Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Replacing Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes, and trading Roy Halladay

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on August 8, 2011 @ 12:14:54 PDT


In case there was any doubt I was qualified, you should all be thrilled to learn that Forbes Magazine has named my hometown and where I still reside, Framingham, Massachusetts, as the third geekiest community in the country. While I would not blame you if you preferred to seek your fantasy baseball advice from someone hailing from one of the top two towns, I promise I will do my geeky best to lead you to a 2011 championship as we head down the homestretch. If third best is good enough for you, please send your question to lordzola@kffl.com, post your question on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

Hi Todd. I have a big problem in my 14-team mixed league. I have both Brandon Phillips and Jose Reyes and am afraid I am going to need a replacement for one or maybe both. Can you recommend someone that could help me? - Edward Kingsbury, Des Moines, Iowa

The good news is there has been a bunch of middle infielders promoted to the majors the past several weeks. The bad news is the chance they replace the likes of Reyes and Phillips is quite remote. But, we are at the point of the season where injuries have taken their toll and sometimes the most important factor to consider is simply playing time - who is getting the at bats. We all remember our Little League coach telling us you can't hit it if you don't swing. Well, you can't produce if you don't play. That said, this geek will stay true to his philosophy of you can't produce if you don't make contact and will use strikeout rate as my primary means of ranking the newly promoted rookies, assuming they do not have a well known pedigree to rely upon.

Los Angeles Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw
Trade target: Kershaw

Speaking of players with a decent pedigree, chances are Dee Gordon, Jemile Weeks, Jason Kipnis and Brett Lawrie are not available in Edward's league as they are fairly well known prospects that have both hit the ground running, literally and figuratively. All have been discussed in previous Mailbags so we won't take away bandwidth from other candidates, but suffice it to say, if they are available, stop reading and pick them up.

Some other middle infielders that have made the big league debut recently include Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes and Johnny Giavotella. Of the three, I favor Giavotella. The Royals have handed him the second base gig, relegating Chris Getz to a utility role. Giavotella makes pretty good contact and can take a walk, which is what we geeks look for in youngsters. He has low double digit power and speed and plays in a lineup better than that of Altuve and Paredes, who are both part of the new look Houston Astros. Altuve has actually been up for a couple of weeks and has held his own, at least in terms of average. Despite hitting a respectable .316, Altuve has only scored four runs and knocked home three teammates in 16 games. Paredes is a recent call up, playing third base in place of the disappointing Chris D. Johnson. If your league uses minor league games played, he should qualify at second. Paredes has speed and can steal bases, but his on base skills are still a work in progress. He is also very young, with only a little over half a season of Double-A under his belt before being promoted. Of the two Astros, I prefer Paredes because he will likely at minimum steal a base or two, but he is also a risk to lose playing time if Johnson heeds his wake up call and starts hitting.

Some more recognizable names for Edward to look at are Ty Wigginton, Felipe Lopez, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera and Jeff Keppinger. Of this group, I like Keppinger, because, you guessed it, he makes frequent contact and the Giants are playing him every day. Wigginton follows as he gets plenty of action and plays in Coors Field. Next is Keppinger's new double play partner, Cabrera, mainly because he is also assured of full time at bats. An injury to another youngster, Zach Cozart, has forced the Reds to turn to Renteria. Finally, Lopez is filling in for Rickie Weeks in Milwaukee.

A couple of other names to at least consider, depending on your eligibility rules, are the Rockies Eric Young Jr. and Chris Nelson. There are so many moving parts in Colorado that it is difficult to gauge playing time, but if afforded the chance, both Nelson and Young can run and should score some runs in that ballpark.

Lord Zola, I have a keeper question for you. In my NL only league, I have offers to acquire Tommy Hanson ($20), Clayton Kershaw ($25) or Yovani Gallardo ($15). It is a deep twelve team league using standard 5x5 categories. I am trading away Roy Halladay in the last year of his contract and someone else, depending on which offer I accept. Can you rank them for me? - Skip Snelling, Corpus Christi, TX

Sure Skip, I'm glad to help. Your league did a pretty good job of slotting the three starters as in a vacuum. I would rank them in order of their keeper salary, Kershaw, Hanson and Gallardo.

Let's start backwards and eliminate Gallardo, even though he has managed to reduce his walk rate this season, which was the main reason he is ranked below Hanson and Kershaw. There are two reasons why I am a little skeptical. The first is I prefer to see a pitcher repeat a newfound skill such as Gallardo's improved control and second, fewer walks have come at the expense of fewer strikeouts. Gallardo still fans an acceptable amount; it is just no longer at ace level. If he maintained his previous strikeout rate while also reducing the free passes, I would be more optimistic. I have no issue with Gallardo at $15, it is a great price. It is just if I am going to deal Halladay and have options like Hanson and Kershaw, I am going there.

Hanson's numbers are a bit curious, making it a little difficult to project his performance next season. He is fanning batters at a career rate, but in order to do so, he is walking a few more as well. This leads to throwing more pitches than desired, costing him innings. So at the end of the day, his strikeout rate is higher, but his strikeout total is about the same due to fewer innings. If he can sustain the elevated strikeout rate and return his walk rate to 2010 levels, Hanson could make a run at the Cy Young.

Speaking of the Cy Young, that brings us to Kershaw. Kershaw has combined the improvements of Gallardo and Hanson, as he has increased his whiffs while reducing his walks. As alluded to earlier, I am a bit wary of the reduction in walks, but even if he gives some of that back, Kershaw is clearly the best pitcher of the three, so much so that I am more than happy to sink an extra $5 into him.

So Skip, I would get back to Kershaw's owner and ask what they want along with Doc and this time next season, you will be asking for help to fortify your pennant winning run.

When Todd is not hobnobbing with his fellow Framingham geeks, you can find him hanging out at the forum at Mastersball.

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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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