Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The Phillies are an aging team coming off a down year. However, they should in no way be written off heading into the 2013 season. In fact, the health of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay should be the best it has been in years in theory. They are a mostly veteran club with a few youngsters knocking at the door. The plus of veteran players when it comes to fantasy baseball is that they usually come at a discount on draft day. Yet, they tend to outperform the "hot young prospects" in single year leagues who get drafted rounds before them. The downside of aging stars is they can miss chunks of time with injuries so you must have a deep bench if you are going to roll out a veteran squad.

In this year's FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 I presented a significant analysis of Roy Halladay and whether or not he had anything left in the tank. The closest comparable was Greg Maddux who was just as dominant as Halladay, but once he turned 36 never posted another ERA under 3.96. Despite the injury and the down season, I don't believe Halladay is "done". I do think his time as a fantasy ace has likely come to a close. His draft stock has fallen way below what it should be and I expect a competitor as ferocious as Halladay to bounce back to within reach of his old self. Take advantage of the buy low opportunity, but as a strong #2 starter, not a rotation anchor. His keeper days are numbered. Cole Hamels is now the Opening Day ace of the Phils, and he has earned that right. He posted career highs in wins (17) and strikeouts (216) as well as great ERA and WHIP numbers. He is in his prime and a true fantasy ace. Cliff Lee had about as bad of a run of luck as any pitcher in recent memory. When your K/BB ratio is 7 to 1 you should be winning more than 6 games. All his peripherals are sparkling and like Halladay he will be undervalued on draft day. Lee is still worth a hefty price as a #1 guy and he could even slip into a #2 role if you get lucky. Kyle Kendrick made progress with his K/9 rate (finally a serviceable 6.6) and if he at least holds onto that he could be a match play in NL only leagues or deep mixed formats. He is nothing special in fantasy terms so he can be left to the waiver wire. Tyler Cloyd and John Lannan will battle for the 5th spot. Cloyd had some nice starts at the end of the year, but is still a bit green. Lannan spent most of the year in AAA with the Nats and is probably the better bet to break camp with the job. Neither is worth a spot in your rotation.

Jonathan Papelbon is the #2 closer in baseball behind Craig Kimbrel, but he is still miles behind him. I have him second on my board based on his solid secondary numbers, K rate and track record. He is the undisputed ninth inning guy and a lock for 30+saves in 2013.

The breakout season of Carlos Ruiz was too good to be true after all and he will miss most of April serving a PED suspension. Perhaps Ruiz is a stash if you miss out on a catcher run in your drafts. He should hit for a respectable average, but the power numbers will be anyone's guess. Ryan Howard was once a fantasy force, but that was when he was a 40/120 player. Now that he is more of a 30/90 guy, Howard's strikeouts are death in points leagues. He never really found himself last year, so if he has a strong spring it is an indicator he can be a fantasy low end fantasy first basemen in 2013 or a high end corner infielder. If his struggles continue, it could be a sign of lingering leg issues. Speaking of leg issues, Chase Utley finally got back on the field and miraculously was on pace for a 20/90/20 season over 81 games. If he could sustain that production, Utley will be a steal on draft day and he should be moved up on your board simply based on track record. Oh, and he is playing for a contract! Michael Young is a coin flip at this point. His production in hitter friendly Texas, fell off the map and he showed across the board declining skills. He has a fresh start in a new league and we have seen players left for dead rise from the ashes before. He doesn't carry enough power as a starter at third base, but he could be a useful at second base (16 games played last year) if he qualifies there in your league. Jimmy Rollins is what he is, and that is a .250/95R/20HR/30SB line. At shortstop that still puts him in the upper tier, even at 34 years old. He has streaky stretches, but overall his production is solid. The outfield is full of questions, but newly acquired Ben Revere will patrol centerfield. He has .300 BA and 40+steal potential, but posesses zero power. I tend to shy away from "specialized" players like Revere who contribute in one or two categories. Still, if he does lead off for the Phils, he will score close to 100 runs making him a points league player of great annoyance to your peers. You can peck your opponents to death with guys like Revere. The rest is up for grabs: Darin Ruf has prodigious power and is very intriguing sleeper in drafts if he wins a job. Domonic Brown has been underwhelming in numerous opportunities with the big club. Delmon Young's questionable glove will reduce his at bats and  John Mayberry is a glorified bench player. Ruf is really the only one worth your fantasy dollars due to his upside.

The Phillies have some guys that can still get it done and put W's in your fantasy team's column. Again, plan a deep bench for guys like Utley and Howard to be safe. Take advantage of Lee and Halladay being cheaper than usual and avoid the outfield for the foreseeable future.

Trout vs. Harper

This is going to sound crazy to a lot of fantasy owner out there, but I am not one to shy away from stirring the pot. Both guys are incredible players with bright futures. However, when you look closely at the two, there is evidence to support Mike Trout as the more productive player in 2013 and Bryce Harper as the transcendent player of this generation. Here is my personal research to back this bold statement.
It is rare that a player like Harper has the success he did at the age of 19 in major league baseball. In fact, you can count them on one hand in the last 25 years. Alex Rodriguez was a teenager when he broke in and went on to put up Cooperstown numbers over his career. However, he did not come close to Harper’s numbers out if the gate. Ken Griffey Jr. also excelled at a young age. However, Griffey’s OPS at age 19 was .748 compared to Harper’s .817. Harper even hit more homers and stole more bases than Griffey did his first season in roughly the same amount of games. Even, Mike Trout struggled a bit at his age 19 audition. The fact is, Harper’s 19 year old debut season is arguably the best ever. That group includes the aforementioned players, as well as other Hall of Famers like Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, George Davis and Al Kaline. That is incredible company.
Harper plays the game with a fury I have not seen in quite some time. In an era where everybody is “buddy, buddy” with each other on the field, Harper is out for blood. He wants to knock a ball down your throat, round the bases and plow the catcher over at home plate. The guy is an animal. But, he has a baseball maturity and instinct well beyond many of his peers when it comes to the game within the game. This means little to fantasy owners who are strictly interested in stats, but it should mean more. It is the mental side of baseball separates the good from the great, and the great from legendary.

Mike Trout is a phenomenal talent and in no way am I trying to lesson his value. He does everything right and is a tremendous athlete. You can make a case for him over Matt Kemp or Andrew McCutchen when it comes to roto leagues. I would draft him over Harper as well in a one year league without hesitation. However, his production pace of 2012 is not realistically sustainable. The fact that he is going top 3 overall in 2013 fantasy drafts make me believe people are putting too high of an expectation on him. It is tempting to think of him hitting in front of Pujols and Hamilton, but it really won’t raise his value past his production of last season. If anything, teams are now game planning to stop Trout first and he will have to make adjustments in year two.
Trout’s speed is certainly something you can bank on as he will steal a minimum of 30 bases and could push 50 again as soon as next year. However, he wasn’t quite the homerun hitter in the minors. His HR/AB ratio was 1/48 over 286 minor league games. That projects him to be more of a 15-20 homerun guy at this stage of his career. The 30 homers in 2012 seem like a tough act to follow, at least in 2013. Trout also plays a very physical center-field  He bashes into walls and runs the bases with reckless abandon. It’s what makes him so endearing to watch, but in fairness makes him an injury risk.

You really can’t go wrong with either. They both bring so much to the table and excel at so many facets of the game. To answer the question; I want Trout for 2013 and Harper for my dynasty or keeper league if I could only choose one.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


You will often hear the phrase "spring stats mean nothing". The truth is they mean very little. However, it's not always the stats in the box score that can inform your fantasy draft. For instance, I watched a few innings of the Phillies vs. Astros game this morning and although it was nice that Chase Utley singled in a run, I was more interested in how he went from first to third. The answer to that question was, "quicker than I expected and seemingly without impediment." Utley has dealt with knee issues the last few years and if he is healthy could be a steal in your fantasy draft. That kind of information doesn't not show up on the crawl of your favorite sports outlet. It does however matter and can change your perspective on a player.

Here are five keys to successfully monitor spring training from a fantasy perspective:

1) Inferior Competition When players like Ryan Raburn burn up the stat line every spring but fail when the calendar turns to April, the answer is simple. They are facing mostly inferior talent. Spring training is littered with minor league players getting their feet wet and spring "invitees" who are well past their prime. Therefore, a spring batting average of .380 with 7 homers does not necessarily lead to a breakout year from an unheralded player. It means 9 times out of 10, that player is feasting off of less than Major League caliber competition.

2) Players Returning From Injuries Spring is crucial for players heading into the upcoming season with injury concerns. There are many who had off season surgeries (ex. Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder procedure) or players who's previous season ended with injury questions such as Matt Garza. This is the time where you can see whether or not they are uninhibited by their ailments or if they are continuing to lose the battle with their own bodies. Garza has already dealt with elbow and lat issues in the first few weeks of spring after ending 2012 on a sour note with an elbow stress reaction. For you to make informed decisions on these players, you must read local coverage of these player's teams or try if you can to see highlights of their performances (if you are unable to see full video). We live in a great technological age and you must use it to your advantage when scouting your fantasy roster. At the very least you can follow up on the players you are personally targeting before making an investment on draft day.

3) Bad Spring Stats Mean Nothing for Established Players When Clayton Kershaw has a stat line of 4IP 4ER 3K 2BB there is absolutely no reason to panic. When it comes to pitchers of note, most of them are using spring to work on their mechanics, a specific pitch or just shake the dust off from the winter. You should not be concerned with any bad outings, even multiple bad outings. A few years ago Zack Greinke had a frighteningly awful spring and it caused his draft stock to tumble. Well, I took advantage of that fact and he went onto win the Cy Young that year. In fact, you can even target a pitcher or two having a bad start and try to nab them a round or two later than normal. Same goes with established hitters. As long as everyone is rounding into form the last week of spring all is well.

4) Position Battles Spring is often a place for position battles and in these instances stats do matter more than any other. When it comes to winning a job or avoiding a platoon these few weeks are crucial. Monitoring them closely can give you a leg up in the later rounds of your draft. If your league drafts early you can be at a disadvantage in these situations so it may be best to avoid them when you can.

5) Young Talent This is the time when organizations give their prospects a good long look, but just keep in mind key #1 on this list when you look watch them. Every now and then young players break camp with a starting job, but in the modern financial baseball world that is becoming a rarity. It is more likely these players  who succeed and have little competition blocking their progress, will probably be called up June and thereafter. Their spring performance is a good indicator of where they are at in their development and is especially important in leagues with minor league slots. Just don't overrate them too much in one year only leagues.

Keeping an eye on spring training can be very useful, but keeping spring training in its proper place is paramount. It means more to some players than others and you must properly weigh that when evaluating performances heading into your draft. For more fantasy baseball insight and philosophy check out THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2103 EDITION on Amazon for iPad and Kindle.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


The Tigers had a great run, but hit the skids in the World Series against a hot San Francisco Giants team. This off-season the Tigers added Torii Hunter's leadership, kept Anibal Sanchez from leaving via free agency and jettisoned the antics of former closer Jose Valverde. Oh, and they are getting Victor Martinez back healthy to hit in the five hole of an already formidable lineup. The Tigers have the best hitter and pitcher in the game on their roster and look primed for a return trip to the World Series in 2013. If you are looking for fantasy stars, the Motor City provides some of the best you will find.

Justin Verlander may not have matched his 2011 CY Young/MVP season, but that was a once in a generation performance. Verlander's ability to pace himself and actually get stronger as the games goes on allows him to pitch deep into games and accumulate stunning statistics. He should make a run at 20 wins again with 240K's, 240IP, a WHIP around 1.00 and an ERA near 2.50. He is the best pitcher in the American League and is in his prime (30). Verlander is worth every dollar. Max Scherzer finally put it all together after teasing fantasy owners the last three years with glimpses of brilliance. His 11.1 K/9 led the league and he won a career high 16 games. Scherzer was dominant in the second half (2.69 ERA opposed to 4.72 before) and is entering his prime (28). The only real concern is the shoulder issue that plagued him at the end of the season. As I said with Gio Gonzalez last week, you can't draft a guy with one "ace-like" season as your #1 fantasy starter. If his health checks out this spring he is a strong #2 with big time strikeout ability. One of my favorite underrated fantasy arms is Doug Fister. His totals never blow anyone away, mostly because he seems to miss time every season. Fister is a terrific control pitcher who will occasionally drop a big strikeout game on you. If he can make 30 starts, Fister will easily win double digit games and give you sparkling WHIP and ERA numbers. He will be undervalued on draft day and will outperform many of the arms that will go before him. Anibal Sanchez showed he was ready to pitch in big games and as just a cog in a great rotation there is little pressure on Sanchez. The run support that eluded him in Miami should allow him to continue to grow and mature as a pitcher and he could certainly take another step forward in 2013. His strong September (2.43 ERA 37/5 K/BB in 40 IP) and playoff performance makes him a pitcher trending in the right direction. Rick Porcello simply does not strikeout enough guys to warrant fantasy attention. His high ERA and WHIP can really hurt you and there have been no signs of improvement. You should be rooting for Drew Smyly to beat him out for the fifth starter job.

This is their only weakness. Rookie Bruce Rondon is getting the first crack at winning the job. Although he throws hard, he has no track record closing games at the big league level and he has trouble locating. Being "effectively wild" does not equate to him being a sure thing. If Rondon fails, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, and Octavio Dotel could all be in the mix for saves. The Detroit bullpen looks like one to avoid in your fantasy leagues on draft day. Instead monitor the situation closely and vulture saves from the waiver wire when the opportunity presents itself.

Alex Avila was disappointing after a breakout 2011.His power and average vanished making him hard to predict in 2013. In AL only leagues, he deserves another chance, but in mixed leagues there are plenty of guys with better track records. He is too young to write off as a one year wonder, but it is hard to justify anything more than a late round pick. Prince Fielder is the #1 fantasy first basemen in my book. He plays everyday making him more durable than Joey Votto and he is younger than Albert Pujols. After the expected adjustment period to switching leagues, Fielder was a monster after the break (1.006 OPS). Fielder is well protected and is poised for a power spike in year two as a Tiger. Omar Infante had a surprising early power surge, then reverted to his usual self. He is better suited to a utility role, but will be the everyday second basemen for Detroit. He has minimal value as a fantasy bench player, but you should avoid drafting him as a starter (career .712 OPS). Then there is Mr. Triple Crown Miguel Cabrera. He is the best hitter in baseball and plays third base. This makes him easily to top offensive player on the board in 2013 drafts. He may not give you steals, but to take an outfielder over Cabrera is foolish considering the plethora of speed and power combination that exist there after the first round. In an era of baseball where power is scarce, Cabrera has 40/120 power with a batting average around .330. He is in a league of his own and at the peak of his production. Jhonny Peralta is back to his good year/bad year ways. Yes, he does have 20 homer potential at a weak position but he there are no guarantees when you draft him. His down 2012 will make him very inexpensive on draft day. Cheap power from middle infield should never be completely ignored. If you are looking for under the radar outfielders, look no further than Austin Jackson. After a bad 2011 season, Jackson showed great progress in 2012. His homeruns (10 to 16), batting average and OPS (,249 to .300) (.690 to .856) all increased. His steals did drop from 22 to 12, but anytime a player cuts down on his strikeouts, increases his walks and his power numbers simultaneously that is something special. Jackson is poised to lead-off for the Tigers and will score 100 runs without breaking a sweat. Torii Hunter still has something left in the tank and a chip on his shoulder after the Angels let him walk. He hit .300 for the first time in his career which is making up for his decline in power. Hunter is a nice late round outfield pick in deep leagues and is hitting in the 2 hole so he should see a healthy diet of fastballs. Andy Dirks will get the bulk of the left field at bats since he will face RHP in a platoon. As nice a year as he had in 2012 (.322 8/35 in 72 games), unless he wins the job outright Dirks is still a waiver wire bat. Brennan Boesch, Quentin Berry, and Avisail Garcia will cut into his time. Victor Martinez looks healthy and will be the primary DH this year. In leagues where he qualifies at catcher he is a huge advantage since he will receive more at bats than your regular catcher in fantasy. He may take a while to get comfortable after missing the entire 2012 season, but Martinez is a professional hitter who will give you 20+homers, 90 RBI and solid batting average. Don't be shocked if he actually catcher a few games as the year goes on. Jim Leyland will get his bat in the lineup during inter-league play any way he can.

The Tigers have a stacked rotation and a powerful offense. Their undoing could be their bullpen. It may cost the starters some wins and could become a weight on the offense to feel they must overcome. Still, the Tigers  offer big time talent and some great value in the mid-late rounds of your draft.

For more player profiles check out THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION on Amazon for iPad and Kindle.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The only thing more fun than watching this young Nationals team play might be the Presidents' Race that runs every home game. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman are all big young fantasy names, but it was Davey Johnson's uncanny ability to steer them in the right direction while getting the most out of veterans like Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche that took the Nats into the 2012 playoffs. The Nats are ready to take off in an NL East and they offer an abundance of keeper talent, solid producers and even a few sleeper candidates.

There is no better strikeout pitcher in the game than Stephen Strasburg. He does come with significant risk, but in his second full year removed from Tommy John Surgery he should be clear to finally throw 200 innings which should easily result in 250K's a sub 3.25 ERA and a WHIP under 1.20. Now it is likely he will fade down the stretch this year once he crosses the 160 inning mark. Just because he is enormously talented does not make him immune to the same pitfalls as other young starters. In one year only leagues you may even explore dealing him in August before your playoff run. It is not as crazy a notion as you may think. He will certainly have great numbers and may bring back a wealth of riches that would put you over the top in your championship hunt . In keeper leagues, you obviously will hold onto him and take your lumps if necessary in September. Pitchers with this kind of early dominant arc at such a young age are names like Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Dwight Gooden. All of them have been long term let downs so keep that in the back of your head as well. Gio Gonzalez proved the NL switch is a pitcher's dream (and a fantasy owner's as well). Gonzalez won 21 games, posted the lowest walk rate of his career (3.4) and his best WHIP (1.13). There is no reason to think he can't repeat those numbers. Still, I prefer him as a #2 starter in mixed leagues if you can draft him there simply based on the fact '12 was his first ace-like season. Jordan Zimmerman is about as underrated as a young starter can get. In 32 starts he was "quality" in 24 of them. His 2.94 ERA and 1.17 WHIP should have led to more than 12 victories. If his K/9 ever improve over 7.0 he could become a fantasy ace, but for know think of him as a top middle rotation arm. Dan Haren has been a fantasy stalwart until last season when a bad back ruined his season. He is on a one year deal and his stock has fallen way past where it should be in mock drafts. Haren is a steal if his ADP continues to trend downward. Before last year, Haren was a #2 fantasy starter, and now that he is in the NL it would be shocking if he did not bounce back. Check him out this spring to see if he is healthy. Ross Detwiler pitched over his head last year and his lack of strikeouts makes it difficult for him to sustain a solid ERA. He has some value as a match up play in NL only leagues, but I would avoid him in mixed formats.

Rafael Soriano parlayed his 2012 "Mariano Rivera impersonation" into a 2 year deal with the Nats to be their closer. He posted excellent secondary numbers and is an above average fantasy closer. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen both have proven worthy of the role as well, but for now are relegated to holds. In leagues that reward middle men, they are both valuable.

Kurt Suzuki improved when he was dealt to Washington (.725 OPS which is above his career average. Wilson Ramos figures to cut into his playing time, making them both less than desirable catcher options in fantasy. Adam LaRoche had a career year (33/100) in '12 and he is locked into the middle of the Nats batting order. He will continue to drive in runs but his strikeouts make him a better roto play as opposed to points leagues. LaRoche will be one of the cheaper power threats on draft day from a corner spot. If you miss out on the big guys you could do a lot worse. Danny Espinosa is battling a rotator cuff injury and a penchant for swinging and missing. His K rate is so bad that it destroys his points league value. His power and speed play better in roto formats, but the lingering health questions make him a complete roll of the dice. What a difference a cortisone shot made for Ryan Zimmerman. Once he received one in his ailing shoulder he became the slugging third basemen we remembered. He is a top 5 guy at the position if healthy and certainly a 100/30/100 season is well within his grasp. I would overpay slightly for him in 2013. In the shadow of the other young Nationals talent, Ian Desmond had a breakout season. Despite missing a chunk of the season on the DL, Desmond was consistently productive every month and is a real 25/25 threat at a tough position. This may be the last time you get him at a discount. Jayson Werth's .300 average was a nice surprise, but his power was slow to return. He is a bargain power/speed combination later in your draft and if this new found contact rate holds he could even have a career season. Denard Span is hoping to regain his 2009 form and as a the Nats new lead-off man. He should be a safe bet to score 100 runs if he plays 150+ games. Though he posses above average speed he has never stolen more than 26 bags in a season so temper those expectations. Runs and average are his bread and butter, anything more is a bonus. Then there is Bryce Harper whose age 19 success is completely unique in the history of the game. His debut was better than Ken Griffey Jr. or A-Rod and is closer to Mel Ott/Ty Cobb quality production the likes of which we have never seen in modern day baseball from a teenager. He is certainly capable of growing into a 30/30 player in the next three years and is in my opinion the young offensive fantasy keeper (yes, even better than Mike Trout, but you will have to read THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK for that breakdown). He will no doubt have some adversity along the way and his reaction will be interesting to see. As great as Harper is, he is not yet an elite outfielder and he may be overrated a bit in single year leagues based on hype. He is a tough, gritty, fun, intense player to watch and a terrific fantasy pick. Just be sure you draft him at an appropriate value, otherwise you run the risk of asking a 20 year old to carry your offense and that is never wise.

The Nationals are going to be a productive and competitive club in 2013 and those ripple effects will be felt in your fantasy league. The key here is health and progress from both the young and old alike. If everything breaks right and they could be poised for a special season.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I was lucky enough to do a guest spot on the Dear Mr. Fantasy Podcast with Chris McBrien and The Fantasy Doctor. We previewed second basemen and had a whole lot of fun in between. Best two Canadians since Terrence and Phillip!

Their podcast is a great mixture of information and entertainment. They have some killer guests this season and was honored to do my part. We play "Would You Rather", talk sleepers, rookies and answer mailbag questions. Check out the link above or just search for it on iTunes. You will be glad you did!


Friday, February 15, 2013


We all know spending enormous amounts of cash does not always equal wins. We have seen time and time again teams go on spending sprees that energize their fan base, only to fall sort of expectations. Worst of all, the players tend to be over hyped in the media which leads to inflated fantasy values. The Dodgers are probably the prime example of this gluttony. For as much talent as they have, there are nearly as many questions which could make this situation quite volatile.

If you asked me to name the one National League pitcher I would want in 2013 or keeper league, hands down that man would be Clayton Kershaw. At 25 years old, he is already pitching like a veteran in his prime. Kershaw battled a hip injury at the end of last year, but all reports on his health are good heading into spring training. His numbers are off the charts. You can expect: H/9 around 6.7, an ERA under 2.75, 220K's, and a WHIP hovering around 1.00. It is frightening to thing he may have another gear in him. I would draft Kershaw over Justin Verlander or Stephen Strasburg in keeper leagues. He is younger than Verlander by a wide margin and has proven more durable than Strasburg. Zack Greinke signed an exorbitant contract with the Dodgers and is certainly a candidate for the classic "big contract pressure/bad performance". Add in his history with anxiety issues in a big market and Greinke could be disastrous fantasy investment. Even at his best Greinke is more of a 1A starter than a true ace. He will have ace-like performances, but he will also throw in some clunkers that will hold back his overall value. I would tread lightly with him and only draft him if he fell beyond his ADP. Not as a #1 starter in fantasy. In 7 starts with LA last year, Josh Beckett looked reborn (2.93 ERA with the Dodgers). The switch from the AL East to the NL West would serve most pitchers well, especially an aging veteran. Beckett's stock has fallen so far that he actually profiles as a sleeper heading into 2013 drafts. If he can keep his K/9 rate around 8.0 he should be a nice value pay as a back end fantasy starter. The rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu is unproven despite a career 2.80 ERA in his homeland and strong strikeout rates. Aaron Harang's secondary stats are far from exciting as his K rate (6.6) and BB rate (4.3) have inched closer together. Ted Lilly has always been a favorite quietly good fantasy arm, but he is now 37 and coming off a shoulder injury. Chris Capuano is probably the most deserving of a spot based on his 2012 performance. He had a 3 to 1 K/BB rate and an ERA of 3.75. Then there is Chad Billingsley. He seemed to finally make some progress last year, but his elbow is now hanging by a thread. I would be shocked if he came close to 30 starts and he is about as risky a pick as you can make. When you consider he has really never lived up to expectations, there is little reason to put your season in jeopardy. The worst part is there may be no clarity on the back end of the Dodger rotation until after your draft so you may have to avoid these last five arms until the waiver wire activates in your league.

Kenley Jansen is a beast and now that his irregular heartbeat is under under control he may challenge Craig Kimbrel for the top closer spot. He won't match him, but he does have the strikeout totals to be a dominant fantasy closer. Should he falter, Brandon League has the experience to step in and be his usual mediocre self.  Jansen won't have a long leash with the money they have spent, but he is clearly the better fantasy play of the two.

A.J. Ellis was a pleasant surprise at catcher in 2012, but at 31 there is no upside. His average and on base skills may hold, but the power will not and he is someone you should steer clear from in your draft. Adrian Gonzalez has been an enigma recently and perhaps the change of scenery will do him some good. His most productive years were in the NL West so there is reason to think the old familiar will help regulate him back to the 30/100 threat we remember. Gonzalez has a fantastic shot at outperforming his draft slot. He is one of the rare 3-4-5 capable players (that's .300BA/.400OBP/.500SLG). The fact he qualifies in the outfield in most leagues raise his value even more since it will allow you to draft the best players that are available and shift Gonzalez around to improve your team. The combo of Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker have no fantasy appeal. Hanley Ramirez at shortstop at his best is a first round talent. The problem is we have seen his best in quite some time. His attitude and concentration issues are well documented, but as he enters the prime of his career with real lineup protection he is worth one more early pick based off is position eligibility and flexibility (3B and SS eligible in most formats). Don't expect 30 homers again, but maybe a nice 25/25 season would wash away the sins of old in the minds of fantasy owners. Like Ellis, Luis Cruz is another career minor leaguer who played way over his head and should be avoided. When he crashes back to Earth, I would expect Hanley to slide over to SS and Dee Gordon to get one more shot to show his dynamic speed. This time around he has to realize, speed is only an asset if you can put the ball in play. Matt Kemp is one of the few 40/40 threats in all of baseball. Despite his injury riddled 2012 campaign, he remains a first round talent who should have a bounce back year. He is a franchise fantasy stud and across the board contributor. Andre Ethier is one of the most overrated fantasy outfielders in the game. He always has one big hot streak in him, but the fact is he is woeful against left handed pitching (.238 BA/.649 OPS for his career vs LHP) and that is not going to change. Let someone else take the bait. He is a glorified platoon player. Lastly we have Carl Crawford, who has left all of us speechless the last two seasons. He is in his prime and should be posting the best numbers of his career, but instead injuries have rendered him nearly undraftable heading into the 2013 season. You can give him the benefit of the doubt and say injuries, big contract, Boston were all to blame for his demise. But most of his value is tied to his legs which are now 31 years old. Crawford has never hit for a lot of power, and now he is switching leagues for the first time. He is worth a flier in the second part of your draft, but chances are another owner will draft him well before that. It would asking a lot for him to be an "elite" outfielder again.

The Dodgers are relying on a lot of bounce back years and some players who performed well above expectations to repeat their surprising success. You will also have to take a leap of faith that these players will perform to their standards. The facts are, outside of Kershaw, the entire team comes with varying risk for your fantasy team and it is unlikely that everything is going to break right here. Calculate the risks you are willing to take in your draft and try not to succumb to the hype surrounding the money train being driven through Chavez Ravine.

For more complete player reviews check out the FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION available on amazon for Kindle and iPad.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


After a number of years of undisciplined front office decisions and ownership question marks, the Mets seem to have finally found a steady hand in Sandy Alderson at the helm. The Mets' GM is committed to rebuilding the organization from the inside out. By dealing off R.A. Dickey and Carlos Beltran he was able to bring back big time prospects while continuing to reshape the team concept. He has also shown the fortitude to allow overpriced players to move on that did not fit the vision of the future or passes on mid-level free agents who would  just be window dressing to appease the masses. The toughest part is convincing a New York fan base to wait for better days. Met fans historically are more patient then their cross town rivals, but Citi Field will still be barren most nights unless the prospects make an early impact. 2013 looks to be another tough transition year, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel and some decent fantasy plays to boot.

Johan Santana finally gave the fans the first no-hitter in team history, but the workload of that evening and bizarre re-configuring of him back into the rotation afterwards threw him completely out of whack. It all resulted in another incomplete season for Santana, this time from a back injury. Before the break, Santana did pitch quite well (3.24 ERA in 102 IP 99K/33BB). If he is truly healthy with no restrictions in 2013 and can repeat those secondary stats, he may be a prime candidate to be moved to a contender. That would be a boon for his value. Roto players beware, as long as he is a Met, the offense and bullpen will limit his wins. Draft Santana as a back end of the rotation starter with upside. He should come at a very low cost considering his injury history and the lack of excitement surrounding the '13 Mets. The biggest bright spot for the 2012 Mets rotation was Jonathan Niese. In his 25 year old season, he posted a career low (3.40 ERA), Hits per 9 (8.2) and walk rate (2.3 BB/9); while maintaining a strong K/9 rate of 7.3. There is a lot to like here and Niese is your classic slow developing lefty. If he can build on last season or at least hold strong, he will be a highly underrated fantasy arm at a significant discount. Shaun Marcum is your prototypical middle of the road fantasy arm. When he takes the mound he is double digit wins, a 3.75 ERA and a 150/60 K/BB ratio. Marcum's numerous arm injuries have prevented him from taking the mound at times and he has only reached the 200 inning mark once in his career. He brings more risk than usual, but is worth a late pick as fantasy rotation depth. Dillon Gee's season was cut short by a blocked artery in his pitching shoulder, but before the injury he showed marked improvement. He cut his walk rate in half, raised his strikeout rate and lowered his WHIP and ERA. Gee will have almost zero airtime in fantasy circles, but he could be a spot starter/match-up play. Gee is a sneaky good late round pick. Matt Harvey is a very strong your strikeout pitcher (9.8 K/9 in the minors), and his success carried  over in his 10 starts with the Mets. Like most young pitchers, he will experience some bumps in the road especially when you consider his high walk rate (3.9 BB/9). When you walk too many guys in the big leagues, it is tough to be successful. Number one pitching prospect Zack Wheeler should make an appearance at some point during the 2013 season as well. He has all the earmarks of a front line starter and strong secondary stats to back it up, though like Harvey he needs to reduce his walks. Both he and Harvey are nice keeper league investments with limited upside in 2013.

If you think Frank Francisco is going to get saves you are wrong. Brandon Lyon is the guy to invest in here as a RP2 in fantasy leagues. He is not the greatest option, but he does have experience and that counts for something. Bobby Parnell has proven he can't handle the closing duties, so Lyon is your man.

John Buck is a placeholder for top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud. d'Arnaud projects as a Buster Posey-type offensive catcher with good average and 25 homer power. He should make an appearance around the all star break. Offensive catchers are hard to find making him a great young keeper in deep leagues. Buck and his sub .200 BA have no fantasy appeal. Ike Davis had about as awful a first half as you can get (.659 OPS), but rebounded for a sparkling .888 OPS after the break. Davis is 100% healthy after dealing with Valley Fever last season. He is a 30/100 slugging first basemen, so you can stomach his .250 AVG. There is room to grown here and Davis is an under the radar long term fantasy investment. Average and doubles are great, but Daniel Murphy needs to get his home run total into double digits to have mixed league appeal. Murphy is a weaker option at an already weak position. He is serviceable in NL only leagues or perhaps a MINF in deep roto leagues. David Wright's contract extension was well deserved and he should continue to be a top 5 third base option in all fantasy leagues. He did have a big drop off in the second half (.351 BA/1.004OPS to .258BA/.750OPS) which is a slight concern, but he offers across the board production that is impossible to shy away from on draft day. Wright is in his prime (29) and could still have one or two big seasons left in him. Ruben Tejada simply does not hit enough for fantasy purposes. If he ends up in the lead-off spot he may get a small bump in NL only or very deep points leagues, but that is about all. Lucas Duda was a disappointing after being a fantasy "sleeper" heading into 2012. He has pop and is still young enough to figure it out. A late round flier bench bat for now, until he proves more. The time share of Colin Cowgill, Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis is worth monitoring on the waiver wire, but non should be drafted in fantasy formats. Cowgill has the best upside as he was once a top prospect in the D'Backs organization.

The theme here is simple, there are some under the radar value pays on the Mets roster and it would be wise to keep them on your radar. The upside for 2013 is limited, but if you are filling holes in the latter half of your draft the Mets have some bodies that can help.

For complete player profiles check out THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION on Amazon for Kindle and iPad.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


The Cardinals continue to be a model organization in Major League Baseball. They foster their young talent, are not afraid to bring in strong veterans and continuously turn around lost careers. Even after losing Albert Pujols to free agency they made the playoffs and look poised to compete once again for the NL Central crown. The one mainstay in St. Louis has been pitching. Derek Lilliquist has picked up where Dave Duncan left off and the Cards' deck is stacked with arms. Add in the emergence of Allen Craig and rebirth of Carlos Beltran and the redbirds a formidable squad in 2013.

A second year removed from Tommy John, Adam Wainwright should take another step closer to being his old self. He was better than his final stat line suggested and had a lot of bad luck in 2012. Wainwright was prone to the "one bad inning" that cost him wins and inflated his ERA. The good news is his K/9 (8.3) and BB/9 (2.4) were right on target so the rest should fall into place this season. He can still perform like a fantasy ace, but is better suited to be drafted as a high end #2 starter. Jaime Garcia elected to rehab his ailing shoulder and avoided surgery, but there is a very good chance he may end up on the DL. His skills are good, but not good enough to invest in him on draft day. You can find his 13 wins and 150 K's with far less risk. In his first full season as a starter, Lance Lynn was all star quality. He did have the typical second half fade common to young pitchers. However, he was still solid enough to warrant a lot of respect in 2013 drafts. He is still underrated and should be good for 15 wins, 180 K's and an ERA of 3.75. Lynn is a sneaky good back end of the rotation fantasy arm. Jake Westbrook has never been a good fantasy play due to his below average secondary numbers. With Chris Carpenter likely out of the year, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal will battle for the remaining rotation slot. Miller righted the ship late in the year and is the #1 young arm in the Cardinals system. He has big upside in keeper leagues. Don't sleep on Rosenthal though. He throws hard and has excellent strikeout numbers. If you can grab them both in the draft and stash them, they will pay dividends in 2013.

Jason Motte is entrenched as the closer and his sub 3.00 ERA and 86 K's in 72 innings make him a solid reliever in all leagues. He is getting better every year. It would take a catastrophic run of bad luck or injury to unseat him from the role.

Yadier Molina has made himself a fantasy stud in the last two years proving yet again a player's prime is 29. His career high 22 homeruns an an .874 OPS make him a top fantasy catcher in 2013. he even stole 12 bases for you roto fans. You can argue he is the safest option at the position as well when you consider the injuries that have befallen the top 5 catchers recently. Allen Craig finally has a home at first base. Now he has to play 150 games in a season. It can be dangerous to project a player's numbers over a full season, but Craig has slugged .518 over his minor league career and hit over .300 so it appears safe to say Craig is for real. Once the elite first basemen are gone, Craig is an excellent selection. Daniel Descalso might be the second baseman on the depth chart, but it is common knowledge the Cards want Matt Carpenter to win the job. If he does, Carpenter may be the steal of the draft for middle infielders. he has great on base skills (.408 minor league OBP) and a bit of pop too. Watch this spring battle closely. Rafael Furcal is past his prime and never healthy so don't even bother. David Freese is a 80/20/80/.300 player as long as he stays on the field. That has been his biggest drawback, but he is in his prime and a great middle round third base option if you miss out on the top guys. Carlos Beltran had a fantastic season (32HR/87RBI/13SB), but it is worth noting he (his OPS dropped from .924 to .742 after the break). If he gets off to a Jon Jay will hit for a high average and score runs if he land at the top of the St. Louis order. He has little pop and is really more of a bench outfielder in fantasy terms. Matt Holliday is still one of the most underrated hitters in the game. He may not cross 30 bombs anymore, but he will give you outstanding production in every category and be a monster in points leagues. Guys with his OPS create havoc in fantasy baseball and he will be cheaper than the Josh Hamilton's of the world.

The Cardinals have an above average roster and a plethora of underrated fantasy stars. They will play the game right and play hard. Believe it or not that does translate in the box score and into your fantasy bottom line. Guys who hustle, take that extra base and make those key pitches can be the difference of you winning or losing a fantasy match-up. There is a lot to like here all over the diamond and the price tag will be very reasonable.

For complete player profiles check out THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION on Amazon for Kindle and iPad.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Last year, Bobby Valentine turned out to be the most destructive force in New England since the Perfect Storm. If the Red Sox were trying to blow it up and start again, they found their man. The 2012 season was a disaster, but the organization was able to make some tough choices and move on with aging veterans like Kevin Youkilis and Josh Beckett and the overwhelming contracts of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. With John Farrell back in the fold as the new manager, things seem poised to get back to normal. Second year GM Ben Cherington made some free agents signings and some off season deals to re-shape the Sox roster for 2013. At this point there is nowhere to go but up.

No one will benefit more from John Farrell's return than Jon Lester. He looked completely lost at times last year and posted a career worst 4.82 ERA. Nearly all of his indicators went in the wrong direction (WHIP & H/9 went up, K's went down). The good news is he is in his prime and still has ace-like talent. He needs to revers his declining strikeout rate first and foremost, otherwise his walk rate (3.3 career BB/9) will continue to get the better of him. He will be more affordable than most other starters with comparable talent and is worth the draft pick as a #3 starter in your fantasy rotation. Ryan Dempster had a tough transition at first to the AL last year after being dealt to Texas. However, he eventually figured it out and was better down the stretch. At 36, Dempster is past his prime and is at best a back end of the fantasy rotation play. In roto, his ERA and WHIP figure to hurt his value, so think of him as a better points league play because of his decent strikeout rate. Clay Buchholz has really never put it all together over a full season. His 3.76 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in the second half is encouraging and he has yet to enter his prime (just 28). I would be buying on Buchholz. John Lackey is set to return after missing all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery. He was so bad in 2011 you can't in good faith draft him as any more than a bench arm in a deep league. First year back from TJ is usually not the best anyway so if you miss out on him, no harm done. Felix Dubront was one of the most inefficient pitchers in baseball last year. That means he threw way too many pitches, which limits how deep he will last in a game, which reduces his chances at wins. It's a vicious cycle. Franklin Morales also has a shot at the fifth starter job, but would not cross 150 innings if he did. Alfredo Aceves is also coming into camp as a starter, but he too has fantasy limitations.

Joel Hanrahan was bought over in a deal with the Pirates and he has been very steady in his last two years as a closer. He is your prototypical fantasy closer with good secondary stats, but not overwhelming. Andrew Bailey is still around as well, but his injuries have cost him a once promising career. Koji Uehara is the better bet for K's and holds for leagues that value middle relievers.

Ryan Lavarnway has proven himself in the minors (.882 career minor league OPS) and figures to be eased into the starting role at some point this year making him a nice keeper. The only thing standing in his way is Jarrod Saltalamacchia who despite his 20 homer power, bring little else to the table. Mike Napoli is coming off a down year and a downsized contract. His gimpy hip reduced his contract with the Sox and is something to  consider when drafting him. He figures to play first base all year and will keep his catcher eligibility in most formats. That makes him a great play at catcher in fantasy leagues since he will see far more at bats than your standard catcher. Take the power numbers and be grateful for anything else he provides. Dustin Pedroia is #2 on my second base tier and is a great across the board fantasy player. If he can stay healthy you can expect his usual 100R/200H/15HR/80RBI/20SB/.300BA. He is still as good as it gets at second even off the down year. Will Middlebrooks made everyone forget about Youk for a while. He started out of the gate on fire, then pitchers started to figure him out before a wrist injury ended his season prematurely. Wrists can be tricky so check him out this spring to be sure he is 100%. He has real power and should be a run producer. Just keep an eye on his strikeouts, they were a problem in the minor leagues as well. That K rate coupled with his low walk total  could spell some long slumps. Stephen Drew has been more trouble than he is worth, but because he plays shortstop he always ends up being drafted. He is an injury waiting to happen and strictly AL only desperation material. Jacoby Ellsbury has also had a hard time staying on the field in his career. His 2011 power spike was an anomaly. If he hits for a high average and steals 40 bags, be happy if he even reaches double digit homers. Do not overrate him. Yet another guy coming off a down year, Shane Victorino did swipe a career high 39 bases and perhaps was a victim of letting his contract situation creep into his head and make him press. Now settled in Boston, there is no reason not to expect him to get back to his old ways and clearly the legs are still there. Ryan Kalish's injury could not have come at a worse time as the door was open for him. Daniel Nava and Johnny Gomes will hold down the fort but neither are fantasy worthy. Then there is the ageless Big Papi! David Ortiz continues to shine improving his BA, OBP and SLG three straight years. He too was bit by the injury bug and may be the most undervalued hitter in fantasy because of his position limitations. The production is still above average.

The overwhelming theme in Boston this season is bounce back years. If the Red Sox get them, they will contend and play well, if not it is going to be another long year. The smart money says there is too much talent here to not give most of them a second chance. In your draft many will come cheaper than they did last year which is a win for you.

For more player analysis check out the FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION available now on Amazon for Kindle and iPad.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The Yankees have now been a strong playoff contender for nearly two decades. That in and of itself is an impressive feat. Granted, they outspent every other team by a significant margin over that period, but as the Yankees of the 1980's proved, money does not always buy wins. The game has changed now and the Yanks are trimming back and becoming more fiscally responsible under the Steinbrenner sons. They no longer are willing to cross luxury tax thresholds and seem less apt to spend on "extra" items such as Rafael Soriano as an 8th inning insurance guy.
The "Core Four", who were largely responsible for this historic run of excellence, are now down to just two players. Both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are coming off of major leg injuries and have something to prove. If we have learned anything from these ageless wonders, it is that you can never count them out. However, this team is really showing its age and in fantasy terms that is a significant drawback. When drafting Yankees players on your fantasy squad it is important to look at the picture as a whole and understand how the "real life Yanks" can impact your fantasy season.

At 6'7" 290lbs (give or take, more like give), C. C. Sabathia is a beast of a man and has been as durable as they come throwing 200+innings 6 years in a row. He is showing some wear and tear at the age of 32 and had off-season surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. All reports are that he is healthy and that should continue to make him a fantasy ace in all leagues. If he makes more than 32 starts that should equate to 17 wins or so based on his track record and how deep he pitches into games. The less chances a bullpen has to blow a lead the better off a pitcher is in terms of wins. Sabathia is good for about 200 K's and an ERA under 3.50. Watch him in the spring to see if he is throwing without impediment. Andy Pettitte is 40 and that number should be enough to give you pause. He did pitch admirably over his 12 starts in 2012 (5W, 69K/21BB, 2.87ERA, .232 OPP BA). It is likely that performance was over his head a bit since a third of those starts came against NL teams. That equates for the low ERA. The rest of the starts were against SEA, MIN, KC, CLE and TOR (twice). That is not exactly DET, LAA or TEX. Petteitte can be a spot starter in favorable match-ups, but at his age it would be crazy to rely on him on a weekly basis. Hiroki Kuroda is no spring chicken either at 37. He is another guy who exceeded expectations. No one would have thought a move to the AL would have reduced his WHIP, but Kuroda proved he is a professional pitcher in any league and he should be a solid back end starter/match-up play in most formats. He was 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA at home (compared to 5-5 with a 4.23 on the road). Keep that in mind when setting your lineups. Phil Hughes' ERA was a full run better at home (3.74) than on the road (4.76). He is still young enough to improve (just 26), but as of now he is another matchup play for home starts and should be on the bench the rest of the time. In AL only leagues he has more value than mixed. That leaves us with a combination of Ivan Nova/David Phelps/Michael Pineda at the back end. Nova's ERA (over 5.00 in 2012) killed your fantasy rotation last year and he has had injury problems in the past. Speaking of injuries, you would be lucky to see Pineda before the break. The Yanks paid a big price for him and will not rush him back with the number of in house options they already have. He is a draft and stash in late rounds only. If he costs more than that, let someone else have him. Phelps was sneaky good in his first shot with the big club and for my money the best value pay of the three in fantasy drafts.

We all know Mariano Rivera is the greatest and the injury was not to his arm so that is positive. There is little reason to believe Rivera can't get back to being his old dominant self. $o saves, stellar ERA and K/BB numbers are the norm for Rivera. I would draft David Roberston as a handcuff to Rivera if your bench is deep enough just in case. He will be a good source of K's and holds regardless.

Neither Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart are fantasy material and Austin Romine seems to be in line for a crack at the job by the summer. None will hit enough to be fantasy worthy. Mark Teixeira is on an obvious decline, but he will still post solid power numbers (30/100) even if his average hovers around .250 (which is a 3 year trend). Robinson Cano is in his prime (30) and is the #1 fantasy second baseman heading into the 2013 draft. He does it all (BA, AVG, runs, hits, HR, RBI), except for steal bases, but that is hardly a deterrent when you look at the big picture. He is playing for a contract, so it would not be crazy for him to have a career year and cash in. With Alex Rodriguez mired in a PED cloud and rehabbing from hip surgery, the Yanks brought in Kevin Youkilis to fill his shoes at third base. He is another aging player (34) on the decline. It is one thing that his slugging percentage has declined, it's another that his on base skills are eroding (just a .336 OBP compared to his career .382 mark). He is very risky as your everyday fantasy third baseman, but he can be considered for a corner infield slot in roto formats. Ignore A-Rod altogether. Derek Jeter had a terrific  year with his highest OPS (.791) in three seasons. His speed is all but gone at 39, but the BA is strong and the pop is still in his bat. You could do a lot worse than Jeter at short.
In the outfield, Curtis Granderson has had back-to-back 40+ homer seasons, but he strikes out way too much (195 times last year). That will kill you in points leagues and drag down his BA in roto. You need to have players on your roster that will offset these issues if you are going to roll with the "Grandy-man". In 67 games with the Yankees, Ichiro Suzuki was reborn (7.94 OPS/.322BA). He will be a cheap source of average and steals and will likely outperform his ADP. Brett Gardner has 50 steal potential when healthy, but he missed all but 15 games last season. He is pretty one dimensional and his value will coincide with where he hits in the batting order. If he leads off he gets a boost in value, as a 9 hitter knock him down a few pegs. Travis Hafner will see most of the time at DH and his swing plays very well in Yankee Stadium. DH will be a revolving door for the Yankees, so he is good for a waiver wire pick up on a hot streak, and little else.

Age will define this team and it would not be surprising to see multiple players spend time on the DL. When drafting your fantasy team, you want players in their prime (29-31 according to J.C. Bradbury author of Hot Stove Economics, a book that will change how you see the game.). Aging superstars can be expensive and disappointing. Best to not overpay for name recognition and instead draft them for their numbers instead.

For more player reviews check out THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION available for iPad and Kindle on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Does Ryan Braun's Biogenesis Link Change His Fantasy Status?


Those are Ryan Braun's career average numbers stretched over a 162 game season. Those numbers are why he is a consensus top 3 pick in all fantasy formats. However, those numbers came into question a few years ago and were validated on a procedural technicality. Now, the questions have come back and those numbers may be in danger once again.

Ryan Braun's link to the newest MLB PED scandal involving the Miami biogenesis clinic is still vague. He shows up on the ledger as "money owed" and Braun seems to have an answer for that. According to Braun, his lawyers consulted the head of the clinic to aid his appeal from his failed drug test in 2011.  There is a certain logic to this statement when you consider Braun went to the University of Miami who's strength and conditioning coach was linked as well. When any of us are "in trouble" why wouldn't we consult and take direction from people in our past we trust? In dangerous situations it is natural to turn to those we know have our backs and we take their advice. If this path led him to the clinic for "consultation", one could certainly see the logic there.

However, as I discussed in an earlier PED blog post, athletes tend to be perpetual liars when it comes to doping. Perhaps even more indicting is the fact that many of the players on the list have either failed drug tests already or been suspected previously. That may be guilt by association, but usually 9 times out of 10 the guilt seems to follow.

Barring any unforeseen change in MLB policies, it wold be very surprising to see Braun in any way punished for this association. He will however continue to hear the "boo's" in opposing parks and a different level of heckling. He has already shown he can perform well under these circumstances and there is no reason to discount his services in your fantasy league at this time. There may be a few owners who might shy away from Braun with this second wind of PED speculation. If their concerns allows Braun to fall in your draft you would be insane not to take him with your first round pick.

Here is the Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2013's take on Braun:

1.       Ryan Braun MIL You can’t ask for a more consistent all around outfielder. His three year average (106R/33HR/109RBI/26SB/.319BA/.385OBP/563SLG) is the best at the position. His speed and power combination makes him a top 5 pick in roto and points leagues alike. I was concerned how he would fare without Prince Fielder behind him, but Braun’s 41/112 season certainly put any doubts to bed. He is hands down the best outfielder in fantasy terms.

For more insight check out this year's edition and bid accordingly on Braun for 2013. In keepers league's, this becomes a more complicated situation. The bottom could fall out for Braun at any time and where there is smoke, inevitably there is fire. It is not time to panic yet, but if someone overpays for Braun in an offer you could certainly consider moving him. Any deal that makes you a favorite to win now is always a deal you want to make.

For more PED player fantasy analysis check out previous this blog post.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Greatness of Craig Kimbrel

I often equate closers in baseball to kickers in football. In terms of fantasy value, they are interchangeable, volatile and are statistically comparable. There is no reason to overpay or chase after them in any format.  One guy has put himself head and shoulders above the rest of his peers and shown he is more than just a save opportunity. And that man is Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves.

Over the last two years as the Braves closer he has posted 89 saves, an ERA under 1.50 and struck out 243 batters in just 139 innings pitched. That is not your typical closer production. In fantasy terms, Kimbrel is as valuable as a starting pitcher and actually more valuable production wise than 2/3 of the starters available in this years draft.
When we measure Kimbrel's RPV (Relative Position Value/this is a stat created in the Fantasy Baseball Black Book that measures position scarcity) Kimbrel is in a league of his own posting a whopping +27% RPV. The next best reliever is at just +2%. The next 10 are all withing a 10% range of that as they slip into the negative after the first 5 closers. RPV is the equivalent of WAR in fantasy baseball, without the defensive metrics weighing in.

Here is an excerpt from the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Black Book on Kimbrel:
Craig Kimbrel ATL Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, Kimbrel increased his K/9 rate from 14.8 to 16.7, and perhaps more impressively cut his walk rate by nearly half from 3.7 to 2.0. He is far and away the best closer in the game. In points leagues, he offers front line starter- like production based on his saves and strikeout totals. His ERA (1.04 in ’12) and WHIP (0.56) are probably tough to repeat, but in roto formats he goes far beyond other closers in providing great stats in every category. Oh yeah, did I mention he is just 25? Here is the only stat you need to remember: Last year, Kimbrel struck out over 50% of all batters he faced (116K’s and 231 batters faced). Not retired mind you, STRUCK OUT! Take a minute and read that again. Yup. Unreal. And by the way he walked just 14 guys while doing it. The best there is by a country mile.

     When you consider there was a 45% turnover rate of closers in 2012, it is always a wise strategy to wait as long as you can for saves. They will always turn up on the waiver wire. Injuries, trades and performance all create new closers on a monthly basis. It is just a matter of paying attention and following these situations closely in your league. No one is more anti-closer than I am, but Kimbrel is special and deserves attention far greater than your run of the mill 9th inning guy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Will Justin Upton Be a Different Player in ATL?

If ever a player needed a change of scenery it was Justin Upton. The 25 year old outfielder has been on the trade block for the better part of two years and he was finally sent to the Braves for a package of players including Martin Prado. The potential has never been a question, but the results have been spotty up to this point for the younger Upton. There are many factors that enter into a player's success. It is dangerous to think that just because he has a fresh start that he will automatically fulfill the promise he possesses.

First, let's take the fact he is switching positions from right to left field. With Jason Heyward firmly entrenched  in right for the Braves, Upton will shift to the other side of the diamond. Do not take for granted this is a HUGE adjustment! The ball comes off the bat differently and learning a new position can be trying on any player. We have seen players change positions and struggle at the plate before, so if it happened here it would be no surprise.

Next, there is the fact Upton's lifetime OPS in Arizona was .937 as opposed to just .731 on the road. That is a .200 point difference! In fantasy terms that is significant. He was a superstar at Chase Field and barely serviceable the other 81 games a year. Chase Field has been known as an above average home run park and taking Upton out of there does not seem to help his cause. the one saving grace is his OPS at his new Home (Turner Field) was .871. It is a small sample size (just 17 games) but at least a glimmer of hope.

Lastly, Justin will be playing alongside his brother B.J., who was also acquired this off season by the Braves. Sibling rivalries can be motivating, but can also be a distraction. Also, no one but their family knows what their relationship is like and spending everyday playing side by side might not be such a wonderful family reunion.

The good news is Upton is still very young and four years from his peak performance age (29). There is room to grow and he is at least on a team that wants him. Players with chips on their shoulders sometimes have career years. If you draft Upton in your fantasy league I would hope for 25 homers and 20 steals with a .280 AVG. Anything more than that would be icing on the cake. I would NOT draft Upton expecting a slam dunk career breakout year. There are a lot of adjustments he will be making and he is a better long term investment than for 2013 leagues.

For more on Justin Upton check out the NEW 2013 Fantasy Baseball Black Book available on Amazon for Kindle and iPad.