August 29, 2014

Fantasy Baseball: Sleepers and busts – the long and short

This weekend is the start of the heaviest part of baseball draft season. Many leagues will draft over the next ten days. The first games start in Japan on Wednesday, March 28. This week we will look at some skills to value by using spring training stats (yes, we can find some that matter!). Then, we will conclude the column with a position by position analysis of players to spend the extra dollar on and players to leave for someone else. We will also give a short update on those players to stash on the DL for the start of the season.

Spring training statistics

Spring training statistics are meaningless. Spring training statistics are meaningless except for Player X. Well, maybe not. The answer lies somewhere in between. The spring training leader in home runs last year was Jake Fox with 11. He amounted to nothing during the regular season. And who was the player in second on the list? Michael Morse. He amounted to something big during the regular season.  I could go on with examples of players who performed well in the spring training and bombed out in the regular season and vice versa. So, which statistics matter and which ones do not?

I will focus on two statistics to help us find potential break out pitchers. Using MLB’s sortable spring training stats, we will look at pitchers’ strikeout per nine innings (K/9) and strikeout to walk (K/BB) ratios. First, some background. A pitcher’s K/9 rate shows the pitcher’s ability to take a hitter’s bat out of his hand reduce the luck of a batted ball falling in for a hit (or heading out of the park). However, if a player sacrifices control for strikeouts he will still put players on base via the walk. So, we will us the K/BB ratio to control for those players who may be putting base runners on via the walk. The tables below show the players who qualify (pitched enough innings) in the top 10 in K/9 and in K/BB.

RK Player Team

K_9

  RK Player Team

K_BB

1

Liriano, F MIN

12.46

 

1

Matusz, B BAL

16

2

Garcia, J STL

10.8

 

2

Bumgarner, M SF

15

3

Verlander, J DET

10.43

 

2

Halladay, R PHI

15

4

Beachy, B ATL

10.29

 

4

Sale, C CWS

12

4

Luebke, C SD

10.29

 

5

Latos, M CIN

9

6

Halladay, R PHI

9.88

 

5

Liriano, F MIN

9

7

Matusz, B BAL

9.6

 

5

Milone, T OAK

9

8

Weaver, J LAA

9.49

 

5

Nova, I NYY

9

9

Bumgarner, M SF

9.2

 

9

Hernandez, F SEA

8.5

9

LeBlanc, W MIA

9.2

  10 Lee, C PHI

8

          10 Lynn, L STL

8

There are two pitchers the top 10 in both. Both pitchers are great endgame targets, but I imagine they are either on your avoid list or not on your draft list at all. Francisco Liriano ruined many a team last year with his 5.09 ERA and 1.489 WHIP. However, he’s one year removed from a 3.62 ERA and 1.263 WHIP. He pitches in a great pitcher’s park in Target Field. A draft or buy of Liriano is a bet that he is fully healthy (which is a big bet) and he’s recovered from the issues he had last year.

In 2011, Brian Matusz set the record for the worst ERA for a pitcher with 10-plus starts in a season. His ERA was 10.69 in 49 2/3 innings. He’s likely not on your radar. Do you know who held the record before Matusz? Roy Halladay. Halladay has turned in a pretty good career since age 23 season in 2000. Matusz has the pedigree (he was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft. He pitches in the difficult AL East in a home park that is not pitcher-friendly.  However, he is a player who you can get in the end game or for a $1 or $2 and has the potential to be a No. 2 starter for you and the Orioles. There are not a lot of players who come at that price with that upside.

This is only the top 10 so I suggest you head over the MLB.com and take a look at those players outside of the top 10 as well as there is value to be had outside of the top 10 as well. Also, take a look at all pitchers (and not just qualifiers) to find sneaky reliever targets or starters who haven’t been stretched out enough (like Luis Mendoza?).

Long or short?

Everyone wants to know the big sleepers or busts – the players to avoid and those to reach to draft.  To that end, we will look at those players to long (invest in) and those to short (sell or avoid). The players below will be a mix of early, middle and late round choices.

Catchers

Long: Ryan Doumit MIN – Here is a sneaky player because many of the projections I’ve seen show Doumit with 200 or 300 plate appearances likely based on his 2011 total. However, Doumit is likely to be the full-time DH for Minnesota and I see 500 PAs in his future. He’s a top 10 catcher if that happens.

Short: Everyone – This is a bit of a cop out, but I generally do not pay for catchers in any format. In one catcher leagues (especially 10 or 12 team leagues) the difference between the third and tenth ranked catcher is minuscule. I’d rather wait and grab a player (like Doumit?) than pay a sixth round pick for a similar player.

First baseman

Long: To make up for my cop out on catchers, I’ll give you two first basemen. We will start with Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox. He’s being drafted roughly 20 spots after Mark Teixeira. He’s been consistent over the last few years and plays in a hitter friendly park. He’s also old and fantasy players are always looking for the next big thing. Konerko is the current big thing. Wait and draft him after the big guns are gone.

As for a young gun, I’d chase Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs. He has only Bryan LaHair in front of him and he’s moved from Petco to Wrigley. Rizzo has been hot this spring and has an organization that believes in him (Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Boston Red Sox). He’s a good stash and plan on him coming up as early as May 1 and likely by the All-Star break

Short: He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and hit 29 homeruns last year, but Mark Trumbo is on my short list. This is more of a concern over playing time than Trumbo’s skills. I do not see where he will get close to 500 PAs that he got last year without trades or injuries. The Angels were unable to trade him or others in the offseason. I don’t think they will be able to do so during the regular season.

Second baseman

Long: Howard Kendrick LAA – Kendrick had a terrific year last year and looks to build on it this year. One improvement for Kendrick is the lineup. He is currently projected to hit in front of Albert Pujols. That spot in the lineup will only help.

Short: The end of the line is within sight for Chase Utley. The knee injury that he has is a degenerative one and it will not get better. The pain can be managed, but even then there will be times when Utley is unable to play. I see him for 400 PAs or less this year.

Third baseman

Long: I’ve never seen the movie Kung Fu Panda, but if it’s anything like the way Pablo Sandoval hits a baseball, it must be fantastic. He lost time to injury last year (as did another of my favorites at third base this year Kevin Youkilis), but still managed to hit 23 HRs in only 466 PAs. He’s going to have Buster Posey back in the lineup for the entire year and perhaps a mid-season addition of Brandon Belt. Look for top four performance out of Pablo at third base this year.

Short: I’m not sure this guy is a player I want to draft in the early rounds of a draft. Brett Lawrie is going too high for my tastes. His ADP shows he is going before Alex Rodriguez, Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Youkilis and Aramis Ramirez. I believe that at least two of those four will have greater value that Lawrie in 2012. Lawrie is clearly a talented hitter, but the hype surrounding Lawrie is due to 171 PAs last year. Wait on third baseman and get a better talent later.

Shortstops

Long: Here is a deep cut for this year and beyond. The New York Mets starting shortstop is Rubén Tejada. He will likely bat eighth, but he has no competition for the job. Oh, and his OBP last year was .360. He’s shown a little stolen base aptitude in the minors. If he can keep his OBP up, he’s a candidate to lead off in the future.

Short: The snarky play is to put Derek Jeter, but I think he will perform close to where he is being drafted. Who am I a kidding? I’m snarky. Jeter had a great second half last year, but he’s on the decline. He’s no longer going to be a .300 hitter and his stolen base total will continue to drop. He’ll still score runs as long as Joe Girardi keeps him at the top of the lineup. However, he won’t be on any of my teams this year.

Injury update

The Red Sox have provided a timetable for Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Sox said that he should return around June 1 so he will have a chance to affect your team this year. His potential return also mutes the potential value of Félix Doubront or other fifth starter candidates for Boston.

Since my last column, Arodys Vizcaíno has succumbed to Tommy John surgery. He becomes a stashable late round player in a keeper or dynasty league.  Joakim Soria also looks headed for Tommy John surgery (the second of his career). He’s a little riskier as he’s already had one previously.

Good luck to those drafting this weekend. Next week we will start looking at how to manage your team in season (including podcasts and people to follow on Twitter), the long and short on outfielders and pitchers, and some updates on players as we head into the big draft weekend before Opening Day! Thanks to KFFL.com for the ADP information.

Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

Comments

  1. I’m still new to playing fantasy sports, but I’m already hopelessly addicted to it and can’t seem to stop thinking of players and different team building concepts. I’ve only played in head to head leagues and love it, but I’m having trouble finding sites with tips and info on H2H leagues. It seems 90% is geared Roto leagues. Do you know of any quality sites I could check out? I appreciate any feedback you can provide, thanks for your time.

    • Chris Garosi says:

      Thanks for checking in Jason. I’ve played in H2H points leagues for about 8 years and I’ve played in H2H “category” leagues on and off for the last few years. What kind of H2H are you in? Points or categories? The tough part with H2H leagues is there can be so many variations.

      Most baseball sites do focus on the Roto-style leagues, but H2H is gaining steam and there are some sites I can recommend based on the kind of H2H you are in.

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