Archive for November, 2014

Hunter Pence, No. 1 Outfielder?

At first glance, the question posed by this article’s title might seem a bit strange; Hunter Pence, if anything, comes to mind as a prototypical — perhaps the quintessential — No. 2 outfielder in fantasy. He doesn’t hurt you in any major category, he never gets injured and the final results, while rarely flashy, get the job done — especially if you have a true bopper anchoring your outfield and can afford to make Pence more of a supporting part of your fantasy squad.

In fact, Pence was ranked No. 15 in Zach Sanders’ preseason outfielder rankings, which, in a sense, was the definition of a No. 2 outfielder in standard leagues. But in his age-31 season, the Marv from Home Alone lookalike contest winner put together another solid, well-rounded effort, finishing with a .277 average, 20 homers, 106 runs, 74 RBIs and 13 steals — nothing flashy, perhaps, but good enough to finish 10th among players at his position.
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Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Chicago Cubs

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell:: The club certainly has some holes in the outfield. Question marks also remain at both second and third bases.

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Kris Bryant, 3B: Incumbent Luis Valbuena will likely open the 2015 season at the hot corner but expect Bryant to take over by the early summer time. The slugging prospect — who turns 23 in January — doesn’t really have anything left to prove in the minors (.325/.438/.661 between AA and AAA) but the Cubs will save some money on him by delaying his arrival in the Majors and it’s not clear yet if the club will even be capable of competing for a playoff spot in 2015. Bryant swings and misses a lot but he’ll most likely be a superstar in the making.

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Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Washington Nationals

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell: Both the outfield and the infield are mostly set in Washington, although there could be a hole at second base with Anthony Rendon earmarked for third base and Danny Espinosa looking more like a poor man’s Ben Zobrist (of the Tampa Bay Rays).

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Michael Taylor, OF: The Nationals patience with Taylor is about to pay off. Veteran center-fielder Denard Span could become expendable as a result of this rookie’s development; Taylor offers power, speed and above-average outfield defense — at a fraction of the cost of the veteran. If he doesn’t open the season as the Nationals’ starting center-fielder, look for Taylor, 23, to acquire a permanent role in the second half of the year.

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RotoGraphs Audio: The Sleeper and the Bust 11/26/2014

Episode 180

Happy Thanksgiving! The latest episode of “The Sleeper and the Bust” is live!

Eno Sarris and Nicholas Minnix talk about, among other newsy topics, the Boston Red Sox’s signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez as well as the Chicago White Sox’s notable addition, Adam LaRoche. We also delve into a few listener questions presented to us on Twitter or in the comments – debates about keepers, things like that. We then put a bow on the discussion of end-of-season OF rankings, which went up a couple of weeks ago.

As usual, don’t hesitate to tweet us or comment with fantasy questions so that we may answer them in our next episode.

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Khris Davis: Kind of Like Chris Davis

The Milwaukee Brewers’ outfield is home to a pair of highly sought outfielders in fantasy baseball leagues. Khris Davis, after a .279/.353/.596 showing in 153 plate appearances in 2013, was the clear favorite to hold down the third spot coming into the 2014 campaign. He was a pretty popular sleeper (among outfielders, ADP: 46th, RotoGraphs consensus rank: 43rd) as well.

For the most part, he didn’t disappoint. Davis finished 40th among outfielders in money earned thanks to his .244/.299/.457 slash line, with 22 home runs and four stolen bases, in 549 PAs. Fantasy owners, especially those in OBP leagues who probably took a bit of a loss, might have hoped for a little more, but the left fielder’s traditional rotisserie production was a clear win, even if it wasn’t much of one.

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Should Vetoes Be Allowed?

Vetoes are a popular check and balance to the trade market, but it’s unclear whether they should even be allowed in most leagues. I have a firm opinion on the topic, but my main goal is to create a discussion about the pros and cons of trade vetoes as we head into Thanksgiving break.

The purpose of the veto is to prevent unfair trades from affecting the league. It seems, in theory, to suggest an owner’s sole sources of surplus value should be from the draft or waiver wire. They should not be able to acquire surplus value from their rivals.

This argument holds more merit in a league with widely varying skill levels. For example, if you put Eno Sarris and your mom into the same league, it stands to reason that Eno would have a big advantage. Eno’s probably many, many times better at fantasy baseball than your mom. Probably.

There’s nothing wrong with unbalanced leagues, the kind that let co-workers, families, or childhood friends share something over which to bond. However, judging from the comments here on RotoGraphs, most of you are in cutthroat leagues with a competitive field of owners. I’m sure there are one or two laggards, but every owner knows what they’re doing.

In such an environment, the use case for a veto is seemingly marginalized. If everybody knows what they’re doing, then a seemingly lopsided trade was made intentionally. Unless you can prove collusion, it’s probably just a case of divergent values. Is it fair to veto a trade because one owner sees things differently than the majority of the league?

Let’s consider the Mike Trout trade I discussed on Monday in the ottoneu league FanGraphs Staff Two.

I received:

$55 Mike Trout
$14 Jonathan Lucroy

A rival received:

$5 Corey Seager
$4 Steven Souza
$3 Jace Peterson

The general assessment was that I rooked my rival. One commenter said he would consider a veto of this trade. However, another commenter did the math using Steamer values and found that both Trout and Lucroy are overpriced. My own price sheet has them as slight values, but only because I manipulate what I consider the “neutral price” to favor skill sets I like.

So we have a trade where sentiment strongly favors me, but the math is less rosy. Moreover, this is a situation where mine was perhaps the only team that could afford to acquire Trout. His owner would have been forced to cut other high quality players like Robinson Cano, Stephen Strasburg, or David Price if he kept Trout. With their price tags, those players wouldn’t have returned much.

This is a situation where both owners accomplished a specific, reasonable goal, and the math is at least somewhat supportive of the trade being fair. By comparison, if I had made the same trade in a standard Yahoo league, one where prospects hold almost no value, there would be a stronger cause for a veto.

In a competitive league, the best remedy to an owner who consistently makes bad trades is to replace him or her. Using the veto is simply masking the symptoms of a broken league. I’ve seen leagues where trading stops completely, owners leave, or the veto is used tactically to prevent other rivals from improving.

My advice regarding vetoes is to enact a league constitution with clear guidelines regarding when a veto can be used. In my own leagues, a trade must be “clearly unconscionable.” Owners participating in such trades, especially the seller, are subject to removal at the commissioner’s discretion.

These are some of my high level thoughts about vetoes. They’re a dangerous tool that can take away from the enjoyment of a league. A veto is like taking advil for a sore pitching shoulder. It will mask the pain, but it won’t fix your problem. In fact, if you keep pitching, the advil will just let you do more damage. Vetoes are the same way, they just make the league even worse. I always prefer to attack the cause of a problem rather than a symptom.

I didn’t mean to make this so much about how I feel, it just happened that way. Mainly, I’m interest in how you feel about vetoes. So get to it.

Is Melky Cabrera for You?

Melky Cabrera is once again a free-agent. After a two-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays concluded, Cabrera looks to be in line for a significant raise. That wasn’t the case last time Cabrera was a free-agent. It looked as though Cabrera was on his way to earning a massive deal in 2012, but a positive PED test derailed any chance of that. He signed with the Blue Jays on a cheap two-year, $16 million. During year one, it looked as if maybe the drugs were the reason behind surge. However, it was revealed late in the year that Cabrera had been playing with a benign tumor on his back. His second year went much better. Cabrera’s power returned, as did his ability to hit for average.

Though he’s heading into free agency on a much higher note this time around, there’s still some concern considering his recent history. Should Cabrera be looked at as a safe option, or are there too many warning signs?

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Adam LaRoche Heads to Windy City

Yesterday, Adam LaRoche signed with the Chicago White Sox and figures to serve as the team’s primary designated hitter with Jose Abreu entrenched at first base. Though manager Robin Ventura did say that LaRoche would play about two games a week in the field. That’s a good thing for his offensive output, as the DH penalty has been found to cost a hitter about 17 points of wOBA. So perhaps it won’t be as drastic if he still sees the field every so often. Let’s take a look how the park and team switch may affect him.

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Lorenzo Cain Hits Lottery

The Kansas City Royals made a surprise run to the World Series this year. Lorenzo Cain was a significant factor in that outcome, relatively speaking. Jeff Sullivan welcomed the center and right fielder to stardom last month. (The anecdote at the beginning is priceless!) The 2014 ALCS MVP kind of arrived.

Fantasy baseball players found Cain to be pretty likable, too. He hit .301 with five home runs, 55 runs, 53 RBIs, and 28 stolen bases. He was the 100th outfielder taken, on average, around the main roto/head-to-head Webiverse, according to Fantasy Pros. His average preseason ranking from the four horsemen was 82nd. He finished 37th, per Zach Sanders’ end-of-season outfield rankings, in roto money earned. That’s tidy profit.

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Steven Souza and Michael Taylor: Buried in Washington

The Washington Nationals have a tip top outfield of Denard Span, Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth. The trio is productive when healthy, but they all spend time with the team trainer. That’s where Steven Souza and Michael Taylor enter the picture. They’re both thoroughly blocked by veteran studs, and they both have massive fantasy potential.

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