Roy Halladay says he is healthy and ready to put last season behind him. Should you believe that? Will Mike Napoli be able to overcome concerns about his hips, get 500+ at-bats, and be a dominating fantasy catcher in 2013? With Frank Francisco's elbow barking, who are the Mets targeting to work the 9th inning in his place? Finally, what will the Indians do at the end of their rotation, and should you even care?
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION?
Roy Halladay was a top-5 starting pitcher selection last season. That's hardly a shock given that from 2008-11 he had never had an ERA higher than 2.78 or a WHIP above 1.13 while throwing at least 233 innings each season. Alas, he hit the skids last season with a 4.49 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 156.1 innings pitched because of shoulder woes. Or so we thought. According to Halladay there was something else going on that precipitated his shoulder issues – he injured his lower back which caused him to alter his training program. With his back healthy, and the ability to train differently this offseason, will Halladay's body allow him to return to the level of dominance he's flashed in recent years?
(1) Though his ERA was 4.49, xFIP suggests his ERA should have been a much more passable 3.60.
(2) Though his 7.60 K/9 mark and 2.07 BB/9 mark led to a 3.67 K/BB ratio, a five year low, it's still an excellent number that was 20th best in baseball among pitchers who threw at least 150 innings.
(3) Though his 1.39 GB/FB ratio was a career worst, it's still better than the league average of about 1.30.
(4) He's healthy.
(5) He's Roy Halladay.
(1) He'll be 36 in May.
(2) He threw at least 220 innings for 6-straight years from 2006-11.
(3) Because of all the innings, he's thrown a lot of pitches of late.
2007: 3,330 - 25th in baseball
2008: 3,559 - 6th in baseball
2009: 3,394 - 17th in baseball
2010: 3,568 - 10th in baseball
2011: 3,468 - 14th in baseball
At least he throws a lot of strikes so he's not leading baseball in pitches every year.
(4) His 7.60 K/9 rate in 2012 was a four year low.
(5) His 2.07 BB/9 mark was an eight year high.
(6) His 1.04 HR/9 mark was a 12 year high.
(7) His 1.39 GB/FB ratio was a career worst. Not just that, but for a man with a 2.06 career mark it's pretty disheartening to note that he's failed to reach 1.75 in any of the past four seasons.
You shouldn't invest in Halladay to be your ace in 2013. His age, heavy workload, and return from injury make that an untenable position to hold. However, that doesn't mean Halladay wouldn't slot in very well as a 3rd option in mixed leagues, one with SP2 upside without a doubt. This skill set can still produce plenty if he can stay healthy.
Mike Napoli is going to have an MRI on his hips Thursday before he will ramp up his physical activity. To this point he hasn't shown any symptoms at all that should lead anyone to think he will be severely limited in 2013, but there is obviously the avascular necrosis situation that will have to be monitored going forward. In re-draft leagues, Napoli is sliding a bit farther than he should though as people are worried. Recent reports from the NFBC suggest that Napoli is going off the board around pick 108 which leaves him as the 10th catcher being taken. If healthy, and I get that's an if, Napoli could be in line for a big season. Remember, he's slated to play first base for the Red Sox which should allow him to reach 500 at-bats for the first time. If he does, he should have no problem reaching 25 homers and 80 RBIs, elite numbers for a catcher eligible player. Don't forget that per 500 at-bats for his career that Napoli has averaged 32 homers and 84 RBIs. If he bats .259, his career mark, and reaches those totals, there's no way he isn't a top-5 catcher.
Frank Francisco has a wonky arm. He's also got a wonky head, but that's besides the point right now. The fantasy upshot is that Francisco is dealing with some soreness in his elbow that will shut him down for at least two more weeks. At this point, his availability for Opening Day is already being called into question. Given his up and down 2012 effort, it's fair to question if the Mets would turn back to Francisco in the 9th inning if they are able to find a suitable fill-in early in the year. Brandon Lyon was recently signed to a contract go give the bullpen some depth, but thank goodness he isn't being considered for a 9th inning role. Manager Terry Collins has already gone on record that if Frank is unable to go that he's comfortable turning the 9th inning over to --- Bobby Parnell.
Can Parnell succeed in the 9th inning? You bet he can. Let's look at the skills.
He has a power arm. Last year was a three year low with his K/9 mark at 8.00, but over the last three seasons that mark is 8.72. Given that Bobby's career heater average is 96 mph, strong strikeout totals are pretty much a given. His power fastball, which he throws upwards of 75 percent of the time, is augmented with a hard slider (87 mph), though last year he took some heat of the slider and went with more of a curve ball feel (83 mph) to give him a bit more velocity separation in his pitches.
Parnell also does the other thing I look for in relievers – he induces grounders. For his career Parnell has a 53 percent ground ball rate, but last season he upped the old ante with a 61.5 percent mark which was a career best. He also posted, for the second time in three years, a fly ball rate under 22 percent (remember, the league average is about 35 percent). All those grounders have led to a career 1.80 GB/FB mark and a total of at least 2.85 in two of the past three years. That's elite work.
The strikeouts plus the walks lead me to think that Parnell is ideally suited to work the ninth. If he keeps the walks down, two of the past three years his BB/9 has been under 2.65, there is a very reasonable chance that Francisco never again sees the 9th inning even if his elbow is healthy.
LATE ROUND TARGET?
Zach McAllister has the inside track to fill one of the final two spots in the Indians' rotation according to GM Chris Antonetti. Here's how the rotation appears to be lined up.
Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers are locks.
You have to think with a solid spring that Trevor Bauer makes it as the 4th.
Therefore, it seems like the following names are locked into a battle for the 5th spot (again, assuming Bauer can hold down the 4th) – Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carlos Carrasco, David Huff and McAllister. A quick run down on the options.
Dice-K went 1-7 with a 8.28 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 45.2 innings last season. The last time he won 10 games was 2008 and that also happens to be the last time his ERA dipped below 4.69. He's a looooong shot to provide anything worthy of noting.
Carrasco was at one time a borderline elite prospect before elbow woes forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery. In 33 starts at the big league level he's gone 10-15 with a 4.93 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 2.06 K/BB ratio. None of that excites anyone. However, he's reportedly been able to regain the velocity on his fastball, and it wasn't that long ago that he looked strong at the Triple-A level (10-6, 3.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.96 K/9, 2.89 K/BB ratio in 2010). He's got the look of a solid late round add in AL-only leagues even if he doesn't lock down a rotation spot early in the year.
Huff, the last two seasons, has made 17 appearances, 14 starts, and the results have been positive without impressing: 3.84 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 6.40 K/9, 2.50 K/BB ratio over 77.1 innings. Think Mark Buehrle-ish and you may not be that far off, though it's not like Huff comes with the track record or certainty of Mark B.
That leaves McAllister as the 'best' fantasy option out of the group in my mind. Zach made 22 starts last year for the Indians with a 4.24 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Those are passable options for a depth arm in an AL-only league. Add in his 7.90 K/9 mark, and his 2.89 K/BB ratio, and now I'm starting to get a a little intrigued. When I note that his left on base percentage was a mere 6.7 percent (the league average is about 70 percent) I start thinking that his ERA could, potentially at least, dip into the high 3's. Then we'd be cooking with gas as the kids like to say (I'm sure they don't say that, but I'm still not going back to remove that sentence – I'm just too lazy to hit the 'back' button).
I think that the last two spots for the Indians should go to Bauer and McAllister with Carrasco ready to step in if need be. All three arms are solid targets in AL-only leagues, with McAllister and Carrasco likely to be had at a very reasonable rate.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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