Tom Milone (SP) Expectations:
Milone exceeded almost all expectations for the A's last season pitching to a 3.74 ERA in 190 innings. His pinpoint control has always given him an advantage, but his 8.7 percent swinging strike rate and 6.49 were stronger than most were anticipating. Milone's fastball (average 87.7 mph in 2012) is nothing special, but his circle change is true plus pitch. Despite his success in 2012, I believe he will take a step back in 2013, though not as badly as our software predicts (4.78 ERA). Milone's 2012 ERA was somewhat misrepresented because of 11 unearned runs. The left-hander will be best utilized in daily leagues where an owner can start him exclusively at home. His fly ball tendencies play well in Oakland, but his 15.4 percent road HR/FB ratio show what a danger he is on the road. Additionally, look for his 24 percent line drive rate to decrease and lead to more fly balls. While I think our software is underestimating the effects of the Coliseum, I have Milone pitching to an ERA just above 4.15.
A's Platoon: Catcher
John Jaso and Derrick Norris head into the 2013 season as the catching tandem. Jaso had a strong season with the Mariners producing a .372 wOBA along with 10 home runs and a .180 ISO in 361 plate appearances. He would make a solid mid tier starter, but his inability to hit left-handed pitching (career .257 wOBA vs LHP) hurts his overall value and limits him as a very late round pick in standard leagues. Jaso's home run rate might drop a bit, but a move to Oakland shouldn't impact his numbers considering he managed to have a .877 OPS at Safeco. He'll get more plate appearances this season, but his home run cap is probably around 12. Jaso has been going in the 20th round, but he is a definitely a starter worth an earlier pickup in two catcher leagues.
Norris represents the other side of the platoon, and should appear in his fair share of games this season against left-handed pitching. At this point he is only worth a look in AL-only leagues, (Fantistics C rank: 31) only because of his power numbers. The 24 year-old continues to have a strikeout problem (27 percent in 2012), but his 9.3 percent swinging strike rate indicates that can be fixed over the long run. He is a fly ball hitter, which makes the Coliseum a tough park for Norris. His 23.2 percent infield fly ball rate heavily influenced his .255 BABIP. Despite his batting average troubles, Norris should see an improvement in his walk rate leading him to produce an OBP greater than .300.
San Francisco Giants
Top 20 SP: Madison Bumgarner
I've been very high on Bumgarner over the last few seasons, and there is no reason to feel any different about his chances in 2013. In Sunday's NL-only draft for the radio show, I selected him as my first starting pitcher in the fourth round. There was some concern over Bumgarner's performance in September as his velocity decreased. However, he looked much better in the World Series after getting an extra week of rest. Bumgarner's peripherals have been extremely consistent over the last two seasons, and his underlying statistics do not indicate there will be a change in 2013. While his .276 BABIP will likely regress a bit, I would also expect his 11.7 percent HR/FB ratio from 2012 to drop closer to his career rate of nine percent. Our software has Bumgarner pitching to a 3.43 ERA this season, which I would call a little safe. A steady increase in his ground ball rate over the last three seasons in another great sign, and I'm counting on the left-hander to pitch to an ERA below 3.25.
A Tale of Two Sandovals-
Sandoval dealt with more injuries in 2012, but owners also dealt with a sharp decline in overall production. Now this decline was not as terrible as his 2010 season, but Sandoval saw his ISO drop to .164 and his HR/FB ratio to 9.6 percent. There is some concern heading into this season because of his weight, and our software puts him into the medium high-risk category. I don't think owners will see a repeat of Sandoval's amazing and brief 2011 campaign where he hit 23 home runs in only 463 plate appearances, but I there will be an improvement in his HR/FB ratio this season (9.5 percent in 2012). In terms of walk and strikeout rates, Sandoval looks like the same hitter he was when he first entered the league. His ADP might be a little higher than I would like, but I think our software is right on the money in predicting 22 home runs and a .280/.346/.476 line.
Overvalued: Jordan Zimmermann (SP)
Zimmermann strung together another strong season in 2012 compiling a 2.94 ERA with a strikeout rate of 7.04 K/9 and posted a walk below 2.0 BB/9 (1.98 BB/9) for the second straight season. There was a lot to like about the 26 year-old, but I believe he is being overvalued in drafts as of now. Zimmermann outperformed both his FIP (3.51) and xFIP (3.78) last year due in part to his below average HR/FB ratio (9.2 percent). He could have a similar number in 2013, but it is very probable that his strand rate of 79.4 percent will regress. His strikeout rate is not likely to improve considering his 8.2 percent swinging rate is average, and I expect his fly ball rate to (33.4 percent in 2012) to move back closer to his career rate. Our software has him pitching to a 3.61 ERA this year, and I think his 7.10 ADP is somewhat high.
Late Round Value: Denard Span (OF)
Span might be one of the easier outfielders to project, and he put together another typical year in 2012 hitting four home runs, stealing 17 bases and producing a .283/.342/.395 line in 568 plate appearances. While the 29 year-old is moving to the National League, potential owners should expect more of the same in 2013. His batted ball rate was almost identical to his career rates, and he actually lowered his swinging strike rate to career best 2.7 percent. Owners can expect 20 stolen bases, four home runs and another .280/.345/.395 slash line, and is definitely one of the more safe outfield bets in the late rounds of standard league drafts. Span does not have much of a platoon spilt, and I expect his runs scored to improve after leaving the Twins.
Around the League
Jeremy Hefner (SP-NYM)- It's looking more and more likely that Johan Santana will not start the season with the big club. With that news, Hefner is the most likely pitcher to benefit with Zack Wheeler was sent to minor league camp. Hefner pitched in 26 games and made 13 starts with the Mets, pitching to a 5.09 ERA. Not an impressive 96.1 innings, but his DIPS (3.66 FIP and 4.21 xFIP) suggest he should have pitched to a better ERA. Hefner does not have any value in standard leagues, but he could prove useful for some spot starts in NL-only leagues. His 8.1 percent swinging strike rate is at the league average, and I would not be surprised to see him strikeout a few more hitters this season. In addition, I would not have a problem starting him against lesser hitting teams in daily draft leagues.
Nick Markakis (RF-BAL)- Markakis has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck that will keep him out of action for seven to fourteen days. Despite the prognosis, the Orioles expect the 29 year-old to be ready for Opening Day. After dealing with injuries for a good amount of the 2012 season, owners might be a little hesitant to use him in one of his or her outfield spots. However, 2012 proved to be his most productive season at the plate since 2008. Expect him to hit a few more home runs as his 26.1 percent line drive rate should turn into a few more fly balls. In addition, Markakis has become one of the best contact hitters in the game with a 2.7 percent swinging strike rate last year and 10.8 percent strikeout rate. Look for a .295/.365/.465 type of line with 18-21 home runs.
Chris Archer (SP-TB)- As expected with the depth in the Tampa rotation, Archer was optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday. Ramon Hernandez and Jeff Niemann are competiiting to round out the rest of the rotation, but Archer would be the first starter called up to the rotation in the case of injury or ineffectiveness. Archer looked very strong in triple-A last season pitching to a 3.66 ERA (3.25 FIP) and striking out 9.77 hitters per nine innings. He recorded 4.60 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched in a brief stint with the Rays, however his 3.40 FIP and 3.42 xFIP indicate a better showing. A 9.4 percent swinging strike rate should translate well if he gets a call up soon. With Niemann's history of injuries and the likelihood of a trade, it is entirely possible to see Archer up with the club at some point considering Hernandez's ineffectiveness over the last few season.
David Ortiz (DH-BOS)- Ortiz told the Boston Globe on Monday that it is very doubtful that he will be available on Opening Day for the Red Sox because of inflammation in his heals. The 37 year-old is coming off of an injury shortened season in which he hit .318/.415/.611 with 23 home runs in only 383 plate appearances. Ortiz does not have any metric working against him, but his age and injuries are the only real concern at this point. He was able to improve his swinging strike rate two seasons ago to improve his overall average and OBP while not sacrificing any power. We were anticipating him hitting 27 home runs this season while hitting .289, but we just do not know when he is going to get onto the field. Mike Napoli will probably move to the DH spot in the mean tine, and it is likely that Lyle Overbay and Mike Carp will see some playing time at first base.
Roy Halladay (SP-PHI)- Halladay really struggled in his start against the Tigers on Tuesday allowing seven runs on six hits (two home runs) and four walks. According to various reports, Halladay topped out at 87 mph and was mostly sitting in the mid 80's with his pitches. The 36 year-old struggled with his velocity last season seeing his average cutter velocity drop to a career low 88.6 mph, as his fastball dropped to a career low 90.6 mph. It sounds as if Halladay's fastballs in his outing on Wednesday were in the 86-87 mph range while his cutter hovering around 84-85 mph. Even with the drop last year Halladay still managed to induce a swinging strike rate of 10.6 percent last year, but I doubt he will be able to maintain that rate with this drop. Halladay has some time to work some kinks out, but the concern around his performance is legitimate.
Starlin Castro (SS-CHC)- Castro is scheduled to return to the Cubs lineup today after missing two weeks due to a strained left hamstring. The 23 year-old shortstop is mostly going in the third round standard leagues behind Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Reyes, but our software has him ranked as the second best shortstop available. Castro is at least four years away from his career peak, and I think owners will see a steady increase in his HR/FB ratio (8 percent in 2012) and an increase in his fly ball rate. I am little worried by his increase in his chase rate, which could explain the drop in his BABIP, but I would expect a .290 type of average at the very least in 2013. Owners will get strong stolen base totals, and we are expecting him to hit more than 16 home runs this year.
Julio Teheran (SP-ATL)- Teheran threw five hitless innings on Tuesday against the Cardinals. The 22 year-old struck out six, walked two and lowered his spring training ERA to 1.29 in four starts. The Braves currently have Teheran penciled in as the fifth starter, as Brandon Beachy continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. Considering where Teheran's ADP (27.01), owners can expected to pick up a lot of value out of the rookie. The biggest knock on Teheran has been his propensity to give up home runs. His brief sample size in the majors indicates he has been an extreme fly ball pitcher (28.2 percent), but we have him ranked as the 77th best starter available. He has displayed above average control with his 91-94 mph, and he features two above average off-speed pitches (curveball and change-up). He should be able to record a strikeout rate above 7.15 K/9, and pitch to an ERA slightly above 3.75.
Shelby Miller (SP-STL)- The Cardinals told the press today that the team expects to make a decision on the fifth starter spot after Thursday's game. Both Miller and Joe Kelly are competing for the spot, but Miller should be considered the favorite because of his upside. Kelly is the more versatile pitcher, and is a better fit as the long reliever out the Cardinals bullpen. Miller has the ability to miss more bats with a mid 90's fastball, a devastating curveball and improving change-up. His command improved throughout the season, and I believe he has the ability to become legitimate number one starter. Miller should finish a strikeout rate just above 9.00 K/9, and pitch to an ERA between 3.60-3.80. Even if he does not ultimately get the call on Thursday, Miller will definitely be a factor down the road.