Archive for Sleepers

The Calm After The Storm

We don’t, and won’t, play in Fantasy Baseball keeper leagues that permit trades. Too much time-suck, too much rancor when the team in last place trades, say, Carlos Gomez to your main rival for, say, Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler, and neutralizes your impeccable draft planning and brilliant in-season maneuvering. But Reality Baseball itself is, of course, a keeper league that permits trades, and the run-up to the trade deadline is always pure entertainment.

But now the trading tsunami is over, the seas are once again calm, and here come the Birchwood Brothers in their trawler, dragging the bottom as usual for submerged exotica, and hoping the net brings up more than toxic oysters, dead toadfish, and sea lettuce. Mike Leake? Alex Guerrero? Shane Peterson? Even Mike Foltynewicz? Go to! All of those catches are too easy, and let’s toss them back and leave them for the weekend anglers to hook (although we admit it’s possible that the Braves, and hence Foltynewicz, won’t win another game this season).

No, we are interested only in the phosphorescent sea slugs that are too far below the surface to attract anyone’s attention but ours. And we think we’ve caught some. Here they are, in no particular order:

Tyler Holt, Indians OF. The promotions of Holt and Tyler Collins (who came very close to making the cut here) are significant, because they mark the first time that the population of MLB players named after the third-to-last slaveholding President of the United States has exceeded 1% of the total. But Holt makes it on the merits, too. Holt’s two-season (592 total PA) stats in Triple-A: .296/.378/.371, 40 SB, 9 CS. He’s very fast—his SB/CS numbers are very close to Jose Ramirez’s, and if you think that’s a criticism, check Jose’s MLB SB/CS numbers—and is a plus fielder in center field, too. The only thing blocking him there is the superannuated Michael Bourn, over whom Holt will be an improvement in every aspect of the game. Bourn, however, isn’t going anywhere, in either sense of the phrase, since he parlayed his superb 2012 season into a four-year, $48M contract that no one, including the Indians, now wants. So with the departure of Brandon Moss and David Murphy, Holt should really have become the Indians’ everyday right fielder. But their current bright idea is apparently to put Lonnie Chisenhall there, on the long side of a platoon with Holt, and we can almost understand, since it’s hard to give up on those first-round draft choices with power. Moreover, when Holt does start, he bats ninth, which isn’t the best way to use his speed. Even so: Bourn is just a sunk cost, and Chisenhall is Chisenhall, which means he’s capable of long slumps and his fielding may undo him. So it’s not impossible to see Holt winding up as the Indians’ full-time CF or RF, stealing some bases, scoring some runs, and producing a high OBP.

Bruce Rondon, Detroit RP. With Joakim Soria gone, the candidates for Tigers closer are Alex Wilson and Rondon. Wilson’s been great this year, but is a softish thrower and doesn’t strike people out. Rondon, conversely, has a triple-digit, but somehow very hittable, fastball. Yet Rondon’s got too much going for him to be passed up: 13.15 K/9 (a top-10 figure), a 2.54 FIP (right next to Chris Archer and Corey Kluber), and, most significantly, a bottom-10, .429 BABIP, which has no place to go but down. We think he’ll take over from Wilson as the Tigers’ closer at some point soon–and why not? Why wouldn’t the Tigers take a look at what they’ve got?—and do fine.

Aaron Sanchez, Toronto SP/RP. Sanchez began the season in the Blue Jays’ rotation and pitched well, contracted “upper body soreness” in early June, spent about 7 weeks on the sidelines, and has been near-perfect in four appearances as a set-up guy since his return. The prevailing wisdom is that he’s just a setup guy unless and until Roberto Osuna, the anointed closer, begins to struggle. Maybe so. But we think the Blue Jays are cannier. Their pickups of Mark Lowe and (we’re serious) LaTroy Hawkins suggest that they’re contemplating a bullpen with a Sanchezless future. Conversely, take a look at the Toronto rotation, even as supplemented by David Price. Can the Blue Jays really afford to have Drew Hutchison (1 QS in his last 9 starts) in their rotation? Not, we think, if they’re planning to make the playoffs, and Lowe and Hawkins free Sanchez to take over from Hutchison (or Buehrle/Garza/Dickey if anyone gets hurt). Make him a starting pitcher again on that team and he will have serious value.

David Holmberg, Cincinnati SP. Here is yet another starting pitcher—he was preceded by Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, and Josh Smith—summoned from Louisville to fill a hole in the Cincinnati starting rotation, which at this point has more holes than filling. We can’t figure Holmberg out, but we like him. He’s a lefty, and is, of course, described by scouts as a back-of-the-rotation type, but we suspect they didn’t mean the back of the rotation on a Triple A team, which is where he’s been for two successive subpar seasons. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, he doesn’t miss bats, and he doesn’t give up many fewer walks than the norm. And yet: Called up by the Reds last September, he had four consecutive excellent starts against contending teams; called up again last week, he just had another one against Pittsburgh. Over those five starts, he’s got a 2.12 ERA, which is roughly half of what he had at Louisville. Why is this happening—why is he a different pitcher in the majors than he is in the minors? Our answer lacks analytical rigor, and doesn’t satisfy us, but it’s the best we can do after reviewing his numbers: he rises to the occasion. In all of his starts, he’s put some men on base, but then, in those high-leverage situations, he doesn’t let them score. Maybe, when you’re a second-round draft choice pitching poorly in Louisville and wondering where your career’s gone, there aren’t enough occasions to rise to. Or maybe Holmberg’s run of good starts is a blip, and he turns into a pumpkin tomorrow. But we touted him on Twitter last week, and we’re staying with him.


Fantasy Stash Candidate: Rob Refsnyder

At this time of the season, it’s a good idea for those of you in deep leagues to have a couple of second-half sleepers on your roster. Seeing as I cover the second-base beat here at Rotographs, I’ve identified a promising youngster with the potential for significant playing time at the keystone going forward.

One of the crucial aspects of identifying these players is finding holes on major-league rosters. So, seeing as we’re talking about second base, let’s discuss the Yankees. The days when Stephen Drew seemed like a legitimate major-league baseball player seem like ages ago, as the hapless second-sacker has followed up last year’s hilariously inept .162/.237/.299 season with a not-much-better .178/.239/.372. At least he’s hitting some homers, but that still hasn’t been enough to make him even a replacement-level player.

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The Change: Hughes, Shoemaker, and The Limits of K-BB

Yes, the best in-season ERA estimator is strikeouts minus walks. You can use that tidbit to find a few sleepers in season, for sure.

But when you look at Matt Shoemaker and Phil Hughes right now, you realize there are perils when it comes to using the stat in the offseason. And really, you may start to see some of the limits of the stat even when it comes to in-season work.

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Stop Ignoring Cory Spangenberg

Over the last couple weeks, a 24-year-old former top-ten overall pick has been on fire. He has started 13 consecutive games, batting leadoff or second in 12 of those games. He slots in as the No. 6 fantasy second baseman in that stretch. Furthermore, he’s already third-base eligible in Yahoo leagues, making his sixth appearance (fifth start) of the season at third on Sunday.

On the year, this player is now hitting .262/.338/.431, with two homers and four steals. Sounds like a guy we should be jumping all over, right? Would you ever in a million years expect his ownership rates to look like this?

  • 6% Yahoo, 3.4% ESPN, 11% CBS

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Baltimore’s Second-Base Shenanigans Creating Unexpected Fantasy Options

Ever since Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop went down with a sprained right knee, manager Buck Showalter has been covering the keystone in some wonderfully weird ways. Without backup Ryan Flaherty — who hit the disabled list himself with a groin injury — Showalter turned to a couple of highly unorthodox options.

As Jeff Sullivan outlined last week, the Orioles called up natural second baseman Reynaldo Navarro, but used him sparingly before ultimately optioning him back to Triple-A on Friday. Instead, Showalter has relied on Jimmy Paredes — who had made just eight starts at second in his five partial major-league seasons — and first baseman/corner outfielder Steve Pearce, who had never logged an inning at the position in his 11-year professional career.

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The Change: New Pitches from Nelson, Eovaldi, Boxberger

Every year, pitchers add wrinkles in the spring. Most years, they forget them once they have to get batters out and the results count. In the case of today’s pitchers, though, we have three guys that found a new thing and stuck with it when the calendar switched to April. The results weren’t uniformly amazing for each of them, but a third pitch might mean wonders for misters Jimmy Nelson, Nathan Eovaldi, and Brad Boxberger.

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The Change: My Team Names, My Guys

You can tell a lot about a person from their team names. Well, with mine at least, you can probably tell I’m a writer. Because they’re all stupid puns. Seems like a must in the writer community, but I almost feel forced to take something about myself or my players on my team and turn it into a silly phrase. That’s how this collection of team names happens.

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2015 Spring K% Surgers & Breakout Candidates

So, it’s been a busy preseason and I had a list of all the articles I wanted to publish before the season officially began. Unfortunately, I failed. And as a result, Eno beat me to the punch. But I’m going to do it anyway. A whole three years ago, with help from math wizard Matt Swartz, we discovered that spring pitcher strikeout and walk rates actually do hold value and using them could improve projections, even if just marginally. This was validated recently by another math wizard, Dan Rosenheck. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at which pitchers enjoyed a strikeout rate surge during spring training.

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2015 Pod’s Picks: Outfield

Yesterday, I opened 2015 Pod’s Picks season with my infield bullish and bearish selections. Today I’ll finish my look at hitters by moving into the outfield. The bullish group will only include those I ranked within my top 60 and the bearish only players the consensus ranked within their top 60.

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Round Up The Unusual Prospects

If you’re like us—we sincerely hope you aren’t, but if you’re reading this blog, you probably are—your soul is suffused with the sickness unto death as you contemplate how microscopic the attention you pay to baseball events must be if you hope to succeed in any moderately sophisticated Fantasy Baseball league. First, of course, you have to know how the players everyone knows and cares about are doing. Thus, it will matter to you when you see a headline like “Sean Doolittle plays catch.” We know that this fact has a measure of real-world significance that, say, “Khloe Kardashian plays catch” or “Mitch McConnell plays catch” doesn’t. Still, we keep expecting to see follow-ups: “Sean Doolittle walks the dog.” “Sean Doolittle takes his kids to P.F. Chang’s.” Nonetheless, we care. And just to set the record straight: Doolittle doesn’t have kids, or a spouse, though he does have a famously hot girlfriend.

And then, of course, you need to be completely familiar with the resumes and futures of guys that normal people haven’t heard of. We won’t insult you by telling you who Bruce Rondon is, because you already know. But believe us, there are plenty of hard-core baseball fans (as opposed to Fantasy addicts) who don’t. Read the rest of this entry »