Winter Meetings Update: Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes

cespedes land

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There is nothing quite like the Winter Meetings in baseball. Sure, the NFL has the market cornered on amateur draft hype and the NBA has an advantage when it comes to a focus on free agency, but baseball does it right with the Winter Meetings. You get a little bit of everything rolled into one. If I wasn’t a working stiff and I didn’t have family obligations, I would be take the trip every year just to watch the spectacle of it all.

What baseball adds that the other sports do not have with their respective events is the majesty of the trade. You stick 30 general managers in the same place for four days and you are bound to get some deals done, and the 2014 Winter Meetings had more blockbuster deals than any Winter Meetings in recent memory. One of the more intriguing situations came down towards the end of the meetings with Yoenis Cespedes and the Boston Red Sox. [Read more...]

Winter Meetings Update: Miami Marlins Edition

Gordon land

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When you think of the Miami Marlins a number of things come to mind. Most people think of one of the cheapest owners in professional sports. Others might think of fraud or other vaguely legalistic terms. I think of bulimia. No organization has been better at binging and purging over the years than the Marlins. Well, the 2015 version seems to be in full binge mode after a very active Winter Meetings.

In order to capture the full extent of their latest binge we must go back to the record contract given to Giancarlo Stanton.  The star right fielder will earn $325 million through the year 2027 or the apocalypse, whichever comes first. No one can doubt that Stanton was the best position player in the National League last year and he likely would have won the MVP award had he not been beaned in the head with a few weeks left in the season. Even with the slugger and a group of nice young players, no one saw the Marlins as a serious threat until they left the Winter Meetings yesterday. [Read more...]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Generation Next — Catchers

zunino land

Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

Fantasy baseball is forever changing. Of course, in the coming weeks we will see a lot of change. The annual Winter Meetings will commence before we know it and we will see a number of players changing uniforms. We’ve already seen quite a few blockbuster trades go down and the winter meetings haven’t even begun. Yet, this isn’t the kind of change that fantasy baseball players experience on an annual basis. Each position sees players fall down in the rankings and other players rise up the rankings. The players that are able to see those changes before they happen are the ones that hold up the championship trophies at the end of the season. The players that hold onto the memories of great players are the ones that end up in the Mike Trout sweepstakes the next season.

Catcher more than any other position is prone to these wild changes. There are a number of reasons for these changes that are unique to the catcher position. The defensive demands of the position dictate that catchers take longer to develop than any other position. Catchers rarely enter the big leagues ready to dominate. So, it can often seem like they are coming out of nowhere because they might not look like much right out of the gate. Of course, the flip side is also true. The physical demands of the position can zap a hitter of his effectiveness earlier than any other position. Many prominent offensive players have seemingly evaporated out of thin air in their early thirties. Therefore, at catcher, it pays more than any other position to pay attention to the younger players that may come out of nowhere. A look back at 2014 is proof positive of that fact. [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — NL Starting Pitchers

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Jose Fernandez
Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

The senior circuit certainly had their fair share of disappointments on the hill. In most cases, we are talking about pitchers that got hurt and underperformed because of that. Injuries happen, but when players build a track record of good health and performance then it is easy to be disappointed. The fact is that pitchers are more susceptible to injury as they get older. It is one of the many reasons why giving pitchers long-term deals is so risky. Yet, teams continue to do it to their own detriment.

Not all of the pitchers on the list are under long-term contracts or old, but if we have seen anything happening in baseball we have seen a sharp increase in the need for Tommy John surgery (ligament replacement surgery). It seems like every team has at least one major league pitcher or big time prospect that spends most of the season on the shelf. Some teams (like say the Atlanta Braves) have multiple guys on the shelf. Until the sport finds away to curb this trend, it would be wise to be wary of just about every pitcher on the board on draft day.

Jose Fernandez– Miami Marlins

(4-2, 51.2 INN, 2.44 ERA, 70 K, 0.948)

What Happened?

Obviously, the numbers are very good, but Fernandez didn’t even make it to June. He was shut down for the season and had surgery. Most pitchers in his situation are down for 12 months. His tale is a fairly common one. He had a brilliant rookie season in 2013 and therefore was one of the top five starting pitchers off the board. It is a cautionary tale that people should consider before drafting any of this seasons rookie pitchers high up in their draft. Hard throwers like Yordany Ventura are particularly vulnerable. We don’t know why exactly, but experience tells us it’s true. The road back for Fernandez is a bit cloudy because he likely will not be back in Spring Training. So, he might be a waiver claim later.

What about 2015?

If it takes Fernandez a calendar year to come back then he likely won’t be back until June of 2015. Four months of Fernandez is still pretty strong if he is able to approach 2013 numbers, but that isn’t likely based on past experience. Most of the time, it takes a pitcher two years to get back to where he was before the surgery. So, Fernandez might be the Fernandez of old in 2016. That’s good news for guys who have him in keeper leagues, but it does little for you if you are playing in a standard league. Fortunately, the Marlins are improving as a team, so he still might give you decent win and strikeout numbers once he comes back. [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — AL Starting Pitchers

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Justin Verlander
Source: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America

Pitching in fantasy baseball is an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, pitching has never been more dominant at any time in fantasy baseball. Sure, they played some Stratomatic back in the 1960s, but fantasy baseball has only been popular in the internet age. In the internet age, hitting has always been king. That has changed fairly dramatically in recent seasons. The flip side of that trend is the fact that you can count as many as ten prominent pitchers to either get hurt or underperform each season. The end result is that most smart fantasy players have been loading up on position players and simply identifying solid pitchers to add to their rosters later.

Unfortunately, some pitchers still dominate the early rounds of most drafts and some of those guys had some hard seasons in 2014. Like with the position players, players can disappoint because of injuries or lackluster play. The upshot with pitchers is that they are also more susceptible to batted ball luck than position players. So, when we look at the disappointments we need to take special care to determine which category they belong (the injured, the underperforming, or the unlucky).

C.C. Sabathia– New York Yankees

(3-4, 46.0 INN, 5.28 ERA, 48 K, 1.478 WHIP)

What Happened?

C.C. Sabathia represents the downside of relying on pitchers early in the draft. Of course, few picked him that high this year because 2013 represented a down year for him as well. His ERA in 2013 ballooned to a robust 4.78, but he still hurled 211 innings and struck out 175 batters. He also won 14 games as well, so many fans still added him to their regular rotation with the expectation that he would hurl 200 or more innings since he had done it in every season since 2006. Unfortunately, he broke down in May and never came back. [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — Right Field

ryan braun

Photo Credit: By Steve Paluch

Some leagues have five starting outfielders. That means 12-team leagues will employ 60 starting outfielders when they employ those five guys. Even leagues with the standard three starters will see a number of outfielders employed as utility players along the way. So, conservatively, we might be looking at a bare minimum of 15 starting right fielders. We can definitely find a few folks that could classify as disappointments.

The right field crop has it’s fair share of disappointments like some other positions. But we haven’t seen that in the outfield just yet. Sometimes it happens that way. Ironically, the first disappointment is only there because of a position change. It may not be so much about being a disappointment as adjusting our expectations. Pitchers have clearly taken over in the battle between pitching and hitting. Sure, there are still some dominant hitters out there, but we may need to collectively change our expectations of what certain guys will do.

Ryan Braun– Milwaukee Brewers

(.266 AVG, 19 HR, 68 Runs, 81 RBI, 11 SB)

What Happened?

Do you want the snarky answer or do you want a more thoughtful one? The snarky answer involves simply being off the juice and that might be more accurate than we might think. However, I think we have a combination of getting off the juice and the game shifting back to pitching. Braun only played in 135 games. If you gave him the customary 150+ games then we might be looking at 25 HR and close to 100 RBI. So, really Braun wasn’t quite as disappointing as we were led to believe. The difference is that he isn’t the top 10 overall fantasy player he used to be. [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — Centerfielders

We return from a work induced break to continue with the saga of looking at more disappointments from the 2014 season. Of course, this comes on the heels of all of baseball’s awards. Disappointments are an interesting contrast when compared to rookies of the year, Cy Young award winners, and most valuable player awards. Like some other positions, there weren’t very many disappointments in center field. You had to be considered a potential fantasy starter to be considered a disappointment, and there weren’t a lot of those.

We will have to stretch the rules a bit to get in our three disappointments. Fundamentally, this isn’t a big deal because many leagues employ five starting outfielders. In a standard twelve team league, that means that sixty outfielders would end up being starters. In that scenario, we might see as many as twenty center fielders become regulars. Since we have liberally expanded the rules, let’s see what we can find.

Michael Bourn– Cleveland Indians

(.257 AVG, 3 HR, 57 Runs, 28 RBI, 10 SB)

What Happened?

Some things get better with age. Speedy outfielders are not among those. 2014 was Bourn’s age 31 season. A look at classic lead-off hitters shows that they normally lose their speed in their early thirties. The ones that are able to make it are the ones that improvise their games in other ways. They get on base and they score runs. Bourn has never had an OBP higher than .354 and last year it was a paltry .314. He also missed nearly 60 games to injury. When you combine those two factors together you can see what happened to Bourn.

What about 2015? [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — Left Fielders

Carlos Gonzalez

The World Series is officially over, so now teams are entering off-season mode. Unlike past seasons, teams can begin signing free agents five calendar days after the World Series is over. By the time you read this, some teams will be ready to pounce on some of those free agents. One of the temptations for all fantasy players is to read too much into the results from the playoffs. Some players will be overvalued or undervalued depending on how they performed in the postseason. For left fielders, that might be overvaluing Alex Gordon based on his strong postseason performance.

The flip side is to look at players that disappointed in the postseason. We didn’t see many prominent left fielders that struggled in the post-season, but we did see quite a few that struggled in the regular season. The key is to determine whether it was a blip on the radar or a trend we need to pay attention to. The key in November is to keep everything in perspective. Most of us will be drafting again in March, so we have time to let cooler heads prevail.

Carlos Gonzalez– Colorado Rockies
[Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments– Shortstops

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Jean Segura
Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America

As we continue the disappointment train, we find ourselves with the exact opposite problem as we had with the third basemen. It isn’t that we didn’t have shortstops that sucked. It’s that a majority of them were expected to suck, so it is hard to pinpoint the ones that disappointed. In point of fact, at least one of them won’t necessarily look all that disappointing at the outset. Sometimes we just have to shift our collective expectations. This is obviously true at shortstop where there are only a few true legitimate all-star performers. Welcome to the era of the pitcher.

If there is any general theme for 2015 it is that we have to finally shift our perceptions on the balance between pitching and hitting. There are some positions where there are only a handful of dominant performers. After that it is catch as catch can. After players like Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez, most of the guys on the board are going to have some sort of flaw, so you have to pick and choose which flaws you can live with.

Jean Segura– Milwaukee Brewers

(.246 AVG, 5 HR, 61 Runs, 31 RBI, 20 SB)

What Happened? [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — Third Basemen

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David Wright
Source: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images North America

Discussing disappointments at third base could take awhile. There is no position on the diamond that was more underwhelming than third base. It certainly starts with the three names we will look at today, but it isn’t limited to those names. Others may have been more mildly disappointing. Then there is the shadow that was cast by Alex Rodriguez. No, Arod isn’t the dominant force that he was during his prime, but we are talking about a starting quality fantasy third baseman that found himself suspended for the season. The end result was a position where most fantasy players found themselves scrambling for credible performance.

Since it has been a little while since we visited disappointments, we should set up some ground rules. In order to be labeled a disappointment, you had to be a preseason starter in most 12-team leagues. That might be hard at some positions and at least one of these guys will be a borderline case. In another, you will be wondering whether that player’s performance could be truly labeled as disappointing. Perception is reality in these cases, but we have to remember what the perception was in March.

David Wright– New York Mets

(.269 AVG, 8 HR, 54 Runs, 63 RBI, 8 SB)

What Happened? [Read more...]