Friday, April 22, 2011

Gearing Up: A.L. Week 4: April 25 - May 1, 2011

I generally don't do requests, but that's only because I seldom receive them. Last week, Toz put up a column called "Saturday Strategies" that led to my readers asking me to do the same thing for the American League. So I'll give it a shot. At some point, Toz and I will agree on a title (I can't really call this an "FAQ" document, since the only question I received this week was about the National League).

Rising Up 
This section will be devoted to players on the most activated list in CBS leagues but who may still be unowned in A.L.-only formats.

Bruce Chen (12% owned last week, 32% this week; 8% active last week, 19% this week)
Chen is off to a great start and judging by that ownership trend, owners are going to start grabbing him this week in A.L.-only if he hasn't been snatched up already. Tread extremely carefully here. Chen isn't doing anything differently and his peripherals indicate that he's had a moderate amount of good luck. His BABIP is somewhat out of line with his LD%, and his FIP and xFIP tell us that he deserves something between a 4.00 to a 4.50 ERA, not the 2.42 ERA he has been sporting. Maybe you can play match-ups with him or ride the hot hand, but Chen scares me.

Jeanmar Gomez (1% owned last week, 6% this week).
Gomez got tagged by the Royals in his 2011 debut, and manager Manny Acta gave the impression that Gomez won't get another start if he doesn't do better on Sunday against the Twins. We'll obviously know more about whether or not Gomez is worth adding come Sunday night.

Other Free Agents
Sean O'Sullivan (1% owned, 0% started)
O'Sullivan isn't trending in CBS but I thought I'd include him here anyway. He's not a great option, but the small sample size we have thus far indicates that he's moving from "unacceptable" to "maybe adequate." I'm intrigued by some of what I see in the numbers. The strikeout rate is up, his fastball velocity is up, he's throwing more first pitch strikes, and he's getting more swings on pitches out of the zone. O'Sullivan seemed to have the Indians off balance last night, and if he can duplicate this formula, he might put up a league average ERA. While I know this is hardly a ringing endorsement, pitchers like O'Sullivan are the kind of guys who inevitably wind up being owned in A.L.-only leagues at some point during the season, and you do want to know what you're getting yourself into for better or for worse.

Back from the Minors/DL
Ryan Perry (eye infection). Jose Valverde has been fine thus far and Joaquin Benoit is probably next in line for saves in Detroit for now.

Brandon Morrow (elbow). The numbers from his three rehab starts at High-A Dunedin are underwhelming, though the strikeouts were there. If I had to activate Morrow today, I wouldn't, but most owners will have the luxury of seeing how he does tomorrow versus the Rays. He's due to get the Rangers in Texas next Thursday, so you might want to leave him on your DL in any event.

Frank Francisco (shoulder). Francisco came off the DL on Wednesday and gave up a home run and a couple of walks to the Yankees in some mop-up work. Jon Rauch will probably continue to close in the short-term and Francisco will probably get the job at some point.

Possible Waiver Claims
These players are on waivers in my A.L. home league this week and might be available in your free agent pool as well.

Ramon Castro
Castro is a ho-hum second catcher in A.L. Roto, but his per at-bat production deserves a tip of the cap. Over 456 plate appearances from 2008-2010, he has 22 HR, 70 RBI and a .245 batting average. He absolutely mashes southpaws, with 11 HR and a 513 SLG in 168 plate appearances. Castro should probably spell A.J. Pierzynski more against lefties then he does, but since this is Rotisserie and not Strat-O-Matic, knowing this doesn't do you any good.

Elliot Johnson
A handful of stat heads were lathered up about Johnson because of his potential to steal 15-20 off of the Rays bench (he stole 30 in 36 attempts at AAA Durham in 2010). So far no steals, and not much of anything else. The silver lining for Johnson is that Reid Brignac is horrible against LHP and Johnson has been getting most of the shortstop AB against southpaws. Johnson could be useful as your third middle infielder in a deep league, but keep your expectations modest. A look at his minor league numbers tells me that if he got a legitimate chance to start he could be one of those players who put up a solid if unspectacular career, but the road to 9th place is paved with "but he's too talented to be on the bench!"

Ryan Sweeney
Sweeney is your quintessential fourth outfielder. He doesn't have enough pop to start at a corner, and is stretched defensively as a center fielder. He does a little bit of everything but not enough of anything to make him worthy of a "Free Ryan Sweeney" campaign. Sweeney is worth owning this year primarily because the A's have put together an outfield with an injury-riddled history and Sweeney is likely to get 400-450 plate appearances this year unless Chris Carter bursts on to the scene (Carter's off to a slow start thus far). For Roto purposes, Sweeney is a poor man's David Murphy. He's OK as your 5th OF in A.L.-only Roto; if he's anything more than that, you're probably in trouble.

Chris Tillman
Tillman's 6.16 ERA is ugly, but much of that is a product of his horrible start against the Yankees on April 13. The rub, of course, is that Tillman's going to face the A.L. East more than a pitcher in a different division. There are some positive indicators in his numbers (a much lower xFIP than ERA, favorable LD% to BABIP, higher K/IP than last year) but also some negatives (fastball velocity down, very low SwStr%). The numbers tell me that Tillman might someday live up to his potential, but all of the eyewitness reports say he's somewhere between ho-hum and subpar. He just turned 23 and has all of 137 2/3 Major League IP under his belt, so he might need another season or two to figure it all out. He's a match-up play right now, though, and unless you've already committed to 2012 Tillman is a risk.

In the Minors
Kevin Millwood
Millwood made his organizational debut for the Yankees this past Sunday. His line was impressive, but he only hit 87 MPH on the gun and some reports said he looked terrible. With Bartolo Colon pitching well, there's probably no need for the Yankees to rush Millwood up to the Majors. His second start should be tonight at AAA Scranton. Monitor only for now (Millwood does have a May 1 opt-out clause if he's not called up to the Majors).

Scott Sizemore
Sizemore is tearing the cover off of the ball at AAA, hitting .405 in 42 at bats for Toledo. With Will Rhymes off to a poor start, we could see Sizemore sooner rather than later. The Tigers have been willing to shift Ryan Raburn to second base, though. Sizemore isn't hitting for much power or stealing many bases, though, so he could be one of those empty .290-.300 hitters even if he does make it back.

Lars Anderson
It might seem like Anderson has been around forever, but he's only 23 years old. After a slow start, he's now 10 for this last 19 and has a decent 862 OPS (with an especially impressive 462 OBP). The downside is that Anderson only has two extra base hits thus far. Fifty at-bats is a ridiculous sample size to draw any conclusions off of, but Anderson has never shown significant home run power in the minors and perhaps never will. Anderson's decent start probably puts him back on the prospect charts, but he's most likely going to need a trade out of Boston to get a legitimate chance.


Frank said...

Any thoughts on who might get saves for the Rangers over the next couple weeks while Neftali Feliz is on the DL? Pedro Strop is available in several of my AL-only leagues.

rafi said...

thanks! hope we see more of this column.

Toz said...

@Frank. Darrin Oliver got the first save last night, and I would expect Oliver and O'Day to see the bulk of the save opportunities for the 2-3 weeks that Feliz will be out. Strop seems to me to be a last option, and his control issues would make me very uneasy putting him in the closer role.