Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the injuries and set return dates of seven players who could have an impact on your fantasy team in the second half of the season.
Carl Crawford, LF, Red Sox
Crawford has not played this season due to left wrist surgery in March and a partial UCL tear in his elbow in April. In 2011, he had a .255 average with 11 home runs and 56 RBI. Crawford is set to return to the Red Sox lineup on Monday against the White Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
Ellsbury played in just seven games before being sidelined by a separated shoulder in mid-April. In 2011, he had an incredible season with a .321 batting average, 32 home runs and 105 RBI. Ellsbury should return Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays
Morrow had a great start to the season. In 13 starts, he had a 3.01 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 67 strikeouts. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 13 due to a strained left oblique. The Blue Jays are hoping that he will return to the rotation this month.
Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
Halladay has been sidelined since May 28 with a strained right lat. In 11 starts this season, he had a 3.98 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 56 strikeouts. He is set to return to the mound Tuesday against the Dodgers.
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins
Stanton had surgery on July 8 to remove loose bodies from his right knee. This is a big loss for the Marlins, as he was hitting .284 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI. Stanton likely won’t return until late August.
Matt Kemp, RF, Dodgers
Kemp had an incredible start to the season, hitting .355 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI in just 36 games. However, he has battled a hamstring injury and was placed on the disabled list on May 31. He is set to return Friday against the San Diego Padres.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
Tulowitzki recently had surgery on his left groin muscle. He was batting .287 this season with eight home runs and 27 RBI. He likely won’t return to the Rockies’ lineup until mid-August.
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BY ROB SHAW
The top stolen base threat will be Braves outfielder Michael Bourn. Bloomberg Sports forecasts that he is the only speedster who will surpass 50 stolen bases this season. Though he has little power, Bourn has evolved into a fine fantasy option with a high average and as many as 61 stolen bases in a season. In 53 games with the Braves last season following a trade, Bourn swiped 22 bases.
Next, the Yankees and Red Sox both have speedsters as Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are next on the list. Ellsbury will again be an MVP candidate while Gardner’s value depends upon where he is in the lineup.
Ellsbury is projected to again surpass 20 home runs this season with 40-plus steals. The fact that he offers an all-around game has taken away from his stolen bases, but fantasy managers should have no gripes. Gardner, on the other hand, is more of a one-trick pony who relies on stolen bases. If the Yankees wish to take advantage of his high OBP they could have him bat leadoff, which would lead to more runs, but Yankees Manager Joe Girardi seemed to like having him at the back of the lineup last season.
The Oakland A’s will have no need for speed with Coco Crisp on their team. He is a bit injury-prone, but steals with the best of them. Crisp also has a little pop, twice hitting 15 or more home runs in a season. If the A’s lineup shows some improvement you should expect many more runs coming from Crisp.
Finally, BJ Upton has yet to meet his lofty expectations but he does pack some power and should steal close to 40 bases. Last season Upton shined in four categories with 80-plus runs, 80-plus RBI, 20-plus HR, and 35-plus steals. Unfortunately, he only hit .243. There remains some hope he can be the complete package as the 27-year-old once hit .300 for a full season. On the other hand, Upton has finished with an average less than .245 in three straight seasons.
The ultimate sleeper is Dodgers middle infielder Dee Gordon, while his teammate Matt Kemp predicts that he will go 50-50 for the first time in baseball history.
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By E. Gardner //
Every season has its surprises. But not all unpredictable events are alike.
Take Matt Kemp. The LA Dodgers outfielder is on pace at the moment for 41 HRs and 46 SBs, totals that surpass the most aggressive, optimistic projections coming into the season. Still, it’s hard to flag Kemp’s superlative production this year as a shocking surprise. Such a season seemed to be within Kemp’s reach given all the right turn of events. Scouts had long viewed Kemp as being a potential 40/40 player. And though Kemp had a disappointing 2010 campaign, the guy who was once touted as the next Manny Ramirez is still only 26 years old.
Let’s take a look at true curveballs. Here’s five player performances to date we’re pretty confident that nobody saw coming:
- Jeff Francoeur’s stolen bases: He’s currently got 15 steals, which ties him with Hanley Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Gonzalez. Frenchie never had more than 8 steals in a full season before this one. What happened? As we pointed out early this season, the Royals are certainly being more aggressive on the basepaths, which has gone a long way. We also have to imagine that Francoeur is tired of the reputation of being a former top prospect who amounted to a good-for-nothing. Otherwise, there’s not much else to explain Francoeur’s new-found burst of speed. His strikeouts, walks, and on-base rate are all about on par with previous years. He just has the green light now.
- Asdrubal Cabrera’s home runs: Cabrera’s currently got 16 HRs, already more than his total from 2008-2010. Perhaps just as impressively, his slugging ability has remained pretty consistent throughout the season. In April, he hit 5 HRs, more than any other month, but April is the only month this season where Cabrera’s OPS was below .800. His HR/FB rate has jumped from a terrible 3% last season to nearly 15% this year, but even adjusting for some luck, he’s showing legitimate 20 HR ability — which this year, thanks to a strong start, could mean he’ll finish with 25 HRs or more.
- Jacoby Ellsbury’s home runs: Similar to Cabrera above, Ellsbury is flashing power like never before. The Red Sox outfielder has long been known for his speed — he’s got 28 steals so far — but he’s shocking those who watch him by knocking balls out of the park regularly. He’s up to 13 HRs now — the same total as his teammate Kevin Youkilis — after never hitting double-digits in HR totals in the five seasons prior to this one in both the minors and majors. Oddly, his fly-ball percentage is actually down from the past two seasons, meaning he’s either gotten way more powerful or way more lucky.
- Anibal Sanchez’ strikeouts and walks: Hard to believe but the best player that the Marlins got in the famous Josh Beckett trade of 2005 isn’t Hanley Ramirez this year. Instead, as Hanley struggles, Sanchez is showing signs of being a true ace. He’s currently got 123 strikeouts, which ranks him 13th in the majors and puts him on pace for 214 for the season. His 9.28 K/9 rate is certainly the best of his career, but not a huge leap over the 8.71 K/9 rate shown in the 2008 season. No, what’s really impressive is that he’s upped his strikeouts just as he’s managed to cut his walks. He’s allowing less than 3 walks per 9 innings this year. Put that together with the ability to induce more groundballs than flyballs, and we’re looking at one of the best pitchers in baseball.
- Josh Tomlin’s wins: Is it possible we’ll see a 20-game winner from a pitcher who wasn’t even drafted in many deep AL-only leagues? Sure, there’s certainly a good amount of luck that goes into win totals, and Tomlin’s success also corresponds to the surprising success of the Cleveland Indians at large this season . Nevertheless, Tomlin is doing something (besides winning) better than almost everyone else. That something would be showing elite control. His 1.07 BB/9 is second best among all qualifying pitchers in the majors. Only Roy Halladay is walking fewer batters in a typical start. Tomlin barely has a strikeout rate over 5 per 9 IP so he’ll never be a fantasy darling, and maybe hitters will catch on here, but at the moment, Tomlin is doing his best Mark Buehrle impression.
We’d have a hard time putting too much stock in these new demonstrated skills in terms of sorting out rankings going into the 2012 season. At some point, regression is extremely likely.
But for now, all bets are off.
We’re surprised at what we’re seeing from these five players so far, but if Francoeur steals 25 bags this year, if Cabrera and Ellsbury each manage 25 home runs this year, if Anibal Sanchez finishes the year as a top 10 pitcher, and if Tomlin comes close to 20 wins, it won’t come as truly stunning anymore.
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By Bloomberg Sports // Ballpark Figures: Stock Report– Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw are talking baseball. For the details surrounding the K-Rod Mets saga, Jim Thome’s power display, the injured second base superstars, and Josh Willingham and Jacoby Ellsbury, Bloomberg Sports brings on USA Today baseball columnist Steve Gardner. For more fantasy insight visit the Fantasy Windup at USAToday.com as well as BloombergSports.com for your top notch data analysis.
- 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.
By Tommy Rancel
The Boston Red Sox made a conscious effort this off-season to improve the team in terms of run prevention. The highlights of the Red Sox off-season include the signings of respected defenders Mike Cameron in center field and Adrian Beltre at third base.
While Epstein is on record as saying he doesn’t agree with some publicly found defensive metrics (presumably Ultimate Zone Rating aka UZR, which rated Jacoby Ellsbury as one of the league’s worst center fielders last year), his actions suggest otherwise. Even before Jason Bay signed with the Mets, leaving a void in the Boston outfield, Epstein saw the need to sign an able defender like Cameron as an upgrade.
Despite Epstein’s support for Ellsbury as a center fielder, and the fact that Cameron is 10 years older than Ellsbury, it is Cameron who is patrolling center field for Boston this season.
Looking at UZR, Cameron is a perennial favorite of the metric. Even at his advanced age of 37, he is rated well above average (10.0 UZR in 2009). Ellsbury on the other hand has bounced around the spectrum, rating well above average in 2008 (+16.5) to well below in 2009 (-18.6).
The Ellsbury/Cameron moves highlight the outfield changes, but Beltre at third base is another gift to Boston’s pitching staff. Regardless of your fielding metric of choice, Beltre is a consensus top defender at the hot corner. His 14.3 UZR ranked fourth-best among major league third basemen, and he was runner-up at the position to Ryan Zimmerman in the 2009 Fielding Bible Awards. His plus/minus, a defensive statistic created by John Dewan, is also second to Zimmerman at third base over the past three seasons.
Looking at the Red Sox third basemen in 2009, Beltre will be a welcome addition to the left side of the infield – Mike Lowell (-10.4 UZR in 895 innings) and Kevin Youkilis (-1.6 UZR in 494.1 innings) were both below-average defenders in 2009. The Red Sox will also welcome Marco Scutaro to the left side. In his first full season at the position in 2009, Scutaro rated just above average at shortstop.
It is easy to pick out a few positions and point out the flaws, but the Red Sox as a team posted a UZR of -16.3 last year. This led to a highest-in-MLB batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .320. For comparison’s sake, the Seattle Mariners led the league in team UZR with 85.5 runs above average. Not surprisingly, they also had the lowest team BABIP in the majors at .280. The design of Fenway Park leads to some quirky BABIP in itself, but the Red Sox maintained a .297 team BABIP in 2008, and .292 while winning the World Series in 2007.
The Red Sox staff as a unit should benefit greatly from the improved defense, but Jon Lester especially. Fans of other AL East teams might want to close their eyes, but with a .323 BABIP in 2009, Lester was still good enough to maintain a 3.41 ERA. As a pitcher who yields comparable numbers of groundballs and flyballs, Lester should benefit from all the additions, and could see his BABIP fall this season. This could mean an improvement in his numbers, across the board.
Beyond Lester, young righty Clay Buchholz and his career groundball percentage of nearly 49.9% should greatly benefit from the above-average infield defense of Beltre, Scutaro, Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia.
Feel confident in Boston pitchers not only for their individual abilities, but also because of the imported vacuum cleaners brought in to upgrade the defense. That those pitchers figure to benefit from solid run support won’t hurt either.
For more on the Boston Red Sox pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.