By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Alex Rios
Following last season’s mid-summer waiver claim by the White Sox, Rios hit just .199/.229/.301 for his new club for the rest of 2009. However, the 29-year-old rebounded to post numbers above his career average across the board in 2010. His .284/.334/.457 slash line slightly bests his career .281/.331/.446. More importantly from a fantasy perspective, he regained his great power/speed combo, smashing 21 home runs while stealing 34 bases. He also crossed the plate 89 times and added 88 RBI. With 2009 looking like the outlier, expect numbers close to career averages again in 2011.
Biggest Bust: Gordon Beckham
Beckham impressed in his first 400 major league plate appearances by hitting .270/.347/.460 as a rookie second baseman. In nearly 500 PA this year, he hit just .252/.317/.378. His home runs dropped from 14 to nine and his RBI from 63 down to 49 – despite playing in 28 more games. There’s nothing that screams fluke in either season, which leaves Beckham’s owners scratching their heads moving forward. If he’s valued as a .250 hitter with light power at the draft table next year, though, he’s well worth grabbing at that price.
2011 Keeper Alert: Dayan Viciedo
A Cuban defector, Viciedo showed some of the power the White Sox hoped to see when they signed him. After hitting 20 home runs in 86 games at the Triple-A level, the 21-year-old was promoted to the big leagues. There, he it .308/.321/.519 with five home runs in just 106 PA. His average is fueled by a rather unsustainable BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and his plate discipline leaves much to be desired (two walks and 25 strikeouts). But with plus power at the hot corner, the Chicago third baseman of the future is one to keep.
2011 Regression Alert: Paul Konerko
Konerko has been one of the most underrated hitters of the past few seasons, but pardon me for being a little wary of a 34-year-old posting a career-best .977 OPS. While playing in one of baseball’s home run havens, nearly 20% of Konerko’s flyballs hit went over the wall. In addition to a favorable home run rate, his BABIP .326 was well above his career .285 level. A free agent this off-season, Konerko’s next destination is unknown. But it is very unlikely his OPS approaches 1.000 again next year. Don’t overbid.
For more on Alex Rios and the Chicago White Sox lineup, check Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: David Freese
Acquired three years ago in the Jim Edmonds deal, Freese’s pedigree made him an iffy candidate to become a starting third baseman in the major leagues. He made a solid case this season, though, hitting .296/.361/.404. There’s not a ton of power in that line, which tends to make fans and fantasy baseball players antsy with expectations of sluggers at the corners. His four home runs will not fool anyone into thinking he’s the reincarnate of Scott Rolen, but the injuries might. Not a recommended keeper.
Biggest Bust: Felipe Lopez
Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Lopez registered one of the worst. He played better in a brief stint with Boston, but was downright horrendous with the Cardinals. A .231/.310/.340 line looks nothing like what we’ve come to expect from the 30-year-old. Folks in the industry aren’t thrilled with his personality and that could keep him from securing a major league deal (let alone a starting job) this off-season. There’s a chance Lopez could enter 2011 as a utility player.
2011 Keeper Alert: Colby Rasmus
Lost in the hoopla of Rasmus vs. Tony LaRussa was the fact that Rasmus played very well and managed over 500 plate appearances while hitting .276/.361/.498 as a 23-year-old. That’s more plate appearances than Curtis Granderson received, and nobody is going to pass on Granderson because of it. Rasmus’ future is bright whether he’s in St. Louis or another major league city, but two things are for sure, he’s going to be in the majors in 2011 and he’s going to hit.
2011 Regression Alert: Matt Pagnozzi
No batter really over- or underperformed expectations; therefore, Pagnozzi’s .892 OPS in 44 plate appearances registers as the individual season which you should not buy into as being legitimate.
For more on Albert Pujols, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Eriq Gardner //
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Behind the Numbers
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By Eriq Gardner //
By R.J Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: Carlos Silva & Tom Gorzelanny
Silva went from one of the worst pitchers in baseball to a guy with a 10-6 record and 4.22 ERA. Meanwhile Gorzelanny went from unemployable by the Pirates to a 4.09 ERA in 23 starts. The Cubs had a disappointing season, but they managed to turn broken eggs into soufflé twice during the same season. Both pitchers have dealt with injury issues throughout the season, including Gorzelanny breaking a finger and Silva enduring elbow tendinitis in September alone.
Biggest Bust: Carlos Zambrano
Not because he pitched poorly, mind you, but because his temporary stints on the inactive list and in the bullpen wasted away his value and held him to 19 starts.
2011 Keeper Alert: Carlos Marmol
One of the most incredible seasons in baseball this or any season, Marmol’s 77.2 innings pitched come with 138 strikeouts and 40 hits allowed. For his career, Marmol has struck out twice as many batters as hits given up. That’s just unfathomable. The only aspect of his game that prevents Marmol from being perhaps the most dominant reliever in baseball (if he isn’t already) is his tendency to lose the plate: No closer walked more batters more frequently than Marmol (6.03 BB/9 IP – though that was, amazingly, nearly two full walks per game lower than his 2009 mark).
2011 Regression Alert: Carlos Silva
Silva struck out 6.37 batters per nine innings this season. His career rate is a little over four. Maybe he’s discovered the key to fanning heaven, but probably not. Be careful about overvaluing the latest season, even though pitchers like Esteban Loaiza have broken out at a similar age.
For more on the Chicago Cubs, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Chris Perez
When the team acquired Perez last season, they envisioned him as the closer of the future. They probably did not expect that to come in 2010, but they got what they wanted and then some. Perez racked up 23 saves in 27 chances this season with a 1.71 ERA – third-best in the American League among relievers with at least 50 innings of work. On top of the low ERA, Perez struck out nearly a batter an inning and allowed just four home runs in 63 frames. Defensive independent metrics suggest Perez’s ERA is a bit lucky, so beware of regression in 2011.
Biggest Bust: Kerry Wood
Signed to be the team’s closer is 2008, Wood never lived up to his contract in Cleveland. After injury, ineffectiveness, and the emergence of Perez, he was traded to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline. Before the trade, he was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA and three blown saves in 23 games. He has since pitched much better as a set-up man for the Yankees, but that does no good for Cleveland.
2011 Keeper Alert: Justin Masterson
Like Perez, the Indians acquired Masterson in 2009 with high hopes for the future. After working mostly out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2008 and 2009, Masterson made 29 starts for the Tribe this year. The fantasy stats, however, are a work in progress: 6-13 with a 4.70 ERA in 180 innings. However, he should be on your keeper list because…
2011 Regression Alert: Justin Masterson
While his traditional stats are not impressive, Masterson is better than his near-five ERA suggests. He has a decent strikeout rate of 7.0 K/9 IP and also lowered his walk rate to a career low 3.65 BB/9 IP. As an extreme groundball pitcher (59.9%), he relies heavily on luck and infield defense. In 2010 he was unlucky on batting average on balls in play: His BABIP .332 was well above the league average of .302. With some better luck, Masterson could eventually put up numbers similar to Trevor Cahill‘s 2010 campaign – maybe even next year.
For more on Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise(s): C.J. Wilson & Colby Lewis
In one of the first articles at Bloomberg Sports, we wondered if Wilson could physically handle the transition from reliever to starter, and more importantly, if his stellar stats would follow. Wilson answered those questions by tossing 203 innings and going 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 33 starts. Wilson did lead the league in walks allowed. Still, he allowed just 10 homers all year and showed great durability. The move was certainly a success for the straight edge racer and the Rangers.
After spending 2008 and 2009 away from the major leagues, Lewis returned in a big way in 2010. Although he finished with a 12-13 record, his 3.72 ERA in 201 innings amounted to one of baseball’s biggest surprises. With nearly a strikeout per inning and less than three walks per nine, Lewis’ success was no fluke. He won’t surprise anyone next year, so plan accordingly.
Biggest Bust: Scott Feldman
Feldman enjoyed a breakout season in 2009, going 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 31 starts. He came crashing down to earth in 2010 as he went 7-11 with a 5.48 ERA in 22 starts. Feldman’s strikeout rate was poor in 2009 (5.36 K/9), but was even worse in 2010 (4.78). Although he might see some positive regression in 2011, it shouldn’t be much.
2011 Keeper Alert: Neftali Feliz
Feliz completed the opposite transition of C.J. Wilson, as the one-time starting pitching prospect became one of the AL’s best closers. The 22-year-old saved 40 games in 43 opportunities. His strikeout rate dropped from double digits in 2009, but was still better than league average (9.22 K/9). He did a stellar job of limiting walks (2.34 BB/9) and kept the ball in the yard (0.65 HR/9) despite his home stadium. There are talks of him one day resuming his starting role, but regardless of role, his live arm is worth keeping around.
2011 Regression Alert: Tommy Hunter
With a record of 13-4 and an ERA of 3.73, Hunter definitely caught some people’s attention. But really, Hunter is another Scott Feldman waiting to happen given the two pitchers’ very similar peripherals. In fact, Hunter posted an identical strikeout rate of 4.78 Ks per nine innings. He did post a nice walk rate, but gave up nearly 1.5 home runs per nine. In addition to BABIP regression, Hunter also stranded 80.7% of batters. The league average is 72.2%. Let someone else in your league deal with all that regression in 2011.
For more on C.J. Wilson and the Texas Rangers’ rotation checkout Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Carlos Santana
Despite having his rookie season cut short with a gruesome knee injury, Carlos Santana looked as good as advertised in his 46 major league games. After hitting .316/.447/.597 in 57 minor league games, the young catcher compiled an .868 OPS in 192 plate appearances for Cleveland. Although his batting average was just .260, Santana had an on-base percentage over .400 (.401). This is because he walked an amazing 37 times in 192 appearances (19.3%).
Biggest Bust: Grady Sizemore
It is somewhat unfair to label a player a bust when his season ends after just 33 games due to a major knee surgery. But even before the injury, Grady Sizemore was not producing like a top-level outfielder – the spot where most people drafted him this year. As mentioned, Sizemore played in just 33 games. In those games, he hit just .211/.271/.289. This comes on the heels of 2009 in which he hit just .248/.343/.445 in 106 games, itself a huge step-down from his prior superstar performance. He’s a high-upside pick next year, but given the risk, don’t overbid.
2011 Keeper Alert: Carlos Santana
Not only is Santana a really good hitter with ridiculous on-base skills, he does it from one of the least productive positions in baseball. The average OPS for a major league catcher this season is .702, the second-worst mark for any position on the field (shortstop .696). In his brief time, Santana posted an OPS of .868. There are three catchers in the entire league (minimum 190 PA) who posted a higher OPS: Geovany Soto, Buster Posey, and Joe Mauer.
2011 Regression Alert: Matt LaPorta
As the crown jewel in the CC Sabathia trade of 2008, Indians fans are still waiting for Matt LaPorta to replicate his minor league success at the next level. LaPorta has hit just .221/.306/.362 in 425 plate appearances. His batting average on balls in play was also pretty low at .250. A large reason for this is his weak percentage of line drives hit. Just 12.5% of the balls in play off LaPorta’s bat were line drives – the third-worst mark in baseball (minimum 400 PA). It is no secret that line drives are the type of batted ball that tends to fall for a hit the most often. Still, LaPorta’s minor league track record suggests power potential, and he should start right from Opening Day next season. He’s worth a shot in deeper leagues.
For more on Carlos Santana and the Cleveland Indians lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.