Archive for August, 2010

Waiver Wire: August 31st

It’s the final final day that teams can trade players, so there will be some post-deadline analysis coming. Here are a couple guys that are more sure things, as they are already on their teams and we have some historical data to analyze. Then again, there’s plenty of historical data that suggests that Jeff Francoeur and Manny Delcarmen are not good pickups no matter what team they are on.

Marcus Thames, Yankees (7% owned)
The book on Thames is that he mashes left-handers, and his platoon splits back that up. In 781 plate appearances against lefties, he has an .860 OPS that is eminently useful. Tom Tango’s the book says that we should regress his performance against lefties against 2200 plate appearances for right-handed batters, and his minor league stats going back to 2005 don’t show this same split, so we are justified in being skeptical. On the other hand, Thames is getting most of his at-bats against lefties and his team obviously believes he can hit southpaws best. This might sound like bad news – Thames is on a crowded team, and there are fewer lefties in baseball than righties – but it’s not. Predictable playing time is useful, since most fantasy teams have benches. Put Thames on your bench, and he’ll play once Lance Berkman comes back anyway. You see, Curtis Granderson has a split in the other direction, which makes moving Brett Gardner over to center and playing Thames in the outfield the probable course of action for the Yankees against southpaws. Finding an .800+ OPS batter that you can slot in against lefties is nice. Finding one that has hit six home runs in the past six games is just the cherry on top.

Mike Morse, Nationals (2% owned)
Morse is battling Willie Harris, Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell for playing time in the Nationals’ corners right now, but there are reasons to like this former shortstop’s chances of carving out some time for himself. For one, he’s hot, with ten hits in his last 15 atbats. Another thing that Morse has in his favor is power. He’s suddenly found his power stroke since moving to the weaker league, with a .231 ISO last year and a .243 ISO this year. Of course, those numbers have only come in 240 plate appearances and are not yet statistically significant, but a quick check of his minor league ISOs shows that a definite trend is in place. Last year, he had a .219 ISO in the minor leagues, and this year at Triple-A Syracuse, he turned in a .216 ISO. He’s a little over his head right now, and he usually hits too many balls on the ground (career 34.1% flyballs) to show this kind of power, but he’s worth a shot in the deepest of leagues. Harris is a career utility player or backup type, and while Bernadina is exciting and young, Maxwell is neither as young as he used to be (going on 27 now), nor as good as we though he might be. Right now he’s just not making any contact with a 20% walk rate and a 40% strikeout rate. Morse has a chance to carve out some time for himself as the regular right fielder.

Promotion: Aroldis Chapman

Bryan Smith already did a wonderful job breaking down Aroldis Chapman and his role with the Reds down the stretch, but now let’s examine the fantasy impact of the next big Cuban star.

Chapman, 22, is coming up to pitch out of Dusty Baker’s bullpen in September, so right off the bat his value is diminished. Very few non-closer relievers are worth carrying on your roster in traditional leagues, unless maybe you’re in a roto league and looking to vulture some wins late in the season. With that said, Chapman could mirror a Hong-Chih Kuo type in the best case scenario; a super-high strikeout lefthanded reliever not limited to LOOGY work (I’m not counting his most recent work as the closer).

I doubt Chapman will be able to match Kuo’s stingy walk rate (2.77 K/9), at least initially; he’s walked 3.6 men per nine innings as a reliever in the minors, 4.9 overall, but it’s worth noting that he’s walked just four in a dozen appearances this month. The rest of the goods are there. He’s death to lefthanders, striking out 53 against just 15 walks with a 51.5% ground ball rate in 32.2 IP in the minors, and good against righties (9.63 K/9 in 66.1 IP). It’s easy to understand why he dominates same-sided batters with his top shelf velocity and slider, not to mention his all arms and legs delivery.

But how useful is he for us fantasy owners? Dusty Baker is than willing to trust young pitchers, which works in Chapman’s favor, but realistically we’re looking at maybe 3-4 innings a week. There’s almost a zero chance of him usurping Francisco Cordero without the help of an injury, and even in that case Nick Masset and Arthur Rhodes are probably first in line to fill-in. If you’re league counts holds, then maybe he’s worth more of a consideration.

Despite the hype, I’d tread carefully with Chapman. The reward is very limited given his role, but the blowup potential is pretty damn big at this point in time. He’s owned in 20% of Yahoo! leagues, but it’s too much of a gamble for me this late in the season. With September right around the corner, it’s a too little, too late for Chapman to have any real fantasy impact.

Week 22 Two-Start Pitchers

Everyone is happy when one of their pitchers is scheduled for two starts in a week. But that is not always a good thing. Here are five pitchers you may be on the fence about (or should be on the fence) putting into your lineup for Week 22.

Jorge de la Rosa – Last time out against the Braves, de la Rosa allowed just 1 BB in 7 IP. He’s allowed 11 BB in 30.2 IP in his 5 W and 16 BB in 23.1 IP in his 4 L. The key to de la Rosa is his control. This year he has allowed 20 BB in 26.2 road innings and he has road starts this week against the Giants and Padres. So, while de la Rosa has pitched well recently, the matchups do not favor him, especially as the Padres have the fourth-highest walk total in the National League. So, put him on the bench if you can.

Brian Duensing – After starting the season in the bullpen, Duensing moved into the rotation the third week of July. In seven starts this year, Duensing is 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA. Additionally, he has allowed just 8 BB in 47.1 IP. With two home starts this week, get Duensing into your lineup.

J.A. Happ – Since arriving in Houston, Happ has posted a 3-2 record with a strong 7.96 K/9. But that strikeout rate is over a full K higher than his career average. Happ has also been lucky with his HR rate, which is 4.7 percent for the season and 4.9 with the Astros. It adds up to an xFIP of 4.90 for Happ. With starts against the Cardinals and in Arizona, give Happ a seat on the bench this week.

Randy Wolf – In his first 21 games, Wolf was 7-9 with a 5.20 ERA. But since then he’s gone 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 39 IP. In that span, he has 29 Ks and 10 BB and only 2 HR allowed. That ability to limit the long ball will be tested this week with road games against the Reds and Phillies. If Wolf can keep the ball in the park, look for him to come away with a win this week.

Carlos Zambrano – It has been a roller coaster ride for Zambrano this season but he has been pitching well since moving back into the rotation August 9th. In four starts he is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. Zambrano had trouble with his control (15 BB in 24 IP) but in his last outing allowed just 1 BB in 8 IP. With home starts against the Pirates and Mets, make sure Zambrano is active.

Other scheduled two-start pitchers in Week 22 are listed below. Please remember that these are projected pitchers and changes can and will happen between now and next week.

Halladay, F. Hernandez, Carpenter, E. Santana, Hughes, Wilson, Cahill, Beckett, Jurrjens, Kuroda, Buehrle, J. Sanchez, Niese, Minor, Cecil, LeBlanc, Saunders, Davis, Matusz, Mazzaro, Bailey, Kendrick, Masterson, Galarraga, Moseley, Maholm, Talbot, Sanabia, Davies, Marquis, Pauley, Misch.

Now I want to provide some accountability and check in and see how previous recommendations turned out. There needs to be a two-week lag, since last week’s pitchers have not completed their second start yet. So here are Week 20 pitchers and how they fared.

Arroyo – Advised to start. 2 W, 2.51 ERA, 11 Ks, 1.047 WHIP (2 starts)
Braden – Advised to start. W, 2.77 ERA, 8 Ks, 0.846 WHIP (2)
Niese – Advised to start. W, 1.50 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.083 WHIP (2)
W. Rodriguez – Advised to start. 2.08 ERA, 16 Ks, 1.154 WHIP (2)
Zito – Advised to sit. 9.35 ERA, 3 Ks, 2.077 WHIP (2)

Waiver Wire: August 29th

Cameron Maybin, Marlins (Owned in five percent of Yahoo leagues)

Maybin, 23, has another shot at big league playing time following San Francisco’s pick up of Cody Ross. Maybin has logged nearly a season’s worth of MLB plate appearances spread over four seasons, and the results are vexing. The tooled-up center fielder has a .249/.310/.379 line in 512 PA, which translates to a .308 wOBA and an 88 wRC+. He has struck out 31.4% of the time, and he hasn’t drawn enough free passes (7.2 BB%) or slugged enough (.130 ISO) to compensate for the K’s.

CHONE and ZiPS are split on Maybin’s chances of being an offensive asset at this point. The former projection system pegs the erstwhile Tigers prospect as a .272/.351/.424 hitter, while the latter has Maybin languishing at .241/.319/.373. There are still sound reasons to believe that Florida’s big get in the Miguel Cabrera deal will be a long-term asset — he’s a plus defender at an up-the-middle position and he’s not helpless at the dish. However, his bat is of most concern to fantasy owners, and it’s hard to say what sort of offensive player he’ll be. Maybin is not a hacker, but his walk rate has dipped at the upper levels of the minors and is below-average in the show. He’s got a lanky 6-foot-3 frame and Baseball America predicted he’d eventually hit for plus power, but he has smacked the ball into the ground 55.5% of the time in the majors. Maybin has the skills to develop into a strong batter, but he’s got a long way to go in refining those talents.

Dan Hudson, Diamondbacks (36%)

Talk about making a good first impression with your new employer. After six exceptionally strong starts with the D-Backs, Hudson has 8.49 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9 in 59.1 big league innings this season. His 3.03 ERA is the product of some fortuitous bounces — Hudson’s BABIP is .269, and he has left nearly 81% of base runners high and dry. Also, the extreme fly ball pitcher (30.5 career GB% in the majors, 32.9 GB% at Triple-A) has given up homers on 8.2% of fly balls hit against him, a mark that’s likely to rise considering the MB average is closer to 11% and Chase Field inflates homers per fly ball hit by about six percent.

Even so, Hudson holds a quality 4.01 xFIP. There’s little question about his bat-missing ability, as he punched out 132 hitters in 117.1 innings at Triple-A over the past two years. In the big leagues this year, he has an 11.1 swinging strike rate (8.4% MLB average). Hudson’s three main pitches are all getting whiffed at often — eight percent for his 92-94 MPH fastball (six percent MLB average), 23.4% for his low-80’s changeup (12.6% MLB average) and 15.6% for his mid-80’s slider (13.6% MLB average). According to Pitch F/X data from Joe Lefkowitz’s site, Hudson’s fastball has induced a pop up 15.7% of the time that it has been put in play, compared to the 9-10% average for four-seamers.

The Old Dominion product’s fly ball tendencies should be monitored, particularly due to the unforgiving environs of his home ball park. But Hudson is well worth grabbing in mixed leagues.

Mets Turn To Thole

Last weekend the Mets dumped Rod Barajas, their starting catcher for basically the entire season, on the Dodgers when they claimed him off waivers. They saved themselves a little more than $100,000 over the rest of the season with the move. Barajas quickly endeared himself to the Dodger faithful, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a homer in his first game with the club. Of course, he owns a .283 career OBP (.274 this year) and by all accounts is an atrocious offensive player, but he certainly started his Dodger career off on the right foot.

For the Mets, the deal wasn’t so much about saving that extra $100,000 as it was opening a full-time spot for 23-year-old Josh Thole. A half-dozen or so games out of the playoff spot, it was time for the Mets to see what they had in Thole and whether or not he could be part of their future.

Baseball America ranked Thole as the team’s eighth best prospect before the season, saying he “essentially takes a two-strike approach on all counts, choking up on the bat to punch line drives to both gaps. He hits for average and is difficult to strike out.” They also acknowledged his lack of power and some throwing deficiencies, but the latter doesn’t matter in fantasy. They project him as more of a platoon player long-term than as an everyday backstop, but for now the Mets are going to run him out there and hope he impresses. Hard to blame them, really.

Before Barajas was jettisoned, Thole performed admirably in spot duty, hitting .289/.361/.351 in 108 plate appearances. Before that he had hit .261/.347/.424 in just shy of 200 plate appearances with Triple-A Buffalo, and last year he went .321/.356/.396 in a September call-up. The power numbers are obviously nothing to write home about (.092 ISO in over 1,700 minor league plate appearances), but his approach and contact skills have allowed him to walk (209) more than he’s struck out (206) in his career, and I’m a sucker for guys that can do that.

Overall, Thole is hitting .303/.377/.367 as a big leaguer this season, exceptionally good AVG (and OBP) for a catcher. The counting stats aren’t there – he has just one homer, nine RBI, and six runs scored in over 120 plate appearances – but with the position so devoid of offensive production, getting help in the rate stats is a pretty big coup at this time of year. The long-term production probably won’t be anything special, but if you’re desperate for catching help, there are worse options than riding Thole’s BABIP-fueled batting average the rest of the way.

RotoGraphs Chat – 8/27/10

Replacing Dustin Pedroia, In Tiers

So it looks like Dustin Pedroia might be out for the year now that his foot has remained sore. His owners are left crying into their caps, and looking for replacements. Since it’s normally time for a middle infield update anyway, this works out well. We’ll look at possible replacements based on the size of your league. The benchmarks come from Jeff Zimmerman’s article here.

Shallow Leagues (58% owned or less)
If you are lucky, Omar Infante (60% owned) will be out there for you. He is one of the better possibilities for replacing the little-bit-of-power, little-bit-of-speed thing that Pedroia had going, and he is also atop one of the better lineups in the National League. But Infante doesn’t quite hit our benchmark, so Alberto Callaspo (46% owned) has a little more pop than Asdrubal Cabrera (44% owned) and might therefore be a better replacement for the balding Boston ballplayer. Though neither has shown much power or speed this year, it’s Callaspo that has had the best power year (.156 ISO in 2009) between the two and Cabrera that has had the best speed year (5.9 speed score in 2009). Depending on your priorities, they make decent stop-gaps.

12-Team Leagues (26% owned or less)
The options on this level are Orlando Hudson and Ryan Raburn, and both have a little more power than the guys above. Raburn’s currently showing a .176 ISO and has a .186 career number in that category, so he’s the guy to pick up for power. With his strikeout rate (26.2% this year, 25.9% career), he probably won’t put up a Pedroia-an batting average, and his speed has declined from about average (5.1 in 2008, 5.0 is average) to below average (3.8 in 2010) in three years. Hudson will give you a decent batting average as he has been within spitting distance of his .282 career batting average in most years. Unfortunately, he’s in the midst of a four-year decline in his power and now owns a poor ISO (.118). While his speed score is still above average (5.6), he hasn’t cracked double-digit in steals since 2007. Either way, Hudson is the closer comp to the Boston second baseman.

20-Team Leagues (1% owned or less)
Yes, Blake DeWitt is playing every day and is atop a lineup, but he’s also owned in 3% of Yahoo leagues, doesn’t have much pop or speed, and that Cubs lineup isn’t anywhere close to the Red Sox lineup. Well, none of your options in leagues of this size will come close to Pedroia’s excellence, so let’s just get that out of the way. No, of the second basemen owned in 1% of leagues (or less), it’s Chris Getz that is the most interesting. He’s mostly wrested the second base job away from Mike Aviles, but he’s just about as flawed as the man he replaces (or worse). He has no power to speak of (.040 ISO this year, .069 career, .150 ISO is average), and now that he’s 641 plate appearances into his career and showing the same walk rate every year (7.8% this year, 7.3% career), we can say he doesn’t really get on base at an average rate (8.5% walk rate is average this year). Well, he does do one thing. His speed score has stayed above average every year and is decent this year (5.5). He has some wheels. His 13 stolen bases (87% success rate) even means that he could equal a fictionally healthy Pedroia the rest of the way in one category. Unfortunately for deep league owners, it’s just one category.

Outfielders on the Wire

As the trade season has ended for most of us, it’s natural to transition from rankings to posts about players that might be on your wire. Here is a duo that might just help at baseball’s second-most plentiful position.

Brad Hawpe, Free Agent (29%)
Brad Hawpe is a free agent in August, which must be both disconcerting and possibly exciting to him, and is also making his fantasy value very nebulous and context-specific. He’s always been a little context-specific anyway, with a .227 ISO at home and a .197 ISO on the road. Though Hawpe has been having a bad year, only his ISO and HR/FB rates are far off his norms, and those statistics take more than his current 300 plate appearances to stabilize. He could easily return to his old ways in a new stadium… especially if his new stadium is in Texas, which has a nice 120 park factor for home runs by left-handed batters. The Rangers are rumored to be in on the former Rockies outfielder as a backup 1B/DH/OF to help them survive through some current injury and poor play. Hawpe would have to beat out Jorge Cantu and Mitch Moreland for playing time at first base, which sounds doable. Even easier for Hawpe would be beating Willy Aybar and Dan Johnson out for time in Tampa Bay. While Tampa doesn’t offer the same left-handed park factor (88), it does offer an easier path to regular time. In deep leagues with five outfielders, he makes for a sneaky waiver claim.

Chris Denorfia, Padres (7% owned)
When Tony Gwynn Jr. (or Thin Gwynn) went down this year, it was San Diego’s loss but Denorfia’s gain. Well, actually, it might have even been San Diego’s gain, other than Denorfia’s career -19.6 UZR/150 in center field. No matter, Scott Hairston can shift over to center defensively (career 7.6 UZR/150) and allow Denorfia more time at a corner position. Either way, Denorfia is the brand new owner of steady playing time without a real threat in sight. A career .282/.354/.429 line is eminently decent already, but he’s showing more power with a .477 slugging percentage and a .192 ISO this year. That power surge may not continue – his ISO in the minor leagues was a below-average .106 and his major league career has only spanned 479 plate appearances to date. But Denorfia has a little speed (5.5 speed score this year, 5.0 is average), some ability to control the stick and get on base, and a tiny bit of pop. In deeper leagues, it’s the playing time that makes him attractive enough to pick up. Hopefully ‘Unbreakable’ can stay in one piece for the rest of the season.

Waiver Wire: August 26th

A pair of players who cut their teeth in Japan before making a splash in MLB…

Hideki Matsui | OF | Angels | 36% owned

Godzilla’s season has mostly been one of disappointment after the Halos signed him to replace Vlad Guerrero, but the 36-year-old has turned it on in a big way since the All Star break. He’s hitting .305/.383/.552 with six homers in his last 29 games and has been even better over the last two weeks or so: .515/.590/.879 with a pair of long balls. (R) ZiPS forecasts a more than respectable .275/.350/.462 over the last month of the season, numbers that could certainly help any fantasy club. As long as Matsui’s surgically repaired knees hold up, you’re in the clear.

Koji Uehara | SP, RP | Orioles | 10%

The Orioles really haven’t had a set closer all season following Mike Gonzalez’s disastrous start and subsequent DL stint, but Buck Showalter has given the ball in Uehara in each of the team’s last save situations, not to mention another game when the O’s had a four run lead in the 9th. For now, it looks like Uehara will be Baltimore’s closer du jour, and his value extends beyond saves as well. The 35-year-old has struck out 31 batters in 27 IP this season, walking just five and allowing zero long balls. His ERA is a dead even 2.00 (1.36 FIP, 3.18 xFIP). The O’s won’t win a ton of games, but when they do, it looks like Uehara is the guy that will grab those save opps.

Ownership rates are based on Yahoo! leagues.

Waiver Wire: August 25th

Chances are your trade deadline has passed, so the waiver wire is of supreme importance down the stretch. Here’s a pair of players that could prove useful in the coming weeks.

Coco Crisp | OF | Athletics | 34% owned

Zach Sanders highlighted Crisp as a potential late season steals candidate, but that’s not the limit of his value. He sports a .380/.418/.606 batting line over the last three weeks with three homers, eight steals (caught zero times for you net steal players), and 15 runs scored. (R) ZiPS sees a .268/.338/.423 batting line the rest of the way, but as long as he’s hot, his bat could make a huge difference this late in the season. Chances are you don’t have three outfielders performing this well right now, so jump on it if Crisp is still available in your league.

Ryan Raburn | 1B, 2B, OF | Tigers | 21%

The 29-year-old Raburn has benefited from various injuries to the Tigers’ regular starting nine, having assumed the everyday leftfield job (with Johnny Damon shifting to the DH) this month. He’s hitting .362/.393/.724 with five homers and 13 runs scored over the last two weeks, a bit of a statistical correction for his .191/.286/.265 stretch from early-July to early-August. (R) ZiPS pegs him for just .257/.325/.432 the rest of the way, but again, as long as he’s hot, there’s no reason not to ride it out. The eligibility at multiple positions is a big bonus, particularly since one of them is an up the middle spot.

Ownership rates are based on Yahoo! leagues.