ASK ROTOMAN: Which Two of Four Should I Keep? With Why Not Mike Moustakas Bonus Discussion.


Just have a keeper question. I need to protect two of these four. Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Gregory Poblano, or Mike Moustakas. It’s a head to head league. Thanks!!!

“Half and Half”

Let’s be systematic.

Carlos Gonzalez is a huge power hitter when he’s healthy and on, as he was for about six weeks last summer, but he’s often injured and is aging.

Matt Kemp has aged.

Gregory Poblano has fiery warmth, a smooth peppery heat. Gregory Polanco, on the other hand, is a speedy talented outfielder with some power, and at 23 has headroom.

Mike Moustakas is a power-hitting third baseman who is coming into his prime.

I currently have their prices as $26, $22, $25, and $16 respectively. That makes it pretty plain that Gonzalez and Polanco are your best bets, especially since injury prone players are not as risky in shallow 12 team mixed leagues as they are in deeper formats. But my heart aches for Mike Moustakas, who almost earned as much as Kemp last year, so let’s take a closer look.

moustakas-freeWe’ve been following Mike Moustakas for a long time. He made his way up through the minors at what felt like a slow pace. Looking at his stat history, however, it looks like he was always moving forward toward promotion. Maybe that’s the difference between foresight and hindsight.

What I think was true was that Moustakas started slower than he finished at each level, and worked hard and got better. And last year, after a terrible 2014 season with the stick, Moustakas became a bona fide major league third baseman (with a World Series championship, to boot).

Looking at all the components to his performance last year, it can be said to be a typical Moustakas season, but with an uptick in more and harder contact. That is, he hit the ball more, and when he hit it he more often hit it harder. This looks to me like a genuine improvement by a young hitter who is known for working hard and improving during his way up through the minors. This makes me think he might have set a new baseline, not established a new peak performance, which is why I’m going to be aggressive about him this year.

I still can’t recommend keeping him in your situation, even if he plays a scarcer position than outfield. Cargo comes with the injury risk, but he’s a much more powerful hitter if he stays healthy. And Polanco is young and valuable now, with potential to grow into more power and more effective base stealing.

Go with them.


CHOOSE: Jordan Zimmerman, Travis Wood, Derek Holland

Jordan Zimmerman

A reader from Colorado wants to know who to favor.

I think it’s fair to say that Zimmerman and Wood are both faves this year among the fantasy cognoscenti. Holland has good stuff but his career has thus far been defined by his failures. Seems to me he’s a good bet to change that this year, too. How do I rank these guys?

Zimmerman was once a phenom and is now a Tommy John surgery survivor. He looked good in limited action after he returned last August. He’s healthy, he seems to know how to pitch, the real question is whether he will stay healthy, and what growing pains he will be subject to his second time through (as they say).

Wood was as successful in the majors last year as he’d been in Triple-A before being called up. He was a second round pick in 2005, not as much a phenom as Zimmerman, but he’s pitched well at every level. One knock is his size. At 5’11 and 170 pounds he’s not your classic scout’s choice. His GB/FB ratio last year was .66, not a nice number for a lefty in a right-handed hitter’s homer ballpark.

Holland’s got more major league experience than Zimmerman or Wood, combined, and has experienced more failure, too. He allowed 26 homers in 135 innings in 2009, his ML debut with Texas. A variety of injuries early last year limited his opportunities, but he allowed less than one homer per nine innings pitched overall, a very helpful sign while pitching in Texas. In his starts last year, however, he allowed six homers in 46.2 innings, and in his career has pitched better in relief than as a starter. I’m not sure that means anything for a guy entering his 25th year, but I’m certainly not saying it doesn’t.

FWIW, last year Zimmerman earned -$3, Wood earned $9, and Holland earned -$1. Those are single-league prices, of course. In the Guide this year I have them priced at $10, $12, and $3 respectively, and for now I’m going to stick with that. I’ll pay that but not more.

Young, talented but untested starters like these are a good place to find breakouts, and there is great excitement in signing this year’s hot young starter, but they also offer wise guys a place to invest a lot of money and lose all of it in a hurry. I think Zimmerman and Wood are going to go in the teens in NL leagues, and Holland could reach double digits with a good spring. That’s fine by me, someone else can take the risk. Much as I like Zimmerman and Wood this year, and I do a lot, it’s a mistake to push their prices up.

The sweet spot in young talented pitchers is volume. Get as many as you can as cheaply as you can and see what sticks. (The funny thing is that in mixed leagues these guys are all marginal, so you might be able to sign them for a buck or two or three. Late in the game, that’s a good signing with upside when you know there will be boring but somewhat reliable veterans to pluck off the waiver wire if you guess wrong.)

Dreaming of J.P. Arencibia

JP Arencibia

The Blue Jays flipped Mike Napoli (for Frank Francisco and a million bucks), have they really given the everyday catching job to JP Arencibia?

Since the immediate alternative is the least best Molina in baseball (that would be Jose), the answer appears to be yes.

Is that a wise move?

When we were putting the Guide together last November, my assumption was that Arencibia would win the starting job. He was coming off a year in which he hit 32 minor league homers (albeit in Las Vegas in the PCL), and drew a decent number of walks compared to past performance Still, I gave him a price of $3 because there were some big questions.

For one, the MLE of his .301 BA in the PCL last year is .231, with an OPS of .716 (according to the Baseball Forecaster). This isn’t a projection, but a translation of last year’s numbers to a major league context.

Plus, despite reported improvement last year as a backstop, defense hasn’t been the strong part of his game. Presumably, the Jays are looking at 2011 as the year Arencibia learns to work a major league game, deals with major league pitchers, and gets settled in. This is a time, I would expect, when he’s going to be told to focus on his defense, and do his best with the bat. Whatever that may be. If it’s not much, no one is going to be concerned because he’s concentrating on catching. Well, you’re going to be concerned if you’ve paid real scratch to get him on your roster.

He’s got real power and I’m certainly not swearing that he’s going to fail, but there’s a real chance that he’ll get off to a bad start (I mean a bone-clanking big-whiffing disaster of a start to the season) and the club will be forced to demote him. So I’m saying, bid lightly. If you can grab him for $3, or if you have to reach to $5 for him, it may well work out, but if you bid assuming he’s good for 20 homers and a batting average that won’t destroy you, there’s a good chance you will be destroyed.