Posts tagged ‘Paul Konerko’

Thursday: 02.7.2013

Top 10 1B – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 First Basemen Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, former MLB first baseman Sean Casey, and special guest Bill James. Throughout the series, I’ve had some issues with their inconsistency regarding guys with multi-eligibility. I felt they set a precedent with the initial show by placing Shin-Soo Choo among the centerfielders. That will be his 2013 position so I figured that’s how they’d operate moving forward, but instead they’ve been all over the map.

There were no such issues at first base. In fact, there was very little disagreement among which 10 players should be included. Rankings were different, but I only had one difference with three of the four lists and just two with the fourth.

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top101Blists

The Shredder

My only real issue here is that Mark Teixeira is a bit high for me. I’m sure it’s the reputation of his exemplary glove. And it is good, but his bat is now one dimensional as he has become a .250ish hitter. His walk rate is on a 3-year downswing, too, eating into his OBP. He’s just not the superstar he once was back in his mid-20s. I was thrilled to see my boy Allen Craig get so much love. In fact, this is lowest he was rated besides my #9 ranking. I think I was trying to self-censor myself and make sure I didn’t overrate him.

My inclusion they didn’t list: Freddie Freeman

Sean Casey

This might be the best list of the entire series! Of course I only say that because it is arguably the most similar to mine that we’ve seen. We matched our top four and the only big divergence was that he rated Craig much higher which of course I’m more than OK with. Adam LaRoche over Freeman is completely defensible.

My inclusion he didn’t list: Freeman

Bill James

I’ve had the biggest issues with James’ lists throughout this series. I think he’s made some terrible picks and knowing his background, I can’t figure out how he’s coming to the conclusions. First base was no different. Anthony Rizzo is really better than Edwin Encarnacion and Craig? After 87 games? Really, Bill? C’mon. How on earth is Joey Votto third? This is just one of those where it’s not really an opinion thing. All of the data, which you’d think he favors, points to Votto easily being the best 1B right now. I was pretty geeked when I saw that James was going to be a part of the series, but it’s been a total dud for me. His reasoning is often shoddy (again, massively surprising given who we are talking about here) and he’s just all over the map.

My inclusion he didn’t list: Craig and EE … seriously, c’mon Bill.

Brian Kenny

He listed Craig fourth. He wins life!

My inclusion he didn’t list: Freeman

 

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Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 First 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 catcher and first base 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.

*I will not be doing a top 100

This is not a fantasy list!!

Youngsters Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo were close, but #10 on the list beat em out because of his two full years of big time production.

Dear Lord, please don’t let the MLBN guys list Ryan Howard.

THE LIST

10. Freddie Freeman (ATL) – I think so forget that the sweet-swinging lefty is just 23 years old. He has back-to-back 20-homer seasons and showed improvement in both his walk and strikeout rates from year one to year two improving both by about two percent. His continued ascent makes the loss of Chipper Jones easier to swallow for that offense (not to mention the addition of the Upton Bros) and the best may well be on the way as early as 2013.

9. Allen Craig (StL) – The purpose of these lists is to explore the position right now and project forward for the 2013 season. As such, Craig makes my list. His skills are plentiful and already in place, but he needs to stay healthy which I think he will do in 2013 and show subsequently show everyone what a beast he is with the bat. Those paying attention have already seen the 141 OPS+ the last two years, but that’s only been in 733 plate appearances, a full season of dominating will earn him the attention he deserves.

8. Mark Teixeira (NYY) – He is likely to rate higher on everyone’s list on the show tonight, but that’s based solely on name value. The shift (not be confused with MLBN’s The Shredder) has eaten his batting average and it isn’t coming back. He’s been under .260 the last three years and barring a change in approach, I just don’t see him coming back to the levels we were used to in his 20s when he hit a combined .290, topping .300 three times. His OPS has declined yearly since 2007. He’s still good, but no longer great.

7. Paul Konerko (CHW) – He sputtered to the finish line in 2012, but he’s far from done, even at 37 years old. Despite the down second half, he still finished with the 6th-best OPS+ among first basemen qualified for the batting title. Konerko has at least another big year in his bat, if not maybe even 2-3 seasons.

6. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – He may not repeat his 2012 breakout that saw him pop 42 bombs, but he’s far from a power fluke. He had a 162-game average of 27 homers for the three years leading up to last year so we had definitely seen glimpses of greatness within his game. Of course Cory Schwartz, Jason Collette, and Matthew Berry have seen the greatness since E40 was in teeball.

5. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – I’m extremely high on Goldschmidt as evidenced by this ranking, but I think he’s slated for a big 2013. He’s got a great all-around game bringing big power (43 doubles, 20 homers), a good batting eye (10% walk rate), and speed which is rarely seen from the position (18-for-21 SB success rate). He has 30-35 home run upside, too, which could start to shine through as early as 2013 in his age-25 season.

4. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) – When your down season is a .299-18-108 season, you’re a damn good ballplayer. That was Gonzalez’s 2012 and while it isn’t what we’re used to (he averaged .306-33-106 from 2009-2011), it was hardly bad. Throw in the trade to LA and I think he’s being slept on a bit. My only major concern is the plummeting walk rate that has gone from 18 percent in 2009 to 13, 10, and then just six percent last year. Thankfully his strikeout rate has held firm between 16 and 16.6 percent in that span. He is still a star.

3. Prince Fielder (DET) – First base is always a position with offensive stalwarts, but I wonder if Prince ever looks things over and shakes his head that even with his numbers he isn’t the unquestioned best at his position. He has missed one game in the last four seasons. Though he peaked at 50 home runs in his second year, he has hardly struggled in the meantime. He is still averaging 36 per season since that 2007 breakout along with a .290 average and 111 RBIs. Plain and simple, he is one of the best the game has seen and he has plenty more in store.

2. Albert Pujols (LAA) – Remember when his career was over in April? And how he probably wasn’t going to make the Hall of Fame in early May? It was an uncharacteristically slow start for The Machine, but the panic button was smashed to bits by far too many people especially since he’d just done something similar in 2011. He is still unquestionably one of the game’s best players and I wouldn’t even quibble with someone giving him the top spot, but for me it was easily…

1. Joey Votto (CIN) – The torch is passed. Yes, he only played 111 games last year thanks to an injury, but he still led first basemen in fWAR at 5.9 among those with 450+ plate appearances. He won his third straight OBP title in the National League and second MLB-wide title in three years. Despite playing just 111 games, he still clubbed a career-best 44 doubles. If he had gotten the 625 plate appearances he normally gets in a season, he was on pace for 58 doubles which would’ve been one shy of Todd Helton’s 59 in 2000, the most in the integration era (since 1947).

I really should do these during the week so I don’t smash four posts (two reviews, two new lists) onto the site in a matter of hours. I’ve just been so deep in the SP guide stuff that by the time Friday hits, I’m like “Oh man, I gotta get my top 10 stuff done”.

Wednesday: 05.25.2011

Do You Want S’Morse?

Ham Porter: Hey, Smalls, you wanna s’more?

Smalls: Some more of what?

 

When it was announced in mid-March that outfielder Michael Morse was in line to win a job with the Washington Nationals, he became a darling sleeper for many.  He popped 15 home runs in less than 100 games last year (98) with a solid .289/.352/.519 line in 293 plate appearances.  A simple extrapolation made him a mid-30s home run hitter with 600 at-bats.  Of course, it’s not always that simple.  You couldn’t just pencil him in for 34 home runs assuming that he would keep mashing at the same rate over a full season of work.  However, even accounting for some regression, a new power source was available.

Sometimes there are players who work best in limited doses and when they finally win a full-time job, they are overexposed.  Ryan Raburn seems to prove this yearly as his strong second halves win him a job for the following year where he falls on his face, loses the jobs, plays sporadically through the early summer before turning it on after the All-Star break, earning a full-time job around or just after the trading deadline and restarting the cycle in earnest with insane August and September numbers.

Morse took his full-time job and gave owners a .182 average by Tax Day (April 15th for the uninitiated) and just .211 by the end of April.  He had just one home run, nine runs driven in and four scored with 21 strikeouts against four walks.  It wasn’t going well and though it was just 71 at-bats, it was his first 71 with a full-time job out of Spring Training so doubt among even he’s biggest believers began to creep in.

That’s always a bad idea but we see it yearly, especially with unproven guys.  People get so hyped about a guy and they psyche themselves into his best case scenario, but then give the guy less than 100 at-bats to prove himself before putting him on the chopping block.  It isn’t just with those without a track record, you will see fantasy owners questioning firmly established semi-stars because they get off to a bad start.

Admittedly, Morse’s start was rough and kind of tough to swallow, but in the offense-starved environment we are playing in these days, his power potential still had value and again, we are talking about 71 at-bats!  He had a stretch last year from July 24th to August 26th where he posted a .198/.233/.321 line with three home runs, eight driven in, nine scored, 21 Ks and three walks in 81 at-bats.  Despite the stretch that was eerily similar to his April this year, he still managed the .289/.352/.519 line that made him a preseason favorite.

Morse has come back in phases.  His playing time dwindled a bit, but instead of sulking and letting his season get completely away from him, he got better.  (Truth be told, he may very well have sulked, but what he definitely didn’t do was get worse and have what was supposed to be a big season for him spiral out of control.)

First he has repaired his batting average going 12-for-30 (.400) from May 2nd to 22nd still with just a homer, two ribbies and a run.  You can only do so much in 30 at-bats, but he piled up hits with four multi-hit games and zero 0-fers in the six games he did start.  Then Adam LaRoche hit the disabled list opening a prime playing time opportunity for Morse at first base and in the four games starting at first, he has matched his power output from his 23 games during April.

He has gone 7-for-17 (.412) with three home runs (in three straight games), eight runs batted in and four scored .  His season line is up to .281/.303/.447.  He’s not walking nearly as much (3.3% against 7.5% in ’10) as he did last year and he is striking out a lot more than he did last year (29% against 24% in ’10), but we are still dealing with a 114 at-bat sample and he’s just now getting into a groove.

I often make the point that you have to be patient with your guys early on and this isn’t necessarily any different.  Where it is different is the type of player.  If you want to overreact on Carl Crawford and sell low on him, be dumb and do it, there’s a strong chance you will very much regret it by season’s end if not the All-Star break.  Same goes for more of a semi-star guy like John Danks.  Freak out because of an 0-7 record and elevated ERA and ignore the 608 innings of work that suggest he’s a very good in this league (and that fact that there isn’t a significant skills change within his profile so far this year).

But on someone like Morse or whomever your pet sleeper was this year, why cut bait early?  What is there to gain?  If you trade him, you’re definitely selling way low because you don’t even believe in him at this point.  You might get out from under a struggling star and still get fair market value opting to pass the risk (and potential reward) on for peace of mind, but you’re no doubt getting 50 cents on the dollar to trade Morse when he’s hitting .226 on April 26th.

The question is, did something really change from mid-March through those 71 at-bats taking you from believer to non-believer?  If When the answer is no to that question, the next one is, “then why are you giving up?”  In most leagues where you rostered someone like Morse, what is going to be available to replace him?  Robert Andino (hit .348 in 46 April at-bats; hitting .264 after 91 at-bats)?  Gerrardo Parra (.297 in 64 Apr. ABs; .269 after 134)?  Aaron Rowand (.294 in 85; .246 after 148)?

Fill in a random slug who had a hot week or 10 days but lacks any real potential instead he just satiates your need to get a Mendoza Line bat out of your lineup so you can feel like you’re making an impact on your roster late in April.  Michael Morse might not hit .280-something this year.  He strikes out a helluva lot which eats up batting average potential, but over the course of 162 games he is almost certain to get into at least 135+ games barring injury and with his raw power he should hit the 20+ home runs you were hoping for back in March.

So whether it’s a Morse who started slowly but is course correcting of late or a Chris Narveson who you liked as a sleeper and loved until April 25th when he got lit for seven in 2.3 innings (only to rebound before his latest hiccup…) or a Brandon Belt who got all of 52 at-bats to prove himself (Brian Sabean: the fantasy owner?) before getting sent down to AAA (where is straight up raking), if you aren’t going to give your sleepers a legitimate opportunity to pan out (at least mid-June give or take, especially if they’re adjusting to a new role) then don’t even both drafting them.  You’re wasting your own time.  You’re not allowing for any of the ebbs and flows that come with a 6-month season.

Stick with crusty old vets who you can set your watch to.  Some will emerge from year to year and you may get lucky with an Aubrey Huff and Paul Konerko on the same team, but their name recognition won’t send you running for the panic button at the faintest hint of a 2-for-25 stretch.  Mostly they will just kind be what they are and you can focus on in-season management instead of trying to win big at the auction/draft.  That isn’t necessarily a losing strategy, especially if you’re a nifty trader and good waiver wirererererer.  You’re just doing yourself a favor and cutting out the potential for horribly preemptive moves that you will almost certainly regret by midsummer.

Do you want s’Morse?  If you want power, then the answer should be yes.

Friday: 02.11.2011

Daily Dose – February 11th

A link-less, abbreviated Dose heading into the weekend as I drop some first base-related knowledge bombs on y’all:

Knowledge Bomb 1: A couple days ago, I released my top 25 catcher rankings to kick off my positional rankings.  Let’s continue our way around the diamond and head over to the ultra-deep first base.  On the offensive side of things, first base is hands down the deepest position with several superstars and plenty of talent to go around.  The best way to utilize the depth is to also grab your corner infielder (in leagues that use the spot) from this pool.  Some feel that the depth at first base allows you to wait on the position altogether, but I don’t think that is the right play at all.

I think you should be ready to double and perhaps triple dip (1B, CI, DH) into the plentiful bounty of first base.  There are other strategies to be employed, but my feeling is that with the excess of power potential at the position compared with the dwindling power supplies in the league at large, why not maximize the position and its four-category contribution: power (HR, RBI, R and AVG as each HR contributes a hit, too)?

Even if you played up position scarcity and chose a shortstop in the first round and an outfielder in the second round (it’s thinner than you think, folks), you will still have stud potential available in the next two or three rounds.  Let me show you what I mean (guys who have dual-eligibility at first base aren’t going to be included in the actual top 25 as they don’t have nearly the value at first that they do at their normal position.  That means there won’t be any Victor Martinez, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, etc.. Kevin Youkilis will show up because he won’t start the season with 3B eligibility after playing just 2 games there last year.):

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Miguel Cabrera
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Kevin Youkilis
  6. Adrian Gonzalez
  7. Prince Fielder
  8. Adam Dunn
  9. Ryan Howard
  10. Kendry Morales
  11. Justin Morneau
  12. Paul Konerko
  13. Billy Butler
  14. Derrek Lee
  15. Gaby Sanchez
  16. Adam LaRoche
  17. Aubrey Huff
  18. Ike Davis
  19. Carlos Pena
  20. Lance Berkman
  21. Kila Ka’aihue
  22. Justin Smoak
  23. James Loney
  24. Daric Barton
  25. Matt LaPorta

Overvalued: Ryan Howard – this one is relative as I still think he is plenty valuable as a major power source, but I’m not sure he returns to his truly elite power self as some of the warning signs are to be taken seriously.  He’s been going off the board as the 5th or 6th first baseman in a lot of industry mock drafts that I have seen and his ADP (average draft position) is 6th and 7th at Mock Draft Central and Couch Managers, respectively.  I’ve got him 9th, so it’s not a huge dip, but I wouldn’t make him down for 40-140 automatically in 2011.

Undervalued: None – no one being seriously overlooked, at least not by more than a slot or two which isn’t enough to get up in arms.  There is some value at the position because the depth pushes some guys down, but no one is being criminally passed over in lieu of lesser options.

Target: Kendry Morales – Yes, he is coming off of the big leg injury, but that isn’t something that will sap his power or hamper him at all this year.  He had a breakout 2009 and was in the midst of an excellent follow-up in 2010 when the accident happened, I expect him to pick up right where he left off and continue as one of the best first basemen in the league.  Even if you already locked up an elite first baseman in the first or second round, there would be nothing wrong with coming back in the fifth round and slotting Morales’ 30-home run power into your corner infield spot.

Best of the Rest: Adam Lind – he doesn’t yet qualify at first base in standard league formats, but as his assumed position for Opening Day, your league may allow you to draft him there.  Even if that isn’t the case, he will earn his eligibility there quickly and he has elite power potential with the ability to hit .275+ yet he is going behind LaRoche and Pena (who he is a rich man’s version of) according to current ADP numbers.  If he were first base eligible right now, I would slot him between Konerko and Butler.

Rookie to Watch: Freddie Freeman – He strikes me as James Loney-esque right now lacking enough power to be a starting first baseman.  He could be a .280 hitter with mid-teens power, though, which is still worth rostering even in mixed leagues given the late round cost attached.  He’s really the only rookie 1B with a chance to start in 2011.

Knowledge Bomb 2: There were 13 first basemen to hit at least 20 home runs and drive in at least 80 runs:

  • 10 of the 13 scored 85+ runs
  • 5 of the 13 scores 100+ runs
  • 6 of the 13 hit .290+
  • 10 of the 13 hit .260+ (a .260 AVG will cost a team just .002 in team AVG over a full season)
  • 4 of the 13 chipped in 7+ stolen bases (Votto [16] & Pujols [14] doubled the contribution)

Knowledge Bomb 3: Check out the home run season totals at three key thresholds broken down by position:

Few leagues use each outfield position individually, but even if I had lumped all three together the point of first base’s power prowess would have still held.  You need three to five outfielders in all leagues whereas you need just one first baseman (but could feasibly roster up to three with corner and DH).  First base is the only elite power source on the diamond.  If you leave your draft or auction with Billy Butler (who I really like, so don’t get me wrong there) as your starting first baseman, you have messed up and you will likely be struggling for power all year long.

I will reiterate that you needn’t take a first baseman in the first or even the second round to cash in on the power surplus.  So if you wanted to go shortstop and third baseman to attack some of the scarcity around the infield, that would be a feasible strategy and you would still have plenty of power first basemen available to you in the third and fourth rounds.  However, if you’re looking at a blank 1B spot on your roster in the back end of the fifth round, chances are you are well behind your leaguemates at the position.