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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Over the past few weeks, I have been participating in the KFFL Baseball Analysis Draft (“BAD”) with some of the top experts in the industry. This 12-team, 5x5 roto league had a slow draft with two-hour time limits per pick. I had the sixth overall pick and went into the draft hoping to land Andrew McCutchen.
Sure enough, that is what happened. After that, my plan was to wait until after the fourth round before taking a pitcher and I had no intention of taking a catcher before the 20th round. But, as in most fantasy drafts, I had to think on my feet and improvise when the unexpected happened. You can view details by visiting the league's home page.
My complete roster is listed below with the number in parentheses representing which round I draft that player in. Looking back, there are some choices I am second-guessing now. But overall, I am pleased with the team I drafted. I think I will be very competitive during the season with a chance to win the league championship.
C A.J. Ellis-LAD (23)
C Wilson Ramos-WAS (26)
1B Mark Teixeira-NYY (5)
2B Ian Kinsler-TEX (3)
3B David Freese-STL (10)
SS Asdrubal Cabrera-CLE (7)
MI Derek Jeter-NYY (17)
CI Ryan Howard-PHI (11)
OF Andrew McCutchen-PIT (1)
OF Jose Bautista-TOR (2)
OF Michael Bourn-CLE (6)
OF Andre Ethier-LAD (13)
OF Alfonso Soriano-CHC (16)
U Mike Moustakas-3B-KC (14)
P David Price-TB (4)
P Roy Halladay-PHI (8)
P Jonathan Papelbon-PHI (9)
P Josh Johnson-TOR (12)
P Jonathan Broxton-CIN (15)
P Brandon League-LAD (18)
P Tim Hudson-ATL (19)
P Ryan Vogelsong-SF (21)
P Andy Pettitte-NYY (22)
BE Denard Span-OF-WAS (20)
BE Colby Rasmus-OF-TOR (24)
BE Jeff Keppinger-3B-CHW (25)
BE Lucas Duda-OF-NYM (28)
BE Ubaldo Jimenez-SP-CLE (27)
I love the 1-2 combination of McCutchen and Bautista. I was a little surprised that Bautista made it back to me in the second round, but that is because people are concerned about him coming back from wrist surgery, which is always a red flag for power hitters. However, I was thrilled to land him with the 19th overall pick, which is exactly where I recommended taking him when I previously discussed his return from injury here. Even if Bautista's power regresses slightly, I still expect 30-35 home runs with a ton of RBIs in the middle of a very potent Blue Jays' lineup.
In the third round, I had to go with Plan C because David Wright and Jacoby Ellsbury were taken right before me. So I opted for Kinsler. Normally I would not select a second baseman not named Robinson Cano this early, but I was targeting a player who could produce across the board. With all the recent departures from the Rangers' lineup, I expect Kinsler to step up and become a more prominent force.
Heading into the fourth round, I was still planning on waiting for pitchers. But when I saw 2012 Cy Young winner David Price on the board after Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels were gone, I had to snatch him up. Price is one of the best young pitchers in baseball and, assuming he remains healthy, should be a lock for 15-20 wins, 200+ strikeouts, a sub 3.00 ERA, and a WHIP in the low 1.00s.
When looking at my roster, it is clear that there is a lot of age and injury risk. Players like Teixeira, Howard, and Jeter are no spring chickens and all have had injuries within the past year. But the risk is worth the reward given where I took them in the draft.
I was targeting Freddie Freeman or Billy Butler for first base, but they were drafted before me. Teixeira is one of the hardest working players and, despite his poor batting average the past few seasons, is a lock for 30 homers and 100 RBI. Not bad consolation.
Howard is finally healthy after a dreadful 2012 when he was coming back from Achilles surgery and then injured himself again at the end of the year. I don't expect him to reach .290 again, but I also don't expect him to hit below .220 like he did last year. Regardless of his average, there is no reason to think he won't put up 30-100 again over the course of a full season.
As for Jeter, I was very pleased to get him in the 17th round. True, he is in his late 30s and coming back from ankle surgery. But Jeter is a machine and is coming off one of his best years. He will provide solid production in batting average and runs scored as my middle infielder.
I filled out the rest of my offense with players of similar capabilities. None stand out as league-leading bashers. But players like Freese, Moustakas, and Ethier can all be counted on for something in the ballpark of 20 homers and around 75 RBI. Ethier and Freese are capable of hitting .290, but Moustakas will need to show some improvement with his average to really become a fantasy standout.
Michael Bourn will help keep me competitive in the stolen base and runs scored categories; I expect him to run wild in Cleveland. Speaking of Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera was a big bust in 2012 but should be able to come close to his 2011 numbers now that he has reinforcements and support in the Indians' lineup. And Alfonso Soriano, one of the most perplexing and fascinating fantasy players, will be a real bargain as a 16th round pick if he can duplicate his 2012 numbers and reach 30-100 again.
Chasing saves in roto leagues is usually a complete crapshoot. There are always premier closers who lose their jobs midway through the season, and there are always guys who emerge out of nowhere to rack up saves later in the season. Craig Kimbrel has become as close to a sure thing as there is, so it was not surprising he was the first closer taken. I wanted to at least ensure that I was competitive in this category, so I took Papelbon in the ninth round after Kimbrel and Jason Motte were off the board. Papelbon had a stellar season in Philadelphia despite the team underperforming. Now the Phillies are healthy again and should be a much improved team, which means more save opportunities for Papelbon.
I surrounded Papelbon with two potential disasters—Broxton and League. Broxton returns to his closer role now that the Reds are shifting Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation. Cincinnati should be a very good team this year, so Broxton will get a fair share of save opportunities. The issue will be whether he still has lights-out stuff now that he is a few years older and already had major arm surgery. League is the epitome of a wild card because of how electric and erratic his stuff is. He completely blew up for Seattle last year before he was shipped off to the Dodgers. Now Don Mattingly has anointed him as the team's closer thanks in large part to the questions surrounding Kenley Jansen's health. The Dodgers, on paper, should be one of the best teams in baseball so League will have plenty of chances to show he has improved his control and can shut games down.
In terms of my starting pitchers, I feel pretty good about my No. 2 and No. 3, who could become two of the biggest steals of the draft. I took Roy Halladay in the eighth round; I think that will turn out to be one of the best picks of the whole draft. Halladay had a down year in 2012, in large part due to a nagging shoulder injury. All of his numbers trended downward so drastically that many people have written him off. I am not one of those people. I expect him to rebound in 2013 and return to his previous Cy Young form. The Phillies would be smart to not let him throw as many pitches and innings this year despite his motivation to reach 259 innings and have his option vested for 2014.
The other possible steal I had was Josh Johnson in the 12th round. His injury history is well documented, so I accept full responsibility if this blows up in my face. But now that he has a fresh start in Toronto, I expect big things from him as his contract is about to expire. Johnson will also have some of the pressure taken off of him because he is now a No. 2 starter behind R.A. Dickey. It's a minor detail, but it is something to consider given that he will not be matched up as frequently with other teams' aces.
The rest of my pitching staff is composed of players who are long in the tooth but consistent across the board. Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Andy Pettitte won't lead me to winning the strikeout category. But they are all consistent pitchers who will keep their ERAs under 4.00 and have good chances of winning most of their games thanks in large part to the good bullpens they have behind them.
I didn't even mention my catchers because I intentionally punted the position. I think it s a mistake to invest much in a catcher since injuries are so frequent and they typically do not play as many games as other players. Feel free to disagree. With Ellis and Ramos, there is no dispute that I won't receive much contribution from that position.
Is this the best draft I have ever had? No. But I am happy with the way it turned out. There are some obvious weaknesses and concerns on my roster, but I think they can be overcome with solid and consistent production from my known entities and some big payoffs from some of the chances I took.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:26am
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The brief career of Ike Davis has already been a bit of a rollercoaster. After a solid rookie season in 2010, in which he showcased impressive power potential and foreshadowed considerable on-base skills, Davis built a legion of backers hoping for a breakout campaign in 2011. For the first two months of that season, Ike’s supporters were spending their time practicing their best “I told you so.” But, then Davis suffered an injury to his foot that somewhat inexplicably sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Going into 2012, the opinions on Davis widened. Some were skeptical of his health after the weird incident the previous year, some people basically forgot about him, and others pegged him as a strong sleeper. Last season was a tale of two halves for Davis, as he looked lost and over-matched pre-All-Star break, and then emerged as one of the games premier power threats in the second half. So, what’s in store for 2013?
First let’s lay out some facts about Davis’ 2012 and his pre-draft stock in 2013. Despite a nightmarish start to last season, Davis finished with 32 long balls and 90 rib-eye steaks. Both of those numbers ranked among the top at his position, and even across the board. Only 35 players drove in 90 in 2012, and only 27 hit 30 or more homers. Granted, these totals came with a .227 batting average and a mere 66 runs scored.
The fantasy community seems to remember the way Davis finished 2012. Mock Draft Central places his current ADP at around 90, the 14th first baseman off the board, 18 picks behind Ryan Howard and two ahead of Eric Hosmer.
I don’t think that Davis is all that enigmatic, but has rather been the victim of some extreme luck in either direction. First, Davis has been a victim of the wiles of BABIP. His .309 batting average in the truncated 2011 season was bolstered by an unsustainable .344 BABIP, while last season’s .227 was partially the product of a .246 BABIP. Davis is neither a .300 hitter, nor a .220 hitter. If I was drafting Davis in 2013, I’d be expecting somewhere in the .250-.260 range.
The power is certainly real. He has consistently hit about 40 percent of his batted balls in the air and is likely to maintain a HR/FB percent in the neighborhood of 20. I’d expect a homer total in the high 20s to low 30s. I also think that last year’s RBI total is about what to expect for this season, give or take.
I’d like to see a step forward in plate discipline; Davis looked very promising in this respect in his rookie season, but has since regressed slightly, perhaps partially due to facing more curveballs. A correcting of BABIP alone should help his runs totals a smidge, but if that was paired with a small step forward in on-base skills (say, .340+) he’d be a decent bet to score 85 runs, even in a questionable Mets line-up. I can’t bank on that though, so I’d be paying for about 75.
As I’ve already touched on, Davis has actually maintained fairly consistent patterns regarding balls in play, trajectory distribution, home run rate, and the like throughout his career. So, I think we know what kind of hitter he is. Perhaps the biggest difference in 2012 was the way he was pitched.
The league started feeding him a heavy diet of curveballs last season, leading to a bit of an uptick in his swinging strike percentage and first pitch strike percentage. Speaking anecdotally as a Mets fan for a moment, it did seem that early in the season Davis was down in the count 0-2 or 1-2 constantly.
According to pitch type date, it looks like his ability to handle the curve or at least mitigate the negative impact of seeing more curveballs improved throughout the season at least to the point that it wasn’t crippling. Davis still kills the fastball, so if he can maintain a league average performance against the curve he'll get the fastballs he needs to crush those towering blasts into the Pepsi Porch.
All things considered, I actually felt pretty good about what I saw in regard to Davis and his 2011 and 2012 didn’t appear to be as different as the stats might lead one to believe. I’d be confident in expecting something in the neighborhood of .255/75/30/90, with no speed. This makes him a solid mid-tier first-baseman, with a bit of upside because he’s heading into what should be his physical prime. I’d consider him a reach inside the top 70, and start assigning steal potential outside the top 120.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:24am
Friday, February 22, 2013
I recently received an email from a reader whose shallow home league uses a 12 x 12 roto scoring system. The reader is frustrated and suggests that this system doesn’t produce a champion that reflects the best overall team or owner because the mish-mash of categories undermines the league’s integrity. Nor surprisingly, some of the previous league champs disagree and think this system is fantastic. So, the reader contacted us to help settle this debate.
Here are the categories used for batters and pitchers in this league.
Batters—R, H, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, E, AVG
Pitchers—W, L, CG, SHO, SV, BB, K, HLD, ERA, WHIP, QS, BSV
Let me start of by top-lining my conclusion here—unequivocally, this is a bad scoring system, if you ask me. It looks more like a Bingo card than a consciously developed system attempting to address a set of underlying principles.
Yes, there should be a set of principles underlying a scoring system. Here are a couple of ideals that you should strive for:
Knowing that these are not all always fully achievable, and that some folks decidedly prefer non cookie-cutter settings, let me offer a few thoughts on how I would modify this scoring system.
This league is essentially counting every type of hit, as well as walks. I’m not sure what the specific rationale for offering doubles and triples as separate categories —and further, counting total hits and then counting each type of hit as its own category. Why should we specifically reward a player who hits a ton of singles? So, for the combination of H, 1B, 2B, 3B, BB, and E I think there are a few possible consolidations that make sense.
Combine hits and walks either as on-base percentage, or as times reached base. Or, combine doubles, triples (in addition to homers, which will remain a standalone category) and use either sluggingpercentage or extra-base hits.
This is also a shallow league, so finding mere playing time isn’t something worth rewarding. Therefore I’d lean toward rate stats and go OBP and SLG. If this were a deeper or NL- or AL-only league, it might be interesting to go with times reached base and extra-base hits instead. Honestly, either way would qualify as an improvement.
Strikeouts are only marginally worse than any other out (and better than a double play), so I’m not sure they should be uniquely penalized—remember, outs are already penalized via any offensive rate stat, or counting stat, as a wasted opportunity. However, strikeouts and walks do represent defense-independent at bat outcomes, so I can see an argument for keeping them in some capacity. I’d suggest BB/K ratio.
Why are errors included? Middle infielders will make more errors and first basemen and outfielders fewer. Is there some sort of bias inflating the value of middle infielders that the introduction of errors is an attempt to correct? I don’t think so. Therefore, I see no objective rationale for including it among the categories.
While the homer is guilty of double-counting (it’s a hit, an RBI, and a run), it is the most important play in baseball and it is defensive independent. Let’s leave it in. Runs is flawed, but it too can stay. RBIs can stay too, but I have a feeling the league likes to have some interesting wrinkles. Since this is a shallow league, separating good players from great players is something to strive for. So, if possible, an interesting modification might be to go for RBI percentage—the percentage of runners in scoring position driven in by a player. This mitigates mere opportunity a bit and rewards those who come through most often when in such a position.
Also, to cater to the crowd that likes to be a bit off the beaten path, we can use net steals instead of raw steals.
So, that leaves our offense with seven categories—OBP, SLG, BB/K, R, HR, RBI%, SB-CS.
That's not exactly standard, but pretty fundamentally sound.
This means we have to cut five categories from the pitching side of the equation.
The first thing that strikes me is the inclusion of wins, losses, and quality starts. I’d suggest using either wins or quality starts, since the inclusion of quality starts is recognition that wins are highly flawed. I’d recommend these three categories merge into one—either quality starts or net wins (W-L).
On the relief pitcher side, I’d look to either eliminate blown saves (really one of the stats that tells us the least) or once again go the net route and combine two categories in saves minus blown saves. I’d also get rid of holds. For one thing, they are a bad stat, and for another, while I appreciate the idea of giving elite set-up men value more similar to elite closers, this league is just too shallow to ask owners to have to mine more groups of specialty players for production. (Note that using blown saves in any way without holds will hurt the value of non-closer relievers.)
ERA and WHIP, can stay. I often like to combine Ks and BB into K/BB, but since we are seeking a 7x7 league, we can measure each of the DIPS categories individually, either counting wise or rate-wise. I’d suggest K/9, BB/9, and HR/9.
I’d also drop complete games and shutouts altogether, as they are too rare and unpredictable to be discrete categories. Plus, such games tend to be really well pitched, so they are already well-rewarded across the spectrum of pitching categories.
And that gets us to seven—W-L, ERA, WHIP, SV-BSV, K/9, BB/9, HR/9.
The reader’s email concluded by asking:
I have unsuccessfully argued that there are so many categories it does not determine a statistical significant champion because so many stats are accumulated that there is a statistical "noise" created, and thus randomness is the actual "champion."
I can’t answer this question completely objectively. I haven’t, for example, run the rosters of previous seasons of his leagues against a set-up with a “better” scoring system to see if they produce the same champion. But, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that at the very least that the current scoring system lacks an objective rationale behind its formation and is far from ideal.
I’ve turned down invitations to leagues simply because I thought the scoring systems were deeply flawed. I can say that, on that basis, I would not accept an invitation to a league with the original 12 x 12 scoring system.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 3:06am
Thursday, February 21, 2013
It may not be the subject ripe for the most in-depth discussion of strategy, but debating who should be the first overall pick in the upcoming season’s fantasy draft sure is fun. This year’s debate is probably livelier than many years past. Working under the assumption that Ryan Braun will not miss any time, the participants in this rumble are Braun, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Trout. Fittingly, these three options reflect a bit of a continuum of risk reward. While I don’t plan on reinventing the wheel here, let’s look at bit at the case for each of these players at the cream of the crop.
Miggy is probably the safest choice of the three candidates. What you are getting in him is the most reliably elite and durable four-category production on the market, with third-base eligibility. It is worth noting that Cabrera’s HR and RBI totals from 2012 were six and 12 above his previous career highs, respectively. Cabrera will be 30 years of age when the season starts and is still in his prime. He’s also hit nearly .330 over the past four seasons and has averaged 158 games played since becoming a full time major leaguer. There’s really not much to discuss here.
Like Cabrera, Braun is a proven commodity, but his make-up is a bit different. If Cabrera is the most reliably elite four-category producer in the game, Braun holds the title in the five-category class. While you sacrifice a bit of the RBI ceiling Cabrera offers, you retain similar run, home run, and batting average projections while gaining a huge edge in steals. In his six seasons in the show, Braun has averaged 56 combined homers and stolen bases, turning seasons of 66 and 71 over the past two years. Of course, Braun fills an outfield position.
Here stands the man with the highest ceiling of all. In 139 games last season, Michael Nelson Trout took the sport of baseball by storm. While I didn’t spend much time deep-diving into the numbers for the well-established entities that are Braun and Cabrera, I will offer some quick analysis on Trout.
The biggest question mark about Trout is his power. He surprised everybody by blasting 30 dingers is his inaugural campaign but had only hit 23 long balls 286 minor league games. What are we to make of that? It’s tough to draw conclusions, especially considering that he will play through most of the 2013 season before turning 22. Skills, especially power, have not fully blossomed at such a young age, so it’s not surprising to see jumps in those numbers early in a player's career, though it does raise your eyebrows when it happens at the major league level.
Putting those questions aside and delving into the data a bit, we find that Trout posted what seems to be a bit of a high HR/FB ratio, especially in light of the average distance of his fly balls in play. So, a regression is certainly possible, if not expected. But his power numbers last year were not an aberration in the general sense. I see the profile of a player who should sock 20-25 homers more than one who should hit 30-plus. However, it wouldn’t be particularly shocking to see him repeat with similar power numbers, especially if skills development is still happening—as we have to believe it is. Another factor in Trout’s favor is that he’s a leadoff hitter and speedster, meaning the perceived cost of walking him is arguably the highest in the league, so he sees lots of strikes.
At the end of the day, when considering Trout, I just wanted to see enough to feel reasonably protected from a 12-homer sophomore slump. If he does everything else as expected, he could still emerge as the top overall player with 20-home run season.
We know Trout is the best bet in baseball to lead the sport in runs scored and is likely the front-runner to lead in steals, as well.
Personally, I feel bold enough to go with Trout with the first overall pick. But perhaps what I’d most prefer would be to get the third pick in my league, as you can’t go wrong there, and you gain a smidge of draft position in the even-numbered rounds.
Team Braun and Team Cabrera, please weigh in below. Further, if anybody wants to make a case for Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez or anybody else, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:36am
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last week, so fantasy baseball season is officially here. That means you are likely preparing for one or more drafts within the next month and a half. Last year, I wrote about the benefits of doing mock drafts as part of preparing for your own fantasy baseball league drafts. You can read that article here. Recently, I participated in a 12-team, 5x5 roto mock draft hosted by THT Fantasy that made me think of another benefit to doing mock drafts.
Hundreds of resources are available for fantasy baseball drafts. Whether it is a magazine, web site, radio show, podcast, or other medium, you can count on getting commentary and analysis of a mock draft done by some industry experts. These are very helpful to the hundreds of thousands of fantasy baseball players who crave as much information and insight as possible. But a mock draft’s intrinsic value is lost in translation with the typically generic and milquetoast analysis provided by industry insiders (myself included). That is why I wanted to step outside of the proverbial box and discuss another angle with mock drafting.
When registering for this mock draft, I selected the 12th pick because that is my draft position in an 18-team, head-to-head points league I run. I wanted to get in some practice drafting at that position, so right off the bat I had a specific purpose for what I was looking to learn. What I was most curious about was what choices would be around after the first 11 picks. I feared that my top hitters would be off the board.
Sure enough, that is exactly what happened after Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Prince Fielder were taken before me.
Before continuing, I need to provide some background on my preferences and drafting strategy. I have never given much credence to the position scarcity theory—drafting a player at a particular position simply because there are so few viable options. When I drafted Cano with the 13th overall pick in my 18-team league in 2012, it was only the third time I had ever taken a second baseman before the fifth round of that draft since 1999. I am also relatively conservative when it comes to making early-round picks on players with significant injury histories.
That being said, I decided to try something new. I selected Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Hamilton with my wrap-around picks in the first and second rounds. I realize nothing seems overtly outrageous about that. But given my history, this was new territory for me. Tulowitzki is very talented and certainly worthy of a top-two pick. But he gets injured every year and is extremely streaky.
I also have significant reservations about Hamilton, which put me completely out of my comfort zone. First, he is also injury prone; he has played more than 150 games only once in his career. I realize he stayed relatively healthy in 2012 and put up tremendous numbers. But he was in a contract year and I am skeptical about players who perform like that immediately before cashing in on a lucrative long-term deal. Finally, we all saw the struggles Pujols endured during his first season in Anaheim. Perhaps Hamilton won’t have as big a problem adjusting since he is still in the same league and division. But if a hitter like Pujols needs a year to acclimate himself to a new environment, then I have to think Hamilton may suffer the same fate.
The point is that Tulowitzki and Hamilton represent two choices that I would normally not make in a real draft under these circumstances. We all tend to get caught up in ADP (average draft position), expert projections, and popular trends. But drafting a fantasy baseball team is an art form because it is unpredictable. You may think you know what is going to happen, but a lot of times you will be wrong in your assumptions. That is why it is so beneficial to do mock drafts so you can practice thinking on your feet and improvising.
But even more important than that, doing mock drafts allows you the freedom of testing different strategies without any consequences. I honestly don't know whether I would actually select Tulowitzki with the 12th pick in a real draft. My preconceived notions and historical tendencies lead me to believe I would go in a different direction. But in a mock draft, I had nothing to lose by employing a new strategy. In addition, because this mock draft was composed of experts and would be written about on web sites and blogs, I thought it would be interesting from an analysis perspective to go in this direction.
So what does all of this mean to you? Basically, I would encourage you to participate in mock drafts as part of your own preparation for the real thing. You can read as many magazines and articles as you want breaking down other people's mock drafts. But every draft is different and you have to be prepared to go to Plan B before the clock runs out. The best way to do that is by doing mock drafts and trying out different scenarios. If by the end of the draft you have a team that is a lock for last place, then you have at least learned some valuable lessons on what not to do.
Remember, don't mock it until you try it.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:54am
Friday, February 15, 2013
Karl de Vries
Coming off last week’s 12-team mock draft, Michael, Derek and I wanted to reflect on some lessons learned in an expert league in which a total of 324 players were scooped up. By the time the 27-round melee was winding down, not even the likes of Jason Vargas and Josh Donaldson were beyond the reach of hungry fantasy owners needing to plug holes.
Along the way, we noticed some trends in player depth, strategy and our own oversights that could surely apply to other drafts over the next few weeks.
Roto and head-to-head points leagues have their pros and cons, but it is indisputable that the evaluation of certain players and overall drafting styles differ. In H2H points leagues, starting pitchers are more valuable commodities because of additional points awarded for complete games, quality starts, strikeout bonuses, etc. In roto leagues, the distinction between the top starters and the second or third tier is less pronounced. That’s why I had planned on waiting at least five or six rounds before taking a pitcher.
Instead, I caved to my own pressure and took Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee with my wrap-around third and fourth picks. Playing Monday morning quarterback, I realize I could have waited another round or two and still taken very solid pitchers while filling critical offensive positions with hitters such as Matt Holliday, Dustin Pedroia,or Jacoby Ellsbury.
Karl de Vries
I made a similar mistake in my shortsighted decision to grab starting pitching before the best hitting had dried up. Typically, it seems, pitching is much easier to harvest during the season, especially when it comes to closers. But I was still a bit taken aback by the shallowness of the outfield pool this year. I wasn’t nearly aggressive enough in picking up sticks in the draft’s early rounds, and as someone who held back a bit in fleshing out his five-man outfield, I was flat-footed when the bodies started dropping early—17 picks in the first four rounds alone. As the draft dragged on, I felt lucky to grab Carlos Quentin (18.3), Chris Young (20.3) and Alfonso Soriano (21.10), a trio that alone could doom my squad to a season of mediocrity.
This was my second mock draft of the offseason, and what concerned me was how many of the players I wound up with on both teams. I don’t mind having “my guys,” and I’m not against roster repetition across multiple teams, but I figured this draft, pound for pound, included even more savvy owners compared to my previous draft. One way I’d confirm my hypothesis—that I got some value picks in the previous draft—would be if I was unable to get those same players again.
I’m not talking about the fact that I nabbed the same catcher pair in both drafts, as that was a strategic decision. I’m talking more about picks like Paul Konerko (8.11), Johan Santana (17.2) and Josh Beckett (22.11)—guys who I thought may have been value picks, but who now deserve a closer look to see if the rest of the fantasy community knows something about them that I’ve overlooked.
Another lesson learned is that patience can pay off when it comes to third base. It’s no secret that third base has become one of the shallowest fantasy baseball positions, but I passed on it until I selected Martin Prado in the eighth round. I could have waited even longer and still ended up with respectable choices such as Kyle Seager (14.7), David Freese (15.11), Manny Machado (17.8) or Kevin Youkilis (20.11) in the mid to late teen rounds. While third base doesn’t have as many premier choices as it once did, there is plenty of decent quality down the list which can be obtained for great value if you have patience.
Karl de Vries
On the individual level, I’ve noticed that people like Carlos Gomez (22.2). A lot. That was made clear in the draft room chatter, and reinforced for good measure Wednesday by Derek and Brad. And why not? We’ve known for years that Gomez can run like the wind, but 19 home runs last year? With a likely full-time job lined up in Milwaukee, Gomez is not just a rotisserie demon; he’s the kind of guy who could make a splash in my preferred H2H style of play, provided he can learn to take a walk and bring the strikeout rate below 20 percent. Regardless, he’s someone who will likely be under the radar in my league, which should translate to a nice steal—har, har—in the late rounds.
Honestly, I don’t do a whole lot of in-depth preparation on individual players prior to the season, but perhaps I should drill down a bit more. One thing keeping me from overreacting, however, is the awareness that I am generally more along the conservative side when building teams. I also usually approach mock drafts straight up and experiment too profoundly, or with multiple different deviations in the same draft. I opt more for the solid contender than the monster upside team. This may not be the most fun or popular mind state with which to approach a mock draft.
Karl de Vries
Some useful thoughts going forward, guys. Nicely done. Now that we’ve looked at some of the draft’s best value picks, most head-scratching reaches and lessons learned, it might be time to take a look at which owner walked away with the best squad. We’ll pick this up early next week.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 2:34am
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. I went into the draft with a supremely flawed, half-formed list, so—for as many value picks as I could find littered on the draft board—I know my team was composed of many a reach. Part of that is a symptom of expert drafts (if you choose to label it as such); I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found himself paranoid that a favorite on my list would be snagged well before his ADP, which is partly why I ended up—blinded by his upside—with Lorenzo Cain in the 13th round (Round 13, Pick 5). Where did you guys jump the gun, or see a considerable reach?
The first pick in the draft that I thought was a bit of a reach was Starlin Castro (3.11). Whether you agree with me likely hinges on whether you think Castro can and will take a step forward in 2013. Personally, I think we’ve already seen what Castro is. Without a substantial evolution to his overall approach, and barring an unforeseen power surge, I think Castro’s warts tightly cap his ceiling.
My biggest reach was Shin-Soo Choo at (6.1). He is coming off back-to-back down years that have been mired with injuries and off the field issues. But he has a fresh start in Cincinnati and will also be a free agent at the end of the season. He will have a lot on his plate as he moves to center field, so this was a reach taking him before players such as Chase Headley, Alex Gordon and Brandon Phillips who were drafted later in the round.
Karl de Vries
Is Adam Jones a true 5x5 monster? That’s a question that might not be fully answered until at least the 2014 draft, making my Pacman pick in the third round a bit iffy. I take solace knowing that Jones—now entering his magical age-27 year—posted his best season in 2012, setting career highs in home runs, runs, stolen bases and batting average, and he should provide help in all categories. But on my team, he’d be expected to carry the water of a No. 1 outfielder at that price—the kind of guy who can guarantee 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 20 steals, etc. There’s reason to believe Jones can blossom into an Andrew McCutchen-type player as soon as this year, but he’s still a guy who posts an abysmal walk rate and strikes out too often every year. Such a pick banks heavily on Jones taking yet another step forward, a concerning variable for what should be a slam-dunk decision.
For me, Carlos Santana (3.3) as the second catcher off the board was a bit of a stretch. Santana’s 3.6 percent dip in strikeout rate last season was a good sign, but other than that, there just isn’t much evidence that a true breakout is coming. This being a two-catcher league does justify taking catchers earlier, but for reference, Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina were selected in the fifth round and Matt Wieters and Victor Martinez left the board in the ninth (not that anyone could foresee this). Santana has upside, but taking him this early really limits profit potential.
I think that’s the single most important concept when filling out re-draft rosters, Jesse. There’s such a fine balance between filling your upside quota and cushioning yourself with unsexy, consistent talent. I would be thrilled—in any keeper league—to have Starling Marte (16.8), Mike Minor (18.8), Tyler Skaggs (25.5), and the aforementioned Cain (13.5) on the same roster. And while that group packs a ton of untapped, unseen potential, I passed up, just by way of example, the more proven bunch of Mike Morse (17.4), Shaun Marcum (21.2), Jaime Garcia (26.2), and Brett Gardner (14.5). Some might call that reckless gambling.
Karl de Vries
Paying for last year’s performance can be just as reckless. Take my selection of Buster Posey (2.3) in the 15th slot overall. Yes, it’s a two-catcher league, so I can be forgiven for wanting an anchor there. But it’s a bit of a panic move with five-category heavyweights like David Wright and Justin Upton remaining on the board. There are only so many elite-level catchers out there, sure, but the position is as deep today as it’s been in years, and his position dictates that he’ll be more vulnerable to injury and days off. Dual eligibility at first base will help, but still, this is a guy who will contribute nothing toward steal totals and be hard-pressed to replicate the .368 BABIP that helped make his batting title possible last year.
For me, Carlos Santana (3.3) as the second catcher off the board was a bit of a stretch. Santana’s 3.6 percent dip in strikeout rate last season was a good sign, but other than that, there just isn’t much evidence that a true breakout is coming. This being a two-catcher league does justify taking catchers earlier; still, for reference, Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina were selected in the fifth round and Matt Wieters and Victor Martinez left the board in the ninth (not that anyone could foresee this). Santana has upside, but taking him this early really limits profit potential.
In your everyday draft, I typically have no problem identifying slews of poor selections. This isn’t your everyday draft though, so very few picks jump out to me as obvious mistakes. Take my biggest potential reach, Aroldis Chapman (9.2), a classic risk/reward pick. The first 10 rounds may not be the best time to take the gamble, and a few mitigating factors (including the reports of decreased velocity and the inevitable innings limit) make it questionable; but he has ace upside, and this pick—perhaps a reach, but certainly defensible—is a carefully calculated risk.
I’ll throw out my selection of Cliff Lee (4.1) as a possible reach, given his pedestrian 2012. But even that can be defended; I believe he is due to bounce back along with the rest of the Phillies team. Lee is capable of being one of the most dominant fantasy pitchers in the league, but I recognize that I possibly could have waited another two rounds to grab him.
"Obvious lesson number whatever": there’s no use in trying to predict the behavior of your draft mate. If you have some trend you identified in a league mate, certainly don’t ignore it; but if you’re blind as I am, trust your gut, and study those average draft positions (even “expert only” ones, as Mock Draft Central offers). It’s the closest you can find to peeking into the average mind. Let’s reconvene tomorrow.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:09am
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Fellas: We all know "sleeper" and "steal" are fluid traits, and that a qualifier in February can see his sneaky status evaporate in March. As draft season progresses into mid-February, though, average positions tend to take shape, and I think where we selected our guys in the THT & Friends draft is be a pretty good indicator of current stock price. Thoughts? Who do you think qualifies on your own roster?
This being an expert mock draft, it didn’t surprise me that I scanned the draft results and identified more picks I liked than those I didn’t. In discussing “value picks,” I’d probably divide that term into two categories: one being more along the lines of known quantities acquired “on sale,” and the other being the risky picks that hold very attractive value propositions at their price points.
From my own picks, I think a selection that fits the definition of the former is my pick of Justin Verlander (Round 2, Pick 11). Verlander comes off two top-10 seasons. As reticent as I am to pony up for elite starting pitching, I think he’s basically earned first round consideration in standard leagues. So, to get him a full round later seems like a legitimate value. On the riskier-props-bought-low side of things, one of my favorite picks is David Freese (15.11). It seems like there’s a lot of room for profit where with little room for bust.
Maybe this is a symptom of an expert league mock, but there was a notable lack of value picks in my opinion. There were two players who I thought absolutely should not have been available when I selected them—Ian Desmond (6.6) and Melky Cabrera (10.6).
Regression is inevitable, but Cabrera is still well-positioned to contribute elite performance in batting average and runs scored with solid performance in home runs and RBI. Desmond may not be as valuable as I expect, but the ability to provide home runs and stolen bases from a weak middle infield class really helps to hold my roster together.
I agree with the sentiment that it is difficult to get many real value picks doing a mock draft with fellow experts. To that extent, I think I my three guys who represent prime value for where they were selected are Tim Lincecum (10.1), Dexter Fowler (15.12) and Juan Pierre (27.12).
Regarding Lincecum: Chalk his horrendous year up to fatigue, injury, or whatever else. He was awful and was eventually banished to the bullpen, but he thrived there in the playoffs. Now that he has seen teammate Matt Cain get a huge contract extension, Lincecum is motivated to earn his big dollars after collecting two Cy Young awards earlier in his career.
Fowler, meanwhile, will be the magical age of 27 by Opening Day and is coming off a season where he hit .300. As he enters his prime, he will continue to get stronger and turn those extra base hits into long balls over the fence. Amazingly, the player with the best value I drafted was the final pick of the whole draft—Juan Pierre. He will be playing every day and leading off for the Marlins, making him a (health-contingent) lock for 30-40 stolen bases and at least 75 runs scored.
Karl de Vries
For me, fantasy drafts are not unlike bouts of heavy drinking: Whirlwind decisions are made in the blink of an eye, bad judgment is not uncommon, and there's the possibility that you'll wake up with someone whose name you didn't know when the night began. But while there's plenty to criticize about my draft—we'll talk about that some other time—I did make a few picks that I think will stand up to scrutiny, particularly, a couple of Padres.
I'll need to see another season of stud output from Chase Headley (6.3) before I'm completely sold on him as a top-tier third baseman, but I figure he's a strong sixth-round pick given the expectation of at least a 20-15 season and five-category production. Given the position's lack of five-category options—and the uncertainty of guys like Brett Lawrie, Pedro Alvarez and Mike Moustakas, the third basemen who were drafted afterwards—I'm confident Headley will stand up as a decent pick.
And yes, I know Yasmani Grandal (26.3) will be persona non grata for the season's first two months thanks to a PED violation, but still, we're talking about a primo prospect who banged out eight home runs in 226 plate appearances last year—all while playing his home games at Petco Park. For a 26th round pick, he can sit on my bench until he can join Buster Posey in my catching battery sometime in late May.
I agree with the sentiment that it is much easier to exploit value in a non-writers league, where owners are likely to follow the pre-set draft list much more stringently. In a draft where most of the participants create their own rankings, however, value is both less predictable and usually less frequent, which makes entering the draft with a more agnostic, open-minded approach seem practical, as opposed to a scripted outline denoting where I plan to take certain players.
On my team, I was most pleased with Roy Halladay (8.9) and David Ortiz (10.9), neither of whom I would have had highlighted as must-have players prior to the draft. Though Halliday missed time due to injury and posted sub-par numbers in 2012, he is perennially drafted as a top-three pitcher. His dip in velocity is concerning, but to get him outside the first 90 picks is still a risk that I am extremely comfortable taking.
Ortiz is never a player I feel comfortable taking, due to his age and positional inflexibility, but, by any mathematical measurement, he almost always ends up as one of the best values relative to draft position without vastly outperforming his projected stat line. I will begrudgingly take Ortiz here in nearly any draft and thank myself later.
Usually, you’d look to the young talent to define your roster upside: Maybe you’ll get someone late who blossoms into a 20-homer guy (say, Brandon Belt at 24.6) or a flamethrower with entirely untapped All-Star potential (perhaps Shelby Miller at 23.8). Rarely does it come in the form of a once-MVP under the age of 30 who plays a hard-to-fill-with-quality second base, as it did with me in Dustin Pedroia (4.8). We’re talking a guy with a lifetime .311 batting average, who thrice has reached 100 runs scored and has once gone 20/20. I’ll take him behind Jason Kipnis (a batting average liability with downside from last year’s steal totals) and Allen Craig (even more an injury question mark) any day of the week.
How about the best pick of the draft overall?
Carlos Gomez (22.2) is sure to get ample love here, but I’m not convinced his emergence was real; it’s worth finding out, though, at that price tag.
For those unfamiliar with Mock Draft Central, it can be a bit of a challenge to keep track of everybody who is available. I was using my Fantasy Pros rankings (still incomplete) as a rough draft board, and Gomez was so far up my board that I lost track of him in the early-teens. For those trying to do the math at home, I have him ranked immediately behind where Austin Jackson (8.7) was selected. It's worth noting that I have (perhaps bullishly) projected Gomez to bat at the top of the order for most of the season.
He nearly put together a 20/40 season in 2012 in just 452 plate appearances, and his per plate appearance numbers from the two seasons prior indicate that such a line would be no fluke given just a few more opportunities.
Let's continue this tomorrow, eh?
Posted by Nick Fleder at 2:52am
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers will be back this year after missing all of 2012 due to microfracture surgery on his left knee. I have previously written about his return from injury and what kind of fantasy baseball value he will have in 2013 for Fantasy Alarm. His return has sparked somewhat of a controversy over whether he is or will be eligible at catcher for the 2013 season. There are arguments to be made in support of having him eligible at catcher, but I think he should be eligible only at DH or a utility spot in your fantasy baseball league.
Let me preface this argument by assuming that your league’s positional eligibility requirements mandate that a player have at least 20 games at a particular position during the previous season to make him eligible to be drafted at that position. I realize that not every league uses 20 games as the threshold, but most leagues do so that is what I will use here.
In 2011, Martinez had 112 games at DH, 26 games at catcher, and six games at first base. Heading into 2012, he was clearly eligible at catcher. However, it became apparent based on these statistics and Jim Leyland’s preferences that Martinez’s days as a full-time catcher were over. The emergence of Alex Avila in 2011 allowed Leyland the flexibility to keep Martinez’s bat in the lineup elsewhere.
Some have argued that Martinez’s position eligibility should carry over to 2013 straight from 2011. I do not agree, because that contradicts the rules set forth in many leagues which require a minimum amount of games played during the previous season. It would also set bad precedent for future players who return after missing an entire season. We would all go for a ride down the proverbial slippery slope and that is not something league commissioners or fantasy sports service providers want to happen.
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment agrees with CBSSports.com’s decision that the best option for Martinez is to make him eligible to be drafted only as a DH or utility player. The fact that he is projected to be primarily used as a DH in 2013 is irrelevant to this conclusion. If we based position eligibility on projections or assumptions, it would set equally bad precedent because of how many times things change in a short period of time.
Of course it is still possible for Martinez to gain catcher eligibility this year if he makes enough appearances there for the Tigers. He is behind Avila and Brayan Pena on the depth chart, but injuries can change things quickly. For purposes of your draft preparation, you should go on the premise that Martinez is not eligible at catcher. Rank him accordingly.
At the end of the day, it is still left to the discretion of league commissioners who use service providers that permit customization of position eligibility rules and requirements. However, if a league commissioner elects to override a service provider’s decision and ignore the minimum games played requirement, he/she must accept the fact that this precedent is being established and be prepared to act consistently the next time a player returns from missing an entire year.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:30am
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