Playing in the park affectionately labeled the “Great American Small Park,” it's no secret that getting hitters who elevate the ball and play in Cincinnati is a good thing for your roto team. Conversely, avoiding pitchers who allow fly balls will help your ERA. The problems with flyball pitchers is exacerbated by the fact that Dunn is one of the least mobile outfielders in the game, and Griffey's oft-injured legs aren't allowing him to cover nearly the ground he did in his youth.
Wayne Krivsky has made some moves that have left fans and analysts alike baffled since taking over the reins of the Reds. However, he's made it clear that he won't stand for bad defensive play. With Alex “Sea Bass” Gonzalez joining Brandon Phillips up the middle, the Reds have arguably the most-rangy middle infield in the game now, and Gonzalez has extremely sure hands. This means extra hits turned into outs, and extra double plays behind your pitchers. Yes, your pitchers, because your league-mates are going to run for the hills when the idea of drafting Reds pitchers comes up, while you – knowing that it's only the flyball pitchers who get hammered – will benefit from their ignorance.
Players To Buy
There aren't many players in the game today about whom it's obvious that they could have a 50-homer season, and Adam Dunn is one of them. Sure, he'll have to do it in 550 AB because he walks so much, but that lower AB total will also mitigate the negative impact of his batting average to your team. Now in the last year of a contract, turning 27, and having gotten a taste of being competitive last year, Dunn rates as one of the best “breakout” candidates in the league (although that may just mean repeating his fine 2004 stats of .266-46-105). He'll even throw in 5 or more SB than you'd expect from someone of his stature.
Ryan Freel is a very good ballplayer, and an even better guy to have in roto. For your roto team, you won't care how well he fields at his various positions, and really won't mind when he misses games... just keep reminding yourself that you are getting 30 SB from him. He may be setting into an outfield spot this year, which should bring more AB, but he may lose his eligibility at 2b and 3b next year. Spending an extra couple bucks early in the auction on Freel allows you to wait and take the “best hitter” (from 2b/3b/of) very late in the draft, which is usually worth a few bucks in profit, since you don't have to react to “runs” immediately.
Third base is a pretty crowded position in the majors these days, with even more choice prospects arriving soon. But don't forget about Edwin Encarnacion. He was one of those half-season callups in 2005 who managed to avoid getting hyped. Then, in 2006, he went and got hurt so his total lines don't look all that impressive. Yet, if you look at his per-162 for ages 22 and 23, he's gone .261-21-90, with 8 SB. That's not quite David Wright, but his “Similar Batters Through Age 23” list from www.baseball-reference.com has Thome and Chipper listed at 2 and 3. So, the next three years could be the start of something special from EE.
Harang and Arroyo both pitch with efficient motions and throw heavy pitches. They are as safe of a duo of starters as you can ask for from a team, and if they pitched in Shea, with Billy Wagner closing for them, they'd be even better for roto. But they don't, so don't bid them up to “Carpentersville”, but don't forget about them, either.
Players To Avoid
Generally, when a player's career stat line in the minors is .274/.339/.418 (2755 AB), and his career major-league line is .245/.290/.375 (968 AB), and he hit .243/.287/.416 in the 2nd half of the previous season, there's not much debate about whether this guy is good. Yet, Brandon Phillips was a mega-prospect for years, and he did go 25-2 in SB attempts in 2006, and had a good first half. And – despite all those years in the minors and majors, he'll still be only 25 when the season starts (6/28/81 birthday). He's a slick defender, and shouldn't lose his job, but expect .255-12-60, with 15 steals, and chuckle to yourself when someone else quips about how they got a .280-20-80 guy who can steal 30 bases.
Scott Hatteberg had the highest BA, highest OBP, and was only 10 points off the highest SLG of his career in 2006. He's 37 years old. His 2nd-half was terrible. Add to that the facts that Adam Dunn really should be at first base, and Chris Denorfia can probably hit almost as well as Scotty, and all the makings of a very bad roto player are there.
Dave Weathers, Mike Stanton, Bill Bray, Todd Coffey, Gary Majewski, and Kerry Ligtenberg. Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, and Norm Charlton would be a better use of your auction dollars.
Impact Rookies/Future Call-Ups
Homer Bailey has an unfortunate name for a pitching prospect in Cincinnati. And he's not known as a groundball pitcher either. However, his stuff is just that good, and the Reds could actually have a trio of very good starters in the 2nd half.
Jay Bruce is going to be great, and he's a perfect “fit” for the park and team. He should arrive to stay sometime in 2008 (September at the worst). If the Reds are able to keep Dunn, he, Encarnacion, and Dunn could form as effective of a trio as Dunn, Griffey, and Kearns were supposed to.
It's arguable that the Reds best offensive/defensive alignment includes Chris Denorfia in CF, Griffey in RF, and Freel in LF, pushing Dunn to 1b, and Hatteberg to the pine. It may not happen, but if it does, Denorfia's good for a .270 BA or more, 10+ HR, and could steal 20 bases. With the injury woes of Griffey and Freel, and the decline of Hatteberg, Denorfia could see 400+ AB without ever “winning a job.”
Krivsky always liked Kyle Lohse. And he has a healthy arm, throws hard enough to be effective, and looked much better in his brief time with Cincy. He comes with some “caution” flags, and if he does well, it won't be a true “comeback”, in that he's never been all that good. But he's worth a few bucks in an auction.