Tag Archive | "Mike Trout"

Playing The Name Game: Spring Training Edition

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Playing The Name Game: Spring Training Edition

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Chris Caylor

This is the first of a two-part spring training edition of Playing the Name Game. This article is targeted at those owners whose drafts (or auctions) haven’t yet taken place. Most of my drafts/auctions have not occurred, which is unusual, based on the comments of several fantasy baseball writers I read and respect. Now, I happen to play in AL-only and NL-only leagues, as I find those leagues more challenging than typical mixed leagues.

NameGame

Regardless of whether the format is draft or auction, fantasy baseball league winners are usually the owners who get the most bang for their buck. Owners who drafted Mike Trout in the mid-to-late rounds, or spent his/her money on R.A. Dickey instead of Tim Lincecum, probably enjoyed finishing in the money in their leagues last year.

The goal of these articles is to identify players who might similarly boost your team in 2013. Let’s jump right in.

First Base

Player A: .299/.344/.463, 18 HR, 108 RBI, 116 OPS+
Player B: .227/.308/.462, 32 HR, 90 RBI, 110 OPS+

Player A is the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez. Player B is Ike Davis of the Mets. Gonzalez has superior talent around him, but his home run totals have dropped each of the past three seasons. At 25, Davis is five years younger and smacked 20 home runs in his final 75 games in 2012. The difference in average draft position, though, is what really struck me: Gonzalez is going in the 3rd-4th round, while Davis is going between rounds 12-16. Why draft A-Gon when you can fortify your middle infield and outfield in the early rounds and get plenty of power from a guy like Davis (or Paul Goldschmidt) later?

Speaking of middle infield:

Second base

Player A: .290/.347/.449, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 20 SB, 112 OPS+
Player B: .257/.335/.379, 14 HR, 76 RBI, 31 SB, 103 OPS+

Player A is Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox. Player B is Jason Kipnis of the Indians. Personally, I consider Pedroia one of the most overrated players in baseball. The way he runs his mouth, you’d think he was better than the Yankees’ Robinson Cano. But the numbers prove otherwise. Kipnis, meanwhile, will turn 26 shortly after Opening Day and plays for a team that added Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to its 2013 lineup. True, Kipnis did tail off drastically in the second half of 2012 after a terrific first three months. But the power is developing to complement his 30-steal speed. In ESPN leagues, Kipnis is coming off the board two rounds after Pedroia. That equals two rounds where you can load up on big-time outfielders or an elite shortstop instead. I’m buying.

Shortstop

Player A: .287/.360/.486, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 2 SB, 111 OPS+
Player B: .292/.335/.511, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 21 SB, 126 OPS+

Player A is Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies. Player B is Ian Desmond of the Nationals. Last year was supposed to be The Big Year for Tulo, as he was entering his age 27 season and coming off three consecutive seasons where he compiled an OPS+ north of 130. Instead, Tulo only played 47 games and missed the final four months of the 2012 season. Entering his seventh season, Tulowitzki has played in 140+ games just three times. When healthy, he is the best shortstop in either league. Unfortunately, that’s become a huge gamble for fantasy owners due to the multiple leg injuries. Desmond is entering his own age 27 season and put up his 2012 stat line despite missing about a month with a dreaded oblique injury, so his numbers could have been even better. Oblique injuries don’t seem to recur with the same frequency as leg injuries. Tulo has the edge in power, but Desmond has better speed, which is more difficult to come by.

Third Base

Player A: .306/.391/.492, 21 HR, 93 RBI, 15 SB, 143 OPS+
Player B: .244/.317/.476, 30 HR, 85 RBI, 1 SB, 117 OPS+

Player A is the Mets’ David Wright. Player B is Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates. Here’s an interesting stat: in 2009 and 2011, Wright combined for just 24 home runs. In 2010 and 2012, Wright smacked a combined 50 home runs. Which Wright will it be in 2013? Will the moved-in fences at Citi Field boost his power numbers, or are the 30-homer days gone for the six-time All-Star? It strikes me as an expensive gamble, given his average draft position in the 1st-2nd round. Meanwhile, in 2012, Alvarez found the power stroke that tantalized the Pirates into making him the #2 overall pick in 2008. Like all Pittsburgh hitters, he tailed off in the second half of the season, but his 53-point jump in batting average (and 178-point jump in slugging) shows that Alvarez has figured some things out at the plate. It looks like the Buccos have finally found their cleanup hitter to protect Andrew McCutchen. And at less than half of Wright’s average auction value, Alvarez should be a major-league bargain for fantasy owners.

Catcher

Player A: .319/.416/.446, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 8 SB, 81 R, 141 OPS+
Player B: .301/.328/.471, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 0 SB, 38 R, 117 OPS+

Player A is the Twins’ Joe Mauer. Player B is Salvador Perez of the Royals. Mauer is now on the wrong side of 30, playing a position that is notoriously brutal on an athlete’s body. That said, Mauer bounced back nicely from a wretched 2011. Mauer is still an elite player, but he lands on this list because he is playing fewer and fewer games at catcher. While the Twins aim to preserve their big-money star, meet the new Joe Mauer: Sal Perez. The Royals’ 22-year-old backstop kept up his impressive contact rate after returning from a knee injury last year and looks like a future superstar at the position. Because he is buried in woeful Kansas City, he may slip a few rounds in your draft or auction. Perez’ 2013 projections are equal to or better than Mauer in every category except RBI. Don’t miss the boat on him.

You may have detected a trend is these five comparisons: I recommend younger, up-and-coming players as better bargains. That isn’t to say you should avoid any of the “bigger” names; only that you should be able to get similar production at a lower cost later in your draft/auction. If it works out, you allow yourself to acquire elite talent at a different position, while another owner might find himself reaching for a backup or platoon player to fill a roster spot.

These are only one man’s opinion. For what it’s worth, though, I did win my league in 2012.

Coming up In Part 2: pitchers and outfielders.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10.

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Fantasy Forecast

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Fantasy Forecast

Posted on 22 February 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In Florida and Arizona all spring training camps are now kicked into gear. Along with that, Fantasy Baseball leagues are forming and drafts are being prepped for.

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This year, my fantasy career becomes a teenager. I have been competing in various fantasy leagues since the year 2000, and with that I have managed several championship teams, have also had a few down teams, and a whole bunch in the middle with heartbreak and triumph.

For me, fantasy football and baseball leagues have always been about fun. The chance to have bragging rights over friends, maybe win a few bucks, and watching the games from a different perspective is a great learning tool. I can still remember having those drafts in friend’s basements and jokingly hearing from the peanut gallery that every player would be a bust. Or, making a draft day trade that was crazy ridiculous, yet still managing to win a championship that same year. Gathering around big boards with magazines fanned out and a dozen pizzas ordered, hoping that you will create that winning club for the upcoming season are like mini Christmas’ for some.

With that in mind, here is a little forecasting to hopefully set the 2013 season off on the right track. For me, the top pick overall this season has to be a guy that has yet to play on an Opening Day. The Angel’s Mike Trout is the guy this season. His rookie season was one of the best seasons in history and not just by a rookie. He is a five tool player. Trout edges out the Detroit Tigers’ Triple Crown man, Miguel Cabrera. Rounding out my overall top 5 would be Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols, and Andrew McCutchen.

Next on the clock, the top pitcher would be Justin Verlander of the Tigers as well. He just turned 30 but he is a true ace. He wins games, eats up innings, and dominates the strike outs. Two other aces to headline a staff would be the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw or the Rays’ David Price. Stephen Strasburg, while he is a star attraction, is not quite a top three pitcher just yet. Personally, I still have questions about his arm. Coming out of college I suspected that he may be prone to a major surgery and that is what happened a few seasons ago. After last year’s well publicized inning limit he should have a solid season and hopefully will pitch a full year. The top catcher would definitely be the Giants’ Buster Posey and top closer to rack up saves would be the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel.

Many times, seasons are won and lost on those draft day risks and reaches. The sleepers or rookies you hope will pan out because you want to jump at them first before the guy on his ninth slice of pizza does. These picks may have you booed into the next beverage run, but they could also lead to a victory dance at the end of the season too.

ChrisSale

On the mound, sleepers may include the White Sox Chris Sale who last year was a starter, then closer, then starter again and turned in a heck of a season. This year he will likely be the ace and have another good season while many still may have doubts. Also, Madison Bumgarner continues to develop and improve out by the bay. He is overshadowed by others out there but his talents and skills are right up there. Mike Minor in Atlanta could also put together a nice season as well.

Offensive sleepers include the Houston Astros Jose Altuve. When it comes to the Astros, there are not very many good things but Altuve is one. From another club that could struggle all year is the Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario. Finally, it may be my turn for the drink run, but Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs will be a guy to get dibs on. I am confident in that. Let the big names go early, sit back, wait, and grab Rizzo mid draft.

The top rookie on draft day will likely be the closer of the Tigers, Bruce Rondon. He is a young flame thrower and will surely get plenty of chances with that offense in support. Also, likely making a debut this year will be the New York Mets top prospect pitcher Zack Wheeler.

As draft days near, may the force and luck be with you. Best of luck constructing that winning club, but most importantly have fun! The best thing about baseball is that it is everyday for 162 games and the weather is mostly sunny.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts for draft strategies and Play Ball!

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Trout and Trumbo’s Bag Of Tricks

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Trout and Trumbo’s Bag Of Tricks

Posted on 22 February 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

Careful. Do not look directly in Mike Trout’s eyes for too long or risk being sucked into his vortex.

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How can you not be mesmerized by Mike Trout? He dazzled the crowd last season with superhuman leaps at the wall to rob home runs, acrobatic diving plays, and fierce strength at the plate. He does it all with a sparkle in his eye that is simply hypnotic. The kid has charisma and he has set the standards high for this year. The Los Angeles Angels are expecting nothing but the best from their starting outfielder, but can he do it again?

Last season the rookie was explosive hitting 30 home runs and 83 RBIs with a slash line of .326/.399/.564. The All-Star was not just known for his skill in the outfield or his hitting power, he also had incredible speed, leading the majors with 49 stolen bases in 2012. Yes 49. I even triple checked that number before writing this post. These numbers are more impressive knowing he did not even put on a major league uniform in 2012, until April 28th.

He sealed the 2012 season with the American League Rookie of the Year Award and a Silver Slugger Award. He also lead the AL in WAR with 10.7 and runs with 129. He was the whole package and undoubtably deserved the titles he earned.

The 21 year old must have enormous pressure entering the 2013 season. To be even remotely close to his rookie year he will have some serious work to do. No one wants to be a one-hit wonder. However, break out years are usually just that. Break outs. Then the player cools off and someone else takes the spotlight. Many are already concerned about his apparent weight gain over the off season. Rest assured, Trout will most likely leave his heavier self behind in Spring Training and will be ready to go Opening Day.

The outfielder may have a lot to live up to, but he is still growing as a player, and as long as something does not shake his momentum he can have another great season. One thing is for sure, every one is waiting to see what he will do next and I think he has more surprises up his sleeve.

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With Trout and his outstanding year, Mark Trumbo shifted out of the media attention, but that might not have been the fault of his teammate. Trumbo was hot the first half of the season with 42 runs and 22 home runs in 288 at bats. He was .306/.358/.608 and was even invited to the All-Star game. The power hitter competed in the Home Run Derby which resulted in a tie breaker against Blue Jay’s slugger Jose Bautista. Bautista then went on to the final round and lost to Tiger’s Prince Fielder.

Right after the All-Star Game, Trumbo cooled off while still being pretty dangerous at the plate. Then, in July he had a minor injury with his back. The pain did not bench him for long, but after that he seemed to fall into a slump. He had only 24 Runs and 10 home runs in 256 at bats. His slash line fell to .227/.271/.359. He had 88 strikeouts the second half of the season compared to only 65 during the first half, emphasizing his struggle at the plate. The numbers speak for themselves. Was it the injury, or is this the Trumbo we should expect to see from now on-a clear power hitter who may or may not make contact with the ball?

My thoughts on what Trumbo will be like in 2013 is this: Still dangerous. Still powerful. Maybe not quite as dominant as he was in the beginning of last year. As long as his foot injury that occurred last fall heals properly, he should be ready to do some damage this season. With his consistency in 2011, it is safe to say he will be productive and prove to be valuable to the Angels this year.

When the Angels signed superstar Josh Hamilton many were left wondering what would happen to Trumbo. After the initial gossip and frantic worry, it looks as though they will still find room for him. He might become their main designated hitter. The addition of veteran Hamilton may be a good presence in the clubhouse for both Trout and Trumbo. The new Angel might give that extra push to keep them going strong all season long.

Will Trout be as amazing as last season; will Trumbo come out of his slump? If they both can stay consistent and healthy throughout the season, the two of them will end up taking over the AL West, wowing the fans with more fancy plays and launching baseballs even further into the seats. Prepare yourselves. They have a lot more to offer in their bag of tricks.

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Joshin’ Around

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Joshin’ Around

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Will Emerson

Pitchers and catchers have reported which means it is time to delve into all, yes all,  sorts of fantasy baseball argle bargle! So what is the argle bargle du jour? Well, that would be the outfield position.

JoshWillingham

Otherwise known as, arguably the deepest position in fantasy baseball, not just because of the mere talent level of outfielders but also because, in the offensive category there are just plain more of them. It would be hard to argue that the easiest place to find some hidden offensive gem is in the outfield. Wouldn’t it? Plus many of the early round talents are outfielders. I mean the list of fantasy studs in the outfield is pretty darned good. Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Josh Willingham…..wha, wha, wha, what?! Josh Willingham?  Yes, do not adjust your screens, I said Josh Willingham. Josh is a fantasy diamond in the rough!

Okay, maybe J-Dubs is not your traditional fantasy stud, per se, but he is definitely a guy many of your opponents may overlook. In several places I have seen his current average draft position in the high 80s, mostly drafted behind about 20-25 some odd other outfielders, which could end up being a big steal for you come draft day. Willingham quietly put up a very solid 2012 with the Twinkies, probably because, well, not many people were paying much attention to the Twinkies as a whole. Mmmm, Twinkies…. Umm, well, in case you missed hit, here is what Willingham did last season:

35 HRs (4th among OFs)
110 RBIs (3rd among OFs)
.890 OPS (4th among OFs)
143 wRC+ (4th among OFs)
.366 OBP (12th among OFs)

Yes, I realize wRC+ is not used in fantasy baseball, but it is certainly not irrelevant stat for drafting a fantasy team. Take it for what you will, but here were the no name outfield leaders in wRC+ in 2012:

Mike Trout- 166
Ryan Braun- 162
Andrew McCutchen- 158
Josh Willingham- 143
Matt Holliday- 141
Josh Hamilton- 140
Allen Craig- 138
Ben Zobrist- 137
Yoenis Cespedes- 136
Austin Jackson- 135

Not bad company for Willingham, huh? Now, I know what you may be thinking, “but Will, that’s only one season, there’s no saying he can duplicate that in 2013!” Well, first off, I am not sure why you are yelling at me, but to your point  I would say, to be fair, that there is never a guarantee that a player can duplicate any season. Regardless of whether or not a player has a decent track record, anything can and will happen from one season to the next, but was this just one season for Willingham?  Let’s go and see, shall we? That’s rhetorical, folks, see, we shall, and see right now, we will! Wow, sorry for Yoda taking over this post for a hot second. Where were we? Oh yeah, Josh Willingham.

If Willingham gets over 400 ABs he will get you 20+ dingers. In 2011, he socked 29 dingers, so the 35 is not completely out of left field, where, as it happens, Willingham plays most of the time, so I guess they were out of left field in a way.  The 29 long balls in 2011 were only good for 11th amongst all outfielders, but that is still pretty good. Remember he is looking to be around the 25th (or so) outfielder coming off the ol’ board in 2013 fantasy baseball drafts. There is more to life and, to a lesser degree, fantasy baseball, than home runs. Okay, well, Willingham also drove in 98 runs in 2011, good for sixth amongst all outfielders. So you can at the very least get some cheap pop out of the big lug. Obviously the lack of steals and batting average do hurt his case a bit, but his .260 average from 2012 is not too debilitating and minus his ’08 and ’11 seasons he has hit .260 or higher every season, which is not atrocious by any means. If you are not old-fashioned sitting in a 5 x 5 league with batting average as a stat then sure his stock will drop some. If you are in a league that at  least has OPS and or OBP, then Willingham is absolutely, undoubtedly, positively the sleeper outfielder for you!

Although his career batting average is .261, he has been able to get on base at a .362 clip, proving he has a bit of patience at the plate. Plus he has not had an OPS under .810 in the majors since he became an everyday player in 2006. On that front only twice in those seasons did he post an OPS under .834. Okay, not a much bigger number, but nevertheless, a good one. Statistically there are no signs that 2012 was a giant fluke for Willingham, although the home runs may drop off a bit into the mid-to late twenties (I’m calling 27 right now!), the rest of the numbers are pretty legit, even the runs! Willingham scored 85 runs. On the Twins. The 22nd in the majors in runs, Minnesota Twins, for crying out loud! Okay, okay, maybe I am getting a tad bit carried away here. Alright, alright, so the 85 runs may dip a bit as well. In fact, well, the RBIs may fall off a smidge too. So, 2012 may not quite be duplicated by Josh, but I think he is an outfield sleeper come draft day, regardless, mark my words!

Look, I am not saying that Josh Willingham is a top ten fantasy player. Heck, I am not even saying he is a top ten fantasy outfielder. Although that could depend in large part to what stats you use in your league. In any event people, what I am saying is that you could still be getting a steal (but not steals) in the middle rounds with Josh Willingham. Here is what I am projecting for J-Will in 2013:  .258/.363/.480, 27 HRs, 90 RBIs and 78 runs. Now, I am certainly not the greatest prognosticator in the world. Far from it, I would wager. Be that as it may, I like to think I am in the ballpark with Willingham’s numbers and if I am (and 63% of the time I am right every time) then those are darned decent numbers to grab in the early 8th round in a 12 team league.  So you are welcome for starting you on the path to a fantasy baseball championship!

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A New Kind Of California Gold Rush

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A New Kind Of California Gold Rush

Posted on 08 February 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

Many say that the Super Bowl is the greatest game of them all. It is a great game. It is a game that also means that the day after our attention turns to the best game ever invented. Pitchers and catchers begin to report to Spring Training soon to begin the 2013 season!

CountriesOfBaseball

One of the big off-season topics as always is the Free Agent class choosing their fate. This year’s class was headlined by outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke. The common denominator between the two was that they both chose teams that play in the state of California. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim respectively were the benefactors of the two players.

These two signings were just the latest of high price all star talent heading to the Golden State. At the start of the 2012 season, the Angels won the Albert Pujols award along with the surprise signing of pitcher C.J. Wilson. Just a few weeks into the season they struck it rich with eventual Rookie of the Year and near MVP Mike Trout. The Angels started to become loaded with talent and major contenders in the American League.

Across town in LA were the Dodgers. For much of the year they were contending for a division championship. But then, the “Magic” came and so did the money. Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson among others became the new ownership group of the storied ball club. One of the first digs they made was a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox bringing over All Star talent with show me the money contracts in the form of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford.

The 2012 season ended with neither Los Angeles team making the post season. Instead, the post season show was highlighted by the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants. For the geography majors, San Francisco is also located in the state of California. The Giants won their second World Series title in three seasons.

This type of success and big money moves sound all too familiar. These types of moves, trades, and titles are typically reserved for the east coast teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. In the last four seasons those three teams have been in at least the top seven team payrolls in baseball. World Series success has also followed as each team has won at least one title in the 2000’s. Fans in other markets hated the east coast tilt of the game. It was perceived that monopolies were forming out east and Evil Empires casted large shadows on the small markets. California was just a vacation spot. However, it appears that the tide is turning and the rush is heading west.

It was January 24th, 1848 when the California Gold Rush began. Travelers and miners migrated to the state in the hopes of finding gold and the effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Fast forward to 2012, 2013 and the trend seems to now be for All Star ball players migrating west for big money and the ultimate gold ring.

Why is there a growing trend of moving west? Is it the weather, the lifestyle, or is it simply just the money? For the last decade there has been countless discussions about playing on the east coast adds a different element of pressure, that the Yankee pinstripes or Fenway fanatics demand greatness and nothing else. If you do not bring home a championship to the Bronx or Yawkey Way then the season was a failure. Many big name free agents have not quite lived up to the pressure of east coast baseball.

Perhaps that could be the cause for the move. Players are going west for a less stressful environment. It does not quite seem so scary when crowds arrive late, leave early, and the rest of the country is sleeping. Even if a few more championships do land in California, the hatred that fans have for the Yankees and others may never arise for the Angels and Dodgers. After a long day on the beach, it is hard to hate. As long as there is still east coast baseball, attention will be directed that way first and foremost. California may be just fine with that. They will continue to do their own thing in their own time zone.

The Giants have been the first to strike it rich with two championships. However, the surprise Oakland A’s are reigning division champs and the two teams in Los Angeles do not seem to have a bottom to their bank accounts. They are banking on the gold nugget signings this year of Hamilton and Greinke to get them to the mountain top. The true baseball beauty is that each organization is doing it a different way. California is providing many philosophies, and a nice tan. Before our eyes, the west may be overtaking the east. Only time will tell if this rush is as substantial as the one in 1848.

Could the east be left in the cold and not just weather wise? The Golden State has the trophy, the money, and the players are following.

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