By now, you’re familiar with what we’re trying to accomplish in these progress reports: We want to go beyond a simple “stock up, stock down” approach to fantasy rankings. Fantasy stocks are easy enough to keep track of. If someone’s doing well, then his stock is high. If not, it goes the other direction.
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Scouting and fantasy takes on this week's second-tier, but still intriguing, call-ups.
We’ve devoted full articles to the most promising prospects promoted to the majors late this season, but we're offering scouting and fantasy takes on the best of the rest here.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP, Phillies
Scouting Take: The Cuban import entered 2014 having not thrown a competitive pitch since he left his home country. Gonzalez’s medicals revealed some injury concerns that prompted the Phillies to rework his deal and turn him into a reliever this year. He worked in the low 90s as a starter but can work in the mid-90s as a reliever. He also has a splitter and a spotty breaking ball. The Phillies still have plans to convert him back into a starter next year but he’ll have to tighten up the command and work on the breaking ball. —Mauricio Rubio
Did you see Danny Duffy posting a top-five ERA? Neither did Craig, who examines whether he can keep it up.
If someone had asked you back in April to guess the pitchers with the five best ERAs entering September, odds are you’d do pretty well. Clayton Kershaw is a given, as is Felix Hernandez. Chris Sale is as near a lock as there is, and Johnny Cueto wouldn’t have been too far down the list. You wouldn’t have been crazy to throw Yu Darvish or Adam Wainwright in there, but you would be wrong. No one would have foreseen Danny Duffy in the top five.
For good reason, too. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, Duffy missed most of the following two seasons. He has totaled nearly double the innings in 2014 that he threw in 2012-13 combined, and he’s been far more effective in doing so. It’s not that Duffy was bad in that span, posting a 3.90 ERA (3.96 FIP) in 2012 and a 1.85 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 2013. Since returning though, he’s been a different pitcher. He’s striking out fewer batters and walking significantly fewer batters, and it’s set up a model of sustainable success for him, even if it’s robbed him of some of his fantasy ceiling.
The Blue Jays call up a top pitching prospect for the third time this season.
The Situation: With the postseason all but out of reach, the Blue Jays are promoting yet another of their top pitching prospects. Following the promotion of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez earlier this year, left-hander Daniel Norris will cap off his season in the big leagues.
The Rockies outfielder is enjoying a breakout year, and Craig believes it's no fluke.
You may have noticed the absurd year that Corey Dickerson is putting up in Colorado, or you might not have. He’s having the year Charlie Blackmon was supposed to have after his incredible April, and he’s part of a plethora of outfielders the Rockies have that each have some value. Drew Stubbs is hitting .296 with a .195 ISO in partial playing time. Blackmon might be the worst offensive player of the bunch, given other options are Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. But back to Dickerson, who might be the best of the bunch, if we consider the existence of the tentacled fatty mass on CarGo’s finger his biggest contribution of the season.
Of his 378 plate-appearances, Dickerson has faced a right-handed pitcher 308 times, and has slashed .326/.377/.609 (!), against them. While you might think he’s just a strong-side platoon guy, Dickerson has managed a .281/.343/.469 slash line against southpaws, which might earn him a stretch of full-time play in the future. Given the 70 plate appearances that line came in, small sample size warnings do apply, but it’s worth noting he’s had some success against them in his career.
In the prospect world, we like to use the term helium for a player whose fictitious stock is rising fast, and perhaps no player in the minors had more helium this year than Dilson Herrera. His promotion to the majors serves as the culmination of an incredibly fast journey through three levels in the Mets system (and skipping over one).
Checking in on the fantasy stocks of some intriguing minor leaguers.
When you’ve done rankings and mock drafts for two straight months, you kind of wonder… why would anyone write about anything else? Sure there are draft grades, but those aren’t nearly as applicable to fantasy.
Then it hits you like a ton of bricks. Something like a… a stock watch. No. Everyone does that. What if you just called it something else. Yes, now you’re cooking with gas. What about a Progress Report? Perfect.
We all have our own idea of what constitutes a good ERA, FIP, or xFIP, but it's important to make sure that our benchmarks keep up with the times.
While some of us have come to use plus-or-minus stats that adjust to league average to make our determinations on where a player lands within his ranks, it’s clear that many people still use the standard ERA to evaluate a pitcher or batting average to evaluate a hitter. There’s no issue with that, especially when those are the relevant categories in a fantasy league—but there’s something of a collective benchmark that we have for what determines a good, great, or elite ERA or batting average. Even more advanced stats like FIP or xFIP fall prey to this collective benchmark and to our failure to adjust for context.
Focusing on the pitching side of the equation, based on the era I grew up in a 3.00 ERA was/is my benchmark for whether someone is a good pitcher. There are shades of gray of course—a mediocre pitcher can have a fluky season—but everything revolves around that 3.00. A 3.30 was pretty good and a 3.50 was solid. A 4.00 was fit for a fifth starter/long-man type. Reality, of course, is a different story. We all know that we’re in a down offensive period in baseball, but I do wonder if enough of us have adjusted to what that means on the pitching side of the equation. This is an effort to show just how dramatically things have changed over the last few years, so that we can recalibrate what an elite or good pitcher is, and then use that as a new frame of reference.