With the way 'Sleepers' are tossed around at the Cafe with reckless abandon today, it's difficult to find one who hasn't been mentioned and analyzed several times from all angles. I wrote an article earlier this off-season on newly acquired OF Aaron Rowand being a nice Sleeper this season, but I'll go a different route here.
There are several qualities to be touched upon with this player being deemed a 'sleeper' for the upcoming season without diving deep into rough statistical analysis, so what I'll do is try to sell this player to the average, or even passing by fantasy baseball fan.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, San Diego Padres 6 foot 10 inch Starting Pitcher Chris Young.
How this guy is still flying under some radars and being drafted so late (and even not at all on occasion) is truly beyond me.
Let us first state the painfully obvious. Last season Chris Young pitched out of the launch pad that is Ameriquest Field in Arlington, TX. This season he has moved to the much friendlier confines of Petco Park out in the NL West, where the parks are smaller, and the bats are weaker.
Despite park factoring in last year, Young managed to stay .03 points (4.26 ERA) below league average. As his 27th birthday approaches at the end of this upcoming May, this is a towering Randy Johnsonesque monster waiting to hit his prime. In just 164.2 innings pitcher in 2005, Young managed to fan 137 batters, allowing just 45 free passes, on his way to a 1.26 WHIP, in the company of one Greg Maddux.
For those of you believing that hot finishes translate into hot following seasons: from August 2nd forward, Young did not suffer one single loss. He lowered his ERA from 4.94 to it's final mark of 4.26. He didn't allow a single run in 3 of his 9 starts.
On the road last year Chris carried a 4.17 ERA, allowing only 8 Home Runs and striking out 67 in 82 IP. Other than April and July (in which he suffered a 2.1 IP, 7 ER outing vs. Boston), every single month his ERA was under 4, getting as low as 1.42 in his 5 May starts and a 0.99 WHIP in 6 June starts. In 16 of his 31 starts he allowed 2 earned runs or less, allowing 3 or less in 22 of the 31.
With the Pads facing the Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, and Diamond Backs each 12 or so times this upcoming season, the potential for great ratios, Wins, and well over 150 K's is sitting on the table, waiting to be drafted.
Given where you're likely to find Chris Young sitting on the board come draft day, he could very well be the greatest value for Starting Pitchers that you're going to find for 2006.
Before I jump into the pimping of my personal favorite sleeper, I’d like to thank giants! and the Café for giving us the opportunity to have these debates as well as bighOrt for providing me with more than worthy opposition.
Pleasantries aside, Mr. hOrt couldn’t have been more off-base (no pun intended) in labeling Chris Young as the best sleeper going into this season because that title belongs solely to a third baseman in Colorado named Garrett Atkins.
We here at the Café are well aware of the temperament of unproven SP in fantasy baseball. Once the season starts, many of us find comfort in knowing that several starters will rise to the surface to provide you with respectable fantasy stats, for a while. It seems as though every year an un-drafted SP or two ends up finishing in the top 20 among the position like John Patterson did last year. Brett Myers, Danny Haren, John Lackey, Cliff Lee, and Noah Lowry may also have gone un-drafted in your leagues last year.
That being said, third basemen that should hit close to .300, slam 20 HR, and provide you with 100 RBI are considerably harder to find in Free Agency once the season starts. And while the 3B crop is rather deep this year, much of the “cream” of that crop is laden with question marks either due to injury or inconsistent performance. What this means is that even if your team won’t need a solid backup at 3B, several teams (perhaps those that own Rolen, Glaus, Mora, and Beltre) probably will.
So who is Garrett Atkins? Aside from the fact that he’s a 26 year old Sagittarius from the OC, you might be interested to know that he hit .287 with 13 HR and 89 RBI last year as a rookie. His 89 RBIs were the third most by any rookie over the last six years, and he didn’t even play the first month of the season! His batting average over the last two years, combining his stats between AAA and the Majors, is a robust .325. And, oh yeah, he plays half of his games at Coors Field, where some pop-flys can clear the bases.
All-in-all, you’re looking at a guy who should help a fantasy team out in 4 categories. Even if your fantasy team already has a guy named A-Rod, or Wright, or Cabrera braving the hot corner, you’d be wise to buy Atkins at his current price and sell him for a huge profit after he catches fire. “Sounds great! How much?” you ask? According to his Average Draft Position at ESPN.com, he can be had a round later than Chris Young.
Chris Young is a sleeper only if he is narcoleptic.
Sure he is moving out of Texas, sure he is moving to pitcher friendly SD and sure he is moving out of the AL where all of the good teams play.
But here it the most important stat = 0.68. That is his ground ball to fly ball ratio and it sucks. In fact he gave up 239 flyballs in only 165 IP. That's horrible. And in 239 flyballs he only gave up 19 HRs. That's a record for lucky.
Mark my words, major league pitchers will catch up to this guy and hammer his mistakes out of the park, even in SD.
Even good pitchers who give up too many long balls will have poor records. For exhibit A, I give you Jeff Weaver. Only had a 1.17 WHIP (not too shabby) but a 4.22 ERA. Why is that? 35 HR allowed . If you make a mistake high, major league hitters are going to kill you.
If you draft Chris Young he will kill your ERA and will not help you much in the other cats. Just my opinion.
We have not even begun to see what Chris Young is capable of (well, as a matter of fact, we have; but not to the extent), and this season, you can bank on improvements in EVERY statistical category. Projecting Young's final numbers from last year out to a 190 expected IP season (and this is without taking into consideration the park change, the divisional boost change, and his growth as a player as he approaches his prime, Young projects out to 158 strikeouts, or more than AL Cy Young Bartolo Colon threw in more innings last season.
As for Garrett Atkins, one number and one number alone jumps out, and gives me the universal sign for 'stear clear!' unless he's your 2nd option; and that is his anemic .238 Road batting average of 2005. As with nearly every Colorado Rocky not named Todd Helton, Atkins is a produce of his environment, and nothing more. With that .238 average comes packaged a .301 OBP, .649 OPS, 4 HR, and 39 RBI, all in 4 more games than he played at Coors. Are these the types of numbers you want from your starting 3B for more than half a fantasy season? I didn't think so.
Anybody projecting a worse line than Young had last season given all the factors moving in his favor (more pitcher friendly league, weakest division in baseball, pitcher friendlier park(s), and maturation into his prime, among others), I'm not quite sure what you're thinking. Now, I'm not saying by the size comparisons, that Young is going to be Randy Johnson, because he may never be capable of striking out 200 batters; not many are. But at this age and this point in career, Young is walking fewer and carrying better ratios. For those of you in keeper leagues especially, snag him now, while you still can. There was a pitcher a few years ago, in 2001, who ended the season with a 4.11 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 33 HR allowed, and 156 strikeouts in 194.2 innings pitched. Today we call him Jake Peavy, and guess what, he's Chris Young's new teammate.
It is definately convenient that Young and Atkins are both 26 years old, allowing both bighOrt and me to play the “probability of improvement” card (which, contrary to popular belief, is not produced by Donruss). However, anyone who selects Chris Young over Atkins in the draft is, as bighOrt said, “banking” on improvement. At 26 years old, what kind of a statistical leap can the giant hurler realistically make? Mr. hOrt projects 158 k’s for Young, and I think that sounds pretty close to what I expect, so I won’t be contesting it. He didn’t mention WHIP a whole lot, but I imagine it’ll be similar to last year’s mark of 1.26. So, I am going to focus on wins and era.
Winning with Chris Young
As difficult as it is to project wins, I certainly don’t see why anyone would “bank” on improvement in that category for him. He won 12 games last year pitching for Texas while the previously mentioned Jake Peavy won just one more (13) while pitching for San Diego. I doubt that bighOrt is projecting a line for Young that resembles Peavy’s from last year (although it was hinted at). Yet, if Peavy (in all of his rotoglory) only managed 13 wins for the ‘Dads last year, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would “bank” on Young achieving such a feat.
Cashing in on an improved ERA?
Young’s home ERA (4.35 in 2005) will certainly benefit from moving from Texas to San Diego. But as bighOrt so graciously pointed out, Young’s era on the road last year was not particularly good (4.17). In fact it wasn’t all that much worse than his ERA at home. A major contributing factor is Young’s penchant for allowing flyballs, as Mookie so eloquently pointed out. I won’t belabor the ground ball to fly ball ratio, as I feel Mookie already pointed out the necessary numbers involved there. However, I will point out that Young has never been someone you’d count on for a low ERA as his career minor league average is a modest 3.42 and that’s including 42 games started in A-Ball. To expect improvement in Young’s era is fine. To expect it to be any less than 3.90 would probably be a mistake.
So, now that I’ve given some evidence that suggests Young isn’t going to give a fantasy team much help in wins, and supplied you all with a realistic ERA projection, I would like to return the focus to good ole’ Garrett.
Let us take a look at what bighOrt said to discourage a fantasy owner from drafting Atkins:
bigh0rt wrote:As for Garrett Atkins, one number and one number alone jumps out, and gives me the universal sign for 'stear clear!' unless he's your 2nd option; and that is his anemic .238 Road batting average of 2005. As with nearly every Colorado Rocky not named Todd Helton, Atkins is a produce of his environment, and nothing more. With that .238 average comes packaged a .301 OBP, .649 OPS, 4 HR, and 39 RBI, all in 4 more games than he played at Coors. Are these the types of numbers you want from your starting 3B for more than half a fantasy season? I didn't think so.
As he said, “one number alone” jumps out. bighOrt, and Mookie before him, are both very concerned about Atkins’ road batting average. My response? Who cares!?!?
If you are in a rotisserie league, then the only things that you need to be concerned about are the numbers at the end of the season. We still eat hotdogs when we go to the game, even though we might not like the way they are made.
H2H owners benefit even more because they have the option to platoon Atkins. Owners lucky enough to own Atkins in a H2H league can take the good without the bad by using any other mediocre fantasy 3B (like Lowell or Encarnacion) when Atkins is on the road. By doing this, they will get primo production out of that position in their fantasy lineup. However, with an ADP of 230 (according to ESPN.com), Garrett Atkins is typically available at the start of the 19th round of a 12-team draft… I would assume that most owners would have their starting 3B by then, and Atkins would not have to be your primary option.
bighOrt, I won't contest your claim that Atkins is a product of his environment (Coors). It is, undoubtedly, his environment that makes him a valuable fantasy asset. I am a bit confused though, as to why you would make that the focus of your criticism, as a new "environment" (Petco) also seems to be your main reason for liking Young so much.
Now, let us take a look at what bighOrt didn’t say.
He didn’t say that Atkins wouldn’t hit .300.
He didn’t say that Atkins wouldn’t hit 20 HR.
He didn’t say that Atkins wouldn’t hit 100 RBI this season.
And when you consider how little Atkins’ road numbers will actually impact your fantasy team, regardless of your league format -