mauer and johan
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It’s always fun to generate and debate lists. We’ll continue with the All-2000 to Present Twins Lineup.
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C – Joe Mauer
1B – Justin Morneau
2B – Brian Dozier
3B – Corey Koskie
SS – Cristian Guzman
RF – Michael Cuddyer
LF – Jacque Jones
CF – Torii Hunter
DH – Jason Kubel
SP – Johan Santana
SP – Brad Radke
SP – Francisco Liriano
SP – Ervin Santana
SP – Scott Baker
Closer – Joe Nathan
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Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays


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Living in Minnesota and having a son that loves Michael Cuddyer I’m not sure I get the proper perspective as to how Cuddy is viewed on a national level. He is owned in the vast majority of fantasy leagues so that should serve as some indication.
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Cuddy got off to a brutal start hitting .226 in April. He managed just four RBI, but hit three home runs. He stepped up his game in May as the Twins dealt with injuries. He hit .300 for the month with two home runs and nine RBI. Cuddy was just getting started. As we roll into July, Cuddyer closes the chapter on a June in which he hit .323 with 15 runs, five home runs, 17 RBI, and four stolen bases. Talk about stuffing the stat sheet.
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Even more valuable than his production is his versatility. Both for the Twins and for fantasy teams alike.  He has played 43 games in right field, 21 games, at first base, and 13 games at second base. Last year he played 84 at first, 66 in right, and 14 at third base. In 2009 he played 117 in right and 34 at first. The modern athlete isn’t often willing to accept this kind of change. The fact that Cuddy does it with a smile just reinforces how valuable his is to the Twins.
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Cuddy should keep on producing. The past two year his first and second half splits were nearly identical. He’s not going to guarantee you a fantasy title, but he’s entering July hitting .283 with 33 runs, ten home runs, 30 RBI, and seven stolen bases. That production and the ability to juggle him in your lineup as you see fit is invaluable to fantasy owners. While he’s not the straw that stirs the drink, he’s the glue that helps patch your holes and keep the boat afloat.
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Also check out:


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Brian Duensing isn’t have a terrible season. He’s 4-6 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. That said, he’s not living up to the expectations he set last year by going 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.
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He’s been a roller coaster ride this year starting off on fire going 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA in April before floundering in May at 0-4 with a 8.76 ERA. He’s bounced back nicely in June going 2-1 again with a 2.81 ERA. His ERA in June is a little suspect though as he has four additional unearned runs. Still, after such a poor May it’s nice to see him pitching well again.
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Last year Duensing was a beast at home going 6-1 with a 2.00 ERA. This year he’s just 2-3 with a 5.45 ERA. Disasters against Toronto and Texas help push those numbers up though. His other four home starts were quality starts.
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The Twins have been scoring more lately and are on what seems like an annual hot streak. Their confidence is high as they try to get back into the race for the A.L. Central title.
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Luck hasn’t been on Duensing’s side this year. His BABIP is .333, which puts him among the leaders. Last year it was .272. Even though he has had success in June, his mark for the month is .351. As things start to even out, his peripherals will come down. While they won’t likely reach anywhere near last year’s numbers, they should be good enough to make him a nice spot starter when the match-up is right.
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Don’t expect a win out of Brian the next time he takes the mound as he has to lock horns with Tim Lincecum. That doesn’t mean he can’t turn in a solid performance on the road, where he’s 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA.
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Also check out:


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Jason Kubel is about the only Twin that is off to a fast start offensively. The lefty is hitting .354. Nobody else is hitting even .285. His OPS is .916. Nobody else is even at .710. He only has two home runs, but he has nine doubles. He has yet to hit a home run at Target Field, but that should change when the weather improves. It has been an unseasonably cold spring in Minnesota. Trust me, I know.
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Kubel got off to a slow start last year, which makes his early success this year even sweeter. Last year he hit .219 in April and .254 the rest of the way.
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Part of his success has been his ability to hit lefties this year. He is a career .239 hitter against lefties (.233 the past three years), but is hitting at a .290 clip this year. He has always had success against right-handed pitching hitting .286 over his career and .289 the past three years. So far he’s hitting .385 against them with a 1.000 OPS.
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He’s hitting with nobody on (.365), with runners on (.341), with runners in scoring position (.409), and leading off the innings (.450). The only thing he is lacking in is timely hits. Kubel is hitting just .125 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
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Kubel is hitting just .231 as the designated hitter, but thanks to Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s injury, Kubel has been able to play the field. He is hitting .397 when he plays the field. He hit .234 at DH last year and .258 when he played the field.
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With Alexi Casilla struggling, the Twins could opt to keep Michael Cuddyer at second, shifting Nishioka over to shortstop when he returns. This will enable Kubel to stay in the outfield and Thome at DH.
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Obviously he’s not going to hit .354 all year, but he hit .300 in 2009 so you know he’s capable of hitting for average. When the weather warms up some of his doubles could turn into home runs.
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So if you have Kubel, keep enjoying his success.  You can try to sell high on him, but be cautious. You may not get good trade value for him since he hasn’t had a power surge and he isn’t a big name. He’s the type of player that can help you win a fantasy championship though.
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Also check out:


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After a rough road trip to Tampa Bay Joe Nathan is out as closer and Matt Capps is in. Nathan blew two consecutive saves and saw his ERA jump from 2.25 to 8.44 over the process. Unfortunately Capps has been equally ineffective, blowing one save and allowing the Rays to cut a 3-1 deficit in half. Capps’ ERA jumped from 1.35 to 4.50. Obviously you should grab Capps if he is available in your league, though I anticipate Nathan reclaiming his job at some point.

Joe Mauer to the DL

14 April 2011

joe-mauer
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The stars keep falling. You can make a nice All-Star team for the walking wounded. Joe Mauer is the latest to join the M.A.S.H. unit. You aren’t exactly going to miss Mauer’s production, as he’s hitting .235 with two runs, four RBI, and just one extra base hit. Still a tough break for fantasy owners. Here are some possible options to fill the void:
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  • Russell Martin, NYY:  .289, six runs, three HRs, nine RBI, two SBs
  • John Buck, FLA:  .217, four runs, one HR, eight RBI
  • Carlos Ruiz, PHI:  .351, eight runs, two HRs, eight RBI
  • Nick Hundley, SD:  .371, seven runs, two HRs, eight RBI
  • Alex Avila, DET:  .258, five runs, three HRs, eight RBI, one SB
  • Ryan Hanigan, CIN:  .304, six runs, two HRs, six RBI
  • A.J. Pierzynski, CHW:  .256, three runs, five RBI

 

2011 AL Central Preview

28 February 2011

LestersLegends.com is teaming up with EE Sports World.com to break down all the divisions in baseball. My assignment was the AL Central. I’ll review the teams in the order I expect them to finish.
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First Place:  Minnesota Twins
The key to the Twins success is the health of Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. Minnesota did an excellent job piecing things together last year with Jim Thome, Michael Cuddyer and company, but if they want to repeat as American League Central Champions, they’ll need Morneau’s bat. The Twins always seem to get by at closer so this isn’t nearly as primary a concern. Even if he falters, they have Matt Capps as an insurance policy.
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The Twins added Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the offseason to bolster their middle infield. The rest of their moves were just securing their free agents, namely Carl Pavano and Jim Thome. Delmon Young and Danny Valencia were pleasant surprises for the Twins last year while Michael Cuddyer once again showed his versatility. Denard Span struggled at times, but should bounce back.
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Francisco Liriano shined in the rotation, which will be the key to the Twins success. If they can get strong efforts from Liriano, Pavano, Scott Baker, and company there is a good chance that Ron Gardenhire pulls the right strings again to maintain A.L. Central dominance.
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Second Place:  Chicago White Sox

The White Sox added some firepower in the offseason by bringing in Adam Dunn to join the likes of Alex Rios, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and Carlos Quentin. Juan Pierre will once again set the table, and Gordon Beckham looks to break out.
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The White Sox have a solid rotation, and should get a nice boost when Jake Peavy returns from shoulder surgery around the All-Star Break. Until then, it will be up to John Danks, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson to carry the load. The White Sox lost Bobby Jenks in the bullpen, but Matt Thornton and Chris Sale should be up to the task.
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Ozzie Guillen will be entertaining, or annoying depending on your point of view, once again. You cannot accuse him of not speaking his mind. The White Sox seem to have a mental block that keeps them from getting past the Twins. If they can overcome it, the division is theirs for the taking.
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Third Place:  Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera is the most talented player in the division, but he may also be the most troubled. Good news for Tigers fans and his fantasy owners that his arrest happened before the season started. He’s dealing with a serious issue though that is bigger than baseball. Fortunately the structure of the season could be what he needs to keep his life in order.
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On a less serious note, the addition of Victor Martinez gives the team a little more firepower. With Austin Jackson, Ryan Raburn, Carlos Guillen, and Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers could have a potent offense in 2011. Justin Verlander anchors the pitching staff with Max Scherzer living up to his promise. There are question marks in the back end of their rotation, which makes it hard for me to imagine they can surpass the Twins or the White Sox.
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Fourth Place:  Cleveland Indians
The Indians could actually surprise some people this year. Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most underrated players in the American League. Grady Sizemore is trying to recover from knee surgery. He was one of the most exciting players in baseball, and could really help their offense. Carlos Santana looks like one of the best young catchers in the league while Orlando Cabrera will provide veteran leadership. If players like Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta can take the next step, the Tribe have an outside shot of taking third place.
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That is, if they get the pitching they need. Fausto Carmona had a strong year, but if he loses his mechanics on his sinker, he can go south fast. Justin Masterson has the goods, he just needs to work on his control issues. Too many free passes lead to big innings. Chris Perez is a solid closer, but the rest of the pitching staff is loaded with question marks.
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Fifth Place:  Kansas City Royals
Zack Greinke is gone. Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, and Vin Mazzaro do not intimidate opposing batters. Joakim Soria is one of the best closers in the American League, but how many leads will he be able to protect? Speaking of protecting, who is going to protect Billy Butler in the Royals’ lineup? Mike Aviles had a strong finish to last year and Kila Ka’aihue has a cool name and some pop, but this is a team that is going to struggle to avoid 100 losses.
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Denard Span played a career high 153 games, had a career high 629 at bats, slugged a career high 24 doubles, tied a career high with ten triples, and stole a career high 26 bases while being caught a career low four times. Those were the positives.
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Despite the additional at bats, he scored 85 runs, which was down 12 from last year. He scored those 97 runs in 578 at bats. In his rookie season he scored 70 runs in 347 at bats. Part of the blame lies in his diminishing walk rate. In 2008 he had a .124 BB/PA (bases on balls per plate appearance). In 2009 it dipped to .105. Last year it sunk to .086.
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Not only was he walking less, but his average took a major hit as well. After hitting .294 as a rookie and .311 last year to avoid the sophomore slump, Span hit just .264, which is discouraging because he hit .308 in the spring with 13 runs in 20 games. Unfortunately he struck his mom with a foul ball as spring training was wrapping up. It’s hard to quantify the effect it had on his game, but the numbers suggest it took a toll.
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Span opened the 2010 season going five for 32 (.156) in the first nine games. He finished the month hitting just .211. He went on a tear in May hitting .353, but battled various injuries (foot, shoulder) and hit just .250 the rest of the way. Ron Gardenhire has already said that he wants to rest Span more in the upcoming year, which could actually help improve his numbers so he doesn’t burn out down the stretch.
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Span hit just three home runs last year, after hitting six and eight in his first two years, but Target Field had that effect on pretty much everybody. While I don’t expect a major turnaround in his power numbers, I do think his batting average will come back.
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Span had a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .295, which is a far cry from what someone of his speed usually produces. In his first two years his BABIP were .358 and .342 respectively. Assuming his luck improves, so should his average.
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I don’t think you should build your team around him, but he’s a solid third outfielder. He is the 42nd ranked outdfielder according to Mock Draft Central, going on average with the 171st pick. Even if you take him before the 15th round like his ADP suggests, I think you’ll be getting a good bargain from a guy who will likely produce a .300-95-5-60-25 line.
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Justin Morneau landed on the 15-day DL with a concussion. The move was made retroactive to July 8th. Morneau’s condition is as painful to fantasy owners as it is to the Twins’ playoff hopes. OK, maybe they aren’t on the same level, but it’s tough.

 

Morneau is hitting .345 with 18 HRs and 56 RBIs. Replacing him on your fantasy roster won’t be easy, but here are some reasonable available options (stats over past 30 days):

 

Ike Davis, NYM – .247, 3 HR, 18 RBIs (Owned: 22% ESPN, 54% CBS)
Russell Branyan, SEA – .264, 5, 13 (12% ESPN, 31% CBS)
Travis Ishikawa, SF – .390, 1, 12 (Virtually all ESPN & CBS leagues)
Matt LaPorta, CLE – .357, 4, 11 (18% ESPN, 54% CBS)
Eric Hinske, ATL – .200, 2, 10 (1% ESPN, 6% CBS)
Justin Smoak, TEX – .193, 2, 10 (8% ESPN, 39% CBS)
Daric Barton, OAK – .239, 1, 9 (3% ESPN, 24% CBS)
Casey Kotchman, SEA – .378, 4, 8 (2% ESPN, 11% CBS)
Wilson Betemit, KC – .364, 2, 8 (Virtually all ESPN & CBS leagues)

 

Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Todd Farino, of Fantasy Baseball Search, The Closer Report, and Fantasy Football Search fame, invited me to talk Twins and fantasy baseball in general on their Fantasy Baseball Tonight podcast. It was a blast. Feel free to take a listen.


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