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.
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.
- M. Bradley (.396)
- C. Jones (.388)
- M. Ramirez (.373)
- F. Lewis (.367)
- Matt Kemp (.363)
- M. Holliday (.361)
- N. Markakis (.351)
- B.J. Upton (.351)
- J. Mauer (.350)
- R. Ludwick (.349)
Now the flip-side, 10 lowest BABIP hitters:
- P. Konerko (.247)
- K. Millar (.249)
- M. Ellis (.249)
- N. Swisher (.251)
- J. Giambi (.257)
- A. Dunn (.262)
- M. Jacobs (.264)
- J. Kendall (.267)
- E. Encarnacion (.267)
- 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.
- K. Millwood(.366)
- I. Snell (.358)
- L. Hernandez (.345)
- N. Robertson (.343)
- A. Petitte (.339)
- M. Parra (.337)
- A.J. Burnett (.328)
- J. Vazquez (.328)
- Z. Duke (.327)
- 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.
- D. Bush (.245)
- T. Wakefield (.247)
- A. Galarraga (.247)
- G. Smith (.258)
- S. Olsen (.266)
- D. Matsuzaka (.267)
- J. Guthrie (.267)
- J. Saunders (.267)
- G. Floyd (.267)
- 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.
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