Posts tagged ‘Edinson Volquez’

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.

Thursday: 05.26.2011

Fixing the Contenders – National League

Continuing onto the National League, let’s take a look at some moves the contenders could reasonably entertain in the coming months to patch holes and solidify their team to assert themselves for the entire year.

Fixing the Contenders – AL

A note from the AL piece: I forgot to point out that Hiroki Kuroda has a full no trade clause that could muddy things up if the Dodgers were looking to trade him this summer.  Thanks to Ray Guilfoyle from FakeTeams.com for letting me know that and also suggesting that Ryan Dempster could be an option for the Yankees.  I agree with Ray that he would be a nice fit as well.  Hell, maybe they will go for both.  They have enough minor league pieces to acquire both without decimating their system.

San Francisco Giants (27-22)

Team Needs: C, SS, bats in general

Had I not had plans last night to see The Hangover 2 (which was very funny, not as good as 1, but no one should expect it to be), this section would have looked a whole lot different because star catcher Buster Posey was lost for the season during a 12-inning battle against the Florida Marlins.  His leg was destroyed while blocking the plate against Scott Cousins and their anemic offense has now lost its best player.  Posey wasn’t hitting like he did last year, but the bar to be the best Giants hitter hasn’t been terribly high in 2011.  Posey had a .284/.368/.389(!) line with four home runs and 21 RBIs, not bad, but not quite the .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs stud we saw a year ago, either.

This is a devastating blow to a team that desperately needed hitting before the injury.  The Giants could dial up the Cincinnati Reds and inquire about some of the amazing depth at catcher that the NL Central reigning champs have both on their team and in their system.  Or is that a fit?  Because Posey is a franchise player who will be back next year, the Giants don’t need to go big and trade for Devin Mesoraco, the 23-year old prospect who is following up a breakout 2010 with a big 2011 at AAA.

The Reds are currently top five in the majors in catcher production between Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.  With Mesoraco waiting in the wings, they could afford to move one of them to address one of their needs at the same time.  Hernandez (.327/.375/.558)  is a 35-year old backstop in the last year of his contract while Hanigan (.253/.349/.347) is 30 and just starting a very team-friendly 3 year/$4-million dollar deal so I think the Reds would be more likely to deal Hernandez even though he is hitting better right now.

The Reds have the 2nd-worst team ERA from their starters (4.95) despite coming into the season with what seemed like a surplus of starters.  For either catcher, the Reds aren’t going to draw one of San Francisco’s top four arms (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner).  Ryan Vogelsong has been such a revelation and the 33-year old journeyman is pitching out of his mind with some pretty strong skills to back up his pint-sized ERA and WHIP (1.77/1.06).  Given that Barry Zito would be too expensive to trade, whether for the Giants (who might be forced to pay a bulk of the cash) or the receiving team (who would have that albatross contract on their books), Vogelsong might be the one to move.

Of course they can’t give up two of their top five arms and there is another move that is being rumored that would fit much better in the short and long term meaning they need to either to go with Eli Whiteside (the current backup), search within their system, hit the scrap heap of the free agent pool (Bengie Molina anyone?) or make a smaller trade with someone.

TRADE: Prospect Ryan Verdugo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ryan Doumit – The Pirates farm system is getting better, but they need to keep stockpiling arms as their lineup is starting to come together and a lot of their pitching prospects are years away.  Verdugo is a solid lefty who shifted back to the rotation after three years of relieving as a pro and he is having a strong season with 44 strikeouts in his 41 innings of work.

Doumit, meanwhile, has seemingly been on the block for several years now as his star has dimmed since a breakout 2008 season that portended big things on the way that never ended up coming to fruition.  He’s an adequate bat that would be a significant upgrade over staying in house with Whiteside.

So this overwhelming devastation may heighten San Francisco’s focus on filling their shortstop void that they inexplicably thought was filled with the Miguel Tejada acquisition this offseason.  Pablo Sandoval’s injury mercifully pulled Tejada from the most important defensive spot on the field, but it left Mike Fontenot there.

Overshadowed in today’s Posey news is that Fontenot is now on the disabled list, too, leaving them with Emmanuel Burris and rookie Brandon Crawford at the position.  From awful to equally awful to the most awfulest everz at a very important position.  Two key positions obliterated in one fateful night.

Focusing efforts on a certain star shortstop who is available, the Giants should make a blockbuster deal to fill this massive void now and in the future.

TRADE: Bumgarner, Crawford, Clayton Tanner and Darren Ford to the New York Mets for Jose Reyes – That feels like it should be enough, but it also feels like it could be too much.  I’m just not 100% sure where Reyes’ value is at this point.  The Mets’ farm is garbage right now so a big time major league arm and some solid pieces to stock the high minors for a piece like Reyes seems viable on their end, too.

Obviously to give up a huge arm like Bumgarner, a top 10 prospect from their org. and two other pieces, the Giants would have to gain some sort of assurance for themselves that Reyes isn’t just a rental.  You don’t take that kind of hit to your rotation for a few months of an electric table-setter.  It’s not like he can go on a Manny Ramirez run circa 2008.

If Reyes were just a rental then I think you lop off Bumgarner immediately and then perhaps that trio is enough.  Or maybe they replace Crawford with Ehire Adrianza, who is also a shortstop prospect that checks out a bit higher and is just 22 years old.

If a move for Reyes can realistically be done without devastating their current 25 to the point where there is no net gain, then they really should entertain it.  Crawford being instantly successful would be a huge upset considering he was a 24-year old in High-A who had reached AA in 2009 and 2010 yet performed terribly both times and has yet to hit AAA.

He was definitely raking (.322/.412/.593), but he was a 24-year old in the Cal League, so he should have been hitting well.  The Giants are rolling the dice with him because they have limited options at this point.

Moves:

  1. C – Trade Verdugo for Doumit
  2. SS – Trade Bumgarner, Crawford, Tanner & Ford for Reyes

Atlanta Braves (28-23)

Team Need: OF

When was the last time the Braves had three viable outfielders play a majority of their games in left, center and right?  It has been quite some time, but it looks like 2003 when they had Chipper Jones in left, Andruw Jones in center and Gary Sheffield in right.  All three posted .851 or better OPS marks while Chipper and Sheff were at .920 and 1.023, respectively.  Since then, they have pieced things together at one and sometimes two of the spots and injuries have put them right back there again in 2011.

They needed outfield help before Jason Heyward went out, but then he and Nate McLouth hit the disabled list together leaving Martin Prado as the last man standing out there.  Lucky for them they have a stupid amount of pitching both at the major league level and throughout their minor leagues which should allow them make a move with ease.

The problem is there is one major and a couple strong bats out there, but they are all corner outfielders.  With Prado in left and Heyward out, but expected back and in right, centerfield is their biggest need and there just aren’t a ton of options out there.  And I can’t see them trading with their hated rivals, the New York Mets, to get Carlos Beltran.  Plus Beltran probably works best in a corner to conserve his health.

That really limits their options unless something opens up from now until July.  As such, I could see them biding their time with fill-ins and then making a move for a guy who is also currently injured and scheduled to return in about a month, at the earliest.

TRADE: Prospect Erik Cordier to the Chicago Cubs for Marlon Byrd – Look, McLouth is terrible.  His return doesn’t help the Braves at all.  And there aren’t any significant outfield prospects on the way up for the Braves so getting Byrd not only helps this year but also in ’12 when he costs just $6.5 mil.  He isn’t a middle of the lineup impact bat, but he can definitely help the top of their lineup by getting on base early 35% of the time.

Cordier barely registers for the Braves, not because he’s a poor prospect, but because they have such a disgusting depth of arms.  Seven of their top 10 prospects this year are starting pitchers and a handful more within their top 25.  Not to mention the fact that they have a deep rotation at the major league level, too.

If he could realistically play CF, the Braves could inquire about and possibly acquire Andre Ethier from the Dodgers, but I just don’t see that.

Moves:

  1. OF – Trade Cordier for Byrd

Cincinnati Reds (26-25)

Team Needs: RP, SP

I discussed separately and in the AL portion of a move the Reds could do with the A’s to improve their bullpen while merely scratching the surface of their insanely deep stock of hitters in the minor leagues.

Their first two months of their 2011 season are a shining example of the adage: “you can never have too much starting pitching.”  It’s impossible.  It such a volatile position and so prone to injury that there really is no such thing as “too much”.  They came into the season with Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Edinson Volquez and Travis Wood ready to go as well as Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney for depth.

Arroyo has flailed (5.28 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), Bailey started the season hurt and looked great in his first five starts before getting hurt again; his status is up in the air, Cueto also got a late start to the season, but has been great in his four starts (2.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), Leake has been terrible and likes to steal cheap shirts, Volquez has imploded to the point where he has been sent back to the minors and Wood’s ERA (5.11) looks a lot worse than his skills would normally suggest (3.63 FIP).

That leaves them with a reliable arm in Cueto, a second who should improve with Wood and four question marks.  LeCure has been great as a swingman with four starts in his 12 appearances with great skills in both roles, but a significantly better ERA in the bullpen (0.68 vs. 4.79).  Maloney has been nothing special in AAA.

As I mentioned, they have remarkable hitting depth and that would allow them to make a move for a legitimate starter.  Of course, there aren’t a ton of legitimate starters set to be available, but I think the Dodgers would be a good trade partner with a putrid offense that needs help now and going forward.

TRADE: Prospects Chris Valaika and Neftali Soto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ted Lilly – Lilly also has a full no trade clause (why the hell do the Dodgers keep giving out full NTCs????) so a move would again be contingent upon the player, but I’m not sure why he wouldn’t want to go to a surefire contender like the Reds.  The Dodgers need a lot on the diamond, but infield is the real issue.

James Loney isn’t a good first baseman.  He simply doesn’t hit enough.  A lot of people believe he will at some point because of what he showed as a 23-year old (.919 OPS, 15 HR in 96 games), but at 27 after three straight years of sub-.800 OPS (and a .573 so far this year), I think it’s time to stop thinking something great is on the way.  Soto has some nice power potential that would fit really nicely at first base for the Dodgers with the added bonus that the Reds tried him out at catcher last year and it wasn’t a complete failure.

He would be an asset to the Dodgers at either position as both are barren for them (assuming they leave Jerry Sands in left).  His plate patience could use some work and he needs to shorten his swing or he could get eaten up in the high minors and then the majors, but his power has been on full display early on in his first stint at AA (.680 SLG).

Meanwhile Valaika probably works best at second base, but could maybe stick at short or third base depending on need.  Lucky for him, the Dodgers need all three positions.  With 237 games at AAA where he has had mixed success (struggled initially, but solid this year and last), it is time to give him a real shot at the big leagues and see what the 25-year old is made of and whether or not he can stick at the majors as an everyday player.

The Reds could reasonably do this move and the one I’ve proposed with the A’s to get Andrew Bailey for Yonder Alonso without seriously damaging their minor league system.  It would be a dent that’s for sure, but Alonso and Soto are blocked by Joey Votto and Valaika is blocked by Brandon Phillips at second and Scott Rolen now and likely Juan Francisco in the future at third so they are trading from surplus to improve their team and give them the best shot to win in 2011.

Moves:

  1. RP – Trade Alonso for Bailey
  2. SP – Trade Soto, Valaika for Lilly

These are obviously just some ideas for the seven teams across both leagues who I see as contenders.  Perhaps none of them come close to happening, but I think they are reasonable possibilities for how these teams could improve their team for 2011.

Among the NL contenders not listed, I didn’t see natural fits for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers.  Whether it’s a thin minor league system or not enough major league depth to trade from or the lack of legitimate opening to trade for, these four teams are contenders in my eyes, but as it stands in late May, I don’t see a major move for them right now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two pieces.  When it comes to trades with prospects included, I am making my best educated guesses, so we could see a team trade for a major leaguer I predicted, but give something totally different in return.  I look forward to seeing how things play out in June and July leading up to the trade deadline.