BY EVAN BLEIER
Although you won’t see his name near the top of any AL Rookie of the Year lists, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is putting together a season that should have more folks taking notice. Since being called up to the majors in early May, Middlebrooks been one of the most consistent hitters in the Boston offense despite having his place in the lineup shifted time and again by manager Bobby Valentine. The constant juggling hasn’t seemed to affect Middlebrooks at the plate, as his average has hovered around .300 for much of the season. It currently rests at .299 after career game 64. Pair that average with 13 home runs, 47 RBI and an OPS of .855 and you have the makings of a pretty good rookie season.
In fact, take a look at another first year player’s numbers through 64 games and it’s easy to see why Middlebrooks should be getting a little bit more attention:
BA: .281 HR: 8 RBI: 25 OPS: .817
The numbers above belong to National League Rookie of the Year favorite Bryce Harper. Granted, Harper bats higher up in the lineup than where most of Middlebrooks’ at-bats have come from, so it’s logical that his RBI totals would be lower, but the rest of the numbers more than speak for themselves. Harper does possess superior speed and he walks more than Middlebrooks, but both players struck out at nearly identical rates through 64 games, Harper with 55, Middlebrooks with 61. This is not to say that heralded top prospect Harper shouldn’t be getting his due or that Middlebrooks will turn into a superstar, but the gap between the two players, at the plate at least, is a lot smaller than some might think.
For more 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 Eno Sarris //
Scouting is a tough business. There is
no scout superpower that allows members of the profession to leap over
tall buildings and see into the future. Otherwise there would be some extremely well-paid scouts and some bulletproof teams out there.
members of the human race are left trying to learn aspects of
successful baseball players, and then look for those aspects in young
prospects. The problem is, you can look great using a metal bat or beating
up on pitchers who can’t locate their fastball and don’t have a
secondary pitch worth worrying about – and yet still fail at the major league level.
Enter Bryce Harper, the #1 pick of the 2010 draft, and current Arizona Fall League wunderkind.
Look at him at the plate thanks to this great video by Joel Henard at Baseball Daily Digest Radio, and you may, like one scout here in Arizona mused, think he has a high-effort swing. There certainly are a
lot of things that have to go right in his swing, even if the best
result is a powerful one. There are scouting mantras
that say swings that can be described as ‘easy’ and ‘loose’ are
the goal. After watching a few more Harper hacks, you might decide that
though it’s high-effort and complicated, his swing does look like it could generate results. You’ll also see how difficult
scouting can be.
Take a look at the list of first-overall picks in the amateur draft and you’ll find some hits and also plenty of misses. For every superhero like Justin Upton and Chipper Jones, there is a superdud like Ben McDonald and Matt Bush. Limit the list to power hitters, however, and it’s a little harder to find busts. If you give Pat Burrell
some credit, and ignore catchers and shortstops who may have been
taken for potential defensive prowess, you might have to go all the
way to Shawn Abner in 1984 to really find a first-pick, power-hitting bust with a capital B. Viewed in that light, Harper’s draft position alone works in his favor.
Harper’s case, we even have some mitigating statistics to help us out.
Though he didn’t play in college, he did pick a junior college that
played with wooden bats – and at the tender age of 17, he put up an
astounding .442/.524/.986 line that could get any pessimistic scout
over-ruled. Now he’s playing against some of the best prospects in
baseball at the Arizona Fall League, and once again his .348/.423/.565
(albeit in a small sample of games) seems to answer most questions.
Except there’s one little
thing… he’s struck out eight times in his first 23 at bats (34.7%). The sample size is not close
to being reliable – strikeout rates usually take more than 150 plate appearances to become predictive. Still, one wonders when the first criticisms of Harper wearing
enough eye black to drown Aquaman will start (image thanks to Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images).
Paired with his age, and the odd high-effort
swing, there is a little doubt here. Even if he does work out, it should
take some time (Adrian Beltre‘s 19-year old, 214-plate
appearance, .215/.278/.369 debut was the youngest significant major league start
since 1975; Ken Griffey, Jr. managed a .264/.329/.420 line at a few months older). His future still looks bright, but don’t expect much, if any impact for at least a couple years.
For more on Bryce Harper and other young prospects, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.