Posted on: May 16, 2012 11:44 am
After a nice long vacation, I've returned to continue my blog and the first entry back will be about Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero.
After a banner year in 2011, Montero is off to a slow start in 2012, batting .267 with two homers in 33 games. The worst part is Montero's 36 strikeouts. He's never been that bad of a strikeout hitter, but it's at the root of why Montero is struggling to begin the year. His contact rate is poor.
Montero is swinging and missing at a career-worst 13.9 percent and making contact at 69.6 percent, which is also a career-low. That's significant because Montero has a .366 BABIP, so when he is making contact, then it's been good news for the 28-year-old catcher.
Everyone is expecting a big year from Montero as he's in the final season of his contract. Usually players in walk years have big seasons.
I advised Fantasy owners to search for an unhappy Montero owner and consider trading for Montero. It seems his numbers should rise once he starts making more contact and his average is already on the upswing in May. He's batting .280 this month after hitting .257 in April.
Posted on: April 3, 2012 7:00 pm
I applaud every Fantasy owner that used a draft spot on the White Sox's Adam Dunn. A lot of folks totally forgot about him after he batted a career-low .159 last season, but those owners who used a late-round flier on him I feel are going to be rewarded handsomely this season.
Dunn's peripherals this spring indicate he's ready for a bounce-back season. You might be scared because of his .255 spring average, but that's not a concern. Dunn was a .250 career hitter before last year.
You need to focus on the fact Dunn posted a .415 on-base percentage, .569 slugging percentage and .984 OPS in 20 spring games. Those numbers are close to what Dunn produced prior to last season. In his first 10 MLB seasons, Dunn had a .381 OBP, .521 slugging percentage and .902 OPS.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura also intends to bat Dunn third in front of Paul Konerko and plans to play Dunn a bit more in the field than last season -- his first year as primarily a designated hitter -- which should help him focus a bit more offensively.
Dunn's still negatively going to impact Head-to-Head owners with his high strikeout rate, but he showed this spring that he still has a lot to offer and is not done helping Fantasy owners.
Posted on: April 1, 2012 6:19 pm
I'm shocked, as well as I'm really not that shocked the Tigers decided to name prospect Drew Smyly as their fifth starting pitcher. The Tigers always seem to promote pitching prospects before their natural progression through the minors is complete. They've done it with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Andrew Miller, Andrew Oliver and Jacob Turner to name a few, and now it's Smyly's turn.
I'm just not sold this is the right move for Smyly's career. I think he is either going to stick in the rotation but post moderate numbers at best or end up back in the minors like Miller, Oliver and Turner have all had to do following their MLB debuts.
Smyly was outstanding in his first minor-league season in 2011. He made it up to Double-A, while going 11-6 with a 2.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He also struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings.
While I think Smyly can be a reliable Fantasy option down the road, I'm not ready to buy the farm after one good spring showing. He's a smart pitcher and has a good arsenal of pitches, but Smyly has durability issues and only pitched 126 innings last season. You really have to wonder how many innings the Tigers will be willing to give him in 2012?
The news of him making the rotation put Smyly on the Fantasy radar because he is a burgeoning pitching prospect starting for a contender. I would just rather have a plethora of other pitchers on my Fantasy team in mixed leagues, no matter his upside. AL-only owners have to take a flier on him just because of the thinner player pool, but I would rather use a roster spot on a more established back-of-the-rotation Fantasy arm over the upside that Smyly might provide.
Posted on: March 30, 2012 11:49 am
You look at Jayson Werth's .244 spring average after 15 games and you are probably thinking he is headed for another down campaign. But the numbers you need to be focusing on are his four homers, .610 slugging percentage and .921 OPS.
Last year, Matt Kemp and Pablo Sandoval were two of my favorite bounce-back candidates and they didn't disappoint. I think I'm ready to jump on the Werth bandwagon heading into 2012.
I think Werth had a lot of factors going against him in 2011. The stress of going into the first year of a mega contract probably wasn't easy, and when everything started to spiral out of control, Werth probably felt overwhelmed, which he probably would never admit.
Other factors going against him were he left a loaded Phillies lineup and joined a Washington lineup that didn't have its best player -- Ryan Zimmerman -- for a good chunk of the season. I think Werth is in a better position heading into 2012 because the pressure should now be on Zimmerman and 2011 breakout player Michael Morse to carry the Nationals offense. It's like when Werth was in Philadelphia. He was batting behind the likes of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and he was almost like an under-the-radar bat.
But the real reason I'm on the Werth bandwagon is that he has changed his approach at the plate. Werth has always been a patient hitter. He usually takes a bunch of pitches and that has worked for years. But Werth realizes something has to change coming off a down year and this spring he has shown a more aggressive approach at the plate. At the urging of manager Davey Johnson, Werth is swinging at more first-pitch fastballs and his confidence seems to be growing.
I'm not saying reach for Werth, but he's going on average in the middle rounds of Draft Day and I think he's going to outproduce his draft position this year. I'm saying he's Werth the price.
Posted on: March 26, 2012 3:03 pm
I tweeted (@CBSHurc) Sunday my thoughts about Twins first baseman/outfielder Chris Parmelee, but now it's time to put my thoughts in blog form.
The big news Sunday from Twins camp is that Josh Willingham will play in left, and not right field in 2012. That has major implications because Ben Revere, who was thought to have the left-field job locked down, might not have the arm to play every day in right field, which would open opportunities for Trevor Plouffe and Parmelee, who is having a monster spring.
Parmelee entered play Monday with a .571 slugging percentage and .933 OPS in 15 games. He also has three homers and eight RBI. His play is probably part of the reason Minnesota is moving Willingham back to left field.
But Parmelee's bat actually might change the whole landscape of the Twins lineup. If Minnesota feels the 24-year-old is ready for an everyday role, then Minnesota could move first baseman Justin Morneau to DH and play Ryan Doumit in right field on top of his backup catcher responsibilities.
Parmelee needs to be on every Fantasy owners' radar right now. While you were focusing on football last fall, Parmelee thrived in his first taste of the majors. He hit .355 with four homers and 14 RBI in 21 games. The fact he continues to rake this spring is proving Parmelee might be the real deal.
Although, while I like Parmelee as a sleeper in deeper formats, I still need to see a bigger sample size. Parmelee had just a .436 slugging percentage and .791 OPS in 651 minor-league games and never played above Double-A before getting a taste of the majors.
I still have high hopes for Parmelee because I think his minor-league numbers are a little deflated because he played in primarily pitcher-friendly leagues. A very encouraging note is that Parmelee hit .450 with a .725 slugging percentage and 1.257 OPS in 11 games at Target Field last season. If Parmelee keeps that up at a very pitcher-friendly park, then we might have a burgeoning Fantasy star on our hands.
Posted on: March 23, 2012 9:01 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2012 9:06 pm
As promised, it's time to evaluate NL pitchers performing well this spring...
Vance Worley, Phillies: Despite coming off a breakout season, Worley is falling to the late middle rounds on Draft Day. I don't necessarily disagree with where he is being drafted because Fantasy owners still aren't sure if Worley is the real deal or a fluke. While Worley is working on adding a split-fingered fastball to his arsenal, he's been one of the Phillies' best arms this spring and is striking out more than a batter per inning. I do think Worley's second-half ERA (3.48) and WHIP (1.23) is a better indicator of the pitcher Fantasy owners should expect in 2012. However, Worley also won seven games and struck out 8.9 batters per nine innings in the second half last season, so he certainly can be a reliable arm for Fantasy owners.
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: Pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery are less risky than pitchers coming off a major shoulder injury. However, Wainwright's progress this spring after missing last season has been remarkable. We expect some struggles initially, but it looks like Wainwright hasn't missed a beat. Wainwright has had his history of elbow problems and it wouldn't be surprising if a setback happens at some point down the road. Fantasy owners have routinely made Wainwright a late early-round Fantasy pick this spring. I certainly understand why, but I still classify Wainwright as a high-risk, high-reward pick. Call me a pessimist if you like, but this comeback story seems too good to be true.
Mike Minor, Braves: Minor is definitely one of those players in Fantasy seeing his value skyrocket because of his strong spring performance. On average, he is going higher in drafts than Gavin Floyd, Ryan Vogelsong, Jeff Niemann and R.A. Dickey, who are all pitchers who have proven their worth on the MLB level. Minor has a 4.74 ERA and -- not a typo -- 1.52 WHIP in his MLB career. However, people love potential, which is why Minor is one of the more popular sleeper pitchers on Draft Day. Fantasy owners rather go for the home-run pick than take the safe option. I totally understand that. Minor is one of my favorite sleepers this spring as well and his average draft position (late 18th round) seems about right. I just hope Minor is ready to carry over his spring success.
Cory Luebke, Padres: I already wrote about Luebke in my Padres preview this spring, but I'm going to mention him again because he deserves it. Fantasy owners need to be aware that Luebke struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings last season and it doesn't appear he has lost his touch. He already has 16 strikeouts in 14 spring innings. His spring WHIP also matches his WHIP from last season (1.07), so it seems at worst that Luebke is on track to deliver the same results he gave us in 2011. Luebke actually struggled at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park (4.04 ERA) last season, which hopefully won't continue. Luebke remains one of my favorite breakout candidates.
Juan Nicasio, Rockies: Nicasio is obviously the feel good story of the spring. Here is a guy that sustained a serious neck injury last summer, but he is back on a hill less than a year later and pitching with no fear. We have seen many pitchers lose confidence on the hill after being struck in the head/neck area by liners, but Nicasio is out to prove that he won't be another victim. Nicasio was a pretty good pitching prospect before being summoned to the majors last season. While everyone will be rooting for the right-hander this year, I still expect him to struggle. Nicasio has only 13 MLB starts under his belt and made only nine starts at Double-A before skipping Triple-A. I'm expecting an up-and-down year from Nicasio.
Drew Pomeranz, Rockies: Pomeranz has the ability to be an impact arm. On top of trying to stay healthy, which has been an issue, Pomeranz is going to have to control his breaking pitches in the thin air in Colorado, which is a major concern for a rookie hurler. You are probably asking yourself why I like Pomeranz more than Nicasio since Pomeranz has less starts at the MLB level and Double-A level than Nicasio. Well, Pomeranz was considered a polished pitcher when Cleveland drafted him fifth overall in 2010 and displayed very few flaws in the minors. I'm not expecting him to be a Cy Young candidate in 2012, but if you made me choose between Nicasio and Pomeranz in the late rounds, then I'm going with Pomeranz, who has better strikeout potential.
Chris Volstad, Cubs: It seems the spirit of competition has brought out the best in Volstad, who has allowed one run in his first 10 spring innings while vying for a spot in Chicago's rotation. It's definitely out of the ordinary for Volstad, who usually has poor spring numbers, but this is the first time he is pitching in Arizona, which is another anomaly since the desert is usually unkind to pitchers. But I still can't tell Fantasy owners to bet the farm on Volstad. He said his confidence has changed since arriving in Chicago, but I still need to see a bigger sample size from Volstad before recommending him to other Fantasy owners. He is still a pitch-to-contact hurler, whose regular season numbers likely won't look as good as his spring numbers.
Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: File Westbrook under the players who have come to camp in significantly better shape than last season and are thriving in exhibition games because of it. But much like Volstad, I'm not about to buy into a pitcher that has had modest results at the major-league level after a few spring starts. The only comparison I can make on Westbrook is that he didn't allow a run in 18 spring innings in 2008 with Cleveland. He then posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in five starts that season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. This is the first time since elbow surgery that Westbrook has thrown like the pitcher he was in '08. Even then, Westbrook wasn't a great strikeout pitcher. I say leave Westbrook for NL-only formats on Draft Day and only add him off waivers in mixed leagues if he carries his hot start into the regular season.Follow me @CBSHurc
Posted on: March 19, 2012 3:42 pm
Next in the blog series is evaluating AL starting pitchers performing well this spring…
Doug Fister, Tigers: I already wrote about Fister in one of my columns this spring, but he is worth talking about again because of his hot spring. Fister was absolutely outstanding after landing on a contender at the July trade deadline. It's true he had a .245 BABIP in the second half last season, but even if it rises back to the norm (.290-.300) in 2012, Fister should still post a respectable stat line. He's going to be backed by what should be one of the best offenses in the majors. Fister is a mid-rotation Fantasy arm with upside.
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox: Buchholz's numbers this spring are an added bonus, but the best news is that he is healthy and it appears he is past the back issues that plagued him last season. I'm not guaranteeing he is going to post similar numbers to what he did when he was healthy in 2010 (17-7, 2.23 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) because he was a bit lucky that season (.261 BABIP). However, Buchholz is the 47th most drafted starting pitcher in Head-to-Head formats and 43rd most drafted in Rotisserie formats, and he definitely has the potential to outperform his draft position. Crazy as it sounds, but I've been in drafts where Buchholz falls to the late rounds. That's excellent value if you get him there.
Francisco Liriano, Twins: Liriano begged the Twins to pitch in winter ball this offseason as he said it would prepare him for the season. The Twins obviously were very hesitant to oblige given Liriano's past health issues. However, it seems Liriano knows best. Liriano got his wish and the results thus far have been fantastic. Take out his one bad spring start, Liriano has yielded just two hits and one walk in 10 scoreless innings in his other three spring starts. Not to forget he has 18 strikeouts in 13 innings. You know the risks with Liriano, but he finished as a top 35 Fantasy starting pitcher in 2010, so he could end up a steal on Draft Day if he reverts back to that form.
Brett Cecil, Blue Jays: While we are on the topic of bounce-back candidates, Cecil definitely could be in the mix for comeback player of the year in 2012. I'm a big fan on players who are highly motivated. I know not every player bounces back, but I've got a good feeling about Cecil. He came to camp 30 pounds lighter, and even when he has a good performance this spring he always finds the negatives. It doesn't seem he will rest until he reverts back to the guy that was a 15-game winner in 2010. I can still see Cecil having a high WHIP and you likely still won't get a ton of strikeouts from him, but I wouldn't be hesitant to take a late-round flier on him in deep formats.
Derek Holland, Rangers: Holland to me gets tossed aside in Fantasy drafts because he wasn't a bonus baby, but that's why I like him even more. Holland pitched his way from a 25th-round pick in 2006 to one of Baseball America's top 35 prospects in 2009. He won 16 games last season and the fact he is pitching well this spring is encouraging because Holland doesn't usually shine this time of year. Holland does have a career 1.41 WHIP and his strikeouts per nine innings dropped to 7.4 last season, but I'm encouraged because Holland became more of a ground-ball pitcher in 2011 and that will definitely help him when he pitches at his hitter-friendly home park. I would take Holland for the middle of my Fantasy rotation any day.
Rick Porcello, Tigers: Porcello is one of those cases where he is a decent MLB arm, having won 10-plus games in each of his first three seasons, but it just doesn't translate into Fantasy gold. Porcello switched his offseason routine to mirror that of AL MVP Justin Verlander, but that doesn't mean he becomes an instant AL Cy Young candidate. Also, Porcello usually has excellent spring stats, so he is a player that we can't get caught up in the numbers. I'll wait to see how he performs in the regular season before I jump on the bandwagon.
Brian Matusz, Orioles: I believe I'm going to take the same wait-and-see approach with Matusz. His spring numbers are encouraging since he struggled last spring and that led to a down season. Catcher Matt Wieters continues to rave that the old Matusz is back, but batters are still hitting .282 off of him this spring, which is why I remain concerned. Also, the O's aren't expected to contend, so Matusz might struggle for wins again. I'm not going to get caught up in the hoopla and I will leave Matusz as a late-round flier.
Luke Hochevar, Royals: He's no Brien Taylor, but Hochevar hasn't exactly pitched like a No. 1 overall pick in his MLB career. But maybe now is the time we start taking notice. Hochevar is coming off a very strong second half, which he went 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA, .222 opponents' batting average, .263 BABIP and struck out 68 batters in 79 1/3 innings (12 starts). The difference appears to be Hochevar is finally developing into a pitcher and not just a thrower. He's getting better movement on his pitches, especially his sinker, and manager Ned Yost keeps commenting that when Hochevar gets beats, he's getting beat on good pitches. His win potential still could be a concern, but if Hochevar gets off to a fast start, then I'm ready to back the right-handed hurler.Coming up... NL pitchers
Posted on: March 16, 2012 8:32 pm
Spring training is my favorite part of the baseball season. I don't know exactly the allure for me. I'm not sure if it is because spring time in Florida is the ideal baseball weather or it's the widespread optimism throughout every MLB camp.
Maybe it's the latter because I'm a Mets fan and optimism is all we have this time of year. The unofficial slogan for a Mets fan is "Wait til' next year." Honestly, I don't know much longer I can wait.
Regardless, my end point is that spring training has its impact on Fantasy Baseball -- whether positive or negative.
Players' Fantasy value definitely rise and fall based on spring performances. It's just sifting through what is real and what is an aberration is the tough part. Case in point, former major leaguer Gabe Gross was the king of spring, but he never seemed to carry that success into the regular season.
Therefore, this spring I want to take a look at how some players are performing this spring and give my two cents on the matter.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Soriano is absolutely crushing it this spring and I think that's a good sign. Soriano has had poor springs in 2010 and 2011 and didn't hit above .258 either season. Although, Soriano had a .325 average, six homers and 15 RBI in 26 spring games in 2009 and then hit a career-low .241, but I'm still buying Soriano. It might sound crazy, but I think he's a man on a mission. He heard all offseason about the Cubs wanting to unload him, but the team found no takers for his hefty contract. He's obviously an aging slugger, but the Cubs are talking about him being their cleanup hitter and Soriano is showing this spring he still can hit. Soriano is on my radar as a late-round sleeper.
Billy Butler, DH, Royals: Butler usually doesn't get his due credit and is an overlooked player on Draft Day. It's understandable in some regards because he is now strictly DH-eligible, but he is still a quality bat. He finished as a top 35 Fantasy bat in 2011, top 45 in 2010 and a top 50 bat in 2009. As you can see he progressively gets better and I think that trend will continue in 2012. The Royals now have more lineup protection for Butler, who has also been lauded for showing up to camp in peak physical condition. Feel fortunate if Butler slips to the middle rounds on Draft Day. By the way, he has a career .349 average, .561 slugging percentage and .980 OPS in the spring, so his hot start is no aberration.
Martin Prado, OF, Braves: Prado's fast spring start is also very encouraging to me since he seems like an ideal bounce-back candidate. He didn't handle his transition to the outfield well in 2011 and was also banged up. That led to his name being mentioned heavily in trade rumors, which appears to be working out well since Prado is using that as motivation. He is playing with a chip on his shoulder and is focused on getting back on track in 2012.
Jemile Weeks, 2B, A's: Obviously, we don't have a big sample size for Weeks, who is entering his first full season in the majors. But Weeks showed last season his ability to hit for average and steal bases, which is he doing again this spring. He is going to be a table setter for the A's and is one of my favorite second base sleepers if you miss out on the elite options Draft Day.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland: Choo had some personal distractions on top of his injury issues last season that affected his play. However, Choo returned to form late last season, batting .351 with a .448 OBP, .554 slugging percentage and 1.002 OPS in his final 21 games. Choo has said he is in a better place mentally heading into 2012 and his hot spring start seems to back that up. Choo might drop a few rounds on Draft Day coming off a down season, but he's still a legit top 20 Fantasy outfielder.
Ryan Raburn, 2B, Detroit: Raburn is killing the ball this spring, but that's nothing new. He was great last spring and the spring before that, and what happened -- he got off to a slow start in the regular season. Raburn is a notorious post-All-Star break player. The fact he heads into 2012 vying for at-bats again at second base and in the outfield for Detroit leaves me leery. I'm not buying Raburn until he gets off to a fast start in the regular season.
Mat Gamel, 1B, Milwaukee: Gamel is another player I'm hesitant about. All the reports have been he has come to camp in great shape and the fact he is hitting the ball shows he isn't distracted by the fact he is the guy replacing Prince Fielder. Although, I wonder how much the desert air is helping Gamel. Remember, this is a guy that has hit just .222 with a .374 slugging percentage in 85 MLB games over four seasons. He's also going to hit low in the Brewers lineup to begin the season, so his RBI chances might be more limited than you think. Gamel obviously has sleeper potential based off his performance in the minors, but not every prospect pans out. Keep that in mind on Draft Day.
Travis Snider, OF, Toronto: Snider is tearing the cover off the ball this spring as he competes with Eric Thames for the starting left field job. I'm encouraged by this progress, mostly because Snider is hitting left-handed pitching. That has been a struggle for him as he sports a career .212 average against left-handed hurlers. But Snider is batting .385 with two homers and six RBI in 13 at-bats against lefties this spring. That is a telling sign because he has struggled in past springs with left-handed pitchers. Snider might finally be putting it together and is now back on my radar as a late-round sleeper.