January 25, 2010

Time again to pontificate on Hot Stove happenings going down around baseball.

When Kevin Kouzmanoff-related transactions warrant mentioning, it's apparent that we are deep into the offseason. The Padres traded Kouzmanoff and Eric Sogard to Oakland for Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham, but fantasy owners don't care. Who can blame them? While Kouzmanoff has averaged 20 home runs and 82 runs batted in over the last three years, he's a weak starting option in 12-team mixed leagues. Kouzmanoff is going from one fledgling offense in a pitcher's ballpark to another, so it's not like the change of scenery is likely to do him any good. He was once considered a third base sleeper due to his career .951 on-base plus slugging in the minors, but that success hasn't carried over to the bigs. If he goes on a tear early in the season, then it would make sense to scoop him up in case he becomes the next post-hype breakout star. However, the smart money is on Kouzmanoff being a fantasy non-factor in 2010.

The same goes for Cunningham, Sogard, and Hairston. Cunningham has underwhelming power for an outfielder (60 career HRs in 1,839 minor-league at-bats) and struck out 19.7 percent of the time in Triple-A last year. Sogard is a gritty 23-year-old that plays above his talent-level, but is a long-shot to make any fantasy impact this year and is not worth keeper consideration. Hairston is a veteran outfielder who had an impressive .380 weighted on-base average (wOBA) with San Diego last year. However, the outfield position is filled with players with much higher upside, so Hairston should only be drafted in five-outfielder leagues (if at all).

Turning down more money from the Mets, Bengie Molina signed a one-year deal with the Giants. While Molina reached the 20 HR mark in 2009 for the first time in his career, he's a 35-year-old catcher whose peripheral statistics are headed south. Last year's K% (13.1) was as bad as it's been since 2002 and his .308 wOBA was lower than the marks of Henry Blanco, Ryan Hanigan and Yorvit Torrealba. That being said, he's still worth drafting in 12-team mixed leagues. The catcher pool is one of the thinnest positions in terms of fantasy talent, and because of that, he's a starting option. Molina's consistency is another reason fantasy owners shouldn't shy away from him. Russell Martin, Geovany Soto, and Ryan Doumit were among the top seven catchers drafted last season and they were all big disappointments, so there's some comfort to be found in the 18 HRs and 85 RBIs Molina has averaged over the last three seasons (particularly since you can get him at a good price). Molina has zero upside, but that will just make him easier to cut if he ends up dogging it in 2010.

Though we can sit here and discuss the pros and cons of drafting Molina, the bigger story here is how this impacts stud prospect Buster Posey. With Molina back (and Aubrey Huff manning first), Posey should start the season at Triple-A. He's officially not worth drafting in yearly leagues. Of course, Posey is still a person of interest to follow in case an injury or impressive minor league showing leads to a second half promotion, but it seems his poor defensive showing in the Arizona Fall League has severely damaged his 2010 value. Remember, Posey has only been catching for three years, he needs additional seasoning.

It appeared as though Ben Sheets and his agent were drunk with delusion because they were asking for $10 million and loads of incentives (plus a player option for 2011). Yet after taking part in a throwing session that left scouts impressed, those compensation demands may not be out of the question. Sheets looked smooth in his delivery, reached 92 mph with his heater, and showcased a fine curveball. What does this news mean for his fantasy value? Not much. He's still an injury-prone pitcher that has failed to log 200 innings since 2004 (though to be fair, he did throw 198.1 innings in 2008). Nevertheless, he makes a decent back-of-the-rotation fantasy arm. Sheets will probably have modest strikeout totals based on the seven strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) he registered in his last two seasons, but the career 3.72 earned run average and 1.20 walks plus hits per inning are reason enough to take him if he's available late. Of course, if his buzz builds as we get closer to draft day, Sheets' value may push him up a few rounds into "no way in hell I'm risking a pick on him there" territory. If you can't draft him as a fifth starting pitcher, then it's really not worth it.

The Joel Pineiro "sweepstakes" are over. The Angels signed the right-hander to a two-year, $16 million deal, making him the second player in one week to spurn the New York Mutts. There's been plenty of speculation over whether Pineiro can duplicate his success from 2009 without the magic touch of St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan. My take: fantasy owners would be foolish to expect him to repeat last year's numbers.

First, there's the move to the American League. Second, his K/9 (under 5.0 in the last two years) keeps him from being a prototypical second fantasy SP. Third, prior to his ridiculous 2009 season, Pineiro owned a 5.34 ERA and 1.47 WHIP from 2004-2008 (including 212.1 innings under Duncan).

If he can repeat his 60.5 percent ground ball-rate from last season, then it's feasible that Pineiro can come up with a sub-4.00 ERA and solid enough WHIP. However, there's no point in risking a mid-round pick on him when there are so many other pitchers out there with higher upside and better strikeout potential.

Though he may be one of the sweatiest, dirtiest looking players in baseball, Vicente Padilla is $5.03 million richer. The Dodgers, no strangers to terrible transactions, signed him to a one-year pact. Fantasy owners want to avoid Padilla. The career 4.33 ERA and 1.39 WHIP are obvious signs of a scrub fantasy pitcher, but there is so much more wrong with him. Over the last seven months, Padilla has contracted Swine Flu, was called "a disruptive clubhouse presence," and was accidentally shot in the leg. Do not be swayed by his strong performance with the Dodgers late last year. Trouble follows Padilla wherever he goes -- he's simply not worth drafting.

You May Like