The Market Report

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.

The Market Report: Relief Pitchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Baseball has finally returned at long last. Spring Training games have begun, and Opening Day is in sight. We conclude our positional breakdowns with a look at relief pitchers this week. Once again, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Craig Kimbrel (55)

Tier Two

2. Aroldis Chapman (75)

3. Greg Holland (84)

4. Kenley Jansen (104)

Tier Three

5. Koji Uehara (122)

6. Joe Nathan (122)

7. Trevor Rosenthal (127)

Tier Four

8. Addison Reed (139)

9. Jim Johnson (147)

10. Rafael Soriano (147)

Tier Five

11. Sergio Romo (165)

12. David Robertson (166)

13. Glen Perkins (172)

14. Jason Grilli (174)

15. Jonathan Papelbon (185)


Jason Grilli (ADP 174)

Grilli sure has had a strange career. After several years of mediocre performance out of the bullpen, the veteran somehow enjoyed a breakout campaign in his age 36 season in 2012 with a dominant 36.6 K% against just a 6.4 BB% as a setup man to Joel Hanrahan. In his first year as a closer, Grilli was simply brilliant last year with a remarkable 1.71 SIERA, just behind Craig Kimbrel for fourth in the NL. Now, there are reasons why such great skills are available at a discount.  Grilli is certainly up there in years, he suffered a right forearm strain late last season, and Mark Melancon is behind him and more than capable of closing. Having said that, the reward far outweighs the risk at that price. This is a dominant reliever with elite skills going roughly 100 picks after the Tier 2 closers. Invest.

Nate Jones (ADP 272)

OK, so he hasn't officially been named the closer for the Pale Hose just yet, but he appears to have a leg up on the competition. My general approach to a murky closer situation is to grab the reliever with the best skills and let the roles fall where they may. Well, Jones clearly possesses better skills than fellow White Sox closer candidates Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb. In fact, last year he ranked 10th in the American League with a 2.56 SIERA. Sure, the White Sox are going to be a miserable club this season, but I care more about protecting my ERA and WHIP than accumulating saves. Once again, if the job were already his, he wouldn't be available on the cheap. Based on the current ADP, the risk that he fails to win the job as closer is minimal, and I just see this as a buying opportunity. The worst case scenario is you have a dominant setup man to serve as a buffer in ERA and WHIP. Speaking of which...

Pick an Elite Setup Man, Any Elite Setup Man

By now, it's a rather common practice in fantasy baseball, but the point bears repeating. Elite setup men are wonderful additions in leagues that allow for daily lineup changes. Even if a primary setup man never usurps the closer role, he still can still provide help in the ratio categories. My favorite targets this year are Joaquin Benoit, Sergio Santos, and Pedro Strop. One thing that all of these setup men have in common is that they're currently behind closers who will be free agents at the season's end. I also don't expect any of their clubs to be contenders, so it's certainly possible the current closers are dealt midseason anyway.


Rafael Soriano (ADP 147)

Let's start with the fact that Soriano's skills last season were mediocre at best. A relatively poor 18.4 K% coupled with average skills elsewhere resulted in a 3.11 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In today's fantasy game, those numbers are actually below average for a closer. Moreover, his 3.71 SIERA indicates he was a tad fortunate, too. Now let's keep in mind that both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are likely better from a True Talent perspective. As a matter of fact, Steamer projects a better ERA for both of the setup man than for Soriano. Finally, the veteran has had trouble staying healthy over the course of his career. With all of this mind, there's  simply no good reason to draft the Nationals closer at his current pricetag.

The Market Report: Starting Pitchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Just about every player has reported to camp at this point. Spring Training games will begin later this week. We really are getting close to Opening Day, I promise. Let's take a look at starting pitchers this week. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Clayton Kershaw (7)

2. Yu Darvish (17)

Tier Two

3. Max Scherzer (26)

4. Adam Wainwright (26)

5. Justin Verlander (35)

6. Stephen Strasburg (36)

Tier Three

7. Jose Fernandez (45)

8. Cliff Lee (48)

9. Madison Bumgarner (49)

10. Felix Hernandez (51)

Tier Four

11. Chris Sale (58)

12. Zack Greinke (63)

13. David Price (66)

14. Cole Hamels (71)

15. Jordan Zimmermann (75)

Tier Five

16.  Masahiro Tanaka (80)

17. Anibal Sanchez (83)

18. Matt Cain (87)

19. James Shields (91)

20. Hisashi Iwakuma (92)

21. Gerrit Cole (92)

Tier Six

22. Shelby Miller (99)

23. Kris Medlen (100)

24. Mike Minor (101)

25. Gio Gonzalez (104)

26. Matt Moore (105)

Tier Seven

27. Alex Cobb (111)

28. Homer Bailey (115)

29. Jon Lester (116)

30. Julio Teheran (116)

31. Michael Wacha (117)

32. Mat Latos (119)


Kris Medlen (ADP 100)

For a few years Medlen was left on the outside looking in at the Braves starting rotation, and fantasy owners had to wait patiently for the best sixth starter in baseball to earn his chance. Well, Medlen finally got that opportunity down the stretch in 2012, and he was simply brilliant, with a sparkling 1.57 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Entering last season then, this looked like an overvalued commodity to me, as it appeared he was bound to take a significant step back. However, Medlen put together a solid campaign last year, posting a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. At this point, I think it's safe to say that the right-hander ranks as a capable #2 starter in standard mixed leagues. While he may lack the upside of a hurler like Francisco Liriano due to a mediocre strikeout rate, Medlen has a high floor and makes for an excellent pick if paired with a dominant anchor like Yu Darvish or Max Scherzer.

Danny Salazar (ADP 145)

Yes, I know the hype is building on Salazar, and in a month his ADP may be inside the top 100. I'm normally one to zig when the fantasy community zags, and it's no secret that this young Indians fireballer ranks at the top of sleeper lists all over the place. At his current pricetag, though, I still think there's plenty of room for profit. With an average fastball velocity above 96 mph last year, Salazar was electric. He had a remarkable 30.8 K% while posting a 3.12 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP over 52 innings. Now there are some caveats here: Salazar has yet to prove he can handle the workload of a full season, and he's already had Tommy John surgery. Even so, skills like his shouldn't be available after Round 10. Barring injury, this is a fantasy ace in the making.

Doug Fister (ADP 172)

When Fister was dealt from Detroit to Washington, I assumed his market value would rise with the move to the National League. After all, moving from the AL to the NL can boost a pitcher's strikeout rate by a half a point. As we sit here in late-Februrary, though, Fister is still falling outside the top 150 in drafts. Yes, I know the strikeout rate won't be anything spectacular, but the new Nationals right-hander should be excellent in ERA and WHIP. Let's face it: Clayton Kershaw is the best bet to lead the NL in ERA again this year. Beyond Kershaw, however, here's a dark-horse candidate for the ERA crown available in Round 15.


Matt Moore (ADP 105)

While sabermetrics are mainstream at this point, it still sure seems like the fantasy community as a whole places some value in projecting the wins category. Otherwise, I can't really explain why Moore would be drafted ahead of other arms like Alex Cobb, Homer Bailey, and Michael Wacha. If we suddenly were to throw out the wins category as a contributor toward fantasy value, Moore would have been far outside the top 50 among pitchers last season. For two years in a row, he's markedly outperformed his peripherals with a career ERA at 3.55 yet a career SIERA at 4.11. While some sabermetricians might forecast steep regression, I think the Rays defense certainly is a factor at play there, so that trend may continue. The fact remains, however, that Moore has some very serious issues with control. Moreover, if you're going to draft a starting pitcher in the first ten rounds, you'd like to grab someone with a track record of durability; unfortunately, Moore missed a month last year with elbow soreness. Ultimately, my philosophy on drafting starting pitching is to group the arms in tiers and patiently wait for values to hopefully emerge. Given that injuries take place at a higher frequency among pitchers than hitters, it just doesn't make sense to me to select Moore at his current ADP with so many other viable alternatives. Avoid.

The Market Report: Outfielders

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Pitchers and catchers have officially reported, and the rest of the position players should return this week. Don't worry; Opening Day will be here soon enough. Let's take a look at outfielders this week. Once again, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Mike Trout (1)

2. Andrew McCutchen (5)

3. Carlos Gonzalez (7)

Tier Two

4. Adam Jones (10)

5. Bryce Harper (13)

6. Ryan Braun (15)

Tier Three

7. Giancarlo Stanton (22)

8. Jacoby Ellsbury (23)

9. Yasiel Puig (24)

10. Jay Bruce (27)

11. Carlos Gomez (29)

Tier Four

12. Justin Upton (34)

13. Matt Holliday (35)

14. Matt Kemp (35)

15. Jose Bautista (37)

16. Allen Craig (42)

17. Alex Rios (43)

18. Shin-Soo Choo (46)

Tier Five

19. Wil Myers (52)

20. Hunter Pence (56)

21. Yoenis Cespedes (60)

22. Starling Marte (62)

23. Mark Trumbo (62)

24. Jayson Werth (69)

25. Alex Gordon (71)


Shin-Soo Choo (ADP 46)

Prior to a draft I make an effort to identify targets for each round by comparing ADP values to my own player valuations. I've written previously that if I don't get a top-two pick this year, I'll be targeting a reliable hitter like Robinson Cano or Adam Jones in the middle of the first round. Then I hope to come back with a power-hitting corner infielder such as Adrian Beltre or Edwin Encarnacion in Round 2. In the third round I have my eyes set on grabbing an ace like Justin Verlander or Stephen Strasburg to anchor my staff. Then, to me Shin-Soo Choo is the ideal fourth-round pick.

I'm not exactly sure why Choo isn't viewed as a #1 outfielder in a 12-team league at this point. Rangers Ballpark doesn't boost HR quite like Great American Ball Park; however, the Ballpark in Arlington is still rather friendly to hitters. This OBP machine will be moving from an above-average offense to a potentially elite one. Other than Mike Trout, who's a better bet to lead the MLB in runs scored than the new Rangers leadoff hitter? In three of his past four full seasons, Choo has gone 20/20. Moreover, aside from an injury-shortened 2011 campaign, he's hit over .280 every year in the Bigs. In an era in which finding a reliable top-flight hitter has become a daunting task, here's a player who represents one of the safest options on the board in the early rounds. 

Carlos Beltran (ADP 83)

I'm already on record with this one. I think Beltran is criminally undervalued this year, and I'll just leave you to read 700 words as to why I think that is the case.

Norichika Aoki (ADP 195)

Aoki is one of those players who derives sneaky value from the categories that fantasy owners fail to fully appreicate. Hitting atop the Brewers lineup the past couple years, Aoki put together very similar seasons with significant contributions in runs, SB, and AVG. The move from Miller Park to Kauffman Stadium would be awful for a power hitter but shouldn't affect his value that much. It's also worth pointing out that he was rather unlucky in the batted ball department, posting a .295 BABIP compared to a .330 xBABIP. All told, this is a player who's a relatively safe bet to approach 10 HR and 20 SB while hitting around .290 with 80 runs scored. I like power as much as the next guy, but that line adds up to a top-30 outfielder for a player currently going dirt cheap in drafts.


Matt Kemp (ADP 35)

Oh, where should I begin with this one? Let's count the reasons why you shouldn't draft Kemp in the third round. First, he's probably going to start the season on the DL. Do you really want to select a player who may not be ready for Opening Day when there are so many other viable alternatives at such an early stage in a draft? Second, this is a player who landed on the DL three times last year. Even if he's ready for Opening Day, do you have much faith in his body holding up this season? Third, the speed is clearly in decline, as he has just 18 SB in more than a season's worth of games over the past two years. How many would you project for a player who's suffered so many injuries? Fourth, the power might not be all that great anymore either. Can we really count on 25 HR for someone who only hit six in roughly half a season in 2013? Last but not least, somehow Matt Kemp is currently going in the third round despite the fact that he might not play everyday. Are we sure that Manager Don Mattingly will continue to pencil in his name if he gets off to a slow start with such a crowded outfield?

Overall then, I'm a firm believer in drafting a highly skilled player with some injury risk if he's available at a significant discount. In Mixed Leagues there are plenty of options available on the waiver wire, and the combination of an elite player for most of the season and a replacement-level player for part of it can return a profit. The only problem is that Matt Kemp is no longer elite even when he's healthy. Save yourself the headache and let someone else draft this plummeting stock.

The Market Report: Shortstops

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Another week closer to Opening Day. Let's take a look at shortstops this week. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Troy Tulowitzki (8)

2. Hanley Ramirez (9)

Tier Two

3. Jose Reyes (28)

4. Ian Desmond (31)

5. Jean Segura (33)

Tier Three

6. Elvis Andrus (57)

7. Ben Zobrist (74)

8. Everth Cabrera (77)

9. J.J. Hardy (88)

Tier Four

10. Andrelton Simmons (104)

11. Starlin Castro (107)

12. Xander Bogaerts (109)

13. Jed Lowrie (114)

Tier Five

14. Alexei Ramirez (148)

15. Jhonny Peralta (154)

16. Asdrubal Cabrera (160)

17. Jimmy Rollins (166)

18. Brad Miller (180)


Alexei Ramirez (ADP 148)

From a fantasy perspective, Ramirez had a strange season last year, but he was valuable nonetheless. After never getting more than 20 SB in any of the first five years of his career, he somehow managed to swipe 30 bags. Meanwhile, his power continued to decline, as his ISO fell for a third consecutive season. Despite only hitting six HR, though, Alexei finished just outside the top five at the position. Even if we assume some regression in the SB category, it's still rather difficult to explain his current ADP. Ramirez is a durable player who consistently puts the ball in play at a high rate. The days of 20 HR are behind him, and the counting statistics may not be great in a poor White Sox lineup. Even so, Ramirez is still a good bet for 20-plus SB along with an AVG along the lines of .270. Those numbers may not jump off the page, but Alexei still holds plenty of value at the weak shortstop position.

Erick Aybar (ADP 220)

Here's another boring yet likely undervalued target at the position. In fact, upon closer examination this duo is quite similar. Like Ramirez, Aybar is apt at making contact at a high clip. In an environment in which the frequency of strikeouts continues to rise, this skill becomes even more valuable. While he lacks much pop, Aybar does come with some speed. On the surface, his measly total of just 12 SB last year may suggest that's no longer the case. Keep in mind, however, that the Angels shortstop suffered from a variety of leg injuries over the course of the season. If you're looking for a breakout campaign, speculate elsewhere. Having said that, this is a reliable option at middle infield currently available for mere pennies. 


Jean Segura (ADP 33)

As fantasy expert Ron Shandler has noted previously, "regression and gravity are the two strongest forces known to man." When comparing value accrued to Draft Day price, few players were more profitable than Segura last year. Hold on; let's stop right there. In general, simply knowing this about a player makes it a good bet that he regresses significantly the following season. Name any breakout player from last year: Chris Davis, Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, whomever. If you forecast a disappointing season for any of them relative to their current market value, you're going to be right more often than you're wrong. Meanwhile, think of the most disappointing players from 2013 - Starlin Castro, C.C. Sabathia, B.J. Upton, whomever made you stick to your stomach each day. If you speculate on this group of players, you're going to profit more often than not.

But let's get back to Segura. As the top shortstop in all of fantasy baseball last year, he may look like a player on the verge of consistent fantasy superstardom. I see a player who has nowhere to go but down. Yes, the speed is certainly for real, but I'm not buying the power. Just one of his 12 HR was of the No Doubt variety, and I wouldn't count on double-digits again this year. Half-season statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, but it's tough to overlook how poorly Segura performed after the All-Star Break. Entering the break with a triple-slash line of .325 / .363 / .487, the young shortstop then struggled down the stretch, hitting just .241 / .268 / .315.  Maybe the hit tool really is that good here, but I'm not willing to pay such a steep price for a player currently going ahead of more proven commodities like Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander.

The Market Report: Third Basemen

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

As we continue to look at the market for each position, let's analyze third basemen this week. Once again, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Miguel Cabrera (2)

Tier Two

2. Adrian Beltre (15)

3. David Wright (18)

4. Evan Longoria (19)

Tier Three

5. Matt Carpenter (41)

6. Manny Machado (44)

7. Josh Donaldson (51)

8. Ryan Zimmerman (52)

9. Pedro Alvarez (62)

Tier Four

10. Kyle Seager (80)

11. Martin Prado (100)

12. Xander Bogaerts (106)

13. Pablo Sandoval (118)

Tier Five

14. Aramis Ramirez (134)

15. Chase Headley (136)

16. Brett Lawrie (136)


Pablo Sandoval (ADP 118)

I try to be as agnostic as possible in playing this game,  but you'll have to excuse me here, as this is more of a hunch. As we all know by now, Sandoval reportedly lost the equivalent of a kindergartener in weight over the offseason. I'm not sure what that says about Kung Fu Panda: should we praise him for getting into shape or criticize him for being that overweight in the first place? At any rate, the incredibly talented Wendy Thurm has previously pointed out that there seems to be a link between Pablo's weight and his performance on the field. Sure, it may just be a coincidence, but some evidence is there. Again, this is far from scientific, but I still believe in this bat barring injury. Unfortunately, that's asking a lot of Sandoval, who's always a good bet to land on the DL, as Eno Sarris notes. Given that his ADP lies outside the top 100, however, I think the third baseman's risk of injury has been built into his market price and then some. My general approach for this position will be to target an elite option like Miggy or Beltre with one of my first couple picks, but I view Sandoval as a volatile stock capable of significantly outproducing his current pricetag.

Aramis Ramirez (ADP 134)

Another fallback option available in the middle rounds, Ramirez has long been a personal favorite of mine. After missing a large chunk of 2013, Aramis has witnessed a dramatic decline in market value this offseason. Yes, he's up there in age, but I still think there's another good year or two in that bat. Albeit in a limited sample size, Ramirez still had an average flyball distance within a few feet of elite options at the position like Longoria and Beltre. He's always displayed good contact rates for a power hitter, and he even boosted his walk rate last year. While the Brewers are likely to be .500 at best, their offense should be strong with fantasy stars all over the place, helping his counting categories. It really all comes down to health with Ramirez, but this is a risk worth embracing given the current ADP.


Manny Machado (ADP 44)

It seems like we've been comparing Machado to a young A-Rod forever now, but the Orioles third baseman will be just 21 on Opening Day this year. There's no denying that Machado is a future superstar. In fact, he's probably already reached that level in real baseball, which is plain scary given his age. From a fantasy perspective, though, this is far from a finished product. I think fantasy owners are getting ahead of themselves by taking him inside the top 50 overall already. Let's keep in mind he had just 14 HR and 6 SB last year. He also had significant offseason surgery, although he should be fine for Spring Training. I think it's safe to say that one of these years Machado will make the leap to fantasy superstar status and be a perennial first round pick. I just don't think 2014 is that year.

The Market Report: Second Basemen

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Let's continue our look at the market for each position entering 2014, analyzing second basemen this week. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Robinson Cano (6)

2. Jason Kipnis (19)

3. Dustin Pedroia (22)

Tier Two

4. Matt Carpenter (41)

5. Ian Kinsler (47)

Tier Three

6. Aaron Hill (65)

7. Ben Zobrist (75)

8. Brandon Phillips  (76)

9. Jose Altuve (77)

Tier Four

10. Jedd Gyorko (93)

11. Martin Prado (100)

12. Daniel Murphy (109)

13. Jed Lowrie (113)

14. Chase Utley (126)

15. Jurickson Profar (132)

Tier Five

16. Anthony Rendon (153)

17. Neil Walker (181)

18. Howie Kendrick (191)

19. Brian Dozier (203)

20. Kolten Wong (209)

21. Scooter Gennett (214)

22. Omar Infante (217)


Martin Prado (ADP 100)

Let me start by saying I don't see a ton of profit to be gained at second base. I'm mostly on board with how the market values players at the position, so I'll have to take what the draft gives me. I'm also going to cheat here in a sense and select a player who isn't actually the second baseman for his team. Penciled in as the everyday third baseman and projected to hit second for the Diamondbacks, Prado certainly has the skills to return a profit on his current ADP. Over the past five seasons, he's been rather consistent in posting low strikeout rates with slightly below league-average power. While he's hit for a wide range of AVGs, it's mostly just due to some wild swings in BABIP. It's interesting that he had 17 SB in 2012, but that looks like an outlier in retrospect, as he's never had as many as five in any other season. Ultimately then, you're drafting him mainly for the runs and AVG. Beyond those statistical contributions, however, there are additional benefits to owning Prado. For one, he qualifies all over the place, eligible at 2B, 3B, and OF. That positional flexibility can do wonders for a roster when unforeseen injuries take place. In addition, this is a stable stock here. Given that he puts the ball in play so frequently and will rack up a ton of at-bats hitting second, he's unlikely to be a bust. You know what you're getting in Prado, and there's value in reliability.

Howie Kendrick (ADP 191)

I find it a tad strange that the asking price for Kendrick is so cheap as we head into draft season. I'm not here to argue that he's anything spectacular. Even so, this is still a player with a career .292 AVG, so he's a good bet to be a positive contributor in that category. The power is league-average at best, but he can approach 15 HR. Yes, he had just six SB last year, but that was his first full season failing to reach double digits. He'll never score many runs due to consistently low walk rates, and he only can get so many RBI hitting near the bottom of the lineup (even though the Angels offense has nowhere to go but up). I think it's safe to say I'm damning with faint praise here, so why do I think Kendrick is undervalued? Well a Roto line of 70 / 12 / 70 / 12 / .290 is actually quite valuable at second base. Last year Zobrtist put up a virtually identical line of 70 / 12 / 71 / 11 / .275 and finished 11th on the ESPN Player Rater at the position. In short, I view Kendrick as a player who lacks the upside to finish among the elite at second base but has a fair chance to wind up in the top ten.


Ian Kinsler (ADP 47)

I assumed Kinsler's draft stock would take a steep hit this offseason with the move from Texas to Detroit, but he's still viewed as a top-50 fantasy player. When Kinsler used to go inside the top 20 in drafts a couple years ago, I felt the fantasy community was failing to fully factor in his injury history. Well, he's reached 600 plate appearances in four of the past five seasons, so I actually don't worry about that much anymore.

Now I just think he's overpriced based on the expected on-field production. Since going 30/30 in 2011, we've seen consecutive seasons of marked decline in power and speed. This past season his average flyball distance was a measly 265 feet. Meanwhile, he was only 15 for 26 in SB attempts last year, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him run less frequently going forward. In fact, I'd take the under on 20 for HR or SB in 2014. In three of the past five years, he's also hit below .260, so he isn't a good bet to help there either. Ultimately, I see Kinsler as a player who can still be helpful, but the fantasy community is making a mistake in viewing him as a star at this point in his career. Just last week the folks at ESPN ranked him 32nd overall, ahead of stud hitters like Buster Posey and Shin-Soo Choo as well as aces like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. I'm sorry, but that's just crazy to me.  

The Market Report: First Basemen

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Last week began our look at how the market values players at each position. Once again, we'll use ADP data from Couch Managers and group players with similar ADPs into tiers to demonstrate which ones are considered roughly equal in value in the fantasy marketplace. I'll then discuss a few players whom I view as undervalued or overvalued. With that out of the way, let's take a look at the market for first basemen entering 2014. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Paul Goldschmidt  (5)

2. Chris Davis (8)

Tier Two

3. Joey Votto (12)

4. Edwin Encarnacion (14)

5. Freddie Freeman  (14)

6. Prince Fielder  (15)

Tier Three

7. Albert Pujols  (32)

8. Eric Hosmer  (39)

9. Allen Craig  (40)

10. Adrian Gonzalez (45)

Tier Four

11. Mark Trumbo  (69)

12.  Anthony Rizzo (69)

13. Michael Cuddyer (79)

Tier Five

14. Matt Adams (95)

15. Mike Napoli (107)

16. Jose Abreu (136)

17. Brandon Moss (141)

18. Brandon Belt (184)


Jose Abreu (ADP 136)

Ok, I may not be rational when it comes to Abreu, but on paper this just looks like a recipe for fantasy stardom. Eno Sarris wrote an excellent piece on the challenges in translating numbers from Cuba. It's an inexact science, and the results are mixed. That being said, the numbers alone suggest that Abreu is one of the best hitters in the world. It's certainly cherry-picking, but I don't need to tell you that Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig have been able to turn their tools into success over here. Well, Jose Abreu was clearly a better hitter than either of those two in Cuba, and frankly it wasn't close. More importantly, the underlying peripherals were dynamite, too. In 1527 plate appearances over the past four seasons, his walk rate was 18% with just a 12% strikeout rate; that's not your typical power hitter. It all added up t0 a triple-slash line of .392 / .539 / .790. Once again, we're just throwing darts if we try to project how that translates to the Bigs. With a current ADP outside of the top 100, however, the risk is minimal relative to the potential reward. Oh yeah, did I mention he's going to be playing at the best park for right-handed power hitters? Overall then, this is my favorite target in the middle rounds right now. 

Brandon Belt (ADP 184)

Sometimes it doesn't really matter how much we like a player; sometimes the market makes the decision for us. I've never really considered myself to be that bullish on Belt, but the asking price right now is simply too cheap. After a relatively disappointing first full season in 2012, Belt more than doubled his HR total this past season. In fact, few players witnessed such a marked spike in isolated power. I doubt he'll even approach 25 HR this year, but he only needs to repeat his 2013 campaign to return a profit based on his current ADP. This is a skilled batsman who hits the ball with authority on a consistent basis, spraying line drives all over the field. Entering his age-26 season, it's certainly within reason that he continues to make strides in the power department. Ultimately, I'm perfectly content drafting Belt after pick 150 as a solid corner infield option. 


Freddie Freeman (ADP 14)

If you compare Freeman's 2012 and 2013 seasons, you'll see that they're virtually identical across the board - except for the batted ball department. Few players experienced such a drastic jump in BABIP from one year to the next as the Braves slugger did last season. Now I'm not here to tell you that his .371 BABIP was completely a fluke. Like Belt, Freeman too makes hard contact quite often and is a good bet to rank among the league leaders in line drive rate going forward. As such, one would expect Freeman to continue to post relatively high hit rates relative to his speed. Even so, when compared to his .331 xBABIP, that .371 BABIP still looks a tad fortunate. I'd split the difference on the .295 BABIP in 2012 and the .371 BABIP in 2013 and project an AVG around .290. When combined with 20 to 25 HR, that makes for a valuable fantasy player.

Accordingly, I actually view Freeman as a safe, durable option who would make for a solid pick in the fourth round. The only problem with that is he's currently going just outside the first round in 12-team mixed leagues. With his line drive approach, I don't see the upside in the HR category to warrant that market price. In the second round, I'd much prefer to grab sluggers like Adrian Beltre or Prince Fielder who are capable of matching Freeman in AVG while hitting significantly more HR. I hope I'm wrong because I recently extended him through 2018 in my dynasty league, but I just don't think Freeman will ever be a fantasy superstar.

The Market Report: Catchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

As I mentioned in my analysis of Round One last week, this week begins our  look at how the market values players at each position. I've opted to use ADP values from Couch Managers, as the mock draft site has more data than Mock Draft Central as of now in the offseason.

As I'll do each week, I've placed players with similar ADPs in tiers to give an idea as to which catchers are considered roughly equal in value in the fantasy marketplace. I'll then identify a few players whom I consider to be undervalued or overvalued. With that out of the way, let's examine the market for catchers entering 2014. ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Buster Posey (38)

2. Carlos Santana (42)

Tier Two

3. Yadier Molina (67)

4. Wilin Rosario (74)

5. Joe Mauer (76)

Tier Three

6. Jonathan Lucroy (90)

7. Brian McCann (98)

8. Salvador Perez (104)

9. Matt Wieters (110)

Tier Four

10. Jason Castro (130)

11. Wilson Ramos (140)

12. Evan Gattis (151)

13. Yan Gomes (155)

Tier Five

14. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (197)

15. A.J. Pierzynski (198)

16. Miguel Montero (207)


Brian McCann (ADP 98)

It feels like McCann has been around forever, but he'll actually be just 30 next season. At a position that has lacked much punch for years now, the new Yankees backstop has been a consistent source of power, hitting at least 20 HR in seven of his eight full seasons. It seems like the fantasy community has given McCann a slight boost in value with the move from a neutral park for left-handed HR to one of the friendliest; however, I don't think fantasy experts fully appreciate the extent to which he'll benefit from his new hitting environment. As a dead pull hitter, McCann and the new Yankee Stdadium are perfect for one another. Sure, he's no spring chicken, but he finished right behind Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in average flyball distance this past season. With Joe Mauer moving to first base, only Yadier Molina hit the ball hard more frequently than did McCann among catchers. While most may no longer view him as a positive contributor in the AVG category, he should back bounce from this past season, given the wide discrepancy between his .261 BABIP and his .296 xBABIP. Finally, given that the Yankees plan to use the DH to rest players, McCann could set a career high in at-bats with the move to the American League. Overall then, while most view McCann as a top-seven catcher, I'd rank him behind only Mauer and Posey.

Wilson Ramos (ADP 140)

It's still early in the offseason, so Ramos may no longer be undervalued come March. After all, other fantasy sites have also noted the potential of the Nationals catcher. Still, the power that Ramos displayed last season was nothing short of phenomenal. Only three players hit the ball farther than Ramos on averageCarlos Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt, and Pedro Alvarez. That's it. Two of them are first-round picks, and the other has a good chance to lead the NL in HR. Like McCann, Ramos too was subjected to quite a bit of bad luck in the batted ball department with a .270 BABIP compared to a .304 xBABIP. Indeed, only a handful of players underperformed their expected production more so than Ramos in 2013. The one caveat with Ramos is health, as he's missed significant portions of the past couple seasons with leg injuries. Barring injury, however, few catchers possess the power upside of this Nationals backstop now entering his prime.


Jarrod Saltalamacchia (ADP 197)

Salty enjoyed a breakout campaign last year, finishing as a top-ten catcher for the Red Sox. As a free agent, the backstop then surprised some by signing with the Marlins for three years this offseason. And with that news for me Salty became replacement level at catcher, assuming a two-catcher 12-team mixed league. One of the most underappreciated elements of this game is context. Depending on the circumstances, the same player can be placed in a different environment and witness a drastic change in value. We only have two years of data for Marlins Park at this point, so conclusions can only be drawn with a grain of salt. That being said, in moving from Boston to Miami, Salty enters new surroundings that will severely depress his fantasy value. From a power perspective, the tradeoff may actually not be too bad.

Ignoring park factors, though, let's just focus on the offenses. The Red Sox led all of baseball with 853 runs last year (by a wide margin, no less). On the other hand, the Marlins brought up the rear (again, by a wide margin) with a measly 513 runs. In short, say goodbye to the counting stats. Finally, a key contributor to Salty's value this past season was that he actually helped out fantasy owners with a .273 AVG. Needless to say, this is no True Talent .270 hitter; this is a .250 hitter... at best. As you might expect, luck was on his side in 2013, evident in the stark contrast between his .372 BABIP and .327 xBABIP. When picking your second catcher, you'd like to acquire someone with the potential to perform among the top ten at the position. I just don't see any upside in drafting Saltalamacchia; speculate elsewhere.

The Market Report: Less than Ideal First-Round Picks

Last night I presented the players I consider to be ideal first-round targets. Once again, I search for durable, consistent performers and prioritize floor over ceiling. After the obvious top two of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, the four other players I'm targeting in Round One are Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Jones, and Robinson Cano.

While my top six all met the criteria I look for in a first round pick, each player in this next group falls short for one reason or another. Having said that, it's not as if a fantasy owner can simply pass on making a selection in Round One; you have to pick someone. While I'd rather not choose to build the foundation of my roster around one of these players, at some point the potential reward outweighs the inherent risk. Each of these hitters is certainly capable of outperforming their current ADP. Still, I'm a firm believer in the probabilistic concept of value, and there are many outcomes in which each player in this next tier falls well short of their current pricetags. Let's continue with the rankings...

Players Who Worry Me

7. Carlos Gonzalez

8. Paul Goldschmidt

9. Chris Davis

In many ways CarGo does everything you could ever ask of a fantasy player. He can run; he can hit; he can hit for power. No, seriously, I mean he can really hit a baseball. In fact, no player hit the ball farther on average last season. Moreover, only a few players hit the ball hard more frequently. Oh yeah, and he gets to play in the most favorable hitting environment in the game, helping to boost his counting statistics. In short, when he's on the field, CarGo is the closest thing we have in this game to Mike Trout. But therein lies the problem: CarGo just can't seem to stay on the field. He's averaged just 124 games over the past three years, although he managed to go 20 / 20 each season in spite of the missed time. More so than any other player then, CarGo is the ultimate wild card in the first round with his current ADP of 11. Aside from Trout and Cabrera, for my money no player is more likely to finish as the top fantasy performer in 2014; after all, let's not forget that it was CarGo who was the #1 player before he injured his finger last year. For some reason, though, the superstar outfielder opted against surgery this offseason. I know he felt good after swinging a bat, but it just seems to be one thing or another with CarGo. Once again, this may be picky on my part, but I'm just not comfortable drafting a player if I don't trust him to stay healthy. While the projections might say otherwise, I just can't pull the trigger on CarGo before the aforementioned safer options.

Just behind CarGo in average flyball distance last season was Paul Goldschmidt. Like CarGo, here's a player who packs the statline for a fantasy owner. I actually think Goldy is for real, but the problem is he's only performed at this elite level once. I'd like to yet again cite the great research over at BaseballHQ on the first round. Over the past ten years, only 14% of players who finished in the top 15 for the first time were able to repeat in the top 15 the following season. Nothing in Goldschmidt's breakout looks flukey from a statistical perspective, but we have to play the percentages in this game. If you think he's the exception to the rule, then more power to you. Just realize that you're betting against history. In my opinion, it's premature for Goldschmidt to already be the consensus choice at third overall. A top-five pick shouldn't be spent on someone who's only done it once. 

On that note, Chris Davis was clearly the fantasy MVP of the 2013 season. Even if the player rater you use didn't have him as the top player overall, nobody was more profitable when comparing production to investment. I'm on record in that I think he's mostly for real. The power is undeniable, and the projections agree this is your best bet to lead baseball in home runs in 2014. Still, I can't get over one potentially fatal flaw to his Rotisserie game. I've pointed out that it all starts with consistency and health when making a selection in Round One. Well, when it comes to hitters, there's one more skill I desire in my first round picks. To paraphrase fantasy god Ron Shandler, nothing happens until a hitter puts the ball in play. As good as he was last year, Davis still struck out at the the seventh highest rate in the game. As any scout can vouch, the power tool can only be useful if it comes with some competency in the hit tool. Make no mistake: Davis improved as a hitter last season, making significant strides in plate discipline. Still, when a player makes contact less frequently, the range of possible outcomes for his seasonal output widens, as the denominator of balls in play declines. I hope I'm wrong because I own him in a pair of keeper leagues, but Davis does worry me a tad entering 2014. 

Ideal Second-Round Picks

10. Edwin Encarnacion

11. Adrian Beltre

12. Joey Votto

As I mentioned last week, there are three players currently going in the top 12 whom I don't view as worthy of the first round, so it follows that there must also be three players going outside the top 12 whom I'd take in Round One. Let me preface this by saying that I'd much prefer to draft each of these hitters in the second round. If push came to shove, though, I'd be willing to draft any of them at the back end of the first round, assuming all players I've ranked ahead of them were already taken.

Let's start with perhaps my greatest Man Crush entering the 2014 season, Edwin Encarnacion. Based on other rankings I've seen for 2014, placing Edwin 10th overall may be rather aggressive. I make an effort to be agnostic in playing this game and focus solely on the numbers. When I remove the names of players and judge them stritly by their statistical profiles, though, I'm left wondering why Edwin isn't already considered a fantasy superstar. Over the past two years, only two hitters have more HR than Encarnacion: Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. That's it. Now what if I told you that during the same timespan, it's actually Edwin who's posted the highest walk rate and lowest strikeout rate of that trio. Granted, I'm not here to tell you that Edwin is Miggy's equal when it comes to hitting a baseball. As an extreme flyball hitter, Encarnacion will never post a higher AVG than Cabrera. However, when it comes to making hard contact, this duo is in the same stratosphere. In addition, there's evidence to suggest that Encarnacion is capable of hitting .300; after all, when comparing his .247 BABIP to his .296 xBABIP, few players were subjected to as much misfortune by the Luck Dragons last year. It's worth pointing out that he does come with some risk, as he underwent wrist surgery in September. Fortunately for fantasy owners, that risk is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he won't cost a first round pick, as his current ADP lies toward the back end of the second round. He's particularly a prime target in Yahoo leagues, where he'll even be eligible at 3B, adding positional flexibility. OK, I'll stop salavating at Edwin's prospects for 2014...

Next in my rankings comes another player whose name seldom comes up in any discussion of candidates for the first round, Adrian Beltre. Since leaving Seattle, Beltre has been nothing short of a fantasy star. In fact, he's averaged 32 HR and 100 RBI while hitting .314. In today's offensive environment that makes the stud third baseman incredibly valuable, even if he fails to contribute any SB. He ranked seventh in hard contact this past season, so he can still really hit despite entering his age-35 season. The only players with a higher average finish on the ESPN Player Rater over the past two years are the same players I've ranked as my top five overall. Perhaps Beltre isn't considered worthy of the first round because he's so consistent it's almost boring. Well, that's precisely the type of player I target in the early rounds. Once again, the good thing is he should be available in the middle of the second round based on his current ADP. The thought of starting a team with Cano and Beltre seems just about perfect to me.

Closing out my top 12 is a player whose fantasy value seems to have declined through no fault of his own, Joey Votto. From a real baseball perspective, few would argue against the notion that Votto is one of the top hitters in all of baseball. While fantasy worth doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with the value of a player in real baseball, Votto has also been viewed as a fantasy stud for several years now. In fact, he's been a first round pick for each of the previous three seasons. In 2013 the skilled batsman put together yet another .400+ OBP with plus contributions in AVG, HR, and R. Even so, the fantasy community seems to value him around 20th overall. The culprit seems to be the low total of 73 RBI, as Votto often hit behind sub-.300 OBP hitters like Zack Cozart in the two-hole. While he probably won't be able to post 100 RBI, I think the fact that he had only 73 RBI was mostly an aberration. Hitters of this caliber simply shouldn't last until the back end of the second round. If I draft Joey Votto, I'm paying for the consistently high AVG with good power to boot. Competing in the counting categories is at least in part a result of simply accruing at-bats, and I'm of the mindset that I can make up those 20 RBI by simply outworking most of my opponents.

So there you have it, my top 12 for 2014. With the first round out of the way, we'll begin to search for values at each position, starting next week with catchers.

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