Welcome back for the second of two columns on sleepers and busts for 2012. I wrap up our preseason look at longs and shorts with outfielders, starters and relievers. As with last week’s column, the players below will be a mix of early, middle and late round choices.
Before we jump into the meat of the column, I wanted to give you a great resource for those minor league drafts you may have in your keeper or dynasty league. Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Hamrahi compiles a spreadsheet with prospects lists from all corners of the Internet. From Baseball America to Baseball Prospectus to Dobber Baseball, Hamrahi compiles the list and also offers a matrix for each player. It’s an invaluable resource to those in deeper leagues.
Long or short continued?
Long: A DUI and injuries can derail a season for anyone. Shin-Soo Choo was arrested in May 2011 and played only 85 games last year due to two stints on the DL. His prior two years he was a 20 HR 990 RBI 20 SB player with a .300 average and .884 OPS. Get the prior two years’ stats for a lower price this year.
The middle of the outfield ADP ranks provide a number of great values. Players such as Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young, Lucas Duda, Lorenzo Cain and Alejandro de Aza. These players are all being drafted in the mid 50s to 60s in the outfield and each has a chance to be a top 30 outfielder in 2012.
For deeper leagues, Gerardo Parra is a great player to target. He can play any of the three outfield positions. He’s similar to Texas’ David Murphy as he plays in an outfield with some injury risks, but he’s being drafted almost 50 spots after Murphy. And Parra is 5 years younger than Murphy. He had 15 SBs last year in nearly 500 PAs.
Short: Near the top of many drafts, you’ll find Desmond Jennings. However, he won’t be on any of my teams. He is being drafted as if he were a surefire 20-20 player. I agree that the speed will be there (he could steal 40 or more bases). However, the power is not yet there even though he hit ten homeruns in 287 PAs in the majors last year. His season high in the minors was twelve in 397 PAs. Moreover, he is going to be a bit of a batting average risk (I think he’ll be around .265 for the year).
In the middle of the outfield tier, I would stay away from Logan Morrison of the Florida Marlins. He seems more interested in his Twitter account than staying healthy. He’s struggled with injuries again this spring. And I do not believe his new home park will help him at all.
I would also let someone else dream on Domonic Brown’s tools. The Philadelphia Phillies have mishandled his development and I believe the player is damaged and can only be fixed with a change of scenery. It won’t happen for Brown in Philadelphia so do not waste a pick on him this year.
Long: At the top of the pitcher rankings, I’d push Zack Greinke up a bit higher than he’s going currently. He pitched extremely well last year, but the difference between his ERA and FIP was nearly 1 meaning he was relatively unlucky last year. He’s a top 5 pitcher for 2012
Jonathan Niese also peak my interest in the middle to later rounds. Niese likely will not win 20 games for the Net York Mets (if they win 20 games at all this year). However, Niese shows up in our previously discussed ERA and FIP comparison on Fangraphs if we relax the requirements to 90 IP last year. He’s got a chance to outperform his current ADP in a big way.
Near the end of the starting pitcher rankings, we find Brett Cecil. He took his offseason program seriously and lost weight and got in better shape. The Toronto Blue Jays have looked great in spring training and Cecil is poised to take a step forward more in line with his 2010 season.
Short: Do not pay for Justin Verlander’s statistics from last year. I cannot remember the last time when the same pitcher was the best pitcher for two years running. Verlander threw a ton of innings last year and I expect a regression of some sort that pushes him out of the top 5 in value at the end of 2012.
Chris Carpenter’s injury has me concerned for his entire year. I will put Carpenter on my do not draft list as I think he won’t see more than 80 IP this year if he can make it back.
Long: At the top of the list is Sergio Romo. I believe where there is smoke there is fire. And there is a lot of fire around Brian Wilson’s elbow. I do not believe Wilson can stay healthy for the whole year and Romo will be the one to step in for him. Even if Wilson doesn’t miss a game, Romo will have value in nearly any type of league.
I chose Romo, but there are numerous relievers with high K/9 ratios and low K/BB rates that will provide double digit value in 2012 and may not even be on your draft radar. Head over the Fangraphs and sort by K/9 to start your query.
Short: Rafael Betancourt stinks. Well, at least as a closer he does. His best save percentage of his career was 67% last year in Colorado. And he’s also 36. I do not believe he will lead the Rockies in saves this year.
Do not draft Kenley Jansen before Javy Guerra. I beg of you. Guerra is the closer. Jansen is not. Jansen has great skills, but Guerra closed last year and there is nothing to say he won’t this year. Let someone else waste the money on Jansen.
It might be better to call these pink sheets, but I believe these players have a modicum of an iota of a chance to provide some value this year and no one is drafting these players. I’ve tried to focus on players who will make the final 25-man roster, but there are certainly a couple of players on here who will start in the minors
Catcher: Josh Donaldson is going to be the starting third baseman for the Oakland Athletics. However, he likely qualifies at catcher in your league. Take a flyer and hope for 15 homeruns and a .250 average. Plus, he’s got that first round draft pick pedigree to boot. Even deeper than Donaldson is Gerald Laird. He’s a backup, but if Alex Avila gets hurt, Laird is dropped into the most powerful lineup in the majors.
First baseman: I have a soft spot for super utility guys – a player like Macier Izturis who stumbles into 300 PAs and picks up some useful statistics without harming your batting average. Jordan Pacheco is just one of those guys this year. He also has the chance to gain catcher eligibility depending on your rules. (Note: This was written prior to Pacheco being in line for additional playing time in Colorado. However, I believe Chris Nelson gets more regular playing time at third base and Pacheco is the super utility man).
Second baseman: According to KFFL.com, Tyler Greene is the 27th second baseman off the board. Green has 2B and SS eligibility in most leagues and has recently won the starting second base job with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is line for significant playing time at either 2B or as an injury fill-in for Rafael Furcal at short. He stole 11 bases in 121 PAs in the big leagues last year. He’s also another player with 1st draft pedigree.
Third baseman: Todd Frazier is slowly getting old enough (though he’s still short of 30 years old) that Dusty Baker just might trust him one of these years. He is stuck behind Scott Rolen (and likely Juan Francisco) at third base. Rolen is injury prone and Francisco is whiff prone (and younger than Frazier). Frazier does have the ability to play multiple positions which may help him to stay on the roster.
Shortstop: I didn’t know who Jordany Valdespin was until about a week ago when his name flashed across an update somewhere. He has only 117 PAs at AAA, but he’s got speed to burn and could help out on defense for the New York Mets.
Outfielders: Jeff Keppinger is the starting second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays and Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez are in the mix to split shortstop, how long until Ben Zobrist moves from right field to second base to replace one of these guys. When Zobrist moves, it’s Brandon Guyer who will benefit. He’s nearly a .300 hitter in the minors and hit 14 HRs with 61 RBIs and 16 SBs in 443 PAs at AAA last year.
Designated hitter: He was the MVP last year…of the International League. He has a potential path to playing time in Cleveland. Russ Canzler has a propensity to swing and miss, but when he swings he puts baseballs over the fence. He is currently behind Shelley Duncan, but that’s usually not much of an impediment.
Starting pitchers: Nate Eovaldi will not make the Dodgers Opening Day roster. However, he’s first in line should there be an injury (see Lilly, Ted) or ineffectiveness (see Harang, Aaron) in the rotation. Stash him if you can and reap the rewards later in the year.
Relief pitchers: Reports are that Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Tillman is throwing in the mid 90s in the spring and the thought is that his stuff may play better out of the bullpen. Could he close for the Orioles this year? Sure he could. Robbie Ross for the Texas Rangers looks like he might make the roster as a bullpen arm. He’s got some upside and could start in 2013. Have you seen the depth chart behind Brandon League in the Mariners’ bullpen? Not great. James Paxton is currently a starter, but has the stuff to be a great back end of the bullpen arm. League is only signed through 2012 so the Mariners will likely be looking for a new closer in 2013.
In season management
The season has started in Japan and by the end of this weekend nearly all leagues will have drafted and be in full swing. So, how do you manage your team in-season? You’ve probably done at least one mock draft (maybe 20?). Why don’t you have a mock team or two as well? I suggest you sign up for a quick draft this weekend in a style which you do not regularly play or a league with fewer or more teams than you regularly play. By going outside your usual league settings, you will uncover free agents or potential trade targets who don’t bubble to the surface in your usual league. These other leagues give you a different perspective on the pool of fantasy players and may allow you to find a gem that someone in your league misses.
Finally, I have a few recommendations for podcasts and people to follow on Twitter to keep you informed.
I thoroughly enjoy the Baseball Prospectus Up and In podcast. It’s a mixture of baseball, music and inanity. It’s a two to three hour trip through the minds of two of BP’s best prospect guys.
For a shorter, but daily podcast, you can’t go wrong with ESPN’s Fantasy Focus. It’s a quick, shallow look at the day’s news and some basics on fantasy baseball. It’s usually an entertaining listen with some good information.
Baseball HQ also has a free podcast that acts as part strategy, part advertisement for their site. It provides another perspective (wholly statistically-based) on fantasy baseball. It usually runs one hour.
For prospects, there is no one better than Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus. Also, follow his podcast co-host Jason Parks. Just know you’ll get more than just baseball with the Professor. I’d also follow the folks from Baseball America (Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, John Manuel, and Matt Eddy) and ESPN’s Keith Law. With that crew, you’ve covered the majority of respected opinions in the prospect world. Just remember, these folks cover baseball prospects and not necessarily fantasy baseball prospects so be careful when evaluating lists without seeing a scouting report on the player.
For fantasy-specific follows, I’d go back to Baseball Prospectus for Derek Carty and Jason Collette. Will Carroll is great on injuries. The folks at FantasyAlarm.com do a great job of breaking news. Finally, Jason Martinez of MLBDepthCharts.com is key to success at your draft.
I know I’ve missed a few, but I’ll be back with those next week as well as a look at the first week of the season. Good luck in your drafts this weekend. Unless you are drafting against me!
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.