Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day is Here!

posted by Jon Williams
Today is the day we rest. Well, first we set our lineups, (it's a long week one in some leagues, not ending until April 10th for some) then we sit down crack open a few beers (after we call in sick) and just chill (after we take the kids to school) and watch the games, one after the other.

Opening Day should be a holiday, if Valentines Day and St Patrick's Day count as real holidays, I think Opening Day is on a par with Christmas. Are you with me? Let's write our congressmen.

A few things to remember:

  1. You can check out all the opening day rosters and DL moves at MLBdepthcharts.com
  2. Have fun today, don't stress about your weekend drafts.
  3. Chat about the game with other Roto-Junkies!
Peace and Happy Opening Day!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

DRAFT INFLATION

posted by Scootron

Draft Inflation is one of the least understood concepts in all of fantasy baseball. Some people try to ignore it, which is about as practical as ignoring gravity...you do so at your own peril.

A fantasy auction is not, as some claim, an example of a free market. Demand is fixed. We can have no more than five outfielders or two catchers (without using the UT slot). On the other hand, we must have no fewer than five outfielders and two catchers. Supply is fixed...in the AL, we have 25 players each on 14 teams to choose from. Most importantly, the amount we spend is fixed. No matter what, we all have the same amount of money. But even though supply, demand and funds are finite and predetermined, the possible scenarios are practically limitless, more so in a keeper league.

I have heard owners say things like “Boy, the price for speed was inflated today”, or “Rangers will have inflated salaries since the auction is in Dallas”. I even heard one owner in a redraft league talking about what he expected the inflation rate to be in his auction. But, the cost of a single category cannot be inflated, nor can the salaries of a certain team be inflated. And pre-auction inflation cannot exist in a non-keeper league. What these owners were talking about were league preferences or tendencies. Your league may pay a lot for ace starters, or the top closers, or the speedsters, or whatever commodity is in the shortest supply. Every league is different. But when it comes to inflation, all keeper leagues are alike in the important particulars.

Inflation is a function of the value (projected) of the players frozen and the cost (actual salary) of those players. These two factors determine how much money will be chasing how much value in the auction. Assuming the value of the players kept is, in the aggregate, greater than their cost, inflation results.

Inflation should always be calculated as part of preparation for an auction in a keeper league. Calculated, not estimated or guessed. You can calculate it with reasonable accuracy even before the freeze date, provided you can fairly well project what the other owners’ freeze lists will look like. (And yes, projecting all the other freeze lists can be valuable part of auction preparation.)

It is simply calculated. Let’s use a mixed league example. A 15-team $260 mixed league has $3900 in salary dollars to spend. The non-inflated value of the 345 players frozen and to be purchased in a mixed league auction is also $3900. (This is a tenet of fantasy baseball...that the value of the players selected equals the total of dollars to be spent. I can go into this more deeply, but for now let’s just assume it is true.) For purposes of this example, let’s say the total projected value of all keepers in the league is $2060, and that the total salary dedicated to those keepers is $1363. To calculate a league’s inflation rate, you first subtract the total projected value of the keepers from the total value of the player pool, which gives you $1840. Then you take the actual cost of the players kept, and subtract this sum from the total league salary, which gives you the sum of $2537. So, you have $2537 auction dollars chasing $1840 worth of non-inflated auction value. This difference is what drives the price of players upward. Divide the auction dollars by the auction talent ($2537 divided by $1840), and you get 1.379. That means the league inflation is 37.9%.

Every player’s projected auction value must be increased to account for a this inflation rate. A $45 Crawford becomes a $63 Crawford. The $20 player now becomes a $28 player. A $1 player remains $1. The reason this player is a $1 to begin with is that only one person is able or willing to spend a dollar on him.

So, what do you do about inflation? Some owners may decide not to pay the inflated prices demanded by the auction. These owners will not get any of the best players. Eventually, they either give in and pay the inflated price, or they will wind up at the end of the auction with a large amount of money and little or nothing to spend it on.

As mentioned in a previous article, the object is not to come out of the auction with a team worth $260. The object is to come out of the auction with a team which will make a profit. But each dollar you spend on a player above his projected value reduces the overall value of your team. If you have $60 salary tied up in your keepers, have $200 to spend at the auction, and the inflation rate is 25%, then you should get only $160 in value for your money due to inflation. This would knock a big hole in the profits you have in your keepers. (The math on this threw me for awhile. I kept getting $150. But you’re not discounting $200 in salary by 25%. You are increasing the cost of $160 worth of players by 25%. It works. You can try it yourself.)

Keepers create profit. Inflation takes it away.

The task then becomes finding a way to counteract this phenomenon, or as the lapel buttons during the Gerald Ford administration said, “WIN" for "Whip Inflation Now”. This can be done, so long as you have a solid handle on player values and have calculated inflation accurately. But you have to be confident of your calculations in this regard.

Here are some things you can do, which will depend in part upon the knowledge and tendencies of the other owners in your league. These tips or strategy are designed primarily for leagues with very high inflation, which I consider to be 40% or higher.

In many auctions, the first people thrown are the biggest stars. I fully expect Albert Pujols to be nominated first in my mixed league auction this Saturday. Sometimes owners are hesitant to bid big on the first few players. They may be unwilling to bid the full inflated value on these early players. (They may decide that they want to wait “until the inflation goes down”.) But if your calculations show the inflated value of Hanley Ramirez to be $53, and he’s going once, going twice for $42, you have a chance to step up and get a substantial bargain. His non-inflated value might be only $36 in your league, but if you have grabbed him up for $43, you have added profit to your team.

Some leagues are much more savvy to inflation, and will not let those big stars go for less than their inflated values. Instead, these leagues will actually pay more than the inflated values for the big name players. They may believe, as some do, that inflation impacts the highest priced players disproportionately. They may think the key to winning is having big stars regardless of price. Or they may just have a serious desire to roster Albert Pujols. Whatever the reason for this tendency, you can use it to your advantage.

The dynamics of an auction in progress can impact the inflation rate. As mentioned above, the thing to do when the auction starts with owners paying less than the full inflated rate for players, this is the time when you step in and start buying players. The inflation rate will actually under circumstances. However, if owners start off paying more than the inflated value, inflation will begin to decrease. This will eventually yield bargains among the second tier players, as the owners have overspent. Patience is required for this to work, and you have to make certain there adequate value still on the board. Your money will do no good if there are no players to spend it on.

But what an auction in a league where the other owners have calculated inflation and are buying players at or near the inflated value? Finding profit is harder to do in this case. One thing you can do is to nominate a second tier player while there are still more valuable players available at his position. The other owners may not bid as aggressively on this second tier player if they have their eye on one of the higher value players. But, you cannot wait too long; you cannot wait until after all the stars are gone. If you do, you’ll be going up against owners with money who will bid your guy to full inflated value, or more, if position scarcity is a consideration.

You may also have some guys you are sitting on, guys you have picked to outperform what is expected from them. I would recommend sitting on these guys for as long as possible, only throwing them out when necessary. Of course, you may find that some other owner may be sitting on the same guy, in which case you might wind up in a bidding war.

Inflation rates vary from league to league and from year to year, depending upon the quality of keepers frozen. Some leagues have minimal inflation, near 10%, while other leagues may have inflation rates of 40%, 50%, even 75% or higher. Some owners feel that hyper-inflation can detract from the enjoyment of the league, and I have seen that happen. So where does super high inflation come from?

Various factors can contribute to extremely high inflation. There may be a large difference in skill levels among owners, with more resourceful owners picking players in the auction or reserve draft at salaries which make them superb keepers. It may be that the league has a keeper policy that is very liberal, such as being able to keep players for lengthy periods with minimal salary increases. Some leagues don’t assign substantial salaries to the players taken in their reserve draft. Some leagues have free agent or waiver procedures that increase the number of top keepers. Some leagues don’t start the contract of minor leaguers to running until they make it to the majors or even until they lose their rookie status.

There are some things you can do in your league if inflation is a concern in these areas. Make all contracts commence running at the time the player is acquired, and limit contracts to three years. If contracts may be extended, they should cost a substantial amount during each year of the extension. Assign substantial salaries to reserve draft rounds, such as $15 for the first round, $10 for the next few rounds, etc. Make the contracts of minor leaguers start running immediately. Require a minimum bid for free agents, such as $5. Don’t allow free agent bidding after the rosters expand in September. (Some of these ideas have been around since the beginnings of leagues with active rosters and large reserve rosters. Whether you utilize them or not can determine in large part what your league’s inflation rate will be. Semi-related note...I read recently of a league which misconstrued the language of their borrowed Constitution, resulting in their belief that a player being traded started a new contract clock. So, owners would wait until the third year of a contract, and then trade that player to another owner for a player in his third year. All the best players in the league had been under cheap contracts for years and years. They didn't understand why they had such massive inflation. They were shocked to learn the reason, and moved quickly to correct that misunderstanding.)

Whether you like it or not, inflation is a part of the game if you play in a keeper league. How you deal with it can determine whether you are a contender or a cellar dweller.

Well, that’s it for this week’s article. I hope it has deepened your appreciation of this topic, or at least has reminded you to be aware of the impact inflation may have in your upcoming auction.

Do you have any stories of crazy inflation in your league, or your own tips for beating auction inflation? Let's hear them in the comments section. I may have a new crazy inflation story or two after this weekend.

Good luck, and have fun!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

NL Draft Day Pitching Bargains

posted by Pauly
Pauly's Pickups of the Week

We all know that the four-headed monster in Philadelphia is awesome, that Ubaldo was unbelievable last season and Lincecum can compete for the Cy Young every year. What many drafters don’t know are the pitchers you can get on the cheap in the end-game who can help solidify your chances for a championship run. To quote Lucky from his “Building Your Auction Budget” post:

“In most leagues, as much as 30% of the pitching value comes from pitchers who were not projected to have value when the year started, and who are not reserve picks or free agents purchased during the season.”

While this list is focused on National Leaguers, even mixed league fantasy players should be keeping an eye on these guys as the early season progresses. You may be looking at this year’s Jaime Garcia, if you’re fortunate.

Five Draftable Pitchers (End-Game plays for your draft):

Brandon Beachy, ATL – I will put him at the top because he is in the news: Beachy has officially won the fifth starter spot for the Braves over Mike Minor. I’m sure some Minor owner somewhere just kicked something, but their loss is your gain on draft day. There isn’t a lot to go on here (Beachy only had a 3-game audition in Atlanta last season), but the converted reliever may give you Kris Medlen numbers (while they last). In 7 starts (45 IP) with AAA Gwinnett last season, Beachy struck out 48 to only 6 walks and had a 1.007 WHIP. Definitely worth a shot.

Kyle McClellan, STL – Adam Wainwright’s injured for the season, and McClellan will assume a role as the fifth starter going into the season. I have learned not to bet against Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan, so I won’t. Take this with a grain of salt, but McClellan is tearing up spring ball – he has only given up 1 run in 17 innings with 11 strikeouts to 6 walks. Opponent batting average is .158. The real concern is whether he can hold up moving from the bullpen to a starting role, but heading into the season, this guy is screaming “C.J. Wilson 2010” at me…enough said.

James McDonald, PIT – Wow, if mlb.com is listing McDonald as the No. 1 starter for the Pirates, I guess he won’t be that well-kept of a secret. A former top Dodgers prospect, I like McDonald coming into the season after a hot finish to the season with Pittsburgh last year. His September ERA was 2.31 with 30K in 35 IP, so he is definitely starting to come around…so hopefully your league mates have written him off as yet another blah Pirates pitcher.

Anibal Sanchez, FLA – The Marlins’ fourth starter is probably slipping under the radar even in NL leagues with Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Javier Vazquez garnering the bulk of the attention. Sanchez managed to pitch a full season for the first time last season and responded with 20 quality starts out of 32 overall. But he was better after the break, with 86 strikeouts in 15 starts and a nice .239 opponent’s batting average. Although it seems like he’s been around, Sanchez is only 27 years old and on the rise.

Randy Wells, CHC – The great luck Wells had in 2009 was turned on its head in 2010, and he had a 4.36 ERA and 1.40 WHIP to show for it. If you remember ’09, you might recall Wells’ 3.05 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 27 starts. So what will we see in 2011? If spring training is any indication at all, Wells will be on the correct side of the numbers. He has a 1.35 ERA and a .164 opponent’s batting average for the spring, and he looks primed and ready for the season as the Cubs’ fourth starter.

Four "Keep and Eye on them" Players (Guys that may be hot pickups in the first two weeks of the season if they start well):

Homer Bailey, CIN – Everyone who has been waiting on Bailey to finally do something (including the Reds) have been waiting for this season. Bailey is guaranteed a rotation spot...and we have seen him called up before. Will this time be different? Bailey's K/BB ratio has been improving over his career, and he took a big step forward in both departments last season. That might bode well for this year. The guy has been up and down in the bigs since 2007 and the Reds have no more options with him. It's this year or bust.

Aaron Harang, SD – Now that he has escaped the clutches of Dusty Baker, will Harang dig his career out of the ditch it has been in? What helps is that he is moving away from the bandbox in Cincy to one of the top 5 pitcher's parks in San Diego. He will probably never strike out 200-plus guys like he did in back-to-back seasons in 2006-07, but he will put up respectable K totals and should get a little more luck in the ballpark.

Bud Norris, HOU – If you are picking up a Houston Astros pitcher this coming season, dont expect a bunch of wins :) - however, Norris showed in his first full season last year that he can get you some really cheap Ks. If he can improve at all on that near-5 ERA and the 1.48 WHIP, he could become a nice specialist pickup in the early going if you are short on strikeouts.

Chris Narveson, MIL – Much like Norris, Narveson is coming off his first full season and has shown potential with the strikeout. The difference is that Milwaukee used Narveson as a reliever briefly while Norris was always starting. This turns out to be a pretty big difference, as Narveson was a disaster as an RP (7.20 ERA in 9 innings of work). If you take that away, he was an 11-win pitcher (in 28 starts) with 130 Ks and a high 4 ERA. Make sure he stays on your radar.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

...AND BY THE WAY...

posted by Scootron
This coming weekend marks the deadline for a lot of keeper leagues to turn in their freeze lists. This deadline is often accompanied by a profusion of trade activity, in addition to owner anguish over whether to keep this hitter or that pitcher as the last freeze. Many of these are as simple as knowing and applying your league rules. Let’s review a few important last-minute items which can help you make sure your keeper list is the best it can be.

1. Opening Day Roster Issues. Sounds simple, but many of us play in multiple leagues, all with different rules, and some of us are in new leagues this year. Rules regarding keepers vary significantly from league to league. Here are some things you should consider in making your final freeze list.

a) What if you freeze a player who doesn’t wind up on the Opening Day roster? Some leagues let you cut him. Some make you keep him, charging you with his slot and salary toward your 23/260. Some more liberal leagues allow you to move him to your reserve with no penalty. What does your league do?

b) What if you freeze a player who is seriously hurt between freeze day and Opening Day? Again, leagues differ. Some allow you to cut him. Some allow you to fill the slot with another player, but charge you his salary. There may be other variations. Which approach does your league follow?

2. Freezing minor leaguers. Many leagues have rules which allow you to keep a small number of “minor leaguers” in addition to your frozen active players. Minor leaguers are typically defined in the same manner MLB determines who is eligible for rookie status, namely pitchers who have thrown no more than 50 innings, had no more than 130 at bats, and accumulated no more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club during the period of the 25-player limit (excluding D.L. time and military service). Many leagues also require the player must not have appeared on an active league roster at any time prior. Many questions, however, can arise:

a) Say you have fewer than the maximum number of active roster freezes, plus some minor league freezes. Say further that after the freeze date, one of your minor league freezes makes the big club and is on the opening day roster. What are your options? Some leagues make you, prior to the auction, either activate the player or waive him. If you activate him, his slot and player salary count against your 23/260. Others allow you to leave him on your reserve, with no penalty.

b) Say you have a situation similar to that above, except you have frozen the maximum number of active roster freezes. Then one of your minor leaguers makes the OD roster. What are your options? Some leagues hold that since you cannot have over the maximum number of active freezes, you must either waive the minor league freeze, or waive one of your active roster freezes and promote the minor leaguer to the active roster. However, some leagues will simply allow you to leave that minor league freeze on your reserve roster.

3. Aging of contracts. Again, leagues differ on this crucial point. It is generally accepted that the contracts of all roster players, minor leaguers or active players, age each year. However, some leagues do not begin aging minor league contracts until the minor leaguer is activated by his owner or loses minor league status under the MLB rookie rules outlined above. How your league approaches this can be critically important, as it can substantially impact your choices of who to freeze as minor leaguers.

4. Oddball rules. There are some oddball rules around, some of which I add interest to the game. One example is the rule which allows each owner, on the day of the auction, to waive any single player layers from his/her freeze list, without penalty. In other words, if you wind up regretting that freeze of Hanley Ramirez at $57, you can simply drop him back into the pool, adding a roster slot and some serious cash back to your auction arsenal. Other non-standard rules include “topper” rights. If your league uses these, make sure you know how they work and how they can help you best structure your freeze list. Does your league have any unusual rules that can help or hurt you?

5. Freeze deadlines and extensions. All too often I see owners who either do not know or simply forget the deadline for keeper lists. Things can come up at the last minute, but we can plan for contingencies by having our lists as finalized as possible in advance. Personally, I send the commissioner an email a few days before the freeze deadline saying that “subject to last minute changes, these are my freezes”. Should I be unconscious in a ditch, at least I will have submitted my keeper list. When is your league’s freeze date?

Bear in mind that the deadline for submitting keeper lists is usually the deadline for submitting contract extensions. This is sometimes forgotten in the excitement of getting those freezes in. Be aware, or you might find that your cheap superstar is playing out his option year for you when he should have been anchoring your team for at least another couple of years.

(While on the subject of extensions, let me briefly climb upon the soapbox. I think they are overused. Too often, owners fall in love with their players and sign them to huge long-term contracts. In most leagues, the extended contract salary begins immediately. So, that $10 stud you sign for three extra years becomes $25 for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Unless your guy is Babe Ruth reincarnate, hitting and pitching for you, such an extension would likely suck the profit right out of your guy, now and in future years. Plus, depending upon league rules, an extension like this could put you in a serious bind in the event of a sudden lack of effectiveness. I’ve been in leagues where dropping a player with a long-term contract reduced your auction budget by the amount of the contract, a harsh penalty indeed. So, my advice is to make sure you know all the rules on contract extensions, and to use them sparingly, enjoying your profits while you can.)

6. Keep working until the very end. A diligent owner will continue to explore ways to improve his/her freeze list until the last possible opportunity. The keys are hard work and persistence. For example, I start my serious work in January, assessing the player pool, analyzing the other team’s winter rosters, and projecting potential freeze lists for each team. This year, based upon built-in profit expectations, I found my own freeze list to rank well toward the bottom of the league. I had a lot of work to do. Starting in February, I began negotiating and finalizing trades, upgrading players and draft picks whenever possible. I made a total of 15 trades in seven weeks. How can that be done? We all know that different owners view players differently. This means a guy who is not a keeper for you may be just what another owner needs. But you have to get out there and do the legwork. In the old days, you had to negotiate all your trades by telephone. It’s easier today with email and instant messaging.

As a result of all this trading, I now have my maximum ten freezes plus two minor leaguers and some excellent draft picks. Only three of those twelve players were on my roster in January. It is now a team I believe to be much improved, and with a strong auction I should be in a position to contend.

Be persistent. Know what the other owner needs, and show him how the trade helps him. Pick up a better draft pick when you can. If you can avoid it, don’t do anything to strengthen a contender. Keep plugging until the end. My league’s keeper deadline is Friday night. And even though I‘m pretty sure I have my ten keepers, you can bet I‘ll be working the trade routes until the last minute, trying to pick up another draft pick or a better minor leaguer. Whatever the outcome, I‘ll know that I did everything I could to build the core of a competitive team…one that I‘ll have to live with for the next six months.

I hope something in here can help you, either this year or next, as you wind down to the freeze deadline in your keeper league. Not all of these suggestions are easy to follow, but all have been proven to be effective.

And now for something completely different….

DEAD TO ME. I kept seeing articles here and there talking about players who were designated as DTM. I had no idea what that meant. Finally my daughter explained the meaning: Dead To Me. This doesn‘t imply that you wish for harm to befall this person, merely that you finally refuse to acknowledge their very existence. Yet, somehow, you just can’t shake that fascination.

In fantasy baseball, there are a number of players who certainly would fit into that category, from back in the day until the present season. I guess my current King of DTM would have to be my old buddy, Alex Gordon. Truly, the man has been my nemesis for years, my Moriarty. How man times will he have to pull that football away at the last minute before I finally figure this out?

But hey, I hear he looks really good in Spring Training this year….

Want to vent? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section…who is dead to you? Who are the players you can’t avoid, but who continue to break your heart.

Well, that’s the article for this week. I hope you have enjoyed it, and hope that you enjoy the site. Jon puts an awful lot of work into AFB, so if it adds to your knowledge base or enjoyment of our hobby, be sure to tell your friends about us.

Good luck, and have fun!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The 2011 Fantasy Baseball All Sleeper Teams

posted by Jon Williams
The idea of sleepers is an out-dated one. However, it is a tremendous amount of fun for fantasy
owners to come up with players that seem under-rated based on a wide variety of circumstances. If you split those collectively thought as sleepers into groups based on what makes them interesting, you might come up with teams like these.

Easy Like Apple Pie

C Mike Napoli - He is finally with a team that appreciates his skills but be careful not to over estimate his playing time. He'll be the primary DH against left-handers (and he'll rock at that) but at-bats against righties could be tough to come by on a crowded Rangers roster.

C Matt Wieters - So few catchers have ever been dominate offensive players at Wieter's age that calling him a sleeper seems unfair. Like calling a teenager a potential adult, if you just wait a few years he'll probably get there.

1B Mitch Moreland - He's young but he's a fairly disciplined hitter that should hit for both average and power in the middle of a great lineup in a great park for hitters. Plus he won't cost nearly as much as the equivalent hitter with more experience. Would you rather have a $12 Moreland or a $23 Derrek Lee?

3B Pablo Sandoval - His confidence is soaring, he's in the best shape of his life and his new condition should guarantee that doesn't get benched for poor defense again.

CR Jerry Sands - He won't begin the season with the team but he's too much the powerful hitter the Dodgers need to stay in the minors the entire season. I'm betting he's up in May.

2B Sean Rodriguez - He does a little of everything, and the price is right to gamble on what he does with career high at-bats. Twenty homers and a few steals would fit nicely on my teams.

SS Jose Reyes - He's healthy again, he's playing for a new contract with a manager who values him for what he does, rather than what he might do. That is to say watch him steal 70 bases in 2011.

MI Gordon Beckham - His potential is just too high to give up on. Plus, the White Sox rushed him a bit anyway, so the slump was something not very difficult to fortell.

OF Jason Heyward - If he stays on the field (and healthy while doing so) for 550-600 at-bats, he's a potential 2011 MVP.

OF Mike Stanton - This is your next National League Homerun King. If you're worried that he won't hit for average you haven't been watching closely enough.

OF Dexter Fowler - He has all the tools and the developing skills to explode on the scene a lot like teammate Carlos Gonzalez did in 2010. Now he needs a cool nickname, De-Fowl? De-Ler? Dexter is a serial killer to me now...

OF Jay Bruce - Bruce hit .338/.418/.700 during August-October. Bruce hit 15 HR in his final 35 games. Bruce is coming around.

UTL Manny Ramirez - With Manny it is all about health and motivation. He seems motivated to keep his career going. He the opportunity, now he just needs to go do it. Are you really betting against him?

SP Shawn Marcum - He proved last season that he was fully recovered from elbow surgery. This season he gets not only the bump from moving from the American League to the National League, but a bump from the AL-East to the NL-Central. He is my pitcher to get in NL-only Leagues this season.

Or he was, until this came up:
Shaun Marcum left his start on Wednesday because of shoulder tightness, and while Marcum downplayed what he felt, his manager sounds concerned. From Andrew Gruman's story: "There is definitely concern there," said [Ron] Roenicke. "His neck bothered him the last couple of days and when he went out there today, he thought it was the neck. I don't know if he was overcompensating, I don't know. We're in a tough spot if he's down for a while." One evaluator who saw Marcum's start on Thursday clocked his fastball at 86 mph. Not a good sign. Marcum has never been a power pitcher, but what concerns evaluators who have seen him this spring, beyond the velocity, is the quality of his fastball. Hopefully for the Brewers and for Marcum, he'll get better as he goes along.
SP Matt Garza - Garza gets the same bumps as Marcum but a lot of analysts seem to feel he'll be hurt by Wrigley Field (at least the ones that don't just think he's overrated do). I think what he gains in the switch (like facing pitchers instead of David Ortiz, Adam Lind, Jorge Posada and Vladimir Guerrero) will more than make up for a few extra homers allowed due to park factors.

SP Edison Volquez - The ace the Reds are looking for isn't Homer Bailey or even Aroldis Chapman. What you're hoping is that your league mates pay too much attention his control numbers in 2010. We know his control is better than that, he had quite a bit of bad luck, the statistical kind and the regular kind. I think he's ready to step up big time with a contending team at his back.

SP Jonathan Sanchez - Slow and steady progress isn't as exciting as the big splash but you can often get it cheaper. He's definitely going to pitch better in 2011, but he may not be as fortunate with his BABIP, so be cautious in bidding.

SP Phil Hughes - All he needs is to get his confidence back with his change-up and he becomes a top 20 pitcher without a single doubt. That's the pitch he's been working on all Spring Training. It's gonna happen.

SP Daniel Hudson - He had an amazing second half, Hudson may not be an "ace" but he is damn good. He and Mr. Kennedy will put the D'backs back in contention.

RP Frank Francisco - The favorite for saves in Toronto. His only problem has been staying healthy. He does not have the platoon problems that the other candidates for the job have.

RP J.J. Putz - The new closer in Arizona. Don't let the injuries and non-closer season get you down on Putz. He's as good as they come when healthy.

RP Drew Storen - This great young pitcher surrounded by solid bullpen talent should be able to thrive as the Nationals new closer. He isn't being drafted very high so he makes a great later rounds saves grab. Forget his spring numbers, he'll be fine.


An Apple a Day

C Jarod Saltalamaccia - Yes he has had his struggles but most of them were health related. He has his confidence back and a major opportunity. He's going to smash this season if he stays on the field.

C Russell Martin - He looks healthy so far. That doesn't necessarily mean his bat will bounce back but if he can return to hitting for average even with reduced power, he'll be one of the better catchers in the American League.

1B Derrek Lee - If the back isn't cranky,and the hand problem isn't serious, Lee is going to love Camden Yards which gives a giant homer assist to right-handed batters. That boost should help minimize the effects of aging on this classy slugger.

3B Chipper Jones - Some injury prone guys you just give up on drafting. But Chipper has always been different. He wants to contribute so bad and is still quite a hitter when healthy. It makes you wish the Braves were in the American League.

CR Lance Berkman - He is in better shape but the outfield will still be a challenge for him at this point.But as long as his legs are solid, I expect to see a resurgence in his bat.

2B Brian Roberts - Back problems are scary. When I originally placed him on this list it looked like he was coming into the season strong. Now I'm a bit more worried but I'll still take him his present discount.

SS Jose Reyes - He's healthy again, he's playing for a new contract with a manager who values him for what he does, rather than what he might do. That is to say watch him steal 70 bases in 2011.

MI J.J. Hardy - Hardy is not an ideal choice in H2H leagues because he is as streaky as they come. But with health and a favorable new park come 20 homers.

OF Grady Sizemore - You cannot risk drafting him as a top 30 outfielder as some have been doing. But if you get him in the pick 100-120 area I think you'll be happy with the return even if it isn't quite the long dreamed of 30/30 season.

OF Carlos Beltran - I thought he was comingback healthy this season but he is not bouncing back quite as well as hoped. Part of it is probably the Mets and Beltran being cautious. But at some point he needs to prove he can play, then my early Beltran picks in mock drafts will be justified. (Are you watching Justified on FX? A great show.)

OF Jacoby Ellsbury - A potential 70 steal guy, before the injuries. He has looked fantastic this spring.

OF Justin Upton - He was held back by a sore shoulder for most of the 2010 season. With health and good fortune I see an explosion coming, similar to Ken Griffey, Junior, after his 1992 season. Look it up, kids.

UTL Mark DeRosa - He should play multiple positions for the Giants this season. He has a way to go before he has proven he can return to his former production levels but at his ADP, I don't think it will be a problem.

SP Brandon Webb - He won't start the season with his former Cy Young form completely intact. He is healthy, but re-gaining his mechanics will take a while. He is best drafted if you have the ability to reserve him in April and May while he gets his mojo back.

SP Jordan Zimmerman - Tommy John Surgery is not quite the problem it used to be for pitchers (and their fantasy owners). Players used to need 18-24 months to fully recover both physically and to re-gain effectiveness. That has been trending closer to 12-14 months of late.

SP Jake Peavy - He sure looks healthy to me this Spring Training. I've cautioned against high expectations with Peavy but he should remain a top American League starting pitcher.

SP Josh Beckett - Josh gives owners a lot to think about. I still have a mild fear that he remains the keeper of a secret injury. The reduction in fastball velocity followed by the reduction in use of the fastball. Could an injury be the cause? But he was also unlucky in 2010, and even if he pitches basically the same, better luck would make him a decent starter in AL-only leagues. Then there's that blow to the head...

RP Huston Street - Okay, so he's a little on the fragile side. But he does his rehab and comes back strong every time. When he stops bouncing back I'll stop drafting him.

RP Joe Nathan - Tommy John Surgery just isn't the problem it used to be. These days a guy returns in 12-14 months and he's stronger than ever.


Teach A Man to Fish...

C Derek Norris - Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores are all in his way but Norris is the one who be guiding the Nationals pitching staff when they are ready to win. He'll prove that this season. He has the best bat of the bunch (by far) and though he has areas to improve defensively, throwing out 50 percent of potential basestealers will win you a ton of leeway.

C Robinson Chirinos - If nothing else he is more interesting than John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. The Rays like him a lot, the Tampa Bay bloggers like him a lot and PECOTA likes him a lot. Here's a clip from TheProcessReport.com (one of the better Rays blogs out there):
So, imagine my delight when PECOTA projects a rather solid line for Chirinos right out of the chute: .261/.369/.455. That’s pretty good from any position, but catcher? Forget about it, consider that Prospectus has the league average catcher at .248/.321/.379 last season, leaving Chirinos with at least a .013 point advantage across the board. Impressive stuff, except some parts of this post are lies.

Prospectus does not have Chirinos projected at .261/.369/.455; Prospectus has Chirinos projected at .276/.360/.471. Even better – so why the deceit? Because the line everyone, from you to me to your mother would have taken from Chirinos belongs to someone hated in the fan base – Kelly Shoppach – and it’s not a projection, but rather how he hit left-handers last season. Folks are so quick to dismiss Shoppach from the roster for flavor of the month candidates like Jose Lobaton and Nevin Ashley that they forget Shoppach has utility to this roster and provided value last season.


1B Dan Johnson - Remember him? I'll let TPR take the lead again:
According to the research of Jason Hanselman of Dock of The Rays, Johnson’s expected BABIP (xBABIP) should have been right around the league average at .301. That equates to 13 extra hits and an expected slash line of .311/.432/.527. Even the biggest Johnson supporters would say that line is extremely optimistic, but keep in mind we’re talking about a small sample size of 40 games. The point is, even if Johnson’s 2011 BABIP is in the neighborhood of .250-.260, his batting average will improve and so will his already admirable on-base percentage.


3B Ian Stewart - It seems like he's been around forever but he is just 25 years old. He is finally feeling his job threatened and it seems to be exactly the motivation he needed. Stewart has been more vocal in the clubhouse and is putting up a fight for his job. He is working with hitting coach Carney Lansford on a slight alteration to his stance against lefties and on using the entire field rather than the pull-heavy style he has used in recent years. The potential is there and now the motivation is too.

CR Brett Wallace - A lot of teams are going to regret giving up on Brett Wallace so soon. He was a great hitter in college and a great prospect for the Cardinals, then after a year of being shuffled about we're shocked he lost his swing mechanics for a minute and struggled in an unexpected Major League debut? He's kicking ass this Spring, especially relative to the other Astros hitters.

2B Ryan Raburn - He is finally getting the playing time he'll need to make a serious impact on your fantasy team. Seriously, 30 homers (an increasingly rare feat) is a real possibility.

SS Alcides Escobar - Once the favored prospect of the Brewers, he was gonna be the base-stealing, gold glove shortstop of the next decade. Instead he is a Kansas City Royal. All that stuff he was gonna do for the Brewers? He'll just be doing it for the Royals' soon-to-be loaded and contending team.

MI Jed Lowrie - He is a better shortstop than Marcos Scutaro in almost every way, but Terry Francona is a loyal guy and he'll force Lowrie to fight for every at-bat and prove he deserves to play.

OF Logan Morrison - He has more power than early drafters seem to believe. He is only going to get better over the next few seasons. Even now he should hit for average with decent power and score a bunch of runs batting in front of Mike Stanton and Gaby Sanchez.

OF Carlos Gomez - Yeah, he's hitting .400 this spring. Sometimes it just takes time, sometimes it takes tough love, sometimes you just need people to think Lorenzo Cain is better than you.

OF Roger Bernadina - He is fighting for a starting outfield spot with the Nationals. Draft him whether he wins or loses. The Rick Ankiel and Nyjer Morgan types can't block him for much longer. He'll provide power and speed even as a bench guy.

UTL Juan Miranda - It looks like Russell Branyan will win the first base job. That is very understandable for a team that wants to win games now. I still back Miranda as a decent sleeper because the Diamondbacks have a gaping hole in left field, where Miranda can also play (if not particularly well. But he has a left field bat, which is more than you can say for most of the other candidates.

SP Craig Stammen - A strong groundball rate, a strong swinging strike rate that suggests his K-rate will rebound to levels closer to those on his minor league resume. And he'll be available so cheaply, you can't lose.

SP Carlos Carrasco - It seems like he's been around forever. He is just 24-years old. Analysts have debated for a few ears about his upside, mid-rotation or potential ace. He'll show us which this season, either way the price is right for acquiring him.

SP James McDonald - The Dodgers of the last few years give up on guys far too quickly. McDonald struggled a bit but he never got the chance to adjust. Now the Pirates will reap the benefits.

SP Phil Coke -When a guy gets moved from starting to relieving early in his career, we often forget how successful he was in his former role. Coke isn't a superstar but he's going to be a solid rotation guy.

SP Gio Gonzalez - A friend of mine has lost his mind trying to add Gio Gonzalez in every league. He's absolutely positive he is the next big breakout pitcher. He did have an amazing second half of the season. Gonzalez is also having a very nice Spring Training.

SP Brian Matusz - Matusz is a future ace. There no denying it. Do what you can to acquire him now. He's heating up this spring the way he did in the second half last season.

SP Max Scherzer - After his brief demotion, Scherzer posted a 2.46 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning over his final 23 starts. That's one of the best pitchers in baseball for almost two thirds of the season.

RP Ryan Webb - He has the stuff to close. I've always hated Leo Nunez.

RP Kenley Jansen - He's a middle reliever you want on your pitching staff. He'll help your pitching staff (especially in strikeouts) more than a lot of starters would.



RP Johnny Venters - The man who should be closing for the Braves, he has the strikeout rate plus the control the other guy struggles with.

RP Evan Meek - The man who should be closing for the Pirates, he has the strikeout rate plus the control the other guy struggles with.

Its Not Where You're From...

C Hank Conger - As the only catcher the Angels have, who knows how to use a baseball bat, Conger is bound to get playing time. He can hit but he's still a rookie so don't overbid.

C Jonathan Lecroy - He'll miss four weeks with a finger fracture but he is still the starting catcher. He can hit a little too. He'll be a great one dollar catcher in 2011.

1B Adam Dunn - One of the best sluggers in baseball is moving from an National League pitchers' park to one of the best homer parks in the American League. Fifty homers is not out of the question.

3B Edwin Encarnacion - His potential is immense. Imagine he starts taking to the same coaching Jose Bautista starting to use the last couple of years? I have a hunch this could be the year. He's been sufficiently humbled.

CR Carlos Pena - It was a big portion of bad luck for a guy who has a small margin for error. He should rebound this season with the Cubs who have a ballpark he should enjoy mashing within.

2B Chris Getz - You don't need every guy to be a hall of famer. You just need guys that will produce more than their cost to you. Getz will hit a few homers and steal some bases. He may even qualify at multiple positions.

SS Luis Cruz - It is very anti-sabremetrics of me to admit this, but I think Yuniesky Betancourt has been underrated, and even abused by the pro-Advanced Stat crowd. Sure, he isn't a great player but he gets ground into the dirt whenever his name is mentioned. It's a little much. But if the Brewers get sick of Betancourt's mediocre defense and his inconsistent bat, Luis Cruz is ready and raring to go. He tore up the winter leagues, don't take my word for it, go look it up.

MI Omar Infante - No, he doesn't really rank as an All-Star but he is a solid player about to get a career high number of at-bats. That usually equals career high stats for the talented guys and Infante is a talented guy. Plus, he's one of those guys that just looks like a Baseball Player.

OF Jay Gibbons - A once solid bat, that is probably out of place as a starter. It looks like Marcus Thames and Tony Gwynn are going to take a lot of at-bats from him. But for a buck or two, in a deep NL-only, he could be useful.

OF Rajai Davis - He hits for average, he steals a ton of bases and he'll score a mega-ton of runs. Don't get all down on him because of his on-base percentage, that probably doesn't matter in your league anyway.

OF Jordan Schafer - He's back, he's healthy and swinging the bat as he did a few years back. As soon as an opening presents itself he'll be the best fifth outfielder you've ever owned.

OF David Murphy - Because of the Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli acquisitions, Murphy will be sitting a little more than usual at the start of the season. But with Josh Hamilton fragile, Nelson Cruz fragile, and Julio Borbon inconsistent thus far - Murphy will get his at-bats.

SP Aaron Harang - Once upon a time owners actually wanted to draft Harang. He was a fairly effective pitcher with a decent strikeout rate. Then he ran into Dusty Baker and an unfavorable ballpark and everything went to hell. Now he has a manager used to coddling fragile arms and the best pitching park in the game.

SP Jeff Francis - The former ace of the Rockies has had some rough times of late, mostly due to injuries but seems healthy now, if not quite what he was once projected to be. He still has some stuff and a mind that knows how to use that stuff, and a ballpark stingy with homeruns.

SP Chris Young - See Jeff Francis, but change Rockies to Padres.

SP Kyle McClellan - They keep calling him the fifth starter for the Cardinals, but he won't be at the end of the season. Then they'll be calling him ace.

SP Mark Rzepczynski - With a new manager in place, a pitching oriented one, Rzepczynski has a chance to win a spot in the rotation again, or at least become a regular in the bullpen. Either way, I expect him to be very useful in AL-only leagues.

RP Joel Peralta - Someone has to get saves in Tampa Bay, it may as well be Peralta. If nothing else he's the cheapest of the guys projected to be part of the time-share.

RP Henry Rodriguez - I just like guys that can sling in 100mph in bullpens with closers I don't like.

RP Matt Belisle - He is not flashy but he is effective and in a bullpen with weaknesses.

RP Jordan Walden - He is the future closer of the Angels. Get him now.

RP Jesse Crain - If Thornton chokes on the big job, this guy rather than Sale just might be the answer.


Flying Pigs in a Wintery Hell

C Brayan Pena - The Royals would rather start broken down Jason Kendall.

C Jason Castro - He finally has a complete opportunity in his grasp and he gets hurt again.

1B Jason Giambi - He can still hit a ton of homeruns. If Todd Helton goes down again...

3B Jose Lopez - Everyone except the Rockies management apparently, would rather see Eric Young Jr. win the second base job this season.

CR Dallas McPherson - The White Sox may actually keep him on their bench this season. Maybe he'll put some at-bats together.

2B Luis Hernandez - He may have gotten some press as a possibility for the Mets but it will never happen.

SS Eric Farris - A toolsy possibility should the Brewers get sick of their mediocre and injury-prone middle infielders.

OF Carlos Gomez - Sure he has yet to show much potential in the majors but it's in there somewhere. Maybe the great spring is a sign.

OF Matt Joyce - The Rays traded for him and then they let him sit around for a while. But apparently he'll get serious play this season. In that case, you want him.

OF Johnny Damon - He'll keep Desmond Jennings down on the farm all season. No better reason for resentment than that.

SP Zack Duke - He depends on defense and the Pirates gave him none last season.

SP Scott Olsen - He's not even close to what he was maybe with a team like the Pirates he can accept that.

SP Paul Maholm - See Zack Duke.

SP Esmil Rogers - He gets the strikeouts and the groundballs, he just needs to have some BABIP luck, or stop allowing so many linedrives, either one. Looks like he has a spot in the rotation all sewed up.

SP Shawn Hill - He is always hurt, but when healthy he can be an effective starter.

RP Dontrelle Willis - His spring started off okay, but this is probably the last shot for Willis.

RP Fernando Rodney - He'll get saves but his ratio stats will suck.

Built-In Resentment

C Chris Ianetta - This is clearly Ianetta's last opportunity to prove himself with the Rockies. According to Denver Post columnist Troy Renck, minor-league catching prospect Jordan Pacheco has impressed veterans with his plate discipline and understanding of his swing. He says there are some in the organization that believe he can hit big-league pitching this season.

C Matt Wieters - In a lot of keeper leagues, Wieters owners have to decide before the season starts whether he deserves a contract extension or not. Prediction: Wieters will be available in a lot of drafts in 2012.

1B Kila Ka'aihue - In this case the resentment isn't ours. It comes from Royals GM Dayton Moore who hates that the power and average providing Ka'aihue has forced himself into the big league picture. He's also hated by those that need to spell his name.

3B Brandon Wood - Now that no one cares, he's absolutely positive to produce great numbers for a shortstop/third baseman.

CR Andy Marte - The Pirates are the latest team to give him a look.

2B Ben Zobrist - There is a guy in one of my leagues that could have traded his one dollar Zobrist for almost anything, but he held on to him. He thought the power was for real (so did I ) but it hasn't worked out so well so far.

SS Drew Sutton - A disciplined player in the Ben Zobrist class of hitters. He could start the season with the Red Sox. he won't get many at-bats but if an injury happens he could have use in AL-only.

MI Robert Andino - With J.J. Hardy injury-prone and Cedeno without a bat, Andino might be the best offensive option at short the Orioles have, at least at times during the season.

OF Felix Pie - The baseball gods just won't give Pie a break. When hBolde plays well he either gets hurt or is then stuck on the bench behind a more proven player. He has not played well from the bench in his career but he says he's better prepared for that role this season.

OF Nate McClouth - He's back. No one knows where he went but 20/20 is once again a possibility.

OF Jeff Francouer - He is in a very comfortable situation. A coaching staff he's familiar with and an upper management that has faith in him. He has been put into a leadership role on a very young team. I have a hunch he has a decent season. But I won't pay more than a buck or two.

OF Alex Gordon - Judging by his Spring Training numbers he really wants to play on your team this season. Will you let him?

OF Julio Borbon - Many owners were disappointed by Borbon in 2010. But giving up on him is probably a mistake. He has the talent to be a top fantasy outfielder.

UTL David Ortiz - Something his slow starts the last couple of seasons has seen his stock drop dramatically in early drafts this season. I think he has another great season in him, especially surrounded by so much talent on the Red Sox.

SP A.J. Burnett - He's had a great spring and he has all the talent in the world. However, he tends to let us down.

SP Javier Vasquez - Except for those years with the Expos (doesn't that seem like a million years ago) and that one season with the Braves, he's been disappointing. He might be a solid pitcher this season but if you pay for more than that I name you sucker.

SP Oliver Perez - Maybe he can find a team that won't trash his mechanics and then release him when he loses velocity. Harold Reynolds agrees.

SP Joel Pinero - He's never quite as good as we hope.

SP Jason Hammel - Hammel tends to struggle with men on base. Probably because he gets hammered when pitching out of the stretch. However until those base runners get on he is a pretty good pitcher.

RP Joba Chamberlain - He's got his velocity back. Makes a huge difference. The oblique injury is just annoying.

RP Wilton Lopez - He pitches for that Astros, but I like him. I like him quite a but actually.

OFF THE BENCH

C Bobby Wilson - The Angels are obsessed with defense and Bobby Wilson may be the only possibility that can provide a great defensive presence and not be a complete zero with the bat.

C Jake Fox - At the time of this writing, Fox was leading the majors in Spring Training homers and RBI. He could always hit, he just needs a position to play and the opportunity to get 400 or so at-bats. Buck Showalter might be the man to give it to him. If he gets 20-30 starts at catcher that would really rock.

1B Chris Davis - Every season he puts on a late season homer display and looks like the second coming in Spring Training.The question is always, is this the year? In 806 at-bats, Davis has 39 homers, which isn't too bad, it is the 278 strikeouts in that same period that kills him.

3B Eric Chavez - He's healthy and playing quite a bit in Spring Training. Damn, he used to be good. One of the best actually.

CR Jorge Vazquez - This big guy can hit. Only Eric Chavez is standing in his way. Chavez is bound to get hurt doing that.

2B Josh Barfield - He probably just lost a nice role to Luis Castillo.

SS Eduardo Nunez - Look him up, he's better than you think. He'll be stealing some bases for the Yankees this season.

MI Scott Sizemore - The Tigers were willing to call him the starter at second last year before Spring Training even started. They'll find a place for him this season.

OF Marcus Thames - He should play quite a bit with Gibbons considered the full time left fielder. Thames has stupid power.

OF Alejandro De Aza - He'll steal some bases, no matter what.

OF Mike Morse - He could always hit, he's just never been given the opportunity to put 500 at-bats together as a starter. He might win a starting role this spring, either way he's going to play this season, a lot.

OF Tony Gwynn Jr. - The Dodgers would be very happy if Gwynn won their center field job and pushed Kemp to left field. He's having a great spring, maybe the combination of Daddy and Donnie Baseball has got everything finally clicking. At worst you'll still collect a couple dozen steals.

UTL Mark Trumbo - He'll man first base while Kendry Morales is on the disabled list.

Rookie of the Year Candidates

C Carlos Santana - He does everything and he's a catcher. Bold Statement: Forget Buster Posey, this is your man. You're gonna love him.

C Jesus Montero - There is some doubt out there bout whether Montero can remain at the catcher position but it isn't coming from the higher ups in the Yankees organization. Mark Newman admitted to John Sickels that there was a point when Montero was indeed a bad catcher. However, he has worked very hard to learn the position and Newman believes he can be average at the position. With this guy's bat that is more than good enough, and fantastic news for Montero owners. And yes, he can play from the bench.

1B Brandon Belt - His excellent bat control and great coaching has helped him shoot through the Giants system. He may never return to the minors.

3B Lonnie Chisenhall - The cheapskate Indians just sent him back to the minors to save a few bucks but he'll be back really soon. He isn't Mike Schmidt but he should hit for average and power.

CR Mike Moustakas - Okay, he might be Mike Schmidt.

2B Jason Kipnis - The Indians are loaded with great talent again. Kipnis is another that could be playing for the tribe right now. Hopefully the Indians don't screw it up again.

SS Danny Espinosa - A potential 20/20 shortstop is definitely somthing we fantasy guys like to see. His batting average may not impress but it shouldn't kill you unless you have other BA-less players keeping you down.

MI Brett Lawrie - He has a solid chance to skip Triple-A ans start the season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

OF Domonic Brown - The broken hand may end up being the best thing to happen to Domonic Brown. Rather than face the pressure of winning a spot he can relax, rehab and then get a call-up after tearing up the minors for a few weeks more. It's all good.

OF Eric Thames - A toolsy outfield prospect for the Blue Jays. If Travis Snider fails to make it happen you could see him mid-season.

OF Brett Jackson - Blocked in the Cubs outfield for now. I love his bat and feel he's slightly underrated. Probably because he's a Cub.

OF Trayvon Robinson - He's a bit raw but has potential superstar written all over him. A faster Matt Kemp is my comparison.

OF Will Myers - If he was remaining a catcher for reals, he might be the number one prospect in baseball. Hell have to settle for top ten.

UTL Eric Hosmer - The 2011 Baseball Prospectus called him Batman. What else do you need to know?

SP Zach Britton - My favorite pitching prospect, an extreme groundball guy with a knack for striking guys out. It looks like he'll make the team out of spring training.

SP Michael Pineda - Pineda has the strikeouts and control to be on a bunch of sleeper lists. But the topper for me is the ability to also induce groundballs. No, I can't say it enough.

SP Jeremy Hellickson - Everyone loves him, he'll probably be over priced.

SP Kyle Drabek - Son of Doug and a future ace on his own merits.

SP Mike Minor - Picked because he would move quickly through the system, he turned out to be better than even the Braves expected.

SP Ivan Nova - Ivan Nova was 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 23 Triple-A starts in 2010. He is one of many young Yankees having a great Spring Training.

SP Mark Rogers - He has the stuff when healthy. It used to be better stuff but it's still plenty good. He won't begin the season with the big league team because he's been slow stretching out, but he'll be up soon if all goes well.

RP Jake McGee - He's begging to close, so far Joe Maddon is ignoring him.

RP Chris Sale - He won't get the first shot at the closer role but he should still have great stats. Just don't pay too much.

RP Craig Kimbrel - The new close for the Braves. You can't ignore the strikeout rate, he should be an exciting pitcher to own.

RP Aroldis Chapman - He won't close this year and he isn't likely to start either but he has the stuff for either job. The starting would take some time, the closing he's ready to do now.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Adventure of Juan Carlos Linares

posted by Jon Williams
He has received much attention since defecting to the United States but he was a star in Cuba and could advance to the Major League Red Sox in a hurry. He had a very good Arizona Fall League season and followed that with a nice Spring Training. He's a nice sleeper for your minor league draft but has only played a few games in the minor leagues so don't over pay.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Looking for 2011 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers?

posted by Jon Williams
Are you looking for sleepers for your fantasy league draft? You've come to the right place. Today I present (yes, as a tease) just the first of the eight teams of sleepers in the annual All Sleeper Teams article. The rest should be up tonight (please please please...)

Let the name of the team be your guide.

Easy Like Apple Pie


C Mike Napoli - He is finally with a team that appreciates his skills but be careful not to over estimate his playing time. He'll be the primary DH against left-handers (and he'll rock at that) but at-bats against righties could be tough to come by.

C Matt Wieters - So few catchers have ever been dominate offensive players at Wieter's age that calling him a sleeper seems unfair. Like calling a teenager a potential adult, if you just wait a few years he'll probably get there.

1B Mitch Moreland - He's young but he's a fairly disciplined hitter that should hit for both average and power in the middle of a great lineup in a great park for hitters. Plus he won't cost nearly as much as the equivalent hitter with more experience. Would you rather have a $12 Moreland or a $23 Derrek Lee?

3B Pablo Sandoval - His confidence is soaring, he's in the best shape of his life and his new condition should ensure that doesn't get benched for poor defense again.

CR Jerry Sands - He won't begin the season with the team but he's too much the powerful hitter the Dodgers need to stay in the minors the entire season. I'm betting he's up in May.

2B Sean Rodriguez - He does a little of everything, and the price is right to gamble on what he does with career high at-bats.

SS Jose Reyes - He's healthy again, he's playing for a new contract with a manager who values him for what he does, rather than what he might do. That is to say watch him steal 70 bases in 2011.

MI Gordon Beckham - His potential is just too high to give up on. Plus, the White Sox rushed him a bit anyway, so the slump was something not very difficult to fortell.

OF Jason Heyward - If he stays on the field (and healthy while doing so) for 550-600 at-bats, he's a potential 2011 MVP.

OF Mike Stanton - This is your next National League Homerun King. If you're worried that he won't hit for average you haven't been watching closely enough.

OF Dexter Fowler - He has all the tools and the developing skills to explode on the scene a lot like teammate Carlos Gonzalez did in 2010. Now he needs a cool nickname, De-Fowl? De-Ler? Dexter is a serial killer to me now...

OF Jay Bruce - Bruce hit .338/.418/.700 during August-October. Bruce hit 15 HR in his final 35 games. Bruce is coming around.

UTL Manny Ramirez - With Manny it is all about health and motivation. He seems motivated to keep his career going. He the opportunity, now he just needs to go do it. Are you really betting against him?

SP Shawn Marcum - He proved last season that he was fully recovered from elbow surgery. This season he gets not only the bump from moving from the American League to the National League, but a bump from the AL-East to the NL-Central. He is my pitcher to get in NL-only Leagues this season.

SP Matt Garza - Garza gets the same bumps as Marcum but a lot of analysts seem to feel he'll be hurt by Wrigley Field (at least the ones that don't just think he's overrated do). I think what he gains in the switch (like facing pitchers instead of David Ortiz, Adam Lind, Jorge Posada and Vladimir Guerrero) will more than make up for a few extra homers allowed due to park factors.

SP Edison Volquez - He is the ace the Reds have been looking for. He'll prove it this season.

SP Jonathan Sanchez - I just love all those strikeouts. He's jumping up a level this season.

SP Phil Hughes - The Little Rocket (so named by Jason Giambi) takes off this season.

SP Daniel Hudson - He had an amazing second half, Hudson may not be an "ace" but he is damn good. He and Mr. Kennedy will put the D'backs back in contention.

RP Frank Francisco - The favorite for saves in Toronto. His only problem has been staying healthy. He does not have the platoon problems that the other candidates for the job have.
Bold
RP J.J. Putz - The new closer in Arizona. Don't let the injuries and non-closer season get you down on Putz. He's as good as they come when healthy.

RP Drew Storen - This great young pitcher surrounded by solid bullpen talent should be able to thrive as the Nationals new closer. He isn't being drafted very high so he makes a great later round saves grab.

Wait until you see the rest of the teams. You will LOVE it.

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Wiggy, Lewis lead NL-only 'Deep Picks'

posted by Pauly
Just to re-introduce myself to the blog, my name is Pauly…I infrequently contributed to Advanced Fantasy Baseball during last season. This year, I am planning a weekly feature, “Pauly’s Pickup of the Week,” which will highlight one hitter and one pitcher each week who should (or will become) a universal legit pickup in fantasy baseball.

As I’m sure you know, in-season pickups can be the difference between contending and bringing up the rear. Last year, for instance, I picked up Jose Bautista in week 2 of the season in one league and week 3 of the season in the other. Needless to say, we all know he made a significant impact :) So look for Pauly’s Pickup of the Week every Friday morning once the season starts.

As for your draft prep…I don’t want to contribute to the glut of projections for top-line players out there. You know where to find that stuff. However, most of these draft previews don’t include deep picks.

Deep picks…those of use in “only” leagues are mostly familiar with the concept of trying to find a very cheap end-game player either as the last pick in your draft; the cheapest pick of your draft; or for reserve drafts. If you are in a deep NL-only, this column may be for you…it’s a list of players who will not be in an opening day lineup this season, but will see enough at-bats to contribute to your fantasy team as a cheap plug-in. There may be quite a few teams picking at least one player from this list – mainly every team that drafts Albert Pujols – meaning they are likely using the “Stars & Scrubs” strategy discussed by Jon earlier this week.

Here are my top 10 NL-only deep picks on offense:

1. Tyler Colvin (OF - CHC): OK, Colvin isn't sneaking up on anybody after hitting 20 HR in 135 games last season. But the bottom line is that he is the Cubs' fourth outfielder right now, and barring injury, he will be riding pine when the first pitch is thrown on opening day. The fact that he isn't starting should push his ADP and auction value down (assuming he wasn't kept), and those HR may come at a bargain in 2011. The rest of the players on this list fall more into the endgame.

2. Ty Wigginton (1B 2B 3B – COL): Heading into the season, Wigginton is likely backing up Todd Helton at first base, Jose Lopez at second base and Ian Stewart at third base. Stewart just returned to spring action on Wednesday, but assuming he is OK for opening day, that means Wigginton will be taking on the “super sub” role in Colorado…and that means a lot of at-bats this season. Wiggy has shown over and over that he can produce with ABs (22 HR last season in 581), and besides, is anyone really counting on Helton to stay healthy? One caveat is because of Wigginton’s elevated numbers last season, he may not be an end-game pick, but if your league mates only pay for starting players, you will get a bargain here.

3. Fred Lewis (OF – CIN): Dusty Baker doesn’t have a pure leadoff hitter in his starting lineup. He says he is going to use Drew Stubbs there for the most part, but let’s face it – it’s an experiment. Lewis, the only pure leadoff hitter on the team, happens to back up every OF position in Cincy. That means as soon as Jonny Gomes starts slumping or Jay Bruce hurts a fingernail, Lewis is leading off. That means the potential for an easy 60-plus runs scored and 15-plus stolen bases. He can legitimately challenge for best OF option on this list.

4. Jason Michaels (OF – HOU): The Astros are a bit of a depth chart mess right now because it is hard to predict what is going to happen with Brett Wallace. As it is right now, Michaels is the universal OF backup in Houston. If Wallace struggles like he did during his cup ‘o coffee last season (.222/.296/319), it will open the door for a lot of playing time for Michaels. Carlos Lee would move to first base and Michaels would become the starting left fielder. If that happens, I wouldn’t expect the world from Michaels, but for a dollar I’d take the shot that he can hit 10 HR and live up to his career .270 average.

5. Daniel Murphy (1B – NYM): Murphy is challenging Luis Castillo for the second base job in New York. Assuming he comes up short, Murphy will still be an excellent source of ABs over the course of the season. I mean how many of us can see Castillo (who did nothing in half a season last year) holding down that job for any extended period? Murphy is coming off a torn MCL which forced him to miss last season – and a chance to compete for the 1B job in NY – but he hit 12 HR in 155 ABs in 2009 and should see more ABs than that this season backing up Castillo and Ike Davis at first.

6. Jerry Hairston Jr. (2B SS – WAS): Hairston will back up Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond up the middle for the Nationals. You have to figure he gets a lot of ABs backing up such a young duo. Last year in San Diego, Hairston put up 10 HR and 9 SB in 430 ABs before suffering a stress fracture in his leg in September. He started 105 games at five different positions (second, short, third, left and right) and six different spots in the batting order. Expect the same in Washington.

7. Jorge Cantu (SD): Cantu backs up both corners (Chase Headley and Brad Hawpe) in San Diego. He has the potential to catch fire and provide you with a month or two of really good production. Just look at his numbers in April last season – he hit .311 with 5 HR and 23 RBI. So the potential is there…the question is, when will it happen? My guess is Cantu will be solid in the first half again this season, and you can expect 10-15 HR over the long haul – not bad for a buck.

8. Jon Jay (OF – STL): Jay was actually a popular late-season pickup last year after posting a .300/.359/.422 line in 105 games. While he hasn’t shown a ton of power or speed, he will hit you a few homers and steal you a few bases – all while keeping his averages respectable. With Lance Berkman in right field for St. Louis, you can expect Jay to see regular action late in games this season.

9 & 10. Mike Fontenot & Mark DeRosa (2B / OF – SF): Both of these guys are coming off down years (which makes them really cheap), and both of them should see a bunch of ABs – at least in the early going – this season. Fontenot will back up all the infield positions in San Francisco outside of catcher; and DeRosa will see plenty of time in the OF and could see time at 3B. With starting second baseman Freddy Sanchez coming off a 111-game season, and Miguel Tejada at SS, there should be plenty of opportunity for Fontenot to thrive in the “super sub” role. He hit 9 HR in back-to-back seasons for Chicago before he struggled last season. DeRosa, who hit 23 HR in 2009 but played in only 26 games last season and had a second wrist surgery – will platoon with Pat Burrell.

Hey I didn’t say these guys didn’t carry any risk :)

See you next week for NL draft day pitching bargains.

-Pauly
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TENTATIVE FREEZE LISTS AND THE RESERVE DRAFT

posted by Scootron
This week I'm offering up an idea to help get those last minute trades rolling, plus a look at how to make your post-auction reserve draft a success.

Tentative Freeze Lists. This is an exercise I always try to initiate in any league I am in, at least two to three weeks before freezes are due. You simply invite every owner to post a non-binding list of his anticipated freezes, and you start off by proposing your own. Most owners will respond favorably to this, even if they are not yet certain as to which players they want to freeze.

The exercise doesn’t always provide a great deal of information. If you’ve done your homework you should have already projected most of the freezes. But frequently an owner will list a keeper you didn't expect, or will indicate an intention to drop a certain player who appeals to you. Accordingly, the exercise can serve some very important interests, and create an opportunity to improve your own keeper list, even if you have already gone through the process of predicting everyone‘s freezes.

One benefit is that it tends to get owners active. Even though you may have been studying in earnest since January, there will be some owners who have given their squads very little attention since the end of the previous season. The idea of submitting a tentative freeze list will often spur these owners to get in gear and analyze their rosters.

Perhaps the most important function of the “tentative freeze list” exercise is that it can dramatically increase trade conversations and opportunities. I believe this adds enjoyment to the league, while giving you a chance to improve your freeze list. Owners may realize an area where they are weak, and look for trades to shore up that area. Owners may indicate that they won’t freeze certain players, giving you the sign that these players are available for the right offer. The mere increase in league activity can lead to trades.

The “tentative freeze list” and the trades that it promotes can allow you to establish better relationships with your fellow owners. This can come in very handy during the season when an opportunity arises for you to help each other by a trade.

In summary, it’s a great gambit…fun for all, educational, and helpful in maximizing your freeze lists going into the auction.

The Reserve Draft. Many leagues have a reserve draft after the primary auction, where owners are allowed to fill their reserve rosters in a round-by-round draft, often in a serpentine format. Some leagues have a small reserve roster, maybe five players, while the “ultra” leagues generally have a minimum of seventeen players on their reserve list. How can you best use this reserve draft to your team’s advantage?

Players picked in reserve drafts usually carry the salary of the round in which they are picked. Typically, first round picks have a salary of $15. Rounds 2 through 6 are $10. Rounds 7 through 12 are $5 picks. Rounds 13 to 17 are $2 rounds, but they still hold some treasures if you look closely enough.

My belief is that you should use your first round pick to find someone who can help you right away. Since these players carry a price tag of $15, few owners will use a first round pick to select a minor league prospect. So what should you look for in a first round draft pick?

There are almost always some valuable players who were missed for one reason or another during the auction. If you have kept up carefully with who was taken and not taken in the auction, you’ll have this information at your fingertips. You can sometimes improve your roster substantially, as this overlooked player may be better than one of the players you purchased.

For your picks in rounds 1 through 6, it is a good idea to back up players from your active roster. For example, if you bought Joel Hanrahan as one of your closers in the auction, and Evan Meek is available in Round 2 of the reserve draft, you might do well to add him to your squad. Likewise, if another owner has a shaky closer, you might be wise to use one of these picks to grab the pitcher most likely to pitch the 9th if that closer were to lose his job. Such a player might make a good trading chip, or he might turn into a full time closer.

Rounds 7 through 12 are where you pick up your prize minor leaguers and other prospects with the potential for substantial value in the future. These players will only be $5, so they will start their tenure on your team as a relatively inexpensive commodity. So, grab your favorite minor leaguer here, but know that the other owners will likely have the same game plan.

This is also a good time to pick up an injured player who may miss most or all of the year. You can add that player here without it costing you a roster spot or any budget dollars. Last year, Joe Nathan fit into this category in some leagues. Keep in mind that Round 7 holds the most strategic picks, since this is the first of the $5 rounds and where most owners look for future keepers.

Rounds 13 through 17 can be difficult. Here you can reach way down into the minors and pick up a player with great tools but a long way to go. Often, leagues do not start the clock running on minor leaguer salaries until they are activated, so you may be able to wait a couple of years for these flowers to bloom. In my experience is it noteworthy how many future stars were originally selected as long-shots in rounds 13 through 17.

The reserve draft moves extremely fast. You call a name, you get that player. For this reason, it is absolutely critical that you have a reliable method for keeping up with who was frozen or purchased in the auction, and who is left over for the reserve draft.

Well, that’s this week’s article. If you have any questions about the article, about specific player issues, or just want let me know what you think, please feel free to use the “comments” portion of the page, found below.

Good luck, and have fun!

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How to Win: The LIMA Plan

posted by Jon Williams
The LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) Plan became extremely popular for a while. However, it soon became a less effective strategy for some because the most recommended LIMA pitchers were so hotly desired that they quickly became too expensive to fit within the plan. We zig when they zag, so many of us dropped the strategy. Now, with a few years separating us from the height of the strategy's popularity, it may become a viable strategy again, with a few tweaks.
  1. Go extreme LIMA - Avoid the future closer types and the popular future starter candidates such as Chris Sale and Aroldis Chapman. These guys are too popular to get at a discount. You need to be way ahead of the game to effectively use the LIMA Plan now. The middle relievers you draft should cost you no more than 2-3 bucks each. Here are a few guys to look into that should be pretty cheap: Wilton Lopez, Astros; Joe Thatcher, Padres; Matt Belisle, Rockies; Takashi Saito, Brewers; and James Russell, Cubs.
  2. Screw the Closer - Unless you can get one for dirt cheap, forget about drafting a closer and spend even more on offense. You can trade for a closer later if you don't get lucky on the waiver wire. With offense you should be able to put together, you should have plenty to entice potential trade partners.
  3. Pick Up Young Starters - When you troll the waiver wire look for young starters getting call ups, especially ones being called up after brief demotions. They're usually a lot better the second time around.
You can still win with the LIMA Plan, it just takes a little imagination and stepping away from the guys that everyone else is clamoring after.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Win: The Stars and Scrubs Strategy

posted by Jon Williams
Stars and Scrubs is a strategy that a lot of owners use. Essentially an owner will use his available budget to acquire as many star level players as possible. It make s some sense, these arew the players that can often carry a fantasy team for long stretches. The remaining players are the scrubs, very low cost players, the idea is to embrace risk and draft a lot of high upside scubs.

It is a strategy that will often help a team place in the money but not always bring a victory. This is not a weakness of the strategy it is a weakness in the owner's use of it. Here are some tips to make it a more effective strategy.
  1. Scarce Positions - If you're willing to pay top dollar for stars, do it at the positions that will bring you the biggest advantage. This year grabbing the top shortstops is a great strategy. Typically, catcher, and third base are going to be good spots to spend your money as well. I would also grab the top outfielders if you can manage it. Outfield thins out very quickly when 12-13 teams (only leagues) or 15-20 teams (deeper mixed leagues) are grabbing five each.
  2. The Pitchers - I would avoid buying pitchers with my stud money. You should have a pitching budget and a pitching plan that is independent of your offensive plan. Spending 25-plus on pitchers even the best ones is not something I am often willing to do. I personally prefer to have a deep group of $8-15 guys with maybe a $20 "ace" to front things. I always have 2-3 one dollar relief pitchers - even in deep leagues you can manage to grab a few relievers with high strikeout ability for very cheap, you should have a long list of possibilities with you at the draft.
  3. The Scrubs - You also need to have a plan for your scrubs. You don't want to just buy the guys that go cheap. You want specific groups of scrubs. Identify players that will not cost big money that have the potential for career-high at-bat totals, young players with upside and playing time potential. Older veterans with starting roles that fantasy owners are bored with owning. And players returning from long-term disabled list stints. Platoon Players with at least one dominate ability, such as hitting for power or stealing bases. Some ideas: 2B Josh Barfield, Phillies; 3B/OF Alex Gordon, Royals; OF Julio Borbon, Rangers; C Brayan Pena, Royals; OF Jordan Schafer, Braves; 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays; OF Marcus Thames, Dodgers; 2B/OF Ryan Raburn; and SS Jed Lowrie, Red Sox.
Stars and Scrubs is a legit strategy for use in any auction league. Just remember to consider your scrubs just as important as your stars and you can have a championship level auction.

Coming This Week:

Monday Night: How to Win - Still Using the LIMA Plan?

Wednesday Morning: The 2011 All Sleeper League Teams

Friday Night: 2011 Breakout Pitchers

And all sorts of goodness in-between! Don't miss it.

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