What's the deal with this Garrett Jones kid? I can keep him for $5 in an NL-only league next season, and at that price it's a no-brainer to hold on to him, right? --Ryan, Brownsville, Texas
Flat out, the guy has been a huge find this season for the Pirates and for those that took a shot on waivers in fantasy leagues when they needed a boost in their outfield. In just 48 games Jones has gone deep 15 times with 30 RBIs. He is also hitting .291 with a .961 OPS; and for good measure, he has tossed in eight steals. For those of you counting at home, the pace that Jones has set would result in something like 45 home runs and 25 steals over the course of a full season (hello, Mark Reynolds). Is it reasonable to expect even 50 percent of that level of production from Jones in 2010?
After bursting on the scene with a .310 average and 10 home runs in July, things have predictably slowed in August for Jones, but he has still hit .270 with five homers and a .849 OPS on the month. Regardless, the concerns are pretty obvious with this guy. Jones has been effective in the minors, he has three 20-HR seasons and a 31-HR effort in 2004; but it still strains credibility a bit to think that he will be able to maintain his current HR/F rate of 26 percent over the course of a season. In addition, despite being a known slugger, he actually doesn't send as many balls skyward as you might expect with a G/F rate of 1.05. While that might enable him to keep his batting average from falling off the table, that fact is mitigated a bit when you consider that he does strike out a fair bit with more than one whiff every five at-bats. In addition, the man is 28 years old, and it isn't very often that a guy spends basically five years at Triple-A and then all of sudden puts it all together. Lastly, though he has a combined 22 steals this season, Jones hasn't been in double-digits in steals since 2004, so it's a safe bet that what we are seeing here is a bit of an anomaly.
With the way the Pirates are reshaping their roster, there is no way to know what will happen with Jones. Will he remain with the club? Will he be given a chance at a full-time gig (Lastings Milledge and Andrew McCutchen have two of the outfield jobs locked down, and if Jeff Clement impresses in a September callup, he could enter next year as the starter at first base)? There is a lot of uncertainty here, but given his relatively inexpensive tab for next season, if I had to make the call today, I would say that he would certainly be worth holding on to at the $5 level.
Grady Sizemore has been much better after a really bad start to the year. Do you see him as a top-10 pick next year if he stays healthy the rest of this season?-- Josh, Chandler, Arizona
Great question. Sizemore has dealt with a wonky elbow for most of the season, and after roundly being regarded as a top-10 overall selection heading into the season he has failed to live up to those expectations (.250-18-62-71-13 in 412 ABs). However, there are more than a few reasons to be intrigued about a possible return to the top of the fantasy class in 2010.
Obviously, Sizemore has finally started to hit much better. Over his last 140 at-bats he is batting .279 with a .834 OPS, numbers that mirror his career work (.276 and .853). Secondly, though his overall home run total will be down, don't let that fool you. Sizemore has an 11.9 percent fly ball rate this season, just slightly below his 12.6 percent career mark. In fact, at his current rate of one home runs per 22.9 ABs Sizemore would go deep about 27 times if he picked up his normal 625 ABs. Moreover, his rate per at-bat levels in RBI and runs scored would result in 94 RBI and 108 runs over the course of our hypothetical 625-AB season. Considering that he averaged 27 HRs, 81 RBIs and 116 runs the past four years, his currently level of production really is pretty much a dead on match this season, it's just that the overall numbers won't be there because of a lack of at-bats. About the only obvious down turn in his production is in the batting average and steal categories. I'm willing to give Sizemore a bit of rope given the injury situation, and I still fully believe he is a 25-steal guy moving forward. As for the average, perhaps this is where the elbow issue has had the most profound effect. Sizemore has posted the worst LD-rate of his career (17.4 percent), more than three points below his career level (20.6), and as a result he is also working on a career worst hit rate of .280 (his career BABIP is .318). If that normalizes moving forward, as it should, the average should return to the .270-280 range.
So is Sizemore in my top-10 for 2010? I think it's a bit premature to make that claim at this point, but I can tell you that he will certainly merit strong consideration for inclusion at the end of the first round in deep mixed leagues come draft day 2010.
What's wrong with Matt Wieters? I listened to all the experts who said he was going to be the next Joe Mauer and I'm sitting here with some pretty terrible numbers to show for it.-- Miguel, Wichita, Kansas
Yes, the Savior, aka the Messiah, has failed to deliver the goods as they say in his first year with the Orioles (.263-5-22 in 228 ABs). While some were predicting that Wieters would hit .280 with 15 home runs this season, you won't find that kind of prediction anywhere in the literature from this writer. Hitting a baseball is still the hardest thing to do in sports, and I don't care how amazingly gifted you are, it just takes time to work your way into success at the major league level (Albert Pujols aside).
So what has gone "wrong" with Wieters? One of the obvious differences from his year and a half of domination in the minors is the fact that he has pretty much stopped walking. With a minor league walks rate of about 15 percent, Wieters has managed to work the count for a free pass at a 6.6 percent rate with the Orioles. As a result, his superb 0.96 BB/K mark from the minors has fallen all the way to 0.31 in 228 ABs with the Orioles as major league pitchers have found ways to get him out. A secondary issue has been an inability to hit left-handed pitching as he owns a mere .217/.273/.315 mark in 92 such at-bats. Unless he shows an ability to hit better than a backup 36-year-old middle infielder, it will be hard for him to post impressive offensive numbers.
Long-term, Wieters will be fine. The talent is still there and all of those predictions of impressive work at the dish will almost certainly come to fruition, and in a big way. The question is will he be able to flash that production in 2010 or will he need a bit more time to really breakthrough at the major league level?
Mike MacDougal has been great in August. Should the Nationals continue to count on him in 2010? -- Robert, Raleigh, North Carolina
When your team has the worst record in baseball (46-82) you simply don't give up on guys who throw 96 mph. MacDougal has a club option for 2010 ($3.75 million) which includes a $350,00 buyout if the option isn't exercised. The Nationals would be crazy not to pick up that contract for next season when you consider that MacD is 14-for-15 in converting saves this season for the Nats while posting a 1.98 ERA in 36.1 innings with the club. Mike has clearly been a difference maker for those who picked him up off waivers.
At the same time, that doesn't mean that MacDougal doesn't have his share of issues despite the sterling ERA and fantastic save conversion rate.
(1) Though he throws so hard MacD has only produced a 5.09 K/9 rate, a shockingly low number actually. He owns a 7.68 mark in his career but since the start of the 2008 season that number is just 5.46.
(2) Not only has he failed to produce strikeouts, he has also continued to walk seemingly every third guy he faces with a putrid 5.98 BB/9 mark this season (his career mark isn't much better at 4.64).
(3) Therefore, the man owns a 0.85 K/BB mark this year, and if you'll remember from above in the Vicente Padilla question (below) the major league average is 2.00 this season. Yeah, this is one ugly number and sooner or later the bottom will fall out on Mike if he continues to pitch like this.
His one saving grace has been his ability to induce the groundball, his 2.71 G/F ratio is very strong, and it has enabled him to limit his HR/9 mark to just 0.44.
The bottom line is that MacDougal appears to be pitching on borrowed time unless he starts to generate more swing and misses while showing better control of the strike zone. Unless he does both of those things he makes a poor bet to continue at this rate of success in 2010.
I'm desperate for pitching in my NL-only league and I picked up Vincente Padilla off the waiver-wire. Will my desperation end with the move?-- Scott, Arizona
Yes, rostering Padilla qualifies as desperate. In his first start in the blue and white he picked up the "W" after lasting five innings while surrendering two runs, but honestly, that is likely the best that it is going to get with this righty. Facts are facts, and they signify that Padilla is nothing more than a league average arm (at best).
This season Padilla owns a 4.86 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and a 1.47 K/BB mark. All of those marks are below the major league average (4.35 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 2.00 K/BB). Not good.
Secondly, his K/9 mark of 5.02 is also terrible and well below the 6.94 major league mark. In addition, it is more than a full batter below his career rate (6.14) and it is also the worst mark of his career.
On the plus side he is working on his best groundball to fly ball rate (1.56) in seven years, which when coupled with pitching in a solid pitcher's venue in Los Angeles should allow him to maintain a reasonably effective presence on the mound.
Regardless, I just can't find a reason to get excited about his addition in NL-only leagues unless you are simply desperate for innings and a shot at a few wins.
To email Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at email@example.com.