Friday, August 14, 2009

An Early Look at 2010 Keepers

posted by Jon Williams
When you are in a competitive keeper league, next year's team is always on your mind. You look at every available player and consider his value to cost ratio. You wonder how much they might go for in next year's auction. Or at least you should do all that. I imagine sometimes you put it off. Maybe you wait until after the present season, or maybe until December when the Baseball Forecaster arrives in the mail. Still others may wait until their favorite NFL team is eliminated or (God forbid) until Spring Training begins...

Well I'm always thinking about it. And if you're an annual procrastinator you may find this article extremely useful. Here is a list of players that I am very interested in for the 2010 season. You won't find Albert Pujols or Chase Utley on this list. Some are players that are probably not on your radar yet. In some cases you may even have released or traded them away this season, but next year is a whole different beast. Some are players that have been excellent but whose season's have incorrectly been chalked up to luck. Players that have been bad for a combination of reasons that can be explained have also made the list, some are even potential superstars. Still others are players that have earned a greater opportunity that we can pounce on before they get hyped up this winter. I've broken them down into various categories for ease of use and my own entertainment.

Future Closers

Sean Burnett LHP Washington Nationals - He is a lefty with a dominate fastball and the control necessary in a quality closer. The Nationals have settled on Mike MacDougal as closer in recent weeks but that doesn't mean that Burnett does not have closing in his future. If nothing else he is a quality reliever of value in NL-only leagues.

Matt Thornton LHP Chicago White Sox -He's the best left-handed reliever in the American League. He shows the skill and the guile to close games. He is not young but is definitely a closer candidate should the White Sox part ways with Bobby Jenks.

Mike Adams RHP San Diego Padres - After injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness Mike Adams has arrived as the Padres closer-of-the-future. His mid-nineties sinking fastball has always been a dangerous pitch and he has finally developed his other pitches into assets. The rumors of a Heath Bell trade are everywhere. Adams is the man you want to own.

First Round for the First Time

Curtis Granderson OF Detroit Tigers - He has a shot at his first 30/30 season and is a young rising star in the American League. It may be a bit weird that his increase in homers seems to have robbed him of a good deal of doubles. But this is due to a large increase in fly balls more than an increase in luck. He is trying to hit them out more often and it is working.

Matt Kemp OF Los Angeles Dodgers - I predicted he would become a first round pick this season and I was right. His combination of power and speed would be even more valuable if Joe Torre used his brain a little more often when filling out the lineup cards.

Evan Longoria 3B Tampa Bay Rays - If it wasn't for the injuries, Longoria would be a clear first round pick. He is what we all expected from David Wright this season. With Wright clearly not earning a return to the first round this season, Longoria becomes the second best third baseman available.

Post-Hype Prospects

Delmon Young OF Minnesota Twins - He has officially been wiped off of every sleeper list in the country following his pretty terrible 2009 season. But he has shown signs in the second half of the player that all the prospect watchers predicted. He is still just 25 years old and the Twins are not giving up on him. You should not either, especially when he will have a single-digit price.

Brayan Pena C Kansas City Royals - I called him a sleeper in Spring Training but it took the Royals a little longer to see it. He is the starter now and will likely be next season as well. He should hit for a solid average in a lineup that should improve next season.

Prospects I Like a Lot

Alex Avila C Detroit Tigers - A promising hitter and better defensively than many projected.

Peter Bourjos OF Los Angeles Angels - One of the fastest and most exciting players in the minors or the majors.

Jason Heyward OF Atlanta Braves - The best hitter in the minors with improving power and defense.

Michael Stanton OF Florida Marlins - The most powerful hitter in the minors with improving discipline and defense.

Donovan Tate OF San Diego Padres - An incredible athlete whom the Padres are close to talking out of a North Carolina scholarship. He could be very much like Michael Stanton this time next year.

Brett Wallace 3B Oakland Athletics - A very talented hitter on the verge of the major leagues. He should hit better than .300 most seasons with power. I compare him to Joey Votto.

The Unbelievably Good

Joel Pineiro RHP St. Louis Cardinals - I have not been a big fan of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan because despite their success, they have a long list of players they abused and discarded because they had a different way of doing things. But Pineiro is undeniably a success story based on morphing him from a mediocre strikeout pitcher into a groundball machine. By making Pineiro throw his sinker 60-70 percent of the time his game has been transformed. Pineiro was on board with the change and was quite excited about it this spring. It has worked for him and there is little chance he would abandon it. Still, most fantasy leaguers have become skeptical about seemingly mediocre talents taking a huge step up in production and will fail to properly value him. I'll take him.

Mark Reynolds 3B Arizona Diamondbacks - Most of us were not shocked by the power that Reynolds showed. But the batting average and stolen bases blew a lot of minds. The average was a little over his head but not by as much as you might think. Reynolds does not steal bases like a true speedster but he is a good base runner. Though if the Diamondbacks improve their lineup next season his opportunities could be limited. It is easy to let him run wild when the team is losing if they start winning games they'll start making more responsible decisions.

Marcos Scutaro SS Toronto Blue Jays - In the post I made the other day about the flood of rookies coming to Major League Baseball I should have mentioned that we will also be seeing more and more Marco Scutaro types. These are the players that look like great hitters in the minors and in part-time duty but for some reason fail to win a full-time opportunity in the majors. That's all going to change. Look for another large group of players like Russell Branyan, Marcos Scutaro, Ryan Ludwick and Nelson Cruz before them to get extended opportunities. I'd name them all but that will be another post altogether.

The Injury Discount

Josh Hamilton OF Texas Rangers - I don't care that he slipped up in January. I care much more that he owned up to his mistake the very next day to everyone who truly had a right to know and that was not us. He tried to take a step in normal drinking and he failed miserably. If you've been concerned about his actual performance you really shouldn't be. Hamilton is a fantastic athlete and a terrific baseball player. Towards the end the of the 2008 season he (with the helpof the best hitting coach in baseball) attempted to remove a hitch from his swing that would in theory make his already great bat speed -Otherworldly. The process was going okay but was interrupted by almost three straight months of injury problems. He'll be fine when he's healthy again and you'll get him at a discount to boot.

Vladimir Guerrero OF Los Angeles Angels - Vlad is no longer the best outfielder in all the land, the player that made us drool over 40/40 possibilities. However, he still owns incredible power when his aching old bones are properly medicated. You can now get the lesser Vlad for far less of investment than was once the case, in fact he now goes for less than he's actually worth. That makes him a target in my mind.

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13 Comments:

Blogger kellemonster said...

I love Pineiro, and I agree he will continue to do well next year. Here's my question to you:

Do you think he will get enough during auction/draft season next year that if he is on the open market you still can't steal him?

In a standard 12 team mixed 5x5 league, I believe he will still fly under the radar. Lack of history, not a hyped up rookie, and low, low K/9 numbers. And if you are in a league with an innings or Games Started cap that K/9 number will be weighing heavily on some owners' minds.

I think most guys looking at whether Pineiro is a keeper got him for $1 as a waiver wire guy. Standard salary increase in a $260 auction league would be $5 for a salary next year of $6. I suggest that he will go on the open market for $6 or under. Allowing owners to protect someone that would go for more.

Now, if you are in a very savvy or deep league that likes GB% as an indicator, this doesn't apply.

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

I do think that Pineiro is a likely draft-day bargain next season. But more of the high single digits/ pre-teens (depending on the depth of the league) than a dollar dayz type of guy. His total value will be limited by his low K/9 but his bargain price will pad your ERA/WHIP/Wins totals while giving you a few extra dollars to draft the strikeout guys. Or you can dump the category...

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger kellemonster said...

I agree with your evaluation of his actual value. I think we just differ on his draft/auction day price. I say less than or equal to $6 you say greater than $8.

So here is a second question: say we pin him at $10 vs. the $6 he would be as a keeper. I think many leagues have limits on the amount of keepers you are allowed to have and in that case it is likely that there will be enough players who will generate a profit that Pineiro becomes a border line keeper if your league limits the amount of keepers you can have.

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Well, the price will always depend on the leagues and owners involved so I think we're both in the ballpark. In a 12tm mixed at $10 Piniero would be a borderline keeper but not nearly the bargain he would be at that price in an NL-only. At $6 I would keep him in either league.

The other factor I haven't mentioned is that Pineiro's K/9 could rebound slightly even if he maintains the same style. He was fairly deceptive at one point and a slight increase would do amazing things for his overall value. I wouldn't bet any money on it happening, but once a player displays a skill he owns it.

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger kellemonster said...

I think when a pitcher has drastically changed his approach to pitching we need to throw away his old displayed skills.

A more interesting question is:

Pineiro over Brett Anderson at the same price?

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 5:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

David Wright changed his approach at the plate should we dismiss the possibility that he goes back to hitting for power? I don't think we can forget about skills that a player still has. We just accept that the approach has changed and value them based on that approach and the likeliness that the player will stick with it. But I suggest you keep the former approach and displayed skills in the back of your mind when drafting.

But to the more interesting question... ;)

The one aspect of Pineiro's that I question right now is his BB9. It is extremely low, especially for a starting pitcher. I doubt it will be as low next season. Pineiro has decent control and it shouldn't sky rocket out of control. But it should rise enough to put Anderson and Pineiro on a more similar level.In re-draft leagues I would probably stick with Pineiro but in keeper leagues I would take Anderson based on his upside. Pineiro just had the best season of his life and it can only go downhill from here.

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 5:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger kellemonster said...

Yes, we should, unless they move the walls in at Citi field. He is free to go back to his old approach all he wants, he'll never hit HRs like he did in the past in his home games with the park the way it is.

With Pineiro, what I'm saying is that as long as his approach remains this new one with a sinker, then he won't be displaying his strikeout skill. Pineiro's old strikeout skill was to strike guys out without a sinker being thrown a high percentage of the time. Striking out guys at his old rate while throwing a sinker at his current rate would not be displaying a skill he owns, but would, in fact, be a completely new skill that he has never displayed. And would be a skill that his old displays give us no indication of either way.

Regarding Pineiro's BB/9, didn't you just say that when someone displays a skill they own it? Yeah, there is regression and all, but this is where I never understood "owning" a skill. It seems to be often used as a quick support for a guy to return to an old form that could just as easily have been a statistical oddity, while any skill that someone thinks isn't real becomes one that will regress.

Yes, Pineiro has so far had the best season of his career *so far*. Does that mean this is a high water mark he'll never reach again? I'm not so sure. I honestly think we need to throw out all stats about Pineiro before this last year. Due to the sinker he's a new pitcher and any stats from the past will cloud up the picture. I'm sure you read the fangraphs piece about Pineiro's GB% being sustainable. If he sustains that and keeps his accuracy in the strike zone, why can't it stay like it is? Granted, I'm skeptical that it can get much better, mostly due to this is some of the best low K/9 high K/BB high GB% pitching we've ever seen. Much more important, to my mind, for Pineiro's future is how soon can St. Louis get rid of Skip at 2B and replace him with a real fielder.

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 6:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Good stuff, Kellemonster. You're making me work. I love it.

Wright has the power to hit homeruns out of any park and no one on the Mets seems particularly happy that he decided to change his methods. If he went back to the old uppercut it might cost him a few points in batting average but if he hits 310 with 25 homers that is still better than what we got from him in 2009. It would push him back into the first round in my opinion. I would never base any evaluation entirely on the most recent season, I just weight it the most.

If we ignored the past after every breakout/out of nowhere/awesome season we would be stuck with a lot of duds in the following seasons. We would also miss out on some excellent bounceback years. I'm sure we could come up with a dozen examples of pitchers that had a spectacular season following and preceding many mediocre ones. To dismiss the idea that a player would return to his former level is not skepticism but rather a solid, logical process.

The skill that Pineiro once displayed was deception. The K9 is just an indicator of that skill. Because batters will (no doubt about it) adjust to the sinker(they'll stop swinging at it), using that deception in combination with his sinker (like Webb for example) could be a very realistic development. Just throwing his fastball when batters are looking for the sinker could boost his K-totals. Similarly, BB9 is an indicator of Pineiro's very good control (a skill he has shown for a long time)but unlike his great sinker (which has been around just not used as much) the otherworldly control that he displayed this season has not been seen in his numbers.

Joel Pineiro is absolutely capable of repeating his great season. Choosing Anderson over Pineiro is not a slight to Pineiro, but just an indication of how much I believe in Anderson's future. A 2.10 BB9 from Pineiro would still be awesome control but also more in line with the skill level he has shown before. It isn't that he can't do it again it's just that the low 2.00's control is a better bet than the sub-1.00 level.

But even quibbling over the details and degrees, the bottom line is that Pineiro has become a more effective pitcher. He should be able to remain a good pitcher next year (that's why he's on the list) and even if he took a step back to his former skill levels he would be more than worth owning in NL-only leagues and most mixed leagues at the prices were talking.

Friday, August 14, 2009 at 7:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dave said...

Great call on B. Pena. I wonder why it took the Royals so long to come around on him. John Buck hits .230 with occasional power and Miguel Olivo only draws walks during a solar eclipse, so it's not like they'd be benching Brian McCann or anything.

Very happy to hear your thoughts on Matt Kemp. What do you think of another Matt, that being Matt Holliday? Does he get close to 1st round again, or is he more of a 3rd/4th rounder?

Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 3:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

I couldn't include Matt Holliday because I have no idea where he'll be playing. If he stays in St Louis or another favorable NL park I would probably place him near the top of round two in a 12tm mixed. But even out of such a park I doubt I could let him fall past me in the fourth round.

Oakland was a bad place for him. There was no one else in the lineup, it's a pitcher's park, a new league, the pressure of playing for his next contract, all of this had to factor in some small way into his mediocre start.

Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 5:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dave said...

Thanks Jon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 2:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Nathan Coffey said...

Um, Matt Kemp is still a Dodger, never an Angel. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 1:51:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, Sean Burnett has a "dominant" fastball? It's averaged 90-91 the last three seasons... He also has pretty bad L/R splits. I.e., almost no chance he will ever be a closer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 10:53:00 PM EST  

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