Can A.J. Pollock Be A Big Fish?

At the core of every strategic approach to constructing a winning fantasy baseball roster is the goal of acquiring the most statistical value possible. Fishing to acquire undervalued assets who are poised for a breakout campaign is an essential off-season exercise for all dynasty owners. One of the top targets this off-season, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, isn’t the biggest fish in the fantasy ocean, but he may be one of the most valuable this upcoming season.

Pollock is one of the most underrated players in fantasy baseball right now because he was barely on the field last season due to a freak injury and very few fantasy owners realized how well he was playing. The 26-year old was on the verge of a monster breakout, hitting .316/.366/.554 with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances, before he was drilled by a Johnny Cueto 92-mph fastball that fractured his right hand in late May. The injury required surgery and he ended up missing 79 games before returning in September.

The Notre Dame product hit only .273/.326/.386 with one home run and six stolen bases in September after missing three months of action, but still finished the 2014 season with solid numbers overall: .302/.353/.498 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases in 287 plate appearances. Pollock’s 134 wRC+ ranked 35th out of 349 hitters who received 200 plate appearances last season. Heading into 2015, the big question remaining for fantasy owners is: what does a full season of Pollock look like? In short, the projection is very enticing.

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Yordano Ventura: Buy or Sell?

Fireballing Royals rookie Yordano Ventura was one of the main reasons Kansas City finished 2nd in their division, earned a Wild Card, won the Wild Card game (although he nearly blew that one), and won two playoff series versus the Angels and Orioles before eventually falling to the Giants in the World Series. Ventura finished the regular season with 14 wins, a 3.20 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP, 159 strikeouts and 69 walks in 183 innings. He added another 25.1 innings of that same 3.20 ERA in the post-season to cap off an excellent rookie year. His owners in dynasty leagues are thrilled not only with his 2014 production but also with his high trade value and the limitless possibilities for the youngster to become even better as he learns his craft and matures into a savvy veteran.

“Ace” Ventura is neither big nor tall, but he can really bring the heat with a fastball that averaged 98.3 mph on the season, which was the fastest of all starting pitchers in baseball this season and maybe ever. He reached 100 mph dozens of times. This is a bit worrisome because pitchers who throw that hard often carry a high risk of injury, especially slightly built pitchers like Ventura. Just how long can a 6’0″ 180 lb pitcher throw the ball that hard? Unfortunately not very long if history has anything to say about it. That makes Ventura a risky bet to own for the long term in dynasty leagues. Continue reading

Dallas Keuchel: Can We Trust Him in 2015?

In a year full of surprising breakout pitchers, Dallas Keuchel was perhaps the biggest surprise of all. After all, Keuchel had thrown 239 major league innings prior to 2014 and his results were dismal — 5.20 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and a 9-18 career record. Nobody and I mean nobody predicted the 26 year old’s rapid climb up the charts. In hindsight, perhaps we should have noticed that he wasn’t as bad as he seemed. There were some subtle signs that being an average major league pitcher was within the realm of possibility. He had been quite unlucky in terms of BABIP (.340) and strand rate (68%). His 3.58 xFIP and 3.68 SIERA showed that he was actually pretty decent in 2013 and should have been on the radar of deep league team owners. He nearly doubled his strikeout rate from 2012 to 2013. His groundball rate was climbing. His walk rate was dropping. But even if we had noticed all that we still would not have predicted stardom for the former 7th round pick. His fastball velocity of 89 mph is only average and there was nothing in his southpaw repertoire that screamed future star. Continue reading

Is Carlos Carrasco an Ace Now or Does He Still Suck?

27 year old Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco has a lengthy history of mediocrity, but after an awful start to the season he broke out in a big way in 2014. So how does a guy who started only 14 games end the season ranked as the 22nd best starting pitcher in 5×5 roto leagues? He ended the season with a 2.55 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. He struck out a very impressive 140 batters in 134 innings while walking only 29.

Carrasco began the season in the Indians’ rotation, but was swiftly sent to the bullpen after getting drilled in each of his 4 starts. Once in the bullpen he suddenly became a totally different pitcher. He was lights out for the rest of the season. After switching to the bullpen he began throwing solely from the stretch, even with the bases empty. He threw his fastball less and tripled his usage of his excellent slider and also increased the frequency of his nearly unhittable split-fingered changeup, which looks just like his fastball as he releases it but at the last moment dives down and to the right. Speaking of the fastball, Carrasco wields a true blazing fastball. His heater averaged 96.4 mph this season, which was the 6th fastest in baseball. His fastball is 3 mph faster now than it was prior to his 2012 Tommy John Surgery. Despite the great velocity Carrasco hasn’t gotten consistent results with the fastball. His out pitches are the slider and the changeup, both of which induce stellar whiff percentages. Continue reading

Danny Salazar is Still Sleeping

If you gave up on Danny Salazar it might be time to reconsider. He had a brutally bad start to the season but down the stretch he was just as good as he was during his breakout 2013 campaign. This might be your last chance to buy him at a discount.

Danny Salazar came out of nowhere late in the 2013 season, brandishing his blazing fastball to deadly effect. In 10 starts over 52 innings he struck out 65 batters while walking only 15. His 3.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP opened some eyes and suddenly the 23 year old rookie with the 97 mph heater was on the map as a popular sleeper pick heading into the 2014 season. Well… those predictions didn’t turn out too great. Salazar began this season by getting blown up at every opportunity. He put up a horrific 6.04 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in April and was well on his way to another terrible month in May when he got demoted to the minors after three more bad games. His mechanics were out of whack, his release point was too high and his velocity was down. It looked like his breakout 2013 was just a fluke. Continue reading

We Have a Winner! Team McKahn Claims the Dynasty Guru Experts’ League 2014 Championship – #TDGX

TDGX is the nation’s premier dynasty league. The Dynasty Guru Experts’ League pits some of the industry’s best fantasy baseball writers against each other in a high-profile competition. The league’s inaugural crown goes to Team McKahn, co-managed by Ian Kahn and Tim McLeod. Ian Kahn not only a fantasy baseball writer, he is also a well-known actor who currently portrays George Washington in AMC network’s hit show “Turn”. Tim McLeod writes for RotoRob and Patton & Co and shares his thoughts on the Prospect361 podcasts. You can also hear him on SiriusXM radio on Sunday mornings. In addition to his TDGX title, Tim also won the championship in this year’s Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The Canadian is clearly a fantasy baseball force to be reckoned with.

Ian and Tim didn’t just win the league, they absolutely thrashed the league. They won by 20.5 points over the 2nd place team. Dominating this league by that margin is pretty darn impressive when you consider the caliber of the competition. Every team in this league is owned by a respected fantasy baseball expert. Nearly every major fantasy baseball website is represented in this league. Defeating this formidable lineup is certainly an accomplishment to be proud of. Congratulations Ian and Tim for a very impressive season!

As you know by now, all of the writers here at TDG have been playing in an epic 20-team dynasty league with fantasy baseball writers from all over the Internet. Matching wits with some of the best players in the country has proven to be quite a challenge and a ton of fun — exactly the way a fantasy league should be. Below you will find the complete final standings as well as plenty of enlightening comments from the team owners themselves. Continue reading

Ace Smackdown: Jon Lester vs Madison Bumgarner

Two of the best pitchers in baseball square off in this week’s Smackdown. Lester has had a tremendous bounce-back season to regain his former slot in the pantheon of elite pitchers. Bumgarner kept right on doing what he has done ever since he hit the big leagues — mow down hitters with ruthless efficiency. This Smackdown will determine which one of them had the better season and which one is the better pitcher to own for the future.

Both contestants are southpaws pitching a few miles apart in the Bay Area. Both are big and almost the same height and weight (6’5″, 235 for Bumgarner, 6’4″, 240 for Lester), but despite their size they deliver only average velocity. Bumgarner is 5.5 years younger than Lester. Both have been true workhorses ever since coming to the major leagues, averaging more than 200 innings per year. Bumgarner has yet to have a disappointing year in his stellar career. Lester on the other hand stumbled for a couple years. Lester was excellent his first 4 full seasons from 2008 through 2011, but then he took a big step backwards in 2012 before partially recovering last year in 2013. This year he has been as good as ever.

Traditonal Fantasy Stats Lester Bumgarner Major League Average
Record 16 – 11 18 – 10 0.500
Strikeouts 220 219
ERA 2.46 2.98 3.75
WHIP 1.10 1.09 1.28
Innings Pitched 219.2 217.1

First let’s take a look at the traditional 5×5 fantasy stat categories to see if we can declare an early leader in the contest. Continue reading