Monday, August 5, 2013

By Grant Larsen, Baseball Columnist - 

A Tale of Happenings From Around the League

Welcome to my first edition of what Caught Looking is going to look like moving forward. I hope you enjoy it. If there are any suggestions I would welcome and appreciate some feedback and if there is anyone looking for an opinion on a player or a trade let me know and I will try to incorporate it the following week. For now, enjoy….

Hitter of the Week:
Just recently I was laughing at all those owners who thought Justin Upton’s exceptional start was a sign of things to come. Then he cooled off to the tune of 4 total home runs between May, June, and July. However, over the last week he batted .379 with 3 doubles, 3 home runs, and 9 RBI. If you’re hoping for me to substantiate your desire to believe that this is him rebounding, I can’t do it. Two of the 3 home runs came in one game along with 5 of the RBI. He swings and misses far too much and it has increased this year, his batting average is down, and his value in the stolen base department seems to be depleted compared to previous seasons. If it were me that owned him, I would be hoping for a couple more good games and then I would try to sell. But that’s just me. His consistency issues would be too hard for me to manage in a competitive fantasy league.

Pitcher of the Week:
Hands down and no doubt the best pitcher in fantasy baseball last week was David Price. He managed two starts and 16.1 innings with one complete game, and gave up only two runs while walking zero with 13 strikeouts. He has been flat out amazing and nearly unhittable. Looking beyond the last week he has 4 complete games in his last 6 starts. Since coming off the DL in early July he has lowered his ERA from 5.24, after a rough start, to 3.57. This would have been a unique opportunity to make a favorable trade offer for him while his stock was at the lowest point we will ever see it. His velocity was down, he seemed hittable, and he was struggling to strand runners. His velocity is rising, he’s walked one batter in his last 7 starts, and he’s stranding nearly every batter he allows on. Now, if you don’t have him and you want him, my guess is, that owner isn’t listening.

Pickup of the Week:
This is a tough week for some of you who are losing players for what will likely be the rest of the season. So your goal is to hopefully find a replacement for the holes in your lineup. If you have Nelson Cruz you must feel crushed. He has been producing at epic levels for him and all those home runs are going to be hard to replace. In short, without a trade you can’t. There is one player that should be coming off the DL soon and was struggling a bit before hand so he might be available: Josh Willingham. Remember, he hit 35 home runs just last year so if you can live with his low batting average (but high OBP) he might be worth a chance.

For those of you losing Everth Cabrera, replacing his stolen bases will be difficult. My first choice would be Brad Miller to replace him, but it's likely he's already been picked up. Instead, Houston called up one of their many prospects, Jonathan Villar, just recently. He had 30+ stolen bases each of the last three years in the minors. He does have his flaws though: batting average and strikeouts. He has struck out in 33.9% of his at bats since his call up but he does have the patience to take a walk and getting on base is half the battle for stolen bases. He has shown a little bit of pop in the minors but it hasn’t translated in his first 56 at bats. Stolen bases have not been a problem whatsoever; he has 6 already with 9 runs. He might be serviceable and fill the need.

Jhonny Peralta is the other big name likely being suspended. He has been one of the best short stops offensively this year with his .305 batting average paired with 11 HR and 54 RBI. If you can deal with taking a hit in batting average, Brian Dozier might be a nice replacement. He has pop in his bat reflected by the 9 HR’s and 21 doubles he has produced so far this year. He also has 8 stolen bases, which would be an added bonus over Peralta. It surely isn’t an ideal replacement by a top 5 short stop is tough to replace. Of course, this is contingent on a player like Nick Franklin not being available or not being eligible at SS.

Drop of the Week:
This is probably old news, but if you haven’t done so already it’s certainly time to cut ties with Josh Johnson. He may be a pickup of the week later but for now, dump him. Most of us are making a push for the playoffs and he is going to do more bad than good based on his season to this point. His stuff is just not good enough at the moment to get him out of trouble. His career LOB% is 74%, yet, this year he is stranding at only 60.9%. His fastball velocity is down quite a bit from previous years and much lower than his career average. His fastball has yielded 9 home runs in 182 at bats compared to 8 in 321 at bats last year. Things just aren’t right for him right now. I’m hoping, for his sake, that his tendinitis is the cause of his troubles and is fixable. An ERA of 6.603 and a whip of 1.67 should not merit a roster spot on any fantasy team, especially those that are competing.

Prospect of the Week:
Most the time I want to utilize this section to speak about players in the minor leagues that are making an impact or those that may be on their way up. However, because I know my audience, I want to use it to showcase an Angel that has just received a call-up to play right field after Pujols went down. Kole Calhoun possesses many tools that us fantasy players desire in our everyday players. He has always been praised for his on base skills, his patience at the plate, and his power and speed are a great combination. Calhoun has posted double-digit home runs and stolen bases each of the last 3 years in the minors. What I love about (some) players that don’t come up until their mid-20’s is the patience at the plate and their pitch recognition. This year at triple A he had as many walks as he did strikeouts. To me that’s a sign that a player has nothing left to prove at that level and he has figured out how to wait for his pitches. What impresses me most, however, is that he skipped double A but didn’t skip a beat. In a short stint in the majors with erratic at bats last year he struggled and I think any player would. Yet, this year his triple slash line is .333/.360/.583 in 30 at bats. I know it’s a short sample size but if he’s still available in a dynasty league, and that would be a travesty, get him NOW! If you are desperate for an outfielder in a redraft league, still take a peek.

Fun Stat of the Week:
3.83 runs per game. That is the number of runs the almighty New York Yankees have scored per game to this point in the season. To put it into perspective the Yankees have scored less than 4 runs a game over the course of a season only two other times in the last 40 years; they also have the worst team batting average in the last 40 years amongst Yankee teams. To make this look even worse, or better if you root for any other team in the league, they have scored less than 5 runs a game only three other times in the last 21 years (and each of those were just a touch under 5). For those of you that experienced great joy by reading this, you’re welcome.

My Take on the League Happenings:
I’ll be the first to say I thoroughly enjoy the weeks leading up to the trading deadline. It comes and then it passes, trades happen, and teams get “better” for the final two months of the season as they make a push for the playoffs. Then I look at some of the trades and think to myself “what in the he** were they thinking”? Matt Garza is a great pitcher and I think he makes any team better but stripping away a few higher end prospects for a rental is insane. I get that he had a great track record in the AL and had been on fire but does that make him worth Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, and CJ Edwards? I don’t think so but that’s just me.
Garza has gone 1-1 in three starts with an ERA of 2.85, which is nice and probably about what Texas had hoped for. That being said, he allowed 7 runs in those three starts after allowing only 6 runs total in his six starts leading up to the trade deadline. He’s already experiencing a regression. Those six starts were somewhat deceptive anyway. Four of those starts came against the Mets, Astros, Brewers, and White Sox (each of which are light-hitting to put it mildly).

Meanwhile, the Red Sox traded for Jake Peavy. Peavy was accompanied by a contract that extended through next year at least. The money is somewhat significant and it surely played a role but that was actually attractive to the Sox (having a player beyond two months). It cost them light-hitting Jose Iglesias and three prospects in lower minor league levels. Peavy has had only one start but it was a gem against Arizona where he gave up two runs in seven innings with 7 strikeouts. Really, he has been great this year with the exception of 3 starts where he gave up 6 runs in each of them. He has nine quality starts in 14 tries.

Is Matt Garza that much better than Peavy? Or did the Rangers overpay for him? The Red Sox gave up their 9th ranked prospect (per Baseball America), while the Rangers gave up their 2nd ranked and 5th ranked preseason prospects. I understand that Garza is battle tested but he is a rental! Two months for those kinds of prospects.  I just don’t understand it.

I realize that Matt Garza is pitching at an elite level up to this point this year but remember that is a small sample size and he was pitching in a much less hitter friendly ballpark than the place he is now. Just look at the following charts for more proof. Both pitchers have been hurt at times over the last two years so I averaged the numbers over 200 innings seasons to make comparisons easier.

Love to hear what you think!

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