Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the five baseball players who have been making a huge fantasy impact over the past two weeks.
5) Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
Rios struggled with the White Sox in 2011, batting just .227. However, he has bounced back this season with a .316 AVG, 18 HR and 67 RBI. In the past two weeks alone, he hit .353 with 14 runs, five home runs, 15 RBI and one stolen base. He is a five-tool talent and his hot streak could continue, especially considering that he plays at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Be aware, however, that Rios is known for his inconsistency.
4) Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals
Like Rios, LaRoche has struggled with inconsistency. Last year was a disaster for him, as he only played in 43 games and had just a .172 average. He is known for getting hot in the second half of the season and he is living up to that right now. In the past two weeks, LaRoche has a .429 average, 10 runs, seven home runs and 14 RBI.
3) Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
Gomez is a solid outfielder defensively but is not known for his offense. He hasn’t been able to play every day in the past but he’s been given a chance in Milwaukee and is putting up huge numbers. Over the last two weeks, Gomez is batting .348 with 14 runs, four home runs, 10 RBI and six stolen bases. At 26 years old, he could get a chance to play full time next season.
2) Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds
Stubbs is known to be unpredictable at the plate. He steals a lot of bases and has some power but he kills your batting average. His currently has a .239 season average, but in the last two weeks, he has a .362 average with 17 runs, four homers, 11 RBI and five steals. Stubbs is a streaky hitter, so ride out this hot streak while you can.
1) Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
Pujols had a slow start to the season but he’s been on fire recently, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Angels. Over the past two weeks, he has a .365 average, 11 runs, seven home runs, 19 RBI and two stolen bases.
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The total numbers are disappointing, 2 homers, 15 runs, 17 RBI, and a .267 AVG. On the other hand, he has hits in 16 of his last 18 games, has stolen six bases, and already has 5 doubles over the last 11 games. Keep in mind that Choo took a little while to bounce back after missing a large chunk of last season. However, at his best this is a rare 20-20 talent. This is a fine time to pick him up while his fantasy managers are keeping him glued to the bench.
In the past, the only thing keep Nelson Cruz down was his health. This season he has been an iron man and while his run production is solid with 24 runs and 23 RBI and his average is respectable at .274, so far the power has been limited with just four home runs. However, a closer look at the double-digit doubles tells me that maybe some of those shots simply have not left the yard, but come the summer in Texas, I think the ball will really start to fly off his bat. I still think 30 home runs is realistic, so go ahead and make the move for Cruz, though keep in mind that he is slowing down a bit on the base paths and he does have that injury-prone label.
Stolen bases have some serious value in fantasy leagues and for that reason alone you may be able to unload Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is a low average hitter with some pop and speed. He swiped 40 bases last season, which got a lot of attention, but also we saw a decline in home runs from 22 to 15. This season he only has three in comparison to his seven stolen bases. The positive is that he does score a lot of runs, which really is amazing when you consider that he strikes out a ton and rarely reaches base. Trade Stubbs while you can to someone desperate for some steals.
I have been known to lead my leagues on annual basis in saves despite not drafting closers until the middle or late rounds. I do this by picking up the pitchers who gain the promotion into the ninth inning because of either the struggles or health woes to the player ahead of them. Often it can result in excellence, such is the case with my drafting Aroldis Chapman in the final round of my draft. On the other hand, sometimes the closer I pick up implodes and doesn’t hold the gig for long. I fear that Cubs closer Rafael Dolis is of the latter. While I do like his youth at 24 years old and his live arm, I am very much in fear of his lack of strikeouts. This will not only hurt my fantasy team in that category, but also you typically like closers that can miss bats otherwise they can find themselves in trouble. With a 3.75 ERA and 2 blown saves already, I am selling on Dolis and keep in mind that Carlos Marmol will return from the DL and could end up earning the gig once again.
BY ROB SHAW
Every season a different strategy has to be utilized in fantasy baseball drafts in order to appropriately take into account positional depth and player rankings. In general, a unique strategy can be utilized on a round-by-round basis. Here’s a breakdown of Bloomberg Sports recommended Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition:
In the early rounds, the focus is finding the best available player while also taking into account the disparity between the best player and the next best option at each position. For example, there is a plateau in excellence for starting pitchers as Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw can all be claimed as the best of the bunch. On the other hand, Troy Tulowitzki stands alone amongst fellow shortstops.
If your fantasy league includes slugging percentage and on base percentage as statistical categories, there is no competition for Jose Bautista in the outfield while there are several stars at first base including Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto. The best strategy is to pick up the best talent at a position where there is a large enough disparity that when the next player is drafted from that position there is a decisive advantage in your favor.
In the early middle rounds, it’s not a bad idea to scoop up a fine hurler who has the potential to rank amongst the best. Players such as Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, and Danny Haren as well as Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg make sense in these rounds. These hurlers have the ability to dominate and enjoy a Cy Young caliber season thanks to their enormous upside.
Having two high potential and consistent hurlers is more valuable than having just one dominant ace. Therefore, by drafting where there is greater disparity in the early rounds with a focus on position players, then nabbing a couple of pitchers with sky high potential fantasy managers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
In the later middle rounds you can draft a closer and many of them. Closers are often overrated in fantasy leagues since they only contribute 70 innings, which means saves are all that matters. Second-tier closers still get the job done and players such as Joe Nathan could end up as bargains. In fact, rather than selecting a Jonathan Papelbon in the sixth or seventh round, you can grab a Gio Gonzalez or a Drew Stubbs, someone who will have a much greater impact on your fantasy team.
Then five rounds later go ahead and draft three closers in a row: Sergio Santos, Jason Motte, and Frank Francisco. Plus, usually about 10 closers become available on the waiver wire each season. In fact, all three of the pitchers just mentioned did not start the season as closers for their respective teams last season.
Finally, in the later rounds, it’s not a bad idea to focus on young talents with great potential as well as players with multiple position eligibility. This allows you to pick up some big time prospects while also enjoying depth. Consider top prospects such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. There is no telling if the precocious sluggers will develop into stars as soon as this season.
On the other hand, drafting veteran players such as Ryan Raburn and Daniel Murphy is also a key strategy in the later rounds since they cover multiple positions, providing depth to your fantasy teams. This way if a player on your team gets injured, a single bench player can fill multiple holes.
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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 Eno Sarris
When we recently wrote about Cameron Maybin and Cliff Pennington, we pointed out that these young players had the potential to give your fantasy team late steals. Steals are a rarer phenomenon than home runs in regular baseball, but you’ll notice that this scarcity is mitigated by the fact that you only need about 100-120 steals to be competitive in the category in a traditional mixed roto league (as opposed to 200-240 home runs). It’s good not to go overboard on steals too early in your draft – especially with late speed available.
Drew Stubbs will be available late in your draft (B-Rank 178, ADP 258.6), and has speed (121 stolen bases in 423 minor league games and 10 in 42 major league games). Those are your known knowns. Let’s explore the unknowns about this young player.
Will he start? It’s difficult to predict the ways of Dusty Baker, who ran one of the worst major league regulars (Willy Taveras) out there so often last year that General Manager Walt Jocketty had to trade Taveras away just to keep him off the field (and his new team, the Oakland A’s, promptly released him). Stubbs does have competition in the form of Chris Dickerson, a speedy slap hitter who’s had some success against right-handed pitching. But Dickerson is both a known commodity with his 28th birthday imminent, and a liability against lefty pitching: a .707 OPS against them in the majors, .647 in the minors. The 25-year-old Stubbs owns no such platoon weakness. Meanwhile, Total Zone, which rates defense in the minor leagues, rates Stubbs as a very good defender in center and Dickerson as much less impressive. It looks like Stubbs will get every opportunity to start.
Will he hit for power? It’s a small sample size, but you might remember that Stubbs debuted late last year and spanked eight home runs in only 180 at-bats. That was good for an isolated power number (ISO, or SLG minus AVG) of .172, something that might translate to about 20+ home runs over a full season. That would well outpace his minor league ISO of .132, so the power is actually an open question. Though last year’s 180 at-bats don’t represent much of a sample size, he really enjoyed hitting at home, where he posted a .997 OPS and a .600+ SLG. Remember that Great American Ball Park sports a 1.176 park factor for home runs – GAB tended to give up 17.6% more home runs than a neutral park. Perhaps the park will coax a few more homers out of Stubbs in 2010.
Will he hit for average? This might be the toughest question to answer about prospects in general, but Stubbs has a major factor going against him that will probably keep him from posting a nice batting average in 2010. While perusing his minor league records (where he hit .269 in more than 1500 plate appearances), you’ll notice a very high strikeout rate (27.3%). His best full-season strikeout rate in the minor leagues was not much better (25.3%). Stubbs also made below-average contact with the Reds last year (76% – 80.5% is league average). There’s really no reason to think that Stubbs will improve beyond his 27.2% strikeout rate from his stint in the majors last season, and a player who strikes out more than a quarter of the time is going to struggle to post a nice batting average. In this respect, Stubbs is very similar to Maybin, actually. Consult Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tool about Stubbs, and you’ll notice that his 2010 Spring Training statistics are compiled on the ‘Analysis’ page for each player. It’s early going, but you might notice something.
Yup. Stubbs has already struck out three times in his first six at-bats this spring. That’s about the tiniest sample size you could use, but it does underline his previous problems with the strikeout. Expect a poor batting average, some power, and lots of speed from Stubbs. He makes for a fine backup option if you decide to wait on speedy outfielders.
For more information on Drew Stubbs, late-round steals options, and more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.