Hotpage Week 5 (April 29, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 29 April 2013 00:00

Greetings, and welcome back for another week of trying to make rational sense out of the seemingly irrational numbers baseball players produce.

A quartet of young arms were advanced over this past cycle who merit a look, starting with a couple of personal favorites. We'll begin with the Padres' Robbie Erlin. Selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Scotts Valley High School, Erlin put in parts of two seasons with the Rangers before being shipped to San Diego along with Joe Wieland for reliever Mike Adams as the Rangers tried for a Series push. With 278 punchouts over 340 innings (296 hits, 57 walks, and a 1.038 WHIP) Erlin, now 22-years old, was 2-0, 4.72 at Triple-A Tucson so far this year (10 whiffs, 13.1 IP, 18 hits) and will likely go into the Friars rotation. If available, the lefty is a good addition to your roster, although as a rookie pitcher expect some lumps (also expect with guys like Wieland, Andrew Cashner, and Cory Luebke for the Pads to have a pretty solid rotation before long). 

I also really like the Dodgers' Matt Magill. In fact, I highlighted Magill on our Top  250 (he logged in at #220) Prospect list this year because I liked the 11-8, 3.75 mark at Double-A Chattanooga last year, with 168 strikeouts over 146 innings, allowing 61 walks and 127 hits, good for a 1.285 ratio. Drafted out of Simi Valley High School in the 31st round in 2008, Magill has 532 strikeouts over a like number of minor league innings and was 0-0, 2.84 this year over four starts and 19 innings at Albuquerque before being summoned by the Dodgers for at least one start while L.A. sorts out its rotation injury issues. Magill turned in 6.2 solid innings, allowing four hits and a pair each of walks and runs in his first major league start. I really like the future of this kid.

Phillies' right hander Jonathan Pettibone is yet another draftee selected out of a California high school (like Erlin and Magill), having been selected in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Esperanza High School (in Anaheim). More of a control arm, Pettibone struck out 356 over 497.2 innings with 464 hits allowed and 164 walks. Pettibone registered #37 on our Top 250, and has a 1-0, 4.35 mark over two big league starts. Of these three starters, I have the least faith in the 22-year-old, however. 

Bruce Rondon was signed as a free agent by the Tigers in 2007 out of Valencia, Carabolo, Vemezuela. A very hard thrower, Rondon has 68 saves over 147 games and 203.2 innings, with 222 strikeouts to go with a 6-10, 2.43 record. Rondon was summoned last week and I saw his first performance, where the right-hander certainly threw hard, clocking near 100 MPH, but also showing control issues (113 walks). To be successful in the Show, however, Rondon is going to have to throw something aside from his fastball, meaning he is likely a closer of the future (Rondon was #45 on our Top 250).

A better bet for saves in Detroit is ex-closer Jose Valverde, who did convert 35 saves for the Tigers last year, posting a 3-4, 3.78 record, finishing 67 games (to lead the league for the second straight year). Valverde was hittable during the stretch, and thus the 35-year-old Dominican signed in a hurry to help the leaky Tigers' pen. And, he does have a pair of saves so far, meaning he is the best bet right now for conversions. Bid accordinly.

While we are looking at resurrected veterans, Brandon Inge was brought back up by the so far surprising Pirates (15-10), filling in at first, second and third. Inge has some definite pop and also can be streaky, like most power hitters, so if you have a hole in your NL-only roster, Inge is a reasonable gamble, and he could even give 10 homers over a couple of hundred at-bats. Just expect an average around .220 (his career mark is .234) in the bargain. But, also note that Inge has played first, second and third, making him potentially a versatile addition, something that does not hurt.

Brandon Belt has picked up his average over the past ten days but Joaquin Arias has been logging time at first in San Francisco, as well as playing all the other infield positions, hitting just .200-0-2 over 25 at-bats. In a deep format, Arias could have some value, but were I to choose between Inge and Arias, I have to say Inge would be the choice.

Looking at two young hitters who are first-time major leaguers, the Yankees promoted catcher Austin Romine to fill the Francisco Cervelli void. Another high school draftee out of California (2nd round in 2007, out of El Toro High in Lake Forrest), Romine posted a .280-44-258 line over seven minor league seasons with a .334 OBP (142 walks to 320 strikeouts) to go along with a 2011 major league mark of 0-0-.150 over 19 games, Romine might be a stop-gap to help in a deep AL format, but like it or not, the 20-year-old Gary Sanchez (.287-47-197 over 989 at-bats) is probably the Pinstripe prospect to chase.

Finally, I am a big fan of Robbie Grossman, another high school draftee, although out of Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas in 2008. An outfielder, Grossman was selected in the sixth round by the Buccos but then swapped to Houston as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal last trading deadline. Grossman is a hustling player who does a lot of things well, having posted a .269-32-201 record in the Minors to go along with 90 steals and a solid .381 OBP (342 walks to 541 whiffs). Grossman is getting a chance to start every day in Houston, and I think manager Bo Porter is going to be rewarded giving this guy a chance. For sure, pick him up if you have the need (he is also worth stashing in your Minors).




Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 07:31
Hotpage Week 4 (April 22, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 22 April 2013 00:00

Amazingly, we are almost a month into the 2013 season, and I have to say I am feeling ok about my teams and prospects for the season. I am also feeling pretty good about our Top 250 Prospect List (which you can indeed get by signing up for our Platinum Plan) because this year, in addition to producing the list, I also made a comment about each player, and then highlighted a dozen or so players I really liked as "prospect sleepers," if you will.

One of those guys was Jose Fernandez, of whom I wrote (and caused a lot of buzz) a couple of weeks back. Fernandez scored #19 on the Top 250. Well, another guy I targeted was Reds hurler Tony Cingrani, who has pretty much generated as much hype as Fernandez this past week.

A southpaw, Cingrani was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Rice, and trucked right off Billings and the Pioneer League, logging 51.3 innings, a 3-2, 1.75 mark, and whiffing 80. In 2012, Cingrani started at Bakersfield (5-1, 1.11), then moved to up to Pensacola (5-3, 2.12), then to the Great American Ball Park (0-0, 1.80) to finish the year. He almost made the big club out of spring training, but went to Louisville (1-0, 0.00 over three starts) and was then summoned back to the Show this week. Cingrani had his first Major League start Thursday, allowing a run over five innings, and I really think highly of this kid, mostly because it seems his work ethic is quite strong. 

Cingrani placed #248 on my Top 250, but a lot of his rating is rooted in his age (23 years old). For example, Fernandez is just 19 years old, and he ranked 230 spots higher. Either way, I really like this kid and think he will stick now and become one of the best rookies this season.

Another guy I featured--and took some grief for--is the Rangers diminuitive reliever, Joe Ortiz, who landed #6 on the Top 250, right between Dylan Bundy and Taijuan Walker. Why, you ask? Well, as I wrote last December when the list came out, Ortiz tossed 62.2 innings last year, whiffing 52, and though he surrendered 57 hits, how about nine walks (1.053 WHIP), As a minor leaguer, Ortiz tossed 276.1 innings, whiffed 278, walked 62 and allowed 232 hits (1.064 WHIP) and saved 28. He also pitched 31 innings at Triple-A Round Rock last year at age 21 (two years younger than Cingrani, again showing the age factor in my algorithm). Ortiz has done 11.1 innings with the Rangers, going 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA, eight hits allowed and ten strikeouts to just one walk. He is just 5'7" (175 lbs.) but don't forget, Billy Wagner was a shorter player, as is the Royals' Tim Collins.

25-year-old Hiram Burgos made his debut for the Brewers this week as well (1-0, 1.80, five innings, five hits, and a punchout), and the right-hander has a pretty decent minor league resume of 27-23, 3.58 over 477.1 innings (74 of them as a starter) striking out 411 and walking 130 while allowing 464 hits (1.246 WHIP). I cannot say I feel as good about Burgos as I do Ortiz and Cingrani, but he makes a reasonable gamble in an NL format.

However, I really like another Rangers hurler, Justin Grimm, whom I liked a lot last year, and who promptly melted down as soon as I endorsed him. The Rangers selected Grimm in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, out of the University of Georgia (Athens). Grimm had one good start (six innings, three runs) and one really scary one (one inning, six runs) and then went back to the Minors where he split between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock (11-6, 2.81 over 134.2 innings). A year older and after a Sunday win (six innings, one run, nine whiffs, a walk and six hits), I am still willing to go out on the same limb and recommend him again.

Looking at some hitters, I think Didi Gregorius might have my favorite name of any player these days. He is also a decent enough hitter, with a .267-23-177 line that includes 76 doubles, 23 triples, and 45 swipes over 486 games (1893 at-bats). Hailing from Holland, Gregorius does have 130 walks to 258 strikeouts, good for a .319 OBP which is of a little concern, but he did homer for the second time Sunday (.545-2-2). Part of the complex three-team deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and Drew Stubbs to the Tribe, Gregorius could get some playing time this year and is an interesting option for the Diamondbacks' future. He makes for a pretty good pickup in an NL-only format.

The Pirates recalled outfielder Alex Presley, who has a pretty good minor league line of .292-50-308 over 651 games. An eighth-round pick of the Buccos out of the University of Mississippi in 2006, Presley has had a few chances in the Bigs, including some nice power last year (.237-10-25) but a lot of missed swings (18 walks to 72 strikeouts) over 104 games and 306 at-bats. I think I would pass on Presley at this point.

With Ryan Zimmerman hurt, the Nationals advanced Anthony Rendon, their first-round pick in 2011 out of the same Rice University as Cingrani. Last year, the then 22-year-old debuted and climbed four levels of the Minors from Rookie up through Double-A, putting together a .233-6-12 year over 133 at-bats. Rendon also had a very encouraging 23 walks to 29 strikeouts and was hitting .292-2-7 over 48 at-bats along with 14 walks to nine strikeouts. Rendon is an acceptable replacement for the present and a really nice gamble for the future.

Oswaldo Arcia is a 22-year-old Venezuelan flychaser, promoted by the Twins this past week when Darin Mastroianni went on the DL. With a very nice .316-56-268 line over 384 games, Arcia has a .912 minor league OPS (.539 SLG; .373 OBP). He does have just 123 walks to 298 whiffs, suggesting Arcia is a free swinger, but he clearly can hit when in his element. So far this year at Triple-A Rochester (.394-3-8 over ten games), he was indeed that, and like Rendon, if Arcia is not a full fledged pick now, he probably will be shortly. Meaning grab him now and stash, if nothing else.

Finally, I like Blake Tekotte, a third-round pick of the Padres in 2008, who was swapped during the hot stove last year for Brandon Kloess, thus making the outfielder a member of the White Sox. Tekotte has stuggled over 49 Major League at-bats (.163-0-1) but he did have a solid 2011 (.285-19-87) at San Antonio. He had lesser numbers last season while shuttling betwen the Majors and Minors (.243-9-26 at Tucson when not struggling in the big leagues). Still, I think the former University of Miami alum could be ok, and while Dayan Viciedo is down, Tekotte will get some chances to show he has arrived. We are all probably better off waiting though before jumping on the Tekotte bandwagon.


Last Updated on Monday, 22 April 2013 08:13
Hotpage Week 3 (April 15, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 15 April 2013 00:00

This past cycle of games has been brutal for middle infielders, with Jose Reyes, Gordon Beckham, Erick Aybar, and Scott Sizemore all falling to the DL for some period between a few weeks and the end of the season.

This time, let's start by looking at those spots, and who is likely to get playing time, and where we can look to fill their void, especially in deeper formats, starting with the Jays and Reyes. Toronto has covered their bases pretty well in the event of such an injury, as they have both Macier Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio on their roster, not to mention Mark DeRosa. Izturis is the likely candidate to get time at shortstop while Reyes is out for 1-3 months. Bonifacio will continue to play mostly second with a little outfield and short, but, if DeRosa, of whom we recently wrote, is still floating around in the free agent pool, he is the guy I would look to get the at-bats, and even productive ones. For now, DeRosa, who can play second, third, short, and the outfield as well, is covering third pending the return of Brett Lawrie, but I like the veteran to get some everyday playing time till both Reyes and Lawrie are back in the starting lineups. I would ignore Munenori Kawasaki, who had a short but unsuccessful stint with Seattle last year. Something to monitor is Brett Lawrie is playing second on rehab (Joey Bats actually played the hot corner over the weekend). The Blue Jays outfield depth with Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose on the farm is better than their infield depth so if Lawrie shows the Toronto brass he can handle the keystone, they may leave Bautista at third and use Bonifacio and Davis in the outfield. DeRosa will still see some playing time thus would continue to be viable in AL-only formats.

The Angels situation is both better and bleaker as Aybar, down with a badly bruised heel, will only be out for a few weeks. On the other hand, they would probably love to still have Izturis, who left for the greener fields of Toronto as a free agent last off-season. The Angels have Andrew Romine and Brendan Harris to cover for Aybar, who is likely to be down just a couple of weeks (a similar injury hit him last season) and while Romine has some glove, his major league line is .196-0-1 over 32 at-bats, and a slightly more promising .277-19-213 minor league mark over 611 games. Harris has had better success in the Majors, with.260-29-149 big league totals over 492 games (.282-87-481 over 912 minor league games) and is probably the better bet.

I was really big on Scott Sizemore going into the season as being the second sacker in Oakland until he fell victim to the same ACL injury that ended his 2012 season. The Athletics did call up Andy Parrino, who has a terrific glove, but no stick at all (.193-1-10 major league line over 83 games). In fact, Parrino made several great defensive plays at short Saturday versus Justin Verlander and the Tigers, but was caught looking with runners on base twice, making the final out of the inning and killing rallies twice. I would simply bite it and stick with Eric Sogard, who has been performing adequately, at second, maybe looking at Adam Rosales when he returns from the DL. The truth is I don't see either player as an everyday guy, nor do I see Jemile Weeks as a solution Oakland trusts (if they did, he would have been recalled before Parrino), so Billy Beane might look to trade to fill the void with some offense. Irrespective, were I stuck, Sogard is where I would go.

The White Sox lost Gordon Beckham to a broken hamate bone (something that did not exist when I was a kid watching baseball, along with a rotator cuff) for roughly six weeks, but like the Jays, they have their bases pretty well covered with vet Jeff Keppinger, a player I really liked going into the 2013 drafts and season. So, while I see Keppinger getting time at second, I would take a look at Conor Gillaspie, who has been getting at-bats at third (where Keppinger can play when Beckham returns). A first-round pick of the Giants in 2008, I have seen Gillaspie at the AFL, at spring training, and even during his short stints at ATT, and he can indeed hit. So far, the third sacker is hitting .435-0-0 over 23 at-bats, but as with Sogard, if you need the at-bats in a deeper format, go with Gillaspie. 

On the south side of Chicago, Darwin Barney is similarly down, and the Cubbies have been rotating Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge around, and just recalled Alberto Gonzalez. I would give the versatile Lillibridge, who enjoyed his best major league season at US Cellular in 2011 when he hit .258-13-29 over 183 at-bats. That season his slugging was .505, and OPS .845 suggesting he has pop and some versatility (can play second, third, short, and the outfield). In fact, I like Gonzalez and his major league slash of .242-3-85 over 411 major league games, over Valbuena and his .224-18-87 over 329 contests. Valbuena does have the pop, but I just think that Gonzalez is a better bet. Either way, I like Lillibridge best among the troika.

One other infield to watch is Houston's ever evolving cluster, where the only set thing is Jose Altuve. Matt Dominguez could move to to first where Brett Wallace (.043-0-0 over seven games) is not delivering. That is because Marwin Gonzalez (.333-2-5 over nine games) should get the time at third, or even short depending upon Ronny Cedeno who is hitting adequately, but who is similarly not a long term solution to much of anything (if the Astros are smart, they can swap Cedeno to one of the above teams for some future considerations). Either way, Gonzalez is a guy to look at and add if you can in a deeper format. 

With Freddie Freeman out, the Braves advanced Evan Gattis who has made quite a splash with a .333-4-8 line over eight major league games. A 23rd-round pick of Atlanta in 2010, Gattis has a pretty good minor league resume of .308-44-167 over 222 games, with 62 walks to 147 whiffs (.373/.546/.920). The 26-year old is indeed hot, so ride the hot hand while you can.

Looking to a couple of pitchers, Nick Tepesch has had a couple of nice starts for the Rangers. Drafted out of high school in 2008 by the Red Sox Tepesch chose the college (University of Missouri, Columbia) path instead, then signing with the Rangers after being drafted in the 14th round of 2010. As a minor leaguer, Tepesch assembled a 19-7, 3.77 mark over 305.1 innings (58 games, 50 starts) with 250 strikeouts to 77 walks and 317 hits (1.298 WHIP). 

It is hard to ignore those two strong starts, but if you rememer back to last year, the Rangers also gave Justin Grimm (1-1, 9.00 over five games, two starts, and 14 innings) a shot and after his first strong start, Grimm stumbled. He wound up with an 11-6, 2.81 season over 134.1 innings split between Round Rock and Frisco. With a 19-9, 3.07 mark over 281 minor league innings with 234 whiffs to 80 walks and 256 hits (1.196 WHIP). Truth is, I like Grimm better than Tepesch as a gamble.

Finally, one of my regrets this pre-season was that I could not protect Jhoulys Chacin on my Strat-O-Matic team simply because I did not have enough spots (Carlos Marmol also went back to the pool). I had a strong feeling, based upon his 3-2, 2.80 second half and not his 0-3, 7.30 first half starts, Reality is that Chacin was only able to make 14 starts all season, spending time on the DL with a dead wing, but he is clearly back in force with 2-0, 1.96 numbers over three 2013 starts. Oh how I wish I had been able to protect Chacin. Such is life. Pick him up if you can.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2013 11:11
April 8, 2013 (Week 2) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 08 April 2013 00:00

It is so funny, that like riding a bike, or anything else familiar, once the season starts we get right into the groove of watching games and tracking stats and speculating endlessly. And, this week, we not only got to get back into games--and Opening Week is wondrous with so many day games scattered among within the schedule--but we got some veteran faces who are not exactly strangers this time, so let's take a look.

And what better place is there to start than with the king of erratic, Jonathan Sanchez, now toiling with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I used to be such a Sanchez fan, for he clearly had the most wicked stuff of any of the San Francisco pitchers at the time. And, that included both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Well, so much for that, though Sanchez did pitch a no-hitter while wearing the orange and black. 

Sanchez, now 30, is coming off a 4-7, 4.26 ERA, 1.44 WHIP season in 2011, and then a complete meltdown in 2012 split between the Royals and the Rockies (1-9, 8.07 ERA, 2.09 WHIP over 64 innings). Over that span, Sanchez allowed 11 dingers, and though he looked effective enough against the Dodgers on Friday (five innings, six hits, three runs, one walk), I would not touch him any more than I would draft Steve Trachsel or Steve Trout (who was never drafted in my AL-only Coco's Fala League despite being in the starting rotation during several years of our play).

As I was drafting this piece Saturday night--while tracking the Athletics and Orioles, along with Lawrence of Arabia on TCM--I also flipped on the Trevor Bauer/Alex Cobb matchup between the Rays and the Indians. Through three innings, Bauer had walked seven (as many as Lincecum over five innings last Wednesday). Like so many, I am high on Cobb, in fact I have him on three teams this year, and like so many, curious as can be about Bauer. I am not sure how this Indians lineup will shake out, but I do think the pitching will be the determiner. If Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez can rebound, that is the start, but Bauer makes the equation curious. I do see control issues, but I also see he is able to bail himself out, at least so far. Unlike Jonathan Sanchez, for example. Of course, just one start, so track Bauer carefully, but he is a guy I would add in a deep format.

Sometimes, the best-laid plans. I was watching John Lackey strike out eight over four innings, looking like his former self, and jotted down his name to cover this week right here at the Hotpage. And then Lackey strains his biceps. So, I added former Athletic, now Astro, Travis Blackley to the list. Blackley, you may remember, was pretty effective as part of the Athletics August run last year, and I thought Houston did well taking a chance with him. The results? Poof. While warming up, Blackley reports a sore shoulder, so now he is on the DL. I do like both of them, but healthy they must be.

The Metropolitans recalled left-hander Aaron Laffey to start on Sunday, and ideally grab the spot vacated by the injured Johan Santana. Laffey is another wunderkind who has yet to live up to our often misplaced expectations. In 2007, as a 22-year-old, Laffey made nine starts (4-2, 4.56) and for the most part that has been his line ever since, with 25-29, 4.38 numbers over 65 major league starts and 148 games. Just shy of his 28th birthday, I want to think Laffey has transcended his early struggles and really learned to pitch, but unfortunately, that is not the case (maybe it is because I have had him on my Strat-O-Matic team for years, always with better results than reality?). I like some of the things the Mets have done, but I cannot endorse picking up Laffey in any format other than Strat at this point.

Speaking of which, who among you gambled on Brian Roberts? I wanted to, even though he had played in just 115 games between 2010 and Opening Day 2013. And, he managed three games this year before getting hurt pulling a hamstring. Now out for 2-4 weeks, the Orioles will look to Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla to fill the second base void. Though I prefer Casilla at this juncture, it seems Baltimore prefers Flaherty, a 2008 first-round pick of the Cubs who in 2011 went .280-19-88 split between Double-A and Triple-A. But, his 177 minor league walks to 343 whiffs still makes me nervous. Still, he probably has more pop and production potential than Casilla, and Flaherty plays all over the diamond. So, in a deep format, he is the guy.

I have been a Chris Heisey fan since seeing him at the Arizona Fall League around four years ago. Heisey is one of those Collin Cowgill/Mark Kotsay guys who does nothing in a spectacular fashion but does everything pretty well. As in he can run, he can hit for average with occasional pop, and rarely hurts himself. I had thought after Heisey's .254-18-50 2010 as a part-timer, he would earn full-time status, but the outfielder struggled the bulk of the 2011 season, rotating good months with sub-par ones, and that led to a diminished role in 2012. But, the shoulder injury to Ryan Ludwick has opened some playing time for Heisey, and that makes him a great pickup. I think he will excel having the spot come this way though his average is still a little quirky at .143, Heisey has one dinger to his 2013 credit. Of course, Heisey might think about Billy Hamilton in his rear view as motivation.

It took utility player Mark De Rosa nine years to earn a starting chance and from then, in 2006, until 2009, he produced pretty well. That all ended in 2010 when he signed a pretty nice free agent contract with the Giants, and he has since managed only 121 games over three seasons, two with the Giants and one with the Nationals. But, he is with the Jays now and kind of like Heisey, though De Rosa is only hitting .125, he does have one big fly. Toronto has a pretty competitive team, so I see De Rosa getting lots of chances to spell his mates, including playing a lot of third while Brett Lawrie recuperates. A nice guy to have due to flexibility, in a deep AL league, he is more than worth a roster spot at this point.

It is hard to tell if the Brewers are more banged up than the Yankees, but with Aramis Ramirez gone for awhile, it looks like Yuniesky Betancourt gets the first shot at production. Always a lousy on-base guy (.290 career mark), Betancourt does have some power, as his .266-11-65 162-game mean indicates. Again, in a deeper league, at-bats are everything (well, they are in all formats), so if you are sitting on the hurt Ramirez, Betancourt is a pretty good gamble.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 06:44
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
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