BY ROB SHAW
Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons. The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.
The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either. He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.
One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years. His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable. Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him. The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.
The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years. However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value. The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.
Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.
Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bedard was a disaster in Seattle. Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.
The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now. He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.
A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers. Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts. Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.
BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.
The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers. Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time. First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies. Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.
The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan. With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.
As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler. That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.
Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers. After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
By R.J. Anderson //
In a purely subjective sense, Brad Hawpe is the tailor-made contrast between fantasy and real world baseball values. Hawpe’s talent cavities have always included rambunctious defensive play – even on the quietest of balls – and an inability to hit as well on the road as he did at home. This leaves a general manager – particularly one in the National League – in the awkward position. Choosing to either hang onto Hawpe with the hope that he’ll steal Rickey Henderson’s legs or explaining to the ownership and media why he couldn’t recoup the standard fare for hitters with Hawpe’s numbers through a trade.
Dan O’Dowd held onto Hawpe for seasons but recently decided to release him. On Friday, Hawpe found a new home. The Tampa Bay Rays signed the southpaw to a minor league deal with the idea that he will eventually come up within the week and take over as the left-handed designated hitter. Is Hawpe worth the fee to acquire him in American League only leagues? Maybe.
Most starting pitchers are right-handed, meaning Hawpe may receive 60-65% of the Rays’ designated hitter plate appearances in September. Throughout Hawpe’s career, his line versus righties is a robust .290/.387/.507 with 94 home runs in 2,452 plate appearances. The concern is not over whether Hawpe has hit, though, but rather will he continue to hit now that he is out of Coors Field and into the American League East. Since both franchises are relatively new, the amount of players with significant playing time with both is limited.
Nevertheless, here is a table detailing how those players performed after trading their Coors for a glass of Tropicana’s finest:
The only player to improve both his batting average and AB/HR is Greg Norton. One has to suspect starting, even if only as a designated hitter, had to be an easier role for Norton to stay fresh and focused than coming off the bench in a pinch hitter role. Suffice to say that history is not on Hawpe’s side and those odds are only worsened when expanding the scope beyond the Rays and onto the entire American League East. Garret Atkins is the most recent case of failure and the last success story might be Mark Bellhorn way back in 2004 – and make note that Bellhorn’s abbreviated Colorado performance was Coors-worthy for an entirely different reason.
The Rays will stick with him despite going 0-4 with four strikeouts in his debut. A streak of such ineptitude just means that someone is likely to break it. The odds are just too great. Just please, please do not make a “Hawpe and pray” joke if you decide to add him.
For more on Brad Hawpe and other late season additions, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By R.J. Anderson //
One of the weekend’s biggest trades brought Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees from the Houston Astros for two minor leaguers. Berkman was in the lineup on Saturday night; batting second while starting at DH. That seems to be the lineup slot and position he’ll likely man during his tenure in New York. Does that make him an attractive option in AL-only leagues?
Berkman’s switch-hitting ability meshes well with the rest of the Yankees’ lineup, which features three other switch-hitters in Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada. Throughout his career Berkman has hit righties better than lefties, however. With a sky-high .307 AVG/.423 OBP/.591 SLG versus righties, but just .262/.366/.415 vs. lefties. The good news for current and potential Berkman owners is that he’ll be spending a lot of time batting from the left-handed batters’ box, meaning the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field could be in play often.
It’s easy to look at his career interleague numbers (which feature a .295/.390/.511 slash line with 30 home runs in 711 plate appearances) and assume he’ll continue to hit that well in the AL. The reality is, those numbers are meaningless. Berkman has been playing baseball in the majors since 1999. He’s appeared in nearly 1,600 games. He has 6,720 career plate appearances. To separate 711 over a span of 12 seasons and assume they’re meaningful doesn’t make sense. He may have faced more weak teams than strong teams and played in friendly hitting environments on the road, or had other factors skew his performance. He’s also past his prime at this point, making some of his peak performance look dated.
Graphic courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
What we know is that the level of competition in the American League East far outweighs that of the National League Central. It would be nonsensical to assume Berkman’s projected performances couldn’t slip based on competition alone. The move into Yankees Stadium will help. Being surrounded by great hitters will help when it comes to scoring runs. But there is no guarantee he will light up the league.
That doesn’t mean he’s not worth your time. With the deadline passed, you might as well break your free agent acquisition budget. But if you’re looking to give our offense a big lift, consider making a trade or two to augment the size of your potential offensive boost.
For more on Lance Berkman and his new team, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office
Seattle’s star-inhaling, soul-exhaling off-season gained the Mariners praise throughout the baseball community. General Manager Jack Zduriencik combined obvious moves (like giving Felix Hernandez a contract extension and trading a stack of B+ prospects for Cliff Lee) with some inherently risky gambles. Those moves now have the Mariners in position to not only compete, but also to win the American League West this season. Such a premise seemed impossible just 12 months ago.
Acquiring Milton Bradley qualifies as both an obvious move and a risky gamble. Getting out from under Carlos Silva’s mammoth contract (and equally mammoth – as in, extinct – pitching ability) could’ve meant taking an equally poor contract in exchange. Instead, the Mariners received what could become a relative bargain – if Bradley can stay sane and healthy.
Second-year manager Don Wakamatsu has gained a reputation as a handler of diverse personalities and masseur of egos. The M’s also hope the presence of Ken Griffey Jr. as designated tickler and upbeat presence will help soothe Bradley’s volatile temper. The Mariners will accept injuries that happen in the heat of battle. What they don’t want are lengthy suspensions caused by their underestimating Bradley’s unique personality.
Enough about the mental aspect of things though, let’s talk about the quantifiable. Just once in the past five seasons has Bradley topped 500 plate appearances. The past couple years ranked among his most durable, though. After appearing in 126 games with the Rangers (just 20 as an outfielder) in 2008, Bradley nearly matched – and if not for a suspension, would’ve surpassed – that total while playing 109 games in the outfield.
The M’s plan to give Bradley playing time both in left field and at DH. The presence of Ryan Garko, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, and even Griffey, there’s enough alternatives that Wakamatsu can get really creative if he so wishes. Still, Bradley’s the cream of that crop, a switch-hitter with a line of .289/.398/.483 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in the past three seasons, with 61 home runs, 206 runs batted in, and 22 steals.
Bradley currently holds a B-Rank of 224th, a nod to injuries depressing his counting stats. Other factors are also conspiring against Bradley’s fantasy value. First, he turns 32 in April; the recent success of outliers like Barry
Bonds and Mariano Rivera aside, baseball players still peak most often
before their 30th birthday, with every subsequent year raising the risk
of injury, declining performance, or both. He’ll also now play half of his
games at Safeco Field, one of the toughest parks in baseball on hitters, doubly so on right-handed hitters with power, given the park’s spacious dimensions in left-center field. (Just ask Adrian Beltre.)
On the plus side, Bradley should see plenty of at-bats from the left side of the plate, where park factors aren’t as harsh and where players like Raul Ibanez and Russell Branyan have found success in recent years.
Bradley deserves ample consideration in AL-only and shallower mixed leagues. If he bats high in the order, he could see ample RBI opportunities behind speedy OBP machines Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins. You can also get strategic in how you handle Bradley on your fantasy team. Drafting Bradley, then hedging with another outfielder with a little less ability but more durability, should allow you to get the best of his production, without taking a major hit in the event of an injury or – yes, we have to say it – possible suspension.
It’s easy to see why general managers – both in fantasy and real life – are willing to give Bradley additional chances. His upside is too good to push aside completely. But if you’re planning on drafting him, do what the Mariners plan to do: Handle with care.
— R.J. Anderson