Up the Middle: Anthony Rendon

This will be the last Up the Middle post for a bit as the much anticipated dynasty rankings will be coming out shortly. We’ve talked about a bunch of good middle infielders in these posts, including both prospects and major leaguers. This week we’ll take a look at a second baseman who is just starting his major league career: Anthony Rendon. With some guy named Bryce Harper in front of him on the Nationals prospect depth chart, Rendon might not have received the white hot spotlight, but he was ranked #30 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list heading into the 2013 season. It took an early June injury to Danny Espinosa to bring him up for good and in 98 games for the Nats he smacked 7 home runs while hitting .265/.329/.396. Nothing earth shattering, but also nothing to sneeze at for his first year in the bigs. Its important to keep in mind that second base was rather new to him as well, with most of his games in the minors coming at third base. So what makes Rendon a good target for dynasty league owners? Continue reading

Who Needs The Winter Meetings?

With the Winter Meetings a little less than a week away (Dec. 9-12), baseball’s hot stove wasted no time cranking up the heat; numerous free-agent deals of the big and small variety have already been agreed upon, and a trade no one saw coming–possibly including one of the two teams involved–might have solidified baseball’s premiere starting rotation for 2014.

(As I write this, another contract has been signed, sealed and drone delivered.)

Because my Hyper-jet Engine Status is on “Light Speed” and I can’t quite keep up with all of the baseball activity, I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss the dynasty league implications from some of baseball’s most recent transactions involving starting pitchers. (FYI, I’m only going to focus on current major leaguers, so no minor leaguers yet. That’s for another day.) First, the big kahuna:

Tigers trade RHP Doug Fister to the Nationals 

No, it wasn’t surprising to see Detroit trade a starting pitcher this off-season, as Rick Porcello and even Max Scherzer were rumored to be on the move. But no one–and I mean no one–predicted the Tigers to trade Fister, who, over the past three seasons, has been the ninth most valuable starting pitcher, according to FanGraphs War. Fister was unlucky this year (hello, Tigers’ infield defense), posting a 3.67 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 208 2/3 innings. He performed much better than that, however, posting a 3.26 FIP and 3.42 xFIP. Fister, in fact, hasn’t had a FIP over 3.42 since 2010. He’s been really, really sneaky good, if someone would like to forward that bit of information to general manager Dave Dombrowski.

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The Waiting: Aces, Ceilings and Floors

I was really happy to see that Wilson had written about Zach Lee, because he had been on my mind lately and Wilson basically saved me 500 words to say much the same thing. I like Lee and I agree that boring can be beautiful.

What got me thinking about Lee was pouring over several mid-season rankings of prospects and finding him largely absent despite a good season at double-A Chattanooga. Sure, if the list went long enough he would be there, but generally he was not showing up in the top 50. There were several other pitchers who popped up ahead of him who, on the surface, are farther from contributing to their major league clubs (and in fantasy). This is not altogether surprising because lots of prospect evaluators are explicit about valuing long-term potential and ceiling when looking at prospects. One guy who ranked ahead of Lee on a few lists got me particularly intrigued and thinking about the floor/ceiling question: Lucas Giolito.

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Bouncing Back(wards): Ian Desmond

When we think of bouncing back, it’s usually a talented player who underperformed the previous year and will bounce back in a good way. In Ian Desmond’s case however, I’m going to be liberal with the category and use it more as a “regression candidate” heading and say he’s going to bounce back to somewhere in between in 2011 and 2012 seasons.

My biggest argument against Desmond duplicating his breakout 2012 is that…in many ways he was the same player in 2012 that he was the previous two years when he submitted an OPS+ of 89 and 80, respectively. I’ll illustrate as much in a chart below, but let’s run through the numbers really quickly. Desmond’s 2012 season saw him post a 5.5% walk rate (5.3% career) and a 20.7% strikeout rate (20.3% career). The walk rate was in line with his below-average 2011 season and the strikeout rate was a mere 1% better. Given that his BABIP was only 6 points better than the previous season and 3 points better than his career average, we can’t blame this breakout solely on luck. Or can we?

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