RotoAuthority Unscripted


RotoAuthority Unscripted: Who or What is Drew Pomeranz?

If you didn't know much about Drew Pomeranz before yesterday (or whenever), when the A's declared that he'd be slotting permanently into their rotation in place of Dan Straily, I'll forgive you. In fact, you don't have any of the Pomeranz-related baggage that some of us do. I'll save you some trouble and tell you he's totally worth a flyer. Or is it flier? He's worth a waiver claim, that's what he is. Worth a waiver claim.

Don't worry about the history if you don't have to.

But those of us old enough to remember when Ubaldo Jimenez rocked in Colorado and then got traded to Cleveland remember that Pomeranz was what the Rockies got back for their ace. I'm pretty sure both teams felt cheated, with results like that, because here's what Drew Pomeranz was in four years in Colorado: wild, but not effectively. Not to mention homer-prone.

They only gave him one extended shot in the Majors, 96.2 IP in 2012, in which he walked 4.3 batters per nine innings, striking out 7.73. He got some grounders (43.9 GB%), but allowed too many homers (1.3 HR/9), and put up a 7.93/4.81/4.49 ERA/FIP/xFIP. The Rockies somehow got 1.0 WAR out of that, but his fantasy owners were still expecting a good prospect and...well, we didn't hang onto him long enough to enjoy the fruits of that walk rate on our WHIP's.

His shorter stint in 2013 was even worse: his posted 7.89 K/9...and a K/BB in 21.2 IP. The prospecty nametag probably meant that he was on quite a few rosters for his first start or two last year, but I'm pretty sure he didn't last much longer than that.

Traded to the A's for the amazingly fragile Brett Anderson (Fangraphs called him a "lottery ticket"), it didn't appear that he would have much chance to contribute in the rotation. Maybe he would make the Majors and pitch out of the pen, we supposed. And that was the end of the story of Drew Pomeranz and his association with fantasy baseball.

And now there is (cue the Star Wars theme song) a new hope...

The Athletics are, perhaps, more clever than given credit for: they've not only saved money, but they've now inserted the much-maligned Pomeranz into their rotation after a modestly-impressive 18.2 innings to start the season. I say modestly-impressive because, while Pomeranz bears a shiny 1.45 ERA, he also carries a less lustrous 3.73 FIP and a 3.93 xFIP. It should thus be admitted that Pomeranz has not shown himself to be a True Ace hiding out in the Athletics' bullpen and revealing himself only to the unsuspecting Mariners' lineup once during a doubleheader. Or, in terms that actually make some sense: he's been good, but maybe not quite as good as it looks.

But let's not focus on the negative: this year's Pomeranz has looked pretty seriously good. His 7.71 K/9 isn't great (especially for a reliever), but his 2.89 BB/9 is a huge improvement from anything that he's given since 18.1 innings back in 2011. The 0.96 HR/9 is also a pleasant improvement on his work in Colorado, though that was certainly expected.

Digging into his game log, that start against Seattle really was excellent: five innings, five whiffs, no walks or runs, though, to be fair, it's not like the Mariners are hitting the ball against anyone (.293 wOBA--worst in the AL). He's allowed only three runs on the year, all on separate occasions, and hasn't walked two batters in an inning since his first appearance of the season.

I'm not a scout (obviously), but we can still look into his pitch mix and velocity to see if anything has changed since his Colorado ineffectiveness. His pitch mix doesn't really worry me. Though he's been, so far, a significantly different pitcher than he was in 2013, that's got to be a good thing, as he was pretty horrible then. It's probably good news that his pitch mix resembles his longer rotation stint in 2012, with the exception that he isn't throwing his changeup nearly so much. That's encouraging, not because his results were good that season, but because his success isn't necessarily due to the fact that he's been in the bullpen and can throw more fastballs. He will likely be forced to use his changeup more now that he's in the rotation, but it looks like those pitches will mostly be at the expense of curveballs. But I guess we'll have to see.

His fastball velocity is up by about a mile per hour, which isn't any shock at all since he's been pitching out of the pen. So, no news there.

Basically, looking under the hood doesn't yet tell us that Pomeranz is a different pitcher than he's previously been. But that isn't a disaster just because his previous results were. The simple environment change from Colorado to Oakland is enough to make someone fantasy relevant. Presumably, he was once a prospect for some reason. As we see more results come in, we ought to learn more about what has and hasn't changed about Pomeranz as a pitcher.

Unfortunately for our exuberance, much of the reason Pomeranz is in the rotation is because Dan Straily couldn't cut it: getting lit up for a 2.11 HR/9 and a 5.62 FIP won't keep you in many rotations, but it certainly won't keep you in the Oakland's second-only-to-the-Tigers-in-the-AL rotation. I mean, their rotation has a 0.85 HR/9 rate, including Straily's mark. So it's no wonder he's out. This despite the fact that I recently predicted (link not provided to save the author's shame) that Straily's strikeout and walk numbers suggested that he would get the chance to straighten things out, and actually do so.

So Oakland is too good for Straily, and too good for bad homer rates. This is (obviously) great news for Pomeranz, because it means he's going into the rotation. It is (somewhat less obviously, but perhaps not too much) also bad news for Pomeranz, because it means the bar for success is set extremely high, and the A's have shown that they aren't willing to put up with mediocre results, even from talented young pitchers. Like the man he's replacing, Pomeranz himself is replaceable.

Pomeranz is well worth a pickup. He should generate a few strikeouts and win some ballgames for the first-place A's, assuming he's good enough to stick in the rotation. The park ought to help keep his ERA and WHIP better than what his peripherals would suggest--and right now even the peripherals aren't bad. The upside here is pretty serious, because he'll have to be a useful pitcher just to keep starting every fifth day. Let's face it: the A's rotation is probably better than your fantasy rotation. It's sure better than mine are....

The downside is the possiblity that he'll be right back where he was a couple days ago: in the bullpen or the minors as the sixth or seventh best starter in a great rotation. If Straily is great in AAA, I wouldn't be shocked if he came back up. But hey, that's the downside that every waiver wire pitcher has. 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Back in Black

Hisashi Iwakuma came back to the Mjors on Saturday, and Mike Minor on Friday, while Cole Hamels came back just last week, and Doug Fister is scheduled to make his return tomorrow. All four were supposed to be key cogs in fantasy rotations this year--but what should we do with them now that they're here?

After having his Sunday start scratched because of the flu, Hamels is scheduled to pitch today. Hopefully that happens, since I've got him on a couple teams. With a sample size of two, he's done the most of this quartet for us to analyze. The results have not been awesome: one pretty good start against the Dodgers, and a five-walk drubbing from the Mets. He's not exactly back to ace-level yet, it appears. Whether it's rust, luck, or the remnants of injury, time will tell. Or it might not. 

Iwakuma won his game, but it came against the Astros and involved giving up four runs--though he did pitch into the seventh inning and issued only one walk. So there were some promising signs and some less-than-perfect ones.

Minor took a loss, but allowed just two runs on seven hits. Even better, he didn't surrender a single walk while striking out four. Okay, four strikeouts in six innings isn't special, but no walks is always nice.

Fister, obviously, hasn't done anything, since he hasn't returned yet.

Honestly, it's hard to know what to expect going forward from all four of these guys. Injuries flare back up, it takes time to adjust to Major League hitters again, there are a few more off days, managers are more careful with innings...the list of potential problems with injury-return pitchers goes on.

That's why they're my favorite trade targets.

Now, before we go any farther, let me just say that there are only two types of owner when it comes to injury-stashed players, and any given owner may be both at the same time with regards to different players. The first type of owner will never deal you the injured player. This owner invested too much and has waited with too much anticipation for the player's return to make a deal now. Maybe they're a die-hard Hamels fan, or maybe you drafted early and they used a top draft pick. This owner is set on keeping their injured guy and playing him--chances are, a lot of their season is riding on it. This owner probably won't make a trade that would be fair-value if the player had never even been hurt. Just move on.

The other type of owner is a lot readier to deal, and this is the owner you need to concentrate on. This owner didn't really want to target Iwakuma...he was just such a good deal in the 20th round. They didn't expect to end up with Fister for a dollar at the end of the auction, but they did. This owner was probably a bit skeptical about the whole injury-stash situation and certainly remembers getting burned by injury-returners before. (I mean, who doesn't?) This owner may well jump at the chance to minimize risk by getting a decent return for the injured player before he can prove that he's still hurt, go on the DL again, and continue wasting roster space. This is the owner you want to trade with.

I hate stashing injured pitchers (or anyone else) in the draft, so I tend to end up more like the second type of owner when I've actually stashed somebody. You never know quite when to pull the trigger in a draft or how much to pay in an auction, because you just don't know what percentage of the season you'll be getting from the player, in terms of time or of play quality. Picking guys you know are hurt is a risk with a well-known downside and a difficult-to-calculate upside. But now that they're back, most of the downside is gone. Yes, those bad things I mentioned several paragraphs ago might happen, but they might not, and they should slow down significantly with each week that goes by.

You can try to sneak trade offers in early, before we can even see results (like for Fister--you've got one more day!), or you can try waiting until something bad (but not terrible) happens to make owners worry. Definitely don't pay full-health value before getting Major League results, though.

Hamels is a great trade target right now, in fact. He just got shelled and looked terrible (five walks in less than five innings...ugh!) doing it. He's got the flu or something and has had his most recent start postponed to tonight, so he's still got that little red cross next to his name. His owners might well be worried about the quality of the pitcher they stashed for a month. I am, and I'm writing this article. That's why this whole enterprise is predicated on paying less than fully-healthy value for the player in question. If you're giving away the same thing for Hamels as you would for, say, Cliff Lee or Madison Bumgarner, you're making a mistake.

Minor is definitely the wrong guy to target in a trade. He pitched really good, yes, but who was happier about that than his owner? No one. Who was paying more careful attention than his owner? Again, no one. His trade price probably just got a lot closer to full value, but, realistically, issues related to the injury could still crop up. Trading for Minor right now would be like trading for Hamels after his first very good start: you pay a premium for a good sign without being out of the woods as far as risk goes. So if you want Minor, wait a start or three. If things go wrong--great--maybe he just got a little easier to get. If they don't, his price might change incrementally, but you'll at least be more sure about his health going forward. And if he goes straight back on the DL or implodes...well, you won't have pulled the trigger too early.

Four quality pitchers will have returned to the big leagues (probably) by tomorrow, and any of the four may be available for a good price. If you're in need of pitching and can't afford to pay for an ace, check into one of these guys.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: The Replacements

Yesterday made Bryce Harper the latest casualty to thumb injury but he's far from the only impact player with a little red cross next to his name--we've seen more than a few early-round players go down with injuries this year. While Adrian Beltre has already come back, and Ryan Braun gave us a scare without hitting the DL, plenty of other players will be sitting on the shelf for quite some time. Today, we'll take a look at their replacements to see which injury situations offer viable fantasy opportunities. If we've learned anything this year, it's that we're gonna need them....

Injured: Bryce Harper (out about two months)

Replacement: Nate McLouth

McLouth went into the season touted as baseball's best fourth outfielder, and now he's got an unsurprising chance to prove that. Of course, he's rocking a batting average that would be bad if you doubled it (.118--ouch), but it's in only 34 AB, so who cares? McLouth brings significant speed, and ought to help out a bit by scoring runs. Don't get too excited about his average, which will get better (I mean, it has to--pitchers hit better than that) but has never been an asset. (He's batted over .260 just once in his decade-long career.) He won't replace Harper's power but he probably just became one of the better options on most waiver wires anyway.

Injured: Ryan Zimmerman (out 3-5 more weeks)

Replacement: Danny Espinosa

Espinosa is proving the Nationals right for not trading him in the offseason. While continued good play may force the Nats to make some tough decisions when Zimmerman comes back, those aren't worth worrying about right now. As it stands, Espinosa is well worth rostering...at second base. So that isn't very helpful if you're a floundering Zimmerman owner needing someone at third.

Injured: Josh Hamilton (out 3-4 more weeks)

Replacement: J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill, Raul Ibanez

Losing two of your top three outfielders is rough for any team, but the Angels have options that might still offer some short-term utility. Not, you know, a lot. But some, at least. Ibanez can hit homers (and do nothing else). He's more likely to kill your average than help with longballs. Shuck started out with some promise, but his average is sitting around Ibanez territory in 65 at bats. His playing time has been pretty regular, though--not that the Angels have much choice at this point. Cowgill has had the least exposure--he's gotten more than three at bats in a game just three times this year. Expect his playing time to increase if Shuck's batting average doesn't.

Looking backwards, Cowgill's got a few years of sub-mediocrity under his belt, while Shuck managed a .290ish batting average in over 400 AB last year; he's the only one I'd pick up out of this crew.

Injured: Mark Trumbo (out 6-8 weeks)

Replacement: Cody Ross

Once, long ago, Ross was a somewhat useful fantasy outfielder. With Trumbo out for an extended period and the friendly confines of Arizona's high-altitude park, he may be again. Ross has a much more interesting hitting history than the free agent outfielders available in most leagues and is worth keeping an eye on, or even picking up if you were rostering Trumbo in the outfield. Best case scenario is that Ross delivers a little pop with an acceptable batting average over the next couple months--worst case is that he still doesn't hurt your average more than Trumbo already was....

Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks and I don't have much for you when it comes to replacing Trumbo's power or his 1B eligibility.

Injured: Chris Davis (unknown timetable--two weeks minimum)

Replacement: Stephen Lombardozzi? Ryan Flaherty? Jemile Weeks?

The good news is that Davis should be back soon. The other good news is that Manny Machado should also be back soon. The bad news is that the O's really don't have anyone fantasy-appealing who might take over in the short term, as they appear to be stuck with light hitting middle infielders as their first base replacements. If you've got Davis, you'll need to get your 1B replacement elsewhere. At least one of these guys could be your replacement for Zimmerman, right?

Injured: Michael Cuddyer (unknown timetable--two weeks minimum)

Replacement: Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, Corey Dickerson

Blackmon is already getting lots of the CF playing time in Colorado, but expect this move to see him playing more like full time than in a platoon. That might mean more opportunities for runs and RBI, but might not be great for his average. Stubbs could benefit from more regular playing time, and is worth watching to see if he goes on a hot streak. (Hey, stranger things have happened, and he's shown some power and speed in his career.) If Stubbs struggles, Dickerson may get a shot. If either player emerges as a regular or semi-regular, their home park should give them a chance to be valuable in deeper leagues. Gotta love Coors Field....

I definitely wrote this article up expecting a little more from the injury replacements for stars around the league, but, well, hopefully you had your own internal backups, especially for the non-outfielders. That said, there are a couple options with potential. I'd stay away from all the Orioles' and Angels' backups, but Cody Ross, Nate McLouth, and Drew Stubbs have all been pretty good before. Asking them to put together a good month or two doesn't seem impossible. Dickerson and, really, anyone playing for Colorado is pretty interesting too. The best of the bunch is probably Espinosa--not that he can replace the playing time any of these stars are losing.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Giving Up So Soon?

RotoAuthority Unscripted: Giving Up So Soon?

Last night I was perusing the waiver wire—actually, it was my league’s Add/Drop list, but we’ll get to that—and saw an old friend with a fat red minus sign next to his name. Someone had dropped Alfonso Soriano.

“What’s this business?” I wondered. Is the old guy already hurt? Nope…just starting the season 1/19. Oh. “Well, that’s fine,” I muttered (really, I do much of my thinking aloud, profound thoughts or otherwise) and jumped to add him. That’s when I realized that I didn’t really have anyone bad to drop him for. My Util slots were filled with decent non-OF’s, and my three starting outfielders were either stars or hitting the ball pretty well. No room to drop a pitcher, either.

So I moved to drop one of this season’s best power hitters: Alejandro de Aza. It was more difficult than expected, but I guess that’s how it goes when you drop someone with three times as many homers as your pickup has hits.

I like de Aza: a little power, a little speed, a little average, and a “merit-based” job sharing situation that should mean that if he’s hitting well enough for your fantasy lineup, he’s hitting plenty well enough for the White Sox. So this article isn’t about how you shouldn’t get too excited about his multi-homer hot start (or about his low-average, no-steal simultaneous slow start). In fact, de Aza is just collateral damage on a short roster, while the real key is Soriano.

Soriano was pretty high on my personal lists going into the season and RA tabbed him as the 37th overall outfielder. (Pretty near de Aza, actually.) Overall, Sori’s got some holes in his game, but there is something you can count on him for: homer power. He’s knocked 20 homers or more for 12 years in a row (including twice while playing in fewer than 120 games), for four different teams in five different home parks, on World Champions* and, well, the Cubs.

*Actually, he hit only two homers with the 2000 World Champion Yankees.

Power is a rare commodity, and even rarer on the waiver wire, so when I saw that Soriano was available, it was the sort of chance I had to take. Dropping Soriano now would be a big overreaction to a bad first week. Soriano hits big and misses big; a really ugly week is nothing to be surprised over. Could it be the beginning of the end for him? Sure, it might be.

But there are plenty of other explanations and my guess is that, over the course of the season, Soriano will still be hitting baseballs out of Yankee Stadium’s short porch and driving in the likes of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. His career has been too long and too good to let him go over an out-filled first week. If he has this week later in the season (and he probably will) nobody will bat an eye: it’s just another arbitrary stretch of games in a long season made of them. It just happens to look like his season numbers right now. If you’ve got Soriano, don’t give up hope.

Now, I’m not blaming the owner who cut him. Like me, this owner jumped on an opportunity, seeing Domonic Brown on the waiver wire. (I will blame whoever dropped Brown.) I thought this would be a double-caution about overreacting to a bad first week, but Brown’s hitting nearly .400—so I have no idea why he was available. In this case, I applaud my opponent’s willingness to make a player change for even a (likely) small upgrade—these are the sorts of moves that win fantasy championships, and just as I shouldn’t let my enthusiasm for de Aza keep me from getting Soriano, neither should your faith in Soriano (or any other on-the-fringe player) keep you from dropping him for an upgrade.

This brings me to my two universalizable axioms of the day:

1.    Don’t give up on your rankings so soon.
If you thought Alfonso Soriano was pretty good a week ago, nothing should have really changed your viewpoint on that yet. This goes for any player who isn’t already hurt, benched, or demoted (whether to the minors, the bullpen, or out of the closer’s role).

 2.    Watch the drop list—every day.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve been too lazy to check the league-wide drops every day and had to kick myself because I only saw a great value on the waiver wire as the player was being added to a rival’s team. I mean, this already happened to me: I could have had Brown over Soriano, conceivably. See who your rivals drop and watch for valuable assets, even ones you didn’t know you needed. And don’t just see the first two or three transactions that show up on your league’s home—scroll through them all.

Remember: it’s too early for a quick trigger on the drop player button, but never too early to jump on an add. April is a tough month to navigate, because you can’t trust anyone’s hot start…but you can’t afford to ignore them either. It’s a paradox, so you have to take each situation as it comes. And you thought draft prep was hard—welcome to the regular season.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Walking the April Line

If you’re like me, you just quit a full-time job. Possibly one that you did while at your full-time, job. You’re all done with your fantasy drafts. You have all your teams and you won’t be drafting, or auctioning anymore, no matter how many times you see the draft room in your sleep. You won’t be ranking players in your head, on paper, or on your computer. Sure, you can check out RotoAuthority’s rankings…but why would you? Your teams are drafted. No more mock drafts, no more mock auctions, no more thrills of nabbing Kyle Seager for $2 even though you already have two third basemen. No more wondering how to evaluate injuries to Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish. No more getting a great deal on Cliff Lee…just enjoying his first disaster start of the year.

There is no more preparation, and no matter how much Draft Day feels like Game Day…it’s no more than half the battle. (Unless your league’s talent level is really low, I guess.)

What should you do with yourself now that you aren’t mock drafting, prepping rankings, scouring injury reports, and the like?

Well, you can start with getting a healthy hobby. I suggest watching baseball and setting your various fantasy lineups. Because, by healthy, I mean healthy for your fantasy teams. But you should also rest.

Rest from the urge to fix every roster hole now and with a trade. Sure, keep an eye on who drops whom, look over the waiver wire to see if anyone stands out, but don’t go blowing up your team. Hoping for Tanner Scheppers to be this year’s Chris Sale—or at least, C.J. Wilson? One bad start doesn’t torpedo his chances. Hoping for Billy Hamilton to steal you a title (sorry—no choice)? He isn’t getting send down after one oh-for-four with no steals. Breathe easy.

Every league seems to have someone send out a million trade offers before the season or in the first week. If you’ve really got a glaring need (like, you didn’t draft a shortstop), it’s smart to put some feelers out there, but don’t be the owner that offers trades just to offer trades, just to be doing something. Remember, you’re the fantasy owner, not the fantasy player. Yes, it’s an adjustment to being out of control, but that’s what we are for the moment. An offseason’s worth of preparation is more trustworthy than a game or two worth of at bats.

There’s a second thing to do, though, and that one, you’ll enjoy more than an admonition to take it easy. You need to become best friends with the waiver wire. What does that not mean? It doesn’t mean picking up and dropping players left and right, or streaming like crazy, or shuffling out half your drafted team. Instead, it means knowing the available players in your league(s) and what they’re doing. This is where opportunity comes from, and this is the large part of what will win and lose your league(s) from here on out.

The first week is a quandary for me (and every other fantasy player). On the one hand, you’re dealing with small samples and rule-exceptions. You’re dealing with players who’ve only played against two opponents, starters who’ve only faced one or two lineups, closers who’ve only had one chance to blow it. There is absolutely nothing concrete to be learned in the season’s first week. (Statistically speaking, that is. If Jose Reyes hits the DL, or Jim Henderson gets pulled from the closer’s role, that’s a different story.)

And yet, you still have to make your move on this information. It may not happen every year, but it’s a common enough story that plenty of fantasy leagues have been won with help from a plot like this: unheralded player or seemingly-low-upside-prospect wins a starting job in Spring Training. Nobody notices. Said player has a monster first week and jumps from 1% owned to 30% owned. Said player continues to produce all year long and becomes an early-round draft pick for years to come. Think I’m kidding? Last year it was Jean Segura. Before that, it’s been Ben Zobrist and Dan Uggla—the good Uggla, not the version we have now.

The story has gone other ways too: über-prospect gets surprisingly early callup and probably isn’t ready. Dominates all season. (Think Jose Fernandez.)

Player with some promise but a game full of flaws (and strikeouts) clubs several homers in the first week. Doesn’t stop. I’m not actually sure if this is how Chris Davis burst onto the scene two years ago, but it seems to fit.

Some guy you never heard of gets tabbed to fill in for a closer who needs to “regain his stuff”…and then goes on to lead the league in saves. (This is a natural part of the life cycle of the closer.)

All of these things happen. They don’t all happen each year, of course, and the false promises always do. Sometimes that closer does regain his stuff, sometimes the strikeouts overcome the homers, sometimes the prospect goes back to the minors, and sometimes that great first week (or month) becomes the highlight of Chris Shelton’s career.

The upside is worth it, though. The first couple weeks should be your most aggressive on the waiver wire, because they can have the biggest impact. Getting the Seguras, Fernandezes, and Davises of this year (if there are any) will make or break most fantasy leagues. Dropping your backup shortstop or seventh starter will probably not.

No, I don’t know who will break out this week or next, and I certainly don’t know which breakouts will be for real. Like everyone else, I’ll be gambling with my first few free agent moves. The key here is to go for the longest-term upside. You’ll still be able to find almost-competent replacement players later on, but April is your best shot to make a bold addition to your team. Go for it.

But not at the expense of players you trusted enough to target. Drop the fliers, the fillers, and the had-to’s—but don’t ditch your sleepers or your cornerstones, either for the waiver wire or the trade market.

So, it’s a paradoxical bit of advice to start the season: trust the planning you already did by sitting back and relaxing—but keep your eyes open for potential breakout players and jump on anyone who might qualify.

That’s the line we walk in April. Good luck staying on it.

And yeah—be glad baseball’s back.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Your Aberrant Experts (Starter Rankings)

Aberrant, deviant, distorted...awesome. However you want to call it, the rankings we put up here at RotoAuthority aren't just a clone of every other expert on the planet. Sure, we agree on the top four hitters, and that Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish should be the first two pitchers off the draft board, but things start to change after that.

Last week, I wrote up where some of our biggest differences were at each hitting position, and today we'll take up starting pitchers. You can check out our whole SP rankings here. (Note: I thought about including relievers, but it just didn't seem that fruitful—the big differences at that position are when to take any relievers at all.)

And for your reference, check out all of RotoAuthority’s rankings: OutfieldCatcherFirst BaseThird BaseSecond BaseShortstopCloserMiddle and Corner Infield

Once again, ADP and the Expert Consensus come from FantasyPros.com, with data they glean from across the fantasy globe.

Matt Cain
RA Ranking: 14 ADP Rank: 18 Expert Consensus: 17

The ranking difference doesn’t quite tell the story here—the RA thinking is that Cain remains a high-level SP option, just after the truly elite. Though ADP and the Expert Consensus only slot him a few ranks lower, they suggest he belongs squarely in the middle of your number-two pitchers. Verdict: Small differences matter—trust RA.

Doug Fister
RA Ranking: 19 ADP Rank: 33 Expert Consensus: 33

We’re aggressive on Fister, but there's very little not to like about his new situation, moving to the NL most especially. Remember when Gio Gonzalez made the same transition? There was a big improvement in his strikeout rate. Our prediction is that Fister leapfrogs new teammate Jordan Zimmermann, and we’re willing to take him as our number two starter if need be. Of course, we may not need to, given his ADP, but games of fantasy chicken are another story altogether…. Verdict: Trust RA.

Jered Weaver
RA Ranking: 21 ADP Rank: 28 Expert Consensus: 31

Weaver went from overrated to underrated in the space of about a year. I’m inclined to think that he’s being punished for the fact that he hasn’t sustained that one season of elite strikeout production. Just because he isn’t missing bats, though, doesn’t mean that he hasn’t made a habit of overperforming his FIP and providing solid help in WHIP every year. Weaver is just the kind of pitcher that I like to use to balance out high-K, high-BB pitchers like Gio Gonzalez. Verdict: Expect to see Weaver on plenty of teams that contend in ERA, WHIP, and Wins—trust RA.

Hyun-jin Ryu
RA Ranking: 25 ADP Rank: 31 Expert Consensus: 30

Ryu is another guy who doesn’t dominate whiffs, but helps everywhere else. Playing for the Dodgers, he benefits from a good lineup and a friendly park—he’s got the factors you want for good luck. That and strong control, and the fact that he’s relatively young. I see a high floor with room for improvement in his second year stateside. Verdict: Trust RA

Gerrit Cole
RA Ranking: 27 ADP Rank: 21 Expert Consensus: 19

“Why do you hate Gerrit Cole?” asked, apparently, everyone. We don’t. It’s not that we love Cole less—just that we love others more. There’s always risk with young pitchers, and with Cole there’s also the risk that he doesn’t add the strikeouts that most are expecting—and there are a lot of enticing options between our ranking and that of the Experts. Still, he’s got seriously high reward, so the enthusiasm is understandable. Verdict: Go for it if you’re focused on upside. Otherwise, there are plenty of more proven pitchers available.

A.J. Burnett
RA Ranking: 28 ADP Rank: 48 Expert Consensus: 48

Most others seem to see in Burnett a guy who’s too old and had huge home/road splits—and now is leaving that favorable home behind. Me, I see a guy who pitched good and struck out far more batters than anyone else left on the board. There’s certainly downside here—serious downside—but the upside is the ace-level pitching he gave owners last year. The RA ranking is aggressive, but he’s an absolute steal at his ADP. Verdict: Target him between our rank and his ADP—he’s a risk worth taking.

Masahiro Tanaka
RA Ranking: 30 ADP Rank: 20 Expert Consensus: 27

The numbers above tell the story on Tanaka: experts (including RA) are cautiously interested—but every league seems to have someone who just can’t wait to take Tanaka. Verdict: The experts agree—be patient with Tanaka.

Hiroki Kuroda
RA Ranking: 37 ADP Rank: 49 Expert Consensus: 41

Another Japanese Yankee where RA and the Experts land nearly together—and far from ADP. There’s nothing terribly exciting about the dependable Kuroda, so it’s no wonder he’s lasting longer in drafts. That said, reliable pitchers are rare, and good for balancing out risks like his new teammate. Verdict: Trust RA (and the other Experts)

Matt Moore
RA Ranking: 49 ADP Rank: 32 Expert Consensus: 28

This is one strikeout source even I won’t touch. With huge walk rates and a year that started great but seemed to get worse every month, Moore seems to be made of red flags. There’s no way I’d consider taking him as early as the other Experts suggest. If that means I miss out on what he’ll do to my WHIP even if things go right, well that’s fine. Verdict: Moore is a time bomb at 28. Trust RA.

Rick Porcello
RA Ranking: 55 ADP Rank: 77 Expert Consensus: 71

Porcello is cemented into the rotation of one of baseball’s best teams, and he's ratcheted his strikeout rate up a bunch in 2013. He’s still younger than we think, since he came to the Majors at 20 years old and he could really put it all together this year. Even if he doesn’t, he ought to be a good source of Wins and ERA. Verdict: He’s got more upside than plenty of late-round pitchers, and a much, much higher floor. Trust RA.

Scott Kazmir
RA Ranking: 56 ADP Rank: 76 Expert Consensus: 72

Kazmir came back like lightning last year, with prodigious strikeouts and a FIP that suggested his 4.00+ ERA ought to come down. Now, he’s in a very favorable park, still playing for a contending team—this is a risk I like. Verdict: Trust RA.

John Lackey
RA Ranking: 61 ADP Rank: 80 Expert Consensus: 64

RA and the Experts are nearly 20 draft slots ahead of most on Lackey! Maybe most drafters didn’t notice that he really bounced back last year. I don’t know why drafters don't like him, but it's easy enough to see that he's well worth drafting. Verdict: Trust RA—and the Experts.

Chris Tillman
RA Ranking: 70 ADP Rank: 60 Expert Consensus: 58

Tillman was pretty lucky with his ERA last year, so I have some worries about what his 2014 will really look like. That said, he plays on a team with a good offense and misses bats, so there’s some useful upside here. If you think his ERA and WHIP will hold together, I can understand liking him more than we do. Verdict: You can feel OK about drafting him before me…but I’ll feel fine too.

Jonathon Niese
RA Ranking: 71 ADP Rank: 100 Expert Consensus: 84

RA and the Experts seem to have noticed what most drafters haven’t: Niese really regained form after I dropped him off all my fantasy teams returning from injury. In fact, he pitched like the top-40 starter that he was in 2012. You don’t have to be as aggressive as RA to get this guy on your team, but you definitely should. Verdict: Trust RA…but feel free to wait on him.

Alex Wood
RA Ranking: 73 ADP Rank: 62 Expert Consensus: 60

I’d like to excuse myself to say that we did this ranking before the Braves’ rotation got hit with injuries…but that’s not particularly true. Wood does seem to have more upside than our 73 ranking gives him credit for, though at this point in the draft, you’re sorting through which kind of risk/reward candidates you like. Verdict: Go ahead and move Wood up a little higher on your draft board. There are plenty of people less interesting than him.

 

 



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 FantasyPros.com.

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

Catchers 

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.

Shortstop

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.

Outfield

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?



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Mocktion Madness

i've been playing fantasy baseball for...well, for a long time. I've played in a couple leagues for more than ten years each, and I've played in dozens of leagues since then. I've been reading fantasy baseball magazines since the early '90's. I've played keeper and redraft, 5x5 and points, roto and head to head, and even tried fantasy hockey. But I've never played in an auction league.

This year, that changes.

So, on Friday, I did my first ever mock auction. It…um…didn’t go that well. But I did my best to liveblog it anyway, which probably didn’t help how my auction went, come to think of it.

Below is the transcript from my experience, highs, lows, triumphs and incredible stupidities all. It has been edited to remove references to excuse-making like clicking the wrong buttons and losing Internet connection. I will try not to make significant generalizations from the experience of a single auction and let you form your own conclusions.

Final note: I really do know what I’m doing in a snake draft....

For some reason I let myself go first, got confused and nominated Miguel Cabrera. He went up to $56, so I let him go.

Kershaw made it past $40 without my help, so I figured that a job well done—one of missions was to establish his price as a cap for starters.

Goldschmidt and McCutchen both sold for around $50 too—so much for my guess that there would be a big gap between Cabrera, Trout, and everyone else.

R.A. Dickey just became the first non-star nominated. He’s at $5. I’m in a bidding war! $7! $9! I’m letting him go at $10. Enjoy…other person.

CarGo just rolled up past $40. I can’t do it for someone so injury prone.

Ooh. Braun is up. $36. Now $39. Time to put my money where my mouth is: Ryan Braun for…lots of money, $42 in fact. I guess I will take a $40+ risk.

My first real nomination: Chris Davis. I’m hoping for a value here. Let’s see…a couple others are in a bidding war: he rolled up to $44 and…well, I still need  a 1B. Mild expletive.

This is the most awesome (fantasy baseball) thing I’ve ever done. Where have I been all these years in snake drafts?

Giancarlo’s up. I’m gonna make a serious push for him. Love the power. Got him for $31 and my outfield ought to be stacked.

I went $37 on Tulo. Ugh. Whoever I was bidding against was so fast with the returns that I thought I could ratchet the price up. I mean, I like Tulo, but I’d hoped to be more budget-conscious than this.

Presumably, I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

Joey Votto just went for $38. I think that’s a great value with the inflation for high-end players. Considering that I nominated Prince Fielder and someone went straight to the same price and won without further bidding…yeah. That’s why you don’t throw out a mega-bid right away.

A little buyer’s remorse on Tim Lincecum at $4. My WHIP already regrets it. Does that make him my ace?

Strasburg and Darvish are going for a ton.

Nominating Hanley—I want to suck some money out of the field. Done at $39. Tulo doesn’t look so badly priced.

Edwin Encarnacion. Now it’s interesting. There’s a fight for him, though. Up to $34. I’ve got $146 left…ooh, outbid. I think I’ll let him sail away.

Straight to $34 for Wainwright. Bold.

First closer: Rex Brothers. I think someone wants him. Or not. I got a $3 closer. Cool.

Jurickson Profar is up. I’m interested to see how he ends up getting valued. Low, so far: $4.

I’m discovering that you can’t run off to the bathroom in the middle of an auction.

Even if you know you don’t want Justin Upton.

Scherzer goes straight to $30. Starters are costing a lot, so I think I’m gonna stay away from the best of the aces and try more middling options.

I want Everth Cabrera, so I threw out Elvis Andrus. He’s going for $15, which seems like a decent price, but also a useful cap on my SS spending. We’ll see how the ol’ redirect goes.

Sweet. Snagged Evan Longoria for $27—less than Beltre or Wright went for by a few dollars. Joey Bats just went for $26, but I’ve got way too much risk on this team for that. No wonder I feel like I’m getting good deals: all my players might be hurt by May.

Cliff Lee is my staff anchor for $27. So much for a bunch of cheap good-not-great types for my pitching staff.

Adam Eaton is at $2. There are so many other OF options at this point, though, that I’m not ready to take a flyer. If he’s your guy, though, I like the idea of throwing him out early.

Madison Bumgarner for $26 and I am running out of money. It’s a stars-and-scrubs roster for me all the way at this point.

Dustin Pedroia is going for $25…compared to over $30 for Jason Kipnis. Patience is a virtue.

Middle section of the auction. I’m watching a lot of pitches go by. It seems like you can have anyone you want for $25 since most of us don’t have so much money left.

I wanted Altuve, but not for $17. Speed is going to be a problem for me, I think. The good news: speedsters always end up on the waiver wire. There’s always someone.

Pujols is up…wow, jumped straight to $23. I’d thought there could be a bargain there. New 1B target: Brandon Moss. Matt Adams is intriguing too. Adrian Gonzalez will probably be too pricey—ditto Anthony Rizzo and Eric Hosmer.

Anibal Sanchez is up. He’s a great deal [compared to others in this draft] at $21.

 Matt Cain for $17. How this happened, I don’t know…but I’ll take it. That might be the best deal of the auction, but it kept me from getting Everth Cabrera. He only went for $11 but that’s like half of my cash at this point.

I’m happy enough to dollar it for a catcher in a Yahoo! standard style, but I’d really like to have a bit more spending room for 1B and 2B. I’m loving that $3 spent on Brothers earlier, though, because that might be all the budget I’ve got for a closer!

Two dollars for Ricky Nolasco is two too many in a shallow league.

I have…the whole Giants rotation. Hopefully they have a better year this year.

There are a lot of valuable players left and not a lot of money in our team coffers. The three holdouts with $150 or more might be very, very pleased they sat out the early choices.

The one nice thing about being this poor at this stage of the draft is that I’ve at least filled more roster slots than almost everyone else. So I’m not poor for no reason.

Look at the beard on Andrew Cashner. That alone is reason to draft him.

New strategy: nominate only second basemen in hopes of spending half my money on Aaron Hill. I don’t think it’s gonna work.

Actually, there are a lot of good 2B options in a world without MI slot. Shallow leagues…why even worry about position scarcity? It’s like it’s not even a thing.

Carlos Santana for $16: great. Ian Kinsler for $18: horrible. There are now three teams with less money than me. Yeah.

Patience is worth it on closers too: Koji Uehara and Greg Holland went for about 75% the cost of Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. I bet they all return similar value in most formats.

Somebody is about to waste a dollar on Kevin Gregg. Awesome.

In real life, I will totally nominate David Ortiz late in an auction. This, I promise to myself.

There goes Martin Prado. Only one other team without anyone at 2B. I may be able to afford Hill. If not, I’ll probably pay no more than a dollar for Lowrie, Kendrick, Utley, or Murphy. I am beginning to grow aware that I’m obsessing over second base and Aaron Hill when there may be many good options available. Interesting.

Will anyone on my team steal even one base? Perhaps not.

Matt Moore [to someone else]  for $14. Enjoy those walks.

Tanaka goes for $11. Not bad. One notices that his projected value is $8 and his average auction cost is $16. One does not make further comment.

Just nominated my man Hill and watched him sail away for $10. I’ll spend the money at first base or on speed. My $26 is making me a power player for $2 bids all of a sudden.

Ouch…picked the wrong time to look away and let Michael Cuddyer go for $8.He was my sneaky pick for 1B. I spent the same on Wilin Rosario. I love the catcher and the price, but all I really wanted was to drain a little more cash out of the top bidder left in the room. My first player in like an hour. Big mistake—that same guy got McCann for $7.

Desperate to get someone…anyone…for a dollar, I just nominated Emilio Bonifacio. The guy’s been DFA’d and still got a bid.

Yes!!!!! I finally got a dollar player. Welcome to the fold, Scott Kazmir.

I only have one $2 bid left, and I’m not using it on Bobby Parnell. Or even Sonny Gray.

I will use it on Matt Adams. Hopefully he shows the power he did last year…

Last team with money is out—this just became a draft.

Rajai Davis just gave my team some wheels.

I feel decent about my dollar guys: Kazmir, Rajai, Brian Dozier, Neil Walker, Denard Span, and Mark Melancon, plus closers Jim Henderson and Fernando Rodney. Well, hopefully Rodney signs into a closer job.

Feverishly, I check to see if I can sign up for the next auction. No…not for six more hours. Probably for the best…

I learned some lessons, but I’ll let you infer them. Below is the team that I managed to draft, just for your edification. Feel free to mock me in the comments....



RotoAuthority Unscripted: What's He Do?

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

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

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

Corey Kluber

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

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

Tyson Ross

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

Jose Quintana

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

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

 Colby Rasmus

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

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

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

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

Brad Miller

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

Nate Schierholtz

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

 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Tanaka, Garza and Other Stories

 What is RA Unscripted? Well, imagine it like this. You’re a reporter and you stick a TV camera in my face. “Fantasy Baseball: go!” you say. And I start talking. 

Well, it’s kinda like that. Except that I type instead of talking and I can look up statistics instead of trying to pass off wild guesses as facts. 

Last week, we examined some players who might be gaining or losing value in their new homes—or who might not be. Then I realized I was going overlong and you (proverbially) switched off the TV camera. Then we had some big news, preceded by even bigger news.

Masaharo Tanaka: Bust

Luckey Helms made the Bold Prediction that Tanaka is the next great fantasy import, and I’m not saying he’s wrong by predicting Tanaka to bust. Really!

But we have new information, and it shapes up to make Tanaka a great bust candidate. The key to providing fantasy value is expectations. They were high before, and I do think Tanaka will provide a very good fantasy season—but they are crazy-high now, and it will be very hard to get him for a good price. 

Signing with the Yankees, the expectations have risen. Now, I don’t think the pressure will get to him—the expectations that have changed the game are those of your league-mates. And it only takes two or three. Tanaka will be all over ESPN and every fantasy website and magazine…and I just think he’s going to cost too much to be worth it.

Yankee Stadium won’t do Tanaka any favors, and Major Leaguers hit with distinctly more power than do their Japanese counterparts. I would not be shocked if he had some homer troubles. It won’t help that he gets to face tough offenses and tough away parks in the AL East. What’s more, his career K/9 in Japan is just 8.5. Good-but-not-elite territory, and likely to move down a bit more as he faces a tougher level of competition for the first time.

Will he be good? Yeah, I totally think so. A number two or three fantasy starter. But I’m guessing he ends up being someone’s ace or co-ace, and I don’t think that’s a role he’s going to live up to this season. Draft him next year, when the disappointment wears off.

Matt Garza: Boom

Milwaukee is a good situation for Garza’s fantasy value. The park is actually somewhat similar to Yankee Stadium in that it adds homers, but it plays pretty neutrally overall. More importantly, the other external factors are very good: small market means your fellow drafters won’t be inundated with his Spring Training highlights (see Tanaka, above), decent lineup for generating wins, middle-of-the-road competition in the division, playing in the NL, and facing pitchers! There is nothing better than pitching to pitchers. Maybe that’s why Garza seems to generate more strikeouts in the NL.... 

The biggest question mark with Garza is health, as he’s gotten a label of un-durability thanks to back-to-back incomplete seasons. But that was all from the same injury, and before that he gave his teams four consecutive 30-start seasons. Maybe he’s fragile and maybe he’s not—we can decide that when his career is over—but there’s good reason to think his health question is overblown. Right now, his good situation and low expectations make him a great number three fantasy starter.

Grant Balfour: Boom

There is something the Orioles don’t like about Balfour. Maybe it’s the harbinger of doom that is his name. Seriously, this guy should really have control problems, Carlos Marmol-style. He doesn’t, though, and was one of fantasy baseball’s better relievers last year, with 38 saves and a 10.34 K/9. He did that in a pitchers’ park, with a good pitching staff, and a decent lineup to put him in save situations. Now Balfour is going to the Rays, who also have a pitchers’ park, a good pitching staff, and a decent lineup to put him in save situations. Don’t be the Orioles here.

Mark Trumbo: Boom

Trumbo is the new Adam Dunn. Not the current Adam Dunn, but the old one. And not as good in real baseball, because he doesn’t walk. But he is that Adam Dunn that hits homers and sucks away at your batting average—and you know you can count on the good and the bad, and you can plan for it.

Trumbo has hit 29 homers or more in each of his three full Major League seasons. Not bad. Now he’s leaving the tough hitting environment of the AL West and going to the hitters’ haven somewhat better situation that is the NL West. The difference is most pronounced at home: while Angel Stadium suppressed homers by five percent last year, Arizona increased them by three percent. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll be worth a few longballs—and so might avoiding Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, and the rest of the AL West pitching crew. Sure, he won’t get to face the Astros, but he’ll get some away games in Coors Field.

The best news for Trumbo’s fantasy value, though, is his consistency. You can plan around his bad batting average and either strategically sacrifice points in the category, or pair him with underpowered high-average hitters. More good news is that the Diamondbacks got some pretty bad press for trading for him—giving other fantasy drafters more of an impression about his real-life value and less about his fantasy value.

Jhonny Peralta: Bust

Peralta is pretty much the opposite of Trumbo: the good defense and OBP he brought to the table in two of the last three years are a lot better in real baseball than in fantasy. Plus a “Known Smart Team” with a strong national brand threw a bunch of money at him as a free agent. It takes a lot to shake off the stigma of a PED suspension, but I bet that will. He’s been hailed as a good pickup this offseason, and that’s fine for the Cardinals.

It’s not so fine for your fantasy team. Peralta’s value came largely from his quality .303 batting average…which was fueled by a .374 BABIP. St. Louis appears to have been somewhat more suppressive to offense than Detroit last year, so don’t expect a big help from his new park. While playing in the NL might help a little, he wasn’t facing the world’s best pitching in the AL Central. (It helps when you play for the Tigers.) Even in the thin shortstop market, Peralta’s best category is the least predictable. Consider him no more than a low-end starter at best.





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