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August 28, 2012 posted by Albert Lang

The Hot N Cold Fantasy Baseball All-stars

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Josh Beckett, LA Dodgers SP

Players get hot and cold over a seven-day period, it’s as sure as the samples are small. In head-to-head and roto fantasy baseball leagues you have to make quick decisions on players who are surging and those who are performing at a lackluster level. That’s where the Hot ‘N’ Cold All-stars come in:  to sort through the trends and see which ones are worth buying or ignoring.

‘Cause you’re hot…you’re yes…you’re in…you’re up

Pedro Ciriaco – You don’t have to split the samples in any special manner to make Ciriaco look good. Dude has been on fire all year: .353/.366/.489 in 144 plate appearances (PAs). Of course, the fact that his OBP and AVG are separated by a small fraction suggests a regression could be forthcoming. Ciriaco has played in AAA during four different stints (including for the Pirates twice) and didn’t perform well until this season with Boston (incidentally (or not) his highest BABIP year). He swings and misses a lot and gets behind in the count early. However, when he does make contact it has been pure gold this year. He’ll play every day ROTW, which has inherent value. Peg him for a .270 average and seven SBs from now on and you won’t be disappointed.

Nate McLouth – As an Orioles fan, it has killed me to see McLouth batting high in the order for most of the season. Maybe Buck knows what he is doing? Since joining the Orioles, McLouth has a .246/.325/.435 line with two HRs and five SBs in just 20 games. He hasn’t been overly lucky with the O’s either: he has a .273 BABIP (.275 for his career). Perhaps his approach is working better in the AL, as he is swinging and missing well below league average. He is also getting ahead in the count more than his peers. Consequently, we’ve seen his walk rate inch up and K rate inch down to levels not seen since 2009 (he batted .256/.352/.436 with 20 HRs and 19 SBs that season). This could all be white noise small sample size mumbo-jumbo, but it’s jumbo worth speculating on. He could bat anywhere from .235-250 with five HRs and seven SBs ROTW.

Tyler Colvin – Colvin is still playing and still mashing (.290/.332/.555 with 15 HRs and seven SBs in 102 games). He should come close to playing out the string, which would net five HRs and a couple of steals.

Carlos Quentin – Quentin is back and healthy…for now. In incredibly limited time, Quentin has hit 14 HRs and posted a darn good .267/.382/.506 line. With Quentin, it’s all about health. If he plays the rest of the year, you’re looking at six HRs at minimum. If he gets injured, you drop him. Basically, there’s no risk here.

Will Venable – Since I uncovered a 1986 Topps Max Venable baseball card, I’ve been fascinated with his son, Will, probably because he possesses freaky athleticism (check out the imbedded link above). Since May 19, Venable has batted .253/.327/.443 with six HRs and 13 SBs in 77 games. Venable has shown a slightly better grasp of the strike zone this year, posting career best swinging strike and K% rates. It’s in just 378 plate appearances and it goes against his larger body of work, so caveats apply. That said, even if this isn’t an improvement, you’ll get four HRs and eight SBs ROTW – it just might be with a poor average. Venable is worth gambling on though, especially in deep keeper leagues. A full season of a healthy Venable could net you a 15 HR, 35 SB campaign.

Chris Nelson, D.J. LeMahieu, Jordan Pacheco – The Rockies have a plethora of dudes sitting on the wire that can help you all over the IF (especially if you’ve lost David Ortiz).

It’s unclear how much playing time Nelson will get as Troy Tulowitzki is on his way back. However, he has batted .277/.340/.441 crowded around a couple of DL stints. Giving him 75 more plate appearances could get you three HRs and an average that won’t kill you.

In all the Josh Rutledge hype, LeMahieu has gone largely unnoticed, yet he has hit at a .295/.326/.388 clip over 138 at bats. He could slot in a number of IF positions and will get enough playing time to make him an astute pick-up. He has hit decently at two stops in AAA and should benefit from the Colorado air (or lack their of). With 100 plate appearances, he’ll bat near .300 and steal three or so bases.

Pacheco has the most MLB ABs of this trio, and has been just as good as the others: .305/.336/.403. He doesn’t flash much power or speed, but, if you’re digging deep, a corner than can bat .285 and notch a couple of bombs is certainly useable.

Alone, these guys aren’t that much, however I’ve grabbed LeMahieu and Pacheco in one deep league (I need corners desperately) and they should combine to be a decent stand in.

Yasmani Grandal – Apparently it’s the Rockies/Padres All-stars this week, as Grandal joins the ranks. He has raked it all year in majors: .284/.368/.529 with six HRs in 117 plate appearances. You’d like to think this was some sort of outlandish performance for a rookie catcher to hit so well in a crappy environment. However, aside from a 20.7% HR/FB rate, he isn’t getting a ton of luck (.291 BABIP). That said, eventually he’s not going to be hitting all those fly balls over the fence and they will impact his BABIP. In addition, he appears to be hitting a ton of balls on the ground. There will be growing pains, but so far Grandal has acclimated himself quite well. You shouldn’t be surprised with a .270 average and four HRs ROTW. That’s solid catcher production.

Andy Dirks – Dirks is another one of those sneaky healthy guys who has produced all year, but no one owns. Since coming off the DL (78 PAs), he has batted .353/.423/.500 with nine RBIs. In his first stint at AAA (2010), he destroyed opposing pitchers (.375/.398/.648). He followed it up in 2011 with a good line as well: .325/.368/.522. Dirks gets ahead of the count and doesn’t swing and miss a lot, a good recipe for success. Of course, his 2012 .373 BABIP is nowhere near anything he has produced previously in anything approaching a meaningful sample. That said, even with a .325 BABIP, he could bat .290. He doesn’t have a ton of pop or speed, but a handful of HRs and SBs should be there ROTW. He’ll help mostly with the counting stats as he is either hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder (meaning runs) or behind (meaning RBIs).

Brett Anderson – Anderson, also recently off the DL, should be owned most everywhere. He has pitched 14 nearly perfect innings so far and the only thing that can limit him is his health. He should get to 25 K’s, with solid ratios ROTW. In addition, with the surprise Athletics, wins should be attainable. If he’s available in your league, you best grab him quick.

Marco Estrada – Estrada has 104 K’s in 100.2 IPs this season. He is getting ahead of hitters (62% first strike rate) and keeping them guessing (10.1% swinging strike rate). There’s little reason to think he can’t keep up a similar K pace the rest of the way. In addition, he looks every bit like a 4.00 ERA pitch or so. Those K’s paired with solid ratios shouldn’t be available anywhere.

Alex Cobb – Cobb has a 4.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 76 K’s in 102 innings. Pretty solid numbers for a guy getting his feet wet in the AL East (he threw 52.2 solid IPs last year). For his career, Cobb has a 4.02 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 2.31 K:BB rate. He’s also been a bit unlucky this year: .314 BABIP and 65.9% strand rate, so you could make the argument that he’s been better than the results have shown and you’d probably be right. Since July 1 (10 starts), Cobb has a 3.99 ERA and 43:16 K:BB rate. He will be an underrated boon to ERA down the stretch and add enough K’s to make him a viable starter at almost every turn (aside from at Yankee Stadium).

Then you’re cold…then you’re no…then you’re out…then you’re down

The Elvis Andrus Watch: Andrus went 16/22 in stolen bases in the first half. In about half as many at bats in the second half he is just 3/5. His career splits are no different:

Split

G

GS

PA

AB

3B

SB

CS

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

TB

1st Half

325

313

1399

1229

13

81

20

.279

.347

.355

.702

436

2nd Half

241

234

1040

918

7

40

21

.273

.344

.352

.696

323

Derek Holland – It has been an odd year for Holland. After a breakout 2011, he has seemingly regressed, yet he has the bet K:BB rate of his career. He has also been getting destroyed lately, allowing at least five runs in five of his last eight starts. During this stretch, he has allowed at least one HR in every game but one. Holland, quite simply, is getting destroyed by the long ball (14.5% HR/FB rate). This has hurt his strand rate (64.1%) as well, culminating in a 4.90 ERA, 4.75 FIP and 4.24 xFIP (which normalizes HR/FB rate). It’s possible that, in trying to limit walks, Holland is just around the plate a lot more, which has led to a ton more HRs. Until he figures this out, though, even with that shiny K:BB rate, he shouldn’t be trusted.

Josh Beckett – Sure, Beckett has lost velocity on his fastball, but his swinging strike rate is pretty much where it was from 2006-2010. From ’06-’10, Beckett had a 4.29 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 3.38 K:BB rate, not bad numbers. This season, Beckett has continued to get ahead of hitters and has been walking batters at his career norm. In reality, the only truly bizarre aspect of Beckett’s performance is his 66.2% strand rate. Expect that to change dramatically with the Dodgers and Beckett to improve demonstrably in the NL. He could grab 30 more K’s and post a 3.80 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. With a suddenly formidable Dodgers line-up backing him, there will be opportunities to get wins.

Matt Joyce – This space was pretty high on Joyce not too long ago, unfortunately he’s made that recommendation look stupendously horrendous. There was hope that he was over his injuries and finally posting decent numbers against southpaws. However, despite a hot start and solid line against lefty starters (.302/.397/.476), Joyce is batting .213/.308/.313 against southpaws. The Rays are finally fully healthy, which means any number of players are stealing at bats from Joyce when they face a lefty. As that’s the case, Joyce, the part-timer, isn’t really worth owning in 12-teamers. In deeper leagues, he still has value as you know to bench him against lefties. ROTW, he should be good for five HRs or so with a middling average.

Albert has been playing and arguing about baseball and fantasy sports since 2002. Since 1982, he has also been largely miserable (here’s looking at you Armando Benitez) because of the Orioles and Eagles. Albert has won leagues and lost leagues, but he has the most fun debating player values. Albert typically plays in several baseball and football leagues a year. He also is an avid baseball card collector and writes about older players and their historical value relative to the Hall of Fame and their peers/current players. When not harassing league mates with trades and analyzing what categories his team performs poorly in, Albert is a communications professional in Washington, D.C. Follow Albert on Twitter @h2h_corner. He has an awesome puppy named Charlotte. You can find all of Albert's work at http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/.
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