Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ubaldo In Top Form

A lot of experts were down on Ubaldo Jimenez in fantasy projections. He looked very impressive today versus a very strong Blue Jays team. He no hit the Jays thru 6 before finally surrendering a two run single to Brett Lawrie. Brandon Morrow was not as impressive but was effective over 6 IP. Both are relatively undervalued considering their talents and make for good trade targets.

More Opening Day Madness

Well, it never fails that after I publish a post something happens to completely contradict it.  Matt Thornton was brought in the eighth inning yesterday and although many are brushing it off as manager Robin Ventura's indecisiveness over the closer role, I can't help but speculate that he thinks Thornton is not the guy.  Of course, way to early to make a hasty decision in fantasy but it raises a red flag for me.  At this point in the season I would say err on the side of caution when dropping a player.  Guys with talent like Thornton's can come back to haunt you if you jump ship too early.

In other action:

Both Ian Kinsler  and Evan Longoria went long in their first action of the regular season.  Kinsler owners know the drill by now: if he's healthy the Rangers 2B is a stud fantasy player.  Longoria gets plenty of love in fantasy circles but this really could be the season he transforms into a top 5 player.  He's been around a while and is just now entering his prime years.  Oh and he's scary good.

James Shields didn't look as good but don't panic.  He's due for a bit of a regression from his superstar numbers of a season ago.  His skills are still top quality and if his owner is eager to move him, I'd be buying.

An interesting bounce back candidate could be Chone Figgins.  The Mariners continue to bat him lead off and he rewarded them last night with a 3 for 4 outing with an SB.  For deep leagues only right now.

This is a great start to the season with another home run for Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes who should be owned in all leagues.  He's a very talented Cuban import who boasts power and a bit of speed.

Lastly for today, do not sleep on Raul Ibanez, he could have a very solid year in NY.  Dismiss the age a bit and note that he had a poor year for BABIP in 2011.  Yankee Stadium caters to left handed power and there might not be a better line up in the American League.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Opening Day ?!?! and AL Bullpens

Sorry but I miss the good old days when all of the Opening Day games were on one day!  The fact that the season starts in Japan might be good for international exposure to the game but I find it takes away from the spectacle that is the first day of the season.  You remember right?  When there was a full day of games, most of them in the afternoon where plenty of people who should have been working were at the ball park. Anyway, I'm being nostalgic.  Baseball should continue to spread its wings internationally and for scheduling purposes they have to play the Japan games well ahead of the regular season.

As usual the closer situation in the major leagues is in fluctuation.  The AL appears to be more volatile thus far where there are new closers in Boston, Tampa and Kansas City.   Alfredo Aceves, Joel Peralta and Jonathan Broxton have inherited the roles thus far and are probably long gone in most fantasy leagues.  Also, I think the roles in Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland and Baltimore are hardly locks.  Although every statistician revels in Matt Thornton's abilities, he struggled in the role early last season, is left handed and is 36 years old.  Most managers prefer a right handed closer. That being said, I'm confident if Thornton can hold on to the job he could end up as a top 10 closer this season.  The Twins closer Matt Capps is coming off an awful 2011 season but the internal options aren't much better.  That being said, Glen Perkins, although left handed, boasts excellent skills from 2011.  He's the handcuff if Capps struggles.  In Cleveland, Chris Perez blew a save against the Blue Jays in an Opening Day marathon 16 inning loss.  With Vinnie Pestano showing considerably better skills last season, it would not surprise me if he takes over the role in Cleveland, possibly in the early going. Baltimore closer Jim Johnson didn't look very good in the spring and I kind of like Matt Lindstrom  as a sneaky source of saves.  Lindstrom has become a better control pitcher as he has aged.  If Johnson struggles, do not be surprised if Buck Showalter makes the change.

Wow, this post ended up being mostly about the bullpen.... next time out we'll step onto the field a bit.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sorry For The Lack Of Posts Lately

I am busy putting together content for the Sports Grumblings draft kit. I am knee deep in starting pitcher ranks right now. Who is your top ranked pitcher for 2012?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prince Fielder Fantasy Dud?

Its always interesting to see what insiders or experts come up with when providing statistical analysis. One of the lines of thought on Detroit newcomer Prince Fielder has been that his 'just enough' home runs in Milwaukee would be NOT enough if he had connected with the same hit in Detroit.  The AL Central parks, in general, suppress left handed power hitting.  This evidence is meant to support an argument which indicates a down year in 2012 for Prince Fielder.  Although, I agree somewhat, I don't think this is a logical reason to expect Fielder to have less home runs for the Tigers.  The one factor that is completely ignored in this type of analysis is his age.  He's now 28 and entering the prime of his career, which for many athletes means an increase in upper body power.  We can't expect a rise in power BECAUSE he's reaching his prime as the 'prime' age is a general age, often unique to each player.  However, I don't believe the change in home parks ALONE will hurt his home run output for 2012.

Where I do see a problem for Fielder will be the pressure of the gigantic contract which now will draw him extra media attention.  Since he's considered an elite player, we will expect him to rise to the expectations but many a player has struggled (I'm looking at you Carl Crawford) in the first season after signing a huge contract.  Also, the change of venue from the National League to the AL.  For hitters, this is generally considered a positive.  Still, Fielder will need some time to adjust to AL pitchers and to his new surroundings, which include an entirely new league and division.

At the end of the day, Fielder shouldn't be considered risky as we're really debating an elite range of fantasy production.  His floor for power is likely 30 home runs.  Prince's ceiling is another matter entirely and that's what most of the experts are debating.  With Miguel Cabrera also in the lineup pitchers will be forced to pitch at least one of them, which if you believe in line up protection (prove it to me statistically because I don't), should provide ample RBI and run scoring opportunities for both players.  I would think a repeat of his 2011 statistics would not be outlandish for 2012.  Just temper your expectations for an improvement this season.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Is Adam Done? - Sleepers 2012

Pardon the pun of the title of the post, but what went on with Adam Dunn in 2011?  Its obvious we are witnessing a regression but did other factors come into play?  This is very difficult to say but there were plenty of factors I feel are greatly overlooked when writing him off for 2012.  One reason that is often missed is last season was his first in a new city and a new league.  Having never played in the American League, Dunn would have faced many pitchers he had never seen before. That being said, he was also playing on a new team which has been shown to somewhat reduce the production of a player in his first tour of duty in a new location.   Lastly, Dunn's former manager in Chicago, Ozzie Guillen, isn't exactly known for being a "player's manager".  The White Sox DH was slumping badly for most of the season and because of this likely ended up in Guillen's dog house.  This lead to less at bats (deservedly so due to Dunn's results).  Also, one more change: he was primarily the designated hitter for the first time in his career.  I've read players that suggest this can be a difficult adjustment after being a regular position player.  Still, at this point these points are pure speculation.

The hard facts, the statistics that is, suggest the Dunn 1) suffered his worst contact season of his career (65% contact rate) and 2) suffered the worst BABIP of his career (.240).  I think its easy to see why he suffered through a .159 batting average in 2011. Finally, he suffered a career worst HR/FB of 9%!  For a player who was regularly above 20%, this would be the leading factor in why his home run output was only 11.

Now, does all of this point to a rebound in 2012?  Well, nothing is assured of course but some reasons to suggest hope:  He's entering his 33rd year, well within his prime years.  Dunn will be more familiar with his surroundings this season.  The DH's walk rate was strong (15%). Ozzie Guillen is no longer the manager in Chicago.  As with any players in the spring, there is plenty of reason for optimism and I would speculate on a small bounce back from this former OBP and HR monster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fielder Signs With Detroit - Baseball News - Jan. 25 2012

If you haven't read already, Prince Fielder signed a 9 year deal worth approximately $24 million per year.  Its pretty insane that I discussed that the Tigers would be a logical candidate to acquire him just the other day.  This is a fantastic deal for the Tigers in the now as they recently lost Victor Martinez for the season.  Suddenly two of the leagues most formidable bats will be in a lineup back to back.  This easily makes Detroit the favourite in the Central.  Fielder's fantasy value is likely to remain the same despite the change in venue.  I would expect a few hiccups though as he adapts to the new surroundings.  Long term, this will prove to be a bad deal for Detroit as Fielder is not a superb athlete and generally speaking those types of players age poorly.  Expect a large regression after his age 35 years.

In other news, Francisco Cordero signed a 1 year $4.5 million dollar deal with the Blue Jays which will round out a suddenly solid bullpen.  Cordero is expected to be the setup man for recently acquired closer Sergio Santos.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NL ONLY - What You Need To Know

On the heels of my AL Only league need to know list, I'm posting the players I feel NL Only leaguers will need to know before entering their drafts.  Again, I will update the list going forward, especially as Prince Fielder has yet to sign.

Coming Over From the American League

  1. Carlos Quentin - OF - Padres
  2. Jonathan Papelbon - RP/CL - Phillies
  3. Gio Gonzalez - SP- Nationals
  4. Trevor Cahill - SP- Diamondbacks
  5. Michael Cuddyer - OF - Rockies
  6. Jason Kubel - OF - Diamondbacks
  7. Mark Buehrle - SP - Marlins
  8. David DeJesus - OF - Cubs
  9. Kevin Slowey - SP - Rockies 
  10. Guillermo Moscoso - SP - Rockies
  11. Norichika Aoki - OF - Brewers
  12. Erik Bedard - Pirates (interesting sleeper now that he's in the NL, IF he plays of course)
  13. Melky Cabrera - OF - Giants
  14. Frank Francisco - RP/CL - Mets
  15. Jon Rauch - RP - Mets

Rookies/Upside Players Who Could See Regular Playing TIme
  1. Yonder Alonso - 1B - Padres
  2. Anthony Rizzo - 1B - Cubs (if he makes the team out of Spring Training)
  3. Tyler Pastornicky - SS - Braves - Rookie who is slated to be the starter, low BA, good speed
  4. Devin Mesoraco - C - Reds - Could be the outright starter.  A lot of upside in a good hitters home park.
  5. Mat Gamel - 1B - Brewers - Explosive AAA bat could be given a full time job in 2012.
  6. Norichika Aoki - OF - Brewers - Depends on the outcome of Ryan Braun's suspension.  My guess is that Aoki sees some regular at bats during the season.

Do not forget about Adam Wainright who should be ready to go for the 2012 season.  He will come at a bit of a draft discount as he's coming off Tommy John surgery.

There are plenty of opportunities within the Houston Astros for some lower to middle tier fantasy production.  Other than Carlos Lee, the team is full of young, yet decidedly mediocre talent.  None of them will be elite producers but they will see regular at bats.  Its because of this fact they deserve to be on your draft list.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AL ONLY - What You Need To Know

Ok a little background to this post.  I usually write up a personal list of players who have changed leagues who I think will have some value for my AL Only League.  This might include the odd prospect or some rookie who is likely (or at least I feel he is) to get some regular at bats or see time in the rotation.  I don't think of it as a sleeper list, but a list of players who will be of interest for AL Leaguers.  Note that the list will be updated as the landscape changes before the start of the season.

UPDATED: January 27/2012

New To The American League
  1. Albert Pujols - 1B - Angels
  2. Prince Fielder - 1B - Tigers
  3. Yu Darvish - SP - Rangers
  4. Carlos Pena - 1B - Rays
  5. Hisashi Iwakuma - SP - Mariners
  6. Jarrod Parker - SP - Athletics
  7. Brad Peacock - SP - Athletics
  8. Hiroki Kuroda - SP - Yankees
  9. Mark Melancon - RP - Red Sox (note: Next In Line for saves behind Andrew Bailey)
  10. Jonathan Broxton - RP - Royals (could see save opportunities if healthy)
  11. Jonathan Sanchez - SP - Royals
  12. Chris Iannetta - C - Angels - An interesting sleeper as he saw a leap forward in overall stats in 2011.  Remarkably good plate discipline.
  13. Jason Marquis - SP - Twins
  14. Kevin Slowey - SP - Indians (after being shipped back from the Rockies)
  15. Francisco Cordero - RP - Blue Jays (regressing but likely the #1 guy behind closer Santos)

Interesting Rookies/Upside Players With Increased Playing Time or Role Changes (no particular order)

  1. Jarrod Parker - SP - Athletics
  2. Brad Peacock - SP - Athletics
  3. Matt Moore - SP - Rays
  4. Chris Sale - SP - White Sox (will move to the rotation in 2012)
  5. Jesus Montero - C/DH - Mariners
  6. Josh Reddick - OF - Athletics
  7. Seth Smith - OF - Athletics
  8. Dayan Viciedo - 3B/OF - White Sox (should replace Carlos Quentin)
  9. Nolan Reimold - 1B/OF - Orioles
  10. Chris Davis - 1B/3B - Orioles 
  11. Daniel Bard - SP - Red Sox (dominant reliever now a starter in 2012)
  12. Jacob Turner - SP - Tigers (wait and see if the Tigers stick him in the rotation, alluring talent)
  13. Mike Moustakas - 3B - Royals (finished 2011 strong and the 3B job is his to lose)
  14. Mike Trout - OF - Angels -I don't see how he gets regular AB outside of an injury.  Still just an awesome talent.  He should at least be on an AL only bench.
  15. Matt Capps - CL - Twins (regains the role after Joe Nathan signed with Texas)
  16. Chris Carter/Kila Ka'aihue/Brandon Allen - 1B/DH - Athletics - I'm not certain how Oakland will hand out at bats.  I like Allen the most out of the trio though.  All should be on your AL only sleeper list.
  17. Grant Balfour/Brian Fuentes/Joey Devine - CL - Athletics - someone will close in Oakland but all of these guys could be in the mix.  The smart money is on Balfour, but the pitcher with the most upside is Devine.  Fuentes is for the late rounds only.
  18. Neftali Feliz - SP - Rangers  (will move to the rotation in 2012)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Victor Martinez Out For Season - Baseball News - January 17 2012

Well, the Tigers haven't even got started and already they are behind in the race to re-claim the AL Central Division title.  Victor Martinez injured his knee in a training exercise and will now miss the entire season due to mandatory ACL surgery.  His power and plate discipline will sorely be missed in the middle of the Tigers line up.  I can't say for certain but I would assume Detroit will be shopping for a 1B/DH type right away and there are plenty available.  It would not surprise me if they looked hard at free agent 1B Prince Fielder (not that they will at all just that he would make sense as the Tigers are a contending team).  In carry over leagues, Martinez is essentially (depending on your rules of course) someone I wouldn't protect for 2012.

Plenty of action on the arbitration front as Tim Lincecum has put in claim for a record $21.5 million and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has asked for $10 million.  Both I believe are for one year deals.  Plenty of other players avoided arbitration by completing deals today including pitchers Francisco Liriano, Detroit's Max Scherzer, the Ray's David Price, Joba Chamberlain and Justin Masterson.  There were an assortment of positional players that signed as well including Shin Soo Choo, Jays 2B Kelly Johnson, Dodgers 1B James Loney and big winner Jacoby Ellsbury who signed for just over $8 million per season.

In the realm of fantasy, these hearings are not really newsworthy.  All of the above players will be retained by their current teams.  What is interesting is the amount they actual sign for.  For example, Choo was a top fantasy performer only two seasons ago but after an unusual season where he was either hurt or a non-factor he signed for just $4.9 million for this season.  That's considerably low when you look at how much two more incomplete players Kelly Johnson (lack of average) and James Loney (lack of speed and power at a premium position) received (around $6 million each).

Last bits of news, Carl Crawford had minor wrist surgery.  I'll be monitoring that situation closely especially after the stinker of a season he put up last year.  The Brewers signed Japanese league import Norichika Aoki to add another speedy centerfielder to their already solid mix of speedy centerfielders. We discussed Aoki in previous news but for the lazy, he essentially projects to be a .300 hitter with about 20 steals type of player.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yankees Upgrade Their Rotation

New York acquires both Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda over the weekend. These acquisitions represent a significant upgrade over their 2011 rotation but both pitchers will see slightly worse results in 2012. Why? Well, moving to the very competitive AL East for one but also they will both pitch in the homer friendly new Yankee Stadium more often. Do not forget that moving to a new team doesn't mean immediate success. There is often a transition period. I would resist the urge to rank either of these two pitchers higher on draft day. Great move for the Yankees but a negative one for both of their fantasy values ( ie ERA and WHIP).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baseball News - Jan 10 2012 - Rizzo for Cashner Deal and Maholm to Cubs

Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates to the Cubs for Andy Cashner and Kyung-Min Na: The meat of this deal is Craschner for Rizzo, as Cates and Na are both Single A prospects with a long way to go before reaching the majors.  Rizzo is was highly touted as the successor to Adrian Gonzalez after the latter was dealt to Boston last year.  The youngster failed to produce at the major league level when he was promoted (.141-1-9-2 with a 70% contact rate) but completely destroyed AAA pitching (.331-26-104-7) last season.  He's slated to start the season in the minors but the move, if he is promoted, will be a huge plus for his offensive production.  Cashner routinely hits 95MPH on the radar gun and projects to be a high end reliever, although he could end up in the rotation.  Despite solid strikeout rates, the young right-hander does struggle with control still.

With the recently acquired Yonder Alonso on the roster, Rizzo was from a positional standpoint, expendable.  The Padres shore up their bullpen after the loss of Heath Bell and give themselves an experienced major league spot starter should the need arise.  As it stands now, the Cubs in my opinion got the better of the deal as Rizzo could be a monster, especially now playing in Wrigley Field.  However, Cashner was once one of the Cubs best prospects and it appears as if those skills have remained in tact.  This could be the Padres closer of the future or at the very least a solid #3 starter with potential for more.

Paul Maholm signs a one year pact with the Cubs:  Yeah this was the only other news from today that was worth mentioning.   Maholm's move to Wrigley should not adversely effect his statistics.  He's widely considered to be a ground ball pitcher (career 52%) so even though Wrigley Field is relatively 'homer happy', this shouldn't change our projections much.  The main issue with the lefthander is that his career K/BB is below 2, in other words he doesn't strike out enough batters to counter the amount of walks he gives up.  I don't think this changes Maholm's value much except that its more likely the Cubs homer in your league drafts what should be waiver wire fodder.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Baseball News - Jan 7 2012

I hope everyone had a great holiday season!  Sorry that I haven't posted lately. Instead of several smaller posts I'll bombard you with one giant one here.   There was not a ton of show stopping news but teams still have been busy:

Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for Josh Reddick and minor leaguers Raul Alcantara and Miles Head:  Let's just get right to the point:  Unless Reddick possesses some above average major league skills we are unaware of, this is a pretty big steal for the Red Sox.  Boston essentially received Reddick's statistical equivalent in return in Sweeney AND the talented, although injury prone closer.  The minor leaguers Alcantara and Head aren't elite prospects by any means so on the surface it looks like Oakland got the short end of the deal.  However, the A's organization is famous for its intelligent projections of youngsters so maybe there is more to this deal than meets the eye.  Maybe there is something seriously wrong with Bailey's arm? Anyway, with Reddick likely to get a regular role next season he should be on all deep league sleeper lists.  Bailey will take a bit of an ERA hit in the AL East and the pressure in Boston is much greater than it is in Oakland.  I'd be wary of Bailey in 2012.

Carlos Quentin to Padres for Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez:    Unfortunately, this trade kills Quentin's fantasy value, or at least damages it considerably. The veteran slugger is certainly better suited for the cozy confines of Cellular Field as opposed to the vastness that is PETCO Park.  Considering the health risk already associated with him I'd consider projecting him lower now: .260-25-80.  For the record, I would have given him a .265-30-90 line in Chicago, again have to consider his health which limits him to much less than 162 games each year.  Its an interesting trade for San Diego as I don't think they are a top NL West team (not that it would take much).  They certainly will not challenge the now deep and talented 2011 division winning Diamondbacks.  On the flip side, I love the haul for the White Sox.  For me,  starter Castro is the key to the deal.  In 2009, he looked like one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues (thanks to a 10 K/9 and 2.37 BB/9).  After being promoted to AAA in 2010 he was knocked around and promptly sent back to Double A.  The shine is off his top prospect status so he was considered expendable in this deal.  At 23, there is still plenty of opportunity for the White Sox to develop this kid.  In addition Pedro Hernandez appears to be another solid pitching prospect as the 22 year old was promoted through three levels in 2011.  Don't expect to see either Castro or Hernandez much in 2012 but Chicago has now taken a few bold steps in rebuilding their farm system.

Hisashi Iwakuma signs with Seattle:  The Mariners were able to sign a solid veteran Japanese league pitcher this week.  Iwakuma, on paper, has the skills which should be the keys to success in the major leagues.  He boasts a career BB/9 of 1.8 and averaged a solid 7.0 K/9.  Entering his 31st year, I would not expect a progression in these statistics.  However, Iwakuma will play home games at the pitcher friendly SAFECO Park, which I expect will assist him in first tour of duty on North American soil.  Still, it cannot be ignored that with a much improved AL West, the Japanese pitcher will be challenged often.  Its difficult to forecast Japanese players but with his skill set and home park you will want Iwakuma on a sleeper list, especially in AL only leagues.

Darren Oliver signs, Jason Frasor traded to the Blue Jays for a pair of minor leaguers:  I'm not saying these deals were THAT interesting but I think they should be noted.  With the additions of these two relievers and closer  Sergio Santos, the Blue Jays have made a concentrated effort to shore up their bullpen.  The AL East continues to be the most difficult division in baseball to succeed in.

Carlos Zambrano to Marlins for Chris Volstad:  This is an interesting trade if only that Zambrano, at just 30 years old, gets a fresh start.  On paper this trade looks like a scratch as both pitchers had similar numbers.   Volstad is younger and contract controlled while Zambrano still possesses ace 'stuff' but appears to be in a losing battle after putting way too many miles on his arm early in his career.  I don't think Volstad's stock improves with this trade as he benefited greatly from the deep confines of the Marlins home field.  Spending more time in the home friendly Wrigley Field will only hurt this homer prone pitcher.  On the other hand, I think Zambrano's talent and change of scenery make him a worthy sleeper in 2012.