Ace Pitchers Shot Down in Flames, Time to Panic?

This young season we are seeing a lot of top pitchers get off to terrible starts. Its scary as Hell when your ace pitcher’s stat line is as bloody as a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey and Danny Salazar may be crushing your team’s championship hopes, but at least they are not on the overloaded conveyor belt into Dr. James Andrews’ operating room.

This week I will take a look at a set of really good starting pitchers who have gotten off to terrible starts here in 2014. All of these guys were drafted early and expected to perform much better than they have thus far. Who will bounce back and who really does suck? Let’s figure out which of these guys you should try to dump and which of them you should trade for while their owners in your league are panicking over their putrid April.

Homer Bailey — 0-1 record, 8.16 ERA, 2.02 WHIP (Yahoo Rank: #1323)

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Buy Or Sell: Brian Dozier & Melky Cabrera

It’s only the third hump day of the season, and I’ve already seen some ridiculous transactions, whether it’s in the form of adds, drops or trades. Paying $26 FAAB for Francisco Rodriguez? Really? Come on man.

Writing a “Buy or Sell” article this early is just asking for trouble, but I’m a glutton for punishment and my #TDGX team needs an intervention.

Buy: Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins

Looking at the top-five second basemen in 5X5 leagues through Wednesday (Dee Gordon, Chase Utley, Emilio Bonifacio, Neil Walker, Dozier), you may be wondering why you paid for a second baseman at all. On April 16, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia have yet to leave the park, while 5-foot-11, 160-pound Dee Gordon has already matched last year’s total with one—off 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (of course).

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TDGX Motto: “Relax. It’s a Long Season.”

Disaster struck my squad in Week One. I sat in 17th place out of 20 in the TDGX league, with some significant warning lights flashing already. My first round draft pick, Ryan Braun, can’t feel the thumb on his throwing hand. More importantly for our purposes, that thumb happens to be kind of important for swinging the bat, something Braun did not do well at all out of the gate. My elite speed guys didn’t steal a single base. One of my primary AVG/Runs guys, Omar Infante, took a fastball to the face and went down like Eddie Richardson taking a left hook from Mike Tyson. On the pitching side, my #1 starter gave up 8 runs in his debut start. My ostensible #6 starter, a late-game pick I was extremely proud of, mind you, lost out on a rotation spot to Lucas Harrell. Lucas Harrell. A guy who had a 5.86 ERA and 89:88 strikeout-to-walk ratio in over 150 innings last season. And there still exists no plausible scenario in which anybody on my roster will log even one save this season. Clearly it was time to sell, sell, SELL!

Or not. Deep breath, kids. It’s the second week of the season. A couple solid days in a row already boosted me back up to 11th as of this writing, and the larger takeaway is that it is way, way too early to consider drastic measures of any kind. Even if your team hasn’t gotten off to the banner start you envisioned when you cackled maniacally to yourself in the dark after your draft ended, it’s important to not overreact to small sample sizes. Still, it’s never too early to start evaluating your team’s performance, so that when the time comes you’ll be in the best position possible to make the most appropriate moves. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of the early storylines with my team in the context of early season strategy.

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Trader’s Corner: Mark Trumbo and Erasmo Ramirez Stop By

Last week I asked readers to send in their pending and completed trades for this weekly series. I was overwhelmed with the response I got as my inbox was full within 24 hours. So while I originally thought I’d be posting the second part of the “trade personality study“, I’m going to save that for a rainy day and get right into it this week with your trades. For each trade, I’ll provide the league format, some relevant roster info, and my own two cents. I’d encourage you to vote as the more votes we receive, the better informed the person asking for help will feel. This is a good time to tell you these are actual trades in real leagues, and my goal is for all of us to discuss and learn from them, so feel free to comment to explain your vote or provide your take. Also, keep sending your pending and completed trades to traderscornertdg@gmail.com and I will get them in one of the upcoming posts.

TDGX Update:

Bret went over several of the TDGX transactions on Tuesday, so this will be repetitive for some of the regular readers, but here are the most recent trades made in the Dynasty Guru Experts’ League (20 teams, 40-man rosters):

Erasmo Ramirez, SP for Rob Kaminsky, SP

Andrew Cashner, SP for 2015 1st Round and 2015 3rd Round Draft Pick

Travis Wood, SP for 2015 2nd Round and 2015 5th Round Draft Pick

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF,  Julio Urias, SP and Addison Reed, RP for Oscar Taveras, OF and Matt Barnes, SP

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Digging For Diamonds: Four To Watch

I’m taking a break from #TDGX this week to briefly discuss four minor-leagues names I’m particularly higher on than the majority — I see each of these players making significant strides and rising on prospect lists next winter. The first is a third baseman who is buried but not out, the second and third are Hunters, and the fourth is a Cubs pitcher not named C.J. Edwards. (Yes, they have those too.)

Christian Villanueva, 3B, Cubs

Since letting Aramis Ramirez walk via free agency, the Cubs have employed Josh Vitters, Ian Stewart, Cody Ransom and Donnie Murphy, with Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt splitting time in the present. Cubs’ fans are praying that Olt is the short-term answer and 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant is the long-term plan, but lost in the prospect shuffle is Villanueva, 22, a 2008 international free agent (Rangers) from Mexico who the Cubs acquired for Ryan Dempster (*chuckles*)  in 2012. Bryant’s bat is potentially elite, but it’s Villanueva who owns the organization’s best glove. Not to be outshined by his teammates, the third baseman hit .261/.317/.469 last year, including 62 extra-base hits (19 home runs) across 155 games in Double-A. He’ll never likely hit for a high average, but his above-average power should play at the major-league level, in conjunction with his stellar handy work at third. He’s currently manning the hot corner in Triple-A, but we could see Villanueva at the next level by the end of 2014 — possibly before Bryant arrives. If Bryant can’t handle third and is forced to either corner outfield, Villanueva, not Bryant, could the Cubs next third baseman.

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The #TDGX Transaction Report: An Elite Prospect Changes Hands

You’ve been following TDGX. You love TDGX. We all love TDGX.  And every week here at The Dynasty Guru, I am going to be bringing you commentary from our flagship experts’ league, directly from the participants themselves. Today we’re going to cover all of the transactions made post-draft, including a few trades–one involving an elite prospect and another involving a potential high-end starting pitcher.

The goal here is to give you insight into the moves made by our group of experts so that you can use this information the next time you need to make a trade or prominent FA move in your league. So let’s not mess around with too much longer of an introduction. We’re going to break this up into three sections: trades, major league additions, minor league additions.

TRADES

3/22/14: Mike Buttil trades Andrew Cashner to Ian Kahn/Tim McLeod for a 2015 1st round pick and 2015 3rd round pick

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Team Doran Fires a Blazing Fastball at the #TDGX Draft, Part 2

This is going to be an exciting baseball season as a participant in The Dynasty Guru Experts League (#TDGX), which as you know by now is an awesome new league filled with industry experts from all the best baseball sites on the Internet. In my first column about this league I discussed my strategy for the draft and how the league structure made a major impact on my draft plan. In this column we will do the fun part and discuss all my picks and why I made them. So read Part 1 first and then these picks will make more sense.

The Invisible Hand of Drafting Doom

One thing I didn’t mention in Part 1 was Bret’s unique “Invisible Hand” draft slot bidding system. Teams were allowed to bid keeper slots for the right to “buy” a particular draft slot. So for example if you wanted to bid on the #1 draft slot to snag Mike Trout you could bid X number of keeper slots. If you won the bid you would have to drop that X number of extra players next Spring. So if you bid 10 keepers you would only be able to keep 25 players next Spring instead of the standard 35 keepers. I decided not to bid on any slots because I felt my team would be pretty solid and I didn’t want to have to drop any extra players. I like the idea of getting to grab some of those extra players that other teams will have to drop in next year’s draft.

I am glad I didn’t bid, but it wouldn’t have mattered because I would not have won any of the bids. The #1 slot sold for 15 keepers! I wouldn’t have bid more than 5. Even the 2nd through 5th slots cost between 6 and 15 keepers. Way too expensive for my tastes. All told there were 61 keepers spent on draft slots. That will be three full draft rounds worth of extra players available next year for me to choose from. I like it!

Since I didn’t place any bids, I randomly ended up with the 12th draft slot in the 20 team league and I was quite happy with that. I prefer to be in the middle of a snake draft rather than on either end. Being on the end creates the tendency to reach for a coveted player knowing he has no chance of coming back to you on your next pick. My goal was to follow my 4 Phase Plan while digging for maximum value and youth. Read on and let me know how well I succeeded (or failed).

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Digging for Diamonds: Back-End Rotation Options

One of the most important adjustments you can make over the course of the season involves taking advantage of favorable streaming options and waiver wire starters to maximize your return on pitching investment. This is obviously easier said than done when you play in a deep dynasty league, where the waiver wire is a ghost town of has-been’s, never-will-be’s, and probably Bronson Arroyo at some point. Finding cheap arms is a difference-making pursuit, though, and to that end let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who check in with an ADP north of 300 – meaning they’re outside the top 80 and likely undrafted in most standard 12-team leagues. In deeper dynasty leagues, these are guys that won’t cost a lot to acquire and may just make for solid targets in low-impact trades or as throw-in components to larger deals. Let’s go under the hood and see how much hidden value there may be in the largely scorned arms these guys make their livings with.

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Wilson’s Eleven Bold Predictions

Let’s just cut right to the chase here, because I’m jonesing to unleash these lil’ jewels on the world.

1. LaTroy Hawkins will lead the Rockies in Saves

Yesssss. We’re starting with a bang, baby. Rex Brothers spent the entire offseason as the sexy pick to take over for the anointed Hawkins as soon as LaTroy allows his first baserunner this season. But as long as the arbitration process blindly rewards saves over quality relief pitching the Rockies will have a fairly powerful financial incentive to keep Sexy Rexy out of the closer’s role, provided the situation on the field allows it. Hawkins has managed to cobble together a pretty stellar little 19-year career, and like a fine wine he’s pitched his finest, most consistent ball as he’s aged. Even at 41 he’ll be a perfectly fine reliever, and that’ll be good enough to hang onto the job for enough to wear the Rocky Mountain Saves belt.

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Team Karaman TDGX Analysis: The Keys to the Game

Now that the draft is finally, mercifully over after some three weeks and 800 picks it’s time to actually play the games. Well, close enough anyway. As I’ve touched on a bit in earlier draft updates, I’m fairly pleased with how my draft unfolded. My third- and fourth- round picks of George Springer and Cliff Lee were the only ones I really second-guessed myself at all about, but even there I like both players to provide cornerstone value over the next 2-3 years window. Lee will begin to slide soon if he hasn’t already, I know that. But his repertoire and intelligence as a pitcher point to a gradual decline barring catastrophic injury, and that’s a standard risk for every single pitcher. And Springer has the kind of skillset that can play immediately at the big league level. I realize I’m higher on him than some, but I think hit tool concerns are overblown with him. When he gets the pieces of his swing moving coherently the way they’re supposed to he makes barrel contact, and I expect him to be a high-BABIP player who can offset a decent chunk of his strikeout liabilities to post respectable batting averages. He’s more valuable still in OBP leagues, where his keen batting eye should produce .75-plus differentials between his average and on-base percentage. A mid-.300’s OBP with his power-speed combo is an annual first round-caliber package. But even in standard leagues like TDGX he’s got the ability to be an annual top 10 threat.

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