Fantasy Baseball Value
It’s suddenly the best time of the year. Spring Training is coming to a close and Fantasy Baseball live drafts are occurring every 5 minutes around the country. This is one of my favorite meaningless pastimes, and one which helps enliven the season from a myriad of perspectives. I don’t usually play in Prize leagues or do Auction Drafts, so perhaps some of these selections may not suit you. The best advice (if you’re not trying to make a buck) is to draft the team you believe in and enjoy rooting over the summer.
I can’t promise the “best” picks, but they are selected with my heart – and this is my take. Drafting McCutchen pre-PIT radar, minors Mike Trout, Matt Carpenter and Starling Marte served me well over the past years. All in all, I have won my invitational league twice in 3 years, lost the final twice in an another, and was cursing Gerardo Parra in a 3rd Place match-up last year. My approach has always been to appreciate the game first – and you will see the value on draft day. Know the game and have fun.
FANTASY DRAFT OBSERVATIONS…
1. Tons of overvalued players based on expectations of repeat/expected performances – or just a general love affair. Chris Davis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, etc.
2. Pitching is deeper than meets the eye. My gut tells me there won’t be dominant 1st Round pitching played this year. Sure, some will be better – and more consistent – but not providing the draft selection required.
3. A lot of teams are going to be better, more productive versions of their former selves – and most people don’t seem to be looking there. NY Mets, CHI White Sox, MIA Marlins, CHI Cubs
4. A lot of teams had poor/improved years last year, with great players, and are poised for strong rebounds. And most people don’t seem to be looking there. SF Giants, KC Royals, LA Angels
MY 8 GENERAL FANTASY DRAFT “RULES”
1. You can always get a quality outfielder. They get hurt everyday (due to position) – so there are plenty moving into starting roles all the time. They are usually the earliest call-ups for promising youngsters too. Don’t draft an outfielder in the first 4 rounds.
2. Saves are easy to find. Look for teams in tight divisions. (Also – see above re: role promotions).
3. Steals are overrated. If a player records a high steal number – they probably only got to 1st base to start. So no HR, no RBI, no XBH. Some leagues penalize for CS – but never for not reaching 2nd on a clear triple.
4. .Beyond their own point structure – .AVG and BB’s produces opportunity. Runs, RBI, (yes – Steals), XBH, HR. They are also indicators of consistent point performance. Consistency is key.
5. Starting pitching is over-valued and over-drafted. Look for consistency with flashes of dominance. Take a risk. (Again – see #1 re: role promotions/relegations). [i.e. the Bartolo Colon complex.]
6. If they can’t hit at least .271 in the Majors – don’t draft them.
7. Draft a “team” – which can put consistent points on the board – across categories. One guy hitting 40 HR and batting .265 to do it doesn’t amount to 2 guys hitting 23 HR and clearing .280 each – and providing production in 2 spots.
8 Draft Ike Davis – just in case.
DRAFT SELECTION “SLEEPERS”
[The picks below are geared towards a Head-to-Head Category Points League – with a Snake Draft system.]
C: SALVADOR PEREZ (KC)
Catcher is historically an incredibly weak position to draft for. Perez can be had in the late rounds – due to his propensity to injury. If you chose not to spend a 3rd-6th round pick on Posey or Molina, the line below will look pretty great for a position you may have forgotten about…Perez is consistent as a defensive catcher if your league tallies FLD%. He could easily hit 20 HR if he sacrifices his .AVG a bit. Catcher points are like surprise points anyway.
ESPN 2014 Projection: .303 / 58 R / 15 HR / 77 RBI / 1 SB
B 2014 Projection: .289 / 65 R / 12 HR / 82 RBI / 4 SB
1B: JOEY VOTTO (CIN)
Tough to call Joey Votto a “sleeper” – but no one seems to want to draft him. 1B has long been viewed as a “key” position to draft power and RBI. He is a “sleeper” because where he is being drafted – past midnight 1st, mid/late 2nd round. [See #4 in Draft Rules]. Joey Votto once thought he was creating too many out of play outs a few years back. He looked at his approach and corrected it. “According to FanGraphs, Votto has exactly 12 infield pop-ups since 2007 and just three (!) since the end of the 2009 season. In fact, Votto went the entire 2010 campaign without hitting an infield fly.” Pretty sure he knows how to adjust his swing…
“Not only has Votto only pulled one foul ball into the stands during his 2,821 big-league plate appearances, but he can still remember the moment he put that baseball into the seats.” (YahooSports – 2012)
When we all look back he will be the Jimmie Foxx to Babe Ruth (Votto to Cabrera). He walks, hits, hits XBH, has power, bats in an RBI spot – and has done this for years with Jay Bruce and other characters protecting him. Look for a bit more power this year – and a multi-category draft steal for the once “Top 5” pick. Btw…if you take Prince Fielder with this pick over Votto…just auto-draft the rest.
*SIDE NOTE: While Buster Posey will cost you a much higher pick at C then you may want to use – as of 2012, Posey had only made 2 (yes…2!!!!) infield pop-up outs in his career. (Can we lock these two in a batting cage with Jimmy Rollins?
ESPN 2014 Projection: .327 / 99 R / 24 HR / 77 RBI / 7 SB
B 2014 Projection: .308 / 92 R / 31 HR / 91 RBI / 5 SB
2B: MARTIN PRADO (ARZ)
Martin Prado is fantasy gold – the “poor-mans” version of Ben Zobrist. He plays about every position and is a consistent multi-category offensive producer. Star 2B went down? PRADO! His eligibility at nearly every thin draft position (2B/3B/SS/OF) makes him a mainstay in my lineups. Maybe it’s because he shows up all over the place on position rankings…but people ALWAYS forget to draft him based on position need. Consider where you need to draft Dustin Pedroia or Zobrist for their production – then look at where you can draft Prado. His lineup got better too.
ESPN 2014 Projection: .290 / 80 R / 12 HR / 82 RBI / 7 SB
B 2014 Projection: .285 / 84 R / 15 HR / 81 RBI / 9 SB
3B: PABLO SANDOVAL (SF) / RYAN ZIMMERMAN (WSH)
This one is a split…based on production vs. draft position.
Sandoval is one of the most underrated fantasy assets. Streaky, but he will contribute in all categories (but SB) – and at a weak draft position of 3B. I took him in the 11th round here. His projections look a lot like David Wright (who was drafted in the 4th). The Panda is another player people often forget about – on a team coming off a forgettable season. Beltre may have 7-12 more HR and 20 more RBI than Sandoval- but worth a 2nd round pick? A slimmer Sandoval should help his XBH and Runs Scored too. His extra chains may be tough to overcome though. People often forget about the games on the West Coast when drafting.
DAVID WRIGHT – ESPN 2014 Projection: .303 / 88 R / 22 HR / 85 RBI / 18 SB PABLO SANDOVAL – ESPN 2014 Projection: .290 / 71 R / 21 HR / 90 RBI / 1 SB
B SANDOVAL 2014 Projection: (I agree. See above.)
DAVID WRIGHT – ESPN 2014 Projection: .303 / 88 R / 22 HR / 85 RBI / 18 SB
PABLO SANDOVAL – ESPN 2014 Projection: .290 / 71 R / 21 HR / 90 RBI / 1 SB
B 2014 Projection: (I agree. See above.)
Zimmerman (and wife). (See: Joey Votto entry). Josh Donaldson was drafted a round before – at 3B [I loved him when he had C eligibility – but don’t think a repeat is in store]. Zimmerman brings consistent .AVG, good power – and batting with RUN’s and RBI’s around. Prone to bouts of injury, but his production upside is huge – across most all categories. If your league tallies FLD% – he is a top 3-4 performer for you. I drafted Zimmerman in the 6th (!) round. Not entirely sure how that happened actually…
ESPN 2014 Projection: .282 / 86 R / 27 HR / 88 RBI / 6 SB
B 2014 Projection: (I agree. See above.)
SS: ALEXI RAMIREZ (CHI – SOX)
Before it was in vogue to have Cuban players on your team, Alexi Ramirez was the Cuban player. He has played great team baseball for years – although never meeting the MLB expectations of being a slugging SS. He is often the forgotten producer at a weak position. Unless you drafted high to fill shortstop (basically, the injury Pandora’s Box that is Tulo) – you are probably stuck. Be realistic about your expectations from the position. He rarely gets hurt and puts up solid numbers across the board. I imagine you aren’t drafting for power at the SS position…The SOX are going to be much better this year – and Ramirez will be privy to a better offense around him. When your team struggles with .AVG – then (yes) SB help make runs. SOX may give DET a run for their money this year.
ESPN 2014 Projection: .275 / 69 R / 9 HR / 62 RBI / 24 SB
B 2014 Projection: .278 / 79 R / 13 HR / 71 RBI / 29 SB
OF: ALEX GORDON (KC)
He was once the “original” Wil Myers in KC. Tough to hit 30 HR out of the 2-hole with a franchise on your back though…He is finally moving down in the order – into a major RBI role – and is engulfed by Billy Butler. Look for the major year everyone has been expecting from Gordon. Mid-round pick. Gordon is the model of productivity and consistency…and can sneakily win a week for you in any category. He won’t get Pence girls – but provides solid production across the board.
ESPN 2014 Projection: .274 / 89 R / 20 HR / 76 RBI / 12 SB
B 2014 Projection: .278 / 85 R / 26 HR / 87 RBI / 15 SB
OF: HUNTER PENCE (SF)
Imagine if Jose Reyes were an outfielder…what you see is what you get. Pence will cost you a high-mid round pick, but offers impact in all categories. He is often over-looked and over-valued at the same time. If you like his play – draft him. He is never a “lock” for anything – but always excites and surprises. Remember, we are building a team – not just drafting based on “best” stats each pick…SF will have a better year in 2014, so look for Pence to actually repeat his individual effort from last season. Pence generally logs points across all categories. His propensity for insane streaks of production can salvage a week – and provide a win out of nowhere. He has…the most confounding swing of any man alive…
ESPN 2014 Projection: .274 / 86 R / 22 HR / 91 RBI / 10 SB
B 2014 Projection: .271 / 85 R / 26 HR / 98 RBI / 17 SB
OF: JAYSON WERTH (WSH)
Werth is another under-rated producer who will probably cost only a late mid-round pick. People seem to be worried about his age and health. He comes from a family of Olympic athletes. My bet is that he has a good sense of how to take care of his body…
Most likely he will put up much better numbers than Puig (3rd/4th Round)- vs. Werth (8th/9th Round). People LOVE SB’s I guess…
PUIG ESPN 2014 Projection: .288 / 88 R / 26 HR / 76 RBI / 17 SB
WERTH ESPN 2014 Projection: .277 / 84 R / 24 HR / 77 RBI / 8 SB
B 2014 Projection: .271 / 85 R / 26 HR / 98 RBI / 15 SB
OF: NICK MARKAKIS (BAL)
Markakis. He never gets hurt (playing in 1,210 games out of 1,296 possible games over his 8 year career in Baltimore). He will always be undervalued after never really repeating the promise of his sophomore season (at 23) where he put up a .300 AVG / 97 R / 43 2B / 23 HR / 112 RBI / 18 SB. However, he is a career .298 hitter and simply put – a true professional baseball player.
After 8 years of organizational growing spurts, he is now playing for one of the most offensively capable teams in baseball. Guess what…he STARTS for that team – and you can snag him in your final 3-4 picks. Often viewed as a “depth” pick, he can function as a strong everyday OF. He is only 29 – so don’t rule out him regaining some of the magic that launched his career almost a decade ago. Prior to last season, he had never hit under .284 – while averaging about 161 games played per year. He has averaged a career .993 FLD % as well. I was able to snag him in the 20th round – but maybe consider him a bit higher…
ESPN 2014 Projection: .283 / 82 R / 12 HR / 64 RBI / 3 SB
B 2014 Projection: .301 / 87 R / 16 HR / 72 RBI / 9 SB
UTIL: BILLY BUTLER
Billy Butler is a great myth. He is a big guy who makes contact (kind of like Fielder… maybe you drafted the Soy Train in the 3rd Round…). The only difference is that Butler won’t hit 40 HR – but he does everything else – and (again), people forget about him because he plays in KC and doesn’t hit 40. Outside of HR…Butler is a WAY cheaper version of Fielder…and who knows, maybe he breaks out the power this year…Gordon dropping down should help. He hits doubles like Cabrera hits home runs. Aoki leading off and a better team around him means a lot of RBI chances in KC this year. Everyone hates Billy Butler on draft day because: 1) He doesn’t hit 30+ / year and 2) He has no positional eligibility. Picture for a moment…who might occupy your UTIL spot over the season…Tell me they will be better than this:
PRINCE FIELDER ESPN 2014 Projection: .300 / 89 R / 35 HR / 113 RBI / 1 SB
ESPN 2014 Projection: .295 / 75 R / 21 HR / 90 RBI / 2 SB
B 2014 Projection: .289 / 81 R / 27 HR / 101 RBI / 1 SB
“TRUE” SLEEPER: KOLTEN WONT (2B – STL)
Wong could easily be the best final pick in the draft. There is an off chance he will platoon at 2B – but continues to be the favorite to be the starting 2B for the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes – the defending NL Champion Cardinals. The Cardinals have one of the most productive graduation rates from their farm system – and rarely miss with promotions. They believe Wong can be their starter – and so should you. (Remember Matt Carpenter as a “risky” call-up?). Growing pains are to be expected – but consider where you need to draft a player like Utley or Jed Lowrie to fill 2B – then look at Wong. If he establishes himself as the true everyday 2B for the Cardinals, he will be a top 8+ 2B option – at the weakest fantasy position every year. If you are in a Keeper league – draft him early. Middle infielders are by far the most difficult positions to get quality production from.
CHASE UTLEY ESPN 2014 Projection: .281 / 76 R / 16 HR / 71 RBI / 12 SB
WONG ESPN 2014 Projection: .266 / 56 R / 7 HR / 37 RBI / 19 SB
B 2014 Projection: .271 / 68 R / 9 HR / 51 RBI / 21 SB
PITCHERS TO DRAFT “CHEAP’: Here are some people available super late in the draft who will over-produce in their respective categories.
ANDREW CASHNER (SD), TIM LINCECUM (SF), JONATHAN PAPELBON (PHL), C.C. SABATHIA (NYY), MICHAEL PINEDA (NYY)
HOW MY BEST DRAFT (of 4) WORKED OUT
Tulo, Zimmerman and Carpenter falling was nice. I love Posey – even knowing a 3rd round pick is not worth it for C.
|2||Miguel Cabrera, Det 3B|
|19||Troy Tulowitzki, Col SS|
|22||Joey Votto, Cin 1B|
|39||Buster Posey, SF C|
|42||David Ortiz, Bos DH|
|59||Ryan Zimmerman, Wsh 3B|
|62||Matt Carpenter, StL 2B|
|79||Jayson Werth, Wsh OF|
|82||Jason Heyward, Atl OF|
|99||Martin Prado, Ari 3B|
|102||Pablo Sandoval, SF 3B|
|119||Zack Wheeler, NYM SP|
|122||CC Sabathia, NYY SP|
|139||Michael Wacha, StL SP|
|142||Sonny Gray, Oak SP|
|159||Christian Yelich, Mia OF|
|162||Clay Buchholz, Bos SP|
|179||Tim Lincecum, SF SP|
|182||Grant Balfour, TB RP|
|199||John Axford, Cle RP|
|202||Nick Markakis, Bal OF|
|219||Tommy Hunter, Bal RP|
|222||Colby Rasmus, Tor OF|
|239||Gregory Polanco, Pit OF|
|242||Chris Carter, Hou 1B|