RotoAuthority League Update: Fantasy All-Stars, Pitchers Edition

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 4 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.

In keeping with last week's theme, let's take a look at the fantasy All-Star pitchers in the RotoAuthority League. Once again, it's all about profit as opposed to overall production.

Johnny Cueto

Owner: A Century of Misery

Investment: Round 16 pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $34

The most profitable pitcher on the season is also the top pitcher overall thus far. Clearly my best draft pick, Cueto is the main reason I'm in the top half of the standings at this point. When he's been healthy, the Reds right-hander has always been effective; the problem has been staying on the mound. The injury risk is likely the reason he slipped all the way to Round 16 on Draft Day, the equivalent of a $6 investment. Well, this year he's been plain filthy and earned a whopping $34 assuming a 70 / 30 hitting / pitching split, good for a $28 profit.

Scott Kazmir

Owner: A Century of Misery (acquired from The Bombers in exchange for Matt Lindstrom)

Investment: Round 19 Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $23

As you'll notice shortly, this is the only other top pitching value that was actually drafted. (More on that in a minute.) The Bombers grabbed Kazmir in Round 19 of the RotoAuthority League Draft, a mere investment of $3. The Athletics left-hander was effective last season in a limited sample size, but he's showing that was no fluke at all. I've made quite a few trades this season, some of which I regret. However, I was able to exploit the premium placed on closers in this league and ship Matt Lindstrom to the Bombers in exchange for Kazmir. Needless to say, that's been one of the biggest heists in the league thus far.

Tim Hudson

Owner: Spirit of St. Louis

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $22

Dallas Keuchel

Owner: Cobra Kai

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $21

Jason Hammel

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $16

Kyle Lohse

Owner: Cobra Kai

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $16

Mark Buehrle

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $15

Francisco Rodriguez

Owner: The Jewru (acquired from Men With Wood in exchange for Sonny Gray)

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $15

Garrett Richards

Owner: Smell the Glove

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $14

As I mentioned, Cueto and Kazmir are the only top pitching values that were actually taken on Draft Day. For brevity's sake, let's group the rest of the top pitching values together. The names don't matter; it's the larger point as to what this indicates about how fantasy owners should approach pitching going forward. Let's take a minute to recap how the fantasy landscape has changed the past decade. When DIPS theory was not yet mainstream, sabermetric nerds like myself could more easily find undervalued starting pitchers. Flash forward to today, though, and it's just not as easy. When one couples this reality that the average fantasy baseball manager is more informed with the fact that pitching continues to be more dominant, we just can't wait on pitching anymore.

Still, more so than in the case of hitters, pitchers have so much that is out of their control. Due to the volatility of pitching performance then, it still makes sense to gamble on pitchers to fill out your staff in the endgame. Along those same lines, spend that FAAB money early and often on starting pitchers dispaying good skills in April, even in small sample sizes. In summary, gone are the days when a fantasy owner could hold out on starting pitching; however, there will always be tremendous pitching values that go undrafted in leagues due to the volatility of the position.

RotoAuthority League Update: Fantasy All-Stars, Hitters Edition

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 4 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.

We've reached that time of the season when fans vote for whom they would like to see play in the All-Star Game. Now clearly the value of a player in real baseball can be quite different from his worth in fantasy baseball. You didn't come here for advice on how to fill out your All-Star ballot, though. Accordingly, let's see which players have been the fantasy All-Stars in the RotoAuthority League. As usual, it's not about overall production but rather profit relative to the investment.


Devin Mesoraco

Owner: Brewsterville Bruins

Investment: 24th Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $16

It's easy to forget that Mesoraco was viewed as a top prospects just a couple years ago, ranking 16th on Baseball America's Top 100 list in 2012. With everyday playing time, the post-hype sleeper is flourishing this season with 9 HR despite spending time on the DL. The talented Reds backstop has been worth $16 so far this season on a paltry Round 24 investment. Mesoraco narrowly beat out Miguel Montero in the midst of a bounceback campaign as well as breakout performer Derek Norris.

First Base

Michael Morse

Owner: Smell the Glove

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $21

After struggling miserably last season, Morse has bounced back in a big way this season with 13 HR entering the weekend. Power is down yet again this season, and it's become the toughest tool to find on the cheap in today's depressed run environment. Fortunately for Commissioner Tim Dierkes, Morse cost a measly free agent pickup. Hitting in the heart of a solid Giants offense, Morse has performed at a $20 level. It's no wonder, as Morse leads all of MLB in batted ball distance. Barring injury, this should continue all season long.

Second Base

Brian Dozier

Owner: Cobra Kai

Investment: 22nd Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $30

If you invested significantly on second base this season, you're probably disappointed thus far. While Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, and Jason Kipnis have failed to live up to expectations, others like Dozier have far exceeded their Draft Day investments. Cobra Kai found a gem in Round 22 with this fantasy darling. No, the Twins second baseman won't help in the AVG category, but Dozier entered the weekend as one of just three players with double digits in both HR and SB. With a patient approach, he'll also rank among the league leaders in runs this year. As it turns out, Dozier just barely beat out another second baseman, but I've opted to place him at shortstop. That leads us to our next Fantasy All-Star...


Dee Gordon

Owner: The Bombers

Investment: 18th Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $32

The top value at shortstop is also the second-best at the position overall, trailing only Troy Tulowitzki. Few players this spring garnered as much preseason hype as Billy Hamilton. Fantasy pundits all around suggested that Hamilton could win you a category on his own. Well, as it turns out, Gordon is doing just that, and he's eligible at both SS and 2B to boot. I, for one, certainly didn't see thing coming. We all knew Gordon was fast, but I never thought he could hit around .290. In effect, no player has been more valuable to a particular category than Gordon has in the SB column. The Bombers turned a $4 investment into a first-round performer to date.

Third Base

Todd Frazier

Owner: Smell the Glove

Investment: 21st Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $21

Like Morse, Frazier is capable of hitting the ball far on a consistent basis. Tim Dierkes spent the equivalent of $2 on Frazier, who's turned nearly a $20 profit so far. The Reds third baseman has good pop and plays in one of the top offensive ballparks. I actually think this is for real; at the very least, this looks like a top ten 3B going forward. Frazier narrowly beat out MVP candidate Josh Donaldson.


Charlie Blackmon

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $35

The award for best free agent pickup to this point in the season goes to Guitar Masahiro with his early grab of Blackmon. Like Dozier, Blackmon is already in the double digits for both HR and SB. With offense continuing to dwindle from one season to the next, yet Coors Field providing otherworldly park factors, speculating on Rockies hitters may be the best place to look for preseason sleepers. Along with Blackmon, Justin Morneau and Nolan Arenado have also turned a profit for their fantasy owners. Heck, Corey Dickerson has been helpful, and he can't even crack the lineup everyday.

Nelson Cruz

Owner: The Jewru (acquired by A Century of Misery in exchange for Madison Bumgarner)

Investment: 12th Round pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $42

Cruz entered the weekend as the top player overall on the ESPN Player Rater. He's the only player in the game in the top five in both hard-hit contact and batted ball distance. Simply put, Cruz is locked in at the plate right now. The Jewru cashed in on his $10 investment by trading him to me for Mad Bum a couple weeks ago. That's certainly a steep price I paid to acquire the services of the Orioles slugger. At this point, though, I'm convinced this hot start is for real. While fantasy experts constantly recommend Buying Low, it seems to me that Buying High has become the real opportunity to make a good deal in today's market.

Melky Cabrera

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: 24th round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $27

Let's see, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera. I know I've heard those names linked together previously. Look, we play this game to win, plain and simple. I really could care less what kind of person any player on my roster is; it makes no difference to me what life decisions he's made. At the end of the day, it's all about value. Well, fantasy owners are missing the boat on the single greatest market inefficiency in today's Roto game: "post"-PED users. Maybe Cruz or Cabrera is still artificially enhanced, but I don't really care; only the numbers matter to me. Cruz and Cabrera are enjoying career years; David Ortiz and Jhonny Peralta continue to be productive. So here's the deal - next spring, make a list of every player who's been linked to PED use. No, this won't serve as your Avoid list; quite the contrary, this will form your Target list.

RotoAuthority League Update: Wait, Verlander Was Dropped?

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.

The Race for First Place

1. Yu at the Animal Zoo 103

2. Smell the Glove 102

This race continues to be a joy to watch on a daily basis. While Smell the Glove began the week in first place, Yu at the Animal Zoo took over the lead on Thursday. It's interesting that these owners have taken widely divergent strategies in utilizing the waiver wire. The owner for Yu at the Animal Zoo made about 20 pickups over the past week, constantly grabbing spot starters as well as hitters with some pop. Meanwhile, Manager Tim Dierkes of Smell the Glove picked up... well, nobody. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, as there's something to be said for going with the players that got you there when making a championship run.

As someone who keeps track of every move in all my leagues, I always find the last few weeks of the RotoAuthority League to be a fascinating case study in psychology. There are two types of owners during the stretch run. On the one hand, you have the owners who still want to assemble the best roster of players possible, even if some of the players may slumping. Sure, owners may have specific categories in mind, but this group of owners could care less about how a player has performed recently. On the other hand, there are owners who seem to have one question in mind when evaluating the players on their rosters: what have you done for me lately? Any experienced fantasy baseball player knows that rash decision-making like this would be a recipe for disaster in April, as hot streaks are not necessarily predictive. While I certainly don't fall into this category, sometimes I can't really blame owners who opt for this route. It sure feels like there are non-elite players every year who catch fire in September and decide fantasy leagues in the process; however, this is probably just anecdotal.

The Race for Third Place

3. Gramma Nutt Crushers 81

4. Brewsterville Bruins 70

You'll notive that I've altered this tier to include just two teams. While some other squads that I chose to place in the final group may still have an outside shot at third place, I feel it's slightly more likely they end up in the bottom four. The Gramma Nutt Crushers hovered about five points ahead of the Brewsterville Bruins for most of the past week but then increased their lead over the weekend. Oddly enough, each of these two teams has been relatively quiet on the waiver wire. The Brewsterville Bruins made just three pickups this past week while the Gramma Nutt Crushers didn't make a single acquisition. The one move that stood out to me was that the Bruins lost patience in Starlin Castro and finally cut him. Castro has been simply miserable all season long, and the fact that he's going to finish outside the top 20 at the thin shortstop position has to make him one of the top fantasy disappointments this year. 

The Race to Avoid the Bottom Four

5. Philly Cheez 63.5

6. Say It Ain't So Cano 61

7. E-Z Sliders 60

7. A Century of Misery 60

9. Men With Wood 56.5

10. UP 50

11. Reedy 49.5

12. Forty 2 Twenty 4 23.5

The daily nail-biting continues for those of near the bottom of the standings. We're really starting to see some interesting late-season strategies among this group. Like I've been doing as Manager of A Century of Misery, the owners of Say It Ain't So Cano and Forty 2 Twenty 4 have been picking up spot starters just about every morning. More so than any other owner, though, UP has taken the most unique approach to avoiding the bottom four. If you take a look at this owner's pitching staff right now, you'll find a grand total of just three pitchers, and one of them is the injured Jason Grilli! Yes, UP is currently rolling with Stephen Strasburg, James Shields, and two dozen hitters. The transaction that certainly caught every other owner's eye was the release of Justin Verlander on Thursday. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. While we don't usually see such extreme moves like that until the final week, it actually does make sense for UP to do this, as no other team has accrued more innings pitched. 

Standings as of Sunday, September 1st.

The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 18-24

Since the All-Star Break is all about celebrating the first 3.5 months of the baseball season, let's look back on a couple of my starworthy picks of the first half.  For instance, I told you in early May that Matt Carpenter was the real deal, and just last week, I praised Tim Lincecum's underrated season just before he no-hit the Padres.  Yep, I guess you could say it was a pretty darn perfect first half for the ol' Shukster...uh, except for writing off Ian Desmond or thinking Chase Headley's slump was no big deal.  The moral of the story is, I'm a human coin flip.  Actually, if I was a human coin flip, I'd usually come up heads due to my giant cranium.  Seriously, I can't wear adjustable ballcaps even if they're on the last notch on the strap.  It's a curse.  Forget my being a human coin flip, I'm really a human bobblehead doll.

Enough of that nonsense.  Let's look at this week's advanced metric All-Stars and No-Stars!

* Porce Of A Different Color.  If it weren't for the Los Anaheim Angels, Rick Porcello would be looked on a lot more favorably by fantasy managers.  Porcello has a 4.80 ERA in 99 1/3 innings, but if you subtract the 16 runs in five innings (!) that Porcello allowed in two starts against the Halos, Porcello's ERA drops down to much more respectable 3.53 mark.  I'm forced to conclude that Porcello has been targeted by a Christopher Lloyd-esque spirit, a la Angels In The Outfield.  For instance, Porcello has a career-best 57.3% ground ball rate this season but also a 15.7% home run rate, so even though he's allowing fewer fly balls, more of them are inexplicably leaving the park.  It's almost as if those flies are being carried over the fence by a winged figure, HMMMM???

Whether it's vengeful spirits or just bad luck, Porcello hasn't caught many breaks this season given that his 3.52 FIP, 3.07 xFIP and 3.15 SIERA all indicate that he should be seeing much better results on the ERA front.  The Tigers righty has posted new career bests in K/9 (7.2), BB/9 (1.7) and K/BB ratio (4.21) but hasn't had much to show for it thanks to a .317 BABIP and a below-average 65.4% strand rate.   Unless the supernatural phenomena continues, I'd expect Porcello to be a solid fantasy contributor in the second half.  He'll likely be available for a cheap price in a fantasy trade or he could even be on the waiver wire.  Since the Tigers don't play the Angels again, you're set.

* Not On A Roll.  It's been a long and distinguished run for Jimmy Rollins as a major fantasy contributor, but at age 34, I think J-Roll is about done.  Rollins is hitting .258/.317/.345 with 38 runs, 30 RBI and just four homers in 403 PA.  It's been a total power outage for Rollins, as his .088 ISO is the 14th-lowest of any player with a qualified number of plate appearnces.  Even his base-stealing has gone to pot, as Rollins is just 9-for-15 in stolen base attempts and he's registering only a 3.8 in Fangraphs' "speed score" statistic, barely half of his 7.4 career total.

Rollins owners have undoubtedly been looking for upgrades for several weeks now and all I can say is keep searching, since there's nothing to suggest that Rollins can turn things around.  He is what he is, a lower-tier shortstop whose former pluses of speed and homers have both seemingly left him.

* Colby Beware.  "Hey, would you be interested in Colby Rasmus?  He only has a .695 OPS against lefties but his .866 OPS against righties is terrific, and since you shuffle your lineup every day, you'll know when the Blue Jays face a southpaw.  Rasmus is having a sneaky-good year, on pace to recapture the promise he showed in his big 2010 season.  He'd help your outfield and since you already have an excess of (insert stat here), you can spare a (insert position here).  Think about it!"  

There, I just provided your sales pitch for your upcoming trade offer.  You openly admit Rasmus' splits, you butter up your rival manager by implying that he's both already smart enough to know about the splits and how to play Rasmus correctly, and you plant the seed about Rasmus' would-be breakout season from three years ago.  The best part is that this description is truthful, as Rasmus has indeed been a great streaming play against right-handed pitching.  That said, move now to sell high on Rasmus.  Almost all of Rasmus' contact rates are down from last year and below his career averages, so I'd say his .344 BABIP indicates that Rasmus has been lucky to find open spaces when he has been making contact.  Not that seasonal splits are a good forecaster, but for his career Rasmus has a .615 OPS after the All-Star Break, for what it's worth.  I'd cut bait on Rasmus now and let another owner deal with his probable regression.  Would you really let my brilliant sales pitch go to waste?  If there was a Pulitzer Prize for trade offer notes....

* Stop.  Hamels Time.  Cole Hamels isn't really having a bad season, but he's just the victim of high expectations (not unlike his team itself).  Like many of you, I drafted Hamels in one of my leagues with the expectation that he'd be a rotation-carrying ace, but the Phillies southpaw has instead performed more like an okay #2 or good #3 starter.  Is it ideal?  No, but it's not like Hamels is being rocked every time out.  It's fine to have just a "solid" ace if the rest of your fantasy rotation has been smartly constructed and hey, Hamels does have a 2.95 ERA over his last eight starts, so maybe his best is yet to come.

Most of Hamels' 2013 peripherals aren't appreciatively different from his past numbers except when it comes to leaving men on base.  While Hamels' 70.8% strand rate is roughly average, Hamels has never been "roughly average" in this category, as he's enjoyed a 76.5% strand rate over his career.  Simply put, more of Hamels' runners are scoring than usual, and that's the likely culprit behind his 4.05 ERA.  Given that his strand rate isn't low by any means, this might simply be a case of Hamels' good luck running out.  If he regains his strand rate mojo, look out, the vintage Hamels might yet re-emerge.  It'd be ridiculous to try and trade Hamels simply because he isn't pitching like a Cy Young candidate so don't even think about throwing Cole Hamels down the Camel Hole.  Basically, it's that pit from Return Of The Jedi, except instead of a Sarlacc, it's a bunch of wild bloodthirsty camels.  You're right, it doesn't make sense.

Stock Watch: All-Stargazing

Each year in the middle of July, the fantasy community lets out a collective groan. Like any other game-addicts, we're loathe to experience even a single day without our fix. Three in a row...ouch. Not only that, but our schedules are distorted, truncated or elongated according to our commissioners' caprices. It makes for a weird week, to say the least.

That said, I've always loved the All-Star game. Maybe because my longest-running league always holds a party at which trades flow even more freely than the beer. Sometimes the best players to trade are the ones in the game: after all, what adds to a player's trade value like seeing him dominate the best players in baseball. And Jhonny Peralta. In this spirit, let's take a look at a few selected All-Star participants and speculate on what kind of investments they are going forward.

J.J. Hardy
All-Star or not, Hardy is the homers and nothing else guy that he's essentially always been. If you need power desperately, trade for him, but if you've got someone else competent at short, this might be a great time to deal him away. Yes, the homers are great, but everything else is not. His low triple-slash stats will keep his Runs and RBI's down, even in that potent Orioles lineup, and his .253 BABIP is an exact match for his 2012 mark.

David Ortiz
The ageless Ortiz is killing the world in just about every way (save steals, obviously). If your leaguemates are into giving DH or age related discounts, he's a great trade for candidate, as I see little reason for his production to drop appreciably.

Hisashi Iwakuma
The wheels have been coming off for Iwakuma in the last few weeks, a storyline which may or may not get coverage during the All-Star broadcast. I'd trade him away before problems get worse. He may right the ship at any moment...or he may fall to drop status. Either way, it's doubtful that he belongs among the best pitchers in baseball.

Justin Masterson
The Indians' ace has finally harnessed the strikeout stuff he'd flashed throughout his career and it's got him an All-Star slot. His ERA isn't great (3.78), but his FIP and xFIP are both a bit better (3.42/3.40). Whoever drafted him probably wasn't expecting the strikeouts to be this good and maybe waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you need whiffs, definitely try to trade for him. If you're good in that category, I'd stay away, because, while he doesn't hurt you in the other categories, he isn't really an asset.

Torii Hunter
I do not know why Hunter is an All-Star. (Particularly with Raul Ibanez not getting the honor.) Hope for him to hit a home run, and then immediately trade him to anyone in your league that you happen to know likes to drink while watching the All-Star games. Those in anonymous online leagues may have difficulty, but check over the league's message board and you might find some suitable takers. 

Bryce Harper, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Gonzalez
These All-Stars are all great hitters having great seasons. They're exciting players and they often get hurt. Wait, that last thing isn't good? In fact, it makes them good players to trade away if as they all carry significant injury risk and all play well enough to anchor a serious trade. Note that this is only a good idea if your team is good and you need to lower your risk. If you're sitting in the bottom half or third of your league, this is the type of player to trade for.

Brandon Phillips
The Cincinnati second-sacker's season has thus far featured a 2% drop in his walk rate and a total disappearance in his stolen-base ability. Name recognition and a dearth of other good second basemen has him starting in the All-Star game, and now is as good a time as any to hope those same qualities will be enough for you to turn him into a more productive player. Trade him.

Jose Fernandez
The Marlins' phenom was a high-upside, high-risk play when Miami called him up early in the season. It's paid off and I have nothing bad to say about his production. (Because I don't believe in lying in this space.) That said, the Marlins would be foolish not to limit his innings somehow this season. They are foolish, but they'll probably still find a way to keep him from pitching in September. Outside of Roto formats, trade him away.

Patrick Corbin
Raise your hand if you really believe that this is Corbin's real talent level. No? I can't believe it. But I would trade for Corbin, because chances are his owners don't believe it either. Hopefully he allows a three-run home run in the game and nets you a discount. He's not an ace, but his 3.28 FIP tells me that he's a very useful pitcher anyway.

Jeff Locke and Travis Wood
Neither of these pitchers' results match their peripherals. Wood's 3.56 FIP makes him look average, and his 4.36 xFIP makes him look even worse than that. Locke's 3.82 FIP and 4.27 xFIP do the same. Trade these guys away.

Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer has been pretty quiet about putting together a great year. Of course, it's buoyed by a .373 BABIP and home games at Coors Field. That said, he's been plenty good on the road, and he hasn't drawn huge attention to himself. While you should expect his BABIP to slip during the second half, he's still a pretty good trade target, as his owners are as likely as anyone else to expect a decline in his production.

Allen Craig
Craig has certainly been a power disappointment, and for that reason I was surprised to see him on the All-Star team, and fairly sure that I'd recommend dealing him. But, actually, no. Though his BABIP is high (.374), he's shown himself to be a high-BABIP/high-average hitter, and I'd trade for him confidently if I were in need of batting average.

Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Everth Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta
All of the above are implicated in scandal and all may end up serving significant suspensions this season. Peralta should be traded regardless, but your strategy with the other three depends largely on how much risk you want to take on. Cruz has surged back from a lousy 2012, Colon is having maybe the best season of his career (and he's a Cy Young winner), and Cabrera is baseball's best base-stealer. If you need to take on risk and upside, trade for these guys and hope for light punishments, long appeals processes, or innocent verdicts. Because he steals so much, Cabrera is particularly worth trading for in Roto formats, as even a month of his production will help you in the category. Of course, if you're sitting at the top of your league, you should deal them away and let someone else absorb the risk.

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