Wednesday, January 29, 2014

All Overrated Fantasy Team for 2014

Every year for different reasons, player values fluctuate. The key for fantasy owners is identifying which players are undervalued and which are overvalued. This can be much trickier than one might think. The first step is trying to separate your personal rooting interest from the equation. A Yankee fan might have always overrated Derek Jeter because of his undying allegiance to the captain. But you can’t draft a fantasy team that way and expect to win. The bi-product of this kind of loyalty can lead to a roster that is top heavy with stars and lacking depth.
The next step is learning what makes a player overrated/underrated. Let’s first take a look at overrated players. What makes a player overvalued? Sometimes it's a young player who gets called up and has a great two months of production. Then many owners think that player can sustain that level for an entire season. Rarely does this happen. More often than not, a young player struggles the second time around the league and has to learn to make adjustments in order to be successful. Fantasy writers are very much to blame for over-hyping young up and coming players as well. While in dynasty leagues these players can be crucial building blocks, they very rarely have a significant impact on a single season league. There is real danger in taking a player with a small successful sample size and projecting that over a full season at the same high rate.
Some players have mediocre careers and then see a tremendous one year spike in production. This is something I like to call the “Brady Anderson Effect”. Most of us remember the light hitting Brady Anderson who hit 50 homers one year out of the blue. Before that, his previous high was 21 homers. Jacoby Ellsbury is a perfect example of this type of thing happening in recent years. His 2011 season was worthy of an MVP, but he has never been that player before or after. Sometimes players do turn a corner in their career. Look at Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion for example. Both were languishing into their late 20’s early 30’s then became middle of the lineup threats out of nowhere and sustained it. This is more the exception than the rule.
The last overrated problem can actually stem from players returning from injury. This happens to even the most astute fantasy player. When a good player is coming off an injury some owners see that as a “buy low” opportunity and actually end up overpaying for a talented player who is not 100% healthy or able to live up to past production. A great example of this is Brandon Morrow. He teased with some real flashes of brilliance then was subsequently overvalued. Then injuries struck, but instead of owners shying away, they continued to actually overpay for a player who was fragile and never offered consistent production. This is the perfect storm for failure.
Now that we have a clearer picture of how players have their value inflated, here is my:
C Brian McCann NYY Yankee Stadium does not make him a lock for a big year. Plus, the new league and pitching staff could actually have a negative impact on his offense.
1B Chris Davis BAL He had an incredible career year, but he still strikes out way too much and will have trouble coming close to that gaudy homerun total.
2B Ian Kinsler DET Some owners still see him as the guy who went 30/30, but those days are long behind him.
3B Manny Machado BAL He is a bright young talent, but fell off considerably in the second half and is coming off a major injury.
SS Jean Segura MIL Dreadful after the break and had little minor league pedigree to suggest he can maintain his ridiculously good first half stat line.
OF Matt Kemp A guy who had one great year and a bunch of good ones, Kemp is still looked at as a first round talent. In reality, he has only that one huge year to support that theory and is coming off yet another shoulder injury.
OF Yasiel Puig Has big talent and comes with even bigger question marks regarding his maturity. A very risky pick based on his box office hype.
OF Billy Hamilton CIN Steals are great, but you have to get on base in the first place to steal more bases. Hamilton has had a tough time adjusting to higher level pitching so far and may be over-drafted based on one category.
RHP Jordan Zimmerman WAS A terrific pitcher, but his value is tied to wins and wins are fickle. Not a flamethrower that puts up big strikeout totals.
LHP Jon Lester Just because he is the ace of the Red Sox does not make him a fantasy ace. He is above average, but not an ace. Pitching for a high profile Boston team inflates his value.
RP Koji Uehara BOS Had one brilliant season as an untouchable closer late in his career. So did Fernando Rodney two years ago…remember?

Now they are no doubt a very talented bunch. The problem is their cost to value ratio is out of whack. RPV is a great way of stripping the player down to his statistical core and actual value. Actual value can be quite different from perceived value.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tanaka in 2014 and Beyond

One of the toughest things to predict in major league baseball is the impact of a rookie. In this year's Fantasy Baseball Black Book 2014 Edition, I talk at length about young players and their place in fantasy. Every new player enters the big leagues under different circumstances, at a different age and developmental stage of their career. Masahiro Tanaka is no different.
Yes, he is coming over the the states at a relatively young age (26), but he also has a lot of mileage on him. In fact, the last player who has thrown as many innings at this age in his MLB career was Frank Tanana in the early '80's. How's that for a throwback name? The Japanese professional league has greatly improved over the last two decades and has produced many players that have made successful conversions to the American game. It's safe to say at this juncture, if players dominate in Japan they are certainly likely to have mid-to-high level success in the big leagues. But how successful will Tanaka be in fantasy terms? That is the real question.
The first thing we need to do is not overrate his recent 24-0 record in his final Japanese season. Records can always be misleading, and wins are a fickle mistress. What it tells us in that Tanaka has poise and above average make-up on the mound. That usually equates to wins in any league and is just as valuable in fantasy as reality. The 24 straight wins however is a fluky stat much like a hitting streak, or scoreless innings streak. There is always an element of luck involved and that is not something you can bank on.
With that out of the way let's look closer into Tanaka's secondary numbers. In seven seasons, Tanaka has posted a 2.30 ERA over 175 games (172 starts). His H/9 rate of 8.1 is good, not great. Tanaka makes up that ground with a microscopic walk rate of 1.9 and a very solid K/9 (8.5). With a career K/BB rate of 4.50, he should be successful in any league. Pitchers like Cliff Lee who allow few walks are usually able to pitch longer into games and don't allow many "big innings" against them. When you can consistently work into the 7th and 8th innings you will be in line for more wins that the average pitchers. Hence the 24 victories. Tanaka's "winning mentality" is a tangible thing.
The fact that he plays for the Yankees is not quite the boon it was a decade ago. The ballpark is certainly hitter friendly. The team behind him is one of the oldest in the league and the defense is not exactly first rate. These are all negatives for a control pitcher like Tanaka. The spotlight of New York should not intimidate him considering the national attention he received at home. Having Ichiro and Hiroki Kuroda in the clubhouse should help ease the transition as well. The fact he has an opt out clause after four years is incentive to shine and roll this big time deal into a gigantic payday ala C.C. Sabathia. The AL East is very competitive and there will be no "off days" when it comes to in-division match-ups. All in all, the park and competition will be more of a challenge than the big city lights.  
Now we all know he doesn't have the same arm as Yu Darvish, who is a rare talent. What Tanaka clearly does have is great control. That is a skill worth bidding on. The tricky part is how much do you bid? Like any rookie, Tanaka is more likely to have a better first half, than second half. The league always make adjustments to players the more exposure they get and Tanaka will be no exception. That means if you end up drafting him and he has a great first half, you are wise to consider dealing him at the height of his value in single season leagues before he makes it around a second time.In keeper leagues, the inning totals are a real concern. I would be fine with a short term commitment since he is still very young. In dynasty leagues, he is a riskier investment and I would bid conservatively. The Yankees look at Tanaka as a #2 starter, but in fantasy terms I would only rank him as a #3 at this stage. I would say after C.J. Wilson and Mike Minor, but right around Homer Bailey and Mat Latos. Those are his comp set if you will heading into draft day. As an unproven entity you shouldn't "overdraft" him and expect him to anchor your fantasy rotation. That is asking for too much.There is a good chance someone will over value and reach for him to soon based on the hype, but there is nothing you can do about that. As a #3, I think he could be a very good value in 2014; just make sure you don't put too much stock in this "rookie".

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Baseball Is Coming!

“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.” ― A. Bartlett GiamattiTake Time For Paradise: Americans And Their Games

Not even a Polar Vortex can stop the return of baseball. The Fantasy Black Book 2014 Edition is back in the Amazon Kindle Store. Available for all devices with the free app. The '14 Edition is complete with all new RPV (Relative Position Value) for hundreds of players, as well as ALL NEW ROTO RPV. RPV is the only statistical measurement of position scarcity in fantasy sports. This year will be your home for fantasy news and opinion. I will also be devoting more time to the growing trend of Daily Fantasy Leagues. You can follow me on Twitter @JoePisapia17 and hear my weekly radio spots on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Channel's Going 9 Baseball.
This spring I will be previewing MLB teams for fantasy purposes as well as keeping you up to date with the latest so yo are prepared for your draft(s). The Black Book is committed to helping you develop your fantasy game and individual philosophies. 

The clock is ticking. It's time to get prepared.