Posts tagged ‘Mike Napoli’

Thursday: 02.7.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 16 Days – Mike Napoli

Only 16 days until live game action…

Got some make-up work to do! Wednesday was really busy and all of a sudden it was 11:42 PM and clear that I wasn’t going to finish this piece. Hopefully I will be able to get some Top 10 Right Now stuff done today, too, so I don’t have the same issue I had last week.

MIKE NAPOLI

Back in 2004-2005, Mike Napoli hit a combined 60 home runs with 217 RBIs, 190 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases as a catcher in the Los Angeles Angels system. Unfortunately he wasn’t really much of a catcher behind the dish. This would prove to be a problem given his big league manager, former Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia. Scioscia takes defense behind the plate very seriously so he wasn’t likely to be nearly as enchanted with his three true outcomes catcher as were the fans and fantasy baseball managers.

He debuted in 2006 doing what he does best: rip bombs (16), walk (51), and strikeout (90). All in 325 plate appearances over 90 games. Though he hit a meager .228, his .360 on-base percentage more than made up for it. The next year was more of the same, but in just 75 games. Then 2008 was the best of the bunch. He started a string of 20-homer seasons while also posting a career-best .586 slugging percentage and adding some batting average to a much more palatable .273 mark, but in just 78 games. The “Free Napoli” campaigns were under way by this point. He was on a 36 homer pace over 500 plate appearances.

Fast forward three years.

He played 114 and 140 games during his final two years with the Angels, but he was traded during the offseason following 2010 first to Toronto in that awesome Vernon Wells deal and then four days later to Texas. Finally. It worth noting that not all of time missed was at the hands of Scioscia. Injuries played a role as he had two DL stints in 2007 and another in 2008. In that 2010 season before leaving LA, he’d finally been given a full season (his only 500+ PA season to date) and he was solid, but not special. His walk rate plummeted to a career-worst eight percent while his 27 percent strikeout rate was the second-worst of his career. The trade was almost inevitable.

Staying in Toronto would’ve been perfectly fine, but moving to Texas whetted the appetite of every fantasy baseball manager in the world. What could he do in that park? A lot, it would turn out, but he was hardly feasting on his home venue Coors Field-style. He was actually better on the road that year with 13 homers and a 1011 OPS in Arlington and 17/1078 on the road. He didn’t stay upright as long as in 2010 missing nearly a month to a strained oblique, but he hit 30 home runs for the first time and posting career-best strikeout and walk rates. The most surprising piece of his 2011 was the .320 average. Everyone would’ve bet on 50 home runs before .320.

The follow up wasn’t quite as sweet. To hear some tell it, you’d think he hit eight home runs in 400+ PAs with a .198 batting average. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it is portrayed at some outlets. Coming from 2011’s peak, it was definitely a tumble, but how bad are we really talking about here?

napoli1

The singular difference in those two lines seems to explain everything. Elevating your strikeout rate by 10.3 percent is never a good idea and it will unquestionably cut down the production from the previous year if everything remains the same. How different were these two seasons compared to what he was averaging coming into 2011? I gave the raw averages, but then scaled them to 425 PA to better compare them with 2011-2012.

napoli2

This is more or less the same as 2012 save a sharp difference in strikeout rate. At this point, it is becoming quite clear that 2011 was the outlier. Most fantasy managers knew this deep down, but in their hearts they wanted to believe he could maintain the level now that he was playing in such a hitter-friendly environment and delivering such incredible value as a catcher. Of course the similarities in his numbers aren’t surprising when you look at his remarkably consistent batted ball profile.

napoli3

Only the HR/FB rate and that coincides with moving to Texas. So again, the only significant difference between his 2011 and 2012 seasons is how often he struck out. In 2011, he was striking out far less and it was translating into bundles of hits. In 2012, regression hit hard and actually zoomed by his career rates into a new low.

Diving deeper into his numbers, we see that off-speed pitches ate him alive in 2012, a 180-degree difference from 2011. Was this injury-related? In 2012 Napoli was day-to-day with a head injury, an illness, and twice with quadriceps injuries until the strained left quad finally DL’d him for a month in August.

napoli4

If you didn’t know any better, I could convince you that those are the numbers of two different players. The 2012 performance against off-speed stuff isn’t congruent with the 2009-2010 Napoli, either. Those 2012 numbers add up to a 582 OPS with a 43.5 percent strikeout rate, compared to 757 OPS and 30.8 percent in 2009-2010. Yet again the 2011 performance of 908 OPS and 26.7 percent is a major outlier by comparison.

Where does all of this leave us? If he didn’t have a degenerative hip issue that cost him two years and $34 million dollars from his initial deal with the Red Sox that eventually became a one year, $5 million dollar pact, it wouldn’t be too hard to project that a healthy Napoli improves significantly on his 2012 as his strikeout rate regresses toward previously established levels. The problem is determining the likelihood of a healthy Napoli. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty big unknown making it difficult to value him for 2013.

How much risk can you stomach? His current NFBC average draft position is 104, or the seventh round (NFBC uses 15-team leagues). I personally cannot stomach that much risk. Even if this were normal Napoli and not Nahipoli (please shoot me for that one), you are still talking about a guy who has one 500+ PA season and a peak of 432 otherwise. There is seemingly always something amiss with his body so adding a balky hip that we already know is a mess muddies the waters enough for me to pass altogether. It helps that he likely won’t be catching at all to exacerbate his injuries issues, but even still he won’t be on any of my 2013 teams at this current cost. I’d rather Alex Avila 126 picks later.

Advertisements
Monday: 07.18.2011

Sunday Twidbits: July 17th

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.

CWS – Juan Pierre is hitting .330 the last calendar month & .300 the last 2 months. He was just 5-for-12 w/SBs in Apr, but 10-for-13 since.

CWS2 – On his July pace (4 SB in 12 G), Pierre would steal 22 more bases this yr; his value has stabilized. Buy if you need speed.

Det – Protection or regression? Alex Avila has a .161/.366/.258 in 11 July gms w/Raburn (.607 OPS), Inge (.492) & Kelly (.631) behind him.

Det2 – Avila (cont.) It’s a pretty tiny sample & protection is largely overrated, but Avila’s 9 BB & gm tapes show he’s being pitched around.

Was – Just six of Henry Rodriguez‘s 27 appearances have seen him go without a K. He has 34 in 31 IP; a nice MR option if you’re heavy on IP.

Atl – Freddie Freeman is rewarding patience hitting .289/.385/.567 w/7 HR & 22 RBI in his last calendar month & .307/.367/.524 in his last 2.

Atl2 – Freeman (cont.) On May 17th, Freeman was hitting .226/.321/.358 with just 4 HRs. I may have misjudged Mr. Freeman.

LAA – Walden has straightened out after a rough end of June & I think he will be fine, but Rich Thompson might be worth speculating on.

LAA2 – Thompson (cont.) He has 10.3 K/9 in 35 IP & he’s not Fernando Rodney. Scott Downs might be primary option, but he is their lefty RP ace.

Oak – He’s a perpetual injury risk, but Joey Devine is pitching well & could get work if another inj. risk Andrew Bailey goes down or gets traded.

Oak2 – Devine (cont.) He is getting over back spasms, but has a 2.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP & 8.1 K/9 in 21 IP otherwise.

Oak3 – Josh Willingham (own rates: E 17%, C 34%, Y! 7%) could be dealt out of OAK which would instantly raise his value as a pwr source. Buy.

StL – Kyle Lohse has allowed <4 ER just 2x in last 7 (5.62 ERA in 42 IP) w/an UGLY 3.4 K/9. The pumpkin metamorphosis is in full force. Sell. NOW!

Cin – Ramon Hernandez sputtered a bit from mid-May to mid-June (.250, 1 HR, 3 RBI in 52 AB), but has rebounded (.327, 3 HR, 8 RBI) in last mo.

Cin2 – Hernandez (cont.) For some reason, he is very much available w/ownership rates of 17% in ESPN, 25% in Y! & 35% in CBS. Buy.

Bos – Thru 4 GS, Andrew Miller had a 3.57 ERA, but a 1.57 ERA & near 1:1 K:/B (13/11). That was v. SD, HOU, PIT & BAL-4 weaker tms.

Bos2 – Miller (cont.) Latest start v. TB came to a head: 7 ER, 2.7 IP. I never believed & 3 K in his last 3 GS assures I never will. Cut. Avoid.

TB – Sharp in his last 3 (1.96 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB in 18 IP), Alex Cobb has been recalled, has AL-only value immed. Monitor in mixed

Phi – Dom Brown has some post-hype sleeper value ROTW. Hit the Mendoza Line on 6/23; since-.315/.403/.407 w/12 R. Legit Pwr/Spd capability, too.

NYM – Hope you jumped on Twidbit “recommendee” Bobby Parnell a few wks back! Enough back-patting. BTW, still seeing Jonathon Niese available all over.

NYM2 – Niese (cont.) I’ll defer to this week’s Trolling the Wire for more on Niese. Buy.

NYY – In early June, Brett Gardner was on pace for 28 SBs, but he has 16 in June & July for total of 26. Great trade target if there’s need for speed. Buy.

Tor – Of course if Gardner is too expensive & you don’t need the AVG & R he brings, then you might be able to get Rajai Davis for free on some wires.

Tor2 – Rajai (cont.) He has rebounded from his horrible June (3 SB in 27 G) notching 7 SB in 14 G so far. PT is tight in TOR OF, but Davis hasn’t felt it yet.

Pit – If I’m going to back-pat when Twids hits one, gotta point out the reverse. Alex Presley was given just a tepid endorsement after Tabata injury.

Pit2 – Presley (cont.) Xavier Paul has been nicked & Garrett Jones hasn’t hit; Presley is hitting .343/.400/.522 w/4 SB, 12 R & 9 RBI. Pwr driven by 3 3B.

Pit3 – Presley (cont.) He is making a bid to take some (if not most) of Jones’ PT when Tabata returns.

Hou – Jeff Keppinger got a late start to his season (5/27), but he is AVG asset if standings are tight in that cat. Empty avg, but viable at 2B.

Cle – Michael Brantley is on pace for .276, 91 R, 21 SB, 10 HR, 65 RBI yet still has availability at all 3 outlets (Y! 42%, E 74%, C 83%). Buy.

Cle2 – Carlos Carrasco was dropped en masse after 2-start hiccup. Solid bounceback @ BAL. A matchup play who is rosterable in many formats.

Bal – Zach Britton has a 2.35 ERA & 1.12 WHIP after 10 starts, but meager 4.9 K/9 & 1.7 K/BB rates said “SELL!”; since: 6.86 ERA & 1.77 WHIP in 39 IP.

Bal2 – Britton (cont.) Oddly enough, his K/9 has risen to 6.7 during the skid, but still-awful 1.6 K/BB has been his undoing regardless of missed bats.

Flo – Doubt Leo Nunez will be dealt, but if so then Steve Cishek could get a look. Has 23 K in 22 IP  w/just 5 BB (4.6 K/BB). Deep speculation.

Flo2 – Did you cut losses on Hanley Ramirez? Hope not. Last month: .364/.451/.602 w/5 HR, 24 RBI, 19 R, 5 SB (0 CS). Might salvage after all.

Chc – Geovany Soto‘s stock has tumbled everywhere except CBS (78% owned), but 3 HR in last month boost value. Could hit 7-10 HR from C ROTW.

KC – Eric Hosmer is on a lot of re-draft wires, but K% & pwr improvement during mini-surge could reintroduce viability as CI/U type. Monitor.

Min – Brian Duensing surging w/2.70 ERA & 1.24 WHIP in last 50 IP, but 4.16 & 3.91 xFIP in Jun & Jul suggest caution. Sell in AL, Replace in mixed

Min2 – Similarly Carl Pavano on fire w/2.82 ERA & 1.12 WHIP in 61 IP, but 3.63 & 3.66 xFIP last 2 mo is worrisome. Elevated LOB% is the major aid.

Mil – HRs (2.4 per9) & BBs (4.5 per9) plaguing Shaun Marcum in last 6; could be tied to nagging injuries. I’d buy if discount is there as hip/neck are fine.

Col – Chris Iannetta has big H/R split, but flailing in Coors now, too. Since June he has 53 PA H & R: .244 & 1 HR @ hm; .143 & 2 HR on rd. Pass.

Col2 – Iannetta (cont.) Names who could be available to replace him: Mike Napoli, Ramon Hernandez, Geovany Soto, Wilson Ramos & Jonathan LuCroy.

Tex – Neftali Feliz thru 2 mo w/9 K, 14 BB in 19 IP. OH NOES! Since: 17 K, 4 BB in 18 IP. Closers are volatile, be patient w/proven ones (Marmol).

Sea – Is Blake Beavan latest useful SEA SP? Not yet: 2.70 ERA & 0.95 WHIP are “supported” by 3.6 K/9 (vomit!). It’s ALL the .190 BABIP & 89% LOB%.

SF – Madison Bumgarner has rebounded from 0.3 IP/8 ER meltdown throwing 26 IP w/2.73 ERA & 1.14 WHIP as well as sparkling 30 to 3 K/BB. Buy.

SD – Dustin Moseley has K’d >3 just four times in 18 starts which is why he has a weak 1.7 K/BB despite solid 2.9 BB/9. Pass. Drop. Cut. Never.

LAD – Longshot to close again, but Kenley Jansen has 11 scoreless IP since MLB return w/16 K. His 6 BB are still an issue 3 H says stuff is back.

Ari – Josh Collmenter‘s really lacked of Ks early (5 in first 16 IP as SP), but 6.7 K/9 & 2.7 K/BB rates since 5/29 are intriguing. Monitor.

Thursday: 06.30.2011

The Hail Mary Team, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CATCHER:

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

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

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

FIRST BASE:

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

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

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

SECOND BASE:

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

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

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

 

Next: Shortstops & Third Basemen

Wednesday: 02.9.2011

Daily Dose – February 9th

As much as I hate the miserably cold (relative to our climate) weather that has besieged Austin, I am comforted by the knowledge that baseball is on the way and we are seeing more baseball preview content up every single day.  Soon MLB Network will start their 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and with that hopefully the bitter cold of mid-20s with near single digits wind chills will head back to the Midwest and Northeast where it belongs.  I wish this kind of weather understood how unwelcomed it was here in central Texas.  Go back to the people who are insane to actually crave four seasons of weather.  I’m fine with one: summer.

Ray Flowers (@BaseballGuys) has a fun series over at RotoTimes.com called “I Like Because…” where he digs deeper on some second and third tier players to show their upside.  He makes his case for getting away from the term “sleeper” positing that in the information age, they don’t really exist.  I see where he is coming from on the whole sleeper thing mainly because I think there are different levels of players being undervalued and putting them all under the header of sleeper simplifies it too much, but no need to rabbit-hole on that right now.  I still use the term, but I like to categorize my sleepers when I do articles dedicated to identifying them.

I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I do like that he gives some love to Justin Masterson, someone I’ve been a fan of for a couple of years now.  Masterson didn’t perform as I expected last year as he continues to get positively obliterated by left-handers.  He needs to figure that out if he is ever going to reach his potential.  For his career, lefties have a .291/.381/.433 line against him while righties are much worse at .228/.304/.322.  Until he shows noticeable improvement against southpaws, he is a spot-starter against right-handed-heavy lineups only.

Over at FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli (@cistulli) did some great analysis in examining some of the top scouts of the last five years.  Through his own admission, this piece is merely a jump off point to further analysis, but it is a very interesting study that I look forward to seeing fleshed out either by Cistulli or others.

As the baseball season draws nearer, so too does the release of MLB 2K11 (March 8th), the latest of a series that just keeps getting better annually.  Initially the bar was pretty low, but last year was a huge stride forward and 2011 is setting up to be yet another large step toward perfection.  Jon Robinson got a chance to interview Roy Halladay, this year’s cover, and discuss aspects of pitching a perfect game in 2K11 which is again will be worth a million bucks as it was last year, though Halladay admits it will be tougher.  I took a few no-hitters into the 8th inning last year and one into the 9th, but I was never more than six innings into perfection.  Operation Sports has plenty of MLB 2K11 coverage, too, including screenshots and previews.

MLB.com has released their fantasy baseball positional previews.  It’s a great primer to kick off your 2011 fantasy prep work.  They go deep at every position with 73 catchers, 83 first basemen, 95 second basemen, 85 third basemen, 81 shortstops, 202 outfielders, 21 primary DHs, 230 starting pitchers and 128 relievers.  Each player capsule has the pertinent previous 3 years of stats, projections for 2011, a dollar value, a paragraph with their outlook and a “Fantasy Bottom Line”.  Best of it, it’s all free.  It would be a value at $8-10 which is what you would pay for a fantasy magazine that is outdated long before it hits the shelf.

Want another opinion on players?  How about four more opinions?  Yahoo’s team of guy has released their positional rankings as well as a top 100.  These rankings are short on analysis containing just the 1 through however many deep each position goes, but the Y! gang will have plenty of content coming out throughout February and March so this is just something to whet your appetite for now.

Over at AOL Fanhouse, Frankie Piliere (@FrankiePiliere) released his top 100 prospects list for 2011.  His #1 player won’t surprise, but his #2 might as might a noticeable absence from the top five.  Piliere has experience as a talent evaluator and scout so this is far from a dartboard approach to he is using.  He certainly doesn’t tow the industry line either.  I scanned the list 1-100, but I’ve yet to read every capsule so I’m interested to see his analysis on players (1-50 have a paragraph of breakdown included).

Bill Ladson was on the Beyond the Boxscore podcast this week and he said he expects Stephen Strasburg to be pitching in September of this year.  That’s probably the most aggressive projection for Strasburg’s return as many have had him out for all of 2011.  If this is true, it possibly raises an interesting question for non-keeper drafters about whether or not to take Strasburg and when.  Obviously if you have to keep him in the active roster all year, there is no way you would draft him in March.

However, if there is a reserve roster system in your league then you have to weigh the potential of him helping you for a stretch run against killing a precious roster spot for a guaranteed five months.  For me personally, I wouldn’t even entertain it, but that’s my conservative approach.  Who knows what he would even deliver in six or seven starts to close out the season.  He could be like teammate Jordan Zimmerman who went 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 in seven starts or slightly better like Tim Hudson in 2009 who went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 6.4 K/9 also in seven starts.  Neither was a game-changer for their owner down the stretch, but neither has the talent of Strasburg, either.

OK, I like Blake Griffin as much as the next guy, but what the hell is going on here??  It’s pretty hilarious if you ask me, but definitely in a creepy kind of way.

In addition to being hilarious, this is also awesome: Saved by the Bell Megacast!  I don’t have a clue who Rob Cesternino or Eric Stein are, but by listening to the podcast I eventually learned that they are reality TV people of some sort.  That information is totally irrelevant.  All that matters is that they did a 2 hour and 51 minute podcast devoted solely to Saved by the Bell.  If you grew up loving the show like I did, watching the 2 hour blocks on cable during the weekdays and then the new episodes on Saturday mornings on NBC, then this is a must-listen.

Knowledge Bomb: In keeping with the theme of ranking lists being released today, I’ll share my top 24 catchers for 2011 in today’s KB.  Catcher remains top-heavy in terms of star power, but the next level down is much deeper than it has been in past years.  Catcher is a tough position to figure in fantasy baseball because it’s the only position with built in days off and the grind of catching can easily add extra days off to that total thanks to nicks and bruises throughout the season.

It is rare that the top catcher will be on par with the top guys at the other positions.  The exceptions are transcendent seasons like Joe Mauer’s 2009 campaign.  One strategy to consider is find catcher-eligible guys who will spend a lot or even most of their time elsewhere on the diamond this year.  Their value will still be highest at catcher on your roster, but if their team plays them at first base, outfield or DH, that’s a good thing for your team.

  1. Joe Mauer
  2. Victor Martinez
  3. Brian McCann
  4. Buster Posey
  5. Carlos Santana
  6. Mike Napoli
  7. Geovany Soto
  8. Miguel Montero
  9. Matt Wieters
  10. Kurt Suzuki
  11. Carlos Ruiz
  12. Chris Iannetta
  13. Jorge Posada
  14. Yadier Molina
  15. J.P. Arencibia
  16. A.J. Pierzynski
  17. John Buck
  18. Miguel Olivo
  19. Ryan Doumit
  20. Alex Avila
  21. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  22. John Jaso
  23. Russell Martin
  24. Jesus Montero
  25. Jason Castro

Overvalued: Buster Posey – his great debut and playoff exposure has him going in the 4th round of a lot of drafts.  That’s really high for most catchers, but especially for those with just 423 at-bats on their record, even for a wunderkind like Posey.

Undervalued: A.J. Pierzynski – he’s not great by any stretch, but he’s often overlooked.  2011 will be no different as a putrid April and weak May tanked his numbers and covered up a .299 AVG/.719 OPS in the second half (up from .247/.664).

Best of the Rest: Josh Thole – a great approach at the plate (24 BB/25 K in 227 PA) plus a wide open chance at the full-time gig gives the 24-year old a chance at a solid season.  He’s never had even a modicum of power (10 HR in 1733 minor lg PAs) and that’s really what you want from your backstop which is why he didn’t crack the first 25.

Rookie to Watch: Jesus Montero – it’s hard not to be impressed with the prospects of Montero as he has ripped through the minor leagues like few before him, but the presence of Posada and Martin make it tough to project much playing time for the 21-year old right now.  Given that he needs to work on his defense if he expects to stay behind the dish, he’s like to spend a lot of time in AAA to hone his defensive skills.

I’ll leave you with a breakdown of reporting dates for each organization as we get closer & closer to the beginning of Spring Training: