January 2011

Tom Gorzelanny Goes to Washington

by Eno Sarris // 

Lefty Tom Gorzelanny is moving again, this time from Chicago to our nation’s capital. Trying to figure out how he’ll fare in his new uniform will require some guesswork, but looking back might help us look forward.

For the past season and a half, Gorzelanny has been a decent pitcher underneath it all – an 8.2 K/9 IP and 4.2 BB/9 IP are good enough to exist on the back end of most fantasy rotations in most parks, even with a groundball rate right at average (40.7%). Looking back at his work in Wrigley Field may help us understand the effects his context may have had on his overall statistics, though, since his overall ERA the last two years has been pretty mediocre (4.47).

In his career, the southpaw has thrown 117 2/3 innings in the Friendly Confines. Those innings have produced a 5.43 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 – worse than his regular work. That’s not too surprising, given the park factors for home runs in the park (119 for lefties and 102 for righties). In both of his ‘resurgent’ seasons, he’s been better on the road than at home. It’s a beautiful park, but he may not miss it.

His new park should treat him better, but we can’t use past numbers to tell us much. He’s only pitched three total innings in the Nats’ new stadium. What we can see is that the home run park factors are much more friendly (94 for lefties and 100 for righties). That doesn’t really tell the whole story – look down the list of right-handed park factors for singles (98), doubles (95), and triples (82) are all pitcher-friendly. In general, the park suppresses right-handed offense by about three percent, while his former park inflated that same offense by three percent.

That swing in context should really work for Gorzelanny, who has been much better against lefties than righties over his career. Against lefties, he’s managed a 8.95 K/9 IP, 3.22 BB/9 IP and a 44.1% groundball rate. Against righties, those numbers drop to 6.05 K/9 IP, 4.38 BB/9 IP and a 41.5% groundball rate.

Gorzelanny is demonstrably better against lefties, and will get some help from the park against righties. It’s true that the Nationals scored 30 fewer runs than the Cubs last year, but in most categories other than wins, this southpaw will enjoy his trip south. He’s a fringe draft pick in mixed leagues, but his possible improvement makes him a decent, if later-round pick, in deeper leagues.

Mets Take A Chance On Chris Capuano. Should you?

By Tommy Rancel //

Two-time Tommy John surgery survivor and former 18-game winner Chris Capuano will try another comeback, after signing a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the New York Mets.

Capuano broke off talks with his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, due to uncertainty over his future role. The Brewers did not want to commit a rotation spot, while Capuano is not yet ready to make a permanent move to the bullpen. The Mets have a few openings at the back end of their rotation and little financial flexibility with a top-heavy payroll. On paper, the pairing seems like a good marriage of ability and need.

Because of injury, Capuano did not pitch in the major leagues in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the lefty returned to make 24 appearances (9 starts) for the Brewers. In most cases, results immediately following major arm surgery should be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, in 66 innings of work Capuano appeared to be very much the same pitcher he was pre-operation.

Looking at his 2010 peripheral stats most notably: strikeouts, walks, and home runs per nine innings (K/9, BB/9, HR/9), he was right in line with his career numbers.

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Also returning to career form was Capuano’s pitch selection and velocity. He remains a three-pitch starter, featuring a fastball, slider, and change-up. He was not a hard-thrower before the injuries, and his fastball remained in the upper-80s upon his return.

The Mets are taking a small risk on Capuano, who will earn a base salary of $1.5 million, but when healthy he is a league-average pitcher who could benefit from pitching his home games in the Mets’ spacious stadium. No stranger to the big fly (career 1.27 HR/9), a healthy Capuano could see his home run rate drop significantly in New York. After pitching most of his career in a noted launching pad (Miller Park), he moves to Citi Field, which ranked 27th in home runs per game in 2010 according to ESPN’s park factors.

Obviously, the concerns over another arm injury are real. And even if he remains healthy, there are questions about stamina (Capuano threw 100 or more pitches just once in 2010) over the course of an entire season. Meanwhile, there is the chance Capuano gives the Mets 150-plus innings of league average work or better thanks to the new digs.

It is a risk the Mets are willing to take and one you should consider at the back end of your NL-only draft. In standard mixed leagues, you can probably pass.

Rafael Soriano: The Most Expensive Holds Man In The League?

By Tommy Rancel //

Coming off a season in which he led the American League with 45 saves, Rafael Soriano headed into the free agent market as the best closer not named Mariano Rivera. After seeing lesser relievers sign multi-year deals, Soriano sat on the open market, looking for a big payday.

With nearly every closing vacancy filled – except the one he created in Tampa Bay – Soriano finally got his wish with a three-year, $35-million contract; however, he won’t be a closer. Instead, he signed with the New York Yankees to be the set-up man to the best closer who happens to be named Mariano Rivera.

Soriano stunned the Atlanta Braves last season when he accepted their offer of arbitration. This set off a chain of events that ended with him being the $7-million dollar closer the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t intend to have. Unafraid of the competition level in the AL East, Soriano racked up 45 saves while compiling a minuscule 1.73 ERA in 64 appearances. He is unlikely to replicate his low ERA in a hitter-friendly environment, but even if he regresses his career 2.73 ERA is very good.

Soriano limited the number of runs he allowed by limiting baserunners. Opponents hit just .170 off the righty and he walked just 2.02 batters per nine innings (BB/9). When a runner reached base, he was stranded nearly 82% of the time.After posting a career-high strikeout rate of 12.13 per nine innings (K/9) in 2009, he dropped down to 8.23 in 2010. The drop is significant, but is still above-average and his 11.7% whiff rate was also stellar.

Though he has the numbers and the stuff to back his status as a relief ace, the signing comes with considerable risk. First, signing any reliever to a $35 million commitment is absurd, but these are the Yankees. On top of the financial risk, signing a reliever to a multi-year deal is also playing with fire. Adding fuel to that fire is Soriano’s injury past which includes Tommy John surgery (2004, 2005) and other elbow issues (2008). He has been healthy the past two seasons, but at no point in his career has he held up for three straight years.
 
Obviously not closing games is a huge hit to Soriano’s fantasy value. Arguably the top roto-reliever in 2010, he now finds himself behind lesser relievers on the 2011 draft board. That said, he does hold value in deep leagues and those that count holds. Though he continues to produce at a high level, the pitches from the right-arm of Mariano Rivera are adding up. In each of the past six seasons his innings total has decreased; culminating with 60 innings in 2010. Joe Girardi has been hesitant to overuse him on back-to-back days, and Soriano’s arrival may prompt him to be even more cautious with the future hall-of-famer.
 

All things considered, Soriano is still one of the best non-closing relievers to consider on draft day. Even if Rivera remains healthy, Soriano should post a sub 3.00 ERA with steady peripherals and get 8-10 saves. If Rivera should hit the DL, he would get even more. Additionally, if your league counts holds he should be considered higher than some potential AL closers like Octavio Dotel or Kevin Gregg.

The 2011 Marlins Depth Chart

by Eno Sarris //

The Marlins are used to plugging in young players around the diamond and watching them perform. This year will be no different, as the team faces unsettled situations at second base, third base, and left field. How those battle play out will be interesting in fantasy leagues – at least deeper ones.

Left field used to be the dominion of former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan. But after he hit the DL last season with a knee injury, former first base prospect Logan Morrison took over…and probably did well enough to keep the job. Though he didn’t show great power (.164 isolated slugging percentage, .150 ISO is about average), Morrison walked 14.3% of the time in his debut – and that number fit his minor league profile, as he walked 18.4% of time at Double-A and 16.4% in Triple-A. Morrison’s batting average on balls in play (.351 BABIP) was a little high, as he struck out 20.9% of the time last year in the majors (vs. 16.5% of the time in Double-A, and 14.7% of the time in Triple-A). Fewer strikeouts and a lower BABIP may just result in a similar batting average next year. Don’t expect the power to grow too fast, though – he only showed a .181 ISO in Triple-A, and power’s not the strongest part of his game.

But Morrison can play left, which pushes Coghlan to center field. It’s a curious move, given Coghlan spent all but one of his 289 minor league games at second or third base. Last year, Coghlan struck out much more than he ever had before (23.5% last year, compared to 15.3% in his rookie season, and 13.5% at Double-A), and his ISO fell (.115 last year, .139 in 2009, .130 in Double-A). If those numbers regulate a bit, Coghlan could break double-digits in both steals and home runs with a decent batting average; if he plays some third base as has been rumored, he’s add the bonus of dual outfield and infield eligibility.

The Marlins are expected to slide newcomer and 2010 All-Star Omar Infante in at second. Infante totaled his second-most plate appearances last year (506), but a high BABIP (.355 in 2010, .313 career) gave him a batting average (.321) that hid his lack of power (.096 ISO) or stolen base ability (seven stolen, six caught). These flaws, along with Infante’s value as a superutilityman and Wes Helms being the top third baseman on the Marlins’ depth chart right now, leave the door slightly ajar for other infielders in the Marlins system to step forward in spring training.

The top candidate on the farm for the third base job is Matt Dominguez, a solid gloveman who also has some power. The 20-year old might make for a better choice than Helms or the flawed Emilio Bonifacio, despite Dominguez’s lack of experience above Double-A. Still, the situation is so jumbled, cases have even been made for Ruben Gotay and his strong walk rate.

Infante, Coghlan and Morrison figure to see ample playing time one way or another this season. Despite their collective lack of power, each should find some use in fantasy leagues, if only because of their interesting eligibility and what will likely be decent batting averages. In standard leagues, they may not make great picks on draft day, but feel free to invest a draft pick in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues.

Watch the Throne: Albert Pujols vs. Joey Votto in 2011

By Tommy Rancel //

For years, Albert Pujols has reigned over the first base position in fantasy baseball. Sure, there are plenty of productive players at the position, but the order on most draft boards usually goes something like Albert Pujols…and no one else until several spots later. After posting a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .312/.414/.596 with 42 home runs and 118 RBI last year, Pujols is showing no signs of slowing down.

But a new challenger arrived in 2010. Playing the same position and battling for the same division title, Joey Votto exploded last season, hitting .324/.424/.600 with 37 home runs and 113 RBI. He took home the National League MVP – edging out the second-place Pujols in the process. Votto’s performance was so impressive that the Reds just signed him to a three-year, $38 million contract, despite him being years away from free agency.

The showdown for supremacy at the position will be a battle for years to come. Though it seems like he’s been around forever, Pujols will be just 31 this season. Votto, 27, will be entering his fourth major league season and likely hitting the prime years of his career. 

So who’s the better choice headed into 2011?

If you’re lucky enough to be faced with the dilemma of choosing between the two, there is no wrong answer. Both players will give your team a ridiculous amount of production in power, run production, and runs scored. They’ll each swipe a few bases and have proven to be durable, even with Pujols’ recent injury scares. There are a few non-traditional categories that might tip the scale just a bit toward one side, though.

As mentioned, both hitters’ slash lines, home runs, RBI, and runs scored were pretty close to a push last year. This will likely be the case going forward, but while we know Pujols can sustain these gaudy numbers on an annual basis, Votto will be looking to repeat his MVP performance for the first time. In addition to the questions about duplicating his numbers from a season ago, Votto also had a bit more luck in 2010 than Pujols did.

First, Votto’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last year of .361 was well above the league average of around .300, as well as Pujols’ BABIP of .297. The good news is Votto’s line drive rate of 20% supports at least some of that spike. On the other hand, the fact that he held such a high BABIP with a high percentage of groundballs (45%) – without the speed of Carl Crawford - is a concern. His average could hover around the .300 mark going forward, but probably not as close to .330 as it was in 2010.

Also helping Votto in 2010 was a ridiculous home run-to-flyball rate (HR/FB). Though he hit a relatively low number of flyballs (under 35%), a full quarter of them found their way over the fence. This type of outcome is not impossible, but only four players (including Votto) had a HR/FB rate over 20% in the NL, and he was the only player with a rate above 22%. Playing in one of the most home run-friendly ballparks works in his favor, but Pujols’ 18.3% HR/FB is a number that is much more likely to be repeated.

Choosing between Votto and Pujols is like picking between a Mercedes Benz or a BMW as your mode of transportation. Each is a luxury item and each is almost guaranteed to produce at a high level. However, even though Votto is poised to make a run at the throne, Pujols is a safer bet to keep the crown.

Long live the king!

Octavio Dotel Signs with Toronto Blue Jays

By Tommy Rancel //

Octavio Dotel‘s tour of the major leagues continues. After splitting 2010 between three teams (Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies), Dotel joined his 11th organization by signing a one-year deal (with 2012 team option) with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Jays – like many teams – are in the process of remodeling their bullpen. They lost Scott Downs to the Los Angeles Angels and lost their 2009 closer Kevin Gregg as well (to the Orioles). Dotel will likely assume Gregg’s closer role, with Jason Frasor returning to Toronto as his set-up man.

Over his 12-year career, Dotel has served in a variety of roles. In fact, he is one of just four major leaguers to start at least 15 games and save 15 games in the same season. However, over the past nine seasons his work has come exclusively as a mid-to-late-inning reliever. Bouncing from city to city, he has notched 105 career saves, including 22 this past season.

We’ve used the term “three-outcome hitter” to describe players who take a lot of walks, hit a lot of home runs, and strike out a lot.  This also describes Octavio Dotel. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate of 10.95 is extremely impressive. So much so that he and Billy Wagner are the only pitchers in major league history to own a career K/9 of 10.95 or greater, with a minimum of 800 innings pitched.

The strikeouts are great, but there are those walks and home runs. In his career Dotel has walked 4.05 batters per nine innings (BB/9). He has also allowed more than a home run per nine innings (HR/9) with a career rate of 1.10. But because of his ability escape jams via swings and misses, he has been able to maintain a career ERA of 3.75.

One big red flag on Dotel as a closer is his platoon splits. Teams generally prefer a closer who is effective against both lefties and righties, to avoid late inning match-up problems. Dotel has the right-handed part down, as he has limited batters of his same hand to a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .205/.279/.375. But his OPS against left-handed batters rises to .754. Over the past three seasons, he has allowed 11 home runs to LHB in just 60.1 innings. This could be a major problem in the left-handed heavy American League East.

Dotel projects as one of the worst closer options in your 2011 draft. He’ll get picked up for his saves, even in standard mixed leagues. But a 37-year-old who can’t get lefties out, tangling with the likes of Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and others is a scary proposition. If you do draft Dotel, do it in the late rounds. And then keep Frasor in mind as a handcuff, as Dotel may not last the year as the Jays’ closer.
 

The Baddest Holds Man in The League?

By R.J. Anderson //

Kyle Farnsworth is known for four f-words: fighting, fastball, failure, and one unprintable word that encompasses the fan reaction to his failure. Another f-word that might pop up in discussion about Farnsworth this spring is fantasy — as in fantasy value. It sounds funny, but with the Tampa Bay Rays signing Farnsworth to a one-year deal (with an option for a second year) there’s an outside chance that he earns some saves this season; at the very least he’s a decent candidate for holds, given the complete overhaul of the Rays’ bullpen.

Farnsworth’s seasons since 2007 resemble a bag full of charcoal and candy. Some of the results are inedible, while others are delicious. Over the past two seasons, Farnsworth sports a solid 3.79 ERA; his peripherals (strikeout, walk, home rate) suggest his ERA should’ve been closer to 3.10. Of course, a look further back at Farnsworth’s 2007 and 2008 seasons (when Farnsworth’s cumulative ERA topped 4.60) makes it easier to digest an ERA in the high 3s as a good sign. The big change in Farnsworth’s game appears to be his reduction in walks and home runs allowed, as displayed below in percentages of total plate appearances:

Season: BB%/  HR%
2007: 10.2%/  3.4%
2008: 8.4%/  5.8%
2009: 8.3%/  1.8%
2010: 7.1%/  1.5%

The improvements coincide perfectly with Farnsworth’s increased usage of a cut-fastball, along with more consistency in release points and a different foothold on the mound. Those changes would not hold the same value if Farnsworth lost much in the way of strikeouts. Fortunately, he’s been able to strike out 22% or more of his batters faced in each of the past two seasons. Thus, Farnsworth is actually one of baseball’s more interesting developments over the past two years.

The legitimacy of this skill set alteration will be tested in 2011, as Farnsworth returns to the American League East for the first time since unceremoniously leaving the New York Yankees. The Rays have some other options to close — and may add another in the coming days. But for now, Farnsworth is a name to watch, especially in deeper leagues.

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Orioles Add Derrek Lee

By R.J. Anderson //

The Baltimore Orioles’ infield has received a makeover this offseason. Trades for Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy filled the holes on the left side, while the latest move – signing Derrek Lee – completes an infield around the venerable Brian Roberts. Lee comes at a steep price (the contract carries a max value of $10 million) despite hitting only .260/.347/.428 last season. Can a 35-year-old Lee recover from a down season in the game’s toughest division?

Perhaps burdened by an underachieving team, Lee struggled with the Chicago Cubs to the tune of a .251/.335/.416 line. The Cubs traded Lee to the playoff-surging Atlanta Braves following an injury to Troy Glaus in August and immediately saw his line shoot up: Lee hit .287/.384/.465 in 39 games worth of action with Atlanta. While the success with the Braves is encouraging relative to his Cubs’ struggles, it is not a sure sign that Lee is back. A more encouraging note: from 2007-2009, Lee hit .304/.384/.515 and averaged 26 home runs a season.

Beyond the surface, the big differences from Lee’s 2010 and prior seasons came down to strikeouts and batting average on balls in play. Lee fanned 17.4% of the time during his glory days, as opposed to 21.4% in 2010. He also saw his BABIP drop from .340 to .309. The decrease in batted ball success is at least partially responsible for Lee’s ISO dipping below .170 for the first time in his career (excluding his 236 plate appearance stint in 1999).

A sharp decline in BABIP can usually be waved off as either bad luck or random fluctuation. There seem to be larger concerns at work with Lee, though, as scouts have questioned his bat speed (according to ESPN’s Keith Law). Lee’s new division features left-handers with stellar fastballs – CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, and David Price for starters – meaning that Lee owning a platoon advantage may not be enough to find success.

As such, Lee becomes someone to watch on draft day. He’s worth a shot at the end of a standard mixed league draft, or a little earlier in shallower mixed leagues and AL-only formats.

Milwaukee Brewers Upgrade Bullpen, Sign Takashi Saito

By Tommy Rancel

The 2010 nightmare of Trevor Hoffman was not enough to scare off the Milwaukee Brewers from signing another 40-year-old reliever this off-season – this time Takashi Saito. In terms of performance, Saito is a much safer signing, since the righty has a more recent track record of success than Hoffman did, having been one of the best relief pitchers since coming to the United States in 2006.

After spending three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (much of it as a closer) Saito has spent the past two seasons as a set-up man in Boston and then Atlanta. Regardless of his role, he has been dominant over those five seasons. In fact, he is just one of six relievers in baseball to throw at least 250 innings with an ERA below 2.25 since 2006.  You may recognize the other names on that list: Joakim Soria, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and the two men he has set up for recently: Jonathan Papelbon and Billy Wagner.Of those names, only Saito and Wagner have done so with a strikeout rate of 11.0 or greater per nine innings.

Saito features a fastball, slider, and a curveball. He induces more swings and misses than league average with all three pitches, fueling his fantastic strikeout rate. He has also excelled at limiting walks and home runs allowed.

The one negative on Takashi Saito is health. Although he has pitched at least 45 games and topped 47 innings in each of his five seasons, he has dealt with a variety of ailments, including several arm issues. As he advances in age, those concerns will not go away; however, he did throw a respectable 99.2 innings over the past two years.

Saito won’t have the closer job to start, which severely limits his fantasy value in standard mixed leagues, even with his strong ratios. That said, if something should happen to incumbent closer John Axford, be it injury or ineffectiveness, Saito is the most likely replacement for saves.

Because of his fantastic peripheral stats, low ERA, and status as the Brewers’ plan B, Saito is still worth either a reserve-round pick in standard 12-team mixed leagues, and a slightly higher draft slot in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues. If your league counts holds, Saito’s value rises considerably.

 

Matt Garza’s Potential Impact with the Cubs

By Jonah Keri //

Continuing their dramatic off-season makeover, the Tampa Bay Rays were
on the verge of trading Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs as the linchpin
of an eight-player trade (none of the other players in the trade
project as worth rostering in 2011).

Opinions are split on
exactly what the Cubs are getting in the deal. One one hand, Garza’s
enjoyed great success in his three seasons with the Rays. He was the
key to another Rays blockbuster deal, coming over from Minnesota along
with Jason Bartlett as part of a six-player trade before the 2008
season. That year, Garza went 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA. In the postseason
he fared even better, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in a thrilling LCS
against the Red Sox, capped by Garza’s dominant Game 7 performance that
lifted Tampa Bay to the first World Series in franchise history.

After an apparent pullback in 2009 (8-10, 3.95 ERA), Garza enjoyed
the best season of his career from a fantasy perspective in 2010, going
15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 150 strikeouts over 204.2 effective innings.
Though he struggled at times with consistency, he also flashed the
brilliance that defined his 2008 LCS performance, tossing a no-hitter
against the Tigers in July – also a first in franchise history.

Some analysts hold a less rosy opinion of the big right-hander.
Garza’s xFIP (a stat that runs along a similar scale to ERA, but strips
out the impact of team defense, park factors, and other variables
beyond a pitcher’s control) has been fairly pedestrian over the past
three seasons, at 4.48, 4.21 and 4.51 (the 4.21 figure coming during
the season in which his more superficial fantasy stats looked worst).
His home run rates have climbed in each season with the Rays (0.93 HR/9
IP in 2008, 1.11 HR/9 IP in 2009, 1.23 HR/9 IP in 2010), just as his
groundball rates have been falling (41.7% GB% in 2008, 39.7% in 2009,
35.8% in 2010).

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs compared Garza to Aaron Harang, another
pitcher who’s eaten innings in the past (Garza’s topped 200 frames in
each of the past two seasons), owns a strong K/BB rate (2.17, 2.39 and
2.38 in the past three years for Garza) and also endangers his team
with high home run rates. With Adrian Gonzalez joining the AL East this
season, Garza would have faced an even scarier assortment of power
threats on a regular basis had he stayed with the Rays for 2011, making
those home run and groundball rates an even bigger concern.

On the other hand, Garza’s been called overrated so many times by
analysts wielding advanced stats that he may now be underrated.
Baseball Prospectus tracks 
every pitcher in the big leagues by opponents’ OPS, seeking to assess
quality of competition. Of the top 60 opponents’ OPS by pitcher in MLB
last year, just one pitcher (Madison Bumgarner) hailed from the
National League. Three of the top four hailed from the AL East.

So even if you grant that Garza has looked like another incarnation of Harang over the past three seasons with the Rays, it’s reasonable
to project significant potential improvement if and when he’s dealt to
the weaker NL Central.

But not so fast! Even if we project improvement based on a divisional
move, let’s reconsider Garza’s increasingly extreme flyball trends.
With the Rays, Garza benefited from Gold Glover Carl Crawford playing
left field, the rangy B.J. Upton in center, and underrated defender
Matt Joyce (and before him, fellow underrated defender Gabe Gross)
chasing down flyballs and line drives hit into the gaps. The Cubs
ranked just 26th in MLB at converting balls in play into outs last year; the Rays ranked 3rd. Using Ultimate Zone Rating, the Cubs ranked 18th last year, the Rays
5th.
While advanced metrics reflect relatively kindly on projected Cubs
outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd, those players rank well
below Garza’s past LF-CF tandem of Crawford and Upton. Right fielder
Tyler Colvin, meanwhile, projects as average or worse in right field.

Taking all of these factors into account, we project…fairly similar
results for Garza in 2011. He’ll post decent but not spectacular
numbers for a starting pitcher in a standard mixed league. Don’t get
too caught up with Garza’s flashes of brilliance. He’ll wield
occasional no-hit stuff. But he’s more of a #3 or even #4 fantasy
starter in standard leagues than anything approaching a #1.

The real-life take? The Cubs are still the 4th-best team in the NL Central. And the Rays are still a Wild Card contender, with Jeremy Hellickson poised to take Garza’s spot in the rotation and money now freed to sign a big bat at DH such as Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez. As I often note in The Extra 2%, my upcoming book about the Rays’ Wall Street-inspired approach, Andrew Friedman does not give a damn about public relations. To the Rays’ benefit.

UPDATE: Thanks to Twitter’s @AbPow for reminding us that Garza’s HR tendencies could be further magnified by Wrigley Field, which showed a 119 park factor for LH home runs in 2010 (100 is average, and Tropicana Field was below average).

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