Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the five baseball players who have been making a huge fantasy impact over the past two weeks.
5) Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
Rios struggled with the White Sox in 2011, batting just .227. However, he has bounced back this season with a .316 AVG, 18 HR and 67 RBI. In the past two weeks alone, he hit .353 with 14 runs, five home runs, 15 RBI and one stolen base. He is a five-tool talent and his hot streak could continue, especially considering that he plays at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Be aware, however, that Rios is known for his inconsistency.
4) Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals
Like Rios, LaRoche has struggled with inconsistency. Last year was a disaster for him, as he only played in 43 games and had just a .172 average. He is known for getting hot in the second half of the season and he is living up to that right now. In the past two weeks, LaRoche has a .429 average, 10 runs, seven home runs and 14 RBI.
3) Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
Gomez is a solid outfielder defensively but is not known for his offense. He hasn’t been able to play every day in the past but he’s been given a chance in Milwaukee and is putting up huge numbers. Over the last two weeks, Gomez is batting .348 with 14 runs, four home runs, 10 RBI and six stolen bases. At 26 years old, he could get a chance to play full time next season.
2) Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds
Stubbs is known to be unpredictable at the plate. He steals a lot of bases and has some power but he kills your batting average. His currently has a .239 season average, but in the last two weeks, he has a .362 average with 17 runs, four homers, 11 RBI and five steals. Stubbs is a streaky hitter, so ride out this hot streak while you can.
1) Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
Pujols had a slow start to the season but he’s been on fire recently, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Angels. Over the past two weeks, he has a .365 average, 11 runs, seven home runs, 19 RBI and two stolen bases.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
We are very early into the 2012 season and while there is still no proof that the Mets will lose a game this season, fantasy managers have to be realistic about the early returns of teams and players.
Even just a handful of games into the season, there are some lessons that can be learned. It looks like the Twins offense will be the worst in baseball, which means pick up the spot-starters off the waiver wire when they are going against the Twins. On the other hand, the Tigers offense will be dangerous this season. That is an offense to avoid whenever possible.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the top performers this season and whether you can expect to ride a hot streak or whether you should jump off ship when reality hits:
Barry Zito was sensational with a complete game shutout against the Rockies. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that the stellar start came in Colorado, at the hitter-friendly Coors Field. It also marked Zito’s first shutout in nine years. What’s interesting about Zito is that he is not as hittable as you’d think. The opposition has hit just .260 or better once in his time with the Giants. Of course, he also came away with a losing record in all five seasons.
The key to Zito’s success is simply control. He has to throw strikes. Zito did not walk a single batter in his season debut. It is unlikely he will be able to sustain that type of control all season. On the other hand, he has had some fantasy success recently. During the first half of the 2010 season, Zito was 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA. However, this is not a ride that fantasy managers should want to jump on.
Another player off to a hot start is Chicago White Sox closer Hector Santiago. He already has nabbed two saves this season while surrendering just two hits with two strikeouts. A starter last year at Double-A, Santiago throws hard, but can get wild. The southpaw drafted out of the 30th round is from Newark, New Jersey and is on the verge of becoming a household name in fantasy leagues.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese has yet to awake from his dream. After starring in the World Series last season, Freese is now slugging in the regular season with two home runs, 8 RBI, and a .417 average. To get a better idea of Freese let’s combine his last two regular seasons. Freese has offered 14 home runs, 91 RBI, and a .297 average in 167 games. On that note, it is reasonable to believe that he can develop into a 20-homer talent with a high average and solid run production.
A favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year has to be Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. He is batting .500 through 14 at bats this season. Not your typical rookie, Cozart is 26-years old and proven in the minor leagues. In 2010, he offered power and speed at Triple-A with 17 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He also showed some value this spring with a .345 average in Arizona. Cozart is a solid shortstop to nab off the waiver wire if he is still available.
Finally, Nationals veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche is batting .467 with 6 RBI. The reason that he was not on your fantasy radar is that he hit just 3 HR with a .172 average in 43 games last year. The problem last season was his torn labrum in his left shoulder that eventually landed him on the DL. If you go back a year before there’s a different story as he belted 25 home runs with 100 RBI. LaRoche is a very inexpensive source for power. Invest accordingly.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
by Eno Sarris //
We started looking at what the trade deadline means to fantasy baseball last week by first focusing on the pitchers that might change hands this trading season (you can now scratch Cliff Lee off the list of available hurlers). Now it’s time to look at the position players who might be wearing new laundry soon, and what it would mean to their fantasy value.
The man with a pop idol’s name is having a good year from a fantasy perspective. But a look at his underlying skills shows many of his skills remaining unchanged. He’s walking at about the same frequency (8.7% this year, 9.1% last year) and striking out at around the same rate (21.8% this year, 22.0% last year). The biggest difference is his power: a massive .274 ISO (isolated slugging percentage, i.e. slugging percentage minus batting average) this year, .158 ISO last year.
Now Hart looks like a speedy, powerful outfielder on a bad team that’s ripe for the picking – just look at his spider graphs from Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools. He’s only under team control for another year, too, so the Brewers could be inclined to trade him. The good news for his owners in NL-only leagues is that he’s been most often linked to National League teams like the Giants and the Braves. The bad news is that both of those possible new parks suppress home runs compared to his current home park. AT&T suppresses home runs by 14.6% and Turner Field by 4.3%. Meanwhile, Miller Park increases home runs by 19.3%; so a move, especially to San Francisco, would be a big deal for his power potential for the second half. If owners weren’t trying to sell high already, this news should spur some movement.
Ty Wigginton/Miguel Tejada
The Baltimore Orioles lost one of their biggest trade pieces (and second-most likely mover in this week’s first trade piece) when Kevin Millwood went on the DL this week. But that shouldn’t stop the O’s from looking to move their infielders. Wigginton is actually having a good year, as he’s walking at a career-high rate (9.4%) and showing his usual good power (.190 ISO, .182 career ISO). If and when his BABIP recovers (.259 this year, .294 career), his batting average could normalize as well (he’s currently at .253/.336/.443). Because he’s eligible at so many positions, he’s a valuable bench player in head-to-head fantasy leagues, and a great backup in most leagues.
AL-only owners might be worried about the rumors concerning Philadelphia and San Diego, but it’s unclear how much trade value the up-and-down Wigginton has. He might be more of a free-agent acquisition for National League owners looking for a little power on the infield. Much of the same could be said about Miguel Tejada since the team has called up possible third baseman of the future Josh Bell. There haven’t been many rumors, but Tejada isn’t very useful to the Orioles right now, and probably won’t be a Type A free agent, so they could probably get their best value from the former shortstop in a trade. Tejada is most useful for managers writing him in the lineup at shortstop in deeper leagues. So like Wigginton, he won’t have much fantasy trade value.
Adam LaRoche/Kelly Johnson
This Arizona Diamondbacks pair is much like the Orioles’ duo: two decent veterans who don’t fit a rebuilding team’s future and can easily bring back more value in a trade than as free agents. Johnson has been a revelation in the desert, though, and is under team control for another year, so it would take a little more to pry him loose than it would to get the free-agent-to-be LaRoche. Johnson is walking at a career-high rate (13.5%) and his BABIP is close to neutral (.318 this year, .312 career), so some parts of his game will play anywhere. It is worth wondering if the career-high ISO (.227) would play the same in another park. His home park, Chase Field, currently augments home runs by 27.6%. While there have been general rumors that Johnson could leave town, no specific teams have been mentioned. For now, his fantasy owners should consider shopping him on both a sell-high basis, and to hedge against a trade to the AL. Don’t settle for a middling return, though: Johnson is an elite performer at second base for the moment.
LaRoche is having another of his patented seasons, with a mediocre batting average and 25-home run power. But as a free-agent-to-be, he could easily be acquired by a contending team looking to add power at first base, DH, or even off the bench. No rumors are out there right now, and the fact that he’s got little-to-no fantasy trade value in standard 12-team leagues means he’s a hold if he’s on your roster.
Cody Ross/Dan Uggla
Florida is only five games under .500, but the Marlins are already 10 games out of first, and more importantly, with many strong teams in front of them in both the NL East and Wild Card races. Both Ross and Uggla are under team control for next year. But Ross ($4.45 million in 2010) and Uggla ($7.8 million) are already expensive, and could become too pricey in arbitration for a Marlins team known for its penny-pinching ways. Ross is having a strange year, as he finally has a nice batting average for once (.288), but it’s propped up by an unsustainable BABIP (.348). Unfortunately, his power has suffered (.138 ISO, .205 career); still, a move out of Florida (which suppresses home runs by 19.9%) would help in that category. Uggla is doing what he always does, but his home slugging percentage (.485) is virtually identical to his away number in that category (.480), so a move out of town might not affect his power as much. The only specific rumor on either player is Uggla to the Rockies, which would have to be seen as a win for Uggla owners.
David DeJesus/Jose Guillen
Another duo from a terrible team here, but rumors are still just of a general nature. Honestly, Guillen owners have to feel happy that they got anything from the aging slugger. They have already put those 14 home runs in the bank, and they got them for a bargain price. Anyway, Guillen is best suited to DH and should move within his league, if at all. With his griping to the press, he’s not making himself more marketable, though. DeJesus, on the other hand, is a good all-around hitter and a strong defender, and the team has an option for next year. He’s also not a great fantasy player. Because of his poor power (.136 ISO, .150 is average), mediocre base-stealing ability (47 career stolen bases in 867 games), and position (outfield), he just doesn’t do enough to be a strong fantasy player. Check out his spider graphs from Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools. Meh.
None of these factors will change with a change of venue, either, so if you’re playing DeJesus in a five-outfielder deep league, you’ll just have to find another high-batting average/low-power and low-speed bat to replace him should he go to the National League.
The First Basemen
We’ll lump these guys together because the aging first baseman/designated hitter is not one of the most valuable commodities in real or fantasy baseball. They’re a bit too fungible. With that said, Adam Dunn is the prize of the group, a legitimate 40-home run man whose legendarily poor defense would play a lot better as a designated hitter in the American League. His NL-only owners should be nervous around this time of the year, and there is a White Sox rumor about Dunn making the rounds presently. Of course, the Nationals have also said they want to sign him to an extension, so Dunn might stay put.
Then there’s the case of Lance Berkman and Lyle Overbay, whose teams would love to move them, if just to save a little money. Berkman’s power has been declining for three straight years now, and his knee may be arthritic. That makes him hard to trade, despite the chance that he goes to the Angels, for example. Overbay is pretty much a bench bat in both fantasy and real-life baseball, so the impact of a possible trade would be low.
For more on Corey Hart and other possible trade-deadline movers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By Tommy Rancel
The regular season has started, and now it’s time to work your magic as a fantasy general manager. One of the angles to exploit in the early part of the season is slow starts. There is always someone in your league that is on edge beginning Opening Day, ready to ditch a player at the first signs of struggles. With that in mind, here is a look at some notorious slow starters you might be able to steal in a buy-low trade.
LaRoche entered 2010 with a new team, yet got off to the same old slow start. He started his Arizona Diamondbacks career 0-for-13. He’s racked up a few hits since then, but is still hitting an ugly .231/.310/.308 (AVG/OBP/SLG), with no homers, no steals and just 3 RBI in 7 games. Long-time LaRoche owners (if there are any) are not surprised by this start, since the 30-year-old first baseman is your quintessential second-half hitter.
For his career, his slash line in the first half is .250/.324/.444. In the second half of the season, LaRoche blossoms into a .300/.363/.546 hitter. The .768 OPS in the first half represents a .141 point difference from his second-half total of .909.
The bulk of LaRoche’s early-season struggles come in March and April. Over his career, he has combined for a slash line of .192/.283/.360 in the opening months of the season. However, from May going forward, there is a steady increase in OPS:
He peaks in August with a .933 OPS, and then goes slightly back down to .908 in September.
When targeting LaRoche, in trades be sure to exploit his early struggles. If you’re lucky enough to land LaRoche, just be patient as he is likely to once again heat up with the weather. Also remember he should enjoy playing his home games in doubles-friendly Chase Field.
Since joining the major leagues in 2008, the Cuban Missile has struggled with his early-season stroke. 2010 has been no different for the White Sox shortstop: He’s hitting .138 with no walks and one extra-base hit through his first eight games. While he is not a second half player per se, Ramirez is definitely a slow starter.
In the opening months of the season (March and April), Ramirez has hit just .175/.221/.237 in his career. The monthly OPS of .458 is 409 points less than his best month, June, in which his OPS jumps up to .867.
Overall, Ramirez is rated as the eighth-best shortstop according to B-Rank. On the other hand, he is ranked only behind Derek Jeter, Jason Bartlett and Elvis Andrus in the American League. If you do not have one of those three shortstops in an AL-only league, you should be contacting the Alexei Ramirez owner in your league immediately.
If the price is too high right now, you might be able to wait a little bit longer if Ramirez holds to form, as his career May OPS of .719 isn’t impressive either. However, don’t wait much longer than that. In the summer months of June, July and August, his OPS jumps to an average of .834 per month, with the usual double-digit home run and stolen base pace.
The 27-year-old Astros outfielder is also off to a rough start in 2010 (3-for-25 with no walks). He was even benched for Sunday’s game against the Phillies. The slow start isn’t that big of a surprise, though, given his early-career track record.
A career .286 hitter, Pence’s batting average in the first month of the season is just .254. In addition to the batting average struggles, Pence’s power is slow to develop. His .391 slugging percentage in March and April represents the only monthly slugging mark below .462.
While he struggles in the first month of the season, history tells us that Pence will blow up in the month of May. His slash line in the second month of the season is .358/.415/.561. His 49 RBI in the month of May are also the highest of any monthly total.
Even with the slow start, Pence is likely to cost you a fair amount, given his combined 50 homers and 25 steals in the past two seasons. However, his B-Rank of 87 shows he’s among the game’s top 100 talents, and his owner might not have him valued that high if his early struggles continue. If you can get Pence at a slight discount, do it.
For more on notorious slow starters like Hunter Pence, Adam LaRoche and Alexei Ramirez, check out Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Kits
Welcome to the debut of the Bloomberg Sports blog, a partner of Major
League Baseball and part of the MLBlogs network. Starting today and
continuing through the final pitch of the World Series, we’ll cover all
the hot topics in baseball and fantasy baseball, with the help of Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary software and analytics.
Say you’re preparing for your fantasy draft, targeting Joe Mauer as
your starting catcher. Bloomberg Sports’ Draft Kit includes rankings
for every player, called B-Rank. Using B-Rank, you’ll see how Mauer
stacks up against all other players.
You can then delve deeper. Say you want to eyeball a player’s value against others at the
same position, then make an informed decision on when in the draft to
grab him. Bloomberg Sports’ Scarcity vs. Demand graph shows you a graph
of the top 10 players at that position, how high each one should be
drafted, and where the best values might lie. If you’re scouting Mauer,
the yellow dot representing the Twins catcher will show up far above
all other catchers, a sign of his unique value.
Now let’s explore a player whose ranking isn’t as obvious, newly signed Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Adam LaRoche.
According to B-Rank, LaRoche rates 17th among all major league first basemen for projected 2010 fantasy value, given standard 5×5 criteria. In a 12-team National League-only league or deep mixed league, LaRoche would be worthy of a starting job. He would project as a mid-to-late round pick, in a cluster with decent but unspectacular players like the Dodgers’ James Loney in the Scarcity vs. Demand graph.
Using our Spider Chart, you can see that LaRoche derives most of his value from counting stats such as home runs, runs scored and RBI, with less value derived from his batting average and virtually none from stolen bases. At a glance, you can spot LaRoche’s 2009 totals in every category against other players major league-wide, or just other first basemen. His 25 home runs, for instance, placed just below the average of 27 homers for qualifying MLB starters at first base, well below the MLB-leading total of 47 at that position.
Using the Scatterplot tool, you can
compare LaRoche’s value across two categories at once, measured against the top 10 players
in that two-category combination — home runs and batting average, RBI and stolen bases, and other customizable combinations.
The Bloomberg Sports team of writers will then dig up more nuggets of information for your perusal. Say you’re satisfied with LaRoche as a low-end starter for your team. But you’re concerned about his large splits – for his career, LaRoche has batted .252/.326/.447 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in the first half, with a much stronger .300/.363/.546 line in the second half. You might then view LaRoche as someone to target in trade around the All-Star break, rather than spending a pick on him in your draft or auction.
Ascertaining why a player fares better in one half of the season compared to the other can be a tough task. Often it’s the equivalent of flipping a coin and landing on heads five times in a row: a rare but possible occurrence that’s based simply on random chance.
Occasionally there might be other reasons. Some players perform better in warmer weather, or at least hit for more power in warmer weather. In Pittsburgh and even Atlanta, where he played the bulk of his first six major league seasons, LaRoche’s power indicators jumped across the board as temperatures rose. For his career, he’s hit home runs on 12.7% of his flyballs in March and April, 11.7% in May and 12.8% in June. That number soars to 18.9% in July and 17.0% in August, making LaRoche a greater power threat in the warmer summer months. In sweltering Phoenix, LaRoche can expect average highs of 84 in April and 93 in May. By June, the Diamondbacks will likely close their retractable roof for most games, with average temperatures near or over 100 for the final four months of the season. The closed roof would in turn create cooler home playing conditions as the season wore on.
We can’t say for certain if LaRoche’s superior performance and higher power output in the second half is the result of warmer weather – it could simply be another way to look at the same random streak of better second-half performances. If it is weather-related, though, playing in Arizona, and facing warmer-weather opponents more often in the NL West, could portend a hotter-than-usual start for LaRoche.
LaRoche could also get a boost from more favorable ballpark effects. Chase Field consistently ranks as one of the most favorable stadiums in baseball for hitters – second behind Coors Field in run factor last season and second behind Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Chase’s configuration also plays to one of LaRoche’s greatest strengths as a hitter. LaRoche has averaged 37.5 doubles per year in the past four seasons, ranking him among the league leaders in that category. Only Fenway Park, with its shallow, towering Green Monster, has yielded a higher doubles effect in the past two seasons than Chase Field.
Once the season starts, Bloomberg Sports’ In-Season tools let you
track a player’s day-today performance down to the finest details. Say
you drafted LaRoche and he got off to another slow start, hotter weather and all. The Visual Benchmark
tool lets you plot how LaRoche’s three home runs through the first 40
games of the season compare to different cohorts: other players at his
position, other National League players at his position, or the league
average for all players.
Still not sure if you should hold or cut bait? Using the
Competitive Factors tool, you can see how LaRoche’s new team stacks up
against the rest of the league. Last year, the Diamondbacks ranked 19th in batting average (20th in MLB in runs scored), despite their hitter-friendly home park. If Chris Young, Stephen Drew and other talented but erratic teammates don’t fare better in 2010, that suppresses LaRoche’s potential to score
and drive in runs – meaning you might want to consider a different option at first base.
This blog will help you leverage these and many other tools, by pairing Bloomberg
Sports analysis with the latest MLB happenings. Joining myself and
Bloomberg Sports’ Tyler McKee are the following writers:
His work has appeared in Baseball America, USA Today, ESPN.com, The Hardball
Times, FanGraphs, The Graphical Player, and RotoJunkie’s Annual
Baseball Draft Guide, The Fix.
Erik Hahmann: His baseball and fantasy baseball writing has appeared at Heater Magazine, DRaysBay and Beyond The Boxscore.
Tommy Rancel: He’s written for a number of publications, including Beyond The Boxscore, Inside the Majors and The Hardball Times.
Eno Sarris: He’s covered baseball and fantasy baseball for FanGraphs, Yahoo Fantasy
Baseball, RotoExperts and GodBlessBuckner on the Fanball network. He
won a Fantasy Sports Writers’ Association Award for his work at Fantasy
Pitchers and catchers are reporting throughout the Grapefruit and
Cactus Leagues and we couldn’t be more excited to start the season.
Bookmark bloombergsports.mlblogs.com for the latest news and analysis. You’ll also find us as a Featured blog at MLBlogs.com, as well in the MLBlogs.com Pro Blogs pull-down menu, under Fantasy.
Then, be sure to check out Bloomberg Sports’ Draft Kit and In-Season Tools.