Do The Murph

No one was more skeptical of Daniel Murphy than I. Of course, I usually am slow to accept unexpected breakouts. The owner of Murphy in my dynasty league is well on his way to a last place finish and had been shopping Murphy all year. I have Jason Kipnis and Ben Zobrist so I wasn’t particularly motivated and eventually the other owner sold Murphy for Austin Meadows and Carlos Rodon, a return that I thought to be extremely strong. For months I was told how he would provide better statistics with far few strikeouts – they count in my league. But I held firm, I was convinced that the day I hypothetically acquired him would be the day he reverted back to his high average low everything else ways. However, he hasn’t and shows no signs of doing so.

The new Daniel Murphy emerged in the playoffs last year when he stroked seven home runs in 14 games on the way to earning himself a nice new contract with the Nationals. To date, he hasn’t missed a beat. The following monthly splits are from this year.

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Is The Bryce Finally Right?

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are two of only six players in MLB history to hit 50 homeruns and steal 30 bases through age 21. That is where the similarities end between the two generational talents. Both enter the 2015 campaign coming off the “worst” seasons of their young careers, but are seemingly trending in completely opposite directions. Trout was voted American League MVP last season. Harper was just voted the “most overrated player in baseball.”

It’s hard to believe that Harper is still only 22 years old. He’s younger than Kris Bryant, the consensus top prospect in baseball (and hottest commodity in fantasy baseball right now), who has never faced MLB pitching. Meanwhile, Harper has accrued nearly 1,500 major league plate appearances so far and has never faced a pitcher younger than him in the Majors. Just because Harper has failed to develop into a legitimate superstar, like Trout, to this point doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We are just four days away from Opening Day and Harper looks locked in at the plate this spring.

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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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