Monday, January 25, 2010

NL King - "The Closers"

Today we'll take a look at all the National League closers. To have a championship team you have to have saves. You don't have to win the category but you need to be competitive. Punting doesn't work so don't even go down that road. Unlike the American League where there are a lot more givens at the closer position (Mariano Rivera, Jon Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Bobby Jenks, Joakim Soria, not to mention the promising younsters Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma), the NL has a lot of question.  Let's break it down...

The Elite:
Jonathan Broxton - LAD - I know he only has 55 career saves and his numbers on the road aren't great and has blown some big playoff games but this guy is nasty. No reason not to expect awesome numbers in ratio & K's, strong ERA & around 40 saves.

Really Good But Not Elite:
Notice there is only 1 guy at the elite level?

Trevor Hoffman - Since his rookie year in 93 where he had a ratio of 1.32, Hoffman's worst ratio year was 1.18 in a season. That is pretty amazing. To me he has always put up elite numbers other than 2008. I still think he is money in the bank but we have to recognize he is 42 years old. His fastball is probably around 88 but the guy knows how to get outs.

Francisco Rodriguez - Not so much because he had bad last 2 months but his ratio numbers have gone up each year and his strikeout numbers have gone down each year. Still one of the better NL options and even on the Mets should get close to 40 saves with pretty good numbers across the board.

Huston Street - After a so-so 2008 Street showed that in 2009 he is capable of being an elite closer. Always been a strong ratio guy and at least a K per inning guy. A strong 2010 and we can put him in the elite part of the list. Remember just signed a 3 year deal with the Rockies so will be in the NL for a while.

Francisco Cordero - Believe it or not he has 225 saves the last 6 years (average of 37.5 per year). So why is he not elite? 2006 was a bit of a lost year for him, his ratio is usually a bit to high to feel comfortable & his dip in K's last year gives you pause. Also pitches in a bit of a bam box. But 225 saves in the last 6 years is nothing to sneeze at.

Brian Wilson - Yes, we loved the 41 saves in 2008 but the 4.64 ERA & 1.45 Ratio had us very concerned. Well, last year he got 3 less saves but his ERA was 2.75 and Ratio 1.20. One more year like 2009 and we can put him in the elite group.

Heath Bell - Bell only had 2 career saves before being the closer last year and had an elite year on every level. The only reason I do not have him in the elite group is because I want to see him do it again.

Ryan Franklin - The last year and a half he has been a very strong and reliable closer however Franklin does turn 37 in Spring training. His K's are usually a little low, limited closer experience and seems like the Cards are looking for the next closer. Should have at least another good year in him as a closer.

Could Be Really Good But Some Serious Questions (this is no particular 
order):

Billy Wagner - Hard to say what the Braves will get here, did look good in August & September, but coming back from major surgery and he will be 39 years old in the summer.

Leo Nunez - A little to many walks but it's the 13 HR allowed last year that gives me pause. A closer has to limit his walks and HR.

Brad Lidge - This guy is a rollercoaster. In 2008 does not blow a save and then last year has an ERA over 7. How is that possible? Throw in the fact that he is coming off surgery.

Matt Capps - Don't give up on this guy yet. He is entering his prime years and while he had a rough year last year (trust me I know I owned him in my league) keep in mind has 48 saves the last 2 years and a change of scenary might help.

Chad Qualls - He is not sexy but he is a veteran and knows how to get outs. Last year at the age of 31 became a closer for the first time.

Carlos Marmol - This guy has filthy stuff. How else do you get 93K's in 74 IP in 2009 & 114K's in 87 IP. However those walks must be cut way down for Marmol to stay a closer. Lou Pinella will lose his mind if he keeps those walks up.

Brandon Lyon - I know he was the closer in Arizona in 2008 and got 26 saves but that was with a 4.70 ERA. Only if you get him at bargain basement price.

Octavio Dotel - Only has 83 career saves in his 10+ year career. Just turned 36 and does anything the Pirates do work? Again only at a bargain basement price.

Final Thought: As great as electric stuff is the most important thing for a closer is to have, the strong mental attitude and ability to throw strikes is greater. Remember at the end of the day, 90% of the saves is getting 3 outs. But knowing what you are doing and having that tough closer mentality is 90% of the ball game. That's why at age 42 and throwing 88 MPH with his fastball Hoffman is still good.  That's why Qualls & Franklin who don't have electric stuff have been able to do the job later in their career.

Have a great week everyone!

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NL King - Where have you gone Vince Coleman our lonely hearts turn to you

Great to be back with my first article for 2010 so here we go.....

I don't know if all the readers are old enough to remember Vince 
Coleman but this guy was stealing between 100 & 110 bases a year going 
back to the mid to late 80's.

Today, especially in an NL Only league, that kind of production by one 
player wins you the category all by himself. Obviously the game has 
changed but if a Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman kind of stolen base 
player came up with that kind of potential it would be interesting to 
see how teams today would handle that kind of player.

This discussion is about the effect the decline of the stolen base 
has on fantasy baseball, in particular, in the National League. Here are some quick 
interesting points to consider....

1. Only 5 players in the NL last year had 30 or more stolen bases: 
(Michael Bourn - 61, Nyjer Morgan - 42, Matt Kemp - 34, Jimmy Rollins - 31 & Juan Pierre - 30) and one of those players is now in the American League!
2. Only 2 NL players broke 40 and only 1 player broke 50
3. There were 7 NL players who had between 25 and 29 steals
4. There were 10 NL players who had between 20 and 24 steals
5. There were 5 NL players who had between 15 and 19 steals

So how does one handle this category in NL Only fantasy leagues? Some quick tip...
1.  Unless you are fortunate enough to already have a Michael Bourn or a 
Nyjer Morgan on your roster for decent dollars you are going to have 
to have depth in this category to compete.
2. When you spend big money in an auction draft or even if your league 
does a traditional snake draft whenever you get a high impact player, make 
sure he gives you at least 15 steals. So I will take Chase Utley over 
Prince Fielder
3. Find the quiet speed guys. What I mean by this is if you can add 3 
or 4 hitters who give you 7 or 8 steals versus the guys who only do 1 
or 2 steals, those numbers add up. Value those quiet steals guys much more.
4. Be wary of the one dimensional players (i.e. steals only). Willy Taveras stole 
nearly 70 bases one year but all is his other years finished in the 
mid 30's and last year he finished with just 25. Don't over spend on guys like this.
5. Be wary of guys who jump up in steals for one year, you just cannot count on 
them. Albert Pujols was always a quiet steal guy, he got his 7 or 8 every year 
but last year he stole 16. Count on 8 steals not 16 for 2010!  And, be 
wary of Mark Reynolds stealing that many bases again. It's possible, 
but you shouldn't count on it.
6. The Jose Reyes Factor - Reyes was injured for most of the season last 
year and had very little steals. A healthy Reyes is a player who is 
around 60. Be conservative and assume 40.
7. Always keep an eye on the free agency and or waiver wire on guys who 
can give you some cheap steals be it the Angel Pagan's of the world or 
the youngsters such as a Drew Stubbs or Alcides Escobar.
8. Finally, the more guys you can count on the better even if it's in 
the low double digits. The numbers add up. Ideally, if you can be in 
the middle of this category and striking distance towards the top then 
you can make a trade 2/3 through the season for steals with someone 
looking towards next season.

Hope these tid bits help.

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fantasy Player Profile: Alcides Escobar

I'm trying to better commit myself to more useful fantasy baseball advice via these blog posts, so adding the Fantasy Player Profile is hopefully something I'll be able to continue throughout the preseason. Anyway, I've been doing some wheelin' and dealin' with my money keeper leagues the last few days that I thought I'd share some thoughts about my main man Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee's new everyday shortstop.... barring any spring setbacks.

First off, no, Chris Coghlan for Alcides Escobar is not a fair deal in my opinion! Sorry man. Just one of the few trade offers I have received for my $1.00 Escobar. Escobar has already given off the impression that he's a speed and batting average guy with power to hopefully develop. With Milwaukee trading J.J. Hardy to the Twins before the Winter Meetings, the Brew Crew opened up a starting spot for the 23 year old. CBS has touted Escobar as the next Jose Reyes which really says something. So let's take a look at some of the numbers....

2009 cup of tea in the majors: .304BA/1HR/11RBI/4SB/20R in 125AB. = Not bad at all
2009 AAA Age 22: .297BA/4HR/33RBI/41SB/75R/65K in 427AB = More speed, less AB
2008 AA Age 21: .328BA/8HR/76RBI/34SB/95R/82K in 546AB = BA/Speed & some Power
2007 A Age 20: .325BA/0HR/25RBI/18SB/37R/35K in 268AB = Hit for BA

What you like here is the consistency in batting average above the .300 mark with the low strikeout rate. Throw in 30+ steals and you have yourself and sweet SS later in the draft who ranks just inside the top 15 but will probably perform close to a top 10. This guy is the real deal and now is the time to invest! if you play in a keeper league or dynasty league where you can get this guy for a buck or two, make the move now. If you want to compare Escobar to someone, compare him to Elvis Andrus with a better BA. I don't know about the whole Jose Reyes thing but if this guy can develop over the next 2-3 years, yeah, he can certainly hit 12-15HR and steal 50-60 bases. I guess that all depends on Milwaukee's game plan. We'll just have to wait and see.

The way I look at it is this.... If Milwaukee so easily gave up on J.J. Hardy who won't exactly command a big contract to clear a spot for Escobar, then they must think he's ready. In my opinion, he's a slightly suped up Elvis Andrus and anyone who can hit you .300, score close to or more than 100 runs, and steal 30-40+ bases is definitely worth a 14th round gamble in normal 12 team mixed league drafts and for $5-$8 or less in normal $260 budget auction leagues. Of course, he'll probably hit some bumps and bruises along the way but he should last the entire season like Andrus did and Milwaukee will be patient. But now is the time to invest!

If you're asking me for a projection...... .295BA/7HR/60RBI/35SB/90R in 600AB
That's just a shooting-from-the-hip kind of projection throwing in maybe a slump or a slow start or something! Oh, and those are Ichiro Suzuki type numbers minus some BA and a few runs, at the end of the draft and at SS!!!

FM

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Catchers Rankings

Free Fantasy Baseball advice with The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Catchers rankings. Much of a winning fantasy baseball strategy goes into how you draft your the catcher position. In a two catcher league, do you draft a top dog or do you wait and look for value late in the draft? Let these rankings lead you to the promise land.

Listen to the Fantasy Man's Catcher Rankings Podcast...

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Catchers Rankings:

1. Joe Mauer - Is he the 2009 "Power" Mauer or the 2010 "Where's the Power" Mauer? I'd say somewhere in between
2. Victor Martinez - .300/20/90+ every year when healthy plus 1B eligibility ranks him higher than McCann
3. Brian McCann - Best all-around hitting catcher after Mauer, AND still hasn't hit his prime yet! Only 26!
4. Buster Posey - Huge audition in '10, fantastic post season, will be overhyped a bit in drafts
5. Miguel Montero - 27 years old, 20HR potential, finally a break out season?
6. Matt Wieters - I like the two years of experience over Posey/Santana and more poised for the breakout
7. Carlos Santana - Let's make sure he's healthy first, but has top 3 ability
8. Geovany Soto - Hit .280/17/53 in 322 AB!!! If he stays healthy for 450 AB could be in for a big season
9. Jorge Posada - Will get full-time DH AB with some days at catcher sprinkled in, don't sleep on Posada
10. Mike Napoli - 25+HR in 400AB is what you want here, BUT, doesn't play everyday with a low BA
11. John Buck - Contract year explosion in '10, could regress a bit in BA but 20+HR power is real
12. Russell Martin - Risky, could be feast or famine (Only if Montero doesn't make the team. If he does, Martin slides down quite a bit)
13. Kurt Suzuki - No breakout last year, boo. Maybe this year?? Great contact hitter, never K's
14. Yadier Molina - Just entering prime, can steal 5-10 bases, never K's, good BA, solid with upside
15. Ryan Doumit - Has OF eligibility but was a bit inconsistent in '10, makes for a great sleeper
16. Carlos Ruiz - Same type of hitter as Y. Molina minus the SB's and no upside, hits for BA though
17. Jesus Montero - Monster offensive potential, draft and stash as keeper potential
18. J.P. Arencibia - If John Buck leaves, Arencibia should get the call, 20+HR potential with low BA in '11
19. John Jaso - Hit .263 with 44 RBI in 339 AB with 59BB and only 39K, oh, and throw in 4 SB
20. Jason Castro - Hit .300/10/73/.380OBP in minors last year, will start full-time this year
21. Chris Ianetta - Olivo gone so Ianetta looks to be the starter
22. Ramon Hernandez - Hit .290 last year with 7 HR in 313 AB, nice value with your last pick
23. Wilson Ramos - Catcher of the future in WAS but will initially platoon with Pudge
24. Jonathon LuCroy - Showed high BA/OBP potential in minors, should be the starter
25. Josh Thole - Unless the Mets sign a catcher, Thole will get full-time duty, has solid BA potential
26. Chris Snyder - 20HR power but could platoon with Doumit in 2011
27. A.J. Pierzynski - Good contact hitter, hits a few HR but no upside
28. Miguel Olivo - Let's see where he ends up, 15-20+ HR power with low BA as a part-timer
29. Alex Avila - Will platoon, only 23, potential to hit .260/10-15/50 with upside with 400+ab
30. Bengie Molina - He's done but could have a surprising re-emergence
31. Adam Moore - Light hitting catcher with 4 HR in 200 AB
32. Rod Barajas - Nice hot start last season, then fizzled out in second half

Catcher Draft Day Strategy:
I ranked Martinez in the #2 slot because of his multi-position eligibility along with his consistency when healthy. Drafting a player like Martinez, in a weak position like catcher, allows you to grab and stash a late round prospect at catcher such as many of us did in Buster Posey or Carlos Santana back in 2010.  Assuming you had a hole at 1B, CI or DH, you can justify moving Martinez to fill that hole while activating a Buster Posey or a Carlos Santana which we all did last year. Would you rather have activated Posey at catcher and moved Martinez to CI or would you rather pick up weak performing CI like a Chase Headley or Kevin Kouzmanoff? That's a strategy that paid off in 2010 and can also happen again this year late in your fantasy draft with newcomers potentially in J.P. Arencibia, Jesus Montero, Wilson Ramos and Jason Castro to name a few.

Predicting the Draft:
You have to expect Mauer to be picked by the end of the 2nd round in a 12 team league where you draft two catchers. McCann and Martinez are most likely gone by the end of the 4th round. Then the question is how early do you want to jump on Montero/Wieters/Posey/Santana. With a ton of starting pitchers going in rounds 4-7 like always, I think a great strategy is to pick the catcher of this tier that drops into rounds 8-10. You'll get good value here because none of these three will regress obviously, you don't have to stretch to make a pick earlier and miss out on other more valuable players, and if you miss on all three, you still have some solid fantasy contributors in Soto, Posada, Suzuki, Napoli, etc.  After these guys, you can wait until the end of the draft to pick a catcher with prospects like Montero, Arencibia, and Ramos being picked ahead of the rest.

Sleeper Alert:
The big sleepers in 2011 at the catcher position are Carlos Santana, Jesus Montero, J.P. Arencibia, and Jason Castro as far as keeper potential. I'm not sure Santana is much of a sleeper this year but in 150AB before he got hurt last season, Santana had 37BB, only 29K with a .401 OBP along with 3 SB and 6 HR. Now that's production! Imagine what he does over a full season!  Santana is a huge sleeper to go from a mid round pick into the elite for 2012.  Jesus Montero, still just 20 years old, has monster power potential but the Yankees aren't sure he's ready to catch everyday and handle a pitching staff. He can't move to 1B and the DH slot is used up by Posada but if he has a good spring showing, he'll make the team. J.P. Arencibia jump out and hit 2 HR in two straight games last season and then fell off the map. Assuming John Buck signs elsewhere in the off season, Arencibia should be in line to take over in Toronto. Arencibia hit .303/31/79 in 379AB in AAA last season. That's monster for a catcher, has showed patience with 34 BB and is only 24. Snag this guy now. Jason Castro took over in Houston but did not show too much in 2010. He hit .300/10/73 in 2009 in the minors but only .261/4/26 in 211AB in 2010 in AAA. Castro does however shouw great plate discipline with 32BB/24K in AAA and although he struck out 41 times in 195 AB, he also had 22 BB in the majors. Look for Castro to improve and is my pick to be a super sleeper.

Super Fantasy Man Sleeper:
Ryan Doumit: Had a super quiet second half, was a bit inconsistent, injury prone, but does still have untapped upside. He also played some OF last season with the acquisition of Chris Snyder but the Pirates found ways to get Doumit in the lineup. That shows me that the Pirates believe Doumit has skills. Now we just have to see what new Manager Clint Hurdle thinks. The C/OF eligibility gives Doumit some sneaky sleeper value late in drafts. John Jaso also makes this list as he is exceptional in the OBP department, will steal a few bases and hit some homeruns.

Bust Alert:
You guess it! I'll jump on the John Buck bandwagon. Contract year last year contributed to that spike in power.  Now he gets the money, new contract, new team, and then its poop and platoon as usual.

The Fantasy Man's 2011 Strategy:
I'm certainly looking to grab one of my top 9 as listed above but only in situations where I think I'm getting good value. For example, if Mauer drops into late round 3, McCann/Martinez into round 5, or Montero/Wieters/Posey/Santana in rounds 8-10. If I get one of these players with that value, I might then look to grab Posada in rounds 11-13 if possible and then grab and stash Arencibia, Montero or Castro in case of an injury.  I may then look to grab Ryan Doumit in the later rounds because of his OF eligibility.  This year I want to try to grab top talent at each position and not wait until the end of the draft to pluck players at a super weak position.

More Ideas:
The idea with drafting catchers is you want to draft players who will contribute on a daily basis. If you wait until the end of the draft to fill two slots and you grab say A.J. Pierzynski and a sleeper like Josh Thole, you're just going to screw yourself. Let's be honest, you probably won't get much or any power out of Thole and Pierzynski doesn't have any upside. The best way to go is to draft a top catcher and then a middle tier guy like Soto, Santana, Posey, Wieters, Posada, Napoli, Suzuki, etc. Or, you can go with two middle tier guys. Either way, don't wait until round 15 to grab your first catcher. Yes, there is value late if you know where to find it (i.e. Doumit, Molina, Ruiz), but your setting yourself up to fail since that strategy is super high risk. There are a ton of good young catchers this year, but only two show real power potential (Montero, Arencibia) while others seem like light hitters (Castro, LuCroy, Thole).

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Fantasy Man's 2010 Fantasy Baseball Catchers Rankings Podcast is NOW PLAYING!

The Fantasy Man's 2010 Fantasy Baseball Catchers Rankings Podcast is NOW PLAYING!
Find out what rookie cracks the top 5 and what veteran hit 22 HR in 383 AB in 2009 who cracks the top 5! It's all here in the 2010 catcher rankigs podcast! Get it at iTunes by clicking on the search and typing "Fantasy Baseball".... then scroll down past all the fantasy football podcasts.

Or, get the podcast directly here!