Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This Won't Take Long...

posted by Jon Williams
On one of the popular fantasy baseball sites I keep reading a suggestion that has finally irked me back to the keyboard. The suggestion is that if a player has limited skills you should avoid him even if he's blisteringly hot, even if that player is freely available.

That is lunacy. 

When a player is hot you ride the hot streak until it ends. Sometimes a hot streak can continue throughout an entire season. We've seen it happen. Players have out-of-nowhere years that have little to do with their true skill levels and that you would never bet on them repeating. However, are you telling me you aren't interested in the 2014 version of Brady Anderson's 50 homer season? Of course you are.

Now is it better to cut out early or sell high on such a player than to hold on to him too long? Sure. But I'll keep throwing Mark Buerhle out there at least until he has a bad start or I get an offer for him that is a better long term value.

Skills are awesome but they are not everything in fantasy baseball.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 Quick Hits: Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals

posted by Jon Williams
Jarrod Dyson may be a better player than Lorenzo Cain. However,  the Kansas City Royals have invested so much of their time and effort trying to make Cain their regular center fielder and leadoff hitter that they may have become blinded to the guy sitting on their bench. Dyson compares favorably to Cain in almost every category. They are both superior defensive players, Dyson walks more, strikes out less and last year he even showed more power than Cain. Dyson is an excellent player to stash on a bench or to fill a fifth outfielder slot in a deep league. If Lorenzo Cain continues to be injury prone Jarrod Dyson may prove a savvy choice as a sleeper for full-time at-bats. He stole 34 bases last season in just 239 plate appearances and steals are something fantasy owners can always use.

Fangraphs Page

Jarrod Dyson on Royals’ approach: ‘We’re going straight to the playoffs and nobody is stopping it’

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

24 Hour Fantasy Sports Network

posted by Jon Williams


NEW YORK, NY- (Marketwire - January 14, 2014) - Anthem Media Group Inc., a global leader in operating niche television channels on linear, digital and mobile platforms, announced that the launch of the first ever 24-hour Fantasy Sports TV Network is set for March 4, 2014. The Fantasy Sports Network will begin serving its content on traditional, “over the top”, onlineand mobile video platforms throughout North America, offering interactive fantasy sports programming for a wide range of today's sports enthusiast in a linear stream, as a video on demand service and as an application.
Fantasy Sports Network will be the first TV network to have live studio programming, call in shows, panels, celebrity and expert drafts, reality programming, and on site commentary from sports venues, allspecifically targeted towardsthe estimated 40 million people who play fantasy sports annually and on a daily basis. The channel will engage and involve the fantasy sports community as no media company has ever done before, meeting the analytical, informational and breaking news needs in an entertaining environment.
“This project has been two years in the making, and we are thrilled that it has finally all come together,” said Leonard Asper, President and CEO of Anthem. “We are combining the television experience of the Anthem team with the fantasy sports expertise of Anthem’s Rotoexperts.com, and major partnerships across the industry, to form a unique, compelling and relevant offering for our audience,” he added.
“Through an aggregation of the best fantasy content and personalities in the industry, the Fantasy Sports Network will engage fantasy sports participants and consumers with industry experts, athletes, celebrity personalities and in general be the destination channel for the exploding world of fantasy sports,” said Chad Midgley, VP Content.
“The metrics behind our mission are mind boggling,” said Louis M. Maione, Chief Strategy Officer of the Fantasy Sports Network, "With the fantasy sports industry growing more rapidly and arguably larger than the business of underlying sports themselves, the time to create a multi-faceted media property for this industry is now,” said Maione.
In addition to a daily flagship studio program, Anthem has an agreement with SiriusXM Radio to simulcast three daily hours of the widely popular morning drive-time “RotoExperts in the Morning” program from 6-9 a.m. on the new network. Regarded as the one of the best showcases of fantasy sports information and entertainment in the industry, the morning drive programming on the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio Channel (Sirius Channel 210, XM Channel 87) has aired since the channel’s launch on July 1, 2010 and is hosted by a stable of notable RotoExperts industry stalwarts such as inaugural FSWA Hall of Famer Scott Engel, Adam Ronis, Mark "Dr. Roto" Bloom, Tony Cincotta, Mike Cardano, Lenny Melnick, Drew Dinkmeyer and Mike Leone. Anthem programming partners also include Jon Klein, former President of CNN US and Jeff Gaspin, former Chairman of NBC Universal Television, and the company previously announced that NFL Hall of Famer Chris Doleman has also joined the Anthem group as Executive Vice President of business development.
Several programming and marketing partnerships are being finalized with industry leaders and will be announced in the coming weeks, ensuring a robust programming offering that will engage viewers while providing the necessary information for the “hard core” fantasy sports player.
The network will also be supported by itsflagship fantasy property RotoExperts.com, and its widely popular sports pop culture site SportsGrid.com, both of which were purchased in 2013 from an ownership group led by fantasy sports industry pioneer Louis M. Maione and Abrams Media founder and television personality, Dan Abrams. The two sites feature a number of popular video personalities and a family of notable industry journalists, which will all be cross promoting video content on the Fantasy Sports Network.
“With the growth of this industry exploding as technological advances in interfaces, devices and statistical data aggregation allow players to easily check scores, adjust rosters, interact and communicate from anywhere and on any device, the idea that this could be a 24/7 TV network was a logical progression for us,” said Asper.“It fits perfectly with Anthem’s strategy of building multiplatform media assets around communities of interest, and we will use our other TV properties to promote the network as well”, he concluded.
Anthem Media Group Inc. is a media company with offices and studios in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, operating niche television channels on linear, digital and mobile platforms globally. In addition to the Fantasy Sports Network, RotoExperts.com, a leader in fantasy sports content, Fight Network, the world's premier combat sports channel now broadcasting in the US and over 30 other countries, and is a significant investor in the Pursuit Channel, one of the top outdoor channels in the U.S. Anthem also owns SportsGrid.com, a leader in general sports entertainment commentary.

For More Information Contact:

Chad Midgley
VP Content, Anthem Media Group

Saturday, February 01, 2014

2014 Quick Hits: Doug Fister, Washington Nationals

posted by Jon Williams

I think Fister has been underrated the last few years. He did seem to come out of nowhere and excelled with the Detroit Tigers under less than ideal circumstances for a control pitcher. Pitching in front of a defense that at its best did very little to assist the pitching staff, Fister excelled. But he can be even better. His strikeout numbers are no great shakes but the move to the National League should provide a small boost.

Pitching in the National League in front of a far superior defensive team, Fister should see his WHIP drop like a rock. If you still have your doubts about Fister consider this: Of starters with at least 75 innings pitched, Fister's 2.04 ERA is the lowest of any active starter against National League teams according to the Washington Post. I think He's a top 25 starter this season, easy.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Quick Hits: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

posted by Jon Williams

Mike Trout is the best player in the game, both real and fantasy. He does it all, he hits for average, has 30-homerun power, and steals bases. We can also expect the lineup around Trout to improve a bit with Albert Pujols almost certainly healthier and Josh Hamilton should be better, even if he never returns to his MVP form. Trout is worthy of the first overall pick in leagues of all formats for which he qualifies. At just 22-years old we'll probably see him there for a while. There has been a lot of talk about his weight and training techniques but I do not believe there is anything to be concerned about here.

550 at-bats, .315/.400/.550, 30 HR, 115 Runs, 100 RBI, 35 SBs

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quick Hits: Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox

posted by Jon Williams

Former All-Star Center Fielder Brett Butler on Adam Eaton:

"We were playing Sacramento -- the Yankees of our Pacific Coast League --- and we hated them, and they hated us," says Butler, who managed Eaton at Triple-A Reno last summer. "Before the game I told Adam, you haven't bunted in a while, this is going to be part of your game going forward, so you should bunt. So in his first at bat, he drags one to first, and gets on base. Second time up, he bunts it to first again, and then he does it again --- three times in a row. And now the other team is just mad. So, of course, when he comes up again, they hit him. He gets on base, steals second, steals third and then spits on them." Butler laughs. "That's him, in a nutshell."

That's probably enough to get you excited about him but there is a lot more to him than just gumption and speed. Eaton has power that seems to defy the realities of his 5'8 body. He hits for average. In the minors he hit over .300 at every level and usually well over that mark. His on-base percentages have been over .400, usually well over that mark. If he receives the regular at-bats he is due, 30-40 stolen bases are also quite likely.

600 at-bats, .285/.370/.420, 10 HR, 90 Runs, 55 RBI, 30 SBs

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

An Interview With Larry Schechter

posted by Jon Williams
Larry Schechter's new book has the fantasy industry extremely excited. He is not your typical fantasy expert. You can check out his website for all the praise for his new book and my review of the book (which I loved) is here.

Larry graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us:

I've read that you first discovered fantasy baseball through a magazine article. What was the very first fantasy league you played in and how did you do? Do you still play in a local league?

Not correct. I first heard an ad on the radio when living in Boston for a company called the "World of Sports." It sounded interesting and I joined. It was just one guy who started a company to run leagues. We had the draft by a conference call (back then, it was the only way to do it if you couldn't be in person).

I don't remember how I did in that league. I've never played in a local league. The first time I did an auction/draft in person was when I joined LABR and then later Tout Wars. Being in those leagues I think must be fairly similar to a local league, because I see a lot of the same guys every year at the auctions and many of us talk via e-mail, twitter, etc.

Was becoming a member of Tout Wars a goal of yours or just a by-product of doing so well in the national competitions? Did you ever actually plan to become an industry expert?

When I won CDM in 2002, they had a deal with LABR that part of the prize for winning CDM was to play in LABR the next year. I was very happy to get a chance to do that. It was only a one-year prize, so after 2003 I was no longer in LABR.

But after getting a taste of it, I wanted to get back in, and was able to work out a deal with Dennis Lepore of the Sandlot Shrink. I did a little writing and advice stuff for the Sandlot Shrink, and represented them in one of their LABR leagues.

When I also got an invitation to play in Tout Wars, that was a nice surprise.

Your book - Winning Fantasy Baseball - has been a huge hit in the industry so far. How are you planning to build on that success? Do you have another book in you or perhaps a more traditional sort of fantasy guide?

I don't have any plans, but it's possible I might write a second baseball book or a football book some day. I have no desire to get into a fantasy guide, web site, player projections or anything like that.

 What was the easiest portion of your book to write? Why?

There were a lot of different parts that were pretty easy to write, once I could get myself to sit down and actually do it. But overall it was a lot of work...and then a lot of work to re-write and edit. There was a point where I had about 100,000 words and was on track to have about 150,000 total, which I realized was way too long. I had a bit of a breakthrough when I was able to look at everything I'd written in a different light and started cutting out all kinds of unnecessary and redundant stuff, and I got the final manuscript down to about 95,000 words.
What was the most difficult portion? Why?

The value formula, because it's so confusing a topic. I think that I did a good job of summarizing it all and making it as simple as possible for people to understand.

When you walk into draft room, what do you absolutely always have? Does it vary much by draft-type? Have you ever tried using a computer during a live draft?

I have a list of all players, by position, which I've printed out from an Alpha4 database (somewhat similar to Excel). This lists my stat projections, dollar value, etc. I have a draft sheet where I fill in my team and projected stats as I get players. For auctions I have a "target list" and for snake drafts a "flow chart" (which are both described in my book). I have a pad of paper, calculator and highlighter. And I have my cell phone to check player news just before the draft and once or twice during the draft. (You never know when some big news might break.)

The only thing I've ever used a computer for is to add up the stats of the players I draft and keep a running total, because it's a little easier than doing it by hand. But I rarely bother with a computer, because of space limitations. I'd rather use the space to spread out my player sheets.

 I get the feeling you're a fan of Jacoby Ellsbury. How do you think he'll do in New York? Do you tend to avoid players in their first season with a new team?

I was a fan. Now that he's with the Yankees, not as much (because I'm a die-hard Red Sox fan).
I'm not mad at him or calling him a traitor, like some Red Sox fans, but for anyone who is mad, I've got a nickname to suggest--along the lines of that other traitor, Johnny Demon. I would call him Jacoby Can-Go-to Hellsbury.

He should do great in NY, if he can stay healthy. That's always going to be the concern with him, unless he can string together several years of 150+ games.

I wouldn't avoid, nor would I target, someone switching teams.

The Red Sox seem determined to go forward with Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Wil Middlebrooks. Are you a fan of the youth movement in Boston? Do you follow the minors much?

As a fan, I wish they'd re-signed Ellsbury or gotten Beltran or Choo. I'm not sure Jackie Bradley is ready. But after last year, I'm not going to complain or question anything they do. Last opening day, I was quite sure they wouldn't win 81 games.

I was very impressed with Bogaerts plate discipline, especially against Detroit in the playoffs. When everyone else was striking out, he was taking close pitches. I think he's going to be good...but how good and how fast, I don't know.

 I'm guessing Middlebrooks is going to be okay, but he's not a sure thing. I was surprised, and disappointed by how much he struggled last year (I owned him on a couple of teams).

I've managed to interview a few Touts  (Lenny Melnick and Cory Schwartz) and I always ask the same question? Do you have the juice to get me an invite?

Nope, all I can do is put in a good word for you.

Are you enjoying our New Years Nor'easter? Can you get the kids to shovel your snow?

I'm enjoying it more than the people who are going to be at the 49ers-Packers game this weekend in sub-zero weather. It's a nice, toasty 72 degrees in my house.

I can barely get the kids to take out the garbage or wash a couple of dishes...shoveling is not going to happen. But my driveway is really, really long, so I need a plow, anyway.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Larry Schechter's Winning Fantasy Baseball: A Review

posted by Jon Williams

I cannot recommend Larry Schechter's new book - Winning Fantasy Baseball enough. 

There are many books about Fantasy Baseball and I have read a lot of them. I have read the fantasy baseball books by familiar names like Golenbock, Patton, Waggoner, Benson and Shandler and I've read many of the not so familiar names - Childs, Hendricks... Let's just say that If you've written a fantasy guide and wondered who that buyer on amazon was - look no further. I typically buy half a dozen of the fantasy annuals/packages and a bunch of magazines to boot. I know how much information is out there.  I wanted to point out just how much fantasy material I have read and continue to read so that my next statement has the weight it deserves.
Whether your goal is to learn to play fantasy baseball, get better at fantasy baseball or to re-gain an edge you may have lost over the years, there is no book more likely to help you win a fantasy league than Winning Fantasy Baseball: Secret Strategies of a Nine-Time National Champion
That may seem like high praise and it certainly is. This is not your typical fantasy guide full of player blurbs, sleepers and pages and pages of player statistics and values. Instead this book is very simply a guide to playing and winning at fantasy baseball. This book offers a very logical approach to fantasy baseball that anyone could follow and adapt to the time they devote to fantasy baseball preparation. If you are anything like me you realize how similar most fantasy guides are in the advice that they offer. Larry's book is different. In fact, depending on how attached you are to the typical views that so many so-called experts have pounded into your thoughts, the material presented could prove to be anywhere from enlightening to infuriating!

For those that do not know, Larry won his third straight AL-Tout Wars Championship in 2013 and USA Today's LABR-AL as well. He is making beating the fantasy industry's experts look deceptively simple. Like many of us, Larry Schechter began playing fantasy sports in the early 90's. He started making a name for himself in the 2002 CDM Diamond Challenge when he finished first and won a $25,000 grand prize. Then he did it again in 2005 becoming the first person to win the Diamond Challenge twice. Anyone who trounces the best competition that Tout-Wars and LABR and the Nationwide Contests have to offer, probably has some advice and perspectives worth your consideration.

This book includes the standard how-to-play fantasy baseball rules but more importantly a step-by-step guide to preparing for the fantasy season, drafting your team and managing your team during the season. Exploring the differences between various leagues types as he goes. Along the way Larry introduces us to the ideas and methods that separate him from most fantasy experts. These ideas include everything from how to calculate player values to optimizing your seating during the draft. These ideas include:

1. The Importance of Being Prepared -  Larry believes that one of the primary factors in his success is his willingness to take the time to properly prepare and through preparation simplifying the draft process.

2. Calculating Player Values and Utilizing Them - In Larry's view there is very little more important to winning fantasy baseball (or any other fantasy sport) than calculating player values and then acquiring as much of that value as possible.

3. The Value of Sabermetrics and How and How Not to Use Them for Fantasy Baseball - Larry shows how the improper use of advanced statistical measures can actually hurt your fantasy preparation. It is all about the context.

4. The Draft Curve and How Position Scarcity is Mostly Nonsense - You will not have any problem finding a dozen articles that insist that there is position scarcity and that those that ignore it are bound to suffer. Larry uses his draft curve to demonstrate how little effect so-called scarcity has.

5. Optimal Bidding Strategies and How to Make the Most of Auction Nominations - I have heard a thousand times from hundreds of fantasy owners that early in an auction you should not name the players you actually want. Larry shows how silly this notion is.

I think it is very important to point out that this book does not prepare you for the draft. This book teaches you how to prepare. While Larry believes that owners should create and use their own player values (and he explains how this creates an advantage) this book would also be an excellent complement to many of the available player/strategy guides. If you read between the lines a bit you will realize how easy it is to use Larry's ideas with your favorite expert projections. If you are math or Excel-phobic or intimidated by the idea of creating your own player values, you can always use an excellent tool like Rotolab. With Rotolab you can plug the calculations Larry teaches you to make directly into the program. You can also use Rotolab to build your own player values and the program will do all the calculations for you.

Larry's book is truly great and a very fun read. In addition to all the knowledge that he shares on player values and draft strategies, you will enjoy the stories about Tout Wars and other leagues in which Larry has participated. If anything the book is too short, I would happily devour another hundred pages on keeper and dynasty leagues. The book is available on Amazon right now, go get it!

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Baseball Solstice

posted by Jon Williams

The Baseball Solstice draws nigh. This Sunday, Dec. 29, marks the midpoint between the end of the World Series and the beginning of Spring Training games in Arizona and Florida.


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Monday, December 16, 2013

2014 Quick Hits: Justin Grimm

posted by Jon Williams

At this point Justin Grimm is technically still a competitor for the fifth spot in the Cubs rotation. However the Chicago Cubs are determined to bring in more rotation depth that would push Justin Grimm to the bullpen. Grimm has also been mentioned as a potential closer if the club fails to acquire a more established candidate. Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon would also be considerations in that role. All three three have the power arms that most clubs prefer in the ninth inning.

Grimm has had mostly mediocre results as a starter but has solid command of a mid-90's fastball and a potentially plus curveball. His work ethic has been praised and he could still develop into a solid mid-rotation option. Still, as is to expected, Grimm has looked very good as a reliever in small samples. With very few options on the current roster and the Cubs considering the Axford's of the world as possibilities, Grimm has great sleeper potential as a closer.

Links of Note:

Fangraphs Page

Scouting Report

Closer Potential

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

2014 Quick Hits: Juan Lagares

posted by Jon Williams
Juan Lagares is expected to be the Mets starting center fielder this season but can he hit? 

Juan Lagares is expected to be the Mets starting center fielder to begin the 2014 season. Lagares is an excellent defensive outfielder. He has excellent instincts and hands and has developed a unique style that has him positioned closer to the infield than most center fielders. His arm is rated by most scouts as average but his instincts and accuracy with it makes it score like Thor tossing his hammer. 
For fantasy purposes Lagares is no great shakes but he has made slow but steady improvement over the years. He will draw the occasional walk (though he is still below average in this area) and makes excellent contact. What he lacks is power. He should be good for a decent batting average based on a large number of ground balls and above average speed, and his recent track record in the minors. Some scouts report that he did square up the ball well in the minors, if he learns to do so in the majors he could become a regular .280-.290 hitter. He should also steal a few bases though he has never been particularly aggressive in this area he could steal 15-20 in a full season of play.

Links of Note:

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tips for Draft Domination

posted by Jon Williams
Originally produced for BigLeaguesMagazine  (they're gone now :( ) 

Let history inform your choices
If you have access look back at past drafts and search for trends in your fellow owners. Does one owner consistently draft young lefty pitchers? Does another fixate on much publicized sleepers? Does yet another owner always seem to have the best minor leaguers? Knowledge of your rivals gives you a degree of power over them. Call out the names of players that fit their typical plans early or force them to bid an extra dollar or two. Many owners struggle to adjust when their draft plans go awry. You can be the owner to make that happen. Let history be your guide.

Have a plan…any plan
Even a bad plan is better than not having one. It could be as simple as category goals to reach by the end of the draft (part of most good plans). It could be more complicated than Warren Buffet’s tax returns. The important thing is to have a plan of attack and to do your best to implement it. Owners without some sort of plan are more likely to forget about key players or to mess up their budgeting during an auction. There are tons of ready-made plans you can use, just adjust them to your league and the players available. If you need more ideas perform a web search for fantasy baseball strategies. I love it when a plan comes together.

Be ready to adjust when things do not go your way
Are you one of the more successful owners in your league? In many leagues the best owners will find themselves in bidding wars over any player they show even a smidge of interest in owning. Their rivals can seem more concerned with messing them up than in actually building their own winning teams. Having a decent Plan B can be the difference between a good draft day and disaster. The best way to avoid the need for an alternate plan is to have a plan with built-in options so that you are not easily hurt by those plotting against you. Is that paranoia? Not if they are out to get you.

Get your share of the Top Talent
In any draft there will be a few players that stand above the rest. In keeper leagues it is very possible there are only four or five players available with typical first round value. You should make a point of acquiring at least your share of that top talent and ideally you’ll be able to get someone else’s share of the top talent as well. The better your keeper list the more important this becomes. You do not want owners with weak keepers to be able to catch up to you just by drafting more of the top talent. It is vital to identify the best players available and decide how much of it you need to grab for yourself. Never decide you have enough to win. Be greedy.

Watch the scarce positions closely
Shortstop and second base are very shallow positions this year and though first base is deep the top tier is not deep at all and the fall to the second tier is longer than usual in my opinion. The top tier at first (in whatever order) looks like Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder with everyone in the second tier having some problem or question about their potential production. At second base it looks like Robinson Cano and everyone else. I love Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis but each has issues that prevent them from being in the top tier. Shortstop is just Jose Reyes and Pray Tulo Stays Healthy. There is nothing wrong with being an elitist in fantasy baseball.

Yes, Starting Pitching is deeper but…
Many experienced owners have long practiced waiting until the mid-rounds to start building their pitching staffs. With the number of great young pitchers on the rise some owners have fooled themselves into believing they can wait until the late rounds to collect starting pitchers. That may be possible in some very shallow leagues but if you want the opportunity to score big in the pitching categories you will need to collect some of the top two tiers of starters rather than settling for the leftovers. The pitchers at the end of the draft may seem a lot better than in years past but the best pitchers are also a lot better. So do not wait too long to get your first few starting pitchers. Unless you like having the worst pitching in your fantasy league that is.

Go ahead and pay for saves
If the top closers – Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte, Rafael Soriano and maybe Jonathan Papelbon – are available go ahead and buy one if the price is not terribly inflated. The closer position is so unstable that getting one of the top three guys could give you a huge advantage over your competition. However, if you miss out on the top three, maybe four, I suggest you wait and take the cheapest options available. Don’t avoid the category altogether in your draft as too many people are watching the waiver wire for possible saves these days. Your goal is to either get the safest options or the cheapest ones. No one likes being in the middle anyway.

Crave power above all things
The big homerun numbers have not gone away completely but when you get past the first two tiers of players the homeruns are just not available the way they used to be. Stolen bases on the other hand seem to be available at the end of drafts. There are more and more players on rosters (some do not even start) that can give you 10-20 stolen bases. Power hitters are much rarer. I like to grab power hitters that steal bases rather than devote any spots to pure base stealers. Those players are obviously much coveted by smart owners. Make the most of your dollars by avoiding the ones that could be batting average liabilities and spending a few more bucks on the best available five category hitters. Power does not just corrupt, it rules.

Stretch your draft day budget to the limit
Plan to own a few one dollar players. I try to create budget depth by planning to have a least one dollar player in each position group – one catcher, one corner, one middle infielder, one outfielder, one starting pitcher and one relief pitcher. This gives me a greater opportunity to own a top tier player in each position group as well. If you plan and execute well your one dollar guys will also be excellent sleepers. I often manage this by drafting young or inexperienced but also potential laden players in those low budget spots. Last season C John Jaso, 3B Kyle Seager, SS Everth Cabrera, OF Michael Saunders, SP Hisashi Iwakuma RP Fernando Rodney were excellent one dollar choices (wow, the Mariners dominated the end game!). Some early picks for dollar spots this season are C Erik Kratz, 2B Matt Carpenter, 3B Brent Morel, SP David Phelps and RP Sean Doolittle. If you can’t be rich, create the illusion that you are.

Dominate the End Game
Owners should attempt to save enough auction dollars to allow you to spend two or three bucks each on your last two or three players. This will eliminate the possibility that you spend the end of the auction getting outbid on players you can only nominate for a buck. At the end of most draft days there are a few players that stand out from the dregs. Perhaps talented rookies or veterans with uncertain playing time are still on the board. Most owners would prefer to avoid drafting the Michael Martinez types out of pure necessity so save a few bucks. Fill your roster with talent at every opportunity. Make your draft good to the very last spot.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Building a Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

posted by Jon Williams
By Jon Williams | @bigjonwilliams

Originally written for Big Leagues Magazine Before the start of the 2013 season.

The worst thing you can do going into a fantasy draft or auction you plan to dominate is to go in without a plan. A plan gives your draft day efforts a structure. Your plan should build towards the goal of bringing you a fantasy baseball championship. Without a plan you will make more mistakes on Draft Day. You will choose the wrong players and miss your statistical goals. You can know the player pool as well as anyone but in a competitive league you will lose without a plan. If you have no idea how to put together an effective plan, this is your lucky day.
Build Around Your League Rules
Every draft advice column seems to remind owners to check their league rules. You see it so often because it is of vital importance to winning a league. Slight variations in league rules can cause drastic changes to the value of a given player. Adam Dunn may be just a later round’s consideration in a typical league but in a league that replaces AVG with OBP he becomes a much more important player. In a Head 2 Head league, drafting a balanced team is much less important than in a standard Rotisserie League. In other leagues starting pitchers may be the most important players available. In a 10-team mixed league that drafts just three outfielders per team, outfielders are plentiful. In an AL-only league with 13 teams, that is not the case. Study your league rules and measure the impact those rules will have on your play. Imputing your data into draft day software like RotoLab can make the job much simpler.
Establish and Build Toward Your Goals
My goal is always to win and it never changes. Not every owner likes to play that way, particularly in keeper leagues. Some owners like to rebuild with cheap keepers and minor leaguers until they have a team they feel can win several seasons in a row. In re-draft leagues, I have known owners to build rosters with quirky handicaps such as all lefty pitchers, an All-Visa Team, and no player over 27-years old. Your goal for the draft should match your goals for the season. If you just want to have fun, a quirky draft goal is just fine, but if the goal is to win, save the quirky ideas for a different league.

Whatever your goal, it is important that you commit to that goal for as long as possible. If your goal changes more often than necessary, it will worsen your chances of achieving anything. But there are times during the season when you may have to re-work your season goals. You may decide that you cannot finish first at some point. At that point depending on your position in the standings and the composition of your roster, you might decide that finishing in the money while setting up for 2014 is a more attainable goal. Others may decide to dump their present assets and enter a re-building mode. I am on record saying that re-building is for wussies but there comes a time during a season where setting up for the following season becomes the best option.
Choose Your Keepers Carefully
Your keepers should always fit your overall plans. If they do not fit your plan, you may want to come up with a new plan (or at least trade for players that do fit). You should always rank your potential keepers in the order in which they can help your winning strategy. If you plan to focus on high-average, power hitters to complement your cheap (but great) starting pitching, an “at-value” Prince Fielder is probably a better keeper than your slightly underpriced Garrett Jones. You want your keepers to work with your strengths not against them. Your great starting pitching is less effective if you also keep your one dollar Carlos Zambrano because he used to be your favorite Cubs starter.

Now, just because your primary strategy is built on high-average, power hitters and great starting pitchers, that does not mean that you should toss back your $10 Jean Segura. Segura may not hit for power or much of a batting average, but his indicators suggest his average will not be a negative and his steals potential may make it much easier for you to concentrate on the power hitters during the draft. The same cannot be said about your $15 Everth Cabrera who may steal a ton of bases, but has the potential to pull down your team batting average. It may be possible to account for this drag but a better idea is to trade for a player or players that better fit your strategy. Andrelton Simmons may cost you five extra bucks but also saves you the hassle of trying to balance a bad BA player before the draft even starts.

You also need to study the rosters of your competitors. You should have your best guess at the keepers on the other teams before deciding on yours. This is important because keepers can take a huge chunk out of the potential player pool on several levels. You could find that certain positions are going to be extremely scarce on Draft Day. If ten of the 15 potential closers in your 12-team league are held by the owners of just six teams buying a closer at the draft could get expensive. That might make your $18 Rafael Betancourt a better keeper than you originally supposed. The players you should target should be the players that will help you win. Values and profits are very important but the way they fit into your draft strategy is just as important.
Study the Player Pool
After your league’s keepers have been calculated to the best of your ability, it is time to study the player pool in depth. You need to know what positions remain to be filled on every team’s roster. How many catchers, first basemen, second basemen and so forth will be needed to fill each open spot? In deeper leagues there could be more spots than acceptable players. Understanding the depth available (or not available) at each position will help you prepare a strategy that accounts for positions that may be short on talent. In addition to finding where the talent shortages are, you also want to find where (if anywhere) there might be abundance.
You should be able to find some bargains within the talent abundant positions that make nice targets for your draft plan. Bargains are important because with a limited budget you need to acquire as much talent as possible. The bargains also give you the extra budget to afford expensive superstars. Where there is scarce talent, you will have to prepare to pay a premium. Draft inflation can cause even the bottom tier of talent at scarce positions to cost much more than the value of their stats. Because of this, you are sometimes better off paying for the better talents available at thin positions.
Use League History to Establish Category Goals
The typical strategy here is to plan on finishing third in each category. That is nice. If you meet those goals you will probably field a competitive team with a decent shot at winning. Personally, I advise a more aggressive strategy. Plan to finish first in each category. You probably will not, but that is not the point. The point is to force you to draft not just solid performers, but also more players with upside. Marco Scutaro is a fine player who will help a lot of fantasy teams this year. However, if for the same draft day cost you could draft Jedd Gyorko you may want to consider going with the talented rookie with upside. It does not need to be just rookies either. Assume you have had a fine draft and are entering the dollars days’ portion of the auction. You could be considering names like Delmon Young and Chris Heisey, solid players who should get some playing time. But also available is Jordany Valdespin who is not as established but has a full-time starting opportunity and a minor league record that indicates he has the potential for 15 homers and 20-plus stolen bases with a decent batting average.
The Heart of Your Plan is in the Roster Design
You should choose some player targets at their projected costs whether in auction dollars or draft rounds. Experimenting with various team compositions can help you shape your draft strategy. There are the standard draft plans such as Stars and Scrubs, Spread the Risk, The LIMA Plan, Portfolio 3 and the Mayberry Plan (a web search will provide all the details you need on all of these ideas) and hundreds of plans devised by experienced owners that have no names. But no matter what plan you use to design your eventual roster, you are essentially deciding how many of the following player types you need to roster.
  • Star Players – The studs. These are the best players available. They either contribute to five categories (in standard 5×5 leagues) or are exceptional in three or four categories. Every winning team needs to have their fair share of star players. In a 12 team league if there are 15 star players available you should own two of them. This is where the bulk of a team’s value rests. Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Miguel Cabrera are good examples of Star Players in standard leagues.
  • Potential Breakouts – These players have a solid track record and an established value in fantasy leagues but skills that suggest greater upside–perhaps even the ability to become star players. Every team should own as many of this type of player as possible. Austin Jackson, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Carlos Gomez, Starlin Castro, Stephen Strasburg and Kris Medlin are good examples of potential breakout players.
  • Category Target Players – These players are not stars and usually only excel in one or two categories. Most closers and many speedsters fit into this category. These players are usually used as complements to well-rounded players to meet category goals. You do not need to own players in this category but they are often helpful. Juan Pierre, Everth Cabrera, Brandon League, Huston Street, Adam Dunn and Ben Revere are good examples of category target players.
  • Sleepers – These are players not highly regarded but have skills or a new opportunity or circumstance that suggests their values could rise sharply. Every team should have one or two sleepers as this is the best way to build a team with a value much higher than its cost. That sort of profit is what turns contenders into champions. Jordany Valdespin, Cliff Pennington, Justin Ruggiano, Adam Lind and Logan Morrison are some decent sleepers.
  • Rookies – These players have very little experience in the major leagues if any at all. Most analysts will suggest you avoid rookies as they often underperform their skills. But rookies, like sleepers, can be hugely valuable to a team. When they do perform, their value often far exceeds their draft day cost. Rostering the right rookie at a minimal cost is like purchasing a lottery pick. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are examples of winning lottery tickets. This season, Jedd Gyorko, Jean Segura, Dylan Bundy and Gerrit Cole are examples of rookies that could pay off big for fantasy owners.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a well-thought-out plan for Draft Day. Executing that plan can be difficult as other owners are certain to covet some of the same players and force you to either pay more or alter your strategies. Consider various options for every component of your plan and the odds of things going drastically wrong shrink. Going into draft day without a plan is planning to fail.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hot Fantasy Prospect: Jose Abreu

posted by Jon Williams

Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu has been so impressive playing for the Cuban National Team that when he officially declared a MLB free agent every team in baseball sent someone to see him in his various showcases. These were teams that had obvious needs at first base and/or designated hitter as well as teams that had the positions well filled. The obviously strong interest was fueled even further by teams in need of a power bat that could not afford to part with a top draft pick to sign free agents who received a qualifying offer.

Despite all the interest the scouting reports on Abreu have skewed a bit negative. Most of them seem to focus on the report from Baseball America which states that Abreu seemed to struggle against quality fastballs located on the inner third of the plate. This is a weakness that many major leaguers have and one that does not necessarily destroy his potential as a high average masher. He may certainly struggle against the frontline starters with impeccable control but doesn’t everyone? Many major league starters struggle to consistently locate their fastballs. Abreu could also be coached to take a half step away from the plate.

I think it is helpful to note that several teams were involved in the bidding. Depending on which reports you buy into it is possible that as many as seven teams bid more than 50 million for Abreu. Those teams seem to include organizations such as the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros – organizations that at this point we should have learned to trust when it comes to scouting and player evaluation.

I first heard of Abreu when I saw Clay Davenport’s Cuban Player Translations. Take a look at these stats and I think you will be quite impressed. Clay Davenport of course one of the best analyst in the business and his translations well worth your attention.

What should be emphasized from almost every report is that Abreu despite average bat speed, has advanced hitting skills and tremendous power. I fully expect him to hit for a quality batting average and above average power as he adjusts to the majors. The hype created by previous Cuban imports like Yoanis Cespedes and Yasier Puig not only fed into the free agent frenzy but will also drive up his fantasy cost this coming season. I will be a buyer as long as the price stays reasonable. If he costs the same as other established power hitters I’d rather have one of them then the newbie, wouldn’t you?

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Anthem Media Acquires RotoExperts and Sports Grid

posted by Jon Williams
This sounds like great news for my friends at RotoExperts.

Here is the Press Release:

TORONTO --- Anthem Media Group announced today that its Fantasy Sports Television Network (FNTSY) has acquired 100% of the assets of New York-based RotoExperts and SportsGrid in a cash and stock transaction. The acquisition immediately stamps the new media company as a leader and innovative force in the already-exploding Fantasy Sports industry.

RotoExperts.com is established as one of the Fantasy Sports industry's premier websites and is regarded as one of the leading independent providers of fantasy content in the space. Since 2008, RotoExperts has rapidly grown to become a prominent national staple in online content, broadcasting and syndicated offerings to reach the estimated 40 million Fantasy Sports players in North America. RotoExperts programs over 30 hours per week on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio and has occupied the morning drive slot since the launch of the channel. Founder and CEO Louis M. Maione, a longtime Wall Street executive, will now join FNTSY Sports Network and serve as the Executive Vice President of Anthem Media.

SportsGrid, one of the top mainstream sports websites in the U.S., was acquired from Abrams Media. SportsGrid was founded by U.S. television personality Dan Abrams, who has been instrumental in establishing the site as a major destination and player in the sports and media worlds.

"This is a tremendous acquisition for us as we build out the world's premier fantasy sports media company," said Leonard Asper, President and CEO of Anthem Media. "We will have access to many of the most talented commentators to develop and expand the video content

for the TV channel, one of the most accomplished executives in the industry in Mr. Maione, and a great set of assets with which to market the channel."

"In SportsGrid, we add a popular website to serve as the core of our digital strategy for all our channels, including Fight Network, Pursuit Channel, FNTSY Sports Network and the other channels we will add moving forward," Asper added.

"I am thrilled to be joining the Anthem team as a shareholder and executive," said Mr. Maione. "As we were looking to further develop our web and radio presence with a team who can execute the broadcast component, Anthem became the perfect fit, so we decided to join forces to create scale and speed of execution. At RotoExperts, it has always been our goal and promise to the fantasy community that we would always bring them the highest quality of content online and on radio. Now, we can deliver the same standards of insights and information to their living rooms, where they have waited for it and really deserve it. Our vow to them is to keep innovating and surprising them because they have supported us and put us in position to give them exactly what they want."

Chad Midgley, VP Programming of Anthem and the FNTSY Sports Network, added: "We intend to continue working with all components of the industry, including other websites, talent on both sides of the border, and the providers of the statistics and data feeds that support the industry".

About Anthem Media Group Inc. Anthem Media Group Inc. is a media company operating niche television channels on linear, digital and mobile platforms globally. It is the owner of Fight Network, the world's premier combat sports channeland is a significant investor in Pursuit Channel, one of the top outdoor channels in the U.S., and FNTSY Sports Network, a TV channel to be launched this Fall targeting the burgeoning fantasy sports industry.

About RotoExperts Founded in 2008, RotoExperts quickly became one of the leading independent providers of fantasy content in the industry. RotoExperts has provided fantasy content to major sites and publishers such as NFL.com, Seahawks.com, Yahoo Sports, SI.com, USA Today and the Bloomberg Professional Service. RotoExperts programs over 30 hours per week on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio and has supplied regular broadcast content to TuneIn, Alloy Digital, the Beasley Broadcast Group and Fox Sports Radio. RotoExperts was nominated for a total of 51 industry awards in its first five years of existence. RotoExperts has won six Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards in the past two years, including Managing Director Scott Engel being inducted with the inaugural class of the FSWA Hall of Fame.

About SportsGrid SportsGrid is the site for news, videos, and smart opinions about sports as seen through the eyes of the media-addicted fan. Its coverage of athletes, teams and coaches goes beyond the playing field, and in the SportsGrid world, a players' late night TV appearances and controversial political views matter just as much as their batting average. SportsGrid is the ultimate destination for the media-savvy sports fan who wants to stay entertained.

For More Information Contact:

Anthem Media Group Chad Midgley
VP Programming & Production

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Examining the Reasoning Behind the Jake Peavy Deal

posted by Jon Williams
As fantasy owners we are almost always interested in the trades that happen between major league rosters. We get especially excited in the days leading up to MLB's Non-Waiver Trade Deadline. We want and expect to see big names and major loves that will radically change the face of Major League Baseball teams and the fate of our fantasy squads. Unfortunately the deadline deals rarely match-up with our great expectations. This year's deals were not an exception.

By far the most interesting deadline deal was the three-team deal between the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. The Red Sox gave up young defensive shortstop Jose Iglesias (to Detroit) and a trio of prospects ( infielder Cleulius Rondon and pitchers Francelis Montas and Jeffery Wendelken) and received starter Jake Peavy from the White Sox and reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers. Chicago received the Boston prospects and young outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers.

Jose Iglesias is a good fit with the Detroit Tigers for a few reasons. If the Detroit Tigers have a weakness it is in their infield defense. Iglesias can provide the Tigers with Gold Glove quality defense at shortstop and even second and third base if necessary. Over the last few seasons, Iglesias has become a much better contact hitter with improved patience at the plate. It does not show in his walk rate but it does appear in his swing rates and his declining strikeout rate. Iglesias has close to zero power (2.2 HR/FB% and .079 ISO) but is becoming the type of player that can find ways to contribute (or at least not be a huge negative) in a lineup full of sluggers while contributing vastly increased defensive range. He still swings at too many pitches, especially outside of the strikezone. He is also unlikely to keep batting .330 or maintain his .379 BABIP but he should be able to hit for a decent average, at least for a power lacking defensive dynamo.

Iglesias' most significant contribution to the Tigers in 2013 is likely to be as the player who replaces Jhonny Peralta during his coming PED suspension. Peralta has yet to test positive for anything illegal or against the rules at this point. However, Bud Selig is determined to punish anyone linked to rumors of wrong doing via the BioGenesis scandal. So in effect, Peralta is being punished for not testing positive while being linked to BioGenesis. No, it is not meant to make sense. Peralta is likely to miss most of the remaining season. It is possible he could be around for the playoffs but it is difficult to see that happening if Iglesias is successful over the next two months. Peralta is a free agent after the 2013 season and could very well finish his career with the Tigers watching from home.This could mean Iglesias is the shortstop of the future for the Detroit Tigers.

The Red Sox were already in good shape heading into the season's last two months.They were playing well with a solid lineup, starting rotation and bullpen all contributing. The Red Sox also have a loaded farm system which is loaded with enough quality talent to allow them to deal their former shortstop of the future. But if you look closely you can see why the Red Sox felt they wanted another veteran starter.

Jon Lester is their ace in theory but recently went through a rough period similar to last season's disaster. Lester seems to have recovered relatively quickly but he does not inspire great confidence in Boston fans nor the team's management. Clay Buchholz finally seems to be the ace-level starter he was once projected to become but his track record of success is not long and his recent shoulder discomfort is worrying.

Peavy has a history of durability problems but was great in 2012 when he contributed 219 innings in 32 starts. Peavy is recently returned from a few weeks on the disabled list with a non-displaced fracture in his ribs. It is expected that this injury has contributed to a slight decline in his velocity relative to 2012 and some rust in his command since his return. But his elbow and shoulder are both strong and not an issue at this point. He has solid velocity in the low 90's and excellent control. He has a very solid strikeout rate and induces a fair number of ground balls when necessary but also allowed quite a few homers pitching in Chicago's homer friendly stadium. Fenway should be a little better for Peavy's stats and his fantasy owners. Most of all he has pitching experience that the talented youngsters on the team can use in this group's first run into the playoffs.

The White Sox had and still have an aging roster and a high payroll that does not provide much bang for the bucks. Avisail Garcia is the best prospect the White Sox acquired but is still very much a work in progress. More than anything else the White Sox are looking to load up their farm system and clear payroll so that the new management team can rebuild the roster with younger and more cost effective talent. Garcia could see a small power boost playing in Chicago but his lack of patience and over aggressiveness will limit his impact on fantasy rosters and in the White Sox lineup. Garcia is only 22 years old so he has plenty of time to develop the skills necessary to become a solid major league outfielder.

Here are the deals leading up to the deadline that you may interest you: (from ESPN)

• The Baltimore Orioles acquired SP Bud Norris from the Houston Astros for DH L.J. Hoes and SP Josh Hader. (July 31)

• The Kansas City Royals acquired OF Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for SP Kyle Smith. (July 31)

• The San Diego Padres acquired SP Ian Kennedy from the Arizona Diamondbacks for RP Joe Thatcher, RP Matt Stites and a 2014 competitive balance round B draft pick. (July 31)

• The Boston Red Sox acquired SP Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox and RP Brayan Villarreal and OF Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers and sent SS/3B Jose Iglesias to Detroit and Garcia, RP J.B. Wendelken, SP Francellis Montas and SS Cleuluis Rondon to Chicago. (July 30)

• The Oakland Athletics acquired 3B Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels for SS Grant Green. (July 30)

• The Atlanta Braves acquired RP Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels for SP Cory Rasmus. (July 29)

• The Tampa Bay Rays acquired RP Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox for players to be named or cash. (July 29)

• The Detroit Tigers acquired RP Jose Veras from the Houston Astros for OF Danry Vasquez and a player to be named. (July 29)

• The New York Yankees acquired OF Alfonso Soriano and cash from the Chicago Cubs for SP Corey Black. (July 26)

• The Baltimore Orioles acquired RP Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers for 3B Nick Delmonico. (July 23)

• The Texas Rangers acquired SP Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs for SPs C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm, 1B Mike Olt, and a player to be named. (July 22)

We can still expect to see some fairly big names moving during the waivers period. Alex Rios, Mike Morse, and Michael Young are some of the bigger names on the market and they could change the shape of some close races in both fantasy and MLB.

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