Archive for ‘Three Questions’

Thursday: 02.3.2011

Three Questions – San Diego Padres

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide set to come out in a few weeks, 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.

What happens to this offense without Adrian Gonzalez?

Oh don’t worry, new first baseman Brad Hawpe will fill in so well that you will barely notice Gonzalez left.  A .298/.393/.511 line with 31 bombs and 101 RBIs shouldn’t be a problem for Hawpe.  OK that’s obviously an egregious lie that I don’t believe in the least.  Do you want to know how important Gonzalez was to an offense that still only finished 22nd with him?  Look at this:

Gonzalez led them in five key offensive categories and no one was really close.  Chase Headley was the 2nd-highest qualifying batting average at .264, Will Venable’s 13 home runs were 2nd to Gonzalez, Headley had a whopping 58 RBIs to finish 2nd on the team, Yorvit Torrealba was 50 points behind Gonzalez with a .343 OBP, but that came in just 325 at-bats.  The 2nd-highest qualifying on-base percentage was again Headley with a paltry .327 mark.  And in the most hotly contest of the five categories, Headley finished 14 hits behind Gonzalez with 161 on the season.

Counting stats for Padres hitters are likely to be even worse than they were last year cutting into the already stunted value of the group.  Headley managed those 58 RBIs despite hitting behind Gonzalez, who was getting on base 40% of the time for him.  The team added some pieces in addition Hawpe including a brand new double play duo with Orlando Hudson at second base and Jason Bartlett at shortstop as well as former super-prospect Cameron Maybin, but the loss of Gonzalez is still a major blow to an offense that was already pretty poor.

The power-sapping ways of PETCO park are nothing new and Padres hitters have long been evaluated with that impact built in, but without their superstar cog in the middle the entire group takes another hit to their value.  The chances of the six year streak of a non-Gonzalez entity topping 100 R or 100 RBI being broken seem slim.  The last two players to do it were in 2004 when Mark Loretta scored 108 runs and Phil Nevin drove in 105.

Following up a career year with one of his worst, what’s in store for Jason Bartlett in 2011?

The 2010 season was a rough one for Bartlett especially in light of his breakout 2009 in which he hit 14 home runs, drove in 66 runs, scored 90 runs, stolen 30 bases and hit .320, all career highs.  Lucky for him, he plays shortstop which is a barren wasteland after the top tier so he will have some value no matter what.  How much exactly is going to be tied to how many stolen bases he rack up.  He had a string of 23, 20 and 30 before last year’s 11, so the ability is there and San Diego was the 6th-runningest (so surprised that didn’t get a red squiggly line under it in Word) team last year with 124 stolen bases.

Additionally, he can offer some batting average value or at least not be a drag for a team.  Last year his .254 was a drag as regression bit back hard from 2009 and instead of falling back to career norms, he was actually a bit unlucky.  He is .281 hitter for his career and there is no reason to think he shouldn’t bounce back to that in 2011 and if luck breaks his way again, it wouldn’t be tough for him to top .300 again.  So as a late round speed/average shortstop, he has some value.  As I mentioned already, counting numbers will be tough to come by on this team.  Especially for Bartlett who isn’t particularly adept at getting on base.  Though he has a career .345 OBP, it is propped up by the standout 2009 and a .367 mark in 372 plate appearances back in 2006.

One last thing to consider with him is that he has only averaged 135 games played in the last four years with a high watermark of 140 and a low of 128.  That means you’re going to need a replacement for around 27 games, or 16% of the season.  Given the dearth of talent at shortstop, this can be a problematic proposition.  His backup is likely to be Kevin Frandsen or Everth Cabrera.  You could fill one of Bartlett’s strengths depending on who fills in, Frandsen for average and Cabrera for speed.  If you’re left hitting the wire, you may find that the remains are somehow even less appealing than Frandsen and Cabrera.

Is Cameron Maybin ready to pay dividends on his blue chip prospect status?

The problem is we might not even notice if he does improve because of his home ballpark.  He has certainly proven everything he can in the minor leagues so it is time for the three-time top 8 Baseball America prospect to start showing the talent at the big league level.  At 24 with just a season’s worth of big league plate appearances (610) under his belt, even a poor 2011 wouldn’t be enough to write him off completely but it would put closer to Brandon Wood territory.

The biggest issue right now is the striking out.  He has struck out in 31% of his major league at-bats despite the significant gains in K% in the minors.  After striking out in 32% of his AA at-bats in 2008, he cut down to 20% in his first run through AAA in 2009 followed by 19% in 130 AAA at-bats last year.  Any contact would be better than striking out for Maybin at this point.  At the very least, he could maybe use his excellent speed to turn some of his groundballs into base hits.

Better pitch recognition can increase his value another way as more walks would again allow him to add value by way of his speed.  As noted in the Bartlett section above, the Padres aren’t afraid to run, but it is hard to do much running with a .302 on-base percentage.

I don’t think Maybin will magically fix the strikeout and walk issues all at once in 2011, but I think we will see incremental gains in his first full season which should yield a 20+ stolen base season and low-teens power.  You can do much worse than that for a low dollar late outfield option in NL-Only leagues.  I don’t think he is quite a dollar days guy just yet, especially if your league has any guys who love grabbing the next big thing, but his price tag shouldn’t be pushing double digits.  As a single digit buy, I would highlight him as a quality end-game play perfect for rounding out a team.

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.

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.

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.