Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Will Alex Gordon Repeat?

Q: Alex Gordon finally had that breakout year we had all been waiting on. Was he just a late bloomer, or is there cause for concern?

A: There's definitely cause for concern.

Despite an impressive .303 average, Gordon actually showed the worst plate discipline of his career. He had a career low 9.7% walk rate, and swung at a career high 27.1% pitches outside the zone. It's worth noting that these are still actually still pretty good numbers, but you hope this isn't the start of a new found hacking approach at the place that progresses. If this rate stays stable or increases you better believe pitchers will exploit those holes this year. His .358 BABIP was the 9th highest in the league, so he experienced some nice luck last season. A .275 AVG is safe projection.

He's flashed that 20-25 HR power before, but I think that # comes down a little bit. He posted a career high 12.6% HR/FB rate. Using the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Gordon hit 4 "lucky" homers last season. What is a lucky home run? A home run that wouldn't have cleared the fence had the ball been struck on calm 70 degree day. In other words right place at the right time. 8 of his 23 homers were also "just enough". Meaning the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, or that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. 18-20 is a reasonable number.

Gordon will bat leadoff regularly this season. With his healthy walk rate and additional plate appearances he shouldn't have a problem scoring runs again this season. It's that RBI total that will fall off a little. Who's batting 9th? Alcides Escobar, who has posted an OBP under .300 the last 2 seasons. I really don't think 87 RBI is attainable again. Bump that down to around 75.

The 17 SB were nice, but he was caught stealing 32% of the time. Not a great rate. If Ned Yost is wise he will let Hosmer, Butler, and Frenchy help advance Gordon on the bases. 13-15 SB in 2012.

So a .275, 18 HR, 95 R, 75 RBI, 15 line is definitely useful assuming a standard rate of regression. Is it worth a 6th/7th round pick for where he's going in Yahoo leagues? Remember this is a guy who wasn't worth a roster spot in 2009 & 2010, and he breaks out with worse peripherals. I want more stability when it's still that early in the draft. OF is a deep position, and there are other bats and arms who should be around that are better bets. Avoid Gordon unless his average draft position slides down a couple of rounds before your draft starts.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Yu Darvish Question

Still grabbing popular questions from around the web. Expecting to see an uptick in traffic soon, so I can answer direct questions.

Q: Is it worth investing in Yu Darvish, or is he destined to become the next Dice-K?

A: Buy up every stock, bond, and dividend you can on Darvish. They both came over from Japan and garnered huge posting fees, but the differences stop there.

Dice-K came over with an arm that was taxed more. Darvish had a heavy workload as well, but threw less innings and fewer pitches. Both have a wide variety of pitches, but according to the vast majority of scouts Darvish grades out better in terms of "stuff". They have different mechanics, different body builds, and Darvish was far more productive. ERA, WHIP, K/9, BB/9, etc. It wasn't even close.

I'm keeping this one short and sweet. Bottom line is Darvish is unlike any other foreign import coming over to MLB. It certainly wont be a cakewalk for him. There will be an adjustment to major league hitting, his home park certainly wont do him any favors, but he should make it through his rookie year with only a few scratches on it. Bank on Darvish living up to his draft value as a #1/#2 starter.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pass On, Wait For

Q: Are there 2 players who are projected to have similar stats, but their average draft positions are out of whack?

A: Yes. They go by the names Andrew McCutchen & Shin-Soo Choo.

McCutchen barely avoided falling below the Mendoza Line after the break (.216 AVG) to finish with a .259 mark. He posted 2 straight seasons of a .285 average in '09 and '10, and his BABIP fell below his career numbers suggesting some bad luck. He's a 25 year old who makes plenty of contact, so last season was likely an aberration. It's a good bet to think returns to a .285 average.

He hit 23 homers last season after hitting 16 HR at all levels in both '09 and '10. He had a HR/FB rate of 12.2% last year, and marks of 8.7% & 8.8% the two seasons before. Part of the power spike was McCutchen coming into his own at age 24, the other was just the ball taking a nice bounce off the bat. Look for his HR total to decrease to 18-20.

From 2008 to 2010 he has shown the ability to steal 30-35 bases, but only had 23 last year. The biggest reason I found for the drop-off was his spot in the lineup. 10 steals in 82 games batting 3rd, and 11 in 46 games batting lead-off. McCutchen looks to settle into the 3rd spot on a regular basis this season, so put him down to swipe 20-25.

The RBI/R totals should be pretty similar to last season. Look for 85-90 RBI, and 80-85 R. Sadly for McCutchen the Pirates offense is brutal.

Choo by comparison started off poorly, got hurt, and had a hot finish before his season ended for good. Batting just .244 with 5 HR before breaking his thumb in June, he returned for 12 games in August hitting .348 with 3 HR in 46 AB. An oblique injury effectively ended his season.

In 2009 & 2010 Choo hit over .300, had 22 & 20 HR seasons, stole 21 & 22 bags, and was in the 80-90 range in both Runs and RBI. In 2008 he hit over .300, and had 14 HR in 317 at bats. Baseball can be a streaky game, and Choo had 2 entire months wiped out. Had he been healthy those months he could have caught fire, and posted similar numbers to his '09 and '10 seasons.

Choo has the track record on McCutchen in batting average and home runs. They both will be batting 3rd in underwhelming lineups, so expect similar R/RBI totals. As I pointed out earlier McCutchen has the potential to steal 10 more bases than Choo, but I wouldn't expect it.

McCutchen is being taken about 46 picks before Choo according to Yahoo mock drafts. Why? Potential. At age 25 everybody is expecting is a full fledged breakout. They expect the AVG to return, the HR to remain stable or slightly increase, a full season of batting 3rd to produce great R/RBI totals, and the SB returning to 30-35. McCutchen had a better 2011, and has a higher ceiling than Choo. He deserves to be taken ahead of him. But 4 rounds earlier in hopes that all the stars align? No way.

Pass on McCutchen. Wait for Choo.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Burning Question

I haven't received any emails yet....that's my fault. I have done no promotion for this blog. Probably a good idea to have some fantasy baseball material up first before traffic picks up. Know what your getting with this site. So with this post I'll tackle a burning question that I see appearing on other fantasy websites. I'll probably do a self Q&A from time to time when the emails aren't pouring in.

Question- Brett Lawrie is a young talent who is shooting up the draft boards. Is he being hyped up too much, setting the stage for a bust?

Answer- You should always be weary of unproven players that are going for a steep price (see Jason Heyward), but in this case the praise is warranted.

Lawrie wasn't rushed to the big leagues like Heyward, who only played in 3 games at AAA. He received a sizable level of plate appearances at each stop throughout the minors. At each stop he produced.

The biggest concern most people have with Lawrie is the power. Was last seasons power breakout legit? Well he received a 65 out of 80 from scouts on the hitting scale as a prospect, with power being his best attribute. As a 19 year old coming straight out of high school, Lawrie hit 13 homers in 372 at bats in A ball. He saw the homer total drop off to 8 in 554 at bats in AA in 2010, but he was still hitting the ball with authority. 59 extra base hits is the key number there. And of course there was last season. Lawrie smacked 27 homers in 450 at bats between AAA and the big show. At 22 years old he's still got room to grow as he starts to enter his physical prime and adjusts to major league pitching full time. Consider 20 homers a floor for Lawrie this season.

The other numbers he needs to be a roto force should be there. He posted a superb combined .329 average last year, but we probably shouldn't expect that again. He has shown a solid eye at the plate in his young career with respectable walk and strikeout rates, but not batting title elite. I think .285 is a safe mark for Brett. The speed has been very consistent, and I expect him to swipe 25 bags. Finally the RBI/R marks should be strong. 7 of the 9 hitters in the lineup (including Lawrie) have had an .800+ OPS recently. The other 2 players, Snider & Arencibia, have the potential to. Wherever he winds up in the batting order there will be runners on, and guys to drive him in.

I would say a couple of veterans in the same tier as Lawrie carry more risk than he does. A 20/20 season looking like a floor from hot corner absolutely justifies his status of going in the 5th round.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The purpose of this blog is pretty simple. Send questions, and I'll answer. No articles from me gushing about my favorite players and strategies. I'm sticking to the script.

When sending a question please be as specific as possible. I plan on updating this blog daily, and taking the vast majority of questions sent my way. Give me details, and you will likely get an answer to your question.

That's it! I hope this blog takes off, and I'll get a chance to interact with a bunch of fellow fantasy addicts.