Second Half Scorchers

Nearly a month removed from the All-Star Game, there are several players who have seen drastic changes to their approaches and results over the last 30 days. While some players are in contention for a division title or wild card spot, others are helping their team to avoid the worst record in baseball. Take a look at these impressive results, as you get into the forgotten part of the baseball season – thanks in no small part to ESPN jamming NFL games that don’t even count down our throats.

Votto will continue to carry a putrid supporting cast...again.
Votto will continue to carry a putrid supporting cast…again.

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .442/.550/.663, 221 wRC+, 1.7 WAR, 20.7% walk rate

Votto limped through the first two months of the season, hitting an ugly .213/.330/.404 through the end of May; however, there were signs that this would turn around, including his 13.2% walk rate and incredibly low .252 BABIP (.357 career). He has certainly had better luck since the beginning of June, hitting .366/.500/.574 with a 21.4% walk rate and a .430 BABIP. As the Reds continue to sit at the bottom of the wins column in the NL Central, Votto is doing his part to keep them somewhat entertaining in the midst of their horrifically run rebuild.

Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Last 30 days: .313/.349/.696, .393 ISO, 1.5 WAR, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 20 R

Dozier has been a useful second baseman for a number of years, though, due to the Twins struggles, he may not be as well-known as he should be. After all, he has averaged 23 home runs, 35 doubles, 71 RBI, and 16 steals between 2013 and 2015. This season, however, Dozier seems certain to eclipse those averages and eclipse career-bests in several categories, including batting average, which currently sits at .264, which is probably why he isn’t as beloved by stat and fantasy nerds as he should be. Over the last month, Dozier has been on fire, and after another first half of solid production but a queasy .246/.335/.450 line, he has jumped all the way up to the total above (see last 30 days) and his robust 1.045 OPS. The Twins have a lot of talented middle infielders and Dozier is signed through 2018 for just $15MM, so it will be interesting to see what his potentially awesome second half – if he continues like this – could land them in an extremely weak free agent market this winter.

Jose Ramirez has been more valuable than Votto, Bryce Harper, and Addison Russell (based on WAR) in 2016 Courtesy: Cleveland.com
Jose Ramirez has been more valuable than Votto, Bryce Harper, and Addison Russell (based on WAR) in 2016
Courtesy: Cleveland.com

Jose Ramirez, INF/OF, Cleveland Indians

Last 30 days: .365/.415/.573, 19 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB,  4 HR

Ramirez has been a blessing to the Tribe, taking control of third base after watching veteran-signee Juan Uribe struggle, up to his release, at the hot corner, while he was taking the pain away from the seemingly year-long injury to Michael Brantley prior to taking on third base full-time. Ramirez, just 24 in September, has been an intriguing prospect for a number of years to anyone who closely follows the Indians, as his speed, versatility, and contact skills looked like a reason that he would end up playing elsewhere with Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor around up the middle. Ramirez, though, has proven that he can be productive and valuable anywhere on the diamond. While he may fill a super-utility role and be viewed as a Ben Zobrist-y kind of talent, he may create a future for others to be very Jose Ramirez-y, instead.

Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals

Last 30 days: 5-0, 6 games (6 starts), 42.2 IP, 44:8 K:BB, .195 BAA, 2.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 1.3 WAR

Duffy has been Cy Young-contender good since the start of the 2nd half. Since moving into a full-time starter role on May 27th, Duffy is 9-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 109:18 K:BB over 99 IP and 15 starts. The Royals have dealt with some regression, inconsistencies, and ineffectiveness from their rotation throughout the year, and the defending world champions will have a rough time earning a wild card spot (they’re 6.5 games out as I write this), but Duffy, who is under team-control through next season, could be earning a lucrative extension with his recent efforts.

Verlander can be happy for many reasons this season Courtesy: CBS Sports
Verlander can be happy for many reasons this season
Courtesy: CBS Sports

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Last 30 days: 4-0, 6 games (6 starts), 43 IP, 50:10 K:BB, .174 BAA, 1.67 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 1.5 WAR

When Justin Verlander led the league in earned runs allowed in 2014, many thought that he had lost it and wouldn’t ever be the same. It happens with pitchers, and we haven’t seen many power pitchers this side of Roger Clemens have long-term success. After battling through some injuries in 2015 and regaining some semblance of himself in the ERA column, the 2016-version of Verlander looks an awful lot like the annual Cy Young-contender that we were all used to seeing, as he is back to striking out more than a batter per inning this season. Maybe it is his engagement to Kate Upton, maybe it is an adaptation to pitching with what he has, but the Tigers, who are back in the hunt in the AL Central (they’re 1-11 against Cleveland but have 7 games remaining against them), are surely happy to have their ace back.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 3-0, 5 games (5 starts), 32 IP, 27:6 K:BB, .231 BAA, 1.13 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 1.0 WAR

Odorizzi was one of the many Rays’ starters who were mentioned to be on the move at the trade deadline, however, only Matt Moore headed out of town and Tampa Bay has Odorizzi under control through 2019. If he continues his impressive run, Odorizzi could bring quite an impressive package of talent this winter, but the Rays could continue to build their offense around a rotation centered around Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Blake Snell, and the soon-to-return Alex Cobb. Just 6-5 in 24 starts, the 26-year-old right-hander is frustrating to own in fantasy, but his nice run over the last month may have flown under the radar due to the Rays last place standing in the AL East.

Tim Lincecum: This is the End

Is this it for Lincecum?
Is this it for Lincecum? Courtesy: Fox Sports

On Saturday afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels designated RHP Tim Lincecum for assignment, just one day after allowing six runs on nine hits in just 3.1 innings against the Seattle Mariners. At just 32, and after having been ineffective since 2012, he has probably thrown his last pitch in Major League Baseball.

From 2007 to 2011, Lincecum was undeniably the top pitcher in the National League. While sharing the spotlight with the prime years of Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Cliff Lee, Lincecum, who could never look the part of an ace when lined up against those four, still was just as dominant. Lucky for him, he was the only one in the NL for all five of those seasons, which resulted in his two Cy Young awards (2008 & 2009), which were obviously earned with his incredible overall numbers.

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 SO/W
2007 23 SFG 7 5 4.00 24 0 0 0 146.1 122 70 65 12 65 150 112 3.63 1.278 7.5 2.31
2008 ★ 24 SFG 18 5 2.62 34 0 2 1 227.0 182 72 66 11 84 265 168 2.62 1.172 7.2 3.15
2009 ★ 25 SFG 15 7 2.48 32 0 4 2 225.1 168 69 62 10 68 261 171 2.34 1.047 6.7 3.84
2010 ★ 26 SFG 16 10 3.43 33 0 1 1 212.1 194 84 81 18 76 231 114 3.15 1.272 8.2 3.04
2011 ★ 27 SFG 13 14 2.74 33 0 1 1 217.0 176 74 66 15 86 220 127 3.17 1.207 7.3 2.56
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2016.

 

Lincecum was nicknamed “The Freak” due to his absurd mechanics, which resulted in his 5’11” frame somehow striding 7.5 feet towards home during his delivery. The torque and motion resulted in this small man being capable of throwing a baseball in the high-90s. During all of his success, so many questioned his size, in the same way that others questioned the likes of Bob Feller, Johnny Cueto, and even future Hall of Fame closer Billy Wagner, something I looked into further over 2.5 years ago. Mechanics are a difficult thing to question, given that even those with perfect mechanics – I’m looking at you, Mark Prior – can still manage to get hurt. Lincecum proved many people wrong for several years, but it is, most likely, his small stature and workload that resulted in his struggles since the start of the 2012 season.

The Giants, unfortunately, paid Lincecum $75MM from 2012 through 2015 for him to post a 4.68 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 113 appearances (106 starts) and 615.2 innings, while he posted a WAR of 3.2. Not quite the bargain. It isn’t likely that the Giants knew that Lincecum’s final six starts of 2011, when he posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, was going to become the “norm” for their four-time All-Star. The club signed him in January 2012 to a two-year, $40.5MM deal to avoid high-priced arbitration years and buying out those two years of arbitration prior to free agency. They then re-signed him to a two-year, $35MM deal, just a few days after he pitched out of the bullpen in helping to lead the Giants to their second title in three seasons.

Lincecum's mechanics - helping Carter Capps have a career
Lincecum’s mechanics – helping Carter Capps have a career

Maybe Brian Sabean missed something…maybe he was still high from the champagne. Still, Lincecum’s career in San Francisco was a two-part movie, where the sequel wasn’t worth seeing. His incredible run from 2007 through 2011 resulted in his being able to stick around up to this point, but he truly doesn’t have much left to offer as a starting pitcher.

Because of Lincecum’s struggles with the Angels, this will be it for him.

The first time through the order this season, teams are hitting .394/.457/.676 with six home runs in 81 plate appearances. If you thought for one second that he could still be a reliever, that is all that you need to know.

Tim Lincecum was an absolute freak, which made his nickname well-earned and well-placed; however, once he lost a tick on his fastball and had to learn to get people out by pitching alone, he wasn’t very successful. It is sad to see someone fall so far from the top so quickly, but at least he was there for a long enough time to have etched a memory into the minds of baseball fans of this generation forever.

2017 Free Agency: Optional Options

As a Cincinnati Reds homer, I’m looking ahead to next season…actually, I’m looking forward to 2020, when the team will have time to truly rebuild their roster. Unfortunately, for a non-contending, rebuilder within a “small-market”, Cincinnati will not be a big player in free agency. Like many other clubs that are looking to build from within or on-the-cheap, free agency isn’t very kind, leaving the remnants of the market to pick through like a racoon at a garbage can. Oh, those beady eyes in your headlights in January will just be Walt Jocketty or Billy Beane looking for a backup infielder.

This winter, as with any other, baseball fans will see plenty of players on the move, including Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, Aroldis Chapman, and Ian Desmond, who appear to be the few “big names” on the market. In addition to those select few, there are plenty of players with options, but are they going to get picked up? Let’s take a look at those optional options for 2017, shall we…

Opting Out

Dexter Fowler, OF, Chicago Cubs: $9MM mutual option, $5MM buyout

Fowler is having a stellar season, even having spent some time on the DL. He is earning $13MM this season on a one-year deal and has responded after facing a weak market this past winter with a career-best .877 OPS. The 2016 All-Star isn’t really needed as a leadoff hitter in Chicago with Jason Heyward getting paid mega-millions to be that type of player, but Fowler should be able to cash in. The Cubs will likely accept their portion of the option very quickly.

Phillies' 1B Howard has been on a sad decline for half a decade
Phillies’ 1B Howard has been on a sad decline for half a decade

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: $23MM club option, $10MM buyout

Howard has had one of the worst contracts in baseball since the start of the 2012 season. Coincidentally, that is when his five-year, $125MM extension kicked in. Finally, the Phillies will be able to walk away from him and his horrific deal, and they’ll be more than happy to drop $10MM in order to do that. We’ll see if they release him and roll with Tommy Joseph, which they basically have done since the beginning of June.

Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: $17MM club/vesting option, $1MM buyout

Holliday has collapsed in his age-36 season. His .237/.310/.449 line is the worst of his career. His 18 home runs have saved his line a bit, but he is still well short of his career .303/.382/.515 line. He certainly won’t rank in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting, which is all that it would take for his option in 2017 to vest. The Cardinals aren’t churning out prospects like they were a few years ago, so it will be interesting to see which direction they go to stay within the Cardinal Way.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets: can opt-out of remaining two-years, $47.5MM

Cespedes could cash in significantly in a weak market this winter. With so few power bats available, the 30-year-old corner outfielder, if healthy, would likely increase his AAV to $25-$28MM per season. He will beat his career-high for OPS this year. He just needs to stay on the field to keep the Mets in contention.

The Yankees will get out from under the weight of Sabathia's deal
The Yankees will get out from under the weight of Sabathia’s deal

CC Sabathia, LHP New York Yankees: $25MM vesting option (if he doesn’t end the season on the DL with a shoulder injury, spend 45 days or more on the DL with a shoulder injury, or make six or more relief appearances because of a shoulder injury), $5MM buyout

If you asked in mid-June, Sabathia may have been worth a $20MM gamble for New York. On June 16th, he had a 2.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over his first 11 starts; however, he has a 6.85 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over his last eight starts. With Mark Teixeira retiring after the 2016 season, the Yankees will have quite a bit of money to spend – unless they are serious about their rebuild and continue to add young talent to the roster. The Yankees may need to check-in on Sabathia’s shoulder, given his recent woes, and make sure everything is clean; although, the MLBPA may find a way to keep his option guaranteed with such a move.

Also: Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland A’s; Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox; Jon Niese, LHP, New York Mets;

 

Opting In

Jay Bruce, OF, New York Mets: $13MM club option, $1MM buyout

Bruce, who was recently acquired by the Mets from Cincinnati for a pair of prospects, will provide a lot of value to New York, especially if Cespedes remains on the shelf with his quad injury, but even more so if Cespedes opts out and signs elsewhere this winter. Bruce is a fine outfielder who is capable of strong production, as evidenced by his rebound 2016 season, but his lengthy slumps and declining defense don’t make him worth a huge deal. The $13MM option is still a fine value for the Mets, who may end up in quite a limbo with their other outfielder about a week after the World Series.

Santana will be useful for Cleveland, even if they re-sign Napoli
Santana will be useful for Cleveland, even if they re-sign Napoli

Carlos Santana, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians: $12MM club option, $1.2MM buyout

Santana is an interesting player due to his ugly batting averages, average power, and incredible on-base skills. Everyone is waiting for him to finally put it all together, which would lead to a very Adam Dunn-like 30 HR, 100 R, 100 BB season for Cleveland; however, he just can’t beat the shift and his deflated BABIP keep him from meeting some of those numbers. With Mike Napoli also reaching free agency, the Indians will likely opt-in on Santana, as they couldn’t afford to lose them both. They may not be able to re-sign Napoli after his huge season, but they could offer him a qualifying offer and keep him around for one more season. Since Napoli’s decision will come after the option decision on Santana, expect the former catcher to stick for one more year with the Tribe.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Texas Rangers: $5.25MM, $25K buyout

Duh. The Rangers just gave up a nice prospect package for the best catcher this side of Buster Posey, so you can expect them to take on this very affordable option. Lucroy is public enemy No.1 in Cleveland right now, but he had the right in his contract and used it to his advantage. Playing in Arlington for half of his games, his numbers could inflate and help him inflate his earnings when he reaches free agency after the 2017 season.

Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs: $10MM club option, $2MM buyout

Hammel has been excellent in 2016, posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 21 starts. In his career, Hammel has a 3.33 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 399.2 innings while wearing a Cubs’ uniform and a 4.77 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in any other uniform. He needs to be in Chicago and Chicago needs him in their rotation, as the incredible talent within their system that continues rising to the majors aren’t talented on the mound. Hammel is a bargain with his production in a Cubs’ uniform.

Also: Matt Moore, LHP, San Francisco Giants; Cameron Maybin, OF, Detroit Tigers; Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals; Yunel Escobar, 3B, Los Angeles Angels;

There are several additional players with options that you can find at MLB Trade Rumors.  It looks like the 2016-2017 offseason will be very trade-heavy as teams try to structure their rosters with talent without unloading gobs of cash on talent that may not be quite as talented as your typical market. In addition to that, the 2017-2018 market could have an even slower market with Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jose Fernandez heading towards free agency after the 2018 season.

 

Reds Facing Reality

The Cincinnati Reds are not good. They are currently 36-59, 21.5 games back of the Chicago Cubs, proud (?) owners of the third-worst record in MLB, and the occupants of last place in the NL Central. Anyone with a functioning brain saw this coming, even after their 5-1 start to the season, as the club traded away several pending free agents last season for prospects. The biggest questions should have been who was next and when. There have been rumors all over the place for several months about OF Jay Bruce, ranging from Toronto to Cleveland, but many will be shocked about the latest rumor:

Could DeSclafani be on the move? Courtesy: baseballessential.com
Could DeSclafani be on the move?
Courtesy: baseballessential.com

Reds’ RHP Anthony DeSclafani is an unlikely candidate to be dealt in the opinions of many Reds fans. He is a part of the rebuild, right? He is the only legitimate arm in the rotation, right? He is under team-control through 2020, so why would the Reds deal him?

Well, based on the results to this point, the Reds aren’t going to be contending in 2020, either. Dealing a pitcher, and a somewhat successful one at that, right now, will allow the club to acquire additional pieces that could help the club’s stagnant offense. While you want young, affordable, controllable talent, teams can also use that talent to acquire additional talent, and DeSclafani’s success makes him quite useful for those acquisitions.

Cincinnati ranks 20th in MLB in runs scored and 28th in OPS. Their pitching is horrific. They rank last in MLB in team ERA (5.32), WHIP (1.52), walks (401, 50 more than the next closest team) and HR allowed (161, a whopping 33 more than the next club). What’s odd is that the problem is across the board for the bullpen and rotation. They both rank last in ERA and WHIP (tied with Oakland).

Stephenson has pitched well in two starts for Cincinnati Courtesy: cincinnati.com
Stephenson has pitched well in two starts for Cincinnati
Courtesy: cincinnati.com

With young starters like John Lamb, Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, and DeSclafani in the rotation, this type of catastrophic suck-capade is not unexpected. Luckily, the Reds have several other young starters who are nearing the majors to replace DeSclafani, or any other starter, including RHP Robert Stephenson, LHP Amir Garrett, RHP Tyler Mahle, RHP Nick Travieso, and RHP Rookie Davis all at or above Double-A.

However, Cincinnati is lacking tremendously in offensive talent. Their No.1 prospect, OF Jesse Winker, has battled injuries while struggling to a fairly empty .297/.387/.380 line as a 22-year-old in Triple-A. The major league club has watched Billy Hamilton fail to adjust and utilize his speed, as the speedster has lost playing time to Tyler Holt at times this season. OF Phillip Ervin and C Tyler Stephenson are far away, and the club hasn’t had C Devin Mesoraco for nearly two full seasons due to shoulder and hip injuries that have required surgeries.

As a homer for the Reds, it is easy to look at DeSclafani and want to build around him. He appears to be a solid, innings-eating workhorse. However, those aren’t No.1 starters. He is the equivalent of Mike Leake, a fine starter, but Cincinnati can’t count on him for anything more than middle-of-the-road numbers. If you can get legitimate prospects for that type of arm, you do it.

There is very little known about the type of return that could come from this type of deal, but the Cincinnati Reds would be foolish to not start with 3B prospect Joey Gallo, whose massive power and strikeout totals will bring immediate comparisons to Adam Dunn in the Queen City, but whose skill-set is something that the lineup is tremendously absent of after dealing Todd Frazier over the winter. Other names that must be mentioned are Jurickson Profar, OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz, and LHP Yohander Mendez.

The Cincinnati Reds are not going to be competitive for several seasons. There is absolutely no one on the current roster who should be deemed untouchable – even OF Adam Duvall and 1B Joey Votto. If a team comes calling, management must listen. There are far too many years between where the Reds are right now and their “window” for a championship to have fallen in love with this club.

As much as fans hate to see talent leave, this is a business. Trade everyone!

 

 

2016 Midseason Top 100 Prospects

At the beginning of the 2016 season, I prepared a prospect list. Now, at the mid-point of the season, it is time to look at how that list has changed; whether because of performance or promotions, you’ll see a drastically different list of players to keep an eye on over the remainder of the 2016 season. (Click on the hyperlink to view the player page through Baseball Reference)

  1. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Dodgers LHP phenom Julio Urias
    Dodgers LHP phenom Julio Urias
  2. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
  3. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox
  4. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  6. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  7. Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Houston Astros
  8. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies
  9. Trea Turner, SS/CF, Washington Nationals
  10. Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
  11. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
  12. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  13. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
  14. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
  15. Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals
  16. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox
  17. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
  18. Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
  19. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
  20. Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS, Atlanta Braves
  21. Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres
  22. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians

    Indians Ginger Clint Frazier
    Indians Ginger Clint Frazier
  23. Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers
  24. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado Rockies
  25. Jorge Mateo, SS, New York Yankees
  26. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
  27. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
  28. Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
  29. Raul A. Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
  30. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians
  31. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies
  32. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs
  33. Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
  34. Gleyber Torres, SS, Chicago Cubs
  35. Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  36. Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
  37. Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

    Reds' LHP Amir Garrett is still transitioning from basketball - even with his outrageous numbers. Courtesy: Reds Reporter
    Reds’ LHP Amir Garrett is still transitioning from basketball – even with his outrageous numbers.
    Courtesy: Reds Reporter
  38. Francis Martes, RHP, Houston Astros
  39. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
  40. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Washington Nationals
  41. Joe Musgrove, RHP, Houston Astros
  42. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
  43. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  44. Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs
  45. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta Braves
  46. Jake Thompson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
  47. Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins
  48. Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers
  49. Tyler Jay, LHP, Minnesota Twins
  50. Brett Phillips, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
  51. Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres
  52. Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics
  53. Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas Rangers"Texas
  54. Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  55. Josh Hader, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
  56. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
  57. Kevin Newman, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
  58. David Paulino, RHP, Houston Astros
  59. Phil Bickford, RHP, San Francisco Giants
  60. Tyler O’Neill, OF, Seattle Mariners
  61. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  62. Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants
  63. Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  64. Brady Aiken, LHP, Cleveland Indians
  65. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
  66. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
  67. Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington Nationals
  68. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
  69. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
  70. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Cleveland Indians
  71. Trent Clark, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
  72. Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  73. Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians
  74. Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians
  75. Gavin Cecchini, SS, New York Mets
  76. Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets

    Smith is a 1B-only prospect who is actually worth monitoring Courtesy: metsmorizedonline.com
    Smith is a 1B-only prospect who is actually worth monitoring
    Courtesy: metsmorizedonline.com
  77. Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  78. Carson Fulmer, RHP, Chicago White Sox
  79. Andrew Knapp, C, Philadelphia Phillies
  80. Luke Weaver, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  81. Frankie Montas, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  82. Mike Clevinger, RHP, Cleveland Indians
  83. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
  84. Kolby Allard, LHP, Atlanta Braves
  85. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
  86. Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
  87. Chris Shaw, 1B, San Francisco Giants
  88. Jorge Polanco, 2B, Minnesota Twins
  89. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
  90. Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres
  91. Tyler Beede, RHP, San Francisco Giants
  92. Adalberto Mejia, LHP, San Francisco Giants
  93. Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros
  94. Conner Greene, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
  95. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  96. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Minnesota Twins

    Gonsalves could be a top 50 prospect by the end of the year Courtesy: milb.com
    Gonsalves could be a top 50 prospect by the end of the year
    Courtesy: milb.com
  97. Michael Kopech, RHP, Boston Red Sox
  98. Yusniel Diaz, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  99. Josh Naylor, 1B, Miami Marlins
  100. James Kaprielian, RHP, New York Yankees

 

Fantasy Fix for 6/15: Who to Target and Avoid

As we get further into the season, the sample sizes of players has become a little more realistic. For those who say that players will correct themselves and hit “to the back of the baseball card.” That is the case for some players, while others actually breakout or stay in funks all season. Based on the “norms” of players, this should help you decide who to trade or sell high, who to target, and who to avoid like the plague.

Who to Target

Frazier has struggled, but he is still mashing and is a player to target.
Frazier has struggled, but he is still mashing and is a player to target. Courtesy: CBS Sports

Todd Frazier, 3B, Chicago White Sox

Frazier is sporting a pretty dreadful .206/.301/.466 line over 272 plate appearances. His average is driven down by his .185 BABIP, worst among qualified batters in MLB. If you’ve owned Frazier before, you know that the batting average isn’t what makes him valuable, but that number should certainly increase over the rest of the season, especially as Chicago heats up and the ball flies out of U.S. Cellular. Additionally, Frazier’s 19 bombs are 2nd in MLB and he has a .261 ISO and the highest walk rate of his career (11.4%). It should be a good summer for the Toddfather.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

You should have probably targeted Arenado at the top of your draft, but, if you can deal for him, you need to find a way to get him on your team. He is tied for most homers in baseball after his shot on Wednesday afternoon and the 25-year-old could see additional growth over his 42 home run/130-RBI 2015 season. How is that possible? Well, his .260 BABIP is bound to increase closer to his career .287, and Arenado is striking out at the lowest rate of his career (10.5%) and walking at the highest rate of his career (10.5%). With Carlos Gonzalez slugging alongside him, at least until the trade deadline, the sky continues to be the limit for this young star.

Wacha looks pumped about being on this list. Courtesy: Washington Times
Wacha looks pumped about being on this list.
Courtesy: Washington Times

Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Wacha may fly under the radar because he won’t strikeout 200 batters per season in fantasy leagues, but he will win games (#killthewin) and post solid ERA and WHIP numbers. At least, that has been the case prior to this season. There’s nothing to say that he can’t get back on track. With a 2-6 record, 4.91 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, Wacha has many owners frustrated. However, his 3.48 FIP says that he can get things back on track. The fact that he plays on a perennial contender may help, but the Cardinals aren’t really the class of the NL Central any longer with the Cubs 9.5 games up going into Wednesday’s games. Grab Wacha from someone who is selling low and reap the benefits of reading my website. Thank me later.

Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Houston Astros

Last season’s AL Cy Young winner has struggled thus far, going 3-9 with a 5.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He leads MLB in hits allowed and earned runs. It’s hard to say that he can improve on that line, but it appears that he may be able to do so. He does have a 3.82 FIP and he is still striking out a little over eight per nine innings; however, he’ll need to get his walks down in order for his overall numbers to improve. The Astros are still very good, despite their 31-35 record, and you don’t win 20 games and a Cy Young without some skills. Trust in his beard and abilities.

Players to Avoid

Call me a #hater if you want, but that BABIP makes Marte someone I wouldn't trust. Courtesy: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Call me a #hater if you want, but that BABIP makes Marte someone I wouldn’t trust.
Courtesy: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Marte is having an excellent season, hitting a robust .335/.376/.502, with 26 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases. At the age of 27, he is in the midst of the “Bill James prime” and has always been a gifted athlete; however, he hasn’t always been this lucky. Marte has a .416 BABIP, 56 points higher than his already impressive .360 career BABIP. He could certainly be “breaking out”, but this type of elevated statistic isn’t easy to keep up with all season. If you’re in a one-year re-draft, you may want to cash him in at this peak value.

Doug Fister, RHP, Houston Astros

Fister’s success is a feel-good story after battling through injuries and ineffectiveness in 2015 for the Nationals. The 32-year-old has a 7-3 record to go along with his 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He’s back to his old self, like when he won 30 games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, right? Wrong. His 4.75 FIP, 81.8 left on base percentage, .254 BABIP allowed, and career worst walk rate, scream regression. He has proven peripherals wrong for a number of years, due to his low strikeout totals, but he would need to prove it for another month before I’m buying. If you have him, sell high.

Walker has so much potential, but that is all that he has right now. Courtesy: Seattle Times
Walker has so much potential, but that is all that he has right now.
Courtesy: Seattle Times

Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Walker still has a lot of prospect hype surrounding him, but, at some point, the results need to catch up to that potential. To this point, the 3.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP have hidden some ugly numbers for the 23-year-old. The 4.61 FIP is what screams regression, while the 18.4% FB:HR rate is terrifying as we enter the warmer months, especially when you consider the teams in the AL West and the way the ball flies out of those parks in the summer. Over his last seven starts, Walker is 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, allowing a whopping 11 homers in 38.2 innings. His solid overall numbers are the result of his first six starts – when he was 2-2 with a 1.97 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, which he allowed just three home runs over 32 innings. He may be injured or the league made an adjustment. Either way, Walker isn’t as good as his statistics show right now – unless you can store him on your bench while he figures it out – if he ever does.

The Worst Reds Trade of My Generation

This was a bad trade, but my generation has its own Courtesy: Baseballhall.org
This was a bad trade, but my generation has its own
Courtesy: Baseballhall.org

When the Cincinnati Reds traded Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, Dick Simpson, and Jack Baldschun in December of 1965 because he was “old”, they were likely surprised when he went on to win the Triple Crown in the American League the next season for the Baltimore Orioles. It is a deal that still makes Cincinnati fans nauseous. However, for those who weren’t around then, we have our own version of that deal. It is a deal that rips out the heart of my generation of Reds fans, or, at least, it very well should.

The deal that has made me sick for the last several years was trading away Edwin Encarnacion AND Zach Stewart (who didn’t amount to anything but was a top ten prospect of the club’s at the time of the trade) along with Josh Roenicke (eh…he had a couple of solid seasons as a reliever) for one player – Scott Rolen.

At the time that the trade was made, the Reds were 45-57, 10 games out in the NL Central. They had Rolen under contract through 2012, and, after the 2009 season, Rolen restructured his contract, agreeing to a deferred signing bonus, to give the Reds some financial flexibility for spending. Still, what did they get in the deal?

Great glove. Great attitude. Great teammate. Courtesy: zimbio
Great glove. Great attitude. Great teammate.
Courtesy: zimbio

People who loved the trade will point to the 2010 season. The Reds won the NL Central and lost in the NLDS. Rolen was an All Star, he finished 14th in NL MVP voting, and he won his 8th and final Gold Glove award at third base. His leadership and personality were things that were mentioned often during his time with Cincinnati, and he was beloved by owner Bob Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty, who were both a part of the Cardinals during Rolen’s time in St. Louis.

However, for people who weren’t big fans of the deal – like me, I saw a player getting acquired on the downside of his career, adding payroll to a team that “couldn’t afford to sign” so many other talented players over the years. Then, my fears came true when Rolen played in a total of 157 games the next two seasons, posting a .244/.301/.397 line over 599 plate appearances. For all of the immeasurable positive things that he brought to the clubhouse, he wasn’t bringing it to the field. The Reds regressed immensely in 2011, going 79-83, before seeing Todd Frazier take over in 2012 and put up impressive numbers in his rookie season. Rolen’s career was over.

The ball takes flight off of his wing...a lot. Courtesy: Twitter
The ball takes flight off of his wing…a lot.
Courtesy: Twitter

Which brings me to the biggest problem with this trade – Edwin Encarnacion. Since the trade, this is all that Encarnacion has done:

  • 3,772 plate appearances
  • .868 OPS
  • 210 home runs
  • 600 RBI
  • wRC+: 134
  • Two-time All Star
  • Top 15 in AL MVP voting three times

Encarnacion turned 33 this past January. At the time of the trade, he was 26 years old, having come off of a productive season (2008 – 25 home runs and 68 RBI); however, he was struggling mightily in 2009 and had become a liability with the glove at third. Still, at just 26, it didn’t seem like a wise deal, and there was always the opportunity to move him to another position, such as the outfield.

When you add in the types of contracts that Encarnacion has had over the last several years, it stings more. He will have earned all of $48,175,000, including this season, since 2010. Since 2010, the Reds paid guys like Rolen $23,625,000 and Ryan Ludwick $17,000,000. Hindsight is 20/20 but when you acquire and trust aging players during a time that steroids aren’t able to be used due to stricter testing, these are the results.

I absolutely hated dealing Edwin Encarnacion in the deal for Scott Rolen, and I relive that deal each and every day like today – when Encarnacion knocks two homers and drives in five runs while Scott Rolen is retired…not playing baseball…and not helping the Reds become a better team.

Sure, we don’t know if Encarnacion would have blossomed on the Reds, but, if you’re a Reds fan, how nice would he look between Votto and Bruce today?