Does it seem like every time this year we are bemoaning that this must be the worst year ever with respect to injuries?
Adam Wainwright, Ben Zobrist, Yasiel Puig, Jonathan Lucroy (catcher seems particularly injury prone so far) and on and on. Well, I am just as hammered as you, so let's see if we can find some innings and at-bats hiding out there in the reserve pool?
San Francisco is on the verge of some change, I think. Justin Maxwell (.308-3-9) has been beyond effective against lefties, to start. Drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round in 2005, Maxwell was a reserve guy who struggled till the Astros obtained his services and he went .229-18-53 over 124 games in 2012. Then it was back to nondescript back-up, with the Astros and then Royals before moving to the Giants this year.
I think the Giants are a team in transition, and with Gregor Blanco (.233-0-3) and Brandon Belt (.234-0-4) both struggling, and with Hunter Pence due back, and the potential of Andrew Susac (.385-1-1), I think the Giants have some roster options, especially in deference to prolonging the career of Buster Posey. As for Maxwell, ride the hot hand, but don't expect it to last all season, for the return of Pence means the Giants have a stable starting three.
Is anyone more exasperating than Ryan Raburn to fantasy owners? From out of nowhere in 2008-09, to a solid value between 2010-2012, then back to mediocrity in 2013 (.171-1-12), then a resurgence with the Tribe (,272-16-55), and the skids (.200-4-22) and now what appears to be a hot year starting with .364-1-7 so far. If Raburn is still in your free agent pool, grab him, especially in an AL-only.
With Ben Zobrist injured, look to Eric Sogard (.265-0-4) to get the bulk of playing time, though expect the team to promote Tyler Ladendorf to pick up the utility spot, and perhaps even face left-handed batters in lieu of Sogard. Ladendorf has some speed, and has developed a reasonable eye (.376 OBP last year at Triple-A, with 35 walks to 56 whiffs) and could even deliver a little speed. But, Sogard is the play in an AL-only.
The struggles of Kendall Graveman means Jesse Chavez should get the bulk of starts, by the way, which is just fine. Though Jarrod Parker, and then A.J. Griffin, are working their way back to the rotation, so that time in the rotation could be fleeting. And, do keep an eye on Graveman, a definite talent who needs to adjust to the next level a little more than just spring training.
A quick word in support of the Royals' Brandon Finnegan, the team's first round pick last year who made both an end of season and postseason appearance, but lost the numbers game this spring. Finnegan is the owner of an 0-1, 3.86 line over a pair of starts at Northwest Arkansas, and he has the stuff that could displace either Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Vargas should they prove ineffective. Finnegan is a comer in any format.
The same is true for the Cubs new second sacker Addison Russell, who has both displaced Javier Baez, and who is likely now the second sacker of the future with the Cubs. Forget the other guys, Russell, the Athletics first round pick in 2011 who was part of the Jeff Samardzija swap, has pretty much nowhere to go but up. The 21-year-old was hitting .318-1-9 at Iowa before his call-up, and he may have some struggles, but Russell is unlikely to go back down now, and more likely to establish himself in what will shortly be the best infield in the Majors.
Add Adam Ottavino to the ever growing list of Rockies closers. The 29-year-old, who has been a solid enough setup man the last pair of years, now has three conversions for the team. In the spirit of Curt Leskanic, Jerry Dipoto, Bruce Ruffin, Darren Holmes, Shawn Chacon, Dave Veres and Manny Corpas, to name a few, welcome Ottavino to your roster where you can while he lasts. It could be till the end of this season, but likely not too far into next. Rockies closers never seem to carry over, year-to-year.
Four Dodgers to watch: Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, Scott Baker and Mike Bolsinger. Guerrero (.500-5-13) is screaming to be starting at third while Ethier (.342-2-6) is raking like he did when the Dodgers signed him to a multi-year contract through 2017. While Yasiel Puig is down, Ethier will get at least time against right-handers.
Then with Brandon McCarthy potentially gone, former Twin Scott Baker, who tossed seven decent frames (four hits, six whiffs, two walks, two homers) against the Padres on Sunday. For now, either Baker or 27-year- old Mike Bolsinger (who started Thursday against the Giants, rather effectively), who is 2-0, 0.00 over a pair of starts and 11 innings (17 whiffs) at Oklahoma City.
Finally, I would gamble first on Carlos Villanueva to pick up the rotation slot vacated by Wainwright. Still just 31, Villanueva has started 76 games in the Majors, and was working well enough in long relief for the Redbirds (though used for just 2.6 frames this year). Of course, this is for an NL-only, but there you have it.
What a wild Week 2, and among honoring Jackie Robinson, being awestruck by the Kris Bryant promotion, and amazed J.P. Arencibia still has a career, what actual strategic nuggets can we try to glean for Week 3?
Certainly injury replacements, rather than icons or the new hot thing in the game, was the big topic, and let's start with the red-hot Mets, who lost backstop Travis d'Arnaud to a fractured hand. The team has Anthony Recker lurking, but I would bet that Kevin Plawecki, the team's 2012 #1 selection out of Purdue, sees the playing time. The 24-year-old hit a solid .309-11-64 split between Double-A and Triple-A last year, though he is off to a slow .229-0-6 start at Las Vegas, and I would bet he gets the first chance to grow with this young and fun team of Metropolitans.
In Kansas City, the hot-hitting but equally brittle Alex Rios is down and that means speedy Jarrod Dyson has a chance to get some regular playing time. However, keep an eye open for Paulo Orlando, a 29-year-old Brazilian by birth, who has some very good minor league hitting numbers. With a .314-63-404 line over 1017 games, Orlando hit 63 triples, 164 doubles, and swiped 200 bags, and he might just be a Mike Aviles/Yangervis Solarte kind of pleasant late bloomer.
Jake Peavy is down, and I am having a bad feeling about this year and the future. Not that I don't love the Jake, but back injuries. Ugh. But, if you are looking to the Giants for a replacement, I would steer clear of Ryan Vogelsong and should Yusmeiro Petit be available, grab him.
Petit is not a hard-thrower, but he does throw strikes, and gets whiffs (190 over 177 frames as a Giant). In fact, with San Francisco, Petit, who is just 30, has a 9-6, 3.71 mark with a 1.107 WHIP. Those are very good numbers.
OK, Nick Martinez: Who knew? Well, for one, I should have been paying more attention to the 24-year-old Fordham graduate, who put together a pretty good 23-16, 3.26 mark over four seasons and 338.6 innings. Martinez, who has never pitched above Double-A within the Minors, struck out 302 while compiling a WHIP of 1.221. He is also off to a very good 2015 with a 2-0, 0.00 record over 14 innings and a couple of starts. I think I may have underestimated him, not that he will be another Clayton Kershaw, but he could be Tim Hudson, and that is very good.
It seems like I have waited so long for Yonder Alonso to get good. In fact, I had the first baseman for a number of years in different leagues, and he just never panned out, despite flashes. I traded for Alonso in the XFL (along with Matt Moore) when Alonso was a rookie, and did get his .273-9-62 2012, which was ok, but not good enough to freeze.
At least it was not what I was expecting, nor was it worth $13 as a third-year player, but now, at 28 years old, perhaps Yonder has figured out hitting? He is clubbing to the tune of .342-1-4, to go with eight walks to seven whiffs. I want this to be true, even if I cannot personally trust him, you know?
Back to some injury replacements, Eric Campbell looks to get playing time for the injured David Wright. Campbell, and eighth-rounder in 2008 out of Boston College (Lord Z's Alma Mater), has hit .287-45-318 over 667 games, with the last three seasons all being at Triple-A Las Vegas. The problem for Campbell is that he is stuck behind Wright, but he makes a good play if you need a stick while Wright convalesces.
I like 26-year-old Dominican Jimmy Paredes, who will get playing time in Baltimore while Jonathan Schoop heals, though I'm not sure why (I did draft, and then release him from my Strat-O-Matic team), as Paredes was signed by the Yankees in 2006, and then swapped to the Astros as part of the Lance Berkman deal in 2010. The infielder was then plucked off waivers by the Marlins, Orioles, then Royals before being sold back to the O's near last year's trade deadline.
Paredes is a crazy free-swinger with 563 minor league strikeouts to 131 walks, and just 23 free passes to 128 strikeouts in the Majors, so it is hard to recommend him, and he obviously can be streaky but, unless you just need a placeholder, I would steer clear.
Wade Davis is the closer in Kansas City until Greg Holland returns, and for sure Davis can strike out batters, as witnessed by his 109 punchouts over 71 frames last year. He is a terrific addition if not already snatched up in your league. (Though my guess is Davis was grabbed on draft day, like Brad Boxberger and Kevin Quackenbush.)
This is an official Yasmany Tomas "Lost in Space Will Robinson Danger, Danger, Warning." He is raw, and cannot play Major League defense, nor can he hit Big League pitching. Let someone else take the risk.
And, don't forget. Early first pitch on Patriot's Day.
What a fun first week: So all over the map, right?
Miguel Cabrera comes out of the box crushing, as does Adrian Gonzalez, while Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw get knocked around like batting practice cannon fodder. Good thing pitchers are dominant early in the season, no?
So, let's take a look at a few of my favorite names for the week, starting with the newest Giants starter, Chris Heston. The 27-year-old has been very workmanlike in his climb from being a 12th round pick in 2009 out of East Carolina University. As a minor leaguer, Heston has assembled a line of 46-45, 3.56 over 765 innings, with 646 strikeouts with a 1.255 WHIP. Heston went 12-9, 3.38 over 173 frames at Fresno last year prior to a brief appearance at ATT (0-0, 5.06 over 5.3 innings) but with questions in the Giants rotation, and based upon Heston's great start Tuesday, he makes a good FAAB selection.
Across the bay, Mark Canha was drafted by the Fish in 2009 (seventh round) out of U.C. Berkeley, then picked up by the Rockies as a Rule 5 pick in December, and then swapped to the Athletics for Austin House the same day (meaning Canha needs to stay on the roster all season, hit the DL, or go back to the Fish). With a .285-68-303 line in the Minors, including a strong .303-20-82 2014 with New Orleans, Canha is a perfect right-handed fit for Oakland. He gets on as the .375 OBP (232 walks to 388 whiffs). The outfielder/first baseman makes a nice addition in an AL-only for sure and should get some at-bats and give some pretty good numbers, methinks.
I am liking Tampa's Kevin Kiermaier more and more as one of those quiet producers. A 31st round pick out of Parkland College in Illinois, Kiermaier played pretty steady ball through the Rays system, hitting .305-3-13 over 34 contests last year, then off to Tropicana where he hit .263-10-35 over 108 games. The 25-year-old seems to have increasing power (.353-2-4 this year), having 12 dingers in the bigs, while he only managed 13 in the Minors since being drafted in 2010. Another play, primarily in the American League.
The Jays picked up there now starting second sacker, Devon Travis, in exchange for the Tigers Anthony Gose. Travis was a 13th round pick by Detroit in 2012. Travis had a great year at Double-A Erie in 2014, hitting ,298-10-52 with 16 steals (and seven triples with 20 doubles) while walking 37 times to 60 free passes (.358 OBP). Travis is off to a hot start (.313-1-3) and is probably lurking on the available list in most leagues.
On the flip side, Anthony Gose is similarly off to a nice start. A second-round pick out of Bellflower High School, in 2008 by the Phillies, then swapped to the Astros as part of the Roy Oswalt deal in 2010, then to the Astros for Brett Wallace the same day at the 2010 trade deadline, and then during the off-season to Detroit for Travis. Gose seems to have settled in, adjusting his sea legs to the Majors, hitting .450-1-5 with a steal for the first week. It looks like this promising youngster (he is now 24) is ready for prime time.
As noted in my DFS coverage, I might well have underestimated the skill set of Houston's Dallas Keuchel. The Houston right-hander now has two very good starts over 14 innings (a pair of runs, nine hits, three walks and seven whiffs) although truly not against the toughest opponents on the planet. Still, Keuchel's 2014 (12-9, 2.93) seems to be the real deal. As in while I am not so sure about Collin McHugh and Matt Shoemaker, I am about Keuchel. I think he will prove to be very good in a Tim Hudson kind of way.
I always wondered about DJ LeMahieu: a big guy (6'4", 215 pounds) for a second sacker. Especially, a second sacker without a lot a power (nine homers over 318 Major League games), but he seems to have gotten the hang of hitting. LeMahieu was a second rounder by the Cubs in 2009 out of LSU, who hit .321-9-210 over 378 games. LeMahieu hit ok as a full-timer last year (.267-5-42) but has come out of the blocks hot, and looks ready to step it up a la Gose.
Let's finish with another great looking Cuban import, Jose Iglesias. Originally signed by the Red Sox, Iglesias was part of the crazy three-way deal that involved Avisail Garcia and Jake Peavy among Boston, the White Sox, and Tigers. Like his team (and mates Miggy and Gose), Iglesias is off to a great start (.600-0-2 with a steal) and is a large reason why Detroit is 6-0 through the first week of the season. He too is more than worth a look as we adjust our rosters this first cycle.
It is hard for me to believe, but today begins the 20th anniversary of the Hotpage. What a ride it has been, and it has been wonderful to share it with all of you as Fantasy Sports have now become so mainstream!
So, as the exciting Cubs take on the Cardinals, in the wake of the Padres and Braves major swap, let's take a look at a few of the implications of that big trade.
Of course, Craig Kimbrel becomes the closer in San Diego, but what about Kevin Quackenbush, whom many of us projected as a save recipient? Well, at least I thought Quackenbush could surpass Joaquin Benoit. Quackenbush is still a great WHIP/ERA stabilizer, and will get some whiffs, but his stock drops in all formats save when Holds are a stat. I do think Quackenbush figures to be a closer somewhere before long, but "future" is the key word.
On the Braves side, I confess to having been a Carlos Quentin fan for a number of years, although after his bad and injury-plagued 2014 (.177-4-18 over 50 games), I stayed away. Quentin, however, can hit when he is healthy (that is obviously the issue) but he could get a new lease on everything in Atlanta, where he should have a starting gig. It has been reported that the Braves will demote the 32-year-old, but Quentin's skill set is so much better than anything the Braves are throwing in the outfield (including Cameron Maybin, who was traded with Quentin, and top pitching prospect Matt Wisler) at this point, I think it is a mistake to designate Carlos. We shall see.
I have been hyping the Jays' Marco Estrada as a perfect reserve/ninth pitcher in most deep leagues. Estrada is sixth on the starter depth chart, but Drew Hutchison, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez are still somewhat untested over a prolonged period, while Estrada, who is 31, has a 1.181 WHIP and 508 strikeouts over 541 Major League innings. The issue is the 85 homers Estrada has allowed, but if he can channel some of the great 2013 (7-6, 3.87 over 21 starts), he could be a valuable asset.
If you are looking for a utility player, I want to repeat that the Giants' Matt Duffy could wind up with some serious playing time, and related numbers. The 24-year-old, who was an 18th round selection in 2012, has a .302-13-135 line over 248 games and parts of three seasons, and hit a respectable .267-0-8 last year over 34 late season games. Duffy, who plays second, third, short, and has worked some in the outfield, hit .361 this spring with three dingers to earn an Opening Day slot, with a good eye (.387 minor league OBP with 120 walks to 145 whiffs) and could be a nice play in a deep league.
I want to trust Baltimore #5 starter Ubaldo Jimenez over Kevin Gausman, but I don't. Jimenez was a huge disappointment at 6-9, 4.81 last year, though he did whiff 116 over 125.3 frames. The issue was the 77 walks he also allowed. But, I think holding back Gausman (7-7, 3.57 with 88 whiffs over 112.3 innings) is an error. It was Gausman who helped pick up the slack behind the struggles of Jimemez, after all. Handcuffing the pair in a deep league is a great idea, by the way, but Gausman is the long-term play, for sure.
The Braves have installed former #1 pick of the Padres (in 2011) Jace Peterson as their everyday second sacker. Much like Duffy, Peterson has good zone judgement with 217 walks to 233 strikeouts (.381 OBP) to go with a .287-14-187 line with 148 steals over 389 games, and hit .306-2-39 over 68 Triple-A games when not yo-yo-ing to Petco, where he did struggle (.113-0-0 with a pair of swipes), but with lesser expectations on a rebuilding Braves team, Peterson could do just fine. Peterson was part of the Justin Upton swap, by the way.
Continuing with a couple of more middle infielders, the Reds' Kris Negron is of a similar ilk, albeit a bit older than Duffy or Peterson. Negron hit .271-6-17 with five swipes last year during limited time (49 games) and could prove to be a nice middle infield gamble in a deep league. Negron is a Northern California product (Cosumnes River College, near Sacramento) and was drafted by the Red Sox in 2006 in the seventh round.
Don't look now, but Dan Uggla has made the Nationals roster. Now, I am not so much endorsing the second sacker with the biggest swing this side of the "Pit and the Pendulum," but Uggla hit .261 this spring with a pair of dingers to earn his slot. I wouldn't gamble much on Uggla, but I would keep my eye on him, especially in a deep format. He can hit the big fly, and if Uggla can harness that swing with a little control, he could be as good as...Mark Reynolds?
Here we are, just a week from the start of the 2015 season, with a bunch of drafts and auctions behind us, but no doubt with a bunch more ahead. In some leagues--like my NL LABR for instance--there is even a special Saturday pre-season transaction period to fix holes, upgrade, and rectify post-draft-buyer's remorse-second-guessing.
With that in mind, let's take this cycle to look at some late surprises to get some playing time at the Show, and maybe even carve a notch on our rosters for the season.
Matt Duffy (SS/3B/2B, Giants): Duffy, an 18th round pick of the Giants in 2012, did ok after an August big gulp last year, hitting .267-0-8 over 34 games, but he has been red-hot this spring, smacking the ball to the tune of .349-2-9 with a 1.029 OPS. Duffy seems to have survived the latest round of cuts and has a lock on the utility spot in San Francisco, which means Major League time. However, should Joe Panik or Casey McGehee struggle, Duffy might have enough defensive skill and pop to simply step in and pick it up.
Carlos Rodon (P, White Sox): Rodon was maybe the hottest name of the week last week, as he wiped out nine Royals over four innings, bringing his strikeout total to 19 over 12.3 innings, and probably cementing a gig in the rotation, at least until Chris Sale returns. With a 1-0, 3.65 mark over four starts, Rodon is a great nab from the free agent pool if no one has grabbed him as of yet.
T.J. House (P, Indians): A 16th rounder of the Tribe in 2008, House climbed the ladder and debuted with the Tribe last May, earning a job in the rotation, posting a 5-3, 3.35 over 102 innings and 19 starts, whiffing 80 to 22 walks and 112 hits (1.324 WHIP). With a 2-1, 5.60 spring over 17.6 frames, with 15 strikeouts, he has earned a job in the rotation. House makes an ok fifth or sixth starter for now, and his stock and skill set are on the rise.
Blake Swihart (C, Red Sox): How many catchers have the Red Sox paraded past us with the whisper of stardom on their bats, only to struggle and fade away (Ryan Lavarnway, Jarrod Saltalamacchia) recently? Well, Swihart, a first round high school pick in 2011, shot up the chain last year, hitting .293-13-64, primarily at Double-A Portland. Swihart seemed likely to pick it up at Triple-A Pawtucket to start 2015, but his .333-1-5 spring has camp buzzing that Swihart might just make the Opening Day roster with Christian Vazquez injured. Vazquez better watch out, or he could be Pipped.
C.J. Cron (1B/DH, Angels): Another first rounder from 2011, Cron did well enough, hitting .256-11-37 over 79 games and a call-up last year, and coming off his great spring of .407-2-10, Albert Pujols' understudy might well get as much playing time as his mentor between covering first and DH with Josh Hamilton out for awhile. Cron has definite 25-homer pop, and is surely worthy of a pick up in every format.
Justin Smoak (1B, Jays): So many years of promise and disappointments, Smoak does have 74 homers over his five-year career, but just a .224 average and .309 OBP, fueled by 492 strikeouts to 238 walks. Smoak is surely streaky, and if they can simply exploit him against right-handers, and avoid the temptation of everyday play, for which he is simply not suited. Maybe only for use in daily games, or weekend platoons, but Smoak could be a nice cheap source of some power.
Tyler Clippard (P, Athletics): It's settled for now: Tyler Clippard will close in Oakland, at least pending the return of Sean Doolittle. The questions are will he return, and is Oakland better off with the more durable Clippard in the stopper role while Doolittle becomes the lefty specialist, complementing Clippard as a one-two close out punch. I am not so sure Doolittle's arm issues are so simple anyway, and I think Clippard keeps the job for the year, and turns in 30 saves.
Once again, it was indeed Tout Time, and Saturday I bought my team for the the American League, as many of you know from the blitz of Tweets and great coverage on Sirius XM Fantasy Radio.
Of course, part of the addition of social media to the crazy electronic world in which we live, is that everyone is now an expert at everything. Mind you, as I have noted for the last 23 years, I am not an expert at much of anything.
With respect to fantasy baseball, I can play pretty well, and I can write a little better than I play, but surely there are a lot of humans out there who probably play better than me. If I do have a strength, it is--I hope--in being as fearless as possible in trying things, which as we know works pretty well sometimes, but also can fail majestically just as often.
But, I do sort of liken criticisms to how any of us might draft to parenting: That is, everyone I know who doesn't have kids always knows exactly how to handle other people's children.
Not that I feel defensive. After my $40 experiment on Clayton Kershaw in NL LABR, for Tout I felt like going back to my roto-roots, and simply draft a somewhat quiet, steady team featuring a roster full of good everyday players. I tried to avoid superstars and paying more than $25 on any player.
But essentially I was looking for a cost bottom line that in the context of the respective player's skill set would turn a profit of a couple of bucks.
Anyway, here is my team with basic thoughts. You can review the entire league here
C Mike Zunino ($9): You know I like his 22 homers last year: I am guessing his minor league .365 will push the average up.
1B Billy Butler ($15): Because 2014 was a down year, we tend to dismiss that it was still pretty good. Bounceback with a new team!
2B Micah Johnson ($9): Speedster looks like he has the Keystone slot locked going into the season.
3B Brett Lawrie ($15): New environ, playing on grass, and some position flexibility.
SS Alexei Ramirez ($22): Power/Speed/Generally healthy.
MI Eduardo Escobar ($1): The perfect MI, Escobar qualifies at second, third, short and even outfield in some leagues. .275-6-37 line last year.
CI Nick Castellanos ($16): Sophomore campaign on a good hitting team should pay off.
OF Kole Calhoun ($23): Everyone knows I love this guy: I thought he would cost a few bucks more.
OF Dustin Ackley ($8): Raked in college, raked in the Minors, and I think this year he will rake in the Majors.
OF Allen Craig ($7): Forgotten man could surprise us all. Or better, get traded somewhere and get a new start.
SW Marco Estrada ($2): In line to be the fifth starter in Toronto, Estrada has good WHIP/strikeout potential. Plugging him at swing gives me an extra potential starter, as you can never have enough.
OF Yoenis Cespedes ($21): Cheaper than I imagined, love him hitting behind Miguel Cabrera.
P Yordano Ventura ($16): Adjusted after Sale, Ventura has enormous K and ace potential.
P Chris Archer ($17): Another up-and-comer, with big upside, going into his third season.
P Ervin Santana ($10): Ervin misses a lot of bats, and is very steady for the price.
P Chris Tillman ($14): Another steady hurler who still has his best years ahead.
P Kendall Graveman ($4): Looks like he has a spot in the rotation, along with a lot of upside in a pitcher's park.
P Jesse Hahn ($7): In the Oakland rotation, I think Hahn has very good things ahead.
P Tyler Clippard ($10): At best, he gets me saves and a surplus: at worst, he gets me innings, WHIP, and maybe some wins.
P Joe Nathan ($9): Iffy, but I don't think as iffy as everyone else. Should be good for at least 15 conversions.
RES Brock Holt: Versatile bat to plug in just about anywhere.
RES Carlos Sanchez: Handcuff to Johnson.
RES Grant Green: Like Ackley, Green has hit everywhere so far. If he can do it in the Majors, he has a job.
Rototour 2015 continues this Saturday with the great and fun Tout Wars Weekend in New York City. In fact, this season the drafts will be open to the public, held at City Crab in Manhattan. Further information is available at the Tout Wars Site. Also note the auctions will be broadcast live on Sirius-XM Fantasy Sports Radio.
Anyway, as I completed a list of players I was looking towards as potential bargains prior to last week's LABR auction, here is a compendium of American Leaguers I am looking at for this coming Saturday's auction.
Jesse Hahn (SP, Athletics): I confess, this list will indeed be Oakland friendly, but the reason for this is two-fold: First, I do tend to agree with Billy Beane's assessment of players, and two, because the team is sort of re-engineering, I think many of their players are under-appreciated. Hahn performed very well with the Padres (7-4, 3.07 over 73.3 MLB frames) before he was shut down to avoid overuse. Traded to Oakland as part of the Derek Norris deal, he is slated for the rotation in a pitchers park, with pretty good defense, and his skills point to some pretty good success. Maybe $5 or so?
Josh Phegley (C, Athletics): This time the trade was with the Sox, and Phegley had a great (.274-23-75) Triple-A season last year. He will share some backstop duties with Stephen Vogt, but Vogt will also spend some time at first and in the outfield. I am guessing he would be a $1-$3 investment and should return a little profit.
Billy Butler (1B/DH, Athletics): Coming off a .271-9-66 year, Butler, who is just 28, has seen his stock drop. Just two years ago, he hit .313-23-107, and while he will spend a lot of time at DH, I will bet he hits between 35-40 doubles at the Coliseum. Homers might drop, but the guy can hit, and I think for around $14.
Steve Pearce (1B/OF, Orioles): The American League's version of Scott Van Slyke, Pearce should get another 350-plus at-bats and be good for .270-15-70 or so totals, and a modest ($7-$10) price. If he gets 400 at-bats, Pearce can do even better.
Nick Castellanos (3B, Tigers): Castellanos had a good enough rookie campaign (.259-11-66) and will step it up as a Sophomore, surrounded by a lot of pop (as in Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Kinsler, and when he returns, Victor Martinez). .265-20-70 is what I see in the mid-teens dollars.
Allen Craig (1B/OF, Red Sox): Good example of lost luster after one down season, coupled with being on a team with a lot of prospects. Craig can seriously rake, as witnessed by his solid 2012-13 seasons, and there should be enough positional chairs as the Red Sox settle into some kind of lineup, that either gives Craig a shot at 450 at-bats, or forces a trade where his offensive skills can be exploited. I am guessing he will be less than $5.
Emilio Bonifacio (OF/3B): Three teams over three years suggests Bonfacio wears out his use and welcome, but he does offer some position flexibility and has swped in excess of 25 bags each of the last three years as well. He starts out hot, so a good April might mean dealing him, especially if the price tag is low (I am guessing $4 or so).
Dustin Ackley (OF, Mariners): Is Ackley the most obscure big leaguer of 2014 to hit 14 homers? Seems like, but as another third-year guy, I am guessing the line drive hitting Ackley will kick it up from his .245-14-65 line. I hope he goes for around $6.
Chris Archer (P, Rays): Has a 3.28 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP over 356.6 innings, with 310 strikeouts as a Major Leaguer, again, going into his third full season, ideally as the team's #1 starter. I hope I can grab Archer for $12 or so.
Back in mid-January, I wrote a Hotpage The Kershaw Report (Part I) in which I noted a few things.
2) That back in Martinez' heyday of dominance, John Hunt opened with a $50 bid on Pedro, heard crickets, and won the league.
I decided back then I would see just what the impact of having Kershaw under similar circumstances would be. So, knowing the LABR NL auction was coming up, I decided to road test this poser.
Although, since pitching has improved (or hitting has gotten worse, or some combo therein) between the two aces, I decided that when Kershaw was nominated in LABR, I would jump the bid to $40, and that if the Dodger southpaw made to my nomination turn, I would simply say "Kershaw, $40," and hope for crickets.
I did decide that if someone upped my bid to $41, he (or she) bought him, in that I did not want a bidding war, but I did want to make a statement.
So, that is what I did, and as a result I assembled my team around the Dodgers ace. Note that after the draft, I was told by my league mates that had I opened at $35, they would have bid up to $40, and I was also asked if someone had bid $41, would I go to $42? The answer was "No."
So, my instincts were correct, and, after the rights to Kershaw was cast, I got to build a hopefully successful supporting cast.
But, before we look quickly at my roster and brief thoughts, I would again like to look at Kershaw and his impact on your team and position in your league.
So, if you would be willing to participate, can you send:
-The cost/draft position of Kershaw in your league.
-Your league format (# of teams, scoring system, etc).
-During the first month of the season, we will look at those preliminary results, then collect the mid-season numbers for review, and once again as a post-mortem after the season to see the results, and if we learned anything from the exercise.
As for the rest of my team:
C: Derek Norris ($12): Coming into his own on an improving team.
1B: Lucas Duda ($21): Hit 32 homers last year. If he can hit 25 this year, I will make a few bucks.
2B: Kolten Wong ($25): Cost a little more than I thought, but I had the money, and he has 15/25 potential.
3B: Josh Harrison ($22): Power/Speed and position flexibility. And, he plays hard.
SS: Brandon Crawford ($8): I swear he has a .270-15-70 season living in him somewhere.
MI: Jung-Ho Kang ($8): A crap-shoot, but one I like.
CI: Martin Prado ($15): I think Prado returns to big productivity on a fun young team with some big sticks.
OF: Marcell Ozuna ($25): Part of that productive young Marlins team.
OF: Joc Pederson ($17): Big power/speed potential. I just hope he is ready.
OF: Chris Heisey ($1): Has power and speed also. He needs to show he can deliver, but for a buck, he need not deliver too much.
OF: John Mayberry, Jr. ($1): Kind of like Heisey. And, in a tough deep league, well, you need $1 gambles coming out of the draft.
SP: Clayton Kershaw ($40): 'Nuff said.
SP: Brandon McCarthy ($14): I think he is poised for his best season ever.
SP: Gio Gonzalez ($13): Couldn't let him get by at that cost.
SP: Mike Fiers ($13): Big talent, coming off a killer second half.
SP: Brett Anderson ($2): Big talent, big injury risk, but not much of a gamble.
SP: Patrick Corbin ($1): Out till June, but I can DL Corbin and stream some of the starters from my reserve list nicely within LABR rules.
RP: Sergio Romo ($3): Think he is the closer by May. Still has the best slider in the league.
RP: Kevin Quackenbush ($6): K's and potential saves.
RP: Jonathan Broxton ($1): K's and maybe a couple of saves.
RES: Jeremy Hellickson: I will drop him into Corbin's slot to start.
RES: Robbie Erlin: Another starter chance to stream on a rising team in a pitcher's park. He strikes guys out, too.
RES: Kyle Schwarber: .344-1-53 with five swipes over 79 games after being drafted #1 by the Cubs.
RES: Chris Heston: Think he sees time with the Giants this year.
RES: Junior Lake: Has power and could see at-bats if some of the young Cubs are not ready.
RES: Joaquin Arias: Infield bench support, just in case.
This coming weekend will again send us the League of Alternative Reality (LABR) American and National League auctions, and once again I will be duking it out with the likes of Greg Ambrosius, Steve Gardner and Steve Moyer, team Rick Wolf & Glenn Colton, and others in the industry.
It is always a great weekend--in fact I will indeed be hitting up games over five days, and reporting/tweeting (@lawrmichaels) what I see, and the live drafts will be broadcast live on SiriusXM.
There are indeed players I am looking to cop for my roster, but rather than suggest those players specifically, I would more like to change the context of some more of our thinking.
The term "fantasy sleeper" gets tossed around as freely and indiscriminately as does the term "value." Sleeper has been construed to be predicting a breakout no one else has seen. As in, say Charlie Blackmon, at least through the first six weeks of last season. There are not really minor leaguers who are that much of a sleeper any longer since we all mine so deeply for names like Jose Fernandez and Dilson Herrera.
However, Blackmon--like Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar--proved to be sleepers when the season was done, not so much because there were rivers of talent oozing in their blood, but rather because we all (and I mean all) dismissed them, at least on draft day.
So, what sleeper really means is plucking value--and the occasional big year--out of a player that everyone else has dismissed. For, let's face it, if you were in a fairly deep mixed league last year, and grabbed the troika of Blackmon, Escobar and Santana out of the free agent pool, you either had a good team, or there was never any hope for your squad in the first place.
Anyway, with that context, here are some players I think could provide that nice little profit at a minimum investment, for load up a team where every player earns $3-$4, and you will have a competitive team.
Note that the players suggested really allude to NL-only, and deep Mixed formats, but irrespective, I think they are worth following during the season.
Andrew Susac (C, Giants): Former #2 selection in 2011, Susac advanced quickly through the ranks, posting .251-31-130 totals over 249 minor league games, with a .362 OBP (131 walks to 218 K) with excellent OPS numbers (.825) after being promoted from Class-A following the 2012 season. Susac hit .273-3-19 over 35 games last year. Now mind you, we all know Buster Posey is the Giants backstop, as well as the best catcher in the business at this moment in time and space, but the Giants want to keep Buster healthy. That means days either of rest, or even spelling Brandon Belt, depending upon how his season goes. And, should Casey McGehee flounder, I would not think it outrageous to consider Buster for that spot. For a $1 catcher who seems to understand hitting and might have some opportunities, well, should Susac simply give you $4 of value for that, it would be huge.
Brandon McCarthy (P, Dodgers): Pitching is indeed very very deep, so, it is easy to overlook McCarthy with the likes of Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke and Matt Harvey floating around the pool. But, McCarthy, who does not turn 32 until the All-Star Break (and seems like he has been around always) is definitely relegated to the lower levels of the starting pitchers. True, he has struggled some since his return from being beaned in Oakland a few years back (I was there, it was brutal), but last year, especially after his trade to the Yankees, McCarthy both regained his composure and command, but also became a pitcher as a result of that age and experience. McCarthy was 3-10 with Arizona before being swapped, and then went 7-5, 2.89 over 14 starts in the Bronx. And, after arriving in the Apple, McCarthy's strikeout-to-walk rate improved from 4.65 to 6.31, while his WHIP went from 1.377 to 1.151. Now he goes to a team that has always been good with pitchers, and settles into a third/fourth starter role. That seems like a harmonic convergence for big-time success.
Brandon Maurer (P, Padres): Hard thrower (close to 100), who really only has two pitches, the move to the pen for Maurer in Seattle last year is what settled him down. He was 1-4, 7.52 over 32.3 frames as a starter, but 0-0, 2.71, with an 0.964 WHIP and 7.60 strikeout-to-walk rate (1.21 as a starter) after moving to the pen and twirling 37.3 innings. I had thought he was the sort of dark horse heir apparent closer in Seattle: Now I think he is in that role in San Diego.
Brandon Crawford (SS, Giants): I actually think the Bay Area teams have a lot of under-the-radar potential values, but I truly think Crawford has a .269-15-75-8 season in his bones. Maybe even better than that. But, since becoming a starter, his OPS has improved from .584 to .653 to .674 to .714, while his OBP has gone from .288 to .304 to .311 to .324. Now 28, and arguably the best defensive shortstop in the league, I think Crawford will understand he is a big leaguer, and rise to the occasion (while his stats rise with him).
Kolten Wong (2B, Cardinals): Not really much of a sleeper anymore, but 12 homers and 20 swipes last year over 402 at-bats, as Wong even struggled some handling everyday work at Busch, the new. He has 20/20 potential at second base, which is sweet indeed.
Scott Van Slyke (1B/OF, Dodgers): There is so much talk about the Dodgers and their outfielders, but Van Slyke kind of gets lost in the shuffle. As a minor leaguer, Van Slyke hit .295-98-476 over 791 minor league contests, with a .371 OBP and .858 OPS. Last year, as a fourth flychaser/first sacker, he went .298-11-29, with a .910 OPS over 246 at-bats. Say Joc Pederson struggles, or Carl Crawford cannot hit lefties, or Alex Gonzalez gets hurt? I like Van Slyke (the National League's Steve Pearce).
Josh Collmenter (P, Diamondbacks): I remember seeing Collmenter and his odd delivery in the fall league, and liking it then, so I guess I have always been a fan. He is not overpowering, but he pitches smart (11-9, 3.46, and a 1.13 WHIP last year over 179.3 innings) and he is not taken any more seriously than Mark Buehrle (his AL doppleganger). A great fifth or sixth starter option in a deep format. Not even a bad fourth in many instances.
Mike Morse (1B/OF, Marlins): Yes, he is still injury prone (438 at-bats last year) but he similarly can still deliver some pop (Who had a higher OPS last year, Morse or Albert Pujols?). Morse should slide right into the Fish lineup, and get some nice pitches and opportunities hitting under the radar of the Marlins hot young outfield. He could give you $15-plus in return for maybe a $5 investment.
Alberto Callaspo (1B/2B/3B, Braves): He is versatile in the field, and he can do a little bit of everything, and on an Atlanta team in some form of transition, he should continue to get the 400 or so at-bats he has garnered over the past four years. True, his .290 OBP is really bad, as was his .223 average (career OBP is .330, and average is .267) so for sure those numbers can be considered a blip. Add in that Callaspo really had a great eye (40 walks to 50 whiffs) last year says he knows the zone and just couldn't buy a hit. He will cost a buck. He could post a .265-9-50-5 line, which would be worth five-plus.
How much fun is it that players are at camp and Barry Zito and Matt Harvey are both throwing the ball? And, that knowing in a couple of weeks the first spring match-ups will take place? Meaning all these mock drafts will fall by the wayside, in deference to our actual drafts and auctions?
If you are like me, you have been doing a bunch of mocks, which again, is a really great exercise for several reasons. First, it gives you a feel for the player pool at large. Second, it gives you a feel for how others might value players, especially the players you like.
However, it is possible to fall under a false sense of security by going through those motions, so let me offer a few thoughts to keep us all grounded.
Pooh pooh on value. As we keep hammering, value means nothing: it is potential, and the player's ability to realize that potential that matters. Furthermore, once the draft, or especially auction begins, all those ADP numbers fly out the window like a New Year's Resolution to go to the gym four times a week. Focus on what a reasonable cost for the potential you hope your players and team will produce. But, it is a team you are obtaining, and there are a zillion combinations that can become a winner in just about any format and configuration. So, stay fluid.
Win the league, not the draft. One of the things that kills me about drafts is coming out of them being happy because you have a top projected team. Well, unless you are Larry Schechter--who is better disciplined in pricing, but then drafting to support those projections than anyone else--post-draft rankings mean nothing. In fact, personally, the lower I am in those league projections, the happier I am. That is because the teams with the higher production tend to dismiss us crappy teams. Either way, the objective is to be in first in October, not March.
Do your best to disrupt your opponents. We all have players we covet, and players we eschew, and a lot of the time our league-mates know not just who we like, but what we like to do. So, mix it up. Change paths and draft or nominate or purchase players at strategic times to force the hand of your opponents. It might mess your league-mates up, and that means an advantage for you.
Never nominate a player you are not willing to roster. These last couple of thoughts work in concert with the disruption of your fellow owners. But, we all can get too clever sometimes, and try and not overthink a player or strategy. Throwing others off is one thing, but thinking you can outsmart 11 other guys on a regular basis by nominating Robinson Chirinos for $10, knowing someone will bid $11, really means you are going to hear crickets. Meaning you better be sure you targeted $10 for a catcher slot, and that you are cool with the Texas backstop.
Take advantage of what the others give you. Invariably during the draft, Alex Gordon will still be out there in Round 11, or Lorenzo Cain (and 25-plus steals) will be available for $3. Grab them. Never let a bargain pass, no matter how you feel about a player. That is, even if you hate Cain, imagine trying to scrounge up 15 swipes in August via trade or FAAB, and how easy that might be.
One of the mocks I participated in a week back was the Rotoworld auction, hosted by Seth Trachtman.
The league setup was 12-team mixed league, with a $260 Salary Cap, meaning there would be some over-spending to begin with, and some bargains at the end.
Such auctions can be tricky animals, and would seem to favor the "stars and scrubs" approach, where allocating $150 for three absolute top players, and then meting out a buck here and there to fill out a roster is the way to go. Truth is, when there are $1 deals, like Billy Butler and Chris Tillman, at the bottom of the nominations, that strategy does make sense.
And, the one thing taking such an approach means is that you probably will indeed spend all your money, which ostensibly is a good thing.
Among the participants, our host, Mr. Trachtman, came the closest to going with the stars, bagging three (Clayton Kershaw, $37; Jose Abreu, $35; and Jose Altuve, $32) high-priced players, although of course Mike Trout drew the most bids and bucks, at $50. Note that Kershaw was the second most costly player.
Where the conundrum of auctions like this lies, is that while it is considered a sin to leave money on the table, doing so is not such a death knell. While it is true, you do want to use all your financial resources as efficiently as permits, but if I think that Marcell Ozuna will produce as well as Justin Upton--and thus have targeted Ozuna--should I try to grab Upton if the price is right?
Well, in this mock, Upton went for $22, while I grabbed Ozuna later for $11, and then Leonys Martin for another $11, meaning I filled two slots more efficiently with respect to total offensive production, at the same cost as Upton alone.
Personally, I prefer to try and split the middle of stars and scrubs by doing just that, although what this means is not being afraid to push a player or two for more than you perceive the dollar cost should be.
The trick is such money management has to be handled with a lot of focus during your auction. And, you should have some guidelines, such as:
-Have a mythical roster of players and ideal set of projected costs for them ready before the draft.
-Make a split decision as soon as players are nominated as to whether you are serious about acquiring the nominated player.
-Bearing in mind the previous suggestion, always be prepared to jump on a bargain, even if you had not originally intended on rostering the nominee.
-Don't wait too long to get players. I have a tendency in single-league auctions to wait a spell for some money to be spent, but that approach will not work in a mixed format. Go ahead and get players, even if the first few are $5 or so more than you projected. By the end rounds, things should balance out.
-Get an ace--in my case Sale--but target about $6 for all your remaining starting pitchers on average. If a few cost a bit more, again, that will balance out (as in Tillman for $1 and Tanner Roark for $4).
-After you have filled out roughly two-thirds of your roster, try to sit on money, holding out $30-$35 for your last handful of players. This will allow you to control the board, and get the guys you want.
-Remember, closer is a deep slot in such a league. I got Fernando Rodney and Joe Nathan for a collective $6, and while I realize these might not be your first choices to close, both have the job going into camp, got 83 saves last year collectively, and cost me almost nothing. By contrast, Craig Kimbrel cost Rick Wolf $19.
-Don't freak if you don't spend all your money. In such a shallow format, if you get the players you targeted, that should do it. That is because if the players you prefer produce as you anticipate, it won't matter what they cost.
Auctions are tricky animals, but they are indeed a lot of fun. The results and analysis will be part of the Rotoworld Draft Kit.