Fantasy WAR, Former TinCaps on the Rise

So, yesterday I had my fantasy baseball draft, which marks my first serious foray into fantasy baseball since high school. I used to wake up every morning before school and check my lineup to make sure it was optimized for that day. It was a thrilling mix of checking the previous day’s box scores and trying to analyze which pitching matchup might be most suitable for my team come that evening. It was usually a heartbreaking process by the time it was over, because my teams were never very good and the same guy would win the fantasy league every year.

That fantasy league did lead to a lot of great lunchtime debates over whether Player X was better than Player Y and whether the Mets would ever gain superiority over the Yankees. It’s fun to think back to a time when I knew nearly every player on every MLB roster and the merits of having any given player on my fantasy roster. Having the time, but more importantly, the energy, to check my team every morning makes it feel like that was forever ago. Once you get older and gain more responsibility–work, kids, etc.–the likelihood of checking a fantasy roster every day drops significantly. Fortunately we now do  a weekly head-to-head matchup, similar to fantasy football, where I’ve only got to set my roster once a week. Even then, I might forget. Once this fall I was driving around Fort Wayne on a Sunday at about 12:45, and  I was more than 10 minutes away from home. I had not yet set my two fantasy football rosters for that week, meaning I had a fantasy emergency on my hands. I pulled into a parking lot just off of Coliseum Boulevard and frantically dialed up my Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy pages. Let me tell you, the drag and drop feature works great when you have a mouse–not so great when you’re on a touchscreen phone. I probably looked like a complete idiot sitting in my car and sweating which tight end to start that week. Luckily, I got my roster set on time.

Since I was so unsuccessful in that fantasy league in high school, I decided to try a new method this year. I drafted my entire team based on WAR projections for this season. Seriously. If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym– it stands for Wins Above Replacement–it’s designed to show how many wins a player is worth over the average replacement player. ESPN has a great article on the topic and how it relates to last year’s AL MVP race. Will this strategy work? I have no idea, but I figured it was worth a shot.

For those of you who are interested in my roster (Nobody?) here’s what I ended up with:

C: Miguel Montero, Jonathan Lucroy

1B: Ryan Howard, Yonder Alonso

2B: Aaron Hill, Jedd Gyorko (former TinCaps infielder)

3B: Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria

SS: Asdrubal Cabrera

OF: Mike Trout, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Logan Morrison, Carlos Quentin, Coco Crisp

SP: Jarrod Parker (Fort Wayne’s own), Ryan Vogelsong, David Price, Yovani Gallardo, Tommy Milone,

RP: Jonathon Broxton, Chris Perez

Wish me luck, friends. I wish you the same.

Odd sidenote: Somehow during my draft I discovered that former MLB relief pitcher Armando Benitez was in the pool of draftable players. Not only has Benitez not been on an MLB roster since 2008, but he hasn’t been on a minor league roster since 2010. I couldn’t believe he could actually be drafted. Why my fixation with Benitez? Well, growing up as a Mets fan I was never more nervous than when Benitez came in to pitch. I’ve really never trusted any Mets closer since then. Fittingly, Benitez is number one on the list of the “Top” 10 Mets Blown Saves of the 2000’s. No, I did not write this list.

Onto happier things, like TinCaps baseball. John Nolan joins us with the third and final part of his series checking in with former TinCaps to gauge their chances of making the Padres roster. John, take it away…

We’ve already evaluated the former TinCaps on the Padres 40-man roster and those still in big league camp. Now it’s time to dig deeper. Here are some recent Parkview Field stars who could find themselves at Petco Park in 2013, or the not-too-distant future.

Johnny Barbato (2012): The 20-year old Barbato was a workhorse for the TinCaps last season. The righty came out of the bullpen a team-high 48 times, which was also good for fourth most in the Midwest League. And it wasn’t just quantity from Barbato, but quality, too.

The Miami native posted a 1.84 ERA in his 73.1 innings of work. Opposing batters hit a meager .195 against Barbato — the third lowest average among relievers in the league. Many of those batters couldn’t even make contact against Barbato, who struck out 84. In fact, his strikeout per nine innings ratio of 10.31 was fifth best in the Midwest League.

Barbato won’t be finding himself with the Padres to start 2013, as he was just reassigned to minor league camp in Arizona. However, if Barbato can replicate his Fort Wayne success going forward, it may not be too long before he finds himself in San Diego.

C Jason Hagerty (2010): Only one player in the Midwest League had a better on-base percentage than Hagerty did for the TinCaps in 2010. That one guy? Mike Trout. While Hagerty’s success since then can’t compare with the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, he’s still a catching prospect with promise.

Hagerty walked 88 times with the TinCaps on his way to that .423 OBP. Those 88 walks are the second most ever by a Fort Wayne player in a single season. But when the right-handed hitter did swing the bat in ’10, the results were good as well. Hagerty belted a team-best 14 HR and 74 RBI, while putting up a .302 average. Along the way, he earned two Midwest League Player of the Week awards and postseason All-Star honors.

The former Miami Hurricane flourished in Advanced-A in 2011, too. Hagerty hit .311 with 8 HR and 47 RBI before being transferred to Double-A San Antonio in mid-July. Since then, though, Hagerty’s numbers have diminished.

In the second half of 2011, Hagerty batted .231 for San Antonio while clubbing only 1 HR. A year ago, he hit .248 with 7 HR. Maybe more striking, since the 88-walk season with the TinCaps, Hagerty drew a combined 81 walks the last two campaigns.

Hagerty, 25, was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 5.

C Austin Hedges (2012): Hedges was only 19-years old for the majority of last season with the TinCaps, yet you wouldn’t think so by looking at his production. In 95 games behind the plate, Hedges not only shined in how he handled Fort Wayne’s staff, but also as a hitter. The catcher hit .279, while cranking 10 home runs and driving in 56 runs — both second best on the team. That’s better than the Padres could have hoped for entering Hedge’s first full season of professional baseball. (In 2011, he took only 26 at-bats between the Arizona League and playing for Eugene.)

And the second-round pick from the 2011 draft continued to impress during the offseason. Baseball America ranks Hedges as the No. 4 prospect in San Diego’s system, and already tabs him as the best defensively in the organization.

Given Hedges’ age, there’s no need for the Padres to rush him through the ranks. For proof, he was just reassigned to minor league camp over the weekend. However, if his all-star-caliber performance last year with the TinCaps is any indication, it won’t be too long until Hedges is a major leaguer.

SS Jeudy Valdez (2009-10): Valdez was the TinCaps’ opening day second baseman in 2009 and 2010. The Dominican Republic native struggled in his first Fort Wayne season, hitting .212 over 193 at-bats in an abbreviated season that ended in the Arizona League. But Valdez bounced back in his second go-around as a TinCap. The right-handed hitter upped his average to .247, while hitting 10 HR and 34 doubles. He also showed off some speed, swiping 34 bags.

Valdez made an even bigger jump in development after he left Fort Wayne in Lake Elsinore. There, he turned in a .295/.339/.481 line with 15 HR and 92 RBI, while again stealing 34 bases. Such a season bumped Valdez up to Double-A in 2012. But with San Antonio, the numbers weren’t as gaudy. The 23-year old’s line dropped to .225/.273/.364. Although for a middle infielder, he still did reach double-figures in HR for the third straight year (12).

Earlier this month, Valdez was optioned to Triple-A.

RHP Jerry Sullivan (2010): Sullivan set a career-high for wins with the TinCaps in 2010. The 3rd round pick in the ’09 draft went 7-4 — good for the second most wins on the team — in Fort Wayne while sporting a 4.03 ERA. With the fifth lowest walks per nine innings ratio in the league, Sullivan was named to the Midwest League All-Star team that year.

But since then, Sullivan’s numbers don’t indicate rapid progress. The former Oral Roberts Golden Eagle spent each of the past two seasons with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore. After going 6-9 with a 5.95 ERA in 2011 as a starter, Sullivan moved to the bullpen in 2012. The righty reliever posted a 4-5 record a 4.20 ERA. He has, however, maintained strong control. In 81.1 innings last year, Sullivan walked only 12 batters.

Sullivan’s timetable for reaching the bigs took a hit recently, though, as he was reassigned from the Padres camp in Arizona to Minor League camp.

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Don’t forget to share your ice cream, folks:

———

MUSICAL GUEST

Imagine Dragons…take it away!

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Thank you, John.  One other item of note before we go–in this week’s Prospect Previews post, I noted that Jonathan Roof might be a potential TinCaps outfielder in 2013. Little did I realize, Roof was signed to a minor league deal by the Tigers back in January. I apologize for the confusion. Best of luck to Mr. Roof as he looks to climb the Detroit ranks.

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

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