February 2012

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Yahoo and MDC ADP Analysis & Draft Tiers - First Basemen

Yahoo has released their draft results so this week's ADP article will rank first basemen in order of their Yahoo and Mock Draft Central average draft positions, and then identify draft tiers and strategies. In the coming weeks I will look at other hitting positions and pitchers. Here we go with the first basemen (position qualifications referenced in this article are based on Yahoo position qualifications):

  1. Miguel Cabrera - 2.06 (2.52 MDC; 1.6 Yahoo)
  2. Albert Pujols - 3.13 (2.85 MDC; 3.4 Yahoo)
  3. Joey Votto - 8.51 (9.32 MDC; 7.7 Yahoo)
  4. Adrian Gonzalez - 9.14 (9.37 MDC; 8.9 Yahoo)
  5. Prince Fielder - 13.49 (14.07 MDC; 12.9 Yahoo)
  6. Mark Teixeira - 25.29 (27.17 MDC; 23.4 Yahoo)
  7. Paul Konerko - 52.22 (48.24 MDC; 56.2 Yahoo)
  8. Eric Hosmer - 63.65 (52.79 MDC; 74.5 Yahoo)
  9. Michael Morse - 74.49 (78.88 MDC; 70.1 Yahoo)
  10. Lance Berkman - 85.98 (92.15 MDC; 79.8 Yahoo) (OF eligibility)
  11. Ryan Howard - 115.38 (148.45 MDC; 82.3 Yahoo)
  12. Billy Butler - 126.48 (121.55 MDC; 131.4 Yahoo)
  13. Freddie Freeman - 133.51 (121.91 MDC; 145.1 Yahoo)
  14. Nick Swisher - 136.12 (122.93 MDC; 149.3 Yahoo)
  15. Paul Goldschmidt - 142.75 (146.7 MDC; 138.8 Yahoo)
  16. Ike Davis - 151.75 (174.00 MDC; 129.5 Yahoo)
  17. Adam Lind - 163.11 (150.82 MDC; 175.4 Yahoo)
  18. Mark Trumbo - 166.42 (141.94 MDC; 190.9 Yahoo)
  19. Justin Morneau - 196.35 (162.10 MDC; 230.6 Yahoo)
  20. Kendrys Morales - 207.81 (213.22 MDC; 202.4 Yahoo)
  21. Carlos Lee - 208.16 (190.11 MDC; 226.2 Yahoo) (OF)
  22. Gaby Sanchez - 214.41 (198.21 MDC; 230.6 Yahoo)
  23. Brandon Belt - 223.51 (206.12 MDC; 240.9 Yahoo) (OF)
  24. Lucas Duda - 224.76 (226.91 MDC; 222.6 Yahoo) (OF)
  25. Todd Helton - 226.05 (220.50 MDC; 231.6 Yahoo)
  26. John Mayberry - 228.17 (227.13 MDC; 229.2 Yahoo) (OF)
  27. Justin Smoak - 232.34 (222.97 MDC; 241.7 Yahoo)
  28. Derrek Lee - 235.36 (232.72 MDC; 238 Yahoo)
  29. Carlos Pena - 236.61 (221.81 MDC; 251.4 Yahoo)
  30. Adam Dunn - 237.57 (227.93 MDC; 247.2 Yahoo)
  31. Aubrey Huff - 238.17 (253.33 MDC; 223.0 Yahoo) (OF)
  32. Adam LaRoche - 242.99 (242.99 MDC; --- Yahoo)
  33. Mitch Moreland - 244.10 (237.09 MDC; 251.1 Yahoo) (OF)
  34. James Loney - 245.68 (225.35 MDC; 266 Yahoo)
  35. Mike Carp - 247.66 (231.62 MDC; 263.7 Yahoo) (OF)
  36. Jesus Guzman - 255.40 (255.40 MDC; --- Yahoo)
  37. Garrett Jones - 255.68 (281.25 MDC; 230.1 Yahoo)
  38. Casey Kotchman - 262.64 (262.64 MDC; --- Yahoo)
  39. Anthony Rizzo - 268.99 (309.17 MDC; 228.8 Yahoo)
  • Tiers -
    • Tier 1: Ranks 1-6 (Cabrera; Pujols; Votto; Gonzalez; Fielder; Teixeira)
    • Tier 2: Ranks 7-10 (Konerko; Hosmer; Morse; Berkman)
    • Tier 3: Ranks 11-17 (Howard; Butler; Freeman; Swisher; Goldschmidt; Davis; Lind)
    • Tier 4: Ranks 18-21 (Trumbo; Morneau; Morales; Lee)
    • Tier 5: Ranks 22-30 (Sanchez; Belt; Duda; Helton; Mayberry; Smoak; Lee; Pena; Dunn)
    • Tier 6: Ranks 31-39 (Huff; LaRoche; Moreland; Loney; Carp; Guzman; Jones; Kotchman; Rizzo)
  • Draft Strategy (assuming standard 12 team mixed league with active roster slots for 1B, 3B and CI) - 1B is significantly deeper this year than 3B so owners will want to draft their CI and their bench CI from the 1B position. If you were to draft a CI from the 3B position, you would be selecting from David Freese as the 13th 3B per Yahoo ADP compared to Freddie Freeman as the 13th 1B. The dropoff is even more significant the deeper you go with 3B as Scott Rolen is 18th, Ian Stewart is 19th and Placido Polanco is 20th (all per Yahoo) compared to the Tier 4 and 5 1Bs. Therefore, owners should target a Tier 1 or 2 1B for their 1B slot, a Tier 3 1B for their CI position, and a Tier 4 or 5 1B for their bench CI slot. Selecting Cabrera with a top 3 pick, and then selecting multiple Tier 2 and 3 1Bs to CI and bench is another strategy since Cabrera will likely have 3B eligibility by early April, at which time you can activate the 1B drafted to your bench into the 1B slot vacated by Cabrera.
  • Tier Values - The average draft slots for the first two tiers is consistent with their projected values. Within Tier 3, owners should target Freeman, Goldschmidt, Davis & Lind compared to their draft positions. Owners should then skip drafting the Tier 4 1Bs and use picks in the 160-210 range to fill out their rotations and back-end closers. Within the Tier 5 1Bs, Sanchez is an excellent value as a CI or to the bench. In addition, Belt, Duda, Pena & Dunn provide good value as bench CIs at their draft positions. The Tier 6 1Bs will likely be added and dropped throughout the season corresponding to hot and cold streaks - LaRoche, Moreland & Carp should be the players drafted within this tier as bench CIs.

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RotoAuthority Live Chat

Click below to read a transcript of tonight's chat with Steve Adams.

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2012 Position Rankings: Third Base

Third base offers quite a bit of variety in fantasy, with some extreme power hitters, a few high average guys, and some all-around players that impact all five categories. The talent pool figures to get even deeper once Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and possibly even Mark Trumbo pick up hot corner eligibility at some point this season. As always, the rankings are based on standard 12-team mixed leagues with 5x5 scoring.

  1. Jose Bautista, TOR - Bautista showed that 2010 was no fluke last year, mashing 43 homers and lowering his fly ball rate (and thus raising his BABIP) enough to bring his average over .300. He might not hit .300+ long-term, but power is getting harder to come by and he's as much of a lock for 35+ dingers (and all the run production numbers that come along with them) as anyone.
  2. Evan Longoria, TBR - Despite missing almost the entire month of April, Longoria hit 31 homers and fell just shy of 100 RBI in 2011. His BABIP dropped to .239 after three straight years of .300+, though the only significant change in his batted ball profile was a slight increase in his infield fly ball rate. Expect his .244 batting average to rebound in 2012.
  3. Adrian Beltre, TEX - Beltre missed more than five weeks with a hamstring strain, but he was still a top four producer in batting average (.296), homers (32), RBI (105), and runs (82) among qualified third baseman. Given the lineup around him and his home ballpark., good health in 2012 could result in the best all-around season at the position.
  4. Pablo Sandoval, SF- Kung Fu Panda shook off his sophomore slump to produce his second .300+ average, 23+ homer season in the last three years, though a wrist problem cost him a shot at 30 long balls. It's an unfavorable park and a lineup without much help, but at 25 years old, Sandoval has a chance to produce some serious fantasy value over the next few years.
  5. David Wright, NYM - CitiField has not been kind to Wright, who has hit .284/.364/.463 in the three years at his new digs (.309/.389/.533 beforehand). Injuries have played a part as well, and it's worth noting that his road performance (.288/.352/.479) has suffered since the move as well. The walls moved this offseason, so hopefully he'll break some of the bad habits he's developed over the last three years.
  6. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS - Zimmerman is one of the most unheralded great players in the game, but injuries have held him back from true superstar status. He missed two months with an abdominal problem last year and has lost time to injury in three of the last four years. When right, there's .280/30/100/100+ potential here.
  7. Aramis Ramirez, MIL - There isn't much difference between Wrigley Field and Miller Park, but Aramis will benefit from having a better lineup (even without Prince Fielder and potentially Ryan Braun for 50 games) around him and not having to face Milwaukee's pitching. Another 25+ HR with close to 100+ RBI and a respectable average is in the cards.
  8. Kevin Youkilis, BOS - Injuries have robbed Youk of playing time in each of the last three seasons, which in turn has cut into his production. He didn't hit at all away from Fenway Park in 2011 (.191/.317/.349), but that's more likely to be a fluke than a sign of imminent danger. He's still capable of big numbers given his ballpark and teammates, but he has to stay on the field first.
  9. Alex Rodriguez, NYY - Once the best fantasy player in the world, A-Rod has spent time in the DL in each of the last four seasons. He missed the 30 HR, 100 RBI level for the first time since 1997 last year, but the power output has been declining steadily into his mid-30s. He's still an RBI machine and will hit for average, but his body has betrayed him lately. He could have a huge year given his unmatched talent, but it's very unlikely.
  10. Brett Lawrie, TOR - Few rookies made a bigger immediate impact that Lawrie last year (.293/9/25/26/7 in just 43 games), so he set a really high standard for himself in 2011. The talent is there for 20-20 with a near-.300 average over a full season's worth of playing time, but be careful not to overrate him based on that late-season cameo.
  11. Mark Reynolds, BAL - Only seven players have hit 30+ HR in each of the last three seasons, and Reynolds is one of them. He's not going to hit for average at all (.238 career), but he stays in the lineup (145+ games in each of the last four years) and draws enough walks to reach base and score runs at a respectable rate. The homers and run production are valuable by themselves, but his ability to flirt with double-digit steals in underrated.
  12. Michael Young, TEX - The first and almost certainly the only player to appear in our rankings at three different positions, Young is the same guy we've ranked two times before. He'll hit for an average that's anywhere from solid to steller with strong run production numbers given his lineup and ballpark, but don't expect much power or many steals.
  13. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR - Encarnacion is generally under-appreciated, but he's become a better all-around player over the last few seasons and now contributes solid production in each of the five categories. He's not a star, but he is entering his prime years and could get even better.
  14. Chase Headley, SD - Switch-hitters with power, patience, and above average defense at the hot corner are supposed to be stars, but Headley has been smothered by Petco Park: career .229/.319/.336 at home but .303/.364/.441 on the road. You'll get a solid average and double-digit steals (plus a healthy OBP if you're in that kind of league), but don't be surprised if he winds up with single-digit homers.
  15. Ryan Roberts, ARI - Tatman broke out with 19 HR and 18 steals last year, though his track record is very limited and his 24.3% line drive rate might not last. Roberts is in a good hitter's park with a strong lineup around him, and a full season of playing time might just turn into 20-20 with close to triple-digit RBI and runs scored given his walk rate. Lots of risk though.
  16. Emilio Bonifacio, FLA - Bonifacio is unlikely to repeat last season's .372 BABIP, but he's a classic slash-and-dash type that is expected to post higher than average BABIPs. Even if his average creeps away from .300, he'll still have value because he'll steal more bases that pretty much anyone else at the position.
  17. David Freese, STL - Destined to be overrated on draft day given his World Series heroics, Freese played in 100+ games for the first time since 2008 last year, and even then it was only 101 contests. He's missed time with hand, ankle, and foot problems in recent years, though he's produced whenever he's been on the field: .298/.354/.429 with 15 HR and 98 RBI in 667 big league plate appearances, a full season's worth.
  18. Chipper Jones, ATL - One of only 21 players in baseball history with a .300/.400/.500+ career batting line (min. 5,000 plate appearances), Chipper can still hit. His batting average has sunk into the .265-.275 range, but he hit 18 HR for the second time in three years in 2012. It's all about health. If he stays on the field, he'll provide some value.
  19. Daniel Murphy, NYM - If you could build a hitter for CitiField, Murphy is probably what you'd end up with. He hits a plethora of line drives and ground balls, which are conducive to a high BABIP (and by extension, batting average). Don't expect many homers or stolen bases, but he could surprise in the run production categories.
  20. Martin Prado, ATL - Prado excels at putting the ball in play (just 8.8% strikeouts in 2011), but he doesn't have a ton of power (28 HR in over 1,200 plate appearances over the last two years) and his value to closely tied to his BABIP. His line drive rate fell off a cliff last year, so expect a slight rebound in batting average in 2012.
  21. Danny Valencia, MIN - The stellar debut season was followed by a brutal sophomore campaign, but there are reasons to expect his BABIP (and batting average) to rebound given his batted ball profile. I doubt Valencia will repeat the .311 mark he put up in 2010, but he's better than a .246 hitter. Fifteen bombs from any position is valuable as well.
  22. Ian Stewart, CHC - Last season was just brutal for Stewart, who hit .156/.243/.221 in 48 games with the Rockies while missing time with knee and wrist problems. He's still only 26 though, with big left-handed power and a move into a ballpark that favors such hitters. There's bounce back potential here (meaning .250 average and 20 or so homers), and even a smidgen of breakout potential.
  23. Pedro Alvarez, PIT - Strikeouts, left-handers, and conditioning continue to be an issue for the former second overall pick, who missed close to two months with a quad strain last year. Alvarez has huge raw power, but he doesn't figure to hit for much average and he won't steal any bases. The power and run production potential is considerable though. I think he's underrated at the moment.
  24. Mike Moustakas, KC - Moose's debut was underwhelming last year (.263/5/30/26/2 in 365 plate appearances), and the Royals did look for a platoon partner this winter to make life easier for him. There's legitimate 30 HR power here, but I wouldn't expect him to tap into it right away. Moustakas is an intriguing player, but the ride figures to be bumpy at first.
  25. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE - Chisenhall showed some power during his debut last season, though most of it was into the gaps rather than over the fence. The lefty swinger has shown a platoon split throughout his career, but luckily for him he's on the dominant side and his home ballpark is friendlier to his kind.

Honorable Mention: Wilson Betemit, BAL; Mat Gamel, MIL; Casey McGehee, PIT; Alberto Callaspo, LAA; Scott Sizemore, OAK; Jimmy Paredes, HOU

Other Positions: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Shortstop

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5 Outfielders to Draft Late

Late is often bad. Late for work; late for an appointment. Late for rent. I'm sure you can think of a few others. 

On the other hand, you might like to work late. You are a hard worker; good job. You'll succeed in this life. As Vince Lombardi said, "The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary." Lombardi was a true logophile.  

Late can be fun. You might like to party late, engaging in disreputable behavior. You might be, as they say in Chinese, a night cat (ye maozi 夜猫子 - infinitely more apt than "night owl"; you prowl, you don't hoot). And late is very, very fun in fantasy baseball. 

All six of these OF have ADPs greater than 200 on both Yahoo! and MDC. Grab two or three or all of them, sketchball. 

Brennan Boesch: MDC: 216.0, Yahoo!: 240.5

Esteemed colleague Mike Axisa first wrote about Boesch here. As Mike noted, Jim Leyland already has Boesch penciled into the two-hole (for you night cats) in the Tigers lineup for 2012 (see here). Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, while outweighing Fiats, have been known to knock runs in. This bodes well for Boesch. Boesch-boding FTW! 

Outside of Boesch's sublime situation, yet further reason exists to swoon Brennan's way. In his sophomore season in the bigs, Boesch decreased his SwStr% from 12.1% in '10 to 9.0%. His contact rate rose from 78.3% to 82.1%. His LD% burgeoned from 15.2% to 18.2%. His HR/FB% grew from 9.6% to 11.9%. His Thesaurus usage blossomed to 42.2%. And, perhaps most importantly, his OBP increased from .320 to .341.

Boesch's upside, given 600+ PA? .285/25/80/110/10. 

Lucas Duda: MDC: 227.1, Yahoo!: 222.6

Duda's triple slashes in the final three months of 2011, after seeing regular playing time:

July: .300/.383/.529

August: .319/.382/.527

September: .311/.416/.514

Good for wOBAs of .387, .392, and .401, respectively. 

Now, Duda did suffer a concussion on September 21st, 2011. We know how dreadful concussions can be. Yet by October 31st, 2011, Adam Rubin reported that Duda was symptom free. With the Flushing fences pulled in and a spot on the roster set, Duda could do some very nice things in 2012. Let us not forget the half-season Duda registered in 2010 at AAA, after having been promoted: .314/.389/.610 in 298 PA.

Duda's 2012 upside: .300/25/100/90/5. 

Jose Tabata: MDC: 228.5, Yahoo!: 227.0

If Tabata was bitten by the injury bug in 2011, it was by some sort of big, fat, smart-bug. 

Tabata is ready to roll for 2012, however, and is locked in to the leadoff spot after signing a new contract. Granted, it's the Pittsburgh Pirates, but let's not forget that Tabata managed 9 SB, 16 R, and 3 HR in April last year. At 23 years old, with a secure role, Tabata is a solid late-round pick. 

Upside: .300/10/50/100/40. 

Alex Rios: MDC: 219.3, Yahoo!: 231.8

Rios is not 23 years old; later this week, he'll be 31. Rios had a .266 wOBA in 2011, over 570 PA, good for -0.7 WAR! Epic fail. I've never been an Alex Rios fan, relative to where he's been drafted, but an ADP in the 220s mews profit to me. Even in his year of unbelievably epic fail, Rios still managed 13 HR and 11 SB. Between Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rios, something funny was in the White Sox agua last year. They're all good buys in '12. 

Rios's upside: 2010. 

Colby Rasmus: MDC: 209.4, Yahoo!: 231.8

Rasmus's monster year at AA in 2007 (.275/.381/.551 in 556 PA, 18 SB) rocketed him to blue-chip status. After posting a .276/.361/.498 line (with 12 SB) in 534 PA with the Cardinals in 2010, many thought the sky was the limit. He ended up at the Skydome (Rogers Centre, I know), and, well, didn't hit. After a rocky start, getting traded to a different team in a different league in a different country at the age of 24 can't feel good. With an offseason and spring training to adjust, I like Rasmus in 2012. 

Upside: .275/25/90/85/15

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Sleepers & Busts: Chris Capuano, Drew Storen

The mock-drafting masses continue to provide this space with fodder for posts, and that'll only increase as soon-to-open Spring Training camps inch closer to Opening Day, so let's continue on with the analysis of potential Draft Day hits and misses. As always the standard disclaimer: The terms "sleeper" and "bust" are relative to average draft position (courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com).

Chris Capuano, SP, Dodgers
ADP: 273

With a deep pool of starting-pitching talent around the Majors these days, the middle and late rounds are loaded with potential value picks among the ranks of the hurlers. That's good news for bargain hunters, as there are some useful but unsexy arms who've in turn been bumped to the back end of drafts (or aren't being drafted at all).

One such fellow is Dodgers lefty Chris Capuano, who could turn out to be an end-of-draft steal relative to where he's going off the board -- or, more accurately, not going off the board -- in many mocks. The southpaw's current ADP of 273 puts him in the late 22nd round, although he's only being drafted in a measly 3.7% of leagues.

Capuano's injury history -- he didn't appear in the Majors in 2008-09 -- and his underwhelming surface numbers in 2011 are probably the culprits for his lack of respect so far in mocks, but that's to our advantage. The left-hander's 11 wins, 4.55 ERA and 1.35 WHIP weren't much to write home about last season, but he actually posted a fine 3.60 SIERA to go with strong strikeout (8.13 K/9) and walk (2.56 BB/9) rates, so there is hope for fairly significant improvement for his ERA in 2012.

Certainly, it'd be easier to more confidently predict such a correction if Cap had stayed with the Mets and pitched roughly half of his ballgames at cavernous Citi Field, but the move over to the Dodgers isn't a substantial downgrade by any means. The 33-year-old will now reside at Dodger Stadium, which stifles right-handed power, a bugaboo for Capuano throughout his career. He'll also get a couple starts at AT&T Park and Petco Park, against the weak lineups of the Giants and Padres.

It's been my observation that there's a tendency among many fantasy owners to burn out or simply shut it down by the time the last couple rounds of a draft roll around. Heck, I'd be lying if I said I haven't fallen victim to it myself. Resist the urge as much as possible, because while expectations should be relatively tempered, there are still useful players to be found in these rounds. Someone like Capuano won't make or break your season, but that doesn't mean he can't exceed the value of what you'll pay for him in the late 22nd, especially when someone like Guillermo Moscoso is actually going ahead of him in drafts.

Drew Storen, Nationals, CL
ADP:  82.2

Drew Storen is being drafted, on average, in the late sixth round. That's too soon.

Perhaps mockers are chasing the ghost of Craig Kimbrel circa 2011. Or, perhaps Kimbrel's insanely high draft position (59, late fourth!) is causing a chain reaction, whereby the other closers are going too early. Whatever the reason, it's worth noting that while Storen looks to have a strong career ahead of him as a perennial top-10 closer, he's not someone worth reaching for -- not to this extent, anyway.

There's two primary factors that make Storen a reach for me: saves and strikeouts. While the right-hander's 43 saves in 2011 were surely a boon for his owners, it's nearly impossible to predict how that'll translate this season. Take, for example, Jonathan Papelbon. Pap enjoyed his finest season last year by SIERA (1.58) but finished with a mere 31 saves. What's to blame for the discrepancy? Blind luck, mostly. If there's a formula out there for predicting saves, I haven't seen it. So while mock drafters are likely paying for Storen's 43 saves, there's a chance they won't get 43 saves.

As for the strikeouts, Storen was no slouch in that department in 2011, posting a solid 8.84 K/9. But he's far more of a well-rounded pitcher than he is K King, which bodes well for his long-term prospects of prosperity but makes him less attractive as a potential overreach on draft day. Again, for comparison's sake, Kimbrel's ridiculously high ADP of 59 makes some sense coming off a season in which he posted a whopping 14.84 K/9.

It's hard to figure why Storen is going so early at this point, but the fact is that he's the second stopper flying off draft boards, after only Kimbrel. Meanwhile, Ryan Madson, who profiles similarly to Storen, is languishing till 144, and strikeout types Jordan Walden and Sergio Santos are sitting ducks at 158 and 172, respectively. Don't be afraid to pass on Storen.

Transaction Analysis: Guthrie, Hammel, Lindstrom

Jeremy Guthrie escaped the AL East this week and rumors swirl that A.J. Burnett may join him in the National League. It isn't often that a trade to the Colorado inflates a pitcher's fantasy value, but that's exactly the situation that Guthrie is in. Since he wasn't traded for prospects, both pitchers received by the Orioles are in position to find their way onto fantasy rosters. We'll take a look at all three, one by one.

Jeremy Guthrie

Guthrie may be going mile-high, but Coors Field isn't quite the terror it was in the 1990s. Homers are likely to be a problem, given Guthrie's 41% career flyball rate, but Camden Yards wasn't a great place for him either, and the difference may not be that drastic. Though he'll be going to the world's most feared hitter's park (and owner of second place on ESPN's park factor list) he'll be staying away from Boston, Toronto, and New York (the third, fourth, and sixth-most hitter friendly parks in baseball) on the road, replacing them with trips to San Franciso, San Diego, and Los Angeles, so the park change isn't as bad as it sounds.

Of course, that isn't counting the hitters themselves. Pitching for Baltimore is more than pitching for a bad team, it's facing four of baseball's toughest offenses night after night. The general quality difference between the AL and the NL should help, too. Overall, the change in environment should be a wash at the worst for Guthrie's rate stats and strikouts, and could well give them a boost.

The biggest thing this trade has going for Guthrie and his potential owners, though, is in the wins category. The Rockies weren't exactly a great team last year, but they were a lot better than the Orioles and finished second in the NL in runs scored (some of that might have been the park...). As a team that underperformed its pythagorean record and plays in a competitive division, the Rockies make sense as a bounceback team; it's easy to imagine improvement showing up in Guthrie's wins statistic.

Finally, pitching for the Rockies means you can maximize Guthrie's return by playing him when he pitches on the road and sitting him on the bench for home games. It's especially easy in daily leagues, though the strategy can be managed in weekly leagues, too. With an ADP of 350.53 (and a draft percentage of under two!), Guthrie is being drafted behind the likes of Bruce Chen and the shell of John Lackey. He won't make or break any fantasy leagues, but he deserves a lot more consideration than he's getting.

Jason Hammel

Hammel once showed enough promise to make him an off-again, on-again member of my primary fantasy rotation last year. I'm hoping not to make that mistake again, though the trade to Baltimore might give him what he needed: weaker competition for a rotation spot. With an abysmal 4.97 K/9, the 2011 Hammel didn't belong on anyone's fantasy roster. Two years ago was a different story, though, as he posted a strikeout rate over seven and a FIP of 3.70. The Orioles will have no choice but to give Hammel a long look, giving you plenty of time to see if the strikeouts come back. If they do, he could be a useful starter again. If not, stay away. Far away.

Matt Lindstrom

The nature of Lindstrom's fantasy value is simple and binary: he either closes for the Orioles or he doesn't. As of now, Jim Johnson is the favorite for the ninth-inning job, but it's one of the least secure in baseball. Spring Training will likely be an open audition, in fact, even if it isn't one in name. Importantly, Johnson is new to the job, and Matt Lindstrom is a Proven Closer (with partial seasons for two different teams) who Throws Hard (he averages about 96 mph on his fastball). Sure, you'd think the Orioles had learned their lesson with Kevin Gregg, but some teams never learn.

Finally, for those of you watching closers and setup men, note that this probably makes Rex Brothers next in line for Colorado's closer job should Rafael Betancourt fail or get hurt.

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Position/Role Battles: The White Sox Closer

With Sergio Santos now in Toronto, the White Sox find themselves looking for another regular closer.  Two veterans and one very promising young arm stand out as the top candidates to take over as Chicago's new ninth-inning man, so let's break down their cases and fantasy value...

Matt Thornton: After years of quality set-up work out of the White Sox bullpen, Thornton got his shot at the closer's job in the wake of Bobby Jenks' departure last winter.  Unfortunately for Thornton, his promotion was short-lived.  He suffered through a horrific April, posting an 8.36 ERA in the month and blowing his first four save opportunities, not actually racking up a save until May 11.  By that point, Santos had emerged and Thornton returned to his usual setup role.

The good news for Thornton is that for the last five months of the season, he was as dominant as ever --- a 2.45 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings from May 3 to Sept. 28, holding opposing hitters to just a .574 OPS.  It's very possible that April 2011 was just a poorly timed rough month for the southpaw, rather than a sign that he can't handle closing.  New Chicago manager Robin Ventura may share this opinion, recently noting that Thornton was "probably" the leading closer candidate going into Spring Training (though pitching coach Don Cooper was a bit surprised by Ventura's statement).

On paper, Thornton seems like the most capable ninth-inning option for the White Sox.  I would guess he'll at least start the season with the job and get every opportunity to prove that last April was just a fluke.  Though Thornton is 35 years old, he has been consistent enough in recent years that a sudden drop off the cliff performance-wise would be unlikely.  Thornton will probably get a second crack at closing, barring a huge Spring Training from...

Addison Reed: The 23-year-old Reed has been nothing short of dominant in his short pro career. A third-round pick in the 2010 draft, Reed has quickly shot through Chicago's system after posting a 1.41 ERA, an 0.74 WHIP, and 155 strikeouts (against just 20 walks) in 108 1/3 innings pitched over two minor league seasons.  Reed's dominance earned him a call to the Major Leagues last September, where he recorded a 3.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings of work.

It's easy for Sox fans to be tempted by the thought of a dominant rookie seizing the job and becoming the team's closer for the next decade-plus, but while Reed has looked great in his two years as a pro, it's still just two years of experience.  Chicago has no particular need to rush Reed into a major role right away and might even think Reed's development would be better served closing games in Triple-A rather than staring the season in the big leagues.

Keep an eye on Reed during Spring Training, since if he's blowing away the Cactus League as easily as he did the minors, he may force Chicago's hand.  And, needless to say, if you're in any kind of keeper league or futures league, Reed is a must-buy if he isn't locked up on someone else's roster already.

Jesse Crain: Last winter, Crain said that the chance to close games was one of the reasons he chose to leave Minnesota and sign with the White Sox. In Crain's limited opportunities to close in 2011, he struggled badly in the role, blowing six of seven possible saves.  This was the only statistical black mark on an otherwise very solid year for Crain (a 2.62 ERA and a career-best 9.6 K/9 rate in 67 games) but it continues a disturbing trend that stretches back to Crain's time with the Twins. In 23 career save opportunities, Crain has converted just four saves --- a ghastly 17% conversion rate.

In fairness to Crain, he has never been asked to close in his eight-year career. If you believe in "the closing mentality," Crain's change in mindset and preparation knowing that he would be the first choice with a ninth-inning lead could do wonders for him.  Still, Crain seems like an emergency option who would only find regular closing chances if Thornton and Reed both struggled.

Fantasy outlook: No matter who wins the job, the White Sox closer should clearly be the #2 saves option in your fantasy bullpen. Draft a more proven, stable closer as your top saves-getter to give you the breathing room to take a bit of a flyer on Chicago's closer.  Thornton is the favorite at this point but the situation is definitely fluid.

Unlike some of our other Position/Role Battle cases, the Chicago closing battle isn't a zero-sum game, especially if you're in a league that tracks holds. Your ideal "holds guy" is a pitcher who not only collects holds but also racks up strikeouts and has other strong peripherals.  Thornton has been one of baseball's best and most consistent setup men over the last six seasons, averaging 20 holds a year and a 3.29 K/BB ratio in that stretch. Crain's overall career numbers are a bit more hit-and-miss, but he's been stellar the last two years, and Reed's minor league potential speaks for itself.  If you draft Thornton or Crain and they don't end up as the closer, you'll have the nice consolation prize of owning a solid holds guy.  The same goes for Reed unless the White Sox send him back down to Triple-A.

The other x-factor is that we don't yet know how Ventura (a rookie to not just the Major League managing ranks but to any level of pro coaching) intends to deploy his bullpen.  Will Ventura use the standard practice of having one primary closer, or could he mix things up?  Between Thornton and Crain, the possibility exists for a lefty-righty closing platoon depending on matchups, so Ventura has some room to be creative with the closer's job. 

This, of course, might be great for Chicago's chances of winning games, but it's not what you want from the standpoint of fantasy stability.  If Thornton wins the closer's job and you draft him, don't hesitate to also pick up Crain or Reed as a handcuff.  Best-case scenario, you get both a top closer and a top holds guy, mirroring those shrewd fantasy owners who handcuffed Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters last year.

RotoAuthority Live Chat

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ADP Analysis: Underrated Hitters

Every Friday during the pre-season I will be analyzing ADP-related issues using the most recent information courtesy of Mock Draft Central and other sources. This week we are looking at hitters that are underrated in relation to their ADPs (unless stated otherwise, all stat references are for the 2011 season):

  • Catchers: Matt Wieters (ADP 98.90; 6th C), Salvador Perez (ADP 236.01; 17th C) and Devin Mesoraco (ADP 242.05; 24th C) - Wieters is a nice post-hype sleeper.  His home runs jumped from 11 in 502 plate-appearances in 2010 to 22 in 551 PAs in 2011. His HR/FB jumped from 8% in 2010 to 13.6% in 2011, and his ISO also jumped from .128 in 2010 to .188 in 2011. Wieters is a player developing and entering his prime. Ron Shandler writes in his 2012 Baseball Forecaster that the switch-hitter has 30-homer upside. Wieters also has AVG upside, as his BABIP was just .276 last season after being .356 in 385 PAs in 2009 and .287 in 2010.  Look to Wieters' 2011 second half xBA of .285 as the potential upside. Wieters also projects to hit 5th in Baltimore's lineup. ...  Perez is a nice C2 target as he projects to hit seventh in a big-upside lineup in Kansas City, and should see a substantial amount of the catcher at-bats without a viable backup. His .331 average in 2011 is not sustainable, as he had a .362 BABIP, but he hit in the .280-.290 range in the minors with good counting stats (2011 - 9 HRs and 43 RBIs in 309 Double-A PAs; 2010 - 7 HRs and 53 RBIs in 396 PAs in high class A). ... Mesoraco hits in a great home ballpark and has the most upside of any C2 relative to his ADP. If he gets the Dusty Baker treatment and sits the bench, he can easily be dropped since he's a late pick, or he can be streamed as your C3 to maximize at-bats from your catcher position.
  • First Basemen: Adam Lind (ADP 151.70; 14th 1B) and Gaby Sanchez (ADP 198.37; 17th 1B) - Lind is projected to hit cleanup -- behind walk machine Jose Bautista -- and plays in the hitter-friendly AL East.  His BABIP dropped to .265 in 2011, which resulted in an average of just .251.  However, his first-half xBA of .312 in 2011 and .311 xBA/.305 AVG in 2009 shows his AVG ceiling. Consistent power throughout his career -- and a bump from his 17% HR/FB in 2011 to the 20% he had in 2009 -- may bring stats close to his 2009 season (35 HRs/114 RBIs). The 22% HR/FB in first half of 2011 shows this is possible. I like Lind more than the three first basemen being drafted immediately before him: Paul Goldschmidt at ADP 147.60; Ryan Howard at ADP 145.73; and Mark Trumbo at ADP 142.61. ... Sanchez will be hitting in an improved Miami lineup with the addition of Jose Reyes, likely rebound of Hanley Ramirez, and further development of Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison. Sanchez's line drive rate (16.7% in 2009, 17.1% in 2010 and 20% in 2011) and BB/K ratio (.56% in 2010, .76% in 2011) have continued to improve, which shows his development as a hitter. This may be the year he avoids the second-half fade. First base is not deep this year, and after Mike Morse is taken in the range of the 5th-7th rounds, I like targeting Lind or Sanchez relative to their ADPs.
  • Second Basemen: Aaron Hill (232.96 ADP; 17th 2B) - Hill projects to hit second in the Arizona lineup, in front of stud Justin Upton, and should have a good chance to repeat the 103 runs he scored in 2009.  He also has massive upside, as evidenced by his 2009 (36 HRs/108 RBIs) and 2010 (26 HRs) seasons. In 2011, he also added a speed element, with 21 swipes after his previous career high had been six in 2009. If he can put it all together and avoid nagging leg injuries, he will easily outproduce his draft position. Hill is a strong middle-infield target after you fill your second-base slot, since shortstop is not as deep this year as 2B.
  • Shortstops: Alexei Ramirez (167.37 ADP; 13th SS) - Ramirez projects to hit second, so he should have good run opportunities, and with his health and consistenty over the course of his career, he has a chance to blow past his career high of 83 runs in 2010. The right-handed hitter has a good power/speed combo that should put him in the teens in both homers and steals. He may be a boring pick for those who do not want to reach for a shortstop, but helps win championships. I prefer targeting Ramirez as an underrated SS compared to the two shortstops off the board immediately after: Emilio Bonifacio (172.25 ADP; 14th SS) has playing-time concerns and no power, and Jhonny Peralta (175.79 ADP; 15th SS) has no speed and a lower batting average floor (.245 xBA in 2009, .260 xBA in 2010 and .262 xBA in 2011).   
  • Third Basemen: In an incredibly weak year for third basemen, I like targeting Evan Longoria (ADP 11.49) in the middle of the first round or Kevin Youkilis (ADP 84.66, 9th 3B) later on.  Longoria's unlucky .239 BABIP kept his average down, but his .286 xBA showed what his average should have been. His development as a hitter was demonstrated by his BB/K average spiking from .58% in 2010 to .86% in 2011. Also, his HR/FB returned to 18% after dropping to 11% in 2010. His upside is stated in Shandler's Forecaster as 40 HR/.290 AVG.  Given the position scarcity of 3B this season, Longoria is underrated at ADP 11.49. ... After Youkilis on the third-base depth chart, there is a huge dropoff, so don't let him slip past you in the draft. Youkilis' BABIP dipped to its lowest level since 2004 at .296, and his AVG tanked due to hitting only .234 versus right-handed pitchers. Since he has never had a problem with righties before despite a negative pattern emerging (.318 in 2008, .304 in 2009, .275 in 2010), let's hope it was a one-year blip. Also, a return to health should yield one more season approaching 2008 and 2009 levels despite Youkilis likely being on the downside of his career at age 33.
  • Outfielders: Jason Heyward (ADP 107.03, 31st OF), Bryce Harper (ADP 210.33, 55th OF) and Alex Rios (ADP 221.02, 60th OF). Heyward's BABIP was .260 in 2011, which resulted in a .227 average. But, his .251 xBA showed he's not a .220s hitter (in 2010, his xBA was .278 and his BA was .277). Also, he has dropped 20 pounds and was doing hitting drills at Turner Field in January 2012. I'll take the chance his eye returns that yielded 51 walks to 51 strikeouts in 422 PAs in the minors in 2009, and he can reverse the drop in line drive rate from 18% in 2010 at age 20 to 13% in 2011 at age 21. ... Harper is the classic high-upside fifth outfielder, both since his value will skyrocket if he makes the team out of Spring Training, and because if that happens -- like Yu Darvish discussed here -- you can take advantage of the owner in your league that makes trades based on name recognition over stats by selling very high early in the season. ... Rios' alternating years of good and bad seasons says this should be a good one. He is being drafted so low (Eric Thames and Nyjer Morgan are the OFs directly above him in ADP rank) that he is worth the chance to see if he can reverse a .237 BABIP (2009 was the only other year in his career his BABIP was below .300) and provide upside HR/SB numbers as your fifth or sixth outfielder. Remember: he had 21 HRs, 88 RBIs, 34 SBs and a .284 AVG as recently as 2010.

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2012 Position Rankings: Shortstop

Shortstop is one of hardest positions on the field to fill in real life, but there are plenty of fantasy options from which to choose. There is only one bonafide fantasy superstar at short though, so he'll come off the board very early on draft day. These rankings are based on standard 12-team mixed leagues with traditional 5x5 scoring.

  1. Troy Tulowitzki, COL - The undisputed top fantasy shortstop, Tulo has hit .300+ in each of the last two years and 27+ HR, 90+ RBI, and 80+ runs in each of the last three years. His stolen base total is trending downward (20 in 2009, 11 in 2010, nine in 2011), but at 27 years old, he should have no problem jumping back in the double digits if healthy.
  2. Hanley Ramirez, MIA - Hanley will be manning the hot corner in Miami, but he's still going to be fantasy eligible at short. Shoulder problems hampered him for most of last season, though his ground ball rate spiked significantly in 2010 and has robbed him of both over-the-fence and doubles power. Ramirez is only 28 and figures to rebound with a healthy shoulder, but he's no longer the slam dunk elite producer he once was.
  3. Jose Reyes, MIA - The days of 60+ steals appear to be a thing of the past thanks to Reyes' nagging hamstring issues, which landed him on the DL twice in 2011. He doesn't figure to give you many HR or RBI, but you will get a solid batting average, a ton of runs, and still a plethora of steals assuming he can stay on the field. As with Hanley, the team's new ballpark is a bit of an x-factor.
  4. Elvis Andrus, TEX - Still just 23, Andrus is a stolen base and runs scored machine, but he's not going to give you many RBI and has hit just five homers over the last two seasons. His average has been just decent so far in his career, but he puts the ball in play (just 13.1% strikeouts in his three years) and has the wheels to leg out infield hits.
  5. Jimmy Rollins, PHI - J-Roll's real life value has slipped in recent years, but he's still one of fantasy's best options at the position because he'll give you everything but RBI. Like two of the four guys ahead of him, injuries are a concern, though he did get into 142 games last season.
  6. Starlin Castro, CHC - The NL leader in hits last season with 207, Castro hasn't stopped hitting since debuting in 2010. He topped double-digit homers and 20+ steals for the first time last year, and should only improve from here on out. Down expect too many RBI, but the runs will be there.
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE - After hitting just 18 HR in the first 387 games of his career, Cabrera clubbed 25 in 2012 and either set or matched his career bests in RBI, runs, and steals. It's not a coincidence that he was able to avoid the DL for the first time since 2008. The HR total could take a step back, but the production in the other categories should be there.
  8. Alexei Ramirez, CHW - The Cuban Missile took a step back from his 2010 production, but it's hard to complain about .269/15/70/81/7. There's no reason he shouldn't get back to stealing 10+ bases again next year, and the power numbers have always been there. Ramirez is one of the safest bets on this list, a solid performer with no standout fantasy tool.
  9. J.J. Hardy, BAL - Good health and the friendly confines of Camden Yards resulted in 30 HR and solid run production numbers last summer. Hardy can do it again at age 29, but he does have a bit of injury history and won't offer much in the batting average or stolen base departments.
  10. Erick Aybar, LAA - Aybar doubled his best single-season homer total last year, setting new career highs in HR (ten), RBI (59), runs (71), and steals (30). He'll likely hit in the .270's again, and having Albert Pujols in the lineup will help his fantasy production one way or the other.
  11. Yunel Escobar, TOR - Escobar has hit .288+ in four of the last five years, but he's also missed some time due to injury each year. The double-digit homer potential is in there despite his astronomical ground ball rate, and he'll score a ton of runs hitting in front of Jose Bautista & Co.
  12. Derek Jeter, NYY - The Yankees captain was marvelous after returning from the DL in early-July (.331/.384/.447 in 314 PA), but he didn't hit much in the year and half prior to that. Jeter is an extreme ground ball hitter and might never hit double-digit homers again, but he should still give you a solid average, a health amount of steals, and a ton of runs scored thanks to his supporting cast.
  13. Dee Gordon, LAD - Gordon stole 24 bases and scored 34 runs in his 56-game cameo last season, and now he's got the job full-time. There's a non-zero chance that he'll hit zero homers (none in 2011, majors or minors), but he's a threat for 50+ steals and a ton of runs scored. He might not hit for a decent average or drive in many runs, but the bulk steals will be tremendously valuable.
  14. Jhonny Peralta, DET - Peralta had he best season of his career last year, though his batting average was the only fantasy stat that really jumped a notch. He'd been a 15+ HR, 80+ RBI, zero steals guy for half-a-decade, and that's what he should be next year. I wouldn't count on another .299 average though, there was no significant change in his batting ball profile to suggest real improvement just yet.
  15. Emilio Bonifacio, MIA - Bonifacio broke out in a big way last season, hitting .296 with 40 steals and a ton of runs scored. His .372 BABIP is high compared the rest of his career, which is notable since his batted ball profile didn't change much. That near-.300 average could come back to Earth in 2012, but the stolen base ability is for real.
  16. Stephen Drew, ARI - The D'Backs aren't sure when exactly they'll have their shortstop back, but Drew has been running following his season-ending ankle injury. When healthy, he'll give you a decent average, double-digit homers, and solid run production, but who knows when he'll get back on the field and more importantly, shake off the rust.
  17. Ian Desmond, WAS - Desmond produced nearly identical fantasy numbers in 2011 that he did in 2010, which meant .253/8/49/65/25. He's done it two years in a row now, do I'd count on it again in 2012.
  18. Alcides Escobar, KC - A defense-first shortstop, Escobar got back to stealing bases last year (26) and managed to score a fair amount of runs (69) at the bottom of the lineup. He won't hit for average or power, so his fantasy value is tied up almost exclusively in runs and steals.
  19. Jason Bartlett, SD - We're now two full years removed from Bartlett's monster 2009 season, but he did provide value by stealing 23 bases last year. He's basically a poor man's Desmond, doing everything the Nats' shortstop does except hit for any kind of power.
  20. Marco Scutaro, COL - Scutaro does a little bit of everything but nothing exceptionally well. He'll lose some runs scored and RBI given the move out of the Red Sox's lineup, but he'll hit for a solid average, pop some homers, and steal the occasional base. 
  21. Jamey Carroll, MIN - Carroll hasn't hit a homer in two full seasons now, but he continues to hit close to .300 and steal double-digit bases even at age 37. He'll also draw enough walks and reach base often enough to provide plenty of runs scored, particularly if Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau stay healthy.
  22. Jed Lowrie, HOU - It's all about health for Lowrie, who hasn't played in 100 games in a single season since 2008. He can hit when healthy, though probably not as well as he did in the second half of 2010. He has the ability to provide double-digit homers with a solid average and run production numbers, but will he stay on the field long enough to be worth a roster spot?
  23. Mike Aviles, BOS - It's shouldn't be all that difficult for Aviles to beat out Nick Punto for regular at-bats, but as an opposite-field right-handed hitter, he won't get to take advantage of the Green Monster. There's .300/10+/10+ potential here, but only if he plays every pretty much every day.
  24. Rafael Furcal, STL - As injuries continue to take their roll on Furcal's now 34-year-old body, his fantasy worth depends on whether or not he can stay healthy enough to slash his way to a .300 average and 20+ steals like he did in 2010. I'm guessing he won't, but stranger things have happened.
  25. Alex Gonzalez, MIL - Gonzalez has whacked 15+ HR in three of the last four years, but he doesn't do much beyond that. He hits at or below .250, doesn't steal bases, and doesn't get on base enough to post meaningul runs scored totals. It's all about the power here, don't expect any help in the other categories.

Honorable Mention: Clint Barmes, PIT; Cliff Pennington, OAK; Eduardo Nunez, NYY; Sean Rodriguez, TBR; Ryan Theriot, SF; Yuniesky Betancourt, KC

Other Positions: Catcher, First Base, Second Base

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