Articles by Paul Sporer

Sporer covers pitching for RotoWire. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and publishes an annual guide on starting pitchers. In his spare time, he roots for the Tigers.

Nationals to Run More in 2016

The hiring of Dusty Baker by the Washington Nationals was probably met with a “meh” followed by an outdated joke about running young arms into the ground. He really didn’t show any of that with the Cincinnati Reds and he had plenty of young arms there. However something that should’ve garnered great attention happened two days and may well have been Baker’s first act as manager: he hired Davey Lopes to be the first base coach.

Now I’m not going to pretend I’m the only one in on Lopes. Several of you were definitely nodding right when you saw his name at the end of that first paragraph. Lopes is something of a Baserunning Whisperer. Check that, he is the Baserunning Whisperer. He really made his mark with the Phillies as their first base coach from 2007-2010. In that time, the Phillies were fourth in total stolen bases with 501, but their success rate was far and away tops at 84%!

Jimmy Rollins (136) and Shane Victorino (132) led the charge while Chase Utley (59) and current National Jayson Werth (60) were efficiency monsters. Utley nabbed those 59 bases on just 64 attempts – a 92% success rate. Break-even is 72%. Werth was no slouch at 60-for-68 (88%). By the way, Rollins and Victorino were at an excellent 88% and 82%, respectively. I didn’t intend to snub them as volume-only in that first sentence.

From Philly he went out to LA with the Dodgers. They didn’t burn up the basepaths quite like the Phillies, but they showed substantial improvement from the two years before he arrived.

Period SBs Att. Success
2009-10 (w/o Lopes) 208 306 68%
2011-15 (w/Lopes) 505 701 72%

Although I will note that the 2015 iteration of the Dodgers really fell off the cliff with just 59 steals on 93 attempts (63%) – the total bases and success rate both ranking 26th in the league. The Nationals are primed to reap the benefits of Lopes’ baserunning wisdom. Their 204 attempts the last two seasons are good for 27th in the league, though they have been rather efficient with a 77% success rate (tied for 4th).

A lot of that was built on a 2014 that saw them steal at an 81% clip with 101 SBs (tied for 12th). Health played a big role as Denard Span (31, 82%) and Anthony Rendon (17, 85%) were major factors. Ian Desmond (24, 83%) was great as well and while he was healthy in 2015 – or at least playing which signifies some measure of health – he only stole 13 bases on a 72% success rate. Span and Desmond are gone, but this team has plenty of potential beneficiaries including Rendon.

Let’s just go down the projected lineup and find the guys who could see a Lopes-induced boost:

Ben Revere – He is already a proficient base thief (four 30+ SB seasons, two 40+; 82% success), but ran into a bit of a red light after being traded to Toronto. If Lopes has anything that can actually improve Revere, then we could see the first 70-SB season since Jacoby Ellsbury landed right on the number in 2009. By the way, Revere wasn’t with Philly during the Lopes era.

New Top-50 Picks, Part 3

Part 3 of 3. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, you can check those out. The idea here is that we’re looking at guys who have entered the overall top-50 this year and then identifying a comparable player who could make a similar leap.

Chris Archer [TB, SP]

  • 2015 ADP: 159
  • 2016 ADP: 47
  • Difference: 112

I’ve always liked Archer. His talent is undeniable and it was on full display last season.  My concerns were always injury-related as he had two strong precursors: major velo (95+ MPH fastball) and heavy slider usage (34% career, 39% last year). That didn’t stop me from investing, though, as I’ve always been willing to bet on premium skills even with health risk. And in fairness to Archer, he was only carrying precursors. He’s never been on the DL in the majors.

New Top-50 Picks, Part 2

Continuing the series started yesterday identifying the biggest jumpers into the top-50 with some potential ADP comps who could something in similar in 2016:

Dallas Keuchel [HOU, SP]

  • 2015 ADP: 194
  • 2016 ADP: 41
  • Difference: 153

Keuchel actually broke out in 2014, but nobody really bought it. I mean, I guess some were in on him. I’ll backpat a little bit and say that the 2015 SP Guide was optimistic on him:

It all looks sustainable for Keuchel, again probably not at the sub-3.00 level, but anything in the low-3.00s will return a firm profit as the early drafts haven’t put much of a tax on his 2014 season. Granted, he was free last year, but he has only jumped up to a 17th round pick on average. In fact, that’s exactly where he went in the LABR Mixed draft as Ray Murphy from BaseballHQ snapped him up with pick 249, matching his 248.8 position in NFBC leagues so far. At that price, he has plenty of wiggle room in case he doesn’t carry everything over from 2014, but I’m buying with ease.

OK, OK, I can hear you now, “Chill out, Paul, it’s not like you said he’d improve every facet of his game and win the AL Cy Young!” The skepticism with Keuchel was somewhat understandable. He was a non-prospect who broke out at age-26 after 239 IP of 5.20 ERA in the majors. He also didn’t succeed with the weapon of choice in today’s game: strikeouts.

New Top-50 Picks, Part 1

Yesterday was the final day of the regular season in football which marks something an unofficial start for fantasy baseball. I think the official start is the minute the Super Bowl ends, but with Week 17 wrapped up there is no more fantasy football (and you really shouldn’t even be using Week 17 if I’m being honest, but now’s not the time for that) and so those who have had a few months away from the diamond are starting to trickle back over to it.

To help with the transition back into baseball, I’m looking at the six biggest movers into the top-50 this week and also speculating on some guys who could emulate their jump in 2016. In other words, I’m not always looking for direct comps for these six newcomers (two-a-day through Wednesday), but rather guys being drafted in the same area this year who could make a similar leap. That might also be unclear, especially because it really only ties to the first guy on the list, but you’ll see… let’s just start.

By the way, the pool of players is those who had an average draft position (ADP) of 345 or better last year. That threshold marks 23 rounds for a 15-team draft, so if you didn’t have an ADP in that range, you weren’t really on the radar coming into the season (So no Carlos Correa or Kyle Schwarber).

Five Potential New Closers for 2016

The Hot Stove is just firing up and yet we’ve already seen a lot of turnover in the closer market. Hell, I even wrote that first sentence before Francisco Rodriguez was dealt to the Tigers (though I did see him being dealt at some point as the first run of this list had a Brewer on it even w/K-Rod in place, too). We’ve seen one of the very best dealt in Craig Kimbrel and that was after his obvious backfill – Joaquin Benoit – was traded to Seattle which totally opens up San Diego’s situation.

We all know how volatile the closer market is for fantasy baseball so none of this is surprising. Just looking back at our top 20 RPs from the Rotowire Magazine, we see four in the top 15 who didn’t even log double digit saves. The 18th-ranked closer, Trevor Rosenthal, had 48 saves. And this isn’t to say we did a bad job in the magazine, but rather to underline how difficult it is to project this position because it’s so heavily tied to a statistic that only one guy can get in any single game.

Rk Closer SVs
1 Kimbrel 39
2 Chapman 33
3 Holland 32
4 Betances 9
5 Jansen 36
6 Melancon 51
7 Uehara 25
8 Robertson 34
9 Doolittle 4
10 Allen 34
11 Cishek 4
12 Britton 36
13 Papelbon 24
14 Street 40
15 Aa.Sanchez 0
16 Storen 29
17 Perkins 32
18 Rosenthal 48
19 K-Rod 38
20 Rodney 16

Roberto Osuna wasn’t even sniffing the radar in Toronto last spring with Brett Cecil, Aaron Sanchez, and even Miguel Castro getting attention ahead of him. He wound up saving 20 games and being one the best second-half closers in the game. Who knew A.J. Ramos would become a stud closer? Hector Rondon even lost the job for a brief spell in-season, but still wound up topping his impressive 2014 with 30 saves and a 1.67 ERA. Who’s next? Who will be talking about this time next year as a top closer option?

Here are five guys who could emerge as the next-big-thing in the ninth inning:

Three Deep-League Keepers

The 2015 season is winding down and for some teams, it’s already time to look toward 2016. Hopefully many of you are still hanging on every pitch in the midst of your pennant chase, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you have to start planning a little sooner than you wanted. Or maybe you get to start planning sooner. It totally stinks to have a losing in a fantasy keeper league, but it does allow you to get a jump on your 2016 keepers.

There are many different league types so not all keepers are created equally. Some leagues are just straight up keepers, you pick your three best players with no restrictions and go. Others cost a draft round creating different values and of course auction leagues have the dollar values and contract situations. Today I’m focusing on some deeper league keepers. Even if your 10-team mixed league uses draft round values, these guys likely wouldn’t make the cut because you are likely to have several better options.

These guys are definitely great Only-league keeper options and they deserve consideration in deeper mixed leagues, especially if round or dollar values are in play because they are almost certain to be inexpensive:

Jonathan Schoop [2B, BAL] – Schoop showed some power in his 2014 rookie campaign with 16 HR in 481 PA, but that was the extent of his production as it was paired with a .209/.244/.354 line as the primary second baseman with the Orioles. Schoop hit the ground running in April showing the power from last year with a lot less swing-and-miss yielding a .259/.310/.630 with 3 HRs in 29 PA. It was a tiny sample, but it started to build some excitement around the 23-year old before a takeout slide ripped his PCL and cost him two-plus months of the season.

Evan Gattis Isn’t Ruining Your Season

Ask almost anyone what they think of Evan Gattis’ season – especially someone who was high on him coming into the season – and you’ll hear about how much of a disappointment he has been in 2015. Gattis has a .243 AVG, 22 HRs, and 69 RBIs through Wednesday. He ranks third among catchers and is basically having the same season as Brian McCann, who sits second to Buster Posey. Both Gattis and McCann have 22 HRs, Gattis has a .243 AVG with 69 RBIs and 53 R while McCann has a .245 AVG with 75 RBIs and 49 R.

Gattis has matched or tied his career-highs in the pertinent categories (save AVG where his best was last year’s .263) and even though he has needed more time to do that (his 478 PA are 71 more than his previous high), he still has over a month to pad these numbers. And he pissed away a whole month with his wretched April (.164 AVG, 2 HRs). For him to be heading into September on pace for a 28/87 season at catcher can’t be considered a disappointment.