Tag Archive | "Outfielders"

Ah… Predictions, Predictions

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Ah… Predictions, Predictions

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

There is no true off-season in baseball. It is simply some down time to make adjustments to rosters, to reflect on past stats, and make predictions for the future. Baseball is never over in the heart of the fans, and now it is almost time again for the first pitch of the regular season.

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2013 is going to be interesting. Numerous changes have been made to many Major League rosters. Some seemingly revamping their whole team. I think this season, teams that may not have been thought of as strong have made themselves good contenders to snag that division title. And other clubs that are expected to always be the leader, might suffer.

AL East
The Toronto Blue Jays gained a lot of solid veteran players over the off-season making them seem unapproachable for the rest of the AL East. As long as they can handle the pressure and do not burn themselves from the stress, they will be dangerous. They just need to stay focused, and not get swept away by all the talk of high hopes swirling around them. If they can pull this off, the Red Sox, the Rays, and the Orioles will have a hard time keeping up with the Blue Jays this year.

The Yankees… Oh the Yankees… They seem to be on a steady decline with the injuries they are facing. Healthy Yankees have always been a threat, but right now they seem to be scrambling. If they can pass the injury issues, they can once again be capable of making it to the playoffs.

AL Central
The Twins lost both Denard Span and Ben Revere over the off-season which will slow the team down considerably. They both have tremendous hustle and now Minnesota is lacking in that category. They made some much needed upgrades to their pitching, and they do have a little bit of pop in their line up, but I do not think it will be enough to replace the loss of these outfielders. They will likely fall to the retooled Cleveland Indians and the up and down Chicago White Sox. Even the Royals will be a stronger competitor than the Twins, with the improvements they made this season.

I expect the Detroit Tigers to be as impressive as last year. Adding leader and weathered outfielder Torii Hunter to the team will increase the power in their already dominant line up. And if Victor Martinez can stay off the disabled list, they could be unstoppable. And not to mention Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez in their starting rotations. As long as having no dedicated closer does not make this team crumble, I think the Tigers will be in the post-season.

AL West
The Astros will not make a smooth transition over to the American League. They will be a fish out of water this season. Once they get acclimated, they may increase their skills, but for now it will just be a learning period.

The Angels and the Rangers will, as usual, be tough to beat this season. They both have well-rounded teams with some scary defensive talent. The Rangers lost Josh Hamilton to the Angels which might not be that big of a blow, as the rest of the team is capable of picking up the slack. And now the Halos have that added power to their roster. These two teams are comparable.

The Oakland Athletics are a favorite for being the scrappy underdogs, but they will have to rely heavily on their pitching to defend their division crown. Newcomers, Chris Young and John Jaso will not be enough to put fear into their rivals.

The Mariners will once again try to build around their ace Felix Hernandez. However, I feel that they will not be a serious contender for the division title. They might get a little more adrenaline after facing the Astros, but there will not be much change for Seattle this year.

NL East
The Atlanta Braves have a fierce line up with the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, but I think they might not excel as much as expected. Justin Upton has major potential to win an MVP award in his career and still has yet to show everything he is capable of, but the initial excitement of playing with B.J. Upton might be more of a distraction than a motivator. Eventually, these two will tear up the NL East, maybe even toward the end of this season in a push for the playoffs. But I think they might be too amped in the beginning to reach the standards that everyone is anticipating. The Braves do have some bullpen talent that can rescue them in any inevitable jams. This team will certainly make their name known this year.

I am not sure what the Marlins were doing over the off-season. It seems that most clubs were making improvements and Miami had a different plan. This will not be their year. They may put up a fight… or perhaps a squabble. But I do not think they will make much of a dent in opposing teams. The Mets will surly dominate them with Shaun Marcum in their starting rotation.

Between the Nationals and the Phillies, both teams could give a strong push to the playoffs. Both have offensive depth, but the Nationals will have an edge over the Phillies with their strong pitching rotation. With Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg as starters, the Nationals could take the division title.

NL Central
With young stars like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, there is reason to be excited about the Chicago Cubs. Having said that, I feel they will not make much of an impact yet in their division, especially competing against Andrew McCutchen and the upstart Pirates.

The Brewers could be a worthy contender for the playoffs if they were not facing the Reds. Milwaukee has some dependable bats, but their pitching is lacking. And the Reds have too much offensive ammunition for the Brewers to tame.

The question is: can the Cardinals take on the Reds? The Cardinals play hard, always come hungry, and seem to excel at the most important times. They are healthy competition for the Reds. Both teams have offensive talent and their pitching matches up fairly evenly.

NL West
The Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to rely too much on big names to carry them through the season. Chemistry is important. Big names are not everything. If these guys can figure out how to work together, they can be merciless to their opposing teams. But everything has to click seamlessly. And I am not sure the Dodgers are quite there yet. They have ample pitching with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and a powerful offense. They look good on paper, but may need a year to get more settled.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a proficient pitching rotation with Ian Kennedy and Brandon McCarthy starting. And their bullpen is jam packed with solid relief options. They made many adjustments to their positional players as well, to create a unique team. They were average last season, but this time around they might have the formula to increase their game. Competing against the Colorado Rockies, who are an average team, and the San Diego Padres, who will actually put up a fight this year, the Dbacks have a chance at making their team stand out.

The Giants have kept most of their team intact from last year. The World Series Champions will likely still be a strong competitor in their division, and now they have Tim Lincecum back on the mound which can increase their pitching depth considerably. They will be the team to beat in the NL West.

So what will actually happen this season? Every one has an opinion, but we all know anything can happen in baseball. That is the beauty of the sport. And it is almost time, once again, to play ball.

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Playing the Name Game: Spring Training edition, Part Two

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Playing the Name Game: Spring Training edition, Part Two

Posted on 21 March 2013 by Chris Caylor

This is the 2nd of a two-part Spring Training edition of Playing the Name Game. In Part 1, I listed some infielders for you to focus on during your AL-only or NL-only drafts or auctions. As a reminder, I am not advocating that Player B is better than Player A; I am simply pointing out some players that may produce elite numbers at a less-than-elite cost. Now, let’s take a look at some pitchers and outfielders:

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista is brushed back by a pitch in the third inning against the New York Yankees in their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto August 23, 2010. Bautista homered on the next pitch.  REUTERS/Fred Thornhill  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Outfielders

Player A: .303/.371/.510, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 89 R, 119 OPS+

Player B: .283/.373/.441, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 21 SB, 88 R, 131 OPS+

Player A is Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies. Player B is the Reds’ new centerfielder, Shin-Soo Choo. CarGo suffered in 2012, along with the rest of the Rockies (and their fans), clearly missing Troy Tulowitzki to protect him in the lineup. However, it remains questionable whether Gonzalez will reach the mid-30s in home runs again, as he did in 2010. Choo, meanwhile, bounced back from in injury-plagued 2011 season and to post solid numbers for a mediocre Cleveland team. Now that he is leading off for the deep, talented Reds, Choo could post career-high numbers. Projections I have seen have Choo virtually equaling Gonzalez in home runs, stolen bases and batting average, while besting Gonzalez in runs scored. Gonzalez will retain the edge in RBI, but Choo is being drafted 3-4 rounds later and is going for much cheaper in auction leagues.

Player A: .241/.358/.527, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB, 64 R, 137 OPS+

Player B: .242/.305/.463, 32 HR, 85 RBI, 11 SB, 85 R, 110 OPS+

Player A is Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays. Player B is the Athletics’ Josh Reddick. Joey Bats’ 2012 season was marred by his wrist injury, which disabled him in July and eventually required surgery. Before that, he led the AL in home runs two consecutive seasons. Reddick came out of nowhere to mash 32 homers for the A’s in 2012. At age 26, his prime years are ahead of him. Bautista might – I repeat, might – drop of the 2nd round in some leagues due to fears about his wrist sapping his power stroke, but he won’t fall much further than that. Reddick, meanwhile, is ranked 20+ spots lower in ESPN leagues. Don’t that let deter you. The power is real and still developing. If Reddick played in a park other than the cavernous Oakland dump, he might threaten for the league home run title.

Pitchers

Finally, we come to the pitchers. In over 20 years of playing fantasy baseball, I have found it much more challenging to consistently build a good pitching staff than to construct a strong lineup. Is it because so many pitchers are one wrong pitch away from a trip to the disabled list? Or is it more that many pitchers who succeed one year struggle the next? Or is it something else entirely? Perhaps a combination of all three?

In any event, I subscribe to two theories when it comes to fantasy baseball and pitching: 1) pitchers with a solid WHIP rarely steer you wrong, and 2) do not punt the saves category. That is not to say that you should spend excessively on saves, but judiciously. Example:

Player A: 3-1 W-L, 42 Sv, 116 K, 0.65 WHIP

Player B: 2-1 W-L, 42 Sv, 69 K, 1.16 WHIP

Player A is Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. Player B is Rafael Soriano of the Nationals. Obviously, Kimbrel put together one of the most dominating seasons we have seen from a closer not named Mariano Rivera in many years. If you put aside the staggering difference in strikeouts, however, Kimbrel is not much more valuable than Soriano in standard fantasy baseball leagues. They compiled the same number of saves. The wins total is negligible. Both WHIP ratios are outstanding. But would you rather have Kimbrel (whom you would have to select in the early rounds of a draft or pay Rivera-like prices for at an auction), or would you rather use that early draft pick/big auction money on a starter like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, knowing you can pick up Soriano several rounds later? I’d take the latter.

Player A: 20-5 W-L, 2.81 ERA, 142 K, 1.02 WHIP

Player B: 8-14 W-L, 3.81 ERA, 165 K, 1.28 WHIP

Player A is Jered Weaver of the Angels. Player B is Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays. Weaver has finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young balloting each of the past three seasons. Johnson was acquired as part of that massive trade between Toronto and Miami. Although the transition from NL to AL is typically more difficult for pitchers, that in this case is cancelled out by Johnson moving to a much better team. Forget the win-loss totals from last season; Johnson is still getting plenty of swings and misses when he pitches. Weaver missed almost a month in 2012 with back pain. Johnson is an injury-risk himself, but he is a year younger than Weaver and offers ace-like potential at No. 2 starter value. I’ll take my chances here.

Opening Day is rapidly approaching. If you’re like me and have your draft or auction coming up in the next 7-10 days, I hope this article proves helpful to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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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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Josh Hamilton and The Changing Face of the American League

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Josh Hamilton and The Changing Face of the American League

Posted on 17 December 2012 by Trish Vignola

Until recently, the Angels were planning on sporting no more than a $145 million payroll in 2013. Enter Josh Hamilton.

JoshHamiltonAngels

Start giggling now.

It seemed like they were done when the acquisition of two starting pitchers (Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton) and two back-end relievers (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett). That pushed them to about $140 million.

Angels’ owner Arte Moreno, one offseason removed from spending more than $315 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, decided he couldn’t let another winter go by not being the center of attention. The opportunity presented it self and prompted Moreno to push the payroll to a franchise record of about $165 million:

The acquisition of Hamilton makes cost-controlled Angels outfielders like Peter Bourjos and/or Mark Trumbo expendable. This gives them an opportunity to trade for a starting pitcher (like knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets who is currently in a stalemate in his contract negotiations with the Amazins’). It also counters the big-ticket moves made by the crosstown-rival Dodgers, who are fresh off signing Zack Greinke to a five-year, $147 million contract that the Angels were at one point unwilling to offer. It cripples the division-rival Rangers, who lost out on trading for James Shields, won’t be able to add Justin Upton and can’t bring back Hamilton. Adding Hamilton comes one offseason after the Angels signed Wilson, the Rangers’ former ace, to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

“Really excited to dust off the Xbox controllers for the next few years on the road,” Wilson wrote on his Twitter account, @str8edgeracer. “It’s a great day to be an Angel/Angel fan!” Speaking to Rangers reporters at a media luncheon on Thursday, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Hamilton never gave his former club a chance to match the Angels’ offer.

“Our full expectation was that the phone call was going to be before he signed, certainly not after and giving us an idea,” Daniels told local reporters. “Josh had indicated recently, last week, he told us he felt it might be time to move on, but that we were still talking. I’m not going to get in to the reason, technically, why. I thought we had additional conversations this week that had moved it along in a positive direction. Apparently not.”

The 31-year-old Hamilton won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2010 and has long been considered one of baseball’s best all-around players, hitting .313 while averaging 33 homers and 107 RBIs the last three seasons. With the Angels, Hamilton’s left-handed bat seemingly fits perfectly behind Pujols in the cleanup spot. The likely scenario MLB.com trots out is to have Hamilton starting in left field, Mike Trout staying in center and Trumbo in right. This makes the chances of Bourjos being dealt more likely than ever.

Although he wants to stay in Anaheim, but Bourjos wants an opportunity. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen now,” he said when reached by phone Thursday. “But at the end of the day, from my perspective, I just want to play. I really don’t want to go through what I went through last year where I wasn’t playing. The last two months, I got like three at-bats. So hopefully, if I’m the odd man out, hopefully they’re willing to trade me and I’m able to go somewhere and play every day.”

With the Angels bottomless pockets and the Yankees trying to get under the cap, the landscape of the American League is starting to change. No longer will big spenders be solely relegated to the Northeast. Will this guarantee that all roads to October will lead through the left coast? I’m sure that teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers will have a lot say about that. Nonetheless, the hot stove just got very interesting.

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Bourn on the Fourth of July

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Bourn on the Fourth of July

Posted on 06 July 2012 by Dennis Lawson

The final vote frenzy to select the 34th man for each All-Star team was rife with sketchy alliances, bad slogans, and no small amount of angst.  Lost amongst the barrage of hashtags, team emails, and unofficial campaign managers was perhaps the biggest All-Star snub in recent history.  Michael Bourn quietly went about the business of playing baseball, and that is a darn shame.  The relatively amount of fanfare dedicated to Bourn was actually a little underwhelming.  Maybe the talking heads spewing forth their opinions about how unreliable defensive metrics appear to be had an impact on Bourn.  Maybe not.  Regardless, the point that one of the premier leadoff hitters and defensive outfielders in the game failed to make the All-Star team in any form deserves some scrutiny.

Just his slash line of .307/.360/.452/.812 merits him some consideration, but the 57 runs scored, 106 hits, 7 HR, 32 RBI, and 23 stolen bases should garner enough support to get him to KC in a National League All-Star jersey by itself.  If not, then the NL leading 24.0 UZR/150 should put him over the top.  Since this game counts, shouldn’t at least someone be interested in putting one of the most complete players in the league on the team?  Jay Bruce?  Really.  He doesn’t even make the top 25 in the NL among outfielders with his -7.1 UZR/150.  For perspective, that puts him behind the likes of Matt Holliday, Jason Kubel, and Drew Stubbs.

At anything close to his current pace, Bourn has a career year already in his sights.  The fact that his accomplishments will likely not be punctuated with an All-Star selection boggles the mind just a bit.  Let me tell you just how many NL players have produced more WAR this season than Bourn.

4

That’s David Wright, Joey Votto, Carlos Ruiz, and Andrew McCutchen.  34 players on the team, and they could not find room for Michael Bourn.  Did the support Chipper Jones received hurt Bourn’s chances?  Probably.  You can only spend so much time firing off one text vote after another before the battery in your phone demands attention.  Still, it seems like a complete breakdown of the whole system, and Bourn slipped through every crack possible.  The fans and the impressive moral ineptitude of the Giants as an organization screwed the pooch on the vote.  The electorate comprised of baseball’s players and coaches fumbled the ball away into the stands, and Tony La Russa just grabbed names out of a hat that apparently didn’t include the names Cueto, Phillips, or Bourn.  While I completely understand the first 2 missing out, I don’t get the omission of Michael Bourn.

La Russa had to know that Bourn had an ice cube’s chance on a Kansas City sidewalk of getting voted in at the last minute.  He had to know that the sympathy vote would put Chipper ahead of Bourn, and he had to know that Cardinal Nation would endure repetitive stress injuries to get Freese a metric ton of votes.  Can we get a “Commissioner’s Selection” in the 11th hour or something?  Rock, paper, scissors best 2 of 3 to replace Sandoval with someone who has played in more than 50 games.?  Among the land of the ridiculous, Bud Selig reigns supreme.  No greater indictment of his ego-addled brain exists than the current All-Star game selection system, unless you want to consider that an exhibition game counts for something.

Then again, it’s not a break.  It’s work.  Or so Hunter Pence would tell us.

Please, just someone tell me that the next time Bourn deserves a shot that the Braves will come out swinging with a “Bourn on the Fourth of July” slogan.  If not, then the #Barves hashtag should trend on Twitter from here to eternity.

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