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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The rookie pond was stocked last year, with more than 15 first-year guys making a serious impact on the fantasy landscape—some monumentally so. In an attempt to sort through the 2010 freshman class, let’s look at Oliver’s projections to see what kind of strides, or step-backs, can be expected in 2011.
(With so many intriguing players to sift through, we’ll be doing this in two parts, with the criteria being only those players who saw at least 300 plate appearances last season. Sorry Carlos Santana followers, you’ll have to purchase the THT Forecasts to read the praise Oliver heaps on the young backstop.)
2009 line: .255 AVG/76 R/28 HR/92 RBI/3 SB (551 PAs @ AA/A+)
2010 line: .259 AVG/45 R/22 HR/59 RBI/5 SB (396 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .283 AVG/90 R/46 HR/120 RBI/5 SB (574 PAs)
Oliver thinks ... Stanton is destined for fantasy superstardom this year. Coming in as the second-ranked outfielder, Oliver projects a home run title, and an RBI total surpassed by only the great Albert Pujols. Most interestingly, the system foresees a significant increase in batting average, the one thing that figured to stunt Stanton's growth into an elite fantasy asset.
I think ... Oliver is one optimistic S.O.B.—not necessarily about Stanton's power potential, although I do think 46 home runs and 120 RBIs represent an absolute ceiling more than a realistic expectation. The .283 average is where I think the system gets a little hyperbolic. In almost 1,200 minor league at-bats, Stanton never hit above .300 in a full season and was a career .274 hitter. His strikeout rate was the main culprit, sitting at a bloated 31 percent. It was an even more elevated 34.3 percent last season—a number that ranked as the fifth-highest mark in the league, and placed him in the company of notorious average-killers Mark Reynolds, Jack Cust, Adam Dunn and Russell Branyan. Also similar to those players, Stanton made contact on 70 percent or less of the pitches he swung at, a feat only 10 hitters achieved in 2010.
One thing that could lead to a higher average than his profile indicates is his ability to draw a walk. His bases on balls percentage sat above 11 percent in the minors, but was only 8.6 last year. So based on that history, typical age progression, and his restraint in chasing bad pitches—his O-Swing percentage was close to the league average last year—it's reasonable to assume Stanton will draw walks at a higher clip in his second season, which inevitably will lead to better pitches to hit, and, perhaps, the rise in batting average Oliver projects.
And if that happens, if he approaches an average of .280, there's little doubt Stanton finishes as a top five outfielder. And if the 2010 average is replicated, well, he'll still be a top 20 player at the position. In other words, you're either getting good, or great, if you pay for Stanton's services on draft day.
2009 line: .325 AVG/84 R/18 HR/80 RBI/6 SB (497 PAs @ AAA/A+)
2010 line: .305 AVG/58 R/18 HR/67 RBI/0 SB (443 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .299 AVG/74 R/20 HR/81 RBI/1 SB (568 PAs)
Oliver thinks ... the average is totally legit, but the power will level off some, preventing him from seriously challenging Joe Mauer's status as fantasy's top catcher. The system does think he'll give Brian McCann a run for his money though.
I Think ... Oliver and I are on the same page when it comes to Posey. Last year's rookie of the year hit 18 homers in 406 at-bats (22.5 AB/HR), which surprised many considering he totaled just 11 in 303 career Triple-A at-bats (27.5 AB/HR). Oliver thinks he'll split the difference between the two totals, projecting a homer every 25.1 at-bats. That seems likely given the low volume of fly balls Posey hits (33 percent) and his profile as a high average, line-drive hitter.
Speaking of the average, he was a career .333 hitter in the minors, and he registered a 0.84 BB/K ratio. In his first major league go-around, he actually struck out less, but he also walked considerably less, leading to a 0.55 BB/K. With more experience that ratio is sure to improve, and Oliver agrees, forecasting a 0.65 BB/K.
Looking at his linear pitch type values on Fangraphs, Posey was one of the best hitters in the league against curveballs and change-ups, and he was a plus hitter against fastballs as well. The slider seemed to be the only pitch with which he struggled, a fact pitchers repeatedly tried to exploit—he saw the 13th-highest percentage of sliders among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. That strategy didn’t exactly work, further confirming Posey as a mature, bust-proof sophomore slugger. If you're looking for a comp, think Billy Butler with catcher eligibility.
2009 line: .323 AVG/69 R/17 HR/63 RBI/10 SB (422 PAs @ AAA/AA/A+)
2010 line: .277 AVG/83 R/18 HR/72 RBI/11 SB (520 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .297 AVG/77 R/22 HR/78 RBI/8 SB (538 PAs)
Oliver thinks ... the batting average will approach .300, but the counting stats will hang around last year's totals, making Heyward a top 25 outfielder in the class of Nick Markakis, Hunter Pence and Torii Hunter.
I think ... based on the tangible (i.e., his past numbers), the projections seem perfectly reasonable, but I also think Oliver forgot Heyward is supposed to be a transcendent, once-in-a-generation superstar (and that he dealt with a lingering, and power-hindering, thumb injury a good portion of his rookie year).
While the 5x5 numbers don't blow you out of the water, Heyward demonstrated total command of the strike zone last year, registering a 14.6 walk percentage and ranking among the most restrained hitters in terms of swing percentage on balls outside the zone. According to his pitch-type values, he also recorded a positive number against the four pitches he saw most frequently, another indication of Heyward's advanced ability at the plate.
The two things that held his numbers down somewhat were a strikeout rate approaching 25 percent and a 27.2 flyball percentage. Considering his outstanding plate discipline and ability to successfully hit all pitches, along with his 15.7 strikeout percentage in the minors, it's fairly safe to predict a drop in strikeouts in his sophomore year (Oliver projects 19.4 percent). That should considerably help his average creep up near .300, and possibly beyond, depending on how much improvement he makes.
As for the flyball percentage, it ranked as the ninth-lowest mark in the league last year, with only Derek Jeter, Elvis Andrus, Skip Shumaker, Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn, Ichiro Suzuki, Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Theriot elevating a smaller percentage of balls into the air. Those eight guys combined for a grand total of 26 homers, so it's amazing, really, that Heyward was able to park 18 balls while keeping such company. If he can raise his flyball percentage into the 30-35 range, which is still below league average, 25 homers should be guaranteed, especially considering the natural power progression expected of a man Heyward's size.
So while the projection may suggest taking a somewhat cautious approach on draft day, I suggest being ultra-aggressive if you want to play with Heyward this year—all he needs are a few minor tweaks to become the fantasy phenom everyone's predicted.
2009 line: .298 AVG/58 R/20 HR/71 RBI/0 SB (488 PAs @ AA/A+)
2010 line: .264 AVG/73 R/19 HR/71 RBI/3 SB (523 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .270 AVG/71 R/21 HR/80 RBI/1 SB (569 PAs)
Oliver thinks ... if Davis were an outfielder, he'd be worth starting in 12-team leagues. He's not, of course, which means his .270/20/80 line makes him the 25th ranked first baseman. Useful as a corner infielder, but not someone for whom to hold high fantasy expectations.
I think ... Davis could see more growth than the system projects. His strikeout percentage was definitely too high at 26.4, which helped depress his batting average, but a walk rate of 12.0 allowed him to maintain an on-base percentage of over .350, making the inflated strikeout rate easier to stomach.
He struggled at the plate during the middle of the season, but regained his form over the last two months, compiling a .294 average and a walk percentage of 15.8, one of the highest percentages in the league over that span. That’s a good indication he made the necessary adjustments to combat what opposing pitchers were doing, always a positive sign in a young hitter. Unfortunately, his power never spiked, and his ISO of .176 ranked 17th at the first base position. And that's the rub— he has the potential to be a high average/walk guy, but without sufficient power, he’ll remain a backup in 12-team leagues.
An oddity I found while digesting the numbers: Davis saw only 39.4 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, the third-lowest percentage in the league. One reason could be his ineffectiveness against breaking pitches. Looking at his linear pitch type weights, Davis registered a negative value on breaking pitches and a plus value on fastballs, which was the major reason he saw the seventh-lowest percentage of fastballs, and the fourth-highest percentage of curveballs among qualified hitters. A steady diet of breaking stuff, obviously, leads to fewer strikes in the zone compared to a high volume of fastballs and change-ups.
As for the fantasy relevance, improvement in his ability to handle breaking pitches, coupled with his already outstanding eye, could force pitchers to feed him more strikes, which, in turn, could lead to better pitches to drive. And that may just help him go from a 20-homer threat to a potential 30-homer guy. Just a theory, but worth looking into if you’re searching for a reason to draft Davis as a sleeper candidate.
2009 line: .299 AVG/56 R/3 HR/49 RBI/28 SB (509 PAs @ AA/A+)
2010 line: .300 AVG/53 R/3 HR/41 RBI/10 SB (506 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .293 AVG/66 R/5 HR/52 RBI/13 SB (551 PAs)
Oliver thinks ... at a position shallower than the entire cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County combined, Castro is advanced enough to be your regular SS, although don't expect much more than he offered in 2010.
I think ... Oliver's right in projecting only moderate growth, but I say dream big. Outside of the top three (Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes), there's not a shortstop on the board that I feel comfortable drafting in the first 10 rounds. So why not wait, and then reach a round or two early for the top five potential of Castro?
The wunderkind feasted on lefties last year (.339 average) and was solid against righties (.286), and while his three home runs don't indicate much pop, he actually registered a .108 ISO to go along with his .300 average. I bring that up because only Tulowitzki, Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Castro were able to produce an ISO above 1.00 and an average of .300 or better at the shortstop position in 2010. Throw out homers, and Castro's 36 extra-base hits were the fifth-best total at the position, and he did it in just 463 at-bats, 100 fewer than the next closest guy above him.
Some will point to his fortuitous .346 BABIP and predict a batting average decline, but as a speedy player with a GB% over 50, a higher than normal BABIP is to be expected, as evidenced by the .356 career mark of both Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter.
Ultimately, what will determine whether Castro becomes an elite shortstop or simply middle infield filler will be his ability to turn his raw speed into stolen base production. When he first got the call to the bigs, Castro was apprehensive on the base paths, attempting just three steals in 58 games before the All-Star break. He became more aggressive down the stretch, though, swiping nine bases on 15 attempts in 67 games after the break. In his only full season in the minors, Castro had 28 steals in 127 games, so we know he has the speed to get it done; he just needs to learn the nuances behind the art. With more experience, that will come, making 20 stolen bases very attainable.
In case you're wondering, only five players in the majors had 20 or more steals and a .300 average last season: Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Gonzalez and Shin-Soo Choo.
2009 line: .286 AVG/69 R/15 HR/60 RBI/8 SB (459 PAs @ AA/A+)
2010 line: .254 AVG/60 R/20 HR/56 RBI/6 SB (394 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .246 AVG/58 R/16 HR/61 RBI/5 SB (498 PAs)
Even if you extrapolate Colvin's numbers out to THT Forecast for plate appearances (609), Oliver doesn't think Colvin will amount to anything other than a spare outfield part in 12-team leagues. That's mostly because of an average expected to hang around .250. In nearly 2,000 minor league plate-appearances, none above Double-A, Colvin posted a 0.30 BB/K ratio, the exact ratio he had in his rookie season. That low a number doesn't usually equate to a high average, and neither does his 71.9 percent contact rate.
The power is legitimate, though, probably more so than Oliver projects. Colvin registered a .246 ISO last season, and it was .225 during his final year in Double-A, but the system thinks he'll be good for only a .176 mark this year. He'll be battling with Kosuke Fukudome for playing time, but NL-only leaguers need to be on high alert, and Colvin could be mixed-league worthy if he can fine-tune his batting eye.
2009 line: .293 AVG/52 R/5 HR/35 RBI/11 SB (402 PAs @ AAA/AA)
2010 line: .299 AVG/61 R/4 HR/35 RBI/19 SB (441 PAs)
2011 Oliver projection: .291 AVG/76 R/9 HR/59 RBI/22 SB (603 PAs)
Upon being called up in June, the 20-something-year-old prospect had 29 extra-base hits in barely 400 at-bats, slightly bettered his .297 career minor league average, and stole 19 bags, which, if combined with his Triple-A numbers, totaled 44 steals in 155 games in 2010.
Oliver envisions the average and slight pop being maintained, but that Tabata's not quite the elite base-stealer last season suggested he is. The numbers seem to back that up. His speed score of 6.4 wasn't overly impressive, and neither was his 73 percent success rate on stolen bases—of the 19 players who stole 30 or more bases last season, only three had success rates lower 73 percent. It wasn't much higher in the minors (75 percent), so perhaps Oliver is on to something. Either way, as a fourth fantasy outfielder, Tabata won't kill you in any category, and looks to be a plus producer in at least two.
Posted by Chris Ryan at 1:04am (8) Comments
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Earlier this winter, The Hardball Times offered prospective fantasy baseball writers the opportunity to compete in a Hardball Times fantasy league. Entrants wrote fantasy baseball articles, the best of which would be chosen as our winner. While we could only choose one winner to play in the league (congratulations, Dave Chenok), we had so many great articles that we have decided to publish some of the best. This is one of those submissions.
Thinking of drafting Elvis Andrus next year? What about Denard Span or Austin Jackson? Hitting leadoff, particularly in the American League, may not be as valuable as you think.
In 2009, AL leadoff hitters averaged over 70 RBIs. In 2010, they averaged just over 54. Some fluctuation is expected, but a league-wide drop of over 16 RBIs is unprecedented. 54 RBIs is by far the lowest average in AL in the last ten years.
* Data reflects RBIs for whoever hit leadoff each game. For example, if Ichiro Suzuki played one game hitting in the number two position and got an RBI that game, that RBI would not be included in the data because he was not batting in the leadoff spot.
So what happened? Let’s take a look at some possible explanations.
1. “Year of the pitcher”
Given that run scoring declined from 2009 to 2010, we would naturally expect a decline in RBI totals. From 2009 to 2010, the average AL team had eight percent fewer total RBIs (decrease from 746 to 686). During the same period, the average number of RBI from AL leadoff hitters plummeted 23 percent (from 70 to 54).
The “year of the pitcher” may account for some of the missing RBIs, but there is obviously more going on here.
2. Eight/Nine hitters got on base less
I'm going to make a bold statement and say that it's easier to knock runs home when batting when the hitters in front of you reach base. Let’s examine the OBP of the eighth and ninth place hitters in the AL over the last 10 years.
From 2009 to 2010, OBP dropped across the board. AL No. 8 hitters dropped from .317 to .305 (-.012); AL No. 9 hitters dropped from .305 to .295 (-.010). However, we also observe that overall AL OBP dropped from .335 to .327 (- .008)
Given that the average AL hitter saw his OBP decline by .008, we see that AL eight and nine hitters posted an OBP only slightly lower than expected. This may account for some of the drop-off in leadoff hitter RBIs, but only a small portion at best.
2010 saw significant injuries to some big name AL leadoff hitters, such as Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury. We could even throw Grady Sizemore in the mix, although none of his 128 ABs in 2010 was from the leadoff spot.
Let’s account for these injuries by estimating the RBI production of these players had they stayed healthy.
In 2010 Baltimore leadoff hitters combined for 46 RBIs. Meanwhile, Roberts has averaged about 64 RBIs over the last 3 years. Had Roberts been healthy, we can estimate he would have had 64 RBIs. Let’s add the difference (18 RBIs) to the data. In his best year (2009), Ellsbury connected for 60 RBIs in 154 games (on pace for 63). Meanwhile, Boston leadoff men knocked home 57 in 2010. Let’s add 6 RBIs to the data While we’re at it, let’s throw Grady a bone and double Cleveland’s 2010 leadoff man RBI total from 42 to 84.
What happens when we add an extra 66 RBIs (18 + 6 + 42) to the data? The average AL leadoff man RBI number increases from 54 to 59, which is still easily the lowest total in the last 10+ years.
4. Evolution of the game
So far we have seen that a variety of factors contribute slightly to the leadoff RBI drop-off. However, the most significant factor may actually be the evolution of the game. It is no secret that homerun totals are down. Managers are emphasizing speed and athleticism more, especially from the leadoff spot.
These days, we see players like Denard Span, Elvis Andrus, Ellsbury and Jackson occupying the leadoff role. Leadoff men who hit 20+ HR and 75+ RBI are becoming rare. Not long ago we had guys like Ian Kinsler and Sizemore hitting leadoff, but managers are reconstructing lineups to get these bats in the meat of the order. The NL still boasts guys like Brandon Phillips and Rickie Weeks, but would any of us be shocked to see them hit lower in the order in 2011?
So what does this mean for your fantasy team?
Leadoff batters are providing less value. Scoring 100+ runs is great, but when a player contributes just five HR and 55 RBI, he better be swiping bags left and right to make up the value. Furthermore, I was surprised to learn that of the 17 players who scored 100+ runs last season, only three were everyday leadoff hitters: Weeks, Derek Jeter, and Jackson. You don’t need leadoff hitters to be competitive in the runs scored category.
Speed has become more available. Every year there are players un-drafted in most fantasy leagues who post great SB and respectable supporting stats. The 2010 crop was no exception (Jose Tabata, Coco Crisp, Angel Pagan, Cliff Pennington, and Will Venable, to name a few). Given the growing emphasis Major League managers are placing on having speed and athleticism in the lineup, we are likely to see more of the same in 2011. You don’t need leadoff hitters to be competitive in the stolen bases category.
Leadoff hitters will certainly offer some value in 2011, but think twice before dropping $10 or a 10th round pick to grab Span or Jackson.
*All data courtesy of ESPN.com and MLB.com.
Posted by David Neumann at 5:26am (0) Comments
In many ways, our identities are really nothing more than complex narratives we create about ourselves. Often those narratives are based on imperfect recollections. See, our memories don’t exactly work like the metaphorical file cabinet most believe them to be. In fact, there’s a lot more creativity and subjectivity to the memories that inform our everyday vision of self. When George Costanza uttered the jewel, “it’s not a lie if you believe it,” we all laughed it away as the apotheosis self-delusion and the very essence of his character, but many neuroscientists would concede that he was on to something. Oh, this is a fantasy baseball column, isn’t it? Well, I’ll get there in a second.
Some of the visions we have about ourselves are more empirically verifiable than others. I could create a self-convincing story that I am quite wealthy, but this can be verified by checking my bank account, and of course I’d be confronted with my own dishonesty every time I did so. Part of my personal narrative is that I’m a fantasy baseball expert, whatever that means. Now, this is not going to be another column waxing philosophic about what it actually means to be an “expert.” I think that ground has been covered, and for today at least, I’m unconcerned with semantics. Today, I’m concerned with the empirical.
Earlier this week, I spent better part of an hour performing an exercise that should have taken me five minutes were I a good record keeper. I went back through all my fantasy sports leagues since 2004 (this date marks the beginning of my current account) and dug around to find entry fees and profits. Playing fantasy sports is often likened to playing the market; to being a good investor. So, I wanted to measure my success the way an investor does, by return on investment.
I didn’t know exactly how profitable I thought the uncompromising ledger would reveal me to be, but knowing what I know about how people tend to build their personal narratives, I figured the reality would be that I’d be a little less successful than whatever I’d settle on believing I was. I fashion myself to be pretty good at fantasy basketball and fantasy football too, to the extent one can be good at something as random as fantasy football. When I ran the numbers, I was a bit surprised.
Across all fantasy sports, I profited a total 11.8 percent over the past seven seasons. This is a tad lower than I would have guessed. In baseball alone, however, I profited 36 percent over the same time period, which strikes me as rather impressive. Now, I’m not certain how to look at these numbers as analogous to an investment in a mutual fund or something because I didn’t invest a lump sum back in 2004. So, I wouldn’t consider this an ROI in that sense, but rather the aggregated performance of a series of investment decisions made over seven years. To add another baseline for comparison, professional sports gamblers are considered very successful if they can pick winners at a rate above 54 percent or so.
I didn’t perform that exercise or chose to write this column simply to tell my readers about my fantasy performance or to try to establish my credentials. I did it to see if I would learn anything worthwhile about money and fantasy sports, or about how we construct perceptions of our success at this hobby we share. I’d like to share three thoughts resulting from this exercise.
The first thing that I found unsurprising, but worthy of mentioning, is that when you play multiple leagues for stakes, your successes, just as the performances of your players, are prone to random variation as well. I assume that many of my readers are like me in the sense that they play multiple leagues for various stakes. Personally, I have leagues that I play every season with relatively fixed stakes and then ad hoc leagues that I participate in for whatever reason as opportunities are presented to me. Among friends, the stakes may or may not be commensurate with the level of competition. In football leagues, for example, I’ve had the unfortunate luck of having more of my better seasons in leagues that happened to have been for lower stakes. These circumstances can work for or against you, and may not be particularly telling about your fantasy sports skill, but still extremely influential on your bottom line.
My second thought was brought when I tried to look at my performance to see if there were any patterns about my behavior that I wasn’t particularly aware of as well. I’m a self-professed conservative player. My highest stakes league mates will tell you that I’m the owner you have to worry about running down the title in the last weeks of the season every year, and not the owner who is prone to having explosive, break away from the pack, teams some years and cellar-dwelling gaggles of busts in others. I was curious as to whether I may have approached different stakes league with different appetites for risk. It was relieving to see that it didn’t appear that I did.
Giving this issue a bit more thought, I confirmed my gut feeling that there’s not a viable justification for approaching different stakes leagues with different risk tolerances. The value propositions of each league remain largely similar on a proportionate basis, so I think that adjusting your strategy based on the absolute dollar amounts is logically flawed. Eight to one odds are the same as 80 to 10 odds. Adjusting your risk appetite based on payout structure, however, can certainly be justifiable. On a related note, whenever I’m given the opportunity to weigh in on payout structures I try to influence more balanced payouts; this is in line with both my beliefs and my self-interest. Don’t ask me which is the cart and which is horse though, for I can’t totally be sure.
My third observation became clear when looking across my three sport performance begged the question of why I thought I performed better than I actually did. I think there are two unique factors at play here. First, my conservative always-be-competitive style leads to feel more accomplished than economically compensated, given that payouts are often quite top heavy. For example, if my basketball leagues were to end today, I’d have finished second in four out of my last five leagues without winning once. Economically, I’d have done better to win twice and bottom out three times.
Perhaps, my style of play isn’t suited to maximum payout, but maximum enjoyment and stability. It’s important to note that fantasy sports is a hobby first, as opposed to actual investing, and so the opportunity cost of the low entertainment value that comes with those bad teams you get when you take too many risks that don’t pan out is a non-trivial part of one’s value proposition when playing fantasy sports. Even the seamheads among us are not actually machines.
The other factor in the perception versus reality dynamic relates to how money comes and goes in fantasy sports. In fantasy sports you make a single bet over a long period of time and when you win, you win several times your bet. The social properties relating to the economics of a fantasy sports win are great; they’re the opposite of the practical economic impotency of quitting smoking. Let me explain.
When somebody decides to quit smoking, it’s a given that somebody else will mention to that person how much money they are poised to save. Of course, realistically, that person is most likely not going to save any money at all. When you quit smoking the economic impact happens over many, small, short term gains. The quitter will most likely just find a different way to spend those five dollars every day, or 30 or so bucks a week. Practically speaking, that money gets redistributed, not saved. (Of course, if you live in New York and are just quitting now, we’re talking real money.)
In fantasy sports, you make a substantial but not overly burdensome bet at the beginning of a season. That bet is singular and it plays out over months. By the time the payout comes you are so far removed from that bet that if you lose you’re not affected. But, if you win, you win a huge ROI out of nowhere. You’re not collecting a theoretical windfall a couple of bucks per day; you get that “I won the lottery” feeling. In terms of the economic structure of fantasy sports, I think that dynamic can’t be overstated.
Economic advisors will tell you that you shouldn’t aim to get a tax refund because theoretically you could be investing that money and making a return on it as opposed to letting the government hold it while inflation creeps up. But, so may of us set ourselves up for a return anyway because we’d rather the lump sum than have to exercise the discipline of withholding from ourselves and doing the homework required to invest wisely. Playing fantasy sports over the long haul offers a similar dynamic. Even if you come a bit short of breaking even, a slightly negative ROI can actually feel like a win if it’s distributed in a certain manner that encourages you to handle it better. And, if you’re profiting modestly, it legitimately feels like you’re deriving significant economic benefit from the endeavor.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:48am (8) Comments
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Pitchers and catchers have reported! For the next several weeks, we get to hear how every player in the league has reformed himself over the offseason. Some are reporting to camp after dropping 20 pounds and in the best shape of their lives. Others have given up their normal eating habits for more healthy choices. Some are fully recovered from injuries and itching to show that last year was a fluke, others had laser eye surgery to improve their vision.
So what does all of this really amount to? In my estimation, just a lot of random and senseless noise. While they may seem like bits of useful information, it’s the same stories that every team’s beat writers come out with every spring.
Of course every player is going to say he’s in the best shape of his life and ready and focused to have a monster year. Who’s really going to come into camp and say, “I was lazy, ate like garbage and didn’t work out the entire offseason?” Well, maybe Pedro Alvarez, but that’s another story altogether.
While these stories are nice and cute, you really shouldn’t let them play a major role in how you value players. Take last year, for example:
John Lannan reported to camp in the best shape of his life and primed for a tremendous year. What he actually did was make 25 starts with his highest career ERA and WHIP at 4.65/1.56, respectively.
Daisuke Matsuzaka reported to camp “in the best shape of his career,” and fans in Boston got to witness first-hand just how much of a train wreck he actually was.
Lance Berkman reported to Astros camp 20-25 pounds lighter in 2010. Maybe taking the “big” out of Big Puma was the reason for his abysmal .248/.368/.349 line.
Along with these examples, Oliver Perez, Aaron Harang and Russell Martin were looking fit and trim last spring, but didn’t seem to reap the rewards over the course of the season.
You can just as easily find players who reported the same things during spring last year then went on to have good years. Delmon Young, David Price, Corey Hart and many many others fit into this category.
That’s just it, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation to BSOML (best shape of my life) and on-field performance. If a player has been rehabbing and is attempting to come back from an injury, than good news about his health and what shape he’s in might be of some use. Take all of these stories—and trust me you’ll hear plenty of them in the coming weeks—with a huge grain of salt.
As far as things you should listen closely to and take seriously, here are some of my bold predictions for the 2011 season. Whether or not you agree with these or would fight them to the death is irrelevant. They are just a few things I anticipate happening this season that cause me to value certain players more than the general public.
Jose Bautista will hit 40 or more home runs again in 2011. I’ve heard numerous detractors calling his season a “fluke,” but after watching a good deal of Jays games last year, I’m a believer. His pull-happy ways play perfectly in the Rodgers Centre, he has job security for the first time in his career, and we all know that Toronto loves the long ball. The average could be a concern, hovering around .250, but I’ll more than gladly take a 40-HR third basemen in the third round.
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer will combine for at least 35 wins and 400 strikeouts. These two provide Detroit with the best 1-2 duo of any team in the league, and the scary part for opposing teams is that they’re still getting better. They’re both workhorse power arms you should target to build your staff this season.
Carlos Santana will be the best catcher in fantasy baseball at the end of the year. It looks like he’s fully recovered from his injury, and will be hitting in a premium spot in the Indians order. The sky is the limit for this kid, and I think he’ll put up a ridiculous .280 ave./80 runs/25 HR/100 RBI/10 SB. You will regret it if you pass on him.
Erik Bedard will remain healthy and toss 150-plus innings. I know that he has battled numerous injuries during his tenure in Seattle, but I think this is the year he finally avoids the DL and returns to his dominating ways.
Joel Peralta will rack up the most saves in the Tampa bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth has shown no ability to perform well when handed the ball in the ninth inning. JP Howell still isn’t completely healthy, and the organization would be better off keeping Jake McGee as a starter. This will open the door for Peralta to close games early in the season, and should he prove up to the task, he will be a nice sleeper play late in drafts.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll focus more on draft strategy and preparation. As always, your comments and questions are more than appreciated!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 5:11am (13) Comments
1. Kansas City Royals. Kansas City has a plethora of top-end impact talent and loads of depth throughout. The best system in baseball and a reason to follow America's pastime for long-suffering Royal fans.
1. Mike Moustakas / 3B
2. Eric Hosmer / 1B/OF
3. Mike Montgomery / SP
4. Wil Myers / C/OF/1B
5. Daniel Duffy / SP
6. John Lamb / SP
7. Jake Odorizzi / SP
8. Christian Colon / SS
9. Chris Dwyer / SP
10. Johnny Giavotella / 2B
2. Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa has the best one-two prospect punch around, high upside pitching, and stellar depth up and down the minor leagues. Alex Torres, Alex Cobb, and Enny Romero are the some of the pitching highlights beyond the top 10.
1. Desmond Jennings / OF
2. Jeremy Hellickson / SP
3. Jake McGee / SP/RP
4. Matthew Moore / SP/RP
5. Nick Barnese / SP
6. Chris Archer / SP
7. Justin O'Connor / C/3B/SS/2B
8. Alex Colome / SP/RP
9. Josh Sale / OF
10. Hak-Ju Lee / SS
3. Atlanta Braves. Atlanta has potential impact players lined up in their top six and oodles of supplemental low-level talent. Their development reputation has the baseball world wondering who their next set of hot shot prospects will be.
1. Julio Teheran / SP
2. Mike Minor / SP
3. Freddie Freeman / 1B
4. Randall Delgado / SP
5. Arodys Vizcaino / SP/RP
6. Craig Kimbrel / RP
7. J.J. Hoover / SP
8. Matt Lipka / SS
9. Christian Bethancourt / C
10. Andrelton Simmons / SS
4. Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto got good in a hurry. There isn't a can't-miss prospect in the bunch, but it's a strong top 10, with the top five likely to appear in my top 100 prospects, and there is plenty of talent throughout the system that is waiting for recognition.
1. Brett Lawrie / 3B/2B/OF
2. Kyle Drabek / SP
3. Deck McGuire / SP
4. J.P. Arencibia / C
5. Chad Jenkins / SP
6. Travis D'Arnaud / C
7. Carlos Perez / C
8. Adieny Hechavarria / SS
9. Zach Stewart / RP/SP
10. David Cooper / 1B
5. San Diego Padres. The Adrian Gonzalez trade gave San Diego a lift, but they had an underrated farm system to begin with. They have a legitimately good top 20 with James Darnell, Adys Portillo, Matt Lollis, and Keyvius Sampson headlining the back end.
1. Casey Kelly / SP
2. Simon Castro / SP
3. Donavan Tate / OF
4. Jaff Decker / OF
5. Reymond Fuentes / OF
6. Anthony Rizzo / 1B
7. Edinson Rincon / 3B/OF
8. Drew Cumberland / SS/2B
9. Cory Luebke / SP
10. John Barbato / SP/RP
6. Minnesota Twins. Minnesota has a well-balanced system with some high upsiders comprising the top three and plenty of future big leaguers up and down their top 30. Minnesota always seems to have bottomless depth.
1. Kyle Gibson / SP
2. Miguel Sano / 3B/SS
3. Aaron Hicks / OF
4. Alex Wimmers / SP
5. Ben Revere / OF
6. Liam Hendriks / SP
7. Adrian Salcedo / SP
8. Max Kepler-Rozycki / OF
9. Oswaldo Arcia / OF
10. David Bromberg / SP
7. Seattle Mariners. Seattle has a severely underrated system. They have five guys who will fit in my top 100, even though I am in the minority when it comes to Triunfel and Chavez, and it wouldn't be difficult to put together a respectable top 20 list, either.
1. Michael Pineda / SP
2. Nick Franklin / SS
3. Dustin Ackley / 2B
4. Carlos Triunfel / 3B/2B/SS
5. Johermyn Chavez / OF
6. Mauricio Robles / SP
7. Rich Poythress / 1B
8. James Jones / OF
9. Blake Beavan / SP
10. Alex Liddi / 3B/OF/1B
8. Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have a lot of high-upside arms to keep things interesting, and having Trout at the top of the list is a great asset. But the No. 1 reason they rank No. 8 is because of their overall depth, which is among Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota as the top four deepest systems in baseball.
1. Mike Trout / OF
2. Hank Conger / C
3. Garrett Richards / SP
4. Jean Segura / 2B/SS
5. Kaleb Cowart / 3B
6. Fabio Martinez / SP
7. Tyler Chatwood / SP/RP
8. Alexi Amarista / 2B
9. Mark Trumbo / 1B/OF
10. Cam Bedrosian / SP
9. Cleveland Indians. Cleveland lacks a superstar-level talent, but the team does have four guys who will slot into my top 100 and a good amount of depth, even though they aren't as deep as some are making them out to be.
1. Alex White / SP
2. Lonnie Chisenhall / 3B
3. Jason Knapp / SP/RP
4. Drew Pomeranz / SP
5. Jason Kipnis / 2B/OF
6. Nick Weglarz / OF
7. Chun-Hsiu Chen / C
8. LeVon Washington / OF
9. T.J. House / SP
10. Hector Rondon / SP/RP
10. Colorado Rockies. Colorado has a great one-two pitching punch and brought together an underrated 2010 draft. They have solid depth throughout and a number of guys poised for breakout seasons.
1. Christian Friedrich / SP
2. Tyler Matzek / SP
3. Wilin Rosario / C
4. Nolan Arenado / 3B
5. Chad Bettis / SP/RP
6. Peter Tago / SP
7. Juan Nicasio / SP
8. Kyle Parker / OF
9. Rex Brothers / RP
10. Albert Campos / SP
11. Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati has a potential superstar at the top, but appear to have only six guys who will fit in my top 200, and the depth really seems to run out after the top 15.
1. Aroldis Chapman / SP/RP
2. Devin Mesoraco / C
3. Yasmani Grandal / C
4. Yonder Alonso / 1B/OF
5. Yorman Rodriguez / OF
6. Billy Hamilton / 2B/SS
7. Kyle Lotzkar / SP/RP
8. Cody Puckett / 2B
9. Todd Frazier / OF/3B/1B
10. Juan Francisco / 3B
12. Philadelphia Phillies. Philadelphia's system looks light years better than it did last year thanks to the emergence of Singleton and their top three pitchers. But the talent falls off a bit after the top five and really tails off after the top 15.
1. Domonic Brown / OF
2. Jonathan Singleton / OF/1B
3. Jarred Cosart / SP
4. Trevor May / SP
5. Brody Colvin / SP
6. Vance Worley / SP
7. Sebastian Valle / C
8. J.C. Ramirez / SP
9. Jesse Biddle / SP
10. Domingo Santana / OF
13. Texas Rangers. The Texas prospect trough has dried up considerably since last year, yet there is talent enough for a solid top 20 list and plenty of time for their young arms and Profar to shine.
1. Martin Perez / SP
2. Tanner Scheppers / RP/SP
3. Jurickson Profar / SS
4. Robert Erlin / SP
5. Robbie Ross / SP
6. Neil Ramirez / SP
7. Kellin Deglan / C
8. Jake Skole / OF
9. Michael Olt / 3B
10. Luis Sardinas / SS
14. New York Yankees. I'm not as high on Betances and Brackman as others are, but Montero is the top prospect in baseball and capable of lifting any farm system. They had a weak 2010 draft, meaning the talent really drops off after the top 15.
1. Jesus Montero / C/OF/1B
2. Manuel Banuelos / SP
3. Dellin Betances / SP/RP
4. Gary Sanchez / C
5. Andrew Brackman / SP/RP
6. Austin Romine / C
7. Cito Culver / SS
8. Brandon Laird / OF/3B
9. Adam Warren / SP
10. Slade Heathcott / OF
15. Washington Nationals. Washington's system goes downhill quickly after the top 10, and the pitching is thin and unproven, but Espinosa, Norris, and the crown jewel, Harper, make this system shine.
1. Bryce Harper / OF
2. Danny Espinosa / 2B/SS
3. Derek Norris / C
4. A.J. Cole / SP
5. Wilson Ramos / C
6. J.P. Ramirez / OF
7. Corey Brown / OF
8. Eury Perez / OF
9. Sammy Solis / SP
10. Chris Marrero / 1B
16. Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh's best asset is the amount of high-upside pitching they possess. They have a strong top eight and then drop off, and it would be difficult finding guys to slot into the final few slots of a top-20 list. They seemed to have had more overall depth last year.
1. Jameson Taillon / SP
2. Tony Sanchez / C
3. Stetson Allie / SP
4. Rudy Owens / SP
5. Luis Heredia / SP
6. Jeff Locke / SP
7. Andrew Lambo / OF
8. Robbie Grossman / OF
9. Justin Wilson / SP/RP
10. Chase D'Arnaud / SS
17. St. Louis Cardinals. Miller is a great young man to have at the top, but the talent dips after the top five and takes a bigger dip after the top 15 or so. It's a decent system, but there is a lot of work to be done.
1. Shelby Miller / SP
2. Zack Cox / 3B/2B
3. Carlos Matias / SP
4. Oscar Taveras / OF
5. Tyrell Jenkins / SP
6. Eduardo Sanchez / RP
7. Lance Lynn / SP
8. Matt Carpenter / 3B
9. Deryk Hooker / SP/RP
10. Seth Blair / SP/RP
18. Boston Red Sox. The Adrian Gonzalez trade hurts the top of Boston's system, but they have good depth. A top-20 list would be an easy task. The lack of a standout prospect hurts their ranking.
1. Kolbrin Vitek / 3B/2B/OF
2. Lars Anderson / 1B
3. Jose Iglesias / SS
4. Bryce Brentz / OF
5. Anthony Ranaudo / SP/RP
6. Oscar Tejeda / 2B
7. Stolmy Pimentel / SP
8. Chris Balcom-Miller / SP
9. Drake Britton / SP
10. Josh Reddick / OF
19. Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are more talented than this ranking suggests, but they had a disappointing 2010 from a numbers standpoint. Like Boston, they have good depth but lack a standout prospect.
1. Dee Gordon / SS
2. Rubby De La Rosa/ SP/RP
3. Zach Lee / SP
4. Aaron Miller / SP/RP
5. Chris Withrow / SP
6. Kenley Jansen / RP
7. Allen Webster / SP
8. Jerry Sands / 1B/OF
9. Scott Elbert / RP/SP
10. Garrett Gould / SP
20. Arizona Diamondbacks. If Parker picks up where he left off, this system will get a considerable boost. It looks like they will have nine guys in my top 200 list, and I could comfortably put together a respectable top 20 for this system. It's the lack of top-100 talent that hinders this group.
1. Jarrod Parker / SP
2. Tyler Skaggs / SP
3. Wade Miley / SP
4. Bobby Borchering / 3B/1B
5. Pat Corbin / SP
6. Matt Davidson / 3B/OF/1B
7. Charles Brewer / SP
8. Chris Owings / SS/2B
9. Marc Krauss / OF
10. A.J. Pollock / OF
21. Oakland Athletics. Helping Oakland's case is their top four, all top 100 prospects. Just about everything beyond that is hurting this team. They may have the weakest pitching in all of minor league baseball.
1. Michael Choice / OF
2. Grant Green / SS
3. Chris Carter / 1B/OF
4. Jemile Weeks / 2B
5. Ian Krol / SP
6. Max Stassi / C
7. Josh Donaldson / C
8. Adrian Cardenas / 2B
9. Michael Taylor / OF
10. Eric Sogard / 2B
22. Detroit Tigers. Turner is a great talent to have at the top, and their top five rounds out nicely, but the rest of this system leaves a lot to be desired.
1. Jacob Turner / SP
2. Andrew Oliver / SP
3. Nick Castellanos / 3B
4. Charles Furbush / SP
5. Casey Crosby / SP/RP
6. Daniel Schlereth / RP
7. Brayan Villarreal / SP/RP
8. Daniel Fields / OF
9. Adam Wilk / SP/RP
10. Francisco Martinez / 3B
23. Houston Astros. Lyles is a respectable No. 1 who heads up a respectable top nine. After the first nine, this system falls off a cliff. I find it hard to justify a top-15 list for this group.
1. Jordan Lyles / SP
2. Jiovanni Mier / SS
3. Delino DeShields / 2B/OF
4. Mike Foltynewicz / SP
5. Tanner Bushue / SP
6. Jonathan Villar / SS/3B/2B
7. Jimmy Paredes / 2B
8. Austin Wates / OF
9. J.D. Martinez / OF
10. Jay Austin / OF
24. New York Mets. The Mets have a good amount of high-upside talent on their side and a strong No. 1 to lean on, but I was disappointed with their 2010 draft, and they only have one player in my top 100.
1. Wilmer Flores / 3B/SS
2. Reese Havens / 2B/3B/SS
3. Aderlin Rodriguez / 3B
4. Matt Harvey / RP/SP
5. Brad Emaus / 2B/3B/OF
6. Cesar Puello / OF
7. Cory Vaughn / OF
8. Jeurys Familia / SP/RP
9. Dillon Gee / SP
10. Kirk Nieuwenhuis / OF
25. Chicago Cubs. I'm not as high on Brett Jackson and McNutt as most are. The Cubs' system is built on the reputation of those two right now. This system sees a talent dip after the top seven, but a decent top 15 could be pieced together thanks to some high-upside arms in the lower levels.
1. Brett Jackson / OF
2. Trey McNutt / SP
3. Jay Jackson / SP/RP
4. Hayden Simpson / SP
5. Josh Vitters / 3B
6. Michael Burgess / OF
7. Chris Carpenter / RP/SP
8. DJ LeMahieu / 2B
9. Reggie Golden / OF
10. Austin Reed / SP/RP
26. San Francisco Giants. It appears that only Wheeler will fit in my top 100, and, yes, that does account for Belt, who I am far from sold on. It also appears that San Francisco only has three players who will appear in my top 200, despite having some low-level depth to work with.
1. Zack Wheeler / SP
2. Brandon Belt / 1B
3. Gary Brown / OF
4. Eric Surkamp / SP
5. Jorge Bucardo / RP/SP
6. Thomas Joseph / C/1B
7. Ehire Adrianza / SS
8. Rafael Rodriguez / OF
9. Thomas Neal / OF
10. Francisco Peguero / OF
27. Baltimore Orioles. With Baltimore you have Machado, Britton, and everyone else. I could scrape together a top 15, but this team doesn't deserve much more than that at this point.
1. Manny Machado / 3B/SS
2. Zach Britton / SP
3. Matt Hobgood / SP
4. Xavier Avery / OF
5. Ryan Adams / 2B
6. Joe Mahoney / 1B
7. Mychal Givens / SS/3B/2B
8. Ryan Berry / SP/RP
9. Brandon Erbe / RP/SP
10. LJ Hoes / 2B
28. Chicago White Sox. Sale is the only player keeping this system afloat. Escobar should fit into my top 200. Flowers might. You could make a case that this is the thinnest system in baseball.
1. Chris Sale / SP/RP
2. Eduardo Escobar / SS
3. Tyler Flowers / C/1B/OF
4. Brent Morel / 3B
5. Jared Mitchell / OF
6. Andre Rienzo / SP/RP
7. Addison Reed / SP/RP
8. Josh Phegley / C
9. Brandon Short / OF
10. Jacob Petricka / RP/SP
29. Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee will have no one in my top 100 after off-season trades pillaged their finer pieces, but they still have some depth that could surprise. I could piece together a top 20 thanks to some mildly intriguing low-level talent.
1. Mark Rogers / SP/RP
2. Caleb Gindl / OF
3. Kyle Heckathorn / SP
4. Wily Peralta / SP
5. Cody Scarpetta / SP/RP
6. Kentrail Davis / OF
7. Amaury Rivas / SP
8. Cutter Dykstra / 3B/2B/OF
9. Scooter Gennett / 2B
10. Logan Schafer / OF
30. Florida Marlins. James is the only one who has a shot at my top 100 list, and there is little left beyond their top 10. Milwaukee's superior low-end talent solidifies Florida's spot as the worst system in baseball.
1. Chad James / SP
2. Brad Hand / SP
3. Matt Dominguez / 3B
4. Kyle Skipworth / C
5. Osvaldo Martinez / 2B/SS
6. Marcell Ozuna / OF
7. Rob Rasmussen / SP/RP
8. Christian Yelich / OF/1B
9. Jhan Marinez / RP
10. Tom Koehler / SP
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:13am (10) Comments
Friday, February 18, 2011
Earlier this winter, The Hardball Times offered prospective fantasy baseball writers the opportunity to compete in a Hardball Times fantasy league. Entrants wrote fantasy baseball articles, the best of which would be chosen as our winner. While we could only choose one winner to play in the league (congratulations, Dave Chenok), we had so many great articles that we have decided to publish some of the best. This is the final one of those submissions.
Last season, Carlos Gonzalez delivered on the promise he showed in 2009, and led a lot of make-believe teams to championship glory. Fresh off a batting title and the major leagues' only 30/20 season, CarGo (will be a popular first-round draft choice in 2011. If you managed to acquire him in a keeper league, you’re surely the envy of your competitors—but you may want to consider selling high.
Regardless of your league’s keeper rules and format, it is understandably difficult to give up on a 24-year-old center field-eligible player coming off a season that garnered him MVP consideration, even knowing the king’s ransom that many owners would gladly pay. There are several red flags surrounding Gonzalez’s breakout year, however.
First, consider the type of hitter Gonzalez is. There’s no disputing his ability to drive the ball or his speed on the basepaths, but his plate discipline leaves much to be desired. Gonzalez walked in only 6.3 percent of his plate appearances, and when you remove intentional passes, that figure drops to 5 percent, well below the 8 percent major league average. Only 14 players swung at more pitches outside the zone in 2010. Of the last 30 NL batting champions, only Freddy Sanchez had a lower spread between his batting average and on-base percentage than CarGo’s 40 points.
This free-swinging approach leaves Gonzalez vulnerable to poor luck on balls in play. His BABIP last season was .384, trailing only Austin Jackson and AL batting champ Josh Hamilton. Using Chris Dutton’s xBABIP calculator, Gonzalez’s figure “should” have settled in at around .350, reducing his .336/.376/.598 slash line to approximately .311/.352/.564*. While still a fantastic showing for a fantasy center fielder, a 60-point drop in OPS is nothing to sneeze at.
Of course, we know that hitters have a degree of control over their BABIP, especially those blessed with speed like CarGo’s. The possibility of him sustaining a mark that high exists, however remote it may be. But what about his career best marks in isolated power and homer-per-fly ball percentage? Addressing that concern is trickier. Gonzalez’s minor league numbers suggest that his power may be in line for regression, and HitTracker data would seem to support this conclusion: 13 of his 34 home runs were classified as “just enough.” However, keep in mind that at this stage of their careers, many hitters have experienced leaps in power that proved sustainable.
Aiding in the power process is Gonzalez’s home park, Coors Field. Its effect is well known, and all caveats about using home/road splits as an analytical tool aside, the results to this point cannot be ignored. Outside of Denver, Gonzalez has posted significantly less impressive, if still above-average, offensive numbers. The 386-point difference between his home and road OPS was by far the highest in baseball.
Is this paranoia? Is this nitpicking? Is this looking a gift horse in the mouth? The answer is probably yes to all three. But as Pablo Sandoval taught us yet again in 2010, there’s a dark and tragic side to any free swinger.
*difference in slugging percentage calculated by multiplying difference between actual and expected hits by total bases per hit in 2010, with home runs removed from both.
Posted by Kyle Bishop at 4:30am (6) Comments
About three months ago, I undertook the task of ranking players by position for the 2011 season. Now that many moves have been made by many teams in the offseason since I began ranking the players, I'll update the lists and give some additional insight.
Remember, rankings are about argument, logic and belief. Projections are volatile and perceived value is subjective. Do not be a rankings slave. Rankings are less valuable for the index than they are for the reasons behind the index. As I always try to point out, if you disagree and have a good reason, then you should adjust your own rankings accordingly. My word is not gospel and I do not claim it to be. .
Here's my methodology behind the rankings:
Players are ranked based on their beginning of season player eligibility and other eligibility a player is expected to gain at the beginning of the season'; e.g., Gordon Beckham's second base eligibility last season. Eligibility is determined under Yahoo's default standards. The rules of eligibility for Yahoo fantasy leagues are as follows:
The following conditions apply to a player's position eligibility:
ESPN imposes a more rigorous default position eligibility standard; e.g., 20 games played at the position last season, 10 games played in the present season), so you may have to do additional research if you play ESPN fantasy to verify that players listed in these articles are in fact "position eligible" in your league.
The rankings below are based on 5x5 standard Roto leagues with one catcher, five outfielders, and one middle and corner infield position. These rankings are not based on real-life value, but fantasy value. Hence, guys like Juan Pierre will have value. The projections listed below are courtesy of Brian Cartwright's Oliver projection system. Brian updated the Oliver projection system, some significantly, after I had begun ranking players, but these are the original Oliver forecasts. For the most up-to-date Oliver projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here
My rankings, however, are not exclusively based on Oliver's projections. I have also used other sources, such as my xBABIP-adjusted batting lines spreadsheet, Bill James and ZiPS projections (to the extent available), my own xWHIP and xERA calculations (sorry, xERA is not in calculator form, but you can learn the methodology by clicking here or here), to determine my own perception of a player's total expected production.
The rankings here are not exclusively based on total production by category, but determined in light of balance in production by category (the logic of which is explained in my outfielder rankings), a player's expected playing time and health (for example, I expect 100 or so IP from Jake Peavy, 220 innings from Zack Greinke, and considerably less from Rich Harden; perceived health risks have been starred), and the relative scarcity and volatility of production by category.
Top 20 fantasy catchers for 2011
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash 2011 1 Joe Mauer* Twins .331/.411/.493 2 Brian McCann Braves .279/.364/.481 3 Carlos Santana* Indians .267/.378/.479 4 Victor Martinez Tigers .278/.342/.426 5 Buster Posey Giants .300/.376/.480 6 Geovany Soto* Cubs .249/.348/.443 7 Mike Napoli Rangers .257/.338/.507 8 Miguel Montero* Diamondbacks .265/.332/.431 9 Matt Wieters Orioles .272/.345/.419 10 Jorge Posada* Yankees .240/.324/.405 11 Russell Martin* Yankees .253/.353/.347 12 Kurt Suzuki* Athletics .261/.317/.392 13 J.P. Arencibia Blue Jays .221/.261/.407 14 Chris Iannetta Rockies .237/.346/.445 15 Jesus Montero Yankees .289/.341/.509 16 Yadier Molina Cardinals .270/.335/.351 17 John Jaso Rays .259/.351/.375 18 Ryan Doumit* Pirates .253/.314/.403 19 Rod Barajas Dodgers .246/.287/.412 20 Carlos Ruiz Phillies .264/.355/.390
Notes: Russell Martin's signing with the Yankees puts Jesus Montero's short-term role (and value) in question. Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira and Martin have the DH, first base and catcher spots locked up at the moment, so I have bumped Montero down from No. 11 to No. 15. Still, neither Posada or Martin is a model of health, so Montero might find himself in the Yankees lineup this year if and when either goes to the DL. Miguel Olivo, originally a deep draft power-source play, signed with the Mariners and has been bumped off this list. Long live Chooch, the new No. 20. I also moved Martin up a few spots and Kurt Suzuki has been bumped down from No. 7 to No. 12 in light of his underwhelming stolen base expectations by every projection system. The change in park for Mike Napoli to the Rogers Centre in Toronto would have been nice, but the subsequent change to the Rangers, even if it does not limit Napoli's playing time, does not do much for his fantasy value compared to Angels Stadium.
Top 20 fantasy first basemen For 2011
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 Albert Pujols Cardinals .319/.423/.616 2 Miguel Cabrera Tigers .311/.389/.579 3 Adrian Gonzalez Padres .290/.391/.536 4 Joey Votto Reds .301/.395/.535 5 Prince Fielder Brewers .278/.391/.524 6 Ryan Howard Phillies .263/.342/.516 7 Mark Teixeira Yankees .275/.370/.496 8 Kevin Youkilis Red Sox .289/.384/.513 9 Justin Morneau* Twins .293/.375/.523 10 Adam Dunn White Sox .251/.369/.508 11 Kendry Morales* Angels .289/.335/.510 12 Mark Reynolds Orioles .230/.328/.488 13 Carlos Pena Cubs .214/.336/.444 14 Billy Butler Royals .297/.365/.467 15 Paul Konerko White Sox .266/.345/.455 16 Buster Posey Giants .300/.376/.480 17 Freddie Freeman Braves .286/.345/.483 18 Luke Scott Orioles .252/.331/.454 19 Mike Napoli Angels .257/.338/.507 20 Ike Davis Mets .260/.335/.441
Notes: Adrian Gonzalez got a big bump, from No. 6 to No. 3 overall for the position. Gonzalez, now a Red Sox, is also a top 12 fantasy option in terms of total value for 2011. I still would not recommend drafting him, however, because first base remains the deepest position in baseball. I was able to get Carlos Pena, who moved up a spot or two on this list after signing with the Cubs, in Round 12 in a recent experts mock draft on Mock Draft Central. Derrek Lee has also been bumped for Ike Davis, who, with Freddie Freeman (new addition), moves Russell Branyan and Aubrey Huff off of the top 20 list.
I also added Mark Reynolds, who I originally forgot had first base eligibility this season. It took almost a year and a half, but enough people showing me enough stats have finally convinced me that Kendry Morales is, at the very least, a better version of Billy Butler. Accordingly, I have bumped him up a few slots. I also forgot about Luke Scott the first time around (19 games played at first) and he has been added to this list. Lance Berkman, now an outfielder, was bumped off the top 20 because I doubt his knees will hold up to warrant the rebound risk.
Top 20 fantasy second basemen for 2011
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 Chase Utley* Phillies .271/.369/.468 2 Ian Kinsler* Rangers .266/.343/.439 3 Robinson Cano Yankees .296/.340/.466 4 Dustin Pedroia* Red Sox .284/.355/.441 5 Brandon Phillips Reds .257/.311/.398 6 Dan Uggla Braves .261/.349/.483 7 Gordon Beckham White Sox .280/.351/.455 8 Rickie Weeks* Brewers .263/.353/.456 9 Martin Prado* Braves .290/.341/.437 10 Ben Zobrist Rays .256/.361/.418 11 Aaron Hill Blue Jays .241/.296/.409 12 Kelly Johnson Diamondbacks .257/.336/.430 13 Brian Roberts Orioles .274/.349/.408 14 Dustin Ackley Mariners .287/.378/.435 15 Neil Walker Pirates .251/.301/.422 16 Chone Figgins Mariners .263/.353/.320 17 Mike Aviles Royals .276/.307/.398 18 Ryan Raburn Tigers .270/.333/.465 19 Howie Kendrick Angels .280/.318/.414 20 Eric Young Jr. Rockies .238/.316/.313
Notes: Chase Utley remains my No. 1 second baseman and is going in the middle of the second round according to Mock Draft Central's ADP listing. If you have a late first round pick, he should be your target—even over Robinson Cano. Dustin Ackley's role at the open of the season remains unknown, but I want to remind everyone that once this kid is called up, he has top 5-10 potential for the position. I'm also falling more and more in love with Rickie Weeks. I've slotted him as No. 8 second baseman, ahead of Martin Prado, Aaron Hill, and Ben Zobrist. Even though he is now ranked a spot or two lower, I still like Aaron Hill as a sleeper for 2011. I also tinkered a bit with the bottom four.
Top 20 fantasy shortstops for 2011
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 Hanley Ramirez Marlins .307/.383/.518 2 Troy Tulowitzki Rockies .275/.354/.488 3 Jose Reyes* Mets .278/.330/.426 4 Derek Jeter Yankees .278/.344/.376 5 Alexei Ramirez White Sox .272/.311/.399 6 Jimmy Rollins* Phillies .239/.301/.377 7 Stephen Drew Diamondbacks .261/.324/.427 8 Asdrubal Cabrera Indians .281/.339/.390 9 Starlin Castro Cubs .303/.342/.420 10 Rafael Furcal* Dodgers .275/.344/.399 11 Elvis Andrus Rangers .277/.344/.352 12 Mike Aviles* Royals .276/.307/.398 13 Danny Espinosa Nationals .241/.312/.403 14 Ian Desmond Nationals .261/.312/.399 15 Erick Aybar* Angels .267/.314/.358 16 Cliff Pennington Athletics .237/.322/.328 17 Miguel Tejada Giants .268/.302/.378 18 Alcides Escobar Royals .267/.310/.357 19 J.J. Hardy* Orioles .251/.313/.395 20 Jhonny Peralta Tigers .256/.315/.408
Notes: No change (or at least I don't think I made any changes...).
Top 20 fantasy third basemen for 2011
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 David Wright Mets .291/.371/.491 2 Evan Longoria Rays .286/.364/.532 3 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals .294/.366/.509 4 Alex Rodriguez* Yankees .267/.357/.479 5 Kevin Youkilis Red Sox .290/.383/.521 6 Adrian Beltre Rangers .276/.323/.449 7 Jose Bautista Blue Jays .239/.347/.478 8 Pablo Sandoval Giants .305/.357/.506 9 Aramis Ramirez* Cubs .259/.327/.446 10 Mark Reynolds Orioles .222/.323/.479 11 Martin Prado* Braves .290/.341/.437 12 Pedro Alvarez Pirates .245/.330/.460 13 Juan Francisco Red .273/.308/.513 14 Michael Young Rangers .277/.328/.419 15 Ian Stewart Rockies .234/.321/.441 16 Casey McGehee Brewers .273/.325/.426 17 David Freese Cardinals .262/.322/.413 18 Chase Headly Padres .264/.333/.403 19 Michael Cuddyer Twins .270/.340/.449 20 Chipper Jones* Braves .263/.373/.415
Notes: Because Adrian Beltre re-signed with the Rangers (+14 percent home run index for right-handed batters, +11 percent run index) after leaving the Red Sox (-7 percent home run index for right-handed batters, +8 percent run index), his index remains stable, though his value might slightly increase. Jose Bautista, an extreme right-handed pull hitter, is still slotted to bat out of the middle of the lineup for the Blue Jays, whose home park boasts a three year +16 percent home run index for right-handed hitters. Yeah, he's going to hit at least 30 this year. You might also make a good argument that Michael Young should be rated above Reynolds. Still, as I noted in my third base rankings, Reynolds is an underrated third base option. I also bumped Pablo Sandoval a up past Aramis Ramirez. Juan Francisco's ranking assumes 550+ PA. If he's not in the lineup regularly, he's not worth the pick. Also, you are going to want to avoid Francisco like the plague in OBP league -- he's essentially Mike Jacobs with third base eligibility. Mike Moustakas could get the June call up (yes, yes, I raved otherwise all offseason, but for some reason thought that Moustakas was 2 years younger than he actually is, though 23 could still be young enough for the Royals to delay his call up a full season to save service time...) and I have him paired with Chipper Jones, which may result in top 10 production combined (Chipper is so low on the list only because of health concerns, but he can stay healthy for two months...right?)
Top 20 fantasy middle infielders for 2011 (ignoring the top 12 second basemen and shortstops)
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 Brian Roberts* Orioles .274/.349/.408 2 Dustin Ackley Mariners .287/.378/.435 3 Neil Walker Pirates .251/.301/.422 4 Chone Figgins Mariners .263/.353/.320 5 Mike Aviles* Royals .276/.307/.398 6 Ryan Raburn Tigers .270/.333/.465 7 Danny Espinosa Nationals .241/.312/.403 8 Ian Desmond Nationals .261/.312/.399 9 Howie Kendrick Angels .280/.318/.414 10 Eric Young Jr. Rockies .238/.316/.313 11 Erick Aybar* Angels .267/.314/.358 12 Cliff Pennington Athletics .237/.322/.328 13 Miguel Tejada Giants .268/.302/.378 14 Alcides Escobar Royals .267/.310/.357 15 J.J. Hardy* Orioles .251/.313/.395 16 Jhonny Peralta Tigers .256/.315/.408 17 Yunel Escobar Blue Jays .273/.245/.374 18 Sean Rodriguez Rays .250/.324/.459 19 Juan Uribe Dodgers .258/.308/.432 20 Marco Scutaro Red Sox .256/.315/.408
Notes: Players No. 6-10 have changed order and Reid Brignac has been dropped for Sean Rodriguez.
Top 20 fantasy corner infielders for 2011 (ignoring the top 12 first and third basemen)
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 Billy Butler Royals .297/.365/.467 2 Pedro Alvarez Pirates .245/.330/.460 3 Paul Konerko White Sox .266/.345/.455 4 Michael Young Rangers .277/.328/.419 5 Ian Stewart Rockies .234/.321/.441 6 Buster Posey Giants .300/.376/.480 7 Freddie Freeman Braves .286/.345/.483 8 Luke Scott Orioles .252/.331/.454 9 Mike Napoli Rangers .257/.338/.507 10 Casey McGehee Brewers .273/.325/.426 11 Ike Davis Mets .260/.335/.441 12 Aubrey Huff Giants .265/.339/.448 13 Gaby Sanchez Marlins .271/.336/.437 14 Russell Branyan* Diamondbacks .248/.330/.484 15 David Freese Cardinals .262/.322/.413 16 Derrek Lee Cubs .257/.339/.421 17 Lance Berkman* Cardinals .262/.374/.443 18 Chase Headly Padres .264/.333/.403 19 Michael Cuddyer Twins .270/.340/.449 20 Chipper Jones* Braves .263/.373/.415
Notes: I can't even begin to tell you how and why I shuffled this list around. Assuming he's not platooned into oblivion Russell Branyan should be a great source of cheap power. Just missing the cut here are Scott Rolen and Chris Carter.
Top 60 fantasy outfielders for 2011
Rank Player Team Oliver Slash (2011) 1 Ryan Braun Brewers .307/.367/.533 2 Matt Holliday Cardinals .301/.380/.500 3 Josh Hamilton* Rangers .301/.360/.501 4 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies .288/.340/.508 5 Carl Crawford Red Sox .287/.341/.426 6 Matt Kemp Dodgers .270/.328/.454 7 Jason Heyward Braves .308/.393/.539 8 Justin Upton Diamondbacks .291/.372/.536 9 Nelson Cruz* Rangers .272/.341/.504 10 Shin-Soo Choo Indians .294/.387/.480 11 Andrew McCutchen Pirates .277/.357/.448 12 Alex Rios White Sox .265/.313/.408 13 Jayson Werth* Nationals .261/.361/.460 14 Ichiro Suzuki Mariners .309/.351/.392 15 Jay Bruce Reds .265/.336/.486 16 Mike Stanton Marlins .283/.359/.623 17 Jacoby Ellsbury* Red Sox .266/.324/.359 18 Hunter Pence Astros .270/.324/.445 19 Drew Stubbs Reds .232/.306/.354 20 Andre Ethier Dodgers .278/.356/.485 21 Torii Hunter Angels .273/.346/.441 22 Domonic Brown Phillies .271/.336/.449 23 B.J. Upton Rays .244/.338/.394 24 Chris Young Diamondbacks .238/.320/.420 25 Colby Rasmus Cardinals .259/.338/.467 26 Curtis Granderson* Yankees .246/.324/.433 27 Jose Bautista Blue Jays .239/.347/.478 28 Grady Sizemore* Indians .250/.342/.453 29 Manny Ramirez* Rays .272/.371/.463 30 Nick Markakis Orioles .280/.358/.424 31 Brett Gardner Yankees .256/.353/.345 32 Carlos Beltran* Mets .278/.362/.447 33 Shane Victorino Phillies .267/.332/.413 34 Vladimir Guerrero Rangers .284/.332/.449 35 Desmond Jennings Rays .261/.335/.382 36 Jason Bay Mets .254/.352/.457 37 Adam Jones Orioles .271/.318/.429 38 Bobby Abreu Angels .257/.348/.404 39 Vernon Wells Angels .272/.324/.446 40 Jose Tabata Pirates .298/.351/.422 41 Corey Hart Brewers .271/.327/.463 42 Ben Zobrist Rays .256/.361/.418 43 Juan Pierre White Sox .273/.329/.323 44 Carlos Quentin* White Sox .252/.339/.480 45 Angel Pagan Mets .278/.331/.417 46 Delmon Young Twins .292/.330/.464 47 Michael Bourn Astros .254/.325/.331 48 Travis Snider Blue Jays .263/.329/.470 49 Lance Berkman* Cardinals .262/.374/.443 50 Luke Scott Orioles .252/.331/.454 51 Nick Swisher Yankees .249/.346/.443 52 Coco Crisp Athletics .268/.338/.401 53 Logan Morrison Marlins .286/.376/.452 54 Hideki Matsui Athletics .253/.339/.412 55 J.D. Drew Red Sox .243/.350/.423 56 Aubrey Huff Giants .265/.339/.448 57 Michael Cuddyer Twins .270/.340/.449 58 Matt Joyce Rays .240/.340/.445 59 Rajai Davis Blue Jays .275/.316/.374 60 Carlos Lee Astros .259/.305/.412
Notes: A few changes in the upper tier: Jason Heyward has jumped from No. 12 to No. 7 on my list, leapfrogging Justin Upton. While it was hard to rank Heyward (.300/25/15/100+/100+ is my expected line) ahead of Upton (expecting .290/25-30/15-20/100+/100+ production, plus he calls Chase Field his home), Heyward's ceiling is arguably better and he's just still just 21. Did you know Heyward walked more than 90 times in his rookie season?
I also flip-flopped Andrew McCutchen and Alex Rios on this list. Their values are very close, though Rios arguably has better power upside; again, tie goes to the younger player. The most notable change to this list, as evidenced by the volume of comments on the original outfielder rankings, might be moving up Delmon Young from No. 53 to No. 46, one spot behind Angel Pagan. I still do not think that Young hits even 25 home runs this year, but if he comes close and hits .280 or higher, he will be more valuable than I initially credited him.
Oh, and I bumped both Jacoby Ellsbury and Hunter Pence up a few slots. I also had to bump Desmond Jennings' ranking down with the Rays' recent signing of Johnny Damon. (Reports indicate that Jennings will start the season at Triple-A, but I expect him to get a May call-up). Jennings should remain a prime target for keeper leagues. Vernon Wells was also bumped down several slots due to a change in park.
Top 100 fantasy starting pitchers for 2011
Rank Name Team oERA oWHIP oK/9 1 Tim Lincecum Giants 3.27 1.21 10.0 2 Roy Halladay Phillies 3.32 1.13 7.2 3 Felix Hernandez Mariners 3.35 1.23 7.7 4 Josh Johnson Marlins 3.40 1.22 7.9 5 Cliff Lee Phillies 3.34 1.15 6.9 6 C.C. Sabathia Yankees 3.59 1.24 7.4 7 Jon Lester Red Sox 3.74 1.25 8.6 8 Dan Haren Angels 3.68 1.19 8.3 9 Zack Greinke Brewers 3.49 1.21 8.3 10 Justin Verlander Tigers 3.67 1.28 8.8 11 Chris Carpenter Cardinals 3.49 1.20 6.5 12 Francisco Liriano Twins 4.18 1.37 8.4 13 Cole Hamels Phillies 3.78 1.23 8.1 14 Max Scherzer Tigers 3.77 1.27 9.0 15 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 3.33 1.26 9.2 16 Mat Latos Padres 3.37 1.18 8.4 17 Jered Weaver Angels 3.77 1.25 8.3 18 Tommy Hanson Braves 3.41 1.19 8.3 19 Ubaldo Jimenez Rockies 3.35 1.25 8.5 20 Yovani Gallardo Brewers 3.93 1.36 9.1 21 Roy Oswalt Phillies 3.56 1.20 7.2 22 Ricky Nolasco Marlins 4.09 1.26 7.9 23 Jeremy Hellickson Rays 3.72 1.22 8.5 24 Shaun Marcum Brewers 3.82 1.24 7.0 25 Chad Billingsley Dodgers 3.94 1.35 7.9 26 David Price Rays 3.86 1.32 7.6 27 Hiroki Kuroda Dodgers 3.64 1.24 6.2 28 Colby Lewis Rangers 3.33 1.16 8.4 29 Brett Anderson Athletics 3.87 1.27 7.1 30 Madison Bumgarner Giants 3.51 1.21 6.9 31 Ted Lilly Dodgers 3.67 1.18 7.4 32 Jhoulys Chacin Rockies 3.60 1.27 8.0 33 Wandy Rodriguez Astros 4.00 1.33 7.6 34 Josh Beckett Red Sox 4.26 1.31 7.9 35 Phil Hughes Yankees 3.87 1.29 7.7 36 Daniel Hudson Diamondbacks 3.94 1.26 8.4 37 Matt Cain Giants 3.78 1.27 7.4 38 Ian Kennedy Diamondbacks 3.92 1.29 7.7 39 Ryan Dempster Cubs 4.02 1.34 7.7 40 Gavin Floyd White Sox 4.07 1.33 6.8 41 Jaime Garcia Cardinals 3.86 1.34 7.3 42 Michael Pineda Mariners 3.81 1.23 7.4 43 Mike Minor Braves 5.49 1.55 7.9 44 Brandon Webb* Rangers 3.86 1.31 6.8 45 Ricky Romero Blue Jays 4.59 1.49 6.7 46 Tim Hudson Braves 3.92 1.32 5.4 47 Jordan Zimmerman Nationals 4.20 1.32 7.7 48 Gio Gonzalez Athletics 4.40 1.46 8.4 49 Travis Wood Reds 3.69 1.27 7.3 50 John Danks White Sox 3.79 1.29 6.8 51 Matt Garza Cubs 4.15 1.33 6.9 52 Clay Buchholz Red Sox 3.78 1.32 6.8 53 Scott Baker Twins 4.37 1.32 7.2 54 Brian Matusz Orioles 3.89 1.29 7.9 55 Marc Rzepczynski Blue Jays 4.40 1.44 7.8 56 Trevor Cahill Athletics 4.00 1.31 5.9 57 C.J. Wilson Rangers 3.91 1.36 7.5 58 James Shields Rays 4.62 1.37 7.1 59 Kyle Drabek Blue Jays 4.10 1.37 6.8 60 Mike Leake Reds 3.52 1.21 7.5 61 Jason Hammel Rockies 4.21 1.34 6.8 62 Wade Davis Rays 4.36 1.41 6.7 63 Dallas Braden Athletics 4.18 1.34 5.7 64 Jonathan Sanchez Giants 4.19 1.39 9.3 65 Jorge de la Rosa Rockies 4.07 1.35 8.8 66 Brandon Morrow Blue Jays 4.26 1.41 8.7 67 Javier Vazquez* Marlins 4.16 1.31 7.7 68 Carlos Zambrano* Cubs 4.06 1.41 7.2 69 Jake Peavy* White Sox 3.86 1.29 8.0 70 Derek Holland Rangers 4.12 1.33 7.3 71 Brett Myers* Astros 4.24 1.35 7.0 72 Johan Santana* Mets 3.82 1.27 7.0 73 Rich Harden* Athletics 4.36 1.40 9.2 74 Kevin Slowey* Twins 4.47 1.30 6.8 75 Johnny Cueto Reds 4.33 1.35 6.9 76 Justin Masterson Indians 4.43 1.44 7.0 77 Edinson Volquez Reds 4.15 1.40 8.5 78 Ervin Santana Angels 4.50 1.37 7.1 79 Bud Norris Astros 4.57 1.47 8.3 80 Randy Wells Cubs 4.12 1.36 6.2 81 Tom Gorzelanny Nats 4.34 1.45 7.5 82 Jair Jurrjens Braves 4.12 1.37 6.5 83 Aaron Harang Padres 4.81 1.44 6.9 84 Bronson Arroyo Reds 3.97 1.28 5.4 85 Edwin Jackson White Sox 4.45 1.42 6.9 86 Chris Young* FA 4.82 1.50 6.7 87 Homer Bailey Reds 4.43 1.45 7.4 88 Joel Pineiro Angels 4.10 1.29 4.9 89 Daisuke Matsuzaka Red Sox 4.46 1.44 7.5 90 Rick Porcello Tigers 4.19 1.34 5.1 91 Anibal Sanchez Marlins 4.10 1.40 6.8 92 Derek Lowe Braves 4.25 1.39 5.6 93 Carl Pavano Twins 4.52 1.34 5.2 94 Chris Tillman Orioles 4.28 1.39 7.1 95 Mike Pelfrey Mets 4.62 1.46 5.1 96 R.A. Dickey Mets 4.26 1.38 5.1 97 John Lackey Red Sox 4.37 1.36 6.5 98 Hisanori Takahashi Angels 4.12 1.34 7.3 99 Clayton Richard Padres 4.37 1.43 6.3 100 Jeff Niemann Rays 4.30 1.37 6.5
Notes: As previously noted, none of Kris Medlen, Stephen Strasburg, Justin Duchscherer, Erik Bedard, Chien-Ming Wang, Andrew Cashner, Sean Marshall, or Chris Sale are ranked on this list, due to health concerns, questionable or unclear roles with their teams, or the like. I also took an extended look at Matt Cain in light of the discussion in the comments. Using my xWHIP calculator to normalize Cain's batted ball distribution to reflect a 19 percent line drive rate for 2009-2010, I found that even assuming his true home run per outfield flyball talent was 7 percent (rather than the league average rate of 11.5 percent, his expected tERA is north of 4.2. Thus, still not a fan of Cain.
Kyle Drabek made a huge jump up the list. His velocity and hammer-curve are just to good to ignore, and his "wildness" may have just been the byproduct of missing low in a small sample rather than lack of control. I also got sold on a ticket for the Mike Leake train, choo choo! I also added two youngsters, Mike Minor and Michael Pineda, who, combined with a "fantasy league average" starting pitcher, should composite to Frankenstein into a top 50 pitcher. Wainwright's been 86'd because "I told you so" about his elbow.
Oh, and I flopped Lincecum and Halladay. The freak is just in a class of his own, according to my EYES rankings. Oliver's pricing guide seems to agree, though it also has my boy King Felix ahead of Halladay as well. I like Felix more as a pitcher, but, despite my critiques of the 2011 Phillies' offensive outlook, I still say Doc Halladay out "wins" King Felix and thus (barely) secures the No. 2 spot ahead of him. Honestly, you'll be happy getting any of these three pitchers.
Top 50 fantasy relief pitchers for 2011
Rank Player Team oSV oERA oWHIP oK/9 Opening Day Closer? 1 Joakim Soria Royals 38 3.20 1.12 9.1 Y 2 Neftali Feliz Rangers 36 3.36 1.18 8.6 Y 3 Mariano Rivera Yankees 35 3.00 1.08 7.4 Y 4 Brian Wilson Giants 38 3.41 1.23 9.4 Y 5 Heath Bell Padres 36 3.48 1.24 8.5 Y 6 Carlos Marmol Cubs 36 3.52 1.31 11.4 Y 7 Drew Storen Nationals 32 3.47 1.20 8.9 Y 8 J.J. Putz Diamondback 38 3.84 1.31 7.8 Y 9 Jose Valverde Tigers 38 3.81 1.27 8.2 Y 10 Joe Nathan* Twins 36 3.43 1.16 8.5 Y 11 Andrew Bailey* Athletics 32 3.66 1.24 8.2 Y 12 Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox 36 3.48 1.20 8.9 Y 13 Matt Thornton White Sox 36 3.22 1.17 9.3 Y 14 Chris Perez Indians 36 3.90 1.30 9.0 Y 15 Francisco Rodriguez Mets 38 3.78 1.30 8.9 Y 16 Brad Lidge* Phillies 32 4.21 1.38 8.5 Y 17 Huston Street* Rockies 26 3.47 1.20 8.8 Y 18 Frank Francisco Blue Jays 28 3.44 1.20 9.7 Y 19 Craig Kimbrel Braves 36 3.98 1.44 11.1 Y 20 John Axford Brewers 40 4.15 1.45 9.0 Y 21 Francisco Cordero Reds 38 4.06 1.40 7.3 Y 22 Jonathan Broxton Dodgers 30 3.40 1.22 10.1 Y 23 Joel Hanrahan Pirates 30 3.70 1.27 9.8 Y 24 Leo Nunez Marlins 36 4.04 1.29 7.3 Y 25 Koji Uehara* Orioles 0 3.57 1.18 7.4 Y 26 Brandon League Mariners 2 3.83 1.27 7.1 Y 27 Brandon Lyon Astros 22 4.00 1.32 6.2 Y 28 Ryan Franklin Cardinals 32 4.08 1.32 6.0 Y 29 Fernando Rodney* Angels 18 4.55 1.50 6.9 Y (possible committee) 30 Jake McGee Rays 16 4.01 1.39 8.7 (committee) 31 Takashi Saito Brewers 0 3.65 1.25 8.1 N 32 J.P. Howell* Rays 6 3.79 1.26 8.7 (committee; on DL) 33 Aroldis Chapman Reds 0 3.89 1.34 10.4 N 34 Kevin Gregg Orioles 34 4.14 1.39 7.6 N 35 Daniel Bard Red Sox 4 3.51 1.23 9.2 N 36 Matt Capps Twins 4 3.90 1.24 7.0 N 37 Mike Adams Padres 2 3.33 1.19 8.6 N 38 Evan Meek Pirates 10 3.84 1.33 7.7 N 39 Hong Chi Kuo Dodgers 6 3.07 1.12 9.1 N 40 Ryan Madson Phillies 6 3.63 1.21 8.2 N 41 Rafael Soriano Yankees 36 3.37 1.20 8.5 N 42 Jason Motte Cardinals 2 3.76 1.24 9.0 N 43 Jonny Venters Braves 4 4.21 1.41 6.7 N 44 David Aardsma* Mariners 38 4.09 1.38 8.2 N (starting on DL) 45 Kerry Wood* Cubs 2 4.04 1.32 8.5 N 46 Luke Gregerson Padres 2 3.43 1.20 8.9 N 47 Mike Gonzalez Orioles 36 4.19 1.32 8.7 N 48 Sergio Romo Giants 2 3.34 1.15 8.7 N 49 Sean Marshall Cubs 2 3.54 1.23 8.3 N 50 Tyler Clippard Nationals 4 3.87 1.31 9.0 N
Notes: A lot of names have been shuffled around. Though Rafael Soriano signed for money, not a closing gig, he should still be a very valuable reliever who can stabilize shaky ratios in 2011. I still believe Koji Uehara has the long-term edge on Kevin Gregg for the closing job in Baltimore. I think the Blue Jays' acquisition of Frank Francisco pushes Octavio Dotel out of a ninth-inning job, and Francisco should be a top 20 closer on talent alone (goodbye closer sleeper Jason Frasor). I bumped up Matt Capps (and bumped down Joe Nathan) because Nathan's velocity is three or so ticks down from pre-surgery levels. Monitor Nathan closely; Capps is the Twins' plan B.
With David Aardsma down and out for at least April, Brandon League gets a boost due to job security. Aardsma gets the corollary bump down. Finally, Jays manager Joe Maddon seems intent on opening the seasons with a closer by committee. The job will likely end up in either Jake McGee or J.P. Howell's hand long-term, but do not discount Kyle Farnsworth (managers like Maddon love "experience"). Remember, the majority of these rankings have to do with likelihood of accruing saves, not raw numbers alone (hence Soriano is ranked No. 41 behind Evan Meek and Gregg).
Now let's compare my batter rankings to Oliver's fantasy guide rankings, indexed. Positive differential values indicate that Oliver likes the player more and a negative value indicates that I liked a player more.
Oliver Rank My Rank Difference Player Team 1 1 0 Joe Mauer Twins 2 3 1 Carlos Santana Indians 3 5 2 Buster Posey Giants 4 4 0 Victor Martinez Tigers 5 2 -3 Brian McCann Braves 6 9 3 Matt Wieters Orioles 7 6 -1 Geovany Soto Cubs 8 N/R N/R A.J. Pierzynski White Sox 9 14 5 Chris Ianetta Rockies 10 8 -2 Miguel Montero Diamondbacks 11 12 1 Kurt Suzuki Athletics 12 N/R N/R Josh Thole Mets 13 10 -3 Jorge Posada Yankees 14 N/R N/R J. Saltalamacchia Red Sox 15 N/R N/R John Buck Marlins 16 16 0 Yadier Molina Cardinals 17 N/R N/R Chris Snyder Pirates 18 20 2 Carlos Ruiz Phillies 19 19 0 Rod Barajas Dodgers 20 N/R N/R Miguel Olivo MarinersMissing from my list: Russell Martin (11), J.P. Arencibia (13), Jesus Montero (15), John Jaso (17)
Oliver Rank My Rank Difference Player Team 1 1 0 Albert Pujols Cardinals 2 2 0 Miguel Cabrera Tigers 3 11 8 Kendry Morales Angels 4 4 0 Joey Votto Reds 5 3 -2 Adrian Gonzalez Padres 6 5 -1 Prince Fielder Brewers 7 8 1 Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 8 6 -2 Ryan Howard Phillies 9 9 0 Justin Morneau Twins 10 17 7 Mark Reynolds Orioles 11 10 0 Adam Dunn White Sox 12 7 -4 Mark Teixeira Yankees 13 13 1 Billy Butler Royals 14 N/R N/R Dan Johnson Rays 15 N/R N/R Kila Ka'aihue Royals 16 15 0 Paul Konerko White Sox 17 20 4 Aubrey Huff Giants 18 20 3 Ike Davis Mets 19 22 4 Gaby Sanchez Marlins 20 12 -7 Carlos Pena CubsMissing from my list: Lance Berkman (14), Luke Scott (17)
Oliver Rank My Rank Difference Player Team 1 1 0 Chase Utley Phillies 2 6 4 Dan Uggla Braves 3 3 0 Robinson Cano Yankees 4 8 4 Rickie Weeks Brewers 5 4 -1 Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 6 17 11 Mike Aviles Royals 7 11 4 Aaron Hill Blue Jays 8 2 -6 Ian Kinsler Rangers 9 10 1 Ben Zobrist Rays 10 13 3 Brian Roberts Orioles 11 7 -4 Gordon Beckham White Sox 12 12 0 Kelly Johnson Diamondbacks 13 15 2 Neil Walker Pirates 14 19 5 Ryan Raburn Tigers 15 5 -9 Brandon Phillips Reds 16 9 -6 Martin Prado Braves 17 22 6 Sean Rodriguez Rays 18 23 6 Juan Uribe Dodgers 19 19 1 Ian Desmond Nationals 20 16 -3 Chone Figgins MarinersMissing from my list: Dustin Ackley (14) and Howie Kendrick (20)
Oliver Rank My Rank Difference Player Team 1 1 0 Hanley Ramirez Marlins 2 2 0 Troy Tulowitzki Rockies 3 3 0 Jose Reyes Mets 4 12 8 Mike Aviles Royals 5 5 0 Alexei Ramirez White Sox 6 9 3 Starlin Castro Cubs 7 13 6 Danny Espinosa Nationals 8 6 -2 Jimmy Rollins Phillies 9 22 13 Juan Uribe Dodgers 10 14 4 Ian Desmond Nationals 11 7 -4 Stephen Drew Diamondbacks 12 N/R N/R Jason Bartlett Padres 13 4 -9 Derek Jeter Yankees 14 11 -3 Elvis Andrus Rangers 15 10 -5 Rafael Furcal Dodgers 16 8 -8 Asdruba Cabrera Indians 17 17 0 Miguel Tejada Giants 18 21 3 Yunel Escobar Blue Jays 19 18 -1 Alcides Escobar Royals 20 19 -1 J.J. Hardy TwinsMissing from my list: Erick Aybar (15), Cliff Pennington (15), Miguel Tejada (17), Jhonny Peralta (20)
Oliver Rank My Rank Difference Player Team 1 1 0 David Wright Mets 2 3 1 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 3 2 -1 Evan Longoria Rays 4 7 3 Jose Bautista Blue Hays 5 8 3 Pablo Sandoval Giants 6 5 -1 Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 7 4 -3 Alex Rodriguez Yankees 8 10 2 Mark Reynolds Orioles 9 N/R N/R Dan Johnson Rays 10 12 2 Pedro Alvarez Pirates 11 16 5 Casey McGehee Brewers 12 6 -6 Adrian Beltre Rangers 13 N/R N/R Chris Johnson Astros 14 11 -3 Martin Prado Braves 15 9 -6 Aramis Ramirez Cubs 16 20 4 Michael Cuddyer Twins 17 19 3 Chase Headley Padres 18 N/R N/R Scott Rolen Reds 19 N/R N/R Casey Blake Dodgers 20 N/R N/R Placido Polanco PhilliesMissing from my list: Michael Young (13), Ian Stewart (14), David Freese (15), Chipper Jones (17)
Oliver Rank My Rank Difference Player 1 1 0 Ryan Braun 2 4 2 Carlos Gonzalez 3 2 -1 Matt Holliday 4 10 6 Shin-Soo Choo 5 16 11 Mike Stanton 6 9 3 Nelson Cruz 7 3 -4 Josh Hamilton 8 27 19 Jose Bautista 9 13 4 Jayson Werth 10 6 -4 Matt Kemp 11 5 -6 Carl Crawford 12 7 -5 Jason Heyward 13 59 46 Rajai Davis 14 14 0 Ichiro Suzuki 15 8 -7 Justin Upton 16 45 29 Angel Pagan 17 48 31 Travis Snider 18 41 23 Corey Hart 19 N/R N/R Adam Lind 20 20 1 Andre Ethier 21 15 -6 Jay Bruce 22 11 -11 Andrew McCutchen 23 18 -5 Hunter Pence 24 36 12 Jason Bay 25 33 8 Shane Victorino 26 12 -14 Alex Rios 27 46 19 Delmon Young 28 21 -6 Torii Hunter 29 44 15 Carlos Quentin 30 58 28 Matt Joyce 31 30 -1 Nck Markakis 32 51 19 Nick Swisher 33 43 10 Juan Pierre 34 32 -2 Carlos Beltran 35 23 -11 B.J. Upton 36 40 4 Jose Tabata 37 47 10 Michael Bourn 38 N/R N/R Alex Gordon 39 42 3 Ben Zobrist 40 35 -5 Desmond Jennings 41 53 12 Logan Morrison 42 N/R N/R Magglio Orgonez 43 17 -26 Jacoby Ellsbury 44 N/R N/R Franklin Gutierrez 45 N/R N/R Ryan Raburn 46 26 -26 Curtis Granderson 47 N/R N/R Martin Prado 48 60 12 Carlos Lee 49 56 7 Aubrey Huff 50 N/R N/R Andres Torres 51 31 -20 Brett Gardner 52 37 -15 Adam Jones 53 24 -28 Chris Young 54 N/R N/R Austin Jackson 55 39 -16 Vernon Wells 56 55 -1 J.D. Drew 57 N/R N/R Denard Span 58 57 -1 Michael Cuddyer 59 N/R N/R Jason Kubel 60 N/R N/R Chris CoghlanMissing from my list: Drew Stubbs (19), Domonic Brown (22), Colby Rasmus (25), Grady Sizemore (28), Manny Ramirez (29), Vladimir Guerrero (34), Bobby Abreu (38), Lance Berkman (49), Luke Scott (50), Coco Crisp (52), and Hideki Matsui (54).
And now, for something completely different: Fangraphs is hosting a new fantasy baseball service this year. The game is unique in many aspects, including the fact that it's essentially a year-round game. The service retails at $19.99, but if you sign up before March 1, 2011, it will cost only $9.99 to join or create a league.
To that end, Fangraphs was nice enough to set me up as one of the "guest commissioners" for Ottoneu (you may have noticed my league idly existing on the mainpage by now), and I am officially opening my league, on a first-come, first-served basis, to Hardball Times readers who want to participate in what I hope will be a very competitive league. Because I am a traditionalist, my league will be "Old School" format, meaning that it will use the standard 5x5 categories. The league, titled Jeffrey Gross—Hardball Times, will also include Hardball Times fantasy writer Brad Johnson. You can sign-up by clicking here, though you will need to register a login and username first. The password for my league is genius. Do not delay, as space is limited.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 5:21am (71) Comments
Monday, February 21, 2011
This article may turn into more like a personal aside. First of all, that is not my intention. Recently, a friend of mine approached me with a business opportunity of entering a high-stakes league as a team. Initially, my excitement was envisioning a boxer/promoter relationship. He would front the costs, I take care of the winning, and we would split the profit.
You’re thinking win-win situation, right? Well, I can’t really say that’s necessarily the case. I would have been stupid not to accept the invitation into a league where I make money without any risk of losing it.
After very little convincing, I signed on the dotted line. Then things got a little fuzzy. Now, I have competed in several leagues crossing all kinds of depth and competition levels. I consider myself an equal opportunity fantasy gamer. One of the most stringent restrictions I have placed upon myself is to compete in standard scoring leagues whether that be roto or head-to-head.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy categories like OBP and OPS. Bring on the doubles or quality starts. I even can enjoy a holds category every once in a while.
As you can probably gather, I opened the league’s browser this week, and my friend’s league follows a completely different set of rules than what I was accustomed to. In fact, it’s called a head-to-head, points-based system. I know some of you guys are far more familiar with this kind of format than I. Here is the scoring system those of you not as familiar.
Batting Categories 1B – Singles 1 point 2B – Doubles 2 points 3B – Triples 3 points BB - Walks (Batters) 0.5 points CS - Caught Stealing -1 point CYC – Hitting for the Cycle 20 points HP - Hit by Pitch 0.5 points HR - Home Runs 4 points KO - Strikeouts (Batter) -1 point R – Runs 1 point RBI - Runs Batted In 1 point SB - Stolen Bases 1.5 points Pitching Categories BBI - Walks Issued (Pitchers) -0.5 points BS - Blown Saves -3 points CG - Complete Games 5 points ER - Earned Runs -1 point INN – Innings 0.5 points K - Strikeouts (Pitcher) 1 point L – Losses -7.5 points NH - No-Hitters 20 points PG - Perfect Games 30 points QS - Quality Starts 3 points RL - Relief Losses 3.75 points RW - Relief Wins -5 points S – Saves 5 points SO – Shutouts 10 points W – Wins 10 points WP - Wild Pitches -0.5 points
Call me a purist, but the moment I saw wild pitches as a stat category, I threw up a little bit in my mouth. The addition of perfect games, no-hitters, and cycles only furthered that distaste.
Upon strategizing for the upcoming draft, I started to calculate by hand my own version of projections for a league of this kind. To my surprise, some names from 2010 that I liked more than ESPN’s player rater were ranked more accurately to their effect on the prior season.
Roy Halladay, for example, was the No. 1 player in this points-based league. ESPN has the ‘Doc’ ranked a disrespectful seventh as a thank you for his stellar 2010 campaign. Robinson Cano is seeded ahead of Carl Crawford, as he rightfully should have been. Guys like Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday get more love in the points-based league, and Carlos Gonzalez loses three spots from being tops in ESPN to fourth in this CBS league. On-base percentage and strikeouts caught up with him in this league, just like it will catch up with him in 2011.
My largest disagreement came in the form of the system’s Vernon Wells’ love as the 19th-best fantasy player for 2010. I don’t think anybody in their right mind would give Wells that distinction. He flourished in this points-based league due in large part to its non-inclusion of batting average, where Wells sported an unimpressive .273.
Earlier this year, I prospected on the possibility of future exploits from Vernon. His change of scenery may suit him well as an overall ballplayer, but I can’t allow myself to concede another 30+ home run season.
Here are some other interesting facets to this league that I found rather intriguing: ten dollar flat fee for trades, four dollar charge for most acquisitions, and two matchups in each period of one week. Pretty standard stuff for a high-stakes H2H league. The financial aspect just adds to my hesitation towards acceptance of the point-based way of gaming. There seems to be so many balls in the air at the same time, half the battle will be in finding a way to juggle them all.
I have decided to keep an open mind. For the past 13 years I have primarily only competed in the standard 5X5 format. Occasionally, I have ventured into other standard leagues with more numerous categories, but as a well-rounded fantasy player, it’s time for me to be more adventurous.
I say this until some guy throws a perfect game on me, and I lose the week. That week, I assuredly will curse the league and pray for my comfortable, macaroni ‘n’ cheese settings back in the 5X5.
As I put this rant to close, I want to say how encouraged I have been by the involvement of the readership at THT. When I signed up to start writing for The Hardball Times, I didn’t realize that there would be such a large number of positive but differing opinions.
I am going to go a little off the reservation here. This is my call to the readers. Teach me the ways of the point-based league. My knowledge of sabermetrics and linear weights can only go so far in this completely foreign realm of competition.
Someone once said, “The secret to teaching is to appear that you have known your whole life what you just learned this morning.” I am not going to be a fantasy writer that acts like I have all the answers to all the questions. Please pardon my unfamiliarity, and help to educate me this week.
Also, next week my piece in "The Preparation: H2H" series will be the 1-50 section of my top 300 rankings. So, if you are competing in a head-to-head format, this will be a "can’t miss" series of articles in March. Just hold on for four more days. Spring training games begin Friday. That means drafts are just around the corner.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:10am (45) Comments
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
A good friend of mine took me to task last Saturday for not mentioning my bachelor party in last week’s column. Generally, I tend not to write about things that I don’t have clear recollections of, but I guess I’ll make an exception today. I’d like to especially thank the organizers and the Brooklyn Brewery, who have probably spent the last two weeks trying to figure out if it’s possible to write my party of ravenous beer mongers descending on their unsuspecting and cordial staff as a tax write off. Temperance has never been the strong suit of my crew, after all. By the way, let me take this opportunity to ask that same friend, who has been married for about nine years – if I come home later and drunker than my fiancé on the night of her bachelorette party, does that mean I’m not ready for marriage? Remember, you're complicit in this.
...As I prepare to make the jump and change positions from fiancé to husband, I want to take a few minutes to look at a some players who will gain positional eligibility this season that they don’t have at draft time. Roster versatility is an underrated strength in fantasy baseball, especially when you have to make deals. Additionally, players moving from more offensive-heavy positions to thinner and weaker positions always provide a bit extra value that most pre-ranks don’t consider.
Kevin Youkilis. In what is likely the biggest change in positional eligibility among bonafide stud players, the Greek God of Walks will return to the hot corner to make way for Adrian Gonzalez at first. Youkilis will gain 3B-eligibility imminently, as he projects as the full time 3B for the Sox. This move shoots Youk from the 8th highest pre-ranked 1B to the 5th highest 3B. Personally, I’m not as down on the 3B class as some, but it’s plainly obvious that 1B is much deeper, and therefore Youkilis’s projected numbers not only outshine more of the top options at 3B, but his value above replacement receives a nice bump as well.
Martin Prado. Prado is already eligible at 2B and 3B, and to make room for the arrival of Dan Uggla, this utility regular All Star is now moving to the outfield. Prado is probably still most valuable at 2B, but to be eligible as middle or corner infield and as an outfielder is quite rare and extremely valuable.
Lance Berkman. In one of the more bizarre off-season moves, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Lance Berkman with the intent of using him as a full time outfielder. Berkman’s production first tailed a bit in 2009 and then really took a dive last season. However, my biggest concern is whether Big Puma’s body will stand up to the challenge of being a full time outfielder. If Berkman is able to play 140 games, I think he can produce like a fairly good OF3. Projected to hit second in the order, Berkman should be able to take advantage of his stellar batting eye to post a good 90 runs. If he also gives you 18-22 homers and 70 RBI, along with a neutral .270-ish batting average, that’s not a bad package for somebody who doesn’t appear to be on anybody’s radar and would be borderline undraftable in a 12-team mixed league as a corner infielder.
Chone Figgins. The ping pong game knocking Figgins back and forth between 2B and 3B looks like it will continue this year. Figgins looks like he’ll be back at 3B this season. While he’s most valuable as a middle infielder, in addition to the value of versatility, this move opens up a serious speed option at a position that is traditionally lacking in SBs.
Adam Dunn. The Big Donkey loses his OF-eligibility this season, and he will be adopting what will primarily be a DH role. However, it’s possible that he does gain it back, at least in Yahoo leagues. I’d like to think that the White Sox would want to get his bat in their line-up in interleague games without relegating Paul Konerko to the bench. Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a handful of starts at RF in interleague road games, enough to earn OF-eligibility midseason in Yahoo leagues. Looking toward next year, I’d also expect him to get enough starts at 1B to retain that eligibility going forward.
Michael Young. Young’s future is uncertain right now. His preference would be to be traded, but as yet that hasn’t happened. With the signing of Adrian Beltre, Young is no longer the starting 3B in Texas. He’s said that he’s willing to play other positions, including the outfield. However, the Texas outfield is manned by Cruz and Hamilton in the corners, and neither of them is going anywhere. Julio Borbon is holding down CF, and he’s young, inexpensive and the Rangers like him, plus I’m not sure Young would have CF range. As of now, I’d probably consider him a 3B-eligible DH, which doesn’t affect his value at all. However, there is one potential jackpot situation. Ian Kinsler hasn’t once stayed healthy for a whole season, and Young is a former 2B – a dreadful defensive one, but that doesn’t matter to us, right? Further, Texas asked their primary 2B back-up, Andres Blanco, to start developing himself as an outfielder. If Young sticks in Texas, a Kinsler injury and a return to 2B for Young would be great for his value.
Moves to DH. Along with Michael Young, Bobby Abreu and Magglio Ordonez are slated to move to full time DH roles. While the move shouldn’t mean anything for the value of a usually healthy Abreu, perhaps avoiding the field might help Ordonez avoid the DL. Ordonez was on his way to a renaissance season in 2010, until he was cut down by injury. Projected to hit third in Detroit’s order, a healthy Magglio could rack up the RBIs and the runs, with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez there to drive him in. At 37 and bearing some injury risk, Ordonez may not be somebody you want to rely on, but he’s the type of player I love to target late. He boasts an undeniable body of work and performed in line with career norms last season. In my opinion, given his price, the only risk an Ordonez owner undertakes is health. If Ordonez plays 135 games, he will be worth double his draft day price in many leagues.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:01am (7) Comments
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The Roster Doctor is back in town after a winter’s hibernation with a keeper question about closers.
10 team AL-only keeper league, you can keep up to 10 players.
I have the following players (prices in parentheses):
Chris Perez (1); David Price (13); Jeremy Hellickson (2); Colby Lewis (5); Frank Francisco (1); Kevin Gregg (3); Koji Uehara (1); Nick Swisher (8); Mike Napoli (7); Shin-Soo Choo (23); Dustin Pedroia (25); Miguel Cabrera (41); Justin Smoak (2).
Perez, Price, Hellickson and Lewis are no-brainers, as is Francisco if he's officially closing in Toronto. Gregg or Uehara would be fantastic if either had the Baltimore job locked up. My problem is this: Do I keep Perez, Price, Hellickson, Lewis, Francisco, Uehara and Gregg? That would be seven pitchers and only three hitters. Any input would be appreciated.
Unlike in mixed leagues, all closers or potential closers are precious commodities in AL/NL-only leagues. Your temptation to keep as many as possible is understandably strong, given that the same pitcher on the open auction market might cost you much more if/when he’s given the closer role. Here are some factors you should consider before making your decision:
- When do you have to declare your keepers?
- When is the auction?
Why do these dates matter? The longer you can wait to declare, the more time you have to see if one of either Gregg or Uehara locks down the job. The earlier the auction, is the less valuable Gregg is on the open market (since there’ll still be a lot of uncertainty over his role) in an auction and thus the lower his keeper value is, too.
It seems like the closer’s job is Uehara’s to lose, and baring injury or a Frank Francisco 2010-type bad spell to open the season, he should keep it. Plus, with Mike Gonzalez and others lurking deeper in the Orioles' pen, Gregg himself might lose runner-up status if he has a bad spell. Also, for $3, or not much more, you should be able to land another backup with better skills or better prospects or both. Take a look at Grant Balfour in Oakland or Jake McGee in Tampa Bay or whichever one of Brandon League or David Aardsma seems undervalued by your league-mates.
The reason to not risk keeping Gregg is I think you have at least four hitters worth keeping. Swisher, Napoli and Choo are absolute musts at their keeper prices. Pedroia isn’t super cheap and he carries some injury risk still, but it is risk probably worth bearing in an AL-only league.