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May 29, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Stud Outfielders

AP Photo/Paul Beaty

Coming into the year most fantasy experts assumed it would be a deep field for Outfielders. Many proven veterans were still performing at elite levels while younger outfielders were emerging as full time players. This has held true throughout the 1st half of the 2008 MLB season, but some of the top end talents have not put up the expected numbers. Meanwhile some unexpected studs have came out of no where to lead outfielders.

Top 5 Surprise Stud Outfielders

5. Ryan Ludwick (St. Louis Cardinals) - .333 avg, .413 obp, 13 home runs, 32 runs, 39 RBI. Batting behind Albert Pujols really means something, clearly. We have seen other Cardinals players batting around Pujols have career paces for a time (like Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan). Can Ludwick keep it up? He had a solid season last year in St Louis with 300 quality at bats with 14 home runs and a .267 average. As the #13 player in the Yahoo! fantasy game you will want to ride this as long as it lasts. He seems to have the talent and while he won't bat .360 like he has the past month, you can expect a solid outfielder who looks to be a solid bet for 30 home runs and close to a .300 average.

4. Ryan Church (New York Mets) - .309 avg, .376 obp, 9 home runs, 34 runs, 32 RBI. Ryan Church is another guy who is the beneficiary of a quality lineup around him. Prior to this season with the Washington Nationals he had shown flashes of power, but this season he has shown he can hit for average as well. People were talking about that trade with the Nationals / Mets as a heist for the Nationals, but Lastings Milledge has not produced even close to Church so far. That said you will probably want to expect a dip in Church's stats from here on out but that still is a career best for him.

3. Nate McLouth (Pittsburgh Pirates) - .311 avg, .397 obp, 12 home runs, 43 runs, 39 RBI, 5 SB. This guy has cooled down a bit otherwise he might be #1 here. McLouth's first month was wild as he was #1 overall at times, but has since cooled down with his average but he has been consistent providing solo home runs still. Another guy who's stats will begin to go down probably, as his average is already slipping. But since Pittsburgh plays him so much and he started off so well, he will still compile quality all around roto statistics by the time the year is finished.

2. Carlos Quentin (Chicago White Sox) - .296 avg, .402 obp, 14 home runs, 35 runs, 47 RBI, 4 SB. Here is a player who just needed a fresh start after not being able to stay in the lineup for the Diamondbacks earlier in his career. In Chicago he is in a masher's lineup so he is protected in the middle of the order and has been driving in a ton of runs, like the guy below. Not only that but he has had clutch home runs, defeating John Lackey and the Angels all by himself the other day. His .402 obp is not a fluke as he has had a great eye for a long time and at this point 30 home runs 110 RBI looks like it might be a light projection.

1. Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers) - .324 avg, .369 obp, 13 home runs, 35 runs, 58 RBI. Josh Hamilton is absolutely tearing up the American League since he joined the Texas Rangers. He has never walked much as evidenced by his obp but he has so much raw talent swinging the bat that it does not matter. Like Quentin, Hamilton has won a few games himself off of clutch home runs. The 58 RBI speak for itself, leading an upstart Texas Rangers club with guys in front of him like Kinsler and Michael Young getting on base. It is just a matter of staying healthy for Hamilton who has suffered from multiple injuries throughout his career.

These guys were all off the map for the OF's in early April drafts. Some of these players were probably picked up off the waiver wire in your leagues, especially Ludwick.

May 27, 2008

Jay Bruce AAA OF Cincinnati Reds

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

It got to the point where it was just a matter of when the Cincinnati Reds would callup star AAA prospect Jay Bruce to start his major league clock. Jay Bruce has started off the season batting .364 with a .630 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and 8 steals, not to mention he was the 2007 Minor League Player of the Year.

The important thing to remember with Jay Bruce is that since the Reds bothered to bring him up and start his arbitration clock, they will be playing him fulltime. Corey Patterson is in his job now and is batting a putrid .201 average and .242 on base percentage.

What to expect from Jay Bruce? He is already in the free agent pool in Yahoo! and ESPN leagues so pick him up if you have not. For keeper leagues he is a no brainer pickup, and should be a pickup in every league. If you are in a shallow 8 or 10 team league and have a stacked OF, you may have no room for Jay Bruce. Still, make room for him as a trading chip, or trade one of your other OF's. Bruce is the real deal with 5 category capability. Whether he taps into that potential right away or in later years is unknown, but he must be kept because of that potential.

May 18, 2008

Ryan Braun Milwaukee Brewers comes alive

AP Photo Michael Dwyer

In one ESPN fantasy league I got pick #12 in a 12 team league, and picked Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Braun. Now this looked like an awful choice after about a month when Braun was not doing anything and neither was Soriano (Soriano was hurt even). This week both All stars and potential 30-30 candidates blew up with a ton of home runs (8 for Soriano 6 for Braun). Considering the quality hitting around them, they are probably not going to get close to stealing 30 bases.

Ryan Braun is fresh off his 8 year 45 million dollar deal, which looks like an absolute bargain for the Milwaukee Brewers. A player of this caliber should be getting more than 100 million for an 8 year contract, but the Brewers locked him up early before arbitration so got a great deal on the backend. This type of deal is a must for smaller market teams like Milwaukee. The deal will run out when Braun is 32 at the end of his prime, so the Brewers will be getting a lot of productive seasons out of a guy who had the most successful season of any player ever against left handed pitching. It's hard to believe, but Braun hit .450 with a 1.480 OPS against lefties last year. He could afford to walk a little bit more but his recent power surge (6 home runs in 6 games) brought his numbers back to where we thought they would be after his rookie campaign.

Alfonso Soriano played ineffectively until April 15th and was then on the DL for a few weeks. He continued to struggle early May when coming back but on May 10th he had a 4 / 5 day. Since then he has hit over .500 with 6 home runs, raising his average from .191 to .296. It goes to show you early on that you cannot take statistics too literally especially a player's average, because a hot streak can change things fast (or a cold streak, for that matter). Like Braun, Alfonso is not stealing bases (he has 3, Braun has 1), but in that powerful Chicago Cubs lineup he will not be asked to steal a base or two when Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez or Geovany Soto are there behind him to knock him in.

In one league I traded for Soriano for dirt cheap early on when he batted in the .100's and was on the DL. Early on if a star has crappy numbers they are a buy low candidate unless the numbers are resulting from something that is not a fluke (like if a player is getting older or is chronically injured). David Ortiz is another example of this as his early season swoon seems to be passing with 3 home runs and nearly 10 RBI in 2 days.

May 9, 2008

Shields, Sabathia, studs on Friday

shieldsshutout.jpg AP Photo / Mike Carlson

James Shields pumps out a 1 hit shut out against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 9th 2008, Friday. Other starting pitching studs were on display like CC Sabathia, Dan Haren, Ted Lilly, Roy Halladay, etc.

Top SP Lines of the Day

James Shields (TB) - 9 Innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, 8 K's. This is Shields' second shutout in 3 games pitched. Against Toronto and Boston no less. But the game sandwiched in between, he got lit up in less than 4 innings of work. Since it was at Boston it can be excused to a certain extent, but after his second shutout fantasy owners must take notice. This young stud must be rated higher than Scott Kazmir.

Ted Lilly (CHC)
- 7 Innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 10 k's, win. Before this start it was hard to imagine Lilly was 15-8 with 200 innings / 175 K's and a 3.83 ERA in 2007. Lilly started this year with a 2-4 record and a 6 ERA but this spectacular start helps those numbers. He has always been a quality starter who can strike batters out but is prone to walking people and the long ball. Going against the top team in baseball, this is an impressive start and could be the beginning of Lilly turning his game around for 2008.

CC Sabathia (CLE) - 7 Innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 9 K's, win. Unbelievable that CC was 1-5 going into this matchup. After his ERA reached 13.50 about 5 starts ago, CC has been on a quest to get that back down with 3 great starts in his last 4 games. The K's are back and the workhorse mentality is back. While you might not rank CC at the very top like he was considered coming into the year, he is at least getting close to that performance.

Ricky Nolasco (FLA) - 6 Innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 6 K's, win. How many good starts has Nolasco had this year? Try one - just this one. Even his other win he gave up 5 runs in 5 innings. But I mention him here because remember in 2006 especially early that year where he was a quality stream start? From the end of May to early August he was a quality, consistent starter. He has been thrust back into the rotation and it has not paid dividends but if this is the start of a decent streak you may wish to pick him up based on the matchup.

Roy Halladay (TOR) - 6 Innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 9 K's, loss. The complete game king has 111 pitches in 6 innings in this one. Cleveland does have a powerful lineup so it is hard to efficiently mow through them for pitchers. Not surprisingly Halladay has more walks and strikeouts this game than any other, so he clearly had to expend more pitches. He is now a tough-luck 3-5, a perfect example of a guy who has pitched well but his win-loss record does not indicate it. I was a believer that he was done after last year - this year though he looks healthy and if so he is one of the best workhorse type starters available anywhere.

John Garland (LAA) - 8 Innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 2 K's, no decision. When John Garland has good starts, this is how they look. Not a lot of K's but he can pitch deep into a game and he'll put the ball in play. Usually when he has 3 walks like in this game this leads to trouble for him, but he survived and scattered 4 hits along with 3 walks. Too bad he was going against James Shields who threw a 1 hit shutout. Garland is probably owned in most 10 or 12 team leagues as an end-of-the-bench starter. If not check him out, you could do worse. Be warned that he can have games get away from him (two starts ago against Oakland and then ugly Texas / Seattle games).

Worst SP Lines of the Day

Kei Igawa (NYY) - 3 Innings, 11 hits, 6 runs, 0 walks, 0 K's, loss. Well his return to the rotation was not Aaron Small-like. With Hughes injured and Kennedy unable to perform, the Yankees need some other starters to step up. Since coming over to the Yankees in 2007 though, Igawa has been Irabu-like. He had a few decent starts in April 07 but could not sustain it and was out of the rotation. Will he last in the rotation this year? He has the stuff to succeed and strike batters out, but you are taking a big gamble if you are using him on fantasy rosters at this point.

Gil Meche (KC) - 5 Innings, 6 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, 2 K's, loss. Gil Meche is now 2-5 with a 6.31 ERA after a solid 2007. Now how does that 10 million a year contract look? Meche has had an awful 2008 start and really one has had one solid start, his last one at Cleveland of all places (7 innings 4 hits 0 runs 4 k's). Clearly you should stay away from this guy, I made the mistake of thinking at home versus Baltimore was a good matchup but I got burned!

Tim Redding (WASH) - 5.1 Innings, 4 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 3 K's, loss. Another guy who I thought was a good start at home vs. Florida but once again I got burned. Redding has a 3.20 ERA with solid strikeout totals and a 4-2 record. Maybe I am underestimating Florida as they are hot and in first place. They might not last but their hitting is respectable. Redding meanwhile is hard to figure out, as he had not had a start where he gave up more than 4 ER in one game. But the walks are a problem and lead to games like this. Still, keep Redding on your radar for future stream starts.

May 5, 2008

Greg Smith, unimpressive Sunday starts

When Greg Smith has the best pitching performance in 6 innings of work, you can tell it was a subpar day. And that's surprising considering some of the names out there.

Johan Santana met Dan Haren and they both pitched reasonably well but neither got the win or pitched deep in the game, as they were both up against good offenses. While there were just a few quality starts, Sunday was littered with several ugly starts.

Top SP Lines of the Day

Greg Smith (Oak) - 6 Innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 10 K's. Oakland always seems to know what they're doing with young starting pitchers coming up after the veterans (Zito, Hudson, Mulder, and now Haren) are sent packing. Greg Smith is a good example of this as he has had 6 solid starts this year, and his lone loss was an 8 inning 2 run 5 K effort. Is he ready to be owned in a 12 team league? Probably, and if not you have to be considering him for a daily pickup during his starts.

Johan Santana (NYM) - 6 Innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 4 walks, 8 K's. It's that Johan guy who makes a bit of money over there in New York. Despite a 3-2 record he is cruising along with a 2.91 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, right about where it belongs. Probably not going to win those 25+ games a few crazies predicted early on. He is still walking too many batters and 47 K's in 46.1 innings can be improved too, though it's certainly not poor.

Dan Haren (Ari) - 6 Innings, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 7 K's. This performance is probably better than Johan's actually. Haren's 0.99 WHIP has been lovely so far and his 36 K's in 43.1 innings is nice and about where he was last year (192 K's in 222.2 innings). Let's just hope that second half slide doesn't come, but again, he is with a contender in Arizona instead of a team known for faltering lately in the 2nd half (Oakland).

Aaron Cook (Col) - 7.2 Innings, 9 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 2 K's. As disappointing as the Rockies have been in 2008, Cookie has been a bright spot. He did not contribute much during the playoff run but has won his last 5 starts. He will never be a big K pitcher (22 in 48.2) but he can go deep in games with his sinkerball. Probably won't keep the 2.40 ERA and 1.15 WHIP but he will continue to be a consistent pitcher for a Rockies team that has to start playing better.

Roy Halladay (Tor) - 7.1 Innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 7 K's. Halladay continues to work deep into games and owners are probably upset he only went 7.1 innings! He already has 4 complete games this year and is striking out a solid amount of batters (38 in 57 innings). His 0.98 WHIP likely won't last but lets hope these workhorse stats continue to come, because towards the end of last year Halladay looked like he was on his last legs.

Gil Meche (KC) - 7 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 4 K's. This could be the best start of the day actually, giving up just 4 hits at Cleveland and getting the win. Unfortunately the 7 scoreless innings reduces his putrid ERA to 5.98 but it's at least more in line than the 7.22 he carried into the game. Last time against Cleveland he was shelled for 8 runs in 3.1 innings and has been bombed a few other times. You would think his stats would be switched with Greinke's, but look for Zach to come back to earth and Gil to have a few more starts like this as he has had 3 solid starts in his last 4.

Darrell Rasner (NYY) - 6 Innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 4 K's. Just called up from AAA after Ian Kennedy has been sent down. Remember, the last few years he was a solid late season SP, granted it's a very small sample size. Not many K's but he could pitch 5-6 innings with just a few runs. Usually that's all you need in New York especially once Alex comes back.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Worst SP Lines of the Day

Bronson Arroyo (Cin) - 1.1 Innings, 7 hits, 7 runs, 1 walk, 0 K's. This was amusing, because owners ran to pick him up after a solid win (his 1st of the year) at St Louis last start. Looks like the corner hasn't been turned. He has had a few good seasons in Cincinnati but if he cannot hit the switch at least the Reds have produced a few youngsters like Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. As for Arroyo he actually has been striking batters out but he might want to improve that 1.95 WHIP and 8.63 ERA.

Carlos Silva (Sea) - 3 Innings, 11 Hits, 8 Runs, 0 Walks, 1 K. The dream is over. His first 7 starts were all solid, explaining his 3-0 record. But pitching at NYY is a whole different deal even with Alex Rodriguez. Silva does not really have powerful stuff, as evidenced by his K's, and playing teams like the Yankees he is prone to outings like this where he gets hit and hit hard. He is a much more attractive start in the cozy confines of Safeco Field.

Scott Kazmir (TB) - 4 Innings, 6 hits, 3 Runs, 3 Walks, 5 K's. Not a terrible outing but he generally pitches well at Boston surprisingly. It was his first back this year. Tampa Bay is better than in years past so Kazmir might be able to match or surpass his 13 wins from 2007. He probably will not reach 239 K's but few people strike out batters like Kazmir. His issues have always been being efficient enough to not have 100 pitches by 5 innings of work. Toward the end of last year he started going 7 and 8 innings impressively.

Steve Trachsel (Bal) - I can't believe this guy starts for a major league team.

Boof Bonser (Min) - 6 Innings, 8 hits, 5 Runs, 0 walks, 5 K's. Actually a pretty good start considering the circumstances. He gave up all 6 runs in the first inning and it looked like he'd be killing ERA / WHIP all around fantasy baseball. But he then went 5 scoreless innings to at least soften the blow. Despite having 4 losses he has really only has two bad games now. A good spot start if the time is right.

May 2, 2008

Arod, Phil Hughes on the DL

Mr #1 overall fantasy stud Alex Rodriguez is not having a good start to his year. Even before the DL stint his power numbers weren't up to par to his normal stats (and of course not close to his monster 2007). Likely this was an indication that his quad needs to be rested. Hopefully this DL stint is all he needs to get back. I have him on a few teams and when you have a guy like that who is drafted #1 overall in every league, your expectations for him are understandably high since you don't get another pick for a long while! It is a long season and Arod is the most consistent fantasy performer around so those gaudy numbers will come eventually.

Not sure necessarily about that for Phil Hughes though. Hughes had an atrocious start before his impending DL time coming up. His first game against Toronto was okay, it ended in a no decision with 2 runs, 4 k's, 5 walks / hits in 6 innings. Not great but good enough. His next four full starts he went 3 innings, 2 innings, 5.1 innings and 3.2 innings, raising his ERA to 9.00 with an 0-4 record and a putrid 2+ whip. Far too many walks and not the electric stuff that was expected out of him. How could so many scouts be wrong about him? You will need to be patient until July when he comes back, and even then you may want to watch from afar to ensure the same things do not happen. A frustrating case but hopefully you have a DL slot or two in your league.

It is not surprising that the Yankees are struggling at 14-15, just getting swept by the Detroit Tigers. Another young pitcher got bombed in Ian Kennedy, a guy who looks like he just does not have the stuff to pitch well in the big leagues (though he had some nice games last year including a shutout). Also Jorge Posada who had a godlike 2007 is on the DL for the time being with a dead arm.

In Atlanta it looks like John Smoltz will be a relief pitcher / closer. We will see how long that lasts.