Zach’s Musings (1/11)
First, the links to access the most recent 411 podcasts:
iTunes Audio: http://tinyurl.com/32346q8
iTunes Video: http://tinyurl.com/268r7gz
MLB.com Podcast Page: http://tinyurl.com/6xk6cx5
Writing the Relief Pitcher section for the 2013 MLB.com Player Preview, which will be coming out early next month, has helped me a lot in my own preparation, as I’ve taken the time to study more than 100 players. So I figured I’d share some of my thoughts on a few guys who I think will be undervalued on draft day and a few who I can see being overvalued.
Yeah, it’s always risky to invest heavily in a guy who is coming off Tommy John surgery, but in Madson’s case I’m willing to take the risk. The reality is that I don’t think his price will be all that steep. He’s ranked as the #22 RP on the latest ESPN rankings and CBS, for the time being, has him at #20. Should Madson prove to be 100 percent healthy in spring training, I’m sure his stock will go up, but I don’t think it will rise to the level that it should. A longtime dominant setup man, Madson finally overcame his closer demons in 2011, saving 32 games for the Phillies while posting a 2.37 ERA and striking out more than a batter per inning, and the contending Angels are sure to provide him with plenty of save chances. He’s a borderline #1/high-end #2 mixed league closer who you might be able to grab for a mid to low #2 closer price. I would not be surprised if he finishes 2013 in the top-10 at the position. But if you draft him, it’s a good idea to also scoop up Ernesto Frieri in the late rounds for insurance purposes.
Although a small part of me kind of believes Bruce Bochy when he says that he will also give Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt a look in the ninth inning, a larger part of me doesn’t buy it. 2012 marked the second straight season in which Romo pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA and the third straight year that he posted a sub-1.00 WHIP. All Romo needed was the opportunity to close on a full-time basis, and towards the end of the year he got it and ran with it, going a combined 9-for-9 in save chances in August and September. Add in a career 10.68 K/9 rate and 5.77 K/BB ratio and I have little doubt that he can perform like a top-10 closer. And where is he being ranked? #18 by ESPN and outside of the top-20 by CBS. Go figure.
There’s no way around it. Axford was a major disappointment last season following a 2011 campaign that saw him join the elite class of closers. The Brewers’ stopper had trouble keeping the ball in the yard (1.30 HR/9) and often struggled with his control. There is reason for optimism, however, as his 12.07 K/9 rate represented a significant hike from his 2011 strikeout rate. Also, Axford did finish the year on a high note, registering a 3.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in September. Currently ranked outside of the top-20 by both ESPN and CBS, he could be a big-time bargain.
Rodney’s 2013 outlook will surely be a hot-button topic over the coming months, and for good reason. On one hand, any pitcher who puts together the kind of season Rodney did in 2012 deserves a ton of credit. But do you really feel comfortable drafting him as your #1 closer? I don’t. Keep in mind that this is a guy who was coming off five straight seasons of an ERA over 4.00 and had posted a combined 1.55 WHIP over his previous four seasons. I don’t think you will need to pay top dollar for him, as there are plenty of doubters out there, but I honestly don’t want him at all. Well, maybe for a buck. That’s not happening though. ESPN ranking him at #14 isn’t crazy. CBS slotting him in at #6 is flat-out ridiculous!
#6? Really? That’s where ESPN had Reed ranked last week (they’ve dropped him to #11 since), and it baffles me to no end. To be fair, Reed has a number of things going for him. He’s only 24 and has the stuff to thrive in the closer role. But if you owned him last season, you’re probably still dizzy from the roller coaster ride, and his brutal September (8.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) might have cost you a league title. Although I won’t necessarily be avoiding Reed in drafts this year, there’s no way I’m taking him over, let’s see, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, J.J. Putz, Huston Street, the list goes on and on.
I’d be happy to own Storen this year…just not as my #1 closer. Elbow surgery postponed his 2012 debut until mid-July, but when Storen did return he was as dominant as ever, registering a sub-3.00 ERA for the second straight season while posting a career-best WHIP. Still, he was never quite able to re-claim the Nats’ closer job from Tyler Clippard, who pitched brilliantly for most of the season. Add in Storen’s NLDS meltdown and I’m uneasy about this whole situation. Storen will likely open 2013 as the Nats’ closer but he will have little margin for error with the proven Clippard waiting in the wings.
As for the past week’s signings, there were only two that I consider to be fantasy-relevant:
Adam LaRoche re-signs with Nationals for two yrs/$24 million
One of the more overlooked yet consistent hitters in the game over the course of his career, LaRoche has always found a home on at least one of my teams, whether it be as a rock solid CI in a 12-team mixed league or an affordable starting 1B in an NL-only. From 2005-2010, LaRoche averaged 25 homers and 87 RBIs per season, yet he routinely lasted past the top-150 or so picks on draft day. As if he wasn’t under-appreciated enough heading into the 2011 campaign, an injury-plagued season seemed to knock him off the fantasy radar entirely entering last year. So how does he respond? By driving in 100 runs for the second time in three years and launching a career-high 33 homers. The Nats did well here as they refused to budge from their two-year offer even though LaRoche was holding out for three years. So what’s the bottom line? LaRoche remains an ultra-safe bet for 25 home runs and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he again reaches the 30-homer plateau. Oh yeah, and a strong supporting lineup will continue to provide him with plenty of RBI opportunities.
Lance Berkman signs with Rangers for one yr/$10 million
Even though it’s only a one year contract, 10 million bucks is an awful lot of dough for a 36-year-old (he’ll turn 37 next month) who is coming off an injury-ravaged season in which he was limited to just 32 games. Even without Josh Hamilton, the Rangers’ lineup remains formidable. A hitter-friendly ballpark helps, as does the fact that Berkman will serve as a full-time DH, thus limiting the risk of injury. Still though, I just can’t see myself investing too much in this guy. His current Mock Draft Central ADP of 260 is fair, and I’d probably be willing to take a flier on him at that point in the draft, which equates to the 22nd round in a 12-team mixed league. But I have a feeling that he’ll go off the board well before then in the vast majority of drafts, due in part to name recognition. If we’re talking late-teen rounds, I’d rather scoop up a younger and more exciting player.