OpinionApril 27, 2009

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Monday Mail Call: Deciphering the Rankings

By R.J. White

Welcome back to the Monday Mail Call! Today, we’ll be exploring how one of our Cafe rankers settles on his list each week. We’ll also take a look at minor leaguers Mat Gamel and Tommy Hanson, and whether it’s time to add them or not. If you’d like your questions answered right here in the Monday Mail Call, please send them to fbcmailbag@gmail.com, and we’ll do our best to help you out.

“[Your rankings] seem to be your rankings for players based on projections for the rest of the year while taking into account recent play. Correct? Not merely rankings based on year to date accomplishments. So you are simply tweaking your preseason rankings for end of the year projections based on recent play? I’m curious how you place your altered player rankings? Taking into account changes such as injuries, fast starts, solid starts by players expected to perform well vs those not expected to, slow starts by players you expect to outperform their recent poor showings. I’m asking this because it’s easy to get fooled into thinking hot starts can translate into solid season stats, while sorting out surprisingly hot starts by player who legitimately can sustain it. Players come to mind such as Inge, C. Pena, A. Hill, Bartlett, Kemp, Ethier, Greinke, Billingsly, Bedard, Broxton, Bell, Franklin. I know how I FEEL about these players and whether I think they’ll hold up numbers for the year based on my own preseason expectations. How do you go about making that determination? Thanks again for taking the time to make these rankings!” — drtodddds

Bryan Freilich: What you say is true. For the first month or so, all I really do is tweak my preseason rankings based on recent play. In doing this, I tend to give the slow starters with decent track records the benefit of the doubt, especially those players that have a history of slow starts. After a month or so, my rankings tend to shift a bit and be more reflective of year to date performance, though I still consider my preseason expectations and hunches to some degree as well.

In terms of determining which hot starters are likely to sustain their performance, I typically consider a variety of factors, including past performance, injury history, and current peripherals. Erik Bedard, for instance, was considered a top 5 starter at the beginning of last year due to his strong 2007 campaign. He was a bust last year because of injuries, not poor performance. If he can stay healthy (which is a big IF, since he’s never been able to pitch 200 innings before), there’s no reason to believe that he shouldn’t be able to sustain his current performance. Ryan Franklin, on the other hand, will not continue to be this good. Although he has always been healthy, he is currently pitching WAY over his head. His current K/9 is 9 (previous full season high = 5.83), his BABIP against is .171, and he has yet to blow a save. These stats, plus his 68% save pct. last year suggests that he is due for a serious correction.

“[I] would love to hear some thoughts and general 6 category projections (including total bases) for Gamel and LaPorta specifically for 2009. I currently am rostering Josh Fields and project him around .270 – 20 hr – 90 runs – 85 rbis – 10 steals…. Would Gamel be about similar in production?” — Bobby C.

R.J. White: I’m a big fan of both these guys and have covered each of them in the Future Rookies column, so I won’t rehash my take. If I had the option between the two, I would invest in LaPorta, as he has a clearer path to the majors. Both are off to great starts, however I don’t think either one is coming up before September, so temper your expectations with each. If they were to get called up soon, I would give LaPorta a .270./.320/.490 line with about 20-25 HRs in 400 ABs. Gamel would have something around a .285/.330/.430 line with 15-20 HRs and a few steals in the same number of ABs. In long-term keeper leagues, these guys are future studs.

“Tommy Hanson just got dropped in my 12-team mixed league. Should I blow my waiver priority (#4) to pick him up considering he might be called up soon? I have a 25-man roster with a yearly draft. Thanks.” — Gary L.

R.J. White: For leagues where you have at least four or five bench spots, you have the flexibility to carry a guy like Hanson, who may or may not be called up soon. I personally think the Braves will contend for a playoff spot this season, and I see them bringing the kid up no later than June. Because of that, I would definitely use the #4 pick on him if I had a roster spot to burn (i.e., guy went to the DL, fringe player I’m thinking about cutting). Don’t drop someone useful that just in a slump, though. It’s fun to gamble on these prospects, but you have to make sure you’re not betting the house.

OK, that’ll wrap it up for today. Keep using those discussion threads, both in the Leftovers forum and found under each article’s author information blurb. And throw us some e-mails here at the Monday Mail Call if you’d like your questions featured in next week’s article.

R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years, making him an addict at this point. He loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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