Justin Fensterman and Trevor Ray discuss different strategies and thoughts that will be able help you get a fantasy baseball championship this season. They will also break down some injuries around the NFL and of course the major trade deal and its impact on the fantasy world.
Following the trend I started yesterday in Vice Versa, I’m going to continue to point out some potentially surprising trends in fantasy baseball. Which guys are surging? Which guys have petered out? I’ve got you covered. Bring home that championship, reach for that finish line and break that tape first.
Jay Bruce or Giancarlo Stanton? On draft day I think 99 percent of the fantasy universe told you to go Stanton. I did not. I said ‘why not take Bruce three rounds later?’ Season isn’t over but Bruce has made me look like, well, The Oracle. I’ll even give Stanton a break and prorate his numbers over the same about of at-bats as Bruce (Bruce has 203 more at-bats this season).
Bruce: .270-30-103-88-5 with a .831 OPS
Stanton: .252-35-84-87-2 with a .856 OPS
Like I said six months ago, they are the same player even if everyone was drafting Stanton as a top-20 player.
Great at the start, and scary bad there for a short while, it’s still worth pointing out that waiver-wire hurler extraordinaire, Bruce Chen, is 8-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Still having a hard time explaining that one.
Anyone notice that Steve Cishek has 31 saves?
Billy Hamilton tease us. Hamilton had three hits Wednesday night, that’s nice, but oh Nellie check out the steals column – four. Wow is right. Through eight games, and mind you he’s only picked up seven official at-bats, Hamilton has stolen nine bases and not been caught once. I hesitate to say anyone is a lock for 50 steals in 2014 but Hamilton clearly is. The real question we should be asking – is he a lock for 75 steals? Since 1990 there hasn’t been a player in baseball who has stolen 80 bases in a season. We very likely could be looking at the first right here.
Let’s give Hisashi Iwakuma mad props. He was hit hard over a few starts and we all thought the end to his magical run could be at hand. Not so much. Over his last four outings he’s allowed a total of three runs dropping his ERA back down to 2.76. He’ll make one more start this season for the Mariners which seems rather risky given that he’s thrown 86.1 innings more this season than last (he’s up to 211.2 on the campaign).
Starling Marte has had a strong rookie season, but he has 11 homers and is batting .280. Remember when you all argued with me when I said he wouldn’t hit 20 big flies or hit .300 this season?
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Yasiel Puig had another big night Wednesday with three hits including a homer. Be sure you pay close attention to his second half numbers when you consider drafting him next year. Those numbers include a strong but not elite .295 batting average and six steals while being caught five times. He’s walked a bit more though which is great news. He took seven free passes over his first 38 games but he’s walked 25 times in his last 55 contests.
Chris Rusin has a nice 3.52 ERA through 12 starts. However he was blasted for six runs over just four innings Wednesday. Can’t be surprised by that folks. You can only have top-shelf production for so long when you don’t strike out five guys per nine innings and have a .265 BABIP.
From the I’m So Shocked I Feel Totally Betrayed File: Stephen Strasburg is having his start pushed back, again. As great as Strasburg is I won’t ever draft the guy. Ever. He had trouble getting loose during a throwing session, and since he’s battling an issue in his forearm the Nats decided to push back his start to Saturday. That will be 12 days between starts for the righty. He’ll need to make two effective starts before the season is over to reach 180 innings pitched for the first time in his life (he’s at 170 right now).
Tyler Thornburg tossed six shutout innings at the Cubs Wednesday. Has anyone noticed that he’s 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 1.19 WHIP through 59.2 innings? Over his last three starts he’s gone six innings each time while allowing a total of four earned runs.
Justin Upton has 26 homer after a blast Wednesday night. He had 12 homers by the end of April.
Finally, check out Danny Valencia folks. He’s hitting .323 with eight homers in 41 games. That’s impressive. It gets better. He’s batting .373 against lefties this season (31-for-83). It get’s better. He’s batting .405 over his 42 at-bats in September. It gets better. Seriously. Over his last 69 at-bats he’s batting .406 with four bombs and 13 RBIs. Don’t know if you noticed or not, but he’s flat out killing it right now.
By Ray Flowers
I was thinking about my Vegas trip over the weekend. Seems like I should move to either Vegas or Hawaii. Odd how I could be so attracted to both spots given how vastly different that they are. I’m leaning Hawaii. Something about the warm breeze on the beach beats the clubs in Vegas and both spots have copious amounts of beautiful women, and this guy is a fan of that. Oh wait, this isn’t a “Dear Diary” website is it? Let’s get back to the baseball.
It’s pretty much too late to matter, at least for his season long totals, but Alex Avila is white-hot. Seriously. Avila is batting .500 in 22 at-bats in September, an over his last 26 games he’s batting .322 with 21 RBIs. How impressive is that from a guy who was left for dead and is owned in less than 20 percent of leagues over at Fleaflicker.com?
Say what you want about Ryan Braun and his PED use, but you have to give him a wee bit of credit. He took responsibility for what he did and there is this – he’s personally called some Brewers’ season ticket holders to apologize. On the field, I cannot understand how people are questioning whether Braun is a keeper for 2014. Of course he’s still a top-25 player, without question.
Tony Cingrani‘s back woes have flared up again and that’s calling into question whether or not he will start again this season for the Reds. The club had thought that Johnny Cueto would return from his late June lat pull and work out of the bullpen, but it’s possible he might be returned to the rotation if Cingrani can’t go. (1) I can’t trust Cueto. Great talent, but he’s been injured so many times this season I don’t want to be relying on him right now. (2) Cingrani has been great this season. He’s surprised me. Not only has he maintained an All-Star set of ratios – he has a 2.92 ERA and 1.10 WHIP – but he’s still punching out fools with a 10.32 K/9 mark. Still, there’s no way he keeps his ERA under three moving forward with a 0.77 GB/FB ratio, .241 BABIP and 82.1 percent left on base percentage.
Billy Hamilton made his first appearances in the field Tuesday and went 0-for-2. He’s stole four bases in four attempts for the Reds, but he’s still in search of his first hit.
Raul Ibanez is hitting only .252, but let’s give the 41 year old some props. He’s blasted 27 homers, driven in 62 runs and he’s posted a .505 SLG. For his age, that’s a remarkable effort.
DJ LeMahieu has a hit in 12-straight games for the Rockies. He’s batting .388 during the streak, and he’s hitting .286 on the season. He’s also swiped 17 bags. He’s a nice NL-only option, but he’s not a power hitter and that kills his mixed league value. The player who really could be something in fantasy is Josh Rutledge. The middle infielder is hitting .500 over his last 18 at-bats with a homer and two steals. In 522 at-bats, covering 147 career games, Rutledge has 15 homers, 17 steals, 56 RBIs and 77 runs scored. Yep, he could be a fantasy star. Of course he’s hitting only .233 on the season and .255 in his career, but he can fill the counting categories very well if the Rockies chose to let him play everyday over DJL.
Hunter Pence has gone 20/20. Were you aware of that? Pence also knocked in six RBIs last night pushing his fantasy line to impressive levels: .289-20-79-79-21. That makes 6-straight years for Pence with 20 homers and 75 runs scored. He also needs one RBI for a 4th straight campaign with at least 80 RBIs. He’s a fine ball player.
Last season Alex Rios hit .304 with 25 homers, 91 RBIs, 93 runs scored and 23 steals. People thought it was a fluke. It wasn’t. Rios has killed it with the Rangers this season hitting .312 with four homers, 17 runs scored and 10 steals in just 28 games. Add that effort on to what he did in Chicago and you’ve got an excellent follow up effort to last season: .284-16-68-74-36. Don’t overlook him next season, though I’m sure many will yet again.
Who are the top-3 hitters in the NL right now? There isn’t a person on the planet who would have predicted the trio: Chris Johnson (.330), Michael Cuddyer (.330) and Jayson Werth (.328). Johnson has somehow done it with a horrific 0.25 BB/K rate and he’s scored just 49 runs on the season. Cuddyer has 20 homers and 10 steals in addition to the average. Werth has a .401 OBP, .949 OPS, 23 homers, 71 RBIs and 74 runs scored (wow is right). The guy who is 4th in the NL in batting average is Andrew McCutchen. With a homer and three steals he’ll be a 20/20 performer. He’s batting .327 (including 15 hits in nine September games), has a .405 OBP an a .519 SLG. Toss in 79 RBIs and 88 runs scored and you’ve got, yet again, one of the best overall fantasy performers in the game in McC.
Justin Fensterman and Trevor Ray dive into the first week of the fantasy football season. They will discussing the Thursday Night Football game. They will preview a few key matchups but don’t worry fantasy baseballers they discuss some key September call ups and activations.
NFL: Julius Thomas, Peyton Manning, Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno, Bernard Pierce, Shane Vereen, Robert Woods, Fred Jackson, Ryan Tannehill, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller
MLB: Jose Bautista, Billy Hamilton, Emilio Bonifacio, Michael Wacha, Charlie Morton, Jason Grilli
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I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day, though I can’t remember the last time I had it off (something inherently wrong with that isn’t there?). Your intrepid fantasy forecaster is still hard at work trying to help all of you that are still playing for a fantasy championship.
Patrick Corbin… uh oh. Not only has he fallen from 9-0 to 13-5, that means he’s 4-5 in his last nine decisions, but he’s been bombed the last two times he’s taken the hill allowing 14 runs, 13 earned, over 10.1 innings. His second half ERA is 4.47 while his WHIP has been 1.26, well above the 2.96 and 1.07 marks he has for the season. I warned you…
Zack Greinke just keeps on going. He allowed one run and two hits Sunday in his first September start after going 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA in August. This is the guy the Dodgers, and his fantasy owners, paid for. With his run of success of late his season numbers once again look fantastic: 14-3, 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP with 119 Ks in 148.2 innings.
Billy Hamilton is now a Cincinnati Red. He is fast. Biggest understatement I will make all day. Perhaps all week. He is blazing fast. Billy stole 103 bases in 2011 then set an all-time record last season with 155 thefts. He’s only got 75 this season in 123 games at Triple-A, but you get the point. The inclination is for everyone to run out and add him. Sure, it’s fine to do that. Still, expectation check folks. (1) There is NO spot in the Reds’ lineup for Hamilton to play on a daily basis. He’s likely to be a spot starter at best who spends time pinch hitting or pinch running. (2) He’s really not a very good hitter. In 123 games at Triple-A this season he’s hit .256 with a .308 OBP and .343 SLG. Toss in just 38 walks and 102 strikeouts and you’ve got… a poor hitter. You can add him and hope he steals 10 bases in September but I have two words for you – Dee Gordon.
Jonathon Niese will have to battle Aaron Harang for a rotation spot. Of course I’m kidding. The Mets are in such sad shape that they recently brought in Daisuke Matsuzaka and signed Harang Monday. As for Niese, he had some cramps in his left calf, but he fully expects to make his next start. Niese owns a mere 6-6 record, but he’s sporting a 3.66 ERA over 19 outings (he was at 3.40 last year in 30 starts). His 1.47 WHIP is brutal though, so he’s really nothing more than an NL-only option or spot starter in mixed leagues, though that 2.14 second half ERA sure is tempting.
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Yusmeiro Petit, he’s on the Giants if you were wondering, might be making Barry Zito irrelevant. Petit allowed two runs Sunday over six innings against the D’backs and is staking his claim to a spot in the starting rotation. That’s 17.1 innings with the Giants an a 3.12 ERA , 1.33 WHIP and 11.94 K/9 mark. Yeah those K’s really stand out. A streaming option anyone? He’s likely on your waiver-wire right now since he’s only owned in three percent of leagues at Fleaflicker.com.
Mark Reynolds has been a positive contributor in the Bronx. In 14 games with the Yankees the beleaguered slugger has hit .286 with two bombs, seven RBIs an a .875 OPS. Not world beating, but playable for sure.
Anthony Rizzo has been effective this season. He’s in the top-10 in the NL with 21 homers, and his 67 walks have him inside the top-5, but he’s not exactly stood out as hoped for the Cubs. Rizzo is batting a Carlos Pena like .232. That’s unacceptable. His OBP, even with all the walks, is just a league average .326. His SLG percentage, even with the homers, is barely better than the league average at .430. There’s also the fact that his OPS per month tells a sad story: .846, .807, .745, .701 and .667. Not good.
What happened to you CC Sabathia? He’s never pitched worse than he is right now with a 7.38 ERA over his last 46.1 innings. Impossible to start him at the moment.
Finally, Koji Uehara is a special reliever. Through 61.1 innings this season he owns a 1.17 ERA and 0.62 WHIP. Yep, not a mistype, those are accurate numbers. He’s also striking out a career best 12.18 batters per nine and his 9.22 K/BB ratio has pushed his career mark up to 8.26. No pitcher who has ever lived and pitched at least 270 innings at the big league level has a better mark.
By Ray Flowers
Aaron Hicks, Darin Mastroianni, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, Dan Straily, Tony Cingrani, Billy Hamilton, Wil Myers
Tout Wars is one of the two exclusive fantasy baseball events each year (the other is LABR which I participated in earlier in March). Thanks to the powers that be I was invited to New York to put together a squad in Tout Wars for the second straight year. Below, you will see how my team came together, and I’ll give some thoughts about the entire weekend, which by the way, was a total blast (gotta be the greatest group of folks anyone can work with).
15 team mixed league auction.
14 hitters (2 C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, 5 OFs, UT)
nine pitchers (any mix of starters and relievers)
$260 salary cap
* This league is using OBP in place of batting average. It’s still a 5×5 league, just with that one change.
* Numbers in () are prices paid for each player.
* This league also has a shallow bench, only four spots. However, there is also an unlimited amount of DL spots beyond the four bench spots meaning a player on the DL does not take up a bench spot – i.e. players who start the year on the DL can be replaced with players off the waiver-wire.
C: John Jaso ($6), Tyler Flowers (4)
1B: Eric Hosmer (17)
2B: Howie Kendrick (12), Emilio Bonifacio (6), Daniel Murphy (Reserve)
3B: Martin Prado (14), Manny Machado (6), Pablo Sandoval (14), Alex Rodriguez (Res)
SS: Derek Jeter (7)
OF: Carlos Gonzalez (36), Bryce Harper (33), Domonic Brown (6), Jon Jay (4), Cameron Maybin (6), Billy Hamilton (Res)
Jaso is a solid hitter, and in an OBP league he’s a lot better option than in “normal” leagues (he had an elite .394 OBP last season). Flowers an I are not related but can you blame me for drafting my namesake? He has power and his OBP should be about league average.
Hosmer has had a killer spring, and you know I expect a bounce back (see his Player Profile). Machado may not have a strong OBP, but the rest of his game should be very solid for the price. Sandoval has that elbow issue, so there is uncertainty. I could have used my money elsewhere (another arm perhaps, see below for more on that), but when I saw him sitting there for such a cheap price I had to take the plunge. A-Rod goes to the DL, and I’ll grab another player.
Kendrick will never get to the level some hoped for, but he’s always solid across the board (see his Player Profile). He does take a bit of a hit in an OBP league though. Murphy was a nice reserve round add. I’ll be able to place him on the DL and add another player (a shortstop), to fill out my lineup. Wait, how does Emilio qualify at second? In Tout there is a 15 game per position requirement, not 20. Emilio appeared in 15 games at second base last season. Prado also qualifies in the outfield, and by this point I think everyone knows I’m a big fan.
Jeter isn’t great, and it looks like he’ll miss the first week of the season, but for $7 who is gonna complain? Not I.
CarGo on my team everyone understands, but Harper? I like Harper, but I’m not predicting a top-10 season this year like others are. “So Ray, why is he on your team then?’ I tossed out Harper at $33 and then… crickets. I was very surprised that no one said $34. Did I miscalculate? Certainly seems that way, though it’s not an obnoxious bid (Stanton went for $34, the same Price as Justin Upton to make me feel a little better, but when other 20/20 types in the outfield went for much less – Choo $25, Cespedes $24, Heyward $31 – let’s just say I wasn’t overly excited). There is no doubt Harper has the talent to justify that bid, just wouldn’t have been my first choice. Brown has had a tremendous spring, and there aren’t any more talented outfielders that went for less than $6. Jay isn’t exciting to most, but he is a .300 career hitter who had a .373 OBP with 19 steals last season in 117 games played. Maybin will struggle in OBP, but his wrist seems healthy. There’s a 15/40 season lurking here. Hamilton was a total shot in the dark reserve add. Normally I wouldn’t have done that, but since I have two injured guys I can place on the DL, I figured I could add Hamilton at little risk.
Yes, that was me at 2 AM at Foley’s shooting a double shot of Jameson. Take that Kay Adams. That’s right, the Oracle doesn’t just drink fruity drinks (check out the shocked look on Kay’s face in this photo… that’s the Oracle on the left and Kyle Elfrink on the right). Well, I do most of the time…
I love Cliff Lee. He’s a top-5 option in my mind. He gave me six wins last year in Tout, but I’m doubling down on him this season. I might have paid a dollar or two more when compared to other similar arms, but I feel like I made that back when I got Greinke for just $14. Morrow for a dollar less has a lot of up as well. That’s a pretty strong trio in my mind. Add in veterans like Hudson and Dempster and that’s a solid core. I also felt really good about Volquez in the reserves. He had an ERA under three with a WHIP in the 1.20′s and darn near a K per inning in his home starts last season.
As usual, I like my pen. I snagged Adams with an early bid, and he’s a dominant arm when healthy. Romo might have gone for a dollar or two more than he should have, but I’ve long said he’s a top-10 reliever in baseball if he can stay healthy. Some are worried about the varied performance of Hanrahan in Spring. I’m not. Jose Veras is no great shakes but he’s been over 10 Ks per nine the past three years and he appears to be the Astros main option in the 9th.
Some final thoughts.
My team has a ton of speed but might be a bit thin on power. I’ll address that at some point on the trade market once I get clear on the steals.
My staff needs another arm. I’ll almost certainly add one in the first waiver period with one of my two DL spot openings (I will use the other spot to get a shortstop to help cover until Jeter returns).
I usually limp slowly into drafts, but I went a bit bigger than normal thanks to the Harper add. That was unfortunate too. This draft would have played perfectly into my hands if I done my normal start slow, wade into the water slowly thing. As it was, I spent big early on some folks and that meant in the middle rounds, when a lot of “my guys” were going for less than market value, I just didn’t have the cash to spend (this was particularly evident on the hill – Lincecum for $10, Gallardo $15, Zimmerman $13, Wilson $8). I really hope I don’t regret not having the cash to spend on Lincecum. Hell, if I had gotten that foursome for $46 I would have felt flipping fantastic.
Best Picks: Bonifacio/Maybin for $6 each, Greinke for $14.
Worst Pick: Harper for $33 (only because it wasn’t my plan, not cause I hate the player).
Click on the link to see the 2013 Mixed Tout results.
By Ray Flowers
Dylan Bundy, the Orioles uber-prospect who was chosen #4 overall in last years draft leading to him being named the #10 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, has started out his professional career as if he has no intention of spending much time in the minors. Through five starts in A-Ball he’s walked two batters in 17 innings while he has allowed one hit. That’s three base runners in 17 innings leading to a 0.18 WHIP. He’s also fanned 25 batters and not allowed a run. Time to move him up a level already Orioles?
Zack Cozart is hitting a solid .271 for the season, but that’s likely a disappointment to his owners since he was hitting .342 ten games into the season. Like I said all preseason, and into the season when he was tearing it up, Cozart isn’t at a point in his development when he should be expected to perform at all-star levels. After his recent downturn in production at the dish Cozart is on pace to hit .271 with seven homers, 30 RBI and seven steals. Hate to tell you I told you so but…
Anyone out there realize that Adrian Gonzalez hit .271 with two homers an a .737 OPS in April? As I wrote three weeks ago in Panic In The Streets, AGone hit only one homer last April before finishing the year with 27 bombs so it’s certainly not panic time. However, he did hit .314 with a .836 OPS in a better first stanza to the season last year. For his career his April has led to a .288 batting average and .856 OPS with the OPS being the second lowest of any month from April through September. If you’ve read my stuff you know my thoughts on Gonzalez, but the guy has hit 29 homers in 181 games as a Red Sox. Are you ready to finally admit that I was right back in January of last year when I warned that Adrian may not produce huge homer totals playing half his games at Fenway Park? See ADP Riser: Adrian Gonzalez.
Billy Hamilton of the Reds might be the fastest man in the sport. Rated the 48th best prospect in the game coming into the 2012 season by Baseball America, Hamilton stole 103 bases last year as a 20 year old in Single-A ball. This season he’s off to a stupendous, and that isn’t a term I throw around lightly, pace with the bat as he’s hit .398 through 23 games at High-A ball. But what about the speed you say? Try this on for size. In those 23 games Hamilton has stolen 29 bases to give him 132 steals in his last 158 games. He isn’t likely to appear in the bigs this season, but dynasty leaguers you had better be aware of a guy who plays shortstop who owns the skills of Vince Coleman.
At this point, meaning when I wrote this piece, there are two greatly differing reports on the health of Evan Longoria. One report suggests he has a hamstring or knee situation that may or may not result in him being placed on the DL. The other reports suggests that it’s a hamstring issue that could keep him out for 6-8 weeks. As a Longoria owner I almost upchucked my breakfast this morning when I heard the 6-8 week line of though. Let’s hope that the report was premature and that Longoria will be back in a relatively short period of time cause losing Longo for two months would be a devastating blow to his fantasy squads.
Jed Lowrie is hitting .297 and here we go again. I’m getting questions about people in mixed leagues who really want to add him to the mix. I’ll repeat the same thing I’ve been saying for two years – he’s not that good. For his career his slash line is completely big league average at .256/.328/.409. He’s also stolen only four bases in his career and per 140 games he’s a 12 homer bat. Yippee doodle. It should also be noted that though Lowrie has hit .304 in the month of April in his career that his May-October batting average is .243.
Stephen Strasburg has been as dominating as any pitcher in baseball with a 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 34 Ks in 32 innings to start the 2012 season. The most amazing part of his effort though may be this: Strasburg has allowed 22 hits in his 32 innings, and the breakdown is 20 singles, two doubles, zero triples and zero home runs. That’s two extra base hits in 32 innings folks. Wow.
By Ray Flowers