The Fantasy Reporter

I know you all come here for your Cubs fix and I don't pretend to be some sort of fantasty baseball expert (that would be readers "The Joe" and "JD"), but my fantasy draft is Saturday and I feel like sharing. I much prefer a points league over the traditional 5x5 roto leagues, but mostly the same advice applies. If anything, the points league is a bettter reflection of the reality of baseball and our playing fantasy baseball gives us a better understanding of the sport itself. If you do play in a roto league, you need to be more worried about stolen bases than I am.

And just so you know that I'm not completely full of it, I have been playing since 1999 and besides one very unfortunate injury-riddled season, I usually finish "in the money" so to speak. I don't alway take the league, but I'm almost always in contention. Once again, not trying to pass myself off as some fantasy baseball expert, but you could do worse. If anything, I hope to convince you to acquire Troy Tulowitzki if you're in a keeper league. He's going to be a monster for the next six seasons.

So here's some general draft strategies and ideas on a handful of players. Those who play in a league with me are probably going to be wondering why there are so many players mentioned that are on my current team or have been recently or I've inquired about. Well, I liked them for a reason, so there you go.

Draft Strategy

I don't have any fancy system with some trademarked name that I follow or some strict regiment of who to draft in which slot. I do have some guidelines though.

1-5: Offense, Offense, Offense - no time for risk-taking and pitchers are inherently a risk.

6-10: Start looking for pitching and watch for the inevitable run on closers that is going to happen. There will still be some value offensive picks though on position players that people have forgotton about.

11-20: A lovely song and dance to fill out your roster with a mix of value picks and need.

21-25: High Risk, High Reward and Catchers...fill out the roster if needed, but I usually start looking for prospects or troubled assets and injury risks here.

- Other than a few select pitchers, I generally try to land what I
consider sure thing offensive players in the first 5 rounds. Those
few select pitchers this year are Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels and Roy
Halladay. There's plenty of other good to great pitchers, but I'm
worried about Johan and Webb's arm issues, C.C's fatness and the lack
of run support that Jake Peavy will get this year. Everyone else you
can flip a coin if they'll be effective or healthy in my opinion, so
don't waste a top pick on them.  There's a good chance you can find just as good a pitcher in round 10-20 as the top 5.

- Joe Mauer, Geovany Soto, Brian McCann and Russ Martin are the only catchers worth taking in the top 10 rounds. Don't talk yourself into anyone else. Victor Martinez and Jorge Posada are in the discussion, but you have to really worry about their injury risks. Otherwise, I'll pass until Round 20 or later (we have 25 rounds) and grab whatever is left and play the waiver wire over the year. The second tier of catchers are Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta and a Chris Snyder/Miguel Montero combo from the Dbacks. Everyone else is completely interchangeable over the year and you're probably better off just trying to play the hot-hand.

- I'm a big fan of good players that had a down year usually due to injury or unexplained phenomenon. Some examples from 2008 include Fausto Carmona, Justin Verlander, Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Rios, Alfonso Soriano, Howie Kendrick and Aaron Hill.

- I'm thoroughly intrigued by Adam Dunn this season. I think he feels he has something to prove and - as a bonus - qualifies at 1B and LF. He also had an extremely low BABIP last season.

- Never underestimate the Coors factor or the Ballpark factor for left-handed hitters in Texas. Matt Murton, Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Stewart are worth watching in Colorado, just keep an eye out for who might be winning the job out of spring training. Everyone knows about Josh Hamilton by now, but Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltamacchia are good high upside guys..

- I constantly fight myself over closers. In our points league which has an innings limit, relievers and closers are quite valuable as they offer a much higher innings per points average than a starter. In a roto league, you'll get the benefit of more strikeouts per inning pitched. On the other hand, closers are always available during the year and you'll particularly want to pay attention to the Tigers, Mariners and Cardinals this season. So I'm never sure how early I should start picking closers, but I will say that if you don't get stuck with a complete dud, they're always tradeable during the season. Papelbon, Rivera and K-Rod are pretty much sure things this year and I'm quite high on Jonathon Broxton taking the role in Los Angeles.

- I'm pretty good at picking players a year too early from their breakout season. For example, keep an eye out for Alex Gordon and Kelly Johnson this season.

- An easy way to look for overrated versus underrated is their BABIP or batting average in balls in play. Couple it with line drive percentage and you have a good idea of players to watch out for, whether on the rebound or to slump. From Fangraphs, the top 10 highest BABIP last year, if they're in bold, they had a line drive percentage below 20% which means I'd avoid them unless everyone else in your league is reading the same thing. A BABIP over .330 is usually tough to sustain, anything over .360 is virtually impossible to sustain, unless you're Ichiro Suzuki.

  1. M. Bradley (.396)
  2. C. Jones (.388)
  3. M. Ramirez (.373)
  4. F. Lewis (.367)
  5. Matt Kemp (.363)
  6. M. Holliday (.361)
  7. N. Markakis (.351)
  8. B.J. Upton (.351)
  9. J. Mauer (.350)
  10. R. Ludwick (.349)

Now the flip-side, 10 lowest BABIP hitters:

  1.  P. Konerko (.247)
  2. K. Millar (.249)
  3. M. Ellis (.249)
  4. N. Swisher (.251)
  5. J. Giambi (.257)
  6. A. Dunn (.262)
  7. M. Jacobs (.264)
  8. J. Kendall (.267)
  9. E. Encarnacion (.267)
  10. R. Hernandez (.269)

I wouldn't take a chance on all those guys, but Konerko, Dunn, Swisher, Giambi and Jacobs are certainly very interesting.

The BABIP numbers are even more reliable when it comes to pitchers. The top 10 unluckiest last year, where league average is about .290.

  1. K. Millwood(.366)
  2. I. Snell (.358)
  3. L. Hernandez (.345)
  4. N. Robertson (.343)
  5. A. Petitte (.339)
  6. M. Parra (.337)
  7. A.J. Burnett (.328)
  8. J. Vazquez (.328)
  9. Z. Duke (.327)
  10. J. Beckett  (.327)

I'd still avoid Livan Hernandez and Kevin Millwod, but they should be slightly better for next year. Everyone else is probably being underrated in your drafts. And now the flipside, the 10 luckiest pitchers last year.

  1. D. Bush (.245)
  2. T. Wakefield (.247) 
  3. A. Galarraga (.247)
  4. G. Smith (.258)
  5. S. Olsen (.266)
  6. D. Matsuzaka (.267)
  7. J. Guthrie (.267)
  8. J. Saunders (.267)
  9. G. Floyd (.267)
  10. C. Hamels (.270)

Now pitchers with knuckleballs and really good change-ups have been able to beat the league average BABIP consistently so I wouldn't worry much about Wakefield or Hamels. Smith and Saunders throw a healthy amount of change-ups, but I can't speak to their quality and their minor league numbers don't suggest they can maintain that level of luck.

I'll come back Wednesday with a more thorough positional breakdown.

Please take a moment today to vote on the best Cubs Season Ever.


Hey Rob is it too late to join a fantasy baseball league? Are there beginner leagues? I got talked into fantasy football a couple years ago (even though I like baseball better) and won back to back! Now, I'm thinking I ought to be spending that time on my favorite sport. Just wonderin

you can probably join a league up to a week before the season starts. Unfortunately there will be no more TCR-sponsored leagues, but if you're a reader and looking for people you have my full permission to advertise here.

Yahoo is my favorite set-up, the MLB Open League we played last year was a nice simple points league with little time involvement if you want to just get started. Weekly lineup changes only and you draft an entire pitching staff rather than individual pitchers, nice way to get into fantasy baseball. I'm not a fan of head-to-head leagues, but a lot of people like them. Most leagues let you sign up and find a league with open spots.



Thanks Rob. Sounds fun. Troy Tulowitzki, you say?

Thanks for the Roto v Points soapbox. TCR2 (or the WTCR, if you will :)) is in discussions on what to use

i dont wanna call roto "training wheels" or etc...but roto is generally a great one for casual or mixed-skill fans.

even if you make the stats tracked complex pretty much everyone can "get" and properly weigh how player 1 vs. player 2 vs...player 10 might compare to each other on a linear value scale.

it involves treating a SB the same as a HR, but it also involves a whole lot less time for roster/player management.

well most all of the "expert" leagues are roto based. NFBC, Tout Wars, Jail etc are all standard vanilla 5x5 roto. Points leagues are fine too, I don't see them much differently if you expand the categories between roto or points to 8x8 at least. I try to use rate stats as opposed to counting stats as often as possible in my roto leagues. H2H leagues are flukish but can be fun if you don't mind getting beat by teams with inferior rosters in a handful of weeks over the season.

whatever works for people, but roto league and managing categories doesn't seem very baseball-like to me and I prefer something that resembles the game. Obviously you don't have to have stolen bases as a category, but having it equal to a home run and then fighting over Joey Gathright coming into the league is kind of silly to me.



I've annoyed everyone in the Yahoo TCR league with my roto babble, so I'll post it here too. Because this is American, and it's a free country damnit!

Roto to me requires to be a more skillful manager. You have to weight your surplus and fill your shortages without giving too much of your excess away. In points-based leagues you just need points. It doesn't matter where or how. Also, HR's are inevitable worth more, despite actually being more common than SBs. That's like making RBI's worth more than triples. Or a W more than a complete game.

In roto all stats are created equal. You have to be aware of your teams skills and deficiencies and address them as so. Points to me is the "well, player A has more points than player B, I'll add him" (granted you have to take into account what they'll do in the future, but you get the point) you don't have to consider "well, I need to address this category. Is the marginal increase in category X worth losing some of my surplus in category Y". Roto requires you to be more aware of your team and the league as a whole, where in points you just need to amass points, it doesn't matter what anyone else si doing because you're just trying to get as many points as possible. Roto makes you compete against someone, not just numbers.

Points leagues are dumb.

only problem i have with points leagues is how they break the points out and how much importance is placed on specific categories.

i gave up bitching about it long ago when i play points leagues...i just check out how the points are laid out and where the weaknesses/strengths are. bitching about it just ends up being arguments over +/- 5 to 20 points in a category vs. what you'd prefer to weigh the value of point category.

I agree, no matter what with points some categories are favored. They'll never be a perfect point system..except in roto where all stats are equal. I think MLK would have preferred roto.

you're clearly a communist...

I guess I see some of your point, but a HR is worth more because well it's worth more in baseball. Stolen bases, especially if you don't account for getting caught stealing, being on the same value as a HR or a run scored or an RBI is just kind of dumb...and anti-American. But I harp about stolen bases when it's easy to set-up a roto league that doesn't have stolen bases.

I've never felt like playing a points league was easy to manage, that's for sure.  On the other hand, I've played roto league and felt like, "gosh, this is really dumb".  We have an innings limit in our league which definitely makes the
pitching side a challenge on what type of players you need to acquire. Yes, ultimately total bases is the biggest factor in a points league on the offensive side, but we do account marginally for defense and other factors. 

God, defense in fantasy baseball. YUCK!

I heard the devil just started a fantasy baseball's a points based league...with defensive categories...anyone else see Rob and Devil in the same room?....didn't think so...

I'm just using SB's as an example. If you weren't a racist you'd enjoy treating all categories equal in roto.

Points leagues are never fair. There is always some category/type of player that gets too much love in the points that shouldn't. There is never a perfect points system, but roto is the definition of perfect. So it's your call.

That being said it's not difficult to see which players are a little overvalued in whatever setup the points system has and get those guys.

Life...and baseball are not fair my friend.

Enjoy your equal-opportunity picket-fence faux baseball league. :)

"God, defense in fantasy baseball. YUCK!"


matt vagbag just called the WBC the "world baseball event"

maybe he shouldnt host 20 hours of shows a day for the mlb network.

I shall take your advice and pick up all of the guys you like, one round before you would have picked them. Unfortunately, I don't really understand all that stat stuff. Usually, I just pick the guys who I think are the prettiest...and also Chone Figgins. He's actually quite bugly.

Bud, I'd suggest going to Yahoo Sports. You can sign up for a league, and I imagine they're still available. Yahoo is probably the best.

Rob hates pitchers.

Anyone catch this?
Looks like Hoffpauir has picked up where Izturis left off...

it was a previous comment in one of the older posts...

Sorry, been out about a week...

delivery confirmation on callahan...

I have a great deal of fondness for the guys who way overpay on the second tier 2B and SS in like the 6th-9th rounds while I load up on pitching. They're taking guys like Tulowitski and Stephen Drew while you COULD get a guy like Hardy or Orlando Cabrera 4 or 5 rounds later for close to the same production:

Drew: 291/333 44 2B 21HR 67RBI 41BB 109K
Hardy: 283/344 30 2B 24HR 74RBI 55B 98K
Cabrera: 281/334 332B 8HR 57 RBI 56BB 71K

You take Drew, I'll follow that with Volquez, Gallardo, or Cain and then still get Hardy 4 rounds later. I've won my keeper league full of those suckers 4 years in a row. I think it's great.

I'll be thoroughly suprised if Drew or Hardy go that late this year. And there's nothing second-tier about Tulowitzki. He's gold,

We do our keepers weird. So yeah, probably 4th round or so if you're scoring at home.

MLB network's 30clubs/30days program covers the cubs tomorrow (tuesday).

they show it a few times per evening/night.

I'm sure I missed this in an AZ Phil post, but

C Tony Richie released.

Also, Scott Eyre is broke

this nederlands vs. PR game is goods...

bernie williams (yes, that one) just blew tieing the 1-0 game in the bottom 3rd getting thrown out at home.

I am not a complete fan of our points league but i do like our keeper system. If a player has a down year/injured you got a chance to keep him at a very low draft round. For example Rafael Furcal is atleast a 6th round pick on draft day. In our league, Furcal is being kept on a 25th round pick. That is a hell of a bargain.

new MLB player for quality looks better, we'll see what it's like on Opening Day though.

Netherlands nailed Bernie Williams at the plate, up 1-0 in the 4th over Puerto Rico.

italy up 3-0 on Canada...koskie will be with the Cubs soon enough.

Netherlands! Netherlands!

1st/3rd with one out, pitching change and they get the double play...still up 1-0 in the 4th.

one of those announcers is hyping this nederlands 1-run-lead and their last win as the biggest thing in baseball since kirk gibson's gimpy ass limped a homer for the dodgers.

Recent comments

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  • Football games are played once a week. There are 16 games a year. I'm not even remotely following at all how you can compare the two leagues and playoff systems. It is physically impossible to play a home and away series. The idea of not having any road games in baseball playoffs is certainly a head scratcher.

    How is not having the first and last game at home a benefit for the division winners and team with the best record? How is it not an incentive to win the division when a WC team has to blow their top pitcher?

    Call me lost.

  • Two 97+ win teams in a do-or-die, great bullpens, overpowering starters, plenty of pop--hard to believe that game wouldn't be tense. A 4-0 lead is not a blowout, especially in that situation and with the Cubs' young bullpen. Not only would a defensive play here or there make a difference, but you get the win there also on the home plate umps strike zone (generous strike calls for Arrieta, including a couple Ks), and on Schwarber sitting on the right pitch at the right time.

  • Unbeleivable Dodgers:
    I just noticed the Dodger's payroll today. It is just absurd. $300,000,000+!!
    Here is where just some of their money is for 2015:

    Some "Highlights"
    Carl Crawford $20MM
    Brandon McCarthy $17MM
    Bronson Arroyo $3.5MM
    Darwin B $2.2MM
    Dan Haren $10MM
    Matt Kemp $18MM
    Brian Wilson $10MM
    Ryan Webb $2.2MM
    Dee Gordon $2.5MM

  • So I think tomorrow will be the most important test of how far we can go. We can win it all with two pitchers since Arietta has shown he can carry over his success to the post season. If Lester can be dominant also then I think we can go far no matter how Hendricks or Hammel do.


    And in terms of pitching just went through to see how we could maximize Lester and Arietta and came up with this (Lester would be going on 4 days rest three times and Arietta twice):

  • i still can't believe that crawford contract (7/142). all that loot and years for a LF'r who's entire hitting game revolves around his legs and line-drive power. those triples that raised his value are deceptive as hell to his true power, but it helped him get paid.

    there's also pause about a guy who's ob% is almost totally driven by hits rather than walks. BOS got lucky unloading that crap deal.

  • I think the Cubs take Berry and Soler off playoff roster and add Hammel & Ramirez. Believe Maddon will find Denorfia & Jackson defense too hard to lose.

  • O & B: I like the one-game Wild Card heart attack game, but I'd actually like to see a best two-out-of-three LDS played in the home parks of the two division winners with the best records, and then the LCS as a best two-out-of-three in the home park of the division winner left standing with the best record, and then let's get to the World Series already. 

  • I...don't know. If chanting would help the Cubs beat the Cardinals in the next series or ultimately the World Series I think I'd be ok with it lol. I'm not supportive of saying insulting things to opposing fans or throwing things but loud noise and chanting seems appropriate to me.

    I also grew up in France though and that kind of thing is par for the course at soccer and rugby matches and I love it. I find crowds too passive here.

  • Er, they won the first one. My bad. Carry on.

  • With last night's win in Pittsburgh, the Cubs have tied the Pirates with 98 wins, and are only 2-1/2 games behind the Cardinals. No reason why the Cubs can't finish the post-season with the best winning percentage in baseball (regular season & post-season combined). 

  • BOB: I doubt very much that Matt Szczur will be on the Cubs LDS roster.

    If he wasn't on the Wild Card roster (when the Cubs went with 15 position players), he won't be on the LDS roster (when the Cubs will go with 13 or 14 position players).

    As it is, at least one of the three RH hitting outfielders who were on the Cubs WC roster (Denorfia, Jackson, and Soler) could get bumped off the LDS roster (probably Soler).

  • I want my baseball team to win by playing better baseball. I don't want umps, fields, or fans to have anything to do with it.

  • Just with the chanting thing it worked to rattle Cueto last year where he dropped a ball and gave up a HR next pitch so you can't really hate on the fans for trying it again in this important of a game.

    Arietta though.

  • I felt the same way, too, but...

    I was very disappointed with Pittsburgh fans. At Wrigley a few weeks ago, they were very obnoxious guests, the cockiness on Twitter, and what's the deal with chanting Arrieta's name during the game? Very bush league. Add that up with Rodriguez's poor sportsmanship and you quickly have a team that you don't mind beating 4-0 in a do or die game.