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.
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These five players have noticed a change in their contact rate this year, for better or worse.
You don’t need me to tell you that the rate at which a hitter makes contact with the baseball is integral to his value but hopefully you do need me to tell you who is getting better and worse at it, because that’s what I’m about to do.
When it’s this early in the season, it can be tough to get a good read on your fantasy team, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to know what you’re holding. It can be even more difficult to judge young players early on as we don’t have the benefit of looking back at a sizable track record. I’ll look at a few young players I believe deserve the patience of fantasy owners and one that you can likely move on from.
The best value picks at a position where offense can be hard to find.
Long renowned as one of fantasy’s most shallow positions, shortstop is about to get an infusion of talent like we haven’t see in many years. The influx of strong young performers will create an opportunity both to secure new cornerstones of your fantasy franchises, as well as capitalize on veterans who fall through the cracks as owners flock to what is shiny and new.
New manager Lloyd McClendon's bunch boasts a couple of impact pitchers, but are there any bats to see here?
The Mariners have some financial flexibility and are expected to add to their offense this offseason. Maybe that means writing Jacoby Ellsbury a blank check. Maybe it means settling for another year of Raul Ibanez. Maybe we’ll see some middle ground with Curtis Granderson or Nelson Cruz.
But, as this lineup stands on November 6, there’s not a ton of reason for fantasy optimism. And, given Safeco’s depressing offensive environment and the lack of talent in this lineup, and counting stats will be even harder to come by.
These part-time players could provide considerable fantasy value if given a full-time role in 2014.
Go to the leaderboard for any of your favorite baseball statistics sites and you are bound to get some useful information. However, you will almost always miss a particular subset of players: the unqualified. All leaderboards default to show only the hitters who qualified for the batting average title, which means they must have 3.1 PA per team game.
Almost all sites allow you to adjust the plate appearance threshold you want to look at, but the default keeps those below the batting title threshold out of sight. Today we are going to look at six guys who fell below the threshold, but did good work in their allotted time, suggesting that they could do some nice work with a full-time role in 2014.
The Mariners look to Triple-A for some offensive help in the infield.
The Situation: With the Mariners’ offense once again struggling to score runs, Miller is being called up to replace incumbent shortstop Brendan Ryan. Although Ryan has flashed his usual fantastic glove, he’s hitting a punchless .196/.254/.252 in 67 contests. Seattle will look to play the hot hand with Miller, who’s currently riding a 22-game hitting streak while batting .356/.426/.596 in 26 Triple-A games.
Background: Miller was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft following an accomplished three-year career at Clemson University. The Orlando native has since produced at every level, quickly mashing his way up the minor-league ladder. While Miller didn’t rank in Baseball Prospectus’ top 10 Mariners prospects this past offseason, he’d certainly crack that list today. Entering this season, Jason Parkswrote that Miller didn’t “have an ideal profile for an everyday shortstop” but could be a “valuable utility player at the major-league level.” The prospect has since hit .319/.399/.521 between the Double- and Triple-A levels, proving that his breakout 2012 campaign wasn’t just a mirage. He’s looking more and more like a big-league regular in the middle infield.
A quick look at ten players with notable opening weekends in the minors.
Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Though he was last year's Texas League MVP, Adams still hasn't gotten a lot of love, as he was a 23rd round pick out of a small school in Pennsylvania and he looks more like a cleanup hitter for a 16-inch softball team than a professional baseball one. He gained more support from scouts with an impressive spring, and while he went 0-for-3 on Sunday, he's still off to one of the hotter starts around: after going deep in Thursday's opener, he hit another on Friday and just missed a third, and after initially getting an off day on Saturday, he ended up providing a pinch-hit three-run shot in the ninth inning. No prospect is going to make anybody forget Albert Pujols, but Adams could make the loss a little less painful for Cardinals fans in 2013, if not earlier.
Minnesota Twins pitchers tend to be a lot like Brad Radke.
Last week, the Twins signed Brad Thompson to a minor-league contract. Two weeks earlier, Jason Marquis signed a major-league contract with the Twins. Jason Marquis pitches to contact, gets ground balls, strikes out few. Brad Thompson pitches to contact, gets ground balls, strikes out few. Some people are stars long before they get famous, and some people are artists long before they pick up a brush, and some people are Twins long before they become Twins.
Generally speaking, we all know what a Minnesota Twins pitcher looks like. He’s got a strikeout rate a tick below six per nine innings. (Even the movie Twins has 5.9 stars on IMDB.) He survives this limitation either by walking nobody—no-body—or by keeping the ball on the ground, but either way he’s not looking to coax a strike three out of anybody, and he’s not all that concerned about allowing a home run as long as there is nobody on base. He’s a veteran, and if he’s not a veteran, he’s just a future veteran in early but advanced development. He might be a lefty, but you don’t really think of him as a lefty. He’s a No. 4 starter with aspirations of being a No. 2.5 starter. He’s draftable only in the geekiest fantasy leagues. He once threw a ball 91 mph, but it was at one of those county-fair game booths and nobody believes him, even though he has a certificate of achievement that the booth operator gave him. If everything breaks right, he’s Brad Radke. If a few things break right, he’s Rick Reed. If things just break, he’s Boof Bonser.
Losing Manny Ramirez for a quarter of the season isn't automatically a death knell. Pedro Martinez has just one good start against a good opponent this year, but that's the scheduler's fault. I'm hardly off the hook for advancing the claim that he won't make it to ten starts, and if losing Martinez was one of my major theories about what would lay hope low in Beantown, losing Ramirez for a month and a half might make you think I'd peg this as the beginning of the end.
Placed OF-R Manny Ramirez on the 15-day DL (fractured finger); purchased the contract of UT-B Bry Nelson from Pawtucket. [5/14]
Evaluating each pitcher who appeared in the Futures Game and identifying the most similar current major-league pitchers and pitches with the aid of PITCHf/x.
Sample size or apple pies? You can choose only one. Apple pies—that’s what I thought. A quick glimpse of a prospect might not tell us all we need to know, but it’s still plenty tempting to draw possibly premature conclusions. With that in mind, I decided to watch the Futures Game for the second straight year and make snap judgments on every single pitcher, even though none of them threw more than a couple dozen pitches. Last year, my main takeaway was that Zach Britton was the man. He still is. This year, I came to the conclusion that the only way to top a Bernie Williamsrendition of the national anthem is to catch a Sal Fasanofirst-base coach sighting.
The following table lists every pitcher who appeared in the game, in order of appearance. I’ll tackle them one by one, offering comps to current major leaguers where applicable, as well as links to videos of similar pitches.