ASK ROTOMAN: Can the DJ Save My Life This Year?

Hey Rotoman!

I am new to a 14 team 6×6 roto. With the standard 5×5 categories plus OBP and K/9. I get to take 8 keepers into the next year. I am one of 3 new owners in this league who got to draft from the abandoned teams. I have DJ LeMahieu for $1, I can put him on contract before this year for a new salary of $6 as contracts add $5 every year. I want to know if I should keep him this year only and no contract for $1 or put him on a 2 or 3 year contract. A two year contract would put his last year of his contract at $11. I am worried that he could get moved out of Coors if Brenden Rodgers comes up next year.

Thanks for your help!
Stagesetting

Here’s the piece of information you need. Last year, LeMahieu went for $10 in Tout Wars mixed auction. That was coming off his breakout season. Now that he’s done it again, his price will go up some, but how much? And does it make it worth the risk of extending him?

First we look at his home road splits. He was great at home last year, and pretty good on the road. In 2015, he was fine at home and not quite so good, but not bad on the road either. That makes the trade talk less worrisome for me.

Still, he’s a guy whose main value is his outsized batting average. While he hit for more power last year, it wasn’t that much more. He could grow in that area, but he might not.

So, I wouldn’t extend him for two years, because that raises his cost too close to his draft day price.

I think you could justify not extending him at all, take the one-year benefit of his cheap price, and move on.

But I think extending him one year gets you the best of both worlds. He’s inexpensive at $6, likely to earn a profit, and maybe a nice profit if he can pull off a third straight career year. And if things go sour, as they sometimes do, you’re not on the line for that much.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Ask Rotoman: Take Two and Get Ready for the Season

Dear Rotoman:

Question for you regarding a couple guys in a Rotisserie Keeper league. 

H=OBP, SLG, R, HR, RBI, SB   P=WHIP, ERA, QS, W, K, SV

10 team league, have two more spots to keep guys. Who would you go with?

Wade Davis-19th round

Billy Hamilton-21st round

Byron Buxton-10th

Joc Pederson-14th

Kevin Gausman-21st

Danny Duffy-19th

Javy Baez-18th

Already keeping

Stras, Thor, Bogaerts, C Seager, Sano. All good value.

Thanks, Rich

Dear Rich,

Mansa_MusaYou are Midas, you are Croesus, you are Gates. You are Tut, you are Mansa Musa, you are Mugabe. You are Buffett, you are Goldman, you are Sachs.

Of course, because you can only keep two of the seven you will be taking a hair cut. Let’s see how these guys are going. I look at Tout Wars, because it was recent and I know where it is. It’s a 15 team league, but that doesn’t really make a big difference in the draft order of major league regulars (though it does in the endgame).

Wade Davis (117), Billy Hamilton (86), Byron Buxton (147), Joc Pederson (161), Kevin Gausman (179), Danny Duffy (109), Javier Baez (113).

How many rounds up do you get?

Wade Davis (+8), Billy Hamilton (+13), Byron Buxton (-4), Joc Pederson (+2), Kevin Gausman (+3), Danny Duffy (+9), Javier Baez (+7).

This is pretty clear cut. Billy Hamilton is a great price. And you have to choose between a starter, Duffy, and a reliever, Davis. I think I’d take Duffy, because he’s going earlier and good starters are harder to find than relievers. But if you decide you need a reliever more than a starter at this point, that’s a fair way to go.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Maas No Maas: The Trouble With Trea Turner

Standup guy Howard Bender sitting down in Half Moon Bay.
Standup guy Howard Bender sitting down in Half Moon Bay.

Everybody’s buddy and fine fantasy baseball analyst, Howard Bender, had a piece in the NY Post this week warning about overestimating Turner this year, the way Carlos Correa was overestimated last year.

That’s good advice in general, and probably as it applies to Turner, but it raises the question of how do you draw the line on a young player with a spectacularly good partial season under his belt.

I looked at hitters who had an OPS+ of 130 or better in the year they lost their rookie status since 1980 (the Roto Era), who had 249 plate appearances or more. Sixty one hitters qualified.

Five of those seasons came in 2016. That would be Corey Seager, Aledmys Diaz, Trea Turner, and the Ryans Shrimpf and Healy. One player, Kyle Schwarber, had a qualifying first season and didn’t play the next. That leaves us with 55 hitters in the pool.

What can we learn from them?

If we sort them from top to bottom based on first year OPS+:

kevinmaasrookiecardThe top 11 had an an OPS+ of 157 in year 1 and an OPS+ of 137 in year 2. Two of this group improved in year two, a man named Trout and another named Greenwell. Three had less than a 130 OPS in year 2: Luke Scott, posterboy Kevin Maas, and Miguel Sano. This group averaged 499 plate appearances.

The next 11 averaged  143 in year 1, and 109 in year 2. One of this cohort, Randy Milligan, improved. Seven had less than a 130 OPS+. Five has less than a 100 OPS+. This group averaged 442 plate appearances.

The middle 11 averaged 137 in year 1, and 116 in year 2. Kris Bryant was the only one to improve. Two were better than 130 in year 2. Only two had less than a 100 OPS+, both at 99, which is why the year 2 average went up for this group. This group averaged 349 plate appearances.

The fourth 11 average 133 in year 1, and 120 in year 2. Ryan Howard and Jason Bay improved. They were also the only two to have an OPS+ the next year better than 130. None of this group has an OPS+ of less than 100. This group averaged 416 plate appearances.

The last quintile averaged 131 in year 1, and 113 in year 2. Josh Hamilton, John Kruk, Lonnie Smith, and Ryan Klesko all improved and had an OPS+ of better than 130. Four hitters had an OPS+ of less than 100. This group averaged 343 plate appearances.

Another way to split these guys into groups would be by plate appearances.

The top quintile averaged 639 plate appearances, with a 151 OPS+ in year 1, and a 137 OPS+ in year 2.

The next group averaged 463 plate appearances, with a 141 OPS+ in year 1, and a 136 in year 2.

The middle quintile averaged 388 PA, with a 138 in year 1, an 85 in year 2.

The fourth group averaged 337 PA, with a 135 in year 1, a 122 in year 2.

The last group averaged just 273 PA, with a 139 in year 1, a 116 in year 2.

All in all, 20 of the 55 players did better than 130 in OPS+ in year 2, 25 did better than 120 OPS+, 33 did better than 110, and 48 did better than 100. That leaves seven true busts, and 30 total who could be considered disappointing.

Eleven of the 20 players who topped 130 in OPS+ had more than 450 plate appearances. Only four of the next 20 players had 450 PA or more.

A final set of ranks, based on percentage of change from year 1 to year 2.

The top quintile averaged 428 plate appearances, posting a 138 OPS+ in year 1, and a 154 in year 2.

The next averaged 508 PA, with 142 in year 1, 131 in year 2.

The middle quintile averaged 415 PA, with a 141 OPS+ in year 1, a 116 in year 2.

The fourth quintile averaged 352 PA, with a 137 OPS+ in year 1, and a 103 in year 2.

The bottom quintile averaged 388 PA, with a 153 OPS+ in year 1, and an 85 in year 2.

Comparing the top half sorted by percentage of change from year 1 to year 2, the top half had 487 plate appearances while the bottom half had 384. The average age of the top half was 23.4 years old, while the bottom half was 24.5. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bottom half hit more homers and stole more bases per plate appearance.

Plate appearances and high OPS+ are the best indicators of a repeat season of top performances for these players, but players of all types do repeat and get better.

So, what happens if we look at only those players with fewer than 450 PA in year 1? There are 37 of them.

Sort them into thirds, and we see that the top two thirds are younger than the bottom third. Older is definitely worse when you’re looking at partial seasons with a high OPS+ in your rookie year.  Or maybe it is better put, younger is definitely better.

So, what do we make of this year’s crop?

Corey Seager and Aledmys Diaz should be the most trusted, because they had the most at bats, but neither had a particularly high OPS+ last year, which is a bit of a warning sign. And Diaz is somewhat older, a reason to distrust.

MG_6917_Trea_TurnerTrea Turner had the best OPS+ last year, but only 324 plate appearances. Still he’s young, which is a positive sign.

Ryan Shrimpf just snuck onto the list at 130 OPS+. He’s 28 years old, very old, and only had six more PA than Turner. He’s neg all the way.

Finally, Ryon Healy is slightly old, with a 135 OPS+, and only 283 PA. Not as negative as Shrimpf, but not as positive as the other guys.

Bonus No. 1: Kyle Schwarber missed last year, but will be back this year after a powerful world series. He’s still young, but is coming off a 130 OPS+ in 2015. He’s a mixed bag until you see him swing.

Bonus No. 2: Gary Sanchez didn’t make the 250 PA cutoff, but in 229 PA last year he put up a monster 168  OPS+. Only Mike Trout and Jose Abreu did better in our 250+ PA cohort. On the other hand, if you look at the cohort of those who didn’t qualify, the only hitters who did better in year 1 were Frank Thomas and Phil Plantier. Both were 22 their rookie year. Thomas followed up his 177 OPS+ rookie year with a league leading 180 the next year, and then 177, 174, 212, 179, 178, 181 in the next six years. Plantier followed his 178 with a 90 and never topped the 122 he had in year 3.

Finally, what to do with all this? Although there is data here, this sort of study is really anecdotal. The sample is small, the results so various as to mock any absolute conclusions. But maybe you read the above and feel differently.

What I think it tells us is that there are players who post a super first season and then repeat. You can’t rule that out for these guys this season.

But as you would expect, extreme performance usually regresses to the mean, so you should not count on a repeat. And you should fear charging ahead taking anyone with such a small performance sample, because the possibility of sophomore slump is always there (except for Corey Seager, right?).

Which is pretty dull and which brings us to Howard’s comment about Trea Turner. He says, “Of course Turner is a great talent, but just doubling his total because he will get twice the at-bats this year is not the proper way to project.”

The trouble with Turner is that even if you regress back his stats you end up with ridiculous numbers. My projection, which doesn’t come close to doubling last year’s numbers is 18 homers, with 49 steals, a modest 93 runs and 68 RBI, with a .307 batting average. In 5×5, that’s worth $37. First-round value.

ZIPS chops more aggressively. It gives Turner 260 more plate appearances than last year and one more homer, three more steals, a .282 batting average and modest 77/66 runs and RBI split. But even that modest projection is worth $29, which is a Top 15 hitter.

Is my projection the median projection? Is ZIPS’? That’s the trouble with Turner. Right now I have him with an NL-only bid price of $27. That’s not going to get him, and paying more isn’t necessarily going to hurt the team that buys him.

So, what you do is you keep bidding. Certainly to $27, maybe to $30. This is a place to read the room. Once you’re at $30 you don’t really want him, but the risk of bidding up the guy who does really want him isn’t huge. I mean, you might end up with Trea Turner!

At that price, that could be trouble, but might not.

Here’s a link to the data, both that which I used and that which I didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

First Base Fantasy Tiers of a Rotoman

Tiers help us group players who are close enough alike in value so we can better see where the talent lies during our fantasy baseball drafts. They’re also a way to talk about player values without relying on draft dollars amounts, which vary depending on a league’s rules.

I’m going through the positions these days, one by one, looking for places where my rankings and prices can be improved. And I share them in hopes they help you, and that if you see something that you think looks wrong you write it up on that player’s page at pattonandco.com.

Or in the comments here. Thanks.

TOP TIER (The best players in the game)

D-backs_first_baseman_Paul_Goldschmidt_takes_batting_practice_on_Gatorade_All-Star_Workout_Day._(28042717673)Paul Goldschmidt is here because he’s always the most valuable first baseman in fantasy leagues. And always will be forever more, or until he gets older and stops running so much and someone better comes along. That’s what happens. A thirty year old can stop running at any time, almost certainly will stop running sometime soon, especially when he’s hauling around 225 pounds or so and some fair height, as Goldschmidt does. Which is a reason to try to lowball, as it were, on him. He’s dropped out of the Top 4 in draft leagues for that reason, which is not a reason to avoid him. But the quality that gives him extra value, the steals, can’t be counted on this year (though it can still be hoped for).

SECOND TIER (Solid players who in any given year might be the best at their position)

It’s very hard to downgrade Miguel Cabrera to the second tier, but that’s the goon squad calling. He’s a marvelous hitter, arguably the best we’ve ever seen, but he’s at an age where the bat has to start a little sooner, or will in short order, and his hitting smarts can only take him so far to offset that.

Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Jose Abreu, and Freddie Freeman are all professional hitters with great on base skills, decent power and (except for Votto) primetime on their side. Votto is older, for sure, but he also has the most stable skill on the planet: He knows when to swing, or not, more often than not. Which makes him an OBP god, and first tier in leagues that use OBP instead of BA. These guys will all be expensive, because they’re reliable as well as good, and they’re most likely worth it. Um, because they’re reliable.

THIRD TIER (Solid, but not quite as accomplished as the tier above)

Most of these guys are boring, fairly reliable but not immune to the occasional bad year. Once upon a time Eric Hosmer looked like he might have the kind of career Freddie Freeman is having, but Hosmer hasn’t quite reached that height. He’s young enough to still have a big career-year type of season in the next few years.

Hanley Ramirez is coming off a fine season, one that followed a disaster, and another that followed what looked like a down year but turned out to be his cue to descend from the superstar stratosphere. He’s got a good high ceiling, but we know how slippery his floor can be.

Wil Myers has one good season under his belt in his so far disappointing career. Though not if you owned him last year. There’s ample reason to suspect that he’s going to have a hard time repeating that, but if he doesn’t there is good reason to think he’ll slot into this group easily.

Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis, and Carlos Santana are all solid veteran hitters. Gonzalez is getting old, Davis has a whole lot of whiff (and power), and Santana makes more contact than Davis but has a lot less power. I’ve got Brandon Belt in this group, too, though he could easily be in the next one. Injuries have made him unreliable, even if his power is real.

FOURTH TIER (If they’re solid, they’re flawed, if they’re less flawed they’re flaky)

Tommy Joseph is flaky. He was called up, played 101 games last year, and hit for power. As a prospect he was a hit-first catcher whose career as a backstop was derailed by shady defense and too many concussions, which cost him playing and development time. I think he’s going to hit for power and be able to make enough contact to be solid, but there is a decent chance he’s got a hole somewhere in his swing that ML pitchers are going to figure out how to exploit, and that could be a problem. But for right now, he’s the Phillies full-time power-hitting first baseman.

Chris Carter, and Lucas Duda are big guys with lumbering games and some dark clouds in their recent pasts. Solid enough, but not to pay up for. These are guys to settle for if the best first basemen are too expensive. This is assuming that Carter will play regularly, either for the Yankees or someone else this year. As the reigning home run champ he’s be a lock, but see, he’s flawed.

Josh Bell is also somewhat big and lumbering, but he’s young and coming instead of desperately trying to tread water. He showed last summer that he belongs in the major leagues as a hitter, but he is plagued by lack of defensive value, to say the least, and lack of a home run stroke, to hit the nail on the head. He should play this year, he’s a top prospect, and he should produce a fine batting average, but right now he looks a little like James Loney without the good glove. Hard to see how that plays in the long run.

TIER FIVE (Limited expectations from platoonists, the contact challenged, the unknown)

In a 12-team mixed league, these guys don’t get rostered. In a 15-team mixed you hope to get your choice for a buck. But in an AL or NL only league, these guys can be gold, because they don’t cost much and they might earn a profit. In order of slight preference:

Justin Bour, Eric Thames, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, CJ Cron, and Mitch Moreland are professional hitters with successes in their past (though Thames’ were mostly in Korea), who will help in a deep league if they’re not paid too much. And have little chance of a big season, which should motivate you to stay cheap. Cron would be a Tier Four guy, if he wasn’t blocked by Luis Valbuena at first base and Albert Pujols at DH. Napoli had his huge season last year. Thames is intriguing because of the giant numbers he put up in Korea.

TIER SIX (The crummy and the unproven)

Matt Adams, John Jaso, Kennys Vargas, Marwin Gonzalez, Yonder Alonso, Adam Lind, Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Rodriguez, Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds, James Loney, Justin Smoak. These guys are crummy. They occasionally have a good year, as Mark Reynolds did last year, but generally they struggle for playing time, they pop an occasional homer, and then struggle for playing time anew. Even when they’re decent, as Marwin Gonzalez has been the last two seasons, they are always in danger of being replaced, have to scrap for playing time, and may not get it. Sean Rodriguez is out for the season after labrum surgery.

AJ Reed, Greg Bird, Jefry Marte, Dae-ho Lee, Dan Vogelbach. These guys are unproven. Each has a story.

Reed was supposed to break out last year and win a regular job, but was instead superseded by Alex Bregman and struggled in the chance he got. The Astros now have Yulieski Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez at first, as well as Tyler White. I’m still a believer, but at least some of that thinking is magical.

Bird missed all of last year after shoulder surgery, and struggled in the AFL, which is understandable given his rust. The Yankees have now signed Chris Carter, who would seem to slot in ahead of Bird at first this year, probably, and may mean Bird will start the year in Triple-A working to regain his game. He will be a major league regular, eventually, with some chance that he’ll be a contributor this year.

Marte did a good job last season hitting for power in limited at bats, but starts this year behind Yunel Escobar at third base. Even if Escobar were to go down, Luis Valbuena might move across to third from first, and block Marte again. He could conceivable see few at bats, or spend time in the minors, but still, I sense deep sleeper potential here on a bad team that has no reason not to try to develop their future.

Lee is old, and is looking for a job in his second major league season. The Korean import seemed to show excellent platoon power and contact abilities, on the short side, but the Mariners kept finding ways to bench him. He’s here so that we don’t forget him, in case he does sign with a team that really has a need for a good bat against lefties.

Vogelbach is the guy who pushed Lee to the curb in Seattle. He has the terrific ability to draw walks and the corresponding ability to strike out. Alas, he doesn’t have a big power stroke, though some believe that will develop. A good spring could drive his price up, a bad one could knock him from the board.

Names for reserve lists, or guys you might like to move ahead of some listed above are Mark Canha, Tyler Austin, Chris Parmelee. Or not.

You can read about Catchers here.

 

 

ASK ROTOMAN: Licensed to Ill Edition! Tillman or Miller for Final Keeper?

Dear Rotoman:

American League, 5 X 5, OBP

We can keep 10 and I have the following as keepers:

  • Bregman 7
  • Odor 9
  • Sano 7
  • Cain 15
  • L. Martin 10
  • A. Sanchez 10
  • Duffy 7
  • Gausman 7
  • Porcello 5
  • And either Tillman 4 or Brad Miller at 11

I like the idea of Tillman at the cheap price so I can go into the draft with 5 undervalued starting pitchers. On the other hand (I sound like Tevye), Miller gives me roster flexibility, especially if he is slated for starting at 2B. I went with Martin over Tillman and Miller because of the scarcity of stolen bases. Who would you keep—Miller or Tillman?

“Licensed to Ill”

Dear Ill:

First off, while it looked like Miller was going to play first base for the Rays, after they signed Logan Morrison he seems to have slid over to second. Since already qualified at SS, that isn’t a big deal, but it is a deal.

Second off, Tillman is literally ill, if you consider shoulder problems and illness as well as an injury. He had one of the enriched plasma injections in his shoulder in December, which is supposed to fix him up, but he is now reportedly three weeks behind schedule on his recovery. I’m not sure when in December he had the surgery, but let’s say he had it the first week. It is now 10 weeks later, at best, and he’s three weeks behind where he was supposed to be. We have six weeks of training camp ahead, and he’s living like it’s mid January, and recovering like it’s early March. And it ain’t. I would be concerned about that.

Finally, I have Martin as a $15 player in 5×5 BA, and Miller at $13, so in my book you have your pecking order right there. In OBP both are less valuable. I have Tillman at $10, pre injury concerns. That made him a slightly better keep based on price and ROI when he was healthy, but now he’s in doubt. Could he still be the better keeper?

license-to-ill-gatefold
Gatefold metaphor for Chris Tillman’s 2017 season? Could be.

Given what we know right now, I’m going to have to knock a few bucks off of Tillman’s price. The chances that he falls farther behind in his rehab program are significant, as are the chances that his situation will deteriorate completely. That’s a lot of risk of no return, or even worse, negative return for your $4.

So, better the Beastie in hand, than the Beastie who hobbles.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Tracks of Rotoman’s Tiers at Catcher 2017

People say I’m the belle of spring training
Because I answer questions here
And I won’t say I’m ever complaining
Because I have readers, words, and good beer.

But take a good look at my face
Gary Sanchez might be out of place
If not it’s easy to displace
Devin Mezz-or-a-co.

The process of getting the Patton $ Online projections and prices out the door is iterative. I make different lists and try to locate rankings and projections relationships that don’t make as much sense as they should, and then I change them.

The more I wash-rinse-repeat, the more I fix things. I’ll be the first to admit that while my formulas capture a lot of “talent” in the stats, quirks in playing time, age, injury and development, as well as nutty performances, can screw things up a little, and sometimes a lot. Massaging the projections and prices manually leads to better overall results always.

This week I’m going to be going through the tiers position by position, and see what’s what. Feel free to follow along and comment if you see something awry, on the player pages at pattonandco.com. (Feel free to comment here, if you prefer, but I find the pattonandco.com player pages a better way to chat about players, with more people who know more things about them.)

busterposeyTOP TIER: Buster Posey

Some are bumping Jonathan Lucroy into Posey’s league, partly because Posey himself dropped down into the area where you might expect to find a healthy Lucroy this year. My take is Buster bounces back up a little after a down year, and LuCroy, who is older, coming off two down years, doesn’t bounce back up quite so far. Even in Texas. And even if Posey hangs tight where he was last year, Lucroy is no lock to catch up to him. Buster stands along, at least for one more year.

 

TIER TWO: Jonathan Lucroy, JT Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Sal Perez

These guys are good hitters, have some power, and Realmuto has some speed to make up for the power he doesn’t quite have as much of. I can see any of these guys having a year as good as Posey’s, if they get a little lucky. Each could be a disappointment, too. The challenging question here is why Sal Perez and Willson Contreras are in this tier and Evan Gattis and Yadier Molina are in the next one. For me, it’s all about youth and playing time. Perez and Contreras are in the prime of their youth, while Gattis and Molina are moving past it.

TIER THREE: Gary Sanchez, Yadier Molina, Evan Gattis, Stephen Vogt, Brian McCann, Welington Castillo, Yasmani Grandal

So, why is Sanchez down here, and Contreras in the level above? For me it’s about the hit tool. Contreras has it, for sure, which should make him a better bet to improve this year and a better bet not to struggle. Sanchez was incredible last year, and he should get a chance to play even if his batting average falls some because of his good batting eye (Contreras has a pretty good eye, t00), but as his average falls so will his value, even if he hits a lot of homers. That makes him extra valuable in OBP leagues. And if he doesn’t hit as many homers and struggles out of the box? That makes him a little riskier. Not that his struggles are a sure thing, but you have to be aware of them. The rest of these guys are veterans, each with a pretty good track record, but Yasmani Grandal resides here as a reminder of how Sanchez might struggle going forward.

TIER FOUR: Matt Wieters, Devin Mesoraco, Russell Martin, James McCann, Yan Gomes, Derek Norris, Wilson Ramos

One of these guys is really not like the others. That would be Wilson Ramos, who had a terrific 2016 and would be ranked in Group 2 or 3 except that he is rehabbing from ACL and meniscus surgeries late last year. He has said he’ll be ready in May, as a DH. If that’s true he might end up in Tier 3, but the initial prognosis had him back at mid-season, and catchers rehabbing knees have an extra long way to go. I’m bidding him as a half season of a $14 player, considering last year a career year given his past history and age. One other player with caution. Yan Gomes was hurt last year, and the year before. He looks like he should bounce back to being a decent power-hitting catcher with a challenged batting average, but the longer a player struggles with injury the more chances there are for other things to go wrong.

FINAL TIER: Some of these guys will do well, some will crash and burn, or fade away. And the problem is that opportunity isn’t going to be the difference maker. These guys earn their checks with their gloves, for the most part. If they hit, good for their teams, good for their families, great if they’re up for a new contract next year, but if they don’t they likely still have some playing time left. And that can be a double-edged fantasy sword. Still, they should be cheap, and there is some chance

Travis D’Arnaud had Tier Two potential once upon a time, and could land in Tier Three this year if all goes well. But all hasn’t gone well for him, he has a chronic and degenerative hip condition, and that makes him a tough guy to bet on to stay healthy.

Cameron Rupp is coming off a pretty good season, but he probably isn’t really quite that good and he’s blocking, right now, one of the best catching prospects in the game. Will he get a full season? Will he be able to hit .250 again? A lot of questions here, which should knock down his price.

Jett Bandy has a cool name and hits fly balls, which might make him a power hitter at some point. Right now he’s a somewhat wild and undisciplined hitter and better as an idea than an offensive weapon, which he’s going to need to be to continue to earn playing time.

Tucker Barnhart came up as a defense-first catcher, and hit enough when called on last year to remain a viable option if Mesoraco gets hurt again. Or should I say when Mesoraco gets hurt again. But he doesn’t have enough power to be a real force, and there is a good chance he won’t hit .250 again. Which makes playing time concerns disqualifying except late in the endgame.

Sandy Leon did something really silly last year, something that shows you just how misleading baseball statistics can be, at least in a small sample. And good for him. He’ll always be able to say he hit .300. But he’s not hitting .300 again. Doubtful he has another .250 season in him. He is a good defensive catcher and will get some at bats, which in a normal year (unlike last year) would not be a good thing for your fantasy team. The reason he is here is that he hit the ball a lot harder last year than in the past. That sort of thing persists for the best hitters, but fluctuates for the bad ones. There is some chance he could have gotten better last year, which makes him a fair endgame play.

Austin Hedges hasn’t hit in the majors yet, in short stints the last two years, and he comes with the reputation of a good field no hit catcher. Still, he put up breakout numbers in bandbox El Paso last year, good enough for an MLE of .268 and 15 homers in 350 at bats. Don’t bet the gardening budget on that this year, but he should be cheap and if he does do that he’ll be a fantasy plus.

Francisco Cervelli is what he is, to coin a phrase. Good defender, not a total zero with the stick. Totally uninteresting.

Miguel Montero had some good years in Arizona, but he’s not the best catcher on the Cubs and so is unlikely to get enough at bats to contribute much.

Nick Hundley is in a similar position in San Francisco, which will also not have the juicy effect that playing in Coors had.

Tom Murphy! An interesting young catcher who should get a shot at playing time, and may have the bat to contribute, especially playing in Colorado. There’s a good chance he’s going to strike out so much it will be hard for him to stay in the lineup, so take advantage of his low price and hope he figures out how to keep the power while working with a shorter swing.

Tony Wolters was a bit of a nifty pickup last year, because he hit a few homers and stole a few bases. The problem was that three of those steals came in two games in mid April, when he was probably not active for anyone, and after that he didn’t steal another until July. Not cool Tony. Playing time this year is going to depend on just how interesting Tom Murphy turns out to be. There should be enough AB for Wolters to have a couple more good games running, which makes him a viable second catcher, and if Murphy stumbles an uptick is, well, an uptick in PT.

Kurt Suzuki arrived in Minnesota as a no-hit catcher and leaves as a no-hit catcher, but in between had some decent seasons with the bat. Surprising! He might help the Braves this year, in real life, but likely playing mostly against lefties isn’t going to play enough to be more than a fantasy placeholder.

Tyler Flowers will face righties in Atlanta, and will continue to have the career that Tom Murphy seems on track for. Good power, but lots of swings and misses.

Jorge Alfaro is the top catching prospect in the game right now. Fortunately for Cameron Rupp, Alfaro has been contact challenged coming up, which might buy Rupp more time as a starter. Fortunately for Alfaro, Rupp hit enough last year that the Phillies can let Alfaro mature at his own pace. Once Alfaro starts to hit, however, he’ll get the call up and Rupp will sit down.

Jason Castro landed in Minnesota, and has a shot at lots of at bats unless John Ryan Murphy surprises. He’s been pretty feeble the past couple of years, but does have some slight success in his past.

Less Than Zero Tier: John Ryan Murphy, Tomas Telis, Chris Iannetta, Mike Zunino, Josh Phegley, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila, Tony Brown, Dioner Navarro, Geovanny Soto, Carlos Perez, Andrew Susac, Austin Barnes, Brayan Pena, Chris Herrman.

These guys are likely to be negative earners if you play them all year in leagues that value opportunity cost at -$4, as I do. If you don’t they’ll probably on average earn a buck each, and a few have a chance to do better than that if there are at bats for them. If you pay a buck for one of these guys and earn $5 you’ve got yourself a steal.

Mike Zunino deserves special mention. He has terrific power, but he also has an amazing swing-and-miss stroke and not great plate discipline. He’s earned a total of $12 the last three years, including a $5 and $9 year. But his bat is so weak when it isn’t blasting, and his organization knows it and is troubled by it, that he isn’t going to be on any sort of long leash. The minors is always a little breeze away for Zunino. Worth a dollar, could be a great addition to a team dumping BA, but could also see 60 at bats and a bus ticket to Korea. Good luck with that.

 

Rotoman is the Twins GM!

For the second year in a row Brian Joura of Mets360.com asked me to participate in his GM Simulation.

Here’s the deal: 30 baseball writers are given the rosters of the major league teams and are asked to simulate the offseason. For the second year in a row I had the Twins.

joe_mauer_by_keith_allisonLast year, I dumped Joe Mauer, saved some money and improved the team.

This year, I made more like the real Twins and made Mauer the (downcast) face of the organization. All that money spent on a mild-mannered first baseman who is no Superman made improving the team difficult, but maybe having Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier and lots of other young talent will be enough.

I put down some notes about my plans and how I executed them here, at Brian’s site.

You’ll find the comments of other owners on the project page.

I encourage your comments about my moves and everyone else’s. I’m not an expert on the Twins farm system, but it seemed to me there might be enough talent in Gonsalves and Stewart to shore up the rotation if the hitters came through, but that’s far from a sure thing. What is for sure is that there wasn’t the money to buy a better starter than what we already had.

 

 

ASK ROTOMAN: Whither Matt Harvey?

Obviously there is something wrong with Matt Harvey, so is it too soon to drop him? As of right now Josh Tomlin, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are available.

My Pitchers are Bumgardner, Syndergaard, Harvey, Stroman, Vince Velasquez, Smyly and Wacha.

“Hardly Harvey So Far”

DSC_0163_Matt_HarveyYour question came in as I was reading Eno Sarris’s excellent take on Harvey at FanGraphs on Friday.

Eno takes a look at Harvey’s velocity, movement and command in the past, compares them to his recent struggles, and concludes, um, that if he pitches a little better he might get much better results. If that sounds like weak analysis, it isn’t at all. It’s nuanced and precise about a process that is nuanced but with a broad range of variable outcomes, not all of which actually have any precise cause.

That, I know, doesn’t help much. You have a floundering pitcher (with a rich and productive history) who is hurting your team. So you need to know whether you should make a move now. How likely is Harvey to bounce back, and when?

Here are a few things I know.

The Mets were concerned enough to consider sending Harvey to the minors, push back his next start, or take everything out of his locker and burn it. Really!

John Smoltz reported last week that he’d studied the issue of young pitchers who appear in World Series, and discovered that many suffer a fall off the next season. Now, there are some issues with that. Harvey isn’t that young, for one, and one would assume young pitchers are generally pitching in the World Series because they had a better than average year. As we know, pitchers who have had a better than average (for them) year will usually have a not as good year the next year. This is what is meant by the expression regression to the mean. So, I’m not sure about Smoltz’s study, but I am sure that Harvey was on an innings limit last year for a reason, that for a different reason he blew through it, and as Eno points out, his velocity is down this year (at least some of the time, though Eno also points out that you might expect that to happen to a pitcher who is entering his 27th year).

Pitchers spend their careers making adjustments as their physical abilities change. It’s tempting for us to look and see consistency as a virtue, but in most cases pitchers succeed with consistent performance, not necessarily consistent tools. Presumably, Harvey is working hard now to adapt to these small changes (he has a similar issue with his slider, Eno notes), and has the skills and mindset to do so.

Given that, it seems to me there’s a pretty fair chance he’s going to be better than he’s been thus far. And while his ERA has been a disaster thus far, some of that appears to be a product of an elevated BABIP and diminished LOB rate. If his actual ERA were the same as his FIP (3.62) or xFIP (3.84) you probably would be more patient with him. His failures, in that case, wouldn’t seem quite so dire.

Not so long ago I looked at how well regarded pitchers performed after a slow start. The upshot was that they generally performed better, and some actually perform as well as was expected of them in the preseason, after they get past the rough patch. So there is hope.

The upshot from all this? I kind of wish I owned Matt Harvey.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Rotoman Speaks, with Joel Henard and Mike Hilbig!

On blogtalkradio this week, having fun.

ASK ROTOMAN: Quantity Quality for Quality Quality?

Rotoman:

Would you trade Shelby Miller and Sonny Gray for Clayton Kershaw?

“Arms Race”

Dear AR:

There is no answer to this question. No thoughtful answer, anyway. You’ve left out an important component: Who replaces Gray when Kershaw replaces Miller?

Without that piece of information it’s impossible to judge the wisdom of this deal. The answer is different if the missing sub is Mark Buehrle or Noah Syndergaard or Bartolo Colon or Jose Fernandez. See what I mean.

Or, since you asked what I would do, I would trade Miller and Gray for Kershaw because I’ve got Jordan Zimmermann on reserve right now. But I don’t know what you’ve got.

But let’s say you don’t have JZ on reserve. Let’s say you would acquire Kershaw and replace Gray with a replacement value starter. That’s a $1 player, expected to earn $1. If that’s the case than you would want Kershaw to be better than the Miller and Gray combined.

So far this year that’s not the case. So far this year Gray is on pace to earn $40 and Miller is on pace to earn $44, while Kershaw is on pace to earn $16.

But you’re not buying pace in your trade, you’re buying future performance. Preseason expectations for the three were starkly different. Tout Wars Mixed Auction paid $36 for Kershaw, and $17 combined for Gray and Miller.

So, you have three questions to answer:

Clayton-Kershaw1Can Kershaw return to form? Of course he can. He’s throwing about as well as he has in the past, but he’s allowed homers on fly balls at twice the rate as last year, and well above his career mark. Still, he’s allowed six homers in 60 or so innings. Last year he allowed nine in 190. That costs runs. He still excels in every category except BABIP. There is some speculation he’s tipping his pitches. There is other talk that he’s throwing too many first pitch strikes, and hitters are swinging earlier in the count to avoid the slider. Hard to say for sure, but both of those things are both small potatoes and fixable. He’ll be fine.

How good is Sonny Gray? Good, but not quite this good. He’s a ground ball pitcher, so it isn’t surprising he hasn’t allowed many homers. But he’s allowed homers on only three percent of fly balls. That number is lower than Kershaw’s rate last year, and should rise to closer to 10 percent. With homers, again, come runs allowed, and the ERA and Ratio will go up.  Gray looks to me like a $25-30 pitcher, which is plenty good.

And what the heck is up with Miller? I’ve often wondered why people give Miller such a bum rap, and have been pleased that so far he’s been showing that I’m right and everyone else is wrong. But it isn’t really true, I’m afraid to say. Nick Lampe at Beyond the Boxscore does a good job of killing the straw man of Shelby Miller’s Cy Young Award candidacy this year, one I wasn’t arguing for, but what matters to you is whether Miller can sustain his $40 season, or whether he’s going to regress to the $2 expectations. Like Kershaw and Gray, Miller hasn’t allowed many fly balls. He’s also allowing few line drives and is getting lots more soft contact than ever before. We don’t know if that’s because he’s taking a new approach or getting better results with his old approach. He changed teams in the offseason and is working with new coaches, which can sometimes make a difference. He’s throwing more cutters and fewer curve balls, which can make a difference, too. Still, he’s not an elite strikeout guy and his control is fine, not great. Even if he gets lots of ground balls, as he has been, he’s going to give up more runs. But that might make him a $15 to $20 pitcher the rest of the way.

Hmm. $25 for Gray plus $15 for Miller equals $40 for Kershaw. If you have a strong replacement for Miller, make the trade. If not, you’re likely treading water unless you land a waiver wire find.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature