Posted on: May 8, 2008 7:36 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 8:09 pm

Swapping stories

You might notice I have a blog entry on Thursday for, by my recollection, the first time ever. Yes, getting a three-day "weekend" last week means I get a one-day "weekend" this week, which means I have to work on Lost day. But I have a second and third VCR set up to record it, so I'm cool.

Although that's an ironic way to put it.

Anyway, I thought I'd take a moment here to address some of the feedback I've received over my recent entries on trading, starting with a blog comment from CBSSports.com user "tweedy."

"I love your trade philosophy. I have tons of studs on my team, but I'm always looking to tinker. I accused half of my league of being "hand sitters" and throw in zingers like "well, losing in the first round of the playoffs every year might be good enough for you, but I'm looking to win it all." What do you think of a Head-to-Head trade of John Smoltz, Greg Smith and Clayton Kershaw (his dudes) for my B.J. Ryan, Joe Saunders and Oliver Perez? I'm thinking Smoltz will replace Ryan, Saunders is at peak value and Kershaw is due to come up soon. The guy is a Mets fan, and he's getting two starters he can use now and a closer that just had the training wheels taken off. Basically, is Saunders this good, and is Smith for real?"

See, I'm not so sure you have a clear advantage in that deal. The Dodgers are handling Kershaw with kid gloves, so I have a feeling the 20-year-old won't get a call-up before September. Ryan might have just lost his training wheels, but at least he's healthy. I don't know if I can say the same for Smoltz. The guy clearly loved starting, so I think him so quickly volunteering to move to the bullpen suggests he had no choice. If he's too hurt to start, might he also discover he's too hurt to close a week or two into trying? Smith-for-Saunders is almost a wash. Both are unproven, and I actually think Smith has more upside. So basically, I think you're giving up Perez for nothing but a riskier closer. How's that a good move?

Next, I'll answer an e-mail from Robert Brooks.

"I am going to pick up Greg Smith and drop Jeremy Bonderman. What do you think of this choice? Also, do you know who I could pick up in place of Michael Bourn? I mean, I need his steals but his batting average is hurting my team average."

Smith is a popular guy these days, isn't he? I guess that'll happen when you have a 2.54 ERA through six starts and you're going seven or eight innings most of the time. He has more walks than strikeouts and is on pace for only 101 of the latter, and we're talking about a guy who struck out over 200 batters as recently as 2006. I have a hard time believing the pinched cartilage in his elbow that caused him to blow up in the second half last year isn't somehow related. Yeah, I'd make that exchange.

I mostly wanted to answer this e-mail because I recently traded Bourn in a deal Gonos mentioned in his blog. I gave up Micah Owings, Stephen Drew and Bourn for Rafael Furcal. I originally offered Owings and Drew and, when it didn't go through, decided Bourn wouldn't be such a loss for the exact reasons you mentioned. You can't write his batting average off to a slow start anymore. It's .195 in early May and steadily getting worse. At this point, I wonder how long the Astros will keep him in their lineup, considering his main contribution is steals and an inability to get on base renders it meaningless. He also hasn't stolen a base since hurting his groin April 21 -- a span of 11 games. In other words, I feel like I was actually selling high on Bourn, if you can believe it, and I'd suggest you try to do the same rather than simply cutting him.

I was able to add Furcal, of course, and grab Randy Winn off waivers to compensate for the loss of steals. If you need to look deeper, I wouldn't totally sleep on Scott Podsednik. He won't get many at-bats, but when the Rockies use him, he'll steal bases for sure.

And finally, I'll field one from a somewhat fed-up Gerry Nason.

"I've noticed in my leagues that owners are placing way too much priority on prospects. Way too much! Yes, prospects are fun to watch grow, and they give you that warm fuzzy feeling of building a dynasty. However, prospects can also be dangerous when you overvalue them to the point you are trading established vets to acquire them. In three of my leagues, prospects are all the rage, and the fad is to stock your minor-league system with nothing but the best. However, due to media hype, expectations are way out of line versus reality. Most of these media darlings will not reach the lofty goals projected for them. For every Ryan J. Braun, there are twenty guys like Anthony Reyes. Phil Hughes, Jason Hirsh, Brandon Wood, Delmon Young, half the Marlins' pitching staff -- there are too many to name that have not lived up to the hype for one reason or another. I know it is your job to build these kids up and sell them as the future of the game, but I think that owners need to be cautioned that the game is won and lost in the present and trading top players for a package of prospects not only kills the competitive balance in your league, it in no way guarantees you of getting a good player."

Without commenting on each of the players you named, Gerry -- some of which I wouldn't yet pass final judgment on -- I tend to agree with you. Too many Fantasy owners bank too heavily on the unknown. Prospects are fine as late-round fliers or last-second free-agent pickups just to see what they can do, but you don't want to stash them and wait because -- like you said -- you might end up waiting for nothing.

In only two types of leagues would I recommend stashing prospects:
1. Long-term keeper leagues where you have to maintain a minor-league system (and even then, I'd make it an afterthought compared to my major-league roster).
2. Deep AL- or NL-only leagues where the concept of free agency is virtually meaningless, making every call-up the only real chance you have to improve your team (other than trading, of course).

That's all for now
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 18, 2008 6:15 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2008 6:20 pm

Longoria not a Fantasy superstar just yet

I don't have anything against prospects or the men who appraise them. In fact, I consider the assessment of prospects, the singling out players who might give your team that instant jolt off the waiver wire, a vitally important part of Fantasy.

But somebody needs to say something to calm down this Evan Longoria hype, and I'm taking it upon myself to do so.

I was going through the Fantasy Baseball mailbag Friday, like I do every day, when a couple of questions caught my attention, inspiring this entry. They so casually assumed success for Longoria -- like it was a given, like they weren't even making an assumption -- suggesting to me that this 22-year-old third baseman has firmly entrenched himself in the realm of irrational thought.

Let's get real, people.

"In my league, one of the owners has soured on Justin Verlander and offered him to me for Tim Lincecum. However, he asked that I include either Nick Markakis or Evan Longoria to complete the deal. What is Verlander worth?"
--Traci Hart

This e-mail looks casual. It looks harmless. It looks like it's in no way making a statement of any kind about Longoria. But look again. Traci's trading partner has offered him the choice of parting with either Markakis or Longoria, like they're equals, like they have the same potential to help his Fantasy team.

Uh, excuse me? At what point during Longoria's first 20 major-league at-bats did he do something to place himself on equal footing with Markakis -- a guy who was going as early as the fourth round in Fantasy drafts, who hit .300 with 23 home runs and 18 stolen bases as a 23-year-old last year and is on place for a .308-32-43 line early this year?

Don't get me wrong: Longoria hasn't done anything to disappoint yet, having hit .300 with a home run and a nice 4-to-5 walk-to-strikeout ratio. But 20 at-bats? I mean, he didn't hit 10 homers or go 20-for-20, which is about what it'd take for me to compare any rookie after 20 at-bats to a third-year player widely considered on the threshold of becoming a Fantasy stud.

So yeah, Traci. Make that deal. And don't hesitate to throw in Longoria, a likely free-agent pickup in mixed leagues a week ago, if your trading partner holds him in the same esteem as Markakis.

"I've been presented a unique opportunity to upgrade my pitching. I've been offered Brandon Webb and Troy Tulowitzki for Evan Longoria and Chien-Ming Wang. I think this trade looks good, seeing that Longoria just sits on my bench. What do you think?"
--Kevin Ferrell

Kevin here has the right idea, but the fact he needs to ask me suggests something is amiss in his assessment of Longoria.

Because we know the potential hangup isn't the Webb-for-Wang portion of the deal. Wang is a consistent winner for the Yankees and a worthwhile pitcher for Fantasy purposes, but he's not a perennial Cy Young candidate like Webb, who allows fewer hits and records far more strikeouts. Easy call there.

So then Kevin must wonder if Longoria is equal to Tulowitzki -- or, more accurately, if Longoria is so far ahead of Tulowitzki that the impact of trading Longoria for Tulowitzki is enough to negate the impact of acquiring Webb for Wang.

Which is crazy, obviously. Longoria, in terms of Fantasy appeal, still lags leaps and bounds behind Tulowitzki -- again, a fourth-round draft pick entering the season -- after only 20 at-bats. And I say that as a staunch non-believer in Tulowitzki, wary of his high strikeout rate and lack of a track record. Make that deal, Kevin, and don't think twice.

Look, I know Longoria is a terrific prospect with mountains of ability. Scouts and statisticians alike love him, and their praise has trickled down to Fantasy owners, who want to snag the next Albert Pujols or Ryan J. Braun. But assuming Longoria will have the first-year success of either of those guys is just a bad way to conduct your Fantasy team.

Remember when Chipper Jones began his career back in 1995? He had all the hype and praise, and he deserved it just like Longoria. He also had, by everyone's account, a fantastic rookie season, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting to Hideo Nomo.

So what were his numbers? A .265 batting average with 23 home runs, which, if you think about it, is a lot like Adrian Beltre in terms of Fantasy usefulness.

I don't have anything against Longoria. I'm not calling him a chump, a tease, a bust or anything else remotely bad. I'm not saying you shouldn't own him in Fantasy or that he won't make a positive contribution to your team this year. But when considering the realm of possibilities for a superstar rookie -- from the bad (Alex Gordon) to the good (Jones) to the unreal (Braun) -- how likely, honestly, is Longoria to rate alongside Markakis and Tulowitzki by the end of this year?

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 29, 2008 6:30 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:49 pm

Youth movement

You can almost taste it now, can't you?

Teams have more or less finalized their rosters and made their cuts, discarding journeyman veterans and demoting top prospects who they decided need just a little more work.

Yes, that includes sending some of our most beloved young sluggers down to the minors. I know it hurts.

So we've shed our tears. We've torn our robes. We've lost our security deposits throwing our tantrums. What now?

Those of you who read my work consistently might have come to realize by now that I tend to approach rookies with a certain amount of skepticism. It's not that I don't think they can perform well or make a contribution in Fantasy. I just think, because of the hype generated by their arrival, you have to take more of a risk than necessary to acquire them. For the pick you'd have to use in drafts or the dollar amount you'd have to invest in auctions, you could easily land a comparable sleeper without as much uncertainty.

Sure, you might miss out on the next Ryan J. Braun, but you'll also avoid the next Alex Gordon. And the latter seems far more common than the former. Coming up from the minors, most of these young guys need at least some time to adapt.

And I don't mean to say I would never take a rookie if I could get him at fair value and he filled the right need, but if you draft a rookie and trust him to start for you (in a mixed league, anyway), you'll likely get burned.

Which brings me back to my original point. The Fantasy owners out there who drafted Evan Longoria, Jay Bruce, Cameron Maybin and Chase Headley probably feel a little bit burned right now. The mailbag sure seems to indicate so. Should they pull the plug? Should they hope for the best? Should they crawl into a hole somewhere and wait for 2010?

I'll examine the four on a case-by-case basis, ranking them in the order I'd prefer to have them at this point in the season.

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays -- He's coming back, and he's coming back soon. The Rays sent him down saying they wanted to give him a little more time to work on his game, but they're not fooling anyone. By delaying his rookie season a few weeks, they'll delay his free agency a year. Why not trade a few weeks for a year? Of course, Longoria could always struggle as a rookie like Alex Gordon did, but he also has more minor-league experience than Gordon did. I think Longoria is the rookie hitter with the best chance of making an immediate Fantasy impact this season, but in a league as shallow as a 10-team mixed, I could probably find someone I like better on waivers.

Chase Headley, OF Padres -- He certainly made an impression this spring, hitting .349 with four home runs and a .744 slugging percentage, and the Padres all but came out and said they expect to bring him back soon. They just want the converted third baseman to work on his outfield defense. Because he doesn't get nearly the hype of some of these other rookies, I still like him as a sleeper in NL-only leagues, but again, mixed-league owners can probably find better on waivers.

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds -- This one bothers me the most. Bruce has enormous upside, no doubt -- it's absolutely through the roof. But because the Reds don't seem to approach his promotion with the least bit of urgency, I don't think it's simply a matter of him proving himself worthy. I think he would both have to prove himself worthy and have the guy in front of him, Corey Patteron, falter. And as little as a like Patterson, I think he does enough to keep his job. Bruce's upside makes him worth hanging on to in NL-only leagues, but I'm not saving a mixed-league spot for him at this point.

Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins -- I think Maybin has a better chance than Bruce of hooking up with the big club early this season, but I'm not sure he offers enough immediate potential for you to save a roster spot for him. He's young. He's raw. He strikes out too much and doesn't yet hit for enough power. If the Marlins do call him up, the only thing I'd trust him to do at this point in his career is steal bases.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com