2012 Fantasy Baseball Challenge, Pt. 2
Welcome to part two of our 2012 fantasy baseball challenge. If you recall, we posed the question to our fans: Can we build a competitive fantasy baseball team composed entirely of former Tulsa Drillers players? We continue our analysis here as we list the final six members of our roster.
DID YOU KNOW: Two of our first six players are former first-round draft picks (Troy Tulowitzki, 2007; Mark Teixeira, 2001).
First six picks: SS T. Tulowitzki; 1B M. Teixiera; OF M. Holliday; P C.J. Wilson; 3B M. Young; P U. Jimenez.
And remember, we’re picking the best options from former Drillers still currently active at the MLB level. We mentioned “murky waters ahead” and these next six prove our point. Here we go:
#7, Round 16: Carlos Pena, 1B/DH, Rays.
Peña was a powerhouse for Tulsa in 2000, smacking 28 home runs with 105 RBIs and 117 runs scored, drawing national attention. Baseball America named him the 11th-overall prospect in 2001 and the next year he was traded to Oakland. (Fun fact: Peña is the only former Driller depicted in the 2011 film Moneyball.)
After bouncing around the majors, Peña found a home with the 2007 Rays. 46 home runs, 121 runs batted in, and a staggering 1.037 OPS set franchise records in the process and Peña was named 2007’s AL Comeback Player of the Year. His average has dropped dramatically since, but his power remains. A return to Tampa in 2012 means 450+ at-bats at 1B, which will provide good power in later rounds of our draft at the expense of batting average.
Our Guess: 73 R, 28 HR, 86 RBI, 2 SB, .231 AVG.
Jhoulys Chacin made 18 starts for Tulsa in 2009, going 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA and 86 strikeouts before a trip to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He earned a #46 ranking in Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospects list.
Chacin then put together two solid seasons in Colorado, managing a mid-3 ERA with 288 total strikeouts in 331.1 innings. By comparison, he looked more hittable last year; His terrifying slider seemed less terrifying, and his strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate dipped below 7. But we predict a breakthrough is on the horizon for the 24-year-old.
Refining and using a changeup more might help leverage his slider as a strikeout pitch once again. His potential as a 200-inning workhorse is there, and we think he has yet to show his front-of-the-rotation talents to their fullest extent. The Rockies’ recent acquisition of Jeremy Guthrie pushes Chacin back down to the #2 spot in the rotation, taking some of the burden off his shoulders as he continues to refine his craft. Round-19 value for Chacin means he is a diamond in the rough for our roster.
Our “Bold” Guess: 12-11, 3.58 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 177 K.
In 2008, Dexter Fowler amassed 141 hits in 108 total games for Tulsa. A pure hitter, he scored 94 times, stole 20 bases, and dominated with a .335 average. Fowler looked the part of the center fielder the Rockies craved atop their now-potent lineup and, in some ways, still shows that talent.
Fowler sported a .363 on-base percentage in 2011 but only hit .266, looking timid at times in stolen base opportunities. We think that will change in 2012 as he takes the lead-off rolein the Rockies lineup. With the addition of Marco Scutaro, the first five hitters appear to be Fowler, Scutaro, Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Cuddyer – i.e. plenty of opportunities for Fowler to score. Simply put, he can get on base, hit and run well, and score plenty of runs for us in a very late draft round. With some upside attached, he’s a bargain.
Our Guess: 96 R, 8 HR, 56 RBI, 34 SB, .276 AVG.
As of February 2012, the only former Driller with a full-time catching gig is Chris Iannetta. He played a total 63 games for Tulsa in late 2005 and early 2006, swatting 13 home runs, driving in 37 runs, and scoring 45. He hit a combined .296 in Tulsa but has only managed to hit .235 in his major league career.
In 2011, he hit .238 and a career-worst .172 on the road; he only hit 14 home runs and drove in 55 runs in a career-high 112 games. Iannetta now appears in a potent lineup headlined by Albert Pujols, but we have modest expectations for the 28-year-old in 2012.
Our Guess: 42 R, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 5 SB, .236 AVG.
The more intriguing option is recent alumnus, 23-year-old Wilin Rosario. He set career highs in his second season with Tulsa – 101 hits, 21 home runs, and 52 runs scored in 102 games – but his plate discipline regressed, resulting in a .249 clip and career-low .284 on-base percentage. His struggles at the plate continued in a September call-up. Rosario hit .204 with three HR in 16 games, striking out 20 times in 54 at-bats.
Rosario might end up being the back-up to veteran Ramon Hernandez at the MLB level, but it’s anyone’s guess how much playing time that situation will allow. As an injury replacement or a young catcher-in-transition, the Rockies may give Rosario a lot of rope, which we think means a lot of power, a lot of strikeouts, and a low average. Think J.P. Arencibia of the Blue Jays, circa 2011. But don’t be surprised if Rosario sees time in Triple-A Colorado Springs to address those strikeout issues we saw at the end of last season. Pay attention and be ready to pick him up on free agency when he gets hot.
Seth Smith played all over the outfield for Tulsa in 2006, hitting .294 with strong power numbers – 46 doubles, 15 home runs, and 71 runs batted in. In three seasons with the Rockies, however, he failed to improve on them and eclipse the 20-HR plateau. In 2011, Smith again faltered against left-handed pitching and hit only .248 on the road for Colorado. The team felt it was time to cut ties with the former first-rounder, and he was traded to Oakland this off-season in exchange for two pitchers.
Unfortunately, we’ve probably seen the best of Smith’s playing abilities by now. And if history serves us correctly, the 29-year-old is due for a big regression without Coors Field to pad his stat line. Just think of Matt Holliday in Oakland circa 2009, when he looked mortal. The 29-year-old Smith looks primed for a similar drop-off, meaning we should expect less, not the potential for more.
Our Guess: 39 R, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 6 SB, .254 AVG.
As of March 2012, no former Driller has a starting 2B job. And with the Rockies’ acquisition of Marco Scutaro, it seems they are content with a veteran as utilitymen like Eric Young Jr. continue to develop.
In 2008, second baseman Eric Young Jr. scored 74 runs and stole 46 bases in 105 games, again showing the near-elite speed that has wowed scouts. He was only successful in 74% of his stolen base attempts in ’08. By 2011, however, his success rate shot up to 90%, going a combined 44-for-49 in stolen base attempts. Young might still put up 25-SB speed in a part-time role with the Rockies in ’12 but the playing time will be sparse.
Our Guess: It’s too early to tell. The Mets reportedly have an interest in Young, but the Rockies currently have EY2 as a bench player alongside Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera. Until we see guaranteed playing time, it is dire straits for our fantasy team.
So let’s take a quick look at our complete Tulsa Drillers lineup:
C – Chris Iannetta/Wilin Rosario
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Eric Young, Jr.
3B – Michael Young
SS – Troy Tulowitzki
OF – Matt Holliday, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith
DH – Carlos Pena
SP – C.J. Wilson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin
With serious questions at catcher, second base and the outfield, there’s a sufficient lack of production in our lineup. Plus, no former Drillers appear in the closer role with any major league team, giving us goose-egg in the saves category. This team is not a winner, but it’s still cool to see Drillers alumni contribute at the major-league level with some of them among the top options at their positions.
In part three of our analysis, we will examine a short list of former Drillers (veterans and rookies) who can make solid contributions to our roster in 2012. These won’t be players you pick and stash on your bench from Day One. Rather, these are the former Drillers who will appear on your league’s waiver wire and provide a mid- or late-season stat boost. Stay tuned.