Author Archive

Chris Capuano Putting Up Some Surprising Numbers

To say it’s been an up-and-down season for Chris Capuano is putting it more than a little mildly. After a solid first half of 2012, Capuano fell apart down the stretch so badly that he entered 2013 as one of three excess Dodger starters, with little path back to relevance short of a trade. But then Chad Billingsley got hurt, and Zack Greinke got hurt, and Josh Beckett got hurt, and Ted Lilly got hurt, and Aaron Harang got traded — not necessarily all in that order — and Capuano found himself with a chance.

That lasted all of two innings on April 16 before he left with an injured calf, and when he returned in May, he made five starts of varying quality before landing on the disabled list for a second time, this due to a strained lat. Capuano rejoined the rotation in June, but was told he was headed to the bullpen when the Dodgers acquired Ricky Nolasco… only for that plan to be abandoned when Stephen Fife found himself sidelined with a sore shoulder hours later.

So after all that, Capuano is still in the rotation, and it brings us to this: Capuano has been really, really good lately, and he’s got an incredibly easy run of opponents lined up. Read the rest of this entry »

Rick Porcello Deserves Another Look

Anyone remember who the unexpected darling of spring training was this year? Okay, fine, it was Yasiel Puig. But if we stick to either Florida or the mound, then the man collecting the most acclaim in March was Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello, who struck out 21 in 24 innings without allowing a single walk. Now, you know as well as I do that spring training numbers don’t really matter, yet it’s hard to ignore a 21/0 K/BB.


That kind of buzz made Porcello something of an early darling among fantasy players, especially as he entered his age-24 season with a solid (if small) four year trend of declining home run rates and increasing K/9 rates behind him. Porcello had lowered his FIP and his xFIP each year of his career, and so far in 2013 he’s continued that trend (see table at right). By all indications, Porcello has continued improving as a pitcher, and he’s right ahead of James Shields, Gio Gonzalez, and Cole Hamels on the FIP charts.

Yet here we are in the first week of August, and Porcello has only a 4.49 ERA. He’s still owned in fewer than 20% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues. What gives? Read the rest of this entry »

Veras Trade Leaves Ninth Inning Open for Jose Cisnero

When you’re a team that’s going absolutely nowhere in 2013 like the Houston Astros, this is exactly how it’s supposed to work. You pick up a decently effective reliever like Jose Veras on a reasonably-priced contract, you let him inflate his value by making him your Capital-C Closer, and then you trade him to a contender for a potentially useful prospect.

Yet while most of the baseball world will focus on what Veras can do to help the Detroit Tigers get to October, his departure creates a hole in the Houston bullpen. There’s suddenly a hole at closer for the Astros, and that means that fantasy owners have the rare opportunity to pick up free saves off the waiver wire. With apologies to Wesley Wright, who has pretty harsh platoon splits and might be on his way out the door as well, that man is likely to be Jose Cisnero. Who is he, and is he likely to be valuable in any way other than saves? Read the rest of this entry »

Justin Smoak, Finally For Real?

Back in the spring, each of us here at RotoGraphs participated in a “Ten Bold Predictions” series for the upcoming season. As you can imagine, there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek in all of those, because you don’t want to say something blatantly obvious like “Miguel Cabrera is going to be great”, for example, but you also want to stick with something that may vaguely be realistic, too.

We’ll probably recap those for everyone following the season, and I’m the first to admit I have some real clunkers in mine. But we can get into the rest another time, because for now, I want to focus on this one: my “bold prediction” that Justin Smoak would be a top-15 mixed league first baseman. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching For Saves in Chicago Once Kevin Gregg is Gone

Sometimes, the best part about trading season is less about the additions some clubs make than it is about the new roles of those left behind. In fantasy baseball, that’s rarely more relevant than it is in the bullpen, where the “save” can suddenly make barely-notable middle relievers valuable properties, simply because they’ll be pitching now in the ninth rather than the seventh or eighth.

While we could see closers move in a few places, the most likely spot to see this happen this year is going to be in Chicago, where Kevin Gregg is 35, a free-agent-to-be, having a surprisingly good season, and absolutely not going to be with the Cubs the next time they’re any good. Dale Sveum’s club has already gone through three closers this year — first Carlos Marmol before he was demoted and traded, then Kyuji Fujikawa before he got hurt, now Gregg — and it seems more likely than not that they’ll end up with at least one more before the season is out.

So… who’s it going to be? Read the rest of this entry »

The New & Improved Ivan Nova?

Back in 2011, 24-year-old rookie Ivan Nova burst onto the scene, putting up an eye-popping 16-4 record for the New York Yankees and finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Even for those with cold, black, jaded, hearts like myself who try to ignore pitcher win/loss records entirely, that’s a mark that’s difficult to miss, and it of course retains a great deal of value when you’re specifically talking about fantasy baseball. Nova’s peripherals didn’t quite back up that level of success, since he struck out only 98 in 165.1 innings to go with a 4.01 FIP, but for a guy who didn’t even have a guaranteed roster spot with the team entering spring training, it was a pretty fantastic debut.

Last year, he still won 12 games and improved both his strikeout & walk numbers, but a massive jump in his home run rate inflated both his ERA and his FIP, the point where the Yankees left him off the postseason roster. This year, Nova fought off David Phelps to keep his spot, but made it through just four short & uneven starts before a right triceps injury knocked him out for more than a month. After returning in May, he made two relief appearances before being optioned to Triple-A, though he’s since returned to make four pretty impressive appearances.

Nova appears to have regained his spot in the Yankees rotation and has looked good doing it, so we have ask: what Nova are we seeing here? Read the rest of this entry »

Why Is Starlin Castro Terrible Now?

Is there a more disappointing player in fantasy baseball (non-injury division) this year than Starlin Castro? Okay, Josh Hamilton, maybe. Perhaps Matt Kemp, though anyone who didn’t expect some amount of negative impact from his shoulder surgery wasn’t really paying attention.

Remember, Castro was a guy ranked by Yahoo! as the #39 overall fantasy player (and #3 shortstop) entering the season. This was a guy who was placed in the elite top tier of fantasy shortstops along with Jose Reyes & Troy Tulowitzki right here by Erik Hahmann in March. I point that out not to embarrass Erik, but to show that everyone thought Castro was among the best of the fantasy best at the position — myself included, since I drafted him on more than one team.

Three months into the season, I now own Castro on zero teams. In one case, I simply dropped him for Jhonny Peralta, and I haven’t looked back. But 90% of Yahoo! teams and 97% of ESPN teams are still holding on. What went wrong, and is there a reason to hold out hope?

Read the rest of this entry »

Coco Crisp Is Surprisingly Valuable

Earlier this month, I noticed something fun while playing around with the “last calendar year” sort in the FanGraphs leaderboards:

Pujols is hardly what he once was, but still. Coco Crisp!

Crisp’s been pretty hot over the last week, and as the “last calendar year” timeframe has moved on to no longer include a brief cold spell from last June, Crisp looks even better — he’s 20th in baseball in wOBA, right in between Carlos Gonzalez & Carlos Santana. That’s pretty impressive company, and it only looks better when you go by WAR, where he sits at 17th.

You look at the other names on that list, and they make sense. There’s Miguel Cabrera, and Andrew McCutchen, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, and so on. They’re the elite class of the game. Crisp, meanwhile, turns 34 this fall. He was once traded straight up for reliever Ramon Ramirez, who was DFA’d this week. (He was also once traded for Chuck Finley, which is notable in no other way than it allows me to work Chuck Finley into a column.) He wasn’t even guaranteed regular playing time in an Oakland outfield which added Chris Young to Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, & Seth Smith.

And now, suddenly, he’s a star, one who ranks among the top 15 fantasy outfielders in ESPN’s Player Rater? Read the rest of this entry »

Adam Lind Just Might Be Relevant Again

Has there been a more frustrating player over the last few years than Adam Lind? He had a breakout 2009, hitting 36 homers with a nice .396 wOBA, giving Toronto hope that they’d found a pillar of their offense for years to come. The next year he collapsed under a pile of strikeouts and poor BABIP, and while he managed to retain some of his power, three years of nearly identical — and lousy — wOBA marks of .309, .316,  and .316 ended with a demotion to Triple-A in 2012. Lind’s Toronto career seemed over; his fantasy relevance almost certainly was. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorting Through the Dodger Outfield Mess

Over the winter, we went through every team’s roster in our Depth Chart Discussions. The Dodgers outfield chart was done very early on, before camp had even really begun to get rolling, and so the focus there was as you’d expect it to be. Would Andre Ethier be a platoon outfielder? What could you expect from Matt Kemp, coming off shoulder surgery? Would Carl Crawford even make it back at all?

Valid questions, each and every one, but two full months into the season, they seem now laughably simplistic. Crawford, of all people, has been durable and productive. Ethier has been at odds with manager Don Mattingly. Kemp has been atrocious and is now injured, and all of a sudden Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson are names to know just as much as Yasiel Puig.

So with all that’s happened, let’s reset this mess and get you all up to speed, because there’s value to be had here. Read the rest of this entry »