Archive for Depth Chart Discussions

The Red Sox Infield: What’s Up, Stephen Drew?

When Boston won the 2013 World Series (spoiler alert!), many pundits anticipated the reality that the team would look very different in 2014. Expiring deals for key cogs like Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia made that the case. And yet, on the verge of the 2014 season, the Red Sox infield has many familiar faces.

Except, of course, at shortstop. The Red Sox don’t seem to have a concrete plan there, which is a strange position for a defending champ to be in during spring training. How this all shakes out will matter a great deal to fantasy owners, so it bears watching. Read the rest of this entry »


Baltimore Orioles Rotation: Nothing But Question Marks

It had been a relatively quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles, but they’ve recently turned up the heat by signing Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz and right-hander Suk-min Yoon over the past week. It’s been a flurry of moves that has personnel ramifications throughout the roster. However, perhaps the most significant addition comes in the starting rotation with former All-Star hurler Jimenez.

The rotation has proven to be an  a problem for the Orioles in recent years. No team has trotted out a worse collection of starting pitchers than the O’s over the last half-decade. Their 4.87 ERA and 4.82 FIP are the highest in Major League Baseball over that time frame. They’ve accumulated the highest home-run rate, the lowest ground-ball rate (which makes sense, considering the home-run rate) and the second-lowest strikeout rate. In short, it hasn’t been pretty and Orioles fans deserve a medal of some sort for coping with such dreadful pitching.

The organization is hoping to turn it around in 2014, though. The addition of Ubaldo Jimenez, the improvement of Chris Tillman, and the maturation of Kevin Gausman are all supposed to help right the ship. Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris all simply need to not take on water, and the rotation has a decent chance at being league-average. Considering the potent lineup that now adds Nelson Cruz to the mix, the Orioles only need their starters to be average to compete for a postseason berth.

Of course, that’s not something on which I’m comfortable betting as draft day rolls around this spring.

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The Orioles Infield

The Baltimore infield gave us quite a few fantasy relevant options last year. They had a player finish inside the top 12 at every position other than second base, and Chris Davis emerged as a complete stud. Their four fantasy relevant guys will return to their positions, but there are some questions about whether they’ll be able to repeat their value from last year.

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Rays Infield 2014: More of the Same (In a Good Way)

With the exception of catcher, the Rays bring back the entirely same infield unit from the 2013 season. It’s a fantastic group defensively, but for all intents and purposes there are only two strong fantasy factors.

The Starting Unit

1B James Loney (2014 Steamer Projection .271/.328/.398 | .316 wOBA)

Loney is not one of the strong fantasy factors, though his rebound last year was nothing short of, well, what the Rays do with guys like him. To that end, re-upping with the Rays might have been the smart move. The .299/.348/.430 line from last year is nice, if a bit short on thump for a first baseman, and doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Loney was awesome in the first half (.315/.366/.466), and rather pedestrian in the second (.276/.322/.378). More befuddling yet is that he had a .291 wOBA at home (.261 BABIP), and a .385 mark on the road (.391 BABIP). Projection systems seem to think Loney’s slated for a bit of a bump, but to me there are a lot of entanglements here. My guess is the Rays view him as a +2.5-3.0 win first baseman — largely because I think his defense is viewed in a more positive light than metrics suggest — and that a little regression offensively can be withstood as long as he doesn’t fall back into the 2012 abyss. For my money, he has to hit more like 2013 — or his 2014 Oliver — to even merit back-end consideration in deep leagues. Read the rest of this entry »


Boston Red Sox Outfield Depth Chart

Jacoby Ellsbury takes his shiny new ring and shiny new contract to don what are ostensibly shiny new pinstripes, leaving the Boston Red Sox with a differently named center fielder on opening day for the first time since Coco Crisp played there in 2007. But the old out/new in truism certainly applies here as Ellsbury leaving creates new opportunities for fantasy baseball enthusiasts at a position I’m not finding particularly deep in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »


The Mets Outfield: Damn the Torpedos?

Now would be a good time to talk about the Mets outfield, both because spring training convened in full this week, and because manager Terry Collins made comments last Friday that may throw a wrench into otherwise well-laid plans.

A week ago, before the team made any concrete decisions regarding 2014, the most sensible solution looked to be defensive whiz Juan Lagares in center field, big ticket free agent signing Curtis Granderson in one of the corner spots, Chris Young in the other, and some combination of Eric Young, Jr. and Lucas Duda serving as reserves or injury replacements. That was before Collins met with the media Friday afternoon and offered this:

So where does that leave things as we head into spring training, and what does that mean for fantasy owners?

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The Red Sox Rotation

I didn’t spend the time to click through each team in the Steamer projections, but I’m guessing the Red Sox are one of few teams, if not the only team, to have the five guys projected to pitch the most innings each be projected for 2+ WAR. They may not have an elite starter, but their rotation has nice depth.

Although not elite, Jon Lester isn’t a bad first option. He’s going on six straight years of 190+ IP, and he topped 200 IP in five of those six years. From 2008 to 2011 he coupled the workhorse inning totals with a sub-3.50 ERA. But the wheels came off in 2012. He lost velocity, and his ERA ballooned up to 4.82 while his strikeout rate fell to league average. Luck also played a part in the down year as his HR/FB rate was about four points higher than his career average, which contributed to a career low strand rate that was about seven points below his career average.

Not that we should have seen such a blow up coming, but the signs were there in 2011 that Lester was in decline. His strikeout rate had hovered just above 26% in the two years prior to 2011, but it fell to 22.8% that year. That contributed to the highest ERA (3.47) of that four year stretch and the first time in three years that his SIERA was above 3.50. At that point it was probably safe to assume that a slow decline had begun. Given that Lester’s ERA finished at 3.75 last year, maybe we should have expected to land in the 3.60 range in 2012 if all else had been equal. Read the rest of this entry »


The Yankees Infield

The Yankees have cobbled together a strange team, and the infield most strongly personifies this strangeness. New York is seemingly counting on three players who scarcely played last season due to injury and another who is new to his position (aside from 118 innings last season). Stephen Drew remains on the market and would seemingly solve a lot of problems, but it sounds like the Yankees are uninterested.

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The New York Yankees Outfield: Old and Improved

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are the New York Yankees and they are still the face of American baseball. They are about winning, they are about hardware (or bling if that’s the word you prefer) and they are all about the big market spending. But we’re not here to judge right now. Whether you think this year’s plundering of the free agent market was more Brittney Spears “Oops, I did it again,” or more Urkel “Did I do that?”, it doesn’t matter, because this is the fantasy baseball section of FanGraphs and that’s what we’re talking here. Our assignment is to tell you who is in this team’s outfield and what that means to fantasy owners, so let’s bypass the small-market, crybaby tantrums and let’s talk game. Read the rest of this entry »


Blue Jays Rotation: Standing Still On The Speedway

The answer was probably not “stand pat.”

The Toronto Blue Jays had an incredibly disappointing 2013 season, coming in well below expectations. While part of it was statistical anomaly – not often will so many players have sub-par seasons simultaneously – it turns out that parts of the team had been overrated entering the season. Hindsight, and all that.

So when the Jays rotation ended up 26th in total value based on Wins Above Replacement, 29th in ERA, 28th in FIP and 28th in innings pitched, many expected the Jays to fortify the sizeable investment they made the prior offseason.

But one of the longest MLB Trade Rumors tags has borne little fruit. Josh Johnson is out and replacing him is…still to be determined. Any improvement from the staff will have to come from in-house, a scary proposition considering that the team’s would-be-appreciable depth is really just a large competition at the back end masquerading as a plethora of options. After the top two names, it’s a whole lot of question marks, leaving the excellent Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans to throw his hands up at the entire mess:
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