Archive | Finding Keepers

A Pair Of Aces

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A Pair Of Aces

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In poker a pair of aces is nowhere near the best hand, but on the diamond a pair of aces can lead a team to the promise land. The old adage is pitching and defense wins championships and good pitching always beats good hitting. The one thing better then having an ace of a staff is having two.

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In the 90’s the Atlanta Braves were well known for having two and sometimes three aces in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. The trio led Atlanta to yearly division titles, personal accolades, and a world championship. The 2001 season saw the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy a season headlined by one of the most dominant duos ever in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The two only combined for 52 wins regular season and post season, a CY Young, co Sportsman of the Year, and co World Series MVP’s. In short, that is not too shabby.

Currently, the top ten pitching duos are:

#10 – Atlanta Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Hudson is the elder ace who is still getting the job done. He will eat up innings and touch that 15 win mark. Minor is up and coming and seems to be finding his stride toward the end of last year and starting off this season. They also have a third wheel in Paul Maholm whose 2013 is on a good start.

#9 – Chicago White Sox Chris Sale and Jake Peavy. They are another duo featuring a veteran and youngster. Both are capable of racking up strikeouts and dominant starts. However, there is the occasional DL stint or rough outing.

#8 – Los Angeles Angels Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Both have been very consistent and productive. However, walk rates are subpar and strikeout rates are middle of the road.

#7 – Tampa Bay David Price and Matt Moore. Together they are two young guns with great out pitches that throw from the left side. Price is a yearly CY Young contender and Moore has yet to allow a run in 2013.

#6 – Boston Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Both have high potential that is waiting to be tapped. Injuries have held back both at times but 2013 could finally be the year. They both had excellent springs and are a combined 4-0 thus far this season.

#5 – Detroit Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If you are a hitter, close your eyes and swing early. Both have well above average fastballs and dominate the strikeout leader board. They both also collect a ton of innings and can save a bullpen.

#4 – Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Both are CY Young winners that do not lose on their home mound. Each is capable of building long winning streaks and carrying the team for the night.

#3 – Philadelphia Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Suddenly this duo is seemingly under the radar within the division. They are two left hand pitchers with the x factor of pitching well in the post season. They are two trustworthy guys come late in the season and in October.

#2 – San Francisco Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The Giants earn the 1990’s Atlanta Brave award as it is not just a duo. These two are also complimented with Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and a resurgent Barry Zito. The offense does not need to score a ton of runs when any of them take the mound as they are all capable of winning 1-0 games. They all can be stoppers in their own way and it is the most balanced rotation top to bottom.

#1 – Washington Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. This is the duo that could most rival the 2001 Diamondbacks. This season each is likely to be in the CY Young running and at the top of all major pitching categories. The one question remains, can they pitch in October?

The pitching duo most likely to be next on this list comes out of New York. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are young and ready to help the Mets contend. Harvey is off to a blistering start in 2013 looking like an up and coming ace. Wheeler is the pitcher that was apart of the Carlos Beltran trade a few seasons ago. He is likely to join the big club sometime this year and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Each of these teams has the ability to avoid long losing streaks and stay in contention thanks to these duos. Aces are wild. Shuffle up and deal.

 

 

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Welcome to the Bigs, Kid: Jose Fernandez

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Welcome to the Bigs, Kid: Jose Fernandez

Posted on 08 April 2013 by T.J. McDonald

Welcome back for another exciting year of fantasy baseball action.  The season is only a week old but we have already had one of the top prospects in the game, Jose Fernandez, make his unexpected debut & boy did he not disappoint! In the 2013 debut edition of Welcome to the bigs, kid we will be profiling and discussing him and his debut outing. Also as always we will be discussing his fantasy value for the rest of the year and many years to come.

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Jose Fernandez is a 20 year old right hand pitcher from Cuba for the Miami Marlins.  He is the third youngest Marlin to make their major league debut and youngest starting pitcher. He was drafted by the Marlins with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. In his first full professional season last year in 25 starts 14 coming in low A and 11 in high A he went 14-1, striking out 158 batters and walking just 35 in 134.0 innings. His ERA was 1.75 and his was WHIP 0.93.  He was ranked as the #1 Marlins prospect & #5 in all of baseball to start the year by Baseball America.  He was surprisingly called up to be the Marlins 5th starter to start the year, after they had two projected starters of their rotation start the year on the disabled list.

Once the announcement was made he would start the rotation, the skeptics were out as to whether he would be a viable fantasy option this year or not. After his debut performance I am confidante in saying he will be. I sat down yesterday and with the help of DirectTV watched every pitch of his debut outing and not only did he not let me down he greatly exceeded by expectations.  He went a very strong 5 innings with a Marlins debut record of 8 strike outs. He pitched flawlessly the first three innings getting the side out in order all three and striking out the side in the 2nd. He then got into a slight jam in the 4th after allowing a single with one out and a walk with two outs  before getting the next hitter to ground out.  His control that inning did seem to be a bit shaky out of the stretch as he walked one and went to a 2-2 count with the final batter of the inning. He was able to get it under control and get a inning ending ground out leaving both runners stranded.  In his fifth and final inning of work he gave up his lone earned run but was able to limit the damage by leaving a runner stranded on second.  He exited after throwing 80 pitches, 53 for strikes.

Now that we know a little bit about Jose Fernandez and have detailed how his first outing in the big leagues went, lets talk fantasy value. After watching his impressive debut there is no doubt in my mind that not only is he a top dynasty/keeper lg player but that he will also be a relevant redraft mixed leagued starter.  Will he have his ups and downs, yes and wins may be hard to come by playing for the lowly Marlins but the Ks and other quality pitchers stats will be there. One thing to keep an eye on however is that the Marlins do plan on limiting him to around 150 to 170 this season. He only went 5 today and I foresee that to be a pretty regular occurrence.   This may mean he will not be leading your team come playoff time but first you have to reach the playoffs and he could be the type of free pickup that helps you reach that goal.

Regarding his keeper/dynasty league value there is not a lot to say that already hasn’t been. He was the #5 prospect in baseball coming into the season and had a very impressive debut. Add to the fact that he is only 20 years old, if your league mates haven’t been smart enough to roster him already drop what you are doing and RUN to pick him up. Pitchers like this don’t come along everyday and in a long term format he looks to be the type of pitcher that can anchor your pitching staff for many years to come.  As of this writing he is currently owned in 70% of CBS, 32% of yahoo, & 9.9% of ESPN leagues, which I imagine will have a pretty big spike following his debut outing.

Now that we have welcomed Jose Fernandez to the bigs, will you have him rostered? I do. Let me know in the comments and as always follow me on twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs. Enjoy the season gamers, it has only just begun.

 

 

 

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Finders Keepers: Billy Hamilton

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Finders Keepers: Billy Hamilton

Posted on 27 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

With the fantasy season winding down and the fantasy playoffs starting soon, we have come to the end of the Finder Keepers series. Before I do, as promised last week, I will give you one more potential keeper prospect.  My number one rated offensive keeper prospect is the one and only, already legendary base stealer, Billy Hamilton. In this final installment I will give you a little information on him, his keeper potential and value, as well as talk a little about his rumored September call up.

Billy Hamilton was drafted in the second round of the 2009 major league baseball draft out of Taylorsville High School by the Cincinnati Reds. He was ranked as the 50th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season and became the 12th minor league player to have 100 stolen bases in a season with 103 SBs while hitting .278.

He then moved up to the 48th ranked prospect by Baseball America prior to this season before taking the baseball world by storm, catching everyone’s attention by breaking Vince Coleman’s 29 year old professional record of 145 stolen bases on August 21st.

By mid season, he had climbed the prospect ranks reaching #27 on Keith Law’s mid season prospect rank. His remarkable baseball stealing skills have made him one of the most talked about prospects in all of baseball this year. He is so fast on the base paths that he has been known to score on a sac fly from second.

He is currently at 150 SBs on the seaon as of this writing.  He has been so dominate in the base stealing department this year that he leads the AA Southern League with 45 SBs in 42 games having only debuted in AA a little over a month ago on July 11th.  He also still leads the High-A California league by 19 SBs and hasn’t played a game at High-A since July 7th.  He is hitting .320 this year, a .042 point improvement from last year, and looks to have become a good switch hitter, which he has been working on since being drafted and hitting .311 from the left side this year, his weak side.

With this unheard-of-speed, there have been rumors of the Cincinnati Reds calling him up come September, when rosters expand, strictly for pinch running purposes. The manager of the Reds, Dusty Baker, seems very high on his future, stating recently, “I know the guy’s who records he broke, I know Vince Coleman. I know Donnel Nixon. That’s a tremendous feat. The amount of running you have to do. Your legs have to be in great shape. With sliding, your body takes a pounding. The fact that he’s been able to do that and stay healthy is remarkable.” “Someday, he’ll be here and be a tremendous force.” Lately it sounds like that day may be here sooner than some expected with Baker also stating, “It’s been discussed, It’s not my decision. You’ve got a lot to factor here. Once you put him on the roster, you’ve got to keep him on the roster. . . We’ve asked about him big time. But there’s more factors.” Couple that with GM Walt Jocketty’s comments recently, when he said, “We obviously are having very serious discussions about it, I don’t think he’s ready to play at this level but he certainly could run the bases.”, and I would not be surprised if we saw Hamilton causing havoc on the base paths in September as a pinch runner in the big leagues.

To put his feat into fantasy prospect Mike Trout is leading the majors with 41 stolen bases, Rajai Davis second with 39 and Michael Bourn third with 35.  If an owner owned all three of these players he would still be 34 stolen bases behind Hamilton alone in the stolen base category this season. Theoretically speaking if Hamilton continues his dominance  on the base paths in the majors he could single-handedly win you the stolen base category without a single stolen base from another player on your roster all year. This coupled with his good average, on base percentage and the prospect of him hitting lead off and getting a high number of at bats for your fantasy team. He is my number one rated offensive keeper prospect in my prospect keeper evaluations. While there is some concern that he may not stick at short stop long term, as the Red’s are currently have rookie Zack Cozart playing well at the short stop position. He will steal bases regardless of where he plays and the Reds will find an everyday spot for him as early as next year.  While at the beginning of the year it seemed far fetched that Hamilton would debut this year it does not seem so now and while he will not play on an everyday basis and probably won’t start, if called up we will get a good look at his base stealing abilities.  He may not break camp with the big league club at the beginning of next year. However I do foresee him getting the call at some point next season and becoming an everyday player. Hamilton is owned in %3 of ESPN leagues, 3% of Yahoo leagues and 26% of CBS leagues. Don’t be the one weeping, find him and keep him. I grade his keeper potential as an A+.

As the fantasy baseball season winds down and comes to a close I hope you have enjoyed both the Welcome to the bigs, kids series as well as Finders Keepers. In these series combined I have profiled eight potential keeper prospects and hope you will reference them the rest of the season in your search for the best available keeper prospects in your dynasty/keeper league.

Will you be picking up and keeping Billy Hamilton? Do you foresee a September call up and do you think he can keep up his remarkable base stealing feats at the major league level? Let me know in the comments and as always follow me on twitter @FantasyzrTJ. Also, be sure to check out Blake Murphy’s Cincinnati Reds’ Farm System Report for more on Hamilton and other Reds’ prospects to keep an eye on.

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Finders Keepers: Dylan Bundy

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Finders Keepers: Dylan Bundy

Posted on 20 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

With the playoffs starting in some leagues and with roughly only two weeks left in the fantasy baseball regular season in others, now is the time for keeper and dynasty league owners to find the future stars of tomorrow. In keeper and dynasty leagues, you always need to be on the look out for the next potential star and keeper for your roster, whether that player fills an empty keeper spot or upgrades a previously kept player at said position. September is a key month in scouting your keepers of the future. In the next two finders keepers articles, I will be profiling the number one pitching keeper prospect and number one offensive keeper prospect, as graded by me, with both surprisingly being rumored as September call ups.  First up and this week’s profile is my number one recommended pitching keeper prospect, Baltimore Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Dylan Bundy.

Dylan Bundy was the 4th pick overall in the 2011 major league baseball draft. Drafted out of Owasso (Okla.) High School, he was the 2011 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, Baseball America High School Player of the Year Award and the USA Today National Player of the Year. In Keith Law’s mid season prospect ranks on July 13th, Bundy was rated the number two prospect in all of baseball and was number one in Baseball of America’s mid season prospect rankings posted July 5th. So far, Bundy has lived up to the hype as he’s been lights out in his first season in the minors. He posted eight consecutive scoreless starts in Low-A, then when promoted to High-A, he struck out 63 batters in 54 2/3 innings. He then went 5.1 innings giving up 2 earned runs with 3 strikeouts and 3 walks in his AA debut. Overall, he is 8-3  with a 2.01 ERA, 106 Ks and 22 BBs in 20  games started over 89.2 innings pitched across three minor league levels this year. He also appeared in this season’s Future Games during All-Star weekend held in Kansas City. Kevin Goldstein stated recently in his article Time for O’s to call up Bundy, ”Bundy’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and both his curveball and changeup are advanced, and for much of the season he hasn’t been allowed to throw his low 90s cutter. Which many believe is his best pitch. For many, Bundy is the best pitching prospect in baseball.”

Recently, the Orioles sent their designated hitter, Jim Thome, currently on the disabled list, to watch Bundy’s first start in AA. Showalter said Thome was impressed but told the manager he thinks Bundy needs to add a slider to be successful in the majors. “Well, he does have a slider,” Showalter says. “A real good one. Actually, it’s more of a cutter. They took it away from him down there to reduce the wear and tear. He really wants to throw it. Imagine how good he’s going to be if he’s throwing a cutter, too.”

The Orioles have been very conservative with Bundy this season as he was only allowed to go three-innings in starts in April. He was allowed past five innings for the first time Aug. 1 which was his 18th start of the season. The plan currently in AA is to have Bundy pitch in a six-man rotation  and make a total of four starts, the last of which is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 1. That is the day major league roster limit expands from 25 to 40. This also would leave Bundy at approximately 100 innings pitched at the end of August which is enough under the roughly 125 innings at which the Orioles plan to cap him, for him to help them in September. The Orioles recently shocked the baseball world in calling up their top offensive prospect in their organization Manny Machado directly from AA skipping AAA altogether. So a September call up for Bundy is definitely not out of the question especially with the Orioles in the thick if the playoff race and looking to make their first post season appearance since 1997.

Even if he is not called up in September, which all indications point to him getting the call, he is predicted to start in the Orioles’ rotation next year. If he is available in your league, stash him now and keep a close eye on his possible promotion and results if and when he is promoted. Here is his percentage owned in the following leagues; 0% ESPN, 2% Yahoo, 22% CBS. Pitching prospects are always hard to predict but with some comparing Bundy to the likes of Justin Verlander, Dwight Gooden and Tim Lincecum as well as his pedigree, youth and fact that he is on the fast track to the majors. I grade his keeper potential as an A+.

Will you be picking up and keeping Dylan Bundy? Do you agree with the Orioles possibly calling him up come September and are you buying the hype? Feel free to let me know in the comments and as always follow me on twitter @FantasyzrTJ.

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Better Late Than Never: Chris Carter, Oakland Athletics

Posted on 14 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

In Better Late Than Never, I will be profiling 25 year old Oakland A’s post-hype prospect Chris Carter. In this profile I will give you some background on his career in the minors, his past struggles in the majors and his surprising emergence this year at the major league level as well as my recommendation, fantasy-wise, for the rest of the season in yearly and dynasty/keeper leagues. Unlike another famous Cris Carter, where all he did was catch touchdowns, all this Chris Carter does  is hit home runs.

Chris Carter is a 25 year old first basemen for the Oakland Athletics.  He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2005 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. During the 2007 offseason Carter was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin.  Two weeks after he was traded to Arizona, Carter was traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of the package to bring Dan Haren to Arizona.

In four previous stints with the A’s prior to this season, Carter was a major disappointment. Once considered the club’s top prospect, he struggled mightily. In 2010, he hit .186 with 3 Hrs and had 21 strikeouts in 24 major league games.  Then, in  2011, his performance was even worse, hitting just .136 with 0 Hrs and 20 strikeouts in 15 major league games.

However, the tools and talent have always been there. In 2009, he seemed destined to become an impact power hitter. He produced 28 hrs and 115 rbis in 544 at-bats in season, splitting time at both the double-A and triple-A levels and also appeared in the Future Game. In 2010, he produced  31 Hrs and a .258 avg with 94 RBIs in AAA.

While prior to this season, he had never been able put it all together at the major league level, the talent was evident at the minor league level. In his last four minor league seasons, he was good for 122 home runs and 399 RBI.  While putting up good numbers in the minors, he had fallen off most “top prospect lists” and many insiders were beginning to label him a Quad-A player (a Quad-A player is a player is one who has enough talent to dominate in Triple A but continually fails in the Majors). Was this who  Carter was destined to become?

Enter 2012. It now seems he has arrived. The now post-hype prospect has hit . 272 with 10 HRs, 22 RBIs and only 33KS in 103 ABs this season.  While he could still work on lowering his strikeout numbers some, it’s a major improvement from his high K-rate in much less ABs in his short stints in the majors in ’10 and ’11.  Plus, the power is definitely there. His 10 Hrs in only 103 ABS in a pitcher-friendly park is nothing to scoff at. Finally receiving consistent playing time, it looks like the late-blooming  25 year old Chris Carter may have finally arrived.

Now for his fantasy value. Chris Carter is only owned in 5% of Yahoo!, 7% of ESPN and 33% of CBS leagues. While I know his past struggles had him off most fantasy owners radar early in the season, why the reluctance to roster him now, gamers? He has hit 10 HRs in 103 ABs. That’s virtually one home run for every 10 ABs. And with just 28 total hits, 35.7% of them have been home runs.

In comparison, a very disappointing Eric Hosmer has 10 HRs in 408 ABs and is 68% owned in Yahoo leagues. That’s a 63% ownership difference between Hosmer and Carter. I know a lot of ownership levels are based on name alone but if we could all get past what we thought Carter was and see what he is doing and becoming,  he’d be a very valuable pick up and commodity for anyone needing power in general, specifically at the first base position. I understand your trepidation, gamers. I really do. I was leery of picking him up myself but needless to say I finally did and have been reaping the benefits ever since. Now is the time to pick him up. Under 10% owned in Yahoo and ESPN is criminally low.

It has come to the point where he’s in my lineup over guys like Brandon Belt and Yonder Alonso, both with a slightly higher ownership percentages. The one and only thing going forward to keep a close eye on is playing time.  He has played on a regular basis during the month of August and it looks as if the A’s management now realizes they have finally found their first baseman of the future.

I recommend a Chris Carter pick up in all leagues right now and even recommend him as a borderline keeper. If he is fully endorsed as the A’s starting first baseman heading into next spring (which I do expect to happen), I’d then give my full endorsement on keeping him. Keep a very close eye on this situation next spring.

In summary, it looks like Carter is reaching his full potential this year and, with his low ownership numbers, is out there for the taking in all leagues. While it may have taken him longer than most highly-rated prospects to finally become a fantasy factor, like they say, “It’s better late than never”.

Will you be picking up Chris Carter or have you already? Do you feel he is finally for real and here to stay or are you still not buying into him? Let me know in the comments and as always follow me on Twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs.

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