Archive for August, 2009

Fantasy Links — 8/31/2009

There are two baseball games already underway and another 10 on tap for tonight. Let’s hit some fantasy links as the season rolls on…

Getting amped for September call-up season? So are we, and so are others. Charlie Saponara of FantasyBaseball365.com thinks Cameron Maybin’s defense could earn him some playing time in Florida’s crowded outfield down the stretch. Maybin has been a disappointment on the major league level thus far, but, as Saponara notes, there’s reason to think he could steal a few bases in September.

Knox Bardeen of AOL Fanhouse thinks the Diamondbacks may roll with a closer-by-committee in the wake of Chad Qualls’ knee injury, with Juan Gutierrez getting most of the chances and a combination of Clay Zavada and Esmerling Vasquez filling in the gaps. “You may want to avoid the Diamondbacks closer situation all together,” Bardeen writes, “and grab either Mike MacDougal or Leo Nunez from the waiver wire.Andy Behrens of Yahoo! Sports calls Gutierrez “the add,” noting that he averages a closer-like 94.9 MPH average velocity on his fastball.

Bardeen also takes a quick look at the fantastic (and vastly underrated) season that Angels first baseman Kendry Morales is piecing together. The Halos deserve a pat on the back for pulling out of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes last winter and going with the 26-year-old Morales. A .283/.331/.509 career hitter, he is batting .311/.355/.593 this season.

Rotoworld’s Aaron Gleeman believes Zack Greinke is headed for his first Cy Young Award. As Gleeman notes, “He leads the AL with a 2.32 ERA, six complete games, three shutouts, and a 1.08 WHIP while ranking behind only Justin Verlander with 202 strikeouts and second to only CC Sabathia with 190.1 innings.” Even with his lack of win potential, Greinke remains a top fantasy arm down the stretch.

Grey over at Razzball ranks MLB’s closers in tier format. His top dogs for the home stretch? The Twins’ Joe Nathan, the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon, the Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez and the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton. The Cardinals’ Ryan Franklin heads his second group of ninth-inning stoppers.

Have a link, question or comment you’d like to share? Shoot me an e-mail or find me on Twitter.


Week 22 Two-Start Pitchers Update

Here is the latest update to Week 22 two-start pitchers. Again this list is subject to change going forward.

Pitchers not listed on last update

BOS – Lester
COL – de la Rosa
CIN – Cueto
MIN – Blackburn
CLV – C. Carrasco

Pitchers from Friday no longer scheduled for two starts

BOS – Wakefield
OAK – Cahill
TEX – Nippert
TOR – Tallet
CIN – Lehr
CLV – Huff
COL – Fogg
MIN – Gabino

Lester has just one decision in his last six outings but has put up a 2.97 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 39.1 innings in that span. Overall, Lester has been pitching better this year than a season ago both by FIP (3.10 – 3.64) and tRA (3.46 – 4.52) but has neither the wins nor the ERA from last year.

de la Rosa has experienced feast or famine recently. He has five Quality Starts in his last eight games and missed another by 1/3 of an inning in an outing where he allowed 0 ER and struck out nine. But in the other two games he permitted 13 ER in 11 IP. Overall de la Rosa remains a good start with 12 W already and a 9.20 K/9 mark.

Cueto is slated to be activated from the disabled list in time to start in Game Two of the Reds’ double header versus the Pirates. Cueto had been sidelined with a sore shoulder. He started the season on fire, going 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA but was 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA in his final eight games before hitting the DL.

Blackburn had an 8-4 record on July 10. Since then he has lost five consecutive decisions and has an 8.22 ERA over eight starts. Just further proof how hard it is to succeed in the majors with a low strikeout rate. Blackburn has a K/9 of 3.79, which is the second-worst mark in the majors.

Carrasco, one of the players acquired from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee trade, is slated to make his major league debut after going 5-1 at Triple-A Columbus following the deal. Carrasco has a good fastball and a plus pitch with his changeup. He pitched into the seventh inning in five of his six starts for Columbus and had 7 BB and 36 Ks in 42.1 IP.


Joe Serafin’s Underdog Story

Chances are you have never heard of Joe Serafin, a pitcher in the minors with the Kannapolis Intimidators, the low-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. But if Serafin ever makes it to the majors, his story has all of the makings of a Hollywood movie.

Everyone always makes a big deal out of Mike Piazza being a 62nd-round draft pick. Today, the draft does not last that long; still the odds of someone making the majors after the first 10 rounds are slim. The White Sox picked Serafin on the 37th round this past June, the 1,123rd player taken overall.

Furthermore, Serafin was a fifth-year senior. In his final college season he went 4-7 with a 6.26 ERA. And it is not like Serafin was at one of the elite programs. He graduated from the University of Vermont, a program which has sent just 12 players to the majors, only two of which started their careers after the end of World War II.

Perhaps the most famous University of Vermont baseball alum was the last one from the school to reach the majors – Kirk McCaskill. Regardless, Serafin has a chance to be the final Catamount to play in MLB. Vermont AD Robert Corran announced in February that the school was dropping its baseball program following the 2009 season, which was the 110th season the school had a baseball team.

“We found out the week before we left for Vanderbilt to play our first weekend games,” Serafin told Tim Hayes of the Bristol Herald Courier. “Our [athletic director] came out, he’s a big hockey and basketball guy, and read off a piece of paper … It was a very emotional year.”

Another thing adding to the mystique around Serafin is his size. Depending upon the source, he is listed at either 5-10 or 5-11, a height he might reach if he donned some 1970s platform shoes. Serafin resembles someone much more likely to be at a Phish concert than at a Donna Summer show, so his choice of footwear probably had little to do with his “official” height.

This year at Kannapolis, Serafin has an impressive 4.00 K/BB ratio. But before you think of him as a Billy Wagner clone, Serafin does not even crack 90 with his fastball.

“I don’t throw my fastball very hard so I can’t blow it by people,” Serafin told the News and Record. “Up here I’ve been keeping it down in the zone, moving it in and out and hitting corners, which has really led to my success.”

After the draft, the White Sox assigned him to the rookie level Appalachian League and installed him in the bullpen. He got off to a hot start and won the loop’s Player of the Week Award honors by pitching five scoreless innings with six strikeouts in his first two professional games.

That got him into the rotation, where he went 3-1 in five starts with a 1.93 ERA. Once the White Sox executed the Jake Peavy deal and traded away four pitchers, including Dexter Carter, a spot opened up at Kannapolis and Serafin found himself in full-season ball. Saturday night’s win, in which he allowed just 1 ER in 7 IP, upped his record in the South Atlantic League to 3-1 and he has a 7-2 mark overall in his first season in pro ball.

“Since joining the White Sox I have continued to be the same crafty lefty who hits my spots and changes speeds with my curveball, and sometimes a good change up,” Serafin told Shane Bufano of the Vermont Sports Network.

“One day in Bristol during a bullpen (session) my pitching coach taught me how to throw a sinker/2-seam fast ball that tails away and sinks from a right handed hitter. This new pitch allows me to get ground balls in 2-0 counts and I throw it mostly with runners on base to give my infielders a chance to turn a double play. It has been very successful so far.”

The low minors are littered with soft-tossing college pitchers who post good strikeout numbers. Historically, Double-A is the level which weeds out most of these players.

Yet there is a lot to like with Serafin, who has already overcome many obstacles in his career. An undersized lefty, a late bloomer, a low draft pick from a school which no longer plays baseball and a soft tosser all rolled into one.

The only question is who will play him in the movie.


Stock Watch: 8/30

Stock Up

Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Ever hear the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut? Well, McCutchen is the legume uncovered during the otherwise comedic/tragic tenure of former Pirates GM Dave Littlefield. The 11th overall selection in a stunningly deep 2005 draft class, McCutchen has hit the ground running in the majors. He’s batting .293/.362/.500 in 337 PA, showing power (.207 ISO, 10 HR) that belies his 5-11, 170 pound frame and well surpasses his minor league dossier.

The 22 year-old is working the count rather well (9.6 BB%, 18 K%), chasing 21.6% of pitches out of the strike zone (25.1% MLB avg). McCutchen has also been a smart, efficient base thief, with 15 swipes in 18 attempts (83.3% success rate). Couple the quality bat and high-percentage running with ample range in center field (+10.4 UZR/150), and you have a franchise pillar who has racked up 3.2 WAR since his early June call-up.

Ervin Santana, Angels

Is Santana turning his season around? There’s reason to believe so. Not that Ervin has been his dominant 2008 self this month, but he has allowed 12 runs in 33 August frames, holding opponents to a .250/.338/.408 line. Santana’s ’09 campaign has been plagued by injuries (a partially torn UCL and a forearm strain) and a consequent loss in velocity (after firing 94.4 MPH bullets and 84 MPH sliders in ’08, Santana’s overall fastball velocity sits at 91.8 MPH in ’09, with an 82 MPH slider).

However, his stuff does seem to be trending up as of late. His average fastball velocity is up to 92.3 MPH in August, and the pitch has been moderately effective after a disastrous showing earlier:

Santana’s Runs/100 pitches value with his fastball, by month:

May: -4.49
June: +1.12
July: -2.59
August: -0.13

(note: these linear run values are dependent on things like BABIP and HR/FB rate. In the case of a guy like Santana, his BABIP was in excess of .350 during the first three months, meaning those numbers shouldn’t like quite as bad as they do).

John Smoltz, Cardinals

Smoltz’s good processes and awful results with the Red Sox spurred countless discussions on just how we can more properly evaluate pitching performance.

The easy, lazy narrative on Smoltz following his run of drubbings with Boston was, “he’s old, injured and washed up.” But his underlying numbers suggested that he was still capable of performing at the highest level.

Latching on with St. Louis, Smoltz has made two excellent starts to begin his Red Bird career (a combined 11 IP, 15 K, 1 BB and 1 R vs. San Diego and Washington). While clearly promising, Smoltz’s two dominant outings don’t declare “he’s back” any more than his brutal Boston stint announced “he’s done.”

I’m obviously in the more optimistic camp when it comes to Smoltz’s future, but declaring “I told you so” after two starts would be even more foolish than coming to the conclusion that he was washed up following his Boston tenure. In other words, it’s just best to avoid knee-jerk reactions based on a small smattering of playing time.

Barry Zito, Giants

By this point, saying that the immense financial commitment that the Giants made to Barry Zito through at least 2013 was unwise is like beating a dead horse. Frankly, it’s more like beating glue. But, the calls for the club to outright release the left-hander are hyperbolic to the highest degree. That Reign of Terror-like bloodlust (“off with his head!”) might make for headline-generating copy, but it would also be a terrible financial decision.

Zito isn’t worth nearly $20M per season; we get it. But that doesn’t mean he’s worthless, either. In 2009, Barry has posted his lowest FIP (4.20) since 2003, with his highest K rate (6.93) since ’02 and his lowest walk rate (3.49) since ’04. His vaunted curveball (+2.49 runs/100 pitches thrown) is in the black run-wise for the first time since 2005, and Zito’s slider (+2.24 runs/100) is also getting the job done.

Overall, Zito has been worth 2.2 WAR, which equates to about $9.8M worth of value. Yes, that falls well short of how the Giants are compensating him. But severing ties for the mere sake of satiating the scribes would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Rajai Davis, Athletics

A 28 year-old speedster originally drafted by the Pirates, Davis has gone from DFA’d Giant during the spring to everyday center fielder for the A’s. A plus defender and an adept base stealer (29 for 37 in ’09), Rajai could be a viable starter if he can avoid stinking up the joint at the plate.

While Davis’ gifts afield and on the bases are apparent, we don’t exactly know what to expect from an offensive standpoint. He was relatively patient in a productive 2007 season (10 BB%, 19.4 O-Swing%), an unabashed hacker in a letdown 2008 campaign (3.6 BB%, 36.2 O-Swing%), and he has essentially split the difference in 2009 (7.8 BB%, 30.9 O-Swing%). If Davis can work the count and get on base at a reasonable clip, he’s a perfectly acceptable regular and a person of interest in fantasy circles. If he reverts to chasing off the plate and in the dirt, he’s Willy Taveras.

Stock Down

Johan Santana, Mets

At this pace, Mr. Met will be inserted into the New York lineup by mid-September. Santana is just the latest in a staggeringly long line of Mets casualties, as he’s done for the season following arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Something was clearly amiss with the ace southpaw, as his K rate plummeted after a dominant April and May and his fastball velocity dipped into the 80’s (89.5 MPH in August). What’s Nelson Figueroa’s WAMM (Wins Above Mr. Met)?

Hank Blalock, Rangers

The 28 year-old Blalock once looked like a building-block player for the Rangers (he posted 5.3 WAR in 2003 and 4.4 WAR in 2004). Since then, not-so-hammerin’ Hank has compiled 2.5 WAR. Combined. Injuries have assuredly played a part, but Blalock’s plate patience has progressively eroded:

2007: 9.2 BB%
2008: 6.9 BB%
2009: 4.7 BB%

Hank’s wOBA has dipped from .383 in ’07 to .317 this year. And now, he’ll grab some pine as Chris Davis gets another chance to, well, stop hitting like Blalock.

Bobby Parnell, Mets

Forced into the depleted Queens rotation, Parnell has been hammered for 24 runs in 21 innings as a starter. The 6-4, 200 pound righty (a 9th-round selection out of Charleston Southern in 2005) boasts a low-to-mid-90’s heater with good movement out of the ‘pen, but middling control and questionable secondary offerings call into question his viability as a starter. There’s certainly no harm in trying to figure out if the soon-to-be 25 year-old can handle lineups multiple times (all but two of his appearances in the minors came as a starter), but he appears to be Mike Pelfrey, with worse control.

B.J. Upton, Rays

Let me preface this by saying that I remain a big believer in Upton. The 2nd overall pick in the ’02 draft just turned 25. And at one point or another, B.J. has shown every skill required of a superstar player. He has popped extra base hits (.209 ISO in ’07), has generally worked the count very well (11.7 BB% career), can swipe plenty of bags (he’s on pace for over 40 this year) and has acclimated himself to center field after his nomadic “shortstop, no second baseman, no third baseman” experience.

With strong D, Upton has still been a valuable contributor this season (2.1 WAR). But from a fantasy standpoint, he has been a disappointment. B.J.’s walk rate is down to 9.5% after a career-best 15.4% in ’08. Upton’s relative power outage in 2008 (.128 ISO) was largely attributed to a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery and sidelined him early in ’09, but his ISO this year (.129) hasn’t climbed. His first-pitch strike%, just 55.2% in 2008, is up to 62.1% in 2009 (58.2% MLB average).

The overall package of tools remains tantalizing, and Upton’s down 2009 could actually present an opportunity to buy low in 2010. But, owners who invested a high draft pick back in March are surely bummed out.

Aaron Harang, Reds

Harang’s 2009 season is over, following an emergency appendectomy. And with that, three-fifths of Cincy’s rotation (Cueto, Volquez and Harang) has hit the shelf during the summer.

The popular narrative for Harang cites the massive change in his won-loss record from 2007 (16-6) to 2009 (6-14). Oh, how the mighty have fallen. But how much has Harang really declined? Not that much, when viewed through the scope of Expected Fielding Independent ERA:

2006: 3.89 XFIP
2007: 3.81 XFIP
2008: 4.39 XFIP
2009: 4.00 XFIP

As a fly ball-centric pitcher in a ballpark that inflates home run production considerably, Harang and Great American Ballpark go together like peanut butter and tooth paste. But he’s still largely the same guy who performed so admirably from 2005-2007.


Morales Mashing in L.A.

Quick: raise your hand if you thought that Kendry Morales would be outslugging the man he replaced, Mark Teixeira, as the 2009 season entered its final quarter. Unless your name is Mama Morales, you’re either psychic or a compulsive liar.

Sure, Teixeira has been the better player overall, as a large advantage in on base percentage (.381 for Tex, .354 for Kendry) gives him a .393 wOBA to Morales’ .387. But the gap has been astoundingly small, given what most preseason projections envisioned:

Morales’ pre-season wOBA’s, by projection system:

Bill James: .340
CHONE: .327
Oliver: .333
ZiPS: .325

The league average wOBA is around .335, and pretty much every projection pegged the switch-hitting Cuban import as straddling the line between average and below-average. No system forecasted him for an OBP higher than James’ .327, and the highest slugging percentage portended by the four was also James’, at .456 (anecdotally, the James projections always seem to be rather optimistic for hitters).

And keep in mind, we’re talking about a position in first base where offensive might is not just a nice extra: it’s a job requirement. In 2008, the average first baseman posted a .352 OBP, with a .463 slugging percentage. The average of those four projection systems gave Morales a .331 wOBA, while the league average first baseman posted roughly a .360 wOBA (using an estimate of 1.75 X OBP + slugging percentage, divided by three, to convert OBP and slugging to wOBA). Over the course of 600 plate appearances, Kendry was thought to be 15 runs below average compared to the average first baseman.

The 26 year-old entered the year with a spotty major league track record, including a .249/.302/.408 line in 407 plate appearances from 2006-2008. Morales’ minor league line (.332/.373/.528) looks more promising, but it did come with a few caveats. Salt Lake (the AAA affiliate of the Angels) is a favorable offensive environment, inflating runs by 6 percent and homers by 7 percent as compared to a neutral ballpark, and Morales walked in just 5.4 percent of his PA at the AAA level.

Courtesy of Minor League Splits, here are Morales’ Major League Equivalencies from his ’06 to ’08 Salt Lake slugging:

2006: .261/.289/.410
2007: .278/.318/.383
2008: .276/.303/.427

Suffice it to say, Morales has made a mockery of those numbers, authoring a robust .309/.354/.587 triple-slash in 494 PA. He certainly hasn’t been some model of patience at the plate, walking in 7.2% of his PA and swinging at 31.2% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (25.1% MLB average). But, Kendry also hasn’t resembled some Francoeur-level hacker with an eyes-to-ankles strike zone, either. Morales is making a good deal of contact, with an 18.4 K% and an 89.1% contact rate on pitches within the zone (87.8% MLB average).

Has Morales been lucky on balls put in play? Not especially, according to Derek Carty’s simple expected batting average on balls in play calculator, which uses AB, HR, K’s, SB’s, grounders, fly balls and pop outs in addition to line drive percentage to spit out an XBABIP. Morales’ actual BABIP is .325, and his XBABIP is .317.

Kendry has cranked a homer on 17.8% of his fly balls hit, a rate which ranks in the top 25 among qualified hitters, and his .278 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) places 9th amongst qualified batters. He’s handling fastballs (+0.87 runs per 100 pitches seen) and changeups (+1.67 runs/100) well, but throw him a yellow hammer at your own peril (+5.29 runs/100 against the curveball, tops in the majors).

Going forward, it would probably be wise to expect some degree of regression from Morales (ZiPS’ rest-of-season projections peg him to hit .296/.333/.510 the rest of the way). But, it’s rather difficult to poke any large holes in his 2009 campaign. He’s just beating the snot out of the baseball.

Morales is an example of why baseball is such an exciting (or, depending on your viewpoint, frustrating) sport. We had heaps of objective information that suggested he would be kind of a drag on L.A.’s playoffs hopes. Instead, he’s going 5-for-5 with a pair of dingers for a first-place club. Kendry might not be this good, but he putting to rest concerns that he wouldn’t meet the bar at baseball’s pre-eminent power position. Who knew?


Kazmir as an Angel

We’ve taken a shot at predicting the fantasy value of position players in new digs, and now it’s time to see what a Tampa Bay pitcher can do in the city of Angels.

Scott Kazmir leaves a park in Tampa Bay that is relatively kind to fly ball pitchers and has averaged a .916 park factor for home runs over the past three years. His new home is less forgiving (a 1.01 park factor for big flies over the past three years), something that a pitcher who has recently been giving up more fly balls will not appreciate.

Then again, Kazmir will be leaving the tough American League East and heading to a division with two of the worst offenses in baseball. He might enjoy that more if he didn’t own good records against the Red Sox (8-7, 3.59 ERA) and the Yankees (6-4, 2.53 ERA). On the other hand, he’s had a good run against the AL West, too (12-6, sub-3.10 ERA). In any case, if he takes the fifth starter spot in Anaheim, Kazmir will have some nice matchups in the beginning of September (@SEA, vsSEA) before ending on a rough note (vsCWS, @TEX, vsNYY, vsTEX).

The problem with using his old cumulative records is that Kazmir is no longer the pitcher he used to be. That has to be the reason behind the Rays’ trade, as well. They’ve seen the reduced velocity (he’s lost over two MPH on all of his offerings, and four MPH on his changeup), they’ve noticed that he’s been hurt more often these past two years (150 innings last year and on pace for a similar total this year), and they think they’ve gotten the best of this young pitcher (over $70 million in value over the past five years, against only about $5 million in salary) and were ready to move on before he got more expensive than he was worth. Kudos to them.

A lot has been made of the decline of his slider, which has gone from a plus pitch to a minus one in his five years in Tampa. He’s had arm troubles this year and last, and the slider often gets blamed in times like these. In the end, though, the real concern should be with his fastball, which was one of the best pitches in baseball the last two years and is now a negative. It’s lost velocity, and he’s seemingly lost confidence in the pitch, as he’s throwing it less. Just look at his usage rate of the fastball in recent games. He’s not throwing his fastball with authority and that’s the real issue here.

It’s not likely that Kazmir will suddenly regain his lost form this year. Amazingly, he seems to be fulfilling the prophecy that Jim Duquette fell back on when criticized for his Scott Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano disasterpiece. Kazmir is a relatively small guy for a pitcher (6’0″, 190), and now he’s looking like the oft-injured pitcher Duquette thought he might be. On the other hand, the Mets probably could have used those last five years of good production Kazmir gave the Rays.


Interesting Week 22 Two-Start Pitchers

Everyone is happy when one of their pitchers is scheduled for two starts in a week. But that is not always a good thing. Here are five pitchers you may be on the fence about (or should be on the fence) putting into your lineup for Week 22.

Trevor Cahill – In his last four starts, Cahill has a 2.33 ERA and a 1.037 WHIP. He is not a strikeout threat but could help in the other three categories this week. Cahill has two home starts and he has notched five of his seven wins this season at McAfee Coliseum.

Clayton Richard – His ERA is a disappointing 5.22 since being traded to the National League but he has had just one bad outing in five games for the Padres and carries a 3-1 record. Uncharacteristically, it has been poor control doing him in, as he has allowed 20 BB in 29.1 innings for San Diego. Still, I like him this week in a home start against Washington and a road matchup against the Dodgers and Vicente Padilla.

Jonathan Sanchez – There is a lot of pitching talent here, as the strikeouts and the no-hitter will attest. But he is 2-8 with a 4.81 ERA on the road this season and he has starts this week at Philadelphia and at Milwaukee, against two potent offenses. If you have the pitching depth, see if you can bench Sanchez this week.

Tim Wakefield – In his first start back from the disabled list, Wakefield got a no-decision despite a strong outing. He allowed just one run in seven innings against the White Sox. This week, Wakefield has two road starts, including a return engagement against the Chi Sox. I dislike return matchups against a team a pitcher just handled, so I would keep Wakefield on the bench this week.

Jarrod Washburn – In five starts for the Tigers, Washburn has one good outing, one okay performance and has been hit hard the other three times. He has a home-and-home matchup against the Rays and I expect at least one outing for the Rays to have their way with the veteran lefty. Keep Washburn on the bench this week if possible.

Other scheduled two-start pitchers in Week 22 are listed below. Please remember that these are projected pitchers and changes can and will happen between now and next week.

J. Vazquez, J. Johnson, Burnett, Harden, Hammels, Oswalt, Jackson, Floyd, Wolf, Shields, Pineiro, Wells, Danks, Pettitte, Holland, Pelfrey, Saudners, D. Davis, A. Sanchez, G. Gonzalez, Maholm, Looper, Hochevar, Guthrie, Padilla, Rzepczynski, Fister, Hudson, L. Hernandez, Nippert, Petit, French, Cecil, Tallet, Lehr, Stauffer, Huff, Fogg, Gabino, Wells.

Check back Sunday for an update of two-start pitchers.

Now, I would like to take a step back and provide some accountability for previous picks. There needs to be a two-week time lag because last week’s pitchers have yet to complete their second start. So here are my selections for Week 20 and how they did.

Carmona – Advised to sit. W, 3.00 ERA, 12 Ks, 1.50 WHIP (2 starts)
Parra – Advised to sit. 7.71 ERA, 3 Ks, 1.93 WHIP (2)
Perez – Advised to start. W, 15.88 ERA, 4 Ks, 2.12 WHIP (2)
Price – Advised to start. W, 3.75 ERA, 9 Ks, 1.33 WHIP (2 starts)
Richmond – Advised to start. 5.14 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.29 WHIP (1)


Fantasy Links — 8/27/2009

There are a couple of day games set to get underway around the baseball world. Let’s dive into some fantasy links before the action starts.

Matt Stroup of Rotoworld likes the Rangers’ Chris Davis, the Cardinals’ John Smoltz and, surprisingly, the Rays’ Pat Burrell in this week’s version of “Waiver Wired.” Burrell, as Stroup notes, is 14-for-35 (.400) since receiving two days off in mid-August with a sore neck. He has mashed two homers and seven RBI in that span, and is available in most fantasy leagues.

Charlie Saponara of Fantasy Baseball 365 takes note of the possible fill-ins if closers Chad Qualls and Trevor Hoffman are moved before the August 31 waiver trade deadline. “Though there is a better chance that nothing happens than a trade actually being made (both GM’s would expect a decent return), we should be prepared to add replacement closers should something go down,” writes Saponara.

Eric Cunningham of RotoTimes.com is still monitoring platoon situations throughout the league, including the Rangers’ catching depth and the Cardinals’ interchangeable outfield.

R.J. White of AOL Fanhouse thinks Cole Hamels may be righting the ship, using the left-hander’s impressive outing against the Pirates Wednesday night as evidence. “Hamels actually has been better than his ERA and WHIP indicate, as he now has 126 Ks versus just 33 BBs this season,” writes White. “I’ll take that K/BB ratio from my pitcher any day, as nine times out of ten, the ERA and WHIP will be sparkling.

Alex Geshwind of Fantasy Bullpen is ready to discuss the 2010 fantasy baseball season (must be a Cubs fan), and begins with a look at the catching position. Here’s an interesting question he poses: “Is Joe Mauer a first-rounder?”

Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! Sports reviews the status of closers around the league, including the frustrating developments in Philadelphia. In case you’ve lost track, Brad Lidge now has nine blown saves and Ryan Madson, his likely backup, has blown five. “Madson is in the middle of a strong campaign (3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) so there’s no need to pile on with him,” writes Pianowski, “but you have to wonder if the Phillies will try to get creative as they angle for the playoffs.”

Have an article or column you think others would like to see? Shoot me an e-mail or find me on Twitter.


Minor Impacts: August 27

Every Thursday throughout the season, Minor Impacts takes a look at some of the hottest minor league players that could have impacts at the Major League Level in the near future. With the end to the minor league season less than a month away, many of the players we’re looking at now will be making their impacts in early-to-mid 2010. Some of the players we’ve educated you on before their promotions include: Vince Mazzaro, Andrew McCutchen, Gordon Beckham, Alex Avila, Brian Matusz, Marc Rzepczynski, Jake Fox, Nolan Reimold, Daniel Bard, Bud Norris, and Mat Latos.

Chris Carter: Oakland’s Chris Carter is an interesting prospect. A look at his numbers show massive potential with a double-A line of .334/.433/.567 in 485 at-bats. He had 40 doubles and 23 homers, as well as 106 runs driven in – the second time he’s topped 100 in as many years. Carter also maintains a solid walk rate (14.3 BB% in ’09) and he trimmed his strikeout rate by six percent over last year (30.8 to 24.3 K%). The 22-year-old first baseman also stole 13 bases in 18 attempts and recently earned a late-season promotion to triple-A. On the downside, Carter had a .404 BABIP in double-A, which is highly unsustainable. As well, scouts have questions about how well his swing will work in the Majors and he has a lot of trouble hitting breaking balls. Carter also does not have a defensive home. Despite a strong arm, he is average at best at first base due to poor hands. He’s also been tried at third base and right field, with little success. Carter is basically a designated hitter who should hit a bunch of homers and take his fair share of walks while hitting .260-.280 and piling up the Ks in the Majors.

David Lough: It’s been another depressing year in KCville. Top hitting prospects like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have underwhelmed. However, the Royals have seen a few players step forward, such as Jeff Bianchi, Jordan Parraz, and Lough. An 11th-round selection out of tiny Mercyhurst College in 2007, Lough has really played well this year after a so-so first full season in pro ball in 2008. Beginning 2009 in high-A, the left-handed hitter posted a line of .320/.370/.473 in 222 at-bats. Since moving up to double-A, Lough has continued to hit well with a line of .332/.371/.537 in 190 at-bats. The Ohio native has enough speed to steal 15-20 bases and gap power that could produce 10-15 homers. He does a nice job making contact and has the chance to be a .300 hitter in the Majors. Unfortunately, he does not walk nearly enough (5 BB% in 2009) but he keeps the strikeouts to a respectable level (14 K% in ’09). With a .119 average versus left-handers in double-A, Lough has a lot of work to do if he wants to avoid being platooned at the MLB level.

Chris Pettit: This Angels prospect has shown solid skills over the past few seasons but he just can’t stay healthy. Signed as a college senior out of Loyal Marymount University, Pettit has made the most of his solid-average abilities and he now projects to be a solid fourth outfielder and occasional starter. The right-handed hitter is a lefty killer with a line of .400/.509/.670 against them in 100 at-bats in 2009 at triple-A. Overall, Pettit has a line of .325/.383/.488 with 26 doubles and 16 steals in 326 at-bats. He does a nice job of keeping the strikeouts at bay with a rate of 15.4 K%, but his walk rates have decreased as he’s moved up the ladder (7.3 BB% in ’09). Defensively, Pettit can play all three outfield positions.

Jaime Garcia: The Cardinals organization has been absolutely snake-bitten when it comes to developing pitching prospects over the past 10 years. Southpaw Garcia was on the cusp of securing a big-league role in 2008 when he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Control was never a huge strength of Garcia’s, but it’s looked pretty good in seven post-surgery appearances – especially considering that command and control usually suffer afterward. Still just 23, the Mexico native has plenty of time to re-firm-up his plus breaking ball. He could find himself back in the Majors by mid-2010 with the potential to be a No. 2 or 3 starter for St. Louis.

Jeremy Hellickson: This right-hander has officially passed both Jacob McGee and Wade Davis as the top pitching prospect in the Rays system. It took a little while for scouts to warm up to Hellickson because he’s not as flashy as the other two pitching prospects but he is a better all-around pitcher and far more consistent. The 22-year-old hurler began the year in double-A and allowed 41 hits in 56.2 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 2.22 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.85 K/9. Since a promotion to triple-A, he’s allowed 24 hits in 35.1 innings. He also has a 3.06 BB/9 walk rate and a 9.93 K/9 strikeout rate. Hellickson has a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 mph, as well as a curveball and changeup. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. Pitching is still a strength in the organization with Matthew Moore, Nick Barnese, and Kyle Lobstein also blazing through the system.

Trystan Magnuson: Magnuson was a bit of a surprise supplemental first round draft pick in the 2007 draft, as a fifth-year senior at the University of Louisville. With multiple picks in the first few rounds, though, the Jays organization needed to save some money and it felt Magnuson would move quickly through the system. Shifted to the starting rotation in 2008 at low-A, the right-hander struggled mightily. Moved back to the ‘pen in 2009, Magnuson pitched pretty well in high-A and received a late-season promotion to double-A, which is where he should begin the 2010 season. At the rate that the Jays organization goes through pitchers, he should get a MLB shot next year if he continues to improve. Magnuson, 24, has a fastball that can touch 94 mph out of the bullpen, as well as a good (but inconsistent) slider. He also gets his fair share of worm-burning outs, and Toronto loves its ground-ball pitchers.

Robbie Weinhardt: Toronto loves ground-ball pitchers and Detroit loves its flame-throwing relievers. The organization grabbed five college relievers in the first 10 rounds of the 2008 draft with the hopes that they would provide quick relief in a system that significantly lacked pitching depth. Ryan Perry (1st round) has established himself in the Majors, while Brett Jacobson (fourth round) was used to acquire Aubrey Huff in a recent trade with Baltimore. Weinhardt, the fifth reliever taken by the Tigers (10th round), has been perhaps the second most impressive reliever taken by the Tigers in the ’08 draft. Beginning 2009 in high-A, he allowed 24 hits in 31.2 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 2.85 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 11.37 K/9. Moved up to double-A, the right-hander has allowed 20 hits in 25 innings of work, while allowing a walk rate of 3.96 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.36 K/9. Weinhardt has a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 mph, as well as a changeup and slider. He looks like a future set-up man.


The Other Chris Carter

When you share a name with perhaps the most powerful man in the minor leagues (Oakland’s Chris Carter), and you have been toiling away for the past three years in one of the deepest organizations in baseball, your can disappear pretty quickly. But Boston’s Chris Carter may be on the way to New York in the Billy Wagner trade, and it’s possible that regular playing time finally awaits Carter on the Mets. Perhaps it is time, then, to talk about the good things that the other Chris Carter brings to the table.

With the caveat that he’s always been a little old at his minor league stations, Carter has consistently put up good numbers at the AAA level. In the Arizona system, he had a nice .301/.395/.483 line in his first attempt at the level in 2006. That production, however, did not land him in the major leagues. He requested a trade and was sent to Washington and then included by the Nationals in the trade that netted Wily Mo Pena.

Thus began his long battle for the final roster spot in Boston, which he finally (temporarily) won this spring. That was, at least, until Mark Kotsay got healthy and provided better defense at more spots on the field. Back went Carter to AAA.

In Boston began also the long, slow decline of his AAA numbers from the .880 OPS peak to this year’s less exciting .779 OPS. Perhaps he lost a little desire after his 400th game at that level, or maybe his platoon split was being taken advantage of. While Carter brought some nice on-base skills to the table against both lefties (.377) and righties (.362) in the minors, his pop disappeared when facing lefties (.405 SLG). He may need a platoon mate – that lower slugging number won’t cut it at first base in the major leagues.

We seem to have forgotten that we were going to highlight the positives in his game. He can obviously get on base (12.7% walk rate in the minor leagues), and his defense at first base is actually good (9.26 RF/G career in the minors). With the aforementioned pop against righties, he can help the power-starved Metropolitans (fewest home runs in the major leagues this year) for sure. The only problem with pairing him with Daniel Murphy at first base in New York next year is that Murphy shares his problem with left-handed pitchers (.725 OPS vs lefties in the minors, .718 vs them in the majors).

But, hey, when you are trying to build depth in a farm system that otherwise boasts the underwhelming Cory Sullivan and Nick Evans as possible outfield and first base depth, you have to take what you can get. Especially when you are offering a reliever coming off of Tommy John surgery that costs $2.5 million per month and can only pitch once every three days in return.