The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Matt Wieters”

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, 2012: The Hitters

A few posts ago, I wrote about sleeper fantasy baseball pitchers you should keep in mind come Draft Day.  This post will focus on ten hitters that should also provide above average value relative to their expected Draft Day ranking.  I have listed them in no particular order.

1)  Ike Davis – First Baseman Ike Davis was enjoying a very productive first six weeks of the season for the Mets before a bone-bruise to his ankle shelved him for the year.  Six weeks are a small sample-size, but Davis was on his way to 28 homer, 100 RBI season with about a .290-.300 batting average when he went down.  While that pace may have been a bit more than he would have sustained over the course of an entire season, he was also hitting in a more pitcher-friendly park last year than he will be this year.

Considering that first basemen Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt will probably be drafted a bit higher than Davis, you should be able to get better or equal stats at a cheaper price / lower round.

Matt Wieters

Image via Wikipedia

2)  Matt Wieters –  A few years back, Wieters made the cover of Sports Illustrated as baseball’s next great catcher.  The conventional wisdom is that Wieters, the fifth overall pick by the Orioles in the 2007 draft, has been something of a bust.

The conventional wisdom is wrong.  Catchers often take a bit longer than other position players to fully develop their craft, and besides, Wieters, a big kid at 6’5″, 225 pounds, won’t turn 26-years old ’till May.  Last year, he won his first Gold Glove and made his first All-Star team.  He slugged 50 extra base hits, including 22 homers, 68 RBI, and 72 runs scored.

Fifteen of those homers came in the second half of last season, so it is not out of the question that Wieters  could approach 25-30 homers, 80-90 RBI, and a .275 batting average.  Other catchers will be drafted higher, but Wieters should provide better overall value.

3)  Dexter Fowler –  Fowler, a fleet-footed Rockies outfielder, will, like Matt Wieters, turn 26-years old this season.  And like Wieters, his track-record to this point has been a bit underwhelming.

But again, like Wieters, there is reason to believe that Fowler’s best days are ahead of him.  Although he still strikes out a bit too often (130 last year), he did set career highs in doubles (35), triples (15), runs scored (84), and OPS (.796).  It has been reported that Fowler has been working out with Matt Kemp this past off-season, and has gained some muscle.

With the decline in offensive production throughout the Majors, Fowler doesn’t have to improve a lot more to become a serious force among MLB outfielders.  And with Coors Field as his home park, you should bet on further improvement.

Desmond Jennings

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4)  Desmond Jennings – Jennings, another young outfielder, has already made Rays fans forget about Carl Crawford.  In his first 63 games in the Majors, Jennings has already produced 64 hits, scored 44 runs, stolen 20 bases, and hit ten home runs.  Even with a slump in September, Jennings projects as a top 20-25 outfielder this year, with potentially a much higher ranking next year.  If you are in a keeper-league, Jennings is a must-own.

5)  Carlos Santana –  How much value does a catcher who hit just .239 last season have?  If that catcher is Carlos Santana, the answer is, quite a lot.

In his first full season last year, Santana drew 97 walks, slugged 27 homers, added 35 doubles and scored 84 runs.  Even with the low batting average, his OPS was a nice .808.  Look for significant improvement in that batting average as Santana vaults to the front ranks of the catcher position in this, his age-26 season.

You may never again have an opportunity to draft a .239-hitting catcher with this much obvious talent.

6)  Jose Tabata –  Things to like about Jose Tabata:  1) Because he plays for the Pirates, no one will even notice him.  2)  He is only 23-years old. 3) He has excellent speed and the ability to steal at least 30 bases this year.  4)  He hit .290 as a lead-off hitter last year.  5)  He could still develop moderate power.

Sometimes, players with Tabata’s skill-set just don’t quite pan out.  But sometimes, growth happens more quickly than people expect.  Use a late-round pick on this young player with upside while others waste their picks on old-timers on their way out like Bobby Abreu, Magglio Ordonez, or Vernon Wells.

7)  Michael Morse –  Morse is probably the best-hitting 1B / OF in the N.L. that few people outside of Washington, D.C. have ever heard of.  But Morse, already 30-years old, is one of those players who once given a chance, provides far more value than anyone expects.

Morse should, at the very least, with an improved Nationals team on the field, come close to equaling last years 31 homers, 95 RBI, .303 batting average.  He also posted an excellent OPS of .910.  Some fantasy owners in your league will be betting against Morse reaching that same level of production again this year.  Most magazines list Carl Crawford, for example, significantly higher than Morse going into 2012.  And that’s fine.  That’s how you land a very good player in a lower round while others draft a slightly better player (if they’re lucky) in a much higher round.

Brett Lawrie

Image via Wikipedia

8)  Brett Lawrie – Several fantasy baseball magazines already have Lawrie rated as the 10th-12th best overall third baseman in the Majors.  By this time next year, he will be rated in the top five at his position.  So don’t wait until next year to discover Lawrie.  Draft a top-five player at his position the year before everyone else realizes how good he is.  A 20-homer, 20-steal season with a .300 batting average and 90 runs scored is not out of the question for Lawrie in what will be his first full season.

Lawrie, still just 22-years old, will make many All-Star teams in years to come.

9)  Mike Trout – Many years ago, back in 1993, in my first season of fantasy league baseball, I drafted a rookie outfielder on the Angels named Tim Salmon.  Salmon went on to win A.L. Rookie of the Year honors, and the lesson I learned that year was never be afraid to gamble on solid young talent, if they are given the opportunity to play everyday.

The only caveat, then, I offer regarding Trout (an even more highly rated prospect now than Salmon was back then) is to keep in mind that as of this writing, the Angels outfield is a bit crowded.  If their manager is wise, however, he will put his best players on the field.  Trout is already better than either the remnants of Bobby Abreu or Vernon Wells.

If  20-year old Mike Trout gets to play everyday, he has the talent to hit 20+ homers, drive in some runs, and even steal some bases.  Watch the situation carefully in Spring Training, and draft accordingly.  Who knows, you may have the next Tim Salmon on your hands, and, unlike Salmon, Trout doesn’t even have the added burden of having to swim upstream.

10)  Lucas Duda – In about half a season’s worth of at bats last year, the Mets’ Lucas Duda hit 10 homers, 21 doubles, drove in 50 runs, hit at least .300 in each of the last three months, posted an impressive .370 on-base percentage, and slugged nearly .500.  Already 26-years old, he’s probably not a superstar in the making, but late bloomers are not unheard of, and Duda will benefit (as will all Mets) from the cozier dimensions at Citi Field in 2012.

Expecting a line of .290 / .365 / .490 with 20+ homers, 80-90 RBI, and 30-40 doubles over the course of a full season from a player who also qualifies at two positions (first base and outfield) makes Duda a nice later-round pick in your draft.

Baseball 2010: An Old-Timer’s Game

It has often been said that baseball is a young man’s game.

And truth be told, major league baseball is in a transition period now, with many of the game’s stars of the ’90’s and the early part of this century giving way to a whole new crop of young and talented players.

Over the past couple of years or so, we have witnessed the retirements (or the virtual retirements) of Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, NOMAR!, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, and Pedro Martinez, to name a few.

Meanwhile, other former stars, such as Ken Griffey, Jr., David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez are clearly close to the end of the line.

In their place we have seen an enormous influx of exciting new players who are still just 27-years old or younger.  This group represents the vanguard of a new, (hopefully) post-steroids generation.  This list includes several young players who will some day end up in the Hall of Fame.

Most of these names are already very familiar to you:  Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Prince Fielder, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Zimmerman, and David Wright.

Even younger players such as Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, and Ike Davis are also on the way, or have arrived within the past year.

Yet there is a group of graying players for whom Father Time seems to have given a free pass, at least as of this writing.  These players, all at least 36-years old  (which is like 65, in baseball years), show no signs of slowing down.

Actually, in some cases, they did show signs of slowing down, but appear to have caught a second wind.  Several of them are either obvious future Hall of Famers, or should, at the very least, merit some consideration regarding their Hall worthiness.

So here they are:

1)  Jorge Posada: Through tonight’s game against Baltimore, Jorge has produced some impressive numbers.  He is hitting .316 with five homers and 12 RBI, while slugging over .600.  At age 38, he keeps himself in excellent shape, and the Yankees are committed to giving him extra rest throughout the season.  For these reasons, I believe Posada will continue to produce at a high level throughout this season.

Posada has played in parts of 15 seasons, and, aside from a few World Series rings, he has put up some nice numbers in his career.  He has hit 248 career homers, driven in 976 runs, hit 346 doubles, has a career batting average of just under .280, with a .380 on base average.

He is 7th all-time on the Yankees career doubles list, ahead of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.  He is also 8th on the Yankees career home run list, just three behind Graig Nettles for 7th place.

Posada also has five Silver Sluggers to his credit, has played in five All-Star games (with a sixth all but assured this year), and he has finished in the top ten in MVP voting twice.

A serious argument could be made that Posada just might belong in the Hall of Fame.

For now, he will have to remain content hitting the stitching off of baseballs.

2)  Mariano Rivera: “Mo” has not allowed an earned run so far this season.  He is a perfect 6 for 6 in save opportunities.  His WHIP is 0.57.  He is now 40 years old, pitching just like he did back when he was 30.  An obvious Hall-of-Famer, there really isn’t any reason to spend time rehashing his career numbers.  The only question is, will his greatness ever end?

3)  Andy Pettitte: (No, I didn’t intend this to be Yankee night, but here we are.)

Believe it or not, he is off to the best start of his 16-year career.  Through his first four starts, he is 3-0, with 22 strikeouts in 28 innings.  His ERA is 1.29, and his WHIP is 1.07.  Clearly, the soon-to-be 38 year old Pettitte isn’t just hanging around waiting for the playoffs to begin.

That’s when he really excels.

Pettitte now has a career record of 232-135, a .632 win-loss percentage.  He has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young award voting five times.  And he has 18 career post-season victories.  At this point, his resume probably isn’t quite that of a Hall-of-Famer.  But if he continues to pitch this well for another 2-3 years, we’ll have to take another look.

4)  Jim Edmonds: Now playing for the Brewers, Edmonds was actually out of major league baseball last season.  But he earned his way onto the team this spring, and I’m sure the Brewers are happy he did.

So far this season, Edmonds (now approaching 40 years old), has hit better than .300, including a .340 batting average against right-handed pitching.  He has slugged almost .500, and he has scored 10 runs.  As part of a platoon, he gets most of the playing time, and he has made the most of it.

Edmonds would get my vote for the Hall of Fame as well.  His defense in center field alone would merit some consideration (eight Gold Gloves and several circus catches.)  But he also has 383 career home runs, 421 doubles, over 1200 runs scored, and nearly 1200 RBI’s.  Only a few center-fielders in history have combined his defensive prowess with his offensive statistics.

5)  Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez: Although recently side-lined with a back problem, when Pudge has played this season, he has been excellent.  In 56 at bats for the Washington Nationals, he is hitting a mere .410 with 23 hits, including 7 doubles and 10 runs scored.

Not bad for a 38-year old catcher who happens to be a life-time .300 hitter with over 300 home runs, 13 Gold Gloves, and 14 All-Star game appearances.  A first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, to be sure.

6)  Jamie Moyer: Pitching for the Phillies, the 47-year old (!) Moyer is off to a 2-1 start, with a respectable 1.278 WHIP.  He has fanned 11 in 18 innings.

Although Moyer now has 260 career wins, he is in the Tommy John-Jim Kaat class of pitchers.  That is to say, he has put together a fine career, but falls just short of belonging in The Hall.

7)  Ichiro Suzuki: Perhaps because of his physique and his unique style of play, it’s easy to forget that Ichiro, now at age 36, is not that young anymore.  But he is off to his usual start this season, hitting around .310 with six stolen bases and 13 runs scored.  Ichiro is in such great physical condition that, although he is slowing down a bit, he should remain a productive, above-average player for another couple of years.

Although I listed Ichiro as an overrated player in a prior blog-post, I still believe he will, and should be, elected to the Hall of Fame someday.

Each of these seven players not only continues to be highly productive, but they provide an invaluable link between the younger players, and all those who came before.  It’s how baseball’s greatness is continually perpetuated from one generation to the next.

If there are other worthy performers who you believe should be included on my list, please let me know.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

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