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Fantasy Baseball: Why You Should Draft Mike Minor In 2011

Mike Minor was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He quickly rose through the minors and made his first major league start with the Atlanta Braves exactly 14 months after being drafted.

His first four starts couldn’t have gone much better. Minor amassed a 3-0 record to go along with a 3.91 ERA and 26 Ks in 23 IP. However, fatigue set in after that and he didn’t win another game in his final four starts.

He ended the year with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP, but he did manage to keep his strikeout rate high, ending the year with a K/9 of 9.52.

Despite his late season struggles, there is a lot to like about Minor in 2011. Keith Law, ESPN’s resident prospect guru, ranks him as the Braves fifth best prospect and the 61st best prospect in all of baseball. No need to worry about Minor’s prospect status though as he is expected to make the Braves opening day roster as the fifth starter.

There is a lot to like about Minor’s minor league numbers. In 134.1 innings, Minor struck out 163 batters, good for a 10.9 K/9. His control was also pretty good as his career minor league BB/9 is 3.1. Minor’s ability to strikeout opposing batters and limit his walks contributed to an impressive K/BB ratio of 3.54, a 3.15 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.

With Minor’s pedigree and impressive minor league numbers, you’d think he would have had a stronger start to his major league career. Well, he did pitch better than the numbers indicate.

His FIP was 3.77 and his .379 BABIP will assuredly come down next year. Also, his K/BB ratio with the Braves was an excellent 3.91. To put that in perspective, the average major league pitcher had a K/BB ratio of 2.17 last year.

Minor is someone to target late in your draft. He won’t be a workhorse and give you 200 innings, but he will be an excellent source of strikeouts with an above average ERA and WHIP.

Cue the, “his contributions won’t be minor” line.

2011 Fantasy Projection

12-11 | 3.95 ERA | 1.25 WHIP | 157 K | 160 IP | 8.83 K/9

For the original article check out Baseball Professor.

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Fantasy Baseball Debate: Ubaldo Jimenez Vs. Clayton Kershaw

Bryan: 15-1. 4-7. Those are Ubaldo Jimenez‘s first- and second-half records last season. He went from unbelievable to unbelievably pedestrian, so which Jimenez is the real Jimenez? Any time you ask that question, the real answer is, “Somewhere in the middle, of course!” and the same holds true here.

Chris: Clayton Kershaw turned in a marvelous pitching performance in 2010. He made 32 starts and compiled a 2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP to go along with 212 Ks. At 23 years old he’s primed to enter fantasy’s elite.

Bryan: Let me clarify something: When I said the real Jimenez is somewhere in the middle, I neglected to mention that means something along the lines of 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 214 Ks…a line he actually amassed last season despite that second half slump…a line better than Kershaw’s in every way.

Chris: I hope you’re not reading too much into Jimenez’s numbers being better than Kershaw in every way. An ERA difference of .03, a WHIP difference of .03 and two extra strikeouts seems more like a wash to me. You mention a tale of two seasons for Jimenez. I’m sure his head-to-head owners appreciated that. I bet they wish they had Kershaw’s consistency all year instead.

Bryan: Hey, Chris. Better is better. I’ll have my roto boys back me up. Don’t be gettin’ all defensive, homes.

Chris: You’re right. Better is better. Kershaw’s BB/9 ratio of 3.57 was better than Jimenez’s 3.74. Also, Kershaw’s K/9 ratio of 9.34 was quite a bit better than Jimenez’s rate of 8.69. And isn’t the point of debating to defend your position? As Marshall Eriksen says, “Lawyered!”

Bryan: Kershaw had the better strikeout and walk rates fo’ sho, but Jimenez wins opponents average (.208 to .217) and the all-important ground ball battle (48.8 percent to 40.1 percent). And you know what else is nice? Jimenez has thrown 218 and 221.2 innings in the last two seasons, respectively.

Chris: You seem to be neglecting the point that Kershaw is trending upward while Jimenez is trending downward. From 2009 to 2010 Kershaw lowered his walk rate from 4.79 to 3.57 and increased his ground-ball rate from 39.4 percent to 40.1 percent. On the other hand, Jimenez’s walk rate rose from 3.51 in ’09 to 3.74 in ’10, and his ground-ball rate declined from 52.5 percent to 48.8 percent.

And don’t forget that Kershaw pitched over 200 innings last year, as the Dodgers have methodically built up his endurance over the past three years.

Bryan: I hardly think you could call Jimenez’s increase in walks and decrease in ground balls a trend. His GB percentage was over 50 percent in the prior two seasons, so 48 percent is still in that same neighborhood, and the 3.74 BB/9 is lower than the 4.06 and 4.67 rates he had in ’07 and ’08. He’s not trending down as much as he’s remaining elite in his ground balls while still maintaining the same control he had during his pre-breakout ’09 season.

Chris: Even if you don’t think it’s a trend, there’s no denying that Kershaw has been improving every year (and by the way, he doesn’t have to pitch half his games at Coors Field). He is one of the best young pitchers in the game who delivers a low ERA and WHIP and strikes out over 200 batters. He was almost a top 10 starting pitcher last year, and with another year of experience, he will hurdle over Jimenez and become a fantasy ace.

For the original article, check out Baseball Professor.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Profile: Carlos Santana Is Smooth

It’s easy to forget the immediate impact Carlos Santana had after being called up by the Cleveland Indians in mid-June. Before Santana’s season was cut short on August 2nd by a knee injury, he managed to compile a .260 batting average with 23 R, 6 HR, 22 RBIs and 3 SB. If not for the season-ending injury he certainly would have the same hype surrounding him as Buster Posey, Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton.

Even though the 46 games Santana played in last year represent a small sample size, there are many underlying statistics that bode well for his future success. The one stat that jumps off the page is Santana’s walk rate. He walked 37 times last year, or 19.3 percent of the time. That is almost unheard of for a first-year player and shows that Santana already has a keen eye for the strike zone. The high walk rate shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise since Santana’s walk rate was 16.8% percent in AA and 18.3 percent in AAA.

More evidence supporting Santana’s plate discipline is his O-Swing percent. Last year ,he only swung at 22.4 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. Compare his O-Swing percent to the league average of 29.3 percent and you can see that Santana is already well ahead of the curve in that aspect of the game.

It’s no secret that Santana has a lot of power potential. In 189 career games between AA and AAA, Santana clubbed 37 home runs. That power translated well to the majors last year as his isolated power (ISO) was .207 better than Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Brian McCann and Posey. If he continues avoiding pitches outside the zone, Santana will have more pitches to drive through the strike zone which could result in big power numbers.

You may be thinking that yes his power is great but that .260 batting average gives me visions of Mike Napoli. Well, fear not because Santana should hit for a high average. In AA and AAA he managed to bat .290 and .316, respectively. Also, Santana was a bit unlucky last year in the majors. His somewhat low average was the result of a low BABIP of .277. Since his line drive percentage (LD percent) was a healthy 21.1 percent, I think it’s safe to predict that next year Santana’s BABIP, and consequently his batting average, will rise.

2011 Fantasy Outlook

Santana’s rehab is on schedule and he should be fine for Opening Day. He is penciled in as the everyday catcher and most likely will hit in the middle of the Indians lineup surrounded by Grady Sizemore and the always underrated Shin-Soo Choo. At 24 years old, Santana has already shown great plate discipline and has as much power potential as anyone at the catcher position. Instead of drafting Brian McCann in the early rounds, wait a couple more rounds for Carlos Santana.

Fearless Forecast

.285 | 75 R | 24 HR | 88 RBI | 5 SB

For the original article check out Baseball Professor.

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MLB Fantasy Baseball 2011: Will a Star-lin Castro Be Born?

Starlin Castro had a tremendous rookie season in 2010. While most 20-year-olds would be manhandled by big league pitching, Castro showed the poise of a season veteran. In just over 500 at-bats, he hit .300 with 53 R, 4 HR, 41 RBI and 10 SB.

With a year of big league experience under his belt can we expect Castro to make the leap into the upper echelon of fantasy shortstops?

I doubt it.

While I’m usually one to target young players who have had some early success in hope that they reach fantasy stardom, Castro is not someone I expect to make the leap.

The main reason being that Castro doesn’t possess an elite skill set in multiple fantasy categories. He is not someone who projects to have power. In 329 career games split between the minor and major leagues, Castro has 10 career home runs. That averages out to roughly five home runs per 162-game season.

In 2010, Castro hit mostly ground balls as his GB% was 51.3 percent. He also had a minuscule HR/FB rate of 2.6 percent. As you can see, Castro has not shown any signs that power is on the way.

The lack of power wouldn’t be an obstacle to becoming a top fantasy shortstop if Castro possessed elite base stealing ability. However, he has only showed some base stealing prowess. In Castro’s three seasons in professional ball, his highest stolen base total was 28. That’s good, but not great. And remember, he only stole 10 bases at the major league level last year.

What you will get from Castro is the ability to hit for a high average. He hit well consistently in the minor leagues and his .300 batting average last year is supported by a good LD% and a sustainable BABIP.

Castro should also score a lot more runs in 2011. He should bat near the top of the Cubs lineup for the entire year and will have the newly acquired Carlos Pena hitting in the middle of the lineup. And if his walk rate improves, which it should as he matures, he could be in line for 80-plus runs.

2011 Fantasy Outlook

Castro is yet another example of a player who is much better in real life than he is in fantasy. If fielding were taken into account in fantasy then Castro would assuredly be one of the top shortstops but unfortunately that is not the case. What we have is a solid all-around shortstop that will score some runs and have a high batting average.

However, his base stealing ability won’t be great and his HR and RBI potential are poor, thus making it unlikely that Castro will make the leap to fantasy stardom in 2011.

Fearless Forecast

.308 BA | 78 R | 6 HR | 58 RBI | 18 SB

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Adrian Gonzalez: Don’t Be Surprised If He Struggles Out Of the Gate

I would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think Adrian Gonzalez landed in the perfect place for the 2011 season.  He moves out of spacious PETCO Park to the friendly confines of Fenway, a ballpark perfectly suited to his inside-out swing.

He also will hit in the middle of a stacked lineup, surrounded by Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. He’s a lock to hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 runs, right?


I’m not as bullish as most people are on Gonzalez and I expect him to struggle a little bit out of the gate. Hitters typically struggle when they switch leagues, needing to adapt to a whole new set of pitchers. Being in the National League for five seasons meant that Gonzalez rarely faced a pitcher he hadn’t faced before.

He was familiar with pitchers’ tendencies and had a good idea of what a pitcher would throw him in a certain situation. In the American League, Gonzalez no longer has that advantage. Sure, he’ll have scouting reports on AL pitchers,  but he won’t have as in-depth a knowledge on them as he did for NL pitchers. It will be take time for him to get a feel as to how they are going to pitch to him.

A great comparison to Gonzalez’s situation is Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera was traded from the Florida Marlins to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2008 season. Cabrera was moving from a weak lineup to a much stronger one much like Gonzalez and everyone assumed his numbers would improve drastically.

However, that was not the case. It took Cabrera some time to adapt to AL pitching. Entering July of 2008, roughly halfway through the season, Cabrera was batting only .280 with 11 home runs and 48 runs batted in.

Certainly more was expected from him. He finally delivered, batting .304 the rest of the way with 26 home runs and 79 runs batted in. Gonzalez’s owners should take note.

What leads me further to believe that Gonzalez will struggle initially is that he’s coming off of right shoulder surgery in October. Although he’s expected to recover fully from the surgery, he still won’t be able to swing a bat until Spring Training.

I give these warnings not because I think Gonzalez will have a bad year, but because I don’t think he’ll put up monster numbers right away. Don’t be surprised if it takes him awhile to get locked in but know that his early season struggles won’t last long.

Fearless Forecast

.307 BA | 108 R | 34 HR | 112 RBI | 1 SB

For the original article check out Baseball Professor.

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Bullpen Coach: Top 50 Relief Pitcher Rankings

For the original article check out Baseball Professor .

Fantasy owners got some good news on Friday. Cleveland Indians closer Kerry Wood has been activated from the 15-day disabled list. Prior to the activation Wood made two polar opposite appearances for Double-A Akron. In the first game, Wood let up six runs in two-thirds of an inning. However, in his second and final appearance he pitched a scoreless inning. More importantly, Wood said he feels fine.  Look for him to regain the closers job almost immediately from Chris Perez who did not impress as Wood’s replacement.

In other injury related news, Brad Lidge appears poised to regain the closers role. After a poor first appearance after being activated from the DL, Lidge has thrown two consecutive scoreless innings. Lidge also claims that he is fully healthy and that he feels his slider is better this year. Look for him to get the next save opportunity with Jose Contreras sliding over to the set-up role. 


Matt Capps, Washington Nationals

We’re more than a month into the season and Capps is still leading the league with 11 saves. He has yet to blow a save and his ERA of 1.10 is less that half of his weight. Capps is also sporting the highest K rate of his career. However, he is also posting the highest walk rate of his career. If you could sell Capps as a top 10 closer I would certainly pull the trigger. Yes Washington is winning games but Tyler Clippard is pitching even better behind Capps. Also the Nationals second first round pick from last year, closer Drew Storen , looms in the minors and should be up not too long after Stephen Strasburg .

Kevin Gregg, Toronto Blue Jays

Like Capps, Gregg has yet to blow a save. He has eight on the season and his ERA and WHIP are both under one. He’s also enjoying a K/9 of 11.57, easily the highest of his career. But much like Capps, Gregg is an obvious sell high candidate. He always does well in the closer role initially, i.e. in Florida and in Chicago, but ends up losing the job. Not surprisingly, Gregg has a lower career ERA in April and May than in any other months. Add in the fact that Toronto has two other relief pitchers with closing experience (Jason Frasor and Scott Downs ) and I don’t expect Gregg to continue surging.

Alfredo Simon, Baltimore Orioles

What to make of Alfredo Simon. Baltimore’s current closer is three for three in save opportunities and has yet to allow a run on the season. However, he’s only pitched five innings and has already walked four batters. I have Simon in this space because he is currently saving games but I don’t expect him to hang onto this role for long. He once saved 19 games in the minors, but his ERA that year was 5.03. Having been in the minors for parts of nine seasons, Simon’s career minor league ERA is 4.44. With Michael Gonzalez roughly three to four weeks away from returning and Koji Uehara back from injury and a threat to close, Simon has a very short leash.


Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee Brewers

Hoffman has as many blown saves, four, as he has saves. His ERA of 11.70 is even higher than his age. If not for being one of the best closers of all-time, Hoffman probably would have lost his job already. But luckily for him, manager Ken Macha appreciates the veterans on his team, i.e. playing Craig Counsell over Alcides Escobar . Milwaukee does have other closing options in Carlos Villanueva and Todd Coffey but Hoffman is more likely to go on DL than be supplanted as closer. Hoffman is still going to accumulate saves for your team, but at what cost?

Octavio Dotel, Pittsburgh Pirates

Dotel’s ERA and WHIP stand at 8.74 and 1.85 and opposing batters are hitting .313 against him. If you somehow felt comfortable with Dotel as your closer at the beginning of the season, there is no way you can have that same feeling now. With another rough outing, Dotel could be in danger of losing his job. The guy I would grab now is Evan Meek . Meek recorded a save on April 29, and his ERA now sits at 0.53 with 17 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Franklin Morales, Colorado Rockies

After losing the temporary closing job, Morales falls out of my top 50 rankings. Manager Jim Tracy recently confirmed that Morales will be replaced by Manuel Corpas as the Rockies’ fill-in closer until Huston Street returns. Morales did more harm than good so now you don’t have to feel bad about cutting him. Keep an eye on him in the future however, as his value will likely reside as a starting pitcher. Remember, he was once a top prospect of the Rockies.

On the Mend

Huston Street, Colorado Rockies

Street is expected to pitch in an extending spring camp game on May 7th. According to Jim Tracy, Street would then be sent on a Minor League assignment if he does not have a setback. Expect him to be activated in mid to late-May.

Michael Gonzalez, Baltimore Orioles

Gonzalez is steadily rehabbing and just recently began throwing from 60 feet on flat ground. As of right now, surgery is not needed for Gonzalez and he aims to be back by early June.

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What Can We Expect From Mike Stanton in 2010?

Maybe you’ve started to hear the buzz surrounding Mike Stanton . In 23 games for the Marlins Double-A affiliate, the outfield prospect is hitting .354 with 12 home runs, a .505 OBP and an .866 SLG. Sounds like the Double-A equivalent to Barry Bonds if you ask me.

Stanton was ranked as baseball’s third best prospect by Baseball America , behind only Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg . If not for those once-in-a-decade type talents, Stanton would have easily been ranked first.

Stanton’s power is off the charts. Actually, it’s at the very top of the chart. Scouts universally have Stanton’s power rated as an 80, the highest possible grade on the standard 20-80 scale. That seems more than reasonable to me considering that he hit 39 home runs in 125 games as an 18-year old in Single-A.

The one criticism for Stanton is that he strikes out too much. Last year in Double-A he struck out 99 times in 79 games as a 19-year-old. But at a mere 20 years old, Stanton seems to be improving his plate discipline. Although he has been striking out a lot, he has more walks than strikeouts (25 to 24). He also has five intentional walks, which is unheard of for a minor leaguer at this stage of the season. To say that opposing pitchers are fearful of him is an understatement.

It’s clear that Stanton is a more than an adequate “consolation” prize for those of you that missed out on Heyward, but when can you expect him to get called up?

In an ideal world the Marlins would want to wait until at least early June to call up Stanton so they can have him under control for another year, but they may not be able to wait that long. Florida’s outfield is slumping badly this year. Chris Coghlan , Cameron Maybin , and Cody Ross are batting .188, .247 and .264, respectively, with a combined two home runs. That’s right, Mike Stanton has six times more home runs than the Marlins’ starting outfield has combined.

The Marlins currently sit 1.5 games back in the National League East and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this year. If their outfield continues to struggle, they will have no choice but to call up Stanton.

There were also preseason rumblings that Florida was trying to trade Dan Uggla or Ross, presumably to make room for Stanton (Coghlan would move to second if Uggla is traded). Stanton’s play may force them to resume these talks.

While there’s a chance that the Marlins will have Stanton promoted to Triple-A before the big league club, I find that scenario highly unlikely. Florida has a history of having prospects make the jump from Double-A to the majors, most notably Miguel Cabrera , Hanley Ramirez , Dontrelle Willis , and Uggla.

If anyone in the minors has the chance to make a Ryan Braun /Evan Longoria- type impact as a rookie, it’s Mike Stanton. Ultimately, I think we will see him in a Florida Marlins uniform within the next couple of weeks. While I won’t predict Braun or Longoria numbers, I could see him batting .275 with 20-25 home runs and 70-75 RBI.

In a keeper league or a deep league, Stanton is someone you want to go all in on if he hasn’t been scooped up already. In shallow, yearly leagues, you may want to temper your expectations a bit. Don’t cut a Hunter Pence for him, but if he’s someone you want, now is the time to pick him up.

I will leave you with this quote from Larry Beinfest, the Marlins’ baseball operations president: “If he keeps going like he’s going, he’s gonna create opportunity for himself.”

For the original article check out Baseball Professor .

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