April 1, 2013 (Week 1) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 01 April 2013 00:00

Bud Norris just threw the first pitch of the season for a called strike, so we are underway.

Truth is, as easy as it is to rag on the 'Stros, I like the potential of their infield at least with Brett Wallace, Matt Dominguez, Jose Altuve, and even Jason Castro. Those are all good guys to take a stake in building around, in my view, and Houston will be fun to watch evolve as such.

I have to say with Norris on my Strat-O-Matic team, and Matt Harrison on both my XFL teams, well, a low scoring game works for me tonight.

In the mean time, here we are back for our 17th season of the Hotpage. I was hoping this year to revive something I did around 15 years ago with "The Pedro Report" where we looked at the impact upon the final finish of teams that had Pedro Martinez (they averaged finishing second, among around 35 teams).

Well, this year I want to see about tracking Justin Verlander in the same way as I think he is the best, most consistent, healthy, and dominant starting pitcher in the Majors.

But, more on that over the next couple of weeks, as tonight we go back to looking at the players who look interesting and are ideally under the radar of most fantasy players, starting with Miami hurler Jose Fernandez, Miami's 20-year-old rookie pitcher. Fernandez, rated #19 on my Top 250 Prospect List for this year (you can get the full list as part of our Platinum Package), following a year split between A (7-0, 1.59) and High-A (7-1, 1.96). That gave Fernandez a cumulative 14-1, 1.75 ERA over 134 innings with 158 whiffs to 35 walks (0.925 WHIP). Yes, he is only 20, and yes, he is on a team in search of a new contending lineup. But, at 6'4", 240, Fernandez can obviously really bring it. When I completed the Top 250 this year, I went through all the players and highlighted the ones that really grabbed my eye. And Fernandez was the first one. Especially if you can hide him until you are sure the right-hander will be OK, but Fernandez is surely a guy to give some rope.  

Speaking of which, 5'7" Joe Ortiz placed sixth on my Top 250 after a 2-3, 2.15 2012 split between Round Rock and Frisco. The 22-year- old Venezuelan whiffed 52 over 62.2 innings, with just nine walks and 57 hits (1.053 ratio) surrendered. Ortiz, as a left-handed reliever, will see limited use but I really like the kid and since Texas is pretty good at developing arms, he is a guy to certainly follow.

What do you want to know about Nick Noonan, who looks to make the Giants' Opening Day roster? Well, drafted in the first round in 2007 by San Francisco out of Parker High School (San Diego), he went .296-9-62 with 26 doubles and seven swipes last year at Triple-A Fresno. Now 23, Noonan looks to make the club as their utility guy and the truth is I like him better than either Juaquin Arias or Kensuke Tanaka by a long shot. In fact, I like him better than Emmanuel Burris. Think he could be a useful utility guy, but that means value only in the deepest of leagues.

I have been pretty solid in my belief that the Oakland starting infield the bulk of this season would be Brandon Moss, Scott Sizemore, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Donaldson. Sorry, but Erik Sogard had a hot spring last year, I believe, and was no better than he will be this year. Truth is I don't see Sogard, Adam Rosales, or reven Hiroki Nakajima as role players, but I do see new Rule 5 pick-up Nate Freiman as a fine addition. A big (as in 6'8", 250) hitter, Freiman batted .298-24-105 at San Antonio last year. Drafted out of Duke in 2009 by the Padres, who simply ran out of room as part of their own re-build, the A's wisely jumped upon the 26-year-old. His presence basically gives the power/first base/outfield/DH spot the depth it had last year with Chris Carter. And, Bob Melvin is good at pulling those strings. 

Now Oriole Steve Pearce elicits thoughts of Brandon Wood. In 2007, the then 24-year-old climbed three levels, putting up .333-31-113 totals with 40 doubles and a 1.016 OPS. Unfortunately, the major league results have not translated any better than Wood, with Pearce posting big league totals of .234-13-78 over 709 at-bats and parts of six years. Pearce made the Orioles' Opening Day roster with a .340-7-18 spring, but alas, I would not expect any more from him than I would Wood at this point.

Boston has players I like, as in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jon Lester, but thanks to Bobby Valentine and the last year-and-a-half, I just have had a hard time liking much about the Red Sox. And, though I am not sure how .Jackie Bradley will fare, well, I both like him and like the fact that he is getting a chance in Beantown. Drafted out of the University of South Carolina in the first round in 2011, Bradley put up pretty good totals last year of .315-9-63 with 24 swipes over 463 at-bats. I really like his career 91 walks to 97 strikeouts (.423 minor league OBP) over 499 total at-bats, and think he is more than worthy of a pick up right now.

I saw the Angels' J.B. Shuck at spring training and he turned in a pretty good four innings, showing some speed (he swiped 74 over five years in the Astros chain). Signed as a free agent this off-season and drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 June fete by Houston, Shuck has a career minor league line of .301-7-158 with 80 doubles, 30 triples, and a great 256 walks to 210 strikeouts. Shuck is obviously just a #4 outfielder depending upon how Mark Trumbo is preceived, and again, in a shallow league there is not much cause to even look at Shuck at this point, But, remember the name if nothing else. That Josh Hamilton guy does tend to get hurt and Peter Burjos is certainly no lock on anything save running faster than anyone else. Shuck had a .358-0-10 spring with three swipes.

Now that Vernon Wells has a chance to once again be a full-timer with the Yankees, do I think he will improve? No. The last time Wells really made a contribution was 2010, when he went .273-31-88, his average dropping to .218 in 2011, and then "up" to .230-11-29 last year. For the bulk of last year, Wells made more by himself than the everyday starting nine for Oakland, and the same is likely true this year with the Astros. Never a strong on-base player, Wells dropped to .248 and .279 respectively the last two seasons, and at best he is marking time till Curtis Granderson returns. In a deep league, Wells will probably play every day, but he could simply be a drain on your average while contributing diminshing power and speed.

So Houston is getting crap for their rebuilding, but I am not sure what they are supposed to do, and actually, I think if nothing else they are trying to do it right, and build up a la Tampa Bay. I do like giving Matt Dominguez a chance, as the third sacker who was the Marlins' first round pick in 2007. Still just 22 years old, playing at New Orleans and Oklahoma City last year, Dominguez was an acceptable .257-9-69 over 123 games. I think if the Astros are patient with him, he could develop into a decent third baseman. You know. the .285-15-83 with 37 doubles Ken Reitz kind of guy who for a few roto bucks or a 19th round pick is a deal.

I also like now much travelled Brent Wallace, who was drafted #1 by the Cardinals, then traded to the Athletics, to the Blue Jays, and now the Astros. As a minor leaguer, Wallace has a .307-63-241 line with 89 doubles, although his major league numbers of .250-16-66 over 262 contests should make us less optimistic. The thing is the Astros are doing the right thing by giving both these players, who were so highly thought of when drafted, a chance. That does not mean pick them up for your team necessarily, although in a deeper format both will play every day and that means precious at-bats. But surely, just keep an eye on both. In fact, watch all the Astros youngsters and moves just to see who their next big thing might be.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 April 2013 06:38
Tout Wars AL 2013 (from New York) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 25 March 2013 00:00

As noted Saturday morning, hours before the Tout Wars draft began, we published my list of players I was hoping to place on my roster along with how much I hoped to spend as part of my Tout Wish List piece.

The draft was indeed good fun, especially with Joe Sheehan alluding all his nominations to Houston in one way or another. Still, I think I fielded a pretty solid team all around. And, though I make it a point never to target any one player--for that is the kiss of death--I try neither to let a bargain go, nor to let a player I want slip by if he is in the price range I think is right.

So, here is this year's team and thoughts:

  • John Jaso (C, $6): I like Oakland's #1 catcher and think he will fare just fine on a pretty good offensive lineup. Good on-base numbers help seal the deal for me and I got Jaso for exactly the $6 I projected.
  • George Kottaras (C, $1): For a buck it is hard to lose, and part of this pick is rooted in the fact that I feel Kottaras has a Kelly Shoppach year hiding in there somewhere. As a backup in KC, I doubt he will hurt me much. If he hits three taters, I think he earns my money back
  • Mitch Moreland (1B, $13): Got him late in the draft, but still happy enough. Moreland projects to be the #1 first sacker on a team that is good at scoring runs. And, since I held back on the serious first base candidates, I am happy enough to settle here. .265-18-60 will be great.
  • Howie Kendrick (2B, $18): I targeted Kendrick at $17 so this is good. I know he has a big year in him and that he is on a good team. Just deliver, Howie!
  • Kevin Youkilis ($13): I wanted Youk, and he went for $4 more than I had hoped. On the other hand, I had the money, and I think he has a strong .280-17-70 season in his stick. I figure he does have something to prove.
  • Erick Aybar (SS, $20): Another guy I like, and wanted, figuring he would cost $19. .295-10-65 and 15 steals will do it for me. I did come in a buck under my own speculation.
  • Jed Lowrie (MI, $7): Betting Lowrie gets the bulk of time at starting shortstop, and that he will give me .270-15-70 numbers. Like some of my other guys, he does need to stay healthy, but otherwise I see him playing every day.
  • Scott Sizemore (CI, $2): Again, coming back from injury, and I think he makes the everyday roster as a second sacker. He does have pop and a better resume than Jemile Weeks or Hirohiko Nakajima.
  • Mike Morse (OF, $17): I got Morse for just what I hoped. Now, if he can stay healthy, he should deliver .290-25-85 totals or so. Big if, but I am counting on him.
  • Chris Young (OF, $11): I think Young will get plenty of chances, and with his tools will give me at least 15/15 numbers in homers and swipes. I also think he will generate 400-plus at-bats.
  • Drew Stubbs (OF, $12): A new venue, and I think a return to the speed and power Stubbs showed early in his Cincy days. .250-12-52 with 20 swipes will do it.
  • Colby Rasmus (OF, $13): Again, some power and speed and even a bit of an underachiever. .260-20-70 with 15 swipes is what I want.
  • Josh Willingham (OF, $23): More than I expected to spend, but Willingham can hit 30 homers. And, he will play every day. .265-25-90 is what I would like.
  • Craig Gentry (UT, $1): Last offensive spot went to the the utility one on Texas. If Gentry does half what he did last year, I get my money back,
  • Justin Verlander (P, $31): Pegged at $32, Verlander is simply the best starter in the Majors right now. And, he is mine.
  • Jake Peavy (P, $14): Coming off a comeback year, banking on Peavy to keep it going, earn some whiffs, and help stabilize the numbers. 10 wins, 3.65 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP over 200 innings with 175 whiffs is good.
  • Alex Cobb (P, $13): Hoped to pay half the amount for Cobb, but again, I had the money and he is on a good team. Apparently, he is no longer a secret, either.
  • Mark Buehrle (P, $6): Steady and unassuming. I got him for what I projected.
  • Chris Tillman (P, $5): End of draft bargain, I hope Tillman can build on 2012.
  • David Phelps (P, $4): Liked him last year in and out of the rotation: love him this year in it!
  • Chris Perez (CL, $14): Closer #1, he has a job no mateer where he goes.
  • Casey Janssen (CL, $9): Injuries make Janssen sort of a question mark, but at this price worth the gamble.
  • Aaron Crow (RP, $4): Last player and I had $3 left over. Always liked Crow, who could emerge in the rotation or as the closer, depending. In this spot, he certainly won't hurt me.


Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 08:16
Outfield Position Battles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 18 March 2013 00:00

John Benson, my first fantasy boss and the first fantasy mentor for many of us, made a big impression on me when I played against him. No question John is one smart guy, but he always seemed to pick teams that exploited saves, WHIP, and steals more than other slots. Yet, he always was among the top teams the half dozen years I played with and against him.

John's success was largely rooted in the WHIP helping his ERA, wins and even strikeouts, while the swipes worked in concert with average. I still remember this 20 years later as I draft.

Another thing John really taught me was that position battles were good. What he meant by this was that players in position battles were often a little undervalued due to that uncertainty. But, I also learned that even a utility player or fourth outfielder gets close to 300 at-bats, and often more than that baseline. That means in a deep format, either in AL or NL-only, or leagues with 20 or more teams, a good fourth outfielder can be golden.

So, this time I want to look at teams with questions about their outfield and playing time, starting with the team I see the most, the Oakland Athletics:

Well, it is easy enough to figure Seth Smith, based upon his defensive skills, won't spend a lot of time chasing flies, so the reasonable expectations for stats are among Chris Young, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, and Coco Crisp. Truth is I think they will all log 400-plus at-bats, with Reddick leading the pack and Young following. Since Crisp and Cespedes are injury-prone, that is why I give the edge to Reddick and Young, and I expect Cespedes to get some DH time in addition to left. But, of all the outfields I looked at, this has the best possibilities for all involved. By the way, Young could do 15/15 or better.

Pirates: Obviously, Andrew McCutchen plays as many innings as possible, and I think Starling Marte will similarly be given every chance to duplicate the 56 extra base hits over his total of 111 hits at Indianapolis before being promoted last year. That leaves erratic prodigies Jose Tabata and Travis Snider to work out right field, with occasional help from Garrett Jones (depending upon how Gaby Sanchez works out also at first). With both right fielders logging career sub-.700 OPS totals, and since both are left-handed hitters, the hot hand will probably earn the prize. I am betting on Tabata, partially because he has had greater success so far in the Majors, because he has better speed, and because though last year was rugged, Tabata's "down" 2012 numbers were not that far off from his fine rookie performance.

Mets: Is there a real player out there anywhere in the Citi Field outfield? Seriously, if Marlon Byrd is leading the charge to earn the starting center field slot, then that says more than I can. But certainly, I would pay very little attention to that. Durability has never been a strength of Byrd, who has not played full-time since 2010. Lucas Duda does seem to have a lock on playing time, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis might get at-bats, though I don't see him as a long-term answer. Same with Mike Baxter. I do see Collin Cowgill, whom I saw improving day-by-day during his substitute span with Oakland last summer, emerging as a solid 500 at-bat guy, giving .280-15-70 totals, swiping 20 bags and scoring 70 or so runs. I like the .371 OBP he posted in the Minors, along with the .840 OPS. Meaning I give him props over Nieuwenhius, Baxter, and Byrd.

Phillies: Talk about iffy, even though the options seem pretty good. There is brittle Delmon Young, who will be given every chance to fulfill his promise of 2010, and Ben Revere (hmm, two ex-Twins that Minnesota maybe could use?) who can get on and swipe, though he hits for no power, nor does he walk much. That leaves John Mayberry (who just looks like a ballplayer) and Domonic Brown (who is tearing it up this spring) to duke it out, and like Oakland, I suspect both will do alright, be able to platoon some, and pending Ryan Howard's health and productivity, give Mayberry time at first. The odd man out is the talented Ruf, but an injury or trade deadline move could open the door for him to play in Philadelphia sometime this summer. So, reserve him or whatever, but don't write Ruf off.

Mariners:  I have had Crohns Disease since 1962, just like Franklin Gutierrez, and I would not simply suggest he is all better and this won't bother the centerfielder again. I like Michael Saunders, who was almost a 20/20 guy last year, though I am not sure there is room for improvement. Mike Morse will clearly get a chance too, but his Seattle history does not bode well for Morse health-wise, in fact neither did all his Washington time. Among the immediate suspects, I like Casper Wells, then Eric Thames. I don't see much outfield time for Raul Ibanez, though I do see some DH-ing and maybe ten homers. I do see Thames as expendable among the cluster, but I would keep an eye on the trade deadline, and also follow the line of Leon Landry, a flychaser Seattle got for Brandon League. I think he is the next big thing in the Seattle outfield. For now, I would look at Morse, Saunders, and Wells getting the bulk of at-bats with Gutierrez having his struggles, and Thames riding the Tacoma taxi.

Red Sox: OK, welcome back Jacoby Ellsbury and have fun Shane Victorino. That leaves Jonny Gomes in left, but truth is I don't see him as a full-timer and neither do I see Daniel Nava playing full-time. But, if he can get healthy, I do see Ryan Sweeney playing the lefty side of a nice platoon with Gomes. And, I see both pulling 350-plus at-bats, health willing on the Sweeney side.

D-Backs: I think Cody Ross and Jason Kubel have to get 400-at-bats each, and every chance will be afforded to Adam Eaton. However, Eaton will have to prove he is worth it. But I would certainly not dismiss Gerardo Parra, who despite always seeming to have a part-time role, has only received less that 400 at-bats once over the past four years (391 in 2010). Parra has a career .280-23-172 line with 81 doubles and 36 swipes, and I would log him as outfielder #4 and tie him to Eaton if you can. Martin Prado also gets some time in the outfield. But, I think Parra is the sleeper guy to watch here.

Yankees: Wow. OK, Ichiro Suzuki has such great bat control it is hard to rule him out of anything, and Brett Gardner should play full-time. And, when Curtis Granderson is back, he will be among the chosen troika. The questions are durability for Ichiro and also Gardner, and return to form for Granderson, who whiffed almost 200 times last year. That means Juan Rivera, who will also play some first while Mark Teixeira is out, will get some time. I also like Brennan Boesch a lot based upon his power and well, that good old Yankee right field porch. Sorry Ben Francisco, but Boesch and Rivera will do most of the heavy work until Tex and Granderson are back.

Padres: I kind of liken the Mariners in the AL West to the Padres in the NL West, as both are doing some nice rebuilding. I want Carlos Quentin, who is an extra base hit machine when healthy, to get his 450 at-bats, and it looks like Cameron Maybin is also in the outfield in-crowd. Jesus Guzman can hit right handers but he cannot hit lefties and his fielding is worse than his ability to hit southpaws. That leaves a bunch of iffy guys in Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and Kyle Blanks. I think Denorfia is the best hitter, and Blanks is the most fragile, but that Venable will get most of the at-bats. Denorfia makes a decent fifth outfielder in an NL-only format, and Blanks is an afterthought, despite his talent and power. I would keep James Darnell in my sights, too, although he will likely start the year at Tuscon. 


Last Updated on Monday, 18 March 2013 09:20
Spring Training Observations PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 11 March 2013 00:00

So I spent last week in Phoenix, hanging with my mate Steve Gardner after he coordinated the LABR drafts, hitting four games over the week, and seeing the Angels, Athletics, Dodgers, Giants, Reds, Rockies, White Sox, and team Mexico.

That means I saw a lot of players, but clearly with a limited sample size of performance. Still, I will try to convey my observations with a look at the player's spring numbers.

Mike Trout: I saw Trout make a great catch agains the left field fence in Tempe, along with hitting for a single and then getting caught stealing his only time this spring. Right now, he is hitting .368-0-1 over 19 at-bats, so it appears after last year the Angel almost thinks he still has something to prove. Maybe he does. I am not saying I don't like him. I just want to see another .300-25-90-30 season before I determine Trout is the best player on earth. Truth is, he can do that. Other truth is that those numbers would likely be a disappointment to some owners, even though it shouldn't be to anyone. That is a great year, after all.

Tommy Hanson: Ugly. Hanson tossed two innings and was lucky to walk away only allowing a dinger to Jay Bruce (that was crushed). There were three fly outs and one liner of Hanson's six outs, all of which were solidly hit. And, he also allowed three hits. Hanson's offspeed stuff was OK, but his fastball had absolutely nothing. So far, that is Hanson's only spring appearance.

Albert Pujols: I saw Albert's first game, and his timing looked terrible, as he went 0-for-3 and hit into a double play. But, it was his first game. At present he is .167-1-1 over six at-bats, but the one dinger is an OK indictator. Obviously one of the great hitters of the past decade and still in his prime years, I would not expect quite the slow start of 2012. The guy is a pro. More important, he has to give us a reason to doubt, kind of like Mariano Rivera.

Collin Cowgill: OK, Cowgill is in the Grapefruit League, and I have not seen him play personally. But he is hitting .421-1-3 with three swipes over 21 spring at-bats. I saw Cowgill get adjusted in Oakland where he simply fell victim to depth, but since selected by Arizona and then swapped to the Athletics as part of the Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow swap, I have really liked him. I am guessing Cowgill can earn and keep a starting gig and give pretty solid .285-11-70 totals with 20 swipes and 75 runs given a full complement of games. Right now, he would be a bargain.

Nolan Arenado: Crushed a couple of pitches against the Athletics, one making Coco Crisp run to the deepest part of center at Phoenix Muni, then mashing one over the well in right center where no one could get it anyhow. Arenado is having a fine spring, going .400-4-10 over 20 at-bats and making a solid case for the Rockies to simply give him a chance on Opening Day. Don't overspend though, and there's a chance he could be sent down in a throw back league. And, if you can get Arenado and stash him on a reserve list, do it.

Donnie Veal: Now 28 years old, Veal is no more than a potential middle reliever. He could be OK though as a late pick in a deep league simply because he can strike guys out. He whiffed the Giants in order the inning I saw, and has six punchouts over 4.1 innings this spring. But I also remember seeing Veal a few years back at the AFL. Again, we are talking the deepest of formats, but Veal could be a nice little unexpected strikeout source.

Dee Gordon: Gordon was an animal over the four innings I saw, picking the ball cleanly three times at short and getting two hits, one of which was really a deep single that he simply outran to second. Gordon also swiped two bags and scored two runs. My gamble is that Gordon winds up the shortstop for the Bums, with Hanley going back to third.

Andre Ethier: Smashed a homer and walked over a pair of at-bats. It is easy to dismiss Ethier because he is weak versus southpaws (.222-4-29 last year over 221 at-bats), but the aggregate (.284-20-89) is still pretty good. If he can just jack it up by 10-12 hits against lefties, everything changes. He is being undervalued, and that should mean good stuff if you jump on him.

Jeff Keppinger: Keppinger drilled three hits the game I saw, hitting the ball hard and on a line. He is simply one of those guys who learned as he aged and is now a professional player (think of how Mark DeRosa evolved). He is hitting .476-0-0 right now over 21 at-bats. A good gamble lower on the totem pole who could be a bargain.

Tommy Milone: I see a regression from last year, but no question Milone can put the ball in the strike zone with success. He pitched two shutout innings that I saw, allowing just a walk. So far, he is 1-0, 0.00 over a pair of starts and five spring innings, and while I don't pay so much attention to spring numbers, I do to playing time. Milone is getting his starts and is a good fourth or fifth starter in an AL-only format. He's even OK as a fifth or sixth in a mixed format.

Josh Reddick: Reddick crushed a homer and knocked a double over a pair of at-bats. Reddick did struggle in the second half last year and does have a big swing that can be exploited. But, he also seems able to learn, and his 31 homers deserve better than the dismissal he seems to have received. He is hitting .333-1-5 over 15 at-bats and again, it is sometimes good to go where other owners won't.

Ramiro Pena: Pena got a pair of hits, including a homer, for Mexico against the Dodgers and is .350-0-2 over 20 spring at-bats (the game I saw was an exhibition so the stats don't count). He could emerge as a decent MI/CI $1 option in a deep NL-only format.

Jay Bruce: Two at-bats, two homers. Maybe they went 950 feet (Jason Collette suggested this watching on TV, but I was there and think he is right). The guy is a beast. The question is does he go the way of Adam Dunn or not (don't laugh, look up Dunn's early Cincy years). For right now, I would be on him (I did on Dunn those early years, too).

Matt Kemp: Knocked in a pair of runs on a pair of fielder's choice plays and just looked good. I took Ryan Braun in the first round of an NFBC Draft Champions League, but I kept thinking Kemp was the guy I wanted. Not that I am second guessing, but I have good feelings about the Dodger center fielder this coming season.


Last Updated on Monday, 11 March 2013 08:49
Look Back at LABR PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 04 March 2013 01:08

After viewing what seemed to be a grueling American League LABR auction on Saturday, I hoped I was prepared for an equally taxing National League conclave Sunday night.

The thing that I thought made the American League so tough was the number of players who went for between $11-$22, meaning money was spread around throughout the draft and that makes controlling the board at any moment so much more difficult. But, the NL was somewhat more true to form, not that this means the draft was easy.

It means more that there was more a confluence of strategies as opposed to 11 guys all essentially gunning for the same basic construct which begs intensity throughout. And, if you have been through a draft or auction, there is already an inherent amount of intensity without all the owners being locked in a sort of Spaghetti Western Mexican standoff.

I guess I caused a bit of consternation to begin the draft by not plucking anyone until the #43 player nominated in Sergio Romo, whom I grabbed for $19. But, it did not take me long to then catch up with the rest of the league in filling out my roster. But, the reality is there are a lot of players and being patient and letting some money fall before jumping in is something that works well for me. But, the main thing is to be careful not to wait and let too much power fall away, something I did last year with less than stellar results.

I did accomplish my basic goals:

  • -get as many everyday players as possible
  • -focus on strikeouts with my pitchers, 
  • -make sure I have a core of power for offense
  • -try not to spend more than $30 on a single player

I did wind up with 12 of 23 players I picked on my mythical lineup, and I got all the players I targeted on my Leading into LABR piece published Saturday, generally getting guys around my projected cost. So, here are the results (comments welcome!):

  • C A.J. Ellis ($8): I projected $6 so that is a cost totally within reason for a starting backstop with a pretty good eye on what seems to be a good team.
  • C Kurt Suzuki ($5): I had hoped to cop Hector Sanchez late in the draft for a couple of bucks, and might have goofed when I let him pass in the first round for just $3. But, I was trying to hold out on spending to gain some control and Suzuki on a good team is OK with me.
  • 1B Ike Davis ($25): Davis was my second offensive player and he cost more than the $17 I projected, but I had the money, and again, did not want to be caught flat with no power. Freddie Freeman went right before at $25 as well, so I felt fine with this purchase.
  • 2B Marco Scutaro ($12): I had hoped to bag Mark Ellis for $6, which is exactly what he cost, but somehow was caught flatfooted after nominating the Dodger second sacker in the second round (he went for $6). Again, I just was not ready to spend yet, hoping to rattle my opponents in whatever way I could by simply bidding, but not closing the deal (that cuts a lot of ways).
  • 3B Ryan Zimmerman ($29): Targeted Zimmerman at $27, and he was my first offensive player and I hope part of the core of my offense and power. I think he is primed for a big, and hopefully healthy year.
  • SS Dee Gordon ($9): He cost a lot more than the $2 I imagined, but Gordon brings speed and I think he will wind up playing short with Hanley moving back to third. I also think he will swipe 20-plus bags.
  • MI Brandon Crawford ($2): I nominated Crawford at $2 and got the crickets I wanted. He has a full-time job and it should not be that tough for Crawford to earn his money back for me.
  • CI Logan Morrison ($9): Potential 20-homer power for $9 is a pretty good deal. Might give some outfield flexibility too.
  • OF Andre Ethier ($17): Target was $14 so this is fine. No question Ethier can rake, and on the Dodgers he should have a solid offensive year.
  • OF Carl Crawford ($13): Clearly a gamble, and Crawford could make or break my season. But, he is obviously capable of solid production all around, and I am hoping he has something to prove. A rebound could win it for me.
  • OF Matt Carpenter ($6): No question Carpenter can hit, and I am hoping for a .280-15-65 line from him. Because the Cards tend to be brittle, that suggests 400-plus at-bats, and like Morrison, Carpenter has some flexibility, playing first, third, and the outfield.
  • OF Chone Figgins ($1): I was down to $1 players, and I really wanted Collin Cowgill or Darin Ruf in this spot, but they went for more than I had. Still, Figgins will probably get to play and again he does not have to do much to earn a profit. He also plays all over. The question is can he hit anymore? And, if he can run, he will help.
  • UT Andres Torres ($6): I like the Giants outfielder and though his average is a little low, he has the speed I want.
  • SP Jordan Zimmermann ($19): I targeted Zimmermann at $19, so was happy with this. How can you not like the guy?
  • SP Gio Gonzalez ($19): I was not really thinking Gio would wind up on my team, but as he proved last year, when he is on, he has deadly stuff. Plus, I think the Nats are going to have a big year and both Gio and the Zimmermans will be at the center.
  • SP Homer Bailey ($9): Again, was not planning on picking up Bailey, but he had a solid second half and I think he is there. For $9 I could not let the gamble get by me.
  • SP Matt Harvey ($14): Targeted at $9, Harvey was a little expensive for me, but he has such great tools and his first splash in 2012 was so solid I liked the gamble.
  • SP Trevor Rosenthal ($6): Again, a little more than anticipated, but because I waited, and did not spend too much on a single player, spreading my dollars around let me assemble a roster with more fluidity. Rosenthal is certainly no secret. I love the guy and think he will emerge this year as the best young arm on the Cards.
  • SP Nathan Eovaldi ($1): Got him for what I wanted as my last pitcher when I had a buck to spend. Great potential upside. Just give me some innings and whiffs and try not to get killed in the ERA and WHIP universe.
  • RP Sergio Romo ($19): Romo cost me a buck more than I hoped, but that is nothing. As a full-time closer, he should deliver the save, whiff, and ratio goods.
  • RP Steve Cishek ($13): A second closer on the relative cheap, I am plenty happy to have him backing Romo.
  • RP Luke Gregerson ($5): Among the best setup guys in the league the last few years, he can step in if Street is derailed.
  • RES Steve Lombardozzi: Again, flexible position eligibility and some pop off the bench on that good Nats squad.
  • RES Jacob Turner: A top pick who did well after being traded to the Fish last year. Sure, his team is not so great, but the potential is there and as a reserve pick this is the perfect gamble.
  • RES Josh Collmenter: Up and down, but as a reserve pick I am fine with Collmenter. He did have a solid second half last year.
  • RES Tony Cingrani: I do like to focus more on arms during the reserve rounds, and I like Cingrani a lot. He could suprise a lot. Check out his rise from A ball to the Show last year and you will see the guy is serious about pitching.
  • RES Brian Wilson: Still a free agent, and somewhat untested, but we all know what he can do. We also know someone will take a chance. If it is in the NL, then maybe I hit paydirt here. If not, easy to replace.
  • RES Mark Kotsay: Kotsay can do a lot of little things. As a fill-in, he is just fine with me.
Last Updated on Monday, 04 March 2013 11:33
Scrounging the Scrapheap for Value PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 25 February 2013 00:00

Last week, we looked at some pretty good players who seem to be undervalued in mock drafts this year. This week, we can look a bit deeper, and look for some nuggets that are reserve squad fodder in a lot of leagues who I think will get some playing time and even be able to contribute in deeper formats and might even latch onto--or sometimes hang onto--full time jobs.

Tyler Flowers (C, White Sox): As it stands, Flowers is the Opening Day backstop for the Pale Hose. He is also coming off a career high 136 at-bats, playing behind A.J. Pierzynski and his career year. The .213-7-13 line there is a lot of what seems to be scaring owners off, but I look at Flowers a lot like I look at George Kottaras: if these guys can manage 450 at-bats, they can each hit close to 20 dingers at a marginal price. Baseball is loaded with catchers like this who seemingly come out of nowhere to clobber the ball. Kelly Shoppach. Mike Stanley. Rod Barajas. I have only seen Flowers go to a mock 23-man roster once so far and that likely should not be the case. He is more than worth a late gamble, especially as a #2 backstop.

Brandon Crawford (SS, Giants): I was bullish on Crawford last season and the dude came through with a decent enough .248-4-45 season over 435 at-bats in his first full season. OK, so in most leagues that will not help a lot but Crawford does hit line drives and does have his hot streaks. And, well, I have not seen his name come up once in any draft yet. Crawford will play, barring anything unforseen, as he is among the best defensive shortstops in the Show (I am happy to have him on my Strat-O-Matic team, where defense makes a huge difference) and I just have this Frank White/Ozzie Smith feeling about Crawford: that once he settles in, he can learn to be a solid hitter. If you are scratching your head, go look at the lines those guys put up in their first couple of seasons.

Scott Sizemore (2B, Athletics): Anyone even remember Sizemore was slated as the Opening Day third sacker last year when he wrecked his knee and missed the entire season, a season where his mates came out of nowhere to win 94 games without him? Well, as much as I like Jemile Weeks, I think a very solid--and typically underrated--Oakland infield of Brandon Moss, Sizemore, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Donaldson will emerge as the mainstays as Oakland challenges to defend their division title in what now might be the toughest in baseball despite the presence of the Astros. Sizemore has never played a full season, but his 162 game mean extrapolated is .239-14-71 with 30 doubles. I actually think he can add 20 or so points to the average, meaning in a deep league Sizemore becomes a solid MI option.

Michael Saunders (OF, Seattle): I got Saunders as a reserve pick in Tout Wars last year and all he did was hit .247-19-57 with 21 swipes. That is pretty good production from a reserve pick who cost me nothing at the auction. Saunders is slated to start in right field at Safeco this year, but I have not seen him picked before the 20th round in anything so far. I actually think Saunders can deliver similar power/speed numbers and boost his RBI and average totals now that a full season of starting is under his belt (word is that Saunders has been working with a private hitting coach during the off-season). As a fifth outfielder, those power/speed numbers could be a boon. In a deep AL-only format, or NFBC draft-and-follow format, he could be equally huge.

Luke Gregerson (RP, Padres): Over four years, Gergerson is 11-14, 2.92 with 288 whiffs over 280.2 innings. Add in 89 walks and 223 hits and you have a 1.112 WHIP, so the question is what does this guy have to do in order to get a closing gig? Well, Gregerson is tossing behind Huston Street, a modicum of health. You want to have Gregerson when Street has to take a hike.

Brett Wallace (1B, Astros): True respect has to be earned, but you have to wonder about Wallace, drafted in the 42nd round by Toronto in 2005 (he went to ASU instead), then in the first round by the Cardinals in 2008. The Cards traded Wallace to the Athletics as part of the Matt Holliday swap and Oakland turned him right over to those same Jays (for Michael Taylor) who finally traded him to the Astros. At just 25, I am not sure if attitude gets in the way of Wallace's improving, but he is only 26, and on a team that has more position openings than the Kama Sutra. He also has a minor league line of .307-63-241 over 401 games, and I think if he just knows he is starting every day--be it at first or third, or even DH--Wallace will settle in and show he can hit in the Majors as well.

Mark Buehrle (SP, Blue Jays): Everyone thinks the Jays are the team to beat in the AL going into 2013 and that alone suggests the dependable Mr. Buehrle should grab his usual 12-14 wins. Over 13 years, Buehrle has averaged a 14-11, 3.82 mark pitching 223 innings with a 1.27 WHIP. True, his mean whiffs are only 127, but in context that is not so bad for a fifth or sixth starter, and the one thing we need from our teams is dependability. No way Buehrle does not deliver that. Yet I seem to be grabbing him in the 23rd round or so all over.

Trevor Rosenthal (RP, Cards): Rosenthal made a splash at the end of 2012 with St. Louis, whiffing 25 over 22.2 late-season innings. Rosenthal came through the Minors as a starter however, and somehow among Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Joe Kelly, the 22-year-old will emerge as the go-to guy by mid-season. Over 48 minor league starts, Rosenthal was 22-14, 3.53, with 298 whiffs over 285.1 innings (237 hits, 98 walks and a 1.17 ratio). Just a feeling about this guy, but a good one. I think he is poised beyond the rest of the Cards pitching pack.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 09:25
Not Exactly Sleepers (but Undervalued) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 18 February 2013 00:00

As I have noted, this time of the year is rife with mock drafts, which do whet the appetite for the real thing. They are also a valuable indicator to me, not so much of ADP, but precieved value.

Since all my mocks have been among "industry" folks, whatever that means, I thought I would share some observations regarding players whose market value within the mocks is less at least than what I think the player's actual value/probable return will be (of course, just by publishing this stuff, a lot of times the players suddenly creep up a few rounds, so I might be slitting my own wrists here).

Anyway, since the objective is to gain a return on our player investments, I think these are all guys who will indeed provide just that, at least based upon where they have gone in those same mocks thus far.

Tim Lincecum (SF, P): Timmy could well be the grand bargain overall as far as gamble crapshoots go in 2013 drafts and auctions. Of course that also means he could sink a team, depending upon how much the investment is, but I have noticed Lincecum going around Round 9 the bulk of the time. In fact, I have been the one who has tried to bag him around that time, and when I have, at least one draft mate has been rankled (always a positive sign). I think Lincecum will bounce back, maybe not with the Cy Young numbers he has posted, but still with some very solid ones, like around 15 wins, a 3.60 ERA, a 1.28  WHIP and a strikeout per inning. Removed from the burden of being the stopper every time, he will settle into the #2 or even #3 slot in the rotation, happy as a clam. Delivering accordingly.

Dayan Viciedo (OF, CHW): .255-25-78 last year during his first full-time season in the Majors--which are essentially Bryce Harper numbers--seem to garner very little respect. His splits were remarkably similar over the course of 2012, and since he turns 24 this coming March, Viciedo could really give a nice payoff considering he is being picked around Rounds 14-15. If he just does what he did last year at that spot, payoff city.

Josh Reddick (OF, OAK): Reddick seems to fall along with Viciedo, largely because he did indeed slump second half, hitting .215-12-42 compared to the .268-20-43 the right fielder collected before the break. A lot of that could be attributed though to his .164-4-12 September, for during the rest of the season, Reddick was pretty steady in the .255-5-14 range each month. Meaning a first long season could have zapped him some. Still, as one of the best defenders in the league, coming off a 30-plus homer season, the right fielder will have plenty of rope before playing himself out of the starting lineup. Again, in the mocks, he is a lot like Viciedo, getting taken around the 14th round, several times by me. If he gives numbers like Viciedo again, that is a bargain (50 homers out of the bottom third of the draft is pretty good), in fact I have been able to nab both as back-to-back picks in a couple of drafts.

Howie Kendrick (2B, LAA):  It is odd to me that we do talk about the elite second sackers, and then the huge drop-off. Well, Kendrick is among those guys who are considered part of that drop, which is sort of a puzzle. His 162-game mean is .292-12-75 with 39 doubles, and 15 swipes. Kendrick does like to swing the lumber, hence a .328 OBP and .756 OPS over that span. As a means of comparison, Dustin Pedroia's mean is .303-17-77 with 38 doubles and 19 swipes, yet , D-Ped is considered a top selection while Kendrick is being pegged around the 16th-18th rounds. I am guessing the second sacker, who is on a team that should score a lot of runs, still has a monster season in his future.

Erick Aybar (SS, LAA): While we are at it, looking up the middle of the Angels, Aybar is similarly dismissed. Though he has been going a few rounds before his Kendrick counterpart, it is still puzzling, as he has a .278-7-53 mean, with 21 steals over his seven seasons as a major leaguer. In 2012, Aybar did struggle in April and May, hitting .223-0-11, but from then on out it was .324-8-34 with 16 steals. Like Kendrick, I think the 29-year-old, on this team, is still going to take his game up a notch or two. 

Matt Wieters (C, BAL): Remember when Wieters was the next big thing? I remember during a mock after his AFL stint, the catcher was drafted in the third round of a standard Scoresheet League (which assumes 13 keepers) and the move was hailed as "brilliant." Well, hard to tell if Wieters was worth freezing these five years since, and though his numbers have steadily increased each of his full seasons the last three years, the .261-21-79 162-game average he has produced has been a disappointment to most (does anyone really know how hard the game, or hitting 20 dingers is?). Wieters has gone below Buster Posey, which I can understand, but also Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer, and I am not so sure about that. Plus, at 26, the backstop is entering his prime on an improving team with a decent manager. I think he will return a lot better than the sixth round he has generally been selected.

Matt Harrison (P, TEX): Over the past two seasons, Harrison is 32-20, 3.33 over 399 innings with 259 whiffs and a 1.269 WHIP. Yet, no one seems to want to take him before Round 14 or so. He is just 26 and on that Rangers team that not only scores runs, but is pretty good at getting the right stuff out of their pitchers. Go figure. I think he is worth a lot more. I am happy to grab him in the tenth round or so.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C, BOS): OK, he is the slowest guy in baseball. Even Billy Butler could cream Salty in a foot race, but Salty can hit with some pop as his .222-25-59 season over 405 at-bats last year suggests. True, he is not a great on-base guy, but if the backstop gets a chance to really play regularly, he should settle down at the plate and increase his on-base totals along with all of his other offensive stats. He is among the last catchers nabbed in most of my mocks, barely rating as a #1 catcher, and he is a lot better than your average #2. I mean, who is better at this point, Saltalamacchia or Derek Norris

Carlos Quentin (OF, SD): Quentin is almost an afterthought, probably because of injuries the past couple of years, but in the couple of leagues where I got him around Round 18, there were numerous "damns" echoed via chats and emails. Well, though his playing time has been limited the past three years, half of his hits have gone for extra bases. Last year, over 284 at-bats, Quentin assembled a .260-16-46 line, or just 13 fewer RBI over 121 fewer at-bats. He is clearly worth the gamble, as every guy logs a full season every once in a while despite himself. Even Rich Harden. Just make sure to handcuff him to a reserve guy who either plays or has a chance to play as much as possible.


Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 13:44
Happy Holidays!! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 25 December 2012 11:22

From the Mastersball family to yours, we wish you all the best this holiday season.

Our present to you is a six-pack of yoo-hoo to be opened next October.


December 3, 2012 (Top 250 Prospects, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 03 December 2012 00:00

Feliciations, and I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and respite.

I spent the bulk of the long holiday completing our annual Top 250 Prospects List, which is now available to all of our Platinum Subscribers.

So, today we will look at the Top 10 Prospects for 2013.

There are a few caveats. First, the list is generally geared more for Dynasty and Ultra Leagues. So, while names like Jurickson Profar are in the Top 10, and even expected there, perhaps Clayton Blackburn was not anticipated among the elite.

When analyzing players, I look at primarily at power and strike zone command. For hitters, that means strikeout-to-walks, and extra-base hits, while for pitchers it again means strikeouts-to-walks, and strikeouts-to-innings pitched.

Additionally the ability to compete in these categories at the highest possible level, and the youngest possible age, suggests the player will develop those skills not only faster, but also with increasing skill as a result of age and experience.

So, the list is weighted to youth. As an example, Texas outfielder Leonys Martin scored #243. Along with Jed Gyorko (#213), they are the only players on the list to be 25-year olds on Opening Day 2013. However, had the Cuban transplant been signed and worked through the system such that he produced the same numbers at age 23, that would have made Martin a Top 15 player. So, there is a fine line which means Wil Myers at #32 is not such an overt travesty.

It does mean that the difference between Myers and #7 Dylan Bundy is .83 of a point. Which is nothing.

I can say that this year's final 250 is a lot cooler than before, as I added a comment line of basic stats for each player in addition to the basic small set of numbers we provide. Second, there are 19 Zen Picks highlighted on the list. These are players that for some reason jumped out at me when I took a closer look at their skill set after the algorithms had been run.

Doing this proved to be interesting, for I noticed there are large chunks of players with very similar profiles. Maybe that should have been expected, but it made it such that suddenly certain players with dominanting strikeout-to-walk totals, or fantastic extra-base hit totals, took on new depth and I highlighted accordingly.

Again, you can have the complete 250, with comments and special picks by becoming a Platinum Subscriber. However, you can download a free Top 50 Prospects (note this list just contains player, rank, age, bat/throws, and franchise information).

So, without further ado, here is this year's Top 10 (age list is age on Opening Day 2013).

  1. Cody Buckel (P, Texas, 20): Buckel was the #3 pick  last year after dominating Hickory with 8-3, 2.61 numbers that included 120 strikeouts over 96.2 innings (27 walks, 83 hits). Starting 2012 at High-A Myrtle Beach (5-3, 1.31), Buckel then moved on to AA Frisco going 5-5, 3.78. He struck out 68 in the hitters owned Texas League over 69 innings, which shows great poise for first timer at that level. Pitching is iffy, as Deolis Guerra (#183 this year, but #1 in 2009) and Carlos Zambrano (#1 in 2001 and 02) show. Still, the Rangers #2 pick in 2010 has control relative to his age that is too good to ignore. At least statistically.
  2. Oscar Taveras (OF, St. Louis, 21): Tavares scored #6 in 2012 on the heels of his .386-8-62 totals over just 303 at-bats at Quad Cities in the Midwest League. Tavares made the jump to AA Springfield in 2012 and handled the advance with the statistical applomb of .321-23-94 with 37 doubles and 42 walks to 56 strikeouts. 
  3. Jurickson Profar (SS, Texas, 20): #1 last year on the Top 250, Profar made his presence known with a home run his first at-bat in the major leagues. .281-14-62 2012 numbers were in line with his 2011 at Hickory (.286-12-65) totals. The 37 2011 doubles and 26 at AA (last year) suggest 20-homer power, as the 23 2011 steals to 16 in 2012 say the same about swipes. Profar will force the Rangers to have to move Ian Kinsler somewhere else on the diamond, probably in 2013.
  4. Tyler Skaggs (P, Arizona, 21): Drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Angels, then swapped to Arizona as part of the Dan Haren deal, Skaggs was #16 on the last year 250. That was following his 9-6, 2.96 totals earned between High-A and AA. This year found Skaggs starting again at Mobile (5-4, 2.84), then advancing to AAA Reno (4-2, 2.91), and finishing the season Chase Field going 1-3, 5.83 over six starts and 29.1 major league innings. If Skaggs does not make the Opening Day roster in 2013, it won't be long before he is a member of the Diamondback rotation.
  5. Taijuan Walker (P, Seattle, 20): Walker was #4 last year based upon his very strong 6-4, 2.89 totals at Clinton, and this year Walker moved to AA Jackson. On the surface Walker took a hit with 7-10, 4.69 totals, but the 118 strikeouts he nailed over 126.2 innings, to 50 walks and 124 hits are pretty good for a then 19-year old. Walker will likely start 2013 back at Jackson, but I suspect a year older and wiser he will master that level and be on the road to Safeco by year's end.
  6. Joe Ortiz (P, Texas, 22): The Rangers are clearly rich with three guys in the Top 10, and reliever Ortiz could be the next closer depending upon the long term prospects and role for Nelftali Feliz (#1 on the Top 250 in 2010) and Joe Nathan (no spring chicken). Ortiz has 278 minor league strikeouts to 62 walks over 276.2 innings, with 232 hits allowed and 28 saves. In 2012 Ortiz began the year at Frisco (1-2, 2.35 with four conversions) and then moved up to AAA Round Rock (1-1, 1.97 with two more saves). For the year that made 2-3, 2.15 totals over 60.2 innings, with 52 strikeouts to nine walks, and 57 hits allowed. That is a pair of hitters leagues and a 52/9 whiff to walk ratio. Killer numbers they are.
  7. Dylan Bundy (P, Baltimore, 20): An auspicious premiere season for the Orioles first round selection in 2011, with Bundly climbing three levels starting with Delmarva (1-0, 0.00 over eight starts and 30 innings), then 6-3, 2.84 innings over 57 more innings at Fredercik before climbing to AA Bowie where the righty was 2-0, 3.24 over three more starts. Those are totals of 9-3, 2.08 over 23 starts and 103.2 innings, with 119 strikeouts to 28 walks with 67 hits allowed (0.916 WHIP). Expect him at Camden sometime in 2013.
  8. Clayton Blackburn (P, San Francisco, 20): San Francisco's 16th round selection in 2011, Blackburn was 3-1, 1.08 over 33.1 Rookie Ball innings after being drafted, then 8-4, 2.54 at that Sally League in 2012 over 131.1 innings at Augusta. Blackburn punched out 143 over the season while walking 18 and allowing 116 hits (just three homers). Obviously watching the jump to AA is the thing for 2013, but if he continues Blackburn is the kind of sleeper our list reveals.
  9. Jonathan Singleton (1B, Houston, 22): Singleton scored #48 on the list last year after combining to go .298-13-63 split between Clearwater (Phi.) and Lancaster (Hou.) at High-A. Singleton's change of venue was a result of the Hunter Pence swap, Singleton spent 2012 at AA Corpus Cristi with .284-24-79 and 27 doubles, along with a pretty solid 88 walks (131 whiffs, .386 OBP). Singleton could easily wind up the Astros first sacker by the end of 2013.
  10. Miguel Sano (SS, Minnesota, 20): A Profaresque-like player, Sano hit .258-28-100 with 28 doubles as a 19-year old in the Midwest League in 2012. Add 80 walks to 144 strikeouts (.376 OBP) and the potential is obvious. If Sano keeps it up, expect a major league arrival as soon as second half of 2013, just like Profar. Worst case is 2014.
Last Updated on Monday, 03 December 2012 11:02
November 12, 2012 (AFL Reivew) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 12 November 2012 00:00

Here we are, back for the November eiditon of the Hotpage, where tradition dictates I write some words about what I saw at the Arizona Fall League (AFL) last week.

As usual, there are players we seek to see--this Billy Hamilton in particular--but I try to go and watch as much in a vaccuum, reporting on what I see.

For the second straight year, there was really very little pitching that was worth mentioning, but one guy I did like--one of three Giants who impressed me--was Jacob Dunnington, a 6'2", 160 pounder who hails from Redmond, Washington, giving him a pair of commonalities with Tim Lincecum (beanpole and home). I only saw Dunnington go one inning, but he easily whiffed a pair of Salt River hitters, then coaxed a ground out from Anthony Rendon. Drafted out of high school, the 21-year old Dunnington played as high as Double-A Richmond this year (0-0. 1.76 over 18 innings) and has career totals of  9-4, 2.64 over 119.1 minor league relief innings. The right-hander has 161 strikeouts to 70 walks and 72 hits and looked as dominant as those numbers.

Speaking of Rendon, the Nationals first round pick last year, who signed too late to play in 2011, played at four levels this season going .233-6-12 over 133 at-bats, reaching as high as Double-A Harrisburg (.161-3-3 over 21 games) before being dispatched to the AFL. The third sacker had a nice two-for-three day with a walk against Phoenix early in the week, then roped a triple as part of a two-for-four game against Scottsdale, adding to his .395-0-11 AFL line. The big problem for Rendon is Ryan Zimmerman, still just 28, plays ahead of him.

Rich with prospects, Washington also has outfielder Kent Matthes, a fourth round pick from University of Alabama in 2009. After handling Class-A Modesto last year (.334-23-95), Matthes struggled with the jump to Double-A Tulsa this year (.217-17-40), although strikeouts haunted him both seasons with 22 walks to 80 whiffs both years. Matthes hit .260-4-14 for Salt River this year, and I saw him twice where he struck out five times--one by Dunnington--while walking twice, however, he also showed a deadly arm in right field and that was enough to make me want to track.

I only saw the Brewers Josh Prince for one game, but it was indeed a convincing viewing, as the shortstop went two-for-three, with a pair of walks, scoring twice, and knocking in another with a double. Prince, among the leaders of the AFL in offense (.385/.495/.543 with eight swipes) was a third round selection of Milwaukee out of Tulane in 2009, went .251-7-55 with 28 doubles and 41 swipes. Most impressive for Pince this year however, is the seriously improved plate discipline that resulted in 74 walks to 107 strikeouts at Double-A Huntsville in 2012 his best numbers since rising from rookie ball in 2010.

For the third straight season I saw Grant Green, Oakland's first round selection out of USC in 2009, and this time unfortunately Green looked like a lost man. Three years ago, as a 22-year old shortstop, Green was impressive enough coming off a .318-20-87 season at Stockton, and last year he looked better in Phoenix, learning the outfield after logging .291-9-62 totals at Double-A Midland. And, though Green moved up to Triple-A Sacramento and hit .296-15-75 there in 2012, this time he was playing second base and looked weary as a result. Whether this was the result of the long seasons, or his position shuffled, I am not sure, but I saw him go 0-for-eight, with only one ball hit into the outfield. I think maybe a trade and a new start for Green,who will be 25 on Opening Day 2013, without a set position in Oakland, might be the best course unfortunately.

I was not familiar at all with San Francisco third sacker Chris Dominguez, drafted now no fewer than three times (17th round in 2005 by Texas, by the Rockies in the fifth round of 2008, and finally by the Giants in the third round of the 2009 draft out of University of Louisville), but I am now. Dominguez went three-for-four with a homer, and a pair of singles and runs the first game I saw him, then went one-for-four two days later with a single, but also walked, got on via an error, stole a base and scored a run against Surprise. With 83 walks to 447 strikeouts, plate discipline has to be a concern for SF, but Dominguez does have .261-55-270 totals over 426 minor league games with 39 swipes. He went .247-3-25 over 43 games at Triple-A Fresno in 2012, but struck out an alarming 47 times to just a pair of walks, but I really liked what I saw at the dish, on the bases, and in the field of Dominguez.

Another fellow who was new to me was Scottsdale (via the Angels) Randal Grichuk, a first round pick of Los Angeles in 2009 out of Rosenberg, Texas. Just 21 last August, the right fielder hit a pretty solid .298-18-71 at the California League this year, with 30 doubles and 16 steals, although again 52 minor league walks to 261 strikeouts is of concern. He did walk twice, and singled once scoring a pair of runs the day I saw Grichuk, but what was really great was the fantastic throw he uncorked to nail Corey Dickerson--who is not exactly slow--going from first-to-third on a Jose Gonzalez single (that actually scored Rendon). 

Closing with the second arm I liked, it actually belongs to Dellin Betances, the 6'8", 260 pound right-hander who has been so balleyhooed, but who also struggled this season with 6-9, 6.44 totals over 131.2 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In fact Betances earned a sip of coffee (6.75 over 2.2 innings) at Yankees Stadium this year. However, I saw the big guy toss two innings--one frame each appearance--Betances looked great, striking out a pair and retiring all six hitters he faced.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 16:08
September 24, 2012 (Week 25: Five Guys Who Make Me Nervous for 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 24 September 2012 00:00

Here we are again, at the end of another baseball season.

Actually, this would be my 17th, writing in this space about the game and fantasy and as I like to say, trying to make some sense of the game on the field, and in our heads, and, well, some kind of cross section of the two.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of this week's topic, the Hotpage will be taking the next month off, returning in early November with a look at the AFL and my XFL draft. In December and January we will have winners and losers of the winter meetings and Rule 5 picks, as well as the Top 250 prospects.

But, I will continue with Bed Goes Up and Extra Points, and of course you can continue to track our terrific football coverage supplied by Ryan Carey, Greg Morgan, Marc Meltzer, Perry Van Hook, and of course Lord Zola as we all try to make some sense of the gridiron as well.

OK, so housekeeping aside, the last couple of weeks I looked at some guys I like going into next year, so let's finish the season with five guys whom I think will be overpriced and will experience a correction of their statistics.

Since it has been such a gratifying season for baseball locally, let's start with the Athletics, who have done so well drawing off their rookie pitchers like A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, and Tommy Milone. And, I have to think that among these guys, Milone is more than expendable. The 25-year old, copped as part of the Gio Gonzalez swap during the off-season last year, did have pretty good minor league totals of 37-22, 3.05 with 505 hits allowed over 516.2 minor league innings. And, even in a pitching environ, like the Coliseum, Milone has fared well with 7-4, 2.68 totals over 14 home starts to 6-6, 5.17 on the road and 15 starts.

However, Milone's second half dropped to 5-4, 4.31 with 89 hits allowed over 71 innings, while the lefty's first half totals were 8-6, 3.57 with 103 hits allowed over 108 innings. More important, in July Milone was 2-1, 4.95 over his past month of play. Now, he is a rookie, with 179.1 innings, but Milone does not throw over around 89 MPH and I think the league largely caught up to him by the end of 2012. One thing about Billy Beane's young arms is they indeed can pitch, but similarly they have to be very fine to succeed. So far Milone has gotten by nicely with 13-10, 3.86 totals but I am seeing an up-and-down Joe Saunders future for Milone. Which is ok, but rarely worth more than $4 in a deep AL format, and maybe good enough for a sixth starter slot in an NFBC format.

Moving across the bay to the Giants and their surprise of 2011, I have the same fears for Ryan Vogelsong, who was untouchable going into August, when though he did go 4-2, his ERA ballooned to 6.32 for the month, and in September things have falled worse, with 1-2, 8.66 numbers. Vogelsong did start the season on the DL, and has twirled 179.2 innings this year, just about what he did last year, though the difference is betweem 17-7, 2.71 in 2011, while this year is 13-9, 3.58. The question is again whether wear and tear is what is getting at Vogelsong, although there have been rumors in SF that the Vogelsong emergence--with three extra miles on his fastball--might be of the same ilk they sent Guillermo Mota, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon off to never-never land this season. Vogelsong did look ok on Friday, bringing his fastball to 93 MPH while earning his first win of the month, but still he was not overpowering and I do indeed sense the league has caught up to Vogs.

I am not sure if it is a no-brainer here, but just where did A.J. Pierzynski's 2012 come from? Signed before the start of 2012, returning to the Pale Hose, AJ has had the best offensive year of his career, with 26 homers, tying at present his best in RBI at 74, along with a best OPS of .828 at age 35. On the other hand, Pierzynski tied his career high in strikeouts at 72 at press time meaning he is swinging pretty free right now. I am guessing, irrespective of anything else, AJ hits no more than 15 dingers next year, in fact I am betting Tyler Flowers will creep past the vet as the starter. But, there will be those who see those 26 taters and very little else and as a result will be disappointed.

Curtis Granderson has indeed flourished with the Yankees since signing with the club in 2010, and though he does have 39 big flies this year, his RBI total is down 24 from last year, his doubles are down nine from last year, triples down seven, and stolen bases down 16. Granderson has 14 fewer walks than in 2011, but has 14 more strikeouts as I write, and I suppose one question is whether the Yanks pick up the $13 million option for next season. In reality, that is a pretty good buy in the majors, and though Granderson is still just 31, those numbers make me nervous. I do think Granderson will hit 25 dingers, and maybe drive in 70 or so, but his 32 drop in batting average, and 44 point drop in OBP make me want to let someone else manage this risk.

Finally, the Bucs--like the Orioles, Athletics, and Nationals--are just a great story this year. And, the Pirates have some interesting young players, but I would be beyond cautious with 30-year old closer Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan does have 36 conversions, in line with the 40 he nailed last year, but Hanrahan's ratio has expanded to 1.253 from 1.049 of 2011. And, while Hanrahan has done well keeping the hits down to just 37 over 56.2 innings, his walk total shot up to 34 (with zero intentional), meaning his strikeout-to-walk ratio is less than two-to-one. In contrast he was almost four-to-one in both 2010 and 2011. So, those indicators just make me nervous.

What it boils down to is any of the above guys could be a good acquisition for 2013, but just err on the side of caution with all, allowing other owners to take the risk, or better, trading now while their value is high.

That will be it for now. Thanks so much for hanging for another season of the Hotpage, and may your teams all be winners.

See you in a month!

Last Updated on Monday, 24 September 2012 07:45
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