Coming into the 2013 season, there was a generally accepted belief that the new class of young superstars in this league began and ended with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. It’s not that there wasn’t a next tier, it’s that the gap was well established — even when you dropped to also-studs like Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward and Starlin Castro. It’s the difference between the usual level of greatness that we see, and the greatness only exuded by the generational talents who have the skills to change the conversation. But as it turns out, there may be room for a third wheel in that class.
Manny Machado was, in some ways, a victim of his own success in fantasy circles. It’s no secret that he was consistently challenged by the Orioles with his assignments, tackling Low-A at age 18 and Double-A at age 19. So, simply by holding his own at the levels he was assigned to was a strong statement about his talent — and those gaudy minor league numbers, like the ones many of the “household name” prospects put up, never came. But that didn’t deter the Orioles from seeing what he was capable of, as he was promoted to the major leagues just one month after his 20th birthday, and all he did was post a 98 OPS+ in the middle of a playoff race. Not to mention that he was playing great defense at a position he only played two games at during his entire minor league career.
Nolan Arenado was overhyped headed into the 2012 season.
The then-20 year old was coming off a year where he hit .298/.349/.487 in High-A, mashing 20 homers and an eye-popping 122 RBI, and finishing with a wRC+ of 108. Rumors began to surface that he’d break camp with the MLB team, eschewing the upper minors all together, and some had him pegged as a future cornerstone of the Rockies offense.
Baseball America ranked him as the No. 42 prospect in the game before 2012. Baseball Prospectus ranked him aggressively at No. 20. Keith Law wasn’t far behind at No. 26, while John Sickles sat poised as the most optimistic, ranking Arenado as high as No. 13 overall.
As we know now, Arenado did not live up to the unreasonable expectations heaped upon him by Interweb analysts. Not only did he fail to make the big league club out of spring training, but he failed to make it at any point during the 2012 season. We heard rumors of character issues and a lack of maturity. And after what many perceived to be a lackluster 2012 campaign, Arenado plummeted down Top 100 lists this season.
That would all be well and good, except for one pretty basic observation: Arenado’s 2012 season was good. In fact, by advanced metrics it was a little better than his celebrated 2011 campaign. Continue reading
As though forecasting how a large collection of minor leaguers will translate their skills into Fantasy production is not difficult enough, we must deal with the fickle mistress known as “injury” as well. The past week provided a solemn reminder of the powers of such influence, as three Top 150 prospects received news ranging from “that’s not good,” to “damn, that’s really not good” to “oh crap, that’s terrible.”
How should such players be valued by the Fantasy community now, both in 2013 and the years ahead? Such are the questions I have taken upon myself to answer.
And before we begin – no I am not a doctor. Any medical observations I dive into below are just those – observations. Comments pointing this out would be, at best, redundant. Don’t be that guy, guy.
Travis d’Arnaud (C, NYM)
Ok, so when is it ok to label d’Arnaud as injury prone? Yes, I’m aware that none of his injuries are chronic. In 2010, he missed time with bulging discs. In 2012, he tore his PCL. Now he’s fractured his left foot after following a ball off of said limb in a game early last week.
Here is a list of total games d’Arnaud has played in every season since he hit A-ball: 64, 126, 71, 114, 67. Yes, catchers typically play in fewer games than do their offensive counterparts at other positions, but this is still not a good sign. D’Arnaud has averaged just 80.5 games played per season throughout his minor league career. Continue reading
Now I know I’m not alone in this thought. I know Bret’s told you all before. Excuse me then, because I feel the need to repeat both myself and others on this topic, in the wake of some pure insanity. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (I’ll start dropping the “, Jr.” for ease of use at this point) is an exciting and entertaining prospect. He’s even got a great smile! But we all have to slow our collective rolls on him in the fantasy community. Yes, his debut was impressive. No, the Red Sox will not win every game.
It’s important to note that anything to do with his major league outings thus far constitute the smallest of small samples. Even so, was it good to see that he walked three times in one game? Absolutely. Will pitches adjust and start attacking him? Absolutely. His three walks in one game support his .500 OBP, but conversely, he does only have one hit in 6 at-bats. In the end, all of this is meaningless. 10 plate appearances don’t tell us much one way or the other.
I know I shouldn’t. I really do. I have an analytical mind. I’m aware of what a small sample is. I know what Spring Training statistics are good for. There are a thousand things that I know which all should prevent me from joining the growing ranks of Puig-A-Mania, but my gut doth protest too much. Every time I see him destroy another ball, the synapses in my brain which control the most primal of urges start firing off like an Mcycle with a laser gun on a defenseless cyborg.
Of all players in professional baseball, I’ve gotten the most questions about Puig this spring, and for good reason. He clocked in at #62 on my Top 150 prospect list from mid-January, and he was my #74 outfielder, a couple of weeks later. Here was my blurb on him:
“Ranking a Cuban defector who’s only amassed 82 professional at-bats is really just guesswork, so I’m not going to pretend that this is much more than that. And he’s different from Cespedes or Chapman because he never played for the top Cuban national team (which more scouts have access to). However, rumors that he was out of shape quickly dissipated when he showed up in Arizona this summer. Puig’s game is strength first and everything else later. He could be a big-time power hitting OF, or he could not make enough contact for it to matter.”
It seemed more and more likely as Spring Training went on, but it’s now being reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Reds will announce that Aroldis Chapman will serve as their closer in 2013. And with a second straight season of this, it’s more likely than ever than Chapman will never make a major league start for the Reds. Dusty Baker wants Chapman to close, and Chapman wants Chapman to close, so it looks like we have as much clarity on his role going forward than we have at any point in his career. Assuming this is all true (the team has still not officially given word on this).
Back in November, I wrote this post about Chapman and how to value him going forward. But now, we can look at this his value with more certainty. In 2012, he was worth approximately $27 in 2012, putting up one of the most dominant closer season we’ve seen in recent memory. And the great thing for his fantasy owners is that he’s fully capable of doing this again. He and Craig Kimbrel become the dominant closer options, who should be valued as top-75 overall players for this current season.
Here it is, the first trade of the 2012-2013 off-season. My goal is to try to post something like this for all trades of even mild significance (and same with free agent signings) as they happen. Now, this first deal may sound uninteresting, but there’s a lot of fantasy value shuffling going on for those in deep mixed and single-league formats. As you’ll notice a pattern of going forward, I’m going to break the players involved out into three groups: value up, value down and unchanged. Those categories are going to be on a general going-forward basis and is not solely focused on 2013. Seems pretty straight-forward, right? Right. So without any further ado, here’s the full trade:
Arizona receives Heath Bell, Cliff Pennington
Oakland receives Chris Young
Miami receives Yordy Cabrera
Meet your new Diamondbacks starting SS. Pennington has stolen 29 bases over the past two seasons after stealing 29 in 2010 alone, but his arrow is pointing back up again. The 15 SB he had in 2012 came along with a .278 OBP — meaning he had fewer opportunities than usual to steal. A reversal in his BABIP fortune (and a switch to the NL) should get him back up to a .320 OBP, and when combined with the change in park factors, should make him a sleeper for 10 HR and 20 SB in 2013.
Some days I know exactly what I want to write about and some days I don’t. Today was going to fit into the latter category until I saw these eight magical words come across my Twitter timeline:
“Dylan Bundy to be promoted from Double-A Bowie”
Read those words again. I can wait. Bundy will be joining the team today in Seattle as they recover from using 1,342 pitchers in their 18-inning game last night. As of right now, it is very likely that Bundy will only pitch sparingly out of the bullpen – but then again, this is the Orioles and they are deep in the playoff race. Would I be shocked to see them give him a start before the season ends? Absolutely not. Would I be shocked if they added him to their potential playoff roster? Again, absolutely not. I don’t think it will happen, but he may very well be the best starter they have on their major league roster as soon as he’s officially added. Just look at what Matt Moore did last year with the Rays.
This is not a test. My #1 dynasty league prospect in baseball, Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers, is getting called up to the majors today. You remember what happened the last time the player who was #1 on my list came up to the majors, right? This one is very different in the short-term, but Profar projects as a fantasy stalwart in the long-term. In fact, I’d be surprised if Profar got more than 30-40 at bats down the stretch — this is nothing new to the Rangers, who called up Leonys Martin last September only to give him 8 at bats. Despite the fact that he will be playing sparingly, Profar is a must-grab for all keeper/dynasty league owners.
When Profar signed with the Rangers back in 2009, he was already as known of a commodity in the United States as any 16-year old international signee in the last decade. This was because in 2004 and 2005, Profar led Curacao to the Little League World Series — including a 2004 championship. Still, he was not the top international prospect of his signing year, as he was seen by many to be more polish than upside. However, after he held his own in the Northwest League as a 17-year old (.250/..323/.370 with 4 HR, 8 SB and a 46/28 K-BB rate in 2010) and then much more than held his own in the Sally League as an 18-year old (.286/390/.493 with 12 HR, 23 SB and a 63/65 K-BB rate in 2011), Profar’s stock flew through the roof. He entered this season as my #5 dynasty league prospect behind four players who have since graduated to the majors (Trout/Harper/Moore/Montero), and he’s done nothing in 2012 to lose ground over those behind him.
One of the best athletes available in the 2008 draft, Casey Kelly was taken as the 30th pick overall by the Boston Red Sox. He fell further in the draft than he should have because he had a strong commitment to the University of Tennessee, where he had a scholarship to be a quarterback for the football team. The Red Sox drafted Kelly as a pitcher, but he publicly said he wanted to be a shortstop (some teams saw him as a 1st round talent as a SS as well). So what they did for the 2009 season was have Kelly pitch until he hit his innings limit and then play SS. Turns out, even Kelly agreed with the Red Sox’s assessment once the season was over — he had a 2.08 ERA and a 74-15 K/BB ratio in 95 IP before hitting .222/.302/.340 with 3 HR in 182 PA. After an aggressive assignment to Double-A at the start of 2010, Kelly struggled to put up numbers equivalent to his talent, even though scouting reports remained positive and he was young for the league.
In the winter of 2010, he was dealt to the San Diego Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, but 2011 yielded similar results to the previous year. Coming into the 2012 season, Kelly’s prospect shine was starting to wear off as scouts expected better than his middling results. However, 2012 saw a different Casey Kelly. Both his stuff and command were sharper in spring training, where he put up a 1.74 ERA with an 18-2 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 IP. He took this into Triple-A, where he had 14 K and 0 BB in 2 starts before going on the DL with inflammation in his right elbow. In July, Kelly picked up right where he left off. All in all, Kelly has struck out 57 batters and walked only 5 in 56 1/3 IP between spring training, Triple-A, the AZL and Double-A. Now, Monday, he is being summoned to make his major league debut against the Braves in San Diego. Let’s see what we can expect from Kelly.