BY ROB SHAW
There is no question about it, 2011 was a stinker for Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford. Acquiring the best player from the rival team was supposed to assure that the Red Sox would surpass the Rays in the AL East, but instead Crawford’s disappointment was amongst many others for Boston as they failed to make the playoffs.
What followed was a tumultuous off-season that saw the departure of the manager and general manager. However, Crawford remains.
While last year’s struggles can be tied to Crawford’s acclimation to a major market for the first time in his career plus some nagging injuries, don’t forget the reason why fantasy managers liked him so much heading into last season. He is a line drive machine who should be able to use the Green Monster as a weapon, while adding speed to the top of the lineup.
Part of the issue for Crawford’s poor numbers was the fact that he was pushed down to the seventh spot of the Red Sox lineup. As a result his runs took a major hit. Always interested in the psyche of his players, expect Bobby Valentine to give Crawford every chance to succeed towards the top of the order.
Bloomberg Sports Front Office expects a decent bounce back from Crawford. He should blast 14 home runs with 35 stolen bases and a respectable .281 batting clip. Of course, this can only happen if he stays healthy. Crawford is currently dealing with a sore wrist that is threatening his ability to be a part of the Red Sox lineup on Opening Day.
Expectations have never been lower, which makes him a decent middle round sleeper considering his sky-high potential that made him a bust last season.
For many years we have come to expect 30 home runs and 100 RBI from Alex Rodriguez. Those benchmarks also came with great run production, solid stolen base totals, and a batting average north of .300. Not anymore.
Last season we saw that even the great ones are mortal. A-Rod managed just 16 home runs as he was hampered by injuries all season. Though he looks to be in great shape entering the spring and had some medical procedures done during the off-season, the big question in the Bronx is whether it’s even possible for A-Rod to return to prominence as an elite slugger.
The answer is probably no. There is a very well known pattern for players entering their late 30s tailing off in production. It is also clear that Rodriguez is not as healthy as he was when he was younger. It was five years ago that he last played 140 games in a season.
Bloomberg Sports does anticipate a mild bounce back. A-Rod should pound 23 home runs with 82 RBI. That would mean he finishes the season with an astounding 652 career home runs. Unfortunately, we are at the point in A-Rod’s career where we will celebrate what he’s accomplished over time rather than on a day-to-day basis.
It was shocking enough that an ace would tame Coors Field, it’s even more mesmerizing that he actually regressed when traded to a far more pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Ubaldo Jimenez was an elite pitcher in 2010. He finished that season with a 19-8 record, but was even more dazzling at the All-Star break with a 15-1 record and 2.20 ERA. Since then, Jimenez has regressed to being a barely above average hurler.
In the second half of the memorable 2010 season, Jimenez went 4-7 with a 3.80 ERA. He then struggled out of the gate in 2011 and was traded to the Indians when his record was 6-9. Things went from bad to worse, as his ERA soared to 5.10 during his 11 starts with the Indians.
Jimenez will try to start from scratch this season, and while his results in his first two spring training starts are not very promising, the good news is that his fastball is back over 95 MPH for the first time since 2010. Regardless, Jimenez remains a risky pick for fantasy managers.
He should offer plenty of strikeouts, Bloomberg Sports projects 208, but his lack of control could lead to a WHIP and ERA well above what he’s offered when he was at his past two seasons ago.
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.
By Tyler McKee
AL East is flush with second base talent. Each team’s starter played
more than 150 games in 2009 and four ranked among the six second
who scored 100 runs.
With top-end talent being rare at the position, any
one of these players makes a strong case to fill that 2B slot. Taking a
look at B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary
ranking system), as well as Bloomberg Sports’ spider charts for 5×5
hitting stats, we can easily identify
each player’s strengths and weaknesses.
The Blue Jays’ Aaron Hill
hit 36 homers last season, first among all second-baggers and ninth
positions. Power is his strong suit; his six steals and .330 on-base
percentage last year fall well short of elite status.
The Yankees’ Robinson
Cano bounced back in 2009 to a career high of 25 homers and the
average among second basemen at .320. He’s well suited to new Yankee
Stadium, a park that favors left-handed hitters and also turned moderate
power threat Johnny Damon into a major home run source last
year. Still, Cano gets a low Bloomberg
B-ranking of 99 because he lacks speed, with only five stolen bases last
year. Cano’s runs scored are also hurt by his aggressive approach at
the plate; his walk rate of 4.5% last year was second-lowest in the
majors for second basemen.
Brian Roberts‘ B-rank
places him at 37, because of his consistency across all five batting
categories. The spider charts show the Baltimore Oriole rating above
average in every category. His 30
steals ranked him second at the position last year. But Roberts has seen
those same speed numbers decline in recent years. Couple this with his
current injury status, a herniated disc that has kept him out of Spring
Training, and one can see why his average draft position is 24 spots
lower than his B-Rank.
Despite a drop-off in batting
average of almost 30 points, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia still
managed to hit .296 last
season with an OPS of .819. Power was all he lacked, with just 17
homers. He managed to swipe 20 bags last year, the second time he’s
accomplished that feat. At 26, Pedroia’s entering his prime and should
be off the board
quickly after Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler. His current ADP
has him drafted
Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist got off to a
torrid start in 2009, earning an everyday job and ending the season as
one of baseball’s most valuable players, with 27 home runs, a
.948 OPS and great defense. Was it a fluke? Zobrist’s .326 BABIP was a
little high (league average is around .300). Meanwhile, isolated power
(slugging percentage minus batting average) was a sky-high .246.
Bloomberg Sports colleague Tommy Rancel has chronicled
Zobrist Code, including Zobrist’s work with hitting instructor
Jamie Cevallos. Still, some regression toward the mean is expected.
Even then, Zobrist projects as an elite option at second base: He’s
going off the board at number 52 according to Bloomberg Sports ADP
information on good second base options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.