This Week's Scouting Tip: What I Did on My Winter Vacation
We are almost halfway through September - are you in it, or have you already shifted to football, basketball, hockey, or maybe even becoming reacquainted with the wife and kids? You know, when it comes to fantasy baseball, there is no real off season. You can take a week, maybe even two, to rest, relax, enjoy an evening at a good Cajun/Creole restaurant (assuming, of course, you spend at least part of it contemplating who LSU might have coming up as a future MLB arm), and you probably should stop by the local Barnes & Noble to pick up a 2012 calendar which will allow you to begin marking notable dates like the Winter Meetings, the date pitchers and catchers report to spring training, your anticipated date the 2012 RotoWire Draft Guide will hit the shelves, and Opening Day, to name just a few. A tip for newer fantasy baseball players - mark your wife or husband's birthday too; it makes them feel good and might reduce the animosity when you pass on a family movie day to watch the Futures Game.
Actually, there are a lot of things to keep the baseball junkie occupied when the snow flies. First on my list would be following the Arizona Fall League. That's like an ongoing Futures Game for budding stars. In fact, fellow RotoWire writer Bernie Pleskoff follows that league very closely, and I would highly recommend checking out his notes on players participating this fall. The Hot Stove is always a highlight of the offseason as we get to tune into the rumor mill regarding free agent signings, possible trades, and potential role shifts for the coming year. A few tidbits from those discussions can be extremely helpful next spring. And, naturally, you will want to be thinking about a plan for draft day 2012. Enjoy the football and all the other sports, but always keep baseball close to your heart.
One of the first things I do every winter would be compiling my target list for next year's draft. I play almost exclusively in keeper/auction leagues and I have found that a column with potential keepers from my current roster can match up with a column including players I will target next spring. For one thing, by draft day, the list will probably only include 50-75 players, maximum, and over the years, I have found that 90% or more of my purchases come from that list - considerably more efficient than trying to keep track of 400 players, most of which you have little or no interest in adding on the big day. I usually start this exercise by looking at the available pitchers and crossing off those who will not be considered, regardless of their spring stats, hype, and/or new outlook/pitch. We can start building that list right now. I will preface this list by stating, most of these guys will end up on some poor owner's roster. If I were to tell you I won't be looking at Rodrigo Lopez, you would probably say, "Yeah, so?" These guys have some redeeming qualities, just not anything I want to rely on.
Not a Snowball's Chance in Arizona They Find a Spot on My Roster
Ricky Nolasco (FLA)- Perennial means they come back every year. Nolasco fits nicely into the perennial category because he generally makes this list every year. He's actually the prototype for it. The ideal candidate for a no chance listing displays a lot of talent and erratic - or worse - performance. Can anyone deny that Nolasco is the undisputed leader of the talent laden implosion? I'll let someone else suffer … again.
Carlos Zambrano (CHC)- Right behind talent with no apparent excuse other than a simple lack of concentration for poor performance would be talent with the inability to use that talent consistently. "Z" is the epitome. I watch him from time to time and marvel at how someone with his quality of stuff can be so horrible. Being a Cub helps that dive into depravity, but even if he lands somewhere else (likely after his latest tirades), I'll pass and look for someone a little more stable.
Rich Harden (OAK)- I have sworn him off before. In fact, I have sworn him off almost every year since his second year in the majors. Sometimes I get caught up an forget my pledge to stay away - after all some springs he looks downright Harden-ish - but I have gradually learned to ignore the flashes of excellence, knowing an injury is just days or perhaps weeks away. He has been very good the second half, but I am not convinced he can keep going long term.
Francisco Liriano (MIN)- Liriano has a fantastic slider. When he's healthy and hasn't re-altered his delivery too much to avoid further arm injuries, he can be dominant. Unfortunately his dominance is directly linked to a delivery that wreaks havoc on his arm, therefore, to be the good Liriano, he has to punish his tools to the point of almost assuredly spending more time on the disabled list or lacking the command to be effective. Either way, he gets crossed off the consideration list.
Fausto Carmona (CLE)- While not a hard and fast rule, I do tend to avoid sinkerball specialists on draft day. Groundballs are great, however a sinkerball pitcher is probably the most prone to an implosion in any given start - Carmona is a prime example. His owner in one of my leagues inserted the Indians' Opening Day starter into his lineup and then spent the month of April trying to recuperate. Small things like too much rest or a good breakfast can turn a great sinkerball into a very straight, mediocre fastball. Those land in the seats more often than they bounce harmlessly to an infielder.
Justin Masterson (CLE)- One of the most frequent types of pitchers to make my no draft list would be the guy who has a sterling year while not quite convincing me he has stepped up into the next tier of quality arms. Masterson has had an excellent 2011, but I am doubtful he can repeat the performance next season. He may have a "good" year in 2012, but based on this season's stats, he will probably be over-valued meaning he will good too early or for too much money to provide value. If I could get him on the cheap, I would probably relent, but that would seem to be unlikely.
Homer Bailey (CIN)- Upside and potential tags can eventually wear off. I have watched Bailey for several years now, and even though I have seen both potential and upside, I have never seen it to the degree he has been hyped. He could turn into a post-hype prize, but I don't think he is likely to ever be what was expected. A few good starts always seem to be followed by a string of poor performances, probably because he doesn't always adjust especially well.
Jacob Turner (DET)- If I thought he had huge potential I would probably look to grab him and stash him until he develops. I think he will be a good one, but the Tigers will probably rush him to the majors full-time (it is their general philosophy) and he could struggle a lot as he tries to learn on the job. With other pitchers higher on my watch list, I am likely to let someone else wait out the tough times here. Young Detroit pitchers are always a challenge as it's hard to predict when they will reach their potential and get beyond the inconsistency.
Zack Greinke (MIL)- There is no question, this will be a surprise to many. I have found that pitchers who fail to maintain their mound presence in critical situations often under-perform when compared to their draft slot or auction price. Greinke can fall into that category. He has won quite a few games with the Brewers offense behind him, and he generates a good number of strikeouts, maybe too many at times, but he also gives you an ERA higher than you would expect from someone in his draft tier, and he too often loses games he should win by failing to lock down when it really counts. Don't get me wrong, he's very talented, but he rarely justifies his price.
Jair Jurrjens (ATL)- Okay, this is a tentative addition so maybe he has better than a snowball's chance. I love Jurrjens, when he is healthy. Unfortunately, he may be close to earning the dreaded "fragile" tag. And, while his injuries have generally not been arm related, they impact his legs and knees which can be just as devastating for a pitcher. That's where all the drive originates, it adversely affects their command, and it can lead to arm problems from compensation. Hopefully he can put these problems behind him, but he would be a risky pick.
And here are a couple of relievers/closers I will probably ignore next year.
Kevin Gregg (BAL)- I have never quite understood the tendency to stick with a closer who so obviously doesn't have the ability to be reliable. Gregg has made a career of making every save opportunity an adventure, and far too often he simply fails to get it done. However, someone, probably not the Orioles, will likely give him the closers role again next year. Maybe it's the money. Front offices are probably reluctant to admit they made such a huge mistake with a signing so they keep sending them out there and hoping for better results.
Leo Nunez (FLA)- The Marlins will be moving to a new park in 2012 and they opted to hang onto Nunez rather than dealing him at the non-waiver trade deadline. They implied a desire to field a solid team in their first year in the new ballpark, but there is a distinct possibility that interest in Nunez was just lukewarm. Bottom line is new park or not, Nunez is still the old Nunez and his hold on the closing gig in Florida is going to be tenuous at best. I might look for his most likely replacement, however there is no one in the organization who stands out right now.
That's my pitcher's to avoid list. Who makes yours?
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