"I get juice when I let loose a little of my cleverness."
Alright, so here's how to dominate...
who needs intros?
Troy Tulowitzki is the #1 Fantasy Player Available: Besides him just being a beast, Tulo plays at a position where value starts to go down very quickly save one or two sleepers (which I'll totally be getting to in a bit). Batting in Colorado will never go out of style...that is the hooded sweatshirt of baseball if you will (when will hoodies not be a good idea...retractable covering for your head!). And yes, this is probably biased because I don't particularly care for Miguel Cabrera's sudden position change to 3rd and Albert Pujols, who effectively LeBron'd St. Louis to go to Anaheim...that was kinda cold by Pujols. Actually, he kind of Manny'd them like when he basically turned down the same money from Cleveland that the Sox were offering. Plus, Ryan Braun? It's like I want to believe it because he's nasty, but...it's not like he was 100% innocent right? I mean test results like that in testosterone don't just happen right? So...I don't know (as you can tell, I let my heart get into this more than my head, but I do like really good players, so that can't hurt me too much...just no Yankees).
How To Pay For Saves And Not Pay For Saves At The Same Time:
Closers Who Are Valued Just Right or Are Perhaps A Little Undervalued That You're Going To Pay A Lot For:
Craig Kimbrel, ATL: Right now he is the #1 closer and he's going around the start of the 5th round. In auctions, he's going for around $21...actually, let's just try this...
Craig Kimbrel, ATL (50.0, $20.5...thanks Yahoo): So my thinking is that Kimbrel is most definitely #1 and projects to have the best season of all closers...am I saying in a snake draft I'm taking closers in the 5th round? Probably not unless Papelbon comes back to the Sox. In an auction draft though? Absolutely.
Jonathan Papelbon, PHI (68.0, $15): If Kimbrel does not get to the top of the list for closers, this guy will. Pap always pitched like he had a chip on his shoulder because the Sox would never lock him up to a long-term deal, and now that he has the deal, I feel like the chip will still be there to prove the Sox were wrong to let him walk, plus I'm under the impression Philly will be in line to win a few games this year, so the opportunities will be there.
Drew Storen, WSH (87.7, $13.1): I'm just going to go ahead and point out that I have team crushes on the Nationals and the Royals and all I want is like all of their players. Having said that, Storen proved he was elite last year, and will probably be in this part of the column for a while to come.
Jose Valverde, DET (108.8, $8.3): When I mentioned before about the "perhaps undervalued" guys, this was the guy I really had in mind. This is almost astonishing low to me, especially his auction value. He's in the discussion for best closer in the game, yet is $12 cheaper than Kimbrel?
Closers That Are Either Unproven, Undervalued, or Are Being Completely Slept On:
Jordan Walden, LAA (138.7, $7.2): I can't even start to tell you how low this is for Walden. I was just checking Closer Watch on Hardball Times and it said Walden's hold on the closer spot is shaky? Are you serious? I get that he had ten blown saves, but have you seen his stuff? I don't want him showing up in the 9th of a Sox game anytime soon.
Carlos Marmol, CHC (140.1, $6.4): This is even crazier. Like Valverde, Marmol has to be in the discussion for the best closer in all of baseball right now, so for him to be close to the 10th or 11th closer off the board is amazing.
Kenley Jansen, LAD (166.6, $3.2): I'm kind of cheating here, because Jansen is technically the 8th inning man to Javy Guerra, but it says something when the set up guy is getting picked higher (166.6 vs. 199.9) and is going for higher in auctions ($3.2 vs. $2.3) than the closer. Worst case scenario: He's the NL version of Daniel Bard as a set-up guy...not bad.
Brandon League, SEA (167.8, $4.1): This guy just looks like a closer. He throws gas, and has a lock on his spot in Seattle. He is projecting to get as many saves as Papelbon and Valverde.
Jim Johnson, BAL (217.1, $1.5): I'm assuming this is because he's on a really bad team that his value is under two bucks. Look, if you're at least 75-80% sure a guy will be a closer for the entire season, he should be worth five bucks strictly on principle.
If You Do An Auction Draft, Load Up On Pitching: I thoroughly enjoy auction drafts because you have the ability to assemble "dream teams" that you would in no way have any chance of forming in snake drafts, like getting Pedey, Gonzo, and Jacoby on one team (which I've successfully done twice), but upon further examination, the dream team you nay want to be after may consist of five aces and four lights out closers.
The cost of the top 10 hitters combined: $464.1
The cost of the top 10 pitchers combined: $333.2
While it's probably going to be impossible to get either of those two scenarios on your team, you can see that you save a whole bunch of money going after the best pitchers rather than best hitters. Here's a team I made using the approximate retail prices from Yahoo:
P Justin Verlander, $39.1
P Clayton Kershaw, $37.8
P Jered Weaver, $29.7
P Jon Lester, $24.1
P Craig Kimbrel, $20.5
P Ian Kennedy, $17.1
P Jonathan Papelbon, $16.9
P J.J. Putz, $10.6
P Jose Valverde, $9.3
BN Carlos Zambrano, $1.3
BN Brandon McCarthy, $1.3
BN Tim Stauffer, $1.0
Pitching Budget: $209.7
C Wilson Ramos, $1.5
1B Gaby Sanchez, $1.8
2B Jason Kipnis, $2.4
3B Mike Moustakas, $3
SS J.J. Hardy, $6.5
1B/3B Eric Hosmer, $16.2
2B/SS Ryan Roberts, $2.5
OF Yoenis Cespedes, $4.6
OF Austin Jackson, $1.5
OF Jose Tabata, $1.4
OF Michael Brantley, $1.3
OF Brandon Belt, $1.2
UTIL Jemile Weeks, $4.8
BN Mike Carp (1B/OF), $1.1
Hitting Budget: $48.6
Total: $258.30 out of $260
So as you can probably see, in drafting nine of the top 20 pitchers, you should be in good shape to not only dominate the wins and K's, but also having four of the top closers in the fold to get you on top of the SV, ERA, WHIP categories as well. The offense is not made of top tier guys outside of perhaps Hosmer, because, well, you definitely want to have someone you're almost completely positive will have a big year, which is my thoughts on Hosmer's potential (and I don't want to say any more and jinx it...my apologies to Steve Slaton, Ryan Mathews, Josh Freeman and Pedro Alvarez for doing that). I may have wanted to enlist some more speed, but even still, you're going to be at least middle of the pack with this basic collection of $5 or less sleepers I have.
Sleepers By Position:
- J.P. Arencibia, TOR (175.2, $3.4): He had major power surges last year, which makes me kind of curious as to why he's so far down. He strikes out a lot, but he still had 23 homers in 129 games in his first full season in the bigs. Him and Lawrie look like potential foundations of the future in Toronto.
- Wilson Ramos, WSH (214.0, $1.5): Another guy entering his second full season with his power numbers projected to be slightly less than Arencibia but with a better average. He's the poor man's Matt Wieters. Also, how messed is it that you have to consider how much getting kidnapped will have an effect on his career?
- Ryan Howard, PHI (88.0, $14.3): Howard makes the sleep column strictly based on the bargain you're getting for 2/3 a season from him (especially in auctions, where normally, he is a mid $30 player). The protective boot, not starting on Opening Day thing doesn't exactly settle completely well with me, but people have injuries, sometimes they come back like nothing happened, and sometimes it gets pushed, which normally doesn't end up well. I think the Phils can still have a potent offense with John Mayberry and Ty Wigginton filling in. Also, he makes way too much money for either of those two to take too many starting reps from him once he's back.
- Paul Goldschmidt, ARZ (127.0, $8.5): Perhaps an even bigger bargain here considering the power he's being projected out as (Bill James is going 32HR, 99RBI, and most others have him at least in the mid 20's in homers, 80+ in RBI).
- Freddie Freeman, ATL (142.0, $6.5): I don't think enough is being made about how well Freeman did in his first full season as a starter (played in 157 games, .281-21-76, that's impressive).
- Mike Trumbo, LAA (191.8, $3.1)/Kendrys Morales, LAA (194.8, $3.2): Two guys giving you the exact same thing from the exact same position...it's tough to really separate the two, so for now, you might as well take your pick as both will get reps from first and DH, with Trumbo possibly gaining 3B eligibility as the season progresses.
- Gaby Sanchez, MIA (230.6, $1.5): Two consecutive solid seasons and now they have Reyes table-setting at the top of the lineup...what's not to like?
- Mitch Moreland, TEX (244.5, $1.3): Another guy who will have a solid season which you can base on his rookie campaign last year, and playing in the park and lineup that he plays in.
- Brandon Belt, SF (245.2, $1.2): Belt could be a potential game-changer. He showed his power last year, a season that started in AAA, went to the majors, saw a DL stint with a fractured wrist, back to AAA, then winding up in San Fran by the end of the year. His power projects higher than Sanchez and Moreland and is on or clear of Goldschmidt's power. Also, Belt is healthy and is eligible at both first and outfield, meaning he will have all the opportunities to stay in the bigs and make a big impact this season. This is super-low for a guy who could potentially have close to 30 homers this season.
- Mike Carp, SEA (259.8, $1.1): Plain and simply, the AL version of Brandon Belt. Big lefty who is eligible at first and the OF. Carp had 12 homers in under a half a season last year.
- Jemile Weeks, OAK (158.3, $4.8): By the end of this season, he may get on the same level as his brother Rickie. Great speed potential (upwards of 30 SBs) and a tremendous contact rate keeping his average right around .300 where it was in the minors and in his first action last year.
- Jason Kipnis, CLE (206.6, $2.4): Kipnis has some exciting potential and a 20/20 season is certainly within the realm.
- Danny Espinosa, WSH (207.4, $2.2): He's not going to do you a ton of favors in terms of batting average, but consider that he was close to a 20/20 season in his rookie season, and potentially reaching the 25/25 level this season.
- Ryan Roberts, ARZ (212.2, $2.5): Roberts has the rare "2B/3B" eligibility (I think Casey McGahee was the last one I've seen that is eligible at both). Roberts is projected to repeat his performance from last year, which is both nice (because he was a near 20/20) and semi-discouraging at the same time (his potential is capped after his rookie season?).
- Allen Craig, STL (228.9, $1.7): He is coming off knee surgery, but should be in line to return to action either on Opening Day or close to it. Good guy to take a chance on this low coming off of a great postseason and eligible to play in the outfield as well.
- Martin Prado, ATL (152.2, $4.6): Prado was an all-star last season, has OF eligibility, and hits very well for average (has a very low strikeout rate as well).
- Mike Moustakas, KC (188.3, $2.9): His numbers may have not broken glass like they were expected to, but Moose still has a long way to go until the book is fully written on him. There's a very real possibility he has a 20-80 season in his first full year.
- Pedro Alvarez, PIT (240.5, $1.4): I'm still not giving up on Alvarez even though he kinda-sorta tanked last year after getting injured very early in the season. He's still got raw power, and has had a good spring. Again, you're looking at a guy who may be close to the last few picks in your draft, so a good gamble here.
- Dee Gordon, LAD (127.2, $9.2): While Gordon is close to the top-10 in most SS ranks, I still believe he is a sleeper based on the fact that he could steal 50-60 bases this year and hit close to .280 or .290, so this is probably the last draft where you'll be able to get him in the 100s.
- J.J. Hardy, BAL (130.5, $7.6): Hardy is in the rarest of breeds right now. A shortstop with proven 30+ homer ability. If you can get speed somewhere else, drafting Hardy will give you a power boost from a position known to be lacking homers.
- Zack Cosart, CIN (234.8, $1.5): Some projectors are feeling that Cosart, once healthy and fully implanted in the Reds' lineup, could break into the "elite" category either this year or next year. Tremendous value.
- Tyler Pastornicky, ATL (237.4, $1.6): There has been no official word on who will be the starting SS this year for the Braves, but Pastornicky could be a very sneaky source for steals, with his full-year projections putting him around the 25-30 mark.
- Andre Ethier, LAD (134.6, $6.1...by the way I switched to ESPN's rankings...no offense Yahoo, but they have their auction and snake rankings on the same page and I'm kinda lazy like that): If Ken Griffey, Jr. and Luke Donald (#1 golfer in the world if you do not know who that is) have taught us anything, stick to guys that have a smooth stroke.
- Drew Stubbs, CIN (122.4, $7.5): 30/30 is not gonna go out of style anytime soon...who cares if he hits .250?
- Yoenis Cespedes, OAK (201.5, $2.1): There is a decent chance that you will not get the opportunity to draft him this low for the next five or so years, so with that, I'm REALLY excited to see what this guy can do in his first year in the MLB.
- Brennan Boesch, DET (216.6, $1.8): A lot of people have this year as his potential breakout season, and even if it doesn't happen, he's still going to get you at least 20 homers. Outfield is surprisingly weak this year, so guys like Boesch and Cespedes will be great finds late in the draft.
- Lorenzo Cain, KC (226.1, $0): Arguably the best name in baseball right now, Cain has been fuego this spring, and again...I love the Royals...LOVE!
- Jeremy Hellickson, TB (101.2, $9.1): All of the rage is about Matt Moore coming out of the Devil Rays' staff, and with good reason. David Price probably receives the rest of it, but Hellickson continues to fly under the radar despite being the anchor of that staff last year when they made their epic playoff push.
- Yu Darvish, TEX (119.1, $9.6): I'm sure there are some people, especially those who are from around here, who are a little skeptical about the whole Japanese import thing after the Dice-K experiment (which, while having not been the greatest results ever, still could have been a lot worse...see: Irabu, Hideki). You have to understand he's getting 10 wins easily because no one has seen him before and he's going to make a lot of people miss his first go-around. What happens in the second half of the season is anyone's guess, but for the first two or three months, this guy will probably be close to the top production-wise of starting pitchers in the game.
- Brandon Beachy, ATL (135.0, $6.3): Beachy showed a lot of promise last season, coming right out of the gate with one of the highest K/9 ratios in the history of baseball. You're looking at 12-13 wins and 200 Ks as perhaps his floor, so buy low on him.
- Cory Luebke, SD (147.5, $5.2): Luebke is now the man in San Diego after the trading of Mat Latos to the Reds. He came on basically halfway through last year and ended up being one of the best second-half pitchers in baseball. You have to like him pitching half his starts at Petco Park as well.
- Brandon Morrow, TOR (173.8, $3.1)/Wandy Rodriguez, HOU (188.3, $2.3): Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts.
- Brandon McCarthy, OAK (187.8, $2.2): I thought after the ESPN the Mag cover story they did on him, the cover was blown on his anonymity, and while they may be true in real life, in fantasy, we haven't really seen any sort of major jump is price, which is nice because you have the opportunity to spend a double-digit round pick on a potential playoff contender (watch out for Oakland this year).
- Ivan Nova, NYY (212.6, $2.0): So he's a Yankee, which I understand means that he's evil, but he did go 16-4 last year...I repeat: Ivan Nova, in his first full season in the bigs, went 16-4! I mean I can't have any part of the Yankees, but if you're not as headstrong as someone like myself, I would suggest giving this guy a look.
Closers kind of already had their own segment, so let's move right on to the next topic at hand:
Draft Bryce Harper NOW!!!: I know the guy is polarizing because apparently he's kind of arrogant or whatever, but he is worth all of the hype going around on him. The reason the Nats are keeping him in AAA is to push his arbitration eligibility back a year. Don't be surprised if Washington does attempt to offer him a long-term deal once he does make it to the bigs. He's got the whole package, and will be the starting centerfielder by probably June. If you don't get him now, someone's going to get him the second it's announced that he's coming up. Harper's prospect hype is perhaps only surpassed by one man who happens to be his teammate (Strasburg). Right now, he is the 48th ranked OF with an ADP of 214.6 and auction value of $2.5...if he isn't one of the top outfielders of the board next year when the draft goes, I don't even know what to tell you. Desmond Jennings had a huge impact on the Rays when he was finally called up full-time (took them waaaayyyyy too long to do that by the way), and he was last year's #1 prospect heading into the season. Harper projects out at 15 homers and 25 steals, but if you're in a keeper league or you have an extra spot on the bench, you can do some second-half damage with this kid in the fold. So, like many others, I'm basically drooling over the chance of Harper getting the call-up in a few months...let's see if there are any more prospects who could make that kind of potential splash (which I refer to as The Jacoby Effect).
- Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN: Ryan Hanigan currently stands in the way of Mesoraco being a full-time catcher for the Reds, but the fact that a timeshare has already been put into place means Mesoraco has the chance to overtake Hanigan based on production and will get a decent amount of ABs to prove it.
- Travis d'Arnaud, C, TOR: The problem here is that Arrencibia, who is going into just his second full season, is in his way, and while d'Arnaud could potentially be better, Arrencibia is coming off an impressive rookie season which makes me believe the only way d'Arnaud breaks into the majors is (knock on wood) injury, or via trade, where he would be an extremely valuable commodity.
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC: Sox fans are familiar with Rizzo as he was one of the centerpieces in the Gonzo trade with San Diego. He has a huge bat, but Bryan LaHair, who is becoming a trendy pick, is ahead of him on the depth chart. There's a reason Theo made the move to get him back into his organization, because Rizzo is projecting out as a 30-100 guy at first.
- Yonder Alonzo, 1B, SD: Alonzo will most likely be the starting first baseman on opening day, so you will be able to gauge his impact fairly quickly. He has some opposite field power it seems, which makes people wonder if he can be Gonzo-like in San Diego.
- Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL: With only Casey Blake in his way, Arenado could be in Denver by the All-Star break depending on how he fares in AA or AAA. He led all of minor league baseball last year with 122 RBIs.
- Miguel Sano, 3B, MIN: Sano is still growing, which is scary considering he's 6'3 and over 200 pounds already. He plays both short and third, but again, it seems like he's gonna be too big to play at the 6, so he projects out as a third baseman or first baseman. There really is no position stability for either of those spots, with Danny Valencia at third and the now oft-injured Justin Morneau at first.
- Jurickson Profar, SS, TEX: You can't beat that name. If you need more, he's just 19 right now, and already has a full year of minor league ball under his belt (in which he went .286/.390/.883 with 12 HR, 65 RBI, and 23 steals).
- Mike Trout, OF, LAA: Trout broke into the majors last year and played 40 games, where he started off very slow, but managed to turn it all around very quickly at the end of the season. He projects to be a guy who could potentially hit 20 homers and steal 40 bases. If there is any prospect who right now can perhaps have a bigger impact than Bryce Harper, it's Trout.
- Matt Moore, SP, TB: I honestly forgot to mention Moore in this category the first time around because he is being ranked amongst the top 100 players drafted this year, and yet he only has about fifteen innings of major league pitching under his belt. However, if those fifteen innings are any indication, the learning curve for Moore this season is going to be exceptionally brief (three words: high 90s fastball).
- Trevor Bauer, SP, ARZ: I'm very anxious to see what Bauer can do in the majors. He has amazing stuff, and his use of long-toss as a means to stretch his arm out have been well-documented.
- Manny Banuelos, SP, NYY: Banuelos is like a lot of pitchers who are hard throwers: They strike out a lot of guys, but their control is an issue. They are saying that Banuelos is working on getting the old WHIP and BB/9 stats down, and there is a very real chance that he may start the season on the Yankees instead of starting in the minors.
- Shelby Miller, SP, STL: Huuuggggeeee curveball, and he has a plus-fastball. Starting off in AAA, but the Cards may need a spark if they encounter a World Series/losing Pujols hangover.
- Addison Reed, RP, CHW: While Matt Thornton will start the year closing for the ChiSox, Reed will be pushing the action all year long. After Chris Sale's incredible season while not succeeding Thornton as closer though, be advised that Reed may just be a nasty 8th inning guy this year.
And now, for some parting words of advice:
- The Depth At Outfield Totally Sucks: I think Carl Crawford or Adam Jones is at the tipping point, and they are ranked 17 and 19 respectively on ESPN. Remember you need at least three, if not more of these guys on your team, and the breaking point is very high in terms of when production starts to fall off. I hope I'm right about my sleepers, but I would be all over the top 8 when they come out (Kemp, Braun, Jacoby, Justin Upton, Car-Go (who is really underrated this season), Grandy Man, Stanton, and McCutchen).
- The Depth At Second Base is Amazing: On the contrary, you only need one second baseman (two if you use one for your 2B/SS slot), and the tipping point is right around 16 with Danny Espinosa. Sleepers abound here. I love Espinosa, Jemile Weeks, Ryan Roberts, and Jason Kipnis late too.
- Don't Draft Ryan Madson or Joakim Soria: Both are done for the year. Jonathan Broxton becomes a steal for the Royals who were figuring they were just going to use him in a set-up role, or perhaps they knew more than we did about Soria's arm. Sean Marshall now becomes the man in Cincy with Aroldis Chapman being a huge wild card at this point.
- The Most Important Waiver Claim Time Is Right Now and In September: Anyone who does anything remotely good the first week of the season is going to get picked up, which means two things. 1.) They may have a huge season or they may bust...of course it's up to your knowledge of the player as whether to jump on him or let someone else grab him, in which case 2.) they drop someone who they either don't like, don't know, or is off to a slow start. When this happens, you may be able to buy low on a guy slumping, but has a track record that suggests the slump won't continue for too long. I was able to trade for both Dustin Pedroia and Evan Longoria last year using guys who were at their peak, but I was also wary that they might do a 180 and tank, which is what a lot of them ended up doing (Dillon Gee is a perfect example of this). In September, you have minor league call-ups, which is a perfect way to fill a hole in your lineup.
If I think of anything else, perhaps I can make an appendix of some sort, but that's pretty much it for the most part. As with all drafts, I suggest you get players you enjoy rooting for. While that may take away the chance to take a good player (or in my case, an entire team), if you load up on players you genuinely like, I've found that it's just a much better way to go about things. There's less anxiety about should I/shouldn't I pick up or drop someone. My fantasy hockey team is rocking this year and I honestly know about 10% of the players in the league, but the players I drafted were, for the most part, in that 10%, and it's working out for me. I actually drafted Austin Jackson in a league I drafted in last Sunday...but I really don't like the guy...he's a former Yankee, he strikes out a ton...I'm not a fan. I had to drop him because I honestly was losing sleep being like "if freggin' Austin Jackson doesn't work out, I'm going to feel like a complete asshole." So now I have Lorenzo Cain, and I'm feeling a lot more at ease about where my team is headed.
If you take anything from all of this: Draft a team you like. Have fun dominating everyone. Peace.