Fantasy Drafts

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 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 isn't one of them.

The RotoAuthority League draft took place a week ago. As always, it was a grueling three hours that really put our decision-making skills to the test. Full draft results can be found at the link at the bottom, but here's a quick look at how each team turned out in order of draft slot.

1. Men With Wood

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 8th, 2009 – 4th, 2010 – 2nd, 2011 – 1st, 2012 – 5th, 2013 - 8th

It's a luxury to own Mike Trout in any league, and it's always interesting to see how an owner chooses to build around the closest thing to a perfect fantasy player. Intended or not, Men With Wood placed a premium on quality outfielders early when he selected Carlos Gomez and Giancarlo Stanton once the draft snaked back to him. Offense was clearly a priority for this owner, as he didn't take a pitcher until Jordan Zimmermann in the seventh round. The bullpen is deep with three closers in Addison Reed, Steve Cishek, and Fernando Rodney as well as three quality setup men in Rex Brothers, Danny Farquhar, and Sergio Santos. As usual, I expect Men With Wood to be a contender this year.

2. Yu at the Animal Zoo

Previous Finishes: 2013 - 1st

Like I said last week, it's a tad scary that last year's champion gets to build his team around Miguel Cabrera once again. This owner chose to follow up Miggy with the currently red-hot Jose Bautista and then a pair of aces in Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander. The reigning champ continued to stockpile power with picks of Wilin Rosario, J.J. Hardy, and Matt Wieters. In addition to that dynamic duo at the top of the staff, this manager has a pair of arms with sky-high ceiling in Gerrit Cole and Yordano Ventura. The one weakness on this roster may be relief pitching, but this owner is incredibly active on the waiver wire.

3. Brewsterville Bruins

Previous Finishes: 2011 – 5th, 2012 – 2nd, 2013 - 4th

I projected this squad to draft Paul Goldschmidt with the third pick overall, but instead the Brewsterville Bruins selected a relatively safer option for my money in Andrew McCutchen. After grabbing the dominant Yu Darvish on the way back, this manager continued to load up on across-the-board contributors like Dustin Pedroia and Alex Rios. If you subscribe to the theory of drafting last year's bums because regression is a powerful force, then this roster is for you. The Bruins envision bounceback campaigns from Albert Pujols, Jason Heyward, and Starlin Castro. As always, the Bruins have a very reliable roster that should be right in the thick of things come September.

4. Spirit of St. Louis

Previous Finishes: N/A

Spirit of St. Louis built a strong offensive foundation by drafting just one pitcher over the first nine rounds. This owner places at least some value in scarcity, as he owned a player at every infield position by the end of the seventh round. Homer picks or not, this manager somehow ended up with five Cardinals by Round 20. Overall, I expect this squad to do well in the offensive categories, so the fate of Spirit of St. Louis will ultimately come down to its pitching staff.

5. Smell the Glove

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 1st, 2009 – 6th, 2010 – 5th, 2011 – 12th, 2012 – 11th, 2013 - 2nd

After all these years of playing with Tim Dierkes, I was virtually certain that he'd take Carlos Gonzalez with the fifth pick overall, so I for one was certainly surprised when he chose to go with Ryan Braun instead. Dierkes is clearly on the side of "steroids, schmeroids" when projecting Braun for this season. As usual, Tim then built his roster inside-out by filling up most of his infield with Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Eric Hosmer, and Elvis Andrus. Dierkes is on record that he's a believer in Masahiro Tanaka, and he put his money where his mouth is by taking the new Yankees starter in the sixth round. Smell the Glove then continued to add power with middle-round picks of Jonathan Lucroy, Domonic Brown, and Aaron Hill. Finally, I like what Tim did late with high-upside plays like Khris Davis, Avisail Garcia, and Javier Baez. Ultimately, this roster will be fine offensively, so the true test will be the performance of Tanaka coupled with the health of Cole Hamels.

6. The Jewru

Previous Finishes: N/A

Perhaps no owner spoke louder with his picks than this one last Monday night. Right from the start, the Jewru swung for the fences with Bryce Harper at sixth overall. This owner then calmed down for a bit with relatively safe picks of David Wright, Jay Bruce, and Cliff Lee. However, the Jewru then took the player who embodies high risk / high reward more so than any player in this game with the selection of Billy Hamilton in Round Five. And yet, this manager was far from finished with highly volatile picks. From Xander Bogaerts to Anthony Rendon and Taijuan Walker, this roster is loaded with upside. Let's face it, though: Billy Hamilton is going to win or lose leagues this year. If the Reds speedster proves he can hit well enough to stay in the Bigs all year, this owner may get first round value out of that fifth round pick. Then again, Hamilton could easily bust and wind up in the Minors by May. One thing is certain: the Jewru could care less about finishing in the bottom four and getting booted from this league; he's in it to win it.

7. The Bombers

Previous Finishes: N/A

If you look at the first five picks for the Bombers, one is clearly not like the others. Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Felix Hernandez, and Matt Holliday put up numbers year in and year out. At pick 42, however, the Bombers couldn't pass up the chance to draft the ultimate wild card in Yasiel Puig. Some fantasy pundits view Puig as an elite top-15 player while others consider him to be a risky top-50 option. For the most part, this is a safe roster that I'm confident will avoid the bottom four. If Puig proves that last year was no fluke, though, this squad will have just what it needs to finish in the money.

8. Guitar Masahiro

Previous Finishes: 2012 – 8th, 2013 - 6th

Well, the owner who went by the name of Say it Ain't So Cano last year opted against drafting Robinson Cano in Round One, choosing Clayton Kershaw instead. Guitar Masahiro then selected Troy Tulowitzki for the third year in a row. This manager took an interesting approach to drafting pitchers. After grabbing Kershaw, Guitar Masahiro didn't select another starting pitcher until Matt Moore in Round 12. Instead, this owner drafted four closers in Koji Uehara, Glen Perkins, Jim Johnson, and Huston Street. That should come in handy, as there's always an owner in need of saves. Just a speculation: we might have a Boston sports fan here, as this owner drafted a grand total of eight Red Sox.

9. Gramma Nutt Crushers

Previous Finishes: 2010 – 1st, 2011 – 8th, 2012 – 4th, 2013 - 3rd

I really like how the Gramma Nutt Crushers started the first three rounds of this draft with picks of Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, and Shin-Soo Choo. That's about as safe as it gets. On the pitching side, this owner chose to embrace a tad more risk with Danny Salazar and Michael Wacha behind staff ace Chris Sale. After loading up on power early, the Gramma Nutt Crushers picked up some speed later on from Desmond Jennings, Brett Gardner, and Rajai Davis. In general, this looks like a balanced roster without any real categorical holes.

10.  Cobra Kai

Previous Finishes: N/A

Last week I gave my best guess as to which player each owner would select in Round One. Well, outside of the first two picks (which probably shouldn't even count), this is the only other pick I predicted correctly. Cobra Kai took five-category stud Adam Jones and then came back with last year's best player on a per-game basis, Hanley Ramirez. This owner clearly buys into the idea that elite catchers are worthy investments, as he not only took Joe Mauer in the third round but also Brian McCann in the fifth round. This manager also made a couple interesting selections with the well-hyped Jose Abreu in Round Six followed by the enigmatic Matt Kemp in Round Seven. In addition, Cobra Kai made it known that he doesn't care about a player's age. This roster has plenty of youth in players like Jose Fernandez, Zack Wheeler, and George Springer. There are all sorts of ways this squad could go this year, but it's certainly not short on talent.

11. E-Z Sliders

Previous Finishes: 2013 - 5th

I haven't seen Adrian Beltre go in the first round of 12-team leagues all that often this year, but I view the Rangers third baseman as worthy of Round One. After grabbing the consistent Beltre, E-Z Sliders drafted a pair of outfielders with first-round talent in Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Upton followed by a couple of aces in Max Scherzer and David Price. This pitching staff could be special, as this owner also was able to get lights-out closer Kenley Jansen and the electric Anibal Sanchez. In general, the E-Z Sliders took a value-based approach. There seemed to be quite a few "look at me" picks throughout the draft, and this owner skillfully scooped up undervalued veterans like Alexei Ramirez and Torii Hunter when they fell too far. Given that I had to follow this owner, I know there were several times in which he drafted the player I had at the top of my rankings.

12. A Century of Misery

Previous Finishes: 2009 – 5th, 2010 – 4th, 2011 – 4th, 2012 – 3rd, 2013 - 7th

And finally we get to my squad. I wanted to play it safe at the turn, but I couldn't pass up the power of Chris Davis. I actually consider Davis to be overvalued this season, yet I somehow own him in four out of nine league this year. After Davis, I came back with Edwin Encarnacion; if you've read my work at all, you know by now he's a personal favorite, especially with third base eligibility in Yahoo leagues. I’m only guessing when it comes to the strategies of other owners in this league, but I can tell you my plan was to simply trust my rankings and draft the best player available as often as possible. In the past I've loaded up on offense, but I'm not so sure that's a recipe for success anymore in today's game. I can't say I'm happy to have only one closer, but I'm usually able to grab one or two off the waiver wire over the course of the season. I also have several next-in-line setup men in Mark Melancon, Cody Allen, Carlos Martinez, and Tyler Clippard. On paper my squad is rather boring, but I feel better about this one than how I felt about my team from last year.

So who's going to take home the title this season? Which squad do you like best?

Download RotoAuthority League 2014

RotoAuthority League Update: Draft Preview

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 isn't one of them.

Tonight the RotoAuthority League snake draft will take place. Due to the fact that the four teams that finish at the bottom of the standings get booted each year, this league is always competitive from start to finish. I've played against some of these owners for a few years now, so I have a decent idea of their personal preferences in players. That being said, there are always new faces to the league each year, so I'm also working with incomplete information.

Let's take a look at the owners in the order in which they'll be drafting tonight. Along with a brief introduction, I've provided my best guess as to which player each owner will select in Round One.

1. Men With Wood

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 8th, 2009 – 4th, 2010 – 2nd, 2011 – 1st, 2012 – 5th, 2013 - 8th

Projected Pick: Mike Trout

Aside from Commissioner Tim Dierkes, this owner is the only one who's been around since the beginning of the league. Given that we kick out the bottom four every year, that's no small feat. After four consecutive finishes in the top five, Men With Wood just barely avoided the boot last year. Over the years, this owner has shown a preference for the rare five-category contributors in Round One with previous picks including Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, and Andrew McCutchen. Well, this year he'll get the best power-speed option of all in Mike Trout. In fact, this isn't even a prediction on my part, as this owner made it known he'll be taking Trout immediately after the draft order was announced.

2. Yu at the Animal Zoo

Previous Finishes: 2013 - 1st

Projected Pick: Miguel Cabrera

Last year this owner drafted Miguel Cabrera in Round One and wound up winning the league. Could we see a repeat this year? Well, I'm fairly certain we'll at least this owner select Miggy in the first round again. It's tough to make a case for anyone over Cabrera at pick two. I know this owner has only been in the league for a year, but he clearly knows his stuff. I have to say - it's a tad scary that he'll get to build his team around the rock-solid Cabrera again.

3. Brewsterville Bruins

Previous Finishes: 2011 – 5th, 2012 – 2nd, 2013 - 4th

Projected Pick: Paul Goldschmidt

One of the most consistent performers in the league's brief history, Brewsterville Bruins have yet to finish outside the top five. During his three years in the league, this owner has drafted a power-hitting corner infielder in Round One every time. First, it was Evan Longoria with the fifth pick in 2011; next, it was Prince Fielder with the 11th pick in 2012; then, it was Fielder again with the tenth pick last year. I'll project that trend to continue and put this owner down for Goldy at third overall.

4. Spirit of St. Louis

Previous Finishes: N/A

Projected Pick: Andrew McCutchen

One of four new faces to the league this year, the Spirit of St. Louis has drawn a good pick in a year in which there's a pretty clear top four among the fantasy community. Clearly I have no information to work with here, but I'd be surprised if this owner let Cutch fall past the fourth pick. If by chance Brewsterville opts for the Pirates superstar with the third pick, then I'd have to think this owner would go with Goldschmidt.

5. Smell the Glove

Previous Finishes: 2008 – 1st, 2009 – 6th, 2010 – 5th, 2011 – 12th, 2012 – 11th, 2013 - 2nd

Projected Pick: Carlos Gonzalez

Smell the Glove is run by Tim Dierkes, creator of MLB Trade Rumors. Perhaps you've heard of it? After winning the league in its inaugural season, Tim finished in the middle of the pack for a couple years and then struggled for two years. Now that I’ve drafted with Tim for six years, I have a good feel for his general draft approach. He values multi-categorical production in the early rounds. Assuming the consensus top four is off the board, CarGo is precisely the type of player whom Tim typically selects to serve as the foundation for his teams. 

6. The Jewru

Previous Finishes: N/A

Projected Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Another one of our newbies, the Jewru won his way into the league by taking home the Silver League last year. Once again, I'm really only guessing here, as I have nothing to go off when it comes to this manager. I'll go with the data here and put this owner down for the player being selected after the consensus top four according to NFBC ADP, Clayton Kershaw. It's certainly possible that this owner is the type of fantasy owner who refuses to draft a pitcher in Round One, and I'm actually hoping that's the case. After all, I'd love to see the Dodgers ace fall all the way to my pick at the turn, but I'm probably just dreaming.

7. The Bombers

Previous Finishes: N/A

Projected Pick: Chris Davis

The Bombers won their way their ticket into the league through random selection after participating in the RotoAuthority Mock Draft. Accordingly, I'm working with a sample size of exactly one mock draft when it comes to information on this owner. Still worse, this owner had the second pick in that mock draft and naturally selected Miguel Cabrera, who clearly won't make it to pick seven tonight. As such, I'm mostly throwing darts here when it comes to projecting a Round One selection; however, this owner does appear to value power in the early rounds (even at the expense of AVG) with early picks in the mock like Yoenis Cespedes and Mark Trumbo, so I'll put the Bombers down for Chris Davis. Of course, that's really just a guess.

8. Guitar Masahiro

Previous Finishes: 2012 – 8th, 2013 - 6th

Projected Pick: Robinson Cano

While the name Guitar Masahiro may look unfamiliar to those of you who read about this league last season, this is the same owner who managed Say it Ain't So Cano last year. Naturally then, there's really only one player to project for this owner to draft in Round One, Mr. Cano himself. The manager of Guitar Masahiro enters his third season in the league still looking for his first finish in the money. It's worth noting that this manager drafted Troy Tulowitzki in the first round in 2012 and then in the second round last year. Should I pencil in Tulo for this owner in Round Two this year?

9. Gramma Nutt Crushers

Previous Finishes: 2010 – 1st, 2011 – 8th, 2012 – 4th, 2013 - 3rd

Projected Pick: Ryan Braun

Outside of 2011, the Gramma Nutt Crushers have finished in the top four every other year they've been in the league, including a title in 2010. That's an impressive resume for this league. Over the years we've seen this owner draft a Who's Who list of some of the most talented players in modern baseball history in Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and (dare I say) Bryce Harper. I know there are some question marks revolving around Ryan Braun, but I just don't see this owner passing on the Brewers star at nine.

10.  Cobra Kai

Previous Finishes: N/A

Projected Pick: Adam Jones

Like the Bombers, Cobra Kai took part in the RotoAuthority Mock Draft and was randomly selected to join this league. Once again, we have a whopping sample size of one mock draft at our disposal. Once more, even that single mock draft isn't all that useful, as this owner had the first pick in the mock. While Mike Trout won't make it to pick ten in any league this year, this manager should be able to get another five-category outfielder in Adam Jones here. Cobra Kai did take Jason Kipnis in the second round in that same mock, so this owner appreciates the power/speed options at least to a certain extent.

11. E-Z Sliders

Previous Finishes: 2013 - 5th

Projected Pick: Bryce Harper

After winning the Silver League in 2012, E-Z Sliders finished just outside the money in fifth place last season. This owner drew the third pick in last year's draft and chose none other than Mike Trout. I'd say that pick worked out pretty well. This manager came back with Justin Upton in Round Two, so the E-Z Sliders aren't afraid to swing for the fences with a young player with a sky-high ceiling. Well, outside of Trout, perhaps no player in the game has a higher ceiling than Bryce Harper, so I could certainly see this owner going with Nationals phenom tonight. 

12. A Century of Misery

Previous Finishes: 2009 – 5th, 2010 – 4th, 2011 – 4th, 2012 – 3rd, 2013 - 7th

Projected Pick: Edwin Encarnacion

And that brings us to my pick at the turn. If you've read any of my work this offseason, you know I prefer to play it safe in the early rounds. Well, if the draft goes as I've projected, some highly talented yet relatively risky players like Hanley Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury will be potential options for me here. I'm on record that I'd rather opt for safer options like Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, and Adrian Beltre. Given the state of third base, I can practically guarantee that I'll draft either Encarnacion or Beltre with one of my two picks at the turn. As I look at how I've finished over the years, however, I can't help but think I need to embrace some risk if I want to win this league anytime soon. Should I break free from my norms and swing for the fences tonight?

Check back here next week for an extensive draft recap.

RotoAuthority Unscripted: Your Aberrant Experts (Hitter Rankings)

All right, so we at RotoAuthority might not be the most aberrant of experts. I suppose that's a good thing, as a statistical rule: as exciting as it is to strike our own paths through the world of fantasy baseball, it's probably for the best if we aren't too different from the community of fantasy experts.

But sometimes we are. Today, we'll examine some of the boldest calls throughout our RotoAuthority Hitter Rankings, as compared to ADP and the Expert Consensus, both via

For players near the top of the rankings, I'll mention smaller differences of as few as two slots--because such things can mean multiple rounds in a draft, especially if they cross tiers. The farther down the rankings, the bigger a difference has to be to matter, since several rounds cover similarly valuable players anyway.

You can check out the full RotoAuthority 2014 Rankings here:

OutfieldCatcherFirst BaseThird BaseSecond BaseShortstopCloserMiddle and Corner Infield, and Starters


Brian McCann

RA Ranking: 3 ADP Rank: 7 Expert Consensus: 6

For us, McCann belongs in the tier below Buster Posey, as roughly the equal of Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana. ADP and the Experts tend to swap him with Yadier Molina, but I'm inclined to think that the move to Yankee Stadium will push McCann's power into the elite level. Verdict: Trust RA.

Yan Gomes

RA Ranking: 10 ADP Rank: 13 Expert Consensus: 13

Gomes trades places with Evan Gattis for us when compared to ADP and the Experts. I think Gattis is less likely to live up to his apparent potential, but it's not a big deal this late. Verdict: Who cares?

Dioner Navarro

RA Ranking: 14 ADP: 25 Expert Consensus: 19

Look, Navarro had a great half-season, giving him more upside than most...but that big of a difference gives me a little pause. In a one-catcher league, I'd go with someone more proven, like Miguel Montero or A.J. Pierzynski. In a two-catcher, though, I'd roll the dice, but know that I can wait until late. Verdict: Depends on format.

First Base

Prince Fielder

RA Ranking: 5 ADP Rank: 3 Expert Consensus: 3

I'm not sure why anyone rates Fielder over Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Votto. Fielder is not trending in a good direction, and the move to Texas looks pretty overrated when it comes to homer power. If you've got a compelling argument for Prince, I'd be interested to read it. Verdict: Trust RA.

Mark Trumbo

RA Ranking: 7 ADP Rank: 10 Expert Consensus: 12

Trumbo's not so good in real baseball...but his power should play in the move to Arizona. Why do I like that park change and not Fielder's? Fielder is making a small upgrade, from good to great. Trumbo is going from awful to great. The batting average may boost too, but this ranking was a bit indicative of a possible RA bias in favor of high-HR, low-BA players. But maybe that bias is a good thing, as homers are very scarce in today's scoring environment. Verdict: Depends on how you value homers.

Jose Abreu

RA Ranking: 11 ADP Rank: 18 Expert Consensus: 16

Different player, similar story. Abreu is unproven and therefore risky. But his upside is in the form of very rare homers. Like Trumbo, how much risk you take on will depend on how you value homers. This is the same reason we're higher on Mike Napoli and Chris Carter. Verdict: See Above.

Brandon Belt

RA Ranking: 13 ADP Rank: 25 Expert Consensus: 20

Because of how our rankings are formatted, the difference between our opinion and others' may be a little overstated once you get deep into first base, but we still like Belt more than most. His breakout looks real, and to me, he's as good a bet as Anthony Rizzo, a better one than Matt Adams (because it happened in more playing time), and doesn't carry the BA downside of other players in their draft range. Verdict: Trust RA.

Second Base

Aaron Hill

RA Ranking: 4 ADP Rank: 10 Expert Consensus: 9

Hill can hit. He has missed time recently, but not for the same things or in a consistent pattern. He's probably not much more of an injury risk than most players...but that's already built in to a ranking this low. Seriously, over a full season, he produces more with the bat than any second-sacker besides Robinson Cano. Not so much with the steals, but still. Verdict: Trust RA.

Chase Utley

RA Ranking: 9 ADP Rank: 14 Expert Consensus: 11

All right...Utley is always injured. In retrospect, I'd probably want to take Utley for my MI slot, after I've got someone healthier for second. His production is still good, but you have to count on him to be out awhile. Verdict: Down a couple slots on further reflection. But not that much.

Third Base

Chris Johnson

RA Ranking: 14 ADP Rank: 24 Expert Consensus: 23

This one is a big difference. I imagine that most people are discounting Johnson for his sky-high BABIP. And that's fair. But he seems to always put up an abnormal BABIP, and betting that he has a skill in that department makes as much sense as drafting anyone else in his tier. Looking at the other available players, it's not like you've got that much to lose anyway. Verdict: Trust RA.

Matt Dominguez

RA Ranking: 20 ADP Rank: 26 Expert Consensus: 27

Dominguez is a pretty classic case of "at least he has some upside." He's got homer power and the upside is that he might get lucky and not kill your average. But that sounds better than what you'll get from the seven guys between his RA ranking and his Expert Consensus. Verdict: Trust RA.


Brad Miller

RA Ranking: 10 ADP Rank: 20 Expert Consensus: 19

For us, Miller is near the head of a huge tier from 9th-18th, so some variance isn't shocking. Still, Miller deserves his slot, by showing nice pop in a little under half a season and carrying the upside of a developing player. It doesn't hurt that his team is willing to shunt Nick Franklin aside out of trust for Miller. I'll understand if you prefer J.J. Hardy or Jurickson Profar--there are a lot of guys with upside in this range. But Miller's emphatically one of them. Verdict: Trust RA...and your gut...and your category needs.

Jonathan Villar

RA Ranking: 12 ADP Rank: 18 Expert Consensus: 20

Villar is a very interesting potential source of steals. If you don't fully trust Alexei Ramirez's conversion to base stealing, and you missed out on Everth Cabrera and Elvis Andrus, Villar might be right for you. He could steal upwards of 30 bases; with no one else to play, Houston will be patient if the young player struggles. Verdict: Go for it, if you need steals.

Asdrubal Cabrera

RA Ranking: 19 ADP Rank: 12 Expert Consensus: 12

I guess I'm impugning my expert colleagues when I say that ranking Cabrera 12th seems lazy. Sorry. It does. He's pretty consistent: about 15 homers and a bad batting average to go with mediocre counting stats and no speed is what you get from Cabrera. With Hardy, I can get that, plus 5-10 more homers. I can get that with Starlin Castro...and the chance of a huge bounceback. I can get that with Jed Lowrie, but without the bad average. And so on. There are lots of good mid-level shortstops, and lots of upside plays. But Cabrera isn't one of them. Verdict: Trust RA.


Carlos Beltran

RA Ranking: 17 ADP Rank: 30 Expert Consensus: 25

I guess Beltran's old, but he hasn't really been injury prone in awhile. He doesn't seem like a greater risk to hit a sudden decline than the next player I'll mention is to hit a sophomore slump. He's going to a very hitter-friendly ballpark. Why not take Beltran early? Verdict: Trust RA.

Yasiel Puig

RA Ranking: 18 ADP Rank: 9 Expert Consensus: 10

People see Puig and they see the young player that took the league by storm. They don't always see the guy who could have a serious strikeout problem as the league gets used to him, or the guy who may need to make adjustments as he regresses with a larger sample of at bats. It's not that I think Puig will be bad next year...just that he could be, or at least he might not grow straight up. I'd like a safer player with my first outfielder. But, yeah...that upside. Verdict: Exercise caution, and if the rest of your league does too, pounce on Puig.

Austin Jackson

RA Ranking: 30 ADP Rank: 42 Expert Consensus: 36

Jackson seems to be always over- or underrated. This year, he's under. As a high-BABIP skill guy, expect him to be useful in average more often than not. As the table-setter for a great lineup, expect him to score a million runs. Like always. He's sneaky useful. Teammate Torii Hunter has a similar story, but to a lesser extent. And an older one. Verdict: Trust RA.

Matt Kemp

RA Ranking: 31 ADP Rank: 17 Expert Consensus: 21

Kemp has done little to show that he's healthy enough to be 75% of what he once was...and yet that's where he's getting drafted. If anything, 31st might be too high. Verdict: Trust RA.

Colby Rasmus

RA Ranking: 36 ADP Rank: 66 Expert Consensus: 63

I guess everybody else took Tony LaRussa's side.... Really, though, Rasmus's career stats suggest that his surprise surge last year wasn't truly out of line with what he's proved capable of--if anything his injury-shortened ineffective years were the outliers. He's a high-variance player, but one capable of making an impact. That said, the difference here is so big that it's worth respecting. Verdict: Temper expectations a little, but still take the risk.

George Springer

RA Ranking: 44 ADP Rank: 57 Expert Consensus: 66

I guess experts aren't buying the rookie hype. Whether you want Springer depends on how deep your league is: can you afford to stash a high-impact rookie that may spend a couple months in the minors. If you can, stick with our ranking. If you're in a shallow league, or just a small-bench league, I'll understand if you only draft players you can actually use. Verdict: Depends on format.

Carlos Quentin

RA Ranking: 60 ADP Rank: 97 Expert Consensus: 81

Quentin is the last ranked guy on our list, but I like him. Sure, he's hugely injury prone, but we're talking your 5th OF here. Mr. Replaceable. Importantly, he's not injured right now, which means now is the best time to enjoy his excellent hitting. When (not if) he hits the DL, cut him loose and be glad you bagged the production while you could. There's really not much downside here. Verdict: What have you got to lose?

The Market Report: Bottom-Filling a Roster in a Snake Draft League

A week from today the RotoAuthority League draft will take place, so this column will come to an end as I'll begin to analyze that highly competitive league each week instead. It's a 12-team league, and I drew the... well, 12th pick. In most years I'd be upset to learn that I'll be forced to draft from the turn; however, if I can't have a top-two pick this year, I'd actually prefer a later pick because I see little difference in the cluster of players being drafted around then.

We fret so much over the first few picks of a draft and perhaps with good reason. A bust in Round One is rather challenging to overcome. Then again, we really should be mindful of which players we're likely to draft in the later rounds even before we plan for the early rounds of a draft. By planning  how we'll probably bottom-fill our roster, we can know which positions and / or categories we need to address in the first dozen or so rounds of a draft. After all, there are always a few players we value significantly more than does the fantasy community as a whole, so we can practically pencil in those commodities before the draft.

Case in point, let's see how I'm likely to fill out the later rounds of the RotoAuthority League. We draft the standard 23-man roster slots as well as four Reserve slots. It's worth noting that rosters also allow for two DL slots. I'm a firm believer that you're not fully maximizing the utility of your roster if you don't have those DL slots exhausted at any given time. Accordingly, I'm likely to leave this draft with a pair of players set to begin the season on the DL so I can make a couple of free acquisitions after the draft. Maybe that means grabbing a reliever who could inherit the closer role upon his return, such as Jesse Crain or Kyuji Fujikawa; maybe that means stashing a pitcher like Derek Holland or Dylan Bundy due back later this season.

Given that bench slots are limited, I prefer to utilize them on pitchers rather than hitters. Even so, the endgame is a time to grab high-variance commodities that could break out. As such, I like the idea of grabbing a highly talented Minor League bat who could be up sooner rather than later, such as Oscar Taveras or Javier Baez. Next, there are always a couple pitchers any fantasy owner likes more than the masses. Ian Kennedy, Ivan Nova, Rick Porcello, Tyson Ross - these are just a few arms going outside the top 250 whom I'd be content drafting to fill out my staff.

Finally, you need to know the specific tendencies of your league if you're going to plan out how to bottom-fill your roster. In the RotoAuthority league, closers go fast and furious, and they're typically gone around Round 15, if not earlier. Sometimes I get in on the closer run; sometimes I don't. Whether I do or not, though, I make an effort to grab some highly skilled setup men who are next-in-line. Accordingly, I'm likely to grab a couple of lights-out setup men like Joaquin Benoit, Mark Melancon, Cody Allen, or Sergio Santos in the end game to (hopefully) pair with a couple of closers.

By doing this exercise then, I now know that I'll fill out the back end of my roster something along the lines of the following:

Round - Potential Draft Pick

21 - Joaquin Benoit / Mark Melancon

22 - Cody Allen / Sergio Santos

23 - Ian Kennedy / Ivan Nova

24 - Rick Porcello / Tyson Ross

25 - Oscar Taveras / Javier Baez / Kris Bryant

26 - Jesse Crain / Kyuji Fujikawa

27 - Derek Holland / Dylan Bundy

This exercise can even be extended into the middle rounds based on how you feel about the player pool relative to the fantasy community. For example, I know for me personally I'm relatively bearish on the trio of elite shortstops in Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jose Reyes. In addition, Robinson Cano is unlikely to make it to me at pick 12 while Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia are unlikely to make it back to me at picks 36 and 37. Fortunately, there are several mid-level middle infielders I find undervalued this spring, so I can tentatively pencil someone like J.J. Hardy or Alexei Ramirez in Round 12 and then Howie Kendrick or Jurickson Profar in Round 14.

Along those same lines, I think the elite catchers as a whole are falling too late in drafts. I'm confident I'll use my sixth round pick on Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, Carlos Santana, or Wilin Rosario. Lastly, there are always specific players who, for whatever reason, are going much later than we personally would draft them. For me, those players this season include a pair of aging veterans hitting in the heart of good lineups in Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz. There's a very good chance I'll take one of these players when the draft snakes back to me in Round Seven. With this in mind, I can continue to map out my expected draft picks as follows:

Round - Potential Draft Pick

6 - Joe Mauer / Brian McCann / Carlos Santana / Wilin Rosario

7 - Carlos Beltran / David Ortiz

12 - J.J. Hardy / Alexei Ramirez

14 - Howie Kendrick / Jurickson Profar

Now there are always some surprises in any draft, and maybe a few of your targets will be scooped up before you can grab them. (This may especially prove to be true if you happen to write about your plans on a blog that every other owner in your league will read before the draft.) Even so, this mental process can certainly help to plan out the construction of your roster. For example, you may have noticed I have plans in place for middle infielders, but I didn't mention corner infielders. Well, it just so happens that I much prefer to use early picks on the elite options at both first base and third base.

So whom will I be targeting at the turn for picks 12 and 13? Well, my competitors can already read about my top 12, but I'll discuss that and much more in the RotoAuthority League Draft Preview next week.

Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Fantasy Drafts

How to Win: Last Minute Draft Strategy

On today's Very Special Episode of How to Win, I'm not going to cover a particular stat or position. Instead, I'm going to take a step back and share what I've learned from this year's drafting season and try to pass on this newfound knowledge in time for the final weekend of drafting. If this comes too late to you...I'm sorry. Just remember that it came too late for my first several drafts too.

Maybe I haven't been in the most drafts this year, but I think I've been in more than most: Thursday was my third, and I was assistant to my wife on two more. (Yeah, I'm lucky that my wife is a fantasy baseball junkie too.) Drafts and mocks have basically been my job this month. Well, they are my job, actually. I've done Roto, H2H, standard 5x5, non-standard categories, shallow 23-rounders, deep 27-rounders with 15 teams, Yahoo!, ESPN, and later today I'll cap the season with a monster 30-round, 14-team, CBS H2H points league. So I'm gonna be needing my own advice.

Know Your Format
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are literally several different formats out there: know your format! How many DL slots do you have? Is it points or categories? Five-by-five or something more arcane? Weekly matchups or roto style? One catcher or two? Weekly changes or daily? Is there an innings cap or not? The possibilities could go on and on. For at least another sentence. The point is that these things--even the smaller seeming ones--can make a huge difference in how you draft. Take that DL slots one: I drafted for Blog Wars not too long ago, but at the end of the draft I couldn't remember how many DL slots we had. The clock was running out and my Internet was slow and I couldn't find the league settings fast enough. So I found out the hard way and Colby Lewis is my waiver claim, not on my bench.

Some players are differently valuable in different formats. For instance, Curtis Granderson, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Headley, Matt Garza, and any other injured player is a lot more useful in H2H leagues that utilize DL slots. Discount them if you're playing standard roto, where their April (or more) absences are just as important as their (presumed) presence down the stretch in September. Discount them even more if your league doesn't give you a DL.

A really important one for me is the difference between weekly and daily formats. In a weekly format you typically play two relievers and need to fill the rest of your spots with starters; three relievers is pretty much the max you can afford. So don't get more than that, and don't waste a pick on a non-closer. Daily is totally different. Non-closers who get strikeouts are useful, and you can pile on the closers to win big in saves without sacrificing your wins and K's. Similarly, don't bother with a platoon hitter in all but the deepest weekly formats. In daily though, even Raul Ibanez can come in handy.

Catcher Strategy

With five drafts in my pocket, I have yet to draft (or suggest to draft) a catcher early. With fewer at-bats than other players, they impact your team less in average, help less in counting stats, and generally aren't any good at all. Plus, quality catchers run pretty deep. Three years ago, wouldn't you have been thrilled to have Ryan Doumit's .270 average and 15 HR's at catcher? Yes. Now, he's the 14th catcher in my rankings and even lower in others. Whether it's a single or double catcher league, I've been following pretty much the same strategy: wait for a great deal on a catcher, or be the last one to get one. Is Buster Posey great? Yeah. Should you use a first-round pick to get him? No. Snatch him up if he falls to the third. On Thursday (in a single-catcher league), I waited until the 20th round before I took my catcher, Brian McCann. Two rounds later I took Doumit to fill in while he's injured. I could get nearly equal catching production to people who used much earlier picks for this position.

Starter Strategy

There is no one good strategy for starers, but the most important thing to do will be to stick to yours. I actually don't recommend going into the draft with a set strategy for starters; instead, I let my first couple picks determine my course. Sometimes I've gone with a single ace (usually Strasburg) and waited for a while. I've taken pairs of aces with back-to-back picks (maybe Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia), and I've grabbed three sub-aces-with-strikeouts a little later on (Max Scherzer, Yovani Gallardo, James Shields). Depending on how much risk I've already assumed, I might load up on high upside starters in the middle rounds, snag one or two seemingly dependable starters, or wait all the way until the late rounds to fill out my rotation with a mix of sleepers (Marco Estrada is a favorite) and boring vets (Ryan Dempster and Bronson Arroyo come to mind).

Reliever Strategy

Get three relievers. I just don't see that much downside. I had always been the guy that gets one reliever and then happily ignores them until the 15th round and beyond, snatching up several bottom-dwellers in after the 20th. Well, not only did that strategy torpedo me in saves in last year's Silver League (I can't believe Carlos Marmol, Grant Balfour, and Greg Holland were closers then, are closers now, and still sunk me in saves by losing their jobs) it isn't nearly as viable this year. With several teams in an unsettled limbo at closer, the saves pool is shallower than ever at a very risky position.

In some drafts I've reached for an early top gun (I just had to have Rivera on a team in his last season; there was no way my wife and I could pass on Kimbrel in the 5th round), but I've aimed for three closers in each draft. Nearly every time I've gotten at least two closers from a big tier that I consider to be solid values around the 10th-12th rounds: John Axford, Jason Grilli, Glen Perkins, Rafael Betancourt, Greg Holland and Tom Wilhelmsen. Actually, J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano, and Sergio Romo are in that group for me too, but everyone else values them a bit higher I guess.

After these guys, most closers have serious question marks or less than a full hold on the job. Let someone else take the risks. As for playing the waiver wire for saves in season: do it! But starting with a solid relief corps means you'll win bigger and have goods to trade down the line. It also means you're safer in case you have a slower free agent trigger finger than other teams in your league.

On every team, I feel like I have a solid group of closers less likely than most to lose their jobs to ineffectiveness and the rest of my team still looks pretty strong. I haven't been able to afford a fourth closer...they're just all gone by the 15th round or so, even the likes of Bobby Parnell and Casey Janssen.

Speaking of Janssen, it looks like he can start moving up draft boards with his sudden return to health and Sergio Santos beginning to struggle.

Get three closers.

Speed Strategy

So you didn't get Mike Trout or Ryan Braun with your first pick, which means that you probably aren't getting 30 steals out of a heavy hitter. (Let's face it, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Gonzalez won't be doing that, and I bet Matt Kemp won't either.) Where do you get speed? Fortunately you've got choices, most of which belong in the outfield or at shortstop. You can use an early pick for an elite base-stealer like Jose Reyes, Jacoby Ellsbury, B.J. Upton, or Michael Bourn. You can wait until the end at both positions and take Elvis Andrus (who won't be there, but he should be), Alcides Escobar, or Everth Cabrera at short, or Brett Gardner, Coco Crisp, Ichiro Suzuki, Cameron Maybin, Drew Stubbs, or other "speed bums" in the outfield. I strongly suggest getting at least one of the latter group in any deep format.

Watch out for sneaky players in the early and middle rounds that steal bases on top of their regular value. Remember that speed is priced into their draft cost, but that players like Shin-Soo Choo, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, and Yoenis Cespedes can help you a lot as a group, but none of them can crash the category all by himself.

Roll with the Punches, Go with the Flow, Blah, Blah, Blah

You've got to be flexible with your rankings and your draft strategy. If shortstops are flying off the board to the tune of Erick Aybar in the 7th round, then do what it takes to make sure you aren't left starting Alexei Ramirez or Zack Cozart, even if it means drafting Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, or Everth Cabrera ten rounds ahead of where you planned. It won't kill your team: the fair market price for their services got more expensive; for some other position it will have necessarily become cheaper. If you can't adjust, you'll be left in the dust. Similar things can happen to catchers and relievers,and it's important to balance flexing with your league-mates, and striking your own path. Don't take Addison Reed in the third round just because seven closers just went off the board. But take him in the 10th if you need a second closer and he's the only good one left.

Don't Just Make Tiers, Use Them!

It's easy to just go down your player list, even if you've broken everything up into tiers. Don't do that. Your tiers (or ours--you can use them for free) are there for a reason. Do you need speed or power? Hopefully there's some of both in that fifth OF tier. Do you want to take a big risk with your fifth starter, or get someone steady to balance out risks you've already taken? There should be a sprinkling of both in the tier.

Forget Your Tiers and Rankings

You probably didn't get up this morning and make all your tiers and rankings fresh for today's draft. If you did...well, okay. Otherwise, you've had time to gather more information, read more analysis, gauge the relative wisdom of the crowds you've drafted with, and otherwise reevaluate every player in the game. I know I ranked Danny Espinosa near Jimmy Rollins, but I just can't bring myself to draft Espinosa where I've got him ranked: I was just too high on him in my personal tiers. If I want Carlos Gomez, I'll have to bump him way up--he's just too popular to land where I've tiered him, so if I need his power/speed combo, I have to decide whether or not to overpay. Roy Halladay is another example of this: he goes deeper and deeper into my rankings seemingly every time, as the news has yet to be positive about him. He's dropped from my initial expectation of the 5th round, to the 7th, and then the 10th, and lately the 12th. 

Trust yourself and the decisions you made about most players. Unless you have good reason not to.

Position Scarcity

Intimately related to the three sections above, your strategy for dealing with scarce positions (second base, shortstop) relative to deep ones (first base, outfield, pitcher, catcher) will be different in every league.

Take the standard Yahoo! format (of which I am not a fan, by the way): with eligibility down to basically three innings (actually 5 games started), basically everybody is eligible everywhere. (Get extra value in Kyle Seager at 2B, Mark Trumbo at 3B, and Martin Prado at SS and 2B.) On top of that, the standard format doesn't include MI or CI, but does give you two Util slots. What does that mean? You're now expected to have one 2B from an expanded pool, one SS from an expanded pool, and one 3B from an expanded pool...and you might as well take three 1B since you can play them all. In this format, 1B and OF are extra valuable and you can get pretty good production at the "premium positions" without using early picks. My wife took Joey Votto with her first pick, and there was no good reason not to grab Edwin Encarnacion with her third. Her production up the middle is just fine!

Contrast that with the style we use for the RotoAuthority and Silver Leagues, where we run five OF's, a MI, and a CI. It's like every position is scarce! Don't neglect your outfield in these formats (or, like me, you may have a team in which Coco Crisp is your number two OF), but make sure to fill at least one infield position in the first few rounds. Notice also, that the injuries to Ramirez and Headley, plus the questions about Pablo Sandoval have made 3B a noticeably shallower position than it was at the beginning of Spring Training.

Don't Drink and Draft (Unless You're in my Leagues)

I get that it's more fun. Of course it is. But fantasy baseball isn't about fun, it's about winning! Plus, you can have a good time without impairing your strategy to the point where Yahoo!'s autodraft mechanism is a safer bet than your judgement. In a related vein, I don't recommend drafting anywhere with an environment that isn't conducive to clear thinking. Sometimes this means draft in your home...sometimes it means get as far away from your home as possible.

A Few Final Words

I don't have any final words. If you haven't drafted yet, good luck!

2013 Position Rankings: Outfielders

That's right, it's finally here: RotoAuthority's 2013 Position Rankings! Yeah, we're excited. So excited that we're kicking it off with the outfield, just to be that awesome. After a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff, we've prepared tiered rankings that go 60 players deep. The players are divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price. If a player has other positions in parentheses, that means you can draft and start him there. That's enough discussion--I mean, you probably skipped this paragraph and went right for the rankings anyway.

Early 1st Round

1. Mike Trout, LAA
2. Ryan Braun, MIL

These guys should be pretty obvious. What might be less obvious is how far they are from anyone else.

Mid-Late 1st Round

3. Andrew McCutchen, PIT
4. Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

I know Stanton's a bit against the grain here, but he's got so much power I don't care. In a better lineup, he'd be up with Trout and Braun.

2nd Round

5. Jose Bautista, TOR
6. Carlos Gonzalez, COL
7. Matt Kemp, LAD
8. Jason Heyward, ATL
9. Bryce Harper, WAS
10. Adam Jones, BAL
11. Justin Upton, ATL

Bautista's great...but in only three categories, while CarGo's perpetual small injuries really hurt his overall stats. Kemp lost speed last year and I'm not 100% confident that he'll get it back right away; combined with October shoulder surgery, that keeps him out of my first round. Heyward and Harper could take huge steps forward. So could Upton, but he's proved capable of taking big steps back too. No matter who you take, a lot of OF's are going in this round.

3rd Round

12. Matt Holliday, STL
13. Curtis Granderson, NYY
14. Josh Hamilton, LAA
15. B.J. Upton, ATL
16. Jay Bruce, CIN
16.5 Adrian Gonzalez, LAD (1B--18 games in OF)

Holliday is pretty underrated--sometimes consistency can keep your price down, I guess. If Granderson's lousy batting average was a BABIP lull, this will be a bargain. If it was a portent of decline, this could be way too high. I think his power is worth the risk. Hamilton is set for a decline, but his 2013 forecast looks better than his keeper future.

4th-5th Rounds

17. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK
18. Mark Trumbo, LAA
19. Shin-Soo Choo, CIN
20. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS
21. Allen Craig, STL (1B)

Cespedes did a bit of everything last year, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he improved on that performance. Especially with a little more health. Trumbo could rack up some huge RBI totals hitting in the lower half of the Angels' lineup, while Choo should score a ton or runs leading off for Cinncinnati. Ellsbury's 2011 power surge seems like forever ago, but the real risk for him is health. Healthy, and he's an elite OF even without the power. Craig carries health risks too, and it took until his late 20's for him to break out. I'm not screaming "fluke," but I do think there's plenty of downside to go with the potential.

6th-7th Rounds

22. Carlos Beltran, STL
23. Alex Gordon, KCR
24. Nick Swisher, CLE (1B)
25. Austin Jackson, DET
26. Josh Willingham, MIN
27. Ben Zobrist, TBR (2B/SS)
28. Michael Bourn, CLE

Beltran is totally underrated, but he isn't healthy or young, so I can understand some caution. What he is, though, is very, very good, so draft him anyway. If Gordon puts a few more of those 50 doubles over the wall, this could be well under his value. If it doesn't you'll wish you waited a couple rounds on him. Swisher is Matt Holliday lite--he does the same thing every year, therefore impressing no one and keeping his price down. Jackson's always-high BABIP keeps him useful; his wheels and his place atop the Tigers lineup make him very valuable. 

8th-9th Rounds

29. Desmond Jennings, TBR
30. Chris Davis, BAL (1B)
31. Alex Rios, CHW
32. Melky Cabrera, TOR 

Jennings is a good bet for steals and a decent bet for some improvement. Rios's up-and-down history keeps me scared away--which means he could be a great value for anyone braver than I am. What will a post-juice Cabrera do? Probably rack up runs and RBI's playing for Toronto.

10th-11th Rounds

33. Hunter Pence, SFG
34. Nelson Cruz, TEX
35. Angel Pagan, SFG
36. Shane Victorino, BOS
37. Alfonso Soriano, CHC
38. Norichika Aoki, MIL
39. Torii Hunter, DET

 A lot of people think Pence is on the way down, and AT&T park isn't helping. There's upside in going against the grain, but don't reach. Cruz didn't switch ballparks, but he has that PED clinic thing hanging over his head. Don't look now, but Soriano had a very productive year at the plate. Maybe it's time to stop punishing him for taking all those big checks from the Cubbies. I'm not overly optimistic about Hunter, but I think he'll see plenty of RBI opportunities.

12th-13th Rounds

40. Josh Reddick, OAK
41. Martin Prado, ARI (3B)
42. Andre Ethier, LAD
43. Nick Markakis, BAL
44. Ryan Ludwick, CIN
45. Coco Crisp, OAK
46. Ben Revere, PHI
47. Alejandro De Aza, CHW

Ludwick has a lot of power, and, if healthy, he could be one of the outfield's best bargains. Crisp and Revere make great late round speed grabs. A little good luck, and they could give you nearly all the value of higher-priced speedsters at a fraction of the cost.

14th-16th Rounds

48. Mike Morse, SEA
49. Carlos Gomez, MIL
50. Ichiro Suzuki, NYY
51. Jayson Werth, WAS
52. Adam Eaton, ARI
53. Carlos Quentin, SDP
54. Wil Myers, TBR
55. Carl Crawford, LAD
56. Cameron Maybin, SDP
57. Starling Marte, PIT

You know who I never thought would impress me? Carlos Gomez. But check it out, speed and power. Ichiro isn't who he used to be, but don't be shocked if he helps out in runs and steals without hurting in average. Werth's power disappeared last year, so this is purely an upside play. Eaton and Myers have impact-level talent--the only question is when they come up to the Show. Should Myers win the job out of camp, move him up this list. When will Crawford get back? What will he be like when does? I don't know, so I'm not going to count on him for anything.

17th-18th Rounds 

58. Jason Kubel, ARI
59. Dexter Fowler, COL
60. Michael Cuddyer, COL
61. Denard Span, WAS

Yeah, you get a free bonus player--I just couldn't kick Span off the list. Kubel and Cuddyer could do a lot for your power, but they have a lot of health questions. Fowler does everything--except rack up big totals in homers or steals.

Bench OF's to Target (19th Round and Beyond):

Depending on how deep your league goes, you might need to reach a little further into the pool. Instead of taking whichever random guy is next on your draft website's list, grab a bench player to suit your real needs.

Power: Dayan ViciedoGarrett JonesRyan Doumit (C), Jeff Francoeur,  Chris YoungMatthew Joyce

Speed: Brett Gardner, Juan PierreDarin MastroianniPeter BourjosDrew Stubbs

Youth/Upside: Justin RuggianoBrandon Moss (1B), Lorenzo Cain,  Oscar Taveras, Leonys Martin

Balance: Michael SaundersCorey Hart (1B), Cody RossLogan Morrison, Colby RasmusDavid Murphy

As always, the outfield is deep. Your best strategy will depend on how many  OF's your league requires you to start each day. If you start five, then you should start grabbing them early. If you only play three, you can afford to get premium players at other positions and fill in your outfield a little later. In either case, I always like to get some extra steals towards the end of the draft and the outfield is a great place to find them.

Fantasy Stars: Top of the Third (Round)

Welcome to the penultimate edition of Fantasy Stars. This week we'll be looking at the first six players off the board in the third round. Last week, we discussed the latter half of the second round, ending on Josh Hamilton in pick number 24. He's been passed up by David Wright and Giancarlo Stanton and dropped a spot into pick 25. The picks are still close enough that their strategic value really isn't any different. For our purposes, we'll just pretend like Wright is still Mr. Number 25 and lead off the top of the third with him.

As always on Fantasy Stars, the Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers come from  MockDraftCentral and come from 111 qualifying drafts. The stats shown with the players are the Big 5:  AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB for position players and IP/W/K/ERA/WHIP for starting pitchers. 

25. David Wright, 3B              ADP 25.83
26. Cliff Lee, SP                         ADP 30.05
27. Yadier Molina, C             ADP 30.93
28. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF      ADP 31.07
29. Jose Reyes, SS                  ADP 31.38
30. Starlin Castro, SS            ADP 33.97 

In these picks, drafters seem to be paying a little more attention to position scarcity than in the first and second round, with two shortstops, a third baseman, and a catcher. Nothing wrong with that in my mind; the third round is a great time start caring about these sorts of things.

25. David Wright, 3B    .306/21/91/93/15
Wright is a pretty acceptable pick here. He bounced back from his injury-marred 2011 campaign and, while he hasn't recovered his mid-00's form, he's returned to near the top of a tough position. Cabrera is a clear number one, Beltre the clear number two, and Wright probably ought to be the number three guy at third base. (Though you could make a case for Evan Longoria too.)

It should be made clear that this is a position scarcity move, however. Wright isn't the player he was at his peak, and he hasn't shown signs of returning. The HR's have dropped to the low 20's; between that drop and the Mets' lineup I'd be pretty surprised if he matched last year's Run and RBI totals. With a SB% of just 60% last year, it would make sense to see him run less and less. His batting average is still good, though, thanks to a career's worth of great BABIP's, and I don't imagine that changing for 2013 unless injuries bite again. When you go after him, though, you have to remember that average is the only category in which he's an impact player. 

26. Cliff Lee, SP 211/6/207/3.16/1.11
Cliff Lee was so good in 2012. His 3.16 ERA matched his 3.13 FIP almost exactly. He posted the second best  K/9 rate of his career, 8.83. His K/BB of 7.39 led the Majors by almost two full points. Too bad he played for the Houston Astros and they couldn't muster up a win for him until the Fourth of July. Oh, what? He didn't play for the Astros? Then how did that happen? The Phillies weren't good last year, and a lot of their good points are tied up in Lee's left arm (not to mention the arms of Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay), but they aren't so bad that what happened last year should be considered the norm.

Mock drafters aren't nearly as worried as I would have liked, because I was selfishly hoping for some sneaky value here. I guess playing fantasy baseball against Buzzie Bavasi puts too much emphasis on fantasy. Regardless, I like using a third round pick on Lee, and I think he might be the best bet in pitching after Strasburg, Kershaw, and Verlander are gone. The one caveat is the one I mentioned about David Price in the last go around, and that's that there remain several high-quality starters that will still be available to someone using this pick on Lee.

27. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF .271/4/43/26/14
In the RotoAuthority Silver League, I made Ellsbury my proud first pick at the end of the first round. Coming off a 2011 in which he'd been one of the best players in baseball and added sudden power to his game of blazing speed and good batting average, I was pretty excited. Even if the power fell off, I'd be left with a game-changing base stealer. It was a no-lose situation.

As you may recall, I lost. Injuries have been a big part of Ellsbury's career, killing two of his last three seasons. I took the risk on my fellow Oregonian last year, and I'd do it again this year--for a discount. I don't expect much power in 2013--his ISO of .099 was less than half of the .230 he posted in his big 2011--but the upside is there. The downside remains a season lost to injury, but the median remains too: a good average hitter with enough speed to carry your team to the top of the category. Unless something drastic changes in his health, he'll be a risk every year, in fantasy and in real life, but for now he's a pretty good risk to take. 

I would rather have him in the fourth round than right here, but if you believe more fervently in his power potential, or can't bear to draft the likes of Coco Crisp or Alcides Escobar later on, I can understand. I probably wouldn't take him with OF's Curtis Granderson or B.J. Upton still on the board, and I definitely wouldn't take him over Jose Reyes, who we'll be looking at momentarily.

 28. Yadier Molina, C .315/22/65/76/12
When Yadier Molina first came up, he hit like...well...he hit like his brother Jose. Then he added batting average and he was a good average, nothing else catcher. Then in 2011 his power output more than doubled, from six to 14 homers. Then, in 2012 he clubbed 22 and slugged .501 with a .186 ISO. For kicks, he added 12 stolen bases, proving my thesis that everyone is stealing bases and their value is dropping accordingly. But that's another story, this one belongs to the new Best Molina Brother.

Yadier Molina is an easy choice for second catcher off the board, coming as he does without the health concerns of Joe Mauer, Mike Napoli, or Carlos Santana, and without a single weakness in his category game.

Not every projection system is bullish about Molina retaining all the power he found last year, but even a reversion to his 2011 numbers is like Miguel Montero but with stolen bases. His batting average is also one of the safest looking, since he managed it with just a slightly above-average .316 BABIP. Actually, it wouldn't take much good luck for his average to improve next season.

So, he's the catcher you want--do you want a catcher in the second round? Just because he's the best catcher left no longer means that he's the only good catcher left. (It sure used to.) Mauer, Napoli, Santana, Montero, Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario, Salvador Perez, and Victor Martinez are all pretty good. You can even dream on Jesus Montero, hope for a Brian McCann comeback, or an A.J. Pierzynski repeat. There's a lot more depth at catcher than we're all used to, which means I'd rather take one of the shortstops coming up next, get the fourth or fifth best catcher and have two good players at weak positions. Remember also that a catcher's low playing time limits the goodness of his batting average.

29. Jose Reyes, SS .287/11/86/57/40
Reyes is a great choice here. Actually, I think he's a pretty good choice in the second round too. Shortstop is such a weak position and Reyes has stats that would be impact numbers even in the outfield. That combination makes him a great investment. 

I think it's reasonable to bet on Reyes to increase his homer total. Though Marlins Park in Miami and Rogers Centre in Toronto had almost identical overall park effects last year, their HR effects couldn't have been more different: 0.720 in Miami, 1.030 in Toronto. He's going from a park that depressed homers at a huge rate (making it the fifth-worst) to one that's more or less average. I don't think Reyes will break 20 homers this year, but he could certainly scrape it, which would be pretty good for a shortstop who didn't steal bases by the dozen.

He turns 30 this year, so it's probably too late to wish for a return of his 60-steal days, but another 40 if he can stay healthy wouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Expect a healthy Reyes to give three categories of excellence and throw in a few extras in homers. Don't get too excited about his RBI total, but who's quibbling at this point?

30. Starlin Castro, SS .283/14/78/78/25
Whenever I see two position scarce players in a row, I wonder if the whole of mock drafters are going on a collective position run. Well, a small one. Or, at least, one big groupthink knee-jerk reaction. It's not that I don't like Castro, it's just that he's not as good as Reyes and it seems odd that they should have such apparently equal value.

To be fair, the big difference is in steals, and that isn't so big that Castro couldn't conceivably close the gap as he improves. Right? Don't bet on it. Castro's SB% is almost exactly 66%--or right on the new break-even for success on the basepaths. If I were his manager, I'd keep him running exactly as much as he is right now. Reyes is succeeding more than 78% of the time, which is to say he might help the team by running even more. Maybe the Blue Jays will notice that and maybe they won't, but I bet they aren't going to be slowing him down any time soon.

Castro could improve in this or any other aspect of his game (he is just 23), he also might not. The third round isn't a terrible time to grab a player who is good now and has a decent chance of getting better but he's no sure thing, and he isn't the only shortstop who might see some improvement in the immediate future. 

Here's how I would reorder these players: Reyes, Wright, Lee, Castro, Ellsbury, Molina. In a departure from previous weeks, I think all six are sensible third round picks. While there are some whole positions I might shy away from, these are the players I'd take if I were going to draft a catcher or a starter. 

Tune in next week, for the exciting conclusion of the third round, not to mention the Fantasy Stars series. Don't spend too much time mourning the loss because the Player Rankings will be taking its place!

Go Bold or Go Home: Go Old in the Outfield

"Be afraid of the old, they'll inherit your souls." --Regina Spektor, Apres Moi

Fear drives so many human decisions, fantasy baseball and otherwise, and drafting outfielders is no exception. Every player carries a certain amount of risk, few moreso than the youngest and oldest players. A rookie might not pan out; a veteran might finally slip past the even horizon of age and see his production crumble into dust. Not every player can be in his prime, and those players get distributed pretty close to evenly. Leagues are won and lost on risky choices.

Fantasy managers aren't exactly out to simply mitigate risk, though--the timid win few championships, after all. That's probably why we see players like Bryce Harper and Justin Upton going in the second round: age is on their side and the real risks they represent can be glossed over in the sensible hope that they'll follow predictable growth curves and improve or rebound, as the case may be. There's another phenomenon at work though, and that's the desire in all of us to show off what we know, to be the first one to call out that prospect's name, to stake our league-wide reputation on the Brett Lawries and the Eric Hosmers of the world and say forevermore, "I had him when...."

Personally, I still remember calling out Tim Lincecum's name in 2007, to a chorus of "Who? How do you spell that?" It's a good memory, but it's not one I'm looking to repeat. I got pretty lucky, and I spent a couple months playing a man down.

If fantasy managers were totally rational actors, maybe this sort of thing wouldn't happen. Maybe the risks of exciting new prospects and (proverbially) fair-haired twenty-somethings would be weighted properly against the hoary, graying veterans we've known for years. In short--there's value missing, and several older (not even that old!) outfielders have ADP's well below where they probably should.

Matt Holliday ADP: 56.96 (4th round), 19th OF

Holliday started out cold, but turned around quickly with a blistering May-July. He faded again down the stretch, and had what amounts to half a great season, and half a fairly disappointing one. The results still gave us 27 HRs, a .295 average, 95 Runs, and 102 RBI's--good for 5.1 WAR, if that's how you roll. He's only 33, so he's not exactly Jamie Moyer, and the wheels don't exactly seem to be falling off. He was a second or third rounder last year, and I don't see why he should be relegated to the end of the 4th round. He had a better season than plenty of outfielders ahead of him on the draft boards--grab him over Yoenis Cespedes, Melky Cabrera, Jay Bruce, B.J. Upton, Harper, Upton (yeah, him too), Jason Heyward, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Josh Hamilton. Or, at least think about it, because his performance puts him right with the best of those guys.

Carlos Beltran ADP 110.17 (9th round), 31st OF

There's a big jump between Holliday and Beltran, and it's one I understand to a certain extent. Beltran's never been the healthiest of guys, even at his best. He isn't the speed demon he once was, either, but he can still hit. Last year was his healthiest in a long time and anyone who drafted him loved his 32 HRs. His overall numbers are buoyed by his torrid May, and he faded pretty hard in July and August, batting near the Mendoza Line, so I'm not recommending you draft the 36-year-old as your first OF. But he's going after most teams have their third OF, and his upside is still worth more than that. Consider drafting him over PED-implicated Nelson Cruz, BABIP superstar Torii Hunter, mercurial Alex Rios, and probably Austin Jackson and Mark Trumbo too. That puts him somewhere more like the 6th or 7th round, which seems a little more fair.

 Nick Swisher ADP 130.27 (10th round), 40th OF

Swisher is getting almost-old, though he won't turn 33 until after the season, and it seems like he's been around forever. Except for a terrible batting average in 2008, he's been a seriously consistent producer of around 25 HRs with a decent-ish average and the runs and RBI's that go with that sort of player. He's the opposite of a risky pick, though the move to Cleveland won't do wonders to those team-dependent stats. For me, Swisher represents the ideal third OF on my team--he doesn't hurt me anywhere and he hits a few homers. Consider drafting him a little higher, ahead of Ben Revere, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Martin Prado, Alejandro De Aza, Norichika Aoki, and Mike Morse. So, basically where Beltran is getting drafted now--a round early but ahead of several outfielders.

 Alfonso Soriano ADP 186.46 (15th round), 48th OF

Poor Soriano has had the misfortune of signing a huge contract that has weighed his Cubbies down like a nine-figure anchor for as long as anyone can remember. Not only that, his days of challenging the 40/40 club are long past and basically, everyone hates him now. At least money buys happiness. By the way, your draft pick can buy a player who hasn't exactly been consistent for the past few years, but he has had his uses. His 32 HRs of 2012 probably won't return (but we didn't think they'd show up in the first place), but something near 25 seems likely. He won't be helping your average, and his teammates probably won't be scoring constantly, but he's a respect-worthy power hitter being drafted really low. In fact, as the 48th OF, he's the last 4th OF to go--a bench player in some leagues. If your OF goes to five, though, than you can appreciate Sori's value. Grab him if you need some extra power over Aoki, Morse, De Aza, and Revere.

Ichiro Suzuki  ADP 201.26 (16th round), 57th OF

Ichiro isn't one of the game's top outfielders, that much is certain. In fact, he looked all but dead in the water until an apparently-revitalizing trade to the Yankees last summer. I'm not going to bore you with splits you can look up on your own, but he was a lot better. Enough to give us good reason to think he's got something left in that tank. With a low pick, he's a lot more reward than risk, since outfielders who steal bases and don't hurt your average don't grow on trees. You can't count on him to carry you in those categories anymore, but then, you don't have to make him your top OF anymore either. Take him over fellow speedsters Brett Gardner, Juan Pierre, Carlos Gomez,  Revere, and the unproven Starling Marte.

Cody Ross ADP 261.60 (21st round), 77th OF

The D-backs traded away an early second-r0under to make room for Cody Ross, and while that might make them sound crazy, it also makes Ross sound pretty good. He missed some time with injury, but ultimately put together a pretty useful season for Boston. Now, he'll be moving to the weaker league, to another hitters' park, and to a team that went way out of their way to acquire him. To me, this sounds like a great situation. I'd draft him where Ichiro and Soriano are getting drafted, and I'd expect to get the value side of the deal. Take him over Lucas Duda, Delmon Young, Chris Young, Denard Span, Logan Morrison, Tyler Colvin, Michael Brantley, Michael Saunders and plenty of other guys.

With the exception of Ichiro, these aging outfielders are all power hitters, most from the mistily remembered days of the early 2000's. Power was the game then, so it's no wonder that these guys still bring the homers, even though their best seasons are behind them. Go grab some young players if you want, but these six make a pretty good and very affordable outfield all by themselves.

Fantasy Stars: Bottom of the Second (Round)

This week on Fantasy Stars, we finish off the second round of a standard fantasy draft. In case you missed it, last week we caught the top half of the second. Some time before that, we caught the top and bottom of the first. Check those out if you haven't yet. Before we begin, I might as well give you the old bad news/good news treatment. The bad: Fantasy Stars will be coming to a close in two weeks, after the third round is covered. Why? Well, they're not exactly stars after that point, are they? 

The good news: we'll be rolling out our first set of Player Rankings in their place! If I know fantasy junkies, you're as excited as I am for the rankings, and I just used bold, underline, and an exclamation point all at once.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves any more than we already have--here's the bottom half of the second fantasy round. As always on Fantasy Stars, the Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers come from MockDraftCentral and come from 104 qualifying drafts. The stats shown with the players are the Big 5:  AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB for position players and IP/W/K/ERA/WHIP for starting pitchers. 

19. Stephen Strasburg, SP       ADP 22.09
20. David Price, SP                   ADP 23.12
21. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B        ADP 23.24
22. Adam Jones, OF                 ADP 24.71
23. Josh Hamilton, OF           ADP 25.14
24. Giancarlo Stanton, OF     ADP 25.38 

19. Stephen Strasburg, SP 159.1/15/197/3.16/1.15
You should know by now that I'm all about Strasburg. I honestly believe that he's the best fantasy pitcher to draft this year, and that there is more day light between him and number two (Kershaw/Verlander), than there is between them and the next guy. I love Strasburg's strikeouts: he whiffed 30.2% of all the batters he faced last year, good for an 11.13 K/9. His K/BB was great too, even for an ace, at 4.10. So why is he available with this pick? My guess is irrational fear of the unknown and irrational safety in numbers.

Nobody in your league will laugh at you if you draft Kershaw or Verlander nice and early. Nobody will flame you in your mock draft--they have high ADP's, so everyone else is doing it. You could be cool and do it too and you'll be fine. Or, you could be even cooler, and get a distinct advantage in strikeouts while enjoying all the benefits of great pitching for good teams by nabbing Strasburg.

The main reason not to like Strasburg are both related to how much he will pitch, and not at all to how well. Everyone seems to agree that his talent is special. The arguments I've heard are these: he might get hurt, he might get an innings cap. First of all, yes, he might get hurt. So might any pitcher. Strasburg has an injury history, but it's with a nice, predictable, first Tommy John surgery. I don't see any objective evidence to think he's any more injury-risky than any other great young pitcher. I do see objective evidence that he's better than other great young pitchers.

As far as that IP cap goes, don't bet on it. Last year, Washington flamed out of the playoffs despite baseball's best record. This year, they're fighting for the hearts and minds of their citizens over the suddenly-fun-to-watch Orioles, and the ever-continuing drama of politics. Oh, and they're fighting to win the World Series for the first time since 1924! Until Davey Johnson or Mike Rizzo come out and say Strasburg is on a definite innings limit, I'm not gonna act like he is. In fact, I probably won't even if they do say it.

20. David Price, SP 211/20/205/2.56/1.10
Finally, I get to argue about a pitcher not ranked higher than Strasburg. Forget that drafting Price here makes him look like Strasburg's equal, that doesn't matter. The questions are, should you get a pitcher in the second round, and should Price be the one when the top three are off the board?

The first question is easy enough to answer: no, probably not. Why? Because there are a decent number of good pitchers out there, aces to build your staff around. They start going in the first round with Kershaw, but--depending on who you're willing to call an ace--they hang around until somewhere around the sixth round with CC Sabathia. I like to get two such pitchers, but in most leagues you won't need to use a second round pick to do it--a third and fifth will do just fine, for instance. After the top three are gone, the next eight or so are pretty similar, and all valuable.

But, assuming you should get a pitcher here (I mean, it is defensible), is Price the one you want? He did win 20 games last year with a 2.56 ERA, so yeah, he totally is. Then again, he won just 12 games with a 3.49 ERA in 2011, so no, you don't want him. To make matters worse, he did it with nearly identical K/9's (8.75 and 8.74) and K/BB's (2.53 and 2.52). His BABIP allowed, his WHIP, and his AVG against all stayed pretty much the same too. What changed? His HR/9 dropped from 0.88 in 2011 to 0.68 in 2012, and his LOB% jumped from 73.3% to 81.1%. Unfortunately, that last one isn't a very repeatable stat. 

His FIP also changed from 2011 to 2012, and for the better, going from 3.32 to 3.05. Of course, the bad news is that he went from a little unlucky, to better but very lucky. Everything here says to expect his ERA to jump up again next year, though Tropicana Field (park effect 0.874) will probably keep his ERA under his FIP. So he'll be good in ERA, very likely, but he probably won't be stellar either.

For an ace, Price is good but not at the top with strikeouts (205) and K/BB (3.47), while pitching a high level of innings (211) for a good team. He should help nicely in all four starter categories without being the best at any. He's a defensible pick, seeing how lousy the Phillies have become, hurting their aces wins in the process. I can see taking Price here, but ultimately, I don't really want to be the one taking the first player in a tier of similar ones, and that's who Price is: the most balanced of a group that includes R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain, and maybe Jered Weaver.

21. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B .286/20/82/82/18
You know it's a bad sign for offense in baseball when the number-four first baseman in baseball couldn't slug .500 in Arizona. Let's face it, this is a bad pick. Goldschmidt has a lot of consonants in his name and he stole bases as a first baseman. He's also sort of young at 25 and could therefore improve. Cool. Don't pick him in the second round.

I believe in taking calculated risks in fantasy baseball, not trendy ones, and that's what Goldschmidt has become. In a down year for first basemen in general, he rebounded from an early slump and put up a pretty nice total season, earning him the love of fantasy owners everywhere. He was good, and he'd be a good option at first base. But the second round is not where you draft someone with one good-but-not-amazing season under his belt. Not when there are All-Stars still available in the outfield, and not when he didn't really out hit Adam LaRoche--who can be drafted over 100 picks later. By taking Goldschmidt you're paying for upside he might or might not realize and those 18 steals--which are nice, but steals are the new candy--you can find them all over the place. If you really want a little bit of power and a little bit of speed in the second round, take Jimmy Rollins. Otherwise, grab a proven power hitter or a risk with a bigger upside.

22. Adam Jones .287/32/103/82/16
Speaking of proven power hitters and risks with bigger upside, Adam Jones is basically both of those at once. At 27, he's in the middle of his prime and he's made what is in retrospect, pretty steady progress throughout his career. With consistently good-but-not-awesome average, he'll do no harm there, while helping a lot in three categories and throwing in a few steals for fun. This is the sort of player who's worth a second round pick. What he did last year was good enough to feel pretty safe about his floor. The way he got there was consistent enough to feel like more improvement is distinctly possible. If it happens, great, you got a bargain. If it doesn't, well, you overpaid a little but really enjoyed what you got, so it's okay.

The argument against him is just this: there are probably better outfielders left on the board. That's the board's fault, though, not Jones's. If Stanton and Granderson are available when you take Jones, I think that's a mistake. But they really, really shouldn't be available, so Jones is a perfectly acceptable pick here.

23. Josh Hamilton, OF .285/43/103/128/7
Hamilton is a totally unique case in all of baseball given the intersection of his personal history and his professional health. There isn't much to be sure about, except that he's missed significant time to injury in three of his six "full" Major League seasons--including almost half of 2009. Actually, we can also be sure that he's hit like a beast in those seasons and struck out even more.

Our own Mark Polishuk gives good reasons not to draft Hamilton and the most compelling are the strikeouts. His whiff total ballooned from 95 in 2011 to 162 in 2012, meaning he struck out in just over a quarter of his total at bats. That's basically like facing Justin Verlander every time you bat. Age, injury worries, and the move to a rough park add on reasons to worry, each ratcheting up the risk of using a draft pick on Hamilton, or lowering his upside. At his best, Hamilton is easily a top-tier fantasy outfielder, but it's always a question whether or not you'll get his best. I like him better than Mark does for 2013, but not by enough to draft him in the second round. Maybe in the third....

24. Giancarlo Stanton, OF .290/37/75/86/6
Stanton's 37 homers ranked 7th in all baseball, and he did it in without playing enough to qualify for the batting title. That playing time was lost to a knee injury that I'm not at all worried about, given that 18 of those homers came in August or later, after his return. His .608 SLG ranked second only to David Ortiz among players with 300 PA or more. There is no reason whatsoever for Stanton to be ranked this low in the second round. Homers are seriously the new scarcity, and Stanton is well worth paying whatever price it takes to get him.

If you still aren't convinced, check out his ISO last year: .318! Well above Ortiz, Hamilton, or Jose Bautista, and .041 points ahead of anybody else. This guy has power, consistently putting over a quarter of his fly balls into the seats--including a 28.9% mark last year. And he's just 23. He could get better. Not like, maybe this year is the year he puts it all together, not like, it's an odd-numbered year so he should produce, not like, he's in his prime and might still get better before he starts to decline, no Giancarlo Stanton is a real, live young player who has not yet entered the range of ages normally considered peak years. Why is he not the third outfielder off the board? 

The knocks on Stanton are that he's got no speed and the Miami Marlins are gonna be execrable next year. Just putrid. Oh well. With homers like those, he'll be in line for plenty of Runs and RBI's no matter where he plays. Right now, he's easily the best bargain in the first two rounds.

Given just the players currently being drafted in the second round, here's how I'd reorder them: Strasburg, Stanton, Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Troy Tulowitzki, Verlander, Jones, Hamilton, Price, Harper, Upton, Goldschmidt.

Everyone from Strasburg to Beltre I'd consider grabbing in the first round, while everyone from Hamilton onward is best left for later in the draft. Some players getting drafted later that I'd consider slotting into the second round include: Granderson, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, and maybe Adrian Gonzalez and Evan Longoria. But we'll have to check them out next time....


Fantasy Stars: Top of the Second (Round)

After covering the top and bottom of the first round of a standard fantasy draft, we're charging ahead into the second. In a standard draft, picks 13-18 represent the second choice of the last six teams to draft. Thanks to the quick turnaround here, the differences in the value of the picks starts out pretty low. Actually, it starts out at nil, since the twelfth team in draft order gets to take pick number 13 as well.

As always on Fantasy Stars, the Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers come from MockDraftCentral and come from 110 qualifying drafts. The stats shown with the players are the Big 5:  AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB for position players and IP/W/K/ERA/WHIP for starting pitchers. 

13. Jose Bautista OF             ADP 13.97
14. Justin Upton OF             ADP 14.65
15. Justin Verlander SP       ADP 15.27
16. Adrian Beltre 3B             ADP 15.99
17. Troy Tulowitzki SS        ADP 17.01
18. Bryce Harper OF            ADP 19.85

Technically speaking, Bautista is getting drafted 12th and Prince Fielder is going 13th, but since they'd both be going to the same team, there isn't a valuation change to analyze for Fielder. So, let's just call Bautista number 13.

13. Jose Bautista OF.241/27/64/65/5
So far, the news coming out about Bautista is that he's healing well and is performing baseball activities, and he looks to be ready for the start of the season, after last season's catastrophic wrist injury. Watch him and the news about him in Spring Training of course, but for the moment let's assume that everything knowable is fine. If that changes, so will this valuation.

Even a healthy Bautista isn't a perfect player. Not only is he not a five-category player, he's not even a four-category guy: last year's low batting average can be traced to an awful .215 BABIP, which should recover plenty. However, the best BABIP of his career was just .309 (in 2011), and that netted him just a .302 average. Something in the .270-ish range seems most likely for him, but I'd probably take the low on that.

But I'd still take Bautista with this pick. (I might not pair him with Prince, but that isn't the point.) The three categories in which he produces, he excels. He's got a ton of power, in a way that's more reminiscent of the late 90's and early 2000's than it is this age of pitchers and speedsters. He doesn't just have heavy power, but so few other players have even medium power these days that his homers are a lot more valuable than they once were. On top of that, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, and maybe even Melky Cabrera and Brett Lowrie should give him plenty of runners to hit in, and give him plenty of pitches to hit. Expect to see him among the league's leaders in RBI's and Runs. Too bad he doesn't retain his 3B eligiblity.

14. Justin Upton OF .280/17/107/67/18
Pass. Upton's stock hasn't taken much of a hit after his dismal 2012, and I'm pretty surprised. All right, I know he was going in the second half of the first round in a lot of drafts last year, but let's face it, the second half of the first round is basically the same as the first half of the second. I don't know if it's denial, wishful thinking, or what, but it seems like if you're gonna draft someone who was this disappointing last year, you should only do so at a discount. What if he repeats and the power doesn't return? This is two seasons out of the last three in which he's hit fewer than 20 homers, so I don't think that possibility is all that shocking. Using an early second-round pick on a pick with as high a downside as Upton just isn't worth it.

It isn't just Upton's downside that makes me want to pass, though. It's that I'm not that thrilled with his upside. As a Mariner fan, I was downright grateful he turned down a trade to Seattle, actually. Upton possesses that mythical "power/speed" combo in theory, but he didn't exactly do either last year. In fact, his career high in steals is just 21. In the old days, that was big news. Not so much anymore. He's less like Mike Trout and more like Mike Cameron (but without jumping over outfield walls). He strikes out a ton (at least 121 every year since 2008) and it takes a BABIP miracle to give him a quality batting average. He hits homers (some years), but not as many as potentially comparable outfielders being drafted behind him like Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Giancarlo Stanton, and Curtis Granderson.

I suppose the argument to be made in his favor is his age: he's still just 25. Adam Jones took the Big Step this past year, and Upton himself seemed to do so in 2011. But what if he didn't? What if disappointing expectations runs in the family? That doesn't make him a useless fantasy player, but the risk of it is enough to make him a bad fantasy pick as long as their are lower-risk options with similar upside available. If he lights the world on fire next year, that will be exactly what his owners pay for. Anything less than greatness and this pick could have been better spent.

15. Justin Verlander SP 238.1/17/239/2.64/1.06
It isn't relevant, but is it weird to draft consecutive Justins? Either way, I don't like either pick. For different reasons, though. Verlander is among the least risky pitchers I can think of (but that's what I thought about Roy Halladay, so...) and he's very clearly at the top of his game. He's even consistent with the wins, which is hard for any great pitcher.

No, my disagreement with taking Verlander here is simply one of opportunity-cost. As long as Stephen Strasburg is out there, I think other starters are second-best. He just generates so many more whiffs than the next-greatest. On the flip side of things, I do agree that Verlander (with Clayton Kershaw) represents the clear next best ace pitchers. But the difference between him and other aces isn't so large that I want to get Verlander an entire round earlier than I can get, say, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or David Price. The differences between Verlander and those types of pitchers are real, but small. Much smaller than the differences that still exist between position players at this point in the draft.

16. Adrian Beltre 3B .321/36/95/102/1
I admitted above to being a Mariners fan, and I honestly have had to overcome some anti-Beltre bias. But I'm over now, and I guess he can be as excellent as he wants with Texas and leave me to ponder just how much a player's home park can matter. Interestingly enough, he hit 16 of his 36 homers away from the Ballpark in Arlington and he batted just under .300 on the road, so you won't need to bench him during away games to enjoy his home greatness.

Beltre has become a beast, and there's little reason not to draft him like one. He's a four-category star, he hits in a dangerous lineup and he fields a thin position. He was significantly better than the next 3B getting drafted--David Wright--and significantly healthier than the one after that--Evan Longoria. Beltre is a safe choice in the second round, but a good one, a quality anchor at a position that will be a black hole on many fantasy teams.

17. Troy Tulowitzki SS .287/8/33/27/2
I always imagine myself as having this rule about never drafting anyone remotely fragile in the early rounds. The trouble is, that rule comes in direct conflict with my other rule about getting the best value I can. Since 2007, when Tulo powered the Rockies into the World Series, he's had one totally lost season (last year), one mostly lost season (2008, when his injuries presumptively hit his productivity and his playing time), and three All Star seasons (in two of which he still hit the DL). So he's all about risk and reward.

Few players even could be worth this kind of risk, but before the season I took him first overall in the RotoAuthority mock draft because he is so much more valuable in the power categories than any of his peers. He's basically a mashing first baseman with a slick glove for shortstop. For a player like that, this kind of discount is understandable. Assuming he looks healthy in Spring Training, I wouldn't have anything to say against someone who took Tulo here. It's a risk, even big one, but it has enormous upside. For what it's worth, I'd understand anyone who preferred to stay away.

18. Bryce Harper OF .270/22/98/59/18
This is a pick that puzzles me a little. Harper was the best prospect in baseball before last year, and he had a great year for any rookie (except, of course, Mike Trout) at just 19 years old. He showed a little bit of everything, and there's all the reason in the world to think that he'll improve into a truly great player of any age. I think he's likely to be a great fantasy player for 2013.

But I don't think that's certain. His line wasn't overwhelmingly good and he is still just 20 years old. Picking him in the second round is, to me, basically assuming the best-case scenario--that he'll develop in a linear way and make big improvements. He might. You could say he probably will, but he also might not. Plenty of other great prospects have taken steps other than directly into greatness in their second season. Harper could improve just a little, he could slip a bit, he could stay basically the same player, and in all cases he'll be a good player next year. In none of those cases, though, would Harper be worth a second round pick. Like Upton, there are several players who carry lower risk than he does. Unlike Upton, however, his upside doesn't seem to be limited by much at all. I'd pick Harper, but I'd wait another round and I wouldn't worry if he wasn't still there.

Here's how I'd reorder these picks: Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Troy Tulowitzki, Verlander, Harper, Upton. The only three that I'd consider taking in the top of the second round are Bautista, Beltre, and Tulo.



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