Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Johnson, Casey McGehee
Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove surveys free agency, trades, salary arbitration and injuries that will affect your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league. You're cleared for your MLB offseason program: The Arizona Fall League, Baseball Winter Meetings, Rule 5 draft and more will shape your fantasy baseball rankings.
So much for Ryan Madson. Papelbon's 2010 looks like an aberration. His 2011 rebound saw a notable K/9 bump and BB/9 improvement while he induced many more swinging strikes and increased his first-strike efficiency. A change in his hand positioning during his delivery also helped.
His underwhelming left-on-base percentages over the last two seasons remind us that he often struggles with runners on, but he escapes the AL East. Oh, and being in position to save games for this powerhouse rotation will make Papelbon a top stopper on all draft boards and keeper lists. It's a justifiable price, if you're into paying top dollar for closures.
New name, new logo - hopefully Miami doesn't get the same old injury issues from their No. 1. Johnson (shoulder inflammation) didn't pitch past May 21 thanks to setbacks in his rehab and the Fish falling further out of contention - this following a disastrous September 2010. There's no structural damage to his shoulder, though - more optimism for the reincarnated Marlins.
When toeing the rubber, Johnson delivers an elite skill package: one of the game's best K/9s, a grounder rate of around 50 percent and reasonable walk rates. Johnson registered a 1.64 ERA in his 60 1/3 2011 frames; he pulled his changeup string tighter and recalibrated his curveball last season, while throwing his off-speed arsenal sooner in games.
Per Fangraphs, 2011 was the first time he had thrown a deuce in the regular season since 2007. Maybe his first steps with this rediscovered pitch and new approach created tension in a shoulder with already questionable endurance; comfort in his M.O. could lead to more innings. Sloppy mound posture might have contributed to his woes, as well.
Should you stand tall while calling his name? A positive offseason progression will boost his price, to varying draft degrees. Asking for 200 innings - even 170 - might be a stretch, but his ace profile could be snared for the cost of a second or third mixed-league pitcher, which in many cases outweighs the injury risk.
Those saddled with McGehee last year don't have much reason to, other than his hot August streak. His dormant power, drop-off versus lefty pitchers and tendency to roll over on pitches did him in. He still makes contact often enough to account for a potential clip improvement. What stand out more, however, were his declines in line-drive and fly-ball rates over the last two seasons, which have come in turn with an uptick in grounder percentage. A return to 2010 numbers seems over his head.
McGehee might be a backup option for first base if Prince Fielder exits in free agency, but Milwaukee is examining the free-agent infield market. Prospect Taylor Green, coming off a .336/.413./.583 slash line for Triple-A Nashville and September java cup, stays in the running at the hot corner. Mixed leaguers can't be optimistic with McGehee's shaky skills profile and lack of job security.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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