February 2010

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2010 Sleepers: Colby Lewis

The more I hear about Rangers starter Colby Lewis, the more I like him as a 2010 fantasy option.  His career MLB work is ugly: a 6.71 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in 217.3 innings.  Fantasy owners don't care about him; he's not being drafted among the top 389 picks according to Mock Draft Central.  So why is he a quality sleeper?

Lewis spent the last two years in Japan, and he was awesome there.  His 2009 performance: 2.96 ERA, 9.49 K/9, and a 0.7 BB/9.  That's a 9.79 K/BB ratio.  In 2008 it was a 2.68 ERA, 9.25 K/9, 1.37 BB/9, and a 6.78 K/BB.

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian has a great article explaining Lewis' transformation in Japan.  He gained a new mindset, delivery, and cutter in his time there, and this winter a dozen MLB teams were dialing up his agent.  It's not common for an American player to return from Japan and get $5MM.  Lewis is still only 30 years old.

How do the projection systems feel about Lewis?

  • CHONE: 3.99 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.08 K/9, 2.05 BB/9
  • ZiPS: 4.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.53 K/9, 2.60 BB/9
  • PECOTA: 3.89 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.04 K/9, 2.36 BB/9
  • HQ: 4.52 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 6.71 K/9, 3.19 BB/9

Quite a range, with two of the four projection systems suggesting Lewis could be quite valuable in any league.  As is the case with most mixed league sleepers, you've got little to lose.

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Closer Report: Yankees

WEDNESDAY: Looks like Hughes is the favorite for the fifth starter job, making Joba the current choice as Rivera's backup.

TUESDAY: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is being drafted at 72.11, the 7th round in a 12-team mixed league.  I typically don't take closers that early, but I wouldn't begrudge you for jumping on a legendary stopper projected for excellent ratios and 40 saves.

That said, Mo is 40, and at some point someone else will get a crack at closing for the Yankees.  If Rivera gets hurt, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain might be candidates to step in (whoever is not in the rotation).  In 2009 Hughes posted a 1.40 ERA, 11.4 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 51.3 relief innings.  He's going about 100 picks later than Chamberlain, too.

It was a lost season for lefty Damaso Marte, but he could also be in the mix to close games in Rivera's absence, depending on matchups.  Strikeout artist David Robertson could be the pen's dark horse if injuries to others run rampant.

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Post-Hype Sleepers: Francisco Liriano

There was a time when Francisco Liriano was on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.  He posted a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 144 strikeouts, and a strong groundball rate in 121 innings in 2006, his rookie season.  His stuff was ridiculous - a fastball averaging 94.7 mph and a nasty slider, coming from the left side.

But Liriano's elbow started barking in August of '06, and by November he was on the table for Tommy John surgery. 

The Twins had Liriano up for three ugly starts in April of '08, but then had him start his next 20 in the minors.  He pitched well but the Twins waited until August 3rd to recall him, causing some to suggest the team was trying to avoid Super Two status.  Liriano was sharp over those final two months - 2.74 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9.  Warnings signs we might've missed: his fastball velocity hadn't returned, and he faced terrible offenses in 7 of the 11 starts.

Fantasy touts, myself included, figured Liriano was ready to return contribute in 2009, even if he didn't return to greatness.  I liked him for a sub-4.00 ERA, a sub-1.30 WHIP, and plenty of Ks.  He was being drafted in the 6th round - typically too rich for my blood, but not indefensible.  Liriano was a huge bust though - 5.80 ERA, tons of walks, hits, and home runs, and a 91.7 mph average fastball.  David Golebiewski of FanGraphs says Liriano wasn't as bad as his numbers, but his stuff was still way off.

Here in 2010, Liriano is being drafted at 280.80 - the 24th round in a 12-team mixed league.  At present, he's a risk-free choice.  You're not risking much even if he moves up in draft position over the next couple months.  And he will move up - Liriano dazzled in the Dominican Winter League and figures to do the same in Spring Training. He says his velocity, location, and slider are back and he feels like he did in '06.  Take him in the 15th round or later and see if the statement holds up.

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Roundtable: Biggest Mistakes Of 2009

The weekly roundtable is back.  This week's question:

What were your biggest mistakes in 2009?

Patrick DiCaprio of Fantasy Pros 911 has our answers, and I've love you hear yours in the comments.

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