November 2010

Report: John Bucks To Sign Three-Year Deal With Marlins

By Tommy Rancel //

Jose Bautista and his 54 home runs grabbed the headlines as leader of a powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup that smashed 257 home runs. Counting Bautista, seven Jays hit at least 20 home runs. This doesn’t include Alex Gonzalez‘s 17 home runs in 85 games with Toronto and the six he added with the Braves. On the other hand, this does include catcher John Buck who hit a career-high 20 home runs.

After his power-filled season north of the border, it is being reported that Buck is close to signing a three-year deal with the Florida Marlins worth between $16-18 million. Before we get into the fantasy aspect, let’s look at the deal.

Like most teams, the Marlins were looking to upgrade their catcher situation. Ronny Paulino served as the teams’ primary catcher before being suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Whatever he took didn’t work as he hit just .259/.311/.384 in 91 games. From there names like John Baker, Brad Davis, and Brett Hayes received playing time, but none did anything to warrant more.

In Buck, the Marlins are getting a player whose profile is easy to project. Despite his .281 batting average this past season (inflated by a batting average on balls in play of .335 compared to a .289 career average), Buck is more of a .250 hitter. He does not show much patience at the plate (6.5% career walk rate) and is a hacker. In addition to striking out more than 26% of the time, he swings at nearly 30% of pitches outside of the strike zone. In the last two seasons, he whiffed at more than 16% of the pitches thrown to him.

The one positive in Buck’s game is his power. That said, he is not Mike Piazza in his prime. As mentioned, he hit a career-best 20 home runs this past season. His previous high came in 2007 when he belted 18 bombs as a member of the Royals.

Like a lot of Blue Jays, he enjoyed a home-run friendly Rogers Centre. The former Sky Dome had a home run park factor of 116 for right-handed batters (average is 100). The park he now calls home had a park factor of 95 for right-handed batters. The good news is he hit 10 home runs on the road.

With a similar player in Ramon Hernandez signing a one-year, $3 million deal on Monday, this looks like a gross overpay by the Marlins. In terms of fantasy impact, Buck was not a top 10 catcher going into 2011, but he was a decent backup option in the right situation. When you consider him leaving the confines of Toronto as well as the potential for regression in batting average, he is now closer to the bottom 10 than the top.

He should still hit for decent power numbers in Miami – sacrificing some home runs for doubles – and could give you some value in a deep league, but do not take the bait and overpay like the Marlins.

For more on John Buck and the Florida Marlins, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.

MLB Season in Review: Baltimore Orioles Hitters

By Eriq Gardner //

 
Biggest Surprise: Luke Scott
 
Scott has a long track record of being underestimated. As a player who never got full playing time until the advanced age of 27, he’s been given short shrift again and again. But last season, Scott showed impressive power for the fourth consecutive season. One of the streakiest batters alive, Scott tore it up this season to the tune of 27 HR, a feat that’s particularly noteworthy given that homers were down MLB, and that Scott played in just 131 games.
 
Biggest Disappointment: Nick Markakis
 
The Orioles had O-so-many disappointments in 2010. Matt Wieters hasn’t yet fulfilled the expectations that he might be Mark Teixeira with a catcher’s mitt. Adam Jones looked to be a budding superstar at the start of 2009, but has since taken a few steps back with his inability to take a walk. Brian Roberts was injured much of the season. And whatever happened to Nolan Reimold? Still, the closely contested award for biggest disappointment on the team has to go to Markakis, who hit just 12 HR in 2010, with just 60 RBI.
 
2011 Keeper Alert: Matt Wieters
As we just discussed, Wieters hasn’t yet fulfilled his promise. But he hasn’t played two full seasons in the big leagues yet either. A catcher with 35 HR potential just doesn’t come along very often. So we’ll give Wieters a pass, hoping that the 24-year-old may be on the verge of a breakout year.
2011 Regression Alert: Nick Markakis
A couple more words on Markakis as we look to next season. On the bright side, Markakis suffered from a woeful 6.1% HR-to-FB ratio, perhaps an indication that we could see a return to 20-plus homers next season. His BABIP was .331 last season, which indicates luck, but a deeper look reveals his strikeout rate went down and his walk rate went up. In other words, his sub-.300 average languished largely as a result of not getting the ball out of the park with higher frequency, as his flyballs found more gloves.

For more on the Baltimore Orioles, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

 
 

Cameron Maybin Traded to the Padres

By R.J. Anderson //

A day after the Florida Marlins traded Andrew Miller to the Boston Red Sox, the Fish shipped out the other big name from their ill-fated Miguel Cabrera trade, by sending Cameron Maybin to the San Diego Padres. (That leaves only Burke Badenhop remaining in the organization from that package and that’s probably a good thing, given how the others have played during their time in Florida.) The Marlins received two right-handed relievers in return for Maybin – Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Both could be in line for some save opportunities if Florida decides to trade closer Leo Nunez.

Webb stands 6’6″ and features a mid-90s fastball. The prototypical closer image with a fierce slider that translates into wicked groundball rates (over 60% for his career), Webb is more than projection, as the arithmetic matches the physiology. Webb’s ERA sits at 3.19 through more than 80 career innings, while his peripherals remain steady with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 2-to-1. Part of Webb’s shine can be attributed to a microscopic home run rate in 2010 (0.15 per nine innings; or one in 59 innings). That will not continue in 2011, but a sub-4.00 ERA would not be out of line.

Meanwhile, Mujica’s inability to keep the ball in the park remains the only aspect separating him from prominence. Since the 2009 season started — coinciding with Mujica becoming a Friar — he has accumulated 163 innings, a 3.80 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 21 unintentional walks…and 28 home runs. His stuff misses bats and he controls it well. Whether the home runs are a short-term blemish or a permanent flaw is to be determined. Having the gopherball bug through more than 200 career innings (with most of that time coming in pitcher-friendly San Diego) suggests it’s probably not going away. Still, his numbers are not too different from those of the incumbent closer, Nunez:

mujica1.png

For the Padres to part with two quality relievers with years of cost control left, they required a player with the potential of Maybin. The one attribute about Maybin that will continue to be repeated until the season gets underway is his age. He is only 23 years old despite having more than 600 career plate appearances in the bigs (and a .246/.313/.380 line). That in itself is pretty rare for center fielders. Take the top 10 center fielders during the 2010 season (as determined by FanGraphs’ WAR) and track them at age 23. Here’s what you’ll find:

 

Josh Hamilton – Not playing baseball due to substance abuse issues.

Andres Torres – In Double-A hitting .294/.391/.393 line.

Carlos Gonzalez - In his second season in the bigs, hitting .284/.353/.525 for Colorado.

Brett Gardner – Hitting .281/.369/.378 between the upper minors.

Angel Pagan – Hitting .271/.333/.395 in his first full season in Triple-A.

Chris Young - Hitting .237/.295/.467 in his first full season in the majors.

Michal Bourn – Getting his first cup of coffee after hitting .277/.356/.385 in the upper minors.

Marlon Byrd – In Double-A hitting .316/.386/.555.

Vernon Wells – First full season in the majors, hitting .275/.305/.457.

Austin Jackson - This season, first full in the majors, hitting .293/.345/.400

With that kind of history, Maybin has some cause for optimism. There is reason to believe he still possesses the tools that made prospect analysts go wild over his potential just three years ago, it’s just a matter of tapping into those tools. Regardless of his immense physical skills, though, Maybin must cut down on his whiffing. The driving force behind his awful line is not a lack of walks (nearly 8%) or success on balls in play (.334 batting average on batted balls) but rather, strikeouts. It’s hard for any player to fare well while striking out in nearly one-third of his career at-bats; particularly when that player hits the ball on the ground a lot, rather than hitting for a lot of power.

There’s an outside chance that the two relievers are more productive in fantasy than Maybin in 2011. There’s even an outside chance that Maybin is relegated to a bench role. It’s hard to see him not breaking camp with the Padres, though, as he is out of options (meaning he cannot be sent to the minors without passing through waivers) and the acquisition cost suggests there was a demand for Maybin on the trade market. At the very least, Maybin is the more intriguing long-term keeper if you’re in a perpetual league. 

For more on Cameron Maybin, Ryan Webb, and Edward Mujica, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

MLB Season in Review: Los Angeles Dodgers Hitters

By Eriq Gardner //

Biggest Surprise: Rafael Furcal
Thanks to injuries that limited Furcal to just 428 plate appearances, his superlative season probably won’t get too much credit. However, according to Fangraphs’ value chart, Furcal finished the season as the team’s most valuable position player, and the shortstop does get some credit in our book for doing extremely well in limited time in a year where production at shortstop was quite meager. Furcal bounced back from a subpar 2009 of just 9 HR, 12 SB, and a .269 AVG to put up 8 HR, 22 SB, and a .286 AVG in 2010.
Biggest Disappointment: Matt Kemp
Most fantasy owners would gladly take 28 HR and 19 SB from one of their players. But expectations were much higher for this first-round pick. What’s disappointing about Kemp’s season was the step backwards he made at the plate. His batting average dropped from .297 in 2009 to just .249 in 2010. The struggles led to some bench time late in the season. When Kemp reached base, he struggled there was well, getting caught stealing 15 times in 34 attempts, which – along with being relegated to the bottom of the lineup for a big chunk of the season – contributed to his subpar runs scored total.
2011 Keeper Alert: It Depends
No batter on the team is a lock to outperform their price tag in keeper leagues. Mostly, it depends on the format of the keeper league. In those leagues where owners can protect players regardless of price, Matt Kemp will still likely be a player who is Top 50. In leagues where you can get a salary bargain based on previous year’s stats, Rafael Furcal is probably the best bet – although he’s getting up there in age and is injury-prone. 
2011 Regression Alert: Andre Ethier
Ethier was fantastic at the start of the season, blasting 11 HR and hitting nearly .400 during the season’s first six weeks. Then, Ethier suffered a fractured bone at the end of his right pinkie, missed time, and when he returned, was never quite the same. His average dropped like a rock and the power went missing. Assuming he’s fully healthy next season, expect much better results for Ethier.
For more on Dodgers batters, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Bryce Harper May Not Be Superman

by Eno Sarris //

Scouting is a tough business. There is
no scout superpower that allows members of the profession to leap over
tall buildings and see into the future. Otherwise there would be some extremely well-paid scouts and some bulletproof teams out there.

Instead,
members of the human race are left trying to learn aspects of
successful baseball players, and then look for those aspects in young
prospects. The problem is, you can look great using a metal bat or beating
up on pitchers who can’t locate their fastball and don’t have a
secondary pitch worth worrying about – and yet still fail at the major league level.

Enter Bryce Harper, the #1 pick of the 2010 draft, and current Arizona Fall League wunderkind.
Look at him at the plate thanks to this great video by Joel Henard at Baseball Daily Digest Radio, and you may, like one scout here in Arizona mused, think he has a high-effort swing. There certainly are a
lot of things that have to go right in his swing, even if the best
result is a powerful one. There are scouting mantras
that say swings that can be described as ‘easy’ and ‘loose’ are
the goal. After watching a few more Harper hacks, you might decide that
though it’s high-effort and complicated, his swing does look like it could generate results. You’ll also see how difficult
scouting can be.

Take a look at the list of first-overall picks in the amateur draft and you’ll find some hits and also plenty of misses. For every superhero like Justin Upton and Chipper Jones, there is a superdud like Ben McDonald and Matt Bush. Limit the list to power hitters, however, and it’s a little harder to find busts. If you give Pat Burrell
some credit, and ignore catchers and shortstops who may have been
taken for potential defensive prowess, you might have to go all the
way to Shawn Abner in 1984 to really find a first-pick, power-hitting bust with a capital B. Viewed in that light, Harper’s draft position alone works in his favor.   

In
Harper’s case, we even have some mitigating statistics to help us out.
Though he didn’t play in college, he did pick a junior college that
played with wooden bats
– and at the tender age of 17, he put up an
astounding .442/.524/.986 line that could get any pessimistic scout
over-ruled. Now he’s playing against some of the best prospects in
baseball at the Arizona Fall League, and once again his .348/.423/.565
(albeit in a small sample of games) seems to answer most questions.
Harper1.jpg
Except there’s one little
thing… he’s struck out eight times in his first 23 at bats (34.7%). The sample size is not close
to being reliable – strikeout rates usually take more than 150 plate appearances to become predictive. Still, one wonders when the first criticisms of Harper wearing
enough eye black to drown Aquaman will start (image thanks to Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images).

Paired with his age, and the odd high-effort
swing, there is a little doubt here. Even if he does work out, it should
take some time (Adrian Beltre‘s 19-year old, 214-plate
appearance, .215/.278/.369 debut was the youngest significant major league start
since 1975; Ken Griffey, Jr. managed a .264/.329/.420 line at a few months older). His future still looks bright, but don’t expect much, if any impact for at least a couple years.

For more on Bryce Harper and other young prospects, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.

David DeJesus Traded for Vin Mazzaro

By R.J. Anderson //

Although the Athletics and Royals did not agree on the first trade of the offseason, they did pull off most-talked about deal thus far. The details have left fielder David DeJesus heading to Oakland, while starting pitchers Vin Mazarro and Justin Marks go to Kansas City. Marks holds some middle-of-the-rotation upside, but clearly the bigger names here are DeJesus and Mazzaro.

DeJesus is a typical Athletics outfielder, or at least typical of the past few years. He plays good defense, reaches base, and does not hit for much power, while going about his business in an unheralded fashion. DeJesus’ line over the last three seasons is .300/.363/.443 with an average of 14 home runs per 700 plate appearances and eight stolen bases; which is to say he is a much better player in real life than in fantasy.

An extra instance of DeJesus’ value in real life being higher than his fantasy value comes in the form of draft compensation. The soon-to-be 31-year-old projects as a borderline Type A free agent. Meaning he could bring the Athletics draft picks in return for being signed by another team next offseason.

DeJesus is not the first former Royals outfielder to head to Oakland either, joining a worthwhile group that includes Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and past/present teammate Coco Crisp. Oakland being an extreme pitchers’ park explains why each of their slash lines dropped (except Crisp) during their time there relative to their Kansas City experience. Expect the trend to hold true with DeJesus, meaning he’ll probably hit below .300 and perhaps closer to 10 home runs than 15.

Meanwhile, the Royals get Mazzaro. The 24-year-old posted a 4.27 ERA during his first full season in the major leagues. A late-season demotion raised some eyebrows and iffy peripherals project to an ERA nearly a run higher (Mazzaro was saved by better performance with men on base than otherwise, and other factors). Mazzaro throws a sinker that theoretically should make him a groundball master, but his groundball rates are pedestrian at 41% for his career. Meanwhile, Oakland’s infield defense was one of the best in the league, while Kansas City’s is not.

Along with the park effects, expect an increase in WHIP and ERA, unless Mazzaro gets better in a hurry. Keep in mind that he does only have 35 major league starts under his belt and barely 200 innings. Pitchers do not age like hitters, but it’s just way too early to proclaim Mazzaro as a bottom feeder unworthy of a major league rotation spot to open the 2011 season.

It’s easy to fall into the rhetoric surrounding Billy Beane and Dayton Moore and assume Beane just pulled a fast one on Moore. Time may prove that to be true, but this trade feels more even than lopsided, even if neither of these players hold much fantasy value.

For more on Vin Mazzaro and mid-rotation candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office. 

Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Ted Lilly? Dodgers Re-Sign Lefty

By Tommy Rancel //

In advance of last weekend’s deadline for exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents, the Los Angeles Dodgers re-signed Ted Lilly to a three-year deal worth $33 million in mid-October.

It’s remarkable that Lilly’s $11 million annual salary under his new contract actually tops the $10 million he averaged under his last deal. Lilly hasn’t gotten worse, but he hasn’t exactly gotten better. Keep in mind, he will be 35 years old on Opening Day. If Lilly’s mostly average, 35-year-old left arm fetches $11 million a year, pitchers like Carl Pavano, Jon Garland, and Hiroki Kuroda should be in good shape on the open market once Cliff Lee signs.

Although he spent just two months in Los Angeles, Lilly impressed the Dodgers enough to lock him up before he hit free agency. In his 12 starts with L.A., he went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA. This came after a 3-8 record for the Cubs with a 3.69 ERA in 18 games.

Defensive independent metrics like FIP and xFIP – stats that measures strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed and strip out factors beyond a pitcher’s control – show that Lilly’s true talent level in Chicago was closer to his poor record than his better-than-average ERA. Meanwhile – according to the same metrics – Lilly was a much better pitcher in Los Angeles despite the minimal difference in ERA.

The biggest difference between Lilly’s two stops was strikeouts. In 117 innings on the North Side, he struck out 89 batters. After his move out West, he struck out 77 batters in just 76.2 innings – or 9.04 batters per nine innings (K/9). In addition to the increase in Ks, he also dropped his BB/9 from a very good 2.23 to a fantastic 1.76. Home runs followed him to L.A., but the long ball has always been a problem for Lilly (career 1.35 HR/9).

Looking at pitch selection, Lilly used more fastballs and curveballs with the Dodgers while throwing fewer sliders and change-ups. (It should be noted that he also gained velocity across the board after leaving the Cubs, but velocity readings can vary among different parks.)

On the other hand, swinging strikes and first-pitch strikes are not park-influenced. After the trade, Lilly upped his first-pitch strike percentage from 61.0% to 67.9%. He also increased his whiffs from 7.6% to 10.9%. The latter is the highest total for him since 2003.

In some cases, a player’s value or perception may differ from real-life to fantasy. That said, Lilly’s place as a mid-rotation starter is universal. He has been durable (averaged 183 innings over last eight seasons) and he piles up wins. In fact, since 2003 only four left-handed starters have won at least 10 games a year. The list: Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, and Lilly.
 
There is no rush to lock him up like the Dodgers did, but Lilly should provide value as an SP3 or an SP4 in all leagues next season.

For more on Ted Lilly and mid-rotation candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office. 

MLB Season in Review: Los Angeles Dodgers Pitchers

By Eriq Gardner //

Biggest Surprise: Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda may not get a ton of press, but after a good career in Japan, the 35-year-old starter provided tremendous value and stability throughout the 2010 season, improving on his strong 2008 and 2009 campaigns. He finished the season with a sterling 3.39 ERA, buttressed by a better strikeout rate (from 6.67 K/9 in 2009 to 7.29 in 2010) and a phenomenal ability to keep the ball on the ground (51.1% groundball rate) and limit home runs (0.69 HR/9 IP).
Biggest Disappointment: Jonathan Broxton
Broxton entered the season as one of the most reliable closers in the game. Guess what? He lost his job. In the first three months of the season, Broxton was dominant. Then, the wheels came off. His ERA after the All-Star break was a flabbergasting 7.13, as he lost the ability to command his pitches. Why did his strikeout rate drop and his walk rate climb? This could certainly be the case of a hidden injury.
2011 Keeper Alert: Clayton Kershaw
When Kershaw came into the league, some called him one of the best left-handed prospects in a generation. This past season, Kershaw stepped up to the hype with a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts. Kershaw’s biggest improvement came by allowing fewer walks. A word of warning: Kershaw got very lucky last season, allowing just 13 HR despite being a flyball pitcher. Still, he’ll be just 23 next Opening Day, and the future looks bright.
2011 Regression Alert: Ted Lilly
The Dodgers’ pitchers are perhaps the showcase example of an MLB-wide trend: not as many home runs allowed. Thing is, the Dodgers were luckier than most. Take a look at most of their starters and you’ll see a staff that kept the ball in the park at a phenomenal rate – not just at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, but on the road too. The exception? Ted Lilly. After being traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, Lilly gave up 13 HR in 76 IP. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher (52.6% in 2010, 46% for his career), so the long ball is always a threat. Nevertheless, Lilly still managed a 3.52 ERA with the Dodgers and a WHIP under 1.00, making him a solid bet to provide nearly elite numbers next season – especially after he inked a three-year extension to pitch at Dodger Stadium.
For more on Dodgers pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

MLB’s Most Wanted: Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth?

By Tommy Rancel //

 

Despite the news that the New York Yankees do not plan to pursue Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth this offseason, the pair of outfielders are the most sought-out position players on the open market. But who deserves top billing?

 

ccwerth.PNG

 

According to Scott Boras, the agent of Werth, the Phillies’ outfielder is the cream of the crop. It is normally good practice to treat agent speak as such, but Boras isn’t too far off.

 

Over the past three seasons, Werth has averaged a slash line of .279/.376/.513 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. Only five players other than Werth can say they’ve averaged at least those numbers over the same time frame (min. 1800 plate appearances). Those players are: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, and Joey Votto.

 

This season he joined Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Jose Bautista as the only major leaguers with an OPS greater than .920 with a minimum of 650 plate appearances. That’s nice company to keep heading into a rather weak free agent class for position players.

 

On the other hand, the case can be made that Carl Crawford is not only the better overall player right now, but will be the better value in three to four years.

 

First, Crawford is younger and more athletic. Although Werth is a decent defender, Crawford is among the best in the league. Despite being the better overall offensive player right now, Werth’s skillset is not as broad as Crawford’s and could decline quicker.

 

Crawford’s offensive game plays in all types of parks and he has spent his career in the American League. Werth, on the other hand, has enjoyed his success playing in the National League at one of the more hitter-friendly parks. In fact, the gap in his home/road splits has grown even further apart over the past two seasons.

 

Consider this, the closest statistical player to Crawford at age 28 according to baseball-reference.com is Roberto Clemente. Also consider that Crawford has more career hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, and nearly 10 times as many steals than the legendary Clemente did at the same age, despite just a 22-game difference in career games. While Crawford doesn’t have the arm of Clemente, he is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game. Imagine if Clemente hit the open market going into to what some consider his prime; that could be what we have here.

 

Everyone knows that Crawford’s main asset is speed. That said, in recent seasons he has taken a few more walks. He also showed more power this season with a career-high 62 extra-base hits. Although Tropicana Field has taken a toll on his legs, he has avoided major injury to those valuable wheels.

 

Looking at short-term value, Werth is likely the better offensive player for 2011 – even though Crawford is the superior fantasy commodity given his prodigious speed. Werth’s power potential is much greater, and it’s not just tied to balls leaving the yard. He led the league with 46 doubles in 2010 and could rack up even more in a place like Fenway Park. However, if you’re looking for a keeper between the two, Crawford is the one. He will continue to offer tremendous value in steals, as well as providing an above-average number of extra-base hits for the next few years. In conjunction with steals and extra bases, He should score a lot of runs in a good lineup as well.


ccwerth2.PNG

 

For more on Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and other MLB Free Agents check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.

 

MLB Season in Review: Houston Astros Pitchers

By Eno Sarris // 

Biggest Surprise: Wilton Lopez

How does a pitcher who doesn’t strike out batters at an average rate for relievers (6.72 K/9, reliever average well above 7 K/9) become the best reliever in his pen? Lopez did it by not walking anyone (five all year, or 0.67 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground (55.7%). Those aren’t always the traits of a great closer – managers love the strikeout – and so Lopez may not be fantasy-relevant in most leagues. But if your league counts holds, or you are looking for a reliever to keep your ratios down, remember this name.

Biggest Bust: Bud Norris

If you’re looking for strikeouts, Norris could be your man; if he could pick up some of that control from Lopez through osmosis, he’d be a veritable ace. He struck out more than a man per inning (9.25 K/9), and that’s valuable. But he struggled to locate his secondary stuff, and his walks spiked as a result (4.51 BB/9). Given that he’s also a flyball pitcher (41.4% groundballs for his career), he’ll really need to cut down on the walks to fulfill his promise in the starting rotation.

2011 Keeper Alert: Wandy Rodriguez

Rodriguez struggled out of the gate (4.97 ERA, 1.52 WHIP before the All-Star game), but a fine second half brought him back to upper-echelon levels (3.60 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). Though his strikeout (8.22 K/9) and walk (3.14 BB/9) rates were the worst he’s shown in three years, they were still strong. He’s a little older than you might think (32 next season), but in the short-term he’s still a good keeper on a staff mostly devoid of young keeper pitching. J.A. Happ, for instance, strikes out more than a full batter fewer than Rodriguez, and usually walks at least a half-batter or more than him too.
 

2011 Regression Alert: Felipe Paulino

Paulino is a little like Bud Norris in that he can strike a batter out (8.15 K/9 last year), struggles with control (4.52 BB/9 last year), and put up a stinker of an ERA in 2010 (5.11). But Paulino may have an easier time harnessing his stuff. In his first 100 major league innings, he walked fewer than 3.5 batters per nine innings, and even after a poor second 100 innings, he’s got a manageable 3.89 BB/9 for his career. As a flyballer, he’ll always be a little vulnerable to the gopherball. But look for that unsightly ERA to improve next year if his control settled toward career norms.

For more on Felipe Paulino, Bud Norris, Wandy Rodriguez and other young Houston Astros, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

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