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Charging the Mound: Liss and Erickson Talk Baseball - With Video

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).



-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 6:22pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Charging


Jeff - some early season observations after the first two weeks. Feel free to respond, ignore or defenestrate:

I'm beginning to think I over-drafted Giancarlo Stanton (five leagues, taking him as high as No. 5 overall and paying $37 for him in NL Tout). Part of it is the lineup being more terrible than even the Astros, and part is that he's already banged up again. I don't like to see 23-year old players deal with nagging injuries. If you can't stay healthy when you're young, maybe you should find a more leisurely activity like chess or golf. Then again, Stanton was fine down the stretch last year with virtually no one in the lineup, either, and I used to think Ryan Braun was injury-prone given all the minor aches and pains he had as a young player. (Granted he never had a knee scope during the season).

The Stanton to Texas rumors have me excited though as I also own Jurickson Profar in a few places, and that would liberate him, too. (Florida would get other viable prospects like Mike Olt and probably a major leaguer or two). The problem is the Marlins are allegedly unwilling to deal Stanton, though they could be bluffing. It seems stupid not to make the move as Florida isn't going to contend this year or next even with Stanton, and so you're using up at least two of his near-prime seasons of cheap, team control. Why not re-boot with even younger players, and build around them? As for Texas, they should really be pushing to get Stanton now so they get five months of him and not at the deadline which gives them just two months this year. Stanton's production for 2013 - assuming his invisible shoulder bruise doesn't mysteriously turn into a torn rotator cuff - is worth $25 million or so, and if the teams wait until July, they'll leave $15 million of that on the table while costing Profar valuable major-league development time. The time to do the deal is now. Texas should offer $7.5 million in cash to sweeten the deal if they have to - we know Marlins' ownership is to money like a vulture is to a rotten carcass.

What would Stanton do in the Rangers lineup, playing half his games in Arlington? Is 50-plus homers and .700 slugging percentage out of the question?

I bid $69 in NL Tout for Tony Cingrani and got him for $52 thanks to the Vickery system. I love Vickery because I'm aggressive no matter what, so it allows me to go nuts and still save money. Also, even with the $17 I have left, other owners know I'm going to throw it around, so they better bid $18 to get anyone with a pulse, and hopefully I'll cause some people to waste money. Finally, the ability to make $0 bids (unlike LABR) and swing spot still allow you to fill up your empty spots with scrubby middle relievers if you need to. In only-leagues, I'm a huge believer in going all-in early because you get five months of production rather than just two months if you score a big player at the trade deadline. Plus, there's a lot of competition for those few players coming across at the deadline, and sometimes the deadline is a dud anyway. I already got Jose Fernandez for $22 (bid in the 30s), and even though I also have Stephen Strasburg, Jeff Samardzija, Shelby Miller and Hyun-Jin Ryu, Cingrani was a rare potential impact player, one for whom it's worth going to the mat. (I also have Dan Hudson, Scott Baker and Jeff Karstens on the DL).

Speaking of Hamilton, Chris Heisey has been awful, and Shin Soo Choo can't play centerfield. But Hamilton is struggling early on at Triple-A, so it doesn't seem like he's much of an option in the near term. I'm still holding onto him because the ridiculous upside is there, and I don't think there's a huge obstacle to him playing if he heats up and shows he can handle centerfield.

The Rays are second to last in scoring this year, and the third best offensive player in the organization, Will Myers, (after Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist) is in the minors. The Rays are pretty savvy with maximizing the pre-arbitration years and retaining players by offering long-term contracts, but in a competitive AL-East, this is pushing it a bit far. At some point, it becomes bad for baseball (and, full disclosure, my AL LABR team). Everyone hates the Marlins, and perhaps rightly so, but at least they put their best pitcher - 20 year old Fernandez - in the rotation to start the year.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2013 11:51am
To: "Chris Liss"
Subject: Charging


I share your frustration on Stanton, though I only have him in one league, probably because we play in leagues together. But this seems like more of a "buy lowest" scenario rather than a time to admit failure. What has really changed here? Unless there's really something structurally wrong with Stanton's shoulder, and the latest news suggests there isn't, he'll be back in there soon. His walk rate is significantly up, but I don't think that the Marlins' offense will remain that impotent all year. At some point, they'll get Logan Morrison back, and later on Christian Yelich will be up with the team. Some of these other young guys could click a little too. And Stanton will also become more accustomed to pitchers working around him and adjust accordingly. He'll start launching rockets soon enough.

One thing we don't know about Stanton or anyone else in terms of possible trades is what the actual offers are. The Marlins might not be getting anywhere close to that in value in trade talks, and of course if that's the case then they'd be silly to pull the trigger. The onus is the Rangers (or any possible suitor) to step up with an appropriate offer. But this is a game of chicken - if nobody else is offering up fair value for Stanton, they can up their offer to top others, but they don't want to increase it too much and overpay compared to the market, if they think they can get him for less. Also, unlike our fantasy league example, at this stage of Stanton's career, the Marlins don't have the urgency to trade him now versus two months from now.

I definitely agree with you about going all-in with FAAB early in only leagues, rather than saving your cash for the deadline. This is especially true for redraft leagues - in keeper leagues, though, there are other considerations, but even then, the lesson is similar - don't hold out for one big player, but rather be willing to spend frequently and early in dribs and drabs.

Cingrani's start will be really interesting - at every single level in the minors he has dominated, despite not having what most scouts consider to be dominant stuff. As a Reds fan I want him to stick in the rotation even after Johnny Cueto returns from the DL. Then again I wanted Aroldis Chapman to stick in the Reds' rotation over Mike Leake in the first place, and that's clearly not going to change. Do I have to actively root against Leake in the hopes of this happening? Maybe subconsciously I was doing that yesterday in the Daily Joust challenge that you won, by starting three Phillies against him - though in fairness both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley had great track records in small samples against him. (Save your comment about not relying on small samples - of course I know better.)

We talked about Billy Hamilton on the air today. The burden is on him to demonstrate that he really merits being up with the big club - that his bat demands it. It's not merely enough that Choo is dicey in center field (and really, he's had one bad game out there against St. Louis, where there were a lot of problems with the sun), or that Heisey hasn't played well. He has to demonstrate conclusively that there's nothing left for him to prove in Triple-A with the bat. The burden is higher on him than other prospects, too, because he's never going to hit for power. If Billy Hamilton isn't hitting .280 or better at the big league level, he's not an offensive asset as an everyday player. Those walk rates are going to severely decline at the big league level, too, where the pitchers' collective control is orders of magnitude better, and there's no reason to not throw him strikes. So I wouldn't cast aside Heisey so quickly.

Myers is different (though he left today's game at Triple-A Durham with a foot injury) - he tore it up at Triple-A last year - that level is conclusively proven. This is all about financial mechanics. But the Rays should have bitten the bullet and had him active already. If they need to play games with his contract status they can find a way to do it somewhere down the road. They're handing games away early on because of their weak sauce choices in the lineup. While they're at it, why not give Brandon Guyer a chance somewhere too? It seriously can't be worse than using Sam Fuld semi-regularly, no matter the defensive gulf between them.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 1:13am
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


It's true. Stanton hit one homer in April last year, missed six weeks in the middle of the season and still finished with 37 HR. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be dealt.

Cingrani put up good numbers, but it took him 102 pitches to get through five innings, and that was against the Marlins. I think his strikeout rate will be good, but like Jose Fernandez, the command will come and go. I'd be happy with Matt Moore's 2012 for either those guys, and I think there's some downside beyond that. Speaking of Moore, he's still walking too many, but his first year-plus reminds me of Tim Lincecum's and Clayton Kershaw's - when the command improves as 2013 goes on, Moore could be in contention for the Cy Young.

Finally, what about Felix Hernandez and C.C. Sabathia? Both have significantly diminished velocity this year, but it hasn't impacted their performance at all. Ticking time bombs or nothing to worry about? Why is Roy Halladay's velocity such a big deal and theirs is not?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2013 11:51am
To: "Chris Liss"
Subject: Charging


Halladay's velocity is such a big deal because I own him, and I don't own Hernandez and Sabathia.

But seriously, it's a bigger deal because Halladay had a bad year last year, and was worse when he returned from the DL, posting a 4.93 ERA and 1.29 WHIP after his return. It's a bigger deal because of the degree in the drop - from 92.0 mph in 2011 to 90.6 mph last year to 89.4 mph this year. And I think that the velocity change has turned him into a nibbler, rather than a pitcher that would attack hitters in the strike zone. Year after year, he would have walk rates below 2.0 per nine innings, this year it's at 4.11 per nine innings. The rule of small samples apply here, too, but the outlook still isn't promising.

I'm benching him Friday night against the Cardinals, and I'd advise everyone to do the same in leagues where you can bench him.