Results tagged ‘ Atlanta Braves ’

Assessing Martin Prado’s Value

By Tommy Rancel //

In this era of advanced statistical analysis, some of baseball’s traditional stats have become less relevant when evaluating players. One of those metrics is batting average. That’s not to say batting average isn’t useful, or isn’t a sign of hitting ability, but it doesn’t tell a complete story. Plus, there are other statistics like on-base percentage – or weighted on-base average for more advanced followers – that are more useful.

The value of batting average has changed in real life evaluations; on the other hand, in fantasy baseball, one of the game’s simplest statistics still holds weight. As an owner, you may be able to leverage a high batting average in a trade that nets a bigger piece to your puzzle without sacrificing an important piece of your team.

Martin Prado is a prime example of a player who has his fantasy value tied into his batting average.

In real life, Prado is a good player. With his role increasing over the past few years, he has put up very good numbers from the middle infield position. His career slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) is a very respectable .310/.364/.451 and his defense is generally accepted as average. Without much power or speed, but a good average, Prado looks like a young Placido Polanco.

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Graph courtesy of Fangraphs.com

Prado’s efforts have largely gone under the radar because he doesn’t possess a hulk-smashing power stroke, nor is he considered a defensive dynamo. Still, in 2010, Prado has gotten off to another good start. He is hitting .339/.397/.459 thus far, with the bulk of his value again in that batting average.

Currently, Prado has a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .382. Compare that elevated figure to the average ballplayer’s BABIP of around .300. For his career, Prado has maintained an elevated BABIP of .341; even at that level, a .382 mark suggests that some batting average regression will be coming.
 
Beyond the potential BABIP regression, let’s take a look at the types of hits Prado gets. He is not a power hitter, although he did belt 11 home runs last year. Outside of those 503 plate appearances (PA) in 2009, he has four home runs total in his other 482 PAs – including one home run in 117 PAs this season. He does have 70 career doubles and five triples; however 68% of his 276 career hits have been singles. This season, 26 of his 37 hits have gone for one base.

Even if the regression happens, you’ll likely be left with a good (but not great) hitter. If you’re already looking good in the batting average category, Prado could be a valuable trade piece to cash in for power or steals – commodities he lacks.

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In a standard 10-12 mixed league, Prado’s average could be used to net a slumping/slow-starting power-hitter who will not only provide home runs, but RBI as well.

A prime target would be Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros. Here at Bloomberg Sports, we have already talked about Pence being a slow starter; 2010 has been no different. We also noted that Pence usually gets going around this time and doesn’t look back. With back-to-back 25 home run seasons under his belt, there is nothing to suggest that the 27 year-old can’t produce the same in 2010 once his bat heats up.

Alternatively, you could keep Prado as a batting average buffer and go after a high-power, low-average hitter. Carlos Pena and his .200 batting average could make a strong target. The Rays first baseman is blessed with 35-homer power and hits fifth in one of the most dynamic lineups in baseball, making him a great candidate for big counting stats.

There is no rush to trade Prado. The in-season updated projections from ZiPS (for more on ZiPS click here) have him hitting .311/.365/.439 with eight home runs in 2010. However, if you can leverage his batting average in a trade and pick up a struggling player like Pence, who is projected to hit 22 home runs and drive in 76 runs by the same projection system, it might be something worth looking into. Or keep Prado and go after a Pena type. Either way, you’ve got options.

For more on Martin Prado and high batting average players, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

Tim Hudson: Comeback Kid

By Erik Hahmann

 

It’s easy to forget about Tim Hudson. After all, he did miss more than a full calendar year from July 2008-September 2009 recovering from Tommy John’s surgery. He’s back now, and fully healthy. After starting seven games at the end of last season, Hudson seems ready to make a name for himself once again.
 
When healthy, Hudson has been a near-perennial elite pitcher. In the seven seasons in which he started at least 25 games, Hudson averaged 217 IP and saw his ERA rise above 4.00 just twice – it was under 3.00 twice as well. Hudson has never been a high-strikeout pitcher; his career K/9 is just 6.13. But he’s consistently struck out at least twice as many batters as he’s walked, as his 2.22 career K/BB indicates.

Seeing Hudson go in for Tommy John surgery was troubling to his fantasy owners, and to the Braves. But the elbow replacement surgery carries strong recovery rates. In seven starts after returning from Tommy John last season, Hudson showed signs of a healthy recovery, posting an impressive 3.47 xFIP (a stat which strips out the effects of bad luck, defense, bullpen support, aberrant HR/FB rates, and other factors).

 
 
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Still, as you can see in the Demand vs Scarcity chart above, the fact that Hudson underwent Tommy John’s surgery has indeed severely affected his fantasy value. For comparison’s sake, pitchers like Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia are given five-star rankings. Even Ben Sheets, who missed the entire 2009 season, has a two-star ranking.

Hudson was ranked in the one-star group, with names like Carl Pavano, Gil Meche and rookie Brian Matusz, all of whom Hudson could easily outperform this season. Continuing his late-season dominance from last year, Hudson was dominant this spring, putting up a 1.35 ERA while striking out 17 batters and walking just 3 in 20 IP. While you must take spring training stats with a grain of salt, they can be instructive for young players, and especially for players trying to prove themselves after an injury. According to Braves catcher Brian McCann: “He look[ed] great. He’s putting his pitches right where he wants them. He’s definitely ready for the season.”

 
 
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The newest addition to the Bloomberg Sports consumer product is the Auction Values tab. Now, instead of just listing a player’s Average Draft Position, you can see how much that player is worth in a standard 12-team, 5×5 auction style league, with a salary cap of $260. Hudson could prove to be a steal at the $6 under which he was listed. Bloomberg Sports is projecting Hudson’s 2010 season to look like this: 25 starts, 11-7, 3.62 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 98 K, in 159 IP. If Hudson is indeed at full health, the could easily exceed those projections.

The 11-win total should be easily reachable now that the Braves have added more firepower in the forms of Jason Heyward and Troy Glaus to an already talented lineup. The defense behind Hudson as improved as well, with Heyward in right field, Melky Cabrera (career 4.0 UZR in LF) seeing time in left, and Garret Anderson (-16.5 UZR last season) no longer on the roster.

Hudson’s 2010 debut was an impressive one: 7 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits and no walks. A couple of caveats apply. First, he was facing the Giants, who have only one elite hitter in their entire lineup in Pablo Sandoval. Second, Hudson only struck out two batters in his inaugural 2010 start. Still, his best indicator of success, aside from his pinpoint, no-walk control, was his impressive groundball rate: Fourteen of the 21 outs Hudson rang up Friday against San Francisco came via groundballs. That’s a great sign for a pitcher who’s thrived on worm-burners his whole career.

Hudson’s probably owned in even the shallowest leagues, and his value spiked after his opening start, such that targeting him in trade now doesn’t make much sense. But if you already own him, resist the temptation to sell high. Unless someone bowls you over with an offer, hang onto Hudson and give him a chance to put up a big season.

 
For more information on Tim Hudson and other starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.
 

Bloomberg Sports’ 2010 National League East Preview


By R.J. Anderson

This division will likely a two-team race. The Phillies are the favorites, but Atlanta is better than most people would like to acknowledge. Don’t be surprised if both of these clubs make the playoffs, and be prepared for a possible National League Championship Series match-up.


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Atlanta Braves

Jason Heyward is already ahead of schedule, and the season just started. We wrote about him at Bloomberg Sports, calling him a shiny toy, and fretting that he might get sent to the minors. Clearly that last part was a little less than prescient. Heyward made headlines this week by hitting a home run in his first career at-bat, and has become a hot commodity; so much so that he’s probably overpriced as a trade target right now. Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, Yunel Escobar and Martin Prado project as less-hyped but still solid producers who are worth discussion, if you don’t already own them.

The starting rotation offers several interesting storylines. Can Jair Jurrjens repeat his amazing 2009 season? Will Tommy Hanson emerge as a 200-inning ace in his first full big league campaign? The biggest question mark is Tim Hudson. Prior to missing most of 2009 and part of 2008, Hudson had made 25+ starts in every season since 2000. He’s back and looked good in the spring, but he’s no sure bet to stay healthy all year. If his price is reduced due to injury concern, inquire about him; if he’s being priced like the Tim Hudson of old, pass.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies

Cole Hamels might be the only player on the two-time defending National League pennant winners who qualifies as a sleeper. Though his won-lost record and ERA turned much worse in 2009, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) shows identical 3.72 marks in both seasons, making him a potential value pick. Everyone else is a known commodity, including newly-acquired ace Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth


Ryan Madson is the man in waiting if closer Brad Lidge stumbles once more. Madson has typical closer velocity, checking in last season at 95 MPH, but also uses a cutter and change-up as his secondary pitches, rather than the commonplace slider. Raul Ibanez‘s hot entrance to the National League fraternity is what people will remember from last season, rather than his quick descent back into the real world. A year older, Ibanez has bust potential written all over him. Avoid.

 

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Florida Marlins

The Marlins are in the running for the most top heavy team in baseball. Hanley Ramirez is one of the best players in baseball. Last year, Josh Johnson appeared to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Bloomberg Sports also loves number-two starter Ricky Nolasco.

After that, things get murky. Jorge Cantu provides some pop. Chris Coghlan is a decent sleeper. Dan Uggla had his name floated in trade rumors for what seems like the umpteenth year without a move happening; he’s a good bet to 25-30 home runs, but his low-batting average/solid on-base percentage is a lot more valuable in real life than in standard 5×5 fantasy leagues. The Marlins do have some strong outfield prospects on the rise. Cameron Maybin and his blend of power and speed potential are already on the major league roster, and Mike Stanton has Jason Heyward-like power potential.

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Washington Nationals

Well, there’s Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan and … well … have you heard about Ryan Zimmerman? The good news about teams like the Nationals is that literally everyone besides the superstars qualify as sleepers Ian Desmond can sneak through the cracks. Desmond is the 24-year-old rookie shortstop who had a coming out party last season in Double- and Triple-A, with a .354 batting average in 55 Triple-A games. In National League-only leagues, he’s an intriguing upside play at shortstop – even more so in keeper leagues.


Brian Bruney is someone else we’ve profiled as a potential sleeper, but again, only in deep NL-only leagues, as he’s the closer in waiting for now.

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New York Mets

Jose Reyes could be a good target is his asking price has crashed due to injury concerns. David Wright will probably cost full value though: Bloomberg Sports and other projection systems expect a full recovery, despite last year’s career-low 10 home runs. Assuming Citi Field doesn’t become a wasteland for hitters, Jason Bay should put up solid numbers too. Manager Jerry Manuel’s lineup fetishes will ding his RBI totals, though. Manuel had Bay batting fifth on Opening Day, behind an ugly collection of bats that included Alex Cora, Luis Castillo and Mike Jacobs.

On the pitching side, Johan Santana‘s value depends on his valuation: Do your leaguemates still see him as one of the top three starters in the game, or can he now be had at a discount? Santana’s rotation mates are avoidable in shallower leagues. Meanwhile, Francisco Rodriguez isn’t the dominant closer he used to be; don’t overpay.

For more on Hanley Ramirez and the rest of the NL East, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy baseball kits.

Is Tommy Hanson the Next Great Atlanta Braves Pitcher?

By Tommy Rancel

Stephen Strasburg is the top pitching prospect in baseball, but he may not even be the most important young pitcher in his own division. Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves is not only a major league starter right now; he’s also poised to become one of the National League’s best starting pitchers.
 
Even in his own backyard, Hanson plays second fiddle. Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is generally regarded as the top prospect in baseball. In addition to the top ranking, Heyward has been the most talked about player this March, highlighted by a windshield-shattering home run display.
 
Strasburg and Heyward have the hype, but Hanson is the only one with major league experience, and major league success.

In 2009, the 23-year-old right-hander won 11 games in his first 21 major league starts. According to baseball-reference.com, only 22 players (classified as first-year players, not necessarily rookies) other than Hanson won 11 games in their first 21 starts with a sub-2.90 ERA since 1901. Hanson posted a 2.89 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 127.2 innings.

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Despite his young age, Hanson showed control usually found in a veteran starter. He struck out nearly a batter per inning (8.18 K/9) while keeping his walks at a manageable 3.24 per nine innings (BB/9). Hanson excelled at missing bats, with a swinging strike percentage near 10% (9.9%) and a contact rate (percentage of swings against that are put in play, including foul balls) of 77.2%.
 
Hanson has a good fastball that runs around 92 miles per hour. His secondary pitches–curve ball and slider–are even better. He induced 18.1% whiffs on his slider and 15.6% on his curveball. The major league average for a right-handed pitcher’s slider is around 13%, and 11% on a curveball.
 
While Hanson tossed just 127.2 innings at the major league level, he threw 194 cumulative innings in 2009. That increases the likelihood that he’ll be good for 30-plus starters this season. Bloomberg Sports’ projects him for exactly 30 starts and just over 180 innings. If that projection holds, Hanson could pass 15 wins in 2010, with some strong supporting numbers too.

3-25-2010 8-56-39 am.png One knock on Hanson would be his home run rate. As a neutral pitcher with a 40% flyball rate, Hanson allowed just 0.72 home runs per nine innings. This was due to a lower than normal home run-to-fly ball rate of 6.9%; a starting pitcher is usually around 10% to 12%. Hanson should give up a few more long balls in 2010, but his ability to keep men off base could limit some to solo shots.
 
When looking for other young pitchers with similar starts to Hanson, Clayton Kershaw comes to mind. In 2008, Kershaw made 21 starts, going 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA. He then made 30 starts last season, posting a sparkling 2.79 ERA over 171 innings. Hanson’s stuff rivals Kershaw’s, as does his upside in terms of strikeouts and swing-and-miss ability.
 
Hanson is getting a lot of respect in drafts this year. He is the 25th-rated starting pitcher and places 95th overall in B-Rank. His average draft position (ADP) is 67.8. The ADP looks a bit high, but Hanson is worthy of a seventh-round draft pick is shallow leagues. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on him in your draft.

For more on Tommy Hanson and other potential young aces, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

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