Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria discuss the top five stories in baseball after the All-Star break.
Will R.A. Dickey win 20 games?
Baseball fans are trying to figure out if R.A. Dickey is Tom Candiotti or Phil Niekro. At 12-1, Dickey is enjoying a banner season and arguably would be the NL Cy Young award winner if the season ended today. The problem for Dickey is that the season does not end today and he still has about 15 starts to go. Can he possibly continue his dominance and nab another eight wins for an even 20?
Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro attained three different seasons with 20 or more wins. On the other hand, Dickey might only win another 3-5 games this season and finish with a solid, but more expected total that is more in line with a solid hurler, such as knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who won 14, 15 and 16 games in his career.
What becomes of Tim Lincecum?
The good news is that Tim Lincecum is on pace to strikeout 200 batters. The bad news is that he is also approaching 100 walks, which could lead to some time in the bullpen. We’ve had some surprises this year that fill the bust category. As of now both Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols join a recent trend of major free agents struggling with new franchises.
Lincecum is pitching for the very franchise he came up with and has dominated for the last five seasons. However, he is getting hit often and hard, and with a 3-10 record and 6.42 ERA you have to wonder if he will stick in the starting rotation all season long. Lincecum hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in back-to-back outings.
Where will Zack Greinke end up?
The Brewers have had their struggles and perhaps for that reason, Zack Greinke’s performance has gone under the radar. He is 9-3 with 111 K’s and a 3.32 ERA. With the Brewers five games out of first place, the team will be in sell mode especially if Greinke does not indicate that he wants to stick there.
So what teams could be interested? How about the Baltimore Orioles, or the St. Louis Cardinals? Greinke’s presence could make a world of difference in how this ost-season shapes up.
Are the Phillies buyers or sellers?
The Phillies are in dead last place in the National League East. They opened the season without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and now that they are coming back, the pitchers have been out: Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
The big question for the Phillies is figuring out whether or not Cole Hamels will stay as a free agent. There have been rumblings that he could be destined to the Dodgers, which would leave the Phillies in a bind if they do not get anything in return for his services aside from draft picks. Hamels, by the way, is 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA with 118 K’s and a 1.10 WHIP. He has been the ace for the Phillies this season.
Are the Pirates playoff bound?
The Pirates are in first place late in the season for a second straight year. The question is whether they can stick this time and if they learned from last year’s collapse. It looks like they could actually stick this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they have an ace with James McDonald boasting a 2.37 ERA with much better control this season. Next, their gamble with AJ Burnett seems to be paying off as he’s been a solid number two. Though the starting rotation lacks depth, the bullpen is strong enough to let leads stick.
Finally, on offense there are several solid players, then an MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen and a potential star in Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates lack some depth, but so far they have been good enough, and with extra wild card spots available, this team could advance.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the weekend in baseball and how it affects your fantasy team.
Martin Perez, SP, Rangers
Perez made his major league debut Saturday night against Oakland. The 21-year-old southpaw had five strikeouts and gave up six hits, one walk and two earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched. He had struggled in the minor leagues this season with a 1.29 K/BB ratio at AAA. However, he has been better in the past and there is reason to be excited about his future.
Chris Young, SP, Mets
Young has only started 13 games since 2010, but his numbers during that stretch are among the best in baseball. He has a 2.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, compared to Roy Halladay’s 2.60 ERA and 1.05 WHIP and Cliff Lee’s 3.00 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. This season, he has started five games, his greatest workload since 2009. The last time he made 20 starts was in 2007.
Jim Thome, Orioles
Thome spent his first 12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and has since been on seven teams over the last 10 years. Moving to Baltimore allows him to play more regularly as a designated hitter. He has had 40 home runs in 553 at-bats over the last two years and could bring some power to the Orioles’ lineup and your fantasy team.
Shaw also discusses three players whose slumps have ended and who are putting up big numbers in recent weeks. First is Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who has six home runs, 24 RBI and a .333 average in 19 games since June 9th. Second, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez has seven home runs, 19 RBI and a .377 average in 15 games since June 16th. Finally, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has a .423 average, one home run and three RBI in his last seven games.
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Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
The fantasty season is not over for one of the biggest busts in the league Pedro Alvarez. The second overall pick of the 2008 draft, we expected big things out of the Vanderbilt alumnus, but instead, his average sits at just .211 with two home runs and 10 RBI. After an extended stay on the disabled list and then a month’s worth of at bats in the Minor Leagues, Alvarez is back. He will bat in the middle of the Pirates lineup and will have ever chance to succeed once again. The third base position is pretty shallow this season with talent, making fantasy managers quick to forgive players like Alvarez.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox
The man traded for Mark Teixeira a few years back is finally an everyday player in the Big Leagues. Just 26 years old, Salty is having his best season to date. His eight home runs are just one shy of his career-high and the same can be said of his 12 doubles. He is not the best defensive catcher in baseball, but he has been adequate and his respectable on base percentage with some pop makes him a dangerous bat in the Red Sox lineup.
Jeff Karstens, SP, Pirates
This former Yankees prospect is not just having a good season, he is having a Cy Young caliber season! At 28 years old, the right-handed finesse hurler boasts a 2.28 ERA with a stellar 1.04 WHIP. His lack of strikeouts may frustrate some fantasy managers, but Karstens has surrendered just 11 earned runs over his last 10 starts.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
You have to wonder how many chances this guy will get but because of injuries and the struggles of his peers, Dexter Fowler is getting another shot to leadoff for the Rockies. Fowler is batting .342 since the All-Star break with 10 runs in 11 games with three steals. Just 25 years old, Fowler is too young to turn the page on for now.
James McDonald, SP, Pirates
There is no question about it, of all of the Pirates hurlers, James McDonald has the best stuff. Sure, he has some control issues, but his 92 strikeouts, seven wins, and 3.95 ERA will get your attention. A former top prospect with the Dodgers, McDonald has gone 11-9 with a 3.79 ERA in 31 starts. At 26 years old, McDonald should still have his best years ahead of him.
The Biggest Fantasy Surprises
Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays
2009: 54 R, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .235 AVG
2010: 109 R, 54 HR, 124 RBI, .260 AVG
Can’t saw we saw this coming. Although Bautista had a big final month to the 2009 season, no one could have predicted him to the top power bat in the Majors last season.
Ben Zobrist, INF, Rays
2008: 32 R, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB, .253 AVG
2009: 91 R, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 17 SB, .297 AVG
A solid all-around talent, Zobrist may have peaked in 2009, as his numbers declined quite a bit in 2010.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals
2007: 42 R, 14 HR, 52 RBI, .267 AVG
2008: 104 R, 37 HR, 113 RBI, .299 AVG
It’s nice to hit next to Albert Pujols, but the good times did not last. Ludwick is now bound to long singles and pop outs at Petco Park.
Fausto Carmona, SP, Indians
2006: 1-10, 58 K, 5.42 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
2007: 19-8, 137 K, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Quite a turnaround for the failed closer, Carmona ranks as the ace for Cleveland and one of the better pitchers in the game.
2005: 62 R, 13 HR, 89 RBI, .287 AVG
2006: 117 R, 29 HR, 120 RBI, .329 AVG
Atkins enjoyed Rocky-High Colorado, but when placed in Baltimore he wasn’t even a starter.
Who will it be this season?
Pedro Alvarez: A big-time slugger who can lead the Pirates back to respectability.
Adam Jones: Has the talent, but so far not the results.
JP Arencibia: The Blue Jays quickly traded Mike Napoli because they don’t want anyone to get in his way.
Kila Ka’aihue: A star in the Minors, can the power translate at the Big League level.
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by Eno Sarris //
When planning your draft for the 2011 season, there are a few different ways to consider positional scarcity. While introducing us to Tsuyoshi Nishioka recently, Eriq Gardner showed us the relative run production for each position on the infield, which demonstrated how terrible shortstop can be. That graph is certainly one way to consider the relative strengths of each position.
But for the most part, only the 12 to 18 best (including CI/MI/UT) at each infield position are relevant in regular mixed leagues. Another way to consider your approach would be to take a look at the projections and rankings at the position and highlight some tiers. A tier-based approach allows you to know when to leap, and when to wait.
Let’s take a look at third base. If you strike early for a first-tier third baseman, you’re looking at Evan Longoria, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman. Those are fine selections, and there’s no reason not to take any of these three early in your draft.
But only three members of your league will leave the early rounds with an elite third baseman, and the names that follow are fraught with uncertainty. Alex Rodriguez (age-related decline), Adrian Beltre (home park, lineup and some consistency issues), Jose Bautista (batting average, limited track record), Michael Young (muted power), Aramis Ramirez (health) and Mark Reynolds (batting average) all have question marks as large as their relative upsides. You could reasonably lump these players into one tier, which means that as you fill your other positions, your leaguemates will be spending picks on this tier.
Now we’re nine third basemen into the rankings, and only two other managers have a hole at the position – with possibly a few more willing to speculate on a CI or UT third base option. You could define scarcity at the position as the quality of this final tier. How does third base rank in this situation? Well, left on the board are Pablo Sandoval, Casey McGehee, Chase Headley, Pedro Alvarez and Ian Stewart. Take a look at the projections I’ve cobbled together for these players, and you’ll see that while there’s plenty of risk here, there’s also a decent amount of upside.
The best part about this group is that they are a diverse bunch. Need some steals? Headley has swiped double-digit bases in each of the past two seasons, and considering his total last year (17), he may have upside to better his projection in that category. He’ll likely either steal the second- or third-most bases at the position. Need batting average above all else? Might as well take the leap that the Kung Fu Panda will return to his hit-filled ways. The good news is that Sandoval has lost 10 pounds already this off-season, and that some positive regression should be expected after such a huge year-to-year drop from 2009 to 2010. Want a safe player after filling your team with risk? McGehee has been solid the past two years and seems like he could easily hit these projections even with a step back. Need power upside no matter what? Take your pick between the young and exciting Alvarez, and Stewart, or take both to spread out your risk.
Looking at the position as a whole is important – that’s the easiest way to see the overall offensive strengths around the diamond. But looking at the particular personnel and the particular strengths and weaknesses of the players near the bottom of your rankings is also a good way to plan your draft.
By Tommy Rancel //
While some fan bases prepare for a final month of playoff races, Pittsburgh Pirates fans are nearing the end of the franchise’s 18th consecutive losing season. This means the Pirates have been bottom dwellers for the entire life span of most high school seniors. However, we’re not here to focus on the past, but rather, the future. Namely, the future of Pedro Alvarez.
After years of misses at the top of the draft, the Pirates selected Alvarez in 2008. The former Vanderbilt teammate of Rays ace David Price is already a regular in the Pittsburgh lineup. Some questions remain about which side of the diamond he’ll play down the road, but for now, the 23-year-old the man at the hot corner for the Buccos.
Before signing his pro contract, Alvarez and his agent Scott Boras made plenty of headlines, In the end, though, he made his major league debut with relatively little hype. Despite lacking the media coverage of Jason Heyward (to say nothing of Stephen Strasburg) upon his debut, Alvarez has been one of this year’s most productive rookies, coming close to Heyward’s level of production.
Heyward has hit 14 home runs in 105 games, while Alvarez has smashed 10 bombs in just 60 contests. The J-Hey Kid is currently hitting a home run once every 27 at-bats, while Alvarez is averaging one every 21 ABs.
In addition to the home runs, Alvarez is doing an above-average job of driving in runs. The league average for driving in baserunners is 14%. Heyward is at 16%, Alvarez at 18%. An 18% baserunners scored rate rivals that of Evan Longoria, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Miguel Cabrera. If we were to expand his home run and RBI rate over a full season, we would be talking nearly 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
Of course, we only have about one-fifth of the season remaining, so full-season projections mean little right now. On the other hand, Alvarez could add another 5-7 home runs, and drive in another 15-20 runs over the final six weeks of the season.
Going back to the Heyward comparison, Hotbox.com says the Braves rookie is owned in 77% of leagues – while Alvarez is owned is less than 5%. If you need some production down the stretch in a deep mixed or NL-only league, make sure you sneak Alvarez onto your roster before the playoffs start.
For more on Pedro Alvarez and other talented rookies flying under the radar, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
by R.J. Anderson //
Baseball summers in Pittsburgh have largely consisted of apathy and agony since the departure of one Barry Bonds. This summer is a bit different from the past few, though.
General manager Neal Huntington is now adding players to the roster rather than subtracting and reshuffling. These players are worth noting because they’re all products of Huntington’s era, whether via trade or the draft. Clearly he feels they’re worth rostering right now, but should you? Let’s take a look.
SP Brad Lincoln
Drafted out of the University of Houston in the same draft that saw fellow collegiate arms Andrew Miller, Tim Lincecum, and Brandon Morrow also go top 10, Lincoln suffered a similar initial fate as most recent Pirates’ pitching prospects: He suffered an arm injury that delayed his progression through the system.
The 25-year-old has made two starts thus far, and it’s only 12 innings, but boy, what an ugly 12 innings they’ve been. He’s not missing bats or avoiding walks – his K and BB rates are identical at 3.75/9 IP, and his whiff rate is a low 3.8%. The good news is that Lincoln should be better than this moving forward. Throughout the minors he did a nice job avoiding walks, but had issues when it came to keeping the ball within the playing area (he averaged more than one home run per nine innings pitched). It’s hard to expect anything more than a league-average performance from Lincoln this year, but in NL-only leagues he’s worth a look.
OF Jose Tabata
Acquired in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte trade of summer 2008, Tabata is best known for his wife’s legal issues, and persistent questions about his age. He’s supposedly only 21 years old, which makes him among the game’s youngest major leaguers. Through 31 plate appearances Tabata holds a line of .259/.355/.444. That’s well above what one should expect from him when age and his Triple-A career .296/.358/.419 line are considered. Unless the idea is to try and catch lightning in a bottle, he’s probably not worth an add, outside of very deep keeper leagues.
3B Pedro Alvarez
And finally, the cream of the crop. Alvarez made his major league debut on Wednesday night. He bats lefty and plays third base – for now, at least – which gives him instant value. Prior to his promotion, Alvarez was hitting .277/.363/.533 in Triple-A, with 13 home runs in 278 plate appearances. Of the three players, it’s most difficult to be realistic in assessing Alvarez. Given his status as an elite prospect and draft pick, he very well could burst onto the scene in a fashion similar to Evan Longoria or Ryan Braun. Or he could take some lumps in his first major league taste, and be a more attractive option come 2011. Either way, he’s worth a grab, assuming he’s somehow still available in your league. If you have a FAAB budget, break the bank.