Archive for April, 2010

Rankings Update: Third Base

Here we go again.

Big Three
Alex Rodriguez (.418 wOBA)
Evan Longoria (.386)
David Wright (.395)

Once again, I wrestled with the idea of mixing this bunch up. Next year, I’ll be taking Longoria over A-Rod, but I don’t think that’s the case for 2010. I heard some objections about Wright last week so I thought I’d clear something up; I don’t expect 30+ homers again, but I think 25 is totally reasonable and still makes him worthy of this rank.

Medium Three
Pablo Sandoval (.386)
Ryan Zimmerman (.376)
Mark Reynolds (.364)

I really like the diverseness of this group. Sandoval is a mostly AVG guy who will pop a few, Zimmerman is a happy medium, and Reynolds is the power guy.

Tier X
Michael Young (.355)
Jorge Cantu (.347)
Ian Stewart (.352)

Cantu and Stewart each move up a couple of spots and are starting to win me over. I wasn’t a big Stewart fan coming into the year, but I’m about to hitch a ride on that bandwagon. Feel free to join me.

Tested and True
Scott Rolen (.353)
Chipper Jones (.389)
Adrian Beltre (.346)
Aramis Ramirez (.383)
Casey Blake (.339)

I like what I’m seeing from Rolen, and I think Jones could be closed to finished as an automatic fantasy starter. His lack of pop and lowered batting average numbers make him questionable in my book.

Mark Teahen (.329)
Chase Headley (.353)
Casey McGehee (.330)
Alex Gordon (.364)

Teahen is another guy I like. He’s hitting the ball in the air more, which works well when you play in The Cell.

I Know What I Like, and Don’t Like What I Know
Mark DeRosa (.342)
Andy LaRoche (.340)
Jhonny Peralta (.329)

For the most part, what you see is what you get with these three. And what you get isn’t going to be the prettiest thing in the world.

The Rest of ‘Em
Kevin Kouzmanoff (.330)
Jake Fox (.345)
Edwin Encarnacion (.348)
Brandon Inge (.319)

If Jake Fox starts one more game at the catcher position, he’ll be eligible there in Yahoo! leagues, and I’ll likely start ranking him as a backstop. Also, Garrett Atkins is off the list this week.

Rankings Update: First Base

Last week of using FANS wOBA projections. Promise.

The Machine
Albert Pujols (.442 wOBA)

I was going to work in an Edward Norton reference and a “Albert is good” tidbit, but I just don’t have the energy or creative juices to do such a thing.

Big Ballerz
Miguel Cabrera (.404)
Ryan Howard (.388)
Prince Fielder (.408)
Mark Teixeira (.405)

Cabrera moves above Howard to claim the second spot on this list. I am positive that this will ruin Howard’s week.

Not Quite Elite
Adrian Gonzalez (.395)
Joey Votto (.399)
Kevin Youkilis (.401)

After asking the masses how to order these three, I decided this was the best option for this week. Youk is great in OPS leagues, but the other two will provide more traditional fantasy numbers for their owners.

A Cuban, A Canadian, and a Fat Guy
Justin Morneau (.377)
Kendry Morales (.362)
Derek Lee (.381)
Carlos Pena (.381)
Adam Dunn (.385)

Pena surpasses Dunn this go around, but I’m not sure if it will stick. This internalized debate went down to the 25th hour, but I decided on Pena. Thoughts?

Writers Block
Paul Konerko (.350)
Billy Butler (.379)
James Loney (.344)
Adam LaRoche (.351)
Garrett Jones (.347)

Paul Konerko still has some juice left in his batteries, eh? LaRoche looks to be coming around earlier than I thought he would, which is a blessing for the Diamondbacks. Jones needs to put up some more power numbers in the next couple of weeks to keep himself at an ownable level.

Two Men and a Baby
Todd Helton (.386)
Lance Berkman (.396)
Justin Smoak (.325, CHONE)

If you’re in a non-keeper league, Smoak isn’t worth a look this year. Keeper leagues are another story, however, and I picked him up once the announcement was made.

The Rest of ‘Em
Luke Scott (.346)
Daric Barton (.350)
Russell Branyan (.359)
David Ortiz (.362)

Falling off of the list are Chris Davis and Nick Johnson. I know that you’re wondering why Papi stays and Johnson goes, right? Papi at least has some power potential going forward this year, something Johnson has none of. In OBP leagues, Johnson is the no-brainer choice, but otherwise Papi is probably a better option.

Rankings Update: Second Base

Time to update the second basemen, using Fans’ projected wOBAs for another week. Huzzah!

The Top Targets:
1. Chase Utley, Philadelphia (.402 wOBA)
2. Ian Kinsler, Texas (.358 wOBA)
3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston (.360 wOBA)
4. Robinson Cano, New York AL (.370 wOBA)

Not too much to say here really, though it seems that Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano have probably moved past Brian Roberts for good by proving, at the very least, that they have not yet peaked. Roberts’ back issues may affect him all year long and dampen his speed, and the younger two guys are showing sweet power right now.

The Middling Veterans:
5. Chone Figgins, Seattle (.347 wOBA)
6. Brian Roberts, Baltimore (.356 wOBA)
7. Dan Uggla, Florida (.354 wOBA)
8. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay (.408 wOBA)
9. Aaron Hill, Toronto (.357 wOBA)
10. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati (.337 wOBA)

To be honest, it’s hard not to continue dropping Roberts further, but at least he’s in the right tier now. Chone Figgins has had bigger steals years more recently than him and belongs ahead of him anyway. In this week’s edition of Small Sample Size Surprises, Dan Uggla has maintained his overall power while striking out and walking about at about half of his 2009 rates. The most worrisome thing about Ben Zobrist’s poor start is his reduced walk rate, but even if the power regresses from last year’s probable peak, he’ll retain good value at shortstop.

Streaking Youth:
11. Gordon Beckham, Chicago (.361 wOBA)
12. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (.365 wOBA)
13. Ian Stewart, Colorado (.337 wOBA)

Gordon Beckham isn’t exactly streaking to the fore, but he’s still got the upside to move up the list. In the early going, he’s striking out and walking at almost the exact same rate as last year, but reduced power and a poor BABIP are holding him down. ZiPS RoS is still optimistic though. Rickie Weeks looks like he may be in the midst of a career year. While it’s early going, and his BABIP is unsustainable, there’s a lot to like in Weeks this year – he’s combining his best walk rate with his best strikeout rate and his highest ISO, but all three numbers are close to his career norms. Seems organic. The same can be said about Ian Stewart – his current career-best K% is closer to his minor league number than one might expect after last year’s whiffing. His bat is showing light-tower power at this point, too. All three of these guys have a great shot of outperforming the Middling Veterans.

The Leftovers:
14. Placido Polanco, Philadelphia (.321 wOBA)
15. Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles AL (.341 wOBA)
16. Jose Lopez, Seattle (.325 wOBA)
17. Orlando Hudson, Minnesota (.342 wOBA)

This group is pretty meh. Polanco looks to be enjoying the new park, but who knows how many home runs that will translate into. He’s a good contributor in runs and RBI though. Howie Kendrick is doing what we thought he could, but it’s still not going to mean a lot of home runs or steals.

Upside to Join the Top:
18. Casey McGehee, Milwaukee (.330 wOBA)
19. Martin Prado, Atlanta (.341 wOBA)
20. Kelly Johnson, Arizona (.338 wOBA)
21. Alberto Callaspo, Kansas City (.347 wOBA)
22. Ty Wigginton, Baltimore (.332 wOBA)

Casey McGehee probably deserves a post of his own, but there are still reasons for skepticism. That he’s showing this level of power for a prolonged period of time is, to say the least, unexpected. Kelly Johnson is showing that his poor 2009 was mostly poor BABIP-driven and is enjoying his new team. Alberto Callaspo is disappearing off of waiver wires currently, but Ty Wigginton that also deserves some attention. He’s got a little pop and everyday at-bats right now and is a great short-term add.

Iannetta’s demotion boosts Olivo’s value

After posting a .368 wOBA with 34 homers over the last two season, Rockies’ catcher Chris Iannetta finally appeared to be free from the shackles of Yorvit Torrealba and on his way to a full-time starting job in 2009. He was a top 15 fantasy catcher coming into the season, but things have hardly gone according to plan.

Iannetta woke up this morning with a .243 wOBA with more strikeouts (11) than times on base (8), and his playing time greatly reduced. The Rockies’ are close to putting him out of his April misery, as indications are that the team is ready to send him back to the minors. That means their catching job belongs to none other than Miguel Olivo .

Olivo has started seven of Colorado’s last ten games, and he’s quietly leading all big league backstops with five homers. The guy has yet to meet a pitch he didn’t like, and he’s very much a known quantity at this point; if given 400 or more plate appearances, you’ll get about 15 long balls, 50 RBI, and a terrifyingly bad OBP. Thankfully, in standard 5×5 leagues, that last part isn’t a concern. Coors Field still boosted homers by a little more than 8% last season, so there’s another plus.

Olivo is still available in 49% of Yahoo! leagues at the moment, and is worth the pickup if you’re in a two catcher setup, or are dealing with some injuries. His .311 AVG (.375 BABIP) isn’t going to last obviously, but you can enjoy it while it does. The HR and RBI are where it’s really at with Olivo.

Promotion Watch: Mike Stanton

With Jason Heyward eating medium leverage situations for breakfast in the big leagues, and Jesus Montero still trying to find his way as a 20-year-old in Triple, the Marlins’ Mike Stanton has grabbed the crown as the “best hitter in the minor leagues” and run away with it. The 20-year-old outfielder smacked three homeruns yesterday afternoon, giving him five within the last 30 hours or so. His ISO stands at .462 this morning, and his walk rate has risen up to match his usually high strikeout rate in the early going. Obviously, small sample size warnings apply.

After a 341 plate appearance cameo with Florida’s Double-A affiliate last year (.344 wOBA), they sent him back there this year, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing now (.495 wOBA by my calculation), it’s won’t be long before they bump him up to Triple-A. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before he surfaces with the big league team.

Chris Coghlan has yet to find the BABIP magic he had during his Rookie of the Year campaign last season, and his wOBA sits at just .182. Cameron Maybin is a bit iffy with concussion-like symptoms after colliding with teammate Gaby Sanchez, though he did suit up last night. The Marlins certainly have some need for another outfielder, but whether or not they decide to promote their best prospect will probably end up being a matter of future payroll.

Since the season is already more than two weeks old, Stanton’s free agency has already been pushed back bya year. However, if the Marlins wanted to push back his arbitration years before calling him up, they would have to wait until the end of May, which doesn’t help us fantasy owners any.

If there’s any prospect in the game that could come up and have a Ryan Braun-like impact in the second half as a rookie, it’s Stanton. He might not hit for average right away (or ever), but the power is off the charts (.283 ISO in the minors), and the RBI opportunities will be there with guys like Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Sanchez (.399 combined OBP) in the lineup. Stanton is still available in all most leagues, and if you have a particularly deep bench, or are willing to carry a dead spot for a month, then by all means go out and grab him before the rush. Otherwise, keep an Florida’s outfield situation over the next few weeks, and get ready to pounce once they appear to have a need. He’s an option in all leagues.

Rankings Update: Catcher

Here are your catcher rankings. Being a day late and a dollar short is a good thing, right? Numbers are still preseason FANS projections, unless otherwise noted.

Big Three
Joe Mauer (.409 wOBA)
Brian McCann (.378)
Victor Martinez (.373)

I didn’t think I would ever consider it, but V-Mart needs to get his act together or he’s in danger of moving down the list. Consider yourself on notice, Victor.

Happy to Have
Matt Wieters (.364)
Russell Martin (.346)
Jorge Posada (.361)
Geovany Soto (.354)

No changes in this order. I wouldn’t expect much change for the rest of the year, either. Soto is still heating up, and I’m really glad I have him right now.

Name That Molina
Kurt Suzuki (.332)
Bengie Molina (.305)
Yadier Molina (.330)

I was considering moving Suzuki down in actual rank this week, but hitting three homers keeps him afloat. He’s only hit three line drives all year, so that’s not a good sign going forward.

I Am Jack’s Catcher
Carlos Ruiz (.331)
Ryan Doumit (.330)
John Baker (.333)
Ivan Rodriguez (.286)

You all should be ashamed of yourselves for making fun of the great Edward Norton. Just for that, you will have the privilege of reading my posts with references from his movies all year long. You did it to yourself, America.

Wait and See
A.J. Pierzynski (.313)
Jeff Clement (.350, ZiPS and CHONE)

A.J. and Clement are both better than they are playing thus far, so just hang back and let lady luck get back on their side.

Problem Children
Chris Snyder (.331)
Chris Iannetta (.366)
Mike Napoli (.363)
Miguel Olivo (.312)
Miguel Montero (.352)

Olivo makes his debut on the list. I like the power he’s shown, but a 41.7% HR/FB rate is ridiculous. You really don’t expect him to slug .707 this year, do you? Once he starts cooling off, Iannetta will get more at bats and will shine.

The Rest of ‘Em
Carlos Santana (.348, CHONE)
Rod Barajas (.296)
Jeff Mathis (.276)
Kelly Shoppach (.341)

Can anyone call The Tribe and beg them to call up Santana? Please? Also, Jason Kendall falls all the way off of the list because he sucks.

Waiver Wire: April 26th

Here are three players with low ownership rates who could pay immediate dividends in fantasy leagues:

Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays (owned in 1% of Yahoo! leagues)

In a bit of a surprise, the Blue Jays started Cecil in the minors after he posted a decent rookie season in 2009. But he got the call to the majors after going 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two games in the Pacific Coast League. Cecil replaced Brian Tallet in the rotation and had a strong first start. He gave up two runs in six innings in Tampa Bay before allowing a two-run HR to Gabe Kapler in the seventh. Cecil has the chance to post good strikeout numbers and a league-average ERA if he can do a better job of keeping the ball in the park. In 100 IP in the majors, Cecil has a 6.93 K/9 and a 15.1 HR/FB rate.

David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals (owned in 5% of Yahoo! leagues)

In four seasons in the minors, Freese hit for both AVG and power. So far this season with the Cardinals, Freese has a .300 AVG but no home runs. He has an unsustainable .417 BABIP but he also has been having some issue with strikeouts, carrying a 30.0 K%. If he can start hitting a few home runs and cut down some on the strikeouts, he could survive the inevitable BABIP drop. Updated ZiPS projects him to finish with a .273 AVG and 11 HR, which is nice production off the waiver wire for third base.

Carlos Villanueva, Milwaukee Brewers (owned in 9% of Yahoo! leagues)

Always a good strikeout pitcher, Villanueva has 14 strikeouts in 10 IP so far this season. The rest of his early numbers are nearly as impressive, as he finally seems to have found a home as a reliever after bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen the past four years in Milwaukee. Villanueva has pitched in the eighth inning in three of his last four appearances. Perhaps this is the year that 42-year old Trevor Hoffman finally gives out, as his early season numbers are not confidence-inspiring. Villanueva would have to be under consideration along with Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins as potential replacements. Hawkins has never really succeeded in multiple shots as a closer and Coffey has pitched in the eighth or ninth inning just three times in 10 outings this year, and all three of those were in mop-up roles. Add Villanueva for his fine pitching in middle relief and consider him a darkhorse candidate for saves.

Starting Pitchers: April 26th

There’s a few big name starting pitchers returning from the disabled list this week, so let’s look at how their arrival could impact your fantasy team…

Cliff Lee (expected back Friday)

The Mariners aren’t quite sure (or have just declined to announce) who they’re going to lift from the rotation for Lee, but the signs point to Ryan Rowland-Smith. Both Jason Vargas (3.39 FIP) and Doug Fister (2.71) have pitched well enough to keep their jobs, and it’s already been announced that Ian Snell will keep his spot, but just be pushed back a few days in lieu of Lee.

Through just about four complete turns through the rotation, RRS has been the weak spot, posting a 7.47 FIP thanks to a completely unacceptable 0.50 K/BB. He’s run into a little bad homerun luck (15.0% HR/FB), but the scary part is that his BABIP sits at just .198. Once that starts to correct itself, the Aussie-born lefty could see his ERA (4.63) and WHIP (1.33) get even uglier. The fact that the Mariners don’t have a southpaw in the bullpen adds a little more fuel to the fire, especially since RRS has historically been better against same-side batters during his career. He’s still owned in 33% of Yahoo! leagues, which at this point is far too many. Lee, obviously, is a must start all season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (expected back Sunday)

One of the biggest enigmas in the league, Dice-K went from fantasy stud in 2008 to hurt and ineffective in 2009, and now we have no idea what to expect when he returns from back and neck issues. CHONE projects a 4.30 ERA with his usually high WHIP (1.41) and a slight drop in strikeouts (7.89 K/9), a projection that lumps him in with guys like Jorge de la Rosa, Jonathan Sanchez, and Edwin Jackson. Solid No. 3 or 4 fantasy options, but hardly staff anchors.

However, those three are owned in 81-84% of Yahoo! leagues, while Dice-K is owned in just 46%. The risk of injury and/or total meltdown may be higher, but so is the reward considering the strong defense behind him (yes, I know the Boston’s run prevention attack hasn’t done the job so far, but they will soon enough). With starts coming up against the helpless Orioles (.303 wOBA) and somewhat offensively challenged Angels (.322), jumping on him a little earlier than most could pay dividends. He’ll frustrate the hell out of you, but then again so will most fantasy starters.

Other Notes

Brett Anderson scared fantasy owners and A’s fans alike when he exited his last start with a stiff left elbow, and the team is justifiably taking it slow with him. He may not make his next start, which would put Chad Gaudin or Tyson Ross in the rotation for a turn. Neither has fantasy value. Vicente Padilla was placed on the disabled list, but his replacement has yet to be named. Regardless, none of the possibilities to replace him are viable fantasy options. Jeff Suppan has been replaced by Chris Narveson in Milwaukee’s starting five, but he’s not rosterable in any league. The same could be said for Luis Atilano, who took over for the injured Jason Marquis.

The Blue Jays recalled Brett Cecil earlier this week to replace the injured Brian Tallet, and he went on to strike out eight Rays over 6.2 innings in his first start. The former University of Maryland closer mixes his curveball, slider, and changeup in heavily with his low-90’s fastball, and he’s posted very strong minor league batted ball rates (42.9% GB, 22.9% LD, 28.6% FB). His next start is against the Red Sox at home, but after that he’s looking at outings against the offensively inept Indians (.290 wOBA) and White Sox (.311). If you’re in an AL-only or deep mixed league, he’s a fine option if you look ahead to early next week.

Week Four 2-Start Pitchers Update

Here is the latest update to Week Four 2-start pitchers. Again this list is subject to change going forward.

Pitchers not listed on last update

PHI – Jamie Moyer
LAD – Josh Towers
DET – Justin Verlander

Pitchers from Friday no longer scheduled for two starts

PIT – Daniel McCutchen
LAD – Vicente Padilla
SEA – Ian Snell

In each of his three starts this year, Moyer has gone six innings. In his first two outings, he gave up five runs but in his last outing he allowed just two unearned runs. Moyer his being his usual stingy self with walks and his strikeout rate is up slightly from a year ago. He has been a bit unlucky with home runs allowed, which along with a 60.6 LOB%, helps explain how his xFIP is a full run lower than his ERA. Moyer is a recommended option in only the deepest of mixed leagues. But his chance to pick up wins makes him a useful NL-only pitcher.

Last December, the Dodgers signed Towers to a minor league deal. After three starts in Triple-A Albuquerque, where he went 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA, the Dodgers are expected to promote him to replace Padilla, who went on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow. There is no guarantee that Towers will get two starts next week, as Los Angeles could shuffle its rotation and have Charlie Haeger move up and get two starts, instead.

Because Verlander finished last year with 19 Wins and a 3.45 ERA, it is easy to forget that he got off to a slow start in 2009. But he started last year 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA after three starts. This year he is 1-1 with a 6.95 ERA after four games. His velocity is just as good as it was a season ago, but batters are making more contact this year. Verlander is allowing more fly balls and more of those balls are leaving the park. But Verlander has been hurt by a 55.6 LOB%. On the whole, Verlander is still a must-start fantasy pitcher.

O’s Call Up Rhyne Hughes

With the worst wOBA in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles club is looking to kick-start a sluggish offense. As a result, the organization promoted triple-A first baseman Rhyne Hughes to the Majors on Saturday.

Hughes is a name you may not be familiar with. He was not amongst Baltimore’s Top 10 prospects for 2010 when we published the list prior to the season. He did not make Baseball America’s Top 30 list. Hughes was originally acquired from the Rays in ’09 during a late-season trade involving veteran catcher Gregg Zaun. He was drafted by the Rays in the eighth round of the ’04 draft out of a small community college.

The 26-year-old first baseman will make his MLB debut when he is penciled into the lineup for the first time. He was hitting .353/.421/.667 in 51 at-bats this season at triple-A. He had three homers and five doubles in 15 games. Last season with three teams, Hughes hit .279/.349/.506 with 25 homers and 79 RBI in 515 at-bats. He also, unfortunately, had a strikeout rate of 33%.

The left-hand hitting Hughes could platoon with the right-hand hitting Garrett Atkins, who has a .242 wOBA, but is actually performing better against right-handed pitchers right now (He’s 0-for-16 vs LHPs). Hughes has a career OPS of .843 against right-handers (compared to .716 vs LHPs).

From a fantasy perspective, Hughes has little value unless he can wrestle the full-time job away from Atkins. The rookie should be monitored in AL-only leagues but, hey, he’s no Kila Ka’aihue.

From April 16 at FanGraphs: Ka’aihue probably fits best with the O’s. The club is second last in the American League in on-base percentage (.309) and is 11th (out of 14 teams) in slugging percentage. Those just happen to be the two areas that Ka’aihue excels in. He slugged 37 homers between double-A and triple-A in ‘08 and followed that up with 17 at triple-A in ‘09. He’s walked 100+ times in each of the past two seasons and had a walk rate of 18.4% in ‘09. His BB/K rate was an impressive 1.20.