BY ROB SHAW
When former Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran joined the Giants, he was a bit slow out of the gate, but by season’s end he hit .323 with a .551 following the trade. He was particularly hot in September, offering a .378 batting average. However, by then the Giants were no longer contenders and Beltran was an impending free agent.
While Beltran put together solid figures last season with 22 home runs and a .300 average, this is not the fantasy sensation of years passed when he could belt 40-plus home runs and swipe 40 bases. Beltran had just four steals last season and his run production was a bit low too with 84 RBI and 78 runs.
At 34 years old, Beltran is limited, but he can still offer some fantasy value. He now joins the Cardinals, which makes it the first time that he’s stepped out of a pitcher’s park for home games since he played with the Astros back in 2004.
Beltran will not replace Pujols in the lineup, but he can be a solid bat who offers 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .300 average. Of course, his age and injury-riddled past carry plenty of risk as well.
Last season was a season of collapses for many of the game’s most consistent players. While Hanley Ramirez and Adam Dunn highlight the list, the same can be said about veteran David DeJesus. The long-time outfielder for the Royals struggled in Oakland with the A’s.
DeJesus never was a fantasy star, but he did once score 101 runs in a season, belted 10-plus home runs twice, and hit better than .290 four times in his career. That’s why it was so shocking that he hit .240 in Oakland. The Coliseum certainly played a role, as his batting average dipped to .229 at home. On the other hand, playing on the road did not bring many advantages.
Despite DeJesus’ struggles under Billy Bean’s A’s, Theo Epstein remained interested and acquired him this off-season. Even in his worst career season, DeJesus reached base at a respectable .323 clip. At 32 years old, DeJesus is not going to experience a drastic turnaround, however, he should bounce back to a .280 average with solid run production. He will remain bettter in reality than fantasy.
It is very rare to call a 33-year-old outfielder a sleeper, but that is exactly the case for Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer. Sure, the veteran had some good moments with the Twins, blasting 32 home runs in 2009, driving in 109 RBI in 2006, and even swiping 11 bases last season. However, those figures all came while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park.
This season Cuddyer will call home to Coors Field, one of the most notorious hitter’s parks in baseball history because of the altitude. Furthermore, he will be joined in the lineup by MVP candidates Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki after spending the last few seasons with injury-prone stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
The scouting report on Cuddyer is not to leave anything over the plate on the first pitch. Cuddyer ranks amongst the game’s best with a .450 average on first pitches. He is also a rare hitter that feasts against off-speed pitches (.310 average with 12 home runs).
Always solid, we expect Cuddyer to be stellar this season.
By R.J. Anderson //
Although the Athletics and Royals did not agree on the first trade of the offseason, they did pull off most-talked about deal thus far. The details have left fielder David DeJesus heading to Oakland, while starting pitchers Vin Mazarro and Justin Marks go to Kansas City. Marks holds some middle-of-the-rotation upside, but clearly the bigger names here are DeJesus and Mazzaro.
DeJesus is a typical Athletics outfielder, or at least typical of the past few years. He plays good defense, reaches base, and does not hit for much power, while going about his business in an unheralded fashion. DeJesus’ line over the last three seasons is .300/.363/.443 with an average of 14 home runs per 700 plate appearances and eight stolen bases; which is to say he is a much better player in real life than in fantasy.
An extra instance of DeJesus’ value in real life being higher than his fantasy value comes in the form of draft compensation. The soon-to-be 31-year-old projects as a borderline Type A free agent. Meaning he could bring the Athletics draft picks in return for being signed by another team next offseason.
DeJesus is not the first former Royals outfielder to head to Oakland either, joining a worthwhile group that includes Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and past/present teammate Coco Crisp. Oakland being an extreme pitchers’ park explains why each of their slash lines dropped (except Crisp) during their time there relative to their Kansas City experience. Expect the trend to hold true with DeJesus, meaning he’ll probably hit below .300 and perhaps closer to 10 home runs than 15.
Meanwhile, the Royals get Mazzaro. The 24-year-old posted a 4.27 ERA during his first full season in the major leagues. A late-season demotion raised some eyebrows and iffy peripherals project to an ERA nearly a run higher (Mazzaro was saved by better performance with men on base than otherwise, and other factors). Mazzaro throws a sinker that theoretically should make him a groundball master, but his groundball rates are pedestrian at 41% for his career. Meanwhile, Oakland’s infield defense was one of the best in the league, while Kansas City’s is not.
Along with the park effects, expect an increase in WHIP and ERA, unless Mazzaro gets better in a hurry. Keep in mind that he does only have 35 major league starts under his belt and barely 200 innings. Pitchers do not age like hitters, but it’s just way too early to proclaim Mazzaro as a bottom feeder unworthy of a major league rotation spot to open the 2011 season.
It’s easy to fall into the rhetoric surrounding Billy Beane and Dayton Moore and assume Beane just pulled a fast one on Moore. Time may prove that to be true, but this trade feels more even than lopsided, even if neither of these players hold much fantasy value.
For more on Vin Mazzaro and mid-rotation candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
by Eno Sarris //
The trade deadline isn’t until the end of the month, but enterprising contenders are already making the rounds and looking to pick the carcasses of teams less fortunate. Every extra start or at-bat that the contender can get out of the fresh meat is a start or at-bat in their favor, so they might as well get going.
Fantasy owners might take note here and get ahead of the eight ball themselves. The danger in AL- and NL-only leagues is that a fantasy owner’s player gets traded out of their league and creates a hole on their roster. Another danger is that a player moves from a beneficial situation to one less supportive of their skills. Let’s run down the top ten trade targets in the rumors currently and talk a little about where they might land and what that would mean. We’ll handle the pitchers today, and the hitters early next week.
Lee owners in AL-only leagues should be shopping him as hard as they can. Some might even counsel that Lee owners should take whatever they can get, perhaps from a team in the bottom half of the table looking for a home-run shot. Apparently Lee has told his teammates he’s already made his last start for the Mariners (and then he promptly denied it in the media). The worst news is that many of the most-rumored spots for Lee are in the National League. The Mets, Phillies and Cardinals have all been linked to the lefty with the insane strikeout-to-walk ratio (just look at the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs and see how pretty his work has been). Lee owners might take heart that the Yankees and Twins have also been included in the rumors. Even though the source might be a little old, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times said on June 24th that the Mets and Twins were the favorites to land Lee, and that seems to make the most sense. The thing is, the Twins aren’t known for making big trade deadline pickups, as the lede in this MLB.com article about the Orlando Cabrera pickup states. That kind of move seems more up embattled Mets’ GM Omar Minaya’s alley. Keep Lee in an AL-only league at your own peril.
Millwood is actually second-most likely starting pitcher to be traded to Lee. Because of his advanced age (35), rough ERA (5.40), expiring contract, and the Orioles’ record (24-54), if anyone wants him they can probably get him. The thing is, he’s sporting his best strikeout rate since the last time he was in the National League (7.00 K/9) and a walk rate that is right in line with his career number (2.78 BB/9). He’s giving up a few too many home runs (1.69 HR/9), and that’s will happen to a flyball pitcher (42.9% GB% career) in the AL in a tough park for pitchers (1.283 park factor for home runs). Given his nice underlying statistics, and his success in the NL in the past, Millwood is less of a loss for AL-only owners and more of a potential pickup for NL-only owners. He’s not someone to bust your FAAB budget on, but he’s certainly worth some money, especially if he ends up in a park that suppresses home runs like Citi Field (.595 park factor for home runs) or Busch Stadium (.763 park factor for home runs).
The sharks circling Houston are a little less rabid despite the obvious state of that carcass, but that’s perhaps justified in the case of Oswalt. He is due $16 million next year and has a $2 million buyout in 2012. That’s a lot of money for a pitcher that is 32 going on 33, never had an elite strikeout rate, and has a body type that some feel doesn’t age well. On the other hand, Oswalt is showing the second-best strikeout rate of his career and is pitching the best he has in about four years. Because of the money, he’s a little less likely to change hands. Even with owner Drayton McLane saying he would eat some of Oswalt’s salary, the only team linked to the pitcher so far has been the Rangers. That’s a bit ironic, considering their financial situation. It’s also worrisome to NL-only Oswalt owners.
The Cubs aren’t used to being sellers, but they are 10.5 games out, 11 games under .500, and have a -24 run differential. They don’t look good. Many of their problem players have salaries that are too onerous to trade – no team will want to take on the rest of the Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano contracts, for example – but then there’s Ted Lilly. We talked about Lilly as a fantasy hold – his velocity is returning, and he’s showing a nice ERA – but his strikeout rate is still lagging, and he’s still an extreme fly ball pitcher. Look at the difference between his xFIP (4.60) (expected Fielding Independent Pitching, a number that strips out batted ball and home run luck to produce a figure on the ERA scale) and ERA (3.12). If the Cubs are smart enough to sell, they’ll get some interest in Lilly, but the trade rumors have been light so far. GM Jim Hendry might give the team as long as he can before selling a piece like Lilly, so fantasy managers should probably take the same approach.
Though the Diamondbacks are obviously cleaning house, the feeling is that the team would have to be ‘overwhelmed’ to trade their ace. First of all, it might be selling low, because despite secondary statistics in line with his career rates (8.90 2010 K/9, 7.71 career K/9; 1.70 2010 BB/9, 1.96 career BB/9; 41% 2010 GB%, 44.1% career GB%), his ERA is not pretty (4.56). Secondly, he only costs about $33.75 million from 2010 until 2012 according to Cot’s Contracts. It wouldn’t make much sense to trade an underpaid ace at a lowpoint in his value. It’s much more likely that the team trades some of its veteran position players.
The Indians are terrible (31-47), and Carmona is cheap ($11.375 million combined 2010/2011), but it will be interesting to see how much teams will want to pay for his services. He relies very heavily on his sinker-inducing ways (58.6 GB% this year, 60.8% career). When his control eludes him (3.16 BB/9 this year, 3.78 career), he can be terrible. But right now, despite his inability to strike people out (4.73 K/9), he’s doing well enough to elicit interest (3.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP). On the other hand, named suitors don’t abound (the Mets “aren’t interested‘ according to Joel Sherman), and his fantasy trade value is hard to gauge. Carmona may be one of those players that fantasy managers are happy to have owned when he was going well.
This group may include the most-dealt pitchers on the list, as relievers cost less in both contracts and salary. They also are perceived as difference-makers for contending teams with poor bullpens, rightly or wrongly. Heath Bell tops the list, as his Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider chart shows. His owners should be slightly nervous, as rookie GM Jed Hoyer is talking about adding offense, and has two ready-made replacements in Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson, but as long as the team is going well, Bell should remain in San Diega.
Kevin Gregg, on the other hand, might change hands if someone wants him. Toronto isn’t going to the postseason, and they also own Jason Frasor and Scott Downs, so teams needing bullpen help will be calling. The thing is, Frasor and Downs have been pitching better and are free agents at the end of the year. They might be preferable to contending teams, and with Gregg’s bloated ERA (4.20) and walk rate (5.40), he could just stay in Toronto.
David Aardsma is struggling (5.33 ERA), and is also cheap (arbitration-eligible for three more years), so he’ll probably stay in town despite the odd rumor. If he does leave, it’s Brandon League that will take over. Octavio Dotel has surpassed expectations and is obviously not in the long-term plans for the Pirates, so his owners should be worried. Suitors are not yet obvious, though, and his perceived value is probably not too high. His owners could shop him to saves-starved teams to be ahead of a possible trade, on the other hand.
For more on Cliff Lee and other possible trade-deadline movers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By R.J. Anderson //
Few major league hitters have been hotter over the past 30 days than David DeJesus. The Royals’ outfielder is hitting .442/.500/.611 during that time, with a walk-to-strikeout ratio just under 1.00 and a .500 BABIP. He’s right next to Aubrey Huff, Josh Hamilton, and Robinson Cano for the title of best performer of the past month.
For the season DeJesus is now batting .325/.394/.482; a career best line for the 30-year-old and a well-timed one at that. The trade deadline is a little over a month away. With contenders looking to stock their shelves for a playoff run, DeJesus’ name is bound to pop up more than normal. That’s especially true for clubs like the Atlanta Braves, who could not only use another outfielder, but a top-of-the-lineup bat too. Of course, whether the Royals choose to trade DeJesus is up in the air. They have some internal replacements and it seems like an obvious opportunity to make a deal, yet none of that has really stopped them from doing the unexpected.
DeJesus’ seasonal BABIP is a career high, which suggests that he’s not going to continue getting hits at this pace. He’s not hitting for much additional power either (his ISO – slugging percentage minus batting average – is nearly identical to previous years) so most of these extra hits have been singles. He’s not even walking that much more than normal (a whisker shy of 10%), although he is striking out at a career-low rate, but just barely (a little less than 14%).
DeJesus has always been a consistent hitter; batting at least .285 every season but one since breaking into the majors in 2003. He’s also racked up at least double-digit homers each of the past two seasons and stolen a few bags here and there too.
While that consistency helps, DeJesus’ overall average package isn’t all that exciting for standard 12-team leagues; that most fantasy leagues don’t count defense creates an even bigger gap between his real-life value (substantial) and fantasy value. If you own DeJesus, consider selling high. His numbers stand a good chance of regressing, and the added risk of being him traded to the National League makes it a good time to cash in.