Kansas City Royals
Jarrod Dyson- Speedster in consideration for leadoff spot
As of writing this, the Royals’ have played 5 Spring Training games, with Mike Aviles leading off three times, Lorenzo Cain once and Jarrod Dyson once. Dyson is the least known of the group, but he has a lot of speed upside. Manager Ned Yost has said some nice things about Dyson – going as far as to refer to him as an ideal leadoff hitter. He also indicated that Dyson would definitely be in consideration for the role, should he break camp on the big club.
Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. Dyson has no power – consistently posting sub par ISO’s in the minors and striking out around 20% of the time – too much for a leadoff man with no pop. His walk rates are okay, hovering just below 10% for most of his professional career. In 65 Major League plate appearances last season, Dyson posted a .38 EYE, striking out 28.1% of the time. It’s certainly a lot to overcome, and Dyson probably will begin the year at AAA. Still, for those of you in deeper leagues who need speed – keep an eye on him. In 323 professional games, Dyson has stolen 140 bases and gotten caught 33 times. Last season, Dyson showed his speed does translate to the Major League Level. He stole 9 bases and was caught just once in 18 games – impressive totals considering he found himself on first base just 11 times (5 singles, 6 walks).
Are these hot starts worth paying attention to?
Mitch Maier, who is in contention for an OF spot, is off to a really hot start this Spring. He is 8-12 with 2 walks, no strikeouts and 4 stolen bases. This hot start, combined with the fact that Maier is out of options, means he will likely earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. For fantasy purposes, though, it’s pretty much meaningless. Frankly, Maier’s hot start is just a case of a small sample size. Yes he has 8 hits, but just 1 of them went for extra bases – a double. As far as the speed goes, Maier has just 12 career stolen bases in 283 games, so I wouldn’t read much into the 4 he has thus far this Spring. These hot starts are fun to witness, but in the case of a guy like Maier (career .256/.330/.347 line in 930 plate appearances), they don’t mean a whole lot.
However, another Royal hitter off to a hot start is 1B prospect Eric Hosmer. He hit his second homer (which by all accounts was absolutely crushed) of the Spring yesterday and now holds a slugging percentage of 1.500 in 8 at bats. Again, small sample size, but Hosmer’s case is a little different because he is a top prospect. With a strong Spring and a hot start in the minors (where it’s all but certain Hosmer will begin the year), Hosmer could make a push to be called up sometime this season. Hosmer shot up the prospect rankings this past year. In 2009, his first full professional season, Hosmer didn’t show too much at two levels of A ball (.241/.334/.361). However, in 2010 he made impressive strides in both his batting EYE (.89) and power (20 HR) which lead to a triple slash of .338/.406/.571 in 586 plate appearances split between high A and AA. Our Prospect King, David Regan, has Hosmer as the 7th rated hitting prospect and expects the 20 YO to be the starting KC 1B no later than April 2012. Those of you in dynasty leagues need to pay attention to Hosmer.
Toronto Blue Jays
Who will win the last spots of the rotation?
There are four main guys competing for the last two spots in Toronto’s rotation: Kyle Drabek, Marc Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch and Jo-Jo Reyes. Schuyler Dombroske discussed Rzepczynski in yesterday’s preseason prep, which you should all read as he does an excellent job discussing this lefties sleeper potential.
As for the other three: Drabek would really have to melt down this Spring to lose out on a rotation spot. He was considered a good prospect when the Jays obtained him from Philadelphia in the Halladay trade, but his stock went even higher after last season. David Regan has Drabek ranked as the 8th best pitching prospect. He makes for a “safer” fantasy play than some young up and coming arms because Drabek showed success at the Major League level last season. Although his ERA was 4.76 in 3 starts, Drabek had an xFIP of 3.59 – thanks to a solid 2.40 K/BB ratio and outstanding 62 GB%. With some growth in his K rate, Drabek will give owners a healthy return on their investment, and even if it stays in the sixes the GB rate and control should be enough to make him an acceptable play.
On the other hand, fantasy owners do not want any part of either Jesse Litsch or Jo-Jo Reyes. Litsch’s K/BB ratio is below 2 for his career, and his K/9 is a lowly 4.54. His only “skill” is an above average GB rate of 47.4%. However, Litsch’s recent track record is even worse. In 9 starts last season, his GB% was 44, his K/9 was 3.09 and his K/BB ratio was 1.07. Why he is even in this discussion is beyond me, and the same can be said for Reyes. His peripherals really require no analysis: 5.94 K/9, 4.55 BB/9 and a 15.2 HR/FB%. Basically you have a guy with a career 6.4 ERA in 37 starts who doesn’t strike people out, has poor command and is susceptible to the long ball. Oh, and he’s moving from National League to the AL East: pass.
Is Travis Snider poised for a breakout?
At this point in his career, it’s a little too optimistic much to draft Travis Snider expecting a breakout due to his poor plate discipline. The past two seasons he has posted EYE’s of .37 and .27. Gross. However, he did post a 10.5 BB% in 2009 and cut his K% from 32.4 to 26.5 last season. If, and this is a big if, Snider is able to keep the K’s where they were last season while getting his walk rate back to what it was in 2009 a breakout could happen as Snider does have some other nice peripherals.
For one, the 23 YO is extremely powerful. His HR/FB% grew from 13.6 (good) in 2009 to 18.4 (great) last season. Perhaps more impressive, though, was Snider’s complete reversal in LD% from a putrid 14.9 in 2009 to a phenomenal 24.3 last year. Those positives make Snider intriguing, but again, drafting him expecting breakout is just irresponsible. There’s no telling what will happen to Snider’s plate discipline, but a dramatic increase seems unlikely. He also can’t hit lefties worth squat. He struck out in half of his 40 at bats against lefties in 2009, and last season he posted a dreadful, almost laughable, .09 EYE in 61 plate appearances against southpaws. In standard mixed roto leagues, Snider is worth a flier at the tail end of the draft but nothing more.
What do we make of Ryan Doumit?
Entering the season, Ryan Doumit figures to see some at bats as the secondary catcher and reserve outfielder. Not very attractive, huh? However, I think Doumit has value in drafts where he free falls due to the uncertainty surrounding his playing time. First of all – he’ll get at bats. Between playing outfield and catcher, we have him projected to receive 426 at bats, which is certainly acceptable from a catcher, and due to 100 games played at that position last season, Doumit will be eligible at catcher in most leagues. On top of that, even though the Pirates are shopping Doumit now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him overtake Chris Snyder as the primary catcher. Snyder is a career .229 hitter who hit just .200 and .207 in his past two seasons respectively. He has some pop and good patience, but it’s always tough for a manager to keep throwing a player out there every day when he is constantly tangoing with the Mendoza line.
Doumit runs decently for a catcher and has a career .268 average. Fantistics has him projected for a .277 BA along with 15 HR and to be right around 60/60 in RS and RBI’s. You could do a lot worse for your second catcher in 2 catcher formats. And at age 29 don’t rule out a possible reversion to his 2008 form, in which Doumit posted a triple slash of .318/.357/.501.
Is James McDonald a quality sleeper?
James McDonald is probably the most appealing of all of the Pirate starters. He has a career 3.84 ERA in 140.2 IP spread over 16 starts and 48 relief appearances. Last season McDonald was used primarily as a starter (12 GS) in contrast to 2009 when he was mostly a reliever for the Dodgers. In 2010 McDonald posted an impressive FIP of 3.12 thanks to an 8.54 K/9 mark and 2.34 K/BB ratio. However, I would not advise people to overdraft as this is one instance where FIP is very misleading. McDonald was extremely FB risky (30.3%), but thanks to a very low 4.3 HR/FB% he gave up just .50 HR/9. That number is extremely unlikely to remain that low. Based on McDonald’s lack of track record, the fact that hitters were making excellent contact against him (23.4 LD%) and his propensity to fall behind in the count (first strike % was 5 percentage points lower than league average), I would expect that HR/FB% to at least double this season making a sub-4 ERA unlikely.
There’s also reason to doubt his K rate. The low 53.6 first strike % is below average as previously noted and McDonald’s contact rates inside and outside of the strike zone along with his swinging strike percentage are all merely average. I wonder if all that mediocrity means mediocre stuff and an unsustainable 8.54 K/9. The high LD% mentioned in the above paragraph may also indicate that McDonald has a tough time getting through lineups the second and third times through. In 2009 when he was used primarily as a reliever, he had just a 16.9 LD% - that grew 6.5 percentage points when he began starting regularly. Along those same lines, FanGraphs pitch type date indicates that McDonald only uses three pitches, and only one of which ranked above average in terms of runs above average.
All in all, I see a pitcher who is going to give up more homers, see his strikeouts decrease and may be better suited for relief duty. I’ll let someone else take a flier on McDonald.
Kevin Slowey SP (MIN) – While our projections for Slowey are nothing to write home about, he could make for a decent late round flier. His K/BB ratios have always been phenomenal: 4.27/5.13/5.00/4.00, giving him acceptable FIP’s the past three seasons of 3.91/4.26/3.98. He is very fly ball risky (career 48.1 FB%), but with league-wide HR/FB% declining and the Twins move to Target Field (ESPN Park Factors have Target Field ranked as the least favorable stadium to hit a HR), this could be a breakout season for the 26 YO Slowey.
Nolan Reimold OF (BAL) – Reimold is starting Spring hot with 2 homers and 4 walks in 13 plate appearances. This might not appears to be newsworthy as Reimold is just competing for a 4th OF spot (Felix Pie/Randy Winn). However, Fantistics was high on Reimold heading into last season; in 2009, Reimold showed a great deal of power (15 HR) and patience (11.4 BB%) for a 25 YO in 411 plate appearances. Unfortunately, a slow recovery from an Achilles injury seemed to derail Reimold’s 2011 campaign. I wouldn’t draft Reimold, but if he wins the 4th OF spot he’s certainly worth monitoring should an injury to one of the Baltimore OFers or DH result in him being thrust into a starting role.
Kendry Morales 1B (LAA) – A few days ago, Drew expressed his concerns over the perception of Morales’ skill set. Now it appears that prospective owners will not only have to worry about Morales being overvalued but about his health as well. We knew Morales may start the season DH’ing as a result of the leg injury he suffered last season; now it appears, according to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, he may not be ready for Opening Day in any capacity. I’m not advising fantasy players to completely ignore Morales come draft day, but with questions arising about both his skill set and timetable for return from injury – it’s unlikely he’ll be able to be had at the proper price point in most drafts.
John Axford RP (MIL) – Out of our top ten closers, Axford is, on average, being drafted last of the bunch with an ADP of 13.11 in 12 team leagues. I’d feel very comfortable taking Axford as my top closer. First of all, Milwaukee’s revamped starting pitching may lead to a bump in save chances. Secondly, Axford has skills. He struck 11.79 batters per 9 last season and posted a 48.1 GB%, which is high for a closer with Axford’s K ability. We expect a slight bump in his ERA (from 2.48 to 2.74) due to an unsustainable 2.4 HR/FB%. Axford is legitimate, though, and he should be able to continue the success he had in his rookie season: an underrated top ten closer.
Evan Longoria 3B (TB) – I fully expect Longoria to set a career high in homers this season. He is gradually taking strides that will lead to him being an elite power hitter. Subtle consistent increases in his BB% (9.1/10.7/10.9), EYE (.38/.51/.58) and FB% (41.6/41.8/43.1) all point towards Longoria (age 25) to become a legitimate 40 homerun guy. Luckily for fantasy players out there, the market may not necessarily represent this as an unlucky 11.1 HR/FB% led to just 22 HR and masked the growth in Longoria’s power potential.
Carlos Santana C (CLE) – I’m more bullish on Santana than most, but I truly believe he could end up being the top catcher this season. He posted an incredible EYE (1.12) for a rookie last season and had the power to go along with it (.207 ISO). Don’t forget Santana runs well for a catcher; he stole 9 bases without getting caught in 103 games split between AAA and the majors. That speed, along with his patience (19.3 BB% last season), will have Santana near the top of the list for catchers in both RS and SB’s. Santana should also get a lot of at bats for a catcher as the Indians plan to mix him in at DH/1B from time to time. He’s a steal at his current 8th round ADP.
Clay Buchholz SP (BOS) – If you draft Clay Buchholz expecting a repeat of his 2.33 ERA you are in for a big surprise. While that ERA was stellar, Buchholz posted an FIP of 3.61 and xFIP of 4.20. Those numbers are more representative of his skill. He had a LOB% of 79% which is not sustainable considering his 6.22 K/9. Also, Buchholz was lucky in the HR department – his 5.6 HR/FB% was about 4 percentage points below the normal league average. It was particularly lucky in light of his HR/FB percentages from ’08 and ’09 which were 14.7 and 15.7 respectively. Oh, and his BABIP was .261 (24 points below his career average). In other words Buchholz’s success from 2010 was more to do with luck than skill and as such is unsustainable.
Chris Perez RP (CLE) – I’ve always been a Perez fan, but there’s a good chance he will be overrated come draft day. He had a very lucky .222 BABIP (.271/.254 previous two years) and a 5.5 HR/FB% (10.9/12.5 previous two years). As a result his 1.71 ERA was probably around 2 to 2.5 points lower than it should have been. We won’t see a full regression in his ERA and WHIP because there’s a good chance Perez improves his peripherals (particularly his K rate) which will help balance things out a bit. Still, he’s closer to the bottom 10 closers than he is to the top 10 closers at this point.
Jimmy Rollins SS (PHI) – One of my favorite things to do in auction drafts is to call out a likely high priced player early in the draft that I have no intention of owning because I know he is overvalued. Rollins is the perfect candidate to get people to waste resources in auction drafts. He’s a declining player but one with lots of name recognition and at a scarce position; someone will overpay. Make no mistake about it, Rollins is in decline. The once dual power-speed threat has seen his power drop (declining ISO’s of .235/.160/.173/.131 since ’07) and speed drop (declining speed scores of 8.7/7.8/6.7/6.5 since ’07) the last few years as a result of age (32) related decline. Drew Dinkmeyer astutely noted in one of the Fantistics’ podcasts (in a segment regarding A-Rod I believe) that older hitters sometimes sacrifice power for contact, and thus their EYE can mask age related decline. Well, this is the case with Rollins. His EYE was actually a career best 1.25 this past season, but his decline in ISO, HR/FB%, FB% and LD% can be attributed to sacrificing power for contact. Rollins had a very high contact rate on pitches outside of the strike zone (77.4% versus a career mark of 67.1%).
Don't forget to follow me on twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/leonem4444) where I'm there to answer your draft questions and post important fantasy baseball insights throughout the season!