Sunday, January 27, 2008

Keepers Part VII

The next stop in my journey to analyze each team’s keepers in my fantasy baseball league is Jonathan’s Dinos. Jonathan finished 5th last year, and a brief glance at his roster shows that he has a very strong base on which to contend in 2008. Jonathan gained most of his star players through trades, and in the interest of full disclosure, he gained Chase Utley from me in a trade also involving Roy Oswalt and Brian Roberts, a deal I wish I could do over. Anyways, let’s get on with the 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 Hitters
Carlos Beltrán (NYM - OF)
Eric Byrnes (Ari - OF)
Miguel Cabrera (Det - 3B)
J.D. Drew (Bos - OF)
Chone Figgins (LAA - 2B,3B,OF)
Carlos Guillén (Det - 1B,SS)
Ryan Howard (Phi - 1B)
Kenny Lofton (Cle - OF)
Yadier Molina (StL - C)
Justin Morneau (Min - 1B)
Jhonny Peralta (Cle - SS)
Frank Thomas (Tor - Util)
Chase Utley (Phi - 2B)

The Pitchers
Jeremy Accardo (Tor - RP)
Danys Báez (Bal - RP)
Francisco Cordero (Cin - RP)
Ryan Dempster (ChC - RP)
Rich Hill (ChC - SP)
Tim Hudson (Atl - SP)
John Lackey (LAA - SP)
Roy Oswalt (Hou - SP)
Nate Robertson (Det - SP)
Ervin Santana (LAA - SP)
John Smoltz (Atl - SP)
Rick VandenHurk (Fla - SP)

1. Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera has been one of the most consistent young power hitters over the past four years, so it’s sickening to think that he’ll be only 25 next April. Cabrera has a .313 career batting average, and he’s averaged 31 homeruns a season over the past 4 years. He’s young, he’s consistent, and he’s durable, exactly the type of player you want to build around. And with his new home in Detroit, it’s possible that he might put up some of the best numbers of his career in 2008. Cabrera moves from the NL to the AL, against whose pitchers he’s hit .310 in 268 interleague at bats. It’s a small sample size and probably more indicative of AL pitchers not having an in-depth scouting book compiled on him yet, but it shows that he shouldn’t struggle early on. Cabrera will probably see a few more homeruns hit this year as pitchers won’t be able to pitch around him very often due to the frighteningly potent offense surrounding him. The move to his new stadium should help Cabrera as well, as Detroit was ranked 9th in homerun park factor compared to Florida at 15th. A skilled hitter when he came up, Cabrera has improved against lefties over the past three years (.299 in 2005, .321 in 2006, and .364 in 2007); now he hits them better than he does righties. Cabrera drove the ball well in 2007, with a groundball-to-fly ball ratio of 1.08 compared to 1.19 in 2006. Cabrera should see more RBI opportunities in Detroit, depending on where they hit him, as the hitters in the 1 and 2 spots for Detroit had a better OBP (.362) than Florida’s (.350). Cabrera’s been diligent about being in better shape this year, losing a reported 20 pounds in the off season, so it’s not hard to see him hitting .330/35/120 in 2008.

2. Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard is a homerun beast, hitting 47 in 2007 a year after hitting 58. Howard probably would have had his second straight 50 homerun campaign last year if he hadn’t missed half of May due to injury, so look for him to again make a run at 50 homeruns in 2008. The only question is can he hit .300 again? Howard hit .268 in 2007 after hitting .313 the year before. Part of that large decrease can be attributed to his inability to hit lefties in 2007, only .225 against southpaws as opposed to .279 in 2006. Howard had problems hitting lefties when he first came up in 2005, so it’s possible that he may continue to have trouble against them throughout his career. He did hit .280 in the second half last year, but only because his hit rate increased by three percent, while his contact rate actually dropped. I don’t see Howard hitting .300 next year as long as his contact rate is so low, but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to hit around .275, especially if he can make adjustments against lefties. Anyways, who cares if he only hits .260 if he continues to have one of the best power indexes in the league.

3. Chase Utley
Chase Utley is the top second baseman in the major leagues. He hits for power, average, and provides a nice amount of stolen bases. He plays in a hitter friendly stadium, surrounded by a solid lineup which provides lots of RBI and run scoring opportunities. Utley missed a month in 2007 due to a broken hand, affecting his homerun total. Assuming he’s back to full strength, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect 27-30 homeruns. His hit rate was a bit high compared to his historical levels, so a drop in batting average should be expected. Assuming he stays healthy, he should hit .300 with 12-15 stolen bases, and a third consecutive season of 100 runs and RBI. A definite keeper.

4. Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran provides a good mix of power and speed, though he has been inconsistent in his production over the past few years and his age means he can’t produce as a top-ten outfielder for much longer. One good piece of news is a report that Carlos Beltran had tissue removed from the patella tendon in both his knees in October. Beltran had been bothered by knee tendonitis in the second half, so hopefully having a healthy pair of legs will mean more stolen bases in 2008. Beltran had a big second half with 23 homeruns, but part of that was due to an increase in his HR/FB rate, up from 10% in the first half to 25% in the second. That HR/FB rate probably won’t hold up, so don’t expect him to improve on 2007’s homerun numbers. His contact rate has decreased over the past three years, so his batting average may start to decline next year. But he plays in a great offense, so run scoring and RBI opportunities should be plentiful. Beltran should produce around .275/30/110 with 20 stolen bases.

5. Justin Morneau
The 2006 AL MVP saw his batting average fall fifty points in 2007. Part of the reason was a reversion to his 2005 ways of not being able to hit lefties. Also part of the reason was a sudden 9% increase in groundballs hit at the expense of line drives. Morneau had a horrible August/September in which he hit .220 with 3 homeruns, after hitting .297 with 28 homeruns. It’s possible that there was an unreported injury that Morneau was playing through, so pay attention during spring training for any news. One sign for hope was an increased walk rate in 2007. Morneau’s expected-BA (xBA) in 2007 was .295, so look for his batting average to bounce back in 2008, but he won’t hit .321 again if he can’t make adjustments against lefties and if he doesn’t start to drive the ball a little better. Morneau is entering his prime years, so 35 homeruns is possible if everything comes together, but be prepared to expect 30 homeruns with a .280-.285 average.

6. Chone Figgins
Chone Figgins had a wonderful 2007 despite only appearing in 115 games due to broken fingers and recurring wrist problems. Figgins still managed to steal 41 bases, and with an improved walk rate and OBP, especially in the second half, he should steal 50-55 bases provided he plays a full season. Figgins had surgery in October to remove the hamate bone in his left wrist, with an expected recovery time of ten weeks, so will have to see how much that will affect him going into spring training. Figgins had an xBA of .283 in 2007 and a contact rate of 40%, well above his historical trend, so a decrease in BA should be expected. Depending on how his wrist holds up, Figgins should be expected to hit .290-.295, and with Torii Hunter providing a little more pop in the lineup, Figgins should see an increase in runs scored; possibly 100 runs in 2008. Great speed, good average, a wide range of position eligibility in 2008 means good keeper value.

7. Carlos Guillen
There were a couple players I thought about picking instead of Guillen, but the main reasons I like him in the last keeper spot are he plays for a team with lots of opportunities for scoring runs and RBI, and he’s moving to first base this season to save his legs but he’ll still have SS eligibility. With the acquisition of Edgar Renteria, Guillen can now play first base and hopefully stay healthy and fresh for the whole season. Guillen had problems throughout the year with sore legs and knees, so hopefully moving to a less strenuous position will me better production at the plate and on the base paths. Guillen still had a solid Speed Index of 112, so 15 stolen bases shouldn’t be out of the question. His hit rate was low in 2007 compared to his historical rates, so a slight batting average adjustment should be forthcoming. A healthy Guillen should be good for .300 average, 20-25 homeruns, and 100+ RBI.

The Also-Rans
It was really almost a tossup between Carlos Guillen and Eric Byrnes for the last spot. Byrnes’ stolen base potential makes him a very attractive pickup, but his career-high BA of .287 was supported by a very high hit rate. Lower batting average means lower OBP, and a lower OBP means less stolen base opportunities. Byrnes doesn’t get many RBI opportunities playing for a team with one of the worst offenses in 2007, and he showed less power last year than in 2006 when he hit 26 homeruns. Byrnes could be 25/25 next year, but he’s more risky than Guillen. Jonathan has a few pitchers that could be considered keepers, especially John Lackey who was the 6th best pitcher in 2007 according to ESPN. Lackey is in his prime, and he greatly improved his control and command, though his dominance has been trending closer to average over the past three years. I left Lackey off because I prefer whenever possible to load up on offense in the first seven innings. John Smoltz defies time year after year, but the older he gets, the harder it will be to recover from injury, and it will be harder mentally for him to play through any discomfort if Atlanta isn’t contending, which they probably won’t be in 2008. Roy Oswalt is Houston’s ace, but his dominance ratio has been slipping for the past four years and his command ratio in 2007 was the worst of his career. Johnny Peralta provides good pop for a middle infielder and an okay average, but that’s about it. Frank Thomas hit 26 homeruns last year, but I wouldn’t bet on him to do it again in 2008 if his slugging percentage and HR/FB rate keep trending downward.

Jonathan, you have a very solid group of keepers of which I’m envious. You have three guys who will all go in the first round next year, and four more who will go in the top-five rounds. You definitely have a nice head start on the rest of us in the league in terms of keeper talent.


Ben P said...

I don't know how he doesn't win every year. Great lineups always.

Jonathan B said...

because im always too busy attempting to trade with the lemurs but getting shot down!