Has the Age of the Closer Come to an End?

Being as young as I am, I can seriously not imagine baseball without certain things.

I can’t imagine baseball without a fantasy obviously. Since I have been drawn to the sport, fantasy baseball has been as much of a staple as fantasy football to the NFL or fantasy basketball to the NBA.

Middle relief has become such big business nowadays that you have an entire section on roster reports dedicated solely to who’s a middle reliever, a spot starter, and a closer! Back in the day, pitchers would pitch complete games regardless of how high the score got, how hot it was, or regardless of when their next start was (which was usually later on that week). Yet, middle relief has become such a big deal nowadays that it has changed the way the game is played.

With the advent of fantasy baseball and roster spots, there has become a growing trend that is sweeping rosters across the board and it is known by the simple letters of “SP/RP”. This is basically pitchers who qualify as “spot starters” or guys who start out the year as a relief pitcher but then get moved to the rotation whether it’s due to injury, talent, or you just decide to blow up your team one day (see Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington).

This has posed a serious question that owners are now having to ask themselves: are starts worth more than save opportunities?

Richards has been one of the better pitchers out there, racking up 443 fantasy points this season.

Richards has been one of the better pitchers out there, racking up 443 fantasy points this season.

It’s a fair question to ask. If you look at standard scoring alone, the top 2 “RP-eligible pitchers” (Los Angeles Angels’ SP/RP Garrett Richards and San Diego Padres’ SP/RP Tyson Ross) are both getting starts on a weekly basis. Not to mention, they both have 85 and 24 points (respectively) more than the next closest “closer” who is Milwaukee Brewers’ RP Francisco Rodriguez! And we haven’t even mentioned Cincinnati Reds’ SP/RP Alfredo Simon who currently ranks 4th on that list. The disparity in points is not one to overlook.

Luckily there is hope in this.

You can’t deny that the SP/RP role is a good one to cash in on. You can easily get 2-4 extra starts a week if you know who to pick up and how to manage the match ups right. Richards (12-4, 2.58 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 158 SO, 443 fantasy points) is an obvious choice on who you can gamble on. At his current rate, he stands to make you at least 180-200 more fantasy points over the next 8 weeks. But what if you’re not lucky enough to have a guy like Richards, Ross (382.5 fantasy points), or Simon (344.5 fantasy points), what do you do?

They are the top 3, but the next closest is further down the charts. 14 spots to be exact. Oakland A’s SP/RP Jesse Chavez (8-7, 3.41 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 276.5 fantasy points) is ranked 18th overall and with a loaded rotation, a gamble at best. Closer rule 14 out of 18 spots and in the bigger picture, 22 out of the top 30 are “closer only” RP. You have dedicated middle relievers that include New York Yankees’ RP Dellin Betances (224 points) and Los Angeles Angels’ RP Joe Smith (262 points) but that represents the minority.

Not saying that there isn’t inherit gamble with a closer. St. Louis Cardinals RP Trevor Rosenthal (1-5, 3.07 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 35 S, 327 points) ranks 5ht overall in points but has blown 4 saves this year and an ERA/WHIP that is double that of 8 of the top 10 closers. But despite the high ERA/WHIP, Rosenthal still averages 17.2 points per week (equivalent of 2 save opportunities).

Even though the WHIP/ERA are high, Rosenthal is still first in the MLB in saves at 35.

Even though the WHIP/ERA are high, Rosenthal is still first in the MLB in saves at 35.

Even a closer on a bad team is still worth points. Minnesota Twins’ RP Glen Perkins (3-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 28 S, 318.5 points) and Boston Red Sox RP Koji Uehara (5-2, 1.42 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 22 S, 318.5 points) are dead last in their respective divisions but can still get you points in spite of their team’s shortcomings.

My rule, albeit a new one, is this:

  • “Treat save opportunities like you would games started”

Doing this can help you make the right choices. If a closer goes out and pitches the perfect inning (0 hits allowed, 0 runs, 0 walks, 3 SO, 1 S) that is worth 11.5 points (just for one opportunity). You take that and say he gets another save opportunity that week, that’s 23 points. He gives up a run or walk, that bumps you down to 19-20 points. For a SP (in a non-double start week) to get you those kind of points they would need 6 innings of shut out baseball (0 hits, 0 walks, 0 ER) and that would get you 21 points.

Emphasis still has to be placed on ERA and WHIP (as we discussed last week). You can’t throw those rules out of the window. But when you break down the numbers, there are very few SP out there that will net you the kind of points a closer will. In the big picture, 4 out of the top 90 pitchers are SP/RP while 18 out of the top 90 are closers.

Hope this info helps and happy hunting!

Till next time..

Chad Bates


Waiver Wire = Fantasy Baseball’s Hidden Gem

We have all been there. Draft day comes and once the picks are in, the thought comes up “How could I possibly lose?”

Then the injury bug, mediocre performance, and 50-game bans decide to take your perfectly good team and run them through meat grinder. Once the season ends, your team is barely recognizable.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Waiver wires can be a “get-out-of-jail” free card or they can have you wind up behind bars before you can blink. A lot of “The Fantasy Focus” looks at this concept and offers advice on how you can get a “second chance”. But in all of our 5 years, we have never given out advice on how to actually “read them”.

To say there is a science to it would be an insult to the chemists, biologist, and physics professors alike but I would lean more towards “art” if I had to choose a fitting word.

Most people will run into the “flavor of the week” mode like you would with fantasy football. Take the case of Oakland A’s SP Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 48 SO) and his rise and fall over weeks 7-13. Pomeranz netted 21 points in week 7 and saw a 51% increase in his ownership in week 8. He then proceed to role out weeks of 16, 13, 14, 18, and -9 over the next 5 and saw his ownership plummet to what is now 26%. With that came a demotion to AAA Sacramento and up to this point, no promise of being recalled anytime soon.

With the wire comes the complete opposite and no one has been a better case than Cleveland Indians’ OF Michael Brantley (.318 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB). To start the season, Brantley was only owned in 59% of leagues despite posting a respectable .284 BA with 10 HR, 73 RBI, and 17 SB the previous season. Brantley had a solid posting of 27 points in week 3 and saw his ownership rise to 93% by week 5. Since then, he has been an All-Star and posted at least 20 points or more in 8 weeks since week 4, he has been on a torrid pace and is ranked 3rd in fantasy amongst OF!

Brantley, only owned in 59% of leagues to start the season, is ranked 3rd in points amongst OF.

Brantley, only owned in 59% of leagues to start the season, is ranked 3rd in points amongst OF.

So what does all of this prove? Proves that this post is worth reading.

Finding the diamonds amongst the dirt is tough to do. Most people take one or two good performances and immediately roll the dice. It goes back to fantasy football mentality; this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Consistent performance is always a great metric. Brantley had that to start the first 3 weeks of the season which made him a safer gamble. Pitching is where we see the “roller coaster” effect happen the most. It’s tough to have a waiver wire find pay big dividends unless you get an undrafted rookie (like Toronto Blue Jays’ SP Marcus Stroman)  later and are able to catch him when he gets red hot. Stroman (6-2, 3.20 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 59 SO) has been money the last 5 weeks posting at least 20 points in 4 out of the last 5 weeks, including 2 weeks of 31 points or better!

With that being said, there are several rules to keep in mind. Like surviving a horror movie, there are rules.

  1. Never target pitchers with Wins and High ERA/WHIP: This will always come back to bite you. Teams, MLB and fantasy (for that matter), are prone to highs and lows during the season. Wins are usually worth 5 points in most leagues but if the ERA and WHIP are high, it can usually cost you or devalue a pitcher when he stops getting run support. Best case of this is Boston Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz (5-7, 5.86 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 70 SO) who has seen his ownership as high as 95% to start the season and as low as 39% in week 12. Where Boston goes, he goes and that’s a scary though since the Red Sox have lost 6 out of their last 7 games.

    Buchholz has been getting rocked this season and has seen his ownership rise and fall.

    Buchholz has been getting rocked this season and has seen his ownership rise and fall.

  2. Be careful of “power-only hitters”: I should change the name of this to the “Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn Effect”. Milwaukee Brewers 3B Reynolds (.210 BA, 18 HR, 38 RBI, 99 K) is a classic example of short-term fix. In week 8, he dropped 28 fantasy points and saw ownership rise to 47% in week 10. Since then, he has posted 5 weeks of single-digit points and he is currently on-pace to reach 149 K. When a guy has superhuman power, always check the K’s. Those are minus 1 in most leagues and short-term power can lead to long-term issues if the K’s climb.
  3. Give rookies time to develop: St. Louis Cardinals’ OF Oscar Taveras (.208 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 14 SO) was the prize everyone sought in week 9 when he was called up. He posted 9 points in week 10 and saw his ownership rise from 49% to start the season to 92% in week 11! Then he was sent back down to AAA Memphis and things cooled off (dropped to 65% in week 13). Since he was called up in week 14, he has posted weeks of 7, 6, 1, and 5 points and is in danger of being demoted again. We all want to get rookie studs like Chicago White Sox 1B Jose Abreu (.294 BA, 30 HR, 79 RBI) but you can’t go all-in unless you have something to go off of. Getting caught in that trap happens as often as the pitching trap.

With all of that being said, here are a couple of names to keep an eye on.

  • Josh Harrison, 2B/3B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: He is still available in 33% of leagues out there! What’s wrong with people? He has been consistent (11 out of 12 weeks with at least 10 points) which is surprising since he doesn’t play everyday. He’s not overly blessed with power (7 HR and 34 RBI) but he can fill key areas (40 R and 13 SB) while posting a respectable .298 BA.

    Harrison doesn't get enough fantasy love and not just because he had one of the greatest rundown's in history against the New York Mets.

    Harrison doesn’t get enough fantasy love and not just because he had one of the greatest rundown’s in history against the New York Mets.

  • Jake McGee, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays have won 10 out of their last 11 games and McGee (3-0, 12 S, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) has been earning saves left and right. He has 5 in his last 7 games and has yielded only 3 hits in his last 7 appearances! He’s a premium in the RP role right now which is not a guarantee for owners anymore.
  • Vance Worley, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: He is only owned in 28″% of leagues but if you’re looking for a guy who can help you towards the playoffs, he is one to keep an eye on. His 4-1 record is nothing earth-shattering but the fact he has posted at least 20 points in 5 of the last 8 weeks is a good sign. That and his 2.53 ERA and 1.06 WHIP doesn’t hurt either.
  • Denard Span, OF, Washington Nationals: He is another example of you don’t need power to be effective. Span has climbed in ownership (15% in July) and with good reason; he’s hitting .369 in the month of July. He has also collected 53 points over the last 3 weeks and ranks in the Top 10 in fantasy OF in runs (64). While he’s hot, ride him.
  • Darren Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals: If you only pay attention to his record (5-10), you will miss out on the bigger picture. He doesn’t get the wins but he can still produce points (6 of his last 8 weeks have produced double digits). And his best quality? A very respectable 2.47 ERA to go with a 1.07 WHIP. If he was on a better team, he would be a “must start”.

    Duffy's ERA and WHIP alone make up for the lack of wins.

    Duffy’s ERA and WHIP alone make up for the lack of wins.

Good luck on the wire and as always, may the odds ever be in your favor (unless you’re playing me).

Till next time..

Chad Bates

Hot Stove in July? How the MLB Trade Deadline Can Impact Your Team

There is nothing like it. Other than soccer who has a transfer window period in January, no other sport has a trade deadline quite like the MLB.

NFL and NBA have a “trade deadline” but let’s be real, unless we are talking fantasy nothing of major consequence happens.

Odds of Tom Brady or Calvin Johnson getting traded mid-season are about the same odds as me getting a modeling gig. And if you haven’t seen me lately, those odds are getting smaller by the moment.

We have seen some unthinkable “deadline deals” in the past that have altered the course of team’s projections. In 2000, Philadelphia Phillies’ SP Curt Schilling  was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a list of prospects and Schilling ended up being the miss piece as the Diamondbacks won the World Series the following year.

2003 was another year that altered the course of team’s fate. Had it not been for the infamous “Steve Bartman Catch”, the Chicago Cubs could have seen their gamble pay off even more when they acquired 3B Aramis Ramirez from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ramirez put up 15 HR and 39 RBI after the trade and was a pivotal piece for the Cubs who almost made it to the World Series.

That one had to be a brutal reminder for Cubs’ fans. I do apologize.

Rumor mills have being spinning faster than we can keep up with them this season. There has been talk of big name pitching making a jump along with several key positional players who could be the boost teams need in order to make a post-season run. With a second Wild Card spot and more parity then we have seen in a long time, the MLB Trade Deadline can be a crucial piece for teams and fantasy owners alike.

At least they didn't have to spell Jeff Samardizja's name right as part of the July 4th deal.

At least they didn’t have to spell Jeff Samardizja’s name right as part of the July 4th deal.

So far we have already seen a trade with serious consequences. The Oakland A’s might have shifted the odds in their favor on July 4 as they dealt for SP Jeff Samardzija (4-8, 2.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 123 SO) and SP Jason Hammel (8-7, 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 109 SO) for a top 20 prospect in SS Addison Russell (.269 BA, 4 HR, 17 RBI in the minors in 2014). While fantasy owners will not be on the “Russell Watch” this season, it does make things interesting in “AL Only” or “NL Only” Leagues. Samardzija has gained since joining the A’s, picking up 3 wins (he had 1 in 16 starts previously with the Cubs) and has done it with a respectable 2.80 ERA with 20 SO.

Samardzija had been on the rumor mill for awhile and he is not the only one. Perhaps the most prized-arm in trade deadline history is still up for grabs, for the right “price”.

No pun intended.

Tampa Bay Rays’ SP David Price (10-7, 3.06 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 173 SO) has been dominating the airwaves the last couple of weeks and with good reason; he’s a former Cy Young winner and having an impressive season on a “bad” team. He’s 4-0 in the July and owning a ridiculous 0.85 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. On top of that, he has more SO (29) than H (20).

If there has been a better pitcher as of late, I haven’t heard his name yet.

Price is the prize but it’s not a forgone conclusion he’s available. Rays’ General Manager Andrew Friedman is asking for the sun, moon, and stars in order to get one of the best left-handed pitchers in MLB. He is wanting elite prospects and with teams stock piling prospects like people hoard gold, it’s hard to imagine anyone out there who could pull off a deal.

Price has been an absolute beast this season already posting 173 SO.

Price has been an absolute beast this season already posting 173 SO.

However, consider this most modest proposal. The Cubs! That’s right, I said the Cubs.

They have the prospects (5 in the Top 50) and they are in dire need of pitching (traded most of their’s away with the A’s). They are 15.5 games out of first place so in terms of making an impact this season, not going to happen. But from a long term standpoint, it gets General Manager Theo Epstein’s “rebuilding project” ahead of schedule and gives the Cubs a legit ace.

Other teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals will be in the discussion but in terms of bounty, the Cubs have the best stockpile of any team.

Here are a couple of other names to keep a close eye on.

  • Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: Another prized arm to go with Price, Lee has less shine than he once had. Lee is used to be dealt at the deadline after being traded in 2009 from the Cleveland Indians to the Texas Rangers, but this year he is currently owed $25 million (unlike 2009). He has a respectable 3.67 ERA to go with a 4-5 mark but with the money owed, it’s tough to see any team taking that deal.
  • Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: How the mighty have fallen. Kemp, who was once regarded as the best OF in baseball in 2011 (.324 BA, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB) has been a shell of himself this season (.268 BA, 8 HR, 38 RBI). Kemp wants to be an “everyday” OF for the Dodgers but with a loaded OF, he may be on the move to get more playing time. His contract ($21 million this season) makes him tough to move (like Lee).

    Kemp is not the banger he once was but still has something to offer (for the low price of $21 million).

    Kemp is not the banger he once was but still has something to offer (for the low price of $21 million).

  • John Danks, SP, Chicago White Sox: This scenario keeps looking better since he is rumored to be headed to the New York Yankees. His record of 8-6 is respectable but he is posting a 4.35 ERA to go with a 1.42 WHIP. He could benefit from a change of scenery and with a better situation, could be worth an add in mixed leagues.
  • Tommy Milone, SP, Oakland A’s: He, like Kemp, is looking for more playing time and in Milone’s case, you can see why. He is 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. He hasn’t been the most lethal arm in their rotation, but he can help virtually any team that’s in the playoff push. He’s cheaper than Price and could be effective; if you’re a fantasy owner, keep a sharp eye.
  • Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres: Another pitcher (yes this is this week’s theme). Kennedy has been shopped around over his career (3 teams in 7 years) but he has a lot to offer for a team that needs one more piece to the puzzle. His 8-9 record on a team that ranks 30th in offense is respectable and he has a solid 3.66 ERA to compliment a 1.22 WHIP. His stock could soar if he gets dealt.

Sit back, relax, and get ready for some crazy wheeling and dealing the next couple of days!

Till next time..

Chad Bates

The Votes Are In! First Half Awards

It’s hard to imagine that the All-Star Break is already here and gone. It just seems like yesterday I was drafting my team and trying to figure out how I was going to compete for first when I was in the hole 2 games.

Luckily some things have been moving fast and I’m tied for first in my league (for now).

One of the things I enjoy more than anything is looking at something and breaking it down. Whether it’s business statistics, art, or fantasy baseball there is something to be said about taking an item and getting to it’s root cause.

Fantasy baseball, as we have showed, can be a game of numbers AND intangibles.

This season has been one of the bigger surprises that we have seen in awhile. No one would have thought that the Oakland A’s would sport one of the best records in baseball and that the Kansas City Royals could be in position to make their first playoff appearance since 1985! Combine that with 25 “first-time” All-Stars at this year’s MLB All-Star Game and needless to say, this season has been a lot like the “Red Wedding” in Game of Thrones.

I’m talking the shock and surprise, not people getting mercilessly killed (should have clarified that one).

Redemption has been one of the major themes this season. A good example would be once fantasy-stud, turned dud, back to stud in San Francisco Giants’ SP Tim Lincecum (9-5, 3.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 101 SO). Lincecum, by all counts, was relegated to “done” status to begin the start of the season. The 2-time Cy Young winner had posted consecutive seasons where he lost at least 14 games and had ERA’s of 4.38 and 5.17 respectfully. His velocity was down and basically, his stock plummeted.

Lincecum has been hot this season and looks to be on-pace for 15 wins.

Lincecum has been hot this season and looks to be on-pace for 15 wins.

This season has been a somewhat different story for “The Freak”. He is currently on-pace to win 15 games and so far he has posted 5 weeks where he has scored 30 or more points (including an average of 41 points a week). He’s not a front line ace but as long as he can contribute like this the rest of the season, he is worth having on any team.

Another good case of redemption comes from Baltimore Orioles OF Nelson Cruz (.286 BA, 28 HR, 74 RBI, 332.5 fantasy points). After being suspended for the end of the season in 2013 for breaking MLB’s “Banned Substance Policy”, Cruz has resurrected himself as one of the top power-hitters in baseball. His 28 HR and his 74 RBI place him second overall behind Chicago White Sox 1B Jose Abreu (29 HR) Detroit Tigers’ 1B/3B Miguel Cabrera (75 RBI). He was not high on anyone’s radar due to the time he missed but on a team with quality bats like OF Adam Jones (.301 BA, 16 HR, 54 RBI) and 1B/OF Chris Davis (.199 BA, 15 HR, 48 RBI), Cruz has shined the brightest.

You can also make a case for Los Angeles Angels’ 1B Albert Pujols (.278 BA, 20 HR, 64 RBI) who is in the top 10 fantasy hitters for total points scored (321.5). Pujols, if you paid attention to the last 2 years, took a sharp decline when he landed in the “City of Angels” posting career lows in BA (.285 and .258) as well as in HR (30 and 17). This year, he has already eclipsed last season in terms of power and he is on-pace to hit 34 HR and 111 RBI. On this blog, we talked extensively about the decline of Pujols but this season he has taught us you can never count out a great player like him.

With that being said, here is a list of this year’s hardware.

  • AL Player of the Year: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angles Angels – He is the leader amongst hitters in fantasy points (375.5) and 2nd overall in fantasy. He is the rare combination of power (22 HR) and speed (10 SB). Combine that with a .310 BA and it’s hard to imagine that he won’t bring home the hardware at the end of the season.

    Trout is the leader in the AL  in terms of points scored and has 22 HR to go with 10 SB.

    Trout is the leader in the AL in terms of points scored and has 22 HR to go with 10 SB.

  • AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners – They call him “The King” for a reason. His 11 wins, 154 SO, 2.12 ERA, and 0.90 WHIP are several reasons why. He is tops this season in fantasy points (464) and quite honestly having one of the better runs we have seen in a long time. He, like Trout, should be bringing home hardware at the end of the season.
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Mashario Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees – It would be hard not to argue Abreu and his 312 fantasy points. What sets Tanaka apart from Abreu is the fact that until his injury, he had been one of the more dominating forces in MLB (11-1 through June 22nd). Tanaka, despite the injury, ranks 4th overall in fantasy points (398) and is tied for the league-lead in W (12). He’s been a stud this season.
  • AL Surprise of the Year: Scott Kazmir, SP, Oakland A’s – You could say the whole Oakland A’s team for that matter but Kazmir (11-3, 2.37 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 108 SO) has been the biggest of them all. After missing the majority of 2011 and 2012, Kazmir had a solid stint with the Cleveland Indians before coming to Oakland and becoming an All-Star. He ranks in the Top 10 fantasy pitcher wise and should turn into a Top 20 player next season.

    Kazmir is in the Top 10 in terms of fantasy points and he has 11 wins this season.

    Kazmir is in the Top 10 in terms of fantasy points and he has 11 wins this season.

  • AL Disappointment of the Year: Chris Davis, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles – We expected a decline, but no one could have envisioned this. After crushing 54 HR and a league-leading 138 RBI last season, Davis is no where near that mark (15 HR and 48 RBI). His .199 BA and 106 K are making last year look like a mirage in what could have been a promising 2014.


  • NL Player of the Year: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates – He leads all fantasy hitters in points (376) and has continued to put himself amongst the elite. His .323 BA, 17 HR, 61 RBI, and 15 SB are great to see in any league format and we haven’t even mentioned his OBP (.420). His SO (74) are up but he is still one of the best in the game.
  • NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers – He should have been the starter for the NL because he is arguably the best in baseball. His 1.77 ERA is tops in MLB to go with a 0.83 WHIP and 11 wins. His K/BB ratio (9.69) is jaw-dropping to go with 11.8 SO per 9 innings. He’s been worth every penny of the $215 million he was signed to.

    Kershaw leads the league in ERA at 1.77 and has 11 wins.

    Kershaw leads the league in ERA at 1.77 and has 11 wins.

  • NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds – After starting out this season on a rough patch, Hamilton has rebounded nicely. His 38 SB rank him second in the NL and he has improved significantly in BA (.285) which had been his opportunity in AA and AAA. He has already netted 40 points this scoring period and could be a must-have in Roto Leagues this season and seasons to come.
  • NL Surprise of the Year: Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros – If I would have told you he was in the Top 10 in fantasy points and he has done this with only 2 HR, would you believe me? No one has done more with less power than Altuve who is second in SB (41) and 3rd in BA (.335). He is proof you don’t need power to contribute in fantasy.

    Altuve ranks 3rd in BA at .335 and is in the Top in fantasy points.

    Altuve ranks 3rd in BA at .335 and is in the Top in fantasy points.

  • NL Disappointment of the Year: Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds – How the mighty have fallen? Votto, riddled with injuries, is posting career lows in HR (6), BA (.254), and RBI (23) while posting a higher than normal SO total (49). The Reds should get him back in 2 weeks but if he can’t turn it around, this could be a sign of things to come.

Good luck in the second half and we will see you next time!

Chad Bates

The Arms Race

You can never have enough of many things in life. You can never have enough vacation, never have enough money, and my personal favorite: beer.

Ok, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch.

For fantasy owners, pitching would definitely fall into this category. Since the implementation of middle relief back in the 1970’s and “saves” became a recorded metric, pitching has become a game changer and fantasy is no exception to the rule. With quality starts earning 3 points and every inning pitched earning 3 points, owners are beginning to look to the mound in order to ensure their survival.

With this new found reliance on pitching, there has been a price to be paid.

New York Yankees SP Mashario Tanaka (12-4, 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 135 SO) is another harsh reminder the risk owners face with an ace. Yesterday, Tanaka was placed on the 15-day DL due to a partially torn ligament in his elbow that doesn’t necessarily require surgery, but could side line the All-Star up to 6 weeks.

In fantasy terms, that’s a substantial sum of money at this point in the season.

Tanaka is not the only ace to go down throwing this season. NL Rookie of the Year and fantasy stud SP Jose Fernandez (4-2, 2.44 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 70 SO) of the Miami Marlins was another casualty of “Tommy John Surgery” this season as he landed on the 60-day DL just 5 weeks into the 2014 season. Fernandez before this injury was on pace to not only match his 12-6 record from last season, but he looked poised to smash his previous mark of 187 SO.

Jose Fernandez had an All-Star season cut short with Tommy John Surgery back in May.

Jose Fernandez had an All-Star season cut short with Tommy John Surgery back in May.

The “Arms Race” though is a marathon not a sprint.

Tough blows to your rotation will always leave you lingering but the one great thing about baseball is you always have a stock pile of arms you can tap into if you know the right places to shop. The key is knowing what’s worn down and what still has value.

Obvious places to look include AA and AAA. Some people have benefited from call ups in the past but this season has not been the most kind for those of us that are scouting the milb.com news feed for hidden gems. Seattle Mariners SP Taijuan Walker (1-1, 3.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 10 SO, 2 GS) was the talk of the town last week when he was called up to face the Houston Astros and although he managed a W, his outing (6 IP, 5 HA, 3 ER, 2BB, 6 K) was not the gem some owners were expecting. Combine that with a rough outing on Sunday against the Chicago White Sox (2 HA, 1 ER, 5 BB, 3 K) and Walker earned himself a plane ticket back to AAA Tacoma to work on his command issues (7 BB in 2 starts).

Another place to look is once broken arms coming off the DL who are getting another lease on life. A good example of this is Cincinnati Reds SP Mat Latos (2-1, 2.41 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 17 SO). Ever since he was activated from the DL on June 14th, he has had 4 quality starts and  94 fantasy points. While Latos is not out there on the waiver wire (owned in 96% of leagues) he is someone that reminds us the DL spot can be a great place to stash a potential stud who can help you later on.

Turning this into a science would be an insult to the science community. And I honestly don’t want “Bill Nigh the Science Guy” breaking down my door anytime soon. There are several tips I can offer that can help you find that gem and potential ace that can help solidify any fantasy rotation.

Key is looking at the obvious metrics. ERA and WHIP are a great chapter of the book on a pitcher. You take a guy like Texas Rangers SP Colby Lewis (6-6, 6.53 ERA, 1.82 WHIP) and while he does boast 6 wins and 73 SO he has surrendered 31 ER and 59 H in his last 7 outings! Take away last night’s historic slugfest against the Los Angeles Angels and he has still given up 21 ER and 46 H. Guys like him and Baltimore Orioles SP Ubaldo Jimenez (3-8, 4.51 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) have win potential you can’t trust them in a head to head setting.

Some people like high strikeout guys like St. Louis Cardinals SP Carlos Martinez (2-3, 4.11 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 52 SO) who can rack up points and wins on a good team. But with that high SO potential you have be careful when it comes to the command. Martinez, albeit a strikeout machine, is prone to command issues which leads to an inflated WHIP (1.35) fueled by BB (25).

Carlos Martinez has a world of SO potential but has to learn how to cut down on the BB (25 this season).

Carlos Martinez has a world of SO potential but has to learn how to cut down on the BB (25 this season).

Minnesota Twins SP Phil Hughes (9-5, 3.71 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 112 SO) is a prime example of 2 things; a change can do you good and don’t forget about K/BB ratio. When he was the future of the New York Yankees, Hughes posted as good as 18-8 but also went 4-14 last season with an inflated 5.19 ERA. Since coming to Minnesota this season, Hughes has been a changed man. He is on pace for a career high in SO (182) but his most impressive stat is his K/BB ratio. With the Yankees, it fluctuated between 1.74 and 3.59. With the Twins, Hughes is posting a 9.27! Take solace in knowing that he won’t beat himself and fill your points with -1 for BB.

Phil Hughes has been "reborn" in Minnesota posting a 9-5 record with 102 SO and just 12 BB.

Phil Hughes has been “reborn” in Minnesota posting a 9-5 record with 102 SO and just 12 BB.

When it comes to closers, these same principals apply. Guys like Washington Nationals RP Rafael Soriano (21 S, 1.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) and Philadelphia Phillies RP Jonathan Papelbon (22 S, 1.23 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) have been studs this season while keeping their pitch count down (only twice have either gone above 20 pitches since June). Pitch count, albeit a traditional focal point in the minors, can be key when evaluating a closer. Guys who keep theirs low historically turn out better in terms of saves, ERA, and WHIP. Those who let theirs get out of hand like San Francisco Giants RP Sergio Romo (22 S, 5.19 ERA, 4 blown saves, 182 pitches in May) find themselves in the “committee role”.

May the odds always be in your favor and hope you all enjoy All-Star Weekend!

Till next time..

Chad Bates

New Blood Rising: Top Prospects this Season.

I have to admit, I am fairly heart broken at the moment.

No, I am not talking about my fantasy baseball team (which is actually first right now, oddly enough), I am talking about yesterday’s World Cup Match between USA and Germany. I have been a heavy USA Soccer support for years and I was hoping, like others, that this year could be the year the USA finally breaks through the barrier.

Advancing to the Round of 16 is better than nothing though.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

For the last 5 years, we have been focusing on fantasy baseball but we have never talked about the minors and how it can impact your team. Some would say “well, unless I am in a dynasty league, what do the minors have anything to do with me?”

Brett Jackson, currently with AAA Iowa, has yet to find a permanent home in Chicago in his career.

Brett Jackson, currently with AAA Iowa, has yet to find a permanent home in Chicago in his career.

Those are probably the same people that missed on Los Angeles Angels’ OF Mike Trout (.326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB) in 2012 when he had his breakout, Rookie of the Year performance.

Advocating you go out right now and select 5 of the top 10 milb.com prospects though would be insane. We have all heard of “Greek Tragedies” like Chicago Cubs OF Brett Jackson who was once considered a “can’t miss” prospect but is currently batting .194 with the AAA Iowa Cubs with just 3 HR and 8 RBI. You also look at a guy like Cleveland Indians SP Trevor Bauer, ranked 5th in 2012 on the Top 100, who had an impressive 12-2 campaign but was dealt after going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks in his call up.

Playing the prospect game can be a lot like the stock market except the odds are worse sometimes.

This year, as always, there are a number of guys down in the farms that are catching the attention of owners. Several of those names have already made their debut (Pittsburgh Pirates’ OF Gregory Polanco comes to mind) and have already made an impact in a big way. When you are focusing on the waiver wire that includes seasoned and unseasoned talent, it can be difficult deciphering who is ripe and who needs to be left in the sun a little bit longer.

As I have been examining this year’s lot, there are not too many guys oddly enough who are worth the gamble. There are some familiar faces a top the Top 100 who we are waiting to take that next step but as is with any sport, timing is crucial. There are also several names you want to keep a close eye on because they are making themselves look like men amongst boys already.

With that being said, here’s a look at a couple of guys to keep tabs on and a couple of guys to let someone else gamble on.


  1. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: He is shooting up the system like a rocket. He completely dominated in AA Tennessee (.355 BA, 22 HR, 58 RBI, .702 SLG) and could possibly see the light of day in Chicago before the year is out. He would solidify the corners with 1B Anthony Rizzo (.291 BA, 17 HR, 44 RBI) and is an upgrade over current 3B Mike Olt (.145 BA, 10 HR, 25 RBI). Bryant has been one of the best to this point and could have a “Trout like” impact if he keeps his current pace.

    Bryant, ranked 8th on the Top 100, has been in Beast Mode this season with 22 HR, 58 RBI in AA Tennessee.

    Bryant, ranked 8th on the Top 100, has been in Beast Mode this season with 22 HR, 58 RBI in AA Tennessee.

  2. Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners: As if Seattle needs any more arms, they have another one waiting in AAA Tacoma that could have a serious impact. Walker, who has been slowed down this season by shoulder injuries, has been shredding the PCL going 3-1 this season with opponents only batting .192 against him. I have him stashed currently and he is definitely worth the gamble.
  3. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians: He’s currently in AA Akron at the moment, but he could find his way in Cleveland before too long. His speed (19 SB) to go with a respectable .283 BA have gotten him into the Top 10. Not to mention that he is one of the best defensive SS in the farm system. He has some ways to go but could be a great grab late in the season.
  4. Henry Owens, SP, Boston Red Sox: Looks like San Francisco Giants’ SP Tim Lincecum and throws like him too. He’s currently 10-3 in AA Portland with opponents hitting a meager .181 against him this season. His K’s (95) make him even more intriguing but how he develops in AAA Pawtucket will be crucial. If he can keep the ERA (2.25) down, he’s worth looking at.


  1. Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Ranked 4th currently on the Top 100, Bradley has been getting lit up in AAA Reno. His 1-4 mark is not the biggest concern as opponents are hitting .277 against him and his K/BB ratio is hovering around 2:1. He could be a solid back end rotation guy but he’s not worth gambling on until he can prove he can keep guys off base.
  2. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles: Once ranked 2nd on the Top 100, Bundy has fallen like a comet since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2013. He has all the makings to be an ace in the Orioles rotation (9-3 in the minors in 2012) but with the injury set backs he has had, best to wait and see how he responds.

    Bundy, once ranked 2nd on the Top 100, had Tommy John Surgery last season and is looking to find his groove in 2014.

    Bundy, once ranked 2nd on the Top 100, had Tommy John Surgery last season and is looking to find his groove in 2014.

  3. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros: Sometimes the baseball gods have a cruel sense of humor. Correa, who was tearing the cover off the ball in Adv A California, will miss the rest of the 2014 season after fracturing his fibula. Correa was batting .325 with 6 HR, 57 RBI, and 20 SB and looked like he could have a huge impact. For now, have to wait and see what happens.
  4. Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: Another guy who looked like he was going to have a huge impact for owners got dealt a rough hand to kick of the 2014 season. Taillon, ranked 10th last season on the Top 100, will miss all of 2014 with Tommy John Surgery (which has seemingly claimed it’s fair share of arms this season). He has potential, but you got to stash for now until we see how he responds from it.

Continue to go picking on the waiver wire and hopefully you find a gem or 2 (or 3 if you’re lucky).

Till next time..


Back and Better than Ever! The Fantasy Files 5.0

A half a century later and I am still here.

If this was a Hollywood marriage, I would have already beat the odds. Maybe I should start insuring my blog.

After being suspended for 50 games in 2013, Cruz has been on a tear this season.

After being suspended for 50 games in 2013, Cruz has been on a tear this season.

To those who have been reading this the last 4 seasons, thank you for your continued support. I took on an internship nearly 4 years ago and even though I have moved on from the world of full time employment in the world of sports, I countdown the days when I can talk baseball. Between playing fantasy baseball and writing about it, it’s an addiction that’s more severe than Facebook or Twitter.

It’s been awhile since I have given my thoughts and with good reason; I have apparently discovered the world of dynasty leagues and every thing that is the World Cup. Between having my inbox fill up with 5 trade requests a day and having England and Spain ruin my bracket on ESPN, life can get pretty complicated. Like a good series drama on HBO.

This fantasy season has already shown us some interesting sights and it’s not even July yet! To think Toronto Blue Jays’ SP Mark Buehrle (10-4, 2.32 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) would be 2nd in the AL wins blows my mind. The once suspended Baltimore Orioles OF Nelson Cruz (.299 BA, 22 HR, 58 RBI) is our current leader in the majors in HR & RBI is another jaw-dropping number. Combine that with Cincinnati Reds’ SP Alfredo Simon (10-3, 3.05 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) leading the NL in wins and the Kansas City Royals in 1st place in the AL Central, and you have a cocktail of excitement stirring this Summer.

Irony of all this is that we still have over 4 months of baseball to be played.

It’s week 11 in the fantasy baseball world and whether you’re in a league or on draftkings.com, there is still excitement of things to come. We have already seen a number of top flight prospects get called up and there are several rookies who are making their case for not only an All-Star bid, but Rookie of the Year and other MLB Award Honors as well.

Since it has been 10 months prior to my last entry, I’ll keep this one more informative and less “buy or sell”. There are some names I am about to drop that are definitely recognizable but maybe one or two of these guys will open your eyes. There is always fortune to be had in a complete gamble.

  1. Mashario Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees: He’s made a bigger impact than Godzilla this Summer and looks to be strong candidate for AL Cy Young. His 11 wins lead MLB and his mind-numbing 1.99 ERA is 2nd to the Reds’ Johnny Cueto (1.92). Not to mention he is 2nd in total fantasy points (349.5). I could give you a laundry list of stats that make him look larger than life, but bottom line the guy is getting it done. He’s a must start in any format, daily league or a season-long league.

    After signing for $155 million in the off-season, Tanaka has been carving up lineups with his 113 K in route to a 11-1 record.

    After signing for $155 million in the off-season, Tanaka has been carving up lineups with his 113 K in route to a 11-1 record.

  2. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox: For 2 months he was leading MLB in HR and arguably the front runner for AL Rookie of the Year. His power stroke (20 HR) has been one of the best and he’s dominating at home with a .319 BA and 9 HR. He is prone to strikeouts (65) like most power hitters but he is worth having for his HR and RBI (53) potential.
  3. Charlie Blackmon, 0F, Colorado Rockies: If I were to tell you that he is in the Top 10 for fantasy outfielders in points (240), would you believe me? One of the more surprising stories this season, Blackmon has been crushing it over his last 7 games (.400 BA) and is on pace to smash is career totals in HR (27) and RBI (99). With OF Carlos Gonzalez on the DL, he’s a must-start in all leagues.
  4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds: I would have came up with a better opening-line for blog, but Hamilton stole (more than once). His 29 SB are 2nd in the MLB and he is currently on pace to reach 66 in his rookie season. He has been known for A++ speed but getting on base (.313 OBP) has been a challenge. He is having an amazing June with a .356 BA and 8 SB; he’s gold in any Roto league you can dream up.

    "Grand Theft Hamilton" has been at it again this season, swiping 29 bags and is on pace to hit 66 this season.

    “Grand Theft Hamilton” has been at it again this season, swiping 29 bags and is on pace to hit 66 this season.

  5. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: This team seems to breed great OF and Polanco has been no exception. He’s batting .385 in Pittsburgh after going .347 with 7 HR, 49 RBI, and 15 SB in AAA Indianapolis and what’s even more impressive is his .429 OBP. He’s a source for SB (38 in 2013) along with power (12 in 2013). He could be the next line of great OF’s in the Pirates organization.

Welcome back to another year of fantasy baseball from your’s truly. If this is already an indicator of things to come, the next couple of months should be more epic than the season finale of Game of Thrones.

Till next time..

Chad Bates