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


New Ace Smackdown: Collin McHugh vs Matt Shoemaker

This week’s Smackdown pits two 27 year old veteran minor leaguers who emerged as star hurlers in 2014. Neither of them were ever considered top prospects by any stretch of the imagination. McHugh was an 18th round draft pick by the Mets in 2008 and reached the majors with them in 2012. He was traded to the Rockies last summer but they made a big mistake by releasing him last December. The Astros claimed him off waivers and he has been an ace ever since. Shoemaker wasn’t drafted at all, signing as an undrafted free agent that same year of 2008. Neither of them distinguished themselves in the minors or gave a hint of future stardom. How did these two completely unheralded pitchers develop into aces? Are they for real or are they merely mirages that will quickly disappear when we examine them closely? Which one of them is the better bet for your fantasy team? Let the Smackdown begin…

Traditonal Stats McHugh Shoemaker
Record 10 – 9 16 – 4
Strikeouts 151 124
ERA 2.66 3.04
WHIP 1.03 1.07
Innings Pitched 148.2 136.0

Continue reading

Young Ace Smackdown: Alex Cobb vs Alex Wood

This week’s smackdown pits two young hurlers named Alex — the Rays’ righty Cobb and the Braves’ lefty Wood. Both are a little light on innings this year but for different reasons. Cobb missed some time early in the season due to an oblique injury that sidelined him for a month. Wood spent a month in the bullpen due to the crowded Atlanta starting rotation. Here are their stats for the season:

Traditonal Stats Cobb Wood
Record 9 – 7 10 – 10
Strikeouts 138 147
ERA 2.75 2.90
WHIP 1.12 1.15
Innings Pitched 147.1 152.0

Right now the duel is too close to call. Wood has one more win and a few more strikeouts, but Cobb has fewer losses and a slight edge in both ERA and WHIP. Both have been fantastic. We are going to have to dig deeper to find a winner. Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Joey Gallo vs. Miguel Sano

Do you like high strikeout rates, questionable hit tools and “hold on to your butts”-level power? If so, please enjoy the following prospect smackdown.

Prospect Smackdown No. 11: Joey Gallo vs. Miguel Sano

The Case for Gallo

A year ago at this time, it was almost unfathomable that Gallo could legitimately rank ahead of Sano on any list. While Gallo managed to hit 38 homers in Single-A in 2013, he struck out in 37 percent of his at-bats and posted an overall line of just .245/.334/.610. There was a real concern that Gallo wouldn’t make enough contact as he moved up the system to let his 80-grade power play.

But in 246 plate appearances at High-A this year, Gallo impressed greatly by increasing his walk rate and decreasing his strikeout rate while still hitting for tremendous power. He hit .323/.463/.735 in 246 PA, good for an incredible wRC+ of 218. That led the 20-year-old Gallo to a midseason promotion to Frisco, where he’s still hitting for impressive power but where some of his strikeout concerns have once again reared their ugly head.

Still, Gallo’s produced wonderfully this year and bridged the gap between Single-A and Double-A in just a few months. We’re looking at a potential late 2015/early 2016 ETA for Gallo now, and every time he proves he can hit for power at a higher level, he moves further up dynasty league rankings. Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Brian Goodwin vs. Jake Marisnick

In last week’s prospect smackdown, I took a look at the two best uninjured third base prospects in the game in Garin Cecchini and Maikel Franco. I’d love to tell you who won that battle, but I can’t, because I forgot to add a poll until Saturday afternoon. That means we only have five votes, whereas said polls generally get between 150-200. Sadz.

This week, I’m going to cover two of my personal favorite outfield prospects who’ve seen their stocks decline slightly over the past year. And this week, I’m going to include a poll at the bottom, because I learn quickly.

Prospect Smackdown No. 10: Brian Goodwin vs. Jake Marisnick

The Case for Goodwin

Goodwin is a very well-rounded prospect from a fantasy tools perspective, earning 5+ potential power and speed tools and a potential 6 hit tool grade from Jason Parks before the season began. The outfielder has also posted strong walk rates throughout the minors and profiles as a major leaguer who should be able to reach base with frequency. Goodwin is now in Triple-A, meaning he’s on the cusp of a MLB call-up, and it’s pretty exciting to think about his upside if allowed to bat near the top of the Nationals’ potent lineup. Goodwin should be especially valuable in OBP leagues, but even in leagues with standard category setups, a player who can hit .280 with 15 homers, 15 steals and a ton of runs is worthy of monitoring.   Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Garin Cecchini vs Maikel Franco

In last week’s Prospect Smackdown, we examined two second base prospects with awesome names and varying skill sets.  Voters decided that they preferred Rougned Odor to Arismendy Alcantara, by a margin of 54 to 46 percent.

This week, we take a look at two hot corner fantasy prospects with questionable defensive futures, incomplete games, but serious fantasy potential.

Prospect Smackdown No. 9: Garin Cecchini vs. Maikel Franco

The Case for Cecchini

Quite simply, the case for Cecchini begins with his hit tool. Widely regarded as a plus tool, we’re at the point where we as a community need to begin regarding it as a plus-plus tool instead. When I’ve seen Cecchini, he’s taken a short, direct path to the ball, looked comfortable tracking offspeed pitches and hit the ball hard on a line, despite not generating a lot of loft with his swing. To me, Cecchini is a future perennial .290-plus hitter, fully capable of using the whole field and also able to turn on inside pitches when need be. He’s dominated at every stop in the minors, routinely posting OBPs north of .400 and walking in over 15 percent of his PA. While speed won’t be a major part of his game, Cecchini is also an incredibly savvy base runner who could challenge for 10 swipes a year in the majors despite average speed. Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Rougned Odor vs. Arismendy Alcantara

In last week’s Prospect Smackdown, we took a look at two of the top three or four fantasy catching prospects in the game in Blake Swihart and Gary Sanchez. Despite the latter’s status as an elite prospect a few years ago, TDG readers appear to favor the probability that comes with Swihart, as he earned a hearty 136-46-vote victory over the Yankees backstop.

This week, we move from one shallow fantasy position to another and examine the consensus two best fantasy second base prospects in a battle of hit tools, speed and really, really cool names.

Prospect Smackdown No. 8 – Who’s the better fantasy infield prospect: Rougned Odor or Arismendy Alcantara?

The case for Odor

If you prefer Odor – and many do – the primary reason why has to be his hit tool, which both Baseball America and Jason Parks rated as a potential 70 tool before the season. With superb bat-to-ball ability and sexy bat speed, Odor hit .305/.369/.454 in High-A last season before excelling in a brief stint in Double-A. He projects to have potential low double-digit homer power and is a lock to stay at second base. In a vacuum an MLB ETA toward the end of 2014 would be within his reach, and if we allow ourselves to project contextual factors for a moment, he’d have a home ballpark that would bolster his offense. Put it all together, and we’re looking at a player how could routinely finish as a top-10 fantasy option at his position. Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Gary Sanchez vs. Blake Swihart

It’s been a while since our last Prospect Smackdown, when we saw Archie Bradley earn a narrow victory over Taijuan Walker in a battle of potential future No. 1 starters. Today, we’ll return to the offensive side of the ball and compare two prospects who are about as different as they come: Gary Sanchez and Blake Swihart.

It’s a battle of upside vs. probability, of average vs. power and, of course, of evil vs. good. A year ago, the answer to this question would’ve been “Sanchez” without hesitation. Now, it’s much closer.

Prospect Smackdown No. 7: – Who’s the better catching prospect: Gary Sanchez or Blake Swihart?

The Case for Sanchez

Quite frankly, the case for Sanchez is an obvious one: he’s got a much greater offensive upside than Swihart. With 6-plus power potential and the ability to hit for non-embarrassing averages, Sanchez could put up some gaudy numbers from a fantasy POV. His .254/.313/.420 line in High-A last season isn’t terribly inspiring, but he was a touch better in a smaller sample size in Double-A, and he doesn’t turn 22 until December. There are several factors that limit the likelihood of Sanchez reaching his ceiling, and we’ll get to those below. But if we’re talking pure ceiling, Sanchez might have the second highest of any fantasy catching prospect, trailing only Jorge Alfaro. One season of sub-par baseball with aggressive assignments doesn’t change that. Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Archie Bradley vs. Taijuan Walker

When I began asking for suggestions for this series a few months back before our focus on positional rankings, the TDG readers inundated me with interesting match ups of prospects of all sorts. You asked me to compare elite players. You asked me about J2 guys. You challenged me to write about players on the periphery of fantasy relevancy, and you ask about prospects who should have an impact in 2014.

However, there were two suggestions for Prospect Smackdown that came up far more frequently than any others. The first was Xander Bogaerts vs. Javier Baez, and while that never made it to print, it’s something my colleague Mauricio Rubio and I did discuss on our There Is No Offseason podcast here (minute 29).

The second was a battle between the two consensus top fantasy prospect arms right now in Bradley and Walker, and it’s an interesting challenge that will require going beyond a cursory look into statistics. If there’s one thing The Internet has taught me, it’s to give the people what they want. And so without further ado, here’s a look at two potential fantasy aces.

Prospect Smackdown No. 6 – Who’s the better prospect: Archie Bradley vs. Taijuan Walker Continue reading

Prospect Smackdown: Marcus Stroman vs. Alex Meyer

In last week’s Prospect Smackdown, we saw our closest battle yet as Albert Almora eked out a 54-46% victory over David Dahl in the battle of 2012 center field draftees. This week, we’re returning to the rubber to compare two pitchers with extraordinarily dissimilar physical profiles and extraordinarily similar projections in Marcus Stroman and Alex Meyer. I got the idea for this entry after the two went back-to-back in the BP Expert Mock MiLB Draft we’re holding right now, and I just missed out on selecting one of these two studs myself.

Without further ado, let’s cover the basics and let the people decide which starter/closer candidate they prefer.

Prospect Smackdown No. 5 – Who’s the better prospect: Marcus Stroman vs. Alex Meyer Continue reading