Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw and Analyst Alex Burwasser recap the top five shortstops this fantasy season as well as the top three busts.
TOP FIVE PERFORMERS
5. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
After a fantastic sophomore campaign in the big leagues which saw him lead the league in hits (207) and make the All-Star team, Starlin Castro put together another solid year for the Cubs. He did not hit .300 this year but he hit a very respectable .283 while stealing a career-high 25 bases. A good sign going forward for him is his consistency against left and right-handed pitching, hitting over .280 against both this year. However, an area where Castro needs work is his plate discipline, where for the third straight year he drew less than 40 walks (36).
4. Jose Reyes, SS, Marlins
It would have been really difficult for Jose Reyes to duplicate his 2011 season when he won the NL batting title. A season that turned out to be his last with the Mets when he signed as a free agent with the new-look Marlins. A lot was expected of Reyes and the Miami team as a whole moving into a brand new ballpark and it seemed both were wilting under those expectations. Unlike the team, however, Reyes redeemed himself by hitting .312 after the All-Star break and ending the season with his standard double-digit triples (12) and 40 steals. In fact, he was hitting in the three hole for the Marlins by the end of the year, so if that continues in 2013, expect even more production for Reyes.
3. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
One of the best stories in baseball this year was the Washington Nationals, and one of the leading characters in that story was 26 year old shortstop Ian Desmond taking the next step and becoming an All-Star player. Not only did his batting average drastically improve from last year moving from .253 to .292 but he had an enormous spike in power hitting 25 home runs this year as compared to only 8 in 2011. Added with his speed, swiping over 20 bases for the second year in a row (21), Desmond looks like he is a player on the rise for the Nationals and possibly for your fantasy leaderboards next year.
2. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
Derek Jeter has been around the top of this list for basically the past fifteen years, so why would 2012 be any different? He had 216 hits this season, which was his most since 1999, as well as 47 extra base hits which was his most since 2007. He also hit over .300 (.316) for amazingly the twelfth time in his sure-to-be Hall of Fame career. The only question with Jeter is how long he can possibly keep this up, especially given his unfortunate ankle injury in the ALCS against Detroit, but it would be hard to start counting him out now.
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies
Jimmy Rollins, much like Derek Jeter, has been at the top of this list for over a decade now, but Rollins went mostly under-the-radar this season because his team was such a huge disappointment. Obviously, Rollins was not the reason why, blasting his most home runs since his MVP season of 2007 (23) as well as knocking in a solid 68 RBI. A very underrated part of Rollins game has always been his speed, and that was certainly on display this year when he stole 30 bases for the second year in a row and added over a hundred runs scored (102). Rollins is only 33 years old, so there could be a few more years of these type of numbers coming from a premium fantasy position like shortstop.
TOP THREE BUSTS
3. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers
A first time All-Star in 2011, Jhonny Peralta had his best season as a pro for Detroit hitting just under .300 (.299) while providing some serious power with 21 home runs and driving in 86 runs as his Tigers won the AL Central. Detroit again won the AL Central again in 2012 but Peralta was not nearly as big a factor seeing his batting average dip 60 points to .239 as well as his home runs (13) and RBI (63). Peralta needs to hit for power and drive in runs to provide any fantasy value whatsoever because he does not steal bases or hit for a high average.
2. Yunel Escobar, SS, Jays
In a somewhat surprising move given his potential, the Braves traded Yunel Escobar to the Jays after a disappointing start to the 2010 season. It was looking like a steal of a trade for Toronto after a 2011 season that saw him hit .290 with 11 home runs and 77 runs scored. However, he really declined this past season when his average dropped 37 points to .253, but what was most alarming were his walks almost being cut in half from 61 to 35 which left his on-base percentage at a measly .300. For a player expected to be at the top of the lineup for years to come, getting on base three out of ten times will just not cut it for the Jays and for your fantasy team.
1. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Every year fantasy owners seem to fall into the trap of falling in love with a player who comes up from the minors and excels at a particular statistical category whether it is home runs or strikeouts. In Dee Gordon’s case, it was stolen bases. After being called up in June 2011, he burst onto the scene by hitting .304 and stealing 24 bases in 56 games for the Dodgers. In 2012, he was the opening day starter at shortstop for the Dodgers but he never really got off the ground getting sent to the minors in early July after hitting only .228. He still has a ton of speed — he stole 32 bases — but he cannot provide any value if he cannot get on base in the future.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down the moves made at the trade deadline and the implications for your fantasy team.
Reds Trade for Jonathan Broxton
For the Reds, Jonathan Broxton simply provides depth and some closer experience. However, he is destined for a middle relief role with the club in front of Aroldis Chapman. The Royals get two quality arms in return and Greg Holland becomes the closer in Kansas City.
Rangers Acquire Ryan Dempster
With the Angels breathing down their necks, the Rangers had to do something before the trade deadline, especially with Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz lost for the season. Ryan Dempster had already been traded to the Braves but he rejected the move last week. He did, however, welcome a trade to the Rangers mere hours before the trade deadline. This is a move that will help Dempster quite a bit when you consider that he has won just five of his 16 starts despite a 2.25 ERA. His ERA is likely to rise in Texas, but I’m sure fantasy managers will welcome it with the additional wins due to the Rangers run support.
Shane Victorino Traded to the Dodgers
One of the better offensive outfielders in baseball, Shane Victorino ends his career with the Phillies now that he has been traded to the Dodgers. He gets plenty of steals, has some pop and reaches base often. However, in Los Angeles, he will likely lose some of that pop, which could keep his average down a tad. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1999, Victorino owns a .357 average at Dodgers Stadium and will benefit from having Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the lineup.
Hunter Pence Traded to the Giants
This is the big surprise, as Hunter Pence is 29 years old and clearly in his prime. Though Pence has lost some of his speed this season, he does have some pop and is a line drive hitter. A move to the Giants could cost him some home runs, but at least he will play some meaningful baseball this fall. Regardless, overall the move hurts Pence’s fantasy value.
Yankees Acquire Casey McGehee
For a second straight season, Casey McGehee has struggled at the plate but he is a fine Ty Wigginton type player who can contribute in big moments. What this acquisition does is hurt the fantasy value of Eric Chavez, as three is now a crowd with Jayson Nix also taking some at-bats away while filling in for the injured Alex Rodriguez.
Pirates Acquire Gaby Sanchez
The Pirates had nothing to lose and now hope that a change of scenery will do some good for Gaby Sanchez. After two straight seasons with 572 at-bats and 19 home runs, Sanchez struggled mightily this season with just three home runs and a .202 average before being relegated to the minor leagues. The 28-year-old moves to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and a surprisingly better lineup to resurrect his career.
Cardinals Acquire Edward Mujica
Last year the Cardinals brought in relief help including Octavio Dotel and it worked out well for them. This year, the Cardinals have a bit more work to do but they will not let the bullpen be the team’s unraveling. On Tuesday, the Cards acquired Edward Mujica, a hard-thrower with solid control. He does surrender some home runs but is another quality arm to help bridge the gap to Jason Motte.
Pirates Acquire Travis Snider
Another cheap pickup for the Pirates, Travis Snider has some serious potential, but it just did not work out in Toronto. On the other hand, Pittsburgh is a fine place for him to establish himself and at 24 years old, he has some time to reach his potential. I see Snider as a potential 30-homer guy with more than 10 steals and a respectable average. He is the big bat that the Pirates would love to team up with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen.
Blue Jays Trade Steve Delabar for Eric Thames
A feel good story in Seattle, Steve Delabar went from a coach to a player in a little over a year and has averaged well over a strikeout per inning this season. He provides the Blue Jays with the power arm that they expected to have in the injured Sergio Santos. His value takes a minor decline since he moves from the pitcher’s haven Safeco Field to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Eric Thames makes the reverse move from Toronto to Seattle. There won’t be many complaints from Thames since he will likely get a crack at playing everyday with the Mariners. He has some power but really struggles when it comes to the strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Braves Acquire Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm
A .300 hitter for a second straight year, Reed Johnson is very much a utility player with no fantasy value. On the other hand, Paul Maholm has enjoyed his time in Chicago with a 9-6 record and a solid 3.74 ERA. He has surrendered a run or fewer in each of his last six starts. Maholm also boasts a 1.69 ERA in five career starts at Turner Field. Though the Braves only made this deal since Ryan Dempster rejected the trade to Atlanta, I do think this is a nice fit with Maholm as hot as any pitcher in baseball right now.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
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.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
By R.J. Anderson //
The Dodgers have been one of the most active teams this off-season. All of their moves to date had focused on bolstering their rotation: re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, then signing free agent Jon Garland. Their latest is an attempt to solidify their middle infield (specifically second base) while weakening a division rival. They believe they’ve done so by signing Juan Uribe to a three-year deal worth $21 million.
The shift away from shortstop and to second base actually limits Uribe’s real world value. Uribe’s defensive skill set is the opposite of David Eckstein’s. His arm gives him the ability to make long, tough throws, meaning he should be playing on the left side of the infield.
Uribe’s offensive value should be unaffected by the park change and he remains a safe bet to hit 15 to 20 home runs during any season where he amasses 500-plus plate appearances. Not everything in Uribe’s offensive game is that dependable or worthwhile, though, as his slash line over the last three seasons is a combined .261/.312/.443. That batting average and on-base percentage are weak, even for a middle infielder.
Making matters worse is Uribe’s unpredictable aging curve. He turns 32 in July and carries a history of problematic conditioning. Now, those issues were a few seasons ago, and perhaps it is unfair to place the sins of a younger (and possibly less dedicated) Uribe upon this version. Being this is the first comfortable contract Uribe has bagged in a while, though, the possibility remains that he could become a little too relaxed about his work ethic.
Nevertheless, Uribe remains a decent mixed league option for 2011 at shortstop and second base (he also qualifies at third base), thanks to his steady power output. Just don’t expect much if your league values on-base percentage in any form.
For more on Juan Uribe, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
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By Tommy Rancel //
After something of a career year in San Diego, Jon Garland has agreed to a one-year, $5 million dollar deal (plus performance bonuses and a vesting option) with the team he pitched for in the second half of the 2009 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers. In six starts in Dodger blue, he went 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA. While pitching for the Padres in 2010, he went 14-12 with a career-best 3.47 ERA in 33 starts.
In addition to the stellar ERA, Garland posted his best strikeout rate to date – although 6.12 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) aren’t much to brag about. He also turned in his best groundball rate with 52% of the balls put in play against him burning worms.
That said, defensive independent metrics, which strip luck and defense from a pitcher’s performance, suggest Garland’s true talent level in 2010 was much closer to his 4.32 career ERA than the sub 3.50 he posted. This can be attributed to a lower-than-normal batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and pitching in Petco Park for more than half of his innings total.
In 2010, Garland’s BABIP (.267) was 35 points lower than the league average (.302). Most often the best indicator of what a pitcher’s BABIP should be is his career average. Those numbers show Garland’s mark is usually below the league’s average; however, his career .288 BABIP is still 21 points above his 2010 showing.
When looking at home/road splits, we see that Garland is the latest pitcher to rebound thanks to the “Petco Factor.” Easily one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, several pitchers have gone to San Diego for a numbers boost. Here are Garland’s home/road splits for 2010:
Home: 18 starts, 7-5, 3.00 ERA, .259 BABIP, 0.80 HR/9
Road: 15 starts, 7-7, 4.01 ERA, .277 BABIP, 1.08 HR/9
As you can see, his ERA differential was more than one full run. Closer to career levels, he allowed more balls to drop in play and more to carry over the fence on the road. The good news for Garland is Dodger Stadium is also pitcher-friendly park. In terms of ESPN’s park factors, the stadium has finished in the bottom half of the league for home runs allowed over the past three seasons.
Also working in Garland’s favor are consistency and durability. Over the past nine seasons, he has won at least 10 games and pitched more than 190 innings in each. The only other pitcher in baseball who can say he’s done the same is Garland’s former White Sox teammate Mark Buehrle.
Looking at everything in play, Garland is probably the most predictable fantasy pitcher in the National League. Expect a double-digit win total, nearly 200 innings, and an ERA around the league average. He should regress from his 2010 numbers, but landing in Dodger Stadium should soften the blow. He will start the season as Los Angeles’ fifth starter; consider him a fourth or fifth starter in NL-only leagues, and the last man on your staff in standard 12-team mixed leagues.
By Tommy Rancel //
Following in the footsteps of fellow Dodgers’ starter Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda chose the comfort of Southern California instead of the uncertainty of the open market. After entertaining the idea of returning to his native Japan, the 35-year-old will remain in the States for at least one more season.
The deal itself looks like a win-win for both sides. Kuroda gets $12 million dollars for one year of work. And the end of the season, he can re-assess his options. For the Dodgers, they get another year of his services at fair market value.
Although Kuroda has a sub .500 record (28-30) in the Major Leagues, he has maintained an above-average ERA. In nearly 500 innings pitched, his career ERA is a sparking 3.60. In fact, he is one of just 13 National League pitchers with a ERA of 3.60 or below (min. 490 innings) over the past three years. Other names include Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, and Dodger teammate Chad Billingsley amongst others. Looking at fielding independent metrics, they support the fact that Kuroda is a 3.5-3.75 ERA starter.
Despite being in his mid-30s, Baseball Info Solutions clocked his average fastball at just over 92 miles per hour. In addition to his regular heater, Kuroda throws a split-fingered fastball, a slider, and has briefly experimented with a curveball. The fastball/slider combo has combined to give him groundball rate of over 50% for his career.
In his three seasons with the Dodgers, his strikeout rates have proven to be largely average (6.56 K/9 career), but he improved slightly this past season (7.29 K/9). He also shows good control (2.06 BB/9 career) and has done a fantastic job of keeping the ball in the yard (0.72 HR/9).
Of course, with age comes concern about durability. Kuroda has not topped 200 innings in a major league season; however he did come close with 196.1 in 2010. He also spent a combined 76 days on the disabled list in 2009 and battled shoulder tendinitis in 2008.
Like his re-signing, Hiroki Kuroda’s efforts have largely gone unnoticed. That said, if you’re looking for the potential for double-digit wins with an above-average ERA at the SP3 spot don’t forget the name.
For more on Hiroki Kuroda and the Los Angeles Dodgers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
By Eriq Gardner //
By Tommy Rancel //
In advance of last weekend’s deadline for exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents, the Los Angeles Dodgers re-signed Ted Lilly to a three-year deal worth $33 million in mid-October.
It’s remarkable that Lilly’s $11 million annual salary under his new contract actually tops the $10 million he averaged under his last deal. Lilly hasn’t gotten worse, but he hasn’t exactly gotten better. Keep in mind, he will be 35 years old on Opening Day. If Lilly’s mostly average, 35-year-old left arm fetches $11 million a year, pitchers like Carl Pavano, Jon Garland, and Hiroki Kuroda should be in good shape on the open market once Cliff Lee signs.
Although he spent just two months in Los Angeles, Lilly impressed the Dodgers enough to lock him up before he hit free agency. In his 12 starts with L.A., he went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA. This came after a 3-8 record for the Cubs with a 3.69 ERA in 18 games.
Defensive independent metrics like FIP and xFIP – stats that measures strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed and strip out factors beyond a pitcher’s control – show that Lilly’s true talent level in Chicago was closer to his poor record than his better-than-average ERA. Meanwhile – according to the same metrics – Lilly was a much better pitcher in Los Angeles despite the minimal difference in ERA.
The biggest difference between Lilly’s two stops was strikeouts. In 117 innings on the North Side, he struck out 89 batters. After his move out West, he struck out 77 batters in just 76.2 innings – or 9.04 batters per nine innings (K/9). In addition to the increase in Ks, he also dropped his BB/9 from a very good 2.23 to a fantastic 1.76. Home runs followed him to L.A., but the long ball has always been a problem for Lilly (career 1.35 HR/9).
Looking at pitch selection, Lilly used more fastballs and curveballs with the Dodgers while throwing fewer sliders and change-ups. (It should be noted that he also gained velocity across the board after leaving the Cubs, but velocity readings can vary among different parks.)
On the other hand, swinging strikes and first-pitch strikes are not park-influenced. After the trade, Lilly upped his first-pitch strike percentage from 61.0% to 67.9%. He also increased his whiffs from 7.6% to 10.9%. The latter is the highest total for him since 2003.
In some cases, a player’s value or perception may differ from real-life to fantasy. That said, Lilly’s place as a mid-rotation starter is universal. He has been durable (averaged 183 innings over last eight seasons) and he piles up wins. In fact, since 2003 only four left-handed starters have won at least 10 games a year. The list: Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, and Lilly.
There is no rush to lock him up like the Dodgers did, but Lilly should provide value as an SP3 or an SP4 in all leagues next season.
For more on Ted Lilly and mid-rotation candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
By Eriq Gardner //
by Eno Sarris //
Judging by his inglorious exit from from a Los Angeles Dodgers team that sits five and a half games out of the wild card (before four other teams), one might be forgiven for comparing Manny Ramirez to chopped liver. The prevailing attitude vis-a-vis the mercurial slugger is that he’s injured too often and that at 38 years old, his offensive skills are just not what they used to be.
The prevailing view is wrong on this one. Ramirez has sported an OPS over .900 the past two years in Los Angeles, showing relatively little deterioration in his skills as a batter. There’s also reason to believe that he may be able to stay healthier in his new digs.
First, he’s still a great hitter. Ramirez’s walk rate, strikeout rate, and BABIP have held steady his whole career at above-average levels, making him an excellent bet for a strong OBP and batting average. Even in this ‘down’ period of his career, he should still put up a batting average near .300 and an OBP near .400 – benchmarks he’s hit more often than not in his illustrious career. These two facts alone make him an above-average real-life batter and a decent fantasy baseball option in many leagues.
Power is the real question mark, admittedly. After putting up isolated slugging numbers (slugging percentage minus batting average, ISO is a statistic that focuses on extra-base hits) near .300 for most of his career, Ramirez dipped to .241 last year and has a .199 ISO this year. His positive test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2009 has been blamed for this power outage, but Ramirez still had an ISO of .204 after he returned, which would put him on par with players like Brian McCann (.197 ISO), Aramis Ramirez (.201 ISO) and Rickie Weeks (.203 ISO) this year.
If a .200 ISO does not seem exciting enough, there are reasons to think he can do better in Chicago. According to StatCorner.com, the park factor for home runs for right-handed hitters in Los Angeles was 92. Compare that to U.S. Cellular, home of the White Sox, which has a 134 park factor for home runs for right-handed hitters. That is a serious swing in fortunes. In 213 earlier-career at-bats at the Cell, he’s had a .338/.448/.601 line that suggests he feels comfortable there.
The last piece of optimism arises when we consider defense. Not normally important when considering fantasy baseball, Ramirez has been so poor defensively that it had begun to cost him playing time. Since defensive statistics have been kept at FanGraphs.com, he has ranked in the very bottom of the outfield defensive rankings. Only one player with as many as 350 innings in left field this year has performed worse than Ramirez, for example. With the benefit of the DH – his new full-time position – he won’t have to stumble around the outfield anymore and should get his full share of at-bats. Maybe he’ll even stay healthier without the added stress on his legs and back.
Ramirez probably should have signed with an AL team before the 2009 season, but the Dodgers thought he had enough in the tank to help, even in the outfield. Now that it’s Manny time again in the AL and Ramirez is a DH, he should have enough left to help your fantasy team down the stretch.
For more on Manny Ramirez and other DHs, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.