Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tout Wars Recap by "The Rookie" Joe Pisapia

It’s easy to lose yourself and get caught up in the room. The absolute best minds in fantasy baseball surrounding you with their eyes on the rookie to see if he can hang in “the show”. My first Tout Wars experience is something I will never forget. It’s a pipe dream when you cover fantasy sports to someday be accepted into the fraternity. The members of Tout could not have been more welcoming and supportive for this first timer and it was an honor to be indoctrinated into the free masons of fantasy.

My strategy going into the Tout Mixed League Auction Draft was the same as any auction I’ve done in the past. I’m looking for players to hit a profile of production at a particular price point. This isn’t that difficult, but it’s easy to get swept up in a bidding war and abandon your discipline. My preparation centers around the construction of a “Pre-Draft” team that fits what I believe will be a competitive roster within the $260 budget and leave myself under at least $10-12 for inflation in the draft room. This is a common practice but a useful one. When I dropped in the projected stats of the “Pre-Draft” team, I would have placed 3rd in last year’s Tout Mixed League, so I was on the right track.

The Tout Draft experience is a throwback to your old school, pen and paper in your friend’s parent’s basement 15 years ago. There is no draft software to sort players and remove selected ones. It’s an all-encompassing commitment of mind and spirit for 4 hours as you ride the waves of bidding, trying to secure what you need before time and money run out. I rarely if ever bid on a player I wanted until the words “Going twice!” were uttered. Why even throw one unnecessary dollar onto a player salary I want to roster? This also has a nice ripple effect of putting the previous high bidder on the defensive, making them decide quickly if they are going to continue after they already thought they had succeeded. There is a poker game element to the auction process.

When the dust cleared here’s what I was left with and I must say in a league of this size and depth of knowledge, I was pleased with the end result.

C1 Jonathan Lucroy MIL $20

In my “Pre-Draft” team I budgeted $20 for Lucroy and I was willing to go slightly above that mark if necessary. A two catcher league with 15 teams makes backstops a priority considering that every major league starting catcher will be active each week. The RPV of Lucroy in this scenario is quite high and I still don’t see much drop off statistically between him and Posey.  For the $7 price difference of $7, I’ll take the discounted Lucroy.

C2 Jason Castro HOU $1

A second catcher wasn’t a priority once I had Lucroy under control. Jaso was my original target but his price went higher than anticipated. I nominated Castro thinking someone would go to $2 or $3 but alas, crickets. Still, a second catcher who has a starting job and can hit a dozen or so homers isn’t the worst thing to be “stuck” with at the end of the day. You always have to be prepared in a live auction to roster the player you nominate. Never forget that!

1B Todd Frazier CIN $21

Drafting Frazier gave me enormous draft flexibility which is something I preach in The Fantasy Black Book. I could slide him from 1B to 3B and let the market come to me for other corner infield payers, and that’s exactly what I did. I’m a believer in Frazier’s power, speed and athleticism. I’ve been watching him play since he was 12 years old growing up in NJ and he’s also about as solid a dude as you can hope to own. If you think makeup means nothing in fantasy you are absolutely wrong. Hustle shows up in the box scores and so does pride and work ethic. Frazier has all of these and for $21 he was a bargain. When the value of my original plan (Prince Fielder) ballooned to $27, I was pleased to have added a player like Frazier with power and speed.

2B Ian Kinsler DET $17

My original target was Kolten Wong for $19 and when you consider I was targeting him for an “Ian Kinsler-type” season, why not go with the original for the same amount? Far too often fantasy owners want to reach for players with potential and neglect the proven veterans and this is true of any league no matter how expert or novice. Kinsler likely won’t steal as many bags as Wong, but he will certainly score more runs and has a more proven power floor.

3B Manny Machado BAL $12

I’ll be the first to admit I am not the biggest Manny Machado fan, but this is business not personal. For $12, the 23 year old Machado carries improving power, a favorable home park and for less money than players like Matt Carpenter ($16) who will lack the upside of Machado. At the time I drafted him, he had the ability to play 3B/CINF or UT for me thanks to owning Frazier.

SS Jimmy Rollins LAD $14

The original plan was Segura for about $12, but I ended up with a player who can steal 25-30 bases, with far more power and run scoring potential. Again, I compromised on the high stolen base potential a bit, but came away with the better overall player. Segura would have been a nice roto rebound candidate for $11, but for $3 more Rollins offers more track record and proven production.

CINF Nolan Arenado COL $19

Fans of The Fantasy Black Book Show on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio know that I am tough on Arenado, but when Ray Flowers nominated him at $18 and no one bid I couldn’t let him go on an opening bid. So, on principal I bid $19 and became the owner of a 2015 Nolan Arenado. My toughest critique of him has been his home/road splits, but since this is straight roto, not a head-to-head scenario, I believe his counting stats will be strong at the end of the season. Arenado as a CINF I felt offered 25/80 appeal and that’s not too shabby in a 15 team mixed.

MINF Brandon Philips $1

Phillips is on the decline, but still capable of contributing some homers and steals. I especially think a revived Votto and Bruce will do wonders for his value in 2015. He's a good enough athlete to gamble on one more bounce back campaign.

OF1 Jose Bautista TOR $36

He’s the only player I paid more than $30 on my entire roster and it’s because of his elite four category production. He’s a 100/35/100 threat who’s .400 OBP will raise the collective on base percentage of my entire roster. I wouldn’t have gone to $37 because then, but I didn’t mind maxing my threshold for the best on base guy in the big leagues. Originally my plan was to get two 1A outfielders for about $55 a piece, but once I spent $36 on Bautista I had to find savings and get creative.

OF2 Hunter Pence SF $12

ENTER HUNTER PENCE! I know he’s going to miss the start of the season, but Pence is a five category, front line outfielder and five months of his bat is well worth $12. Combined with Bautista, I actually saved $2 from my original outfield budget. I did have to sacrifice a few weeks of production, but I can patch it together until he’s healthy. When Pence returns I have a great 1-2 outfield combination.

OF Melky Cabrera CWS $10

I was targeting J.D. Martinez, Alex Gordon, Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollack for this spot. Unfortunately. They all went out of my price range leaving Pollack and Cabrera. I thought Pollack for sure would join the others and sell for well above my means since he’s an industry darling this year. Therefore, I grabbed Melky at $10. Pollack ended up going for $9 shortly thereafter, but then again had I been in on the bidding perhaps it would have gone higher.  No regrets. They are comparable statistically and Melky has more track record so again the proven entity ends up getting the roster spot.

OF Michael Bourn CLE $1

Now with limited budget at the end of the draft I had to make calculated purchases. Bourn is older and coming off of consecutive down years, but I was low on steals and even 20 from Bourn would be worth the $1 investment.

OF Nick Markakis ATL $1

If he’s healthy, Markakis brings a strong on base percentage and a dozen homers. He also has an everyday job waiting for him. That’s something many $1 fliers in a league this deep cannot say.

UT Micah Johnson CWS $3

I always preach leave upside for the end of your draft and I did just that with this pick. Johnson is having a great spring and if he does win the everyday second base job he brings big steal and on base potential. He also carries trade value based on his “potential” and I will certainly be open to offers.

P1 Johnny Cueto CIN $22

Rather than spend $35 on one big arm, I decided to try and build my rotation around two nearly elite starters for about $45. Not only would this strategy yield more overall production, but it also minimizes my risk. If your staff is tied to one big ace and he goes down that can crush you. Cueto would have been a lock for NL Cy Young last year and is in a contract year. Sign me up for $22!

P2 Jordan Zimmerman WAS $23

Did someone say contract year? I believe I did. Zimmerman is a terrific pitcher and will certainly deliver elite ERA and WHIP. If his K/9 holds in the 8.3 range as it did last year, he may be the steal of the draft. I ended up with two 1A aces for $45. Mission accomplished!

P3 Garrett Richards LAA $14

Pitchers miss starts all the time during a season. Why a guy missing two in April means he’s discounted $10 I’ll never know. Richards was an ace last year before his untimely knee injury. I now had three arms capable of a sub 3.00 ERA, 200K’s and a WHIP around 1.10 or better.

P4 Jose Quintana CWS $14

Here’s the one place I may have overpaid based on preference, but clearly I wasn’t the only one at the table who thought highly of Quintana. Back to back 200 inning seasons, with and improved offense and bullpen make Quintana one of my favorite arms in 2015. If he performs up to his ability the $14 will seem like a bargain.

P5 Taijuan Walker SEA $6

I had him on my “Pre-Draft” team for $5 so I was right on target. I expect him to be a solid #5 starter and in a league of this depth. That’s a pretty big talent to slot in the back of any rotation. His risk kept his dollar value low and his reward clearly is worth every penny.

P6 Matt Moore TB $1

So I could waste a $1 on a nothing pitcher or take a chance on some upside. Jose Fernandez went for $6 and I see no reason why Moore can’t at least be a trade chip to a team desperate for pitching if he avoids a setback and returns in June/July. He could also end up being a nice addition to my own rotation should injury strike mid-season. It will cost me nearly nothing to find out and my rotation is already a strength.

P7 Justin Masterson BOS $1

Back with John Farrell, I see no reason a healthy Masterson can’t return to being a useful starter. Just a year ago he was a #3, now he’s fallen off the face of the earth? I’m willing to bet $1 he rebounds for 12 wins or more in Boston decent peripherals.

P8 Jake McGee TB $8

With no mandatory RP slots to be filled, my hand wasn’t forced into the closer market that quickly escalated well above what I anticipated. A few teams stacked closers which immediately put the market value for the other teams through the roof. I refused to spend money there with so much annual turnover in the market in this league setting. McGee was a steal especially when you consider an injured Sean Doolittle went for $11. McGee was quietly brilliant last year and is aiming for a late April return. My goal was to just be mildly competitive in saves and that theory required two closers to start that process.

P9 Brett Cecil TOR $3

Considering the price tag of closers and even set up men, Cecil for $3 was exactly what I was looking for as the draft wound down. Once Marcus Stroman went out for the year, it was only a matter of time before Cecil was declared the 9th inning guy to start the season. Will he hold the job? Who knows? But guys like Steve Cishek ($16) and Neftali Feliz ($13) are no lock down sure things either.


CJ Cron LAA: A bat with some pop for the UT slot.

Rob Refsnyder NYY: I’m not sold on Stephen Drew keeping that job and Refsnyder has on base skills and power that will play in Yankee Stadium. I say it’s only a matter of time before he gets a shot.

Adam Ottavino COL: “Old Man Hawkins” can’t keep that closing gig all year and I think Ottavino gets a serious look at some point in 2015.

Angel Pagan SF: Always a health risk, but if he can make it to opening day in one piece and play for a month, I’ve covered my Hunter Pence pick with a player capable of 75% of Pence’s production.

Seth Smith SEA: More outfield depth with power and at least one annual hot streak in him.

Jaime Garcia STL: I just need a few April starts to bridge the gap to the return of Richards. That’s all I can expect from the often injure Garcia.

*I’m also allowed to add two more players when I DL Pence and Moore in a week or so. The more bodies you can control on your roster the better in a league this deep.*

So there you have it, my first foray into Tout Wars. I believe in the depth of my roster, looking for 23+ guys to produce for 6 months. There may not be a ton of superstar celebrity, but I’m betting on the strength of their talent as a collective.

The complete draft results can be found HERE.

Thanks again to the fine folks at @CityCrabNYC for hosting, to @RonShandler, Peter Kreutzer (@kroyte) and @lawrmichaels for their Tout leadership, and to auctioneer @Jeff_Erickson for deftly running the draft, @LennyMelnick for suggesting I apply and to everyone for making the rookie feel at home.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Position Scarcity Matters...Just Not How You May Think (AKA Sirius/XM Fantasy Host Draft Recap)

The fantasy world is mostly composed of two camps: those who believe in position scarcity and those who don't. The problem is they are both wrong. To truly take full advantage of your team's potential on draft day you have to understand and exploit your league format and rules. Position scarcity does in fact matter, but the league itself dictates what those positions that are in fact scarce. This is an easy concept to grasp, yet grossly ignored in fantasy coverage. Most fantasy experts paint with one wide brush and neglect to to cater to specific league strategies as much as they should.

Let's start with my recent performance of the Sirius/XM Fantasy Host Draft. Some of the great minds in fantasy baseball such as Ray Flowers, Kyle Elfrink, Jeff Mans, Nando DiFino etc. and some ex Major Leaguers like Cliff Floyd and C.J. Nitkowski were all participants in this week's host league draft. The format was:

14 Teams, Season Long Roto 5x5:
(2) C, (1) 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CINF, MINF, UT, 9 P slots and 5 OF active.

Now, RPV in the Fantasy Black Book tells us that 2 catcher leagues demand a plan as the talent pool isn't deep at all. However, the greatest priority in this format and specific league depth isn't in the infield, it's actually in the outfield. The outfield you say? The theoretical "deepest" pool of talent? Yes. While that may be so, however it's also the most utilized position in this league by a strong percentage. In fact, nearly all of it! I'll explain with simple elementary school math:

14 Teams X 5 Active OF equals 70 active OF

Now factor in that the CINF position will be filled mostly with 1B eligible players (not the weaker 3B pool). This means that the 14 teams will likely be starting an OF at the UT spot as well. So let's bump that number up to 80 total active outfielders.

Now consider there are only 90 active outfielders in baseball on a full docket of games. 90+% of the active outfielders on MLB are ACTIVE and IN PLAY in this league every day. That doesn't account for players with OF eligibility being played at other positions like say Brandon Moss nor does it account for platoon players which are a reality at the bottom of this pool. The scarce position here is in fact OUTFIELD.

I began the draft selecting Mike Trout # overall and followed with Justin Upton and Corey Dickerson. Taking three big outfielders off the board worked on numerous levels. The first being appropriate ADP value considering each player's performance ability. Next, it "Drowned the Pool" at the position causing other owners to admittedly reach for Jason Heyward, Rusney Castillo, Gregory Polanco etc. sooner than they preferred. In turn, other players fell further than they should back to me. Lastly, I solidified four power bats capable of 30/100 seasons after selecting Prince Fielder to end the 4th round. Power and outfield were the top priority and I executed. I then took Jonathan Lucroy with the next pick to solidify my C1 spot.

Head to head roto formats allow you to stream pitching and patch things together with your rotation through the waiver wire. However, straight season long roto is a different story. Although pitching is deep, it doesn't mean you should take it for granted. Four major categories are up for grabs and prime for the taking. Many rosters had an elite starter followed by lots of filler and question mark arms which actually negates the good work of a true first tier ace. My next 6 picks were pitchers. Yes 6. Gerrit Cole, Jake Arrieta, Garret Richards, David Robertson (nice value after elite closers were gone), Jacob deGrom and Fernando Rodney (to cover save totals). I then stole Cliff Lee as my 5th starter in the 14th rd (#196) and Derek Holland in the 20th rd (#280) with Wily Peralta, Brett Cecil and Justin Masterson (hoping for a bounce back) on the bench for depth. My 6 starting pitchers are all capable of performing like #1-2 starters. As a collective they are stronger than a front loaded rotation with back-loaded junk. That just turns into mediocrity, whereas my rotation is well above average as a collective.

Sure, Lee is a question, but a calculated risk at a very late stage. Holland was a legit #2 in 2013 and showed he was still excellent at the end of last year. Richards will miss a few starts. Big deal. It's a long 6 month season I'll take his 29 starts over most people's #2. Again, this is about the long haul, not winning a week. Cole, Arrieta and deGrom are all trending upward, are healthy and without inning restrictions. Plus, they all pitched like aces in the second half last year and came at #3-4 starter prices.

The next place you can find value is in experience. Every year the sexy new names go way before boring proven veterans and like Mike Gianella from BP says, "Give me the boring old guys in single season and I will win every time." I don't know what Yasmani Tomas will be in 2015. Or Kris Bryant. But I do know what Chase Utley is at this stage of his career and he has been there and done that. I recognize these older players have limitations and health risks, but I made sure to cover my bases on my bench spots.

At the end of it all my roster looked like this:
C1 Jonathan Lucroy (#2 catcher on the board)
C2 John Jaso (give me a C who doesn't catch and plays DH everyday. Low risk and productive!)
1B Prince Fielder (a former late 1st/early 2nd pick not long ago)
2B Chase Utley (proven MLB talent)
3B Aramis Ramirez (ditto)
SS J.J. Hardy (now healthy a lock to rebound to min 15 HR at SS)
MINF Brandon Phillips (with Votto healthy, much less pressure on him)
CINF Trevor Plouffe (far from sexy, but solid and is Aramis insurance)
OF Mike Trout (best in roto)
OF Justin Upton (contact yr, has slugged well over .500 in his career in SD w/ a big sample size)
OF Corey Dickerson (a bright young talent in a hitter haven)
OF Rajai Davis (cheap steals)
OF Coco Crisp (cheap steals)
UT Chris Coghlan (a quietly productive 2nd half of '14 and set to leadoff for Cubs)
Bench Casey McGehee (low power, but still an RBI guy in an RBI slot in the batting order), Wilmer Flores (underrated bat in the minors), Evereth Cabrera (a possible steal in for steals if he wins a job!)
SP Cole, Arrieta, Richards, deGrom, Lee, Holland (Bench: Peralta, Masterson)
RP Robertson, Rodney Cecil

My infield is established major league proven talent. I know what they are and I have room for waiver wire speculations. I also have plenty of infield depth on my bench to cover time missed for aging players. My pitching is built on proven youth who still have room to improve. I didn't pay a premium for speed but acquired enough to certainly be competitive. If Cabrera takes over a starting role or super utility player spot in Baltimore I could challenge for the lead in that category. And everyone should hit for a .260 BA or better with the exception of Plouffe. Batting average is always the forgotten tool.

So there you have it. An exercise in position scarcity.See full draft results HERE.

In the end give me proven production over promise of production and remember position scarcity is always league specific.

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.