Archive for January 25th, 2013

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 Rightfielders Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the left and right field shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

I felt I was getting a little verbose on these lists given that they’re really just about having some off-season fun, so I’ve cut the explanations down a bit on these.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

My first HM was 11th on my list and I’m fairly certain he will be on every list during the RF episode. He is just too big of a name and I think his bat will carry the day with the MLBN folks. Andre Ethier just missed for me. While not a premium defensive position, it’s an important one and quality defense can have a big impact so he came up just short despite a great bat.

I really wanted to find a way to get Norichika Aoki into my list, but it just wasn’t feasible. His MLB debut was a bit under the radar, but it was quite strong as he displayed bits of all five tools, the speed perhaps being the most surprising as he’d notched just eight stolen bases in Japan in 2011.

THE LIST

10. Jayson Werth (WAS) – I saw enough from Werth in 2012 in his half season that I would take him over Ethier right now. It won’t be a popular opinion, but he looked great after returning from his broken wrist and I expect the power to tick back up after an offseason rest and shift back into the heart of the order where he can sell out for it a bit more.

9. Torii Hunter (DET) – The power dipped from a consistent low-20s homer total to just 16 last year, but he shifted his value distribution to batting average by hitting .313. If his plan is to have another .389 BABIP en route to a big offensive season, he’ll want to reassess. His defense remains excellent so he can afford some regression at the dish and remain a force in rightfield.

8. Nick Swisher (CLE) – Mr. Consistent hasn’t veered from his stretch of excellent seasons but once back in 2008 when he was with the Chicago White Sox. Of course we all thought his power would explode moving from Oakland’s cavern to Chicago’s bandbox and instead he was just a bust with them. That’s well in the past and he’s been great ever since. He’s leaving the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, but his splits show that his power plays everywhere.

7. Josh Reddick (OAK) – Rarely does a guy breakout offensively with a big 32-home run season and end getting more pub for his defense, but that was Reddick’s 2012. He tied Jeff Francoeur for the major league lead with 10 kills including three dummies who thought it’d be a good idea to run on him from second on a flyout with fewer than two outs. Idiots. If he can improve his offensive profile and add to the home runs, he will shoot up this list next year.

6. Carlos Beltran (StL) – His career hasn’t been appreciated nearly enough. Thankfully it’s not over and he remains one of the best in the game at his position even at 36 years old. He is still a multi-faceted threat with only batting average lacking from the five tool profile, and even that was present in 2011 when he hit .300 on the button for 142 games. Such an amazing player.

5. Jay Bruce (CIN) – I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of Bruce, but it’s coming. He still has 40+ homer potential and at 26, he is just entering his physical prime. He also plays a pretty rightfield, especially in the throwing game.

4. Jose Bautista (TOR) – He was just hitting his groove when he got injured for the remainder of the season. He had a 14 homer June putting his season back on track poised for a huge summer, but he’d only play 14 more games the rest of the way. By the way, this is the injury concern built into his ranking. He’d probably be a slot or two higher if he’d play 150 in 2012.

3. Josh Hamilton (LAA) – Since I only honorably mentioned him in the centerfield list, I decided to include him here on the rightfield list. I’ve written plenty about him this offseason both after he signed in LA and in the aforementioned CF list.

2. Jason Heyward (ATL) – There are a lot of “J” named rightfielders. He’ll probably take the top spot on a lot of lists tonight which I can’t really argue with, but I prefer someone else (obviously). Remember when everyone (hyperbole) gave up on Heyward in 2011 labeling his 2010 a fluke and his prospect status busted? Cool brains. He was 21. He could reasonably have another down in the next year or two before settling at an elite level. As I’ve said a million times here, prospects don’t grow in a linear fashion. For the record, I don’t think he’ll have that lull in 2013. I think he’s a borderline late-first round pick in anything bigger than 10 teams.

1. Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) – 23 year old with 80 grade power + 80 arm = baseball porn. Oh, and this:

giancurtis

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Friday: 01.25.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 28 Days – Hanley Ramirez

Only 28 days until live game action…

OK, so the first actual Grapefruit or Cactus League game doesn’t take place until February 22nd, but the Red Sox are splitting up their squad and playing a couple of colleges on February 21st so we’re just 30 days away from organized professional baseball. So why not a countdown of this final, grueling winter month that includes some fantasy analysis?

Obviously my primary focus at this site is on pitchers and you’ll get quite a bit of my analysis on them in late February when the SP Guide drops, thus I was thinking of something surrounding hitters. With 30 days to go, I am going to do a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

HANLEY RAMIREZ

After the unmitigated disaster that was 2011, it wasn’t going to take much for his 2012 to be considered a rebound and it was yet he was still a disappointment. While he wasn’t going 2nd overall like 2011, he still only dipped to 20th average draft position with a high of 12 and low of 26 according to Mock Draft Central. His 20-20 season with shortstop and third base eligibility wasn’t bad, but it didn’t earn that draft position back. ESPN’s Player Rater had him 63rd overall and 42nd among batters.

The problem was that there was virtually no rebound in his paltry .243 batting average from 2011. It went up to .257, but that’s barely a dent (8 hits over a 600 AB season) and he posted the second-worst BABIP of his career at .290 (up slightly from 2011’s .275). His batted ball profile was actually somewhat conducive to a batting average increase as he added 2.5 percent to his line drives, which have the best chance to become hits. His flyball rate rose continuing a three-year trend, and those are least likely to become hits. While his flyball rate only ticked up by 1.2 percent, his infield flyball rate jumped four percent and those are all but guaranteed outs.

His BABIP based on batted ball was league average all told (he was a little low on line drives, but high on grounders & flies) so we shouldn’t be too surprised that his .257 batting average was essentially on par with the league’s .255 average as a whole. He might’ve smoked a few more at-‘em balls than normal, but nothing that would leave you saying he was quite unlucky for the performance he was delivering on the field. Batting average is really what kept his 2012 from being a “Hanley” season considering 2009 and 2010:

hanley3year

Based on my rough math estimations, a .300 average would’ve boosted Ramirez to a tie for 11th among batters in the player rater with Adam Jones and vaulted him to 18th with Jones in the overall.

“Well ya, but he was playing a lot in that cavernous monstrosity that can gives your eyes an STD if you watch too many home Marlins games!”

*Bzzz* Try again.

Ramirez raked in Marlins Stadium as did the other two superstars on that team:

homemarlins

It appears that Ramirez’s batting average issues for 2012 fit under the Occam’s razor principle: he just wasn’t good enough. No logistical pretzels about this BABIP or that venue. He simply didn’t hit the ball well enough to earn a .300+ average. I mean, we’re really only talking about a hit a week here. Another 26 hits would put right at .300 (actually .2996688, but I think MLB would go ahead and give it to him) and that feels like a lot, but there are generally around 26 weeks in the season.

Where is going to get those hits in 2013? Ideally off of southpaws. For his two-plus seasons (92 G in ’11) from 2009-2011, he hit .305 off of lefties with a .339 BABIP. Those figures dropped to .263 and .293 in 2012. It wasn’t just one problem area either; they just handled him better than ever before. Though up and in and down and away do stand out a bit when comparing the two samples:

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Ramirez remains a hot commodity for several reasons:

  • He has a track record of excellence so the potential to return to those levels is still present.
  • He is still on the right side of 30, adding to the likelihood of the first point.
  • He has dual eligibility at the hardest spot to fill (SS) and another premium infield spot (3B)
  • His “down” seasons are still 20-20 seasons with 92 RBIs. Well down seasons without injury.

Ramirez is solid “buy” target for 2013, even as a second round pick (though his ADP is a ludicrous 42 in early drafts** over at Mock Draft Central making him a huge bargain if that holds, but I doubt it will). High floors are a market inefficiency and they can sometimes be more important than a high ceiling for an early round pick. Especially if you subscribe to the notion that you can’t win your draft in the early rounds, but you can lose it.

**ADDENDUM

In the mock drafts I’ve done to date, Hanley has gone as follows:

  • 23rd overall in a 15 tm mixer w/OBP instead of AVG
  • 27th overall in a 15 tm mixer w/OBP instead of AVG
  • 21st overall in a standard 12 tm mixer
  • $31 dollars in a 14 tm auction standard 5×5

In other words: ignore that ADP because there is very little chance you’ll get him at that price.

Don’t forget the countdown continues on the weekend! 

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 Leftfielders Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall***”. They will air both the left and right field shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

***I will not be doing a top 100

I felt I was getting a little verbose on these lists given that they’re really just about having some off-season fun, so I’ve cut the explanations down a bit on these.

The leftfield list was one of the easier ones as the 10 came pretty easily to me. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will not be included because they were included on the centerfielder list. We saw MLB Network put Shin-Soo Choo on the centerfielder list as well, so they’re going with where guys are expected to play in 2013 thus you won’t see Martin Prado on the list, either, as he will now play third base for the D’Backs. Nor will you see Desmond Jennings as he shifts over to center to replace B.J. Upton. Oddly enough, MLBN was counting new position for guys like Choo and Aroldis Chapman yet they still included Trout with the CFs and he is slated to play left with Peter Bourjos in center.

HONORABLE MENTION

Jason Kubel (ARI) is the only leftfielder who was close for me. His NL debut was impressive, but he just missed out as he lags a bit behind defensively and his bat was good, but not overwhelmingly so.

THE LIST

10. Alfonso Soriano (CHC) – A punching bag for many fans, Soriano hasn’t been the 40-40 guy from his Washington season, but he’s not exactly Vernon Wells, either. In fact, by fWAR he’s earned $98.5mm ($5mm/WAR) on the field while being paid $97mm. Even if you don’t buy the defensive gains, he’s been a plus-hitter for five of six seasons with the Cubs.

9. Melky Cabrera (TOR) – How much do you think PEDs helped Melky? And do you think he’s taken them consistently for two years? Those are the two questions to be asked when analyzing him. I lean toward “some, but not overwhelmingly so” and “no”, so he makes my list. I doubt he’d be the 2012 version of himself even if he kept using, so look at 2011 as a guidepost for his performance.

8. Brett Gardner (NYY) – Speculating a bit here since Gardner missed most of 2012, but when he plays he does everything except hit for power. He plays incredible defense, has game-changing speed, and he’s the Van Gogh of walks—he draws ‘em like crazy!

7. Josh Willingham (MIN) – Staying on the field has been the only real issue with Willy during his career and he’s improving in that avenue improving his games played from 114 in 2010 to 136 and 145 the last two years. Regardless of how often he plays, he’s always raked at the dish and done so enough to cancel out his below average defense.

6. Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) – What an incredible debut! I don’t think anyone saw that coming. He was the commensurate five-tool player hitting .292 with a .505 slugging percentage, playing elite defense in left using his arm to terrify runners into staying put, and stealing 16 out of 20 attempts while also taking extra bases at an above average clip. Imagine if he tops 130 games this year.

5. Justin Upton (ATL) – New to both his team and his position, Upton was finally traded after approximately 212 years of speculation. The potential is overwhelming, but we need to see it more consistently and since we don’t yet, he lands lower than you probably would’ve expected to see him.

4. Matt Holliday (StL) – Only two LF, both regarded among baseball’s best, have topped him with the bat at the position. He pairs the first-rate bat with better defense than you think. Unless you think he plays good-not-great defense boosted by his solid arm and ability to freeze runners.

3. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – He’s failed to repeat that stunning 2010, but he hasn’t exactly been a slouch in the meantime and his rising walk rate bodes well for his late-20s. He’s yet to play more than 145 games in a season which only make his three straight 20-20 (all w/22+ HR) seasons that much more impressive.

2. Alex Gordon (KC) – The unquestioned best leftfielder in the game defensively speaking whether you trust the metrics or simply use your eyeballs. Mind you, that’s not the only reason he rated this well, he’s also come around big time with the bat including an MLB-best 51 doubles last year. Took him a while, but he’s finally paying dividends on the savior tag that was slapped on him before the ink dried on his contract in 2005.

1. Ryan Braun (MIL) – Duh-doy!

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 RP – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host and human bobblehead (click that & also see below) Mitch Williams, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were a bit annoying. For one, they did what I feared they might do: lean far too heavily on closers. One list had exactly zero middle relievers and the maker of said list is a huge surprise. I know these lists are for s’s & g’s and despite how it may read, I’m not getting that worked up over it, I’m just trying to have some fun as we move closer toward real baseball!

HumanBobble2

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10RPlists

The Shredder

I’ll say straight out front that The Shredder did much better with the relievers than with starters. I’ll also admit that Grant Balfour was a nice pick. I probably didn’t give him enough consideration. The dude hates letting guys hit the ball (4.9 H/9 last year), misses a good amount of bats (25% K rate), and Oakland has the perfect stadium for his flyball tendencies. That adds up to a helluva reliever. My love for strikeouts probably kept Jim Johnson and Eric O’Flaherty off of my list or it was just the overwhelming amount of depth at the position making it nearly impossible to whittle it down to 10. O’Flaherty has been insane the last four years with a 1.95 ERA and like a 2 million percent groundball rate. Seriously, it’s been 55-57-56-66(!!) percent the last four years meanwhile he has struck out 20% or more guys in three of the four years so he isn’t completely incapable of bat-missing. I was also impressed that The Shredder didn’t overrate Jonathan Papelbon and gave Koji Uehara some big love. All told, this was probably my favorite list because they gave middle relievers deserved love and their differences from my list were pretty strong. That said, Motte was a huge miss.

My inclusions he didn’t list: David Hernandez, Joe Nathan, David Robertson, and Jason Motte

Middle relievers: 4 (Kenley Jansen isn’t starting the year as the closer)

Bill James

Bill, Bill, Bill. You’re my dawg, but Papelbon #2?? No, just no. I pretty much blocked out everything else at that point: the inclusions of Motte and Nathan, the Rodney love, the Sergio Romo exclusion, all of it was forgotten for better or worse because the godfather of sabermetrics and objective analysis threw Jonathan Papelbon second on his list of relievers RIGHT NOW showing a clear bias toward his Red Sox (for whom Bill works as an advisor). John Axford was a little high for me, but his inclusion isn’t too problematic. This is a dude who fans 30% of the batters he’s faced for three years running. He gave up a quarter of his 2012 runs (36) in three games with a trio of three-run outings from June 10th to July 29th. And he was also saddled with a 19% HR/FB rate, it’s probably not a bad idea to bet on some improvement for 2013.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Romo

Middle relievers: 1 (and maybe two if Ryan Madson closes for LAA) 

Mitch Williams

Everyone else worked under the assumption that Aroldis Champan is going to be a starter (primarily because he is), but not ol’ Bobbles. OK, so you’re trying to make a big call, but why not just work under the same conecit everyone else did and add a disclaimer that you have Chapman second and think he’ll be closing by Memorial Day or something? Apart from that, his list isn’t too bad despite five disagreements between us. It’d really only be four without the Chapman thing because as he mentioned in the video linked in the opening, Motte was his #11. Finally, someone gives Robertson some attention, which he richly deserves.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Nathan, Motte, Jansen, and Romo

Middle relievers: 3

Starting pitchers: 1

Brian Kenny

How could you do this to me, Brian? You’re my boy, blue! The critical thinker himself, Mr. Next Level Stats who firmly believes the closer mentality is garbage (I don’t fully agree, btw) chimes in with ZERO middle relievers in his list. Or maybe one with Ernesto Frieri, but he’s an assumed closer in many circles at this point. I’m not suggesting you should shoehorn non-closers in if you don’t think they belong, I’m just wondering how he thinks they don’t belong?! Papelbon at 4? Are Soriano and Johnson really better than all middle relievers? He pointed out multiple times how Mitch had more middle relievers than James only to come to the table with a goose egg himself. I was surprised for sure!

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Jansen (all 4 of my MRs of course)

Middle relievers: 0

I’ll reiterate once more that I know these are just fun and any exasperation I show is reasoned exasperation. I’m not taking these lists too seriously or cultivating hate for any of the panelists. I truly enjoy this series quite a bit and I’ve had fun agonizing over my own lists.

Friday: 01.25.2013

Productive Outs – Ep. 34 (feat. Paul Sporer)

The brilliant minds behind Productive OutsRiley Breckenridge and Ian Miller (REAL rockstars!! Thrice, Kowloon Walled City), were kind enough to invite me on for some spoken words and it was wondrous. If you’re not familiar with the Productive Outs Tumblr (which I linked at the beginning of this post), their Twitter feed, or their Prodcast, then your life isn’t as good as it could be just yet. These are two of my favorite people whom I’ve yet to meet in real life and I commend all of their doings to you.