May 18, 2012

Free Agent Friday | Ride The Hot Streak | 05.18.12

The hot names from the waiver wire are long gone from the month of April. Now, we're at the point where there aren't many sudden surprises and we're left scrambling for whoever is riding a hot streak (see, Raul Ibanez). But, that doesn't mean you should completely ignore the waiver wire as every team could still use a little help and there are decent options still out there. As always though, be careful who you drop. While Andy Dirks seems like a nice guy to have on your team, the pickup is only as good as the player you drop for him.
Good Pickups
Andy Dirks (OF, DET) - For those needing OF help, there's not a ton to choose from right now and Dirks is swinging a hot bat so he's a hot pickup as a result. In a full season, Dirks is the type of player who could flirt with hitting .300 but likely fall short while hitting 10-15 HR and stealing 10-15 SB. In shallow leagues, that's got some roto bench value and it's got even more value in deep leagues. He's worth a flier if you need OF help.

Brian Fuentes (RP, OAK) - When it comes to recommending picking up a new closer, I'm mainly looking to see whether they have the "stuff" to keep the job for a while. But, in reality, any closer is worth owning in a roto league because there's so few guys who can get you saves. In the case of Fuentes, he's been a closer in the past and has borderline-closer "stuff" so I could see him holding the job for a while in Oakland (and then being a trade-bait candidate at the deadline perhaps). He seems a safer bet than other borderline-closers to have the job for a while.

Dale Thayer (RP, SD) - Meanwhile, Thayer doesn't have loads of MLB experience but seems to be a viable closer candidate until Huston Street returns. Keep on rollin' with him.

Could Be Good Pickups
Christian Friedrich (SP, COL) - Friedrich was a hyped-up prospect out of the Rockies organization until he hit a rough patch in AA and then AAA. This year, he seemed to get back on the horse in his AAA appearances and now has been given a shot at the Bigs. Through two starts, the results are quite good. Depending on your league type, he's certainly worth betting on but he's definitely a wild card at this point given his struggles in the minors. He does have the potential to be a very capable starter though.

Raul Ibanez (OF, NYY) - As a Phillies fan, I watched Ibanez enough over the past few years to know what is going on here. Ibanez is a streaky player who can hit under .200 for a full month with 1 HR but then hit over .300 with 7 HR the next month. He alternated months last year with a cold April, hot May, cold June, hot July, etc. Right now, he is in that hot zone so he is worth owning. Next month, probably not. Tread lightly.

Scott Diamond (SP, MIN) - A pitcher for the Twins? Well, you know you aren't going to get many Wins out of him (despite his 2 wins in 2 starts thus far). He's got decent control and had a FIP of 3.80 or less in every step of the minors so he certainly has the ability to be a decent starter even if he is pitching for the Twins. In shallow leagues, you can probably still wait a few more starts to see how he does but he's worth pursuing in deeper leagues if you have someone droppable.

Let Someone Else Pick Them Up
Wei-Yin Chen (SP, BAL) - Chen was a wild card coming into this season but has pitched quite well. Going through a league for the first time can be beneficial for a pitcher as hitters aren't used to him yet. He won't rack up strikeouts for you but he's got decent control and has had good (but somewhat lucky) results thus far. However, xFIP and SIERA show that his ERA should be closer to 4.50 so keep that in mind. Don't sell the farm for him.

A.J. Ellis (C, LA) - He's hitting .330! But, his BABIP is .400. He's got 3 HR's in under 100 AB's! But, his HR/FB rate seems unsustainable. He's a catcher! So, let's lower our expectations. But, even as a catcher, he's shown no past history of being an offensive contributor. ZiPS has him pegged to .257 with 3 HR over the rest of the season so, yeah, you can find any catcher in the league who can do better than that. Pass.

May 9, 2012

Wednesday's Droppings | Closer Switch-A-Roo | 05.09.12

It's been a big ol' closer switch-a-roo lately in the big leagues. Closers are losing jobs left and right and fantasy owners are running around like crazy trying to make sense of it all. In addition, we have some mid-round draft picks starting to struggle that has owners getting cold feet. Whether you choose to drop one of these players can have a big impact on your team's success. So, let's see who is worth dropping or hanging on to at this point.
Hang On
Nolan Reimold (OF, BAL) - He shouldn't be getting dropped like he is. He's still got the talent to hit 20 HR with 10 SB this year even after missing time due to injury. Pick him up if he's getting dropped and hold off a bit if you own him. He'll be back soon.

Mike Minor (SP, ATL) - Don't let the ERA fool you. He's had a tough run thus far but his FIP, xFIP and SIERA all point to the fact that his ERA should be under 4.00 based on how he has pitched thus far. He's had over 8 K's per 9 and under 3 BB's per 9 so he's still got the talent. Pick him up if someone drops him.

Erick Aybar (SS, ANA) - Luck has not been on his side thus far and he's giving you no reason to own him after five weeks. ZiPS has him pegged for 6 HR and 18 SB throughout the rest of the season which would put him closer to his 2010 numbers. There's some value to that in deeper leagues with a Middle Infielder spot. In shallow leagues, you may be able to find something better out there. I wouldn't cut ties with him unless there are better options.

Heath Bell (RP, MIA) - They paid him too much money to let him lose the job that quickly. Give him time and stash away if your league is deep enough.

Could Be Time
Carlos Marmol (RP, CHC) - For better or worse, the Cubs do love Marmol to a certain extent. If he can control his habit of walking tons of batters then they might just hand the keys back to him. They don't have a ton of better options that they're utilizing at the moment. In shallow leagues, drop him. In deeper leagues, he may be worth stashing to see if he can get his control back.

Clay Buchholz (SP, BOS) - I've never been a Buchholz fan and he's not giving anyone a reason to be a fan of his this year. In shallow leagues, I'd cut ties because I only see him as a 4.50-ish ERA pitcher even if he does turn it around. He has certainly been unlucky this year but keep in mind that he had been very lucky in previous years. In deeper leagues, you may not have a choice but to hang in there.

Danny Espinosa (2B, WAS) - Much like Aybar, he's had a tough go of it thus far. At this point, you can still expect to get 15 HR and 15 SB out of Espinosa the rest of the way but he will continue to kill you in the batting average department. If you can afford that then it may be worth the bit of power and speed that you can get. But, realistically, it may be better to make him someone else's problem.

Let Them Free
Tommy Milone (SP, OAK) - People got awfully excited after Milone had three good starts in his first four games. The thing that they ignored was his tiny strikeout rate and low BABIP. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't trust pitchers who can't strike people out. Milone has hit a rough patch now and I wouldn't own him unless it was a very deep league.

Javy Guerra (RP, LA) - When a closer loses his job, you can usually drop him unless there's strong thought that he can get the job back. I don't think Guerra is getting his job back in the near future unless Kenley Jansen starts to implode. Guerra was actually doing much better than his ERA indicates but that's neither here nor there. Drop away unless you have room to stash for a long while.

Hector Santiago (RP, CHW) - I don't even know what to make of Chicago's bullpen any longer. Chris Sale, really? So, yeah, Santiago may get the job back if Sale struggles but maybe they turn to Addison Reed or Matt Thornton. It's too much of a mess to sort out currently so I'd stay away from Santiago.

J.D. Martinez (OF, HOU) - Unless you have a spot for 10 HR without any speed and a mediocre batting average then you can drop Martinez. I think people overreacted to owning him in the first place and are starting to learn that lesson.

Others I've written about recently - Peter Bourjos

Keep in mind that shallower leagues have shorter leashes for these players than deeper leagues so you might want to cut bait on a guy earlier knowing that he won't be picked up by anybody else for the time being.

May 4, 2012

Free Agent Friday | The 3B Replacements | 05.04.12

A month has gone by and the season is starting to shift. Some of the guys who had a hot streak are still riding that streak and making us think about adding them to our teams. Some closers have been bad enough to lose their jobs. And, more than anything, the dreaded injury bug is coming about and forcing us to search for injury replacements. Ah, May baseball! Gotta love it. Before you go hit up your waiver wire this morning, let's take a glance at some of the hot pickups and whether they're worth pursuing or not.
Good Pickups
Chris Davis (1B/3B, BAL) - As the old adage goes, "fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice and I'm not gonna get fooled again." With Chris Davis, he sneaks back onto the radar every year at some point with the promise of big HR totals but ends up disappointing us some way or another. But, let's forget about the past and realize that he's got a new opportunity in Baltimore this year and seems to be taking advantage of it. He may never be the 30+ HR hitter that we once dreamed of but a .260 AVG, 25 HR season is a real possibility. With the amount of injuries to third basemen this week, he's a respectable replacement for the time being.

Pedro Alvarez (3B, PIT) - There's been a lot of major injuries to third basemen this week (Evan LongoriaPablo SandovalKevin YoukilisMat Gamel) so it doesn't come as a big surprise that one of the hot pickups is a third basemen. Alvarez, for once, is swinging a hot bat. He has 7 multi-hit games in his last 11 and has hit 5 HR's in his last 9 games. He still has some things going against him (a lineup that doesn't produce RBI opportunities, high strikeout rate, low walk rate, etc) but he's certainly a viable temporary replacement. ZiPS has him projected to finish the season with 29 HR's and a .246 AVG at this point. If you can afford the dip in AVG and need some power then Alvarez is your man. Be wary of his slumps and be prepared to have a backup for Alvarez though.

Will Middlebrooks (3B, BOS) - It's hard to know what we'll get out of Middlebrooks but he's a power hitter with some speed and that's very valuable at the thinning 3B position. In a full season, he has the potential to hit 20 HR with 10 SB while not killing your AVG like Alvarez or Davis. But, he's a bit of a wild card given his youth. I think the three available 3B are all fairly close in value but I'd rank Middlebrooks a tiny notch above Davis then Alvarez as a temporary injury replacement for your team.

Tony Campana (OF, CHC) - In watching the Cubs/Phillies game the other day, the announcers declared Campana as maybe the fastest guy in the league. You may know him from his 24 SB last year in limited time and he already has 7 this year. The thing that keeps Campana from being a big contributor is that he's still not getting AB's. He's starting to get consistent AB's in Chicago and has the potential to be a Michael Bourn-ish player with a .275 AVG and 40-50 SB. In roto leagues, that's exactly what you want to find on the waiver wire.

Drew Smyly (SP, DET) - We don't have a lot to go off of when it comes to the young rookie. He had a brief minor league career before bursting onto the scene. But, his minor league K and BB rates match up with his MLB rates of 9 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9 thus far. He has a 1.23 ERA and hasn't been aided by a lucky BABIP or HR/FB rate. Through four starts (small sample size!), everything points to him being legit. I'd pick him up if you have some expendable pieces and bench Smyly for a couple more starts to see what he can do for ya.

Others I've Written About Recently - Bryan LaHair

Could Be Good Pickups
David Robertson or Rafael Soriano (RP, NYY) - As you know, Mariano Rivera is done for the year. We have no time for mourning in fantasy baseball so the immediate reaction is to look and see who takes over as closer in New York. Soriano has the experience in the role but Robertson has been the better reliever the past few years. There hasn't been official indication of who will get the job and you have to rely on gut feeling at this point. You can't really take your time in making a decision so either choose experience or talent and grab your choice off the wire. Personally, I always favor talent (Robertson) but MLB managers don't always follow suit. One of these two is going to be a good pickup but we just don't know who yet.

Scott Downs (RP, ANA) - The new closer in Anaheim has been lights-out thus far. I have concerns as his strikeout rate is abysmal and he's been aided by a fluky BABIP rate. But, regardless, he's the closer for now. The Angels acquired Ernesto Frieri and he could compete for the closer's role as well there. But, for the time being, pick up whatever saves Downs gets you but just don't expect him to be the long-term answer.

Let Someone Else Pick Them Up
Jed Lowrie (SS, HOU) - I have a soft spot for Lowrie as he was one of my sleeper candidates who failed me last year. I pegged him for a .275 AVG and 20 HR over a full season back then. I'm not quite so high on him any longer and see him more as a 10 HR type of guy. He can't hit for high average and doesn't have any speed. So, really, there's not anything to be excited about here.

Joe Saunders (SP, ARI) - We have over 1000 innings of baseball from Saunders to analyze and he won't suddenly become a brand new pitcher at this point in his career. He's started the season well with five nice starts but let's not get overly excited here. Someone who struggles to strikeout more than 5 batters per nine is generally not on my "want" list. He's most likely going to have a 4.50-ish ERA as the season goes on with low strikeout totals and that's not worth picking up to me.

May 2, 2012

Wednesday's Droppings | Angel In The Outfield | 05.02.12

Fantasy baseball success can be categories into a variety of things including your draft skills, how good you are on the waiver wire and the trades you make. One thing that is overlooked when it comes to adding and dropping players is the ability to choose the right guys to drop. As a fantasy player, we can all look back to a certain time when we dropped a guy that ended up having a monster year. So, instead of just focusing on the hot waiver pickups, let's look at the most dropped guys around the league at this point and see if they're either worth holding onto or worth picking up once they're dropped.
Hang On
Delmon Young (OF, DET) - He wasn't hitting all too well this year to begin with and now he's suspended after an arrest off the field. The suspension seemed to be the icing on the cake for his owners as he's being dropped all over the place. Once on the field, he should be able to return to his old self for what that's worth. ZiPS has him pegged for a .280 AVG and 15 HR over the rest of the season which is about what owners were expecting out of him anyway. I'd hold onto him in deep leagues.

Hector Santiago (RP, CHW) - He had a 7.36 ERA in April and managed to remain the closer despite having Matt Thornton and Addison Reed behind him. Owners are starting to cut bait on him but he is still the official closer in Chicago so he's worth holding onto in roto leagues until he officially loses that job. Do keep in mind that 7 innings is an incredibly small sample size and he's had poor luck with BABIP and homers thus far so he will certainly regress to the mean a bit. Don't give up on him because of a bit of poor luck over 7 innings.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, ARI) - This one hurts me so bad. As many of you know, I hyped up Goldschmidt in the preseason. He was the wrong sleeper to gawk about thus far as he's struggled mightily and now has his playing time in jeopardy. His power will certainly return sooner or later but it's a matter of whether the D-Backs have patience to wait for it (and you too). If he's being dropped, I'd pick him in up in deeper leagues for sure. Shallow leagues, you might not have the luxury. Hopefully you had an insurance plan for him because as I said in the preseason, "we've seen our fair share of young stars struggle to adjust in their first years and Goldschmidt could be no different. He represents a risk. If you draft him, create your own insurance plan behind him (the Diamondbacks did it for themselves already)."

Could Be Time
Ryan Roberts (2B, ARI) - First and foremost, Roberts has shown a tendency to be quite streaky in his career. But the month of April was more about bad luck for Roberts than anything as he's had a .176 BABIP which helped create his .152 AVG. Roberts also has a HR/FB rate that's much lower than last year but last year may have been the anomaly as far as his power. Roberts will eventually get some good lucky again and could get you 10 HR and 10 SB over the rest of the season with a .260-ish AVG. It's nothing to write home about but you shouldn't have been expecting much more out of him. In a deep league where you need a decent 2B and he's eligible, he's still worth owning.

Geovany Soto (C, CHC) - Being patient through a stretch of bad luck is very tough but this is another case of it here. Soto had a .146 BABIP in April which led to a tiny AVG and his HR/FB rate is far below career norms which resulted in hardly any HR's. His contact rate and everything else seem normal so he should be able to snap out of this. But, don't expect a return to hitting .280 with 20 HR's. Soto's true self is more along the lines of a .240 hitter with 10-15 HR's. He'll return there but you can likely find someone else who can deliver similar numbers until Soto's bat heats up again.

Let Them Free
Jair Jurrjens (SP, ATL) - It was a fast fall for Jurrjens who had a 2.96 ERA last year and is now demoted to AAA. The Braves have a lot of pitching though so the leash is short there. Regardless, once he returns, I wouldn't expect the sub-3.00 ERA Jurrjens we saw in 2011 and 2009 as both of those years were boosted by a very low BABIP. He's likely to have average strikeout totals with an ERA slightly above 4.00 if and when he returns. It's safe to cut bait on him for the time being.

Peter Bourjos (OF, ANA) - With Mike Trout getting playing time now, Bourjos is getting less of it. He had a very unlucky month of April offensively and the Angels have a crowded outfield now (side note: remember that movie Angels In The Outfield? I don't, except for that part where the angel lifts the outfielder off the ground to make a ridiculous catch which, I must say, would have infuriated me as a fan of either team). With Trout on board, Bourjos' defense won't be enough to hold his position in the outfield. For the time being, he's not worth owning in most leagues.

Rick Porcello (SP, DET) - I've never been a fan of a starter who only strikes out 4 or 5 batters per nine innings. So, I can't rightfully recommend that you hold onto Porcello or pick him up. Despite a bad game or two, he is still the same pitcher he was before with a 4.00-ish ERA, 1.35-ish WHIP and low strikeout and walk totals. If that's what you wanted on your team all along then you shouldn't cut bait on him now. I just question the move to even own him in the first place.

Keep in mind that shallower leagues have shorter leashes for these players than deeper leagues so you might want to cut bait on a guy earlier knowing that he won't be picked up by anybody else for the time being.

May 1, 2012

WERTH Roto Values - Top Hitters in April

Looking at the projected WERTH values in your draft planning is a helpful tool to determine who to target and who to avoid. But, let's not just forget about WERTH values once the season starts. How much should we value someone like Starlin Castro and his 10 SB's? Just how valuable has Edwin Encarnacion been thus far in comparison to the rest of the league? It's hard to tell when we're just looking at one player's homers and AVG in comparison to a sea of other players so WERTH roto values help tell us just how valuable a player has been in each stat for a roto league by telling us how many points you theoretically would gain in the standings just by owning that player.

In the month of April, the top ten hitters based on roto values have been:
  1. Matt Kemp
  2. Josh Hamilton
  3. Edwin Encarnacion
  4. Adam Jones
  5. Ian Kinsler
  6. Jay Bruce
  7. Miguel Cabrera
  8. Curtis Granderson
  9. Derek Jeter
  10. David Ortiz
And, there have been the major disappointments from the first round of your drafts such as Albert Pujols (226), Jose Bautista (96), Robinson Cano (123) and Justin Upton (134). To get full perspective on the hitters in the month of April, check out the spreadsheet by downloading it here (or check out the Google Docs version that has some formatting removed).

Aside from being a handy reference in regards to the past month of baseball, this spreadsheet serves another purpose of showing the BABIP and HR/FB of each player so you can see who you might want to buy low or sell high on. Some names that stand out as having abnormally high or low totals in both areas are:

  • Matt Kemp (.460 BABIP, 61.1% HR/FB, #1 Rank) - It's hard to say to sell high on somebody this talented but his value will never be as high as it is now this year. In a seasonal league, you might be able to steal somebody's entire team at this point by trading away Kemp. If he hit his usual 20% HR/FB rate in April, Kemp would have had just 4 homers as opposed to 12 (he's had 7 "just enough" HR's according to HR Tracker). He's still one of the best in the game but his godly month of April won't happen all year long.
  • Bryan LaHair (.607 BABIP, 33.3% HR/FB, #41 Rank) - This is a guy that you should sell high on. He's had five homers and 4 of them are of the "just enough" variety. His BABIP is at a ridiculous number  which means his AVG will surely drop. And, on top of that, he's got a 35.7% strikeout rate with a measly 66% contact rate which shows that he has holes in his swing. He could very well still hit 20-25 HR with an okay batting average but his value is at its peak right now.
  • Jose Bautista (.179 BABIP, 9.4% HR/FB, #97 Rank) - If Joey Bats hit 20% HR/FB instead of 9.4% then he would have 7 HR's already. Instead, he's got 3 with a tiny batting average due to poor BABIP. The time is now to buy low on him. I still think the .300 batting average from 2011 was a fluke but if you get a .250 AVG and 30 HR's from here on out then that's got some value if you can swing a good deal for him. Don't trade for him expecting a .300 AVG but try to get his owner to part ways before the HR's start coming back.
Feel free to check through the rest of the list and see who else jumps out as these are just a few of the names in the spreadsheet that are marked with big red boxes around their BABIP or HR/FB. With May upon us, the time to start making some key trades has begun.