Posts tagged ‘Curtis Granderson’

Monday: 07.25.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Outfield, Part 2

Part 2 of the Outfield Keeper Building Blocks and the final piece of the series (pitchers are a different story altogether that I will address at some point in the future).

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

Third Base, Addendum

Outfield Part 1

Curtis Granderson (NYY, 30) – Still checking in as a 6th-7th round pick in most leagues, Granderson was hardly “cheap” this spring, but he has definitely exceeded expectations performing as one of the very best players in all of baseball.  Though he has seen an uptick in his HR/FB rate every year since 2007, this year’s jump was from 15% to 21%, easily the largest in the five year span.  That is the biggest change in his profile along with major improvements against left-handers.

I think he can be a low-to-mid 30s home run hitter on a yearly basis, but I would be really surprised if he continued at his 44 home run pace of 2011 the following season and beyond.  Even as “only” a 30 HR/25 SB guy, he is easily a big time keeper especially as the runs scored and driven in should remain plentiful in the Yankee lineup.

Carlos Quentin (CWS, 28) – Imagine if he could stay healthy.  He certainly wouldn’t be a 16th round pick like he was this year, but with a career-best of 131 games played in his three years a regular Quentin is a risk.  He is on pace for a new career high at 151 this year and he is on pace for a 30-100 season at the same time.  With power in shorter supply these days, a 30 home run guy at his cost is a nice piece to tab as a keeper.

Logan Morrison (FLO, 25) – Interesting season for LoMoMarlins so far this year.  He looked like a contact hitter with a great eye in his 62-game debut last year (.283/.390/.447), but his meager two home run output left his fantasy value low this preseason.  He has traded the batting average (.253 AVG) and walks (.325 OBP) for some more power with 14 home runs in 79 games so far this year.  I was kind of hoping he’d simply add the power instead of giving up something for it.

His 14% walk rate from 2010 has dipped to 9% and it wasn’t just a small sample of patience that may have misled his fantasy managers as he posted rates of 16% and 18% in the minor leagues in 2010 and 2009, respectively.  All in all, with less than a season of games under his belt yet (141), the 23-year old’s profile is definitely one worth buying into as I think he will become someone who can hit around .275, an on-base percentage about 100 points (10%) higher and high-teens to low-20s power production, in other words a strong OF2 or elite OF3 depending on how you build your team in a given season.

Adam Jones (BAL, 25) – His 2010 season was a bit of a regression considering he put up the same numbers he had in 2009 despite playing 30 more games.  Unfortunately his 2009 breakout was cut short and he ended up playing just 119 games, but managed 19 home runs, 10 stolen bases and a .277/.335/.457 line.  In 96 games so far this year, he has just about equaled or bettered all that 2009 breakout campaign with 17 bombs, six stolen bases and a .284/.325/.478 line putting him on pace for 30-99-12.

It feels like he has been around forever since this is his fourth full season, but he is just 25 years old and the best is yet to come with Jones.  Just the latest example of how the growth patterns of young studs are unpredictable and why you shouldn’t expect the world, but also shouldn’t give up on them just because of a down season.  Don’t assume that a few similar years before age 25 is what you can expect throughout their prime, you could very miss out on the breakout you were expecting a few years earlier.

Names of Note:

Jacoby Ellsbury’s value varied wildly league-to-league so if yours was one where he was heavily undervalued, then he obviously becomes a part of this list and a major piece to go after.  Of course, if you’re trading with a contender, you’re really going to need to give him the world & then some as removing Ellsbury from his lineup is a huge dent.  Since he still went as high as the late 2nd round in plenty of leagues, he wasn’t included on the list.

Domonic Brown & Jose Tabata are a pair of guys who will come very cheap if you’re trading with a contender and giving up some big pieces to help their team.  You shouldn’t have to make them the centerpiece of the deal in most situations, but I still like them to make a 2012 impact and they should fit nicely as your last keeper in a mixed league.  Both are power-speed combos who have showed a sharp batting eyes in their limited samples for 2011.

Brett Gardner is a much better real player than all-around player.  He is a great base-stealer, but unless you play in an OBP league, that’s really all he does thus he isn’t someone I would chase in a trade.  Especially since the Yankees continue to misuse him badly.

In just about any other park, Cameron Maybin would make a list like this, but Petco Park makes it really hard to see him much more than 10-12 home runs right now.  He is still just 24 and could reasonably add some more bulk to his 6’3” frame and overcome some of the challenges that Petco presents when hitting for power.  He definitely has some keeper value, but for what we are looking at here which is trading our best non-keeper pieces for the best 2012 keeper pieces, he doesn’t fit.

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Monday: 06.20.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 19th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an 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.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

Det – Det bullpen had 6.03 ERA on 5/22; now at 4.65 after a rebuild. In June: 2.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 , 2 K/BB in 46 IP.

Col – Charlie Blackmon has shown speed right away w/5 SB in 12 G, but he has some pop as evidenced by .572 AAA SLG. Think Shane Victorino 07-09.

Pit – Garrett Jones is hitting .394 in June (13-33) & has started 6 of last 8 GP. Might finally have his job back; cheap pwr source

Pit2 – Why is Jones doing a French Stewart impersonation in his ESPN pic? http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/28763/garrett-jones

Cle – Carlos Carrasco is on fire the last month: 2.8 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.4 K/BB. High GB% mitigates low K. Also 7 K/9, 3.4 K/BB in last 3.

Tor – Since breaking his L-streak, Jo-Jo Reyes is 3-1 w/3.21 ERA. Don’t be fooled though, 1.32 WHIP & 1.5 K/BB thanks to ugly 4.8 K/9.

Tor2 – Reyes was better when he was losing: 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB in first 49 IP of season. Avoid for now.

Cin – Preached caution w/Johnny Cueto few wks back for a few reas. incl. low K/9. Still lucky, but 6.5 K/9 & 3 K/BB in last 4. Still sell, but less worried.

LAA – Angels have a league-worst 4 (!) HR in June so far. 28 players have 4+ HRs. It’s a small miracle that they’re even 5-10 this month.

NYM – Jonathon Niese has allowed >2 ER just once since April 14th (2.65 ERA in 71 IP, 6.9 K/9) after allowed 5+ in 2 of his first 3 starts.

NYM2 – Need a cheap RP fill-in? Bobby Parnell has been excellent since returning from the DL: 1.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 5.5 K/BB in 8 IP.

Tex – Thru May Neftali Feliz had 9/14 K/BB in 19 IP w/10 SV. In June so far, he has 8 K, 1 BB in 7 IP w/4 SV. Appears to have course-corrected himself.

Atl – If you took both Jonny Venters & Craig Kimbrel to lock up ATL SVs, you’d have a 1.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 101 K, 6 W & 21 SV in 78 IP.

Atl2 – Vent/Kimb cont. That’s as many Ks as Tim Lincecum, better ERA than any SP, a WHIP equal to Dan Haren & 4th-most Ws… oh and most SVs in MLB.

Bal – Adam Jones is having a strong yr, but perennially wears down w/12 & 14 of his 19 HR the last 2 yrs in the 1st half. Has 10 so far. Sell?

Was – Michael Morse‘s Apr: .211/.253/.268 & cut in many lgs. Whoops!! Since: .364/.418/.729 w/12 HR, 33 RBI & 24 R. DON’T give up after 1 month.

Mil – Randy Wolf is the ultimate matchup guy w/8 starts of 65+ game scores & 6 sub-50s. Some of his best: Pit, Hou2x, Chc, Phi; worst: Cin, StL

Bos – Marco Scutaro is worth a pickup, espec. w/Jed Lowrie on the DL. He’s hitting .371/.421/.486 in June since returning. Nice Runs Scored option.

Flo – All but 3 regulars are at .254 or below in June for the Marlins; only 1 SP w/an ERA below 4.82 and that’s how you get a 1-17 record.

TB – Alex Cobb struggled in 1st 2 MLB starts w/7 ER & 8 BB in 11 IP, but he’s looked sharp since: 1.96 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB in 18 IP.

TB2 – Johnny Damon‘s pace of .277 AVG, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 16 SB, 74 R is somehow not good enough for Y! (54%) & CBS (80%) leaguers. Check your wire.

SD – I don’t care if he has 2 W all yr, how is Tim Stauffer so avail. (C 57%, Y! 40%, E 17%)? On pace for 207 IP w/7.1 K/9 & 3.2 K/BB. Buy NOW!

Min – No Twins pitcher w/5+ IP has an ERA over 3.27 in June. Francisco Liriano‘s last 33 IP (thru Sun.) 1.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB.

KC – Alcides Escobar is hitting .431/.453/.569 in last 14 G w/7 SB. Cheap speed at thin position if you need someone: E 47%, C 33%, Y! 19%.

StL – Since his Coors Collapse on 5/28, Jaime Garcia has 2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 & 4.5 K/BB in 24 IP. In other words, it was a blip.

Hou – Wandy Rodriguez allowed 4-5-7 in 3 of 1st 5 GS (5.40 ERA). Since: 1.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.1 K/BB in 48 IP; 8 K/9 in last 26 IP.

Hou2 – Wandy (cont.) He’s not 100% rostered at any of major outlets, so don’t assume he’s owned in your league: E 95%, C 90%, Y! 77%

Hou3 – Not sure why Mark Melancon is so avail. He’s been great & Brandon Lyon is now out for yr: E 77%, Y! 50%, C 41%. Free saves!

LAD – Only 1 Dodgers SP has an ERA below 4.41 (Kuroda) & only 2 are below 5.52 (Lilly) thus a 5-11 June record for the tm.

LAD2 – One elite, one brand new, but I’d buy either Clayton Kershaw (5.95) & Rubby de la Rosa (5.52) if any was selling based on June swoon.

SF – Madison Bumgarner had a 7.79 ERA & 2.06 WHIP on 4/23. Since then he’s been among MLB’s best: 2.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 4 K/BB in 67 IP

SF2 – MadBum (cont.) Not 100% owned at 3 major outlets: E 92%, C 88%, Y! 67%. Check your lg to be sure. 3-8 W-L may offer discount via trade

Oak – A perennial 2H player, Coco Crisp is on pace for 47 SB along w/modest but useful 77 R, 50 RBI & 5 HR.

Oak2 – Crisp (cont.) Career .276 hitter, hit 8 HR in 75 G last yr. could surge in midsummer. Still available in many lgs. Buy even if just for the SBs.

Phi – Good SP is infectious as Vance Worley‘s 3.41 ERA is highest in the non-Blanton division of Philly SPs. Hamels-Halladay-Lee have 9+ K/9. Sick

Sea – Ichiro coming out biggest slump of his career? 7-game hitting streak w/6 multi-hit gms: .467/.484/.667 and 4 SBs. Could be in for absurd 2H.

CWS – Alexei Ramirez needed 6-for-13 rally at end of Apr. to finish .265/.318/.382. Rarely does well early. Since: .318/.380/.468.

CWS2 – Alexei (cont.) Know who you’re drafting. Career OPS in Apr: .580; only other month below .780 OPS is Sept at .705, he hates cold weather.

Ari – Daniel Hudson had 5.64 ERA in Apr; skills said much better. Skills win! Since: 7-1, 2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 4.5 K/BB. 6+ IP every GS.

NYY – Curtis Granderson‘s career yr is fueled by improvements v. LHP: .277/.337/.651–career .221/.281/.376. 20 HR v. LHP in 1st 5 yrs; 9 in ’11.

Chc – Carlos Marmol since 6 ER in 0.3 IP disaster: 1.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13 K/9, 4.3 K/BB in 9 IP. Was a blip, but nothing to worry about at all.

Chc2 – Is Doug Davis a home spot starter? 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 in 23 IP incl. start v. Yankees. The 3.9 BB/9 suggests some caution.

 

Friday: 02.4.2011

Daily Dose – February 4th

A quick dose today as we prepare for snow here in Austin.  Yes, snow.  It’s still something of a novelty here, but it’s not all that rare as we’ve had snow a couple of times in the last few years.  Of course it will still paralyze the city and no one will have any clue how to drive in it.  By the way, we are looking at 1-2 inches… yep, that’s enough to paralyze the city.  OK summer, you can come back anytime now.  HURRY!!!

Beyond the Boxscore’s Daniel Moroz (@CamdenCrazies) put together a great piece on the worst 30 home run seasons in baseball.  I was sad to see that Curtis Granderson made the list for his 2009 season, but at least he was one of the “best”.  It is pretty stunning how awful the worst of the bunch was in overall value (or severe & utter lack thereof).

One of the biggest questions in fantasy baseball circles this offseason is around the projections of Jose Bautista for 2011.  After his insane breakout 54 home run season, everyone is interested to see if it was a total flop or if he is a legitimate top power hitter in the league now.  Jon Paul Morosi (@jonpaul) has piece out explains why he thinks Bautista shouldn’t be ignored.  As for his fantasy value, expectations are the key.  If you are looking for another 54 home runs, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed, but if you want 32-36 with 105-115 RBIs, a decent batting average and a great on-base percentage (some leagues use OBP), then Bautista is your guy.  He’s not Brady Anderson 2.0, folks.

Royals Authority writer Nick Scott (@brokenbatsingle) asks whether it was the year of the pitcher or the year of the smaller bat?  An interesting query that takes an in depth look at how a small change could’ve had a significant impact.  Scott makes clear that the bat change was likely a contributing factor to the decreased offense we saw in addition to other theories floated as opposed to a singular reason.

Oh no!!  One of my favorite players went to one of my least favorite teams.  Lastings Milledge has joined the Chicago White Sox, hated rival of my beloved Detroit Tigers.  I can’t believe Milledge is already in “minor league contract” territory.  I love that guy and I really thought he was going to be awesome.  I guess at 26 he can still have a career resurgence (or I guess it would be a career surgence in his case).  As author Satchel Price points out in a Milledge comparison, this proves that while their farm system may be baseball’s best, the Royals front office remains horribly inept when it comes to free agent signings.  I’m pulling for Lastings as long as he doesn’t rip my Tigers.

I’m not sure when this became available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if NBC saw Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness go viral and then decided to make it into a poster they could sell for $19.95.  Parks & Recreation just might be the best show on TV right now and it’s due in large part to Ron Swanson.

Not only is Parks & Rec hilariously awesome, but it also features the lovely Rashida Jones who I have been a huge fan of since Boston Public back in 2000.  She was in some things after BP, but I don’t recall seeing her again until 2008 when she was on a pile of crap show called Unhitched which was also on FOX.  I watched it strictly because of her.  Since then she had a recurring role on The Office and I’d say that really set her career in motion with movies roles (I Love You, Man, The Social Network) and P&R all coming shortly after her Office arc.  She’s awesome:

The new book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won has drawn mixed reviews from what I have read on Twitter.  I’ve seen some say it’s fantastic and a must read while others question the methodology behind some of the studies.  It’s on my list to read, but I’m waiting for it to come out in iBooks so I can use my iTunes giftcard to get it.  That’s more information than you need, but I can’t recommend it one way or another right now, but I can recommend this New York Times article on the Freakonomics blog where the authors answer questions about the book.

With Spring Training (thankfully) drawing nearer, Alex Remington of FanGraphs wonders if the Grapefruit League may soon become a relic thanks in large part to the sprawling stadium locations in Florida that pale in comparison to cluster, convenient facilities in Arizona.  Having been to both sites (Arizona for the Fall League only), it’s hard not to see Alex’s point.  When I went to see my Tigers in Lakeland, it wasn’t easy to plan on hitting other games.  The only other venue I made it out to was Tampa to see the Yankees and that was 45 minutes away.  It’s just a much better set up in Arizona.

Even though I’m more of an SVU fan myself, this statistical breakdown of the first 10 seasons of Law & Order is fantastic.  I always enjoy stuff like this if for no other reason than to respect the effort put into such a creation.  The author ends with his rendition of the famous L&O sound which he put down as “Ka-CHUNG”.  I’ve never heard that way, for me it’s always been “Dun-Dun!”

It was a sad day for Amanda Rykoff (@amandarykoff) as Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.  Though she took the news pretty hard, she mustered enough energy to put together a Farewell for the Yankee legend.  I’m about as far from a Yankees fan as you can get, but Pettitte was always one of the Yankees I liked as he helped me in multiple fantasy seasons.  I don’t think he’s Hall of Fame despite a great career.  It has nothing to do with the HGH issue, I just don’t think his body of work merits a Hall plaque.

And those who quote his or any other Yankees’ accumulated postseason numbers (most innings, most wins, whatever…), just stop.  That has more to do with circumstance than it does any significant skill.  Pettitte was strong in the playoffs, I’m not denying that don’t quote me accumulation stats as reasons why he should be in the Hall.  There just isn’t a HOF case for him.  Not now.  Not ever.  He will get more consideration than he deserves both because he is a Yankee and because of the postseason success, but in the end I think the writers will do the right thing and leave him out.

It’s hard not to laugh when Justin Bieber booed essentially just for being Justin Bieber as he is here:

And spare me with this idiot crying.  Shut the hell up, clown.  (Hat tip to Sharapova’s Thigh [@sharapovasthigh] for the video.)

Blog recommendation: If you’re a baseball fan and you’re not reading Buster Olney’s (@Buster_ESPN) blog daily then you’re missing out.  It is behind the Insider pay wall, but ESPN has made that well worth it in the past few years.  Olney, Keith Law (@keithlaw) and Chad Millman (@chadmillman) alone make it worth the money, but that’s far from all of the valuable material you get with it.  You can get Insider for $26 and it comes with a subscription to ESPN Magazine.  That’s a pretty great deal.  No, ESPN did not pay me for this plug.  I just think it’s a great product.  And if you’ve followed me on Twitter for any amount of time, you know I’m not afraid to tear into the Worldwide Leader when they deserve it (which is often).

Programming Note: I doubt anyone really cares, but since I write this at night I’m going to start dating it for the following day.  A lot of times I’m not finished until after midnight anyway and it just feels kinda weird promoting a piece dated as yesterday even though it’s only a few hours old when I post the link on Twitter in the morning.  So basically there will be no Daily Dose for February 3rd as this one will be the for Friday February 4th.

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.

Monday: 01.25.2010

Is Markakis Overrated? Not So Fast.

There was a piece yesterday at AOL Fanhouse by an RJ White suggesting that Nick Markakis is overrated based on his average draft position (ADP) of 49th overall and 12th amongst outfielders. He’s surrounded by Adam Lind (43rd) ahead of him and a group including Josh Hamilton (51st), Curtis Granderson (53rd), Adam Dunn (54th) and BJ Upton (58th) shortly after him. His career highs are .306, 106 R, 23 HR, 112 RBI and 18 SB. All but the runs and average came in 2007 while the other two were in 2008. Last year was his worst in the last three, but he still managed a .293-94-18-101-6 line.

I used to be driving the bandwagon that this guy was overvalued and I’d tell anyone who would listen. My biggest issue was that I didn’t see him (and still don’t) getting back to that 18-stolen base level anytime soon and yet many of his profiles on websites and in magazines kept hearkening back to that 2007 total implying it was bound to come back that season. I came around on him when I noticed something this fall. I plugged Markakis’ lows from AVG-R-HR-RBI into Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index looking for occurrences of players reaching each of those thresholds in the last three years. The line, by the way, is .293-94-18-87. A line I don’t think many would consider AMAZING by any stretch but recognize as solid.

The results are what brought me back to Markakis’ side. In addition to Markakis, only Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday have hit those numbers or better in each of the last three seasons. Only David Wright and Alex Rodriguez have done so twice while 21 others have done it once. It’s hard to put a price on that kind of consistency, especially in this game we play let alone on the field for the Orioles. In Mr. White’s article he touts the merits of Carlos Lee (68th) and Andre Ethier (71st), two fine outfielders, as markedly better picks than Markakis. How do they stack up to Markakis? For Lee, he discusses how he is just as capable of hitting .300 as Markakis while maintaining more power (though he recognizes the 4-year decline for Lee). What he misses is that Lee is 33 and likely to continue that decline or plateau for a year or two more while Markakis is 26 years old and entering his prime. It’s not at all unreasonable to believe that Markakis will return to the low 20s or even begin to set new career highs. Another miss from Mr. White is the runs scored column. In 2008, Lee scored just 61 runs but could be given a pass having played just 115 games, but in 160 games last year he managed just 65. I’ll grant that the category is more of a team-dependent one than individual, but it still counts and a 30-run split is significant. I’d bet on the Baltimore lineup before the Houston one if for no other reason than the growth of Matt Wieters thus giving the edge to Markakis in runs scored again.

Ethier is a different matter whereby he matches up better with Markakis statistically, but he also proves my point about Markakis’ power totals likely jumping up in the coming season. To wit, Ethier hit 11, 13, 20 in his first three seasons (spanning ages 24-26) before exploding for 31 last year. His AB/HR in that period was 31.1 and then 19.2 in 2009. Markakis has hit 16, 23, 20 and 18 in his first four seasons (spanning ages 22-25) with an AB/HR of 30.7. With Ethier’s power boost came a sizeable drop in batting average. He averaged .299 for three years before hitting .272, a total of 17 hits based on his 2009 at-bat total. Markakis has hit .298 the last four seasons, but it’s not out of the realm that a power boost would also come at the cost of some batting average. The two were neck-and-neck in runs and RBIs last year, but it was Ethier’s first season topping 90 in both. This is where Markakis’ consistency comes into play again as he’s scored 90+ each of the past three seasons and been below 100 RBIs just once with 87 in 2008.

I think Ethier stands up vs. Markakis, especially 22 picks later. But that brings up one of my least favorite things about ADP comparison articles: lack of context. Twenty-two picks seems like a lot, but Markakis at 49 is the beginning of the 5th round while Ethier at 71 is the end of the 6th. If you have that 49th pick, you drafted first overall giving you 1, 24, 25, 48, 49, 72, 73. Your only chance at Markakis, Ethier and even Lee is that 49th pick based on ADP so the ADPs of Lee and Ethier are irrelevant at that point. When judging the three on their statistical merit alone, I think Lee gets removed from contention based on age-induced decline. Now you’re comparing an ultra-consistent 26 year old entering his prime with an in-his-prime 27 year old who just showed the excellence he is capable of with a career year in 2009. It’s a pick ‘em at that point. The important thing to note is that draft trends suggest that a pick in the top of the 5th is likely your only chance at one of these guys. The other may fall to you with the last pick of the 6th, but it’s a risky bet.

Markakis definitely isn’t being overrated at this juncture in the mock draft season so much as he has been the preferential pick to a host of other comparable outfielders. I’d certainly recommend against Mr. White’s recommendation of taking Lee or Manny Ramirez (62nd) for age-related reasons while Ethier is a coinflip and a reasonable case can be made for either. Among the other in proximity not mentioned by Mr. White, I’d take Markakis over Hamilton and Michael Bourn (64th) without question, I’d take Granderson before Markakis and Dunn, Upton and Nelson Cruz (67th) would depend on my team makeup at that point in the draft. Markakis doesn’t have a standout category like Dunn’s power, Upton’s speed or Cruz’s healthy mix of both, but he also doesn’t have a gaping deficiency like Dunn’s average, Upton’s average and RBIs and Cruz’s runs scored and batted in totals. I think it is that lack of a standout category that causes some to believe Markakis is overrated as evidenced by the fact that Mr. White only looks at his power as compared to Lee and Ethier.

This game is about the balance between accumulating value and mitigating risk whenever possible making a guy like Markakis a strong, but unheralded and often underrated pickup on a team. Not only does his consistent track record alleviate risk, but there is also a viable upside that could come to fruition this season and increase the value of the pick thereby covering for some of the risk that will invariably reside on your roster. Not every pick, in fact not many picks will draw the oohs and ahhs from your leaguemates and make you feel like the smartest person in the room, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad picks or reaches.