I’m Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I’ll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
Justin Morneau just hit the wire. Drop Dexter Fowler, Kendrys Morales or Billy Butler to get him?
I’m cheering on Morneau as much as the next guy, but let’s slow our roll here a bit. I know that he’s playing defense which is great news, and that he has hit three homers in his last two games. All of that is well and good. However, someone needs to mention that the last time this guy had 300 at-bats was 2009. It should also be noted that over his last 80 games played Morneau has hit .235 with eight homers and 36 RBI. I’m all for hoping he will return to being the 20-100 man he was for 4-straight years from 2006-09, but he’ll need a lot more than two strong games to convince me he is back to that level.
The obvious move to be made would be to drop Morales. Both play first base and both are coming off injury. But think back three weeks. Is there anyone, and I mean any one of you, that drafted Morneau ahead of Morales? I bet there wasn’t one of you as Morneau was still struggling while Morales was simply bashing the ball in Spring Training. Ask yourself this question. Are you going to let 11 games, the total each has played this season, change the opinion that you held three weeks ago?
Should I drop Carlos Marmol for Santiago Casilla, Fernando Rodney or Jim Johnson?
More panic in the streets when it comes to closers, but I can’t really blame anyone (did you see the crazy news that Brad Lidge is dealing with vertigo? It’s like anything, and I literally mean anything, could sideline a 9th inning arm at this point. I fully expect one of the closers in the game to go missing in the Bermuda Triangle at some point in the near future).
Quickly, my thoughts on each.
Johnson has been stable, after some spring concerns, converting all five of his save chances. His K-rate is uninspiring (5.77 per nine for his career), ditto his K/BB (2.01), but he keeps the ball on the ground (57 percent). He could offer a 2011 Brandon League type effort if everything goes just right.
Rodney, how can I put this? He stinks. From 2007-11, that’s 270 games worth of pitching, had an ERA of 4.42, a WHIP of 1.50 and his K/BB was pathetic at 1.57. He wasn’t, and let me stress this, league average in any of those three categories the past five years. Good luck with him holding down the 9th inning job all year even if he’s been one of the better producers this season (see Fleaflicker).
Casilla has concerns as well, primarily his lack of pinpoint control. For more, see The On Deck Circle.
Keep Marmol. Not only does he have the longest track record of 9th inning success among this group, he’s also the most dominating option with one of the best K-rate’s in the history of baseball (min. 450 innings pitched his 11.73 K/9 mark is 4th all-time with the leader being Rob Dibble at 12.17). With Kerry Wood dealing with arms woes who would the Cubs turn to – Shawn Camp or James Russell? Please.
With RP being a crap shoot so far, does the value of Jose Valverde increase?
It depends on how you view the value of Valverde. Is his job safe? Absolutely. Is he coming off a perfect season with 49 saves in 49 chances given him a massive amount of rope? Without question. At the same time, he didn’t pitch near as well last season as most people assume when they look at the save conversion rate. (1) Since 2006 his K/9 rate has gone down every season. 2011 was the first time in his career that he struck out less than a batter per inning. (2) Never a paint the corner artist, Valverde has walked an average of 4.39 batters per nine innings the past two years, more than a full batter worse than the league average. (3) His career GB/FB ratio of 0.96 is less than the big league average (about 1.10), another mark against him. I’m not predicting failure from him in 2012, he’ll get his saves, but realize he isn’t the pitcher that he was a few years ago even if he’s been so impressive at converting those save chances of late.
What do you think about Tommy Milone? What’s the comparable ceiling for this guy?
Scouts like Milone, but at the same time they’ve always been a bit reluctant to fully push him as an elite prospect since his pure “stuff” just isn’t that dominant. However, he had one of the more remarkable seasons of any minor league hurler last year when he went 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 148.1 innings at Triple-A. While those are good numbers, here is the remarkable part – he struck out more than a batter per inning, 155 in total, while walking 16 batters – sixteen. That’s 16 walks in 24 starts folks leading to a 9.69 K/BB ratio. Amazing.
Milone figures to have success, he certainly knows how to pitch, but he still throws 87-88 mph, and there is no way he’s going to be able to post numbers in the bigs like he did last season in the minors. The best case scenario for him this year is something akin to what Mark Buehrle accomplished last year (13-9, 3.59 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 109 Ks).
Nolan Reimold or Matt Joyce for 4th OF?
I’ve been getting a ton of Reimold questions thanks to his impressive start (.341/.357/.707, four homers, eight RBI), but I’m not shocked at his success. In the 2012 BBGuys Draft Guide, I highlighted Reimold as a potential breakout performer you could grab on the cheap. Reimold has flashed the type of skills that lead one to believe that if he gets daily playing time, something he has received in the early going, that he could hit 25 homers and steal 15 bases (he is dealing with neck spasms and a hammy injury though, so there are a few health woes to worry about). He may never be more than a league average type in batting average, nothing in his K-rate, BB-rate, BABIP, GB/FB, LD-rate says he is anything but blah, but those counting numbers could be pretty darn solid if he gets 500 at-bats.
The real question here is do you go with the hot start and potential of Reimold and forgive the fact that he’s been lingering as a letdown for the past few years, or do you turn to Joyce who had a nice season last year when he posted a fantasy line of .277-19-75-69-13. In essence, Joyce was the type of player last season that many “think” Reimold can be. It’s not like Joyce has a long track record of success compared to Reimold, but I’m a fan of been there, done that. I had Joyce a few spots ahead of Reimold in my rankings three weeks ago before the season started, and Reimold is bit beat up right now physically, so I’m still leaning in the direction of Joyce right now.
Mat Latos was just dropped. I have Ted Lilly, Matt Harrison and Brandon Beachy. Do I drop anyone for him?
This is all I’m going to say about Ted Lilly. Since 2007 Lilly has the 5th best base runner per nine inning (10.40) mark of any pitcher in baseball who has thrown at least 750-innings, and he’s one of just 14 pitchers who has an K/9 mark of 7.50 in four of the last five seasons, minimum 150 IP a year (he just missed making it 5-for-5 last year with his 7.38 mark).
Beachy has a stupendous arm. In 168.2 career innings he has a K/9 rate of 10.30 and a K/BB rate of 3.33. Those are elite numbers. I’m not letting a young hurler with numbers like that go.
The guy you let go of to add Latos, and please add Latos and don’t panic with his poor performance to date (0-2, 8.22 ERA, 1.89 WHIP – it’s been three starts people), is Harrison. For more on why you should move on from Harrison see Quick Starting Pitchers.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday.