Archive for May, 2011

What’s With Joakim Soria?

Relievers are a notoriously fickle bunch. But few closers have beaten opposing batters into submission more frequently than Joakim Soria since he became Kansas City’s stopper in 2007. Soria ranked fourth in the majors among relievers in Wins Above Replacement from ’07 to 2010, trailing only Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon and Jonathan Broxton. The only real concern with The Mexicutioner heading into the 2011 season was health, as shoulder problems put him on the DL in 2007 and 2009. But Soria appeared in a career-high 66 games last year and looked poised to dominate once again.

Instead, the 26-year-old has gotten torched. Soria blew his third consecutive save chance yesterday versus the Angels, as Torii Hunter hammered a 90 MPH pitch over the left field fence at Kauffman Stadium to put L.A. on top. In 22 innings pitched this season, the right-hander has -0.3 WAR. And for the time being, Soria has been booted from the closer role in favor of rookie Aaron Crow. What’s going on with Soria?

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Catcher Rankings Update – June 2011

As we get ready to head into a new month, it’s time to update the 2011 Catchers Rankings once again.  Remember, the criteria for these rankings is as follows:

1.  Current performance level
2.  Expected performance for rest of season
3.  Value based on standard 5×5 categories (avg over OBP)

The arrows are used to highlight a player moving up or down in tier, but you’ll also notice some minor tweaks within the tiers as well.  Some that will obviously have more impact than others. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Avila: Is He For Real?

With the calendar getting ready to flip to June and with updated catcher rankings on their way, there’s been a decent behind-the-scenes debate over the power and performance of 24 year old Detroit Tigers backstop Alex Avila.  Currently, Avila is sporting a slash line of .279/.346/.529 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI.  He’s tied for second in HR amongst catchers, leads in RBI production and according to most overall rankings based strictly on 2011 performance, he is listed as the second best catcher behind Russell Martin.  There’s no doubting his current performance totals here, but the question remains…can he keep it going? Read the rest of this entry »

Hafner, Lee, Webb and McCarthy: DL Options

Here is a look at a few player owned in under 50% of all leagues in ESPN on the DL soon and could make an impact, good and bad, on your fantasy team.

Brandon Webb (Shoulder) 4.3% owned – Today, Brandon is making a rehab in AA. I usually advise picking up a player if you happen to have an open slot DL. In Brandon’s case, don’t waste one. There are better players available on the DL right now that should be picked up. The big concern with Brandon is his fastball, more specifically, a lack of one. He previously threw a fastball around 88 MPH. Current reports put Brandon’s fastball at 4 MPH slower or about 84 MPH. Even if he gets his curve ball back to where it was previously, a 84 MPH fast ball will probably not cut it in the majors.

Brandon McCarthy (Shoulder) 2.7% owned – Brandon has had shoulder problems in the past. He said he used to pitch through the discomfort he felt in his shoulder. He decided not to pitch through the pain this time and hopes to return sooner from the DL. His time table for returning has not been set yet, but before going on the DL, he was putting up some decent numbers. He had a K/BB of 3.7 and an ERA 3.57. His ERA could have actually been a little inflated since he had a FIP of 2.42 and a slightly high BABIP of 0.319. He could be a nice addition to a pitching staff when he returns. An owner should wait until he is for sure coming back and throwing before picking him up.

Travis Hafner (oblique) 23.8% owned – He is being dropped quite a bit in leagues. I know he only has DH intelligibility and at least 3 weeks from returning, but he is hitting 0.345 with 5 home runs. He definitely belongs on some owner’s DL or bench. A no brainer.

Derrek Lee (Oblique) 33.4% owned – Derrek begins baseball activities today and is able to come off the DL on Wednesday. It may be a few days later as he may need a little more rehab. He is not the ideal 1B candidate, but he has hitting for some power this season (4 home runs). I fully expect him to be owned in AL only and most deeper leagues due to a lack of options. In shallower leagues, I would expect there to be better players available than this declining vet when he returns.

Mike Napoli: Buy Low Candidate

Just a quick glance at Mike Napoli’s current stats reveals why he’s been one of the most frustrating players in fantasy baseball this season. Napoli has hit for power, but his poor average and sporadic usage have likely frustrated his owners this season. Despite those struggles, there’s reason to be optimistic about Napoli’s performance going forward. If an owner in your league has given up on Napoli, this might be a good time to buy low on the power-hitting catcher.
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Week 9 Two-Start Pitchers Update

Here is the latest update to Week 9 two-start pitchers. Again this list is subject to change going forward.

Pitchers not listed on last update: A. Sanchez, Hammel, Duensing, Guthrie, Lyles, Cobb

Pitchers no longer scheduled for two starts: Happ, Sonnanstine.

Let’s take a look at Jordan Lyles, the top pitching prospect for the Houston Astros, who will make his major league debut this week.

The Astros selected Lyles as a supplemental first-round pick in 2008, awarded for the loss to free agency for pitcher Trever Miller. Lyles has risen quickly through the organization. Last year he skipped Hi-A, as the Astros thought he could handle the jump, plus they were not eager to have him pitch in the hitter-friendly environment of Lancaster.

He excelled in Double-A, where he had an 8.15 K/9 as a 19-year old. Lyles had a late promotion to Triple-A, where he got knocked around in six starts. He began this season back in Triple-A, although this time in a different city, as Houston’s top minor league franchise is now Oklahoma City, rather than Round Rock.

In 10 starts this year in Triple-A, Lyles is 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA. After posting a 1.86 WHIP in his first exposure to Triple-A, Lyles has a 1.24 mark so far this season. In his last three starts for the RedHawks, Lyles was 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA. In 20.2 IP, he allowed 0 HR and just 2 BB and fanned 10 batters.

Lyles is not overpowering but he has a deep repertoire and he throws strikes. It’s always impressive when a pitcher makes it to the majors at age 20. But you have to wonder if he is mentally ready to take on major league hitters and if Lyles will trust his stuff enough to thrive.

The matchups are not overly favorable for Lyles, either. He has two road starts and has to go up against Carlos Zambrano and Mat Latos. The tendency among fantasy players is to gobble up rookies when they get called to the majors, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Without dominating stuff, Lyles seems unlikely to be a fantasy stud in his first exposure to MLB.

Last week we looked at Carlos Villanueva. In his two starts, Villanueva picked up a win with a strong outing against the Yankees, where he allowed just two hits and one earned run in five innings. But his second start was a disaster, as he gave up 5 ER in 5 IP and was fortunate to come away with a no-decision.

Scott Sizemore Traded to A’s; Raburn to Start at 2B For Tigers?

The Detroit Tigers traded INF Scott Sizemore to the Oakland Athletics for LHP David Purcey.

Sizemore, 26, holds a career .315/.392/.487 line in 764 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. The Virginia Commonwealth product has shown pretty good patience (9.4% walk rate) and power (.172 Isolated Power) in the International League. He was never considered a premium prospect — Baseball America ranked him tenth in the Tigers’ system prior to last season — but BA did say he possessed a “compact swing and a knack for putting the barrel on the ball.”

Detroit didn’t give Sizemore much time to translate that swing to major league success, though, making him the starter at second base for brief periods of time over the past two seasons and then abandoning ship after he didn’t hit in small sample sizes. In 237 career major league plate appearances, the righty batter has a .223/.306/.306 triple-slash. Sizemore has managed a 10.5% walk rate, but he has struck out in 28.6% of his at-bats while rarely ripping the ball into the gaps or over the fence (.083 ISO, 3 HR).

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Russell Branyan Hates Your Fantasy Team

This is more of a Kicking Rocks sort of piece, but it’s Memorial Day Weekend, so let’s have some fun…

Perhaps the title is a bit inflammatory.  In all likelihood, Russell Branyan has no idea who you are and couldn’t care less about who’s on your fantasy team or where you are in your standings.  He’s just a guy out there trying to make a living playing a game that he loves.  But in the spirit of being a mock GM and the need to release some of our angst and frustration with hopes of giving the bleeding ulcer a rest, we vent about players as if we’ve known them for years and that their negative performances are actually stemming from some sort of a personal attack.  That being said, I would like to share my deep-seeded hate for the 35 year old Branyan and the fact that he does everything in his power to ruin my fantasy seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking At Non-Closer Strikeout Rates

Middle relievers have to bring a lot to the table to be worth a fantasy roster spot, even in holds leagues. Keeping the ERA and WHIP down isn’t enough anymore, and anyone with a mediocre strikeout is at a natural disadvantage. There’s almost always someone else available that can help you just as much in the other categories while contributing more whiffs. Let’s take a look through the reliever strikeout leaderboard and pick out the non-closers who have struck out more than a batter per inning this year (min. 20 IP) …

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Nick Blackburn and Jon Jay: Waiver Wire

In today’s Waiver Wire we discuss two players who have shown great production of late. Thanks to reputations — one the player’s and the other the manager’s — they are owned in fewer than 10% of leagues.

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