April 2013

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Stock Watch: Impulse Buying

The first week of the season is always the worst for me. Someone always gets injured (Ryan Ludwick owner here), an ace always gets pounded in his first start (mine was Adam Wainwright), and some closer is always ready to lose his job (John Axford on several teams). When you write expert analysis, it's even worse: might have publicly counseled against drafting Justin Upton, didn't say a word about Chris Davis.

You see, the first week is the worst for me, not just because my teams never fail to have a bad week, but also because you can't trust anything that happened in just one week. Why is Davis tearing the cover off the ball? I don't know. (But I wish he were on any of my teams.) Is Upton's week a sign that he puts it all together into superstardom this year? Maybe. Is Axford doomed to return from whence he came? (I sure hope not.) I can't say any of these things for sure, or even close, but seasons ride on early moves. Every year it seems like an impact player has a killer first week and never lets up, on the way to joining the elite at his position the next year. Think of the fantasy debuts of Dan Uggla, Ben Zobrist, and Jose Bautista. What if you could have snagged Chase Headley off the waiver wire last year. You have to make an impulse buy or three, even if it's just a wild stab in the dark.

Given this--that we're on the lookout for high-upside players at this point--here are some worthwhile buys going into Week 2. I'm not big on trading players this early in the season, so I'll focus on waiver wire pickups here.

Impulse Buys

Gerardo Parra, OF, ARI
Parra is owned in just 32% of Yahoo! leagues and 34% of ESPN leagues, but I'll wager that's about to change. He's running with his chance to impress in Arizona, hitting .458 while two of the outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart (Cody Ross and Adam Eaton) languish on the DL. If he can keep up the hitting, I don't see how they'll keep him out of the lineup.

Jean Segura, SS, MIL
Segura's batting an even .500 for the week, but is only owned in 30% of Y! leagues and a paltry 15% of ESPN leagues. As a prospect with a job, he started the year as a semi-interesting sleeper. Well, he's done about all he can to justify that interest. Any chance to get a shortstop with a live bat is a good idea.

Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA
RotoAuthority's own Peter Karinen wrote Fernandez up last week, so I won't do much more than echo his sentiments here. Fernandez is young and talented, but far from a sure thing, or even a solid bet. He's the sort of guy who is very likely to be dropped off a lot of teams after just a couple weeks...but he's also got the raw stuff to have a real chance of being an impact pitcher. He's worth a try, but don't drop anyone good to get him.

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, SEA
It's been a long time since we've seen him, but a healthy Gutierrez is a pretty decent player. Hitting nearly .400 with a pair of homers, it looks like the guy that gave the Mariners 18 HR's and 16 SB's in 2009 might have returned. He could be better than plenty of drafted fifth OF's.

Bargain Bin

Bartolo Colon, SP, OAK
Colon has finished his suspension and returned to Oakland. Will he be an impact guy? Obviously not. But he does stand a pretty good chance of being decent. In deep leagues, he's actually a pretty safe choice to add. He beat Houston in his debut (not that that tells us anything), and he walked just 23 batters in 152.2 IP last year.

Travis Wood, SP, CHC
Wood pitched extremely well against the anemic Pirates, and he's got just enough history of success to think that he might be useful if you're looking for a pitcher. Perhaps more to the point, he's slated for two starts next week, so owners in weekly changes leagues may be interested.

Luis Mendoza, SP, KCR
Mendoza whiffed seven Phillies in his debut, and that counts for something. Not terribly much, as his track record is nothing to speak of.

Chris Iannetta, C, LAA
Tyler Flowers, C, CHW
Wilson Ramos, C, WAS

These three catchers are all owned in fewer than 20% of Y! leagues, but all have a pair of homers and lofty batting averages. Making things more interesting is that all of them have shown just enough in previous seasons to register as possibly useful going forward. Flowers probably has the best combination of upside and team trust at this point.

Vernon Wells, OF, NYY
The Yankees already found Wells in the bargain bin (well, sort of) and he's off to a hot start. New York has little reason not to play the hot hand right now, so if Wells keeps hitting, he'll find the playing time. Who knows, maybe the Yanks really did like what they saw in Spring Training.

Sell...No One

Sorry, but it's way too early to start giving up on anyone. I'm not going to put anyone on this week's list to shuffle away from your team. Everyone will be too scared to trade for obvious overperformers like Chris Davis, and a single week's worth of data isn't nearly worth giving up on your top sleepers or shipping off struggling stars. Wait till next week for that.


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Closer Updates: Tigers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Angels, Mets, Brewers

Well, the good news is that you no longer need to worry about drafting a shaky closer. The bad news is that you may already own a shaky closer. Take me, for instance, I own John Axford and his 21.60 ERA in a couple leagues.

Speaking of shaky closers, Jose Valverde has signed a minor league contract with the Tigers, so you've got to wonder if he'll be in their bullpen mix in the future. For more up-to-the-minute updates, check out @CloserNews on the Twitternet. You better believe that's the first website I opened up to work on this article.

Brewers
Axford is the elephant in the room, with that 21.60 ERA, a WHIP of 3.60, and reports of lowered velocity. It's important to frame these things in their early-season context, though: he's allowed four runs on six hits in 1.2 IP. Of course, three of those six hits were home runs, but he's also struck out three in that time. Hiccups like these happen, and at times they are enough to scare a manager into making a change, but not on this team, or at this time. The Brew Crew isn't confident in Jim Henderson, and, really, if they demote Axford now, they're just admitting that they don't have a good bullpen. I don't expect them to do that just yet. 

Of course, Axford owners like me might want to stash Henderson just in case....

Mets
The Mets' situation thus far is one of rather happier news, as Bobby Parnell successfully put out a fire in the ninth inning of a four-run game. Fantasy owners don't care much about the results (he just recorded one out and didn't earn a save), but the fact that he was successful (and that other relievers struggled) strengthens Parnell's grip on the job just a little more. I really think Frank Francisco will have a hard time worming into save situations when he returns. Parnell is owned in just 68% of Yahoo! leagues, and 81% of ESPN leagues, so snap him up if you can.

Angels
Ryan Madson seems to be experiencing a setback (surprise!), while Ernesto Frieri locked down a save in the 13th inning of the Angels' opener. Neither fact is big news, or unexpected, but I'd say that Frieri's job security inched up just a little more over the week. He's owned in just 79% of Yahoo! leagues, so pick him up if you're among the 21%. No such luck for ESPN leagues, as he's owned in over 99% of leagues.

Cubs
You know what's worse than having your closer blow the lead in spectacular fashion? Having the lead rescued by his setup man. That's exactly what happened to Carlos Marmol on Monday, who threw just nine of nineteen pitches for strikes, getting one out before James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa. It was Fujikawa (51% owned in Y!/40% in ESPN) who got the save, and the writing is on the wall for him to take over the job. The Cubbies really want to ship Marmol out for something, but it sounds like won't have any patience with him at all.

The above--unadulterated--is what I wrote before the results of Thursday's game. I leave it this way for instructive purposes, because Fujikawa came on in the eighth yesterday and earned the hold. Maybe that's why Marmol was allowed to give up two runs in the ninth before hanging on for the save. He got some trust--which is good news, of course--but he didn't inspire any real confidence. I'd say Marmol's closing days don't last long at this rate. Maybe the Cubs should have taken their chances with Dan Haren....

Blue Jays
At some point in the middle of the spring, I was sure that Sergio Santos was going to close for Toronto. Fortunately, I didn't have any drafts until late spring, when it seemed like Casey Janssen would be closing. I think he'll be great value for owners that got him with a late pick, and that thought has been reinforced in the last week. Janssen pitched a scoreless 10th on Wednesday, while Santos blew the game the very next inning. The situation was the opposite of the Cubs', as Janssen was leading the closer race, and Santos managed to widen the gap. Making things better for Janssen and his owners, he nailed down a clean save with two strikeouts on Thursday. Owned in most ESPN leagues, but in only 76% of Yahoo! leagues, Janssen is a great add if he's actually available.

Tigers
Just when you think things are starting to clear up, they get muddier. Valverde is back in the fold, though it remains to be seen how long it will take him to be MLB ready; Bruce Rondon is in the minors; and Phil Coke has pitched twice in the ninth inning. He saved a game he entered with one out, and he blew the save for a loss after that. Al Alburquerque has pitched in the seventh and eighth, and Joaquin Benoit has started the eighth twice. Is Coke (41%Y!/24%ESPN) the closer? I don't know. You'd think so, based on usage, but his split success and handedness don't suggest it. The way I figure, if they run him out to start the ninth, in a save situation, against a righty, then add him. But really, the Tigers don't have a lot of need to avoid a closer committee here.

Add-vice

Technically, the week isn't over, but I think I might be able to say comfortably that none of my closers has lost his job yet. This time last year, I think two of them had. So, I guess Marmol might have an even longer leash than he did last April. 

If Janssen, Frieri, Parnell, or Fujikawa are available in your league, add 'em, in that order. If you can, get all four and thank yourself for not drafting closers, I guess. Coke is the next best add, while Henderson might make sense for Axford owners with space on their bench.


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Prospect Prospectin'

This time of year, there are two questions on the mind of every fantasy-baseballer:

1. Who is going to be this year’s breakout youngster?  

2. Why haven’t I stepped foot outside in three weeks?

I’ll let you in on a secret about who is going to be this year’s breakout star: I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. But what I can do is make educated guesses then gloat if my predictions turn out to be correct.

This season I’ll be giving weekly updates on prospects that you should have on your fantasy radars. From players you need to pick up immediately to guys you should be keeping tabs on in case of an injury, “Prospect Prospectin’” will be your go-to resource for regular fantasy advice (feel free to hit me up in the comment section too).

I hope you join me on my quest to succeed at this year’s version of fishing for Trout and hunting for Harper!

RUN, DON’T WALK TO THE WAIVER WIRE:

Jose Fernandez

If you’re in a keeper league, stop reading this right now and go pick him up. I’ll wait until you get back...

...okay. Now then. The Marlins are full of unexpected moves: “Let’s sell off our whole team after one year!” “Let’s design a ballpark that will give fans seizures!”  And now: “Let’s call up our best prospect even though he’s only 20 and hasn’t pitched above High-A!”  Well, what’s questionable decision-making by the Marlins front office could be fodder for fantasy baseball success in the form of Cuban import Jose Fernandez.  The facts:

- The 20-year-old Fernandez was lights out last year, averaging a 1.75 ERA, .93 WHIP, and 10.6 K/9 between Low-A and High-A.

- See above.

With numbers like that, you absolutely have to take a flyer on him even though he’s a Marlin and might win negative 4 games this year. On the plus side, he’s in a pitcher’s park and has the pedigree to at best be a breakout pitching star and at worst help you in strikeouts and WHIP. Go grab Jo-Fern now and thank me later (sorry, that was the best nickname I could come up with on short notice)!

Billy Hamilton

Okay, if you’re on this site, Billy Hamilton is already on your radar, so I’ll just say this: Ryan Ludwick is out for three months, so one more injury to a Reds outfielder and their front office has to take a long, hard look at Billy Hamilton. His bat didn’t look major-league ready this spring, but last year’s minor league numbers say otherwise (.311 with a .410 OBP between High-A and Double-A). The worst that can happen is he gets called up and can’t get on base so you drop him (see: last year’s Gordon, Dee). The best that can happen is he gets called up and steals 4,891 bases and wins you your league.

SNEAKY MOVES THAT WILL INFURIATE YOUR OPPONENTS:

Evan Gattis

In two-catcher leagues or leagues where you are waiting for Ruiz, McCann, or Grandal to return to action, the Braves beast-like catcher prospect Evan Gattis could be a great temporary fill-in for the first month of the season (until McCann returns).  Last year between High-A and AA, he hit 18 HRs in only 301 PAs, and in 2011 he cranked 22 HRs in 377 PAs.  He’ll be splitting time with Gerald Laird, but could easily go on a tear and win some more playing time over the next few weeks. McCann is supposed to return by the end of the month, but who knows if the next few weeks will go according to plan? If you roll the dice on this catcher who also qualifies as an outfielder, the risk is low and the reward could be sky high.

Trevor Rosenthal

Last year, Trevor Rosenthal was absolutely lights out in the postseason coming out of the bullpen for the Cardinals. Some thought he was battling Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller for the 5th spot in the rotation, but it seems as though Matheny wants him in relief. So here’s my question: how many saves does Mitchell Boggs have to blow before they give Rosenthal a shot? Motte doesn’t even have a timetable to return, so taking a chance on Rosenthal could pay off if you’re already short on closers.

 HIDE YOUR STASH:

This section is aimed primarily for keeper league owners, but could be valuable in redraft leagues as well if you have room on your roster.

Christian Yelich

This spring, the 21-year-old Yelich mashed to the tune of .364 with 5 homers in 22 games. Take a glance at the Marlins outfielders who are blocking the 21-year-old Yelich from the majors: Juan Pierre, Chris Coghlan, and Justin Ruggiano... not exactly the ‘61 Yankees. The Marlins just promoted their best pitching prospect prematurely, so who’s to say they won’t promote their best hitter, too? With one of the sweetest swings in the minors, Yelich is worth stashing away just to see if Jeffrey Loria & co. are dumb enough to rush all of their best prospects to the majors.

Travis d’Arnaud / Mike Zunino

If you have room on your roster, you should stash one of the two top catching prospects. Both are major league ready and don’t have much competition ahead of them (Jesus Montero is a terrible fielding catcher and John Buck is, well, John Buck). And at such a volatile position, you might as well have someone on your bench with a little upside. Who else are you going to roster, Dioner Navarro?


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RotoAuthority League Update: Draft Recap

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 3 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

Hello, all! My name is Andrew Gephardt, and I’m a proud participant of the RotoAuthority League. Each Monday this season I’ll be analyzing waiver wire acquisitions and trades as well as general trends and strategies from the league. For this first post, though, I’d like to review the league’s snake draft that took place this past Thursday. Full draft results can be found at the link at the bottom. Accordingly, here in order of draft slot are the 12 teams that make up this great league:

1. Team Name TBD

Previous Finishes: N/A

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: Power

Our first newcomer to the league clearly had a plan in mind when he followed up the 1st overall pick of Miguel Cabrera with three consecutive elite starting pitchers: David Price, Felix Hernandez, and Yu Darvish. In addition to those aces, this team currently without a name later grabbed quality arms in Alex Cobb, Jordan Zimmermann, and Anibal Sanchez. The bullpen is also strong with closers Fernando Rodney and J.J. Putz to go along with top setup man Kenley Jansen. In short, on paper this looks to be the top staff in the league. On the offensive side, though, this lineup may struggle to compete in HR and RBI. With the speedy Elvis Andrus and Ben Revere as well as the solid but unspectacular Marco Scutaro and Jon Jay, this roster has quite a few slots that will provide very little power. It is worth noting that this owner places great value on positional scarcity, as he had just one outfielder after 14 rounds. Overall then, the pitching staff may be so dynamic that this team could be a strong contender all season long.

2. Reedy

Previous Finishes: N/A

Strength: Speed

Weakness: Batting Average

Another newcomer to the league, Reedy clearly has an affinity for multi-category contributors (and rightfully so). In fact, one can make the case that his first six picks – Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia, Yoenis Cespedes, Paul Goldschmidt, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jimmy Rollins – all have the potential to go 20 / 20. The one drawback to this offense may be a low AVG with Ryan Howard, Curtis Granderson, and Tyler Flowers all likely to provide negative value in the category. It is interesting that this owner chose to wait until the very end of the draft to take his two catchers. The staff may not have a true ace, but Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke certainly possess the skills to finish the season as top-10 pitchers. With just a lone true closer on the roster, Reedy may have to speculate for saves on the waiver wire; however, Ernesto Frieri and Kyuji Fujikawa are among the best bets of any current setup men to lead their MLB clubs in saves. In summary, Reedy has put together a balanced roster that should be competitive.

3. E-Z Sliders

Previous Finishes: N /A (2012 Silver League Winner)

Strength: Batting Average

Weakness: Saves

Yet another newcomer to the league, E-Z Sliders began the draft with young studs Mike Trout and Justin Upton. Should either of those outfielders underperform this season, though, this owner skillfully balanced the risk profile of the offense with a long list of boring but undervalued veterans: Aramis Ramirez, Martin Prado, Paul Konerko, Josh Willingham, Adam LaRoche, and Jayson Werth. This isn’t the most exciting group on paper, but it’s all about production – not name value – in fantasy baseball. The pitching staff, however, does have some names with high ceilings in Alexi Ogando, Matt Harvey, and Marco Estrada. Like Reedy, E-Z Sliders have just a single closer in Huston Street, although Frank Francisco and Vinnie Pestano may very well seize the roles for their respective clubs. While the bulk of this roster is composed of steady and reliable players, E-Z Sliders swung for the fences in the endgame with Julio Teheran, Adam Eaton, and Andrew Cashner. Given that there is always significant roster turnover over the course of a season, this is the right philosophy. To recap, while this roster may lack the upside of some others, it stands as one of the most likely to not crash and burn. In a league that gives the boot to the bottom 4 owners, there is certainly something to be said for that.

4. Smell the Glove

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 1st, 2009 – 6th, 2010 – 5th, 2011 – 12th, 2012 – 11th

Strength: Saves

Weakness: Starting Pitching

Finally, a returning owner! Smell the Glove is run by Tim Dierkes, creator of MLB Trade Rumors. Who knows, maybe that site will become popular one day! After winning the league in its inaugural season, Tim finished in the middle of the pack for a couple years but then has struggled recently. (As Commissioner of the league, Tim is exempted from being kicked out of the league, and frankly that’s how it should be.) Now that I’ve drafted with Tim for 5 years, I have a good feel for his general draft approach. He values positional scarcity and multi-categorical production, and this year was no different. After Round 5 Smell the Glove already had a player at each infield position. As usual, Tim also selected several hitters who should contribute across the board in David Wright, Ian Desmond, and Alex Rios. While the bulk of his offense reflects his basic drafting principles, Tim did chase upside late to fill out the bottom half of his offense more so than in years past with talented players who have yet to put everything together like Dexter Fowler, Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, and Domonic Brown. If there is a hole on this roster, it is the starting pitching. Jeff Samardzija, Derek Holland, and Lance Lynn all have some downside in the WHIP category with their shaky control. On the other hand, the strength of this roster lies in the fact that Tim has 4 legitimate closers. In a league in which it is a daunting task to grab a closer from the waiver wire, Smell the Glove has trading leverage. Overall then, I think Tim bounces back from his recent struggles.

5. Men With Wood

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 8th, 2009 – 4th, 2010 – 2nd, 2011 – 1st, 2012 – 5th

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: RBI

Aside from Smell the Glove, Men With Wood is in rare company as there are only 2 teams that have survived since the league’s inception in 2008. I can say with full confidence that this owner knows how to manage a fantasy squad, as he’s finished in the top 5 for 4 straight years (including a title in 2011). Men With Wood started the draft with 3 players at their peak and capable of $35 seasons in Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Ian Kinsler. The majority of this roster is then filled out with players who could take their fantasy games to another level. Ike Davis, Desmond Jennings, and Salvador Perez all have the potential to be top-50 picks entering 2014. Meanwhile, Josh Rutledge and Todd Frazier are popular sleepers with top-5 upside at their respective positions. The one shortcoming to this roster may be in the RBI category, as many hitters bat at the top of the order. When it comes to pitching, in the past this owner has shown an affinity for elite closers, and that trend continued this season. After grabbing the electric Aroldis Chapman in Round 5, Men With Wood wisely selected Sergio Romo and Joe Nathan in Rounds 10 and 11 before the inevitable closer run began shortly thereafter. The starting pitching lacks depth but should be strong with anchors Gio Gonzalez and Chris Sale. All in all, if I were forced to pick a favorite simply based off the draft, I’d go with this squad.

6. Forty 2 Twenty 4

Previous Finishes: N/A

Strength: Power

Weakness: Batting Average

Our final newcomer to the league, Forty 2 Twenty 4, put together an offense with some question marks to go along with a staff that has the potential to be lights out. On the offensive side this squad should be fine in HR and the counting categories. From Edwin Encarnacion and Anthony Rizzo on the high end to Josh Reddick and J.J. Hardy on the low end, this offense has no shortage of power. Despite the 1st round pick of Matt Kemp, however, this roster probably needs a pure speedster to go along with Ben Zobrist and Brett Lawrie. The BA category may also pose a problem, as Danny Espinosa and catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Russell Martin can really do some damage. Where this roster really shines is on the pitching side. First of all, the staff is led by the reliable and durable combination of Clayton Kershaw and C.C. Sabathia. Then, Forty 2 Twenty 4 also has a pair of elite closers in Jonathan Papelbon and Rafael Soriano. Ultimately, the 2 picks that could make or break this squad are Jon Lester in Round 9 and Tim Lincecum in Round 11. Should these former aces return to their previously elite levels, this team should dominate the pitching points. Accordingly, Forty 2 Twenty 4 is more likely to cash or get booted from the league than to finish in the middle of the pack.

7. Philly Cheez

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 6th, 2009 – 7th, 2010 – 3rd, 2011 – 3rd, 2012 – 7th

Strength: Batting Average

Weakness: Speed

Along with Men With Wood, Philly Cheez is the other team that has avoided finishing in the bottom 4 for 5 straight years. In today’s depressed run environment, this owner cleverly grabbed 4-category studs Joey Votto and Adrian Beltre in the first 2 rounds. Philly Cheez seemed to place greater emphasis on the BA category, later grabbing Adrian Gonzalez and Pablo Sandoval. While this offense should be among the leaders in RBI, it may struggle in R; after all, there are only a few players who hit near the top of the order. Without a pure speedster on the roster, I also have this team projected for only about 120 stolen bases. The pitching staff is interesting in that it is led by a pair of studs whom the sabermetric community loves to disparage in Matt Cain and Jered Weaver. It seems every year we read about how “lucky” this duo was the previous season, yet every year Cain and Weaver continue to outperform their ERA estimators. I’m as statistically inclined a fantasy owner as you’ll find, but I think it’s about time we realize there’s more to pitching than peripherals. OK, rant over. Another strength of this squad is the luxury of 3 true closers in Jason Grilli, Rafael Betancourt, and Chris Perez. Altogether, I like the staff more than the offense, but this is one of the top in-season managers in the league.

8. A Century of Misery

Previous Finishes: 2009 – 5th, 2010 – 4th, 2011 – 4th, 2012 – 3rd

Strength: Speed

Weakness: Pitching

I’m only making educated guesses as to the strategies of other owners in their drafts, but here’s a team for which I can tell you precisely what the owner was thinking. Why? Well, this happens to be my squad. As you can see from my previous finishes, I’ve never finished below 5th in this league; then again, I’ve only cashed once. On the one hand, I should probably embrace more risk and take a shot at winning the league. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to be booted from one of my favorite fantasy leagues. Quite the quandary. At any rate, my plan going in was to load up on offense. With daily pickups and roster changes, I’m fine playing the pitching matchups all season. I’ve actually gone heavy on offense for several years now in this league, and ironically I tend to earn more pitching points than hitting points. A key fantasy principle is to be honest with yourself, and I know I’m better at finding pitching gems on the waiver wire as opposed to breakout hitters. Long story short, I executed this plan, for better or for worse. I grabbed a hitter with every pick through Round 11. It’s a nice feeling to leave a draft not having to worry about half your squad, and I’m not worried about my offense. My offense is strong, as it should be given the investment. Wait, what’s that? There are 5 other categories? Oh yeah, that’s right. OK, so about my pitching staff. I certainly didn’t plan to take things to this extreme, but I was rather amazed at how rapidly pitchers were flying off the board. As you can see, I have just 5 healthy pitchers at the moment. 5! You might think I’d be in panic mode, but again you have to draft with your league settings in mind. This league has unlimited transactions. Rest assured, I’ll make over 100 pickups this season. Plain and simple, the success of A Century of Misery lies in how well I’m able to find pitching on the waiver wire. But enough about my squad…

9. Say It Ain’t So Cano

Previous Finishes: 2012 – 8th

Strength: Power

Weakness: Strikeouts

Say It Ain’t So Cano enters its 2nd season of this league, just barely avoiding the boot by finishing in 8th place last season. I actually really like what this owner did Thursday night. I have my team projected for the most points on offense, but I have this squad right behind mine. I mapped out a few rounds before the draft, and my targets for Rounds 1 and 2 were Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Ironically, Say It Ain’t So Cano ended up with precisely that same pair. In addition to the Rockies duo, this owner later grabbed more power sources at their peak in Jay Bruce, Ryan Zimmerman, and Carlos Santana. I’m a firm believer in loading up on power in today’s game, so I’m naturally going to like a squad that projects to be among the leaders in HR and RBI. While this staff is undoubtedly better than mine, the pitching will prove to be the difference in the fate of this roster, too. With Johnny Cueto at the top, the ratio categories may not be the problem; however, there isn’t really a strikeout artist on this staff. Then again, Say It Ain’t So Cano also has 3 true closers, so saves may not be an issue either. To recap, this roster should be among the leaders in hitting, so the key to finishing in the money will be the pitching.

10. Brewsterville Bruins

Previous Finishes: 2011 – 5th, 2012 – 2nd

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: Batting Average

After losing the title by just a point last season, the Brewsterville Bruins will certainly not lack motivation to make a title run in 2013. By starting the draft with Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista, this owner loaded up on power early. The offense may ultimately hover in the middle of the pack due to some weak options like Adam Lind and Michael Young. Here’s another staff, though, that has a sky-high ceiling. Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright are as solid as they come, but the true steal of the draft may have come in Round 7. Sure, he’s moving to the AL East, and yes it’s rather challenging to project a knuckleballer. That being said, R.A. Dickey can regress rather significantly from last season and still be a good value at this price. Round 11 selection Brandon Morrow also has the goods to be a fantasy ace this season. The Brewsterville Bruins should be solid in the SV category with 3 closers whose skills may be not the best but do have long leashes in Jim Johnson, Joel Hanrahan, and Addison Reed. Overall then, the projections place this team in the middle, but here’s another very good in-season manager.

11. Gramma Nutt Crushers

Previous Finishes: 2010 – 1st, 2011 – 8th, 2012 – 4th

Strength: Power

Weakness: Speed

As you’ll see, our last two draftees were the most audacious of the bunch. A former champion, the Gramma Nutt Crushers, clearly had their eyes on the prize on Thursday. Bryce Harper is just 20 years old and has already displayed success at the Major League level. It’s virtually a lock that he’ll be one of the best players in the game for many years to come. Whether he lives up to the hype this season or not, this is the last year he’ll be available outside the top 10 in any draft until about 2025. It’s not a matter of if he’ll be a superstar, only when. I personally think the Gramma Nutt Crushers are a year early with this pick, but I wouldn’t put anything past this once-in-a-generation talent. If that pick doesn’t get the blood flowing, this owner came back with none other than Giancarlo Stanton in Round 2. Yes, after 2 rounds the Gramma Nutt Crushers owned the most hyped players in the game outside of Mike Trout. If that wasn’t bold enough, this owner came back in Round 3 with Craig Kimbrel. I actually think that Kimbrel is worthy of a pick that early; the fact remains, however, that after 3 rounds this owner had a pair of outfielders and a closer. With those early picks, the Gramma Nutt Crushers made it clear they want to win or finish in the bottom 4. You got to love that fearlessness. After those bold early picks, this owner did settle down to an extent. Even after Harper and Stanton, there is a ton of power on this roster from Billy Butler and Jesus Montero to Chris Davis and Will Middlebrooks. The pitching may not be stellar but should be solid. The staff is led by sabermetric darling Max Scherzer and last year’s breakout Kris Medlen and then filled out by steady options like Hiroki Kuroda. In short, I either see this team winning the league or not receiving the invitation back next year.

12. UP

Previous Finishes: 2011 – 8th, 2012 – 1st

Strength: Pitching

Weakness: Speed

Last but not least comes last year’s champion, UP. Here’s another owner who seems to have no concern for finishing in 2nd place. Drafting at the turn can be a frustrating experience, as you’re forced to wait 22 picks between each pair of selections. This owner decided to take matters into his own hands by drafting arguably the top 2 pitchers on the planet in Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander. Whether this was designed to start a run on pitching or this owner truly viewed that duo as the best available remains to be seen. The run on starting pitching really didn’t come until a couple rounds later, although most true aces were gone by the time UP got to draft again. Even more interesting than starting a draft with a pair of starting pitchers, however, was what this owner did next: UP drafted an outfielder in each of the next 5 rounds! Yes, after 7 rounds were in the books, UP didn’t have a single infielder. Talk about downplaying the importance of positional scarcity! To be fair, this outfield is loaded with power and speed from Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, and Austin Jackson. Still, I’m very interested to see how this anti-scarcity draft plan works. With Strasburg and Verlander at the top, the pitching will be fine. In fact, if Round 12 selection Roy Halladay bounces, back, UP will run away with the pitching points. Depending on when he returns from injury, Round 16 pick Jason Motte may also prove to be a steal. Overall then, this offense doesn’t look great on paper, but who am I to criticize last year’s champ?

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