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Entries in Chris Carter (3)

Wednesday
Feb192014

Smart Pitchers Throw Away From B.J. Upton

B.J. Upton would be the first to tell you: He wasn't very good last season.

In his first year donning the Tomahawk, the now 29-year-old posted career lows in batting average (.184), on-base percentage (.268), slugging percentage (.289) and OPS+ (53) en route to a -1.8 offensive WAR (another career-low digit), according to Baseball Reference. He also struck out at a career-high rate (33.9%), stole fewer bases (12) than in any of his 100-plus game seasons prior and again couldn't stay healthy, missing a good chunk of the season with a groin injury.

While Upton has never been one to maintain a high average (.248 career BA), lofty power numbers (.409 SLG%, 100 OPS+) or tremendous plate discipline figures (26% strikeout rate, 10.5% walk rate), his offensive regressions last season are concerning. After all, the Braves paid Upton a healthy $12.5 million last season to be less valuable (-1.8 bWAR) than a replacement-level player and are on the hook to shell out roughly $15 million on average over the next four seasons to the former Tampa Bay Rays top prospect.

Exactly what caused Upton's offensive setback last season? As in most cases, many things contributed. But there was one thing that smart pitchers picked up on: Upton's struggles with the outer-half of the plate.

Comparing Upton's Contact Rates over the Last Three Seasons

Upton's offensive regressions have stemmed mainly from his inability to put bat on ball. In 2011, his overall contact rate stood at 76.7%, fell to 70.6% the following season and plummeted to 66.9% last season with Atlanta, which was the third lowest among batters with at least 400 plate appearances, trumped only by Pedro Alvarez (66.1%) and Chris Carter (65.4%), according to FanGraphs.

Three seasons ago, he was able to place contact on just about any pitch in the strike zone -- boasting a 84% in-zone contact rate, which was just a shade under his career-high mark of 86.8% set in 2006. But over the last two seasons, his contact rate has faded almost exclusively to the inner-half of the plate. This has affected his ability to put outer-half offerings in play, posting a feeble 29.6% in-play rate on such pitches last season, which was fourth-worst among batters with 250 plate appearances. Knowing this, pitchers threw 49.4% of their offerings 'away' from Upton last season -- an increase from 45.6% in 2012.

Word on the street is that Upton showed up to Braves camp this past weekend with an improved swing that's eliminated unnecessary pre-swing movement. "He's a lot more efficient," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. For Upton's sake, I hope he's right, because pitchers are beginning to recognize and attack his most glaring weakness -- the outer-half of the plate -- which has transformed him from former five-tool prospect to liability for Atlanta offensively.

Tuesday
Feb052013

The Fantasy Baseball Diary: Oakland and Houston Trade

In a rare intra-division trade, the Oakland Athletics acquired shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Fernando Rodriguez from the Houston Astros for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. On the surface it looks as though Lowrie will have the biggest fantasy impact in 2012, but as I wrote in fantasy players who can provide cheap power, you’ll see Carter has the potential to hit 35+ home runs if given a full-time job. There’s a lot of swing and miss with his swing, which gives him a .265 batting average ceiling. As a member of the rebuilding Astros he enters spring training as the front-runner to become the starting DH. Carlos Pena will be in the mix for at bats at DH, but Pena isn't part of the Astros long term plans while Carter, who just turned 26, can be.

Lowrie’s biggest hurdle has been his health. In his major league career he’s never played in more than 100 games. Last year, he missed two months of the season because of a freak injury suffered at a collision at second base. Contrary to what the A’s are saying, Lowrie instantly becomes the starting shortstop and leaves the newly acquired Hiroyuki Nakajima, whose arm is more suited for second base, as either the starting second baseman or the utility infielder. The A’s do not trade a solid package of three prospects for a bench player and a middle reliever. If Lowrie can play a full year, and that’s a big if, he could hit 20+ home runs. He’s the ultimate lottery ticket for fantasy owners on draft day.  

As for the rest of the deal, after a promising 2011 season in the minors and majors it looked as though it would be only a matter of time before Peacock was part of the A’s starting rotation. Instead, five other rookies got the call to pitch in the major league rotation. His 6.01 ERA in Triple-A shows that he struggled, but he maintained last year’s strike out and walk percentages —22.8% and 10.8% respectively. It’s possible he suffered from bad luck, poor defense, poor pitch location or any combination of the three. His fastball sits between 91-94 mph and can top out at 96. His changeup and curveball have an opportunity to be average pitches. His ultimate ceiling is a number three starter, but with any prospect he still needs to make adjustments to his game before reaching his ceiling. He’ll get every chance to make the big league rotation in spring training and if he does, he’s worth a flyer at the end of drafts in 12-15 team mixed leagues.

Stassi is a defense first catcher and has yet to play a full season in the minors due to injuries to his right shoulder the first two years in the minors and an ankle injury last year. When fully healthy he has the opportunity to be a solid every day catcher at the major league level who could hit 15-20 home runs with compact swing; he’s a long way from reaching that ceiling. He has no value in one-year fantasy leagues and should only be owned in the deepest of the dynasty leagues.

Rodriguez throws a fastball and curveball. His fastball, which can be fairly straight, sits at 91-94 mph and can top out at 96. He misses a lot of bats (25% strikeout rate) and the curveball is good enough to get lefties out, but he has trouble with commanding his pitches, which limits him to middle relief. If his command improves he could find himself in the set-up role if Grant Balfour or Ryan Cook gets injured. 

Wednesday
Jan302013

The Fantasy Baseball Diary: Cheap Power

There’s nothing I love more than getting IMs full of trash talk from my friends during the middle of drafts because of the lack of power on my team. However, at the end of all of my drafts my team is stacked with high power potential with low batting average players. I love getting cheap power because it’s always undervalued in drafts and is easy to find. The three players below provide huge power upside with low batting averages, for their position, but are currently being undervalued by fantasy players. Please note the format of the "ADP" (average draft position) section reads as follows: ADP: positional draft position (overall draft position). For example, Welington Castillo is currently the 20th catcher being taken is going 278thoverall. All ADPs are from Mock Draft Central. 

Chris Carter

Bats: R | Age: 26 |Team: Athletics | Position: 1B | ADP: 29 (365)

What do Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz and Jason Werth all have in common? They’re right handed power hitters who were slow to develop and received the unfortunate label of Quad-A player before figuring out big league pitching. At the age of 26, Carter is finally getting an opportunity for sustained plate appearances as a platoon player, at first base, primarily against left handed pitching. Brandon Moss is ahead of him on the depth chart, but I don’t believe in Moss at all; he strikes out too much and doesn’t make enough contact to sustain his 2012 stats. If Carter can hit, he could easily supplant Moss as the primary first baseman and hit in the middle the Athletics order. He has the raw power to hit 35+ home runs if he was given 580 plate appearances.

 

Logan Morrison 

Bats: L | Age: 25 |Team: Marlins | Position: OF | ADP: 75 (328)

It’s shame his social prowess has over shadowed his on the field play. Let’s start with the bad. Morrison is a bad left fielder; he takes bad routes to ball and at times appears to be wearing a full suit of armour as he goes after balls. The past two seasons have been marred with injuries, but they were likely the result of playing outfield. In 2010 he showed he can hit for average. In 2011 he showed he can hit for power. In 2012 he showed could no longer hit for average or power. His poor performance could have been due to a right knee inflammation. This year he’s expected to play exclusively at first base in the hope he can stay healthy and most importantly, bat in the middle of the Marlins lineup. He has the raw power, approach, and swing to hit 25-30 home runs if he can play a full year.

 

 

Welington Castillo 

Bats: R | Age: 25 |Team: Cubs | Position: C | ADP: 20 (278)

After two years of September call ups, it finally appears Castillo will get an opportunity to be a full time player at the big league level. In 52 games (in the majors) he up a slash line of .265/.337/.418 along with five home runs. In 175 games in Triple-A he’s hit 33 HRs with his power coming primarily from strength rather than bat speed. He can drive balls against lefties and righties, but his impatient approach will make him a .260 hitter. With a current ADP of 20 among catchers, he’s a tremendous value because he can hit 20-23 home runs if given 525 plate appearances. He’s the perfect catcher to fill out your 12-team two catcher league.