Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memorial Day Evaluations

Memorial Day weekend for me is the watershed moment where I evaluate my fantasy team and take stock in what I have, what I need and where to go from here. April is too quick to pull any major triggers and you will likely regret any knee jerk reactions to slow or quick starts. By the end of May however, the trends are clear and so is your record. If you are under .500 it is time to make some tough decisions. You will have to trade or or even cut some underwhelming performers. On the flip side, you need to look long and hard at players who are "over-performing" and entertain selling high. Maybe your fast start is due to come crashing down as the summer heats up. Your regular season is 2/5 over in many formats, so it's time to bear down.

Here are some thoughts on players and situations that may help you plan for the next few months.

Patrick Corbin SP ARZ I drafted Corbin in my points league this year as a spot starter and he gave me more than I could have asked for so I dealt him for Brett Lawrie, Michael Bourn and Drew Smyly. Quite a haul for a pitcher who has NO CHANCE of maintaining his current pace. One trend is certain, in his minor league career he always got rocked, then adjusted to the level well before promotion. He is clearly adjusting well the second time around, but his 1.44 ERA and .98 WHIP are due for a correction. Keeper leagues hold on and see what the second half brings. One year leagues, shop around and see what is out there. Someone will overpay.
Matt Harvey SP NYM This is more of an indictment of the Mets being dreadful than anything else, but he too will have some bumps in the road, The Mets offense and bullpen are a joke and will surely start to put some additional pressure on the young stud. His incredible numbers could bring back enough talent to make you a contender immediately in your league. In keeper leagues, you would have to pry him out of my cold dead hand, but you may have seen the best of him in 2013.

Starling Marte OF PIT I also drafted Marte in two separate leagues. I am hanging onto him in roto because of his speed, but I dealt him a week ago in my points league because he still averages a strikeout per game and once the league gets a good look at him he could crash after the break. We have seen many a young talented player get exposed over the years and the ones that bounce back usually have good plate discipline. Marte could become a liability and as an outfielder he is easier to replace than an infielder from a production standpoint.

Justin Verlander SP DET This may be the only time to get Verlander at a reasonable price in the last three years. He is coming off a dreadful start in Texas and a bizarre rain delayed game in Cleveland where he basically got manhandled by one man; Carlos Santana. Hitters are making more consistent contact off Verlander, but he is still a top 3 pitcher in any format and some owners might be panicking that all those innings are catching up to him. His velocity is fine, this is your window to act because next week he faces the Pirates at home. Last time that happened he was inches from a no hitter.
Josh Hamilton OF LAA Hamilton has always been and will always be streaky. He is not the same player removed from Texas (well documents in the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Black Book), but he is better than what he has shown and should have a few hot streaks in him this summer. He was surely over-drafted in your league which means his owner is pissed off and ready to cut bait for the right price. Make an offer, you may be surprised.
AMERICAN LEAGUE THIRD BASEMEN Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas and Will Middlebrooks were all drafted with high expectations and have all hit rock bottom. No worries, they are all worth owning and can be had for next to nothing right now. Moustakas has the best upside in my opinion for '13, Lawrie is a nice option in roto formats with his speed and Middlebooks has great talent around him. All three should be targets as CINF or 3B options in your leagues. Heck you may even get one cheap to plug in a DH/UT slot.

Some teams are in rebuild mode and are clearly heading out of contention. Others had aspirations of October and are already on the verge of becoming irrelevant. What that means is that some prime fantasy studs could be wearing different caps come July and now is the to grab them before their stock rises. Here are some names on their way out the door.
Cliff Lee SP PHI He is still an undervalued player considering his consistency and statistics. The Phillies are without Halladay for most of the year, Hamels has struggled and Utley in on the DL. There was chatter of the Phils dealing Lee last year, but this time around they may have no choice. The Cardinals come to mind as a landing spot since they have a deep farm system and a need for a starter with Jaime Garcia out for the foreseeable future.

Chase Headley 3B SD He is off to decent start after missing key time in the spring, and if he turns it on anything close to what he did last year after the break you have a real difference make here. Headley's power was in question before last season and the Padres will be sure to sell high on him with Jedd Gyorko already capable of manning his spot.The Angels or the Braves could be in the market for an everyday third baseman.
Justin Morneau 1B MIN He may not be the MVP caliber player he was a few years back before concussions robbed him of his prime, but he is could still a useful bat and a change of scenery could do him some good. His power numbers have never been the same since he left the dome. Imagine if Colorado stays in the race what he could do there.

Every year teams wait to call up their big prospects in order to avoid Super 2 status which basically means it gives the clubs more control over the player for a longer period of time. It is not just about talent, it is also about opportunity. Oscar Taveras is incredibly talented, but the Cardinals already have trouble getting at bats for Matt Adams so don't expect him up anytime soon. Here are some players primed for a look in the weeks ahead:
Billy Hamilton OF/SS CIN He got off to a horrendous start but has really turned things around and the Reds have still not been able to fill Ryan Ludwick's vacancy with any consistency. Hamilton is a game changer in reality and fantasy and he likely qualifies at SS in most leagues. His speed is an incredible asset in roto leagues and in points leagues he could score 4-6 points in a night with an 0-3 night.
Zack Wheeler SP NYM The Mets rotation is a mess, the Mets are a mess. The longer Wheeler stays in the launching pad that is AAA Las Vegas in the PCL the more damage will be done to his stock. The Mets plan is to call him up after 2-3 more starts and then he should be up for the rest of the year. He will likely cap out at 175 innings, so don't plan on him helping you in September playoff rounds. In keeper leagues he has serious value.
Kyle Gibson SP MIN He should have been up already, but the Twins are going nowhere so Samuel Deduno will be a place holder for Gibson. He is 100% healthy again and is a better option than 2/3 of the Twins rotation right now. He has good ratios and should be a safe play in match-ups and home starts with spacious Target Field.
Josh Phegley C CWS Who? That's right Phegley! Not much hyper here, but the White Sox catcher situation is dreadful and Phegley has an OPS of 1.051 in the ITL. Catchers are tougher to break in because of the game calling issues and diva starters, but there is only so long you can live with guys like Flowers at the major league level hitting .200 with this guy hovering.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fantasy Dilemmas

Amidst the wins and losses there have been some big headlines in this year's baseball season and fantasy owners have some big decisions ahead of them. Some are injury related, others performance related and still more left for educated guessing based on managers' decisions. Here are some of the more pressing circumstances and some direction on how to approach them from the Fantasy Baseball Black Book.

What to do with Matt Kemp?
Kemp was assuredly a first round talent heading into 2013 despite dealing with injuries the year before. Despite the good press he is getting from his classy gesture to a fan, fantasy owners are starting to lose patience. His OPS is below .700, his average under .275 and he has but 1 (yes 1) home run to show for it all. He is healthy and that is the most important thing. Hanley Ramirez won't be back anytime soon so Kemp must rely on a rebound from Adrian Gonzalez to give him some protection. Still, I would be buying low on Kemp in any and all formats. He may not steal more than 20 bases again since he is more of a run producer at this stage of his career, but he is sure to have a hot streak in him just as staggering as this current cold one. Of you drafted Kemp as your franchise player, you have no choice but to sit tight and wait for the rebound. In the meantime try and add Michael Saunders OF SEA for some immediate help. he has a nice blend of power and speed; or Corey Hart OF MIL, who is returning soon from the DL as insurance should Kemp's struggles linger.

Is Roy Halladay worth holding?
Depending on your format and DL felxibility chances are no. He is heading for another arm surgery and it would be surprising to see him take the mound again in 2013, but anything is possible. Halladay has thrown the 3rd most innings in baseball since 2002 and he has a lot of miles on him. In a keeper format, I would hang onto him if the circumstance and/or contract was amenable. He has an option with the Phillies and would be pitching for his life basically in 2014. Johan Santana's shoulder failed him in the same circumstance this season, but Halladay has a different injury. In one year only leagues, if I owned Halladay I would be fielding low ball offers and see if I could squeeze a Trevor Bauer or Hector Santiago from an owner who wants to gamble on Roy. If you want to pursue Halladay in your league, I would offer a young upside starter without too much track record, but to me the risk is far greater than the reward for this season.

And the Red Sox closer is.....???
First Joel Hanrahan tanked then got hurt. Then Andrew Bailey flourished, stole the 9th inning job and promptly went on the DL. Now, Junichi Tazawa will get a crack. Of the three, Bailey is the one I would want. It seems this injury is not serious and he could return in the 15 day window. He has experience, is in his prime and seems to have the attention of manager John Farrell.

Is there help for your ailing fantasy rotation?
There are a ton of starters coming off the DL in the weeks ahead. John Danks, Matt Garza, Francisco Liriano, Ivan Nova and Colby Lewis. Lewis has the most upside in my opinion seeing as he was the best of this grouping last year and is playing for a contract. he has a great K/BB ratio and should get some nice match-ups in that division. Liriano is intriguing based on the success fellow hard thrower/head case A.J. Burnett has enjoyed since moving to the NL Central. His K rates are always strong though he is prone to implosion. Garza is sure to be dealt if he can string together a solid two months for the Cubs. Danks is a wait and see and Nova is pitching for his rotation spot with David Phelps and Michael Pineda breathing down his neck.

What will the Reds do when Cueto comes back?
Mike Leake is clearly an average/below average starter and Tony Cingrani is obviously a flame thrower with promise. Still, it is unclear who will hold the 5th spot in the rotation when Johnny Cueto returns. The Reds are in "win now" mode and fantasy owners clearly would prefer Cingrani to hold his spot. Considering the fact they put Aroldis Chapman back in the bullpen where he belongs and Leake is comfortable pitching out of the pen I give it 55/45 Cingraini stays over Leake. This is their window and Baker has ridden young horses to the playoffs before with the Cubs. Although we all know what became of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

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