“Alluhring Strategy” The (NL) West Coast Bias: State of the Division at the Quarter Pole [PART 2]
Last week, I began to look back at the first 40ish games played in the NL West this season. I suggested that the two division front-runners should make a few moves to help them through the summer. I must have the ear of the Giants brass because one day after my article was published, they DFA’d Casey McGehee and named utilityman, Matt Duffy, the everyday 3B. Well, they half listened to me. Duffy is a nice player, but will likely get exposed at the plate if he plays everyday. 26 year old prospect (using the term prospect loosely), Adam Duvall is raking in AAA and I would like to see him up and doing his thing at the Major League level. He is polished and had 77 plate appearances in 2014 that gave him some valuable exposure to the speed of the game at the big league level. Anyway, its time to move on to the teams sitting below .500 in the division.
|NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST|
|L.A. Dodgers||28||18||.609||–||209||156||53||21-7||7-11||4-2||2-2||19-14||5-5||L 1|
|San Francisco||29||20||.592||½||205||185||20||15-9||14-11||3-2||6-1||16-16||8-2||W 4|
|San Diego||23||26||.469||6½||210||225||-15||11-13||12-13||1-3||3-4||16-14||4-6||L 1|
Above standings are updated prior to games played on Friday, May 29th, 2015. There are three teams that currently sit below .500. The new-look Padres have not completely gelled yet, despite glimpses of big potential. The Diamondbacks can hit with anyone in the division and will not be an easy opponent for playoff contenders. The Rockies have recovered from a dreadful stretch, but have proven that they don’t have a chance with their pitching staff. Despite the fact that likely none of these teams will make the playoffs, there is plenty of relevant fantasy impact to discuss. What can these teams do to try and make a run, or at least, set themselves up for future success??? You have to have a plan…
San Diego Padres
Biggest Fantasy Surprise — Justin Upton, LF
It may seem a little strange to call the defending Sliver Slugger a fantasy surprise. But I did not expect him to exceed his numbers from last year given the move to Petco Field. However, the Padres moved in the fences and recognized that Upton loved hitting there as a visiting player. Why not make it his home park? It’s certainly working for him. He is single-handedly carrying their offense and is on-pace for career numbers in nearly all offensive categories. He is slashing .299/.362/.554 with a home split of .360/.411/.721. This isn’t Coors Field, but Petco Park at Sea Level. His BABip on the season is .350 compared to a career .333. This indicates to me that he isn’t just “getting lucky”, but this production can be somewhat sustainable all season. One of the best things for fantasy owners, is his speed: 10 SBs to 0 CS. He didn’t reach double-digit steals in either of his last two seasons. He is playing in a contract year, but this might be a perfect match for both player and team. Upton could be a candidate for an extension rather than the rental player I had thought when the trade took place in the off-season.
Biggest Fantasy Disappointment — Ian Kennedy, SP
This one is particularly annoying for me as I thought he would have a great season as he no longer was counted on to be an ace, but rather a 4th Starter. With the decreased pressure, I expected a big year. Instead his W-L totals are currently 2-5 with a 7.15 ERA in 8 games started. It may be time to cut bait on Kennedy. I’m not sure he can turn around his saeson. Let’s take a look why…
- 6.54 FIP — This is extremely high compared to his career average of 4.00
- 1.487 WHIP — Over .200 higher than career average of 1.280
- 3.08 BABip — Not unlucky as there is minimal variance from career .294 or league average of .298
- 6.9% HR% & 13.3 XBH% — Getting hit hard as the league average is HR% is 2.5% and 7.6% for XBH%
- 21.4% K% and 8.1% BB% are nearly identical to career average and indicate his command numbers have not dropped
The bottom line is: he’s getting squared-up and in-line for a disastrous season. Sell him now while you still might get something back for him.
Action Plan – Upgrade at SS and acquire impact bullpen arm
The Padres have fallen off the pace with the division leaders and it will be very tough to catch up. That being said, they have not pitched up to their true potential,
but they aren’t as bad as their counting stats may indicate. They have had a number of key injuries already that have hampered their offense from gelling with all their new players this season. Getting a healthy Wil Myers, Yonder Alonso and Brandon Maurer will be the biggest lift for this team. The biggest areas of need seems to be bullpen and shortstop.
My Unsolicited Advice…GM AJ Preller doesn’t seem to have an issue trading prospects. Although many of them are not gone (and in Atlanta), there are a few nice pieces to move without touching their remaining top two prospects (Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe). Anyone else should be on table to get an upgrade at SS and/or significant piece for the bullpen. Oakland is destined to have a Fire Sale soon and Tyler Clippard and/or Ben Zobrist would look good in a Padres uniform. I’m not sure exactly what it will take to get them, but Clippard should be some-what cheap as he is on an expiring contract with no chance of resigning in Oakland.
Biggest Fantasy Surprise — Chase Anderson, SP
He may only have a small career sample size to compare to and his counting stats might not be eye-popping, but Chase Anderson has been the best starting pitcher on the Arizona pitching staff all year. He only had 21 career starts entering the season, all of which came in 2014. Nothing spectacular, but enough to earn a rotation spot out of Spring Training. Since then, he has taken the ball every 5th game and gave his team a chance to win. He has only two games in his nine starts in which he has given up over two runs. While he’s only 1 W – 1 L on the year, he sports a team-best 2.57 ERA (only starter under 4.25) and 1.114 WHIP. With Archie Bradley struggling after returning from being struck in the face with a batted ball, Anderson has quietly stepped up to play the “ace” role. Other than his K% (currently down to 17.1% from 21.6% in 2014), all his numbers and ratios are improved from last year and he has only allowed 2 HRs to leave the park in nine starts. That’s a HR% of only 0.9%, which is way below the league average of 2.3%. I expect to see him maintain around a 3.00 ERA for the remainder of the year. He has developed into a key cog in a building a pitching staff in Arizona. If you don’t have him on your fantasy team, get him. He’s a good target while he is still under-the-radar.
Biggest Fantasy Disappointment — Addison Reed, RP
Reed entered the season as one of the closers in the league with job security issues. Not because there was a stud reliever lurking to take it away. Rather, he had given some cause for concern with shaky peripheral numbers and giving up 11 HRs in 2014. He started off the season blowing 2 of his first 4 save opportunities and looked bad overall. He got “relieved” of his closing duties within the first six weeks of the
season. Although giving up the long-ball has not been the issue this year, his 5.51 ERA and 1.714 WHIP are not closer numbers. These averages have actually improved since being removed from the closer position. His BABip of .346 indicates that he has been somewhat unlucky, but his control ratios have been alarming. His BB% is 5.0% and K% is 7.7% in 2015, which is about 2.5% worse in both ratios compared to career averages. In leagues that value middle relievers, he still has some value as he has only had one rough outing since moving into a middle relief role. I’m not confident he gains the closer role back this year and is probably okay to cut him in leagues that primarily reward saves.
Action Plan – Call to “arms” in the Desert
As you can see, my focus on this team has been on the pitching, both good and bad. The offense has been solid if not excellent at times and they have found themselves with a log-jam in the OF in both their Major League and Minor League
levels. Although he has not shown much power yet, Cuban import, Yasmany Tomas, is a hitting and On base machine. 3B Jake Lamb’s injury has given him a chance to play everyday at the hot corner and he has earned the right to stay in the lineup. Once Lamb is back, there are some tough decisions to be made. They want Lamb’s defense at 3B, so Tomas will likely need to move back to the OF unless they want to experiment with him at 2B and move Owing back to SS. That sounds great for fantasy owners, but not sure if his 6’2″, 250 lbs frame will translate at 2B. Otherwise, they have four outfielders that should be playing everyday with their top hitting prospect, Peter O’Brien, tearing it up in AAA. The former catcher is now a full-time OF and is ready for the Majors, but severely blocked. The Diamondbacks desperately need starting pitching, relief help and a catcher. Since they are not really a threat to make a run at the playoffs in 2015, they may be best served moving some assets to build up the pitching staff and worry about a catcher in the off-season.
My Unsolicited Advice…They have no use for Aaron Hill anymore with plenty of young guys at 2B and 3B. There are teams out there that could use a veteran infielder off the bench. Mark Trumbo is a nice player, but more suited as a DH for an American League team who would occasionally start in the OF or 1B. See if you can package these two in a deal to the LA Angels, they just acquired Kirk Nieuwenhuis to be their everyday LF. Trumbo could slot in as their LF against right-handed pitchers and replace Matt Joyce at DH against lefties. The Angles could also use Hill as their starting 2B or veteran utility infielder. If they are willing to send Peter O’Brien too, they might be able to land Andrew Heaney and talented young RP Cam Bedrosian. They can then promote stud RP prospect, Jake Barrett, and add Bedrosian to the bullpen and now it becomes a strength behind new closer Brad Ziegler. Their rotation then will look scary in 2016 with Bradley, Anderson, Heaney and the possibility of top prospects Aaron Blair and Brandon Shipley joining the rotation. The foundation would be set for competing with the Dodgers and Giants for many years to come.
Biggest Fantasy Surprise — DJ LeMahieu, 2B
DJ has been that nice fantasy middle infield flex play or injury fill in for a few years now. I didn’t expect anything to change this season, but he is batting .329 with a .382 OBP as the everyday 2B in Colorado. Even the Rockies have acknowledges his impact by moving him up to the two-hole in the lineup instead of his traditional 8th spot. He may not maintain this current pace over the entire season as his BABip (.387) is 50 points above his career average. I believe it’s reasonable to think he can finish the season over .300/.350/.420 due to his improved K% (15.7%), BB% (7.8%) and Line Drive % (31% compared to league average of 22%). He has had better plate discipline, contact rate and getting better wood on the ball. He is now a must start at 2B in all fantasy formats.
Biggest Fantasy Disappointment — Eddie Butler, SP
I was one that felt Butler would be the better pitcher in Colorado than the bigger hyped prospect, Jon Gray. Colorado felt he was at least more prepared for Coors as he made the rotation out of Spring Training. He started out serviceable, but has been downright atrocious as of late. In 2015, he has [23:27] K:BB ratio which is just unacceptable. I’m really surprised he has not been sent down to Albuquerque to work things out, but they really don’t have anyone else to replace him in the rotation right now. They are currently handling the struggling Jon Gray with kid gloves and they already sent down Tyler Matzek down to work out his issues. The only pitcher that may have been ready was lesser known prospect, Tyler Anderson. Unfortunately, he is in extended spring training after not pitching since last September with an elbow injury. This has put the Rockies in a difficult situation, but they seem to be content letting him try and work it out in Colorado despite a 4.60 ERA, 1.884 WHIP and 6.02 FIP. Redraft and standard keeper leagues can cut bait on Butler immediately, but It’s probably too early for dynasty leagues to move on. You may have to think twice if you can’t stash him on a minor league roster.
Action Plan – 2016 and Beyond
As usual, the Rockies probably have enough bats to compete with the other teams in the NL West. Unfortunately, that have no starting pitching and the bullpen is hurting pretty bad too. They don’t really have a lot to look forward to in their system as their top arms are struggling and their best prospects are position players. They have no shot in 2015 and it’s time to “break up the band” and start building a pitching staff. They are always going to struggle to get free agent pitchers to come to the thin air in Colorado, so they need to stockpile their farm system with quality arms and pray they hit on a few. After Gray and Butler, 2014 first round draft pick Kyle Freeland, is their best pitching prospect, but he is probably two years away. Being a Rockies fan must be tough as they seemingly start out strong every year (thanks to their offense) and are done by the All-Star Break.
My Unsolicited Advice…TRADE TULO for a handful of pitching prospects. This is the best way to build up minor league system, but it appears that this might just be a pipe dream. Rockies won’t trade him unless they get several blue chip pitchers in return, and no one will do that with Tulo’s contract and injury history. Let’s assume Tulo is staying in Colorado this year and beyond, they still have several other veteran bats that they could move to get some arms. It’s also time to move Carlos Gonzalez. He’s another fan favorite, but has struggled to stay healthy over the last few seasons and he’s on-pace for another poor statistical season. He still has 2+ years on his contract, which is not cheap, but not nearly has bad as Tulo’s. They would likely get away with eating less salary here and still get decent arms in return. Nothing like Tulo, but at this point, they need pitching prospects with upside. They can’t hold out for top-tier arms because they are just not available. See if you can trade him and Justin Morneau to St. Louis. The Cardinals need a 1B after losing Matt Adams for the season, a change of scenery may spark Cargo to rebound and form a dynamic OF core with Matt Holliday and Jason Heyward. The Cardinals aren’t going to give up Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales, but they might be willing to give up a few prospects like Tim Cooney, Alex Reyes and Rob Kaminsky; the latter two pitchers would probably not be ready until around 2017. But if you have them, Kyle Freeland and perhaps one or both of the Gray/Butler duo straightened out, all of a sudden, you have a dangerous, young pitching staff.