Catching up on the latest Hot Stove happenings going down around baseball.
The Rangers have inked Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year pact, but most fantasy owners don't seem to care. He's falling past the 20th round in mock drafts, but is a tremendous value pick that late.
Guerrero certainly has his weaknesses. He played just four games in the outfield last year, limiting him to the DH/Utility role in most formats. Also, a lot of his peripheral numbers were career worst, or close, in 2009. strikeout percentage (13.8), BB% (4.7), AB/HR (25.5), secondary average (.217), isolated power (.164); the man recorded some alarmingly bad stats. Injuries and age (35 in February) have affected the Vladiator's game, but there are some numbers that support a bounce back in 2010. His balls in-play percentage (IP%) of 77% shows that he's still making contact at a Vlad-like rate. In fact, it's only the second time he's reached that mark in the last 12 years. That doesn't tickle your fancy? How about the fact that his line drive percentage (19%) was as good or better than it's been in the last five years? Still not sold? Let's roll off his career stats at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark: .394 batting average/.471 on base percentage/.705 slugging percentage, 14 HRs, 33 runs batted in, 38 runs in 193 at-bats.
Even with a relatively small sample size, those are diesel numbers. If you think that those numbers are simply the result of "old" Vlad production, it should be noted that he did pretty well in Texas last year, too (.440 BA/.500 OBP/.640 SLG in 25 at-bats). In a Rangers lineup teeming with talent, he should have the opportunity to drive in runs.
The bottom line is this: Guerrero is one of the greatest hitters of our generation and it's perfectly reasonable to believe he has another 30 HR/100 RBI season left in him now that he's taking his act to Texas. Considering people were taking David Ortiz in the sixth round of fantasy leagues last year, Vlad makes perfect sense as a late-round snag.
• Carlos DL-tran: Carlos Beltran underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week and fantasy owners should be afraid to go near him. Not only will he miss Opening Day, but since he's only expected to resume baseball activities after 12 weeks, fantasy owners may not see him until June (or later). This is the same knee that forced Beltran to miss 81 games last year. Fantasy owners have to be very concerned about his prospects for 2010. I'm usually the guy who advises people to take a chance on an elite talent coming off surgery (see: Alex Rodriguez and Chase Utley in 2009), but Beltran has had chronic injury issues throughout his career, and is too risky to trust since he relies so heavily on his legs as a center-fielder and stolen base threat. Keep in mind that last year a "knee bruise" was what kept him out for so long. If a simple bruise could do that kind of damage to Beltran, who knows how his body will respond to surgery? I'm only willing to spend a draft pick on him after I've filled out my outfield. Unfortunately, his name value will probably get him drafted in the middle rounds of most leagues. Do yourself a favor -- avoid this headache.
• Adam Bombs: After foolishly turning down a two-year, $17.5 million dollar deal from the Giants, Adam LaRoche has found a home. The Diamondbacks are paying LaRoche $4.5 million in 2010 with a mutual option for $7.5 million in 2011 (or a $1.5 million buyout). LaRoche and his agent obviously thought his hot stretch after being traded to Atlanta late last year would be reason enough to get a bigger contract (.325 BA/.401 OBP/.557 SLG, 12 HRs, 40 RBIs, 30 runs in 212 ABs). While his numbers with Atlanta were terrific, fantasy owners should still view him as the 25 HR/80-90 RBI threat he's been over the last few years. The reason: his notoriety as a second-half slugger. LaRoche has made a habit of saving his season by turning in brilliant post-All Star break numbers. Behold his career splits:
First-half: .252 BA/.326 OBP/.447 SLG, 63 HRs, 242 RBIs, 214 runs in 1,587 ABs
Second-half: .300 BA/.363 OBP/.546 SLG, 73 HRs, 227 RBIs, 188 runs in 1,290 ABs
If you break down those second-half counting stats, it shakes out to about 33 HRs, 105 RBIs, and 87 runs in a full season. While it's nice to fantasize that this could be the year LaRoche finally puts it all together, he's simply not worth investing in outside of leagues that use corner infielders. First base is too deep for fantasy owners to pin their title hopes on LaRoche in 5x5, 12-team leagues. You're better off picking him up as soon as the All-Star Game ends.
• Russian Rou-Brett: Looking for a cheap low-risk/high-reward arm, the Astros have signed Brett Myers. He's long had ace potential, but between his injuries and control issues (career 1.36 WHIP), he's been a pretty big disappointment. The notion that a simple change of scenery may help him turn his career around is a bit illogical. The benefit of no longer having to pitch in HR-friendly Citizens Bank Park cannot be ignored, but how much can it really help him? His fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark was at 6.15 last year, much higher than his 4.84 earned run average. His strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) have declined over the past couple of years (10.9 in 2007, 7.7 in 2008, 6.4 in 2009), so it's tough to buy into a Myers turnaround. If he's available in the last few rounds and I'm in dire need of SP depth, then maybe I'll try my luck. However, if he ends up on one of my rosters, he's getting dropped at the first sign of trouble.
• Jose and the Pus ... Tigers: The Tigers signed free-agent closer Jose Valverde in an effort to address their inexperienced bullpen. Though he's prone to the occasional meltdown (what closer isn't?), Valverde has been one of the more consistent closers in baseball over the last three seasons (11-9, 190.1 innings, 116 saves, 2.84 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 217 strikeouts). In fact, since he will be facing American League hitters who are unfamiliar with his stuff, he could very well post numbers that put him among the top five relievers in fantasy this year. View him as a solid arm to build your bullpen around on draft day.
• Don't-ell: The Pirates are close to making Octavio Dotel their closer and he's a decent gamble as a late pick. His K/9 (11.7) over the last three years and experience as a closer (83 career saves) bode well for his chances. The fact that he's a 36-year-old reliever pitching for the non-descript Pittsburgh Pirates will cause many fantasy owners to overlook him. If you're hankering for saves toward the end of your draft, feel comfortable taking a chance on Dotel as he gets the official Starbonell Seal O' Approval.
• Colby's Cheddar: Though Colby Lewis wasn't even pitching in the majors last year, he was able to land a two-year deal with the Rangers. A few MLB teams were intrigued by the fact that he walked an astonishing 46 batters in 354.1 innings during his two-year run in Japan. He also led the Central League in strikeouts (375), but the immaculate control is what jumps out at you. During his time in MLB, Lewis registered a horrific 1.81 WHIP in 217.1 career innings. It would be foolish to expect Lewis to duplicate his walk totals from Japan, but he was once a top pitching prospect, so it's not out of the question that he could become a solid back-end fantasy starter. Consider him on the low end of the Randy Wolf-spectrum of players (it's the tier of pitchers with solid control, but limited upside).