Right now, Octavio Dotel is slated to close out ball games for the Pirates. For three straight seasons he has posted elite level K rates (12.03/12.36/10.83). Last season he posted a really bad WHIP of 1.43, but we expect that to come down below 1.30 this year. Dotel had a BABIP mark last season that was 22 points higher than his career mark. That should come down this season leading to fewer hits, and Dotel, while wild, is still unlikely to walk batters as frequently as he did last season (5.20 BB/9, 3.52 and 3.90 the previous two seasons).
Dotel’s main competition is Joel Hanrahan, who has saved 14 games over the past two seasons. Hanrahan has seen his K rate climb two seasons in a row, but he is still not as good of an option as Dotel. Dotel has a career 2.71 K/BB ratio in comparison to Hanrahan’s mark of 1.82. Also, Hanrahan gives up a lot of line drives. Last year nearly a quarter of his balls allowed in play were line drives, which makes Hanrahan susceptible to high BABIP. That was the case last season as Hanrahan’s BABIP was a ridiculous .392. The same thing happened to Hanrahan in ’07 when he allowed line drives a quarter of the time, resulting in a .332 BABIP. Still, we should expect Hanrahan’s ERA to come down from last year’s mark of 4.78 as his LOB% of 66.2% was very unlucky for someone with Hanrahan’s K rate. For now, though, Hanrahan doesn’t appear as if he’s ready to challenge Dotel for the closer’s role.
Pedro Alvarez 3B - The Pirates are likely to handle the Alvarez situation much like they did last year with Andrew McCutcheon. The Pirates were patient and waited until June to call up McCutcheon, which above all else postponed the earliest that McCutcheon can become arbitration eligible. So, as our prospect guru David Regan predicts, Alvarez will likely be a June call up. David has Alvarez ranked as the number 5 best hitting prospect, stating that his bat is ready. The Fantistics software is also fully prepared for a June call up for Alvarez, predicting him to finish with 415 at bats. We expect Alvarez to flash some power immediately when that time comes, but with some struggles in terms of batting average. Last season splitting time between high A ball and AA ball, Alvarez smoked 27 homers in only 465 at bats. However, he struck out out nearly 28% of the time.
Franklin Morales RP – Closer? On MLB tonight the idea of plugging Morales into the closer role should Huston Street get hurt was discussed. Well, with Colorado plugging Morales into the setup role this season, it’s quite possible he could vulture some saves, but I don’t think he has the makeup to be a successful closer. Morales’ K rates in brief major league time on parts of 2007 and 2008 were horrendous. Last season, he finally found some success at the major league level, striking out 9.23 batters per 9 IP. However, with the increase in K’s also came a steady flow of BB’s. Morales walked a whopping 5.18 BB/9. Although, that was an improvement over the 17 walks he issued in 25.1 IP in 2008. Frankly, Morales cannot be a successful closer with those numbers. He either needs to cut down on the walks or up the K totals, especially since he was a FB risky pitcher in ’09 (49.5FB%). Rafael Betancourt is the Colorado reliever you should be eyeing should something happen to Street, at least in the long term.
Ian Stewart 3B – Here and there I’ve seen people speculating that Stewart has a shot to hit 40 homers this season. Well, Stewart has legitimate pop, especially for someone with 2B eligility in most leagues, it is highly unlikely that he will approach 40 homers. Fantistics currently has him projected for 26 homers, just one more than he hit all of last season. Why? Well, there a number of reasons to refrain from projecting an uptick in Stewart’s HR total. First of all, Stewart is unlikely to see a major increase in at bats because of his struggles to hit left handed pitching. Last season, Stewart struck out 37 times in 101 at bats against LHP, posting a .178 batting average. With that said, Stewart would have to see a sizeable increase in either his FB% or his HR/FB% in order to top 30 HR and towards the 40 mark. Well, Stewart’s FB% of 45,7% and HR/FB% of 18.8% are unlikely to increase, as those numbers are already very high. On top of all this, Stewart is an all around risk due to his high strikeout rate of 32.5%. Now, this is not to say that Stewart should be avoided in fantasy circles, but try and ignore all the hype and let someone else overvalue him.
Homer Bailey SP - I don’t expect former top Reds prospect Homer Bailey to have some sort of breakout season this year. Last year, he finally pitched significant innings in the majors. He posted below average marks in K/9 (6.83) and especially BB/9 (4.13) leading to an undesirable K/BB ratio of 1.65. For whatever reason, the high K rates that Bailey posted in high A ball (10.06) and AA ball (10.19) in 2006 just have not carried over as he has moved up the ranks. Part of the reason why is his inability to get outs on pitches outside of the zone. Last year, Bailey got hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone 1.8% less than the league average, and when they did chase, they made contact 1% more than the league average.
Francisco Cordero RP - Cordero is one of fantasy’s most overrated closers. Fantistics has him ranked 28th out of all closers, yet he is going in the 10th round in 12 team leagues. For one thing, Cordero does not strike out a lot of batters (only 58 last season). Also, he has a high WHIP for a closer (1.41 and 1.32 the past two seasons). Perhaps most importantly, there is no reason he should repeat his awesome 2.16 ERA from a year ago. His LOB% of 78.6% was 2 percentage points higher than his career average, his BABIP was 15 points higher than his career average, and his HR/FB% was 3 percentage points lower than his career average. Those numbers should regress, especially considering Cordero is getting up there in age (34). His age related decline can already be seen in his drastically sloping K rates. Here are his K/9 the past three seasons: 12.22/9.98/7.83. If that’s not cause for concern for an aging closer, I don’t know what is.
JD Drew OF (BOS) – Drew is a good value pick late in drafts. Sure, it’s a shoe in he won’t get a full season’s worth of at bats, but his current ADP puts him in the 23rd round of drafts (based on 12-team league). Drew is projected to have an FPI of .74 (his FPI was .76 over the second half last season), and no other OF option past the 23rd round can come close to matching that.
Vernon Wells OF (TOR) – At age 31, Wells still has a chance to recapture some of the magic that landed him an outrageous contract from former GM JP Ricciardi. He has hit .300 in two of the past four seasons is coming off a year that matched his career high in steals at 17. For his career, Wells has an above average success rate on steal attempts at around 77%. We should also expect to see more power out of Wells. His HR/FB% of 6.4% was his lowest in the past 8 years and well below his career mark of 11.7%. Expect a healthy bounce back season for Wells, and the developing talent around him (Hill, Lind) should help out.
Joe Nathan RP (MIN) – In my first ever NFBC draft, I took Nathan with my very last pick (30th round). Although, Nathan will most likely miss the entire season, he is expected to throw on Saturday in hopes that he is able to pitch through the pain. So, if you draft before Saturday why not take a stab at Nathan in the final round? Worst case scenario: he needs surgery and you jettison him during the first wave of free agency.
Josh Beckett SP (BOS) – Some people might be wondering why Beckett is being drafted ahead of young guns with more upside (and not in the AL East) such as Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Clayton Kershaw. Well, the answer is consistency. For 5 years in a row, Beckett has pitched over 170 innings, and in three of those years he pitched over 200 innings. He has had a WHIP below 1.20 for three straight seasons as well K/9 mark of at least 8.43. His highest BB/9 over that same span has been a very modest 2.3, and his FIP ERA’s the past three seasons have been 3.08, 3.24 and 3.63. There aren’t too many pitchers out there that come as reliable as Beckett.
Wandy Rodriguez SP (HOU) – Fantistics doesn’t expect Wandy to regress too much from his spectacular 2009 campaign. His K/BB ratio has climbed every year since he debuted in the majors in ’05: 1.51/1.56/2.55/2.98/3.06. He has a career GB/FB ratio of 1.22. Certainly, Wandy’s ERA will be slightly higher because he is unlikely to repeat a 79.4% LOB%, but you can see that the core skills are there. Furthermore, Wandy learned to pitch on the road last season. He also makes for a very nice target in salary cap leagues where he can be spot started. For three consecutive seasons, Wandy has posted sub 3 ERA’s at home and plus 4 ERA’s on the road.
Gavin Floyd SP (CHW)– Floyd is taking steps towards becoming a very viable fantasy SP. Last season, he upped his K/9 to 7.60 (6.3 and 6.32 the previous two seasons) while lowering his BB/9 from 3.05 to 2.76. That left him with a very respectable K/BB ratio of 2.76. At age 27, we should expect Floyd’s development to continue. His career LOB% is a below average 69.5%. However, with Floyd’s increasing K rate, we should expect that to move toward the league average 72%, which would certainly benefit Floyd’s ERA. Further good news for Floyd owners is his HR/FB% is trending downwards (19.7/17.7/11.8/11.2), and he posted a career best GB% of 44.4% last season. Floyd took a giant leap in 2009, and owners should expect a nice payoff in 2010.
David Aardsma RP (SEA) – Aardsma seemingly came out of nowhere last season to have a phenomenal year closing for the Mariners, saving 38 games with a tiny 2.52 ERA. Aardsma had success by posting career bests in K/9 and BB/9. Yet, we should still see a rise in ERA. A few days ago Joseph listed some concerns in regard to Aardsma, and one reason to expect a rise in Aardsma’s ratios is an expected regression of his HR/FB%. Last year, Aardsma’s HR/FB% was a tiny 4.2%, and we should expect that to be about twice that this season, which means twice as many homers given up should Aardsma fail to lower his FB rate.
Michael Young 3B (TEX) – Young is way overvalued come draft day, and our projections software reflects that. For starters, his LD%, while still very solid, has been over 2 percentage points below his career average for two straight years. It’s possible that that could drop some more for the soon to be 34 YO. Also, his batting average was aided heavily by the fact that he posted an ISO of .196, which is about 50 points higher than his career average. We shouldn’t expect that to repeat, especially since his HR/FB% last year 14.9% was nearly double his previous three year average of 7.6%. With a solid, but no longer spectacular, LD rate and a regression to the mean expected for his power numbers, Young’s 2010 numbers will look a lot more like ’08 than ’09 except with lower RS and RBI totals due to diminished at bats (he’s no longer a 650 at bat guy).
Miguel Tejada 3B (BAL) – If you play in OBP leagues, be weary of Tejada. That .313 average might fool you, as Tejada is likely to post a subpar OBP. Tejada has never walked much (6.3% of the time for his career), and in the past two seasons that problem has grown. Tejada walked just 3.6% of the time in ’08 and a minuscule 2.8% of the time last year. Also, Tejada’s batting average is likely to fall below .300 this season, despite his solid contact rates, due to some regression of his singles average and switching back to the better league.