Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Who Concerns You?

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on April 17, 2013 @ 13:20:00 PDT

 

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We'll spare you the "be patient, it's early" cliche advice. That said, we're only human. We all have fantasy teams we're rooting for and have made calls on players that have influenced our readers' teams. In that spirit, I posed this to the Knights:

I wasn't nervous. Maybe I was a little bit concerned, but that's not the same thing.

We all recognize that's what the grandson (Fred Savage) said to his grandfather (Peter Falk) in "The Princess Bride."

What players are you not nervous about, but maybe a little bit concerned?

Nicholas Minnix

Roy Halladay: Captain Obvious leads off. I didn't see it, but his plus outing against the Miami Marlins' independent league lineup probably doesn't mean much. If he's not injured, super. I'm not convinced that he's hurt, but I've heard good arguments to the contrary. If he's not, he'll get it together, but it'll take time. I think he's over-striding and exerting too much effort in general to recover some lost velocity, and all it's doing is flattening his fastballs. A greater worry for me is that, if he doesn't make mechanical adjustments, he'll end up on the DL.

Cincinnati Reds 1B Joey Votto
Looming large on Zola's list

Matt Kemp: This is based on only a little observation of him, but in the ABs of his I've seen in which he's made contact, the contact isn't extra-base power and doesn't inspire much hope that extra-base power is around the corner. This is lending some credence to the fears of those who were worried that October shoulder surgery would affect his power output. I saw him put some decent plate appearances together in the last week or so, but none that would've inspired hope for his slugging percentage in the immediate future.

Tim Lincecum: Maybe. I think all the contemplation and physical work he did to get back to basics should be yielding better results by now, or at least be reflected in his rate of walks handed out. Considering that he had to answer some doubts in spring training and not just get into pitching shape, I don't think he's proven much. I haven't followed his case closely and haven't watched any of his starts, just caught highlights and checked out the numbers, so I'm no authority. I'm no authority anyway. Maybe this is just going to be a longer process than I expected. If I had to predict his future right now, though, I'd say that he's a reliever heading into next year.

No one else comes to mind, off the top of my head, other than dudes who are already injured. Was Jered Weaver's drop in pitch speed that big a deal in April? I'm really not sure. I wasn't much concerned about CC Sabathia after his first start.

Ryan Carey

Jarrod Parker: I am slightly concerned about Parker's rough start to the season and hope that he can start to turn things around soon. It looks like he is having problems throwing his signature change-up for strikes and just generally missing his spots. He is a pitcher that walks a fine line to begin with and a tough lineup like the Tigers will make you pay if you make mistakes. I am being patient in hopes that he can harness his best pitch again, but he's doing it on the bench this week in deeper leagues. In a few of my 12-team leagues he has been dropped for alternatives like Jose Fernandez and Ross Detwiler.

Mike Moustakas: Moose was one of my favorite sleepers this year, and a frequent target in any league that I decided to wait on drafting a third baseman. The good news to start the year is he was inserted in the cleanup spot by manager Ned Yost, the bad news is he's been terrible so far and has already been moved down one spot in the lineup due to his cold start. He's hitting only .158, and has looked lost at the plate thus far. I am still a believer, but my previous enthusiasm has been tempered somewhat. Regardless, I am still holding him in all leagues I own him in, for now.

Brandon Belt: Belt lived up to his name this spring as his seven home runs tantalized drafters, myself included, who decided that the young slugger was poised to take the next step up and become a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, he looks like the same guy he has always been at the major-league level, striking out too much and not showing much pop in his bat to start the year. I am not confident at all that he is going to turn the corner and become the 20- to 30-home run threat that would make him worth starting in mixed leagues.

Nicholas Minnix

The performances of players like Parker, Moustakas and Belt aren't all that worrisome, in my opinion. Besides the fact that we're only a couple of weeks in, those three have the kinds of flaws or other characteristics we associate with risky performance just as much as they might have the kind of upside we're hoping for. I don't think it should surprise us if Belt hits .290 with 25 home runs, and I think it shouldn't surprise us if he remains a .250 hitter with 15 home runs.

Zach Steinhorn

I really thought that this would be the year Pedro Alvarez takes that next step forward, not only providing elite power production but also finishing with an average that doesn't kill your team. Fortunately, I ended up drafting him in only one of my leagues. Alvarez has shown no improvement whatsoever in the K/BB department and through 13 games, he has zero extra base hits. He's always been very streaky, so I'm hoping that a hot stretch is right around the corner, but I can't say I'm overly optimistic. He might turn out to be one of those fantasy enigmas whose maddening inconsistency frustrates his owners to no end.

Cameron Maybin is another guy who I gambled on in one of my leagues, buying into the theory that a disappointing 2012 campaign would depress his draft day price tag to the point where it was virtually impossible to get a negative return on your investment. Well, he's been awful. Three hits through his first 33 at-bats with no stolen bases. Some might be still waiting for that breakout 20/40 season, but I'm not holding my breath. I know it's early, but since this particular league is a 12-team mixed, I'll seriously consider dropping him if he doesn't snap out of this funk relatively soon. Unlike Alvarez, Maybin isn't helped by the position scarcity factor.

Lawr Michaels

Well, I like to draft guys who are throwaways, or at least who have lost their roto sheen as they are usually a bargain and thus better likely to return a profit.

I would worry about Mr. Halladay, but truth is I realized he is nearing the end of his career when I froze in my Scoresheet League. And, now he is my No. 4 starter there anyway.

But, I am a tad concerned that Tim Lincecum is still plagued by pitching well for five of six innings, but completely losing all control, consciousness, ability in the one odd inning. He still gets whiffs, though.

I would say the guys I am most concerned about that I drafted this year, though, are Mike Morse ($17 in Tout AL) and Andre Ethier ($17 in LABR NL).

Considering both of their production possibilities, those are cheap. 

Considering Morse gets hurt, and Ethier cannot hit lefties, they explain a lot.

However, both are playing pretty well so far despite Morse's busted pinkie. I think each is key to my team success, for if they succeed, so will I.

Perry Van Hook

Fortunately Jeremy Hellickson and Mark Buehrle shortened this list yesterday but here are a few that I am concerned about.

1) Giancarlo Stanton, MIA - and also missing in action; he says the shoulder is getting better but we'll see today - still a chance he could end up on the DL and then be weeks, not days, away from coming back.

2) Roy Halladay, PHL - feels like beating a dead horse and I can't give the last outing much weight because the Marlins are less than a AAA team. He should have the experience and knowledge to alter his pitches but that doesn't mean he will. Somebody send him a video of Greg Maddux - Doc still throws harder just needs to have a better game plan.

3) Jarrod Parker, OAK - and I didn't add him to new teams this spring but have him on two keeper league teams, where he is close to getting benched until/if he can straighten himself out -- may well be a case of we should have put more stock in spring training troubles.

Ryan Carey

I don't disagree with you at all Nick regarding the three players I mentioned. You are correct that they do fall into that category of player. I guess my concern over them comes more in leagues where I invested that are short on clear alternatives.

Honestly, I don't really have any non-injury concerns that have manifested over the last two weeks outside of the volatile bullpen guessing games in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit.

A big one that was debated pre-season was Giancarlo Stanton getting nothing to hit this year. That one looks like a reality that won't change anytime soon.

Tim Heaney

Nick hit it on the head: Concern is more urgent for players for whom we have true expectations and on whom we rely. Belt and company mentioned previously were projects with potential -- great if they hit, but not crippling to most teams if they whiff, although it does hurt a tad more in single universes.

I concur on Stanton: Spotty health, a likely inundation of unintentional intentional walks from opposing pitchers and his likely boiling frustration with his organization have to be holding him back.

Luckily, I can agree with Halladay and Lincecum answers without claiming either as one of my assets, which means I may target them if these issues persist. I believe Halladay will rebound sooner because they've at least made concrete steps in identifying what's wrong with him and have started on that path.

Jered Weaver could use his absence to try building up his velocity to its past tepid but effective levels. The injury actually might be a shot in the arm -- ba-dum-bum -- for his overall numbers.

I hear ya, Zach, times 2. Pedro Alvarez falls on my list because power was an expectation. I bought him at what I considered a solid $8 in Tout Wars but am becoming quite disenchanted, and I'm regretting not considering more firmly his high grounder rates, which cap his HR ceiling. I'm seeking alternatives and benching him until I see a spark. He's streaky, after all. I've already cut Cameron Maybin in the pair of 12-teamers where I drafted him; I'll be monitoring his contact along the way, but I couldn't afford to stash him any longer.

His wrist and power look healthy, but I hope the Blue Jays' dalliance of moving Jose Bautista back to third won't produce chronic back issues. The idea went away for now, and he's played third before, but if they keep toying with him and take him out of his comfort zone, he could suffer at the dish.

Lord Zola's Wrap-Up

More often than not, when we do Round Tables of this nature my astute knights steal my thunder, but not this time. They left me the guy that worries me the most: Joey Votto.

I know he's walking, which is good. I know he's not striking out much, which is also good. But he has three extra-base hits -- one of each -- which is not good.

Votto's power is already capped since he is a line drive/ground ball hitter. His homers are the result of a high HR/FB on the scant fly balls he lofts. His margin of error with respect to power is slim and if there is any residual weakness after Votto's knee procedure, his homers could wane. Factor in Votto used to chip in with some quiet steals and the new version could be more of a 20- to 25-HR guy with a .310 average. There's nothing wrong with this, it actually resembles the expectations of Adrian Gonzalez and Billy Butler. The problem is Gonzalez and Butler were drafted in the third round, not in the top 10.

About five minutes before putting this together, I decided to do a quick search on one of the candidates I was going to write about, largely to make sure I was not seemingly repeating something else that was out there. Much to my surprise, and glee, what I found was just the opposite in that the discussion was on why Kyle Seager is in store for better days. I am very invested in Seager and thus was quite concerned with his early woes. However, this excellent piece by the good folks at FanGraphs has assuaged my fears. Unfortunately, it also corroborates the concerns about Pedro Alvarez.

While this falls under the mantra of it is hard to be worried about players whose expectations were more speculative than analytical, I was high on Joe Blanton and Dillon Gee for basically the same reasons. Both exhibit peripherals better than their results and with the move of Blanton to Anaheim, both work half the time in good pitcher's parks, so minimally they are excellent options to stream. I'm not giving up on either, and in fact would look to acquire both, but I may be more discerning about the matchups in which I deploy them than originally anticipated.

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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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