November 2010

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Inflated HR/Flyball Rates

About nine fantasy-relevant starting pitchers had home run per flyball rates of 13% or greater this year.  Most likely, we can expect these rates to fall in 2011, resulting in fewer home runs allowed if all else is equal.

  • Jorge de la Rosa, 15.8%.  A guy with his groundball rate shouldn't have a 1.11 HR/9.  He'll probably be out of Coors in 2011; that'll help too.  He'll get you Ks, but still needs to trim walks to be a really useful fantasy pitcher.
  • Kevin Correia, 14.8%.  Had sneakily decent peripherals, outside of his walk rate.  He won't be in San Diego in 2011, however.  Correia doesn't need to be drafted in mixed leagues, but you might want to monitor him.
  • Manny Parra, 14.8%.  His career HR/flyball and BABIP are both pretty high, and it's been over 450 innings now.  He's something of a poor man's De La Rosa.
  • Josh Beckett, 14.2%.  Burned by BABIP and HR/flyball, he's a sleeper if his control returns in 2011 and he stays healthy.
  • Javier Vazquez, 14.0%.  He didn't have the typical Vazquez velocity or strong peripherals this time.  Worth speculating on, but only late.
  • James Shields, 13.8%.  Strong K/BB, but burned by BABIP and HR/flyball.  I'd love to see him in the NL.
  • Mike Leake, 13.2%.  Gets grounders, so he shouldn't be homer-prone.  His peripherals need some work but he did skip the minors.
  • Derek Lowe, 13.1%.  He and Tim Hudson were the league's top groundballers, yet their HR rates were higher than they should have been.  Lowe has his uses at the back end of a mixed league rotation and was really sharp in the second half.
  • Tim Hudson, 13.1%.  This might be countered by a rising BABIP.  I can see a sub-4.00 ERA in 2011, but his value is limited by his lack of Ks.

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Nelson Cruz's Potential

Nelson Cruz raked at Triple-A in 2008 (37 home runs, 24 steals) and continued that production for a month with the Rangers.  We touted him as a big sleeper heading into '09, and as an 11th-round pick he returned great value (33 home runs, 20 steals).  A sprained ankle limited him to 515 plate appearances that year, and we felt he was still being undervalued in 2010 drafts as a sixth-rounder.

However, Cruz hit the DL three separate times in 2010 for a hamstring injury.  He picked up only 445 PAs, but his numbers were even better - a .318 average, 22 home runs, and 17 steals.  His home run rate was down, but his slugging percentage increased.

Since 2008 Cruz is hitting .292/.360/.555 in 1093 big league plate appearances, with 62 home runs, 180 RBIs, 154 runs, and 40 steals.  What if Cruz finally stays healthy in 2011?  89 players racked up 600+ PAs this year.  If Cruz reaches that level, his last three years suggest something like .292-34-99-85-22.  Few players can match that, and the ceiling could be more like 40 homers, 120 ribbies, and 25 steals.  Here's hoping Cruz goes in the sixth round or later again in 2011.

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