(3) Chris Perez popped for dope.
By Ray Flowers
(3) Chris Perez popped for dope.
By Ray Flowers
The Braves dealt Tommy Hanson to the Angels in exchange for reliever Jordan Walden. Yes, the Walden that opened the year as the closer for the Angels last season. With the Angels adding Ryan Madson they felt they could deal the hard throwing right-hander (Walden didn’t have a great season last year, but don’t forget that he saved 32 games in 2011 and that he owns a 10.83 K/9 mark over 123 big league games). The Braves now possess, arguably, the top-foursome of any pen in baseball: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Walden. With the way the game is played these days, have an elite bullpen seems to be as important as having an elite starting rotation. But this piece is about the tall righty who at one point was looked at as a potential top-20 starting pitcher in the fantasy game. What should we make of the flailing Tommy Hanson?
As a rookie Hanson went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA. In his second season he passed 200 innings while posting a 3.33 ERA. In his first three seasons his WHIP was 1.18, 1.17 and 1.17. So happy times ahead, right? Well, not so much. What that data leaves out is that Hanson tossed only 130 innings in 2011 as healthy woes started to mount. Last season his ERA skyrocketed to 4.48, his WHIP went into the stratosphere at 1.45, and he posted a four year low in BB/9 (3.66) and K/BB (2.27). What went wrong with Hanson? His shoulder wasn’t 100 percent. The result was a loss of three mph off his fastball from 2010 to 2012 (92.7 to 89.7 mph). The loss of velocity caused him to nibble more driving his pitch counts up. As a result he made 31 starts but was only able to last 174.2 innings. To compare, in 2010 he made three more starts but hurled 28 more innings.
If you can’t tell, let me just spell it out. Hanson, previously one of my favorite young hurlers in the game, makes me nervous. When a guy who is this young (26 years old) has these kind of issues, the red flag goes up. I’ve written previously about Hanson and his somewhat odd mechanics (I wrote about that issue back in February of 2012 in The Old, The Young and The Pretty). I always felt that a potential land mine in his development was that wonky mechanical issues he has where he seems to be fighting his body a bit as he comes over the top in a rather disjointed movement. Was the mechanical issue a reason for his struggles with health in 2012? That certainly seems possible. Whatever the issue, unless he is able to reclaim those lost three mph his outlook isn’t getting any better any time soon.
Numbers wise, here are some of the concerns.
Last season his ERA was 4.48. His first three seasons that mark was 3.28.
Last season his WHIP was 1.45. His first three seasons that mark was 1.17.
Last season his K/BB ratio was 2.27. His first three seasons that mark was 2.89.
You could argue that even with those struggles that he still posted a 1.01 GB/FB (career 0.99), a 74.1 left on base percentage (career 74.9) and that his ’12 numbers in line drive rate (20.7) and HR/F (13.5) were virtual matches for his ’11 numbers (20.5 and 12.5). I would counter with this. Since July 15th of 2011 Hanson has made 36 starts that have led to the following numbers: 14-13, 4.96 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.37 K/BB ratio over 201.1 innings. Since the middle of the 2011 season Hanson hasn’t even been a league average hurler.
A young pitcher struggling with health, coming off his worst season, moving to an unfavorable league and one who is likely to see a massive increase in salary as he heads to arbitration makes Hanson a certain risk to take on for the Angels. There should also be plenty of concern the the fantasy game with Hanson. All of the negative points I made in this piece are valid concerns. Given the overall down turn in his work last season, and the fact that he’s averaged just 152 innings pitched the last two years, you had better think long and hard about making him anything other than your 4th starting pitcher in mixed leagues, and that might even be a bit optimistic. I’m off the Hanson train for now. He’ll have to prove to me that he can be successful before I elevate him back onto my target list.
By Ray Flowers
On Sunday night on Livin’ the Fantasy on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, we did a mock draft. Given that I’ve done so many mock drafts, an it gets old dominating every time (I’m so modest), I thought I would change things up an implement a crazy plan to see if I could do something highly unconventional (to say the least), and still put together a squad to be feared. Before I get to how my team turned out, here are the rules.
Hitters: C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, UT
Pitcher: Any nine
Drafting out of the nine hole, I decided to see what would happen if I started out taking 5-straight outfielders. Check out the powerhouse outfield I was able to assemble in the first five rounds, it’s as impressive a unit as you’ll come across – Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino. Down Crawford for his poor performance in 2011, and Upton for his poor batting average, but that’s as dynamic a group of five outfielders you could possibly assemble. All five men are going 15/15 in 2012 if they are healthy, and it’s possible, even if not probable, that all five could go 20/20.
You’re saying to yourself – well that’s great Ray but your team is going to stink since you took this tact at the draft table. My reply is hogwash. Let’s take a look at my offensive squad.
C: Yadier Molina, Chris Iannetta
1B: Mark Reynolds
2B: Howie Kendrick
3B: Pablo Sandoval
MI/CI: Daniel Murphy, Martin Prado
OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino
UT: Alex Rios
I have a couple of average killers in Upton, Reynolds an Iannetta, but I was able to add Prado who should bounce back to hit .300 (see his Player Profile) and Daniel Murphy (see his Player Profile) to help offset those guys (not to mention .300 types like Sandoval, Kendrick and CarGo that I also rostered). I’ve also got positional flexibility with the following guys qualifying in at least two spots: Reynolds, Kendrick, Murphy and Prado. I really like this unit, and if a guy like Alex Rios bounces back like I hope/expect (see his Player Profile) then this unit will be terrific.
OK, so my offense rocked, but what about my pitching? This is where PART II of my plan came into being. Not only did I take five outfielders with my first five picks, I waited until the 14th round to take my first pitcher (I took my last offensive player, my second catcher, in round 23, but from rounds 14-22 it was pitcher-rama). So my staff must be awful waiting that long to grab arms right? You be the judge.
OK my ratios may not be great, but I three closers (Madson, Nathan and Francisco) who could give me 90 saves. I also grabbed Jansen who might be one of the five most electric pitchers in baseball. If he closes 30 saves will happen. If he serves as a setup man in Los Angeles he might lead all relievers in baseball in strikeouts. Either way, this is an impressive foursome out of the bullpen (since I waited so long on starters I thought it would make sense to try and build a strong group of relievers to challenge for the lead in saves and to also help keep my ratios in check).
As for my starters, again, their ratios may not impress. But I ask you this – how many other teams in the league have five starters who appear to be well on their way to at least 150 strikeouts? Look at these strikeout totals from last year: Morrow (203), Dempster (191), Luebke (154 in 139.2 IP), Nolasco (148) and Norris (176). Remember that I didn’t take a single hurler until the 14th round. I’ll take a staff with power arms like this almost every day of the week.
Could a team like this, heck could this team, win a championship? I certainly think it could. I also hope that this little off kilter operation will help to point out that you don’t have to, no matter what anyone says, jump into the pitcher hopper early in drafts (in this draft pitchers went way too early with seven taken in the first 28 picks). Remember, I would still, in an actual draft, have six or seven bench rounds to bolster my pitching staff, and that opportunity to build more depth would certainly provide me plenty of chances to grab some arms that could bring me solid performances in 2012. It may have not come about in a conventional manner, but I like the way this squad turned out. What about you?
By Ray Flowers
Here are the answers to some of the questions that I have recently received at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
Carlos Pena or Michael Bourn ROTW?
There is a fundamental misunderstanding in how to evaluate players in many instances as people have a hard time placing a value on a player who does nothing but steal bases (i.e. Bourn). Here’s some knowledge that should help.
(1) From 2008 to 2010 there were 14,533 home runs and 8,728 steals (for every homer hit there were 0.6 stolen bags the past three years). Obviously steals are the scarcer commodity and therefore, the more valuable in a straight up comparison.
(2) Not only are steals more difficult to come by, they are more tightly grouped in a smaller number of players. From 2008-2010 there were 256 individual seasons of 20 homers. In that same time frame there were 118 individual seasons of 20 steals. That’s better than a 2-to-1 margin in favor of the 20 homer hitter.
Given these facts, steals are more valuable than homers in the fantasy game in terms of their inherent value in a vacuum because of their scarcity. Of course there are five offensive categories, so you can’t just compare A to B and get the picture in 1080p in HD, but you get the point.
Bourn is an elite base stealer. He’s swiped at least 52 bases while scoring at least 84 runs the past two years, totals that make him a boon to fantasy clubs even if he averaged a mere three homers and 37 RBI over the two years. Let’s take a look at how Bourn ranked, in terms of his fantasy value, at two of the biggest providers in fantasy baseball the past two years.
Bourn 2009: # 26 overall at CBS, #76 overall at Yahoo
Bourn 2010: #68 overall at CBS, #126 overall at Yahoo
Let’s compare that to Pena, a slugging, sloth like, average killer.
Pena 2009: # 147 overall at CBS, #99 overall at Yahoo
Pena 2010: #370 overall at CBS, # 287overall at Yahoo
Both sites use player raters that evaluate players a bit differently, but it should be clear that they are both saying that an elite speed option like Bourn is immanently more valuable than a slugging first baseman like Pena who kills your batting average.
You can find homers all over the place at first base, so a guy like Pena has no business being in a discussion for a 1-for-1 deal for an elite base stealer like Bourn.
I traded Hanley Ramirez for Michael Morse & Martin Prado. Have J.J. Hardy to replace. Good trade? 12 team h2h.
Hanley is on fire, finally, with eight hits in five games. Oddly, some seem to have forgotten that he is an elite talent because of injury and poor production this year. He has no shot at matching the numbers that were expected from him, the numbers that made him a top-5 selection in all drafts this year, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be an elite level performer in the second half of the season.
Morse has been an absolute beast this year hitting .303 with 15 homers and 46 RBI in just 231 at-bats. Since he qualifies at first and outfield he is even more valuable that if he was just rooted at one position. He’s also had success wherever he has played his games with a .303/.345/.545 line at home and .303/.361/.576 slash line on the road. Prado is an established .300 hitter who qualifies at multiple positions on the diamond. His staph infection also appears to be under control, and he’s just about ready to start ramping up his physical work. He should be back before the All-Star break.
As for your replacement at shortstop, Hardy has been great this year – when on the field. He’s clearly brittle, injuries are part of his game, so you should be wary of depending too heavily on him. A solid power bat, there’s little change he will be able to remain at his current pace that would net 30 homers in a full season, and since he’s never hit higher than .283 and owns a career .265 average you also should be concerned about his ability to hit .304 all year long.
If Prado was healthy and hitting .300, I don’t think anyone would accept just Hanley for that duo with Ramirez underperforming so badly. At this point of the year you have to be pragmatic though. I’d accept the deal under the proviso that it’s a risk since the health of Prado is uncertain at the moment.
I give up Matt Joyce and Neil Walker for Brandon Phillips. Thoughts?
Joyce has predictably fallen on hard times hitting .176 with one homer in June, but let’s not overlook the fact that he’s on pace to hit .300 with 20 homers and 80 RBI (he’s at .313-10-38 through 71 games). Everyone would have taken that at the draft table. Walker has been a disappointment to some as he’s hitting .252 with a .711 OPS a year after hitting .296 with a .811 OPS, but it’s hard to be too down a second sacker who is on pace to go deep 15 times with 100 RBI and 80 runs scored isn’t it?
Phillips has gone bonkers of late hitting .500 over his last 32 at-bats to bring his season long mark up to .299. Yes his power is down with only six homers on the year, but he is still on pace to better 85 RBI and 100 runs scored. It is odd though that a guy who has stolen 23 or more bags in four of five years isn’t even on pace for double-digit thefts.
There is no disputing that Phillips is the elite level performer of these three. It’s tough to give up all the counting stats that you lose if you deal Joyce and Walker, but I’d give the thumbs up for this deal provided you had an option you could easily slide into the vacant outfield spot.
Who closes for the Phillies with Ryan Madson on DL?
First it was Brad Lidge, then Jose Contreras, then Ryan Madson as the arm the Phillies were going to count on in the 9th inning.
Lidge is on the DL with an elbow issue, and after a cortisone shot last week he’s finally back at it and rearing to go. The club hopes he will be able to return before the All-Star break. Contreras just went on the DL, again, this time for a strained forearm that will likely keep him out for about 4-6 weeks. Madson was placed on the DL today with a bruised hand that is causing him some numbness. At this point, it’s not clear when he will be back, so a return in 15 days isn’t guaranteed.
So who do the Phillies turn to? I think it has to be Antonio Bastardo, the lefty who has all of two saves in his career. Bastardo has been nails this year with a 0.96 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over 28 innings as he has used his fastball-slider combo to great effect. With a 10.61 K/9 mark he certainly has the ability to generate outs, but there are a couple of major concerns. (1) His BB/9 mark is 4.18, and that is far from ideal. (2) He allows 57 percent of batted balls to go in the air. Given that number it’s a shock that his HR/9 mark is only 0.64. It could easily rise, substantially. (3) As good as his stuff is, there’s no way Bastardo is going to be able to hold batters to a .120 average all year, especially when you notice that his BABIP is .153.
Given the total uncertainty with the Phillies’ bullpen it makes all the sense in the world to add Bastardo in any situation if you need help in the saves category, even if there is no certainty whatsoever about how long he will be asked to close, or how he will handle the pressure of the 9th inning.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87.
By Ray Flowers
photo © 1913 The Library of Congress | more info (via: Wylio)
One of the most frustrating situations to deal with in the world of fantasy baseball is to accurately predict which arms will operate in the 9th inning for a club. There are locks with guys like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon and Brian Wilson, but a good deal of teams either (a) don’t really know who their 9th inning arm will be or (b) don’t really have an arm that is capable of handling the role for the duration of the season. That situation has never been more acute than early in the 2011 season.
The Rays said they would roll with a committee to start the year, but Kyle Farnsworth is getting all the 9th inning work.
The Jays had a bunch of guys get hurt making the situation even more muddled. For now, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco are likely to get work in the 9th.
The Orioles say Kevin Gregg is their closer, but Koji Uehara is lurking.
The Twins started the year with Joe Nathan in the 9th, but he struggled. Matt Capps is currently their arm of choice at the end of games.
The White Sox opened the year with Matt Thornton. Unfortunately he had the worst 5-game stretch of his career opening up the year. Jesse Crain and Chris Sale have struggled at times, so now it appears Sergio Santos might get a look.
The Rangers have lost Neftali Feliz to the DL leaving things, apparently, in the hands of Darren Oliver. He has four saves in 602 career appearances.
The Mariners seem ready to demote the successful Brandon League with David Aardsma almost ready to return from hip surgery.
The Phillies started with Brad Lidge who was hurt. They then moved on to Jose Contreras who was hurt. Looks like option #3 is Ryan Madson.
The Nationals started the year giving the ball to Sean Burnett, but he really isn’t a closer. Drew Storen, the club’s closer of the future, has looked great and it appears that he is now the man.
The Braves were going to split work between Craig Kimbrel and Johnny Venters, but it’s been all Kimbrel so far.
The Cardinals watched Ryan Franklin implode, repeatedly, before turning over the ninth to hard throwing, but inexperienced, Mitchell Boggs.
And it goes on and on, and we are talking about three weeks of games folks.
The point should be obvious – drafting relievers because of the roles they hold, and not based on the skills that they posses, is fraught with danger. Think of it. Of the 30 teams in the game a third of them have already switched things around in the ninth inning. And we see this every year. Put yourself back into your time machine and set the dial for March, 2010. Look at the following names who likely weren’t even drafted at all, or if they were selected it was only as a late round, shot in the dark, type of gamble in the last round.
Leo Nunez – 30 saves
John Axford – 24 saves
John Rauch – 20 saves
Alfredo Simon – 17 saves
Juan Gutierrez – 15 saves
Koji Uehara – 13 saves
Hong-Chih Kuo – 10 saves
There are arms every year that come totally out of nowhere – i.e. from the waiver-wire – to produce solid and sometimes difference making saves totals. 2011 will be no different pointing out, yet again, why you don’t always have to jump into the closer run on draft day. Just think if you passed on all the top closers this year and were astute about which middle relievers to roster at the end of the draft. It’s eminently conceivable that you could have ended up with Brian Fuentes (six saves), Jose Contreras (five saves), Brandon League (five saves) and Mitchell Boggs (three saves) on your roster. If you had done that you’d have rostered 19 saves for virtually nothing. What type of odds would you lay right now that 19 saves is similar to the totals you’ll likely get from guys like Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma this season?
In the end I think we need a new system to evaluate relievers. The way the system is currently set up rewards luck. Were you the first to run to the waiver wire to add Contreras when Lidge was hurt? Did you drop a quarter of your FAAB budget on Contreras only to see him come down with an injury? Were you smart enough to also add Ryan Madson? What about a guy like Mike Adams who has out pitched them all (0.82 ERA, 0.18 WHIP, 9.00 K/BB) but one who’s really not posting any fantasy value to speak of in a mixed league cause he has no saves?
My solution? I propose the fantasy game goes with Solds, a topic I discussed a year ago in Around the Horn, April 14, 2010. It’s not a perfect solution, but at least it’s a start.
By Ray Flowers
I’m gonna switch it up a bit today in honor of the start of the 2011 season. Instead of going in depth on a couple of questions, I’m going to answer some quick hitters that I received at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
12 team 5×5 mixed league. Kila Ka’aihue or Mark Trumbo?
No team scares the bejesus out of me more than the Royals who never, and I mean never, seem to have a consistent plan. Take the case of Alex Gordon. He’s been demoted to the minors, asked to switch positions, and basically marginalized by the team. He goes to spring training this year, tears it up at the dish, and now seems likely to open the year in the third hole in the batting order. That makes total sense to me.
Ka’aihue should have been playing full-time in Kansas City last year. With Eric Hosmer coming quickly, the Royals need to determine if they truly have something in Kila since both guys play first base (and don’t forget about Billy Butler who really should be a DH). Kila has 25-30 homer pop, and the young man knows the strike zone (last year he had 88 walks and 69 Ks at Triple-A). He has the exact kind of patient/power approach that teams crave at first base. His future appears to be pretty bright after a strong spring and the Royals finally deciding to commit to him as a full-time player.
Trumbo was a monster at Triple-A last year (.299-36-122), and has looked capable of providing a ton of power this season if we look at his spring training numbers (.297-6-20 with a .978 OPS in 25 games). At the same time, I worry about where he will play once Kendrys Morales returns to action (potentially by mid to late April). The issue is this – the Angels have one to many players for 1B/OF/DH. For those five spots they have six guys: Trumbo, Morales, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos. The key to Trumbo’s playing time is likely Bourjos. If he hits enough to get on base and use his 40+ stolen base wheels he’ll be in the lineup everyday (I didn’t even mention his defense which some consider to be as good as any outfielder in baseball) leaving Trumbo without a consistent spot in the lineup.
If choosing between these two first basemen I’d take Kila.
People seem down on Ryan Franklin. Would you swap him for Joel Hanrahan or Drew Storen?
Far too many people seem reluctant to tab Hanrahan this year, and I just don’t get it. Just compare his numbers versus Franklin last season.
Hanrahan: 12.92 K/9, 3.85 K/BB, 1.05 GB/FB
Franklin: 5.82 K/9, 4.20 K/BB, 1.15 GB/FB
Everything being equal, I’ll take the guy who strikes out twice as many guys and doesn’t rely on smoke and mirrors to get outs.
Storen has looked completely lost at times this spring, and the plan in Washington right now is to go with some sort of committee approach which could be led by Sean Burnett. Do yourself a favor and grab Hanrahan. It might now work out, but he is the hurler I’d take without question (for more on why that is see How to Evaluate Relievers).
With Brad Lidge out for a couple months who’s the safer pick – Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras?
Madson is by far the “safer” selection (see Radiant Relievers). However, apparently no one in the Phillies organization realizes that fact as he has constantly taken a backseat to Brad Lidge for 9th inning work in recent years. With the news about the shoulder injury with Lidge, one that could keep him out of action well into June, that means Madson will finally be given the chance to close, right? Actually, no. It appears almost certain that the Phillies will call on Jose Contreras to take over closing duties. Contreras was dominant last year with more than a K per inning and an impressive 3.56 K/BB mark, but he is also “reportedly” 39 years old, had never posted a K/BB mark above 2.44 (albeit as a starter), and has four career saves. Contreras appears likely to have more early season value, but Madson is still the “safer” play based on his skill set.
Should I keep Justin Morneau at $18 in a 6×5 mixed. $260 budget? OPS is our 6th batting category.
I don’t have much faith in Morneau. He might go out and hit 25 homers with 100 RBI, but it’s a huge risk as he is still working his way back from a concussion. People seem to be thinking he is going to pick right up from last years level of production (.345-18-56 in 81 games), but I’m just not sold. First, he has a career .286 average and has only three seasons in his career over .275 if you include last season. Second, though his OPS was tremendous last year at 1.055, he’s only posted a mark over .880 one time in a full season (.934 in 2006). Third, and most obvious, is his health – will he be able to play everyday? Personally I wouldn’t have spent that much on Morneau, there’s just too much risk for me, but if he plays 145 games he’ll surely produce $18 worth of production.
Ryan Raburn is a better pick up than Logan Morrison?
Raburn is a player everyone seems really hot on right now. Do to popular demand, I wrote a piece about him entitled 2011 Player Profile: Ryan Raburn. Here’s a quick recap. He’s a great power option if he qualifies at second base, but as an outfielder he is merely a depth option. Regardless of where he qualifies, Raburn is still the choice between these two guys in my mind. Morrison could easily have the more productive big league career, but in terms of his fantasy value he is somewhat limited. He won’t steal many bases, he’s only swiped 23 over the past five years, and though he hit 24 homers at Single-A in 2007, he’s managed a mere 29 homers over his last 1,264 at-bats. His stroke is much more doubles oriented at the moment that one that will lift balls into the seats. His plate discipline is a strong suit, he could walk as many times as he strikes out which should allow him to produce an effective batting average, but without power or speed Morrison’s 5×5 value is somewhat limited.
What do you think of Tim Stauffer?
Stauffer is one of those pitchers who somehow has moved up 35 spots on some people’s draft boards despite never having thrown a pitch in a regular season game. Hell, some people probably didn’t even know who he was two months ago. I’m not one of those guys as I was trumpeting him back in January in 2011 Player Profile: Tim Stauffer. Bottom line, there’s a lot to like with this Padres’ hurler.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 211 and XM 147.
Photo by Nick Fisher
Earlier this week I released the 2011 Pitcher Capsules in a collaborative effort with Paul Sporer. Unlike hitters where I broke down everything you need to know in my 2011 Hitter Capsules, I didn’t have any input in terms of pitchers in the above linked guide. Therefore, I thought I would share with you my personal rankings for starting pitchers and relievers.
In this entry I’ll breakdown my top-50 relievers for 2011.
Pitchers in bold are hurlers I would target as values in drafts. I’ll also give some general thoughts at the end of the rankings.
1 Brian Wilson
2 Joakim Soria
3 Heath Bell
4 Carlos Marmol
5 Jonathan Papelbon
6 Jonathan Axford
7 Neftali Feliz
8 Mariano Rivera
9 Andrew Bailey
10 Joel Hanrahan
11 Chris Perez
12 Jose Valverde
13 Matt Thornton
14 Jonathan Broxton
15 Huston Street
16 Brad Lidge
17 J.J. Putz
18 Francisco Rodriguez
19 Leo Nunez
20 Ryan Franklin
21 Drew Storen
22 Francisco Cordero
23 Craig Kimbrel
24 Joe Nathan
25 Frank Francisco
26 Jake McGee
27 Kevin Gregg
28 Fernando Rodney
29 Brandon League
30 Brandon Lyon
31 Hong-Chih Kuo
32 Ryan Madson
33 Luke Gregerson
34 Aroldis Chapman
35 Matt Capps
36 Jonny Venters
37 Rafael Soriano
38 Evan Meek
39 Kenley Jansen
40 David Aardsma
41 Daniel Bard
42 Mike Adams
43 Chris Sale
44 Scott Downs
45 Koji Uehara
46 Joba Chamberlain
47 Brian Fuentes
48 Kyle Farnsworth
49 Alexi Ogando
50 Tyler Clippard
* I’d feel really comfortable with any of the top-15 closers on this list, then things start to get a bit spotty.
* Brad Lidge (16) has the full trust of his manager Charlie Manuel, so as long as he is healthy, even if his ratios are sub par, you have to think 30 saves are a given.
* J.J. Putz (17) has the skills to be an elite reliever – if he’s healthy.
* K-Rod (18) is a disaster off the field. On it, there are concerns about whether or not the Mets will limit his work late in the year since he has a clause in his contract that will give him $17.5 million in 2012 if he finishes 55 games this season.
* Leo Nunez (19) has all kinds of questions surrounding him after a late season collapse last year. Still, the guy got more than a K per inning last season and had a GB/FB ratio of 1.79. If he repeats those numbers, success will follow.
* Francisco Cordero (22) has Aroldis Chapman (34) to worry about, but I would be more concerned about the fact that his K/9 rate has fallen off a cliff. Look at his marks the past four years: 12.22, 9.98, 7.83 and 7.31.
* Young arms with strong skill sets can be found in the 20′s highlighted by Craig Kimbrel (23) and Jake McGee (26). Can Kimbrel throw enough strikes to hold off Jonny Venters (36) in Atlanta? Will McGee open the year as the Rays’ closer? I don’t know as the club might go with Kyle Farnsworth (48), but I expect McGee to have the better year.
* Good luck finding betters arms than hurlers 31-34: Hong-Chih Kuo, Ryan Madson, Luke Gregerson and Aroldis Chapman.
* Don’t forget about Mike Adams (42) in San Diego. I’m not certain that if something happened to Heath Bell that it wouldn’t be he, and not Gregerson, who would pitch the 9th inning.
* If the Rangers do the unexpected and ask Neftali Feliz (7) to fill a starting role, Alexi Ogando (49) could get a long look as the 9th inning arm since the club sent Frank Francisco (25) to the Blue Jays this offseason.
I’m a man of my word. On The Drive yesterday on SirusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (5-8 PM EST, Sirius211, XM147), we received a call from Jeff in North Carolina. He asked me what “targets” he should look to attain when building a team in a 12-team league (i.e. how many homers he would need to hit to win a 12-team league). As I said on the air I would get him an answer, and here it is in the form of a link to an article written by fantasy baseball expert Shawn Childs. Enjoy.
By Ray Flowers
In Part III of my review of the K-BAD experts draft at KFFL, I’ll wrap things up by breaking down my final eight selections and then giving a quick review of the squad I assembled. Here are some links that are pertinent to the piece as well.
* Note: All comments were written in real time meaning they were penned right after the choice was made (the draft is a “slow draft” type setup where people have two hours to make a selection as we are all squeezing in the draft during our busy work days).
Round 21-8: Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs
s a 5th outfielder, as long as he is healthy, Soriano should be fine. Looking at the available options, I just didn’t see many who could hit 25 homers while scoring/knocking in 90.
Round 22-5: Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox
I almost pulled the trigger on Floyd in the 20th round, so I pretty much had to take him in the 22nd. People always seem to neglect Floyd who has been stable, and pretty darn good the past two years.
Round 23-8: Brandon League, RP, Mariners
I’m not at all convinced that David Aardsma will be healthy and/or effective (he’s likely to miss the start of the year coming back from hip surgery). I wrote about this situation in A Hip that Makes You Hop.
Round 24-5: Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates
Honestly, this is a total shot in the dark. He’s the only catcher left on the board who I think could go .270-15-60, though he’ll need a trade to get anywhere close to that. He could be the first player I dump.
Round 25-8: James Loney, 1B, Dodgers
Boring, but I needed a corner infield option, and I certainly didn’t want to take Chipper Jones. Loney has little upside, but he does have 268 RBI the last three years which is, shockingly, seven more than Paul Konerko.
Round 26-5: Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers
I wanted to bolster my pitching staff, but there are a handful of starters and relievers still available who I could go with, so I backed up my weakest hitting position by adding this speedster (my other SS is Jason Bartlett).
Round 27-8: Ryan Madson, RP, Phillies
Best pitcher, skill wise, left amongst relievers. Still, I gave heavy consideration to Jake McGee who could close for Rays and Clay Hensley as a handcuff to my ealier selection of Leo Nunez.
Round 28-5: Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres
I wanted to add depth in the outfield with my last pick and also gave a thought to calling out Roger Bernadina, Alex Gordon or David DeJesus (though DD was taken the pick before me).
* This team has lots of speed. Pierre should push 50 steals, Upton should get 40, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see McCutchen go for at least 30. I’m also expecting 15 from guys like Utley, Braun, Bartlett and Zobrist. Barring injury, I should win this category.
* My average might be lacking a bit since I took Dunn and Reynolds. Still, they are about as powerful a 1B/3B combo as anyone could hope to have. Yadier Molina usually has a decent average versus other catchers, and Utley, Braun and Kendrick should hit .300 to keep me respectable here – I hope.
* The power of this club is strong. I should get at least 70 bombs from Dunn and Reynolds, and if I don’t get at least 60 from Braun and Utley I’d be surprised. Zobrist, Lee, Upton, McCutchen and Soriano should all also hit 20.
* On the hill, saves are a bit of a question. Soria is a star as my anchor, and Hanrahan was named the Pirates’ closer two days after I drafted him which certainly helps. If Nunez can hold on to his strikeout and ground ball gains from last season, I could have three solid closers. I also expect League to start off as the closer with Aardsma coming back from injury, and Madson is just one pitch away from an injury to Brad Lidge to being called on in the 9th inning for the Phillies. Maybe this unit isn’t a bad as I thought.
* At the top Sabathia and Hanson are a dynamic 1-2 punch, and I’ll take Billingsley as a #3 in any league. If things come together for Nolasco he will be the best 4th SP in the league, and guys like Baker and Floyd give me a strong top-6. Still, I do regret going against my normal tradition of waiting on pitching. Even though I took two SPs in the first seven rounds I’m not convinced that my team is appreciably better than it would have been if I had waited until the 8th round to take my first hurler.
Every team has a weakness, but overall I really like the way this draft played out. I picked up a bunch of the players that I targeted, so if everyone stays healthy I should be in line for another top-3 finish… but there is a whole of baseball that has to be played before we’ll know for sure how I did.
By Ray Flowers
Yesterday in How to Evaluate Relievers, I gave my general theory with relievers – that is to target skills over role. While some spend their resources on draft day for Kevin Gregg and Brandon Lyon types, I’ve always been content to target power arms like Madson, Thornton and Hanrahan. Below, I’ll give my thoughts on some of the relievers I’m targeting this season – hopefully you won’t take them from me if we are in a league together.
Joel Hanrahan: This call is sort of cheating. Everyone knows who Hanrahan is, and there is at least a 50/50 chance that he will close at the start of the season for the Pirates over Evan Meek, but I love Joel’s arm (current ADP numbers from Mock Draft Central have Hanrahan at 337 and Meek at 383). Hanrahan certainly has better skills than guys being drafted ahead of him like Fernando Rodney (260), Brian Fuentes (271), Kevin Gregg (286) and Ryan Franklin (288), but people are worried about his role. Check out what Hanrahan did last year: 12.92 K/9 and 3.85 K/BB including a 13.50 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB ratio over his last 33 appearances. I’m targeting this power righty.
Bobby Jenks: I wrote about Jenks when he signed his 2-year deal with the Red Sox in Hot Stove: Signings Galore. Most will overlook him on draft day because of the fact that he is behind Jonathan Papelbon, and potentially Daniel Bard, but Jenks was actually pretty darn good last season (check out the link for an explanation of that statement). In addition to the solid skills, I think that Jenks would be the fall back option in the 9th if Papelbon is hurt or dealt to another club, so that’s another feather in his cap.
Brandon League: In A Hip That Makes You Hop?, I broke down the Mariners’ bullpen situation and gave a litany of thoughts as to why I’m all about taking League late in drafts (397) instead of Aardsma much earlier (280). One more little diddy on League. Since he started his career in 2004 he owns a career GB/FB rate of 3.09. Amongst hurlers who have tossed at least 280-innings since then, League’s GB/FB mark is third in baseball behind Cla Meredith (3.66) and Brandon Webb (3.51).
Ryan Madson: I’m telling you, this guy is a burgeoning bullpen star. OK, he blows chunks half the time he is given a shot at pitching the 9th inning, but just look at the consistency he has brought in ERA and WHIP the last four years.
ERA: 3.05, 3.05, 3.26, 2.55
WHIP: 1.27, 1.23, 1.23, 1.04
Madson has also seen his K/9 mark rise in each of the past four seasons: 6.63, 6.91, 7.29, 9.08 and 10.87. Not surprisingly, he has seen his K/BB ratio improve each of he past three years: 1.87, 2.91, 3.55 and 4.92. Last time I checked, a K/9 of nearly 11.00 and a K/BB mark of nearly 5.00 are historically good numbers (only 12 hurlers have hit both of those numbers in the same season since the calendar flipped to 2000). Don’t be afraid to nab Madson late in drafts.
Edward Mujica: Another one of those wondrous arms from San Diego, Mujica was sent to the Marlins in the deal for Cameron Maybin (you can read about that deal in Four in One). Mujica was simply dynamic last season with a 9.30 K/9 rate and a 0.78 BB/9 rate which led to a stupendous 12.00 K/BB mark. Mujica was just the fourth pitcher in the history of baseball to have a season with a 12.00 K/BB mark while throwing at last 65 innings (Bert Dorr in 1882, Dennis Eckersley in 1990 and Mariano Rivera in 2008).
Chad Qualls: I’ve already explained why Qualls is a terrific bounce back option in Hot Stove: Rumor Mill, Dec. 29th. I look for him to rebound strongly in San Diego after signing a 1-year, $1.5 million deal.
Matt Thornton: I’m on record saying he has been the best left-handed reliever in baseball the past three years. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.
2008-10: 16-10, 2.67 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 11.01 K/9, 4.15 K/BB, 6.60 H/9 in 200.1 IP
By Ray Flowers
This is the final piece of my three part series reviewing the FSTA Draft that was held in Las Vegas last week (ah, how the good times fade fast don’t they?).
Part I - I gave a review of the team I drafted in Vegas Baby, and the FSTA.
PART II - I discussed why I chose Carl Crawford over Troy Tulowitzki in the first round in Pick Your Poison: Crawford or Tulo.
In PART III, thanks to the work of Jason Collette of Dock of the Rays, we have the answer as to who made the best selections in the FSTA Draft compared to the current ADP data (you can see the entirety of Jason’s work in the spreadsheet he put together of the draft). In what follows I’ll discuss some of the key selections that stood out, either players that I got on the cheap or guys I might have reached for according to ADP, and give my thoughts on why I made the decisions that I did.
Carl Crawford (taken 7th, ADP of 16): You can click in the link above for PART II to see why I think Crawford’s current ADP mark is way off.
Jimmy Rollins (taken 33, ADP of 42): The last of the elite shortstops on the board was my second choice with my third round pick with the first one being Ryan Howard (he was taken 32nd). For my thoughts on Rollins see Top-10 SS for 2011.
Brandon Phillips (59 taken , ADP of 35): A nice value given where he was drafted, and because he was the last of the top shelf second sackers left on the board. Coming off a “down” year he still scored 100 runs, hit 18 homers, stole 16 bags and batted .275. I’ll take a repeat of that while knowing that he went .276-20-98-78-25 in 2009.
Aramis Ramirez (taken 85, ADP of 104): Aramis is scaring some people off with his down 2010 effort that included a bunch of time on the shelf (he had just 465 at-bats). Would it surprise you to know that he still had 25 homers, the same total as Ryan Zimmerman and three more than Evan Longoria? Heck, his RBI total of 83 was only two less than Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds.
Dan Haren (taken 98, ADP of 52): The steal of the draft? I almost took Haren in the 6th round, then the 7th, before finally selecting him in the 8th. From 2008-10, Haren is only of only three hurlers to win at least 12 games, with an ERA under 3.95 and at least 200 Ks each season. The others are two pretty strong hurlers – Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay.
Joakim Soria (taken 111, ADP of 78): Drafting at this point of the year is tricky, you don’t even know who the 9th inning arm will be for some clubs, and that was reflected in the draft as most of the experts waited on taking their first closer. I still remember being burned last year when I took Joe Nathan early “knowing” he was a lock for 35 saves. Hopefully this call works out better.
Aaron Hill (taken 124, ADP of 180): I needed power, so I’m not worried about having overshot Hill’s ADP by so much. With guys like Chone Figgins, Brian Roberts and Howie Kendrick the best options left on the board at second, and already having a roster loaded with speedy guys, I needed pop and Hill was the best option left to fill that need. After all, Hill is second at the second base position the last two years with 62 homers and third with 176 RBI.
Carlos Lee (taken 163, ADP of 132): A solid choice for two reasons. First, he also qualifies at first base giving me some depth behind Prince Fielder and another option as a corner infielder. Second, while his bat is slowing, Lee still hit 24 homers with 89 RBI last season. That makes it 11-straight years with 24 homers and at least 80 RBI.
James Shields (taken 189, ADP of 173): He might have been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball last year. Shields went 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA despite a career best K/9 mark of 8.28 and a superb K/BB ratio of 3.67. If things normalize he should be back on track and that means posting an ERA of about 4.00 with a 1.25 WHIP and about 175 Ks, a point I made, in depth, in Breaking Down: James Shields.
Scott Baker (taken 228, ADP of 183): He may never put it all together, but we’ve all have a crush on someone that doesn’t really make sense (I don’t even want to hear who some of you have fantasies about). Still, I can’t help but think if he ever put it all together that he could be a difference maker. If we take the best numbers of career and combine them we end up with 15 wins, a 3.45 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and 162 Ks.
Carlos Zambrano (taken 241, ADP of 331): I guess no one is buying his unbelievable finish to 2010 (8-0, 1.58 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 64 Ks over 74 IP)? There are valid concerns about his workload and his absolutely bonkers personality, but the guy can still pitch when he’s healthy and motivated.
Ryan Madson (taken 280, ADP of 400): One of the best right-handed setup men in baseball. Madson is second in line to take over the 9th inning in Philadelphia, and you can argue that he is coming off his best season with career bests in K/9 (10.87), BB/9 (2.21), K/BB (4.92) and WHIP (1.04). Now if he can just avoid trying to beat things up when he is angry.
Nate McLouth (taken 293, ADP of 400): The man gets no respect. The Braves say he will open the year as the starter in CF, he is just 29 years old, and he went 26/23 in 2008 and 20/19 in 2009. You can hear more of my thoughts on McLouth in Around the Horn: January 21, 2011.
By Ray Flowers