RotoAuthority Unscripted


RotoAuthority Unscripted: I Bet You Didn't Know Day

Last night I was up way too late writing this article and it occurred to me that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. In fact, I couldn’t really think of anything truly notable to say. And that’s when it hit me: it was time for another “I Bet You Didn’t Know Day,” wherein I peruse the various leaderboards, statistics, and assorted metrics and look for things that surprise me. Then I hope that they surprise you too. But even if the nuggets of baseball strangeness that I uncover don’t merit more than a raised eyebrow and a muttered, “I’m gonna check that out myself,” they should amount to something that actually matters for the health of your fantasy baseball team.

Except for this one: Billy Hamilton grounded into a double play. It doesn’t really matter—but it is pretty impressive. Well played, whichever team pulled that one. Well played.

Some More (Mostly) Relevant Thoughts on Speed

Hamilton also leads baseball with 15 caught stealing—six more than second-place Dee Gordon—but his 38 steals still leave him with a success percentage over 70%, so I guess he isn’t in line for a red light anytime soon. 

With 41 swipes, Jose Altuve is the only other player with more steals than Hamilton (bringing that number to two more players than anyone predicted). But Altuve’s only been caught three times. (That’s a 91% success rate, if you’re counting at home.)

Elvis Andrus has 20 steals already, which is pretty nice—but they come with nine times caught. With so many years of high CS totals, I guess you shouldn’t worry much about Andrus getting the red light. Unless Texas ever changes managers….

Charlie Blackmon is the surprise All-Star of the year so far, but if he’s not on your team, you might not have known he’s swiped 18 bags so far. Another surprise base stealer (not to mention, surprise All-Star) is Todd Frazier, who’s got 15.

As always, remember to lower the minimum plate appearances requirement whenever you sort by stolen bases: Eric Young, Rajai Davis, Jarrod Dyson, and James Jones are all in the top 20 in the category but won’t appear on any searchable list that demands the player be qualified for the batting title.

Brian Dozier has just a single steal in the last 28 days, and just four between June and July. That’s after posting six in each of the first two months. So maybe don’t trade for him expecting speed.

Some Thoughts on Pitching

WAR is far from a perfect proxy for fantasy value. It’s too predictive, and too good an indicator of real talent. But, just for fun, can you name the top ten starting pitchers in fWAR? If you can’t, prepare to raise a skeptical eyebrow, as the list is graced by Corey Kluber (3rd), Garrett Richards (7th), Jose Quintana (9th and making my incessant suggestions to pick him up sound pretty smart), and Phil Hughes (6th). Yes, that Phil Hughes. Go ahead and tab over to your league's waiver wire just to check and see if any of these guys are still unowned in your league. Believe me I’ll wait. 

If it wasn’t late already, I’d be checking too.

Alfredo Simon is tied for the league lead in wins with 12. If you watched the All-Star game, that probably doesn’t surprise you. If you watched the All-Star game, then maybe you will be surprised that the guy’s got a 5.05 K/9. Whether he comes back to earth or not (and he will), you don’t want that on most fantasy teams.

Speaking of K/9, you won’t be surprised to hear that the three leaders in the stat are Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg. (If you are, you’re in the wrong game, and probably the wrong website. No, wait…let’s not be exclusive. Stick around, check it out. You’ve got time for a new hobby, right? I promise it won't become life-consuming.) Anyway, you might be surprised to hear that the next name on the list belongs to Jake Odorizzi, who owns a 10.34 K/9. Admittedly, his BB/9 of 3.48 gives him some trouble, but he’s providing a surprising amount of value for a guy who feels like a fringy player. 

It seems to me that pitchers are showing more control than they used to: only four qualified starters are walking over four batters per inning. (Though most of the Cubs are close.) So be strict on you pitchers in the WHIP category. (You can add your own joke.)

Dellin Betances has 88 strikeouts. That’s 23 more than the next best reliever, Sean Doolittle. It’s good for 62nd among starters, which is pretty impressive considering that he’s pitched about half as many innings as the guy ahead of him (Wily Peralta). 

The scary thing is that, while Betances has a very nice 13.58 K/9, it is just blown out of the water by Aroldis Chapman. He’s whiffing 18.30 batters per nine innings. Which, yes, is just over two per inning. Uh…wow.

Do you know who the leader is in Holds? (No.) Do you care? (Probably not, but you should, because these guys turn into closers sometimes.) Anyway, it’s Brad Ziegler, with 26. He’s been a closer before, so he’s someone to remember for this season, and in the future. Tony Watson, Will Smith (not the actor—I think), and Tyler Clippard are the only others over 20.

The top two pitchers in blown saves are Luke Gregerson and Bryan Morris* (six and five, respectively). Both have ERA’s under 2.10. No wonder they abbreviate blown saves “BS.”

*Actually Morris is tied with a bunch of people. But they didn't exactly fit the comment.

Back to Hitting, Briefly

Michael Brantley’s fifth-place .326 average is fueled by a pretty-normal .325 BABIP. Don’t confuse it with teammate Lonnie Chisenhall, who is getting the same average out of a .367 BABIP.

Victor Martinez now has a below-average BABIP of .296. He’s hitting .322, good for 8th in baseball. The next highest-ranked player with a sub-.300 BABIP is Erick Aybar (45th), who’s batting .283. Which is still kind of impressive.

Hey, I told you it would be brief. Tune in next time for more surprises…unless we do something different.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Getting Ahead of the Next Trade

Let’s be honest, you hadn’t gotten to work following my advice and trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. I sure hadn’t, and yeah, I’m kinda kicking myself. Because their value just went way up. With improved defense around them, a great park, and a good bullpen, I’d say both pitchers have gotten a chance to hang on to the good luck that helped them start the season. And that’s despite the trip to the AL and the fun they’ll have pitching to real hitters instead of their fellow pitchers. But it doesn’t include the (hopefully) better run support they’ll get from their new team. But hey, don’t take my word for it….

So yeah, it’s probably too late to get value on Samardzija and Hammel. I mean, you can give it a try, but you’ll probably have to pay a fair price. Who wants to do that?

So, we’re going to do something a little different and try to get you (and me) out ahead of the next trade of this All-Star trading month. To do that, we’ll turn our attention to big-sibling site MLB Trade Rumors’ recent polls: Which Starter Will Be Dealt First and Which Position Player Will Be Dealt First.

David Price has been scheduled to get shipped out of Tampa Bay for years now, and this may finally be it. The time seemed right…and then the Rays started to do some winning, which may complicate things. While the Dodgers and Mariners have been mentioned, we’ve also heard that Tampa Bay would be willing to trade him within the division. Considering what Oakland had to give for Samardzija and Hammel, you have to think the Rays will be looking for a huge return, including ready-now or nearly ready prospects. My gut (note: not a very reliable source) tells me that the Rays hang onto their star. With possibilities on the West Coast in the mix, I’d try to play up fears that he goes to, say, Toronto, and trade for Price.

Jon Lester is next on the list, and rumor has it that extension talks aren’t going all that well. My first thought was that this was a bit of a red herring as far as trades go; the Red Sox are surely thinking of themselves as 2015 contenders, even if they’re willing to pull the plug on this year…but remember that time they traded their entire team to the Dodgers? They certainly could deal Lester, and pretty much any contender would put him in a better situation, at least as far as the park goes. Go ahead and trade for Lester.

Cliff Lee is the third marquee pitcher on the list, but he’s hurt and the Phillies have the tendency to be delusional about their near-term playoff chances. The more I think about it, the more I think Lee stays put and the Phils try to build around him and Cole Hamels. So don’t give up the farm for Lee thinking he’ll soon be pitching in LA or Seattle. Consider him even—not much change in his value.

Alex Rios may be on the trading block and out of Texas. This can’t be good news for a guy who’s already lost a lot of power, as I don’t see the Rockies swinging a deal for him. If I had Rios, I would trade him away. The good news is that there’s a good chance the Rangers just hold on to him until next year, but the downside of almost any trade could be serious for Rios owners.

Josh Willingham (is he really the next most interesting guy on this list? Ouch.) has flashed a little power for the Twins. Fortunately, he’s on the trading block, and almost any other place will be better for his homer power than Minnesota. Unfortunately, the Mariners have come up the most often in connection to him. I’d still trade for Willingham and hold out hope for the proverbial mystery team. Even in Seattle, his value shouldn’t really go down.

Daniel Murphy actually beats Willingham as an interesting trade piece, especially for those of us looking for speed, batting average, and runs scored. I don’t think they’ve come up in Murphy rumors, but the Blue Jays could probably use a second baseman. Almost anywhere would probably help Murphy cross the plate more often, and getting out of CitiField is always nice. As an added bonus, Murphy is one guy the Mariners probably won’t be stealing into their run-killing park. Trade for Murphy.

Ian Kennedy was such a good bounce-back target before the season because he would be pitching in San Diego. Now he might be getting traded out of Petco Park. (Insert animals running loose joke, I suppose.) That isn’t ideal, except for in the wins category. I would deal him away before he ends up pitching for the Brewers or the Orioles or something. 

Bartolo Colon’s ability to never walk anyone will play in any home park…but I’m still leery of seeing what happens to this very hittable pitcher in a higher-scoring environment than the one he’s currently in. Sure, the prospect of more wins is enticing, but I’d still deal him away just like Kennedy. If your league is even deep enough to own him….

Ben Zobrist is on your team because he plays every position. Probably not because he can hit…because he isn’t doing much of that. While someone as versatile as Zobrist is as hard to trade away in real baseball as fantasy, he could find himself on the move. My first reaction to that (at least, after disbelief that the platoon-and-matchup loving Rays could ever trade him away) was that that would be good news: a friendlier park and a better offense might help him out. And then I had a horrifying thought: Zobrist could get traded into a utility role on a contender. Even dropping his playing time to the large half of a platoon is serious trouble for Zobrist’s fantasy value. I would trade him away just in case.

Marlon Byrd is slugging nearly .500. Credit the Phillies for believing in him, I suppose. Well, credit them when they turn him into a prospect. The upside of a Byrd trade is the chance to move into a better lineup for more counting stats. The downside is missing out on summer in a small park. I’d call this one about even—unless he gets traded to another hitters’ haven, his value will probably remain more or less the same.

Chase Headley seems to be drawing interest. I guess memories of one great season speak louder than a sub-.300 OBP. With teams like the Blue Jays and Yankees reportedly making calls, Headley could be facing one of the biggest possible park factor shifts. I’ll take a flyer on that. Keep an eye on him if he’s on the waiver wire, and think about trading for Headley. It feels really weird writing that.

Bonus: Stay away from Brandon McCarthy in New York. Sure, he’ll get better run support, but his flyballing ways were trouble in Arizona; they won’t get much better in New York and he’ll have to face tougher offenses and DH’s. Not for me.

Things change quickly in the month of July, so keep refreshing MLBTraderumors.com to see who you should be trading for and away. Good luck out there.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: More People Who Don’t Belong (Or Maybe Do)

And by people, you know I mean baseball players. Today, we’ll check out the hitting leaderboards in homers, steals, and batting average and look more closely at the names that follow my highly scientific test of causing me to feel mild surprise. You know the drill—we did it last week too. Maybe we’ll do it again for pitchers down the road, but I’m thinking we’ll return to our regularly unscheduled content next time around.

Editor's Note: This author is traveling and wrote this post last week. He acknowledges that the listed stats are out of date, but hopes nothing changes so drastically as to invalidate the conclusions. Good luck with that....

Home Runs 

21: Nelson Cruz
20: Edwin Encarnacion
19: Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Abreu
18: Troy Tulowitzki
17: Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Victor Martinez
16: Mike Trout, Todd Frazier, Albert Pujols
15: Jose Bautista, Brian Dozier, Paul Goldschmidt, David Ortiz

We covered Mr. Cruz last time around, and he’s known for his power, so it’s not that shocking that he’s up here. Jose Abreu continues to impress, since he’s got about 50 fewer PA than most of the guys on this leaderboard…but he also was already known for prodigious power. No, the three names that really raise my eyebrow (just the one) here are Victor Martinez, Todd Frazier, and Brian Dozier

We mentioned Dozier last week in terms of runs but his homers are a different matter. To start with, his HR/FB is running at 17.4%--compared to 9.9% last year. His 15 longballs are already beginning to rival his minor league total (from 2009-12) of 19 homers. So, what we have here looks like a case of luck…but one that’s so extreme that it can’t be luck. Right? His flyballs are going about 279 feet on average (putting him 133rd in baseball, right next to Asdrubal Cabrera—and only about a foot short of Albert Pujols, for that matter). So things don’t look super-optimistic for Dozier remaining a home run leader by the end of the year.

But stranger things have happened. Dozier’s 2013 was enough to give us a taste of his power (18 homers) potential, and it does seem as though he isn’t the same guy who rose through the minors in obscurity, with nothing going for him but a little speed. I like Dozier on the year, but I do suspect his HR/FB rate will regress in a pretty significant way. 

Going into last year, I was all about Frazier. That didn’t go so well, but he’s back with a vengeance now. (It helps getting back to a normal BABIP.) Like Dozier, his HR/FB rate has gone crazy (21.3%, compared to last year’s 11.3%). Unlike his almost-close-to-a-namesake, Frazier is among the league leaders in flyball distance, averaging nearly 303 feet in the air (13th in baseball, putting him in the company of Mark Reynolds and David Ortiz, among other luminaries of the longball). So that’s a seriously good sign. At 28 he’s not too old to make a serious improvement in his game, though it would be unusual.

One disconcerting factor is this, however: 12 of his 16 homers have come at home. (So he’s a bit of a homer?) Any time you see such a big park split, you worry, but for me, that’s helped a bit by the fact that he’s hitting the ball so far on average. He’s one to watch, but I think there’s a real chance he’s still among the top 15 home run hitters at the end of the year. Just don't root for him to get traded.

 I’ll be honest, I didn’t see Martinez coming. At all. He’s 35 years old and having the best season of his career. He’s already hit more homers than he’s managed to total in a year since 2010. In fact, he only needs seven more homers to match his career high, from his 2007 peak with the Indians. If you did see this coming…you’re a liar.

The thing about it is that his HR/FB rate hasn’t increased since last year! Just kidding. Of course it has. By a lot. (2014: 18.3%, 2013: 7.2%) His flyballs are going 294.56 feet, good for 41st in baseball, and close to players like Adam Dunn and Allen Craig. So kind of a mixed bag of company. Basically, though, Martinez is a tale of two impossible propositions:

First, he could have made the adjustments that allowed him, at 35, to hit for better power than at any previous time in his career. Or… 

Second, he could have more than doubled his HR/FB completely on luck.

Okay, so it could be a combination of the two, and it almost certainly is—but if there’s any truth at all to the first proposition, Martinez has to be considered for real. He may get passed up by a few guys who are hitting the ball farther, but he looks like a serious contributor in homers this year.

Stolen Bases

36: Dee Gordon
28: Billy Hamilton
24: Jose Altuve
20: Ben Revere, Rajai Davis
18: Alcides Escobar, Jacoby Ellsbury
17: Eric Young
16: Starling Marte, Elvis Andrus
15: Brian Dozier, Jose Reyes, Leonys Martin
14: Brett Gardner

I am not feeling deeply shocked by any of these guys, as all have shown good speed in the past. The component of speed that usually keeps some of these guys off the leaderboards, though, is hitting well enough to stay in the lineup. Or in the Majors. 

I was going to analyze this in terms of BABIP and caught stealing and do my best to advise you about who's getting so lucky that he can't possibly keep getting on base this much, or who's getting caught on the bases so often he's sure to get the red light soon. But that isn't true for anyone on this list.

I wrote a couple paragraphs about it, but decided they were kinda wasteful: no one here raised real red flags, at least, no more than speed-first guys always do.

Batting Average

Pretty much nobody ever belongs when it comes to average, I know. But we’ll take a look anyway.

Above .340: Troy Tulowitzki (.356), Jonathan Lucroy (.341)

.330-.340: Victor Martinez (.332)

.320-.330: Jose Altuve (.329), Robinson Cano (.327), Yasiel Puig (.325), Michael Brantley (.323), Andrew McCutchen (.321),

.310-.320: Alex Rios (.319), Miguel Cabrera (.318), Carlos Gomez (.313), Jose Bautista (.312), Mike Trout (.311), Casey McGehee (.310)

Full disclosure, I’m traveling as you read this and wrote this post a few days ago. The players involved shifted places on the list while I was writing it…so they’ve probably changed since then. They’ll change again. So consider these musings of mine in a very general sense. 

Seeing Martinez on this list isn’t too surprising. What is surprising is that he only has a .309 BABIP! Which is delivering him a .332 average? I call him a contender for the batting title right now. (Okay, that’s only so bold, given that he’s already leading the AL, but still.)

We don’t really get all that eyebrow-raising until we come to Brantley. His BABIP isn’t crazy (.329) but he has stayed pretty close to .300 in recent seasons. But maybe this is a part of taking his game to the next level. I’ll call him a “maybe.”

Rios and his .376 BABIP seem dangerous to me, however. He’s shown a lot of BABIP variance in his career, but he’s never been close to this high. It’d be nice to think this means he’s set for a great year, but you know that’s not how it works. It’s also a bit unsettling that his power (only three homers) has seriously dwindled. I feel like he’s a sell-high candidate, but maybe I’ve just had a hard time trusting him since 2010.

Gomez broke out last year, yes, but that doesn’t mean he proved himself as a high-average guy, batting .284 with a .344 BABIP in 2013. No wonder it’s taking a .379 BABIP to get him to this level. I’ll buy him as a high-BABIP, decent-average type, but most people don’t sustain BABIP’s near .380 for very long.

Bautista is enjoying a .330 BABIP right now…but he’s only once managed a figure over .300 (in 2011), and he’s been at .275 or under in every season since 2008. So no, I don’t think he’s going to sustain this and continue helping in average. 

McGehee is the ultimate “he doesn’t belong here” sort of guy. But does he? Looking further into the question tells us…good heavens no. Riding a powerless .366 BABIP, (just an .077 ISO with only a single homer), not only does he seem in line for some regular regression, you have to think he’s going to get challenged more since he can’t put it out of the park. I’m pretty sure this is just confirming what you already knew: McGehee isn’t likely to this year’s breakout fantasy contributor in a few months.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: You, Sir, Don't Belong. Or Do You?

Today we’re taking a look at the leaderboards to see (as the title suggests) who doesn’t belong. Specifically, we’ll see which names raise our eyebrows as leaders in the five major hitting categories Runs and RBI (who has time for all five?) and look more closely at them. Are they small-sample flukes you need to ditch before their inevitable regression? Are they breakout candidates just pining to join your team? Something more mundane? It’s RA Unscripted, so I can honestly say I don’t have the answers yet….

Runs 

Since there are so many repeat numbers in this category, I’ll try sparing us all a lengthy table and list the Runs leaders like this: 

55: Troy Tulowitzki, Brian Dozier

52: Josh Donaldson, Paul Goldschmidt

51: Jose Bautista, Hunter Pence

49: Michael Brantley

48: Giancarlo Stanton

45: Mike Trout, Carlos Gomez, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Kinsler, Edwin Encarnacion 

As anticipated, this list is mostly usual suspects, though three names may not belong: Dozier, Brantley, and Rizzo.

Dozier would be a big-time breakout candidate if only for his 15 homers and 14 steals (actually, we would have been happy if he’d done that on the year), but his place by Tulo’s side is downright impressive. Now, I’m well aware that Runs are highly subject to the vagaries of fortune, but Tulo has the cards stacked in his favor: quality hitters around him in the lineup; getting to play half his games in Coors Field. Yeah. Dozier plays for the Twins. In a park with a power-killing, run-suppressing reputation (though it played pretty much neutral last year for overall scoring). Just for fun, Dozier’s OBP falls more than .100 points short of Tulo’s. So, does Dozier belong?

I’m going to hedge my bets and say yes and no. To the extent that he makes his own luck by hitting homers and doubles, walking and stealing bases, I like Dozier to continue helping out in Runs. However, I’m not inclined to think his teammates will be coming to his rescue quite often enough to keep him in the top ten run scorers by the end of the year. So far, the Twins are mid-pack when it comes to scoring, and I suspect they’ll be slipping a bit over the next few months, Kendrys Morales or not.

Brantley is a big part of the reason his Indians are fifth in baseball in runs scored, but as Carlos Santana seems to be heating up a bit and Nick Swisher (or what’s left of him) has come back from the DL, the Tribe could actually be on the upswing. Cleveland actually suppressed more runs than Minnesota did last year, for what it’s worth, but it looks like the Indians should be able to continue to support Brantley. 

Will Brantley be able to support himself? That’s the real question anyway. His .327 BABIP says there could be some regression coming to his OBP, but when you’re starting with a .390 number you can lose a bit and still have enough to cross the plate on a regular basis. But let’s not pretend that Brantley’s is a story about BABIP: it’s all about his HR/FB rate, which at 17.7% is more than double his previous career best. If he keeps hitting these homers, you have to believe everything else will fall into place. Well, at least the Runs should. For my money, I’d say that Brantley has improved enough that some of it’s got to be pretty real. Even if it's mostly not, all he's got to do is hit well enough to stay in the middle of the Indians’ lineup, and he ought to keep delivering on the Runs. 

Rizzo is enjoying the way it feels to have an above-average BABIP again (.310, compared to last year’s .258 mark). Not only that, but he’s increased his BB% (15.7%) for the second year in a row and more than doubled it since 2012. I think the debate on his bat is done. But will he keep producing the Runs? That’s the question for this article. 

I’m…um…bearish on the Cubbies’ offence, to say the least. They’re currently 27th in team runs scored and I suspect Rizzo’s sweet .406 OBP is going to leave him stranded on base even more often in the second half. And consider the guys hitting behind Rizzo: Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, and Welington Castillo. Admittedly, Castro has (very quietly) vindicated those who drafted him (unless they wanted steals), but Valbuena is enjoying a .359 BABIP—expect that deflation to cut pretty directly into Rizzo’s runs. So I like Rizzo, but expect him to slip quietly off the Runs leaderboard. 

RBI 

56: Nelson Cruz

55: Miguel Cabrera

54: Giancarlo Stanton, Edwin Encarnacion

53: Brandon Moss

51: Josh Donaldson, Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu

50: Mike Trout

47: Jose Bautista

45: Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Brantley

Who doesn’t belong here? Cruz, I’m looking at you. Also, Moss, Abreu, and yes, let’s discuss Stanton. Briefly.

Cruz has been a classic all-power, nothing-else type of guy for the last couple years, but he’s seriously stepped up his game so far with Baltimore. Real? His BABIP is above-average (.326), but it isn’t crazy, while his HR/FB is off the charts (25.6%). One thing that I find really encouraging is that he’s already racked up a healthy 14 doubles to go with his homers. Cruz has been off and on with the doubles power throughout the years, and if he’s hitting those, the RBI should keep coming (if a bit more slowly) even if the HR/FB rate gets less stratospheric.

The Orioles’ lineup—which has been missing Chris Davis for a lot of the year—is mid-pack in scoring runs. Actually, that makes it pretty bad for the AL. While Nick Markakis is delivering a decent OBP in front of Cruz, Adam Jones and Manny Machado certainly aren’t. Jones, in particular, has a good chance to improve his game and deliver more RBI to Cruz. I don’t think Cruz will end the year as a top-five OF…but he should certainly end up in or near the top 10 in RBI. 

Moss shouldn’t be helping with RBI…he’s a platooner, right? The thing is, he’s too good for the A’s to keep out of the lineup, even for Kyle Blanks. (Okay, maybe that's not saying too much.) Moss has 231 AB (47 against lefties, against whom he’s hit .298/.400/.532). With a normal BABIP, a healthy portion of walks, and a HR/FB rate to match what he did last year, nothing here seems abnormal. Expect Moss to keep getting playing time against lefties and to keep driving in runs against them. 

Abreu is just impressive for being on this list at all despite missing significant time on the DL. This season will have its ups and downs for him, but he’s got the power to make his own luck with RBI. It doesn’t hurt that Adam Eaton and Gordon Beckham haven’t been bad with the OBP...that may not continue...

Stanton deserves quick mention too, since he wasn’t supposed to have any lineup around him to help him deliver in Runs or RBI…and yet he’s a leader in both. His power is insane and he’s healthy, so there’s a significant element of making his own luck going on here too. While the discrepancy between his homer output and his Runs and RBI will probably increase as his teammates regress towards their normal, horrible levels of production, it might be (somewhat) fair to hold out some optimism that maybe the Marlins aren’t quite as bad as we all thought.

 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Humility, Speed, and Everth Cabrera

I’ve plugged a lot of bust players this year. I know that. Who was a bigger fan before the season of the mediocre Aaron Hill, the injured Carlos Beltran, or…you know what, if you want to see which players I’ve busted on, you should go back and check out my preseason articles. (Yes…that’s a clever ploy to get people digging into the RotoAuthority archives…that’ll definitely work….)

But anyway, here’s a little about one of my (so far) worst bets of the year: Everth Cabrera. I've got him on several teams, and considered him a top-five shortstop before the season began. In an exercise of humility, I’m prepared to admit that things aren’t going well before my pre-season favorite speedster and myself at the moment. If you own him, I’d imagine your relationship with the Padres’ shortstop is probably going through a rough patch too. Should you stick it out? Or is it time to let E-Cab steal a spot on the waiver wire? (Or get caught trying?)

Going into the season, I profiled Cabrera as a guy with fewer question marks than most of his shortstop peers. Kudos to you if you ignored my warnings and drafted Troy Tulowitzki, but other than that, the top shortstops haven’t been awesome—though most have certainly outhit Cabrera. 

Some other questionable things I said were that Cabrera “can hit” (italics original), that the Padres could “drive in a run” with the help of Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, and Carlos Quentin, and (indirectly) that I didn’t think being (presumably) off PED’s would matter much. 

Well…first of all, nothing has gone right for the Padres’ offense so far (except Seth Smith, who appears to be stealing everyone else’s hits), but Cabrera has managed a not-horrible-I-guess 21 runs scored so far, so that actually wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Unfortunately, a guy with just six RBI really needs to be a positive contributor in runs if he’s going to hang in a fantasy lineup. And I just don’t think Cabrera’s going to get many chances to improve those RBI. (Though he does have two longballs already. Can you imagine that—giving up a homer to Everth Cabrera? Now, that would be embarrassing. That’s how pitchers felt in little league when they gave up a hit to me.)

Cabrera’s steals are down too; he’s slacking with just 10 on the season, while burners like Eric Young, Jose Altuve, and Billy Hamilton are rocking 17 or 18. And out-of-nowhere-longshot Dee Gordon is embarrassing everyone in the world with 30 already. Come on! Part of Cabrera’s low steal total is thanks to his success rate: he’s been caught four times already, which leaves him with an acceptable 71% rate. But that isn’t what we paid for, considering that he was only caught four times in all of 2012! Get it together, man.

Lousy teammates and a few more outs on the basepaths aren’t the root of Everth’s problems. If they were, this article would be a lot more optimistic. No, the worst problems are the ones at the core of his .240 batting average and his cringe-worthy .273 on-base. The good news is that if Cabrera fixes these issues, the runs and the steals ought to bounce right back accordingly, because their problem is just that he isn’t getting to first base often enough to steal second or cross home. 

So what is killing Cabrera’s ability to hit for average and get on base? He was supposed (in my head, at least) to be a better-hitting Elvis Andrus, but he’s looking more like Alcides Escobar. (Actually, Escobar has been kinda good this year. That’s nice for him, but I’ve still got a grudge from last year. 

Well, Cabrera’s BABIP is sitting at .301, giving him almost squarely neutral “luck.” A speedy guy like Cabrera should be able to squeeze a higher BABIP out of his plate appearances, seeing as he’s got the wheels to beat out infield hits; sure enough he BABIP’d (everything is a verb these days) over .330 in both of the two seasons. That’s actually a positive indicator: there’s a pretty decent chance that his BABIP regresses closer to his previously-established mean and drags his average and on-base up a little with it. An increased BABIP might be all it takes to put his average into the .260 territory, which isn’t exactly glowing praise, but it would lift him into the “doesn’t-hurt-you” level for the category. 

Unfortunately, we can’t blame everything on BABIP and hope that his numbers rise across the board if his luck turns. Hopefully you stayed with me this far, because I’ve saved the most troubling issue for last: walks and strikeouts. Cabrera’s walk rate has diminished by more than half since last year, dropping from 9.4% to just 4.2%. So, no wonder his OBP is so ugly—he just isn’t taking those free passes that were so important to his game in 2013 and 2012. Cabrera’s also given up most of the gains he made in his strikeout rate, which sits at 22%, after dropping from 24.5% in ’12 to 15.9% in ’13. 

So Cabrera’s walks are down by a lot and his strikeouts are up by a lot. That’s bad. But let’s remember that we’re still dealing with a pretty small sample of just under two months. His monthly splits are actually a little weird: he struck out more in March/April, but his batting average is about .100 points worse in May. He had eight doubles in March/April, but just one in May. He had only four steals (three caught) in March/April, but has six (one caught) in May. He only walked four times in 116 March/April at bats, but has five walks through 88 May at bats. What’s the purpose of going over his month-by-month stats? Mostly to show just how odd small-sample play can be. 

I’m not ready to give up on Cabrera. If he can get a little better luck to combine with recovering his batting eye, he still has a chance to return to something approaching his previous skill levels. One thing I’m not worried about is his skills dying without PED’s—unless he’s been injecting stuff into his eyeballs, I think it’s safe to say he didn’t get his batting eye from external sources.*

*But if you know of evidence to suggest that PED’s improve batting eye directly (as in, not by bulking up a hitter’s power and making pitchers afraid to throw anywhere near the strike zone) I’d be very interested to hear about it in the comments. And I'd be more worried about Cabrera.

Cabrera’s problems are deep enough that I wouldn’t advocate going out and trading for him the way I would if BABIP were the only real issue, but if he’s on your waiver wire, that level of risk is still a good investment. I definitely wouldn’t try trading low on him in most circumstances. I suspect that more than Cabrera’s season is at a crossroads—whether or not he’s able to get his walks and strikeouts under his control is likely to determine what kind of career he has and how long it is. 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Who or What is Drew Pomeranz?

If you didn't know much about Drew Pomeranz before yesterday (or whenever), when the A's declared that he'd be slotting permanently into their rotation in place of Dan Straily, I'll forgive you. In fact, you don't have any of the Pomeranz-related baggage that some of us do. I'll save you some trouble and tell you he's totally worth a flyer. Or is it flier? He's worth a waiver claim, that's what he is. Worth a waiver claim.

Don't worry about the history if you don't have to.

But those of us old enough to remember when Ubaldo Jimenez rocked in Colorado and then got traded to Cleveland remember that Pomeranz was what the Rockies got back for their ace. I'm pretty sure both teams felt cheated, with results like that, because here's what Drew Pomeranz was in four years in Colorado: wild, but not effectively. Not to mention homer-prone.

They only gave him one extended shot in the Majors, 96.2 IP in 2012, in which he walked 4.3 batters per nine innings, striking out 7.73. He got some grounders (43.9 GB%), but allowed too many homers (1.3 HR/9), and put up a 7.93/4.81/4.49 ERA/FIP/xFIP. The Rockies somehow got 1.0 WAR out of that, but his fantasy owners were still expecting a good prospect and...well, we didn't hang onto him long enough to enjoy the fruits of that walk rate on our WHIP's.

His shorter stint in 2013 was even worse: his posted 7.89 K/9...and a K/BB in 21.2 IP. The prospecty nametag probably meant that he was on quite a few rosters for his first start or two last year, but I'm pretty sure he didn't last much longer than that.

Traded to the A's for the amazingly fragile Brett Anderson (Fangraphs called him a "lottery ticket"), it didn't appear that he would have much chance to contribute in the rotation. Maybe he would make the Majors and pitch out of the pen, we supposed. And that was the end of the story of Drew Pomeranz and his association with fantasy baseball.

And now there is (cue the Star Wars theme song) a new hope...

The Athletics are, perhaps, more clever than given credit for: they've not only saved money, but they've now inserted the much-maligned Pomeranz into their rotation after a modestly-impressive 18.2 innings to start the season. I say modestly-impressive because, while Pomeranz bears a shiny 1.45 ERA, he also carries a less lustrous 3.73 FIP and a 3.93 xFIP. It should thus be admitted that Pomeranz has not shown himself to be a True Ace hiding out in the Athletics' bullpen and revealing himself only to the unsuspecting Mariners' lineup once during a doubleheader. Or, in terms that actually make some sense: he's been good, but maybe not quite as good as it looks.

But let's not focus on the negative: this year's Pomeranz has looked pretty seriously good. His 7.71 K/9 isn't great (especially for a reliever), but his 2.89 BB/9 is a huge improvement from anything that he's given since 18.1 innings back in 2011. The 0.96 HR/9 is also a pleasant improvement on his work in Colorado, though that was certainly expected.

Digging into his game log, that start against Seattle really was excellent: five innings, five whiffs, no walks or runs, though, to be fair, it's not like the Mariners are hitting the ball against anyone (.293 wOBA--worst in the AL). He's allowed only three runs on the year, all on separate occasions, and hasn't walked two batters in an inning since his first appearance of the season.

I'm not a scout (obviously), but we can still look into his pitch mix and velocity to see if anything has changed since his Colorado ineffectiveness. His pitch mix doesn't really worry me. Though he's been, so far, a significantly different pitcher than he was in 2013, that's got to be a good thing, as he was pretty horrible then. It's probably good news that his pitch mix resembles his longer rotation stint in 2012, with the exception that he isn't throwing his changeup nearly so much. That's encouraging, not because his results were good that season, but because his success isn't necessarily due to the fact that he's been in the bullpen and can throw more fastballs. He will likely be forced to use his changeup more now that he's in the rotation, but it looks like those pitches will mostly be at the expense of curveballs. But I guess we'll have to see.

His fastball velocity is up by about a mile per hour, which isn't any shock at all since he's been pitching out of the pen. So, no news there.

Basically, looking under the hood doesn't yet tell us that Pomeranz is a different pitcher than he's previously been. But that isn't a disaster just because his previous results were. The simple environment change from Colorado to Oakland is enough to make someone fantasy relevant. Presumably, he was once a prospect for some reason. As we see more results come in, we ought to learn more about what has and hasn't changed about Pomeranz as a pitcher.

Unfortunately for our exuberance, much of the reason Pomeranz is in the rotation is because Dan Straily couldn't cut it: getting lit up for a 2.11 HR/9 and a 5.62 FIP won't keep you in many rotations, but it certainly won't keep you in the Oakland's second-only-to-the-Tigers-in-the-AL rotation. I mean, their rotation has a 0.85 HR/9 rate, including Straily's mark. So it's no wonder he's out. This despite the fact that I recently predicted (link not provided to save the author's shame) that Straily's strikeout and walk numbers suggested that he would get the chance to straighten things out, and actually do so.

So Oakland is too good for Straily, and too good for bad homer rates. This is (obviously) great news for Pomeranz, because it means he's going into the rotation. It is (somewhat less obviously, but perhaps not too much) also bad news for Pomeranz, because it means the bar for success is set extremely high, and the A's have shown that they aren't willing to put up with mediocre results, even from talented young pitchers. Like the man he's replacing, Pomeranz himself is replaceable.

Pomeranz is well worth a pickup. He should generate a few strikeouts and win some ballgames for the first-place A's, assuming he's good enough to stick in the rotation. The park ought to help keep his ERA and WHIP better than what his peripherals would suggest--and right now even the peripherals aren't bad. The upside here is pretty serious, because he'll have to be a useful pitcher just to keep starting every fifth day. Let's face it: the A's rotation is probably better than your fantasy rotation. It's sure better than mine are....

The downside is the possiblity that he'll be right back where he was a couple days ago: in the bullpen or the minors as the sixth or seventh best starter in a great rotation. If Straily is great in AAA, I wouldn't be shocked if he came back up. But hey, that's the downside that every waiver wire pitcher has. 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Back in Black

Hisashi Iwakuma came back to the Mjors on Saturday, and Mike Minor on Friday, while Cole Hamels came back just last week, and Doug Fister is scheduled to make his return tomorrow. All four were supposed to be key cogs in fantasy rotations this year--but what should we do with them now that they're here?

After having his Sunday start scratched because of the flu, Hamels is scheduled to pitch today. Hopefully that happens, since I've got him on a couple teams. With a sample size of two, he's done the most of this quartet for us to analyze. The results have not been awesome: one pretty good start against the Dodgers, and a five-walk drubbing from the Mets. He's not exactly back to ace-level yet, it appears. Whether it's rust, luck, or the remnants of injury, time will tell. Or it might not. 

Iwakuma won his game, but it came against the Astros and involved giving up four runs--though he did pitch into the seventh inning and issued only one walk. So there were some promising signs and some less-than-perfect ones.

Minor took a loss, but allowed just two runs on seven hits. Even better, he didn't surrender a single walk while striking out four. Okay, four strikeouts in six innings isn't special, but no walks is always nice.

Fister, obviously, hasn't done anything, since he hasn't returned yet.

Honestly, it's hard to know what to expect going forward from all four of these guys. Injuries flare back up, it takes time to adjust to Major League hitters again, there are a few more off days, managers are more careful with innings...the list of potential problems with injury-return pitchers goes on.

That's why they're my favorite trade targets.

Now, before we go any farther, let me just say that there are only two types of owner when it comes to injury-stashed players, and any given owner may be both at the same time with regards to different players. The first type of owner will never deal you the injured player. This owner invested too much and has waited with too much anticipation for the player's return to make a deal now. Maybe they're a die-hard Hamels fan, or maybe you drafted early and they used a top draft pick. This owner is set on keeping their injured guy and playing him--chances are, a lot of their season is riding on it. This owner probably won't make a trade that would be fair-value if the player had never even been hurt. Just move on.

The other type of owner is a lot readier to deal, and this is the owner you need to concentrate on. This owner didn't really want to target Iwakuma...he was just such a good deal in the 20th round. They didn't expect to end up with Fister for a dollar at the end of the auction, but they did. This owner was probably a bit skeptical about the whole injury-stash situation and certainly remembers getting burned by injury-returners before. (I mean, who doesn't?) This owner may well jump at the chance to minimize risk by getting a decent return for the injured player before he can prove that he's still hurt, go on the DL again, and continue wasting roster space. This is the owner you want to trade with.

I hate stashing injured pitchers (or anyone else) in the draft, so I tend to end up more like the second type of owner when I've actually stashed somebody. You never know quite when to pull the trigger in a draft or how much to pay in an auction, because you just don't know what percentage of the season you'll be getting from the player, in terms of time or of play quality. Picking guys you know are hurt is a risk with a well-known downside and a difficult-to-calculate upside. But now that they're back, most of the downside is gone. Yes, those bad things I mentioned several paragraphs ago might happen, but they might not, and they should slow down significantly with each week that goes by.

You can try to sneak trade offers in early, before we can even see results (like for Fister--you've got one more day!), or you can try waiting until something bad (but not terrible) happens to make owners worry. Definitely don't pay full-health value before getting Major League results, though.

Hamels is a great trade target right now, in fact. He just got shelled and looked terrible (five walks in less than five innings...ugh!) doing it. He's got the flu or something and has had his most recent start postponed to tonight, so he's still got that little red cross next to his name. His owners might well be worried about the quality of the pitcher they stashed for a month. I am, and I'm writing this article. That's why this whole enterprise is predicated on paying less than fully-healthy value for the player in question. If you're giving away the same thing for Hamels as you would for, say, Cliff Lee or Madison Bumgarner, you're making a mistake.

Minor is definitely the wrong guy to target in a trade. He pitched really good, yes, but who was happier about that than his owner? No one. Who was paying more careful attention than his owner? Again, no one. His trade price probably just got a lot closer to full value, but, realistically, issues related to the injury could still crop up. Trading for Minor right now would be like trading for Hamels after his first very good start: you pay a premium for a good sign without being out of the woods as far as risk goes. So if you want Minor, wait a start or three. If things go wrong--great--maybe he just got a little easier to get. If they don't, his price might change incrementally, but you'll at least be more sure about his health going forward. And if he goes straight back on the DL or implodes...well, you won't have pulled the trigger too early.

Four quality pitchers will have returned to the big leagues (probably) by tomorrow, and any of the four may be available for a good price. If you're in need of pitching and can't afford to pay for an ace, check into one of these guys.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: The Replacements

Yesterday made Bryce Harper the latest casualty to thumb injury but he's far from the only impact player with a little red cross next to his name--we've seen more than a few early-round players go down with injuries this year. While Adrian Beltre has already come back, and Ryan Braun gave us a scare without hitting the DL, plenty of other players will be sitting on the shelf for quite some time. Today, we'll take a look at their replacements to see which injury situations offer viable fantasy opportunities. If we've learned anything this year, it's that we're gonna need them....

Injured: Bryce Harper (out about two months)

Replacement: Nate McLouth

McLouth went into the season touted as baseball's best fourth outfielder, and now he's got an unsurprising chance to prove that. Of course, he's rocking a batting average that would be bad if you doubled it (.118--ouch), but it's in only 34 AB, so who cares? McLouth brings significant speed, and ought to help out a bit by scoring runs. Don't get too excited about his average, which will get better (I mean, it has to--pitchers hit better than that) but has never been an asset. (He's batted over .260 just once in his decade-long career.) He won't replace Harper's power but he probably just became one of the better options on most waiver wires anyway.

Injured: Ryan Zimmerman (out 3-5 more weeks)

Replacement: Danny Espinosa

Espinosa is proving the Nationals right for not trading him in the offseason. While continued good play may force the Nats to make some tough decisions when Zimmerman comes back, those aren't worth worrying about right now. As it stands, Espinosa is well worth rostering...at second base. So that isn't very helpful if you're a floundering Zimmerman owner needing someone at third.

Injured: Josh Hamilton (out 3-4 more weeks)

Replacement: J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill, Raul Ibanez

Losing two of your top three outfielders is rough for any team, but the Angels have options that might still offer some short-term utility. Not, you know, a lot. But some, at least. Ibanez can hit homers (and do nothing else). He's more likely to kill your average than help with longballs. Shuck started out with some promise, but his average is sitting around Ibanez territory in 65 at bats. His playing time has been pretty regular, though--not that the Angels have much choice at this point. Cowgill has had the least exposure--he's gotten more than three at bats in a game just three times this year. Expect his playing time to increase if Shuck's batting average doesn't.

Looking backwards, Cowgill's got a few years of sub-mediocrity under his belt, while Shuck managed a .290ish batting average in over 400 AB last year; he's the only one I'd pick up out of this crew.

Injured: Mark Trumbo (out 6-8 weeks)

Replacement: Cody Ross

Once, long ago, Ross was a somewhat useful fantasy outfielder. With Trumbo out for an extended period and the friendly confines of Arizona's high-altitude park, he may be again. Ross has a much more interesting hitting history than the free agent outfielders available in most leagues and is worth keeping an eye on, or even picking up if you were rostering Trumbo in the outfield. Best case scenario is that Ross delivers a little pop with an acceptable batting average over the next couple months--worst case is that he still doesn't hurt your average more than Trumbo already was....

Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks and I don't have much for you when it comes to replacing Trumbo's power or his 1B eligibility.

Injured: Chris Davis (unknown timetable--two weeks minimum)

Replacement: Stephen Lombardozzi? Ryan Flaherty? Jemile Weeks?

The good news is that Davis should be back soon. The other good news is that Manny Machado should also be back soon. The bad news is that the O's really don't have anyone fantasy-appealing who might take over in the short term, as they appear to be stuck with light hitting middle infielders as their first base replacements. If you've got Davis, you'll need to get your 1B replacement elsewhere. At least one of these guys could be your replacement for Zimmerman, right?

Injured: Michael Cuddyer (unknown timetable--two weeks minimum)

Replacement: Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, Corey Dickerson

Blackmon is already getting lots of the CF playing time in Colorado, but expect this move to see him playing more like full time than in a platoon. That might mean more opportunities for runs and RBI, but might not be great for his average. Stubbs could benefit from more regular playing time, and is worth watching to see if he goes on a hot streak. (Hey, stranger things have happened, and he's shown some power and speed in his career.) If Stubbs struggles, Dickerson may get a shot. If either player emerges as a regular or semi-regular, their home park should give them a chance to be valuable in deeper leagues. Gotta love Coors Field....

I definitely wrote this article up expecting a little more from the injury replacements for stars around the league, but, well, hopefully you had your own internal backups, especially for the non-outfielders. That said, there are a couple options with potential. I'd stay away from all the Orioles' and Angels' backups, but Cody Ross, Nate McLouth, and Drew Stubbs have all been pretty good before. Asking them to put together a good month or two doesn't seem impossible. Dickerson and, really, anyone playing for Colorado is pretty interesting too. The best of the bunch is probably Espinosa--not that he can replace the playing time any of these stars are losing.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Giving Up So Soon?

RotoAuthority Unscripted: Giving Up So Soon?

Last night I was perusing the waiver wire—actually, it was my league’s Add/Drop list, but we’ll get to that—and saw an old friend with a fat red minus sign next to his name. Someone had dropped Alfonso Soriano.

“What’s this business?” I wondered. Is the old guy already hurt? Nope…just starting the season 1/19. Oh. “Well, that’s fine,” I muttered (really, I do much of my thinking aloud, profound thoughts or otherwise) and jumped to add him. That’s when I realized that I didn’t really have anyone bad to drop him for. My Util slots were filled with decent non-OF’s, and my three starting outfielders were either stars or hitting the ball pretty well. No room to drop a pitcher, either.

So I moved to drop one of this season’s best power hitters: Alejandro de Aza. It was more difficult than expected, but I guess that’s how it goes when you drop someone with three times as many homers as your pickup has hits.

I like de Aza: a little power, a little speed, a little average, and a “merit-based” job sharing situation that should mean that if he’s hitting well enough for your fantasy lineup, he’s hitting plenty well enough for the White Sox. So this article isn’t about how you shouldn’t get too excited about his multi-homer hot start (or about his low-average, no-steal simultaneous slow start). In fact, de Aza is just collateral damage on a short roster, while the real key is Soriano.

Soriano was pretty high on my personal lists going into the season and RA tabbed him as the 37th overall outfielder. (Pretty near de Aza, actually.) Overall, Sori’s got some holes in his game, but there is something you can count on him for: homer power. He’s knocked 20 homers or more for 12 years in a row (including twice while playing in fewer than 120 games), for four different teams in five different home parks, on World Champions* and, well, the Cubs.

*Actually, he hit only two homers with the 2000 World Champion Yankees.

Power is a rare commodity, and even rarer on the waiver wire, so when I saw that Soriano was available, it was the sort of chance I had to take. Dropping Soriano now would be a big overreaction to a bad first week. Soriano hits big and misses big; a really ugly week is nothing to be surprised over. Could it be the beginning of the end for him? Sure, it might be.

But there are plenty of other explanations and my guess is that, over the course of the season, Soriano will still be hitting baseballs out of Yankee Stadium’s short porch and driving in the likes of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. His career has been too long and too good to let him go over an out-filled first week. If he has this week later in the season (and he probably will) nobody will bat an eye: it’s just another arbitrary stretch of games in a long season made of them. It just happens to look like his season numbers right now. If you’ve got Soriano, don’t give up hope.

Now, I’m not blaming the owner who cut him. Like me, this owner jumped on an opportunity, seeing Domonic Brown on the waiver wire. (I will blame whoever dropped Brown.) I thought this would be a double-caution about overreacting to a bad first week, but Brown’s hitting nearly .400—so I have no idea why he was available. In this case, I applaud my opponent’s willingness to make a player change for even a (likely) small upgrade—these are the sorts of moves that win fantasy championships, and just as I shouldn’t let my enthusiasm for de Aza keep me from getting Soriano, neither should your faith in Soriano (or any other on-the-fringe player) keep you from dropping him for an upgrade.

This brings me to my two universalizable axioms of the day:

1.    Don’t give up on your rankings so soon.
If you thought Alfonso Soriano was pretty good a week ago, nothing should have really changed your viewpoint on that yet. This goes for any player who isn’t already hurt, benched, or demoted (whether to the minors, the bullpen, or out of the closer’s role).

 2.    Watch the drop list—every day.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve been too lazy to check the league-wide drops every day and had to kick myself because I only saw a great value on the waiver wire as the player was being added to a rival’s team. I mean, this already happened to me: I could have had Brown over Soriano, conceivably. See who your rivals drop and watch for valuable assets, even ones you didn’t know you needed. And don’t just see the first two or three transactions that show up on your league’s home—scroll through them all.

Remember: it’s too early for a quick trigger on the drop player button, but never too early to jump on an add. April is a tough month to navigate, because you can’t trust anyone’s hot start…but you can’t afford to ignore them either. It’s a paradox, so you have to take each situation as it comes. And you thought draft prep was hard—welcome to the regular season.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Walking the April Line

If you’re like me, you just quit a full-time job. Possibly one that you did while at your full-time, job. You’re all done with your fantasy drafts. You have all your teams and you won’t be drafting, or auctioning anymore, no matter how many times you see the draft room in your sleep. You won’t be ranking players in your head, on paper, or on your computer. Sure, you can check out RotoAuthority’s rankings…but why would you? Your teams are drafted. No more mock drafts, no more mock auctions, no more thrills of nabbing Kyle Seager for $2 even though you already have two third basemen. No more wondering how to evaluate injuries to Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish. No more getting a great deal on Cliff Lee…just enjoying his first disaster start of the year.

There is no more preparation, and no matter how much Draft Day feels like Game Day…it’s no more than half the battle. (Unless your league’s talent level is really low, I guess.)

What should you do with yourself now that you aren’t mock drafting, prepping rankings, scouring injury reports, and the like?

Well, you can start with getting a healthy hobby. I suggest watching baseball and setting your various fantasy lineups. Because, by healthy, I mean healthy for your fantasy teams. But you should also rest.

Rest from the urge to fix every roster hole now and with a trade. Sure, keep an eye on who drops whom, look over the waiver wire to see if anyone stands out, but don’t go blowing up your team. Hoping for Tanner Scheppers to be this year’s Chris Sale—or at least, C.J. Wilson? One bad start doesn’t torpedo his chances. Hoping for Billy Hamilton to steal you a title (sorry—no choice)? He isn’t getting send down after one oh-for-four with no steals. Breathe easy.

Every league seems to have someone send out a million trade offers before the season or in the first week. If you’ve really got a glaring need (like, you didn’t draft a shortstop), it’s smart to put some feelers out there, but don’t be the owner that offers trades just to offer trades, just to be doing something. Remember, you’re the fantasy owner, not the fantasy player. Yes, it’s an adjustment to being out of control, but that’s what we are for the moment. An offseason’s worth of preparation is more trustworthy than a game or two worth of at bats.

There’s a second thing to do, though, and that one, you’ll enjoy more than an admonition to take it easy. You need to become best friends with the waiver wire. What does that not mean? It doesn’t mean picking up and dropping players left and right, or streaming like crazy, or shuffling out half your drafted team. Instead, it means knowing the available players in your league(s) and what they’re doing. This is where opportunity comes from, and this is the large part of what will win and lose your league(s) from here on out.

The first week is a quandary for me (and every other fantasy player). On the one hand, you’re dealing with small samples and rule-exceptions. You’re dealing with players who’ve only played against two opponents, starters who’ve only faced one or two lineups, closers who’ve only had one chance to blow it. There is absolutely nothing concrete to be learned in the season’s first week. (Statistically speaking, that is. If Jose Reyes hits the DL, or Jim Henderson gets pulled from the closer’s role, that’s a different story.)

And yet, you still have to make your move on this information. It may not happen every year, but it’s a common enough story that plenty of fantasy leagues have been won with help from a plot like this: unheralded player or seemingly-low-upside-prospect wins a starting job in Spring Training. Nobody notices. Said player has a monster first week and jumps from 1% owned to 30% owned. Said player continues to produce all year long and becomes an early-round draft pick for years to come. Think I’m kidding? Last year it was Jean Segura. Before that, it’s been Ben Zobrist and Dan Uggla—the good Uggla, not the version we have now.

The story has gone other ways too: über-prospect gets surprisingly early callup and probably isn’t ready. Dominates all season. (Think Jose Fernandez.)

Player with some promise but a game full of flaws (and strikeouts) clubs several homers in the first week. Doesn’t stop. I’m not actually sure if this is how Chris Davis burst onto the scene two years ago, but it seems to fit.

Some guy you never heard of gets tabbed to fill in for a closer who needs to “regain his stuff”…and then goes on to lead the league in saves. (This is a natural part of the life cycle of the closer.)

All of these things happen. They don’t all happen each year, of course, and the false promises always do. Sometimes that closer does regain his stuff, sometimes the strikeouts overcome the homers, sometimes the prospect goes back to the minors, and sometimes that great first week (or month) becomes the highlight of Chris Shelton’s career.

The upside is worth it, though. The first couple weeks should be your most aggressive on the waiver wire, because they can have the biggest impact. Getting the Seguras, Fernandezes, and Davises of this year (if there are any) will make or break most fantasy leagues. Dropping your backup shortstop or seventh starter will probably not.

No, I don’t know who will break out this week or next, and I certainly don’t know which breakouts will be for real. Like everyone else, I’ll be gambling with my first few free agent moves. The key here is to go for the longest-term upside. You’ll still be able to find almost-competent replacement players later on, but April is your best shot to make a bold addition to your team. Go for it.

But not at the expense of players you trusted enough to target. Drop the fliers, the fillers, and the had-to’s—but don’t ditch your sleepers or your cornerstones, either for the waiver wire or the trade market.

So, it’s a paradoxical bit of advice to start the season: trust the planning you already did by sitting back and relaxing—but keep your eyes open for potential breakout players and jump on anyone who might qualify.

That’s the line we walk in April. Good luck staying on it.

And yeah—be glad baseball’s back.




Search Roto Authority

Custom Search




Roto Authority Mailing List

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Roto Authority Features



Recent Posts



Monthly Archives









Site Map     Contact     About     Advertise     Privacy Policy     MLB Trade Rumors     Rss Feed