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The Major League trade deadline may have passed, but that does not mean that players can no longer be traded this season. Instead, the waiver wire process will shortly begin and there will be more players on the move. Typically the players on the move have bad contracts, which allows them to surpass the waiver process or a team will claim a player and a trade will be negotiated. Here’s a look at five players who will likely be on the move:
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Orioles– This potential hall of famer is riding a 6-game hit streak, batting a respectable .284 with 9 home runs. He leads the league in chase rate (swinging at pitches out of the strike zone) and his numbers are way down across the board, but he has playoff experience and could help a team down the stretch as a hired bat. It would not surprise me to see him rejoin one of his past two teams: the Rangers or the Angels. The Yankees also could make a move for their former nemesis by putting him in the DH slot, though this is unlikely with Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez now healthy to support Jorge Posada. The White Sox would be the dark horse considering they are not getting anything out of Adam Dunn.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros– An underrated strikeout artist, it’s been another fine season for Wandy Rodriguez. A 32-year-old hurler, this southpaw is durable and could be a solid third starter for a playoff contender. He always has an ERA under four and he was involved in some trade chatter with the Yankees just a few weeks ago. If a playoff contender suffers an injury in the starting rotation, Rodriguez could be the first player targeted.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs– At 35 years old, Soriano’s best days are in the past, but he does have four home runs over his last four games and now 19 dingers on the season. His OBP is disgraceful at .283, and he leads the league in chase rate. With his awful contract, he will clear waivers, and at that point could end up getting traded if the Cubs are willing to eat some of his contract in a swap of bad contracts. It would be interesting to see him reunite with the Yankees, or join a team desperate for outfield production such as the Tigers or Braves.
Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs– Another bad contract on the Cubs, Zambrano does have 8 wins and is riding three quality starts. He does have ace ability, which we saw that as recently as the end of last season. So a team desperate for a third starter may want to consider the Cubs volatile hurler, though they would have to be willing to take on a few years of potential mayhem. The Yankees, White Sox, and Tigers are potential landing grounds.
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros– The veteran slugger is 0 for his last 19, dropping his average to .267, but he does have 60 RBI and 41 extra base hits on the season. The same teams that will go after Soriano will also consider this 25-year-old. The only question is whether he will veto a move considering his 10/5 rights. Known as El Caballo, Lee is a rancher who wants to stay close to his home in Texas.
by Eno Sarris //
Strikeouts are up across baseball. Well, if you look at strikeouts per nine, that’s not necessarily true. The average K/9 this year is 6.98, last year it was 7.13 and the year before it was 6.99. But all three of those numbers are higher than the previous three years. And if you look at strikeouts as a percentage, as Christina Kahrl did on ESPN Insider today, they are up. Probably because walks are down. This year’s 2.21 K/BB ratio is the highest of the last seven years.
Anyway, it looks like pitching has taken a step forward. FIP, or fielding-independent pitching, is down to 3.84 around the league after at least 15 years of being over four. What does this mean for fantasy purposes? Easy: trade pitching for hitting because you can find pitching on the wire.
Let’s look at Wandy Rodriguez. He has a 3.88 FIP right now, and is striking out 7.33 batters per nine. He gets 45.6% of his contact on the ground, barely above the 44% average. His 2.6 BB/9 is good, but as the average walk rate has improved to 3.16 this year, it looks less exciting against the backdrop of the league. His 3.25 ERA right now is just about as exciting vis-a-vis the league (13% better than average) as his 3.60 ERA was last year (9% above average). He’s looking like the new average fantasy starter in mixed leagues.
Going into the season, my personal projections had Rodriguez going for a 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 12 wins and 189 strikeouts. With his injury, the strikeout total might not come true, but going into the season, the package was worth $11.20 when compared to the replacement-level pitcher, Jorge De La Rosa and his projected 4.13 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 168 strikeouts in 176 innings. That doesn’t look like the replacement-level pitcher this year. This year’s FIP is 6% better than last year’s. If we move the replacement level about 6% higher, that takes a $1 off of Wandy’s value.
All of this is to set up a conversation about the relative value of Wandy Rodriguez in a trade. Say you’re trying to get out in front of a possible trade to the Yankees and you want to capitalize on a player that might not know that pitching is more abundant this year. If you can sell him at $11 and get someone like Jayson Werth or Corey Hart in order to bolster your speed and power, it might make a lot of sense. Even at $10, more Andre Ethier and Nick Markakis territory, you might have to consider it.
After all, there’s more pitching on your wire this year, and we’ll be here to help you find it.
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By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Wilton Lopez
How does a pitcher who doesn’t strike out batters at an average rate for relievers (6.72 K/9, reliever average well above 7 K/9) become the best reliever in his pen? Lopez did it by not walking anyone (five all year, or 0.67 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground (55.7%). Those aren’t always the traits of a great closer – managers love the strikeout – and so Lopez may not be fantasy-relevant in most leagues. But if your league counts holds, or you are looking for a reliever to keep your ratios down, remember this name.
Biggest Bust: Bud Norris
If you’re looking for strikeouts, Norris could be your man; if he could pick up some of that control from Lopez through osmosis, he’d be a veritable ace. He struck out more than a man per inning (9.25 K/9), and that’s valuable. But he struggled to locate his secondary stuff, and his walks spiked as a result (4.51 BB/9). Given that he’s also a flyball pitcher (41.4% groundballs for his career), he’ll really need to cut down on the walks to fulfill his promise in the starting rotation.
2011 Keeper Alert: Wandy Rodriguez
Rodriguez struggled out of the gate (4.97 ERA, 1.52 WHIP before the All-Star game), but a fine second half brought him back to upper-echelon levels (3.60 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). Though his strikeout (8.22 K/9) and walk (3.14 BB/9) rates were the worst he’s shown in three years, they were still strong. He’s a little older than you might think (32 next season), but in the short-term he’s still a good keeper on a staff mostly devoid of young keeper pitching. J.A. Happ, for instance, strikes out more than a full batter fewer than Rodriguez, and usually walks at least a half-batter or more than him too.
2011 Regression Alert: Felipe Paulino
Paulino is a little like Bud Norris in that he can strike a batter out (8.15 K/9 last year), struggles with control (4.52 BB/9 last year), and put up a stinker of an ERA in 2010 (5.11). But Paulino may have an easier time harnessing his stuff. In his first 100 major league innings, he walked fewer than 3.5 batters per nine innings, and even after a poor second 100 innings, he’s got a manageable 3.89 BB/9 for his career. As a flyballer, he’ll always be a little vulnerable to the gopherball. But look for that unsightly ERA to improve next year if his control settled toward career norms.
By Tommy Rancel
Wandy Rodriguez joined the ranks of baseball’s elite starting pitchers in 2009. The Houston Astros left-hander went 14-12 with a sparkling 3.02 ERA in 33 starts in 2009. He also struck out 193 batters while topping 200 innings (205.2) for the first time.
Those are impressive numbers for any pitcher, but there is reason to believe Rodriguez can duplicate those numbers in 2010, and maybe improve them.
There is a lot to like about Rodriguez’s game. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate is 7.5, but he has posted back-to-back seasons over 8.4. In each of the past two seasons, Rodriguez has lowered his walks per nine (BB/9) and stabilized his home run rate to less than one home run per nine innings (HR/9) – no small feat in the cozy confines of Minute Maid Park.
In addition to his swing-and-miss stuff, Rodriguez gets his fair share of ground balls. He owns a career ground ball rate (GB%) of 43.5%. In 2009, he elevated that number slightly to 44.9%. Rodriguez had a rather normal batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .306 last year, despite some below-average fielding behind him. Looking at ultimate zone rating (UZR), Miguel Tejada, the Astros’ shortstop last season, had the lowest UZR (-13.9) of any National League shortstop. Second basemen Kaz Matsui was rated a bit higher, but his UZR (-1.7) was still in the red at season’s end.
With Tejada now at third base for the Baltimore Orioles, Houston will turn to rookie Tommy Manzella at shortstop. What? Who? Good questions.
Manzella is a slick-fielding shortstop who has toiled around the upper levels of the Astros minor leagues for the past few seasons. Recently, ESPN.com writer Tim Kurkjian noted that Manzella’s defense has been major league-ready for years, but only now is the 26-year-old getting his shot. Over the past few seasons in Triple-A, he has rated above average defensively by totalzone, a metric similar to UZR.
With Manzella projected to be the team’s every-day shortstop, Rodriguez could see his BABIP creep closer toward .300 and maybe even lower. A lower BABIP could knock Rodriguez’s already stellar 3.02 ERA down below the 3.00 level.
Despite the solid control rates (K/9, BB/9) and the favorable batted ball data (GB% and HR/9) some might say Rodriguez is a one-year wonder; Bloomberg Sports disagrees. Looking at B-Rank, Rodriguez is slotted one spot ahead of fellow lefty, and traditional fantasy baseball stud, Johan Santana.
Though Santana is behind in B-Rank, his average draft position (ADP) of 37.1 is nearly 74 spots ahead of Rodriguez (110.6). Bloomberg Sports projects Rodriguez to go 13-10 with a 3.11 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 197 innings this season. The same system projects Santana at 14-10 with a 3.31 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 193 innings.
While Rodriguez should benefit with improved defense from Manzella, Santana is likely to start the season without two of his best defenders behind him: Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. Given the projections, the noted defensive changes, and the 2009 injury to Santana, Rodriguez is not only the better value, but could be the better pitcher outright in 2010.
Why waste a third-round pick on Santana when you could get similar, if not better, production from Rodriguez later? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of paying more for less.
information on Wandy Rodriguez and other top-flight starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.