Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Replacing Shin-Soo Choo, Delmon Young, Jose Tabata
Today we will handle a couple of free agent pickup questions as several outfielders joined the wounded this weekend. Shin-Soo Choo, Delmon Young and Jose Tabata all suffered injuries, leaving their owners scrambling. If you need some advice on a free agent pick up or an opinion on a trade, all you have to do is e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, post it on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.
Hi Lord Zola, I need your help badly. I lost both Shin-Soo Choo and Delmon Young over the weekend. Please rank the following outfielders: Raul Ibanez, Laynce Nix, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. I'm in a 10 team 5x5 mixed league and need help everywhere mainly because Choo and Young were both killing me. - Jeremy Simpson, Des Moines, Iowa
Well, needing my help badly is better than needing my bad help. I am quite invested in Choo myself so I feel your pain. Let's take a look at the quartet of possible replacements and see if we can help Jeremy out of his bind.
Ibanez, who celebrated his 39th birthday earlier in June, is really showing his age as his batting average is .232, 50 points below his career mark. His contact rate is not that much different than the past few seasons, but when he does connect, it is soft contact with fewer line drives than the average hitter. If Ibanez were younger, I may be more optimistic he was just going through a bad stretch, but at this point in his career, the skills are obviously in decline. As for power, Ibanez is lofting fewer balls which is limiting homers plus his HR/FB is down. The best thing that can be said about Ibanez is he is playing full time in a potent lineup. But even that may not be the case over the second half as the Phillies could opt to play both Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown together or even give John Mayberry another shot.
Nix is showing the skills he first displayed eight years ago when he was a promising youngster in the Rangers' system, reminding some of Rusty Greer. He is exhibiting the power that has been absent for several years. He is hitting more fly balls as well as enjoying a spike in HR/FB. On the downside is Nix is fanning more than usual, but his batting average is not suffering because home runs are hits too. Another factor is Nix is not a regular, though he is on the good side of a platoon so he is playing quite a bit.
Francoeur is quietly on pace for a 20/20 season. He really is not doing anything exceptionally well, he is basically just doing everything a little bit better and taking advantage of the fact the Royals like to run a little. Frenchy still cannot draw a walk and is striking out as much as usual so he is a risk to slide in the second half, but he is playing regularly in the middle of a surprisingly productive lineup.
Francoeur's teammate Cabrera has managed to hold onto the center field gig despite Lorenzo Cain sporting an impressive .866 OPS at Triple-A Omaha. Keep in mind Cain was part of the Zack Greinke deal so you know Kansas City would like to justify that swap. Cabrera is also quietly on pace for a 20/20 campaign as well. His batting average is better than Francoeur's because he is fanning considerably less.
Wow, this is pretty tough. Nix has the best skills, but he is not playing full time. Ibanez has the strongest track record, but Father Time is catching up to him. The Royals' duo is racking up the counting stats but both tend to be exposed over the course of a full season. I think I will rank Nix on top. All it will take is a little more playing time and he will separate himself from this pack. Then I will put Ibanez at the end, bringing up the rear. I am just not confident his average will rebound. That leaves Francoeur and Cabrera. I am honestly torn. Cabrera has Cain to worry about but Francoeur's strikeout rate makes him more of a risk. Gun to head, I will place Cabrera ahead of Francoeur since it is plausible for Kansas City to shift Cabrera to right field if Cain forces his way onto the big club, but it is so close I could change my mind.
Todd, I couldn't believe it when I saw Jose Tabata carted off the field. I need to replace him and need some speed desperately. The good news is he was my utility so I can pick up anybody. If I sort my free agents by steals, the highest ranked players are Carlos Gomez, Will Venable and Chris Getz. Who should I pick up? Thanks. - Mel Pinto, Raleigh, NC
The need for speed, let's see if we can help Mel at least maintain ground in stolen bases.
Gomez has the most pilfers of this troika, but he is losing considerable playing time to Nyjer Morgan, who is finally healthy for the Brewers. For a guy whose primary asset is wheels, Gomez whiffs way too much and hits too many balls in the air. So long as Morgan is healthy, Gomez will be relegated to the spot start and pinch running opportunity.
Coming into the 2011 season, Venable was a fixture on many sleeper lists as many thought he would build on his 29 steals in 2010. After a slow start, Venable was sent down but has been recalled after Brad Hawpe hit the disabled list. Venable will be sharing right field with Chris Denorfia. Venable's main problem is the axiom "You can't steal first." He strikes out a lot and doesn't walk enough. This is the reason Venable has failed to hold down the regular job as this combination renders the flycatcher prone to slumps at the dish. But when he does get on, Venable can certainly swipe a few bags.
This must be Kansas City Royals day. Or maybe it is just some Royals are flying under the radar and are available, like Getz. Everyone knows about Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas at the corners. Getz is manning second full time while Mike Aviles is toiling on the farm. Getz makes excellent contact and hits the ball on the ground, which is what you want from a speedster. He has absolutely no power, and as suggested, is a risk to lose some playing time to Aviles down the line.
My inclination is to suggest Venable if Mel needs a little power mixed in with the speed with Getz the choice if batting average is a concern and power is not. Barring injury, I don't see Gomez playing much at all in the coming weeks and months.
About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.
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