July 26, 2012

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account in my never ending attempt to replace myself by explaining to everyone how I evaluate players thereby making myself obsolete.

What should we expect from Starling Marte? Is he a 12- or 14-team league add?-- @Daydreaming08

Everyone loves talented rookies. It's why guys like Matt Moore, Trevor Bauer, Randall Delgado, Drew Pomeranz and Devin Mesoraco have done so well this year. Wait a second, none of those guys has done well (I'd be willing to give Moore a pass, but expectations were so high to start the year that it's nearly a lock that his owner has been disappointed). For every Bryce Harper there are 25 hot-shot rookies that fail to come through. For every Mike Trout there are ... well every rookie who has ever played may have to take a backseat to Trout by the time it's all said and done, and that's truly shocking. The bottom line is that a team of Nick Swishers and Mark Buehrles will likely beat up on a team of youngsters year after year. Remember that.

As for Marte, who has been called up by the Pirates, the hype would appear to be justified (at least somewhat). A center fielder by trade, he'll play left since Andrew McCutchen kind of has that CF spot on lockdown. In 98 games at Triple-A Marte was hitting .286 with 12 bombs, 20 doubles, 13 triples, 61 RBIs and 21 steals. This effort comes on the heels of Marte winning the Eastern League batting title (Double-A) when he hit .332. Obviously, Marte, ranked the 36th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America early in July, is one of those rare talents that can do it all. A certain blazer who is athletic as all get-out, there are still some questions about his ability to control the strike zone. He is a free-swinger who rarely takes a walk (his minor league BB/K mark is awful at 0.20, less than half the big league average). Given that approach he could easily struggle, at least in the batting average category.

If you're in a league that starts five outfielders, Marte is without a doubt worth taking a shot on in a 14-team league. Even in a 12-team league he shouldn't be floating around on the waiver-wire, but make sure you don't cut an established major leaguer to add him because while there is no doubting Marte has the talent to be a star (and did hit a homer on the first pitch he saw in the majors), there's a big difference between possessing skills and being able to consistently produce on a big league diamond.

Should I trade Drew Stubbs for Todd Frazier? I need HRs, don't really need SBs.-- @MonkeyWithAHalo

Expectations can really be a killer, can't they? I've written about this elsewhere recently, but it deserves to be repeated here as well. Stubbs is the modern day Mike Cameron, a guy who helps you in the counting categories, offers a nice mix of power and speed, but one who is going to do you no favors when it comes to batting average. However, with seven hits in his last two games, Stubbs has pushed his average up to .230. Not much, of course, but it's only another hot 10 days from the .243 mark he posted last season. In fact, and his owners might not believe it, Stubbs has been exactly the same player this year that he was last. Here are his numbers from 158 games last season followed by his numbers in 80 games this year. Heck, I'll just double his current rate of production, which would give us his numbers in 160 games if he were to maintain his current pace.

2011: .243-15-44-92-402012: .230-20-58-98-40

That's right, Stubbs is actually performing better this season than he did last year. In fact, his current effort is right on par with his 2010 effort (.255-22-77-91-30) given the increase in steals this year.

Frazier is seeing playing time at first, third and the outfield for the Reds. Scott Rolen is hitting about as well as Mike Leake, and Joey Votto is on the sidelines working his way back from knee woes. That has given Frazier a good shot at everyday playing time. Frazier has responded by hitting .302 since the All-Star break, and on the year he has hit .283 with a .343 OBP and .529 SLG. Do you know how many third base eligible players who qualify for the batting title can match those three slash line numbers? The answer is two: Miguel Cabrera (.328/.388/.582) and Edwin Encarnacion (.296/.392/.584). Add in 10 homers in just 223 at-bats and Frazier has been a rather impressive power bat for the Reds.

Stubbs is clearly the superior fantasy performer, but if you are afraid of his average and only in search of a power increase you should make this move, though again, you're clearly taking a step down in terms of overall production.

Zack Greinke or Lance Lynn rest of the season? -- @silaPssoR

Has it really come to this? Are we really talking about the 2009 AL Cy Young winner in the same breath as a rookie? Greinke clearly has failed to live up to expectations, and he's had a pretty rough month of work (14 ER in 14 innings) before looking sharp in his last outing (7 IP, 1 ER Tuesday). On the flip-side, Lynn has surprised pretty much every baseball person in the game with his strong work this season. Many, including myself, predicted doom when he hit the skids a month ago (17 ER in 15.1 innings from June 19-30), but he's actually rebounded extremely well (1 ER his last three starts). Kudos to him for that. Still, let's keep our wits about us here. Let's start with the numbers, which are amazingly similar.

Greinke: 9-3, 3.44 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 122 Ks in 123 IPLynn: 12-4, 3.10 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 120 Ks in 116 IP

The numbers favor Lynn. Everything else favors Greinke. That "everything" includes a history of success at the big-league level. It also includes the eyeball test, the scouting test and the talent test. In addition, Lynn tossed a mere 109.2 innings last year and he's already up to 116 innings this season. In fact, as a professional, Lynn has never had a big IP season: 2008 (26.2), 2009 (148.2), 2010 (164), 2011 (109.2) and 2012 (116). Add in that Lynn is pitching better in the majors than he ever did in the minors, and I'm still going to side with Greinke despite the recent hiccup he's trying to overcome.

Should I drop A.J. Pierzynski for Carlos Santana? -- @MattManSports

I try to live by a rather simple set of rules. Get my sleep, drink as many Vodka and Red Bulls as possible, and try to always go with talent over recent production, because in the long run, more times than not, it wins out.

If you had asked this question about which catcher to roster my answer would have been the same in March, as it would have been in May as it is here at the end of July -- go with Santana. Younger and more talented, Santana struggled badly in the first half, causing people to run like they do when Godzilla goes rumbling down the street. Since the All-Star break, though, people have remembered why Santana was a top-3 catcher in all drafts this season. He's hit .315 with a .500 OBP in 13 games, thanks in part to 12 walks and just eight strikeouts. I know he's only batting .234 with seven homers and 37 RBIs, but I still haven't been presented with an argument as to why AJP would be a better play from this point forward.

"Idiot, I mean Ray, have you looked at the numbers that show Pierzynski to be dominating Santana across the board?" Why, yes, dear reader, I have noticed those numbers. I also know the following: (1) Pierzynski is dealing with a minor side issue right now that's kept him out of action for a few days. (2) He has no homers in 12 games and no RBIs in nine contests. (3) His current total of 16 homers is one off his combined total the last two seasons and the most he has hit since he parked 16 in 2006. (4) His total of 50 RBIs is just one behind his average mark the past three years. (5) His total of 40 runs scored is just one off his average the past two years. (6) Players just don't set career bests in homers, RBIs, runs, walks, SLG and OPS in their 15th season, especially when they are catchers. You can't take away what Pierzynski has done this season, but that doesn't mean I have to buy that he will continue to operate at a pace that we've never seen from him before.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

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