It's Feb 6th, and I just completed my first mock draft of the year. Just one week ago, I finished my first iteration of my projections and rankings, and was happy to test them out right away.
For those that want to get straight to the point, you can see the full board here.
Overall, I was very happy with my team. I had the number 2 pick overall, and only a few times missed a guy I was targeting. Here is my team by round:
Overall 2 - Pick 1.2 - Jose Altuve
Overall 23 - Pick 2.11 - Gary Sanchez
Overall 26 - Pick 3.2 - Stephen Strasburg
Overall 47 - Pick 4.11 - Alex Bregman
Overall 50 - Pick 5.2 - Kenley Jansen
Overall 71 - Pick 6.11 - Eric Hosmer
Overall 74 - Pick 7.2 - Yu Darvish
Overall 95 - Pick 8.11 - DJ LeMahieu
Overall 98 - Pick 9.2 - Rafael Devers
Overall 119 - Pick 10.11 - Roberto Osuna
Overall 122 - Pick 11.2 - Gregory Polanco
Overall 143 - Pick 12.11 - Kyle Hendricks
Overall 146 - Pick 13.2 - Michael Fulmer
Overall 167 - Pick 14.11 - Odubel Herrera
Overall 170 - Pick 15.2 - Kevin Kiermaier
Overall 191 - Pick 16.11 - Justin Bour
Overall 194 - Pick 17.2 - Jameson Taillon
Overall 215 - Pick 18.11 - Gio Gonzalez
Overall 218 - Pick 19.2 - Willie Calhoun
Overall 239 - Pick 20.11 - Brandon Morrow
Overall 242 - Pick 21.2 - Jorge Polanco
Overall 263 - Pick 22.11 - Corey Dickerson
Overall 266 - Pick 23.2 - Austin Hedges
Overall 287 - Pick 24.11 - Brandon Belt
Overall 290 - Pick 25.2 - Jake Odorizzi
Overall 311 - Pick 26.11 - Yasmany Tomas
Overall 314 - Pick 27.2 - Tim Beckham
Overall 335 - Pick 28.11 - Scott Schebler
Collectively, I think I ended up with a team that will provide above average power and speed, along with an elite average. From a pitching perspective, I should be very strong in the ratio categories as well as saves. If this was a real draft, I'd have confidence that this team could compete to win.
Some guys that I was targeting but just missed were Eddie Rosario, Paxton, and Mazara. I made due without them, but would have felt even better with them.
Thanks to Howard Bender as always for coordinating and RealTime Fantasy Sports for hosting.
Finally, one feature that I enjoy is the integration between RealTime Fanrasy Sports and the Fantasy Pros league analyzer. Here are the results for this mock, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.
Howard Bender (aka. Mock Draft Army) and the guys over at Fantrax were kind enough to invite me to participate in another mock draft in prep for the 2017 season. There was a lot of talent in the room including: Mastersball's Lawr Michaels, Fantasy Alarm's Colby Conway, and Fantasy Alarm / Big Guy Fantasy Sports's Nate Miller. It was the first serious mock draft of 2017 for me and the results were promising.
It was a relatively standard format: 25 round, 1 catcher league. I was drafting from the 7th slot and ended up with a team that looked like this:
Click here for a complete roster grid of the results of the draft.
Now, i'm not going to go into every pick in great detail, however I will hit on a few picks that I felt were impactful.
5th Round - Ryan Braun. I was very close to taking him in the 4th. a few pitchers went off the board though, and i felt like if I missed Cueto, then i'd be too far behind in pitching... so i passed on Braun. I was very happy to see he fell another round.
10th round - Eric Hosmer. Hosmer, to me, is a guy that doesn't get a lot of love. He's a first baseman that doesn't have a ton of power like many others, and gets overlooked because of that. Over the last 2 seasons though, his slash line is strong enough from a fantasy perspective to provide significant value; and I expect the same from him in 2017.
18th Round - Robbie Ray. Getting a pitcher with 200k upside anywhere is a plus, but even better when it's in the later rounds. A lot of people expect Ray to take a step forward this season and 18th round value felt like a steal at the time.
Some other picks in the draft that were not mine, but that I found interesting:
2nd round, 13th overall pick - Noah Syndergaard. I love Thor, but this is as early as I've seen him go. I understand his stock is on the rise, but I don't think I could take him this early, especially before Scherzer and Bumgarner.
6th round, 65th overall pick - David Dahl. Dahl has a really nice 63 games last year and has upside for sure in Colorado, but I don't know if I could have taken him that early especially considering some other outfield options still on the board.
Andrew Miller in the 11th round, and Cody Allen in the 13th. Saves aren't everything, but in a roto league with limited pitching slots, they are meaningful. With the announcement that Allen will be the Indians closer, i found it interesting that he went 2 rounds later than his setup man Andrew Miller. Don't get me wrong, Miller is unhittable at times, but will likely have much more real life value than fantasy value for a standard scoring league.
Looking back, I'd say the pick I was least happy with was Melancon. Not because I don't like him or the value... I do, but I was expecting a run on closers to happen, and it just didn't. I could have had Schwarber who I was also debating on taking and looking back, would have liked much better. I was also able to get Kimbrel 2 rounds later which would have been sufficient as my first closer.
All together, I was pleased with the team. With this draft now in the books, I'm already looking forward to the next one. Stay tuned for more mocks and analysis.
As we approach Fantasy Baseball Draft month, I wanted to re-publish an article that I post annually. While some disagree with this strategy, it's one that i'm passionate about, and one that has lead me to a number of successful seasons.
One common reoccurring suggestion I’ve heard from many experts in the fantasy baseball community is “wait on closers” or “don’t pay for closers”. "You can always get saves late in drafts", or "guys lose their job as the months pass and there are plenty of saves to be claimed off the waiver wire". While all of these statements may be true in some cases, I’m going to give you an argument why you should draft closers often, early, and plenty of them.
Disclaimer: Depending on the format of your league(s) and scoring system, this strategy may be more or less beneficial, but I have seen this strategy be very successful across a variety of formats. For this discussion I will focus on a common format: 12 team 5x5 standard roto league. Not that this is the only format where this strategy works, however it is one that many people reading this article should be able to relate to.
Now, here's why you should go after the elite closers and relievers:
Their actual statistical impact is under-appreciated.
The first thing I recommend: Stop thinking of closers as a 1 category investment. Most people equate closers with saves and it’s simply not the case. Most closers, especially the elite ones contribute in all 5 standard pitching categories. The elite ones contribute in saves, but also in ERA, WHIP and K's more than they receive credit for. Yes, they pitch less innings than a starter would, but in my next example I will show how impactful two or three elite closers can be together.
I’m going to take one of my teams from a few years ago as an example. I drafted three closers in the 7th, 9th, and 12th rounds respectively. Their stat line read like this for that season year:
Looking back you could argue that these combined stats were those of a Cy Young candidate; plus an extra 108 saves. Some would also say I was fortunate that all three closers worked out so well for me. Later in this article I'll discuss why this isn't so much luck. Now, I needed to spend 3 mid-round picks for these stats, but let's look at the final roto standings for that season:
Had I completely ignored this team and made no in season moves or roster adjustments, I would have accumulated enough saves to finish with 9 points in that category. I understand that may not seem like a lot, but with in-season moves and waiver wire pickups, this strategy can easily get you close to the top spot. In addition to the saves, let's not forget the 201K's, 9 wins, and amazing ERA and WHIP. It is a bit difficult to quantify the impact of the wins and strikeouts in this example, but I look at them as a bonus to whatever my starters accumulate. When drafting I really don't worry too much about wins because they are so volatile, especially for relievers. Closer should accumulate at least a couple and help you in the final standings.
If we turn the focus to the elite ERA and WHIP we can more easily see the impact. In this league as an example, an average team threw 1400 IP. For my team, a little over 200 IP came from these 3 closers (close to 15% of my IP). If my starters put up an ERA of 3.60 for the remaining 1200 IP, my closers would have lowered my team's ERA for the year down to 3.45. This may not seem like a lot; however this would have moved the needle for my team 3 standings points in the ERA category. The same goes for WHIP, had my starters posted a WHIP of 1.20 for their 1200 IP, my 3 closers would have lowered it to 1.17 gaining me an additional 4 points. Again, I can't as easily quantify with certainty the K's or wins, but for the sake of argument I'm going to say they gained me 2 more points in the standings which I believe is conservative yet realistic. Accumulate these points, and my 3 closers alone are responsible for 19-20 gained points in my roto league final standings. That is significant value, and completely overlooked by many. I understand not every league will work our exactly the same way. It has worked out for me in a similar way many times and at times, I've seen the ERA and WHIP points swing even more than in this example.
I've mentioned that all leagues have varied rules and are unique. Many leagues institute a Games Started (GS) or an Innings Pitched (IP) limit to prevent players from pitching countless starters each day and dominating the wins and strikeouts categories by streaming. If your league uses a GS limit, closers/relievers don’t factor into that limit and are extremely important. You can use as many as you like, and their stats only add to your team’s categories while not impacting your GS limit. Use this to your advantage.
Now, it’s not only closers that have great value and often get under-valued, other relievers that don’t accumulate saves can also provide a positive impact for your team. Here are three setup guys from the same season mentioned in my last example. While they didn’t accumulate many saves, they still could have been a tremendous value for someone’s team:
If a team owned these three players for most of the season, they essentially would have had the equivalent of a Cy Young caliber starter as well. The 300 k’s would be a great boost to your team’s total and an ERA of 1.58 and a WHIP of 1.02 for a combined 242 innings would lower any team’s respective stats. Also, these players were quite available in most leagues. Because they didn’t project to accumulate a lot of wins or saves, these 'non-closer' relievers are often overlooked year to year and can be drafted in the very last rounds or even claimed off of waivers.
Let’s now consider the other league format I mentioned earlier: Innings Pitched limit. Even if your league uses an IP limit, the value of having these elite relievers is significant. With IP limit leagues you need to get the most value of each inning accumulated. You might sacrifice somewhat on your wins total by using these types of players (though not necessarily as relievers do get some random wins), you are going to gain dramatically when it comes to K’s, ERA, and WHIP. Elite relievers generally have elite K/9 rates, as well as low ERA and WHIP, which provide a lot of value in IP limit leagues. In general, fantasy baseball players neglect the most non-closer relievers (especially if your league doesn’t count holds as a category), but after looking at the above numbers, it is very tough to ignore the value.
These examples show how a solid collection of closers can impact your team's overall statistics. I'll now move onto my next argument for drafting elite closers:
Investing early promotes job security.
It's an awful feeling when one of your players goes down to an injury or loses his job. It's especially painful when it's a closer and you have no way to get additional saves. Unless you already have his replacement on your team, you'll likely lose out on a good chunk of saves going forward. While there is a lot of turnover at the closer position, there isn't usually a lot of turnover with the elite closers. I also believe there is a science in predicting which closers are at the highest/lowest risk for keeping and losing their jobs. I wrote a piece here discussing many variables other than skills that impact a closers job security.
To summarize that article, by doing research about all 30 projected closers, you're giving yourself the best chance to draft elite closers that will keep their jobs all season. Looking at my previous example, someone may argue that I was very lucky that the three closers I drafted all worked out well for me. There may be some truth to that, however I strongly believe there is significantly less risk for closer busts when you're evaluating and targeting the elite ones properly.
There are only 30 closers. When one hits waivers, they can be tough to claim.
If for some reason you didn't end up with the closers you wanted during the draft, you still have the ability to pick them up throughout the year. While the elite closers tend to keep their jobs, there will likely be 10-15 closers that change jobs at some point during the season. Some would say this reinforces the argument to punt saves during the draft and just wait to pick them up later. Not so fast... this is not as simple as it sounds for a couple of reasons:
I've covered many reasons why you should focus on getting elite closers. Now, let's consider some of the common counter-points:
You pass up too much talent in the middle rounds if you draft closers:
Another argument I’ve seen is the investment during the draft for these elite relievers is too great. If I’m using picks in rounds 7-12 to get 3 closers for example, I’m missing out on other, potentially great players. Anyone that has played fantasy baseball for a while should understand that almost any draft pick can be a bust. That said, I feel the elite closer picks bust far less than any other picks. Elite closers have insane skill-sets and ratios that are unmatched by other pitchers in the game.
If I decided to wait on closers and did a fantastic job drafting in rounds 7-12, maybe it's possible that I would have drafted a better overall team. But the security that the elite closers provide coupled with my confidence to draft well in the later rounds gives me enough assurance in my strategy.
History has also proven you can find values later in drafts. If you have prepped well and have done research heading into your draft, your picks in the middle to later rounds should be valuable enough to keep your team competitive in all of the hitting categories. Granted I might not be as good as the other teams that punted saves, but I don't need to be. I don't need to win every category, I just need to stay competitive. Getting the elite closers puts me in a position to win saves as well as finish very high in ERA, WHIP, and K's. I'm comfortable taking my chances with my later round picks to stay competitive batting.
You don't need to invest in elite closers. You can still draft closers, just later:
This is a fair point to an extent, but you lose a too much value in many cases. The elite closers that go off the board early, go early for a number of reasons: elite skills, proven track record, job security, potential for saves, etc. If you're getting 3 closers but they are all in the bottom 1/3 of all ranked closers, there is a big drop-off in skill and job security. This tier of closers I do consider more of a 1 stat contributor and often they can be a detriment to your ERA and WHIP as opposed to a positive. They are also the most likely candidates to lose the job or be part of a time share. Can you catch lightning in a bottle and get one that's an over-performer? Yes, these types of guys break out every year as well, but that's more the anomaly as opposed to the rule.
I know that some would argue the points that I’ve made, and there is some evidence showing that you can punt saves and still be very successful in certain formats, but I will respectfully disagree. Depending on the format of your league, this might not be the article for you. I've been drafting for 10+ years using this strategy and it has consistently led me to successful seasons.
Investing in relievers is something you can do where you may not necessarily see the results in your daily stat card, but trust me, at the end of a season when you’re atop the standings, you'll have a greater appreciation for the strategy.
For everyone that enjoys podcasts, you should check out Big Guy Fantasy Sports. I came across them a few weeks ago and they do a great job.
Nate Miller was kind enough to have me on this week along with ESPN's Tristan Cockcroft and Fantasy Alarm's Jon Impemba. They have many more excellent guests along with some great topics to get ready for the fantasy baseball season.
Here's is a link to this week's episode.
Last week, I was invited to participate in a Mock Draft Army early season mock draft hosted by Howard Bender and the folks over at Fantrax. It was an interesting draft to say the least. I wasn't nearly as prepared as I would liked to have been, however was able to field what I felt was a solid roster.
It's far to early to give an extensive analysis, however I will share the results of the draft here. Over the next few weeks, I'll likely do many more of these and give much more analysis. For today though, simply enjoy the grid.
Projections and rankings coming soon. Stay tuned!
While the NFL season progresses deeper into the playoffs (go Pats!), for me, fantasy baseball prep in full swing. I've had a busy off season redesigning spreadsheets I use to create my projections and rankings (see sample above). Using this, I expect to be able to provide even better, more accurate projections and auction value calculations.
Tentatively, I expect to have my first iteration of projections published by February 1st, continual weekly updates will follow. please continue to check in and feel free to leave any comments or questions.
It's so easy to forget something like bold predictions, which at this point in the season feels like they were made eons ago. That said, I try to be accountable wherever possible and recently took a look back to my preseason picks. Let's see how I've have fared:
1. Josh Reddick finishes as a top 20 fantasy outfielder. I think this one really could have come through had he not missed a month with a broken thumb. Before hitting the DL he was on pace for a 20/20 fantasy season. He has no chance to make this prediction now, but fantasy owners should still count on him to be a productive asset the rest of the year.
2. Dallas Keuchel finishes top 3 in AL Cy Young voting. By far my worst prediction. Even with a couple recent outings that have shown hope, Keuchel has been arguably one of the worst draft day busts in 2016.
3. Cole Hamels will disappoint everyone that drafts him. I'm a little closer with this one. Coming into the season Hamels was the 26th pitcher being taken based upon ADP. He's currently sitting around the 35th SP overall, however has been trending in the wrong direction recently. His bloated 9-2 record is a product of early season success and great run support. His 1.33 WHIP is more of a true indicator of how he's pitched. I'll still bank that he continues to decline and would be a sell-high candidate for me.
4. Stephen Strasburg will lead the NL in strikeouts. He's currently sitting 5th on the NL list for K's leaders. While it's not out of the realm that he leads the league as predicted, it's highly unlikely.. Scherzer is on a very impressive pace and Kershaw would have destroyed Strasburg had he not hit the DL. Close but no cigar for this one.
5. Aroldis Chapman fails to exceed 20 saves. Sitting at 17 saves at the all-star break, this one is also sure to fail. While his ERA is a bit higher in the AL than the NL, he's been excellent since returning from his suspension.
6. Kevin Pillar scores 100+ runs. Some would say that Pillar hasn't been good this year. Right now he's on pace to go 70/14/70/14/.265+ I'll take that from a 4th or 5th OF all day. That said, he's not going to come close to 100 runs scored. after losing the lead-off job for Toronto, this wasn't going to happen.
7. Corey Seager fails to reach 20 HR's, 6 SB's, and bats under .265. As of today Seager is batting .297 with 17 HR's and 1 SB. I have a shot at the steals still right? This guy has been just about what everyone had hoped for. He will blow this prediction out of the water.
8. Starling Marte posts 20 HR's, 30 SB's, and finishes top 5 in NL MVP voting. Finally a prediction that has some hope! He would need to turn things on to reach 20 HR's (only sitting at 6), however he has his 30 steals already and s batting an impressive .316. If this pace continues, he could be in the argument for top 5 MVP.
9. Jonathan Papelbon leads the NL in saves. Another prediction thwarted by injury. Paps has 19 saves and has pitched well all year, however he missed 3+ weeks due to injuries. he would have to go on a heck of a streak to lead the NL, but has been a solid saves option regardless.
Result: Fail (but not totally)
10. Carlos Rodon is utterly terrible in 2016. Thank you Carlos Rodon for my only solid win! He has been utterly terrible. His 4.50 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP is providing negative value to anyone that it desperate enough to still have him on their rosters. His ownership on most leagues is below 20% and I'd argue there is no reason to hold him at all.
Bold predictions are fun however don't always pan out. In my case, they almost didn't pan out all together. I hit a couple and was close on a few more, but overall, this probably wasn't my best showing. Hopefully nest year I can be a bit more accurate, but I'm sure will have fun regardless.
All-star voting is underway as we approach the mid-point of the 2016 season, and it's the perfect time to reflect and evaluate who the studs of the year have been. I understand this is somewhat subjective, but I don't feel there aren't too many difficult decisions this year. When necessary, honorable mention will be given to those players that are deserving.
Catcher: Salvador Perez - Not that he's been elite, but just about everyone else in the AL has been terrible at catcher.
First Base: Miguel Cabrera - One of the toughest decisions i have to make. Honorable mention to Edwin Encarnacion and Eric Hosmer; an argument can be made for all three, but Cabrera's overall production across 4 categories tipped the scale for me.
Second base: Jose Altuve - Arguably the fantasy MVP. Ian Kinsler is is also having a great first half, but not on the same level as Altuve.
Third Base: Josh Donaldson - The reigning MVP has having a down year when compared to his previous years, but he is still mashing. Honorable mention to Eduardo Nunez.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts - Leading the league in hits and a strong 5-category producer. Kills me that I traded him for Chris Archer in a league before the season started (true story).
Outfield: Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Ian Desmond. Two of these three would have been pre-season picks, and then there is Desmond. All three are having great starts to 2016.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz - No contest.
Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale - He's has a few bumps in the road recently, but has been dominant compared to most other AL starters.
Relief Pitcher: Zach Britton - It's amazing how tough it is to make solid contact against the O's closer.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos - The NL catcher position is a bit closer than in the AL. Honorable mention to Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey, but Ramos has been a little better overall both in the power and average categories
First Base: Wil Myers - I can't believe it either, but the guy has been fantastic. Honorable mention to Paul Goldschmidt who is also having a great year, just not as great as Myers.
Second base: Daniel Murphy - He really picked up in 2016 where he left off in the 2015 post-season. Not necessarily with the power, but his overall production has been outstanding.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado - Another great year from the Rockies slugger. While he provides no speed, he's close to leading the other four other standard categories in the NL.
Shortstop: Jonathan Villar - Another unexpected name on the list. While Villar doesn't give much power, his league leading SB production make him a fantasy stud in a year where it is tough to find speed.
Outfield: Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Marcell Ozuna. All three have produced at a very high level and above most fantasy owners expectations. Honorable mention to Melvin Upton Jr. who has quietly been a solid contributor across the board.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw - Someone please try to argue this one. It's almost a shame there are so many other great SP's in the NL that can't even get a mention because of Kershaw's historic season... almost
Relief Pitcher: Kenley Jansen - Only a couple blips on the radar for Jansen, but he has still been extremely effective closing out games.
It will be interesting to see how many of these players are named to their actual all-star rosters. Based upon their production thus far, all of them are deserving. I'm sure I've snubbed a few people, but it wouldn't be an all-star discussion if I didn't. Leave your thought in the comments who you think should be a fantasy all-star in 2016.
This next article is a partial excerpt from my book. At this point in the season, it seems like an appropriate article for so many reasons. Many questions I receive are about trades, and some are more difficult to answer than others. Not necessarily because they are difficult choices, but because they are terrible offers. In addition to helping fantasy owners make the right decisions with their trades, I also want to help people understand that there is a right and wrong approach to trading.
One of the most popular topics in any fantasy sport is trading. Most people love to trade. It gives owners the power to exercise their managerial intelligence in an attempt to improve their roster. At face value, trading seems very simple: teams agree to swap a player(s). If only it were that simple. I’ve learned over the years that trading in fantasy baseball is not a science, it is an art. It’s a delicate process that involves multiple team owner’s intelligence and emotions. When thinking about how to trade, I try to stick to these guidelines, and generally have had success:
I realize some of the above statements conflict with each other, and that is part of the art. Not every league and not every scenario is the same. Each person you may be negotiating with is unique but the over-arching idea should be consistent: do your diligence and make reasonable trade offers.
Trading can be one of the more emotional and psychological aspects of fantasy baseball. It’s very difficult to predict if an offer will or will not be accepted, or if another owner is even interested in trading. You should always monitor your team and position in the standings. You may need to trade to acquire players that could help you make a late season run at a championship. Finally, trading isn’t only beneficial for your team’s overall roster… it’s fun.
I'm very pleased to announce that in addition to my blog here, I am now also writing for RotoBaller.com. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and look forward to contributing to their MLB News Desk.
I'll still be posting articles here (neglected as it has been for the last couple of weeks), and appreciate everyone's support. I have a few articles brewing and should have one up this weekend along with another mid-next week.
Thanks again for sticking with me and more to come.