Right now is an exciting time to be a baseball fan as teams begin elevating highly touted prospects to the big leagues. The reason this happens at this point in the season is so clubs can save an arbitration year by avoiding the “Super Two” status. It does make sense from a financial standpoint for teams to do this because purchasing early arbitration years in a long term contract has been the recent trend for teams to save money later on by spending right now. This injection of youth begins and ends with the Kansas City Royals who have one of the deepest and most talented minor league systems in all of baseball. Both Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are now with the big league club and look like they are here to stay. Hosmer has been extremely impressive since his promotion in May, holding his own in 37 games by batting .288 with 5 homeruns and 22 RBI. Moustakas was just called up this week and already has his first major league homerun. Hosmer (1B) and Moustakas (3B) look like they will be the cornerstones for a hopeful renaissance by the Royals as they build for the future. Oh yeah, they also called up one of their top pitching prospects, Danny Duffy, who likes like he will be a fixture in Kansas City’s rotation from now on.
Another notable call-up is Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo, one of the top prospects included in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. Thus far this season, Rizzo is hitting .365 with 20 doubles and 16 homers in just 52 games. In those 52 games he has knocked in an amazing 63 runs, giving him an OPS of 1.159 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Rizzo will be relied upon to inject some power into an otherwise pedestrian offensive team playing in a true pitchers’ park. Based on the numbers he has previously compiled, it looks like the Padres have found their man to try and fill Adrian Gonzalez’s shoes.
Other notable call-ups include Dustin Ackley (2B-SEA), Jemile Weeks (2B-OAK), Charlie Blackmon (OF-COL), and Dee Gordon (SS-LAD). Not far behind are Brett Lawrie (3B-TOR) and Desmond Jennings (OF-TB). These rookies are all top prospects with which expectations come attached. Recent trends have shown that players do not necessarily need 5-6 years in the minor leagues to develop and learn how to properly play baseball. This new crop of young stars should all have at least moderare success in the big leagues barring unforeseen injuries or other circumstances. At the very least, they will all be given the opportunity to prove they belong. If any of these players are available in your fantasy baseball league, grab them. It doesn’t matter if you are in a keeper or non-keeper league, these young players are contributing more at an earlier age so it is highly advisable to snacth one, two, or all of them
Today I made a significant trade in one of my fantasy baseball leagues. This is the league where I am the commissioner of an 18-team, head to head, mixed, points league where pitching is the key to success. Thus far, my staff has not performed up to standards that are even below my mediocre expectations. I have Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Jhoulys Chacin, Javier Vazquez, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. We start any six pitchers, and wins and saves are both worth ten points. Additionally, quality starts are worth five, strikeouts are worth two each, and there are negative points for losses, blown saves, walks, and earned runs allowed. I have suffered from poor production and some poor decision-making as I had Chacin on the bench for one of his big starts, and my unwarranted faith in Vazquez has led me to mock his being on the bereavement list.
Every year I tend to make at least one blockbuster acquisition, so I began thinking big in order to improve my pitching. I knew I would have to make an enticing offer to someone who needed some offense, so I decided to reap the benefits of Lance Berkman’s insane start to the season. I recently sang the praises of the Big Puma (see http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/passing-judgment-the-resurgence-of-lance-berkman/) as he has enjoyed a renaissance thus far in 2011. But the reality is that he cannot maintain this pace over the course of the season. He is very likely going to miss some time at some point due to injuries, and his 35-year old body cannot sustain playing everyday in the outfield. So I offered Berkman and Kevin Gregg for Cliff Lee figuring it would be rejected but hopeful there would be a counteroffer. Sure enough, my fellow league member preferred a starter and asked for Harang. It was a done deal for me.
Cliff Lee is also a topic I have written about before (see http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/cliffs-notes-my-thoughts-on-the-cliff-lee-signing/). I made the arguments that Lee is a good pitcher, but his mediocre regular seasons in 2009 and 2010 seem to be forgotten due to his dominant playoff performances the last couple years. And for the purposes of fantasy baseball, the regular season is all that counts. While my thoughts on Lee remain the same, he is still a tremendous upgrade for me. He has been victimized by poor run support, but that should change going forward because Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Domonic Brown are not far away from joining the already respectable lineup. Even in a loss, Lee will still throw a quality start with a lot of strikeouts and few walks.
As I stated before, pitching is what wins championships in the OBFBL. I have won the league three times (1999, 2002, and 2007), and each time was because I had multiple dominant pitchers. This year is one of the only years I have ever gone with the multiple stud closer route (Bell and Marmom). With saves being worth as much as wins, they ranked near the top of all pitchers in 2010, so it was a relative no-brainer to draft them given who was available. Now adding Lee into the mix should give me a more formidable staff.
The beauty of making fantasy baseball trades is that there is always a nervous sensation you get because you wonder whether you are getting screwed or whether you will come to regret your decision. I have never regretted any trade I have ever made, even if things just didn’t work out. I don’t trade out of desperation or from a position of weakness. I target what my specific needs are and figure out the least I can give up to acquire that need. That is what I did here. Sure I will miss Berkman’s bat in my lineup, but I am counting on him tailing off at some point. Now I need to acquire another hitter, and with the pitching excess I have, that is the direction I will go.
The other key to making effective fantasy baseball trades is to be patient and have some self-restraint. I previously wrote about not over-reacting so early in the season (see http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/passing-judgment-dont-overreact-after-one-week/), and it directly applies to making smart trades and decisions. I was not happy with how my team performed after five weeks and seven games (we play divisional doubleheaders every few weeks), but I waited until the right opportunity presented itself to get the best deal possible. If I made this offer a few weeks ago, it likely would have been rejected because my fellow league owner would have wanted to wait and see how Lee would continue to do, and he may not have believed in Berkman after such a small sample. But now 20% into the season, there was a large enough body of work to convince him that Berkman was worth acquiring for a #1 fantasy starting pitcher. It also helped that Harang has been so good thus far because he would have had no value earlier in the year. So, in the words of the great Jedi master, Yoda, “Patient must you be.”
I am in San Diego this week on business, and I have spoken to several local baseball fans who are legitimately depressed and shell-shocked that Adrian Gonzalez has been traded away. No one was surprised it happened, but it still had an extremely negative affect on Padres’ fans. I do not know Adrian Gonzalez personally, but everything I have read about him or heard from other players and the media was that he is truly a good guy. This couldn’t be more accurate after I saw a local news piece today on Gonzalez keeping his commitments to attend a charity drive for a local 1-year old baby who sustained severe injuries after being struck by a drunk driver while he was being pushed in his stroller by his grandfather. The overall message of the news piece was that despite Gonzalez being traded to Boston, he still planned on remaining active within the San Diego community. It is clear that the people of San Diego embraced Gonzalez, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. “As renowned as Gonzalez is for his smooth glove and powerful bat, he’s just as revered off the field for his warm heart and open wallet. During five seasons here, he was the Padres’ Most Valuable Philanthropist, raising money for dozens of good causes,” said Peter Rowe in his article from SignOnSanDiego.com.
Gonzalez is originally from the San Diego area, and if given the choice, he would probably have preferred to remain here had the team’s financial situation been different. But even though he will be playing his games across the country, his roots will always remain in Southern California. He has vowed to continue to do charity work in San Diego, as well as Mexico.
This may not seem like an overly exciting story, but I think it is an important one. It proves that some professional athletes who earn amounts of money that most people can only dream of are still good people at heart and go the extra mile to use their celebrity for a beneficial purpose. It was also heartwarming to see how beloved Gonzalez is here in San Diego and that there are absolutely no hard feelings for his departure. I guess the baseball fans here in San Diego heeded the advice of Ron Burgundy.