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Charging the Mound: Fantasy MVPs, Targeting AVG and Streaming SPs

Andrew Martinez

Andrew Martinez writes about baseball and football. He is a native Texan and roots for the Astros, Rockets, Texans, and Rice Owls.

Chris Liss

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

Subject: Charging the Mound
From: Christopher Liss
Date: June 18, 2013 11:20:16 PM PDT
To: Andrew Martinez

First off, thanks for filling in this week for Erickson while he's on vacation. You're like Vinnie Pestano temporarily closing for Chris Perez - and we all know Erickson's had weed delivered to his house under his dog's name many times.

But let's not dwell on that. My main concern today is dealing for batting average in the 14-team Yahoo Friends and Family League, and I'm having a hard time doing it. You can't just acquire Miguel Cabrera or Joey Votto without giving up half your team, so you have to aim for lesser players who are likely to help you there. But batting average is volatile. Just because Marco Scutaro is hitting .332 and never strikes out doesn't mean you can count on him to crack .290 the rest of the way. What players offer the best bang for the buck in terms of batting average? I offered Matt Dominguez and Sergio Romo to a guy who needed saves for Manny Machado and was turned down. Same result when I offered Romo and Mitch Moreland (due off the DL in two days) for Dustin Pedroia.

Another problem that comes up is whether to stream starting pitchers. This league has an innings cap of 1400, so you need to have some standards beyond pitchers who might not get shelled. Is it better to stream a favorable match-up now (Kyle Lohse at Houston, for example) or to hold out for better match-ups in August and September when teams have mailed it in? My team incidentally was dead last in ERA and WHIP for six weeks (thanks to Roy Halladay and Mitchell Boggs), and I've just now managed to have a "3" in ERA and "6" in WHIP by being very judicious with my starters. And there's plenty of upward mobility in both categories if I don't set myself back with an ill-advised stream start.

Finally, while Wil Myers just got called up, and I'm still waiting on Oscar Taveras and Billy Hamilton, I'm also looking at post-hype guys like Ike Davis, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley, who incidentally has killed Triple-A .383/.490/.519 in 81 ABs, though 24 of his 31 hits are singles. For all the preseason buzz about Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Gerrit Cole, it's Julio Teheran, Rick Porcello, Andrew Cashner and Travis Wood that are dealing right now. (Well, maybe Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller are doing okay, too). For hitters, Domonic Brown and Carlos Gomez also fit the bill. Who's next in line? Should I make an offer for an injured Brett Lawrie or Eric Hosmer?. Is the 27-year old Delmon Young too far gone to consider? Can Carlos Carrasco live up to his prospect status and is Trevor Bauer going to be relevant this year?

Subject: re: Charging the Mound
From: Andrew Martinez
Date: June 19, 2013 1:03 AM
To: Christopher Liss

I'll tackle the batting average dilemma first by offering this bit of advice: trim the fat. In leagues where I'm trying to make up points in average or OBP, my first move is to try and get rid of all the guys who are weighing me down the most. If I owned B.J. Upton (thankfully I don't and never will), Adam Dunn, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks or even Josh Hamilton, I'm done waiting for them to pull out of their early season swoons and ready to move on. I'd naturally try and trade them and try to address other areas of need, but I'd give some thought to what my team would look like if I just cut them outright and who I'd play in their places. That might sound drastic to some owners, but you have to ask yourself, how serious you are about moving up in this category? I'm not suggesting owners cut off their nose to spite their face, but you get the gist; addition by subtraction.

In a format such as F&F, where the innings cap is low, I try and take the approach of going to the waiver wire and adding all the middle relief guys that have high K/9 upside that I can fit on my roster. Those guys can vulture the occasional win and sometimes land a save or two, but overall won't eat up innings and help my rate stats. This includes guys like Jesse Crain, who has put up great strikeout numbers this season and could arguably represent the White Sox at this season's All-Star Game in New York. And when it comes to streaming pitchers, I like to look at a pitcher's potential future opponents on the schedule and consider if I might keep him around, if he does well. There's more upside in adding a pitcher who faces the Twins, Cubs and Nationals than a pitcher who faces the Marlins, Orioles, and Tigers.

I'm happy you brought up prospects as we're now past the Super-Two deadline, and teams can stop making excuses as to why they haven't called-up their young talent for financial reasons. You mentioned Dustin Ackley and his numbers at Tacoma, which leads me to this question: Can we trust any numbers that come out of the PCL? Tonight Fresno had 16 hits, Round Rock 15 hits, Salt Lake 14 hits, Reno 13 hits, etc. The league slash line there is .272/.346/.424. Every time I look at the numbers of some prospect there, I have to question how much is the player and how much is the league. As for Hosmer, I just traded him away for James Loney in a keeper league because I want to win now. I hope this doesn't bite me in the butt, but at this point I'm over his pedigree. Maybe George Brett will resurrect his swing, but I'm not about to wait around to find out. I'm out on Carrasco, after he threw at Kevin Youkilis' head, and Bauer isn't going anywhere with a 4.91 BB/9 at Columbus. The post-hype sleepers I'm most intrigued by these days are Brandon Belt, Matt Dominguez, Mike Leake and Jordan Lyles. I'm using the term "hype" loosely with this group.

I'll leave you with this: we're almost a week away from the mid-point in the season, so who are your mid-season award winners? I give the first half Fantasy Rookie of the Year award in the NL to Shelby Miller and Yan Gomes in the AL (he's eligible at catcher in most leagues, so he gets my vote). What about best value relative to draft day price or player that has hurt owners the most? Take this topic wherever you please, but Josh Donaldson must take home some hardware.

From: Christopher Liss
Date: June 19, 2013 5:40:39 PM PDT
To: Andrew Martinez
Subject: Re: Charging the Mound

I don't have any glaring average killers unless you count Stephen Drew who's probably going to get dropped soon anyway. Matt Wieters hasn't been good, but he makes enough contact for a catcher to be fine going forward, and Starlin Castro has been a dud, but he too should hit for a better average if he's not optioned to Triple-A at some point. Otherwise, Dominguez and Jason Heyward might be the worst offenders, and Dominguez is a fill-in until Mitch Moreland comes off the DL. But you're right, that is always the first move. Hard to drop Hamilton if I had him. Dunn would be gone without a second thought, though.

I have two real closers (Sergio Romo and Mariano Rivera), one kind of closer (Steve Cishek) and two half closers in Oliver Perez and Rex Brothers. Between them and five starters, there's no room for middle relievers given the three-man benches (2 DL slots) and steep games-played allowances at every position (essentially you need to max out your games on offense, and it's tough to do). And the 1400 cap means you need more starters (or pitchers to stream) than we did last year when it was 1250. In that case, you could live with three permanent starters and have more room for relievers, but now you need four or five. I actually got Julio Teheran doing what you suggest as he was initially a stream, then I dropped him, then I picked him up for good once I saw a slate of weak starts ahead.

Ackley's plate discipline was really excellent there too (16 walks, 13 Ks) so maybe he's got his approach back irrespective of the environment. I've always liked Belt, but that park is terrible for left-handed power. Put him in Yankee stadium, and he'd probably hit 30 homers.

Jean Segura has to be on a ton of winning teams given how thin SS is and how much he's produced for his draft-day cost. Runners up are Chris Davis and Hisashi Iwakuma. I love Donaldson as I picked him up in that Friends and Family League. Let's give him the best-value-of-anyone-who-qualified-at-catcher-the-last-two-years Award.

Subject: re: Charging the Mound
From: Andrew Martinez
Date: June 20, 2013 9:48 PM
To: Christopher Liss

You mentioned Julio Teheran, and it got me to thinking about how frustrated I am that I don't own him anywhere. I targeted and got him and Rick Porcello in most of my drafts and auctions this season, but bailed on both after a slow first month. I was able to get Porcello back in a few leagues, but am still kicking myself for not showing enough patience. Usually I'm better than that and will stubbornly hold onto a guy if I think the profit ceiling is high and the results just haven't shown it yet. I'm also pretty angry with myself for a trade I made early this month in a NL only keeper league where I gave up a $10 Yaisel Puig and $3 Drew Storen and got back a $10 Kevin Gregg and $25 Roy Halladay. At the time Puig was still in Double-A, and there wasn't a hint that the Dodgers outfielders were nursing any injuries, so it seemed reasonable to me. Moreover, I'm going for it in that league, need saves, and was/am intrigued by Halladay coming back later this season. I wouldn't feel so bad, but I had Carl Crawford and Angel Pagan hit the DL, shortly after that trade and Puig would've been the perfect substitution. I'm pretty sure I could get Puig back, but it might cost me an arm and a leg.

I can't stop thinking about Puig. Not because I traded him away, but because he just won't stop hitting. Tonight he went yard again. It seems every couple of games he makes some play with his bat, arm, or legs that leaves me in awe. At this point in a re-draft league, I'm not sure what I'd say yes to in a trade as his owner. It might take Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista for me to say yes. That might sound crazy, but Puig's upside seems to know no bounds. Pitchers are going to adjust to him, and then he'll have to make the adjustment back and that's when we'll really start to see what he's made of, but few players have his skill set as their baseline. Could we be looking at the next Vladimir Guerrero? I'm enamored with Puig and am almost scared to think where he'd go right now in a second-half league. Top three rounds? Top two rounds? Even the great Vin Scully, who started calling games in 1950, hasn't seen anything like this before.

Real closer, kind of closer, half closer - I think that's how I'd describe the evolution of Jose Valverde this season with the Tigers, who seems to be nearing the end of the line this month. Today Jim Leyland said, "I'm not naming anybody closer. I'm just saying if Benoit was available right now, I would try to close with him." Later a reporter pressed him on Papa Grande, and he said, "I'll pitch him how I see fit to do it intelligently." To which I ask, is there a way to pitch Valverde intelligently right now that's not a low-leverage situation? Over the last month he's appeared in 12 games and only three times did he have a clean outing, and none of those were in the last two weeks. It seems almost automatic to me that the Tigers will go out and trade for a closer, considering they're in win-now mode. I don't know that I'd give up Nick Castellanos for Jonathan Papelbon, but I certainly wouldn't let a prospect hold me back from giving my team the best chance to win with this current roster.

Since I'm subbing in for Erickson and don't know when I'll be back in this space again, I'll leave with a list of non-Puig guys from whom I'm looking for big things in the second half of the season:

1. Tony Bosch - This guy could screw over more owners than anyone else, if he starts ratting out players to save his ass in this whole Biogenesis of America case. Remember Tony, snitches get stitches.

2. Corey Kluber - Over the last month he has a 1.76 ERA with a 32/6 K/BB. Could he be to 2013 what Kris Medlen was to 2012?

3. Manny Machado - He's 20 years old and is leading MLB in doubles with 33. The single season record is 67 by Earl Webb in 1931.

4. Matt Cain - He's too good and pitches in too big of a home park to keep giving up this many home runs.

5. Rick Porcello - As long as he keeps those walks to a minimum, I think he's going to become more consistent.

6. Anthony Rendon - Maybe it's my Rice bias talking, but he's a guy who could've gone No. 1 overall the year he was drafted and is hitting consistently from the two hole. Overall, I expect the Nationals to get better offensively and go on a tear.

7. Derek Jeter - He'll be 39 years old by the time he returns, but he's still The Captain and with shortstop being so thin, I think he can come back and be a top-10 option at his position for the last two months.

8. Aaron Hernandez's lawyer - Does any defense attorney have as much work ahead of them this summer as this guy does? Today a news helicopter was following Hernandez down the freeway in his white SUV. Sound familiar?

9. Josh Hamilton - He's hitting .209, so either this is his floor, or we're very close to it, which means his value can only go up.

10. Mariano Rivera - Can he lead MLB in saves in his last season? He's only one behind the current leader. I expect to see the most focused Mo we've ever seen as he nears the end.