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Fulfilling the fantasy: MLBs top 5 picks for 2014

Fulfilling the fantasy: MLBs top 5 picks for 2014

Posted on 24 February 2014 by Bill Ivie

Miguel Cabrera

It’s almost time again for Opening Day and MLB recently released its top ranking players for the upcoming campaign.

Once again this year’s top spot belongs to the LA Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whose star just seems to continue to rise. The 22 year old offers an excellent combination of speed and stamina and in 2013 he became only the second man to end multiple seasons with 25 long balls, 30 steals and an average of at least.320. He came in 2nd in the American League MVP race and retains his number 1 ranking in fantasy baseball for another year.

Miguel Cabrera is at number two in the preview for the second consecutive year, despite having scooped the MVP award yet again. Okay, so we all know that the Detroit Tigers slugger has had an exceptional 2 years and that he seems to have the skill and luck of a jackpot winner MobileCasinoCanada.ca but he keeps missing that elusive top spot in the preview, so he might just need to pick up speed as he only stole 3 bases last season.

The MLB preview’s Number 3 player is Paul Goldschmidt, one of the fastest runners in MLB and first baseman for the Arizona Diamond Backs. He swiped 15 bags in the last season and this statistic alone is enough to earn him a spot in the top 5. He’s Arizona’s hottest star and he racked up 125 RBI’s and 36 home Runs in 2013.

NL MVP award winner Andrew McCutchen comes in at number 4 and the Pittsburgh Pirates centre fielder whose been called “Mike Trout Lite” was one of only 3 ML players to finish last season with at least 25 steals and 20 home runs. He remains incredibly consistent and although he may be inching into the senior’s circuit he finished 2013 with the best significant statistics.

Carlos Gonzalez “CarGo” earns himself the number 5 spot in the preview and despite his cheesy nickname the 28 year old outfielder for the Colorado Rockies has made a huge impact on the game. He has been plagued by injury so his stats look super impressive, but in 2014 he could go one of two ways- boom or bust.

Hopefully this article helps you update your fantasy picks and keeps your choices relevant for the 162-game 2014 season.

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The Wood That Makes It Good

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The Wood That Makes It Good

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Will Emerson

If you have Travis Wood on your fantasy team, you are a lucky duck.  For real! Travis Wood has been the bargain of bargains at the fantasy starting pitcher slot this season. Even I, a man with a certain fondness for Wood and fantasy crush on the entire Cubs rotation, could not, would not, have predicted the start that Travis Wood is having. The thing now, from the fantasy baseball view, is can we hope to get out of Wood for the remainder of the season? A valid question that will be asked of any player who puts up good numbers, virtually out of nowhere. If you are currently a proud Travis Wood owner you are probably, even as you read this, wondering what the future holds for the Cubs’ wily southpaw. If you’re not, you probably should be. Okay, now that all Travis Wood owners have this thought rattlin’ around their noggins, time to drop some knowledge on them.

TravisWood

Personally, I have liked Travis Wood for a couple of seasons now. “Why,” you may ask. Well, I don’t really know. Travis Wood is just one of those pitchers I like, but cannot quite pinpoint the reason for this “liking”. Other members of this club include such big names as Chris Volstad and Brett Cecil. I guess Cecil sort of has K potential, but really none of them offer anything in the way of star, or even above-average, potential in real or fantasy baseball. They are not guys I peg as sleepers at the beginning of a season, but rather, guys who I might spot start here and there, at best. I am a K/9 guy, so liking Wood is very strange for me. Wood’s career K/9 is 6.78, so he should not even be on mike likability radar. But he is. Now, K-rate aside, there are pitchers who can make do whilst allowing more contact. We call those guys crafty. Picture a Mark Buehrle type. A solid innings eater, who won’t be especially flashy, but will get the job done for your team, more often than not. The key for those types of pitchers is to keep the ball on the ground and not give up hard hit balls.  So, does Wood fall into this Buehlre-esque (not to be confused with burlesque) mold? Maybe?

Here are Wood’s career numbers- 21-25, 3.94 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.78 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 33.5 GB% and a 71.9 LOB%. Seems sort of like a Buehrle like guy, right? I mean, personally I might be a bit concerned about the ground ball rate, but Wood seems to be working with it, for the most part. Wood’s career line drive rate is right around 20%, which seems about average. Now let’s look at Wood’s 2013 numbers at this point in the season.

In 2013, Wood is 4-2, with a 2.24 ERA, .93 WHIP, 5.82 K/9 and a 2.83 BB/9. So compared to his career and, pretty much projected, numbers the K-rate, just like the ERA and WHIP, are down significantly. So what’s changed? Well, his ground ball rate, while still lower than I’d like, is actually up over five percent from 2012. More ground balls, in theory, will generally help a pitcher’s cause, that is for darned sure! Wood is also walking slightly fewer hitters, down a little (about .11 per nine innings) from his career number. So those numbers will help a bit, but the biggest improvement right now for ol’ Travis is his pitching with men on base.

To this point in 2013, Wood has a LOB% of 82. Eighty-frickin’-two, folks! For those that may not know, that is quite a good strand rate. Not only as that more than 10% higher than Wood’s normal numbers, but it is almost 10 higher than the league average! Now, it does not take a rocket surgeon to realize that preventing baserunners from scoring is a good idea, but the question is, can Wood sustain this rate? It’s really hard to say yes to that question. I don’t think there are many, if any, people who believe in that rate continuing. Obviously, if you start letting more baserunners score, your ERA will rise. The thing is, even if the strand rate goes down to the league average or in that vicinity, remember Wood has not been allowing a ton of runners to reach base.  So even if Wood’s strand rate was right around league average his ERA would still be right around three. Now before you get all crazy and start telling people I said his ERA would be around three the rest of the way, just wait a tick.

I am not saying Wood will still be tossing up these ace like numbers. throughout the rest of this season. Wood’s ERA should finish in the mid threes though, which is a bit of alright! Wood’s been throwing a cutter more frequently, and with more consistency, which has definitely contributed to his success thus far. So while he will not keep up his current pace, I feel like he will definitely pitch better than some of the current projections that have his ERA the season being up over four. I need a few more strikeouts for my liking, but he definitely has some fantasy upside the rest of the way.

If you have Travis Wood on your roster, his price may not get much higher than it is now and it would definitely behoove you to test trade market waters. That being said, it is still tough to say who believes in Wood enough to give you a premium return in a deal. Wood has been pitching very well dating back to the end of last season, but there is just no track record or even any sort of expectations that have popped up, pointing to this sort of performance. It is definitely worth testing the waters. Wood should be good (I’m a poet and I don’t even know it!) going forward, just not quite this good. Hey, put it out there and see what happens, I mean there’s always one in every league, right? Let’s just hope you are not that one. I mean in the words of Mike McDermott, “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Mike Minor Will Turn It Around Tonight

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Mike Minor Will Turn It Around Tonight

Posted on 26 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets were left in suspended animation last night, but does anyone care? The Atlanta Braves, currently in first, have won six consecutive games. On the flip side, the New York Mets, currently in fourth (thanks to the Marlins being slightly worse), have lost six straight at home.

MikeMinor

Nonetheless, the teams had to wait until today before seeing if both streaks would continue. They are set to complete a suspended game before meeting in the regularly scheduled one about an hour later this Saturday night. Friday’s game is tied 5-5 heading to the top of the ninth, with the Mets actually rallying to tie in the eighth in the midst of a downpour. They drew within one on a Daniel Murphy single and scoring again on a wild pitch.

“It was tough to see. As tough as it was to see, I’m sure it was tough to get a grip on the ball and footing on the mound,” Murphy said to the Associated Press. “So, equal playing field and we were really glad to tie the score up there, and we’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can win an inning.”

The ninth inning presents an interesting decision for both managers. Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez is considering putting Anthony Varvaro, who blew the save Friday, back on the mound. “I could even run Varvaro back out there,” Gonzalez told. “It’s like going back-to-back days.” Mets manager Terry Collins will also turn to his bullpen, as opposed to giving the ball to scheduled Saturday starter Dillon Gee to pitch in the suspended game.

Might as well give the game to Atlanta now.

“I’m going to start the game with a relief pitcher,” Collins said to the Associated Press.

Uggh.

“Otherwise, if the thing’s over in 10 minutes, the guy’s already warmed up, now he has to sit for an hour. That’s not what I want to happen.”

Once the first game is over, Mike Minor (5-2, 2.78 ERA) will try to put an end to his road struggles against the Mets. I hope, being that I’m starting him for my fantasy baseball team tonight. His outings have been good as of late, so I was more confident in starting him than Barry Zito. Atlanta has won his last three starts, during which the left-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 19 2-3 innings.

Minor set a season high with nine strikeouts and surrendered two runs and three hits in six innings of a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday. Minor didn’t get the decision in that game. Ironically, Minor has a 5.63 ERA in seven career starts versus New York.

That’s his worst against any team he’s pitched at least 15 innings against. He’s turned in a pair of solid effort in his last two matchups, allowing three runs in 13 1-3 innings, but those games came at Atlanta. Minor, who went seven innings and gave up three runs in a 7-5 win over the Mets on May 3, has gone 1-1 with an 8.04 ERA in three career starts at Citi Field.

If the Mets though insist on running Ike Davis out there, fantasy owners like myself should be in pretty good shape for a Mike Minor turnaround.

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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I am now in second to last place.  Cue the choir of angels!

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I am now in second to last place. Cue the choir of angels!

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

I am now in second to last place. Cue the choir of angels! “Beat with a Dan Uggla Stick” has a reason to play the fantasy music in their fantasy locker room a little bit louder this week.

sstrasburg

Maybe I’m not the Houston Astros of the Fantasy Baseball world. I’m probably more of the New York Mets.

Pitching has been my weakness. Strasburg has lost the plate. Vogelsong has been a flop and did I mention that Fernando Rodney is in my bullpen? Nonetheless, Mike Minor has been one of my few saving graces.

Thank goodness for Free Agent pickups.

Today, Minor was no different as he got himself back into the win column. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings this afternoon, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 7 to 2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The only run scored off the southpaw came in the third inning. It was a Zack Cozart‘s home run. Minor yet again helped to improv the Atlanta Braves’ record, currently the best in the National League East.

Minor is 4 and 2 as of today. He also tied a season-high strikeout count with seven. This was also his first win in three starts. It was the first time in four starts that Minor allowed less than three runs, as he lowered his ERA from 3.26 to 2.96.

I will take what I can get!

Even when Mike Minor needs to “right the ship”, he is still ten times better than anything I currently have.

He’s the Matt Harvey of “Beat with a Dan Uggla Stick”.

In his start on May 3rd, Minor surrendered two home runs in the first two innings. The second came with none out in the second inning, a rocky start for sure. Nevertheless, after the home run in the second inning, Minor retired the next 18 batters he faced.

Calling Roger Clemens!

Minor was ultimately saddled with a no-decision for this performance against the New York Mets. Still, Minor allowed just three hits. He walked none and struck out four against the Mets before being pulled after seven innings.

If Minor is available in your league, grab him at all costs. He’s got a Harvey vibe without the buzz. You can probably get him for nothing. If he can stay away from the long ball, you are going to be in great shape.

CBSSports.com rates him as the 42nd best pitcher in the league. That’s up from number 60 just last week!

According to the metrics of CBSSports.com, Mike Minor has only failed to come through once with less than 20 points once in the first five weeks of the season. Based on how this week has started, that pattern should continue. Minor is expected to make his next start Monday at Arizona. Minor won his only start against Arizona last season. He allowed one earned run in eight innings and struck out nine.

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