Lee-ve Him Behind? (Getty Images)


Derrek Lee or Brett Wallace? The King answers that question and more in this week's Mailbag.


Ask The King: The Fantasy Baseball King's Mailbox

Friday April 22, 2011

Question #1:

Hey King! Quick question here: Who do you like better-- Derrek Lee or Brett Wallace? Please keep in mind that my league is a pretty deep keeper league and any sign of Wallace heating up is something that would convince me to grab him.

The Fantasy Baseball King's Advice:

Good question, and something I'd like to look at from two angles: present-day and future.


Heading into the 2011 season, ZiPs published the following projections for Lee and Wallace:


Derrek Lee: .267 / .347 / .453 with 20 homers, 74 RBI, and 70 runs scored

Brett Wallace: .262 / .326 / .411 with 15 homers, 55 RBI, and 60 runs scored


Not too different, with a slight edge to Lee. Not surprising, since Lee is now in his 15th Major League season, has played in two All-Star games, and boasts a career OPS+ of 122. Last season, however, Lee showed major signs of decline, posting an OPS+ of 103 (his lowest since 1999, when he was 23 years old). Wallace, meanwhile, was a rookie in 2010, and in amassing 159 plate appearances, showed enough to get an idea of what 2011 would bring, but not enough to slam the nails in Wallace's coffin. There's really no way around the performance, of course - it was downright awful. Posting a slash line of .222 / .296 / .319 with 2 homers and 13 RBI, I'm actually surprised by ZiPs’ generous positivity. But Wallace, the 13th pick of the 2008 amateur draft, was a highly-touted prospect, whose Baseball America Top 100 ranking peaked at #27 in 2010. So obviously, he has potential.


So fast forward to April 2011 and what do we have? A veteran playing surprisingly terrible, and a 2nd year youngster putting up decent, but not wonderful, numbers. Their stats:


Derrek Lee: .206 / .306 / .270 with 1 homer, 2 RBI, and 4 runs scored

Brett Wallace: .293 / .379 / .397 with 1 homer, 6 RBI and 10 runs scored


It doesn't take a baseball analyst to tell you which player has been more valuable thus far. So the real question remains - will Wallace be able to sustain his lead over Lee?


Wallace's biggest, most notable improvement this season is his walk rate, which currently sits at 12.1%. Compared to his minor league career mark of 8.3%, and considering he is striking out at a rate not incredibly different from that which he posted in the minors (15.5% now compared to 21.2%), I'm not feeling particularly optimistic regarding his continued success.


Lee's K and BB percentages, on the other hand, are almost exactly in line with his career averages. And while there's really no way to take a positive spin on a .206 batting average, the fact that his BABIP is .245 (career,      .321) tells me that he is encountering at least some bad luck. I was hoping to find out that Lee is a traditionally slow starter, but truth is, he's almost as consistent as they come. That said, he did go through 88 at-bats last April posting an OPS of .679 and, aided by a strong August and September, finished the year at .774. But this isn't a number you want from your first baseman.


My feeling is that, right now, Lee is struggling. Yea, award me the prize now for figuring that out, right? But some good signs ARE there -- his ratios are similar to his career numbers, so a comeback is definitely expected. Wallace, meanwhile, boasts unsustainable BABIP, BB, and K rates. So a regression should be anticipated. Being a young player, of course, Wallace is more dynamic in that he may continue to improve as he learns to adjust to Major League pitchers. But for this year, my bet is on Lee finding his stroke eventually, and Wallace not becoming a star quite yet.


Fantasy Baseball King's Year-End Projections:

Derrek Lee:  .258 / .335 / .435 with 17 homers, 68 RBI, and 60 runs scored

Brett Wallace: .260 / .330 / .405 with 14 homers, 65 RBI, and 62 runs scored


So, basically I am predicting them to end up about where ZiPs said they would, although with more expedited regression from Lee. Going forward, I cannot say the same. I would dub 2012 as the year Wallace definitely passes Lee on the 1B rankings, and that 2011 very well may be the last season Lee is worth anything more than an injury substitution signing. Look for Wallace to have a career with peak years around .290 / .380 / .460 with 18-22 homers, 80-90 RBI, and around 85 runs scored. He'll be a useful player, but not a superstar by any means.


Hope that helped; if you need any more assistance, please do not hesitate to write again!


Good luck!


Question # 2:


Do you think this start from Kyle Lohse is for real. I picked him up just to throw him on my bench for now because I had an open roster spot after Ryan Zimmerman went on the DL. Other available pitchers are Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Wood, Sam Leclure, Charlie Morton, Kevin Correia, Brandon McCarth and Bud Norris. Thanks so much.


The Fantasy Baseball King's Advice:

My short answer is NO, I do not think he is "for real." He's the kind of pitcher who may encounter a nice run of good starts, but in the end, is simply ... what he is. And what is that? A decent back-end starter in REAL baseball, but NOT fantasy. “But he could be having a career year!” one may proclaim. “Sure,” I may respond. “I suppose so.” But let's be smart about this and delve into the numbers:


-         Kyle Lohse's current opposing BABIP is .246, much lower than his career .305.


-         Kyle Lohse is somehow sustaining a Cliff Lee-like 0.81 BB/9 rate. Heck, that's ridiculously close to Cliff Lee's historically dominant 0.76 mark in 2010. Do YOU see Kyle Lohse as being historically dominant?


-         Kyle Lohse is allowing a just silly 0.4 homers per 9 innings pitched...During the 6 seasons from 2005 - 2010, only 5 pitchers have met this mark- Chris Carpenter (2009), Josh Johnson (2010), Clayton Kershaw (2009), Chad Billingsley (2010), Brad Penny (2007), Tim Lincecum (2009), and Tim Hudson (2007). Something tells me that Kyle Lohse isn't in their class of pitcher.


So no, to sum up, Kyle Lohse is not “for real,” and is simply having a nice stretch. Most likely he'll fall back to Earth shortly, and finish the season right around where ZiPs, Bill James, and the other experts projected: 8 wins, and ERA around 4.50, and no more than 6 strikeouts per 9 IP. Use him as trade bait for an overanxious owner if you can. Otherwise, look into some of the other pitchers you mentioned.


Of those pitchers, I like Travis Wood, Bud Morris, Brandon McCarthy, and Wandy Rodriguez the most. Of these 4 pitchers, Travis Wood probably supports the most mature and refined approach, but the Reds rotation has so many good options that I've kept him in my minors in my own dynasty league, fearful he may lose his spot after a bad start or two. Bud Norris has ACE potential, and is getting hot, so you may be able to catch lightening in a bottle, but his bad days are simply terrible. Brandon McCarthy is finally starting to redeem himself after several years of injuries and poor performance. With a 2.45 ERA through 3 games started, he's definitely been a great option thus far. But I'm not so sure he can sustain that dominance while only striking out 5.73 batters per 9 IP. Perhaps that number will go up as he becomes more comfortable from his injury recovery.


Until then, and in consideration of all the aforementioned facts, Wandy Rodriguez is easily the safest option available. Although he hasn't had the greatest start to the 2011 season (ERA sitting at 5.48), he's encountered enormously bad luck with an opposing BABIP of .355. He had a rough first start in Philadelphia, but has done better ever since, including a dominant win over the Mets Tuesday in which he allowed only 3 hits while striking out 7 over 7 IP. Additionally, in the 4 seasons since 2007, Wandy has notched 180+ innings in every year but one, and has a career K-rate of 7.64. While he's not an ace, he's a great 3rd or 4th fantasy starter.


Question #3:


Mr Fantasy Baseball King,

I'm in need of some fantasy wisdom. I have a little dilemma on my hands. This is your standard 10 team 5x5 roto money league. I'm currently maintaining a nicely sized lead and want it to stay that way over the long haul. The issue  I have is that Frank Francisco comes off the DL today, so in turn I am able to transfer Brandon Morrow from my bench to the DL. Here's my roster:

C: Victor Martinez

1B: Prince Fielder

2B: Brandon Phillips

3B: Jose Bautista

SS: Troy Tulowitzki

MI: Howie Kendrick

CI: Edwin Encarnacion

OF: Matt Kemp

OF: Hunter Pence

OF: Chris Coghlan

OF: Travis Snider

OF: Jose Tabata

UT: Adam Lind

Bench: Delmon Young


SP: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Chad Billingsley, Jhoulys Chacin, Ricky Romero, Edwin Jackson. Brandon Morrow

RP: Joel Hanrahan, Sean Burnett, Chris Sale, Frank Francisco

Now as you can see I have a lot of depth of quality starting pitchers & I'm lacking on closers. What would you advise me to do? I was thinking if I could package one of my starters with an outfielder to upgrade there. I already tried to package one of Sale / Burnett plus a starter for a closer but no bites. Can you advise me on a route to take? If I can't work a trade I'd have to cut someone and I'm also torn there.

Sorry for the length, I'm a bit of a rookie at this. Thanks for your time.


The Fantasy Baseball King's Advice:

After analyzing your roster, I have the following thoughts:


1. Depending on how your scoring works, I do agree that you have a larger number of starting pitchers than you need. I usually recommend 6. With Morrow soon to be healthy, you will have 7.


2. Again, depending on how your scoring works, you don't necessarily need "closers." I usually get by with a couple closers and a bunch of great setup guys who get some wins, a few saves, a fair number of Ks and do wonders on my WHIP and ERA ratios. Check to see who is currently available in this area. Guys available in most leagues who would provide nice numbers include: Aaron Crow, Sean Marshall, Ramon Ramirez, Sergio Romo, and Pedro Beato.


3.Victor Martinez is now on the DL - just announced - so be prepared. Haven't heard word yet on how serious it is, so in the meantime you need a backup plan. Look into AJ Pierzynski, Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Doumit, or Josh Thole if they are available.


4. Edwin Encarnacion is useless. Why not put Lind in his spot and Delmon Young in the UT? FYI Jerry Sands, a top prospect for the Dodgers, just got called up. I'd dump Encarnacion for him if you can. You never know - may catch lightening in a bottle. If you do, it would open up an option to trade an outfielder.


5. Doing all this will obviously leave you with no bench, so I would indeed investigate a 2-for-1 deal as you mentioned. If your trading partners are unwilling, there's gotta be a reason. Check out the standings and target teams that have good saves numbers but aren't getting wins or Ks. 2-for-1s are great because they open up a spot, allowing you to add an up-and-comer to your team.


6. As I mentioned earlier, if you dump Encarnacion for Sands and it works out, you can trade an OF. One guy you may want to look into trading NOW is Jose Tabata. While he's a good player, he's playing well above his head right now and should be at peak trade value.


Good luck!



The Fantasy Baseball King

The Fantasy Baseball King will answer your questions every Friday - submit your questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Also check out the King's blog at www.thefantasybaseballking.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fantasybking


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Comments (1)add comment

F T said:

Mark McAuley
... Nicely written! I do think Tabata is right about his ceiling, but I think he's a good source of SB, so I'm keeping him ahah (: (I'm not the question asker)
April 25, 2011
Votes: +0
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