- The Season's Over -

TWIETB Notes: Prince Fielder Slumping, Kelly Johnson Having a Coming Out Party

May 6, 2010

Prince Fielder Strikes Out

Prince Fielder Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Andrew Thell

- Prince Fielder’s fantasy owners and Milwaukee Brewers fans alike are in a tizzy over the bulky first baseman’s sluggish start, but it’s being a bit overblown. Don’t get me wrong, when a 25-year-old coming off a 46-home-run season and with a .543 career slugging percentage ends the first month of the season slugging .360 with just 2 homers it’s incredibly disappointing.

Slow starts are always a cause for concern. The fear here isn’t that he’ll have a bad season, just bad by his considerable standards. Is it possible this year Fielder hits .270 with 32 HRs? Sure, but I don’t see that happening. He’s too talented, and we’ve seen this before. Although players like Mark Teixeira and Adam LaRoche have much more well-publicized poor April splits young Mr. Fielder is no stranger to coming slowly out of the gates. In 2009 he hit just 3 blasts in April, in 2008 he belted just 4. For his career Prince has a modest .470 SLG in the month of April, by far his worst month. It might not be the 50+ HR season some were hoping for, but I think Tons of Fun will be just fine. And yes, the references to his weight might be kind of tired, but have you seem him lately? I love Fielder, but the guy is huge. You’re a professional athlete man, get it together.

- So Kelly Johnson, eh? Did not see that coming. I drafted him in my friendly fantasy league because I thought the dude has some talent, he was undervalued after one rough season, his new ballpark is great for lefty hitters, I thought the lineup surrounding him in Arizona could only do good things for his bottom line and I waited far too long to grab MI talent in a league with 3 MI slots. So I was what you might call optimistic, though that was somewhat precipitated by desperation. I thought there was 20-23 HR, 10-15 SB upside here, and I was admittedly being very generous with my own guy. Never in my most desperately optimistic dreams did I imagine Johnson would smack 9 home runs in April.

There’s absolutely no reason to think he can keep this up, but there’s also no reason to think Johnson can’t have a career year either. He’s entrenched himself atop the potent Diamondbacks lineup, so he should see pitches, get plenty of opportunity to run and cross the plate with frequency. The home-run pace has slowed in May, but Johnson has stolen 2 bags and if he can just stay active on the bases and average 3-4 HRs per month from here on out – what I initially pegged him to do – we’re looking at 25+ HRs, 10+ SBs and 90 runs. Not bad for your late-round gamble. I don’t see this as a sell-high opportunity as much as a chance to cash in on a career year. Besides, it’s not like your league mates are likely to pay full freight on Johnson’s current numbers – they likely hate the man at this point.

- The Minnesota Twins roster is as well-constructed and balanced as it’s been in nearly 20 years. Outside of third base they have the chance to have productive hitters in every spot in the order, which means nobody has to press to produce offense. It’s resulted in a team on-base percentage of .363, which is second only to the Yankees of New York. The man at the center of it all is Justin Morneau, who leads all of baseball with an absurd .483 OBP. His 24 walks tie Yanks first baseman Nick Johnson for most in baseball, but Morneau is getting a bit more production out of his at-bats – 20 runs, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs and a tidy 1.129 OPS. With so much support behind him in the lineup and quality table-setters like Denard Span, Orlando Hudson and some guy named Joe Mauer in front this has the makings of a huge year if Morneau’s balky back can hold up.

Checking in with the San Francisco Giants starters and Milton Bradley, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 6, 2010 at 9:29pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Musings on MLB’s Opening Day 2010

April 6, 2010

By: Andrew Thell

Neftali Feliz- Bang, bang, bang, bang – vamanos vamanos – and we’re off on the 2010 MLB season. We saw quite a debut for some of the game’s stars from Kevin Youkilis, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Johan Santana and … Garrett Jones? Jones went 2-4 with a walk, 3 runs, 3 RBIs and 2 home runs. It’s a perfect example of why, despite the enthusiasm for Opening Day that has been building for months, we can’t get too excited about anything until we have a larger sample size. While it’s true that Jones hit 21 HRs with a tasty .293/.372/.567 line in 82 games to close out the 2009 season, the Pirates outfielder is not a guy we should expect to keep it up. Jones’ hot start is shades of Chris Shelton. We’re talking about a guy who never proved he was an elite hitter in 10 minor league seasons. 10. Jones played way over his head in 2009, and even at that unsustainable level he only managed a .208/.243/.455 split against lefties. He has platoon written all over him, and even if he stays in the role I would be surprised to see Jones surpass a .265 batting average or 25 home runs.

Neftali Feliz photo credit: Icon SMI

- The big story of the day, outside of Albert Pujols’ obvious dominance, has to be the debut of all-world prospect Jason Heyward. The kid did hit a 3-run homer to right field in his first professional at-bat. Later in the 8th inning he took a pitch back up the middle for an RBI single. Not too shabby. More important than the results from one game is how the kid looked at the plate – like a pro. He has a great approach, calm with a quiet bat, he keeps his hands back and stays on the ball, showed great bat speed and brings all kinds of swagger. Of course, anybody who drafted Heyward saw that too – it’s not like you’ll be able to trade nickels on the dime for him, but it’s exciting to see such a polished young hitter go to work on what promises to be a fantastic career.

- I’m not a fan of Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and his terrible opening-day lineup didn’t do much to win me over. Gaston had Jose Bautista, a 29-year-old who sports a career .329 OBP, in the leadoff spot, with Travis Buck (career .235/.298/.407) in the sixth spot and put Travis Snider down in the nine hole. “Players write out the lineup – they really do – in the way that they play,” Gaston said heading into the game. Well, when you’re dealing with a young kid like Snider and you have no expectations of competing perhaps that shouldn’t be the case. Snider was one of the elite power prospects, and an elite prospect in general, heading into last season and despite a modest .241/.328/.419 showing in 77 games in 2009 he remains a potential franchise cornerstone. Putting him down at the bottom of the lineup where he won’t be hitting with guys on base and see pitches to hit may not be the best thing for his development – it might be a self-fulfilling demotion. If I’m a Blue Jays fan I’d much rather see my prized young hitter put in a chance to succeed, see pitches and build his confidence.

- Speaking of mishandling prospects, the Rangers announced that young flamethrower Neftali Feliz will be their 8th-inning setup man this season. While that’s exciting news for owners in holds leagues or those hoping he can vulture saves if/when Frank Francisco gets hurt I don’t think it’s what’s best for his development. Seeing spot duty one inning at a time is not what this kid needs, he’s their ace of the future and he’s not going to learn to pitch that way. I think they should work Feliz into a long-relief role where he can stretch out his arm, learn to pitch through multiple innings and manage his stuff. The old Earl Weaver method has worked in recent years for studs like Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana and I think Feliz has the talent to be in that class if he can stay healthy and learn to pitch (admittedly two big ifs) instead of just throw.

- On a more positive note, Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum gave plenty of reason for optimism in his return from Tommy John surgery. Marcum gave up 3 runs in 7 innings, but all the scoring came on a 3-run Nelson Cruz homer in the 7th that was about a foot outside of the zone – Cruz just powered a good pitch out of the park. I cautioned earlier about trying to take early-season results to the bank, but Marcum was stellar in 2008 before going down: 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .222 BAA, 123 Ks in 151.1 innings. In 2007 he had a very promising year, and Marcum looked like a player was legitimately breaking out in 2008 and with a guy his age there’s no reason he can’t fully recover from the Tommy John procedure. I’m buying where I can.

Gleaning more from MLB Opening Day after the jump …

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 6, 2010 at 1:01am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

A Handful of Former MLB Stars Are Looking to Regain Some of Their Lost Luster

March 25, 2010

By: Andrew Thell

Vladimir Guerrero is Back in BlueVladimir Guerrero, DH,
Texas Rangers:
Since breaking onto the scene in 1998 with the Montreal Expos, Vladimir Guerrero has consistently been one of the most entertaining players to watch in all of baseball. With a batting style and gate somewhere between that of Frankenstein and Fred Sanford (significantly exacerbated by nagging back injuries), a sap-encrusted 2 x 4 for a bat and the freakish ability to hit anything (hard) within two feet of the strike zone there’s nobody like him. Unfortunately, age and health have been catching up with the slugger the last three years and the Angels let him walk this offseason after a pectoral strain in addition to a bad back and calf finally sapped Guererro of his characteristic raw power in 2009.

After breaking out with 38 home runs in 1998 and averaging over 36 per for the next nine seasons, all while finishing with an OPS between .934-1.074, Vlady hit just 27 out of the park in 2007 and 2008 before dropping all the way down to a meager 15 in 2009 as the injuries have begun to take their toll. His OPS has gone from .950 in 2007 to .886 in 2008 to .794 last year. His .334 OBP and .460 SLG in 2009 marking the lowest totals of his career, and most think the 35-year-old is done.

Vladimir Guerrero photo credit: Icon SMI

I don’t think he has many years left in the tank either, but there’s a chance Vlad has one or two more decent seasons left in him. He’s reportedly in the best shape in years, having shed some of the pounds that slowed him down and led to chronic injuries in recent seasons, and will be able to focus on DHing duties. And like several others on this list, Guerrero should find his new home ballpark in Arlington more than accommodating after signing a one-year, $5 million contract with Texas in early January. Rangers Ballpark, where Guerrero boasts a massive .394/.471/.705 career line, has been one of the most generous to hitters in recent years and Vlad will be in the middle of one of the most explosive young groups in baseball.

He’s never going to be the elite masher we watched in the mid-2000s again, but here’s hoping Vlad has at least one last hurrah left in him – when he’s even moderately healthy, he’s still a treat to watch.

Ben Sheets, SP, Oakland Athletics: It seems like a long time ago that Ben Sheets was considered one of the elite pitching talents in baseball. He’s been synonymous with “injury prone” over the course of his career, pitching just one full season in his past five and missing all of 2009 with a torn flexor tendon, but when healthy Sheets has also been known for stuff good enough rank among MLB’s best starters. In 2004, his last full season, Sheets put down a dominant line: 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 264 Ks in 237 innings including 5 complete games. He was one of the brightest pitching starts in the league coming off that season, but it’s been all downhill since. An All Star as recently as 2008 (yet another injury-shortened campaign), Sheets is flying almost completely under the radar heading into 2010 – but there are a few reasons for optimism.

Sheets signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Oakland Athletics back in January and it would be hard to imagine a better landing spot for the former ace outside of San Diego or Seattle (where he’ll also get to pitch a few games). A spacious park with some of the most generous foul territory in baseball, Sheets should find pitching in Oakland Coliseum a major boost to his stats if he can stay on the mound. In addition, he’ll be backed up by Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis in what should be one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. It’s always a big “if” when it comes to Sheets, but if he can stay healthy the 31-year-old could make a return to dominance – at least, until Billy Beane trades him in mid-July.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Boston Red Sox: The last time Adrian Beltre was faced with the prospect of free agency he made the most of his opportunity. A decent 15-25 home run threat posting OPS in the low .700s who was best know for his defense heading into the season, Beltre went off in 2004 to the tune of 48 home runs and a .334/.388/.629 line, good for a 1.017 (!) OPS. Whatever you assign that aberrant production to, it will go down as one of the most anomalous walk-year performances in professional sports history. Since signing a five-year, $64 million contract with the Mariners in 2005 Beltre hasn’t topped 26 HRs and only eclipsed an .800 OPS once (.802 in 2007), bottoming out with just 8 HRs and a .683 OPS last season.

That didn’t stop the Red Sox from signing Beltre this January to a more modest pact worth $9 million over one year with a $5 million option for 2011. As statistically savvy as any team in baseball, perhaps we should be asking why. First, the Red Sox have put a new emphasis on defense of late and Beltre still plays a great third base and is an iron man (though, as he proved last season, he lacks brass balls). Second, Beltre wasn’t nearly as tame at the plate on the road as he was in Safeco Field – one of the most pitcher-friendly environments in baseball. On the road he’s hit around .280 while slugging nearly .500. In a full season playing at home in Fenway Park and regularly on the road at the likes of Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards, and now surrounded by one of the league’s best lineups, Beltre could surprise a lot of people with his production this season.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins: For one magical stretch in the 2006 season Francisco Liriano was the best pitcher in baseball – and with his electric fastball and slider many thought he had the potential to surpass staff-mate Johan Santana as the Minnesota Twins ace. Just three years later, Liriano is struggling to earn the fifth starter spot for the Twins after losing the entire 2007 and most of the 2008 season to Tommy John surgery and then looking like a pitcher whose stuff never recovered and whose confidence was shot in 2009.

Liriano will likely never be that dominant kid we saw back in 2006, but he has a chance to be a very useful pitcher again in 2010 – be it as the Twins 5th starter or their new closer replacement for Joe Nathan, who is slated to undergo a Tommy John procedure of his own. In the final game of the Dominican Winter League championship this January, Liriano allowed just one hit and struck out 10 over five innings to cap a stellar winter campaign in which he fanned batters at will and looked as close to 2006 form as we’ve seen in the interim.

Obviously, that’s winter ball, but most encouraging was the fact that he was regularly hitting 95 MPH on his fastball and was again showing great break on his once-dominant slider. Liriano has carried the success over to Spring Training and there’s a chance he can be the pitcher everybody was hoping for going into last season. If healthy and able to maintain his confidence (neither a given), Minnesota will just need to decide if that will be for 180-200 innings as a starter or 60-70 innings closing out games.

Now go and do likewise, gents. And remember: Mitch and Murray paid good money for these leads.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 25, 2010 at 1:01am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

The Five Major League Baseball Prospects Poised to Have the Biggest Impact in 2010

March 17, 2010

By: Andrew Thell

1) Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves:

Jason Heyward, MLBs Top ProspectStephen Strasburg, below, gets more hype, but Atlanta’s right fielder of the future is poised to make the biggest impact this season. The Braves missed out on overpaying for Johnny Damon this winter, which means Heyward will get an opportunity to be the Braves starting right fielder on Opening Day. Heyward has been making the most of that chance, going 10-for-22 and reaching safely in all 10 games in which he’s played this spring and playing solid defense while just about locking up the job.

Heyward is a big man, but he’s not just a masher – he has all the tools to excel at the plate, in the field and on the bases. Standing at 6-4, 220 lbs. and born in 1989, Heyward already has the plate approach of a veteran, above-average speed and a cannon arm. Heyward is listed as Baseball America’s No.1 prospect and comes in second on Baseball Prospectus‘ list heading into the season. He’s the complete package and ready to make a big splash before his 21st birthday.

Jason Heyward photo credit: Icon SMI

2) Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers:

Feliz got his MLB debut last season pitching out of the bullpen for Texas and looked stellar doing it. The Rangers prized prospect made 20 appearances and struck out 39 hitters while allowing 8 walks in just 31 innings en route to a jaw-dropping 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and .124 BAA. Those numbers don’t lie either, as Feliz throws a fastball in the 96-100 MPH range that simply leaps out of his hand and also features a curve and changeup that should develop as plus pitches.

He will eventually be featured in Texas’ starting rotation, but with a lackluster spring it looks like Feliz will spend another season in a long-relief role in the Rangers bullpen before making the move to the rotation for 2011. Even so, fantasy leaguers should take note – he’s not in the same class as Strasburg in the long run, but there may not be another pitcher in baseball who can give you the per-inning upside Feliz offers.

3) Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals:

The No. 1 overall pick last year, Strasburg is the most electric young pitcher in baseball and the most hyped draft pick in recent memory. He features a 94-97 MPH fastball that tops out at 101, a giant power curve and a changeup with excellent command (195 Ks to just 19 BBs as a senior at San Diego State). His stuff is so impressive and MLB-ready that there was speculation he could see time with the Nationals late last year, but Washington wisely didn’t push their prized prospect. The speculation was on once again heading into camp in 2010, and the youngster poured fuel on the fire by starting the spring with five scoreless innings while regularly hitting in the high 90s on the radar gun and blowing by professional hitters.

Once again, though, the Nationals will prudently exercise caution and have the phenom start the season in the minors to get his arm ready for pitching on an MLB schedule (and will, conveniently, likely delay his service time in the process). We can expect to see the top pitching prospect in baseball make his debut this season, and it’ll be fun to watch with that 97-101 MPH fastball of his, but the fact that he’ll likely be in the minors the first few months bumps him down to third here.

4) Brian Matusz, SP, Baltimore Orioles:

The first pitcher taken in 2008, Matusz had already reached the bigs by the end of his first full season and has been impressive this spring, striking out 10 batters over four innings in his first two starts (though also giving up four runs) before holding a largely-intact Phillies lineup to three hits and one run in five innings in his third turn. He’s polished for his age, featuring four strong pitches: a low-90s fastball, sharp curve, decent slider and great changeup – all of which he can throw for strikes. The Orioles should slot Matusz into the back end of their starting rotation from day one and he is capable of producing a respectable line from the get-go, though that park and the fact that he pitches in the AL East should severely limit expectations.

5) Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians:

After an offseason surgery on his right hand the Indians’ top prospect will start the 2010 season at Triple-A Columbus, but he’s fully healed and should be mashing for the big league club before long. Santana isn’t the best catcher prospect in baseball, that honor goes to the Yankees’ Jesus Montero (even if he’s unlikely to stick behind the plate), but he is the most likely to make an impact this season at the always talent-starved position.

While he’s unlikely to ever be a great catcher, unlike Montero, Santana does have a plus arm and the tools to stay at the position. However, it’s his offense fantasy owners are concerned about – and the kid doesn’t disappoint at the plate. The 2008 California League MVP and 2009 Eastern League MVP posted a .943 OPS, 23 home runs and a league-leading 90 walks last season. After a few solid weeks at Triple-A we could see a call-up for Santana, and that kind of plate approach should play well at the Major League level out of the box; 15-20 HRs with a solid .370 OBP isn’t out of reach.

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 17, 2010 at 1:01am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

ETB’s Exclusive Interview with Detroit Tigers Center Fielder Curtis Granderson

March 31, 2008

Curtis Granderson is looking to run more

Curtis Granderson Photo Credits: Icon SMI

ETB has a special treat for Detroit Tigers fans as we celebrate the team’s season-opener this afternoon against the visiting Kansas City Royals.

Curtis Granderson is the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Tigers, who’ll sport an offense that should challenge a few all-time scoring records this season. He’s also one of the nicest guys in baseball. The son of two educators, he’s one of only a handful of major league players with a college degree. Curtis does indeed take academic achievement seriously: his Grand Kids Foundation charity is dedicated to spearheading educational initiatives for youths as well as bringing baseball back to inner cities across the country.

On the field, he’s one of the American League’s brightest rising stars. As the leadoff hitter in a revamped lineup that has added the potent bats of Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria, he figures to score a ton of runs this season in addition to his typically stellar production across the board. He’s also one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, and last season joined Willie Mays, Frank Schulte and Jimmy Rollins as the only players in MLB history to record at least 20 home runs, 20 steals, 20 triples and 20 doubles in a single season.

Granderson will start the season on the DL because of a broken finger suffered in spring training, but should be back on the field by mid-April. He recently took the time to sit down with ETB and answer question ranging from his desire to steal more bases, his blogging and future broadcast career, his entrance music, and more.

Empty the Bench: Everybody knows you’ve got some wheels—you stole 26 bases last year and only got caught once. Do you want to run more on the basepaths? Think you could be a 40 steal guy in the near future?

Curtis Granderson: I would love to run, and feel that the potential to steal 40 plus bases is a possibility. I’m still learning when to run, and how to run from our first base coach Andy Van Slyke, and have already learned a lot, but still have room to learn.

ETB: You struggled versus lefties last year, but I know you’ve been working on hitting left-handed pitching this offseason. What kinds of things can you do to prepare for lefties, and what can you change in your approach at the plate?

Curtis Granderson: I need to continue to face more lefties and continue to get repetitions against them and for the most part that’s the main thing I can do to get better hitting them. In the past, I have been able to hit lefties, but this past year, they figured me out. My approach has to be to go the other way against them like I have done in the past when I had success and continue to stay positive.

ETB: You had some of the best entrance music in baseball last year. You putting together a new set of tunes for 2008? Got anything in mind? What albums have you been listening to lately?

Curtis Granderson: As for my entrance music I’m going to most likely stay old school again. Old school never really can get old. New music I still need to grab the new Lupe Fiasco CD and add it to the collection, and see what new is coming out this spring.

ETB: You did some work with TBS covering the 2007 MLB Playoffs this year. Do you see yourself getting into broadcasting sometime down the road? What about it appeals to you?

Curtis Granderson: The broadcasting was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I would like to get into it after baseball is done (hopefully a long time from now). The things I really liked about it are that I was talking about guys I’ve either played with or against, and able to remember what happened which made it a little bit easier to be able to commentate along side with Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken. Remember, I also got to commentate next to John Kruk and Dusty Baker over at ESPN.

ETB: You weren’t on the All Star Game ballot in 2007 because of Sheff, but you will be this year. How important is to you to make the All-Star Game? Is that a big goal of yours?

Curtis Granderson: It never has been a goal of mine to make an All-Star team. I think that the All-Star vote is a great accomplishment, but when you look at it, you are really only rewarding a player for what they have done for just over a half of a season. My goals are the end of the year awards which cover the entire season (gold glove, silver slugger, players association all-outfield team, etc…) If I do happen to make an All-Star team, I will be extremely happy and I hear it’s a great experience, but I’ll have to leave and get right back to finishing up that second half.

Much more from Mr. Curtis Granderson after the jump…

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3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell and Brian Spencer on Mar. 31, 2008 at 10:57am in ETB Articles, Interviews, MLB, MLB Fantasy News

The MLB’s Deadline Dealin’

July 30, 2007

Tex: On the MoveWe’re still about 21 hours from Major League Baseball’s 2007 Trade Deadline, but the moves are already pouring in. This afternoon saw a few significant trades that will have an impact in fantasy baseball, this year’s pennant chases and the near future of several franchises. In the early going, Atlanta has to be considered a major winner so far, making moves to shore up their bullpen and offensive lineup. A couple of closer situations have also been shaken up in the last few hours, so let’s get to it.

The Mark Teixeira Deal: This is a major coup for the Braves this season, but a bittersweet deal for some Atlanta faithful as they’re giving up a big chunk of their future. The folks over at Start Salty, who have spearheaded the ‘Be American !!! Join The KeepSalty Campaign’, are likely crying tears as big as horse turds in their domestic beers tonight. That’s because the biggest piece in this deal after Teixeira is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a catcher/first baseman and one of the game’s most promising offensive prospects who should be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter sooner than later. As they put it, “Saltalamacchia is currently in a slump, but is still the future of Major League Baseball.” However, nobody should be more upset right now than Philadelphia Phillies fans who have seen their team’s best player injured and their closest rival in the standings make immediate improvements. From my perspective, it’s still going to be a hard fought battle, but the Braves have overtaken the Phils for the Wild Card berth despite still being one game back.

The full deal has Texas sending Teixeira and Ron Mahay to Atlanta in exchange for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and a player to be named later (likely injured 22-year-old top pitching prospect Matt Harrison). Salty will likely start at first base in Texas for the balance of the season and makes an interesting fantasy addition, one who should certainly be picked up in all AL-Only leagues with his Catcher eligibility. Meanwhile, in addition to gaining Salty the Rangers got two legitimate top prospects in Andrus and the injured Harrison. Elvis Andrus is an 18-year-old shortstop with a very promising future.

Even though Teixeira is just 27 years of age, this is a move for the present. Atlanta wasn’t going anywhere with their glaring need of offensive production from first base (Their 1Bs have combined for a .211 BA, .270 OBP and .363 SLG- ranking last in MLB in all three categories). Tex is in the midst of a down year, but he has averaged 38 home runs over the last three seasons, is coming off of consecutive Gold Glove campaigns and is now in line for a monster finish to his season batting in a lineup that can give him more RBI opportunities and protection. Mahay is a mediocre middle reliever, but he will fill some of the void left by the Mike Gonzales injury.

Dotel: You Can Drop Him NowThe Octavio Dotel Deal: That Dotel was on the trading block and that Atlanta was a possible destination wasn’t news, but that the Braves were able to pull off trades for two of the more high-profile names available within a matter of hours was a bit surprising. It’s not confirmed who will be heading to Kansas City yet, but no matter what the fallout from the Royal’s perspective isn’t going to be too bad because there’s no way they were going to become competitive while Dotel was still effective and they already had two solid options for their closer of the future (Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria). Right now it looks like it will be AAA RHP Kyle Davies. The other possible names involved would be Yunel Escobar (unlikely), shortstop Brent Lillibridge, RHP Tommy Hanson or outfielder Jordan Schafer.

The move means that Joakim Soria will inherit closing duties for the Royals, and he needs to be added in all leagues. He’s posted tremendous numbers this season (2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP .194 BAA, 51 Ks and 10 SVs in 44.1 innings), has been on fire over the last month (2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 15 Ks, 2 BBs in 11.2 innings) and he’s in line for around 10 SVs over the final two months.

On the other side of the ledger, Dotel loses most of his fantasy value. He’ll be a setup man for the Braves. Even if behemoth Bob Wickman were to be injured again or suffer a bad spell, Rafael Soriano would likely be the next in line to close out games. He’s been in a slump recently, but Soriano is their closer of the future, he’s had a solid season and he filled in admirably for Wickman earlier this season.

Atlanta may not be done yet, either. While Reports are trickling in that they are currently in negotiations for Bronson Arroyo of the Reds, looking to bolster the middle of their starting rotation.

The Ty Wigginton Deal: There were a number of teams in the market for the versatile Wigginton, including the Twins and Yankees, but the Astros won the auction on Saturday. They shipped extremely valuable middle reliever Dan Wheeler to Tampa Bay after watching Morgan Ensberg flounder for the last year and a half. Ensberg has been designated for assignment, but it’s a curious move despite Morgan’s struggles. He boasts a career OPS 70 points better than Wiggy, gets on base more, strikes out less and has a better glove in the field. Still, Ensberg has fallen a long way since his 2005 season in which he knocked 35 home runs and was one of the best 3Bs in baseball. Wigginton should post solid fantasy numbers for the rest of the season in HRs, RBIs and Runs with an offense that can better protect him and knock him in.

Luis Castillllllo!The Luis Castillo Deal: Ladies and gentlemen: let the Alexi Casilla era begin! Ok, maybe I’m the only one excited about the youngster whose skill set is eerily similar to a young Castillo. Hell, Ron Gardenhire will probably end up starting Nick Punto the rest of the season anyways. Castillo is a nice upgrade for the Mets defensively. He’s still rangy and has only committed 9 total errors over the last two seasons with the Twins. An extreme ground-ball hitter (He’s led MLB in ground ball percentage for the last four seasons), Luis pounds the ball into the dirt and excels at getting on base with infield hits. He should continue to do so for the Mets, and will score a bunch of runs if they hit him anywhere in the top of that order (Right now he looks like he’ll be plugged into the two hole . . . get your mind out of the gutter). He’ll also likely steal some bases if Rickey Henderson, Joe Reyes & Co rub off- he does have 315 career SBs, though a bulk of those coming with the Marlins. The Twins acquired outfielder Dustin Martin and catcher Drew Butera. Um, I don’t have much to say about those two.

Other moves and potential moves: The Phillies nabbed perennial disappointment RHP Kyle Lohse from the Reds (for LHP Matt Maloney), who doesn’t warrant much consideration in fantasy leagues but could be a capable 5th starter . . . The Red Sox are making a run for Eric Gagne, which would all but ruin his fantasy value, but would make probable closer Akinori Otsuke a valuable commodity again once he’s fully healthy . . . The Red Sox also want Jermaine Dye, but will not part with either Manny Delcarmen or Justin Masterson along with Wily Mo Pena in any deal . . . Felix Pie will not be on the move, and that’s a good thing for Cub fans. This kid is going to be a player in then ext few years . . . Dan Wheeler could already be on the move again . . . The Dan Wheeler trade means Chad Qualls will be the primary setup man in Houston and the backup for Brad Lidge as closer should he, you know, spontaneously combust again . . .

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 30, 2007 at 6:45pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Fantasy MLB: Pitcher Pickups

July 6, 2007

Neshek: He’s Filthy

With th All-Star break approaching it’s a great opportunity to take the few minutes you would have put into lineup decisions and evaluate the state of your fantasy baseball squad. The most important thing you can do it to look at the overall standings and see where teams are clustered in a certain category. You’ll also want to take a look at where potential trading partners stand so you can make an offer that will get their attention. For example, if there’s only one other team ahead of you in steals and the next guy is 20 back, it might be time to sell off some of those coveted SBs to a team in the middle of the pack who’s desperate for a boost and will value them more than you. And that one guy in front of you? He’s probably not willing to pay a fair price for Brian Roberts. If there are three of four teams within 15 or fewer home runs, then buying low on a power hitter like Paul Konerko, Ryan Howard, Lance Berkman, Troy Glaus, Jim Thome, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira or Travis Hafner will serve you well. Given their talent and track records, we know the best part of their season is yet to come.

For today though, we’re going to take a look at pitching. Specifically, buy-low players who may even be on the waiver wire or in your free agent pool that can give your team a boost down the stretch. As the season gets further along WHIP, ERA, K/BB and the other ratio stats you may use for pitching will become more and more difficult to make up ground in so the time to take action is now. Those are also categories where most leagues tend to have logjams in the rankings as well. Here’s a short list of the guys ETB recommends looking at to right your pitching ship, starting with a strategy that can pay immediate dividends: grabbing middle relievers. Obviously, your league size and format greatly impact the value of these hurlers so take that into consideration before doing anything drastic.

Pat Neshek, RP, MN: There’s nothing wrong with stud closer Joe Nathan, but that didn’t stop Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire from saying Wednesday that Mr. Neshek has the mentality to be a closer. Nathan will be the man in Minnesota as long as he’s under contract (through next season), but this could be Gardy’s way of getting us used to the idea of Neshek taking the job in 2009. And of course, if Nathan ever went down for any reason this year Pat would instantly become one of the top five relief pitchers in fantasy baseball. After a stellar rookie season a year ago, it’s more of the same in 2007: a 1.74 ERA, a 0.73 WHIP and a 51/13 K/BB ratio in 41.1 innings pitched. On top of that, he has 4 wins in those 41 innings, making him a must-own in all formats.
Broxton: He’s a Big ‘Un

To put that in perspective, if a starting pitcher totals 20 wins and over 200 Ks in his 200 innings pitched he’s on the short list of Cy Young candidates. If he does it with a 0.73 WHIP he’s had one of the best seasons in the history of fantasy baseball. There isn’t a fantasy squad in existence that couldn’t use a Pat Neshek. Now he probably won’t go over 85 innings this season, but that just means you need to have two of three of these types to make up for it instead of one stud starter and one or two mediocre ones.

Neshek is representative of a whole class of middle relievers who may have dominant numbers and a low ranking and trade value simply because their limited innings lead to low W and K totals relative to starters. Don’t let the rank throw you, these are quality players who can make a major contribution in your ratios. Target guys like Hideki Okajima (0.88 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 2 Ws, 4 SVs, 37 Ks in 41 innings), Heath Bell (1.45 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 51 Ks in 49.2 innings), Rafael Betancourt (1.19 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 34 Ks and a K/BB of 11.33 in 37.2 innings), Scot Shields (1.81 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2 Ws, 2 SVs, 42 Ks in 44.2 innings), Carlos Villanueva (2.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 6 Ws, 54 Ks in 59 innings) and Jonathan Broxton (2.86 ERA, 1.20WHIP, 3 Ws, 54 Ks in 50 innings).

If they aren’t available as free agents, trade for them. They’re often easy guys to convince another manager to ‘throw in’ as part of a package because the manager doesn’t think he’ll miss them too much. Three other super subs in this category that also have a good shot at taking over closer duties this season are Zack Greinke, Carlos Mármol and Rafael Soriano . . .

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 6, 2007 at 7:03pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Fantasy MLB: Young Guns

May 29, 2007

The second blitz of young prospects getting a shot in the majors is upon us. Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence and Phil Hughes made some big waves in a short span of time last month, and this week Kevin Slowey, Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun jumped into the fantasy player pool. Here’s the Lincecum analysis: he’s really good. With that out of the way, ETB checks in with Pence and and Hughes and takes a look at Braun, Gallardo and Slowey with an eye toward their fantasy futures.

This hat keeps my head safe

Ryan Braun, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers

THE add of the week has to be Ryan Braun, the new Milwaukee Brewers starting third baseman. He has some serious potential and versatility to go along with an everyday job and should be picked up in nearly every league. Braun is a player who could eventually hit 30+ home runs and steal 20+ bags, and it’s pretty hard to find that kind of production anywhere- let alone on the waiver wire. He was he 5th overall pick in the 2005 draft, and he should be able to hit for average and power right away.

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 29, 2007 at 9:46pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Fantasy MLB: Nine Closer Positions to Watch

May 22, 2007

Angel RisingThere isn’t a fantasy baseball player out there who couldn’t use a few more saves at this point in the season. It’s always a good feeling waking up in the morning and seeing a few ’1′s in that ‘S’ column. Like the ever-elusive steal, we’ll use multiple positions on our roster just for the chance at a handful more. A month and a half into the season, several closers have already been injured or lost their jobs outright, generating new sources of saves. No doubt, those have already been scooped up in your league. ETB takes a look at nine situations that could keep you a step ahead in the chase for saves.

Chicago Cubs

The big news out of Chicago today is Lou Pinella’s announcement that current closer Ryan Dempster will become a starter in the coming weeks in a move to bolster the rotation. In the mean time, he has been asked to mentor 24-year-old Angel Guzman who will then take over the job. While Dempster has a mediocre 4.43 ERA, he has converted 9 of 10 save opportunities this year while posting a 1.03 WHIP and 21 Ks in 20.1 innings. That makes the timing of this seem a little bizarre, especially when you consider that Ryan hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 as a starter since 2000.

Whatever, fantasy owners just want to own the guy who finishes games for the Cubs. Anybody who owns Dempster should be handcuffing Guzman to him immediately. Guzman had a 7.39 ERA in 56 innings last season, but he does have the stuff to finish games. The only question is, does he have the mental makeup?

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1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 22, 2007 at 11:23pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Fantasy MLB: Buy Low, Sell High, Sit Tight

April 26, 2007

Pierre's Just Not Worth It

It’s still early in the 2007 fantasy campaign, but there are already trends worth taking note of. There are also some to ignore. Nobody likes to check the standings in the morning and see they’re in the middle of the pack or lower, and now is about the time when impatient and inexperienced owners are starting to buy into this season’s rankings and numbers.

The fact is, three and a half weeks simply isn’t a large enough sample size to draw significant statistical conclusions. Sure, pitchers may be showing decreased velocity, position players may have earned everyday jobs, and closers may have lost them. You can react to that kind of information. But with players who have hundreds or thousands (or 8,109 in the case of one guy on the list) of at-bats, any stretch of 70-80 plate appearances is meaningless. For a proven player who has terrible 2007 numbers, just keep this in mind: if this slump happened mid-season nobody would even notice.

ETB takes a look at some prime early-season candidates to buy low, sell high and stick with:
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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 26, 2007 at 6:03pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

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