Thursday, December 31, 2009
CouchManagers.com has Shin-Soo Choo ranked at #82 by ADP for 2010 mock drafts. That's great value for a guy who hit .300 with 20 home runs and 21 steals last year. In a half season the previous year, Choo had a slightly better batting average and home run rate, so his performance in those categories is fairly well established now. The steals were unexpected, and if they continue then Choo is a great value if he falls so low in your draft. The pattern I'm beginning to notice for 2010 is that there really isn't all that much difference between the hitters available in the second round and those available in the sixth, seventh, and either rounds. The second rounders are better, but the gap seems narrower than most years. Because of that, I'd be more tempted than usually to take a pitcher (probably Lincecum or Halladay) in the second round, even though I usually wait until much, much later. In any case, I really like Choo, and at 27 years old, he still has more upside than risk.
Kendry Morales finally 'arrived' in 2009, as he hit .306 with 34 home runs. The batting average was in line with his minor league performance, and the power was actually a little better than expected. However, at his age (now 26) increasing power isn't unusual, and his 43 doubles suggest that the home runs probably weren't a fluke. He's currently listed as the 52nd ranked player by ADP at CouchManagers. He seems like a reasonable pick if he's available that point in your draft. While I wouldn't be surprised by some regression in his power numbers, he should maintain at least a .300 batting average, and there's also room for some improvement in all areas. Just don't expect any steals out of him in 2010...I'm guessing that after getting just 3 steals in 10 attempts last year, Morales is not going to have the green light very often.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
One trend that I'm seeing in mock drafts so far is that young hitters with upside are generally being undervalued relative to more established hitters. I understand the risks involved in picking young players - their true talent level is less defined, and if they struggle, teams are more likely to reduce their playing time or even send them down to the minor leagues. On the other hand, I'm generally playing to win, not just finish respectably. And to win in competitive leagues, you're going to need to take some chances. Carlos Gonzalez is currently listed as the 130th ranked player in mock drafts at CouchManagers.com. At that position, he's an absolute steal. In a half season (278 at bats), Gonzalez hit 13 home runs and stole 16 bases with a .284 batting average. His numbers in AAA suggest that he's probably capable of hitting .300, particularly since he'll play half of his games in Coors Field. He's only 24 years old, so some improvement is not only possible in 2010, but likely. If you can get him after pick number 100 in your draft, you're doing well.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Unlike his teammate Jose Reyes, David Wright appears to be going far too early in most 2010 drafts. He's ranked 15th at CouchManagers.com right now, which would be fair if we just assume that he'll bounce back to his pre-2009 performance. However, since we don't really know what led to his drastic power reduction in 2009, I'm not sure we can do that. For a guy who hit only 10 home runs last year, an awful lot of downside, without enough upside at #15. Even if Wright bounces part of the way back, he's got the potential to be a fantasy bust again this year. He's going lower than Reyes in drafts, and in my opinion has more downside.
Jose Reyes is going far too low in most mock drafts right now. At CouchManagers.com, his ADP right now has him ranked 28th...behind Jimmy Rollins (23rd) and Derek Jeter (26th). If healthy, Reyes is clearly a far more valuable fantasy player than either of those two shortstops, and represents a major bargain. In fact, in one recent 'experts' mock draft, Reyes went in the early fourth round of a twelve team draft. Obviously people are still worried about his health. However, he's supposed to be running at full speed sometime in January, and be at full strength for the beginning of Spring Training. In a small league, where you might want to play it safe, I can see him sliding to the #20-#25 range, but in any large contests, where you need to swing for the fences to beat hundreds (or thousands) of other entrants, I would value Reyes as an early 2nd round pick.
Monday, December 28, 2009
In his late season return to the Atlanta Braves starting rotation last year, Tim Hudson proved that he's fully recovered from injury, and that he can be counted on as an effective pitcher in 2010 and beyond. In 42.1 innings, Hudson struck out 30 and walked 13. Most importantly, his groundball rate was 62.2%. Those numbers are all roughly in line with what Hudson has produced when healthy over the past few years. Hudson's age (34) and low strikeout rate mean that there's very limited upside, but if you're looking for a safe player to round out your rotation, Hudson should be a good pick.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Chad Billingsley is the opposite of his teammate Clayton Kershaw going into 2010. Billingsley was viewed as a rising star after his 2008 season, but a very slight regression in his peripheral stats and an ERA above 4 led many to lower their opinions of him. He is currently going substantially lower than Kershaw in most mock drafts, despite being a very similar quality pitcher. While he doesn't have quite the upside of Kershaw, he is also young (25) and has had a K/9 of 9.01 and 8.21 the past two years. Let your opponents go for the hype of Kershaw, and pick up Billingsley for yourself, a few rounds later in the draft.
According to an AP source, the Mets are about to sign Kelvim Escobar. If this were 2007, that would be something to get excited about. In his last full season (2007), Escobar struck out 7.36 batters per nine innings, walked 3.04, and had a solid 44.0% groundball rate. That was done in the American League, so he'd project to be substantially better than that for the Mets. Unfortunately for Escobar (and the Mets), Escobar has barely pitched since then, due to injuries. He's expected to compete eighth inning relief duties, although if effective it's certainly possible that he'd be given an opportunity to start. For the Mets, this looks like a low risk signing with some upside. For fantasy purposes, Escobar is probably someone to pass on for 2010, but to keep an eye on if you're in a deep league.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Based on his 2.79 ERA in 2009, some people may be tempted to project Clayton Kershaw as one of the top starting pitchers in the National League in 2010. Don't be one of those people. One of the reasons for looking at peripheral stats is to avoid results oriented thinking. As far as we can tell, Kershaw got very lucky in 2009. He had an extremely low 4.6% rate of home runs per fly ball. That's unsustainable, and if you assume that it will return to a more typical value, it becomes clear that Kershaw has a long way to go before he's an elite pitcher. The main problem right now is his control. A 4.79 BB/9 is really bad, although with Kershaw's excellent K/9 (9.74 in 2009), he's still good enough to be an effective major league pitcher right now. That strikeout rate, combined with his age (21), give him the potential to be an elite starting pitcher, but he's not there yet. If you can get him late in your draft, he's great pick due to his upside. But if he goes relatively early (as he will in most drafts), the upside probably isn't worth the risk.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
This post was supposed to be about Justin Upton's fantasy prospects for 2010. Then I noticed that he's going substantially lower in mock drafts at Couch Managers than the two big free agent hitters - Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. All three are fairly similar statistically, with Bay possibly having a little more power than the other two (but lower batting average), and Holliday hitting for a slightly higher average (but less power). The big difference of course is that Upton is just 22 years old...still in the steep part of the learning curve. He has great breakout potential. Holliday is going to be 30 in a few weeks. Bay is 31 already. They're unlikely to improve substantially at this point, although depending what team each of them ends up on, they could get a boost from their home park. That said, Upton's age is a huge deal, and given a choice between the three players, I would probably pick him first. Luckily for me, it looks like others don't see it that way. His average draft position (ADP)at Couch Managers is currently 31st, while Holliday is 18th and Bay is 23rd.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I got into a fairly involved debate about Brandon League on the Rotojunkie message boards recently, and as a result did some research. I was arguing that his combination of high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and high groundball rate is pretty unusual. The only pitchers I could think of who had that combination were all really good. As part of the discussion, I collected a list of pitchers who threw at least 40 innings, with a K/9 over 7, BB/9 under 3.5, and GB% over 50%. League beats all these threshholds by a wide margin, so some of the other relievers on the list aren't as good as him. The starters are probably better, since it's tougher to have a high strikeout rate when starting. Obviously the relievers with much better peripherals like Rivera and Broxton are also better. Still, it's an interesting list, and may indicate some middle relievers to target in deep leagues (or if they're ever given a chance to close).
This also may give some idea why I'm so high on Brett Anderson. He's one of only four starting pitchers who made the list, and the others are all pretty good.
This also may give some idea why I'm so high on Brett Anderson. He's one of only four starting pitchers who made the list, and the others are all pretty good.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Brandon League (and a prospect) are being traded to the Seattle Mariners for Brandon Morrow. I may be in the minority here, but I think Seattle is getting the better Brandon in this deal. League was an exceptionally good reliever in 2009, and I expect more of the same in 2010. His K/9 of 9.16 and BB/9 of 2.53 would have been excellent in any case. However, his consistently high ground ball rates (55.7% in 2009, and higher in each of his previous major league seasons) make him a nearly elite reliever. At some point in the future, League is going to be a closer...and he'll be a good one.
According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Brandon Morrow is on the verge of being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. I think that's a slight negative, as he'll be going from a better pitchers' park (and likely, a better team) to a worse one. Of more concern should be his lack of control. While Morrow has put up some acceptable ERAs in limited innings, his control has always been very borderline. Even in the minor leagues he struggled to avoid walking batters. At 25 years old, Morrow still has time to improve. However, if anything his stats (particularly his strikeout rate) have regressed over the past few years. Until he shows some indication that he's learned to throw strikes, I would stay away from him, except as a high risk/high reward late round pick in moderately deep leagues. That said, any young pitcher with high strikeout rates should be watched closely. If he starts out the season showing good control (let's say something like 3 walks in his first 20 innings), then it may be time to pick him up cheap.
Monday, December 21, 2009
When I typed the title for this write-up, I initially typed "Bad Lidge" by accident. That would have been a pretty good description for Brad Lidge in 2009, but there's a reasonable chance to expect better things in 2010. In 2009, something was clearly wrong with Lidge...both his strikeout rate and walk rate were worse than they've been in previous years...much worse, in the case of the strikeout rate, which was 9.36, compared to rates over 11 for each of the previous five years. That said, Lidge's pitching was nowhere near as bad as his 7.21 ERA would indicate...he had a healthy dose of bad luck, and as a reliever he never got the chance to pitch enough innings to pretty up the numbers. Lidge had surgery during the offseason, and may be a week or two behind in Spring Training. That said, the Phillies GM has been quoted as saying that the team hopes he'll be ready to close by Opening Day. As long as he's given a shot at closing, Lidge should be another nice high risk/high reward player to pick up in the late rounds. But given questions about his health, effectiveness, and role, you definitely should pick him too early in your draft!
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Phil Hughes has had his ups and downs the past few years. He's gone from elite prospect to struggling major league starter to lights out reliever. The Yankees recently acknowledged that he's not even guaranteed a spot in their rotation for 2010. They anticipate putting either Hughes or Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, and putting the other in the bullpen for now. I think that given Chamberlain's inconsistency in 2009, and past dominance in the bullpen, Hughes is the more likely one to be used as a starter. If he is, I think he'll be very effective. He's not going to match the numbers he achieved in 2009, working mostly out of the bullpen (K/9: 10.05, BB/9: 2.93), but I think a strikeout rate of around 8 per 9 innings and a work rate around 3 (with an ERA around 4) would be very achievable. He's still very young (23), so there's plenty of upside. And playing on the Yankees, he should have an offense capable of helping him to plenty of wins. Uncertainty about his role, and his lack of past success as a major leagues starter should combine to make him a draft day bargain. Hughes is exactly the sort of high risk/high reward player that I like to target in the late rounds of drafts.
Friday, December 18, 2009
In the past I haven't been a big Edwin Jackson fan. Despite the fact that he's always been considered a good prospect, his statistics never backed that up. In 2009, he showed great improvement, although his peripheral stats (K/9: 6.77, BB/9: 2.94) indicate that there was a degree of good luck involved in his 3.62 ERA. I would have expected his 2010 season to be somewhere between the old Edwin Jackson and the 2009 version...except that the trade from the American League to the National League will give him a nice boost. Some of that will be offset by moving from a good pitchers' park to a good hitters' park, but it will still be a net benefit. I'd project Jackson for something like K/9: 7, BB/9: 3.5, GB%: 40%, with an ERA in the low-to-mid 4s. In other words, he's a pretty average major league pitcher. Given his youth (26 years old), there's definitely still some upside though. Keep any eye on his strikeout rate...any K/9 above 8 early in the season would likely indicate that he's taken another step forward...especially if combined with solid control.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
During the offseason, Rafael Soriano was traded to Tampa Bay. He will be their closer for 2010, and should be terrific. Soriano consistently posts a K/9 above 10 and combines that with acceptable control. His one weakness is an extremely low groundball rate. The switch from the National League to the American League should affect him less than it would impact a starting pitcher, since as a reliever he rarely got to face pitchers at the plate in the NL anyway.
Ricky Nolasco is being touted by many as one of the best sleepers or bargains. I agree. Despite the fact that so many people are aware that his 5.06 ERA in 2009 was a fluke, I suspect he'll go lower in drafts than he should. His K/9 of 9.49 and BB/9 of 2.14 were exceptional. The strikeout rate may regress slightly, I would expect it to remain above 8...and his control was even better in 2008, so he should remain one of the better K/BB (and therefore WHIP) pitchers in the National League. An ERA in the mid 3s seems like a reasonable expectation for 2010.
I have no idea how long this will last, but The Waiver Wire blog is back! I've got the itch to write about baseball (and other fantasy related topics) and will be posting regularly. I expect most of the posts to be player profiles for 2010, but am not making any promises.