Thursday, July 28, 2011

National League "New Faces" Profile

Yonder Alonso.  The Cincinnati drum has been beating for Alonso for about a month now.  The trade of Jonny Gomes clears the way for Alonso to make his major league debut. 

Alonso is a B+ prospect, and one of the gems of the Reds’ farm system.  Of course, being blocked at first base by Joey Votto motivated the Reds to try him in the outfield, and that is where he will spend the vast majority of his time.  He has struggled to hit for power in the minor leagues, battling a hamate bone injury.  His OBP is excellent for a young hitter and his isolated power and slugging percentage are improved this year.  He is, however, 24 years old and repeating AAA.

In all likelihood, Alonso is kept in any league with a reserve list or a minor league system.  So the question is: what do you do if he is not?  Well, let us start the analysis here.  First, Alonso’s line in AAA translates to .254/9/44/5 in Cincinnati (over about 358 at-bats).  Second, he should see about half the time in left field and will spell Votto occasionally at first base.  If he slumps or the defense suffers, however, he will be relegated to pinch hitting duties or sent down to the minors.  He is a must own in keeper leagues – you can probably bid $12-$16, with an eye on him generating 550 at-bats next year (and that might even be a bit high).  If you are competing this year, however, or if you are in a non-keeper league, bid with caution.  The playing time issue is still sketchy, and he might only put up a couple of home runs the rest of the way.  This is likely the most tepid review of Alonso you will see, but I believe caution here is the best play.

Collin Cowgill.  Cowgill is a different level of prospect than Alonso.  He was a C+ prospect coming in to the season (and is 25 years old), but really raised eyebrows with his explosive speed, power surge, and discerning batting eye.  At the time of his promotion, he had a .350/13/70/30 line for the Reno Aces.

Why is Cowgill different than Alonso?  There are two primary reasons: opportunity and speed.  Cowgill is not up to sit on the bench; he is up to try and provide a spark in left field.  For fantasy purposes, he can just flat out run, so even if he does play in a more part-time role, he has the opportunity to add something every time he is on the base paths as a starter, pinch hitter or pinch runner.  The ceiling is lower in my opinion with Cowgill; this type of output from him was unexpected based on prior performance.  The speed factor, however, puts you in a position to bid very aggressively for him.  No one playing for next year should get him, unless your leaders are crippled by the cap – I think a bid of $35-$40 is not unreasonable depending on your speed position.

Edwin Jackson.  Inconsistent is a good label for Jackson.  My gut tells me that he is going to do well in St. Louis, however, particularly with Dave Duncan behind him.  Jackson’s strikeouts have dropped off slightly this year, but, as a result, he is exhibiting better command.  He has been a bit unlucky, as reflected in his FIP and xFIP.  His competition does not get any easier, but his home ball park certainly gets a little more friendly.  Jackson could be the best pitcher coming into the league, while your competitors are likely to lose pitchers going the other direction.  This is a good buying opportunity, a good wins play, and a fairly safe bet on peripherals.  I plan to bid strong in the CBS Expert Analyst League, as I could really use another solid starting pitcher; we will see if my bid is enough.

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