Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Five Undervalued Arms for 2015

It's all about value. The key to gaining an advantage over your fellow league mates is your ability to find quality talent in the latter stages of your fantasy draft. The owners that can do this consistently are able to overcome injuries on their roster easier and will have a distinct advantage over their peers as the long season rolls forward. Those who can't will find themselves behind, chasing hot streaks on the waiver wire. With the pitching pool as deep as it is in 2015, there are an abundance of late round arms that have a great chance of outperforming their draft status.

Here are FIVE UNDERVALUED ARMS that are currently showing an ADP of #150 or greater according to you should be targeting.

1) Zack Wheeler NYM ADP #150 
Harvey got all the publicity (even though he never threw a pitch last year) and deGrom garnered all the buzz in 2014 with his Rookie of the Year campaign. However, Zack Wheeler quietly made strides in becoming a front line starter. In the second half, he lowered his ERA from 3.90 to 3.04, dropped his WHIP from 1.35 to 1.29, and raised his strikeout rate from 8.7 to 9.6 K/9. Those are all strong signs of development in the right direction. He wore down a bit in September as his new innings threshold was reached (185 IP), which is typical. His road ERA (3.09) was far better than his home 4.30 mark. If he can learn to relax in from of the home crowd there is a good chance he will be the best value of the three young Mets hurlers. The team may still hold back his wins, but he has a chance to be a sneaky good selection for all fantasy rotations in 2015.
2) Jose Quintana CWS ADP #175
If Quintana pitched for a big market team then his buzz would be much greater. Alas, pitching for the South Siders has kept his profile relatively low. That’s a good thing for fantasy owners from a value stand point. He’s just 26 years-old and already has thrown back to back 200 inning seasons with a 3-1 K/BB ratio, a 1.24 WHIP, and a K/9 of 8. He handles left handed and right handed batters with ease. His ERA was 3.68 or better home and away and 3.44 or better in both halves. Outside of a poor August, Quintana was a stud all season long. There is another level in him and even if he doesn't reach it this season he's still a terrific keeper asset. Quintana is a great selection in all formats, and an improved offense in Chicago could help him finally reach the win totals he deserves.
3) Mike Fiers MIL ADP # 184
Fiers came out of nowhere in 2012 and just as quickly vanished in 2013. Instead of moping, Fiers got to work in 2014 at AAA and dominated (2.55 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 1.5 BB/9). He deserved a second chance and he made the most of it with the Brewers and flourished with the big club (10 starts, 2.09 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.9 K/9). There is no way the Brew Crew can keep Fiers out of their rotation. He was lights out at home and on the road and, with that above average strikeout rate, he has sleeper written all over him. At 30, this is his prime and you should not be concerned with his poor 2013 season. Frankly, he did enough last year to shake those doubts and he should be on your radar in all formats. He has a very strong chance to well outperform his ADP.
4) Derek Holland TEX ADP #250
Did I miss something? I know Holland missed most of last season with a fluke non-arm related injury. However, his 2013 numbers were worthy of a #2 fantasy starter. So how does he now fall to #250 overall? Shortsightedness, that's how. He managed to salvage five starts in 2014 and pitched well, winning two of those starts with a sub 1.50 ERA. Texas is a team in transition, but two years ago Holland had clearly turned a corner showing he could be a workhorse (213 IP) with front end potential (8.0 K/9/1.28 WHIP). He will come at a significant discount in this year’s draft as most owners shy away from guys who missed the majority of a season. His arm is by all accounts healthy so it's just plain ridiculous to underrate Holland in 2015. He's also just entering his prime years (he turns 28 next season). Lefties like Holland usually peak around this time later in their careers and Holland is right there ripe for the taking.
5) Jesse Hahn OAK ADP #372
In his 12 starts with the Padres, Hahn went 7-3 with a 2.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 in 2014. He was really behind the 8-ball from a stamina standpoint last year and was never going to hold up as the season went on. He threw just 69 innings in 2013. If you look at his first 7 starts with his 10.4 K/9 and 1.06 WHIP, he was dominant. Now, you can attribute second half fades for young pitchers to the league catching up to them. However, with Hahn I believe it was more a stamina issue than the league really figuring him out. The 25 year-old has front line ability and, despite the A’s offense holding his win total back, Hahn has a bright future. Expect an innings limit in 2015 of around 160-180 if they really push him. In keeper leagues, he’s a definite target.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The LABR Draft Recap, Billy Hamilton and "The End of Days"

I know I am in the minority. I know the old standard in fantasy baseball is the Roto Format. However, baseball has evolved more than any American sport over the years and there is no reason why the fantasy game can't continue to do the same. Why should we "settle" because it's "accepted as the standard"? The standard of fantasy sports should always be set by the sport itself. In a perfect world the fantasy version of our favorite sports should mirror the REAL life versions as closely as possible. It's why I prefer football leagues that favor quarterbacks in scoring (or 2 QB leagues) and it's why I find points league baseball that weights pitching more heavily to be infinitely more challenging and rewarding as it's more closely linked to the game of baseball in it's current form today.

That being said, the accepted format proceeded last night in the form of the expert LABR Draft. As I preach in the Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2015, being successful in a draft is about understanding the market, having a plan and continuously finding value with every selection you make. Many of the participants in this draft are considered the best minds in fantasy and with good reason. There is much we can all learn from this outcome.

From my perspective, Mike Gianella & Brett Sayre from BP did a marvelous job of "Drowning the Pool" of shortstops by selecting Tulowitzki and Desmond with their back to back picks 15th and 16th overall. Most impressive was the fact they didn't do so to spite their own team. In fact, they built a strong foundation early on and absolutely shined in the final rounds. It's my belief that both the BP boys and Steve Gardner of USA Today did the best job of finding value and maintaining a high RPV (Relative Position Value) throughout the draft.

The buzz of the draft was the well known and well respected projection guru Mike Podhorzer's selection of Billy Hamilton in the 2nd Round with the 20th overall pick. While this pick set many aghast last night, it's an intellectually sound and easily explainable move. With power being down overall, Podhorzer saw an opportunity to move to the other end of the 5 hitting categories and develop a strength at stolen bases. Sure, there were equally (if not better) one dimensional speedsters available much later such as Ben Revere in the 7th round. However, it was a prerogative to make an early statement of how he would build his team. As the draft unfolded, he continued to build his offense from a H, R, SB perspective quite effectively with Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Alcides Escobar etc.

My problem is not that this happened. It's our duty as fantasy owners to exploit our formats at all costs and find value that gives us a competitive edge. My issue is that this format rewards and values players like Billy Hamilton who are below average major league players. This is a fact, not an opinion. If you disagree with me consider Billy Hamilton's offensive WAR is -7.9! This is a talent to be drafted in the second round of a fantasy draft? A -7.9?! I firmly and unequivocally say no!

This is why roto formats (especially H2H roto) should die a slow death over the next decade. Speed is an element of baseball. It is not and equal element to home runs. The very definition of the game is to score RUNS. A home run does this, a stolen base allows for the greater opportunity to do this. Yet, in 5X5 roto they are more often than not held to an identical standard. Why? Well, because its always been that way. That frankly is not a good enough reason for me. In points leagues, you can weight statistics to reflect the REAL game more efficiently and it's high time the trend of this format become the majority over the next decade for the good of the fantasy game.

The accepted should not be something we accept.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Tale of Two First Basemen: Freeman vs. Duda

First base has been a perennial power source for fantasy owners and 2015 is no exception. Yet, there are still question marks as you get past the elite players like Goldschmidt, Abreu and Anthony Rizzo who recently joined the top tier in this year's Fantasy Black Book 2015. Two first basemen that seem to have been polarizing early in draft prep season have been Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Lucas Duda of the New York Mets.
Freeman is only 25 years old this season. I mention this first because it seems like he’s been around for a long time and I think fantasy owners somehow are disappointed with him. It’s true that Freeman has yet to hit 25 HR and driven in 100 RBI only once in his first four seasons. The biggest reason I see for the regression of 2014 (just 18 HR and 78 RBI) lies in his 90 BB/145 K rate. Both were career highs and illustrate the fact that he took too many pitches and should be more aggressive if he is going to blossom into the middle of the order bat Atlanta envisions him being. His splits were relatively consistent, but just 5 HR after the break are not going to cut it from a corner spot for fantasy owners. The good news is Freeman has plenty of time to develop and grow as a hitter. The bad news is he now finds himself all alone in the middle of the Braves' order with little support.
30 HR and 92 RBI are nothing to sneeze at, especially in this era. However, Lucas Duda has some concerns going into 2015. He hit just .180 against lefties with a .252 SLG %. Those splits scream platoon player. Unlike say Matt Adams, Duda has a history of struggles against southpaws in his track record of development. His power was legit though. It did not fade down the stretch and it was equally visible at Citi Field (not historically hitter friendly) and on the road. He won’t hit for a high average and last year’s big power stats will inflate his value a bit in this year’s draft. As a CINF or DH/UT bat, I have few reservations about him. However, as an everyday first baseman he still has some holes in his game and there are no guarantees he can repeat. Also, you can be sure newly acquired Michael Cuddyer will see some starts versus tough lefties at first base cutting into Duda’s playing time. That's something to watch in H2H leagues when setting your lineup.
So who would you rather have? I find Freeman's ADP (#27 overall at Fantasy Pros) to be absurd. At a position that is supposed to supply power, how can we value a guy this highly who has never hit 25 homers? We can "project" him to grow into that, but considering his lack of supporting cast what gives us that notion that 30 HR are realistically obtainable in 2015?
Duda on the other hand is being grossly undervalued at #166 overall. As someone who is particularly tough on him, even I can't imagine a player coming off a 30 HR/92 RBI season being this disrespected. His power comps are Albert Pujols and Todd Frazier in 2014, and although they have more track record should they be 80+ slots higher than Duda? I don't believe so.
In the end it always comes down to two things: value and format. In points leagues, I prefer Freeman who offers a better overall approach at the plate (not at his current ADP mind you, but still prefer him). In roto, the potential for 8-10 more home runs over a season is significant. In this power starved era of baseball that is a measurable advantage. Not to mention the discounted cost I can acquire them at according to early ADP.
I never believe in painting players with the same brush. In fact, I find that to be one of the leading causes of failure in fantasy sports. It's always about value and format. If you can maximize value in your draft and cater to the loopholes in each specific league format, you will always find success.
Elvis Andrus or Starlin Castro - We Talk Fantasy
Who Would You Rather Have - Pablo Sandoval or Josh Harrison
Devin Mesoraco or Yadier Molina - 
Kyle Seager or Josh Donaldson -
Dustin Pedroia or Chase Utley -
Freddie Freeman or Lucas Duda -

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FSTA Draft Recap 2015

Last week was the annual FSTA DRAFT in Las Vegas which is the first of many expert drafts that will begin to set the tone for 2015 Player ADP. With the likes of Steve Gardner, Ron Shandler and Ray Flowers, some of the greatest minds who cover the game are involved. However, they are not necessarily all that removed from you. Well maybe Ron Sandler. But their biggest advantage is that they cover the sport for a living. Every one of them have their own gut instincts on players, develop their own analysis and sometimes make the same mistakes. You see every league no matter how “EXPERT” has a loser, a cellar dweller, a last place team. Having played in many “expert” leagues myself over the years I can assure you my private home league I’ve run for over a decade can be much more competitive. Especially when people know your tendencies. Still, like every draft and mock draft, the 2015 FSTA offers a lot to learn from and apply to your upcoming drafts.

RD 1

1.       Steve Gardner, USA Today - Mike Trout

2.       Colton & The Wolfman - Andrew McCutchen

3.       Ron Shandler, Baseball HQ - Jose Abreu

4.       Charlie Wiegert, CDM Sports - Paul Goldschmidt

5.       Anthony Perri, Fantistics - Clayton Kershaw

6.       Greg Ambrosius & Tom Kessenich, Stats Inc/NFBC - Giancarlo Stanton

7.       Todd Zola, Master Ball - Anthony Rizzo

8.       Dr. Roto, Scout Fantasy - Carlos Gomez

9.       Christopher Liss, Rotowire - Miguel Cabrera

10.   Jeff Paur, RT Sports - Adam Jones

11.   Jeff Mans, Fantasy Alarm - Felix Hernandez

12.   Ray Flowers, Sirius/XM - Robinson Cano

13.   Mike Cardano, Roto Experts - Jose Bautista

The biggest surprise of the first round for me was Jose Abreu at #3 overall. Considering players in their second full season tend to experience an adjustment phase and that Paul Goldschmidt in a roto format (which is the style of format) has the ability to match Abreu’s power and drop 20+ steals is in my calculation a strange selection. Yes, Goldschmidt is coming off of an injury and Arizona isn’t the greatest lineup, but he’s still the better choice from my vantage point. I’m not smarter than Ron Shandler, but I do believe he had more to gain from Goldie. That might be the one and only time I disagreed with him the rest of the draft. In roto formats I'm also not a proponent of selecting a SP with a top five pick, even the great Kershaw. Although Kershaw is my overall #1 in points leagues as I discuss at length in the new Fantasy Black Book. But considering the lack of offense throughout the league, it's imperative to add elite offense early. Miguel Cabrera might not be 100% for the start of spring, but his falling to #9 is crazy. Even if he misses the start of the season, there are almost 6 months left of his elite production. For perspective, imagine he is healthy now and misses a week in June. Same thing, but it doesn’t make him less of a franchise player does it? Of course not!

I am as big an Anthony Rizzo fan as you will find, but there are other first basemen who offer similar profiles from an RPV standpoint and to pass on Gomez, Cabrera, Jones, Cano and Bautista who offer much higher RPV in this format. I think it’s a case of “over-drafting”. Felix Hernandez should also have lasted until the second round. Chris Sale and Max Scherzer are his statistical equal. Jeff was a tad lucky that Edwin Encarnacion fell to him the 2nd round and he was able to correct the path.

RD 2

1.       Mike Cardano, Roto Experts - Madison Bumgarner

2.       Ray Flowers, Sirius/XM - Anthony Rendon

3.       Jeff Mans, Fantasy Alarm – Edwin Encarnacion

4.       Jeff Paur, RT Sports – Troy Tulowitzki

5.       Christopher Liss, Rotowire – Yasiel Puig

6.       Dr. Roto, Scout Fantasy – Jose Altuve

7.       Todd Zola, Master Ball – Josh Donaldson

8.       Greg Ambrosius & Tom Kessenich, Stats Inc/NFBC – Chris Sale

9.       Anthony Perri, Fantistics – Hanley Ramirez

10.   Charlie Wiegert, CDM Sports – Ryan Braun

11.   Ron Shandler, Baseball HQ – Ian Desmond

12.   Colton & The Wolfman – Justin Upton

13.   Steve Gardner, USA Today – Buster Posey

Bumgarner is a great talent, but the 269 innings he logged last season give me pause enough to clearly draft Sale and Scherzer over him. I don’t know if I want to live in a world where Yasiel Puig get sdrafted head of Jose Altuve. Puig has yet to deliver anything above Hunter Pence-type production and Pence went 3 rounds later than this. You take potential, I’ll take production. Perri continued a downward trend for his team by selecting Hanley Ramirez to anchor his offense having drafted Kershaw in the first. You can see right away how that early SP selection came back to bite him. Hanley is rarely healthy, his production is sporadic when he is and he is switching leagues on top of it all. Braun or Upton would have been a better selection with the depth of OF needed in the format. Shandler begins a spectacular draft run from here on out proving the earlier mentioned fact he is MUCH smarter than me.

Some notable selections in the draft that may help you get a gauge on where some controversial players may be drafted:

Carlos Gonzalez went in the late 3rd round to Ray Flowers. Corey Kluber was selected in the early 4th by Shandler. Anthony Perri took Chris Davis in the 6th round. Masahiro Tanaka went in the 10th round to Christopher Liss which is a good risk/reward place for him. Javier Baez was selected in the 9th round by Colton and the Wolfman. Baez that early is a huge stretch considering his swing and miss rate and the fact he is not a lock to even start the year as the everyday second baseman in Chicago. Give me Josh Harrison a round later. But that wasn’t the worst pick of the day.

The worst pick in the draft in my opinion was Charlie Blackmon in the 4th round to Anthony Perri. His final counting stats belie the fact he was dreadful after the break and away from Coors. He doesn’t have the minor league track record (or major league track record for that matter) to maintain those numbers. With Matt Kemp and Hunter Pence still on the board, Blackmon was a huge reach. Never draft a team for "last year".

Whenever there is a worst, there has to be a best and that pick belonged to Ray Flowers who took Melky Cabrera in the 15th round. That’s a terrific value for a player with solid all around production who hits at the top of the order in a hitter’s park. Charlie Weigert made the best late round pick selecting Michael Saunders in the 25th round. Saunders has 20/20 potential albeit not yet fully realized. That makes him a great late round selection which is where you should leave upside players…the late rounds!

The elite closers predictably went in the 6th round including Kimbrel, Chapman, Holland and Jansen in that order. Closers in waiting went in the waning rounds along with young talent that will most likely not see the light of day until mid-June at the earliest, if all.

If you asked me who “won” this draft Ron Shandler stands out. With every pick he seems to find the best value and never seems to reach. His draft is a lesson in value and discipline that we can all learn from. His pitching staff is based on guys like Kluber and Arrieta building on successful breakout years, but he also drafted great underrated starters like Jose Quintana to back them up. Offensively, he leads the room in RPV and balanced his team with proven veterans (Lucroy and Desmond) and young studs with upside who came at exquisite value (Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Syndergaard all selected in the later rounds).

For full draft results click here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Fantasy Black Book 2015 Edition Hits #1 in Fantasy Sports on the Amazon Kindle Store in ONE DAY!

The NEW Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2015 Edition is Available!

The NEW Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2015 Edition is now available on the Amazon Kindle Store for Kindle, PC and iPad with the Kindle for iPad App.

The #1 best-selling fantasy baseball guide on the Kindle Store for the last 3 years running is back for 2015!

"Pisapia's ideas and concepts on relative value are some of the smartest things I've read on this topic in all my years playing fantasy. -- Will Carroll, Lead Writer for Sports Medicine, Bleacher Report Member, BBWAA and PFWA

“Joe takes a complex problem fantasy owners have and comes up with an easy-to-understand solution. Better yet, his concept of Relative Position Value works for any fantasy format with any number of teams…With the Black Book, they get the full instruction manual.” Steve Gardner, Senior Fantasy Editor for USA Today Sports

“Reading Joe's work is sort of like being in on a great fantasy baseball secret…You'll go into the Black Book experience touting ADP, and leave it embracing RPV.” Nando DiFino, Executive Producer FNTSY Network

“Joe's insight into Relative Position Value is an eye opener and a tool we can all use to become better at studying the game. I personally use it as an indicator of future value as it relates to fantasy baseball and it is crucial to my broadcasts and analysis.” – Craig Mish, Host MLB Network Radio & Sirius/XM Fantasy

“RPV breaks down the position scarcity equation” -- Ray Guilfoyle Managing Edtior,

“I was so impressed with Joe's work that I decided to ask him to join the "Dear Mr Fantasy" podcast as full-time co-host.” -- Chris McBrien Host, "Dear Mr. Fantasy" Podcast

Fantasy baseball expert Joe Pisapia is the creator of the revolutionary statistic Relative Position Value, host of The Fantasy Black Book Show on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Channel 210/87 and co-host of the award winning Dear Mr. Fantasy Podcast. His Fantasy Black Book is the fundamental alternative to the stale content, recycled player rankings and glossy photos that dominate so many fantasy baseball sites and magazines at half the price.
In 2015, he has returned with complete RPV percentages for all players in points and roto leagues, as well “RPV per Dollar” for DFS players and auction league drafts.

The NEW and expanded 2015 Fantasy Black Book features include:
*Over 400+ Player Profiles with complete Points and Roto League RPV
*2015 Draft Strategies for ALL formats including snake, auction and dynasty

* DFS Strategies and ALL NEW “RPV per Dollar” Analysis
*All Over/Underrated Team of 2015 & The 5 Biggest Questions in Fantasy 2015
*Impact Rookies and Top Prospects for 2015

* Black Book philosophies on roster management, making trades, being the “commish” and much more…

Pisapia outlines a comprehensive approach to planning, scouting, drafting and managing your fantasy team. He also introduces a revolutionary new statistical approach that helps simplify the measuring and comparison of fantasy player performance both within and across positions.

Whether you're new to fantasy baseball or a grizzled veteran looking for a leg up on the competition, the Fantasy Black Book is the place to start.