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Sunday, May 27, 2007

THT Fantasy Focus

Hey everyone!
Well, The Hardball Times Fantasy Focus is now up and running! From now on, I'll be posting over there. Continue sending me your questions; I enjoy answering them. I appreciate all of your support this season, and I hope you continue reading over at THT. You can find it on the THT home page, or you can follow this link:

Thanks again everyone!

Derek Carty

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ranking the Young Third Basemen: Part IV

OK. Time for the finale of this feature. We'll now look at the long-term potential of these guys. Keep in mind, I haven't done extensive research into which types of minor leaguers tend to become good major leaguers, and these rankings are very rough. They represent the order in which I, if in a keeper league, would probably keep them being forced to choose now. Without further ado...

Keeper League Rankings
1. Alex Gordon
1a. Kevin Kouzmanoff
2. Ryan Braun
2a. Edwin Encarnacion
3. Akinori Iwamura
4. Andy LaRoche
5. Mark Reynolds

Alright. I hope you enjoyed this feature today. I'll be back tomorrow with the Waiver Wire for both leagues and possibly something else.

Ranking the Young Third Basemen: Part III

Alright. Throughout the day I've analyzed some of the Top Young Third Basemen in the majors. Now, I'll rank these guys in the order I think you should pick them up if you are in need of a 3B/CI. First will be short-term rankings. Please keep in mind that rookies are the toughest players to predict because we are basing these predictions on easily compromised minor league numbers and speculation. A guy like Ryan Braun could hit for a good average if his 2007 AAA numbers carry over, but as this is somewhat unlikely, I'm not going to count on him hitting .300 for me.

Alongside each player I've listed stats. These are not scientifically created. They came off the top of my head, and they are only there to compare the different skills of the different players. If your team needs steals, you'd be better off taking Iwamura or Gordon or Braun. If you need power and can afford a slightly lower BA, Reynolds might be your man. The numbers are for comparative purposes only, so please do not hold me to them.

Another note: these rankings are very flexible. A lot of the value of these guys comes in their actually playing (in the case of Encarnacion and Reynolds) and in their spot in the order. Most of these guys are batting at the back of their team's order, and if they were to be moved up their RBIs and Runs would change accordingly.

One more thing. After I plopped down the raw numbers next to each player, I realized that none are perfect. Some are strong in only one category, some two. But none can help you in all three, so the order I have them in will change based on every team's need. Pick up the one that suits your team.

2007 Rankings
Akinori Iwamura | .277 | 18 HR | 22 SB
Edwin Encarnacion | .280 | 20 HR | 8 SB
Alex Gordon | .263 | 20 HR | 20 SB
Ryan Braun | .273 | 15 HR | 15 SBs
Kevin Kouzmanoff | .283 | 22 HR | 3 SB
Mark Reynolds | .263 | 25 HR | 3 SB
Andy LaRoche | .280 | 12 HR | 5 SB

Long-term rankings will come tonight!

Ranking the Young Third Basemen: Part II

Alright, I'm back to look at another set of Young 3B that might be on your Waiver Wire. We'll get right to it.

Edwin Encarnacion - I've talked about Edwin a lot over the past month or so. In 2007, so far, Edwin has an 82.8% Contact rate, 8.7% BB rate, and a 20.8% LD rate. In 2006, he had an 80.8% Contact rate, a 9.2% BB rate, and a 21.1% LD rate in 406 ABs. In 2005, he had a 71.6% Contact rate, 8.7% BB rate, and a 25.2% LD rate in 211 ABs. His LD and BB rates might improve just a bit, and his Contact rate should remain steady. These numbers don't translate to a .224 BA, and given an opportunity he should turn things around. A .280 BA seems like a good estimate.

He's only hit 1 HR so far in 2007, but it went a True Distance of 402 feet. In 2006, he hit 8 of his 15 HRs past 400 feet. According to HitTracker, he had a 4.00 No Doubt-to-Just Enough ratio, meaning he was a good bet to improve his HR total. I still see 30 HR power out of Edwin eventually, and if he can play fulltime once Josh Hamilton returns (which might be unlikely) he could be good for 20-25 HRs this year. His FB% is up to 42.7% and his GB% is down to 36.5%.

The Reds lineup is good, but it would be better if it was better managed. If he plays and hits in the middle of the order, Edwin should get plenty of RBIs and Runs, but we're looking at a big IF. I mean, the Reds were batting Adam Dunn 6th behind Jeff Conine and Alex Gonzalez some games and are giving Nick Hopper and Juan Castro far too many ABs.

Mark Reynolds - Hasn't been in the majors long, but has made a major splash in the time he has been. So far, he has a 81.1% Contact rate, a 7.5% BB rate, and a 19.4% LD rate in 37 ABs. He's hit 3 HRs so far, and they've gone True Distances of 371, 405, and a whopping 459 feet.

Here are his Minor League numbers across several levels:
2005 | Low-A | 431 ABs | 77.4% Contact | 7.4% BB | 13.7% LD | 19 HR
2006 | High-A | 273 ABs | 77.6% Contact | 12.7% BB | 17.2% LD | 23 HR
2006 | Double A | 114 ABs | 71.9% Contact | 8.7% BB | 14.5% LD | 8 HR
2007 | Triple A | 134 ABs | 76.1% Contact | 12.9% BB | 20.6% LD | 6 HR

We see that his Major League numbers this year don't seem to be entirely sustainable. His Contact rate should fall to perhaps 75%, but his BB rate might stay level and his LD% might only drop a percentage point. His power is legit, and if he were to be a starter for the rest of the season he could get up to 25 HRs. His .519 BABIP will drop, as will his .459 BA, and it should settle somewhere near .260-.265. The Dan Uggla comparisons people draw seem to be pretty accurate.

The D'Backs lineup is very good, so he will get plenty of RBIs and Runs, especially if he keeps batting 4th and 5th. That they are comfortable hitting him there indicates they would like find him ABs even after Chad Tracy gets back. That may prove, though, with all of the quality hitters in their lineup. He might end up as a 3-4 game per week guy if they keep him in the majors.

Ryan Braun - Braun isn't a guy I was able to buy into the hype of until this year (to a certain extent). A highly touted prospect of the Brewers, Braun's call up was announced on Thursday. Let's first look at his minor league numbers.

2005 | Low-A | 152 ABs | 79.3% Contact | 5.5% BB | 25.6% LD | 8 HRs | 2 SBs
2006 | High-A | 226 ABs | 79% Contact | 8.9% BB | 11.6% LD | 7 HRs | 14 SBs
2006 | Double A | 231 ABs | 78% Contact | 82.% BB | 12.3% LD | 15 HRs | 12 SBs
2007 | Triple A | 109 ABs | 90.8% Contact | 10.7% BB | 22.2% LD | 9 HRs | 4 SBs

We see that up until 2007, Braun's numbers were very mediocre. Where did this spike come from in 2007? Did he change something? Did he just get lucky? And most importantly, how will these numbers translate to the majors? Honestly, it's a tough call. His Contact rate could be anywhere from 75% to 90%. His BB rate could be anywhere from 5% to 8%. His LD rate (yikes) could be anywhere from 12% to 23%. Let's say that he settles at around this level: 80% Contact, 7% BB, and 18% LD. That would mean a BA around .270-.275. He might be able to hit dozen HRs the rest of the way, but he also has a little bit of speed. He could end up with 12-15 SBs, which is where a lot of his value comes from. Not many third baggers can steal 15 bases.

The Brewers lineup is good. Braun batted second last night, a spot that would provide a good numbers of runs and a fair number of RBIs.

Andy LaRoche - The Dodgers' top 3B prospect was called up on May 6 and has been a flop thus far. He's hitting with a 89.2% Contact rate, a 29.2% BB rate, and a 19.4% LD rate. Despite these good numbers, he has just a .233 BABIP and a .206 BA. He has yet to hit a HR. These numbers will certainly improve.

Here are his minor league numbers:
2005 | High-A | 249 ABs | 84.7% Contact | 7.1% BB | 21 HRs | 6 SBs
2005 | Double A | 227 ABs | 76.2% Contact | 12.4% BB | 9 HRs | 2 SBs
2006 | Double A | 230 ABs | 86.1% Contact | 15.1% BB | 9 HRs | 6 SBs
2006 | Triple A | 202 ABs | 84.2% Contact | 11.0% BB | 10 HRs | 3 SBs

In 2007, he had a 85.7% Contact rate, a 10.1% BB rate, and a 12.9% LD rate. He also hit 3 HRs in 98 ABs. I expect LaRoche to definitely pick up the pace shortly. His Contact rate might drop to 84%, and his BB rate will certainly drop, possibly to 9-10%. We don't have much to base his LD rate on (not available for 2005 and 2006 on, but 19% is modest enough where it could remain stable. Those numbers could give LaRoche a .275-.280 BA. He also might be good for 12 HRs and 5 SBs. He's been hitting between 6th and 9th in the Dodgers lineup, so RBIs and Runs won't be as plentiful if he continues to hit towards the back. The Dodgers lineup is deep though, and even batting 7th or 8th should give LaRoche a decent number of RBIs.

And that's it. We'll rank these guys a little bit later based on, as one reader requested, short-term and long-term potential.

Ranking the Young Third Basemen: Part I

Terrible, terribly sorry for the scarcity of posts this week. I'll try to make up for it today. Right now, let's take a look at the young third basemen that are quite possibly on your waiver wire if you're in a shallow or moderately deep league. I've been asked about a few of them over the past couple days, so hopefully this post will answer all of those questions.

I'll first take a look at each player's stats in the majors this year, and then we'll see if they mesh with his minor league numbers. I'll look at 3 guys now, the rest in a couple of hours, and then provide a list ranking them later this afternoon.

Alex Gordon - Picked by many as the AL Rookie of the Year favorite back in March, Gordon has disappointed those people so far. Let's look at his prospects for the rest of the year. He has a 71% Contact rate, a 9.9% BB rate, and a 22.7% LD rate. His BB and LD stats translate to better than a .252 BABIP, although his low Contact rate will prevent him from hitting for a very high BABIP. It should increase to maybe .250 or .260, but if he keeps striking out it won't get much higher. Gordon has only hit 3 HRs so far, but each has had a True Distance over 400 ft according to HitTracker.

In 2006, he had an 80% Contact rate, 12.5% BB rate, and a 16.3% LD rate in Double A. Judging by that, there is a decent chance he could see an improved contact rate, which would help his average. I don't see his BB rate getting too much higher this year, but it is at a respectable level. He hit 29 HRs and 40 2Bs and 3Bs, and combined with the power he's shown this year I'd say Gordon is in for a power surge the rest of the year. I'd say 18-20 HRs is a possibility. The Royals lineup is better than advertised, so Gordon should get some RBIs and a decent number of Runs if he can move up a spot or two.

Akinori Iwamura - Coming off the DL next week, Iwamura was a beast in April. He had an 82% Contact rate, 21.1% BB rate, and a 29.5% LD rate. Those numbers are bound to come down, but even if he ends up with an 11% BB rate and 22% LD rate Iwamura could hit .285-.290. He also stole three bases, and after saying preseason that he was aiming for 40, I think he could still grab 20 or 25 by year's end. He also said he wanted 20 HRs, and his only one in April went a True Distance of 414 feet.

We'll look at Iwamura's Japanese numbers since this is his first year in America. In 2006, he had a 77% Contact rate and an 11.3% BB rate. In 2005, he had a 73.5% K rate and a 10.2% BB rate. For his career he had a 75.5% Contact rate and a 9.3% BB rate. Judging by that, I'd say his Contact rate is bound to drop into the high 70s and his BB rate might finish around 9 or 10%. With those numbers (and a 22% LD rate), Iwamura could hit .275 or .280. He had 44, 30, and 32 HRs, respectively, in 2004, 2005, and 2006, so 15 or 20 might be a possibility for this year. The D'Rays lineup is pretty good, and if he bats 6th again he should get his share of RBIs. His walks and a decent back of the order will help him get a few Runs.

Kevin Kouzmanoff - Like Alex Gordon, Kouzmanoff was an early favorite for Rookie of the Year, except in the NL. Also like Alex Gordon, he got off to a slow start. So far in 2006, he has a 75% Contact rate, 7.7% BB rate, and 20.2% LD rate. So-so, unspectacular numbers. The good news is that they can improve. The other good news is that he's got some power. He's hit 4 HRs so far (excluding his one last night), and they had True Distances of 378, 391, 429, and 447 feet. Seems like he can hit the ball a good distance.

In 244 Double AA At-Bats, Kouzmanoff had an 87.7% Contact rate, 8.3% BB rate, and an 18.4% LD rate. In 100 AAA At-Bats, he had an 89.3% Contact Rate, 8% BB rate, and a 23.3% LD rate. Judging by these, I'd say his Contact Rate should improve and his BB and LD rates seem about right. Since May 14th, he's had an 82.8% Contact Rate, so I think he is well on his way to becoming the player I expected him to be preseason. He had 15 HRs in AA and 6 HRs in AAA, so I think 20 HRs in the majors is pretty likely. The Padres lineup is good (although Brian Giles is DL bound), and if Kouzmanoff can get himself up a few spots he should be fine with RBIs and get a decent amount of Runs.

OK. In an hour or two I'll post about a few more 3B, including Mark Reynolds, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ryan Braun. Later this afternoon, I'll post a list ranking these guys.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Iwamura to Return Monday

Akinori Iwamura has been playing in rehab games recently, and could potentially come off the Disabled List on Monday. When he does, he will most likely resume his role as the Devil Rays' everyday third basemen.

"He's doing very well," manager Joe Maddon said. "He hasn't felt any pulling sensation in his side."

Iwamura was a guy I liked a lot in the beginning of the season (and even picked up in one league, although he surprisingly went on the DL the next day). He had an 82% Contact rate, 21.1% BB rate, and a 29.5% LD rate. While the BB rate and LD% should drop, as long as they don't go too far Iwamura could hit over .300. He also had 3 SBs and could get 20 or 25 if he doesn't get injured again. He only had 1 HR, but it had a True Distance of 414 feet, according to HitTracker. He could end up with 15 HRs. The D'Rays' lineup is good, so Iwamura should also get plenty of RBIs and Runs.

If you need a 3B, Iwamura seems like he can help you in every category. Now's the time to pick him up.

Oakland Closer Update

Sorry I didn't post yesterday guys; things were crazy around here.

Anyway, Justin Duchscherer joined Huston Street on Oakland's DL today. It's safe to drop Duke in leagues where setup men are worthless. So who is the guy to own in Oakland?

It seems that Alan Embree is the guy to own, as Manager Bob Geren said that he will be used in "more cases than not." Kiko Calero and crew might steal a save here or there, but it seems Embree will get the majority of them while Street is out. So what should we expect out of Embree?

Strangely, his K rate has been quite unstable, but I think his current 6.87 K/9 seems about right. His 2.45 BB/9 also seems about right, giving Embree a K/BB of 2.80. Very solid. His 31.1% GB rate is down 10 percentage points from his average since 2002, and if he can't get it back up he'll blow some saves by giving up the longball. I expect it to increase though, so no worries there. Overall, Embree is a solid option as long as Street is out. He should be owned in all leagues.

Barry Zito: Fantasy Disappointment?

You know Barry Zito. Former member of the Oakland "Big Three." Part of a rock band. Used to go out with Alyssa Milano. Known for his 12-6 curveball. Signed with the Giants for $126 million. Yeah... that guy. Did you also know that he has a 3-5 record and a 5.13 ERA? If you follow baseball, chances are you did. So why is the highest paid pitcher in baseball putting up numbers like Steve Trachsel? Well, honestly, because they have a similar skill level.

Hopefully you read my Preseason Analysis of Barry Zito and didn't draft him. If you did, you've got a big problem on your hands. In that article I mentioned how Zito has only an average K rate (6.50 K/9), an unimpressive BB rate (3.50 BB/9), and a poor GB rate (38%). Has the move to the National League changed anything for Zito? Let's take a look.

4.97 K/9
4.64 BB/9
38.0% GB
.263 BABIP
0.83 HR/9

Well, it seems his K rate and his BB rate is worse than it has been in the past. I didn't see a K rate close to 7.0 as terribly unlikely, seeing as how he'll get to throw to pitchers in the NL, but we've actually seen a decrease in Ks. I expect this to increase at least to his career levels, but even that will only be around average. His BB rate should decrease a little, but I don't see it getting much lower than 4.00. His GB percentage is perfectly in line with his career numbers, so no change should happen there.

We see that Zito is actually getting lucky when we look at his BABIP and HR/9 numbers. The BABIP should be up nearly .040 points, and the HR/9 does not reflect his low BB rate. It should jump above 1.00 shortly.

While I don't expect Zito to finish the year with an ERA above 5.00, don't expect it to get much lower than 4.50. I said the Giants made a mistake, and I'm sticking by that statement. I can't say how glad I am the Mets didn't shell out even the $80 million they reportedly offered him. If you own Zito and someone in your league still thinks he is good, dump him. Otherwise, wait for his ERA to drop below 5.00 and take the best offer you get.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Look at Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina was a player I liked a lot in the preseason, but he has since been a disappointment for Fantasy Baseball owners. He went down early in the year to a hamstring injury, and in his time on the field has been less than inspiring. His line so far looks like this:
22.1 IP
4.03 K/9
2.01 BB/9
31% GB

His career numbers look like this:
7.19 K/9
2.02 BB/9
42.1% GB (since 2002)

We see that his BB rate has been pretty consistent with his career line, and I don't expect to see much of a change in that area. His K rate is very alarming though. It is down more than 3 points from it's career average. His GB rate is down more than 10 percentage points from his career average. Coming into the season I loved Mussina and hated Chien-Ming Wang, but if Mussina keeps up these numbers Wang might be the better bet (that is not an OK to go trade for Wang).

While I expect the GB rate to increase, I'm not quite sure why the K rate is like that. I thought maybe it had to do with the injury, so I took a look at his games since coming back from the DL to see if he has improved.

5.0 IP 3 K 0 BB 33% GB
6.0 IP 2 K 1 BB 35% GB
5.1 IP 1 K 0 BB 35% GB

No such luck there. So why is Mussina struggling? Honestly, I have no idea. He is 38 years old, and this might have something to do with it.

So what do you do with Mussina? He is owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues now, and if he were dropped in any league where I needed pitching, I would probably pick him up and sit him for another few starts. I have a hard time seeing Mussina posting a 4.00 K/9 come September, and even if he can get it up to 6.00 he should be a Top 25 pitcher with his great control and decent GB rate (assuming it gets back to its normal level, which it should). If you can trade for him cheaply and you need pitching, you might want to consider doing it. There are safer options that might come at the same price. Philip Hughes might be back in a month, and Yovanni Gallardo might be coming up in a few weeks. Jamie Shields might still be considered a fluke and come at a discount. Dave Bush, Javier Vazquez, and A.J. Burnett are also some good guys to buy on. All said, Mussina could pay nice rewards, but there is some risk involved.

Exciting News!

Hey everyone!

I've got some very exciting news! I was contacted a few days ago by Dave Studeman of the Hardball Times. He told me that the Hardball Times is interested in starting up Fantasy Baseball content, more specifically a blog. He asked me if I would be interested in writing for it, and I couldn't pass up a fantastic opportunity like this to write for one of my favorite baseball sites.

So, sometime in the not-so-distant future, we'll be relocating over to the Hardball Times. I'll mostly be writing about the same stuff I've been writing about here, and there will be a few other Hardball Times writers contributing to the blog as well. I know for a fact that David Gassko will be contributing, and I've been told a few of their other writers are interested as well.

While this is a pretty big change, I don't think anything will be fundamentally different. Once the change is made, you'll simply be reading my stuff in a different location, and you'll also get the insights of a few other great baseball minds. For those of you that I have regular email contact with, that won't change either. Continue sending me your questions, and I will be more than happy to continue giving you my opinions.

Anyway, I'm not sure when the shift will occur, and I'll continue posting here until it does. When it does occur, I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks everyone for your support, and I look forward to continuing a good year with you all!

Derek Carty