Draft Scripts: Using NFBC ADP’s to evaluate Outfield

In anticipation of the FSTA draft this week, I continue my early look at NFBC ADP’s, concentrating on the top 200 in money drafts. While the names continue to shuffle others stay the same. Outfield will be about trust, mixing some power with guys who can steal some bases and catching that bargain that others either overlooked or were burned by last year. It is evident in the ADP information that it will take due diligence and maybe a little luck to hit on the breakouts this year. Due the fact there are forty nine names to digest I made one chart and took the liberty of splitting up their strengths by color:

Red – 20+ HR, 8 < SB (Power); Green – 10 < HR, 20+ SB (Speed); Blue – 10+ HR, 10+ SB (Blends)

Here is how the outfield stacks up. I listed their draft rank below and also inserted their average ADP’s in the NFBC drafts to give an early indicator of their value prior to Thursday’s FSTA draft.

OF NFBC Avg ADP Chart Update 2

Keeping with the format, I have processed each player drafted in the top 200 in charts with their respective Steamer Projections courtesy of Fangraphs.com. After each group I will give some thoughts about how the outfielders stack up and then move to the next one. The first two charts will be in groups of seventeen then the last group will round out to the 49 outfielders according to the ADP numbers.

Group One – 4 Power, 1 Speed and 12 Blends

OF NFBC Projection Chart 1-17

I mean the first seventeen at most positions should be rock solid and for the most part the outfielders are. I have sort of clumped some highlights into categories since the Golden Globes just happened, so here goes. By the way I am not scared of either Matt Kemp or Justin Upton in San Diego but I wrote about that already here.
Safety in numbers: Adam Jones, Baltimore
He is not flashy and is always a regression candidate and he just keeps producing. It is like you do not feel great drafting him at his ADP but he is consistent while not flashy, which in the first round is not so bad.
Bounce Back: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
I was warning drafters last year to avoid Ryan, but I am back. Since his ADP is trending down, his health may be up and guys who produce 28 home runs and 12 steals are dwindling with a batting average near .300, so I am here with open arms.
Trust Issues: Michael Brantley, Cleveland; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
While I am intrigued by the price on Carlos Gonzalez, his checkered health past, last year makes him a very risky option this early. But he could deliver a season like Michael Brantley did last year. Let that marinate a minute. Brantley broke through for a strong 2014, are you feeling lucky paying for a repeat? If you are the cost may alarm you.
Wild Cards: Bryce Harper, Washington; George Springer, Houston
Two guys who could determine how teams finish. I mean there is a 25 home run and 15 steal season while hitting .290 just waiting for Harper who people seem to forget is only 22 years old. With batting averages dropping across baseball again, a guy who could hit 30 home runs and if his legs stay healthy, steal 20 is tolerable if he hits .240, but the .240 could be iffy. If Springer gets his average to .250, then he is a potential top 10 outfielder. There, I said it.
Upside Play: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh
At the same cost as Carlos Gonzalez who may strain a pinkie or Billy Hamilton I can get a poor man’s Jacoby Ellsbury who is younger with more upside? Twenty picks later? Absolutely.
Group Two – 6 Power, 2 Speed, 9 Blends

OF NFBC Projection Chart 18-34

Safety in numbers: Nelson Cruz, Seattle
It is clear that Nelson Cruz’s huge 2014 netted him the Mariners contract which is twofold, first he will protect Robinson Cano and second he adds a power right handed bat that they have craved. While I am not saying to invest heavily in a repeat, he can still hit 25 home runs and you know what you are getting with Cruz.
Bounce Back: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati
At a time when power hitters are craved a strong return by Jay Bruce at a deflated cost would be huge for his fantasy value. We know he can hit for power, or at least should, but will his batting average return to respectability? Or does the shift have another victim?
Trust Issues: Charlie Blackburn, Colorado; J.D. Martinez, Detroit
One had a career year in Coors field and the other was an outcast from the Astros and found success in Motown? If I had to pick from the two, I think a repeat in power by Martinez is possible with some losses in batting average but his Steamer projection supports a solid season. I think Blackburn is a nice story but to invest in him this early when there are other options available late is a tough pick to justify.
Wild Cards: Rusney Castillo, Boston; Jorge Soler, Chicaco Cubs
A Cuban theme here in the wild card section so all kidding aside, they both have immense ability. If Castillo can translate his winter season statistics to the major leagues then the Red Sox have an even deeper outfield and should be dealing Allen Craig sooner than later. Not to kill the theme, but a power hitting outfielder is becoming rarer and rarer, so Jorge Soler has to be on radars. Since he could hit more home runs without destroying a team’s batting average I may venture to gamble on him since he can develop over say a Jay Bruce….the shift….
Upside Play: Jason Heyward, St. Louis
On my tombstone it will read, he trusted in in Jason Heyward. He has not hit left-handed pitching, well, at all lately and even though I sang his praises from the rooftops last year Heyward was replaced in Atlanta by Nick Markakis? Yes, that Nick Markakis. I am not saying that 20/20 is a guarantee but would it surprise anyone that being a Cardinal unlocked his potential? Would not be the first guy to have that happen.
Group Three: 3 Power, 4 Speed, 7 Blends, Melky Cabrera

OF NFBC Projection Chart 35-49

Safety in numbers: There is not really safety out here….

Bounce Back: Shin-Soo Choo, Texas
With health, it is hard to imagine a prohibitive top twenty outfielder in 2014 draft preps has fallen so precipitously, but Choo has. How many owners did he upset? In NFBC formats this means he is a tenth round pick and chance well worth taking. Unless the curse of Kinsler is real.
Trust Issues: Same as the safety problem, there are going to be trust issues here as well. Just look at the ADP’s of Alex Rios and the aforementioned Choo.
Wild Cards: Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox; Yasmany Tomas, Arizona
It takes some stones to invest in players out here in drafts and when you see the pitching options you will see why I am going to get power and hitters early and try to target pitching later. But I will take a chance on Avisail Garcia here since he could have a ceiling of 20 home runs with ten steals at an ADP of 172 on average. All day every day. The White Sox are going to score some runs. Yasmany Tomas will come with some hype especially with the breakout that Jose Abreu had last year but I fear that Tomas will resemble a different White Sox teammate, Dayan Viciedo. Tread lightly here….
Upside: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh
There are all kinds of terms, post-hype sleeper for example, whatever you want to say I think Polanco had a tough go after his promotion last year but he is talented. After watching him in person I was a fan and he has presence. Though his ceiling in 2015 is probably 13 home runs and 25 stolen bases that is a bargain where he is going.
It is getting late so I am going to offer up one more chart with player that are beyond the top 200 in each category for outfield with their projections included. When you speak of me, please speak nicely.

OF NFBC Undrafted Chart with Projections Updated

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.go.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/DKf0LS

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!

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Draft Scripts: Using NFBC ADP’s to evaluate Corner Infield

Miggy's health will go a long way to determining his value in 2015.
Miggy’s health will go a long way in determining his 2015 value

Early average draft position results are not the bible, but in the midst of preseason rankings it helps to see where players are being selected. There is controversy every year, whether it be concerns over “fat” Mike Trout, where Kershaw will go or Miguel Cabrera’s health. Things have been quiet in Detroit and if the Tigers are indeed going for it this year, Cabrera will play. He proved that by playing hurt throughout September while putting up an epic stat line for the month:

Miguel Cabrera September 2014: 19 R, 8 HR, 18 RBI, .379/.409/.709, 1.118 OPS, 214 wRC+

The concern with Cabrera has gone from whether he should be the top pick to how far he falls in mocks. Early indications seem to suggest it is not as far as I would like, but I have seen him go in mocks as far back as number 8. Is there risk involved? Of course, but if he is on the field for the whole season he’ll be more than fine. Outside of Cabrera, a healthy Paul Goldschmidt and the return of old favorites Prince Fielder and Joey Votto make the position deep once again. In fact, it looks like power at the position can be had throughout. Anthony Rizzo seems primed to take another step forward and is climbing up rankings and draft lists. First base is making a comeback as a position of elite fantasy production.

On the other end of the spectrum is third base. With the loss of Miguel Cabrera and the lack of production top to bottom along with the volatility of the players at the position, it will be a tough sea to navigate this year. In looking at early data, it seems like you’ll have to take a third baseman in the top-100. Otherwise, just fill the position late and hope it pans out. In dealing with corner infielders, it appears most teams will be grabbing from the first base pool but there could be an advantage gained by grabbing two strong third baseman early and thinning the pool for your competitors if you can grab a Josh Donaldson and a Kyle Seager. This means another guy in your league may be forced to roster a Mike Moustakas at third, yuck. Have a plan and if you can force a run, it opens opportunity for you to get what you want. For starters, here are the first baseman taken in the top 200 in money NFBC drafts thus far:

1B NFBC ADP

There has never been a time to get such value on players like Prince Fielder and Joey Votto, but do you want to? If you could see their credentials without the names attached, would that change your mind? With credit to Matthew Berry of ESPN, I love his use of blind analysis to take the name value out of the equation and simply focus on the numbers. I will use Steamer projections as a guide for this exercise:

Player A: 79 R, 20 HR, 71 RBI, 4 SB, .280/.409/.473
Player B: 77 R, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB, .270/.349/.464

Sure, you are giving up some OBP and a pittance in slugging percentage but are the numbers really that different? Drafters say yes since player A is being drafted on average at pick number 79.85 while player B is outside of the top 200. One more:

Player C: 73 R, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 2 SB, .295/.353/.484
Player D: 81 R, 24 HR, 86 RBI, 1 SB, .282/.380/.483

Player D is going at pick number 69 and player C is being selected on average at pick 166.69, I cannot make this up. I sort of played my hand in the intro to this exercise but here are the players:

Player A: Joey Votto
Player B: Steve Pearce
Player C: Justin Morneau
Player D: Prince Fielder

See what I am saying? If I put those names in front of you without the numbers are you changing how you look at them? Something to think about. Just like with Miguel Cabrera, until he comes out and says he is hampered by the injury and may miss time, I am taking him. If he is there at pick 8, I will be ecstatic. I do like Freddie Freeman and he had an impressive 2014 but have you looked at the lineup surrounding him? There are several other players I like more than most, too. Carlos Santana is one of them. If left alone to play first base after the failed move to third should bounce back this year. He’ll be third base eligible in 2015 too! Adam LaRoche is a forgotten entity as well. He’s in Chicago now, hitting after Jose Abreu and will hit 30 home runs this year. I’ll pass on Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. Let them be someone else’s problem, I just can’t trust either slugger. Here are the top 20 first baseman taken in the first 200 with their Steamer projections included. I highlighted the leaders in the four counting statistical categories as well:

1B Steamer Projections

While first base is getting deeper, third base is as murky as the situation in New York. With the pending return of Alex Rodriguez and his albatross of a contract, the Yankees signed Chase Headley to a four-year pact. If you want to take a chance on A-Rod being a fantasy asset in 2015, be my guest, but I will be watching from afar. Anthony Rendon was a favorite target of mine in 2014 due to his value in drafts but the gig is up. Rendon is going at pick number 14 in the drafts used for this article and that may be too steep a price. Like Carlos Santana, Rendon does have dual eligibility along with Todd Frazier but people may be pushing them up too far. Don’t get me wrong, Rendon has the talent and lineup to be successful but there are warning signs about taking him too soon. He hit 21 home runs in 2014 but 12 of them are rated “just enough” and of those 12, 3 more had “lucky” attached as well. I am not saying he will regress but to plan on more than 18 home runs may be aggressive.

Donaldson and his fantasy value head north with his trade to Toronto.
Donaldson and his fantasy value head north with his trade to Toronto

I think Josh Donaldson’s move to Toronto should allow him to thrive and finish as fantasy’s top third baseman in 2015. However, he is being taken at the end of the second or beginning of the third in NFBC money drafts. This number may climb but if it does not, pounce. Here are what the ADP’s for third baseman look like so far:

3B NFBC ADP

It seems that Evan Longoria is finally being valued correctly, but look at the precipitous drop for David Wright. He is teetering at the edge of the top 100 which means he is finally a value pick. But is this name value again? He is an injury risk but the Mets should have a chance to at least compete for a wild card spot with the pitching depth they have. How about another blind comparison?

Player A: 69 R, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 6 SB, .257/.343/.413
Player B: 67 R, 16 HR, 66 RBI, 9 SB, .275/.347/.432

Not too far apart on value but player B is on the outside of the top 200 even after Martin Prado while player A is David Wright. Player B is his New York counterpart. Yes, Chase Headley. Here are the Steamer projections for the third baseman drafted in the top 200:
3B Steamer Projections

Navigating third base will be interesting but while some values exist, people will be reaching for name value like Evan Longoria and Chris Carpenter. One surprise is Kris Bryant going at pick number 105 without yet being named the starting third baseman for the Cubs. Could he return a profit at this spot? Yes, but that is a fine line to walk. I like Nolan Arenado to take a step forward this year but so does everyone else. Kyle Seager should thrive in the improved Seattle lineup and he was already profiled here. If healthy, Manny Machado is a steal at 148.69. Players outside of the top 200 that I like include Nick Castellanos, Aramis Ramirez and Jake Lamb.

Corner infield is setting itself up for a bounce back in 2015 but there are as many questions as there are locks. Good luck avoiding the land mines. Throw name value out the window and try to see a player for who he really is using the numbers.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, NFBC.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/VEC1jj (Cabrera), http://goo.gl/IBmCX9 (Donaldson)

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!

Draft Scripts: Early ADP’s

Every live money draft has had one number one pick. The real debates lie in every selection after Mike Trout.
The real debate begins after Mike Trout is selected at 1 overall

Gearing up for fantasy baseball drafts is one of my favorite times of the year. Crunching numbers, ranking players and observing how values fluctuate as the season comes closer is something I really enjoy. I have already been looking at the NFBC ADP available on Nesn.com and there have been interesting developments. But I was even more intrigued by the following tweet today:

While the information available is fascinating, the list that Greg Amrosius kindly posted outlines the top 200 in the money drafts that have already happened. When money is on the line, there will be tougher decisions and the players ranks could provide some early clarity. Processing the top 200 was not easy as I was busy working on spreadsheets, but I modified the 200 players into a more common 12 team format (the NFBC is 15 team league drafts) for the article’s purposes. These are rough estimates and I will follow up tomorrow with the players ranked by position to see what trends show there as well. As for today, I listed the rank of the player, what his average pick selection is and his rank by position in the charts below. After each round or two, I will give my two cents worth on the first top 200 from drafts I have seen this year. If you think you are seeing pitchers early and often, you are correct. Enjoy!

Round 1

That Mike Trout guy is still number one, and he will not be fat this year. He could be a bit weak against pitches up in the zone but he is the only player in the top 12 to go number one in every single draft. I have never been a proponent of taking a pitcher in the first round, but if there is one I would consider it is Clayton Kershaw. Even in an injury riddled season he still produced the goods. There is growing concern around Miguel Cabrera’s ankle and foot surgery but if the Tigers know that they are all in with their window of opportunity closing, he will play through it like he did last September. There are some newcomers in this list with Jose Abreu, Carlos Gomez, Felix Hernandez and Jose Altuve moving into the top 12, but I would only take one at the price listed above; Abreu. Toronto owns the tail end of the first round with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion providing plenty of punch in a lineup that welcomes Josh Donaldson to the fold.

Round 2

There are surprises above with Anthony Rendon and Michael Brantley making huge jumps in early drafts. I was a big proponent of Rendon last year but this may be too rich for my blood. Troy Tulowitzki and a replacement player still make up probably the best shortstop tandem in roto but he comes with risk. At a time where power is in high demand in drafts I will find it difficult to take a player like Adam Jones here but it depends on what is available. Robinson Cano was overpriced in Seattle last year but as the third second baseman, I really love him at 22. While Madison Bumgarner almost single-handedly defeated the Royals, there is a lot of mileage on his arm from last fall, which could cause for some to reach on him. I am waiting.

Round 3

Like Cano, I think the depressed price on Ryan Braun makes him a buy this year. Motivated to prove his detractors wrong and possibly healthy I would rather have a third round Braun over a second round Adam Jones. Pitchers, pitchers everywhere, with four more coming off the board in this round. It is hard to gauge Max Scherzer since some of his value will be determined by where he signs. After A.J. Preller’s wheeling and dealing, there are two Padres in this round with Kemp and Upton. I am not scared by either in Petco this year. Bryce Harper will be a polarizing figure, he is 22 and while he has burned us in the past, this is a good price for him.

Round 4

Projections are all over the place on George Springer but in the fourth round in the mock 200, he could provide first round value. His batting average is not going to be great, but for a player with 30/30 potential, this is a great flier at pick 41.08 overall. Speed is flying off the board here (no pun intended), but Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton may be fighting for the National League stolen base title this year. Carlos Gonzalez, man is he tempting here, but he is made of glass. I go with Springer and take the hit in average for his possible breakout instead of reading that CarGo is out with a tweak or bad finger on a monthly basis. It is an interesting decision, you can take Cueto, Darvish or Wainwright here to anchor your staff, who is it?

Round 5

Two more Rockies outfielders come off the board in Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. I lean Dickerson here. Last year Albert Pujols was going to fall off but here he is still and somehow I think Miguel Cabrera will do the same this year. Jon Lester had a great 2014 and moving to the NL could help his peripherals, but can he win 15+ with the Cubs this year? In all honesty, the Rockie I am eying the most here is Arenado, I could justify grabbing him ahead of Longoria but there is safety in numbers. Two more closers go off the board here but I am waiting for strikeout upside later, I like Kimbrel and Holland but grab power early and often, pitchers can be had later as you will see.

Round 6

Four more starting pitchers are taken in this round and Matt Harvey is among them. I am tempted to grab him but it is a risk to have him as a number one coming off of Tommy John Surgery and knowing the Mets will protect his innings, but he has had 18 months to rehab and is ready to go. Jeff Samardzija could be a sneaky play in Chicago but I am avoiding Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes. Cole Hamels is nice in this round but really needs a change in scenery to make him a bargain in the sixth.

Round 7

A mini first baseman run happens here following Prince last round with Carlos Santana, Chris Davis and Joey Votto. Gun to my head I will go with Carlos Santana of these three. Crazy? Probably but I am willing to take chances from round seven on. Two Cardinal outfielders are here but if you want safe it is Holliday, upside and playing for a contract, Jason Heyward. I really like him in St. Louis this year.

Round 8

Alex Cobb is a pitcher I like at this point of the draft, especially over James Shields. Josh Harrison had a great year but gambling on a repeat here may be tough to swallow. Wong represents upside and two more closers are off the board. What are fantasy owners going to do with David Wright? I think he is a great value here. While he will not return to his glory days, he has a better track record than Josh Harrison.

Round 9

Speaking of risk, the ninth round brings just that. Kris Bryant has power that is in demand not only in baseball but for fantasy players as well. Javier Baez has all-world power and could swipe 13-15 bags as well, albeit with a .220 average. If Tyson Ross and Jake Arrieta can stay healthy they are good values here, especially Arrieta for me. As a matter of fact, the pitchers in this round are really good targets including Alex Wood, Hisashi Iwakuma and Jacob deGrom. Doubling up early on two aces just doesn’t make sense to me.

Round 10

If the ninth was risky, so is the tenth. Power hitting outfielders who may only hit .250-.260 like J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler are here, but I prefer them to reaching for Yoenis Cespedes four rounds earlier. Gio Gonzalez was really good in the second half, I mean really good. Speaking of power, if Evan Gattis gets to play left field with catcher eligibility, he can hit 30 home runs. Three more closers go in this round so even though I probably have not taken one yet, the time is nearing.

Round 11

I have seen articles ranking Carlos Carrasco high for this year. But so far in money drafts he is the 30th pitcher selected. Even if he flames out at this price it is easily worth the risk. Speaking of which, Dellin Betances was out of this world good last year. His same age numbers are strikingly similar to his mentor Mariano Rivera, just saying. Definitely taking Gregory Polanco over Wil Myers here. I am very interested to see what Rusney Castillo can do, he will have a better year than fellow Cuban import Yasmany Tomas. Book it.

Round 12

Remember when everyone was so excited by Pablo Sandoval going to Boston? That leaves him as the 12th third baseman selected and while his average and numbers will see a bump, how much will they improve? It seems that people are frightened off by Tanaka’s elbow, and I agree. But if he pitches 20 or more games in this round, he is worth it. Chris Carter hits home runs, takes walks and will not hit much better than .250 but if he can mash 35 long balls, who cares?

Round 13

Why am I not taking Pablo Sandoval in the 12th? Because I can get Manny Machado in the 13th, at least in this top 200. This is a cornucopia of value. Adam LaRoche can hit 30 home runs if he adjusts to DH in Chicago but he will be hitting after Jose Abreu and ahead of Avisail Garcia in a bandbox. Shin-Soo Choo was a consensus top 20 outfielder preseason last year, how soon we forget. Another post hype prospect is Xander Bogaerts who could provide pop at shortstop and flourish this year after some consolidation in 2014.

Round 14 revised

Some outfielders with speed in Brett Gardner, Leonys Martin and Alex Rios come off the board here. Always underrated Howie Kendrick and Justin Morneau, too. I think Hector Rondon is great value this late, he really blossomed in the second half. Jason Motte is a depth signing but Joe Maddon does change closers more than most which can be a worry.

Round 15

Want to know why I am waiting on pitchers? Look no further. Drew Smyly and Zack Wheeler could provide good ratios and strikeouts in round 14. Not to mention Marcus Stroman who could break out this year. His 2014 was not a fluke and with a better defense he is primed to shine in 2015. Avisail Garcia is another target I really like here, the White Sox are going to score runs and he may hit fifth with double-digit home runs and stolen bases.

Round 16 revised

I have yet to give up on Wilson Ramos and I will be lighting a candle for his health. If anyone this year can follow Devin Mesoraco’s power breakthrough of 2014, it is Ramos in 2015. Melky Cabrera will produce in Chicago and could bat second. Speaking of health, Travis d’Arnaud is another catcher with upside if he can stay on the field.

last 8 picks in 200

How can you take Matt Shoemaker over Phil Hughes? His K/BB in the second half was epic and though his wins are neutralized a bit in Minnesota, he is being overlooked. Mike Fiers will also be a popular sleeper target but look at Jose Fernandez. It seems the Marlins are all in and if he can return by July, a half season of Fernandez is better than a whole one from other pitchers. At this point, I would take A.J. Pollock over Josh Hamilton and that is really all you need to know about that.

Tomorrow I will list the players by position and try to formulate a set of tiers based on this early 200 courtesy of Greg Ambrosius of the NFBC. Drafts are coming, I may be crazy, but using all the information we can will help us be right.

Statistical credits: http://nfbcforums.stats.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=16344
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/8oFeAz

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!

Transaction Scripts: Smith to Seattle and Maurer to San Diego

Seth Smith brings his career OPS of .814 against RHP to Seattle on the plus side of a RF platoon
Seth Smith brings his career OPS of .814 against RHP to Seattle on the plus side of a RF platoon

Once again the real life general managers are making a trade that makes sense for both teams involved. It is not always about winning or losing a trade, but dealing from strength to fix a weakness. After trading away Michael Saunders to Toronto, the Mariners have been looking for another outfielder, preferably one with some pop. Though the Padres have been very busy they have been in pursuit of Brandon Maurer for about a year now:

With the trade of Seth Smith to Seattle, both teams fill a need. The M’s get to platoon Smith in right field with Justin Ruggiano, which will improve an offense that has already added Nelson Cruz this winter. The Padres get some Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow insurance since Maurer can work as a starter or reliever. Maurer thrived in a relief role in 2014:

The platoon in Seattle will now feature Justin Ruggiano batting against left-handed pitching and Seth Smith versus righties. While this feels like a bit of a fantasy letdown for everyone involved, it may enhance each player’s value. Mariner fans are a bit disappointed giving up on Michael Saunders but he has averaged just 116 games per season over the last three years and played only 78 in 2014. Fantasy owners are teased by his fantastic 2012 season but that may never happen again. I took the luxury of looking at Smith and Ruggiano’s splits in their roles as a possible platoon and compared what their projections look like against last year’s right field production for the Mariners:

Mariners RF Projections
While it is an imperfect world, I did take each player’s career numbers to formulate their combined on base percentages and slugging in that chart. It seems hard to believe that two players can fill that gap alone, but after the inconsistency in right field last year, the stability may be welcomed:

Mariners RF 2014
Not being satisfied I also took the time to make an overlay with Safeco for each player but I used Smith’s 2014 and Ruggiano’s 2013 season since he missed much of 2014 with leg injuries. It is worth noting that neither lost any home runs due to the overlay but that does not account for the difference in atmoshphere:

Seth Smith 2014 Overlay in Safeco

Seth Smith Safeco Overlay
Justin Ruggiano 2013 Overlay in Safeco

Ruggiano HR Tracker Safeco Overlay 2013

Sometimes you have to be a bit unpopular to make a good baseball decision and while some of Seattle’s decisions of the past can be questioned, I think this one makes sense. Smith and Ruggiano could be a very good platoon in right field. Now the Mariners must address a backup first baseman unless one of the above is going to learn the position. Also, the Mariners still have the opportunity to deal one of their young shortstops (Brad Miller or Chris Taylor) as the signing of Asdrubel Cabrera to Tampa Bay signals they are going to move either Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Timing is everything.

While Maurer's role is not determined, his upside is worth the risk.
While Maurer’s role is not determined, his upside is worth the risk

On the San Diego side, acquiring Maurer is an insurance policy with rotational upside. If you believe in Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson making it through the season healthy, then Maurer will be another live arm in the bullpen along with newly acquired Shawn Kelley. But based on the tweets above, the Padres may see Maurer as more than a relief pitcher. While his career numbers have been a bit erratic, he really made a jump as a reliever. Using Baseball-Reference.com’s splits, I copied his numbers as a starter against those he recorded while pitching in relief:

Maurer Splits Starter vs Reliever

If Maurer can continue to throw strikes as a starting pitcher after experiencing a big jump in his K/9 and K/BB as a reliever, then the Padres have something. Here are Maurer’s velocities last year with seven games as a starter and 31 in relief:

Maurer 2014 Velocities
As Eno Sarris points out in this tweet, one of the reason that the Padres were drawn to Maurer is his curveball:

If Maurer’s curveball effectiveness can catch up to his changeup, then he can certainly make the jump to the Padres rotation with success. Much will depend upon his spring and what happens with the Padres as they continue to evolve under the leadership of their new GM.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/zZG7js (Smith), http://goo.gl/b6NKk7 (Maurer)

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!

Profile Scripts: Marcus Semien

Can Semien carry his gains from the second half to a full season in Oakland?
Can Semien carry his gains from the second half to a full season in Oakland?

Picking out sleepers seemed so simple years ago. All you had to do was look into the stats. Now, there is an almost-unlimited supply of literature surrounding the fantasy game. To go further, social media has really changed the game. Everyone’s thoughts, discoveries and opinions are floating around on the web. Really, what is a sleeper anymore? Advanced metrics and projections paint a picture but throwing the correct dart takes some analysis and some luck. I was much too high on Brad Miller last year (Editor’s note: hindsight is 20/20, Greg!), and it did burn me, not only in my own fantasy leagues but with my readers as well. I also took a flier on Semien in a couple of leagues. Both of them tanked in 2014 and while this article is focused on Semien, I think Miller is a post-hype buy for 2015 as well. Why you ask?

“Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish-fulfillment.” Jean Baudrillard

I have been working on projections, which is a tiring and difficult process that requires number consumption and formulating a range of outcomes for various players. First, a player needs opportunity. With the trade to Oakland, Semien is the obvious candidate to start at short. Check.

Semien was a popular sleeper last year that disappointed fantasy owners which could depress his value entering 2015. Check.

He could finally blossom into the interesting blend of speed and power in Oakland with guaranteed playing time. If he can hold on to the gains from his small sample size in the second half last year, he may become the sleeper we are looking for. A year early maybe, but better late than never. Check.

Before getting to deep into Semien himself, let’s paint the picture of a league average shortstop. According to Fangraphs’ 2014 major league position page, the average shortstop had a slash line of .251/.303/.363, a 6.7 HR/FB%, a wRC+ of 87 and a BABIP of .295. While the numbers seem sort of generic, they do tell a story. Without picking on a player, the closest comparison I found was Jordy Mercer. His 2014 statistics featured a .255/.305/.387 slash line, an 8.9 HR/FB%, a wRC+ of 91 and a BABIP of .285. But no one goes into a draft hoping for Jordy Mercer, I have to be honest. While his 12 home runs, 55 RBI and 4 stolen bases were nice to those desperate to replace a Troy Tulowitzki after his inevitable injuries, he was nothing to brag about.

wRC+ refers to weighted runs created, which his nice because it takes out ballpark effects for a measurement of a player’s value. According to Fangraphs, if you want a rate statistic for hitters that weights each offensive action and controls for league and park effects, wRC+ is for you. 100 is league average. There were 9 shortstops who were able to produce a wRC+ over 100 in 2014 with qualified at bats. Remember that when I get to Semien’s advanced metrics forecast.

So if you do not want to end up with Mercer as your fantasy target for 2015, why Semien? He had a chance to win the third base job with the White Sox early in 2014 and was demoted after a slow start. Looking at his 2014 and career big league numbers is interesting:

Marcus Semien 2014: 64 G, 30 R, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 3 SB, .234/.300/.372
Marcus Semein Career: 85 G, 37 R, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 5 SB, .240/.293/.380

While not overwhelming, Semien’s slash lines do provide glimmers of hope, especially when you factor in that over his minor league career he had a .374 OBP and .465 SLG%. Since I have made it a point to focus on his wRC+, his total for 2014 was 88 while his career number is 86 (in just over 300 at bats). Oakland must see something in him to believe that he is a viable starting option for their 2015 club. Semien matched Jed Lowrie’s home run output in 202 fewer at bats and his wRC+ only trailed Lowrie by 5. Going a bit deeper into Semien’s 2014 shows he had very different splits prior to and after his demotion to AAA Charlotte:

Marcus Semien 1H: 43 G, 22 R, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 3 SB, .218/.283/.367
Marcus Semien 2H: 21 G, 8 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB, .273/.333/.485

It is not earth shattering by any means but here are some of his advanced metrics along with his Steamer and ZiPS projections:

Semien Advanced Metrics

Although Semien will not have shortstop eligibility to open the season, if you took his 106 wRC+ against the other projected shortstops Semien would rank fifth in that category. Only five shortstops were able to achieve double-digit home runs and steals last year as well: Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, Alexei Ramirez and Asdrubel Cabrera. Here are Semien’s projections from three different sources:

Semien Projection Table

I understand that it is a small sample size, but over Semien’s 21 games in the second half he hit for a higher batting average with a lower BABIP than the first half and increased his wRC+ to a very respectable 129. More importantly, he was able to increase his OBP to .333 and SLG% to .485 for a tantalizing .818 OPS. It would be a mistake to think he could do that over a full season, especially his first full season as a major leaguer. But three different projections seem to agree that Semien can reach double-digits in home runs and stolen bases. Here is Semien’s prospect grades according to Fangraphs.com:

Semien Scouting Grades on Fangraphs

Will coming home allow Semien to blossom? Here's hoping his double digit HR and SB potential shines through
Will coming home allow Semien to blossom? Here’s hoping his double digit HR and SB potential shines through

Changes in scenery and opportunity can create fantasy goodness. Semien is returning to California with the chance to be a starting shortstop in the major leagues. Unlike Brad Miller, Semien was able to go to the minor leagues and refine his game before getting another shot to play in the majors and has a clearer path to playing time. While his numbers may resemble Asdrubel Cabrera’s 2014, his ceiling could be more than the projections indicate. I am willing to pay for 15 home runs and 12 steals if Semien can hit .240 or better. That holds great value at a position where only five others were able to accomplish that feat in 2014. With the lack of offense presently in Oakland, he may even be able to steal more than the projections are saying which provides more appeal for Semien moving forward. Semien won’t be a fantasy star, but he is a player with the opportunity to be a staple at a position where average numbers are common. Whether or not Semien can fulfill my projection will remain to be seen, but a guy can dream.

My 2015 Marcus Semien Projection: 72 R, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 12 SB, .247/.323/.430

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, CBSsports.com, MiLB.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/5nWR16, http://goo.gl/f1b1tt

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!

Profile Scripts: Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez prepares to bring his 98 MPH Fastball to the rotation as the fifth starter in St. Louis, yes please
Carlos Martinez prepares to bring his 98 MPH Fastball to the rotation as the fifth starter in St. Louis

When looking for late round pitchers with upside a nice perk is power. It is apparent that baseball has been trending towards pitching so it will be discussed about how to script a draft and fill our rosters as the season approaches. Some like to hoard aces early and fill out offense later, while others ignore pitchers early in drafts stocking up on offense. Given the volatility and availability of pitchers during a season, I prefer offense early and find high upside pitchers to add later on. One of the components that is appealing to me from a pitching perspective is power.

“Power is the most persuasive rhetoric.” –Friedrich Schiller

With that in mind I was drawn to the following tweet:

Carlos Martinez fits the bill as his velocities from 2014 will exemplify. During winter ball, Martinez has fanned 22 while walking none. Sexy. Combine a post-hype sleeper on a contender that throws free and easy and is harnessing his repertoire and you have a player to target. How hard does Martinez throw you ask? Here is his velocity chart from last year according to BrooksBaseball.net:

Carlos Martinez 2014 Pitches and Velocities

For reference, Yordano Ventura comes to mind when thinking about Martinez transitioning to the rotation. While Ventura throws a cutter instead of a slider, you can see a similar trend in velocity:

Yordano Ventura 2014 Velocities

What will determine Carlos Martinez’s fantasy value will be whether or not he can make the same type of jump that Ventura has. Also, we need the Cardinals to allow him to stay in the role, not move him between the rotation and the bullpen like they did last season. In 2014 Martinez used his changeup with great success and combined that with his slider to finish off opposing hitters. His fastball was very hittable according to his results and averages though:

Carlos Martinez 2014 Sabermetric GB Avg

However, Martinez’s whiff rates on his change and slider warrant attention. With a full season as a starter and Yadier Molina calling his games, Martinez has real profit potential. Although his batting averages against as a starter will need to improve, look at his glorious 9.5 K/9 in his seven starts, higher than his 7.9 K/9 as a reliever:

Carlos Martinez Starter vs Reliever Stats

This type of pick does not come without any risk, just ask the guy in your league that drafted Danny Salazar last year. But with his velocity and ability to strike batters out, Martinez is a player to put into the queue and pounce when given the opportunity. He will not carry fantasy owners to a championship but he should be able to get wins on a good Cardinal team and may come without the fanfare of other pitchers since he will be battling to win the fifth starters job. While the projections seem to agree that Martinez will have success, they agree that his K/9 will regress back towards his number as a reliever:

Martinez Projection Chart

What will determine Martinez’s potential breakout as a starting pitcher is dependent upon not only his ability to strike batters out but keeping them off base. Although his WHIP over the last two seasons has been 1.41, Steamer projects his WHIP at 1.3 and ZiPS has it at 1.31. The last factor that intrigues me is that Martinez had a gaudy 1.88 GB/FB ratio in 2014. Fewer line drives, more strikeouts and a career 51.5 GB% make Martinez a pitcher to target. Being on a winning team and throwing to a respected catcher and game caller like Yadier Molina only enhances that. If the Cardinals do name him the fifth starter, I could see a 12 win season with 150+ strikeouts in 2015. Power pitchers who generate groundballs are players I like to target, if that isn’t persuasive rhetoric for Carlos Martinez, I am not sure what is.

My 2015 Carlos Martinez Projection: 12 W, 175 IP, 158/43 K/BB, 3.72 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.1 K/9

Statistical credits: Baseball-reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/VujW4b

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!

Fake Sports Grudge Match: Football vs. Baseball

The Beginning:

I started playing fantasy baseball 6 years ago. The first league I played in was crazy, 16 different categories in a head-to-head format with 11 other guys. I was in over my head. I wound up finishing in the middle of the pack, but decided that if I wanted to continue to play that I would have to tone it back and learn the basics. I felt like I was trying to jump off the high dive before I even knew how to swim. Over the next couple of years I played in more simplified leagues, which included 10 categories (hits, HR, stolen bases, batting average, RBI, wins, strikeouts, saves, ERA, WHIP). We had 10 different guys in that league and it was a blast. I finally got the concept of how the game was played. The format was weekly, so you set your lineup on Monday and not again until the following week. This is nice for people who work full time, and while at the time I was in high school, many of the other people I played with did not have as much time to spend on it daily. The other interesting thing about that league was that it was an auction league. For those who do not know, auction leagues are set up in such a way that each player is bid on during the draft, and the players are auctioned off. Some owners are aggressive and bid right away, others sit back and grab a ton of above average guys and maybe only have one superstar on their team. Auction leagues give owners a lot of say in who is on their team unlike snake drafts where you might not have the chance at specific players based on your draft order.

For me, the first few years of fantasy baseball were just something to do while I waited for fantasy football to start back up again. I set my lineup on Monday and would check it daily but couldn’t make any changes. I liked the idea of being able to make daily changes and so I asked some buddies who I played fantasy football with if they would want to play fantasy baseball. 10 guys were in and we started creating what the league should look like. We came up with our categories and decided that we all had time to look enough to make daily changes. Once I started playing in leagues where you could make those daily changes, I was hooked.

Fantasy Football:

For those who know me or have read anything I have written since I started at The Sports Script, you know how much I love  fantasy football. I watch every Thursday night game unless something more important keeps me away. Sundays afternoons are usually spent in my basement (I wrote about my sweet setup here). Sunday nights are spent on the treadmill at the gym, where I strategize about what I need to have happen in the Sunday night and Monday night games. On Monday nights I am usually back on the bike to watch the first half before rushing home to catch the second half at my house. While I realized this year that maybe 7 leagues is a few too many, I still had a blast not only writing about fantasy football, but playing it as well. I love the rivalries with friends, I love the trophies and stories you hear on about on Twitter and I love the fact that millions from age 8 to 80 play the game. There are hundreds of different formats and everyone has a favorite player (or least favorite player) based on how they won (or lost) you a fantasy championship over the years. Mine is Matthew Stafford, if you want the story you will have to ask me about it on Twitter. It is one of my favorite stories to tell, even though it ended in tears of sadness and happiness all at the same time. So after all this, how can I tell you that while I like fantasy football, I love fantasy baseball?

Fantasy Baseball:

simpsons-sabermetricsBaseball is truly amazing, and I think that is why the fantasy game is so great. Football gets the ratings, football gets the hype, football rules all other sports when it comes to North American popularity, but football still doesn’t have that simple feel that baseball fans have come to love. Football has so many rules and penalties and changing of players between offense and defense. Have you ever tried to explain football to someone who has never seen the game before? I would rather take Organic Chemistry. Baseball is as simple as you want it to be. 9 positions and 9 hitters per team. The majority of the batters also play out in the field and when they get three outs they get to come to bat. Explaining baseball to someone who hasn’t seen it before is easier than grabbing a second plate of food at a buffet. For those who do not want simplicity, baseball has some of the most advanced stats in any sport that can have you wandering around Baseball Reference for hours. They have stats for a batter’s average when they hit the ball hard. They have a rate to see how often pitchers give up groundballs relative to fly balls. How many times did the pitcher throw a change up on a 0-2 count in the last 30 days? I am sure all you have to do is a little research and you can find pretty much any stat you want on any player. The game can be simple, but it can be advanced and that brings in an audience that is very diverse.

Fantasy baseball reaches those same people by how advanced leagues are. Your league can have 5 categories or 20. Your league can have 4 teams or 25. You can hold a classic snake draft or an auction. You can use keepers from year to year, or you can make each season a new adventure. While you might look at this list and say that fantasy football provides the same array of differences, the best thing about baseball is how many games there are.

162 Games:

The baseball season is long. Longer than most of Kim Kardashian’s marriages, longer than a foot-long hotdog at the ballpark and longer than any other major professional sport. The NHL and NBA each play 82 games and the NFL plays 16 games during their respective regular seasons. For many, 162 games is the reason they don’t play fantasy baseball. Too many games or too long of a season are excuses I have heard for many who have denied my invitations over the years. For some, their love of baseball is trumped by the commitment needed over the course of an entire season. Those individuals may like the weekly game I mentioned earlier. Owners can check it once a day or once a week and the outcome won’t be different because changes cannot be made once the lineup is locked.

For me, the reason I love fantasy baseball is because there are so many games. There are few days between April and August where you will not find live baseball on your television. There are games on when you are at work and days on when you get back home. Your home team might play on a Thursday afternoon and then again Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Sometimes if you are lucky, your favorite team or players might play twice in one day! You might come home and see that David Wright just hit for the cycle or that Phil Hughes just threw a gem while you were finishing up at the office. Baseball doesn’t take breaks and either do daily fake baseball leagues. Every day you can make moves whether you want to add a hot bat off the waiver wire or pick up a pitcher who is starting.

Skill or (Andrew) Luck:

Take this quick example about fantasy football and how great teams might not make the playoffs. I know you probably don’t care about my team, but hear me out. Week 16 concluded one of my leagues and so I went and looked at the team that I thought was best. My team (at least to me) was stacked. It was headlined by Russell Wilson (QB3), DeMarco Murray (RB1), Le’Veon Bell (RB2), AJ Green (WR21), Julian Edelman (WR17) and Martellus Bennett (TE5). Keep in mind, this is a 10 team league. My final record? 4-9. 4 and 9!

Many times in fantasy football, the team with the best roster does not win. Sometimes they don’t even make the playoffs. Maybe your quarterback has just one bad game in the playoffs and your undefeated team might be out of the running for the championship. I see this a lot less in fantasy baseball, regardless on if you play in weekly leagues or daily leagues. The best overall team over the course of the season usually finds themselves in the playoffs and fighting for a championship (Editor’s note: It’s the sample size, man!). You can build your team around pitching or you can build your team around hitting or you can try to balance them out. Roto has been around forever though, which allows all the teams in the league to compete against one another over the course of the entire season, thus eliminating much of the luck. There’s a good chance some football leagues begin to move this way in the very near future.

fantasy-football-team-embarassesmentFor those who read this article and have read my Weekly Stream column every week, thank you for your continued devotion to my writing. Do not look at this article as a bash on fantasy football because obviously I still have a love for it. What readers should take away from this article is that there are other fantasy sports out there and baseball is one that can not only keep you occupied during the football offseason but also give you a completely different outlook at how you can play fantasy sports. Playing fantasy baseball and playing football are completely different but both provide entertainment, which is the main reason that we play fantasy in the first place.

For newcomers to the game of fantasy baseball, look for an article from me in the next couple of weeks about websites to help you get started with your league. I will also include some stud Twitter follows, and maybe a couple of basic vocabulary words to get you going. Look for continued articles from all of us at TSS. We had some great articles covering the Winter Meetings and will be providing more content as we move on from football. As always thanks for continuing to read and for the good words on social media.

Happy New Year! We’ll see you in 2015.

Photo cred: http://goo.gl/g2byu1, http://goo.gl/PTSPTz

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

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

Transaction Scripts: Yankees in Transition

Headley enjoyed his stint in NY so much he took less to stay. Let that marinate with his 4 year 52 million dollar deal.
Headley enjoyed his stint in NY so much he took less to stay.

It seems strange to be breaking down New York’s offseason moves to this point without commenting on a free agent that they overspent on. Well, with the exception of Chase Headley. However, he may have left money on the table to sign with New York. Wait, what? In flurry of moves during the Winter Meetings, teams like San Diego, Los Angeles and Miami were wheeling and dealing. Within the division, Toronto has strengthened their team defense and lineup by signing Russell Martin and trading for Josh Donaldson. The Red Sox have been busy hoarding number three starters to go along with the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Tampa is being Tampa and making under the radar deals and stockpiling arms. The biggest news in Baltimore is that Chris Davis can (legally) take Adderall this year. Phew!

Oh yeah, one last thing. The black cloud that is Alex Rodriguez is hanging over the 2015 Yankees.

Brian Cashman is trying to look to the future and shed some of the mistakes of contract’s past. Now that the Derek Jeter retirement tour has ended and the “Core Four” have all retired, the time has come to try and rebuild on the fly. A total reclamation project is not in the offing for a franchise that prides itself with headlines, winning and most importantly, championships. But one of the reasons they have been quiet this winter is because the cupboard is kind of bare on the farm. Because the Yankees are devoid of the prospects that other teams desire, they have taken a new course. I was surprised about the backlash on Twitter from Yankee fans after they traded Martin Prado and David Phelps to Miami for Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and prospect Domingo German. Prado is nice and all but his ceiling is limited and pitchers who repeatedly throw 95 MPH do not fall off trees. Adding the Marlins number 8 prospect in German was great as well. He is not overpowering but throws strikes.

So what have the Yankees done this winter?

Yankee Acquisitions: Andrew Miller, Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, Domingo German, Gonzalez Germen, Chase Headley, Chris Young
Yankee Losses: David Robertson, Shane Greene, Martin Prado, David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy

Starting with the infield, it appears for now that the Yankees are going to bring in Didi Gregorius and his strong defense to platoon with Brendan Ryan at shortstop. While it makes sense to be strong up the middle, what does Sir Didi offer as he tries to replace a Yankee Legend? According to ESPN Statistical Analysis, Gregorius made 41 good plays at shortstop in 2014 in 580 innings while the best total at the position was 71 good plays per 1,000 innings. I am not a math wizard but this implies that Gregorius was on pace to make more good plays per 1,000 innings than the leader in baseball. While this will not mean anything to Gregorius’ production on offense, if he helps save runs that may have more worth than anything he would do offensively. On a positive note, here is another list, courtesy of Mark Simon, noting the players with the highest hard hit rate in 2014:

Hard Hit Rate Mark Simon

It is only one statistic, but Gregorius is nestled in between Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout. I’m not sure how this happened but Didi is a candidate for a platoon. His career slash lines against left-handed pitching are a paltry .184/.257/.233 while his numbers improve against righties to the tune of .262/.332/.411. It is hard to say that a move to Yankee stadium will improve his numbers since Arizona is a hitter’s ballpark as well but the short porch in right is enticing to lefties. Gregorius has hit all 13 of his career homers off of right-handed pitchers so it really makes sense to platoon him with Brendan Ryan not only to shield him from the New York fans and writers but to allow him to gain confidence. This is could be a tough sell as Bob McManaman wrote about for the Arizona Republic:

“…this was a scout’s take on Gregorius in a text message to the New York Daily News: He’s OK. Solid defender, bat is light-long swing. Good athlete. Nervous type, not sure he can handle NY. If Gregorius is batting around .220 in May, Yankees fans and the New York tabloids alike will be screaming at Cashman for not trading for Troy Tulowitzki or Elvis Andrus or making a run at Hanley Ramirez before he bolted to the rival Red Sox.”

This will be Didi’s third team in the last three years. Replacing Derek Jeter is a tall order on its own, starting in New York as a platoon player at best whose best quality is defense, may be too tough for Gregorius to handle. In the 81 games Steamer projects out of him, he’ll produce 34 runs, 6 home runs, 32 RBI and 2 stolen bases while hitting .248/.310/.366. That does not look great but in comparison to Derek Jeter’s 2014 of 145 games, 47 runs, 4 home runs, 50 RBI, 10 stolen bases and .256/.304/.313 it doesn’t look so bad. I think Yankee fans are smarter than people give them credit for (Editor’s note: Greg is a Yankees fan). Gregorius may not light it up in fantasy, but if he saves runs for their patchwork pitching staff then he will be worth his spot in the platoon.

When the Yankees traded for Chase Headley in 2014 it seemed like a reach for a team that could not realistically make the playoffs. I remember watching a game near the end of the year and hearing that Headley was surprised about how much he enjoyed being a Yankee and that playing there may have changed his mind about his pending free agency. It really did not register with me at the time but while I am reading reports that his 4 year 52-million dollar contract was below other offers, I was surprised. Taking out his outlier 2012, his high in home runs for a season is 13 (which he has done each of the last two years). If the Yankees had any plans to give Alex Rodriguez playing time at third base would they have given Headley a four year contract? As congruent as Headley’s statistics have been over the last two years in which he has averaged 138 games, 57 runs, 13 home runs, 50 RBI, 8 SB and a .246/.338/.387 slash line, his power peripherals are very intriguing. First, here are Headley’s home runs from 2014 with an overlay of Yankee Stadium. Now he did hit 6 of his 13 homers with the Yankees, but notice the distances in comparison to the overlay:

Chase Headley Yankee Overaly 2014

What makes even less sense is how his supporting statistics match up over the last three years. I charted them below and you may find it as perplexing as I did:

Headley HR Chart

It would appear that Headley is regaining strength in his thumb with the increased bat velocities the last two seasons and while a return to his 31 home run spike from 2012 is very unlikely, I am willing to buy into Headley increasing his home run totals in 2015. Ballpark, plus increased HR/FB%, plus increased ball speed off the bat could translate into a bump in not only Headley’s home run totals, but his fantasy stats overall. Steamer seems to agree:

Chase Headley 2015: 138 G, 69 R, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 8 SB, .259/.343/.413

That is a solid portrayal for Headley going forward and although I was not enamored with his contract for the Yankees, it is a boon for his fantasy value. By no means does this propel him to the top of any 3B rankings but it makes him relevant again. If he can hold on to the distances that he exhibited in 2014, I could see him hitting 20 – 23 long balls next year:

2014 Longest HR by AVG Distance

Although it seems that the Yankees are stockpiling designated hitters with Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez already on the roster, they picked up Garrett Jones from the Marlins. Jones is not a particularly strong fielder in right or at first base so if he plays it will be for his bat. But if Jones is going to be a part of a platoon at DH, the Yankees may be on to something. Similar to Gregorius, Jones does his best work against right-handed pitchers, hitting 101 of his 117 career home runs off of them. His career slash lines against right-handers is .267/.333/.479, which, in New York is something to take note of. Once again, just like Headley, Jones’ power spike in 2012 has been followed up by back to back 15 homer campaigns. Unlike Headley, Jones’ peripheral numbers do not portend a serious jump in power due to his arrival in New York. First here is his home run overlay with Yankee stadium using his 2014 home runs:

Garrett Jones Yankee Overlay 2014

While Headley had supporting stats to say an increase in power is due to happen, Jones will have to rely on the short porch in right field for a power jump. But Jones averages a home run every 21.9 at bats against right-handed pitching for his career so if he can garner 450 at bats with the Yankees his career numbers dictate that he could hit 21 home runs at his peak. Using Jones’ Steamer projection of 81 games, he’s due to produce 41 runs, 14 home runs, 45 RBI and a .250/.311/.448 slash line. Jones’ value will be determined not only by how he is used but by how many at bats he gets. He is a sneaky cheap power play in AL-only leagues.

Finishing up the infield preview, it appears that a spring training battle at second base is brewing between Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. At a time when Yankee fans are looking for a prospect to break through and contribute to this team, Refsnyder has been growing in the minor leagues. Their numbers in the minors last year are strikingly familiar:

Robert Refsnyder AA/AAA: 137 G, 82 R, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 9 SB, .318/.387/.497
Jose Pirela AAA: 130 G, 87 R, 10 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB, .305/.351/.441

Pirela is on the active 40-man roster and would appear to have the inside track as the season opens, but a strong spring could push Refsnyder into the position earlier than anticipated. Defense could be the deciding factor, as Refsnyder is still a work in progress at second base and could use a bit more seasoning at AAA. Steamer seems to think that the Yankees will start with Pirela at the position:

Jose Pirela Steamer: 57 G, 24 R, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 5 SB, .259/.307/.381
Robert Refsnyder Steamer: 97 G, 45 R, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 9 SB, .262/.328/.390

Even though I think Refsnyder is the best for second base in the long run it may take him until June to win the job. But once he is there it may be his for some time which would make Yankee fans happy to see players come through the system again.
As to the pitching pieces in this deal, it starts with Nathan Eovaldi coming over from the Marlins. Like Chase Headley, he is a tough player to project for 2015 as he has enticing positives like his live arm and improving FIP but he has his warts. Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net, here is repertoire:

Eovaldi MPH and Movement 2014

Fangraphs.com’s Eno Sarris has a couple of interesting tweets regarding Eovaldi:

To say that Eovaldi could be the next Garrett Richards is high praise indeed, but may be a work in progress. His pitches with batting averages against show the problems that Eovaldi has with his changeup:

Eovaldi 2014 Results against

There are reports that Eovaldi is working on a split finger fastball this offseason, so it will remain to be seen what he can do in a ballpark like Yankee Stadium. But with his velocity and youth, it is a risk worth taking for the Yankees.

The other piece in the Marlins trade was pitcher Domingo German who was the eighth rated Marlins prospect and immediately jumped one spot in the Yankee ranking to number 7 after the trade. German is a very good young pitcher who struck out 113 in 2014 against only 25 walks. His fastball is reported to be in the low 90’s with an average changeup and a developing slider. In his first full season in class A, German had a tidy 2.48 ERA. His fastball does have sink which is a plus as teams are looking for power pitchers who generate groundballs.

I have already written up Andrew Miller here and how he provides insurance in the bullpen as the Dellin Betances era may begin in New York. Having been fortunate enough to get him in the reserve draft in my AL-only league next year I look forward to Betances transitioning in to take over at closer for his mentor and hero Mariano Rivera. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees can stay the course and hold on to their prospects like Luis Severino, a live-armed righty who throws an easy fastball and allow AFL star Aaron Judge to develop instead of flipping him for an aging veteran. The times are changing in New York and I am curious to see how Brian Cashman sheds contracts before trying to make a splash in the 2016 free agent class. These are not the Yankees of years past, at least at the moment.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, ESPN.com, MiLB.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/mGs6bU

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

Transaction Scripts: Kemp, Upton, Norris, Myers oh my!

During the twelve days of Christmas A.J. Preller dealt twelve prospects headlined by Max Fried, Zach Eflin and Trea Turner
San Diego’s GM A.J. Preller has dealt 12 prospects to reshape the Padres outfield

In a flurry of moves, new Padres general manager A.J. Preller has totally revamped the San Diego lineup by adding the much needed element of power. These acquisitions should move the Padres out of last place in baseball in both slugging and OPS in 2015. However, these moves did not come cheaply, as San Diego had to tap heavily into their farm system to upgrade. Although the farm has been utilized in this way, Preller was able to hold on to their three top youngsters, Matt Wisler, Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe. Not only that, but the rookie GM was also able to keep his starting rotation (Cashner, Ross, Kennedy) intact. Even in the midst of all these deals, it appears that Preller and the Padres are far from finished, as there are rumors that they may also be in on Cole Hamels, though it is fair to speculate he would have to part with at least one of his top prospects to make that happen. A new Twitter handle has emerged to celebrate the brashness of A.J. Preller:

Before I dive into the new players that the Padres have added, I will take a moment to see what they traded away. First, here is a list of the prospects in order of status according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo: Max Fried, Trea Turner, Jace Peterson, Jesse Hahn, Joe Ross, Zach Eflin, Dustin Peterson, Jake Bauers, Burch Smith, Joe Wieland, R.J. Alvarez and Mallex Smith. That is six starting pitchers, one future closer, a first baseman, a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman and an outfielder who stole 88 bases in the minors last year. No pear tree, but what a turnover. One of the main points here is that although Preller has dealt these youngsters, they are not his prospects. It is evident that Preller is looking to put his fingerprints on the Padre franchise and this is quite a start. Some have mused that the prospects dealt were more quantity than quality. That remains to be seen, but more importantly, why did Preller make such a push for power?

Padres OF 2014Even though Petco Park’s fences have been moved in, last year’s team was not built to hit the ball out of the yard, which is exactly why it finished next to last in every power-measuring category in baseball. Many of the game’s elite power bats aren’t typically going to sign with San Diego via free agency for obvious reasons, which is why the new GM probably felt he needed to acquire thump via trade. It looks as though Preller did his homework. We are currently in an era where pitching dominates, making power bats all the more scarce. Daren Willman shared some pretty cool charts on Twitter:

What these highlight is how the game is evolving in pitches called for strikes, specifically low and inside to right-handed hitters. This is important because as I looked into the players that Preller acquired, they handle low and inside pitches well. Here are each of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Justin Upton’s zone profiles with slugging percentages, courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:

Wil Myers Slugging Zone ProfileDerek Norris Slugging Zone ProfileJustin Upton Slugging Zone Profile 2014Matt Kemp Slugging Zone Profile 2014

Key in on the bottom inside third of the strike zone in which Kemp slugged 1.205 last year, Upton .641 and Norris .611. While Wil Myers did not handle this pitch well, he did slug .592 on pitches in the middle lower third.

It has been discussed that the move to Petco depresses the power of the players that Preller has obtained. According to this tweet though, (using a conversion from Baseball-Reference.com) the loss of home runs may not be as bad as forecasted:

So how about those home runs? I created overlays for each player with Petco as the background:

Kemp 2014 Petco OvelayMyers 2013 Petco Overlay

Derek Norris Petco OverlayUpton overlay Petco 2014

With the knowledge that only a few home runs would be lost due to the ballpark effect from the previous tweet, it will be interesting to see if each player can maintain his two-year averages in San Diego. I charted this below using 2012 and 2014 for Kemp’s statistics but all the other players listed reflect their last two years. Along with that, I included each player’s Steamer and ZiPS projections (thanks Fangraphs). There is no ZiPS projection yet for Kemp.

Padres Projections 2015

Due to their past seasons, it is easiest to predict what Upton and Kemp are capable of. I understand that there will be a cloud over Kemp and his arthritic hips, but he was a monster in the second half of 2014 and should be motivated after the trade. Before casting too much aspersion on how the move to Petco may sap their power numbers, take a look at their career stats hitting at Petco:

Matt Kemp in Petco: 59 G, 28 R, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 8 SB, .322/.372/.495
Justin Upton in Petco: 46 G, 24 R, 10 HR, 19 RBI, 7 SB, .291/.359/.541

Is it just a coincidence that each outfielder was available or did Preller target these outfielders who have OPS numbers in Petco that are .867 and .900 respectively? Here are the behind the scenes stats that I enjoy (again courtesy of Fangraphs) using some advanced metrics to predict future performance:

Padres New Players Last 2 year supporting stats
With the exception of Myers, the HR/FB%, wOBA and wRC+ seem very stable on the other three. There are no major variances in the swinging strike rates, either. It would appear that the only wild card in here is Myers, who not only needs to adjust to the National League, but possibly to playing center field as well. It will be a very interesting year for Myers since his power was never really questioned as a prospect but his ability to hit for average was. His two-year slash line of .258/.324/.400 is probably a good one to use as a projection for what he’ll do in 2015. I also think that Upton and Kemp can maintain their two-year averages. Norris may benefit from more playing time if he can stay healthy and move into the lower tier of number one catchers, but he profiles better as a strong number two for fantasy purposes. Preller has moved some of his chips into the middle to play for this season and still has control of many of these players until 2019.

Can Myers, Upton, Kemp and Norris form a core four in San Diego?
Can Myers, Upton, Kemp and Norris form a core-four in San Diego?

Kemp has called A.J. Preller a rock star among general managers and his first concert in 2015 will be fun to watch. It remains to be seen if he can add one more starting pitcher to this team. One thing is for certain though, this lineup will be much deeper and more powerful than in years past. Not only that, but there are possible platoons around the diamond with Will Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte at third. At first base, the Padres can use Tommy Medica against left-handed pitching and Yonder Alonso against righties. Also, they can use Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes at shortstop with Amarista being an emergency option in the outfield as well.

Things are not perfect with the lineup but with the defection of Pablo Sandoval and Mike Morse from San Francisco and the rudderless movement of Colorado, the Padres have positioned themselves for a run at the Wild Card. That is all you need in October, a chance. While I do not think that Preller is finished, I like what he has done to address team needs so far.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, BrooksBaseball.net, CBS.com, ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/DaUXCz (Preller & Kemp), http://goo.gl/HmzmXd (Prospects), http://goo.gl/74EHkc (Myers, Upton, Kemp, Norris)

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!