September 2011

Melky Cabrera… Next Year

by Eno Sarris //

The former Yankee outfielder has quite a year in the powder blues. Melky Cabrera was drafted 260th, on average. He ended the season ranked 122nd by B-Rank. Where should he be drafted next year?

Luck on batted balls is always the first place to check. Cabrera had a .332 BABIP this year, tops in his career and much better than his career .299 number. But he’s a reasonably fleet-of-foot outfielder (if, perhaps, in the Bobby Abreu mode) and he hits more ground ball than fly balls. He can expect a better BABIP than most. Lo and behold, his xBABIP this year was .330, and his career xBABIP is .319. This could have been regression toward what should have been his career mean.

Power is the second outlier in his statistical profile. His .174 ISO this year is a career high, more than fifty points higher than his .123 career ISO. He was more aggressive at the plate this year — his walk rate hit a career-low and his strikeout rate was a career-high — but it seems to have worked. Can a guy with a career 1.52 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio put up close to 20 home runs again next year?

Probably. Other players with similar profiles — Adam Jones (1.52 GB/FB over the last three years), Michael Young (1.51), and Brandon Phillips (1.44) — have done so fairly consistently. And if you look at fly-ball distance, as Jeff Zimmermann did here, you’ll see that all the Melkman did this year was recover his old fly-ball distance. He hit balls an average of 278 feet in 2009, 263 feet last year, and 274 feet again this year. Maybe something just went wrong last year.

There is a caveat. The 27-year-old outfielder did steal 20 bases this year, but his career high before was 13. He was also only successful on 67% of his attempts, which is exactly break-even for the steal to be a worthwhile thing. Maybe the Royals don’t care about that break-even point — they stole more bases than anyone in baseball — but they were successful on 73% of their attempts. So Cabrera was one of the less efficient base-stealers on the team.

Cabrera is an interesting case. He hit career highs in so many categories that it only seems natural that he will regress to his career norms. Then again, his career highs were only modest improvements when you look at the rate stats. He did manage 706 PAs this year (compared to an average of 531 over the past five seasons), so it’s only natural that his counting stats looked good.

If you walk Cabrera back in the power and speed departments and give him his career BABIP, he’s more likely to put up a .280 15/15 season than to approach .300 20/20 again. In most leagues, that’s still a good showing, but it’s more like a fourth fantasy outfielder. Treat him as such in drafts next year and in your keeper decisions.

For more fantasy outfielders, check out BloombergSports.com

Sweet Salty

By R.J. Anderson //

As the offseason nears, it’s time to start compiling a list of 2012 players to keep your eyes on. Catcher is often one of the more difficult positions to find a worthwhile bat at, so any glimpses of good value should be treated with interest. Sometimes that can mean gambling on variables like playing time and continued player development. If you’re willing to do that, then add Jarrod Saltalamacchia to your list.

Not long ago, Saltalamacchia was a consensus top-50 prospect. Baseball America even ranked him in the top 20 prior to the 2006 season. He made his debut during the 2007 season before being dealt to the Rangers. From there, his struggles (including a battle with the yips) are well-established. His season with Boston, however, is giving everyone a new reason for hope, thanks to his .240/.295/.466 line and 16 home runs.

Power is the key to Saltalamacchia game, if that wasn’t evident, and he flashed plenty in recent months by slamming eight homers in July and August. The problem with Saltalamacchia is that he has issues putting the bat on the ball. His career strikeout rate is nearly 29 percent and he doesn’t walk enough (eight percent career) to post decent on-base percentages. Still, the ball can go a long way when he makes contact, and that makes him an attractive option.

Fueling the sex appeal is an increased output of power this season too. It’s not unexpected for a player moving into Fenway, but remember that Saltalamacchia played his home games in hitter-friendly Arlington prior to this season. Saltalamacchia is running a career-high ISO (.226; career: .164) and percentage of hits that go for extra bases (51 percent; career: 38 percent) during his age-26 season. Since players tend to begin their statistical peak around this time in their careers, it isn’t impossible to think Saltalamacchia’s power is a genuine skill set shift rather than a flash in the pan.

The other big concern for Saltalamacchia’s fantasy value, and the reason he isn’t owned in more than nine percent of ESPN leagues, is playing time. Jason Varitek is still getting reps, and that means Saltalamacchia’s value isn’t as high as it could be. Time is working against Varitek and you have to think the Red Sox are pondering what Saltalamacchia can do with even more plate appearances. Catchers with the potential to post 20-plus home runs and ISO well over .200 That’s why you should tuck him away for the 2012 draft.

For more on potential 2012 bargains, check out Bloomberg Sports.

Revising Stanton’s Power Expectations

By Tommy Rancel //

Prior to the 2011 season, I wrote the following about Mike Stanton onthe Bloomberg Sports’ blog:

“With 30-plus home run power (35 projected by Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tool), the likelihood of an equal amount of doubles, and an increase in RBI opportunities, Stanton could be a fantastic power and RBI source in 2011. Set your target around the eighth round in a standard 12-team mixed-league, but if there is a sudden run on outfielders don’t be afraid to pull the trigger a round earlier.”

Stanton has lived up to those lofty expectations despite the fact he will not turn 22 for another two months. Perhaps the owner of the rawest power in the majors, Stanton has smashed 34 home runs in his first full season of play.  In addition to the long balls, he has 27 doubles – and although he does not possess much speed – five triples.  The 66 combined extra-base hits are the sixth most in the National League.

One knock on Stanton’s offensive game coming into the season was batting average. A free-swinging slugger like Stanton is not prone to hit for a high average. Not surprisingly, he has hit just .265 this season. Meanwhile, he showed improvement in his plate discipline; an encouraging sign moving forward.

Stanton struck out in more than 31% of his plate appearances as a rookie. He struck out in just over 27% of his PA this season; however, a four percent decrease is nothing to overlook. In addition to fewer punch-outs, he increased his walk total from under 9% to just over 11%. Because of his ability to take a free pass, he has maintained a healthy .357 on-base percentage despite the pedestrian average.  He will still chase at pitches out of the zone, and does whiff quite a bit, but is headed in the right direction as far as rates go.

As we shift focus to the 2012 season, Stanton is a name you need to move near the top of your draft board. Because he doesn’t hit for a high average or steal many bases, he narrowly misses the top-tier of outfielders; however, his power is unquestioned and he can get on base in other ways even if he does not hit .280.

The one question mark for 2012 is Stanton’s home ballpark. The Marlins will open a new stadium next season, so we do not know what type of environment he is walking into. Meanwhile, his current home is a pitcher-friendly park and he had no problems clearing the walls on a regular basis. Stanton was drafted between rounds 8-10 this year. I may be bullish than others, but I’d bump him up at least two rounds going into 2012.

For more on Stanton and other Bloomberg Sports’ favorites, check out the Front Office tool

Streaming Through the Final Weekend

by Eno Sarris //  

Every win could put you over the top right now, and if you’ve got innings left, or are in a hyper-competitive head-to-head matchup, it’s time to stream. For each day, I’ll identify a safer play for mixed leagues and a riskier start for deeper leagues. Good luck in your final week!

Thursday

Philip Humber against Cleveland is a decent start, but other than his control, the righty is just so average across the board. He has also been less than inspiring in the last month, so when taken in combination with his minor league performances, he’s just a “meh” option. Zach Britton is riskier, but he has an elite skill in his ground-ball rate. He’s coming off a good start against the Angels and is facing a Detroit team that has clinched for the post-season and has not been scoring a ton of runs. Deeper leaguers should look at Henderson Alvarez who draws the on-again off-again Angels offense. Alvarez has a similar repertoire as Britton, as he’s getting buckets of ground balls with his 94 MPH sinker.

Friday

In deep leagues, the Rockies’ young lefty Drew Pomeranz should be interesting to you. He draws the hapless Astros on Friday and has so far been a ground-ball machine. That has been his M.O. all along, but his fastball/curve/change pitching mix might eventually get a ton of strikeouts too. Still, it’s the Astros and you’re a beggar not a chooser in deep leagues. Shallow leaguers have a choice of two strong spot-starts that are available in about half the leagues out there: Josh Collmenter at home against the punchless Giants, and Matt Harrison taking his left arm against the Mariners at home. Neither is a great full-season option: Collmenter is surviving on a funky delivery and Harrison is another guy like Humber who is really just average across the board. But their matchups make them more exciting in the final week.

Saturday

If you don’t mind risk, there isn’t a higher-risk higher-reward start out there than Matt Moore versus the Blue Jays on Saturday. It will be the first start of his career, but scouts love him, his minor league numbers are incredible, and his stuff has looked great so far. But yeah, it’s the Blue Jays and their power bats, so that’s the risk. At least they are in Tampa. Aaron Harang at home against the Dodgers is about as safe as you can get on the other end of the spectrum. Somewhere in between is deep league option Jerome Williams taking on the Athletics in Los Angeles. Williams has shown better velocity this year, and a slightly different pitching mix, and they’ve both been working so far. Oh and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that one of the most boring pitchers in the majors, Joe Saunders, does have a nice matchup at home against the Giants. Put him next to Harang on this risk/reward continuum.

Sunday

Sunday’s best spot starter might be Mike Minor against the Nationals. Minor has been a little up-and-down — that’s why he’s available in about three-quarters of the leagues out there — but he has strikeout-per-inning upside, decent control, and has deserved better results this year. Since August began, Minor has either been lights-out or okay, which is pretty much ideal for a spot-starter. If he was any better, he’d be owned by everyone. Oh and the Nationals have been worse against lefties than righties this year, so there’s that. Deep Leaguers might be looking at Homer Bailey again, who will take on the Buccos in Pittsburgh. He’s been decent, and Pittsburgh’s park suppresses offense slightly, but he’s also only owned a little bit less than Minor. If you’re in a deeper league, you might have to go with Kevin Millwood against the Astros. Yeah he’s unexciting, but he’s been painting the corners in the National League, and it’s the Astros.

You’ll be living on the edge all weekend, but hopefully this guide will help you find the best spot-starts quicker. Good luck!

Mike Napoli Is On The Verge Of Superstardom

By Eriq Gardner //

Last off-season, the Toronto Blue Jays sent Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Mike Napoli. As soon as it happened, commentators were lauding Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos for the Herculean feat of getting rid of Wells’ bloated and back-loaded $126 million contract, so much so that it almost became an afterthought when the team shipped off Napoli to the Texas Rangers in a deal shortly thereafter.

Considering the mediocre season that Wells is having with the Angels, the trade is still going to look good for Anthopoulos. However, it’s worth considering whether a real huge mistake was made by the Toronto GM by waiving adieu to Napoli so quickly.

Napoli isn’t just having a very good season down south; He’s having an awesome one — a breakout campaign that’s gone largely ignored thanks to the fact that he missed a few weeks in June with a strained oblique and entered the season as a part-time player thanks to defensive shortcomings.

Lately, Napoli’s hitting strengths have outweighed the fielding negatives, and he’s been playing pretty much every day. If this is a sign of things to come in future seasons, Napoli could be a dark-horse candidate for league MVP.

Sound like a stretch?

Consider the following:

In fantasy leagues, on a per-game basis this season, Napoli rates out to the 10th most valuable batter at any position in baseball (through September 16th). Here’s the top 12 batters on a per-game basis according to our calculations:

  1. Ryan Braun
  2. Curtis Granderson
  3. Jose Bautista
  4. Matt Kemp
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury
  6. Carlos Gonzalez
  7. Adrian Gonzalez
  8. Albert Pujols
  9. Josh Hamilton
  10. Mike Napoli
  11. Robinson Cano
  12. Miguel Cabrera

Yes, if playing time was adjusted evenly, Napoli’s stat line of 26 HR, 67 RBIs, 67 Runs, 4 Steals, and a .312 BA would compare with the elite.

Even with just 333 at-bats this season, Napoli has been plenty valuable for the Rangers, even if his glove will never resemble Yadier Molina. According to FanGraphs, Napoli has been the second most valuable catcher in baseball this season, only behind Alex Avila, who has garnered 513 at-bats.

Texas is known as one of the best hitting environments in baseball, and Napoli’s success there was somewhat anticipated by those who recognized he’d be moving to a more friendly home stadium. We can credit a portion of Napoli’s statistical surge to being a member of the Rangers, but there’s other reasons to marvel at what Napoli is doing in 2011.

Start with his batting eye.

Among all hitting metrics, the measures of a player’s plate discipline (contact rate, strikeout rate, walk rate) tend to be the most stable year-to-year. However, there’s always exceptions. Napoli has jumped from a 0.31 BB/K rate in 2010 to a 0.69 BB/K rate in 2011, a 123% improvement that’s the second largest gain (behind John Buck) among batters with at least 300 at-bats. Other players who have strongly improved their plate discipline this season include Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, and Matt Kemp. Pretty good company to be in.

Napoli was long considered to be a batter who had quite a bit of pop, but would be a batting average anchor — a poor man’s Adam Dunn if you will. This season, though, Napoli has his average above .300 and an OBP above .400, slightly boosted by a fortunate BABIP but not so much that his peripherals don’t indicate his .300+/.400+/.600+ statline is a fluke. Measurable gains in contact and walk rates support what Napoli is doing in 2011.

One other thing that Napoli is doing much better this year is hitting right-handed pitchers. In 2010, he hit an atrocious .208 versus righties while hitting a lovely .305 versus lefties. This season, there’s no noticeable split difference: He’s hitting .313 versus righties and .311 versus lefties.

The justification for not getting Napoli into the lineup is withering. A batter who gets on base more than 40% of the time with ample power is pretty rare in baseball. For days he’s not playing catcher, Napoli can easily provide more value to the Rangers than any other option at first-base and DH.

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington seems to be noticing. In April and May, Napoli had 108 combined at-bats. He’s now on pace for 170 cumulative at-bats in August and September.

Add everything up, and there’s a reasonable chance that Napoli could top 500 at-bats for the first time in his career in 2012. If that happens, his upside is 40 HRs, 10 steals, a .300+ average, 100+ runs, and 100+RBIs. Since he’s eligible at catcher, that would make him the most valuable player in fantasy baseball. That’s his statistical potential heading into next year.

Is Carlos Pena’s Heir Bryan LaHair?

By R.J. Anderson //

Although the Cubs chose against moving Carlos Pena at the deadline, don’t be surprised if someone else on their roster is in the running for becoming the team’s starting first baseman in 2012. The dark horse candidate is a fellow by the name of Bryan LaHair, and because he could become an intriguing option heading into the winter, here’s what you should know about him.

LaHair, who turns 29 in November, was drafted by the Mariners in 2002 out of Holy Name Central Catholic in Worcester, Massachusetts. Until January 2010, LaHair had spent the entirety of his career within the Mariners organization, and even reached the majors in 2008 for 150 plate appearances (during that span he hit .250/.315/.346). After the 2009 season, LaHair became a minor league free agent and signed with the Cubs, with whom he has played for since.

After an impressive 2010 season in Triple-A Iowa, LaHair raised the stakes further in 2011 by hitting 38 home runs and driving in 109 runs. Those numbers came in the Pacific Coast League, but so ha the numbers LaHair had accumulated over much of the previous five seasons, and nothing quite stuck out like his 2011 campaign. The question then becomes whether LaHair has legitimately improved, or if enough repetition and familiarity can lead to some unsustainable success. Perhaps, as is so often the case, reality has it as a mixture of both.

LaHair exited the 2007 season with a .156 ISO, and yet his ISO has increased in each subsequent season; from .156 to .202, from .202 to .241, from .241 to .249, and then from .249 to .333. It could be the league’s offensive-friendly environment playing tricks, but it’s rare to see ballparks provide a steady improvement like the one LaHair is experiencing with his power outputs. That is a reason for optimism. Now, whether the power will translate to the major leagues is another question, and a question without a known answer.

There are murmurs that the Cubs will re-sign Pena, but given the Cubs willingness to slot LaHair into the lineup as an outfielder, he could still become a fantasy contributor if given the playing time.

For more on potential 2012 bargains, check out Bloomberg Sports.

Spot Starters For the Week

By Eno Sarris // 

Those of you in head-to-head leagues are in the midst of your playoffs, and it’s all hands on deck time. You might not have streamed all year, but you’re streaming now. Scanning the schedules on your lunch break might not immediately provide the best results though. So we’ll do something a little different today. We’ll do that work for you, and give you a mixed league and deep-league starter or two for every day between now and Sunday. One-stop (streamer) shopping!

Thursday

For our mixed leaguer, Alexi Ogando might be out there and is tempting. But he’s really been flagging, and his strikeout rate falls to 5.54 against lefties, and his repertoire suggests that he might have trouble against lefties going forward. Cleveland boasts Grady SizemoreTravis Hafner,Jason KipnisKosuke Fukudome, and Lonnie Chisenhall as good lefties that might tee off in Texas. He makes for a decent option in what might be his final start, but instead you could go toJhoulys Chacin if he’s available in your league. Chacin hasn’t been so great in the second half (4.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP), but he’s still getting ground balls (56.1%) and enough strikeouts to matter (7.29 K/9). Oh, and he’s facing the Giants on Thursday.

Deep league streamers are sort of screwed on short-schedule days. If Homer Bailey is available, he’s an interesting pickup for his matchup against the Cubs. With his above-average swinging strike rate (9.2%) he could be striking out more batters than he is (6.71 K/9). His control is at a career-best level and Bailey is coming off a good stretch through August and September so far. If he’s gone, then consider Dana Eveland. There’s not much nice to say about Eveland other than he’s a lefty pitching at home in Los Angeles, which suppresses home runs from righties by 8%. Oh, and he’s facing the Buccos, which are having a hard time scoring runs.

Friday

Javier Vazquez faces Washington, but if you were reading last week, he’s probably already on your roster. Tim Stauffer has been scuffling over the second half, but he still has a 2.76 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at home… and that’s where he’ll face the Diamondbacks on Friday. To finish off a trio of mixed-league spot starters, Doug Fister faces Oakland at home in Detroit. One of these three guys will be available in your standard league, and they’re listed here in order of safety, so that should help you find a streamer. Well, Fister might be more solid than Stauffer, but his five-ish K/9 is not very exciting (even if his control is excellent).

Deep leaguers have a decent selection to choose from. Alex White is a rookie with a six-plus ERA pitching in Colorado, so he may not seem very exciting, but there are some hints of future success in his peripherals. He had decent ground-ball rates in the minors (57.2% in Double-A) and had close to a 55% rate in Cleveland. He hasn’t quite shown that in Colorado yet, but those grounders are coming. He also gets whiffs at an average rate and had great control in the minor leagues. He has promise… and he’s facing the Giants. Kevin Slowey against the Indians at home is also a decent idea. He hasn’t been getting the whiffs so far this year, but at least you know he won’t walk many.

Saturday

Speaking of great control, you wouldn’t think a knuckleballer would be known for his ability to keep that thing in the zone, but R.A. Dickey has now walked about two batters per nine for two straight years. He may not seem safe, but he also gets more than half of his contact on the ground and is facing the Braves, which often struggle to score runs. He’s safer than non-knuckler Rick Porcello, even if Porcello draws the Athletics. The best spot starter of the day may not be available, but if he is, jump on Colby Lewis. He’s facing Seattle, but most importantly, it’s in Seattle. He’s a fly-ball guy that has trouble with home runs sometimes, and that won’t be an issue Saturday.

In deep leagues, it might make sense to look to the game in Los Angeles again. James McDonald is facing Ted Lilly, who likes pitching at home, so he may not get the win. But the park will help keep the homers down, and he’s been showing better control in the second half. Drew Pomeranz is an exciting young lefty facing the Giants in Colorado, so that’s even a little more enticing than Alex White really. Everett Teaford of the Royals faces Zach Stewart of the White Sox, and good luck picking the right spot-start there. Teaford had a good debut, but it was against the Mariners in Seattle. Stewart has had two good starts that followed two terrible starts. His ground-ball rate and good control probably makes him the pick.

Sunday

Maybe John Danks is available in your league? He hasn’t been good in September, but he likes facing the Royals in his career. Aaron Harang is at home against the Diamondbacks in multiple senses of the phrase. Otherwise, Sunday is a little light on safe candidates. Brandon Beachyshould be owned, and so should Justin Masterson. But if someone dropped Masterson after his bad start earlier this week, his matchup against Minnesota is a good one. Make sure he’s owned before moving on to the deep league paragraph for your starter.

Joe Saunders takes on the Padres in San Diego, which helps makes him a passable play. Brad Lincoln is not very sexy himself, but he’s taking on the rapidly imploding Chad Billinsgley in Los Angeles, so that’s sort of interesting, too. Matt Harrison is way too average across the board to be a great pitcher most days — but he’s in Seattle on Sunday. He’s probably the best start in this paragraph, actually. If these guys are all owned, try Dillon Gee. He likes pitching at home and takes on the on-again and off-again Braves offense. If he’s owned… pray. Maybe Dontrelle Willis won’t walk the lineup against the Brewers?

It’s difficult to stream. Hopefully this guide will help you make it to the next round in your playoffs!

More Than Average: Kinsler Is A Keeper

By Tommy Rancel //

Ian Kinsler is having one of the best seasons in baseball that no one is talking about. The Texas Rangers second baseman has smashed 65 extra-base hits – including 28 home runs – with 24 steals and has played fantastic defense at the keystone position. The main reason nobody is talking about Kinsler as a top-5 MVP candidate is a .253 batting average which is a no-no in the mind of award voters.

As you know by now, batting average is a misleading statistic. Although Kinsler’s average is more than 20 points below his career average, his .352 on-base percentage is almost a match of his career .355 mark. Despite the dip in average, Kinsler has maintained a healthy OBP because of a 12% walk rate. He is also striking out at the lowest rate of his career.

Commonly, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is used as a crutch for luck. Is your batting average down? Maybe you’ve been unlucky with BABIP. Hitting out of your mind?  The luck dragons have showered you with good fortune. It is important to look at other things related to BABIP before declaring it just blind luck.

In Kinsler’s case, he has improved his plate discipline while maintaining a similar batted-ball profile. His line drive rate, groundball rate, and flyball rate are all within two percent of his career levels. Yet, his .243 BABIP is 40 points lower than his career .283 average. Considering the lack of movement in batted-ball data and the better discipline, it looks like Kinsler has a case of the bad mojo this season more than any fundamental flaw in his game.

The good news is BABIP tends to regress toward career levels, meaning Kinsler’s 2012 season should be even better than his 2011 season. If you have Kinser in a keeper league, and have been disappointed by the average, relax. He has above-average power for his position. He’s turned into one of the more disciplined hitters in the league. He swipes 25-30 steals a season. Oh, and he is a prime candidate for positive batting average regression next season. If you can pry Kinsler away from his current owner or participate in non-keeper leagues, put Kinsler near the top of your 2012 wish list, ignoring preseason projections or perceptions based on a .250 average.

For more on potential 2012 bargains, check out Bloomberg Sports.

Five Middle Infielders On the Rise

 

Follow us on Twitter: @BloombergSports @RobShawSports

 

While the recent trend of middle infielders is to hit the ball with power, a la Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler, and Dan Uggla, there is a new group of young up-and-comers int he infield who are making their mark with speed:

 

Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers

Just 23-years old, Dee Gordon is making the most out of his second stint in the Big Leagues.  He has recorded multiple hits in four of his last six games and has swiped six bases over the last 10 games.  Similar to a lot of young and up-and-coming middle infielders he lacks power, but he can make up for it with speed.  So if in need for some stolen bases over the final few weeks of the season, Dee Gordon is your target.

 

Cliff Pennington, SS, A’s

After a slow start, Cliff Pennington has really picked up his game since the All-Star break.  Since then he is hitting .324 with four home runs and 32 RBI.  He has also made Billy Beane proud with a .393 OBP.  This performance shouldn’t be too surprising, after all, Pennington was drafted by the A’s with the 21st overall pick of the 2005 draft.  However, the franchise will not be content until he can post solid numbers throughout a full 162 games, helping the A’s offense get out of a decade long swoon. 

 

Jemile Weeks, 2B, A’s

One of the top rookies in baseball this season has been A’s second baseman Jemile Weeks.  Though he does not have the power of his brother Rickie in Milwaukee, Jemile is a line drive machine with an average over .300 and how about those 41 runs and 21 steals through exactly a half season’s worth of games.  Weeks has shown some signs of burgeoning power, with 22 doubles and eight triples.  He could improve his patience at the plate, but he’s definitely worth owning in all fantasy leagues. 

 

Scott Sizemore, 3B/2B, A’s

A former top prospect with the Detroit Tigers, Sizemore never did work out in Mo-Town and is now in Oakland.  There he has been a source for some much-needed power.  His .243 average is nothing to write home about, but his nine home runs and 46 RBI would be doubled over a full 150 games worth of at bats.  At 26-years old, Sizemore has shed the top prospect label, but he is still young enough to earn regular playing time as a middle or corner infielder.  You would imagine that he’d be able to crack as many as 25 home runs should he escape the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum. 

 

Ruben Tejada, SS/2B, Mets

He has yet to hit a home run this season, but the Mets are fine with that as long as Ruben Tejada offers solid defense and line drives.  Tejada is batting .278 right now, which is .065 points better than his .213 mark last season.  He does have 12 doubles and an impressive 31 walks, so he is not getting outmatched in the Big Leagues.  I would like to see some speed from the 21-year-old middle infielder, and the reason you should pay attention o him right now is that he could end up replacing Jose Reyes, should the Mets sensation depart as a free agent this off-season. 

 

 

The Young Guns: Motte, Bumgarner, and Fister

 

Follow us on Twitter: @BloombergSports @RobShawSports

 

It’s been a week of surprises in Major League Baseball. 

Jason Motte takes over the closer’s role from Fernando Salas despite the fact that Salas was doing perfectly fine and also happens to be younger. 

Madison Bumgarner looks as good as his two colleagues Tim Lincecum and Matt Caine and finally, Doug Fister looks like an absolute steal by the Tigers. 

Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals

There has been talk about Jason Motte becoming the Cardinals closer for a few years now and in his last chance to grab the job, he struggled two years ago and again earlier in the season before Fernando Salas took over.  Salas has been solid with 23 saves and a 2.47 ERA.  The problem here is that Motte has been even better and is a harder thrower that better exemplifies the role of a closer.  Motte has not surrendered a run since the All-Star break, in fact the last run he allowed was back in June.  Though he is older than Salas, with a 1.57 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, Motte earned the opportunity to impress Tony LaRussa in the ninth inning.  

Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants

We knew Madison Bumgarner was a solid pitcher.  He proved this last season when as a rookie he played a large role in the Giants winning the World Series.  We just did not know until recently that he could be as dominant as his teammates Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.  Over his last three starts Bumgarner has allowed just three runs to score over 22 and 2/3 innings.  He is averaging just under a strikeout per inning and the ERA is down to 2.69 since the All-Star break.  Poor run support explains the 12 losses on the season, but at just 22-years old this southpaw is clearly an ace in the making. 

Doug Fister, SP, Tigers

Coming into the weekend Doug Fister already had the lowest ERA of any pitcher with 12 or more losses.  Then he went out and threw the game of his life, offering eight stellar frames while fanning 13 and walking one.  The 6’8 hurler was a great acquisition by the Tigers and clearly will have some fantasy value throughout the remainder of the season with a 3.17 ERA.  Fister has now allowed just three runs to score over the last four starts, three of which have been wins.  He is 4-1 with the Tigers with a 2.64 ERA through seven starts.  The Mariners by the way have been happy with Casper Wells while Charlie Furbush has been inconsistent.

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