Author Archive

Who is Wei- Yin Chen?

The Baltimore Orioles’ rotation was a disaster in 2011, ranking dead last in the major leagues in innings pitched, ERA and FIP as highly-touted young arms like Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman crashed and burned. The O’s and new GM Dan Duquette signed Japanese starter Tsuyoshi Wada last month, and now they’re looking to the Far East for another lefty in hopes of improving those dismal numbers in 2012, signing Wei- Yin Chen of Nippon Professional Baseball to a three-year contract.

Born in Taiwan, Chen pitched the past four years for the Japanese Central League’s Chunichi Dragons but had an opt-out clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent at age 26. Now that he’s coming stateside, what can we expect from Chen? Let’s take a closer look at his stuff and stats.

Read the rest of this entry »

Viciedo Time in ChiTown

As Paul Swydan outlined earlier this month, the White Sox are stuck in the middle. The South Siders are in an unenviable kinda-sorta-maybe rebuilding mode, having traded away Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin but also extending John Danks and being saddled with commitments to the likes of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios that make Disco Demolition Night look like a sage decision by comparison. Unable to totally blow things up, they’re stuck clearing payroll and roster spots for young players where they can.

While the White Sox lack many (any?) blue-chip talents, the man replacing Quentin in right field, Dayan Viciedo, should be on your radar. Viciedo is young, powerful, increasingly selective at the plate and will benefit from taking aim at the U.S. Cellular Field bleachers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Bailey: Boston’s New Closer

The Boston Red Sox picked up a Jonathan Papelbon replacement on Wednesday, acquiring Andrew Bailey (and Ryan Sweeney) from the Oakland A’s for Josh Reddick and prospects Raul Alcantara and Miles Head. The five-player swap has plenty of fantasy implications for both Boston and Oakland, so let’s briefly break down the big storylines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Edinson Volquez: 2012 Value Pick?

Back in 2008, Edinson Volquez shone near as brightly as any young starter in the game. The 24-year-old, acquired from Texas the previous winter for Josh Hamilton, used his low-90s heat and devastating changeup to post a 3.21 ERA and 4.2 Wins Above Replacement in nearly 200 innings. Since then, however, his standing has dimmed considerably. Volquez succumbed to Tommy John surgery in 2009, got slapped with a 50-game PED suspension in 2010 and got lit up and demoted to the minors in 2011. He has been worth just 0.8 WAR over the past three years, with a 5.01 ERA in 221 frames.

It seems odd, then, to suggest that a pitcher coming off three lost seasons could be a bargain in 2012. But Volquez still has strikeout stuff and shouldn’t have near as much of a problem keeping the ball in the park next season as he did in 2011, especially with his move west to Petco as part of San Diego’s haul for Mat Latos. If Volquez can at least show passable control — particularly against lefties — he could provide a nice return on investment in the later rounds on draft day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bryce Harper and Teenage Slugging

Sometime soon, Bryce Harper will be hittin’ bombs and blowin’ kisses as the Washington Nationals’ right fielder. But could “soon” actually be this spring? The most hyped prospect in draft history might have actually exceeded expectations at age 18 during his first pro season, hitting .297/.392/.501 with 17 home runs between the Low Class-A South Atlantic League and the Double-A Eastern League in 2011. And, according to Amanda Comak of The Washington Times, Nats manager Davey Johnson seems eager to get Harper’s 80-grade power in his lineup:

Read the rest of this entry »

Gamble on Erik Bedard

Most of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offseason moves have been met with a snicker. Rod Barajas? At least we’ll get to see the pierogie race earlier, with him getting out so quickly. Clint Barmes? Isn’t that a pseudonym for “Expensive Ronny Cedeno?” The Erik Bedard signing seems fit for ridicule, too. Looks like Charlie Morton will have a rehab buddy.

But that last one’s not really fair. Pittsburgh paid little for Bedard’s services — just $4.5 million, with $500K in possible incentives — and he’s coming off his best, healthiest season since he finished fifth in Cy Young balloting with the Orioles back in 2007. The Bucs went for upside with Bedard instead of giving similar dough to the Chien-Ming Wangs and Aaron Harangs of the world, and you should do the same even if it means absorbing a few potshots from your league buddies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rafael Betancourt: Elite Closer?

The Rockies parted with Huston Street at the GM meetings on Wednesday, trading him to the Padres for a player to be named later. The move saves Colorado $7 million that they hope to put toward acquiring a durable starter or a third baseman, but the reason the Rox were comfortable swapping Street is that they have a top-tier reliever ready for a shot at the closer’s spot. While Rafael Betancourt has to look over his shoulder at the likes of Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle and Matt Lindstrom, he’s got all the skills necessary to rank among the game’s best stoppers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Divine Intervention: Brad Mills Traded to the Angels

Save for San Diego, it’s hard to envision a more heavenly landing spot for a pitcher like Brad Mills than the Angels. An extreme fly ball lefty prone to whiplash, Mills bombed in three brief big league trials with Toronto, could be out of minor league options if he doesn’t qualify for a fourth option year and only stood a chance of making the Jays’ roster as the human equivalent of a white flag, a long reliever. But, after being swapped to L.A. for out-maker extraordinaire Jeff Mathis, Mills has the perfect blend of pitcher’s park, weak competition, strong outfield D and opportunity to succeed in the majors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Gordon in 2012

Bust. Injury-prone. Waste of money. Entering the 2011 season, Alex Gordon was burdened by all of these labels. The Nebraska Cornhusker stud, a Golden Spikes Award winner, number two pick in the ’05 draft and career .321/.438/.578 hitter in the minors, struggled with quadriceps, hip and thumb injuries early in his MLB career and batted just .244/.328/.405 from 2007 to 2010. Moved off third base in deference to Kansas City’s new hot-shot hot corner prospect, Mike Moustakas, Gordon was an afterthought fighting to prove he was still worthy of being in, much less anchoring, a big league lineup.

That all changed during his age-27 season. Gordon stayed healthy while living up to his minor league dossier and former #2 overall prospect status from Baseball America, swatting pitchers for a .303/.367/.502 line in 690 plate appearances. His offensive surge during a season in which run-scoring once again declined meant that his bat was 41 percent better than average (141 wRC+), compared to seven percent worse than average from ’07 to ’10.

The question now, of course, is whether Gordon is here to stay as a .300+ hitter and all-around offensive threat. Was his torrid 2011 a sign of things to come as he’s in what are typically a hitter’s peak seasons, or will he be overvalued in 2012 by euphoric owners who overlook warning signs that his sudden turnaround was too good to be true? The truth likely lies somewhere between those two extremes — Gordon did indeed make progress at the plate, but expecting him to replicate his 2011 season would be a good way to end up disappointed in 2012.

Read the rest of this entry »

Luis Valbuena: Toronto’s Starting 2B?

While some of you were eating leftover turducken or going all Mortal Kombat on someone for a waffle iron this past weekend, the Blue Jays slipped some cash Cleveland’s way and picked up a potential starting second baseman in Luis Valbuena. Valbuena, 26 this week, had no shot at meaningful playing time while stuck behind Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, and he has done his best Juan Castro impression at the plate in the majors. But in Toronto, he might get the chance to make good on his big Triple-A numbers if free agent Kelly Johnson cashes in with a multi-year deal elsewhere.

Read the rest of this entry »