Oct 29, 2010

Carlos Gonzalez Will Be 2011's Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp shot up fantasy draft charts after a big 2009 campaign to become a trendy first round fantasy pick last season.  He had a decent year overall but it wasn't the type of year that drafters hoped for.  Carlos Gonzalez had a big 2010 campaign and will likely rocket into first round territory next season.  Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn between Gonzalez and Kemp but I have to question whether they will be justified.

Prior to the 2010 drafts, Kemp had played a couple half seasons and two full seasons.  In the 2009 breakout season, he got everyone's attention with these numbers:

          .297 AVG, 26 HR, 34 SB, 97 R, 101 RBI

For comparison's sake, Gonzalez will have played a couple half seasons and one full season prior to next year's drafts.  In this past breakout year, he posted these numbers:

          .336 AVG, 34 HR, 26 SB, 111 R, 117 RBI

There are some slight similarities between the numbers but Gonzalez had a much more impressive fantasy season in his breakout year.

In 2009, Kemp had a high BABIP of .345 but he was a fast guy throughout his career and traditionally had a high BABIP so it wasn't out of the question for him to maintain that.  Instead, his BABIP fell closer to league average in 2010 (.295) bringing his average down with it to .249. Though his power improved slightly, he stole 15 less bases (partly from being on base 30 times less overall). His team also got worse around him which ruined RBI and R opportunities for him, causing those stats to dip too.

For Gonzalez, we shouldn't expect the .336 average to stick around in 2011. His BABIP was .384 which is way above his career and league norms (3rd highest in league). Next season, his BABIP could drop to his '09 level of .333 and his average would drop to around .284 again. Or, it could drop to Matt Kemp (and league average) levels of .295 which would be disastrous and cause him to likely hit below .250 next season. 

The power is real though and there's no reason to think he can't maintain his very high ISO that he's previously had. That means the 30+ HR's are here to stay. His 20+ SB's should stick around too as he's always been a good basestealer. If his average drops, the on-base opportunities might fall too which would lower his RBI and R totals but he still should be close to 100 in both next season. 

If we're going to think about worst case scenario, you might see Gonzalez produce a line like this in 2011:

          .245 AVG, 30 HR, 20 SB, 85 R, 90 RBI

That's extremely similar to what Kemp actually produced in 2010 (for the record, Kemp was still valuable and the 66th most valuable player in the league).  It would be a disappointment but I think a lot more would have to go wrong for Gonzalez than it did for Kemp.  What might be a more conservative estimate for 2011 would be:

          .285 AVG, 35 HR, 25 SB, 95 R, 105 RBI

Those would still be first round numbers and certainly nothing to complain about.  If you target Gonzalez with a first round pick in 2011, you may want to temper expectations away from another .330 average though and expect something closer to the stats above.

It will be interesting to see what the projections systems tabulate for CarGo in 2011 and to see where his average draft position will be.  The second half of the first round feels right but he may have done enough for people to reach and take him within the top 6 picks.

Oct 18, 2010

Revisited: The Search for Narco | 2010 Sleeper Hitters

Way back in January of this year, I chronicled a method I use for tracking down fantasy deep sleepers for my leagues. These sleepers are sometimes so hidden from other drafters' views that we've had to invent a new word for them: narcos. The goal is to find guys who didn't get a ton of opportunity last year (under 350 AB's) but had nice fantasy production in that opportunity and are getting a bigger role this year. These are guys that can deliver prime value in drafts as they're often overlooked since drafters rely so heavily on season totals from the year before. You can refer to the original post on this for more information but here are the names that our formula spit out as potential fantasy baseball narco targets for us in the 2010 season:

  • Kyle Blanks
  • Julio Borbon
  • Jake Fox
  • Brett Gardner
  • Jonny Gomes
  • Carlos Gonzalez
  • Chris Iannetta
  • Garrett Jones
  • Angel Pagan
  • Ryan Raburn
  • David Ross
  • Randy Ruiz
  • Seth Smith
  • Andres Torres
  • Rickie Weeks

Some of these players didn't have a full year's worth of AB's due to lack of opportunity this year so they'd technically be disqualified from our criteria (Blanks, Fox, Iannetta, e.g.). But, regardless, in the graph above you see where all of these narco candidates fell at year's end. The biggest fantasy successes from this group would be Carlos Gonzalez, Rickie Weeks, Angel Pagan, Andres Torres, Brett Gardner, Jonny Gomes and Ryan Raburn (once he got to play). There were some failures mixed in but, really, this is a great list of players that most pundits are now saying had 'breakout' seasons. If you had followed this site last preseason, these players were on your target list prior to the season and their season wasn't as surprising to you as it was to others.

Granted, some of these players weren't even on any draft boards prior to last season (Torres, Pagan, Gomes) and those are the type of guys that really surprise people. It isn't necessarily recommended that you use a draft pick on guys that aren't being drafted but you should pay close attention to them and snatch them off the waiver wire the second they show any signs of life.

Regardless, with this year fully in the books, I can say that the narco system for selecting your fantasy baseball deep sleepers was successful again. We'll crunch the numbers for next year soon to see who you should be targetting in drafts or keeping an eye on in the 2011 season for possible waiver wire thievery.

Oct 16, 2010

Revisited: My Fantasy Baseball Stars of 2010

Last March, I wrote up a summary of my favorite targets for the upcoming fantasy baseball drafts. These were the players that were my type of guys and had opportunity to deliver big value.  This was different than my deep sleeper fantasy predictions as this was a mix of bargains in early and later rounds.

Well, I put those names out there on the internets and some made me look good and others made me look bad.  For the sake of being a responsible blogger, let's revisit these wacky fantasy baseball predictions.  We'll look at the pitchers that I predicted would be successful later but, first, let's dive into the batters that I was high on in the preseason.
  • Julio Borbon (Epic Fail): This is what I predicted for him: .290, 5 HR, 45 SB, 90 R, 40 RBI.  Instead, he gave us this ugly stat line: .276, 3 HR, 15 SB, 60 R, 42 RBI.  Without the loads of stolen bases, he was worthless.  My bad!
  • Chris Davis (Epic Fail): This is the last year I put any trust in him to live up his prospect status.  He was just very, very bad.
  • Elvis Andrus (Neither): He wasn't a big success nor a big failure.  He got over 30 stolen bases and nearly 90 runs at the shortstop position so that's nice.  But he didn't give you much else.
  • Nelson Cruz (Success): If only he could stay healthy for a full year!  Give him 162 games and he's a top 10 fantasy player.
  • Carlos Gonzalez (Success): Top producing fantasy player in the league while being drafted in the 10th round of your draft?  Um, yeah, that's some nice value.
  • Chris Iannetta (Epic Fail): Miguel Olivo beat him out for his job. That's not a good thing.
  • Garrett Jones (Neither): He was perfectly adequate.
  • Dustin Pedroia (Injured): He was having a decent year before injuries derailed him.  If you drafted him, you're not happy but it's hard to say if this is a success or failure without a full year of playing time.
  • Placido Polanco (Success):  It probably didn't win you a fantasy baseball title but Polanco produced well enough to start on most fantasy teams if still eligible at 2B despite being drafted in the 20th round on average.
  • Nick Swisher (Success):  Nick Johnson's injury opened up the gates for Swisher to go on a tear. Batting average used to be his Achilles' Heel but not anymore.  The average will likely fall next year as his BABIP was way too high to sustain.
  • Nick Johnson (Injured):  Got injured way early on so can't say much about him. He was a 291st pick on average so I'm sure you didn't lose sleep over his injury though.
  • David Ortiz (Success):  He'll never be a .300 hitter again and that .238 average in 2009 scared everyone away. But the end wasn't here yet for Big Papi as he put together a great power-hitting year again and he brought that average up to more respectable levels (after a horrible start to the season again).
  • B.J. Upton (Neither):  He may never reach the full potential that I dream of for him.  If he could just return to hitting anywhere close to .300 again, he'd be a huge value with those 40+ SB's and 15-20 HR's.  Not sure if that will ever happen though.  Besides that batting average, he had a decent fantasy season.
  • Carlos Beltran (Epic Fail):  Thought he was a nice buy low candidate with the injury to start the year but he never seemed to get on track.
In summary, I had 5 big successes, 4 epic failures, 3 who played up to par, 2 seasons ruined by injury and a partridge in a pair tree.  Overall, it's up to you to say whether I failed or succeeded but I think it was a decent showing overall.  Lessons were learned along the way and hopefully I'll improve more next year with even more fantasy baseball research here.

Oct 13, 2010

Revisited: My Fantasy Baseball Blacklist of 2010

Let's pause and take a break from the Looking Back series which is glancing over the successes and failures of drafts from last year.  Instead, we're going to take a different look at last year's drafts.  In this series, I'm taking a look in the mirror and seeing where I was right or wrong from my own predictions.  This will be an ongoing look back to try to see how well I did last year and to admit my mistakes and gloat over my successes.

Though this ultimately wasn't published on the website last season, there were nine guys that I predicted would experience a downfall and not be worth the price they were being drafted at:
  • Mark Reynolds, 3B, ARI - We touched upon this in our first Looking Back post but Reynolds was being drafted in the second round on average.  In that round, you want somebody who you are confident can produce 2 to 5 extra roto points for your team and Reynolds ended up taking a step back and producing next to nothing extra for your team.  The horrible AVG is a lot more bearable when it's over 40 HR's with over 20 SB's but this time around it was only 32 HR's with 7 SB's while his BABIP took a huge drop to bring his batting average way down to .198.  Ugh.  Fall from grace, indeed.
  • Jose Reyes, SS, NYM - To be honest, I'm not 100% sure anymore why I predicted a downfall for him. The only notes I can find deal with him being an injury risk, which ended up being somewhat true as he did miss 30 games.  He was being drafted in the second round too and he did produce some value on the year but he produced under the range of most in the second round as 8 of the 11 other second rounders in that range produced higher than him.  But I wouldn't call him a complete failure on the year as I may have predicted.
  • Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA - What can I say other than that I was wrong?  His batting average dropped nearly 40 points and his HR's were at a career low but his SB's were nearly at a career high.  And, that big drop in average was still .315 over 680 AB's which is still great for your fantasy team.  Despite my reservations about him, he still produced great roto value for a 4th round pick and vastly outproduced the likes of Pablo Sandoval or Adam Lind who were drafted around him. 
  • Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR - His great 2009 season seemed fluky by all measures and that proved to be true.  Despite being in a surprisingly powerful Blue Jays offense, he had 40 less RBI's and 30 less R's (partly due to missing 25 games).  His batting average dropped to a Mark Reynolds level and he ended up providing negative value for your fantasy team despite being a 4th round pick (and he was drafted above Josh Hamilton on average, d'oh!).  The good news is that his BABIP was insane at 0.196 and he should bounce back a bit next year.  Going from overvalued to undervalued!
  • Kendry Morales, 1B, ANA - I said that he was being overvalued and would just produce average numbers despite being drafted at around 50 in most drafts.  I was wrong about him producing average numbers as he was producing quite well before his, um, accident which landed him on the DL.  So I'll say I was wrong about this one despite the injury making him producing under his draft position.
  • Rafael Furcal, SS, LA - I was wrong here. He revived his career in a way but didn't manage to stay healthy all year, which is common for Rafael.  But when healthy, he was certainly producing quite well and like the Furcal of oldentimes though I predicted him to fade into the twilight of his career.
  • Carlos Zambrano, SP, CHC - I was half-right and half-wrong here.  He was a terrible, horrible, no good very bad pitcher and got demoted to the minors and all that fun stuff.  So, hooray, I was right that he would not be worth drafting at 171 in drafts. But, then he came back and rebounded and became valuable down the stretch. But, at that point, many people who drafted him had probably dropped him.
  • Ervin Santana, SP, ANA - Considering he was drafted at 238, I'm not sure I was so against drafting him.  But, I was wrong either way as he produced nice value from that spot.  He wasn't overly valuable but for a pitcher drafted where he was, it was good.
  • J.A. Happ, SP, PHI - I thought Happ would regress to the mean here due to having a fluky year last year and he certainly did regress (though he rebounded a bit in Houston).
For the nine guys I listed here, I'd say I was half right and half wrong overall.  However, I will say that if you stayed away from drafting all of these guys, I think you'd be pretty content with your season. Meanwhile if you ended up drafting all of these guys, you might be somewhat disappointed with your season.  So, overall, I call my blacklist of guys a relative success (though I understand if you call it a relative failure).  We'll take more looks at my crazy predictions at the offseason rolls on.