Colorado Rockies

Closer Updates: Orioles, Rays, Dodgers, Nationals, Rockies, Red Sox, Angels

As you can see from the title, there's been a little bit of closer news this week, so we'll get right down to business. Speaking of which, check out @CloserNews for up-to-the-minute info. Also, take a look at our Closer Depth Chart for a league-wide overview of the ninth inning. But anyway, on to business.


Jim Johnson didn't have his best week ever. Three consecutive blown saves are enough to cost many closers their job, but Johnson earned his leash last year and manager Buck Showalter trusted him enough to hand him the ball in extra innings. Johnson earned the win, and there seems to be good reason to think this rough patch was just that and not a sign of impending doom.

For one thing, while his HR/9 rate and his HR/FB rate are much higher now than last year, a reliever's sample size is so small that that includes a whopping three homers allowed, two of which came during his three blown saves in a row. Moreover, while his BB/9 rate has also increased, it was already so low that it had wiggle room. Since his K/9 has increased since last year as well, he still maintains a 3.00 K/BB and is adding value with nearly two extra strikeouts per nine. All in all, he doesn't look like someone about to go Axford on us.


Speaking of impending doom and John Axford, Fernando Rodney appears to be turning into the proverbial pumpkin. His magical season last year has rightly earned him a lot of room for error, but at some point even that will have to be considered used up. Rodney has had bad results recently: he's blown three of his last four saves and looked bad doing it. Rodney has a bad process: his 8.35 BB/9 is rough to look at, let alone experience in the ninth inning. Not only is it worse than the sparkly but unbelievable 1.81 mark he put up last year, it's worse than any of the once-and-again wildman's previous ML rates, including the one that got him demoted by the Angels in 2011. Unless he gets his control under control, Rodney is probably on the way out of the ninth inning, at least temporarily.

Setup man Joel Peralta has gotten the most mention as a possible replacement, while neither Jake McGee nor Kyle Farnsworth have been obviously better than Rodney. Don't expect the Rays to go out of the organization, but don't be shocked if they do opt for a committee.


 The great and tragic drama of Brandon League and Kenley Jansen continues to play itself out, as manager Don Mattingly won't commit to "annointing" a closer. I guess that's technically a demotion for League, as he had already been annointed as closer (which apparently makes you some type of king by fiat). It's mitigated good news for Jansen owners and plenty of reason to pick him up if he's still unowned. Perhaps more reason to grab Jansen is that Mattingly may well play things as close to "the book" as he can while he flails around trying to keep his job. If he is fired, expect the new manager to make the obvious choice and officially install Jansen in the ninth, if only to earn some cheap points with the masses. As this situation begins to resolve itself, you're probably safe to drop League in most (a-hem) leagues. 


Rafael Soriano came into the year as a top closer, and his 2.14 ERA suggests he still is. Though he blew two saves in a row this week (and tossed teammate Bryce Harper under the bus after one of them), he's firmly entrenched as the Nats' closer. There's trouble under the hood, however, as Soriano's FIP is 3.41 and his xFIP an even worse 4.23--Soriano isn't really pitching all that well. Perhaps more pointedly, his K/9 is sitting at just 6.43--the worst since his rookie season in 2002. As a starter. Now, he's got plenty of time to ratchet up the K's, but it might be a good idea to sell him while his ERA still shines as well as it does. Though he's not in imminent danger of losing his job, these things can shift quickly and the Nationals have other quality options in their bullpen.


First, the rumor was that Rafael Betancourt was going on the DL, now it's that he won't. The facts are that Betancourt is having a very nice season (albeit with too many walks) and won't be supplanted by a quick injury, DL trip or no. The other facts are that Rex Brothers is having an even better season (also with more walks than are preferable) and saved the game for Betancourt on Wednesday. While the 38-year-old Betancourt will probably be just fine, this isn't a bad time to add Brothers, just in case. It isn't every team that can replace their closer with someone pitching at least as well, but the Rockies are one of them. In the event something bad happens, Brothers would be a quality setup man. If all stays well, he's still a usable non-closer in many leagues.

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey is back from the DL and back into the closer's role. Sort of. The Red Sox won't use him on back-to-back nights for an while as they let their fragile pitcher reacclimate. That means that Junichi Tazawa (who wasn't exactly a useful pickup during Bailey's absence) may still have the chance to grab some saves--more, certainly, than most setup guys. Keep him rostered until the Sox show us that Bailey is ready for a full workload. Considering his 25:3 K:BB ratio and Bailey's tendency to get hurt, Tazawa remains one of the better setup men to keep on your team.


Bad news for Ryan Madson is good news for Ernesto Frieri. Frieri will need it, as he's issued a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9) in April and May. He strikes a lot of people out too, which is good, but his ERA (2.25) doesn't match his FIP (4.58) or his xFIP (4.71). As long as Madson keeps having setbacks, however, expect Frieri to keep getting the call in the ninth inning. At least until those walks start costing him saves....


Obviously, Kenley Jansen should be owned in all leagues at this point. If you own Fernando Rodney, I'd strongly suggest picking Joel Peralta up as backup (though the Rays do unconventional things whenever given an excuse). In fact, he's the top guy out there as far as speculative closers. If Junichi Tazawa's owner dropped him when Andrew Bailey came back from the DL, pick Tazawa up as he's in a great save-vulturing position. The same is true for Rex Brothers, but less so. Everyone else seems to be staying the course for now, so there isn't any real need to gobble up Orioles, Nationals, or Angels setup guys.


Shutdown Corner: NL West Closer Roundup

Welcome back to the (sixth and final) divisional closer roundup here at Shutdown Corner. It's taken us a long time to get here (and out AL West and NL East roundups need a little updating by now), but we're here! We're finally ready to roll out the division that's home to the defending World Series Champions -- the NL West. And, to acces any of the previous round ups, follow the following links: AL East, AL CentralAL WestNL East, and NL Central.

If you haven't been following along at home, here's our closer 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.

Arizona Diamondbacks: J.J. Putz

Aside from a lost year in New York, J.J. Putz has quietly been one of the more consistent late-inning options in baseball over the past seven seasons. Last year, Putz sparkled in the Arizona sun, posting fine alphabet-soup rate stats (2.82 ERA, 2.38 FIP, 29.8 K%, 1.03 WHIP) while logging 32 saves. He rolls into 2013 with a firm grip on the closer spot in Arizona, despite strong relievers behind him in David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, and Heath Bell.

Putz's Achilles heel is his durability, as he's usually only able to throw between 50-58 innings per season. Given his injury history, a short DL stint is likely during a season, and an extended one certainly isn't out of the question -- meaning you should have a backup plan ready to go for when he goes down.

I recently had a discussion on Twitter with someone who firmly believes that David Hernandez is going to be the closer when J.J. inevitably hits the DL or needs a n extended break. I'm not entirely sure that's going to be the case. New addition Heath Bell is one of those guys who has the "proven closer" label, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets first shot to close when Putz goes down. For this reason, it's a little tough to predict who should be your handcuff if you want to grab a backup for Putz ... but remember that Hernandez projects to have much better rate stats than Bell.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (great numbers, doesn't pitch much more than 50 innings per season, serious injury risk, good competition)

Next in line: Heath Bell or David Hernandez

Colorado Rockies: Rafael Betancourt

If you really want to talk about consistency, though, the first second name on your lips (after Mariano Rivera) should be the Rockies' Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt is a rare pitcher who has thrived pitching for the Rockies, using a simply two pronged philosophy: (1) strike everyone out and (2) don't walk anyone.

Revolutionary, I know!

At any rate, 2012 was a bit of a down season for the purple-clad closer, as both his K% (24.2%) and BB% (5.1%) slipped a bit from his stellar stats in the previous few seasons. With Rafael entering his age-38 season, I think that we should temper our expectations for him in 2013. He's certainly still a good closer to draft, but signs point to him entering a decline phase.

Projected Tier: Tier 3 (good stats, starting to decline, age is an issue, younger competition in the bullpen)

Next in line: Matt Belisle or Rex Brothers

Los Angeles Dodgers: Brandon League

I'm not gonna lie, this is a weird one. The Dodgers already have a weapon of mass destruction in their bullpen: the heater-tastic Kenley Jansen. But because the team is flush with cash, they made a huge investment in League which seems to indicate that he'll be given the ninth-inning duties. League doesn't have the strikeout rate of a top-tier closer (17.9% in 2012), but he improved upon arriving in L.A. and has a legitimate out pitch. Nevertheless, strikeouts are the most important thing in my eyes, and anyone with that much trouble getting Ks isn't a safe bet. No matter how much the Dodgers are willing to spend.

Don't be fooled, though -- Kenley Jansen is coming for this spot. Jansen strikes out guys with authority (39.3% strikeout rate in 2012) and would be a lockdown option in the ninth if it weren't for continued medical worries about his heart. If you're going to pick one setup man to handcuff at the start of the season, make it Jansen, as his strikeouts will play in almost any league, and he could be closing again by June.

Projected Tier: Tier 4 (too few strikeouts, too many walks and meltdowns, good competition in the bullpen)

Next in line: Kenley Jansen

San Diego Padres: Huston Street

If you could be sure that Huston Street would pitch a full season, I'd have you draft him in the top 5-10 of all closers in baseball. Both recently, and over the life of his career, he's proved an ability to strike guys out, limit walks, and he pitches in the hurlers' haven that is PetCo park.

Of course, you can't ever be sure that Street will be healthy for a full season. Last year, Street only logged 40 appearances, but still recorded 23 saves for an unremarkable Padres squad. His injury risk hasn't kept him out of action for a full season yet during his career, but all the "minor" injuries he's sustained over the past three years are painting the picture that if health is a skill, it's one Street doesn't quite have.

Luke Gregerson will probably get first chance to close when/if Street succumbs to injury, but don't sleep on Brad Brach, who strikes everybody out and has only the slightest idea of where the strike zone begins and ends. If Brach can get the ball over the plate with a bit of regularity, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Padres bail on both Street and Gregerson, and hand the ninth over to the youngster.

Projected Tier: Tier 3 (good numbers, good situation, moderate injury risk)

Next in line: Luke Gregerson or Brad Brach

San Francisco Giants: Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo's 2011 was about as good as a late-inning reliever could hope for. While no one would expect that 1.50 ERA and 40% K-rate to hold up, Romo's 2012 was pretty awesome as well. The ERA jumped all the way up to 1.79, and the strikeouts still came in bunches, though not as often as in 2011. With Brian Wilson long gone, Romo has inherited the coveted ninth inning role for the defending champs, and looks to hold it down with authority.

Everything would be great ... if it weren't for the fact that the Giants still treat Romo with kid gloves. Romo relies on a wipeout slider, and considering how much it taxes his elbow, the Giants tend to use Romo sparingly throughout the season. In 2012, Romo made 69 appearances, sure, but only logged a little more than 55 innings. There's a pretty fair chance that, while Romo will be the guy for the Giants, he may not be available on back-to-back days in some instances, and that other relievers will vulture some save chances. Nevertheless, the good signs are too many to ignore, and he should be considered a Tier 2 closer for the 2013 season.

The Beard is dead. Long live The Beard.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (fantastic stuff, injury / workload remains a risk, good competition)

Next in line: Santiago Casilla

As always, check out @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute closer updates, and find me at@bgrosnick for everything baseball. Next week we'll write about something other than closers by division ... so get excited!

All data from FanGraphs.

Position/Role Battles: The Rockies' Third Baseman

The Rockies signed Casey Blake as a veteran insurance plan at third base, but Blake's release earlier this week indicates that Colorado will go ahead with (at least) one of their young players at the hot corner.  It just won't be the young player that fans have their eye on, however; top prospect Nolan Arenado will begin the season in the minors. Arenado had a difficult Spring Training and doesn't turn 21 until mid-April, so the Rockies are content to give him more minor league seasoning while they make do at third until he's ready.  That time could be sooner rather than later if Colorado is in a pennant race and Arenado is hitting well at mid-season.

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves.  Arenado getting called up in August won't help your fantasy team right now, so let's explore the Rockies' options at third base.

The Favorites

* Chris Nelson.  Taken ninth overall in 2004, Nelson didn't reach the big leagues until his seventh pro season, and he has a mediocre .254/.284/.376 line in 216 career plate appearances. He was originally drafted as a shortstop but, since Troy Tulowitzki is blocking the way in the majors, Nelson has played second and third base over the last two seasons. 

Despite this underwhelming resume, Nelson could prove to be more than just a seat-warmer for Arenado.  Nelson is just 26 and, though it's easy for stats to be inflated in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, he has an .889 OPS over the last two seasons at Triple-A Colorado Springs. If Nelson can hit, however, the job should be his more or less for the rest of the season. 

* Jordan Pacheco. The 26-year-old began his minor league career playing all around the infield but has spent the last four years primarily as a catcher. Pacheco played five games at third base last year in Triple-A and has been further learning the position this spring. While his defense is still a work in progress, Pacheco's bat has been on fire this spring, posting a 1.060 OPS in (small sample size alert!) 50 plate appearances.

Pacheco's versatility will probably give him a roster spot but his only chance at consistent playing time is at third.  It's hard to see him getting that time, though, since Nelson is the better defender and has a better minor league track record at the plate. It seems like Pacheco will only get a crack at a starting gig if someone else falters, be it Nelson or...

* Brandon Wood.  It wasn't long ago that Wood was considered to be one of baseball's up-and-coming young stars.  Ranked as the third-best prospect in the game by Baseball America before the 2006 season (and ranked eighth and 16th, respectively, over the next two years, as well), Wood was supposed to be a fixture at third or short for the Angels by this time in his career, but he simply hasn't hit at the Major League level. In 751 plate appearances, Wood has the batting stats of a pitcher --- a .186/.225/.289 slash line and a strikeout-to-walk rate of nearly 7:1.  The Angels gave up on Wood last season, and after being claimed off waivers by the Pirates, they outrighted him off their 40-man roster in October.

Is it too late for Wood?  Colorado doesn't quite think so.  The team gave him a bit of extra attention than usual for a minor league signing, setting Wood up to work with hitting coach Carney Lansford and overhauling his swing.  The results haven't manifested themselves during Spring Training, but there is hope that Wood can still break out at age 27.  You can't blame the Rockies for taking a chance on a player with Wood's pedigree, just in case he's an Alex Gordon-type late bloomer.

The Fallbacks

* Jonathan Herrera: The Rockies have Herrera slated for a utility role this season after he was part of their revolving door at second base over the last couple of seasons.  Herrera showed a solid glove playing second and has 25 appearances at third over his short career, but "late-inning defensive replacement" may be his ceiling given his lack of a bat.

* Michael Cuddyer: This would obviously be the last-ditch plan should none of Colorado's other third base options pan out.  Cuddyer hasn't played third since 2010 and was a below-average fielder (a -9.0 career UZR/150 rating) when he did man the hot corner in Minnesota. If Cuddyer has to be moved to third, that would also create a hole in right field for the Rockies. It would take some seriously dire straits for Cuddyer to play third in 2012, and if faced with the situation, the Rockies would probably just call up Arenado rather than shift Cuddyer and potentially weaken themselves at two positions.  On the off-chance that Cuddyer does play a bit of third, then it bumps his fantasy value up a tick since he'd qualify at another position.

Fantasy Outlook: It's really anyone's guess as to how Colorado's third base situation will play out.  Nelson, Pacheco and Wood are all right-handed hitters so there's no obvious platoon to be found (Herrera is a switch-hitter but he hasn't hit well from either side). Manager Jim Tracy may have to go with his gut when filling out the eighth spot in his lineup every day; I guess the one bonus to drafting a Rockies third baseman is that they'll get a few extra walks batting in front of the pitcher.

Of these options, I'd say Nelson is the only one that could provide some fantasy value.  First of all, he's out of options, so he has a better chance of simply making the roster than Pacheco or Wood.  Secondly, Nelson is considered to be a solid defensive player, so even if he can't hit, his glove might keep him in the lineup since Colorado might well not have any other options with any more pop.  I certainly don't expect Nelson to match his Triple-A numbers but I think the Rockies would be satisfied with a solid glove and an OPS in the .730-740 range.

Nelson and Wood are somewhat in the same boat as ex-first rounders still looking to break out as they reach their primes.  While neither player has had an extended chance at the Major League level, Wood's futility in 751 PAs paints a more dire picture than Nelson's futility in 216 PAs.  With Nelson, I think there could still be room to grow --- for Wood, it's hard to escape that "Quadruple-A" label.

The fact that I've used the word "dire" twice in this post is a sign that you should probably avoid drafting a Rockie to fill your third base spot. If you're desperate, however, it's very likely that the winner of the job will be available on your waiver wire for a rock-bottom price. If Nelson is announced as the starter before Opening Day, there's some potential there for you to throw caution to the wind and pick him up for your bench.

Transaction Analysis: Guthrie, Hammel, Lindstrom

Jeremy Guthrie escaped the AL East this week and rumors swirl that A.J. Burnett may join him in the National League. It isn't often that a trade to the Colorado inflates a pitcher's fantasy value, but that's exactly the situation that Guthrie is in. Since he wasn't traded for prospects, both pitchers received by the Orioles are in position to find their way onto fantasy rosters. We'll take a look at all three, one by one.

Jeremy Guthrie

Guthrie may be going mile-high, but Coors Field isn't quite the terror it was in the 1990s. Homers are likely to be a problem, given Guthrie's 41% career flyball rate, but Camden Yards wasn't a great place for him either, and the difference may not be that drastic. Though he'll be going to the world's most feared hitter's park (and owner of second place on ESPN's park factor list) he'll be staying away from Boston, Toronto, and New York (the third, fourth, and sixth-most hitter friendly parks in baseball) on the road, replacing them with trips to San Franciso, San Diego, and Los Angeles, so the park change isn't as bad as it sounds.

Of course, that isn't counting the hitters themselves. Pitching for Baltimore is more than pitching for a bad team, it's facing four of baseball's toughest offenses night after night. The general quality difference between the AL and the NL should help, too. Overall, the change in environment should be a wash at the worst for Guthrie's rate stats and strikouts, and could well give them a boost.

The biggest thing this trade has going for Guthrie and his potential owners, though, is in the wins category. The Rockies weren't exactly a great team last year, but they were a lot better than the Orioles and finished second in the NL in runs scored (some of that might have been the park...). As a team that underperformed its pythagorean record and plays in a competitive division, the Rockies make sense as a bounceback team; it's easy to imagine improvement showing up in Guthrie's wins statistic.

Finally, pitching for the Rockies means you can maximize Guthrie's return by playing him when he pitches on the road and sitting him on the bench for home games. It's especially easy in daily leagues, though the strategy can be managed in weekly leagues, too. With an ADP of 350.53 (and a draft percentage of under two!), Guthrie is being drafted behind the likes of Bruce Chen and the shell of John Lackey. He won't make or break any fantasy leagues, but he deserves a lot more consideration than he's getting.

Jason Hammel

Hammel once showed enough promise to make him an off-again, on-again member of my primary fantasy rotation last year. I'm hoping not to make that mistake again, though the trade to Baltimore might give him what he needed: weaker competition for a rotation spot. With an abysmal 4.97 K/9, the 2011 Hammel didn't belong on anyone's fantasy roster. Two years ago was a different story, though, as he posted a strikeout rate over seven and a FIP of 3.70. The Orioles will have no choice but to give Hammel a long look, giving you plenty of time to see if the strikeouts come back. If they do, he could be a useful starter again. If not, stay away. Far away.

Matt Lindstrom

The nature of Lindstrom's fantasy value is simple and binary: he either closes for the Orioles or he doesn't. As of now, Jim Johnson is the favorite for the ninth-inning job, but it's one of the least secure in baseball. Spring Training will likely be an open audition, in fact, even if it isn't one in name. Importantly, Johnson is new to the job, and Matt Lindstrom is a Proven Closer (with partial seasons for two different teams) who Throws Hard (he averages about 96 mph on his fastball). Sure, you'd think the Orioles had learned their lesson with Kevin Gregg, but some teams never learn.

Finally, for those of you watching closers and setup men, note that this probably makes Rex Brothers next in line for Colorado's closer job should Rafael Betancourt fail or get hurt.

Position Battles: Rockies Second Base

The Rockies were reportedly in talks with the Rangers to acquire Michael Young on two different occasions this offseason but the teams couldn't agree on a deal. Had the Rockies acquired him, the 34 year-old would've been the starting second baseman. The talks appear to have cooled off, although they can always be rekindled over the next few weeks. For now, the Rockies must decide between five players for the everyday job. I'll be keeping a close eye on this competition, along with over 50 other position battles that I've identified, over at

Jose Lopez vs Eric Young, Jr. vs Chris Nelson vs Jonathan Herrera vs Ty Wigginton

Tale of the Tape

Lopez: 27 years old, $3.6MM salary 2010 stats: .239 BA, 10 HR, 58 RBI, 29 2B, 23 BB, 66 K, 3 SB in 593 ABs 2011 Outlook: Favorite to win starting job

Acquired from Seattle in early December, Lopez will be looking to get his career back on track after a terrible 2010 season in which he set career lows in OBP (.270) and SLG (.339). During the 2008-09 seasons, he averaged 21 HRs, 93 RBIs, and 42 doubles as the Mariners' starting second baseman before he was moved to third base prior to last season. A move back to second base and a move into Coors Field sounds like a pretty good prescription for whatever the problem was. 

Young: 25 years old, est. $425K salary 2010 stats: .244 BA, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 5 2B, 3B, 17 BB, 32 K, 17 SB in 172 ABs 2011 Outlook: Underdog to win starting job, more likely to serve as utility man (2B/OF) on big league bench or play regularly in Triple-A

The switch-hitter has the ability to wreak havoc on the base paths, stealing as many as 87 bases in a season while in the minors. In limited big league action, however, he hasn't shown an ability to reach base often enough to take advantage of his speed. He's also not a great defender and has spent some time in the outfield during the past few seasons. If he can provide average defense at second base and reach base at a clip a bit closer to his career minor league .382 OBP rather than his .308 big league OBP, he could be a great weapon to have at the top of the Rockies' lineup. 

Nelson: 25 years old, est. $414K salary 2010 stats: .313 BA, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 15 2B, 3 3B, 29 BB, 53 K, 7 SB in 319 ABs (AAA) 2011 Outlook: Underdog to win starting job, more likely to play regularly in Triple-A

The former first round pick is a bit of a dark-horse candidate but he might be the most well-rounded player on this list. Primarily a shortstop throughout his career, he played 27 games at second base and 11 games at third base in what turned out to be a breakthrough 2010 season that put him back on the Rockies' radar after two injury-plagued seasons. Prior to the '08 season, Baseball America ranked him as the #7 prospect in the organization and compared him to Gary Sheffield because of his excellent bat speed and rated his speed and arm as plus tools. If he can still flash those abilities and show that he's capable of playing a solid second base, he could make this a very interesting competition. 

Herrera: 26 years old, est. $425K salary 2010 stats: .284 BA, HR, 21 RBI, 6 2B, 2 3B, 25 BB, 36 K, 2 SB in 222 ABs 2011 Outlook: Long shot to win starting job, more likely to win bench spot as backup at 2B, SS, and 3B

Despite starting 47 games at second base last season and posting a .352 OBP, Herrera simply does not have the power or speed that is going to make him stand out in this group. He is a very good defender, though, and his ability to play shortstop makes him the leading candidate to backup Troy Tulowitzki and serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Lopez or Young, if they were to win the starting second base job.

Wigginton: 33 years old, $4MM salary 2010 stats: .248 BA, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 29 2B, 50 BB, 116 K 2011 Outlook: Long shot to win starting job, more likely to serve as backup at 1B, 2B, and 3B

There's no mistaking Wigginton can provide 20+ home runs. He's done it in four of the last five seasons. He's just not going to do it as an everyday second baseman. His primary role will be to back up Todd Helton at first base and Ian Stewart at third base. Whether he gets more than an occasional start at second base will have more to do with how the others are playing. Sticking him out there on a regular basis is an unlikely scenario unless the others aren't producing or injuries factor into the equation. Look for him to bounce around the infield and get 350-450 ABs. 

Final Word

Lopez is capable of playing 1B, 2B, and 3B, but he wasn't acquired with that role in mind for him. That's the role Wigginton is likely to fill. The Rockies are counting on Lopez bouncing back and solidifying the position while the others (Young, Nelson, Herrera) battle for the last spot on the bench. But Lopez rebounding is no sure thing, especially considering how bad he was last season. They wouldn't be interested in Michael Young if that was the case. Still, I expect Lopez to do enough to win the job although Nelson and Young are talented prospects that are capable of making some noise in Spring Training. Don't count either one of them out. 

Where Will CarGo Be Drafted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corpas Vs. Buchholz

According to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, Rockies closer Brian Fuentes is likely to be traded this month.  Fantasy owners are desperate to determine whether Taylor Buchholz or Manny Corpas would get first crack at the closer job.

Renck explains:

O'Dowd made it clear Corpas would be given another shot to close before Buchholz. Buchholz has developed into a solid setup man, but the Rockies don't want to push him too quickly — he began the year as a secondary seventh-inning guy — and risk stunting his growth.

So, that's what the Rockies are thinking.  If you have to choose between Corpas and Buchholz for saves, take Corpas despite his inferior numbers.  Corpas at least strung together nine scoreless appearances until last night.  You have to wonder how long his leash will be though.

A Look At Chris Iannetta

Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta was considered a nice sleeper heading into the 2007 season.  While he did draw quite a few walks, his '07 performance was a fantasy disappointment.  The Rockies were also disillusioned, as they signed Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year deal.

It often happens that a sleeper breaks out one year later than we'd expected.  Iannetta is off to a blazing start, though it's only been 58 ABs.  Iannetta has become the starter, though, so I'll assume he plays in another 95 games and ends up with 375 ABs.

Using only his '08 performance, we'd look for a .328-19-91-52-0 line from Iannetta in those 375 ABs.  That'd be worth $21 and make him a top five catcher.  Obviously Iannetta is a bit over his head.

Coming into this season I had him at .268-11-50-52-1 if he were to get 375 ABs.  That'd be worth $5.30, more than Jason Varitek or Mike Napoli.  If Iannetta simply plays to my projection from here on out, he'll finish at .277-13-56-52-1, a performance worth roughly $8.  This puts him in the range of Bengie Molina, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski, and Ivan Rodriguez.  It seems that Iannetta is a top ten catcher, but we have only 66 plate appearances with which to judge his possible breakout. 

I'd rather have Iannetta than Paul Bako, but I prefer other breakout types like Ryan Doumit or Chris Snyder.  And keep an eye on Dioner Navarro.

Corpas In Trouble

Another blown save for Manny Corpas last night.  I didn't see this coming, but he's already in danger of losing his job.  Brian Fuentes is the obvious replacement (he's been solid this year).

By all means check your waiver wire for Fuentes.  He was already owned in all of my leagues as of yesterday afternoon, though.

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