August 2012

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Orioles Make Manny Machado A Surprise Call-Up

Despite having the fourth worst run differential in the American League (-47), the surprising Orioles remain right in the thick of the AL East race thanks to their insane 22-6 record in one-run games and 12-2 record in extra-inning games. They're 4.5 games back of the Yankees in the division and tied for one of the two Wild Card spots because their dynamite bullpen (3.04 ERA) keeps them in every tight game.

The Orioles are not without their faults though, and through yesterday's game they had received some of the worst third base production in the league at .246/.319/.406. Wilson Betemit has seen the majority of the action at the hot corner, but Mark Reynolds, Robert Andino, Ryan Flaherty, and Steven Tolleson have also gotten some reps at third. With their first winning record since 1997 staring them in the face, Baltimore decided to recall top shortstop prospect Manny Machado from Double-A after last night's game with the idea of installing him at third. He's expected to be in today's lineup.

Machado, 20, was ranked as the 11th best prospect in the game by Baseball America this spring before placing ninth in their recent midseason update. The third overall pick in the 2010 draft has played exactly two games at third base in his minor league career, both this year at Double-A. The rest have been at shortstop with a few DH starts sprinkled in. The kid's going to be learning the position on the fly in the big leagues, which isn't an easy thing to do.

Furthermore, this isn't exactly a case of a player forcing the team's hand. Machado was having a very strong season in Double-A for a kid his age - .266/.352/.438 with 11 homers - but it's hardly a performance that screams "call me up, I'm big league ready!" That's why the move is very aggressive on the part of the Orioles, but they do deserve some credit for being gutsy enough to do it. New GM Dan Duquette seems intent on winning this year.

Machado is already shortstop-eligible in most fantasy leagues and will pick up third base eligibility soon enough. He's a legitimate power bat with some stolen base ability, but he's more of a middle of the order guy than a tablesetter, or at least he's expected to be in time. Dan Syzmborski's ZiPS projection system considered Machado a true talent .248/.303/.389 hitter (with 13 homers) at the big league level coming into the season, which is just a snapshot in time. That's the expectation for the 20-year-old kid jumping right into the show, not the 27-year-old future version in the peak of his career.

As excellent as Machado is as a prospect, he's not Mike Trout (or even Bryce Harper) and expecting that kind of immediate impact would be a setup for disappointment. He could always smash his way to a .300 average with eight or ten homers the rest of the way, but that would be the best case scenario in a relatively small sample. Expecting even a repeat of his Double-A effort might be asking too much. Shortstop is a pretty thin fantasy position however, and if you're willing to gamble on upside there are few better players to do it with. Unless you're in a long-term keeper league, I can't advise dropping an established producer for Machado this season, especially if you're in contention. It's easy to overlook the risk part of the high-risk/high-reward moves.



Injury Watch: Don't Go To Toronto

Today's edition of Injury Watch focuses on the snakebitten Toronto Blue Jays and an Astros outfielder who will miss time with a shoulder injury. They may not be the best teams in the majors right now, but both the Jays and Astros have a few useful players for fantasy owners. Well...the Jays do. The Astros have Jose Altuve and, yeah, that's about it. Nevermind! Onward!

Basically All Of The Toronto Blue Jays

Everybody on the Blue Jays is injured.

...Okay, seriously, not everyone on the team is injured, but there's a ton of guys who are. I'm sure you've heard by now, but a truly massive number of Blue Jays pitchers have missed time this season due to injury, most specifically is that many have suffered from a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery. Well, bad news, Jays fans. Drew Hutchinson is the latest Jay to require the zipper, and he'll undergo surgery this week instead of continuing his recovery from injury. For the record, that's Kyle Drabek, Luis Perez, and now Hutchinson who've needed TJ surgery and had their season ended. Then there's Jesse Litsch, Dustin McGowan, and closer Sergio Santos who've all required season-ending shoulder surgery. The only good news is that default staff ace Brandon Morrow is on the mend from his various injuries, and will have a rehab start on Thursday. The lesson: don't pitch for the Blue Jays.

Going into the 2012 season, you probably wouldn't be wrong to think that the two best hitters on the Jays were Jose Bautista and 2011 rookie phenomenon Brett Lawrie. While Edwin Encarnacion has slugged his way into that discussion, the two men mentioned beforehand are critical pieces to the Toronto offensive attack. Well, Bautista has been slow to recover from a scary-looking wrist injury and was scheduled for another MRI yesterday. The Jays have been in no hurry to rush back their franchise player, so the timeframe for his return is now uncertain. And now Brett Lawrie may be facing DL time as well. Lawrie last played on August 3, and has been suffering from a ribcage injury. Though he may be back any day now, 

And finally, two complementary players on the Jays are also feeling some pain. Adam Lind, who's been making every effort to recover after two-and-a-half dismal seasons with a strong summer return to the Jays, is dealing with a consistent mid-back issue that will keep him on the DL for a while and below 100 percent for the rest of the season. And catcher J.P. Arencibia suffered a fractured right hand about two weeks ago, and looks to miss all of August at least.

That's a lot of injuries, you guys. And if you have a Blue Jay-heavy team, that's a bunch of guys to replace, especially in terms of offense. In reality, you're probably not depending on the parade of injured Blue Jays starters to help your team. If you are looking for pitching help, see if Morrow's still available on your waiver wire and snag him, he'll at the very least help your strikeout totals. But if you're looking for offense, perhaps some players who will be buoyed by a helpful home park like the Jays hitters are, I'd advise you to look much, much further south.

In Arlington, there are a couple new faces who can help supplement your lineup if you lost Lind, Lawrie, or Arencibia to injury. The first potential pickup I'd recommend is stellar prospect Mike Olt, who will be seeing some time at third base and first, especially against left-handed pitchers. Olt has a powerful prospect pedigree, but at this early stage in his career he's probably going to be a three-true outcomes guy (he'll walk, K, or kill the ball) who can drop a steal in here or there. He won't get everyday playing time unless an injury comes up, but he may be able to fill a box score or be a useful bench player in daily leagues where you can take advantage of matchups. In a few years, he may be a star, but for now, he's a lottery-ticket bench piece. [Note: For more info, check out Mike Axisa's great piece on Olt from last week.]

Geovany Soto isn't as bad of a hitter as he's been in 2012, is he? Well, if Soto can't hit in Texas, he probably can't hit at all. Soto's suffered from a very bad BABIP during this season, but he's shown the ability to muscle a few balls out of the yard as a member of the Cubs. Given Arlington's hitter-friendly dimensions, he might be able to do the same in his time with the Rangers...and if you're looking to replace J.P. Arencibia, that's probably all you're looking for from your catcher. Oh, and both Olt and Soto are probably on the waiver wire in your league, so you won't have to give anything up to snag them.

Jordan Schafer, Astros

Jordan Schafer is the center fielder for the Astros, which probably makes him (by default) the worst center fielder in the majors. Seriously, Jordan is bad at everything, at least compared to other major league players. Schafer sports a 72 wRC+, which translates to being 28% worse than league average with the bat. He's not a good fielder in center, having never posted an UZR in the postitive numbers. He's even a bad baserunner! He's got a career Ultimate Baserunning Score of -1.3, meaning he's cost his teams a run and change when it comes to non-SB running ability. And his stolen base percentage of 76.4% is just barely above the "break-even point" for basestealing.

In short, Jordan Schafer is a below-replacement player as evidenced by his -0.2 fWAR and -0.4 bWAR. While I don't wish injury on anyone, his separated shoulder will put him on the DL until late August or so, and this will free up time for a different player to fill in at center for the woeful Houston Astros. Whether the replacement will be Brandon Barnes, or someone else, doesn't matter terribly much. Things are bad on the field for the 'Stros.

Nevertheless, Schafer is valuable in fantasy leagues because he has (had?) the ability (and more importantly, the playing time) to steal bases. With 26 SB on the year, plenty of teams leveraged him to rack up needed steals. So now you, Jordan Schafer owner, may need a replacement. Who do you turn to?

I'd advise looking in the direction of Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders. Saunders is coming off a slow July, but has 15 stolen bases on the season to go with a respectable 10 homers and 49 runs scored. But where Schafer was only going to help you in terms of SB, Saunders has the potential to help you in multiple categories, including stolen bases. He suffers from having to play in the unforgiving Safeco Field, atop a Mariner lineup that strikes fear in the hearts of no one. But if you were running Jordan Schafer out there on your fantasy squad, then your expectations probably aren't outlandish. Best of all, Saunders is available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues. Grab him if you need an OF who can give you a few steals and may help out a little in other areas.

Quick Hits: Hooray! Evan Longoria is back! While he won't be playing the field for a while, he can probably give a nice boost to the Rays and to fantasy squads everywhere. ... Unfortunately, Todd Helton is now out for the year. The greatest Rockie of all time (sorry, Larry Walker, not enough years with the franchise) plans to return for next season, but a hip labrum tear and associated surgery will have him out for 2012. ... Francisco Liriano left Sunday's game after being hit on the leg by a batted ball, but is expected to start on August 11. ... Pablo Sandoval looks to be about ready to return to action sometime this week for San Francisco. ... Matt Garza has finally hit the DL with that pesky right elbow issue he's dealing with. His timetable, like what team he'll play for next season, is up in the air. ... Lance Berkman hit the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right knee. He's due off the list on August 18, but don't be surprised if this issue continues to linger beyond that timeframe. ... Seth Smith of the A's is dealing with hamstring issues, and has been placed on the 15-day DL himself. Like Berkman, he'll be eligible to come off (and batter right-handed pitchers) on August 18. 


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Closer Updates: Athletics, Rangers, Giants

The pursuit of saves is a tiresome business, so if you need to "get fresh," in the words of Ron Washington, let @closernews do the dirty work for you. On with the updates ...

Athletics
"Wait till your honeymoon's over."

A caustic Pete Campbell shared these cautionary words with the love-smitten Don Draper in Season 5 of Mad Men, reminding our protagonist that life cannot be spent skipping through flowery fields with our lovers. Somewhere in this muddled metaphor I'm constructing an analogy for A's closer Ryan Cook, whose owners are too well aware of the adage about familiarity and contempt now that the right-hander has slumped badly in recent weeks.

I was wary of Cook from the get-go, because the numbers just don't add up. There's too little daylight between his strikeout and walk rates (2.09 K/BB), and the .180 BABIP and 83.3% strand rate look fishy, too. All told, something had to give between what is now a 3.63 SIERA and what was once a sub-1.00 ERA, and we've found out which one it is.

A's manager Bob Melvin said before Monday night's game that Cook's job is safe, but I can only envision an in-contention team suffering a slumping rookie closer for so long before looking elsewhere. So, Cook owners should consider handcuffing Grant Balfour, whose surface stats have rebounded nicely after his early-season slump that cost him the ninth-inning job. Cook's and Balfour's peripherals are comically similar, so I'm not sure Balfour is any more of an improvement than Cook was, but bullpens sometimes chase their tails.

For those who don't own Cook, I'd probably pass on Balfour; this one could get hairy, and the payoff may not be worth the frustration.

Rangers
Joe Nathan's return to dominance this season has been a great, and perhaps underreported, story. Based on his age and injury history (Tommy John surgery in 2010), I had little faith before the season started that he could recapture the form that made him one of MLB's best closers for the better part of a decade. But, here we are on Aug. 6, with Nathan sitting on 21 saves and a tidy 2.31 SIERA.

That being said, if there is any lingering concern about Nathan, it's whether he can hold up at age 37 over the course of a long season in the heat of Texas. And after he allowed runs in four of seven post-break outings, the Rangers were apparently concerned enough to rest Nathan over the weekend, instead deferring to Alexi Ogando for two save chances, which he converted.

I think there's enough here to speculate that an injury could be in play, although I can't hazard a guess at the nature or severity of it. In the meanwhile, nervous Nathan owners should definitely look to handcuff Ogando, and even those who don't own Nathan might want a piece of the action. We'll need a post-rest outing or two out of Nathan before we can gauge whether something is seriously askew, but in the meanwhile, it's not a bad idea to hedge against the worst.

It's also worth noting that ace setup man Mike Adams seems to have been skipped over as Nathan's stand-in. It's not entirely shocking, considering he hasn't enjoyed the kind of success in Texas that he did in San Diego, but it certainly underscores the argument that he was perhaps a Petco Park creation to some extent.

Giants
The Lads went ahead and pulled the trigger on one of those seemingly insignificant moves that could actually prove to have big fantasy implications. In acquiring Jose Mijares from the Royals, the Giants now have another LOOGY to pair with Javier Lopez, freeing up Jeremy Affeldt to claim a substantial role in what manager Bruce Bochy unapologetically said will be a closer-by-committee. Damn if that ain't the saber-ist thing Botchy Bochy ever did. Actually, in fairness, the Giants kind of went with a committee when Brian Wilson missed a whole bunch of time last season.

Anyway, I like Affeldt a lot -- and Sergio Romo a little more and Santiago Casilla a little less -- but I think this one is about to get pretty muddled. So, while deep leaguers and NL-only types will want to get any and all of these fellas, standard leaguers may want to pass unless they're desperate.

Quickly
Nationals right-hander Drew Storen earned a save Sunday while incumbent Tyler Clippard rested after pitching on three consecutive days. I'm not reading too much into this, as Clippard is still the primary closer, but it sounds like the Nats will be fairly liberal in allowing Storen to close occasionally. ... Frank Francisco has returned to closing for the Mets, bailing out Bobby Parnell in his first game back from the disabled list. ... Red Sox right-hander Andrew Bailey is progressing through his minor league rehab stint and is slated for a mid-month return from the DL, but I think Alfredo Aceves holds onto the job for the season's balance.


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Silver League Update: Phils Phly West (Others Move Too)

Writing last week, with two days to go before the deadline, I wondered if I'd need to do a followup article. Maybe we caught an early flurry of activity and everyone was done making moves? Nope. We left off with Cole Hamels staying in Philadelphia, but now his rotation-mate Cliff Lee is on the waiver wire (no, not in your league, don't get too excited) and three of his teammates have moved out west.

The Silver League is looking like a two-horse race, with the E-Z Sliders and Spirit of St. Louis neck and neck, and almost 20 games ahead of the third-place team. No, that team isn't me either. I know you're all disappointed, but I'm actually excited to be sitting around eighth. I'm not sure if any of the recent moves will decide our league, but there's a good chance they'll have an impact on yours.

Jonathan Broxton to the Reds

Last week I was prepping myself for a move like this and, sure enough, it happened. Chances are you already read about it in last week's edition of Dan Mennella's Closers. Broxton won't be closing and his replacement should be the guy I drafted who didn't get the job out of spring traning, Greg Holland. No offense to the Spirit of St. Louis or other Holland owners, but I kinda hope he blows it. He probably won't, though. Talented pitcher and such. At least Sean Marshall, my other closer from the beginning of the year, had already lost his job, or I'd really have an issue with Mr. Broxton....

Ryan Dempster to the Rangers

Normally, I'd be excited when a pitcher goes from a last place team to a first place team, but not in this case. Even if his first start had gone well, I wouldn't have been excited. If you're looking for nothing but wins, okay, you might just get some because his run support should be going up. His runs allowed going up, however, is even more of a sure thing. Dempster was on some shaky ground before the trade, but his new park and new opponents won't make things too easy on him. If you've got him, I wonder how many road starts against the A's and Mariners he'll pull? The unbalanced schedule is about the only good news for Rangers pitchers. Expect declines in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP, but don't get hasty and drop him...yet. 

Related bad news: Roy Oswalt gets to learn about relief pitching now. I'd cut bait if you haven't yet.

Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider to the Pirates

Sanchez is free! Free to bat against lefties, at least, if his usage patterns hold. Don't rush to pick him up unless Garret Jones hits a slump and can't hold down the heavy side of the platoon. Actually, the big impact here is on Jones, who loses his chance to go oh-fer against southpaws. Bad news for his counting stats, but probably better for his average. Of course, Jones is a pretty fringy player anyway.

Snider is the more interesting case, with a new does of upside and risk for picking him up. He's going to a significantly less forgiving home park: Rogers Centre adds a few runs with a 1.048 park factor, while PNC Park depresses them with a hellish 0.666 factor--it brings homers down at an even lower 0.598 rate. Snider also gets a new chance in fresh scenery. He's batted against left- and right-handed starters since the trade and could get a starter's playing time if he hits the ball well. Snider's only owned in 6% of leagues, but he's worth taking a chance on.

Casey McGehee to the Yankees

It looks like McGehee will be seeing a drop in playing time as well; so far he's the short side of a platoon to replace Alex Rodriguez. So much for his being useful. It's too bad, because he was sort of showing a little pop, and you never quite know when Pedro Alvarez is going to do an impression of my little league career and hit .100 for the month. 

Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino to the Dodgers

The Dodgers were the only team as busy as the Phillies over the last few days, but for the exact opposite reason. This trade is one that might have added the most value to the player moved out of this week's bunch. The Dodgers aren't the best hitting team in baseball, having actually scored fewer runs than the Phils and with a lower OPS. You have to remember, though, that they've spent significant time without their top hitters, and added Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino to that lineup. I think things will get better. Even if they don't, Blanton can enjoy Dodger Stadium's 0.856 park factor, and the opportunity to pitch in San Francisco and San Diego. Blanton is only owned in 21% of leagues and sports a mediocre 4.59 ERA. He's got a much better 1.19 WHIP, though, and I'd be willing to bet that his numbers improve.

Victorino probably won't like the new ballpark as much as Blanton, as he should see a dip in his home run production. Not that it was awesome anyway. Fantasy owners might just enjoy his spot in the lineup, though, as he's led off three games in a row since joining the Boys in Blue. Expect to see him run a little more and--with Matt Kemp just two batters away--score a few more runs. Whether this trade helps or hurts Victorino probably depends on which categories you need.

Hunter Pence to the Giants

Giants fans can't complain about this, because I know which Phillie outfielder I'd want on my team and it's definitely Pence. Fantasy owners, however, are free to complain away at the spectre of their number two or three OF suddenly in a park that cuts homers by almost two thirds. AT&T Field sports a Major League lowest park factor of 0.624 with a 0.439 rating for homers. To put that in perspective, it makes Safeco Field look like a decent place to hit the ball out of the park. The only silver lining I see is that he gets to hit behind Buster Posey and his .391 OBP. If you can, I'd try to talk up how excited Pence should be to be on a winning team and in a pennant race and hope that your leaguemates haven't see how much San Francisco's park has crushed power this year. Or you could hope that the August and September weather heat up the Bay and change all that.

Well, it's been a fun trading deadline, but this year (as with most, it seems) more players are getting traded out of good situations than into them. I'm not saying that I'd do something like trade Ryan Dempster to get Joe Blanton, but their values definitely went in opposite directions. For me, the guys to buy (out of this bunch) are Blanton, Snider, and Victorino, if you can get a good deal. I'd sell on Dempster as soon as he has a good start, and sell hard on Pence. I might even try to sell on Phillies aces, since basically everyone else on their team has been traded away.

Good luck, and don't let the August wear on you--this month is our pennant race.


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This Week In Streaming Strategy: August 6-12

Remember when Roto Authority's Dan Mennella wrote about his acquisition of Mike Trout in the MLBTR fantasy league?  Back on May 27, Dan dealt Josh Willingham, Santiago Casilla and Will Middlebrooks to some poor sap called "Mystery Team" in exchange for Trout and Alex Gordon. Well, guess who manages the Mystery Team. From that day through August 3, Trout has a whopping 1.081 OPS with 66 runs and 25 steals in 57 games, while Gordon also picked it up and hit .344/.413/.496.  If you can believe it, I'm actually still in second place in this league (in large part because Willingham has hit well enough to keep that trade from being a total debacle) but man, I'm pretty sure I'd be on top if I'd kept Trout's steals and run production in my lineup. Sometimes the sell-high strategy doesn't pay off, folks.

Anyway, now that I've shown evidence of my fantasy incompetence, uh, here are my fantasy streaming picks for the week!

David DeJesus, Bryan LaHair.   The Cubs face right-handed starters in five of seven games this week, so look into giving these lefty bats a couple of spot starts in your lineup if the matchups work in your favor.  DeJesus has posted a blah .730 this season but has a .301/.376/.449 line against righties.  LaHair's collapse since his (unsustainably) huge start has been well-documented but he's still a good play against right-handers, carrying a .917 OPS against northpaws. The one caveat to both DeJesus and LaHair is that either could lose playing time should the Cubs pull the trigger on calling up Brett Jackson this week.

* Lorenzo CainThere is a man, a certain man.  Off the DL, he's hitting well and doing all he can.  Why, who is he?  He's in K.C.  Give him a peek to stream this week as the schedule's his buddy.  Can he hit southpaws?  You know it, boss.  His right-handed line (.333/.379/.375) is mighty fine, facing four lefties won't give him pause.  What is his name?  Lorenzo Cain!  Twenty-three percent of Yahoo fantasy owners are glad he came!

....uh, sorry about that.  I may have the Sight & Sound films poll on my mind this week.  Beyond just as a stream this week, Cain is not a bad pickup for the rest of the season; it looks like he'll be playing virtually every day for the Royals until the end of the season, while Jarrod Dyson may lose one or two starts to Jeff Francoeur per week.

* Ivan Nova.  Yankee Stadium's notorious short porch in right field has long been a boon for the Yankees' left-handed hitters, but it also provides a major challenge for the team's right-handed pitchers.  To wit, Nova, who has a solid 3.32 ERA in 12 road starts this season, as opposed to a 6.16 ERA in nine starts at The Stadium.  Nova is therefore a good streaming play this week as he is scheduled for two road starts.  He's in tough on Monday at Comerica Park against Justin Verlander and the Tigers, though since Verlander has struggled in two starts against the Yankees this season, Nova's "allow one less run than we score" pattern has a good chance of leading to a win.  Things get easier for Nova's second start this week when he faces the injury-ravaged Blue Jays lineup this weekend in Toronto.

* Yu Darvish.  Let's be honest, did anyone REALLY think they would be picking up a top-level ace when they took Darvish in their fantasy drafts last spring?  I think even the most optimistic Yu supporters (the Yu Crew, if you will) would've predicted him to be at best a solid Major League starter in his first season in North America.  Darvish got off to a hot start but, now that the league has made its adjustments, the Japanese right-hander has struggled, posting a 6.52 ERA over his last six starts.  There were a couple of 11-strikeout quality starts amidst those six outings, however, so there's certainly still hope that Darvish can adjust to the adjustments and still be an important arm for the Rangers in their pennant run.  This week, however, Darvish is scheduled to face two of the league's top lineups against right-handed pitching -- the Red Sox are ninth in the majors with a .750 team OPS against righties while the Tigers' .771 OPS is even better, ranking third in MLB.  If Darvish's recent tough outings have made you question your membership in the Yu Crew, you may want to think about benching him this week.

* Ryan Dempster.  Speaking of Texas pichers, welcome to the American League, Mr. Dempster.  After 16 seasons in the NL, Dempster made his first AL start last Thursday and was promptly bombed to the tune of eight runs in 4 2/3 innings.  Now, it was Dempster's first AL outing and it was against the red-hot Angels, so we shouldn't be too quick to judge.  That said, I'll be TOTALLY quick to judge by recommending that you sit Dempster for his start against Boston this week.  Small sample size alert: Dempster has a 10.24 ERA in two career starts at Fenway Park.  With Scott Feldman pitching well and earning a regular turn in the rotation, the Rangers' off-day this week means that Dempster probably won't pitch again until August 13 at Yankee Stadium.  Man, talk about a rough intro to the American League.  By Tuesday morning, Dempster may be calling up the Cubs and telling them he's reconsidered and will now accept that trade to Atlanta.

* Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar.  As I mentioned earlier, the Jays' lineup has fallen on hard times due to both injuries and ineffectiveness.  It was little over a week ago that the Jays actually led the majors in runs scored, though they've lost that lead after plating just 15 runs over their last seven games, leading to a 1-6 record over that span.  With Jose Bautista, J. P. Arencibia and Adam Lind all on the DL and nagging injuries forcing Lawrie and Colby Rasmus out of the lineup on Saturday, things aren't looking up for the Toronto nine as they face the Rays and Yankees this week.  Five of those six games are against right-handed starters so if you have Lawrie or Escobar, sit them in favor of better options this week.  Lawrie might be a moot point anyway because of his rib injury but even if he is fit to play, he's only hitting .253/.302/.379 against right-handed pitching this season.  Escobar has been hot lately (.854 OPS over his last 50 PAs heading into Saturday's action) but he's been even worse than Lawrie against righties, hitting just .254/.297/.356 for the season.


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RotoAuthority Live Chat

Click below to read a transcript of this week's live chat with Steve Adams:


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Stock Watch: Buy & Sell Analysis

The non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and the deals that were made could have an impact on many fantasy baseball leagues across the country. Hopefully you sold high on Ryan Dempster's excellent first two-thirds of the season when recommended by Stock Watch a few weeks ago. Dempster's first start in Texas was nothing short of a disaster, as he allowed eight earned runs on Thursday.

Buy

  • Carlos Santana - Hitting .302 with six homers and 16 RBIs since the All-Star break, Santana's yearly production still is way down from pre-season expectations, and he may be available from an owner that endured his miserable first half.  Santana is actually walking more and striking out less, with an improved line-drive percentage compared to last season. 
  • Kris Medlen - Injuries to Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens have opened up a rotation spot for Medlen, and his first start did not disappoint with a win and only one earned run in a rain-shortened five innings.  Medlen had a 3.86 ERA and 62/16 K/BB ratio as a starter in 2010 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Expect his miniscule 2.43 ERA to rise somewhere between his 2.91 FIP and 3.55 SIERA when his 4.1% home run per flyball ratio increases, but he remains a worthwhile member of a 12-team mixed league rotation.
  • Greg Holland - Moved into the closer role with the trade of Jonathon Broxton, Holland has the skills to run with the job given his 2.62 career SIERA and 2.53 career FIP.  Holland has been a strikeout machine this season with 12.39 punchouts per nine innings.
  • Josh Rutledge - Colorado will need to find a place to play Rutledge every day even after Troy Tulowitzki (maybe) returns later this season.  Rutledge has home runs in four straight games entering Friday and is sporting an insane .347 ISO.  He also contributes a bit in steals as he swiped 16 bags in the minors last season and 14 this season in 379 plate appearances before his call-up.
  • Rajai Davis - The Travis Snider trade means that Davis should see everyday at-bats for Toronto.  Davis is widely available in Yahoo leagues (13% ownership) while quietly enjoying a 28-steal and six-home run season.
  • Daniel Straily - After blowing away minor league hitters this season with a 2.60 ERA and 175 strikeouts against only 37 walks in 138 1/3 innings, Straily is getting a chance to crack the Oakland rotation beginning Friday night.  Straily is not yet available in Yahoo leagues but should be claimed immediately after he is posted.

Sell

  • Chris Sale - Following a well-deserved All-Star performance the first four months of the season, Sale's velocity has diminished recently and Chicago is in the midst of providing him an extended rest between starts.  Sale has pitched over fifty more innings this season compared to last year and he may require continued rest throughout the remainder of the season or an innings cap to protect his arm during his first season as a starter.
  • Bobby Parnell - With Frank Francisco returning from injury and Parnell failing to establish himself as a reliable closer, Parnell's shelf life for save opportunities has likely closed.  Parnell is safe to drop in 12-team mixed leagues if Francisco is immediately inserted into the closer role. 


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Rangers Turn To Mike Olt To Help Offense

The Rangers have been one of the two or three best teams in baseball basically since Opening Day, but they only went 9-14 and scored an MLB-low 81 runs in July. As a team they hit .192/.310/.271 with runners in scoring position last month, which is pretty hard to fathom. Michael Young is having his worst season since his rookie year, Josh Hamilton's slump is now two months long, and others like Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, and Ian Kinsler simply didn't carry their weight in July. Scoring the fewest runs in baseball over an extended period of time takes a total team effort.

In an effort to spice up the offense, the Rangers announced after last night's come-from-behind win over the Angels that they were purchasing the contract of third baseman Mike Olt from Double-A Frisco. Both Baseball America and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (subs. req'd) ranked the 23-year-old Olt as the 11th best prospect in the game in their midseason top 50 prospect lists while ESPN's Keith Law (Insider req'd) was a little more bearish, ranking him 46th overall. We can quibble with the individual rankings all day, but the bottom line is that Texas just skipped one of baseball's top offensive prospects over Triple-A to help the big league team.

Olt, the 49th overall selection in 2010, hit .288/.398/.579 with 28 homers in 421 plate appearances for Frisco this season after hitting to the tune of .264/.381/.500 with 15 homers in his first full professional season last year. He's a right-handed hitter and took the place of fellow righty Brandon Snyder, who pinch-hit and made spot starts at first base and in both corner outfield spots before being sent down last night. Part of the reason why Olt is such a great prospect is his defense -- he's worked hard to become an above-average gloveman at the hot corner since being drafted. The problem is that Beltre is entrenched at third base for the next few years.

The Rangers have worked to increase Olt's versatility this season, having him start 13 games at first base and three in right field. They have not yet indicated how they will use him in the big leagues, so right now we can only speculate about his playing time. He could spot start at either corner infielder position, perhaps start a few games in right, maybe even taking some DH at-bats away from a franchise icon in Young. I don't think Texas recalled Olt just to have him fill Snyder's role - Snyder only has 68 plate appearances this season - they're going to play him somewhere. That could work to the advantage of fantasy owners since multi-position eligibility is always a benefit.

Projecting Olt's production for the rest of the season is a tough task because of the playing time question. He annihilated left-handed hitters in Double-A, I'm talking a .272/.422/.598 batting line with eight homes in 92 at-bats, and that's how he figures to into the lineup. I wouldn't expect anything more a decent .250-.260-ish batting average, though strange things can happen in small samples, especially when platooned. The power is real and with two months left to go in the season, Olt could run into eight or nine dingers the rest of the way. If he gets enough playing time, he could offer you similar production to someone like Mike Moustakas or Will Middlebrooks. It's easy to fall in love with the hype surrounding top prospects, but I tend to always bet the under.

In traditional 12-team, 5x5 scoring mixed leagues, Olt is probably best used as an extra guy on the roster you can use at various positions (assuming he picks up 1B and OF eligibility in short order) whenever Texas is scheduled to face a left-handed pitcher. They get former teammate C.J. Wilson tonight and Olt is expected to be in the lineup. We can't get an accurate read on his fantasy value until we get an idea of how he'll be used and how much playing time he'll receive, but expect to get some power and RBI production if you can't help yourself and grab him off the waiver.



Injury Watch: Seriously, Stop Messing With The Roles Of Talented Young Pitchers

Happy Day-After-Trade-Deadline-Day, dear readers! There's quite a lot to read about with trade analyses and game recaps, but take a moment to give this week's Injury Watch a once-over. We'll go over a few starting pitchers who'll be out for the season with injury, and will provide you with some sterling replacements. Some of them are even coming off the DL themselves, but don't let that hold you back.

Neftali Feliz, Rangers

The official injury of 2012, a torn UCL in the pitching elbow, claims yet another victim in the young and talented Rangers hurler Neftali Feliz. Feliz has struggled with injuries during his first major-league season as a starter, but now he'll need Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until mid-2013. While I won't say that bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen actually caused the injury, it probably hasn't helped either his health or his development. At any rate, in 2012 Feliz has outperformed a very average FIP by sporting a 3.16 ERA and 37 strikeouts in seven starts and a relief appearance. That's not too bad, but hardly the dominant performance one might have expected given his elite pedigree. With him out, a few fantasy owners banking on his talent and recovery from injury will be looking for a replacement to finish the season.

So let's look at another starting pitching option from the Rangers as a potential replacement. But if you're thinking that I'm going to recommend Ryan Dempster, the newest Ranger, think again. Don't get me wrong, Dempster has had a terrific season, at least until his most recent starts, but he'll take a performance hit moving to unforgiving Rangers Ballpark and the even-more-unforgiving American League. (Plus, he's owned in all leagues.)

No, I'd give a long look to Alexi Ogando. Ogando was a fantastic reliever for the Rangers in 2010, and nearly as fantastic in a starting role in 2011. I'd prefer to see the Rangers not move Ogando back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation, but that's how things go in Texas. At any rate, Ogando has been solid again in 2012, this time back in the bullpen. He pairs good strikeout stuff with careful control, and just needs to limit his home runs allowed to stay effective as a starter. And because of Ogando's combination of control and stuff, he keeps WHIP low, along with his ERA. The thing about Alexi is that he does not *necessarily* have a rotation spot locked down yet. Roy Oswalt has been banished to the bullpen, Feliz is out, but Dempster is moving in. If you hear anything about Ogando moving to the rotation, pounce right away.

John Danks, White Sox

Okay, okay. So Danks wasn't jerked around from starter to bullpen like Feliz was, but the endgame is the same. For Danks, it's an injury to the left-hander's pitching shoulder, and is one that will require season-ending surgery that's scheduled for August 6.

Prior to the injury, Danks was, well, awful. 2012 was easily his worst season thus far in the majors, as Danks had posted a 5.00 FIP and only managing 0.3 fWAR. When it comes to fantasy stats, things are just as bad, with only 3 wins, a 5.70 ERA, and a career-low strikeout rate. Danks has only managed 53.2 innings on the season to this point, and hasn't looked "right" all season.

So how does one replace John Danks? Well, if he was still on your fantasy squad, shame on you! Maybe you're in an AL-only, or your league gives points for shoulder injuries, I dunno. But for a replacement, consider new teammate Francisco Liriano, if he's around in your league. Liriano started the season rough, but has come on in recent weeks, culminating in a strong debut last night with the Sox. Come hell or high water, Liriano WILL give your team strikeouts. They may come at the expense of a higher WHIP (Liriano still walks far too many batters), but he stands a better chance of winning games now that he's on an improved White Sox squad instead of toiling in the Twin Cities. Liriano is still available in a third of ESPN leagues.

If Liriano (or Ogando above) don't do anything for you, or if either are taken in your leagues, consider a pair of rehabbing A's. Both Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy have made recent rehab starts in Triple-A, and at peak performance, both are quite effective starters. McCarthy is currently available in more than half of ESPN leagues, while Anderson is owned in practically zero leagues. As you might expect, especially given the wisdom of crowds, I'd rather have McCarthy than Anderson for the end of 2012. McCarthy has been better, and done it more recently (he's actually pitched in 2012) along with having a slightly better FIP. But Anderson is a fine young pitcher, and closer than one might think to his Cy Young-candidate teammate. Don't be afraid to add either.

Quick Hits: Jose Bautista still hasn't hit live pitching, but hopes to avoid a rehab assignment. I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll be back in the lineup for the Jays by August 10. ... Another perennial MVP candidate, Troy Tulowitzki, is taking live BP, as of July 31, so hopefully he can get back in the game by the middle-to-end of August. ... Jaime Garcia is on his way back from his shoulder issues, and I'd look for him to rejoin the Cardinal rotation after two more rehab starts. Perhaps August 8-9? ... Placido Polanco hit the DL with lower back inflammation, and with the Phils fading, I can't imagine they'll rush him back. See you at the end of August, Placido! ... No new news yet about Mark Teixeira's inflammed wrist. The Yankee slugger left the game on 7/30, had a cortisone shot and MRI the next day, and is currently day-to-day. ... The Rays' franchise player, Evan Longoria, is limited to DH duty in his rehab assignment, and would have the same role if called back up to the bigs, but could see time in The Trop before the next edition of Injury Watch. ... While unsurprising, the Tigers are understandably disappointed that C/1B/DH Victor Martinez will probably not return for the 2012 season. ... Matt Capps is still dealing with rotator cuff irritation, and is still shut down from throwing for another few days at the least. I don't like to be a Negative Ned here, but Capps isn't really good enough to be the Minnesota closer anyways, so getting extra Jared Burton time is a blessing in disguise for the Twins. ... Yeah, about Brett Gardner, he's not coming back this year, after having season-ending elbow surgery. Bad news for Yankees fans and fans of watching him play an awesome left field and steal bases. 


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