August 2010

Which Fantasy-Relevant Prospects Are on the Way?

by Eno Sarris //

In recent weeks, prospects like Chris Carter, Domonic Brown, Jeremy Hellickson and Logan Morrison have been called up to major leagues and we’ve been right on top of them. Which prospects are still in the minor leagues who might help your fantasy team down the stretch?

Looking at Baseball America’s midseason Top 25 prospects, one thing immediately becomes clear. There are a lot of guys down in HIgh-A ball who won’t be coming up any time soon. So, we’ll sort the list for age and proximity to the major leagues, because we want to find some names that will help fantasy owners in all sorts of leagues this year.

jennings.jpgNumber three on the list is Desmond Jennings in Tampa Bay’s organization. Other than shoulder and wrist injuries that set him back a little this year, and may have sapped some of his power, he’s been great. His career .297/.380/.441 line in the minor leagues shows that he can get on base and show decent power, but it’s the 163 stolen bases against only 31 caught stealings (84% success) in 400 games that are really eye-popping.

Unfortunately for Jennings, the major league outfield in Tampa Bay is pretty stacked, and there’s little room for him to accrue impactful playing time even if he is called up in September when the rosters expand. Fantasy owners desperate for speed can hold on to him, but a deep team like the Rays may not have much room for him to make an impact, barring a major injury.

Another September callup might be Dustin Ackley, an outfielder-turned-second baseman in the Seattle organization. Given the struggles of Jose Lopez, Ackley might even have some playing time available to him if the team shifts Chone Figgins back to third. Though Ackley doesn’t own a ton of minor league plate appearances (458), the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 draft has performed well after a few blips, and at 22 with three full years at college behind him, the team may push him. In Triple-A right now, Ackley is hitting .299/.388/.483 in a park that skews slightly toward pitchers. He has a little bit of extra-base power, but with few home runs (his overall ISO is a below-average .135)  and a little bit of speed (eight stolen bases in 109 games), and is an interesting speculative pick up for deep league managers needing help at second base. With the team looking to next year, the M’s could even call him up before September 1.

Tenth on the list is a lefty pitcher, Baltimore’s Zach Britton. The Orioles are a poor team looking to the future, so the table is set for Britton to come up at any point and contribute. While Britton is only striking out 5.84 batters per nine innings in Triple-A, 6.44 batters per nine cumulatively in 2010, and 6.83 batters per nine for his minor league career, he can induce groundballs by the bundle with his sinker. HIs career groundball percentage is 62.9% and that’s stayed constant throughout – that percentage is 62% in Triple-A. The rest of the Orioles’ bevy of pitching prospects are for the most part flyball pitchers. The team may want to try out a different approach, and deep league managers looking for pitching would do well to look Britton’s way. Now it looks like the Orioles might even go to a six-man rotation to see what they have in Britton.

So far, we’ve gone through Baseball America’s top 10 and found three guys who might be useful to deep league managers – but no immediate pickups for shallow mixed-leaguers. We’ll continue to cull the list for fantasy-relevant prospects for you in the next few days.

For more on Desmond Jennings, Dustin Ackley, Zach Britton and the rest of the top prospects in baseball, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

(Video) Bloomberg Sports’ Ballpark Figures: Fantasy Headlines

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: Fantasy Headlines — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Rob Shaw discuss some of the news and notes in Major League Baseball. Today’s topic includes the disappointing performance of Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, the hot start of Rays prospect Jeremy Hellickson, the potential of Diamondbacks young talent Sam Denel, and the latest setback for Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. For more fantasy insight please visit BloombergSports.com and follow us at Twitter.com/BloombergSports.

Justin Masterson and Brett Cecil Are Mirror Images

By R.J. Anderson //

There are only so many ways to make it to the major leagues. You
have to be good at something; whether it’s hitting for average or
power, pitching with great stuff or excellent command; or excelling at
defense. Two of the youngest and most promising American League
starters this season share quite a bit in common, both being talented
but still flawed pitchers. Those two SP: Brett Cecil and Justin Masterson.

When the Jays drafted the 6’1″ Cecil, he was finishing up his career
at the University of Maryland as a closer. In fact, he made fewer than
10 starts during his collegiate career, but showed promise as a
potential late-inning reliever who could be placed on the accelerated
path to a big league bullpen. The Jays selected him in the supplemental
phase of round one in 2007′s draft, and immediately converted him to
starting. He spent less than two seasons in the minors before being
promoted as a 22-year-old last year. Cecil went 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA in
17 starts.

On the other hand, Masterson came out of San Diego University and
the Boston Red Sox quickly groomed him as a swingman. He started 36
games in the minors while entering 17 others as a reliever. Promoted to
Boston, a team with strong starting pitching depth, he started only 15
games while entering 42 others out of the pen. He only became a
full-time starter after the Red Sox traded him to Cleveland last July.

Beyond those similarities, the biggest trait the two pitchers share
is an inability to retire opposite-handed batters. Masterson has held
righties to a .699 OPS this season; but lefties have a .462 slugging
percentage and .392 on-base percentage (.854 OPS) against him. When his
days as a set-up man are factored in, the difference holds true; a .626
OPS against righties, .848 OPS against lefties. Cecil, meanwhile, can
get lefties out – their career line against him is .232/.269/.388 – but
struggles with righties: .280/.353/.451. For a further illustration of
Cecil’s struggles, consider this:

cecil1.png

If you could combine the two pitchers, taking each of their
strengths and placing them into one pitcher, you would have someone
capable of retiring both hands without ease.Dr. Frankenstein isn’t
walking through the doors of a baseball facility anytime soon, though,
unless it’s to retrieve Shelley Duncan,
meaning the hopes of improvement hinge not on the advancements of
modern science and surgical precision, but on the ability of either
pitcher, or both, to make strides at adaption.

From
a scouting perspective, the better bet is Masterson. Cecil is short for
a starting pitcher, with a fastball that lives in the low-90s.
Masterson is no vintage Pedro, but his fastball moves faster and his
ability to rank among the league leaders in groundball rate during any
given season appears legitimate. Beyond that, Masterson is more likely
to face a bunch of right-handed hitters than Cecil. This season alone,
Masterson is facing righties roughly 46% of the time; Cecil is facing
lefties 22% of the time. As is the same with positional players, if you
have two at a position with extreme platoon splits and you can only
keep one, keep the one who will be useful more of the time.

One caveat: Masterson’s pitching motion, typically from a
three-quarters angle, might always invite a significant split. He’s a
fine player to own in AL-only leagues, but not an ideal choice for a
shallow mixed league.

For more information on Masterson, Cecil, and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits

Chris Vernon Carter: Fantasy Baseball All-Or-Nothing

by Eno Sarris //

Search for Chris Carter on most baseball sites, and you’ll have two options. One plays backup outfield for the Mets and is known as the “Animal” for his sideline calisthenics and intense demeanor. The other, with “Vernon” as a secret first name, is an ever-smiling cuddly bear, with well-above-average power. He’s the one who was just called up on Monday, and he’s the one who is interesting for fantasy baseball owners, despite some notable flaws.

CarterGrab.jpgBefore this year, it might have been hard to figure out why Carter wasn’t in the major leagues yet. Going into 2010, he was 22 (which is neither too old nor too young to take seriously as a major-league-ready prospect), had a .290 career batting average in the minor leagues, had played in Double-A for consecutive seasons, and had amassed 92 home runs from 2007 to 2009. That is an impressive resume for any minor leaguer, and since the Athletics have been so power-starved in the major leagues, his callup seemed inevitable.

But the team knew better. The A’s promoted him to Triple-A instead of the majors late in 2009, and his .259/.293/.519 line showed he had something to learn (even though that line came in just 58 plate appearances). It’s the sort of news that should make a fantasy manager delve back into the numbers to figure out why the masher wasn’t mashing in the bigs.

With a critical eye, the reason jumps out at you. A 27% strikeout rate in the minor leagues is a big warning sign. Think back to our discussion of possible post-hype sleeper Chris Davis in the off-season, and you might remember that Davis was posting similar strikeout rates in the minor leagues before struggling in the majors. In fact, Davis’ 26.7% career minor league strikeout rate is eerily similar.

So is that it? Case closed? Carter = Davis, struggles to come? Well, in his first game in the bigs, it certainly seemed that way. Carter couldn’t lay off the outside slider and wound up striking out twice in two at-bats. And Davis even had a better batting average (.313) in the minor leagues. You could be forgiven for being concerned.

Not so fast. Davis, as we said, needs to walk more to get the Three True Outcomes thing down. Those three outcomes – walks, strikeouts and home runs – work well in tandem, but not so well if you are missing the walks or home runs. Davis’ walk rate in the minor leagues (8.3%) was passable, but when it inevitably dropped upon joining the big league squad (6.5%), he was a below-average batter. Carter’s 12.2% number in that category on the other hand can survive a drop and still be playable (8.6% is average this year).

Using MinorLeagueSplits.com to adjust Carter’s batting line for park
effects and luck, even his diminished Triple-A batting line looks great this
year: .298/.398/.600. Looking at his ISO, or isolated slugging
percentage, we can see that he has great power. His career minor league
ISO (.255) would place him seven spots above slugger Ryan Howard (.236
ISO) on the leaderboard this year. He may have some issues making
contact, but when he does, the ball could go a long way.

Vernon Christopher Carter smiles like Ryan Howard, and fantasy managers in long-term leagues should pick him up immediately and hope he can eventually play like the Phillies first baseman too. A warning, though: Carter’s contact issues, and the fact that he’s struggled to get going at new levels, mean that he might not be a great option in shallow mixed leagues.

For more on Vernon Christopher Carter and other big callups, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

(Video) Bloomberg Sports’ Dose of Reality: Veteran Pitchers

By Bloomberg Sports //

Dose of Reality: Veteran Pitchers — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw pick up from yesterday’s discussion of a pitching era. Today they focus on the veteran hurlers who are changing the way they pitch in order to sustain their winning ways. Shaw chats with Angels ace Jered Weaver who is striking batters out at a career-best rate, Yankees veteran Andy Pettitte who has been as impressive this season as any other in his career, as well as CC Sabathia, who is finding ways to pitch deep into games and make it through all 33 starts. For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com.

(Audio) Behind the Numbers w/ Rob Iracane

By Bloomberg Sports //*

Listen now! – (loads in new browser – 21 megs)

Behind the Numbers
Hosts: Wayne Parillo and Rob Shaw
Guest: Rob Iracane
About the Guest:
Walkoffwalk.com co-founder, Heist leader, and Deadspin.com combudsman.
Enjoy the podcast and make sure to follow him on twitter

Total Running Time: 20:31

The High Level Look

  • The Heist – What it is & why it exists (0:38 – 1:49)
  • A-Rod, Steroids, and Home Grown Talent (1:55 – 6:19)
  • The Human Condition & Commenters (6:30 – 7:50)
  • Smart defending, last season trades & why not to root for Kerry Wood (8:00-13:23)
  • Twitter, Blogs v Newspapers & discussing news (13:33 – 27:54)

A Highlight a Minute

  • (0:38 – 1:30) The Heist – what it is and why it exsists
  • (1:31 – 1:49) PNC Park and the Sellout
  • (1:55 – 2:40) A-Rod’s 600th home run
  • (2:44 – 3:48) Covering esoteric news
  • (3:51 – 5:04) Steroids users being lumped with A-Rod
  • (5:08 – 5:28) A-Rod’s celebration v Jeter’s 3000 hits celebration
  • (5:30 – 6:19) Yankees homegrown talent
  • (6:30 – 7:04) The Human Condition according to Walkoffwalk.com
  • (7:05 – 7:21) Boycotting D-Backs as a serious post
  • (7:22 – 7:50) The commenters and what else the site covers
  • (8:00 – 9:09) The year of smart defending
  • (9:10 – 10:00) Are hitters weaker?
  • (10:03 – 10:50) Too little, too late for Dodgers but not for Rockies, Padres & Giants
  • (10:51 – 11:29) Berkman as DH & why it’s impossible to root for Kerry Wood
  • (11:30 – 12:27) Is the Wild Card ruining a great division race?
  • (12:34 – 13:23) Is Manny Ramirez done?
  • (13:33 – 14:52) From UVA to Deadspin.com combudsman to Walkoffwalk.com
  • (14:57 – 16:11) The influence of Twitter & Commenters on fandom
  • (16:23 – 17:57) Deadspin’s Brett Favre post & Journalistic standards: Blog v Newspaper
  • (18:14 – 20:00) Breaking News v Discussing News & an inner Secret

Direct link to the conversation

More ways to get Behind the Numbers, talk to us, or just have a good time

Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson Gets the Call, Again

By Tommy Rancel //

Jeremy Hellickson may have been an effective major league starter had he cracked the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster on Opening Day of this season. But where an April gig would have been a luxury, Hellickson’s promotion recently became a necessity.

The Rays had a plan for Hellickson. He made a spot start last week and was sent back down to Durham where his workload could be monitored and controlled. Once the rosters expanded in September, they would recall Hellickson and use him out of the bullpen.

Tampa Bay was able to execute the first part of the plan. Hellickson made his major league debut – a successful one – and was immediately returned to Triple-A. However, even the best-laid plans are subject to change. With Wade Davis AND Jeff Niemann experiencing shoulder pain, the Rays had no choice but to bring back Hellickson and use him as a starter, beginning with tonight’s outing against the Detroit Tigers.

helly.PNG

Although he is listed at 6-1 – already on the short side for a right-handed starting pitcher – that might be a generous measurement. Still, the numbers don’t lie. In 578.2 career innings in the minors, he posted 630 strikeouts and just 135 walks. His pinpoint command of the strike zone has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux. Stuff-wise, Hellickson sets hitters up with his low-to-mid-90s fastball, and puts them away with an excellent change-up and plus breaking ball.

This time around, Hellickson will be on the shortest of leashes. After pitching 114 innings last season, he has surpassed 124 innings this year (117 minor league, 7 major league). Hellickson pitched a career-high 152 innings in 2008. Don’t expect him to go much beyond that this year, if at all.

If that is the case, then we might be looking at five-to-seven big league starts, or possibly just a couple of starts and several relief appearances, if Davis and Niemann get well soon. Still, given Hellickson’s talent and body of work, he’s worth an immediate pickup in all leagues. 

For more information on Jeremy Hellickson and
hundreds of other players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate
your fantasy league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

(Video) Ballpark Figures: Dose of Reality – Dawn of a Pitchers Era

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: Dose of Reality – Dawn of a Pitchers Era — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw discuss what appears to be the dawning of a pitcher’s era. Shaw explains why he believes we’re seeing so many dominant performances and then speaks to several All-Stars to get their take on the recent trends. Among the players Shaw speaks with are Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, Marlins ace Josh Johnson, Yankees legend Derek Jeter, Yankees rising star Phil Hughes, and Yankees veteran ace CC Sabathia. For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com.

Yorvit’s Average Batting Average Spree

By R.J. Anderson //

It’s only reasonable that whenever a player goes from one of the best hitting environments in baseball to one of the worst, the expectations for his offensive performance should move down. Evidently, Yorvit Torrealba disagrees with the premise. The 31-year-old backstop spent the last four seasons playing in the Colorado Rockies’ hitter-friendly haven Coors Field, before signing on to play in the San Diego Padres’ pitcher paradise, Petco Park. Yet Torrealba is in the midst of a career year.

Torrealba’s career line with the Rockies, an aweless .258 AVG/.316 OBP/.394 SLG, falls into line with the five-year total he produced with the San Francisco Giants (.251/.318/.393). This year, he’s at .317/.381/.400. Before hounding on how unlikely this development is on so many levels (age, position, park, etc.) take a look at how players who spent time in San Diego and Colorado fared offensively (minimum: 150 AB with each team).

torrealba1.png

This is an imperfect set of comparisons because age isn’t taken into consideration whatsoever. It does a decent job, though, in illustrating that no matter the year, moving from Colorado to San Diego is less conductive to batting average increases. Of those 11 players, only four saw their batting average go up transitioning to San Diego, and the highest gain stands at a seven-point increase. Torrealba’s average is up more than 60 points.

Beyond the ballpark, look at Torrealba’s age and position again. Only Ivan Rodriguez, Javy Lopez, and Mike Piazza have topped Torrealba’s average since 2000 while being between 30 and 32 years of age. It’s incredibly rare for an older catcher to have his career best season. They generally age poorly at the plate, hence why most of the good offensive catchers, like Piazza and Johnny Bench, move away from backstopping as they age.

A few root causes to note: career-high .373 batting average on balls in play (mostly luck – his career line is .304), and a drop in K rate to 16.6% (career mark is 19.2%). Still, most of Torrealba’s unexpected production is probably just the usual noise associated with a small sample of just 226 plate appearances. In an NL-only league, especially one that rosters two catchers per team, Torrealba’s fine to hold. Otherwise, no need to give him a second look.

For more information on Yorvit Torrealba and hundreds of other players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits. 

It’s Time To Trust Brett Myers Again

By Eriq Gardner //
Throughout his career, Brett Myers has been synonymous with volatility. He posted a 200+ strikeout season as an ace starter in 2005, a 20+ save season as a decent closer in 2007, and a poor 4.84 ERA as a headache-inducing starter in 2009. Simply put, fantasy owners have no idea what they’re getting in the talented but hot-headed Myers in any given season.   
Remarkably, however, Myers is the model of consistency this season. He’s now pitched 23 consecutive games this season of at least six innings — a new Houston Astros record. He’s allowed three or fewer runs in 16 of those games.
The market has been slow to note the former ace’s recovery. He’s only owned in two-thirds of all fantasy leagues. For those doubting fantasy owners, Myers’ reputation for being untrustworthy has trumped a 3.21 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, and 119 strikeouts in 157 innings. Myers’ numbers compare favorably to some of the biggest-name pitchers in the game.
Picture 23.png
His fine year led to a contract extension with the rebuilding Astros, who turned down offers for him before the trading deadline.
Myers should appreciate the fact that he’s no longer in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, traditionally one of the most friendliest to sluggers. Last season, Myers gave up an astronomical 2.29 HRs every nine innings. This season, he’s only giving up 0.80 HRs per nine innings. The massive improvement has been aided by a slightly low 8.9% HR/FB, but also a better home environment, more induced grounders, and regression from a ridiculously unlucky HR/FB of 23.4% last year – which can’t possibly all be attributed to the Phillies’ home park.
Just as impressively, Myers seems to be getting better month-to-month. He’s no longer the strikeout master that he was five years ago, but his K-rate has been steadily rising: 6.27 K/9 in April, 6.88 in May, 7.36 in June, and 7.41 in July. 
Picture 25.png
Added up, Myers has a 3.87 xFIP this year, which indicates some good luck compared to his 3.21 ERA, but still very solid. Only 25 starters this season have a better xFIP than Myers.
If there’s one hole in Myers’ armor, it’s been wins. Despite going deep into games and not giving up many runs, Myers only has eight victories this year. It’s hardly his fault. Myers plays for a team that provides miserly run support. Still, the rest of Myers’ profile shows a pitcher who should be owned nearly universally in fantasy leagues.
For more insight to help you dominate your fantasy league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
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