I’ve been watching, reading up, and thinking about baseball for a month now. But leave it to fantasy baseball to get me writing. My league’s draft was today. Its my second year in this league, and it uses a very idiosyncratic scoring system (14 offensive categories, 12 for pitching). Last year, I was cursed–grabbing bust after bust: Pablo Sandoval, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Chone Figgins, and Kendry “Wait, I heard something crack” Morales were all members of my opening day roster. Needless to say, I wanted another shot at greatness. Here’s how today went:
..And a Bag of Chips Draft Results:
- (6) Hanley Ramírez (Fla – SS): Yes sir.
- (11) Robinson Canó (NYY – 2B): I hate this guy. But I got the two consensus best players at the two thinnest positions in baseball. I’ll deal with hating him.
- (22) Jon Lester (Bos – SP): Last year, I drafted over-valued pitching. This year I drafted two position players to one pitcher for the first dozen rounds to be sure that I had a more hitting-oriented team. I missed out on the Freak by a few picks, but I’m happy to have Lester.
- (27) Prince Fielder (Mil – 1B): Contract year. Ahem, CONTRACT YEAR.
- (38) Nelson Cruz (Tex – OF): I read a post on fangraphs the other day that showed how, when healthy, Cruz is actually a slightly better player than Josh Hamilton. The big question is whether he can stay healthy. He’s the only monster strike-out machine I drafted, so I figure my team’s strong contact rate can absorb his ridiculous k/9 rate.
- (43) Justin Verlander (Det – SP): I think Verlander is an underrated pitcher, I’m happy to have him eating up innings for me
- (54) Pablo Sandoval (SF – 1B,3B): Last year I drafted a fat panda in the second round. This year, a thin panda in the 7th round. And, as an arbitration eligible player, he’s essentially playing in a contract year, hey o, CONTRACT YEAR.
- (59) Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos – OF): Evidence that I draft in a league full of Rays and Yankees fans–I got Ellsbury in round 8. I thought, when I passed on him for Cruz, he’d be gone. He ended up lasting three more rounds. This spring showed he is healthy, and Francona plans on having him lead off against righties. Sweet. And, oh yes, as an arbitration eligible player, he’s in what amounts to a CONTRACT YEAR.
- (70) Yovani Gallardo (Mil – SP): In his breakout year, he put up over 200 k’s in 185 innings. Hopefully, his star is still one the rise. If so, then I grabbed a Cy Young caliber starter in round 9.
- (75) John Jaso (TB – C): My biggest dice roll. I let catcher grind down, and I had a choice between Jaso and Soto. Jaso’s walk rate (quite high) and k rate (ridiculously low) were right on pace with his minor league numbers last season; rumor around Tampa is that he’ll either lead off or hit second. That’s a bunch of walks, singles, and runs out of my catcher. Fingers crossed against a sophomore slump.
- (86) Joakim Soria (KC – RP): If a closer gets his saves in Kansas City, and no one cares, then is he really the best closer in the game? Yup.
- (91) Francisco Rodríguez (NYM – RP): Sure, this guy is an overpaid ********. But he set career bests last year in k/9 and bb/9 rates. He’ll likely be the Mets closer until right up to the trade deadline, and he’s in a (wait for it) CONTRACT YEAR.
- (102)Aubrey Huff (SF – 1B,OF): There’s risk here–its unsure where he’ll play, and he’s always been a bit inconsistent year to year. I feel like he’s an ok pick in round 13, especially since I have two questionable outfielders in terms of injury (Cruz, Ellsbury).
- (107) Andrew Bailey (Oak – RP): Another risky pick–but the injury concerns have been diffused, and this guy figures to be one of the best closers in baseball. Still, this one might come back to haunt me.
- (118) Brett Gardner (NYY – OF): Probably a testament to how much Yankee fans dislike this guy–I was able to grab him in round 15. It also testifies to how stupid Yankee fans are, since he’s a OBP machine with plus speed and will score a bunch of runs in that lineup.
- (123) Brian Fuentes (Oak – RP): This is something of a wasted insurance pick. If Bailey flames out, then I have Oakland’s other closer. If he doesn’t, then I have two great set-up men (see Bard below).
- (134) Daniel Bard (Bos – RP): This is Papelbon’s last year in Boston, and Bard is the closer of the future. Period. If Papelbon continues to struggle as he did last year and at times this spring, then Bard will take over the roll before the all-star break. Even if he doesn’t, I get the best set-up man in baseball and his ridonkulous k/p and whip.
- (139) Brett Anderson (Oak – SP): If healthy, a great pitcher. If not, a wasted pick.
- (150) Michael Cuddyer (Min – 1B,3B,OF): I wanted some versatility–particularly someone who could cover Sandoval at third and my injury prone outfield. Of course, I need Cuddyer to get healthy too.
- (155) Torii Hunter (LAA – OF): Given his production, I was pretty surprised to see him still available. He could easily replace Huff as a starter in my outfield.
- (166) Chone Figgins (Sea – 2B): Last year I took Figgins in the 7th round and cursed him the rest of the year. This season, I took him in the 21st round and will have no qualms cutting him, and his 2nd/3rd base stolen bases, if he puts up a sub 650 OPS May.
- (171) Marco Scutaro (Bos – 2B,SS): Scutaro played through some pretty grueling injuries last season and managed to put up a great BB-K ratio. I don’t know how secure his playing time will be in 2011–and so a cut might be in order. But I figure he gives solid depth, and, if he does play, has a great chance to score piles of runs in a potent Red Sox offense.
I was quite pleased after my fantasy draft. I felt I got a number of budget home runs at premium positions (Aaron Hill, Victor Martinez, Adam Lind, Pablo Sandoval, Kendry Morales). I also collected a number of under the radar lead-off men for some stolen bases and runs scored (Justin Upton, Chone Figgins, Andrew McCutchen). April went pretty well, although Hill got injured Sandoval and Lind were off to great starts. I grabbed Rafael Furcal as my shortstop. Things looked good.
And. Then. It. All. Fell. Apart. Fast.
Morales, Furcal, and Martinez got hurt, Lind and Hill became less than useless, Figgins couldn’t hit a barn door. My bench wasn’t too bad, with people like Casey McGehee and Jason Heyward. I tried to replace my starters with more “bargin” power hitters, such as Colby Rasmus, Aubrey Huff and J.D. Drew.
Bottom line: my team was mediocre. They could “compete,” but rarely beat a team that didn’t lose its starting first baseman and contains so many fantasy busts.
So I blew it up.
I realized that I couldn’t put together a HR/RBI oriented batting average with a team of replacement players. But I had two things going for me: first, I was in an 8 man league with small rosters, so there was a deep pool of players from which to choose; second, I’m in a league that uses 14 offensive categories: R, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, TB, E, AVG, OBP, and OFA (outfield assists).
So last weekend I gutted my team, dumping Colby Rasmus, J.D. Drew, Casey McGehee, Carlos Beltran, Chone Figgins, and Andre Either. I picked up Angel Pagan, Andres Torres, Brian Roberts and soon-to-return Jacoby Ellsbury. No longer would I compete in the traditional power/scoring related categories. My entire team is now built around slap hitting, speed and plate-discipline, with an offense of:
- C Victor Martinez
- 1B Aubrey Huff
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Chone Figgins (2B)
- SS Rafael Furcal
- OF Andrew McCutcheon
- OF Justin Upton
- OF Angel Pagan
- UT Andres Torres
- BN Jason Heyward (OF)
- BN Pablo Sandoval (1B / 3B)
Martinez has been solid at catcher. Huff is currently 2nd in the NL in WAR (4.9) and in OPS (.949). Roberts has missed the whole season on the DL, I am hoping to pick up some speed and BB’s at 2B down the stretch. Ramirez has picked it up after a slow start, but he is the one player that doesn’t fit this team. As I write this, I am thinking about dumping him for Figgins again. Furcal is cooling off after a ridiculous first half, but there’s not too many options at SS this year. My outfield is crazy fast, with Angel Pagan, Justin Upton, Andres Torres, Andrew McCutcheon, Jason Heyward, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Pagan is quitely hitting .308/.368/.480 (4.5 WAR) with 23 steals, Torres is .286/.272/.505 with 19 steals, good for a 3.9 WAR and has been one of the NL’s MVP’s since taking over the lead-off spot in late April. McCutcheon’s at a very respectable .288/.364./.435 with 21 steals. Heyward’s now locked in to the #2 spot in the Braves lineup, he’s walking at a nice clip and should see more fastballs hitting in front of Jones; since moving to 2nd in the order, he’s got a .282/.383/.412 line with 6 steals and 28 runs in 43 games. Upton’s strikeouts drive me crazy (120 before August 1st?!?), but he’s gotten better as the season’s gone on–he’s got a crazy .412/.500/.745 split since the All-Star break. I’ll likely have to cut one outfielder when Ellsbury comes off the DL–it will be a tough choice. Pagan might lose playing time with Beltran back, Torres’s minor league career suggests he’s a regression candidate.
My pitching staff is silly good. I’ve had the same staff since May 1st with only two changes–David Aardasma is out, replaced by Houston Street. And I added Josh Beckett (dropping an offensive player) to help me with weekly wins. But I don’t need too much help; here’s my staff:
- Tim Lincecum
- Stephen Strassburg
- Matt Cain
- Francsico Liriano
- Roy Oswalt
- Josh Beckett
- Heath Bell
- Billy Wagner
- Houston Street
- Francisco Rodriguez
- Daniel Bard (my league scores holds)
They are a sick group. If I can squeeze some cheap offense out of all those changes, I might be able to overcome my horrible draft and mediocre season and sneak into the playoffs.
And, since I first started writing this post, I decided to dump Ramirez and pick up Figgins again. For the third time.
Your struggling team finally looks like they have put it all together. You are leading a week-long contest and are about to jump from 4th place to perhaps 2nd place. And then Sunday happens–your team goes a combined 4 for 31 (after a blistering 7 for 36 Saturday). And, to add insult to injury, you end up benching a struggling player (in this case Aaron Hill) on the day that he breaks out (3/4, 2B, HR, BB). Result? A 9-15 week and a trip back to 6th place (45-47-8 for the season).
That’s pretty much the word for my early season. My third, fourth, fifth, and sixth round picks have all gotten off to slow starts (Justin Upton, Victor Martinez, Aaron Hill, and Chone Figgins). I’m still for the most part patient with them, but its really beginning to cost me. I play in a league with only 22 man rosters, so its hard to dedicate a bench spot to a back-up catcher. Although, if Martinez doesn’t improve soon, I’ll have to.
For any fantasy player who makes their way here, let me recommend fangraphs; I track my team there. What’s nice about fangraphs is the plate discipline section–it will show you which of your players are getting unlucky and which are swinging themselves into bad luck. Consider it BABIP on roids. In my case, it suggests that Aaron Hill is merely getting unlucky (he’s still swinging at strikes at the same rate as previous seasons) and that Chone Figgins isn’t being aggressive enough (swinging at only 31% of all pitches against a lifetime 41%, and only swinging at 48.8% of strikes as opposed to a lifetime rate of 62.1%). It also suggests that Victor Martinez will be fine, since his line drive rate is over his career average (25.2% so far this season) and his BABIP is only .241 (his career BABIP is .311, so it should begin to return toward the mean). My only real concern thus far is with Upton–his contact rates are all slightly worse than last year. Here’s to hoping that’s an effect of our relatively small sample ize…
This is only my second season in fantasy baseball, and my first time in an 8 team league. Magnified by the small roster size and the unlimited transactions, free agency is a large part of the game. I could put together a pretty strong roster just out of the guys available in free agency. So, some of the players I took a risk on were a mistake (like the two shortstops, Cabrera and Escobar) since there are so many quality players available after the draft (I picked up Rafael Furcal and, after his injury, Stephen Drew). I will adjust my draft strategy accordingly next season–draft the sure commodities (especially dominant closers and starters) and keep a close eye on the “longshots” during the season’s opening weeks. A ten man team requires that you identify and draft sleepers; an eight man league allows you the benefit of acquiring sleepers after the draft.
I’m enjoying this season, though, and fantasy baseball continues to get me more involved with following the sport. I enjoy the sport, and am glad to have this prompting me to put more of my free time toward it.
So here’s how my fantasy draft went this season (an 8 person league). We have 14 offensive categories (R, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, TB, E, AVG, OBP, OFA) and 11 pitching categories (IP, W, SV, HR, BB, K, GIDP, HLD, ERA, WHIP, K/9).
- (7) Tim Lincecum SP
- (10) Pablo Sandoval 1B,3B
- (23) Justin Upton OF
- (26) Víctor Martínez C,1B
- (39) Aaron Hill 2B
- (42) Chone Figgins 3B
- (55) Andrew McCutchen OF
- (58) Adam Lind OF
- (71) Kendry Morales 1B
- (74) Matt Cain SP
- (87) Heath Bell RP
- (90) Everth Cabrera SS
- (103) Francisco Rodríguez RP
- (106) Billy Wagner RP
- (119) Max Scherzer SP
- (122) Nyjer Morgan OF
- (135) Brian Matusz SP
- (138) Garrett Jones 1B,OF
- (151) Daniel Bard RP
- (154) Casey McGehee 2B,3B
- (167) Luis Castillo 2B
- (170) David Ortiz 1B
Let me immediately say that I had to leave my draft after pick 106, so the rest of the draft was on auto-pick. I created a list before having to leave, but it must have run out of picks. I would never, never have drafted Ortiz or Castillo. They were immediately dropped for (eventually) closer David Aardsma and OF Jason Heyward (both went undrafted).
I was particularly excited to get Justin Upton in round 3 (were Lincecum gone, he might have been my first round pick) and Kendry Morales in round 9. Matt Cain in the 10th was also unexpected. Most of the teams in my league are geared toward starting pitching, so I decided to collect every closer I could (with Bard as my one set-up guy). Essentially, I know I won’t be competeing in cumulative stats such as Wins, IP, GIPD. But I should dominate rate stats such as ERA, WHIP, K/9 in addition to saves, HR, and BB. Given the high k/9 for my whole staff, I’ll even compete in gross K’s (given that Matusz and Scherzer are projected as +9 K/9 pitchers).
The only pick I regret–and I regretted it immediately–was the Aaron Hill pick. Dustin Pedroia was still on the board. Hill’s 100 / 100 season last year led me to pick him, but this team is built around scoring runs and stealing bases. I should have picked Pedroia–I think I was hesitant to pick two Red Sox in a row for fear of overvaluing the home team.
I picked Sandoval and Figgins high, but I thought both of them gave me great production at shallow positions. I knew Figgins would count as a 2B, so that’s nice depth for the bench. I also feel that SF will be much better this year, and thus think that Sandoval will have more RBI chances than a year ago.
I wrote earlier this season about my approach to shortstop. I dropped McGehee to grab Alcides Escobar, and then had to drop Escobar to grab a second basemen while waiting for Figgins’ eligibility to update. I have since dropped the 2B man (Rickie Weeks) to pick up the Dodgers’ Furcal, who’s hitting lead-off to start the season. That pretty much cements my roster for now, and I’ll try not to make any more changes until we get a larger sample-size of at-bats (around 100 or so). After that, I’ll revisit the Cabrera-Furcal-Escobar -(Scutaro?) shortstop question.
I had a losing week last week, going 9-13-3, but that was with my team hitting a combined .233 to open the season. Morales and Martinez hit a combined .227. Adam Hill (sigh) only managed to get 8 at-bats before missing time with an early injury. And, finally, had I started Garrett Jones for the first few games rather than Morales or McCutchen, then I would have won two more categories. So, I’m pretty happy with my depth of talent, and am looking forward to competing for the postseason in my second season of fantasy baseball.
I’ll write more about my recent fantasy draft later (I did better than I thought I would), but I thought I would scratch out a quick post for anyone preparing for a draft, or trying to find some help after a draft. If you got Hanley Ramirez, then this post is meaningless to you. But for anyone who didn’t draft a shortstop in the early rounds, here’s two players who are likely available in your league and equally likely to have an impact in 2010.
Cabrera was a rule 5 draft pick last year who hadn’t previously played a single game above single-A ball. In 377 at-bats, he put up a very respectable .255 / .342 / .361 with 25 stolen bases and 59 runs scored [baseball-reference.com]. Factor that out to a full season, and you’ve got 93 runs scored and 39 stolen bases. And that assumes he doesn’t grow between his 23rd and 24th birthday. Not bad production out of shortstop for a player owned in only 8% of Yahoo leagues. On the minus side, he’s slated to hit 9th next season [cbssports.com]. On the plus side, David Eckstein holds the current 2 spot in the Padres order. You have to wonder if Cabrera’s OBP and speed doesn’t knock Eckstein out of that spot (especially if Eckstein puts up last season’s .260 / .323 / .334 line–a .323 OBP for a #2 hitter with no power or speed?).
Garaunteed the Brewers’ starting shortstop position and slated to hit 2nd in the order, Escobar has opportunity for huge fantasy upside. If I rank Cabrera a bit higher, it is because the MLB sample size is a bit larger (Escobar has had only 138 MLB plate appearances). It is also because, even in the minors, Cabrera has shown far more plate discipline. Escobar tends to swing (and miss). But his 2008 AA and 2009 AAA season [baseball-reference.com/minors] also show a player who can get on base (.363 and .353 OBP respectively) and steal one once on (combined 76 to 18 SB/CS ratio over those seasons). Hitting second in the order, ahead of Fielder and Braun, should get him some serious runs scored. The question here is whether he has the plate discipline to survive in MLB. His spring training statistics [mlb.com] suggest he does–he’s got a .372 average in 43 at bats. The downside? He’s only walked twice all spring. When the season starts, and pitchers stop throwing junk over the plate, I’ll be watching his BB:K and contact % closely.
Again, these guys aren’t going to make the all-start team. But if you’re looking at Marco Scutaro, Rafael Furcal, or Erick Aybar at SS, you might want to take a flyer on these potentially productive two-category players.
Hamilton has had an injury plagued season, and his July has been the worst month of his pro resurgence (a .542 OPS). If he turns it around, then I made a bad trade. But I recently grabbed Leo Nunez off of the free agent pile; he’s the young closer who has likely earned the job on a permanent basis with his July run while the regular Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom (and his 6.52 ERA) is out with an injury. In July, Nunez is 4 for 4 in save opportunities (3 saves this week) and an ERA of 2.00. The Marlins have another possible closer in lefty Dan Meyer, so am I rolling the dice here. My bet: I can give up Broxton’s top level production for a minimal decline, while upgrading Hamilton’s bat for Sandoval’s. For those of you who are looking for closer help, Nunez is available in 90% of ESPN leagues.
The other strategy here is to stock quality starting pitching–hence the acquisition of Duke. He’s not a top strike out guy, but does have a strong ERA and WHIP. I’ll be playing match-ups with Duke, but I hope to gain a few quality starts in the season’s final months. I still have Brian Fuentes and Ryan Franklin closing, so I should still see saves. I didn’t really want Cameron, and he will be cut as soon as Tori Hunter comes off the disabled list. Cameron is, in the short term, going to be more productive than Hamilton has for the past few weeks.
There’s back story here, since I drafted Sandoval, but released him during a slump in early May. He had a bad case of Nick Johnson–a first baseman hitting .300 with virtually no power and no one getting on base in front of him. In my defense, I picked up Todd Helton when I dropped Sandoval, and that worked out well. I also believe the Giants will add a bat this week–any addition to that lineup should either help set the table or get Sandoval more pitches to hit.
This is my first year as a fantasy baseball player (love it), and my team has had an up and down season. Jimmy Rollins’ and Jason Bay’s struggles combined with Tori Hunter’s and Jay Hamilton’s injuries have made for a topsy-turvy season (I was in first for a month and have slid back to third since the all-star break). But I have found a few gems to share. All the position eligibility and availability data below are for ESPN leagues.
- Martin Prado, 1B, 2B, 3B, Braves. Available in 85.2% of leagues. I praised Prado in a previous post for his performance his taking over a starting role in late June. This July: .361-.424-.506. He’s scored 18 runs this month with 8 batted in and 10 extra-base hits. He’s reached base safely in 13 straight games, and in 19 of the last 20. He’s fairly cemented into the number two spot of the Brave’s lineup between McLouth and Jones. That’s a pretty nice spot to be in these days.
- Gordon Beckham, 3B, SS, White Sox. Available in 82.1% of leagues . I know I am rolling the dice here, but I am trading in run scorer Skip Schumaker of St. Louis for Beckham, the White Sox young prospect. Beckham has only played two months at the MLB level, but his July was a big improvement over his June. Overall, he’s at .299-.370.-.445 with 20 runs and 23 RBI, strong production for a potential SS. My only complaint with Beckham is that he seems stuck at the bottom of the White Sox order, hitting between 7th and 9th on any given night.
- Garret Jones, OF, DH, Pirates. Available in 84.6% of leagues.Look, I get it. People have lives. They are busy. But, seriously, 84.6 (or something close to it) percent of owners need to have their teams revoked. This July, Jones has hit .313.-.378-.821 (1.199), with 9 home runs in 67 at bats. Of course, he won’t keep up that pace. But he will hit third for the Pirates for the rest of the season. With the speedy McCutchen and steady Sanchez (at least for now) in front of him, that will translate into production. Go grab him. Go grab him now.
In other news, Lugo is gone. Try not to lose any sleep.