BY ROB SHAW
There was once a time when drafting a Colorado Rockies pitcher in your fantasy league was nothing but trouble, but after we saw Ubaldo Jimenez not just tame the altitude, but dominate in it, fantasy managers are willing to invest in a Rockies hurler. One pitcher who is drawing a great deal of interest is Jhoulys Chacin.
The 24-year-old hurler was hurt last season by a lack of defensive and offensive support as his record was just 11-14 and more than 10% of runs scored against him were unearned. However, some of his struggles were self-inflicted. Chacin walked 87 batters and surrendered 20 home runs. Though he still managed a solid 3.62 ERA, he was flirting with danger despite the stellar .231 average against.
What makes Chacin so effective in Coors is that he keeps the ball on the ground. In fact, of all pitchers in the Majors last season with at least 100 innings pitched, Chacin ranked seventh with a 57% ground ball rate.
While Chacin is a solid pitcher the question is whether he will become a great pitcher. In order to do so he has to improve his control, which would result in a lower WHIP, better ERA, and a career-high in wins. At 24 years old, there is a great deal of upside for Chacin and it is fair to assume that he’ll take a step in the right direction this season.
Typically pitching in a pitcher’s park is more advantageous than a hitter’s bandbox. There is an argument to the contrary for Reds hurler Mat Latos who makes his way from San Diego’s PETCO Park to Cincinnati. The greatest liability in Latos statistics last season was the 9-14 record. Otherwise, the second-year hurler was stellar with a 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
The idea here is that Latos could use a little run support. With Adrian Gonzalez having left the west coast for Boston last season, Latos had few batters to offer the run support needed for a winning record. That should not be an issue this season as he once again will have an MVP candidate manning first base with Joey Votto, plus the presence of Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce among others in the lineup.
Expect a rise in the ERA as the hitter-friendly ballpark can’t be ignored, but it will come with nearly 200 strikeouts and around 15 wins.
The Rays will compete once again in the AL East thanks to the fine young talent making up their starting rotation. While the Yankees and Red Sox acquire talent in trades and via free agency, the Rays secure their stars via drafts.
The next top prospect to follow the path of David Price and Jeremy Hellickson as prospects turned stars is rookie Matt Moore. In his first taste of the Big Leagues, Moore actually pitched more post-season innings than he did in the regular season. In 19.1 combined innings, Moore fanned 23 batters compared to just six walks.
In the minor leagues, Moore dominated while fanning batters at a shocking rate. The sunshine state southpaw surpassed 200 strikeouts in both seasons despite pitching 155 innings or fewer. Similar to Hellickson last season, Moore will likely make an immediate fantasy impact, though with more K’s. On the other hand, the Rays will likely play it safe and limit him to around 180 innings.
While most fantasy managers prefer proven commodities when it comes to fantasy drafts, there are very few hurlers with the upside of Moore’s, and yet you can likely nab him as late as the 10th round. For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com.
Who’s on First?
The Best: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
The likely AL MVP has made a smooth transition from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. Thanks in large part to the fine start by Jacoby Ellsbury, Gonzalez has been driving runs in at a career-high pace. While his power is evident in the 25 doubles and 16 home runs, it’s his consistency that makes his .356 average sustainable.
The Surprise: Mark Trumbo, Angels
The loss of Kendry Morales for another season would have been even more devastating had rookie Mark Trumbo not filled in admirably. The 25-year old first baseman has belted 13 home runs with a solid seven steals. Though he can improve on his plate discipline and raise his .258 average, Trumbo’s 28 extra bases have gone a long way for the Angels.
The Bust: Adam Dunn, White Sox
Playing in the homer-friendly US Cellular Ballpark with an improved lineup around him seemed like a slam dunk for Adam Dunn. Instead, the White Sox slugger who has had no less than 38 home runs over the last seven seasons has been downright awful. His .173 average is nearly 100 points lower than last season’s batting clip, and his power has been zapped to a .316 slugging percentage.
The 31-year old veteran has a few possible reasons for his lack of production. He is new to the American League and he has never before been a designated hitter on a regular basis. It may be time for the White Sox to call in Harold Baines to help mentor the fallen slugger.
The 2nd Half Sleeper: Mitch Moreland, Rangers
Texas may be a launching pad for sluggers, but during the dog days of summer, the heat takes its toll. That’s why fantasy managers should not be too concerned about the fact hat Mitch Moreland remains a platoon player despite the .287 average and 11 home runs. Come August, Moreland is bound to be fresh. On that note, Moreland has yet to get into a big hot streak that is bound to lift his season totals past 20 home runs. Expect a big second half from the rising first baseman who blasted nine home runs in 47 games after the All-Star break last season.
Top 5 MLB Hitters of the Week 5/2-5/8
1) Gaby Sanchez
13 hits in 28 at bats, 2 HR, 10 RBI (.328 AVG, 5 HR, 21 R)
2) Adrian Gonzalez
3 HR, 9 RBI, .321 AVG (.314 avg, 4 HR, 24 RBI)
3) Jacoby Ellsbury
6 runs, 5 steals, .387 AVG (.295 avg, 23 runs, 10 stl)
4) Erick Aybar
4 runs, 5 RBI, 4 steals, .406 AVG (Batting .356 with 8 Stl)
5) Vernon Wells
7 runs, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 1 STL (Batting just .179 this season)
A View of the Diamond: Derek Jeter- average of .276, 18 runs, riding a 6 game hit streak, he currently ranks 18th at his position, but he seems to be a streaky option, I would play him now, but he could be a platoon option. Play him against southpaws, he is batting .333 against them this year, and play him in day games when he bats .326.
By Eriq Gardner //
Pretend we’re in the middle of the first round and an owner has the choice between Votto and Tulowitzki. A week ago, the consensus would be for Votto. Now? Does a drafter choose Votto when his competition can take the roughly equal Gonzo a few picks later? Does choosing Votto make sense when other 1B like Teixeira and Ryan Howard may now be available in the 2nd round, as a result of being pushed down in the rankings? Tulo’s edge over other shortstops should be given more credit given the increased strength and depth at first base.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: Miguel Tejada
From hitting .269/.308/.362 with seven homers in 428 plate appearances, to hitting .277/.323/.442 with 8 homers in 220 plate appearances – in a ballpark that tramples offensive output. Maybe the added pressure of a playoff race really did rekindle Tejada’s spirit. After all, this is the first time Tejada has been in a serious playoff pursuit since 2003.
Biggest Bust: Kyle Blanks
An easy player to root for, the six-foot-six behemoth missed most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. When Blanks did play, he was mostly unimpressive, striking out in more than 45% of his at-bats and not flashing the power that made him a tantalizing sleeper this year. Adrian Gonzalez‘s eventual departure would allow the Padres to play Blanks at first base and leave him there, but the huge holes in his swing remain a going concern.
2011 Keeper Alert: Adrian Gonzalez
Despite playing in one of the toughest offensive environments in all of baseball, Gonzalez continues to hit. This season, he hit .298 (nearly a career high) with a .393 on-base percentage and .511 slugging percentage. He posted a fourth straight year of at least 30 home runs (31) and at least 95 RBI (101). Entering the walk year of his contract, he’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline if the Padres fall out of the race early in 2011. If that happens and Gonzalez goes to a better ballpark for hitters, he’d become even more valuable.
2011 Regression Alert: Ryan Ludwick
Call him the anti-Tejada. Just about every aspect of Ludwick’s game went the wrong way after the Cardinals sent him to San Diego. He’ll attempt to rebound after seeing a drop in all major statistical categories. A move away from Petco would make him a strong candidate for positive regression, and the Padres might be willing to deal, after pledging to boost their payroll.
By Eno Sarris
It’s no surprise that a team with big strikeout men Mark Reynolds and Chris Young in the lineup has above-average power and a below-average batting average. A little more development from their best hitter, Justin Upton, and some steps forward from their post-hype sleepers Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero, and this team could actually develop the best offense in their division. They certainly have a nice young core.
The staff is well above average, with sneaky ace Dan Haren leading the way. If Brandon Webb can recover his health, they’ll form a potent one-two duo once again. Newcomers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy can make for decent NL middle-of-the-rotation guys, too, even if their pasts have been checkered. They’ll enjoy striking out pitchers this year, after spending the past few years in the American League. Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez are different pitchers – Qualls has a little more control, Gutierrez a little more gas – but they are a good combo at the end of the pen. Qualls in particular is a very good closer who’s being priced like a bargain-basement guy right now. Don’t be afraid to draft him a round or two above his ADP.
It’s not surprising that the Bloomberg Sports team spider graph identifies Troy Tulowitzki as the best player on the Rockies. His power from a premium defensive position makes this offense hum. Young Ian Stewart has the potential to be a poor man’s Mark Reynolds, and the team has buckets of upside hanging out in the outfield – Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, and Carlos Gonzalez comprise one of the best collections of young outfielders in the game. Veterans Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton are still there to provide a bridge to all the young talent.
The rotation is led by underrated ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Jorge De La Rosa is searching for a breakout season: He strikes batter out, but also gives up too many walks. It’s a good thing that the Rockies still have young lefty Franklin Morales around, since Huston Street signed a contract extension and promptly hit the DL with shoulder trouble.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The oufield boasts fantasy first-rounder Matt Kemp, solid young player Andre Ethier, and venerable slugger Manny Ramirez. If this above-average offense is going to get any better, though, it’ll because James Loney finally takes a step forward. Young Blake DeWitt gets another chance to prove his mettle, this time at second base, with a little more seasoning under his belt. Even Casey Blake is quietly effective.
For all of the belly-aching about the lack of a true ace in Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw certainly has the strikeout rate and wipeout stuff of a number-one starter, and Chad Billingsley is a solid number-two. Their pen is also pretty exciting with stud Jon Broxton anchoring the team on his massive quads alone. The back of the rotation won’t produce as much value as last year, though, with Randy Wolf shipped off to Milwaukee after a strong 2009 season.
San Diego Padres
The book says that the Padres have a bad offense and a good staff, but is the book right? Maybe it’s just run-supressing Petco Park that gives fans that impression. The Bloomberg Sports team Spider Graph suggest that the team stacks up rather differently. Instead, it’s the staff falling behind the average team in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, despite those pitcher-friendly park effects. Perhaps young fireballer Mat Latos can help them turn that rotation around. He had an impressive showing in his rookie season last year.
On the offensive side of the ball, Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley provide good power without the aid of the greatest batting averages. Young players Kyle Blanks and Everth Cabrera also provide run creation with low batting averages coupled with on-base ability and a blend of power (Blanks) and speed (Cabrera). There’s reason for hope here, even if it comes with a .242 team batting average.
San Francisco Giants
The average age of the Giants pitching staff is 26.8 years old. The starting lineup? 28.4. Take Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval out of that lineup, and the other geezers pull the offense to an average age of over 30. Fittingly, the team has an exciting young staff that keeps their boring old offense in just enough games to matter for most of the year. Will the offense do any better this year?
The Panda needs a robin, but will that be one of the new veterans, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez or Mark DeRosa? Each has had a nice season in the last two years, and each is basically coming off an average or below-average season. GM Brian Sabean was probably looking at those career seasons when he signed each of them. Without some repeats of those career seasons, though, this will be a roster full of guys with .280 batting averages and 20-home run power. Opposing pitchers are already circling their scheduled starts against the Giants as we speak.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff will remain elite. All Tim Lincecum has going for him are two straight Cy Young awards. Matt Cain is one of the best number-two starters in the game. Barry Zito is a reliable, above-average innings eater who’s a valuable commodity, monster contract aside. Jonathan Sanchez is a dynamic young lefty with the ability to post annual 200-strikeout seasons. Brian Wilson has quietly emerged as one of the best closers in the game. Even the top set-up men, Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt, are worth a look in deep leagues.