It’s fitting that the day after Independence Day is the same as the day I finally get internet back. Since my most recent article, I’ve moved and required the services of a few friendly internet technicians to arrange for my triumphant return to the interwebz. So anyway, Ping now has a ping, and is back to catch up!
I recently took an informal survey amongst the fantasy baseball crowd on reddit about who hasn’t been written about enough by fantasy baseball writers this year. It happened a couple weeks ago, so some of the requests are now a little dated, but I figure I’ll work my way through the list while also covering some of what I saw from the previous day.
Aramis Ramirez – He plays for the crappier Chicago team and has flown slightly under the radar, but he’s actually having a pretty nice season. Knocked his 13th homer tonight, and his BA has risen to a pretty nice .295. In the hitting wasteland that is 3B, he’s been quite a valuable player to own. That said, I’d try to trade him before the ASB passes you by. He’s been solid and with every other 3B breaking down, he’s been a great guy to have for the first half, but this guy is an injury magnet who happens to be playing on a field of injury landmines this year. He’s got that name recognition that can generate more response in a trade, and guys like Jhonny Peralta (85% Y! owned, 14/.314), Ty Wigginton (63%, 13/.260), and Michael Cuddyer (85%, 12/.290) have already had 3B breakouts in the first half this year. Guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Pedro Alvarez, Casey McGehee, and Pablo Sandoval are all possible candidates for second half breakouts and can either be traded for cheaply or picked up when they get hot. Remember, trade away when they’re hot. Especially when they’re as fragile as your grandmother’s china.
Zack Cozart (per request) – For those of you who don’t recognize his name, Cozart is the Reds’ AAA shortstop, someone who was drafted for his defense but has grown into a decent little hitter. In 2010, his first full season at AAA, he posted a 17/30/.255 line, which is pretty solid when compared to the current Reds shortstops, Edgar Renteria and Paul Janish. In 2011, he’s on pace for a 14/18/.318 season in AAA so far. That’s buoyed by a BABIP 70 points higher than last season, but the difference in SBs can be attributed to the fact that he doesn’t really have great speed as much as he’s simply a smart baserunner. I honestly doubt we’ll see 30 SBs from him again at any level (prior to 2010, he had never posted more than 10 at any level of pro ball). Note that the Reds’ management haven’t given any real impression that they’re on the verge of calling Cozart up, but when he does, he’s an iffy pickup. Simply put, he’s got a low BB rate (6%) and is only probably a 15/15 MLB player at best (right now, given a full season of ABs). While that’s obviously an improvement for the Reds over their current combo (on pace, combined, to go 2/12), it’s probably not much of an improvement for your team, at least not this year. Stash him for the future if you think he can grow into a 2010 repeat at some point, but I’d rather stash someone like Dee Gordon, if that were the case.
Carlos Carrasco – I certainly hope you were smart enough not to start him against the Yankees, especially while they are in the midst of an 8-2 run.
Matt Cain (per request) – I have to preface this section by stating that I’m not a Matt Cain fan. He defies the numbers every year, and sorry I just can’t get on board and accept that that’s just the way it’s gonna be. So, what’s different this year? Honestly, he’s actually pitching better. His K-rate is up by about a half a K/9, his GB rate is higher than it’s been in 5 years (though only slightly), his BB rate is lower than it’s ever been (again, just slightly), and his BABIP is closer to normal than it was last year (…slightly). All these things combine to push his xFIP down around 3.50, a half run lower than it’s ever been, which means he’s poised to post a season closer to his 2009 numbers (14-7, 2.89) than his 2010 numbers (13-11, 3.14). I’m still not buying, but I’m not screaming sell nearly as loudly as I have in the past.
Jeff Karstens – You remember when I’ve written about some of those other pitchers out there and I’ve cited their BABIP and LOB% and K rate and said they’re due for a correction? Karstens’ BABIP is .239 (50 points below his career average), LOB% is 86.7% (17% above his career average), and K rate is 5.40 (crappy). Guess what my recommendation is.
Nick Markakis (per request) – Remember when he went 23/18/.300 in his sophomore season? Those were the days. Honestly, it’s like the guy has completed an entire career arc in a matter of 5 seasons. 16/2/.291 as a rookie (next big star!). 23/18/.300 as a sophomore (peak!). 20/10/.306 in his third year (getting older, speed starting to go a little). 18/6/.293 (hanging in there, but starting to see all-around drops). 12/7/.297 (hitting the wall, still can hit for average, but otherwise looks washed up). 7/7/.292 so far this year (again, hanging on, but barely above replacement level). Basically, the guy is still just turning 28 this year, so there’s a very real possibility that he could show up with guns blazing one year and put up another 25/15/.300 season. His GB rate is slightly less than it was his sophomore year and his LD rate is higher, but his 2Bs have almost vanished (averaged 45 per season for the last 4 years, on pace for 22 this year), his FB rate is 5% lower than it was in 2007, his HR/FB rate is almost half what it was then, and his BB rate is almost half what it was as recently as last year. At this point, I would consider him bench material at best in all but deep leagues, but he’s worth keeping an eye on just in case his old self suddenly shows up. I don’t know how he did it, but he packed a 20 year hitting career arc into 5 years.
Albert Pujols – Expect this injury recovery to be brought up again in the future whenever people look for proof that he was on steroids.