Let’s Talk About Kennys Vargas

With just over 100 Major League at-bats under his belt, it’s time we talked about the Twins’ Kenny Vargas. A prospect without a position for the most part, the Twins have been giving Vargas DH at-bats recently. Vargas has also appeared in a handful of games at first base this season.

Coming up through the Twins’ farm-system Vargas was able to display his power at multiple stops. In 2013 while playing in High-A, Vargas hit 33 doubles and 19 home runs to go along with a .813 OPS. While playing in AA prior to being recalled Vargas had a .832 OPS. Vargas has not appeared too highly on prospect lists, however, that can be partially attributed to his lack of defensive ability.

As shown above, result wise, Vargas was a rather productive hitter in the minor leagues. A big part of his success is the power his large frame generates. A key component to being a sound hitter at the next level I believe, is mixing power ability with an average or above understanding of the strike zone. While some hitters can make a living hitting bad pitches, young power hitters who can limit the number of pitcher pitches they swing at, have a better chance at putting their powerful bat to work.

Now that Vargas has reached 100 at-bats in the big league career (yeah, I know) let’s look at the key components that made Vargas successful in the minors as they relate to his current production.

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Appreciating Matt Shoemaker

With the loss of Garrett Richards it has been nothing but doom & gloom from most media outlets when it comes to their rotation. Matt Shoemaker, could you please stand-up and give the crowd a wave? – Sure Shoemaker can’t replace Garrett Richard’s production entirely, Richards was producing amazing results. But that doesn’t mean what Shoemaker has been able to accomplish shouldn’t be noticed on nearly the same level. If you were to judge the two pitchers entirely on xERA, they’re within 0.10 of one another.

So how has Shoemaker taken the next step to turn himself into a potential low-three ERA type of arm?

Commanding the strike zone and an increase in strike outs appear to be the main drivers. As Shoemaker rose through the minors his strike out rate fluctuated from level-to-level. As he threw more and more innings in AAA (remember he’s 27) he was able to rebuild his strike out rate from 6.32 K/9 in 2012 to 7.81 K/9 in 2013. In 25.2 IP in AAA this year Shoemaker continued the trend with a 9.12 mark. More importantly his 8.8 K/9 in the Major Leagues looks like it could be mostly for real. Not only does the steady increase year-over-year help to reassure these gains to his current ability might be real, so does the 12% swinging strike rate Shoemaker has displayed. Meanwhile Shoemaker has continued to be stingy with the free passes this year.

The results Shoemaker has posted (111 IP, 108 K, 3.33/3.19 ERA/xERA, 1.08 WHIP, 43% GB) are completely backed by skill up to this point. Shoemaker has been hot the entire month of August and is a piece fantasy owners can count on down the stretch. He may not always get a ton of love by some, but smart fantasy owners will make a play for Shoemaker if league settings still allow for such moves.

Credit: Paul Miles

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

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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Photo Credit: Keith Allison

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

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.

AL ONLY Fantasy Baseball Blog

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