Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Jason Heyward experiment

Jason Heyward is undoubtedy the hottest prospect in baseball for 2010.  And since Atlanta has announced that Heyward will be heading to Altanta to start the season with the big league club, Heyward has been flying off the draft board.  In the last few days, Heyward's ADP has jumped from the low 200's to 183 in Yahoo draft's which it huge for this late in the spring.  I've been asked by a few people what I think about Heyward and drafting him this year.  I actually don't have him in any of my leagues (even my dynasty league), and I'm ok with that (for this year).  Here are my feelings on Heyward for 2010:

1)  Age.  He's only 20.  With all the hype, and spring training craziness, it's hard to overlook this point.  No 20 year old (not named Ted Williams) walks right into the majors and dominates.  Heywards raw power is undeniable, but with the quality of pitching in the NL, there is definately going to be some growing pains.

2)  Experience.  Heyward has 226 games of minor league ball under his belt, with 176 at the A level, 47 at AA, and only 3 games at AAA.  In those 226 games, he has 28 homeruns.  To me, that makes it pretty obvious that a 25-30 homerun projection for this season seems a little over optimisitc.

3) Shin Splints?  Heyward was left out of the game today because of shin splints.  If he has a nagging injury like this going into the season, don't expect a lot of stolen bases.  Also, the team is going to treat Heyward with kid gloves.  Any sign of injury will put him on the bench, or back to AAA.  Even an early season slump could get him a trip back to AAA to avoid destroying his confidence.

Don't get me wrong... I like Heyward.  A lot.  Since Bond's retired, OF's have taken a back seat in the top tier of the power department to A-Rod and first basemen.  Heyward could be the second coming of Hank Aaron.  But not yet.  Not in 2010... maybe not even in 2011.  Plenty of people are salivating over Heyward this year, so if you have him, now is a great time to trade him.  If he's available after pick 200, and you want to take a risk, go ahead, but don't reach for him unless you are in a dynasty league and can lock him up for 3 to 4 years.  As far as projections, if he can get 140+ starts this year, I've got him at 18 HR's, 70 RBI, 65 Runs, 7 Steals, .275 Batting Average.  To me, that sounds like a great season for a 20 year old, but not quite the astronomical numbers some people are talking about.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Closers -- Battles and value

If your draft is done, or if you are looking to pick up some later round closers, there are definitely still plenty of saves out there. The nice thing about getting Saves is that you don’t always have to have the big names on the top teams. You can get almost as good of numbers if you wait patiently and get some lesser known closers:

Minnesota: With Joe Nathan out for the year, the closers job is up for grabs. Don’t count the Twins out from making a deal for a closer (Heath Bell’s name has been thrown out there), but right now, it’s between John Rauch, who has some experience closing, and Matt Guerrier, Nathan’s set up man. Though they might both see some save opportunities, it’s likely Rauch will be the guy.

Toronto: This one is totally up in the air. Toronto brought in Kevin Gregg in the offseason, but his 5.40 spring ERA is not helping. Scott Downs just gave up his first runs of spring the other night, but the fact that he’s one of the few lefty’s in the pen means he might be used more as situational relief. That leaves Jason Frasor who started off horrendous, but has shown improvement, and looks to be the favorite right now. I’d wait-and-see on this one… no matter who they name the closer, it’s probably going to be up for grabs well into April.

Houston: Brandon Lyon was slated to be the closer in the offseason, but since he is just returning from a shoulder injury now, it looks like Matt Lindstrom will get the nod to start the season. Lindstrom struggled some last year, so this could be a battle all year long to see who gets the ball in the 9th inning.

Cleveland: Kerry Wood will start the season on the DL (Shocker!) so Chris Perez will start the season as the closer. Perez throws hard but might not be ready to close games just yet. Last season he had 5 save chances and blew 3 of them and finished the season with a 4.32 era. He does have strikeout stuff, but we’ll see if he’s got the closer mentality.

Here’s a quick list of other closers you can get late that have little-to-no competition for the closer duties: Octavio Dotel (Pittsburg), Matt Capps (Washington), Mike Gonzalez (Baltimore), Leo Nunez (Florida).

2010 Fantasy Sleepers -- Starting Pitchers

As always, starting pitching can be a crap shoot. Pitchers (not named Lincecum) are much more injury prone and therefore, are riskier to draft high. I typically will take one stud pitcher near round 5-6, and then wait a few rounds before I take a few more. As always, your league rules/settings will determine the best picks, but I’ve outlined a few guys that will help you this year and you won’t need to burn a high pick on them. Thanks for checking me out, and I hope this helps:

Brandon Webb – I love taking elite pitchers coming off of major injuries. Last year I got Chris Carpenter late in all my leagues and he was lights out. Look for similar things from Webb this year, and you can pick him up around round 12-14, though he may not be ready to go until late April/early May.

Tim Hudson – Same deal as Webb, looks good in the spring so far, and is being drafted in rounds 18-20.

Jonathan Sanchez – Electric stuff. His ERA, BA against, and WHIP have all dropped each year over the last 3 years, while his K’s have increased. This is the year he will put it all together, and the last year he will be cheap.

Brett Anderson – Next in the long line of A’s pitching prospects. Will be the ace of the staff by May.

Rich Harden – Injury prone, but his K/9 is outstanding, and that Texas offense will give the starters a lot of wins this year.

Phil Hughes – Has great stuff, and was just named Yankees #5 starter. Will be around 1K/inning, and could come in below 1.20 WIP. Another pitcher who will steal wins even on bad days because of his potent offense.

2010 Fantasy Sleepers -- Offense

This is one of my favorite times of the year. With the end of winter comes baseball, and with baseball comes Fantasy Baseball. I’m not sure what it is that draws me to fantasy baseball, but I’m totally addicted. Some of my drafts have already started, and some are still coming up, but believe me, my research is done. I will share with you here some of my Fantasy Baseball sleepers for 2010. Please let me know if these end up being helpful, and if you would like to add to my list – and unlike many other sites, this info is FREE. Thanks and good luck!
Catcher -- If you can’t get a stud, consider one of the following
- Buster Posey: One of the top Catching prospects in baseball. May get a chance at the major league level this year, but more likely a good pick in a keeper/dynasty league. Not your typical sleeper because the word is already out on this guy.
- Miguel Montero: Has good power and can hit for average. Split duties with Chris Snyder last year but will win everyday job this year. Hit .294 last year and projected at 18-20 HR’s for 2010
- Geovany Soto: Had a terrible sophomore slump, but look to see his numbers rebound, if not exceed his 2008 numbers. Should be able to get cheap/late in most drafts

First Base – First is loaded as always, but look for some of these later round steals
- Kendry Morales: The quietest 34 HR, 108 RBI, .306 Avg season in the history of baseball last year – and he’s only 26!
- Chris Davis: Another horrible sophomore year with monster power and huge upside. Don’t reach for him, but he should be there late. Also has 3B eligibility for one more year (at least).
- Garrett Jones: I don’t know why I love this guy, but I do. 21 HR, 10 steals and .293 avg last year in only 82 games. Huge upside, and he will be available VERY late. Also has OF eligibility

Second Base – Not a lot of power after the first tier, but plenty of value
- Rickie Weeks: Started last season on fire before injury. Is 27 years old with possible 20 HR/20 Steal projections – best you’ll get this late.
- Scott Sizemore: Tiger rookie with huge expectations. Possible 20 HR/30 steal/.300 average in a year or two. Look for closer to 10/15/.275 this year, but this kid is the real deal.
- Ian Desmond: Nats rookie who hit .354 in AAA last season with potential 15 HR/ 25 Steals this year
- Gordan Beckham: See 3B note below. Will have 2B eligibility after first week of season.

Shortstop – Hardest position to draft once again. After the top 5 guys, it’s a crap shoot.
- Everth Cabrera: 40-50 steal potential with great plate discipline for a young player. Look for 85 to 95 runs scored, but 5 homeruns would be a high projection
- Alcides Escobar: Similar potential as Everth Cabrera, but much better hitter. Should crack .300 with 35-40 steals. If he can win the leadoff spot, look for 100+ runs scored, if not, he’ll hit towards the bottom of lineup and maybe 70-75.
- Ian Desmond: See above, should have 2B and SS eligibility in most leagues

Third Base – Top half of the draft is deeper than usual this year, still plenty of value late
- Gordan Beckham: Think 23 year old version of David Wright. He is moving to 2B this year, so will have 2B/3B eligibility after first week of season. 5-tool future superstar. If you can’t get one of the top 5 guys, wait a few rounds and get Beckham. You won’t be sorry.
- Chris Davis: See 1b note. Most likely last year with 3B eligibility. 40 HR potential
- David Freese: This one is a little bit of a reach, even for me. Solid bat, potential 25 HR, .280 batting avg guy, and I’m sure no one in your draft will have heard of him.

Outfield – My specialty. I rarely draft OF in the first 10 rounds, and I still always win. Here’s who I like cheap:
- Andrew McCutchen: Lightning fast with surprising power. Solid 20HR/35 steal/.290 avg with 25/50/.310 potential
- Carlos Gonzalez: 20 HR/20 Steal potential before going to Colorado. Look for 25/20 this year with potential to be a 30/30 guy. Only 24 years old
- Julio Borbon: Texas has built one of the most potent offenses in baseball. Had 4 HR, 19 steals, and .312 avg in only 46 games last year. Look for 100+ runs, 40+ steals and a .300 avg out of the leadoff spot. 15 HR’s is also not out of the question.
- Drew Stubbs: Another burner with 50 steal, 10 HR potential right away. Doesn’t get on base enough to hit leadoff, but can fly.

Hope some of these picks help you out.  Remember, how you draft depends on your league. Check out my eHow article on how to draft a winning Fantasy Baseball Team! Also, if you've never used FanGraphs for your draft prep, you should!