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The Wheelhouse: Value Earned

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A few weeks ago, we looked at the results of a draft conducted June 1 to get a better feel for the player market following the first two months of the regular season. Admittedly, I am a stubborn evaluator and in most instances was reluctant to significantly upgrade or downgrade healthy players based on 50 games worth of a data, or a dozen starts in the case of pitchers.

Still, as we inch closer to the halfway point in the season, the value earned by players to this point is becoming a more legitimate measure of performance given the increasing size for sample at hand.

For our baseline, we'll asume it's a 15-team mixed league format using the tradition five hitting and five pitching categories. Essentially, we're working with an NFBC Main Event style league. Entering play Friday, 25 hitters are on track to earn $25 or more this season:

Name Pos $ G AB H HR RBI R SB AVG OBP SLG
Hamilton, Josh (TEX) OF 47 63 242 80 22 64 45 6 .331 .388 .674
Braun, Ryan (MIL) OF 45 65 249 80 20 51 47 12 .321 .400 .627
Gonzalez, Carlos (COL) OF 45 62 253 84 17 51 51 10 .332 .390 .617
Votto, Joey (CIN) 1B 40 68 237 87 13 45 45 4 .367 .486 .658
McCutchen, Andrew (PIT) OF 38 65 242 82 12 42 38 14 .339 .397 .574
Cabrera, Melky (SF) OF 37 67 278 101 6 35 48 10 .363 .399 .532
Beltran, Carlos (STL) OF 37 67 238 73 19 48 41 7 .307 .396 .584
Jones, Adam (BAL) OF 36 69 275 83 18 39 47 9 .302 .350 .564
Wright, David (NY-N) 3B 35 66 240 86 8 39 46 7 .358 .456 .571
Ortiz, David (BOS) DH 34 69 252 78 18 49 48 0 .310 .395 .607
Trumbo, Mark (ANA) 1B 33 61 225 73 17 48 33 4 .324 .378 .636
Encarnacion, Edwin (TOR) 3B 33 66 251 71 20 48 40 6 .283 .351 .574
Cabrera, Miguel (DET) 3B 32 69 280 86 14 55 40 3 .307 .365 .529
Trout, Mike (ANA) OF 31 48 195 66 6 28 40 19 .338 .397 .528
Konerko, Paul (CHI-A) 1B 31 62 229 81 13 39 35 0 .354 .426 .585
Kipnis, Jason (CLE) 2B 31 67 272 75 11 41 46 17 .276 .330 .441
Bourn, Michael (ATL) OF 29 69 294 91 6 22 46 18 .310 .358 .446
Bautista, Jose (TOR) 3B 27 69 250 58 22 52 46 4 .232 .353 .528
Beltre, Adrian (TEX) 3B 27 66 256 80 12 45 38 1 .313 .342 .516
Granderson, Curtis (NY-A) OF 27 68 270 68 21 41 47 3 .252 .346 .526
Castro, Starlin (CHI-N) SS 27 69 285 86 6 38 33 16 .302 .315 .449
Cano, Robinson (NY-A) 2B 26 68 264 79 14 33 47 1 .299 .365 .545
Kinsler, Ian (TEX) 2B 25 68 294 81 7 35 53 13 .276 .338 .442
Fielder, Prince (DET) 1B 25 69 259 80 11 45 36 1 .309 .386 .502
Pence, Hunter (PHI) OF 25 70 280 77 13 42 47 4 .275 .339 .464


Further, it's worth noting that Matt Kemp and Austin Jackson have produced per-game value on par with that of $25-plus players around their respective injuries.

This point forward Adam Jones or Justin Upton? Is it even close?

The list above is filled with a healthy supply of surprises, particularly some of the young players in Jason Kipnis and Mike Trout. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is Melky Cabrera, but what should we make of David Ortiz's impressive start? Remember when the sky was falling and Ortiz was in a rapid decline back in April of 2008 (.198/.300/.375)? How about the first half of 2009 when he hit .222/.317/.416 in 81 games before the All-Star break? In many ways, it seems like fantasy circles have never fully regained confidence in Ortiz despite a .293/.386/.554 line along with 79 homers and 247 RBI since the start of the 2010 season. He'll likely be on a number of teams celebrating fantasy championships in October.

Admittedly, I had a difficult time buying what Melky Cabrera did with the Royals last season (.305/.339/.470, 18 HR, 20 SB). Dear pitchers, try throwing him fastballs. This season, he's hitting .404 on balls in play, with career-high 53.8% groundball rate (last year, he was at 47.1%). Does anyone expect .366 to hold up? It's entirely possible that has a high contact rate hitter in a weak lineup for the second straight season, he'll rack up a lot of RBI and runs scored because of his place in the batting order. With good contact skills and speed, a batting average around or even slightly above .300 and stolen-base count are legit. I will buy 2011 as the new baseline, and that's a big step from where I was with Cabrera three months ago. Ned Colletti can't wait until December.

Mark Trumbo should receive consideration for the All-Star Game. His walk rate has jumped from 4.4% in 2011 to 7.7% this season and he's carrying a the third-highest ISO (.311) among qualified hitters this season. Only Josh Hamilton (.343) and Adam Dunn (.329) are ahead of him in that category. The lack of a true position will be one of a handful of factors working against him.

If the data to this point is any indication, waiting on pitching may be a better strategy now than ever before. Thus far, 27 pitchers are on track to earn at least $15 this season and many of them were unheralded middle- and late-round selections.

Name $ W SV IP H HR BB K ERA WHIP
Dickey, R.A. (NY-N) 36 11 0 99 67 8 21 103 2.00 0.889
Cain, Matt (SF) 29 9 0 100 71 8 20 100 2.34 0.910
Strasburg, Stephen (WAS) 28 9 0 84 65 6 22 110 2.46 1.036
Gonzalez, Gio (WAS) 26 9 0 85 55 1 34 101 2.55 1.051
Verlander, Justin (DET) 26 7 0 109 81 6 27 106 2.57 0.994
Lynn, Lance (STL) 25 10 0 87 71 5 29 90 2.80 1.154
Hamels, Cole (PHI) 25 10 0 97 84 11 22 99 3.25 1.093
Wilson, C.J. (ANA) 22 8 0 92 67 4 39 79 2.44 1.148
Sale, Chris (CHI-A) 22 8 0 80 58 4 22 82 2.46 0.996
Sabathia, CC (NY-A) 21 9 0 101 98 10 27 102 3.55 1.234
McDonald, James (PIT) 21 6 0 90 62 4 24 83 2.19 0.952
Cueto, Johnny (CIN) 21 8 0 95 89 5 20 67 2.38 1.151
Price, David (TB) 20 9 0 91 84 7 31 82 3.08 1.268
Capuano, Chris (LA) 20 8 0 86 67 10 31 80 2.71 1.135
Darvish, Yu (TEX) 20 9 0 89 78 7 49 96 3.45 1.432
Bumgarner, Madison (SF) 20 8 0 96 83 8 19 78 2.92 1.066
Kershaw, Clayton (LA) 19 5 0 102 78 10 25 95 2.73 1.007
Miley, Wade (AZ) 19 8 0 82 70 3 17 57 2.30 1.057
Peavy, Jake (CHI-A) 19 6 0 99 70 8 23 83 2.74 0.943
Greinke, Zack (MIL) 19 7 0 87 89 3 20 95 3.10 1.253
Hammel, Jason (BAL) 17 7 0 82 66 7 29 77 2.87 1.163
Lewis, Colby (TEX) 17 6 0 96 84 15 12 84 3.00 1.000
Beachy, Brandon (ATL) 17 5 0 81 49 6 29 68 2.00 0.963
Weaver, Jered (ANA) 16 7 0 75 51 5 17 60 2.40 0.907
Vogelsong, Ryan (SF) 16 6 0 90 71 6 32 64 2.41 1.149
Rodney, Fernando (TB) 16 2 20 33 20 1 5 31 1.10 0.765
Morrow, Brandon (TOR) 15 7 0 78 54 7 24 67 3.01 1.004


R.A. Dickey is a legitimate Cy Young candidate in the National League, and debates about whether or not he's going to sustain anything close to his current pace could linger on through the middle of August. Whether you believe that Dickey is the best pitcher in fantasy baseball at this point, or a 15-20 range option at his position (Note: I'm on the side of the latter), check out some of the other names on this list.

Lance Lynn is giving the Cards a Chris Carpenter-type season after working mostly out of the bullpen as an effective reliever in St. Louis last season. If Chris Sale is healthy all year, he looks like a legitimate frontline starter. Given their respective workloads last season, an August/September fade would not be a surprise.

James McDonald never appeared to have a ceiling higher than that of a No. 3 starter, but everything appears to be clicking for him now. In addition to a career-high 8.3 K/9IP, McDonald boasts a career-low 2.39 BB/9IP. The pitch f/x data reveals fewer fastballs and curveballs this season, along with a more regular use of the slider. Subsequently, McDonald is toting a career-high 9.0 swinging strike percentage. The batted ball profile against him is very similar last season, but the biggest difference is an extremely low 4.2% HR/FB. Last season, that number hovered at 11.0%, so a few more flyballs could leave the park against him going forward.

Chris Capuano has been a better pitcher since returning from his second Tommy John surgery in 2010 than he was during his first four years with the Brewers. His long road to return to the big leagues is a story that should receive extra attention in the near future as he lost nearly three seasons working his way back from the second operation. Capuano often struggled after the fifth inning in his starts for the Mets last season, but carried a 3.67 xFIP under a 4.55 ERA, 8.1 K/9IP and 2.6 BB/IP. Even with an uptick in his walk rate this season, he's managed to generate better results thanks to an 81.2% LOB. An ERA closer to 3.75 or even 4.00 with 8.0 K/9IP and 3.0 BB/9IP is still valuable from this point forward.

Wade Miley has done more than enough to keep Trevor Bauer at Triple-A Reno longer than many expected. He's not going to miss a ton of bats, but he's done a good job of limiting the free passes and home runs and while Miley gets a lot of groundballs, a 3.8 HR/FB mark while pitching half of his games at Chase Field is completely unsustainable. He's better than Josh Collmenter long term, and even good enough to keep a rotation spot next season with Joe Saunders headed to free agency, but tread very carefully here if you have been reaping the benefits of his 2.30 ERA through 82.1 innings.

It's been 41 starts now for Ryan Vogelsong since his return from Japan. Maybe the combination of home park, defense and groundball rate are such that he will continue as a pitcher who regularly outperforms his xFIP (the anti-Ricky Nolasco, if you will?). I'm more comfortable with low K/9IP pitchers than most, but his walk rate is still above 3.0 and the strand rate is also elevated.

Noteworthy

Best of luck to Nolan Reimold in his bid to return surgery to remove a disk that is impinging on a nerve in his neck. The surgery is similar to that of Peyton Manning's, but Reimold is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the 2013 season. Prior to landing on the DL, he was flashing signs of having a career year at age 28.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan looks at the MLB blackout rules, which are more ridiculous for those who live in Vegas and Iowa, among other places.

Cole Hamels gave Bryce Harper his vote for the All-Star Game, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

Follow me on Twitter @DerekVanRiper.