Archive for November, 2011

Broxton to Royals Bullpen, Crow to Starter

Yesterday, Jonathan Broxton signed a one year deal with the Royals. The most interesting part of the signing was that it came out of no where. The Royals were never mentioned as a possible suitor for the 27-year-old. The Royals bullpen was actually set for the 2012 season and, if anything, it already had a surplus of talent.

To put it nicely, Jonathan pitched badly in 2011. In the 14 games he threw before going on the DL for elbow surgery, he had a 1.11 K/BB. In the previous 5 seasons, it was between 2.6 and 4.0 K/BB. Also, he had a career high FIP of 5.63. A cause for the drop in production was a decline in his fastball speed as seen here:

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Ian Stewart: In Need Of A Good Home

It should come as no surprise that the Rockies are shopping Ian Stewart. The former top prospect is now seven years removed from being named as one of the top five prospects in the game by Baseball America; he spent much of 2011 in the minor leagues; and he has one of the better prospects in the organization, Nolan Arenado, hot on his heels. He showed promise in his half-season of work in 2008, but when the Rockies gave him a more concerted shot in 2009, he increased his WAR total by just 0.4 in nearly 200 more PAs. Whatever progress he had made toward getting a full-time job with incremental improvements in 2009 and 2010 was more or less undone by his simply awful 2011 season. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Holds Keeper Rankings: Tier One

In addition to our closer keeper rankings (Tier One, Tier Two), I’ve decided to put together a list of top keeper candidates for the holds category. Obviously not many of these guys are worth keeping given the nature of the job, but many times a top flight setup guy is more valuable to your team than a second or third tier closer.

We’re not going to go too crazy covering the non-closer relievers, but we’ll have two tiers with a total of ten names worthy of consideration for your available keeper spots. I included Zach Sanders’ end of season rankings just for reference.

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From Here to Utility

When it gets down to the final few rounds of your draft or those last couple of auction dollars, you need to make some smart decisions.  Keeper league owners usually drift towards the minor league hopefuls that could make an impact either this year or next, but for re-draft leagues, it’s about winning now.  Sure, you could take a chance on a prospect and hope to get a second half call-up, but obviously there are no guarantees and the player could be waiver fodder by mid-season, rendering the pick a waste.  You might be better served sifting through some of the major league rosters and finding yourself a couple of utility players who could realistically end up with extra playing time.  It happens almost every year, and the value that some of these guys produce by year’s end could be the difference between a championship squad and an “also-ran”.

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The Next Lance Berkman

Lance Berkman came out nowhere last year. 35 years old and coming off a career-low in home runs, he looked like toast. When the Cardinals signed the player some call “Fat Elvis” to play in the outfield for the first time since 2007, it seemed like a bust. Some of us even said so.

But then the magic happened. Could lightning hit twice? Could this happen again?

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Arguing with Myself: Brett Lawrie

Several years ago I wrote an article for an old blog in which I literally argued with myself about Jimmy Rollins. I played the role of both the bull and the bear and imagined these two selves having a debate. I suddenly remembered that article while wondering what to write about for today’s post and thought it may be entertaining to try it again. As you read through the dialogue, try to figure out which side, if any, I am actually on and let me know in the comments if you were right. So, without further ado, I present to you Bull Mike and Bear Mike arguing about Brett Lawrie’s 2012 fantasy value…

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Jaso, Lobaton and Molina: American League Catching Changes

It wasn’t a trade that garnered a lot of attention, but Seattle’s acquisition of 28-year-old catcher John Jaso from Tampa Bay carries an impact that will be felt in both cities.

In Jaso the Mariners get a selective left handed bat, the polar opposite of incumbent catcher Miguel Olivo. Calling Jaso selective may be an insult to the word. Of the players with a least 650 plate appearances over the last two seasons, only two, Brett Gardner and Bobby Abreu, have a lower swing percentage than than Jaso’s 34.8%. The man’s more passive than Gandhi. This can be both good and bad. The good is that he’s not at the plate hacking like Olivo, who had the fifth highest swing percentage from ’10-’11. The bad is that pitchers can get ahead of you easier when you’re swinging at the first pitch just 18 percent of the time when league average is close to 30. If a pitcher tries going after the easy strike too many times Jaso has to make him pay, and that’s something he failed to do in 2011. Looking at his .224/.298/.354 line from last season isn’t quite fair. Dave Cameron had a nice write up of the trade yesterday at, concluding with this paragraph

As long as Jaso is able to maintain his contact rates and the level of power he’s shown to date, history suggests that he’s going to be something close to a league average hitter going forward. His 2011 performance is the absolute floor for a player with his skills, and given some natural bounce in his BABIP, he should easily be expected to be a positive offensive contributor next year.

If that’s the case then Olivo should have a platoon partner next season. Olivo is the type of player who’s far, far more valuable in fantasy than he is to his actual team. Most leagues don’t use on base percentage, so his career mark of .279 is of little consequence. He has 15-20 home run power, which is important considering the dearth of quality offensive catchers. Over the last three seasons Olivo has hit the third most home runs (56) and has the fifth most RBI (185) among catchers. Over the past three seasons he hasn’t had a noticeable platoon split either. Jaso obviously has less of a sample size to work with, but his OPS of .720 against right handed pitchers is .115 points higher than it is verses southpaws.

Seattle manager Eric Wedge is fond of Olivo. I don’t expect to see a straight platoon out of these players. Unless Olivo completely hits rock bottom he should continue getting a majority of the starts. Maybe not the 130 games he played last season, but thanks to Jaso’s horrid defense he should maintain his value going forward. Unless you’re in an A.L. only or some other very deep league Jaso has no place being selected on draft day.

With the departure of Jaso, and the unlikelihood of Kelly Shoppach returning, the Rays are going to have a whole new catching tandem in 2012. Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton, or as R.J. Anderson dubbed them last night, Dos-e, form an unlikely duo. First off, neither has much fantasy value. The right handed hitting Molina had a career season in 2011, hitting .281/.342/.415 in 55 games which was mostly fueled by a .363 batting average on balls in play. He’ll be splitting time with the switch-hitting Lobaton, he of 56 career big league plate appearances. He never hit for a very good average in the minors, constantly in the .240-.260 range with 5-10 home run power, but did post a walk rate north of 10 percent in all but one stop. Unless Robinson Chirinos has an amazing spring and Lobaton goes down in flames expect Dos-e to be the options in Tampa Bay, which is not a good thing for fantasy owners.

Wiggy in Philly

Ty Wigginton has hit 117 home runs the last six seasons combined. No kidding.

For someone who has hit 20 or more home runs in four of his last six years, Wigginton doesn’t get a whole lot of respect in fantasy baseball circles. Why? Perhaps because he’s rarely had a defined role other than “super-utility.” Wigginton, 34, has played all over the diamond in his career (those 13 innings at shortstop in 2009 were no doubt a boon to many) but for fantasy baseball purposes, it’s difficult to rely on consistent at-bats from him (even though he gets pretty consistent at-bats). But he now takes his act to Philadelphia, where that stigma only worsens.

Wigginton will qualify at first base, third base, and outfield in almost all formats and manager Charlie Manuel has indicated that Wigginton will be used mostly at the corner infield positions. At last check, those corner positions are currently occupied by Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard. So how will this play out for Wigginton?

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2012 First Base Keeper Rankings: Tier Two

Now that we’ve moved on from fantasy’s super-elite producers, it’s time to look at the guys who are a little closer to human. The five players that make up Tier Two of the first base rankings all had incredibly productive seasons in 2011, but they’re all somewhat flawed. That’s okay though, most players are, and these five are still very solid bets for top shelf production in 2012 and are worth one of your keeper spots.

Zach Sanders’ end of season player rankings were included for reference, though they were not the sole criteria used to create these rankings.

Tier One (link)
Miguel Cabrera
Joey Votto
Albert Pujols
Prince Fielder
Adrian Gonzalez

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Astros Prospects in 2012 and Beyond: Prospect Chatter

You might remember that I’d previously promised a more in-depth look at the Houston Astros’ minor league system, one that is overflowing with uber-talented, can’t-miss studs.* And I’m one to make good on my promises.
*Gotcha: It’s opposite day.

Having already listed the team’s Top 10 prospects (per Baseball America) and pointed out how the move to the AL in 2013 will impact NL-only keeper owners immediately, let’s check into the org’s prospects who could make their debuts in 2012 — and maybe even make an impact — and those who are the best bets for future value once the franchise is in the American League.

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