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Saturday 18th Nov 2017

Last week, the top infielders were reviewed, so now the focus switches to catcher, outfield and pitcher.  Remember, the basis for the ranking is 5x5 value earned in standard mixed leagues.  Similar to last week, while injured players will be mentioned, I will do my best to choose disappointing performances that are non-injury related.

TOP-10 CATCHERS

10. J.P. Arencibia

9. Russell Martin

8. Matt Wieters

7. Brian McCann

6. Yadier Molina

5. Miguel Montero

4. Carlos Santana

3. Alex Avila

2. Victor Martinez

1. Mike Napoli

 

Biggest surprise inclusion – Russell Martin: I admit it, I was wrong.  With his precipitous drop in power, it looked liK. Martin was going to be a poor man’s version of the good Jason Kendall (you can tell the season is coming to a close with comparisons like that).  But pretty much out of nowhere, Martin found his power strike, and although he tailed off down the stretch, overall he provided his owners with strong fantasy numbers across the board.

Biggest surprise omission – Geovany Soto: Especially since injuries to Joe Mauer and Buster Posey opened up a couple of spots, it is disappointing that Soto failed to take advantage.  Soto’s power was fine but his batting average nosedived, largely as a result of a significant uptick in strikeouts and drop in walks.  A low BABIP did not help matters, and may have led to Soto pressing a bit, but still, more whiffs and fewer walks is disconcerting.

Most likely to fall from top-10 in 2012 – Yadier Molina: While he is always a solid backstop that “won’t hurt you”, it took a whole lot to go right for Molina to crack the top-10 and I am not confident the stars will align again.  His great contact rate will always keep his average, hence value high, but the newfound pop is likely to regress.  Molina hit 14 homers, doubling his career high.  A return to single digits is likely which will curtail his production and bump him from the top-10.

Most likely to jump into the top-10 in 2012 – Relatively speaking, the catcher pool is still weaker than other positions, but especially if Mauer and Posey return close to normal.  With up and comers like Carlos Santana, Matt Wieters and Alex Avila looking like top-10 fixtures, along with stalwarts Brian McCann and Victor Martinez, it is going to be difficult for anyone to break into the top-10.  But if anyone can do it, given sufficient playing time, look out for Wilson Ramos.

TOP-30 OUTFIELDERS

30. Hideki Matsui

28. Cameron Maybin

28. Matt Holliday

27. Ichiro Suzuki

26, Corey Hart

25. Nelson Cruz

24. Drew Stubbs

23. Brett Gardner

22. Shane Victorino

21. Carlos Beltran

20. Coco Crisp

19. Adam Jones

18. Mike Stanton

17. Jay Bruce

16. Andrew McCutchen

15. Josh Hamilton

14. B.J. Upton

13. Jeff Francoeur

12. Michael Morse

11. Lance Berkman

10. Hunter Pence

9. Carlos Gonzalez

8. Alex Gordon

7. Melky Cabrera

6. Michael Bourn

5. Justin Upton

4. Curtis Granderson

3. Ryan Braun

2. Jacoby Ellsbury

1. Matt Kemp

 

Biggest surprise inclusions – Melky Cabrera, Michael Morse and Lance Berkman: We’ll extend this a bit since the pool is bigger.  Cabrera displayed surprise power and speed which allowed him to keep Lorenzo Cain on the farm.  Previously, Cabrera was considered to be a platoon player at best, but he parlayed an elevated BABIP into a full-time gig and the production ensued.  Morse was always thought to have latent power but just not expected to get enough playing time, but he took advantage of a season-ending injury to Adam LaRoche and never looked back.  He is going to enter his first season with a full-time job and it will be interesting to see if his power is sustainable, and the smart money is on a slight regression.  Berkman’s inclusion, as previously discussed in this space, is almost completely due to a lack of belief he would stay healthy, though his skills were definitely showing signs of erosion last season.

Biggest surprise omissions – Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Jayson Werth: Granted, Crawford missed significant time, but if he had a normal season in the reduced time, that would have been sufficient to make the cut.  This is completely anecdotal, but I contend that the success of Jacoby Ellsbury made it impossible for Crawford to crack the top of the order, which in turn played head games with the left fielder and he was never able to get comfortable.  Ethier’s last five seasons have followed a bell curve almost perfectly.  His power started low, grew, peaked and is in fast decline.  When he came up, Ethier was thought of as a gap to gap hitter, not a slugger, so a drop from his 2009 home run mark of 31 was not unexpected.  However, all the way down to 11 is a little shocking.  He is probably the guy who hit low 20's, which is what I anticipate going forward.  Jayson Werth’s production was expected to drop moving from the loaded lineup in hitter-friendly Philly to a lesser lineup in a bigger Washington park.  That said, the extent of his drop was more than projected as everything that could go wrong, for Werth did, albeit slightly.  He fanned a little more and walked a little less while his HR/FB and BABIP dropped a bit as well.  Individually, none of these were all that significant, but together they served to hijack Werth’s season.  He should bounce back but obviously nowhere near his days in Philadelphia.

Most likely to fall from top-30 in 2012 – Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and Lance Berkman: This is actually a little difficult as the outfield pool went mostly as expected.  That said, I will double dip and put Cabrera and Berkman on this and the most surprising list.  Too much went right for Cabrera and I do not think he can repeat that and the injury bug cannot evade Berkman in consecutive seasons, can it?  Francoeur did not make the surprising list because he actually displayed a number of elevated skills different times in his career.  He just did not do it all at once, like he did in 2011, and he will not do it again in 2012.

Most likely to jump into the top-30 in 2012 – Desmond Jennings, Logan Morrison and Dexter Fowler: While nothing is a sure thing, Jennings is my best bet of any position in this category.  That said, temper power expectations as the homers he mashed after he was finally promoted exceeded what his history suggested would occur, so regression is likely, but he will still steal bountiful bases and earn vast value.  Morrison needs to “get it” a little more, but I think he will find the right balance and put it together.  Fowler is included because I just traded him away after holding his for years in a highly competitive keeper league and that is what happens to me.

TOP-30 STARTING PITCHERS

30. Zack Greinke

29. Chris Carpenter

28. Ryan Vogelsong

27. Ervin Santana

26. Jeremy Hellickson

25. Johnny Cueto

24. Daniel Hudson

23. Hiroki Kuroda

22. Gio Gonzalez

21. Madison Bumgarner

20. Yovani Gallardo

19. Felix Hernandez

18. Tim Hudson

17. David Price

16. Doug Fister

15. Ricky Romero

14. Josh Beckett

13. C.J. Wilson

12. Tim Lincecum

11. Matt Cain

10. CC Sabathia

9. Dan Haren

8. Ian Kennedy

7. Cole Hamels

6. James Shields

5. Jered Weaver

4. Roy Halladay

3. Cliff Lee

2. Clayton Kershaw

1. Justin Verlander

 

Biggest surprise inclusions – Ryan Vogelsong and Doug Fister: While you can argue the order, it is pretty amazing how few surprises there are in the top- 30.  I think this really speaks to the ability to better gauge pitching using the advanced metrics.  That said, there was nothing in Vogelsong’s history that even hinted he would do what he did this season.  And while I feel this is taking the easy way out, his peripherals were not as strong as the end results, which usually means correction.  On the other hand, while his strikeout rate is a tick below average, Fister’s stellar control and ground ball tendencies make him a nice target in mixed leagues to stream at home and as a mid to back end guy in deeper leagues.

Biggest surprise omission - Jon Lester: If there are few surprises in the top-30, it stands to reason there will be few surprise omissions, but Lester sticks out like a sore thumb.  The exploits of he and his chicken eating, beer swilling teammates are well known, albeit blown way out of proportion.  That aside, Lester’s control and command within the strike zone were not their razor sharp usual.  Assuming there is no injury, and there has been no talk of anything, I expect Lester to rededicate himself and the ace we thought would contend for the American League Cy Young will return.

Most likely to fall from top-30 in 2012 – Hiroki Kuroda: Vogelsong is a given and Kuroda is a bit of a copout as well since it is not a sure thing the 36- year-old veteran will return.  If he does return and stays with the Dodgers, his chances are better, but health will always be a risk.  If he signs elsewhere, his margin of error is slim, and if the move impacts his comfort level at all, his performance could suffer.

Most likely to jump into the top-30 in 2012 – Michael Pineda: I will let others continue to wax poetic about Stephen Strasburg but until he alters his motion, taking stress of that wing of his, I want nothing to do with him, at least in keeper leagues, and I will not pay what it takes to get him in redraft leagues.  Pineda, on the other hand, is poised to become a top-20 starter for years.  The skills are all there, the park is friendly, he has a great mentor in King Felix and wins are overrated.

TOP-10 CLOSERS

10. Jonathan Papelbon

9. Francisco Cordero

8. Heath Bell

7. Joel Hanrahan

6. J.J. Putz

5. Mariano Rivera

4. Jose Valverde

3. Drew Storen

2. John Axford

1. Craig Kimbrel

 

Biggest surprise inclusion – Drew Storen: Rule #1 when it comes to closers is there is no such thing as a surprise other than someone unexpectedly getting the job, of which we had plenty this season, just nobody in the upper echelon.  Storen gets the nod because he scuffled a bit in the spring and began the season in a time share.  Actually, Cordero is a little bit of a surprise because his skills were in decline and it appeared as though his falling strikeouts and rising walks would finally catch up to him.

Biggest surprise omissions –Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz: See rule #1, if it is not a surprise who was on the top-10, it should technically not be a surprise who is left off.  However, Soria and Feliz were drafted pretty high thus disappointed their owners.  Something to think about in terms of game theory is how much the starting pitcher list stood to form as compared to the closer list.  That said, the common denominator of the closer list is other than Storen (as explained), they were all their team’s closer coming into 2011.  To me, the lesson learned is to target the so-called second-tier closers that have the job as opposed to spending a lot for the proverbial stud closer or very little for the speculative play.

Most likely to fall from top-10 in 2012 – Francisco Cordero: Just guessing I was a year too early predicting Cordero’s demise.

Comments   

0 #2 Todd Zola 2011-11-02 16:48
Picking nits, especially when it comes to closers, but Axford did end 2010 as the Brewer's closer, he did have 24 saves with 2.48/1.19 but more importantly for me, a K/BB of 76/27 in 58 innings. The BB rate was a little high, but nothing that screamed "FAIL" especially since there was no one else in the Brewer pen with the cred to take over.

Turns out Axford cut the walks down even more in 2011, which is a trend we are seeing with some recent closers, Hanranan, Wilson, Farnsworth off the top of my head.
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0 #1 John Verdello 2011-11-02 15:46
Some interesting thoughts, Todd. I could go with what you wrote on the OFs, pitchers and catchers and I am mostly in agreement on the closers.

However, I would not say that Storen was the biggest surprise inclusion - for that, I'd go to the guy listed just ahead of him. You knew that Storen and Kimbrel were most likely going to be given several chances to close given the buzz preceding them - but less that 18 months ago, we were all saying John Who? Not only did he seemingly come out of nowhere, but a lot of us were writing him off after the first month of 2011 as a nice story from 2010 but welcome back to earth, Mr. Axford.

For him to emerge as a shut down closer on a playoff team? Now THAT'S a surprise!
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