Archive for November, 2010

De La Rosa Returns To The Rockies

Everyone’s looking for the next big fantasy starter in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, hoping it clicks for a young player finally given a chance or that a veteran takes an unexpected step forward. Three years ago I managed to grab Cliff Lee out of the free agent pool before everyone else, and two years ago I gambled on Josh Johnson in a mid-teen round. While I was enjoying JJ’s breakout season, someone else in my league was enjoying Jorge de la Rosa’s.

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Old Free Agent First Basemen

It’s a tough offseason to be a veteran free agent first baseman. Though it may normally be a difficult position to be in anyway, there are now too many lumbering older dudes looking for too few chairs and the music will eventually stop. Who will win this round of musical chairs? Will any of the bunch succeed and therefore become a fantasy value pick in 2011?

By the current count, the Cubs, Jays, Nationals, White Sox and Rays don’t have a traditional first baseman on their roster, and they probably represent the best opportunities for an every-day first base job for Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche, and Lyle Overbay. Someone will probably be on the outside looking in.

Perhaps that is over-rating the dire state of the market. There might be a chance that the Red Sox, Rangers or Orioles buy a first baseman on the market. They have options at the position, but they could also move players around. Still, the Orioles and Rangers are more likely to solve the situation with their cheaper internal options – Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold could be good enough to man DH and first base for a rebuilding club, and Mitch Moreland and Vladimir Guerrero (provided he re-signs) could do the job for a Rangers team that might be looking to spend money on pitching.

If you drafted today, you’d have to downgrade the whole bunch – save Dunn – because of the uncertainty. But you’d also have to downgrade the older men in the crew because of their age. Only 18 firstbasemen over 35 have put up better than an .800 OPS since 1975, and only Mark McGwire, Andres Gallaraga, Jeff Bagwell and Carlos Delgado hit more than 30 home runs over that age. Most likely, only one of Lee, Berkman and Overbay will join the .800+ OPS crew – and none fit in the second group when it comes to power.

Really, the decision comes down to Lee and Berkman if you’re looking for a bounce-back value at the position at the end of your deep-league draft. Lee had back problems, and Berkman has a degenerative knee problem – neither state of health induces much hope for a clean bill of health in 2011. Berkman has said that the Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, A’s, Pirates and Blue Jays are interested – but the NL teams on the list would most likely want him as a backup (save the Cubs), and the AL teams are rumored to be interested in him as a DH. Players often suffer worse numbers as they transition to DH, and Berkman’s .255/.358/.349 line in New York at DH doesn’t offer much hope. The market for Lee so far has been deadly quiet, which may have something to do with his offseason thumb surgery – or his age.

In any case, it’s a tough season to be a free agent first baseman, and it’s a tough time to be drafting – this is why we schedule drafts as late as we can before the season starts. Once the actual deals come through, we’ll evaluate their situations more fully, but this serves as a general warning. There’s not much upside here as history doesn’t like 35-year-old first basemen. Temper any excitement you might get when looking at their historical statistics.

Recent Moves: Huff, Garland, Uribe

Let’s take a quick look at the fantasy impact of a trio of recent transactions…

Huff Re-Ups With The Giants

Aubrey Huff went from a man without a job in January to a .388 wOBA in the regular season, helping the Giants to their first World Championship in San Francisco. GM Brian Sabean committed one of baseball’s cardinal sins when he re-signed Huff for big money after he played hero, especially when his performance showed signs of regression during the season and into the playoffs. After coming out of the gate with a .409 wOBA and 20 homers in the season’s first four months, he dipped down to a (still solid) .349 wOBA with just six homers from August onward. His playoff performance (.292 wOBA) wasn’t much to write about either.

With no significant change in his batted ball profile (a few less grounders, a few more line drives) and minimal improvements in his contact and plate discipline rates, there’s little evidence of a real change in Huff’s approach and underlying performance. That’s not to say he won’t be productive in 2010, just don’t expect another extended Albert Pujols impersonation, certainly not at that age (34 next month) and not in that park.

Garland Goes Back To LA

Jon Garland’s had himself a heck of a career, amassing 23.3 WAR (16.2 in the last six seasons) and soaking up innings like few others. His fantasy value is minimal because of a measly strikeout rate (4.84 K/9 career) and a tendency to put a lot of men on base, but he’ll get you double digit wins and shouldn’t blow up your ERA. The most from the Padres to the Dodgers does little, Garland’s basically the same guy he always was.

Uribe Cashes In

Two offseasons ago, Juan Uribe had to settle for minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training. Now he’s busy celebrating a three year contract that will put $7M in his pocket on annual basis. He brings his ~.200 ISO to the Dodgers, where he’ll slide in at second base. Uribe’s best asset is his multi-position eligibility and ability to approach, if not exceed, 20 homers on an annual basis. The change in run environments won’t do much to his value; he’ll still kill you in an OBP league but serve as a fine second or third tier option at either middle infield spot in regular leagues.

Crowdsourcing Results: Sandoval and Wandy

Here are your results from last week’s round of voting. Don’t forget to submit your vote for today’s ballot (Joe Nathan), which went up earlier this morning.

Pablo Sandoval
My vote: 9
Average: 10.63
Median: 10
Std Dev: 3.73

Apparently I was off a little bit, but these results seem about right to me. However, the fairly large standard deviation worries me, as I’d like to see it drop down about a full round. But, it shows just how much argument there will be when it comes to Kung Fu Panda’s value. Valuing Sandoval as a late 10th round pick means owners are expecting something close to a .280 average with 17 homers with a little more than 70 runs scored and driven in. Those numbers are fairly reasonable for Pablo, so you aren’t going to get much of a deal if you take him in the tenth. If he could fall to me in the 12th, I’d be much more excited, but I suppose I could talk myself into a 10th round selection if I hadn’t taken a third baseman yet.

Wandy Rodriguez
My vote: 9
Average: 10.97
Median: 10.5
Std Dev: 2.71

Just like Pablo, I leaned a little too early with Wandy. I am very happy with the smaller standard deviation, though, and it makes me much more confident in your conclusions. Selecting Wandy on the 10-11 turn means that owners aren’t expecting a whole lot from him. In fact, if he can just put up the same overall numbers as last year, he’ll be worth more than that. I don’t think that means that you, the voter, are wrong. It just shows the lack of respect Wandy will receive, especially after his early season slump last year. If I can grab Wandy in the late 10th or early 11th to be my third starter, I’m very happy with that. All it would take for Wandy to be worthy of a second starter ranking would be lucking into some wins, and that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

Vazquez Lands With The Marlins

The Marlins, like the Dodgers, wasted no time filling out their pitching staff this offseason. They agreed to a one-year deal worth $7MM with Javier Vazquez yesterday, trading a full no-trade clause for a discount on the sticker price. Javy moves to a friendlier run environment and gets a crack at rebuilding his value before going back out onto the market next season, but more importantly for him, he’s nice and close to his family in Puerto Rico. A physical is all that stands in the way of the deal being a physical, but it’s not a given.

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ADP Crowdsourcing: Joe Nathan

In today’s edition of ADP Crowdsourcing, I take another suggestion from reader Dale. Someone get this man a free hat, or another gift of some kind! Results from last week’s round of voting will be up at noon (eastern) today, so don’t forget to check that out.

Joe Nathan has long been a fantasy stud, because he can give you close to 100 strikeouts a year from the relief pitcher position. Plus, he’s given you 35+ saves in every year he’s active for the Twins, and his low ERA combined with high innings count can make a huge impact on your total pitching numbers, compared to what some other closers can do for you.

If I had to complain about Nathan, I’d moan about how he doesn’t get enough ground balls, but he’s still likely to be above the 40% mark in that area, so it’s hard to get worked up about it. I’d also mention that Nathan’s velocity was slipping a bit even before his injury, but he was still able to get batters to swing and miss at a high rate. Again, nothing to really complain about.

Nathan’s case is going to be a very interesting test, because he didn’t even see the field during the 2010 campaign, and this will be the first time we’ve tried a closer. I’m expecting a fairly large deviation on this one. Will Nathan still be viewed as a top flight closer on a good team, or will owners be a little skittish? That’s for you to decide.

Below is a link to the voting form, and please read the wording carefully. This is not where you would draft him, but where you think he’ll be drafted in most leagues. For the voting, we’re assuming a 12-team standard league, using 5×5 scoring.

To submit your vote, click here.

Martinez heads to Detroit

The first big name free agent came off the board earlier this week, when the Tigers finalized a four-year, $50MM contract with catcher/first baseman/designated hitter Victor Martinez. GM Dave Dombrowski confirmed that his latest pickup will serve as the team’s primary DH in 2011, with a few catching and first base assignments mixed in every so often. The move obviously improves Detroit’s offensive attack, but what does it do for Martinez’s fantasy value?

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Things I’m Thankful For: 2010 Fantasy Edition

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Since it is turkey day, I figured I’d give thanks to things throughout the fantasy world from last season and the upcoming one. I had fun doing this last year, so I figured I’d carry on the tradition.

I’m thankful for…Brandon Morrow getting a shot in the rotation. I was always a Morrow hater when he was in Seattle (mainly because of the whole Lincecum thing), but I’ve changed my tune after seeing a full season of him in the rotation. Makes you wonder what he could have done if Bavasi hadn’t jerked him around so much. On that thought, I’m thankful Bill Bavasi is no longer the Mariners GM.

I’m thankful for…Shin-Soo Choo getting out of his military service. Losing Choo wouldn’t have been good for baseball, the Indians, or keeper league owners everywhere.

I’m thankful for…young rooks like Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward. Getting to see two youngsters take the league by storm early on is really fun to watch.

I’m thankful for…John Buck’s breakout season. Watching someone overpay for him on draft day is going to be so much cool.

I’m thankful for…Ubaldo Jimenez’s early brilliance. Ubaldo made me look like some sort of genius is more than one league last year.

I’m thankful for…Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Having those two in the same lineup for many years should be really fun, and good for baseball in Kansas City. Unfortunately, it may mean that Dayton Moore keeps his job, which is not good for baseball in Kansas City.

I’m thankful for…Joel Hanrahan’s resurgence. I always felt bad for the guy after his ERA ballooned during his last year in Washington, and it was good to see his strikeout rate rise so high in Pittsburgh.

I’m thankful for…Raul Ibanez’s regression. Now we can all stop pretending he’s some sort of stud.

I’m thankful for…Cliff Lee. Watching that man pitch feels like a privilege, and the inevitability of him in pinstripes is something I’m not prepared for. Here’s hoping Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg can save the day!

I’m thankful for…no impending baseball strike. With the NFL and NBA looking at lockouts next season, fantasy football and basketball enthusiasts could be tortured. Not us fantasy baseball nerds, as we’ll enjoy a long and fruitful 2011 campaign.

All that being said, what are you thankful for?

ADP Crowdsourcing: Wandy Rodriguez

Today in ADP Crowdsourcing, I go all Harry Potter and talk about Wandy Rodriguez.

Most owners probably don’t realize just how good Wandy Rodriguez was last season after he started slow for the Astros. If you gave up on him during his doldrums last year, I can’t blame you, because I was among the many who did (and regretted it later).

Wandy had a really hard time in May and June, as he couldn’t strike batters out at a high rate and was starting to lose a grip on his walk rate. Sure, his whiff rate was down during those two months, but not astronomically so (puns!). He bounced back in the next two months, striking out over a batter an inning in July and August, with a K/BB rate just below 5.00. August was especially impressive, as he posted an ERA of 1.34 with a 1.86 FIP to boot.

Wandy has been very consistent over the past three seasons, delivering a FIP around 3.55, a strikeout rate around 8.5 per nine, and a swinging strike rate around the 9% mark. And he’s done it all while relying on two pitches. For someone who just came into the spotlight a few years ago, Wandy will already be 32 years of age when next season comes around, but he should still be able to deliver good numbers next season.

Because Wandy’s always seemed to fly under the radar anyway, are owners going to completely overlook him after his slow start last year? It’s your call, and I appreciate the input. Below is a link to the voting form, and please read the wording carefully. This is not where you would draft him, but where you think he’ll be drafted in most leagues. For the voting, we’re assuming a 12-team standard league, using 5×5 scoring. Please note that because of the Thanksgiving holiday, ADP results will not be up until Monday.

To submit your vote, click here.

Catch a Nationals’ Catcher

While recently running some projections for the catcher position, I paused at the name Ivan Rodriguez. First, I couldn’t believe he was still in the league. He’s turning 39 next week, he’s survived allegation and decline, and yet he’s employed as a major-league catcher next year and he’s averaged 433 plate appearances over his last three years. His offense hasn’t been great (around a 72 wRC+ the last two years), but it’s a tough position, and his .266 batting average last year was 13th among catchers with more than 300 plate appearances. He’s been owned and will be owned again.

But it wasn’t just Rodriguez that gave me pause. After just returning from the Arizona Fall League, where young Derek Norris played well (.278/.403/.667 in 65 plate appearances), I wondered how soon the Nationals would make a change and look to the future. In that future, it’s Norris that piques the interest. He’s put up a 267/304 BB/K ratio in 1392 plate appearances, or a 19.2% walk rate and a 28% strikeout rate. The first is nice, the second is very worrisome. In the AFL he struck out 33% of the time, so that part of his game has continued.

In this case, the good news is that Norris hasn’t played in Double-A yet and has a full year to work on his strikeout rate. He has patience and power – a .201 ISO so far, and a nice showing at the AFL with four homers, two triples and five at-bats in those 54 PAs – so two thirds of the triumvirate are there. His range of possibilities still includes Geovany Soto (16% walk rate, 25.8% strikeout rate, .217 ISO last year), but it also includes Chris Snyder (13.8% walk rate, 29.5% strikeout rate, .169 ISO last year). The risk of the latter is large, but the promise of the former means that Norris needs to stay on radars as he progresses through Double-A in 2011.

In the short term, Rodriguez may have more to worry about from Jesus Flores. Flores has been battling shoulder woes which took all of 2010 from him – but he’s been catching in the Venezuelan Winter League until a calf injury recently sidelined him. Taken in the Rule V draft from the Mets, Flores has been injured so often that he’s only managed 627 plate appearances since the beginning of the 2007 season. In those plate appearances, he hasn’t shown much patience (6.4%), power (.146 ISO) or ability to make contact (26.5%), but short stints have produced small samples in which he’s walked at double-digit rates and shown above-average power. Flores gets an incomplete but interesting, which seems about par for the course.

Last but not least is the newcomer, Wilson Ramos. Famously blocked in Minnesota, Ramos came over in the Matt Capps trade and found some previously lacking mojo. In 2008 and 2009, Ramos was a young catcher in High-A and Double-A showing the ability to avoid the strikeout (18.6% over the two years, 11.2% in Double-A) and pair that with average power (.146 and .137 ISOs respectively). Then 2010 came, and he lost the power (.104 ISO), hit some poor batted-ball luck (.277 BABIP), and put forth a .241/.280/.345 line that may have contributed to his trade. The change of scenery did the trick, as he put up a .177 ISO with the Nationals, and the batted ball luck returned to normal (.344 BABIP), considering that BABIPs are normally high in the minor leagues.

Through it all, Ramos has shown the ability to avoid the strikeout (17.7% career, and lower at the higher levels). That might serve him to put up an okay batting average despite the lack of walks. Paired with average-ish power, he might look like… Ivan Rodriguez. Without some – cough – help, Ramos’ power peak won’t ever look like Rodriguez’ best years, but look at the Tigers’ version of Rodriguez for an idea of what a nice Ramos year could look like. And, in fact, that makes him the safest bet for the future at the position for the Nationals.