Atlanta Braves


Stock Watch: AL Central First Basemen and the Back of the Braves' Rotation

As the season goes on, we've started to sort out which hot and cold starts we believe in. Most of the unbelievable ones have already regressed to the mean (think Justin Upton or Matt Moore), while others are showing signs that their new levels of production might be real, for better or worse. That said, there are still plenty of values to trade for, and plenty of chances to sell on players likely to still regress. But you better get it done quickly, because your trade offers will probably have to get fairer and fairer as the season goes on....

Trade For

Felix Hernandez just endured a brutal game, wherein he gave up seven consecutive hits and lost a seven-run lead. To the Angels. Any Felix owner rightfully expects greatness every time the King pitches, and there's a chance his value is down just a touch after a bad outing like that. It's not so much that you'll get an amazing deal for him from most owners--just a slight discount. If you were already looking to acquire an ace, though, he might be the one to get, and this is the time to get him.

I was not a huge proponent of Andrew McCutchen before the season started, largely thanks to his declining steals numbers and low SB%. I didn't see him as a big speed threat anymore, but I liked the way his power had been increasing over time. Reality hasn't matched my predictions, or McCutchen's recent trends: he has already stolen 15 bases (three-quarters of his 2012 total) and has been caught just four times, but the power has been a big disappointment, as he's hit only seven homers through two and a half months. Not exactly what owners were looking for with their first-round pick.

McCutchen's strikeout rate is down noticeably, and his walk rate is down a little, so he's putting the ball into play more often. He's hitting slightly fewer fly balls than last year, but the biggest difference is in his HR/FB rate: after spiking at 19.4% last year, it's down to his 2009-2010 levels, at 8.6%. While his increased contact is probably causing part of his decrease in homers, it's worth noting that he only had a handful more longballs last year at this point of the season (he didn't hit any last April). Perhaps his power heats up with the weather. Either way, a powered-down McCutchen is still a strong fantasy asset; the chance that he reclaims even some of that power makes him a great trade target.

If your first baseman plays in the AL Central, chances are you've been pretty disappointed with his production. Unless he plays for the Tigers. Three of them make good trade targets: Billy Butler, Nick Swisher, and Paul Konerko. Butler introduced a lot of new power last year, but it has disappeared so far this year, with just five homers. His average is down too, but his OBP and walks are actually up. Maybe he isn't getting any pitches to hit in the moribund Kansas City lineup, but even a slight improvement in his power could vault him to among the top first basemen in baseball again. Swisher has had a rough year in many ways, but his OBP is still .100 points better than his average. Having been hampered by injuries, but keeping most of his batted ball profile intact, he seems like a good candidate to improve over the course of the year. Konerko should command the least trade value of the three, as his season has mirrored the White Sox's overall offense. He's actually produce negative WAR on the season, and the gamble is basically that the 33-year-old isn't completely done. The upside is worth a shot, but don't give large amounts for him.

Trade Away

Carlos Gonzalez has been pretty much the best player in the National League this year. Wherever you drafted him, he's been the best player on your team. He's already earned the second highest WAR total of his career and he's one homer away from matching his season total from last year, in just barely over half as many games. So trade him already. 

Why? Well, there's certainly the chance that he keeps this up and wins the NL MVP for his greatness. Or, he could do what he always does, and hit the DL for some significant portion of the season. Don't sell him in desperation; there's no reason you shouldn't hold out for a huge return, but it's hard to think of him without seeing a little clock over his head, counting down to the next injury. Unlike his similarly injury-prone teammate Troy Tulowitzki, his production is replaceable in the outfield, so you're better off mitigating your risk and dealing him for several good-to-great players. If he stays healthy all season, maybe you'll regret the deal and maybe not. But if he gets injured, you'll really regret not making a move.

Jean Segura is setting the world on fire right now, with five-category production. The steals look completely real, and if you're relying on him for your team's speed, don't send him packing. The homers, however, aren't so believable: of his 10, eight are classified as Just Enough by ESPN's HitTracker. He's certainly one of the best shortstops in baseball...but he's not this good. 

Segura's Brew Crew teammate Yovani Gallardo has had a pretty miserable year, but he's strung together three good starts in a row. In fact, he hasn't allowed an earned run in those starts. The trouble is, two of those starts were against the worst teams in baseball. Sure, one came against Cincinnati, but it's hard to get too excited over shutting down the Astros and Marlins. His next start is scheduled against the Cubs, so he's got a good shot at making it four good ones in a row. Wait till then, and deal him. Maybe he's righted the ship and ready to produce like the inconsistently dominant strikeout machine he was the last couple years, but he isn't showing real signs of that yet. 

Usually, when we say a team has a "good problem," it's not a problem at all. For the Braves and the return of Brandon Beachy, that's not really the case. They haven't indicated what they'll do with him when he's ready to return, and he may even start out in the bullpen. Or Julio Teheran or Kris Medlen may get sent to the 'pen, with a lower probability that Paul Maholm or Tim Hudson get removed. Without knowing the Braves' solution to their problem mine is this: trade away Beachy, Teheran, or Medlen if you've got 'em. You might get full value for the pitcher, when each has some unknown probability of having his value reduced to basically zero.

Pick Up

When RotoAuthority mentioned on Facebook that Roy Oswalt had been signed by the Rockies, the response was unenthused, to say the least. I can't say I blame anyone for their lack of excitement over that prospect, but Oswalt put the fantasy world on notice yesterday by striking out 11 Nationals in his Colorado debut. Does that mean he's automatically the old Oswalt? Obviously not, but you still couldn't have gotten much better of a first outing. He's well worth a speculative add.

Maybe Esmil Rogers is just excited to pitch in Rogers Centre, but he appears to have turned a real corner in his career with the Blue Jays. His improved slider should get the credit for his success, and there's a good chance that much of it is sustainable. He's got more upside than most free agent starters.

Cody Ross was a productive outfielder last year, but this year he's been a real disappointment, even since returning from injury. After a three-hour visit to the eye doctor the other day, Ross is claiming that the blurred vision that plagued his season is cleared up. He punctuated that by hitting a homer against the Marlins. If the vision was his main problem, he could be in line for a big improvement. 



Shutdown Corner: NL East Closer Roundup

Last week, we started rolling out closer roundups for every division in baseball. This week, we're heading to the National League East, to look over the projected closer situations for all five teams. If you missed last week's review of the American League West, here's a link.

We're rating each closer on a tier, and here's the tiering system for the pre-season:

  • Tier 1: World-class reliever, capable of putting up a season for the ages.
  • Tier 2: Very good closer, both stable and effective.
  • Tier 3: Average closer, may be lacking either stability or effectiveness.
  • Tier 4: Poor closer, either completely ineffective but stable, or very unstable.

Washington Nationals: Rafael Soriano

The big closer news from the past week is Rafael Soriano (finally) signing a two-year, $28 million deal with the Washington Nationals, ostensibly to be their new closer. Soriano had been linked to the Tigers and a few other teams, but the Nationals ponied up the big bucks to bring him on. It's very likely that he displaces former closers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard ... in fact GM Mike Rizzo said as much when introducing Soriano in a press conference.

Soriano brings closer experience and, best of all, real skill to the Nationals, who now have a pretty scary bullpen. After a dismal 2011 with the Yankees, one that included DL time, Soriano did well as the only non-Mariano Rivera full-time closer for the Bombers since about 1996. He saved 42 games, and did so posting a 2.26 ERA and 24.7% strikeout rate. Not too bad.

The minor problem here is that Soriano probably wasn't as effective as he looked in 2012. FIP (or Fielding Independent Pitching) says that Soriano didn't do the strikeout-walk-homer thing quite as well as his ERA indicated, giving him a 3.32 FIP for the season -- a big difference. Soriano benefitted from a great LOB% (88%), which helped him limit runs despite a high walk rate.

Still, Soriano was paid a lot of money to be the last line of defense for the Nationals, and we should expect him to thrive in the ninth. He's not a top-tier closer at this point, but he is likely to have a good season, especially outside of the tough environment of Yankee Stadium and the AL East.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (moderate-to-high effectiveness, high cost to bring in / stability)

Next in line: Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel

I wrote quite a bit about Craig Kimbrel in an earlier edition of Shutdown Corner, and the news hasn't changed in the past two weeks.

He's the best closer in baseball.

He's coming off what may have been the best season by a closer in modern history.

He strikes out everybody.

The only question with Kimbrel is whether he'll look like a "normal" closer in 2013, or if he's got another season of sheer dominance left in his right arm. I'm guessing that it will be something in between 2012 and a regular elite closer season. But it's unlikely, especially with Aroldis Chapman moving to the starting rotation, that any closer is as good a bet as Kimbrel.

Projected Tier: Tier 1 (coming off an world-class season, no sign of slowing down)

Next in line: Jonny Venters

Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon

Again, I waxed poetic about the power of Papelbon two weeks ago, and precious little has changed since then. Jon was very consistent (for the most part) in his time with Boston, and little changed in a move to Philly. He threw 70 high-quality innings, striking out a beastly 32.4% of batters faced and racking up just a 2.44 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. While a higher percentage of his fly balls left the park, he's dealt with pitching in hitters' parks before, and this didn't seem to slow him down much in terms of FIP (2.89).

Papelbon already has 257 saves in just seven years closing, which is remarkable. It speaks to his consistency and durability in a position not known for either. Homers and age threaten to bring down this bastion of beatdowns, but I think there's at least another high-end season waiting in the wings for Paps.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (high reliability, high performance, age could be an issue)

Next in line: Antonio Bastardo

New York Mets: Frank Francisco

Last season, the New York Mets bullpen was pretty ugly. Frank Francisco, who suffered through injuries and ineffectiveness, was pretty ugly too. Frank^2 did score 23 saves in just 48 games, which isn't too shabby, but his ERA of 5.53 and WHIP of 1.61 made things pretty scary. Worst of all, Francisco had surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow, so he may need time to recover from the surgery.

Dan Syzmborski's ZiPS projection system sees Francisco as a reasonable option, posting a 3.78 ERA with a 25.6% strikeout rate, which would be a nice improvement from his 2012. Me, I'm not quite so bullish. Bobby Parnell is probably the better reliever at this point, and he isn't dealing with elbow surgery issues. Much like Ryan Madson in Anaheim, I think that Francisco will get the manager's benefit of the doubt if he starts the season healthy, but by the end of the season the younger arm (in this case Parnell) will own the ninth.

Projected Tier: Tier 4 (low reliability, low-to-medium performance, stiff competition)

Next in line: Bobby Parnell

Miami Marlins: Steve Cishek

Though the Marlins are projected to be one of the worst teams in baseball history next season, they actually are pretty set at the closer position. Steve Cishek inherited the job last season, and acquitted himself fairly well. He only notched 15 saves in his 68 appearances, but he posted a 2.69 ERA and a career-high 24.7% strikeout rate.

Cishek has a career 2.57 ERA and 2.85 FIP, and does two things very, very well. Cishek gets strikeouts at a serious clip (24.3% over his career), and he keeps the ball in the park (0.29 HR/9 over his career). Walks can be an issue -- I know, stop me if you've heard this before about a closer -- but if his walk rate is closer to his 2011 performance than his 2012 performance, he'll be a very solid option in the ninth.

He, along with Giancarlo Stanton, might be the only solid pieces on this Marlins team.

Projected Tier: Tier 3 (moderate performance, little competition, awful team)

Next in line: Ryan Webb (?)

As always, check out @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute closer updates, and find me at @bgrosnick for everything baseball. Shutdown Corner will return next week with a look at the AL East.

All data from FanGraphs.



Offseason Injuries: To Stash Or Not To Stash?

There is no bigger wildcard throughout a season than injuries. A bad hamstring or a sore elbow can sink an entire fantasy season almost instantly, so there's always a lot of finger-crossing going on. At the same time, fantasy owners always try to take advantage of their DL spots early in the season by drafting an injured player and stashing him until he's healthy. Carlos Quentin, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Mike Morse, Salvador Perez, Brett Anderson, and Drew Storen were among the most popular "draft-and-stashes" a year ago. Some worked better than others, obviously.

Spring Training will surely bring a wave of injuries that carry over into the season, but there are already plenty of players who we know will miss the start of 2013. Some are worth grabbing late in the draft and hiding on the DL for a few weeks while others are just a waste of time. It's the same story every year. Here are a few players who will miss the start of next season and could prove useful in the second half.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson
Hudson, 25, battled elbow trouble last April and May and it eventually blew out in late-June. He had Tommy John surgery and is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break. Hudson became incredibly homer prone last summer (1.79 HR/9), which can be atrributed both to the injury and simple regression -- only 6.4% of his fly balls left the yard in 2011, which is very low for a fly ball pitcher (career 39.1% grounders) who makes half his starts in Chase Field. In 2012 that jumped up to 16.7%, which is a bit high but more in line with expectations. His strikeout (7.35 K/9) and walk (2.38 BB/9) rates barely changed, however. When he returns with a healthy elbow, Hudson is someone worth carrying because he'll keep his ERA down and chip in some strikeouts. I'd go ahead and stash him if he's sitting there in a late round.

Atlanta Braves: Brandon Beachy
Like Hudson, the 26-year-old Beachy blew out his elbow in June and required Tommy John surgery. Unlike Hudson, Beachy was absolutely dominant before getting hurt: 2.00 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 81 innings. The Braves have plenty of starting pitching depth but they'll surely clear a spot when their young right-hander is healthy and ready to rejoin the rotation. Beachy is definitely someone worth stashing on the DL in the first half, no doubt about it.

Kansas City Royals: Danny Duffy
Duffy, 24, had Tommy John surgery in late-May and is expected to return a few weeks before Hudson and Beachy. He showed big strikeout ability (9.1 K/9) in six starts before getting hurt, which is on par with his minor league performance. Assuming the uncharacteristic walk problems (5.9 BB/9) stemmed from the elbow injury, Duffy is an intriguing young starter with whiff potential for next season. I don't believe there's enough track record here to warrant a DL stash in typical 12-team mixed leagues, however.

New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez & Michael Pineda
It has been five years since A-Rod made it through a full season without visiting the DL, and that streak will reach six years following his left hip surgery later this week. He's expected to be out until the All-Star break, though Dr. Bryan Kelly recently acknowledged it could be even longer. They won't know the extent of the cartilage damage until they actually cut him open. A-Rod, 37, is no longer the best fantasy producer in the game, but he's not useless either. He hit 18 homers in 122 games last season and has consistently produced a batting average in the .270s over the last three seasons, plus the lineup around him ensures plenty of RBI opportunities. I'm on the fence about this one, I can see the argument to both stash and not stash New York's third baseman.

Pineda, 23, has yet to throw a pitch for the Yankees after being acquired from the Mariners one year and one day ago. He had shoulder surgery in May and is expected back in June, but the club has admitted they will play things very carefully. Pineda wasn't far off from a fantasy ace in 2011 -- 3.74 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 and 1.09 WHIP -- but labrums are not UCLs. If he had Tommy John surgery instead of shoulder surgery, he'd be a slam-dunk draft-and-stash. Because his trademark velocity may never return, the uncertainty is much greater. Factor in the tough division and hitter friendly park, and Pineda is someone who is more worth a midseason waiver pickup than a draft slot. I'm watching this one play out from afar.

San Diego Padres: Cory Luebke
The 27-year-old Luebke starred after moving into San Diego's rotation in late-June 2011, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 9.9 K/9 in 17 starts to close out the season. Expectations were fairly high coming into last year, but he instead lasted just five starts (2.61 ERA) before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. He's due to return in late-May/early-June and will be expected to get back on the path he appeared to be carving 12 months ago. Luebke misses bats, has a history of limiting walks, and pitches half his games in a super-friendly ballpark (even with the walls coming in at Petco Park). He's definitely someone I'm looking to stash for a few weeks, no doubt about it. He and Beachy are the gold standard.

Texas Rangers: Joakim Soria, Colby Lewis & Neftali Feliz
The Rangers have three pitchers due to return from elbow surgery at midseason, with the 28-year-old Soria likely to join the bullpen before Lewis and Feliz rejoin the rotation. The presence of Joe Nathan means Soria is unlikely to see save chances, but he would be a prime holds candidate as Mike Adams' replacement. It's worth noting that he's coming off his second Tommy John surgery, which is much more risky and unpredictable than the first. I wouldn't expect the Royals version of Soria, at least not right away.

Lewis, 33, is more of a solid fantasy option than a standout, but he is guaranteed a spot in the Texas rotation when healthy. Feliz, 24, could wind up back in the bullpen depending on how Soria and Lewis recover. GM Jon Daniels has already hinted that a return to relieving could be in the cards, if not likely at this point. With Nathan entrenched in the ninth inning, Feliz's fantasy value would take a hit with a move back into the bullpen. I don't think I would stash any of these three Rangers, but I'd prefer Lewis over the other two given his role and playing time certainty.



Braves Tab Randall Delgado As Fifth Starter

The Braves traded innings-eater Derek Lowe in the very first deal of the offseason because they felt they had the pitching depth to replace him. Even when Tim Hudson went down with a back injury, Atlanta still had the depth in place to fill his spot internally. Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor are locked into the top four rotation spots, meaning that fifth spot is going to one of the kids. Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the news...

Delgado, 22, made seven effective starts for the Braves last summer. He pitched to a 2.83 ERA in 35 innings, but high pitch counts had him out of the game very early. Only once did he record more than 15 outs in a game despite averaging 89 pitches per start. Baseball America ranked him as the team's third best prospect behind the man he beat out for the fifth starter's job (Julio Teheran) and the presently injured Arodys Vizcaino. They also consider him to be the 46th best prospect in baseball while Keith Law is a bit more bearish; he ranked Delgado 98th. "His best offering is a plus curveball with sharp downward bite, and he also has a solid changeup," wrote Baseball America in their subscriber-only scouting report, while also acknowledging that he needs to work on commanding his 92-94 mph fastball.

Dan Syzmborski's ZiPS system isn't Delgado's biggest fan, projecting him to pitch to a 4.74 ERA with seven wins and 121 strikeouts in 29 starts (151 2/3 innings) this summer. Nothing about that makes you want to run out and add him to your fantasy roster, and truth be told it's always tough to rely on a kid pitcher in your fantasy rotation (unless his name is Matt Moore). With Hudson due back in early-May, Delgado's time in Atlanta's rotation is limited barring another injury. Remember, Jurrjens isn't exactly My. Durable. That said, Delgado can be useful for reasons beyond his control.

The Braves' early-season schedule is favorable as far as matchups are concerned. Their off-days are spaced out, so they will need their fifth starter at least three times in the first three weeks of the season. Delgado's first starts are likely to come at Houston against the lowly Astros, against the Mets at home, then at the low-offense Dodgers in Chavez Ravine. The Mets have a sneaky good lineup, so that's probably one to aoid. You can beef up your counting stats (and possibly your ERA and WHIP) by spot-starting Delgado against the Astros and Dodgers however, and matching up against subpar offenses is the best way to deploy shaky back-end starters in fantasy leagues.



Andrelton Simmons: The Surprise Shortstop

Everyone knew the Braves were going to go young at shortstop this season. Alex Gonzalez was allowed to walk as a free agent and although Jack Wilson was retained as veteran insurance, Atlanta was going to turn the most important position on the diamond over to a kid. Up until a few weeks ago, it was all but guaranteed that the job would go to 22-year-old Tyler Pastornicky. Instead, he's struggled badly in Spring Training - .220/.230/.237 in 59 at-bats - and is "obviously pressing" according to at least one observer. March stats don't mean much, but when you're a young kid trying to win a job, it helps to make a good impression.

While Pastornicky has been busy squeezing sap out of the bat, 22-year-old Andrelton Simmons has wowed the Braves coaching staff with his stellar glovework. He's barely outhitting Pastornicky ironically enough, putting together a .186/.271/.233 batting line in 43 exhibition at-bats. It hasn't mattered though, as there remains a strong sentiment around the team that Simmons should break camp as the starting shortstop despite never playing above High Class-A ball. He was a second round pick in 2010 and hit .311/.351/.408 during his pro debut with their Carolina League affiliate last season.

Baseball America ranked Simmons as the team's fourth best prospect earlier this offseason, saying he's an "aggressive hitter" who "knows the strike zone but doesn't walk much" in the subscriber-only scouting report. "He has bat speed and can turn on fastballs, but he won't have more than gap power," they added. "An average runner, he needs to improve his reads and jumps after getting thrown out 18 times in 44 basestealing attempts." Much like Freddy Galvis of the Phillies, Simmons doesn't have a typical fantasy profile but he can be a useful piece under the right circumstances.

Simmons has two things really going for him. One, he can steal bases. He swiped 26 bags last year and 18 (in 62 games) the year before. His reads need work as the Baseball America write-up said, meaning his stolen base total won't be much help if you're in a league that counts net steals (SB minus CS). Secondly, Simmons makes a ton of contact. He struck out in just 7.5% of his plate appearances in High-A last year, a ridiculously low percentage that's well below the league average even when considering his age relative to competition. The ability to make contact (or, inversely, not make contact) translates well across minor league levels and into the big leagues, and good things tend to happen when the ball is in play. Some BABIP love could have his batting average up around .280-.290, which is valuable when combined with 20+ steals.

The ZiPS projection system is quite a fan of Simmons. They estimate his current talent level at .274/.309/.348 with 21 steals given regular playing time, putting him on par with fellow middle infielders like Alcides Escobar (.270 AVG and 25 SB), Cliff Pennington (.252 and 23), and Jemile Weeks (.262 and 21). Again, not fantasy stars but rather useful pieces to fill out a roster or help you cope during an injury. Simmons doesn't even have the job yet and frankly is an inferior fantasy option to Pastornicky, who has produced at the higher levels and has a much longer track record, but he offers some sleeper potential for late-round batting average and stolen bases, particularly in deep mixed leagues or NL-only setups.



Mike Minor To Get The Call

Word last night from Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was that the Braves might call up lefty Mike Minor in the wake of Kris Medlen's strained elbow ligament.  Minor is not yet available in Yahoo leagues, but should you prepare to pounce?

Minor, 22, was drafted seventh overall by the Braves last year.  Baseball America ranked him fourth among Braves prospects before the season, writing that his pitching savvy should make him at least a mid-rotation starter in the bigs.  However, they cautioned that his repertoire most resembled that of Jeremy Sowers.  But things have changed since BA wrote that description.  Check out what Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein wrote a week ago:

Minor's stuff this year has far exceeded all expectations: he's gone from a highly polished pitcher with average stuff to one with the velocity to blow it by hitters when necessary.

Just before that Goldstein wrote that Minor "continues to flash an extra 2-4 ticks on his fastball from his college days, while retaining his command and secondary offerings."  Clearly, Minor is no longer seen as just a "safe" pick. 

Statistically, Minor posted an 11.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in an 87-inning Double A stint and a 9.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in a 31.6-inning Triple A stint.  I worry that he'll walk too many guys as a rookie, as his big league rate might exceed his Double A one.  However, sometimes a rookie lefty can just be tough to hit at first; anecdotally I'm thinking of Jaime Garcia.  In fact Garcia's rates - 7.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 with less than a hit per inning - seem like something Minor might approximate.  That means a WHIP that's just OK, but overall numbers worthy of deep mixed leagues.

Of course, trying to predict what Minor might do over less than ten big league starts might be futile.  In the short term, Minor could step in to take Medlen's place Monday at Houston.  I know the Astros had a couple offensive outbursts this week, but it's still not an imposing lineup.  At the least Minor is a reasonable spot-start in most leagues.  He's certainly worth targeting in keeper leagues, as he's more polished than most rookies.  If you're wondering if you should drop a certain starter for Minor, leave a comment and we'll try to figure it out.



Tommy Hanson To Debut Saturday

Of the three big-name recent callups - Tommy Hanson, Andrew McCutchen, and Gordon Beckham - Hanson is the one to go after in fantasy baseball this year.

Hanson, a 22 year-old righty, debuts Saturday against the Brewers.  There's a good chance he's already owned in your league, but we'll praise him anyway.  In 11 Triple A starts, Hanson whiffed 90 in 66.3 innings.  His control was superb, too.

From Hanson I expect an ERA under 4.00, a WHIP under 1.30, and plenty of Ks.  Sure, there will be bumps along the road.  Maybe he'll toss a few stinkers and get dropped in your league.  But from here on out I expect a solid fantasy  contribution from Hanson.  A good comp might be Tim Lincecum's rookie year - 4.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 150 Ks in 146.3 innings.



Kenshin Kawakami Examined

One pitcher I haven't paid much attention to this year is Kenshin Kawakami of the Braves.  Ditto for Koji Uehara, but I'm less intrigued with him pitching in the AL East.

Mock drafters are taking Kawakami in the 19th round.  By comparison, Hiroki Kuroda went in the 25th round last year.  So there is increased awareness for mid-level Japanese import starters.

To project Kawakami, we head over to BaseballProjection.com, home of CHONE.  They project Kawakami for a 3.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8 wins, and 113 Ks in 123 innings.  Looks like the makings of a sleeper, especially since the Braves probably are looking to get 180+ innings out of him.  It will be interesting to see a few other projection systems weigh in on Kawakami, who posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 117.3 innings in Japan last year.

Scouting-wise there is reason for skepticism.  Here's what Keith Law had to say:

Kawakami posted solid strikeout rates in Japan, but without a clear out pitch he doesn't project to miss as many bats in MLB. His fastball is fringe-average, and he'll likely have to change his approach and pitch more with his offspeed stuff. Like all pitchers coming from Japan, he'll also have to adjust to the larger baseball used here.

So we shouldn't count on that projected 8.27 K/9.  Law believes Kawakami will be HR-prone as well.  CHONE has Kawakami's HR rate at 1.02 per nine.  Law believes he will be prone to the four-bagger, so it may be safer to put him down for 1.1 or 1.2.

19th round, though...go for it.  He's a nice guy to snag as the sixth starter on your fantasy team.


Full Story |  Comments (1) | Categories: Atlanta Braves

Charlie Morton A Sleeper?

24 year-old Braves righty Charlie Morton seemingly came out of nowhere to post a 2.05 ERA in 79 Triple A innings this year.  That included a solid 2.67 K/BB ratio.  Morton hadn't appeared in Baseball America's top 30 Braves prospects since '05.  Can't blame them - he'd never posted an ERA below 4.29.

Reading this article from BA, Morton seems like a guy whose numbers never caught up with his plus stuff.  So far he's made two big league starts, giving up three runs in each.  Because of injuries to Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton, Morton has the Braves' fifth starter job for now.  Glavine could return around the All-Star break, while Hampton is Hampton.  He did make a rehab start recently though.

My point, I guess, is that Morton has flown under the radar for quite some time and has the repertoire to become a quality big leaguer in a hurry.  He's more of an NL-only guy for now but keep an eye on him.


Full Story |  Comments (2) | Categories: Atlanta Braves

Smoltz Setback

You know what the recent John Smoltz setback says to me in fantasy baseball language?  Go pick up Mike Gonzalez.  The plan is still to bring the lefty back from Tommy John surgery later this month.  If he's any kind of decent, I think he moves ahead of Manny Acosta for saves in Atlanta.

Acosta's K/BB is ugly and he's been used in plenty of non-save situations since being named the closer by default.  Gonzalez has the closer pedigree from Pittsburgh.

Maybe Gonzalez never gets a save opp.  Rafael Soriano's outlook seems positive, and he could be back next week.  But you never know; Gonzalez is worth a pre-emptive pickup if you have the bench space and are struggling to get saves. 





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