Posts tagged ‘Aubrey Huff’

Thursday: 06.30.2011

The Hail Mary Team, Part 1

As of right now 13 others are at 82 games, 11 teams are at the exact halfway point (81 games) and the remaining six are very close.  By Monday, every team will be at or beyond the halfway point so it’s safe to say the fantasy baseball season is also at the midpoint.  By now you should have a pretty strong feel for your team one way or another.  Unfortunately for some of us, that way might be “another” meaning lower end of the standings seemingly without a prayer.

You might not be like me, a guy who plays multiple leagues, meaning your summer could essentially be ruined before the fourth of July and with football (and with it fantasy football) in limbo, things look bleak.  But fear not, I am here to help.  While things may seem hopeless, they aren’t always as they seem and there may still be some hope or at the very least you can put in every last bit of effort and buy yourself at least another month to six weeks of fun trying climb back into the race.  Remember, while it best to win the league, many leagues still have a strong incentive to finish second, third or fourth (and sometimes fifth depending on league format) assuming there is a prize pool on the line (or a minor league draft which is often the reward for that first spot out of the money).

With that, I present to you the Hail Mary Team.  This team is for the owners who are down deep in the standings and for whom it looks like nothing short of a miracle will save them.  The Hail Mary Team is a list of currently underperforming (and thus almost certainly undervalued) assets who can reasonably be believed to be in for a major upturn in the second half of the season as they regress toward their career mean (regression to the mean isn’t always negative).  Whether they are dealing with a rash of bad luck, injury, flat out poor play or all three, their track record says they are way better than this and thus why not invest, especially at a discounted rate?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to determine if a team is a candidate for this method, so you will have to base it on your league and the standings are stratified (though feel free to contact me in the comments or on Twitter if you want my opinion on the matter).  Ideally, you would want to have the most points to gain the counting categories (HR, R, RBI, W, SV, K) as opposed to the rate stats (AVG or OBP, ERA & WHIP) because the rate stats will be much harder to move at this point and going forward.  As you pile up innings and at-bats, great performances, even the best of the best, have less impact on those three categories.  That doesn’t mean you want to be dead last in the counting stats, but ideally a few (if not all) would be nicely clumped to where a surge could earn you several points instead of needing 6 HR for 1 pt but then another 20 for the next pt and still 10 more the third point, etc… you get the point.

The guys on the HMT should be available via trade at less than full price in your league (and some may even be waiver wire assets).  What you might do is trade one of your decent guys (not stars) for two or even three (depending on the players involved) of these players so the end result is still a net gain (assuming the Hail Marys [Maries?] connect, of course).  You may already have some of these guys which has led to your issues in the first place.  Hang onto them, add more and hope to catch lightning in a bottle.  The really fun part here will be the building of this team since actually winning is a longshot.  So if you team is on the ropes and you love trading, then this is a strategy for you.

Don’t be afraid to trade your stars in this strategy, but make sure you get a mint and that the extra assets are filling for zeroes or close to it.  Also make sure to get the upper echelon Hail Mary Teamers for your stars.  Don’t trade off your solid Hunter Pence for two “Also Keep In Mind” guys.  That will make more sense when you see the players, but the main point is that if you are getting several assets to plug some of the many holes that buried you in the first place, then don’t trade your star asset or at least don’t trade him to the owner who won’t pay.  Ideally you would like to keep your two or three best assets while adding a handful of the HMT’ers to the equation.  As always, I am available on Twitter (@sporer) clarification or for advice on potential offers.

One other thing before we get to the team of players, this is best executed in redraft leagues for obvious reasons.  If you are toast or near toast in a keeper league, you should be building for 2012 (and reading my Keeper Building Block series to help you with that) as opposed to taking a flier on winning the league or pushing your way into a money spot.

I will break this up a bit, but the entire team will be out by Monday so you can spend your fourth of July day off working the trade wires (or hanging out by the pool with some cold ones… either or).

CATCHER:

Carlos Santana (CLE) – Right or wrong, fantasy managers still pay a lot of attention to batting average and let that be the primary indicator as to whether or not a guy is playing well.  Santana’s batting average is .226 meaning he could be discounted.  However, some owners may realize he has 11 home runs already and he’s on pace for 23 with 74 runs scored and batted in along with an unexpected six stolen bases which is damn good from catcher even with a bad batting average.  If your league’s Santana manager is one of those realizing his full value, just move along, I have another name for you to fall back on.

Mike Napoli (TEX) – He is coming off of a busted month where he only played eight games before getting hurt.  He is slated to started his rehab assignment soon so now is the time to pounce.  His owner might look at the .221 average and think, “Man, I knew he wouldn’t be a batting average asset, but I wanted better than this, plus he only has 10 homers, dude’s weak.”  Dude’s not weak.  He’s toting an .836 OPS and .365 wOBA despite that garbage average because he’s walking at a near-career high clip (15%) and smashing a bomb every 14 at-bats.

Also keep in mind: Joe Mauer.  I can’t imagine he is anywhere near full price.  Some people never discount big names, though.  But check in on his team’s manager, you never know.  He won’t offer the power potential of the other two, though, and his primary asset (batting average) is the toughest category to fix.

FIRST BASE:

Coincidentally, both Santana and Napoli qualify at first base so you could use one of them or go with the obvious name…

Adam Dunn (CHW) – Do I really need to enlighten you on why he’s on this team?  Seven seasons of 38+ home runs including five with 40+, he didn’t just forget how to play.  He’s never been great against lefties, but a career mark of .234 with an .800 OPS is a helluva better than the 1-for-53 superslump he is current mired in against southpaws.  He might suck the rest of the year, there’s a real chance of that when you see him play.  That’s why it is a Hail Mary Team, because he might also smash 20+ home runs and getting some BABIP fortune to push his current .262 BABIP closer to his .294 career mark.

Also keep in mind: Aubrey Huff.  Should be dirt cheap and he was great as recently as last year.

SECOND BASE:

Dan Uggla (ATL) – Going with the obvious name here again, but it’s the best fit so there’s no reason not to put him on this “team”.  He does have 12 home runs so he isn’t terribly far off the pace of the 31 average he has set the over the last five years, but it comes with a .178 average and modest RBI and runs scored paces of 55 and 69, respectively, so he certainly shouldn’t be untouchable.  He is basically on pace for Aaron Hill’s 2010 season at this point right down to the absurdly low .189 BABIP so there is a precedent for this kind of season out of a proven player, but his power upside is worth the gamble for this experiment.

Ryan Raburn (DET) – He has become the second half surge posterboy over the last two years.  Last year he ended the first half with a .637 OPS and just two home runs.  He went on to rip 13 home runs, drive in 46, hit .305 and post a .900 OPS in the second half.  In 2009, it wasn’t so much that he languished through the first half, he was solid (.842 OPS, 6 HR in 50 G), but he took it to another level in the second half.  From the trade deadline to season’s end, he hit .350 (in 55 games) with 10 home runs.  Something about the dog days of summer puts a spring in Raburn’s bat.  He has the added benefit of dual-eligibility at second base and in the outfield.

Also keep in mind: Kelly Johnson & Hill.  Johnson is another guy who might draw a discount because of his .210 batting average, but a more savvy owner (or just one paying attention) realizes that his 26 HR/16 SB pace takes a lot of the sting out of that batting average.  You won’t know if you don’t inquire.  Hill’s comically low 3.2% HR/FB can’t  stick all year can it?  Not after years of 15% and 11%, right?  Although he did go a full season with a 4% rate back in 2004 plus he loves being the outlier of bad luck in metrics (see also: his 2010 BABIP mentioned above).  He can be a last resort at this position.

 

Next: Shortstops & Third Basemen

Wednesday: 05.25.2011

Do You Want S’Morse?

Ham Porter: Hey, Smalls, you wanna s’more?

Smalls: Some more of what?

 

When it was announced in mid-March that outfielder Michael Morse was in line to win a job with the Washington Nationals, he became a darling sleeper for many.  He popped 15 home runs in less than 100 games last year (98) with a solid .289/.352/.519 line in 293 plate appearances.  A simple extrapolation made him a mid-30s home run hitter with 600 at-bats.  Of course, it’s not always that simple.  You couldn’t just pencil him in for 34 home runs assuming that he would keep mashing at the same rate over a full season of work.  However, even accounting for some regression, a new power source was available.

Sometimes there are players who work best in limited doses and when they finally win a full-time job, they are overexposed.  Ryan Raburn seems to prove this yearly as his strong second halves win him a job for the following year where he falls on his face, loses the jobs, plays sporadically through the early summer before turning it on after the All-Star break, earning a full-time job around or just after the trading deadline and restarting the cycle in earnest with insane August and September numbers.

Morse took his full-time job and gave owners a .182 average by Tax Day (April 15th for the uninitiated) and just .211 by the end of April.  He had just one home run, nine runs driven in and four scored with 21 strikeouts against four walks.  It wasn’t going well and though it was just 71 at-bats, it was his first 71 with a full-time job out of Spring Training so doubt among even he’s biggest believers began to creep in.

That’s always a bad idea but we see it yearly, especially with unproven guys.  People get so hyped about a guy and they psyche themselves into his best case scenario, but then give the guy less than 100 at-bats to prove himself before putting him on the chopping block.  It isn’t just with those without a track record, you will see fantasy owners questioning firmly established semi-stars because they get off to a bad start.

Admittedly, Morse’s start was rough and kind of tough to swallow, but in the offense-starved environment we are playing in these days, his power potential still had value and again, we are talking about 71 at-bats!  He had a stretch last year from July 24th to August 26th where he posted a .198/.233/.321 line with three home runs, eight driven in, nine scored, 21 Ks and three walks in 81 at-bats.  Despite the stretch that was eerily similar to his April this year, he still managed the .289/.352/.519 line that made him a preseason favorite.

Morse has come back in phases.  His playing time dwindled a bit, but instead of sulking and letting his season get completely away from him, he got better.  (Truth be told, he may very well have sulked, but what he definitely didn’t do was get worse and have what was supposed to be a big season for him spiral out of control.)

First he has repaired his batting average going 12-for-30 (.400) from May 2nd to 22nd still with just a homer, two ribbies and a run.  You can only do so much in 30 at-bats, but he piled up hits with four multi-hit games and zero 0-fers in the six games he did start.  Then Adam LaRoche hit the disabled list opening a prime playing time opportunity for Morse at first base and in the four games starting at first, he has matched his power output from his 23 games during April.

He has gone 7-for-17 (.412) with three home runs (in three straight games), eight runs batted in and four scored .  His season line is up to .281/.303/.447.  He’s not walking nearly as much (3.3% against 7.5% in ’10) as he did last year and he is striking out a lot more than he did last year (29% against 24% in ’10), but we are still dealing with a 114 at-bat sample and he’s just now getting into a groove.

I often make the point that you have to be patient with your guys early on and this isn’t necessarily any different.  Where it is different is the type of player.  If you want to overreact on Carl Crawford and sell low on him, be dumb and do it, there’s a strong chance you will very much regret it by season’s end if not the All-Star break.  Same goes for more of a semi-star guy like John Danks.  Freak out because of an 0-7 record and elevated ERA and ignore the 608 innings of work that suggest he’s a very good in this league (and that fact that there isn’t a significant skills change within his profile so far this year).

But on someone like Morse or whomever your pet sleeper was this year, why cut bait early?  What is there to gain?  If you trade him, you’re definitely selling way low because you don’t even believe in him at this point.  You might get out from under a struggling star and still get fair market value opting to pass the risk (and potential reward) on for peace of mind, but you’re no doubt getting 50 cents on the dollar to trade Morse when he’s hitting .226 on April 26th.

The question is, did something really change from mid-March through those 71 at-bats taking you from believer to non-believer?  If When the answer is no to that question, the next one is, “then why are you giving up?”  In most leagues where you rostered someone like Morse, what is going to be available to replace him?  Robert Andino (hit .348 in 46 April at-bats; hitting .264 after 91 at-bats)?  Gerrardo Parra (.297 in 64 Apr. ABs; .269 after 134)?  Aaron Rowand (.294 in 85; .246 after 148)?

Fill in a random slug who had a hot week or 10 days but lacks any real potential instead he just satiates your need to get a Mendoza Line bat out of your lineup so you can feel like you’re making an impact on your roster late in April.  Michael Morse might not hit .280-something this year.  He strikes out a helluva lot which eats up batting average potential, but over the course of 162 games he is almost certain to get into at least 135+ games barring injury and with his raw power he should hit the 20+ home runs you were hoping for back in March.

So whether it’s a Morse who started slowly but is course correcting of late or a Chris Narveson who you liked as a sleeper and loved until April 25th when he got lit for seven in 2.3 innings (only to rebound before his latest hiccup…) or a Brandon Belt who got all of 52 at-bats to prove himself (Brian Sabean: the fantasy owner?) before getting sent down to AAA (where is straight up raking), if you aren’t going to give your sleepers a legitimate opportunity to pan out (at least mid-June give or take, especially if they’re adjusting to a new role) then don’t even both drafting them.  You’re wasting your own time.  You’re not allowing for any of the ebbs and flows that come with a 6-month season.

Stick with crusty old vets who you can set your watch to.  Some will emerge from year to year and you may get lucky with an Aubrey Huff and Paul Konerko on the same team, but their name recognition won’t send you running for the panic button at the faintest hint of a 2-for-25 stretch.  Mostly they will just kind be what they are and you can focus on in-season management instead of trying to win big at the auction/draft.  That isn’t necessarily a losing strategy, especially if you’re a nifty trader and good waiver wirererererer.  You’re just doing yourself a favor and cutting out the potential for horribly preemptive moves that you will almost certainly regret by midsummer.

Do you want s’Morse?  If you want power, then the answer should be yes.

Friday: 02.11.2011

Daily Dose – February 11th

A link-less, abbreviated Dose heading into the weekend as I drop some first base-related knowledge bombs on y’all:

Knowledge Bomb 1: A couple days ago, I released my top 25 catcher rankings to kick off my positional rankings.  Let’s continue our way around the diamond and head over to the ultra-deep first base.  On the offensive side of things, first base is hands down the deepest position with several superstars and plenty of talent to go around.  The best way to utilize the depth is to also grab your corner infielder (in leagues that use the spot) from this pool.  Some feel that the depth at first base allows you to wait on the position altogether, but I don’t think that is the right play at all.

I think you should be ready to double and perhaps triple dip (1B, CI, DH) into the plentiful bounty of first base.  There are other strategies to be employed, but my feeling is that with the excess of power potential at the position compared with the dwindling power supplies in the league at large, why not maximize the position and its four-category contribution: power (HR, RBI, R and AVG as each HR contributes a hit, too)?

Even if you played up position scarcity and chose a shortstop in the first round and an outfielder in the second round (it’s thinner than you think, folks), you will still have stud potential available in the next two or three rounds.  Let me show you what I mean (guys who have dual-eligibility at first base aren’t going to be included in the actual top 25 as they don’t have nearly the value at first that they do at their normal position.  That means there won’t be any Victor Martinez, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, etc.. Kevin Youkilis will show up because he won’t start the season with 3B eligibility after playing just 2 games there last year.):

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Miguel Cabrera
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Kevin Youkilis
  6. Adrian Gonzalez
  7. Prince Fielder
  8. Adam Dunn
  9. Ryan Howard
  10. Kendry Morales
  11. Justin Morneau
  12. Paul Konerko
  13. Billy Butler
  14. Derrek Lee
  15. Gaby Sanchez
  16. Adam LaRoche
  17. Aubrey Huff
  18. Ike Davis
  19. Carlos Pena
  20. Lance Berkman
  21. Kila Ka’aihue
  22. Justin Smoak
  23. James Loney
  24. Daric Barton
  25. Matt LaPorta

Overvalued: Ryan Howard – this one is relative as I still think he is plenty valuable as a major power source, but I’m not sure he returns to his truly elite power self as some of the warning signs are to be taken seriously.  He’s been going off the board as the 5th or 6th first baseman in a lot of industry mock drafts that I have seen and his ADP (average draft position) is 6th and 7th at Mock Draft Central and Couch Managers, respectively.  I’ve got him 9th, so it’s not a huge dip, but I wouldn’t make him down for 40-140 automatically in 2011.

Undervalued: None – no one being seriously overlooked, at least not by more than a slot or two which isn’t enough to get up in arms.  There is some value at the position because the depth pushes some guys down, but no one is being criminally passed over in lieu of lesser options.

Target: Kendry Morales – Yes, he is coming off of the big leg injury, but that isn’t something that will sap his power or hamper him at all this year.  He had a breakout 2009 and was in the midst of an excellent follow-up in 2010 when the accident happened, I expect him to pick up right where he left off and continue as one of the best first basemen in the league.  Even if you already locked up an elite first baseman in the first or second round, there would be nothing wrong with coming back in the fifth round and slotting Morales’ 30-home run power into your corner infield spot.

Best of the Rest: Adam Lind – he doesn’t yet qualify at first base in standard league formats, but as his assumed position for Opening Day, your league may allow you to draft him there.  Even if that isn’t the case, he will earn his eligibility there quickly and he has elite power potential with the ability to hit .275+ yet he is going behind LaRoche and Pena (who he is a rich man’s version of) according to current ADP numbers.  If he were first base eligible right now, I would slot him between Konerko and Butler.

Rookie to Watch: Freddie Freeman – He strikes me as James Loney-esque right now lacking enough power to be a starting first baseman.  He could be a .280 hitter with mid-teens power, though, which is still worth rostering even in mixed leagues given the late round cost attached.  He’s really the only rookie 1B with a chance to start in 2011.

Knowledge Bomb 2: There were 13 first basemen to hit at least 20 home runs and drive in at least 80 runs:

  • 10 of the 13 scored 85+ runs
  • 5 of the 13 scores 100+ runs
  • 6 of the 13 hit .290+
  • 10 of the 13 hit .260+ (a .260 AVG will cost a team just .002 in team AVG over a full season)
  • 4 of the 13 chipped in 7+ stolen bases (Votto [16] & Pujols [14] doubled the contribution)

Knowledge Bomb 3: Check out the home run season totals at three key thresholds broken down by position:

Few leagues use each outfield position individually, but even if I had lumped all three together the point of first base’s power prowess would have still held.  You need three to five outfielders in all leagues whereas you need just one first baseman (but could feasibly roster up to three with corner and DH).  First base is the only elite power source on the diamond.  If you leave your draft or auction with Billy Butler (who I really like, so don’t get me wrong there) as your starting first baseman, you have messed up and you will likely be struggling for power all year long.

I will reiterate that you needn’t take a first baseman in the first or even the second round to cash in on the power surplus.  So if you wanted to go shortstop and third baseman to attack some of the scarcity around the infield, that would be a feasible strategy and you would still have plenty of power first basemen available to you in the third and fourth rounds.  However, if you’re looking at a blank 1B spot on your roster in the back end of the fifth round, chances are you are well behind your leaguemates at the position.

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.