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Hotpage: March 31, 2014 (Week 1) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 31 March 2014 00:00

As I start to draft this, there about 90 minutes between the world and first pitch on the North American continent of the 2014 Baseball Season. So, I will get to see one of my favorites to break out this year, Andrew Cashner, who happens to grace my LABR team, take on the Dodgers. That means I get to watch Jedd Gyorko, Scott Van Slyke, Andre Ethier, Yonder Alonso, Will Venable and Cashner all play, and it matters.

What fun!

So, as we make our last moves and positioning going into the first week--and sort of prompted by comments on "Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down", comments last Saturday, let's finish the pre-season by looking at my favorite source for scrounging fantasy points, utility players.

Generally, utility players are not everyday players, but that doesn't mean they don't log pretty close to full-time play over the course of the season. Bettter, they are simply invaluable in the event of an injury as multi-positional players, and that related flexibility can make managing a team so much more successful and efficient.

Let's start with Marcus Semien (2B/3B/SS, White Sox), of whom a number of comments on the heels of my Matt Davidson assessment, were lodged over the weekend. Now, I love Semien, if for no other reason than he is from the Bay Area and went to Berkeley, but I really think the infielder will become the man at second, allowing the White Sox to let go of Gordon Beckham. Semien, who hit .261-2-7 over limited Major League play last year, played three games each at second and short, but will start this year manning the keystone slot. I love a guy who walks more than he whiffs, and at Double-A last year, Semien grabbed 98 free passes to 90 whiffs. That tells me he is a smart ballplayer, and that tells me he could be pretty good.

Alberto Callaspo (2B/3B, Athletics): A number of years back, in 2005, Callaspo ranked way up there on myTop 250 Prospect List following a .304-11-80 season with 38 walks to 30 strikeouts split between Double-A and Triple-A. Callaspo, over his Major League career, has a 162-game mean of .273-9-59 with four swipes, and I will bet he is right there with similar numbers--and maybe a few extra swipes--in Oakland this year. I think Callaspo might get some time at first base as well, making his value increase a little.

Joaquin Arias (1B/2B/3B/SS, Giants): Arias played all four infield slots last year, and with Marco Scutaro down, figures to get the bulk of time manning second (though watch out for Brandon Hicks, who had a wicked spring at .384-3-11 over 24 games). Though not a high OBP guy at .302 over his career, Arias does boast a .273 average and should be good for 8-10 steals. He should also be cheap or in the reserve pool in most leagues, and in a deep league could be a big help. I have Arias in LABR, spelling Scutaro right now, in fact.

Steve Lombardozzi (2B/3B/OF, Orioles): It is kind of strange that the Tigers, who are trying to fill a gap at short, traded the 25-year-old, who has played a couple of games at shortstop, to the Orioles for a shortstop (Alex Gonzalez) without much to offer at this point (too bad Omar Vizquel isn't an option). Lombardozzi did have a drop off on his OPS from .671 to .619 last year, but his basic numbers were pretty much the same over the past couple of years despite 100 fewer at-bats in 2013. So, with Jonathan Schoop in waiting, and Jemile Weeks dispatched, the keystone slot at Camden falls to Lombardozzi. I have a good feeling about it.

Yan Gomes (C/1B, Indians): Just inked to a six-year contract extension, Gomes is hardly a secret. He has, however, played catcher, first base and left field, along with third base over his 131 game Major League career. The 26-year-old has a .271-15-51 line over that span. 'Nuff said.

Jordan Pacheco (C/1B, Rockies): Over the past two seasons, Pacheco has caught, played first, and third. As of now, he is the Rockies' backup catcher, but coming off a solid .346-2-5 spring, will probably get a chance to redeem himself from his down 2013 (.239-1-33) after his solid .309-5-54 first full season in 2012. I have Pacheco as a catching option in several leagues.

Emilio Bonifacio (2B/3B/OF, Cubs): The speedy Bonifacio should get plenty of chances both at second (Darwin Barney is hardly a threat), third (should Mike Olt struggle) and then in the Wrigley outfield. Emilio will collect his 400 at-bats, and though he is probably gone in deep leagues, he makes for a nice play in mixed and shallower formats as well.

Dustin Ackley (1B/2B/OF, Mariners): No longer a favorite prospect, Ackley kicked up his game at the end of last season with a .304-3-20 second half, so Seattle wants to give their former #1 selection in 2009 another chance. Certainly, second base is out with Robinson Cano in tow, so left field--or maybe some center--are probably where Ackley gets his playing time. Ackley has a sweet swing, and should perform better than his numbers indicate, but going into his third year, this should be step up time.

Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 07:39
 
Tout Wars 2014 (from Manhattan) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 24 March 2014 00:00

This year’s American League Tout Wars auction was different.

To start, because the season began this past weekend with the National League playing Saturday, the precedent of the AL leading off shifted to Sunday.

What made this a little fun and different for me was that every year on the “normal” Saturday of Tout, I publish my wish list for the draft, noting some of the players I am looking to grab, for how much, and why.

Now, for the most part I don’t really care who knows which players I like, or even what I might be thinking at least prior to the start of the draft.

And, a few of my esteemed colleagues did indeed read my thoughts, which made the bidding process more than interesting. If you review the players who constitute my team below, you can see some of my thoughts about that.

Second, this was a hard draft to read. Most of the time, there is a distinct flow to a draft, with sometimes stars going at a premium, and lots of money going off the table quickly, as in the AL LABR draft earlier this month. That suggests holding a little money, and controlling the draft during the soft periods, usually starting around the fifth cycle of nominations. In this instance, there are also usually values in the $2-$3 range at the end game.

Or, like the LABR NL the next day, all owners will be very careful to pay value for most players. In those instances, there are still times where the values soften, but what that really means is trying to play it out the middle, ensuring all your positions are filled with guys who are productive, while also grabbing values and moderately priced players aggressively, as by the end game most teams will have money. That means bidding wars for the likes of Bengie Molina, who went for $21 a few years back in the XFL under such circumstances.

Sunday’s auction was more like the latter scenario, but some instances, such as the position of closer, dictated you would have to spend $17-$20 for a closer, any closer.

That makes it tough, since those soft spots and patterns are scattered and hard to spot, if they exist at all.

Anyway, here is what I wound up with:

C: Adrian Nieto ($1): I pegged Nieto for a buck, and was pretty sure I would hear crickets, and fill the spot without challenge. Nieto, as a Rule 5, should make the team backing the shaky Tyler Flowers. At worst, for a dollar, big deal.

C: Stephen Vogt ($1): My understanding is the Athletics want John Jaso ($11) to spend most of his time DHing, and that suggests Vogt (.395-3-12 this spring) will make it as the third catcher. Hope so, but again, at a dollar, not a huge investment needing very little to get a return.

1B: Nick Swisher ($18): First sackers, and power was going quickly, and at value, so I took the dependable outfielder/first sacker and that was that.

2B: Alberto Callaspo ($6): Callaspo, also versatile and able to play second and third, will get 400 at-bats and I was happy to nominate and get him and plug the spot during the first third of the draft.

3B: Kyle Seager ($21): I pegged $22 for either Josh Donaldson or Seager, and when Donaldson went for $25 just prior to the Seattle third sacker, I was happy to get him for a dollar less than I thought I would.

SS: Jed Lowrie ($14): I like Lowrie a lot, and he is a switch-hitter who makes very good contact. He was healthy last year, and if he can repeat 2013, will be well worth the $3 less than I imagined the shortstop would fetch.

MI: Eric Sogard ($4): I had no intention of cornering the Athletics middle infielders, but there they are. Still, all three repeating would be what I want, and the almost Face made big strides last year.

CI: Marcus Semien ($6): I love the White Sox rookie who hails from UC Berkeley, via El Cerrito, our home town. He Is their best choice at second or third, and in a tight league a good gamble to take.

OF: Alex Rios ($25): I love the Rios production, and got him at a bit of a deflated rate simply because the league switched to OBP. But, since I am looking for a .340 OBP for my team, if all my hitters are simply in that range, I will be fine. I think Alex can do that, plus some.

OF: Michael Brantley ($16): I had him down Saturday for $14, and I think I might have victimized myself by making sure everyone knew I wanted the Cleveland flychaser. But, the way the draft was going I knew I would have to spend to get some guys, and Brantley gives me some of everything and I think is improving.

OF: Lorenzo Cain ($8): Again, a guy who can do everything, and who should improve. Right where I thought he would cost.

OF: Alejandro De Aza ($10): Jason Collette had the same thought as me about Colby Rasmus, who went for $15, three more than I wanted to pay, but I was happy to grab De Aza towards the end for a sawbuck. Again, a guy who does some of everything.

SW: Nick Castellanos ($14): I was actually afraid I was going to leave money on the table as I had $26 and two open spots when Chris Liss bid me up for my second to last vacant slot. I did not really overpay in that I had the money to spend, and I can play Castellanos at third or the outfield. Another rookie gamble I am happy to make.

UT: Danny Valencia ($1): Oh how I thought he would do, and oh how Valencia has disappointed. But, based upon his 2013 (.304-8-23) and his minor league on-base skills, another guy who need not do much to earn a profit.

P: Chris Sale ($29): Pegged him at $24, but now considered an elite starter, I wanted a big arm for my staff and Sale is it.

P: Chris Archer ($12): Another basically young arm, on a team full of basically young players it seems. Which will make it fun. I think Archer is this year’s Alex Cobb of 2013, hopefully without a liner to the noggin’.

P: Sonny Gray ($14): I had wanted Dan Straily, assuming Gray would be more high profile and expensive. I notched Straily for $12, and would not go to the $14 that my mate Rob Leibowitz would. Still, when I had a chance for Gray at the same price, I jumped at it.

P: Scott Kazmir ($11): I cannot believe I own Kazmir in two leagues, but somehow I convinced myself that he has settled down, and that pitching in Oakland will be good for him.

P: Ubaldo Jimenez ($6): Again, not a guy I would normally go after, but a good price and I had the money. And, if Tim Lincecum is worth around $9 these days, Jimenez is worth $6.

P: Hector Santiago ($12): My final acquisition, and I again had the bucks and love Santiago’s potential. Another guy who can miss a lot of bats and really crank things up.

P: Glen Perkins ($18): Closers were expensive, and once I realized this I decided to focus on getting one, and trying to pick up extra saves via middle guys.

P: Fernando Rodney ($12): When I had a chance to get a second closer for $12, as opposed to a couple of good set-up guys for around $9 between them, I shifted gears. If I get a boost in saves, there will always be someone willing to trade for one of mine.

P: Sean Doolittle ($1): Again surprised that a second bid was not made for Doolittle, who throws very hard and does indeed get punchouts. He might even get a save.

Res 1: Steve Lombardozzi: Maybe my mistake in not grabbing J.P. Arencibia and hedging my catching bets, for I do have enough infielders. And, my bud Andy Behrens grabbed the Texas catcher just a pick before my turn coming around.

Res 2: J.B. Shuck: I took the speedy outfielder when I missed out on Arencibia.

Res 3: Rubby De La Rosa: Loved him as a rookie with the Dodgers, and now a year past TJ surgery, I think the now Red Sox can fill a hole and make a return.

Res 4: Dylan Bundy: A gamble with my last pick, but a fun one. And, the dude has heat and is also returning from TJ surgery. But, I also think success in the Minors this year will mean he gets a chance this year.

https://docs.google.com/a/creativesports.com/spreadsheet/lv?key=0AsAa9oCjuqbwdGJUMzl5bGlpbnVxSk5wel9VTnE3dHc&toomany=true

 

Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 03:00
 
To OBP or not to OBP (that is the question) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00

This year, Tout Wars, which takes place just a week from now in wonderful New York City, embraces a major change in point tallying by shifting from the traditional category of batting average in deference to the much more revealing on-base percentage.

This is really the biggest change in the league format since I joined, back in 2000, when the scoring went from 4x4 to 5x5, adding strikeouts and runs scored as categories.

Personally, I am pretty ambivalent about the change. Ever since I started playing Strat-O-Matic, in the early 70's, I have regarded WHIP and OBP as the two best indicators of potential player performance.

However, in order to win a league, one has to play by the rules and format of the league, so whether or not I regarded OBP as a better indicator of a player's skill set than batting average, as far as winning the league is concerned, batting average was all that mattered.

Of course in my opinon, a good OBP indicates a selective approach at the plate, and that plate discipline generally points to a stronger average and set of offensive skills irrespective.

So, to finish up this time, let's look at some players with strong on-base skills who might not be as highly thought of in "average" leagues who may get a boost in Tout and other on-base leagues due to looking differently at the numbers.

Gaby Sanchez (1B, Pirates): I still remember back to the completion of Sanchez' rookie year, and my Strat-O-Matic team needed a first sacker. I had a choice between Ike Davis and Sanchez, and chose wrong. Not that it would have helped me that much over the long haul, but the advantage I saw in Gaby was his ability to get on base. I made the wrong choice. What I did see in Sanchez back then was 57 walks to 101 whiffs, and though the first sacker has had ups and downs since, I love the 44 walks to 51 strikeouts (.361 OBP) he earned last season. I think he will add power with the confidence of everyday work, and will be a bargain in NL-only leagues.

Josh Satin (1B, Mets): Speaking of Davis, I have a hard time imagining the Mets playing Davis, potential or not, with Satin and Lucas Duda (also a decent on-base threat with some power) both on the squad. True Satin does not have the power of Davis, but he did hit 15 doubles and walked 30 times to 56 whiffs last year over 75 games, good for a decent .781 OPS. Davis might have the pop, but anyone who gets on base more often will have a chance to score more often, and in this case, that is Satin. At least as of now. Also, Satin is the healthiest of the trio as I write.

Caleb Gindl (OF, Brewers): Gindl was acceptable in the Minors, with 325 walks to 615 strikeouts (.367 OBP), and he upped the ante with a 20:25 ratio over 132 Brewers games last year. Gindl is a fourth outfielder with Milwaukee, playing primarily behind Khris Davis, backing Ryan Braun. It is true that the sample size is small, but in an NL-only set-up, the 350 at-bats the left-handed hitter might get if he makes the roster could be a solid addition (Gindl has some pop to boot).

John Jaso (C, Athletics): I have been hyping Derek Norris since last year as the future of the Athletics behind the dish, and I do think Norris will grab the bulk of the playing time, but Jaso will get his licks both as the back-up backstop and then as a platoon DH so that both players earn close to 400 plate appearances. With 178 walks to 173 strikeouts as a major leaguer, Jaso's skills at reading pitches is clearly established. By the way, it also means a strong chance that the A's will carry a third catcher, meaning a potential payday for Stephen Vogt.

George Kottaras (C, Cubs): There are some things that seem so obvious to me, and yet the world misses. Like I cannot understand why Barry Zito, with four pitches and some serious smarts, cannot become the new Jamie Moyer. Another is why no one give George Kottaras a full-time chance to catch, since despite a horrible lifetime .214 batting average, he has a .730 OPS. That means over his 295 major league games, he has a .324 OBP (remember, his average is 110 points lower) and 29 homers. I do have a bet with the NFBC's Greg Ambrosius that Kottaras has a 20-homer season in him if he ever gets a chance to play full-time. Maybe as a left-handed hitter behind Wellington Castillo, he will get a chance.

Dioner Navarro (C, Blue Jays): I have always been a Navarro fan, although like many, I lost faith when he lost his ability to make contact in 2006. Still, with 193 walks to 342 strikeouts, Navarro's OBP is 62 points higher than his average at .313, and the catcher only has 54 strikeouts over 2251 at-bats. Contrast that to former catcher J.P. Arencibia, who has 64 homers over 1299 at-bats, but just a .258 OBP. That is just seven points higher than Navarro's career average as a case in point. Happy to take a chance here, and, if you notice, catchers do pretty well at this strike zone stuff because they work with it on defense. And, because a catcher's primary task is handling the pitching game, it is why their hitting skills often are not improved until later in their respective careers.

Jose Tabata (OF, Pirates): Still just 25 years old, Tabata has a chance to build off his strong second half--along with the promising future he presented when he made the Majors as a 21-year-old. Tabata has 120 walks to his 220 strikeouts (.339 OBP), which suggests he makes good contact, and the 40 walks to 61 whiffs he culled, despite a 33-point drop in average from 2010 to 2011, fostered a three-point rise in Tabata's OBP (to .349). With a full-time job, as a real veteran, I think Tabata will excel.

Kole Calhoun (OF, Angels): I want to be disciplined when it comes to bidding for Calhoun, as he still has just 218 major league at-bats, but 21 walks to 41 strikeouts last year with the Angels, to go with his 188 minor league walks to 261 whiffs (.402 OBP) point directly to his eight homers and .808 OPS last year. And, that is what earned Calhoun a full-time job going into 2014. I fear he will cost around $15 in Tout, which is a little higher than I would like to go. But, if I can get him for $11 or $12, I am jumping on it.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 08:23
 
Battling for Playing Time (AL) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 10 March 2014 00:00

Two weeks ago, we looked at National League position battles, so after a brief hiatus for LABR, let's pick it up and look at the American League position battles.

As noted, position battles scare fantasy owners because they threaten the most basic of roto tenants: that playing time is everything.

Which is true. However, in a deep league, where every team might have a few holes, mining the competition between teammates can be a real source of production for a couple of reasons.

One is that most of the time, the player who does not earn a starting job either winds up as the reserve fourth outfielder/utility infielder. Second, if younger, those same players go to the Minors to ensure playing time, and are usually among the first recalled from the Minors in the event of an injury or flameout.

But, there is a final caveat, and that is as often as not, the player in question actually grabs a starting job, and maybe 400 at-bats along with any of the above scenarios.

So, this time, let's turn our eyes to those players and struggles in the junior circuit, and do a little projecting.

In Seattle, with newbie Robinson Cano at second and Brad Miller at short, both Nick Franklin and Dustin Ackley are question marks. Franklin will probably get the utility infield gig, and for now, Ackley is penciled in as the left fielder with Michael Saunders holding center and Corey Hart in right. Hart is the surest thing, but he is injury prone, and Saunders and Ackley are offensive question marks. So, while either might make a nice pick, the guy I am looking to is Abraham Almonte. Now 24, Almonte was acquired from the Yankees for Shawn Kelley just prior to the 2013 season. Last year at Tacoma, Almonte hit .314-11-50 with 20 steals over 94 games, while walking 49 times to 66 whiffs (.404 OBP). Almonte did struggle (.136-1-1) but I like him as the fourth outfielder to start 2014, and the truth is, I like his future better than that of Ackley or Saunders.

The American League West has a few other considerations, so let's go to the Angels next, where speedy J.B. Shuck is listed as outfielder #4 behind Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout. Further, the Angels are looking to aging Raul Ibanez to carry the bulk of DH time. Well, Hamilton has his injury struggles, and Ibanez had a slow second half. Somehow among all this, Shuck, who logged 129 games for the Angels last season, is the odd man out. The speedy outfielder did hit .293, stole eight bags and scored 60 runs over that brief span to go along with a decent enough 27 walks to 54 strikeouts (.331 OBP). I think J.B. will emerge as the third man in the outfield most of the time, with Hamilton getting DH time and Ibanez having likely outlived his fine career.

Moving to Oakland, it is no secret I am a big fan of both Derek Norris and Daric Barton. Oakland does have a nice thing going, and though I do think Norris will get the bulk of catching time, John Jaso will get both backstop time and DH time. That means Oakland will likely have to keep a third catcher for those instances when Jaso is the DH and Norris the backstop. So Stephen Vogt (.467-0-4 this spring over 17 at-bats) should make the squad to help out on the right side. It also probably means Alberto Callaspo could get some playing time at first as well as second. Sadly, it also means Barton will probably be on the short end of the roster stick to start the season.

Finishing yet another AL West position dogfight, it is true J.P. Arencibia couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat, as they say. The owner of a career .212 batting average and .258 OBP over 1299 Major League at-bats, Arencibia has just 74 walks to 400 strikeouts. But, Arencibia does have a pretty good 67 homers over that same span. Right now, J.P. is backing Geovany Soto, who has been living off the hope of his 2008 .285-23-85 and then 2010 .280-17-53 line. Aside from those flashes, Soto is not so different from Arencibia, who is three years younger, aside from those seasons. I think the younger guy in Texas, with some decent hitting around him, might just kick it up.

The Royals have a pair of spots I am looking at. The bottom of the Kansas City rotation features aging Bruce Chen, who has had an up-and-down 15-year career (80-76, 4.49, with a 1.368 WHIP) and Danny Duffy, full of talent to go with a 1.570 WHIP and 4.75 ERA, less than stellar. I have loved Yordano Ventura  (455 minor league strikeouts to 415.3 minor league innings) for a little over a year, and I think he pushes past both Chen and Duffy.

The Royals have been giving Mike Moustakas every opportunity to show he is the guy who hit .322-36-122 in 2010 at three levels. Since then, Moose has a .297 OBP and .681 OPS in the Majors, looking much more like a Brandon Wood clone. So, I would keep an eye on Danny Valencia, who clubbed .304-8-23 over limited time for the Orioles last year. It is not like Valencia is such a stud, but in an AL-only format, I think he is a much better bet than Moustakas, whom I think is a lost cause.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 07:47
 
LABR NL, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 03 March 2014 00:00

I must say that the draft season, when my mates in Tout Wars, the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), and the NFBC all flit around, convening hither and yon across our wonderful country, is just one of the best times not just of the year, but one of the best times period.

Certainly, playing fantasy ball in the public eye is a hoot, as is attending spring games, but for me, nothing even comes close to beating the friendships and fun we all have together. That means my mate Lord Zola, Steve Moyer, Rick Wolf, Glenn Colton, Stacie Stern, Derek Van Riper, Derek Carty, Nick Minnix, LABR ringleader Steve Gardner and the rest of the bevy of writers and analysts I play with and whom we all read (to name a few).

So, this past weekend kicked off the whole Roto Road Tour 2014 with the "USA Today" sponsored LABR in Phoenix.

Saturday night found the American League participants assembled for the AL Auction, and Sunday--competing with those Oscars--found us back at the Arizona Republic HQ for the National League auction.

The National League fete proved quite different from the previous evening in that prices were a bit more conservative for the big sticks and arms, which made for a few relative bargains early on, but caused some fierce battles for player rights in the middle and end portions of the draft.

On the down side, I had targeted Anthony Rendon as a second sacker for around $14, and Nolan Arenado to cover third at $17. But, I had to pass on both as Rendon went for $18, and Arenado $22, more than the lines I had drawn in the fantasy sand.

Still, I am pretty happy with my squad, which has some question marks, but no deep holes.

You can judge for yourself:

C- Brayan Pena ($2): Very few backstops had been nominated into around the eighth round, and that gig is lean in both leagues, so it was clear there were going to be some big prices even for backups. For example, I nominated Hector Sanchez, figuring I could get him for $2 and he quickly went for $5, more than I wanted to pay for a second catcher. When Reds back-up Brayan Pena was nominated for a buck, I was happy to jump in for $2, heard crickets, and got the spot filled.

C- Ryan Doumit ($9): I got Doumit, who it appears qualifies at catcher but will not play there for the Braves, for $9 so I was happy to claim him for that. At least I don't have to be weary about his getting hurt behind the dish, even though I can hide him at that spot. I am hoping he can give me his usual 10-15 homers, and related numbers. No reason why he cannot, spelling in the outfield, and at DH. And, should B.J. Upton be ineffective, Doumit will get a lot of chances.

1B- Mark Trumbo ($20): I must say I was shocked to get Trumbo, who has averaged 32 homers over the past three years, for just $20. But, with Freddie Freeman ($27), Paul Goldschmidt ($32), Adrian Gonzalez ($25), and even Brandon Belt ($23), who I thought I could land for $17 or so, gone, I was surprised no one bid $22 on the former Angel. But, he goes into a favorable power park and provides that one element that has eluded my team the last couple of years: a legit 30-dinger threat.

2B- Emilio Bonifacio ($13): Middle infielder is horribly lean, and I waited too long to really commit, and as a result had to scramble. I had the money for Bonifacio, who will at least give me some speed and some position flexibility. And, he should be a starter.

3B- Maikel Franco ($8): One of three serious crap-shoots, I love the Phillies hot corner prospect, and I am not sold on Cody Asche, who went for $12 in that expensive mid-draft segment. So, gamble city. And, as you will see, I hedged my bets a little.

SS- Jordy Mercer ($9): I like the Bucs shortstop, who had a strong final couple of months, and got him for a reasonable price, just before the wave of prices started to rise for the everyday workmanlike guys. I might have had to adjust at second and third, but not here.

CI- Lucas Duda ($8): Qualifies in the outfield and at first, and is good for 10-15 homers. Fine with me.

MI- Marco Scutaro ($12): More than I planned to spend, but at the end I had the bucks, and again, Scutaro is a starter--if he gets healthy--with a solid enough stick. 

OF- Matt Kemp ($21): Another guy I was surprised to get. Yes, health issues the past couple of years, but yes, major production when he plays. If he gives me 100 games, he should make my money back. If Kemp gets a full season in, coupled with Trumbo, I have a serious offensive force, with some swipes maybe even? Either way, a risk I can live with.

OF- Andre Ethier ($15): Ethier cost a few bucks more than I anticipated, but Kemp and Trumbo were relative values and Ethier, who has never gotten less than 400 at-bats, should get just that backing up the talented but injury-prone Dodger outfield. If Kemp falls apart, then Ethier is insurance.

OF- Will Venable ($19): 20/20 guy last year, and again, I was thinking the Padres outfielder would cost around $21. He adds pop, and speed. 

OF- Junior Lake ($9): Has a starting gig in the Cubs outfield, and can play third. Lake had a nice .284-6-16 line over 236 at-bats last year. He does strike out (13/68) but, again, later in the draft, with money to spend, and Lake presented a nice opportunity.

OF- Jose Tabata ($7): Strong second half, some speed and a starting job. Sold.

U- Joaquin Arias ($1): Plays second, third, and short, and has averaged .270 the past couple of years. Should get some solid playing time with the Giants, and I can move Arias to my third base spot pending the arrival of Franco. Which, hopefully, will happen.

P- Cole Hamels ($20): Hamels has been slowed down this spring with some arm issues, so my mates were scared off. Word is Hamels will miss a few starts, so if that is the case, I have a nice #1 starter for a value price.

P- Jordan Zimmermann ($17): I had targeted Zimmermann for $19, and as a #2 starter, I am more than happy to have such a steady guy. And, even if Hamels does get hurt, Zimmermann can handle the move to #1.

P- Andrew Cashner ($13): Live arm with plenty of whiffs in a pitcher's park coming off a nice (10-9, 3.09, with a 1.13 WHIP) 2013, and ready to step up to a #1 starter role in San Diego. And, again, if Hamels gets hurt, Cashner can help keep my pitching competitive.

P- Marco Estrada ($10): 261 whiffs over his last two seasons and 266 major league innings. A nice price and not that much of a gamble, while still keeping some bottom depth to my rotation.

P- Alex Wood ($7): I love the Braves #5 guy as my #5 as well. A fine second half save a couple of funky late-season starts. 

P- Brandon Beachy ($10): Again, late in the draft, and coming off TJ surgery, but ready to go. It might take a few starts for Beachy to get into his groove, but he was good before he got hurt, and I have no reason to believe he cannot pick it back up.

P- Sergio Romo ($17): Closer #1 is a great ratio and save guy who is also my favorite guy to watch pitch (his slider is so fun).

P- Jonathan Papelbon ($12): Getting older, but still pretty effective, and a great price. Love two closers, and even a stopper on a bad team will collect 25 conversions.

P- Nick Vincent ($1): Maybe my favorite pick simply because it surprised a few folks. But, if you have followed Vincent at all, you know he can miss bats. And, every roto team needs a third reliever. Plus, all the $1 guys you can nab in the middle of the draft means your average cost for the remaining players goes up.

Reserve 1- Jordan Pacheco: Listed as the Rockies #2 catcher, and he too can play third. For now, he qualifies at first, but I can pop Pacheco into the Utility spot, move Arias to third, and wait, hopefully for that same Franco guy.

Reserve 2- Jacob Turner: I drafted Justin Turner last year, and according to Steve Moyer, accidentally identified him as Jacob. Well, this time I have the Marlins starter to spell Hamels to start, and maybe fill in as the sixth starter if Hamels really is toast.

Reserve 3- Scott Van Slyke: Should Kemp go down, Ethier and Van Slyke will benefit. So, Van Slyke is tied to Ethier is tied to Kemp is tied to the knee bone is tied to the leg bone and so on.

Reserve 4- Cliff Pennington: Gives me some reserve infield cushion, and will provide some speed off the bench.

Reserve 5- Josh Collmenter: Strictly a middle reliever, but a very good one, who will get 110 innings and help fill out should I have an injury.

Reserve 6- Matt Wisler: One more crap shoot with the Padres' best minor league arm as of now. Trouble in the rotation at Petco and success for Wisler at Triple-A means I will have one more arm to use or trade. Surpluses are a good thing.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 16:02
 
Battling for Playing Time (NL) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 24 February 2014 00:00

There are so many paradoxes within baseball, which is one reason the game makes such a perfect metaphor for this goofy life we are all treading through.

As in I always preach, "take risks, but calculated ones." Or, that "it is critical to leave the draft with as many innings and at-bats as you can get."

But, I also think one of the best ways to milk both playing time and value is by exploiting the uncertainty of position battles.

Position battles are great because they generally cause prospective owners to shy away due to that potential infringement on at-bats/innnings, and generally there is a veteran, with not just big league experience, but also a salary the Major League club wants some value. So, the worst is a utility gig for players like Rickie Weeks, but chances are the second baseman will make a big league roster, and grab 350-plus at-bats. Sometimes, those players are traded and wind up with full-time play, which is a real bonanza.

And in a deep league format, that can be huge.

So, this time let's take a look at some National Leaguers who are duking it out for playing time, and who can indeed be undervalued and underpriced.

Andre Ethier is plumb out of a gig, with Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig manning the outfield, but Crawford and Kemp have had their injury issues, and Puig has yet to log a full season at The Show. Add in that Ethier, 31, has never had fewer than 400 at-bats while garnering double digits in homers each season since 2006. True, Ethier has a tougher time against southpaws, but he does have a .288-141-587 line with an .832 OPS in the Majors. He'll play.

Chris Heisey has earned his gig on the bench with some disappointing play, not so much since he came up, but more since he clobbered 18 homers over 308 at-bats in 2011, then lost his power in 2012, and everything else in 2013 (.694 OPS). Jay Bruce is surely a fixture, but Ryan Ludwick, now 35, was hurt and lousy last year, and has been unspecial over eight of his 11 big league seasons. As for Billy Hamilton, he might have his Bryan LaHair-like flashes, as he did at the end of last year, but I just don't see the speedster as a full-timer (Hamilton could become a Willie Wilson type of player, but I want to see him make more contact). That means Heisey could benefit, and I doubt he would cost more than a couple of bucks in an NL-only format.

Evan Gattis might be the Braves catcher right now, but Ryan Doumit will get 400 at-bats. Period. Doumit has averaged 15 homers over the past six seasons and probably has the defensive edge over the streaky Gattis.

The Cubs have the somewhat dubious outfield of Nate Schierholtz, Junior Lake and Ryan Sweeney. I like Lake (hmmm, that has a lilt), but he only has 64 Major League games, while Schierholtz is only a 400 at-bat platoon guy at best, and Ryan Sweeney has Red Cross on his uniform where the New York Knights had a lightening bolt. Enter Emilio Bonifacio. Need I say more?

Colorado's outfield is similar, with the excellent, but sometimes fragile Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer buoying youngster Corey Dickerson. But, Dickerson has just 69 big league games, so much like Lake there should be playing time for Drew Stubbs, who will have some power and some speed. Stubbs has double digits in steals and homers every year save his first, 2009, but he got eight big flies and ten swipes that year.

Somehow, Lucas Duda is the odd man out with the Mets despite the presence of such offensive stalwarts as Chris Young, Eric Young, Jr., Curtis Granderson and Ike Davis. Duda has averaged .246-13-51 over the past three years with 397 at-bats. If you had Young, as in Chris, or Davis on a team last year, you would kill for numbers like those of Duda. I suspect the Mets will too once we get into the season.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 10:47
 
Hitting .667 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 17 February 2014 00:00

Howdy!

Back we are for, believe it or not, our 18th season of the Hotpage.

Of course, we have been in the midst of mock season, as I am sure you know if you tune in here, or anywhere in the fantasy universe, where drafting as prep is de rigueur. 

One of the things that is curious--and though I have my opinions on ADP, that is most certainly not what I am writing about here--is how stagnant the first round is from year-to-year.

Now, I am not finding fault with how we value players, but, we also know that statistically, two-thirds of the first rounders of this year will not finish the season with production worthy of that initial lofty perch.

So, to start this year's official craziness, let's look at the first round NFBC ADP players so far, and see which ones we think will miss the cut in a year, and perhaps another player who might prove to be a better selection when we look back.

#1-Mike Trout (CF, LAA): Trout is the consensus #1, and the two times I (well, really Todd and I) have had first pick at anything so far this season, Trout has been the guy. And, while I really don't think he can get any better, neither do I think he will fail at much of anything. Simply put, he can do everything you want a player to do it seems.

#2-Miguel Cabrera (1B, Det): Aside from rollover injury fears from last year, Miggy is the best hitter in the game, including Trout. But, well, he doesn't steal and he was hurt last year, so he's a bridesmaid in 2014.

#3-Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Ari): Funny, because to me, now is where the picking becomes dicey. As in clearly Trout and Miggy are one and two, but then where do you go? I do think Goldy is a solid enough hitter and he can repeat his numbers and be durable. #3 though? Do I like McCutchen's potential better here figuring I can get Brandon Belt five rounds later and that pairs better than say Goldschmidt and Starling Marte? I don't think he will drop off much, but similarly, not sure he is a first rounder. Or a #3.

#4-Andrew McCutchen (CF, Pit): The closest thing there is to an NL version of Trout at this juncture, Andrew the second best five category guy out there.

#5-Clayton Kershaw (SP, LAD): The best arm in the Majors the past three seasons, Kershaw is not quite like picking Pedro used to be, but he is close. Furthermore, I am a big believer in not just building--and if you can trading from--strong pitching, and having the most dominant makes up for a couple of so-so arms later on. 

#6-Chris Davis (1B, Bal): Davis is coming off a year-and-a-half of major pop. And, he had a great year last year, but I don't see him in the first round next year. Not so much that I see a huge drop-off, but I do see Joey Votto having a better season. Or translated, I am not convinced that the jump in OBP Davis experienced relative to his average will be repeated (even with last year's .370, his career OBP is just .327). I see .270-33-85 again, like he hit in 2012. Which is indeed pretty good, but maybe not first round good. I might have considered taking Hanley here, by the way.

#7-Carlos Gonzalez (LF, Col): It still kills me that Oakland traded Carlos because it seemed so obvious how good he could become. It is true Cargo is injury prone, which is the drawback. Otherwise, he would be in McCutchen-land. Still, he is just 27, and I have a feeling his on-base numbers will improve the next few years.

#8-Adam Jones (CF, Bal): I don't see Jones on the top-15 next year. 176 walks to 738 strikeouts, with a .279 screams for a major on-base correction to me. Still some power, sure. I would rather have Alex Rios here. Or if I was going to take a chance, Jason Kipnis would be more interesting, and perhaps more fun.

#9-Robinson Cano (2B, Sea): Among the five best hitters in the Majors, and, well, no, I don't care about the ballpark factor. "Why?" you may ask. Because Cano can hit, and I believe a good hitter can hit anywhere. And, Cano is .318-7-50 over 74 games at Safeco, so I am guessing he will hit there.

#10-Hanley Ramirez (SS, LAD): Not sure where Hanley went there for a few years (ok, some injury effects) but he seems to be back now. Before his struggles, Hanley was a top-five guy. He is still a top-10.

#11-Ryan Braun (RF, Mil): Braun can play, I am sure of that. But, I don't see him in a full return to form, whatever that is, this year. I do think Braun wants to prove himself to us, but I also think it can be hard to live under that shadow (right Melky Cabrera?). I like Matt Kemp better here, someone who has his talent baselined, but is fighting a different demon. Or, taking a chance on Yasiel Puig is probably what I would do.

#12-Jacoby Ellsbury (CF, NYY): Lots of talent, but such a huge drop in power numbers the last two years that it is hard to get a read on Ellsbury beyond average and speed. And, the Yankees are more of an aging team than anything else. Still, Ellsbury dropped off the first round after last year, so this is a fun kind of rebound pick, and the steals and runs and hits certainly justify Ellsbury's spot here.

#13-Bryce Harper (LF, Was): Harper took a big selectivity step forward last year, improving his OBP by 28 points despite just a four-point rise in his average (from .270 to .274). And, I like Harper as a gamble, or different angle here, especially since there in five picks you get to choose again. However, again, I am not sure I see first rounder here. I might like Adrian Beltre here. Or Yoenis Cespedes, who has shown as much power as Harper and has just enough more experience and skills to see a jump. I might also consider Buster Posey, who can fill either a catcher or first base slot.

#14-Troy Tulowitzki (SS, Col) No question Tulo can hit. But, no question, Tulo has trouble staying healthy. But, I think the bottom line is we keep picking Tulo here thinking, or rather hoping, he will play in 150 games, and hit 30 homers and knock in 100 runs and hit .300 and steal 15 bases. I don't think that is going to happen again. I would prefer Ian Desmond to improve upon his .280-20-80 over Tulo simply repeating his .312-25-82.

#15-Prince Fielder (1B, Tex): Fielder's 2013 line of .279-25-106 is just about the worst of his eight-year career as a starter. I am guessing in Texas, during his peak career days, Fielder will pick it back up and put together one of his better seasons.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 February 2014 09:06
 
A-Rod and the Bard PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 13 January 2014 00:00

As the news of the suspension of Alex Rodriguez lit a virtual fire on Twitter Saturday morning, I was almost taken aback at how intensely the world seems to view the whole affair. 

I suppose because the announcement of the Arbitrator's verdict happened to come during Hall of Fame announcement week--one fraught with judgements and opinions both PED related and not--just seemed to add to the madness.

I try to be objective with respect to such holocausts as that of the ethnicity of Santa Claus, the wedding of Honey Boo Boo's mother, or whether One Direction really are the next Beatles, but A-Rod's suspension is apparently no such animal.

While there are a few interesting future ramifications of the A-Rod deicision, in the end this whole thing smacks of Shakespeare all across the board.

In reality, Shakespeare wrote three genres: The tragedies and comedies, but also histories though some eggheads, and I mean this in a good way, might argue that plays like "A Winter's Tale" and my favorite of his works, "The Tempest," should really be categorized as romances. And that would make yet a fourth category.

Irrespective, though the histories were long and sometimes dry, as with "Henry V," or "Richard II," the documentations could also be riveting. Those plays also served the function of teaching a largely illiterate (remember, we are talking 16th century here) English population about their Regency and past.

So can we see that A-Rod, with his 162-game plus banishment from Major League Baseball in 2014, is the new precedent for someone who is apparently a second offender. And, my understanding is that since the arbitration between the MLBPA and MLB is binding, no matter how much talk and posturing we see, no courts will see the daylight of the whole debacle.

As for A-Rod himself, there is that sad Aristotelian tragic flaw--that is a character or person's greatest strength will similarly be their downfall-- about the guy baseball made their richest participant ever. Much like King Lear, a victim more of his own hubris than anything else, A-Rod is really fighting himself at this point, though unlike Lear, he lacks a sympathetic Cordelia. 

For Rodriguez, who will turn 39 years old this season, and who has neither played in over 140 games, nor hit over .286 since 2009, the actual implications of the suspension are clearly much more symbolic at this point than anything else (where do you draft A-Rod on your team if he were healthy and eligible?)

So, in a way, the longer Rodriguez sort of pathetically challenges the decision, he indeed seems to "protest too much," and that really does change how I view him from vibrant player to sad old man (and I was 22 when he was born).

Of course, with all the fuss about Rafael Palmeiro being completely dropped from the Hall of Fame ballot (with less than 5% of the BBWAA votes), and the similar falls of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, whether A-Rod can turn this group into the most infamous sports quartet seems likely for a while in that human beings tend to be judgemental, as well as not particularly forgiving.

I do have my doubts about Clemens and especially McGwire--neither of whom I am particularly crazy about as human beings for self-righteous reasons--being in the Hall, but as for A-Rod and Bonds, even if you subtract a portion of their stats--like 200 homers for Bonds--they were still better than just about every other player over the course of their careers.

Maybe in a few years, when us old farts are no longer voting for the Hall, having forgotten that greenies and spitballs and other vehicles for improving stats have been used in just about every discipline always in an effort to get ahead, a new generation will recognize, and who knows, maybe embrace the trail the generation of PED users blazed (would it be ok if stem cell research helped prolong a player's career, I ask?). Like in Woody Allen's movie "Sleeper," where they discover that smoking is actually good for you in the future.

But, I would also ask, as a human being, is A-Rod a more unlikable character than Ty Cobb, who is in the Hall despite being a surly bigot rumored to have killed someone (much worse than gambling or using PEDs in my moral book)?

Irrespective, over the long haul I know this whole thing will prove to be a "Comedy of Errors."

Because, as I said, we humans have short memories. And, since the Seahawks vs. Saints game started, all the A-Rod tweets have died anyway.

Maybe it is really "Much Ado About Nothing"?

Last Updated on Monday, 13 January 2014 09:20
 
Mastersball Top 10 Prospects for 2014 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 09 December 2013 00:00

It is indeed that time of year, when the holidays are here, and that means it is again time to announce this year's Top 250 Prospect List.

Actually, the tradition is that I publish the Top 10 right here (you can get the entire Top 250 as part of our Platinum Package), and while a lot of the names you expect to see on such a list are commensurate with the likes of Baseball America and MLB.com, my list always shines the light on a few players off the radar of most of the rest of the world.

Players are rated on power, strikeouts/innings pitched for pitchers, extra-base hits/hits for batters and strike zone control judgement for both as well. Then the age and relative level of play are also taken into consideration, with credit being granted for the highest levels at the youngest age.

So, without further ado, here are this year's Top 10 Mastersball Prospects for 2014 (note that age is as of Opening Day next year):

bogaerts

  1. Xander Bogaerts (21, SS, Red Sox): The only question right now is whether Bogaerts is the Opening Day third sacker, or shortstop at Fenway. He clearly caught our collective eye during the Series, and hit .284-9-32 at Pawtuckett as a 20-year-old with a pretty good 28 walks to 44 strikeouts. As a minor leaguer, 36% of his hits went for extra bases.
  2. Eduardo Rodriguez (20, P, Orioles): Rodriguez went 10-7, 3.41 with 125 whiffs over 145 innings with a a 1.224 WHIP split between Class-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie in 2013. Rodriguez whiffed 310 while walking 125 over 366.3 innings as a minor leaguer, and did well at Double-A as a 20-year-old.
  3. Matt Wisler (21, P, Padres): Wisler went 10-6, 2.78 split between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. 136 innings with 131 strikeouts, 107 hits, 33 walks and a 1.029 WHIP. Wisler whiffed 244 minor league hitters over 250 innings, with just 63 walks.
  4. Taijuan Walker (21, P, Mariners): Went 9-10, 2.93 with 160 strikeouts over 141.3 innings with a 1.196 WHIP prior to joining the Mariners rotation in 2013. He is likely in the rotation to stay in 2014.
  5. Addison Russell (20, SS, Athletics): 885 OPS in California League at age 19. Power, speed and range. Depending upon the Athletics season, and Russell's, he could grab the shortstop gig as early as 2014, moving Jed Lowrie to second, though 2015 is a more likely ETA for Russell to own the full-time gig.
  6. Noah Syndergaard (21, P, Mets): 9-4, 3.06 over 117.6 innings, with 113 strikeouts and 28 walks (1.147 WHIP) split between St. Lucie and Binghamton. 329 minor league strikeouts over 293.6 innings.
  7. Jameson Taillon (22, P, Pirates): Pitched even better with promotion to Triple-A. Ran a mark of 5-10, 3.73 over 147.1 innings with 143 whiffs in 2013. Has 356 strikeouts over 382 innings as a minor leaguer.
  8. Carlos Martinez (22, P, Cardinals): 2-1, 5.08 over 28.3 with 24 strikeouts at new Busch after promotion to Majors. Was 6-3, 2.49 at Double-A and Triple-A prior to call-up with 72 strikeouts.
  9. Edwin Escobar (21, P, Giants): 8-8, 2.96 over 128.6 innings split between San Jose and Richmond last year with 146 strikeouts and a 1.104 WHIP.
  10. Adalberto Mejia (20, P, Giants): 89 punchouts over 87 innings as a 19-year-old at High-A. Made brief appearance at Triple-A Fresno (five innings 0-0, 3.60). Logged 241 minor league strikeouts over 274.6 innings.

Hopefully, your curiosity is whet. Again, you can get the full list, with my sleeper picks noted and a brief comment for each player, as part of our Platinum Package.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 09 December 2013 10:01
 
AFL Review PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 11 November 2013 00:00

Back I am from the Arizona Fall League, and that means a quick report on the players who caught my eye.

Of course my observations will include the players I think you would all like to know about, but, also the guys who looked like they had Major League stuff in my view.

Note that some of the players below made last year's Mastersball Top 250, which will be revealed with the December edition of the Hotpage. So, stay tuned, and please have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Addison Russell (SS, Athletics): I was anxious to see the 2012 #1 pick of Oakland, and believe me, he did not disappoint. Russell lined four hits over the couple of games I saw, and also got on once via an error. He only struck out once, swiped a base and showed excellent range and instincts at shortstop. I would guess a late ETA would be towards the end of the 2014 season, but strong play could find Russell at short with Jed Lowrie moving to second during the coming season, depending upon the path of the Athletics.

Alen Hanson (SS, Pirates): Probably the NL counterpart to Russell, the now 21-year-old Hanson broke out with a big season (.309-16-62) at West Virginia last year, and kept it coming with solid stats at Bradenton and then Altoona this year. Hanson displayed a quick bat (1-for-3 with a steal) at the AFL, as well as good range in the field and a strong arm. He is a skinny guy (just 152 pounds) yet 37% of his minor league hits have gone for extra bases. Hanson has a pretty clear path to the shortstop gig at PNC. Give him a year, and he is there.

Brett Nicholas (1B, Rangers): The Rangers' sixth round selection in 2010 had a nice year at Frisco (.289-21-91) last year, and I saw him for a total of four AFL at-bats: he banged a single and a pair of homers with a very quick bat. Nicholas is 25, meaning he is older than most of his AFL counterparts, but he can hit. The question is can he do it at the Major League level, and at his age, time is getting short.

Byron Buxton (OF, Twins): A first round pick in 2012 by the Twins, who turned in .334-12-77 season in 2013 combined between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. I saw four at-bats at the AFL All Star Game (Buxton got one hit) but my mates said he did launch a couple of bombs that they witnessed during our stay. Buxton does not turn 20 until next month, and looks to provide some offensive help to the Twins, who are good at promoting their prospects, as soon as next year.

bryant_kris

Kris Bryant  (3B, Cubs): Chicago to the North's first round selection this year out of the University of San Diego, Bryant hit .336-9-32 over 146 in-season at-bats, banging a 1.076 OPS. He is big (6'5", 215 pounds) and has a big swing to go along. Bryant got a couple of hits and a walk that I saw, and made a good play and throw at third, but also was caught on a short hop making a little league play that got through him and should have been an error. Hence, his ultimate home may not be the hot corner at the Major League level. But, he can hit, and has a presence for sure.

Matt Ramsey (P, Rays): I don't remember seeing that many pitchers at the Fall League over the past few years who caught my attention. That is largely a function of usually just seeing a guy pitch for an inning or so, but Ramsey whiffed all three hitters he faced during the one inning I saw. He threw hard, and his 67 strikeouts over 64.3 minor league innings bear this out. He has given up the same number of hits as innings as a pro, so that tells me he is relying too much on his fastball, and that suggests he needs another pitch, or is a closer in waiting. Based upon the six conversions he culled last year, that latter scenario seems the path. 

Lee Stoppelman (P, Cardinals): The Cardinals clearly know how to draft pitchers these days, and my mate Brian Walton brought Stoppelman to my attention. He whiffed a couple of the batters he faced that I saw with an interesting threee-quarters motion. Selected in the 24th round of the 2012 draft, Stoppelman climbed three levels this year, going 6-3, 1.50, with 78 strikeouts over 66 innings, with 40 hits and 26 walks (1.00 WHIP) to go along with six saves. 

Last Updated on Monday, 11 November 2013 09:40
 
Hotpage Week 26 (September 25, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 23 September 2013 00:00

Last week, I listed players I would probably shy away from, were draft day coming in the Majors.

So, to finish the 2013 series of the Hotpage, I will discuss 13 players I like going into 2014 and why.

As with last week, often the criteria that makes players attractive is relative to the style and size of the league. And, sometimes, the value is simply nabbing someone for the reserve list in any kind of format.

Again like last week, I will start the festivities here at our Mastersball home, and conclude Tuesday with our partners and mates, KFFL.

Sonny Gray (P, Athletics): OK, so this list might prove to be a little Oakland heavy, but that is the team I see the most, and as I have regularly noted, they are vastly underrated. In that scheme, Gray is the latest in a terrific line of pitching acquisitions Oakland has made over the last few years. Be by trade (Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson), free agent signing (Bartolo Colon), or the draft (A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily), Gray, who was a #1 pick out of Vanderbilt in 2011, might prove to be the best of them all (don’t forget the arms, a la Dan Haren and Gio Gonzalez they have dealt away as well).

With a mid-90’s fastball, and offspeed stuff with some filthy movement, Gray is one of those guys that throw deceptively hard, and can be equally efficient. He is also a quick worker, and able to keep the ball down, both solid traits for a pitcher (and Gray is just 23).

As a minor leaguer, he was 17-17, 3.66 over five starts and 292.2 innings, with 237 strikeouts to 103 walks and 294 hits.

But in Oakland, with a strong defense and cavernous park, he is now 4-3, 2.90 after pitching as the A’s clinched the AL West title Sunday. He now has 59 punchouts to 17 walks, with 48 hits allowed over 59 innings (1.101 WHIP). I do not think you will be sorry getting him for a modest price now.

Jedd Gyorko (2B, Padres): The 24-year-old second San Diego selection in 2010, Gyorko came up as a third sacker, but moved to second this year at Petco in deference to the presence of Chase Headley.

Gyorko only managed 117 games during his rookie campaign due to injuries, but his .248-20-53 line was a triumph. First, the 20 big flies is pretty good for a rookie, especially when your home games are in Petco Park, which is as spacious as Oakland. Second, though he only walked 30 times, Gyorko whiffed 118, not so bad for a first-timer with pop, especially up the middle. And, well, if you want to extrapolate that he would have struck out 170 times over a full season, similarly Gyroko would have hit 30 homers using the same factoring.

Either way, I would expect him to get better every year for a few.

Josh Donaldson (3B, Oakland): Ok, I think one of Oakland’s real hidden weapons is their third sacker; a player who was a catcher going into the spring of 2012.

But, injuries at third changed Donaldson’s life it seems, for though he could not really cut it at first, Donaldson went to Sacramento last July and returned to hit .344-4-14 in August to help propel Oakland to their division title last year.

This year, he has become their best hitter, with a .306-24-91 line, including 54 multi-hit games.

Donaldson is probably a keeper in most of your freeze leagues, simply because he is probably cheap as a sleeper this year. Fair enough, but if he is not, he should still be modestly priced next year compared to Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre (and maybe even Brett Lawrie) and if so, you would be well served to grab him.

By the way, if you play in a Scoresheet or Strat-O-Matic format, where defense counts, Donaldson has become a very good patroller of the hot corner.

Zack Wheeler (P, Mets): It is too bad that Matt Harvey will likely not be himself until mid-2015, because it will be big fun to watch the tandem of Wheeler and Harvey come of age.

Obtained by New York in exchange for the short-tenured Carlos Beltran, from San Francisco, Wheeler was the Giants' #1 selection in 2009.

Wheeler was 28-20, 3.56 in the Minors, with 420 strikeouts over 391.1 innings (176 hits, 323 hits, 1.275 WHIP).

At Citi this year, he’s been 7-5, 3.42 over 100 innings, with 84 strikeouts to 42 walks and 90 hits (1.360 WHIP).

At 23, he will get better. Much better.

Jonathan Villar (SS, Astros): I saw the 22-year-old Villar, a Venezuelan native, over a couple of games in Oakland in early September and he was one of those guys that did everything well. Nothing eye-dropping, but he played his position well, got his bat on the ball, moved runners along, and showed very good speed.

Over what amounts to the final third of this year, Villar has hit a respectable .267-1-8, with eight doubles, a couple of triples, and 17 swipes over 180 at-bats. He has 22 walks to 60 strikeouts, good for a .347 OBP and along with Jose Altuve, will constitute one of the best and productive sets of middle infielders in the Majors over the next few seasons.

Nathan Eovaldi (P, Marlins): Acquired as part of the Hanley Ramirez deal with L.A. last season, Eovaldi struck out 298 over 364 innings, allowing 338 hits—just 11 homers though—and 146 walks (1.330 WHIP).

The 23-year-old, picked in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, does have those fits of wildness, but he also throws a fastball close to 100 MPH, and when he is on can be dominant.

Miami has some interesting young players, and Eovaldi, along with Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez, could be a deadly troika anchoring a pretty good team in a couple of years. But, I like him having a full 2014, and he will likely be on the cheaper side.

Last Updated on Monday, 23 September 2013 07:03
 
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