Monday, January 28, 2013

Fantasy Funkhouser: Baseball Ranks for 2013 - Round 3

Can Edwin Encarnacion flex his fantasy muscle again in 2013? (sportsnet.ca)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Quick revamp to the format - instead of listing the players by 12 at a time, easier to follow along by fantasy draft round in a standard 12 team league. And yes, due to my format change and generally lacking an idea for how to best lay these rankings out, #25 David Price should be on this list, but I already included him in Round 2. So, with my ranking mismanagement acknowledged; welcome to Round 3, playboy.

Things start to get interesting in Round 3. The first two rounds are reserved for studs, where pending injury or a statistical fall off - those players should produce. Round 3 offers a range of the worst kinds of players. The risky/high ceiling type.

In fact, Matt Cain's stability is why he finds himself at 26. I originally had Cole Hamels there, but early workout shoulder wonkiness has scared me off just enough to swap him with Cain.

Every other player has a substantial amount of question marks. Two of the three shortstops on the list aren't a guarantee to make it to even 120 games played, and the third (Starlin Castro) may have found some extra pop and steals under the Christmas tree for being a good boy, but lost 20 points in batting average and eclipsing 100 strike outs. With his complete lack of ability to walk, is this just a bump on the way to Castro fulfilling his 20/20 destiny - or is a drop off ready to show itself?

Edwin Encarnacion busted on the stage last year, much like his Toronto teammate Jose Bautista did in 2010. Joey Bats kept the ride going, but health will be a major contributor to Encarnacion. Along with him being only OF eligible this year (and likely only UTIL next year, dynasty owners) his value takes a ding.

I do like the two Rangers very much. Ian Kinsler suffers from what ails Castro - no BB's, high K's, but he appears to have shaken the injury bug that side tracked him for a couple of years and has checked into the 30/30 club twice in his career.

Adrian Beltre continues to be one of the most underrated players in fantasy. If his name was David Wright, people would be going bonkers. Aside from the steals Mr. Met brings to the 5x5 scene, Beltre can grip in and rip it. Oddly enough, in a world where players are remembered in the positive for a season or two over multiple years of shaky performance, Beltre seems to be penalized for a couple of lost years in Seattle; even though he hit 25 or more homers in 3 of the 5 seasons there. Since moving to Texas, he's been 30/100 and that includes only playing 124 games in 2011! Age is becoming more a factor, but there will be plenty of runners on base for him to drive home in 2013.

Finally, we have to mention poor Clifton Phifer Lee. He only won 6 games last year, although that's hardly his fault. His peripheral stats were very close to previous years - with his HR number and BABIP rising ever so slightly. After watching many of his starts last year, he certainly seemed to have it some nights, and not have it others, but keep in mind Lee wasn't a starter his whole career. He didn't cross 200 IP until his age 26 season, which is much more in line with how more modern pitchers are being brought along. Don't let his lack of wins scare you off. There's still plenty of gas left in the tank of the 34 year old. He certainly has it in him to finish a top 5 fantasy pitcher.

RANK NAME POSITION
26 MATT CAIN SP
27 STARLIN CASTRO SS
28 ADRIAN BELTRE 3B
29 IAN KINSLER 2B
30 EDWIN ENCARNACION 1B/DH
31 COLE HAMELS SP
32 CURTIS GRANDERSON OF
33 TROY TULOWITZKI SS
34 DUSTIN PEDROIA 2B
35 JAY BRUCE OF
36 JOSE REYES SS
37 CLIFF LEE SP

On Deck: Ryan Zimmerman, Jered, Weaver, Madison Bumgarner, Yoenis Cespedes

OVERALL RANKINGS THUS FAR

The most significant trade of the off-season finally transpired last week as Justin Upton was mercifully traded by resident looney tune GM Kevin Towers to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado and some average prospects. The trade reunited Upton with his brother, Bossman Junior, in the ATL, while the Diamondbacks would have traded arguably two of their three most valuable players in the past couple of months (Trevor Bauer being the other, and the argument being that Tyler Skaggs is better). In return, the Diamondbacks received far too little value for both Upton and Bauer.

Damnit, Towers! How could you trade me? Oh, it was Trevor. NVM.

I mentioned the younger Upton in my rankings last week, and although I approve of his move to the Braves as a means to rid himself of all the stress put on him due to the horrid mismanagement by Towers, overall it's hard to tell how it will affect his offensive output. I was already bullish on him by putting him at 17, so with peace of mind and a better line-up to bat in, I'll keep him there for now - with the caveat being his ceiling gets bumped up a couple of notches.

I'm biased about Upton. I have no qualms about saying that. He's on my dynasty team, and I traded for him 2 years ago also acquiring Cliff Lee for Clayton Kershaw and Tommy Hanson, in what probably still is, the biggest blockbuster trade in the league to date. While last year was a step back for Upton, the insistence on trading the 25 year old is crazy to me both in the real and fantasy realms. Let's look at some numbers.

In my curiosity, I started pulling some numbers for some of the more experienced OF in the game. Some players that have a track record that I ranked over Upton in Round 1 & 2. So no Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, or Giancarlo Stanton. I needed a little more statistical meat on the bone.

Below are some numbers for Upton along with the 4 other most valued OF in fantasy. Through their age 23-26 seasons I compared their WAR (5+ is considered elite) as well as wOBA (.400+ is considered elite) numbers. WAR represents the players overall value (defense included) while wOBA serves more of a fantasy purpose relating to pure hitting numbers.

The two main things I took away from looking at the numbers below: The first is that Upton killed the competition at age 23 in WAR and finished 2nd behind only Ryan Braun in wOBA. The second thing is a lot of the disappointment tied to Upton's 2012 might have stemmed from the fact that the jump from age 23 to 24 looks to be a significant one. All the players listed made significant strides in WAR and wOBA (outside of Braun's wOBA going down from .421 to .376). Upton's age 24 season was a disaster by those standards.

Player WAR wOBA WAR wOBA WAR wOBA WAR wOBA
Age 23 Age 24 Age 25 Age 26
Ryan Braun 3.1 0.421 5.0 0.376 4.9 0.403 4.3 0.378
Andrew McCutchen 3.9 0.359 5.8 0.360 7.4 0.403      Will be 26 in 2013
Matt Kemp 3.5 0.345 5.2 0.362 0.5 0.329 8.8 0.413
Carlos Gonzalez 2.1 0.373 6.2 0.413 3.9 0.380 2.7 0.374
Justin Upton 6.4 0.385 2.5 0.341      Will be 25 in 2013
lockration.blogspot.com
Note: At age 23, Gonzalez played 89 games in the majors. Spending 48 games at the Rockies AAA affiliate.


As you continue to look down the road towards age 26, it hasn't been a steady climb for any of these players. We all remember Matt Kemp's age 25 season, otherwise known as the time he gave up on baseball and stayed in bed all day with Rihanna. Carlos Gonzalez has been on a steady decline since his possible career year at age 24. Andrew McCutchen has been progressing wonderfully, although his WAR numbers are boosted from his excellent fielding. His wOBA showed minimal improvement until last year.

Beyond these numbers, when you add on that Upton has been in the majors since he was 19 and already has another 4.8/.385 season (every other player on the list did very minimal work prior to their age 23 season) makes it even more curious why he was hustled out of town. There's nothing, outside of a down year last year, that indicates Upton will be a bust or anything worse than any of these outfielders, with his ceiling being Braun minus the batting average.

Of course, if you were getting Braun value in return, then yes - trade Upton, but after Diamondbacks dragging Upton through the mud and high balling trades for Jurickson Profar and almost getting a deal done  for Tijuan Walker (which was stupid from the get-go as Upton had Seattle on his no-trade list) effectively set and lowered what the Diamondbacks could get. Things became so caustic and the need to rid themselves of Upton became so apparent that the Diamondbacks couldn't even get Julio Teheran or some of the other name prospects they were interested in from Atlanta.

Whether Upton truly has a lazy or bad attitude or whether his thumb injury bothered him all last year, moving him now - at his lowest value - while he is scheduled to earn less than Shane Victorino over the next 3 years is beyond insane.

Ultimately, if the Diamondbacks did think they can't win with Justin Upton, then why not let 2013 play itself out. See how he performs. Odds are he won't do much worse than 2012, and he has the potential to get right back on the wagon as one of the best talents in baseball. The Diamondbacks would have been no worse off waiting a year.

What Kevin Towers and I can agree on is that this is a big year for Upton. If his power doesn't come back and his wOBA doesn't surpass the .370 mark approaching .400 then it's probably safe to say his career arch has changed. No one can know for sure. As a fantasy player, I do know that he's immensely talented, in a good situation with the Braves, and now has a big chip on his shoulder. Anything is on the table for Upton this year. He can be a top 5 player or settle near the back end of the top 100. It will be interesting to watch.

As for my only adjustment to the rankings, I can't keep Robinson Cano down. After starting at 11, Cano has shuffled his way up to 7th on my rankings. This mostly has to do with researching Upton and seeing CarGo's decline. Factor in his horrific home/road splits and injury history, and I had no choice but to bump Cano up. Especially if you're playing in a head to head league. Pending any updates that Kemp's shoulder is nagging him, I feel pretty confident the top 10 will stay as is moving forward.


RANK NAME POSITION CHANGE PREVIOUSLY
1 MIGUEL CABRERA 3B
2 RYAN BRAUN OF
3 MIKE TROUT OF
4 JOEY VOTTO 1B
5 ANDREW MCCUTCHEN OF
6 MATT KEMP OF
7 ROBINSON CANO 2B 8
8 CARLOS GONZALEZ OF 7
9 ALBERT PUJOLS 1B
10 JUSTIN VERLANDER SP
11 JASON HEYWARD OF
12 CLAYTON KERSHAW SP
13 PRINCE FIELDER 1B
14 GIANCARLO STANTON OF
15 DAVID WRIGHT 3B
16 FELIX HERNANDEZ SP
17 JUSTIN UPTON OF
18 JOSE BAUTISTA OF
19 EVAN LONGORIA 3B
20 STEPHEN STRASBURG SP
21 BUSTER POSEY C/1B
22 ADAM JONES OF
23 JOSH HAMILTON OF
24 HANLEY RAMIREZ 3B/SS
25 DAVID PRICE SP
26 MATT CAIN SP
27 STARLIN CASTRO SS
28 ADRIAN BELTRE 3B
29 IAN KINSLER 2B
30 EDWIN ENCARNACION 1B/DH
31 COLE HAMELS SP
32 CURTIS GRANDERSON OF
33 TROY TULOWITZKI SS
34 DUSTIN PEDROIA 2B
35 JAY BRUCE OF
36 JOSE REYES SS
37 CLIFF LEE SP


The Funkman says: "Did you just compare Upton to Ryan Braun? The Hebrew Hammer?"