July 17, 2009

Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in my attempt, weak as it might be, to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore (my email address is listed at the bottom of the piece if you wish to drop me a line).

I'm nervous that a Roy Halladay trade might send my ace to the NL since I play in an AL-only league? I've been offered Cliff Lee for him. Should I accept?--Steve, Los Banos, Calif.

The dreaded trade deadline in league specific scenarios likely has a lot of owners losing sleep. Honestly, I have no idea if Halladay will be moved to the NL, another AL team or stay in the only home he has ever known in Toronto, so this is really, really a tough question to give any substantive advice on. Let's pull away from baseball and attack the question thusly.

What kind of person are you?

A. You have a 30-year mortgage on your house because you like stability.

B. You have an adjustable rate mortgage so you can pay a lower rate today. You'll worry about what it might adjust to five years from now when the rate starts to change.

C. You rent because you are worried about property values continuing to tank.

If you chose (A) of (C), you likely should deal Holiday as the risk of keeping him and ending up with nothing might make you go bald like a certain writer you all know. If you chose (B), let's investigate further.

Halladay (10-3, 2.85 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) is one of the best pitchers in baseball, period. Since the start of the 2005 season he is second in baseball in victories (74), fourth in ERA (3.05), third in base runners per nine innings (10.18) and first in baseball in K/BB (4.43). The man could pitch in Hawaii while wearing flip flops and drinking Blue Hawaiians in the dugout between innings and he would still be a stud. However, if he is moved to the NL you'll have nothing to show for it (risk/reward).

As for Lee, he has performed pretty darn well despite his poor record of 5-9. He has an ERA of 3.31 this season, the eighth best mark in the AL, and if we remove his first two starts of the year that number dips to 2.79 which is pretty darn close to his 2.54 mark of last season. Lee's K/rate has fallen a bit from last season to 6.55 while his walk rate (2.18 BB/9) has climbed as well, but his resulting K/BB rate of 3.00 is still strong. He also continues to be very miserly with the home run ball (0.60 HR/9) and that bodes well for keeping that ERA down. In addition, Lee has actually been a bit unlucky at times as his current BABIP of .334 would be a career worst mark (his previous high was .315 in 2004). This all seems to hint that Lee should continue to be very productive the rest of the season.

So do you make the move? Again, it just depends on which category you fall into. If it was me I would roll the dice and hold on to Holliday -- hardly a surprise consider my home mortgage falls into section (B).

I need help all over the place since everyone on my team seems to be hurt. I was offered Scott Rolen and Freddy Sanchez for David Wright who has struggled with only five home runs. Should I accept the offer?--Jeremy, Colorado

A nice 2-for-1 deal can really help a club with holes, but you have to be careful who that "one" is that you are giving up. Wright is clearly the most talented player in the group, and don't forget that a few months ago Wright was a top-5 overall pick, Sanchez likely a 15th rounder and Rolen, he was probably only taken as a last resort when someone needed a corner infielder in the 20th round. Three and half months of games don't render those decisions invalid.

Rolen is hitting .320, thanks to an unsustainable line drive rate of over 26 percent. Why do I say that? Well, not only is his career mark 22 percent, Rolen hasn't posted a mark of even 21 percent in three years. As a result his hit rate has led to a .345 BABIP, .031 points above his career mark, and the first time since 2004 that the number has been even .310. Given that his power has never returned due to all those shoulder issues, Rolen has only six homers on the year, where is the value here? In addition, the man has just 35 RBI on the year or less than a guy like Joe Crede (40 RBI). When that batting average recedes, and it will, you'll be left with a borderline corner infield play in mixed leagues.

Sanchez is in much the same boat as Rolen, though with Freddy his value is likely more significant because he plays second base. Leading the position with a .316 average, Sanchez owns a career .302 batting average, so it's no surprise to see him north of .300 at the moment. Sanchez also has a career best five steals though with his recent lower back issues you shouldn't expect him to push double-digits this season. The average is legit and certainly of value, but at the same time we are talking about a guy with a career-high of 11 home runs and no speed, so you have to keep what he brings to the table in perspective. A nice complimentary part for sure, but not someone to lead a club.

So would I take this deal? Absolutely not. Wright is hitting .323 and is well on pace for a third straight 100-run campaign. The lack of power continues to be puzzling as men that hit at least 26 homer runs 4-straight years don't normally struggle to reach double-digits. Still, common sense says that Wright will have a nice power run in the second half. After all, the man owns a 14.2 percent HR/F rate in his career so there is no way we can expect him to continue to flounder along at 5.5 percent. He may have "modified" his swing a bit to take advantage of his new home park, but I'm not buying that he has suddenly turned into Scott Rolen at the dish. One facet of Wright's game that still sets him apart is his speed on the bases which has led to 20 steals, the third time in four years he has reached that level. 2009 may not go down as one of Wright's finest season when we look back at his career, but he is still infinitely more valuable than the other two men in this discussion.

I need help in my outfield, and my options are awful. Would you add John Bowker, Chris Young or Jeremy Hermida?--Oliver, Toronto

John Bowker only has value in NL-only leagues at the moment. The Giants are currently going with and outfield of Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand and on most days Nate Schierholtz. They still have Fred Lewis around as well, so Bowker likely won't get much of a look there. He could see time at first base, but Travis Ishikawa has finally started to hit with a .279 average and six bombs in his last 26 games. Bowker destroyed Triple-A pitching prior to his call up hitting .347 with 17 homers and 63 RBI in 80 games, but there just isn't a spot for him in the everyday lineup.

Hermida is the ultimate tease, kind of like that hottie in high school that flirted with you long enough to get you to write her paper on Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Though he hit .296 in 2007, Hermida has batted just .250 over his last 804 ABs, and that isn't going to get the job done. He has also failed to hit even 19 home runs in a season, a pace he is just below again this year with 10 homers in 302 at-bats. We are also looking at a season of something like 65 RBI and 65 runs from Hermida, far from exciting levels of production. He should surpass his career-high of six steals, he has five, but really, can you get excited by a potential .250-18-65-65-10 season? I sure can't.

That leaves you with Chris Young, the worst performer of the group as of this writing, but at the same time the most athletically gifted option with the highest upside. Currently hitting an anemic .196, this former 25/25 force hasn't even been relevant in deep NL-only leagues to this point with only six homer and 11 steals, hardly enough to augment that tortuous batting average. There might still be some hope though. Young has been "unlucky," it's about the only conclusion that can be drawn when his 18.2 percent line drive rate has produced a mere .250 BABIP mark. He is also walking more than ever before, though his whiff rate is also a career-high. Still, his BB/K mark of 0.45 is a three year high -- at least that is positive. In addition, Young is only converting 6.1 percent of his fly balls into home runs, an almost 50 percent reduction from his career 12 percent rate. If that measure bounces back to "normal" Young could start to jack a whole bunch of balls the rest of the way. He likely won't reach 20/20 this season with his slow start, but he still has the largest upside, by far, of this trio.

I thought Todd Helton was washed up? Can I count on him in the second half?--Dave, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Helton had a boatload of concerns coming into the year after producing the worst effort of his career last year (.264-7-29 in 299 ABs), but honestly there was only one thing that mattered -- his health. Last year his back basically gave out on him, and the results where horrible. Apparently back healthy (pardon the pun), Helton is once again stinging the ball hitting .327 with a strong hit rate which can be read about in BABIP -- Skill vs. Luck. In addition to the average climbing back to his career level (.328), Helton has even seen some of his power return as he has produced the best HR/F rate of the past four years at 11.4 percent, just below his 12.3 percent career mark. That still doesn't mean he should be looked at as anything more than a potential 20-HR threat, after all his fly ball rate is at it's lowest mark this century and five percentage points below his career 39 percent mark. Though you may not buy it, there still seems to be some room for growth from Helton who currently is sporting a BB/K mark of 0.88. The last time that mark was below 1.00 was in 2001. His first half this year clearly proves that he isn't "washed up" in the least, as long as his back stays strong (fingers crossed).

With the Royals picking up Yuniesky Betancourt in a deal to play shortstop, I'm afraid that the club will take some at-bats from Alberto Callaspo at second, and he has been a great help to my batting average. Think it would make sense to deal him for Brendan Harris who has similar numbers?--Michael

We must be sharing a mental connection of some sort as I was thinking the same thing in an Impact Report that I wrote during the All-Star break on Betancourt. There are still a lot of moving parts in K.C. -- will Alex Gordon be able to play the majority of games or will his operated on hip hold him back? Will the club still try to heavily involve utility man Willie Bloomquist? Where will they slot Mark Teahen? I can see Callaspo losing some at-bats, but at the same time Callaspo does lead the team with a .298 average so I don't think his playing time dries up. Still, the man has hit just .275 since the start of May with no speed (one steal), so his hold on fantasy relevance is slipping.

Over in Minnesota, with the continued struggles of Nick Punto to stay healthy and productive (he is hitting an awful .201 in 179 at-bats), Harris has been finding his way to a lot of at-bats. The club recently recalled Alexei Casilla (.180 in 111 at-bats) who could figure into playing time at second, so this is a somewhat fluid situation as well. Regardless, Harris (.275-5-26-30 in 273 ABs) continues to produce at the same level he has since the start of the 2007 season, and that means he certainly has value in AL-only leagues. He isn't likely to break out, but he does offer slightly more pop than Callaspo, though neither is a threat on the base paths. It also bears keeping in mind that Harris has been a stud at home hitting .318 with four homers while being a used Ace bandage on the road (.224 with one home run).

I would prefer Harris as he likely qualifies at second, third and shortstop in almost every league, so that versatility should be enough to push him into the top spot over Callaspo.

You May Like