FriarBall: 2008 Previews, fantasy style

Thursday, February 28, 2008

2008 Previews, fantasy style

I decided to add one more, albeit late, post to my 2008 previews. However, I am turning the reigns of this post over to a friend of mine, Derrick. Derrick is a contributor to Rotokingdom.net and runs the blog Ultimate Fantasy Baseball Rankings.

Derrick is not a Padres fan by any means, but we won't hold that against him as he really knows his stuff. So for all of you fantasy baseball players out there, here's an outside look at our guys. So without further ado, here's Derrick:

From a Fantasy Baseball perspective the players that fill the roster of the San Diego Padres 2008 Major League baseball team are ... um, well … bland, to put it politely. The few fantasy relevant names that do stand out range from Jake Peavy, perhaps the best fantasy SP in the game, to Jim Edmonds, a defensively talented CF who seems to have left his bat on the better side of his 30’s.

However there are a few bright spots - along with Peavy there are other reliable fantasy players, such as former #1 overall pick Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez will turn 26 this season and has slugged .500 or better in each of his seasons in SD, proving that you can hit for power while playing half your games at Petco. At the same time 20 of his 30 2007 HR’s were recorded on the road, so he’s probably a 35-40 HR guy, but we will not see that as long as the current ballpark dimensions remain. I’m expecting Gonzalez to have nearly a repeat of his 2007 performance in 2008.

Chris Young remains the team’s #2 SP entering the 2008 season and is a good one to have in the middle of your fantasy rotation. Young’s numbers greatly improved in 07, due in large part to the fact that he was able to keep the ball inside the park a lot more often. Young allowed only 10 HR’s in 173 IP in 2007 compared to 28 HR’s in 179 IP in 2006. This helped him lower his ERA to a miniscule 3.12. If not for a late season injury, which led to inconsistent performances during August and September, his overall numbers would have been even more impressive.

The knocks on Young have always been his lack of control and sloth-like delivery. Calling him slow to the plate is a vast understatement. I believe that these two factors are intertwined. Because of Young’s extreme height he has a hard time keeping his body tight and compact through his delivery. As such his delivery is not always the same which makes it difficult for him to harness his stuff. When you watch Young pitch you can almost see him concentrating and telling himself to keep it tight as he coils back to begin his delivery. While this concentration is necessary to maintain some semblance of control it causes his delivery to take more time than it should and allows base runners to focus in on his movements and get a great jump, compounding the problem.

I think it’s quite possible Young ends up posting the same numbers he did last season, but with more IP, K’s and Wins, which would make him a top 15 SP. At the same time I stress that this projection is given with a relatively low degree of confidence. The aforementioned control issues being the main culprit. If Young has problems getting the ball over the plate on a consistent basis I would expect his ERA and WHIP to end up closer to the 4.00 and 1.30 levels respectively because of the increase in base-runners and home runs allowed, again caused by the lack of control.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is a name that drew the ire of Padres fans and fantasy managers alike during the first half of the 2007 season. However, the fantasy managers that stuck with Kouz through the hard times, much like Pads manager Bruce Bochy, were rewarded with a stellar 2nd half that saw Kouz hit .317/.366/.524, with 11 home runs over 252 ABs!

Watch for Kouzmanoff to continue to build on his 2nd half success in 2008. A .290, 25 HR, 90 RBI season, while probably at the high end of his abilities, would not surprise me at all.

I hate to write this on a San Diego Padres Blog, but my journalistic oath requires me to be honest (I just lied, I’ve taken no such oath) so you heard it here first: This will finally be the season that we witness Trevor Hoffman age before our eyes. I know that none of you want to hear this and I understand if you are screaming the following at your computer screen right now, “Hoffman was nearly 40 last season and looked just as good as ever! His ERA was under 3.00 and he recorded over 40 saves for the 4th consecutive season! How can you possibly think that he is on the decline?!?”

The emotions behind these statements are strong and love for a long-time, trusted ally transcends logic. This is why I am here to help you see through the love-fog and save yourself fantasy heart-break. Hoffman’s velocity has obviously declined. He no longer has the ability to reach back and rely on his stuff to get a strikeout when he needs one most. He has to live on the edge of the plate a lot more than he used to because of his declining stuff, which leads to a higher BB rate. He is having a hard time keeping the ball down in the zone which has led to more of his outs coming from fly balls. All of these little signs of decline combined with his ever increasing age lead me to believe that Hoffman in 2008 will have his worst ERA since 1995 (3.88) and his worst WHIP since his rookie season (1.40).

Please understand, I’m not projecting a total collapse and Hoffman, barring injury, will still start and finish the season as the Pads 9th inning guy. Just look for his numbers to be not quite as sharp as usual and for his Saves totals to be in the 30’s rather than the 40’s.

A few other players on the roster this season that will be fantasy relevant in some formats are Greg Maddux (watch for his numbers to improve with a full season in SD He still doesn’t BB anyone and most of his outs are still of the ground ball variety), Mark Prior (big ? but he’s worth a late-round flier, or at least keeping an eye on), Scott Hairston (has the power to hit 20-25 HRs in Petco), and Heath Bell (has had the stuff for years, finally put it all together last season – if Hoffman goes down he’s a lights out closer).

If you like to go after young guys with upside look no further than two of San Diego’s best, Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley. Both could end up with starting spots out of Spring Training, but more likely will be sent back down to AAA for a bit more seasoning and recalled later in the season. I believe that both are ready to contribute to some degree at the Major League level and it is only a matter of time before these two offensively talented hitters get their opportunity to do what they do best for a team that desperately needs what they do best.

2 comments:

Geoff Young said...

Nice analysis. Two quick points:

1) The Padres manager last year was Bud Black, not Bruce Bochy.

2) Hoffman lost his velocity many years ago.

Good to see some love for Kouz...

Jim said...

Geoff,

You are correct on both accounts. The sad fact is I waited too late to post and I missed those things while reading through the piece. I guess that's what I get for allowing an East Coaster to guest star. Just kidding Derrick.