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THT's Fantasy Archives
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
On Jan., I participated in the Hardball Times expert fantasy baseball mock draft with some of the best names in the industry. For me, this was my first mock draft of the season and I was very pleased with the team I selected. The format of the mock draft was a 12-team 5x5 roto league with starting lineups that included two catchers, five outfielders, a corner and middle infielder, and nine pitchers. I had the fourth overall pick in the draft and was quite surprised with who slipped to me in the first round. For this review of the mock draft, I will provide some insight and analysis of the entire first round and then summarize all of my picks.
1. Miguel Cabrera (1B-DET). The growing trend over the past couple days since the Tigers signed Prince Fielder was moving Cabrera up to number one overall status. This is because he will have the ultimate in lineup protection with Fielder batting cleanup behind him. Cabrera is one of the best hitters in baseball for both power and average, and he should have no trouble matching or exceeding his career averages which total over 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He is as close to a sure thing as there is in fantasy baseball.
2. Matt Kemp (OF-LAD). It was a breakout season for Kemp in 2011 as he flirted with the Triple Crown in the National League. There was never a doubt about his talent. But he finally matured and put it all together amassing incredible offensive numbers that almost garnered him an MVP. His five-category production makes him one of the most valuable roto players in all of baseball. The only question with him is whether he will put too much pressure on himself to justify the new eight-year contract worth $20 million per season.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF-BOS). This pick was quite a surprise. Ellsbury had an incredible season in 2011 as he stayed healthy and developed tremendous power numbers as the Red Sox leadoff hitter. He sacrificed some stolen bases for a lot of home runs, RBI, and extra base hits. Whether he can replicate that performance is another question and exactly why I was surprised he was taken third overall. He is extremely talented and certainly capable of putting up those type of numbers. But with the third pick, I would prefer a known entity.
4. Albert Pujols (1B-LAA). This was my pick and I didn’t hesitate at all to take King Albert in his American League debut. Pujols has seen his numbers slightly decline over the past three years and he has had some injuries. But he is only 32 years old and can now be rested in the DH slot. Pujols will be looking to impress his new teammates so an MVP in the American League is not out of the realm of possibility.
5. Jose Bautista (3B-TOR). I guess 2010 was not a fluke after all. Bautista stormed back in 2011 with another impressive offensive barrage. He didn’t surpass 50 home runs again, but he was amongst the league leaders in most offensive categories. He even improved his batting average and on base percentage which makes him even more valuable in fantasy. Plus, third base is a relatively weak fantasy position this year as there are only a handful of viable options.
6. Joey Votto (1B-CIN). I see both sides to taking Votto here. He does have more stolen base potential than many of the other remaining options, and he has the benefit of playing home games at the bandbox in Cincinnati. But I would say that Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder are better options than Votto based on pure power numbers.
7. Troy Tulowitzki (SS-COL). It was strange to have first shortstop taken was not be Hanley Ramirez. After Ramirez’s atrocious year in 2011, it appears that Tulowitzki has ascended to the top option at shortstop. He is just entering his prime and should be a lock for 25 home runs and close to 100 RBI. He will have the benefit of additional lineup protection with the additions of Michael Cuddyer, Ramon Hernandez and Marco Scutaro. Tulo tends to be streaky which is more of a downside for H2H leagues, but at the end of the day he will justify his position as a Top 10 pick.
8. Robinson Cano (2B-NYY). Cano gets all the love as the top second baseman in the league, but arguments can be made that Dustin Pedroia is actually a better fantasy option because of his stolen bases. Cano never runs, and this is even further emphasized by the fact that he may be hitting third or fourth in the Yankees batting order permanently. Cano is without question one of the best hitters in all of baseball and certainly merits being a top 10 pick at such a scarce position. He is a lock for a .300 batting average with 20+ home runs and 100+ RBI.
9. Evan Longoria (3B-TB). This pick was a bit surprising because he probably would have lasted into the second round. After Bautista was off the board, Longoria is arguably the next best option at 3B. His batting average in 2011 was likely an aberration so I am not overly concerned about that. Now entering his fifth season, Longoria could be on the verge of an explosion as he approaches the magical age of 27. His walk ratio was up and his strikeouts were down last year, a good indication of things to come.
10. Adrian Gonzalez (1B-BOS). If ever anyone was a victim to the ballpark he played in, it would be Gonzalez who was hampered by the cavernous, pitcher-friendly PetCo Park in San Diego. After being traded to Boston, Gonzalez was able to showcase his talents to the whole world and fully took advantage of hitting in a potent lineup at a great hitter’s park. Assuming he is healthy, Gonzales is a lock for a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, and 100+ RBI. He will also score a ton of runs just by virtue of hitting the middle of Boston’s lineup. I would have taken him over Votto several picks before this.
11. Justin Upton (OF-ARZ). It is too bad that fantasy baseball doesn’t take into account the length of home runs hit. Upton crushed several home runs well over 450 feet last season and really established himself as one of baseball’s brightest young stars. His combination of power and speed makes him an attractive roto option in the outfield which has become a very thin position compared to years past. Upton should also benefit from better lineup protection with the addition of Jason Kubel and the emergence of Paul Goldschmidt. He is certainly worthy of a first round pick given his five-category production.
12. Curtis Granderson (OF-NYY). Without a doubt, Granderson’s fantasy value increased more than any other player last year. He put together a season for the ages with 41 home runs, 119 RBI, 136 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. The most impressive part of his game was his improvement against left-handed pitchers. Granderson is now an elite fantasy option and should continue to thrive in the Yankees’ explosive lineup and the home run haven known as Yankee Stadium.
Now here are my picks in the remaining rounds:
Second round – Jose Reyes (SS-MIA). It pained me a bit to make this pick, but after Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez were off the board Reyes was the best shortstop available. His contract may come back and bite the Marlins years down the road, but for his inaugural season in Miami I think Reyes will be very productive on a good team and with something to prove. He may not steal 50+ bases anymore, but we can expect a .300 batting average and lots of runs scored.
Third round – CC Sabathia (SP-NYY). I didn’t want to wait any longer to take my first pitcher, so it came down to a choice between Sabathia and Jered Weaver. I opted for Sabathia because I like the Yankees bullpen a lot more to preserve wins, and I think Weaver will be unable to replicate his 2011 performance. Sabathia is a lock for 19-20 wins, a 3.00 ERA, close to 200 strikeouts, and a sub 1.30 WHIP.
Fourth round – Alex Rodriguez (3B-NYY). Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once a guaranteed top five pick, A-Rod has fallen on hard times over the past couple years as age, injuries, and a lack of steroids have sapped him of his power and run production. I thought this was a great time to grab Rodriguez because he still has the capability of putting up a monster season. Even if he only hits 25 homers and drives in 90 runs, that is still solid production for a fourth round pick. He will slip in most drafts, so the question is when to pull the trigger on him. This is probably the right spot for him to go.
Fifth round – Jon Lester (SP-BOS). For my second pitcher, I took Red Sox ace Jon Lester. He fell off of people’s radar because of how poorly he pitched down the stretch in 2011 as Boston’s epic collapse unfolded. But he is still a young and dominating starter who should be counted on for at least 15 wins and close to 200 strikeouts.
Sixth round – Alex Gordon (OF-KC). By the sixth round, I still didn’t have an outfielder. I took Gordon over Shin Soo Choo because Gordon has proven to be consistent in all five roto categories and is one of the cornerstones of an up and coming Kansas City offense. Choo has more power potential, but I at least know I am getting a .290 batting average with 15-20 homeruns, 80-90 RBI, 80-90 runs scored, and 10-15 stolen bases from Gordon.
Seventh round – C.J. Wilson (SP-LAA). I was very happy to get Wilson as my third pitcher because he has established himself as one of the more effective and consistent starters in the game. He will be pitching for his hometown Los Angeles Angels and will likely be their number three starter.
Eighth round – Michael Cuddyer (OF-COL). Continuing my goal of drafting players who can contribute in all categories, I took the Rockies’ new outfielder Michael Cuddyer. He should flourish hitting in the thin air of Denver and could reach 30 home runs if things go right. He also hits for a decent average and can get double-digit steals. I am liking the Gordon-Cuddyer combination so far.
Ninth round – Ryan Howard (1B-PHI). This is my steal of the draft. Sure he will probably miss the first month of the season, but there is no reason to think Howard won’t come back fully healthy and with a vengeance. Even if he doesn’t play a game until May 1, he will be a huge addition to my team and can obviously provide tremendous power numbers.
10th round – Howie Kendrick (2B-LAA). Fresh off a new contract extension, Kendrick will have the pleasure of batting in front of Albert Pujols. He showed he can be a consistent hitter in 2011 and that should continue into 2012 as he gets a healthy dose of fastballs batting second in the Angels order. I was very pleased to get a second baseman like this at this point in the draft.
11th round – Mariano Rivera (RP-NYY). With only a couple closers off the board by this point, I thought I should start paying attention to saves and grab the best in the business. Age apparently is not a factor for Rivera who has shown no indication he is slowing down. Assuming he stays healthy, he should surpass 40 saves again with a miniscule ERA and WHIP.
12th round – Chris Young (OF-ARZ). For my third outfielder, I liked Young because he has great power and speed capabilities. He could be a 30-30 player every year, but he must improve his pitch selection and batting average.
13th round – Jose Valverde (RP-DET). To complement Rivera, I was fortunate to get Valverde who was perfect in save opportunities for the AL Central champion Tigers. He should have a chance approach 50 saves with their pitching staff and terrific offense.
14th round – Chad Billingsley (SP-LAD). This was a bit of a risky pick, but I thought the 14th round was a good time for a reclamation project. Billingsley was once one of the top young pitching prospects in baseball, but he struggled mightily in 2011. Even if he doesn’t bounce back, there is not much to lose with this gamble.
15th round – Colby Rasmus (OF-TOR). I really liked this selection because Rasmus has all the potential in the world and now gets his first full season in Toronto. For various reasons, he couldn’t put it all together in St. Louis. Now, without the additional pressure, he will get a chance to shine in a very good lineup.
16th round – Jaime Garcia (SP-STL). I was surprised Garcia lasted this long because all he has done is win with a low ERA since getting to the big leagues. He will now get pushed back to the Cardinals’ number three spot in the rotation because Adam Wainwright will be back.
17th round – Huston Street (RP-SD). To cap off my closers, I grabbed Street here instead of Chris Perez of the Indians. Street has pitched very well since coming to the NL West and will have plenty of chances to save games with the low-scoring Padres. Even if he only gets 30 saves, he is my third closer.
18th round – Bobby Abreu (DH-LAA). Former fantasy stud Bobby Abreu has fallen on hard times as he approaches 40 years old. He saw his batting average plummet in 2011 and he didn’t even reach double digits in home runs. However, he still figures to score a decent amount of runs and can swipe a few bags here and there.
19th round – Russell Martin (C-NYY). I usually punt on catchers because the handful who have any value are always big health risks and they pale in comparison to other options earlier in the draft. My goal is just to get a catcher or two who start and play at least five times a week. Martin will be the Yankees starter and can still hit a bit, so I was pleased to get him in the 19th round.
20th round – Jason Bay (OF-NYM). Ugh. With the fences brought in at Citi Field, maybe Bay can actually hit 20 homers this year. Nah, who am I kidding?
21st round – Ivan Nova (SP-NYY). Nova is one of the few pitchers who can win almost 20 games and not even strike out 100 batters. He developed into a solid pitcher in 2011 and will look to improve upon that in 2012. He will help for wins, but if he can punch out batters at a better rate this pick will be even more valuable.
22nd round – Kurt Suzuki (C-OAK). Because this format requires two catchers, I grabbed the best available backstop who starts for his team. Suzuki didn’t have a great year in 2011, but he is a solid hitter and can at least be counted on to play most days.
23rd round – Mike Aviles (2B-BOS). For my middle infielder, I took Aviles because he should get most of the playing time at shortstop for the Red Sox. After trading both Jed Lawrie and Marco Scutaro, Aviles will get the call until Boston’s next prospect is ready. Aviles has had success before and will now have the benefit of hitting in their potent lineup.
24th round – Alfonso Soriano (OF-CHC). Oh how the mighty have fallen even more. Soriano is an albatross for the Cubs with his prohibitive contract and poor play. But he is also an albatross for fantasy owners who remember what he used to be able to do. For the 24th round, I can live with whatever he provides because by some miracle he could still hit 30 home runs and steal 20 bases.
25th round – Seth Smith (OF-OAK). It isn’t often that you find a cleanup hitter in the 25th round of a draft, but that's what happened here. Smith was traded to Oakland and should finally have a chance to play every day. The A’s lineup does not look impressive on paper, so Smith may have limited chances to drive in runs, but at this point in the draft, I was looking to acquire depth and fill out my bench.
26th round – Jake Peavy (SP-CHW). It is even less often that you find a former Cy Young Award winner who is supposedly healthy and still pitching in the 26th round of a draft. Peavy has never matched the success from his award winning season, but he should get a chance to reclaim his past glory with the rebuilding White Sox. For my last pick in the draft, this was certainly worth the risk.
Overall, I was very happy with the team I drafted. I have a good mix of power and speed, including several players who contribute in both categories. My pitching staff is solid and I have three good closers. I would go into battle with this team any day of the week. Here is my roster by position:
C Russell Martin-NYY
C Kurt Suzuki-OAK
1B Albert Pujols-LAA
2B Howie Kendrick-LAA
3B Alex Rodriguez-NYY
SS Jose Reyes-MIA
OF Alex Gordon-KC
OF Michael Cuddyer-COL
OF Chris Young-ARZ
OF Jason Bay-NYM
OF Alfonso Soriano-CHC
DH Bobby Abreu-LAA
CI Michael Cuddyer-COL
MI Mike Aviles-BOS
BN Ryan Howard-PHI
BN Seth Smith-OAK
SP C.C. Sabathia-NYY
SP Jon Lester-BOS
SP C.J. Wilson-LAA
SP Chad Billingsley-LAD
SP Jaime Garcia-STL
SP Ivan Nova
RP Mariano Rivera-NYY
RP Jose Valverde-DET
RP Huston Street-SD
BN Jake Peavy-CHW
What are your thoughts on the team I drafted?
Posted by Michael Stein at 12:14am
Monday, January 30, 2012
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions.
So here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
Prince Fielder to the Tigers
As if anyone expected anything less from Scott Boras.
Sure, it took the superagent some time to complete his latest masterpiece, but from a business standpoint, it’s hard to argue with the success of a nine-year, $214 million contract, especially when it’s signed by a player who is almost certain to be significantly overpaid by the second half of the deal.
For us mere fantasy-playing minions, who own no such financial stake in Fielder’s future fortunes, Detroit’s acquisition will likely prove to be the most consequential transaction of the offseason for its impact on not one, but two, superstars.
Let’s start with the obvious. Very much in the prime of his career, Fielder, 27, is an OPS machine on wheels who’s nearly a lock to put up monster numbers this season. Having played in no fewer than 157 games since his first full season in 2006, Fielder’s lifetime triple slash line of .282/.390/.540 provides a baseline of consistency that hints at another 30-plus home run season in 2012.
Granted, Stat Corner’s data note that, unlike Miller Park, Comerica Park suppresses left-handed home runs by 12 percent. Then again, a typical Fielder home run isn’t bound to the same limits of mortal major league hitters, as the big fella’s 38 home runs, on average, would have escaped the playing fields of 25 major league parks, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.
As THT’s Nick Fleder points out, the trio of Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera should provide similar table-setting opportunities compared to the Brewers’ 1-2-3 of Rickie Weeks, Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Braun. And I’m willing to bet Fielder will see worse starting pitching in the AL Central compared to his old division, as the Twins, Royals, Indians and White Sox all finished in the AL’s lower half in team ERA last year.
Fielder’s arrival, as you already know, bumps Miguel Cabrera over to third base in what will likely be the worst trial since the Stanford prison experiment. But that’s just Detroit’s problem, right? Well, not necessarily. As we look forward to watching Miggy gain eligibility at third base, keep an eye out for an eventual shift to DH, a spot currently occupied by the likes of Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge, all of whom could spell Cabrera in the field.
If (when) he’s demoted to DH, Miggy’s productivity runs the risk of a 10-percent decline, and although 111 plate appearances is hardly conclusive, his career .230/.306/.370 line doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. That said, Cabrera still enters 2012 as the most desirable third baseman in fantasy and probably surpasses Albert Pujols—if not Matt Kemp—with regard to candidacy as the first overall pick.
Francisco Cordero to set up Sergio Santos
In the end, Cordero was the closer left without a chair when the offseason music stopped, as a guy who’s averaged nearly 39 saves over the past five seasons settled for a one-year, $4.5 million deal to serve as Santos’ caddy.
Of course, at 36 years old, Cordero is entering a stage of his career when he’ll begin experiencing a natural decline, a trend already evidenced by several drooping numbers. At 5.4, Cordero’s K/9 rate was his worst since 2001—when he hurled all of 2.1 innings—and his average fastball velocity has lost two mph since 2009. Last year’s 4.02 FIP is out of sync with his 2.45 ERA, as were his .214 BABIP and 82.3 LOB percentage, numbers well outside his career norms.
Still, Cordero improved upon his walk rate and WHIP and still retains significant value in leagues that reward holds. And while his presence at the back end of Toronto’s bullpen will boost Santos’ fantasy value, he now represents the most immediate threat to the new closer’s job security if things go haywire this season.
Cody Ross to enter right-field platoon for Red Sox
Three years removed from a season in which he posted 24 home runs and 90 RBIs, Ross is a classic platoon player, featuring a career .912 OPS against left-handed pitchers that’s nearly 200 points above his mark against righties. That’s important, since he projects as a platoon partner with Ryan Sweeney as they anchor Boston’s right field.
Of course, his fantasy value will be limited so long as his at-bats are capped, but he could be an intriguing option in deeper AL-only leagues, especially if he’s fully recovered from the left hamstring injury that plagued his second half last year.
Odds and ends from around the majors
• The Phillies agreed to a minor-league deal with 34-year-old Juan Pierre, who will have to contend with John Mayberry, Jr., Laynce Nix and possibly Scott Posednik for playing time in left field. A steady job could return steal-happy Pierre to fantasy relevance, though his stolen-base success rate last year was an abysmal 61.3 percent, and his 44 attempts were nearly a career low over a full season.
• Ryan Theriot enters spring training as Brandon Crawford’s most threatening competition for shortstop appearances, though manager Bruce Bochy has reiterated his plan to hand the position’s keys to the 25-year-old this season. If Crawford runs into trouble, Theriot’s old buddy from Chicago, Mike Fontenot, also could compete for regular playing time.
• Jeff Keppinger will likely see utility work on the Rays this season, though it’s possible he’ll be relegated mostly to action against left-handed pitchers. He hit .255/.285/.333 in 230 plate appearances last year between the Astros and Giants.
• Brad Lidge has signed with Washington to help set up Drew Storen, but it’s not clear if he’s next in line following Tyler Clippard’s excellent 2011 season as the Nationals’ eighth-inning man. At 35, Lidge's injury history is also unavoidable, particularly after a partially torn rotator cuff zapped the first half of his 2011 season and probably helped slow his fastball to an alarming 89 mph.
Obviously, there's no guarantee Clippard will replicate last year's magic, and if something disastrous strikes Storen, opportunity may come knocking for the veteran reliever.
• Cincinnati’s currently projected starting rotation doesn’t leave a lot of room for Jeff Francis, who signed a minor-league contract this week. Then again, it remains to be seen whether Aroldis Chapman finally will make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation, or whether Homer Bailey—whose first name not only serves as a distinctive moniker but a source of ironic black humor—will hold down a starting job this season.
True, no one's running out to buy Jeff Francis t-shirts just yet, but in his defense, several teams were reportedly interested in his services this year, and his contract allows him to opt out before March closes if he feels he can find a better opportunity elsewhere.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:40am
First of all, if you haven't gotten the chance to familiarize yourself with the results of THT's recent mock draft, you can do so by clicking here.
When I took on the duty of organizing and putting together the mock draft, never did it occur to me that I would be forced into the No. 1 pick. I hate drafting first, and not for the reasons you may think. Sure, it’s a nice problem to have. You get your choice of anybody. Who could have a problem with that?
Personally, I really hate the length of time in between picks, which is probably the reason why I am a proponent of the auction draft. I like to pick players on my terms. I enjoy taking the bidding process to decide how much I value a guy. In a snake draft, you are a slave to the draft order and the clock. I digress.
Upon learning of my first pick, I narrowed my selection down to four guys: Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, and Jose Bautista. I labored through several different scenarios. I had it all narrowed down to Pujols, then God and Mike Ilitch gave Cabrera back his third-base eligibility. For me, my decision became clear. Miguel was my man.
Even though third base isn't as bad as it was last year, that distinction is just enough to set Cabrera above Pujols. Cabrera is old in baseball years, but not in real life. He’s only 29. He’s every bit as capable as Pujols to put up the same stats, but I would much rather my third baseman flourish than my first baseman.
One note I made in my head during our mock draft was that first base isn’t quite as deep as you may think. So I wouldn’t sleep on the middle tier, because once those guys are gone, it gets really nasty.
Here I am, ecstatic with my selection of Cabrera. I was set on drafting another big first baseman like Prince Fielder or Mark Teixeira and either Mike Stanton or Ryan Braun during my swing picks. I had underestimated the stock of both Stanton and Braun as they flew off in the second round before I got the chance. I adjusted and grabbed Tex. So I decided the remaining hitters weren’t quite up to the talent level of the starting pitching so I nailed Tim Lincecum down as my ace.
With Lincecum, Cabrera, and Teixeira in my quiver, I aimed my sights on speed and talent. Nelson Cruz was the most talented player on the board, and Michael Bourn was the best source of speed to help offset all the power I was starting to amass. Bourn is a very undervalued commodity even if he loses some of his batting average in 2012. With an assumption that Cruz could stay healthy, I am very happy with the way my team is starting to look.
As we entered round six, I really wanted a studly catcher, but Derek Ambrosino decided he needed to not only draft Brian McCann but also Joe Mauer, a sleeper pick of mine. Ambrosino’s greed forced me to go back to the starting pitching. I struggled with the safe pick of Matt Cain or the riskier, more-talented Adam Wainwright. Anybody that knows how I play fantasy baseball knows the decision I will make here. When in doubt, draft talent, so the result was Wainwright.
I paired him with Kevin Youkilis, who had dropped way too far. I understand the age, health, and production problems he displayed in 2011. But I don’t need him to mash 30 home runs. Throughout Youky’s career he’s been an OBP monster. That’s what he gives me. He also gives me some flexibility at the hot corner if I were to need to trade later. I know this is a mock draft, and it’s silly to prepare for trading, but that’s how you prepare, people!
Okay, here’s where I start taking some chances. Lured in by the two front-end aces and underwhelmed by the hitters available, I paired Yu Darvish with Josh Johnson to complete a solid front four in my rotation. I’m not usually so pitcher-heavy, but I absolutely love the talent of all four starting pitchers I’ve assembled.
Everybody is wrong about their hesitation against Darvish, and I’m tired of saying why. Johnson is ridiculously good when he toes the rubber. How often he toes that rubber is the real question, but I think that’s worth a ninth-round pick to figure out.
I spent the next four picks filling out my positional needs with upside. Andre Ethier will bounce back now that he’s healthy. Ike Davis will benefit from the cozier home park and natural growth. I’m not usually a Dustin Ackley fan, but he was far-and-away the best second baseman available, and he should help my average. Alexei Ramirez gives me a solid shortstop. I have him pegged as an upper-middle-tier option up the middle. He still has potential, but if he continues to do what he’s been doing, then that would be fine for this roster.
I decided to go all talent with the next four picks. Cory Luebke is a stud in the making. For those that don’t know, you should really acquaint yourself with this guy. Part of the reason the Padres were ready to let Mat Latos move on was because Luebke is ready to take that next step and lead that staff.
Yes, I did draft Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes. I literally looked at the players available, and I couldn’t get the scouts' comparison of his power to Mike Stanton. With a 70-plus scouting grade on his speed, we really don’t know how good this guy really is. He’ll strike out, I’m sure, but I’m all about spending a fifteenth-round pick sheerly on chance, especially in the outfield position.
My next two picks were pretty obvious and easy for me. I still felt like I could add some more speed, and I still hadn’t garnered the services of a closer, hence my selections of Jason Motte and Mike Trout.
I believe Carlos Quentin has the power to still hit home runs in Petco if he stays healthy. That’s a really big “if,” but there’s little risk this late. Quentin will serve as a solid backup to Trout and Cespedes.
I absolutely love Jim Johnson. I’m glad he’s getting a chance to close, but I secretly hoped he would get his chance to start. He’s a special talent that the rest of the baseball world doesn’t know yet.
Round twenty marks a stretch of five out of seven picks I do not like. Gordon Beckham was really the best available middle infielder, but I’m by no means sold on a breakout. I don’t know if I’d draft him on a real team, but he’ll do as a middle infielder. If not for the forcing of Jason Kubel as my last pick (we had to roster an actual DH), I would have drafted Tyler Pastornicky to back up the unstable Beckham.
I learned my lesson that I will need to draft a catcher, earlier than I did especially in a two-catcher league. I drafted Geovany Soto and prayed that Devin Mesoraco would last to me in the next pick. Well, he didn’t, and I settled with Salvador Perez.
Perez hit very well in Kansas City last year, but I’d be fooling myself if I thought he could replicate those stats. However, the full-time gig is his to lose, and Wil Myers has moved from behind the plate to the outfield, so he doesn’t have that talented rookie pushing him. It’s worth a wait-and-see.
I don’t like Francisco Liriano anymore, but I didn’t have much choice. I probably should have drafted Matt Thornton with this pick, but hindsight is always twenty-twenty.
My other two pertinent picks were Yonder Alonso and Jair Jurrjens. I was very excited to get Alonso this late. He has pole-to-pole gap power, and he’ll finally get his chance to show the baseball world his skill set. It’s a shame it’s taken this long.
I’m not a huge believer in Jurrjens, but at some point, the hate has to end. Round 25 is about that time. Jurrjens enters 2012 still recovering from his injuries, but that has been the theme with my pitching staff. Why stop now?
Here’s the final product:
C- Geovany Soto CHC
C- Salvador Perez KC
1B- Mark Teixeira NYY
2B- Dustin Ackley SEA
3B- Miguel Cabrera DET
SS- Alexei Ramirez CHW
CI- Kevin Youkilis BOS
MI- Gordon Beckham CHW
OF- Nelson Cruz TEX
OF- Michael Bourn ATL
OF- Andre Ethier LAD
OF- Yoenis Cespedes FA
OF- Mike Trout LAA
DH- Ike Davis NYM
B- Carlos Quentin OF SD
B- Yonder Alonso OF SD
B- Jason Kubel OF ARI
P- Tim Lincecum SP SFO
P- Adam Wainwright SP STL
P- Josh Johnson SP FLA
P- Yu Darvish SP TEX
P- Cory Luebke SP SD
P- Francisco Liriano SP MIN
P- Jair Jurrjens SP ATL
P- Jason Motte RP STL
P- Jim Johnson RP BAL
I’m not overly impressed, but I’m not embarrassed. I was able to get a lot of my guys, and I missed a lot of my guys. Personally, I felt Paul Singman’s team was the best, but I enjoyed the practice.
I hope that I, along with you, will take this opportunity to refine some of my flawed draft practices. I won’t make a real team this volatile. I know that, but I don’t see where I necessarily would have strayed too far from the guys I drafted. I like eighty percent of my team, and that’s not too bad. I look forward to seeing your opinions and comments.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:39am
Saturday, January 28, 2012
The 2012 Hardball Times Mock Draft has come and gone, and we are left with a wealth of fun information to discuss over the upcoming weeks. Look for several of the THT authors to write their own analysis of the results. For the time being, this will be only a results post.
First we need to give a collective thanks to Mock Draft Central. MDC hosted the THT mock without issue and put everything together for us amazingly quickly.
Here’s the draft order:
1. Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times
2. Derek Carty, Baseball Prospectus
3. Robert Burghardt, TG Fantasy Baseball
4. Mike Stein, Fantasy Judgment
5. Dave Shovein, The Hardball Times
6. Paul Singman, The Hardball Times
7. Al O’Harra,Fantasy Sports R Us
8. Derek Ambrosino, The Hardball Times
9. Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times, Fantasy Baseballl 365
10. Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms
11. Nick Fleder, The Hardball Times
12. Brad Johnson, The Hardball Times
I know you didn’t come here for the draft order, but I want everyone to notice the writers/owners of the other sites that were so gracious to lend their own expertise to our draft. Without them, we would not have been able to accomplish this draft, especially in such short notice. I personally know or compete against all these guys. They are some of the best minds in the business. I have visited all the sites above, and they all offer something a little different. Please take the time to visit their sites and see for yourself.
Now here are the results for The Hardball Times Mock Draft 2012 . We used the standard 5X5 rotisserie settings with a 1,600 innings pitched limit, 20-game eligibility. For all you fantasy nerds, including me, I also have the THT mock draft spreadsheet. Over the next weeks, we will be doing some further breakdown. For the time being, feel free to digest these results and comment below.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 10:58am
Friday, January 27, 2012
Last year, Josh Shepardson, Paul Singman and I did a series of articles on our top 25 guys who are 25 or younger. It was pretty well received at the time, and looking back there were a lot of rankings that would make you go "hmmm" with hindsight. This year, Nick Fleder, Josh and Ben Pritchett did a 2012 edition of the top 25 who are 25 or under.
I had no time to complete a list in time to participate, but I felt that my list was different enough to warrant presenting and explaining separately. More than a mere ego thing, this article began as an in-depth response to the original articles that Josh and others in the fantasy division encouraged me to publicize.
This article will cover players ranked No. 1 through 15 on my list. Part 2 will cover players ranked No. 15 through 30. I always welcome discussion in the comment section, so have at the list when you are done reading.
TLDR: THE LIST
Rank Name 1 Justin Upton 2 Mike Stanton 3 Clayton Kershaw 4 Desmond Jennings 5 Felix Hernandez 6 Matt Moore 7 Stephen Strasburg 8 Carlos Santana 9 Andrew McCutchen 10 Jay Bruce 11 Jesus Montero 12 Mike Trout 13 Bryce Harper 14 Jason Heyward 15 Mat Latos 16 Michael Pineda 17 Yu Darvish 18 Buster Posey 19 Pablo Sandoval 20 Madison Bumgarner 21 Brett Lawrie 22 Eric Hosmer 23 Daniel Hudson 24 Logan Morrison 25 Tommy Hanson The next five 26 Starlin Castro 27 Matt Wieters 28 Yovanni Gallardo 29 Dee Gordon 30 Paul Goldschmidt And five more 31 Jason Kipnis 32 Jeremy Hellickson 33 Craig Kimbrell 34 Dustin Ackley 35 Cameron Maybin Plus two guys it pained me to cut 36 Anthony Rizzo 37 Brandon Belt
1. Justin Upton: Upton tops this list because he is an all-around, five-category real life and fantasy player who has proven himself capable of excellence, is still improving, and is still only 24, though because he came up so young, Upton might seem like he has been around "forever." The junior Upton has averaged 25 home runs and 17 stolen bases per 162 games in his four-plus year major league career—hard to find production.
Upton had a down year in 2010, and it soured a lot of people's opinion of him heading into 2011. Still, a .273 batting average with 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases is nothing to sneeze at. If 2010 is the floor for a rising superstar, then sign me up.
Upton's walks dropped to merely league average last year, but he sliced the strikeout rate in a big way (18.7 percent after posting a 29.0 percent rate in 2008, a 23.3 percent rate in 2009, and a 26.6 percent rate in 2010) while re-upping the power (.240 ISO, .211 career ISO). I expect Upton to repeat his 2011 numbers in 2012, only with a little more batting average and closer to 100 RBI.
Upton might not offer the best overall numbers in any given category, but balanced production is a rare commodity these days. Balance is valuable because balanced players mitigate risks, making replacement production easier to find if a player hits the disabled list. Upton is going to easily push it as a top 15 overall hitter next year, and if you don't value him as much as I do, I assure you that you will lose him to me at the auction table. We'll see who's laughing in September.
2. Mike Stanton: Putting Stanton behind Upton was a hard choice. On one hand, Stanton is only 22 and he has 56 career home runs in fewer than 1,000 plate appearances. Stanton also draws walks at a strong clip, for a player who is of the age of most college draft picks. Of all the players in baseball not named Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, Stanton has the greatest potential to hit 40 or more home runs next season if he stays healthy.
On the other hand, Stanton strikes out quite a bit (although he improved his strikeout rate last season. Stanton swung-and-missed more often than in 2010 (and chased more pitches outside the zone) and is unlikely to produce an elite, let alone decent, batting average without some luck dragons breathing fire in his direction. That makes him a liability in at least one fantasy category, unlike Upton. Stanton is also moving to a new park that is predicted to play at least as poorly on righty power as the Marlins' old stadium. Then again, adding Jose Reyes to the lineup certainly bolsters RBI opportunities for the young slugger.
I have high hopes for Stanton in 2012, and he is likely to end up being more valuable overall than Upton next season. Alas, he is the more "incomplete" player compared to Upton, who poses a little less value risk than Stanton and his batting average liability. Maybe I am just looking for hairs to split, though. The difference in value between Upton and Stanton is slim, and will vary depending on what you are seeking in the player you draft.
3. Clayton Kershaw: Although I was skeptical of Kershaw a few years ago, he has become one of my favorite fantasy pitchers. Kershaw has done everything necessary to establish himself as a superstar pitcher working on skill rather than luck. He's substantially improved his walk rate—more than halving it over the past two years—while keeping the strikeouts and slightly upping the groundball percentage. Few pitchers with who strike out 25 percent of the batters they face walk batters at even a league average rate, let alone post K/BB rates just north of 4.50.
Kershaw's curveball might be the best in baseball, and 2012 is going to be Kershaw's age 24 season. Stephen Strasburg might arguably have a higher ceiling than Kershaw, but Kershaw has no injury history to worry about and he's already a Cy Young-caliber pitcher who will undoubtedly rank top five among starters in my 2012 fantasy rankings. Strasburg, only a few months younger than Kershaw, should be tickled pink if he ever reaches Kershaw's level. Do not be surprised if Kershaw is the next pitcher in baseball to rack up 300 strikeouts in a single season.
4. Desmond Jennings: Jennings is a special talent who proved a lot of skeptics wrong last year when he made his major league debut. You could confuse Jennings as a Cubs prospect given how long it took the Rays organization to promote Jennings, but he proved himself capable of what we expect from B.J. Upton every year, only with higher batting average potential. Expect big things from Jennings, now 25, these next few seasons. I would not be surprised to see him hit 110 or more home runs with 220 or more steals over the next five years, all the while batting .275 or better. That kind of power and elite speed combination is hard to find, and it's just another reason that I will never have to draft Carl Crawford again.
5. Felix Hernandez: Over seven major league seasons, he has logged 1,388.1 innings with a 3.24 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, a 3:1 K/BB ratio, 1,264 strikeouts and a career groundball rate of 55 percent. Oh, and he's still only 25 (Okay, technically he'll turn 26 in the second week of the season, but he's too good to ignore). Over the last three seasons, his numbers are even better: 722 innings, 2.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 671 strikeouts to 208 walks (8.4 K/9, 3.2 K/BB). Even on the offense-less Mariners, he has been able to "win" fantasy owners a respectable 27 games over the past two season—that's about as "no-decision proof" as an elite player on a crappy offensive team gets.
Last season was a "down" year for Hermandez, who still posted a sub-3.50 ERA, sub-1.25 WHIP, plus-8.0 K/9 and double digit wins for fantasy owners. His peripherals were really no different last year than they were in 2009 and 2010 (a few more strikeouts, but a few fewer groundballs), so there is no reason for worry about the production of this workhorse next season. The Mariners have added Jesus Montero, who should add run support, and it's not like their 2012 offense could be much worse than their 2011 offense. Just imagine what kind of numbers Felix Hernandez would put up on a good team or in the National League. Needless to say, he is a top 10 major league pitcher in terms of talent. Matt Moore and Strasburg might have higher ceilings, but Hernandez is the safer pick given his record, home park and division. He'll cost more at the draft table, but he's worth it if money doesn't matter.
6. Matt Moore: Okay, I know what you are thinking: "Yeah, I get Kershaw above Strasburg, and maybe Felix, but Matt Moore? Are you kidding me?" Answer: No, I am not. Matt Moore, in my mind, when you consider his floor and lack of injury history, has similar fantasy potential to Strasburg with less risk. If his end-of-season and ALDS performance are any indication of what this special arm can do, we are likely looking at a potential top 10 pitcher in the making. Moore projects as a guy who can strike out 30 percent of the batters he faces while walking three batters or fewer per nine innings. Moore has no injury history, and is likely to get a higher innings load than Strasburg in 2012 since he pitched 170 innings between the majors and minors last year. My projection for 2012? Only a 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and a K/9 rate between 9.5 and 10.0. Expect big, big things from Moore. Even in the AL East.
7. Stephen Strasburg: Strasburg could strike out 300 batters, post a sub-3.00 ERA and a low ones WHIP at his peak, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery. Sure, Strasburg's recovery has been smooth, and he showed us that major league batters are still no really problem for him in limited action last year. However, 2012 is going to see Strasburg get the Jordan Zimmermann treatment, limiting his value. Plus, there is no real guarantee that Strasburg will both reach his peak and stay healthy.
Tommy John surgery has a substantially higher full recovery rate than it used to, but surgery can't heal bad mechanics. Tom Verducci explains:
The answer to why Strasburg blew out—and why his future is a risky one—may lie in his mechanics. Several pitching coaches quietly predicted Strasburg was at risk before he broke down. He will continue to bear risky loads on his elbow and shoulder unless he changes the way he throws.
Strasburg, thus, has some serious red flags that prevent me from ranking him top five. Still, we are talking about a once-in-a-lifetime arm here: a guy who can consistently throw in the upper 90s as a starting pitcher and strike out batters like Randy Johnson. That kind of potential is more than enough to outweigh most of the risk if you plan your team properly.
8. Carlos Santana: Santana is a really good hitter who is not only catcher-eligible, but decent enough a defender that he can likely stick at the position until his knees give out. Santana's batting average was pretty poor last year—at .239—but his .263 BABIP was much lower than his peripherals otherwise indicated. Santana has monstrous power for a catcher (27 home runs, .217 ISO last year), but will need to cut down on the number of popups if he is going to hit above .260. Position eligibility is playing a big part of Santana's ranking on this list, but Oliver's 2012 forecast—a .259/.370/.489 triple slash line with 25 home runs, 79 RBI, 73 runs and a handful of stolen bases—says Santana is a good enough hitter in his own right to deserve recognition as a top young fantasy talent. Santana shares a birthday with King Felix, so this will be his last year on this list.
9. Andrew McCutchen: Seemingly a breakout player last year, McCutchen had a second half as bad as his first half was good. His overall season line was still pretty close to his likely true talent line, and that's a pretty excellent level of production. McCutchen is a high .270s/low .280s batter with good on-base skills, an above-average strikeout rate and above-average power. A line of .280/.380/.470 is totally in the cards for 2012, and McCutchen has 20/30 upside. The Pirates may stink, but their young center fielder is a bona fide fantasy stud with five-category potential if he has a little luck on his BABIP.
10. Jay Bruce: Bruce is a frustrating player. His overall line is pretty solid, and he has 2008 Alfonso Soriano-like stretches where he is absolutely the best player in (fantasy) baseball, able to win owners weekly match-ups single-handedly. Alas, he has been the definition of hot-and-cold the last two years, doing his best Luke Scott impression. For Roto, Bruce is great for an owner with patience who is a believer. In H2H, however, Bruce is every owner's worst nightmare. The only thing that you can guarantee with Bruce is that he'll be a deadweight for the first three weeks. After that, you gotta ride the streaks.
Bruce has similar fantasy value to McCutchen, swapping out less speed for more power and a slightly lower batting average true talent line. McCutchen is the more balanced player, and the edge always goes to balance. Expect .270/.350/.490 next season, with 28-35 home runs, five to 10 stolen bases, and 100 RBI. The question is whether you can be patient enough to leave Bruce in daily to get those numbers.
11. Jesus Montero: A change of scenery from New Yankee Stadium to Safeco Field is never a positive move for a prospect whose key tool is his power stroke. Montero has enough raw hitting ability to survive the move and pay loyal believers in spades. Not only would all three of Montero's home runs at home last year have been home runs at Safeco Park (sample size, sample size, sample size, I know), but we're talking about a prospect whose MLE over the past few years has been above an .800 OPS/.350 wOBA.
Oh, and did I mention that Montero just turned 22? True, Safeco tends to be harder on right-handed batters than left-handed batters, but Montero still projects as a high .280s hitter with .350 OBP potential and .200+ ISO power despite the move. Oliver's 2015 forecast for Montero is a .289/.347/.508 line with 25 home runs per 529 PA. Those are ridiculously good fantasy numbers. The best part? Montero might keep catcher eligibility for the next few years as the Mariners figure out where they want to play him to maximize his value. (He's young enough that his defensive shortcomings might not result in a position change until 2014 if the Mariners feel a strong enough need at catcher). Montero is a young star in the making with the potential to make me regret not ranking him in the top 10 by the end of the season.
12. Mike Trout: Trout is also very young: He will not turn 21 until after the All-Star break this season. But Trout has already made his major league debut and is arguably baseball's top prospect—ahead of the legend of Bryce Harper. After ridiculous numbers in Single-A and Double-A ball over the past two season, (combined minor league line of .338/.422/.508 with 22 home runs and 102 stolen bases), the Angels called Trout up last season for a pair of brief stints. He struggled in his first taste of major league pitching—batting a less than encouraging .220/.282/.390—but he is still has projectable potential as baseball's next five- category fantasy stud.
THT Forecast's Oliver system for 2016 projects Trout, in his age 24 season, to hit .307/.378/.500 with a 20/20, potentially 20/30 campaign over a full, healthy year. It's worth buying low on Trout and getting in on the ground floor early in dynasty leagues. He likely won't come cheap for a player with such little (successful) major league experience, but Trout has the potential to be a long term bargain in the right league.
13. Bryce Harper: Harper rounds out three guys (the other two being Montero and Trout) who are among baseball's next big thing in hitting prospects. Harper gets ranked lower than the other two simply because he might spend 2012 in the minors. Of course that might change in a heartbeat, depending on how the Nationals start the season with their pitching phenom Strasburg back on the mound and whether they sign an outfielder.
If you do not yet know why Bryce Harper has a lot of buzz behind him, then you need to watch this video of him blasting a 500-foot-plus home run at Tropicana Field a few years ago. He is baseball's premier power prospect—ahead of even Mike Stanton. Not even 20 years old (he'll turn 20 in October), Harper projects as having .300 ISO potential power in his prime. Not only does Harper have raw power, but he is also pretty athletic and has good bat speed, according to the scouting reports I have read. He also has solid plate discipline for a 19-year-old, walking 59 times over 109 games last year. Put it all together, and you have a guy who can hit .290 with good on-base numbers, excellent power (30+ home runs) and double digit stolen bases. Harper's only real flaw is
14. Jason Heyward: In his age 21 season, Heyward walked 91 times in 142 games (14.6 percent rate). That's a rare level of excellence, and top 10 all time in number of single season walks for a player 21 years old or younger. In fact, in 2010, he was tied for eighth in the league in total walks, behind seven players who all played 150 or more games, top five overall in the league among qualified batters. One more walk would have made him top three. That is elite plate discipline for any batter, let alone one who was barely old enough to drink. Combine that with a .179 ISO and you have yourself one of the top prospects in baseball.
But 2011 was largely a disappointment for Heyward, who battled injuries. His groundball rate remained high (53.9 percent), his popup rate skyrocketed (21.8 percent), his line drives fell off (13.1 percent) and his power dipped (.162 ISO). All of that can be expected when batting nagging shoulder injuries. What is important is that Heyward's mastery of the strike zone largely stayed intact, proving his 2010 plate discipline was no outlier. Heyward still walked 11.2 percent of the time while striking out at the exact same rate in 2011 as he did in 2010.
This will be Heyward's age 23 season, and he has plenty of time to get back on track as one of baseball's elite young hitters. If he is healthy, he should pick up where he left off at the end of 2011 (you know, before the playoffs). Even with an injury-stifled 2011 skewing his career numbers, Oliver forecasts Heyward to hit .273/.367/.475 this season with 20 home runs and double-digit stolen bases. By the time he is 27, I would not be shocked to see Heyward log at least one 30 home run season and one 20/20 season, and there is no reason, with a little luck on his side, that he can't hit .280/.390/.480 this year. I'm expecting a 25/15 campaign as well. Now is the time to buy low. Heyward is ranked this low only because of injury risk.
15. Mat Latos: When healthy, Latos has one of baseball's most electric young arms—a potentially top 20 arm. With a mid-90s fastball, mid-80s power slider and solid change-up, Latos has been able to dice through both handed batters with minimal platoon splits (career 3.49 xFIP versus LHB and 3.53 xFIP versus RHB, 23.1 K percentage versus LHB and 23.9 percentversus RHB). Sadly, health has proven an issue in his short career. Latos had with a shoulder injury that forced him to the disabled list to start 2011 and limited his effectiveness in the first half of the season. With a 25-plus percent slider rate, health may be an issue in the future as well. Oliver's 2015 forecast for Latos' age 27 season is a 3.18 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 and a +4.5 WAR per 180 innings. If healthy, Latos should be able to pitch 200-plus innings a year. "If" is a big word, however. Consider Latos a moderate-risk, high-reward player at this point.
Comments? Questions? Concerns? Feedback? Leave it all in the comments below. Make sure to check back for the second part.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:45am
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Every year, as I prepare for draft season, I come across players I don’t like. There are a number of reasons I might dislike a guy. Maybe it's his statistical profiles, maybe he's burned me in the past, or maybe there is no good reason and I just don't like him. On my cheat sheet heading into the draft these players are all marked in red, and under no circumstances will they end up on my roster.
I know that many of you out there are thinking that completely ruling out certain players is idiotic, and that everyone has “value” if they fall far enough in the draft. But as I’ve stated before, I only want to roster players I like, and players I have a high level of confidence in. Especially in the foundation rounds of a draft, you have to be comfortable with the guys you are drafting and believe they will return the numbers you expect them to.
No matter what my reason is for not liking a specific player, if he's on the red list, it doesn't matter how far he falls. I'm not taking him. I recommend you take the same course. For starters, if you think you are catching falling “value," remember that 14 other teams passed on that same guy for a reason. Also, to compete successfully at the highest level, you have to have confidence in your player projections. If you feel strongly that a player has too much risk or you believe he is going to under-perform compared to most expectations, then trust your gut instincts and don’t draft him. If you’re putting months of hard work and dedication into your projections and your carefully constructed draft strategy, why would you change everything based on a specific player falling an extra round? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
I use my own personal projections and evaluations of players, rather than trusting an outside source or someone else’s opinion. The more I've learned to trust myself, the better my results have been.
Without further ado, here are a few players who will populate the red list on my rankings this season with explanations for what they've done to deserve their spots. If you disagree with any of these, or if it’s someone you feel very strongly will have a terrific year and outperform expectations, that’s fine.
Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX: I’m not disputing how dominant Cruz can be when he’s healthy, we all witnessed it firsthand as he pummeled the Tigers pitching in the ALCS last season. The problem with Cruz is that he can’t stay healthy. In the last 3 years of full time play, Cruz has only averaged 120 games per season. Another very disturbing trend is that Cruz has dealt with numerous hamstring injuries which have severely limited his speed. Once considered a 20/20 threat, Cruz only managed 9 steals last year. Cruz’s current ADP puts him at pick 44, which is the end of Round 3 in 15 team leagues. Personally, I’m looking for much more than 120 sporadic games from my 3rd round pick, and I’ll gladly let someone else assume the risk here.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, CLE: For one, I don’t believe that his massive HR/FB spike is repeatable. I think he’s more likely to finish with around 14 home runs in 2012 than he is to repeat his 25 homer performance from last season. In my eyes, he’s a .275/80/14/70/15 kind of player. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s solid overall production from your shortstop, but he’s currently being drafted as the 4th shortstop off the boards at pick 52. He won’t be on my teams.
Jayson Werth, OF, WAS: This one falls more into the category of a guy that I just don’t like as much as the general public. After signing his massive contract in Washington, he turned in an absolutely abysmal performance in 2011. While a minor rebound can be expected, I still see a .260 hitter with declining power and speed tools.
Carlos Quentin, OF, SD: Another low average power hitter that I was never a huge fan of to begin with. Now he moves from the cozy confines in Chicago to PetCo National Park. I’d be absolutely shocked if he cracked the 25 home run plateau.
C.J. Wilson, SP, LAA: This one definitely falls into the category of a player who for no logical reason I just don’t like. While the results have been great since moving into the rotation, something about him just rubs me the wrong way. He simply isn’t a player that I have confidence in, and therefore won’t be a target of mine on draft day.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, CLE: After one of the greatest half-seasons in modern history to begin 2010, Jimenez fell off of a cliff and hasn’t been the same since. Many pundits are predicting a rebound in 2012, but I’m skeptical. When I see pitchers that rely mainly on their dominating fastball suddenly lose over 2 MPH, it raises a red flag.
And I can’t forget to mention Justin Morneau, Brian Roberts, Jason Bay and anyone else who is dealing with concussion issues. Counting on players with an injury history is bad enough (which these players all have), but adding the lingering effects of a concussion means these players simply aren't worth the risk.
As always, if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve brought up here I’d love to hear about it. Sell me on why these players should remain on my draft board and could help lead me to fantasy glory this year!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:49am
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
As many of you know, our THT Forecasts tool offers performance and playing time projections for thousands of major and minor league players, auction value calculators, and many other features that will help any novice or veteran owner compete.
I’m not just randomly plugging our wares; I call attention to THT Forecasts because for today’s column, I just plucked the names of a few players about whom I am curious and/or conflicted to see what Oliver, our projection system, has to say.
Before getting into the projections for some of the more contentious players, let me offer a word about Oliver overall. Oliver has received very high praise and performed on par with other industry-leading forecasting systems. However, Oliver’s number often strike me as a tad on the low side. Part of that is that many of the mainstream projections you see, especially in magazines, etc. probably don’t really account for the likelihood of injury with any reasonable accuracy.
Regardless, an important measure of a forecasting system’s accuracy is how well it predicts performance relative to itself. So, just to set the context for the following predictions, consider that Oliver projects only 13 players to reach 30 home runs, two to reach 100 runs, and 14 to reach 100 RBI.
On to the conversation pieces.
Utley returned from injury last season as early as could have been expected. That was the good news. The bad news was that he never really looked like his vintage self. With a full offseason of rest, will Utley regain more of his original form?
I wanted a reason to be optimistic about taking a shot on one of the best players of the 2000s, but it doesn’t look to be there. As far back as last year, Philadelphia Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro, Jr. intimated that Utley’s knee troubles may never fully go away.
To be fair, these are certainly not bad numbers to get from 130 games or so of a second baseman. Utley’s health and age may be working against him, but his home park and pedigree give him a shot at a ceiling that’s much higher than several players who are projected to produce at around the same level. For all the hype about Dustin Ackley, he didn’t out-produce a recovering Utley in 2011, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if he failed to do so in 2012, either.
I see Utley as a solid, good-but-not-elite middle infielder option with a bit of an extra injury risk, but accompanied by the potential to make lots of drafters look really dumb at the end of the season.
This is a monster projection! Oliver thinks Sandoval is going to play the entire season and rake! Panda really had it going last year and was on pace for more than 30 homers, a true feat given his home park.
I was burned by Sandoval in 2010, but I try not to be emotional about these things. Sandoval certainly does have his fans, a group to which I once belonged. Personally, I’m not sure he can be fully trusted given his sordid history.
One thing I do like about him, however, is that he has that very valuable fantasy trait of going few plate appearances without making contact. He doesn’t walk and he doesn’t strike out often for a player with his slugging prowess, which is a nice recipe for counting stats. Further, the lack of strikeouts help make up for the lack of walks when it comes to maintaining a high batting average.
At the end of the day, my concern is pretty much the same as it is every year with Giants hitters. The surrounding cast is weak, which I think will make it more difficult for Sandoval to score runs than Oliver seems to believe, and I worry about the home park. Overall, I’m not as high on the Kung Fu Panda as Oliver is, but I can understand the optimism.
Last season, Pineda quickly became one of my favorite pitchers to watch. I had targeted him in all my leagues and was quite happy with my returns. He’s so big and physically imposing that when he pitches, it looks like you’re watching a Little League game where the kid on the mound hit puberty two years before everybody else on the field.
Now a member of the Yankees rotation (am I the only one who thought it would have made more sense for Seattle to trade Felix Hernandez than Pineda?), the world will get a front-row seat to see what this kid makes of himself.
This is a pretty good projection. The Yankees offense might boost the win total more than noted here. If I had to guess a fairly narrow window, I’d put my money on 14–16 victories. At the same time, it’s possible that the rate stats wind up a bit higher, too. Finally, there also appears to be even greater upside on the strikeout rate. Pineda's swinging strike percentage was pretty impressive last year, at 11.8 percent.
Ben Pritchett likes David Wright more than you do, and probably more than Oliver does. I agree. Actually, when you consider that this projection is expecting Wright will miss 25-30 games, it may not actually be too far below my hopes for the face of the New York Mets.
I wrote about Wright a few months ago, expressing my reasons for optimism there, so I won’t rehash them much. Like Ben, I have “a feeling,” but my optimism for Wright is based on a logical chain of reasoning and my interpretation of his approach gleaned from many years as a miserable Mets fan.
The bottom line is that if he slips to third-round type ADP, he offers as much profit potential as you are likely to find that early in a draft. Even at Oliver’s somewhat tempered projections above, prorated for a full season, that is already third-round production at a somewhat thin position.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:34am
Monday, January 23, 2012
I had the pleasure earlier this week of attending a comedy show performed in Nashville, Tenn. The headliner for the evening was one Ralphie May. May was his usual controversial self, blending his form of self-therapy with insensitive racially charged comments to achieve the ultimate goal of getting the audience to think about themselves.
He took us on a roller coaster of emotions that I didn’t want to get off. He was borderline brilliant. As an artist, he took his one-hour time slot and turned it into a two-and-half hour masterpiece.
I didn’t agree with everything he said. Actually, I would say we probably disagree on just about everything, but that didn’t change my appreciation for his talent. It’s a talent that the mainstream comedy industry has relegated to small clubs and occasional late-night television show appearances.
Granted, May can be a larger-than-life figure and push every envelope put in front of him, but he seems to be really developing into greatness. Just recently, May became very ill, ill nearly to the point of death. He’s battled back, and it’s morphed his crude humor into a morally impactful journey.
I must say that my feelings for Ralphie May extend past the stage. I actually work another job that lets me meet every kind of celebrity. From country singers to rappers, from athletes to actors, I’ve met them all over the last 10 years. Some have been great, and some weren’t so great.
Of all the people I’ve met, May has had the greatest impact on me personally. He’s gracious and genuine. I feel like he’s my best friend, and I guarantee he doesn’t even know my last name. Even in a hard day for him physically, he’ll stand ready to deliver a joke to make you smile. His heart is really as big as his waistline, and I am a fan for life.
Sorry for my tangent, but this kind of guy got me really thinking about some players in baseball that I know I like more than you. I will try over the next several paragraphs to gently push my bias upon you. There are a few that will be harder to convince you of than others, but my mission remains the same.
David Wright 3B NYM - If you build it, and David Wright is awful, you should rebuild it. I can’t even get my wife to let me clear out the bonus room so that I can have a retreat in my own house, but Wright has the Mets redesigning a whole stadium for him. Maybe the Mets love Wright more.
So now that I’m depressed, let’s look at these changes. It looks as though the Mets have reduced the gap dimensions. Does Wright still have gap power? I don’t know. His line-drive rate has been in a free fall for the past two years, but his actual power numbers are trending in a positive. I would like to think that the Mets' decision to build around Wright is indicative of their faith in the 29-year-old to regain his stroke, but I can’t tell for sure. I blame it on his back injury and move along.
I have no rationale for liking him this season, none at all. For a site like THT, liking a guy without a statistically backed reason is frowned upon. So everyone collectively frown and get over it.
I’m sure I’ll get the commenter who will point to Pablo Sandoval’s potential to improve, or that Brett Lawrie could be had far cheaper and put up similar numbers. I understand the argument that Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Zimmerman have just as good a chance at success as Wright, but you can’t help what you feel. I also believe Wright’s value will cool from being a second-round pick by the time draft season goes into full swing.
I see him as a mid-third rounder. When he falls out of the second round, I’m buying. For you auction types, I think Wright’s price should fall in drafts. This, too, may be just a feeling, but every “expert” in the industry has already thrown Wright under the bus for 2012. I’m not ready to do that, and I’m willing to bet that his talent rises, as it always does with elite players.
Wright will be my riskiest, most biased player pick for 2012, and I could die by this one. But I’d rather be Wright than wrong. My real mission was to sneak that joke in. Mission accomplished.
David Price SP TB - Going from a 19-6 season to a losing one has to be a mental drain on a starting pitcher. I can’t fathom how you can understand improvement when your win/loss record makes that dramatic a shift. But that’s just what Price is having to deal with as we enter 2012.
Last season, Price increased his innings from 208 to 224 and his strikeout rate from 8.11 to 8.75. He decreased his walk rate down from 3.41 to 2.53. His BABIP and his strand rate are destined to get more luck eventually. If we see more growth from Price as a pitcher, he could get that ERA under 3.00, easily rack up 220-plus strikeouts and find a few more wins along the way.
I will put my reputation out there that Price will be the ace of not only the Rays, but also the AL East. At 26 years old, this could be Price’s big season to begin a trend of many more great years in the future. I plan to target Price as my No. 1 pitcher in drafts. I suggest you do the same, for this Price is worth the price. I’d say I’m two-for-two, bad boy.
Ubaldo Jimenez SP CLE - Oh, I don’t think anybody’s had the fall from grace as quickly as Jimenez. His trade to Cleveland only intensified an already disappointing 2011 season. Jimenez pitched one of the best half-seasons in baseball history in early 2010. Since then, his ERA has fluctuated more than the housing market. There are, however, some very interesting positives underlying Jimenez’ awful stat lines.
First of all, only Fausto "Roberto Hernandez Heredia" Carmona had a worse strand rate than Jimenez in 2011. At 65 percent, Jimenez couldn’t keep anybody from scoring. That’s a positive, because unbelievably bad strand rates in talented pitchers tend to correct themselves over time. His BABIP against was a hefty .314, good for twelfth-unluckiest starter in the game.
I’d say pretty much all of Jimenez's 2011 advanced stats were similar to his career averages. He’ll walk batters and strike out just under nine a game. He’s still filthy and only saw a slight velocity decrease (-2.6 mph) that probably was linked to some health issues Jimenez battled while playing with the Rockies.
Pay attention to his stock come draft day. Jimenez definitely will have his detractors, and there’s really nothing to detract. Live with the dicey WHIP and draft the skills of this 28-year-old hurler. He’ll likely deliver profit in the middle rounds of drafts. I see him as a No. 3 starter on a fantasy team.
Dexter Fowler OF COL - Fowler will be my prototypical, post-hype sleeper for this list. Buzz is rumbling around Colorado that Fowler has trimmed down his body fat and added seven pounds of muscle while working out with teammates this offseason. This could be that typical athlete chatter, but it could also mark a change in work ethic for a guy that really needs to start proving himself.
Toward the end of the 2011 season, Fowler really started to show off those five tools we’ve always heard he had. His OPS was 1.000, .799, .901 in the months of July, August, and September. He stole 10 bases during that stretch, as well. Earlier this offseason, Carlos Gonzalez linked his future success to that of the health of Fowler.
Fowler enters 2012 as the undisputed leadoff hitter on a team that will do its best to drive him in. He still projects as a double-digit home run guy who could legitimately steal 35-plus bases. He strikes me as a 6-foot-4 Shane Victorino. I think we could really see him push those numbers in 2012, and I doubt many fantasy managers will be drafting him. Most of those managers who want a guy like this will focus on Cameron Maybin, who will cost significantly more.
Brandon Belt 1B/OF SFO - I am an admitted Belt fan. He made me look foolish in 2011, but I’m not ready to give up on him just yet. There’s no more Pat Burrell in San Francisco, leaving Belt the opportunity to carve out everyday playing time to prove himself.
In Belt’s final 130 at-bats, he hit eight home runs. The power for this lefty is legit. There’s really no reason to think he can’t belt 25-plus home runs next year. I refuse to believe that his contact percentage will continue to be as dismal as it was in 2011. You must remember Belt will be only 22 when the first pitch is thrown in 2012. He has ridiculous ability but still needs to show more discipline at the plate.
I believe that his successes against lefty pitchers and failures against righties will flip-flop in 2012. We’ll also get a chance to see how Belt reacts to less pressure. The glimmer has faded off this rookie, and that could really work to his and your advantage.
I don’t think we'll see Belt reach his full potential this year, but he’ll bring great power numbers to offset the batting average woes. That’s why I’m bringing in his services on all my NL-only teams if at all possible. He should also be a great one-dollar play later in drafts.
Oh, and don’t forget about Yu Darvish. I like Yu more than you. Well, I like him more than every one of you other than Bobby Valentine. Darvish is ready to succeed now, but I’ve already lamented my feelings about him earlier this month in my article, Ben's 2012 wish list-starting pitchers.
I’m interested to see how everyone feels. Do you like these guys more than me, or have I completely lost it? Leave those comments, and we’ll work it out.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:38am
Friday, January 20, 2012
The expression "market inefficiency" has become pretty buzzy in the baseball community. What exactly is a market inefficiency, though?
Simply put, it is something that is undervalued by an industry. Using an example that was in the spotlight in 2011 because of a blockbuster movie, the A's recognized that players with high on-base percentage were an undervalued commodity during the Moneyball years. How does this apply to fantasy baseball? Expanding coverage of advanced stats though Web sites such as this one, and others like FanGraphs, may have created a new type of under-appreciated fantasy baseball player. That player is one with glowing scouting reports and poor supporting statistics.
There was a time that understanding stats such as xFIP, BABIP, etc. gave gamers a leg up on the competition. The gap between the stat-savvy gamer and the traditionalist is closing as national fantasy coverage is incorporating these SABR stats. Anyone can go to FanGraphs and use its leader board to sort by an advanced stat and identify who was “unlucky.” It's because of this that preseason sleeper lists are looking increasingly similar year to year. So what's next?
While I'm not familiar with his work, I am familiar with songwriter and entertainer Peter Allen's quote “everything old is new again.” Turning the clock back and trusting scouting may be the key to identifying late-round gems. Derek Carty, the former head of the fantasy sports section here at The Hardball Times, and current head of Baseball Prospectus fantasy section, once told me he strives to blend statistics and scouting analysis in his work. Derek masterfully articulates something every fantasy gamer should do. It's important to use all the information at one's disposal when ranking players and identifying which to draft.
I look for a handful of things when attempting to separate the wheat from the chaff, failed prospects from potential breakouts. One is whether extenuating circumstances may have caused poor play in the majors.
One example is lingering injuries and routine trips to the disabled list. A second example is a player learning a new position. A player who broke out this past season and falls under both examples is Alex Gordon. After two disappointing seasons in the majors at age 23 and 24, he battled injuries and was forced to make a transition from third base to the outfield. Those who didn't turn a blind eye to the scouting buzz he created after ripping through Double-A in his professional debut in 2006 were rewarded for selecting him late in drafts or scooping him off league free agent lists.
Not all players who fall under those categories flourish, of course. Jeff Clement is an example of a prospect who was never able to turn the corner.
Another category of failed prospect I look for is one who reached the bigs quickly and struggled initially. Matt Wieters is a recent example. He spent under a season and a half in the minors following his selection in the 2007 amateur draft. In 2011 he began scratching the surface of a skill set that prompted Chuck Norris-like memes.
Conversely, Rick Porcello is a hyped prospect who got to the show quickly but hasn't turned into a fantasy asset. Porcello serves as a cautionary tale for the importance of keeping up to date on scouting reports. Drafted as a hard throwing prep pitcher with a lethal slider, he adopted an approach of pitching to contact and throwing a two-seam fastball predominantly while mostly scrapping the slider. Coincidentally, Porcello bumped up his slider usage this past year, throwing it 20.1 percent of the time compared to just 9.3 percent of the time his first two years in the majors. With that in mind, he could be a player worth monitoring in 2012.
I also tend to gamble on someone who has received few opportunities in the majors. A sub-category are prospects who were jostled around, getting called up and sent down, or who saw inconsistent starting time and rode the pine frequently (think Brandon Belt last season).
Going back a few seasons, you could hold up Nelson Cruz as an example of this fourth category of prospect. Cruz pummeled Triple-A pitching as a member of the Brewers and Rangers organization, but didn't receive a full time gig until 2009 after finishing the 2008 season with a flurry in 31 games with the Rangers. As has been the case with every other category of prospect worth gambling on that I've discussed, category four has a poster boy for failure: Brandon Wood. He has had no problem beating up on Triple-A pitching, but his contact struggles and questionable hit tool have caused him to fall on his face with both the Angels and Pirates.
As with most things, moderation is suggested. Rostering a full team of potential late bloomers is a recipe for disaster, even at the cheap cost of late-round picks or minimal auction dollars. Glue guys that fill out rosters are important, but passing on a few for a lottery ticket or two can result in a great return on investment and possibly even a fantasy title.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 2:07am
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Let’s take a look at several players’ Average Draft Positions—found on Mock Draft Central—to see if we can go bargain shopping in mid-January. Keep in mind, of course, that it’s incredibly early, and there always is—and surely this year will be no exception—a lot of volatility and shifting that takes place in ADP from January to April. Still, there is some merit in discussing. Shall we?
Madison Bumgarner (20th SP taken at an ADP of 79)
The artist currently known as Mad-Bum is being taken behind the likes of Ian Kennedy, Mat Latos, and James Shields. Good. Let’s hope it stays that way: Bumgarner had normal BABIP and strand rates, a HR/FB that is no doubt low but can be attributed to his giant home stadium, and a better FIP and xFIP than all three pitchers taken immediately ahead of him. I’d rather have Bumgarner, despite his shortcomings in the WHIP department.
Doug Fister (50th starting pitcher taken at an ADP of 176)
A career win-loss of 20-31 has certainly detracted from Fister’s fantasy value in the past, but that doesn’t mean the trend will continue. People seem to be ignoring the fact that Fister put up nasty numbers in his 10 starts in a Tigers uniform. He put up a triple-slash of 1.79/2.49/2.75 and won eight games, almost tripling his three wins put up in his previous 21 starts with the Mariners. Overall, Fister put up a 2.83 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and 6.07 strikeouts per nine innings, which looks much better, again, in the context of his Comerica days (7.29 in his Detroit stint). It’s rare you see such disregard for someone who put up $21 of value in a standard 12-team league, but Christmas sometimes comes in January. Keep tabs and see if he’s still severely undervalued in April: I’d guess not.
Grady Sizemore (76th outfielder taken at an ADP of 224)
Drafted so far in only 52.8 percent of leagues, you could do much worse with a late-round flier than Sizemore, who is indeed the same man who put together no worse than 5.8 WAR and no greater than 8.0 WAR in the 2005-2008 years, known in the Sizemore household as the “good old days.” He hasn’t been on the field a lot lately to prove his worth, and when he has—notably, his 77-game cameo last year—he faced strikeout woes (rate was nearly 30 percent in 2011) and batting average lows (.224 showing last year was well below his .269 career mark). Once upon a time, though, Sizemore graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was proclaimed, “without a doubt, one of the greatest players of our generation.” He might fizzle—in fact, he should be expected to, considering how brittle he is—but don’t forget the talent that once existed. He’s a lottery ticket worth buying at present price.
Frank Francisco (40th relief pitcher taken at an ADP of 230)
This isn’t to say I like Frank Francisco; I wouldn’t want you to think that, now. I don’t think much of him as a major league pitcher. He’s clocked in at somewhere around average in his major league career, perhaps slightly above. But relief pitchers are all about saves. Particularly if you play without innings limits, you’ll find that a pitcher who throws only 50 innings for you will have little bearing on your ratio stats; that is, unless his name is Ryan Franklin, circa 2011. Francisco had a solid 3.36 xFIP last year, and his 12.7 percent HR/FB should go down substantially in Flushing. He’ll be an asset in strikeouts and saves, though it’d be risky to count on anything more than 20 based on his past inability to hold a job. To get him in the 23rd round of a 10-team draft would be a certain steal, though. Where’s the risk?
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:05am
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
It's well established that humans are poor at assessing risk; we constantly think actions that are, statistically-speaking, quite dangerous are safe and that acts that are actually quite safe to be dangerous. To borrow example from the Steves of Freakonomics, if your household has both a gun and a swimming pool, it is far more likely a child will die in the pool than by the gun.
In Ben Pritchett’s recent column about Mike Stanton, he mentioned the following:
According to the 2012 Baseball Forecaster, 80 percent of all players that will yield first-round value are found in the first four rounds of drafts. Less than half of the players drafted in the first round actually yield first-round value…Assuming that just five players picked in the first round actually retain first-round value, that leaves ten draft positions available to be filled by players drafted in the next three rounds. Using the 80 percent success rate discovered by the Forecaster guys, that means only seven of the remaining 45 possible players will deliver first-round-caliber stats.
This comment led to a brief discussion in the comment section about "playing it safe" when drafting. Commenter Simon, posed the question:
Perhaps one way of looking at the Baseball Forecaster stats suggests that playing safe in the first 4 rounds is not really the exact science we all like to think it is!?
Ben agreed, responding thusly,
Playing it safe is all relative. There’s really no such thing as safe in this crazy game we play. I would say there are players that can hurt you more than others, but that’s honestly relative as well.
I had actually been having a few thoughts of my own on this line and I want to offer some insights on this issue.
I don’t want to bog you down with more sob stories about my teams, but long story short, some of you might remember that I’m the proud keeper league owner of both Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard. Yeah, well, my fifth keeper in that league also happened to be Victor Martinez.
Basically, I was asking myself whether I could find five players on my roster reasonably capable of putting up first-through-fifth-round value in light of this most recent blow. And, my answer was yes. Troy Tulowitzki, Nelson Cruz, Jered Weaver, Drew Stubbs, and a partial season from Howard or Braun could conceivably yield value congruent with the rounds in which I was to keep those players. It’s not the most likely scenario, but it is certainly possible.
Every year, stud players suffer injury, players who were expected to make a leap flop, players written off as mediocre surge, outlying BABIPs, strand rates, or RBI opportunities lead to good players having fantastic seasons and great players merely having good seasons. Stuff happens.
In one respect, I agree with Ben and Simon, but at the same time it isn’t nearly that simple, though I’m not implying either of them made such the claim. When you are assembling a fantasy team you are accruing a portfolio of assets. These assets have different levels of risk and ranges of projected performance—in addition to injury risk. Some players have a history of less variance in performance, while others have higher ceilings, lower floors and less stability.
When you’re making your first four picks—and the rest of them—you are creating a complex matrix of probabilities, and not everybody builds their team the same way. As is the case with individual players, some teams embrace wider variance in performance with a boom-or-bust strategy while others focus on building a team to be “in the hunt” and then hoping to make a few key moves from there.
When advocates of early-round conservatism preach their philosophy, they are simply saying they prefer to take the known B+ student instead of the prodigy who also has a history of not showing up to class. The idea that more than half of the top 15 players each season will emerge from picks 16 to 60 is only tangentially relevant to the counterargument of early-round conservatism.
The reason why expanding your appetite to take on variance works so well in the later rounds is that the opportunity cost of a botched pick gets progressively lower throughout the draft/auction. Therefore, the relative value of a home run pick is also greater.
Selecting a player at pick 40 who winds up having top-15 value does not guarantee that I will have gotten value from the top end of my draft (though getting one top-75 player past round 20 pretty much ensures I got value from the bottom of my draft). I could easily botch a second pick as significantly as I profited on the first.
The underlying premise of early-round conservatism is that your top picks are not when you should be looking for value because with the opportunity for value comes added risk. And since the risk quotient for each pick/buy increases by almost unilaterally by nature as the player pool gets thinner, adding risk at the top of the draft can lead to compiling a team that is excessively volatile.
Early-round conservatives don’t contest the idea that there is a degree of risk with every player and that, anecdotally, allegedly safe top-round picks bust every year. However, the issue is about risk management: How much of your bankroll do you want to bet on the first few hands of the night? Do you want to throw away the pair of queens to chase the flush? Owners must make these decisions on their own and in consideration of their own preferred strategies and the settings of their particular league.
Here are two final thoughts. First, if you have a strong feeling about a player that you think is based on sound reasoning, act on it. You shouldn’t be unwilling to take a risk in the early rounds if it is one you believe in, but there are times when risks seem unnecessary. Stephen Strasburg could have a better season than Clayton Kershaw next year, but what sort of premium would you have to pay above Strasburg’s “normal” price to take him ahead of Kershaw, and what would be gained over Kershaw if he hit his 95th percentile season and Kershaw his 88th? Simply, is the risk worth the reward?
Second, at certain times, it may make sense to embrace the added risk in the grand scheme of things. The best players in the league have the lowest chance of busting, not just the highest chances of excelling. I’m reluctant, still, to trade Tulo to fortify the back end of my keeper roster because if I exchange Tulo for two lesser players in the 35-50 range, I’m also taking on additional risk.
There’s some probability that Stubbs reaches his full potential and has breakout year. There’s also a very high probability Tulo is one of those top 15 players. If I exchange that probability for a marginally increased probability out of Stubbs and a second player with similar probability at being top 50 (and a lesser probability of being top 10), in a very important way, I’m actually adding more risk to my portfolio. I would need one of my players to overperform to get my one top-15 player, and there would still be considerable risk that my back-end keepers don’t earn their draft price.
To switch sports for the closing analogy, I don’t want to pass up an open foul-line jumper for the chance to take two contested three-pointers. But, in the right context, a three-pointer can be a pretty sound percentage play as well.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:30am
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
In 2012, fantasy baseball leagues are infinitely customizable. Do you want keeper or non-keeper? Mixed league or AL/NL only? Roto or points? The list goes on. These are all important choices to make, but they are ancillary to the most significant choice: draft style. Deciding what style the draft will be is critical a fantasy baseball player's strategy. There are two choices, and each one will have a lasting impact on your league.
The old school standard method of drafting is called a snake or serpentine draft. In this format, teams draft in descending order in the first round and reverse order in the second. The last team in the predetermined order will have two consecutive draft picks, and the team with the first overall pick must wait the longest time to get his/her second pick. Then, that team will have the first pick in the third round and the draft continues down the order again.
The idea behind this draft style is to have each team average the same draft position. There is no industry-wide empirical data to illustrate the success rate of teams that draft at the beginning or end. However, I can use the league where I have been commissioner since 1999 for some guidance. Only one of the 13 previous winners of the Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League has drafted first. More than half of the champions have drafted between nine and 12. That is obviously a small representation of the success rate in a snake draft, but after 13 years, it is fair to draw some conclusions.
In contrast, the other style of fantasy baseball draft is an auction. This has become much more popular over the last decade as many fantasy experts and consultants have stated their preference for it. Each team is given a budget of fantasy dollars to spend on players to create a roster. Similar to snake drafts, there is a pre-arranged draft order. However, instead of selecting players and adding them to your roster, teams nominate a player to be put up for bidding. The team that nominates a player automatically makes the first bid so that if no one else bids, that team wins the player. Because of this, there is a lot of strategy behind selecting a player to nominate.
Obviously the best players will cost the most money. Teams must make critical decisions on how to allocate their budget because they have an entire roster to fill with a finite amount of money. Once a player is nominated, a time clock will start and each team can make a bid for that player. When a new bid is made, the clock resets again—usually to ten seconds. Once that clock expires without a new bid, the team with the highest bid wins that player.
There is no doubt that the auction draft is more dramatic and arguably more exciting. People can plan and strategize more effectively beforehand. Additionally, every team is essentially on an even playing field because everyone has access to all of the best players. It may not be wise, but one team can outbid everyone else on the top two or three players and stack their roster. The downside is that they would be left without enough money to fill the rest of their roster with viable options.
As with everything else in fantasy baseball, it comes down to a matter of preference. If you have never done an auction draft, it is something you should experience. The best bet is to find a free public league and try an auction in that environment.
But there is also something special and fun about the old school snake drafts. You can effectively strategize if you know the draft order well ahead of time and if you learn enough about the drafting tendencies of fellow league members. However, randomness and unpredictability reign supreme in snake drafts.
There are merits and benefits to both. It all depends on what your preferences are. But whichever you choose will have a profound impact on how you strategize and on team you draft.
Posted by Michael Stein at 12:52am
Monday, January 16, 2012
In 2011, only two players hit over 40 home runs, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson. I told you that both of them would accomplish this feat.
Calling Bautista was relatively easy even though everybody in the industry said that he couldn’t maintain. I argued that he would be better, sacrificing some home runs for batting average.
Granderson was a little bit more of a gut call. He always has had a good power stroke for a little player, but I was infatuated with how his swing would benefit by the move to Yankee Stadium. I was fortunate that feeling was right.
That’s what playing fantasy baseball is all about. It’s about taking the stats—basic and advanced—scouting reports, newswire, gut calls, and personal preference and forming a stable, statistical-accumulating team structure.
Mike Stanton is my first flag-staking player for 2012. Well, you may say that's an easy call. Stanton should be drafted in the first four rounds, which in itself makes him worthy to everybody. According to the 2012 Baseball Forecaster, 80 percent of all players that will yield first-round value are found in the first four rounds of drafts. Less than half of the players drafted in the first round actually yield first-round value. So this is really the most interesting and exciting part of drafting to me. We face a conundrum of making your early picks count even though the odds are stacked against you.
Assuming that just five players picked in the first round actually retain first-round value, that leaves ten draft positions available to be filled by players drafted in the next three rounds. Using the 80 percent success rate discovered by the Forecaster guys, that means only seven of the remaining 45 possible players will deliver first-round-caliber stats.
You have roughly a 15.6 percent chance per round to nail a first-round player while drafting in rounds two through four. When you break it down like that, you realize why we feel such great satisfaction when these players succeed. You would have a greater chance at winning lottery scratch-offs or playing blackjack. So how do we improve our odds? Well, I believe that old-fashioned work always beats any other variable, whether it be draft position, luck, bias, etc.
I have just begun to research for my Fantasy Sports R Us NL-only expert league, and I really just stumbled upon Stanton. Honestly, going into last year, I felt like Stanton’s stock was too high. I was unwilling to pay such a high price for a 21-year-old hitter. Today, I stand corrected. Not only do I think Stanton will improve on his studly sophomore season, he will be a top-15 hitter. That will also make him a borderline first-round talent.
Will Stanton get drafted in the first round? No, and he shouldn’t be. Most consider him a third-round pick. I will have no reservations with someone taking him in the second round. I will slate him as a late first-round/early second-round pick in my FSIC NL-only league. I would hope to hold out to the third round in standard formats. Don’t hold your breath that he lasts that long, though. In auction leagues, it should be significantly easier to gauge his value.
Why is Stanton a first-round player in 2012? The two guys I mentioned earlier in this article were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in isolated power (ISOP) last season. That’s Bautista and Granderson for those of you not paying attention. Stanton was third. The funny thing about ISOP is that it usually hits a peak in ages 24-26. Stanton is only 22. It’s scary to think what his ceiling might be. If he sees ISOP growth in 2012, you should expect 40-plus home runs.
Secondly, the table is now set for Stanton to feast. Assuming that Stanton bats cleanup, let’s put newly acquired Jose Reyes at leadoff. Emilio Bonifacio can handle batting second, and Hanley Ramirez should be just fine batting third.
Stanton couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to get on base in front of him. Lots of what I’m able to decipher about Stanton is speculation, but if he gets the same number of plate appearances as last year, he will hit more than 100 RBIs with all those speed demons batting ahead of him.
Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez should be good enough to give Stanton protection in the lineup and should help him improve his run total. The 2011 campaign saw both Morrison and Sanchez disappoint for different reasons, but one or both should bounce back. Confidence can do a lot for a ballclub, and I think the Marlins, especially Morrison and Sanchez, could finally regain some of what was lost in 2011 if they can catch fire early in the 2012.
Stanton improved his walk rates and strikeout rates in 2011. I can only assume that with his athletic ability and young age, he should continue to show growth, even with his propensity to strike out in bunches. A better OBP and batting eye would further improve his chances of putting up gigantic numbers and should help his batting average.
Stanton’s batting average will always be his largest liability and could be the difference between him having first-round value or fourth-round value. I’m willing to gamble that he hits in the .270s in 2012. I can live with that if he sees the growth I expect him to have in all the other categories.
Here’s my favorite nugget of information I was able to dredge up. Jeff Zimmerman of Rotographs took batted ball information and deduced that Stanton had an average increase of 20 feet on his hit distance from 2010 to 2011. That was the third-best increase of all players, and as I can see, his average of 322 feet was best in baseball. Basically, if Stanton gets a hold of a pitch, it goes a long way, but we all knew that.
Further evidence of that raw power was his 15 “no doubt” home runs. “No doubt” home runs is a category developed by Hittracker that assigns a categorical value to the distance of home runs. “No doubt” represents the highest possible tier for home run distance. Only Bautista hit more “no doubt” home runs than Stanton in 2011.
If you are still wavering, I must also mention the fact that Stanton stole four bases in the second half of 2011. Hoping for double-digit steals may not be totally crazy. An improved batting average, OBP and protection could give Stanton a better incentive to advance as a runner. His baserunning skills are a far cry from average, but most powerful middle-of-the-order hitters can luck into double-digit steals if they are in a breakout season. This may all be wishful thinking, but it’s not totally insane.
So we’ve established that Stanton is powerful, athletic and ready to succeed at a very young baseball age. Let’s look at what kind of line I project he will have in 2012. Stanton should post a line of .271 AVG/ 44 HRs/ 123 RBIs/ 102 Rs/ 10 SBs. I know that these numbers are lofty, but I almost feel like I am undervaluing what kind of season he could have because I’m afraid of being too bold to avoid claims of lunacy.
In my FSIC team, I plan to get a stable first rounder like Joey Votto, pair him with Stanton, and add a stolen-base hound like Michael Bourn in the third. I would be ecstatic if these were my first three picks in my NL only league. But man plans; God laughs.
Do you think Stanton has what it takes? Please let me know what you think below. Also, feel free to give me your 16 percent guy that you plan to target in rounds 2-4. There’s obvious risk with Stanton and the Marlins in general, but that’s why it’s a 15 percent chance and not 100 percent. Happy hunting.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:37am
Friday, January 13, 2012
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:51am
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Last week, Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett and myself debuted the 2012 dynasty league rankings of players 25 years or younger. The subsequent discussion led me to re-think some rankings, add and delete a few names, and move a certain Clayton Kershaw up a few spots. The list, both old and tidied-up:
Rk Old List New List 1 Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg 2 Justin Upton Clayton Kershaw 3 Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie 4 Clayton Kershaw Justin Upton 5 Desmond Jennings Mike Stanton 6 Felix Hernandez Desmond Jennings 7 Matt Moore Matt Moore 8 Mike Stanton Felix Hernandez 9 Starlin Castro Starlin Castro 10 Carlos Santana Carlos Santana 11 Jesus Montero Jesus Montero 12 Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen 13 Eric Hosmer Eric Hosmer 14 Bryce Harper Bryce Harper 15 Mike Trout Mike Trout 16 Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner 17 Pablo Sandoval Pablo Sandoval 18 Jay Bruce Paul Goldschmidt 19 Paul Goldschmidt Jay Bruce 20 Jason Heyward Jason Heyward 21 Michael Pineda Matt Weiters 22 Buster Posey Michael Pineda 23 Matt Weiters Buster Posey 24 Elvis Andrus Mat Latos 25 Dee Gordon Dee Gordon Next Five: Next Five: 26 Craig Kimbrel Elvis Andrus 27 Yovani Gallardo Julio Teheran 28 Dustin Ackley Yu Darvish 29 Mat Latos Jason Kipnis 30 Brandon Belt Yovani Gallardo Five More: Five More: 31 Cameron Maybin Logan Morrison 32 Julio Teheran Brandon Belt 33 Yu Darvish Mike Moustakas 34 Daniel Hudson Dustin Ackley 35 Jason Kipnis Tommy Hanson
I do remain steadfast in my decision to place Stephen Strasburg ahead of the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. It’s not for the risk-averse — neither is a 1-2 ranking of starting pitchers, of course — but my rationale lies in the upside the former possesses.
Sure, there is something (a lot, actually) to be said about a pitcher on a steep uphill trend, who put together a ridiculous 2.28/2.47/2.84 stat line in his Cy Young campaign, along with a sub 1.00 WHIP, an incredible 9.57 K/9, and 21 wins. It doesn’t get much better than that, but the key word is much.
I wouldn’t wager that Strasburg will ever be much better than Kershaw, but his K upside is higher, his pedigree is greater, and he may very well be the best prospect the game has ever seen. Sample size aside, the returns at the MLB level have been excellent (an 11.35 K/9 and a 1.87 FIP in 17 starts), and RotoChamp projects a jump to Kershaw-esque stats right away, with a 10.70 K/9 and a 2.37 ERA. I’ll play the upside, though my deeper research into Kershaw led me to bump him up to number two.
I’ll address some other changes I made:
Justin Upton moved below Brett Lawrie
2011 was the year I became a Justin Upton believer, but he remains a player better in real life than in fantasy. Sure, his power-speed combo with a fleeting batting average is drool-worthy, but the fact is that his MVP candidacy stems from his five-tool performance, including his superb right field and smart base running.
Lawrie is also a five-tool player as well, but his spot on the diamond is enough to warrant a higher ranking. Lawrie, in — gulp — only 171 plate appearances, launched himself into fantasy stardom. He hit nine homers in those 43 games, stole seven bases, chipped in over 25 steals and runs, and hit nearly .300, effectively pacing himself for a 34 homer, 100 run, 96 RBI, 27 steal season – all at the hot corner. To think he did that in his first go-round at the major league level is scary.
Mat Latos jumps from #29 to #24
Several commenters thought Latos was placed too low, and I agreed in retrospect. I had Michael Pineda and Yovani Gallardo above him, mostly due to the PETCO-Great American Ballpark transition. Latos, after all, does have a 3.57 ERA away from home in his short career– fairly pedestrian to be ranked so high on these lists—and isn’t so elite as the other two in the strikeout department. That said, he historically has a higher home run rate at PETCO than away from it, and if he can return his K/9 to the 9+ range, he’ll be a fantasy ace for years to come—which surely leaves him in the top 25, no?
Dee Gordon over Elvis Andrus?
Both young, soft-hitting speedsters at the shortstop position, Dee Gordon and Elvis Andrus, at this juncture, are practically a toss-up. Andrus seems to have capped out at just under 40 steals—he’s put up 33, 32, and 37 in the last three seasons—while Gordon has 70+ steal upside if he can manage to get on base a respectable amount. Sure, he doesn’t draw too many walks, but he can beat out his fair share of bunt and infield hits, and with Davey Lopes teaching him the ropes, he should be a wildly successful base stealer.
Jason Kipnis moves from #35 to #29
Kipnis essentially switched spots with Dustin Ackley, who fell from 28 to 34. Ackley is a more intriguing player in real life terms, but batting average isn’t his strong suit and he doesn’t put up superb counting stats. Kipnis has 20/20 upside as soon as next season, and could be a Chase Utley-like second baseman in terms of fantasy production, whereas Ackley might win fifteen Gold Gloves and lead the Mariners to a World Series victory. Okay, maybe I’m dreaming.
Craig Kimbrel disappears…
I’m a huge Kimbrel homer —– I’ve written about him here and here — but the fact of the matter is that closers are, indeed, incredibly volatile and untrustworthy. He’s certainly the first closer I take in dynasty formats, and his numbers do look better than Mariano Rivera’s ever have (I know, a seemingly hyperbolic statement), but the fact is that saves are easy to find in the final few rounds of any draft or on any waiver wire, and that alone makes Kimbrel worth ditching if you can snag another top 25 player in return. Sure, he might strikeout 100+ per year and might be a lock for 40 saves in five years, but if you find yourself mulling over a Craig Kimbrel for Buster Posey deal, for example, I’d pull the trigger. Frank Fransisco is always waiting in the last round…
Is Matt Moore really ranked higher than Felix Hernandez?
The short and sweet: Matt Moore will have more strikeouts, should have no problem besting Felix’s 1.22 WHIP year-in and year-out, and should challenge a sub 3.00 ERA without a problem. He also doesn’t have three straight years of 230+ innings to his name, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your propensity for risk-aversion and value of past performance. It’s a good thing in my mind, for what it’s worth.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:10am
Monday, January 09, 2012
Before Dec. 10, 2011, I would have argued that Ryan Braun should be the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2012 season. On Dec. 11, I would have said he doesn’t deserve to even be on anyone’s fantasy radar at all.
What changed? Well, I was shocked to learn that Braun, one of my own personal favorite players, had tested positive for PEDs. Actually, it was a “banned” substance. You can google what that substance is speculated to be. I won’t substantiate those rumors here.
Historically I am a massive steroid user apologist, as are most fantasy sports enthusiasts, I would think. We tend to be all about winning the statistics and have little regard for the purity/integrity of how those stats are accumulated. I may be generalizing, and forgive me for that, but this isn’t doing your taxes, and I’m not leading the free world. I want guys that produce. You produce, I’m happy. If you don’t produce, I cut/trade you. It’s all pretty simple.
Braun struck me differently. I didn’t believe it. From all accounts that I’ve ever read about him, I have never heard one thing that would indicate him as a purposeful cheater, so I was very disappointed. My passion that spurned my love for him as a player quickly turned to disdain for him as a 2012 fantasy option. Fifty games will be the sentence if Braun’s suspension is upheld.
Here we are a month later, and my emotions have settled. I’ve started to think about how I could use this to my advantage. We are going to assume that Braun is not granted his appeal seeing as most of your fellow drafters will be doing the same. So in what round can we expect Braun to be taken? I can’t imagine he will be anywhere near a forty dollar value or near the first three rounds of any redraft league as he was prior to December.
I went to Mock Draft Central to get the pulse of his current ADP. Well, that was a total fail. MDC’s player rankings are way off, and only three team managers were present for the ten-team mock. I left the draft room to gander upon the ADP reports they have listed. Braun apparently rated from the second pick all the way to pick 96. For the sake of argument, I’m going to take both the second pick out as an outlier, or rather a draft that was done prior to the news of the 50-game suspension.
To understand what you should pay for Braun, you need to understand what you could expect statistically from him. I set out on this journey to help myself and you get a better, more reasonable expectation for Braun’s 2012 season. So, obviously, Braun is facing a season where he can play a maximum of 112 games. Since Braun has never played 162 games in a season, you can’t automatically assume he plays all 112 of those games.
Braun’s career average is 154 games, not including his midseason call-up year during his rookie season. Furthermore, I didn’t include any of his rookie stats in my averages considering the amount of games he played and the outlier-like stats he was able to accrue. We will not dismiss these stats; however, we will return to this rookie season later in my analysis.
If you take that 154-game average Braun amassed during his four years of service time and project it across 112 games, you will come to about 106-107 games. Taking this 106.45-game average and inputting that against his career averages, it’s actually quite easy to come up with a fun look at what a 2012 season could look like it. Granted, this methodology is as basic as it gets, but I think it will go far towards proving my point.
Here’s the line I was able to come up with: .310 AVG/ 22 HR/ 72 R/ 75 RBI/ 14 SB. All those stats were slightly rounded up. I must first say that Braun’s value will be greatly different to head-to-head and dynasty leaguers than it will be to a standard 5x5 roto league. Braun will have significantly more value in H2H than roto because of replacement value.
Roto is about amassing the most possible stats out of a set amount of games. H2H is about beating an opponent’s lineup any single week. Stashing Braun on the bench would be more valuable to a H2H gamer because of his ability to dramatically affect the second half of the season and even into the fantasy playoffs.
For you roto-heads out there, I think Braun may be worth more than you think. When I set out to write this piece, I had Braun pegged as a seventh-to-eight-round guy. Once I averaged out that projected stat line above, I began to have a little different feeling.
Bear with me here, but how about pairing the pick of Braun with another emerging outfielder that surely won’t cost much? I like Chris Heisey or Dayan Viciedo. If you take these cheap outfielders and live with their production for fifty games, how good a collective season could we be talking about for this OF position on your starting lineup?
If Heisey hits 8-10 home runs during that span, we’re talking a 30-plus HR season when you combine that with Braun. It’s very possible, seeing as he put 18 HR in 279 at-bats, and it sounds like he will be in for everyday playing time. If Viciedo hits 4-5 homers with nearly a .300 average, your talking about a surefire second-round pick. I love Viciedo as a sneaky outfield play this year with the departure of Carlos Quentin to San Diego.
I almost feel it would be stupid not to take advantage of everybody else’s propensity to stay away from Braun. I think I like the idea of bringing in a stud on a suspension because I can take the value and strategize how to deal with the playing time gap. Anybody I get to fill that gap should do a good enough job to make this OF position uber-valuable.
Let’s get back to that rookie season. I had so much fun looking at Braun because his stat lines are built for this kind of speculation and strategy. If you look at that rookie season, he appeared in 113 games. That’s an interesting coincidence. In 2007, Braun hit .324 AVG/ 34 HR/ 91 R/ 97 RBI/ 15 SB. Could you imagine getting that stat line out of 112 games? It wouldn’t matter who you got to be the fill-in. You would automatically have first-round value.
That’s what I’m trying to say. Braun’s rookie year is an obvious outlier, but there is a definite “what if.” He has the talent, and you know he’ll have the motivation.
I will say this. I will be paying upwards of $25-30 for Braun, and I will be targeting him beginning in the fourth round. I think he slots in there ahead of Hunter Pence, Adam Jones, and even Alex Gordon. You could argue Josh Hamilton, but I will always overvalue Hamilton.
I am very curious to see if anybody has similar or differing opinions about Mr. Braun. Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:30am
Friday, January 06, 2012
Dynasty leagues are among the most enigmatic in the entire land of fantasy sports, and I’m of the mind that they represent the game in its true form most successfully.
You must build from the bottom up, target depth and roster balance, and sell high and buy low when necessary. Most importantly, you must think years ahead, and make rebuilding projects and keenly timed all-ins at your own risk. An injury or physical or mental setback that sinks your top prospect in Double-A will hurt you much in the same way it would the Pittsburgh Pirates. No one knows how your minor league talent will shake up, and what steals you might find in your supplemental minor league draft. Welcome to the world of dynasty league baseball. It’s a ruthless, enticing, and incredibly time-consuming—and did I mention awesome?— form of the simplistic game we’ve all come to know and love.
Thus, Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett and I have put together our lists of the top 25 of players under the age of 25 at the present date (all players born on Jan. 6, 1986 or later are eligible). The parameters for last year’s rankings are the same in 2012. A refresher, from Josh Shepardson’s 2011 presentation of these rankings:
The league scoring we used as a guideline was a 5x5 roto league that includes two catchers, one corner infielder, one middle infielder one utility player, five outfielders, nine pitchers of any type (with a 1,250 innings pitched cap) and the other standard positions.
Because of the age limitations in these rankings, don’t be surprised when you don’t see Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, David Price or Adam Jones, to name a few (the first three graduated from this list in 2011). I think I speak for many of my fellow rankers when I say that the aforementioned four are all excellent dynasty league players, and Longoria in particular is among the top of the crop, even at age 26.
With that said, please do scrutinize, argue, react, agree/disagree, and question our rankings in the comments below (or at our respective e-mail addresses). We encourage all reactions, as always.
The e-mail addresses of the authors of these rankings:
Rk Ben Pritchett Josh Shepardson Nick Fleder 1 Stephen Strasburg Justin Upton Stephen Strasburg 2 Clayton Kershaw Stephen Strasburg Brett Lawrie 3 Carlos Santana Clayton Kershaw Justin Upton 4 Justin Upton Felix Hernandez Clayton Kershaw 5 Felix Hernandez Mike Stanton Desmond Jennings 6 Brett Lawrie Bryce Harper Starlin Castro 7 Andrew McCutchen Mike Trout Mike Stanton 8 Mike Stanton Brett Lawrie Matt Moore 9 Mike Trout Carlos Santana Felix Hernandez 10 Jason Heyward Eric Hosmer Carlos Santana 11 Yu Darvish Andrew McCutchen Jesus Montero 12 Eric Hosmer Desmond Jennings Andrew McCutchen 13 Bryce Harper Jay Bruce Eric Hosmer 14 Matt Moore Matt Moore Bryce Harper 15 Jay Bruce Madison Bumgarner Mike Trout 16 Tommy Hanson Buster Posey Madison Bumgarner 17 Pablo Sandoval Starlin Castro Pablo Sandoval 18 Dustin Ackley Matt Wieters Jay Bruce 19 Mat Latos Pablo Sandoval Paul Goldschmidt 20 Buster Posey Jesus Montero Jason Heyward 21 Starlin Castro Elvis Andrus Michael Pineda 22 Jesus Montero Jason Heyward Buster Posey 23 Mike Moustakas Dustin Ackley Matt Weiters 24 Michael Pineda Michael Pineda Elvis Andrus 25 Desmond Jennings Yovani Gallardo Dee Gordon Next Five: Next Five: Next Five: 26 Alex Avila Mat Latos Craig Kimbrel 27 Madison Bumgarner Brandon Beachy Yovani Gallardo 28 Neftali Feliz Jason Kipnis Dustin Ackley 29 Cameron Maybin Freddie Freeman Mat Latos 30 Elvis Andrus Dee Gordon Brandon Belt Five More: Five More: Five More: 31 Paul Goldschmidt Alex Avila Cameron Maybin 32 Brandon Belt Tommy Hanson Julio Teheran 33 Travis Snider Yu Darvish Yu Darvish 34 Dayan Viciedo Cameron Maybin Daniel Hudson 35 Devin Mesoraco Mike Moustakas Jason Kipnis
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:17am
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
In Michael Stein’s column posted earlier this week, he wrote the following:
It is true that many league Web sites have a draft robot or settings to automatically draft the next-highest-rated player if the time clock expires. However, in a sense, that unfairly prejudices the teams that follow in the draft order because there is no guarantee that the offending team would have taken that player.
This passage reminds me of one of my pet peeves about autodraft or autobid and begs the question of whether these features are necessary evils or just problems in need of creative solutions. First, let me establish my somewhat selfish beef with the autopick feature; many of you will relate.
Every year there are a few good, but most often not great, players about whom the pre-ranking committee on the league provider site and the general public have incongruous opinions. Most often these are players who have “sneaky value,” meaning their production isn’t glamorous in the glory categories, but they help everywhere and have little weakness or are players coming off a breakout that few saw coming and the public is skeptical of the player’s ability repeat. Sometimes I’m on the side of pre-rank, and sometimes I’m on the side of the public.
The thing that’s common among these players is that they often are drafted later than their pre-rank would demand, either because the non-believer doesn’t believe or the believer is trying to “profit” off the pervasive non-belief. Most often, I’ll actually be in the middle of both sides. I often think the player is a reach at his pre-rank but also often perceive the public backlash too strong and see that player as the best available pick a round or two after his pre-rank.
Most who autodraft won’t actually submit their custom pre-ranks for more than the first few rounds worth of picks, if at all. Now, having the robot select the highest pre-ranked player on the board is rarely an issue to me in the first few rounds, as there is less divergence of opinion at the earliest stages of the draft and very little likelihood that a player toward the top of the draft board will last until your pick if it is more than a few selections away.
But in the middle-to-late rounds, this situation becomes more common. Once people start deviating from the pre-ranks more consistently and widely in their selections, it often starts to become obvious who auto-drafting team X is going to wind up with when his pick comes up seven slots from the present.
It’s frustrating when the autodraft robot makes what you think is a savvy selection on behalf of an owner that you don’t think would have been astute enough to trust a correct pre-ranking of an obscure, yet valuable player. I know I’m not the only person who has cursed to myself that I would have wound up with (my desired) Player X if only owner so-and-so was making his own picks.
Another specific scenario in which this may happen is when there had been a run on a specific position or type of player, and you had abstained, and you know that because of the way other teams are constructed, the other teams shouldn’t really be targeting one of the higher-ranked players on the board.
Unable to dynamically filter by the needs of the roster during its construction, the autodraft robot is primed to draft a player that will do its owner little good but will cap the value you, as the minority owner in need of such a commodity, can extract from that player’s draft position.
Of course, autodraft also will make its share of foolish selections, as well, thereby creating opportunities for value to be reaped by the real live humans participating in the draft, but to me this isn’t a you-take-the-good-with-the-bad write-off. And I guess that belief is rooted in a subjective opinion regarding my fantasy sports values.
Some view autodraft as a neutral tool for those unable to participate in their draft or not confident enough in their personal capacities to make wise decisions. If you hold that view, it stands to reason that autodraft should be a neutral application. But, I don’t share that opinion. I take fantasy sports more seriously than that, obviously.
I value active participation in a league, and among the holiest commandment on that list is to participate in your live draft, in person. I know sometimes emergencies happen, but in the absence thereof, figure out a way to make your draft, plan ahead enough to request a rescheduling of the draft, or at the very least try to find a friend to participate for you instead of ceding control to the robot. I’d rather you give your draft over to a savvier human player than to Wilson.
The fact that I hold this value leads me to feel that using the autodraft should be punitive. So it should come as no shock that I get quite peeved in instances where, in my estimation, one’s choice to opt into autodraft actually punishes ME!
So, what should we do about this? Anything? Is this something I just have to suck up and live with, because sometimes emergencies really do arise and, therefore, it’s unfair to punish somebody who is on autodraft because we don’t know the circumstances that led to that outcome?
I’ve been in live drafts where an owner had computer problems, lost his internet connection and faded into autodraft for a few rounds while the problem was resolved. Even if we feel it’s fair to punish the lazy or intellectually timid auto-drafter, should he who is the victim of technical difficulties be subject to the same punishment?
In Michael’s column, he mentioned that he institutes a penalty for an owner who doesn’t make his selection within the allotted per-pick time limit. That owner is not allowed to autodraft the highest player on the board, but instead gets his pick skipped and is then put back on the clock at the end of the round, forced to pick last. I think that’s a good idea. Frankly, I’d be okay with instituting the same rule for auto-drafters, with some exceptions, forcing them to simply pick last every round.
I’d grant the owner a pass, meaning standard autodraft rules, under any of the following circumstances (and perhaps some others that have slipped my mind):
So, what do you think? Is my ire and proposed penalty reasonable? Or am I being draconian, and an irrational and petty tyrant?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:44am
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
With the calendar officially turned to 2012, it is time to start focusing on the upcoming fantasy baseball season. One of the most fun and exciting aspects of any fantasy baseball league is the draft. It doesn't matter whether it is a snake or auction draft, or whether it is a keeper or non-keeper league. There is always built-up tension, anxiety and anticipation. Anyone who aspires to succeed in a fantasy baseball league knows how important it is to prepare and set strategy for the draft. You hope to be in a league filled with many others who are as passionate and dedicated as you.
To smoothly and efficiently administer the draft, the league commissioner should set a time limit on each draft pick. In this day and age of fantasy sports on the internet, chances are you are in a league that drafts through the host Web site's own software with an automated time clock set to a specific preference. But some leagues still draft the old-fashioned way and require a manual time clock. Either way, it is imperative that the commissioner mandate a finite amount of time per pick.
As fun as the draft can be, it can also be extremely tedious and exhausting. A fantasy baseball draft could take several hours to complete given large rosters and multiple positions to fill. To prevent the process from dragging on, the commissioner should set a reasonable time limit for each pick. There is a presumption that everyone has prepared for the draft and should have some semblance of an idea what they are doing. While that is not always the case, 60 seconds per draft selection is more than enough time for people to consult their own lists or online rankings to find a player to draft.
Of course, in an auction league, the time limits are different. If you aren't using an online auction, you should set a time limit for each team to nominate a player and then for each bid. If you leave it open-ended with no countdown clock, the process could last forever (or at least feel like it).
As commissioner, one of the most important things you can do is enforce the rules and guidelines that are set. If there is a time limit for a draft pick, there should be some penalty for a team that violates the rule. In league that I run, my rule is that if a team goes beyond the set time it forfeits that pick and must wait until the end of that particular round to make its selection. Over the past 13 years, I have enforced this rule three times. That is because my league members know the rule exists and know I will enforce it if necessary. Using online draft software, I simply go back and recreate the draft picks as they happened and then let the offending team manager make his pick, which gets entered afterwards.
It is true that many league Web sites have a draft robot or settings to automatically draft the next highest rated player if the time clock expires. However, in a sense, that unfairly prejudices the teams that follow in the draft order because there is no guarantee that the offending team would have taken that player. Granted, that next highest ranked player may be someone at a position that isn't needed, but it can reward a team for not making a timely pick by giving it player of such high value. That is why I have opted to allow teams to make their selections at the end of the round, because it forces them to miss out on players selected before them that they could have had in the first place.
It comes down to proper draft preparation, etiquette, and efficiency. The draft is where people build their teams and a lot of time and energy is spent preparing for the big day. It should be treated with the proper respect, and that includes being ready to make your picks on a timely basis. Of course there are extenuating circumstances such as loss of internet connection or other technical issues that may arise. Those situations can be dealt with on a case by case basis and can be corrected retroactively. What I am referring to is the simple act of making a selection and being mindful of the time it takes to complete a draft.
The purpose of having a time limit is not to penalize people. In fact, most people do not need an entire 60 seconds to make their selections. But simply having the clock running with consequences if it expires will keep people focused while also making the draft more efficient. Of course, if your league members do not mind spending six hours participating in a fantasy draft, then by all means do not set a time limit. The Court leaves that to your discretion.
Posted by Michael Stein at 6:01am
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