Author Archive

Ryan Braun Isn’t Done Yet

Looking over the depth chart for the defending NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers, one is reminded that Ryan Braun, 35 years old and entering his 13th major league season, still projects as the team’s starting left fielder. Some observers, perhaps even Brewers fans, might feel skeptical about Braun’s chances of a bounce-back season, considering how things have gone these last few years:

Ryan Braun, Results (2016-18)
2016 .305 .365 .538 .378 134
2017 .268 .336 .487 .347 110
2018 .254 .313 .469 .330 105

Here we see steady decline in every category. After reviewing this table, it would be easy to conclude that age has caught up with Braun, that he will probably contribute nothing more than league average offense in 2019, and that the Brewers should perhaps even consider upgrading in left field. Read the rest of this entry »

Max Kepler’s Not-So-Obvious Breakout

At first glance, Max Kepler had a very Max Kepler year. In several key categories, he was pretty much the same player he’s always been, which is to say that he once again came close to, but failed to achieve, league average offensive output:

Max Kepler (2016-18)
2016 .235 .309 .434 .189 .313 93
2017 .243 .312 .425 .182 .315 93
2018 .224 .319 .408 .184 .316 97

Where it really counts, in wOBA and wRC+, Kepler has been consistent—but consistently underwhelming. Skimming over these results, one would be inclined to conclude that the Twins are still waiting for Kepler to break out.

But ask anyone in the Twins front office, and they’d likely say that Kepler broke out last season, beneath our noses. And indeed, looking under the hood, we find several reasons to reach that same conclusion for ourselves:

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The First Half All-Sell-High Team

The All-Star game has come and gone, but the festivities are ongoing here at RotoGraphs. It’s time to rank the first half’s “All-Sell-High Team.” These are players who had big first halves, but who aren’t necessarily the best bets to repeat that performance in the second half. Without further ado, let’s get right to the list: Read the rest of this entry »

Four Under 40%

Contrary to popular belief, the secret to rebuilding (and winning) your fantasy league is not hoarding prospects. This season, you could be waiting patiently for the arrivals of Michael Kopech, Willie Calhoun, and Luis Urias to save your team, or you could have jumped on pop-up producers like Max Muncy, Jesus Aguilar, and Ross Stripling. Last year, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Charlie Morton were universally available if your timing was right.

The thing about prospects is that sometimes they pan out, and sometimes they don’t. Even a “successful” one like Ronald Acuña has just a 114 wRC+, with a rest-of-season projection slightly below that. In real life, that’s fantastic for a 20-year-old and Acuña is a likely future star. But in the meantime his production is nothing special.

And again: Acuña is a success story. Owners might wait years for the likes of Byron Buxton, Dansby Swanson, and Alex Reyes to carry their teams to relevancy. All the while, players like the following four who are owned in less than 40 percent (well, actually, 43 percent) of Ottoneu leagues have been quietly carrying contenders: Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: September 24, 2017

Here’s everything you need to know about an unusually quiet weekend of bullpen activity around the major leagues:

Jeurys Familia has been moved back to the closer position on the grid for the Mets. A.J. Ramos has struggled as of late, and it was always assumed that Familia would at some point find his way back to the ninth inning for New York. Familia picked up his first save since May 5 on Friday (pitching 1/3 of an inning), then the following day he pitched a scoreless ninth in a tie game at home, as closers often do. Familia’s track record and projections indicate that he should have no problem being a very good closer again. He induces a ton of ground balls and limits the home run ball very well. Meanwhile, Ramos’s days as a must-own fantasy asset may be over if Familia has indeed regained the role of closer. Ramos could still have some value in holds leagues, but there are better options out there. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: September 17, 2017

On Friday, with the Royals leading by one over the Indians, Ryan Buchter pitched a scoreless sixth (with one strikeout), Trevor Cahill pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth (walking three), and it was Mike Minor who pitched a scoreless ninth with three strikeouts to earn his first save of the season.

The first two batters due up in the ninth for the Indians were right handed, and the next two were switch hitters, so the lefty Minor’s appearance in the ninth didn’t appear to be a matchup-based save opportunity. With Kelvin Herrera‘s struggles and Brandon Maurer’s difficulties with runners on base, there’s opportunity for fresh blood in the ninth, and it could very well be Minor who gets the most save chances down the stretch. He’s probably worth an add for those desperate for last-minute relief help. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: September 10, 2017

Another exciting weekend of bullpen activity around the major leagues…

Kelvin Herrera is out as Royals closer, according to an ESPN report. Manager Ned Yost said the team will go with a closer-by-committee, utilizing Brandon Maurer, Mike Minor, or Scott Alexander to close games. Maurer picked up the save on Saturday, with Minor pitching 1.2 innings to bridge the gap from the starter to Maurer. As I mentioned in last weekend’s Report, Alexander may be the most intriguing of the bunch, but Yost seems to prefer Maurer because of his experience as a closer.

Shortly after being traded to the Cardinals, Juan Nicasio pitched 1.1 innings to earn the save against the Pirates on Friday. On Saturday, he struck out two and allowed one hit to pick up another save against the team that cut him loose earlier this month. Tyler Lyons pitched the eighth and John Brebbia pitched the seventh, so that’s the order we’re rolling with on the grid. The Cardinals bullpen situation has been quite volatile since Trevor Rosenthal got hurt, so Nicasio could easily grab the closer role and run with it if he continues to pitch well. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: September 3, 2017

On Friday, for the second time in 11 days, Kelvin Herrera was pulled from an existing ninth inning because of discomfort in his throwing arm. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reported on Saturday that the Royals expect Herrera to be unavailable for at least three days because of what Dodd calls a “mild strain in the lower part of his right forearm.”

With Hererra still unavailable on Sunday, Scott Alexander struck out two in a scoreless inning (spanning the sixth and seventh), Peter Moylan retired the lone batter he faced in the seventh, Mike Minor walked two in a scoreless eighth, and Brandon Maurer worked around a leadoff two-base error and struck out one to secure his 21st save.

The Royals were blown out 17-0 on Saturday, so Sunday offered the only glimpse into their plan of attack with Herrera on the shelf. Herrera has not been very good season, so his job could be in jeopardy to some degree even if he comes back healthy in the next few days.

Alexander successfully converted the save both times Herrera had to depart mid-inning, and his numbers (2.24 ERA/3.33 FIP/3.12 xFIP) suggest he could enjoy continued success in the ninth if given the opportunity. Entering Sunday, he boasted a ridiculous 74.8 percent ground ball rate, a solid 20.5 percent strikeout rate, and an acceptable 9.6 percent walk rate in 45 appearances spanning 56.1 innings. Minor (2.86 ERA/2.71 FIP/3.60 xFIP in 66 innings) also seems like someone capable of closing out games. Read the rest of this entry »

Bullpen Report: August 27, 2017

Another messy outing for Greg Holland on Saturday. With a three-run lead in the ninth, he allowed two singles and a home run and was pulled with one out and the Rockies clinging to a one-run lead. Jake McGee was brought in to put out the fire, and he induced a game-ending double play.

After the game, when asked if he would continue to use Holland in save situations, Bud Black said, “Possibly. But maybe not. His next outing might be a closing situation. I can’t answer that right now. We haven’t definitively made that decision.”

On Sunday, again with a three-run lead, Black elected to use McGee to start the ninth, and he delivered a one-two-three inning. This, of course, looks like trouble for Holland and his fantasy owners.

In eight appearances dating back to August 6, Holland has faced 39 batters over 6.1 innings and has allowed 14 earned runs on four homers, 13 hits, and six walks while amassing just four strikeouts. His ERA has jumped from 1.56 to 4.05 over that span, which is a good reminder about the uselessness of past ERA as a predictor of future ERA, especially for relievers who pitch over tiny samples.

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Bullpen Report: August 20, 2017

Another busy weekend for bullpen activity around the major leagues. We’ll start with a few notes from Saturday:

  • Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced on Saturday that Aroldis Chapman was removed from the closer role. Dellin Betances got save later that night, striking out two in a perfect inning. It’s been well documented that something doesn’t look right with Chapman this season, especially lately, and thankfully for the Yankees Betances is more than capable of filling in for the remainder of the season if need be. Despite struggling with command more than usual this season, Betances has an outstanding 40.5 percent strikeout rate, and he’s allowed just one home run this year in 47 innings. He’s been an superb reliever in his career, and this year doesn’t look very different except for the uptick in walks. Girardi didn’t “officially” name Betances the closer just yet (in fact, he said that David Robertson was also in the mix), but Betances should be the heavy favorite. Chapman pitched in the sixth and seventh on Sunday, allowing one walk and striking out two.

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