Is this the year Rickie Weeks realizes his fantasy potential?
At one time, Rickie Weeks held fantasy upside that came with what we believed to be 20/20 potential. In his first few seasons he came close, but always hurt his fantasy value by hitting for a low average. That potential was further undermined by a series of wrist injuries that seemed to sap his power. He played in a career-high 129 games in 2008, but saw his lone post-season appearance cut short after tearing cartilage in his knee which required surgery. After rehabbing his knee, he reported for 2009 healthy and found himself off to a hot start where he hit .281 with five home runs with 15 RBI and 16 runs. It finally looked as though Weeks would fulfill that potential with a breakout season. Sadly, another wrist Injury short-circuited yet another summer. In bits and pieces through six seasons, Weeks owned a career line of .247/.351/.415 while the 80 steals and 60 home runs teased fantasy players with what ultimately amounted to unfulfilled potential.
Fortunately for Weeks’ owners, he's jumped headfirst into 2010 with another hot start. Through Saturday’s games, Weeks was hitting .324 with 3 HR, 12 RBI and 16 Runs. He has a .356 TAv and 6.1 WARP, placing him among the leaders in those categories and making him one of the more valuable fantasy players in the early going.
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Stolen bases are becoming easier to get from more well-rounded players.
Stolen bases are the most contentious statistic on the offensive side of things in fantasy baseball. Some owners will do crazy things for steals, like drafting players that hurt them in every other statistic. Unlike, say, a player who has a low batting average but hits home runs, there's no carryover effect that increases RBI or R (or OPS in some leagues)—just the stolen base, and maybe some runs, though that isn't guaranteed, either.
If the cliché is correct and chicks dig the long ball, then who digs the stolen base? Certain small-ball managers and fantasy players, that’s who.
Everyone wants a burner, the guy who can swipe 50 bags and basically hand you a top-four finish in the stolen base category. The problem is, there are just a handful of players that you can count on to consistently rack up those kind of numbers. Instead of overpaying for a premium stolen base guy, think about buying steals in the later rounds and the waiver wire—where a handful of guys with 20-steal potential can be found.
A few too many wipeouts up, added to a surprise #2 ranking that blew up... in the bad way.
Center field was frustrating in 2009. It was supposed to be one of the deepest positions available, but thanks to either brand-new injuries or lingering ones, the entire top of the list was decimated and center field ended up losing some of its depth. Today we'll get into which rankings were due to problems with the thought process and which ones had more to do with trips to see the trainer.
In 2008, Ichiro Suzuki, regarded as one of the fastest players in baseball, stood at first base with second base empty a total of 262 times. From 2006 to 2008, Ichiro has been thrown out by the catcher on only 9.2% of his attempts, one of the best rates in history. Despite this, he only attempted 34 steals, a rate of 13.0%. In 1980, a year in which Omar Moreno of the Pirates was thrown out by the catcher on 22.2% of his steal attempts, Moreno ran an amazing 68.4% of his opportunities. At that rate, Ichiro could have stolen 163 bases last year.
There may be strategic wisdom in drafting speed, as long as you keep it in context.
The stolen base is one of the most hotly contested statistics in fantasy baseball. Some owners swear by it, and will draft early and aggressively to stockpile enough of them, while other owners are willing to treat it as if it doesn't exist in their quest to bulk up elsewhere on offense. While these opposing viewpoints as far as fantasy value have not changed much over the years, the game itself has, with the steal being less of an emphasis league-wide than it used to be. Today I want to take a closer look at stolen bases, to see what trends have arisen in the past 11 years, and what we can glean from that information for fantasy purposes.
Picking your poison in one of the game's premium positions is a choice best made early.
Center field is a position where you can find many of the best fantasy players around-you've got sluggers who will drive in runs, be driven in by their teammates, hit for power and average, and steal a load of bases. With that being said, the talent level on the list drops drastically near the bottom end, so if you leave it for too long come your league's draft, you'll be stuck hoping that Vernon Wells has one of his good seasons, or throwing up your hands and drafting someone like Willy Taveras or Michael Bourn solely for their stolen bases.
The keystone's pool of talent gives you a very few big-name talents to go after early, but after that, what's your Plan B going to be?
If you missed Tuesday's article, I released my first fantasy baseball positional rankings column, which covered first basemen, and today we'll take a look at second basemen. I'll continue to cover one position each time out, two positions per week, so there will still be time for updates in case any transactions take place (Adam Dunn, I'm looking at you) or if any rosters sort themselves out.
The scoop on which early stolen base leaders will keep up their thievery all season and which offer false promise.
In most fantasy leagues, saves and stolen bases are one-category events that often cost more than they're worth. Thus, we spend a lot of time studying the trends in each category to find cheap sources of both, and to avoid the fools' gold tempting an unsuspecting fantasy owner. More attention often goes to the closers, and we'll be addressing them in future columns, but stolen bases deserve their own focus. They aren't quite as scarce as they were just two years ago; there were over 2,900 total stolen bases in major league baseball in 2007, nearly 400 higher than in 2005. Still, they're rare enough to rate an early look. Keep in mind the usual small sample size caveats that come with any April analysis.
From behind the plate to around the horn, the top ten fantasy picks.
For those who missed last week's outfield rankings, the explanation of how these lists were created can be found there. With five positions to cover this time around, this is a meaty piece, so it's time to dive right in.