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41ersforever said: Dear BackwardsK,
I have been killing it in a head to head league with a non-rotisserie scoring system. I started out 8-0 before the injury bug struck my OF and have lost three in a row. I need your help to figure out who to pick up off of waivers to replace Shin-Shoo Choo's shattered hand and Jose Tabata's quad. I panic grabbed Ryan Roberts and Mark Trumbo for the time being but was wondering if you had any insight for a better option off of the scrap heap in the OF. Keep in mind that the commissioner of this league is the Michael Jordan of fantasy baseball and most normal waiver wire options are not available. HELP!

Zach

Well, first of all, thanks for reading The Backwards K, Zach.  Secondly, this commissioner of your league sounds like a he is quite the villain in fantasy baseball.  Thirdly, that is some bad fortune for your team to lose Choo and Tabata in one fell swoop this week, but both of those players weren’t exactly racking up the fantasy points as of late so the good news is that their production might not necessarily be too difficult to replace. 

In your situation, I think it is best to recognize who has the hot hand and try to roll with that.  I take it that Trumbo and Roberts were at or near the top of the outfielder rankings amongst free agent outfielders in your league, and both of them actually do make for decent selections for what the degree of competitiveness that this league seems to be.  But I’m going to give you a couple other options to consider.

You might want to check in on someone like Ty Wigginton who is 15 for 41 (.365 AVG) with 6 HR in his last 11 games for the Rockies.  That’s what you call being on fire.  Another guy that is hot right now is Roger Bernadina who is settling in as the center fielder for the Nationals.  In the last 12 games, he is 18 for 48 (.375 AVG) with 3 HR and 2 SB.

While these hot streaks may not necessarily last much longer, they are definitely worth noting and taking into consideration if you are trying to pick outfielders off the scrap heap.  When in doubt, it’s never a terrible idea to roll with the hot hand.

Good luck 41ersforever!

 

Posted at 10:30pm

 


comeonry said: Which do you project to score more runs for the remainder of the season (I need to pick up a player with Jed Lowrie on the DL). One of the two Michaels-- Morse or Brantley?

I would without a doubt say that Michael Brantley should score more runs than Mike Morse the remainder of the season.  Brantley has above average speed, a decent walk rate, and has spent most of his time this season leading off for the Indians and obviously that is a great spot for run scoring potential.  Lately he has actually been seeing some time hitting 2nd and 3rd in the Indians lineup, which is not a whole lot different for his run potential though.  As long as he does not fall into a prolonged slump (or gets injured) where his batting average drops a lot then he should be good for about 50 runs from here on out.  On the other hand, Morse has been batting 5th for the Nationals, so he has the bottom of the order, AKA the lesser hitters, trying to drive him in.  While Morse should be a good power source, his run scoring potential is going to be a bit limited.  So based purely on your question of who will score more runs, Brantley is the guy.  Though, taking all categories into account, I’d probably give Morse the edge.  But hey, you have to suit your own team’s needs to put together a championship run, so if you need runs and he won’t hurt you too much in the power department then I don’t see much wrong with Brantley.

 

Posted at 1:01am

 


Ready, Set, Activate!

This past week a lot of highly valued fantasy players made their returns from the DL, so let’s take a look at what they did and what potential impact they will have for the remainder of the season.

Matt Holliday missed the minimum amount of time on the DL and he picked up right where he left off as he is 5 for 12 with 2 HR in 4 games since being activated.  Overall, he is batting .348 with 8 HR and 35 RBI in 48 games.  While he might not reach 25 HR and 100 RBI since he has missed some time this season with his most recent injury and his earlier appendectomy, Holliday is as steady as they come and can be counted on as a #1 outfielder on any fantasy team.

Ryan Zimmerman finally returned after missing more than two months of action with an abdominal injury.  He has hit safely in all 6 games that he has played in since his return and should be ready to provide some much needed firepower for an already weak third base position that has been plagued with injuries this season.  Zimmerman’s return actually should have a positive residual effect throughout the lineup for the Nationals as his mere presence in the starting lineup makes them that much better.  Guys like Jayson Werth, Mike Morse, and Danny Espinosa could all stand to benefit with Zimmerman back.  Proof to my point: the Nationals offense is averaging 6.8 runs per game since Zimmerman was activated.

After being on the DL for more than 2 months with bilateral leg weakness, Joe Mauer returned this weekend to go 1 for 11 in the weekend series at San Diego.  I’m not too optimistic about Mauer all of a sudden coming back to be the .330 hitter that we all know that he is.  He was out with an unusual diagnosis that may not necessarily be something that can just go away, so it could be a while before he gets back into the swing of things.  In addition, the Twins aren’t exactly a well oiled machine on offense as Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Jim Thome are all on the shelf. 

Pablo Sandoval missed about a month and a half with a hand injury and is now 5 for 25 in 6 games since returning from the DL.  Before the injury he was proving that all of the off-season conditioning he did to get in better shape was paying off as he was hitting .313 with 5 HR and 14 RBI through almost a month of play.  Once he shakes off some of the rust, I think that the Kung Fu Panda will be able to find the nice stroke that he had in April to be one of the better fantasy third basemen in the league.

Hanley Ramirez only needed the minimum amount of time on the DL, but perhaps he should have just stayed on the DL even longer to give him more time to clear his head because clearly he is still in the same funk he has been in all season long.  In 6 games since being activated, Hanley is just 2 for 18 and is now batting .201 with just 4 HR this season.  This is really quite the enigma of a season for the consensus #2 overall pick in 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.  You have to figure that the hits will start coming, but it’s just really difficult to say when that might happen.  With 12 SB, at least he is contributing positively in one category, but this is a monumental bust of a season.

Here’s what else I have to say about other players around the league:

  • Frank Francisco/Jon Rauch — So after Francisco got the save this past Wednesday, Rauch entered a tie ballgame in the 9th inning on Thursday and promptly gave up 2 runs to lose the game.  This called for Francisco to get the save opportunity on Friday and he converted it for his 7th save of the season.  Francisco is once again probably at the top of the list, but this situation could remain super fluid from here on out.

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Trevor’s Tremors

So after I labeled Oakland A’s starting pitcher Trevor Cahill as my #1 pitcher bust on my Top 15 Pitcher Busts post for this fantasy baseball season, as you can imagine, I was pretty unhappy to see him be 6-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 1.06 WHIP through his first 10 starts of the season.  However, after getting rocked by the Royals on Tuesday for his 5th unimpressive start in a row as he walked 7 batters and struck out none, Cahill is 0-4 with a 7.43 ERA and 2.06 WHIP in that span as I smirk with a revived delight doing my best Mr. Burns impression — “exxxcellllent.”  Overall, this brings Cahill to a 6-5 record, 3.42 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and strikeout and walk rates that have gotten progressively worse and are nothing but mediocre.  These statistics are coming from the pitcher who all these television baseball personalities were creaming their pants over (pardon me) and saying he would most definitely be in the thick of the AL Cy Young race by the end of the year.  So what exactly is the deal with Cahill?  Well, there were reports of him working through some mechanical issues and then when he still was sucking after that there was speculation that he must be pitching through some sort of injury.  While both of those remain legitimate possibilities that I won’t necessarily rule out, how about the most obvious explanation that none of these ESPN or MLB Network personalities will admit?  Regression — the fact that he just simply might not be as good as his statistics from last year and from earlier this season suggest.  His BABIP had been riding way low and he has never exactly shown much more than mediocre control throughout his professional career.  While he still can be a quality pitcher, he is not going to be the ace that he appeared to be for 10 starts this season until he can consistently strike guys out.  Since I’m headlining him in this post I’m sure he will go on to pitch a complete game shutout versus the Giants in his next start, but hey, that’s the risk I take when writing for a fantasy baseball blog. 

Here’s what else has happened this week so far…

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I Love Tommy’s

If you hail from the Southern California area like I do, then you probably know all about the fast food chain named Tommy’s and the amazing, yet incredibly fatty, food that they make.  Their staple is the to die for chili that they drench all of their food in.  I used to eat at Tommy’s semi-frequently, but I knew that if I continued to eat there so much then it would make my heart attack.  However, there’s another Tommy who does things that are much better for my heart (and doesn’t give me gas) as I’ve developed quite the man crush on him despite not even ever having him on any of my fantasy teams — his name is Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves.  On Sunday, the Atlanta Braves ace in the making pitched a marvelous game by allowing just 1 run in 7 innings of work while striking out a career high 14 at Houston.  So studly, right?  The strong performance pushed his record to 8-4 and he now has a 2.48 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 89 K in 83 1/3 IP.  Here’s what I said about Hanson in my pre-season awards predictions when I pegged him as my sleeper pick for the NL Cy Young Award (my actual pick was Roy Halladay):

Hanson’s rookie season in 2009 consisted of 21 starts that led to very excellent numbers, but last year as a sophomore he seemingly took a step backward when it was expected that he would continue to thrive.  In 2010, even though his walk rate was down, his strikeout rate was down also, especially in the second half of the season.  Normally, the drastic decline in strikeouts post All-Star break last year would be a concern, but Hanson is still a very young pitcher at 24 years old and his previous strikeout rates are just so dominant that it should be expected that he regains that ability.  With an offense that has minimal holes and a bullpen that figures to be equally as strong, Hanson should have the support to drastically improve on his 10-11 record from 2010, while also posting excellent statistics all around.  This makes him a great breakout candidate and a definite sleeper for the NL Cy Young Award.

I think that I nailed it in that excerpt and I’ve been saying all season long how I wish I had him on any of my fantasy teams as I just knew that he was going to have a huge season.  If he is the ace of your staff then you should feel very comfortable.

Here’s what else happened this weekend… 

  • Jeremy Hellickson — 5 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K in a loss to the Orioles on Friday.  The rookie Hellickson had the worst outing of his short career and in the last Hellboy update I said, “He appears to be very fortunate in those regards thus far (HR/9 and BABIP), so if he does not make some huge improvements with his strikeout and walk rates then I have to expect his ERA and WHIP statistics to worsen."  So that’s what happened here in his latest start as he gave up 2 HR in a game for the first time in his career and he did not show any improvements in his walk or strikeout rates.  He is now 7-4 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.16 WHIP and will continue to see those numbers inflate if he does not improve on his K/BB ratio.

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The Moose Is Loose

On Thursday, the Royals continued to move forward with their youth movement by promoting top prospect Mike Moustakas.  In my post titled MLB Call Up Season: Who Will Be the Next Big Thing? I said, “In my opinion Moustakas has the best chance out of anyone right now to do what Buster Posey did for fantasy baseball last year given that he plays a shallow position at third base."  And with that, I urged you to pick him up and stash him if you had the room to spare.  You should go and check out that post to learn more about him.  Moustakas’ season at AAA got off to a slow start, but he has kicked things into the next gear over the last few weeks, which is likely why the Royals decided to give him the promotion now.  With guys like Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, and Pablo Sandoval all currently on the DL, good third basemen are hard to come by in fantasy baseball and Moustakas should have an immediate impact.  The Moose will debut on Friday in Anaheim against Ervin Santana.

If you missed out on Moose, Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo could be a nice consolation prize.  Rizzo also received the promotion to the Majors on Thursday and he even was in the starting lineup batting 7th.  Rizzo finished the day going 1 for 2 with a triple, 2 BB, and 1 K.  I also talked about Rizzo in the aforementioned post, so please check that out for more information on him.  My biggest worry is the ballpark that he calls home will hurt his numbers, so expectations should be kept in check.  Also, Rizzo plays a deep fantasy position so his potential fantasy value for this season probably isn’t as high as someone like Moustakas.  Nonetheless, Rizzo is certainly worthy of a pickup because if he gets off to a hot start then you will be sorry that you missed out on him.  Don’t you just love call up season?!

Here’s what else has happened so far this week: 

  • Brian Matusz — Matusz has now made 2 starts after missing the first two months of the season and he recorded his first win on Monday by limiting the A’s to 2 ER in 5 1/3 IP.  Matusz really came on strong in the second half of last year, so it was pretty disappointing that he had to begin the year on the DL.  While he is not going to be This Year’s Ricky Romero like I originally predicted because of all the missed time, the young lefty still has the potential to be a solid fantasy starter for the remainder of the season and should be owned in most leagues.

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MLB Call Up Season: Flash Jr. and Lil’ Rickie

Last week I made a post titled MLB Call Up Season: Who Will Be the Next Big Thing? where I analyzed the top prospects who have received call ups already this year and which top prospects would soon get the call to make a significant fantasy impact.  A couple days ago, two players were called up whom I did not include in my previous post and they are Dee Gordon, shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers and son of ex-Major League pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, and Jemile Weeks, second baseman for the Oakland A’s and little brother of Milwaukee Brewers All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks.

Gordon, 23, was rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Dodgers organization and he made the Top 100 at #26.  I did not have him included in my previous post because I did not believe that the Dodgers would bring him up this soon and I felt that a September call up was more likely.  However, with the oft-injured Rafael Furcal straining his oblique to land on the DL for the second time this season to put him out of commission till at least around the All-Star break, the Dodgers did not feel comfortable employing a middle infield of light-hitting veteran utility infielders Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles on an everyday basis.  So Gordon was called up to be the team’s everyday starting shortstop and leadoff hitter for the immediate future.  Gordon comes in at a 150 lbs. soaking wet and is the typical zero power and out of this world speed type of player.  So while Dee’s father Tom might have earned the nickname “Flash” purely based on the fact that his surname coincided with that of the famous comic book hero, Dee has earned every right to be called “Flash” (or “Flash Jr.”).  Gordon has been a .299 hitter in his Minor League career and he was hitting .315 at AAA in the PCL this season before his promotion.  The high average this year might be inflated a bit by the hitter friendly league he was playing in, but he is definitely not horrible with the bat and when he gets on base he runs absolutely wild.  Gordon has stolen as many as 73 bases in a single season before and this year he was 22 for 25 in SB attempts at AAA.  This kind of speed is not so easily available in fantasy leagues, so this is why Gordon is deserving of an immediate pickup.  Think of him as a clone of ex-Dodger outfielder Juan Pierre, except for the fact that Pierre is one of this generation’s best at making contact with the ball since his career strikeout rate is just 6.3%, whereas Gordon has a relatively decent strikeout rate of 15.4% in his Minor League career.  But hey, a Pierre type of player at the extremely thin shortstop position is a jackpot that you can get for free off the waiver wire (it can also be compared to getting Elvis Andrus for nothing).  Gordon might be sent back down when Furcal is ready to return, but this is Furcal we are talking about — the man that has spent more time on the DL than on the field since the 2008 season.  So there could be plenty of playing time to go around for the top prospect and he already made an impact in his first Major League start on Wednesday by going 3 for 5 with 1 SB.

Weeks, 24, does not come as heralded as his older brother Rickie did when he was entering the league, but he still profiles as a pretty good prospect.  Weeks’ promotion could not have been predicted to be this soon in the season as it was a Mark Ellis injury that opened the door for him to step in.  Weeks was ranked as the #5 prospect in the Oakland organization, but he failed to make the Top 100, which is why he was not on my radar in my previous post.  However, perhaps the reason for the relatively low ranking for a player of Weeks’ potential is the fact that like Rickie has been in his Major League career, Jemile has been bit by the injury bug and there are some concerns about his long-term durability.  Weeks is a switch-hitter and while he does not have the same type of power as the elder Weeks, he maintains a patient approach at the plate (13.4% walk rate this year) and possesses above average speed.  Before his call up Weeks was batting .321 with 3 HR and 10 SB at AAA in the PCL, so there is some good potential here.  He’s not likely to hit for that high of an average at the Major League level nor excel in any one particular category, but he is someone whose progress should be monitored if you need help at the second base position in fantasy.  Ellis might only miss the minimum of time on the DL with his strained hamstring, but he is also overpaid, under-performing, and a pending free agent on a team that is currently last place in the division.  So Weeks could get an extended look this season.  I would not rush to pick him up in normal mixed leagues, but just keep your eyes peeled for his name in the box scores (he went 0 for 4 in his Major League debut).       

 


Phat Albert

Yes, I just used the word “phat,” so what?!  This weekend in baseball belonged to Albert Pujols who went 6 for 11 with 4 HR and 7 RBI in a series versus the Cubs, and 2 of those HR were of the extra inning walk-off variety.  How’s that for some dramatics?  I know that Pujols hasn’t been a completely dominant force most of the season, but what on earth are the Cubs doing giving Pujols anything good to hit in those situations?  In May, Pujols had the longest HR drought of his career and he finished the month with just 2 HR.  After five days in June, Pujols already has 4 HR and he has brought his average up to .278, which is as high as it has been all season.  The baseball world has been wondering when Pujols would start to hit like the most feared hitter in the game that he has been for several years now, and it looks like we have been given the answer to that.  For the season, Pujols is batting .278 with 13 HR, 38 RBI, 42 R, and 5 SB and I would be pretty shocked if he does not finish the season hitting at least .300 with 30 HR and 100 RBI — something that he has done in all ten of his seasons in the Majors.

Here’s what else happened this past weekend…

  • Trevor Cahill — 7 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K in a no-decision versus the Red Sox.  After Cahill’s last start against the Yankees where he turned in a poor outing I said, “Look for him to turn in another mediocre (or worse) outing in his next start when he faces the powerhouse Red Sox team at Fenway Park."  Sounds about right.  On Saturday, Cahill had his start at Fenway and he had another non-quality start and was lucky not to get tagged with a loss.  Cahill now sports a 2.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP to go with a 6-3 record.  Fine numbers by any means, but finally his statistics are definitely becoming more normalized after a hot start.  He’s scheduled to face the White Sox next.
  • Brett Anderson — 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K in a loss to the Red Sox.  Like his teammate Cahill, Anderson also ran into some huge troubles in the last two series versus the powerhouse teams of the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox, as he saw his ERA rise from 2.84 to 4.00.  Earlier this season I mentioned how Anderson has been dealing with over a 1 MPH loss in his fastball velocity, which would prevent him from being able to post a strikeout rate upward of 7.50 K/9 like I predicted.  However, I also said that I believed he could still operate pretty well despite the velocity loss.  Well, Anderson’s last two starts aren’t very encouraging toward that and even though I loved the guy coming into the season, perhaps I have given him too much credit.  And he still remains a pretty decent injury risk considering his injury problems from last year and the extraordinary high amount of sliders he throws (41.1% of his pitches this year have been sliders). 

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Who’s the Boss? Bruuuce

See what I did there?  I combined the once popular Tony Danza sitcom with American rock and roll icon Bruce Springsteen to come up with a nifty little headline to let everyone know that Reds outfielder Jay Bruce has finally arrived.   On April 26, Bruce was hitting just .226 with 3 HR and 11 RBI, but since then he has transformed himself into one of the premiere hitters in the game — something that has been in the process of happening for the last few years now.  In his last 33 games, Bruce is batting .333 with 14 HR, 36 RBI, 27 R, and 1 SB.  For the season, Bruce is hitting .292 with 17 HR, 46 RBI, 39 R, and 4 SB and he entered Saturday leading the NL in both HR and RBI.  I really liked Bruce coming into the season and I picked him to be This Year’s Corey Hart as a young player who was going to eclipse 30 HR and 100 RBI for the first time in his career, but Bruce is exceeding my expectations for him this season and is quickly developing into a superstar, and he actually could end up being This Year’s Joey Votto and take home some MVP hardware at this rate.  I would not expect Bruce to slow down too much and he easily will break the 30 HR and 100 RBI mark and is going to threaten to hit 40 HR as he vaults himself into the 2nd round of fantasy drafts next season.

Now let’s get caught up on some more happenings in MLB the past few days… 

  • Matt Joyce — Joyce still remained pretty hot as he hit his 10th HR on Tuesday and his 11th HR on Thursday.  His batting average has fallen from .370 to .350 in the last week as Jose Bautista has taken over the Major League lead in batting average.  His batting average is going to continue to drop as his .398 BABIP comes down and settles in an area that is much more realistic and also as he begins to see more left-handed pitching.  However, at this point it would be somewhat of a surprise if he did not finish the year hitting .300.  This definitely seems to be a very similar breakout to Ben Zobrist’s 2009 campaign.  The Rays just have the knack for uncovering some nice talent apparently.

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comeonry said: thank you-- just one more question: Would Adam Lind be better than the overall Moreland-Lowrie mix? He is expected to return this weekend. [I picked him up.]

I really liked the chances of an Adam Lind bounceback this year.  I didn’t expect him to put up his 2009 numbers again, but I thought there was a good chance for him to hit .290 and approach 30 HR and 100 RBI (my actual projections for him were .291 AVG, 28 HR, 96 RBI, 79 R, 1 SB).  He looked well on his way to completing the bounceback season hitting .313 AVG, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 19 R, 1 SB in 32 games before his unexpected back injury arose and sidelined him for nearly a month now (he last played in a game on May 7 and was the AL leader in RBI when he went down).  He was able to have such early success in the season by trimming his strikeout rate back down to his 2009 level after having it balloon from 18.7% in 2009 to 25.0% in 2010.  Also contributing to his early success was the fact that he was hitting .342 off lefties after hitting a putrid .117 off them a season ago.  So I think that it is safe to say that Lind is back on track this year.  What makes him even more valuable is the incredible improvements that teammate Jose Bautista has shown this year.  If Bautista’s 2010 season wasn’t enough of a surprise, with a dramatic increase in his walk rate and with him getting more fortunate on his BABIP (batting average on balls in play), Bautista is getting on base over half the time this year at a clip of a .502 OBP.  That is just incredible and means that Lind, hitting directly behind Bautista, will always have some great RBI opportunities.  I think that if Lind is not affected anymore by his back injury then he can still finish the season with 25 HR and 90 RBI, which would be pretty impressive after missing a month of action.  I believe that he is absolutely an upgrade over the Moreland/Lowrie platoon and that was a very savvy pickup that you made.  Lind can definitely rake it — it’s just a matter of how well his back responds when he gets back in to full-time action.     

 
1 note

Posted at 12:37pm

 


comeonry said: Getting sick of Casey McGehee's little production for my fantasy team. Right now, I have him as a plain INF (where his numbers count), but am thinking about moving him to the bench-- Should I stick with him or use Jed Lowrie or Mitch Moreland?

I’m not a fan of McGehee and I would probably bench him for now, but when/if he heats up then he’s going to have a lot of RBI opportunities hitting 5th behind a couple of guys with excellent OBP (Braun and Fielder), so you will want to monitor his progress.  As for whether to use Lowrie or Moreland, you need to realize each player’s strengths and weaknesses and it all depends on their matchups for the day (or week if it’s a weekly league).  Lowrie kills left-handed pitching.  This season he is hitting .429 with 3 HR in 56 AB against lefties, but is hitting only .238 with 0 HR in 101 AB against righties.  It’s been the same story for his whole career as well.  However, Lowrie has been losing some playing time against right-handed pitching in favor of Drew Sutton recently, so it does not bode well for him that he has cooled down a bit since Marco Scutaro also might be back in a couple of weeks to challenge him for playing time.  As for Moreland, well he has been crushing right-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .351 AVG and all 7 of his HR this season have been off righties.  In contrast, Moreland struggles against lefties with just a .178 AVG in 48 AB against them this year.  So I guess what I am getting at is that I would start Moreland most of the time.  If it is a daily league then start Moreland when he’s facing righties and start Lowrie when he’s facing lefties.  If those occurrences happen on the same day then use your best judgment.  If it’s a weekly league then check out the upcoming schedule to see their opponents’ probable starting pitchers to see who has the better matchups for the week.  I think that Moreland will end the year with better stats, but as a fantasy first baseman he is not very special.   Whereas Lowrie might have more fantasy value due to the fact that he is eligible at 2B/SS/3B (much shallower positions).  But if it is just a standard INF position that you are working with then Moreland should be your guy most of the time.  And for what it’s worth, the Red Sox are scheduled to face left-handed SP’s just once in the next week and the Rangers are scheduled to face right-handed SP’s six times in the next week — so this is a good sign to use Moreland for most of those days. 

 

Posted at 1:21am

 


So Long, J. Soria. It’s Time to Eat Crow

The baseball world received another shakeup in a closer’s role on Monday and it now means that 15 of the 30 MLB teams have had some sort of closer adjusment this year, whether it be due to injury or poor performance.  For all you non-math majors out there that is 50% of the teams, and some of those teams have even had multiple adjustments.  And this is what I mean when I say that the closer position in fantasy baseball is extremely volatile and that it is unimportant to draft closers early because if you pay attention enough then you will be able to grab closers-to-be as free agents if you ever need to.  Saves are saves — it doesn’t matter if you get them from Mariano Rivera or Fernando Salas as long as you get them.

The closer switch that happened on Monday is one that could not have been foreseen by many people entering the season.  Ever since the Royals acquired Joakim Soria in the Rule 5 Draft prior to the 2007 season, he had been one of the games most consistent and dominant relievers with a 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.92 K/9, and a 91.0% save conversion rate.  With 2011 being just his age 27 season, there was no reason to believe that he would be experiencing any type of decline, but that is exactly what has happened.  He has not looked right all season long as he has been dealing with a 1.5 MPH loss in his fastball velocity and has been very hittable.  Things got very ugly on Memorial Day when he blew his 3rd straight save opportunity in ugly fashion against the Angels.  Soria now has a 6.55 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and he is just 7 for 12 in save opportunities this season.  A switch had to be made and the Royals will now turn to rookie Aaron Crow in the 9th inning for the time being.  Soria should get the opportunity to get his job back if he sorts things out and begins to pitch better, but given his velocity loss, that might not happen.

So what do we know about Aaron Crow?  Well, he was originally drafted 9th overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2008 draft, but the two sides could not come to a contract agreement so Crow signed with an independent league team.  He re-entered the draft in 2009 and was drafted 12th overall by the Royals and the team was able to eventually sign him.  However, the results that he had in his first season in the Royals organization in 2010 were not very positive as he finished the season with a 5.73 ERA and 1.51 WHIP between A+ and AA as a starting pitcher.  But he came into Spring Training this year and impressed the team enough that they wanted to carry him on the Major League roster as a relief pitcher.  He began the year near the bottom of the ladder in the Royals bullpen, but his great results earned him a larger role and now he is the team’s closer.  Currently the 24-year old has a 1.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 26 K in 27 IP.  Yeah, he is still very inexperienced as a professional but he needs to be picked up in all leagues if he is the team’s anointed closer.  If Crow succeeds in the role then it will be just more evidence of the team’s excellent youth movement with all this home grown talent.

Here’s what else happened on Memorial Day:

  • Bartolo Colon — 9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K in a complete game shutout versus the A’s.  The veteran Colon keeps on riding the flashback to 2005 train when he won the AL Cy Young Award.  He is now 3-3 on the season with a 3.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 62 K in 66 1/3 IP.  This just seems like an improbable run considering that he has been on the DL six times since his Cy Young season and has not reached triple digits in innings pitched since then either.  However, as I’ve mentioned before, Colon’s marvelous turnaround can be attributed to the experimental stem cell surgery that he underwent in the off-season.  MLB is currently investigating the procedure to determine if any HGH was involved.  For some reason, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was.  Colon is scheduled to take on his former team next in Anaheim.

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MLB Call Up Season: Who Will Be the Next Big Thing?

It’s that time of year where as a fantasy baseball owner you really need to be on the tips of your toes if you are looking for an extra, unexpected, and low cost boost for your fantasy team.  That’s right everyone, it is call up season!  Traditionally around Memorial Day weekend, give or take a week, is when many MLB organizations will choose to promote some of their top prospects to the Majors.  Organizations will wait till around this time of the year to do so in order to delay a player’s MLB service time so that they can in essence have control of that player for an additional year and/or just to give the player some additional seasoning in the Minor Leagues even though they might be Major League ready.  Whatever the reason is, you can expect some big named prospects to be called upon soon if they have not been already.  The two biggest named prospects, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout (ranked #1 and #2 respectively by Baseball America), are very unlikely to see Major League time this season given their ripe ages and inexperience as professionals.  But there are still some exciting guys that should arrive this year (or have recently arrived already) and they could propel your fantasy team to a championship. 

To emphasize the importance of being aware of possible call ups, I will use Buster Posey in 2010 as an example.  Last year in a deep league that I have participated in and won 7 years in a row (14-team, 6x6 roto), I had been keeping an eye on all the news and tidbits about Posey in anticipation of him being called up around Memorial Day weekend.  My team was in the middle of the pack at the time and the catcher that I drafted was Brian McCann, but a month into the season he was hitting only .250 with 2 HR and 9 RBI.  So I had also been employing the red hot Miguel Olivo (who was the #1 fantasy catcher at the time) to split some time with the slumping McCann at catcher.  So once there was any rumbling about a possible call up of Posey, I pounced on him as a free agent despite the fact that I already had a top tier catcher and the current #1 catcher in fantasy.  It is quite possible that I was the first team ever to roster 3 catchers in a 14-team league that only starts 1 catcher and has as few as 5 bench spots.  However, picking up Posey is what ultimately turned my team from a middle of the pack team into the 7-time champion.  Posey soon would gain eligibility at first base also, which allowed me to start him at a position that I was pretty weak at with Billy Butler.  And it allowed me to shop both McCann and Olivo.  I ended up trading Olivo for Phil Hughes and then flipped Hughes for Jayson Werth a few days later.  I was not really a fan of Hughes, but I needed to get rid of a catcher and luckily I was able to trade Olivo for a player with greater name value, which helped me to land Werth.  So essentially I traded Olivo for Werth.  Yes please!  I also ended up trading McCann and Tim Hudson for Dan Haren.  So not only did Posey help my team because of his strong performance, but picking him up as a free agent allowed me to trade from a position of strength to improve my team in other needed areas.  And that’s how fantasy baseball championships are won my friends.

There are top prospects like Jeremy Hellickson, Michael Pineda, Craig Kimbrel, and Zach Britton who have dazzled this year, but all of those guys have been on a Major League roster since opening day (except for Britton who was called up as an injury replacement just a few days into the season).  Other top prospects such as Freddie Freeman, Chris Sale, Aroldis Chapman, Kyle Drabek, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, and Brett Morel have also been on a Major League roster the whole season (except for Chapman who was just recently optioned to AAA), but they have been much less impressive.  So now let’s take a look at some top prospects who have recently been promoted or who might be called up soon to make an impact.

The following are top prospects who have yet to be called up this season, but could be players who are making a Major League impact very soon this season:

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Buster Turned Into Busted

The biggest news of this past week was the brutal home plate collision that Buster Posey endured in an extra innings affair against the Marlins.  The aftermath of it all is that last year’s NL Rookie of the Year has a broken fibula as well as several torn ligaments in his left ankle and will miss the remainder of the season.  This is odd timing because in the previous day when the Rockies received the news that Jorge De La Rosa would miss the remainder of the season to undergo Tommy John surgery, I had said, “Obviously, this is a huge blow for the Rockies who already are experiencing pitching problems with the early season injury and gross under performance from their designated ace Ubaldo Jimenez.  The odds for the Giants to repeat as the NL West champions just went up."  Well, consider Posey’s injury the equalizer and that division is really going to be completely up for grabs.  In fact, the Diamondbacks have surged into 1st place after rolling off 6 straight victories.

For fantasy purposes, Posey had been underperforming most people’s expectations all season long and he will leave behind a .284 AVG, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 17 R, and 3 SB.  With catcher already being a thin position, it’s going to be tough to attempt to replace the type of production that could have been expected of Posey.  But let’s take a look at a few options that might be available in your league as all of the following players are owned in less than 25% of Yahoo! leagues.

My first choice would be Chris Iannetta of the Rockies.  I picked Iannetta to be This Year’s John Buck and he is not doing too shabby up to this point.  He homered twice on Saturday and is now hitting .248 with 7 HR, 22 RBI, 21 R, and 0 SB.  Iannetta is not likely to hit for a high batting average because of his high strikeout rate (though he also walks a ton, so in points leagues that helps cancel out the strikeouts), but he has just about as good of HR potential as any catcher and should break the 20 HR mark this season.  He bats near the bottom of the Rockies order though so RBI and run opportunities won’t be that abundant.  My second choice would be Jarrod Saltlamacchia who has caught fire recently when he hit 4 HR in a 6 game span from May 15-25.  Salty is batting just .224 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, 11 R, and 0 SB, but most of that production has come in the last couple of weeks and there’s nothing wrong with rolling with the hot hand and he does have some upside.  And if all else fails then I guess you can give Miguel Olivo a whirl because at least you know what to expect from him.  Hank Conger and Wilson Ramos are two guys that you will want to monitor though because they are a couple of rookies who can definitely have an impact if they can get out of the timeshares with their respected veteran catcher teammates.  Also, if top prospect Jesus Montero of the Yankees is called up soon then I would ditch any of these options to pick him up because he can have an immediate impact.

Here’s what else happened in the last few days… 

  • Jon Lester — Lester was the first 7-game winner in the Majors this season when he defeated the Indians this past Wednesday.  In my 2011 MLB Awards Predictions, I picked Lester to win the AL Cy Young and said that his campaign for the award would be driven by a high win total despite his other statistics not being the best in the league.  Things seem to be going according to that plan as he leads the AL with a 7-1 record to go along with a 3.36 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 70 K in 69 2/3 IP.  While his ERA and WHIP aren’t really Cy Young worthy at the moment, he will be able to trim those numbers to marks that are more Cy Young acceptable while still maintaining a high propensity for wins thanks to a powerful Red Sox offense.  Remember when everyone was worried about the Red Sox this season after a horrific start and I said not to worry because they were going to come alive and still win the AL East?  Yeah, well the Red Sox just took over 1st place in the division a few days ago.

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Not All Roses for De La Rosa

In the off-season, the Rockies and left-handed starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa agreed to a 2-year/$21.5 million contract with a 3rd year player option in 2013 for $11 million.  De La Rosa had offers from other teams that likely guaranteed 4 years and/or a higher annual salary, but he turned down those offers to remain with the Rockies where his initial Major League success began.  Well, after the news of De La Rosa needing Tommy John surgery after leaving his start on Tuesday with a tear of the UCL in his pitching elbow, I am sure those other teams that had offers out to him are very glad that De La Rosa went with his heart and took the lesser offer.  De La Rosa will miss the remainder of this season and will end up missing a decent chunk of the 2012 season (or perhaps the whole season).  And then there is no doubt that he will be exercising his 2013 player option for $11 million since there is not going to be a team out there willing to give that kind of salary to a player that is coming off Tommy John surgery.   De La Rosa leaves behind a 5-2 record, 3.52 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 52 K in 59 IP.  Obviously, this is a huge blow for the Rockies who already are experiencing pitching problems with the early season injury and gross under performance from their designated ace Ubaldo Jimenez.  The odds for the Giants to repeat as the NL West champions just went up.

Here’s what else happened on Tuesday: 

  • Ricky Romero — 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K in a no-decision versus the Yankees.  Romero was in line to win this game but his bullpen managed to blow a 3-run lead.  I have mentioned before how Romero has struggled so far in his career against the powerhouse teams within the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox.  So the key for him to show a significant statistical improvement this year might be to limit the damage against those two teams.  Romero was rocked by the Red Sox in one start earlier this season, but he now has two pretty good starts this year against the Yankees.  Overall in those three starts, Romero has a 4.15 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP.  Not exactly stellar numbers, but better than what he has done in the past against those two teams so maybe he can be better than last year.  Currently he is 4-4 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with 61 K in 65 IP.  Very fine numbers.  Romero is scheduled to face the White Sox next.

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