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Less-Prominent Beneficiaries of the Trade Deadline PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 02 August 2014 00:00

As the non-waiver trade deadline across Major League Baseball approached, the rumor mill was extremely active with scores of names potentially in play. With at least two dozen deals actually becoming reality, much of the focus since has been on the headliners changing teams.

This is rightfully so, with big names including David Price, Austin Jackson, Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chase Headley - not to mention three-fifths of the Red Sox rotation in Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and John Lackey - changing teams.

Yet there are some less prominent players who should benefit as a result of the trades, as well, whether directly or indirectly. I will note a handful of them here, as they are more likely available in your leagues.

Indirectly – Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny was in a tough spot. Allen Craig, a proven player with over $30 million remaining on his contract, had been struggling all season long. Top prospect Oscar Taveras had shown he was ready for the Majors, but his only route to playing time would be at Craig’s expense.

By shipping Craig to the Red Sox in the Lackey trade, Cards GM John Mozeliak eliminated Matheny’s decision-making on this matter. Taveras will be the Cardinals' everyday right fielder going forward. While the left-handed hitter may bat seventh initially, he should move up in the order once he gets his feet firmly planted.

Directly – Jake Marisnick, OF, Astros

Despite a tantalizing combination of power and speed, the former Marlins top prospect could not establish any traction in two earlier trials with Miami, batting just .175. Dealt to Houston in the Jarred Cosart trade, Marisnick should receive everyday playing time in centerfield the rest of the way.

Directly – Zach Walters, SS, Indians

Though the Tribe has dispatched the former Nationals infielder to Triple-A initially upon his acquisition for Asdrubal Cabrera, Walters should displace journeyman Mike Aviles up the middle very soon. After he does, he should hold down the job for a long time. The 24-year-old switch-hitter has already mastered Triple-A.

Indirectly – Stephen Vogt, UT, A’s

No one player is going to replace Cespedes in the Oakland lineup, but the versatile Vogt should be at the front of the line to receive additional playing time. Eligible at catcher, first base and outfield in many leagues, the left-handed hitter is batting .351 with 23 RBI in just 151 at-bats. This is qualified support until we see how Sam Fuld and Jonny Gomes play in the new Oakland mix, but my suspicion is that both will be reserves.

Directly – Tommy Milone, SP, Twins

Though Billy Beane scores heavily in many corners due to his trade wizardry, the move of Milone to the Twins in return for a player he let go not too many weeks ago in Fuld is curious to say the least. Milone was squeezed out of the A’s rotation a month ago despite good numbers – a 3.55 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 61 strikeouts and 26 walks in 96 1/3 innings. The left-hander was initially assigned to Triple-A Rochester, but I cannot see that lasting very long.

Directly – Joe Kelly, SP, Red Sox

Despite good numbers in each of the past two seasons, Kelly had to come to camp and re-earn his rotation spot in both of the subsequent springs. Though he allows a lot of runners, the right-hander doesn’t let too many come home and can throw 95 mph. With the young arms at the top of the Cardinals system, Kelly’s long-term future in St. Louis was cloudy, but the current Red Sox offer nothing but opportunity.

Directly – Nick Franklin, SS, Rays

Because Ben Zobrist was not moved at the deadline, Franklin was sent to Triple-A upon his acquisition from Seattle. Though Franklin continues to rake against minor league pitching, he could manage just a .214 average in two partial seasons in the Majors. The switch-hitter should receive a chance with Tampa soon.

Indirectly – Joaquin Benoit, RP, Padres

When Huston Street was sent to the Angels, Benoit was considered to be the next to go in the Padres’ fire sale. It did not happen, at least yet. In the meantime, Benoit is continuing his exceptional pitching for San Diego. All he needs is more opportunities for saves, though that seems unlikely.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

 

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 August 2014 09:44
 
Not NL All-Stars, but Not Snubbed, Either PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00

Last week, I looked at the 2014 National League All-Stars as aligned by their ownership in the NL Tout Wars League. I was unable to draw a firm correlation between the industry fantasy league’s standings and the quantity of All-Stars for several reasons.

For one, All-Stars are not created equal. In the most extreme case, my Tony Watson is clearly less valuable than Steve Gardner’s Clayton Kershaw. Yet the two were considered two peas in the same pod in my quick and dirty initial analysis.

Even more important is the reality that the rules and processes surrounding the Midsummer Classic do not always ensure the best players from the first half of the season are representing their leagues in the All-Star Game.

Sure, the players and managers can smooth out some of the rough edges created by fan voting, but there are still limitations beyond the raw roster size. For example, having one representative per team could keep a more deserving player out of the game. So could an All-Star manager taking one of his own players over a more talented opponent.

I am violently against the use and abuse of the word “snub,” however. More often than not, there are simply more deserving players for All-Star consideration than slots to be filled. That should not be considered a slight on those not chosen, but instead a realization that the current process is imperfect. Likely any adjustments would never end the arguments.

Anyway, this time around, I am looking at 13 of the best NL players not chosen for the All-Star team. I will also check how they align to the NL Tout standings, though I am not expecting to receive much of any insight from that.

Position Players Tout owner
C: Buster Posey, Giants Tristan H. Cockcroft
His off-year better than others' good years. 10 HR, 46 RBI.


1B: Matt Adams, Cardinals Seth Trachtman
Outplaying ex-All-Star teammates Holliday and Craig.


1B: Justin Morneau, Rockies Lenny Melnick
Not as bad as Papi, but again why did Twins dump him?


2B: Scooter Gennett, Brewers Brian Walton
Rickie who? Batted .309 pre-break for first-place club.


SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals Tristan H. Cockcroft
16 HR, 57 RBI nice production from middle infield.


3B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals Mike Gianella
Left side of the infield is all-Nats. Also plays 2B.


OF: Justin Upton, Braves Mike Gianella
17 HR, 55 RBI before the break. Only 7 steals.


OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers Scott Wilderman
Yes, he's injured often, but still plated 52 and hit .298.


OF: Jayson Werth, Nationals Steve Gardner
Quietly drove in 54 with 12 HR and played every day.


Pitchers Tout owner
Henderson Alvarez, Marlins Seth Trachtman
2.27 ERA covers nicely for Jose Fernandez injury.


Jake Arrieta, Cubs Peter Kreutzer
My luck; I had him in Tout a year too early.


Kenley Jansen, Dodgers Scott Wilderman
What heart condition? Automatic in ninth.


Huston Street, Padres Seth Trachtman
First half was good enough to fetch value in trade.


NL Tout warrior All-Stars Not All-Stars Total Standings
Seth Trachtman 7 3 10 3
Steve Gardner 6 1 7 1
Tristan H. Cockcroft 3 2 5 2
Peter Kreutzer 4 1 5 5
Lenny Melnick 4 1 5 T8
Mike Gianella 2 2 4 6
Todd Zola 4 0 4 T8
Scott Wilderman 2 2 4 12
Gene McCaffrey 3 0 3 10
Brian Walton 2 1 3 11
Derek Carty 2 0 2 4
Phil Hertz 2 0 2 7

As noted above, the rich get richer. Or should I say, the best teams are reaffirmed. Not only did Seth Trachtman of Sporting News have the most regular All-Stars, he also had the most members of my “not All-Star team.” Impressive.

At the other end of the spectrum is Derek Carty, who was just behind Trachtman in the standings in fourth place despite only two real All-Stars and none from my group of 13. Carty has a very balanced roster – the polar opposite of stars and scrubs.

If he wasn’t my competitor, I would root for Carty for that very reason.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 July 2014 08:05
 
Drafting All-Stars is Not a Sure Winning Ticket PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 19 July 2014 00:00

During this last week, among my baseball-related activities were to assess how I could improve my under-performing team in National League Tout Wars and of course, watching the 2014 All-Star Game from Minneapolis Tuesday night.

When encountering a friend recently with whom I had not spoken for several months, he queried me how my Tout team is doing. Surprised that I am deep in the second division, he asked me why.

My answer may have seemed a bit trite, but it was accurate. “I picked the right players in the wrong season,” was my conclusion.

That got me thinking.

As I studied the player introductions for the Mid-Summer Classic, I did not recall seeing even one member of my Tout squad. That was not a good feeling to say the least. After all, with all the injury and Sunday pitching replacements, 41 players ended up being named to the NL roster. With 12 Tout teams, my “fair share” should be close to 3 1/2.

On the broader point, I wondered if there might be any correlation between NL Tout standings and the number of National League All-Stars on each of our rosters.

In reality, I did have two All-Stars, both reserves from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neither was part of my master plan for the 2014 season and one of them is about as tenuous as a selection could be.

I grabbed Josh Harrison as a free agent when he first came up and he has not only delivered solid stats, but also offers significant positional versatility. On the other hand, setup man Tony Watson has been sitting there unclaimed on the waiver wire almost all season long. The lefty just joined my Tout team a few weeks ago and has been on the bench all but the first week. In other words, Watson's impact on my results has been very, very small.

The league-wide details follow with a summary afterward.

Starters Tout owner
C: Jonathan Lucroy ^, Brewers Steve Gardner
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs Seth Trachtman
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies Todd Zola
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies Peter Kreutzer
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers Phil Hertz
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates Peter Kreutzer
OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers Lenny Melnick
OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers Seth Trachtman


Pitchers Tout owner
RHP: Henderson Alvarez @, Marlins Seth Trachtman
LHP: Madison Bumgarner ^, Giants Peter Kreutzer
LHP: Aroldis Chapman ^, Reds Steve Gardner
RHP: Tyler Clippard %, Nationals Mike Gianella
RHP: Johnny Cueto ^, Reds Gene McCaffrey
RHP: Zack Greinke *, Dodgers Seth Trachtman
RHP Tim Hudson %, Giants Phil Hertz
LHP: Clayton Kershaw ^, Dodgers Steve Gardner
RHP: Craig Kimbrel ^, Braves Todd Zola
RHP: Pat Neshek *, Cardinals Gene McCaffrey
RHP: Francisco Rodriguez ^, Brewers Scott Wilderman
RHP: Tyson Ross *, Padres Mike Gianella
RHP: Jeff Samardzija ^$, Cubs/A's Lenny Melnick
RHP: Alfredo Simon %, Reds Peter Kreutzer
RHP Huston Street %, Padres Seth Trachtman
RHP: Julio Teheran *, Braves Steve Gardner
RHP: Adam Wainwright ^, Cardinals Tristan H. Cockcroft
LHP: Tony Watson *, Pirates Brian Walton
RHP: Jordan Zimmermann ^, Nationals Todd Zola


Reserves Tout owner
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals Seth Trachtman
C: Miguel Montero @, D-backs Seth Trachtman
C: Devin Mesoraco *, Reds Tristan H. Cockcroft
1B: Freddie Freeman ^, Braves Gene McCaffrey
1B: Anthony Rizzo #, Cubs Derek Carty
2B: Dee Gordon ^, Dodgers Todd Zola
2B: Daniel Murphy *, Mets Scott Wilderman
SS: Starlin Castro ^, Cubs Tristan H. Cockcroft
3B: Matt Carpenter *, Cardinals Steve Gardner
3B: Todd Frazier ^, Reds Steve Gardner
OF: Charlie Blackmon ^, Rockies Lenny Melnick
OF: Josh Harrison *, Pirates Brian Walton
OF: Hunter Pence ^, Giants Lenny Melnick
OF: Giancarlo Stanton ^, Marlins Derek Carty


Notes
^ Player ballot-elected
* Choice of manager/MLB
# Final Vote winner
@ Injury replacement
% Replaced Sunday pitcher
$ Inactive


NL Tout warrior All-Stars Standings
Seth Trachtman 7 3
Steve Gardner 6 1
Peter Kreutzer 4 5
Lenny Melnick 4 T8
Todd Zola 4 T8
Tristan H. Cockcroft 3 2
Gene McCaffrey 3 10
Derek Carty 2 4
Mike Gianella 2 6
Phil Hertz 2 7
Brian Walton 2 11
Scott Wilderman 2 12

Not surprisingly, the two teams with the most NL All-Stars sit first and third in the standings. Seth Trachtman of The Sporting News is in third place, but leads the way with seven All-Stars. USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner is leading the league currently and is second with six All-Stars.

Yet, in between them is the second-place team, managed by two-time champion Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN. He is doing very well despite sporting just a trio of All-Stars, as his track record indicates he knows how to win.

Further, tied with me and three others at the bottom of the heap with just a pair of All-Stars is the fourth-place team of Derek Carty. That clearly indicates that one does not need a heavy complement of All-Stars to field a competitive team.

I guess I will have to continue searching for another excuse.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 July 2014 08:32
 
Forget About Rickey and Remember Last Year PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 05 July 2014 00:00

It was Hall of Famer Branch Rickey who famously preached, “It is better to trade a man a year too early than a year too late.”

Having passed away in 1965, the Mahatma never played fantasy baseball.

If he had, perhaps his famous quote would have instead gone like this, “It is better to acquire a man a year too early than a year too late.”

In looking back to last season’s National League Tout Wars squad, that is sort of how I feel. Only because the Tout leagues are re-draft format, acquiring a player last year (or trading one, for that matter) has no relevance to this year.

That is the source of my pain.

Seeing players upon whom I took a chance in 2013 excel this season hurts, because they are not on my 2014 roster.

Many of my competitors expect me to have a soft spot in my heart for St. Louis Cardinals players because I cover the organization for a living.

That is definitely not the case. Like many others, I look for value on draft day over all and never want to overpay.

Therein lies the rub.

Players that delivered more than expected last year are more than likely going to carry a much higher place this year. That recent success also could mean more competition on draft day.

A review of my 2013 Tout roster reminds me of multiple players I wished I still owned today – but do not.

One Cardinal I did not acquire until after he left the club offers such an example.

Heading into 2013, Kyle Lohse was homeless, though the Scott Boras client was hardly destitute. Instead of playing golf in Phoenix with the likes of Mark Mulder, the right-hander wanted to be on a baseball diamond last spring.

However, his status as a free agent who had turned down a qualifying offer from his former team in St. Louis meant a signing team would have to forfeit an early draft pick that June.

On draft day, we had no idea when the former Cardinals right-hander would sign. Worst case, he would remain unsigned until mid-season as happened to his Boras stable-mate Stephen Drew this year.

Further, in a mono league like NL Tout, any buyer had only a 50 percent chance of getting any stats from Lohse. Joining an American League club would make him worthless in a National League format.

Others worried that being away from pitching guru Dave Duncan could lead to Lohse turning into a pumpkin at midnight. After all, prior to joining the Cardinals, he was an aggregate 11 games under .500 with an ERA over 4.50. With St. Louis, Lohse was a different pitcher, with a 55-35, 3.90 on his ledger.

I rolled the dice on draft day, raising the opening $1 bid to $2. The table went quiet, apparently surprised by my  bid.

Fortunately, Lohse quickly came to terms with the Milwaukee Brewers on a three-year contract and delivered.

After logging a 3.35 ERA in his Milwaukee debut and in a secure situation, Lohse went for $7 this spring. Baseball HQ’s Phil Hertz has to be delighted with the 9-2 record and 3.08 ERA he has received to date in return.

All I have is remorse.

As soon as Jake Arrieta was acquired by the Cubs from Baltimore on this same weekend one year ago, I grabbed the then-27-year-old right-hander for the non-descript price of one dollar. The only reason I did not bid zero was that Tout rules would not allow it. Arrieta was initially assigned to Triple-A Iowa and did not join the Chicago rotation until mid-August.

The former Orioles top prospect demonstrated some of the promise he had long teased fantasy owners with by going 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA over his nine starts.

As much as I would have like to have had Arrieta back on my 2014 roster, he went to Peter Kreutzer instead. While Arrieta’s 5-1, 1.88 mark is impressive, even more so is his 74 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. It is the first time in his five-year career that he has fanned more than a batter per inning.

Oft-injured Chase Utley came into 2013 having played just 83 games the prior season, the fewest since his rookie year a decade earlier. The combination of bad knees and advancing age (now 35) playing on a declining Phillies team meant I scored the second baseman when others shied away.

Utley went on to bat .284, his highest mark since 2008. Playing in 131 games, the left-handed batter slammed 18 home runs and plated 69.

With the injury concerns diminished, Utley fetched $19 this season. Todd Zola has already received 81 games of production, a .287 average and enough RBI that Utley is on pace to top his 2013 total. He has been recognized by voters as the likely starter for the National League in the All-Star Game.

Seeing these players continue to excel helps remind me (and hopefully you after reading this) to forget about Rickey and not to be too hasty in leaving behind prior season players in a re-draft league the year after they had been a bargain.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 July 2014 09:03
 
Blame It on Byrnes PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 28 June 2014 00:00

I would like to blame Josh Byrnes, but it would not be fair to pile on a guy who has twice been fired from one of the 30 best jobs in Major League Baseball by the age of 44.

So, I will more appropriately take the blame myself, instead.

Last week, I wrote about a key element of my plan to improve my place in the standings of National League Tout Wars. In a nutshell, I want to acquire young prospects before they are promoted to the Majors.

While I have had some successes in my approach, two examples of pitching mistakes I made came to light this week. One involves Byrnes.

About a month ago, the then-general manager of the San Diego Padres was quoted as saying that he was impressed with the pitching of right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne and more than hinted that the 27-year-old Cuban expat could get a look in San Diego soon.

Granted, San Diego is not an offensive powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but any starter worth a darn who pitches half his games in Petco Park is worth having. (Or is it that anyone who pitches half his games in Petco has to be worth a darn?)

Now perhaps Byrnes was engaging in a bit of hype-building. After all, in early May, he had committed a million bucks of his team’s owners’ cash on the pitcher and things were probably already not going too well at the office.

No matter, as the praise seemed justified. At the time, Despaigne had dominated in his first two professional starts - in a known hitters’ circuit, the Double-A Texas League. He allowed just one run on four hits and struck out 12 in 7 2/3 innings. A promotion to Triple-A quickly followed.

That was good enough for me. I made an uncontested bid of $1 (zero dollar bids on minor leaguers are not allowed in Tout) and carried Despaigne for a week on my active roster generating no stats, as required by league rules.

I then parked Despaigne on my bench for the next three weeks while watching his results every fifth day at El Paso. It was not pretty to say the least.

Despaigne pitched beyond five innings just once in five Triple-A outings. Worse, he was battered for 20 runs in 23 2/3 innings for a 7.61 ERA. If that wasn’t bad enough, his supporter Byrnes was sacked in San Diego.

I dropped Despaigne 10 days ago, and in the process, added another speculation play, Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt (I guess that roster spot is dedicated to those with long names).

I should know by now that things in San Diego often do not go as expected, especially this season. To that end, the Padres soon encountered a run of pitching injuries. Specifically, the shoulder problems of Andrew Cashner created a rotation opening filled by none other than the aforementioned Despaigne.

Now sitting on NL Tout’s waiver wire, Despaigne’s impressive results in his major league debut were wasted. All he did was shut out the team with the best record in the National League at the time, the San Francisco Giants, on four hits over seven innings.

Needless to say, Despaigne should generate considerable bidding activity this coming weekend and surely will not go for $1 this time.

It is of little solace that some scouts suggest that Despaigne lacks swing and miss stuff and may have trouble once he becomes known around the league. I know I could have at least enjoyed his honeymoon period.

To be honest, I might not have written this article had the Despaigne situation been an isolated incident.

Instead, just a couple of days later, salt was rubbed in my wounds by the organization I cover for a living, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The club lost 40 percent of its starting rotation on Monday when shoulder ailments pushed Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia to the disabled list. While Carlos Martinez - who is on my Tout roster – took one spot, the Cards had no obvious choice for the other.

The club made a bold move, promoting the 19th overall selection in the 2013 draft, left-hander Marco Gonzales, straight from Double-A to a major league starting berth. It had been over two decades since a similar move occurred in the organization.

Gonzales lost two major recognition opportunities in the process. He had to give up his starting assignment in the Texas League All-Star Game as well as his invitation to the MLB All-Star Futures Game, to be held in Minneapolis on July 13. Somehow, I don’t think he minded.

Though Gonzales yielded five runs in five innings in his MLB debut, I liked what I saw from the 22-year-old. He had a 2:1 groundball advantage and three strikeouts, including a very impressive punchout of the hottest hitter in baseball in Troy Tulowitzki. Gonzales should also receive a mulligan since his debut was in Coors Field, a tough assignment for even a seasoned veteran.

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself for not having anticipated Gonzales’ arrival. I have been very aware of his talents, but did not expect the Cardinals to bring him up until September at best. Those plans clearly changed in one day – the day after our most recent free agent period ended.

As in the case of Despaigne, I expect aggressive bidding from my Tout peers will result in Gonzales landing on a competitor’s roster.

Can I somehow blame that on Byrnes, too?

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 June 2014 07:28
 
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