January 2014

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How to Win 2014: WHIP

Your success in WHIP hangs by a thread, stands on a razor’s edge, and a bunch of other violence-threatening metaphors for the imminent likelihood of disaster. 

You’ve noticed by now that baseball has changed in the last few years, and fantasy baseball with it. Pitchers are dominating like the 90’s never happened. The league average (min. 100 IP) starter WHIP was 1.29. For fantasy-viable starters (taking the top 100 SP by FIP as a proxy) it was 1.22. In one competitive roto-style league I played in last year, the WHIP winner had a team number of 1.12—last place was 1.28, or pretty much MLB average. I swear that number would have been competitive just five years ago. 

Expanding out of just my personal experience, let’s say the range of likely team WHIP scores (from last year) was 1.10-1.30. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for error. Hence the menacing metaphors of my intro. By the way, you’ve got the same WHIP-related stress whether you play the game week-by-week in head-to-head formats or all year long in a roto format. If it seems like one bad WHIP guy can kill you…well, he can. Thank you bargain-priced Tim Lincecum.

WHIP is a tricky category, composed in equal parts of two very different aspects of pitching: walk allowance and hitting allowance. The first variable, walks, is highly correlated from one year to the next—hits allowed are a different story. So, to try to catch a little more signal than noise, let’s examine the WHIP leaders over the course of the last three years. 

WHIP 2011-13 (min. 200 IP)

 

Name

WHIP

1

Clayton Kershaw

0.97

2

Jered Weaver

1.05

3

Cliff Lee

1.05

4

Stephen Strasburg

1.07

5

Hisashi Iwakuma

1.07

6

Justin Verlander

1.09

7

Cole Hamels

1.09

8

Matt Cain

1.09

9

Kris Medlen

1.09

10

Chris Sale

1.10

11

Brandon Beachy

1.11

12

Marco Estrada

1.11

13

David Price

1.11

14

Madison Bumgarner

1.12

15

Johnny Cueto

1.13

16

A.J. Griffin

1.13

17

Jordan Zimmermann

1.13

18

Kyle Lohse

1.14

19

James Shields

1.15

20

Adam Wainwright

1.15

21

Jake Peavy

1.16

Check out the analysis below the fold….

Continue reading "How to Win 2014: WHIP" »


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Closers Preseason Preview – NL Central

Like its American League counterpart, the National League central has both fresh faces (Rosenthal and Veras) and returning closers (Chapman, Grilli, and Henderson). The three returning closers carry a strong pedigree (with 99 combined saves last season), but will face a serious challenge from the young guns for the 2014 NL Central Closer gold medal. If the race for the division title comes down to intra-division matchups, the closers below may just decide who gets a shot at the pennant.

Chicago Cubs

Closer – Jose Veras

After being moved from Houston to Detroit last July, Veras has landed in Wrigleyville for the 2014 season. Fresh off his first 20+ save season, he’s ready to bring much-needed consistency to the Cubbies’ bullpen. The right-handed veteran reliever carries a career 9.3 K/9 and hopes to help Chicago forget about last year’s Carlos Marmol experience (who was designated for assignment after a dismal 5.68 ERA in 31 appearances). Should Veras develop under pitching coach Chris Bosio, he will likely have even more success than he had in the American League last season (21 saves, 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8.6 K/9).

Bold Prediction – Chicago will win far more games than the Astros did last year, giving Jose Veras his first season with 30+ saves and 80+ strikeouts. With the development of the other young relievers, he leads a talented bullpen and makes the rest of baseball take notice.

Who’s Lurking? -  The Cubs are fortunate enough to have a number of young relievers going into 2014. Pedro Strop pitched well after coming over from Baltimore last season (2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) and has a career 9.1 K/9. After making Chicago’s Opening Day roster in 2013, right-handed reliever Hector Rondon settled in well and had a 3.20 ERA after the All-Star break. Blake Parker, who had a 2.72 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 in 49 appearances last season, should not be overlooked either. James Russell, the team’s only consistent lefty over last two years, should post some solid numbers as well, but will be grateful for not having to shoulder the load (151 appearances over the last two seasons).

Cincinnati Reds

Closer – Aroldis Chapman

There is little doubt that Chapman will be the closer in Cincy this season, as the lefty has been dominant since inheriting the job in 2012. Last season, the strikeout artist had a 2.54 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 15.8 K/9 en route to 38 saves. Although he slightly lags behind Craig Kimbrel in terms of strikeout rate, Chapman is certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to closers and is worth an early round draft pick. Given the Reds’ offensive potential, he could be easily looking at another 38-save season (his save total in 2012 & 2013) with a K/9 higher than 15.0.

Bold Prediction – Aroldis Chapman breaks past the 38-save barrier and jumps ahead of Kimbrel as the game’s best closer. Despite the fact that his average pitch velocity drops for the fourth consecutive year, Chapman’s control is better than ever and he chases a 16.5 K/9 – easily making him the most valuable closer in the big leagues.

Who’s Lurking? – After losing the closer’s job to Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton has struggled to stay healthy. Because Broxton is still a top setup man (career 10.7 K/9), he should have a number of holds for the Redlegs this year. Young righty J.J. Hoover had three saves during an excellent 2013 season (2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.1 K/9) and may get a crack at the gig if the injury bug hits. Sam LeCure is also a candidate after a strong 2013 (2.66 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 63 appearances) and a respectable career 8.7 K/9. When Ryan Madson went down in 2012, Sean Marshall initially got the job but performed poorly enough for Chapman to take the ninth. There’s little doubt the Reds have forgotten and Marshall is probably on the outside looking in.

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer – Jim Henderson

Given his admirable performance last season (converted 28 saves of 33 opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.3 K/9) and the Brewers’ lack of activity in the closer free agent market, right-handed journeyman Jim Henderson will likely be the closer in Milwaukee on Opening Day. Given that Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford were both traded away last season, Henderson has a fairly long leash in terms of job security and will be given the opportunity to work through any issues before being pulled.

Bold Prediction – Jim Henderson is so good that he reminds the Brewers faithful of Trevor Hoffman’s first season in Milwaukee. By limiting his blown saves and staying healthy, Henderson easily passes the 35-save mark with another 11.0+ K/9 season.

Who’s Lurking? – Brandon Kintzler is an above average setup guy and he should return to the eighth after a solid 2013 (71 appearances, 27 holds, 2.69 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.8 K/9). While he may be first in line if Henderson struggles, Brewers management could elect to keep him in a setup role simply because he’s a ground ball pitcher. Second-year relievers Jimmy Nelson (0.90 ERA in 10 innings last season, with a 0.70 WHIP and 7.2 K/9) and Rob Wooten (27.2 innings pitched, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.9 K/9 in 2013) will both have a chance to prove themselves throughout spring training. Tom Gorzelanny is still the bullpen’s only steady lefty, so look for him to remain outside of this race for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer – Jason Grilli

After being named the closer before Opening Day 2013, Grilli hit the ground closing. After 10 saves in April, he went on a stretch of pure dominance and even pitched the ninth inning for the National League in last year’s All-Star Game (33 of 35 save opportunities, 2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13.3 K/9 last season). However, Grilli fell to a forearm injury and left the job open for Mark Melancon, who performed admirably in Grilli’s stead (16 saves, 1.39 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.9 K/9). By returning before the playoffs began, Grilli regained the trust of Pittsburgh management and will be the closer again in 2014.

Bold Prediction – Jason Grilli charges out of the gate with an April similar to last season (11.0 innings pitched, 10 saves, 1 earned run, 17 strikeouts) and makes any questions about lingering forearm issues a thing of the past. The dynamic duo of Grilli and Melancon give the Buccos baseball’s best one-two punch.

Who’s Lurking? – With Melancon a premier setup man, he is most likely to step into the ninth if Grilli becomes injured again. Although Vin Mazzaro (2.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and Tony Watson (2.39 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) both pitched well last season, they will remain in a setup role for the time being. Justin Wilson is a dependable lefty for the Pirates (2.08 ERA and 1.16 WHIP last year), but he’ll need to separate himself from this talented pack if he wants a sniff at the ninth.

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer – Trevor Rosenthal

Going into spring training, the favorite for the St. Louis closer gig is Trevor Rosenthal. Although this comes with some debate (as Rosenthal could be moved to the starting rotation), he seems to be the best option for the Cards in 2014. With Edward Mujica in Boston, the fireballer hopes to build on the three saves he earned last season (3 saves, 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) and his strong postseason performance (four saves). Given his 12.9 K/9 and an average pitch speed of 96.4 mph, Rosenthal might just provide great draft day value this season.

Bold Prediction – At this time next year, baseball fans will start to wonder if Rosenthal is the best closer in the NL Central. Rosenthal has the build of a prototypical closer, with a tremendous strikeout rate, and is throwing nearly as fast as Aroldis Chapman. If Chapman doesn’t stay healthy and the Cardinals keep winning ball games, Rosenthal may just keep trending upward until he’s at the top.

Who’s Lurking? – If Rosenthal does not have success in the ninth, St. Louis might be in some serious trouble. Jason Motte is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss the early part of the season. Sophomore Carlos Martinez is talented, but also very raw (5.08 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9 in 2013) and needs to prove he can be consistent. Fellow second-year reliever Kevin Siegrist may be the real dark horse in this race (0.45 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 last season) and could emerge if Rosenthal struggles early.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Draft Round Battles: Nationals' SP Battle Royale

It's hard to have a fantasy draft without at least one position run.  I've written about this before on Roto Authority, but about 13-14 years ago, I was in a fantasy draft that saw the run on catchers take place in the very first round, giving us the spectacle of Darrin Fletcher and Todd Hundley as first-round draft picks.  No, this wasn't in a league with members of the extended Fletcher or Hundley families, so I can't explain it either.

The point is, while position runs are a known variable to plan for, "teammate runs" are a lesser-known phenomenon that occur with some regularity, yet they aren't commented upon since they don't really have the impact on draft strategy of a position run.  A teammate run, as you might guess, is when you have multiple players from one team taken in quick succession.  It's as if after the first player goes, the rest of the league thinks, "oh yeah, Team X is supposed to be pretty good this year.  Hmm, well, their second baseman and the second baseman I had queued up next are pretty similar, I guess, so let's go with the guy on the good team instead." 

Note that this isn't a smart tactic or a reasonable one, as "playing for a good team" is only a limited factor in gauging fantasy value.  Maybe you can chalk it up to our brains' natural inclination towards order -- we still have a mild tendency to group similar objects like teammates together, even in the disordered world of a fantasy draft.

Teammate runs aren't usually a big factor in fantasy drafting since, unless you're a real superfan who was looking to take your favorites, it doesn't really matter if several players from one club are taken since, obviously, most of these players are at different positions.  The only positions* where it could present an issue would be outfield and starting pitcher, and for this week's Draft Round Battle, we'll focus on three options from the Nationals' rotation.  Stephen Strasburg will obviously be the first Washington hurler taken, but who would you rather take between Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister?

* = and, possibly, relief pitcher in cases where a team is using a closer committee.  If one manager drafts one part of the committee, expect another committee member to be taken soon after.  You can also see teammate runs take place in leagues that counts holds; those leagues might've seen another Nationals "teammate run" last season when Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard went off the board in quick succession.

First, let's take the obligatory moment to gawk at the Nationals' rotation since, wow, there aren't many teams who can roll out a top four like that.  Now, with a tip of the cap to Fangraphs, let's break down how Fister, Gonzalez and Zimmermann have each performed over the last three seasons via the four relevant 5x5 categories and a few extra statistics...

Fister: 35 wins, 3.30 ERA (3.21 FIP, 3.48 xFIP, 3.54 SIERA), 1.19 WHIP, 6.78 K/9, 3.75 K/BB, 586 2/3 IP

Gonzalez: 48 wins, 3.12 ERA (3.29 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, 3.68 SIERA), 1.23 WHIP, 8.98 K/9, 2.45 K/BB, 597 IP

Zimmermann: 39 wins, 3.12 ERA (3.35 FIP, 3.67 xFIP, 3.74 SIERA), 1.13 WHIP, 6.91 K/9, 3.84 K/BB, 570 1/3 IP

The first thing you'll notice is that these guys are pretty similar pitchers.  Gonzalez and Zimmermann are outperforming their advanced metrics (particularly SIERA) more significantly than Fister is, and Fister and Zimmermann have better control than Gonzalez, but Gonzalez has a notable edge in strikeouts and wins.  Gonzalez also has the edge beyond the limits of my sample size -- I limited the sample to 2011-13 since Zimmermann has only been a full-time starter for three seasons.  Gonzalez, meanwhile, was impressive in 2010 (and Fister was pretty average).

All three men will have the same home ballpark advantage and the same solid lineup behind them, so predicting wins is a fool's errand even if that stat determined anything beyond a fantasy category.  ERA and WHIP are also essentially even, so that leaves strikeouts, making Gonzalez the clear favorite, right?

Well, over Zimmermann, yes.  Let me be clear, I fully expect Jordan Zimmermann to be a very good starter in 2014 and if he's the #2 starter in your rotation, you're in good shape.  My only beef is that he's evolving into more and more of a ground ball pitcher (his grounder rate has jumped by 4% in each of the last two seasons), which is making him a better pitcher overall in a real-world context but limits his fantasy value in terms of strikeouts.  Gonzalez has also improved his control since his wilder, younger days in Oakland but done so while still averaging just under a strikeout per inning over the last three seasons.

That's enough for me to give Gonzalez the slight nod to Zimmermann.  In terms of a pure "draft round battle," this is the decision that counts, as Mock Draft Central's latest average draft position report shows the Z-Man (102.68 ADP) slightly ahead of the Gio Dome (108.3 ADP).  Whatever the order, both guys are rated on roughly the same level, so if you're looking to anticipate a "teammate run," don't be surprised to see either Gonzalez or Zimmermann quickly follow the other around the ninth round of your fantasy draft.

This all being said, Fister might end up being the best pitcher of the trio.  Fister is currently projected to go a couple of rounds lower (135.54 ADP) though I wonder if the sleeper buzz will cause him to rise up the rankings.  Fister did, after all, post a higher WAR than either Gonzalez or Zimmermann from 2011-13, which caught me off-guard.  While he and Zimmermann are essentially the same pitcher in terms of low-strikeout grounder specialists, Fister is a step beyond when it comes to keeping the ball in the infield --- Fister's 54.3% GBR was the fourth-best of any qualified starter in baseball last season.

If Fister is only a slightly better version of Zimmermann and still lags behind Gonzalez in strikeouts, however, why should Fister be rated so highly?  In a word, potential.  Fister will get a regular diet of NL lineups for the first time, and moving from the Tigers' hands-of-stone defensive corps to the Nationals' infield* is a big boost for any ground-ball specialist.  As well, while Gonzalez and Zimmermann have enjoyed good BABIP luck over the last three years, Fister posted his strong 2013 numbers despite a .332 BABIP.  With the highest strand rate and lowest BABIP of the three since 2011, Fister's WAR edge could easily have been even greater.

* =  Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon are tremendous up the middle, Adam LaRoche has traditionally had a good first base glove before falling to a -2 UZR/150 last season, and all you can say about Ryan Zimmerman's collapse as a defensive player is that at least Zimmerman's -14.9 UZR/150 was still better than Miguel Cabrera's -19.9 UZR/150 at the hot corner in 2013.

Gonzalez would still be my pick of the trio, yet the canny manager might use Fister's under-the-radar status to his advantage.  Picture a ninth round where Gonzalez goes first, Zimmermann goes right after since the next manager is like, "oh yeah, Nationals pitchers.  Yeah, look at Zimmermann, 19 wins last year!  Boom, taking him!"  Then you can sit back in the weeds and collect Fister a few picks later.  Some of your fellow managers will be chirping you for making a so-called stretch, others will chide you for going on a teammate run, and a few won't say anything since they had Fister queued up themselves. 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Tanaka, Garza and Other Stories

 What is RA Unscripted? Well, imagine it like this. You’re a reporter and you stick a TV camera in my face. “Fantasy Baseball: go!” you say. And I start talking. 

Well, it’s kinda like that. Except that I type instead of talking and I can look up statistics instead of trying to pass off wild guesses as facts. 

Last week, we examined some players who might be gaining or losing value in their new homes—or who might not be. Then I realized I was going overlong and you (proverbially) switched off the TV camera. Then we had some big news, preceded by even bigger news.

Masaharo Tanaka: Bust

Luckey Helms made the Bold Prediction that Tanaka is the next great fantasy import, and I’m not saying he’s wrong by predicting Tanaka to bust. Really!

But we have new information, and it shapes up to make Tanaka a great bust candidate. The key to providing fantasy value is expectations. They were high before, and I do think Tanaka will provide a very good fantasy season—but they are crazy-high now, and it will be very hard to get him for a good price. 

Signing with the Yankees, the expectations have risen. Now, I don’t think the pressure will get to him—the expectations that have changed the game are those of your league-mates. And it only takes two or three. Tanaka will be all over ESPN and every fantasy website and magazine…and I just think he’s going to cost too much to be worth it.

Yankee Stadium won’t do Tanaka any favors, and Major Leaguers hit with distinctly more power than do their Japanese counterparts. I would not be shocked if he had some homer troubles. It won’t help that he gets to face tough offenses and tough away parks in the AL East. What’s more, his career K/9 in Japan is just 8.5. Good-but-not-elite territory, and likely to move down a bit more as he faces a tougher level of competition for the first time.

Will he be good? Yeah, I totally think so. A number two or three fantasy starter. But I’m guessing he ends up being someone’s ace or co-ace, and I don’t think that’s a role he’s going to live up to this season. Draft him next year, when the disappointment wears off.

Matt Garza: Boom

Milwaukee is a good situation for Garza’s fantasy value. The park is actually somewhat similar to Yankee Stadium in that it adds homers, but it plays pretty neutrally overall. More importantly, the other external factors are very good: small market means your fellow drafters won’t be inundated with his Spring Training highlights (see Tanaka, above), decent lineup for generating wins, middle-of-the-road competition in the division, playing in the NL, and facing pitchers! There is nothing better than pitching to pitchers. Maybe that’s why Garza seems to generate more strikeouts in the NL.... 

The biggest question mark with Garza is health, as he’s gotten a label of un-durability thanks to back-to-back incomplete seasons. But that was all from the same injury, and before that he gave his teams four consecutive 30-start seasons. Maybe he’s fragile and maybe he’s not—we can decide that when his career is over—but there’s good reason to think his health question is overblown. Right now, his good situation and low expectations make him a great number three fantasy starter.

Grant Balfour: Boom

There is something the Orioles don’t like about Balfour. Maybe it’s the harbinger of doom that is his name. Seriously, this guy should really have control problems, Carlos Marmol-style. He doesn’t, though, and was one of fantasy baseball’s better relievers last year, with 38 saves and a 10.34 K/9. He did that in a pitchers’ park, with a good pitching staff, and a decent lineup to put him in save situations. Now Balfour is going to the Rays, who also have a pitchers’ park, a good pitching staff, and a decent lineup to put him in save situations. Don’t be the Orioles here.

Mark Trumbo: Boom

Trumbo is the new Adam Dunn. Not the current Adam Dunn, but the old one. And not as good in real baseball, because he doesn’t walk. But he is that Adam Dunn that hits homers and sucks away at your batting average—and you know you can count on the good and the bad, and you can plan for it.

Trumbo has hit 29 homers or more in each of his three full Major League seasons. Not bad. Now he’s leaving the tough hitting environment of the AL West and going to the hitters’ haven somewhat better situation that is the NL West. The difference is most pronounced at home: while Angel Stadium suppressed homers by five percent last year, Arizona increased them by three percent. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll be worth a few longballs—and so might avoiding Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, and the rest of the AL West pitching crew. Sure, he won’t get to face the Astros, but he’ll get some away games in Coors Field.

The best news for Trumbo’s fantasy value, though, is his consistency. You can plan around his bad batting average and either strategically sacrifice points in the category, or pair him with underpowered high-average hitters. More good news is that the Diamondbacks got some pretty bad press for trading for him—giving other fantasy drafters more of an impression about his real-life value and less about his fantasy value.

Jhonny Peralta: Bust

Peralta is pretty much the opposite of Trumbo: the good defense and OBP he brought to the table in two of the last three years are a lot better in real baseball than in fantasy. Plus a “Known Smart Team” with a strong national brand threw a bunch of money at him as a free agent. It takes a lot to shake off the stigma of a PED suspension, but I bet that will. He’s been hailed as a good pickup this offseason, and that’s fine for the Cardinals.

It’s not so fine for your fantasy team. Peralta’s value came largely from his quality .303 batting average…which was fueled by a .374 BABIP. St. Louis appears to have been somewhat more suppressive to offense than Detroit last year, so don’t expect a big help from his new park. While playing in the NL might help a little, he wasn’t facing the world’s best pitching in the AL Central. (It helps when you play for the Tigers.) Even in the thin shortstop market, Peralta’s best category is the least predictable. Consider him no more than a low-end starter at best.



The Market Report: Second Basemen

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Let's continue our look at the market for each position entering 2014, analyzing second basemen this week. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Robinson Cano (6)

2. Jason Kipnis (19)

3. Dustin Pedroia (22)

Tier Two

4. Matt Carpenter (41)

5. Ian Kinsler (47)

Tier Three

6. Aaron Hill (65)

7. Ben Zobrist (75)

8. Brandon Phillips  (76)

9. Jose Altuve (77)

Tier Four

10. Jedd Gyorko (93)

11. Martin Prado (100)

12. Daniel Murphy (109)

13. Jed Lowrie (113)

14. Chase Utley (126)

15. Jurickson Profar (132)

Tier Five

16. Anthony Rendon (153)

17. Neil Walker (181)

18. Howie Kendrick (191)

19. Brian Dozier (203)

20. Kolten Wong (209)

21. Scooter Gennett (214)

22. Omar Infante (217)

Undervalued

Martin Prado (ADP 100)

Let me start by saying I don't see a ton of profit to be gained at second base. I'm mostly on board with how the market values players at the position, so I'll have to take what the draft gives me. I'm also going to cheat here in a sense and select a player who isn't actually the second baseman for his team. Penciled in as the everyday third baseman and projected to hit second for the Diamondbacks, Prado certainly has the skills to return a profit on his current ADP. Over the past five seasons, he's been rather consistent in posting low strikeout rates with slightly below league-average power. While he's hit for a wide range of AVGs, it's mostly just due to some wild swings in BABIP. It's interesting that he had 17 SB in 2012, but that looks like an outlier in retrospect, as he's never had as many as five in any other season. Ultimately then, you're drafting him mainly for the runs and AVG. Beyond those statistical contributions, however, there are additional benefits to owning Prado. For one, he qualifies all over the place, eligible at 2B, 3B, and OF. That positional flexibility can do wonders for a roster when unforeseen injuries take place. In addition, this is a stable stock here. Given that he puts the ball in play so frequently and will rack up a ton of at-bats hitting second, he's unlikely to be a bust. You know what you're getting in Prado, and there's value in reliability.

Howie Kendrick (ADP 191)

I find it a tad strange that the asking price for Kendrick is so cheap as we head into draft season. I'm not here to argue that he's anything spectacular. Even so, this is still a player with a career .292 AVG, so he's a good bet to be a positive contributor in that category. The power is league-average at best, but he can approach 15 HR. Yes, he had just six SB last year, but that was his first full season failing to reach double digits. He'll never score many runs due to consistently low walk rates, and he only can get so many RBI hitting near the bottom of the lineup (even though the Angels offense has nowhere to go but up). I think it's safe to say I'm damning with faint praise here, so why do I think Kendrick is undervalued? Well a Roto line of 70 / 12 / 70 / 12 / .290 is actually quite valuable at second base. Last year Zobrtist put up a virtually identical line of 70 / 12 / 71 / 11 / .275 and finished 11th on the ESPN Player Rater at the position. In short, I view Kendrick as a player who lacks the upside to finish among the elite at second base but has a fair chance to wind up in the top ten.

Overvalued

Ian Kinsler (ADP 47)

I assumed Kinsler's draft stock would take a steep hit this offseason with the move from Texas to Detroit, but he's still viewed as a top-50 fantasy player. When Kinsler used to go inside the top 20 in drafts a couple years ago, I felt the fantasy community was failing to fully factor in his injury history. Well, he's reached 600 plate appearances in four of the past five seasons, so I actually don't worry about that much anymore.

Now I just think he's overpriced based on the expected on-field production. Since going 30/30 in 2011, we've seen consecutive seasons of marked decline in power and speed. This past season his average flyball distance was a measly 265 feet. Meanwhile, he was only 15 for 26 in SB attempts last year, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him run less frequently going forward. In fact, I'd take the under on 20 for HR or SB in 2014. In three of the past five years, he's also hit below .260, so he isn't a good bet to help there either. Ultimately, I see Kinsler as a player who can still be helpful, but the fantasy community is making a mistake in viewing him as a star at this point in his career. Just last week the folks at ESPN ranked him 32nd overall, ahead of stud hitters like Buster Posey and Shin-Soo Choo as well as aces like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. I'm sorry, but that's just crazy to me.  


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Second Basemen

Go Bold or Go Home: Carlos Beltran, Top-10 OF

When you hear the name Carlos Beltran, you may not think of him as a future Hall of Famer. In reality, however, the veteran outfielder is already 90th among position players in career WAR and may very well approach the top 50 with three good years in New York. At that point, he'd be a shoe-in for Cooperstown based purely on the numbers. I'm not exactly sure why, but Beltran seems to have flown under the radar in what has been a very productive career.

In fact, from a fantasy perspective Beltran has been even more impressive over the course of his career. Believe it or not, he's finished as a top-15 player five times; for the sake of reference, only Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Carl Crawford have accomplished the feat more often among active players. It's a daunting task to find consistency in this Roto game that we play, but Beltran has been able to produce at a high level more often than not. As a matter of fact, only A-Rod, Jeter, and Pujols have accrued more fantasy dollars than Beltran among active players.

Entering his age-37 season, Beltran is certainly past his prime. That being said, I can't really think of many circumstances that would be more favorable than those in which he'll play next season. Let's start with the ballpark. In making the move from St. Louis to New York, the outfielder goes from one of the worst environments for HR to one of the best. Given that he does most of his damage hitting left-handed, Beltran should witness a boost in power with the short porch in right field.

Also, let's not discount how much a veteran player benefits from the move to the American League. The Yankees will use the DH as a way to rest players, and one would expect Manager Joe Girardi to pencil Beltran into that slot as often as anyone else on the roster. On that note, it's interesting that Beltran seems to have developed a stigma that he's injury-prone when, in all actuality, it's not exactly the case. Sure, he seems to require his fair share of days off each season, but the truth is he's played at least 140 games every year but two since 2001. Perhaps it's the fact that when he did miss significant portions of 2009 and 2010 due to right knee surgery, he just happened to be playing for the Mets. Since then, Beltran has averaged more than 600 plate appearances over the past three years. I'd project right around that many in 2014, and he certainly could exceed that total with the luxury of the DH.

Here's how the projections systems think Beltran will perform in the five Roto categories this year:

Steamer: 68 / 21 / 68 / 4 / .277

Oliver: 75 / 23 / 75 / 3 / .279

Assuming 600 plate appearances, I'd take the over on each and every category. I still think park factors are one of the most underappreciated elements of this game, and I'm quite confident Beltran can approach 30 HR while hitting around .290. I also expect the Yankees offense to significantly bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season, so I'd forecast higher totals in the counting categories. Overall then, I'd project a Roto line as follows: 80 / 30 / 90 / 5 / .290.

So what's the worth? Well, we here at RotoAuthority will be providing rankings in the near-future, but here's a sneak preview of my top ten outfielders:

1. Mike Trout

2. Andrew McCutchen

3. Adam Jones

4. Carlos Gonzalez

5. Ryan Braun

6. Jacoby Ellsbury

7. Bryce Harper

8. Carlos Gomez

9. Jay Bruce

10. Carlos Beltran

That's right. I currently have Beltran just inside my top ten among outfielders. While you might think I'm crazy to have him ahead of Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton or even Yasiel Puig, the good news for me is that he'll cost a fraction of what those stars are going for on the fantasy marketplace. Beltran enters this week with an ADP of just 83 at CouchManagers, currently going 30th among outfielders. Other fantasy pundits seem to agree with this valuation of Beltran.

When the rest of your league hears the name Carlos Beltran, they think of a player who's washed-up and injury-prone. The truth is this guy can still really hit a baseball. I don't care about a player's age; I only care about his statistics. While the rest of your league spends the big bucks on outfielders early on in drafts, sit back and relax. There's an elite outfielder waiting for you in Round 8.



How to Win 2014: Stolen Bases

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in predicting the future is to assume that today’s trend will continue forever. That’s pretty much what I did last year, seeing that league-wide stolen bases had risen in the recent past and seemed to plateau at a high level. Steals had risen over the last decade from 2573 in 2003 to a high of 3279 in 2011. They were close to that level again 2012 at 3229, and had been over 2900 four years in a row. It seemed safe to assume that 2013 would be another great year for the stolen base.

Nope. Steals dropped to just 2693—a fall of 536 steals, or 16.6%. To put that number in perspective, it’s like five whole teams quit stealing bases. The 2013 total was the lowest since 2005 and you bet it affected player valuations. So, why did this happen? 

First of all, stolen bases are unique among fantasy categories in that they are under a player’s direct volitional control. A baseball player chooses to attempt a stolen base in a way that he does not choose to hit a single,* strike a batter out, or score a run. Of course, once the choice is made, other factors come into play in regards to success and failure—no matter how often he tried, Cal Ripken was never going to out-steal Rickey Henderson

*Of course, Ichiro was an exception to this rule for much of the 2000’s. Seriously, that guy could do whatever he wanted.

The overall trends are subject to human decisions, those of runners, pitchers, catchers, coaches, managers, and GM’s. The relevant decision-makers can’t choose for their team to hit more homers just by willing it to happen. But they can will stolen bases to go up—or down.

Maybe everybody decided that this whole stealing bases thing wasn’t working so well after all. Maybe you can attribute it all to Michael Bourn’s decline, or insufficient playing time for Emilio Bonifacio. (No, you can’t.) Maybe 2013 is an outlier in an upward-climbing trend. It certainly looks that way in this article from Fangraphs.com, which also shows at long-term trend in increasing stolen base percentages. Teams are getting better about which players and situations to call for the stolen base.

Whatever happened to change the trend of stolen bases, I’m not going to trying predict what will happen next.

What’s the implication of this for fantasy?

The first thing that’s interesting to note is that 10 teams ignored the league-wide memo to reduce the running game. If 2013 was the result of a change in strategy (big if, I know), these teams didn’t participate and might be good places to look for steals next year: Yankees, Royals, Indians, Red Sox Pirates, Mets, Astros, Orioles, Rockies, and Rangers.

Unfortunately, you can’t outsmart the future with some magic-bullet strategy. Either league-wide steals will rise and each stolen base will be less valuable, and non-specialists will steal plenty of bases…or they will stay the same or continue last year’s decline, making speed-specialists all the more important. It looks like the safest bet continues to be to spend intentionally on speed. Let’s see where to spend our auction dollars and draft picks. 

2013’s Top 12 15

 

Name

SB

CS

1

Jacoby Ellsbury

52

4

2

Eric Young

46

11

3

Rajai Davis

45

6

4

Jean Segura

44

13

5

Alex Rios

42

7

6

Elvis Andrus

42

8

7

Starling Marte

41

15

8

Carlos Gomez

40

7

9

Everth Cabrera

37

12

10

Leonys Martin

36

9

11

Jose Altuve

35

13

12

Mike Trout

33

7

13

Alexei Ramirez

30

9

14

Jason Kipnis

30

7

15

Nate McLouth

30

7

Why 15? Well, there was a tie. And the tie just happened to land on a nice, round number. I really had no choice.

We can learn a couple things from this list. First, steals come from the outfield, short, and second. But we knew that already. Second, you don’t have to be a particularly good hitter to steal bases. We also knew that. Let’s look at 2012’s data for a few more speedy names—and to see who stopped and started stealing.

2012’s Top 12 22

 

Name

SB

CS

1

Mike Trout

49

5

2

Rajai Davis

46

13

3

Everth Cabrera

44

4

4

Michael Bourn

42

13

5

Ben Revere

40

9

6

Jose Reyes

40

11

7

Coco Crisp

39

4

8

Shane Victorino

39

6

9

Juan Pierre

37

7

10

Carlos Gomez

37

6

11

Alcides Escobar

35

5

12

Jose Altuve

33

11

13

Dee Gordon

32

10

14

Jason Kipnis

31

7

15

B.J. Upton

31

6

16

Desmond Jennings

31

2

17

Ryan Braun

30

7

18

Norichika Aoki

30

8

19

Jarrod Dyson

30

5

20

Emilio Bonifacio

30

3

21

Jimmy Rollins

30

5

22

Drew Stubbs

30

7

Given the overall trend, it should not be shocking that several more players made it to the 30-steal plateau. The players who appear on both lists are a good place to start for consistency. Consider: Davis, Gomez, Cabrera, Altuve, Kipnis, and Trout. Yeah, only six guys managed back-to-back 30-steal seasons. And one of them wasn’t even supposed to be a starter. Moral: don’t bank on one guy to anchor your steals. Second moral: don’t write off Rajai Davis. Ever.

While we’re on the magically round 30-steal number, here are the nine guys who’ve averaged that mark over the last three years:

 

Name    

 SB

 CS

1

Michael Bourn

126

39

2

Rajai Davis

125

30

3

Coco Crisp

109

18

4

Jacoby Ellsbury

105

22

5

Elvis Andrus

100

30

6

Emilio Bonifacio

98

22

7

Ben Revere

96

26

8

Jose Reyes

94

24

9

Carlos Gomez

93

15

 Only three of them (Ellsbury, Andrus, and Gomez) managed 30 or more steals last year, which makes me think that we may be experiencing a generation shift in base stealers, with new players coming into their own and others finally slowing down. Maybe that's what's responsible for the Great Major League Slowdown. Moral: don’t be afraid of a short track record when it comes to steals.

 Watch Out for These Guys

If teams are getting savvier about not letting their guys get caught on the basepaths, you can probably expect runners with high CS totals to get the brakes put on them. Consider avoiding these guys with problematic SB/CS ratios: Aoki (20/12), Bourn (23/12), Shin-Soo Choo (20/11), Ian Kinsler (15/11), Dexter Fowler (19/9), Alfonso Soriano (18/9), Justin Ruggiano (15/8), and Paul Goldschmidt (15/8). Really don’t count on these guys, with atrocious ratios: Gerardo Parra (10/10) and Yasiel Puig (11/8).

Good Hitters Who Steal

One way to pad your steals total is to take your steals in medium-sized amounts from a number of otherwise good hitters on your roster. These guys all stole between 10 and 20 bases, but you aren't drafting any of them because of thier speed.

Maybe you don’t want one or two speed specialists, and didn’t snag a power/speed threat in the first or second round…if so, this tactic can be useful, as players like this frequently slip under the base-stealing radar. Consider: Jayson Werth (10 steals), Goldschmidt (15—unless they stop his running game), David Wright (17), Michael Cuddyer (10), Adam Jones (14), Ben Zobrist (11), Dustin Pedroia (17), Michael Brantley (17), Alex Gordon (11), Brian Dozier (14), Michael Saunders (13), Erick Aybar (12), Chris Young (10), Josh Rutledge (12)….

Okay, somewhere in there we stretched the bounds of “good,” but the point is to get steals out of people you don’t draft for steals. It’s worth noting that this strategy seemed more viable last offseason. If you suspect that league-wide steals will decline further, then you probably won’t think this strategy is very useful. 

Speed Bums

In deeper leagues, when everyone has to scramble to find someone to fill out their MI slot and their last one or two OF slots, I like to snag a couple players I affectionately term “speed bums.” You know the type: can’t really hit but lightning fast. Iffy playing time, no help in HR or RBI; they only don’t hurt you in Runs or Average if you’re lucky.

Do I like to count on them to carry me in the category? Of course not—but they can put me over the top, and after awhile they’re the best choices left. When they don’t work out, new speed bums can always be found on the waiver wire. (Such players also make good deep-league injury replacements when real hitters can’t be found.) 

Here are some guys to consider: the inimitable Rajai Davis (elite speed bum, pretty much of all time, 45 steals), Eric Young (46 steals, probably no starting job next year…Rajai 2.0?), Nate McLouth (30), Emilio Bonifacio (28), Craig Gentry and Brett Gardner (24 each—with surprisingly good hitting lines), Juan Pierre (23, the granddaddy of speed bums), Jimmy Rollins and Alcides Escobar (22 and reduced to a lowly state), Jordan Schafer, Ben Revere, and Elliot Johnson (22 and glad to be here), Denard Span (20), Ichrio Suzuki (20).

It’s interesting to note that there aren’t as many of this kind of player as in the past either. Maybe the MLB strategic decision was not to play these guys at all.

Some Final Thoughts 

I’m playing steals on the safer side this year, and that means paying for some speed near the beginning of the draft. You don’t have to go elite with Trout or Ellsbury to get some speed, but you’ll probably have to spread it across a number of 20-steal types with power (think Ian Desmond or Shane Victorino), or grab a couple of 30-steal guys who can help in Average and Runs (like Leonys Martin or Jason Kipnis).

Whatever happens with steals next year, you don’t want to be outrun by your leaguemates.

Check out How to Win next week for WHIP.



Closers Preseason Preview – AL Central

Welcome to the American League Central, another division wrought with uncertainty at the closer position and looking very different than Opening Day 2013. The AL Central brings us a few returning favorites (Holland and Perkins), but also features a great deal of change via the free agent or trade market (see Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit). Unlike some of the steadier divisions, these teams should give bullpen fans plenty to watch for this season.

Chicago White Sox

Closer – Ongoing Position Battle (Ronald Belisario, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom)

Once Addison Reed was shipped to the desert to pitch for Arizona, the battle for White Sox closer began. Although Chicago GM Rick Hahn doesn’t feel the need to name a closer at this juncture, there are plenty of solid candidates. The current favorite is fireballer Nate Jones, who led the White Sox in relief appearances over the previous two seasons (to go along with a career 9.3 K/9) and has earned Hahn’s trust in his first two seasons.  Should the White Sox opt for experience, Matt Lindstrom has 45 career saves (with stints as closer for the Marlins and Astros). Lindstrom may not be the prototypical candidate (3.12 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 6.8 K/9 in 2013), but he does have the know-how to get the job done. After being non-tendered by the Dodgers this offseason, Ronald Belisario was also brought in to compete and the sinkerballer carries a career 3.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 7.5 K/9.

Bold Prediction – Nate Jones enters camp with the closer job and earns his first save on Opening Day. Although the White Sox lose more games than they win, Jones continues to develop his repertoire and starts striking out lefties at a better rate. Despite the fact that Jones’ save total save is rather low, he has the highest K/9 of all AL Central closers.

Cleveland Indians

Closer – John Axford

Last season Axford lost his job in Milwaukee after four treacherous outings (0-2, 1 blown save, 22.10 ERA) and never had a chance to earn the ninth back. For those who know Axford’s career, remember that he’s struggled before and managed to bounce back. If he exerted himself too much during last offseason while representing Canada in the World Baseball Classic, he may have simply had a bad start and could be a prime candidate to return to form this season (career 3.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9).

Bold Prediction – After being traded to the Cardinals on August 30, Axford spent time with the St. Louis pitching staff and All-Star catcher Yadier Molina to correct some minor flaws in his delivery. Entering his sixth season, Axford bursts back on the scene in 2014 and places himself back among the next wave of good young closers.

Who’s Lurking? – Career middle reliever Vinnie Pestano is still on the roster and earned six saves for the Tribe last June. If Axford struggles mightily, Pestano might be next in line to audition for the gig. Don’t forget about the right-handers Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw, each of whom performed well last season in Cleveland. Of the two, Cody Allen has the most potential (with a career 2.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9) and may develop this season as a premier setup man.

Detroit Tigers

Closer – Joe Nathan

The Detroit closer situation will be substantially different this season and the Tiger faithful could not be happier. Solving a major pain point, the three-time defending AL Central champions found a solution in 39-year-old Nathan, who went 6-2 with 43 saves for the Texas Rangers (1.39 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 10.2 K/9) in 2013. Although there are always age concerns with a pitcher going into his 14th season, Nathan has made a career of being consistent (by averaging 31 saves a season) and should continue to dominate the ninth inning this season.

Bold Prediction – Nathan has been a model of consistency over the years and 2014 proves to be quite the opposite. Over the first few months of the season, it’s clear that Nathan has lost velocity and can no longer pitch himself out of trouble. Although Nathan struggles early in the season, he finishes the season as the Tigers’ closer and performs well enough in the playoffs to keep his job in 2015.

Who’s Lurking? – With Joaquin Benoit, Jose Veras, and Octavio Dotel all gone via free agency, and Drew Smyly set to return to the starting rotation, the Tigers’ bullpen this spring training will look dramatically different than a year ago. This season, expect Bruce Rondon, Joba Chamberlain, and Al Alburquerque to fight for the eighth inning gig. If Nathan’s fastball begins to slow because of age, expect these three to be constantly jockeying for the role. Joba Chamberlain has more experience as a reliever (260 career appearances), but the Tigers seem to have placed a great deal of faith in Rondon - who hasn’t exactly matched up to expectations thus far (30 appearances, 3.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 9.4 K/9). Alburquerque pitched frequently last season and is a darkhorse candidate simply because of the fact that the Tigers know him the best (53 appearances in 2013, despite a 4.59 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 12.9 K/9 last season).

Kansas City Royals

Closer – Greg Holland

When Jonathan Broxton was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2012, Holland took the ninth inning and never looked back. In his first full season as closer, Holland set the Royals’ single season saves record by converting 47 of 50 save opportunities. The 2013 All-Star finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting with a dominant season (68 appearances, 1.21 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 13.8 K/9) and could be standing at the cusp of greatness. If KC continues to give him save opportunities, expect Holland to have another great season.

Bold Prediction – Greg Holland keeps it going and breaks his own Kansas City single season saves record by converting 48 saves in 2014, pushing him over the 100 save plateau in only his second season as a full-time closer. Despite the fact that the Royals miss the postseason, Holland again places in the top 10 for Cy Young voting.

Who’s Lurking? – Kansas City has the benefit of possessing a trio of young, but experienced, relievers in Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow, and Kelvin Herrera. Although Hochevar is not a flamethrower like Crow and Herrera (possessing a career 6.6 K/9), he has a variety of pitches, performed quite well last season (70.1 innings pitched, 1.92 ERA, and 0.83 WHIP), and should have the first chance if Holland goes down to injury or inconsistency. Crow (9.0 career K/9) and Herrera (9.4 career K/9) are both strikeout pitchers with a handful of saves over the past two seasons. If both Holland and Hochevar struggle, expect Crow and Herrera to battle it out.

Minnesota Twins

Closer – Glen Perkins

After Matt Capps’ injury in 2012, Perkins took the Twins’ closer job and earned 16 saves before the season ended. Similar to Greg Holland, last season was Perkins’ first as full-time closer and he performed better than expected (36 saves, 2.30 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 11.1 K/9). Assuming that last year was not a fluke, Perkins has begun to establish himself as a reliable closer.

Bold Prediction – Perkins was named to the All-Star Game last season as an injury replacement and demonstrated, through the rest of the season, that he was worthy of the honor. This year, Perkins comes out of the gate with a charge and is named to the All-Star game again (but not as an injury replacement) while chasing Holland and Nathan for the AL Central’s best closer title.

Who’s Lurking? – The Twins seem comfortable with Jared Burton as Perkins’ setup man and he’s earned that trust over the past two seasons in Minnesota (135 appearances, 45 holds, and 4 blown saves). If Perkins falls from grace, look for Burton to be first in line. Casey Fien, who pitched admirably last season in the Twin Cities (73 appearances, 3.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.6 K/9), may also be a candidate. Flying under the radar is Brian Duensing, who earned his first career save last season (73 appearances, 15 holds, 3 blown saves) and any struggles from Perkins, Burton, or Fien should move him up the depth chart quickly.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Draft Round Battles: Kipnis Vs. Pedroia

The good folks at Mock Draft Central don't yet have a ton of sample size data to work with this early in the fantasy league drafting season, but I'd bet their current second base rankings are going to end up being pretty stable until Opening Day, even if a few overall average draft positions change.  Robinson Cano is still a no-brainer first round pick and easily the best 2B available, while on the next tier down, you have Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia battling it out for the right to be the second second baseman baseman taken taken.  Kipnis holds a very narrow lead at this point (34.93 ADP to Pedroia's 36.12) but let's further explore which player you should be taking to lock up your keystone position.

On paper, we have a battle between a player entering his prime against a player who is in the middle of his prime, though since we're forecasting the future, we have to acknowledge that Pedroia (who turns 31 in August) could potentially start to decline.  I doubt that'll happen, however, since Pedroia "rebounded" from a slightly disappointing 2012 campaign to hit .301/.372/.415 with nine homers, 84 RBI, 91 runs and 17 steals over 160 games and a league-leading 724 PA. 

Now, I used the quote marks since the narrative surrounding the 2013 Red Sox was that they were able to storm back to glory since their free agent acquisitions all delivered and their incumbent veterans all turned things around from poor and/or injury-plagued 2012 seasons.  While Pedroia did spend some time on the DL with an injured right thumb in 2012 (an injury that continued to plague him last season as well), he still played 142 games and hit .290/.347/.449.  As you've probably noticed, that .797 OPS is actually higher than the .787 mark that Pedroia posted in 2013.

The culprit was a power shortage, as reflected by the drop in slugging percentange and Pedroia's career-low (over a full season) .114 ISO.  He also had a career-low fly ball rate (27.9%), though it didn't hurt his overall production much given that Pedroia's 21.6% line drive rate was above his career rate and his highest in three seasons.

Pedroia has always gotten a big boost from playing at Fenway Park --- an .880 OPS at home versus a .767 OPS on the road --- and those splits became even more pronounced in 2013.  Seven of Pedroia's nine homers came in Boston en route to a .867 career OPS, while he had only a .712 OPS and two of his homers in away games.  This stands out as a red flag to me, since it doesn't help your fantasy team much if your third-round pick only hits like a third-rounder or better for half of the schedule.

Kipnis has a similar red flag in that you're not really sure what player you're getting on a week to week basis.  In 2013, Kipnis hit .284/.366/.452 with 17 homers, 84 RBI, 86 runs and 30 steals, making him one of the better 5x5 threats in all of fantasy baseball.  Mighty numbers, sure, though those numbers were largely generated during a red-hot 11-homer, .333/.421/.618 stretch in May and June.  Minus those two months, and Kipnis was otherwise pretty average, with a .724 OPS over the last three months (and an ugly .555 OPS in April).  He also benefited from some major batted-ball luck in the form of a .345 BABIP.

In a standard roto league, Kipnis' production roller coaster wasn't too concerning, since at the end of the year, he still had more fantasy value than any second baseman besides Mr. Cano.  In a weekly head-to-head, though, Kipnis' peaks and valleys were a lot more frustrating unless you had the good sense to sell high in early July.

Breaking down the 5x5 projections for 2014, both players' RBI and runs totals will probably be a wash given that they both play in strong lineups.  Kipnis has the edge in speed, with back-to-back 30-steal seasons to his credit (though Pedroia isn't exactly a slouch in his category, with a career average of 19 swipes per year).  I'd give Pedroia a narrow edge in batting average, as he's still an expert at grinding out at-bats and finding holes in the diamond, and Kipnis' 2013 BABIP worries me.

So it basically all comes down to power, and that's where Kipnis has the slight edge at this time.  It could be that Pedroia's offseason thumb surgery will finally correct the injury that has been bothering him for two full years and he'll regain his old pop, though it's worth noting that his 2010-11 campaigns (when he had an 11.4% home run rate) both far exceeded his 7.7% homer rate, so those years may have been the power outliers rather than 2012-13.  And, Pedroia's "old pop" only once topped the 17-homer mark, so even if Pedroia returns to his average homer output, it wouldn't be surprising to see Kipnis keep developing and crack the 20-homer plateau.

I can see why the early ADP rankings are so tight between these two players, as it's hard to pick a clear winner.  If I was picking a better pure hitter I'd go with Pedroia, but pure hitting doesn't always translate to 5x5 counting stats, so I'll have to give the slight nod to Kipnis.  He's just entering his age-27 season so the best could be yet to come for the Tribe's second baseman, while it's possible (though unlikely) that Pedroia will start to decline and become a fantasy liability outside of Fenway. 

Kipnis also struggled in the second half of 2012, so yes, I realize I'm picking a player with basically four good months out of 12 as a Major League starter over one of the steadiest players in the sport for the better part of a decade.  I'm crossing my fingers that Kipnis continues to realize his potential or else I'll be the latest to be burned for underestimating The Muddy Chicken.



Closer Depth Chart

Here's our look at each of the 30 teams' bullpen depth charts.  For up-to-the-second updates, follow @closernews on Twitter.

Last updated: 7-1-2014

American League

Angels

  1. Joe Smith
  2. Jason Grili
  3. Cam Bedrosian

Astros

  1. Chad Qualls
  2. Kyle Farnsworth
  3. Joshua Zeid

DL: Jesse Crain (due back possibly in June)

Athletics

  1. Sean Doolittle
  2. Luke Gregerson
  3. Dan Otero

Blue Jays

  1. Casey Janssen
  2. Aaron Loup
  3. Dustin McGowan

Indians

  1. Cody Allen
  2. Bryan Shaw
  3. John Axford

Mariners

  1. Fernando Rodney
  2. Danny Farquhar
  3. Tom Wilhelmsen

Orioles

  1. Zach Britton
  2. Tommy Hunter
  3. Darren O'Day

Rangers

  1. Joakim Soria
  2. Jason Frasor
  3. Neal Cotts

Rays

  1. Jake McGee
  2. Joel Peralta
  3. Juan Carlos Oviedo

Note: Rays are currently going with a closer-by-committee approach.

Red Sox

  1. Koji Uehara
  2. Junichi Tazawa
  3. Edward Mujica

Royals

  1. Greg Holland
  2. Wade Davis
  3. Kelvin Herrera

DL: Luke Hochevar (out for season)

Tigers

  1. Joe Nathan
  2. Joba Chamberlain
  3. Al Alburquerque

DL: Bruce Rondon (out for season)

Twins

  1. Glen Perkins
  2. Casey Fien
  3. Jared Burton

White Sox

  1. Ronald Belisario
  2. Daniel Webb
  3. Jacob Petricka

DL: Nate Jones (return TBD)

Note: The White Sox are in a committee, sorting out thier (mostly bad) options. Consider this ranking in flux.

Yankees

  1. David Robertson
  2. Adam Warren
  3. Dellin Betances

National League

Braves

  1. Craig Kimbrel
  2. Shae Simmons
  3. Anthony Varvaro

DL: Jonny Venters (return TBD)

Brewers

  1. Francisco Rodriguez
  2. Brandon Kintzler
  3. Rob Wooten

Cardinals

  1. Trevor Rosenthal
  2. Pat Neshek
  3. Jason Motte

Cubs

  1. Neil Ramirez
  2. Hector Rondon
  3. Pedro Strop

Diamondbacks

  1. Addison Reed
  2. Brad Ziegler
  3. Joe Thatcher

DL: David Hernandez (out for season)

Dodgers

  1. Kenley Jansen
  2. Chris Perez
  3. Brandon League   

Giants

  1. Santiago Casilla
  2. Jean Machi
  3. Sergio Romo

Note: The Giants are in a committee, considering their (fairly good) options. 

Marlins

  1. Steve Cishek
  2. A.J. Ramos
  3. Mike Dunn

Mets

  1. Jenrry Mejia
  2. Jeurys Familia
  3. Carlos Torres

DL: Bobby Parnell (out for season)

Nationals

  1. Rafael Soriano
  2. Tyler Clippard
  3. Drew Storen

Padres

  1. Huston Street
  2. Joaquin Benoit
  3. Dale Thayer

Phillies

  1. Jonathan Papelbon
  2. Jacob Diekman
  3. Antonio Bastardo

Pirates

  1. Mark Melancon
  2. Ernesto Frieri
  3. Tony Watson

Reds

  1. Aroldis Chapman
  2. Jonathan Broxton
  3. Sam LeCure

Rockies

  1. LaTroy Hawkins
  2. Rex Brothers
  3. Adam Ottavino





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