March 2009

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Roundtable: Finding Sleepers

Last week's roundtable question:

What is your favorite source or method of uncovering sleepers?

Click here to read our answers.

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Idiot Proof Drafting System Now Available

Once again, Isaiah Warner has contributed his IPDS (Idiot Proof Drafting System) spreadsheet for free to RotoAuthority readers.  This uses my dollar values but allows you to change league settings to adjust the values.  Click here to download it.  Hit Enable Macros when you open it.  Isaiah mentioned that there may be a few glitches but it's still usable.

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In-Draft Management

Andrew writes in to ask:

What kind of information do you have in front of you during a draft?  I've tried keeping spreadsheets, crossing guys off, and auto-updating the rest of the population, but it always ends up being not simplistic enough and I can't keep up with the pace of the draft, especially in the mid to late rounds.

I know what you mean, it can be a challenge to keep track of things while also getting ready for your next pick.  Here's what I do for online drafts.

  • I create a simple spreadsheet containing basic projected stats that ranks players by dollar value.  Pitcher stats are not shown, just hitters.  Pitchers are included but the only info for them is the dollar value.  It is a sacrifice I am willing to make.  The sheet also contains average draft position from Yahoo or Mock Draft Central or whatever you like.  Another column translates average draft position into draft round by dividing ADP by 12 and rounding up.
  • This sheet also has games played data, so that I can quickly filter to see which shortstops are available and whether I need to act soon to get a good one.  If I want to filter to see pitchers only I can go to any stat category (ABs for example) and choose Blanks.
  • When a player is drafted, I do a Ctrl-F to find the player and I delete that row of the spreadsheet. Obviously Yahoo does the same, but they don't have my dollar values.  Since Yahoo leaves 1:30 between picks I am usually able to keep up.
  • I create a second sheet on the spreadsheet for My Team.  It lists all the positions and I fill in the names as I draft them.  I also list the specific pick numbers I have.  For example, if I draft eighth I have pick #8, 17, 32, 41, and so on.  Before the draft I make a list of several players I am targeting at each pick who I do not think will be available at the following pick.
  • If there is downtime between picks (1:30 can seem like an eternity) I drag guys I like into my queue so I don't forget about them.  By the time my pick rolls around I know exactly who I want. 
  • For a live draft I would do something similar but just cross guys off instead of deleting rows.  Since you can't filter by position on a piece of paper it may make sense to print out position-by-position sheets ranked by dollar value.

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Josh Fields Wins Third Base Job

Remember Josh Fields?  He was a popular sleeper heading into 2008, as he'd slugged 23 HR in 373 ABs as a rookie.  Most of the damage was inflicted against lefties.  Fields even hit 9 HR in August of '07.  But Joe Crede pushed Fields back to Triple A to start '08, and he never got back on track.  Fields hit just .246/.341/.431 in Triple A while dealing with a knee problem.  He had offseason surgery on the knee and reported to Spring Training early.  Now that Dayan Viciedo's been demoted, the third base job is his again.

Projection systems see Fields as a 20 HR type with 500 ABs, but with an ugly batting average due to a high strikeout total.  I don't think 30 HR is out of reach though; he certainly showed that kind of power in '07.  Let's not forget the massive inflation of right-handed HRs at U.S. Cellular Field.  And if you really want to look on the bright side, there's a chance Fields' AVG could be counteracted by double digit steals.  He hasn't shown speed in the Majors but did swipe bags at a 15 SB pace in the minors.

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How About Brad Penny?

I've drafted in two mixed leagues so far this year, and one player who was not chosen in either was Brad Penny.  He's looking like a nice pickup if you have the bench space.  Penny was impressive yesterday, touching 95 mph.  Amalie Benjamin's article notes that Boston won't need a fifth starter until April 12th, so Penny may be held back a bit.  Maybe he'll have the typical Penny big first half, and you can slot in John Smoltz thereafter.  Perhaps that's Boston's plan too.

I decided I like Penny a touch more than Clay Buchholz, who makes for a solid post-hype sleeper.  Buchholz's problem is that he is further down the depth chart than Penny or Smoltz.

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A Look At Jordan Zimmermann

Nationals top prospect Jordan Zimmermann is having a flawless spring, and if he's decent over the next three weeks he'll probably begin the year in the big league rotation.  In mixed leagues, he's being drafted very late if at all.  It'd be an aggressive promotion since he hasn't pitched at Triple A, though Zimmermann did pitch in college.

Baseball America says Zimmermann projects as a solid #2 starter with four average or above-average pitches.  What do the numbers say?

ZiPS calls for a 4.81 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  CHONE sees a 5.05 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.  And PECOTA says to expect a 4.54 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.  Clearly the projection systems don't think he's ready.  However, they're only working with about 100 innings of high minors data.

PECOTA is fairly optimistic in its 75th percentile forecast: a 4.07 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.  They expect solid strikeout and walk rates as a rookie.  Their best comparable for Zimmermann is Bobby Jones circa 1993.  Assuming they're referring to the one who debuted with the Mets that year, that's encouraging.  Jones did have Triple A experience in '93, but he hit the ground running as a rookie (3.65 ERA/1.35 WHIP) and was solid as a sophomore (3.15 ERA/1.33 WHIP).

If you look at Zimmermann from a purely statistical perspective, you wouldn't draft him this year in a mixed league.  But the risk is so low that I think he's worth a late pick.  His path to the Majors is clear, he's having a great spring, and the scouting reports are positive.

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RotoAuthority League Rosters

The 2009 RotoAuthority League drafted last night.  I picked eighth.  Here's my team, draft round in parentheses:

C - Geovany Soto (5)
C - Chris Snyder (19)
1B - Derrek Lee (8)
2B - Brian Roberts (3)
SS - Jimmy Rollins (1)
3B - Chipper Jones (6)
MI - Rickie Weeks (12)
CI - Carlos Delgado (13)
OF - Carlos Beltran (2)
OF - Hunter Pence (7)
OF - Hideki Matsui (15)
OF - Ryan Spilborghs (17)
OF - Gary Sheffield (22)
DH - Todd Helton (23)
SP - Roy Halladay (4)
SP - John Lackey (9)
SP - Matt Cain (10)
SP - Randy Johnson (14)
SP - Kenshin Kawakami (18)
SP - Manny Parra (21)
RP - Jose Valverde (11)
RP - Brian Wilson (16)
RP - George Sherrill (20)

Bench: Manny Corpas, Kelvim Escobar, Ken Griffey Jr.

This team's weakness is the outfield.  A lot of guys I considered undervalued were snapped up several rounds early, so I nabbed Halladay and Lackey instead.  Hopefully I can get a bat or two off the waiver wire during the season, because help in every offensive category.  My pitching is light on Ks, but if Johnson, Kawakami, and Parra only pitch the 500 total innings I've projected for them, I'll get more off the wire.

Click here for a spreadsheet of all the rosters as well as the draft results.  Which team is the favorite?

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Closer Report

Drafts are in full swing, so here's the closer info you'll need to know.  Yahoo draft round (assuming 12 teams) is in parentheses.

  • Red Sox - Jonathan Papelbon (4).  No problems here, Manny comments notwithstanding.
  • Mets - Francisco Rodriguez (5).
  • Twins - Joe Nathan (6).  He pulled out of the WBC with a shoulder issue, but seems fine now.
  • Yankees - Mariano Rivera (6).  He should make his first spring appearance tomorrow.  He had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in October.
  • Phillies - Brad Lidge (6).  Seems to have gotten past his forearm tightness.
  • Royals - Joakim Soria (8).
  • White Sox - Bobby Jenks (9).
  • Dodgers - Jonathan Broxton (10).
  • Cubs - Carlos Marmol (10), Kevin Gregg (17).  Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald believes Gregg is the frontrunner.  Marmol blew a save in the WBC.  Personally I am going to stay away from this situation in drafts.
  • Astros - Jose Valverde (10).
  • Blue Jays - B.J. Ryan (10).
  • Indians - Kerry Wood (11).  He's looking good following an early spring back ailment.
  • Angels - Brian Fuentes (11).
  • Reds - Francisco Cordero (11).  Had September ankle surgery and hasn't looked good this spring.
  • Pirates - Matt Capps (13).
  • Giants - Brian Wilson (13).
  • Rockies - Huston Street (14), Manny Corpas (undrafted).  Clint Hurdle said Saturday nobody has an edge.  Drafting Corpas for a bench spot couldn't hurt.
  • Braves - Mike Gonzalez (14).  The undrafted Rafael Soriano seems healthy for now, so tie him to Gonzalez if possible.
  • Brewers - Trevor Hoffman (14).
  • Padres - Heath Bell (15).
  • Diamondbacks - Chad Qualls (15).
  • Nationals - Joel Hanrahan (16).  I like to dive in around the Bell/Qualls/Hanrahan range.
  • Marlins - Matt Lindstrom (16).  Lindstrom is having an MRI on his tight shoulder after being pulled from a WBC game.  Possible setup man Scott Proctor is trying to overcome elbow woes.  I'm thinking Leo Nunez is third in line. UPDATE: Lindstrom has a rotator cuff strain and will not throw for 7-10 days.
  • Rangers - Frank Francisco (16).  Nice sleeper pick.
  • Rays - Troy Percival (16).  The Rays' bullpen is not a good fantasy situation, with Jason Isringhausen, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler lingering if Percival has issues.
  • Athletics - Joey Devine (17), Brad Ziegler (17).  Devine is recovering from elbow pain, while Ziegler is pitching in the WBC.
  • Orioles - George Sherrill (17).  Sherrill is to be the primary closer, but Chris Ray might get some opps.
  • Cardinals - Chris Perez (17), Jason Motte (undrafted), Ryan Franklin (undrafted).  There are signs Tony La Russa might prefer Franklin's experience over the youngsters' skills.
  • Tigers - Brandon Lyon (18).  Fernando Rodney (17) is getting more love in Yahoo leagues, but Lyon owns the job.
  • Mariners - Mark Lowe (undrafted), David Aardsma (undrafted), Miguel Batista (undrafted), Tyler Walker (undrafted), Chad Cordero (undrafted).  If Cordero is healthy and effective in May or June he will probably have a good shot at closing.  In a recent MLB Network spot, GM Jack Zduriencik mentioned Lowe and Aardsma by name.  Aardsma has the best Spring Training numbers so we'll call him the favorite.

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Reader Leagues

Now is the time for fantasy baseball drafts (the RotoAuthority league drafts Monday night, in fact).  Use the comments on this post to swap info about join leagues with other readers of the site.

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Undervalued Pitchers

Here are some pitchers I feel are being undervalued this year.

  • Javier Vazquez.  By now the annual Vazquez recs must be getting tiresome.  But he's moved back to the NL and is good for 200 Ks, double digit wins, and a solid WHIP at the least.
  • Rich Harden.  He's worth quite a bit by himself if he manages 135 IP.  Add in replacement level pitching while he's out and you'll get a ton out of the roster spot.  Joba Chamberlain, Max Scherzer, and Randy Johnson fit this mold as well and come recommended.
  • Jonathan Broxton.  The closing job is all his and he should strike out 85+ with 35+ saves and strong ratios.
  • Yovani Gallardo.  Very solid as a 10th round pick, and I'm only projecting 180 IP.
  • Matt Cain.  Sooner or later the wins will come.  The Ks and ERA are already here.
  • Ted Lilly.  MDC has him as a 17th round pick, but he's the same old reliable Lilly.  Goes earlier in ESPN leagues.
  • Brett Myers.  Goes especially late in ESPN leagues.
  • Derek Lowe.  Too boring for my fantasy owners.
  • Kenshin Kawakami.  Fear of the unknown?  The Braves' Japanese import is barely being drafted.  He should help in WHIP at the very least.
  • Zack Greinke.  A bargain in Yahoo leagues, less so in ESPN based on an ADP comparison.
  • Jered Weaver.
  • Ricky Nolasco.  Happy to be on this bandwagon.
  • Heath Bell.
  • Kevin Slowey.  Not every day you find a 1.21 WHIP in the 16th round.
  • Aaron Harang.
  • Joey Devine.
  • Matt Capps.
  • Gil Meche.  Ignored for being a Royal.
  • Scott Baker.
  • Chad Qualls.
  • Andy Sonnanstine.
  • Frank Francisco.
  • Joel Hanrahan.

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