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Colorado Rockies: another dismal offseason

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Colorado Rockies: another dismal offseason

Posted on 30 January 2013 by Chris Caylor

Some major league baseball teams have had an eventful offseason.

YorvitTorrealba

Take Atlanta, for example. So far this offseason, the Braves acquired outfielder B.J. Upton, his little brother Justin, as well as third baseman Chris Johnson, pitchers Paul Maholm and Jordan Walden.

Toronto traded for or signed everyone else. Okay, not really, but talk about an overhaul. Since the end of the 2012 season, the Blue Jays have added R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, Jeremy Jeffress, Esmil Rogers, Mike Aviles, Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Mark DeRosa, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the other hand, consider the Colorado Rockies.

While the above two teams were loading up to make a run at the World Series, I cannot see the goal to which the Rockies aspire. Not based on these trades and free-agent signings, anyway:

• Pitchers: Jeff Francis, Chris Volstad, Miguel Batista, Manny Corpas
• Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba
• Acquired reliever Wilton Lopez for pitchers Alex White and Alex Gillingham
• Acquired infielder Ryan Wheeler for reliever Matt Reynolds

Let’s start with the good (or, more accurately, the least bad move): Lopez is a useful pitcher who sported a 1.04 WHIP and a park-adjusted ERA+ of 185 for the woeful Astros last year. He should team with veteran Matt Belisle to form a reliable bridge to closer Rafael Betancourt. That is, on the few occasions where the team has a lead after six innings. Best of all, he is under team control through 2016. Given the fungible nature of relievers, that does not justify giving up a promising young arm like Alex White, but at least they didn’t trade White for a single season’s worth of Lopez.

The other pitching moves make it appear that the Rockies are actively attempting to field the worst starting staff in the majors. Francis earned the distinction in 2012 of being the only Rockies starter to surpass 100 innings, despite not starting the season with the team. His hits allowed-to-strikeout ratio was 145 to 76. The Rockies rewarded him with a raise.

The alleged “ace”, Jhoulys Chacin, nibbled around the plate so timidly in 2012 that he earned a demotion to Triple-A in spite of the Rockies’ having no viable alternative to replace him. Jorge De La Rosa, one of the nastier southpaws in the NL during the Rockies’ 2009 playoff run, has been fighting injuries ever since. Yet, the Rockies are counting on him heavily to rebound to his four-years-ago form.

Juan Nicasio, whose inspirational return from a broken neck last year was overshadowed by the Jamie Moyer sideshow, had his 2012 season short-circuited by knee surgery. Nicasio has the stuff to be an effective strikeout pitcher, but needs to sharpen his focus on the mound to avoid unraveling at the first sign of trouble.

Christian Friedrich and Drew Pomeranz (the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade in 2011) will compete to fill out the rotation. Each has shown flashes of promise, but the foolish four-man, 75-pitch rotation idea last year stunted their development. Fans can only hope that the return to a typical five-man rotation will help. As is, we don’t really know how good they can be.

Further hindering the Rockies’ chances at fielding a competitive 2013 team was the team’s failure to trade one of its few marketable commodities (not named Tulowitzki or Gonzalez). Michael Cuddyer, in particular, drew interest from the Phillies and Mariners. This should have been a no-brainer. Tyler Colvin out-performed Cuddyer in every meaningful offensive category in 2012, at less than 1/3 of the cost. However, the Rockies are content to pay Cuddyer over $10 million for league-average production (actually, BELOW average, given his OPS+ of 99), while they dumpster dive for pitchers like Volstad, Batista and Corpas. This is just not an intelligent way to build a competitive baseball team.

But then, that is nothing new for the team’s ownership.

Charlie and Dick Monfort continue to delude themselves into believing that their team is a contender in the NL West, when the past three seasons have demonstrated that nothing could be further from the truth. The Giants have won two of the past three World Series. The Dodgers have become Yankees West, spending money in ways that might surprise George Steinbrenner. The Diamondbacks and Padres have more youthful talent than the Rockies do – and better management. The Rockies, meanwhile, can’t even hire a manager without looking like incompetent bush leaguers.

When they forced Jim Tracy to resign, they replaced him with former Rockies shortstop Walt Weiss, who was coaching a local high school baseball team. HIGH SCHOOL. He wasn’t a promising bench coach like Joe Maddon. He wasn’t a minor-league instructor in whom team management saw something. Had the Brothers Monfort just watched the movie Invincible? Or was it The Rookie? Maybe they saw how the White Sox and Cardinals succeeded last year with untested managers and thought, we can do that!

Whatever the case, they have such faith in Weiss that they gave him a one-year contract. Let me repeat that. They were so confident in their outside-the-box choice that they essentially told him, “We think you’ll be great. By the way, you get a grand total of 162 games to prove it or you’re gone.” Weiss says all the right things – you have to earn your way, I’m not nervous, blah blah blah – but he has less job security than the bullpen catcher. I wish him luck, because he’s going to need it.

The first question I would ask Weiss is this: Dante Bichette as hitting coach? Seriously?

Bichette may have been the most popular Rockie during his stay with the team from 1993-99, but he was the poster child for the negative Coors Field effect on hitters. Of his 274 career home runs, 137 of them came at home during the seven seasons he played for Colorado. He played for 14 seasons. Thanks to those seven seasons spent in Denver (pre-humidor), Bichette’s career Total OPS in home games was 124. His Total OPS in road games? 76.

Yet this is the hitting coach who is going to help solve the Rockies’ road hitting woes? In 2012, they were tied for last in baseball, with a measly 272 runs scored. Bichette never solved his problems hitting on the road when he was a player. Is it reasonable to expect him to do it as a coach? Or is this a hire more aimed at getting some good PR for a team coming off the worst season in its history? After all, nostalgia always works in baseball.

I just wish the team were more nostalgic about the 2009 Colorado Rockies, rather than the fluky 1995 version that never would have made the playoffs if not for the strike-shortened season. Heading into 2013, that 2009 team seems further away than ever.

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Sweet 18!  R.A. Dickey is the first to 18 Wins.

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Sweet 18! R.A. Dickey is the first to 18 Wins.

Posted on 06 September 2012 by Trish Vignola

Mets knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey became the first 18-game winner in the Major Leagues today. With a solid 6 2/3-inning effort and an Ike Davis three-run homer, the Mets took 6-2 win over St. Louis in front of 30,090 at Busch Stadium.

The Mets have won eight of their past 11 games and closed their second-longest road trip of the season with a 6-3 mark. Where was this in July? R.A. Dickey (18-4) is the first New York Mets hurler to record 18 wins in a season since Frank Viola won 20 and Dwight Gooden won 19, both in 1990.

Dickey struck out five and walked one, allowing two earned runs or fewer in four consecutive starts. He deflected credit for the win to Davis, who gave him the necessary breathing room with his key home run. The red-hot Davis has six home runs and 14 RBIs in his past 19 games, including game-winning hits on Aug. 26 and 28. Again, where was this for the past 6 weeks?

“It freed me up; I didn’t have to be so fine,” Dickey said of Davis’ homer. “I could use some other pitches that I knew I could command for strikes. They got some hits on those pitches, which normally I wouldn’t have thrown.”

Mets manager Terry Collins was impressed with Dickey’s ability to stay the course despite having less-than-dominating control of his knuckleball.” He battled very, very hard,” Collins said to MLB.com. “He didn’t have his best stuff. But he continued to work and worked himself out of it like he always does.”

Josh Thole, Dickey’s personal catcher, was also pleased with his gutsy performance. “In-game adjustments, that’s what was more impressive today than anything,” Thole said to MLB.com. “I can say today was definitely not his best knuckleball by any means. He put his ego away and said, ‘You know what, I’m going to have to use my sinker now.’”

Although Dickey had to battle the humidity (moisture and a knuckleball normally do not mix), he still only gave up two earned runs. By Mets’ standards, that’s a Cy Young outing. Let’s have a bit of perspective. R.A. Dickey still had a pretty great game. At least he did in my humble opinion.

The Mets got to St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright (13-12) for five runs on eight hits in five innings. They scored single runs in the second and third innings before taking control in the fifth. Mike Baxter and Murphy singled in front of Davis, who drilled a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left. “I thought it had a chance,” Davis said of the 385-foot drive. “It didn’t get out by a lot.”

Dickey, who tossed a seven-hit shutout against St. Louis on June 2, threw 13 consecutive strikes during a perfect first inning. He worked out of two base runner jams in the second, fourth and fifth innings. St. Louis put the first two runners on in the fourth, but Dickey used his sinker to get Shane Robinson to ground into a double play. He then struck out Daniel Descalso to end the threat.

“If a hiccup occurs and you get a win — it’s nice,” Dickey said.

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Best Kept Secrets in MLB Until Now

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Best Kept Secrets in MLB Until Now

Posted on 30 April 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Kirk Niewenhuis Prior to Awkward Yet Intimate Manhug Celebration

No matter how much you scour the leader boards, stat sheets, box scores, and the interwebz, there are always a few players than somehow stay under the radar longer than they should.  In order to try and identify some of these hidden gems, I have taken an approach that involves searching for players that are just shy of meeting certain qualifying metrics for being listed among the league leaders in different categories.  Then I looked at all the players within a certain window below the qualifying level and sorted them by games played to try and differentiate between part-time players getting more at-bats than usual and regular starters that simply haven’t played enough games to qualify.  To basically provide a point of reference, I’ve also included a few lesser known players who deserve an “atta-boy” or something.  The numbers are surprising for some.

  • Jon Jay (Cardinals CF) – At this moment, Josh Thole is 10th in the National League in batting with a .322 average, and Matt Kemp is leading the league at .425.  Jay started the day just shy of qualifying, and his 1 for 3 performance actually dropped his average approximately 4 points.  He now stands at exactly .400 which would be good for 2nd place.  With a full batting line of .400/.441/.545/.986, he will not remain a secret for much longer.  (Owned in 37.4% of all ESPN fantasy baseball leagues)
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets CF) – Perhaps Nieuwenhuis has gotten lost in the feelgood story that is the Mets so far this year, but he deserves some serious credit for bringing it in a big way this season.  He is one of 5 Mets players in the top 20 in the NL in batting.  For his part, Nieuwenhuis is sporting a .316/.381/.474/.811 line which is good enough to help his popularity soar to that point that he is on 12.3% of all ESPN fantasy baseball leagues right now.
  • Bryan LaHair (Cubs OF/1B) – After seeing him play a few games in person, I’m even more impressed than I was just based on his numbers.  He does not qualify for the batting average leader board, but he is hitting .382/.470/.727/1.197 in 55 at-bats.  Even more importantly for the Cubbies, LaHair only costs them $482,500 in salary this season.  The crazy part?  LaHair was the 1180th player taken in the 2002 draft.  That’s the 39th round, folks.  If MLB ran the draft like the NFL does, that pick would have taken place about a month or so after the first pick was selected.  (Owned in 59.5% of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues)
  • Ted Lilly (Dodgers P) – Lilly has only pitched 20.0 innings in 3 games, so he does not qualify for the ERA leader board, but watch out when/if he does.  He is currently sporting a 0.90 ERA which equals the 0.90 that league leader Joe Saunders has posted.  His ownership percentage in ESPN leagues has just risen to a season high 94.1% due in at least part to a jump of 3% in the last week.
  • Ryan Dempster (Cubs P) – Dempster also has the misfortune of having only 3 starts under his belt this season, and his 20 1/3 innings pitched are not enough to qualify him for the ERA title quite yet.  If he can maintain anything close to his current ERA of 1.33, he won’t be flying low for much longer.  (Owned in 80.1% of all ESPN fantasy baseball leagues)

All ESPN fantasy baseball league information provided courtesy of ESPN which is wholly owned and operated by ESPN and is a division of ABC/ESPN and its conglomerate of 411 cable channels and 47 geostationary satellites.

By the way, you can follow me on the Twitteh -> gr33nazn (Eco-friendly + Asian)

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Finding Keepers:  New York Mets

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Finding Keepers: New York Mets

Posted on 11 March 2012 by Mark Sherrard

The New York Mets find themselves in a bit of a rebuilding year, after finishing 4th in the NL East in 2011. However, with low expectations comes lower perceived value, which means more opportunities for Finding Keepers.

Here is a look at some Mets players who could be undervalued in 2012 and end up keeper worthy.

After a strong rookie year, in which he hit .264/.351/.440 with 19 homers, 1B Ike Davis missed most of the 2011 campaign with an ankle injury. Add to that the speculation that he may have Valley Fever and many fantasy owners will steer clear of him. However, in 36 games last year, he did hit .302/.383/.543 and looked like he was well on his way to a breakout year before the injury. If he proves healthy this spring, snatch him up before someone else does.

2B Daniel Murphy is not a flashy guy, he will not get you a bunch of homeruns or stolen bases, but he did manage to hit a quiet .320/.362/.448 last year, while qualifying at 2B, 3B and 1B. His multi-positional eligibility might make him a bit more valuable to some, but moderate numbers in the counting stats might just keep his value low enough to be considered keeper material.

SS Ruben Tejada is another player who will not carry a team and will barely raise a blip on most owners radars. He offers no power and little speed, but his .284/.360/.335 line last year and multi-positional eligibility (2B/SS) make him valuable in deeper, NL only leagues. A couple bucks or a late round pick could net you a quality UT player.

OF Lucas Duda got some regular playing time last year and played well, earning the starting right field job for 2012. He has some power and with a .292/.370/.482 slash line in 2011, he showed that he can handle big league pitching. This might be the last chance to get him cheap, because I expect bigger and better things from him this year and into the future.

C Josh Thole is another under-the-radar kind of guy. He is not going to provide a lot of homeruns, but he will hit for a good average and will likely be undervalued in most leagues. He is your typical won’t hurt you second catcher and could be a good keeper in deeper leagues.

2B Reese Havens has been the second baseman of the future for the Mets ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft. Problem is, he has not been able to stay healthy for a full season. He owns a career .269/.366/.463 line in 4 minor league seasons, but has hit .301/.379/.505 in AA. For those of you with reserve or minor league spots, you might want to consider taking a flier on Havens.

SP Johan Santana is coming off shoulder surgery, an injury that has felled many a quality pitcher, such as Brandon Webb. That alone will scare many owners off. However, he pitched well in his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday, topping out around 92 mph. If his changeup is still working, he could start back up where he left off in 2010. He should come cheap and, at age 32, he should still have a few good years left in him.

I am not sold on the rest of the Mets starting pitchers. Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee have shown some flashes, but have not been consistent enough to be considered keepers. R.A. Dickey had a strong 2011 season, posting a 3.28 ERA, but at age 37 his better days are probably behind him.

Finally, OF David Wright is one guy who will likely be overvalued based on his name alone. His 2011 season was marred by back issues, which may keep his value down, but should also make you reconsider drafting him.

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DOs And DONTs: Baltimore Orioles

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DOs And DONTs: Baltimore Orioles

Posted on 06 February 2012 by Daniel Aubain

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the Baltimore Orioles will not be a very good team on the field in 2012 (and beyond) but that doesn’t mean a few of their players won’t have impactful fantasy baseball seasons.

Below is an evaluation of their entire 40-man roster and which players should have a significant fantasy impact this season as well as those you should probably avoid.

  • DO realize the best the O’s have to offer, fantasy-wise, is OF Adam Jones. He’s currently sporting an ADP of 75.35 on MockDraftCentral.com and should provide a steady return (.280/80/25/90/15) at that point in your drafts. Just keep an eye on some of the other outfielders being drafted around this spot (Shane Victorino 75.15; Mike Morse 78.22; Drew Stubbs 81.57) who could provide a better return simply by being on better teams.
  • DON’T bother drafting any of this team’s projected starting pitchers per RotoChamp.com (Jeremy Guthrie; Zach Britton; Wei-Yin Chen; Jake Arrieta; Tsuyoshi Wada) unless you have an affection for sub-10 Win guys with plus-4.00 ERAs with 2:1 K:BB ratios.
  • DO draft C Matt Wieters as your primary catcher (ADP 99.43) before the bottom falls out of viable options around this point. He’ll provide a standard 5×5 line around .270/70/20/70/0 and save you from killing yourself for having to draft the likes of Chris Iannetta, Miguel Olivo and Josh Thole.
  • DON’T worry. 1B/3B Mark Reynolds will probably hit over .200 this season. Probably. On the bright side, he’ll definitely hit over 30 home runs. Okay, okay. That’s a probably, too. There are so many negatives to drafting him that you’re probably better off letting someone else draft him. Make that definitely better off.
  • DO continue to expect steady production from OF Nick Markakis in line with his career numbers. He’s averaged (over 162 games played per Baseball-Reference.com) a .295/89/18/85/9 line over six seasons in the Bigs and seems to be a safer bet than Jones to continue doing so.
  • DON’T expect much out of 2B Brian Roberts until he proves he’s fully recovered from his concussion. He’s only played in a combined 98 games over the last two seasons and reports have him and the O’s being cautious moving forward through Spring Training. Grabbing him in the final rounds of your deep mixed leagues and stashing him on the bench until his health concerns become clearing is not a bad strategy but keep your expectations low.
  • DO draft SS J.J. Hardy if you like 15-25 home runs from your low-average, zero-speed shortstop position. AL-only and very deep leaguers have no choice but to draft him when needed but in those 8-10 team mixed leagues that don’t utilize extra roster slots like MI or IF, you’d be better off aggressively pursuing a top-tier shortstop and leaving Hardy’s ownership to some other unfortunate sucker.
  • DON’T you dare draft 1B/3B Chris Davis! How many times are you going to be fooled into believing he’s “on the verge of big things”. Until he actually proves he can provide “big things”, stay away.
  • DO you think RPs Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg or someone else will emerge as the team’s closer? Does it matter? One of these guys will get 20-30 Saves and my money would be on Johnson.

What Orioles’ player(s) are you most excited to draft and which are you avoiding like the plague? Be aware, though. This is the kind of team that could throw in the towel pretty early and start shipping valuable players off in deals to go young and cheap. Why else would they be linked to Manny Ramirez? And if they do start a fire-sale, what young players get first crack at the big leagues?

This article is the latest installment of “DOs And DON’Ts”. Be sure to check out all of the other teams covered already here and keep an eye out for your favorite team sure to be covered soon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my assessment of the Orioles and the value that this series brings to your fantasy baseball drafting strategies. Use the comments section below or interact with me on Twitter @DJAubain.

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