Captain's Log

Keeper Leagues - It is Never Too Early PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Thursday, 14 May 2015 00:00

Whether you are trying to win or finish in the money this year or aren’t sure you can get to that point and need to focus on keepers for next year, there are decisions to be made even in May.

Last week was a stunning example because there were clear cut players who might be useful this year as well as being keepers for next season. So let’s look at the players added via FAAB in both an AL-only and NL-only league last weekend. Both leagues are standard $260 auction leagues with unlimited keepers and assign a $10 retention salary for free agents.

The American League certainly had more players of interest.

At the top of that list for help this year was Toronto first baseman Chris Colabello, who also added outfield eligibility with his fifth game chasing fly balls on Sunday. Colabello actually could not only help teams right away but despite being labeled by some writers as a Quad-A hitter, could easily be a $10 keeper in 2016 should he win the majority of playing time at first base once Jose Bautista can throw and return to right field. In my AL-only league, Colabello went for $9 out of a $100 budget.

There was actually a player who went for more than that, but while I can clearly see the need for the Angels’ Carlos Perez in a two-catcher AL league right now, I am not sure he would be the club's starting catcher next April and thus be a keeper – but stranger things have happened. The team that actually won him for $13 is already rebuilding and needed a catcher, so they are happy regardless.

Houston’s Preston Tucker was not a highly regarded minor league prospect entering this season coming off a 2014 split between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City where he hit .280+ with 24 home runs and 94 RBI. But a hot start this year at Triple-A Fresno, where Tucker hit .320 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 100 at-bats, earned him Houston’s minor league player of the month for April. While Tucker only got the call-up because of George Springer landing on the disabled list, he survived a roster cut when Springer returned this week and may get further chances in the Majors this year to prove he might be a contender for a starting spot in the Astros outfield in 2016. The winner of Tucker's services ended up spending seven FAAB bucks for him.

We don’t know who the Seattle Mariners would have chosen to be the opening day shortstop if both Chris Taylor and Brad Miller were healthy, but when Taylor landed on the DL, Miller had the job. When Taylor was activated last week, there were fantasy teams willing to see if he could win the job at some point this year or become the starter next year. Taylor also went for $7.

Finally, we come to Yankees prospect Jose Pirela, who hit .370 with three doubles and two triples in spring training but did not win a job on the opening day roster, even though many thought he would have been a better choice than Stephen Drew. Pirela was put on the major league 7-day DL shortly after the season started because he had been injured in a collision in spring training. He was transferred to the 15-day DL in mid-April and then sent first to Class-A Tampa and then Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being activated to the Yankees on May 6, in part because Gregorio Petit was put on the DL and also because of the poor hitting of Drew and Didi Gregorius. Pirela actually had 24 at-bats in his major league call-up last year after breaking out at Triple-A, hitting .305 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases. With no strong middle infield prospects in the organization, he will again fill a need with some chance of being a starter next year. Pirela also went for $7.

There weren’t as many new call-ups last week in the National League but Padres catcher Austin Hedges was one of the highest rated catching prospects in all of baseball. So when he was activated last week, a team with weak catchers was more than glad to spend 23 FAAB dollars (this on a $1000 yearly budget) just to see how he might fare in the Majors. Hedges can already hold his own as a receiver but it he proves he can hit major league pitching, it wouldn’t be a total surprise for him to be the starter for the Padres next year.

One other NL prospect who was activated last week, Nationals lefty Sammy Solis, was added for one dollar of FAAB. As strong as the Nationals pitching staff is this year, there are some potential free agents in their rotation and Solis, who was a highly regarded prospect before suffering several injuries, might have a shot at making the 2016 rotation if he pitches well enough. I only had to bid one FAAB unit to roster him and while he won’t be more than a reserve pick next year, hope springs eternal 

In life and in fantasy baseball.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 10:52
Time to Assess Your Fantasy Teams PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 00:00

At the end of this week, we will be very close to having 20 percent of the 2015 games in the books. So how do we view players given that it still feels like we are dealing with “small sample sizes”?

What I think is more important for individual players is looking at their usage and improvement (or lack of) in the statistical categories rather than just the year to date numbers. Still, the free agent process waits for no man, so while we don’t want to drop a player prematurely, we want to add players who may be able to fill in while we wait on some players.

Here are some players I am very concerned about:

1. Michael Saunders started the season on the DL and then came back two weeks ago. He was 0-for-9 in his first three games and then hit .333 last week. But on Tuesday, we found out he had his knee drained on Monday. And today the reports are that he will miss several games. I can’t imagine a league where Kevin Pillar is still a free agent, but if you are in that league, get him immediately.                                                                                                                     

2. Victor Martinez had surgery in February for a torn meniscus but we still drafted him as he was deemed to be ready for the start of the season – and he was, hitting .316 that week. But he hasn’t been good since then and is now hitting .213 with no home runs. He isn’t healthy and we don’t know when he will be. Hopefully, if you have him, he is at UT where you can fill in with a variety of players.

3. Billy Butler started the year in Oakland hitting .360 for the first two weeks and making Kansas City fans wonder what he was doing in green and gold. But he has hit just .200 over the last three weeks. Is this a slump or correction by pitchers or is this season going to look a lot like last year, when we saw a drop in average, home runs and runs batted in?

4. Andrew McCutchen hasn’t had a good week yet and has just two home runs and zero stolen bases. In spring training, we were told he had “lower body soreness” but in mid-April we finally heard McCutchen admit that it was his left knee that was bothering him. You can’t really sit McCutchen in an NL-only or deep mixed league until he isn’t playing, but you should have an outfielder on reserve.

Conversely, here are several players that weren’t rostered at the draft table (depending on league format and size) who are getting enough at-bats to make them relevant for now.

1. The aforementioned Kevin Pillar and now Ezequiel Carrera, who are getting at-bats with Dalton Pompey demoted and Michael Saunders missing time. I see Pillar continuing to get playing time with incredible defense supplementing his surprising bat, but when Jose Bautista is ready to play the outfield, Carrera will see fewer at-bats and may be sent down.

2. Kelly Johnson appeared to be just a bench player in Atlanta, but injuries and lack of production from some of his teammates gave him playing time in left field, and now with Chris Johnson on the DL, he is playing some third base. He will still not have a good batting average, but if he averages one home run each week (or better), I will be glad to have him in some lineups.

3. Luis Valbuena had double-digit home runs in each of the last two seasons and entered this year eligible at both 2B and 3B. Still, I didn’t put him on my draft lists until he won the third base job for Houston in spring training. You need to have a buffer for the AVG or OBP but Valbuena already has six home runs and double-digit runs and RBI, which is a great fill for a MI or CI slot.

4. Ryan Raburn has been getting enough at-bats each week (and hitting for a higher average than we should expect) due to Nick Swisher being on the DL and David Murphy underperforming. I worry about those at-bats disappearing with Swisher coming back, though both were in the Cleveland lineup on Tuesday night.

5. Ike Davis got an opportunity in Oakland and was great in the first three weeks. His average has slid in the last two weeks, but in AL-only or deep mixed leagues, he will still have value if the A's start to platoon him.

6. Mark Canha, a Rule-5 pick by Oakland, was one of my early draft targets. The 1B/OF, who was a Miami Marlin farmhand who hit .303/.384/.505 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI at Triple-A New Orleans last year, has hit well for the Athletics in the early going. I don’t think he will be the one who loses at-bats when Coco Crisp returns, but his playing time could suffer when Ben Zobrist comes off the DL.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 23:27
Plawecki & Russell Rostered - Who is Next? PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 00:00

Last week, I noted the arrival of two very highly regarded prospects to the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs and suggested you would have to pay a lot to roster either one.

So how did that turn out? Well, Kevin Plawecki, the lesser known of the two, was certainly available in more leagues, whether keeper or redraft. In fact, Plawecki was added in every single one of the 30 main event leagues in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. The average price to FAAB Plawecki? 85 dollars, with the highest winning bid being $228 while the lowest winning bid was $36. Certainly, catchers who can hit are hard to find and with injuries already depleting rosters, Plawecki was an appealing target.

Addison Russell, the second best NL hitting prospect and one of the top five overall prospects, was owned in most NL keeper leagues and in several redraft leagues as the NFBC results clearly show there were eight teams among the 450 participants who spent a reserve pick on Russell. Owners hoping that he would eventually get a call to Wrigley Field surely had no idea it would be this early in the season.

And if catchers are scarce, so are middle infielders as Russell was FAABed at an average cost of $293 in the 22 leagues where he was a free agent. The highest winning bid was quite a reach at $757 while the lowest winning bid was a bargain at $125.

Oddly enough, both the Cubs and Mets are teams with attractive free agents for the coming week as well. The Cubs called up left fielder Junior Lake and even if he is on the short side of a platoon with Chris Coghlan, Lake has more power and speed and could win the job outright as Coghlan was hitting only .226 in 53 April at-bats. True it is early in the week as I write this, but so far, Lake is the only new hitter called up who would attract a bid in mixed leagues.

However, another rash of pitching injuries is bringing several highly regarded prospects to the major leagues this week. One of the first was Mets RHP Rafael Montero who, was called up to give the Metropolitans an extra pitcher this week. However, if Montero pitches well, he could easily stick in a rotation that has been strong at the front end but not so good at the back end. (Editor's Note: The Mets optioned Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas following his Tuesday night start.)

With Max Scherzer pushed back due to his sore thumb, the Nationals chose not to use Tanner Roark, who was already on their roster. Instead, they brought up one of their best pitching prospects, RHP A.J. Cole. The 23-year-old, whose fastball sits in the low 90s, got roughed up by the Braves in his big league debut Tuesday night and will now likely head back to Triple-A Syracuse. If Scherzer is unable to go this weekend, Roark could get the call.

Homer Bailey of the Reds is on the DL and likely headed for season-ending surgery, prompting Cincinnati to recall prospect Michael Lorenzen. Also 23, Lorenzen was a centerfielder and closer at Cal State Fullerton who could throw in the high 90s but was short on the secondary pitches a starting pitcher would need. The Reds thought that Lorenzen could develop and be more valuable as a starting pitcher, and as of this writing, he is scheduled to start Wednesday in Great American Ball Park as the Reds host the Milwaukee Brewers. We will see how the audition goes, but clearly there is an opening in the Reds’ rotation.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost ace SP Adam Wainwright to a season-ending Achilles injury suffered as he left the batting box Sunday, and the club has chosen to promote Tim Cooney, a lefty with an easy motion, because their top pitching prospect, Marco Gonzales, is currently on the DL. Another audition that may or may not result in a FAAB candidate this weekend.

The Los Angeles Dodgers need to replace Brandon McCarthy, another starter facing season-ending surgery. But it doesn’t look at this point like they will promote a prospect. Instead, they will probably keep veteran Scott Baker in the rotation and perhaps recall Mike Bolsinger or Carlos Frias to fill in for the short term.

But there are several days left before your free agent target list needs to be finalized for this week. There may well be several more new targets.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:26
This Week's FAAB Dilemmas PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 00:00

It is very rare for top minor league prospects to be called up to the big leagues in April – even rarer since Kris Bryant arrived in Week 2 and this week both his Cubs prospect mate Addison Russell and one of the Mets’ top hitting prospects, catcher Kevin Plawecki, have arrived in Week 3.

In NL keeper leagues, of course, both Plawecki and Russell are likely owned, but players in redraft leagues or NL leagues without minor league prospects should see which of these players fit their needs this year best and then decide on how much they can afford to bid. And be sure the prices won’t be cheap.

Let’s take a look at them individually and see if I can translate what to expect both on the field and in the bidding.

Addison Russell arrived in Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade from Oakland. The 21-year-old shortstop from Pensacola, Florida was drafted out of high school as the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft. I saw him play briefly that summer with the Athletics rookie league team in Arizona and immediately moved him to the upper echelon of AL prospects.

In three minor league seasons, Russell has averaged .300 with double-digit home runs and stolen bases, although you have to know that he only had 217 at-bats in 2012 (the year he was drafted), and 258 at-bats in 2014, when hamstring problems cost him half the season. So perhaps the 2013 season, when Russell had 429 at-bats in 107 games at High-A Stockton, deserves more weight. Yes, it was in the hitter-friendly Cal league, but that year he scored 85 runs with 17 home runs, 21 stolen bases and 60 RBI while hitting .275 with an OBP of .377.

Behind those numbers is above average athleticism, very quick hands, and good power for his age. While I think he would be fine as a major league shortstop, there have been some questions about his range and arm, but he is very accurate, so I think he would have been fine. But he won’t be playing shortstop this year, as the Cubs had the foresight to have him play some second base at Triple-A Iowa. The injury to Tommy La Stella and the slow start by Arismendy Alcantara will see Russell deployed at second base for the Cubs this year and potentially longer depending on the development of Javier Baez and Alcantara, or the Cubs need to eventually trade Starlin Castro.

So while he would be even more valuable in OBP leagues, I think you will still get a good batting average with double-digit homers and steals. Unfortunately, that will translate to a FAAB price of greater than half of your league’s yearly allotment (whether that is $100 or $1000).

Kevin Plawecki is likely a lesser known commodity in your leagues, although the 6’2”, 225 lb., 24-year-old catcher is the New York Mets' best hitting prospect according to (third best according to Baseball America). Plawecki was also drafted in 2012 (the first supplemental pick) but out of Purdue University, hence the difference in age.

The one word I see used most to describe him as both a hitter and a catcher is "solid." He is a very good receiver and game caller behind the plate but does not have the great arm of some catchers or catching prospects. As a hitter, Plawecki has averaged .295 with eight home runs and almost 60 RBI in three years across five levels. In fact, his 2014 season split between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas was his best with the bat with a combined .309 average, 11 home runs and 64 RBI. His mature bat out of college has translated well as he has also averaged a .372 OBP in the three minor league years (thus my preemptive $3 grab Sunday night in the Tout Mixed Draft league).

The only thing we don’t know with Plawecki is how long Travis d'Arnaud will be out with the broken hand, and what will happen to him after that. In mixed keeper leagues, I would be less worried about that because there is always a trade possibility. Still, his short-term value is very high and I think his FAAB cost will be $100-200 for teams starved for production from their backstops, especially the d’Arnaud owners.

Note that both Russell (#2) and Plawecki (#47) were highly rated in my NL list for Mastersball’s 2015 Minor League Prospect lists.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 11:09
The 2015 Tout Wars Mixed League Draft PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Saturday, 14 March 2015 00:00

Last Tuesday evening, 15 baseball writers gathered online to draft their teams for the 2015 Mixed League Draft. Since I lost the 2014 title on the last day of the season to Roto Rob’s Tim McLeod (we were tied after Saturday and I lost points while Tim gained some so I lost by 2.5), Tim had the first pick of draft spots and chose 1.01 and thus Mike Trout.

Since this is a 5x5 league with on-base percentage replacing batting average, Todd has Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and Giancarlo Stanton all ranked the same for projected earning, so I chose 1.03 so I would have a choice of either Goldschmidt and the remaining outfielder or of the two outfielders. If I chose #4, I would still get one of the three but I wouldn’t have a choice.

So after Brent Hershey of Baseball HQ chose McCutchen, I took the top first baseman Goldschmidt. Now the long wait until 2.13. Sadly, all of my primary targets were taken so I jumped on Houston’s second-year outfielder George Springer, who with OBP replacing BA, takes a huge jump in the rankings. That was the easy part. Now I was hoping that one of the remaining top shortstops – Ian Desmond or Jose Reyes, or Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre would make it around the turn. No such luck – all three along with SP David Price were gobbled up by Brent and Tim. Could I have reversed the picks? Who really knows, but Springer is projected to earn ten dollars more than any of those players and I wanted maximum stats from my first three hitters. At 3.03, the best hitter available was Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, and while I might not do it in BA leagues, his projected OBP of .382 with 25 home runs was enough to put him on my team. Yes, with the hopes I would squeeze first basemen for my competitors.

My plan for the 4/5 turn was to take the best starting pitcher available and perhaps one of the best remaining outfielders or Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. Gordon went earlier in round 4, so I took Jordan Zimmermann at 4.13 and waited to see if Yoenis Cespedes or Kole Calhoun would be there in round 5. Well, along with Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke, they were drafted in front of me so I decided to jump rankings again because Matt Harvey was not making it back to 6.13.

So that was the base of my draft but you don’t want to hear every decision, so here is my team, along with the draft spots.

C – John Jaso (11.03) and Chris Iannetta (15.03) – Perhaps not the power from other backstops but both with very good OBP which would allow me to have enough ballast to draft some riskier picks in later rounds.

CI – Goldschmidt (1.03), Matt Carpenter (9.03) and Freeman (3.03) - Lots more OBP help.

MI – Marcus Semien (8.13), Ben Zobrist (6.13) and Brandon Phillips (23.03)

OF – Springer (2.13), Mookie Betts (7.03), Leonys Martin (13.03), Michael Saunders (17.03) and Anthony Gose (20.13)

UT – Adam Lind (21.03)

Reserves – Luis Valbuena (24.13), Jose Peraza (25.03) and Norichika Aoki (26.13)

SP – Zimmermann (4.13), Harvey (5.03), Tyson Ross (10.13), John Lackey (19.03), Jarred Cosart (22.13)

P – Aaron Sanchez (14.13) - I like him whether he is starting or closing in Toronto.

RP – Fernando Rodney (12.13), Tyler Clippard (16.13) and LaTroy Hawkins (18.13)

Reserves – Luis Severino (27.03), Alex Colome (28.13) and Joe Kelly (29.03)

I like the versatility with Zobrist eligible at 2B/SS/OF, Semien at 2B/3B and will add SS, and Luis Valbuena at 2B/3B. That will allow several different lineups. Peraza, when he arrives in Atlanta, will provide a lot of stolen bases and if I don’t need them, allow me to trade for something I might need.

On the pitching staff, I like the strong NL lean of the starters and perhaps having extra saves to trade at some point.

Yes, as you can tell from my comments above, it is a trading league. It is also a league with unlimited DL slots and the ability to DL an active player and replace with a reserve during the week if necessary.

I will post some updates throughout the season but I'm always glad to answer questions here or in the MB Forums.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 March 2015 11:39
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