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THT's Fantasy Archives
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Here is the first of a four-part series showcasing the rookies who have the potential to make a fantasy impact in 2011.
With the emergence of Buster Posey and Carlos Santana last year, the catching position seems to be stronger and deeper than most years. Decent catchers will be available late this year. You should be able to take two starters in the middle to late rounds, ride the hot bat, and make out fine.
Despite the overall depth at catcher, Toronto's J.P. Arencibia is the only rookie I would consider drafting in a standard league. There isn't much standing in his way and there is power upside to be had.
Jesus Montero is the sexy bat that some seem to want to draft late, but I don't see the point. The Yankees have depth at catcher with Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, and even if injuries hit another position that Montero could successfully man, there is plenty of veteran depth to soak up the at-bats.
Hank Conger of the Angels is worth keeping an eye on, as Jeff Mathis has shown nothing with his bat since arriving on the scene. Conger is capable of raking at Triple-A, which could prompt a swift change. If he gets promoted a couple of months into the season he might be worth pouncing on.
Wilson Ramos appears to be an injury away from major playing time in Washington. You can question his upside. I do. But he could surprise.
Tyler Flowers has the ability to finally put the entire package together, but it's a long shot. It's going to take big numbers at Triple-A to even get him on the White Sox' radar screen again.
A couple of young, non-rookie catchers, Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy and Jason Castro of Houston, will likely go undrafted but could surprise. Neither has big upside, but both demonstrated offensive aptitude in the minors and are the likely starters for their respective teams.
First base is always a deep position, for obvious reasons. A lot of veteran, middle-of-the-order hitters call first base home, and there shouldn't be any rookies messing up that notion this year.
Freddie Freeman is expected to start in Atlanta, but his youth and good-but-not-great minor league numbers have me thinking he has too many question marks to even be draftable at this point. Feel free to pounce if gets off to a hot start.
Chris Carter is another one of the few who could prove me wrong; he has the power to dominate Triple-A and then is just an injury to Daric Barton or Hideki Matsui away from a full-time gig in Oakland.
Yonder Alonso has been merely getting by since being drafted in Cincinnati, but still has enough upside in his bat to make an impact. With a big start in Triple-A, Cincinnati will be tempted to find room for him.
Lars Anderson doesn't even register with most fantasy players, but I still think he has a future. He could have a big year at Triple-A, but even then it would take a trade or a serious injury to Adrian Gonzalez or David Ortiz for Anderson to get a shot in Boston.
That leaves the most intriguing first base prospect around: Eric Hosmer. He clearly has the ability to rake in the minors, and I don't think Kansas City would hesitate to promote him sometime midseason if that is the case. He's worth a look at that point.
On the non-rookie front, Justin Smoak has upside and is worth a late-round flier if you're not 100 percent comfortable with your No. 1 option. I consider Brett Wallace to be one step below Smoak, so he's one to keep on your radar screen. Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis had nice rookie seasons, but their 2010 numbers are about as good as it gets. I'd rather have the upside of Smoak or Wallace.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 3:43am (6) Comments
Maybe some of you out there in reader-land don't realize this, so let me take just a brief moment to point out something very important. SPRING TRAINING GAMES BEGIN TODAY! That's right, the Phillies take on Florida State in an exhibition game this afternoon, officially kicking off the 2011 spring season. Yes, I know that it's only an exhibition and that actual Cactus league games begin tomorrow, while the Grapefruit league begins on Saturday. Still, starting today there will be live updates online to follow and the all-important box scores to pore over once again.
It really is a beautiful thing.
The beginning of spring games means we're into the home stretch for our fantasy draft preparations. Most of you will be drafting in the next several weeks, and the time is now to start developing a plan and formulating a strategy on exactly how you want the draft to go. The more time you spend working on this strategy and exploring what to do with each situation that could arise, the better off you'll be.
I can't count how many people I've seen go into a draft without a well thought-out plan in place, thinking that they know the player pool and they can freelance their way to greatness. They have no real idea of proper team construction. They often get flustered as the one-minute clock ticks down, pressuring them to make their pick. If a player they have their sights set on goes with the pick before them, they go "tilt" and make a forced, last-minute decision, rather than knowing ahead of time which direction to go. I'm here today to spell out a little of what I'm doing in building my draft plan, in the hopes that it will help some of you as well.
I'm no expert on this game. I don't claim that how I build my draft plan is the best way—it's just the way I've had the most success. I'm also always looking for new and better ideas, and strive to learn from those who are truly experts in fantasy baseball. I'm also aware that until you find out your draft spot, you can't accurately predict which players you'll target in each round. This is more of a basic overview of what I'm doing to set my plan in place before I have my draft slot. The league I am preparing for is a national competition, which is broken down into 15-team leagues. We roster 30 total players, 23 starters (two catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, five outfielders, a utility man, a corner infielder, a middle infielder, nine pitchers) and seven bench slots.
By this point, I have my player rankings updated and broken down into tiers of value. The first thing I look for is where the most severe dropoffs are, and make sure I target a player in that tier.
For example, I believe that shortstop is the weakest overall position this year. According to my rankings, eight players are a class above the rest of the field. Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki are in a tier to themselves. Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins are a cut below them, then Derek Jeter, Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus and Stephen Drew are all serviceable options. After them, everyone has serious questions, downside or both.
I know going into my draft that I want one of the top eight shortstops. Let's say that it's the seventh round, and Drew is the last of these players available. I have him lined up and ready to go, and the person drafting in front of me takes him just before my pick. What do I do now? Unprepared for such an instance, some people would just grab the next best shortstop on their list, maybe Rafael Furcal. Knowing of the tremendous falloff after the top eight, I know that once Drew is gone, I'm not looking for a shortstop until at least the 15th round, and I look for value elsewhere with the current pick.
Another position where I see this top-heavy inventory is at first base. The top couple of tiers are very solid, but it goes downhill quickly after that. Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera make up the top tier on their own. After that, Joey Votto, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez are firmly in tier two, with Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder right behind them. After these seven, Kendry Morales, Justin Morneau, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko would all be quality additions, but come with more risk. After Konerko, other than maybe Billy Butler, there isn't a whole lot that entices me. Especially in a league that starts a corner infielder and utility player in addition to a first baseman, I'm making sure to target one of the top seven here as well. If I happen to miss on the top group, then I'm making sure I get one of those next four.
Another area I focus on is what I want to do with my catchers. In a 15-team, two-catcher league the talent at this position gets thin very quickly. Some people like to acquire top talent early and have two "plus" catchers on their team. Others like to punt the position completely and draft two players in the 20th round or later. My preference falls somewhere between these two extremes.
I believe that although the top tier of catchers is great, they aren't worth the price you pay to get them. Therefore Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Brian McCann and Buster Posey in all likelihood won't be on my teams. Just below this top group lies Carlos Santana, who I love this year and will consider, depending on how far he falls. The next tier contains Mike Napoli, Jorge Posada, Geovany Soto, Kurt Suzuki and Miguel Montero. It's in this group that I see the most value currently, and if I miss on Santana, I'm looking for my No. 1 catcher out of this group. I prefer to take my second catcher as a mid-late round pick and look for someone who's getting full time at-bats and won't be a complete drain on my average, like Carlos Ruiz or Yadier Molina.
You should also be giving heavy consideration to where you want to draft your closers. Some prefer to wait on closers, drafting a couple of guys who have a job in the mid-late teens and then working the free agent market all year, but I'm not a fan of this strategy. When doing this, not only are your closers speculative and a potential drain on your ratios, but you also end up wasting a good portion of your free agent budget chasing saves. In a national competition like this, you generally need between 90 and 100 saves to compete for the title. That's roughly 2.5 closers over the course of the year.
My strategy starts with locking up one of the elite closers early on. This means getting one from the group of Mariano Rivera, Heath Bell, Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria, Carlos Marmol and Neftali Feliz. I prefer to lock up my second closer in the 11th or 12th round, to make sure that I have someone with a stable job. When doing so, I also look for a player with limited competition for the role so I can handcuff his replacement in the reserve rounds.
I've heard from numerous people who think the most important thing you can do is build a team with all hitters early on and then use your knowledge of the player pool to fill out your rotation in the mid-late rounds. While this can be a viable strategy in smaller leagues, in this 15-team format, it's insanely difficult. You would literally need to hit on every pitcher you took, which seems highly improbable. You need to find a couple of the top arms to build your rotation around.
Currently, I am trying to identify who I want the ace of my rotation to be, and figuring out where I want to draft the rest of my pitchers. The way I'm leaning at this moment, my ace would need to be selected in round three, and I would follow up with my second starter in round eight. This would leave me with seven hitters and three pitchers through my first 10 rounds, and allow me to build my rotation in rounds 11-20, where I see the most value. However, if another pitcher I like as a No. 2 starter falls to the ninth or 10th round, I could always deviate from the plan and push back my corner infielder or second baseman to the spot where I would normally grab my No. 3 pitcher.
These are a few of the things I'm looking at as I develop my plan of attack. If you have questions, comments, concerns, insight, etc. feel free to let me know!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 3:31am
The Roster Doctor is back in town after a winter’s hibernation with a keeper question about closers.
10 team AL-only keeper league, you can keep up to 10 players.
I have the following players (prices in parentheses):
Chris Perez (1); David Price (13); Jeremy Hellickson (2); Colby Lewis (5); Frank Francisco (1); Kevin Gregg (3); Koji Uehara (1); Nick Swisher (8); Mike Napoli (7); Shin-Soo Choo (23); Dustin Pedroia (25); Miguel Cabrera (41); Justin Smoak (2).
Perez, Price, Hellickson and Lewis are no-brainers, as is Francisco if he's officially closing in Toronto. Gregg or Uehara would be fantastic if either had the Baltimore job locked up. My problem is this: Do I keep Perez, Price, Hellickson, Lewis, Francisco, Uehara and Gregg? That would be seven pitchers and only three hitters. Any input would be appreciated.
Unlike in mixed leagues, all closers or potential closers are precious commodities in AL/NL-only leagues. Your temptation to keep as many as possible is understandably strong, given that the same pitcher on the open auction market might cost you much more if/when he’s given the closer role. Here are some factors you should consider before making your decision:
- When do you have to declare your keepers?
- When is the auction?
Why do these dates matter? The longer you can wait to declare, the more time you have to see if one of either Gregg or Uehara locks down the job. The earlier the auction, is the less valuable Gregg is on the open market (since there’ll still be a lot of uncertainty over his role) in an auction and thus the lower his keeper value is, too.
It seems like the closer’s job is Uehara’s to lose, and baring injury or a Frank Francisco 2010-type bad spell to open the season, he should keep it. Plus, with Mike Gonzalez and others lurking deeper in the Orioles' pen, Gregg himself might lose runner-up status if he has a bad spell. Also, for $3, or not much more, you should be able to land another backup with better skills or better prospects or both. Take a look at Grant Balfour in Oakland or Jake McGee in Tampa Bay or whichever one of Brandon League or David Aardsma seems undervalued by your league-mates.
The reason to not risk keeping Gregg is I think you have at least four hitters worth keeping. Swisher, Napoli and Choo are absolute musts at their keeper prices. Pedroia isn’t super cheap and he carries some injury risk still, but it is risk probably worth bearing in an AL-only league.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 2:49am
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