Fantasy Baseball Panic: Shoo, Davis, Ramirez, and Lincecum
BY ROB SHAW
To put it mildly, Aramis Ramirez has not had Brewers fans forget about Prince Fielder. While Fielder has already offered the Tigers a .345 average with two home runs, Ramirez has chipped in with just a .129 average and no home runs for the Brew Crew. This is a far cry from the .306 average Ramirez offered last season, not to mention the expectations coming into this season with Milwaukee.
While Ramirez is off to a slow start, he has had a tad of bad luck. Alfonso Soriano robbed him at the left-field wall of an extra base hit on Tuesday, and he already has swiped two bases while nailing two doubles. Plus, Ramirez is a notorious slow starter as March and April are his worst batting months throughout his career.
At this point, fantasy managers should be in a holding pattern, as Ramirez is likely to bounce back. For the first time this season, Ramirez did not strike out in two consecutive games. It looks like he is starting to see the ball better, and that usually leads to a rise in batting average and the power metrics. Patience is a virtue in dealing with A-Ram’s early slump.
There has been a very scary trend in Cleveland for fantasy managers in recent years. We’ve seen players who reach superstardom with the Indians only to lose their luster seemingly overnight due to injuries.
First it was MVP contender Travis Hafner, who went from a .300-plus hitting machine with loads of power to a lackluster DH who struggles to stay healthy. More recently, it’s been all-around sensation Grady Sizemore, who has lost his speed and power in recent years and now is once again on the disabled list for an extended period.
The question that is plaguing fantasy managers right now is whether Shin-Soo Choo will follow that undesirable path. Following consecutive 20-20 seasons, Choo had a season to forget last year with off-the-field controversy followed by an injury-plagued season. Fresh off his worst season with 8 home runs and a .259 average, Choo is struggling once again. The two-time 20-20 fantasy star has five hits, all of them singles.
The good news is that Shoo is drawing walks and already has two stolen bases while his OBP is north of .400. For now fantasy managers should be in a holding power with Choo. The solid plate discipline suggests that he is seeing the ball well and could bust out of his power outage at any moment. In fact, if you have confidence in the 29-year-old outfielder go ahead and acquire him while his stock is low.
What’s the deal with Mets first baseman Ike Davis? Last season he got off to a excellent start before a bum ankle shut him down for the season with seven home runs, 25 RBI, and a .302 average through 36 games. This season has been the total opposite. Davis has two hits through 28 at bats, and both hits have been singles.
While the Mets are calling Davis healthy, there are some questions as to whether a fungal disease suffered during spring training is still limiting him physically, or if at this point, the toll is mental, as Davis has 10 strikeouts through the first eight games of the season.
To be specific, the ailment that Davis encountered this spring was Valley Fever, a lung disease that could lead to fatigue. It very much should be taken seriously, as the illness once knocked 130 games out of the season from Conor Jackson. So yes, fantasy managers should be on red alert, as the disease commonly found in desert environments such as Davis’ hometown in Phoenix could be an issue.
Some good news is that David Wright returned from his broken pinkie on Saturday and blasted a home run. With Wright’s return to the Mets lineup, there are more likely to be runners on base for Davis to drive home. Furthermore, Lucas Duda has looked very much like a slugger this season with three home runs already. With Duda batting behind Davis, there could be an uptick in the runs scored as well.
Of course, the main focus for Davis right not is to snap out of the slump, then he will no longer hear the whispers of mystery ailments and more concerns about the health of Mets players.
When last season concluded with Tim Lincecum brandishing a losing record, there was not much panic in San Francisco as his 13-14 record came with a superb 2.74 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. On that note, fantasy managers again picked Lincecum early in the drafts this season expecting him to contend with rival Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. Through two starts the Giants ace may have already pitched himself out of contention.
Tim Lincecum currently sits at 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA. Fantasy managers are wondering if it will it be sink or swim by the Bay this season for Lincecum. This is a major concern for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list is that Lincecum is usually strong out of the gates. April is usually the best month for him, at 12-3 entering this season with a sub-3 ERA.
Another key concern has been the diminishing velocity. Lincecum is so far throwing his fastball at 90 MPH this season, down from 91 MPH last year and 92 MPH the year before. He relies a great deal on his high velocity since his outpitch is no longer his slider, but his change-up. In fact, Lincecum has mentioned that he will try to avoid use of his slider this season since it puts pressure on his arm. It will be tough to get away with just a fastball and change-up if he can’t reach the mid-90s.
Keep an eye on Lincecum’s next start as this may be a concerning trend. For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
Fantasy Baseball Preview: Edwin Jackson, Erik Bedard, and Yu Darvish
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.
Zack Greinke Injures Rib, Will Open Season on DL
by Eno Sarris //
He wasn’t washing his car or riding a motorcycle. Instead, it was a pickup basketball game that slayed Zack Greinke this offseason. Aaron Boone sends his condolences. Now that Greinke has a fractured rib and will open the season on the injured list, what does that news mean for his prospects in fantasy baseball circles?
The first instinct is to take the team’s prognostications – that Greinke will miss only two-to-three starts – and say the whole thing is not a big deal. Just a few starts less from the ace, so you could drop him a couple points in the rankings and maybe pounce on him if he falls further than his third-round ADP (42.7 by the Bloomberg Sports Front Office tool).
Then again, even just three starts is a tenth of a pitcher’s season. Should he miss five starts – the likely situation if he misses the first month – he’ll miss a full sixth of his season. Take away a sixth of his Bloomberg Sports projection, and you get 166 innings with 11 wins and 157 strikeouts. Sure, he is still projected for a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but the whole package is just a little less valuable because of the lower innings projection. A rosier projection – that he misses three starts – moves him from about the fifth-best at his position to about the 10th-best. Take another two starts away, and he’ll slide down somewhere between 15th and 20th on the list.
But there might be reason to drop him a little further even.
The rib cage is a tricky place for an injury in baseball. A pitcher’s motion is tantamount to his success, and pain in the ribs will keep him from completing his motion as he’d like. Phil Hughes fractured a rib and missed 136 days. We saw what happened to Jacoby Ellsbury last year. We aren’t doctors here, but we also know that we’ve seen players recently miss extended time with the same injury. That means there’s a risk that he puts in fewer than 166 innings, and a risk he he won’t even be a top-25 pitcher this year.
We know that Greinke will drop in drafts now. We know that he deserves to drop some, and that there’s risk that he should drop even further than he will. The tricky part is knowing when exactly to pick him up. Use conservative projections for his output this season, though, and you’ll probably find the right time. At least it wasn’t an elbow!
For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com
The Ballpark Formerly Known as The BOB Was Made For Branyan
By R.J. Anderson //
Russell Branyan has hit nearly 70 home runs over the last three seasons despite inconsistent and occasionally sparse playing time (just over 1,000 plate appearances). That’s a home run every 16 or so plate appearances, an average on par with Barry Bonds’ career rate (one every 16.5 plate appearances). There’s a chance Branyan can live up to (or exceed) that pace should he stay healthy this season, as he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-Backs play in Chase Field, formerly known as Bank One Ballpark, which is unfathomably kind to left-handed hitters. StatCorner provides a park factor for either handed batter at each ballpark in the majors and has the home run factor for lefties at The BOB at 114 -which is to say lefties see their homer tallies increase by 14 percent within this park relative to league average. Branyan has never been one to lead the league in cheapies, but the friendly confines should assist by turning some outs or doubles into round trippers.
Since Branyan figures to get the lion’s share of plate appearances, he also figures to play quite a bit at first base. This could be the snake in the bushes because Branyan does not have a strong health record. He’s missed at least 45 days due to various injuries over the last three seasons, including roughly the final month of the 2010 season. He turned 35 during December and there’s no reason to believe he suffers from the Benjamin Button abnormality of reverse aging. Put simply, Branyan is all but guaranteed to miss time with a back or trunk injury, the only question is how much that will affect his production.
If you do select Branyan in a deeper league, perhaps look to handcuff him with the player most likely to replace him during his downtime (at this moment, Brandon Allen, although his name could surface in trade talk). Otherwise, make sure Branyan is your fallback option rather than the primary. He’s going to mash when he’s healthy, but that could be less often than everyone involved would hope.
Why Player Injuries Don’t Have To Hurt
- Do research and understand the injury: What’s the timeframe for return? What’s the risk of injury setbacks or injury re-occurrences? How long until a player can really rehabilitate and perform up to the usual standard?
- Watch out for misleading news: It’s almost a cliché these days that a player is making “significant progress” in his road to recovery. Reporters have a duty to check up with team management about a player’s status. Rarely do they get an honest response. The spin is usually positive. For buyers, this means tread carefully. For sellers, the moment that news story hits about a player being ahead of schedule on his road to return, this might represent the best opportunity to explore the trade market.
- Correctly factor an injured player’s expected contribution to your team: If your player is going to miss 20% of the season, you might think that means the standard for return in trade is 80%. But keep in mind that even without a trade, you’ll be plugging someone off of reserves or the waiver wire who will produce some. So maybe you’d want a player in return who will give you at least 90% of your injured player’s original value. For buyers, if your potential trading partner doesn’t realize this math, it’s a good investment.
- Measure your team’s need for downgrading risk or upgrading upside: If your team is in the middle of the pack and can’t afford a big hit like a player injury, getting some value in return for an injured player makes sense. If your team is struggling or ahead of the pack with depth to spare, taking on an injured superstar’s upside is also a sound idea. Also keep in mind that a player who is injured can usually be put on the DL, which frees up a roster spot for another player too.
- Be aggressive but cautious: Always assume the worst when it comes to a player’s injury. Professional ballclubs have a lot of money at stake with their players, so organizations are usually conservative in getting a player back into the lineup. If a player is said to be out two-to-four weeks, assume four-to-five.
Finally, I recently expressed some skepticism about whether so-called sell-high candidates like Scott Podsednik are really candidates for trade. Convincing people to move off of long-held perceptions about a player’s ability is usually easier said than done.