Friday, April 18, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: Making the Case for ... Brian Dozier

Getting on base is key for Brian Dozier's fantasy value. (rantsports.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Early in the 2014 season the second base position has been a disappointment. It is of course still early, and basic math tells us that even if things don't straighten themselves out, there will still be a Top 10 Second Baseman ranks next year, some players will pull out of their tailspin and others will fall. So whether you are looking to cut bait on Jedd Gyorko or if you need to wait out whatever is going on with Dustin Pedroia or the Red Sox as a whole, Brian Dozier would like your attention.

The 27-year-old is no budding superstar. The former 8th round pick is beginning his 3rd major league season in the Twin Cities, but he started making some impressions last year. He finished the season the 13th ranked second baseman in Yahoo (#178 overall) powered by his always fantasy relevant speed and power combination. But playing in Minnesota and sporting a .244 AVG scared off a lot of people leaving his 2014 ADP somewhere in the early 200's.

So far, Dozier has already earned that value back. He leads the league in runs scored and has 5 HR and 5 SB already. That pesky average is still at .207, but where Dozier has shown a lot of improvement is his walk rate. As the lead off hitter, Dozier has upped his walk rate from 8.2% last year to 17.8% this year! That's getting him on base more, despite hitting for a low average, which allows him to steal more and cross the plate more. 

It is early on so calculated stats, e.g. BB%, can be misleading. For example, he's not finishing the year with a .276 ISO. What is different about taking more walks is that is shows a clear change in approach. It's not something that fluctuates like hitting 2 HR in one game would inflate numbers so early in the year. 

Dozier's K/BB ratio last year was 120/51. That's just not sustainable for a guy in his position. For a big time power hitter, sure, but you won't be batting lead off long with that. He's still striking out a lot, hence the .207 AVG, but by bringing up his K/BB to 13/16 he's off-setting his propensity to swing and miss a lot. Dozier is lowering the percentage of pitches he swings at outside of the zone, which is probably a byproduct of a lot of pitchers throwing him balls, expecting him to chase. Now that he's not, will he see more strikes? Likely, but his power will have that work more to his favor than the pitchers.

In mid-May last year he focused more on shortening his stride to catch up to fastballs in the zone. He ended up driving the ball more, which is still true so far this year. He does tend to hit the ball in the air more often than your typical middle infielder, but if he can straighten those out from pop ups to line drives, he could be in line for a special year. 

There are a lot of positives to take from Dozier's start, but also the potential for it to all fall apart just as easy. He has to stay true to his patience at the plate. Take his walks. At the very least if he can maintain his OBP, then his average will gradually work its way up to a respectable .260 or so. Combine that with 90+runs and a serious push at a 20/20 season, that's pretty fantastic. I'm not sure if he'll be able to keep things up for the entire season and beyond, but he is worth an add at the very least as a stop gap. And if he can be this year's Daniel Murphy that would be a home run free agent add. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: George Springer - The First Big Prospect Callup of 2014 is Here


George Springer has been called up already. (cnn.si.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Probably the most impossible question to ask during fantasy baseball prep is when a top prospect will get called up. It's impossible to answer simply because the team who owns a top prospects right have no idea when that is going to happen. The popular go-to line is the Super Two deadline, which allows a team to call up a prospect without losing an arbitration year. This random date happens sometime in late May or early June. I recently wondered why teams even care about the Super Two deadline anymore with nearly all teams signing their young talents to long-term deals which knock out all the arbitration years anyway. Someone was kind enough to reply, and said something about how it still matters ... yeah, but still. So long as their progress isn't impeded, get your young players up and playing for you in his early 20's and just buy out his arbitration years. Win - win.

Well, the Astros moved forward with one of their many top prospects, George Springer.
Springer had a shot to break camp with the club, but that didn't happen. He then considered suing the Astros for not writing his name in the Opening Day lineup, but that never really gained any steam. With the Astros playing terrible as usual, they've brought up Springer to liven things up a bit. Presumably after a month or so of surviving in the majors, he'll get that big contract extension.

The long and short of it is, yes, if you have a player that is worthy of a drop, then go add Springer immediately. I've dropped the likes of Brad Miller, Brett Gardner, and and assortment of random pitchers like Ivan Nova, Jonathan Broxton, and Marco Estrada. So no one I was heavily invested in draft pick or dollar wise. This is true for any top prospect that gets called up, but don't go dropping highly ranked players for prospects, especially in redraft leagues. As much as it pains you to still hold onto Billy Butler, even he isn't worth cutting loose for many a prospect.

Springer isn't the jewel of many scouts' eyes. Many publications rank him near the bottom of the Top 20, which of course isn't terrible, but it does show some concern for a guy that otherwise hit 37 HR and swiped 45 bags in the minors last year. The big concern for Springer is his ability to make regular contact. He strikes out a lot, and he can certainly be exposed by big league pitching.

When it comes to evaluating Springer, I'm looking at the skills he has. He is going to hit for power and steal bases. If I need that or the person I'm dropping for him has similar or even lesser skills in those areas, sign me up. The big allure of prospects like this is that there is always great potential. Springer could go 20/20 at some point in his career or he could do it by August. It's that hype that tends to make people overreact. As tough as it may be, one must react without emotion to making an addition like this. Springer could fall on his face.

From a value standpoint, again, I'm buying the power and the speed. Average be damned. He should be inserted in the middle of the Houston lineup, so counting stats should be there. I would say his ceiling for this year is probably along the lines of Desmond Jennings. Again, that's a ceiling, if things go great projection. Last year Jennings was ranked 148 in the Yahoo game so again, this isn't likely Yasiel Puig.

Also, for those with a FAAB system in place, the value in Springer is that he is being called up so early. You're getting virtually a full year out of him. There are other prospects out there I would prefer to have over Springer, but if they're not called up until June or July, then that's a lot of lost value. It's an unexpected surprise this early in the year which makes it all the more exciting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: Making the Case for ... Devin Mesoraco

Can Devin Mesoraco turn regular playing time into fantasy gold? (blogredmachine.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Amid the seeming endless string of homeruns being hit last night in the (currently) postponed Reds and Pirates game, the portly catcher for the Reds dug into the batter's  box for the 17th time this year and connected for his 3rd home run of the season. Devin Mesoraco is a shoulda been star whose sparkle has simply faded over the years, but his talent might be finally coming around.

The former top prospect has managed to ascend to the throne that many scouts and experts thought he would have been able to grab much sooner: starting catcher. The offensively talented Mesoraco hasn't been able to get a steady foothold and steady at bats so far in his career. The excitement for this prospect has been repeatedly beat down by a lack of opportunities and Mesoraco's inability to capitalize when he did play. 

Last year was supposed to be a big step forward for him as he only had to battle Ryan Hanigan for playing time. He ended up in a platoon with Hanigan who had a .567 OPS. Mesoraco certainly had a little more pop, and while it's usually fun to just blame everything on Dusty Baker, when many people saw Ryan friggin Hanigan performaing on a comparable level to the former Top 25 Prospect people were either indifferent or disappointed in Mesoraco. 

A top prospect fizzling out isn't breaking news, but for a catcher to be ranked so highly is something to take note of. Courtesy of Fangraphs, below is a chart of catcher prospects ranked in the Top 25 since 1990 (Year - Rank). Mike Zunino is just getting things going in Seattle, same for Travis D'Arnaud in New York, but Mesoraco had been in the bigs several more years than them, but to date has only amassed 609 total plate appearances in four years. 


PlayerYear-Rank
Mike Zunino2013-17
Travis D’Arnaud2012-17, 2013-23
Devin Mesoraco2012-16
Jesus Montero2010-4, 2011-3, 2012-6
Carlos Santana2010-10
Buster Posey2009-14, 2010-7
Matt Wieters2008-12, 2009-1
Jarrod Saltalamacchia2006-18
Jeff Mathis2004-22
Victor Martinez2003-16
Joe Mauer2002-7, 2003-4, 2004-1, 2005-1
J.R. House2001-21
Michael Barrett1999-6
Ben Davis1996-10, 1999-24
Charles Johnson1994-20, 1995-7
Carlos Delgado1993-4, 1994-5
Javy Lopez1993-20, 1994-17
Todd Hundley1992-18
Ivan Rodriguez1991-7
Todd Zeile1990-7
Sandy Alomar1990-5
*Fangraphs

It's time for Mesoraco to start making up for lost time. Whether it was his play, his manager, or the old addage that catching at the major league level just takes several years to adjust to rings true, this season appears to be his shot to make an impact for the Reds and fantasy teams everywhere. 

A conservative approach would be to have him finish the year in the Top 12-15 of catchers. Aggresively, this could be a catcher that comfortably lands in the Top 10. The opportunity will be there for him to put up some runs. The Reds' lineup is far from a finished product, and if Mesoraco can capitalize on his hot start, he could find himself moving up to a more prime position - at least a tad closer to Joey Votto

In shallow leagues, I think he's definitely worth a gamble. Deeper leagues, he is a must add. If it is Mesoraco's time to shine, then fantasy owners should get on for the ride. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: 2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings - Rounds 10-15

Clayton Kershaw's injury is a lesson in not leaning too heavily on pitching in fantasy. (calltothepen.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

With all of the media coverage that baseball has, it's hard to believe how many surprises there have been so far for fantasy owners. The day-in-day-out grind that is covering a baseball team usually lends itself to sensational stories or any interesting minutia being discussed just to get something submitted by a deadline. Yet, here we are a week into the season and Clayton Kershaw's precautionary scratch is now a month plus on the DL. Ryan Braun who was homer happy and excited in spring training, now all of a sudden, can't feel his fingers. Pre-season sleeper favorite for the White Sox's closer job, Nate Jones, didn't even get a chance to blow a save, as that gig went to Matt Lindstrom, and he will forever be known as the INF reliever for failing to retire a single batter in his first two appearances of the regular season. Jim Henderson also immediately lost the closing job out of the blue, but he is expected to get it back at some point. Oh and no one seemed to notice that Stephen Strasburg was throwing 90 mph either.

I mean, what the hell, beat writers? How did none of this some to light? I can't remember being more blind sided to start a season than I have been this year. Add to that the unfortunate injuries that have already taken place to Aroldis Chapman, Jose Reyes, and a quick Yu Darvish trip to the DL it's been a scattered and crazy start.

Anyway, with that being said, it seems necessary to start pumping out more rankings faster. This is just getting things official for review and consumption. I've really only altered a couple of players slightly. Most of the movement is due to injuries or players losing their starting gigs. No reason to overhaul everything after a week. Plus these ranks should have been posted by now anyway. No reason to play revisionist history on these. Enjoy!

RANK PLAYER NAME POS POS RANK TEAM CHANGE
1 Miguel Cabrera 3B 1 DET
2 Mike Trout OF 1 LAA
3 Paul Goldschmidt 1B 1 ARZ
4 Andrew McCutchen OF 2 PIT
5 Carlos Gonzalez OF 3 COL
6 Jacoby Ellsbury OF 4 NYY
7 Hanley Ramirez SS 1 LAD
8 Edwin Encarnacion 3B 2 BAL
9 Chris Davis 1B 3 TOR
10 Carlos Gomez OF 5 MIL 16
11 Robinson Cano 2B 1 SEA
12 Bryce Harper OF 6 WAS
13 Adrian Beltre 3B 3 TEX
14 Joey Votto 1B 3 CIN
15 Adam Jones OF 7 BAL
16 Giancarlo Stanton OF 8 MIA
17 Troy Tulowitzki SS 2 COL
18 Jason Kipnis 2B 2 CLE
19 Prince Fielder 1B 4 TEX
20 Evan Longoria 3B 4 TB
21 Chris Sale SP 1 CHI
22 David Wright 3B 5 NYM
23 Dustin Pedroia 2B 3 BOS
24 Felix Hernandez SP 2 SEA
25 Adam Wainwright SP 3 STL
26 Ian Desmond SS 3 WAS
27 Yu Darvish SP 4 TEX
28 Alex Rios OF 9 TEX
29 Freddie Freeman 1B 5 ATL
30 Cliff Lee SP 5 PHI 31
31 Jose Fernandez SP 6 MIA 43
32 Hunter Pence OF 10 SF
33 Jose Bautista OF 11 TOR
34 Shin-Soo Choo OF 12 TEX
35 Justin Verlander SP 7 DET
36 Justin Upton OF 13 ATL
37 Stephen Strasburg SP 8 WAS
38 Ryan Braun OF 14 MIL 5
39 Craig Kimbrel RP 1 ATL
40 David Price SP 9 TB
41 Matt Holliday OF 15 STL
42 Buster Posey C 1 SF
43 Clayton Kershaw SP 10 LAD
44 David Ortiz 1B 6 BOS
45 Elvis Andrus SS 4 TEX 37
46 Madison Bumgarner SP 11 SF
47 Max Scherzer SP 12 DET
48 Jay Bruce OF 16 CIN
49 Ian Kinsler 2B 4 DET
50 Yasiel Puig OF 17 LAD
51 Eric Hosmer 1B 7 KC
52 Zack Greinke SP 13 LAD
53 Starling Marte OF 18 PIT
54 Albert Pujols 1B 8 LAA
55 Jean Segura SS 5 MIL
56 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 9 LAD
57 Yoenis Cespedes OF 19 OAK
58 Homer Bailey SP 14 CIN
59 Kenley Jansen RP 2 LAD
60 Allen Craig 1B 10 STL
61 Jason Heyward OF 20 ATL
62 Matt Carpenter 2B 5 STL
63 Pedro Alvarez 3B 6 PIT
64 Pablo Sandoval 3B 7 SF 85
65 Everth Cabrera SS 6 SD
66 Greg Holland RP 3 KC
67 Jose Altuve 2B 6 HOU
68 Wil Myers OF 21 TB
69 Joe Mauer C 2 MIN
70 Jayson Werth OF 22 WAS
71 Alex Gordon OF 23 KC
72 Shane Victorino OF 24 BOS
73 Jose Abreu 1B 11 CHW
74 Anibal Sanchez SP 15 DET
75 Starlin Castro SS 7 CHC
76 Alex Cobb SP 16 TB
77 Trevor Rosenthal RP 4 STL
78 Josh Donaldson 3B 8 OAK
79 Anthony Rizzo 1B 12 CHC
80 Mark Trumbo 1B 13 ARZ
81 Yadier Molina C 3 STL
82 Kyle Seager 3B 9 SEA
83 James Shields SP 17 KC
84 Josh Hamilton OF 25 LAA
85 Manny Machado 3B 10 BAL 89
86 Billy Hamilton OF 26 CIN
87 Ben Zobrist SS 8 TB
88 Carlos Santana C 4 CLE
89 Ryan Zimmerman 3B 11 BAL 64
90 Wilin Rosario C 5 COL
91 Carlos Beltran  OF 27 NYY
92 Jordan Zimmermann SP 18 WAS
93 Xander Bogaerts SS 9 BOS
94 Masahiro Tanaka SP 19 NYY
95 Brett Lawrie 2B 7 TOR
96 Matt Kemp OF 28 LAD
97 Matt Cain SP 20 SF
98 Mat Latos SP 21 CIN
99 Danny Salazar SP 22 CLE
100 Sonny Gray  SP 23 OAK
101 Victor Martinez 1B 14 DET
102 Brandon Belt 1B 15 SF
103 Koji Uehara RP 5 BOS
104 Shelby Miller SP 24 STL
105 Chase Utley  2B 8 PHI
106 Gio Gonzalez SP 25 WAS
107 Andrew Cashner SP 26 SD
108 Gerrit Cole SP 27 PIT
109 Billy Butler 1B 16 KC
110 Martin Prado SS 10 ARZ
111 Jedd Gyorko 2B 9 SD
112 Jonathan Lucroy C 6 MIL
113 Cole Hamels SP 28 PHI
114 Desmond Jennings OF 29 TB
115 Brian McCann C 7 NYY
116 Jose Reyes SS 11 TOR
117 Brett Gardner OF 30 NYY
118 Aaron Hill 2B 10 ARZ
119 Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 29 LAD
120 Joe Nathan RP 6 DET
121 Aramis Ramirez 3B 12 MIL
122 Coco Crisp OF 31 OAK
123 Brad Miller 2B 11 SEA
124 Austin Jackson OF 32 DET
125 David Robertson RP 7 NYY
126 Mike Napoli 1B 17 BOS
127 Sergio Romo RP 8 SF
128 Brandon Phillips 2B 12 CIN
129 Doug Fister SP 30 WAS
130 Addison Reed RP 9 ARZ
131 Aroldis Chapman RP 10 CIN 59
132 Ernesto Frieri RP 11 LAA
133 Michael Cuddyer 1B 18 COL
134 Julio Teheran SP 31 ATL
135 Mike Minor SP 32 ATL
136 Justin Masterson SP 33 CLE
137 Joakim Soria RP 12 TEX
138 Matt Moore SP 34 TB
139 R.A. Dickey SP 35 TOR
140 Jim Johnson RP 13 OAK
141 Matt Adams 1B 19 STL
142 Chase Headley 3B 13 SD
143 Will Venable OF 33 SD
144 Tony Cingrani SP 36 CIN
145 Glen Perkins RP 14 MIN
146 Hisashi Iwakuma SP 37 SEA
147 Michael Wacha SP 38 STL
148 Jeff Samardzija SP 39 CHC
149 C.J. Wilson SP 40 LAA
150 Jason Grilli RP 15 PIT
151 Salvador Perez C 8 KC
152 Jered Weaver SP 41 LAA
153 Alfonso Soriano OF 34 NYY
154 Jason Castro C 9 HOU
155 David Murphy 2B 13 NYM
156 Brandon Moss 1B 20 OAK
157 Domonic Brown OF 35 PHI
158 J.J. Hardy SS 12 BAL
159 Curtis Granderson  OF 36 NYM
160 Christian Yelich OF 37 MIA
161 Leonys Martin OF 38 TEX
162 Andrelton Simmons SS 13 CHW
163 Will Middlebrooks 3B 14 BOS
164 Carl Crawford OF 39 LAD
165 Hiroki Kuroda SP 42 NYY
166 Matt Weiters C 10 BAL
167 Nelson Cruz OF 40 BAL
168 Alexi Ramirez SS 14 ATL
169 Anthony Rendon 2B 14 WAS
170 Rafael Soriano RP 16 WAS
171 Steve Cishek RP 17 MIA
172 Jonathan Papelbon RP 18 PHI
173 Johnny Cueto SP 43 CIN
174 Norichika Aoki OF 41 KC
175 Matt Garza SP 44 MIL
176 Jon Lester SP 45 BOS
177 Yan Gomes C 11 CLE
178 Asdrubal Cabrera SS 15 CLE
179 Adam Lind 1B 21 TOR
180 Torii Hunter OF 42 DET