Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Season Preview: The Little Green One

In prior years, we’ve tended to cover the Commish’s team last, which has resulted in a couple of somewhat unusual previews which were more meditations on mediocrity and mortality than legit fantasy analysis. In an effort to rectify our previous neglect, we’ve decided to bat the Commish leadoff this season. That means he’ll see fewer gimmicks, but a more robust review of the team’s actual chances. The question is whether that’s a good thing. Onward.


We here at the GRBG are of the mind that in most walks of life, once you figure out what it is you want, you should pursue your goal single-mindedly. Want to be a judge? Get out there and start doing trial work. Enjoy chicken salad sandwiches for lunch? Have one every single day. In general, variety is the spice of life only for dilettantes. The Yo Gabba Gallardos clearly feel the same way, because just about every discretionary offensive pick they made during the draft yielded the same type of player: a swing-from-the-heels thumper.

The team set the tone early with its pick of Three True Outcomes superstar Adam Dunn, who is pretty much the ideal player for a dinger fetishist who is willing to trade contact (and even walks) for power. Later round picks Alexei Ramirez (18 HR, .313 OBP) and J.P. Arenciba (avg of 26.5 HR and .320 OBP across two AAA seasons) pushed the power-first approach to the logical extreme of it boundries. Keeper 2B Kelly Johnson sort of fits the same profile, making stud 3B Evan Longoria the only true five-category candidate in the IF. This group could be great if everyone has a good BABIP year; if it goes the other way, TLG1 could be running out an IF made up of almost entirely of undersized versions of Mark Reynolds. And ask Teddy how fun he was to watch last year.


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the team drafted hack-and-crash guys to complement its elite keepers. Corey Hart and Carlos Pena are two more big power threats with limited secondary skills (very limited in the case of Pena, who averages about two swings a game at this point). Kendrys Morales is young enough where he could grow into something more than a masher, but his health is also in question. That leaves the Cardinals duo of Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus to take up the slack, which is actually a possibility if Tony LaRussa can keep from burying Rasmus by forcing him to construct a privately funded railroad.

Starting Pitching

The power fetish sort of carries over into the top of the rotation, where the erstwhile power forward Zack Greinke will be backed up by the power arms of Brandon Morrow and Dan Hudson. Both guys toil in pitcher-unfriendly environments, though it doesn’t really matter what park you play in if you blow every pitch past every hitter. We’re high on both Morrow and Hudson this year. The concern is that neither guy has thrown a ton of innings in a single big league season. That, combined with Greinke’s pre-existing injury, mean the team has an especially risky profile at the top of the rotation.

The back of the rotation is filled out with solid Cardinals (Jaime Garcia), worryingly speculative Pirates (James MacDonald), and Ian Kennedy.

Let’s stop there a second, because Kennedy might have been the single most anomalous pick of the entire draft. A team with a well-established power fetish picked a guy whose average FB has only cracked 90 mph once in his career and who plays in an HR-crazy park. He’s pretty much the ideal anti-player for this team, which makes it very odd that he’s on the roster.

All in all, the rotation has nice upside. But a lot rests on some inexperienced shoulders, and there are a some pretty sick rotations elsewhere in the league this year.


Rivera, Soria, Axford. All good pitchers, all with pretty clear holds on their jobs. No arguments here—TLG1 has assembled the best of the non-megapens in the league this season.


So, yeah, lots of dingers. And probably lots of Ks as well, both for and against. But we worry that the parts might combine to be worth less than the sum of their parts. All this hacking could make for an iffy OBP, and there’s not really a big-time SB threat in the starting lineup. While there are some on the bench, those guys have OBP issues as well, which could make it tough to play them regularly. The team could also use an additional BA-driven guy who might be better placed to accumulate non-HR RBI.

So while there’s a chance the team could bludgeon its way to the top as constructed, we think they’re still a major trade away from the board. The good news is that (1) their needs should be clear enough that they‘ll be able to make category-specific trades and (2) for the first time in a while, their roster isn’t a ticking time bomb full of keeper slots. They’ve bought a lottery ticket, and can afford to see how it pays off.

No comments: