Monday, March 25, 2013

So Your Draft is Over...Now What?

You prepared, you labored, you made spreadsheets and now the draft is over. If you did it right, you prepared for weeks and after a few hours you are now sitting on a team that is hopefully a winner. But it could be a loser in disguise. You may not recognize which you have since everything looks good on paper in April. "If this guy stays healthy", "If this guy bounces back", "If this guy can just stay out of prison"...etc, etc. What you need to do now is try to make an honest evaluation of your roster and address your shortcomings as early as possible. The great thing about THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 is that it is the only ALL season companion guide. It takes you through trades, rookies, transactions, lineup management and so much more. Draft guides leave you high and dry after the last pick is called.

So where do you begin now that the draft is over? I will attempt to show you the path.

The first thing you need to do is take a long, hard look at your roster. Put yourself in the mindset that your team is owned by a fellow league mate. Would you fear this team? If the answer is a true and honest yes, then don't tinker too much. There is often a tendency to start to doubt what you have and you may start to make some drop/adds you may regret later on. Even if you are genuinely pleased with your squad, try to find your potential disappointments and try to develop a plan should they not work out how you envisioned.

If the answer is no, then this is the time to overpay with your FAAB or hit the waiver wire hard. The most fruitful waiver wire period is always the weeks leading up to the season. Fifth starters are named, everyday jobs are won and injuries lead to openings. There are even undrafted players that may have been wrongfully overlooked. Many owners are content to draft and just sit, but the keen owner is watching closely and scooping up useful odd and ends that can get you off to hot start.

It is nearly impossible to make a deal in a league this early. What you can do is start to target your opposing teams needs and see where they are lacking and where you have a surplus. You can also earmark teams you think may be weak and after they get off to slow start, try and offer them a lifeline that can honestly help them improve and benefits you simultaneously.

Spring numbers are skewed for a myriad of reasons: split squads, minor league talent facing major league talent, strong wind gusts, smaller ballparks, pitchers working on one single pitch...the list goes on forever. The important thing to look for is health not necessarily performance. Just because a guy is lighting it up in spring does not mean it will carry over. Brandon Belt has murdered spring pitching three years running and has yet to translate that to the regular season. Francisco Liriano was lights out last spring and looked like an ace reborn. He went in the tank immediately. On the flip-side, veterans tend to sleepwalk through spring, so don't think they are heading for their demise just because of some bad outings or an 0-10 drought.

Leagues are not lost or won in April. If you get off to a slow start it's ok. If you have players with real track records they will bounce back and have corrective performances. Conversely, if you get off to an unbelievably hot start you may want to look into selling high on some players that are clearly playing over their head. Remember when Omar Infante had 5 home runs in 18 April games last year? Well he hit 7 the rest of the year. That is exactly what I am talking about.

The season is long and favors the prepared and the persistent. Stay on top of your team, stay on top of your league and by all means watch as much baseball as you can. The eye test still holds many answers to questions that stats sometimes leave incomplete.

Monday, March 18, 2013

24 Team Dynasty Auction Review

Yes, a 24 team dynasty auction...head-to-head points...23 man rosters...10 minor league slots. If ever there was a monster of a draft it is this one. I enlisted the help of a good friend who I have been playing fantasy baseball with for 15 years to assist in the draft process. We concocted a strategy and a few "dummy" budgets to work off and adjust over the eight hour marathon. Most importantly we targeted "MUST HAVE" positions in a league of this depth. For all the preparation, we were not quite ready for where the elite player salaries would head.

Bidding against 23 other owners caused enormous inflation especially on young players like Trout and Harper who went for $49 each despite only playing one full season and an escalating salary structure of $1 increase year one, $2 year two, $5 year 3 etc. Miguel Cabrera and Stephen Strasburg went for $56 respectively. In a league where pitching points mattered this much, we were not leaving without three top arms. David Price ($50), Cole Hamels ($38) and Adam Wainwright ($32) gave us arguably the best front of the rotation in the league. We paid for it, but our goal was to dominate on two star weeks from big time arms. AJ Griffin at $13 is our #4 starter and could easily have been a #2 on nearly 1/3 of the staffs in the league. John Lackey ($1) and Zach Britton ($1) rounded out the rotation.

The rules also stated we needed to start two relievers each week. Now the simple math is: 30 MLB teams, 30 closers. In this format where 48 active relievers were active each week so there were going to be middle men and reliever eligible players on the radar. However, with saves and wins both worth 7 points, having two closers was the ideal. When we missed out on Kimbrel ($34), we were able to land Sergio Romo ($15) and Jason Grilli ($10) for a combined $25. It turned out to be a much needed savings.

Our plan was to fill C, 2B and SS and slum in the outfield. Carlos Santana's ($30) 1B and DH time makes him very valuable in a league where the weak catcher pool goes 24+deep. He will get more AB's every week than most other catchers and that matters when you will be scratching for every point. We took advantage of the fact most owners in a dynasty don't like older players, but Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins ($18 each) can still play and are arguably better than more than half of their position mates. They also went for much less than some players with far less track record or talent. Paying for potential is a dangerous game.

When I said "slum" at outfield I did not think it would be this bad, but if Carlos Quentin ($6) is healthy he could be a much needed power source. Cody Ross ($5) is serviceable and has some pop. The third spot is up for grabs. Rajai Davis ($1) stole 40+bags last year and Anthony Gose ($2) has upside and killer spring stats. Unfortunately, there is a log jam on the Toronto outfield. The plan is for Chris Parmelee ($3) to qualify in the OF by the end of April or get lucky and have Grant Green ($1) come up and play second base for Oakland sooner than later (he qualifies at OF). Until then, we are dumpster diving on a waiver wire that has less meat than a vegan restaurant. No matter. That was the plan and we will find OF eventually.

Our corners are also weaker than we would have liked. We were outbid on many of our choices and had to settle for Adam Lind ($6) and Michael Young ($4). Both are long shot bounce backs, but each have something to prove. Again, just the amount of competition made it tough to get players within a budget of $260. It could have been worse, there are many teams fielding starting rosters with major league role players. At least our low end guys are major league regulars.

Where we succeeded was at the end of the draft. Teams were out of cash and we were able to grab Xander Bogaerts ($2), Byron Buxton ($2), Trevor Rosenthal ($1), Michael Wacha ($2) and Gose ($2) all prior to the minor league draft. Many elite prospects went for big bucks (Profar for $24/Taveras$19). We nabbed a few dirt cheap and can either keep them for a long time, or use them as very valuable trade bait to better our situation. Prospects will always replenish every season with the MLB draft, so I will always entertain offers that help me in the present.

You may look at the roster below and be underwhelmed, but I assure you on paper it is certainly in the top 1/3 or better for the 2013 season (24 teams! Only 6 less than MLB people!). I am always in "win now mode" with an eye for the future. Building a foundation on unproven players can leave you in a state of mediocrity always looking til next year. Give me the playoffs or give me death!

The best advice I can give after this draft for auction leagues is really structure some different budget plans with an idea of what you want to spend, on what and on who. It really does make a difference and will keep you from overpaying or making bad decisions. Avoid getting bored and bidding on just anyone because you have yet to add a player to your roster for 45 minutes. Lastly, be picky. When you have a choice you need to really make informed decisions. There are an enormous number of players I would never dream of having on my team for varying reasons. Target and fight for the ones you like and do everything in reason to draft them.

One last note...the members of this league are some of the best fantasy writers and thinkers out there and I felt the Black Book Crew more than held its own. Now it is up to health and performance.

C$30Santana, Carlos (C CLE)1B · C · UACT
1B$6Lind, Adam (1B TOR)1B · UACT
2B$18Utley, Chase (2B PHI)2B · UACT
3B$4Young, Michael (1B PHI)1B · 3B · UACT
SS$18Rollins, Jimmy (SS PHI)SS · UACT
SS$2Bogaerts, Xander (SS BOS)SS · UACT
OF$5Ross, Cody (OF ARI)OF · UACT
OF$6Quentin, Carlos (OF SD)OF · UACT
OF$1Davis, Rajai (OF TOR)OF · UACT
OF$1Green, Grant (OF OAK)OF · UACT
OF$2Gose, Anthony (OF TOR)OF · UACT
OF$2Buxton, Byron (OF MIN)OF · UACT
U$3Parmelee, Chris (1B MIN)1B · UACT
SP$1Lackey, John (SP BOS)SPACT
SP$32Wainwright, Adam (SP STL)SPACT
SP$38Hamels, Cole (SP PHI)SPACT
SP$50Price, David (SP TB)SPACT
SP$1Britton, Zach (SP BAL)SPACT
SP$13Griffin, A.J. (SP OAK)SPACT
SP$1Wacha, Michael (SP STL)SPACT
RP$10Grilli, Jason (RP PIT)RPACT
RP$15Romo, Sergio (RP SF)RPACT
RP$1Rosenthal, Trevor (RP STL)RPAC

Thursday, March 14, 2013

MIC WARS Draft Recap

MIC WARS is a league made up of fantasy baseball broadcasters from independent podcasts, BlogTalkRadio and SiriusXM shows. The participants include: Big2Show, Fantasy Alarm, Dr. Mr. Fantasy Podcast, Fantasy Nomad, Fantasy Trade 411, eXperts Edge, Seamheads and others.

In this year's Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2013 I recapped the 2012 draft and all of my transactions to highlight the thought process behind the moves. After winning this H2H category 5x5 league a few years back, I missed the playoffs by a single point last year. The agony of defeat indeed. Despite season ending injuries to Tulowitzki, Mariano Rivera, Brian Wilson and Brandon Beachy early on, I was able to fight back and stay competitive. Alas, I came up short.

This season I made a pact to focus on "undervalued" players, whether it be due to age, returning from injury or starting off the season with an injury. The idea being to take advantage of quality players with real track record that were not the "sexy, upside" types. I would instead reserve taking chances for later in the draft much like I did in last year's draft when I drafted Mike Trout in the 25th RD.

My 2013 MIC WARS Team Mantra:
"Youth and skill is no match for old age and treachery."

So here is the happy recap:
RD 1 Miguel Cabrera
I had the 2nd overall pick and in a 12 team league where you start 5 outfielders. It was no surprise to see Ryan Braun go first. No matter, I am thrilled with the best hitter in the game. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in every other category and he plays a tough position. The rest of the 1st RD was a list of the usual suspects.

RD 2 David Price/RD 3 Stephen Strasburg
In a league with 9 active pitcher slots, having front end arms is very important. I like to grab two top arms early and force a run on starters if I can. When two top guys go off the board to one team, even expert league owners who despise pitching take notice. With Kershaw and Verlander off the board already (also to one team), the top shelf aces were on borrowed time. Last year my duo was Sabathia and Lincecum. Timmy was a nightmare, but R.A. Dickey off the wire took over his expected production so I was lucky. Price is as good as it gets and the AL East is much weaker than it has been in years. Strasburg has no inning limits and should post incredible strikeout rates and secondary numbers. I think this year's two headed monster is more formidable than the 2013 version.

RD 4 Ben Zobrist/ RD 5 Austin Jackson
Taking Zobrist early was a key. His eligibility at 2B/SS/OF allowed the draft come to me and not worry about filling a specific hole. He is an undervalued player and steady over the last three years. The strategy worked as you will see later on. Austin Jackson was the best all around outfielder in my mind left on the board. He may lack in RBI, but will certainly score 100 runs. He showed increased power and plate discipline and still possesses 30 steal speed. It was between him and Shin-Soo  Choo. I went with the fresh legs and the guy who did not switch leagues.

RD 6 Matt Wieters/RD 7 Joe Mauer
Catchers started flying off the board which was my worst fear. I love to be strong at catcher in this league since you have to start 2 each week. That's 24 active catchers out of 30 MLB teams. Not a good ratio folks! I was lucky enough to get the last two top 5 catchers in my mind after Martinez, C. Santana and Molina went off the board. Posey of course was gone in the 2nd RD. Doubling up on tough positions like catcher or say SS and MINF can put pressure on your fellow owners to reach for players. It simultaneously weakens the talent pool and forces people to over draft lesser talent. Mission accomplished. Both Mauer and Wieters should see DH and 1B time to increase their weekly AB's. That is huge in head-to-head leagues.

RD 8 Chase Utley/RD 9 Curtis Granderson
Utley is playing for a contract and was on pace for a 20/90/20 season. How is that different than say Pedroia, who I passed on to take Strasburg? The answer is 5 rounds different. The track record is there and he has something to prove. Granderson is missing 1/5 of the regular season in this league. Big deal! He should never have lasted til the 9th RD considering he will still probably hit 30+dingers in limited time. I can tread water until he is healthy. I was light on power and Granderson will provide that. The rest of my team hits for a very solid batting average so I can afford his the Grandy-Man's .250 without incident.

RD 10 Dan Haren/RD 11 Adam LaRoche/RD 12 Lon Lester/RD13 Michael Morse
With Gallardo and Josh Johnson off the board I was looking for two arms that had shown ability to pitch like at least #2 starters in the past. Dan Haren in the NL off a down year and playing for a contract was the perfect fit. Jon Lester has his old pitching coach in the dugout once again and was an ace heading into 2012 drafts. He is pitching for the Red Sox to pick up his big option, so I expect a rebound. This is why you need to understand the game past the numbers. If you had millions of dollars on the line in your job, wouldn't you be focused to perform at a high level?
LaRoche was a 33/100 first basemen last year and was healthy for the first time in years. He is also on a great team with a ton of support. 15 first basemen were taken ahead of him in the draft who had lesser stats in 2012. You take potential, I'll take production. Morse is also incredibly undervalued. So what if he is moving to Seattle. He hit .289 or better three years in a row and has 25/90 potential. After a delayed start to his season by injury, he overcame a slow start to post an OPS of .817 in the 2nd half. Another power bat with a good average.

RD 14 Corey Hart/RD15 Derek Jeter/RD 16 Josh Beckett/ RD 17 Justin Morneau/RD 18 Billy Hamilton
Hart is going to be back by early May and is already ahead of schedule. His '12 slash of 91/30/83 and the fact he plays 1B and OF make him a very valuable piece. Again, people not looking ahead and undervaluing talent. It was between Jeter and Aybar for my MINF slot and when Aybar went I took Jeter with the next pick. All he did last year was score 99 runs with 200 hits, 15 home runs and a .316 BA. Yes, he is coming off an injury, but he is already playing the field. What happened last year again when people said Jeter couldn't get it done? Oh right, 99 runs 200 hits etc. Beckett was reborn in LA and another pitcher who will benefit from the NL switch. Morneau is another guy playing for a new contract with something to prove and an MVP in his closet. Billy Hamiton is my speedster in the hole. He will be up at some point because the Reds are in "win now mode" and he can help that cause. Even half a season should be good for 30+bags. Ryan Ludwick will not hold him off for long.  I wanted Adam Eaton, but he went a few picks before me. Oh well. Hamilton's SS eligibility makes him more valuable. I just have to have patience.

RD 19 Jason Grilli/RD 20 Starling Marte/ RD 21 Rajai Davis / RD 22 AJ Burnett/RD 23 Jason Hammel/RD 24 AJ Griffin/RD 25 Chris Parmalee
So I waited for the C list closers and got Grilli. Saves are saves. Parnell, Perkins, Balfour all went before I could grab them. Then Rondon and Janssen went in succession right before my pick. My only "insert expletive here" moment of the draft. Oh well, I will find saves on the wire or via trade. I have the flexibility to make a move when Hart and Granderrson return or Hamilton comes up. Again, thanks to Ben Zobrist! Starling Marte has 20/20 potential and a starting job. If he doesn't pan out, he gets dropped when my OF gets healthy. If he does, I am in really good shape. AJ Burnett was solid last year and should be serviceable again. Hammel pitched like an ace for Baltimore in 2012. Griffin could be the steal of the draft. he has great K/BB rates in the minors and showed himself well in his 2012 debut for the A's. Parmalee has a good minor league track record and will qualify at 1B and OF once April is over. More roster flexibility.

RD 26 Julio Teheran/RD 27 Andrew Cashner
At the end why not take a shot at two young upside arms well past their hype. Teheran has been lights out this spring and Cashner possesses a dominating fastball. If they pan out they could make a huge impact, if they don't it cost me nothing and they will be dropped. Low risk/high reward. Don't check out late in your draft.

Last year's 24th RD pick was Mike Trout, this year Marte, Teheran, Griffin or Cashner could be breakout stars. The trick is not overpaying to find out.

Perhaps to the naked eye, my team lacks speed. However, last year this roster totaled 136 steals. That would probably be bottom third of the league. But, if Billy Hamilton comes up and steals 35 (very feasible in half a season) that puts me into the top third of the league with 171. Last year's top speed team had 191 swipes. Regardless, I have an offense that has power and a higher batting average than normal as a collective. There are no "empty specialists" with the exception of Rajai Davis, but even he popped 8 home runs in 2012. The pitching staff as two big anchors in Price and Strasburg, two bounce back candidates who were aces just a year ago, and some nice veterans and youth. I am light on Saves, but with the enormous turnover of closers, I will find saves on the wire. They are there every year.

I think I have a top 4 team out of 12 if  I can stay healthy and that puts me in the thick of the playoff hunt. It is all a crap-shoot from that point forward. Just get in the dance, that's the key. In leagues like this, where trades are few and far between and the waiver wire is shallow, the draft is key. I have a foundation of players with track record and I am counting on them performing to their ability. I will sleep better at night with that notion, as opposed to fielding my team with guys who "could" perform well, but have yet to put it all together.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Art of The Fantasy Baseball Trade

A selection from the #1 selling fantasy baseball guide on Amazon two years running...

Value is relative. One man’s Evan Longoria is another man’s David Freese. This is the obstacle you must overcome since everyone has different allegiances and opinions on players’ values. Some will work in your favor and others will work against you. There are some tricks to “the trade”, and being able to consistently pull off good deals on a yearly basis is an art form. Much like teaching a young artist to paint, I can give you the techniques but you must find your own brush stroke and inspiration.


First and foremost always be polite and courteous. You are selling something after all, and no one wants to buy something from someone who is rude or obnoxious. Always inquire about the availability of the player you want, then offer a concise reason this deal would improve their team and yours. The key word is concise. You cannot venture into a deal at the expense of the potential partner. Not only will that never fly with the other owner, but if it did you run the risk of ruining other potential deals down the road. They simply won’t trust you anymore. Also, be sure never to bash your potential trade partner’s players no matter how they may have under-performed  It is rude and insulting and the last thing you want to do is alienate a potential match. Generally speaking, less is more. You should always try to find a positive starting point to the dialogue and try to present a deal that is your common interest.
If they reject your proposal or are “insulted” by the very thought you asked about a certain player you should politely ask for a counter from them to see if you can find a middle ground. If they are adamant, then just say “Thanks for getting back to me.” and call it a day. DO NOT BELABOR THE POINT! You will rarely convince an owner like this to see things your way, but leave the door open with a “Let me know if there are any deals you might be interested in making surrounding player X down the line.” That way you keep the lines of communication open for the future. Listen to what they have to say. If they should start a dialogue or counter offer, that is a sign they are interested and ready to deal. If they become flat out negative, walk away. Getting into a debate about how you see things and how they see things will still leave you without a deal. Don’t waste your time. That energy can be channeled into finding another solution elsewhere.
It never hurts to inquire about players you think may be untouchable. Every now and then they me be had for the right price. Most of the time, they will be unmovable. If an owner says someone is off limits, never push. It will be a waste of time and energy for both parties.


“Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without.” –Donald Trump
When making trades leverage is everything. If a big player goes down in your league be the first guy to offer a solution. Yes, you are a vulture swooping in. But vultures stay full don’t they? If you are offering a lifeline then you are helping the other owner. Don’t attempt to take advantage. Instead, devise a strong argument and preset package of talent (with options and flexibility) that will keep the other owner afloat and improve your roster at the same time. Be creative, think outside the box and listen to what they have to say. Cater to their needs as best you can and you may get your wants taken care of at the same time. One sided deals may work once, but you will never foster a long term relationship of making deals.
This is where the deep bench comes into play again. When you don’t have to make a move, but you see an opportunity to improve your situation that is the right time to pull the trigger. You should always be looking to get better no matter how many games up you are in the standings. A deep roster maximizes your options. Complacency is death in fantasy. Be careful not to send out deals too frequently. It may also alienate potential partners and you may come off as too aggressive or unsure of what you are doing. See your opening and strike while the iron is hot.
I am always a big proponent of moving young talent on a hot streak for proven players when possible especially in non keeper formats. It should always be about winning now. Although rookies carry great fantasy sex appeal, they can be very up and down. Major league players with experience are easier to predict and easier to manage.
Always buy low when you can. Players who struggle out of the gate, but have a solid history of production should always be targeted. Track record does matter and they usually are just a few hits from a hot streak. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The low risk maneuver is still a good one even if it doesn’t work out every time. Trying to deal for a red hot superstar will cost you dearly and chances are even the best player is due for a market correction at some point. Wait for that “down” period and then try to pry him away when the window opportunity presents itself. Never buy at the height of the market or after a guy throws a shutout with 14K’s. You are just asking for trouble.

Poker Face

Another way to win out on trades is to know your fellow owners’ tendencies. Do they covet Yankees because they cannot separate their rooting interest from fantasy? Do they love young players and collect them like trophy wives? Are they a glutton for sluggers? It’s a poker game and knowing their “tells” will inform you of how to approach a potential deal. Exploiting your enemies’ weakness is an art form. If you can do this well you may be shocked what you can get back in return.
Understanding the market for a player is a tough thing. Generally speaking, it is always wise to have more than one dialogue going with multiple teams when trying to make a trade. If you are shopping Justin Upton let’s say, and owner A makes you an offer, then find an owner B and possibly C and try to get as many offers on the table as you can and choose the best one. To play one owner against each other is a dicey business. It may put some owners off to dealing with you, so tread lightly. Never grandstand about how much better someone else’s offer is for Upton. If it was really that much better, then take it. If you want to try and improve owner A’s offer then level with them and tell them you have received a better offer you are taking. If they want to go above that then you should listen and give them a chance to counter before pulling the trigger. Courtesy is nice and sometimes surprisingly effective. Even if the offer does not improve, you have shown to be an owner of integrity. That keeps the roadway open for future moves. 

Weak and Strong

Every league has strong owners and owners that are not as strong no matter how expert the level of the league.  Some of the best deals I ever made were with the better, savvier owners in my leagues. I have also taken my fair share of stolen talent from those owners who are impatient or ill informed. Always be confident in making offers. Before you click send, always put yourself in the other guy’s shoes and honestly ask yourself if you would do this deal if you were in their shoes. If the answer is an honest “yes” then send away. If the answer is no, then work harder. The stronger owner will not dismiss you and the weaker owner may be grateful you are showing them the light.
When the deal is done, you want everyone to benefit from the move you made together. If it is one sided, they will be less apt to deal with you again and you can’t survive that way in a league. You need good, solid, respectful, relationships that can help advance your placement in the standings. You should never allow yourself to rip someone off. It is bad for your baseball karma, bad for the future dealings with that owner and bad for the league as it will raise suspicions and potentially embarrass the other guy as someone who got duped. Now, there will always be sour grape critics. That is a different story. If you know you made a fair deal then sleep tight. If someone is jealous, too bad! They should have been more active and made a deal happen for themselves. There is a difference, but always put your best foot forward for the good of all involved.

Be Fearless

Be a fearless owner when it comes to trades. Always listen to offers and push when you can. You may be able to get more than the initial offer. Don’t be afraid of dealing big names and turning over your roster. Some deals may not work out for you despite being the “smart” move. Guys get injured, under-perform and sometimes don’t live up to your expectations. Get right back up on that horse and keep trying to improve. Stay active, do your homework and always look for the missing pieces of your puzzle. Making the right deals at the right time will always be a huge advantage for you in your league.

Fantasy Black Book (c) 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013


Our Fantasy Baseball Podcast is back w/  @DanStrafford...on BIG2SHOW

We will also be previewing each position every Sunday night at 11PM on BlogTalkRadio. 

Check out the fun and call in live with your questions!

Fantasy Players on Contract Years

In the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Black BookI made it a point to discuss potential free agent players and their effect on your fantasy team. More often than not, players tend to perform above their career norms when a new contract is looming in the off season. They are also trade targets for contenders and like Anibal Sanchez last year, some may get a boost in value mid-season. Last year, Josh Hamilton had a terrific season and somehow miraculously played 148 games after missing significant time the previous three seasons. Guys on contract years will play through the bumps and bruises and do everything they can to elevate their value. Sure enough, he cashed in this winter. For every five Hamilton's there is a Shane Victorino who either allows the pressure to get to them or just has a down year at the worst time. Again, the safe money is on big stats. It is always good to know what key players are heading into this year's draft searching for that big pay day.


Cano is rumored to have turned down a 7 year $189 million contract offer. If that doesn't exude confidence I don't know what does. Cano's production is already tops at his position. However, he is in his prime and an improvement on last year's stellar output is possible.  There is huge money being thrown around in LA and they have a gaping hole at second. Depending on the depth of your league Cano could warrant top 5 consideration. His RPV (Relative Posiition Value/stat created in the black Book that measures position scarcity and player value) is already 25% in a standard league size. If ever there was a year to overpay for Cano in the first round, 2013 is the year.

2011'S 32 home run spree was an anomaly for Ellsbury. Throw it out the window and focus on what he is, which is a player with .290 BA, 95R, 10HR, 35+SB  potential. Now of course he is capable of more, but injuries have set back his value considerably and rightfully so. What good is talent if it is never on the field? This year it is put up or shut up for Jacoby and you can bet he will be playing through some pain in search of some cash. More games played I would count on, but higher performance than the previous stat line I presented is being greedy.

He is one of the most underrated hitters in the game. A career .847OPS makes him a great fantasy  outfielder who will get on base, hit for average/power and even steal some bags. Choo is a 20/20 player who is now in a hitter's park for 81 home games and is poised for a big year. Remember a few years back when Choo got a key hit for his home country Korea and avoided military service? He is a  pressure player and the dollar signs point to a great fantasy season. The transition from AL to NL should not be too tough on Choo since there is some bottom rung pitching in the Central division.

He was on track for a huge career, but he has dealt with numerous injuries and worn down at the end of many seasons. If his shoulder is 100% and he is in better shape, McCann can get back into elite catcher territory. The line-up around him is solid and perhaps the fact he will miss a few weeks to open the season will finally allow him a strong finish. He is worth the risk, especially in leagues where you start two catchers.

He is one of my favorite fantasy outfielders who gives you the classic roto baseline (.285BA/85R/25HR.95RBI/10SB). He had a tough stretch when he was dealt to the Giants but Pence has been too steady for too long to think he will not rebound. Some owners will be scared off by his second half dip, but look at the career consistency and pay accordingly. Guys with track records this steady always deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Yes, he has 40/100 power, but he still struggles verses lefties and at 32 years old is past his peak years of production. Looming free agency should not impact Granderson's bottom line too much as he already has many interests outside of baseball. Unlike his peers, Curtis' eggs are not in one basket hoping for one more big pay day. The injury should actually bring his value down to a more reasonable territory.

Hart is going to miss the start of the season, but his ADP is falling way too far considering he carries dual eligibility (1B/OF) in many leagues and an .850+OPS the last three seasons. Hart's speed has fallen off, but his power numbers are strong. He is grossly undervalued and is sure to put it all on the line before he hits the open market.

Here is a prime example of a player with talent who misses far too many games. Cruz will certainly do everything in his power (including playing hurt) to land a big contract. The question is, will this pursuit hurt his bottom line? The looming doubts surrounding his PED link to the Miami clinic should also be enough to spur Cruz to a big year. If nothing else, he is a reasonable value pay for outfield power.


In his second year back from Tommy John, everyone expects Wainwright to get back to his workhorse ways. Last year, he suffered from rust and bad luck and pitched better than his totals suggest. He can easily be drafted as a #2 starter, but will certainly put the onus on himself to perform like an ace with is contract coming up. I suspect him to not hit the free agent market, but if talks break down the thought of him pitching with a chip on his shoulder is scary.

My extensive analysis on Halladay in this year's Black Book concludes 2013 as a good year to own him, but he is no longer a fantasy anchor or a keeper. A player with the grit and pride of Halladay will certainly put forth his best effort. If the Phillies fall out of contention he could be a trade target. His cost vs. value is very appealing and he has a lot to prove.

Perhaps no potential free agent needs a big contract year than Josh Johnson. At one time he was consider one of the top starters in all of baseball. Now, he is viewed as damaged goods. The change of scenery in Toronto is tough to gauge. The AL East is a tough division, but the run support and fact that he is "new" is in his favor. If you are going to take a shot on him, the contract year is the one to do it.

There is no where to go but up for Lincecum. But if you think last year's low point came out of nowhere you would be wrong. Timmy was bad for extended periods in the two seasons leading up to 2012. Even with a potential payday on the horizon, you can't in good conscience draft him as a front end starter. Yet, he will potentially be drafted in that range. His ratios were so bad they could ruin you in any format. I would let another owner pull the trigger here.

The temptation is tantalizing to draft Garza in hopes of him being dealt to a contender mid-season. But his arm issues are such a huge red flag it is killing his value in real and fantasy baseball alike. Until he proves healthy you can't be lured into thinking too far into the future. Unfortunately, fantasy owners will have no clarification on Garza before their drafts as he is already back on the shelf.

(players with contract options in question)

With his old pitching coach back in the fold as the new Red Sox skipper, things should regulate for Lester. Last year was a disaster for the whole franchise and Lester was no exception (career high 4.82 ERA). He is in his prime (29) and should be a great bounce back candidate as he looks to put up big numbers and put some big dollars in his pocket.

He is not a true free agent, but is unclear if KC will be able to afford his option. That puts Shield in a tough spot. His stats point to the fact he will miss pitching in Tampa (3.33 career home ERA/4.54 ERA on the road). KC is a young team with potential, but they have yet to put it together. He could be in for a roller coaster of a season and the looming contract questions could be unnecessary pressure, even for "Big Game" James.

The Aroldis Chapman Transition

Here are Aroldis Chapman’s stats from last season:
5W-5L 1.51ERA 71IP/35H 122K/23BB  0.89WHIP   15.3K/9   4.4H/9

It is understandable that the Reds see value in having their best arm impact 180-200 innings in a season as opposed to just 71. However, baseball has evolved over the last decade and the 71 late innings Aroldis Chapman dominated last year were the thing that separated the Reds in the NL Central from the pack. The reason Chapman ended up in the bullpen in the first place is because he lacked control and consistency with his secondary pitches. A fastball like Chapman’s is effective because hitters don’t get three looks at it in a game.

As I discuss thoroughly in The 2013 Fantasy Baseball Black Book, I whole heatedly believe that closers are the most interchangeable players in the game. But when a player is so far and away dominant in a role, there is zero reason to take him out of it unless he begins to falter. From a fantasy standpoint you have to hate this for two reasons: 1) Chapman will certainly be on an innings limit if the Reds stick to the program. 2) If he fails as a starter, he runs the risk of losing confidence. He may not transition back into the old role as if nothing happened. The shuffling back and forth can have a negative effect.

If you need recent examples of where this thinking went awry I give you: Neftali Feliz, Joba Chaimberlain and Daniel Bard. Feliz was a dominant 9th inning guy but the Rangers were insistent that his arm was “too good” to leave for one inning at a time. His small frame instead wore down quickly and the transition back and forth as they changed their mind on how to use him lowered his confidence and eventual injury struck. Now, he is a non factor and will miss a whole season due to Tommy John surgery. Next, there is Joba. When he first came up into the Yankee pen he was being heralded as the heir apparent for Mariano Rivera.  His secondary stats as a reliever (0.75WHIP, 4.5H/9, 12.8K/9) were eerily similar to those of Chapman in 2012. The Yankees wanted Joba to get more “inning exposure” and exposed he was indeed. Now, he is another non factor. His career ERA is a full run higher as a starter (4.18) as opposed to a reliever (3.18). Perhaps even more interesting is the difference between his WHIP: 1.48 as starter versus 1.18 out of the pen. Lastly, there is Bard who after one bad stretch was yanked from the pen and thrust into the rotation. The last time Bard was a starter which was in A ball where he posted an ERA of 7.08. As a starter in 2012, his ERA was 6.22.

Some guys are made for the pen and some are made for the long haul. It is not impossible that Chapman could have success like Chris Sale who was a bullpen convert. However, Sale had arm issues midway through last season and is certainly a prime breakdown candidate in 2013. The moral here is if a player is dominant leave him alone and let him dominate. 

In four spring training innings Chapman has given up 3 hits, 1ER, 2BB and 1HR. As he stretches out over March and into April it will be interesting to see how his numbers adjust. I am personally not willing to pay anything close to big money to find out how Chapman’s transition goes and neither should you. If he falls in your lap as a back end of the rotation starter then maybe.He is also intriguing as a sneaky play at RP since he is eligible there. However, it is far more likely a fellow owner will draft him well beyond his reasonable value on the off chance he becomes an ace. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Best Bang for Your Fantasy Buck

You can't fill your fantasy roster with stars at every position. This is a basic fact of life. The trick with being successful is knowing where to look for value whenever possible. Understanding how to spend your fantasy dollars wisely or how many rounds you can wait to fill a certain position is what separates the winners from the losers. Let's take a quick look around the diamond and give some press to the "not quite superstars" of the game. This bunch won't fit in your "sleeper" bag, don't have that "new rookie smell" and they certainly will not be off the draft board very early. They are capable of performing admirably at their given positions and should be on your radar when you miss out on your plan A...or even your Plans B and C as well.

SP Jason Hammel BAL
Jason Hammel was having a breakout year before an injury cut into his season. He was the Orioles' ace showing the best ERA (3.43) and strikeout rate (8.6 K/9) of his career. He is in his prime (29) and should be 100% in 2013. Let's not forget he was a Rays farmhand and that organization knows how to produce pitchers. He was lost in Colorado the last few years and in Baltimore he is finally pitching to the ability he showed in the minor leagues. There may not be a better bang for your buck as far as impact arms for 2013.

C Jonathan LuCroy MIL
His 2012 season was cut short by a freak accident that broke a bone in his hand, but LuCroy was hitting .320 with 12 HR and 58 RBI at the time. Now it is dangerous to project a complete season for a player after a successful sample size, but he was a career .838 OPS guy through his minor league career with a .299 BA, so there is a very good chance what we saw last year was the real deal. His overall stat line may not jump off the page for your average fantasy owner. Take advantage of that fact and hope that he reaches 140 games. He could put up the same numbers as Yadier Molina or Miguel Montero with a much cheaper price tag.

1B Ike Davis NYM
We all know 1B is a great place to find power production. After the big dogs are off the board, you still need to fill a CINF/DH or UT slot and Ike Davis is a great value pay. He missed 100 games in 2011 and had a bout with Valley Fever in 2012. Those two factors were to blame for his horrendous start last year. However, Davis rebounded to hit 20 homers after the break, raised his average to a respectable .260 and his OPS up to .888. Now you can draft Mark Teixeira in the early rounds. But if you are looking for a .260 hitter with 30/100 power stats, why do that when Ike Davis can provide the exact same production at a fraction of Teixeira's cost?

2B Neil Walker PIT 
It was a quiet improvement for Walker in 2012, but he too ended up missing time on the DL. His 14HR/69RBI seem mediocre, but if he played in 158 games (instead of 129) those numbers jump to 17/85. That would have tied him for third at the position in RBI with Aaron Hill and put him in the top ten in homeruns for all second basemen. Walker is never going to carry your fantasy team, but he can offer you steady production in the middle infield with decent power and double digit steals to boot. He is very under the radar and under-appreciated.

3B Todd Frazier CIN
In the best rookie class since 1986, Todd Frazier was almost a forgotten man. In 128 games, Frazier hit .273 with 19 HR and an .829 OPS. Like most talented rookies, he enjoyed early success and struggled as pitchers began to make adjustments. The good news is that he has a clear path to start at third for the Reds with Scott Rolen out of the picture and his 2012 stat line is in line with his minor league history. Frazier is a good athlete and a hard worker so there is reason to believe he can improve or at least hold this level of production in 2013.

SS Eric Aybar LAA
Aybar had a strange 2012. He started off slow, got hot, got hurt then came back and was on fire down the stretch. What he lacks in power he makes up for in steal and average. Where he hits in the order will impact his value, but at a weak position, Aybar is does a little of everything. I particularly like him in points leagues because of his K/BB rate and the fact he hits a lot of doubles and triples. He can be a real annoyance to your opponents in that style league and he should be in your radar in all formats.

OF Michael Morse SEA
The outfield position is so deep that you can afford to wait and let the draft come to you (unless your league plays 5 OF'ers, then you must draft at least one early). I can't think of a more undervalued power outfield bat than Michael Morse. There are many reasons why that is the case. He was a late bloomer, was slowed by an injury in 2012 and is now stuck back in Seattle. But the guy is at least a 25/85 bat with upside for more. He is basically a forgotten man in 2013 drafts and that is a mistake. If you are looking for some thump in the later rounds, Morse is a steal.

So there you have it. Nine players who play in obscurity, are overlooked, missed time, are undervalued or simply not sexy enough for fantasy "experts" to talk about. When all is said and done, these fantasy role players will provide stability and value. For more on these players and all of your fantasy baseball needs, check out THE FANTASY BASEBALL BLACK BOOK 2013 EDITION on Amazon for iPad and Kindle.