The Last 31: Falling Hitter Skills

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Today in the Last 31 we’ll take a look at hitters who at one point were showing useful skills, but for one reason or another, their abilities have taken a down turn the last month. One of these players is able to be replaced through FAAB bids or trade, while another was drafted as a foundation player on many squads. The last player was becoming a fairly well-known commodity and power source for his fantasy owners, but recent struggles call into question what to expect going forward.

James Jones: After a short AAA stint to begin the season, Jones was recalled by the Seattle Mariners and received frequent playing time in May and June this season. With zero power to speak of, Jones’ game revolves around stealing bags and he was quite successful at it early on. In May and June, Jones hit .289/.320/.351 with 17 stolen bases. Prior to being sent back down to AAA, Jones was hitting .196/.220/.237 with 3 stolen bases in July. Jones’ inability to drive the ball with any authority, as well a putrid on base percentage, made Jones a one-trick-pony and even that trick was starting to fade rapidly. Now back with the big league club and following the acquisition of both Austin Jackson as well as Chris Denorfia, Jones’ playing time looks to be relegated to pinch running duty. Fantasy owners will need to be in a horrible stolen base bind if they’re looking to continue rostering James Jones.

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The Last 31: Improved Hitter Skills

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Today in The Last 31, we’ll examine the underlying skills of three hot hitters to determine what fantasy owners should expect going forward. Of course, 31 days is a very limited sample, but it could also be argued a season is a decently small sample itself. While playing fantasy baseball we do not have an infinite amount of time to make decisions. As such, analyzing recent statistics, coupled with past performance and any news we may be able to gather regarding particular change to process becomes crucial to our success.

Chris Carter: By now we have a book on Chris Carter. With over 1300 plate appearances to his name and a career .224/.313/.465 slash line, he’s regarded as a low batting average, high power, type of hitter. Over the last 31 days however, Carter has been tearing the cover off the ball in an attempt to make fantasy owners reconsider what they thought they once knew. During our 31 day sample Carter has slashed his way to a .315/.379/.685 line, with 9 home runs. Even more impressive is Carters altered approach at the plate in the second half. Carter has increased his BB% by nearly two percent, while lowering his K% by over six percent. While Carter has a slightly inflated hit rate over this time-frame, his xBA comes in at an impressive .308, thanks in large part to all the balls flying over the fence. Luckily for Carter, the power metrics continue to back up his tremendous pop, which could ultimately lead to a respectable batting average down the stretch. (think .260ish the rest of the way).

Also worth noting in regard to Carter’s recent hot stretch is this research piece from David Temple at FanGraphs. It’s worth a quick read.

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Starting Pitchers: Best & Worst – August 11th to August 17th, 2014

Credit: Paul Miles

Credit: Paul Miles

We are not evaluating 2-start options here. We’re simply looking at individual pitcher versus team match-ups. All match-ups are subject to change.

The following starting pitchers have at least one great match-up in the coming week:

Pitcher Home/Away Opponent
Jon Lester Away ATL
David Price Home SEA
Felix Hernandez Home TOR
Corey Kluber Home BAL
Joe Kelly Home HOU
Matthew Shoemaker Home PHI
Chris Sale Away SF
Felix Hernandez Away DET
Collin McHugh Home MIN
Max Scherzer Home PIT
Hyun-Jin Ryu Home MIL
Garrett Richards Away TEX
Trevor Bauer Home ARI
Chris Capuano Away BAL
Danny Duffy Away MIN
Jose Quintana Home TOR
Jon Lester Away KC
Chris Young Home TOR
Hisashi Iwakuma Home TOR
James Shields Home OAK
Jeremy Hellickson Away TEX
Rick Porcello Away PIT
Brandon Workman Away CIN
Chris Capuano Away TB

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High-Skilled Relievers Down the Stretch

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

We’re at the point in the season where protecting ratios by removing back-end quality starters and replacing them with highly skilled relievers is a viable strategy. In one particular AL-Only league that I am currently leading (without the help of a power-house offense) I’ve recently added Andrew Miller to replace Josh Tomlin. Truth-be-told, I actually like Tomlin, but the decision was made following his demotion. My pitching staff is also very strong with starters such as Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel and R.A. Dickey. Throughout the season I’ve slowly added relievers such as Dellin Betances and Carlos Carrasco to slide in for starters with bad match-ups and accumulate quality innings.

While Andrew Miller might still be available in your league (if he is and you’re following this advice, put a FAAB bid on him) the Dellis Betances, Carlos Carrasco, Brad Boxberger, Wade Davis and Joakim Soria’s of the world are probably already rostered. Today I’d like to look at the next class of middle relievers who are showing high skills and could help you down the stretch run. Read the rest of this entry

Starting Pitchers: Best & Worst – August 4th to August 10th, 2014

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

We are not evaluating 2-start options here. We’re simply looking at individual pitcher versus team match-ups. All match-ups are subject to change.

The following starting pitchers have at least one great match-up in the coming week:

Pitcher Home/Away Opponent
Felix Hernandez Home ATL
Felix Hernandez Home CHA
Corey Kluber Home CIN
Jeff Samardzija Home MIN
Dallas Keuchel Away PHI
David Price Away NYA
Chris Young Home ATL
Scott Kazmir Home KC
David Price Away TOR
Marcus Stroman Home DET
Jason Hammel Home MIN
Miles Mikolas Away HOU
Anibal Sanchez Home COL
Jose Quintana Home MIN
Max Scherzer Away TOR
Hisashi Iwakuma Home CHA
Alex Cobb Away CHN
Garrett Richards Home BOS
Max Scherzer Away NYA
Chris Capuano Home DET
Scott Kazmir Home MIN
Trevor Bauer Home TEX
James Shields Home SF
Hisashi Iwakuma Away BAL
Sonny Gray Home TB
Jered Weaver Home BOS
Yu Darvish Away HOU
Jeff Samardzija Home TB
Jose Quintana Away SEA
Garrett Richards Away LAN

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Mock Draft: 2-16-14

Draft Board Fantasy Baseball

Source: Arturo Pardavila III

I sat down to a 10-team, ESPN, mock draft today and wanted to share the results along with some analysis of certain picks. For this particular draft, I had the number two pick and Mike Trout fell to me. The rest of the results are below:






C Geovany Soto
1B Albert Pujols
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Xander Bogaerts
ss Brad Miller
MI Logan Forsythe
CI Logan Morrison
OF Mike Trout
OF Alex Gordon
OF Kole Calhoun
OF Rajai Davis
OF Lorenzo Cain
UTIL Victor Martinez
P Chris Sale
P Koji Uehara
P Danny Salazar
P Grant Balfour
P Drew Smyly
P Rick Porcello
P Kevin Gausman
P Jose Quintana
P Garrett Richards
B Jesus Guzman
B L.J. Hoes
B Michael Pineda

After selecting Trout with my 1st pick, I came back with another Angel, Albert Pujols in the second round. Value wise, there were a few players on the board higher than Pujols (all pitchers) but I felt I could grab one right after the turn. In fact that is exactly what I did, taking Chris Sale in the 3rd round to anchor my rotation. After waiting for the draft to come back around to me, I quickly snatched up Alex Gordon, who I feel is an underrated fantasy option. I then gladly picked up Koji Uehara with my 5.2 selection.

Some other thoughts on this draft:

  • I would not feel great about my starting pitching heading into the year. This is strange to say in the sense that all of the guys on my starting staff are targets of mine, but I feel I’ve exposed myself to too much youth/risk other than Sale and Porcello. Smyly, while I expect great numbers while he’s pitching, will certainly be on an innings limit this year and the same could be said for Danny Salazar. If Gausman earns a rotation spot out of camp, my worries quickly starts to turn towards excitement.
  • One of Garrett Richards and/or Jose Quintana should settle into a solid stat gather role for my starting staff.
  • I went with two closers as that is how the draft fell to me. I’m not one who requires two closers in an AL-Only league as not every team will be able to acquire two. In this case it worked out and I’ll take the saves where I can. Because of this I did not spend other pitching or bench spots on speculative closer adds.
  • Victor Martinez is a player I see myself owning everywhere. In fact, I’ve drafted him in every mock and in my Draft Champion League already this season. He’s always sitting alone in my $25.00 tier for a round or two as I wait for his value to continue to build and then I select him. There’s talk he could see some time behind the dish this season and you know he’ll play first base when Miguel Cabrera needs a day at DH. Don’t worry about his UTIL only eligibility, I think that could change in season. He’s also a great BA or OBP stabilizer.
  • It was weird only having to draft one catcher. In theory I should have jumped in before the Soto Tier, but honestly, a starting catcher, in Texas, with some power isn’t a horrible choice, especially when considering how late you can wait on him.
  • The one position that I wish was stronger is my MI spot. Logan Forsythe really was my best option so I had to take the plunge. Luckily there’s a chance Xander Bogaerts gains SS eligibility which will allow me to acquire either a new SS and move Brad Miller to MI, or a new third baseman and move Bogaerts to MI if the situation presents itself.
  • I love Kole Calhoun and where I’m able to draft him.

I plan on conducting a few more mock drafts as the season approaches. Keep an eye on my twitter account if you’d like to join in.

Mixed Leagues: Razzball RCL Leagues

While the focus of this website is on the AL-Only style of play, I know many of us also play in mixed leagues. In fact, I’ll be playing in two deep mixed leagues this year. One is a Draft Champion League that is currently in the 29th round (out of 50) and the other is a 16-team, 30 round, mixed league with no in season trading (does allow weekly FAAB). Both of these leagues are weekly line-ups and are also entry fee leagues. I definitely prefer my money leagues to be weekly line-up and no trading as I feel it’s a level playing field for all owners involved. Rather than one team streaming pitchers or hitters, a weekly, no trade league, really forces each owner to draft a balanced team and acquire depth at various positions. One note, my AL-Only keeper league is also an entry fee league, however I believe trading is a must for keeper league set-ups.

But even with these deep leagues, there’s always a small part of me that wants to scratch my 12-team mixed league itch. At this point, paying an entry fee into this type of league seems like a bad move in my opinion. Many of these leagues allow for daily line-up changes, free access to the waiver wire and trading. When I allocate my financial resources to fantasy baseball, I don’t want that many wild cards in play.

That is why the Razzball Commenter Leagues (RCL) are such a great idea. These leagues are your typical 12-team mixer with 3 bench spots and a snake draft. I’ve witnessed teams win championships with a steady draft and minimal in season moves, as well as teams that would shuffle through half the free agent pool daily and still find success.

What is really great about the RCL set-up is it mimics in a way the NFBC leagues, in the sense that it’s you versus 11 other league mates, but also you versus everyone else playing in an RCL league. This means, punting a category is an acceptable strategy if you’re just trying to win your league, but it will definitely keep you out of the top overall spots. Now of course there is no hundred plus thousand dollar prize in the RCL like there is in the NFBC, but a fantasy baseball fanatic shouldn’t need that carrot to try to place the highest among a field of over 600 other teams.

The Razzball site also has a weekly post series that runs down the biggest movers and shakers in these leagues. The articles are a great way to see what other fantasy baseball managers are doing. They also measure each league for their competition level, which is also tracked through out the year. Last season, I was commissioner of the Cougars Welcomed league that sat in the top-3 of the competitive index for much of the season.

If you’re looking for a way to make 12-team mixed leagues more fun, the RCL is definitely worth looking into. There are also some pay leagues that individual commissioners run through the RCL for those that want some money behind their time and effort. For me though, the RCL is a great place to draft a 12-team mixer or two. Deep, weekly leagues, are still the best format, but having the freedom to draft a star-studded line-up and compete for an overall bragging rights championship is also a fun way to go.

Note: I am currently signed up in these two leagues if you’d like to play against me.

Yeah Jeets – password: dj2014 – 7 spots left – draft is March 7th.

Draft Dodgers – password: rbbl – 3 spots left – draft is March 20th

2014 Target: Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson Fantasy Baseball

Source: Keith Allison

Kelly Johnson might not be the sexiest name on your draft board this season, but he’s still a player I would look at targeting as your draft or auction comes to a close. Last season with the Rays, Johnson appeared in 118 games and contributed 16 home runs with 7 stolen bases. Of course he did hit .235 on the season with a not-so-great .305 OBP, but this was a player that didn’t cost a ton on draft day, so enjoy it.

Besides from Johnson’s power/speed potential for this season (something I’ll touch on more in a second), he also will bring an interesting eligibility profile to the table. On draft day Johnson will be second base and outfield eligible, making him a nice MI target. Of course with the Alex Rodriguez suspension, Johnson will now be asked to man third base for the Yankees in 2014. A 2B, 3B, OF eligible player is always fun.

Back to what Johnson can do for fantasy owners in 2014. Johnson has flashed 20+ home run power numerous times in his career, with 2011 being the latest. Johnson’s average fly ball and home run distance of 282 feet is about middle of the pack. Johnson has had inconsistent fly ball percentages over his career and last season that number ballooned to 46.1%. Some of this could be due to an increase in infield pop ups, which leads me to believe Johnson is not squaring the ball up as well as he did in his younger days, but some could also be a slight change in approach. The short porch at Yankees Stadium has Johnson’s name written all over it as the majority of his home runs are of the pull variety. With the playing time it appears Johnson will receive this season, a 20 home run campaign is well within the realm of possibilities and one I’d be willing to go the extra dollar on in my auctions this year.

Johnson can also provide value with his stolen base ability. While his overall speed calls into question his actual stolen base floor, seasons in which Johnson has at least 500 at-bats have netted him mid-teen stolen base totals in previous seasons. The Yankees were quite aggressive on the base paths last season (117 SB’s ranked 5th in the AL) meaning Johnson should continue to have a chance to run when he’s on base. To get on base, Johnson will need to maintain his ability to reach on walks as his contact rate leaves something to be desired. While a .250 batting average would be fantastic, the more realistic expectation may be .235 and in that case, Johnson needs to swipe at least 10 bags to make this skill set work from a fantasy standpoint.

Overall a 20/10 low  batting average, swiss army knife player is going to have value in our AL-Only game. In my current NFBC style Draft Champion League, I targeted Johnson for his position flexibility, an area that is also very helpful in only league play. He won’t cost a ton on draft day and won’t win you your league, but he’ll make a few weeks in the middle of the season much easier to manager when injury or poor performance strikes elsewhere on your roster.

Prospect Peek: Jake Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi Fantasy Baseball

Source: BeGreen90 – Bryan

Jake Odorizzi is an interesting prospect. He feels like a safe floor type of prospect as evidenced by his skills up to this point in his career. Odorizzi steadily climbed the Royals minor league system prior to being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in the James Shields deal. In the low minors Odorizzi blew away the competition with double-digit K/9 rates and above average walk rates. The strike outs have come back down some since pitching in AAA, but a 3.10 command ratio in 124.1 AAA innings this year is still a rate that’ll pique my interest. The strike outs continued to decline when he reached the major leagues this season, but the control remained intact.

With news that Jeremy Hellickson will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season following surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, Odorizzi stands a chance to start the season in the Ray’s rotation. Of course as a 5th starter he could be skipped early on, making his playing time unclear at this point in the preseason. There’s also the question of what happens to Odorizzi once Hellickson is ready to return, but to borrow a phrase from a personal favorite of mine in the fantasy industry, Nando Di Fino – “These things have a way of working themselves out.”

Assuming Odorizzi’s strike out rate does not return immediately at the major league level (or ever – at least to his minor league rate), he’ll still provide an acceptable command profile. As long as his control remains at or near the level he’s consistently shown in previous seasons, any increase in his strike out ability could push Odorizzi into the next tier of starters. That tier would mostly include spot start guys. I do worry about Odorizzi’s WHIP from a fantasy standpoint, as his pitches seem to be quite hittable. This, along with his tendency to give up fly balls, would make me wary of starting him against tough offenses, especially in hitter friendly ball parks.

Odorizzi won’t be a star for your fantasy team in 2014, but currently has one foot in the door for a starting rotation spot. In the AL-Only game sometimes that can be at least a quarter of the battle. Throw in the average command profile and sprinkle on enough innings and he’s a worthwhile end-gamer this season. League is Full

I am happy to announce the first annual, Rotisserie Baseball League is now full for the 2014 season. The auction is schedule for late March and updates will be shown here on the site as the season progresses.


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