Posts tagged ‘Brandon Morrow’

Monday: 07.4.2011

Hail Mary Team, Part 4

Now we take to the mound with the Hail Mary Team.  As I mentioned in the introduction piece, fixing rate stats (ERA & WHIP most commonly) is harder than piling up counting stats.  The more the innings pile up, the harder it is to make a significant move in ERA or WHIP without Justin Verlander-in-June-type numbers from a pitcher or three (0.92 ERA, 0.71 WHIP in 49 IP).  OK maybe you don’t need guys to throw that well, but you need some heavy innings of quality work to move the needle.

Of course that also depends on how stratified your league’s ERA & WHIP standings are to begin with and given how plentiful pitching has been this year, they might be pretty tight top to the bottom.  All that said, the guys on this list have the kind of skills to lower their ERA and WHIP totals by a decent margin over the second half, but the results haven’t been up to expectations so they can likely be had at a discount.  This group will contain a lot of strikeout upside and hopefully their continued display of strong skills will start to net the results they deserve leading in turn to wins along with several innings of quality ERA and WHIP.

Catchers, First Basemen & Second Basemen

Shortstops & Third Basemen

Outfield

STARTING PITCHER:

Zach Greinke (MIL) – The ultimate Hail Mary Teamer, Greinke should be your first target for pitching to see if that ugly 5.66 ERA can bring in a heavy discount.  For a lot of owners it won’t (as they realize he has been better than a 5.66), but even if he comes with a small discount he is worth it.  His skills have been amazing (11.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 6.4 K/BB), but he has been brutalized by absurd LOB% (55%) and HR/FB (15%) rates that just can’t continue or at least I certainly wouldn’t bet on them continuing.  His .341 BABIP is a career high, too.  That could be equal parts his 24% line drive rate (highest since 2006) and a poor infield defense.  Adding it all together, there just seems to be no way that he can continue to post the base skills he is and yet carry an ERA that high.  Perhaps you can turn your best hitter or pitcher into Greinke plus something else to start your Hail Mary Team.

Matt Garza (CHC) – I was worried about Garza heading into Wrigley especially with an escalating flyball rate the last few years.  Without a skills change, I thought he would get knocked around for plenty of home runs, especially on afternoons when the wind was blowing out.  Alas, he made a major skills change.  His flyball rate has gone from 45% down to 28%(!) with his groundball rate rising in concert from 36% to 50%.

However his work with men on base has ailed him this year thus what should have been the makings of a career year (2.87 xFIP, 2.98 FIP) has resulted in modest improvements from a 3.91 ERA last year to 3.77 this year.  There is room for more and Garza is one to target.  His current ERA won’t earn you a clearance price via trade, but a 3.77 doesn’t quite get his current manager what it used to either so don’t buckle into your trade partner’s demands without some push & pull.

Chris Carpenter (STL) – Too bad I didn’t think of this strategy a few weeks ago because Carpenter would have been a perfect selection back in mid-June.  However he has started to turn a corner with back-to-back one run outings in seven and nine innings, respectively, lowering his ERA from 4.47 to an even 4.00.  Of course that is still a decent bit below average as he has just a 90 ERA+ for the season.

His hit rate has leapt from 8.2 to 9.8 H/9 this year.  He allowed 8+ hits nine times all of last year and has already matched that total in 2011.  He has doubled his outings of 10+ hits allowed from two to four.  While part of it may be the downgrade from Brendan Ryan to Ryan Theriot at shortstop, a bigger part is a massive surge in line drive rate to 24%, a three year high.  His groundball rate has dipped 5% as a result, too.  His skills suggest an ERA of about three and a quarter so there’s still room to go even in the midst of his current mini-hot streak.

Ricky Nolasco (FLO) – Is there a more maddening pitcher in fantasy baseball?  After slightly outperforming his skills in 2008 (3.52 ERA/3.69 xFIP), he has massively underperformed against his skills the last two and a half years.  ERAs of 5.06, 4.51 and this year’s 4.08 have left us scratching our heads standing next to xFIP totals of 3.23, 3.37 and 3.50.  Like Carpenter, Nolasco has seen a dramatic rise in his line drive percentage up to a career high of 25% after sitting 19-22% for his career.

The dip in strikeouts from 8.4 to 6.5 is a bit alarming, too, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio remains very strong at 3.1 so he should still be better than a 4.08 ERA.  I am still willing to bet on a guy who had three straight years of 4.4 K/BB spanning 555 innings coming into this year, especially if I’m going all-in on a season that hasn’t panned out as initially planned.  The Hail Mary Team is obviously about embracing risk, it is really the only way for the strategy to succeed.  Well the risk panning out is the only for it to succeed, but the first step is not being afraid of risk.

Edwin Jackson (CWS) – I have put him in my spot starter picks several times this year.  His talent is starting to shine through more often than in years past, but the results haven’t yet caught up as his ERA (4.24) is nearly a run higher than his xFIP (3.28).  He is yet another guy suffering from an outlier line drive rate as his is also at a career high of 25% after just once topping 19% since he became a full-time starter back in 2007 (21%, 2008).  So if that evens out this year, his hit rate will come down from 10.1 and with it the WHIP will drop and his results will start to resemble his true skill level.  I find that a lot of fantasy managers don’t really like Jackson so if you present them with an opportunity to remove him from their team, they may happily oblige at less than full value.

Mat Latos (SD) – We saw the kind of heights that Latos can reach last year and there aren’t any glaring issues in his profile that suggest he can’t get back there again this year.  The flyball rate has ticked up from 40% to 46% while the groundball rate is down from 45% to 40%, but that hurts a lot less in his home ballpark and a few others within his division where it is reasonable to assume he will find himself pitching throughout the second half.  He isn’t pitching like the sub-3.00 ERA guy from 2010, but you don’t need him to in order for him to be worth your while in a trade.  Test the waters on him in your league and if the Latos manager in your league is in a tight ERA battle, maybe you have someone with a shiny ERA he would be more interested in.

Chad Billingsley (LAD) – Billingsley appears to be coming out of his funk a bit having lowered his ERA from 4.65 on June 15th to 4.15 after Sunday night’s start.  Of course that is still below average with an 87 ERA+ and a buying opportunity is there even if the price hasn’t dropped significantly.  His skills remain rock solid with very little movement in his strikeout and walk rates since 2007. If he can just avoid those full-on implosion starts (6+ ER), he should be able to chisel his ERA down to 3.50ish by season’s end if not better.

Max Scherzer (DET) – Even if he isn’t on your team this year, you probably have an idea of how maddening his season has been.  And now 18 starts in, I can’t imagine a fantasy manager sticking to his guns and making someone pay full price for a 4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  Now he might just say “I have come this far and I’m going to stick it out,” and if so you just move on.  But more likely you can find something even on your down-trodden team that will entice his manager to make a move at something well under preseason costs.

For your end, you are getting a guy who is still posting very strong skills (8.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB), but one who has been bitten hard by gopheritis (1.4 HR/9, 12% HR/FB).  Not only have his home run and home run per flyball rates hit career highs, but he is also allowing a career high 44% flyballs making it that much worse.  The Tigers fired their pitching coach on Sunday and perhaps newly promoted bullpen coach Jeff Jones can figure out what Rick Knapp couldn’t and get Scherzer back on his 2010 second half track.

Brandon Morrow (TOR) – In what was supposed to be another step forward if not a full on breakout season, Morrow has actually regressed in 2011 despite maintaining his 11.0 K/9 and lowering his walk rate from 4.1 to 3.6 BB/9.  Alas his efforts with men on base have continued to plague him as his LOB% has dropped from 69% in 2010 to 65% this year.  The talent is in there and we saw last August what it can deliver as he went 30 innings with a 2.97 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 14.7 K/9 en route to a 3-0 record in five starts.  Roll the dice on that potential without question, especially in a redraft league where you are taking a shot.

Edinson Volquez (CIN) – Another live arm (9.3 K/9) with an ERA that seems to belie his true skill (5.65 ERA, 3.97 xFIP).  A lot of his problems have been tied to home runs.  His insane 18% HR/FB has done a number on his ERA and even if that just evens out to his career mark of 12% (as opposed to league average around 9-10%), his ERA will feel it in a big way.  His ownership rates are way down so he is guy you might be able to get without a trade.  Hell, he may be a big reason you are in this place to begin with in which case just hold on.  The talent is there.  Let’s see if it comes to fore in the second half.

Brett Anderson (OAK) – Originally we were worried he would need Tommy John Surgery, but that appears to be out of the question now.  His return this year is still a question, but we’re throwing a Hail Mary here, so if a contender in your league has him, he might opt to get out from under that risk and get someone into his rotation who is actually pitching every fifth day.

Monday: 06.13.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 12th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s a simple exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.

Sea – Michael Pineda has faced 3 tms a 2nd time w/a 4.66 ERA & 1.19 WHIP, yet still a 10 K/BB. ERA elevated by DET start. Don’t worry.

Det – Austin Jackson starting to drive the ball more w/2 2B & 4 3B since being given a June 1st off-day: .372/.426/.605 during the stretch.

Det2 – Protection or coincidence? Brennan Boesch hitting .307/.350/.551 w/all 8 of his HR & 25 of 34 RBI in 3 spot ahead of Miggy.

Ari – Willie Bloomquist = old Sam Fuld. This is why you don’t buy into these guys & sell em ASAP: .190/.227/.214, 0 SB since return from inj.

Flo – Chris Volstad has a 4.29/7.56 Hm/Rd ERA split, but has only allowed >3 once at home. 6.9 K & 2.4 K/BB = worthy home spot-starter.

Cle – 5/22 I said: J.Tomlin has largest ERA-FIP diff in MLB. He will implode bc .175 BABIPs & 85% LOB%s don’t last. Trade now… for anything.

Cle2 – Since 5/22: Josh Tomlin has 8.61 ERA, 1.78 WHIP in 23 IP allowing 6 ER in last 3 starts & 8-9-10-12 H in the 4 start stretch. Hope you sold.

NYY – A-Rod was hitting .259/.359/.463 a month ago w/5 HR. Since 5/12: .310/.355/.569 w/8 HR, 18 RBI & 3 SB… stop writing him off, folks.

Chc – The Chicago Empty Batting Avgs: Fukudome-Castro-Barney-Aramis all hitting .286 or better. All are pacing 10 or < HR & <75 RBI. Sell.

Phi – Top 3 SP (Halladay-Hamels-Lee) continue to lead Philly (5-0 in Jun) as finally whole lineup has struggled (.639 OPS-24th rk’d) so far.

Bos – The Red Sox have scored more runs in 10 June gms, 87, than Seattle scored in 26 May gms. Bos 9-1 in June despite 1 SP w/sub-4.50 ERA.

Bos2 – Dustin Pedroia sure isn’t playing like he’s injured: .389/.522/.583 w/10 RBI & 7 R in June. Only 1 hitless gm, 4 multi-hit ones.

Tor – Not even sure how Kyle Drabek is in the majors at this point. Has 3+ BB in 13 of 14 starts & more BB than K in 73 awful IP.

Tor2 – By the way, Brad Mills has a 2.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in hitting-crazy Las Vegas w/8.3 K/9 in case you’re looking for obvious replacement.

Tor3 – Eager to see how many K lovers hold strong w/Brandon Morrow. ERA now 5.63 w/boom or bust season: 4 4+ ER starts; 4 2< ER starts.

TB – On April 28th DH, Ben Zobrist had 2 HR, 10 RBI. Since: 2 HR, 11 RBI in 38 G. Hitting .386/.460/.591 in June. Another HR surge upcoming?

Bal – Mark Reynolds is a must-own. 3B is paper thin & power is light league-wide. On pace for 30-90-10(sb), you eat the .203 avg for that.

NYM – Hope you got Angel Pagan when he was reco’d in 5/29 Twids. His own rates were ESPN 35%, CBS 65%, Y! 36% then.

NYM2 – Pagan (cont.) Rates are way up as he’s remained on fire since return: .349 avg, 5 sb, 9 r, 7 rbi in 15 g. Big help to middle of Mets lineup.

Pit – Horrid start buried James McDonald‘s ERA (10.12 after 4 GS), but 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 & 2.0 K/BB in 51 IP (9 GS) since. Buy.

Atl – A modest hot streak for most could be a start of something for Dan Uggla after big wknd: 4-6, 3 BB, 4 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR in the #2 hole.

Hou – How good has SP been in ’11? Bud Norris‘ 3.67 ERA is 100 ERA+. With a 9 K/9, he’s a must-start even on cusp on below avg ERA, though.

Oak – Not yet an all-format must-start, but Scott Sizemore adds depth to ugly 3B wasteland & he’s hitting early on w/OAK: 6-19 in 5 G w/HR & 4 RBI.

CWS – Phil Humber‘s value gets a major boost if recent K stretch is at all legit. 5.5 season K/9, but 7.0 in 22 IP across last 3 GS. Monitor.

Tex – Derek Holland has skills worth betting on despite modest season-long #s. 3 ugly, 3 great in last 6 incl. 7.9 K/9 & 2.9 K/BB in 40 IP.

Tex2 – Holland (cont.) HRs killing him in latest 6 starts having allowed 2 in ea. of 3 blowups & 0 in 3 gems. 24 y/o so more ups & downs coming.

Min – Francisco Liriano‘s last 4: 26 IP, 29 K, 1.38 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 2 W. Still leery, but confidence growing as 3 were rd starts, 4th was v. TEX.

StL – Jon Jay hitting .309 w/some pwr & speed (pacing 10 hr/12 sb). Held .350 BABIP for 105 G in ’10 so maybe .353 this yr can hold. 50%+ avail.

Mil – Prince Fielder has been insane the last month: .330/.458/.742 w/11 HR, 29 RBI, 23 BB to 11 K… SO locked in. Mil 22-7 during stretch.

LAD – Why is Rod Barajas owned so scarcely across all 3 major outlets? On pace for 19 HR. Doesn’t have enough AB for his .233 AVG to hurt much.

Col – CarGo hitting .452/.485/.710 in 7 gms as leadoff hitter incl. 4 straight multi-hit gms in LAD series. Perhaps the jump-start he needs.

LAD-Col – 63 runs scored in 4 gm LAD-Col series, yet just 11 scored in first 4 inn. of all 4 gm. Sweet lives, relievers… 2.6 R/IP in 20 IP from 5th on.

KC – Alex Gordon still on pace for career yr, but it’s built mostly on hot April. Might be getting going for June: .273 AVG & .377 OBP.

LAA – Mark Trumbo has flaws (.299 OBP), but pacing for 27 HR & 15 SB w/potential OF elig. based on lg (6 GP). His value lies in OF, not 1B.

Was  – In 13 GS, Jordan Zimmermann has re-faced opp. 4x. Just an oddity.  Has allowed >2 ER once since May 1st (3 ER @ ATL, but also 11 K).

SD – It’s a whopping 4 gms, but what stands out about Anthony Rizzo early on is the patience. 5 BB & 4.6 pit/PA in first series ever.

SD2 – Rizzo (cont.) He also went 3-for-10 w/a 2B, 3B and HR. Great debut, hope it lasts for the highly touted prospect.

Cin – Scott Rolen carrying an ugly .240/.291/.380 line in 150 AB. Still nice leather, Juan Francisco toting .309 AVG, .819 OPS in AAA.

SF – Twidbits Curse? Touted Tim Lincecum in 5/22 ST’s. Since: 7.66 ERA, 1.59 WHIP in 22 IP. Still 19 K, 2.7 K/BB & 93 MPH FB velo. intact.

Monday: 05.23.2011

Sunday Twidbits: May 22nd

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s a simple exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.

Cin –  Jay Bruce is 12-for-26 w/3 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R in his last 7; hitting .319 w/7 HR in May. Hope you were patient thru slow April (.237, 4 HR).

Cle –  Asdrubal Cabrera has 200% more HRs (9) than last yr (3); topped last yr’s RBI total (29 in 97 G) w/his 31st in his 44th gm.

Cle2 –  A.Cabrera is the latest member of the Paul Sporer Year Early Team; loved him for a breakout. I’m tellin ya, my ’11 rosters=’12 cheatsheets

Cle3 –  Josh Tomlin has the largest ERA-FIP disparity in MLB. He will implode bc .175 BABIPs & 85% LOB%s don’t last. Trade now… for anything.

NYM –  Carlos Beltran hitting .281/.380/.534 is = or > career #s & on pace for 28-88. Scared of inj? Trade for full value as #s warrant nice return.

NYY –  Brett Gardner was hitting .145 on Apr 28 & popping on wires; hitting .369/.455/.492 w/14 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB and 1 HR since.

NYY2 –  Gardner (cont.) – Cut guys after 62 AB & you deserve to lose… regardless of lg. format.

Hou –  With Astros O exceeding expectations, Michael Bourn‘s value is higher than usual. Elite SBer (59 pace), but also on pace for 100 R.

Tor –  Need Ks but can afford a bit of an ERA hit? Buy Brandon Morrow. He’s -0.10 on ERA, but huge in Ks, espec. if cat. is bunched in your lg.

Tor2 –  Jays getting .186/.242/.291 at 3B w/25th-worst D. Brett Lawrie & his .346/.403/.633 line w/11 HR, 29 XBH & 9 SB CAN’T be far off. Speculate.

TB –  Might consider selling Jeremy Hellickson & his wobbly 3.18 ERA. Built upon sub-2.0 K/BB, .250 BABIP & 6% HR/FB (43% FB); 3.81 FIP = danger.

TB2 –  Hellickson (cont.) – If you’re contending in kpr lg w/cheap Helly, even better to trade bc you could net an absolute mint.

Flo –  Leo Nunez has been arguably baseball’s best closer this yr. in a yr when it’s been espec. rocky. His skills last yr. predicted future success.

Tex –  Elvis Andrus was 32-47 SB last yr. along w/.301 SLG causing some to sour on the 22 y/o SS. He’s 15-15 SB & on pace for 55, 3 < than Hanley.

Phi –  Dom Brown punished AAA SPs going .341/.431/.537 in 11 G. Could be worth spec in offense-starved ’11 despite sub-.200 car. avg (in 66 AB).

Det –  DET bullpen is toting a 6.03 ERA w/only Valverde doing well. Schlereth has 3.00 ERA, but sub-1.0 K/BB & 6.58 FIP. Need Benoit to compete.

Pit –  Andrew McCutchen is hitting .311/.378/.554 in May w/3 HR, 12 RBI, 13 R & 3 SB. Slow April is behind him.

Was –  Jason Marquis has rejoined us on Earth in May w/6.26 ERA; control has left him (3.1 in May; 1.3 in Apr). I never believed, no reason to now.

Bal –  Nick Markakis is hitting .329 in May & .433 in last 7. .278 OBP (B.Roberts-.273) out of leadoff spot has stifled RBI opps during stretch.

Col –  Jhoulys Chacin has carried ’10 skill over (same K/BB), added a ton of GB (47% to 59%) & become COL ace. ERA might tick up a bit from 2.66.

Mil –  Jonathan LuCroy isn’t widely owned at any outlet yet has an .863 OPS w/4 HR & 18 RBI in 100 AB; .320 AVG WILL sink, but pwr worth spec.

LAD –  Don’t let a pair of stars fool you, LA is a must-start against for even your marginal SP. NL’s worst offense in May; 2nd-worst all yr by R.

Chw –  Matt Thornton has allowed 1 ER in 5.3 IP across 6 APP in May. Santos has just 1 meltdown, but mark my words: Thornton will close again in ’11.

StL –  Jaime Garcia‘s emergence & rise of Yadier Molina, Jon Jay & Allen Craig on O has more than made up for Waino loss; resulting in NLC lead.

KC –  May has brought Jeff Francoeur‘s descent into Francoeurdom (.239); though HRs stick & could lead to 6yr high. Has real value in pwr-less 11.

Atl –  Remember when Nate McLouth was “back”? Was hitting .287/.384/.417 thru 5/4. Hitting .143/.226/.196  w/1 HR, 1 RBI & 4 R since.

Atl –  If McLouth has a 30+ G stretch of .287 during the season, no one bats an eye, but to start seas. some think it means more. It doesn’t.

LAA –  Jordan Walden has labored thru May (6.75 ERA in 8 IP) w/3 BSv, but also 3 SV & 9 K. Only lefty Scott Downs has excelled, but unlikely for role.

Oak –  Trevor Cahill has allowed >2 ER just once. K rate has come back down (6.3 K/9 in May), but still capable of big K gm (5-7-1-6)

SF –  Remember worrying about Tim Lincecum? Velo is highest in 3 yrs (93), ERA career best (2.06), allowed 0-1 ER in 6 of 10 GS. Remains elite.

Sea –  After posting an 8.56 ERA in first 3 starts, Erik Bedard has a 1.97 ERA & 0.97 WHIP in last 5 w/7.3 K/9 & 2.4 K/BB. Widely available.

SD –  SD has 4 RP w/21+ IP of 1.16 WHIP or better and 2.6 K/BB or better. Doesn’t incl. Bell & Gregerson. Expect major activity at trade deadline.

Min –  Jason Kubel is the only Twins player with 50+ AB w/an OPS over .708 which also means he’s the only one w/an OPS higher than Joey Bats’ SLG!

Ari –  Ryan Roberts is on pace for 25 HR, 21 SB, 81 R and 74 RBI yet still not fully owned. Check your wire. Better than 1.0 K/BB is impressive, too.

Chc –  Matt Garza has used massive K & GB surges (11 K/9, 48% FB-both car. highs) to post solid 3.72 ERA, but HR correction (2.4 HR/FB%) will sting.

Chc2 –  Garza has a sky-high BABIP (.362) bc of terrible IF defense, but regression of BABIP & LOB% will only balance HR/FB at best. Hold, don’t buy

Chc3 –  After another big April, Kosuke Fukudome doing his usual slide back. .226 in May with 1 (!!!) RBI. He had 2 in April. That’s hard to do.

Bos –  Some people hate owning DH/U-only guys so David Ortiz & his 32 HR pace (& .294 AVG) could be had at a nice price. Inquire.

Wednesday: 03.23.2011

2011 Bold Predictions-Part 1

One of the more exciting things to think about as the season approaches is which players are going to have the break through seasons?  Who are going to be this year’s Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Jose Bautista or David Price, Jaime Garcia and Ubaldo Jimenez?  For the past few years I have tried to answer that question with “Bold Prediction” columns over at Fanball.  I could’ve sworn I posted at least the 2009 iteration here, too, but I can’t seem to find after an extensive search.

I’m hardly the only one undertaking this task as Ron Shandler and crew have their Longshot Caucus over at BaseballHQ.com and Matthew Berry has his You Heard Me! piece over at his page on ESPN.  I believe he will be releasing that soon and it’s always a fun read.  Both are, in fact.  Hopefully I am able to deliver to that end as well.

In case you don’t remember from previous versions over at Fanball, the bold predictions column isn’t a bunch of aimless predictions, but rather it looks at a player’s whole profile, in the pros and minors, and tries to project out some best case scenarios for them.  These aren’t surefire bets, they are longshots that need a myriad of factors to go right if they are to happen.  You should reasonably expect between 15% and 20% of them to come to fruition.  The point is to get you thinking outside of the box(score) and not focus so much on what we’ve seen, rather entertain what we could see.

I am not going to have the Brady Anderson 50 home run season-type prediction in here because nothing in his profile would’ve told me that was possible so I wouldn’t project it.  Some of these may be “duhs” to you which simply means you’re already looking at possible outcomes beyond what we’ve seen to date.  In the end if there is a prediction you agree with and it causes you to go the extra buck on a guy and outperforms his cost, but doesn’t necessarily meet the exact figure in the prediction, it’s still a win (i.e. I had Gio Gonzalez projected for 175 Ks last year coming off of a season in which he had a near-6.00 ERA.  He finished with 171 and a 3.23 ERA.  If you bought in, you certainly profited significantly).

Some of the other calls from last year include:

  • Shaun Marcum will pick up right where 2008 left off
  • Luis Valbuena will hit 18 HR and steal 18 bases
  • Juan Pierre will steal 70 bases
  • Kelly Johnson will hit 21 HR and .300
  • Manny Ramirez will hit 40 HR
  • Nate Schierholtz will hit .320 with 15 HR
  • Ubaldo Jimenez wins 20 games
  • Billy Wagner will save 40 games (“And might very well be the league’s best closer.”)
  • Mike Stanton will hit 17 HR
  • Mike Jacobs will hit 35 HR
  • Lastings Milledge will hit 20 HR, steal 20 bases
  • Joey Votto will hit 35 HR, drive in 120 runs

That’s a decent sample of wins and losses.  As you can see, some were incredibly far off the mark by October, but you could have envisioned a scenario where they came true and you wouldn’t have have been utterly baffled as to how like you probably were after Ben Zobrist’s 2009 line of .297, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 91 R and 17 SB.  Yes, I highlighted some of the big wins there.  I definitely did not have a 58% success rate as this sample of 12 might lead you to believe.  In fact, I went 18-for-73 yielding a 25% success rate.  Let’s see if we can top that for 2011:

AL East

Baltimore Orioles:

J.J. Hardy hits a career-high 33 home runs – A bum wrist (and other various bumps & bruises) have sapped his power the last two years after a pair of mid-20s home run seasons in Milwaukee back in 2007 and 2008.  He moves to a very hitter-friendly ballpark and he is reportedly finally 100% healthy and clear of the wrist issues.  He is in the midst of his prime and I’m buying the clean bill of health.  He is going very late in fantasy drafts at the most scarce position on the diamond.  If you out on the “studs” at short in an AL-Only, wait on Hardy.

Zach Britton pitches 120+ quality innings at the big leagues – His absurd sinker and devastating slider are major league ready while his changeup is catching up quickly.  He will almost certainly start the season in AAA, but he shouldn’t be there long.  The O’s rotation is hardly stable as it currently stands so once the Super 2 Deadline passes, he should be inserted into the big league rotation where I think he will be an instant success.  “Quality innings” is a bit vague so to clarify, I’m thinking he can net a 3.50ish ERA (give or take .15 for random variance) with 6.5 K/9 and 2.0+ K/BB.  The strikeouts will rise as he gains experience, but he will utilize that sinker to induce a ton of groundballs as he gains his feel for the big leagues.

Nick Markakis finally has the .300-30-100 season – I made this one last year and I’m headed to the well again.  I was only off by 18 home runs and 40 RBIs last year!  Joking aside, he is just too good of a player to be hitting 12 home runs in a season.  A 30-home run season would be seven higher than his previous career high and 10 more than his last three seasons.  He is still at the front end of his prime so don’t rule out an explosion that would shock the narrow-minded.

Jake Fox’s regular season home run total won’t match his Spring Training total… – … because he’s not good.  He has eight as of this writing and even if he doesn’t hit another one this spring, he still won’t top that figure in the 2011 regular season.  Don’t waste your money.

Boston Red Sox:

Jacoby Ellsbury hits .320 with 16 HR – The speed will be there, too, but with a career high of 70 there is nothing that would be all that bold.  If he met this projection, he would be a Carl Crawford-lite.

Jon Lester posts a 2.50-2.75 ERA with 24 wins en route to an AL Cy Young – I had too many wins-based predictions for pitchers last year which was dumb because I’m always beating the “skill doesn’t always translate to wins” drum so I was leaving the projection in the hands of the offenses, defenses and bullpens when I was really trying to comment on the pitcher’s skill.  I included the 24-win mark in Lester’s prediction because I think he has the appropriate backing of offense, defense and bullpen to reward his increasingly excellent skill.

New York Yankees:

Alex Rodriguez hits 52 home runs – It’s hard to really predict anything that can reasonably be considered bold with A-Rod, but he’s 35 years old and has back-to-back 30 home run seasons leading many to believe he is firmly into his decline phase.  There is some skill erosion, but the decline is much smoother with transcendent players like A-Rod and I think he has at least one more MVP-type season in him.  He is a bona fide bargain at a very thin position as he goes mid-to-late second round in many leagues.  The best part about A-Rod, other than the fact that he’s finally healthy again, is that there’s a very high floor so why not invest?

Nick Swisher hits 38 home runs – He’s actually getting better the deeper he goes into his prime and though he hasn’t topped 29 in the last four seasons and 38 would be a career-high, the potential is there especially in that park.  He’s another guy with a high floor having played 150+ games each of the last five seasons.  The batting average isn’t quite the risk that many make it out to be as his .219 season in 2008 is now the clear outlier of his career.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Evan Longoria hits .324-41-133 – No, I’m not among those freaking out about his 11 homer  drop from 2009 to 2010.  After all, his OPS dropped a whopping .010 to .879.  This guy is a superstar and as such he will have some truly excellent seasons in his career.  I am looking at his age 25 in 2011 as the first such season.  All three figures would be career highs and while it wouldn’t necessarily come out of nowhere as he’s a clear first round pick, it would definitely be a profit-laden season.  Some outlets have questioned his mid-first round status, but I think it’s justified even if he “just” repeats 2010 because third base is so lame after the star cut.

James Shields posts a 3.25 ERA – His base skills actually showed significant improvement in 2010 yet his surface stats were the worst of his career because of an atrocious 1.5 home run rate.  He’s not a flyball-heavy pitcher, in fact he’s had a sub-40% flyball rate each of the last three years, yet when someone got a hold of one it was gone.  His skills are just too damn good for a 5.18 ERA or even the 4.14 ERA from 2009. I’m seeing a major course correction.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Ricky Romero shaves nearly a full walk off of his control rate and takes his ERA below 3.00 – I could see the strikeouts rising up above eight per game, but I’m not betting on it just yet as he seems to understand that inducing groundballs is the more efficient way of pitching.  I love that he has the groundball and strikeout in his arsenal.

Travis Snider completes his Adam Lind Path to Stardom – I hope he doesn’t take every step Adam Lind has after Lind’s 2010.  Both had a strong call up, then regressed in their true rookie season and bounced back to average in another half season of play.  Lind followed it up with an explosive 2009 hitting .305 with 35 HR and 114 RBIs.  I’m not sure Snider will hit .305, but he could also top the 35 homers that Lind hit.  I think a big season is in the offing and he’s two years younger than Lind was during his ascension.  Put Snider down for .270 and 38 bombs.  His RBIs will be determined by batting order.

Brandon Morrow improves his walk rate and cuts over a run off of his ERA – With his incredibly electric stuff, Morrow could accelerate his progression with improved command.  Regardless of how much he can improve his walk rate, I think there is a legitimate ceiling on Morrow’s 2011 because the Jays will cap his innings.  I could see the cap ending up somewhere around 175.  In a surprise announcement today, he will start the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.  Hopefully this curbs his value a few days before one of the biggest draft/auction weekends of the season.  As I mentioned re: Kevin Slowey yesterday, don’t draft for April.  If anything, take advantage of any inherent discount brought on by his missing a start or maybe two.

Next Up: AL Central

The goal is to put these up throughout the day tomorrow.  I didn’t realize how lengthy they were going to get as I originally intended to go AL/NL in a two-parter.  That would’ve been too long (that’s what she said) so I’m breaking it up by division.  I will also have my Middle Reliever Guide out this week.  I was hoping for today, but again this project expanded a bit more than I expected.

Monday: 03.21.2011

18 of My Favorite Pitchers for 2011, Part 1

Any fantasy baseball magazine, book or website is bound to have a sleepers section somewhere.  They are a fantasy staple loved by all and for good reason as everyone is looking to get the next big thing at a great price that will propel them to a title and help them for years to come if they play in a keeper league.

Of course in the Information Age we live in these days, it is really hard to get anything by your leaguemates in terms of a legitimate sleeper.  The more obvious sleepers turn up in seemingly every one of these articles all of sudden making them overvalued or at least just fairly priced sapping the value.  I am not here to bash sleeper articles as I have done them for the last five or six years whether here or at the various outlets I have worked for in the past.  I wanted to try a different approach this year.

Instead of worrying about sleeper label and pretending like we are pulling a fast one on our leaguemates, let’s just look at some guys I like for 2011.  These aren’t necessarily sleepers as many will be firmly entrenched on the radar of your opponents.  Nor are they necessarily breakout candidates, either.  After all, who really knows what defines a breakout?  It can mean 10 different things to 10 different people.

If you read the Starting Pitching Guide then you won’t be surprised by some of these guys as I made it clear how much I liked them there by suggesting you aggressively buy in or go the extra dollar or a host of other ways I used to convey my excitement for them.  Essentially if they are on this list, I like them more than their current projection meaning there is profit to gained.  There isn’t a uniform theme to this piece so let’s just get started with the names and you’ll see what I mean.

1. Cole Hamels – Seeing Hamels on a list like this might come as a surprise after all he doesn’t fall too far out of the top 10 starting pitchers in most drafts.  His inclusion is due to the fact that I have him as a top 5 guy for 2011.  He has Cy Young-quality stuff.  It was a travesty that his pitching led to just 12 wins, but that’s why judging pitchers on wins is foolish.  He is a bit overshadowed by teammates Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, but I think he’s the best bet from a production-to-cost ratio.

2. Tommy Hanson – Like Hamels, this is a superstar in the making, but an overreaction to a 10-11 record from 2010 is depressing his value a bit.  Guys like Hamels and Hanson are the ones who will be my aces in 12-team mixed leagues because I refuse to pay the premium attached to the Lincecums and Felixes of the world.  If you’re looking for guys to take Ubaldian leaps from good to great, target Hanson and this next guy…

3. Chad Billingsley – Noticing a trend with these first three guys?  Billingsley also had a record that belied his true value going 12-11 for the second straight season masking his return to 2008’s 2.5 K/BB and a career best 0.4 HR/9.  Are you surprised to learn that he is just 26 years old?  In a standard 12-team mixer, I’m building my hitting base filling in some scarcity fields like shortstop (if I can get Hanley or Tulow), third base and outfield (remember, we need five) while taking advantage of the first base depth with those first 6-8 picks then pairing Hanson and Billingsley as my 1-2 punch.  My offense is going to be better than the guy who took Halladay in round 1 or 2 and my pitching is going to nearly on par and potentially better even if he paired a Sabathia or Weaver with him using yet another early round pick.

4. Brandon Morrow – I think he is getting a little trendy raising his value, but that doesn’t dissuade me.  Last year, I loved Gio Gonzalez and Jonathan Sanchez to make big leaps forward and they didn’t let me down.  Morrow is my guy of that class this year.  If he can shave a full walk off of his rate like Gonzalez did, he would be near 3.0 and if it didn’t cost him over two strikeouts in the process (as it did Gonzalez), he can be truly elite.

5. Ricky Romero – I love me some Blue Jays this year.  I will lift a quote from myself from the Guide re: Romero, “Romero meets the three criteria of Sporer Trifecta of Excellence (patent pending) with a strong strikeout rate (7.5 K/9), a truly elite groundball rate (55% career) and an above average changeup (though it was valued higher in ’09)”.  He has the stuff to take a step forward, but even a 2010 repeat has value at the cost I’m seeing for him in the two drafts I have already done and the expert leagues that have already taken place.

6. Hiroki Kuroda – A victim in the W-L column going just 11-13 last year despite a very strong skill set.  He has managed three straight sub-3.80 ERA seasons in the majors despite failing to reach even 70% LOB% let alone the league average 72% mark.  His age (36) undoubtedly scares some off, but nothing in his profile warrants fear (50%+ GB rate, 2.2 or better BB/9 and improving K/9 reached 7.3 last year).  He comes cheaper or at the same cost as the likes Matt Garza and Tim Hudson despite a more stable set of skills and even a tick of upside if that LOB% bumps up to average.

7. Edwin Jackson – Not much love out there for Jackson for some reason.  Maybe because it took him so long to begin paying any sort of dividends on his elite prospect status (4th in baseball in 2004) or because he teased and tantalized with so many false starts prior to that breakout year in Detroit back in 2009.  In Don Cooper I trust.  In 75 innings he righted Jackson’s season from the disaster it was in Arizona assisting Jackson to eight quality starts out of 11 including a run of three in which he struck out 11, 10 and 11.  I think Cooper and the Sox will finally extract the best out of Jackson for a full season returning a sharp profit on his current value.

8. James McDonald – This is the third year of me driving the McDonald Bandwagon.  He’s just getting going after a trade to the Pirates finally got him into a rotation so I’m not going anywhere now.  He went for $4 in NL Tout Wars over the weekend.  He is the kind of endgame play that can yield $10+ dollars of profit and be integral to a championship run.  Frankly I’m surprised he was so cheap as he has popped up on a lot of sleeper lists this offseason, much to my chagrin.

9. Jordan Zimmermann He got a nice little 71-inning (31 in the majors) tune up last year coming back from Tommy John Surgery displaying 99% of his velocity from 2009 (92 of 93 MPH) and posted some decent stats albeit in smallish sample.  I am quite intrigued by what he can do in a full season (though a full season this year may mean  approx. 170 innings) having displayed strikeout an inning stuff throughout his minor league career as well as the 91 innings from his rookie year.  Injury returns are often a great source of profit and Zimmermann will be a prime candidate in this field for 2011.

Tomorrow’s portion of the list will feature nine names geared more towards single leagues and deeper mixed leagues.  That doesn’t mean they are entirely out of play for 10 and 12 mixed leaguers, especially if you have a reserve roster or taxi squad, but a lot of those leagues will have several of these guys on the waiver wire after the draft.

Ed. Note – if you’re wondering where Dan Haren is on this list, I figured he was too obvious to include.  If you’ve been reading my work at all this offseason, participated in the chat I hosted a few weeks back or talked with me via Twitter, you know how much I love this guy for 2011 (and beyond for that matter).  He is an unheralded ace with one of the best and most stable skills profiles in all of baseball.  He was tied with Max Scherzer as the 6th most expensive starter in AL Tout Wars ($20), a bargain in my book.  I have him 3rd-best in the AL behind Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester, just ahead of Justin Verlander.