The All Legitimate Team

Content has been light this week as I prepare for a job interview.  Might sound weird as a standard interview is usually a 20-30 minute Q&A.  This one is a 3-hour extravaganza, my third round with this company in which I’ll be presenting a demo so that’s why this is the first piece of the week.   I’ll have plenty the remainder of the month including a planned top x SP list after the trade deadline.  I’m not sure if I’m going to go 50, 100 or >100.  I’m waiting until the trade deadline is completed because I don’t want to do some detailed list I’m proud of only to have it change drastically if 7-10 pitchers change locales.

I gave you the Hail Mary Team last week and now I’ve got a team of players who had great first halves whom I believe in and would have no problem targeting via trade which would essentially be “buying high” or simply holding onto them the remainder of this year as opposed to getting out from under a potential regression.  I am not going to go in-depth with the reasoning as I did on the Hail Mary team in large part because their numbers speak volumes for the player.

HITTERS

Catcher – Yadier Molina – I covered him in depth at the end of June and he hasn’t slowed down since with three more bombs in the subsequent 10 games.  Plus this isn’t an out-of-nowhere season, he’s been building up to this for years save a 2010 blip.

First Base – Allen Craig – Yes, I am going to list the entire Cardinals team.  The return of Lance Berkman has some freaked that Craig will lose gobs of playing time, but I just can’t see how the Cards could bench their best hitter statistically (specifically by OPS+) for any more than a day here and there.

By the way Berkman is right on Craig’s heels for that OPS+ title on the team at 152 (Craig is 154) so he is hardly the one headed to the pine, either.  Honestly, they should just take the defensive hit and put Craig at 2B.  His bat is so far ahead of Daniel Descalso’s that it would be worth it.  Maybe see if Craig has another off-day mixed in soon and then pounce in hopes of catching someone a bit fearful.

Second Base – Jason Kipnis – Through 124 games of his career, he is pacing toward a .275-101-24-91-33 line.  That’s incredible regardless of position, but definitely gets an added bit of greatness at second base.  He is one of those cases where his ranks in things like OPS, wOBA and wRC+ don’t tell the story of his fantasy value.  Robinson Cano is first in those and first in 2B fantasy value, but Kipnis if around fifth or sixth in those stats yet second in fantasy value because obviously his R, RBI and SB contributions aren’t encapsulated in those metrics.

Shortstop – Asdrubal Cabrera – Kip’s double play mate is putting a season comparable to his 2011 breakout in terms of pure production (OPS, wOBA, wRC+), but his fantasy value is down thanks in large part to evaporation of his speed component.  After matching his career-high with 17 a year ago, he’s down to just two this year and a horrible rate at 2-for-5.  Having swiped 17 in 2009, maybe he only steals in odd-numbered years.  Beyond that, he is a safe bet for power production at short.

Third Base – Todd Frazier – I composed this list prior to Joey Votto’s injury, but now Frazier’s inclusion is even more of a no-brainer since his path to playing time is no longer reliant upon Dusty Baker realizing how cooked Scott Rolen is, at least temporarily with Votto done for 4-6 weeks (and we all now how lame injury estimates have been this season).  Frazier has one of the better home run rates among batters with 210+ plate appearances (he has 212).  His rate is on par with the likes of Adrian Beltre and Yoenis Cespedes and he’s tracking ahead of Carlos Gonzalez.

Outfielder – Austin Jackson – An improved approach, advancing power and inclusion on a strong offense leading to plenty of runs scored (8th highest total in baseball despite playing 69 games… of course, Trout is 2nd in 69 games so there’s that) make Jackson a reliable, yet unspectacular option.  I watch him day in and day out and I’m a complete believer.  I was an early adopter here as I legitimately saw differences in his approach back in April.  I know that’s sort of a backpat, but I’m proud that my amateur scouting eye appears to be progressing, plus if you listen to the podcast, you know I’m not above a backpat or 12, lol.  I try to do it tastefully!  He’s unspectacular in that he doesn’t do any singular thing extremely well (‘cept defense, which doesn’t count in 99.8% of leagues).  He’s quite Chooish in that respect.  More on that in a bit.

Outfielder – Shin-Soo Choo – It’s been a bit!  Choo is back.  After a disastrous 2011 that included an embarrassing off-the-field event with a DUI and an injury-marred poor performance on field, he is back to being the steady .300-20-20 guy.  He actually isn’t pacing to hit any of those marks, but I’m using that as more of a descriptor since it paints a cleaner picture than .296-18-18.  Batting leadoff, he has traded some RBIs for runs, just as you would expect with that kind of move.

Outfielder – Josh Willingham – When you put up 29-98 on Oakland in 136 games, a move to Minnesota isn’t scaring anybody in terms of production.  His power plays anywhere and the perception of Target Field eating up all power is a bit misguided fueled by the struggles of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer there.  It dominates lefties, but its 95 home run park factor for right-handers isn’t awful.  Below average sure, but not suffocating like Oakland’s 82 factor.  A trade out to a contender would seemingly only help matters.

Outfielder – Jason Kubel – A little nicked with a hamstring, but set to avoid the DL and return Wednesday night.  I didn’t love the signing this winter if only because they had a perfectly capable outfielder in Gerardo Parra who was less of a bat than Kubel, but a much better fielder.  Kubel’s bat has always intrigued me and return of his 2009-level batting average has made him a very strong outfield contributor who does everything but run.  As a lefty, his move from Target Field to Chase Field (114 LH HR factor) has been a huge boon.

Outfielder – Tyler Colvin – Let me qualify this a bit.  With this “team” of players, I have been endorsing their current level of production or at least a reasonable facsimile (90-95%) of it.  I feel the same way about Colvin’s power which is what earns him a spot on this list, but his .294 batting average is definitely susceptible to plummeting.

He is an incredibly free-swinger which can work quite well especially in somewhere like Coors Field, but he can go ice cold, too, as he did in pretty much all of 2011.  He hasn’t been a complete product of Coors (.833 OPS on the road) which definitely helps, but having half of his games in Coors keeps his floor at a palatable level.

PITCHERS

Several of the pitchers to make this “team” were covered in my 24 to Target piece a while back, so I’ll reference you to that piece for the likes of Johnny Cueto, James McDonald and Cole Hamels who are all part of this team (what, Hamels? WEIRD!!!!).  Here are the other six candidates:

R.A. Dickey – Duh.  I’m not breaking ground here, is anyone not bought in on Dickey?  Despite giving up five in three of his last four outings, I’m not particularly worried and maybe it presents a better opportunity to buy if the guy who has him is skittish.  He still had a 7.0 K/9 and 2.3 K/BB in those games.

Gio Gonzalez – I didn’t include him in the 24 to Target list because I didn’t want to just litter it with studs because you’re going to pay a pretty penny with stud arms like that in the trade market.  That I said, I do believe in his step forward this year and I think there is even more to his game as he continues to refine his control.

Chris Capuano – A sleeper-type for me coming into the season, he has exceeded expectations and I see no reason he can’t remain incredibly effective for the duration of the season.  Home run suppression is the key between Capuano having a solid ERA and a great one.  He’s at a career-best 0.9 HR/9 resulting in a career-best 2.75 ERA.  Though his ERA is nearly two full runs lower than last year’s effort, I don’t think he is a complete fluke you should be fearful of in trade talks.

Ryan Dempster – I don’t think he’ll maintain his scoreless innings streak the rest of the season or even pitch at a 1.86 clip for his ERA, but he has a great base of skills that have been remarkably consistent and even seen a nice uptick this year so he should be a bankable starter with a low-3.00s ERA or better the rest of the way.  Obviously a deal to a contender should improve his chances to scoop more wins, too.

Vance Worley – WHIP is the “runs scored” of pitching.  I think it gets overlooked by many.  If it’s incredible, like sub-1.00 great, then it is noticed and same on the opposite end of the spectrum if it’s at 1.40ish or higher, but anything in between is kinda igored.  Not by everyone, but it certainly doesn’t stand out like wins, ERA and strikeouts.  Worley’s WHIP is his downside right now at 1.38 while everything else has been pretty solid (wins are light, but that’s because Philly has been broken for most of the year) and worth buying in on.

You can’t just chalk his WHIP up to a .315 BABIP and call it bad luck.  A lot of that is the fact that hitters can square his sub-90s heater up and get a good rip (evidenced by his 26% line drive rate) so if those aren’t at-‘em balls that the defense can turn into outs, his WHIP will be susceptible.  I think he can chisel it down a little bit to around 1.30, so if WHIP is a sore spot, then this isn’t someone for you.  But I think he’s a legitimate, bankable mid-level starter as his regression from 2011’s breakout is about what I figured we’d see.

Mark Buehrle – As a strikeout-lover, I rarely invest in Buehrle types especially inning or start cap leagues, but you cannot deny how incredibly consistent he has been throughout his career.  Now in the generally easier league with a pitcher’s park for half of his games, he has been able to post his best ERA since 2005 thanks also to some improvements in his skills.  He isn’t flashy and you don’t want to invest if strikeouts are your need obviously, but otherwise he is your guy.

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