The fantasy impact of the deadline deals highlights this week’s Week That Was.
Before jumping into the baseball news, I just wanted to make sure you all know that Colton and the Wolfman has changed timeslots. We are now on Tuesdays from 10pm-1am ET on SiriusXM (Sirius 210, XM 87). All you need to know for fantasy baseball pennant races and fantasy football drafts.
Ok, now back to business . . . .
Ryan Dempster: The Rangers thought they had to make the move to get Dempster to counter the Angels’ acquisition of Zack Greinke. The question is, do you go after Dempster with equal zeal in fantasy. Answer: No. Certain facts are undeniable: 1) Dempster is good but not great; 2) His 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP was going to inflate even without his being shipped to Texas (he only had an ERA under 3.00 as a starter once in his 15 seasons and has never posted a WHIP under 1.20); 3) Wrigley is not a great place to pitch but Texas is surely worse; and 4) there is no pitcher to strike out 2x per game in the AL. All in all, Dempster is probably better than your 5th starter in an AL only league but he comes with a serious warning label for the dog days of August. Buyer beware. [Note, I formed this opinion before the 8 ER, 12 baserunner 4.2 inning debut in a Texas uniform].
Joe Blanton: Unlike Dempster, “Officer Joe” goes from a bandbox to a cavernous pitcher’s park. Moreover, he gets to pitch a bunch of away games in other pitcher havens like SF and SD. Officer Joe has pitched FAR, FAR better than people credit him for. Yes, he has a 4.59 ERA but look at the other numbers: an otherworldly 115/18 K/BB ratio and 1.19 WHIP. Plus, he has 5 QS in his last 6 in which he averaged 7 punchouts a game. Bottom line -- Officer Joe is a major buy for your fantasy pennant race.
Shane Victorino: The Flyin Hawaiian also escaped Philly in search of a shot at the playoffs. In fact, like Officer Joe, he will be donning Dodger Blue. As noted, Philly is a better place to hit but the big park in LA should help Victorino use his speed. People are down on Victorino in fantasy circles, but frankly, I am not sure why. Thus far this year, he has 9 HR and 25 SB. Yes, the .258 is disappointing but how many 15-35 guys are there out there? Plus, there is reason for optimism in the batting average area. In the 5 games before the deal, he was hot, going 8-19. Bottom line here is that Victorino is not a superstar but remains a solid roto category producer. Buy.
Hunter Pence: In another tit for tat deal, the Giants matched the Dodgers’ outfield acquisition with one of their own -- Hunter Pence. Pence, like Victorino, is a good roto player, but not the roto superstar people make him out to be (a point made quite nicely by one of the fantasy greats, Nate Ravitz, during his appearance on Colton and the Wolfman last week). Thus far this year, Pence is hitting a pedestrian .266 with only 5 SB, however, he is on pace for 26 HR and 94 RBI. The change to a pitcher’s park will be much harder for Pence than Victorino. First, Pence has never played anywhere but hitter havens (Houston and Philly). Second, Pence is a power hitter who has abandoned the speed game and thus will be more affected by the big park. Bottom line here: Pence is a good player but not a superstar so bid or trade accordingly [he has never hit more than 25 HR and has never reached 100 RBI or runs scored].
Geovany Soto: In a move that is flying under many fantasy radars, the Rangers acquired Geovany Soto from the Cubs and DFA’d Yorvit Torrealba. Soto has been inconsistent his entire career [e.g., .285, .217, .280, .228 respectively in the last four years]. This year, Soto has been “so-low,” hitting a paltry .201. I still think Soto represents perhaps the biggest buying opportunity for AL-only owners who are invariably playing guys like Chris Stewart, Tyler Flowers and Jose Molina. Soto has been double digit dingers four years in a row and Texas should only help his power numbers. AL-only owners should invest but recognize the need to average protect if rostering Soto.
Omar Infante: Infante’s return to Detroit is a mixed blessing. Good news: Infante has hit .290 or better in 3 of the last 4 years (respectable .276 in the other year). Bad news, those were the four years since he left Detroit. More bad news -- he never hit above .276 for the Tigers. This year, Infante has been a solid MI option with a .280 average, 8 HR and 10 SB, though he has been ice cold over the last two weeks (.222 with no HR or SB). So, what is an AL fantasy owner to do? Buy! Just like Soto, Infante enters at a scarce MI position and will take the place of guys like Jamey Carroll, Robert Andino or Adam Rosales if you can roster him. Expect some helpful HR and SB numbers with an average that at worst won't kill you. Not superstar material but still much better than what you are likely getting now from your MI3.
Kurt Suzuki: One of the rare guys that went from AL to NL this year. Suzuki has been lost since hitting .274 with 15 HR and 88 RBI in 2009 and it has been getting worse -- .242 in 10, .237 in 11 and .218 this year. Like in the AL (where Soto arrived), NL owners are surely playing C2’s with far less ability than Suzuki (yes, you, the Brian Schneider owner). Other than being better than bad hitters, there is reason for some optimism. Suzuki had hit in 5 straight before the trade and is hitting .316 over the last two weeks. Suzuki will never hit like Jorge Posada or Johnny Bench but he is better than he has been this year and his last two weeks give us reason to invest in NL only leagues.
Gaby Sanchez: One of the great mysteries of the 2012 season is what happened to Gaby Sanchez? Did the Monstars steal his talent like they did in the movie Space Jam? After hitting 19 HR in each of 2010 and 2011 and knocking in an average of 80 runs per year in those years, Sanchez is hitting .199 with only 3 HR this year. Ouch. It is hard to get too excited by Gaby and Pittsburgh is not committed to playing him every day. So, unless you are in a very deep NL only league, Gaby is not the answer. If you already own him, well, glass half full, at least he is back in the majors.
Brandon League: Bad news, League lost the closer job a long time ago. Worse news, he will not be a closer now that he is a member of the Dodgers. Once again the SMART system rears its head. The T in SMART is team and says that closers on bad teams get traded to good teams to be set up guys. Here, the former closer got traded from his bad team and lost any chance to regain his closer status. Even NL only teams don’t want to play in this league.
Cliff Lee: Finally, a bit about the one guy who I thought would be traded but stayed put. Lee responded by winning his second game of the year. Yes, second. Despite the sorry win-loss record, Lee presents a major buying opportunity for the savvy fantasy owner. Carp about the wins and keep to yourself the fact that Lee has a 5/1 K/BB ratio, a 1.18 WHIP and a 3.73 ERA that is sure to reduce as 2012 progresses into August. Buy and do it quickly.
And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page -- Schultz says: “There are certain teams that just seem to generate quality starting pitchers. When Dave Duncan oversaw St. Louis' pitching staff, the Cardinals were (and frankly still are) a fine source for roto-stats with Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook providing excellent numbers for a fraction of the cost. In the American League, the Oakland A's are turning into that same fount of quality pitching. Although the Moneyball movie ignored them, most roto-players have fond memories of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito putting up insane numbers in the early part of the aughts (funny to see something nice said about Barry Zito, I know) and most recently, the A's have fostered the careers of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haren (oh where have you gone Rich Harden). For our current purposes, the A's rotation continues to sport options for the back end of your roto-rotation. Bartolo Colon continues to defy logic by keeping an ERA around 3.50 and, while growing pains have occurred, Tommy Milone is learning to add strikeouts to his pinpoint control repertoire. This past Friday, Dan Straily, who has 175 strikeouts in just over 133 innings made his major league debut. Since Straily's success comes from mastering a healthy number of pitches, not by overpowering hitters, it's unlikely that Straily maintains his strikeout pace at the big league level. However, his spot in the A's rotation and the dimensions of his home park make him an attractive late season pickup.
Those looking beyond 2012 might be interested to know that Joba Chamberlain threw his first pitch in more than a year this week. Since he last donned the Pinstripes, Chamberlain has undergone Tommy John surgery, broken his ankle, had a brain transplant, survived the Ludovico technique as administered by Dr. Brodsky and both knees replaced. Showing tremendous rust, Chamberlain was pounded in his return. Despite Mariano Rivera's optimism, it is medically unlikely that a 44-year-old pitcher returns from ACL reconstruction on the leg he uses to push off the rubber. With the Yankees closer position relatively open, you would have to think the Yankees see if they could turn the Joba rules into JOBA RULES.
Carter Capps is another name to keep in mind for the future. The Mariners' 21-year-old reliever made his debut last night in Yankee Stadium, facing a total of three batters. He didn't fare all that well: giving up a hit, a walk and a sacrifice bunt while letting Russell Martin steal a base. However, he consistently hit 99-100 mph with a fastball that had nice movement. There's nothing to see here from a roto-standpoint but like Kenley Jansen two years back, Capps is a name to file away.”
Response: All I can say is that I am not betting against Mariano. He is determined to return and will.