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The Wheelhouse: Go For Go-Go

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.

One of my favorite things about attending the Fantasy Sports Trade Association conferences is the energy I return home with.

It seems counter intuitive to spend a couple of long days (and nights) networking in downtown Chicago and to return home anything less than exhausted. In fairness, I just polished off my coffee from the drive home and a face-to-keyboard situation before this is filed cannot be ruled out.

First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to this year's FSTA Hall of Fame class: John Hunt, Glenn Colton and Paul Charchian. Their respective contributions as pioneers in the industry are immeasurable.

The conference is a mix of industry pillars and newcomers with ideas that will dramatically change the way we play in the coming years.

Being in that environment ignites my competitive drive.

Of course, an added bonus of being at the summer conference is the quality of the side conversations about various players.

Is Carlos Gomez still undervalued?

For a guy who is currently ranked fifth among outfielders in the RotoWire in-season dollar values, there is a consistent industry-wide reluctance to treat Gomez as an elite player. Look at some of his three-year trends - fewer strikeouts, fewer infield flyballs and more line drives. Even with a low walk rate, Gomez has managed to increase his value by merely getting fooled at the plate less often. It's easy to see the speed watching him play, and his pull power has always been intriguing. The Knights of BABIP will point the sword at Gomez's current .376 level against a .311 career mark and predict an upcoming crash in batting average.

The last calendar year might be the better indicator of Gomez's age-27 skill set:

.289/.334/.582, 4.8 BB%, 21.9 K%, 28 HR, 44 SB, 101 R, 78 RBI.

He should be valued as a top-10 outfielder at this point, but it seems likely that it would take much less to fetch Gomez in a trade than Justin Upton, Jose Bautista or Adam Jones (the three outfielders currently ranked ahead of him on our cheat sheets). Of the group, only Jones ($38) has generated more than Gomez ($35) thus far.

You can't deal exclusively with the Buy Low, Sell High mindset.

I'm going to be crass here. Unless you're playing against a league full of idiots, that principle gets far more attention than it should. It oversimplifies the radically volatile data points (see also: players and humans) that we are working with.

The reason many people fail to make trades is their marriage to what they paid for a player back in March. (Another common one is the unwillingness to make a trade doesn't involve one owner slaughtering another in value for fear of giving up something of value, or even just being wrong.) Draft day prices matter exponentially less with each passing day. For most owners, it's a much more linear adjustment, and it takes place very gradually.

If after two weeks of the season, you believed that Jean Segura should have been a top-100 player, you shouldn't have offered a player drafted or purchased within a round or buck of his draft day acquisition cost. Concede the idea that the other owner likely had some reason for investing in the players on their roster and the same reason you're upgrading Segura has almost certainly crossed their mind.

Willingness to pay more than that owner did just a few weeks ago (splitting the difference between whatever you think his ROTS value was compared to the Draft Day price) is a much more effective way to acquire the player that you want than pretending as though the other owner involved is not seeing what everyone else is seeing.

Timing matters too, however, and I've mentioned before that the lack of a Beckett to set the in-season market prices for players - if only for a reference point - adds to the difficulty of making the appropriate offer at the right time.

This time last month, I offered USA Today's Steve Gardner a 1-for-1 swap of Jonathan Papelbon for Jean Segura. Even with his need for another closer, it was too late. Had I been willing to make that offer in mid-April, it had a much greater chance of being accepted since Papelbon was a ninth-round selection and Segura fell to the 15th.

If nothing else, I was hoping that Steve had some lingering doubts about what Segura was going to do moving forward and his categorical need would make it a suitable offer, but that was hardly the case given his experience and my delayed timing.

Yasiel Puig or Josh Hamilton for the rest of 2013?

This was an offer that my colleague Kyle McKeown was considering earlier this week. From a known quantity factor, Hamilton is the logical play. After all, he hit .285/.354/.577 with 43 homers and 128 RBI last season in 148 games. However, when you consider that Hamilton might be the most decayed 32-year-old in baseball, doubt begins to creep in. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had an excellent post comparing a regressing Hamilton to Jason Kubel. Their similarities are very apparent when comparing their production over the last calendar year.

If you buy into the notion the Hamilton's aggressive, free-swinging approach will go without adjustment and serve as a driving force behind a rapid decline, it's easier to think of him as an overrated commodity and one that a savvy player might unload in a deal for a potential rapid growth stock in Puig. While we might be increasingly comfortable with our ideas of what Hamilton simply is not at this stage of his career, Puig could be anything from a Cuban Mike Trout to a Cuban Chris Shelton. At least we know, without a doubt, that he is Cuban.

Jay Bruce : Todd Zola, Mike Trout : Ron Shandler

I was previously unaware of Zola's concerns about Jay Bruce, but he makes a good argument ($) for his very low (218th overall low) ranking of the Reds right fielder a few weeks back.

The magnitude of the downgrade is my area of disagreement. Bruce's contact profile makes him a low batting average risk, and his lack of steals as Zola points out limit his upside. A drop in Bruce's BABIP (currently .363) would hurt his batting average, however, you would also have to buy into the notion that he won't increase his power output while that number goes down. Bruce's .474 SLG is within eight points of his career norm, so that doesn't appear to be a concern. Further, his contact quality in the form of his line drive rate is a career-high 28.8% - third highest among qualified hitters in the league this season. Perhaps it's due to an adjusted approach?

A change in the distribution of Bruce's extra-base hits has unfolded through the first two-plus months of the season. With 10 homers and 21 doubles, Bruce has shifted from his 2012 split of 34 homers and 35 doubles. Keep in mind, that doubles are balls in play, which increase BABIP, and home runs are removed from the equation entirely. The good luck has come in the form of eight infield hits, putting him on pace to shatter his previous career-high of nine in 2011.

If Bruce had 15 homers and 16 doubles instead of his current 10:21 split, his BABIP would fall from .363 to .345, just 11 points above his previous season-high in 2010, and that doesn't even address the abnormally high infield hit rate.

Zola might be spot on as far as the overvaluation of Bruce's skill set, but as a 26-year-old hitter in a loaded Reds lineup, the run environment and team context are excellent and he appears to be a home-run binge away from getting back on track with the initial expectations for his output in that category.

Places and Things

Hot Doug's - Thanks to Yahoo's Andy Behrens, Liss and I had the chance to join Lawr Michaels at this Chicago staple for lunch. Gourmet and appropriately named hot dogs including one currently for Anna Kendrick.

The weekly special - Red Wine and Bacon Smoked Buffalo Sausage with Roasted Pepper Dijonnaise and Smoked Gouda Cheese - was outstanding. If you visit on a Friday or Saturday, get the duck fat fries, which I missed out on by a day. Grade: 80

Timothy O'Toole's - Plenty of TV's, a ton of quality beers on tap (Dragon's Milk was my selection on this trip) and an overall great atmosphere for watching a game. Chicago is an outstanding sports town, and with the Blackhawks winning Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in triple overtime while we were visiting, there was a lot of energy here for a Wednesday night. Grade: 60

Quay - Yes, you can use quay in Scrabble. Located in the River East neighborhood, the atmosphere in the space overlooking the water felt like a great place to grab a drink after work. I can't give the menu or even the tap list a true review as we had an Open Bar arrangement for bottled beer and I was perfectly content to have a few complimentary Coronas and enjoy the final night of the conference including the FSTA induction ceremonies. At the very least, worth checking out as a drink spot if you happen to be in the area. Grade: 50 (could have scored higher w/full dinner and a full crack at the taps at the front bar)

Epic Burger - A quick lunch stop to begin the trip, Epic Burger approaches the process the way larger chains ultimately could but choose not to a very long time ago. Of course, for a variety of reasons doing things the right way can serve up sticker shock because we're wired to think that a burger, fries and drink should cost $4-6. Bottom line, the burger and fries were both above average, though a full tier below the likes of Five Guys and what I expect Whataburger to be when I finally get a chance to eat at one. In hindsight, I should have accepted the bacon and applesauce offered as add-ons for my burger. Grade: 50