Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the fantasy implications of two players’ MLB debuts and the potential trades of five players who are most likely to be moved.
The Big Debuts
Matt Harvey, SP, Mets
Finally some good news for Mets fans as 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey made his debut Thursday night and it was a memorable one to say the least. Harvey set a Mets record for a debut with 11 strikeouts and did not allow a run to score in 5.1 innings.
Harvey touched 98 MPH on the radar gun and got some K’s with high fastballs while also getting some weak swings by putting sliders in the dirt. Don’t expect all of his starts to go this smoothly, but Harvey is a strikeout artist who should continue to rack up the K’s, though it could come with some walks as well.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
On the first Major League pitch he saw, Starling Marte made his mark, blasting a home run. The 23-year-old outfielder is an instant upgrade for the contending Pirates. Marte has some power, as he blasted 12 home runs with 13 triples and 21 doubles at Triple-A. He lacks plate discipline, but also has some speed. I do not see Marte having too much fantasy value this year aside from what could be a hot start since the Major Leaguers lack an in-depth scouting report on him. Regardless, the future is now for the Pirates and Marte only makes the team more interesting.
Five Players Most Likely to be Moved
1) Zack Greinke, SP, Brewers
The Brewers have come out and acknowledged that they are going to trade their ace, which makes it clear that no long-term commitment could be reached with Zack Greinke. Ultimately, a trade to a contender will do fantasy managers some good, but at varied levels.
If he goes to the Rangers: The hitter’s ballpark is bound to lead to some extra runs so Greinke’s ERA may spike, but he will also enjoy the best run support possible. This is the trading partner that makes the most sense for everyone. Greinke owns a sensational 2.38 lifetime ERA at Rangers Ballpark.
If he goes to the Angels: Greinke should continue to post similar numbers but with a few extra wins thanks to the offensive star power of Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. You can expect a big second half from the ace who is 44-45 in the first half of seasons and 41-31 following the All-Star break.
If he goes to the Braves: This is the best ballpark for Grienke, plus in the NL he faces opposing pitchers, which will keep his ERA lower. Greinke is 25-9 in 49 starts with a National League club.
2) Jonathan Broxton, RP, Royals
The interest in Jonathan Broxton has been limited on the trade market and it may be for a couple of reasons. First, few contenders are desperate for a closer or late reliever right now. Also, Broxton’s numbers are not as good as they appear. He is not getting many strikeouts, which is a reversal of his career trend. He is also allowing 1.40 runners on base each inning, which is a recipe for destruction in late innings. The Royals are wise to put him on the block.
3) Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners
With the demands so high for front-of-the-rotation hurlers such as Greinke and James Shields, alternatives such as Jason Vargas are becoming attractive for teams. Vargas has won four straight starts and now owns a career high 11 wins this season. So when he does get traded, what does this mean to his fantasy value? The run support will increase, but his ERA will also soar. He has a 4.67 ERA on the road this season compared to 2.63 at home, which explains everything you need to know about the 29-year-old southpaw.
4) Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins
When the Twins dealt their ace Johan Santana to the Mets a few years back, they not only assumed that some of the prospects from the trade would turn into stars, but the hope was that Francisco Liriano would step up as an able replacement at the top of the rotation. Though he did enjoy some success in 2010 with 14 wins, a 3.62 ERA and a career high 202 strikeouts, the following two seasons have been disastrous.
Liriano has found himself in the bullpen and even in the minors over the last two seasons while sustaining an ERA north of 5.00 in the Majors. The positive signs this season are that the opposition is hitting just .239 against Liriano and he is fanning more than a batter per inning. On the other hand, his control is lacking, which makes him a major gamble for whoever brings him in via trade.
5) Yunel Escobar, SS, Blue Jays
After a strong 2011 season that included 11 home runs, a .290 average and .369 on-base percentage, Escobar has struggled this season. His average is down to .255, his OBP is .299 and his 19 extra-base hits have resulted in a .342 slugging percentage.
Escobar has shown some life recently with a five-game hitting streak, but there is growing concern about his character according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, which may scare off some suitors. Keep in mind that Toronto is a favorable hitter’s park and the Blue Jays lineup has posted a lot of runs. The 29-year-old Cuban does not make for a very good fantasy investment.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Host Julie Alexandria is joined by Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw to break down an expert’s fantasy baseball draft. The draft, which included fantasy experts from CBS, Yahoo!, and ESPN was a 28-round draft that consisted of additional positions such as Middle Infielder, Corner Infielder, and five outfielder positions. Additionally, the league includes more advanced statistics such as OBP and slugging rather than the typical batting average.
Here’s a look at the first 18 picks by Shaw:
1) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2) Roy Halladay, Phillies
3) Cliff Lee, Phillies
4) Eric Hosmer, Royals
5) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
6) Adam Jones, Orioles
7) Howie Kendrick, Angels
8) Drew Stubbs, Reds
9) Derek Jeter, Yankees
10) Josh Johnson, Marlins
11) Adam Dunn, White Sox
12) Danny Espinosa, Nationals
13) Nick Markakis, Orioles
14) Salvador Perez, Royals
15) Sergio Santos, Blue Jays
16) Joe Nathan, Rangers
17) Chris Iannetta, Angels
18) Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
Let’s pick up in the 19th round, already with Sergio Santos and Joe Nathan taken within the past four rounds, I added yet another closer in new Mets hurler Frank Francisco. It’s not that I see Francisco having much upside, but again the idea here is to merely win the saves category. With three closers I am now in a decent position to do so since I am usually quick acting off the waiver wire in the regular season.
Next, in the 20th round, I drafted Bryce Harper. Even though Harper will open the season in the minor Leagues, he is the exact type of high potential player to target in the later rounds of a fantasy baseball draft.
Additionally, in the late rounds you should target players with multiple position eligibility. Again, the point of late round picks is that they are backups for your fantasy team. A player like Ryan Raburn is an insurance policy at several positions. Furthermore, he also has some real potential and if he can finally get off to a hot start, he can put together a great season with 25 home runs and a .280 average.
In the next round, I drafted Braves southpaw bullpen ace Jonny Venters. Though he may not get many saves with Craig Kimbrel locked in at closer, Venters can certainly contribute in all other categories while picking up vulture wins.
In the 23rd round I added Andres Torres, who now plays with the Mets. I was looking to simply add a versatile outfielder who can offer some steals, but the problem here is that Torres has not been healthy and his production has taken a major dive, particularly against southpaws. He might end up getting dropped before the season even opens.
In round 24, I again made an investment in upside by drafting Mike Trout. The Angels phenom was not ready for the Big Leagues last season, but 2012 may be the year his career takes off. With Albert Pujols in the lineup there is a great opportunity for some serious run production.
Next, I brought in an extra arm for my starting rotation. Edwin Jackson is durable and is a cinch for 10 wins every season. I’m thinking that he may do a lot better than that this season. Now a full-time National Leaguer in a pitcher-friendly stadium, Jackson has the ability to approach 200 strikeouts with respectable all-around numbers.
In the 26th round, I was pleased to see Gordon Beckham still available. People have forgotten about his upside, but Beckham is a former top prospect with some power and speed who calls home to the middle infield in a hitter’s park.
Next, I picked up Blue Jays prospect Travis Snider. The power is real, but the consistency is lacking, which explains why he will open the season in the Minor Leagues. I’ll likely keep him stashed on my bench considering his upside.
Finally, in the last round of my fantasy draft I picked up A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington. Even in the last round of the draft, this was not a wasted pick. In fact, Pennington is one of the top shortstops in baseball when he escapes the Oakland Coliseum. He is a player to consider platooning for his road games.
Here’s a look at my 2012 Experts League Fantasy Squad broken down by position:
C: Josh Thole, Mets
C: Chris Iannetta, Angels
1B: Eric Hosmer, Royals
2B: Howie Kendrick, Angels
SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees
3B: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
MI: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
CI: Adam Dunn, White Sox
OF: Adam Jones, Orioles
OF: Nick Markakis, Orioles
OF: Drew Stubbs, Reds
OF: Ryan Raburn, Tigers
OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
UT: Gordon Beckham, White Sox
Bench: Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Cliff Pennington, Travis Snider, Andres Torres
DL: Salvador Perez, Royals
P: Roy Halladay, Phillies
P: Cliff Lee, Phillies
P: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
P: Josh Johnson, Marlins
P: Edwin Jackson, Nationals
P: Jonny Venters, Braves
P: Joe Nathan, Rangers
P: Sergio Santos, Blue Jays
P: Frank Francisco, Mets
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com
BY ROB SHAW
CJ Wilson may have been the top arm on the market this off-season, but the pressure is certainly not as intense on the hurler as it is on Albert Pujols. The reason is very simple, while Pujols is the best hitter in the world Wilson isn’t even the best arm on the Angels.
Wilson’s struggles in the postseason may have left a bad taste in the mouth of Rangers fans, but the hurler is actually in a much better situation now that he flees the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington. Putting the 2011 playoffs aside, the year as whole brough great improvement for Wilson. His strikeouts went up while his walks went down.
Another factor for Wilson this season will be his run support. Typically leaving the Rangers, who are loaded with sluggers, will result in a decline of run support. However, that is not the case since Pujols will also join the Angels who already have some former first basemen who know something about providing big bats.
The Angels will be fun to watch for many reasons, and after falling to Pujols and the Cardinals in the postseason last season, Wilson should enjoy the shot at winning with Pujols as his teammate manning first base.
It made perfect sense for the Miami Marlins to sign Heath Bell. The veteran hurler has three straight seasons with 40-plus saves and while the Marlins have had some success in their bullpen in recent years, it has not been as dominant as what the Padres enjoyed. There is just one problem with bringing in Bell and expecting everything to run smoothly. There are signs that the 34-year-old may be losing his effectiveness.
A late bloomer with the Mets, Bell broke out in San Diego, where he had the benefit of little media attention and one of the most favorable ballparks for pitchers. In fact his 2.88 ERA on the road last season was not as dominant as the 2.15 ERA he posted at PETCO Park.
Bell also regressed as a strikeout hurler. His 11 K/9 dropped to 7 K/9, as his whiff rate fell by 9%. This is not just a matter of Bell losing velocity, in fact, the main issue has been a loss of effectiveness in his curveball. In 2010, the opposition hit just .141 against that pitch, and last season it spiked two-fold to .282. The out-pitch is not recording as many outs.
Bell should enjoy plenty of save opportunities since the Marlins did improve their starting rotation and offense, but there should be less heralded hurlers in fantasy leagues who can end up posting better numbers this season.
At first glance, last year was a disaster for long-time Twins closer Joe Nathan. His ERA doubled, his strikeouts declined, and his saves were cut drastically. Of course, Nathan was also returning to the mound after missing all of the 2010 with a major arm injury.
On that note, Nathan’s statistics should be measured differently. Rather than focus on the full season, we should pay greater attention to the end of the season when he finally shed all of his rust. From June 25th on, Nathan was his usual dominant self. His WHIP was a dominant 0.90 from that point forward, which suggests that even in his late 30s, Nathan still possesses the ability to dominate.
Nathan now joins the Texas Rangers, and while he will throw the ball in a much more hitter-friendly ballpark, he joins a better club that will likely result in more save opportunities. The ERA may take a slight uptick, but overall he will enjoy more saves and have more value assuming he can stay healthy. It also allows some of the younger hurlers to take on larger roles in the starting rotation.