Steven Matz was selected in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, NY, which is apparently a breeding ground for notable names, ranging from sporadically funny and continuously fat comedian/actor Kevin James, wrestler Mick Foley, former co-host of America’s Funniest Home Videos John Fugelsang, and Terrance Hobbs, lead guitarist for the death metal band Suffocation. Because of these notable names on his high school’s resume, and more importantly, his southpaw potential on the mound, Matz received a bonus of $895K, almost half a million over the recommend slot. The future was bright.
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Checking in on how the fantasy staff's ideal rosters have fared to date.
During the last week of March, the BP Fantasy team set out to complete a fun exercise that I set out for everyone. Using Mike Gianella’s pre-season bid limits from March 21, all nine members of the team at the time completed a 23-man roster for $260. It sounded like such a fun idea that soon-to-be Editor-in Chief Sam Miller and pitching mechanics guru Doug Thorburn decided to submit entries. And finally, I received a very well thought out e-mail from reader “Cronfordox” (otherwise known as Scott) with a team of his own, which I included to bring us to an even number of 12 entries. We understand 12-team leagues. It makes sense.
If you want to go and read the explanations of the teams we created at the time, here are all of the links in one place, but for this piece we’re going to concentrate on how our individual teams have fared. So you don’t have to start clicking around, here were the parameters:
Examining a handful of players who might pique your interest in deep leagues.
Why you gotta be so cruel? Don't you write bad intros, too?
Ben Paulsen, 1B, Rockies
In a shocking twist of fate that few could've seen coming before the season began, Justin Morneau has been placed on the disabled list, this time with a neck injury. Morneau had been enjoying a very nice year in Colorado, but given his propensity for missing games, you should've been keeping stock of his replacements all along. Many assumed Kyle Parker would eventually get the call for one-half of the former "M&M boys," but instead it's the relatively unknown Paulsen who gets the nod.
Looking at behavior by ball-strike situation reveals one of the ways hitters change most drastically from year to year.
The count controls all aspects of the batter-pitcher battle. From pitch type to location to swing tendencies all the way to the batted-ball outcome of a thrown pitch, nothing escapes the influence of the count. Like many statistics in baseball, credit for the count itself is difficult to parse. If a pitcher falls behind in a count, it could be because he is having trouble locating his pitches, or it could be because he is afraid to challenge the hitter in the zone. Conversely, a hitter’s ability to drive into favorable counts could be because of a good eye or a good approach or the ability to inspire a fear of the zone in the opposing pitcher.
I came to the conclusion recently that, because of the pervasive influence of the count, certain plate discipline statistics must be taken with a grain of salt (or an extra grain, if you were already taking them with the pre-recommended grain). I came to this realization because I was examining a certain hitter’s swing rate, and noticed that while his overall swing rate differed little between years, his swing rate on particular counts had changed quite substantially—that is to say, his approach, as a function of the count, had changed. However, when the positive and negative changes in swing rates were averaged, the overall difference in swing rate became muted, concealing the difference in approach.
Big days for Papi and Adam Jones, bad days for the Royals and fans of position players pitching.
The Monday Takeaway
On Sunday, the Red Sox hung a career-worst nine hits and six runs on Royals starter Yordano Ventura. On Monday, they treated Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison with similar disregard. But while Boston’s assault on Kansas City pitching ended when Ventura hit the showers, the Sox had no such mercy on Toronto’s mop-up man.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs outfielder Rock Shoulders and Blue Jays righty Taylor Cole.
Hitter of the Night: Rock Shoulders, LF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-2, 2 R, HR, 2 BB.
Shoulders has struggled in the Florida State League this season against pitchers with a more advanced plan to attack the holes in his swing. Still, the power is very much intact, and his home run on Monday got out of the park before Shoulders had even left the batter’s box. He’s patient and looks for his pitch to hit, but he can be exploited on the inner half and struggles with decent breaking stuff once he’s behind in the count. He’s also not a left fielder, though he’s playing there some of the time. A massively built human being with some of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen, Shoulders will have to make adjustments quickly to continue to get at-bats in a stacked Cubs farm system, but his power potential remains enticing.
Pitcher of the Night: Taylor Cole, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 12 K.
Maybe this will be the start that gets Cole out of the Florida State League. At 24, he’s old for his level, but his strikeout numbers have spiked this season to almost double his career norms. He’s also throwing a ton more strikes. He doesn’t have a power fastball or overpowering secondary stuff, so his strikeout totals may be a bit of an aberration, but he’s kept them up all season, so there’s something there. It’s time to find out if he can carry it over at the next step.
The Indians' second sacker hasn't lived up to expectations in 2014, but is a turnaround in store?
Prior to the season, the upper fantasy echelon of the second base position appeared to be a rather precarious investment. Robinson Cano inked a mega-contract with Seattle, which made many fantasy owners nervous that his power numbers would spiral down the drain. Dustin Pedroia saw his power production drop precipitously in 2013 and had finally found himself on the wrong side of 30. Ian Kinsler compiled rather pedestrian (for him) numbers a year ago and was transitioning that performance to a more pitcher-friendly environment in Detroit.
The traditional fantasy stalwarts at second base were vulnerable. It seemed a changing of the guard could occur and other guys could step into the limelight—and in some ways, that’s exactly what has happened with Dee Gordon, Jose Altuve, and Anthony Rendon asserting their fantasy dominance in the first half of the 2014 season. After the season, perhaps we must re-evaluate who can now be labeled as “elite” at the position.
A look at the upcoming AL-vs-NL and NL-vs-AL matchups, and how they might affect teams' lineups.
Please note that in the “DH” column, the player listed is the player that has been added or removed from the lineup, not necessarily the player in the DH slot. For example, if the Phillies move Dominic Brown to DH and put Tony Gwynn Jr. in the OF, then I will list Gwynn Jr. in the “DH” column because he is the player who is gaining at-bats.