Friday, January 11, 2008

Keepers Part IV

Next in our series, we have Kimball’s team, with one of the league’s more memorable names, the Butt Admirals. I've most impressed so far by the Admirals' collection of talent. Very strong and deep pitching staff, and a well-balanced group of offensive keepers.

As always:
Our league is a 12 team, 5x5 category, Head to Head league. Each team consists of 25 players, and each manager gets to keep seven players with no restriction. There is no limit to innings pitched, so starting pitchers are devalued somewhat by constant streaming. I will be going through each team's keeper in their draft order for 2008.

The Butt Admirals

The Hitters
Jason Bartlett (TB - SS)
Coco Crisp (Bos - OF)
David DeJesús (KC - OF)
Prince Fielder (Mil - 1B)
Vladimir Guerrero (LAA - OF)
Orlando Hudson (Ari - 2B)
Mike Lamb (Min - 1B,3B)
Bengie Molina (SF - C)
Richie Sexson (Sea - 1B)
Grady Sizemore (Cle - OF)
Nick Swisher (CWS - 1B,OF)
Willy Taveras (Col - OF)
Rickie Weeks (Mil - 2B)
Ty Wigginton (Hou - 1B,2B,3B,OF)

The Pitchers
Josh Beckett (Bos - SP)
Joe Blanton (Oak - SP)
Chris Capuano (Mil - SP)
Roy Halladay (Tor - SP)
Aaron Harang (Cin - SP)
Dan Haren (Ari - SP)
Noah Lowry (SF - SP)
John Maine (NYM - SP)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (Bos - SP)
Gil Meche (KC - SP)
Brad Penny (LAD - SP)

1. Prince Fielder
There’s a lot to like about Prince Fielder’s 2007 season, even aside from the 50 homeruns. He took more walks this year, struck out a little less, and drove the ball a bit better, as seen by his .80 groundball/flyball rate, an improvement of .32 over last year. He’s surrounded by a solid offense in a good hitters’ park, and there’s no reason to assume that he can’t approach this year’s numbers in 2008. It would be nice if he could repeat 2006’s mark of 7 stolen bases, but with his weight, it’s probably not going to happen.

2. Vladimir Guerrero
He’s getting more brittle every year, doesn’t seem to run as much anymore, and he had his lowest slugging percentage since his rookie year, but Vladimir Guerrero is still one of the more feared sluggers in the game. His OBP was .12 points over his career high, and the 125 RBI he had were the third-highest total in his career. He might not hit 35 homeruns next year, but he’s in an offense with lots of RBI capabilities, and he still has the ability to hit for high average. He is a very strong candidate to be a top ten outfielder next year.

3. Grady Sizemore
Grady Sizemore has the talent to be a 30/30 man, and it could happen next year. I wouldn’t count on it, but it is within his ceiling. Though his batting average took a thirteen point dip from 2006, he set a career high with 101 walks, tied for tenth in the league. He also set a career high with 33 stolen bases. He’s a better hitter than his .277 batting average this year, and as long as he keeps getting on base, which he does almost forty percent of the time, he’ll keep stealing bases. One stat of note which might not necessarily have any relevance from a fantasy standpoint: Sizemore doesn’t seem to be that good of a leadoff hitter, hitting .249 this year when leading off an inning.

4. Josh Beckett
Josh Beckett rebounded from a poor AL debut in 2006 to leading the AL in Wins this year. How’d he lower his ERA by 1.74 runs in his second year with Boston? By cutting down on his walks and his wild pitches. In 2006, he nearly doubled his career-high in wild pitches with 11, compared to a career-low 3 wild pitches in 2007. Beckett also hit a career-high 10 batters, as opposed to 5 in 2007, his lowest since 2003, and he posted a career-low 40 walks, 34 less than in 2006. It seems that Beckett has adjusted to the new league and his new team, and should continue to dominate. He likely will see a rise in his WHIP as his K/BB is too high to sustain, but look for him to enjoy another Cy Young worthy season. One encouraging stat was his 1.20 ERA in 30 postseason innings, which, coupled with his second 200-plus inning season, shows that he’s healthy enough to compete at a high level all season.

5. Dan Haren
Dan Haren was the 9th best starting pitcher in 2007 according to ESPN’s Player Rater. He’s in the NL now, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and pitching in a more hitter-friendly park than his old home in Oakland. Chase Field in Arizona was 11th in HR rate last year at 1.112, while Oakland was 25th with a rate of 0.786. Haren will probably give up a few more home runs in 2008 due to his propensity for fly balls and his new park’s conduciveness to turning fly balls into home runs, but the lack of an opposing DH and the unfamiliarity the league’s hitters will have with him will most likely cancel out any negative affects Chase Field might have on his performance. It will also help that he’s pitching in the NL West, which has three pitching-friendly parks and possibly the major league’s worst offense in San Francisco. Haren’s K/9 has been trending upwards over the last three full seasons, but his BB/9 took a step back in 2007. What’s troubling is how hittable Haren was in the second half last year. His opponent’s batting average was 93 points higher than the first half, and he only completed seven innings in a game twice in the second half. He showed a similar trend in 2006, so watch out for signs of a second half collapse. Haren has the talent to be a top 3 NL starter.

6. Aaron Harang
Normally I would never recommend keeping three pitchers, but if you have the opportunity to anchor your rotation with three of the top ten pitchers from 2007, you have to strongly consider it. What I like about Aaron Harang, and this applies to Haren and Beckett, is how relatively risk-free they are. (I say “relatively” because no pitcher can be considered risk-free in regards to injuries.) Beckett is the only one who’s had any kind of injury track record, but he’s been able to pitch 200 innings per season for the last two years. Harang has averaged 226 innings and 199 strikeouts the past three years, and it seems likely, barring injury, that he’ll be able to repeat those numbers in 2008. His command is coming along nicely, as there’s been a distinct upwards trend in his K/BB ratios. He might regress a little from last year’s K/BB ratio of 4.19, but he is a dominant strikethrower who showed good control last year. He pitches in one of the easier parks to hit homeruns in, but he does well in limiting those with a HR/9 ratio of 1.16 at home. Harang actually pitches better at home than on the road. Just say a prayer that Cincinnati’s bullpen gets better; they had a 5.10 ERA last year, 4th worst in MLB.

7. Rickie Weeks
I wavered between a couple players at this point, but I had to pick Rickie Weeks for the last spot because of his mix of speed and power, and the scarcity of quality fantasy production at his position. After being sent down to AAA for ten days in August, Weeks came back having obviously learned something. He was tied for 4th in home runs hit during the second half among 2B’s, doing it in 100 less AB’s than everyone else. He took more walks, including 26 in September, which was more than he took in the entire first half. He’ll need to build upon these numbers to be a great fantasy talent, especially in getting on-base, because a sub-.400 OBP will not readily lend itself to high stolen base totals. He has struggled with injuries the past couple of years, including a sore wrist that bothered him in 2007, so watch out for reports of nagging injuries. Weeks is in a great offense, so he should score a lot of runs, but his numbers as a leadoff hitter have not been great so far. This could be a breakout year for him based upon his second half adjustments.

The Also-Rans
It was very hard to leave a couple players off of this list. The trade to Chicago should only help Nick Swisher’s power totals, but he still doesn’t make enough contact to enable a high BA, despite his patience at the plate. You could easily make the case that Swisher belongs on the list instead of one of the pitchers, but I’m not that sold him hitting more than 30 homeruns next year. Willy Taveras is a player I really like; he’s in a great offense, and I feel he’s made improvements in getting on-base. Taveras could have stolen 50 bases in 2007 if he hadn’t missed a month of the season due to injuries. If it falls together, Taveras could hit .300, with 100+ runs and 50 stolen bases. Other pitchers that one might consider keeping: Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Brad Penny, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Chris Capuano. Kimball, you really had a solid pitching staff last year. Kudos on that.


kimball said...

man i feel like i've hired a professional butt analyst. this is awesome, ben. what's your take on the no-keep pitchers? i feel like roy halladay or daisuke have pretty elite potential for any given season...

Ben Westrup said...

Halladay and Dice-K are good pitchers. I felt that they were more of a risk than the other three pitchers that I think you should keep. Halladay is very good, and definitely someone I would want on my staff, but it's been a while since he's offered elite strikeout ratios. The potential for strikeouts is the greatest disparity between Halladay and the other three pitchers, otherwise, they all potentially offer the close to the same value. Dice-K is the biggest risk out of these pitchers. He has great talent, but without a longer track record, it's harder to predict what he might do. He strikes out a lot of guys, but his BB/9, which is a measure of his control, was not very good this year. Definitely has a lot of upside, but he's a risk. Target him in the draft if you want him.

Ben P said...

Hey, these are great, Ben.

Keep going!