Archive for January, 2012

The Disappointments of Youth: Travis Snider

If every team in baseball played their absolute best, if every player played at their ceiling for an entire season, which teams would look the most different? It’s an interesting thought experiment in its own way, but it also shows which teams are stocked with underachievers and could be hiding bargains. Granted, the term “chronic,” which frequently proceeds underachiever is a warning that some players never find that ceiling, but some do and there’s value to be had in that search.

If I had to guess, I’d say the team that would change the most would the Blue Jays. There is so much talent on that team right now in players like J.P. Arencibia, Colby Rasmus, and Brandon Morrow just to name a few — and this is not to say those three are terrible underachievers, they’re just less good than perhaps they ought to be — that if everyone were to hit their strides at once, the Jays would be a force to be reckoned with.

One of the players that would make the biggest differences is Travis Snider. The powerful lefty received just over 200 PAs in 2011 despite breaking camp with the team as their opening day left fielder, hitting only three home runs as part of a rather underwhelming .225/.269/.348 line that included almost as many strikeouts (56) as total bases (65). Snider once again tore up Triple-A, hitting .327/.394/.480 — though he missed time with a concussion as well as with tendinitis in his left wrist while in the minors — but couldn’t seem to translate that success to the majors.

Unlike many other Triple-A heroes who struggle in the pros, Snider’s issues weren’t limited to offspeed pitches. He had the normal trouble with sliders and sinkers, but he also couldn’t seem to catch up with fastballs, fouling off 31 percent of them compared to the 18 percent he put into play. His a long-standing wrist issues might help explain why he was late on so many fastballs — the pitch he should be making hay on — but I also wonder if his slow start made him start second guessing himself at the plate. Hitting .184/.276/.264 with a single home run in a month’s worth of starts is enough to get inside anyone’s head, let alone a player who hasn’t established himself yet.

Even if he turns the corner and hits the way it seems like he ought to, Snider is going to be a free swinger. The strikeouts and chased pitches aren’t going away, but as long as he hits something approaching the way he did in the minors — .901 OPS across six seasons at a variety of levels — then he’ll have enough fantasy value to be rosterable in all but the shallowest mixed leagues. If those extra swings mean that he isn’t getting good pitches to hit, however, then he could be digging his own grave. There are plenty of undiscerning hitters out there who still do good damage, but Delmon Young is out there, too, and I can’t shake the feeling that if Snider doesn’t correct his declining walk rate, Young will become one of his top comps.

In keeper, I still like Snider. He’s young, turning 24 later this week, and his power is legit. I’m not ready to give up on someone who hasn’t gotten a full season of PAs just yet, but that leash is getting shorter and shorter; I might be looking to trade him this year if I felt I could get good value coming back.

In redraft, I have concerns. Howard Bender touched on Snider’s platoon issues earlier this afternoon and he’s right, Snider really struggles against lefties — .212/.260/.314 versus .257/.318/.449 against righties for his career so far — which will ding his playing time. More than that, I’m concerned about a second straight season of wrist issues. He missed more than two months with a right wrist sprain in 2010 and a month at the end of 2011 with left wrist tendinitis. This isn’t a Mark DeRosa situation where I expect these injuries to kill his 2012 numbers, but wrists are important to hitters and Snider’s don’t look particularly durable. Add in the fact that he isn’t guaranteed the starting job, which adds another element of risk to his profile, and I’m making other plans. If you grab him as a late-round flier, I can’t say that’s the wrong play, just have a wire option in mind if Eric Thames beats him out for the starting job.

I want to like Snider more than I do, but I really need to see a healthy year from him in 2012, even if part of it is spent in Triple-A, before I make a final judgment on him. Obviously it would be great to see him have a definitive year in the majors where he either rakes or fails, but I’ll settle for what’s realistic. He’s definitely young enough to put a few more of the pieces together this year, breakout next year, and go on to a long, fruitful fantasy career, and I think most keeper owners would find that a livable result.

For redrafters, taking Snider this year is a gamble, as you’re hoping he reverses almost every trend he showed last year with a better walk rate, strikeout rate, lower groundball rate, and higher line drive rate. Impossible? No, not entirely, but you’re hoping against hope. Roll the dice if you’re feeling lucky, but have fail-safes in place behind him.

Draft Hazards: Toronto’s Left Field

Platoon.  As a movie — phenomenal.  But in fantasy baseball, it’s a dirty word.  No one goes into their draft hoping to walk away with a bunch of part-time players, so when doing your prep work, it’s always important to know which situations out there may cause playing time issues throughout the season. In some case, a player may shine enough to take over the position entirely, but in many cases, the manager feels better served by playing matchups, riding the hot bat and using a committee approach to get the most productivity out of a particular spot.  The Blue Jays left field situation appears to be one of those cases. Read the rest of this entry »

Plug-n-Play Candidates

Every week, every team gets a day off, usually on Monday or Thursday. On those days, it is nice for a fantasy owner to be able to put a player into a lineup that may add a few counting stats without hurting the team’s batting average. Zach Sanders coined these players: Plug-n-Play. These are players that have full-time jobs, but don’t have much power and don’t accumulate a ton of Runs and RBIs. Usually they hit lower in the lineup and their only fantasy attribute is batting average. I decided to look at some Plug-n-Play candidates for 2012.

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Will Pineda Be Homer Prone in New York?

While Michael Pineda’s move from Seattle to the Bronx means he should easily reach double-digit wins now that he has an offense with a pulse supporting him, the change in home ballparks isn’t as sunny. Pineda’s old home, Safeco Field, is a graveyard for power hitters and a perfect spot for a pitcher who takes to the air often. Yankee Stadium, by contrast, goes 314 feet and 318 down the lines, turning warning-track shots in other parks into souvenirs. But those fretting over how Pineda will adjust to New York should take a closer look at his 2011 season — hitters lofted far fewer pitches against him during the second half of the season. That makes his transition to the Bronx a far less scary proposition.

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Determining the Roster Runt

Fantasy owners usually feel good about their rosters after a draft or auction. They got most of the players they wanted and/or needed. All is good. A nice core lineup is set. A couple of players with several qualified positions are waiting on the bench to fill in for a starter’s off day. Rookies were selected that should be called up soon. A pitching staff that is second to none is ready. The first waiver period expires and the guy that auto-drafted then places a player on the waiver wire you desire. Now, a owner must figure out which player they should drop to pick up the desired player.

Once a fantasy manager has completed their draft or auction, a owner needs to immediately designate the first player to be dropped. Finding a player to drop for a better player should be easy, but many owners struggle with it. It should be known at all times which player is the first to go on the team if an opportunity arises. It gives an owner flexibility to make moves while others are holding onto their preciously drafted team.

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The Wobble that Derailed My Mock

Charlie Saponara of got a bunch of experts together for a mock draft last night. Yours truly may not have acquitted himself as well as he’d hoped. He blames the fact that his eyes are permanently crossed after editing 1083 player caps for the Second Opinion this weekend, but no-one wants to hear his excuses — especially now that he’s talking about himself in third person. The. Worst.

What had happened was: a little wobble, one botched pick, and you end up looking at a few spots on your roster with the stank eye. One wobble can bring the train down — and in this case Martin Prado might have been the one-man wobble, or maybe not. Maybe it started earlier.

Since I had the turn, let’s just assess the draft by every two picks.

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Crowdsourcing Results: Yu Darvish’s 5×5 Stats

With Yu Darvish officially a Texas Ranger, we’ve started to spend some time evaluating his fantasy value. He’s very much an unknown at this point, which is why we crowdsourced his 5×5 stats last week. We received a total of 560 responses, so a fairly large sample. Here are average results for those five categories (rounded off)…

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Catcher ADP: Early Results

At the request of you, the readers, we are covering the early Average Draft Position (ADP) results by individual position  Over the past week, you’ve seen results for Second Basemen and AL Starting Pitchers, so now it’s time to cover the boys behind the plate.  Here are some early ADP results for the Catchers with a few thoughts added in. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Pod Projections: Ike Davis

The Mets are bringing the fences in at Citi Field and that sound you heard when the announcement was made several months ago was the champagne corks going off in the hitters’ households, as well as their keeper league fantasy owners. Ike Davis is certainly to be one of the primary beneficiaries of the change. With Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols‘ departure to the other league this off-season, the National League first base crop is looking mighty thing. That gives Davis the opportunity to actually be the second most valuable at the position, behind Joey Votto. Let’s see what he may do.

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Kenley Jansen, Top Non-Closer to Own?

At the time this was written, had completed 475 mixed league drafts and Kenley Jansen was going as the number 18 overall reliever, on average. That price may seem a bit steep for a reliever not guaranteed to close games at any point in the season, but it is a price that seems adequate when looking at Jansen’s actual production.

Aside from Jansen’s incredible numbers, which I will get to in a bit, the pitcher likely ahead of him on the closer depth chart, Javy Guerra, does not have quite the same repertoire or prestige. Guerra throws a lot of pitches, but none as effective as Jansen’s cutter, as PitchFX labels his most commonly thrown pitch. Before last season, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked Jansen as the team’s number two overall prospect. It is rare that you see a reliever ranked so high in prospect rankings, but Jansen’s incredible arm and bat missing ability won Goldstein over.

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