Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blog Wars 2013 Mixed 5x5 League...Let's Root for the Home Team!

In hopes that late is in fact better than never, I present herewith my Advanced Fantasy Baseball roster from the Blog Wars expert league. As I have mentioned time and again, I greatly prefer auctions to drafts, but a draft was the format selected for this league, so my duty was to "improvise, adapt and overcome".  As it turns out, things went fairly well.

By a stroke of bad luck, I drew the #7 pick, a universally despised position.  At #7, you will not get one of the three "premier" first round players.  You are not close enough to the wheel to have the advantage of having two picks close together. But, as with most things in life, you can make it work to your advantage.

The first round went pretty much by the book.  Ryan Braun fell first followed by the Triple Crown winner and then the Boy Wonder, Mike Trout.  Of the three, Cabrera would have been my pick.  Braun may put up better numbers, but it is no secret that MLB is on his case for PED issues.  Whether he will be suspended for some time during the year is yet to be seen.  I also worry a little about the psychological pressures he must be under as the target of a massive investigation.  As for Trout, his 2012 season was truly one for the ages.  But, take a long breath and tell me what should make us believe he can do it in his second big league season.  He may do as well, or even better, but he lacks a track record...something Miggy clearly has.

The next three picks were Kemp, Cano, and McCutchen, in that order.  None of these selections give me any particular heartburn, but with high first round picks one should maximize predictable value, not upside.  With Kemp, whose talent is unquestioned, there are some nagging health issues.  Robinson Cano has a history of monster seasons, but it takes him 650 at-bats a year to pull this off.  With so many Yankee stars on the DL or ready for retirement, one must wonder who there will be to drive Cano in, or who will be on base for him to drive in.  Andrew McCutchen is clearly a fantastic young player, but one who has not yet reached his peak or established a level of consistency.  Had this been a keeper league, though, McCutchen would have been my pick.  As it is, I probably would have gone with Cano and crossed my fingers for his mates to get healthier.

That left it up to me at #7.  Generally, the first round means find the best player available.  In addition, I planned to grab power, batting average, and reliability.  I found all those things in a very large package named Prince Fielder.  This meant passing up on numerous legitimate first round candidates, including Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez, both of whom I love, but both of whom present some health issues.  Ditto Albert Pujols and his knee.  As for Giancoarlo Stanton, I was bothered by the quality of the hitters around him.  When your sole protection is Placido Polanco, you have some issues.  Justin Upton and Jose Reyes would have been fine picks as well, but I reminded myself that my first rounder had to be a person with good reliability as well as mammoth power and an excellent average.  Welcome to the team, big man!

Three big name pitchers went early in the second round...Strasburg, Verlander and Kershaw.  I was a little surprised that the three went 3, 4 and 5 in the second round.  Kershaw I can see as a second round pick, but Verlander was, IMO, overdrafted here.  As for Strasburg, my thinking was similar to that regarding Trout - show me you can do it for a full season, twice.

So for my second round selection, I went with Dustin Pedroia.  He's not a true masher, like Fielder, but he does have 20-25 home run power.  There were two more factors I considered here. One is that second base is a very thin position at the top.  The other is that Boston may run more this year than we've seen in a while, due to the tendencies of their new manager, John Farrell.  Pedroia will be on base plenty, and has the wheels to pick up 30 or more steals if he gets the green light.  Plus he gives me more plus average, which may be a scarce commodity this year.

Before my third round pick, four more top line starters would fall, including Price, King Felix, Hamels and Matt Cain.  It became abundantly clear to me that I would not get one of the top starting pitchers if I didn't take one in the third round.  Available were Cliff Lee, Yu Darvish, Bumgarner, Weaver and Dickey.  But I was still looking for reliable power, and it came in the form of Yoenis Cespedes, a hitter I believe could turn in an MVP season. No, he does not meet my test of "do it twice", but he is a hitter we have watched for years in his native country, and there are few who doubt this guy's ability to rake.

The fourth round presented a difficult decision.  I had not planned to take pitching early, yet I had seen all the top starters fly off the board.  I was also mindful of the fact that "closer" has even less job security than "NFL placekicker". 

A really good closer, in addition to providing you help in the Saves category can, essentially, turn an average starting  pitcher into a Cy Young candidate.  By that I mean that in addition to saves a really good closer will give you a ton of Ks, an ERA around 2.00 or less, and a Whip of 1.00 or less, as well as a handful of wins.  Add those numbers to an average starter, and his resulting numbers are outstanding.  By contrast, some closers will not only fail to help you in ERA and Whip, but can actually hurt you there.  And, they can lose their jobs in the process.

In my opinion, the closer who provides the best projected stats and job security is Craig Kimbrel.  He is the only closer I would consider taking early in a draft (with the possible exception of Aroldis the Red).  Plus, given the fact that so many starters had already been taken, I figured that I had to get Kimbrel right then if I expected to roster him at all.  So, welcome Craig Kimbrel.  Of course, the next owner in line took Chapman. He told me he would have taken Kimbrel had I not done so.

The next four rounds were used to fill out my infield and add a couple of outfielders. Some players I believed were being undervalued, and should have strong years in 2013 are Shane Victorino, Martin Prado, Erik Aybar and Melky Cabrera.  Melky may have been a reach, but I think there's a good chance he'll have a big year, unless he was nothing more than a product of PEDs.

I took my first starting pitcher in Round 9, and the honor went to Ian Kennedy.  He was the 30th starting pitcher taken, and a bit of a bargain as the 127th player overall.

The rest of the draft consisted of picking the best offensive players available. I tried picking as many pitchers with high upside as possible.  Among the hitters I was very happy to roster were Chris Davis in Round 10 and Dexter Fowler in Round 13.  Happily, each of them has gotten off to a hot start.  They will undoubtedly slow down some, but I think they are both guys who will exceed expectations and deliver big in 2013.

My other hitters were Yonder Alonso, Aaron Hicks, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila and Rajai Davis. Nakajima appears to be a miss, but I think the Athletics would like to get him back up and playing ASAP in order to justify their investment in him.

I chose relievers Casey Janssen, Ryan Cook and David Hernandez to join Kimbrel in my bullpen.  I think Janssen is being undervalued this year, mostly by people who think Santos will claim the job.  Janssen has the stuff to close.  As for Cook and Hernandez, they should put up stellar qualitative stats, and could work themselves into position to garner a few saves.

The starters I picked (including my four reserve round picks) were selected primarily on the basis of upside potential.  They were as follows:

Kyle Lohse (signed the morning of our draft),
Mike Fiers,
Chris Capuano,
Wandy Rodriguez,
Dan Straily,
Wade Davis,
Brett Myers. 

I think each of these guys have the potential to turn in solid seasons.  Davis and Myers have looked pretty bad so far, but fantasy baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.  And while they won't put me on top of any of the pitching categories, I'm counting on my offense to make up the difference or at least give me someone to trade for another starting pitcher.  In the meanwhile, I will be diligently working the waiver wire.  Already, I have placed Nakajima on the DL and purchased Maicer Izturis as a free agent.  I also added some outfield depth with Chris Heisey, dropping David Hernandez in the process.  With some luck and good health, this lineup should produce 1100 runs, 250 homers, 1000 ribbies, 200 stolen bases, all with a .282 average.  On the pitching side, I'm projecting 85-90 wins, 85-90 saves, and around 1150 Ks.  ERA and Whip may  be an issue.  Right now I'm thinking 3.65 and 1.23, which won't place very well in this league.

So there it is...the Advanced Fantasy Baseball entry in the Blog Wars league.  I'll be posting progress reports from time to time.  In the meantime, any comments, critiques, or suggestions will be appreciated.

Thanks, and have fun!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Early FAAB Bids - Lalli, Gillespie, Prince, Hefner, Russell

As always, this early in the season the temptation to be more active than necessary strikes most of us.This is especially true if your team starts slow. But stay pateint. Replace your injured players or players sent back to the minors and stay the course on the players you drafted with faith not all that long ago.


Connor Gillespie 3B Chicago White Sox - He is not expected to get a ton of at-bats but if he continues to hit as he did in his first start that could change. Gillespie was a former prospect of the San Francisco Giants that held more potential than results but scouts did like him. He is still young enough to have an impact. Owners with open bench spots could do a lot worse. Minimal Bid

Blake Lalli C/1B Milwaukee Brewers - Called up with Narveson's placement on the disabled list and the transfer of Corey Hart to the 60-Day Disabled List. Hart is now out until at least May 30th which is a lot later than many of us expected. Lalli had a solid Spring Traing batting .286 for the Brewers. He consistently hit for high batting averages in the lower minors but has little homerun power. He has struggled to hit at double-A and Triple-A and is unlikely to be a boon to mixed league rosters. He may be of minimal use in deep NL-only leagues especially in two catcher leagues. Minimal Bid

Martin Maldonado C Milwaukee Brewers - Has been playing first base but has struggled to handle the position defensively. He was not much of a hitter in the minor leagues but was quite effective at the plate when Jonathan LuCroy was injured during the 2012 season. As a second catcher in NL leagues he could be a fair pick. Minimal Bid

Jayson Nix 2B, SS, 3B New York Yankees - Nix has started the season strongly and the injury to Eduardo Nunez only helps him gain playing time. He is only a fair hitter without great power or speed. His versatile glove and decent bat does come in handy on deep AL-only rosters. Minimal Bid

Josh Prince SS/OF Milwaukee Brewers - He was not a great prospect but gained a few fans by batting .404 with 14 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 25 games in the Arizona Fall League. Originally a shortstop the Brewers have decided to convert him into a Jerry Hairston-like utility player who plays all over the field. His bat is ultimately mediocre but he has the speed to steal 40-plus bases if he were to get a full season of at-bats. His versatility makes him a useful player to have on deep NL rosters. Minimal Bid


Kevin Correia SP Minnesota Twins - You will not gain any strikeouts but Correia is a competent pitcher that should be effective in front of the Twins strong defense and playing in their large pitching oriented park. He is better owned by owners that can move him on and off their active rosters. Minimal Bid

Jeremy Hefner SP New York Mets - Hefner is not a strikeout pitcher but has pretty good control and plays in a park and for a team that suits his skills very well. He should be a decent starter for owners that can move starters on and off their rosters. He becomes more of a risk in better hitting environments. Minimal Bid

Joe Ortiz RP Texas and Robbie Ross RP Texas - Ortiz and Ross are both great players to stash on a large bench.  They have both strikeouts and saves potential. Ross is more likely to start in a pinch than Ortiz Minimal Bid

James Russell RP Chicago Cubs - Cubs manager Dale Sveum named Russell a potential closer if Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujukawa both continue to struggle. That alone makes him worth a minimal bid. Russell is not a great pitcher but has been a reasonably effective middle reliever. Minimal Bid

Joe Saunders SP Seattle Mariners - The stat guys do not like Saunders but he continues to be an effective major league starter. The strikeouts will not be big but he should also provide solid help particularly to AL-only rosters.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

American League Closer Update: Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have signed their former cloiser, Jose Valverde to a minor league deal according to a series of tweets from Patrick Reusse of ESPN Radio.

Jose Valverde has signed a minor-league contract w/ the Tigers.

Dave Dombrowski said Papa Grande will do some throwing in Lakeland, then (presumably) join Class AAA Toledo. No timetable.

The Tigers expected Hector Rondon to become their closer prior to Spring Training but Rondon proved not ready for the job and was sent to the minors. The Tigers opened the season with a closer committee but it has not been a huge success thus far. Benoit has failed in both his save attempts and the games had to be saved by Phil Coke who Jim Leyland has insisted he prefers in a lefty relief role and not as the closer. Obviously, Valverde is now next in line for saves.

Detroit Tigers
Short-Term Closer - Phil Coke
Closer-In-Waiting - Jose Valverde
Future Closer – Bruce Rondon
Next – Joaquin Benoit
Sleeper – Al Alburquerque
Super-Sleeper – Octavio Dotel

Monday, April 01, 2013

2013 Fantasy Baseball Opening Day

Happy Opening Day!

Many of us will watch games today without knowing the composition of our fantasy teams thanks to an inconveniently scheduled Easter holiday. I really do not like drafting after the season starts because I think it warps auction prices. Players who start fast go for more and slow starters get less. That annoys me.

I love that a couple of teams have chosen to bring some of their best prospects to the major leagues without trying to weasel an extra year of service by forcing them to spend another month in the minors. If they're ready let them play.
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. will man left field for the Boston Red Sox at least until David Ortiz comes off the disabled list. I think he'll stick around if he is a productive part of the lineup. Bradley should hit for average with average power and good speed - 10-15 homers and 15-20 stolen bases is a decent possibility. He could be a 20/20 as he nears his prime.
  • The Marlins have placed Jose Fernandez, a former Cuban defector, into their starting pitcher rotation. Fernandez has been praised for his work ethic and leadership on the field. He does not have much experience in the minors but many scouts seem to think he can handle it. The weird part is that he spent so little time in major league camp but made the team anyway. Fernandez is an ace in the making and a less hyped version of Dylan Bundy (without the strange diet and arm stiffness).
  • Evan Gattis will be on the Braves bench and is expected to get some time on the outfield corners and as an emergency catcher. Peter Gammons compares him to Josh Willingham and he does have that sort of power. The playing time is not there but he might make a decent second catcher if you're a fan of the one dollar catcher idea.
  • The Brewers are loaded with rookies: shortstop Jean Segura, pitchers Mike Fiers, Alfredo Figaro, Jim Henderson and Wily Peralta, catcher Martin Maldonado and outfielders Khris Davis and Logan Schafer. Segura is the most relevant to fantasy owners. He should provide owners with late round speed for their middle infield spot.
Big Leagues Magazine is running a subscription special where for the price of a one month subscription you can get three months! Big Leagues Magazine features the work of many of the best and most dedicated baseball writers on the internet. There are regular interviews with industry big shots and top prospects. The fantasy section is constantly growing and features yous truly. This is like the best of Baseball America, Sports Illustrated and your favorite fantasy mag put together. The April 1st issue just went line so now is the perfect time. Please check it out and the tons of free content on the same website.

Lots of folks were shocked to hear that the Rangers had signed shortstop Elvis Andrus to an eight-year extension to his contract worth 120 million dollars. The Rangers have Jurickson Profar, for whom various media analysts keep expecting the Rangers to open a spot via trade. The Rangers have refused to part with any part of their core and Andrus is part of that. People forget that Andrus will be just 24-years old this season. He is not even close to what he could be at the peak of his powers. He he has power potential that he has yet to realize because he is still slapping most pitches into the dirt to take advantage of his speed. But the Rangers understand and I assume will continue to work with him on becoming the best player he can be.

 Have fun today!