By R.J. Anderson
Scott Podsednik and Juan Pierre are eerily similar. The pair of early-30s outfielders share a division, an affinity for high socks and grit, past or present homes in Colorado and the south side of Chicago, and the ire of the sabermetrics community. They also own the same career OPS (.720). But it’s the two players’ ability to swipe bases which them interesting, if unheralded, options in most leagues.
Podsednik is coming off a year in which he hit seven homers in 537 at-bats. That qualifies as a power spurt; Podsednik had hit six homers in his previous 1,407 at-bats. He also hit over .300 for the first time since 2003, his breakout season with the Brewers. Don’t expect a repeat of that feat either.
He’s still a strong stolen base threat, though, especially if he sticks in the Royals’ everyday lineup. After swiping 30 bases last year, Manager Trey Hillman has Podsednik penciled in as the starting left fielder and plans to give him the green light to run often.
Podsednik’s B-rank of 321st is accompanied by a projected line of .277, three homers, and 20 stolen bases. An average draft position of 326 suggests the market for his services is just right. With Jose Guillen shunted to DH, Podsednik winning the confidence of his manager and his speed holding up, though, 500-plus at-bats and another season of 30-plus steals could happen – which would bump up Podsednik’s value substantially.
Meanwhile, Pierre will man left field on the south side of Chicago. B-Rank enjoys the faux Frenchman’s abilities far more than Podsednik’s, and ranks Pierre 208th with a projected line of .296, a single homer, and 32 steals. Considering Pierre is coming off a season in which he went on a hot streak in Manny Ramirez‘s absence, there’s a chance someone will overdraft him; in fact, his average draft position is at 196. That’s a slight overdraft, although acceptable if you draft power early and are looking for a late-round speed threat.
It’s important to note that these players are undervalued because their flaws are well-established in real world analysis. Both Podsednik and Pierre are woefully short on power, especially playing corner outfield spots, where teams typically target far more prolific offensive players. But in fantasy baseball, both could be good targets. In fact, if your fellow league members are sabermetrically savvy, Podsednik and Pierre could be terrific win-ugly value plays.
by Eno Sarris
When we recently wrote about Cameron Maybin and Cliff Pennington, we pointed out that these young players had the potential to give your fantasy team late steals. Steals are a rarer phenomenon than home runs in regular baseball, but you’ll notice that this scarcity is mitigated by the fact that you only need about 100-120 steals to be competitive in the category in a traditional mixed roto league (as opposed to 200-240 home runs). It’s good not to go overboard on steals too early in your draft – especially with late speed available.
Drew Stubbs will be available late in your draft (B-Rank 178, ADP 258.6), and has speed (121 stolen bases in 423 minor league games and 10 in 42 major league games). Those are your known knowns. Let’s explore the unknowns about this young player.
Will he start? It’s difficult to predict the ways of Dusty Baker, who ran one of the worst major league regulars (Willy Taveras) out there so often last year that General Manager Walt Jocketty had to trade Taveras away just to keep him off the field (and his new team, the Oakland A’s, promptly released him). Stubbs does have competition in the form of Chris Dickerson, a speedy slap hitter who’s had some success against right-handed pitching. But Dickerson is both a known commodity with his 28th birthday imminent, and a liability against lefty pitching: a .707 OPS against them in the majors, .647 in the minors. The 25-year-old Stubbs owns no such platoon weakness. Meanwhile, Total Zone, which rates defense in the minor leagues, rates Stubbs as a very good defender in center and Dickerson as much less impressive. It looks like Stubbs will get every opportunity to start.
Will he hit for power? It’s a small sample size, but you might remember that Stubbs debuted late last year and spanked eight home runs in only 180 at-bats. That was good for an isolated power number (ISO, or SLG minus AVG) of .172, something that might translate to about 20+ home runs over a full season. That would well outpace his minor league ISO of .132, so the power is actually an open question. Though last year’s 180 at-bats don’t represent much of a sample size, he really enjoyed hitting at home, where he posted a .997 OPS and a .600+ SLG. Remember that Great American Ball Park sports a 1.176 park factor for home runs – GAB tended to give up 17.6% more home runs than a neutral park. Perhaps the park will coax a few more homers out of Stubbs in 2010.
Will he hit for average? This might be the toughest question to answer about prospects in general, but Stubbs has a major factor going against him that will probably keep him from posting a nice batting average in 2010. While perusing his minor league records (where he hit .269 in more than 1500 plate appearances), you’ll notice a very high strikeout rate (27.3%). His best full-season strikeout rate in the minor leagues was not much better (25.3%). Stubbs also made below-average contact with the Reds last year (76% – 80.5% is league average). There’s really no reason to think that Stubbs will improve beyond his 27.2% strikeout rate from his stint in the majors last season, and a player who strikes out more than a quarter of the time is going to struggle to post a nice batting average. In this respect, Stubbs is very similar to Maybin, actually. Consult Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tool about Stubbs, and you’ll notice that his 2010 Spring Training statistics are compiled on the ‘Analysis’ page for each player. It’s early going, but you might notice something.
Yup. Stubbs has already struck out three times in his first six at-bats this spring. That’s about the tiniest sample size you could use, but it does underline his previous problems with the strikeout. Expect a poor batting average, some power, and lots of speed from Stubbs. He makes for a fine backup option if you decide to wait on speedy outfielders.
For more information on Drew Stubbs, late-round steals options, and more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.
By R.J. Anderson
Last week, Jonah Keri profiled San Diego Padres’ shortstop Everth Cabrera,
noting Cabrera’s cheap price/late draft position for potentially
premium stolen base production. Let’s look at another candidate to the
list of cheap shortstop SB candidates: the Oakland Athletics’ Cliff Pennington.
Ranked 366th overall and behind such names as Juan Uribe and Cristian Guzman,
Pennington projects to finish with the 44th most steals in all of
baseball. That’s not quite Cabrera level, but it’s more than Rafael Furcal and Erick Aybar,
two mid-level shortstops. Furcal is being drafted more than 100 spots
ahead of his 254th B-Rank and Aybar nearly 60 spots ahead of his 269th
rank. Pennington is ranked as the 21st-best shortstop, just slots
behind these two, and he’s not even being drafted in most leagues.
Using the 2010 Projected Stolen Bases filter for American League
shortstops, we find that Pennington ranks behind only the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Rays’ Jason Bartlett in projected swipes at the position in the AL.
Thanks to Moneyball, the A’s have developed a reputation for
being averse to the stolen base. Turns out the book came out seven
years ago, times have changed, and Bloomberg Sports’ SB forecasts for
Pennington vs. the rest of the league reflect that. Last season, Rajai Davis stole 41 bases and Adam Kennedy nabbed 20. The days of Ray Durham’s
speed being held as a prisoner of the run expectancy war are over, and
manager Bob Geren is willing to give the green light when the A’s have
a capable thief. Pennington looks like that kind of base stealer: In 2009, he swiped 27 bases in 99 games at Triple-A. For his career, he has 107 steals in 476 games.
bases involves actually getting on base, and this is where things get
interesting. Pennington doesn’t
represent much in the way of batting average either, and the A’s lineup
is more defensive-orientated than equipped to scoring handfuls of runs
per game. That means Pennington’s true value is his stolen bases and
walks/on-base percentage. He’s projected to finish in the top 10 of all
shortstops in each of those metrics, but considerably lower in most
Pennington’s biggest weakness is a lack of power. His minor league ISO (Isolated Power, i.e. slugging percentage minus batting average) is a measly .095. For perspective, Willie Bloomquist‘s career Major League ISO is .069 and Nick Punto‘s
is .076. Pennington’s not quite swinging with a whiffle bat, but his minor league power
trail his shortstop counterparts in the big leagues –
American League shortstops had an average ISO of .117 in 2009. Combine
lack of pop with playing in a pitcher’s paradise in Oakland, and
Pennington projects as a player who’s a likely SB specialist for your
team, not an all-around threat.
Still, for some cheap
steals and walks, Pennington could be a value pick later in the draft,
especially in AL-only leagues.
For more information on Cliff Pennington and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
by Eno Sarris
A well-worn strategy for fantasy baseball is to wait on steals. Why pick a Michael Bourn (Average Draft Position = 87.38) early when Juan Pierre (ADP 232.91) might give you comparable statistics much later?
In that vein, it pays to examine late-round steals options, and it doesn’t get much later than Cameron Maybin (288.25). To be fair, it’s not exactly an active market that late in a draft, as ADPs in the high 200s are not nearly as stable as ADPs earlier in the draft; Maybin goes as early as 200 according to Mock Draft Central. To help hedge your emotional investment in Maybin, we’ll identify a couple of other late options for steals, too. That way you can wait on the risky speed-only picks as long as possible and feel optimistic about landing one of them.
Back to Maybin. Remember back on December 5, 2007, when the announcement came through the wire that the Florida Marlins had traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for a package headlined by Maybin and left-handed top-shelf prospect Andrew Miller? At the time, the consensus was that this was a Big Boy trade – top prospects for top players. It’s hard to separate the outcomes of the involved players from your appraisal of the trade when it occurred – as Rob Neyer so eloquently pointed out last week – so we won’t try too hard. We’ll just note that the shine has dimmed a bit on this trade in the interim, and it now seems to contain the worst parts of the business of swapping upside for currently performing talent. Sometimes the upside isn’t what you thought it was, and sometimes the current talent is not all it’s cracked up to be, either. (Sometimes the talent goes drinking before a big game, or develops Steve Blass disease.)
Maybin, in the meantime, has gone from the prospect that couldn’t miss to the prospect that couldn’t NOT miss: His career strikeout rate in the major leagues is 31.1%. To put that in perspective, Adam Dunn‘s career strikeout rate is 32.1%. The highest batting average of a player that struck out more than 30% last year was Ryan Howard‘s .279.
This has been a problem for Maybin his whole career, as he owns a 27.9% strikeout rate in the minor leagues as well. Looking through our rose-colored glasses, we can point to the fact that Maybin cut that rate to 19.5% last year in Triple-A. But even when dealing with that sample size we also have to admit that his 29% strikeout rate in the major leagues last year was just about the same as it ever was. There’s still room for growth, as Maybin is just 22 years old, with 257 career MLB at-bats under his belt. Still, without some luck on batted balls, it’s hard to envision Maybin hitting for a high average in 2010.
That said, Maybin’s Spider Graph from the Bloomberg Fantasy Tools shows that it’s not all about batting average. Of course, the spider graph also shows that Maybin comes up short in all categories currently.
Ouch. Even with a graph predicated on a mere 200-odd plate appearances in 2009, this is a damning appraisal of his skills. Let’s reach for those rose-colored glasses again and see if we can find reasons to be optimistic.
For one, we know he has speed, as he stole 81 bases on a 79% success rate in the minor leagues. So far he’s 10-for-13 in major league attempts, so that bodes well.
But what about his power and patience at the plate? If he exhibits those skills, we can forgive the batting average risk and enjoy the home runs and steals. The patience we’ll deal with first because patience usually translates to the major leagues eventually. Maybin has walked in 12.2% of his minor league plate appearances, and 8% of his major league PAs, so far. Given that the league average last year was 8.9%, gaining those extra walks will be important for the young center fielder.
Now, the power. His minor league isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average, ISO shows the non-singles a player produced) was .171. If Maybin can put up that number in the major leagues, he’d have power that was comparable to, say Jimmy Rollins (.173 ISO in 2009) or Brandon Phillips (.171 ISO in 2009). Go a little further up the list, though, and you get a good comp for Maybin – Nate McLouth. McLouth has a little more power (.194 career ISO), also strikes out a lot (over 20% in his first two seasons), walks around 10% of the time (9.3% career) and puts up the same kind of power/speed combo with a poor batting average (.260 career) that we might expect out of Maybin. Walk the power back a little, and push the speed forward a little, and you’ve got Maybin’s upside right now. (Mike Cameron (11.1% career BB%, 27.9% career K%, .198 career ISO) would make a good comp, but his speed is waning as he enters his 16th year in the bigs.
If you look at the different Maybin projections around the Web, you have the upper bounds defined by Bill James (as usual): .286 with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases. To see the projections on the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tool, go to the Draft Kit, then pick the Draft List, then Search Mode. Then toggle the switch from picture view to grid view (midway up on left side). Then you can choose 2010 projections and sort by whichever stat or player you like or pick the groups like ‘Rising,’ ‘Falling,’ or ‘Sleepers.’
Add it all together and you get a player who could easily hit around .270 with up to 15 home runs and more than 20 steals this year. Nate-McLouth-lite is sounding like a good comparison right now – except you can get Maybin much, much later in your draft. If you want to wait really long for your steals, Maybin has some good upside and makes a solid late-round pick.
r other young speedsters you can nab late.)
For more information on Cameron Maybin and hundreds of other players check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.
By Jonah Keri
Hanley Ramirez is a consensus Top-2 pick.
Troy Tulowitzki’s in most people’s Top 20, and some people’s Top 10.
Jimmy Rollins’ stock has dropped a bit, but he remains a high-round
favorite among fantasy shortstop picks.
In deeper leagues, you can safely ignore all of them.
your draft is all about finding value. One of the best sources of value
this year will be cheap steals – especially from the shortstop
position. In deep mixed leagues and especially NL-only leagues with 10
teams or more, several lightly-regarded shortstops figure to bring a
lot of hidden value in late rounds.
Leading that pack is Everth Cabrera. The 23-year-old San Diego Padre
swiped 25 bases in his rookie season last year, tied for 6th among MLB
Cabrera’s impressive steals total came despite playing in just 103
games last year. Project those numbers out over a full season, and 35+
steals become a realistic goal; no MLB SS swiped more than 33 bags in
2009. Cabrera figures to get that additional playing time too. He
showed decent plate discipline, walking in 10.5% of his plate
appearances and notching a .342 on-base percentage. Cabrera also played
solid enough defense to earn his team’s trust as an everyday shortstop.
Cabrera will never be confused for a five-category beast like Ramirez.
He hit groundballs on 62.7% of the ball he hit in play last year, an
astronomical figure that severely limits his ability to rack up
extra-base hits. A look at his Spider Chart (bottom center) shows that Cabrera offered
value in the Runs Scored and Stolen Bases department. His other fantasy
categories aren’t pretty: His two home runs put him miles below the
league average even at a more power-deficient position like shortstop,
and you’re probably not knocking in a ton of runs if you’re constantly
chopping the ball into the ground either.
Cabrera’s value could hinge on his batting average. His .255 mark last
year was sub-par for someone with little to no power and a .325 batting
average on balls in play suggests that the culprit wasn’t necessarily
bad luck. On the other hand, Cabrera’s speed should work to his
advantage, helping him leg out infield hits. If he can hoist his line
drive percentage a bit higher than last year’s 14.8% and stick in the
everyday lineup, we could be looking at a .280 hitter with 80+ runs
scored and 35 steals.
Cabrera sports an Average Draft Position of 249. But his B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking of all players) of 190 demonstrates his significantly higher upside.
Grabbing Albert Pujols or Chase Utley near the top of your draft, then waiting until the late rounds to grab Everth Cabrera (or Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot,
a player with similar skills) as your starting shortstop and source of
cheap steals, could pay big dividends for your team this season.
For more information on Everth Cabrera and hundreds of other players,
and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy league, check
out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.