February 2012

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Astros Name Brett Myers Closer

With a month-plus of mock-draft data in the rearview, it's safe to say mockers before Tuesday had regarded Astros pitcher Brett Myers with general apathy. The right-hander's low draft rate of just 12.1 percent, per MockDraftCentral, indicates he was valued somewhere between late-round flier and waiver wire streaming candidate -- closer to the latter, actually.

All of that, however, has changed with an unexpected announcement made by the Astros on Tuesday.

After logging 200-plus innings as a starter in each of the past two seasons, Myers, 31, will close for Houston in 2012.  It settles once and for all the question of who'd be taking the ball in the ninth inning for the Astros this year, as we'd previously been left to speculate on the likes of luminaries such as Brandon Lyon (coming off major shoulder surgery), Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, and Fernando Abad (after whom I've named my team "Breaking Abad" in the MLBTR league -- yes, I'm quite pleased with this).

So, the pertinent question here is not if Myers should be drafted -- after all, there are only 30 closers in baseball, so they all must go -- but rather when he should be drafted and what we can expect in regards to production.

Certainly, the combination of Myers' underwhelming strikeout rate and the fact that he'll be closing for what might be the worst team in baseball will conspire to make him less than a sexy pick, as it were. Those concerns are understandable, so while I don't think there's much room for Myers to be a value pick, per se, I do think he'll have held his own by season's end in comparison to the other closers in the bottom-third tier.

Myers has averaged about 7.0 K/9 the past two seasons as a starter, which is a respectable figure but well off from his best years as a Phillie, when he was just north of 8.50 K/9. The good news, though, is that most pitchers see an uptick in strikeouts when they move to the 'pen, and though it'd be foolish to expect anything near 10.88 K/9, which Myers posted during his lone season as a reliever in 2007, a return to the 8.00 range is perfectly reasonable. That, combined with a sub-3.00 BB/9 rate, should make Myers a useful closer, not significantly more or less prone to meltdowns than the average stopper.

As for the matter of pitching for a potential 100-loss club, I'll reiterate what I've said before regarding the tenuous correlation between a team's wins total and its closer's saves total: If there's a formula out there for predicting such a thing, I've never seen it. Sure, the Astros' closer in 2011, Mark Melancon, finished with a mere 20 saves. However, Mar-Mel didn't even take the reins till mid-May. With an extra five or six weeks of closing and a little bit of luck, it's fair to assume he might have ended up with 25 or even 30 saves. Elsewhere, in contrast, Mariners closer Brandon League netted 37 saves last season for the 95-loss M's.

Finally, it's worth noting that Myers' vesting contract option for 2013 has been restructured to reflect his new role, which indicates to me that his change is permanent rather than experimental. I suppose that Astros could always re-restructure it if things don't work out for Myers as a closer, but I seriously doubt they'll go through the trouble. All of this is to say, I expect Myers to hold onto the closer's role throughout 2012, and while that's far from guaranteed -- things can change in a hurry after a couple blown saves -- Myers must have more relative job security than the Matt Thorntons, Javy Guerras and Chris Perezes of the world, who will be facing stiff competition from up-and-comers in their own bullpens.

Those closers are currently being drafted in the 230-range, and I wouldn't be averse to drafting Myers before any of them.

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The Social Construct of David Ortiz

Happy Leap Day! Emma Watson, I'm single!

When esteemed colleague Steve Adams stole David Ortiz from me at the end of the 9th round in last week's mock draft, I screamed out. I F-bombed. Steve picked Ortiz at 107 overall, and I had the 108th pick. After I cussed several lines of text into the draft window, Steve suggested I discuss the event in this week's post. Gnawing my fingers trying to finish my dissertation and figure out how to feed myself next year, I happily latched onto Steve's idea. 

First, the DH spot. Fantasy players generally avoid DH-only players because they prefer flexibility at the UT position. This seems to be something of a lazy notion. Essentially, one foregoes Ortiz for the "flexibility" of playing a bench player at the UT position. What are the chances that this bench player can match Ortiz's production? Like Ortiz's midsection this year, seemingly slim. Players often say they like to wait to fill the UT position in drafts. What advantage is this? What advantage is there to playing Carlos Pena at UT?  

With the Red Sox reluctant to play Ortiz at 1B during interleague play, Ortiz lost at bats along with his 1B eligibility. Despite this, Ortiz has managed seven seasons of 600 or more PA in the last eight (2008, wrist injury). Ortiz is not an injury risk. 

Ortiz is 36 years old. Is he in decline? Judging by his peripherals last year, Ortiz had a late-career breakthrough. In 2009, after his injury-plagued season, Ortiz had the highest K% of his career, 21.4%. With this increase in K% came Ortiz's highest FB% of his career, 50.5%. Ortiz had changed his approach, possibly to accomodate for a sore wrist, and his HR/FB% was a career low 13.4%. In 2010, Ortiz's K% rose again, to 23.9%, but his HR/FB% climbed to 19.0%, pushing his ISO to .259. 

In 2011, Ortiz's approach changed again, dramatically. He cut his K% almost in half, to 13.7%, an almost unbelievable change. Ortiz posted a career high wOBA of .426 against left-handed pitchers. The seasons previous: wOBAs of .321 in '08, .310 in '09, and .268 in 2010. This remarkable reversal shows that Ortiz is still one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. With career worst seasons from Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford in 2011, the 2012 Red Sox lineup should improve significantly. Hitting 5th with another year of 600+ PA, Ortiz's upside is very, very high. While a return to the 20+% HR/FB of 2003-2006 is unlikely, Ortiz could replicate his 2007 season (17.2% HR/FB in '07, 17.5% in '11), with perhaps 10 less R and 10 more RBI. Brace yourself: .332/35/127/106. At ADPs of 125.2 (Yahoo!) and 105.9 (MDC), draft Ortiz in the eighth round of a 12-team league and take it to the bank. 

The social construct of David Ortiz involves an aging DH that will clog your UT position (night cats beware). Be antisocial and construct your championship season with Big Papi. More than just another spring training story of good health, Ortiz has identified problems with diabetes in his family, and has taken preventative steps, losing 17 pounds and giving up alcohol. See an informative video here, including Ortiz's take on his massive improvement against lefties in 2011. Papi has something to prove, and you should invest. 

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Wanted: Your 2011 Fantasy League Data

We need your data!  The upcoming RotoAuthority dollar values (and your own, if you're crazy enough to create them) can be greatly refined if you fulfill this league data request.  We'll post info on what it took to win a standard league in 2011 as well as SGPs for the more hardcore players to use.

If you were in a 12-team mixed rotisserie league with 14 hitters (C, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, DH) and 9 pitchers in 2010, and used the 5x5 categories of AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB, ERA, WHIP, W, K, and SV, please consider taking a minute and filling in this spreadsheet with team data.  You may have to change the Points column if there was a tie in the category.  Please note that I can only use data that fits this specific league format.

Once you've filled out the spreadsheet please email it as an attachment to rotoauthority@gmail.com.  Also in your email, please include some other pieces of data: the average number of at-bats, average number of hits, average IP total, average number of earned runs, and average (H + BB) total  for a team in your league.  So you'd have to get the totals and divide by 12.

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Tumbling ADPs

Today in the New York Times, RotoWire's Derek VanRiper posed an interesting question:

Would you be much worse off drafting with 2011 cheat sheets instead of 2012 ones?

VanRiper's point is that "there is a reason that 'last year’s bums' often return a profit the following season."  One simple way of determining last year's biggest bums is by finding the difference between 2012 and 2011 average draft position numbers.  Fortunately I have records of last year's ADPs, so here's the list minus certain players who are unsigned or out for all of 2012:

  1. Ian Stewart: 278.7 difference
  2. Scott Rolen: 266.04
  3. Chone Figgins: 192.04
  4. Adam Dunn: 186.69
  5. Ryan Ludwick: 167.43
  6. Francisco Liriano: 162.5
  7. Pedro Alvarez: 162.01
  8. Alex Rios: 157.66
  9. Aubrey Huff: 156.01
  10. Chad Billingsley: 151.07
  11. Ryan Dempster: 148.07
  12. Alfonso Soriano: 139.44
  13. Casey McGehee: 138.86
  14. Grady Sizemore: 138.38
  15. Randy Wells: 137.64
  16. Mike Aviles: 134.73
  17. Geovany Soto: 132.84
  18. Kelly Johnson: 125.89
  19. Bobby Abreu: 124.84
  20. Juan Uribe: 124.78

Many of the starting pitchers are intriguing, as well as Dunn, Alvarez, Rios, Aviles, Soto, and Johnson.  Other interesting names who have taken an ADP tumble include Colby Rasmus, Ubaldo Jimenez, Clay Buchholz, Joakim Soria, Jason Kubel, Andre Ethier, Gavin Floyd, Colby Lewis, John Danks, Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter, Kurt Suzuki, Aaron Hill, Alexei Ramirez, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, Edwin Jackson, Brandon Morrow, and Jason Heyward.

I know it seems disgusting to draft Dunn right now, but a year ago he was considered a fourth-round player.  Rios went the following round.  Liriano and Billingsley, seventh or eighth round starters.  Ubaldo was a fourth-round rotation anchor, and Ethier the same for your outfield.  Fight the instinct to avoid all of last year's bums, and you'll surely find bargains.

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RotoAuthority Mock Draft Analysis

Last week, the RotoAuthority writers and a handful of readers partook in the time-honored tradition known as a "mock draft" over at MockDraftCentral.com. Picks were immediately regretted made, "lol"s were shared in the chat forum, and hopefully skills were honed so that the dress rehearsal will lead to a strong opening night.  The picks can be viewed and voted on here with an MDC account, or you can view/download a spreadsheet we've created here.

Now that a few days have elapsed and provided some necessary hindsight, let's get into some analysis. Up top, I've bulleted several different topics of interest. Further down, reader Alex Kantecki has provided a best and worst pick for each roster. As always, draft responsibly.

  • Based on positional scarcity, I came away from this mock convinced that when my real drafts roll around, I want a first baseman, third baseman and shortstop in the bag after three rounds (not necessarily in that order). These cornerstone positions get shallow in a hurry, as I learned the hard way, because it's advisable to take your ace no later than the fourth. Ideally, I envision this strategy yielding a trio like Joey Votto-Hanley Ramirez-Ryan Zimmerman. I got two-thirds of the way there in this mock (Votto and Jose Reyes), but abstained on a third baseman til the sixth, when I picked Aramis Ramirez..
  • Ryan Braun is back and will almost certainly be drafted in the first round, but not by me. I love what Braun has to offer (what's not to love?) but won't be spending my first pick on an outfielder for the reasons listed above. If you follow suit, know that Braun's overturned suspension means he could go in the top half of the first round, as he did here.
  • Pitching is hella deep. I came away with a small army of high-upside arms late in the draft -- well more than I needed, frankly, while I was light on bats. When the late-round doldrums set in (more on that in a later bullet), don't do what I did; even if you're on autopilot, at least focus on sifting through the scrap heap for bats.
  • Meanwhile, I was short on outfielders aside from Matt Holliday. This was a result of poor planning, mostly. Like an infield shift for a pull-happy hitter, there will be gaps if your strategy focuses your attention to particular players/positions. Know where you might be leaving yourself exposed, and target some guys who could address that for the later rounds.
  • Borrowing from Hannibal Lecter's dining preferences and my eighth-grade social studies teacher's unit exams, I played classical during the mock. I'm not sure that it was anything more than psychosomatic, but it seemed to help keep me relaxed and focused during what can be a frenzied experience. It didn't help that the missus was out, either.
  • Drafts are long. Depending on your league's settings, you're probably looking at two plus-hours of continuous monitor monitoring. Be prepared for that grind, and pace yourself emotionally.
  • To that end, there's a palpable oh-shyte moment when the no-brainer picks are off the board and you're on your own. I liken it to that exhilirating but queasy moment the first time I was on a bike without training wheels or the guiding hand of my dad (this was like, two years ago). In our mock, this was around the sixth or seventh round. Again, enjoy and focus on the early rounds, but there's a long way to go after the top 60 or so players are selected.
  • On with Alex's best and worst picks:


Alex Steers McCrum

  • Best pick: Troy Tulowitzki, 1.1 You can argue that a rejuvenated Matt Kemp, a suddenly clean Ryan Braun, and a soon-to-be (fingers crossed), third-base eligible Miguel Cabrera are all shoo-ins for the No. 1 pick, but I fully endorse taking Tulowitzki first. At the weakest position in fantasy, you’ll lose no sleep slotting in Tulowitzki at shortstop every day while your opponents pray for career years from Erick Aybar and perennial-sleeper and oft-injured Stephen Drew.
  • Worst pick: Nelson Cruz, 5.1 Cruz is a solid No. 2 outfield option, but pairing him with real life teammate Josh Hamilton, who was selected two rounds earlier, is a risky fantasy investment. A combined 60-plus homers is a possibilty, but so is the chance of two lengthy DL stints. 

Tim Dierkes

  • Best pick: Clayton Kershaw, 3.2 After taking Justin Verlander in Round 2, why not double down with baseball’s other Cy Young Award winner? The pick looks even better when you consider Dierkes was still able to land his starting first baseman, Eric Hosmer, and third basemen, Pablo Sandoval, with his next two picks, solidifying his corner infield and starting rotation by Round 5. Oh, and he got Matt Kemp in Round 1. That’s a nice start. 
  • Worst pick:  Chris Iannetta, 16.11 There isn’t much supporting evidence for an Iannetta explosion with the Angels, so this pick was a head scratcher. Iannetta has never hit 20 home runs and has a lousy average to boot. I’d much rather have Russell Martin, Ryan Doumit, or Salvador Perez, who were all selected in the 20th round or later. Dierkes did go on to draft Kurt Suzuki and A.J. Pierzynski as fallbacks.

Mark Polishuk

  • Best pick: Jemile Weeks, 12.10 I’m not the biggest Jemile Weeks fan, but the speedster represents fantastic value for the MI slot. I must admit, teaming Jemile with big brother Rickie, who Shukleball took in Round 5, has me feeling all tingly inside, and given Rickie’s propensity for the DL, Jemile could prove plenty useful.
  • Worst pick: Yadier Molina, 13.3 By the time Molina was taken in the 13th round, Shukleball had already selected Miguel Montero and Alex Avila. Instead of taking a third catcher, Shukleball could have looked to improve on an outfield that consisted of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, or even strengthened a staff that already featured Roy Halladay, Matt Cain, and James Shields


  • Best pick: Adam Wainwright, 8.9 It’s completely possible that Wainwright would have been available for Toweliesox seven spots later, but if you have a gut feeling on someone, go for it. Yu Darvish and Josh Johnson were selected two and three picks later, respectively, and all represent similar value with question marks. A friendly reminder: Wainwright posted a 2.42 ERA with 213 strikeouts in 2010. 
  • Worst pick: David Wright, 2.9 I like David Wright, but I’m not willing to risk such a high pick on a guy who is trending in the wrong direction. This selection screamed for Halladay, Verlander, or Kershaw as the first pitcher drafted, and all three were gone by the time Toweliesox’s next pick rolled around. 


  • Best pick: Jeff Francouer, 17.5 Even if another 20/20 season is out of the question, and it’s not, Francouer is a solid fourth or fifth outfield option who gives you a little bit of everything. It’s hard enough to find players who contribute across the board, let alone this late in the draft.
  • Worst pick: Craig Kimbrel, 7.5 My only criticism of this pick is that, in a two-catcher league, it’s important to land one of the big guns when you have the chance. Whether or not you believe Kimbrel is leaps and bounds better than the next closer, Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer, and Alex Avila were all available at this point. Instead, dmojr settled for a gruesome twosome of Geovany Soto and Nick Hundley.


  • Best pick: Emilio Bonifacio, 12.7 I tried not to like this pick, but if the multi-position eligible Bonifacio fills in here and there at either of the MI or CI spots or in the outfield, I won’t complain. Bonifacio is a good bet for 30-plus steals with regular playing time, and the middle rounds are a smart place to select a player with his skill set. 
  • Worst pick: Michael Bourn, 6.7 If Bourn is going to go this early in drafts, count me out. Sure, he gives you elite speed, but you can’t count on him batting near .300 again. Aside from his early price tag, Bourn was bombers’ first outfielder selected, followed closely by Drew Stubbs in Round 7. I understand the strategy, but this one could fittingly blow up in bombers’ face, you know, like a bomb. 

Dan Mennella

  • Best pick: Jesus Montero, 12.6 Even though he’s only DH eligible, grabbing Montero in the 12th round is a solid buy. If, and when, he gains catcher eligibility, Mennella has a potential catching duo of Matt Wieters, who was taken in Round 7, and Montero. Even as a rookie, he represents a relatively safe grab, and fits nicely at UTIL for the time being. 
  • Worst pick:  Jose Tabata, 15.7 What happens when you select Tabata in Round 15, you ask? A chat room full of drafters screaming, “Reach!” I have no problem taking him as a fifth outfielder, but Angel Pagan was taken five rounds later and represents better value, and he has a track record of production. Tabata could have been had much later. 

Tom Warman

  • Best pick: Chris Young, 10.5 This selection stood out to me as one of value versus positional need. Warman could have gone in a different direction, but he decided to build on an already potent outfield of Justin Upton, Jay Bruce, and Hunter Pence instead, which looks like the best outfield of the bunch by far.
  • Worst pick: Brian Wilson, 11.8 For the same reason I like the Chris Young pick, I dislike taking Brian Wilson here. With four closers going in Round 10, it’s likely that Warman wanted to secure an elite closer. However, a more pressing need for first base existed, and, with only first-base eligible Michael Young on his roster to this point, he passed up on Adam Lind and Ike Davis – not exactly sure-things, but guys with 25-homer potential.

Van Buren Boys

  • Best pick: Ryan Roberts, 16.4 It’s hard to like a selection of any .248 hitter, and that’s exactly what Roberts was in 2011, but he was also one home run and two stolen bases away from a 20/20 season. Given his dual eligibility at second and third, I couldn’t pass up on the Tat Man in Round 16 for the MI slot. 
  • Worst pick: Andrew Bailey, 15.9 I immediately regretted this pick. I didn’t trust Bailey in Oakland, and I don’t particularly trust him on a bigger stage in Boston, either. I would have rather drafted Jason Motte, who was taken just two picks later and is settled in with the Cardinals, or went with another starting pitcher, like Jeremy Hellickson, who fell to Round 17. 


  • Best pick: Ian Kennedy, 8.3 Pegged as a major candidate for regression or not, a 21-game winner in the eighth round is nothing to sneeze at. A run of pitchers similar in value to Kennedy, including C.J. Wilson, Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, Josh Johnson, Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Dan Hudson, went right after this pick, and it’s possible RelliM would have missed out on all of them had he not chosen Kennedy first. 
  • Worst pick: David Freese, 12.3 With all the big boys at third already off the board, it’s easy to see why RelliM opted to go with Freese in Round 12, but the next third baseman wasn’t taken until Round 16, and RelliM later took Mike Moustakas, who could easily prove more valuable, in Round 18.

Steve Adams

  • Best pick: Jimmy Rollins, 8.2 I was initially critical of this selection, but after looking at the draft board, I’m more than okay with it. Adams already picked Starlin Castro in Round 3, and, to this point, his only outfielder was Shane Victorino. It would have been easy to go outfield here, but the next three outfielders taken, Jason Heyward, Brett Gardner, and Jason Werth, all have their own flaws.
  • Worst pick: Devin Mesoraco, 17.11 Banking on a rookie on a Dusty Baker led squad is hard to support, but what makes this pick look bad is that there’s seemingly no backup plan. The other Reds catcher, Ryan Hanigan, was scooped up by Mennella in Round 23, and Adams’ second catcher is equally questionable Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In a two-catcher league, I’m not sure Adams has one. 

Edwin Van Bibber-Orr

  • Best pick: Jhonny Peralta, 17.12 If things fall into place for Jhonny Peralta in 2012, this is the steal of the draft. It’s hard to see how a 20-home run shortstop gets drafted after Stephen Drew, who, ironically, Bibber-Orr picked two rounds earlier. In a powerful Tigers lineup, Peralta is sitting pretty. 
  • Worst pick: Stephen Drew, 15.12 I’ve already voiced my concern for an injury-plagued Stephen Drew, and this pick would have been better served on an outfielder with some upside, like Colby Rasmus, who was picked one round later. This would also give Bibber-Orr more depth in the outfield, who is relying on Yoenis Cespedes as his fifth outfielder.

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2012 RotoAuthority Silver League

The 2012 RotoAuthority League has been filled; I appreciate all the interest.  Once again we're doing an identical league in which the winner joins the RotoAuthority League the following year.  The Silver League has a $100 buy-in and drafts on March 23rd at 8pm central time.  You'll have to be able to pay up via LeagueSafe prior to the draft, and also be available for the draft.  Tyler is setting this up again; if you're interested, please make your case in the comments by end of day Wednesday and include an email address with the comment.  Tyler will email 11 of you.

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If You Like Elvis Andrus, Try Derek Jeter

One gratifying aspect of playing fantasy baseball is drafting a player heading into a breakout season.  It's one reason Brett Lawrie is being drafted in the fifth round and Matt Moore in the ninth.  Unlike those two, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has 443 big league games under his belt, and he's only 23 years old.  However, I still think Andrus is being drafted in the fourth round (43.75 ADP on Mock Draft Central) because of what he might do rather than what he has done.

Andrus is one of the game's best shortstops, but his value comes from defense as well as the ability to get on base pretty well for his position.  We're looking through the lens of a standard 5x5 league here at RotoAuthority, so we only care about Andrus' batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs scored, and stolen bases.   He excels in runs and steals, and shouldn't hurt you on batting average (.271 career).  There's no reason to expect him to develop power, so the speculating seems to be based on potential for a higher average or an increase from last year's 96 runs or 37 steals.

That speculation is valid, but also risky for such an early pick.  As Baseball HQ has noted, Andrus had a second-half uptick in his walk and contract rates, which if maintained might lead to a .290-.300 average.  The run total is fairly unpredictable, but it's easy to envision five extra swipes, especially if he's on base a bit more.  Give Andrus a .295 average, 95 runs, and 40 steals, and I'm sold - he's easily the fourth-best shortstop, and is flirting with Jose Reyes value.

It seems just as likely to me, however, that Andrus' second half wasn't a sign of anything, and he continues along at his current level.  Peg him for .276-4-53-88-35 in 583 ABs - completely reasonable - and you've got a shortstop who offers little advantage over those taken much later, including Derek Jeter, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jimmy Rollins.

As a 37-year-old, Jeter is the most boring of those three, and despite his fame he's being drafted in the 11th round on average.  Boring can help win fantasy leagues.  Last year a calf strain cost Jeter some June ABs, leading to his lowest total in a long time at 546.  He'd been at 630+ in each of the two previous seasons, so a 615 projection isn't crazy for 2012.  That comes out to a .287-9-65-90-17 line, which seems conservative in runs and average.  This projection gives Jeter a $9.19 value, only $1.34 below the aforementioned Andrus line.

I understand the appeal of Andrus -- he's exciting, and who's to say he doesn't hit .310 with 50 steals and 110 runs?  The bottom line is that there's too much hoping going on for a player who is 44th off the board, and as early as 26th in some leagues.  In our recent RotoAuthority mock draft, Tom Warman did not have to reach for Andrus, and I respect the pick in the sixth round.  As you might expect, I was the one taking Jeter, and I actually did reach by grabbing him in the ninth round.  That's a bit misleading, because due to my draft position, I wouldn't go again for 21 more picks.

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Transaction Analysis: Braun, Oswalt, Manny

The biggest moves this week were actually non-moves, per se, as Ryan Braun won his appeal against Major League Baseball and overturned his 50-game suspension, and Roy Oswalt announced that he'd prefer to sign midseason. Aside from that, a pair of DH types found landing spots in the Majors but probably shouldn't land on your roster.

Ryan Braun

I'm probably not the only fantasy owner who lost sleep over Ryan Braun's potential 50-game suspension before he won his appeal, not out of concern for him, but because I sensed an opportunity. I wondered more when to draft him than if I should draft him, and I thought of all the benefits of getting a first-round talent in the fourth, about strategies for weathering the first couple months ... OK, maybe not everybody was as excited about the problem/opportunity as I was.

In any case, there isn't any reason not to take Braun in the first round and--depending on your format--the first OF taken. In a standard 5x5 league, Matt Kemp belongs right where he is, atop the OF rankings, but if your league discounts steals, Braun and his years of consistent production could push him over the top. No matter the format, Braun is one of the top four OFs and is well worth your first-round pick.

With the overturned drug test -- whatever you think about its merit -- there may be more scrutiny on Braun with regard to banned substances, but there doesn't seem to be any more reason to worry about a repeat suspension than there would be with anyone else. Talent like Braun's isn't made by PEDs anyway, and I don's see reason to worry about a dropoff in production. Braun's MockDraftCentral ADP is currently sitting at 21.49, but don't expect that to last, as Braun is the low-risk, high-payout hitter he always was. In fact, MDC reported that Braun's ADP was 4.1 on Friday, the day after he was his appea. So, he won't be coming at a discount anymore.

Roy Oswalt

Coming off back issues and the general facts of aging, Roy Oswalt hasn't found a contract to his (rather picky) liking yet and announced his desire to sign around midseason. Oswalt isn't the ace he was even two years ago, and--in most leagues--he's probably a waste of a roster spot while he waits for the perfect team to come calling. He's worth watching during the season, as he could be a valuable waiver-wire addition, but don't stash him while he sits by the phone. 

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez, who signed with Oakland, is is much the same situation as Oswalt, as he will have to sit through a 50-game suspension to begin the season. While he could be the A's primary DH when he returns, he won't be the monster of his prime and will be playing in one of the worst hitting parks in baseball. If your DH/Utility spot is killing you in June, consider picking him up, but don't think about drafting him.

Raul Ibanez

Raul Ibanez joined the Yankees to serve as the lefty-swinging half of their DH spot, though he will be OF eligible in most leagues. He doesn't do much but add power and RBIs, and even those skills are getting questionable these days. The short porch in Yankee Stadium will likely help his power numbers, as will the lineup around him. If your league allows daily changes and is deep enough for you to bother platooning an OF or UTIL, then Ibanez could be useful. Standard leagues are far too shallow to include this part-timer, though, and the days off are likely to kill his value in leagues that make weekly changes.


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Position/Role Battles: The Indians' C/1B/DH

There are a number of players swirling around the Indians' catching, first base and DH positions, but there is only one constant --- Carlos Santana.  The young slugger is coming off a 27-homer season and is the cornerstone of the Tribe's lineup, so the club's obvious priority is to keep him in the lineup every day.  While his bat plays best at catcher, Santana's defensive shortcomings and the Tribe's desire to keep him fresh and healthy will net Santana a lot of time at both first base and DH this season. 

It goes without saying that of the players listed in this post, Santana is clearly the best fantasy option.  You have the luxury of keeping him as your fantasy catcher all season along, but Santana's position in the real-life Cleveland lineup will have a domino effect on several other members of the Tribe.  I'll rank the rest in order of their fantasy value in 2012 ...

Lou Marson: If you're in a league with one starting catcher, it's very hard to find a backup.  If you're in a league with TWO starting catcher spots, then forget about backups; it's a stretch to find two productive starters at the shallowest position in baseball.  You've got to be on the lookout to fill that second starter or backup-catcher slot with part-time backstops who have good splits and are guaranteed to get regular playing time.

Marson fits this profile to a T.  He has a .285/.367/.395 line in 199 career plate appearances against southpaws; it's a relatively small sample size, but it aligns with the .750 OPS Marson posted in his seven minor league seasons. Marson is also just 25 years old, so his bat could even still improve.

As a right-handed hitter, Marson is a rare commodity on an Indians roster dominated by lefty bats.  His production against southpaws will net him most, if not all, of the starts when the Tribe faces a left-hander, while the switch-hitting Santana (who destroys lefty pitching) will move to DH or first.  Even if Marson just gets 260-270 plate appearances in 2012, a .750 OPS is pretty solid for a second catcher, or even for a backup that you can rotate into the lineup if your full-time starter has a splits problem of his own.

Travis Hafner: "Pronk" turns 35 in June, hasn't played in the field since 2007, and has battled injuries in each of the past three seasons. While the perception is that Hafner has fallen off the map since his huge years in 2004-06, he is still a dangerous (if limited) fantasy threat.  Hafner is strictly a platoon player now, only dangerous against right-handed pitching ... but boy, he's still very dangerous in that limited capacity, posting no worse than an .863 OPS against righties over the past three seasons.  

Personally speaking, I try to avoid DH-only players in fantasy baseball.  I enjoy being able use my utility spot on a bench player who's on a hot streak or having a breakout year, rather than locking it up with one DH for the entire season. If you have a DH-only player like David Ortiz that's worth playing every day, more power to you, but me, I prefer to have a bit of flexibility in my lineup.  That said, if you're going to draft a designated hitter, make it one with killer splits like Hafner so you can start him whenever the Tribe faces a right-hander. 

I'm placing Marson ahead of Hafner simply because Marson only has been ranked against other catchers, whereas Hafner has to compete against literally every other hitter in baseball as a utility player.  A .750 OPS in 270 plate appearances from Marson is more valuable than Hafner's .863 OPS in the same amount of playing time since that production from a catcher is harder to find than Hafner's production in the utility spot.  Marson is still a question mark early in his career, to be sure, but Hafner's injury question gives him a red flag of his own. When in doubt, always take the catcher with upside over the aging DH.

Casey Kotchman: After signing a minor league deal with the Rays last offseason, Kotchman ended up as one of 2011's biggest bargains, posting a .306/.378/.422 line as Tampa Bay's regular first baseman.  That performance may have saved his Major League career, and it resulted in Kotchman signing a one-year, $3MM deal with Cleveland in February. 

If you picked up Kotchman after his hot start last year, congratulations.  If you actually drafted Kotchman last year, then whoa, start playing the lottery. Big season aside, however, it would be almost as surprising if Kotchman were to repeat his 2011 performance in 2012.  Last season was Kotchman's first solid campaign since 2007, he has a wide gap in his splits (.838 OPS vs. RHP, .709 OPS vs. LHP in 2011) and the fact that his OPS dropped by almost 100 points in the second half indicate that he is probably best served as a platoon player.  A left-handed hitter, Kotchman will share time at first with ...

Matt LaPorta: The centerpiece of the package Cleveland received from Milwaukee in the C.C. Sabathia trade, LaPorta has thus far not delivered on the Major League level, hitting .238/.304/.397 in 1,007 plate appearances.  At age 27 and entering his prime years, this could well be a make-or-break season for LaPorta. Kotchman's presence means both that the team can ease LaPorta into a platoon and also give them a veteran fallback should LaPorta struggle again.

Fantasy owners have been picking LaPorta in the later rounds of the last few seasons' worth of drafts, hoping the vaunted prospect will finally break out.  With Kotchman on board this year taking at-bats, I'd guess LaPorta's draft stock could be reduced even further, though if there was ever a season for him to finally break out, on paper this should be the one.  He has demolished minor league pitching so he has nothing left to prove on that level --- either LaPorta produces in 2012 or else he gets tagged with the dreaded "Quadruple-A" label.

Shelley Duncan: The 32-year-old veteran will factor into the first base and DH mix, though his primary contribution to the Indians may come in left field.  Grady Sizemore's health is a question mark, and with the latest news that Sizemore will miss Opening Day due to a back strain, Michael Brantley will now probably start the year as Cleveland's center fielder, putting Duncan and several other outfielders in line for playing time in left. 

Duncan is out of options, but his right-handed bat is probably enough to keep him around anyway on the lefty-heavy Indians (though curiously, Duncan had a .918 OPS in 133 PAs against righties and a .679 OPS in 114 PAs against lefties, a large enough gap that it almost evened out his career splits). Duncan is not a viable fantasy option unless you're in a deep AL-only league or you're the same Nostradamus that saw Kotchman's 2011 season coming.

Fantasy Outlook: To recap, when the Indians face a right-handed starter, their lineup will likely feature Hafner at designated hitter, Santana catching and Kotchman at first.  When a southpaw is on the mound, Santana will DH, Marson will catch and either LaPorta or Duncan will play first.  (Or, one of those two is the DH and Santana plays first.)

While Santana will clearly be the first Indian taken and will be gone by the third round at the latest, Marson and Hafner should both still be around by the 19th or 20th rounds of most drafts.  Some fantasy owners could be swayed by Kotchman's 2011 numbers and select him around this time or even a couple of rounds earlier, but I wouldn't take him with anything but a last-round flier. The same goes for LaPorta, despite all of that potential. I wouldn't draft Duncan at all, but he could provide limited value off the waiver wire depending on how the Tribe's left field or first base situations develop throughout the season.

Yahoo and MDC ADP Analysis & Draft Tiers: Catchers & Third Basemen

This week's ADP-related article will rank catchers and third basemen in order of their Yahoo and Mock Draft Central average draft positions, and then identify draft tiers and strategies (position qualifications referenced in this article are based on Yahoo position qualifications):


  1. Carlos Santana - 40.59 (44.8 Yahoo; 36.37 MDC) 1B
  2. Mike Napoli - 47.13 (47.4 Yahoo; 46.86 MDC) 1B
  3. Brian McCann - 52.91 (55.0 Yahoo; 50.81 MDC)
  4. Buster Posey - 65.15 (70.9 Yahoo; 59.40 MDC)
  5. Joe Mauer - 80.07 (80.9 Yahoo; 79.24 MDC) 1B
  6. Matt Wieters - 95.46 (94.1 Yahoo; 96.81 MDC)
  7. Miguel Montero - 105.5 (108.2 Yahoo; 102.80 MDC)
  8. Alex Avila - 107.2 (104.9 Yahoo; 109.50 MDC)
  9. Yadier Molina - 177.3 (178.8 Yahoo; 175.80 MDC)
  10. J.P. Arencibia - 177.89 (175.9 Yahoo; 179.88 MDC)
  11. Geovany Soto - 203.02 (175.7 Yahoo; 230.34 MDC)
  12. Wilson Ramos - 212.84 (214.4 Yahoo; 211.28 MDC)
  13. Russell Martin - 217.26 (193.4 Yahoo; 241.11 MDC)
  14. Nick Hundley - 226.95 (215.2 Yahoo; 238.69 MDC)
  15. Kurt Suzuki - 229.58 (212.1 Yahoo; 247.05 MDC)
  16. Carlos Ruiz - 229.74 (211.4 Yahoo; 248.07 MDC)
  17. A.J. Pierzynski - 231.16 (211.7 Yahoo; 250.61 MDC)
  18. Chris Iannetta - 231.37 (215.7 Yahoo; 247.04 MDC)
  19. Jarrod Saltalamacchia - 232.01 (224.0 Yahoo; 240.02 MDC)
  20. Ryan Doumit - 233.85 (225.1 Yahoo; 242.60 MDC)
  21. Jonathan Lucroy - 234.47 (222.3 Yahoo; 246.63 MDC)
  22. Ramon Hernandez - 235.14 (222.7 Yahoo; 247.57 MDC)
  23. Yorvit Torrealba - 235.75 (--- Yahoo; 235.75 MDC)
  24. Salvador Perez - 235.97 (232.0 Yahoo; 239.93 MDC)
  25. Devin Mesoraco - 236.01 (227.3 Yahoo; 244.71 MDC)
  26. John Buck - 236.23 (222.9 Yahoo; 249.55 MDC)
  27. Miguel Olivo - 240.87 (232.8 Yahoo; 248.94 MDC)
  28. Rod Barajas - 282.28 (--- Yahoo; 282.28 MDC)
  29. Ryan Hanigan - 283.32 (--- Yahoo; 283.32 MDC)
  • Tiers -
    • Tier #1: Ranks 1-4 (Santana; Napoli; McCann; Posey)
    • Tier #2: Ranks 5-7 (Mauer; Wieters; Montero)
    • Tier #3: Ranks 8-10 (Avila; Molina; Arencibia)
    • Tier #4: Ranks 11-20 (Soto; Ramos; Martin; Hundley; Suzuki; Ruiz; Pierzynski; Iannetta; Saltalamacchia; Doumit)
    • Tier #5: Ranks 21-29 (Lucroy; Hernandez; Torrealba; Perez; Mesoraco; Buck; Olivo; Barajas; Hanigan)
  • Draft Strategy (assuming standard 12-team mixed league with two active catchers) - In a two-catcher league, the top 15 or so catchers rarely fall to their ADPs. The catcher position is top heavy, and the Tier 4 and 5 catchers are a crapshoot of similarly situated players. For this reason, owners should target a Tier 1 or 2 catcher to pair with a Tier 4 catcher. Under this strategy, owners should target Santana, McCann, Wieters or Montero as their top catcher at or slightly above their ADPs, and then let the Tier 3 and 4 catcher runs play out before grabbing any Tier 4 catcher that slips compared to ADP. If owners avoid the first two Tiers then they should slightly reach for Molina or Arencibia compared to ADP, and target a stronger Tier 4 catcher such as Ramos. Tier 5 catchers to target as either second active catchers for those who punt the position due to its depth or third catchers to stream are Perez and Mesoraco. Those two have the most upside within Tier 5.
  • Draft Strategy (assuming standard 12-team mixed league with one active catcher) - In a one-catcher league, owners will have significantly better options for backup catchers on their bench to stream on off-days for their starting catcher. For this reason, owners should avoid the Tier 1 catchers and draft Wieters or Montero in the 90-115 range. If those catchers are missed, owners should wait until around the 170 range to draft Molina or Arencibia, and then pair either with a high-upside Tier 4 catcher such as Ramos, Iannetta, or Saltalamacchia. Since there will be safe catcher options on the waiver wire the backup catcher should be one with higher upside.
  • Draft Strategy (Yahoo ADPs) - Santana (Yahoo default ranking 45) is falling slightly more in Yahoo drafts compared to MDC, and is easier to draft if falling into the fourth round. Soto (Yahoo default ranking 178) and Martin (Yahoo default ranking 276) are overrated in Yahoo drafts compared to MDC. For Soto, his 175.7 Yahoo ADP is caused by his 178 default ranking. Martin's 193.4 Yahoo ADP is inexplicable.

Third Basemen

  1. Jose Bautista - 4.92 (5.5 Yahoo; 4.34 MDC) OF
  2. Evan Longoria - 12.64 (13.4 Yahoo; 11.88 MDC)
  3. Adrian Beltre - 29.15 (26.7 Yahoo; 31.60 MDC)
  4. David Wright - 32.01 (31.2 Yahoo; 32.82 MDC)
  5. Ryan Zimmerman - 40.01 (37.4 Yahoo; 42.62 MDC)
  6. Alex Rodriguez - 53.6 (46.0 Yahoo; 61.20 MDC)
  7. Brett Lawrie - 55.08 (54.4 Yahoo; 55.75 MDC)
  8. Pablo Sandoval - 56.43 (42.7 Yahoo; 70.15 MDC) 1B
  9. Michael Young - 64.79 (58.0 Yahoo; 71.58 MDC) 1B, 2B
  10. Kevin Youkilis - 74.22 (63.9 Yahoo; 84.53 MDC) 1B
  11. Aramis Ramirez - 75.03 (80.7 Yahoo; 69.36 MDC)
  12. Mark Reynolds - 116.06 (114.0 Yahoo; 118.12 MDC) 1B
  13. David Freese - 149.98 (136.8 Yahoo; 163.16 MDC)
  14. Martin Prado - 168.59 (148.8 Yahoo; 188.38 MDC) OF
  15. Mike Moustakas - 198.84 (181.8 Yahoo; 215.88 MDC)
  16. Ryan Roberts - 209.43 (221.7 Yahoo; 197.15 MDC) 2B
  17. Edwin Encarnacion - 214.16 (197.2 Yahoo; 231.12 MDC) 1B
  18. Mat Gamel - 222.35 (---Yahoo; 222.35 MDC)
  • Notes - Emilio Bonafacio is not listed since owners will slot him at SS.
  • Tiers -
    • Tier #1: Ranks 1-2 (Bautista; Longoria)
    • Tier #2: Ranks 3-8 (Beltre; Wright; Zimmerman; Rodriguez; Lawrie; Sandoval)
    • Tier #3: Ranks 9-12 (Young; Youkilis; Ramirez; Reynolds)
    • Tier #4: Ranks 13-18 (Freese; Prado; Moustakas; Roberts; Encarnacion; Gamel)
  • Draft Strategy (assuming standard 12-team mixed league with active roster slots for 1B, 3B and CI) - Due to the lack of depth at third base, owners will want to fill their CI slot with a first baseman since first basemen in the 12-18 range are significantly better than the third basemen in this range. Owners are encouraged to select the Tier 1 third basemen in the first round (and pair with a Round 2 hitter with a good batting average). The Tier 2 third basemen offer similar value but should be targeted by any owner that needs a third baseman when there are only a few Tier 2 third basemen left. There is a significant drop in quality between the Tier 3 and 4 third basemen, so owners should not let all of the Tier 3 players get drafted before they have a third basemen. Within Tier 4, owners should target Moustakas, Encarnacion and Gamel compared to their ADPs as bench CIs with upside.
  • Draft Strategy (Yahoo ADPs) - The top third basemen are being taken earlier in Yahoo leagues, particularly A-Rod and Sandoval, so owners should not reach for Tier 2 third basemen since they offer similar value. Tier 4 players Freese and Prado are being drafted much too high in Yahoo leagues, most likely by owners that were left reaching for a third baseman since they missed out on Tiers 1-3. Avoid this mistake. Gamel makes a nice end-draft bench pick in Yahoo leagues since his Yahoo default ranking is 1177, so he will not even be on most owners' radar screens during Yahoo drafts.

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