Happy day before Thanksgiving. Here are some good articles to tide you over for the holiday.
- First off, Matt Kemp was robbed. Now that I've got my homerism out of the way, here's an article from The Hardball Times' Derek Ambrosino about overall fantasy rankings and where Kemp fits in for next season.
Overall, I was expecting to see more luck involved in Kemp’s 2011 than I actually found. The biggest red flag is accompanied by some mitigating circumstances. I was a bit worried when I saw that Kemp had a .380 BABIP, which led the league. On the other hand, Kemp has had an abnormally high BABIP every season except 2010.
He consistently posts plus line drive rates and low pop up rates, which sums out to a career .351 BABIP. However, he still strikes out a ton. Additionally, his homer-to-flyball rate, which has been steadily climbing, took a real jump last year.
Some may argue that this coincides with his physical prime, but I’m not buying all of it. I don’t think he’s a yearly 40 HR threat and I think .290-.310 is a much more reasonable expectation for future batting averages. His walk rate did improve, but that was due entirely to an increase in intentional walks. In fact, in the past three seasons, Kemp has seen an almost identical number of pitches per plate appearance: 3.96, 3.96, and 3.92, respectively.
Even with a bit of regression expected, Kemp is still an extremely valuable and rightly sought-after fantasy asset.
- With the signing of Joe Nathan, the Rangers have decided that Neftali Feliz deserves a shot as a starter. This doesn't sound like an inherently bad idea as they successfully made a similar move with CJ Wilson in 2010.
However, as Mike Podhorzer of FanGraphs points out,
starters typically lose two to three miles per hour off their fastball after making the conversion from a reliever. Feliz averaged 96.3 MPH with his fastball the last two years, so he still should end up averaging around 94.0 miles per hour, which is excellent. Next, let’s assume that Feliz’s K% would have rebounded to around 25% next year. Since pitchers lose about 15%-20% of their K% upon moving from the bullpen into the rotation, Feliz is looking at a strikeout rate of around 8.0.
Along with a K/9 decline, Feliz’s BB% and BB/9 should improve as well. Applying the same 15%-20% drop to an expected 2012 walk rate as a reliever (let’s go with 3.4) gives us a rate around 2.8. His batted ball profile may change as he has thrown around 80% fastballs the last two seasons. Obviously, that is not going to happen as a starter. This could increase his ground ball rate a bit, which will be important in the summer heat. Still, he will remain a fly ball pitcher, but maybe not as extreme as he was as a reliever.
So Feliz should be pretty good. With the Rangers' offense behind him, he'll certainly get plenty of run support. I'd say he's worth a flier. As a bonus, Podhorzer wrote an article on what you can expect from Chris Sale in the White Sox 2012 rotation.
- Speaking of guys named Mike who write for FanGraphs, Mike Axisa continued his 2012 keeper rankings with the first tier of First Basemen.
- Also at FanGraphs, Jeff Zimmerman did an interesting analysis of batted ball distances to see who may be a breakout power hitter for 2012. One player who Zimmerman cites as a potential breakout hitter for next season is Josh Willingham:
Generally his fly balls were to center field in the past, but he really began to turn on them in 2011. Oakland may have been the worst place for him to be productive. If he moves to a hitter friendly park, watch out.
- For those of you grasping for straws in the relief pitching market (which is everyone right?) Roto Hardball recommends keeping an eye on Oakland's Fautino De Los Santos for saves if Andrew Bailey gets dealt and holds if he doesn't.
- Speaking of the relief market, Roto Hardball's BJ Maack writes about Aroldis Chapman's shoulder issues and their potential impact on his starting potential for 2012 (hint: shoulder problems mean he shouldn't be starting in 2012).
- And to finish us up, a couple of articles on expectations for some youngsters who got late-season 2011 call-ups. First, Razzball says that Jesus Montero will be an offensive monster in 2012 but that may come with a grain of salt:
I don’t think he sees time at catcher, which will mean he has no catcher eligibility. He only was behind the plate three times last year with 14 times as a DH. Makes him a DH in Yahoo and ESPN leagues. So the question is when will he see 5 games for the catcher eligibility? He may not for a couple of months. I know I wouldn’t start him behind the plate if I were trying to win games, which I think is still the point of baseball and not having the most amusing or patriotic 7th inning stretch. For 2012, I see a line of 70/20/85/.290. Still terrific, but it would be more terrific (terrific-er?) if he sees more time at catcher (more catcherer?).
So, if you need a utility player, Jesus may be the answer but not if you need a catcher.
In 2011 he posted a HR/FB of 20.6%, a number that is almost impossible for him to replicate. He has some pop, but not quite at that rate. Don’t expect as many home runs in 2012 (maybe in the 15-20 range), which is going to lead to more balls put in play. His only saving grace would be an improvement in the luck department, which would not be unreasonable. Unfortunately, it also is far form a given.
Go into the year figuring around a .275 average would be about the upper level of his limits. If he does anything better than that, it’s a bonus, but the potential is also there for him to do far worse.
When you put it all together you end up with an awfully valuable option at second base or as a middle infielder. The power surge could cause some people to over reach for him, so keep that in perspective before selecting him on draft day. However, picking him anywhere in the 10-15 range among second baseman is more than reasonable. At that spot, a 15/15+ option at second base should reap you plenty of reward.
In other words, Jason Kipnis is a nice, upper middle of the road 2B option who a lot of people will treat as better than that. Know what you are getting in 2012 with Kipnis and you'll be happy. Don't expect 2011 to repeat itself but he'll still provide decent power as well as some decent speed.