Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the injuries and comebacks of five players and how they affect your fantasy team.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
The Yankees big bopper aggravated a wrist injury diving for a ball on Monday night. The injury first occurred Sunday, but now it looks like he will miss some time. An immediate X-Ray came back negative, but Teixeira will have an MRI Tuesday, which could dictate whether he has to spend some time on the disabled list.
Big Tex has 20 home runs and 71 RBI this season. Even with the recent swoon, the Yankees were thought of as a safe bet for the playoffs. However, if Teixeira joins A-Rod on the DL, things will change. Most notably, the Yankees could end up being buyers prior to the trade deadline.
Yasmani Grandal, C, Padres
In the midst of a rally against Reds hurler Mike Leake Monday, Grandal had to leave the game with a strained oblique. We’ve seen a lot of this injury this season and it usually ends with the player landing on the disabled list. The 23-year-old Cuban has been great in his rookie season, batting .312 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games.
Jim Thome, DH, Orioles
Thome is one of the most dangerous sluggers in baseball, but nearing 42 years old, staying healthy has been a challenge lately. The Orioles have given him an opportunity to play everyday, and just when he was getting hot, Thome hurt his neck and is now getting an MRI in Baltimore to determine whether a stay on the DL will be necessary.
Frank Francisco, RP, Mets
While his 4.97 ERA may be ugly, Frank Francisco does have 18 saves in 21 attempts and was enjoying a fine June with a 2.16 ERA before he went down with an oblique injury. The 32-year-old veteran is now on the mend and could return as the Mets closer as soon as Friday. The Mets interim closer has been Bobby Parnell, who remains a bit too hittable despite a 100-MPH fastball. He has blown two of his last three saves.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/RF, Angels
Talking about injuries, Morales missed nearly two seasons, all because of a celebration after hitting a grand slam that resulted in a broken ankle. While he has been back all season, it wasn’t until Monday night that we saw a vintage performance. He blasted two home runs from both sides of the plate for six RBI in one inning.
Morales now has 11 home runs and 45 RBI through 84 games. He has been striking out too often and not walking enough, but it was a nice turn-back-the-clock performance for a player who could still have some solid years left in the tank.
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By R.J. Anderson //
Pitcher A – 1,829.1 IP, 4.42 ERA, 4.7 SO/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
Pitcher B – 1,451.2 IP, 4.33 ERA, 7.5 SO/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
Pitcher A is Jon Garland before joining the San Diego Padres; Pitcher B is Aaron Harang through the 2010 season. Harang has agreed to a one-year deal with the Friars worth $3 million, making the comparison apt and timely. Garland boosted his reputation by turning in an impressive 2010 season. A combination of 14 wins, 200 innings on the nose, and a 3.47 ERA has that sort of effect on opinions. Can Harang manage the same?
Harang was one of the National League’s finest starting pitcher from 2005 to 2007. His average season included 14 wins, 226 innings, a 3.77 ERA, and a 3.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He ate innings, he won games, he avoided walks, he struck batters out, and he did so while pitching in a hitter’s park. Since then, Harang has struggled to recapture any semblance of those seasons. His average season in the past three seasons: 6 wins, 153 innings, a 4.71 ERA, and a (still very good) 2.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Some would call the 32-year-old hittable nowadays. His batting average on balls in play over the past two seasons tops .330. Prior to 2009, Harang’s BABIP had topped .320 over an entire season only once, and that came when he was much younger. One of Harang’s career-long ailments is home runs. Yet, believe it or not, his flyball per home run percentage is roughly league average (11%). The issue with Harang’s homers is not the percentage of flyballs they represent, but rather the percentage of batted balls that are flyballs. That’s nothing that a prolonged stay in the super-friendly confines of Petco Park (and the Padres’ likely to be very good defense) can’t potentially help fix.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Harang becomes a worthwhile sleeper pick in NL-only leagues.
By R.J. Anderson //
Replacing Adrian Gonzalez’s production is nearly impossible, because the population of ballplayers who can hit like him is limited. Replacing Adrian Gonzalez’s body at first base is not as difficult, since just about any player can play first. With newly-acquired first base prospect Anthony Rizzo not yet ready for the big leagues, the Padres took a step to sure up their first base vacancy over the holiday weekend by signing Brad Hawpe.
What Hawpe does is this: He walks (12.9% career, 12.1% last year), usually hits for power (four straight seasons of 20-plus home runs until last season), and strikes out a lot (career 26.8%, 28.5% last season). What Hawpe does not do is field. That’s less of an issue with a move from the corner outfield to first base (and a non-issue in fantasy), but something to keep in mind nonetheless, as Hawpe attempts to adjust to the new position full-time, for the first time in his career.
The biggest difference between last year and the ones before was Hawpe’s home run per flyball percentage. In 2010, it plunged to 10.5%; from 2007 to 2009, it ranged from 17.6% and 17.9%. His career average is 16%.
The biggest obstacle for a Hawpe comeback is his home park. Petco Park is extremely pitcher-friendly, and it’s notoriously difficult on left-handed sluggers like Hawpe (which amplified Gonzalez’s accomplishments even more).
At least Hawpe is guaranteed the lion’s share of playing time at first base, but don’t necessarily bank on 600-to-650 plate appearances. The National League West is loaded with southpaws, and the Padres might add a right-handed option at first base too to form a platoon, or at least a semi-platoon. Late-inning pinch-hit appearances by right-handed bats are also possible.
Hawpe is unlikely to reach his career slash line of .279/.373/.490, but he has a chance to top last season’s meager .245/.338/.419. From a fantasy perspective, though, he’s still a batting average risk, and expecting a bunch of home runs in that park is asking a lot. Draft Hawpe in NL-only and deep mixed league, but stay away in standard, 12-team mixed formats.
By R.J. Anderson //
Jason Bartlett’s name popped up in trade rumors more than nearly any other ballplayer in the land. No longer will that be the case, as the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly traded Bartlett to the San Diego Padres for relief pitchers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos.
Let’s begin with the fantasy implications for the Padres. Bartlett immediately steps in as their starting shortstop, diminishing whatever value Everth Cabrera may have held. The 31-year-old Bartlett hangs his fantasy hat on a strong 2009 (.320, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 90 R, 30 SB), when he benefited from an inflated batting average on balls in play (.364 – league average is typically near .300). His 2010 season (.254, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 71 R, 11 SB) represented a hasty step-back, one that resembles what folks should expect moving forward.
Stepping into an arctic offensive environment at Petco Park is unlikely to help. There are some slivers of good news, though: Petco is harshest on left-handed power hitters (Bartlett is neither left-handed nor a power hitter) and a bounceback in steals could be in the works (Bartlett stole at least 20 in three straight years before only taking 11 bags in 2010). A hidden source of upside with Bartlett in the National League West is the large number of left-handed starting pitchers; Bartlett typically feasts off lefties. He struggles against righties, though, and is a good bet to miss two weeks a season with a lower body injury.
In Bartlett’s place, the Rays will insert one-time top prospect Reid Brignac. A left-handed hitter with a better glove and more power potential than Bartlett, Brignac hit .256/.307/.385 with eight homers in 326 plate appearances last season. Brignac becomes an intriguing option in AL-only leagues and potentially a mixed league option if he improves on his plate approach.
As for the pitchers: Ramos is the less interesting of the two. He could be nothing more than a middle reliever or a situational lefty. However, Russell could be a sleeper candidate for saves, given that most of Tampa Bay’s bullpen graduated to free agency, including all of their set-up men and closer Rafael Soriano. Russell is a big guy (6’8″) with a mid-90s fastball that sinks. In 54 career big league innings he’s struck out 54 batters, and his minor league track record also augurs well in that regard.
Russell’s exact role will be determined later this off-season, and might not be solidified until the 2011 season has begun. But he might very well provide the most fantasy value next year among players involved in this deal.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise & 2011 Regression Alert: Jon Garland
Garland posted a terrible strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.56, even worse than his already lousy career rate of 1.61. Garland made up for that shortcoming with a very fortunate .267 batting average on balls in play (league average is around .300), yielding a shiny 3.47 ERA. He also won double-digit games for the ninth consecutive year, racking up a fantasy-friendly 14-12 record. That streak could be in danger if he signs with a non-Padres team and continues to pitch as he did this season. If he stays in San Diego, expect that very low ERA to increase; if he leaves, expect it to inflate by a run or more.
Biggest Bust: Kevin Correia
After a 2009 in which he completed 198 innings with 12 wins and a 3.91 ERA, many expected Correia to be a league-average pitcher at worst, and a fantasy asset. Instead, he pitched only 145 innings, racking up a 5.40 ERA. Because of the team’s quality, Correia’s still managed 10 wins, but his rotation status for 2011 is very much in doubt.
2011 Keeper Alert: Mat Latos
It’s hard to have a much better season than the 22-year-old Latos did. A 14-10 record and 2.92 ERA in 184.2 innings pitched for someone who never threw a pitch in Triple-A is quite the achievement. Latos averaged more than a strikeout per inning. Spell his name with one t (like dominant) and keep him for the conceivable future. San Diego has its new ace.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: Miguel Tejada
From hitting .269/.308/.362 with seven homers in 428 plate appearances, to hitting .277/.323/.442 with 8 homers in 220 plate appearances – in a ballpark that tramples offensive output. Maybe the added pressure of a playoff race really did rekindle Tejada’s spirit. After all, this is the first time Tejada has been in a serious playoff pursuit since 2003.
Biggest Bust: Kyle Blanks
An easy player to root for, the six-foot-six behemoth missed most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. When Blanks did play, he was mostly unimpressive, striking out in more than 45% of his at-bats and not flashing the power that made him a tantalizing sleeper this year. Adrian Gonzalez‘s eventual departure would allow the Padres to play Blanks at first base and leave him there, but the huge holes in his swing remain a going concern.
2011 Keeper Alert: Adrian Gonzalez
Despite playing in one of the toughest offensive environments in all of baseball, Gonzalez continues to hit. This season, he hit .298 (nearly a career high) with a .393 on-base percentage and .511 slugging percentage. He posted a fourth straight year of at least 30 home runs (31) and at least 95 RBI (101). Entering the walk year of his contract, he’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline if the Padres fall out of the race early in 2011. If that happens and Gonzalez goes to a better ballpark for hitters, he’d become even more valuable.
2011 Regression Alert: Ryan Ludwick
Call him the anti-Tejada. Just about every aspect of Ludwick’s game went the wrong way after the Cardinals sent him to San Diego. He’ll attempt to rebound after seeing a drop in all major statistical categories. A move away from Petco would make him a strong candidate for positive regression, and the Padres might be willing to deal, after pledging to boost their payroll.
By R.J. Anderson //
Cory Luebke started this season on the bottom side of most top 10 prospect lists centered around the San Diego Padres. The former first round pick from Ohio State University will never awe onlookers. He throws lefty and – insert the jokes here – his velocity ranges from 87-91 miles per hour despite throwing from a 6’4″ frame aged 25 years. Two starts into his Major League career and Luebke is raising his stock along with eyebrows. In 11 innings, he’s struck out 10 while walking three. His ERA is a sparkling 3.27 and more than 10% of his pitches have resulted in whiffs. Optimism is running wild for the former Buckeye, but will it continue?
In order to predict success for new major leaguers, analysts will start at one of two places: minor league stats or scouting reports. Let’s start at the latter. Most call Luebke a back of the rotation starter. A fancy way of saying he’s a pitchability (think of Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine as the kings of the throne) type but lacks something — something usually meaning a great fastball or put-away pitch. If Luebke possessed dime velocity and penny command he’d probably have the tag, “Frontline potential”.
The stats are more kind, but support the backend suggestion. Luebke’s strikeout rates reek of modesty since reaching the upper minors (his strikeout rates straddled the line between six and seven per nine innings pitched throughout) His walks per nine innings rates were fine — sitting below three — albeit a necessity with the rest of his skill set, and his ability to get groundballs is admirable. Most people’s problem with Luebke will be multi-layered. First, can he sustain success with his arsenal against the best hitters in the world; and next, how will he get right-handed batters out? Lastly, how does four-eyed vision really work?
The early signs are positive but unfulfilling in their infancy. Luebke stands to benefit from an elite defense playing within a pitchers’ paradise. San Diego is the place to be; a place where someone with Luebke’s stuff can become more than a backend starter or an afterthought thanks to the environment. The phrase product of the environment can reign true and may. That’s why Luebke is interesting for the 2010 season, but not a must keep. Not yet at least.
By Eno Sarris //
Taking in a game at a new ballpark is one of those experiences that can take you back to being a kid again. Every corner is new, every angle needs to be explored, every dimension pored over. And that park will never be as vibrant, as exciting, and the grass will never seem as green again. It’s a great feeling.
Last night, I was lucky enough to visit Petco Park for the first time, and even luckier to take in a game between a division-leading Padres team and a surging second-place Giants team. The stadium held up to inspection, as the beach in the outfield, the Western Metal building, and the many different layers combined to make an excellent modern collage of game-going.
The players were mostly veterans in the midst of a pennant race, but an exciting young player with power and speed stepped to the plate in the third inning against Matt Cain, waited out a pitch or two, and then deposited a 93 MPH fastball down the middle over the deepest fence in the park. Hitting a ball 400 feet in Petco can make people remember your name.
Will Will Venable live up to the promise of that deep home run? His main flaw was still obvious in the limited one-game sample: he struck out in his other two plate appearances and is striking out in more a third of his at-bats on the year. In fact, had Venable accrued enough at-bats this year to qualify for the batting title, he would currently be sporting the third-worst strikeout rate in the league. That will continue to work against his batting average (now .224, despite a fairly neutral .295 batting average on balls in play) if he doesn’t improve.
We’ve seen some players with power and speed and a high strikeout rate succeed – Chris Young and Mike Cameron come to mind – but Venable isn’t locked in at those rates just yet. He didn’t really show this problem in the minor leagues – a 20.1% strikeout doesn’t seem to predict a 30% strikeout rate in the major leagues. If Venable can make the strides that Young made when he cut his rate from 30.7% in 2009 to 23.6% this year, he should make similar strides in batting average. On the other hand, Drew Stubbs provides a foil in this matter – he posted a 27.3% strikeout rates in the minor leagues and 30.9% so far in the majors.
Unfortunately, with age comes wisdom, and we have to be realistic about Venable’s power, even as we hope he can beef up the contact skills. His isolated slugging rate (slugging minus batting average) in the minor leagues was only .152 – just about average for the major leagues. He’s edged that higher recently, but he’s still only at .169 for his career. That’s about the level of Adam Jones (.163 ISO this year) and Stubbs (.169 ISO this year), and not really in Young’s neighborhood (.202 carer ISO). One thing in Venable’s favor is that he’s put up this ISO despite a tiny 59 park factor for home runs by lefties in his home park. In that way, Venable is a more valuable commodity for the Padres than for fantasy owners.
On the plus side for fantasy owners, though, Venable can definitely steal a base. He’s had an incredible 84.6% success rate on stolen bases in the major leagues, backed up by a similarly impressive 83.5% success rate in the minor leagues. He’s not a volume guy – he’s never stolen more than 21 in a given season – but he should continue to have success on the level of someone like Chase Utley, who has stolen 90 bases with an 87.3% success rate over 3600+ career at-bats.
Looking at Venable’s whole profile, we see a player who hasn’t necessarily shown the contact problems that Drew Stubbs has shown over his career, but does walk more (and strike out more) than Adam Jones and show similar power and speed. He does not really seem to have the power of Chris Young, and he has a power-sapping home park. He belongs in this group of young outfielders with power, speed and flaws.
If you’re in a keeper league, Venable and Stubbs are roughly in the same boat (even if you give Venable the higher likelihood of curbing the strikeouts): worthy adds for NL-only and deep mixed league formats, not worth the efforts in shallow mixed leagues or leagues that count on-base percentage and other, more sabermetrically-advanced offensive stats.
By R.J. Anderson //
In late July, the Baltimore Orioles traded Miguel Tejada to the San Diego Padres. He’s hit .295/.360/.410 since, sparking endless stories on how rejuvenated and grateful the 2002 AL MVP is to be involved in a playoff push. The same media that comes down on Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp for single-play gaffes has allowed Tejada to skate by on, presumably, giving lackluster effort for nearly 100 games.
More amazing is how people are so quick to buy that Tejada is back to being an above-average player. Tejada is hitting for marginally more power than he was in Baltimore (.115 ISO to .092) and while he’s walking more often (9.3% versus 3.5%), he’s also striking out more (from 9.7% to 14.1%). Tejada has not sustained a walk rate over 9% since 2000 and that includes playing on good Oakland teams and bad Astros teams alike. The odds of him doing it with the Padres over any length of time are low.
Besides the walk rate, an increased batting average on balls in play is helping to buoy his line. In Baltimore, 28.2% of Tejada’s balls in play turned into hits; that number has spiked 33.3% have with the Padres (league average is usually around 30%). Tejada is actually hitting fewer grounders and more balls in the air with San Diego, which usually isn’t a great combination for improved BABIP, but he has improved his infield hit rate. Tejada had 10 with the Orioles, he’s got three with San Diego already. Perhaps he really is a man full of joy:
If that seems like a lot of negativity around Tejada’s future prospects, well, it is. Little optimism exists for a 36-year-old with a line of .292/.325/.417 over the past three seasons, moving to an extreme pitcher’s park no less. Nonetheless, being a shortstop again adds some value to his recent hot streak and moving from the American League East to the National League West could boost his player’s offensive value.
If you need a shortstop at this point in the season then you probably won’t have an active team for much longer, so add Tejada for nostalgia’s sake if you want because he’s available in more than 30% of ESPN leagues. If you’re a standard mixed league of 12 teams or less, though, pick up someone like Oakland’s Cliff Pennington instead.
For more on Miguel Tejada and other former MVPs in baseball, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By R.J. Anderson //
It’s only reasonable that whenever a player goes from one of the best hitting environments in baseball to one of the worst, the expectations for his offensive performance should move down. Evidently, Yorvit Torrealba disagrees with the premise. The 31-year-old backstop spent the last four seasons playing in the Colorado Rockies’ hitter-friendly haven Coors Field, before signing on to play in the San Diego Padres’ pitcher paradise, Petco Park. Yet Torrealba is in the midst of a career year.
Torrealba’s career line with the Rockies, an aweless .258 AVG/.316 OBP/.394 SLG, falls into line with the five-year total he produced with the San Francisco Giants (.251/.318/.393). This year, he’s at .317/.381/.400. Before hounding on how unlikely this development is on so many levels (age, position, park, etc.) take a look at how players who spent time in San Diego and Colorado fared offensively (minimum: 150 AB with each team).
This is an imperfect set of comparisons because age isn’t taken into consideration whatsoever. It does a decent job, though, in illustrating that no matter the year, moving from Colorado to San Diego is less conductive to batting average increases. Of those 11 players, only four saw their batting average go up transitioning to San Diego, and the highest gain stands at a seven-point increase. Torrealba’s average is up more than 60 points.
Beyond the ballpark, look at Torrealba’s age and position again. Only Ivan Rodriguez, Javy Lopez, and Mike Piazza have topped Torrealba’s average since 2000 while being between 30 and 32 years of age. It’s incredibly rare for an older catcher to have his career best season. They generally age poorly at the plate, hence why most of the good offensive catchers, like Piazza and Johnny Bench, move away from backstopping as they age.
A few root causes to note: career-high .373 batting average on balls in play (mostly luck – his career line is .304), and a drop in K rate to 16.6% (career mark is 19.2%). Still, most of Torrealba’s unexpected production is probably just the usual noise associated with a small sample of just 226 plate appearances. In an NL-only league, especially one that rosters two catchers per team, Torrealba’s fine to hold. Otherwise, no need to give him a second look.
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