Posts tagged ‘Martin Prado’

Friday: 02.8.2013

Top 10 Third Basemen Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the third base and shortstop shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

Both Kyle Seager and Brett Lawrie were heavily considered, but in the end they had to be left off this year. I think both will take a step forward in 2013, but not enough to merit a spot. Seager specifically has to combat Safeco Field where he was 200 OPS points worse last year (632 to 835) and I’m not sure the moved fences are going to make that much of a difference. Lawrie was just edged out by #10.

THE LIST

10. Pablo Sandoval (SF) – Two straight years shortened by injury is worrisome, but he looked plenty healthy in the World Series (that jerk!).

9. David Freese (StL) – More than adequately followed up the World Series generated hype with his best season yet. It also happened to be his first full season. There probably isn’t much growth left at 30 years old, but he should sustain in 2013.

8. Chase Headley (SD) – A jump from 4 to 31 home runs is excellent, but how sustainable is it? The power surge came out of nowhere, but Headley as a remarkably talented player isn’t new. He completely understands what Seager is dealing with in Safeco.

7. Martin Prado (ARI) – He was inexplicably included in MLBN’s LF list given the precedent they set with Shin-Soo Choo as he will be a third baseman this year with the D’Backs. A bit underrated because he doesn’t do any one thing extremely well, but instead holds his own in every facet of the game adding up to a damn fine player.

6. Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) – Essentially lost the first three months to injury. Sure, he was playing, but he wasn’t himself carrying a sub-700 OPS through June and even a week into July. That he ended at 824 tells you how great he was the rest of the way.

5. Aramis Ramirez (MIL) – One of the more underrated players in the game in my opinion. He is a fantastic hitter who has been below league average just twice since becoming a full-time player in 2001. He’s a capable third baseman, too.

4. David Wright (NYM) – Simply one of the best in the game. He does it all and he’s still just 30. He really cut into his strikeout rate last year, too, hopefully that’s a skill that has returned because the three years of 20+ percent wasn’t serving him too well.

3. Evan Longoria (TB) – We know he’s a superstar, we’ve seen it, but we haven’t seen that transcendent year yet as his last two have been cut short by injuries. It’s coming.

2. Adrian Beltre (TEX) – It’s so close, but his defense doesn’t do enough to make up the gap between he and #1. My little love letter to him was part of the Spring Training Countdown.

1. Miguel Cabrera (DET) – Far from the best defender at the position, but easily the best hitter. Plus he wasn’t the overwhelming disaster on defense that most people expected. There may be no finer hitter in all of baseball.

What do you think? Any major misses?

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Thursday: 07.7.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Third Base

If you thought things were sparse elsewhere on the infield, wait until you see what third base is offering for potential keeper building blocks.  Before the season started, I saw third base as easily the second-worst position on the diamond behind shortstop.  There has been some nice improvement in the middle tiers of shortstop to the point where you could reasonably make a case that the two have now flip-flopped.

If it weren’t for Jose Bautista qualifying at third base, the position would be in really big trouble.  It is still a troubled wasteland primarily because it started thin and has since been ravaged by injuries.  Evan Longoria, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo  Sandoval, Martin Prado, Scott Rolen, David Freese and Placido Polanco have all missed time due to injury this year.  All but Polanco have hit the disabled list, while Polanco is currently day-to-day with back pain that has been troubling him for a month and has no doubt impacted his modest output this year (.274 batting average, a category you draft him to excel in).

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

I came up with six potential candidates, though one will take an arm and a leg (literally) to pry away from a leaguemate:

Jose Bautista (TOR, 30) – Yes, this of course is the arm & a leg guy.  He is probably no more than $10 in any league depending on how free agents are acquired and how their contracts work and when you couple that incredible price with the fact that he has been arguably the best player in the game (Matt Kemp’s speed might put him #1), you have a helluva price tag.  Unless it requires several of the keepers you were planning on for 2012, it might not be a bad idea to pay the hefty price to get Bautista.  It would take a unique set of circumstances to acquire him from a leaguemate, but given how cheap he should be in keeper leagues, you have to take a shot.

Pablo Sandoval (SF, 24) – The Kung Fu Panda is back after a rough season in 2010 and if it weren’t for his missed time on the disabled list, he probably would have made a serious run at the starting third base gig for the NL All-Star team.  He should still be cheap from any initial contract in your league, but if for some reason he was on the open market this March, he is probably still at a fair keeper price given the reaction to his modest output last year (.268/.323/.409 with 13 HR, 63 RBI).  The most games he can play this year is 121 and yet he is still on pace for 21 home runs, not bad considering he hit 25 in 153 back in 2009.

Adrian Beltre (TEX, 32) – He was coming off of a down season in 2009 which caused his value to be depressed even as he headed into Boston last year.  Thus he could be on a nice contract in your league.  This won’t apply to all leagues, but I had to include him just in case.  He will be a bit older, but he’s got great power at a scarce position.  That’s keeper-worthy.

Martin Prado (ATL, 27) – Nothing against Prado, but when he is our fourth potential keeper at third base, you know it is thin.  He has definite value, but it is tied to his batting average which can suffer in a year due to luck.  I just think we might have the next Placido Polanco on our hands, which isn’t bad, but hardly a great building block.  Remember, Polanco had back-to-back double digit home run seasons at 27 & 28 years old sandwiched by seasons of nine at 26 and 29.

Mike Moustakas (KC, 22) – In a dynasty league, he probably moves up a spot or two on this list, but even when building a keeper list during a lost season, I’m still gunning to win the very next season so I have him down here because there is no certainty he will be all that fantasy relevant in his second season.  We saw ups & downs in his minor league career and I suspect we will see the same as a big leaguer so at 23 next year, we might see more growing pains than fantasy-worthy production.  But like I said, dynasty leaguers who can keep him forever might want to invest in him over a Beltre or Prado.

Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE, 22) – Even though he will be the same age as Mous next year, I think he will be more fantasy relevant, but his ceiling isn’t as high.  He doesn’t profile to have game-changing power and of course there is still the fact that he cannot hit lefties worth a lick.  He is someone to look at for AL-Only and deep mixed league players.  I don’t think he is someone you want to invest in as a keeper for 10 & 12-team mixed leagues right now.

I don’t think I forgot any deserving candidates, but please feel free to let me know if you think I have made any egregious omissions.

Friday: 07.1.2011

Hail Mary Team, Part 2

If you missed part 1 of the Hail Mary Team that explained what it is and outlined the catchers and first basemen, feel free to check it out here.  Continuing the team today, here are the shortstops and third basemen.

SHORTSTOP:

Hanley Ramirez (FLO) – Going obvious again, but of course that doesn’t mean it is the wrong choice or that he won’t be discounted.  We are now halfway through the season and Ramirez is toting a .325 SLG after never dipping .475 in his five years and three of which were .540 or better; if his fantasy manager isn’t offering any sort of discount at this point then he is delusional and you are better off looking elsewhere.  That doesn’t mean you are going to get him for some shlub off the wire, but no way should you send back first round talent, either, not at this point.  Why should you want him?  Track record.  It is extensive as he was no worse than the third pick overall on everybody’s board this spring.  You are simply betting on a rebound, hoping that the time off (he isn’t headed to his third straight All-Star Game, that’s for sure) clears his head and recharges the battery.

Rafael Furcal (LAD) – Another option is Furcal who is currently out on a rehab assignment returning from an oblique injury (isn’t that what everyone is returning from these days?).  The presence of prospect Dee Gordon isn’t expected to block Furcal as the Dodgers have discussed moving him to second base and leaving Gordon at short.  Furcal is obviously a risk as he played 97 games last year and just 17 (bad ones) this year.  He’s getting up there in age for a middle infielder at 33, but he was sharp in his limited sample last year hitting .300 with eight home runs and 22 stolen bases.  He could give the Dodgers lineup and your lineup a spark if he is back at 100%.

Also keep in mind: Jimmy Rollins.  The pickins are slim at short if Ramirez isn’t available at a discount so we turn to former stars who have turned from Google into penny stocks.

THIRD BASE:

Martin Prado (ATL) – He would be one of the more costly team members on this list as he hasn’t been a complete abomination this year, rather he has only slightly underperforming expectations until going out with an injury (a staph infection… gross).   He is set to start his rehab assignment next week so time is probably running out for any sort of discount on him.  If you have a solid asset to trade, maybe the Prado manager also has another Hail Mary Teamer and you can package those two for your more worthy asset in turn plugging two holes for yourself.

Adrian Beltre (TEX) – Let me be clear here, Beltre isn’t quite in the class of the rest of this team.  He is on pace for 27 home runs and 111 RBIs, but his .259 AVG and .751 OPS might have a Beltre lamenting a bit after his .321 and .919 performances in Boston last year.  They would be foolish to have any issues with his performance, but it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me either.  If his team’s manager in your league has Beltre and another player from the list, you could flip one of what is likely just a few prized assets for Beltre and someone else.  Again since you are deep in the standings, you likely have several holes on your team so essentially you would be spreading the talent and creating a net gain by moving your best or second best player for Beltre and someone else to remove that zero from your lineup.

Also keep in mind: Mark Reynolds.  He’s actually on track to essentially match his 2010 season, but the team he is on in your league can’t afford the batting average hit, he would be a nice fit for a Hail Mary squad.  He should be a huge power source over the course of the second half and could reasonably hit 20 home runs, but should be good for no fewer than 15.

Next: Outfielders (OF & SP will be split into separate pieces as there will be several for each)

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.

Wednesday: 05.18.2011

We’re Going Streaking!

Carlos Pena is in the midst of one of his famous Pena Power Pushes with five home runs in his last 12 games.  He has a .368/.490/.789 line during the stretch with 9 R, 11 RBI and 10 BB.  I’m sure many of his fantasy league owners didn’t get all of or any of this stretch as they were frustrated by the .157/.286/.171 line prior to the run.

Of course if you know anything about Pena then you know you have to sit through these kind of slumps so if you draft him then the onus is on you to practice extreme levels of patience.  Since emerging as a prolific and consistent power hitter in 2007, he has been possibly the streakiest home run hitter in the game.

  • He had 10 streaks of 10+ games without a home run from 2007-2010:
    • 10 – 3 times
    • 11 – 2 times
    • 12 – 2 times
    • 13 – 1 time
    • 18 – 1 time
    • 19 – 1 time
  • He had 12 streaks of 5+ home runs where he hit at least one every other game:
    • 5 in 6 games
    • 5 in 10 games
    • 5 in 11 games
    • 6 in 5 games
    • 6 in 8 games
    • 6 in 10 games
    • 6 in 10 games (followed by an 18-game cold streak, his longest of ’08)
    • 6 in 11 games
    • 7 in 6 games
    • 7 in 13 games (followed by an 11-game cold streak, his longest of ’09)
    • 7 in 13 games (preceded by a 13-game cold streak, his longest of ’07)
    • 9 in 11 games

The 21-game homer-less streak he started this season with is his longest since his rise to prominence, but it was also injury-related as he was dealing with a thumb injury so that only compounded things for a guy who is naturally inconsistent.  Morale of the story: if you are willing to take the risk of drafting him, set it and forget it.  Secondary morale: NEVER draft him in a H2H week.  He will kill you three weeks at a time before finally winning one by himself.

Carl Crawford is hitting .290 in 62 May at-bats notching a hit in 13 of his 15 games.  There hasn’t really been much else yet (2 SB, 4 RBI, 7 R), but considering the fact that he hit .155 for entire month of April his owners will take any glimmer of hope that their first round (or second round at latest) pick is ready to perform like one.

Drew Stubbs has reached base in his last 10 games posting a very strong .349/.440/.535 with 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 SB, 7 BB and 9 R in 43 at-bats.  He was a target sleeper for many, namely Matthew Berry of ESPN and Cory Schwartz of MLB.com, being tabbed as potentially this year’s Carlos Gonzalez.  So far he has lived up to the billing pacing for a season of .279 batting average with 27 home runs, 77 RBIs, 123 runs scored and 54 stolen bases which would no doubt make him one of the best fantasy players in all of baseball.  He is currently rated 5th on ESPN’s Player Rater and checks in 8th overall in Yahoo!’s ranking.

Before hitting the disabled list with an injury, Victor Martinez had a .250/.292/.417 line and hadn’t hit a home run in 12 games as the Tigers were an underwhelming 8-9.  He has torched the place since coming back from injury hitting .415/.489/.683 with 7 XBH (including 2 HR), 14 RBI, 9 R and 6 BB in 41 at-bats.  His surge places him 3rd among catchers on ESPN’s Player Rater behind teammate Alex Avila.

Martin Prado has reached base in 20 straight games dating back to April 26th including hits in 19 of them.  He was hitting .240 before the run, but going .360/.394/.551 w/4 HR, 17 RBI, 13 R, 5 BB, 3 CS in 89 AB has brought him to .296/.338/.450 which is just a tick below his career marks while his 117 OPS+ is right in line with his career 116 given the down hitting environment of 2011.

Perhaps Alberto Callaspo is the oasis you are looking for in the third base wasteland.  It was pretty weak before the season started and a rash of injuries might have taken it past shortstop as the worst fantasy position on the diamond.  He is available in a lot of leagues, too: CBS: 60%, ESPN: 49%, Y!: 32%.  In his last 12 games he is hitting .391/.404/.522 w/11 RBI.  Only 2 R and 0 HR & 0 SB, but again, it’s awful at third base so beggars can’t be choosy.  He is hitting .309 on the season and on pace for 75 RBI.

Adrian Gonzalez is positively destroying the competition in his last 10 games to the tune of a .386/.429/.932(!) line with 7 HR, 16 RBI and 12 R in 44 at-bats.  He was hitting .250 exactly a month ago; he is hitting .327 now.

Rajai Davis has surged since returning from injury with 10 stolen bases and 10 runs scored in 15 games.

Mike Trout is living up to the prospect hype following his 2010 breakout, especially in his last 10 games: .357/.417/.643 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, 5 BB in 42 AB.  Of course, he has been raking all year long hitting .315/.400/.569 with 6 HR, 17 XBH, 17 RBI, 17 BB so he is almost making it difficult on himself to have a stretch that actually stands out.

The Kansas City Royals have already called up two of their best prospects in Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy, who makes his major league debut on Wednesday night.  Could Mike Moustakas be next?  There isn’t quite the natural opening that there was for both Hosmer and Duffy as Mike Aviles is playing well and even if you were to suggest moving him to second base, they still have Wilson Betemit.  That hasn’t stopped Mous from letting his bat make a bid for a call up as he has posted a .394/.474/.909 line in his last nine games with 9 XBH (4 HR), 12 RBI, 10 R, 1 SB, 5 BB and just 3 K (24 in his other 26 games) in 33 at-bats.  Man, perhaps even Dayton Moore can’t mess this up.  What a ridiculous crop of talent.

Dustin Ackley is also making a strong bid to get called up, but unlike with Moustakas in KC, the Mariners can definitely use his bat… and how.  Ackley is white-hot in his last 10 going .463/.540/.707 with 2 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, 8 BB, 5 K in 41 AB.  During the streak he has one 0-fer and seven multi-hit games.  His season line is now up to .280/.399(!)/.445.  He has 33 walks against just 25 strikeouts.  Given their anemic offense and his brilliant control of the strike zone, it might be time to speculate on Ackley in leagues where he is available and would be useful (this wouldn’t include 10 team mixed leagues) such as any AL-Only league and deeper mixed leagues with a bench.  I would definitely speculate in any OBP league that fits these size criteria because at the very least he will draw walks as soon as he reaches the bigs.

Next time, I will look at some pitchers in the midst of a hot streaks.

Thursday: 02.10.2011

Daily Dose – February 10th

You don’t have to read complaints about the weather today, let’s instead jump right into the Daily Dose:

The Los Angeles Angels beat writer for the LA Times, Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) quoted GM Tony Reagins on the likelihood of Mike Trout making it to Anaheim this year: “I would say it’s unlikely”, which is definitely the right thing to say right now.  There’s no reason to put undue pressure on the top prospect and get him worrying about playing up to a standard that will earn him a trip to the show.

Do not take Reagins’ comments as a definitive guarantee that Trout won’t be up all year, though, because things can and will change as the season evolves.  Looking at two of the best prospects to make their mark on the league last year, Jason Heyward and Buster Posey, they each elevated through minors pretty quickly.  Posey was a college star at Florida State, though, so he’s a bit different than Heyward and Trout so let’s just look at Heyward.

Trout and Heyward both signed early as mid-to-late first round picks, but Trout signed earlier got 32 more games in than Heyward.  Both sample sizes are too small to draw much from, but a nice taste for fans to see what their team’s first pick garnered.  Both exploded in their second season and became top five prospects across baseball (Heyward 5th, Trout 1st).  And that brings us to this year, Trout’s third.  In his third, Heyward, after crushing A-ball with a taste in High-A, went back to High-A for 49 games and acquitted himself quite well.  Trout crushed A-ball last year, too, but 50 of his 131 games were at High-A unlike Heyward who only had seven in his first go-round.

Is Trout ready to make the jump to AA after 50 High-A games?  Heyward needed just 56.  Of course Heyward only played 99 games in his third professional hampered by injuries so he only saw another 50 games between AA (57) and AAA (3) before reaching the majors last year.  Barring injury for himself, Trout could start AA and play 60-70 games there.  If he continues to mash as he has thus far, he could get another 50-60 at AAA before possibly earning a late season call-up to the majors.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out, either.  That said, anyone in a re-draft league needn’t waste their time drafting Trout in March, not even if there is a reserve roster.  There is no reason to tie up a roster spot on a slim chance.  Besides, even if he comes up this year there is no guarantee he would be a contributor.  I can’t wait to see how Trout progresses after his explosive 2010, but we will likely be waiting until Opening Day 2012 to see him suit up in Anaheim.

RotoAuthority has released their second basemen rankings for 2011 and they are veeeerrrry interesting to say the least.  I’m already on record about the depth at second base, which I think is significant, and looking at this list only reinforces that belief.  I don’t, however, fully agree with the ordering of the players.  It starts off with a bang by not having Robinson Cano atop the list.

I like Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia plenty, but why you’d take either ahead of Cano is beyond me.  Tsuyoshi Nishioka at #7 and Sean Rodriguez at #9 ahead of Brandon Phillips at #10?  I wish there were projections tied to this list because I’d love to see the fall off in production that puts Martin Prado at #15 behind Danny Espinosa (#13) and Howie Kendrick (#14).  If we all drafted using the same lists and valuations then this game wouldn’t be much fun, but some of these are real head-scratchers to me.

Second base was a hot topic today as Ross Tremblay over at Fake Teams compared Utley and Cano and their projections for the 2011 season.  He ended up with Utley ahead of Cano in terms of who he would want.  The biggest problem I see in Tremblay’s analysis is that he vastly underrates the injury risk and age-related decline of Utley.  He compares the two at full health which is already a bit of a hypothetical stretch meant to strengthen the Utley side.

Second base, as Tremblay correctly points out, is a position that shows age-related attrition more than any except catcher.  Add in that Utley has three significant injuries (hand, hip, finger) in the last three years (though he didn’t miss time due to the hip surgery in the offseason) and there is legitimate risk.  Utley’s biggest statistical edge for Tremblay’s projections is in the stolen base department.  Again, I find this somewhat tenuous as his running could be in danger in order to mitigate some of the injury risk.

He’s a remarkably efficient base-stealer and ran plenty in September, his first full month after the injury, but Tremblay has him down for 15-20 bags which strikes me as the high end best case scenario.  He has topped 15 just once in the last five years, three of which were full seasons.  A year older and coming off of a season in which he played just 115 games, I would have him down for 12-15 bags.

Tremblay concedes that Cano is slightly better than Utley on the whole, but the cost of each sways him toward Utley.  Cano is a bona fide first round pick while Utley is going somewhere in the second round.  I’m all for value, but I’m more for mitigating risk, especially in the early rounds.  That reason alone is enough for me to value Cano a good bit higher than Utley, even if he costs my first round pick.  I didn’t like the hypothetical comparison Tremblay used to show Utley had higher value.

He paired each with a first baseman and determined that the Utley and Mark Teixeira/Adrian Gonzalez combo is better than a Cano and Ryan Howard/Prince Fielder pairing.  I don’t necessarily agree with that statement on its own, but more to the point, who says you have to take a first basemen in the first two rounds?  It’s the deepest position along with starting pitcher.  It’d be great to get a stud, but I think he is once again using a hypothetical device to strengthen his Utley position.  When you’re talking about a one round difference at most, you definitely want the best player, especially when he is less risky, too.  That is Cano.

Adam Rossi has a fun piece over at RotoHardball comparing players to various Hollywood starlets.  He does a great job combining my favorite things in the world: baseball and women.  Rossi points out early in the piece that those are his two favorite things, too!  He was right to believe he wasn’t the only one.  I take issue with his suggesting that Natalie Portman wasn’t still very attractive with the shaved head and that Carrie Underwood is the end all, be all of celebrity women.

She’s definitely pretty, but even he points out that she’s boring.  And that’s just it, there’s nothing particular distinctive about her and thus she can’t be the #1 famous hottie.  As I told him in the comments section, I could find a handful of girls as pretty or prettier than Underwood on University of Texas campus on any given day when school is in session.  Silly disagreements aside, I like these kinds of different articles that offer a fresh way to look at things.

Knowledge Bomb: I want to share something I learned yesterday that you may already know.  I absolutely love MLB.tv.  I love how it works across many platforms and you can choose your broadcast and they are working to improve it yearly.  One issue I always had was the fact that when you made it full-screen in your dual monitor setup, you couldn’t work on the other screen without it shrinking back down to regular size.  I made this known to the @MLBtv Twitter feed yesterday and whoever runs it promptly messaged me letting me know that this feature is in place and I had just been missing it this whole time!!

If you go to this MLB.tv FAQ page, it will show you that the dual monitor feature is in the Settings able to be toggled on and off and allow you to have your game on one screen in full mode while you  work on the other.  This seriously (or sadly?) made my day yesterday.  I knew the technology was available because Netflix Instant allows it.  I’m just glad it’s now part of one of my favorite products.  Sorry if you already knew this, but if you didn’t and have been clamoring for it, then it’s about as explosive as these knowledge bombs can get.

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.