Friday, April 30, 2010

Ahead of the Curve

April 29, 2010
By Bret Sayre

Short introduction this week, but here are some lesser-owned (obviously depending on league size) pitchers who have a favorable next 5 start schedule. Of course, I could tell you that Tommy Hanson (HOU, @WAS, @MIL, NYM, @PIT) and Chris Carpenter (CIN, @PIT, HOU, WAS, LAA) have great upcoming starts, but you were going to start them anyway - and they're certainly not free agents.

Pitchers ho!

Hiroki Kuroda - Los Angeles (PIT, COL, @SD, SD, @CHC)

Jake Westbrook - Cleveland (TOR, @KC, @BAL, CIN, CHW)

Oliver Perez - New York (@CIN, WAS, @FLA, @WAS, PHI)

Clayton Richard - San Diego (MIL, COL, @SF, SF, @SEA)

Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, CJ Wilson, Rich Harden, Scott Feldman - Texas
Team upcoming schedule: @SEA, @OAK, KC, OAK, @TOR, LAA, BAL, CHC, @KC

Seriously, look at this team's upcoming schedule. Needless to say, I'm very high on ALL Rangers over the next month - hitters included.

Jeff Niemann - Tampa Bay (KC, @SEA, @LAA, CLE, @HOU)

David Price - Tampa Bay (KC, @OAK, @LAA, CLE, @HOU)

Bronson Arroyo - Cincinatti (NYM, @PIT, STL, @CLE, PIT)

Jhoulis Chacin - Colorado (@SF, @LAD, WAS, @CHC, @KC)

Gavin Floyd - Chicago (KC, TOR, @KC, FLA, @CLE)

And if you want to get crazy deep..

Jeff Manship - Minnesota (@CLE, BAL, CHW, @TOR, MIL)

Of course, Manship may not last more than one start in the Minnesota rotation, but with his first two starts against two of the worst teams in the AL, he'll have as good of a chance as possible.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Luck Police

April 28, 2010
By Bret Sayre

I do understand the concept of small sample size, so let me just start with that. And with that said, let’s look at three weeks of BABIP stats! Obviously this early in the season, there are going to be huge swings in both directions as you’ll easily notice – but what we’ll go over today is more or less format of future “Luck Police” columns and a reminder that you should not overreact to terrible starts.

Let’s start with some hitters who will rebound based on their 5-yr Rolling BABIP (or Career BABIP if they’ve been in the show less than 5 years). Notice I said the word “will”. All stats are through yesterday’s games:

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will be fine – maybe not 30/100 fine, but they’ll be pretty close to the guys you thought you were drafting. This may not be Hunter Pence’s breakout season, but he’ll be better than this. However, there are definitely some names high on this list that you can target – whether it’s on the waiver wire or through a trade.

The first name that jumps out to me here is Chris Coghlan. It is true; he’s been really scuffling so far this season, but you can take advantage of his lack of a track record and get him really cheap right now. In fact, I just participated in my final draft last night – a relatively shallow 10-team league with 23-man active roster and 6-man bench – and Coghlan was not even drafted with active players. Seriously. That’s 230 players deep. I snagged him with my first pick in the reserve portion of the draft because all of the statistical evidence you can find says he’s not going to struggle like this for much longer (all this despite the fact that last season’s .362 BABIP is probably not sustainable).

The other guys who are great targets at this point are Julio Borbon, Nick Johnson, Travis Snider, Yunel Escobar and Seth Smith. Borbon’s got too much speed to stay at a BABIP this low, even if he performed below his ability. Nick Johnson needs a few more hits to fall, and you’ll see a huge bump in runs/RBIs in the vaunted Yankee lineup. Escobar has a K-rate of 11% this year, which is below his career average (which has provided him with a .296 average) – so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where he’s going. And then you’ve got great AL-only and NL-only targets in Snider and Smith. Travis Snider is both above his career BB% rate and below his career K% rate, which means his approach at the plate is improving. This will translate into more success – see Rasmus, Colby. Seth Smith should be a nice pickup as well, but he’s trickier since he may only see regular playing time for the next two weeks or so.

Now let’s move onto the guys who, for the most part, are hotter than a baked potato flying out of a volcano:

This is really a much less helpful list. You’re not going to rush out to sell high on Tulowitski, Morneau or Longoria. And no one’s going to buy Kearns, Rosales or Juan Castro. So what you’ve got left are a handful of guys who will regress to the mean and may have some added value now before that happens. Scott Podsednik is one – although his speed will keep him valuable enough (the Royals are running a LOT). Gutierrez and Gonzalez are two guys; however, that you could spin into a more valuable player at this point. Both of them were sleepers going into the season and they’ve clearly both delivered so far – but they may never have higher trade values if your team has other needs. Same goes for anyone who can be convinced that Geovany Soto will be a top-5 catcher this season.

Now we’ll move onto pitchers – and since these numbers REALLY should be taken with a grain of salt since most starters have picked up 4 starts so far this year, I’m not even going to worry about the color commentary. We’ll save that for when it’s more meaningful.

Top 20 Future Risers:

Top 20 Future Fallers:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Under the Bright Lights

April 26, 2010

By Bret Sayre 

So I spent this past weekend down in Chapel Hill, NC visiting my brother-in-law and his one month old son. Now, you might be asking yourself what this could possibly have to do with this column - and to that, I reply with a mildly sarcastic THREE THINGS! First of all, that is the reason why this is going up a day late (as you will notice, it's not Monday anymore). Second of all, I almost went to the Durham Bulls / Gwinnett Braves game in Durham on Friday night to see future "Under the Bright Lights" impact players Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings and (to a slightly lesser extent) Freddie Freeman. Unfortunately, as you can probably tell by my use of the word almost, I did not end up making it to the game. And finally, my wife's father actually played in the Yankees minor league farm system in the early 70's, making it all the way to AA. That wasn't much of a stretch, was it? Sadly, my brother-in-law is hoping that his son carries some of that genetic skill so that he can live out the dream he never fulfill of playing for his beloved Yankees. He's going to have to hire Scott Boras as an agent in order to make sure he slips to when the Yankees pick in the 2028 draft. Hey, it could happen. And now onto the callups that are affecting your fantasy teams this week:

Justin Smoak – 1B – Texas

So it turns out that Chris Davis needed to hit .188 with no power in order for the Rangers’ powers-that-be to call up their most prized hitting prospect in April.  Definitely the elite name of the week, Smoak is often compared (unfairly) to Mark Teixeira since they both were high Ranger draft picks at 1B.  Smoak does not have the raw power of Teixeira, but his all-around game compares favorably in all other areas.  He’s a potential 300/400/500 player who will spend a lot of time in the heart of Texas’s lineup and play very good defense at 1B.  Clearly this is nothing to shake your head at.  In keeper leagues, he’s probably already stashed somewhere, but Smoak needs to be owned in all AL-only and deep mixed redraft leagues.  Shallow-leaguers weak at 1B should keep a close eye on him as well.

Redraft:  B  Keeper:  A-

Eric Young Jr – 2B/OF – Colorado

Steals here!  Get your steals here!  If you need speed, pounce on Young now before he finds himself with consistent playing time.  If he can displace Clint Barmes (who is struggling mightily) at 2B, he could steal 40+ bases the rest of this season – and even if he can’t, he can still steal 10-20 bases with only sporadic playing time.  Jim Tracy made it clear earlier in the season that when Young got the call, he was not going to get the call to sit on the bench, so it would appear as though it’s time to see if Young is the Rockies 2B of the future.  He hasn’t been playing great so far this year at AAA, but his minor league track record speaks for itself – he’s got a full-season minor league average of 66 steals per year, and the only season he’s posted an OBP lower than .387 was 2007 (.359).  He could end up the top fantasy rookie of 2010 because of his huge steal potential.

Redraft:  B  Keeper:  B

Brett Cecil – SP – Toronto

Cecil has been dealing in the minors this year so far, no question about it - his 24/4 K/BB ratio in 17 1/3 innings at AAA-Las Vegas is a clear indicator of that (plus, Vegas is a hitter's paradise). Then in his debut on Friday, he throws up an 8/1 K/BB ratio against the Rays, albeit in a loss. If Cecil can keep up this kind of command, he's going to be a nice matchups play for as long as he's in the rotation - and with the unattractive collection of arms in Toronto, it could be a lengthy stay. That probably does not include the start he's got coming up against Boston on Wednesday, but May 3rd against Cleveland, sign me up!

Redraft: C+ Keeper: C

Darnell McDonald – OF – Boston

Many first round picks have had shorter paths to the majors than now 31-year old Darnell McDonald.  The 26th overall pick in the 1997 draft by the Orioles – McDonald got his first cup of coffee with Baltimore in 2004 and second with Minnesota in 2007 (combining for 45 AB in those two stops).  Now, even with his recent playing time in Boston, only has 164 career AB’s – however, he made quite an impression in his debut with Boston with a game-tying HR and game-winning single off the Monster.  Now he’s playing pretty consistently against lefties until Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury return.  He’s probably not worth worrying about at this point unless you’re in a super-deep league.

Redraft:  D  Keeper:  F

Luke Hughes – 3B – Minnesota

There's really nothing exciting about Brendan Harris' new backup in Minnesota outside of the fact that he's Australian. This automatically qualifies him for inclusion in this column eventhough he's effectively worthless in fantasy.

Redraft: F Keeper: F

Brennan Boesch – OF – Detroit

I know everyone is shocked (SHOCKED!) that Carlos Guillen is taking his rightful place on the DL. What people might not know is that the guy taking his roster spot can actually play. Boesch was the Tigers' 3rd round pick out of Cal in 2006 and hit 28 HRs for AA-Erie last season, leading the Eastern League. He continued his hot hitting this season, having compiled a 1.075 OPS in 15 games at AAA-Toledo (with a 1.223 OPS vs RHP). This is especially important because he will not be playing against lefties in Detroit. You could certainly do worse than Boesch in an AL-only league to try and capitalize on his solid start to the season.

Redraft: C- Keeper: D+

Rhyne Hughes – 1B – Baltimore

This write up is going to be very similar to the previous one with one exception - Hughes is not an injury replacement, he's taking over for the body formerly known as Garrett Atkins. Beyond that, Hughes and Boesch are pretty similar players. Hughes hit 25 HRs between AA and AAA last season and kept it up at AAA-Norfolk so far this year with a 1.088 OPS. You know exactly what you're getting with Hughes, a left handed hitter with plus raw power and no idea how to either hit lefties or properly control the strike zone (last season he had a 171/44 K/BB ratio). Between Hughes and Boesch, I prefer Boesch but it's pretty close.

Redraft: D+ Keeper: D

Monday, April 19, 2010

Under the Bright Lights

April 19, 2010

By Bret Sayre

There are very few things as a baseball fan that compare to seeing your favorite team call up a well-hyped homegrown prospect. That one moment when they're called up to the plate, the fan in all of us straddles the edge of our seat as we witness the peak of their potential. That's right - no matter how good this prospect ends up, he will never be as good as he is in your head right before he prepares for his first taste of MLB action. Unless, of course, he's Jason Heyward and cranks a 400+ ft monster HR in his first at bat. But as you know, Jason Heyward is a man among boys.

No matter how often these prospects come up and disappoint, the next one is always the savior of the franchise. That's the eternal optimism of being a fan - and it only gets more unrealistic the worse the major league team is. In fact, I'm pretty sure every Nationals fan expects Stephen Strasburg to come in and pitch a shutout every time he takes the mound. But for now, Washingtonians will have to wait for their savior. Yet just 200 miles or so up I-95, there's another hype train leaving the station, and that's where we start this week.

Ike Davis - 1B - New York (NL)

The funniest thing about the Ike Davis hype is that the terribleness of the Mets is directly proportional to the potential of Davis as a player. Now don't get me wrong, Davis is a good prospect, but the way his name is being thrown about in New York lately makes me think there are going to be a few more disappointed Mets fans when this all shakes out. Davis offers some power and a strong defensive presence at first base, and when your current options are Mike Jacobs, Daniel Murphy or Fernando Tatis, that sounds great. Just don't expect too much here. If he hits enough to hold on to the 1st base job, the best case scenario is that he hits about 20 HRs with a serviceable average (maybe .260-.270) - certainly worth a big bid in NL-only leagues right away and a speculative add if you're weak at 1B in a mixed league. Just be prepared in case he hits .220 and is sent back down when Murphy comes back in a few weeks.

Redraft: C+ Keeper: B

Wade LeBlanc - SP - San Diego

Anytime a pitcher in the Padres system comes up to the majors, it's automatically watch-worthy. However, LeBlanc actually had success in his 9-start stint in the majors last season, going 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. The tough part here is that he was only called up to start against Arizona on Sunday in the place of injured starter Chris Young. But the good part? It's Chris Young that he's replacing - and that guy seemingly gets hurt all the time. So pick him up, and spot start him in favorable matchups - just not this coming week in Cincinnati.

Redraft: C- Keeper: D

Kris Benson - SP - Arizona

Yes, this Kris Benson. Needless to say, you don't want any part of him.

Redraft: F Keeper: F

Lou Montanez - OF - Baltimore

Montanez looks like he'll be one of the initial benefactors of Felix Pie's unfortunate injury which may keep him out for up to three months. He is someone to keep an eye on in really deep mixed and AL-only leagues, as he could get on a roll and be worth a short-term pickup. He put up manageable numbers in his debut two years ago - .295, 3 HR, 14 RBI in 112 AB - but he's also got a career 36/9 K/BB ratio so he is not going to be a guy you want to be patient with.

Redraft: D Keeper: F

Scott Olsen - SP - Washington

Now here's a name you'll remember. Olsen is attempting a comeback from surgery from a torn labrum in July, and was impressive enough that scribes were a bit surprised when the Nationals chose Garrett Mock over him to be their fifth starter. Now, only two short weeks into the season, they've changed their minds and Olsen made his debut against the Phillies on Thursday. He looked pretty decent for a questionable guy coming off shoulder surgery against the best lineup in the National League. If he can build up arm strength and stay in the rotation, he could offer up some value in NL-only leagues - but he will never reach the potential he had after his impressive 2006 season with the Marlins.

Redraft: D Keeper: D-

Justin Maxwell - OF - Washington

Maxwell is a guy who is all potential and projection, but few results so far. Probably the best athlete in the Nationals system, Maxwell has yet to show that he can hit high-level pitching consistently - although he showed his fantasy potential in Washington late last season, with 4 HRs and 6 SBs in 89 at bats. Project that out over a full season and you see why he's a guy you need to keep an eye on. If he can even hit .250 or .260, he could be Chris Young with a little more speed. He'll start off playing against lefties, but could be more if he shows he can fulfill some of that potential.

Redraft: C- Keeper: C

Kam Mickolio - RP - Baltimore

Mickolio is the ultimate end-game sleeper in the Baltimore bullpen with everyone seemingly imploding in save opportunities. With a power fastball and 196 K's in 188 minor league innings, it's easy to envision him taking over the closer role someday - however, Mike Gonzalez's contract makes that somewhat less likely this year if he were to stay healthy. Then again, it is Mike Gonzalez we're talking about here..

Redraft: D Keeper: C-

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ahead of the Curve

April 8, 2010

By Bret Sayre

Close your eyes and imagine you are Ryan Howard coming up to the plate, cheered on by a raucous weeknight crowd at Citizens Bank Park. It’s the seventh inning and the Phillies are down three runs, but there are two guys on base. Now you open your eyes and see Mike Pelfrey on the mound. Clearly, you’re pretty excited. Ball one. You step out of the box and return only to see Ubaldo Jimenez. Now extra thoughts start crossing your mind. You can feel your hands becoming slightly more defensive. You work the count to 3-2 and step out again. Now Jimenez is gone and Johan Santana is there. This is about to get good.

Baseball, more than anything else, is a game of matchups, and unfortunately we don’t have rosters filled with stars like Ryan Howard. Maybe you’ve got Kelly Johnson, Doug Davis and John Maine as the 23rd, 24th and 25th guys on your roster. Taking advantage of matchups is key as you try and get the most out of those final round draft picks or waiver pickups, and that’s where we think we can help. Since is it not only more helpful to look at this information for pitchers rather than hitters, but it’s a much more common strategy, we will be doing our due diligence to find helpful pitchers – and for more than just one spot start. In “Ahead of the Curve”, we will glance into the future to see what pitchers have the most advantageous matchups over the next 4-5 starts.

This column will start running every Thursday here at Fantasy Beards, but for our first go-through, let’s focus on pitchers who personally have delicious April matchups. Now, while some choices will be more obvious than others, we’ll try to focus on pitchers who may be available either on the waiver wire or potentially for a small trade. I mean, how much good does it really do for me to tell you that Adam Wainwright has a solid April schedule (HOU, NYM, @SF, ATL)? He’s already awesome. Where’s the value added in that?

So let’s get to the meat of this. Here are some guys who have the tastiest upcoming matchups for the next few weeks (superstars like Wainwright excluded), depending on your level of desperation, of course:

Jered Weaver - @OAK, @TOR, DET, CLE
Justin Duchscherer – @SEA, BAL, CLE, @TOR
Doug Davis - @CHC, @WAS, CHC, @SD
Tom Gorzellany - @CIN, HOU, @NYM, WAS
Anibal Sanchez – LAD, CIN, @HOU, SD
J.A. Happ - @HOU, WAS, @ATL, @SF
Johnny Cueto - @FLA, @PIT, SD, @HOU
Aaron Cook – NYM, @WAS, FLA, @SF
Carl Pavano – BOS, KC, @KC, @CLE
Gavin Floyd – CLE, @TOR, @CLE, SEA, @NYY

Now this clearly will not take into account future rainouts, injuries and manager-induced rotation changes. And if it did, well, that would be an entirely different issue altogether. So stay tuned for an updated version of this list again next Thursday, right here at your destination for all of the fantasy analysis people who live outside of their parent’s basements don’t have the time to do - Fantasy Beards!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Luck Police

April 6, 2010

By Bret Sayre

There are few things that spark more of an argument in baseball these days than the proper (or improper) use of advanced statistics.  You’ve read the articles and you’ve seen the arguments.  This is no place for such arguments – if you don’t at least incorporate the most basic of advanced statistics into fantasy baseball, you’re operating at a disadvantage.  Personally, I’m into the advanced stats, but I’m a math guy.  Always have been.  The question is – which of these stats can really help you win your league?  Fortunately, I have your answer.

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) and Batting Average on Balls In Play against (BABIPa) are two of my favorite stats to help predict future performance in the most difficult of fantasy categories.  Let’s face it, ERA and Batting Average can be a real crapshoot from year-to-year even with the most predictable of players.  So when a player is hitting .300 in mid-May and is a career .260 hitter, what can we look at in order to guess whether he’ll come back down to Earth or if he’s made improvements to his approach?  Has he cut down his strikeout rate?  Has he improved his walk rate?  Do we think this is just a luck-driven small sample size?

The difference between Fantasy Beards and other sites in this regard is that I don’t believe that everyone’s BABIP or BABIPa regress to a universal mean.  There are inherently players who make “better contact” than others.  There are pitchers who leave too many balls up in the zone.  That’s the beautiful thing about baseball – it takes all types.  So what we do here is compare a player’s current BABIP/BABIPa to their own personal history, using 5-year and 3-year rolling averages.  If I told you that Prince Fielder and Jason Bay both had .315 BABIP’s in 2009 – would you think that they would both slightly regress to the MLB mean of approximately .300?  Maybe, but if you look at their 5-yr rolling BABIP’s (Fielder - .300 and Bay - .322), you’d think a little differently.  

Same deal with pitchers.  Cole Hamels had a .317 BABIPa in 2009 and Matt Cain’s was .263 – pretty straight forward case of Hamels being unlucky and Cain being lucky, right?  Well, you’d be right about Hamels who has a 5-year BABIPa of .284 (and this is a big reason why a lot of people expect him to bounce back from his comparatively poor 2009 season).  But Cain, not so much.  As the immortal Denny Green might say, he was who we thought he was (his 5-year BABIPa is .269).

Now just like a lot of other stats, BABIP and BABIPa are not completely cut and dried.  For pitchers, defensive statistics can play a role in determining whether a lower than historical BABIPa can be replicated.  My calculations show that Felix Hernandez and Ryan Rowland-Smith are both candidates for regression because of their lower than historical BABIPa.  However, I believe that in their case, the majority of that can be attributed to the great improvements Seattle made as a defensive ball club – so I’m not concerned there.  For hitters, I tend to not be concerned about younger players who appear to have “figured it out” – although this is a much more subjective area.  Miguel Montero outperformed in 2009 as compared to his historical BABIP, but he also got more at-bats in 2009 than he had in his entire career up to that point.  Plus, I personally think he’s improved as a hitter (take that, objective analysis!)

On Tuesdays, I will be comparing players’ current year BABIP and BABIPa with their historical data to try and give some extra insight as to whether that .300 hitter will help your title run or if you should probably try to trade him before he implodes.  Of course, we’ll be starting this in May since anything before that would just be pointless due to small sample size, but until then, I’ll leave you with my thoughts on a few guys who deviated from their performance notably last season.

Pitchers to target

Kevin Slowey – 2009 BABIPa of .345, 5-yr BABIPa of .307
Matt Capps – 2009 BABIPa of .360, 5-yr BABIPa of .291
Derek Lowe – 2009 BABIPa of .326, 5-yr BABIPa of .292
Cole Hamels – 2009 BABIPa of .317, 5-yr BABIPa of .284
Ricky Nolasco – 2009 BABIPa of .316, 5-yr BABIPa of .297

Pitchers to Avoid

Randy Wolf – 2009 BABIPa of .251, 5yr BABIPa of .290
Leo Nunez – 2009 BABIPa of .242, 5yr BABIPa of .288
David Aardsma – 2009 BABIPa of .254, 5-yr BABIPa of .289
Edwin Jackson – 2009 BABIPa of .275, 5-yr BABIPa of .305
Huston Street – 2009 BABIPa of .240, 5-yr BABIPa of .265

Hitters to Target

Kelly Johnson – 2009 BABIP of .212, 5-yr BABIP of .290
Geovany Soto – 2009 BABIP of .246, 5-yr BABIP of .305
Ian Kinsler – 2009 BABIP of .239, 5-yr BABIP of .285
Chipper Jones – 2009 BABIP of .287, 5-yr BABIP of .332
Grady Sizemore – 2009 BABIP of .274, 5-yr BABIP of .316

Players to Avoid

Felipe Lopez – 2009 BABIP of .357, 5-yr BABIP of .321
Jason Bartlett – 2009 BABIP of .360, 5-yr BABIP of .325
Michael Bourn – 2009 BABIP of .362, 5-yr BABIP of .327
Rajai Davis – 2009 BABIP of .359, 5-yr BABIP of .325
Casey Blake – 2009 BABIP of .326, 5-yr BABIP of .305

Monday, April 5, 2010

Under the Bright Lights

April 5, 2010

By Bret Sayre

This is always the most serene time of the fantasy baseball season, a time of unbridled optimism.  The league is entirely up for grabs.  Your team hasn’t suffered any crippling injuries, yet.  The player you wanted to take but just decided not to risk the extra dollar on hasn’t completely broken out, yet.  These things will happen.  They happen ever y year.  But not yet.  Right now, the veterans who showed up healthy and in great shape are still healthy and in great shape.  This year’s breakout pitchers are still ready to take the league by storm and make the jump to that next level.  Bounce-back seasons are still in the cards for all of the guys who disappointed you last year.  I’m looking at you, Francisco Liriano.  And most importantly, the sheen on all of the 2010 hyped rookie class is still being generously applied.

This is the focus of our Monday column here at Fantasy Beards.  Each week we will look at all of the callups from the prior week and give you a quick synopsis of who they are, what to expect and how quickly you should rush out to see if they’re available in your league.  Then each player will get two grades, one for a redraft league and one for a keeper/dynasty league – and this is what the rating system should show you:

Redraft (this year)
Keeper (future years)
Above-average starter
Potential superstar, 1st-2nd round pick
League-average starter
Potential above average starter
Good AL/NL-only pickup
Potential average starter
Not yet, but keep an eye on him
Likely to max out as a bench guy
Don't bother keeping an eye on him
Not a prospect

We’ve got a lot of guys starting the year in the majors who either have no MLB experience or spent the majority of last season in the minors.  So let’s focus on the guys who will enter the season with jobs, starting with the most obvious.

Jason Heyward – OF – Atlanta

You’ve heard all of the comps, all of the Bobby Cox gushing and all of the media coronations.  There’s really no need to dig much deeper here.  We’re looking at a huge-ceiling player with an advanced approach at the plate, who by all accounts is a grounded kid who won’t get rattled making the jump to the majors.  However, even the best seasons of “greatest prospect ever” types haven’t been earth-shattering, so don’t set your expectations extraordinarily high for this season.  Also remember that he’ll be starting the season hitting 7th in that lineup, so he probably won’t offer much more than 70 runs scored if he’s up for the whole season.  However, he will be a star.  If he’s available in your keeper league – first of all, you should probably find a more competitive keeper league (trust me, it’s fun) – pick him up immediately.  Seriously, run.

Redraft:  A        Keeper:  A+

Austin Jackson – OF – Detroit

The centerpiece of the Curtis Granderson off-season deal is ready to make his long awaited major league debut, but you’ll have to forgive everyone if there’s less excitement around this than there would have been two years ago.  Jackson’s prospect shine has most definitely dimmed over the last two seasons, but he still has the skill set to be a solid regular for the Tigers (as long as he’s cheap).  It would not surprise me one bit if he became a poor man’s Granderson with a little less slugging, but he may become a drag on your batting average hitting first in that lineup.  I think he’s a near lock for double digit steals and homers, with more upside on the steals.

Redraft:  B        Keeper:  B-

Scott Sizemore – OF – Detroit

It seems like you can’t talk about Jackson without discussing Sizemore as well and for good reason.  They’re both rookies starting for the same club with similar skill sets.  Sizemore should get on base, but may have trouble keeping his average about .250 – of course you’ll have no problem living with that if he can go 15-15 from 2B.  His low average draft position makes him a great stash for your bench because if he hits his potential, you’ve got yourself a good trade chip (whether it’s Sizemore or your drafted starter..)

Redraft:  B+        Keeper:  B

Jaime Garcia – SP – St Louis

One of my favorite sleepers going into the season in NL-only leagues pitched his way into the St Louis rotation this spring, and he’s got the stuff to stay there.  This is evidenced slightly by his 1.93 ERA and 16/5 K-BB ratio in 18 2/3 spring innings.  Now, you’ll also hear that he will only be helped by super pitching coach Dave Duncan, but be careful here.  I’m a little reminded of the case of Anthony Reyes, another solid pitching prospect coming up through the minors, who didn’t quite mesh with Duncan and ended up struggling and consequently being shipped out of town.  I’m not overly worried about this with Garcia, but have it in the back of your mind – Duncan’s masterpieces are generally with veterans, not rookies.

Redraft:  C+        Keeper:  B-

Mike Leake – SP – Cincinnati

Leake is probably the most surprising rookie to find himself with a job coming out of spring training, and for good reason – he’s never thrown a minor league pitch.  Of course, he impressed in his stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2009 and threw down his very polished and heady gauntlet in March.  What you see is what you’re going to get with Leake.  He’s as MLB-ready of a prospect as anyone not named Strasburg from this past season’s draft, and looking at his college stats from last season you’ll see why.  In his junior season, he went 16-1 for Arizona State with a 1.71 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and .193 BAA in 141 IP.  The Cactus League’s version of Butler, overtook the initial favorite (Maloney), the media darling (Chapman) and the minor league pedigree (Wood) to claim the job – and I don’t see him giving it back.

Redraft:  B        Keeper:  C+

Jennry Mejia – SP/RP – New York (NL)

I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like the Mets do anything right and that’s because it’s true, and the decision to turn Mejia into a short reliever is certainly another one of those cases.  Mejia’s got what the scouts love to call a “live arm”, but he’s still only got a very slight idea as to where it’s going.  He’ll probably have some success right away because his stuff is really good, but he’ll run into a wall at some point probably around Memorial Day.  Then they’re going to wish they let him develop as a starter in AA ball.  In fact, I’m downgrading his future potential just because I have no confidence that the Mets front office won’t screw this up.

Redraft:  D        Keeper:  C+

Adam Moore – C – Seattle

Moore is a solid, yet unexciting prospect.  He needs work on his defense and that’s the reason he likely will not start the season getting the majority of the playing time.  However, he will end up with that starting job sooner rather than later, and he’s got the potential to hit at around a .280-.290 clip.  In AL-only and two catcher leagues, he could prove to be an asset even if he doesn’t hit double-digit HRs.

Redraft:  D+        Keeper:  C

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Bearded Thesis

My Bearded Thesis
April 2, 2010

By Bret Sayre

My name is Bret and I love fantasy baseball.  I prefer rotisserie leagues because there are more things in my control.  I prefer auction leagues because none of my favorite strategies work in a snake draft.  I wish the MLB At Bat application on my iPhone worked better.  I have an enormous man-crush on Ryan Braun.  I despise taking players who only steal bases – I’m looking at you, Juan Pierre – even though I know they’re valuable and even sometimes necessary.  I don’t do this for a living, despite what my wife may think.  I take great pride in coming up with analogies that interest me.  I understand that sometimes these analogies only interest me.  I watch a lot of baseball and a lot of it has nothing to do with any leagues I’m in.  I love reading Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America.  I would want to know someone’s leanings and tendencies in the leagues they play in so I could put their advice in context.  I am going to devote the next paragraph to just that.

I don’t keep many major league batters on my bench.  I’m not the type of owner who fidgets with my lineup unless I’m trying to platoon a particular player.  I don’t think I started Jason Kubel once against a left-hander last season in a daily transaction league.  I prefer to fill my bench spots with potential high-impact position players or pitchers who can have a positive impact with the right matchups.  I have Brett Wallace on a lot of my teams because I think he’ll hit right away when he comes up.  I have Andy Pettitte on a lot of my teams because I think he’s almost an automatic start in non-Fenway road games.  I stream pitchers from my bench, not from waivers – and I still need to be cognizant of inning limits in August and September.  I have a full blown man-crush on Ryan Braun.  I may have mentioned that already.  I don’t throw a lot of high draft picks or auction dollars at pitchers, the burn rate is too high.  I like to own as many middle relievers as I can play at once and work my starters into the lineup when they are pitching.

I am the creator of Fantasy Beards, and yes I have a beard.  I plan on having daily content here to help your quest for a championship.  I am also planning on having multimedia content as well for those who prefer that format.  I can be reached by e-mail at or follow me on Twitter (@fantasybeards).  I will answer any fantasy question you’ve got.

My name is Bret and I love fantasy baseball.  Now, let’s have some fun.