Wednesday, June 5, 2013

IN EXILE: A Life without Ryan Braun



Felipe M

Well, the day has come.  After dodging plenty of bullets from Major League Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder, Ryan Braun will finally have to face hard time for his involvement with performance enhancing drugs.  

As a Ryan Braun owner, I have been offered plenty of trades for Braun over the past 2 years or so as my fellow owners saw the prime opportunity to acquire one of the best Major League hitters for a relatively low price, but have rejected them all as I have not, in my mind, would have received fair compensation for one of the best hitters in the Big Leagues.  The most recent offer was a straight up deal for a top 5 starting pitcher (a pitcher that is currently on the DL). I rejected it because I just don't think an elite, young pitcher with injury history would have helped my club this year or in the future (it is a keeper league, after all).  Probably the best thing to happen with this announcement is that owners will stop making offers for Braun.  Although, CBS fantasy baseball expert, Scott White is encouraging owners to "buy low" on Braun (doh!).  

So now what?  White explains that Braun might not be suspended any time soon, but I have a feeling that MLB will want to expedite this process as a warning to the rest of the players that PED use will not be tolerated when seemingly insurmountable evidence (and a cooperating plaintiff/witness) is looking at the Commissioner's Office's face and daring it not to come down with stiff penalties on the players involved.  

While all of that is going on, fantasy owners like me are left with a conundrum: how do we prepare for the day we lose a player of Braun's caliber?  Whether the suspension begins next year or next week, owners have to prepare for the worst.  In my specific situation, I already have a decent "Plan B" of sorts with having Josh Willingham on my team.  I can just insert Willingham to Braun's spot in LF for the remainder of the season.  I can also keep a close eye on a few, outfielders that might make for good replacements.  Since I'm in a league where we split the OF position into three parts (LF, CF, RF), I will now focus attention on 15 left fielders that may prove to be viable options to replace Braun in your lineup.  The "Owned" percentage is the number of leagues the player is owned in CBS fantasy leagues:

LEFT FIELDERS' Performance in Last 21 Days
Player
Owned
Abs
HR
BB
K
SB
Avg
OBP
SLG
Matt Joyce
75%
57
4
9
10
2
0.316
0.403
0.632
Josh Reddick
72%
21
0
1
1
0
0.286
0.318
0.381
Michael Brantley
64%
60
1
7
7
2
0.283
0.353
0.367
Alfonso Soriano
59%
56
2
3
14
1
0.268
0.323
0.429
Leonys Martin
41%
42
0
3
7
8
0.310
0.348
0.477
Michael Saunders
37%
66
0
8
26
3
0.167
0.257
0.227
David Murphy
33%
69
3
3
8
0
0.261
0.297
0.420
Juan Pierre
30%
52
1
3
4
4
0.231
0.310
0.289
Carlos Quentin
28%
49
2
6
8
0
0.347
0.421
0.592
David DeJesus
25%
57
1
2
11
1
0.263
0.312
0.386
Jackie Bradley
21%
17
1
0
3
0
0.294
0.294
0.588
J.D. Martinez
19%
71
3
3
20
1
0.296
0.324
0.465
Raul Ibanez
16%
65
7
2
16
0
0.277
0.299
0.646
Chris Coghlan
9%
68
1
5
11
0
0.353
0.405
0.559
Christian Yelich
32%
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Not a very impressive list of players, but it's a list that we can work with for the time being.  Rather than seeing a player's season-long makeup, I decided to look at a small, but more current sample size to better gauge a player's more recent performance.  Also, it will allow us to see how a current hot streak, or cold spell, will influence that player's ownership percentage.  

Right out of the gate, we see Matt Joyce owned in 75% of leagues and that number is climbing with his most recent, 3-week performance, highlighted by an OPS of 1.035.  The knock on Joyce is that he is a liability against left-handed pitchers, but owning a BB/K of .90 suggests that all-around better pitch selection might negate past performances against southpaws.  Whatever the case may be, if you're desperate for a power-hitter, Joyce might be the player you're looking for so I suggest you hop on the bandwagon before Joyce's ownership rate continues to soar to unreachable heights.  

Josh Reddick is coming back from injury, but his recent performance has not been very optimistic, save for a decent batting average of .286.  Reddick has struggled all season long, but the most glaring stat is that he only has 1 homerun.  On the bright side, he does have a BB/K of .58 in 2013 so perhaps that's a sign that he will eventually start crushing the ball.  At least that's the only explanation for having a relatively high ownership rate of 72%.

Michael Brantley has seen his own% climb in the last month or so.  He has continued to be consistent despite numbers in the past month showing that Brantley's performance was more fluke than real.  Brantley won't wow you with power numbers, but a good plate approach that utilizes his speed along with a really good on-base% makes Brantley a good (maybe temporary) choice in LF.  

Not the biggest Alfonso Soriano fan in the world.  59% is way too high for a guy that is diminishing before our eyes.  However, he still has some pop left in that old bat.  Matter of fact, he's on pace to be a 15-15 guy so that's something to hang your hat on.  Plus, he's found a way to make more consistent contact (hitting .270 is not too shabby for a guy with a 3-year average of .254) this year.  Again, Soriano would be part of some sort of platoon system when the matchup is in his favor.  

Normally, a guy that seems to be stuck on a season long platoon system wouldn't make the cut for fantasy baseball, but apparently, Leonys Martin might be getting more playing time as his high batting average and on-base% along with his speed should have many owners keeping a close eye on our #21 prospect from last season.  

Speaking of the Texas Rangers, by now, we should know what to expect from David Murphy.  But for some reason, Murphy has gone out of his way to show off his power, on pace to hit 20 homeruns this season.  However, the Murphy we know has a good plate approach and contact skills.  This newfound power stroke has killed his batting average and on-base%.  Murphy is not that kind of power-hitter as this has turned him into a mediocre player in fantasy circles.  If Murphy can go back to being more patient at the plate and driving the ball to the gap instead of trying to crush the ball into the stands, he can be fantasy relevant again.

J.D. Martinez is on this list as he (just like Murphy) has been one of the more productive, free agent LFs in the last 3 weeks.  Unlike Murphy, Martinez has shown very little skills that can translate well into fantasy baseball.  His .295 batting average in that span, despite the large number of strikeouts shows me that he's more fluke than anything and is not worth a roster spot on your club. 

So much for the Michael Saunders breakout year.  Seems after posting an article that praised Saunders' improved, all-around game, he went back to the Saunders that we have all known to hate in the last couple of seasons.  However, I'm not giving up on Saunders that easily.  Saunders went on a 2/19 slump and was benched by manager Eric Wedge on May 18th citing that the day off would help Saunders forget about the slump and described the OF as being "a bit worn down."  Well, the rest must not have worked as Saunders has struck out once every 2.5 at bats.  We explained that his aggressive approach was helping Saunders hit the ball hard, but it seems that his impatience is doing him in during his current slump.  If he can find a way to go back to taking more walks, I believe he can be a steal for 2013.  Like Saunders, owners will have to continue to be patient with him. 
Look at that cut!
(photo courtesy of Mike McCann's Field of Fotos)

The Miami Marlins have an interesting situation brewing in their OF.  With the club struggling and their OF looking weak, cries for the call-up of uber-prospect, Christian Yelich are getting louder and louder.  Our 2012, 88th ranked prospect, Yelich is getting plenty of notice from real and fantasy baseball realms alike as fans anxiously wait to see if his skills can translate well into the Big Leagues.  With so many prospects already making noise with their recent call-ups, baseball fans are impatiently demanding that the Marlins do the same with Yelich.  However, the Marlins are in no hurry to bring up the young Yelich as Juan Pierre is currently doing what Juan Pierre does best: hustling his way on base to attain a lot of stolen bases (currently on pace to steal 44 bases) despite possessing a low batting average and on-base%.  

Chris Coghlan is a more interesting player to pay attention to.  His recent tear is too hard to ignore and have contributed immensely to an overall batting average of .285.  It's also reminiscent to his successful 2009 rookie campaign.  So if he can continue to display his contact skills, he might be worth a flyer on your team.  He also might give the Marlins a reason to not call-up Yelich anytime soon.  

Nevertheless, since I'm in a keeper league and Braun's suspension might take effect later this season (or even for the start of next season), I went ahead and picked up Yelich as a long-term solution.  The joys and luxuries of having a Minor League slot available in your roster!

For those that don't have an open Minor League slot on your rosters, we march on.

Carlos Quentin might be one of the most frustrating players to own, especially this season, but the time to get him dirt cheap might be running out.  Quentin has always had a good approach at the plate and a power bat to go with it.  Injuries have always played a role with him, but he looks to be healthy for once and finally getting in a comfortable groove.  A good long-term solution at the LF spot that you will find at less than 30% ownership.

David DeJesus' only good attribute is his ability to make solid contact with the ball.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Owners might be suckered into picking him up because he's on pace to hit close to 15 homeruns, but in the last three weeks, that power has not been transparent and the 11 strikeouts in his last 57 at bats has hurt his contact ability, resulting in poor batting average and on-base%.  He really should have ZERO fantasy value, but owners continue to like him for irrational reasons.

The darling of spring training, Jackie Bradley wasted no time in reminding fans why he was able to win a spot with the Boston Red Sox Opening Day roster.  17 at bats is a really tiny sample to decipher anything, but Bradley had a good approach in the Minors and has enough contact skills to not hurt you with strikeouts (which affect batting average).  He has some pop and enough raw speed to be a base stealing threat.  Bradley has potential to be that long-term solution to your OF so I wouldn't be against the idea of picking him up right away while he's still available.  

Finally, Raul Ibanez has been on a hitting tear, hitting 7 dingers in the last 3 weeks.  He's also struck out 16 times and owns a terrible on-base% of .299.  Ibanez is on pace to hitting 30 homeruns for the season.  Ibanez has always been an underrated hitter, but I cannot believe that a 41 year-old  can suddenly hit 30 homeruns after displaying a 3-year average of 18.  Or perhaps the fences at Safeco Field have helped Ibanez's power stroke.  Either way, his poor approach all season is enough to help me decide to stay clear away from this guy.  For those roto-leaguers that only care (or are desperate) for homeruns, by all means, have at it. 

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