The Rockies might have picked the worst time to get hot this year, but some nifty GMing means their outlook is better than it has been in some time.
The long season plays cruel tricks on every team, and if it sometimes gives great and wonderful things (as it did to the 2007 Rockies, flinging a merely good team into the World Series), it usually comes to collect on that advance later on. This summer, Father Baseball pointed the Rockies in precisely the wrong direction in the second half of July. A mediocre team without a real chance to contend in the NL this year, the Rockies got hot at just the wrong time—coming out of the All-Star break with 14 wins in 19 games—and made no trades before the deadline. In D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Charlie Blackmon, Colorado has three players whose long-term value is dubious, and who will be free agents by the end of 2018 (Gonzalez after 2017), but who would have had real trade value in this market. At least one of those guys should be somewhere else right now. Heck, after the dust settled and Will Smith commanded such a significant price, Jeff Bridich looked a little less than brilliant even for leaving Jake McGee’s market unplumbed.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Nick Gordon, Cody Bellinger, Tyler Beede, and Miguel Diaz.
Prospect of the Day:
Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins (High-A Fort Myers): 5-for-5, 2 R, 3B
After a so-so—and that might be putting it nicely—2015 season, Gordon has shown why so many were so high on him in the 2014 draft this year. The hit tool is probably closer to above average than plus, but that will certainly play, especially when you combine it with his above-average speed and 55-grade glove. A superstar he will not be, but a solid regular at a premium position is a very valuable thing. Gordon can reach that level relatively easily.
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A look at how the wise guys spent their money in expert leagues this week.
Welcome to The FAAB Review, the series that looks at the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL every week in an effort to try and help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR Mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I can provide some insight on the bids and the reasoning behind them. LABR uses a $100 budget with one-dollar minimum bids, while the Tout Wars leagues use a $1,000 budget with zero-dollar minimum bids. I will also be including Bret’s winning bids in Tout Wars mixed auction league where applicable.
LABR and Tout Wars both use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET.
If you’ve read any of my columns thus far, you probably could see this one coming. Tommy La Stella, erstwhile OBP machine second-base fantasy sleeper for the Atlanta Braves and current Iowa Cub, has been one of the most fascinating baseball stories this year—well, at least for someone like me who likes to think about labor and contracts and the ugly side of baseball.
The short version is that La Stella, despite putting together a pretty solid year as a utility/spot start guy, got sent down to the minors after the Cubs acquired Once, Future, Past, and Present Cub Chris Coghlan. Understandably frustrated, La Stella made the unexpected move to, well, not report. He did not show up in Des Moines and held out in his home of New Jersey. Held out might be the wrong word here, as La Stella does not have the leverage that an NFL player like Joey Bosa does in his current holdout or like a young top draft pick like Jacob Groome did in this year’s Rule 4 draft. La Stella didn’t make any dramatic demands or pleas of unfairness; he just decided to take some time to think about what he wanted from his future.
Unsurprisingly, the minds at Baseball Prospectus Wrigleyville have had some wonderful takes on the situation. Twitter pal and good writer Tom Hitchner produced a piece near and dear to my heart that tied film analysis to the La Stella situation in an effort to talk about anticlimax in baseball. And Ken Schultz put together a lovely piece explaining the ways in which La Stella’s holdout was not what it might seem, and that a young player might actually deserve time to get his head together.
And it’s times like this that I’m grateful to my colleagues for being such good people. Baseball Prospectus, despite its beep bop boop computers reputation, gets that people, who are sometimes flawed and complex, play the game. In the mainstream press, La Stella has not fared so well. Most notorious is the piece that Schultz critiques in his BP Wrigleyville essay, a fairly brutal polemic against La Stella by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
I don’t want to give my editors conniptions by spending an entire article getting furious at another reporter, so let me give the very quick blow-by-blow of what I find problematic about Sullivan’s piece. First he opens with a fairly hamfisted Carlos Zambrano comparison that smacks of typical Anti-Latino sentiment in major-league baseball writing. Second, the piece refuses to believe La Stella’s own explanation of his behavior, casting not-so-subtle aspersions on his claim that his refusal to report to Iowa was not about being demoted. But third, and worst of all to this leftist’s mind, he sides with management. A longish quote:
Gary Sanchez sets a new home run record, Luke Weaver dazzles in his home debut, and more from the weekend’s action.
The Weekend Takeaway
If you thought Trevor Story’s record-breaking April was the only time we’d see a rookie rake in his major-league debut season, you need to meet Gary Sanchez. It isn’t just that the 23-year-old catcher is cultivating a .400/.467/.900 batting line, or that he became the first rookie to hit 11 home runs in his first 23 games with this blast off of a Dylan Bundy heater,
A look at whether four players with big-time helium can keep on soaring, or if they're balloons waiting to pop.
Normally, in this space, I explore one hitter or one pitcher in a more longform fashion. This week, though, I wanted to profile four specific players who have gotten a lot of helium in the second half. I’ll present my thoughts on each player and offer a buy/hold/sell recommendation on each, per usual.
Baseball's most prepared first-base coach talks about the details that can change a scouting report, and ignoring the sheet of paper that comes from upstairs.
Few men embody the ethos of the defending champion Kansas City Royals better than first-base coach Rusty Kuntz. The long-time coach is the maestro behind Kansas City's running game and its outfield defense—previously overlooked qualities that have helped propel the Royals to consecutive pennants and a World Series title.
Baseball's move beyond seat-of-your-pants, gut-feel baserunning is good for winning and good for Vince Coleman's records.
In this article, I talked about Vince Coleman who stole 326 bases in his first three years in the majors, eclipsing 100 every season, and opined that Billy Hamilton is a similarly devastating basestealer in a more boring era. I calculated that if Hamilton had been used in 2014-2016 the way Coleman was in 1985-1987, he’d have 244 stolen bases since the start of 2014 rather than his present 166. That breaks down to 87 in 2014, 89 in 2015, and 68 so far in 2016. We’d be talking about one of the greatest basestealers in baseball history rather than a guy who’s just really fast. Why aren’t we? Why aren’t the Reds deploying Hamilton the way the Cardinals deployed Coleman three decades ago?
Well, it’s not the Reds. It’s baseball.
It’s not just that Hamilton gets (justifiably) marked down for his low OBP (.296 so far in his career, .294 since 2014) in a way Coleman never did. Here’s a chart of stolen base attempts per team per year from 1951 to 2016. I’ve normalized all the figures to assume a 162-game season, to put the pre-expansion 154-game seasons, the strike years, and the ongoing 2016 season on equal footing.
Notes on Matt Manning, Stephen Gonsalves, Cody Ponce, and more.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Minnesota Twins (Double-A Chattanooga)
Gonsalves has been putting up impressive numbers throughout his minor-league career, and that hasn’t changed in the Double-A jump this year. Does the stuff match the minor-league production? Somewhat. Most importantly, it’s enough to project a serviceable major-league starter.
Examining players who might pique your interest in deeper formats.
Most of the players in this week’s Deep League Report are worth single-digit FAAB bids, and some of them are barely worth that. One guy, though, is worth most if not all of your remaining budget. Can’t stand the suspense? Start reading.