Let’s take a quick tour of the Senior Circuit, fantasy style.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: Time to drop Brandon Webb. It was mentioned before in this report but is worth repeating and that is Brandon Allen may see some September at bats if Adam LaRoche can be moved in a waiver deal. You could do worse than speculate on Sam Demel for some saves down the stretch.
ATLANTA BRAVES: Troy Glaus has been placed on the disabled list following the acquistion of Derrek Lee. Assuming he comes back in September, there is no way he would be asked to help fill in for Chipper Jones. Throughout his Minor-League career, albeit a short one, Mike Minor always fanned more than a batter an inning as well as whiffing more than three times the number he walked. His raw stuff does not appear strong enough to carry that over to the Bigs, but it should translate well enough to boost a fantasy team down the stretch.
CHICAGO CUBS: Look for Micah Hoffpauir to return as soon as his 10 days back on the farm are over to see some at bats after the Derrek Lee deal. Jeff Baker and Darwin Barney will pick up the at bats vacated by the trade of Mike Fontenot to San Francisco. Barney has a little speed but no pop that makes decent contact. You have to be in a really deep league, but if you are, he may chip in with a handful of steals down the stretch.
CINCINNATI REDS: You are no doubt familiar with Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong will. Well, I would like to now coin the fantasy baseball equivalent, Arroyo’s Law. This is defined by having a pitcher on reserve that throws a gem, only to have him get lit up the next time when you have him active. As expected, in order to limit the innings of Mike Leake, along with the fact he has been skaky lately, Leake has been shifted to the bullpen. Travis Wood assumes the open spot in the rotation.
COLORADO ROCKIES: It is only mid-August, but many are already speculating that Carlos Gonzales could be a top-5 pick next spring and the first outfielder off the board. Get used to my saying make sure you pay for 2011 expected stats and not 2010 final stats. I like Gonzalez, but I will still take Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp before him.
FLORIDA MARLINS: Ricky Nolasco is making it very difficult to argue against the notion of first half/second half players. It is looking like you could have won a few sheckles if you bet someone in the spring that Mike Stanton would hit more homers than Jason Heyward.
HOUSTON ASTROS: Chris Johnson sure looks good, but beware a K:BB of 40:9 in 185 at bats suggests a batting average correction is right around the corner. For those fishing for saves, Wilton Lopez is worth a look. Most have Brandon Lyon pegged as the fill-in for Matt Lindstrom, but Lopez picked up the save Tuesday night. With a K:BB of 39:5 in 49 innings, he has the skills to do the job if Tuesday’s success leads to more opportunities.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Look for Jonathan Broxton to return to his old role sooner than later, likely the next time Joe Torre needs a save. On the one hand, Rafael Furcal has already given his owners their money’s worth this season. On the other, some of us are greedy bastards and really need you to get back!!!!
MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Long-time readers might know I put less credence into manager’s tendencies than some of my fellow pundits. However, I am now willing to submit to the fact stolen bases and Ken Macha are like oil and vinegar. Just ask Lorenzo Cain. Look for Trevor Hoffman to pick up 3 more “easy” saves to reach the 600 plateau.
NEW YORK METS: Expect Jenrry Mejia to be called up after rosters expand and be given a month long audition as a starter. He can help those in deep leagues and perhaps be spotted in mixed formats. Hisanori Takahashi will get the bulk of the saves but while others speculate on Bobby Parnell, do not forget about Pedro Feliciano, as he is very likely to vulture a handful of southpaw matchup chances and has a strikeout rate worthy of being used if you normally deploy middle relievers.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: For those waiting for Jimmy Rollins to run, your patience may be rewarded as he has 3 pilfers the past week. If you dropped Ryan Madson thinking Brad Lidge is safe and need the roster spot to speculate on saves, that is understandable. Just make sure you realize Madson has fanned 9 over his last 4 innings and is still a decent middle reliever for ration protection.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES: James McDonald is impressing, fanning 12 while walking only 3 over his last 2 starts, spanning 11 2/3rds. If you are in a keeper league, he is the sort you try to get as a “throw-in” in a keeper league. That is, make it look like you are targeting someone else and also ask for McDonald. If McDonald keeps up this pace, look for him to be a fixture on “sleeper” lists next spring, meaning it may be cheaper to acquire him now than next season.
SAN DIEGO PADRES: Kevin Correia has bounced back nicely but was probably an example of the Arroyo Law for some of you. If you were a regular reader and Platinum subscriber in the spring, there is a very good chance you have enjoyed the breakout campaign of Mat Latos. Fortunately, I practice what I preach and own the tattooed hurler in a plethora of leagues. Except in the one I need him the most: NL Tout Wars. If the Friars are able to maintain the 5+ game lead in the NL West, they will likely pick and choose spots to limit Latos’ innings, keeping him available for the post season.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: Pat Burrell’s return to the Senior Circuit has been met with great favor. But my gut says ACHIASS (anything can happen in a small sample). Man, I’m just full of new ones today. Pablo Sandoval’s power is finally emerging as 4 of his last 6 hits have gone for extra bases.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: Allen Craig is being given a chance to earn some at bats at the hot corner as Felipe Lopez is struggling, but he is not taking advantage has he is 0 for his last 11. One of the mantras we like to preach early in the season is the team that is consistently the 3rd or 4th best in their fantasy league every month has a cool nickname come October: Champ. Do you know what they call the pitcher that is the 3rd or 4th best in the league every month? They call him the Cy Young winner, also known as Adam Wainwright.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Bye bye Josh Willingham, welcome back Nyjer Morgan. The Nationals took a page from the WWE and found a great way to limit Stephen Strasburg’s innings. Wrestling fans are no doubt familiar with the tactic of having twin wrestlers replace each other when the referee is not looking. Apparently, Washington found a body-double for Strasburg and have been using him since the start previous to his DL stint. This way, the “real” Strasburg protects his valuable right wing while fans still pay to see the twin Strasburg pitch. Obviously, the DL stay was just a means to work with the twin to help duplicate his motion after struggling in his initial appearance subbing for the phenom. How else can you explain 10 runs over his previous 15 innings?
If you play in National League only formats with 10 or more teams, you are no doubt aware that at bats are the league’s currency. We are at the point of the season where conventional skills analysis is secondary to simply if the player is going to play. This is not to suggest a player with a low batting average will no longer hurt your standing in the category, it very well might. But the contributions to the counting categories of someone playing full time down the stretch as opposed to part time should more than compensate and net you positive rotisserie points.
Starting when rosters expand on September 1, there should be some players that will be given a month long audition. So even though it may still be a couple of weeks before players of this ilk emerge, it is not too early to begin jumping the curve and speculating on some possibilities. Generally speaking, look at teams out of playoff contention. The players will likely not be their top prospects, as front offices do not want to start the arbitration and super-two clocks. But that does not mean the player cannot help you down the stretch. Also be cognizant of the fact that some teams wait to promote some players from Triple-A if they are competing in the Minor League playoffs. But even 2 ½ to 3 weeks of a full time player is better than having a part timer in a lineup spot.
Here are some possibilities that may boost your NL only squad down the stretch.
Micah Hoffpauir, CHICAGO CUBS: Hoffpauir was recently called up to fill in for Derek Lee who was placed on the bereavement list. Hoffpauir has seen some extended time with the Cubs in the past and was actually one of my personal end-game favorites in the spring. Tyler Colvin ended up playing the part I envisioned for Hoffpauir, but I digress. He can play first base and the corner outfield spots and in fact is eligible at both 1B and OF in most if not all formats. Hoffpauir has some pop as evidenced by his hitting 10 homers in 234 big league at bats in 2009. He popped 20 dingers at Triple-A Iowa before being summoned to Wrigley Field. He will not hit for a particularly high average, but will knock some over the ivy. He will need an injury to Lee, Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome to play, but it is not like that it is not out of the realm of reasonable possibility. A waiver deal could also open a spot, with Fukudome the most logical candidate of the above troika.
Mat Gamel, MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Once considered an upper-echelon prospect, some of Gamel’s shine has faded, plus he has already spent some time in the Majors, so service time issues are likely not going to prevent the Brewers from promoting Gamel come September. A third baseman by trade, Gamel is not particularly proficient with the glove. In fact, it would be quite surprising if Gamel stays at the hot corner. To that end, he has been playing first base and right field at Triple-A. And it is no coincidence that those positions are manned by Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, both rumored to be on the trading block this winter. Hart is a candidate for a waiver deal and do not discount the possibility Ryan Braun is shut down early as he has some nagging injuries and Milwaukee may want to protect their franchise player, especially if they indeed plan on moving Fielder. Gamel’s stick has never been questioned, only his defense. In 247 at bats at Triple-A Nashville, he is hitting .312 with an OBP of .385. He has 9 homers and 18 doubles, so he has some pop. But keep in mind Gamel had a slight tear in a shoulder muscle in the spring thus did not begin his Triple-A campaign until late May. If he is in fact called up, he will do so with 3B eligibility, which could he quite useful in deep formats.
Justin Maxwell, WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Maxwell has had enough cups of coffee in the bigs that he can open his own Starbuck’s. The prototypical toolsy specimen, Maxwell has yet been able to convert his athleticism to baseball skills. But anyone with his raw power and speed combination will be afforded several opportunities. And it isn’t like the Nationals are running Al Kaline out to right field every day. I mean, this is a team that just promoted Kevin Mench. Yes, THAT Kevin Mench. Watch, now Maxwell won’t play and Mench will hit 8 homers in September. Anyway, Maxwell ‘s Achilles Heel is contact but like I said earlier, sometimes you need to toss skills out the window and go with potential and if afforded the chance, Maxwell could pad your homer and stolen base totals during the homestretch.
Fernando Martinez, NEW YORK METS: Once considered the prize of the Mets’ farm system, Martinez was recently recalled to serve as a reserve outfielder, but his role could expand the last month or so. Jeff Francoeur has requested a trade and Jason Bay still has lingering effects from a concussion. And while he is looking healthy very good, any small nick to Carlos Beltran could end his season prematurely. Martinez had his development curtailed after tearing meniscus cartilage in his right knee. But he is still just 21, so there is time to get back on the prospect track. His primary shortcoming is his plate discipline has regressed from what he was displaying as a teenager and his contact has not improved as much as expected. He is also not displaying the speed he teased as a teenager, but that could be due to some injuries. So again, there is not a whole lot in the numbers that suggests Martinez will be a savior for your squad down the stretch, but there are some viable paths for playing time, which is all that matters.
Tony Abreu, ARIZONA DIAMONDACKS: This one may be a stretch, but sometimes that is what it takes. Both Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson were rumored to be on the block pre-July 31, so the possibility exists they will be moved pre-waiver deadline. Better known for his glove, Abreu makes decent contact though he is allergic to walks. But in a small sample, someone who puts the bat on the ball can run into some hits and thus into some production. And with middle infield being so diluted in the Senior Circuit, who knows, maybe Abreu can bolster your roster.
You know, sometimes we try to get too cute with our analysis. Sometimes we dig too hard to be able to say “I told you so.” We look at splits, park effects and try to decide who has been lucky or unlucky as a means to help predict future performance. And sometimes we are right. Others we are wrong. But more often than we care to admit, we were not right or wrong based on our analysis. What happened simply happened, and if it corroborated with what we said would happen, we say “I told you so.” And if we are wrong, we blame it on sample size.
With that as a backdrop, here is what I think will happen with some of the players in the National League with new home digs for the final couple of months. And while it is true that in a small sample of 2 months, anything can happen (pardon the American League reference but ask Brennan Boesch), but we do need to make decisions on what we think will likely happen. Just beware, I am not about to uncover any hidden gems that will propel you to your league title. In fact, the sagest advice I will offer is not to get too cute in your analysis for the final couple of months. Here is what I mean.
MIGUEL TEJADA, San Diego: Declining skills, evaporating power, no speed, limited defensive acumen, moving to a park where fly balls go to die, Tejada is worthless as a Padre, right? I’m not going to lie; he’s not going to win you a championship. But if you are running Alex Cora or Wilson Valdez out there as your middle infielder in deep leagues, Tejada is an upgrade. Don’t get hung up on the negatives, he is better than what you have. Don’t look up the PETCO park effect and determine how much the little pop Tejada has will be further diminished. Be happy he will run into a homer or two, knock in some runs and score a few. He helps plug a lineup hole for about 1/3rd of the season.
JAKE WESTBROOK, St. Louis: He doesn’t whiff many hitters, how useful can he be in just 10 or 12 starts? Very useful, if you are replacing a reliever and need a boost in strikeouts. In deep leagues, you may be replacing someone like Sergio Romo or Peter Moylan, a decent middle reliever. Westbrook is fanning close to 6 per 9 innings, which should translate to 50 or 60 more strikeouts for the season, more than doubling what you will receive from your middle reliever. Those 30 or 40 strikeouts will come in handy, and it should not come at the expense of your ratios, as Westbrook and his ground-ball tendencies should excel in St. Louis. Add in the chance of a few extra wins and the non-sexy Westbrook suddenly is a solid boost to an NL-only pitching staff.
BRETT WALLACE, Houston: Wallace is an example of a “look at me” type of player. I am not talking about the player, but rather the analyst who wants to demonstrate he reads what others say about Minor Leaguers and suggest Wallace is the sleeper National League pickup of the deadline deals. And as alluded to in the introduction, they may be right. Anything can happen in two months and Wallace has a strong pedigree. He has power and hit close to or over .300 the past two seasons on the farm. But his contact rate is less than 80% and his walk rate is lower than 10%, so he may struggle. In addition, his BABIP in the minors was never below .337, which is not likely to carry over to the Majors. So as cool as it may be to let everyone know you read John Sickels and subscribe to Baseball America, temper your expectations for the Astros new first baseman.
ROY OSWALT, Philadelphia: yes, Oswalt moves from a neutral park to one where pop ups clear the fence, but Oswalt has pitched in enough hitter’s parks to know how to get the job done. I am more concerned that he sustain his new-found strikeout rate than I am he starts giving up more homers.
SCOTT PODSEDNIK, Los Angeles Dodgers: The speedster showed a little pop while with the White Sox, which most will suggest will disappear. But the truth is Dodger Stadium is not as unfavorable to homers as many perceive, especially for slash line drive hitters such as Podsednik.
RYAN LUDWICK, San Diego: Yes, PETCO is really big, but in a two-month period, it may cost Ludwick only a couple of homers. He’s basically the same player he was in St. Louis.
RICK ANKIEL, St. Louis: He won’t play full-time, sitting against southpaws and he still will struggle staying on the field. I know they play different positions, but if they were both going to be my utility, I’d rather have Miguel Tejada than Ankiel
Let’s tour the Senior Circuit, stopping in each city to see what they may be looking to do at the trading deadline and how that may impact the fantasy landscape.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: There are probably some teams that could use an experienced middle of the rotation innings eater, someone like Joe Saunders, he says tongue firmly implanted in his cheek. Adam LaRoche could be on the move at the deadline much like he was last season. This may pave the way for some at bats for Brandon Allen who has been stroking the ball quite well in Triple-A. While unlikely, you know the Snakes would jump at the chance to dump Chad Qualls. Chris Snyder is also a candidate to be moved, giving Miguel Montero even more value. There are whispers that Kelly Johnson and Steven Drew are available as well.
ATLANTA BRAVES: The division leading Braves could be buyers, but are not expected to make a big splash. They could use another outfielder especially since this continues to be a lost season for the recently demoted Nate McLouth. And with the fragile Troy Glaus and Chipper Jones manning the corners, an experienced infielder with some pop could be useful.
CHICAGO CUBS: Derrek Lee reportedly invoked his 10/5 trade veto rights and rejected a deal to the Angels. He indicates that he intends to finish the season in the Windy City, but perhaps a chance to win with a team a bit closer than the Angels may help him change his mind. If he does get dealt, Micah Hoffpauir could be summoned to play first or Xavier Nady could be given more time. Nady himself is a candidate to be moved. The development of Sterlin Castro could lead to a trade of Ryan Theriot, who would fetch more than Jeff Baker or Mike Fontenot, though all three are possibly on the move. Ted Lilly could be available and would be a significant fantasy boost if he crosses into the American League. Carlos Zambrano could also move, but at this point, his name far exceeds his production.
CINCINATTI REDS: The Reds continue to hang in the race in the NL Central thus will not be sellers. It is a little hard to tell if they will be buyers as they could use another starting pitcher, especially with Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey sidelined. They have some attractive trade chips to dangle in Juan Francisco and Yonder Alonso.
COLORADO ROCKIES: The Rockies could be in the market for an infield corner stick such as Jorge Cantu or Ty Wigginton. They could also use some starting pitching reinforcement. There is an outside chance they could move Chris Iannetta, which would further amplify Miguel OIivo’s value.
FLORIDA MARLINS: The Marlins should be sellers and have a bevy of candidates, though the recent injury to Chris Coghlan sapped them of some of their flexibility. Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla are both prime targets along with Cody Ross. Logan Morrison has already been recalled and has some pop. Cameron Maybin may be given another chance to show he is a viable big-leaguer. There are some mumblings Leo Nunez may be on the block, making Jose Veras a speculative closer option.
HOUSTON ASTROS: Rumor has it Roy Oswalt is on the block. Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee should be as well, but their contracts will be hard to move for what Houston will no doubt ask in return.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS: The Dodgers could really use another starting pitcher and have been mentioned as having interest in all the usual suspects. But since most teams are asking for Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier in return, a deal for a top-line hurler is not likely.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS: It appears the Brewers will be sellers with Corey Hart front and center. They could also move Jim Edmonds but the return would be minimal. Someone to keep on your radar is the rejuvenated Mat Gamel, who has picked up the pace at Triple-A Nashville. The problem is he is still playing third which will not be opened up via a deal. Unless, of course, the Brewers decide to move Prince Fielder, which is not completely out of the realm of possibilities.
NEW YORK METS: Jeff Franceour maybe available now that Carlos Beltran is back and Angel Pagan has earned continued playing time. The Mets could choose to fortify either their rotation or attack. They do have some attractive trade bait in Jonathan Niese, Robert Parnell and Jenrry Mejia.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: The Phillies maybe both buyers and sellers. If they can move Jayson Werth, they could follow with a move to help their rotation. Domonic Brown has been called up following the injury to Shane Victorino, and if he impresses, Werth may be shipped out of town. Ben Francisco also is in line for some additional playing time.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES: The Pirates should be sellers, if they only had something to deal away not named Octavio Dotel. As of late, Joel Hanrahan is stating his case for closing duties as it is not a foregone conclusion Evan Meek inherits the role.
SAN DIEGO PADRES: The NL West division leading Padres have been rumored to be looking at a few back-of-the-rotation starting pitchers along with a middle infielder. Names like Jeremy Guthrie and Jake Westbrook have been bandied about for the staff with Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada suggested to help fortify second base.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: Warning – if you hear one of your player’s is a target of the Giants, look for a replacement. Just ask David Dejesus and Corey Hart owners, though Hart is due back by the end of the week. San Francisco is looking for some outfield reinforcement and supposedly has Scott Podsednik in their crosshairs so beware.
EDIT: Podsednik owners can rest easy as he has been dealt to the Dodgers. He will play while Manny Ramirez is disabled and then spell all the outfielders periodically, as well as pinch running. Big picture, he will lose some playing time but his steals should not suffer as most reserve outfielders might.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: The Redbirds are looking to bolster their rotation and Roy Oswalt is a perfect fit but apparently, the Astros do not want to deal him within the division, obviously fearful he may help St. Louis beat them in future seasons.
[BEGIN RANT] This mindset drives me bonkers. I just do not get it. Will facing Oswalt a few times really keep Houston from the playoffs next season? Why not try to pick up a few prospects to help your squad beat their former squad for the next ten years? AAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH [/END RANT]
WASHINGTON NATIONALS: The Nationals hold a couple of interesting names with Adam Dunn heading the list. There is also a chance Matt Capps is moved.
In somewhat shocking move, the Atlanta Braves sent former shortstop of the future Yunel Escobar and left-handed pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes across the border to the Toronto Blue Jays for shortstop Alex Gonzalez and two minor leaguers (SS Tyler Pastronicky, LHP Tim Collins). I’ll leave the in-depth player breakdowns for Rob’s Diamond Exchange, but on the surface this deal looks like a bit odd. The Braves are in first place, so it’s hardly like they couldn’t afford to wait a bit longer to let Escobar iron out the kinks. The perceived power upgrade in Gonzalez was not necessary as the team has plenty of power (Troy Glaus, Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann), and neither of the two minor leaguers is ready to contribute to a pennant-chasing club. Though Collins sure looks like he could be a good one - 15.3 K/9 over 43 innings. There have been a number of rumblings around the web that suggest that Escobar’s attitude was wearing thin with the club and was the decisive factor in moving him.
AL only players, especially those in keeper leagues, should rush to grab Escobar who is only 27 years old and should bounce back, at least to some degree though perhaps with less power. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has no real long-term appeal, but he will provide decent pop for teams looking to make a push this year. Just remember that he is only six homeruns away from his career high of 23, and that at 33 years old in the post-steroid era, it’s hard to see him nearly doubling that number over the second half.
Not So Quick Hits
Adam Dunn is now reportedly getting tired of waiting on the Nationals for a contract extension, which could be a sign that it’s only a matter of time before Big Donkey is dealt. The White Sox are apparently still interested, but might be forced to look for pitching. Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter has recently voiced his desire to see Dunn in Anaheim.
In the first link Buster Olney also hears that the Braves are still looking at Cody Ross, who he says is “one of three players the Marlins have made available,” along with Jorge Cantu and Nate Robinson. Farther down the feed he also suggests that Milwaukee might suddenly have an interesting additional trade chip: “Dave Bush, who has allowed 3 earned runs or less in 14 of 17 starts. Last 7 starts ERA under 3.”
Corey Hart would have cost the Giants either Jonathan Sanchez or top left-handed pitcher Madison Baumgarner, and not surprisingly, Giants GM Brian Sabean decided to pass on that. Hart has most recently been tied to the Tampa Bay Rays by Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune.
Look for the Chicago Cubs to make a splash (albeit a small one) in the trade market sooner than later. But don’t expect an all out fire sale. For starters the best the Cubs really have to offer are bloated, or expiring contracts tied to players having down years (Derek Lee, Kosuke Fukudome). But for those NL owners concerned about possibly losing Ted Lilly to the AL, it looks as though the Mets are still the favorites, followed by possibly Cincinnati. The same article mentions that the Giants might be scouting Cubs lefty Tom Gorzelanny.
With Yunel Escobar’s surprising trade to the Blue Jays, you have to wonder if teams looking for middle infield help will step up their efforts to acquire Arizona’s Stephen Drew, who has reportedly been scouted by the Detroit Tigers. Last week I reported that the Diamondbacks considered Drew part of their core and had no intention to trade him. I talked to Gibby Jr. earlier today, who said that nothing has changed in that regard.
James McDonald is the favorite to be called up after the break to fill the fifth spot in the Dodgers rotation; however, ESPNLA’s Tony Jackson also suggests that it will most likely be a temporary gig until the team can trade for an upgrade.
According to MLB.com, Placido Polanco could be back with the Phillies “as early as this weekend in Chicago.”The article also mentions that J.A. Happ, Chad Durbin, and Antonio Bastardo are not far off either.
Among other things, Drew Silva from Rotoworld.com reports that Padres stud Matt Latos is most likely going to open the second half of the season on the DL, giving him extra time to rest the tweaked muscle in his side, and perhaps more importantly, to limit his innings pitched. Latos only pitched 123 combined innings last season, and is already just over 106 this year. This is merely a bump in the road for a young pitcher, but it could be a potential boon for H2H owners hoping to pitch him in the playoffs.
MLBTradeRumors.com has a hilarious post about the recent feud between Scott Boras and Buster Olney over the value of Prince Fielder. After Boras told a reporter that Fielder deserved Mark Teixeira money, Olney published a piece that cited Fielder’s physique and defensive liability as reasons why that was a load of crap. He also suggested that if he is indeed looking for that kind of money, the Brewers all but have to move him.
And finally, congratulations to the National League for finally knocking off American League in Monday night’s All-Star Game. It’s about time, and it was good to see a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, especially against the DH in an AL park.
“Who the hell is Reynolds?” I laughed.
“Dude mashes. You wait.”
As the sabermetrically informed fantasy guru (in training) I imagined myself to be, I looked him up on fangraphs.com. “You’re out of your mind,” I said to him. “He strikes out waaaay too much to see any significant time in the show.”
He calmly leaned back into his chair, propped his flip-flopped feet up on the desk and coolly replied, “Dude mashes. You wait.”
I never paid much attention to the kid’s last name, but we got along really well and even started getting together once or twice a week to jam in the basement of the house he was renting off campus (conveniently two blocks from my office). The dude shreds on guitar... tons of fun. We ended up meeting in Phoenix the following summer, where his dad got us family section tickets to a D-Backs game. I felt like a total dumbass. “How could you not make the connection Draper? Kirk Gibson? Come on man.” Total dumbass… well maybe not totally. I did manage to get him on IM today to see what he had heard out there regarding the trading deadline, and the team that is drawing looks from several GMs looking to make a second-half push.
The only guy on the roster that has the look of a “no-brainer” is Aaron Heilman. It’s a shame Chad Qualls came undone, because he could have provided a decent return for teams looking for bullpen help. As it stands, Heilman appears to be the most sensible arm to move in Arizona’s pen. He’s older, not signed to a multi-year contract, and he offers the most immediate value to a contender now.
All the other names you hear floating around the rumor mill are not guys the team really wants to move, particularly Dan Haren, but they probably would trade just about anyone out of the pen.
Adam LaRoche is a guy they would probably move to a team looking for a left-handed bat since he’s only signed through this year. I asked about Edwin Jackson, but he hadn’t heard much on him at all. There’s also a slight chance that they could move Kelly Johnson, but the rumors about Stephen Drew to a team like the Tigers hold less weight. The “untouchables,” or the core, for the moment includes Drew, Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton, and Chris Young. “Yeah, everyone wants Haren and his name is huge in the rumor mill,” Gibby said, “but they don’t want to trade him. He’s their best pitcher.” He went on saying, “they don’t want to trade Haren, but you can never say never.” I suggested that a team that lost out on Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt might be desperate enough to put up a huge package, but Gibby said he thought the package the D-Backs would ask for would be too much for most teams to bite. He said the Dodgers were out because they didn’t want to deal him within the division. He doesn’t think St. Louis has enough to get him, nor the cash. Haren has an option for $12.25 million next year. Unfortunately for you AL players out there looking to grab Haren off the wire, Gibby said Haren wants to stay in the NL, so he doubted they would send him to an AL club.
Finally, I asked him about Chris Snyder, who had been attached to Red Sox rumors prior to their acquisition of Kevin Cash. He said, “Yeah I mean, [Miguel] Montero can rake, and Snyder’s been on the block for two years. They had him traded to Toronto this summer, but the deal fell through.” It looks as if he’s definitely available; it’s just a matter of finding the right dance partner.
I sent Gibby the intro to this article to get permission to drop his name. He promised to keep us posted in coming weeks if I agreed to help him write a book. What do you say guys? Are you reading this? I’ll do it, but I’m already behind (like by two years) on my book about Zola and the MB community.
Adam Dunn still wants to stay in the NL so he can field a position. But Chicago White Sox GM, Kenny Williams, is pushing hard, though the Nationals have maintained their position that Dunn’s going to be “painful” to acquire.
It looks like the Corey Hart for Jonathan Sanchez rumors have teeth, as Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the two teams will look at a deal before their series ends.
Peter Gammons writes for MLB.com that the Cubs are definitely sellers (which has more or less been confirmed by manager Lou Piniella), starting with Ted Lilly, whom Gammons suggests the team would seek to re-sign as a free agent after the season. One writer suggested that the Mets might be a good match for Lilly. Gammons also mentions Derek Lee, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot as potential trade candidates. With the White Sox surging (though the season-ending injury to Jake Peavy could significantly change things) and Paul Konerko likely staying in Chicago, earlier rumors of Lee to the Angels might once again get some teeth.
That’s all I got for this week. If you have anything particular you’d like me to ask Gibby for future articles, post it in the comments or on the message boards and I’ll pass it along.
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This can be a painful part of the season for those who play in deeper only leagues or non-trading leagues like the NFBC. Say you’re sitting four points back in third, and you know that if you don’t add some production to one or two tight categories sooner than later, you could easily find yourself sinking as low as sixth by the All-Star Break. Maybe you just lost Chase Utley or Dustin Pedroia. Maybe you were already struggling to stay even in pitching and took a gamble on Carlos Zambrano when he left the pen and resumed starting a few weeks ago. If a trade isn’t doable for you for whatever reason, where do you go to replace that lost production? The wire. But if this is a recent issue for you, chances are you’ve lost out on most of the better rookie call-ups and recent league swapping deals (such as Conor Jackson).
Rob Leibowitz covers the transactions on this site for every team in the majors in his weekly article, The Diamond Exchange, and he also just posted an article on potential International League call-ups today in The Prospector. Rob’s material is MUST READ this time of year, especially for those finding themselves in one of the scenarios mentioned in the first paragraph. Rob’s mentioned some of the guys I’m bringing up, so take this as simply another writer’s take. And I’m specifically going to be looking at guys that have been flying under the radar.
Injured Players Close to Returning
Those looking for pitching help should stop reading this article right now, go to your waiver wire, and search for Edison Volquez. In his fourth rehab start yesterday, Volquez allowed just two runs over six innings while racking up seven strikeouts. In four rehab starts, Volquez is sporting a 15/2 K/BB ratio. I just missed him in my NFBC league last week, but he was still available on the wire for me in two other leagues today.
Even though Brad Lidge has resumed closing in Philly, Ryan Madson provides plenty of value as a set-up man with a high strikeout rate and good ratios. Madson struck out two of the three batters he faced in his second rehab appearance yesterday and is hoping to return before the All-Star break. And let’s not forget that Lidge is just as apt to blow up or get hurt as he is holding down his job in the ninth, so there’s a decent chance for the occasional vulture save as well.
Doug Davis isn’t a sexy name, and we all know he’s death to your WHIP. All the same, as the article’s title suggests, we’re scraping for crumbs here. Davis does provide a good amount of strikeouts, and if played judiciously according to matchups, he could provide some decent value. He’s made three rehab starts and should be ready to return to the Brewers any day now.
Depending on how deep the league is Matt Diaz is a guy that very well may have stayed on someone’s roster when he went down with a thumb injury. That said, with the explosive debut of the guy he’s replacing (Jason Heyward), there’s always a chance he was ditched to fill another whole. Diaz could provide some decent pop in a short-term stopgap roll.
Less Than Sexy Call-ups
Barry Enright allowed one run over five innings picking up the win in his debut for the Diamondback’s today. He struck out five, but also walked four batters. He’s a rookie and he will have his ups and downs, so four walks isn’t something to be all that surprised about. What is worth paying attention to is the 83/15 K/BB ratio he registered in just over 93 innings. This is a kid who has demonstrated that he knows how to throw strikes, and is definitely worth a flyer in NL play.
I mentioned Chris Johnson from the Astros in last week’s column, and suggested that he profiled as a guy who could hit for power. Well he has yet to hit one this year, but he is hitting .333 through his first 51 at-bats. An everyday bat that’s hitting ain’t all that bad.
Matt Belisle was a guy I also mentioned last week. The hype machine is kicking fellas. There might not be a better non-closing reliever still on the wire. Actually, there’s no flippin’ way he’s out there for NL guys. You mixed leaguers reading this better get on that.
There are rumors that the Phillies dispatched scouts to check out Seattle second baseman Jose Lopez last night. Lopez would provide a huge power bump out of the middle infield for NL only players.
Tom Gorzelanny has taken Zambrano’s place in the Cubs rotation and should provide decent, though hardly spectacular, production for those in a bind.
Pirates rookie Brad Lincoln shutout the Cubs through seven innings last night. To put that in perspective, the Pirates are 8-3 against the Cubbies this year. Hell, they could have thrown Kip Wells out there.
So this has been a fairly interesting week for the National League, particularly with regards to roster moves that are going to force a few managers to make some really tough decisions. With the news of Carlos Beltran’s clearance for a rehab assignment, fantasy owners all over the country are salivating at what can be viewed as nothing less than a major blockbuster addition to the Mets roster just in time for the All Star break. In an article published at the beginning of the month, Fangraphs.com’s Dave Cameron had this to say about Beltran’s return:
When Carlos Beltran returns, the Mets will have a decision to make. The answer is actually pretty easy – Jeff Francoeur goes to the bench, as he’s clearly the worst outfielder on the team. We’ll see if the Mets get it right this time, and recognize just what they have in Pagan – a quality outfielder who deserves to play everyday.
Angel Pagan is hitting .304/.363/.447 through 68 games with 35 RBI and 14 stolen bases. You gotta find room for that in your lineup if you’re Jerry Manuel, right? Fantasy owners, however, aren’t necessarily in the same position. When one of his best comps is David DeJesus (also highlighted in the Cameron piece), and he is facing the possibility of losing at-bats to Jeff Francoeur, it’s time to at least consider an alternative for when/if Beltran returns. Remeber, there nothing to say Beltran is going to stay healthy. So there will be at-bats, even if he ends up ina time-share situation.
Matt Belisle has been pitching very well in middle relief for the Rockies (3.12 ERA with 46 strikeouts over 43.1 innings) and picked up the save Tuesday night in place of struggling interim closer, Manny Corpas. But before you get all worked up about vulturing some saves, know that Huston Street was just activated from the DL, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s closing again in Colorado.
The Astros called up 3B Chris Johnson from Triple-A Round Rock, and are planning to play him over Pedro Feliz at the hot corner. Johnson has hit well in the minors with good power, so he might make a decent play for NL owners looking for depth at the corners. The Astros also called up former first round draft pick Jason Castro. He was hitting a fairly unimpressive .265 .355 .365 in Triple-A, in a good hitting environment, so he may not make the greatest fantasy impact. He does at least have superior defensive skills and very good plate discipline and has a good deal of room for improvement.
It’s beginning to look like the Reds are going to bring up Uber-Cuban, Aroldis Chapman, to pitch in relief for the big club sooner than later. Personally I like his 2010 value much better in that scenario as he should experience fewer ups and downs, and could provide the impact of a Joba Chamberlain or Neftali Feliz out of the pen.
Early in the spring, Masterball’s own Todd Zola was pimping a pitcher out of San Diego named Matt Latos. Well how do you like these apples?
8-4, 86 IP, 79 K, 22 BB, 2.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
Boom goes the dynamite.
‘Tis the season for dumping. At least that’s what those of you in contention should be selling hard to the bottom half of the league at this point. With the trade of Conor Jackson from the Diamondback to the A’s, we have our first league switching potential game changer. I won’t go into the likelihood of Jackson’s success with the A’s (though he sure started off right on Wednesday night) as that will be covered by my more analytically savvy colleagues here at the site. But what I do want to stress is the importance of maximizing your stats, and getting an early jump in the trade market and waivers. Remember, everyone else playing in your AL or NL only league is going to be bidding for those guys that get dealt between leagues. If you’re in an auction format with a FAAB process, you are going to have to bid high to get an impact player. If you’re in a league that processes waivers in order of team rank and you are in a position to make a run, your waiver priority is almost assuredly going to be too low to get your guy. So you have to scour the web for news and rumors of what teams are going to be sellers and which players have contractual situations that make them attractive trade candidates. In one AL only league, I’ve already picked up Jackson, Xavier Nady, Derek Lee, Adrian Gonzalez and Brandon Webb. Now it’s extremely unlikely that all of those guys get dealt to an AL team, let alone dealt at all. But if you have reserve spots that are being wasted by guys that don’t play, why not load up on potential NL players that could truly impact your team over the second half? Not to mention the fact that you’ll spend significantly less to get those guys if you’re grabbing them two weeks before they even hit your competitors’ collective radar. I’ll cover some of the teams and players to watch in coming weeks below.
Teams in the NL that have expressed the desire or even the likelihood of selling to this point include the Arizona Diamondbacks who already began their fire sale with the Jackson trade; the Pittsburgh Pirates who are looking to field the first all 25 and under team; the Washington Nationals who are now looking to build around the holy trinity of Steven Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper; and the Houston Astros. Despite what the general managers have been saying, it also looks as though teams like the Brewers, the Cubs, and even the Braves could be sellers.
Teams in the AL that look to be ready to dance include the Orioles, the A’s (as usual), the Mariners, the White Sox, the Royals, the Indians, and more than likely eventually the Blue Jays. For a good source of trade rumors and player contract status, check out MLBTraderumors.com if you aren’t already a frequent surfer at the site.
Some guys to track/target for the next couple weeks are:
Derek Lee, 1B, CHC - Lee has had a frustrating year, and there have been rumors of talks with the Angels, who would look to replace injured Kendry Morales with Lee in the hopes that the change of scenery gets his bat going. For the time being it looks as if the Angels are going to fill the hole internally with Mike Napoli.
Xavier Nady, RF/1B, CHC - Nady is still looking to bounce back from the injury that shut him down right as he appeared to be entering his prime with the Pirates and then Yankees. He has pop in his bat and would be a very affordable stop-gap for a contender looking to shore up either the outfield or first base.
Ted Lilly, SP, CHC - Lilly is arguably the Cubs best and most consistent pitcher, but his contract is about to be up, and should the Cubs look to seriously rebuild, they might not have a more attractive short -term rental.
Dan Haren, SP, ARZ - Haren is almost a no brainer. Perhaps the team would prefer to move Brandon Webb, but he has yet to demonstrate that he’s healthy enough to help the D-Backs, let alone a contender. As such, Haren, along with Houston’s Roy Oswalt and Seattle’s Cliff Lee, look to be the premier arms available at the deadline.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, ARZ - No brainer this guy is getting dealt. While he does not deserve losing a starting gig he has before been traded to teams that have used him in a back-up role (Red Sox) while they make their stretch run, so beware.
Andy LaRoche - The emmergence of Neil Walker at second base and promotion of Pedro Alaverez points to potential trade. His minor league patience and power have evaporated. Instead he has been a ground-ball hitter for his MLB career at 48% of the time.
Lance Berkman - He has the ability to block a trade, and his numbers have been down a bit over the last few seasons. Still, like Derek Lee, if the change of scenery somehow causes the light to come back on, this guy’s obviously been dangerous at the plate before.
Roy Oswalt - Wants out and is willing to veto his no-trade clause in some instances to do so. He could end up anywhere, but as a hired gun is likely to end up with a team with an offense behind him and that means....potential wins!
This list is really just a teaser of NL players that might prove to be valuable acquisitions prior to the deadline for those playing in AL leagues. There are of course more that will pop up in rumors over the coming weeks, so this was in no way meant to be exhaustive. The important thing is for fantasy owners to realize that they need to get a jump on grabbing some of these guys even if it turns out to be a wasted pick up. You waste less FABB if you do it early, and you certainly won’t miss the likes of a dropped Don Kelly in an effort to make your run.
As this article is coming out two days after Stephen Strasburg’s dominant MLB debut, there’s no need to rehash the box score. But what I found interesting, was how many talking heads were going out of their way to contextualize, or perhaps better, marginalize the importance of Strasburg’s first start for the suddenly loaded Washington Nationals (see my comments on Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper below). ESPN had Orel Hershiser on assuring everyone that while Strasburg could be dominant, we’re a long way away from putting him in the same category as Hall of Famers like Nolan Ryan. Well something interesting happened on Tuesday night. According to Jack Moore at Fangraphs, Strasburg became one of five guys ever to strike out at least 13 batters throwing less than 100 pitches. Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver, Javy Vazquez, and Grant Jackson were the other guys. Strasburg struck out the most (14 tied with Vazquez) with the fewest pitches (94, two less then Vazquez with 96). So what does that mean? It’s a small sample size, but it’s not insignificant. In his 2003 updated Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James demonstrated that the pitchers with the most longevity and success are power pitchers. How does an average of 90 mph sound… for a change-up? His fastball averaged 98 mph. All of this to say, there might not be a better long-term fantasy investment for a pitcher. We all know that. But how many of us are going to go all-in to get him? Personally, I just traded for Ubaldo Jimenez instead. Sure he was pricey, but he was a hell of a lot cheaper than the second coming of Christ.
Pittsburg has been trotting out the prospects this week as well. Wednesday night saw the debuts of former top Yankee outfield prospect Jose Tabata (2-4 with a run and a steal), and the 4th pick in the 2006 draft, starter Brad Lincoln. Lincoln gave up five earned runs over six innings, and Tabata left with a cramp in his hamstring. Tabata is still a bit raw, but he’s still young, has a ton of speed, and could yet develop some pop.
Ryan Zimmerman is now. I say this because I just had a text conversation with a guy looking to beef up his outfield by dealing some excess pitching and tossing in Zimmerman since he had Alex Rodriguez at third. All you mixed-leaguers out there enamored with A-Rod, David Wright, and Kevin Youkilis… Zimmerman is a superstar, not a young bat to deal off in a package for a 2nd tier outfielder.
Bryce Harper - Ladies and gentlemen, the Natural. So are we talking Roy Hobbs (shot in the stomach by a crazy woman, shortening an incredibly brilliant career), or maybe Josh Hamilton (phenom + fame + drugs = Mickey Mantle talent in Keith Richard’s body)? All I’m saying is for every LaBron James there’s a Tony Mandarich.
Aramis Ramirez has been placed on the 15 day DL and Chad Tracy has been recalled to replace him in the lineup. Seriously? Upgrade for both the Cubs and fantasy owners. Aramis is not the guy he was even two years ago. Tracy’s no sure thing, but he’s been successful before in Arizona and he’s been on fire recently in Triple A.
Speaking of the Cubs, Marlon Byrd is tearing it up again. He hit two homeruns on Wednesday night, bringing his season total up to nine. He’s currently hitting .321 with 34 RBI. Marlon Byrd is mixed-league material… how about it.
Brad Lidge is looking filthy good. Yeah it’s three appearances, but it’s also two more saves than Trevor Hoffman got you this week. So far so good for patient owners who stuck with him, or savvy owners who snatched him up before he was activated.
Sticking in Philly, Jason Werth was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day Wednesday night, and there was some speculation that a disconnect with Charlie Manuel had as much to do with the absence as that stellar 4 for 41 tear he’s been on for the last two weeks.
Finally, congratulations to Cubs first baseman Derek Lee who hit his 300th homer on Wednesday night against Milwaukee. Classy guy through and through. Here’s hoping it lights a fire under his tail for Cub fans and fantasy owners alike.