Thursday, April 29, 2010

Early fantasy surprises, Part 2. Pitchers

It's probably not a coincidence that 4 out of these 5 pitchers are in the NL, or that 4 out of 5 make their homes in pitcher-friendly parks.

Mike Pelfrey (age 26)
Pelfrey is off to a hot start, due to an increased strikeout rate and suddenly stingy hit rate. This could be a breakout season, but Pelfrey is still walking too many, and doesn't project to have the K/inning upside needed to be a top fantasy pitcher. Verdict: sell high

Barry Zito (age 31)
Zito definitely changed something over the offseason. His stuff looks good, he's throwing more strikes, and he's enjoying a microscopic WHIP and ERA over his first 4 starts. The underlying numbers say he's been very lucky so far, but Zito should finally be able to notch an ERA under 4 for the first time as a Giant. Verdict: sell high

Brad Penny (age 31)
Once again Dave Duncan has worked his magic with a retread pitcher. Penny has only walked 3 in 28.2 innings, by far the lowest walk rate of his career. Unfortunately, Penny's strikeout rate hasn't been useful since 2006. He did pitch 173 combined innings last year, but even if he can stay healthy all season, his lack of strikeouts means he's expendable. Verdict: sell high

Kevin Correia (age 29)
Correia was solid over 198 innings last year and is off to a great start in 2010. His strikeout rate is up in 2010, but he may actually sustain some of that increase. Probably still not a K/inning guy, but should be able to top 150, with an ERA a shade under 4 and WHIP around 1.35. His numbers at PETCO are stellar. Verdict: believe

Doug Fister (age 26)
Fister has been lucky so far, but is strictly streaming or AL-only material due to hittable stuff and lack of K's. He's probably OK to start at Safeco, but that only makes him half a pitcher. Verdict: sell high

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Early fantasy surprises

Vernon Wells (.324, 7 HR, 13 RBI)
He looks healthy, and has been mashing everything in sight. Is he back to being the .303/32/106 guy of 2006? His batting average has fluctuated wildly in his career but we can safely bank on his career average of .281, with 25+ HR and close to 100 RBI. Verdict: believe.

Jose Guillen (.352, 6 HR, 15 RBI)
The early favorite for comeback player of the year, since he narrowly avoided death during the offseason due to blood clots. He played full seasons in 2007 and 2008, and averaged around .280/21/95 RBI. There's no reason to think he can't equal or surpass those numbers this year, but a .300/30/100 season is highly unlikely. Verdict: Sell high.

Chase Headley (.379, 14 R, 5 SB)
Up and coming young player, whose minor league numbers (.301/.399/.500) suggest a solid major league hitter. He has already stolen more bases this season than in any of his minor league seasons. Expect fewer steals and more home runs, although 20 HR might be his ceiling this year. He's only going to get better. Verdict: believe.

Kelly Johnson (.327, 6 HR, 13 R)
Unceremoniously dropped by the Braves, KJ has found a new home atop the Dbacks order and has been cranking home runs at a prodigious rate. He is 28, so this could be a step forward, but let's remember that his career high in the majors is 16 HR and a .287 average. As a 2B, those are nice numbers, but someone in your league might believe he can hit .300 with 25 HR and 100 runs scored. Verdict: Sell high.

Scott Podsednik (.397, 7 SB)
The Scott Pod did hit .304 in 132 games in 2009, but he's 34 years old and a career .279 hitter. He hasn't played more than 139 games in a season since 2004. Pencil him in for 30 steals, but expecting him to be anything more than a steals specialist on your team is asking for trouble. Verdict: Sell high.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Late round SP's

One of my tweeps, @ChrisLewis25 asked about my favorite late round starting pitchers. I couldn't find a way to cram that into 140 characters, so here we go with a full-blown blog post.

I only looked at pitchers with an average draft position beyond 260 according to ESPN. That ruled out the following pitchers, who I like as sleepers this year (ADP in parentheses):

Joe Blanton (212)
Mat Latos (214)
Brad Penny (218)
Brian Matusz (221)
Johnny Cueto (221)
Hiroki Kuroda (223)
Erik Bedard (227)
Joel Pineiro (229)
Aaron Harang (231)

I broke down the pitchers I like into a few tiers, with every player ranked in order of preference (age in parentheses):

The young bucks
The best late round target is a younger pitcher with upside who is about to break out. You can always pick up a boring veteran replacement off the scrapheap if it doesn't work out.

• Jeff Niemann (27) Good lord. Just do it.

Homer Bailey (24) Post-hype sleeper finally put together an awesome month in September. Still has big upside (9+ strikeouts per 9 innings in the minors). Ballpark doesn't help.

• Ryan Rowland-Smith (27) Solid young pitcher, good park, good defense, not tons of K's but upside. Watch the road starts.

Mark Rzepzcynski (25) Strikeout pitcher, should be good for 150 strikeouts, needs to cut down walks. Tough division.

Shaun Marcum (29) Introducing the Ace of the Blue Jays. He's had plenty of time to recover from Tommy John. Good stats, solid pitcher, tough division.

Jason Hammel (28) Love everything except the home park - watch out for those home starts. Shown three straight years of improvement however.

• Justin Masterson (24) Actually racks up strikeouts, just needs to cut down on walks and pitch deeper into games.

Trevor Cahill (22) Very young, good park, upside. Only pitched 200 minor league innings, and racked up 10K/9.

• Derek Holland (24) Lefty with great minor league stats, still needs polish. Bad ballpark. Not guaranteed a starting job as of now.

The Old Boring Vets
If the young bucks are all gone, you can resort to one of these old boring veterans who probably won't destroy your team ERA, but also has absolutely no upside.

• Carl Pavano (34) Maybe. Doesn't walk people. Not bad. Perhaps.

• Kevin Correia (30) Not going to give you a K per inning, but nice pitcher's park, could give you ERA around 4 and WHIP around 1.35.

• Gil Meche (32) Injury last year depressed numbers, but a solid pitcher to fill out your roster. Still an injury risk, not likely to log 200 innings.

• Jason Marquis (32) Boring innings eater should give you around a 4 ERA and 1.40 WHIP

• Aaron Cook (31) No K's but an innings eater around 4 ERA.

Deeper League Upsiders
These guys have upside but you're rolling the dice. Maybe in a very deep or AL/NL-only league.

• Gio Gonzalez (25) Great upside (10K/9IP minors and majors) but too many walks.

• Ian Snell (29) Hasn't been good since 07, but good defense, good park, strikeout potential (177 in 2007).

• Luke Hochevar (27) Highly touted, shows flashes but nothing much to show for it. I need evidence of a turnaround before I add him.

Chris Volstad (24) Not many K's, even in the minors (6.3K/9). A sinkerballer with control issues, I don't see the huge fantasy upside.

• Brian Duensing (27) Meh, but eh. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

$1-$2 Specials

Recently did a mock auction on (12 team mixed redraft), and the following players went for $1 or $2. Every league is different, so I can't promise that these players will be available in your league for $1-$2. But if they are, these players are great targets.

I list them here by position, in order of descending value. For $1-$2 players in a mixed league, I tend to value upside over experience:

Kurt Suzuki
Mike Napoli
Chris Iannetta
AJ Pierzynski
John Baker

Everth Cabrera
Scott Sizemore
Marco Scutaro
J.J. Hardy
Conor Jackson
Jhonny Peralta
Casey Blake

Cameron Maybin
Colby Rasmus
Marlon Byrd
Josh Willingham
Milton Bradley

Starting pitchers:
Ben Sheets
Aaron Harang
Erik Bedard
Brian Matusz
Joel Pineiro
Johnny Cueto
Scott Feldman
Ted Lilly
Hiroki Kuroda
Derek Holland
Daisuke Matsuzaka

Octavio Dotel
Daniel Bard

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What can you get for a dollar?

To me, $1 guys make or break your auction draft. Knowing how many $1 guys you like can determine your auction strategy. You can confidently go the extra few dollars for Albert Pujols if you think you can snag Wandy Rodriguez, Kendry Morales, and Rafael Soriano for $1.

Here are 27 players, currently listed at $1 or less by ESPN, that I wouldn't mind having on my team. Hitters and pitchers ranked in order of preference.

Cameron Maybin
Corey Hart
Edwin Encarnacion
Mike Napoli
Paul Konerko
Colby Rasmus
Marco Scutaro
Chris Ianetta
Coco Crisp
Magglio Ordonez
Chris Young
Drew Stubbs
JJ Hardy
JD Drew
Jermaine Dye (if starting)

Aaron Harang
Ben Sheets
Joel Pineiro
Octavio Dotel
Johnny Cueto
Erik Bedard
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Neftali Feliz
Derek Holland
Daniel Bard
Brad Penny
Derek Lowe

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Three rookie infielders

All three of these youngsters should be starting in the bigs this year. Each of their teams let high-priced veterans go to clear the path for them (JJ Hardy, Placido Polanco and Chone Figgins).

I wouldn't enter a bidding war for any of these players in a redraft league, but if you can snag one for $1 or in a very late round take a shot. For 2010 fantasy purposes, Escobar will be a steals specialist, Wood a power specialist, with Sizemore an all around, boring specialist. I would rank them Escobar, Sizemore, then Wood mostly based on playing time and ability to stick in the majors.

Alcides Escobar - SS, Milwaukee Brewers

• Good speed: 42 steals in Triple-A 2009
• Batting average: combined .293 average over 6 minor league seasons
• Defensive wizardry will keep him in the lineup

• Never hit more than 8 home runs in a season, averaged about 2.5
• Struck out more than 3 times for every walk
• Not going to succeed at the top of the order in 2010

• Purely a steals specialist but his glove should keep him in the lineup. The shortstop position is pretty thin this year, which increases his value somewhat.

Scott Sizemore - 2B, Detroit Tigers

• Consistent .300 hitter in the minors
• Never had an OBP below .365 in the minors
• Brings some power and some speed
• Seems to have the inside track to the starting 2B job

• Doesn't have explosive upside in power or speed (no shot at 20/20)
• Struck out 95 times in 520 combined at bats last year
• Probably won't bat at the top of the order
• Not yet 100% after ankle fracture in October

• Good target in deep or AL-only leagues, or if you are desperate for a $1 infielder in the endgame.

Brandon Wood - 3B, Anaheim Angels

• Power: 43 HR in Double A (in 2005)
• 3B job is finally his for the taking

• Strikeouts
• Has had horrible MLB stats in limited time (.192 BA and 74 SO in 224 AB)

• Purely a home run specialist and I worry about his ability to stay in the lineup. At best, Ian Stewart from last year (25 homers, horrific BA, unpredictable playing time).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two rookie outfielders to target

First a few notes about rookies in fantasy:

• Avoiding rookies altogether is probably a good strategy in most fantasy leagues. They are high-risk but not really high-reward. If you are in a dynasty keeper league, rookies are more valuable, depending on the rules.

• Rookies are almost never impact fantasy players in their first season. If they are really productive, it is usually because of stolen bases. Don't expect too much and don't pay too much.

• Rookie hitters are a bit more predictable than rookie pitchers. Pitchers generally take several years of major league experience to really produce in fantasy. In most fantasy leagues, you will be best served by avoiding rookie pitchers altogether.

• In most fantasy leagues, if your rookie doesn't start off the season hot, you are going to have to drop them after a month anyway. There's always a chance they might end up batting ninth or getting sent back to the minors. Keep that in mind when drafting.

• If a rookie does start off the season hot, there's a great chance his performance will suffer in the second half. He's never faced such a long grind, and the league will figure out his weaknesses and force him to adjust. Have the guts to trade him away when his value has peaked.

• Most rookies come up late in the season, and can often be valuable in fantasy for the stretch run. That can be a safer investment, as a rookie has a better chance to succeed over a short stretch playing in meaningless games, without wearing down and before the league has time to catch up to him.

Jason Heyward, OF - Atlanta Braves
If you could only have one rookie, Heyward is probably the guy. He appears to have the right field job all to himself, and has nothing left to prove in the minors. Over 1,000 plate appearances in the minors, Heyward put up a .318/.391/.508 line with 29 homers and 26 steals. Don't expect a 20/20 season in 2010, but hopefully he can stick around with the big club and help your fantasy team. A .300 average with 10 homers and 10 steals is realistic, and he's only going to get better in 2011. Obviously a great target for those of you in keeper leagues. You can also follow him on Twitter (@JasonHeyward).

Julio Borbon, OF - Texas Rangers
Borbon is slated to get lots of playing time as the starting CF, and possibly even leadoff hitter, for a solid lineup in a hitter's park. Borbon has blazing speed - he stole 19 bases for the Rangers last year in just 157 at bats. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure 15 of those steals came in one game against my Boston Red Sox. He's an exciting player who has shown the ability to hit for average and take a walk, so he might be able to stick at the top of the order. Don't expect much power but bank on a .285 average with 30 steals and hope for a breakout in terms of runs scored.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Primed for a huge year

Let's get the 2010 season started with a list of star players who are primed for an even bigger year than most people expect. These players won't come cheap, but are worth spending an extra few dollars on, or drafting a few spots early. Think of them as the 2010 Blue Chip Studs. Draft these guys confidently and hope for a career year.

Ryan Braun
Matt Kemp
Matt Holliday
Joey Votto
Adrian Gonzalez
Prince Fielder
Justin Morneau
Ian Kinsler
Troy Tulowitzki
Jimmy Rollins
Ryan Zimmerman
David Wright
Evan Longoria
Roy Halladay
Cliff Lee

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Looking back at my 2009 predictions

Let's look back at my sleeper recommendations from early 2009. Red for those that didn't work out and green for those that did.

• Ian Stewart, 2B/3B - COL
• Travis Snider, OF - TOR
• Aaron Hill, 2B - TOR
• Kendry Morales, 1B/OF - LAA
• Mike Fontenot, 2B - CHN
• Jason Kubel, OF - MIN
• Dexter Fowler, OF - COL

• Rafael Soriano, RP - ATL
• Jordan Zimmermann, SP - WAS
• Kyle Davies, SP - KC
• Edwin Jackson, SP - DET

Overall, not a bad performance, especially when you consider that the ones I got right were some of the best value picks of the year. Not coincidentally, I won my rotisserie money league in 2009 with help from $1 pickups Kubel, Soriano and E-Jax. I dropped Kendry Morales after his early season struggles, which was the worst move I made last year - let us never speak of it again.