Sunday, November 16, 2014

More Hot Stove Junkie

posted by Jon Williams
The next Cuban Sensation: Shortstop Yoan Moncada
Yoan Moncada

Wow, did a lot happen this week or what? My favorite bit of news is on the next Cuban Sensation up for bid. He is 19-year old shortstop (and potential second baseman, third baseman or center fielder) Yoan Moncada. This kid is said to be the real deal and definitely worthy of a spot on your dynasty league roster or a minor-league pick in keeper leagues. He is said to have plus speed, plus power and skill with the bat to go with a rocket arm and soft hands in the field.

This Ben Badler quote from Baseball America cinches the deal for me:
How good is Moncada? He has more upside than Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, who just reached a $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox. He’s better than Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas... If Moncada were eligible for the 2015 draft, he would be in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick. Gourriel and Despaigne would be safer bets, but there’s no player in Cuba with Moncada’s combination of youth, tools and hitting ability. 
FanGraphs.com: The Yoan Moncada Showcase

Yoan Moncada may force MLB to move to an International Draft

Baseball America's Profile on Yoan Moncada

The Tampa Bay Rays Trade Jeremy Hellickson

Hellickson seemed to defy expectations his first few years in the majors with ERA totals that looked much better than the various ERA predictors such as FIP and xFIP  revealed. Then injuries and disappointment dominated the last two seasons - as many experts predicted. What do the Arizona Diamondbacks see in Hellickson? They seem to have a vast collection of talented starting pitchers that have disappointed in one way or another, even before adding Hellickson to their numbers. They also have a few highly thought of pitching prospects.

I am confident that Hellickson can be solid mid-rotation starter for the D'backs. I think injuries are mostly to blame for the poor performance the last two seasons. And even if he is not the pitcher he appears to be in his rookie and sophomore seasons, he was never really projected to be terrible. His strikeout rate  has been ticking upward and his Swinging Strike rate is indicating that improvement is real. The uptick in strikeouts has also led to an improving FIP. The move to the NL should only help his strikeout rate improve further and with a solid defense behind him I think he will be quite fantasy worthy for a low investment.

Diamondbacks fans are not thrilled by the trade

Rays fans seem quite a bit happier...

Rays fans examine Hellickson just before the deal took place

New York Newsday's Controversial Steroid Story

Anthony Bosch has accused agent Scott Boras of attempting to cover up the positive test by Manny Ramirez a few years ago. At this point in the on-going steroid/PED story I do not know what to believe. It would be easy to believe that everyone involved in any way is dirty and that no one undeserving has been smeared but I cannot force myself to believe it. I will be very happy when all facets of this story disappear forever.

The New York Newsday Story

Scott Boras statement on the accusations (added to the Newsday Story after the fact)

Mets GM Sandy Alderson has nothing good to say about Scott Boras

The 2014 MLB Season Awards

Despite having his worst full season in the majors Mike Trout finally won the American League MVP award. Though a .287/.377/.561 batting line with 36 homeruns and 16 stolen bases would be a career year for most players. For fantasy owners I'm sure the stolen base total was disappointing and perhaps a few owners were counting on a .300-plus batting average to pull up the rest of their team batting stats. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs.com looks at how Trout was pitched in the second half of the season when he had a 30 percent strikeout rate. Personally I believe he will make the necessary adjustments to how he is pitched and continue to be one of the better players in the American League for another decade or so.

If I had a vote I would have given it to Giancarlo Stanton (he lets me call him Mike) for the National League MVP. I do not have a problem with pitchers winning the MVP award but I think that should only happen when the pitcher has an historic season and there is not a worthy performance by a batter. I do not believe that was the case this season. Stanton was outstanding this season and when you consider the overall decline of offense in MLB it was even more outstanding. A season of 6.1 fWAR, a 159wRC+, and 37 homeruns is a more than worthy MVP. The Miami Marlins were even in contention until late in the season thanks largely to his performance.

From MLBTradeRumors:
Trout’s 420 points were the most possible, and rounding out the top 10 in the AL were Victor Martinez (229), Michael Brantley (185), Jose Abreu (145), Jose Bautista (128), Robinson Cano (124), Nelson Cruz (102), Josh Donaldson (96), Miguel Cabrera (82) and Felix Hernandez (48). The full ballot is available in this Google doc from the BBWAA.
Kershaw edged out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, finishing with 355 points to 298. Behind Kershaw and Stanton in the top 10 were Andrew McCutchen (271), Jonathan Lucroy (167), Anthony Rendon (155), Buster Posey (152), Adrian Gonzalez (57), Adam Wainwright (53), Josh Harrison (52) and Anthony Rizzo (37). The full ballot is available in this Google Doc from the BBWAA.
 Jose Abreu finished fourth in the MVP race and was the first ROY for the Chicago White Sox since Ozzie Guillen in 1985. After a huge debut season it is tough to imagine him doing much better, but if you look at his season splits it might change your mind. hit .292/.342/.630 with an absurd 29 homeruns in 351 PA. The second half he batted .350/.435/.513 with seven homers in 271 PA. The obvious takeaway might be the decline in homerun rate. But Abreu played through a hamstring injury for most of the second half and hit .350 while major league pitchers were doing everything in their power to either get him out or keep him from clearing the bases with one swing. I think there is another MVP worthy season coming from Jose Abreu.

I was a little surprised that Jake deGrom was such an over whelming winner over Billy Hamilton. However he is more than worthy of the award. The first New York Met ROY since the great Dwight  Gooden in 1984. deGrom is essentially the product of a good arm on an intelligent and hard-working player receiving great coaching and rubbing shoulders with talented veterans.

Eno Sarris Breaks down deGrom's experience and development in the Minor Leagues (a must read)

Hamilton's stats certainly were not as good for fantasy purposes in the second half but there were signs that he was improving as a baseball player which can only be good for his current and future owners. His defense was outstanding and he showed guts continuing to go out there and battle. Hamilton has shown the ability to adjust in the minors and I think he will adjust again to the barrage of inside fastballs he saw in the second half. Unless you paid an absurd amount for him he should be worth keeping around just for the stolen bases as he continues to improve as a player.

From MLBTrade Rumors:
The Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (40 points), the Yankees’ Dellin Betances (27), the Astros’ Collin McHugh (21) the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (16) rounded out the top five in the AL voting.  Billy Hamilton finished second in the NL balloting with 92 points, well ahead of the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong (14), the Phillies’ Ken Giles (8) and the Diamondbacks’ Ender Inciarte (4).
Ken Giles made an impression this season

From MLBTradeRumors:
Kershaw was a unanimous winner, with Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright finishing second and third, respectively. Madison Bumgarner finished in fourth place (obligatory caveat: votes were due before the postseason commenced), while Jordan Zimmermann, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Doug Fister, Jake Arrieta, Craig Kimbrel, Stephen Strasburg and Henderson Alvarez rounded out the ballot. The award marks Kershaw’s third Cy Young in four seasons.

Kluber, a breakout star with the Indians, edged out Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who finished second. Kluber received a total of 169 points in the voting, while Hernandez received 159. Rounding out the ballot were Chris Sale, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, David Price, Phil Hughes, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Kluber posted an 18-9 record with a 2.44 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 48 percent ground-ball rate in 235 2/3 innings.
The Re-Building Braves

The Dodgers were not the only team to revamp their front office this fall. They brought Roy Clark back to the organization and hired Gordon Blakeley as Special Assistants to the General Manager. Brian Bridges was promoted to scouting director. Not to mention being John Hart on as the General Manager. The Braves have entered if not quite a re-building period - it is at least a period of re-structuring that extends from the front office to the playing field.

Baseball America outlines the front office and scouting department changes the Braves have made.

John Hart denied that the Braves were shopping Evan Gattis despite the abundance of rumors to the contrary. The inexperienced Christian Bethancourt will be the primary starting catcher. If the Braves are not marketing Gattis they will need to find a place for him to play, which is likely what has gotten the media and other GMs speculating.
“We are coming in with the idea that we don’t have to trade anybody,” Hart said. “We have not made a call (to see if a team is interested in any player). We have received calls on people; we haven’t had any conversations yet. That (Gattis rumor) is absolutely inaccurate. And quite frankly, I think anybody that says that – if you look, I’ve got two corner outfielders who’ve got one year left (before free agency), and I’ve got one potential corner outfielder (Gattis) that’s got four years left (under contractual control).”
Despite this statement it seems almost certain that the Braves will deal one of their corner outfielders before the season. I am sure they would prefer to trade B.J. Upton, but that is extremely unlikely to happen. That means either Jason Heyward or Justin Upton, if not both, will be traded for some combination of prospects and pitchers they can control for several years.the Braves should be able to get whatever they need. There are so few quality and experienced bats available in trade, they should have multiple options.

But then there is this:
“Everybody mentions the two outfielders (as trade targets), but there’s other pieces on this club that we might consider (trading),” John Hart said. “There’s some bullpen pieces below Kimbrel. We’ve got some pieces that people like, it’s just a matter of trying to the right guys back where you’re going to say, this will allow us to win, or at least allow us to compete. That’s where we are this early in the winter. And I think it’d be a shame on us if we didn’t go out and explore that avenue first. Go out and see if we can make a deal to get pieces that we like.That will, even though we’ve got to subtract something, will still give the club a chance to compete.”
GM John Hart on the Gattis Rumors

The Braves GM of the Future

The Yankees are Making Moves

Pending a physical, the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $2.5MM deal with free agent outfielder Chris Young. It sounds like the yanks will also attempt to re-sign their closer, David Robertson. but Cashman's recent comments also make it sound as if negotiations will either progress quickly or the Yankees will move on and accept the draft pick as compensation.

Brian Cashman on the 2015 Closer

Cashman on the Justin Wilson Acquisition

Chris Young Re-Signed

The Yankees Outfield

More A-Rod Crap

Other Links of Potential Interest to Fantasy Owners

The Royals are interested in acquiring 1B Ryan Howard

More on the Dodgers new methodology.

Pablo Sandoval is a hot commodity

The Angels have targeted Max Scherzer

The Cardinals have money to spend

Baseball America on Cuban Shortstop Roberto Baldoquin

Rays Montreal Rumors





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Friday, November 07, 2014

Return of the Hot Stove Junkie!

posted by Jon Williams



Way back in the olden days of this blog when I was with RotoExperts.com I used to write a regular column called "The Hot Stove Junkie", it was essentially just a recap of news during the off-season and the potential fantasy impact (if any). It probably seems obvious at this point but I'm bringing it back to this blog as a regular feature as I knock the dust off this thing and get things cranked again. So let's get to it.

The Dodgers are Loading Up

The Los Angeles Dodgers are building a fantastic collection of front office talent.Farhan Zaidi from the Oakland Athletics is the new GM. Josh Brynes has been brought on as the new Vice President of Baseball Operations and will oversee the scouting and player development efforts. The one move I wish they had made was taking the opportunity to add Joe Maddon as the field manager. I grew up a Don Mattingly fan and he is a decent leadership guy, but he makes a lot of cringe-worthy in-game decisions. Hell, I'd take Maddon over just about any manager in the game at this point.

Great Profile on Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers new General Manager

One of the things I expect to see from the Dodgers over the winter is a final solution to their outfield logjam. It worked out fine last season but the Dodgers need to start making room for younger players such as Joc Pederson. I think if Hanley Ramirez comes back (which I sincerely doubt) he will have to move to third base. Then they move Dee Gordon back to shortstop and create a spot for Alex Guerrero at second base (though he could be interested in a trade to the Florida Marlins, lol). Corey Seager will be up to play short or third before we know it so clearing a spot by not re-signing the declining Ramirez is a good idea. Of course the Dodgers are rumored to have looked into acquiring Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, which would allow them to keep Gordon at second and use Guerrero as a utility player at multiple positions. Friedman is a fan of a strong bench and usually avoids carrying weak players just to fill spots. But more than anything I expect the Dodgers to

Minor League Players that may Impact the Dodgers 2015 Major League Roster

The Tampa Bay Rays Look to the Future

With Joe Maddon's defection to the Chicago Cubs and Friedman leaving to the Dodgers the Rays have no choice but to consider where they go from here. The 2014 season was supposed to be their season. They had their highest payroll ever and a loaded roster with the best manager in the game at the helm. But they flopped. A disappointing season that just seems to get worse and worse with each passing week. The rumors of the Rays bolting to Montreal are in full swing. I would not blame them if they did move. Though I guess they may soon be in a position to earn a lot more from their television contract, but with empty stands you have to question how much of a difference it would make.

The Rays Managerial Search Continues...

The Rays just traded bullpen lefty Cesar Ramos to the Angels for a struggling prospect in transition, Mark Sappington. This is exactly the type of move the Rays have excelled at making in the past - turning expensive parts into cheaper and younger long-term alternatives.

Ben Zobrist is relatively cheap compared to his production but the Rays could also be trading him and/or Yunel Escobar. It would essentially be a minor re-building of the team but that may not be the worst move at this point. So may teams seem to be searching for middle infielders that they could reap a huge haul of useful parts. Nick Franklin would then get an opportunity to play everyday at second or shortstop. I still think he will ultimately hit and hit well. 

From the L.A. Times:
03+Sappington, a fifth-round pick out of Rockhurst (Mo.) University in 2012, struggled as a starter at double-A Arkansas and Class-A Inland Empire this season, going 2-11 with a 7.05 ERA, 69 walks and 65 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings.

But he thrived after moving to the bullpen in early July, finding better command of his fastball, which sits in the 96-mph range, and the sharpness of his slider.

Sappington was 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA and a .207 opponents' batting average in 25 games as a reliever. He struck out 49 and walked 10 in 32 innings. By the end of the season, he was closing for Inland Empire.
The Houston Astros Trade two prospects for Hank Conger

Conger is a decent bat at catcher who is also an excellent receiver behind the plate. He will back up Jason Castro for now at least but the Astros have four major league catchers now and that is almost certain to lead to a trade of one of the others. The Astros have had tons of interest in Castro and they could probably get a killing from a team that can't afford or loses out in the Russell Martin sweepstakes.

From MLB.com:
The Astros added to their depth at catcher on Wednesday by acquiring switch-hitter Hank Conger from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-hander Nick Tropeano and Minor League catcher Carlos Perez

Perez, 24, spent the 2014 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he hit .259 with 16 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs in 88 games with the RedHawks. Tropeano, 24, made his Major League debut with Houston this season, starting four games for the Astros in September. A fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft, Tropeano went 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) at Triple-A in 2014.

The Los Angeles Angels are Making Moves

The Angels have already gotten to work re-building their bullpen and beefing up the farm system reserves with their two trades this week for lefty reliever Cesar Ramos and nearly ready prospects in right-handed starter Nick Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez. These moves make a lot of sense to me. The bullpen definitely needs re-enforcements and the minor leagues are awfully thin on major league ready players.

The Angels get what they need without adding to the payroll.




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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Why Thinking Before You Trade Is So Important

posted by Jon Williams
So last week my local NL-Only league had its end-of-year banquet.  Over the course of the 2014 season I had traded all my minor league picks and all but one of my minor leaguers in my attempt to finish first. I fell from first days before the end of the season and finally finished in second place. I had a few early trades I wanted to propose in an attempt to rebuild my minor league system, hopefully while maintaining or improving my keepers as well. The banquet is usually a good place to make trade offers. The beer is flowing and everyone has baseball on the mind as we hand out the cash and watch the World Series.

One of the trades I had in mind was with one of the older veterans of the league. He is very good at this game but can sometimes focus on the surface value of a player over the long term value. Sometimes this gives him the reputation of trying to fleece other owners (which I'm sure he loves to do as much as anyone). The result is a weakness that creates an opening to acquire anyone on his roster that had a less than stellar season. I did my homework on his team and came up with a plan.

My plan was to offer the shiny and productive Daniel Murphy to my friend for one of his under performers and a sorely needed minor-league pick. My friend (call him Lee Roy), has a loaded roster and a full minor league system, including the much coveted Kris Bryant. I was not going to make an offer for Bryant (this league holds on to stud prospects like old-time prospectors would to a lump of gold). Instead, I wanted one of his early-round minor-league picks.I like Murphy but I fear the Mets will trade him (if he leaves the NL I just lose him) and did not see much upside as his value and salary basically broke even. Murphy was obviously too much to trade for a single pick. I targeted a player I am certain Lee would give up rather easily based on the prior season's results, Jean Segura.

Segura had a horrible season overall, that tragically included the death of his nine-month old son. But I really like the way he finished. He was walking more and being far less wreckless than he had been since the second half of the 2013 season and it was working. Fortunately his turn around was so far into his horrible season that few noticed or cared that he was showing improvement. I like him to rebound and have a strong 2015 season. I think he will hit .270 or better with around ten homers and 30-plus stolen bases. If he came close to that his salary would be a bargain. That plus the pick equaled Murphy for me.

So after putting all that thought into it, I made the offer to Lee and forgot to ask for the pick, that was so key to the whole trade. He instantly accepted and I agreed before I realized what I had done. So, you see what I mean?




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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

THE WORLD'S FIRST
FANTASY SPORTS TV NETWORK SET TO LAUNCH

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
chad@anthemmediagroupinc.com
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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.

http://ballcapsblog.com/2013/12/27/its-nearly-time-to-celebrate-the-2013-baseball-solstice/

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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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