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RotoAuthority Unscripted: What's He Do?

I play in a fantasy league that's been running so long, we typically called in over the phone (the what?) to participate in live, in-person drafts (in-person whatnow?). We've got one owner that always yells out the title of this article when a player's name is called that he's never heard of. It's half derision, half a request for information. Ken Huckaby in the third round: "What's he do?" Tim Lincecum (rookie edition) in the 20th round: "What's he do?" So the question has some mixed results.

The best way to get our draft room yelling this at you is to draft a non-prospect rookie or a backup catcher or something like that, but that isn't exactly going to help your fantasy team. Not to say you shouldn't be prepared to surprise your draft room--non-stars from small markets, guys who came up from the minors, or who spent some time hitting off the bench, or pitching out of the bullpen can all raise this question among your leaguemates. Chances are, they've heard of the player you're drafting and know generally "what he does," but maybe not that much more. These guys aren't exactly sleepers, just guys without a PR machine--and they can deliver solid value.

It should be noted here that players like this are margin moves. Sleepers are who they are (and get the hype they do when we wake up to their presence) because they come with impact upside. The players we're looking at today (and those like them) are not people we should pretend will carry you to fantasy glory in one fell swoop. They're value plays and mostly for the later rounds and lower dollars.

Corey Kluber

Kluber was actually the inspiration for this article when I was thinking of him as this year's Marco Estrada--that is, a small market pitcher with good strikeout numbers that I was excited to draft. I'm gonna try not to get quite so excited this year, but Kluber definitely has some reasons to draft him.

In 147.1 IP, Kluber notched an 8.31 K/9 and a 4.12 K/BB. Though he didn't help your team in ERA (3.85), his FIP (3.30) or xFIP (3.10) would have. His strikeout potential, good control, and likely good offensive support make him a very nice fourth or fifth starter option, with the upside to be even better. With strikeouts in his minor league history, he's more of a sleeper (in the sense of upside) than anyone else in this article.

Tyson Ross

Ross pitched 125 innings for San Diego, with an 8.57 K/9 and a 2.70 K/BB. Unlike Kluber, he outperformed his FIP (3.20) and xFIP (3.43) by a little (3.17 ERA), though not by as much as you might expect from someone in Petco Park. Still, I always like San Diego pitchers, and while Ross doesn't have Kluber's control or offense, he could be a good source of whiffs without hurting your WHIP. It's worth noting that his minor league track record for strikeouts isn't as long as Kluber's. It's also worth noting that he threw harder last year than in any of his past Major League seasons.

Jose Quintana

Quintana was someone I toyed with picking up in a few leagues last year. He'd pitch a good game, and I'd be skeptical. Then he'd pitch another good game and I'd wish I'd picked him up. And then I'd be skeptical again. I think I eventually grabbed him, but maybe someone else beat me to the punch. Either way, the final numbers were really good. Oh, and it turns out that I'm not the first person to ask what Quintana does.

He gave owners 200 IP of 7.38 K/9, 2.93 K/BB, 3.51 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. That WHIP is pretty average for a fantasy starter, but that isn't a bad thing when a pitcher is helping in counting stats. Quintana looks to have a lower ceiling than Kluber or Ross, but in deeper leagues, he's well worth a late roster slot. On the underwhelming White Sox, he shouldn't cost much.

 Colby Rasmus

All right, your leaguemates have all heard of Rasmus, for sure. But that's what makes him draftable. Ever since a very promising 2010, Rasmus has been pretty horrible. It's been mostly BABIP. In fact, his success or failure comes down almost totally to BABIP, which seems to be always extremely good or extremely bad. Check out these numbers:

2010: .354 BABIP, .276 AVG, 4.0 WAR
2011: .267 BABIP, .225 AVG, 0.5 WAR
2012: .259 BABIP, .223 AVG, 1.1 WAR
2013: .356 BABIP, .276 AVG, 4.8 WAR

So...his value, fantasy and real life, is pretty well correlated with his BABIP. What happened the one time he put up a normal BABIP? Well, it was 2009, and he BABIP'd .282, with a .259 AVG and 2.6 WAR. Decent.

Rasmus is not as good as his 2010 or 2013 seasons suggest. But he's not nearly as bad as his 2011 and 2012 seasons suggest. Playing in Toronto, though, and getting injured before the season's end may well hide his recent excellence from a lot of your leaguemates, leaving the bad taste of his low-BABIP years and feuds with Tony LaRussa in their mouths. At some point, Rasmus's BABIP will swing back towards the middle--it probably isn't going to live on the extremes of his skill lever forever. When it does, he won't be a star, but he will be a good outfielder with power.

Brad Miller

Miller might not be the next big thing at shortstop, but he's better than a lot of fantasy staples at the position. Over 600 PA, his eight homers and five steals in 76 games could translate to a 20/10 (Oliver projects 17/13, Steamer 13/11) if you're decently optimistic. And since he never slugged under .471 at any stop in the minors, it doesn't seem unreasonable to bet a little higher than the projection systems. Hitting in Safeco Field won't do him any favors, but Seattle's lineup ought to be a bit friendlier to Runs and RBI with Robinson Cano in the fold. Think of Miller if you're tempted by Asdrubal Cabrera or Jimmy Rollins.

Nate Schierholtz

Schierholtz put up a surprising (and quiet) 21 homers for the Cubbies last year. Maybe Chicago isn't a small market, but bad teams will do the trick of keeping their players out of the headlines well enough. Schierholz is a classic "What's he do?" type of guy, since he's been around forever and never really been fantasy relevant--2013 was his first season with more than 400 PA. RotoGraphs has an interesting article about the whole Cubs outfield, and I'm inclined to think that Schierholz will be the best value of the bunch when a lot of fantasy owners see his homer total and think "fluke." But it's less of a fluke than an issue of a hitters' park and playing time (seriously, check out the article). For the pocket change he'll cost, 20-homer power is great value.

 



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