieces for this site that will be up soon, but with the trade deadline action fast & furious, my attention is focused on RotoHardball for the moves that are done and PittPlank for the moves the Pirates *might* do as the Sunday deadline approaches.

 

Tuesday: 07.26.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 17 Monday-Friday

Way behind here.  I’ll have the Week 16 results out later.  In the meantime, here are this week’s picks:

TUESDAY:

Brandon McCarthy (OAK v. TB) – I could go a few strong innings in Oakland’s home ballpark

Vance Worley (PHI v. SF) – I don’t think he’s keeping a 2.02 ERA all year, but the peripheral numbers aren’t terrible.  Meanwhile, SF’s lineup is.

WEDNESDAY:

Cory Luebke (SD v. ARI) – Still widely available.  Still don’t know why.

Phil Hughes (NYY v. SEA) – :grabsdice: Yes, Oakland pounded him, but their offense is the ’27 Yankees compared to Seattle’s.  If they knock him around, I’m done with him at least for the remainder of this season.

THURSDAY:

Matt Harrison (TEX v. MIN) – Speaking of inept offenses…

FRIDAY:

Tim Stauffer (SD v. COL) – His ownership rates have dipped down for some reason lately.  Sign me up.

Josh Collmenter (ARI @ LAD) – I’m on the Collmenter Train.  He’s not great, but he’s not a complete fluke, either.

Monday: 07.25.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Outfield, Part 2

Part 2 of the Outfield Keeper Building Blocks and the final piece of the series (pitchers are a different story altogether that I will address at some point in the future).

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

Third Base, Addendum

Outfield Part 1

Curtis Granderson (NYY, 30) – Still checking in as a 6th-7th round pick in most leagues, Granderson was hardly “cheap” this spring, but he has definitely exceeded expectations performing as one of the very best players in all of baseball.  Though he has seen an uptick in his HR/FB rate every year since 2007, this year’s jump was from 15% to 21%, easily the largest in the five year span.  That is the biggest change in his profile along with major improvements against left-handers.

I think he can be a low-to-mid 30s home run hitter on a yearly basis, but I would be really surprised if he continued at his 44 home run pace of 2011 the following season and beyond.  Even as “only” a 30 HR/25 SB guy, he is easily a big time keeper especially as the runs scored and driven in should remain plentiful in the Yankee lineup.

Carlos Quentin (CWS, 28) – Imagine if he could stay healthy.  He certainly wouldn’t be a 16th round pick like he was this year, but with a career-best of 131 games played in his three years a regular Quentin is a risk.  He is on pace for a new career high at 151 this year and he is on pace for a 30-100 season at the same time.  With power in shorter supply these days, a 30 home run guy at his cost is a nice piece to tab as a keeper.

Logan Morrison (FLO, 25) – Interesting season for LoMoMarlins so far this year.  He looked like a contact hitter with a great eye in his 62-game debut last year (.283/.390/.447), but his meager two home run output left his fantasy value low this preseason.  He has traded the batting average (.253 AVG) and walks (.325 OBP) for some more power with 14 home runs in 79 games so far this year.  I was kind of hoping he’d simply add the power instead of giving up something for it.

His 14% walk rate from 2010 has dipped to 9% and it wasn’t just a small sample of patience that may have misled his fantasy managers as he posted rates of 16% and 18% in the minor leagues in 2010 and 2009, respectively.  All in all, with less than a season of games under his belt yet (141), the 23-year old’s profile is definitely one worth buying into as I think he will become someone who can hit around .275, an on-base percentage about 100 points (10%) higher and high-teens to low-20s power production, in other words a strong OF2 or elite OF3 depending on how you build your team in a given season.

Adam Jones (BAL, 25) – His 2010 season was a bit of a regression considering he put up the same numbers he had in 2009 despite playing 30 more games.  Unfortunately his 2009 breakout was cut short and he ended up playing just 119 games, but managed 19 home runs, 10 stolen bases and a .277/.335/.457 line.  In 96 games so far this year, he has just about equaled or bettered all that 2009 breakout campaign with 17 bombs, six stolen bases and a .284/.325/.478 line putting him on pace for 30-99-12.

It feels like he has been around forever since this is his fourth full season, but he is just 25 years old and the best is yet to come with Jones.  Just the latest example of how the growth patterns of young studs are unpredictable and why you shouldn’t expect the world, but also shouldn’t give up on them just because of a down season.  Don’t assume that a few similar years before age 25 is what you can expect throughout their prime, you could very miss out on the breakout you were expecting a few years earlier.

Names of Note:

Jacoby Ellsbury’s value varied wildly league-to-league so if yours was one where he was heavily undervalued, then he obviously becomes a part of this list and a major piece to go after.  Of course, if you’re trading with a contender, you’re really going to need to give him the world & then some as removing Ellsbury from his lineup is a huge dent.  Since he still went as high as the late 2nd round in plenty of leagues, he wasn’t included on the list.

Domonic Brown & Jose Tabata are a pair of guys who will come very cheap if you’re trading with a contender and giving up some big pieces to help their team.  You shouldn’t have to make them the centerpiece of the deal in most situations, but I still like them to make a 2012 impact and they should fit nicely as your last keeper in a mixed league.  Both are power-speed combos who have showed a sharp batting eyes in their limited samples for 2011.

Brett Gardner is a much better real player than all-around player.  He is a great base-stealer, but unless you play in an OBP league, that’s really all he does thus he isn’t someone I would chase in a trade.  Especially since the Yankees continue to misuse him badly.

In just about any other park, Cameron Maybin would make a list like this, but Petco Park makes it really hard to see him much more than 10-12 home runs right now.  He is still just 24 and could reasonably add some more bulk to his 6’3” frame and overcome some of the challenges that Petco presents when hitting for power.  He definitely has some keeper value, but for what we are looking at here which is trading our best non-keeper pieces for the best 2012 keeper pieces, he doesn’t fit.

Sunday: 07.24.2011

Paul Podcasting on Monday

On Monday evening, I will be joining Joel Henard and filling in for Albert Lang on the Baseball Daily Digest podcast.  The show is an hour long and starts at 6 PM Central.  Plenty of topics to discuss including Desmond Jennings finally coming up, fantasy catchers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and trade deadline talk plus much more.

Another programming note: look for Sunday Twidbits on Monday again this week.

Friday: 07.22.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 16 The Weekend

Quick hits on this weekend’s spot starter recommendations.

SATURDAY:

Scott Baker (MIN v. DET)

Own rates: E-55%, Y!-60%, C-88%.

Career best strikeout rate (8.5 K/9), ERA (3.01) and WHIP (1.175) yet he’s getting less respect from the fantasy community than in the last three-four years.

I like him more as a pickup & hold than specifically for this matchup.  His career isn’t great against the Tigers, but he needs to be on a team, regardless of format.

Tom Gorzelanny (WAS @ LAD)

Own rates: E-1%, Y!-4%, C-9%

He’s held the strikeout gains shown last year (8.1 K/9) while improving his walk rate (from 4.5 to 2.9 BB/9)

Dodgers are 27th-ranked offense in terms of runs scored and 24th in terms of OPS

Josh Collmenter (ARI v. COL)

Own rates: E-27%, Y!-34%, C-41%

Becoming a believer thanks to increased strikeout rate (6.9 K/9 in 55 IP spanning 9 starts) as it pairs with an excellent walk rate to produce a 3.2 K/BB

Rockies have fewest runs in baseball on the road with their team OPS dropping from .807 to .663

Edwin Jackson (CHW @ CLE)

Own rates: E-13%, Y!-38%, C-65%

Offers pretty consistent strikeouts with 5+ Ks in five of his last seven starts

In the other two, he went 15 innings with a 1.20 ERA & 1.33 WHIP (17 H, 3 K, 3 BB) including a shutout v. Detroit

Indians lead the American League in strikeouts

SUNDAY:

Bartolo Colon (NYY v. OAK)

Own rates: E-31%, Y!-41%, C-80%

The Rays were a nice remedy for the struggling Colon (1 ER in 6.3 IP w/9 K on 7/19 in TB), but the A’s are an even better remedy for staying hot

Felipe Paulino (KC v. TB)

Own rates: E-13%, Y!-38%, C-65%

He has 7+ Ks in each of his last four starts and a 8.7 K/9 in eight starts since joining the Royals

This guy just works better as a starter for some reason & the Royals seem to recognize that finally

 

Thursday: 07.21.2011

SweetSpot Network

Pardon the two-day dry spell, but I have been working a big new project and it took some extra free time to get all the i’s dotted & t’s crossed, but the result is that I have officially joined the SweetSpot Network as the proprietor of their Pittsburgh Pirates representation at a site called PittPlank.com.  I am thrilled to be a part of that excellent community and I have enlisted long-time friend (virtually at least, we have been friends via the net since ’02) John Franco as a contributor.  He lives in Pittsburgh and is a fan of the team so the site also has a true fan’s voice in addition to my bandwagon one!  Make no mistake, the Pirates can never displace my Detroit Tigers.  They will always be #1 for me, but I saw this opportunity as something to seize. Writing about a team that isn’t your favorite doesn’t mean you’re cutting ties with your favorite, at least not in my case.

As with my signing on at RotoHardball back in June, this doesn’t change anything for paulsporer.com (well aside from the two day drought you have already sat through).  If you have any interest in following the goings-on of the upstart Pirates, then definitely stop by Pitt Plank and check us out.  Otherwise, we now return you to regularly scheduled fantasy content starting Friday evening.  I will see if I can carve out some extra time this weekend to deliver some extra content to make up for the dry spell, I hate doing to that to those of you who come here daily looking for something.

Tuesday: 07.19.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Outfield, Part 1

Outfield has a lot of great centerpiece players that would be worth giving up any un-keepable entities you have to in order to land them.  In fact, a number of them are “arm & a leg guys” meaning, of course, that they will cost you an arm and a leg.

You have to give something to get something and as long as you aren’t blowing up your team completely (e.g. trading a few expiring contracts/high-priced un-keepables AND some guys you were planning on keeping), then they are worth it.  Situations will vary depending on league format & keeper rules, but don’t overdo it just to get one guy or you may be worse off than you were before you got him.

Based on talent, age and the likelihood of studs on a cheap contract, outfield is the best position in this Keeper Building Block series to find your truly elite cornerstone.  The first 7 or 8 guys fall into that category and while all won’t be cheap in your league, several should be giving you options.  And it is likely that at least one of them is on a contender and hopefully you the missing puzzle pieces for them to seal a title and be willing to give their star.

There are several more OF building blocks than at any other position, so I broke it up into two pieces.

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

Third Base, Addendum

Jose Bautista (TOR, 30) – See the third basemen piece for info on Bautista.  He is almost certainly on a cheap contract and it’d take just about any viable piece you to get him, but it might be worth it if you still have a few keepers around him.  His value is much, much higher at third base, but since he qualifies at outfield, I made sure to list him here.

Carlos Gonzalez (COL, 25) – When a season of .287 with 22 HR, 27 SB, 88 RBI & 100 R is your come down season from a career year, you are an elite player.  Plus he is getting better month-over-month so he just might improve those paces.  Either way, he still ranks 26th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater and 8th amongst outfielders.  His 2010 breakout came on the heels of an 89 game debut in Colorado that went well (.284/.353/.525, 13 HR & 16 SB), but still left him with a reasonable average draft position (ADP) of 120.  So he is either on a minor league contract or a regular one that is no doubt affordable.

Andrew McCutchen (PIT, 24) – I am pleased to have this burgeoning star locked up for two more years in my NL-Only league for just $15.  He is a dynamic, five-category (his .279 isn’t elite, but the league-high is .272 and my team average is .262 so he is definitely a positive contributor in that category) stud who appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.  Next year will likely be his first full season in a run production lineup spot (third or fourth) and that should allow to knock in 100+ runs for the first time in his career.  That is if he doesn’t increase his pace of 98 this year and make 2012 his second stab at the century mark.  He is the face of the budding Pirates franchise and he can be the same for your fantasy team.

Mike Stanton (FLO, 21) – This kid is incredible.  He hit 22 home runs in 100 games (hitting one every 16.3 AB) and while the lofty strikeout rate (31%) made it clear that batting average would be a challenge, the power was undeniable.  He has made incremental gains on his power (HR every 15.8 AB and .267 ISO up from .248), his strikeout rate (down to 28%) and walk rate (up from 8.6% to 9.2%, OK so that is essentially the same) putting him on pace for 34 home runs and 96 RBIs… at 21 years old!

If there is one concern, it’s slight and it’s his age combined with the strikeout rate.  His inexperience and lack of contact could lead to prolonged slumps as he continues to grow.  It doesn’t dissuade me from targeting him, but keep it in mind.  In most keeper leagues, he will be on a minor league contract which is no doubt much cheaper than his actual value and with power on the decline league-wide; he should be a premier target.

Jay Bruce (CIN, 24) – He is essentially a look into Stanton’s future on some level, a pure power hitter with batting average liability.  Bruce doesn’t have the strikeout woes that Stanton does, but they profile similarly.  As a 21 and 22 year old Bruce hit 21 and 22 home runs in 413 and 345 at-bats, respectively.  His walk rate has steadied at 10% the last three seasons and while his BABIP-influenced.281 batting average (.334 BABIP) from 2010 hasn’t held (.265 w/.293 BABIP), the .265 he has posted doesn’t hurt too much in this low-offense environment of 2011.  I have him and Stanton pretty close, but I gave Stanton the edge because he likely cheaper and he is three years younger.

Jason Heyward (ATL, 21) – The ideal situation would be finding Heyward on a contender because his 2011 has been a disappointment (have I mentioned that young talents, no matter how good, don’t improve linearly?) due at least in part to injury.  There is a bit of concern around his massive groundball rates (55% and 58% in his two pro seasons) and how that affects his power potential, but the kid is 21 and even when he is underperforming it is easy to see while watching him that he is a special player.

Colby Rasmus (STL, 24) – Generally when a guy needing a “change of scenery” is thrown around, it is an excuse for his struggles when the truth is that he probably just isn’t as talented as originally believed.  However with Rasmus, I think it is one of the few cases where the change is necessary.  Rasmus has a permanent front row seat in manager Tony LaRussa’s dog house and it seems to have finally crept on the field full time and affected his play.  Instead of aiding his first place Cardinals with a season that builds on his strong 2010, Rasmus looks out of place and appears to pressing with increasingly worse numbers month-to-month:

April: .301/.392/.476

May: .253/.370/.407

June: .213/.268/.416

Generally teams don’t discuss trading mid-20s talents like Rasmus alas his name has come up in some preliminary rumors as we near the trade deadline.  I have no doubts that he can flourish out from under LaRussa’s thumb and his modest 2011 output might allow you to get a discount via trade.  Or he could be a primary reason why you’re building for 2012 already.  If it is the latter, sit tight with Rasmus.