Tag Archive | "Andrew Bailey"

Fire Up The Grill In Pittsburgh!

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Fire Up The Grill In Pittsburgh!

Posted on 23 January 2013 by Will Emerson

Joel Hanrahan is not walking through that bullpen door, Pirates fans. Well, he probably won’t be.

JoelHanrahan

It is a strange and funny world sometimes, so I guess no guarantees. At least for now and, most likely, the foreseeable future Joel Hanrahan will not be walking through that bullpen door. Nope, Hanrahan rode the gravy train on over to Beantown to come outta the ’pen for the Rouge Hose. Now closers, as the aforementioned Rouge Hose can attest, are not so easily replaced. It helps if a team already has someone that can slide into the role fairly effortlessly or, like the Rouge Hose, have enough money to pony up for a hot free agent closer…or an oft-injured one (*cough* Andrew Bailey *cough*).  In any event, Hanrahan, is not as notable or as high priced as say a Jonathan Papelbon (then again, who is?) but Hanrahan was solid game finisher for the Bucs. Hanrahan posted 76 saves over the last two seasons with Pittsburgh with an ERA in the low twos. I didn’t watch nearly as many Pirates games as I would have liked to in 2012, but I never heard much complaining or belly-aching from the Pittsburgh faithful….until Hanrahan went shipping up, er over, to Boston. These were mild grumblings I will grant you, but grumblings nonetheless. If not only for the fact that Joel darted for the big bucks and left the Pirates without an established major league closer. The Pirates, of course, are not flush with cash like the Red Sox, so the best bet for them is someone already in their system. Enter Jason Grilli. Aka the Grillmaster.

Grilli is slated to start the season closing games in the ‘Burgh. Now Grilli has had some ups, some downs, some what-have-yous, in his 10 major league seasons, but as a Pittsburgh Pirate he has established himself as one heck of a good reliever.  Over the past two seasons he has a K/9 of 12.51, including an eye-popping 13.81 number last season in 58.2 innings! I think you know how much I love me some Ks/9! If you don’t, well, I love them, I love them a lot! For relievers in 2012 who threw at least 50 innings out of the bullpen, that was a number good for 4th on the list, behind Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Antonio Bastardo (yeah, that one surprised me too). While K/9 is not the end all be all (although it really should be) it is a very helpful number in rating closers. The more batters you can get out without them putting the ball in play, the better your chances of survival. Simple as that. But, as I said, the strikeouts are not all there is to closing, so let’s see how the Grillmaster compared to some of last year’s closers in other areas.

Well, Grilli posted a 2.91 ERA out of the Pirates bullpen last year, which is a very solid ERA for a pitcher  however this is about middle to back of the pack for closers. His xFIP, however was a tad better at 2.68 and he was hurt a bit by a .309 BABIP, which is not super unlucky but leans a tad more in that direction than towards the “super-duper lucky” end of the spectrum. Although it does not look like the batted ball will be his biggest issue if he is to be the Buccos chosen closer. Grilli walked 3.4 batters per nine innings which, for a starter is pretty good, but for a reliever? A closer? That will need to be improved if he is gonna close the door on Pirates victories. That 3.38 was good for 81st among relievers who threw at least 50 innings out of the bullpen in 2012. Among the 37 closers who had 10 or more saves in 2012, 11 posted higher walk rates than Grilli. Three of those relievers saved three or fewer games and three others would lose their closing gig at some point in the season. The good-ish news, cause I am silver lining type a guy sometimes, is that Grilli’s walk rate is down from 2011 when he was at four walks per nine innings. In fact, that 2012 walk rate was the lowest he has posted since 2005. Baby steps, Jason, baby steps. Besides, shouldn’t we really be seeing how the Grillmaster stood up against what the Pirates are losing at the closer position? That was rhetorical, folks.

Here are the numbers Hanrahan put up as the Buccos’ closer in 2012:

5-2, 36 saves, 63 appearances, 59.2 IP, 2.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP 4.28 xFIP, .225 BABIP, 10.11 K/9, and 5.43 BB/9

Umm, yeah, there are a few red flag numbers there that make it seem wise for Pittsburgh to have not kept Hanrahan around for 2013. 5.43 BB/9?! And I thought Grilli’s walk rate was high?! That’s more than a walk every other inning, in case you didn’t want to do the quick arithmetic. Also that xFIP and BABIP point to a regressions for Hanarahan in ’13. Well, at least Hanrahan didn’t go to a big baseball market pressure cooker, where every bad outing will be picked apart to no end. Oh, wait a minute. Anyways, back to Grilli. Here were his 2012 numbers:

1-6, 2 saves, 64 appearances, 58.2 IP. 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.68 xFIP, .309 BABIP, 13.81 K/9 and a 3.38 BB/9

Not too shabby and all of those stats are based on about the same number of innings Hanrahan pitched. So Grilli had a lower WHIP, xFIP and BB/9 with a higher K/9 and BABIP. Now I am not necessarily saying Grilli was, or is, a better pitcher than Hanrahan, per se. You also need to account for the fact that Grilli was not pitching the 9th for the most part. And while the 7th or 8th inning can provide plenty of high leverage situations the 9th is still going to carry some extra pressure with it. So let us see how we can level the playing field a bit here. Courtesy of Fan Graphs, Grilli had 27 shutdowns and 9 meltdowns in 2012. With shutdowns and meltdowns you can kind of draw a comparison with relievers that close games and those who are 7th or 8th inning guys. Grilli’s numbers but him in the above average category, so that’s good if your a Pirates fan. Hanrhan was pretty similar, if not a tad better, in this regard, posting 26 shutdowns and 5 meltdowns. Also in that above average category, but a tad more above average than Grillmaster.

Now, again, I am not saying that Grilli is better than Hanrahan, merely that this was a good move by the Buccos. Pittsburgh should at least be able to get relatively the same production from Grilli that Hanrahan gave them, at a cheaper cost (Hanrahan will make almost $5M more in ’13). If Grilli cuts down on the walks a tad he could be this years sleeper in the closer field. Maybe I am overly optimistic of Grilli because of his sexy K/9 numbers or because the bar his dad owns has some of the best wings in Syracuse, NY, I dunno? Grilli could very well implode early, and often, losing his closer job, but I like his chances to be an above average closer this year for the Buccos and surprise a few people. For fantasy purposes, you have to like Grillmaster as a great source of cheap saves in ’13. More importantly, if it is not already, I think Grilli’s intro music should be Nelly’s Grillz, who is with me? Wait is Grillz a better nickname than Grillmaster? Well, that’ll be an article for another day.

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craig kimbrel

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The Captivating Closer Conundrum

Posted on 08 August 2012 by Will Emerson

You have probably heard plenty this year about the closer carousels in the majors this season. Every year solid closers can be a tough commodity, with a plethora of closers jobs in jeopardy and every fantasy owner eying the successors to the 9th. This is nothing new. When and how often closing jobs switch hands, well that can certainly change from season to season. Injuries and the phrase “by committee” start making things interesting for fantasy owners and baseball fans alike. So today we are going to look at the closers in the playoff chase and how they could affect their teams respective fates down the stretch. This may also be a good way for you fantasy owners to start evaluating some closers for your playoff runs or, for those owners fading, or already, out of the playoff hunt, to start evaluating for next season especially in keeper and dynasty leagues. Finding a consistently good closer can be tough for real and fantasy teams alike. Apparently it’s hard for everyone, except for TNT, who found one just fine. Never is a closer more important than in the midst of a playoff hunt and during the playoffs. But how should closer goodness be evaluated? Well really, unlike TNT, you would rather have your closer, not know drama.

What I mean is, you cannot just look at the counting stat that is saves, to evaluate a closer. Yes I know that sounds counter intuitive since that is basically THE stat for closers. But think about it this way, a save is valued the same despite the leverage of the situation. Coming in to protect a three run lead has the same value as coming in to protect a one run lead. Saving a game with a 1-2-3 ninth, or saving game after loading the bases, is still a SV in the good ol’ box score. In theory, by law of averages, those closers allowing the baserunners and constantly working into jams, can only wiggle their way out of said jams so often. I’m sure any baseball fan would rather have their team’s closer, more often than not, breeze through the 9th with with very little effort. So although a closer may be racking up the saves, unless you are fan of the closer’s real life team or happen to own said closer in fantasy, you may not have a true idea of their effectiveness. Got that? Okay, allow me to elaborate.

Ideally as a fan, as I mentioned, you would want your team’s closer to breeze through the 9th, 1-2-3. I went ahead an sifted through some game logs and found the closers with the most 1-2-3 innings in save opportunities this season:

Craig Kimbrel, ATL- 20
Fernando Rodney, TB- 16
Joel Hanrahan, PIT- 13

Coincidentally, or not so much, as of the end of play Sunday these are three of the four closers with 30 plus saves and all three of their teams are in the playoff hunt. Of course these three have had more opportunities than most, so naturally they should have higher numbers in this category. But, of the 27 closers that have recorded 10 or more saves this season, only 11 have double digit 1-2-3 innings in a save opportunity. But how about we see if we can put this in to slightly better perspective.

Here are the percentage of 1-2-3 innings in one inning save opportunities for the closers who are locked in the playoff hunt:

Casey Janssen, TOR- 70.0%
Craig Kimbrel, ATL- 60.6%
Alfredo Aceves, BOS- 59.0%
Fernando Rodney, TB- 55.2%
Tyler Clippard, WAS- 55.0%
Joe Nathan, TEX- 54.5%
Kenley Jansen, LAD- 50.0%
Ernesto Frieri, LAA- 50.0%
Jose Valverde, DET- 48.0%
Joel Hanrahan, PIT- 44.8%
Jim Johnson, BAL- 38.7%
J.J. Putz, ARI- 36.4%
Aroldis Chapman, CIN- 34.8%
Ryan Cook, OAK 30.8%
Rafael Soriano, NYY- 27.3%
Santiago Casilla, SF- 26.3%
Addison Reed, CHW- 20%
Jason Motte, STL- 8.3%

Now there can always be factors outside of the pitchers control that can affect a 1-2-3 inning, but 8.3%, Jason Motte?! Of the pitchers who have recorded 10 or more saves this season the average percentage is around 40%. Basically guys below this mark, may be having their fans reaching for the Mylanta a bit too often and, in Motte’s case, well, buying their Mylanta in bulk from Costco. But this is not all that should worry Cardinal fans. Oh, no, no, no.

Motte has converted one, yes just one, of his five save opportunities where he has come in to protect a one run lead. This is a super small sample size, sure, but still not making anyone in St. Louis breathe easy, or at all, when Motte enters the game. But I would not be too quick to judge or laugh if you are a Giants fan either.

Santiago Casilla, he of the eye-popping 26.3% of innings that have gone 1-2-3, has been slightly better than Motte, but converting five of nine save opportunities protecting a one run lead is hardly confidence inspiring. Here are the conversion percentages when the playoff contending closers have tried to protect a one run lead, with the number of opportunities in parentheses:

Joe Nathan, TEX- 100% (7)
Casey Janssen, TOR- 100% (2)
Fernando Rodney, TB- 90.9% (11)
Jim Johnson, BAL- 87.5% (16)
Craig Kimbrel, ATL- 85.7% (14)
Joel Hanrahan, PIT- 82.4% (17)
Ernesto Frieri, LAA- 80.0% (5)
Rafael Soriano, NYY- 77.8% (9)
Aroldis Chapman, CIN- 77.8% (9)
Addison Reed, CHW- 76.9% (13)
Tyler Clippard, WAS- 75.0% (6)
Kenley Jansen, LAD- 69.2% (13)
J.J. Putz, ARI- 57.1% (7)
Jose Valverde, DET- 55.5% (9)
Santiago Casilla, SF- 55.5% (9)
Alfredo Aceves, BOS- 50.0% (8)
Ryan Cook, OAK- 50.0% (6)
Jason Motte, STL- 20.0% (5)

It appears that Johnson, Soriano, Chapman and Reed can at least get it done in the higher leverage situations, but you have to wonder when the law of averages will catch up to these closers when they are allowing more runners to reach.

But let us delve in just a bit deeper and use the shutdown and meltdown numbers, courtesy of Fan Graphs. For those of you not in the know, a shutdown is when a closer has increased his team’s win probability by six percent and a meltdown is basically that other end of the spectrum, where the closer has gone ahead and decreased his team’s win probability by six percent. Here is a look at the ratio of shutdowns to meltdowns for these playoff contending closers:

Fernando Rodney- 23.00
Jim Johnson- 10.00
Joel Hanrahan- 8.67
Craig Kimbrel- 7.00
Aroldis Chapman- 5.80
Ernesto Frieri- 5.00
Casey Janssen- 4.33
J.J. Putz- 4.25
Rafael Soriano- 4.20
Tyler Clippard- 4.17
Kenley Jansen- 3.71
Addison Reed- 3.67
Joe Nathan- 3.40
Ryan Cook- 3.29
Jose Valverde- 2.67
Alfredo Aceves- 2.44
Jason Motte- 2.00
Santiago Casilla- 1.07

Basically Fernando Rodney has been super duper effective for the Rays. Now, it looks like Cook and Casilla are in the midst of losing their jobs as closer already but the Cardinals, Red Sox and Tigers should really be keeping a close eye on the back of their bullpen as well. And although Soriano is above average in the shutdown/ meltdown department, I feel some implosions in his future. If the Braves and Rays fold down the stretch it certainly seems like it won’t be because of their closers. Now, of course, their teams just need to to the ball in their hands.

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The Roster Report – February 29, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 29, 2012

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. Welcome to another edition of the Roster Report. With most of the off-season roster movement finished, it’s time to take a long look at a few recent decisions (and an injury) that will affect roster composition for a few squads. If you’re the fan of the Athletics, the Astros, or the Yankees, you may want to keep reading.

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The Houston Astros name SP/RP Brett Myers closer.

Rather unexpectedly, the Astros announced yesterday that Brett Myers will be moving back to the bullpen, and should open the 2012 season as the closer for the Astros. This adjusts expectations both for the bullpen and the rotation, as Myers had been a fixture in the Houston starting rotation since coming over from the Phillies in 2010. Myers hasn’t been particularly good recently, posting a 4.46/4.26/3.75 ERA/FIP/xFIP triple-slash line. Myers has always performed worse than his xFIP has indicated, but in 2011 he was especially snakebitten by runners on base. Myers has a tough time striking out hitters, so it seems his main strength lies in his ability to throw 200 innings a year. That doesn’t exactly help him in the ‘pen.

Now, instead of Myers holding down a role in the rotation, spots will go to Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Lyles. The fifth spot could perhaps go to newly-acquired young pitchers Kyle Weiland and Brett Olberholtzer. Instead, initial reports say that it is more likely that a veteran, either Livan Hernandez or Zach Duke, will fill the fifth starter role. To me, this is a huge mistake. The Astros need to find young talent where they can, and there’s little to no chance that Hernandez or Duke will be a tradeable asset or a valuable piece of the team going forward. This move could likely do nothing to either improve the rotation today or develop young talent, which would be a mistake.

I had previously expected hard-throwing righty David Carpenter to win the closing job in Houston for the coming season, but swapping Myers into that role probably won’t affect the won-loss record of the team. Moving Myers to the closer spot may make him more attractive as a trade candidate, but teams haven’t been falling all over themselves to acquire Myers and his  But if the ‘Stros could pass off David Carpenter as a real closer, he’d have some real trade value himself. Pitchers like former Astro Mark Melancon (and Andrew Bailey…and Sergio Santos…and Sean Marshall) have brought back good young pieces in trade. These are things that If Myers becomes a closer, then he obviously comes up to fantasy baseball relevance as a low-tier closer.

If the move opens up space for a young pitcher in the rotation, then this is probably a solid move for a team looking to develop young talent. And if this move convinces another franchise that it’s worth it to trade for Brett Myers, well that’s probably a good deal in and of itself. But if they’re moving on from Myers to fit Hernandez or Duke in the rotation, then they’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Oakland Athletics 3B Scott Sizemore is out for the 2012 season with a torn ACL.

You know, the Oakland Athletics need another position battle. Unfortunately, incumbent third baseman Scott Sizemore suffered an ACL injury that will keep him out for the entire upcoming season. This injury makes something completely obvious: the Athletics have precious little infield depth. Either Eric Sogard or Adam Rosales could step in and fill in at third, but neither player has skills that really profile at the hot corner. Both players have even less bat than Sizemore (who’s a good, but not-yet-great with the stick), so it would behoove them to find someone who is not currently on the 25-man roster as a replacement.

Initial word out of Oakland is that catcher Josh Donaldson will get first crack at the starting gig with Sizemore out. Donaldson probably isn’t a good enough hitter to be a major league catcher (95 wRC+ in Triple-A), so I’d be surprised if he will stick at third. In all honesty, the A’s probably need to go out and add another player. Trade candidates are out there that include players like Juan Francisco, Daniel Murphy, or Alberto Callaspo. I’d expect the Athletics to target low-cost, high-control players who could stick with the team for several seasons in trade. There’s been no rumor to the effect, but I wonder if there’s any chance the A’s would look into moving former SS and current CF prospect Grant Green to the hot corner. But as it stands now, the Athletics have a huge hole that needs to be filled pronto.

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The New York Yankees sign RP David Aardsma to a one-year, $500K deal.

David Aardsma may be most famous for being the MLB player who is listed first alphabetically by last name. But now, he’s going to be a late-inning pitcher for the Bronx Bombers once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Aardsma was quite effective as a closer for the Mariners in 2009 and 2010, saving 69 games over those two seasons. The journeyman reliever sports a career 4.20 ERA and 4.24 FIP, but he has outperformed both these numbers over the last two seasons, showing that the could still be in his pitching prime. The only open question is whether or not he will be able to recover from his TJ surgery and perform at the level which he is accustomed.

If he comes back strong at the end of this year, expect the Yankees to pick up an option for 2013 at $500K. Could Aardsma then be the next man up if Mariano Rivera were to retire at the end of the season? Probably not…that’s probably David Robertson‘s slot to lose. I also don’t imagine Aardsma will have much of a fantasy impact this season…though he could have a little value in holds leagues as a late waiver pickup. But first, we’ve got to see that he’s able to recover from his injury.

Quick Hits

  • Word is coming out from Mets camp that former Cy Young-winner Johan Santana may actually be ready to pitch by Opening Day. Santana would solidify a Met rotation without top-end talent, and would probably be the #1 starter by default. If he is able to go, expect the Met rotation to shake out with some combination of Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, and Dillon Gee. If Santana can’t step into the rotation right away, expect journeyman-poet Miguel Batista to hold down the last spot in the rotation until he’s ready.
  • The Angels have been talking all winter about shoring up their bullpen (or even bringing in a closer to displace Jordan Walden), but now they’ve added another arm to their ‘pen in Jason Isringhausen. Izzy, formerly of the Mets, Athletics, Cardinals, and Rays, picked up a few saves (including his 300th) in Flushing last season, but he’s probably not a guy to rely on in the ninth. Instead, he’ll provide veteran presence and a few strikeouts (8.43 K/9 in 2011) as a setup arm in Anaheim – at least as long as his right arm holds up.
  • A wave of catchers retired over the last week or so. Three very solid veterans of different stripes called it quits: Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, and Bengie Molina all are officially calling it quits for 2012. Posada is probably headed for the Hall of Fame as one of the most potent offensive catchers of the last thirty years. Jason Varitek will never have to buy a beer in Boston, and should see his number retired, but doesn’t have the offensive chops to find a home in Cooperstown. And Molina, despite being an effective backstop for a decade, never had a transcendent season but was a long-time starter. All three of these players might be joined by another great catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, if he doesn’t hook on soon.

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The Roster Report – February 11, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 11, 2012

Posted on 11 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans! Welcome to a special edition of the Roster Report. As the off-season transactions wind down, the Roster Report will shift its focus on to how each team will be shaping their 25-man roster through Spring Training cuts, injuries, and personnel decisions. Today, I’d like to take a closer look at a team who’s made wholesale changes to their roster this offseason: the Oakland Athletics. The A’s gutted their pitching staff in an attempt to reload to complete against their big-spending divisional rivals. Because of these moves,a resulting influx of new players, and big holes in the present roster, there are three rotation spots, a closer opening, two outfield positions, first base, and DH spots that will all be up for grabs this Spring.

The pitching situation will be something to watch, as talents such as Graham Godfrey, Tyson Ross, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock all vie for roster spots. But even more interesting and messy is the outfield / DH / first base situation. The Athletics have, by my count, at least nine players vying for duty at these four spots…and all of these players have a non-zero chance of making the squad. Basically, the Athletics have a situation where if any player fails, there are two more people ready to take his place. That’s why I like to call this situation “The Hydra” – if you cut off one head, two more appear. It’s a rarity for a team to have so many question marks in such prime offensive positions, usually RF, LF, 1B, and DH are the four most prime power-hitting spots in the lineup.

So what I’ll do here is break down the Athletics middle-of-the order Hydra here, giving you odds on which players will make the major league roster and what their most likely role will be.

Seth Smith

Seth Smith

Smith is the only one of the nine guys I’m profiling who is absolutely assured of breaking camp with the big club. In the left-handed Smith’s career, he has been a terror against right-handed pitchers, and there’s no reason to think that this trend will end here. Over his career, he’s hit 47 of his 51 HR and has posted an excellent .377 wOBA against righties. If you can protect Smith against left-handed pitchers, perhaps by platooning him with another acquisition, he’ll be extremely effective. Given that Smith is an adequate fielder in left, has plenty of major-league experience, and has shown consistency and skill, you can be assured that he’ll start the lion’s share of games as Oakland’s LF.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 100%

Likely role: LF against right-handed pitchers

Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

The Athletics surprised some when they inked Jonny Gomes to a one-year, $1MM contract when they already had plenty of outfield options. Gomes didn’t have a great 2011, but to be fair, he hasn’t had a great year in his career. Jonny has some power, and stacks huge amounts of strikeouts, but his best use is as the small side of a lefty-righty platoon. Fortunately, with Seth Smith in house, Gomes is a terrific fit as someone who can take the at-bats against lefties that Smith would rather not get. Though Gomes only managed a .209/.325/.389 slash line, his walk rate jumped up and he was mis-used against too many righties. Despite a career wOBA of .378 against lefties but only .317 against righties, Gomes saw twice as many right-handed pitchers as he did lefties with the Nats and Reds last year. Used appropriately in Oakland, he could be a valuable asset for the team and a productive hitter. It turns out that this could be a wise and valuable addition to the team.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 80%

Likely role: LF against left-handed pitchers, pinch-hitter

Josh Reddick

You’ll have to forgive me, but I used to get Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish confused. The good news is that should no longer happen, as Reddick is out of Boston and in Oakland, acquired as part of the return for Andrew Bailey. Josh Reddick can do a little of everything. In his rookie season he hit for a little power (7 HR and .177 ISO), got on base (.327 OBP and .280 batting average), and played solid defense (20.2 UZR/150) in a limited 87 game sample. He’s got the right combination of potential and performance to be a starter amid all the question marks in Oakland. I anticipate he’ll get first crack at right field, and he should stick around unless his bat falls apart or he succumbs to injury.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 80%

Likely role: Starting RF to begin the season

Daric Barton

First base has been a bit of a mystery for the Athletics ever since Daric Barton took over as starter in 2008. Barton is not your typical big-slugging first baseman…he hits for very little power (.378 career slugging percentage) and gets his value through walks and solid defense. Coming off of a 2010 where he notched 5.1 fWAR and put up a quiet All-Star-caliber performance, 2011 was a horror show. Daric posted a .212/.325/.267 slash line and found himself in Triple-A during 2011, and with no real potential to live up to, he’s got a tough task in reclaiming his spot as the starter. But even with that in mind, Barton has the major league pedigree, and he is only a year off an excellent performance. I think Barton gets the benefit of the doubt to start the season, unless one of the other first base contenders has a ridiculous Spring Training or his hitting continues to regress. But Chris Carter, Brandon Allen, and others are coming for his job, and Barton will have to produce with the stick to keep it.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 75%

Likely role: Opening Day “regular” 1B, quick hook if he struggles

Chris Carter

Chris Carter has power. Chris Carter has patience. Chris Carter is under team control. What’s not to like? How about the fact that in his short time in the majors, Carter hasn’t been any good at all. He’s only had 124 plate appearances, but he’s managed a world-class average super-awful .167/.226/.254 slash line. Despite this, he’s still got the pedigree to be a very effective major-league hitter. Not only that, but Carter hits right-handed and could spell players like Josh Reddick, Brandon Allen, Seth Smith, and Daric Barton, making him a solid fit among all the left-handed hitters in the A’s lineup. Still, he could find himself back in Triple-A with a poor showing in the spring.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 55%

Likely role: Opening Day DH

Collin Cowgill

Cowgill had an explosive season in Triple-A Reno, posting a .354/.430/.554 line in his first go-round in the league. He even stole thirty bases and played solid D in the outfield. But Cowgill was never an elite prospect, and those gaudy offensive numbers were buoyed by the park and league he played in. Still, he has a solid approach, and does a lot of things well. That should be enough for him to stick as a do-everything fourth outfielder for a team like Oakland. And if he can maintain the speed and a decent batting approach, he could be a starter in the league and a potential fantasy steal as well.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 55%

Likely role: Fourth outfielder

Brandon Allen

At the risk of over-simplifying, Brandon Allen is basically a left-handed version of Chris Carter. He’s hit for monstrous power in the minors like Carter. He’s capable of taking walks (10.9% BB rate in the majors) like Carter. He has some very serious strikeout issues (he projects to strike out one out of every four PA) like Carter. He plays first base and tries to fake it in the outfield like Carter. He’s even roughly similar in age, just one year older than Carter. Yet that one year difference seems to be a big deal in prospect circles, and Allen is really on his last legs to prove himself beyond Triple-A. A Carter-Allen platoon at first base or DH could be a potent use of both players, but given the defensive limitations of both men, and another platoon already in place in LF, the A’s may be unwilling to go down such a path. Like so many of the young Athletic players, he needs regular time in the lineup to prove his worth at the ML level. He could be Adam Dunn-lite from 2009, or Adam Dunn-lite from 2011.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 30%

Likely role: Could be either Triple-A 1B / DH or 25th man

Michael Taylor

No other head of The Hydra has more potential than Michael Taylor. The hulking outfielder was once a blue-chip prospect, but his stock has fallen after uninspiring performances in Triple-A in both 2010 and 2011. Nevertheless, Taylor has power potential and a solid batting eye. Despite getting a little old for a prospect (he is entering his age-26 season), Taylor has earned a chance to show his stuff at the major-league level. I’m sure he’ll get his chance in 2011, but word out of Oakland is that the team wants to see him get off to a good start in Triple-A before getting extended run with the big club. I think he’ll be patrolling right field (or playing DH) by mid-season, and he’ll get his chance to make his mark.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 25%

Likely role: Triple-A outfielder and mid-season callup

Kila Ka’aihue

Kila Ka’aihue came over from Kansas City at the very end of the 2011 season after getting blocked at first by uber-prospect Eric Hosmer. Ka’aihue has always put up good minor league numbers (especially OBP), but is old for a prospect at 28 to start 2012. The left-handed hitter hasn’t been particularly effective in the majors (84 wRC+) despite his excellent batting eye, but he’s only been given about 300 plate appearances. Given his age and lack of upside, Kila probably won’t kick off the season with the big club unless something weird happens. He’s probably just the Sacramento first baseman, and some injury insurance.

Chance of making the 25-man roster: 10%

Likely role: Triple-A first baseman

These nine players may not be the most well-known, or the best players in the league. The ZiPS projection system doesn’t have a single one of these nine players posting an offensive season better than league-average. But there’s still a lot of potential here, and with the right combination of playing time and development, the A’s might find themselves with a middle-of-the-order bat or building block that emerges from this bunch of talented-but-flawed players.

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Fantasy’s Biggest Winners And Losers Of The Offseason

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Fantasy’s Biggest Winners And Losers Of The Offseason

Posted on 07 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

The Hot Stove is cooling down and fantasy baseball season is right around the corner.  With many fantasy owners starting to prepare for their drafts, here is a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of this offseason.

WINNERS

Yonder Alonso – Stuck behind Joey Votto in Cincinnati and incapable of playing left field, Alonso escaped his own personal purgatory when the Reds traded him to San Diego for Mat Latos.  After hitting .293/.370/.466 in 4 minor league seasons and .299/.354/.479 in 117 at bats in the majors, Alonso will finally get a chance to show what he can do.

Edinson Volquez – Another player whom the Reds sent over to the Padres as part of the Mat Latos trade, Volquez’ value immediately gets a boost as a result of pitching in Petco Park.  Volquez gave up 19 homeruns in just 108.2 innings pitched last year.  If Petco can help cut that total in half and he cuts down on his walks, he has a good chance to push his ERA under 4.00 for the first time since 2008.

Jarrod Parker/Brad Peacock/Tom Milone – Acquired by the A’s as part of the trades of Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, at least two of these 3 pitchers should step into the A’s rotation immediately.  With Dallas Braden and Matt Anderson injured, its possible all 3 will start the year in the rotation.  Parker and Peacock have the most upside of the 3 and all of them got a cup of coffee in the bigs last year.  Expect all of them to see significant time in the majors in 2012.

New Closers – Due to trades and free agency, Matt Thornton, Rafael Betancourt and one of Grant Balfour/Fautino De Los Santos/Joey Devine will be stepping into the closer role in 2012.

Thornton saved 3 games for the White Sox in 2011 and takes over for Sergio Santos, who was traded to the Blue Jays.

Betancourt filled in as closer for an injured Houston Street in 2011, saving 8 games.  With Street traded to San Diego, the closer job is Betancourt’s to lose.

Finally, with the trade of Andrew Bailey to Boston, either Balfour, De Los Santos or Devine will assume the role in 2012.

LOSERS

Ryan Braun – Although nothing has been decided yet, Braun’s value could take a serious hit if his 50 game suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs is upheld.  Braun has appealed and maintains his innocence, but to date no player has ever won an appeal.

Carlos Quentin – Acquired by the Pares from the White Sox, Quentin moves from one of the better hitters’ parks to one of the worst.  After hitting .288 in 2008 with 36 homeruns for the White Sox, Quentin has hit only .245 with an average of about 24 homeruns the last 3 years.  Both numbers could drop even lower in 2012.

Aging Veterans – It appears that teams are starting to realize that they can get the same productivity out of some young rookies that they would get from an over 35 veteran.  As a result, players like Johnny Damon, Vlad Guerrero, Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui are still looking for work, while others, like J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley and David Eckstein are considering retirement.

Former Closers – Since there are winners in the closing shuffle, there has to be losers as well.  This year’s losers are Mark Melancon, Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), Francisco Cordero and Francisco Rodriguez.

After saving 20 games for the Astros in 2011, Melancon was traded to the Red Sox and was considered a replacement for the departed Jonathan Papelbon up until the Red Sox acquired AnDrew Bailey.

Caught for identify fraud, Oviedo’s status for the beginning of 2012 is still up in the air.  However, one thing is for certain, with the Marlins signing Heath Bell this offseason, Oviedo is no longer the closer.

Cordero saved 37 games for the Reds last season, but struggled to find a job this winter.  He finally signed a 1-year deal with Toronto, where he will set up Sergio Santos.

After being traded to the Brewers mid-season, Rodriguez surprised them by accepting arbitration this winter.  Unlikely to receive more on the open market, Rodriguez accepted a setup role with the Brewers.  The Brewers avoided arbitration with Rodriguez by signing him to a 1-year, $8 million contract and could still try to trade him.

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