November 2012

Zach’s Musings (11/26)

THANKS FROM THE 411

Hey everyone,

Not a whole lot has happened since my last post but things are sure to get crazy soon with the Winter Meetings only a week away. Here are a few signings from the past 10 days that carry some fantasy relevance.

Hiroki Kuroda re-signs with Yankees for 1 yr/$15 million

I have to admit that I was skeptical that Kuroda would be able to perform as well as he did in the NL West in the hard-hitting AL East. Early on it looked like he was destined for the same fate as Javier Vazquez and the long list of quality NL starting pitchers who came to the Yankees and crumbled. Heading into his May 27th start at Oakland, Kuroda’s ERA was a mediocre 4.56. But then it all turned around. Kuroda was outstanding in the second half (8-4, 3.14 ERA) and dominant in the postseason. Through five big league seasons, Kuroda has yet to post an ERA above 3.76 or a WHIP greater than 1.22. And he’s proven that he can pitch in New York. He’s about as consistent as they come. Draft him as your #2 SP in mixed leagues and be glad you did. His good but not great K rate is the only thing holding him back from ace status.

Evan Longoria signs 6 yr/$100 million extension with Rays

I was a bit surprised by this as Longo was already signed through 2016 and he has dealt with injuries over the past couple of seasons. But you can’t fault the Rays for wanting to make sure that their star third baseman will remain with the team through the end of his career. Longoria remains a clear-cut top-5 3B heading into 2013 (we have him at #4 on our preliminary rankings) but the fact that he’s missed a combined 117 games since the start of the 2011 campaign will scare some owners off. He could very well fall to the late second or even early third round this spring, which would be a steal considering that he’s a first round talent.

Jeremy Guthrie re-signs with Royals for 3 yrs/$25 million

This seems like a lot of money to commit to a pitcher with such a limited amount of upside, but the Royals were obviously desperate for rotation help and figured that Guthrie, who was brilliant following his mid-season trade to Kansas City (3.16 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 14 starts) would slot in nicely behind Big Erv. Guthrie put together a number of solid seasons while with the Orioles but he doesn’t strike anyone out and when he’s bad, he’s very bad. I consider him nothing more than a Pitch or Ditch option in mixed leagues. He does carry some value in AL-only leagues as an innings eater who is likely to finish the year with an ERA around 4.00.

Jonny Gomes signs with Red Sox for 2 yrs/$10 million

With David Ortiz locked into the DH spot, Boston will use the defensively challenged Gomes in the outfield, and it remains to be seen how the Red Sox will juggle their outfield. I wouldn’t be surprised if they acquire an additional outfielder via free agency or trade. But Gomes’ contract terms suggest that he should get a healthy dose of at-bats. 18 homers and a .868 OPS as a part-timer for the A’s last year is nothing to laugh at, and I actually like Gomes a lot as an under the radar power source, mainly in AL-only leagues.

Feel free to continue posting your questions/comments here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

-Zach

Zach’s Musings (11/16)

THANKS FROM THE 411

Hey everyone,

Like 99.9 % of baseball followers, I was stunned to learn about the Marlins-Blue Jays trade, and as much as I dislike the Marlins (I’m still bitter over the ’03 World Series), I do kind of feel bad for fans of the team who were expecting big things from a squad that had just signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to join the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, the emerging Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez. The Marlins were also opening up a new ballpark and looked like a legitimate threat to win the NL East. What’s left now? Stanton and the ballpark. That’s it. The mega-swap is still awaiting MLB approval, and as much as it probably bothers Bud Selig and the 28 other owners, there’s little reason to expect any sort of veto. Like in fantasy, trades should be allowed to pass as long as there’s no evidence of collusion and, in the case of “real” baseball, the commissioner’s office signs off on the money that will be changing hands. Tough blow for Marlin fans but hey, they still have the Heat to be excited about! And who knows, maybe by 2018 we’ll look back on this and say that the Marlins got a solid return.

Alright, let’s run through all of the notable transactions made since my last post and talk about their fantasy ramifications.

Marlins trade Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to the Blue Jays for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino

I don’t even know where to begin here but I guess the logical place is Reyes. If anything, I think his fantasy value goes up. As a career National Leaguer, it might take him some time to adjust to the Junior circuit (See Albert Pujols). But a quality supporting cast headlined by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie will put Reyes in prime position to surpass the 100-run mark. And don’t overlook the fact that he’ll be playing in a hitter-friendly park for the first time in his career. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a run at 20 homers. To me, Reyes is the #1 fantasy shortstop heading into 2013 drafts, even ahead of Hanley.

As for Johnson and Buehrle, I’m not a fan of investing in starting pitchers who are making the move from the NL to the AL, but this applies more to Johnson since Buehrle spent his entire career in the AL prior to 2012. He remains a decent back end of the rotation guy, a step above Pitch or Ditch but not exactly someone I’ll be targeting. I have a feeling the AL East won’t be too kind to him. It was nice to see Johnson turn in a fully healthy season last year after he was limited to just nine starts in 2011, but his overall numbers were far from elite. He was good but not great, and I’m concerned about him pitching in the AL East. Draft him as a low-end No. 2 starter in standard mixed leagues and you won’t be disappointed. Relying on him to be your ace, even your “soft ace,” is very risky. Bonifacio is worth a late-round pick in mixed leagues for the stolen bases but it’s unclear if he’ll be an everyday player for Toronto. Either way, Emilio should get enough at-bats to make a meaningful contribution in deep mixed leagues even though he’s fairly one-dimensional. Buck has some pop but he’s an AVG killer and should be avoided outside of AL-only leagues, even if the Jays decide to trade J.P. Arencibia.

Of the players heading to Miami, I’m most intrigued by Alvarez. He faded badly in the second half last season but he’s only 22 years old and is a control specialist. Moving from the AL East to the NL and a favorable pitcher’s park could be just what he needs to get back on track. I like him as an NL-only flier with some upside.

Melky Cabrera signs with Blue Jays for 2 yrs/$16 million

So much for the big pay day but hey, if I got caught using performance enhancing drugs and then secured myself an $8 million per year salary I’d be one happy guy. Who knows what to expect from Melky. Was his All-Star first half last year and strong 2011 campaign for real or artificially driven? Melky should only benefit from playing half of his games at Rogers Centre and I won’t necessarily be avoiding him on draft day. At the same time, I won’t be targeting him. Maybe it’s just that I’m not thrilled with the idea of welcoming cheaters onto my fantasy teams.

Torii Hunter signs with Tigers for 2 yrs/$ 26 million

The 37-year-old Hunter very quietly enjoyed a fine season in 2012, driving in at least 90 runs for the third time in his last four seasons while batting over .300 for the first time in his career. Father Time is bound to catch up to Hunter at some point, but is it unrealistic to expect another solid showing in 2013? Not at all. He’ll be slotted into a formidable Detroit lineup that already includes Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and will get even better with the return of Victor Martinez. Consider Hunter a quality #3 OF in standard mixed leagues.

Scott Baker signs with Cubs for 1 yr/$5.5 million

A genius move by Theo Epstein! OK, maybe I’m biased because I’ve always been a big-time Baker supporter and I’ve been waiting for him to have that breakout season for quite some time now. Chances are the breakout season won’t come in 2013, as he’s fresh off Tommy John surgery and might not be ready for the start of the season. But even if he’s not in the Cubs’ rotation on Opening Day, it sounds like he’ll be good to go at some point early in the first half. NL-only alert! The K/BB master could turn out to be a draft day steal.

Jeremy Affeldt re-signs with Giants for 3 yrs/$18 million

Not much to say here. Affeldt is a top-notch late-inning specialist who will be more valuable for the Giants than he will be for your fantasy team, unless of course your league uses holds as a category. He might pick up a few saves along the way, though Sergio Romo has proven that he can handle the full-time closer role should Brian Wilson miss any more time.

Padres place Yasmani Grandal on restricted list

Grandal has been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Very disappointing news following a stellar 60-game rookie campaign. This puts Grandal out of commission until late-May. As of now, John Baker figures to serve as the Padres’ #1 catcher. Yikes! Grandal still carries plenty of value in keeper leagues and will certainly be drafted in all NL-only formats come March. But he’ll go undrafted in the vast majority of mixed leagues. For those of you in deeper formats, using a late-round pick on Grandal isn’t a bad idea given his 2012 performance.

Mets release Jason Bay

This one is more for comic relief than anything else (yeah, I do like to tease Met fans from time to time). Hopefully, Bay can revitalize his career with another team. Depending on how he performs in spring training (assuming he finds a new team), he might warrant some non-mixed league consideration come draft day.

And that does it for this edition of “Zach’s Musings.” Feel free to keep sending in your questions. I’ll be back here next week with a whole new batch of musings!

Zach’s Musings (11/6)

THANKS FROM THE 411

Hey everyone,

I was planning on putting up a “Zach’s Musings” post last week but Hurricane Sandy had other ideas. Now that power is back on in downtown Manhattan, it’s time to talk fantasy baseball again! So let’s get started. Here’s my take on a bunch of notable news stories that have emerged since my last post.

David Ortiz re-signs with Red Sox for 2 yrs/$26 million

As expected. Big Papi was in the midst of a highly productive 2012 season before an Achilles injury sidelined him for almost the entire second half. Ortiz is getting up there in age (he turns 37 later this month) but the fact that he’s strictly a DH does alleviate some of the concern regarding his health. Count on .280-25-90 in 2013, though his DH-only eligibility hurts his overall fantasy value.

Brandon League re-signs with Dodgers for 3 yrs/$22.5 million with a vesting option for 2016

Wow! And Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says that League will be their closer. This one boggles my mind. Did he forget that Kenley Jansen is on the roster? This is terrible news for keeper league owners of Jansen (and I’m one of them), as it sounds like he’ll be relegated to setup duty in 2013. Jansen is the far better pitcher, so the only explanation for this move is that the Dodgers are concerned about his heart issues, but he recently underwent a procedure that apparently fixed the problem. Please help me understand this because I’m confused. League is nothing more than a low-end No. 2 closer while Jansen goes from being a top-3 closer to an elite setup man. Very strange.

Ryan Howard has already lost “a significant amount of weight” during his offseason conditioning program, according to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro

Howard put on some weight while recovering from Achilles surgery but still made an impact upon his return to the Phillies’ lineup in early-July. The .219 average and 99-to-25 K/BB ratio are ugly numbers but his 14 homers and 56 RBIs in 71 games should not be overlooked. I know Mike and Cory aren’t too high on Howard for next year, but if he can stay healthy and go .250-30-100, he’ll make for a nice mid-round value pick. I’m certainly open to drafting him if the price is right.

Mariano Rivera decides to play in 2013

And so ends Rafael Soriano’s stint with the Yankees, in all likelihood. Will the soon to be 43-year-old Rivera show any signs of decline in 2013? Mariano continues to defy the odds but he is coming back from a significant injury. I’ll never bet against him though, so I’ll say no. We didn’t include Rivera in our 2013 closer rankings and we definitely should have. For the time being, I’d slot him in at #7, behind Papelbon and ahead of Nathan. He could be a steal there but I have a feeling that no one will be sleeping on him come draft day, especially if he looks good in spring training. Don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the top-3 by then. I just don’t see him dropping to the point where he offers great value.

Tigers confident that Victor Martinez will return to his old form

V-Mart missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing knee surgery but is expected to be 100 percent healthy for the start of spring training. Will he once again perform at an elite level? Who knows. But it’s nice to hear that his rehab is going well. It’ll be very interesting to find out where he goes off the board in early mocks, but I don’t see a whole lot of downside in using a mid to late-round pick on him. He’ll maintain catcher eligibility for at least one more year and there aren’t too many catchers who have the potential to bat .300 with 20 homers and 90-plus RBIs. To me, V-Mart is an injury-risk worth taking should you decide to pass on the top-tier backstops.

Ervin Santana traded to the Royals

Big Erv! This came as a bit of a surprise to me at first. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Erv is coming off an extremely disappointing 2012 campaign and his contract included a hefty $13 million club option for 2013, so the Halos are saving some money by shipping him to Kansas City. Erv’s fantasy value doesn’t change much with his move to K.C. We all know that he can dominate at times but his inconsistency is maddening. Maybe a change of scenery will do him some good, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to draft him. The AL Central is a little tougher on pitchers than the AL West and the Royals’ lineup probably won’t give him the kind of run support he’s enjoyed while playing for the Angels. He’s medium-risk, medium-reward. I won’t be avoiding him but I also won’t be targeting him.

Until next week (weather permitting),

Zach

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