Friday, August 22, 2014


The term "expert" gets thrown out a lot when it comes to fantasy sports. I personally prefer the term analyst or author when people ask me what I do. Having played in many "expert" leagues over the years, I've found my private home based leagues to be equally, if not more challenging. However, the expert FLEX LEAGUE draft I had this week was full of some of the best minds in fantasy football and I believe examining this draft can be quite an effective tool in formulating your strategy.

First off, here are the competitors:
Jake Ciely of RotoExperts is the commissioner/organizer
Jody Smith Gridiron Experts
Drew Loftis New York Post
Will Carroll Bleacher Report
Jamey Eisenberg CBS Sports
John Halpin Fox Sports
Scott Pianowski Yahoo
Rich Hribar XN Sports
Dave Goons
Chris Burke
Andy Behrens Yahoo
John & Liz from the X's & Y's Podcast
Nick Mensio Rotoworld
And of course....ME, Joe Pisapia Fantasy Black Book
(a pretty great grouping!)

Here's the recap of the first 3 rounds of this 14 team/14 RD draft. I will also highlight some surprises, trends and observations that may be helpful regarding certain players and their status.

FLEX League is 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE/1FLEX/1Def-ST. (1/2PPR) Looking at the scoring, the 2012 top player was Drew Brees. In 2013, obviously Manning with Brees right on his heels. My thinking at the bottom slot of the snake draft was try to come away with an elite QB (Breese, Manning or Rodgers) and then hopefully a legit RB 1. There are only four top RB's all of which would be long gone before it came to me, but I was surprised that even in a league of experts that mid-low level RB1's who are destined to score 220pts would be valued above a guy like Brees who scored 300+ consecutive years in this scoring system. You take the "potential", give me the points!
Now granted you only play one QB, but the RPV (Relative Position Value/the stat I created and core of the Fantasy Football Black Book) of low end RB1's is already in the negative pool. Not mention the fact so many guys like Montee Ball and Le'Veon Bell still have proven very little in this league. Brees RPV is +14% in this scoring and the RB's available (with the exception of Lynch and Bernard) were -6% to -12%. I would much rather take the ELITE player, and make of the difference in bulk. It's about staying in the "positive RPV" as often as you can. When you consider the pounding running backs take anyway, it seems even more logical. Giovanni Bernard was my target RB at 14th.  A guy on the rise, with little competition for carries or goal line touches and a strong pass catcher. Lynch was my second choice. If both were available I could also create an RPV advantage by owning two RB1's, but I figured this was a pipe dream and the Brees/RB combo would be where I'd end up.
Here's how round one went down:

1.011.Jody Smith: Gridiron Experts @JodySmith_NFLCharles, Jamaal KCC RB
1.022.Drew Loftis: New York Post @NYPost_LoftisMcCoy, LeSean PHI RB
1.033.Will Carroll: B/R @injuryexpertPeterson, Adrian MIN RB
1.044.Jake Ciely: @allinkidForte, Matt CHI RB
1.055.Jamey Eisenberg: CBS Sports @JameyEisenbergJohnson, Calvin DET WR
1.066.John Halpin: FOX Sports @jhalpin37Thomas, Demaryius DEN WR
1.077.Scott Pianowski: Yahoo @scott_pianowski Lacy, Eddie GBP RB
1.088.Rich Hribar: XNSports @LordReebsBryant, Dez DAL WR
1.099.David Gonos: @davidgonosBell, Le'Veon PIT RB
1.1010.Chris Burke: @ChrisBurke_SIGraham, Jimmy NOS TE
1.1111.Andy Behrens: Yahoo! @andybehrensGreen, A.J. CIN WR
1.1212.John and Liz: Xs & Ys Podcast @TheFFGirl @JohnF_EvansBernard, Giovani CIN RB
1.1313.Nick Mensio: Rotoworld @NickMensioJones, Julio ATL WR
1.1414.Joe Pisapia: Fantasy Black Book @JoePisapia17Brees, Drew NOS QB

JUST MISSED BERNARD! Clearly what happens when you are drafting in an "expert" league filled with writers for top website and media outlets. There are no sleepers! You will likely be a bit more fortunate in your league. The first round went without any real surprise. Bell is the one guy for me that I am not sold on especially with Blount in Pittsburgh. This was also before his new found legal trouble. Character, may not be a fantasy statistic, but I can guarantee you it can have a massive impact on a player's value.
In a 14 team league playing 3 WR it was not surprising to top wide outs fly off the board. Had it been full PPR I would have been tempted to also dip my toes in the water. To me it was a no brainer to select Brees. Manning is likely due for a market correction, he's another year older (as is Welker) and is also now minus Eric Decker. I think that is a bigger loss than people think, despite having plenty of other options. Rodgers was equally worthy, but coming off the injury I went for the consistency of Brees. To get the #1-2 point getter two years running at the 14th overall pick was an easy choice and I could care less if it turned heads. Now, it was time to comb the RB/WR ranks.

2.0115.Joe Pisapia: Fantasy Black Book @JoePisapia17Lynch, Marshawn SEA RB
2.0216.Nick Mensio: Rotoworld @NickMensioJeffery, Alshon CHI WR
2.0317.John and Liz: Xs & Ys Podcast @TheFFGirl @JohnF_EvansMurray, DeMarco DAL RB
2.0418.Andy Behrens: Yahoo! @andybehrensBall, Montee DEN RB
2.0519.Chris Burke: @ChrisBurke_SIMarshall, Brandon CHI WR
2.0620.David Gonos: @davidgonosBrown, Antonio PIT WR
2.0721.Rich Hribar: XNSports @LordReebsNelson, Jordy GBP WR
2.0822.Scott Pianowski: Yahoo @scott_pianowski Allen, Keenan SDC WR
2.0923.John Halpin: FOX Sports @jhalpin37Martin, Doug TBB RB
2.1024.Jamey Eisenberg: CBS Sports @JameyEisenbergStacy, Zac STL RB
2.1125.Jake Ciely: @allinkidCobb, Randall GBP WR
2.1226.Will Carroll: B/R @injuryexpertManning, Peyton DEN QB
2.1327.Drew Loftis: New York Post @NYPost_LoftisRodgers, Aaron GBP QB
2.1428.Jody Smith: Gridiron Experts @JodySmith_NFLGarcon, Pierre WAS WR

By process of elimination, I chose Lynch. He has been written off before by many fantasy writers only to repeatedly blow us away. Zach Stacy is a nice young back, but I am not sure he is a difference maker. Yes, he had some nice games, but also some real clunkers in 2013. I personally value consistency. That mantra also eliminated Doug Martin from my consideration. Montee Ball has potential, but he has yet to deliver on that promise. Perhaps he will in 2014, but I for one think track record and experience count. So, after being down to Demarco Murray and Marshawn Lynch, Murray's fragility gave out to the consistency of Lynch who also posted a career high in receiving yards last season. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Antonio Brown and Keenan Allen were all tempting, but the RB pool was about to fall off a cliff. It was an easy decision. Will and Drew got great value in their QB's this round who should easily outscore every other player in this round. I was surprised Jeffrey went over Marshall. Martin to me was the riskiest pick after a disastrous 2013, especially with Stacy and the two elite QB's still on the board. If he was his second RB I would felt better about the selection. Allen and Cobb have the best chance to take a step to the next level.

3.0129.Jody Smith: Gridiron Experts @JodySmith_NFLFoster, Arian HOU RB
3.0230.Drew Loftis: New York Post @NYPost_LoftisEllington, Andre ARI RB
3.0331.Will Carroll: B/R @injuryexpertWelker, Wes DEN WR
3.0432.Jake Ciely: @allinkidJennings, Rashad NYG RB
3.0533.Jamey Eisenberg: CBS Sports @JameyEisenbergMorris, Alfred WAS RB
3.0634.John Halpin: FOX Sports @jhalpin37Gronkowski, Rob NEP TE
3.0735.Scott Pianowski: Yahoo @scott_pianowski Jackson, Vincent TBB WR
3.0836.Rich Hribar: XNSports @LordReebsThomas, Julius DEN TE
3.0937.David Gonos: @davidgonosVereen, Shane NEP RB
3.1038.Chris Burke: @ChrisBurke_SICruz, Victor NYG WR
3.1139.Andy Behrens: Yahoo! @andybehrensSpiller, C.J. BUF RB
3.1240.John and Liz: Xs & Ys Podcast @TheFFGirl @JohnF_EvansWhite, Roddy ATL WR
3.1341.Nick Mensio: Rotoworld @NickMensioFloyd, Michael ARI WR
3.1442.Joe Pisapia: Fantasy Black Book @JoePisapia17Hilton, T.Y. IND WR

And now personal preference and risk taking begin. Foster clearly has question marks but as a RB2 you can't blame Jody one bit for taking the chance. Welker does have track record, but also showed decline and wear last year. I would be concerned with him as  #1 WR at this point in his career. Gronkowski clearly a boom/bust player based on his ability to stay on the field, but a great calculated risk in this league depth by John. Incidentally after Thomas went in this round, I took Jordan Cameron with my wrap around pick as the only remaining TE I felt would be well above positive in RPV. The bottom of the TE position is dreadful. Shane Vereen is a sneaky good pick in PPR leagues and Dave was right on that. Jake was willing to go all in on Jennings and with good reasoning. The performance of that whole Giants offense in the new West Coast system will be interesting to see. Michael Floyd to me was the steal of this round for Nick. Everything is set for him to be an elite receiver after his growth in 2013.

So, when it came down to me I needed a WR1 and the choices were dwindling. Floyd or White would have been my preference, but both went right before me. Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are still useful, but I think both are on a bit of a decline. Edelman is a nice PPR choice, but to me still not a number one. This left me with Hilton and Reggie Wayne. As much as I adore Wayne, T.Y. became Andrew Luck's "go to" guy last year while Wayne was out and you can see the chemistry between the two. Quarterbacks that grow with receivers early on in their careers tend to have special relationships in fantasy and although there is some risk, I think Hilton had the most upside at that point in the draft.

Overall players with some miles on them were slightly undervalued in my opinion. Sure football is a young man's game, but that doesn't mean that experience should be ignored. Maurice Jones-Drew and Steve Smith for instance both fell quite late and considering they are healthy I had no problems scooping them up late in the game. I was also able to nab Ray Rice in the 5th round. Now, I know he will miss 2 games with the suspension and one week for a bye, but she looks to be in great shape and in an era where running back by committee reigns, he has potential to be a bell cow number one at a RB3 value.
Speaking of suspensions, Will took Josh Gordon in the 11th round. Another calculated risk. His reasoning was quite sound, "When I am out of players I like on the board, that's when I take Gordon." A very logical way to look at it without any clarity on the number of games he will miss at this stage.

Dovanta Freeman went 7.6, to John,  Brandin Cooks 6.1 to yours truly and Terrance West 7.10 to Chris were some of my favorite "young upside" picks, so be ready to reach for them in rounds 6-8 in most 12 team drafts.
Ryan Mathews sliding to the 5th round was the biggest ADP slide I saw so it seems folks are still not buying into his 2013 rebound. I for one still see him as a very legit RB2.

You can follow the twitter account @FLEX_Leagues and see the entire draft here: and see Jake Cecily's recap here:

For more on RPV read the Free Preview Chapter on the Kindle store of THE FANTASY FOOTBALL BLACK BOOK 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Football Black Book 2014

The new Fantasy Black Book Show on Sirius/XM radio had a tremendous first season and has already been renewed for next year! Thank you to all of you who have made both the show and the book series a wild success.
In the weeks ahead, I will be recapping all of the expert league drafts I am participating in as well as draft advice and RPV.
The one curse of the show was not having enough time to write for the blog, especially while working on the NEW FANTASY FOOTBALL BLACK BOOK available now on the Amazon Kindle Store for Kindle/iPad/PC

However, that will luckily be changing now!

Football is coming!

Friday, April 4, 2014


It is with great pleasure that I announce The Fantasy Black Book Show coming to 
Sirius/XM Fantasy Channel 210/87 Saturday night's 10pm-1am EST. 
My Co-Host Dan Strafford and I will be bringing you the latest fantasy baseball information and discussions with huge industry guests. Call in, tweet us, FB your questions starting tomorrow night! 
We are here to help your fantasy team and entertain.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Drew Hutchison is still an "under the radar"
fantasy arm and could fill
a hole in your rotation.
Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Kris Medlin, Brandon Beachy, Derek Holland, Jon Neise, A.J. Griffin, Cole Hamels.....can any pitcher stay healthy? It seems starters are dropping like flies already and the season has yet to begin. The waiver wire is already buzzing in leagues that have drafted as arms continue to go on the shelf. It may not be possible to recoup all your losses depending on your investment, but all hope is not lost. There are some names floating around that are available and may be able to plug the leak in your sinking rotation.

Yordano Ventura KC  (Owned 71% of leagues)
Now there is a slim chance Ventura is available in your league, but if by luck he is RUN to your league's waiver wire and pluck him off there. This flamethrower was officially named the Royals #5 starter and he should make a positive impact for at least the first half of the season. We all know the second time around the league guys get exposed and young arms tire from the workload of a major league season. However, right now he brings considerable upside. Spring stats mean very little, but regardless he is dominating (15K/1BB in 15IP with a 1.76ERA) the Cactus League. He was also lights out in AA and held his own in the hitter friendly PCL for the Royals AAA affiliate. He has big time potential.

Archie Bradley ARZ (Owned 63%)
Clearly with Patrick Corbin out for the year, Bradley is going to get a rotation look at some point. Due to economics you would think this would be more likely to be in June, but Kirk Gibson may override the front office's better judgement. He should have 180 IP or so available in his tank at his age (22) and development stage. He has ace potential and obviously we all know his keeper value in deep leagues. For 2014, Bradley has a chance to make a real impact even if Randall Delgado gets the first crack. Your time to grab and stash him is running out.

Hector Santiago LAA (Owned 44%)
He may be small in stature, but this diminutive lefty throws gas and has big K potential. He is lighting it up this spring with 19K's in 16 IP and had some great outings as a starter last year for the White Sox. There are questions about his stamina, but the Angels are prepared to find out those answers. For fantasy purposes, he should at least be a viable first half option in mixed leagues. I would rather take a chance on a young kid like this with high velocity and strikeout potential rather than some old re-tread veteran.

Drew Hutchison TOR (Owned 17%)
Again, spring stats are to be taken with a grain of salt, but Hutchison has 16K/1BB and a 2.79 ERA in just 9IP. He is just 23 and got some exposure to the big leagues last season with mixed results. It appears he is finally 100% after missing most of the 2012 season and he definitely has a chance to be a part of your long term plans with his swing and miss stuff. Over 270 career minor league innings Hutchison has a 4-1 K/BB rate, a K/9 of 9.6 and a 2.80 ERA. For a guy with a job, his ownership is so low it's almost absurd. Toronto may not be the ideal location for a young pitcher to cut his teeth, but he has a lot of talent and is worth the investment.

Tanner Roark WAS (Owned 6%)
New manager Matt Williams has already started to make some changes and it looks like Ross Detwiler is headed to the pen. Enter Tanner Roark, who's value is higher than your average fifth guy because he pitches on a stacked Nats team in a weak NL East. In roto and NL only formats, you may get some cheap wins and 6 inning starts. At 27, he is far more likely a place holder for the likes of A.J. Cole; but for the next month or two he can be a band aid on your wounded rotation.

David Hale ATL (Owned 5%)
Alex Wood is already owned in too many leagues to mention on this list, but with Medlen and Beachy out, Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd on the mend and Ervin Santana behind...well David Hale is going to get a solid look in the Braves' rotation. If it's between Hale and veteran Freddy Garcia the choice is easy. Why claim an older pitcher at the end of his rope with no upside when you can get a 26 year old with at least a glimmer of hope? Hale is not unhittable but in the short term he he can post a decent 2-1 K/BB rate and an ERA in the mid to upper 3 range. Pitchers like Hale have a good chance to be successful early even if they don't have a dominant repertoire (think Jeff Locke of the Pirates last year in the first half). A short term fix, but he might bide you time for some younger arms to grace the stage at the break.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Your first selection sets you up for the rest of your season and should be a franchise, super elite player who can only be stopped by unforeseen injury. He should be a slam dunk choice and a potential 3-4-5 player (.300BA/.400OBP/.500SLG%). A guy you can build your team around in your philosophy. The first rounds I am about to lay out are based on a cross section of information: RPV, age, health, situation and league type. Here are the first rounds from The Fantasy Baseball Black Book '14 based on these factors for 3 different formats in 2014:

(16 Teams; based on Points League RPV)
1. Miguel Cabrera +45% PTS RPV
2. Mike Trout +26% RPV
3. Paul Goldschmidt +25%
4. Clayton Kershaw +25%
5. Hanley Ramirez +25%
6. Robinson Cano +23%
7. Joey Votto +15%
8. Ryan Braun +8%
9. Adam Wainwright +20%
10. Max Scherzer +18%
11. Yu Darvish +10%
12. Andrew McCitchen +7%
13. Troy Tulowitzki +32%
14. Justin Verlander +5%
15. Chris Sale +5%
16. Dustin Pedroia +15%

      Cabrera is still the best there is with a +45% RPV and his 1B/3B dual eligibity gives you so much draft flexibity in the 2nd and 3rd rounds it's almost unfair. Trout is a points league machine and I rank him a very close second. It's not a knock on Trout, its just that in most points leagues you play only 3 outfielders, as opposed to roto formats that field 5 active outfielders. Early picks on the first round are about minimizing risk and maximizing value and Goldschmidt is clearly a player who contributes in every facet of the game. His age, ballpark and 3-4-5 slash are all big positives. Pitching being particularly deep this year, allows him to slide to the #3 spot.
Kersahw is super elite
among his elite peers.
      However, if you plan on using the RPV PITCHING ADVANTAGE STRATEGY I lay out in the Fantasy Black Book '14, then Kershaw should go 3rd overall. In points leagues, pitching matters a whole lot and if you want to start building an arsenal there is no better place to start than Clayton Kershaw. He is a +25% over the first 16 starting pitchers in the "ace tier", making him super elite among the elite. His RPV would be +63% if you measured him against the fantasy league average pitching pool as a whole, rather than just the top 16. Since it is generally accepted every team will have at least one ace pitcher, it's safer to rank him based off his RPV from within the top 16 group.
      Hanley comes in next, despite his obvious risk. You can't ignore the contract year and the fact he has posted seasons worthy of top 5 status before in his career. He is surrounded by talent and is poised for a big 
      year at a weak position. Cano will continue to lead the pack at second base and is safe than Hanley. You can of course go with the safe pick in cash leagues and the higher risk/reward in Hanley for leagues you 
      play for pride.

Votto makes it back up to the middle of this round from being at the bottom of the roto draft. The reason being, his on base skills will make him incredibly valuable regardless of his power totals. He doesn’t need to hit homeruns to win you weeks. I am very comfortable with Braun in the first round and in the top 10 of any format. He has way too much upside to let slide past this point based on his history of being a top 3 player. There are not a whole lot of 30/30 bats out there. Even though outfield is less of a priority, you can't ignore the upside. Next, come three starters that you can make a case for in any order. For my money, Wainwright has the best track record, Scherzer the best combo of strikeouts and wins and Darvish the explosive strikeout artist. Any of the three you should be thrilled to own. Check your league's scoring system and rank them accordingly.

McCuctchen is a great talent, but his points
league value may surprise you.
Andrew McCutchen is a strong, safe play and there is nothing wrong with that. Some may scream at him being this low, but it has to do with the depth of talent pool to active outfielders played ratio. It simply plays against him. Once "Cutch" is gone, is when the risk taking starts and Tulowitzki’s +37% RPV is too tempting to pass up. Again it is all about health not talent.  Verlander and Chris Sale are the next aces to go. Sale’s team hurts his value a bit and Verlander is coming off a down year, but both are still top pitchers. Edge to Verlander on track record.

The final slot goes to Dustin Pedroia based on his RPV. There are plenty of contenders including Edwin Encarnacion, Prince Fielder, Chris Davis, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Adam Jones and Carlos Gonzalez. But the outfielder’s RPV is lower based on the necessary active player pool, and the production from upper tier first basemen is comparable. There are three third basemen worthy of discussion too. Pedroia edges them out as a second baseman at a position that “bottoms out” at a negative -26% RPV! That is the lowest of all other positions making second base a priority despite other options on the board.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Your first selection sets you up for the rest of your season and should be a franchise, super elite player who can only be stopped by unforeseen injury. He should be a slam dunk choice and a potential 3-4-5 player (.300BA/.400OBP/.500SLG%). A guy you can build your team around in your philosophy. The first rounds I am about to lay out are based on a cross section of information: RPV, age, health, situation and league type. Here are the first rounds from The Fantasy Baseball Black Book '14 based on these factors for 3 different formats in 2014:

(12 Team Mixed League with 5 OF/CINF/MINF/DH; based in ROTO RPV)
1. Mike Trout +65% ROTO RPV
2. Miguel Cavrera +57% RPV
3. Andrew McCutchen +40% 
4. Ryan Braun +37% 
5. Paul Goldschmidt 37%
6. Hanley Ramirez +52% 
7. Robinson Cano +33
8. Troy Tulowitzki +46%
9. Carlos Gonzalez +37%
10. Jacoby Ellsbury +33%
11. Adam Jones +33%
12. Joey Votto +27%

Ryan Braun is a viable #3 overall pick.
The 30/30 potential is still there.
Trout obviously takes the #1 spot in roto drafts based off his speed/power combination and the number of active outfielders in this format. Cabrera boasts a whopping +57% RPV in this league structure and is still incredibly valuable. One thing to keep in mind; it's easier nowadays to find 30 stolen bases than 40+ homeruns (only Chris Davis topped 40 besides Miggy last year). You can still make an argument based on your philosophy that Cabrera is the #1 guy; especially considering his new 1B eligibility gives you big draft flexibility as an added bonus. 

Guys who offer across the board production are what you want in roto and McCutchen, Braun and Goldschmidt fit the bill. “Cucth” gets the edge over Braun just because he is the "safer" option after a year of turmoil and PED suspensions. I will say this much, I believe Braun to be the better player and he has two 30/30 seasons to his name. McCuctchen has none. If I were in a league for pride and not cash, I would take my chance with Braun at #3 overall. Money on the line, I sway to the safe option. The 5x5 roto format normally fields 5 active outfielders, so the elite ones must be accounted for early and often. That is why as great as Goldschmidt is, I take the OF over him. He remains a great young power/speed combo at 1B and any speed is rare at that spot. Still, he has had one good season and one monstrous one. I am bidding on him settling in between.

Hanley Ramirez is an enigma, but considering shortstop's lack of punch you have to be willing to go all in. He is playing for a contract and that is always a good thing. If you want to play it safe then flip flop him and Cano. The downgrade of the top second baseman is grossly overrated in my opinion. Yes, he is going to a tougher ballpark and yes he has big contract pressure (which is something I typically would shy away from). However, the position is very poor from a power standpoint and even if he loses 3-5 homers he could still be at the top of the position. I also think getting out of New York may be more of a relief to Cano who never seemed to fit comfortably there. Seattle could be just what he needs to become that MVP the Yankees always envisioned.  He is still the best 2B on the list by a wide margin.

Now it’s time to start taking some serious risks. The first round is not what it used to be, so you may have to take a stand if you want to compete. Troy Tulowitzki is an elite talent at an awful position, but his lack of durability is a major concern. His teammate Cargo could be a top five player in this format, but his constant injuries also keep him in the middle of the first round. Here is why I would roll the dice here with these two: first, you are guaranteed a very strong, reliable player in the returning second round (Adrian Beltre/Prince Fielder type). Secondly, if you pass on Tulo and Cargo, there is no way they make it back to you. Better to reach first then settle later with “safer” players when you are picking in the mid-late portion of the draft.
Steadiness is not a commodity to undervalue
and Adam Jones is a rock.

To round out the roto draft I would go with the best bet to steal 50 bases and Ellsbury should offer that with 100+runs and a strong batting average. I also believe he can approach 15 homers. That would make him a viable first rounder in roto. If you are looking to start off strong and steady, Adam Jones and Joey Votto are about as rock solid as it gets. Jones has really blossomed into a star with his .280BA/100R/30HR/100RBI/15SB baseline. Joey Votto used to hold Goldschmidt’s slot in the first round, but his power and speed have declined in recent years. He is still a premier corner infielder, just not a top 10 player in roto.
As you can see, I have no pitchers in the first round. The pitching pool is very deep this year and in roto formats brilliant pitching performances don’t go as far as they do in points leagues.  When dealing with categories, a starter’s value can be capped despite being dominant. There are no bonuses for complete games or shutouts. It is more about a strong staff than being top-heavy.

I know Chris Davis is also not on this list despite his incredible power performance in 2013. He needs to do it again for me before I give him first round credence. Fielder and Encarnacion have shown more consistent production, so I have Davis behind them as well. I have seen way to many big year breakouts, followed by disappointments to get wrapped up in the hype.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hidden Fantasy Gems

Can you name this player?
You may want him on your team.
There are always guys every year that fly under the radar that can make a big difference in your fantasy season. The term "sleeper" is overused and overdone. If a guy is on everyone's "sleeper list", guess what he is no longer a secret. I prefer to bring attention to players who are undervalued or simply not as well known. Can you name the Yankee in the picture to the left? Perhaps if you are a Yankee fan you can, but most baseball fans can't pick Ivan Nova out of a lineup. Yet, last season Nova was arguably the best and most reliable starting pitcher on the team once he regained his rotation spot. Baseball is littered with big stars and big names, but most of them will be off the board in the first few rounds of your draft. Fantasy coverage generally pays a fair amount of attention to the elite players, followed closely by the hype train of young rising stars. What often falls through the cracks are the players who have been in the league a few years and are starting to figure things out. There are also useful veterans who still have something in the tank, even if their glory days are behind them. They tend to be the middle tier of positions pools and will get drafted in the middle rounds. However, the right "middle men" can really separate your team from your opponents. Here are some names that you shouldn't let fall through the cracks on draft day.

It’s amazing what fighting for your rotation slot can bring out of a pitcher. Nova was dreadful last April, got sent down, then called back up and posted a 2.78 ERA over his final 13 starts. Keep in mind this wasn't the Yankees we were used to, so Nova did not get as many wins as he may have deserved nor did he benefit from great run support. He was really tough to beat at home (7-3 with a 2.44 ERA) and in 2014 he seems locked into the number 4 spot behind Sabathia, Tanaka and Kuroda. He is not an ace, but he has the ability to be an above average starting pitcher with the occasional big game. The Yankees may not be the runaway favorites they once were, but they certainly re-tooled the offense enough to give him a great chance at 15 wins if everything breaks right.

There is no denying Santiago has a power arm. He split time between the rotation and the pen but was more effective as a starter (23GS, 3.51 ERA, 8.4 K/9). He still has lapses with his control, so he will incur some bad outings. However, he can also drop some big strikeout games making him a nice points league gamble. Santiago can be had in the later rounds and now that he is all but a lock for the Angels rotation you can draft him without concern over his role. There will still be ups and downs, but he has the ability to outperform his draft slot.

Yes, he is 34, but Beckett should not be forgotten in your draft plans. He simply wasn't healthy in 2013, but don't forget he posted a 2.93 ERA over his seven starts after being dealt to the Dodgers in 2012. Being healthy in the NL with a formidable Dodger lineup is a recipe for a rebound. Beckett will cost you next to nothing and is a great bet to outperform his draft slot giving his career body of work. Not all veterans are equal, and Beckett's track record deserves attention on draft day. Monitor his spring outings just to be sure he is free and easy, then bid accordingly. 

de Aza had a very productive '13 season,
but no one seems to have noticed.
His 17 homeruns were a surprise, but he continued to steal 20 bags for the second straight year. Granted, the White Sox outfield got a little crowded this offseason with the acquisition of Adam Eaton. Between Eaton, Avisail Garcia and Dayan Viciedo, only de Aza has really produced at the big league level. Frankly, with 84 runs scored and 160 hits last year, he doesn't deserve to be on the bench. Last year was probably his ceiling as a player, but that doesn't mean he can't repeat it. de Aza will be a cheap source of steals in roto leagues and may even give you double digit homers again in 2014.

He suffered back to back seasons with hamate bone breaks in each hand. He also let his weight issue get the better of his talent and his production has become underwhelming as a result. ENTER THE CONTRACT YEAR! The Panda showed up in the best shape of his life to spring training and if he is motivated, the story may be very different in 2014. Sandoval did pick up his production in the second half  of last season (.814 OPS), and he has the potential to give you good power numbers along with a high batting average. At 27, he is far too young to write off altogether yet.

While everyone else is ogling Billy Hamilton, let us not forget Eric Young led the NL in stolen bases with 46. The Mets view him as their best (and perhaps only) option as a lead-off hitter and in roto leagues. He may not hit for a high average and struggles to get on base, but Billy Hamilton has those same issues and he's going to be drafted with extreme prejudice in 2014. Why not wait and take a flyer on EY instead?

1.      He needs to stay on the field, plain and simple. Ramos is the classic example of the position taking its physical toll and hindering a gifted hitter from realizing his full potential. Take Ramos as a catcher with legitimate pop, but you may need a back up on your bench. The Nats have committed to him by letting veteran Kurt Suzuki leave via free agency. His age (26) gives me hope that he can put together a full, productive campaign in 2014. If that happens, he could be an upper tier backstop for a fraction of the cost of the big names.