Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses both the American and National League playoff picture as we head towards the last few weeks of the regular season, while highlighting some of the possible key players that may help their team get into October.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Orioles
He is trying to maintain his hot early start to September where he hit nine home runs and had 17 RBIs in only nine games. Though he still strikes out a ton, Buck Showalter will find a place for him in the lineup because of his prodigious power.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays
In his all-important contract year, Upton has gotten very hot over his last 30 games up to Wednesday, where he has hit .292 with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs.
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels
At 37 years old, you would think Hunter would be slowing down, but he is having actually a career year hitting .309 with 15 home runs, nine stolen bases, 76 RBIs and 72 runs scored despite missing half of May with an injury. He is trying to hit over .300 for the first time in his career.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Athletics
After starting out miserably this season with the major league ballclub, Donaldson was sent down to the minors on June 13th where he reaffirmed his potential by hitting .335 with 13 home runs in just 51 games. He quickly earned a call-up back with the A’s where he is now hitting .324 with six home runs and 17 RBIs through 28 games.
Kris Medlen, SP, Braves
This 26 year-old former top prospect missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has re-emerged this year as one of the Braves best starting pitchers. He has been especially hot as of late, winning seven straight starts since July 31st.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down the moves made at the trade deadline and the implications for your fantasy team.
Reds Trade for Jonathan Broxton
For the Reds, Jonathan Broxton simply provides depth and some closer experience. However, he is destined for a middle relief role with the club in front of Aroldis Chapman. The Royals get two quality arms in return and Greg Holland becomes the closer in Kansas City.
Rangers Acquire Ryan Dempster
With the Angels breathing down their necks, the Rangers had to do something before the trade deadline, especially with Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz lost for the season. Ryan Dempster had already been traded to the Braves but he rejected the move last week. He did, however, welcome a trade to the Rangers mere hours before the trade deadline. This is a move that will help Dempster quite a bit when you consider that he has won just five of his 16 starts despite a 2.25 ERA. His ERA is likely to rise in Texas, but I’m sure fantasy managers will welcome it with the additional wins due to the Rangers run support.
Shane Victorino Traded to the Dodgers
One of the better offensive outfielders in baseball, Shane Victorino ends his career with the Phillies now that he has been traded to the Dodgers. He gets plenty of steals, has some pop and reaches base often. However, in Los Angeles, he will likely lose some of that pop, which could keep his average down a tad. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1999, Victorino owns a .357 average at Dodgers Stadium and will benefit from having Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the lineup.
Hunter Pence Traded to the Giants
This is the big surprise, as Hunter Pence is 29 years old and clearly in his prime. Though Pence has lost some of his speed this season, he does have some pop and is a line drive hitter. A move to the Giants could cost him some home runs, but at least he will play some meaningful baseball this fall. Regardless, overall the move hurts Pence’s fantasy value.
Yankees Acquire Casey McGehee
For a second straight season, Casey McGehee has struggled at the plate but he is a fine Ty Wigginton type player who can contribute in big moments. What this acquisition does is hurt the fantasy value of Eric Chavez, as three is now a crowd with Jayson Nix also taking some at-bats away while filling in for the injured Alex Rodriguez.
Pirates Acquire Gaby Sanchez
The Pirates had nothing to lose and now hope that a change of scenery will do some good for Gaby Sanchez. After two straight seasons with 572 at-bats and 19 home runs, Sanchez struggled mightily this season with just three home runs and a .202 average before being relegated to the minor leagues. The 28-year-old moves to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and a surprisingly better lineup to resurrect his career.
Cardinals Acquire Edward Mujica
Last year the Cardinals brought in relief help including Octavio Dotel and it worked out well for them. This year, the Cardinals have a bit more work to do but they will not let the bullpen be the team’s unraveling. On Tuesday, the Cards acquired Edward Mujica, a hard-thrower with solid control. He does surrender some home runs but is another quality arm to help bridge the gap to Jason Motte.
Pirates Acquire Travis Snider
Another cheap pickup for the Pirates, Travis Snider has some serious potential, but it just did not work out in Toronto. On the other hand, Pittsburgh is a fine place for him to establish himself and at 24 years old, he has some time to reach his potential. I see Snider as a potential 30-homer guy with more than 10 steals and a respectable average. He is the big bat that the Pirates would love to team up with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen.
Blue Jays Trade Steve Delabar for Eric Thames
A feel good story in Seattle, Steve Delabar went from a coach to a player in a little over a year and has averaged well over a strikeout per inning this season. He provides the Blue Jays with the power arm that they expected to have in the injured Sergio Santos. His value takes a minor decline since he moves from the pitcher’s haven Safeco Field to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Eric Thames makes the reverse move from Toronto to Seattle. There won’t be many complaints from Thames since he will likely get a crack at playing everyday with the Mariners. He has some power but really struggles when it comes to the strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Braves Acquire Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm
A .300 hitter for a second straight year, Reed Johnson is very much a utility player with no fantasy value. On the other hand, Paul Maholm has enjoyed his time in Chicago with a 9-6 record and a solid 3.74 ERA. He has surrendered a run or fewer in each of his last six starts. Maholm also boasts a 1.69 ERA in five career starts at Turner Field. Though the Braves only made this deal since Ryan Dempster rejected the trade to Atlanta, I do think this is a nice fit with Maholm as hot as any pitcher in baseball right now.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down four of the major stories in baseball right now that could impact your fantasy team.
Ichiro Suzuki Traded to the Yankees for Two Minor Leaguers
The Yankees added another legend to the fold in the form of right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki. The future Hall of Famer is in the midst of his second disappointing season, as his average dipped from .272 a year ago to .261 entering last night. He also isn’t drawing many walks, which explains the .288 on-base percentage.
The Yankees are hoping a move out of Safeco will do some good for Ichiro, who is hitting .297 on the road this season. Ichiro has also been great in his career at Yankee Stadium, with a .333 batting average and a.492 slugging percentage. The move is an absolute boon for fantasy managers.
Colby Lewis Out for the Season
The Rangers are in first place this season, which has as much to say about their pitching as their hitting. One of their top hurlers is Colby Lewis, who owns nearly a 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, that ratio will not change as Lewis has been placed on the DL with an elbow injury and is lost for the season.
The loss of Lewis is a big blow, as he has been a star in the postseason with a 4-1 record and 2.34 ERA. The only good news is that Rangers fans will get a chance to see their top prospect Martin Perez again, but really, this is an injury that could force the Rangers hand to make a big deal.
Anibal Sanchez Going to Detroit
And just like that the Marlins are sellers again. Anibal Sanchez is just 28 years old, ranks among the top strikeout leaders and has really improved his control over the years. Regardless, the Marlins are not in the mood to pay him big this offseason, even though it did not stop them from acquiring Heath Bell last season.
A move to the American League is typically bad news for pitchers, but with the Tigers, Sanchez will have a lot of run support and play for a contender. Also dealt was Omar Infante, who offers some pop and speed from second base. Jacob Turner was moved to Miami but he is very much unproven, similar to a pitcher by the name of Andrew Miller, who never quite lived up to his hype despite being acquired for Miguel Cabrera from the Tigers several years ago.
Ryan Dempster Rumors
With a 2.11 ERA, Ryan Dempster is considered by many to be the best hired arm on the trading block. However, Dempster seems to enjoy Chicago and as a 10-5 player, he has the option of rejecting any trade. The Braves, meanwhile, see an opportunity to win an NL Wild Card spot and hope to acquire the veteran hurler. In the deal, Randall Delgado, who has mixed results, would be sent to Chicago. If Dempster does move to Atlanta, he is bound to do better than his current 5-4 record, while Delgado will see his value decrease even more.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
By Tommy Rancel //
A mid-season power outage (which coincided with a thumb sprain) left Jason Heyward short of the power expectations some had for the windshield-shattering prospect. Before his original thumb injury (which occurred in lay May), Heyward smashed nine home runs in his first 158 plate appearances with a .580 slugging percentage. Post-injury, he hit nine home runs in 485 plate appearances and slugged just .414. Even with a few nagging injuries, the man-child posted a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .277/.393/.456 with 52 extra-base hits over his first 623 major league plate appearances.
Despite having a batting average below .280, Heyward displayed excellent on-base skills with an OBP of near .400. His lack of age and experience did not prevent him from showing a a mature batting eye, walking nearly 15% of the time. While his batting average came it at .277, Heyward was very successful when putting the ball in play.
His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .335 was well above the league average which falls around .300. Normally, when a player hits for such a high BABIP it is a cause for concern in regards to regression; however, in the case of the athletic and hard-hitting Heyward regression is not automatic.
Heyward maintained a higher-than-usual BABIP with a relatively normal line drive rate. Sometimes when a player hits an unsustainable amount of line drives, a quick and steep regression is likely to follow. In this case, the J-Hey Kid had a high BABIP with a large amount of groundballs. For a player without speed (remember back to our article on Joey Votto) this could be a problem. Meanwhile, Heyward has good speed even though large amounts of steals have never been a part of his game. That said, Heyward could still see some batting average fluctuation.
Some owners may have concerns about Heyward’s durability. In addition to the thumb sprain that landed him on the disabled list, he also battled some knee and groin issues The good news is in the 320 plate appearances after his stint on the disabled list. he hit .302 with seven home runs.. Even if he becomes a player who takes an annual 15-day vacation because of nagging injuries, the level of production when healthy makes up for it.
Though he is no longer the unknown phenom, Heyward is one of the most exciting young players in baseball. And though he did not take many steal attempts, the potential for a 25HR/15SB season is still there. Even with the lingering thumb issue, target him in the mid-rounds of your draft as a solid OF2 or OF3 option depending on the size of your league.
by Eno Sarris //
Though the retirement papers haven’t been filed, it seems that Billy Wagner has holstered his left arm for good and left an opening at the back end of the Atlanta bullpen. Since the closer position is such a volatile job – about one-third of the closers who begin the year earning saves end up losing their job to injury or poor play – cheap saves are tantamount to fantasy success. Guessing correctly about Atlanta’s pen will pay dividends.
In the pole position is Craig Kimbrel, a fireballer with a 97 MPH fastball who has been groomed as the Closer of the Future with capital letters. He’s already fielding questions about being the closer this season. Eyeball ERA and strikeout rate alone, and he looks like a shoo-in. His numbers in those categories in both the minors (1.85 ERA, 14.4 K/9) and majors (0.44 ERA, 17.42 K/9) are impeccable, even eye-popping.
Those two numbers don’t quite tell the whole story, though. There’s one more number that must come to the fore: Kimbrel has walked a ton of batters in his career – 5.7 per nine innings in the minors and 16 in his first 20 and 2/3 innings in the majors (6.97 BB/9). He’s got some Ricky Vaughn in him, too.
Look at his pitching mix on Texas Leaguers, and you’ll see that this story continues on the pitch-by-pitch level. The swinging strike rates for his fastball (13.3%), changeup (24.3%) and slider (18.2%) are all well above the respective averages for those pitches (6.9% for fastballs, 15.1% for changeups, and 14.9% for sliders). It’s the changeup that gets strikes the least often (56.8%), and from FanGraphs’ splits page, we can see that he uses his fastball least often in 0-2 and 1-2 counts. Perhaps that poor strike rate on the pitch labeled as a changeup on Texas Leaguers leads to longer counts and more walks.
Looking around the league to see if there’s a role model for Kimbrel, we see that only eight qualified pitchers had a walk rate over 5 BB/9 IP. Among those, only Carlos Marmol and Kimbrel’s teammate Peter Moylan had ERAs under 3.00. Marmol is the obvious comp for Kimbrel, though, since he was the only one who paired a double-digit strikeout rate with a very poor walk rate. If Marmol’s success is to be believed, it seems to say that a walk rate like that can work, if the strikeout rate is stratospheric. Still, there’s some risk with Kimbrel if there’s really only one comp out there for him.
Competition from the rest of the pen should come mostly from fellow youngster Johnny Venters. The recently acquired Scott Linebrink is more decent than good (he’s never struck out a batter per inning or shown a good groundball rate, despite many solid years), and the rest of the pen is more about filling roles than finishing games.
Venters fared well in his rookie year. He struck out 10.08 batters per nine innings and garnered 68.4% of his contact on the ground, both excellent numbers that deserve attention, especially since he cooks with gas (94.6 MPH). While his control isn’t great (4.23 BB/9), it’s not as poor as Kimbrel’s. There is still a caveat for the lefty – he’s much better against lefties than righties. He struck out 14.79 per nine innings against lefties (and walked 3.21 per nine), and only had a 7.69 K/9 (4.75 BB/9) against righties. Those split issues also followed him through the minors, so they might be real.
Since Kimbrel has been groomed for the role and doesn’t own worrisome splits, he’s the front-runner. Venters is probably the backup plan. Treat them as such in your mixed-league drafts this season.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner
Both have been good for a long time, but Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner both surpassed expectations this year in their returns from Tommy John surgery. Wags found his old strikeout punch, to the tune of more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings, while Hudson focused more on getting the ground ball (64.7%, best in baseball). Because of their ages (Hudson is 35, Wagner 39), they might not make great keepers – especially with Wagner reportedly retiring – but they put in great work this year.
Biggest Bust: Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens is the clear bust for the Braves. He was injured for much of the year and could finish the season with only 20 starts, an ERA near 5.00, and the ire of fantasy owners everywhere. The thing is, Jurrjens really put up some of the same fundamental stats in 2010 that he did in 2009. His strikeout, walk and groundball rates were all similar in those two years. Instead, his luck and health went south this year. He’s an interesting bounce-back sleeper candidate late in 2011 drafts.
2011 Keeper Alert: Tommy Hanson
The one clear keeper on this pitching staff is Tommy Hanson. He has a strong three-pitch arsenal, cut his walks from his rookie to sophomore years, and features an above-average strikeout rate for a starter. Still, he showed much better strikeout punch in the minor leagues and could have further upside in 2011. In the bullpen, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are both interesting young arms, but Venters is much better against lefties than righties, Kimbrel is a little wild, and their veteran competition for the closer’s role next year is still TBD.
2011 Regression Warning: Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson, at 35, showed his best groundball rate of his career. That probably won’t happen again next year, meaning his lower strikeout rate could produce an ERA a run higher next year.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Omar Infante
Omar Infante came out of nowhere to make the All-Star team and provide fantasy owners with a an average over .300 and eligibility all over the field, which qualifies as much more of a positive surprise than any other hitter on the team (other than the Say-Hey Kid listed below perhaps). Martin Prado was a bit of a question mark going in because of mediocre minor league stats and a lack of an extensive track record, but Prado managed to keep spraying line drives all over the field (.307/.350/.459) and looks like a strong middle-tier second baseman going forward.
Biggest Bust: Nate McLouth
Nate McLouth easily qualifies for this title, as he struggled at the plate and with injuries all year and won’t crack double-digits in homers or steals by the end of the year, despite having a 20-20 season on his record. A bit of a late-season comeback helped, and a .218 batting average on balls in play points to a very unlucky season. Still, McLouth isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field nor offensive to handle a corner outfield spot. He may never again be fantasy-relevant in standard mixed leagues.
2011 Keeper Alert: Jason Heyward
We can’t go any further without talking about wunderkind Jason Heyward. The 21-year-old played with a maturity beyond his years, and his .278/.394/.457 line is nothing other than amazing given his age. Expect the patience to continue, the power to embiggen and for Heyward to eventually mature into a first-round pick in fantasy baseball.
2011 Regression Warning: Alex Gonzalez
At 33 years old, Alex Gonzalez has hit a career high with 23 home runs, with a strong .453 slugging percentage. Given his age and track record, those numbers will likely come down, and his poor plate discipline will sap him of most of his value. Meanwhile, Infante won’t once again have batted ball luck like he did in 2010, and batting average provides most his value. Neither middle infielder will be a great option next year.
By R.J. Anderson //
With only six weeks remaining, the National League East race is heating up. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are the only teams with realistic shots at hooking the title, but both have endured a rash of injuries in recent weeks. But while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are now back for the Phillies, the Braves have lost Chipper Jones for the season and Troy Glaus is on the disabled list.
Counting on health with Jones and Glaus on the corners is like playing Russian roulette with a full clip. The Braves have responded by adding long-time Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. A pending free agent, the Cubs received more value than they should have for Lee, but that aspect isn’t nearly as important for the short-term as what the Braves received.
Glaus owners in particular should be looking at adding Lee, as he’s still available in 6.5% of ESPN leagues. Lee’s seasonal line is a disappointing .247/.333/.410 with 16 homers and 65 runs batted in. One of the more telling differences between Lee’s magnificent 2009 season, in which he hit .306 with 35 homers and 91 RBI, and his 2010 campaign, is his strikeout rate. In about 100 fewer at-bats, Lee has struck out just five fewer times than he did all of last year. The soon-to-be 35-year-old is striking out at his highest rate since leaving the Marlins in 2003.
Lee is still walking and his non-home run power (22 doubles) is in line with 2006-2008 totals. The raisin in the sun is Lee’s batting average on balls in play. 29.1% of Lee’s balls in play are turning into hits, marking a career-low dating back to 1999 and more than 30 points below his previous low over the past five years. Batted ball data suggest a bit of a change in how Lee is hitting the ball, with a slight uptick in grounders over last year and a steady drop in flyballs. Lee is getting slightly fewer infield hits, but that comes with fewer infield flies too, a worthy trade-off in the big picture.
Graphic courtesy of Baseball-Reference
Being dropped into a pennant race could revitalize Lee’s spirit (and he has heated up lately) but do not expect him to hit like he did last year. Lee’s 2008 line of .291/.361/.462 line is probably a good best-case scenario for the last six weeks of 2010.
As for the other significant recent waiver acquisition, Pedro Feliz with the Cardinals, don’t bother unless you play in a fantasy league where the goal is to field the worst players. In that case, he is a keeper.
For more on Derrek Lee, Pedro Feliz, and other late-season adds, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By R.J. Anderson //
One of the final trades made before the deadline involved Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel heading to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for three players. The Braves hope these two help as they march toward the playoffs – could the same hold true for your NL-only fantasy team? Let’s take a look.
The long and the short of this one is no. Farnsworth’s superficial number in Kansas City looked much better this year (2.42 ERA) than in 2009 (4.58 ERA). But those numbers are deceiving. Farnsworth has posted big drops in his walk (3.38 BB/9 IP in 2009 to 2.42/9 IP in 2010) and home run rates (0.72 to 0.40) this season. But he’s also seen his strikeout rate take a dive (10.13 to 7.25), while benefiting from a lot of good luck: His home runs per flyball rate has plunged to a career-low 4.5% (career average 11.6%), while his strand rate spiked to 80.8% (career 72.9%).
Meanwhile, the Braves’ pen is already well stocked. Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito and Peter Moylan are all ahead in the pecking order for save or even hold opportunities. Effectively, Fanrsworth is coming to Atlanta to take the role of a middle reliever. There are better options out there in NL-only leagues, even among the ranks of non-closer relief pitchers.
Ankiel has put up a mediocre line of .253 AVG/.314 OBP/.453 SLG, with four homers in 105 plate appearances. That’s right on par with his previous National League experience, when he hit .251/.311/.452 with the Cardinals. That’s what Ankiel is: a decent power hitter without much in the way of contact, on-base skills, or stolen base skills who’s also a below-average defender.
Ankiel takes Nate McLouth’s position, after the incumbent center fielder got sent down following a stint on the disabled list with a concussion. Ankiel should be batting somewhere in bottom five of the Braves lineup, which makes him a decent bet for some run production. If you play in a league where positions are counted, then Ankiel has some value in center fielder. Even in standard National League-only leagues, he’s worth a look. Don’t expect the next coming of Jason Heyward and you should be fine.
For more on Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office
By R.J. Anderson //
During any given season numerous players will emerge and submerge above and below the relevancy sea. So many, that it’s hard to keep up unless special circumstances surround the player: an unlikely MVP- or Cy Young-caliber season; pitching a no-hitter or hitting for the cycle; making some fantastic highlight-stealing catch, or hitting the longest home run in the history of baseball. The point is, sometimes guys just get lost in the shuffle and even those who can help your fantasy team out are ignored for the sake of sanity.
With that in mind, meet Kris Medlen. The Braves’ 24-year-old right-hander should be owned in all formats. Yet, Medlen is only owned in 14.1% of ESPN fantasy leagues. He’s owned in more than 50% of CBS fantasy leagues, but started only 29% of the time. This is downright insanity.
Despite having the body type of a reliever (he stands well below 6 feet) and relying primarily on two pitch types (his fastball and change-up combine for more than 90% usage), Medlen has made 11 starts since May 8 and performed admirably, to the tune of 68.2 innings pitched, 6.2 strikeouts per nine, a 1.18 WHIP, and a 3.41 ERA. Compare those stats to his relief numbers (18.2 IP, 8.2 SO/9, 1.02 WHIP, and 2.41 ERA) and Medlen hasn’t lost a step in the transformation. Here’s a more complete view from Baseball-Reference:
It’s not that Medlen is beating up on weak opponents either. He held the Mets to six baserunners and two runs through six-plus innings in mid-May. He went to the Dodgers’ home park and beat them with seven-plus innings of two-run ball. He limited the Twins to five baserunners in eight innings. The Tigers managed just one run against him in nearly seven innings. There’s a reason Medlen is 6-1 and a reason why the Braves haven’t lost a game he started since the final week of May.
He’s good, they’re good, and you’re good too if you can grab him off the free agency heap right now.
For more on Kris Medlen check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
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