Kicking Rocks: Free My Rookies!

My primary keeper league is a 15-team, mixed roto league where we start two guys at each position with six outfielders and nine pitchers.  We draft our starting roster and then have just two opportunities  — the final week of April and mid-May — to fill out a 10-player bench from the free agent player pool.  That’s it.  No other time.  There’s no streaming of pitchers throughout the year unless you roster a few on your bench and there’s no waiting to pounce on a rookie on the waiver wire once he gets called up.  You need to know in March who is going to get called up, regardless of whether it’s mid-season or September.  The first month and a half is all about knowledge and foresight.

So because it’s a keeper league, I like to target a group of rookies who I think will, not only be fantastic long-term keeper options, but who will also make an impact this season.  It’s a win-now mentality while also preparing for my team’s immediate future.  I don’t worry about the Manny Machcado’s or the Dylan Bundy’s.  They may be great at some point, but they’re too far off to stash away as bench spots are too important to the present season and with wacky pricing for protects, they’d be too expensive to hold all that time.  I go for the guys who have a sweet-looking path to the majors this year and will be highly coveted major-leaguers by the end of the season.

But while planning for the future is great, it can also be incredibly frustrating when you have to sit and wait for an organization to make a call that you believe to be so easy and so obvious.  I lose the ability to maneuver players in and out of my active roster because I have this one group of guys just sitting on my bench laying in wait.  Can’t do anything with them, can’t drop them.  And my patience is wearing thin.  They are ready to be called up.  Everyone knows it.  And the longer an organization waits, the worse off I am for this year.

Why is Anthony Rizzo still down in Triple-A?  What more does he have to do right now?  Are 13 home runs and a 1.125 OPS through 157 plate appearances not enough?  Sure, his cup of coffee last year with the Padres was a disaster, but he needs to get the opportunity to try again.  There’s nothing left for him to do down there.  I know Bryan LaHair is raking right now, but are you getting that great of production from your corner outfielders that you can’t move one out, slide LaHair to the outfield and put Rizzo at first?  You can’t tell me that it’s Alfonso Soriano’s defense that is keeping him there, can you?  Make a move, Cubs!!  You’re killing me here.

And what about this lame duck effort the Rockies are getting at third base these days?  Jordan Pacheco has a slash line of .250/.286/.375 and Jonathan Herrera’s is .246/.292/.393.  Combined, they have two home runs and six RBI and defensively, there’s nothing special about either.  Where’s my Nolan Arenado?  He plays some solid defense and has a bat that easily surpasses either of these two tomato cans.  True, he’s only batting .290 with a .348 on-base percentage down in Double-A, but with just a 15.3% strikeout rate, solid plate discipline, and ISO numbers that scream potential, he needs to start advancing.  We’ve seen guys make the jump from Double-A before, Colorado.  Stop settling for mediocrity when you can have one of the hottest young up-and-comers rocking the hot corner for you!

Hey Arizona!  Don’t walk away from me here!  You sure about that back-end of the rotation?  Wade Miley might look okay for now, but where is he going to go once that BABIP shoots north where it belongs and he starts giving up the long ball again?  Patrick Corbin?  He’s throwing junk out there and it’s just a matter of one or two more starts before that 5.73 ERA starts to balloon.  And don’t even say the name Josh Collmenter.  Give me some Trevor Bauer and that tasty 11.17 K/9!  I mean, more ground ball outs than fly ball outs and 60 strikeouts in 48 innings?  Dance that out onto the main stage for me and show me a good time.

Or how about my most recent pick-up, third baseman Josh Bell?  Yeah, still looking at you Arizona.  He’s ripping it up in Triple-A right now with a .398/.443/.627 slash line, just a 15.5% strikeout rate and a solid 9.3% walk rate.  Oh yeah, and how about a fat ol’ .229 ISO which is right in line with what he’s done in the past?  Ryan Roberts was a one-hit wonder and come on….Cody Ransom?  How long do you think that’s going to last?  He’s Cody freakin’ Ransom!  The future is now my friends.  Opportunity is knocking and you’re still asking, “Who is it?”

It’s time to infuse the big leagues with more youth.  If the success of players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout isn’t enough to convince you, then I don’t know what more you want.  I don’t care if I sound like Veruca Salt clamoring for my golden goose right now.  You won’t be referring to me as the petulant child if I’m right, will you?  Well guess what?  I’m ready for you to prove me wrong.  Bring them up already and we’ll find out together.  In the meantime, all this dragging your feet that you’re doing is killing my chances in this league right now.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

30 Responses to “Kicking Rocks: Free My Rookies!”

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  1. CabreraDeath says:

    I’m not sure pointing to the success of Trout or the (relative) success of Harper thus far is a strong argument for bringing up other prospects, some of whom aren’t even prospects anymore (re: Josh Bell).

    Two uber-prospects having success, including one that hasn’t been *that* great, has nothing to do with whether the names you propose will have similar success. While those ahead of Rizzo/Arenado/and Bauer are struggling, their struggles have no bearing on whether an individual organization thinks their prospects are ready. Once you start promoting based on need and failure of others, you sometimes can ruin the guys you most want to develop and protect.

    I presume you are speaking in some hyperbole in this article, but I think your arguments for promotion are misplaced and not as strong as other available ones.

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    • R M says:

      Seriously, if you feel the need to tear apart a free fantasy baseball article online, you need more going on in your life.

      I enjoyed the article.

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      • R M says:

        This wasn’t supposed to be a reply. Woops.

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      • Biff says:

        I think he just wanted an excuse to sound intelligent by using words like”thus, uber, presume and hyperbole”. When is the last time you heard those words used in a sports article?

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      • juan pierres mustache says:

        id have to go back and actually read his articles, but i’d bet that simmons has hit all of those in the last, say, month or so

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  2. Woohoo says:

    I’d like to kick a different rookie-related rock, namely that some sites (looking at you, yahoo) have some MiLB players in the general player pool but others not until they get called up to the majors. Like, why can I add Dylan Bundy to my team but not James Paxton??

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    • James says:

      If the players are on the 40 man roster then they’re in Yahoo’s system prior to the season.

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      • Johnny Come Lately says:

        That’s not exactly true. I emailed them about this. They add a certain number of “high profile” minor leaguers to their player pool before the season. There’s no way to change this, even if you set your league until “wait until called up to the majors”. It’s not related to being on the 40 man roster.

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  3. Scott says:

    Ah, Kicking Rocks, the column where Howard Bender tells big league clubs how to run their operations to maximize benefit for his fantasy team. How is this stuff still allowed on this site?

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    • KJ says:

      because you clicked on it, read it (most likely), and commented on it.

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      • Scott says:

        That’s a strategy for Dan Shaugnessy’s employers. Fangraphs hasn’t relied on this schlock to get its readers.

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    • Scott says:

      I can’t stop there. Let’s try out some quotes:

      “…are you getting that great of production from your corner outfielders that you can’t move one out, slide LaHair to the outfield and put Rizzo at first? ”
      -Yes, Theo – are you really satisfied with playing players at their natural positions and watching them build their trade value? Are you ok with letting your young first baseman develop in AAA? Jesus, Howard Bender has a league to win!!! Who cares where you think your players are best suited??

      “We’ve seen guys make the jump from Double-A before, Colorado. Stop settling for mediocrity when you can have one of the hottest young up-and-comers rocking the hot corner for you!”
      -Let’s get this straight: Bender admits Arenado isn’t hitting the cover off the ball, but then claims he needs to come up NOW!! Because guys have done it before!! Screw super 2!!! Howard Bender has a league to win!!

      “In the meantime, all this dragging your feet that you’re doing is killing my chances in this league right now.”
      -And all this irrational complaining is killing my chances of clicking another article by Howard Bender.

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      • Howard Bender says:

        ::sigh::

        Come on, Scott. Let your hair down a little and try to have some fun. Not every article has to be steeped in numbers and statistical analysis, does it?

        Fantasy baseball is a game that we play, last I checked.

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      • Scott says:

        Hey Howard-

        Thanks for the reply. I’m sure a lot of writers would have cursed me under their breaths, so it’s cool you responded. And it’s not that I am anti-fun; it’s that I always thought Fangraphs was a place for those of us who got our fun from a more rational analysis of the game. This doesn’t preclude humor (FJM embodied all that I love about Fangraphs and more). But my contention is that your piece inverts the relationship between fantasy baseball and MLB. The goal of a good fantasy owner is to evaluate the real game and use that knowledge to succeed in the fantasy game. It seems that you want the real game to bend to your knowledge (or at least are having fun with that idea).

        Yes guys, this site is free. Yes guys, fantasy is a game. But our discourse doesn’t have to be as pointless as our fantasy teams. Look at Jeff Zimmerman, for example – fantasy analysis heightened to a level from where it can shine light on real world scenarios (like his series on velocity). Or Sarris and Cistulli, who can integrate humor and pop culture without sacrificing baseball IQ. Or Dan Szymborski’s chats, which are hilarious and informative at once. The two need not be mutually exclusive. Now commence ripping me.

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      • Howard Bender says:

        All three authors that I love to read and follow. Jeff’s statistical analysis is first-rate and Eno and Carson are, well….Eno and Carson.

        The purpose of the Kicking Rocks series is to voice the frustration and lamentations of the everyman fantasy owner, be it strategies that have failed, managerial decisions that negatively affect their fantasy team, whatever. We’ve all sat around and said some silly things with respect to our fantasy teams and while some are truly serious about their gripes, plenty of others can find the humor in their angst.

        Do I really think the Rockies should ignore things like SuperTwo status and just bring up a kid? No, of course not. If they did and it helped my fantasy team? Well, I would love it as a fantasy owner but chide the organization for hurting itself in the real baseball world.

        The series also used as a way for the readers to relate and vent their frustrations from their own leagues. I’ve done Kicking Rocks articles about bad trade offers and just last week, about trade bullies that readers have abundantly commented on to share their own experiences.

        Now that I’ve explained the joke, I feel like I’ve diminished it in some way. But we’ll see what I come up with next week….

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  4. lbkjkk says:

    Ummm, Scott, did you accidentally end up in the ROTOgraphs area of the Fangraphs site?

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    • Steve Balboni says:

      Right, Scott, this is ROTOgraphs where the topic is gaming, and the topic of this series in particular is the teeth-grinding frustration and yearning in said gaming.

      Maybe Appelman could start a new blog-line for pompous, clenched jerkiness where you would find a home, or just try Notgraphs.

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  5. Casey says:

    Bauer was promoted to AAA just now

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  6. brownie says:

    Yes this Scott guy seems way to bitter. This article was clearly written tongue in cheek while still giving some fun info. Im suprised at how angry people are for being forced to read roto articles in the roto section of the site. Howard, While you have had to suffer with a shortened bench for the first 6 weeks, which 2 of these jamokes would you say has the biggest shot to make an impact sooner rather than later?

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    • Howard Bender says:

      Jamokes? Grandpa? Is that you?

      No, wait……he preferred knucklehads.

      If I had to pick two that stood the best chance right now, I would say Rizzo and Bauer. Rizzo is hitting far too well for them to leave him down there. I’m sure the Cubs are still pushing behind the scenes to try and move Soriano still. As for Bauer, I thimk if he shines in Triple-A then he’ll force the call-up. I’m definitely concerned about Daniel Hudson’s shoulder and think that it could be an issue down the road. Then it’s just a matter of Miley or Corbin to falter. Figure with them and Joe Saunders one day waking up and remembering that he’s Joe Saunders, Bauer gets a shot sooner than later. Late June maybe? Just after the All Star Break?

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  7. pags140 says:

    You may be a petulant child with all your whining, but would that make you a “fortunate son” if these changes were made?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec0XKhAHR5I

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  8. Mike says:

    I’m with you Mr. Bender. I’ve had Rizzo and Arenado on my NL only team for about a month and I’m getting a little impatient. I don’t have bench spots so I have to watch them put up zero after zero. Of course that’s better than the “production” I was getting from the guys I replaced (Casey McGahee and Paul Goldschimdt) who hurt my team in batting average and helped me in nothing.

    I’m thinking about adding Bauer and dropping AJ Burnett. What do you think?

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    • Howard Bender says:

      Tough to handle more zeroes in your lineup right now, but if Bauer continues to pitch well now that he’s in Triple-A, he could get a call sooner than later. If you are willing to sacrifice the first half which I can’t really recommend, you are setting yourself up for one helluva second half.

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  9. Rob says:

    I have more of a problem with players being called up and sitting. Like Van Slyke, Tyler Moore, and Jerry Sands. the way Baker let Mesoraco and Cozart rot last year when they were out of it, and his criminal use of Chapman. Davey Johnson giving a lot of playing time to Nady and Tracy “needing time to get their bats started” Parnell and/or Rauch watching Francisco close/blow games.
    Just an all over rant but Baker, Johnson, and Mattingly are the worst managers of young talent, or at the very least the most frustrating.

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  10. Al in NJ says:

    I’d love to see these guys like Rizzo advance and get to the MLB already but we all know these owners like to play it cheap. These arsholes are trying to avoid a Super 2 designation on the player by calling him up early in the year. Hate the baseball politics involved with prospects but hey that’s the cruel part of the business.

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  11. Max says:

    Bell got called up. 1 down. 3 to go.

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  12. JJ says:

    Bauer and rizzo freed in the same week. It’s line Christmas for my fantasy team.

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  13. Steve says:

    You’re being a little harsh on Arizona… on Roberts too. He’s not a fantastic 3B by any means, but he gets one base and has a little pop. I’m almost disappointed they let him go, but I guess Bell has his chance to shine now. Miley will regress but he’ll maintain a 3.60 to 3.70 FIP in my opinion. Thats valuable.

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  14. Reverend Jim says:

    Care to take back those comments on Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin?

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