Rock N' Roto

Second Half Sleepers - Cincinnati Reds

The Roto Authority would like to start off with a note about the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation.  Aaron Sele's much-needed demotion in addition to Ryan Franklin's steroid suspension today means a spot is wide open for 19 year-old Felix Hernandez.  We've spoken about him many times before, so go pick him up if he's out there.  We're not alone in our enthusiasm - blogger Zachary Geballe considers the promotion of King Felix to be "the most anticipated debut in team history."  Thursday should be an interesting day at Comerica to say the least.

On to our Cincinnati Reds Second Half Sleepers.  What to make of the team's crowded outfield?  Dan O'Brien refuses to alleviate the logjam with a trade.  Sean Casey is a nice guy and all that, but he needs to go.  The Reds made the mistake of extending Casey's contract through '06, so barring a winter trade Adam Dunn won't be shifting to first anytime soon.

Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. will continue to play every day.  Perhaps the Reds expected the problem to fix itself with a Griffey injury, and we wouldn't bet against that.  Only keep Griffey on your team as a fifth outfielder, and don't pay anything to get him.  He's just too brittle.  Dunn is a franchise player and a star, but his batting average won't impress you in fantasy baseball.  It's not a problem in real life as Dunn gets on base frequently.  In fantasy, you have to decide if the 45 homers are worth the .250 average.

How does a fantasy baseball owner deal with Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena?  He acquires Pena and doesn't let go. Kearns had a resurgent July, but it was only 33 at-bats.  He's injury prone and the .315 average he flashed in 2002 was an aberration. 

Wily Mo Pena sits at .263-13-35, and now is the perfect time to acquire him if you're playing for 2006.  Pena looks like a young Albert Belle at age 23, and he just needs a touch of seasoning and some playing time to realize his potential.  He has keeper written all over him - don't miss the boat.

On the pitching side, only Aaron Harang is worth considering.  Besides the lack of wins, there's nothing not to like about Harang's 2005.  And the wins are certainly no fault of Harang's.  The only cause for concern is an impending injury.  Harang has some elbow issues last year, and this will be his first 175 inning season.  He's a solid guy for the back of your rotation but don't rely on him.

Rock N' Roto:  Looking for the perfect summer album you've never heard?  Pick up Caviar's self-titled album from 2000.  This Chicago group will make you chuckle with clever lyrics and rock you with eleven tracks that all could've been smash radio hits.  Cutting guitars, samples, and electronica make for a very original and fun rock album.  Check some choice lyrics from "Goldmine" over at Under The Radar if you don't believe me.

Rock N' Roto

You may have noticed a new feature here at The Roto Authority.  You see, in addition to baseball, we love to listen to great rock n' roll.  So, we're going to start phasing in some recommended listening we like to call Rock N' Roto.  Check a few of these bands out, download a few tracks, and discover some new tunes today.

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Fantasy Baseball Advice: Duke Nukes 'Em

Three weeks later, it's time to revisit Pittsburgh prospect Zach Duke.  On the heels of yet another dominant victory, we'll look at just how sustainable the 22 year-old's success will be.

When we last spoke of Zach Duke, we implored you to pick him up immediately.   The Roto Authority was singing his praises after two excellent starts to begin his major league career.  We did caution that his ERA would certainly not remain near  1.93.  In a way, we were right:  Duke's ERA now stands at a miniscule 0.92 after 39.1 innings pitched.  Duke struck out just two in today's annihilation of the red-hot Braves, but his performance was still excellent. 

We expected the strikeouts to come back down to Earth, but we also expected the ERA to ascend to the 3.50 range.   Duke has been stingy with the hits and walks, and it's paid off so far.  Throwing out his rain delay game, Duke is averaging 107 pitches per game.  Despite Duke's age, Lloyd McClendon is not giving him the quick hook.  Expect Felix Hernandez's debut this Thursday in Seattle to be much the opposite - he will be limited to 80 pitches and is no lock to stay in the rotation. 

So what to do with Duke from a fantasy baseball perspective?  What can we expect from him in the future? 

Let's turn to Baseball Prospectus's forecasting system, PECOTA, for some estimates.  PECOTA foresaw a 3.28 ERA in 133 innings from Duke as a best case scenario, that is, his 90th percentile projection.   He can do that while maintaining pretty much the same strikeout and walk rates.   An ERA in the 3 range is a reasonable projection for 2005.

What about a long-term projection?  PECOTA sees Duke's top comparables as Mark Buehrle, Rick Wise, and Tommy John.   Duke should be happy to be mentioned in the same breath as these guys at the tender age of 22.  So you're looking at a durable pitcher with an ERA below 3.50 for at least the next five years.  Wins may be hard to come by on a team like the Pirates. 

Should you "sell high" on Zach Duke?  It depends.  Duke's 0.92 ERA and perfect record are obviously over his head.  Still, he's yet to have a bad start and many teams will still be facing him for the first time.  He could easily finish the year 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA.  Even if the success is fleeting, what pitcher could give you better numbers?  Not very many.

Don't deal Duke for a pitcher unless you receive a bona fide young ace, such as Rich Harden, Mark Prior, or Johan Santana.  Since these deals are unlikely, consider an up-and-coming can't miss position player.  David Wright and Miguel Cabrera come to mind.  Position players are more reliable and less susceptible to injury, so if you consider yourself a shrewd pitching evaluator, deal Duke for one of these types.  Names like Jeff Francoeur might seem tempting, but you need top-line proven talent to pull the trigger.

Rock N' Roto: Today we are recommending an obscure, rocking album from the band Ozma.  Ozma's 2001 album Rock and Roll Part Three features eleven power-pop tracks reminiscent of Weezer, back when Weezer rocked.  The album features the best baseball song ever recorded, the aptly titled, "Baseball."  Expect plenty of keyboards and vocal harmonies.  This blogger is right - "Baseball" may well be one of the best ten songs you've never heard. 

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