Transaction Scripts: Brandon Morrow to San Diego

Morrow has a career 9.2 K/9 as a starter and moves to San Diego for only 2.5 Million
Morrow has a career 9.2 K/9 as a starter. San Diego picked him up for a reasonable 2.5 million dollars

There is some congruence between modern day general managers and fantasy baseball owners. With escalating salaries being spent on back-end rotation pieces, it results in pitchers like Edinson Volquez and Brett Anderson cashing in for 10-million dollar deals. With the variance that pitchers have and how many are found on the waiver wire it pays to know which players to target late in drafts that you may be able to hit on as fliers. The new regime in San Diego has taken a similar chance on wild card Brandon Morrow by offering him an incentive-laden 2.5-million dollar deal with the chance to earn as much as 5 million. To say that Brandon Morrow is a fantasy tease is an understatement.

Since his 2007 arrival in Seattle, his stuff tantalized fantasy owners. However, the Mariners could not decide how to use the right-hander. Morrow was used primarily in relief during his first three years as a major leaguer, making only 15 starts. It was not until 2010, after his trade to Toronto that he finally had a chance to become a starter. In that season he won 10 games in 26 starts, but his ability to strike batters out is what excited those in the fake baseball community. In just over 146 innings Morrow was able to fan 178 batters, good for a 10.9 K/9. But keeping Morrow on the mound is where the problem lies. However, if there is a silver lining, a pitcher with a similar skill-set who suffered an injury prior to his leaving Toronto back in 2003 resurfaced with a small contract and resurrected his career.

Back in 2003 the St. Louis Cardinals signed Chris Carpenter to a $300,000 contract and although he did not pitch for them until 2004, the returns far outweighed the weight. One of Dave Duncan’s biggest reclamation projects was the transformation of Carpenter from an afterthought to one of the game’s most dominant arms. Even though Carpenter was a year younger than Morrow, this is a chance well taken by San Diego. Morrow has a 9.8 K/9 as a starting pitcher along with a 4.16 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Here are each pitchers’ career totals as they left Toronto:

Brandon Morrow: 42 W, 43 L, 231 G, 108 GS, 735.2 IP, 765/340 K/BB, 4.28 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
Chris Carpenter:
49 W, 48 L, 152 G, 136 GS, 939.1 IP, 612/331 K/BB, 4.47 ERA, 1.39 WHIP

Can history be as kind to Morrow as Carpenter's departure from the Blue Jays to the NL was? Even their deliveries are similar...
Can history be as kind to Morrow as it was to Carpenter? Even their deliveries are similar

It is apparent that Carpenter was more durable in his time in the American League while with Toronto, but Morrow did not benefit from bouncing between the bullpen and rotation either. I would think his signing with San Diego promises him the chance at the starting role he craves.

Digging a bit deeper I wanted to see how each pitcher’s repertoire compared to one another. I will use Morrow’s 2011 season and Chris Carpenter’s injury shortened 2002:

Chris Carpenter 2002 – 8.4 SwStr%, 1.25 GB/FB, 41.6 GB%, 4.53 xFIP
Fastball – 91 MPH, 58.3% Usage
Slider – 85.4 MPH, 8.4% Usage
Curveball – 74.3 MPH, 20.3% Usage
Changeup – 83.1 MPH, 13% Usage

Brandon Morrow 2011: 11.5 SwStr%, 0.87 GB/FB, 36 GB%, 3.53 xFIP
Fastball: 93.9 MPH, 61.6% Usage
Slider: 87.9 MPH, 26.6% Usage
Curveball: 81.5 MPH, 5.6% Usage
Changeup: 86.8 MPH, 6.2% Usage

While Morrow was able to pile up many more strikeouts than Carpenter, Carpenter was much better at keeping the ball on the ground. Moving to the National League usually provides pitchers with a bump in value but after returning from injury in his first full season back, Carpenter racked up 15 wins in St. Louis. Not only that, in his first three years with the Cardinals, Carpenter saw his K/9 jump to 7.7 while lowering his ERA and WHIP to 3.08 and 1.08 respectively. Even with his velocity decreasing slightly, his peripherals took a major jump:

Chris Carpenter 2004: 9.4 SwStr%, 1.79 GB/FB, 52.2 GB%, 3.36 xFIP
Fastball: 90.6 MPH, 51.6% Usage
Slider: 84.6 MPH, 13.8% Usage
Cutter: 86.2 MPH, 3.2% Usage
Curveball: 74.2 MPH, 21.4% Usage
Changeup: 83.9 MPH, 9.5% Usage

His strike percentage only increased by two percentage points from 2002 to 2004. Further, he started to mix in a cutter. However, these two factors cannot explain the newfound success. Carpenter did raise his GB/FB from 1.25 in 2002 to a glorious 1.79 though, and that is the progression I am focusing in on. This accounted for a 10% increase in groundball percentage and helped to drop his xFIP by more than a full run. Although 2014 was a shortened season for Morrow, there were some interesting changes in his repertoire:

Brandon Morrow 2014: 8.7 SwStr%, 1.67 GB/FB, 50.5 GB%, 4.06 xFIP
Fastball: 94 MPH, 58.9% Usage
Slider: 86.2 MPH, 18.6% Usage
Cutter: 89.3 MPH, 4% Usage
Curveball: 78.4 MPH, 3.2% Usage
Changeup: 83.5 MPH, 15.2% Usage

I cannot guarantee a quick fix for Morrow based on his improving GB/FB ratio since his xFIP actually went up by a half run, but there are interesting similarities in their returns after injury. Morrow is still throwing hard, and his introduction of a cutter has helped him keep the ball on the ground more, making him an intriguing sleeper pick in 2015. The injury concerns are real though, which help to depress his value. I listed his career in the American League but here are his career statistics as a starting pitcher:

Brandon Morrow: 108 G, 38 W, 33 L, 611.1 IP, 628/260 K/BB, 4.40 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 9.2 K/9

Only 13 starting pitchers struck out more than 200 batters in 2014. It only took Brandon Morrow 179.1 innings in 2011 to eclipse that total, but it was his only time. Between the years of 2010 to 2012 Morrow started 77 games, winning 31 times while pitching 450 innings and fanning 489. I cannot predict how many innings Morrow will pitch for San Diego this year but if he can make it to 150 or more I do know that I will want him on my teams. Chris Carpenter was able to shake the injury bug and put three prolific seasons in St. Louis after leaving Toronto in 2002.

Chris Carpenter (2004-2006): 93 G, 51 W, 18 L, 645.2 IP, 549/132 K/BB, 3.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.7 K/9

With the parallels of an emerging cutter, increased groundball rate and moving to the National League, Morrow makes for a worthwhile selection. Only time will tell if Morrow can follow Carpenter’s breakthrough whilst conquering his injury-plagued past. The situation reminded me of this quote:

“Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.” Charles Dickens

Morrow could be lightning in a bottle or someone who could force fantasy owners to drink. Whether or not we are toasting to his contributions as a Padre will be determined by his ability (or inability) to make 25 or more starts. Since he has only done this three times in his career, it’s definitely not a lock. Not only does he gain in ballpark factor, he is in the National League. As a late round flier, he is disposable if injuries get him again. Those who grabbed Chris Carpenter off the waiver wire in 2004 can attest. Not only can Morrow be a bargain at his low salary for the Padres, but to fantasy owners as well.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/HI3wxA (Morrow), http://goo.gl/vg46vL (Carpenter)

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Fantasy Football Boom or Bust: Week 16

Larry Donnell
The Rams have been absolutely stingy against opposing tight ends this year, making Larry Donnell an easy sit

It is a bittersweet week in the fantasy football world. On one hand it’s championship weekend and on the other hand it marks the end of the 2014  season. I managed to reach the championship game in one of my three leagues so I still have a chance to end the year on a positive note. To make things fun I have decided to only talk about players that are featured in my league’s three championship contests. If you have reached the finals and don’t usually take my advice then I would continue to ignore it. However, if you are looking for that edge to push you across the finish line, buckle up and pay close attention as there may be some things that surprise you.

Boom:

Tom Brady: Since New England’s week 4 debacle in Kansas City, Brady has thrown for at least two touchdowns in each game. In week 16 he will face a familiar foe that he picked apart for 261 yards and 3 scores in their first meeting. Since that contest the Jets defense has not improved and has given up the third most touchdowns through the air while being second to last in interceptions. Be ready for Brady and the red-hot Patriots to continue their dominance against their AFC East rivals.

Matt Ryan: The Saints have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in four of their last five games and have given up the third most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers in 2014. Atlanta’s offense is clicking right now and Matt Ryan is the catalyst. He has thrown for 8 touchdowns and more 300 yards per game over his last three contests. I don’t expect him to repeat his week 1 performance where he tallied 448 yards and 3 scores, but I do think he will put up very good numbers.

Jonathon Stewart: Since taking over sole possession of the Panthers’ backfield 3 weeks ago, Stewart has averaged 5.8 yards per carry. With Cam Newton coming back from an injury the Panthers should continue to give Stewart 20+ carries like they have the last couple of weeks. Stewart has a very appealing matchup with the Browns in week 16, a team that gave up 241 yards and 3 rushing scores last week. To stay in the playoff hunt Carolina needs to continue to lean on J-Stew.

Pierre Thomas: The Saints/Falcons game has the makings of a shootout. Last week against the Bears, Thomas played 30 snaps, 28 of them in passing situations. In week 1 against New Orleans, Thomas accumulated 89 total yards in a high scoring affair. If Thomas can manage to get into the end zone with similar yardage his owners will be very happy.

Roddy White: As you can probably tell, I like this matchup for both teams. White has once again become a consistent fantasy contributor, scoring in four of his last six games. Because of Matt Ryan’s numbers in their first meeting, White also had a good game racking up 72 yards and a touchdown. Roddy should take advantage of a defense that has surrendered 18 touchdowns to opposing receivers thus far.

Steve Smith: The Texans have allowed the third most touchdowns to receivers this year, 19, and at least one in every week since week 1. Every team playing the Texans has managed to get their receivers over 100 yards and 11 of them have eclipsed 150. Smith has thrived in road games of late, totaling 159 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last two. The wily vet will shine in a must win game for Baltimore.

Colby Fleener: Over his last three games, Fleener is averaging 20 yards per catch. The Cowboys have given up 80+ yards to tight ends 6 times in 2014. Dallas has also given up the third most touchdowns to the position (10). This is another game that has the potential to be a shootout and Fleener poses a tough matchup wherever he lines up.

Bust:

Cam Newton: This poor guy in one of my leagues has Newton and Cutler as his two options at quarterback. With Cutler benched, he is forced to start Newton. To make matters worse, Carolina is facing a very good Cleveland pass defense. The Browns have held quarterbacks to under 300 yards passing in all but two games and less than two touchdowns eight times. If the Panthers are smart they will protect their franchise quarterback and limit the number of opportunities the Browns have to hit him.

Russell Wilson: Wilson was held in check in Seattle’s first matchup with the Cardinals, totaling only 284 yards and 1 score. Since then, Wilson has not rushed for more than 50 yards in any game. Since week 7 the Cardinals have only given up eight passing touchdowns while Wilson has only thrown for more than 1 touchdown twice. Seattle should win this game behind their defense.

Jeremy Hill: After Hill’s performance last week expectations are high for him coming into week 16. However, against a great Denver rush defense, those expectations need to be kept in check. The Broncos have only allowed 4 rushing touchdowns this year, only 1 coming since week 5. If those stats don’t scare you maybe this will: Denver has allowed only one team to break 100 yards on the ground while holding teams to under 50 seven times. If the Bengals are forced to pass in this game we should see more of Gio Bernard as he is the better pass-catcher. Hill owners could not have picked a worse opponent in the final week of the fantasy season so hopefully you have a backup plan.

Lamar Miller: I continue to see fantasy owners starting Lamar Miller and I’m not sure why. He has recorded more than 100 yards just one time this season, while carrying the ball more than 15 times just twice. The Vikings haven’t been great against the run in 2014, although they have not allowed a running back to score since week 10. The Dolphins have yet to show a commitment to the run so Minnesota should not have to worry much about Miller on Sunday.

Mohamed Sanu: The second half of the season has been awful for Sanu. Over his last six games he hasn’t surpassed five receptions or 50 yards in any game. You would be able to live with those numbers if he was finding the end zone, but he has only two touchdowns in the last nine games. Things will not get easier this week against arguably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Sit city.

DeAndre Hopkins: It looks like Case Keenum is starting under center for the Texans which is bad news for anyone who owns DeAndre Hopkins. In eight games last year with Keenum as quarterback, Hopkins had 22 receptions for 419 yards and 1 touchdown. If my math is correct, his averages catching balls from Keenum are 3/52 per game. As well as Hopkins has played at times this season, these numbers give me very little confidence going into week 16.

Larry Donnell: Donnell has become a player of debate on Sunday morning’s installment of The Fantasy Forecaster. Surprisingly, he has only two touchdowns since his three-score performance in week 4 and hasn’t had more than three fantasy points in any of his last four games. His opponent, the Rams, have surrendered just two touchdowns to the position all year and less than 70 yards to tight ends in every game. For once, Larry Donnell should be a unanimous sit in your championship match.

Photo cred: http://goo.gl/sWLKkJ

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Payton is the newest fantasy football contributor to The Sports Script. Be on the lookout for more of his work in the coming weeks and follow him on Twitter @PaySand!

Eight In The Box: IDP Waiver Wire Week 16

Sean Lee
Lee is a strong stash for next season, but have a backup plan in place

If you are in a dynasty league it’s time to start looking for diamonds in the rough that could be primed to break out next year. I like to look at teams that are out of playoff contention and are now playing some of their younger players, looking to see what they have in them. This is especially true on the defensive side of the ball.

Another good source of value are players that are free agents that may be changing schemes if they move to a different team. For example, you might be looking at playing Brandon Graham with the Eagles. He is being used is an outside linebacker and has been underutilized. He is in the last year of his rookie contract and could look to move to a team that runs a 4-3 and wants a young player with upside to give him a shot. This could be a cheap way to acquire an impact player moving forward.

Rather than give you start and sits for the next two weeks I will be looking at these types of players while making recommendations on players you might be able to acquire on the cheap in dynasty formats.

 Week 14 results from the Sunday pod:

Player Stats Start/Sit Result Type
Matt Ryan 310 yds; 2 TD; 1 Int Neutral Win Offense
Devin Hester 5-85 yds; 1 TD Desperation Play Win Offense
Roddy White 7-58 yds; 1 TD Neutral Win Offense
DeSean Jackson 3-15 yds; 1-9 yds Sit Win Offense
Jordan Reed 3-13 yds; 0 TD Start Loss Offense
Brandon Oliver 12-26yds; 4-44 yds Sit OK Offense
Donald Brown 5-18yds; 4-38 yds Sit Win Offense
Keenan Allen 3-18 yds PPR Play Loss Offense
DeAndre Hopkins 5-77 yds Neutral Win Offense
Justin Forsett 16-48 yds; 1- (-1) Start Loss Offense
Steve Smith 5-37 yds Start Loss Offense
Cameron Wake 1/0/0 Sit Win IDP
LeGarrette Blount 8-17yds; 2-7yds; 1 TD Start Win Offense
Kamar Aiken 1 target Sit Win Offense
Chandler Jones 4/3/1.5 High Risk/High Reward -Sit Loss IDP
Martavis Bryant 3-31yds; 0 TD Long Shot Loss Offense
Donte Moncrief 0-0 Long Shot Loss Offense
Marquess Wilson 3-16yds; 1 TD Long Shot Win Offense
Steven Jackson>NYG RB’s 11-46; 1-11 Jackson Win Offense
Jonathan Stewart 22-73 yds; 1-6 yds Start Win Offense

Week 15 Summary: 12-7-1 (63%)

Season Summary (since week 8): 71-36-3 (66%)

*IDP Stats are listed as:  Solos/Assists/Sacks; PD = Pass Defensed; FR = Fumble Recover; INT = Interception

Week 15 Results from this column:

Player Stats Start/Sit Result Type
Ziggy Ansah 1/0/0 Start Loss IDP
Cameron Jordan 0/0/0 Start Loss IDP
Charles Johnson 3/1/0.5 Start Win IDP
Damontre Moore 4/1/0.5 Start &Dynasty Stash Win IDP
Rolando McClain 3/2/0 Start Loss IDP
Curtis Lofton 2/1/0 Start Loss IDP
Elvis Dumervil 1/0/1 Start Win IDP
Ryan Mundy 4/5/1/PD Start Win IDP
Barry Church 8/0/0 Start Win IDP
Antrel Rolle 4/0/0/PD Sit Win IDP

Week 15: 6-4 (60%)

Season Summary: 72-31 (70%)

I had a successful season of predictions overall, hitting at a nice 68% between the article and the podcast. I was brought down a bit with my offensive predictions as I was only 61% (podcast only) while my overall IDP recommendations hit at 70% (111-47).

I am open for suggestions. If there is anything you want clarified or think my thresholds are wrong please let me know. Any input is appreciated. On to this week’s information:

Week 16 injuries of note:

  • Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ DL): Wilkerson missed the last couple of weeks with a turf toe injury. These can linger and a full offseason of rest should help considerably. If you can acquire him cheaply from an owner worried this could be an issue in the future do so. He should be fine next year.
  • Gerald McCoy (TB DL): He is one of the premier defensive tackles in the NFL, but his season comes to an end with a hyperextended knee. The Bucs had nothing to play for and did the smart thing by shutting him down. He doesn’t need surgery which is obviously a good thing. His stock for next year should be just fine.
  • Jadeveon Clowney (HOU LB): I touched on Clowney a couple weeks ago as he has undergone microfracture surgery on his knee. This is a long and difficult path back to playing and because of this his dynasty value has taken a big hit. If you have him I would look to move him for any value you can get. On the flip side, I wouldn’t be looking to acquire him. I wouldn’t expect much out of him in 2015.
  • Kiko Alonzo (BUF LB): Alonzo is probably off the radar for many owners since he has missed the entire year with a torn ACL. He should be back to 100% for training camp and should be roaming the middle of the field for a good Bills defense. If he is on your waiver wire pick him up and stash him for next year. You’ll be happy you did.
  • Sean Lee (DAL LB): Lee is another linebacker who missed the entire season with an ACL. He is an absolute stud when healthy. However, he is never healthy. He should be back to full strength for training camp but will always be an injury risk.  If you have the space he is a good speculative add but you better have a backup plan for when he gets hurt.
  • Anthony Barr (MIN LB): Barr was the favorite for defensive rookie of the year before he got hurt. For now, he should be a player to monitor. Indications are that it should not affect his long term performance, so if a worried owner in your league will ship him, it might be worth inquiring about. He is a stud and will be for many years to come.
  • Jerod Mayo (NE LB): Mayo missed most of the 2014 season with another injury. The injury bug is catching up to him and I would probably stay away in most dynasty formats at this point. See how the offseason goes and try to acquire him for a discount if all goes well but be prepared for the inevitability of the next injury.
  • Sio Moore (OAK LB): Moore was a semi-breakout performer with a few huge weeks. He has been placed on IR with a hip injury but it doesn’t appear to be too serious. Monitor him in the offseason to see how workouts are going. I would try making a lowball offer to his owner.
  • Eric Berry (KC DB): In general I don’t worry about rostering defensive backs in keeper leagues. The turnover in the top-15 is very high and you can usually always find one on the waiver wire. You never know who will be performing at a high level from year to year and sometimes it’s better to find the hot rookie because they get picked on and get a lot of tackle opportunities. I mention Berry here in hoping that he is able to beat this thing and get back to living a healthy life.

Watch list adds for 2015:

DL:

  • Damontre Moore (NYG DL): I mentioned him here last week and the window to buy low may have already passed. Moore has 5.5 sacks on the year including 2.5 over the last two weeks. I think he has arrived. If you can acquire him I would do so as he is poised to have a big 2015.
  • Olivier Vernon (MIA DL): Vernon is probably on most radars as he had a nice 2013 but has disappointed this season. With Cameron Wake slowing down a bit and getting older it might be a good time to try and buy low on the younger Vernon.
  • Geno Atkins (CIN DL): Atkins got off to a slow start in 2014 after knee surgery. If his owner has soured on him since he only has 20 tackles and 3 sacks on the year it might be time to investigate his price tag. He will be 100% next year and should be back to wreaking havoc in the middle of the line. In tackle-required leagues I would make a big push to acquire him below market value.
  • Demarcus Lawrence (DAL DL): Lawrence was injured most of the year so he hasn’t really had a chance to perform. As you may know, Dallas is 28th in the league for sacks so they are in desperate need of players who can storm the pocket. Look for Lawrence to get a shot in 2015. He is playing now so if you get a chance take a look at him over their last couple of games. A nice buy low stash.

LB:

  • Dee Ford (KC LB): With Justin Houston set to be a free agent after this year, Ford was drafted to take his place. He has shown glimpses in his minimal playing time. This is a speculative add situation and his value will be tied to whether or not Justin Houston re-signs or is franchise tagged in the offseason.
  • Telvin Smith (JAC LB): With the injuries to the Jaguar linebackers he got a shot at every down work. He is very athletic but undersized and some think he will wear down due to that. It appears that may be true as he started off with 10 tackles in his first game playing every down and has steadily gone down from there. His totals have been 10, 8, 4 and 1 over the last four games. However, I still think he has play-making ability as he has two sacks and an interception on the year. I think he is worth rolling the dice on.
  • Christian Kirksey (CLE LB): Kirksey has had a disappointing year. He could never crack an every down role even with Dansby getting injured. He has had a solid year with 44/31/2 so all hope is not lost. If an owner is frustrated because they expected more it would be a good time for lowball offer.
  • Jelani Jenkins (MIA LB): Jenkins got his chance early and ran with it. He has been outstanding this year as an every down linebacker and should only get better. I mention him here because he missed the last game and if his owner is fighting for this year he might be willing to part with him to win now. See if you can pry him loose. He will be great next year.
  • Khalil Mack (OAK LB): Mack hasn’t met expectations as he only has 3 sacks on the year. However, he has played much better than that. He will be outstanding in big play scoring leagues in the future. Get him now before he explodes.

DB:

  • I wouldn’t worry about defensive backs and wasting a roster spot in the offseason. They change ever year and you can always find them on the waiver wire. Concentrate on the other positions and you’ll be happy. If you insist on trying to roster one I would target Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He looks to be the real deal and has only gotten better as the season has progressed.

If you have any suggestions for some off-season articles or about specific players you want me to write about drop me a line on Twitter or in the comment section below.

Photo cred: http://goo.gl/aTnoxT

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Shane Gallimore is a fantasy football contributor and co-host of the live Sunday edition of The Fantasy Forecaster. Follow him on Twitter @Gally4!

The Extra Attacker: Trendy Transactions

We’re now a third of the way through the hockey season. Hopefully you’re faring better than Craig MacTavish is with his “bold move” approach of turning the Edmonton Oilers into the Oakland Raiders (see fire, dumpster). If not, and you’re looking to add a few key players to bolster your roster as we approach the new year, you should be looking at these factors: average time on ice (TOI), power play minutes and probably most important, a skater’s current line mates. On-ice chemistry is the key, as a move from the 3rd line center to 1st line left wing could make all the difference in the world from a fantasy perspective. Here are 3 players that are trending upward right now:

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: The third pick behind Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (would you like a redo Craig MacTavish?), Galchenyuk, a natural center, has been up and down Montreal’s lineup at varying positions. It seems he may have finally found his way as Montreal’s top-line pivot. Here are his line mates:

Habs Line Combo
Over the last week, Michel Therrien may have finally figured this whole line combo out. Pacioretty, a bona fide sniper and 30 goal-scorer was recently split up with his longtime centerman David Desharnais and placed on the top line with Galchenyuk and Gallagher. Gallagher is a scrappy right winger who plays big despite his small stature, while doing the line’s dirty work.

Galchenyuk is currently owned in just 43% of Y! leagues and is a must add at this point. Fresh off of a hat trick, Galchenyuk is averaging 1:57 PP time per game. We will likely see that number continue to rise, as he is now a member of the top power play unit as well. 525 owners have added him in the last 24 hours, make sure you’re in that group.

Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: The 21 year-old Zibanejad, 6th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has been on fire of late late, scoring 5 goals in his last 5 contests. He hasn’t quite been able to put it all together yet in his brief career, but this may be the start of something worthwhile. This is his current line:

Sens Line Combo
Centering a line with Bobby Ryan can never be a bad thing and Mike Hoffman is an underrated offensive player. This is Ottawa’s 2nd line, as Alex Chiasson joins Zibanejad and Ryan on Ottawa’s 2nd power play unit. Another strong sign for Mika is that he averages 2:42 of time on the man advantage per tilt. Further, a third of his points this season have come on the power play. Currently owned in only 17% of Y! leagues, he may be worth taking a flyer on. Others apparently feel the same way, as he has been picked up by 396 owners in the last 24 hour period.

Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers: I don’t know what’s more amazing, the fact that I am about to write about a Florida Panther or that I spelled his name correctly on the first try! Make no mistake about it, big Nick, 19th pick in the 2010 draft and former University of Minnesota Golden Golpher star has arrived as a legit NHL player. At 6 foot 6, Bjugstad has the size and reach to power through and/or around defenders. Oh and by the way, the kid knows his way around a shootout:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=702207

With 12 goals and 19 points in 27 games (which included 4 in a recent 3-game stretch), Bjugstad has made it clear it’s time to pick him up in fantasy. He is currently owned in 32% of Y! leagues:

Panthers Line Combo
I know, not exactly the triple crown line from the LA King’s heydays, but there is some potential here. Huberdeau is a former 3rd overall pick and Calder Trophy winner and Fleischmann should be well known to fantasy owners, as he has been up and down over the years with Florida and Washington. Florida is a young team trending in the right direction, and as their #1 center, Bjugstad is at the heart of their renaissance. With an average of 2:07 power play time per game and 3 power goals, there will be plenty of man advantage opportunities for Bjugstad in the coming weeks. He may not be as hot a pickup as Galchenyuk or Zibanejad, but I would keep him on your watch list and monitor his progress heading into 2015.

Notice a trend with these 3 players? They’re young, on the cusp of stardom and getting plenty of ice time. If you’re in a keeper league, I would consider all 3 of them to be must-owns.

Statistical credits: NHL.com, Dailyfaceoff.com
Photo/video cred: http://goo.gl/kb8fev, http://goo.gl/6cdlCK, http://goo.gl/Y7PSEz, NHL.com

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Derek is The Sports Script’s resident fantasy hockey guru. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @Extra_Attacker!

Transaction Scripts: Jason Motte and the Cubs Bullpen

Hector Rondon
Can Motte and Maddon rain on Rondon’s parade or does this create a buying opportunity?

“The best way to predict the future is to study the past, or prognosticate.” Robert Kiyosaki

When I saw that Jason Motte had signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, I immediately jogged my memory to all of the closer reclamation projects of Tampa Bay’s past. Is it a coincidence that one of the first things the Dodgers have done under Andrew Friedman regime is clear house in their bullpen trying to get rid of the salary burden? For years, the Rays built their bullpens with players who were discarded or unwanted by other clubs. As romantic and whimsical as all of this sounds, it also makes trying to predict what Joe Maddon will do with his closer as difficult as any manager in baseball.

In his nine-year tenure as the Rays skipper, only Fernando Rodney led the team in saves for two seasons in a row. In that span, the average age of the team’s leader in saves was 32.5 years old. If you take out J.P. Howell and Jake McGee who were thrust into the role to replace Troy Percival and Grant Balfour respectively, the number jumps to 34.3 years old. Speaking of coincidence (and this is bad news for Jake McGee), the only two other pitchers to lead the Rays in saves during Maddon’s tenure in Tampa Bay required surgery the next season. Reports that McGee’s surgery was just for loose bodies should relieve his fantasy owners in keeper leagues, but it took Jeremy Hellickson until July to return from a similar procedure.

How do we delve into the mind of Maddon and predict what his bullpen will look like in 2015? For some clarity and to justify my research on his tendencies in Tampa, here are the leaders in saves over his time with the Rays:

2006: Tyler Walker 10 Saves, 16/7 K/BB, 4.95 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
2007: Al Reyes 26 Saves, 89/31 K/BB, 4.75 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
2008: Troy Percival 28 Saves, 38/27 K/BB, 4.53 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
2009: J.P. Howell 17 Saves, 79/37 K/BB, 2.84 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
2010: Rafael Soriano 45 Saves, 57/14 K/BB, 1.73 ERA, 0.80 WHIP
2011: Kyle Farnsworth 25 Saves, 51/12 K/BB, 2.18 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
2012: Fernando Rodney 48 Saves, 76/15 K/BB, 0.60 ERA, 0.78 WHIP
2013: Fernando Rodney 37 Saves, 82/36 K/BB, 3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
2014: Jake McGee 19 Saves, 90/16 K/BB, 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP

Off all of the above pitchers, Jason Motte has similarities with Troy Percival and Fernando Rodney in regards to his signing with the Cubs. At a relative low cost of 4.5 million dollars with incentives to close games, Motte is a chance worth taking.

If the Cubs are going to build toward contention they need a veteran presence in the bullpen to not only groom the up and coming pitchers but to set the tone for the other relievers. Only two years ago Jason Motte closed out 42 games for the Cardinals before requiring Tommy John surgery in May of 2013. Looking at his pitches thrown and batting averages against in 2012 versus 2014 show some changes, but being only a year removed from TJS, he still threw with good velocity:

Jason Motte 2012:
Fastball: 97.9 MPH, 59% Usage, .182 BAA
Sinker: 96.3 MPH, 13% Usage, .219 BAA
Change: 84.9 MPH, 2% Usage, .000 BAA
Cutter: 92.4 MPH, 26% Usage, .215 BAA

Jason Motte 2014:
Fastball: 95.1 MPH, 50% Usage, .245 BAA
Sinker: 93.6 MPH, 3% Usage, .000 BAA
Change: 89.7 MPH, 8% Usage, .000 BAA
Cutter: 89.7 MPH, 38% Usage, .400 BAA

In 2014 Motte relied much more on his cutter than in 2012. Further, he threw only 13 sinkers in 2014 as opposed to 156 in 2012. It will be interesting to see what pitches he uses with the Cubs this year and how much of his velocity he can recover moving ahead. It could be addition by subtraction if he can not only regain his sinker, but throw more of them. In 2011, Rodney used his fastball and sinker almost equally. However, when he arrived in Tampa Bay he moved his spot on the pitching rubber and shelved his fastball, resulting in his best season:

Fernando Rodney 2011:
Fastball: 96.3 MPH, 32% Usage, .259 BAA
Sinker: 96 MPH, 31% Usage, .308 BAA
Change: 83.2 MPH, 26% Usage, .191 BAA
Slider: 89.3 MPH, 11% Usage, .217 BAA

Fernando Rodney 2012:
Fastball: 98.2 MPH, 7% Usage, .333 BAA
Sinker: 96.7 MPH, 55% Usage, .227 BAA
Change: 83.2 MPH, 37% Usage, .071 BAA
Slider: 89.8 MPH, 0.5% Usage, .000 BAA

Rodney ditched his slider and primarily used his sinker and changeup to record 48 saves with an ERA and WHIP under 1. What I find interesting are the seasons of not only Motte and Rodney prior to joining Maddon’s team, but Troy Percival. Percival is interesting to take note of as he was returning from a forearm injury at a much more advanced age but was still able to save 28 games with Tampa in 2008:

Troy Percival 2007: 3 W, 34 G, 40 IP, 36/10 K/BB, 1.80 ERA, 0.85 WHIP
Fernando Rodney 2011:
3 W, 39 G, 32 IP, 26/28 K/BB, 4.50 ERA, 1.69 WHIP
Jason Motte 2014:
1 W, 29 G, 25 IP, 17/9 K/BB, 4.68 ERA, 1.52 WHIP

If Jason Motte can regain his velocity or at least his sinker, his three years prior to surgery were pretty impressive:

Jason Motte 2010-2012: 13 W, 53 Sv, 201 G, 192.1 IP, 203/51 K/BB, 2.43 ERA, 0.98 WHIP

Also, over those three years Motte had a K/9 of 9.5 and K/BB of 3.9. However, Joe Maddon has not had a weapon like Hector Rondon who will only be 27 during the 2015 season. While there is speculation that the Cubs need an upgrade at the closer position, it appears that people are missing some out on some of his statistics. Rondon had TJS in 2010 and fractured his elbow in 2011. After being selected in the 2012 Rule V draft by the Cubs he was able to regain his fastball and took over the closer role in 2014 replacing Jose Veras early in the year. His overall stat line passes the eye test, but going deeper into his splits by first and second half, there is a lot to like:

Hector Rondon 2014 totals: 4 W, 4 L, 29 Sv, 64 G, 63.1 IP, 63/15 K/BB, 2.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Hector Rondon 2014 1H:
3.93 ERA, 39/13 K/BB, .259/.324/.311 with .290 wOBA, 10.2 K/9, 3 K/BB
Hector Rondon 2014 2H:
0.62 ERA, 24/2 K/BB, .162/.178/.202 with .170 wOBA, 7.5 K/9, 12 K/BB

In the second half, Rondon traded some strikeouts for contact but the results were something to like as his K/BB quadrupled from 3 to 12. Combine that with a .66 WHIP after the All-Star break and Rondon seemed to be gaining confidence in the role. Oddly enough, he and Jason Motte have similar arsenals:

Hector Rondon 2014:
Fastball: 97.1 MPH, 52% Usage, .222 BAA
Sinker: 96.6 MPH, 22% Usage, .278 BAA
Slider: 84.7 MPH, 17% Usage, .133 BAA
Cutter: 92.4 MPH, 8% Usage, .222 BAA

One area that Rondon does need to improve upon is his ability to enter a game with runners on base and maintain his effectiveness. If he comes in with no one on his slash lines against are .186/.234/.241, but if there are men on those numbers jump to .263/.307/.298. It is difficult to come in and put out a fire in the eighth or ninth inning if your BAA is .263. That will be up to the Cubs to monitor and consider as he develops in the role. Therein lies the rub, can Rondon start in and maintain the closer role for 2015 in its entirety?

If Rondon starts the year in the role and can avoid early meltdowns, I think Maddon will stick with him as his closer. It has been mused that since the Cubs are spending for pitching like Jon Lester that a big ticket closer will be acquired as well. But a Jonathon Papelbon has never been Joe Maddon’s style and I do not think it will change. In fact, Rondon seems like a player that Maddon would love to take a chance on, so I think Motte is a Cub to fortify the bullpen and to provide insurance in the event that anything happens to Rondon either by injury or effectiveness. Motte will be a popular sleeper heading into the season and that could be justified, but I think this will help keep Rondon’s price below what is should be and make him a value pick entering 2015, as long as we do not tell anyone. Just remind people of the blown saves with runners on for Rondon then steal him late in the draft for auction. Unless Maddon burns us all, Rondon will be the man.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, BrooksBaseball.net, Fangraphs.com, MLB.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/ZBW4Ln (Rondon), http://goo.gl/WNxj3o (Motte)

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

The Weekly Stream: Defense; Week 16

Titans Defense
No team has scored fewer than 7 fantasy points against the Jaguars this season.

As the holidays approach and we move toward the new year, the gift of giving always becomes more prevalent and (most) people seem to be in a better mood. Maybe it is because they get more time off work, maybe it is the extra time they get to spend with family, or maybe, just maybe, it is because they are in their fantasy football championship! While there are some leagues that will play in week 17, the majority of formats finish up this week to avoid having their star players sit in week 17 as they rest for the NFL playoffs. A couple of defenses gave us an early Christmas present last week as they provided huge performances in the semifinals. Let’s take a look at who they were and how they did it!

Last Week’s Results:

Baltimore got their chance at Bortles and the Jaguars in week 15 and it led to a great fantasy day, as expected. The Ravens defense allowed just 12 points while scoring a touchdown in the battle. The reason I liked the Ravens this week was because of their recent surge in sacks over the past several weeks. 8 sacks and countless knockdowns left the Jaguars rattled while the Ravens cruised to a 23-point day, the highest scoring amongst all fake defenses. You do not have to look much further down the list to see the Kansas City Chiefs. I liked the Chiefs because they had a revenge game against Oakland, who beat them a couple Thursdays ago for their first victory of the season. This game was at Arrowhead Stadium so I expected different results. The defense scored a touchdown and held the Raiders to just 13 points en route to a 17-point showing.

Week 16 Targets:

Tennessee Titans: It obviously a strange week when I am recommending fantasy’s 29th ranked defense. That being said, I believe the Titans might just be the unit to lead your squad to fantasy glory! This defense has not been very good, but a lot of that is because have been on the field so much. Not this week. The Titans head down to Florida on a short week for their second matchup against the Jaguars. No defense has recorded fewer than 7 fantasy points against the Jacksonville offense in 2014. In their last meeting, Tennessee put up a 12-spot against the Jags, their 2nd best total of the season. Look for baby blue to have a solid Thursday night showing.

Philadelphia Eagles: I almost choked on my breakfast when I saw that the Eagles were only 66% owned. Their ownership went down a little after last week’s matchup with the Cowboys. Now the Eagles get Washington, the biggest mess in the NFL. This Eagles unit has scored double-digit fantasy points 7 times and rank only below Buffalo on ESPN’s Player Rater. Philly has everything to play for as they are in the middle of a heated NFC East battle with Tony Romo and company. A huge showing is coming for this unit in week 16.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills would be my defense of the week but they are only available in about 25% of ESPN leagues as of this writing. The number could be due to dead leagues but the fact of the matter is that they need to be owned. The reason I am suggesting a team with such high ownership is because of who they played last week. The Bills played (and beat) the Green Bay Packers. While some probably stashed Buffalo on their bench and picked up another defense last week, some owners have a phobia of owning more than one defense. I believe they call it Twodefensiveitis (Editor’s note: Jared Hines, MD). Regardless, the Bills are the number one fantasy defense this year and have scored double-digit fantasy points in 4 of the last 6 weeks. Now they face Oakland who has been terrible this year and has allowed opposing defenses to score double-digit fantasy points 6 times in 2014. Take a quick second to make sure that they aren’t on your waiver wire.

That’s 15 columns down, 1 to go! As always I had a great time writing this article and hope you enjoy reading it. Good luck in your matchups this week!

As always, happy streaming!

Photo cred: http://goo.gl/LZo8eH

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Jared “Minnesota Nice” Hines is a fantasy football contributor at The Sports Script. Follow him on Twitter @Jared_Hines27!

Transaction Scripts: Melky Cabrera to the White Sox

Melky brings his career .307/.345/.477 slash lines in the AL Central ballparks home to Chicago and sees his fantasy value rise
Melky brings his career .307/.345/.477 slash line in AL Central ballparks to Chicago

Whether you buy into steroids being the reason for Melky Cabrera’s evolution from a fourth outfielder with the Yankees to a viable fantasy option three of the past four years, he has been relevant. In 2011 he broke through with a career best 18 home runs and 87 RBI for Kansas City and then had a chance at a batting title in San Francisco in 2012 until his PED suspension. Not an ideal way to enter free agency. In 2013 Toronto took a chance on Cabrera, signing him to a two-year contract, but the stain of steroids made this risky. After struggling through a number of injuries, Cabrera had a disappointing season, making 2014 a make or break year for him. The “Melk Man” delivered, rewarding the owners who stashed him late in drafts with a bounce back season across every category but stolen bases. Playing on the turf in Toronto has had an adverse affect on speedsters like Jose Reyes. This was no different for Cabrera, as his theft numbers were cut in half from 13 in 2012 to 6 in 2014.

From a fantasy perspective, the move to Chicago should not only help Melky maintain his value, but may even increase it. An uptick in stolen bases is the would be prize. Using three of his last four years as an indicator (I am discarding his shortened 2013) Cabrera’s numbers seem to hold up. His HR/FB in 2012 was 9.8 and jumped to 10.7 in 2013, holding steady at that number in 2014. Since U.S. Cellular and Rogers Centre are strong hitter’s venues, this should have no affect on his power production going forward. While there is a big discrepancy in his home run distances from 2011 and the years following, his average speeds off the bat have held fairly stable as well according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker:

Melky Cabrera 2011: average true distance 406.9, average standard distance 403.1, average speed off bat 105 MPH
Melky Cabrera 2012: average true distance 393.1, average standard distance 390.5, average speed off bat 104.4 MPH
Melky Cabrera 2014: average true distance 395.1, average standard distance 394.1, average speed off bat104 MPH

Here is a 2014 overlay of his home runs with the Cell as a backdrop:

Cabrera overlay
His home run metrics hold up, so how will Melky Cabrera adapt to the American League Central? Already having played in the division with the Royals should make his transition easier. Looking deeper into his numbers, this looks like a match made in heaven for Cabrera, not only to keep his knees healthier, but he enjoys hitting in all five ballparks in the Central. Here are his aggregate numbers for his career in the division’s ballparks:

Melky Cabrera in AL Central parks: 198 G, 126 R, 23 HR, 110 RBI, 22 SB, .307/.345/.477

In 34 games as a visitor at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, he has been even better:

Melky Cabrera in Chicago (A): 34 G, 23 R, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, .336/.366/.591

I understand that Melky will not be hitting against the White Sox, though their pitching staff is vastly improved, but his .957 OPS at the Cell should encourage fantasy owners. Digging a bit deeper I was surprised about how consistent he has been in spite of the steroid cloud that has been attached to him. Again, looking at his last three out of four seasons (skipping 2013) his counting statistics have varied but that is more about games played than production. Over the seasons 2011, 2012 and 2014 this is his average stat line:

Melky Cabrera 3-year average: 136 G, 89 R, 15 HR, 73 RBI, 13 SB, .315/.357/.478

I think Cabrera may slot in second, behind Adam Eaton and preceding American League Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu. That being said, I have a hard time believing his runs would slip but his Steamer projection looks like this:

Melky Cabrera Steamer projection: 134 G, 77 R, 14 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB, .288/.341/.432

I do think that Cabrera has probably already had his best season, but the move to Chicago may be just what he needs to bounce back to double-digit production in home runs and stolen bases. In spite of missing time in 2014, Melky was able to finish as the 25th ranked outfielder via ESPN’s Player Rater after going undrafted in leagues coming off of his 2013 disaster. What remains to be seen is what this move will have on his value in upcoming drafts. Here is the projected stat line I am willing to attach to Cabrera:

My 2015 Melky Cabrera projection: 145 G, 87 R, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 10 SB, .293/.344/.480

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, ESPN.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/7z3JlW

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Waiver Wire Wizardry: Pickups for Week 16

Harry Douglas
Whenever Julio Jones or Roddy White can’t go, Harry Douglas becomes an attractive fantasy option

Quarterback:

Robert Griffin III (31% Y!): Despite not starting this week, Griffin had a solid game in relief of Colt McCoy, who re-injured his neck on Sunday. Going up against an average Giants defense, Griffin finished with 236 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled for 46 yards as well and almost rushed for a score. Griffin is at his best when he uses his legs, which he did yesterday. Despite the pedestrian stat line otherwise, it was a productive day for Griffin compared to what he has done this season. McCoy should be highly questionable for week 16 and Griffin will probably start even if the former is cleared. He faces an Eagles defense that has given up some big plays. RG3 will be a high-end QB2 this week.

Eli Manning (61% Y!): Despite losing Victor Cruz earlier in the season, Manning was paired up with budding superstar Odell Beckham JR. The young wideout had a decent game yesterday (Editor’s note: decent?!). Manning had 250 yards passing with 3 touchdowns (all to Beckham) and put up top-five numbers. Going up against a St. Louis defense that didn’t record an interception against the likes of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley, Manning should be viewed as a high-end QB2 due to the Rashad Jennings injury, which will likely force the G-men into more passing situations.

Running Back:

Matt Asiata (38% Y!): Facing an extremely tough Lions front seven, Asiata managed 86 combined yards and a touchdown, hauling in 7 receptions. With Jerick McKinnon out for the season and no possible way of Adrian Peterson returning, Asiata has been the main guy for the Vikings the past few weeks and should continue to be moving forward. Asiata is not an efficient running back, but he is trusted by the Vikings coaching staff and has been getting the bulk of the work, making him an interesting add. Minnesota’s opponent, the Miami Dolphins gave up 79 yards rushing and a touchdown to the duo of LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray last week. View him as a mid-tier RB3 in standard leagues.

Andre Williams (59% Y!): Williams came on in relief of Rashad Jennings, who re-injured his ankle on Sunday. Williams finished with 44 yards  on 18 carries against an extremely tough Redskins run defense. With the Giants out of the playoff hunt, it would be wise to expect Williams to be the starter for the rest of the season. While not much can be expected out of him in the receiving game, he is a hard runner who should see the majority of work in week 16 against the Rams defense. As good as the Rams defense has been, they gave up 136 rushing yards between the committee of Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor last Thursday. Williams should be considered a low-end RB2 with upside heading into your league’s championship.

Latavius Murray (56% Y!): Murray had a somewhat disappointing but efficient day against a stout Chiefs’ run defense. He managed 4.9 yards per carry (12 carries for 59 yards) and had 6 targets in the passing game as well. Murray has taken over the Raiders’ run game almost completely and is one of the only offensive producers in Oakland right now. The Raiders have a tough matchup against a terrific Bills defense on Sunday, but Murray will be the focal point in the offensive plan again and should be a lock for 12-15 touches. With his explosiveness and athleticism, Murray should be seen as an RB3.

Wide Receiver:

Harry Douglas (25% Y!): Douglas had a terrific game starting in place of the injured Julio Jones. He was targeted 14 times, hauling in 10 catches for 131 yards. He even had more targets and receptions than Roddy White. Jones was a game time decision but never even got a chance to test out his hip before the contest. Jones is no guarantee to suit up this week, making Douglas an attractive waiver wire add. Even if Julio does play, there’s a chance he could be used simply as a decoy. Douglas could have another great game against a Saints defense that has struggled this season. Douglas is a high-upside WR3 that could evolve into a solid WR2 if Jones can’t go.

Jarvis Landry (45% Y!): In 3 of Miami’s last 4 games, Landry has seen 11 targets. On Sunday he was again targeted 11 times, catching 8 passes for 99 yards. Undoubtedly the most consistent receiver in Miami, Landry has put up solid numbers over the past 7 weeks, averaging 8.57 targets, 6.57 receptions, 59.57 yards and .57 touchdowns per contest. That is an average of 15.94 points in PPR leagues, making him a solid WR2.

Charles Johnson (32% Y!): Johnson had another solid game versus Detroit, finishing with 5 receptions for 72 yards on 7 targets. In a hard-fought matchup with the Lions, Johnson tied for the most targets with Matt Asiata and Kyle Rudolph. His five receptions were also the second highest on the team. Teddy Bridgewater continues to use Johnson as his favorite wide receiver and nothing shows that this will change moving forward. Johnson is a mid-tier WR3 with a lot of upside in a slightly easier matchup with the Dolphins in week 16.

Photo cred: http://goo.gl/cz64ZC

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Doug Moore is a fantasy football contributor at The Sports Script. Follow him on Twitter @DMM0822!

Transaction Scripts: Cespedes to Detroit; Porcello to Boston

Yoenis Cespedes takes his power to Detroit, but will his fantasy value rise as a result?
Yoenis Cespedes takes his power to Detroit, but will his fantasy value climb as a result?

Winston Churchill once said that Russia is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. Since Cuba was one of Russia’s main allies I will use that as a segue to try and figure out which team won the Yoenis Cespedes and Rick Porcello trade. It feels like every year fantasy players expect more of each of these players but walk away disappointed. After Cespedes’ rookie season in which he hit 23 home runs in less than 500 at bats, more pop in the future seemed likely. His home run derby win seemed to punctuate Cespedes as a feared slugger. Although he hit three more homers the next season, his batting average plummeted to .234 as opposing pitchers took advantage of his poor plate discipline. In 2014 he finally hit the 600 at bat plateau but had the lowest home run total of his career (22). His batting average and RBI total salvaged his fantasy value though. Can the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez propel Cespedes to the fantasy season that we have hoped for or has he peaked already?

Speaking of peaked, it feels like the last three years have been the year that Rick Porcello is going to break out in the strikeout department. After being drafted in the first round in 2007, Porcello was put into the rotation as a 20 year old in 2009 and won 14 games. In fact, Porcello has won double-digit games every season of his career. In real life, that’s great. However, wins are hard to predict for fantasy purposes, making strikeouts the stat that fake gamers covet. Porcello has had great success keeping the ball on the ground and in 2013 struck out a career-high 142 hitters. The thought was that in 2014 he would continue to build on that number. On a positive note, Porcello won a career-high 15 games but his strikeouts dropped back to 129 for the season, leaving him with a pedestrian K/9 of 5.7. Now a member of the Boston Red Sox, is the breakout ever coming? Can John Farrell help Porcello reach his peak or was 2013 it?

Yoenis Cespedes moves to Motown

At first glance the move to Detroit seems like a great opportunity for Yoenis Cespedes as he will hit in the deepest lineup he has ever been a part of. Teaming up with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez should provide Cespedes not only tutelage, but the opportunity to drive in and score more runs. But Cespedes’ supporting metrics suggest that the ballpark and his downward trends may counteract his new opportunity. In 2014 drafts he was the 21st outfielder taken according to FantasyPros.com at pick number 66. While Cespedes finished 24th among outfielders via ESPN’s Player Rater, it has to be a disappointment to his owners that he finished lower than two of his new Tiger teammates J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis.

Much has been made about Matt Kemp’s move to San Diego and how it mat have an adverse affect upon Matt Kemp’s fantasy value but Cespedes seems to be getting a pass due to the improved lineup. Digging deeper however, there appear to be some warning signs. Small sample size alert, but in eight games in Detroit Cespedes has a .686 OPS. Over the last three years his power numbers according to ESPN’s home run tracker have been in freefall:

Cespedes 2012: Avg.. True Distance – 409.1, Avg. Std. Distance – 407.1, Avg. Speed off Bat – 106.4 MPH
Cespedes 2013: Avg. True Distance – 403, Avg. Std. Distance – 403.1, Avg. Speed off Bat – 104.7 MPH
Cespedes 2014: Avg. True Distance – 387.5, Avg. Std. Distance – 387, Avg. Speed off Bat – 101.7 MPH

Not only is Cespedes hitting the ball for less distance, but the speed off the bat has dropped 5 MPH over the last three years. It is unfair to just judge his overlays in regards to lost home runs but if he were hitting in Comerica over the last two seasons, the charts suggest he could have lost up to 13 home runs:

Cespedes Comerica Overlay
Cespedes Comerica Overlay 2013
Even if I take half of those 13 homers off the table and round down, he loses 6 long balls. Unless Cespedes can get his swing speed back to 2013 levels, his power numbers are due for a dip, especially since his HR/FB% has been in decline. However, I also felt like Ian Kinsler would suffer a bit in Detroit after leaving the comfortable confines of Texas, but he was able to maintain his value. This is where the Cespedes peripherals come into play. Using Fangraphs’ weighted statistics in runs created plus (wRC+) and weighted on base average (wOBA), Cespedes has been in decline since his debut.

Cespedes 2012: wRC+ 136, wOBA .368
Cespedes 2013: wRC+ 102, wOBA .318
Cespedes 2014: wRC+ 109, wOBA .326

Once is a mistake, but twice is a trend. Since the weighted numbers do not rely solely upon ballpark effects, they are a truer measure of what a player has done. Over the last two years Cespedes is getting on base less, creating fewer runs and hitting for less power. A look at his zone profile may provide a glimpse. Note the amount of pitches that Cespedes saw in the lower four quadrants representing low and away:
Cespedes zone profile pitches seen 2014
This number has grown over the last three years as well. In 2012, Cespedes only saw 522 pitches in those quadrants, but in 2013 it jumped to 602 and in 2014 it reached 665. One of the reasons that Cespedes chases the pitches low and away is that he hits the bottom third of the strike zone well for power. It is a fine line to walk as a pitcher when you see Cespedes’ zone profile for slugging, noting that he hits the low and away in the strike zone for his second highest slugging percentage at .794.

Cespedes zone profile slugging 2014
But if he drives these pitches to center field, how many fewer home runs will he hit? Steamer projects the following season, which is almost a direct reflection of his last three years averaged together:

Yoenis Cespedes Steamer Projection: 138 G, 75 R, 24 HR, 87 RBI, 7 SB, .268/.319/.467

Since I usually use the last three years to try and project players, I came to almost those same numbers. Due to the ballpark, I will take the under on 24 home runs (I say 18) but the over on runs and RBI due to the support of the Tigers lineup. Cespedes has stolen seven bases each of the last two years so that is tough to dispute. I will also take the under on his slugging percentage unless he has a career year. Let others buy into the Tiger hype while you remember that he is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Rick Porcello comes home to New England

Rick Porcello comes home to Boston, but is the best yet to come?
Rick Porcello comes home to New England, but has he already reached his peak?

After being spurned by Jon Lester (Editor’s note: spurned, Greg? Only you), the Red Sox took their return in that deal and replaced him with Rick Porcello. Porcello is coming off of a 15-win season for Detroit and is a consistent but unspectacular pitcher. He features five pitches including a sinker, change, slider and curve to go along with his fastball. For Porcello to thrive, he needs to pitch to contact, primarily inducing ground balls. He’s similar to Cespedes in that he likely already reached his peak. Here are his last three years averaged out:

Rick Porcello 3-year average: 13 W, 186 IP, 126/42 K/BB, 4.08 ERA, 1.34 WHIP

While his wins were valuable to fantasy owners, his lack of strikeouts limit his ceiling. After reaching a 7.2 K/9 in 2013, he dropped back to 5.7 in 2014 which is in line with his career number of 5.5. Even though he is viewed as a ground ball pitcher he only had a 1.69 GB/FB ratio in 2014. His career number is 1.89 and in 2013 it was 2.34. Porcello threw fewer sinkers (42% 2013, 33% 2014), struck out fewer batters but set a career-high in wins and career low in ERA (3.45) last season. He is a good pitcher who has seemed to reach his ceiling but he is still young. Porcello will turn just 26 this season, but the breakout may not be coming. He will still have value in deep and AL-only formats, but I would be hesitant to use him in more shallow leagues. While John Farrell has helped to turn around pitchers before, Porcello’s career swinging strike percentage of 8.6 and K/9 of 7.2 really mitigate his fantasy ceiling.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/KHoVUy (Cespedes),  http://goo.gl/sXy15A (Porcello)

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!