MLB Barometer - All Aboard the Jenrry Train
Fantasy baseball has a way of making sure we have more slices of humble pie than we would like. You see, there's a side of me that you don't see in my weekly musings here. I'm not always as positive and happy go lucky as I come across. I'm rather fiercely competitive with my fantasy leagues and have been known to be a tad cocky. I've played the salary cap games at CDM for over a decade and NFBC for half that time and my goal is always the same - to win the overall title. Sure, winning a league is always a big accomplishment and is no easy task, but my goal is to always to be number one.
As a hotshot, brazen college punk, I came in fourth place out of 8,000 teams in my rookie year at CDM, talking relentless smack on their message board (the BBS) - not the best way to be accepted by any group of people. As the years went on, I had good seasons and bad ones, but I learned lessons of respect, humility and befriended some of the longtime players there - many of whom are now some of the best fantasy players in the world. Just like in many facets in our life when we're kicked and have to get back up again, fantasy baseball is unpredictable from season to season and can be very humbling. Perhaps you had Brandon Cumpton (10 ER on Saturday) and David Robertson (5 ER yesterday) last week after finally making up ground in ratios and you say "I give up!" Well, unless you're already in last place with no way of catching up, you can always find a way to recover from the pummeling. It happens to everyone. We've all had bad weeks, but every Sunday, we've got to keep our nose to the grindstone and keep battling.
Humility is important, whether you're competing with your fantasy league-mates or on the field. Nobody likes a punk hotshot. I'm sure Terrell Owens and Randy Moss have more critics than fans and our doubts of Yasiel Puig's maturity most certainly affected his ADP in drafts this March. Good things happen to everyone, including jerks, but it feels better when it happens to good, humble people. One of the CDM posters I befriended was Lindy Hinkelman. Lindy has won over $300,000 in the NFBC over the past few years, and those who have met Lindy can attest to the modesty - almost at a higher level of humanity. He doesn't care for the attention or the praise - he just wants to finish first overall in everything he plays and have fun in the process. The guy really loves baseball! Every year at the NFBC drafts in Las Vegas, I get a chance to shoot the breeze with Lindy to try to gain a few tidbits of wisdom. He has strong opinions but is always the first to admit that he can't predict the future and is always curious what my thoughts are on certain players as well.
My competitive nature still endures, even with the nicest people in the world like Lindy, because you want to beat the best. But to beat the best, you've got to work harder than the best. That's the main message of Larry Schechter's book "Winning Fantasy Baseball" - another humble CDM guy who has dominated fantasy leagues and overall titles for years.
You see a theme here? Step 1 - Work hard. Step 2 - Be humble. Step 3 - Continue to work hard.
Now please excuse me. Lineups lock for week 10 soon and I've got a date with a grindstone.
Adam Lind, DH TOR - Lind is hitting .476 with nine runs since the shout out in last week's Barometer, and he's only getting warmed up for the month of June. The 30-year-old still can't hit lefties - .117 this year, .208 last year - but has been hitting third lately against RHP between power bats Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Lind is hitting .351 with a .430 OBP, but has spent some time on the DL and does not yet qualify among major league leaders with only 107 PA. The .411 BABIP is unsustainable but Lind is settling into his career as a reliable hitter and should be able to beat out his .271 career BA, and then some. Now, here comes the power. Lind has only three HR on the year, but a .223 ISO, so owners should expect some balls leaving the yard this summer. Expect the run scoring to continue to come in bunches and let's hope he doesn't shave his lucky beard off anytime soon.
Hanley Ramirez, SS LAD - Ramirez had a solid Week 9 with most of the damage coming in a 12-2 whooping of the Pirates on Saturday (4-4, 4 R - 2 HR - 5 RBI - 1 SB). It's a small glimpse of what fantasy owners who took Hanley in the first round of drafts should expect this summer - as long as he stays on the field. Despite missing a few games in May, Hanley pretty much doubled his HR/RBI output from the previous month (3 HR, 11 RBI in April, 6 HR, 21 RBI in May) despite the lower BA (.299 April, .255 May). Hanley's inclusion here is a bit of a foreshadowing of some serious rising a-comin' as the .265 BA starts to climb to that career .300 range and beyond. With Yasiel Puig showing no signs of slowing and Adrian Gonzalez about to awaken from his slumber, Hanley is the perfect candidate for a Troy Tulowitzki type of month.
Khris Davis, OF MLW - Nothing like a death threat via Twitter to help bust you out of a slump. Affectionately known as Krush Davis in faraway fantasy circles, the "Other Davis" is hitting .522 with nine runs scored and three home runs over the past week. Davis is doing his part for a Brewers lineup that has scored 47 runs in their last seven games and features two of the game's best hitting OF's in Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez. Now with 9 HR on the season, Davis has a good shot at 25 or more by season's end though we shouldn't expect much of a contribution in batting average - Davis still strikes out a lot (24% strikeout percentage) and walks infrequently (4% walk percentage). Miller Park's park factor for home runs should move towards last year's number (0.916 now, 1.26 in 2013) with a boost from the bat of Davis and his teammates.
Chris Sale, SP CHW - It's hard to rise beyond preseason status as the 12th starting pitcher off draft boards, but that's just what Chris Sale is doing. Sale was impressive before his DL stint, but has been flat out epic since - 23 K in 18 IP, giving up only three hits. Sale is undefeated (5-0), has only allowed two home runs in 45.1 innings and has yet to give up a hit to a left-handed batter this year in 32 at bats. Want more video game numbers? How about a .126 OBA, 10.32 K/9 and 1.59 BB/9 with a 1.59 ERA. Sale will be a contender in AL Cy Young voting, but what will be most impressive is if he can maintain an ERA around or under 2.00 on the year, put up Kershaw 2013 numbers and become a first round fantasy pick next year. In the case of Chris Sale, the sky is indeed the limit. Just please keep the Tommy John bogeyman away from him.
Jenrry Mejia, RP NYM - Of all the teams in the major leagues, the New York Mets were perhaps the last ones we expected to gain stability within the closer role. After unsteady ninth inning runs with Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, among others, Mejia has settled into the role with six saves and 10 strikeouts in 10 innings since taking over on May 15. In an era when most closers rely on two or three pitches to get the job done, Mejia eschews this with his repertoire of five pitches (fastball cutter, fastball, slider, changeup, cutter). Mejia seems to have the closer mindset but needs to continue to improve his control (1.52 WHIP, but much of the damage coming in his seven starts). The Jenrry Train might be a bumpy ride this year, but for those who hold on, he should continue to settle in nicely and pay dividends to his fantasy owners.
Hitters: Erick Aybar, SS LAA, Pablo Sandoval, 3B SF, Lorenzo Cain, OF KC, Oswaldo Arcia, OF MIN
Pitchers: Jacob deGrom, SP NYM, Chris Archer, SP TB, Jason Hammel, SP CHC, Doug Fister, SP WAS
Not Falling For It: Denard Span, OF WAS, John Danks, SP CHW
Evan Longoria, 3B TB - Longo has been very mediocre at the plate this year, disappointing fantasy owners so far who took him at an ADP of 23 in NFBC and similar drafts. Longoria has hit 30 or more homers in three of his six major league seasons and would have probably reached that number in his injury-plagued 2012 (17 HR in 74 games). That makes the five home runs in 242 PA a bit puzzling as does the career low .110 ISO. Longoria's home park does him no favors, but he's hitting .340 at Tropicana Field (.190 on the road) and four of his five home runs on the year were hit there. I can't be my typically optimistic self about every slumping hitter and Longoria is a guy I usually stay away from early in drafts, but he doesn't appear to be playing hurt and should certainly pick up the pace sooner than later. It would be interesting to compare his production to Josh Donaldson's from here on out as I wouldn't be shocked to see Longo beating him out if both were to reset their stats starting June 1.
Matt Kemp, OF LAD - Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Just three seasons removed from his 39 HR, 40 SB campaign, Kemp has hit rock bottom, as he was recently benched five straight days because of his lackluster defense. Kemp found his way back into the Dodgers lineup due to the annual Carl Crawford injury last week and in a new position - left field. Kemp does have a handful of homers and stolen bases (five of each) but he's without the usual swagger we're used to seeing and seems like a guy who is easily distracted. There's no Rhianna to blame this time around. Perhaps it's time for a change of scenery for Kemp, opening the door for stud prospect Joc Pederson. But real life trades don't happen as easily as fantasy trades, so Dodger fans will have to hope Kemp can refocus and re-instill that inner drive to help contribute to a team that can make a legitimate run at the World Series.
Alejandro De Aza, OF CHW - De Aza has taken quite the tumble from his two home run Opening Day performance to his current 5 for 51 slide. De Aza was a bit of a late bloomer, securing a full time job leading off for the White Sox as a 27 year old late in 2011. He's stolen 46 bases over the last two years and surprised with a bit of pop last year (17 HR), but 2014 looks to be the end of the Cinderella story. The White Sox don't have many options in his stead as Jordan Danks is mostly a bench guy and Moises Sierra hasn't been spectacular enough to displace him outright. There may be a streak or two left in De Aza's tank, but those looking to replace him with upside guys off the waiver wire shouldn't be overly concerned about dropping him.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP WAS - Zimmermann was counted on to be a steady contributor and SP2 for fantasy rotations after three incredibly solid seasons, but enters Week 10 with a 4.07 ERA and 1.56 WHIP through almost 60 innings. So what's wrong with him? Well, he's throwing more strikes (7.54 K/9) than last year (6.8), his walks per nine innings remain below 2.0 and even the xFIP (3.39) portends to an imminent correction. According to manager Matt Williams, Zimmermann is still aggressive but his pitches have been a bit elevated in the strike zone. His .369 BABIP infers to a bit of bad luck and subpar defense. Amazingly, I've seen owners in 12-team NFBC leagues drop him, which is one hell of a steal for those who were able to pick him up in FAAB this week. Look for Zimm to bounce back soon as Gio Gonzalez returns from the DL and Stephen Strasburg finds more consistency in his starts. The Nationals rotation will be just fine.
Joe Nathan, RP DET - Nathan had a rough series against the Oakland A's last week, giving up four earned runs in two games and blowing his fourth save of the year. The average velocity on his fastball has decreased from last year - by two miles per hour to 93.5 - and Tigers management are hoping to not be put in the position of having to replace their star closer. The 39-year old has had a fantastic 13-year career, currently ninth all-time in career saves. The Tigers are hoping his 5.23 ERA begins to normalize towards his career 2.81, but the window is closing on the veteran if he can't make adjustments with his slower stuff. Should the Tigers look to give someone else the opportunity, the call may go to Joba Chamberlain, who looks revived on his new team, sporting a 11.2 K/9, 2.70 ERA with no homers against through 23.1 innings. Nathan owners should rightfully be concerned.
Hitters: Josmil Pinto, C MIN, Danny Espinosa, 2B WAS, Matt Joyce, OF TB, Peter Bourjos, OF STL
Pitchers: Garrett Richards, SP LAA, Rick Porcello, SP DET, Steve Cishek, RP MIA, Francisco Rodriguez, RP MLW
Not Falling For It: Carlos Gonzalez, OF COL, Max Scherzer, SP DET