March 2009

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Thoughts On Andy Sonnanstine

Doug asks:

What are your thoughts on Andy Sonnanstine from a fantasy perspective this year?  He was just OK last year but with all the studs in the Tampa organization he appears to be a guy that would be vulnerable.

This year my spreadsheet kept saying Sonnanstine was the best available pitcher ($8.21 value), and I never pulled the trigger.  I have him at a 4.16 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 121 Ks and 11 wins in 180 innings.  So he doesn't excel in any one category.  I just can't see the upside here - Sonny has great control but he throws 87 miles per hour and pitches in the AL East.  Who knows, maybe his new changeup will be effective.  But for me Sonnanstine is a guy you spot start.  You don't want to be using him against the Yankees.  He's the #4 so I don't think he gets bumped when David Price is ready. 

Sonnanstine is being drafted in the reserve rounds, but even then there are plenty of interesting upside picks like Clay Buchholz, Jordan Zimmermann, and David Purcey.



Francisco Cordero Concern

Mike K. asks:

What do you think is going on with Francisco Cordero?  Is he being sent to the minors to pitch so that the Reds can put him on the DL and not lose time?  Could Jared Burton take over this year as closer?

As I understand it, Cordero only pitched in the minor league game Saturday to get extra innings under his belt.  He's coming off September ankle surgery, and has had a terrible spring.  The surgery caused him to start his program late.  Cordero finally pitched well Monday, touching 93-94 with his fastball.  The hope is that the adrenaline of the regular season will push him into the mid-90s as it did last year (he averaged 94.6 mph).

So Cordero's not without his risk, yet he's a 13th round pick.  As such he's not on any of my five fantasy teams.  But if you own him, it's no time to panic.  He still projects to outpitch Burton in terms of ERA and WHIP.  And when you're paying a guy $12MM a year to be the closer, he gets every chance to do the job.



Oakland Closer Situation

Nathan P. asks:

Has Oakland settled on a closer yet? I've got both Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler, but I only want to keep one of them. Please tell me they aren't going to share save opportunities.

Devine and Ziegler were originally penciled in to share closing duties.  However, Devine will be examined by Dr. James Andrews Wednesday or Thursday.  His sore elbow will keep him out at least three weeks.

MLB.com's Mychael Urban learned from A's manager Bob Geren that Santiago Casilla and Russ Springer could also see save opportunities.  But for now, Ziegler is the man.  If you own Devine, you might as well wait until the diagnosis before deciding what to do with him.

Ziegler is being drafted in the 18th round currently, so he'd be a nice bargain if other relievers don't chip away at his saves.  I have him down for a 3.58 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with a 5.2 K/9.



Mailbag

Let's do a few mailbag questions.  Hit me up at rotoauthority@gmail.com, and please don't make it specific to your fantasy team.


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The Next Cliff Lee

We tried to figure out the next Carlos Quentin, so it's only natural that we do the same for the other big surprise of '08, Cliff Lee.  I'll keep the criteria fairly general:

  • A lost 2008 season
  • Previous Major League success in at least one full season of work
  • Drafted outside of the top 240 in mixed leagues
  • Not too old

Candidates:

  • Fausto Carmona
  • Kelvim Escobar
  • Brad Penny
  • Tom Gorzelanny
  • Brian Bannister
  • Jeremy Bonderman
  • Rich Hill
  • Jon Garland
  • Chris Carpenter
  • Ian Snell  

I'd like to further narrow this by excluding those who were rocked in Spring Training.  However, Lee himself posted these Spring Training numbers in 2008: 17 hits and 8 ER in 8.6 innings. 

Just based on gut feel, stuff, and spring reports, I'm going to toss out Gorzelanny and Bannister.  They don't seem close.  Any of the others I could see breaking out as the Lee of 2009.  Escobar, Penny, and Carpenter seem the most likely.  Your thoughts?


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Interview With 3:10 To Joba

I did a general fantasy baseball interview with the blog 3:10 To Joba, check it out.


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The Next Carlos Quentin

Recently I was asked for my pick as "The Next Carlos Quentin."  I didn't have an answer at the time, so let's try to figure it out.  First let us attempt to define Quentin.

  • Baseball America Top 100 prospects rankings: 22nd in '05, 22nd in '06.  .900+ OPSs at Double A and Triple A.
  • Solid rookie debut in 166 ABs in '06.  Lost season in '07, affected by injury.  Traded to White Sox.
  • Undrafted in mixed leagues heading into the season.
  • Posted a 2008 fantasy line of .288-36-100-96-7 in 480 ABs.

So...let's start by finding position players who ranked highly on BA's top 100 lists in '06 and '07.  We'll also narrow it to players who are not being drafted in the top 200:

  • Delmon Young
  • Justin Upton
  • Brandon Wood
  • Ian Stewart
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  • Andy LaRoche
  • Felix Pie
  • Daric Barton
  • Billy Butler
  • Cameron Maybin
  • Carlos Gonzalez
  • Jeff Clement
  • Neil Walker
  • Erick Aybar
  • Andrew McCutchen
  • Elvis Andrus
  • Ryan Sweeney

Ronny Cedeno and Kendry Morales made the '05 list but not '06, but I'll include them anyway.  That puts us at 19 position players who may become the next Carlos Quentin.  This feels like a reality show. 

To technically find the next Quentin you may be left with LaRoche and Pie, who did have lost 2008 seasons.  And both were traded recently into new organizations where they figure to get a nice playing time opportunity.  But anyone on that list above has the same post-hype sleeper quality that Quentin had and the prospect pedigree to match - Wood, Stewart, and Butler for example.  Who do you like?


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2009 Baseball Bloggers League Team

The inaugural Baseball Bloggers League drafted last night.  12 team 5x5 mixed league.  Here's my squad:

C - Russell Martin (4)
C - Mike Napoli (13)
1B - Albert Pujols (1)
2B - Kelly Johnson (11)
SS - Rafael Furcal (5)
3B - Garrett Atkins (6)
MI - Aaron Hill (23)
CI - Alex Gordon (14)
OF - B.J. Upton (2)
OF - Carlos Lee (3)
OF - Bobby Abreu (7)
OF - Nelson Cruz (10)
OF - Johnny Damon (12)
DH - Adam Jones (17)
SP - James Shields (8)
SP - Javier Vazquez (9)
SP - Brett Myers (15)
SP - Ted Lilly (16)
SP - Randy Johnson (18)
SP - Johnny Cueto (20)
RP - Frank Francisco (19)
RP - Huston Street (21)
RP - Jason Motte (22)
Bn - Chris Perez (24)
Bn - Clay Buchholz (25)
Bn - Kevin Gregg (26)

I like this team, because if I fail, at least I failed with "my guys."  Obviously I let the bullpen suffer, but a few decent pickups midseason and I'll be alright.  Thoughts?


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How Does Draft Order Influence The Standings?

Reader Chris O. writes:

Are you aware of any research on the relationship of draft order to ultimate league finish order? I was in a draft a few weeks ago where some participants were complaining about where the commissioner had place them in the draft order and I started wondering if it made any difference. I went back to all of the 2008 baseball and football drafts that my son and I took part in and tabulated draft position and finish position for each. Out of 39 total drafts, only 1 team with the #1 pick overall ended up winning the league. No team that had the last pick in the first round won the league. I know this is a small sample size, mixes autopick and live drafts, and had leagues of 8, 10, 12 and 20 teams so it is by no means a uniform sampling. Do you know of any other research that would support or refute this?

Unfortunately I don't have any data on this, but I'd love to see how draft order and the standings correlate.  If we're to figure this out it'll require a lot of help from readers. It's worth a shot.  Check out the attached Draft Order spreadsheet  - I'm asking for the team name, draft spot, and finish in the standings. In an attempt for some amount of uniformity, we will only include 12 team leagues in this study.  Also, please only submit if your league did the snake style of draft, where the first round goes 1-12 and the second round goes in reverse order.  If your league(s) fit those two criteria and you'd like to help, fill out the spreadsheet and email it to rotoauthority@gmail.com.  You can include as many leagues as you want in the spreadsheet.

If we can gather data from, say, 100+ leagues, maybe we will be able to conclude that the person drafting first finished, on average, in position 3.8 (for example).  What do you think this study will reveal, and are we going about it the right way?  Has it been done before?


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Trevor Cahill Examined

Today let's take a look at A's starting pitching prospect Trevor Cahill, who's become a popular late-round sleeper even in non-keeper mixed leagues.

Cahill, a 21 year-old righty, tossed 87.3 innings last year at High A and 37 at Double A.  He was unhittable and prevented home runs well in both stints.  The move to Double A saw his strikeout rate dip below a batter per inning and his walk rate rise to one free pass every other inning.

Projections:

System ERA WHIP K9 BB9 HR9 H9
PECOTA 4.70 1.53 6.61 5.34 0.63 8.44
ZiPS 4.54 1.55 4.86 4.86 0.81 9.08
CHONE 4.82 1.58 6.64 5.46 1.18 8.79

Survey says: not a good mixed league pick due to poor control.  Cahill will probably still be tough to hit and keep the ball in the park with lots of grounders.  But even his 90th percentile PECOTA calls for 4.44 BB/9.  A reason for optimism: Cahill has walked just 3 in 16 innings this spring (1.69 BB/9).  Also his top comp at BP, Yovani Gallardo, reduced his walk rate upon arriving in the Majors.

Scouting-wise, here's how Cahill ranked on top prospects lists: Baseball America - 11th, Kevin Goldstein - 23rd, Keith Law - 24th. 

Law says Cahill's two-seam fastball is "toxic" with "ridiculous sink."  BA says the pitch has "outstanding heavy sink and late life."  Reviews on his spike curveball range (but all three sources like it), with Goldstein calling it plus-plus.  The consensus is that Cahill profiles as a #1 or #2 and is very close to big league ready.

It's easy for me to just keep recommending these top prospects.  So I'll continue to do so!  Cahill will probably break camp with the team, so what's the harm in drafting him?  If the control is a problem then wait til next year.  If not, you have a Rookie of the Year candidate.  And he could always fluke into a decent WHIP, posting an abnormally low H/9 since no one in the AL has seen him yet.





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