February 2011

The Year of Adam Jones?

By R.J. Anderson //

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Over the weekend, the Orioles added Vladimir Guerrero. This development gives the Orioles a lineup heavy on name value, as the team could field a starting nine with Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds, Guerrero, Luke Scott, and Adam Jones. The latter is perhaps the most intriguing player not named Wieters.

 Despite only being 25, it feels like Jones has a half-dozen seasons under his belt at the big league level — and he will after the 2011 season. Since becoming a regular with the Orioles, Jones is averaging a line of .278/.324/.343, above league-average rates, but one thing to take away from Jones is the predictive power of the hot hand. In more precise terms: There is no little to no predictive value.

Consider Jones’ month-by-month OPS breakdown during the 2010 season:

April: .634
May: .678
June: .952
July: .692
August: .850
September/October: .821

Depending on the narrative one wants to establish, Jones either needs to be more prepare to start the season or he finally got comfortable around midseason. Either way, it will lead to skewed views on just how valuable Jones should be viewed entering the 2011 season. The key is to look at the final product rather than how Jones got there unless there’s a reason (injury, mostly) to think one month is more indicative of his talents than another.

With respects to others, this means look beyond the last 10 days or three weeks of performance. In Jones’ case, do not expect a drastic step forward in performance. The typical hitter will gradually improve through his late 20s before beginning a decline, keep a conservative projection in mind for Jones rather than using his last month or two as the base line in order to avoid disappointment when it turns out he simply had a well-time hot streak.

 

adamjones1.jpg

Projection systems (like the one that generated the above projection) are heartless and emotionless. They are, undoubtedly, better at projecting players than human beings. When in doubt, trust the cold grip of a projection system above your gut and you’ll be less likely to suffer disappointment from under performing players.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

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MLB Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2006 to 2011

The Biggest Fantasy Surprises
BloombergSports.com

2010

Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays
2009: 54 R, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .235 AVG
2010: 109 R, 54 HR, 124 RBI, .260 AVG

Can’t saw we saw this coming. Although Bautista had a big final month to the 2009 season, no one could have predicted him to the top power bat in the Majors last season.

2009

Ben Zobrist, INF, Rays
2008: 32 R, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB, .253 AVG
2009: 91 R, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 17 SB, .297 AVG

A solid all-around talent, Zobrist may have peaked in 2009, as his numbers declined quite a bit in 2010.

2008

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals
2007: 42 R, 14 HR, 52 RBI, .267 AVG
2008: 104 R, 37 HR, 113 RBI, .299 AVG

It’s nice to hit next to Albert Pujols, but the good times did not last. Ludwick is now bound to long singles and pop outs at Petco Park.

2007

Fausto Carmona, SP, Indians
2006: 1-10, 58 K, 5.42 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
2007: 19-8, 137 K, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Quite a turnaround for the failed closer, Carmona ranks as the ace for Cleveland and one of the better pitchers in the game.

2006

Garrett Atkins
2005: 62 R, 13 HR, 89 RBI, .287 AVG
2006: 117 R, 29 HR, 120 RBI, .329 AVG

Atkins enjoyed Rocky-High Colorado, but when placed in Baltimore he wasn’t even a starter.

Who will it be this season?

Pedro Alvarez: A big-time slugger who can lead the Pirates back to respectability.

Adam Jones: Has the talent, but so far not the results.

JP Arencibia: The Blue Jays quickly traded Mike Napoli because they don’t want anyone to get in his way.

Kila Ka’aihue: A star in the Minors, can the power translate at the Big League level.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Healthy Carlos Santana, Fantasy Super Sleeper

by Eno Sarris // 

Most health updates at this point in the season are nigh useless. Yes, many major leaguers enter spring training in the best shape of their life. Why should we care?

In the case of Indians catcher Carlos Santana, there’s a little more significance to this latest piece of news:

SantanaTwitter.jpgAlmost six months to the date after knee surgery to fix a strained LCL and hyper-extended knee suffered in this horrific collision, it looks like Carlos Santana is looking good again. He can catch and run the bases – he’ll get a full spring training.

Projection systems can’t always take injuries into consideration. Sure, they can read that he ‘only’ managed 438 plate appearances next year, and take that into consideration when predicting his playing time this year, but they can’t examine the knee and declare it structurally sound. Bloomberg’s Front Office tool did its best, using the sage B-Rank to project Santana for a .257 batting average, with 18 home runs, 66 RBI and one stolen base in 538 plate appearances. Those numbers look nice, and will play at a tough fantasy posiiton, even if we can’t see the MRIs and examine the ligament ourselves.

santana.jpgWhat we can do is remark how spectacular Santana has already been by taking a look at his abbreviated 2010 season. Last year, he showed an OBP over .400 by walking in as many at-bats as he struck out (19.3% walk and strikeout rates in 2010). He also had a .207 ISO (isolated slugging percentage, or SLG – AVG), which translates to above-average for the general population (.150 is about average), but even better when compared to other catchers. In fact, only eight catchers have shown an ISO above .200 since 2005, and none of them showed the same elite plate discipline.

Carlos Santana has already shown he belongs. Once he shows he’s healthy, his price will begin rising. And appropriately so – he’s likely to end the season as a top option at his position. Recent mocks have Santana going anywhere from the seventh to the fifteenth round, but with this news expect that second number to get smaller.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com 

MLB Headlines: Braves Closers, Millwood to Indians, and Vladimir to Baltimore

Braves Likely to Split
Closing Duties: Kimbrel and Venters

Already some panic from fantasy managers before the season
has even commenced because Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez uttered the dreaded
words: “a closer’s platoon.”

 

The Braves seem to be loaded with talent on the hill and two
young hurlers coming off incredible 2010 performances are in position to pitch
the ninth inning.

 

First is Craig Kimbrel, who in 21 appearances surrendered
just one earned run, and a ******** 40 strikeouts.  He does walk a lot of batters, but if his
first look is any indicator of what’s to come, he could be even better than
Billy Wagner.  Right-handers hit just
.079 off him last season.

 

Then there is Jonny Venters, who struck out 93 batters in 83
innings.  A southpaw, lefties hit just
.198 against him.  So maybe not as
dominant as Kimbrel, but he is more proven with a full season under his
belt. 

 

Both players are worth drafting due to their great
peripheral numbers.  Kimbrel gets the
slight edge, but is also more risky.

 

Millwood to the
Indians?

Despite rumors that have the 36-year old signing with the
Yankees, Millwood is likely returning to Cleveland, where he posted a stellar
2.86 ERA in 2005.  Of course, since then
there have been struggles. 

 

Millwood has lost 10-plus games in six straight seasons and
last year hit a new low with a 4-16 record and 5.10 ERA. 

 

Millwood is very hittable and gives up a lot of home runs,
so a move out of the American League East is probably a good move for the
veteran hurler. 

 

Vladimir Guerrero
signs with the Orioles

One of the great hitters of his generation and a likely Hall
of Famer, the 36-year old Vladimir Guerrero is fresh off a monster year with 29
home runs, 115 RBI, and a .300 average for the Rangers.  The good news is that he was not just a
product of the ballpark, as 13 home runs and 52 RBI came on the road. 

 

Now that he will join the Orioles lineup, you should expect
a solid season with 20-plus home runs and a .280-plus average, but the
combination of another year under his belt and a less power-friendly confines
should keep expectations lower than a year ago. 

 

Guerrero enters the season just 73 hits shy of 2500 for his
career and 24 home runs shy of 450. 

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com 

Dan Hudson Remains A Sleeper In Arizona

By Tommy Rancel //

The Arizona Diamondbacks have completely revamped their rotation in the last calendar year. With Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, and Edwin Jackson now pitching for new teams, the D-Backs have added Joe Saunders, Ian Kennedy, Dan Hudson, and recently Armando Galarraga. The club even brought back reliever Aaron Heilman to compete for a rotation spot. In all fairness, the list reads as a casting call for your average fourth or fifth starter; however Dan Hudson had a real chance to stand out in the snakes’ rotation.

When Arizona acquired Hudson for Jackson last year, we quickly boarded the Hudson-hype train, urging owners to pick him up as a boost for playoff rotations. He did not disappoint – going 7-1 with a minuscule 1.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Diamondbacks. Overall, he went 8-2 with 2.45 ERA in 95 innings last year between Chicago and Arizona. After the trade to the National League, Hudson was literally spot-on. He struck out 70 batters in 79 innings while allowing just 16 walks. He induced a swing and a miss more than 12% of the time and allowed less than one baserunner per inning.

For all the good Hudson produced, there are some signs that he may regress from the absolute beast mode he displayed at the end of 2010. Though his strikeout rate may continue to be slightly above the league average, his walk rate is likely to regress from elite status to simply very good.

As a flyball pitcher, we were concerned about home runs being an issue at Chase Field; however, Hudson did a good job of limiting the big fly in his brief introduction to the stadium. Meanwhile, his home run-to-flyball ratio was below the league average which means he’ll likely allow more home runs in a larger sample size. In addition to the home runs, Hudson’s batting average on balls in play (.216) was well below the league average of around .300 and is also likely to see some regression.

Despite his strong showing at the end of the season, nobody expects Hudson to be a sub-2.00 ERA pitcher over the course of 30-plus starts. Going forward his ERA will probably be close to 3.50 than it will be 2.00. On the other hand, over the course of full-season that is still very valuable.

Though he may allow more hits and home runs, Hudson’s peripheral stats are strong enough to hold up as a valuable SP3 or possibly an SP2 in some deeper leagues. In even better news, Hudson goes into the 2011 season without much hype or fanfare meaning you could possibly get that value for the cost of an SP4 or SP5 in most standard mixed leagues.

Worth The Hype? A Look At Jason Heyward

By Tommy Rancel //

A mid-season power outage (which coincided with a thumb sprain) left Jason Heyward short of the power expectations some had for the windshield-shattering prospect. Before his original thumb injury (which occurred in lay May), Heyward smashed nine home runs in his first 158 plate appearances with a .580 slugging percentage. Post-injury, he hit nine home runs in 485 plate appearances and slugged just .414. Even with a few nagging injuries, the man-child posted a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .277/.393/.456 with 52 extra-base hits over his first 623 major league plate appearances.

Despite having a batting average below .280, Heyward displayed excellent on-base skills with an OBP of near .400. His lack of age and experience did not prevent him from showing a a mature batting eye, walking nearly 15% of the time. While his batting average came it at .277, Heyward was very successful when putting the ball in play.

His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .335 was well above the league average which falls around .300. Normally, when a player hits for such a high BABIP it is a cause for concern in regards to regression; however, in the case of the athletic and hard-hitting Heyward regression is not automatic.

Heyward maintained a higher-than-usual BABIP with a relatively normal line drive rate. Sometimes when a player hits an unsustainable amount of line drives, a quick and steep regression is likely to follow. In this case, the J-Hey Kid had a high BABIP with a large amount of groundballs. For a player without speed (remember back to our article on Joey Votto) this could be a problem. Meanwhile, Heyward has good speed even though large amounts of steals have never been a part of his game. That said, Heyward could still see some batting average fluctuation.
 
Some owners may have concerns about Heyward’s durability. In addition to the thumb sprain that landed him on the disabled list, he also battled some knee and groin issues The good news is in the 320 plate appearances after his stint on the disabled list. he hit .302 with seven home runs.. Even if he becomes a player who takes an annual 15-day vacation because of nagging injuries, the level of production when healthy makes up for it.

Though he is no longer the unknown phenom, Heyward is one of the most exciting young players in baseball. And though he did not take many steal attempts, the potential for a 25HR/15SB season is still there. Even with the lingering thumb issue, target him in the mid-rounds of your draft as a solid OF2 or OF3 option depending on the size of your league.

 

Figuring Out Booms And Busts In 2011

By Eriq Gardner //

There’s tremendous profit to be made in betting on players who have just come off of miserable years and staying away from those who have just enjoyed fantastic seasons. 
Let’s show by example.
Heading into last season, some players had momentum from the 2009 season while others were being dismissed as showing warts. Let’s call the first class of players “Group A” and the second class of players “Group B.”
To assemble a team of Group A All-Stars, we looked at which relatively healthy players at each position had the largest percentage of their 2007-2009 HR total in the ’09 year of this three-year sample. This team consisted of Joe Mauer, Billy Butler, Aaron Hill, Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria, Michael Cuddyer, Andre Ethier, Marlon Byrd, and Mark Reynolds.
And to assemble a team of Group B All-Stars, we looked at which relatively healthy players had the smallest percentage of their 2007-2009 HR total in the ”09 year of the three year sample. This team consisted of Russell Martin, Aubrey Huff, Brandon Phillips, Jhonny Peralta, David Wright, Shane Victorino, Alfonso Soriano, BJ Upton, and Alex Rodriguez.
Heading into the 2010 season, almost everyone would have bet on Group A to dominate Group B in HRs that year. Together, Group A slugged 261 HRs in 2009 whereas Group B only slugged 134. 
Guess what? By the end of 2010, Group B had more home runs than Group A. Take a look…
momentumvtrackrecord.png
Certainly not every player experienced what’s known in the trade as “regression to the mean.” But as a whole, Group A’s power numbers dropped 40 percent while Group B’s power numbers rose by 37 percent.
Most people know that players coming off of great seasons tend to be overvalued into the next season, but does everyone really give this phenomenon its proper due? Young players who do great are said to be on the rise. Older players who do poorly are said to be on the decline. But often, the production shifts we see from one year to the next are largely statistical noise. It might be more important to take a larger three year sample when considering who to roster in fantasy leagues.
With that said, let’s take a look at potential Group A All-Stars heading into the 2011 season. These are players whose 2008-2010 HR total is most heavily weighted to last season. Something to be aware about before investing to heavily in players like Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Vernon Wells, and Corey Hart.
GroupA2011.png
And here’s a look at potential Group B All-Stars heading into the 2011 season. These are players whose 2008-2010 HR total is least heavily weighted to last season. Some players whose HR production could regress towards the positive side include Yunel Escobar, Johnny Damon, Jose Lopez, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, Nick Markakis, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, and Derrek Lee. All of these players are going for less in drafts heading into this season than a year ago.
GroupB2011.png

Fantasy Baseball and the Yankees Fifth Starter

by Eno Sarris // 

Most teams fudge the fifth starter from year to year, hoping that that a young prospect or retread veteran takes the reins and provides the team for just enough for the team to win games at a decent clip. The Yankees are no different in this regard – and yet they’ve had some decent fifth starters over the years. Some even rose to fantasy relevance.

Well, not many. Phil Hughes, in his 2007 debut and again in 2009, might have been the best. Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova were decent enough to find a few spot starts in mixed leagues last season. Otherwise, it’s been a bad stretch.

Joining the fun over the past week are Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. That’s a pretty terrible group of veteran options. The best strikeout rate of the crew over the past two years was Garcia’s 5.95 K/9 in 2009 (the average across baseball hovers around seven K/9). That’s being a little unfair to Mitre, who is a groundball inducer (58.7% groundballs career, 40% about average). But still, aside from Garcia’s 59 innings in 2009, Nova’s 4.36 FIP in 42 innings last year (a number on the ERA scale that attempts to strip out batted-ball luck) was the best of the bunch (4.10 is about league average).

It’s a tough group. Garcia’s lost about five MPH off of his peak fastball and now uses his 88 MPH four-seam heater only 30.2% of the time, or less than any non-knuckleballer in the league last year. His 157 innings were also almost 100 more than he’d managed in a single season since 2006. He’ll need help even if he’s decent, and Colon, who has only managed 200 total innings since 2007, might not be the one to manage it. Mitre might be the man, but his career 4.72 FIP is not impressive and he had the worst groundball rate of his career last year.

Could Ivan Nova or a young man behind him step to the fore? The problem with Nova is that he’s never shown the upside to approach the league average in either K/9 or BB/9, even in the minor leagues. If his control was better, he might be able to take advantage of an okay ground-ball rate, but he hasn’t shown strong control.

On the farm, Dellin Betances, has buckets of upside. He’s managed double-digit strikeout rates thanks to his mid-nineties fastball and impressive curve. He’s also 22 and has only pitched 14 1/3 innings of Double-A ball, so he needs more seasoning. Ditto for 19-year-old Manny Banuelos, who opened eyes at the Arizona Fall League last fall.

Considering how badly last year’s veteran fifth starter worked out (Javier Vazquez), it’s hard to put much stock in the reclamation projections (Garcia and Colon). Instead, expect Garcia and Mitre to split much of the time. If Mitre recovers his old groundball rate, he might actually be the best of the crew… until the young ones are ready.

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