Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Should Your Team Do: St. Louis Cardinals

Next up in our "What Should Your Team Do?" series, the St. Louis Cardinals.  For a primer on the intended purpose of this series, see the first edition on the Boston Red Sox.  Quick confession: I mistakenly went out of order, as the Boston Red Sox will actually be picking before the Cardinals in next year's draft.  Anyhow, let's get after it.

As much as any team in baseball, the 2013 National League Champion Cardinals have a foundation in place to make it back to the World Series in 2014 and years to come.  They are in the enviable position of having a few clear problems to address and the resources (money, prospects) to address them.  Here is what the Cardinals should do this offseason:

  • Let Carlos Beltran walk.  He was a great player the past two years, and has the ability to turn into "Super Beltran" in the postseason.  But the fact that he is looking for a 3-4 year deal and everyday playing time is unappealing for the Cardinals, for whom right field is not a problem spot (more on this in a moment).
  • Trade for Elvis Andrus.  The Rangers have the motivation to move him with Jurickson Profar needing playing time, and several other high profile middle infield prospects waiting in the wings.  Offer to pick up the whole contract, rather than give up more players.  With money coming off the books, the Cards have money to spend.  In terms of return, a package centered around Carlos Martinez seems to make sense for both sides.  He has #1-2 starter upside, and the Cards are flush with starting pitching options.  He would keep the Rangers from having to acquire guys like Matt Garza at the deadline at high prospect cost.  For the Cardinals, Andrus becomes the shortstop for the foreseeable future, and batting leadoff, he lengthens the lineup.
  • Shift Matt Carpenter to third base, and let top prospect Kolten Wong play second.  This certainly improves the infield defense, and potentially improves the offense as well.
  • Hope Oscar Taveras can play better defensive center field than Jon Jay (not a high bar to jump over). Sign Chris Young as a backup centerfielder/bench bat.  He adds pop, and the ability to hit lefties, which was a problem for the Cards last year.
  • Keep David Freese as "Hometown Hero" (c) and bench bat.
  • Let Trevor Rosenthal start.  He wants to start, and has multiple plus pitches in addition to his fastball.  The Cards have other guys (Siegrest, Motte when healthy, Lynn) that can close.  Rosenthal is wasted in the bullpen.
  • Re-sign John Axford to be a veteran presence in the bullpen/mustache aficionado.  
Here's what the lineup and rotation look like:

Pitcher's Spot

SP1: Wainwright
SP2: Wacha
SP3: Miller
SP4: Garcia
SP5: Rosenthal

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Should Your Team Do: Boston Red Sox

The day has arrived...  New material from The Hottest Stove is here!  Today begins a new series titled "What Should Your Team Do?"  That "Should" is in italics because this series is not meant to be predictive, but prescriptive.  Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, teams don't always do what they should.  That's what we are here for; to give ideas to all of our readers that also happen to be general managers of Major League Baseball teams.

Each post will feature one MLB team, and just for the sake of some organizational structure, we will be going in reverse order of next year's draft.  That means that first up is... The Boston Red Sox!

Boston Red Sox
  • This team just won the World Series, so a foundation is in place.  But that doesn't mean that they don't have work to do.  Along with players like David Ortiz getting a year older, the Red Sox have decisions to make about several significant contributors--Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes, Stephen Drew, etc.--who are free agents.
  • Re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamaccia, and Mike Napoli.  All of them contributed positively on both offense and defense last year, and all are still in their athletic prime.  In addition, free agency doesn't have any better options at their respective positions.
  • Let Stephen Drew walk, collect the draft pick, and let Xander Bogaerts play shortstop every day. The kid can play some ball.
  • In shifting Bogaerts to short, give Middlebrooks a legitimate shot to start at third base.  He's shown potential, and any chance for this team to get younger is a positive.  
  • Sign a veteran backup at first/third base like old friend Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, or Eric Chavez.
  • Sign Michael Morse to function as a bench bat/platoon partner with Daniel Nava.  Johnny Gomes would be preferable in this role, but is likely to be overvalued as a free agent due to his enhanced World Series profile.  Morse is undervalued due to an injury ridden year last year.
  • Move Doubront into the starting rotation.  He is a more than serviceable fifth starter.
Here's what the lineup and rotation look like:


SP1: Lester
SP2: Lackey
SP3: Bucholz
SP4: Peavey
SP5: Doubront

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Rising from the Ashes?

Like the mighty Kraken stirring from slumber, the legendary behemoth of baseball acumen that is The Hottest Stove has begun to rouse.  Will a stream of baseball gold once again stream forth, or will the leviathan return to hibernation?  Only time will tell, as the quiet before the storm of the MLB offseason is upon us.  Stay tuned.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spring Training Do's and Don'ts

With the Grapefruit League under way, here are a few friendly reminders for navigating the beast that is spring training. These notes are applicable for fantasy baseball, reality baseball, and life in general...

Do: Pay attention to position battles and playing time (with a special emphasis on positional eligibility if you are a fantasy player.) Make sure your sleepers are set up to get regular at-bats, and watch out for platoon situations brewing!!!!

Don't: Pay attention to the stats for the first few weeks or fall in . Most pitchers are trying to locate fastballs and won't mix in many off-speed pitches until later. Veterans honestly don't care about spring training until about March 28th.... Also, younger position players typically start fast because they started workouts a week or two earlier and are looking to make a name for themselves. The fact that Brandon Allen is batting 1.000 means very little for your fantasy team. I promise.

Do: Enjoy the return of baseball after a grueling off season of scores, the crack of the bat, checking out the new faces on your team...

Don't: Believe the spring hype and optimism. Everyone is in the best shape of their life. Literally everyone had corrective eye surgery. Everyone throws a new pitch, and 90% of them or a cutter or a slurve that you will never see once the real games start. Everyone is feeling ten years younger and a step quicker. Everyone will lie to your face.

Do: Pay attention to manager's statements regarding the lineup or running philosophy. If Matheny says the Cardinals are going to run more often, watch for this in spring. If Ichiro is expected to bat 3rd, watch to see if he'll stick there.

Don't: Get carried away. It's a marathon not a sprint, and most of your draft preparation should be done by this point. Don't adjust your fantasy rankings daily and the only adjustments should be injuries/questions regarding playing time as stated above. Do not fret. Sit back and relax.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Shortstops

The shortstop position seems better than it has been the last few years due to power boosts from Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, and the emergence of Starlin Castro. There's seems to be a plateau after the first three, so if you don't jump in early you would be best served waiting for value later on. Also...Hanley Ramirez might be an incredible value this year, but I personally wouldn't touch him unless he falls in my lap. He doesn't seem to care at all about playing baseball it's hard to know how much of his talent will actually show up.

1. Troy Tulowitzki
1. Troy Tulowitzki
2. Jose Reyes
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Hanley Ramirez
3. Jose Reyes
4. Starlin Castro
4. Asdrubal Cabrera
5. Jimmy Rollins
5. Jimmy Rollins
6. Asdrubal Cabrera
6. Starlin Castro
7. JJ Hardy
7. Elvis Andrus
8. Elvis Andrus
8. Alexei Ramirez
9. Derek Jeter
9. J.J. Hardy
10. Alexei Ramirez
10. Jhonny Peralta
11. Jhonny Peralta
11. Derek Jeter
12. Stephen Drew
12. Dee Gordon

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Second Basemen

Good morning, baseball enthusiasts.  We are only a few short weeks away from Spring Training, and with March as the un-official beginning of the fantasy baseball draft season, let's get to the second basemen.  By the way, the second base position feels deeper that it has in the past, when it was sort-of "Chase Utley or bust!"  And as you will see in our (and some other experts) rankings, there is some instability regarding how all of these guys will filter out in 2012.  But this is how we do it (shout out to Montell Jordan):

1.      Robinson Cano
1.      Ian Kinsler
2.      Dustin Pedroia
2.      Robinson Cano
3.      Ian Kinsler
3.      Chase Utley
4.      Ben Zobrist
4.      Brandon Phillips
5.      Brandon Phillips
5.      Dan Uggla
6.      Michael Young
6.      Michael Cuddyer
7.      Dan Uggla
7.      Dustin Pedroia
8.      Rickie Weeks
8.      Michael Young
9.      Chase Utley
9.      Ben Zobrist
10.  Howie Kendrick
10.  Rickie Weeks
11.  Danny Espinosa
11.  Aaron Hill
12.  Aaron Hill
12.  Howie Kendrick

Some Quick Comments:  I'm really going against the grain by having Kinsler in the top spot rather than Cano.  In doing this, I'm betting (probably stupidly) that a guy who went 30-30 last year will have a relatively healthy season.  Cano is the safer play, but I think that Kinser is the better all-around fantasy player, when healthy (which I think he will be).

You can tell by our rankings, that I still think Utley has got it, placing him at #3, while ADR sees him a bit more in decline, dropping him to #9.  

Additionally, both of our top twelves feature guys who probably won't be seeing much, if any time at second base, but who will qualify there by virtue of last season--Michael Young (#6 for ADR and #8 for me) and Michael Cuddyer (#6 for me).  I actually think Cuddyer could be a tremendous value this year, especially if you've got him at second base, as he is moving from a pitchers park in Minnesota, to the rarefied air of Coors Field.  Wouldn't be surprised at all by 30 bombs and sneaky double-digit steals.

By the way, do you remember how it felt like Dan Uggla couldn't figure it out in Atlanta at the beginning of the season last year?  He still finished with 36 jacks.  Expect big things.    

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Pick to Click" Series: NL West

Diamondbacks: Justin Upton
  • I know, I know... He's already clicked. But I'm dreaming of another huge step forward, and your eventual National League MVP. How does a slash line of .309/.390/.560 with about 25 stolen bases sound? Good? Good.
Dodgers: Kenley Jansen
  • Honestly, this is everyone in the world's pick to click unless you're the mother of incumbent closer Javy Guerra. Even Guerra's mother is probably impressed by Jansen's k/9 rate from last year. For those of you who was 16.10!

Giants: Madison Bumgarner
  • I absolutely love his control...and 2011 peripherals don't indicate any type of fluke. 200 more solid innings...
  • I expect Bumgarner to be better than Tim Lincecum in 2012. In my book, Bumgarner gets slightly better and Lincecum regresses a bit more in 2012.
Padres: Edinson Volquez
  • Moving from a tiny ballpark to a huge ballpark will "cure what ails ya". This is especially true when you have particularly nasty stuff.
  • Volquez had trouble throwing strikes last year. However, he has so much movement on his pitches that he could build a ton of confidence by throwing to the middle of the plate in San Diego and seeing what happens. Once he figures out that the ball stays in the yard, he's going to look a lot more like the ace everyone in Cincinnati expected. (And might make the Latos trade look pretty silly in the process.)

Rockies: Tyler Colvin

  • The tough part will be getting enough plate appearances....but Tyler Colvin is sitting on a huge seaon, as soon as he ca get some regular playing time. The Coors effect will keep his average high enough so he stays in the lineup. I don't think .270 with 25 home runs is unreasonable.
  • Here's how I see it playing out: Casey Blake gets injured right away, Cuddyer moves to 3rd, and Colvin takes the job in left and starts mashing the ball. Worst case scenario......pencil in Colvin for a big year off the bench and a starting spot next year.