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MLB Barometer: Don't Worry About Teixeira

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

Father's Day means:

(A) Enjoying family time
(B) Sitting on the couch and having your wife/kids bring you beer, food, and otherwise cater to you
(C) Watching baseball, the final round of the U.S. Open, and/or the World Cup
(D) Evaluating your fantasy roster(s) and coming up with trade ideas and waiver claims
(E) All of the above

The answer, of course, is E. So enjoy, and Happy Father's Day to all.

When I write this column, I always try to give what I'd consider standard "upgrades" and "downgrades" - players whose values have increased or decreased due to a role change, injury, or change in skill set. But there's more to it than that. One of the reasons I enjoy comments from subscribers, particularly those with suggestions on players to profile, is that I want to know who fantasy owners are thinking about. Last week, for example, subscribers suggested that I downgrade Adam Lind and Ricky Nolasco and upgrade Chris Coghlan. Now, just because I get a suggestion doesn't automatically mean I'm going to profile that player. But when I checked ESPN's Most Added/Most Dropped list, as I usually do before I write this column (since it's a good, quick gauge of what the public is thinking about player values), I quickly noticed that Lind, Nolasco, and Coghlan were all on it. Fantasy owners are obviously thinking about these guys, as are our subscribers; so let's discuss them this week.

Also, Troy Tulowitzki's injury makes him an obvious downgrade, but his injury creates fascinating trade possibilities, especially in keeper leagues. As you're sitting on the couch today, make sure you consider some trade possibilities with Tulo.

Upgrades:

Brian McCann, C, Braves: This has to be one of the strangest upgrades ever. I mean, when you go two years with vision problems, apparently attributable to your eyes always being dry, as McCann has, why does it take so long to figure out that you need to drink more water? You mean to tell me that a several-hundred-million dollar organization like the Braves, with dozens of doctors at its disposal, couldn't figure this out before now? Call me crazy, but I'd like to think that if I rubbed my eyes and they were always dry that I'd know I needed more water in my system. Anyway, as McCann's vision seems to have been a problem for a long time now, it bodes well that he appears to have found a solution.

Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks: Montero is back from a torn meniscus, playing every day, and hitting for power. Going forward, I'd rank Montero just behind McCann and ahead of youngsters like Carlos Santana and Buster Posey in the catcher rankings.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox: Why are people so surprised at what Beltre is doing? The difference between hitting in Safeco and hitting in Boston is enormous (not just because of the home ballpark, but the quality of the lineup around him). That's why, in my first Barometer of the season, I said Beltre was a dark horse for AL MVP. (Of course, I won't remind you what I said about Grady Sizemore, Scott Kazmir, and others, but I digress.) Anyway, before you write off Beltre's .337 AVG as a product of his .375 BABIP, realize his LD% is 26%. His other numbers are legitimate, too - his HR/FB is 9.0, right at his career rate, as are his strikeout and walk rates. Add it all up and I'd put Beltre sixth on my 3B list, ahead of Mark Reynolds and on par with Pablo Sandoval.

Manny Parra, SP, Brewers: Parra was a top-shelf prospect a few years back, but he frustrated fantasy owners with constant wildness (77 walks in 140 innings in 2009). After starting out 2010 in the bullpen, Parra has finally gotten another chance to start, and so far, so good. Through three starts, Parra has 23 strikeouts against 7 walks in 17.3 innings, including a five-strikeout, no walk start in Colorado in his last outing. At age 27, Parra may finally be starting to "get it," and if that's the case, keep him in mind in deeper leagues, points leagues, and keeper leagues. His strikeout potential is significant.

Jesse Litsch, SP, Blue Jays: After Tommy John surgery in 2009, Litsch is back in the Blue Jays rotation. After a rough opening start in Colorado, Litsch posted seven shutout innings against the Giants. He won't strike many guys out, but in 2008, at age 23, he posted a 3.58 ERA and 1.233 WHIP in 176 innings. I'd ignore him in standard leagues, but in deeper leagues, I see him as a matchup starter.

No Change:

Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees: I got a question on our "Ask An Expert" feature the other day asking whether or not to drop Teixeira. I had to read it twice to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding - the guy was considering whether to drop Teixeira because of his .224 AVG. I'm sure most of you know that would be crazy (regardless of league format), so I won't belabor the point here. Instead, let's look at Teixeira's OPS, year by year, before and after the All-Star break.

Before After
2005 .930 .981
2006 .798 .998
2007 .959 .966
2008 .857 1.120
2009 .913 .991
2010 .741 ???

Two trends I see here: (1) every year of his career, Teixeira has been better in the second half of the year than the first, sometimes significantly better; and (2) every year, Teixeira has been an elite player in the second half of the season. In leagues with owners who are unaware of these trends, Teixeira is a prime "buy low" candidate. More-experienced owners already know this, so don't bother trying.

Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: I didn't downgrade Coghlan earlier in the year when he was struggling, and I'm not upgrading him now that he's been on a hot streak. Nothing about Coghlan is different. He's not running more than he was earlier in the year - three of his seven steals were in April. He's not hitting for power - he has just four HRs on the season. He's still hitting line drives - 23%, the same as 2009 - it's just that some of those hits are falling in now. If Coghlan is someone you start, fine; if not, that's fine, too - obviously it depends on league depth. As with any hitter, don't chase after a hot streak or bail after a cold spell.

Downgrades:

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: You don't need to tell you that a broken wrist and six weeks on the DL merit a downgrade. So let's get right to the point - trade possibilities. Suppose you're in a keeper league, you're rebuilding, and a contending team just lost Tulo (who has a keeper-friendly contract) to injury. For the contending team, losing Tulo until early August is brutal (especially if his power is slow to return, as sometimes happens with wrist injuries). For you, though - the rebuilding team - Tulo's injury is irrelevant. You aren't winning this year anyway; and in 2011, Tulo will be 26 and a top-10 player by any measure. The contender realizes Tulo has keeper value, but his team is built to win in 2010 and he's more concerned about Tulo's current injury. The solution here is simple. If you're the rebuilding team, find a player who is similar in value to Tulo but not as good of a keeper. For instance, maybe you have a $40 Alex Rodriguez (who will be 35 next year, by the way) to trade for a $25 Tulo. That's a trade that should happen for both sides. If you're the contending team, and just lost Tulo to injury, it works the same way. Find a rebuilding team that has Mark Teixeira's expiring contract and trade Tulo for Teixeira. These are just examples, of course. If a contending team owns Tulo, and his contract makes him keeper-worthy, there are infinite trade possibilities here.

Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Lind's numbers are terrible - .209/.271/.350 look like stats from a utility infielder - but isn't this the same guy who hit .305 with 35 HRs at age 25 in 2009? How can he have fallen so far? Let's crunch the numbers. First, it's apparent Lind has been a bit unlucky he has a .250 BABIP, compared to .323 in 2009, even though his line drive rate, 20%, is similar to last year's 21%. His HR/FB is down, too - just 7.3% after last year's 13.8%. But it's not all bad luck - Lind's contact rate is just .73, an incredible drop considering he's been at .81 or above each of the past three years. So what's the verdict? Lind is in the prime of his career, still taking walks, and still hitting line drives. His BABIP and HR/FB both suggest he's been unlucky. Yes, the contact rate is worrisome, but I can't imagine that a hitter with a contact rate of .81 or higher every year of his career (even as a youngster) has suddenly forgotten how to make contact. I suspect Lind has been pressing a bit after a slow/unlucky start, hence the extra strikeouts, and he'll turn it around after a few start to fall in. I have to downgrade Lind a little, given the extra strikeouts, but I thought about putting him as a "No Change" - that's how confident I am that he will turn it around. If he's unowned in your league, as he is in about 20% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, stash him on your bench until he returns to form.

Ricky Nolasco, SP, Marlins: When I started looking at Nolasco's stats, I expected to find something suggesting he's been unlucky - a high BABIP, low LD%, low strand rate, high HR/FB - something. What I found, though, was that most of Nolasco's stats are in line with his career norms, except he isn't striking batters out he has a K/9 of just 6.5, down from 9.5 in 2009 - and he's allowed 15 HRs already, after giving up 23 all of last season. I'm optimistic that Nolasco can't do any worse than he's currently doing, as his stats are artificially inflated by three interleague matchups that were unfavorable - at White Sox, at Rays, Rangers. As a National League pitcher, he'll have more favorable matchups going forward. But until he can start missing bats and keep the ball in the park, he's not going to take the leap into the fantasy elite.

Chad Qualls, RP, Diamondbacks: When you see a reliever with a ratio of 2.27, your initial reaction is to think that's a good thing. But when you realize that's the reliever's WHIP, and not his ERA, you know there's a huge problem. When you consider that Qualls is 31 and a free agent at the end of the season, it's reasonable to say he may never get another save in a Diamondbacks uniform (or, for that matter, any other uniform) again. Meanwhile, Aaron Heilman stands to benefit, but don't forget about Juan Gutierrez, either. His season stats look ugly, but he's turned things around over the past three outings, after tweaking his mechanics, and he did well as the closer the end of 2009.