Thursday, January 24, 2008

Keepers Part V

Okay, we’ve got a surprise for you today as we present two keeper analyses for the price of one. First up is Rogstad’s Summer Fox Turbo. Rogstad finished last in the playoffs, so he’ll be picking 6th in the draft. Rogstad built his team around speed, but was done in by the twin implosions of Jason Bay and Scott Posednik.

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.

Summer Fox Turbo

The Hitters
Jason Bay (Pit - OF)
Hank Blalock (Tex - 3B)
Adrián Béltre (Sea - 3B)
Brian Giles (SD - OF)
Ken Griffey Jr. (Cin - OF)
Kenji Johjima (Sea - C)
Jacque Jones (Det - OF)
Paul Konerko (CWS - 1B)
Felipe López (Was - 2B,SS)
Melvin Mora (Bal - 3B)
Corey Patterson (Bal - OF)
Brandon Phillips (Cin - 2B)
Scott Podsednik (CWS - OF)
Plácido Polanco (Det - 2B)
Édgar Rentería (Det - SS)
Ichiro Suzuki (Sea - OF)

The Pitchers
Boof Bonser (Min - SP)
Fausto Carmona (Cle - SP,RP)
Lenny DiNardo (Oak - SP,RP)
Liván Hernández (Ari - SP)
Jason Isringhausen (StL - RP)
Todd Jones (Det - RP)
Brad Lidge (Phi - RP)
Jamie Moyer (Phi - SP)
B.J. Ryan (Tor - RP)
Billy Wagner (NYM - RP)
David Wells (LAD - SP)

1. Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro put together one of his normal campaigns in 2007: 200+ hits, 30+ stolen bases, and a high batting average. Chances are he’ll do the same in 2008, but there are some indicators that age is catching up with him. Ichiro is a high-energy player whose legs complement a keen eye and a quick bat. At 34, he can only get slower and he appeared to wear down in the second half last season. His slugging percentage and on-base percentage dropped a combined .111 points, and his homerun-to-fly ball ratio dipped by six percent, which is a lot considering his first half hr/f ratio was 7%. Ichiro also made less contact in the second half. This is not to say Ichiro won’t have a great 2008, it just means the odds are against him having a better season than last year. Despite that, his high average and large quantity of at-bats means he’ll carry your team’s BA, and his stolen base and runs stats aren't bad to have either.

2. Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko had a decent year for power last year, but his batting average and overall performance suffered from a little bit of bad luck. Konerko’s contact rate was in line with his normal numbers from the past few years, but his hit rate was only 27% compared to 33% in the year before. Konerko actually managed to raise his contact rate by 5% in the second half of the season, but his hit rate went down by 1% in that half. To put it simply, Konerko was getting the bat on the ball, but he wasn’t getting it by the defense. Suffice it to say, Konerko’s hitting ability shows that his batting average should rebound in 2008, providing he has a little bit better luck. One stat to be wary of is his .244 batting average against right-handers last year, a very startling drop from .310 the year before. Nevertheless, Konerko showed very good power in the second half, especially an improved homerun/fly ball ratio. Konerko should hit 30-35 homeruns with an improved batting average in 2008. Look for him to get a few more RBI with the addition of on base machine Nick Swisher ahead of him in the lineup.

3. Jason Bay
I look at Jason Bay’s 2007 stats and have to wonder if there was some nagging injury he was suffering from that he and/or the team wasn’t telling anyone about. His stolen base production dropped dramatically, and so did his power. He showed less patience as well, with a 10% walk rate, 5% lower than the year before. I’m not too worried about his batting average for next year; it seems that he had a bit of bad luck in 2007 as his contact rates were within his normal levels but the percentage of balls batted into play that went for hits was very low for his established norms. His batting average should rebound in 2008 as it’s more than likely that his hit rate last year was a fluke. Bay really struggled against left-handed pitching, being held to a .227 average against them, seventy-one points lower than last year’s average. Bay is still young, and he still has the same skills he showed the past three years, so while he probably won’t be a 20/20 man next year, he’s likely to revert to his previous averages.

4. Adrian Beltre
What I like about Adrian Beltre’s stats over the past three seasons, is that his batting average and slugging percentage have increased every year. Part of that is an increased ability to hit right-handed pitching (.249 in 2005, .264 in 2006, and .274 in 2007). It’s also nice to see him running a bit more often. He might never hit 40+ homeruns, or hit .334 like he did in 2004, but it’s not hard to see him hitting 30 homeruns next year with 15 stolen bases. As a player with good skills in his prime, I think Beltre will provide good value next year as a third baseman.

5. Brandon Phillips
Brandon Phillips had a great year in 2007; about as good as you could ask for from a middle infielder. He’s shown the ability to make good contact at the plate over the past two years, he displayed consistent power throughout the year, and he has a good line drive stroke. He’s young enough that his speed shouldn’t diminish in the next few years, but the one thing that I’m worried about hindering his stolen base totals is his low OBP, which was .321 over the past two seasons. I’ve said it before, but the likelihood of stealing a lot of bases over the course of the season diminishes if you can’t get on base at a consistent rate. If he shows a bit more patience and raises that walk rate, we will see another 30/30 season again, but that depends on him being able to change his approach at the plate. Phillips should approach his 2007 totals next year, with an average around .280, 25 homeruns and 25+ stolen bases.

6. Fausto Carmona
I’m not a huge Fausto Carmona fan, but there’s definitely a lot to like about his numbers from 2007, especially his 6.7 K/9 in the second half and his ability to keep the ball on the ground. What I don’t like is the huge increase in innings pitched from the year before. By improving his strikeout rate every month, Carmona showed that he could make adjustments in order to compete at this level. With a groundball rate of 64%, he’s up there with extreme groundball-pitcher, Brandon Wood. If he continues to strike out batters at a rate of 6 per nine innings, he’ll be much more than a Chien-Ming Wang. Watch to see if they limit his pitch count per game in the first half, otherwise he may have a second-half collapse due to fatigue.

7. Edgar Renteria
Edgar Renteria had a good year in 2007, despite missing almost all of August due to spraining his right ankle twice. He rebounded from the injury to hit .310 in September, but he only attempted one stolen base. As he gets older, injuries like these will be more likely to happen, and they’ll be more likely to keep him from running as much. Renteria might get the green light more often in Detroit (they attempted 39 more stolen bases than Atlanta last year, but a lot of that was due to Curtis Granderson’s speed at the top of the lineup), but not if he bats in the number two spot in that lineup, ahead of a modern-day Murderer’s Row of Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Guillen. Placido Polanco has had a lock on the second spot for the past two years, so Renteria may have to bat sixth or lower. This could mean an increase in RBI, and he may get to run more from that spot in the lineup. Either way, Renteria will score runs in that potent offense. He probably won’t sustain 2007’s batting average, but he may pass 2007’s homerun total, as his new home his more conducive to homeruns than Turner Field was in 2007. Renteria probably could have matched 2006’s power totals if he had stayed healthy, so it’s not unimaginable for him to hit 14 homeruns in 2008.

The Also-Rans

You could argue that Ken Griffey Jr. belongs on this list over Renteria, but it’s hard to see him staying healthy enough to get enough at bats to hit 30 homeruns again. Each year he gets older, the harder it is for him to stay healthy, and his homerun per fly ball rate has decreased over the past three years. It shouldn’t be hard to find a younger outfielder who hits .270 with 25 homeruns or more to replace Griffey. Corey Patterson has a lot of value in his legs, but it doesn’t look like a repeat of 2004’s 24 homeruns is likely, and he doesn’t get on base well enough to consistently be able to exploit his stolen base ability. Watch out where he signs, because the right situation and team could increase his value for 2008. Hank Blalock is still young enough to find his power stroke from 2003-2005, but with his struggles and injuries over the last two years, I wouldn’t bet on it. Kenji Johjima is a solid option at catcher; he has decent power and hits for good average. Draft him, or a comparable option, in the middle rounds, but don’t reach for him with your top seven keepers. Felipe Lopez is an intriguing stolen base option, as it would be nice to see what he could do given the proper playing time and the right situation, but stay away from him right now, as early reports from Washington have him battling for playing time with fantasy dud Christian Guzman. Placido Polanco has fantasy value in his ability to hit for average and score runs due to the offense behind him, but I like my keepers to produce in more than just a couple categories; Polanco doesn’t run much, and he’s only had more than 550 at bats twice in his career. Most of Rogstad’s closers are injury risks (but then how many closers aren’t?), and I think you could find comparable value, if not better, through the draft. Billy Wagner is an option; he has a great K/9 ratio, but watch out for inconsistency due to fatigue in 2008. Wagner had a horrible August in which opposing batters hit .375 off him. Wagner complained of a “dead arm”, so watch out for any recurring arm issues.

Rogstad, you’ve got some work to do in strengthening your team, but you can do that through smart drafting.

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