Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Daily Thoughts

Unrelated to anything baseball related but did anyone watch the Bieber Roast last night? It was actually quite good. I'm sure CC will re-air it up the wazoo, I'd recommend checking it out.

  • Anthony Rendon's knee still ain't right and he's been meeting with Dr. James Andrews. I'm always skeptical when an injury lingers and isn't fully diagnosed, that seems to portend even more lingering and missed time. At this point there is no chance he makes the Opening Day lineup, and it's anyone's guess (or just Mr. Andrews') when he'll be back. If you need a replacement middle infielder, Everth Cabrera will be filling in for J.J. Hardy at the start of the season, and while he doesn't provide what Rendon does, he could steal plenty of bags in April and be a nice bench player once Rendon returns.
  • Freddy Garcia signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. He was last seen pitching for the Braves in 2013. I highly doubt Garcia has many, if any, MLB moments left but you have to appreciate the grind. Freddy's come back from the dead seemingly three times already so here's to one more. 
  • Spring Stats don't mean anything, yadda yadda yadda but Holy Taijuan Walker! In 25 innings this spring Walker has allowed one run (off of a homer) and has 24 strikeouts against only four walks. He has the pedigree, the scouts are raving about him and he's having results thus far, Felix might finally have a partner atop of the rotation in Seattle now. In related news, Walker's battery mate Mike Zunino is also having a nice spring and could tap into the potential that made him the third overall pick and a top prospect this year.
  • Kris Bryant and Addison Russell were sent to AAA yesterday which surprised nobody. However, joining them was Javier Baez who struggled in his audition last year and again this spring. There is a lot of pop in that bat and I have a feeling we will see him soon in Chicago, but the path to everyday time in the MLB isn't always so easy and Baez will have to fix the hole in his swing before he's popping homers and stealing bases in the majors. Meanwhile, Bryant should be up in April/May with Russell joining him likely as a September call-up if not earlier in the summer. 
  • The MLB is looking to add a Spanish translator to each team so that players can fully "express themselves" to the media. This is a a fantastic idea and I hope they follow through with it. As fun as it could be to hear Soriano say "see ball, hit ball" it's obviously better and more interesting to hear an honest and detailed answer, to say nothing of helping out the young ball players who struggle to learn a second language with 10 recording devices in their face.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Daily Thoughts - Friday's Fantasy

There is already someone using the clever Dear Mr. Fantasy to talk about fantasy baseball, but that doesn't mean we can't listen to some good tunes over here too!

  • Danny Salazar has some fantastic potential but he's also incredibly consistent in his inconsistencies. After allowing seven runs in 3.1 innings yesterday, he "might have cost himself a spot in the rotation." This is certainly bad news for Salazar owners who have already had their drafts but in the end it's still just one spring training start. However, I would still knock Salazar a few spots down on your draft board. I don't think he'll actually leave the rotation because of this but he might be heading down the road of Ricky Nolasco and Javier Vazquez, pitchers who strike guys out without walking many but always seem to have ERAs higher than their peripherals. 
  • With Melvin Upton out for the first few weeks, Eric Young Jr. "appears to have the edge" as his replacement. If we're going to be honest here, EY Jr. has never actually been good but when he plays, he steals. His every day playing time should be fleeting but he should pick up 5-10 steals in April and if Upton misses more time, that number will grow. 
  • Kevin Gausman was a popular pick of mine and others for a potential break out this year on the Orioles. So it's a little disheartening to hear the Orioles want to prepare him as a starter and reliever.  In only 20 starts last year Gausman was worth a solid 2.1 WAR and while his 4.11 SIERA isn't so pretty, we're talking about a 24 year old pitcher that throws 95 mph and has exhibited solid control across all levels before last year. His stuff would play well in the bullpen of course, but the Orioles should really throw him in the rotation for the season to see what he can do. At worst he's around a league average pitcher, at best he taps into his potential as a former top prospect. I don't think it would surprise anyone to see Gausman break out except maybe his manager, Buck Showalter. Keep Gausman as a sleeper starter pick for your drafts, but the potential for frustrating managerial decisions has increased in his case.
  • Popular sleeper pick Yasmany Tomas is now just...sleeping. Manager Chip Hale said Tomas could start the season in the minors, which would certainly hurt his value.  Tomas is starting to scare me a little, the Dbacks have a plethora of outfielders and if Tomas can't handle third I'm not sure how he will play exactly. Of course they will give him a shot in the outfield, whether it's in April, May or June, but with their glutton of MLB-caliber outfielders on the roster, will Tomas have a chance to play through a slump? With that said, he's such an unknown he can go gangbusters from day one and have a productive year. Still, I wouldn't draft Tomas in the first half of the draft, in the second half when you should be taking more risks, it's one worth taking.

UPDATE: Shows what I know, Salazar was optioned to AAA. At this point I wouldn't draft Salazar but keep tabs on him if/when he makes his way back to Cleveland. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Daily Thoughts

To any college readers out there, here's to an eventful Thirsty Thursday with $0.50 beer or $1.00 well drinks at the grinding dance bar or the one that has all the cover bands, whichever is your preferred choice.
  • A couple quick closer notes: David Robertson is experiencing some elbow soreness. The White Sox don't think it's serious but that's not a good sign. Joe Nathan had a rough day today giving up a homer but apparently had a thumbnail issue. Either way, given his 2014, Joakim Soria has to be targeted as a handcuff. 
  • There is a lot of chatter going on these days about specializing in one sport hurting young athletes. The more basketball you play, the better you will likely get, but it's a lot of stress on the same muscles for four seasons. Similarly, the new talk in baseball is about young players, specifically pitchers, throwing for too many seasons consistently without taking time off to casually enjoy some soccer or what have you. With that said, it's interesting to see Mookie Betts crediting basketball for his ability to make adjustments. A lot of it has to do with Mookie's size in basketball and acting accordingly but we might have to rethink how we train our young athletes. Steve Nash and Kobe credit soccer to their basketball game and Mookie Betts is crediting basketball for his baseball game. A more well rounded education regarding sports and athletics might be more valuable in addition to helping with injuries. 
  • Andrew McCutchen cut his hair. If McCutchen played in New York he'd probably be on the cover of GQ (with or without his awesome dreadlocks) but in Pittsburgh that hasn't quite happened. Let's hope that changes, he's an awesome player and seemingly an even better human. 
  • Sometimes Bill James can sound a bit "get off my lawn"-ish but he has a unique mind and reading his take on a few questions is always worth a read
  • Spring stats generally don't mean anything in terms of predicting on field performance that season but they could help predict playing time. Joc Pederson is ripping this spring, he may or may not have a productive year in LA but he will start in CF due to his spring. Mookie Betts is crushing, he may or may not play everyday for the entire season but with a crowded OF the Red Sox could have pointed to spring struggles and tweaked the roster. Instead, he will likely be leading off. Dan O'Dowd lists his "five toughest roster dilemmas," many of which could be decided based off of spring performance. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jerome Williams: 2003 Sleeper

Zach Links over at the invaluable MLB Trade Rumors has a nice piece on Jerome Williams. When Alex Rodriguez going 0-2 against a pitching machine or the Dodgers spending their billions grabs all the headlines, it's nice to see one of the other guys finding his way. 

Williams has bounced around a lot in his career. A former top prospect on the Giants, he had some success there but it was a bit fleeting as he struggled on the Cubs and Nationals before finding somewhat of a temporary home playing for the Angels. Last year, Williams signed a one year deal with the Astros but was released in the summer, picked up by the Rangers and then picked off waivers by the Phillies. Fortunately for Williams, he ended the year well in Philly and seems to be in a happy place, resigning with them this offseason:
“This was a no-brainer for me,” Williams explained. “Playing with them for the couple months I was with them, it was a no-brainer. The atmosphere, the guys in the clubhouse, the city, it was a no-brainer to come back.”
We can joke about the current state of the Phillies being a nice home for anyone but all jokes aside, good for Williams. I hope he's able to build off his end of 2014 and have a successful year this season.

I'm in a deep NL-only fantasy baseball league, so he might be on my radar but Williams was really on my radar heading into the 2003 season. I've played fantasy baseball for a while but that year I started taking it seriously. And by serious I simply mean naively thinking I knew anything and digging for sleepers. Now, please be reminded that I was in high school in a decidedly non-competitive fantasy league. It's that kind of league where a top pitching prospect like Williams (50th best prospect according to Baseball America) who was ready for the major leagues needed any digging to find.

Needless to say, I drafted Jerome Williams and I was happily rewarded. In 21 starts the 21 year old Williams went 7-5 in 131 innings with a 3.30 ERA and 88 strikeouts. Beyond his success to my fantasy team, the important thing was that I dug for a sleeper, found Williams and was rewarded with his success, our success. Williams made me think I was brilliant. I'm sure I bragged about it to my leaguemates, which seems a little silly because 131 innings with a solid ERA and few strikeouts isn't really anything to brag about. But they didn't dig for anyone, they got lucky, I on the other hand just knew.

What I probably didn't brag about was Williams' teammate Kirk Rueter. In 2002 Kirk Rueter threw 203 innings with a 3.23 ERA. I apparently didn't care about Rueter's 76 strikeouts (3.36 K/9!!!) because that ERA is undervalued. And of course, if Rueter had a 3.23 ERA in 2002, 2003 was going to be more of the same. If only I knew about FIP back then I would have seen 4.43 and passed. Instead, I had him on my team and was rewarded with a 4.53 ERA, strangely close to his FIP the previous year. It's funny how that works out.

I'm not sure if there's a point to this story. Well, the actual point is that Jerome Williams, a career journey man, is in a good spot and we hope he succeeds. That's a nice story. The selfish point and reason for my rambling is that one could say that Williams played a crucial role in my fantasy baseball career. While we often can remember the "bad beats" more than our wins, we also have a tendency to pretend that we're all geniuses. It's easy for me to remember my pick of Jerome Williams. Kirk Rueter lives in a different, more embarrassing home in my brain that I don't necessary access on the reg.

Another takeaway could be that I didn't draft Jesse Foppert who was ranked #3 according to BA and had a 5+ ERA. Or Kurt Ainsworth who was another top prospect and had similar success as Foppert.

Another takeaway could be that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, known to us all as TNSTAAPP.

Another takeaway could be that the 2002 Giants went to the World Series and the following year their rotation included an awesome Jason Schmidt and 3 prospects who were all in Baseball America's top 100 in the rotation. In a different universe Jesse Foppert, Ainsworth and Williams would bring Bonds that elusive World Series. baseball is a strange game

Another takeaway could be that you shouldn't draft pitchers with stirkeout rates of 9%. This eluded me at some point in my life. Thankfully Jerome Williams and I are in a better place. I can't speak for Jesse Foppert. 

Daily Thoughts

I have been on two camels in my life. Unfortunately I can't find a photo of this. It's only important because every Wednesday someone at work posts a picture of a camel by the water fountain for hump day. If I had a picture of myself on a camel, I would certainly post it by the water fountain. In related news, riding a camel is awful and you feel violated after. Maybe it's better than a donkey ride, but not by much. Happy hump day!

  •  If you needed or wanted another reason to hate the Yankees, I have something for you! Brian Cashman is a huge Kentucky fan. He's not a Kentucky fan in the way LeBron likes the Yankees as he was born in Lexington, KY but I imagine there is a lot of overlap on people who hate the Yankees and Kentucky (specifically their basketball program, not the state). 
  • Other Yankees notes: Girardi is liking ARod as their DH. Tanaka is having a nice spring and will be their Opening Day starter. Sometimes the Yankees do have fun, here they are recreating a scene from the Sandlot.
  • While baseball lends itself to analytics and has largely led the way in the sports world, there is still a lot much to learn. One aspect is pitching where we struggle to fully separate pitching from defense and just good old luck. Beyond that there is the poker game that is pitching. Ben Lindbergh's piece on Grantland talking about the poker game and pitch sequencing of pitching is a must read. 
  • Javier Baez has a lot of power and with that, a large hole in his swing. The league average strikeout rate is around 20%. Baez struck out 30% of the time, in AAA last year and in the majors that jumped to 41.5%. That's a lot. I don't expect Baez to whiff at that rate but if he doesn't cut it down he won't stay in the majors. But in the majors he will start as Baez will still make the roster. Baez' power/steal combo in the minors was tantalizing  but his cup of coffee last year exposed a big weakness. It will be interesting to see if/how Baez can adjust. I think it will happen but whether it's this season and whether he turns into Jose Hernandez or an all-star will frustrate Cubs fans along the way.
  • The Dodgers did Dodgers things yesterday, signing Cuban Hector Olivera for $62.5 million. He will likely play in the majors this year (if his elbow holds up) but the real play here is for Olivera to play second or third next year. These are the luxuries you can afford when you're the Dodgers. $60+ million for an asset that might be of use next year. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Best Cruz?

Ted Cruz: Senator from Texas. First official 2016 Republican nominee for President. Born in Canada. His father is from Cuba. Known for involvement with the Tea Party and is too extreme for even the Republican party.

Image result for ted cruz
"Imagine" me as president

Nelson Cruz: Outfielder on the Mariners. Got caught for PEDs at the end of 2013, signed a one-year pillow contract with the Orioles and slugged 40 homers earning him a $57 million deal with the Mariners. Known for bad defense (especially in the World Series), homers, PEDs and the nonchalance-ness that front offices show for getting caught.

Image result for nelson cruz defense
I got it!

Penelope Cruz: Spanish actress. Known for her assets, involvement with Tom Cruise and now Javier Bardem and a slew of good but not great movies. Sahara was fun though. 
Image result for penelope cruz
I upgraded to Bardem from Cruise. #winning

Victor Cruz: Wide Receiver on the Giants who unfortunately tore his patellar tendon last year. Known for catching Eli Manning bombs and salsa dancing immediately after. 

Can Odell do this?
So, I'll let you decide - who's the best Cruz? Did I forget any others? And as a follow up, who would make the best President?

Daily Thoughts

It's tough to get out of bed on a Monday but there is at least a newness at work, seeing people you haven't seen in a few days. By Tuesday however, you are tired of the work faces and Friday still seems so far away. I'm not saying Garfield is totally wrong, but Tuesdays are maybe worse. On the other hand, I love lasagna. Except vegetable lasagna, what is up with that?

  • After a breakout 2014 campaign, the Twins have locked up Dozier to a four-year $20 million deal. Dozier does a little bit of everything and was worth an impressive 4.8 fWAR last year. All the projection systems seem to have him around 2.7 WAR and Dozier should have no problem being worth this mini-extension, that avoids arbitration. 
  • We previously discussed the Indians working with Kluber to work on an extension but at the moment it is "not close." I'm of the opinion that the Indians would be better off just going year to year in arbitration and avoiding an extension with Kluber which also avoids the long term risk. 
  • Dellin Betances was one of the best relievers in baseball last year and it was generally assumed that he was going to be closing this season once Robertson left. But then the Yankees went out and got Andrew Miller. So, who's closing? The recent chatter from Girardi suggests they may go in a non-traditional route. I would love the Yankees to be non-traditional, as that's an unquestionable better use of Betances. Why limit him to one inning closing games, when he can throw 100 high leverage innings. Either way, while Girardi is paying lip service to this now, I'll believe it when I see it. My bet is on one (likely Betances) filling a more traditional role by the end of the season, similar to how he started 2014 pitching wherever needed before ending as the "eighth inning guys."
  • Chris Smith has a good read about Matt Harvey, his stardom and the Mets. 
  • Not baseball related, but this story on the recently retired Al Harrington sums up his and D'Antoni's career with the Knicks. Unfortunately, the Knicks are still the Knicks and D'Antoni will probably be coaching some new fun team next year.