Captain's Log

Planning for the Second Half of the Season PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 00:00

Sometime late this week, most major league teams will play their 81st game, marking the halfway point of the season in terms of games played, and for most regulars, half of their at-bats.

So how do you use that to set your game plan for your fantasy baseball team(s)?

Well, answering a question like that really needs to be stratified to how deep the league is. It is a much different answer in an AL-only or NL-only league where the free agent options are nowhere near as plush as in a 10 or even 12-team mixed league.

That said, the first thing you should be doing is some categorical analysis. Where are you in each category and are you falling further behind another point each week or are you gaining ground? Making trades or even free agent pickups without a firm handle on where you need to improve is flawed and likely won’t help you.

By the same token, there may be (sadly I know) a category where you really have little hope of gaining points. In that case, if you have a good performer in that category, maybe he is the player who will bring you help in other categories.

I will explore options in the coming weeks for trades in AL-only and NL-only leagues that are very deep as well as 12-team mixed leagues that are fairly shallow and 15-team mixed leagues that are in between.

For starters, take a quick numbers read on your teams. That is easier this week than any other because you can just multiply the stats of players who were on opening day rosters by two for their contributions in the counting (non-ratio) categories.

For players who were called up after the beginning of the season, try and break down their home runs, for instance, based either on at-bats or just weeks and then do the math to see what they would have done in full-time duty. Given we have the games to add this week, the range of at-bats for starting players will run from 280 to 330.

Players you have added via free agency may have an accelerated rate of contribution to your team’s hitting stats, so you would want to factor that in.

You also want to look at the rates of other teams in your league in those categories. Pay particular attention, especially in AL or NL keeper leagues, to teams that have already made a “rebuilding” trade which affects not only their projection for the second half but also the team they traded with.

Next week, I will start on a series identifying particular trade tactics as well as free agent options broken down by league format and size. If you have a question about your team in that regards you can either post your information in the Platinum Subscribers Forum or the Team Management Forum or you can send me a PM. Make sure to give a very detailed list of your roster and the category standings from your league, either from this week or next week’s standings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 July 2015 09:15
The Continuous Search For Pitching PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 00:00

In today’s fantasy game, you can bet that in any given season, the MLB version of death and taxes will play out: closers will lose jobs and starting pitchers will get injured.

And, in AL and NL-only leagues, you may start the year with a pitching staff you liked but the wear and tear will eventually have you scrambling for more pitchers.

In one AL-only league, I have Jake Odorizzi and James Paxton on the DL, so even if I had picked the right non-closing relievers each week to plug those holes, I am still going to fall behind in strikeouts and wins. Last week, the available starting pitchers were Tommy Milone, Brett Oberholtzer, Joe Blanton and Kyle Ryan. At least Ryan, Milone and Blanton had two-start weeks, having one might be able to produce one win and two starts worth of strikeouts, even if the ratios make you wince.

Blanton last pitched in the Majors in 2013 when he was with the Angels. The 34-year old tried to quit baseball last year and was working at a Napa Valley winery. But, when he got the baseball itch this spring and was given a minor league contract by the Royals, Blanton reported to spring training 35 pounds lighter than as a member of the Angels.

Blanton didn’t make the club out of spring training but was willing to continue his comeback in the minors. He started off well and was promoted to the Royals in mid-May, and in his first relief appearance, allowed just one run over four innings. Blanton got his first start last week when the club decided to give Yordano Ventura more rest, pitching five innings while giving up five hits and one run and striking out four.

Nice story, but none of that would have made me pick up Blanton. However, as I noted earlier, he would have two starts this week, one against the hapless Mariners and the other against the Athletics. So I outbid a couple of teams in my league and crossed my fingers. Up against King Felix on Monday, the revitalized Blanton gave up two hits and no walks while fanning seven and earning the win.

Lucky? Yes. Now I have to light a candle for the Sunday start in Oakland.

At this point, I am not sure if Joe will still be on my team next week, but I have been suckered in before. Pitching desperation will do that.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 10:05
Mono League Free Agents Revisited PDF Print E-mail
Captain's Log
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 00:00

A couple of readers and one Facebook friend questioned some of the free agent pickups I noted last week. Well, AL-only or NL-only leagues with 11 or 12 teams and minor league drafts are very deep leagues.

So, filling a vacancy due to an injury or a demoted player or even a pitcher with bad matchups (if you have reserve slots) is very important. But the bonus is that while you get some at-bats or innings for this year, you also have the chance to follow these players with next year's keeper list in mind. Indeed, this is now the focus of teams who have already traded significant players for this season in exchange for future value – usually young cheap players, minor league prospects or minor league draft upgrades.

On that note, I thought I would take a quick look at my AL-only league and discuss some of the players who were added as free agents either last season or in 2013 who were kept going into this year’s auction.

What we clearly see is that the majority of players added as free agents early in the season are the most likely potential keepers. This is logical as they are likely hitters who didn’t have a full-time job on draft day but got promoted or inserted due to injury or trade and became starters.

My league has a three-round reserve draft immediately following the auction, in part because you must replace any players on your auction roster who are on the DL or have been sent to the Minors, but also because the first FAAB run won’t occur until the second Saturday of the season (we draft on the first Tuesday after the season starts).

So, in 2014, these players were reserve picks in early April:

Drew Pomeranz, P, OAK – Pomeranz was on the Athletics roster but not in the rotation, but he did well when he became a starter and was going to be in the Oakland rotation this year.

Dellin Betances, P, NYY – Nobody could have known how good Betances was going to be as a rotisserie and real life pitcher last year. This year, it wasn’t clear who would get the saves for the Yankees but regardless, Betances would earn more than his $10 salary.

Jake McGee, P, TB – McGee wasn’t closing early last year but was potentially a nice high strikeout reliever who could (and he did) ascend to the ninth inning role. This year, it wasn’t clear how long he would be out of action but it was presumed that he would close when he rejoined the Rays staff.

Wade Davis, P, KC – Again, Davis was just a playable reliever last April but was very valuable and proved even more valuable when Greg Holland was absent for awhile this year.

The next group of players were added in April and May FAAB runs – ours runs every Saturday night, and again, while they might have just been filling a temporary lineup need at the time of their pickup, they were viewed as good $10 keepers this year.

April 14, 2014 (first FAAB run)

Collin McHugh, P, HOU – Picked up before his first start (April 20) but earned roughly $18 last year and is starting this year on an improved Astros team.

Zach Britton, P, BAL – Was in the Orioles bullpen to start the season but in the first week had two four-inning relief stints and won both games without allowing a run. Didn’t register his first save until May but ended the season with three wins and 37 saves, earning $24.

April 21, 2014

Dallas Keuchel, P, HOU – Keuchel was in the Houston rotation but his first start (before our draft) was terrible. Then he had two very good starts before he was added in the second week of FAAB.

April 28, 2014

J.D. Martinez, OF, DET – Martinez was a spring training cut by Houston and picked up by Detroit. He didn’t wear a Tiger uniform until the third week of the season but that made him a hot pickup the following week.

May 5, 2014

Steve Pearce, OF/1B, BAL – Pearce made the Orioles roster out of spring training but had very few at-bats in the first few weeks. He then had 16 at-bats in the fourth week and while he didn’t hit a home run, he did hit over .300. The next week he hit three home runs and I added him very quickly. If only I had dropped him before this season and drafted Jimmy Paredes for a buck.

May 12, 2014

Danny Santana, SS, MIN – I had planned to draft Santana in the minor league draft last year but someone else I liked better fell to me, so Santana was a free agent. But when he was called up in the first week in May and looked like he would get enough at-bats to at least make the steals valuable, I added him not knowing of course that he would also hit seven home runs and hit .319 and be worth $23.

Jake Odorizzi, P, TB – His first start last year was a very good six-inning win. But his next four starts were terrible which prompted his owner to drop him. I paid to add him and nine of his other ten wins.

Andrew Miller, P, BAL – Miller was in the Orioles bullpen on opening day and pitched very well in 17 relief appearances early in the year but had only one win. He was added as a good reliever and in fact won four more games and got one save in earning $12 for the year. This year, of course, he is closing, and while this was not known on draft night, the savvy owner who kept him also had Betances, so it was a great combo play for Yankees saves – and more.

May 26, 2014

Matt Shoemaker, P, LAA – While Shoemaker was on the early Anaheim-minor shuttle in April, he was finally inserted into the Angels rotation for good in May and was a savior for both his big league and rotisserie teams.

Of course, there are free agents added throughout the season, but you can see the dividends and importance of the earliest free agent adds. The only free agents added in June, July, and August who ended up being frozen for $10 this year were:

Stephen Vogt, 1B, OAK – Vogt wasn’t catcher eligible to start the year but everyone knew he would be. I wonder what he would have gone for in the auction.

Shane Greene, P, DET – Greene made one start for the Yankees in April but wasn’t in the rotation until July. He didn’t pitch great last year but showed enough that someone thought that on a strong Tigers team and in the rotation all year, he would be worth a $10 salary. Early results this year say maybe.

Edward Mujica, P, BOS – Mujica wouldn’t have been kept this year, but having saved eight games last year and with Koji Uehara on the DL to start this year for who knew how long, he was kept with the hope of at least a few April saves and then insurance. Sadly, neither happened, and he didn’t pitch well.

I know I left September off the introduction of late season free agents but it was because in order to protect the integrity of our deep minor league rosters, any free agent added in September would carry a $25 salary if retained the following year. This is also why there haven’t been any September free agent keepers – yet.

Some of these 2014 free agents might be kept next year as well. There have been a few in the past. In fact, Scott Kazmir, Yan Gomes and Cody Allen were all free agents added in 2013 and are still playing with a $10 salary.

If you don’t play in an AL-only or NL-only keeper league where not only is the free agent pool much smaller but you have to have an eye on emerging major leaguers as possible keepers for the following year, I think this list will illustrate why there are so many players added in these leagues that carry more value than mixed league players might think.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 08:36
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
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