June 1st: T-minus 9 Hours

Ranking “Super Two” Call-ups in order of likelihood starting, now:

T1. Brett Lawrie (2B/3B) – The centerpiece of the Shaun Marcum deal, this kid has absolutely killed the ball in Triple-A.  The most telling stat of why the Blue Jays will look to bring him up as soon as the clock strike 12am?  “The Blue Jays’ third basemen have gone an astounding 0-for-45 over Toronto’s past 13 games” (Rotoworld).  So, it’s not just those who still believe in Eddie Encarnacion as a legitimate fantasy third baseman who’re ready to gauge their eyes out… it’s the entire Toronto organization.

Yet, you sit there and wonder to yourself, “Brian… this isn’t enough, I need more.”  Well, doubter, here’s his most recent stat line from Triple-A as of May 31, 2011: .349/.420/.746.  His power is also coming at the right time as he’s already slugged 7 more home runs than all of last year (8).  Want more?  And, sure, this is on the peripheral, but nevertheless: HE’S CANADIAN!  Yes, a Canadian who’s the Blue Jays’ top hitting prospect.  I feel perfectly safe having him tied for the first position on this “likely-to-be-called-up” list.  In the end, The Blue Jay Hunter expects a call-up for Lawrie in the immediate future.

T1. Dustin Ackley (2B) – Another second baseman.  That said, Lawrie’s the one to own of these two.  Ackley, the Mariners’ top hitting prospect, is playing in a pitchers park, whereas Lawrie will get a bulk of his ABs in Toronto’s hitter-friendly home park.  That said, I’ve heard from multiple outlets what Ackley is going to be a guy who’s a very nice player in “real” baseball, but now “fantasy” baseball.  A few guys who fit this mold are any of the current Angel middle infielders (sans this year), someone like Jose Vidro, or Dustin Pedroia.  Yes, please take the time to shake your head, wipe your eyes, refocus, and read that last name.  If Ackley were playing in a home park like Dustin Pedroia’s, I’d be much more excited to see his potential for operating a “laser show” like DP’s.  However, he doesn’t play there, he’s not particularly fast, he doesn’t hit of a lot of power, and, as a Seattle Mariner, he won’t alter the landscape the way someone like Lawrie will.  Not right now, anyway.

That all said, he’s still much, much better than Jack Wilson.  The Mariners are a cheap organization, they can’t afford a lot of players who come through their system.  The latest examples of this will be Felix Hernandez and, potentially, Michael Pineda.  Post-June 1, Ackley will receive a bulk of the starts at 2B.  If you own someone like Neil Walker, don’t drop him for Ackley as, in a best case scenario, Ackley is Neil Walker.

2. Desmond Jennings (OF) – Sam Fuld.  That’s basically what it comes down to.  When I asked Jason Collette about Matt Joyce’s breakout forcing the Rays to keep Jennings in Triple-A, he wasn’t sold.  So, while Sam Fuld’s latest “superman” antics have been a nice addition to the Rays’ lineup, he’s not an everyday player his second time around the league.  Jennings, ranked in the top-10 prospects for 2011, is, however.  After a painful April, Jennings’ splits are much more attractive in May with a .286/.369/.551 line.  On top of that, his HRs in May (6) more than doubled his April total (2).

Now, his power may not translate immediately in the majors, but Jennings’ fantasy appeal all comes down to opportunity.  Joe Madden, who’s trying anything to get his franchise player, Evan Longoria, to breakout of his season-long slump.  Perhaps Jennings is the catalyst Long’s needed over the past few weeks.

T3. Mike Moustakas (3B) – At this point, I will not be held accountable for the guys at #3 being called up.  Because, while the first three options I feel very strong about, I’m not really the most confident on the #3’s.  That said, everyone loves Mike Moustakas.  He had an awful April as a follow-up to his 40+ HR season in the minors last year.  Once Eric Hosmer was called up to the bigs, a switch went off in Moustakas’ head and he absolutely exploded in May offering a .317/.381/.529 line.  While his home runs have remained consistent for both months (4 in each) his doubles have soared between April (1) and May (11).

So the power’s rounding into form.  I’m just not sure if the Royals want to expose someone who’s batting .278 on the season to major league pitching.  Especially when that person may actually make you weaker defensively.  With Billy Butler clogging up the DH slot for the Royals, it might make more sense to hold the “Moose” down in Triple-A until injuries strike for the team.

T3. Jesus Montero (C) – This all comes down to Jorge Posada.  He seems to be turing it around a bit over the past month.  This kid had a great April with the bat, but his OBP was nearly equal to his BA… meaning he’s not taking pitches.  The Yankees are not going to promote someone who doesn’t practice patience and some self control.  I put Montero here because I believe he’ll hit the majors in another team’s uniform when other starting pitchers become available come July.  Don’t expect to see a 22 year old DHing for the Yankees… especially with the way Russell Martin’s been playing this season.

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Streaking through the quad with Carlos Quentin

Full disclosure, I was the guy in your fantasy league who picked Carlos Quentin in 2008 and reminded you on a some-what-daily basis that you could’ve claimed him on waivers but chose not to because you suck.

Then Carlos Quentin reminded me that I suck because I trusted him to carry his ungodly 2008 into 2009.

Then, despite his batting-average dropping almost 50 points to .236, I trusted him to “rebound” in 2010… except Carlos Quentin hates me (or this was a weird karmic response) and decided to deliver a mediocre .250ish/25ish/90ish stat line.

So, for 2011, Carlos Quentin was dead to me.  I let anyone who was willing the opportunity to draft him because, if history has taught me anything, it’s perfectly acceptable to hold an unfounded grudge in fantasy sports… even if there’s a chance the guy actually has a bounce-back year because he’s actually healthy for the first time in 2+ years.

Yes, Carlos Quention hates me.  But there’s a significant chance he loves you.  Let’s graph:

Yikes, a graph!  Okay, so the HRs have been pretty consistent, which we knew already.  He’s what’s looking up for my arch-nemesis, CQ: batting average is definitely on the up-swing, and his OPS is, once again, in that aforementioned “ungodly” territory.  So all signs point to Quentin regaining some of that .280ish/35ish/100+ish form that made me the luckiest girl at the prom in 2008.  So, if you were lucky enough to grab this guy for cheap in a auction or, who knows, maybe the pick RIGHT AFTER ME in a draft, congrats.  Ride him ’til the shows over… or until he breaks his hand by punching a wall in frustration after striking out (see 2008’s version).

Side Blurbs:

Ryan Raburn, OF/2B* — Still striking out a ton (25K’s in 65 ABs), but he’s potentially on the cusp of one of those 2010 “Ryan Raburn Hotstreaks” with 2 HRs in 2 days.  Couldn’t hurt to throw him in at 2B in daily leagues if you have that options.  God knows most people dumped him already (available in 65% ESPN leagues).

Jose Bautista, 3B/OF — Joey Bats needed a single for the cycle.  He didn’t get it.  I don’t care, I still have a huge man-crush on him and his nickname.

Anibal Sanchez, SP — Almost pitched his second no-hiter before turning 28, meaning he’s already eclipsed anything I’ll do and he’s spotting me 2 years.  I don’t like him and it’s not because he’s making me feel down-and-out about my own accomplishments… it’s mainly because he has a girl’s name.

Bizzaro-Cole Hamels, SP – Bet you didn’t think it was possible for Hamels to grow facial hair, huh?  Well, he can and he pitches better with it.  I hope this inspires him to go off the deep-end and challenge himself to grow a Danny Haren-esque, disgusting, mangy beard.  8 innings, 8 K’s.  But it was against the Padres.  My prediction?  He shaves and goes back to a 6IP, 7K, 3BBI next time.  No W promised.

Brandon League, RP — Are the Mariners on a hot streak?  Yes.  Will it continue?  Probably not.  Should I ride their closer until next week?  Yes.  Do it now!

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The Mets Jon Niese & BABIP

With Week 3 coming to a close, typically I like to take a look at who has been a particularly unlucky starter at this juncture of the baseball season. To date, one name keeps popping up as not only being “unlucky,” but routinely unlucky during each of his first 4-5 starts: Jonathan Niese.

As any Mets fan will tell you, ticket advertisements attempted to bring fans back to the ballpark by promising baseball played “the right way.” Fans will also tell you that these ads were bold faced lies as the Mets are, once again, on of the most fundamentally UNsound teams in the majors. This is where our boy Jon Niese comes in:

In 23 innings, he’s rocking a .333 BABIP. Your average starter should probably have this number be closer to the .290 area. The further below .290 you go, the (seemingly) luckier a starter has been. In the case of poor Jon Niese, he’s been almost 40 points deep into unlucky territory. Now, this isn’t entirely attributed to just plain “bad luck.” Niese is averaging almost 4 walks per 9 innings pitched, which, to be blunt, sucks. What saves that number from delivering a Oliver Perez-like outcome is his ground-ball percentage (GB%) and strand-rate (LOB%). In 2011, Niese’s GB% sits on the good-side of 50% at 56%. His strand rate, however, leaves something to be desired as it registers in the mid-60’s.

Here’s the good news on Niese: If he walks fewer batters and his luck improves, you could be looking at a pretty undervalued SP for June, July, and (maybe) August. The bad news: his walk rate has always been God-awful. His minor league stats have always painted him a bit more unlucky than most, and I’m beginning to believe that, despite my beliefs in “universal balance,” Jon Niese is exactly what we’re seeing every fifth day this April.

My diagnosis: let someone else buy into the awful BABIP on this guy while you take a chance on a trendy Justin Masterson who’s at least shown he has major league quality skills at some point in his past.

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First Basemen: 2010 Fantasy Projections

Last year, I professed my unabashed man-crush on Pablo Sandoval. So it’s only fitting that he’s my “value pick” at first base according to my points-per-plate appearance calibration (using statistical projections from the 2010 Bill James Handbook). Displayed in the previous link is the point breakdown in a standard points league. My approach to deciphering value is based on draft position, depth, and potential for at-bats.

Last year, for example, Joey Votto‘s projected .91 fantasy points per plate-appearance put him above annual stars like Justin Morneau (.86), Kevin Youkilis (.85), and Carlos Pena (.87). However, as we all discovered, Joey Votto didn’t live up to his potential due to injury (for more on this projection, see last year’s article).
2010’s central difference is the influx of .90 pts/pa first base-eligible batters. Last year, only 7 players satisfied this requirement: Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman, Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, and Votto. This year, however, 13 players surpass this threshold, nearly doubling the list of “effective” first base options.
Joining the seven players from 2009 in this group are Mark Reynolds (.99), Pablo Sandoval (.90), David Ortiz (.90), Adam Dunn (.90), Justin Morneau (.90), and *surprise* Chris Davis (.90).
Of the 13 players projected to average the most points per plate-appearance, I’d absolutely stay away from Chris Davis. Last year he was hyped to an ADP between the 5th and 7th rounds, an atmosphere WAY too high for a rookie… I don’t care how much he looked like Shane Spencer in his initial September call-up. In points-based-leagues, the value at this position is coming by way of Pablo Sandoval, Joey Votto, and Adam Dunn (in leagues that do not penalize strikeouts!). Pujols, Howard, Cabrera, Teixeira, and Fielder will all be gone before round two is complete in most drafts (under-statement of the century) and Berkman’s name, Morneau’s ability, and Mark Reynolds’ 2009 will be the next 1B off the board. At this point, in a standard 12-team league, four teams will be without first basemen, leaving fantasy favorites Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Kendry Morales, and Carlos Pena available.
My advice? Let them go. Fill in the rest of your roster while the other members of your league fill up on the position. While they grab 1B, fill in your OF or pitching staff. Some will value Votto a bit more than players like Pena and Morales, but unless your peers view Sandoval as a solid 3B option, he should slip into the later rounds. Other than a brief stint on the bench with a sore back in 2009, Sandoval was one of the most reliable 1B options available.
Now comes the bad news: players to avoid based on pts/pa. I think this is the point were everyone stops expecting anything from James Loney (.76/pa). Essentially, the calibration equates him to Lyle Overbay (.75/pa)… aka, he’s useless in a points league. If he’s a singles-hitter, he needs more RBI opportunities, and with Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp on his team… he’s not going to get many.
The same can be said for Nick Swisher (.82), Russell Branyan (.82), and Michael Cuddyer (.82). Rather than spend mid-round picks on each of these streaky batters, grab a younger potential-laden player like Garrett Jones (.85) in the later rounds… especially due to his multi-position eligibility (OF/1B).
In the end, if you take anything from this 2010 first base projection, let it be that you can wait this year. In 2009, if you didn’t grab an early 1B, you were in a bad place to start the year. In 2010, you can afford to wait. As always, let your opponents make your decisions for you, it’s easier that way.

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Filed under Adam Dunn, Adrian Gonzalez, Bill James, Carlos Pena, Chris Davis, Fantasy Baseball, first base, Garrett Jones, James Loney, Joey Votto, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Pablo Sandoval

>Second Half Players: Aubrey Huff

>July is already halfway over is it’s time to start looking for those notorious “second-half-studs.” Scanning over the last two seasons, using OPS as my guide, I found two constants that could be had a potentially moderate price.

Aubrey Huff should be owned in all fantasy leagues. He’s not a guy who you’re going to just ‘pick up’ from waivers without giving up anything substantive. To date, Huff started out like a bat from hell in 2009. Recently, though, his numbers have been dipping. His once-.300 batting average has dipped to Elvis Andrus territory at .250, and he’s seemingly been stuck on 11 home runs forever!
Rewind to 2007, Huff slugged 8 home runs in August. On top of that, he scored 19 runs and drove in 19 RBIs of his own. His OPS was an astronomical 1.135, placing him in vintage David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, and David Wright territory.
In hopes that 2007 was not an aberration, we look to August 2008, when, you guess it, Huff clubbed 8 home runs (…again…), scored 20 runs, and drove in 26 RBIs. His 1.056 OPS, again, placed him fractions of a point away from the 2008 AL MVP, Dustin Pedroia (1.060).
Officially, I suggest you chase Aubrey Huff. He shouldn’t take much to land in a deal because he’s stumbled into the All-Star Break. The one caveat surrounding Huff is that he’s in a contract year and is highly likely to be traded within the next several weeks. If he goes to a team like the Mets or the Mariners, he’ll be hard pressed to club 8 home runs in such a huge home ballpark. That all said… I still think he’s a worthwhile investment for your team down the stretch… especially in August.

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>Fantasy Man-Crush: Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval

>This one’s overdue. Up until today, there’s been one “official” Life of Brian man-crush: Nick Markakis. Today, we expand the population to two with the addition of Pablo Sandoval.

Several months ago, I drafted Sandoval hoping he would attain catcher eligibility for the Giants within the first few weeks of the 2009 season. However, much to my chagrin… catcher eligibility never came for the Kung Fu Panda… in fact, it still hasn’t arrived.
But…
I’m okay with it. Yes, it was hard for me deal with nagging groin and elbow injuries combined with bouts of the flu early on. For all the hardship Sadoval delivered early on this year, he’s paid off in dividends when healthy.
…which has been for some time now. It’s kind of hard to believe, but the 22 year-old Venezuelan is still a rookie for the San Francisco Giants. Masking this fact is Sandoval’s current (as of 7-1-2009) .338 BA, 11 home runs, and .958 OPS on the season. To give you an idea of how good that is, here’s a list of the Top-5 First basemen in BA and OPS for the season:
Batting Average (at least 250 ABs)
1. Pablo Sandoval — .338
2. Miggy Cabrera — .332
3. Albert Pujols — .332
4. Victor Martinez — .313
5. Justin Morneau — .312
On-Base + Slugging (at least 250 ABs)
1. Albert Pujols — 1.197
2. Prince Fielder — 1.034
3. Adrian Gonzalez — 1.001
4. Justin Morneau — .975
5. Pablo Sandoval — .958

I’m not going to repeat this chore for third base for one reason and one reason only: LOOK AT THE NAMES ON THESE LISTS!!! Seriously, this kid is hanging with the big boys of the most potent position in baseball.
Whether you’re starting him at first or third, Sandoval has provided “must-start” support in 2009. If someone in your league is using Sandoval as a back-up or bench-warmer… feel confident in making a move for this young man… especially if you’re in a deeper, keeper league.

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Filed under Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Fantasy Baseball, Justin Morneau, Pablo Sandoval, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez

>Weekend Update: Ryan Doumit (Rotoworld.com Error)

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I logged on to Rotoworld this morning and found an update for Ryan Doumit, reading:

“Doumit has his whole rehab process laid out, including a July 5 return. “We are very pleased with his progress,” GM Neal Huntington said last week. The catcher has been out since April 23.”

Just to be clear, the source for this blurb (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) doesn’t clearly say that Doumit is coming back to the big club on July 5th. The arctile states the following of Doumit’s return:

“As catcher Ryan Doumit’s rehabilitation schedule stands, he will report Tuesday to Pirate City for a minimum of four days of catching and designated hitting in Gulf Coast League games followed by additional at-bats in simulated games.

Doumit, after late-April wrist surgery, projects to head north July 5 for the rest of his assignment if everything works out well. Then, he would report to Class AAA Indianapolis or Class AA Altoona, both of whom play at home that day. The rest will depend upon his progress, “how he feels and how he does,” Russell said. “Once we do send him down, we don’t want him to have really a scheduled day off.”

As far as I can tell, the Post-Gazette’s sources indicate the Doumit will BEGIN a Triple-A or Double-A rehab assignment on July 5th. My best guess (as well as the best guess of many others writing about this today) is that Doumit is (as he always was) looking at an All-Star Break return.
Here’s what some Pirates’ bloggers are saying about the Doumit situation:

“Ryan Doumit will start his rehab assignment next week for the GCL Pirates. He will alternate between C and DH. The plan is then to send him to Altoona or Indianapolis On July 5th, since the Baby Bucs have an off day. Manager John Russell says, ‘Once we do send him down, we don’t want him to have really a scheduled day off'” (Northside Notch Blog).

“Ryan Doumit will start his rehab on Tuesday, and is shooting for a return just before the All-Star Break, but will probably be back right after the break” (BuccoFans.com).

And here’s a DL-based blog talking about Doumit’s looong recovery:

“RYAN DOUMIT is set to go on a rehab assignment this week and has a tentative return date of July 5. This would put him just past the original 10-week recovery period for his broken right Scaphoid (wrist) bone. The fact that he is even able to return this soon is pretty impressive, as Scaphoid fractures tend to be one of most hit-or-miss fractures as far as good healing is concerned. The surgeon who performed the procedure to stabilize the fracture must have done an exceptional job stabilizing it. Those of you who held onto this catcher who can rake will be rewarded handsomely. He was dropped in many leagues, so take a quick look to see if he’s out there – he is easily a top-ten catcher” (Disabled List Informer).

Thanks to all the above bloggers/sites for clarifying this issue. Rotoworld’s vague report will probably result in a large quantity of teams grabbing Doumit sooner than necessary. I’m not for useless moves at such a pivotal point in the season, so please take note of the several caveats revolving around Ryan Doumit.

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Filed under catchers, Fantasy Baseball, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rotoworld, Ryan Doumit