June 2010

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Who Closes In Pittsburgh If Dotel Is Traded?

As the closer on the last-place Pirates, Octavio Dotel appears a prime candidate to be traded in July.  Evan Meek has closer-worthy numbers, but Joel Hanrahan has experience in the role.  Who would get the nod if Dotel is dealt?  We posed the question to beat writer Dejan Kovacevic, who covers the team for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  His answer:

Meek is very much in line to be the closer, even though Hanrahan, too, has been good. Better than the numbers would suggest in the case of the latter. That said, Dotel's club option for 2011 is just $4.5 million, which isn't a bad price even for the Pirates given how good he has been. Assuming Dotel is not traded, there is a strong chance the team will seriously consider exercising the option.

Meek seems the superior reliever to stash.  Cleveland's Chris Perez might be another to tuck away, in the event Kerry Wood is traded.  For all the latest closer developments, follow @closernews on Twitter.

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Roger Bernadina A Sleeper?

Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina was definitely not on fantasy radars entering the season, but at this point he merits mixed league consideration.  Bernadina is hitting .291-5-23-15-6 in 158 at-bats and has been playing regularly.  Over a 550 at-bat season his work projects at .291-17-80-52-21.  The entire line reeks of small sample size, but you have to figure he'll pick up his runs scored pace.

ZiPS is not yet on board, predicting just a .259/.319/.367 line the rest of the way.  Strong work in 245 plate appearances between Triple A and the bigs so far has not been enough to change the projection model's mind.  Baseball Prospectus says Bernadina would have to play at his 90th percentile projection to slug .442.

Scouting-wise, Bernadina ranked just 22nd among Nationals prospects before the season.  They said he has "plus-plus speed and average raw power."  So it appears that his 20-steal speed is for real, but his 15-20 home run power is in question.  For what it's worth Bernadina slugged .434 in May and sits at .507 in June, with five home runs, seven doubles, and two triples within those 167 PAs.

Bottom line: grab Bernadina as a speed source who won't kill you in the other categories, and hope his mild power breakout holds up.

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Six for Saturday: Call-ups

There have been some pretty big names called up to the Majors within the past five days. Let's have a quick look at them, and project what fantasy owners can expect to receive from them.

Carlos Santana | C | Cleveland: Santana is known for hitting for average, showing good patience and also having some pop in his bat. He was having little trouble with triple-A pitching and was hitting .316/.447/.597 in 196 at-bats at the time of his call-up. Santana has always produced a lot of walks - he usually walks more than he strikes out - so you can expect him to be on base a lot. In his prime, expect Victor Martinez-like numbers.

Jose Tabata | OF | Pittsburgh: Tabata has had his ups and his downs but he's still a very impressive prospect. His success in 2010 can be linked directly to a change in his approach; he stopped trying to hit everything out of the park and instead realized his skill set lends itself to getting on base and stealing some bases - while also looking to hit for gap power. In triple-A, Tabata hit .308/.373/.424 in 224 at-bats. He also set a career high with 25 steals through June 8 (His previous full-season high was 22, set back in '05). With a thicker body, Tabata probably won't be a 30-40 steal guy in the Majors; expect a total more in the range of 15-20 in a full season with 10-15 homers and a good batting average.

Mike Stanton | OF | Florida: Just 20, Stanton tore apart double-A with 21 homers in 52 games. That's pretty impressive, but also remember that he struck out 53 times in 190 at-bats. Stanton will probably knock some balls out of the park over the next few months but he may also hit in the .220-.240 range with high K-totals. Think along the lines of Travis Snider's early-career with the Jays: .241/.328/.419 in 241 at-bats. Snider was a more advanced overall hitter at the same age, but Stanton has more raw power.

Brad Lincoln | RHP | Pittsburgh: The fourth overall pick of the '06 draft out of the University of Houston, it's taken longer than expected for Lincoln to reach the Majors. The right-hander is here now, though, and he was roughed up in his first MLB start. His numbers in triple-A were pretty good: He had a 3.16 ERA and gave up 54 hits in 68.1 innings of work. Lincoln also struck out 55 batters and walked 14. Lincoln has an outside shot of developing into a No. 2 starter, but he's more likely at this point to settle in as a workhorse No. 3.

Jake Arrieta | RHP | Baltimore: Speaking of projected No. 3 starters, Arrieta also made his debut this week. He faced a tough task by facing the Yankees but he tossed a quality start by allowing three runs in 6.0 innings. In triple-A, he posted very good numbers. Arrieta had a 1.85 ERA and gave up 48 hits in 73.0 innings of work. His control still comes and goes but he posts respectable strikeout numbers (64) and did a better job of keeping the ball on the ground this season. The Orioles club could eventually have a very nice 1-2-3 punch with Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Arrieta.

Stephen Strasburg | RHP | Washington: Perhaps you've heard of this guy? I don't think I have to tell you too much about him; pretty much everyone knows by now that he struck out 14 Pittsburgh batters, without issuing a walk, in his debut. Sure, it was the Pirates, but it was still an amazing performance. He's a great pitcher to have in all fantasy format; just keep in mind that he'll likely face an innings cap in the second half of the season.

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Six for Saturday: NL Rookie Race

It's hard to believe that June is already here. It seems like just yesterday it was Opening Day 2010. The bright-eyed, young rookies are all grown up now and the training wheels are off the bicycle, so let's check in with the Rookie of the Year race in the National League.

David Freese | 3B | St. Louis: Freese, 27, is hitting .316/.386/.449 in 214 at-bats. He's leading all NL rookies (100 at-bats or more) in batting average. He hasn't displayed a ton of power, especially for a third baseman, but he's posted a respectable .370 wOBA. His strikeout rate of 24% is high considering his .134 ISO rate and the batting average is definitely aided by a high BABIP at .396. Freese is doing a lot of his damage at home (1.043 OPS at home, .629 on the road), so keep that in mind if your utilizing him on your fantasy squad.

Jason Heyward | OF | Atlanta: Heyward leads NL rookies in on-base percentage, slugging, homers, RBIs, and runs scored. He's clearly the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. The outfielder has been a great value for my fantasy team as I was able to snag him with the final pick of my auction draft for $1. You don't often - if ever - see a .263 ISO rate from a 20-year-old rookie. His batting average has dipped lately, but Heyward does a little bit of everything and his 154% walk rate looks like a typo... He has uncanny patience for his age and the rookie swings at pitches outside the strike zone 5% less than the league average.

Starlin Castro | SS | Chicago: Keeping in mind that he's just 20-year-old, Castro's line of .301/.350/.398 is pretty darn impressive. He doesn't have a ton of fantasy relevance right now, though, unless you're desperate for the batting average. Castro has speed but he's not a great base runner. He's also not a power hitter, as witnessed by his .094 ISO. This shortstop is an exciting prospect and could develop into a really good offensive player, but he's a singles hitter right now with a good idea at the plate and a solid glove in the field.

Jaime Garcia | LHP | St. Louis: The NL rookie leader in strikeouts (51) and ground-ball rate (60%), Garcia has a lot of the key ingredients for success. Toss in the fact that he's left-handed and has command of four pitches, and you can see why he's been so successful. The best part is that it doesn't appear to be a fluke; all these factors come straight out of his previous scouting reports. He's just finally healthy after batting injury problems in the past, which is still a bit of a red flag going forward. With an eye-popping ERA, Garcia is a useful mixed league starter; just expect a little regression as the year progresses.

Mike Leake | RHP | Cincinnati: The 22-year-old Leake, who leads NL rookie pitchers in innings, has received a lot of press for skipping over the minor leagues and going straight from college to the Majors, which is definitely an impressive feat, but it may have caused him to be a little over-hyped. Yes, he's been very successful so far but his strikeout rate is just 6.14 K/9 and his xFIP is 4.07 (good, not great). Leake is a solid NL-only pitcher and an OK back-end mixed league starter. His a pitcher with command of four pitches, a good ground-ball rate but he's not the overall talent that Garcia is at this point.

John Ely | RHP | Los Angeles:
Ely, who was acquired from the White Sox in the off-season, has been a nice story but, like Leake, he's not quite as good as he might seem. The right-hander has a modest fastball that sits around 87 mph and he commands four pitches, including a very good change-up. He also has exceptional control, as seen with his walk rate of 1.57 BB/9. Ely will face a true test when he goes through teams for the second time and they're prepared for his good change-up. With all that said, a 3.47 xFIP and 7.24 K/9 strikeout rate through seven big league starts deserves some attention.

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Roundtable: Worst Drop Of The Year

My questionable for the roundtable this week: What is the worst drop you've made so far this year?  Why did your thought process fail on this player?

Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

My worst drop of the year might be Drew Stubbs.  I drafted him as a fifth outfielder or a utility type with the upside to produce a 15/30 season if everything broke right.  Because he wasn't a guaranteed starter for my team on draft day, it was easier to let him go in favor of a hot starting pitcher like a Tom Gorzelanny or a Brett Cecil.  His batting average has been below the Mendoza Line all year long and I felt he was a player that, if he didn't get off to a hot start, could lose his job or get sent down to the minors.  Stubbs has come on strong over the last few weeks and is now on pace for a 17 HR, 37 SB season, which is close to what I had expected.  His AVG is climbing and someone else already waivered him in.  As far as drops go, Stubbs has the upside to make me regret letting him go.

Derek Carty, The Hardball Times Fantasy

Sorry, but my answer is very boring.  I haven't made a bad drop.  Maybe Joe Thatcher in LABR NL is the worst, although he's still available if I really wanted him.  I've had to drop guys like Mark Lowe and Scott Sizemore in CardRunners (AL-only) because of a roster crunch, if that counts.  That's about it.  I really haven't made many drops, or dropped anyone of note.

Chuck Anderson, FantasyPros911

The drop I most regret is J.D. Drew.  I dropped him on April 18th when he was hitting .180/.268/.311.  Just in May his line was .324/.381/.471.  He scored 21 runs and drove in 18.  Emotions overcame my normal evaluation process with Drew.  His poor play was infuriating as were the efforts of the Red Sox.  The weekend that I dropped him was during Tampa's sweep in Fenway park and many Boston fans were at wit's end.  Frustration with the team was a large part of my decision.  If the Red Sox peformed poorly as a group Drew's skills could be replaced.  As they are a top five offense his counting stats are very useful, especially in a five outfielder league.  As long as we are fans passionate reactions will happen.  Hopefully this one is not catastrophic.

Tim Dierkes, RotoAuthority

Mine is easily Mat Latos.  I believed in him enough to draft him in multiple leagues, but cut him in one league after his first two starts.  I did this so I could snag Joel Pineiro.  I tell myself all offseason I won't make hasty moves, but I consistently judge starters on too little data.  Sometimes it leads you to a Cliff Lee, but usually you just shuffle guys around and drop some good ones along the way.  I mess around with spot starters and potential new starters for my rotation way too much in unlimited transaction leagues, and it's usually to my detriment.  I have to break this habit.

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