Thursday, March 20, 2014


Drew Hutchison is still an "under the radar"
fantasy arm and could fill
a hole in your rotation.
Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Kris Medlin, Brandon Beachy, Derek Holland, Jon Neise, A.J. Griffin, Cole Hamels.....can any pitcher stay healthy? It seems starters are dropping like flies already and the season has yet to begin. The waiver wire is already buzzing in leagues that have drafted as arms continue to go on the shelf. It may not be possible to recoup all your losses depending on your investment, but all hope is not lost. There are some names floating around that are available and may be able to plug the leak in your sinking rotation.

Yordano Ventura KC  (Owned 71% of leagues)
Now there is a slim chance Ventura is available in your league, but if by luck he is RUN to your league's waiver wire and pluck him off there. This flamethrower was officially named the Royals #5 starter and he should make a positive impact for at least the first half of the season. We all know the second time around the league guys get exposed and young arms tire from the workload of a major league season. However, right now he brings considerable upside. Spring stats mean very little, but regardless he is dominating (15K/1BB in 15IP with a 1.76ERA) the Cactus League. He was also lights out in AA and held his own in the hitter friendly PCL for the Royals AAA affiliate. He has big time potential.

Archie Bradley ARZ (Owned 63%)
Clearly with Patrick Corbin out for the year, Bradley is going to get a rotation look at some point. Due to economics you would think this would be more likely to be in June, but Kirk Gibson may override the front office's better judgement. He should have 180 IP or so available in his tank at his age (22) and development stage. He has ace potential and obviously we all know his keeper value in deep leagues. For 2014, Bradley has a chance to make a real impact even if Randall Delgado gets the first crack. Your time to grab and stash him is running out.

Hector Santiago LAA (Owned 44%)
He may be small in stature, but this diminutive lefty throws gas and has big K potential. He is lighting it up this spring with 19K's in 16 IP and had some great outings as a starter last year for the White Sox. There are questions about his stamina, but the Angels are prepared to find out those answers. For fantasy purposes, he should at least be a viable first half option in mixed leagues. I would rather take a chance on a young kid like this with high velocity and strikeout potential rather than some old re-tread veteran.

Drew Hutchison TOR (Owned 17%)
Again, spring stats are to be taken with a grain of salt, but Hutchison has 16K/1BB and a 2.79 ERA in just 9IP. He is just 23 and got some exposure to the big leagues last season with mixed results. It appears he is finally 100% after missing most of the 2012 season and he definitely has a chance to be a part of your long term plans with his swing and miss stuff. Over 270 career minor league innings Hutchison has a 4-1 K/BB rate, a K/9 of 9.6 and a 2.80 ERA. For a guy with a job, his ownership is so low it's almost absurd. Toronto may not be the ideal location for a young pitcher to cut his teeth, but he has a lot of talent and is worth the investment.

Tanner Roark WAS (Owned 6%)
New manager Matt Williams has already started to make some changes and it looks like Ross Detwiler is headed to the pen. Enter Tanner Roark, who's value is higher than your average fifth guy because he pitches on a stacked Nats team in a weak NL East. In roto and NL only formats, you may get some cheap wins and 6 inning starts. At 27, he is far more likely a place holder for the likes of A.J. Cole; but for the next month or two he can be a band aid on your wounded rotation.

David Hale ATL (Owned 5%)
Alex Wood is already owned in too many leagues to mention on this list, but with Medlen and Beachy out, Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd on the mend and Ervin Santana behind...well David Hale is going to get a solid look in the Braves' rotation. If it's between Hale and veteran Freddy Garcia the choice is easy. Why claim an older pitcher at the end of his rope with no upside when you can get a 26 year old with at least a glimmer of hope? Hale is not unhittable but in the short term he he can post a decent 2-1 K/BB rate and an ERA in the mid to upper 3 range. Pitchers like Hale have a good chance to be successful early even if they don't have a dominant repertoire (think Jeff Locke of the Pirates last year in the first half). A short term fix, but he might bide you time for some younger arms to grace the stage at the break.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Your first selection sets you up for the rest of your season and should be a franchise, super elite player who can only be stopped by unforeseen injury. He should be a slam dunk choice and a potential 3-4-5 player (.300BA/.400OBP/.500SLG%). A guy you can build your team around in your philosophy. The first rounds I am about to lay out are based on a cross section of information: RPV, age, health, situation and league type. Here are the first rounds from The Fantasy Baseball Black Book '14 based on these factors for 3 different formats in 2014:

(16 Teams; based on Points League RPV)
1. Miguel Cabrera +45% PTS RPV
2. Mike Trout +26% RPV
3. Paul Goldschmidt +25%
4. Clayton Kershaw +25%
5. Hanley Ramirez +25%
6. Robinson Cano +23%
7. Joey Votto +15%
8. Ryan Braun +8%
9. Adam Wainwright +20%
10. Max Scherzer +18%
11. Yu Darvish +10%
12. Andrew McCitchen +7%
13. Troy Tulowitzki +32%
14. Justin Verlander +5%
15. Chris Sale +5%
16. Dustin Pedroia +15%

      Cabrera is still the best there is with a +45% RPV and his 1B/3B dual eligibity gives you so much draft flexibity in the 2nd and 3rd rounds it's almost unfair. Trout is a points league machine and I rank him a very close second. It's not a knock on Trout, its just that in most points leagues you play only 3 outfielders, as opposed to roto formats that field 5 active outfielders. Early picks on the first round are about minimizing risk and maximizing value and Goldschmidt is clearly a player who contributes in every facet of the game. His age, ballpark and 3-4-5 slash are all big positives. Pitching being particularly deep this year, allows him to slide to the #3 spot.
Kersahw is super elite
among his elite peers.
      However, if you plan on using the RPV PITCHING ADVANTAGE STRATEGY I lay out in the Fantasy Black Book '14, then Kershaw should go 3rd overall. In points leagues, pitching matters a whole lot and if you want to start building an arsenal there is no better place to start than Clayton Kershaw. He is a +25% over the first 16 starting pitchers in the "ace tier", making him super elite among the elite. His RPV would be +63% if you measured him against the fantasy league average pitching pool as a whole, rather than just the top 16. Since it is generally accepted every team will have at least one ace pitcher, it's safer to rank him based off his RPV from within the top 16 group.
      Hanley comes in next, despite his obvious risk. You can't ignore the contract year and the fact he has posted seasons worthy of top 5 status before in his career. He is surrounded by talent and is poised for a big 
      year at a weak position. Cano will continue to lead the pack at second base and is safe than Hanley. You can of course go with the safe pick in cash leagues and the higher risk/reward in Hanley for leagues you 
      play for pride.

Votto makes it back up to the middle of this round from being at the bottom of the roto draft. The reason being, his on base skills will make him incredibly valuable regardless of his power totals. He doesn’t need to hit homeruns to win you weeks. I am very comfortable with Braun in the first round and in the top 10 of any format. He has way too much upside to let slide past this point based on his history of being a top 3 player. There are not a whole lot of 30/30 bats out there. Even though outfield is less of a priority, you can't ignore the upside. Next, come three starters that you can make a case for in any order. For my money, Wainwright has the best track record, Scherzer the best combo of strikeouts and wins and Darvish the explosive strikeout artist. Any of the three you should be thrilled to own. Check your league's scoring system and rank them accordingly.

McCuctchen is a great talent, but his points
league value may surprise you.
Andrew McCutchen is a strong, safe play and there is nothing wrong with that. Some may scream at him being this low, but it has to do with the depth of talent pool to active outfielders played ratio. It simply plays against him. Once "Cutch" is gone, is when the risk taking starts and Tulowitzki’s +37% RPV is too tempting to pass up. Again it is all about health not talent.  Verlander and Chris Sale are the next aces to go. Sale’s team hurts his value a bit and Verlander is coming off a down year, but both are still top pitchers. Edge to Verlander on track record.

The final slot goes to Dustin Pedroia based on his RPV. There are plenty of contenders including Edwin Encarnacion, Prince Fielder, Chris Davis, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Adam Jones and Carlos Gonzalez. But the outfielder’s RPV is lower based on the necessary active player pool, and the production from upper tier first basemen is comparable. There are three third basemen worthy of discussion too. Pedroia edges them out as a second baseman at a position that “bottoms out” at a negative -26% RPV! That is the lowest of all other positions making second base a priority despite other options on the board.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Your first selection sets you up for the rest of your season and should be a franchise, super elite player who can only be stopped by unforeseen injury. He should be a slam dunk choice and a potential 3-4-5 player (.300BA/.400OBP/.500SLG%). A guy you can build your team around in your philosophy. The first rounds I am about to lay out are based on a cross section of information: RPV, age, health, situation and league type. Here are the first rounds from The Fantasy Baseball Black Book '14 based on these factors for 3 different formats in 2014:

(12 Team Mixed League with 5 OF/CINF/MINF/DH; based in ROTO RPV)
1. Mike Trout +65% ROTO RPV
2. Miguel Cavrera +57% RPV
3. Andrew McCutchen +40% 
4. Ryan Braun +37% 
5. Paul Goldschmidt 37%
6. Hanley Ramirez +52% 
7. Robinson Cano +33
8. Troy Tulowitzki +46%
9. Carlos Gonzalez +37%
10. Jacoby Ellsbury +33%
11. Adam Jones +33%
12. Joey Votto +27%

Ryan Braun is a viable #3 overall pick.
The 30/30 potential is still there.
Trout obviously takes the #1 spot in roto drafts based off his speed/power combination and the number of active outfielders in this format. Cabrera boasts a whopping +57% RPV in this league structure and is still incredibly valuable. One thing to keep in mind; it's easier nowadays to find 30 stolen bases than 40+ homeruns (only Chris Davis topped 40 besides Miggy last year). You can still make an argument based on your philosophy that Cabrera is the #1 guy; especially considering his new 1B eligibility gives you big draft flexibility as an added bonus. 

Guys who offer across the board production are what you want in roto and McCutchen, Braun and Goldschmidt fit the bill. “Cucth” gets the edge over Braun just because he is the "safer" option after a year of turmoil and PED suspensions. I will say this much, I believe Braun to be the better player and he has two 30/30 seasons to his name. McCuctchen has none. If I were in a league for pride and not cash, I would take my chance with Braun at #3 overall. Money on the line, I sway to the safe option. The 5x5 roto format normally fields 5 active outfielders, so the elite ones must be accounted for early and often. That is why as great as Goldschmidt is, I take the OF over him. He remains a great young power/speed combo at 1B and any speed is rare at that spot. Still, he has had one good season and one monstrous one. I am bidding on him settling in between.

Hanley Ramirez is an enigma, but considering shortstop's lack of punch you have to be willing to go all in. He is playing for a contract and that is always a good thing. If you want to play it safe then flip flop him and Cano. The downgrade of the top second baseman is grossly overrated in my opinion. Yes, he is going to a tougher ballpark and yes he has big contract pressure (which is something I typically would shy away from). However, the position is very poor from a power standpoint and even if he loses 3-5 homers he could still be at the top of the position. I also think getting out of New York may be more of a relief to Cano who never seemed to fit comfortably there. Seattle could be just what he needs to become that MVP the Yankees always envisioned.  He is still the best 2B on the list by a wide margin.

Now it’s time to start taking some serious risks. The first round is not what it used to be, so you may have to take a stand if you want to compete. Troy Tulowitzki is an elite talent at an awful position, but his lack of durability is a major concern. His teammate Cargo could be a top five player in this format, but his constant injuries also keep him in the middle of the first round. Here is why I would roll the dice here with these two: first, you are guaranteed a very strong, reliable player in the returning second round (Adrian Beltre/Prince Fielder type). Secondly, if you pass on Tulo and Cargo, there is no way they make it back to you. Better to reach first then settle later with “safer” players when you are picking in the mid-late portion of the draft.
Steadiness is not a commodity to undervalue
and Adam Jones is a rock.

To round out the roto draft I would go with the best bet to steal 50 bases and Ellsbury should offer that with 100+runs and a strong batting average. I also believe he can approach 15 homers. That would make him a viable first rounder in roto. If you are looking to start off strong and steady, Adam Jones and Joey Votto are about as rock solid as it gets. Jones has really blossomed into a star with his .280BA/100R/30HR/100RBI/15SB baseline. Joey Votto used to hold Goldschmidt’s slot in the first round, but his power and speed have declined in recent years. He is still a premier corner infielder, just not a top 10 player in roto.
As you can see, I have no pitchers in the first round. The pitching pool is very deep this year and in roto formats brilliant pitching performances don’t go as far as they do in points leagues.  When dealing with categories, a starter’s value can be capped despite being dominant. There are no bonuses for complete games or shutouts. It is more about a strong staff than being top-heavy.

I know Chris Davis is also not on this list despite his incredible power performance in 2013. He needs to do it again for me before I give him first round credence. Fielder and Encarnacion have shown more consistent production, so I have Davis behind them as well. I have seen way to many big year breakouts, followed by disappointments to get wrapped up in the hype.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hidden Fantasy Gems

Can you name this player?
You may want him on your team.
There are always guys every year that fly under the radar that can make a big difference in your fantasy season. The term "sleeper" is overused and overdone. If a guy is on everyone's "sleeper list", guess what he is no longer a secret. I prefer to bring attention to players who are undervalued or simply not as well known. Can you name the Yankee in the picture to the left? Perhaps if you are a Yankee fan you can, but most baseball fans can't pick Ivan Nova out of a lineup. Yet, last season Nova was arguably the best and most reliable starting pitcher on the team once he regained his rotation spot. Baseball is littered with big stars and big names, but most of them will be off the board in the first few rounds of your draft. Fantasy coverage generally pays a fair amount of attention to the elite players, followed closely by the hype train of young rising stars. What often falls through the cracks are the players who have been in the league a few years and are starting to figure things out. There are also useful veterans who still have something in the tank, even if their glory days are behind them. They tend to be the middle tier of positions pools and will get drafted in the middle rounds. However, the right "middle men" can really separate your team from your opponents. Here are some names that you shouldn't let fall through the cracks on draft day.

It’s amazing what fighting for your rotation slot can bring out of a pitcher. Nova was dreadful last April, got sent down, then called back up and posted a 2.78 ERA over his final 13 starts. Keep in mind this wasn't the Yankees we were used to, so Nova did not get as many wins as he may have deserved nor did he benefit from great run support. He was really tough to beat at home (7-3 with a 2.44 ERA) and in 2014 he seems locked into the number 4 spot behind Sabathia, Tanaka and Kuroda. He is not an ace, but he has the ability to be an above average starting pitcher with the occasional big game. The Yankees may not be the runaway favorites they once were, but they certainly re-tooled the offense enough to give him a great chance at 15 wins if everything breaks right.

There is no denying Santiago has a power arm. He split time between the rotation and the pen but was more effective as a starter (23GS, 3.51 ERA, 8.4 K/9). He still has lapses with his control, so he will incur some bad outings. However, he can also drop some big strikeout games making him a nice points league gamble. Santiago can be had in the later rounds and now that he is all but a lock for the Angels rotation you can draft him without concern over his role. There will still be ups and downs, but he has the ability to outperform his draft slot.

Yes, he is 34, but Beckett should not be forgotten in your draft plans. He simply wasn't healthy in 2013, but don't forget he posted a 2.93 ERA over his seven starts after being dealt to the Dodgers in 2012. Being healthy in the NL with a formidable Dodger lineup is a recipe for a rebound. Beckett will cost you next to nothing and is a great bet to outperform his draft slot giving his career body of work. Not all veterans are equal, and Beckett's track record deserves attention on draft day. Monitor his spring outings just to be sure he is free and easy, then bid accordingly. 

de Aza had a very productive '13 season,
but no one seems to have noticed.
His 17 homeruns were a surprise, but he continued to steal 20 bags for the second straight year. Granted, the White Sox outfield got a little crowded this offseason with the acquisition of Adam Eaton. Between Eaton, Avisail Garcia and Dayan Viciedo, only de Aza has really produced at the big league level. Frankly, with 84 runs scored and 160 hits last year, he doesn't deserve to be on the bench. Last year was probably his ceiling as a player, but that doesn't mean he can't repeat it. de Aza will be a cheap source of steals in roto leagues and may even give you double digit homers again in 2014.

He suffered back to back seasons with hamate bone breaks in each hand. He also let his weight issue get the better of his talent and his production has become underwhelming as a result. ENTER THE CONTRACT YEAR! The Panda showed up in the best shape of his life to spring training and if he is motivated, the story may be very different in 2014. Sandoval did pick up his production in the second half  of last season (.814 OPS), and he has the potential to give you good power numbers along with a high batting average. At 27, he is far too young to write off altogether yet.

While everyone else is ogling Billy Hamilton, let us not forget Eric Young led the NL in stolen bases with 46. The Mets view him as their best (and perhaps only) option as a lead-off hitter and in roto leagues. He may not hit for a high average and struggles to get on base, but Billy Hamilton has those same issues and he's going to be drafted with extreme prejudice in 2014. Why not wait and take a flyer on EY instead?

1.      He needs to stay on the field, plain and simple. Ramos is the classic example of the position taking its physical toll and hindering a gifted hitter from realizing his full potential. Take Ramos as a catcher with legitimate pop, but you may need a back up on your bench. The Nats have committed to him by letting veteran Kurt Suzuki leave via free agency. His age (26) gives me hope that he can put together a full, productive campaign in 2014. If that happens, he could be an upper tier backstop for a fraction of the cost of the big names. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Every year the big name prospects with imminent arrival to the big leagues are discussed incessantly by fantasy outlets. Often times their value becomes inflated when you consider many won't see the big leagues until halfway through the season and there is no guarantee their production will be impactful to your fantasy season. What's worse is that you may have to suffer a decent draft pick or draft dollar to obtain them. I am traditionally very tough on grading young players in single season leagues for these very reasons. Clearly in dynasty leagues it is about calculated risk taking. If you can get away with stashing a young rising star like Kris Bryant, George Springer or Jonathan Gray for a reasonable cost, by all means do so. If however the market moves beyond reason for them, there are some lesser known prospects that might make a difference in the not so distant future who will cost you next to nothing in this year's draft.

As I say in the Fantasy Black Book '14, rookies need a combination of ability and opportunity to be worthwhile fantasy assets. You must also understand the economics of the game which means the Mark Appel's of the world won't be rushed anytime soon because teams like Houston are not contenders and are hesitant to "start the clock" on a player's arbitration years and free agency. Many teams have holes and these young players are either on the 40 man rosters or in camp this spring with their stocks quickly rising ready to fill them. Here are some names that have a legitimate shot to make a difference soon.

Edwin Escobar is a lefty knocking at the
door of the San Francisco rotatio
Kyle Crick might get more press, but he still has to get his walks under control. Enter Edwin Escobar, a 22 year old lefty with impeccable control and more polish than Crick. In 2013, Escobar posted a 2.80 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 4.87 K/BB ration over 128 innings between A+ and AA last year. Escobar was sent to the winter league to continue to build arm strength adding another 26 innings there. Clearly the Giants are preparing him to reach 170-180 innings in 2014 which would make him useful to the big club. Those innings will start at AAA, but with Ryan Vogelsong coming off a dreadful year and Tim Hudson approaching social security, there is a very good chance Escobar is the first name called up if a spot opens in the rotation. In dynasty leagues, he is a terrific lost cost/high reward investment. He has Cliff Lee upside if he continues the path he is on.

At 6'3" 250lbs., Aguilar is an imposing presence in the box. The Indians need a middle of the order bat in the worst way and Nick Swisher is not a great defender at first. Moving him to the outfield would benefit the team all the way around. Enter Jesus! Aguilar hit only 16 homers in AA last year, but he drove in 105 runs in just 130 games. As impressive as that RBI total is, its Aguilar's winter league numbers that have scouts raving about his development taking the next step forward. Over 59 games this offseason, Aguilar hit .327 with a .403 OBP and a .597 SLG%. That is an OPS of 1.000 with 18 homers and 50 RBI. He worked closely with veteran Bobby Abreu while there and clearly something clicked. It would be surprising to see him make the opening day roster, but if he carries over this progress to AAA, you have to assume he will get a look sometime around the all star break.

When J.P. Arencibia and Geovany Soto are the only thing standing in the way between you and the big leagues, it's only a matter of time. Nicholas caught the attention of the media with his two homerun, MVP performance in the AFL All Star Game this offseason. He was originally drafted as a catcher, but was then moved to first base. However, now that newly acquired Prince Fielder is locked into that spot, the Rangers see an opportunity to shift Nicholas back behind the plate. His makeup is off the charts and his leadership qualities fit the position. He was slow to develop, but in AA last year Nicholas' line of .289BA/.831OPS/21HR/91RBI in 136 games showed he has the chance to be a solid run producer. He will likely start the year at AAA, but he is an injury or slow start by the aforementioned Ranger catchers away from getting a shot. Backstops who can swing the bat and play in a favorable hitter park are worth a look.

Johnson has always been a victim of bad timing. In 2012, forearm pain caused his draft stock to tumble and the Cubs took advantage. Finally, time is on his side as the Cubs desperately need some young arms to pop in their system to compliment their killer bats. In his first full season of pro ball, Johnson threw 118 innings over two levels of A ball with a 2.74 ERA and a 124K/23BB mark to show for it. Johnson is going to start the year at AA, but in dynasty leagues where you have multiple minor league slots, Johnson is an under the radar arm who will be on the fast track as the Cubs and GM Theo Epstein look to make their move in the NL Central over the next two years. If he is lights out in AA, there is a chance you may see him in the bullpen in September to get his feet wet. Innings limits will hold him back from 2014 impact, but 2015 he could be primed for a rotation spot.  

At 5'9" 185lbs., Stroman does not posses your prototypical power pitching frame. However, his AA numbers in 2013 (20 GS, 9-5, 10.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 4.78 K/BB, 1.13 WHIP) spoke volumes. The Jays are in need of some power arms at the big league level. He only reached 118 IP last year, so clearly 150 would be about his max, but Stroman is a young arm with upside if you miss out on the big name minor league pitchers in your dynasty/minor league drafts. More of a future investment type arm, but an intriguing one at that.

Now Davidson already has service time in the big leagues unlike the rest of this group, as well as a legitimate shot at the third base job with the White Sox out of the gate. In his cup of coffee with the D'Backs last year, he stumbled over 31 games before being dealt this offseason. However, this 23 year old has legitimate power that will play in a notorious sluggers park like Chicago. He does swing and miss, but he still managed an OBP of .351 for his minor league career. The hot corner has been a black hole for the White Sox for years and regardless of whether or not he wins the job out of spring, Davidson will get a crack at it eventually. In every stop from A ball to AAA over the last three years, he put up very similar numbers and that consistency is encouraging. Often times young players hit a wall when they get promoted to the next level. Davidson was never phased and displayed his power with a blast in Citi Field last year during the MLB Futures Game. He is one to watch.