Author Archive

Ottoneu Hot Right Now: April 10, 2024

The 2024 version of Hot Right Now will typically include three sections:

  1. Current Auctions: A closer look at players being auctioned at a high rate.
  2. Roster Adds: Analysis of players with high add% changes.
  3. Hot Performers: Players with a high P/G or P/IP in recent weeks.

The FanGraphs Ottoneu team plans to run this feature weekly, updating fantasy managers on the biggest movers in Ottoneu leagues with an analysis of how these players could or could not help your roster.

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Ottoneu Cold Right Now: April 8, 2024

Cold Right Now (CRN) is a weekly Ottoneu feature focused on players being dropped or who should be dropped in Ottoneu leagues. In this feature we will break down players into three sections:

  1. Roster Cuts: Analysis of players who have been cut in a high percentage of leagues.
  2. Recent Injuries: A look at the implications of recent injuries (not all, just some high-profile ones).
  3. Cold Performers: Players with a low P/G or P/IP in recent weeks.

This article will typically run once per week and will help fantasy managers keep track of players that need to be given extra attention to improve rosters.

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Ottoneu Cold Right Now: April 1, 2024

Cold Right Now (CRN) is a weekly Ottoneu feature focused on players being dropped or who should be dropped in Ottoneu leagues. In this feature we will break down players into three sections:

  1. Roster Cuts: Analysis of players who have been cut in a high percentage of leagues.
  2. Recent Injuries: A look at the implications of recent injuries (not all, just some high-profile ones).
  3. Cold Performers: Players with a low P/G or P/IP in recent weeks.

This article will typically run once per week and will help fantasy managers keep track of players that need to be given extra attention to improve rosters.

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Last Season Was A Long Time Ago: Pitcher Half-Season to Half-Season Correlations

Think about where you were in September of last year. It feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Perhaps you’ve changed since then, just slightly. Maybe you were sitting at a baseball game. I remember sitting in the shade at Camden Yards because the summer’s sun was still beating down and, by that point, I had received my share of sunburns. The memory seems distant as the last blast of polar wind still cuts through March and my light, dog-walking, jacket. Wherever you were and whatever you were doing in September of last year likely seems like a distant memory. Now consider a pitcher like Blake Snell.
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Third Base 2024 Fantasy Rankings

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The theme for the third base position in 2024 seems to be old vets and young guns. Certainly, there are plenty of options in between, but in the first three tiers, it applies perfectly. Beyond that, there are a lot of choices to make and as usual, it highly depends on your draft strategy and roster construction.

Tier four is kind of like a crane and claw game in the waiting area of a big chain restaurant. Pay $0.50, use the joystick to drop the claw, and hope and pray you bring something good back to the drop box. If you make it to Tier five you’re playing for real and if you make it to Tier six, well, you’re a roto-holic. I can’t wait to see how these players shift and change over as Spring Training comes near and draft season begins.

My process for this initial ranking leaned heavily on the auction calculator, which placed all players eligible for 3B due to a 5-game minimum appearance at the hot corner in descending order based on the value expected by Steamer projections. I then did some adjusting and I’ll point out the players that received the biggest positive and negative adjustments. If you’d like to see the raw, unadjusted auction calculator outputs, simply click this link. Let’s get to it, as we open with the best of the best.

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Spent Too Much at the Draft? You’re Not Alone

Did anyone leave their draft with a feeling similar to when you just picked up the family dinner check? Broke? It’s so exciting bidding and spending and clicking “+$5” in the draft room, isn’t it? It’s the best time of year and while we all celebrate spring by making fake baseball teams, we can go a little overboard. Take, for example, a winning bid for Jackson Jobe in an Ottoneu Points League of $16. That is, in fact, his max salary. Jobe is a 21-year-old right-hander with zero major league innings to pair with zero AAA innings and he has only recorded six innings as high as AA. Is he worth $16 in 2024? No. He’s expected to be good but not to start the year in the major leagues. He’s had one, that’s right, one inning of spring training. Albeit it was a good one, but $16?!

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Just A Spring Fling? Take Caution Before Falling In Love With These Spring Time Mashers

Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few players who are showing off this spring. First, the Orioles need to make room for Colton Cowser. This dude is slashing .478/.586/1.000 with four home runs and a spring training leading (qualified hitters) wRC+ of 307. How about Miguel Andujar? He has also hit four home runs and has 13 hits in 32 at-bats, good for a .406 batting average. Unlike most of the hitters who have high batting averages this spring, Oneil Cruz has a very low BABIP, .182. That, compared to Cowser’s .583 BABIP is night and day different. Yet, Cruz is still hitting for a very impressive slash line of .300/.440/.900.

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Ottoneu: Help! I Need Cheap Outfielders

Is your roster a little topsy-turvy? Do you have most of your value standing on the in-field dirt, waiting out in the bullpen, or just about one season away from being in the big leagues? You know you have to fill all of those outfield spots too, right? Maybe you do have an outfielder, literally one outfielder, and he’s a good one. Well, that’s nice, but you’re still going to need at least four more. Part of the challenge of playing Ottoneu comes from the fact that much of your competition is in the same boat, they need cheap outfielders too. You’ll need to be smart about it, but you can find valuable outfielders who cost next to nothing. When it’s time to go to the auction before the season begins, mark these outfielders and hope you can sneak in and out, only paying a few dollars or less.

There’s no such thing as a playing time lock, but…

Luis Rengifo, LAA
Avg Salary: $5
ATC Projected PA: 533

This switch-hitting 27-year-old had a breakout year in 2022 when he stepped into the batter’s box 511 times and hit 17 home runs while slashing .264/.294/.429. He walked a lot more in 2023. His low 3.3% BB% in 2022 jumped to 9.2% in 2023. He repeated his .264 batting average in 2023 but improved the rest of his slash-line with a .339 OBP and a .444 slugging percentage. His approach changed, he stopped swinging so much and dropped his contact rate out of the zone. That came at the detriment of his in-zone contact rate, but getting on base with more passivity allowed him to score 10 more runs for his team in a smaller amount of plate appearances (445). Rengifo’s ATC projection suggests his slash line could regress (.256/.315/.420), but his playing time looks solid. Angel’s beat writer Jeff Fletcher reported Rengifo could be the leadoff hitter in 2024 and that would certainly bring his production up a tick:

Rengifo is one of the more expensive targets in this article, he’s rostered in 76.1% of FanGraphs points leagues. He has positional flexibility (2B/SS/3B/OF) and most of what I’ve written above has been well noticed by fantasy leaguers. If you’re lucky, and you can snag Rengifo for under the $4 average, you will have an excellent value.

Mark Canha, DET
Avg Salary: $3
Projected PA: 508

Canha has been a steady contributor for fantasy teams in the past few seasons. Last season, he finished with 4.32 points/per game and was only rostered in around 33% of leagues. In November, I calculated points league replacement level at 4.33 points per game for outfielders in 12-team leagues. Canha went over that mark in both 2022 (4.64 P/G) and 2021 (5.17 P/G) and finished the season at 5.27 points per game in the 204 plate appearances he accumulated with the Brewers. In each of the last three seasons (2021-2023), he played at least 139 games. Canha is an accumulator, so don’t get too excited about his individual stats. His batting average has outperformed his expected average in the past two seasons, and in the past three seasons, his slugging percentage has outperformed his expected slugging percentage. What can we expect from him in 2024? Regression, but only some. Here’s Canha’s ATC projection below his 2021-2023 stats:

Mark Canha Past Production and Current Projection
Season Team AB H 2B 3B HR BB HBP SB CS Points P/G
2021 OAK 519 120 22 4 17 77 27 12 2 728.6 5.17
2022 NYM 462 123 24 0 13 48 28 3 1 649.5 4.64
2023 – – – 435 114 25 1 11 49 17 11 1 601.1 4.33
2024 ATC DET 436 112 23 2 12 52 15 7 2 590.8 4.69
2024 ATC Projection

Andrew McCutchen, PIT
Avg Salary: $3
ATC Projected PA: 459

It seems odd to categorize the 37-year-old veteran McCutchen as a “Playing Time Lock”, but who else is going to DH for the Pirates? If he can rebound from last season’s Achilles tear and stay healthy, McCutchen could certainly be a reliable, above-replacement level player in Ottoneu points leagues. Ready to read something crazy? McCutchen has never, not once, slumped below the 4.33 points per game mark that I hold as a replacement-level outfielder. Ok, ok, he did record 4.34 points per game in 2022, but that was a career worst. Last season, in 473 plate appearances, McCutchen turned in a 5.24 points per game season. He’s not a lock for playing time as he heads into his age 37 season, but he certainly benefits from the DH spot and could easily hit 10 home runs while slugging close to .400. I wouldn’t count on anything more than that. The graph below clearly shows what happens to a ball player’s production as they go through the inevitable:

McCutchen career stats

If that graph scares you away, no one can blame you. Smart fantasy players aren’t betting on McCutchen taking a step forward, but holding just above the replacement level line is a realistic expectation. The full picture should be taken into consideration when someone else bids $2 during an auction draft. Going up to $3 might not be worth it.

Shared Playing Time Puzzle Pieces

Willi Castro, MIN
Avg Salary: $3
Projected PA: 445

The 33 bases Castro stole in 2023 will make him a target in all formats, but if your league-mates are devaluing his uncertain playing time, you can sneak in and take a chance. The Twins have a lot of injury risks and Castro can fill in nearly any position in a pinch. Both his batting average and on-base percentage ticked up between 2021 and 2022 and then again in 2023 and that was fueled by improved plate discipline:

Willi Castro Career Stats

While his hard-hit rate did not change much between 2022 and 2023, his barrel rate did, moving from 3.5% in 2022 to 6.8% in 2023. To recap, Castro gets on base more often than the average hitter, then he steals bases. He has begun finding the barrel more often by finding better pitches to swing at. That sounds good to me. I’m buying in.

LaMonte Wade Jr., SFG
Avg Salary: $4
Projected PA: 470

Even with the ultimate tinker-er in Gabe Kapler, Wade still accumulated 519 plate appearances in 135 games. Wade, a left-handed hitter, actually hit better (.269) against left-handed pitching than he did against right-handed pitching (.254) in 2023. However, his OBP and SLG were much better against righties. Last season’s .262/.373/.417 overall slash line was far and wide better than his .221/.305/.359 line from 2022 and seeing more reps likely contributed to the advancement. FanGraphs writer Kyle Kishimoto wrote about potential playing time issues for the Giants in 2024, but it was written before Matt Chapman was signed and J.D. Davis was cut. Now, Wilmer Flores and Wade are likely in a platoon split with Wade on the strong side. 2023’s step forward was good for 4.8 points per game in Ottoneu, above replacement level and worth as much as $2 in 2024.

Playing Time Gambles

Estevan Florial, CLE
Projected PA: 284

I was excited when I read in Jeff Zimmerman’s late February “Mining the News” that Florial has a chance to become an everyday player:

It might seem obvious, but Guardians hitting coach Chris Valaika was the first to go on record this week and say Myles Straw is competing for his job this spring. Marking him in the lineup every day is no longer a given. Ramón Laureano has plenty of experience in center, but Florial is the one Vogt called “a specimen.”

As of this writing, Florial has a high spring training strikeout rate, of 42.1%, and a high walk rate, of 10.5%. This combination is typical of Florial’s profile as he has an MLB 30.6% K% in 115 at-bats. Still, he’s never been given a chance to gain consistent playing time and I am, at least, interested to see what he can do. It’s probably too little too late as many baseball fans have been waiting for Florial to show off his tools for too long and have given up. It was over three years ago that Eric Longenhagen wrote this in his analysis of Florial as a prospect in the Yankees system:

I’ll gladly eat crow if Florial ends up being a consistent big league hitter for a half decade because that’ll mean we’ll have gotten to see his electric tools (he has one of the best throwing arms I’ve ever seen), but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

However, for $1 wouldn’t you like to see if the raw power Florial has been known for can be tweaked just enough to actually connect with the bat for something like 10 dingers? 10 dingers for a dollar here! 10 dingers for a dollar! It’s a gamble, but it’s certainly within the range of outcomes should Florial out-compete his teammates in spring training.

Aaron Hicks, LAA
Avg Salary: $1
Projected PA: 373

Hicks was a 4.86 points-per-game player last season for the O’s and if he can manage another 90 games in Los Angeles, then he very well could hold that mark. Father time may be coming for his power, but Hicks is still finding the ball in the zone and has shown a resurgence in the past few seasons in both his wOBA and his slugging percentage:

Aaron Hicks Career Stats

Unfortunately, he’s already had issues with soreness this spring and his projections don’t seem to be buying that he’ll be on the field enough for steady plate appearance totals by the end of the year. To further put a damper on Hicks’ fantasy potential, he outperformed his statcast expected average, wOBA, and slugging percentage in 2023. Perhaps the right approach here is to believe the regression projection systems bake in and hope for a little more. $1 and no more.

A Roster Construction Tool You Can Use While Drafting

Diversity is good in all places. In the natural world, in the workplace, in your neighborhood, a collection of diverse parts makes the sum stronger. In fantasy baseball, that means your team has power hitters, base stealers, contact hitters, ironmen, rotation horses, flame throwers, and AI robo-mutant zombies that eat pine tar for breakfast and rosin for dinner. Ok, that last one may have taken things too far. The point is, if you’re only drafting for overall value (easy to do), you could end up with a lopsided team. Sure, you’ll win the home run category, but that’s only 12 points. You need to diversify and here’s one way you can do that during your next draft.

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Notes From A Spring Training Weekend: Orioles/Yankees

The terminals at Baltimore-Washington International, BWI, were packed with Orioles fans excited to escape the last grip of Maryland’s cold winter weather, heading to Florida for live baseball once again. The unusual sight of sandals and sun hats standing in lines to get on planes can be off-putting, yet invigorating. Spring Training brings that little bit of hope to baseball fans that summer will actually come again, hard as it may be to believe.

“Are you going to the game tomorrow?”, asked a short older woman as I climbed over her to get to what seemed like the last seat on the plane.

“Yea, I’m going Saturday and Sunday.” This statement was greeted with a quick sideways look followed by a “good for you” sort of expression.

“We’re only going tomorrow. I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see that Jackson Holliday!”

My nice neighbor would have to join me at the game on Sunday if she wanted to see Baltimore’s golden boy, as he was given the day off on Saturday against the Yankees.

Cole Irvin would take the bump for the O’s and Marcus Stroman for the Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday, March 2nd. Irvin was coming off an impressive first start where he threw two innings and faced only six batters. It was reported that his velocity was up:

It was a good sign from the lefty who is fighting for a roster spot, though a setback to John Means‘ recovery from Tommy John surgery and a possibly detrimental injury to Kyle Bradish’s elbow has given Irvin a better chance. The pop of the catcher’s mitt from the bullpen as Irvin warmed up seemed to have a little something extra this spring. Then again, it could have been the months without the sound that made it extra crisp.

The first pitch Irvin threw was to Yankee shortstop Anthony Volpe and he swung away, lining a sharp single into right-center field. The Yankees are hoping Volpe will be able to get on base more often in 2024 as he struggled to do so with a .209/.283/.383 line in his rookie season. It seems that the reported tweaks he’s made to his swing are already showing some improvement.

As he stood on first base, the more attuned fans in attendance wondered out loud if Volpe, who stole 24 bases in 2023, would pick up where he left off and take second. He danced and shuffled off first base enough to make Irvin consider a throw over. Perhaps the goading worked to Volpe’s advantage and, to some extent, Alex Verdugo’s, as Irvin missed inside and hit Verdugo placing runners on first and second. Irvin was able to get out of the inning without a run-scoring. He finished the game having thrown three innings, giving up three hits, a walk, and no runs. There’s certainly room in the O’s starting rotation and even more so for a left-handed pitcher. But Julio Teheran came in after Irvin and threw one solid inning with a strike-out, so there’s still a competition happening in the O’s camp.

Here are the fringe Orioles starters and their ratio projections:

Orioles Fringe Starter Projections
Name G GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA K/BB HR/9
Tyler Wells 38 11 88 8.4 2.7 4.3 3.1 1.5
Cole Irvin 34 8 75 6.9 2.0 4.4 3.4 1.3
Julio Teheran 8 8 43 6.5 2.6 4.9 2.5 1.6
Projected by ATC

It seems most likely that Teheran will make the team as a long-reliever in the bullpen. Otherwise, the O’s pen showed promising signs from Dillon Tate, the 29-year-old righty who missed all of 2023 with an arm injury, and Nick Vespi, the 28-year-old lefty. Both relievers threw one inning, struck out one, and kept the Yankees off the bases. Though he did not come into the game, I could see last year’s breakout reliever Yennier Cano working out on an Orioles backfield. Cano has some fantasy promise in a season where the O’s will be without Félix Bautista (Tommy John) and while Craig Kimbrel is certainly a lock to be the closer, Cano is the next man up. One more notable appearance came from the 27-year-old Wandisson Charles. Back when he was a prospect with the Oakland Athletics, Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein wrote about Charles:

[S]itting in the 95-98 range with his fastball. He still lacks consistent feel for location and a good secondary pitch, but his sheer arm strength merits inclusion [on this prospect list].

The part about his “physical presence [resembling] that of an NFL edge rusher” certainly rang true, as did the part about his lack of control. Charles threw one inning gave up a hit, walked a batter, and struck out a batter.

On the offensive side of seven Orioles runs came the following notes:

Kyle Stowers hit a shallow home run to right field in his only at-bat in the game. Stowers is one of the many Orioles who should now be getting consistent major league playing time, yet is blocked by established outfielders. This is a good thing for the Orioles, a bad thing for players who want to play but are blocked, and an even worse thing for fantasy players who want their keepers to accumulate stats. Ok, maybe it’s more frustrating for the actual players. Stowers dealt with an injury early in the season in 2023 but ended the year with a AAA slash line of .245/.364/.511 in 233 plate appearances. The 30 plate appearances he earned at the big league level in 2023 garnered a dismissible .067/.152/.067.

Coby Mayo went hitless in three at-bats. He is certainly an imposing figure at third base and should be given, at least, a cup of coffee this season. He, like Stowers, has certainly outgrown AA (.307/.424/.603) and moved closer to outgrowing AAA (.267/.393/.512) in 2023.

-Fantasy managers should not sleep on Austin Hays and he let them know with a no-doubt home run to right field. He’s projected to be a mainstay in the Orioles outfield and to hit, by most projection systems, just shy of 20 home runs. The wall in left field will have something to say about Hays’ home run potential in 2024, but with health, he could put together a full season of good production.

Though the O’s fans were out in droves, Ed Smith Stadium was half-filled with New Yorkers interested in what Stroman would offer in the upcoming year. He would face Cedric Mullins, Adley Rutschman, and Ryan Mountcastle in the top of the first and would get each out on a ball in play. Marcus Stroman has an NFBC ADP in the 280s and projects to be a mid-rotation starter for the Yankees. Going into his 10th major league season, his projection has a lot of data to build off of:

Marcus Stroman, 2024 Projection
Name W ERA GS IP SO K/9 BB/9
Marcus Stroman 10 3.99 27 151 128 7.6 2.9
*Projection by ATC

Stroman hit 200 innings pitched twice in his career but hasn’t gotten over 150 in his last two seasons. He threw four innings and gave up only two hits while striking out three. Trent Grisham is only projected for 365 at-bats, but he looked as good as ever playing center field. With his defensive ability and the likelihood of his needing to fill in for injured players, some fantasy managers may be interested in rostering Grisham in deep leagues, yet the ATC projected slash line of .222/.321/.405 may not be too appealing.

After looking at the Yankees box score from the previous day, it was clear that the Yankee big dogs would be on the golf course on Saturday. All of Juan Soto, DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton were in the lineup the day before I arrived. But that provided a good opportunity to see some of the young talent the Yankees have in their system. Players like Caleb Durbin (3B, age 24), Ben Rice (C/1B, age 25), and Brandon Lockridge (OF, age 26) all had productive at-bats. As is likely to happen in Spring Training, the lineups became filled with AAA and AA players, all looking to make an impression on someone. Yankee hitters got on the board with three late runs, but couldn’t catch up to the young O’s and the seven runs they put on the board.

As odd as it is to see players walking out of the dugout and towards the clubhouse in the middle of the game, having gotten their work in for the day, there’s a sense of ease that comes with knowing the slog of the season hasn’t kicked off just yet. Your fantasy team hasn’t begun collecting stats, it may not even have all of its roster spots filled yet. But, checking in on roster situations and young prospect production is something that can give you more of an edge during a draft.