Friday, May 9, 2008

The Buzz Around the Bullpen: Studs or Duds?

Welcome back to another edition of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. There have been some major “risers” and “fallers” during my two-week hiatus. While guys like Chipper Jones continue to mash and put up extraordinary numbers, we’ve seen guys like Mark Reynolds and Joe Crede come back to earth. This is typical every year and as we pass through the month of May, the studs will continue to distinguish themselves from the fantasy duds. Last time, I talked about guys like Greg Smith and Joey Votto. I hope you took a flier on these guys. Both of these guys had two good weeks and they could be on the verge of establishing themselves as consistent fantasy contributors. However, I cannot ignore my huge miss with Rich Hill. It is hard to believe Hill has fallen so hard, so fast. This guy was the future of the Cubbies staff and at times last year, he certainly looked like he could pitch in the front-end of that staff. His last outing before his demotion was difficult to watch. Something tells me this is not the last we hear of Rich Hill. He has entirely too much potential and after some bullpen sessions and some tinkering with his delivery, look for Hill to end up in the Bigs by the end of the year. But for now, let’s focus on some guys that could help you in the immediate future.

Big Hits

Milton Bradley (OF, Texas Rangers): Before talking about any of his fantasy numbers, I cannot ignore the irony in Milton Bradley being one of the “peacemakers” in the Richie Sexson brawl last night. This is the same guy who managed to tear his ACL while arguing a call with an umpire last year. While no one has ever doubted Bradley’s ability, his attitude has always been what has held him back. Still recovering from his knee injury last year, Bradley has found a home in Texas. The first thing I love about Bradley is he is a hitter with some power potential and he plays in Texas. If you take a look at his numbers last year, in a little over 200 ABs, he had 13 HRs, 30 RBIs and was hitting right around .300. Although Bradley has only 4HRs in 111 ABs this year, look for him to heat up as we roll into the summer in Texas. According to reports, he knee still is not 100% yet and when he does fully recover, that can only help his power numbers. Take a chance on Milton if you need some help in the OF. Assuming he can stay out of trouble, Bradley would be a nice addition that could pay huge dividends as his power numbers increase.

Brad Hawpe (OF, Colorado Rockies): I have been a Hawpe owner the past two years and actually went out this week and made a move for him. Hawpe is often overshadowed in Colorado by superstar Matt Holliday. His numbers have been very ordinary thus far but look for Hawpe to heat up in May. Last year, Hawpe hit .256 with 1 HR and 10 RBIs in April. Those are very similar numbers to this April when he hit .239 with 1 HR and 8 RBIs. After he struggled in April last year, he recovered to finish the year hitting .291 with 29 HRs and 116 RBIs. If you take away the national attention he got as a result of his team’s amazing run last season, Hawpe hit the most “overlooked” 29 HRs in the league last year. Try and make a move now before the casual owner realizes he was not just a “one hit wonder”.

Robinson Cano (2B, New York Yankees): This guy has been one of the biggest surprises in the league thus far. After last night’s HR, Cano is right on pace for his 18-22HRs that most people expected. However, his owners could not have expected his .172 AVG. In the past two years, Cano has hit .342 and .306. As much as I’d love to take credit for seeing this, “Baseball Tonight” broke down his swing the other night and it made perfect sense. Right now, Cano is lifting his front leg and before he gets his front foot back on the ground, his hands are already drifting away from him and he is committing to the ball. Basically, Cano is hitting off one leg and on top of that, he is virtually guessing on every pitch. This would explain why his pitch selection has been so poor. A guy that hits over .300 just doesn’t forget the strike zone along with his approach at the plate. Once Cano can get his swing in sync again, his pitch selection and approach at the plate will vastly improve. If Cano is able to get his front side down, he can keep his hands back longer and be a little more selective. With that, look for Cano’s numbers to rise significantly.

Honorable Mention

Take a look at a couple of these guys…and no, Paul Bako is not a typo.

Freddie Sanchez (2B, Pittsburgh Pirates): (.254, 1 HR, 13 RBIs, 14 runs)
Paul Bako (C, Cincinnati Reds): (.310, 4 HR, 12 RBIs, 11 runs)
Garrett Olson (SP, Baltimore Orioles): (1-0, 2.08 ERA, 13 Ks, 1.08 WHIP)
Fred Lewis (OF, San Francisco Giants): (.303, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs, 20 runs, 5 SBs)
Ronny Cedano (SS/2B, Chicago Cubs): (.345, 1 HR, 18 RBIs, 14 runs, 2 SBs)
Blake DeWitt (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): (.306, 2 HRs, 18 RBIs, 15 runs, 1 SB)

Big Misses

Barry Zito (SP, San Francisco Giants): Normally I’d see a guy like Barry Zito on the waiver wire and jump all over him. After seeing Zito pitch the other night against Pittsburgh, I’d avoid him like the plague. Some were saying that he had an encouraging start and maybe this was a sign of things to come. The Pirates have a knack for always giving an opposing pitcher that “encouraging start”. Although his numbers were not bad, it was not his line that I was concerned with. As much as I hate to say it, Zito is done. Unless Zito can reinvent himself, his current approach just won’t work anymore. Whether his work ethic changed after his big pay-day or he has simply lost arm strength, his velocity is awful. Zito was never a power pitcher in Oakland but he relied on a consistent fastball that was enough to keep hitters off balance with that ridiculous curveball. The other night in Pittsburgh, Zito was occasionally hitting 86-87 mph but was pitching at about 83-85 mph. Unless your name is Greg Maddux or Mike Myers, that is not going to cut it. His lack of arm speed has also made his once dominant breaking-ball a bit more ordinary. Stay away at all costs and unless Zito can reinvent himself, I believe Zito’s best days are well behind him.

Nick Swisher (1B,OF Chicago White Sox): While no one ever thought Nick Swisher would challenge for a batting title, talk about another guy who left his best days in Oakland. Swisher’s decline started last year in Oakland where his game dropped off and he did not come close to his 2006 numbers. Once again, Swisher has started slow hitting .200 with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs. Even during his best season in 2006, Swisher only hit .254 but he made up for that with 35 HRs. Now that his power numbers have fallen off, that .254 AVG is a little tougher to deal with as a fantasy owner. Assuming Swisher will most likely hit around his 22 HRs from last year, you’re going to be able to find someone who can put up similar or better power numbers with a much better average. Although he is stroking this year, someone like Xavier Nady who had a very modest season last year hit 20HRs with a .278 AVG. There are many examples out there but don’t be sold on the Swisher name. Go out and find someone a little less talked about that will actually give you more bang for your buck.

Lastings Milledge (OF, Washington Nationals): Once the golden boy of the New York Mets organization, Milledge has been extremely mediocre this season. Milledge was viewed as a “sexy” pick in both of my drafts this year. Owners thought maybe he was a guy that just needed a change of scenery. While his potential cannot be argued with, as long as he has his attitude he’ll never be a star. His effort to catch the “walk off” line drive the other night was nothing short of disgusting. This guy truly believes he is bigger than the game and the New York Mets made a great move by trading Milledge for Ryan Church an Brian Schneider. With over 7 HRs in less than 200 ABs last year, owners projected Milledge to be a 20-25 HR guy this season. Right now, this kid has a hard enough time showing up to the ballpark on time so don’t expect too much out of Milledge. Maybe someone in your league believes this kid can turn it around. That’s perfect…let him be dead weight on their team.

As with all SportsJudge articles, please feel free to post some comments. Until next time, make sure you listen for the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”.

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Anonymous said...

Your write as though you have the background of a poet. Id just like to thank you for putting in the hours and finally making a fantasy blog worth reading. I put two hours to the side every monday night so I can get in some good blogging to buzz around the bull pen. I can't wait to see what this season has in store for your writing. Do you think Chipper Jones is going to stay at .400 pace? do you think Brandon Webb can win 30 games? Catch you next week.

Scott said...

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you....first off thank you for the compliments....I believe comparing a fantasy blog to that of a poet is a far as your questions....I do not believe Chipper Jones can hit .400 this year. Matter of fact, I don't see any hitter in baseball right now that is capable of sustaining such an impressive average over the course of 162 games. Tony Gwynn was the last guy that had the tools to do it and unfortunately he feel short several times.
As far as B-Webb, I do not think he can win 30 games either. Don't get me wrong..his stuff is absolutely unhittable right now..but winning 30 games is so much more than just pitching well. You need run support, good health throughout the year and basically some good old plan luck. He is bound to lose some 1-0, 2-1 heartbreakers as the year goes on. I look for Webb to finish somewhere around the 23-26 win mark. Thank you for you comments/questions. I'm glad you enjoy the website.