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Circling the Bases: Making the Case For Chase

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.


Welcome to what I hope will be a wonderful journey.

This is my first article for RotoWire (big props go out to Jeff Erickson for making that a reality), though hopefully you've seen some of my other work around at places like BaseballGuys.com and Sports Illustrated, or perhaps you've heard me on the radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 211 and XM 147 a few hours after the RotoWire show.

Even if you haven't heard of me, and shame on you if you haven't, hopefully you'll enjoy the analysis that will follow in my weekly column here with RotoWire.

ADP TALK

Justin Morneau or Adam Dunn?

According to ADP information from Mock Draft Central, Morneau is being taken with the 47th overall pick, Dunn the 49th. Which would you rather have?

Morneau: There's no denying that he was spectacular last season (.345-18-56 in 81 games) or that he is a big time run producer with at least 100 RBI in each of his last four healthy seasons, but he also has an annoying, and totally unexplainable up and down trend in his batting average from year to year: .271, .239, .321, .271, .300, 2.74 and .345 last year. No one can explain why that is, it just is. Of course, the biggest concern is Morneau's health. Coming back from a concussion this spring, reports suggest that he is in good shape, but he still hasn't been full cleared for game action.

Dunn: The most consistent power threat in baseball, Dunn has hit at least 38 homers in seven straight years, tied with Babe Ruth for the second longest such stretch in big league history (Rafael Palmeiro holds the record with 9-straight). He strikes out a ton, and that always limits his batting average (.career: 250), but Dunn gets on base (.356 OBP) and produces a strong OPS (.902). To compare, Morneau's career numbers are .358 and .869.

Given the health concerns of Morneau and the consistency of Dunn, not to mention that he is moving into a ball yard that Park Indices says was the fourth best in the AL in homers for left-handed batters the past three years, I find it vexing that so many people are taking the Twins' first sacker before Dunn.

Clay Buchholz or Roy Oswalt?

According to ADP information from Mock Draft Central, Buchholz is being taken with the 99th overall pick, Oswalt the 107th. Which would you rather have?

Buchholz: Clay won 17 games while finishing the 2010 season with the second best ERA in the AL at 2.33. That's about the extent of his exemplary work last season. His K/9 mark of 6.22 was almost a full batter below the big league average, his BB/9 mark of 3.47 was worse than the big league average (3.28), and his resulting 1.79 K/BB rate was flat out poor (the big league average was 2.17). Of course he generated a ton of grounders to help offset that fact somewhat, 51 percent of batted balls were on the ground, but honestly, he was lucky in 2010. There is no way in the world he'll maintain his elevated strand rate of 79 percent (the big league average is 70 percent), and despite his ground ball tendencies it's a stretch to think that he'll be able to replicate his 0.47 HR/9 mark that is almost exclusively the result of cutting his HR/F rate by nearly a two thirds from his mark in 2008-09 down to 5.6 percent.

Oswalt: He isn't young, but at the same time he is only 33 years old. Oswalt is coming off a season in which he was 5th in the NL in ERA (2.76),but his most impressive fantasy number was his 1.03 WHIP, the best in the Senior Circuit. Oswalt also racked up 193 punchouts, his highest total since 2004. He also completed a third straight year with a K/BB ratio of at least 3.25, a mark he has attained in nine of his 10 big league seasons. He did all of that over 211.2 innings, the sixth time in seven years that he has hit the magic mark of 200. What's not to like here?

This one is almost as befuddling as the comparison at first base. Oswalt is not only the established veteran who has shown no skills slippage whatsoever, he's also likely to give you at least 50 more punchouts than the youngster from Boston (at least). It also wouldn't be at all surprising to see Clay's ERA rise by at least a full run, likely more, and with that any advantage that he held over Oswalt will vanish quicker than Britney Spears' career.

BREAKING DOWN: Chase Headley
Current ADP: 351 overall, 19th at third base

Why in the world would anyone draft Scott Rolen, Chipper Jones, Jose Lopez or Casey Blake ahead of Chase Headley (according to ADP numbers, all four of those third sackers are going earlier on draft day)?

CON: OK, you could make an argument around issues like Chase's home park greatly suppresses hitting, and that the Padres lineup lost it's only true star when Adrian Gonzalez went to the Red Sox, but is that really enough of a reason for him to be dropped so low on draft boards? You could also point out that Headley has hit only 23 homers the past two years. Or how about the fact that he has only average 61 RBI the past two years? Or what about his batting average which has been in the .260's each of the past three years? None of this really warms the heart does it? What about a decidedly average 1.19 career GB/FB ratio or a BB/K mark of 0.39 or a .332 OBP for his career? Again, ho hum and boring.

PRO: If you believe in this offseason training stuff making a major difference in a player's performance, Headley bulked up nearly 20 lbs. to help to add some more thunder to his stick. That should help him to boost his poor 6.4 percent HR/F mark, especially considering that he was able to post better marks the previous two years (10.7 and 7.6 percent). In Petco he isn't going to morph into Jose Bautista, but you would have to think a run to the 20 homer mark isn't absurd.

Another feather in his cap is his ability to swipe a bag. Last year he stole 17 bases, which may not sound like much until you realize that only two third base eligible players stole more bases - Chone Figgins (42) and David Wright (19). Moreover, the past two years he has a strong 79.4 stolen base conversion rate, so if he were to run a bit more 20 thefts wouldn't be crazy, though admittedly a slight regression from his total from last season is probable.

While nothing in his game really sticks out, it's the whole package that should intrigue you when you move into the later rounds of your draft, especially if you are considering taking the nearly decrepit Jones and Blake, the almost certain to regress Rolen, and the potentially dreadful Lopez. Think of this when you ponder whether or not to draft Headley.

There were only four third base eligible players in the game in 2010 that hit .260 with 10 homers, 75 runs and five steals - David Wright, Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista and Chase Headley.

WHO AM I?

Can you guess who I am?

Last season I had a better batting average than David Ortiz (.290 to .270).

I had more homers than Adam LaRoche: 26 to 25.

I had more RBI than Prince Fielder: 86 to 83.

I scored more runs than Paul Konerko: 100 to 89.

I had a better slash line than Ryan Howard: .290/.385/.506 to .276/.353/.505.

I had more doubles than Adrian Gonzalez: 35 to 33.

I had more hits than Mark Teixeira: 165 to 154.

I stole more bases than Kevin Youkilis: seven to four.

I finished 7th in my league in MVP voting.

Who am I?

The answer is below.

BY THE NUMBERS

4: The number of players who produced a hit in more than a third of their at-bats last season after the All-Star break (minimum 200 ABs). Josh Hamilton led the way at an insane .384 followed by Joe Mauer (.373), Carlos Gonzalez (.363) and Joey Votto (.333). Nelson Cruz just missed out as he hit just .333. Slacker.

20: The number of players last season who had 15 steals and 15 homers. In a fortuitous coincidence, if there are such things (where is agent Mulder when you need him?), 15 of those men patrolled the outfield. Of the five who were infielders, here are some notes.

Brandon Phillips: Since going to the Reds in 2006 he's never had fewer than 17 homers or 16 steals in a season.

Evan Longoria: He's only been caught on five of 36 career steal attempts. Still, he had had never been 10/10 before last year.

Joey Votto: He stole 16 bases last season after accruing 12 over his first 306 games.

David Wright: Since becoming a full-timer in 2005 Wright has gone at least 15/15 in five of six years.

Hanley Ramirez: He's gone 20/25 each of the past four years.

50: The number of players who had more RBI than Carlos Gonzalez did last year on the road, a shocking total given that CarGo was second in the NL with 117 RBI - one behind Albert Pujols. It was even worse for Gonzalez on the road last season when it came to hitting homers. There were 88 men in baseball who hit more than his eight road homers. For goodness sakes, Kosuke Fukudome hit more road homers (nine). Are you sure you want to spend a top-5 overall selection on someone who was so mortal on the road in 2010? Think about it.

I AM...

The San Francisco Giants' Aubrey Huff.

Be honest, it took some serious thought to come up with who I was talking about, didn't it?