April 2010

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Five for Friday: Promotion Impact

Rookies are never a good risk on a fantasy team. Even Super Rookie Jason Heyward is having his ups-and-downs. As such, you definitely want to use young players with caution and always as a back-up with a more proven option on your roster, or in an injury fill-in situation. Think of their first-year production as an added bonus, but don't count on it.

1. Justin Smoak | 1B | Rangers: It's been a bit of a rough start for this rookie, but he's still been getting on base thanks to a good eye at the plate, so he's got some value in on-base leagues. Keep in mind that he's not a Mike Stanton-like slugger, but he does have good power. One thing to consider is the big upgrade in defense that he offers over the recently-demoted Chris Davis. Smoak's biggest impact to your fantasy team could come if you own Scott Feldman, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, etc.

2. Ike Davis | 1B | Mets: Davis has been a pretty sweet good luck charm in New York, as the club reeled off a string of wins after he hit the Majors. Speaking of hitting, he's doing a lot of that with the bat. Davis is currently hitting for average and he's getting on-base. He has just one homer in 37 at-bats, but that will come with time. Don't expect the average to remain above .300, though. He's currently being helped by an unsustainable .435 BABIP. He's a nice long-term option because the club does not have anyone better.

3. Brett Cecil | SP | Blue Jays: This southpaw is no longer a rookie but he began the 2010 season back in triple-A after narrowly missing out on making the opening day squad. Cecil was rushed to the Majors in '09 in just his second full season in pro ball. He made 18 appearances but struggled with his command and with the long ball. He's still giving up a lot of fly balls this season, but his command has been much improved and he looks like a different (more confident) pitcher. Wins might be hard to come by, but Cecil could surprise a lot of people, especially if he can get his ground-ball rate up around 50%, which is similar to what he was able to do in his minor league career.

4. Eric Young Jr. | 2B/OF | Rockies: Young Jr. could quickly move up this list if he can secure an everyday gig at either second base or in the outfield. Clint Barmes is off to a slow start, but he's a formidable foe at the keystone. Young Jr. has 40-50 steal speed plus he's produced very good on-base numbers in the minors. He's the type of top-of-the-order hitter that gets what he needs to do to be of value to his team. Keep in mind, he won't produce any power or RBI numbers. If you need steals and runs, though, he's your man and he probably won't hurt your batting average.

5. Max Ramirez | C | Rangers: Ramirez is not as big of a prospect as some of the other names on this list, or on the honorable mention, but he gets bonus points for his position: catcher. With that said, monitor the situation with Ramirez. He's going to have to hit quite a bit to justify a starting role. Chicago exposed his defense/throwing weakness last night when they stole three bases against him (Ramirez caught a fourth thief). He's going to have a hard time keeping Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden down, but he could also get hot.

Honorable mentions: Rhyne Hughes (Baltimore) and Jhoulys Chacin (Colorado)

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Most Popular Fantasy Team Names

For about a year now, I have been calling my fantasy teams Smell The Glove.  I liked the idea of using a Spinal Tap reference with a baseball word in it.  I'm almost certain I never saw this team named used in a fantasy league anywhere.

That's why I was surprised, via Deadspin, to see CBS' list of the 200 most popular fantasy team names.  Using their random sampling of 100,000 leagues, Smell The Glove ranked at #126.  Can this be right?  Is my team name far less original than I thought?  Or is CBS' list inaccurate?

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Roundtable: Worrisome Starts

RotoAuthority is hosting this week's roundtable.  The question:

Despite the tiny sample, what one player are you most worried about so far?

Rudy Gamble, Razzball.com (answered on April 12th)

After one week, it would be silly to re-evaluate projections but it's not silly to give some thought to the impact of early-season slumps on playing time opportunity.  A closer gets dethroned or a position player goes from starter to platooning and their value plummets.  My 'worry' criteria is based on a combination of 1) strength of replacement and 2) team commitment to player.

Thus, a Mike Gonzalez, who looks awful so far, is less of a concern only because he doesn't have a strong replacement and the team has a financial commitment to him.  Same for David Ortiz who is untradeable ($12MM, icon) and Lowell/Hermida are nothing great either.

Nate McLouth and Dexter Fowler both are at risk of losing 100+ plate appearances to Melky and Seth Smith but I'd say Frank Francisco is the biggest concern right now.  He had a rough 2nd half last year (7.00 ERA in July/August) which was largely bad luck (FIP closer to 4.00 with a 11+ K/9IP) but still hurts his perception in Texas.  He's dependent on his fastball for success and it's down a couple ticks this year (93.5 vs. 91.8) - maybe that's just an early season thing but it's not a positive sign.  The team would really like to test drive Neftali Feliz and I'm not sure Francisco will get the job back if Feliz has some success.  

Patrick DiCaprio, FantasyPros911.com (answered April 16th)

Nate McLouth. Normally we recommend that you completely ignore early season stats. But in McLouth's case, we have a continuation of Spring Training troubles, as he has started 3-27 with one RBI (through April 16). The question becomes whether and at what point does a small sample of bad luck become something more?

McLouth's Spring troubles were widely publicized. Now they are continuing into the season. We can only speculate on causes. It may be a spate of bad luck, a loss of confidence, a hidden injury or nothing at all. His 45% K rate (through April 16) normally might be attributed to bad luck. But given what happened in the Spring it is fair to surmise that he is pressing. Human psychology is not only extremely difficult to assess when you have full information but as fantasy owners we are virtually in the dark. We are in the realm of shadows and fog no matter how much you hear a coach or manager saying otherwise, or that he has a hitch in his swing or other such nonsense. Hitting a baseball is neurological not physical for the most part, so a mechanical issue is not to blame.

2009 gave no indication of problems. In fact he was unusually consistent, batting no worse than .252 and no better than .270 in any month. So whatever happened, if anything, is not a carry over from last year. News is lacking any off-field problem of significant enough consequence to explain any mental distraction.

Tim's question is who we are worried about. My Patented Worry Index for McLouth is a 40 on a scale of 100.

Derek Carty, The Hardball Times Fantasy (answered April 25th)

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but I'm getting worried about Rich Harden.  He's striking tons of people out and his pitches are still moving well, but between his velocity being down, his awful control, and the reports from worried scouts from as early as March, he's a guy I'm having trouble trusting right now.  I suppose the best we can hope for is that this is just small sample madness, with the next best scenario being that he's hiding an injury that he'll get over shortly.  If something worse is going on, Harden might not be the undervalued player I thought he could be coming into the year.

Tim Dierkes, RotoAuthority (answered April 26th)

I'm officially worried about Jake Peavy.  Even in Chicago, I was thinking 190 innings, an ERA under 3.80, a 1.25 WHIP, and 185 Ks.  So far in four starts the strikeouts are not there at all (6.0 K/9) and the walks are high enough at 6.0 BB/9 to make me wonder if he's entirely healthy.  It was natural to expect more home runs in U.S. Cellular, but Peavy owners are seriously screwed if his groundball rate stays below 34%.  However, I would still hang on to him rather than sell low.

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Six for Saturday: Minor League Catchers

As we all know, any offense you can get from the catcher position on your fantasy team is considered a major bonus. Really, all we hope for is that the catcher(s) on the team won't do more harm than good. With that said, there are catchers out there that do add value to a fantasy team (Brian McCann, Joe Mauer), but they're few and far between.

Let's take a look at a few prospect catchers that could make at least a small impact at the MLB level in 2010, with an eye to becoming above-average contributors in 2011 or beyond.

Buster Posey | San Francisco

A lot of people were shocked when Posey was sent down to the minors after showing that his bat was MLB ready in spring training. Actually, the shock started when the club re-signed veteran Bengie Molina last off-season... In truth, if the club is going to devote the full-time job to Molina, triple-A is the best place for Posey. The prospect is athletic enough to play just about anywhere on the diamond, and the club reportedly considered keeping him as a super-utility player, but it ultimately made the right decision to allow him to catch everyday. Posey has not been catching that long, so he still has some rough edges behind the plate that need to be dulled. However, he continues to shine on offense: .367/.451/.483 in 16 triple-A games.

Carlos Santana | Cleveland

Everyone in Cleveland is wondering when Mr. Santana will finally get the call. It doesn't help that fellow rookie Lou Marson, currently the Indians' starting catcher, is hitting a paltry .097/.176/.097 in 10 games. Veteran back-up catcher Mike Redmond is also struggling. Santana, who is currently day-to-day after fouling a ball off his leg, is hitting .348/.464/.696 with four homers, 14 RBI and 10 walks (just five Ks) in 14 games. He could end up being a rare catcher that can hit for average and power, while also walking +15% of the time.

Jason Castro | Houston

Houston is going nowhere fast, so J.R. Towles (currently sporting a .533 OPS) may not have long to secure the full-time catching gig before the club looks to the future and Castro. With that said, the 23-year-old prospect is struggling a bit in triple-A right now with a line of .209/.370/.290 in 12 games. The left-handed hitter has yet to get an extra-base hit, but he does have an 11 walks to just six strikeouts. Interestingly, he's hitting just .171 against right-handed pitching.

Tyler Flowers | Chicago (AL)

It won't be easy to unseat incumbent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but Flowers has the offensive profile to do just that. If Chicago continues to struggle, the veteran catcher could see himself traded to a contender at the deadline, which would open the full-time job to Flowers, whose bat is MLB ready. He's currently hitting .310/.431/.595 in triple-A. The catcher has a very patient approach at the plate and plus power. Chicago would be insane to re-sign Pierzynski, who wouldn't be happy with a back-up role, past 2010. But then again, General Manager Kenny Williams has been known to do some crazy things.

Jesus Montero | New York (AL)

It almost seems like it's putting too much pressure on Montero to suggest that a 20-year-old catching prospect should be in the Majors in 2010. The truth is, though, that his bat is almost MLB ready. He's currently hitting .275/.351/.471 in 51 at-bats. On the down side, he does have 10 Ks in 13 games, which is a much higher strikeout rate than normal. Of all the catchers on this list, Montero is the least likely to remain behind that plate. But with that said, Mike Piazza remained a catcher for the majority of his career, so anything is possible. It'll probably take an injury to Jorge Posada or Nick Johnson for Montero to see significant time at the MLB level in 2010.

J.P. Arencibia | Toronto

Don't forget about former No. 1 draft pick Arencibia. The ex-University of Tennessee star had a really poor season last year in triple-A but it turns out that he was dealing with some pretty serious health issues (kidney, vision), which were rectified via surgery in the off-season. Arencibia, 24, still possesses plus power for a catcher and has improved his defense to the point where he's an above-average defender. If he can get his walk rate up to the 7-10% range (which should then positively impact his batting average and other stats), he could be a valuable offensive contributor.

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Good Catchers Lacking Playing Time

Catchers with 20 home run power are rare, but two such players are mostly riding the pine so far this year: Mike Napoli and Chris Iannetta.  Consider trying to acquire them if you've got second catcher problems in a mixed league.

This is a good opportunity to buy low on either player.  In a two-catcher league, if you let the second spot go on draft day, you might be tempted to piece things together with the Jason Kendalls and Gregg Zauns of the world.  This is a big mistake.  A dozen additional home runs on your ledger at season's end - what kind of difference would that make in the standings?  In the RotoAuthority league last year, second place had 306 home runs and fifth place had 297.  Three points in the standings is a big deal, and Napoli and Iannetta will provide more RBIs than waiver catchers as well.

That's not considering the very real possibility that Napoli and/or Iannetta is thrust into more frequent duty.  Chris Snyder would've been on this list, but Miguel Montero went down.  Dioner Navarro became a full-timer with Kelly Shoppach's injury. 

In this year's RotoAuthority league, I drafted Geovany Soto in the 10th round but foolishly let my second catcher go until a 25th round pick of Ramon Hernandez.  A leaguemate proposed sending me Iannetta for Joel Pineiro, and I pulled the trigger.  Seems like a trade that can work for both sides.

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Five for Friday: Deep Keepers

Today, we're taking a look at some Deep Keepers that you'll want to monitor as the season progresses.

Jordan Danks | OF | Chicago AL

Brother John is coming into his own on the mound at the MLB level with the White Sox and Jordan Danks should be joining him shortly, although Andruw Jones' rejuvenation could slow down that timetable. A fringe first-round talent out of high school, Danks told teams not to draft him because he wanted to play college ball. He slid to the seventh round after his junior year of college at the University of Texas because of questions about his bat, but Danks has reached triple-A in just his second pro season. He's still learning to hit for power but if everything clicks, Danks has a chance to be a 15-15 or 20-20 (HR-SB) player. He's an extremely athletic player and a greater defender, which unfortunately has no value in fantasy baseball.

Matt Sweeney | OF/1B | Tampa Bay

Acquired as part of the loot for Scott Kazmir in last season's trade with the Angels, Sweeney has generally flown under the radar because he's been unable to stay healthy for an entire season. He missed all of the '08 season and played in just 68 games in '09. Fully healthy to begin the season, Sweeney has already slammed three homers and he's showing a solid eye at the plate. His ultimate offensive position is still undecided and he's spent time at third, first and in the outfield. His versatility could up his fantasy value, although he's more likely to settle in at first base given his lack of athleticism. Just 21, and in high-A ball, Sweeney could be in double-A by mid-season if he can stay on the field. He projects to develop 25 home run power.

James Darnell | 3B | San Diego

The San Diego Padres club used the 46th and 69th picks of the '08 draft to grab two college third basemen. The organization likely hoped that one of the top prospects would reach his ceiling. However, both still remain on course to be average-to-above-average contributors at the MLB level. Darnell hit more than .300 with 20 homers in '09. He also showed a great eye with 87 walks to his his 89 strikeouts. Chase Headley is currently manning the hot corner in San Diego, but Darnell could eventually push him back to the outfield.

James Forsythe | 2B | San Diego

With the hopes of utilizes both Darnell and Forsythe at the MLB level, San Diego moved the latter prospect over to second base for the 2010 season and he's actually handled the transition quite well. Offensively, he has a nice profile for second base as he hit .300 with 11 homers and 11 steals in '09. Like Darnell, Forsythe also has a patient approach and he walked 102 times last year. Unfortunately, he also struck out 111 times, so he's got to make a little more contact given his average-at-best power potential.

Zach Britton | LHP | Baltimore

The Orioles organization is loaded with good young pitching but Britton may have the highest ceiling of any of the pitchers in the minors right now, save perhaps for Chris Tillman. Britton, a southpaw, is just 22 and is already pitching at double-A. He spent '09 in high-A and posted an 8.42 K/9 rate with a crazy ground-ball rate of 65%. The ability to keep the ball on the ground, while also missing bats, will serve Britton well in the potent AL East.

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Buy Low Candidates

Your mileage on this will vary.  In some leagues you will find buy low opportunities already, while in others people are wary of being duped based on tiny samples.

  • Julio Borbon is 1 for 25 with no steals.  I still think he can hit .290 with 90 runs and 40 steals from here on out, though his playing time will slip if he keeps this up.
  • Travis Snider is 3 for 28 with no home runs.  That feels silly to write...we're talking about less than 5% of his season here.  Could still hit 25 HR.
  • Mark Teixeira, Adam Dunn, and Carlos Lee are hitting .111, and it doesn't mean anything to me.  Nate McLouth and Hunter Pence are in a similar range.
  • You may be able to pry Chris Coghlan loose, since he was only a 19th-round pick in the first place.
  • I don't love David Ortiz, but it's way too early to give up on him.  There still might be 30 HR in there.
  • Alexei Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Jay Bruce - I'm really just reading off the batting average trailers.  If you liked them two weeks ago you should like them now.
  • You'll find people worrying about Mike Napoli, who has only nine plate appearances.  Jeff Mathis came in with a projected line of .218/.290/.345; if he falls into that range his defense won't be enough to keep Napoli down.
  • Closers are trickier - Mike Gonzalez, Frank Francisco, and potentially Jason Frasor have already been ousted.  All three are worth rostering, especially Gonzalez.  The O's don't have a great backup plan and will want to save face after committing $12MM.
  • Justin Verlander's had two subpar starts, but I don't think anyone's giving up on him.  He had a 6.75 ERA in April last year; hope for a repeat.  I'd be willing to buy on Jake Peavy and Wandy Rodriguez, but I'm more skeptical on Jair Jurrjens and Ervin Santana.

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Roundtable: Colby Lewis Expectations

This week's roundtable question:

What can we expect from Colby Lewis in 2010?

You can find our answers at FantasyPros911.

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Five for Friday: National League Sophomores

We're back with another week of Five for Friday, which looks at prospects and other young players that could help out your fantasy league squad.

J.R. Towles | Catcher: It's hard to find good value in a catcher. Unless you're lucky enough to have Victor Martinez, Brian McCann, or Joe Mauer, you probably didn't spend much money (or a high draft slot) on your catcher position. The Houston catcher has been a bust at the MLB level so far (.186/.276/.326) in parts of three MLB seasons, but he's posted solid minor league numbers, which continue to give hope. In the minors, Towles has shown the ability to hit .270-.300 with 10 home run power. His plate rates are solid (good walk rate, reasonable K rate), which gives hope for his work at the plate. Towles also has '08 first round pick Jason Castro - also a catcher - breathing down his neck, so I'm sure that he's motivated.

Casey McGehee | Third Base: I have to admit that I haven't always been a McGehee fan... I've had my doubts. But the third baseman just keeps going out there and getting the job done. He has a very quiet approach at the plate and is workman-like. He reminds me a little bit of Ty Wigginton. McGehee's power is modest in the 15-20 homer range, but he should also hit for a good average. The former Cubs prospect is not a fantasy stud, but he could certainly be a useful tool in an NL-only league.

Jeff Clement | First Base: Speaking of NL-only leagues, here is another player to watch. A former first round pick by the Mariners as a college catcher, Clement's lack of defensive skills necessitated the move to first. The good news is that his power should play at the position and he has 20-25 home run potential. If he ends up seeing the odd game behind the plate, he'll become even more valuable. The downside to Clement is that he has a weak lineup around him so his RBI and run totals will be rather modest in 2010.

Mat Latos | Right-Hander: Latos is a stud pitcher that has been overlooked by a lot of fantasy managers. Latos has good stuff and he plays in a pitcher's park, so that adds up to a sleeper in mixed leagues and a strong option in NL-only leagues. Just 22, the right-hander posted a 4.09 BB/9 in the majors last season, but he's shown better control in the minors. His fastball, which averages out at 94 mph, and curveball could help him rack up an impressive number of strikeouts.

Randy Wells | Right-Hander: Wells out-dueled Braves phenom Tommy Hanson on Thursday night. Although Hanson wowed the crowd with 97-mph radar gun readings, the Cubs right-hander won the match-up by commanding his 88-92 mph sinker down in the zone. He struck out just one batter but he induced 13 ground-ball outs. If he keeps that up, he's going to be very successful, but it's also going to hurt his fantasy value in the strikeout category. Even so, he's a great complementary pitcher for your roster if you're looking for a good ERA, a modest WHIP (His control slips at times) and innings (as well as possibly wins, depending on how the Cubbies club does).

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C.J. Wilson Worth A Look

We've seen relievers convert back to starting successfully in recent years, with examples such as Ryan Dempster and Justin Duchscherer.  Is the Rangers' C.J. Wilson the latest success story?

Today Wilson allowed no runs with nine strikeouts and two walks against the Blue Jays, so he's probably on the fantasy radar now.  While the Jays project in the lower half for AL offenses, the performance is still impressive.  In relief Wilson was a big strikeout/groundball guy, so perhaps some of that will carry over to starting.  WHIP may be an issue, as he's always walked his fair share.  On the flip side perhaps he can keep the hits down more than the average hurler.  Wilson may be worth trying against the Indians next time out.

Remember, you can't afford to wait for a sufficient sample size.  If someone is interesting, pick him up and ask questions later.  Those who hesitated missed out on Kendry Morales, Ben Zobrist, and Aaron Hill last year.

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