October 2010

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The Next Carlos Gonzalez

Though he was drafted in the 11th round on average last year, Carlos Gonzalez was coming off a strong half-season for the Rockies and had the pedigree of formerly being one of the 20 best prospects in the game.  There probably won't be another CarGo in 2011, but let's at least uncover some similar power/speed sleepers.

  • Mike Stanton, Marlins OF.  He might not hit much more than .260, but Stanton doesn't turn 21 until next month and has massive power.  35 home runs in 2011 would not be surprising.  He attempted seven steals in 100 big league games, leading me to believe he could swipe 8-10 next year.  He didn't run much in the minors, though Baseball America said before the season that he has the speed to steal 20+ if he develops baserunning instincts.
  • Danny Espinosa, Nationals 2B.  If nothing else, Espinosa showed good pop with six home runs in his 112-PA Major League debut.  He hit another 22 homers in 542 high minors PAs.  During those Double and Triple-A stints he also stole 25 bags in 36 tries.  Like Stanton, he's not expected to hit for average.
  • Tyler Colvin, Cubs OF.  Over 600 PAs, Colvin's rookie debut numbers translate to 30 homers and nine steals.  He wasn't a burner in the minors but he might be fast enough to steal ten despite what Baseball America described as "below-average speed out of the box."  I anticipate Colvin going into next year with a full-time job locked down.
  • Bill Hall, free agent 2B/OF.  Ah, old friend Bill Hall, who burned so many in 2007 drafts coming off a 35 home run, eight steal season for the Brewers.  This year in a utility role for the Red Sox he flashed that same 30 homer power and swiped nine bags in ten tries - a much better success rate than we're used to from him.  If Hall finds more regular playing time as a free agent, fantasy leaguers can stick him at second hoping for 20 home runs and 15 steals.
  • Jay Bruce, Reds OF.  Bruce could hit 25+ homers and steal 10-15.  Given his talent level there's room for much more.
  • Travis Snider, Blue Jays OF.  Snider is Bruce but a year behind, in a fantasy baseball sense.
  • Colby Rasmus, Cardinals OF.  Remember that CarGo had already demonstrated double digit Major League power/speed ability before 2010.  So Rasmus, who would've pushed 20/20 this year with better baserunning, may slip to the eighth round if we're lucky.
  • Drew Stubbs, Reds OF.  Stubbs had one of the quieter 22 home run, 30 steal seasons I can remember in recent years.  Like a lot of the players on this list, his strikeouts will limit his batting average.
  • Peter Bourjos, Angels OF.  He's known for his speed rather than his power, but Bourjos hit 19 home runs this year between Triple A and the Majors in 648 PAs.  We took a look at Bourjos in August.
  • Will Venable, Padres OF.  This year Venable hit 13 home runs and stole 29 bags in 445 PAs, so he's already done it.  Same problem, though - his average can kill you.
  • Jason Heyward, Braves OF.  Heyward should finish first or second in the NL ROY, and I think enough of last spring's hype will carry over that he'll go relatively early.  He could still be worth it with a 30 home run, 15 steal sophomore campaign.
  • Andres Torres, Giants OF.  He hinted at double-double skills in '09 and broke out with 16 homers and 26 swipes in 570 PAs this year.  He's a late bloomer - 33 in January - and has room for improvement against lefties.  I'm curious to see where he lands in drafts.
  • Coco Crisp, free agent OF.  Crisp may return to the A's, as they have a club option.  Finally healthy, Crisp is a sleeper candidate for 15 homers and 40 steals next year.
  • Sean Rodriguez, Rays 2B/OF.  He's a sleeper for 25 homers and ten steals, given enough playing time.
  • Roger Bernadina, Nationals OF.  He hit 11 home runs and stole 16 in 461 PAs this year, but the power is still a question mark.  More on him here.
  • Honorable mentions: Brooks ConradChris Denorfia, Brennan Boesch, Jeff Francoeur, David Murphy, Cameron Maybin, Reid Brignac, Cody Ross, Corey Patterson, Ryan Kalish, Gordon Beckham, Ian Desmond, Mike Aviles, Angel Pagan, Fred Lewis, Chase Headley, and Ronny Cedeno.
  • Well, we didn't really find a strong candidate for the next CarGo - his .336 average sets him apart.  Still, you'll want to put Stanton, Bruce, Snider, Rasmus, and Heyward at the top of your list for 2011.  If you're a Baseball America reader these have been household names for many years.

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Where Will CarGo Be Drafted?

Carlos Gonzalez had a massive breakout fantasy season in 2010, with a .336 average, 34 home runs, 117 RBIs, 111 runs, and 26 steals.  Rest assured he won't be drafted 123rd on average this time around.  It's certainly not mock draft time, but where wil CarGo go?

Matt Kemp provides a strong fantasy comparable for Gonzalez.  Kemp, coming off a .297-26-101-97-34 season, was drafted eighth on average in March.  Evan Longoria, coming off a .281-33-113-100-9 season, went tenth.  I have a feeling CarGo's average draft position will be even earlier than Kemp's.  Kemp, by the way, had an ADP range of 4 to 13.

If you're the average fantasy player, you still have to take Albert Pujols first next year.  Sure, Gonzalez provided more value in 2010, but Pujols was second and has been a fantasy monster for a decade.  Hanley Ramirez, the typical second overall pick, slipped this year to .300-21-76-92-32.  Some owners will look at those numbers and decide they can't give Hanley the position-based boost and take him second.   Still, on average, it seems like Ramirez's history would help him top CarGo ever so slightly.  It's not as if Hanley had a bad year.

Gonzalez going third overall on average would not surprise me.  Last year's early first round picks such as Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley, and Ryan Braun had down years by their standards.  Fantasy players have short memories.  One possibility is that someone who had a huge 2010 vaults into the mix.  The contenders are Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Josh Hamilton.  But even those players didn't have a fantasy season like Gonzalez did, so I think he snags that third spot.

While we're on the topic, are there any red flags with CarGo?  It's always risky to take someone with a short history of fantasy dominance with a super-early pick.  I thought Kemp was a first-rounder this year, and he was a bust.  One concern touts will point to with Gonzalez is his work away from Coors: .289/.322/.453 with 8 home runs and 41 RBIs in 287 ABs.  That's a glimpse at his worst case scenario, a line I kind of expected from him heading into 2010 - .290-15-80 or so.  But even then, he swiped 16 bags on the road, so you still would have had a tidy profit.  I don't see the point in worrying about the home/road split.  He's not leaving Coors, and he's still useful on the road.

It's unlikely Gonzalez has a healthy, disappointing season like Kemp did.  I'm more concerned that he'll miss significant time due to injury.  Here's his history:

  • March 2008: Missed about 17 days due to a strained hamstring.
  • April 2008: Jammed thumb.
  • May 2008: Missed a week with a sprained ankle.
  • July 2008: Missed three days with a hamstring injury.
  • March 2009: Rib cage injury.
  • August 2009: Steak knife injury, missed a few days.
  • September 2009: Missed a few games with a hamstring injury.
  • March 2010: Quad strain.
  • April 2010: Missed three days with a hamstring injury, almost went on DL.
  • May 2010: Missed a few days with a sore wrist.
  • June 2010: Missed a few days due to a bruised knee.
  • July 2010: Missed a few days with a bruised finger.
  • August 2010: Missed a few days with a knee injury after crashing into the outfield wall.
  • September 2010: Tendinitis in wrist and thumb due to an August 30th foul ball injury.

Obviously I was happy to own CarGo this year in a couple of leagues, but it seemed like he was always day-to-day with something.  But you'd leave him in your lineup and he'd go 4 for 6 with two home runs.  What does this mean - he's injury-prone but plays through it without much effect?  That he's more upfront than most players about standard injuries, so they're reported more?  The injury history is odd but not particularly scary, so we shouldn't downgrade him for it.

Bottom line: if you want CarGo, plan on taking him second or third most likely.  Whether he's worth it might be a separate post, but I think so.  Even if you knock him down to .300-25-100-100-20, that justifies the draft spot.

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Bad Basestealing

Today let's take a look at some players with poor stolen base success rates in 2010 and at least ten attempts.  They could be speed sleepers for 2011 if they improve their approach.

  • Gordon Beckham - 10 attempts, 40% success rate.  He didn't attempt to steal much in the minors, but he only played 59 games there.  Beckham had a lousy rate in '09 as well, but did make 11 attempts in 103 games.  15 attempts and a 75% success rate would give you an 11-steal player.
  • Adam Jones - 14 attempts, 50%.  It'd be nice to see him try a little more, but clearly he's capable of double digits.
  • Corey Hart - 13 attempts, 54%.  Perhaps Hart fancies himself a power hitter now, as his attempt number was his lowest in a full season.  Are his 20/20 days behind him?
  • Starlin Castro - 18 attempts, 56%.  That's 18 attempts in 125 games.  I have to think he can steal 20 next year.
  • Matt Kemp - 34 attempts, 56%.  Maybe Kemp wanted another 20 or 30 steal season too much.  I think he'll jump back to 30 swipes next year.
  • Brandon Phillips - 28 attempts, 57%.  Still a threat to steal 20.
  • A few others with lousy success rates: Colby Rasmus, Alexei Ramirez, David Wright, Mark Reynolds, Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward, and Kelly Johnson.  Typically unless the player has a history of stealing below a 70% success rate, I assume he'll get back to around 75%.

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Done In By Home Runs

Ricky Nolasco, James Shields, Josh Beckett, Jake Peavy, and Scott Baker all posted strong strikeout and walk rates this year, yet all had ERAs of 4.49 or higher.  The problem: home runs allowed.  Shields and Beckett were especially bad, but all five had HR/9 rates of 1.09 or higher.  Can we expect improvement in 2011?

If xFIP had its way, all of their ERAs would be at 4.08 or lower based on their peripherals.  XFIP attempts to iron out abnormal home run per flyball rates, going as far to peg Nolasco at 3.55 instead of his actual 4.51 mark.  Shields gets 3.72 instead of 5.18.

We prefer Baseball Prospectus' SIERA, though.  SIERA likes these five even more, assigning nothing above the 3.84 Beckett received.  Nolasco gets 3.33, Shields 3.57.  I read up on SIERA but couldn't quite wrap my mind around it, so I asked BP's Matt Swartz to explain why it was lower than xFIP for these five pitchers.  I also asked him whether that means SIERA expects better results for the pitchers in 2011 than xFIP does.  His response was helpful:

SIERA is lower than xFIP for those guys because of what we joked should be called "The Johan Effect"-- basically, those guys are likely to give up solo homers when they do give up homers, because they all have good K/BB causing them to have not that many baserunners on when the inevitable home runs are hit.  I think that probably covers all of those guys actually.  I think xFIP and SIERA would agree on the number of expected home runs and disagree about how much to "charge" them for it.

Interesting.  I think Swartz would agree that the home run rates should come down next year for at least Nolasco, Shields, and Beckett.  Both stats clearly suggest ERAs will come down for all five.  They look like good value buys for 2011.

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Experts Predict Jose Bautista's 2011 Home Run Total

Yesterday Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors dove into Jose Bautista's impending raise with the help of an arbitration expert.  The article was fascinating, but fantasy baseball players are more concerned with how much of Bautista's 54 home run performance will carry over in 2011.  I assembled a panel of legendary journalists and asked them to predict his home run total for next year.  Their answers:

That comes to an average of 32.3 home runs for Bautista next year, with a range of nine between the highest and lowest predictions.  Fantasy players will likely view Bautista as a third baseman rather than an outfielder. 

I can't help but wonder if Bautista will be next year's Mark Reynolds.  Not because I expect him to follow up his huge year with a .198 average and 211 strikeouts, but because like Reynolds, Bautista may be drafted inside the first three rounds in March of 2011 and that's probably too early.  Reynolds was actually drafted 20th on average before the 2010 season.  Be sure to exercise caution on Bautista in fantasy drafts, with a panel of ten experts predicting a dropoff of more than 20 home runs.  His RBI total will come down as well.

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Post-Hype Sleeper: Homer Bailey

Prior to the 2007 season, Baseball America ranked Homer Bailey the fifth-best prospect in all of baseball.  Before the '08 season, they had him ninth.  But after the '08 season, Bailey sported a 6.72 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9 in 81.6 big league innings.  He also allowed 102 hits in that time.  '09 was a little better - Bailey's Triple-A performance improved, and his Major League numbers in 20 starts were at least tolerable.

Back in March, Bailey still went undrafted in mixed leagues.  I projected him to post a 4.64 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 175 innings, and he bested those rates only by a bit - 4.46 and 1.37.  He was limited to 109 Major League innings, hitting the DL with shoulder inflammation on May 24th.  He wasn't activated until August 15th.  Given Bailey's WHIP and the injury risk, there's really not enough here to justify drafting him inside the first 15 rounds in 2011.  But there are signs that he could have a big campaign, even if the hype has subsided.

  • Bailey throws hard - an average fastball velocity of 92.8 this year and 94.4 last year.  In late September, Bailey touched 97.  As simple as it is, fastball velocity is a good way to identify breakout players. 
  • He had strong peripheral stats - an 8.26 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9.  His K/9 ranked 27th among those with 100 innings, and pretty much all the names surrounding him on the list are good fantasy pitchers.  His 4.46 ERA was deceptive - xFIP says 3.91 and SIERA says 3.79.  Given the same peripherals next year Bailey should be in that range.
  • Bailey's work leading up to his DL stint wasn't amazing - 5.51 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9 in 50.6 innings across nine starts.  But check out what he did after he returned: 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9 in 58.3 innings across ten starts. That included nine and ten-strikeout efforts.

Before the '09 season Bailey had never topped 147.6 innings in a season.  In '09, he tossed 203 - an increase of more than 55 innings.  He wasn't efficient, either - in his big league time in '09 he ranked 7th-worst in baseball (100 innings minimum) with 17.7 pitches per inning.  He didn't improve upon that this year, ranking third-worst with a similar figure.  There was no difference before and after his DL stint, either.  My guess: Bailey's injury this year was related to his '09 workload.  Also, he really labors out there, so even if he makes 30 starts don't expect more than 175 innings in 2011.

Bailey's pedestrian fantasy rate stats in 2010, his time lost to injury, and his inefficiency make him a risky play for 2011.  Those red flags also make him a great sleeper, as he'll probably go late in drafts.

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2011 Sleepers: Neil Walker

Longtime Pirates prospect Neil Walker finally broke through this year.  The 25-year-old had his third extended shot at Triple-A, switching to second base.  There he hit .321/.392/.560 in 189 plate appearances with six home runs and ten stolen bases in 189 plate appearances.  Astute fantasy owners were all over Walker's May 25th call-up, and were sure to pounce a week later when he became the starter at second base.

Walker rewarded the Pirates and fantasy owners with a .296/.349/.462 performance in 469 plate appearances, which should earn Rookie of the Year consideration.  Fantasy-wise he had a .296-12-66-57-2 line.  His defense didn't draw rave reviews, but that's not a fantasy concern.  Walker mostly batted second or third in the lineup, allowing him to average 4.26 plate appearances per game.  That could mean 639 PAs over 150 games in 2011.

If Walker can keep up this level of offense, we're looking at .296-16-90-78-3 on the season.  I expect different numbers though.  Intuitively I'd look for something like .280-15-70-90-10 from Walker as he lets up on the RBIs, scores more runs, and attempts more steals.  At Triple-A he attempted to steal about 23% of the time, and he'll probably have a better success rate than his big league 40% mark.

We don't know yet where Walker will be drafted in fantasy leagues, but since he's a Pirate and his counting stats were limited by his late May call-up, I'm betting he'll be a bargain.  I'll guess 10th round or later, depending on how hot the sleeper buzz gets by March.

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2010 Sleepers: Shortstops

It's tough to find a good shortstop, whether in fantasy or real baseball.  Thanks to Baseball Monster, here are 2010's top mixed league shortstops.  I've also added the round in which they were drafted in March, using data from Mock Draft Central.

  1. Hanley Ramirez (1)
  2. Troy Tulowitzki (2)
  3. Derek Jeter (4)
  4. Alexei Ramirez (10)
  5. Jose Reyes (2)
  6. Stephen Drew (10)
  7. Alex Gonzalez (36)
  8. Marco Scutaro (18)
  9. Rafael Furcal (12)
  10. Elvis Andrus (13)
  11. Ian Desmond (31)
  12. Yuniesky Betancourt (not drafted)
  13. Mike Aviles (28)
  14. Cliff Pennington (not drafted)
  15. Ryan Theriot (23)
  16. Jason Bartlett (9)

Jimmy Rollins, a second-round pick, ranked 19th.  Unlike second base, there wasn't much in terms of good value at shortstop this year.  But why were these few undervalued on draft day?

  • Jeter: Age, so famous he's underrated, undervaluing of steals.  He was coming off a huge year, so the fourth round was a solid place to get him.  I think people see the name Jeter and assume he's going too early because he's famous.  But even at 36 he's typically contributing in all five categories, especially runs.
  • Ramirez: Slightly disappointing in previous season.  Not sure why there wasn't more love for Ramirez, who was coming off a well-rounded campaign even if it fell short of his fine rookie season.  Perhaps the slower finish in 2009 was a factor.
  • Drew: Lack of speed, batting average questions.  I typically stay away from Drew because he doesn't steal enough bags, but this year he made a career-high 15 attempts and succeeded on ten of them.  He also brought his average back to a respectable .278.
  • Gonzalez: Boring player, last good season in 2007.  I don't think too many expected Gonzalez to bang out 23 homers and 88 RBIs this year.

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Josh Bernier Wins RotoAuthority League

Congratulations to Josh Bernier and his team Gramma Nutt Crushers on winning the RotoAuthority League!  Josh joined the RotoAuthority League by winning the Silver League last year.  He won this year by a 7.5 point margin in the 12-team league.  How did he do it?

Josh drafted tenth overall, taking Miguel Cabrera.  His full results:

1.   (10)   Miguel Cabrera (Det - 1B)
2.  (15)  Carl Crawford (TB - OF)
3.  (34)  Kevin Youkilis (Bos - 1B,3B)
4.  (39)  CC Sabathia (NYY - SP)
5.  (58)  Aramis Ramírez (ChC - 3B)
6.  (63)  Manny Ramírez (CWS - OF)
7.  (82)  Shane Victorino (Phi - OF)
8.  (87)  Wandy Rodríguez (Hou - SP)
9.  (106)  Alexei Ramírez (CWS - SS)
10.  (111)  Dan Uggla (Fla - 2B)
11.  (130)  Johnny Damon (Det - OF)
12.  (135)  José Valverde (Det - RP)
13.  (154)  Jair Jurrjens (Atl - SP)
14.  (159)  Miguel Tejada (SD - 3B,SS)
15.  (178)  A.J. Pierzynski (CWS - C)
16.  (183)  Martín Prado (Atl - 1B,2B,3B)
17.  (202)  Michael González (Bal - RP)
18.  (207)  Octavio Dotel (Col - RP)
19.  (226)  Jeff Niemann (TB - SP)
20.  (231)  Vernon Wells (Tor - OF)
21.  (250)  Tim Hudson (Atl - SP)
22.  (255)  Miguel Olivo (Col - C)
23.  (274)  Brandon League (Sea - RP)
24.  (279)  Michael Wuertz (Oak - RP)
25.  (298)  Mike Cameron (Bos - OF)
26.  (303)  Fernando Rodney (LAA - RP)

Josh made a pair of trades this year.  On April 30th he sent Kevin Youkilis to another club for Felix Hernandez.  Felix tossed another 213.3 innings with 11 wins, a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 201 Ks.  Youk's owner got only three months out of him due to a thumb injury, but he did have a .319-16-50-61-3 line in 273 ABs after the trade.  In more of a minor trade on May 19th, Josh traded Chipper Jones for Trevor Hoffman.

 Josh made 85 transactions, which ranked 7th in our league.  His pickups of Kevin Slowey and Ted Lilly were stellar.  Most of Josh's key players came from his draft, though, and the strategy paid off in the form of a $900 payout.

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