Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fantasy Funkhouser: What's in a Save when Brandon League is Ruining your Fantasy Team?

 This was the only handshake Brandon League would get last night in LA. (espn.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

If there's one thing that could ruin Puig-a-rama in LA, it's Brandon League. The woe-not yet-begone closer of choice for the Dodgers blew his 4th save of the season last night. Even worse, he did so coming off a 3-hit game from Yasiel Puig and took a win away from the holiest of holys Clayton Kershaw. If there was ever a time to seriously consider preemtively dropping League, it's now.

League had been working off of 7 straight appearances that didn't lead to a Dodgers L (5 saves, 1 win, 1 blown save), so there is still a little bit of juice to squeeze from this closer, but it's not looking bright. The plague that is Brandon League has been infecting fantasy owners all season. Either you have him and he's scuffling his way to 13 saves with a 6.00 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and a barely there 4.88 K/9, or you have Kenley Jansen waiting in the wings and have been begging and pleading for LA manager Don Mattingly to let the other blue glove drop and bring in the big man for 9th inning duties. Either way, it's about time to accept that League as the closer isn't going to work out.

Sure, many have said this for quite some time. Many ever since the Dodgers signed League to a ridiculous $22M contract in the off-season after the Dodgers acquired League mid-season. I guess the LA brass shook free a couple of coins from their Aston Martin's cup holder and it was burning a hole in their pockets.

Jansen served admirably last year as closer with 25 saves and dialed up 99 Ks. However, continual hear murmurs put him out of commission during the end of the year, and it appears the Dodgers didn't want their closer to be a question mark. So against common sense, League took the reigns in April.

It really hasn't been as brutal as everyone makes it out to be for League. He's only blown 4 saves this year with most of the damage being done in non-closer related work, but the peripherals all speak to his inability to get the outs necessary to close out games. It's been a smoke and mirrors act thus far for League, which is disappointing as he does sling a mid-90's sinker and did very well filling in for Jansen at the end of 2012. 

The biggest reason the be-Leaguered have pointed to League keeping the gig is his paycheck, but with the Dodgers losing, Puig looking to bump $85 million man Andre Ethier to the pine most certainly in the case of League's job security (as in many) money is not an issue for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

As a League owner in many formats, I took this oppotunity to purge him from my roster - if anything just out of frustration. I'm usually carrying 3-4 closers on a team, and if I could cut bait on League for (I'm fully expecting Jansen to be already owned) Rex Brothers, Vinny Pestano, Trevor Rosenthal, or a Justin Wilson type, or adding another good position player or starter; I am.

I think Jansen will be used in high leverage situations: 8th inning, 1-run leads, or now if League lets a couple runners on. Ultimately, it will take League to bomb out in multiple outings for the axe to finally fall, but for my WHIP and ERA I'm not waiting. The saves at this point aren't worth the aggravation of holding onto League. I'm only keeping him on teams where I'm desperate for saves and there are no other options. Even in those leagues I may waiver a bit. 

I was a believer in League heading into the season. I didn't think it'd be pretty. I knew Jansen would have the nicer numbers, but when things are going this polar you can't keep expecting League to get the call.

The Funkman says: "This is unbelievable. Brandon League, for shame!"

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fantasy Funkhouser: Unpopular Opinion Alert - Rookies

Tony Cingrani should be back in the majors soon. You really shouldn't care. (cbssports.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

h/t Unpopular Opinion Alert to Jacoby +Grantland 

Maybe it is just me, but in this post Mike Trout world that we live in, the focus on prospects affecting fantasy teams has never been higher. There's more written, talked about, and added rookies than ever before. Now, this also appears to be rather reasonable as you can see (this is where I'd have a table showing the average performance of the top 10 rookies over the past 10 years ... you know, if i had time and a research team) that it does appear that rookies are getting to the bigs and having a bigger impact more than ever before.

I'm giving kudos to the advanced stats and scouting community for better honing the skills of prospects and deploying them appropriately once they reach the bigs. Just because you're Darin Ruf and hit a massive amount of homers in the minors doesn't mean your MLB material.

So I can understand when the next big prospect gets called up there will be a lot more fantasy owners perking up their ears. What I don't understand is why owners can't differentiate star prospects from just regular ones. Hey, I know, I know there's a vast history of top prospects bottoming out and 13th round picks making good and no matter how aggressive scouts and sabermatricians look at ballplayers this will undoubtedly be true forever, but there are prospects to give a look see and there are prospects to get excited about. 

A group of prospects made their debut this year to more fanfare than actual production, and while they haven't been disasters, these are guys that I'm more than happy to look past in 2013 and even more so down the road. So at the risk of causing some prospect lovers to go nuts, here's why I don't like these prospects.

Tony Cingrani, SP - Reds

Cingrani was a guy I wasn't interested in at all. His deceptive delivery and lack of a secondary pitch screamed of once through the league type guy. Well, that one time through the league was pretty great. In 6 starts he struck out 41 batters in 33 innings. He started to struggle a bit in his last two starts before he was sent back to AAA once Johny Cueto was healthy, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt as just rough starts. Not project any downward trend.

Well, with Cueto set to go back to the DL, you can expect Cingrani back in the bigs next week. I'm sure he'll pitch fine, but he strikes me as more of a great bullpen pitcher. Not just a LOOGY, but like a Sean Marshall type. Plus, Cueto is expected to be on the DL for the minimum amount of time, so Cingrani should be returning to the minors shortly.

Nolan Arenado, 3B - Rockies

Can we please not use the, "He plays half his games in Coors" excuse for Arenado? Sure, he has the potential to hit for power, but that's been non-existent. Along with his inability to draw a walk, his value is greatly diminished in Colorado. This was more of an Unpopular Opinion a couple of weeks ago, but now it's just obvious.

Michael Wacha, SP - Cardinals

I'm not one to turn my nose up at the Cardinals. They have the best farm system and best major league team in all of baseball. So when a touted prospect comes up, you should take notice. But when people start talking about Wacha like he's Shelby Miller or a potential ace, it's just not true. Wacha has developed some better than average secondary pitches, but long-term, if the Cards could pencil him in as their 3rd or 4th starter, I'm sure they'd take that. 

Yasiel Puig, OF - Dodgers

Puig exploded onto the scene as Dodgers rookies have a habit of doing. I'm more optimistic about Puig than the other prospects mentioned just because since he is from Cuba, I feel his low ranking on prospect lists is mainly not knowing what to make of the guy since he has virtually zero minor league experience. He has the tools and natural strength to make a big impact, and we've already seen some of that already. Ultimately though, you have to shake your head when you hear comps of Bo Jackson

There will always be Brien Taylors and Matt Bushs but the time to act is when the Zack Wheelers  and Oscar Taverases get the call. Nothing is wrong with taking a flier, after all, that's really what these prospects are, but once you have them keep expectations in check.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fantasy Funkhouser: Judge Reinhold - Making the Case for ... Corey Kluber

Corey Kluber is worth a look in fantasy. (Getty)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

In spite of being 3-7 over their past 10 games, the Cleveland Indians have exceeded expectations in 2013 under Terry Francona. You don't enter June .5 games back of the all-mighty Detroit Tigers without some luck, but what always comes through in the wash is talent and players stepping up. The Indians have had their fair share of players performing at high levels. Justin Masterson has been a Cy Young candidate so far, Mark Reynolds  has 41 RBI, and Carlos Santana appears to be putting together a full season this year carting around a .390 OBP. These are all subject to change - for better or worse - as the season progresses, but since we are into June, there's no reason to take this team lightly.

One player that hasn't gotten much attention thus far has been starting pitcher Corey Kluber. There's probably good reason for this. He's been overshadowed by Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and an impressive but recently struggling Zack McAllister. All of these guys have more interesting story lines than the 26-year-old former 4th round draft pick, but his time is coming. He's only started 7 games thus far, his last being a 2 IP rain shortened outing, but what he has shown thus far shows all the indications of a productive season.

The main indicator that caught my attention is the 9.55 K/BB ratio. That's tasty. Any time you can strike out a high amount of players and keep those walks down, it's a great way to stay out of trouble. Take out a horrific start at Detroit (no one other than SP1 and select SP2 should be making those starts) his numbers bounce back even more so. His WHIP is a favorable 1.22, and since we can't erase starts in Detroit from the record book, his ERA of 4.36 should settle once his .342 BABIP does. 

Kluber certainly sent some flairs into the sky on May 26th when he chucked 10K's at Fenway. He was on his way to what looked to be another impressive outing 5 days later against Tampa that was, as mentioned rained out.

He has a tricky start coming up against the Yankees, but in deeper leagues I'd add him and watch from the bench. The Yankees aren't the Yankees, but there's no telling what can happen in the Bronx. If he dominates the Yanks his value will only go up. Ultimately what you're looking at is a pitcher that can get you K's and low peripherals. It wouldn't surprise me if he finished the season as the Indians second best pitcher. For what is shaping into a good team, that's a nice bargain to find.