StrategyMarch 17, 2011

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Draft Him, Not Him! Rounds 1-2 - 12 comments

By Drew Szczerba

As you may have guessed, the title of this column was borrowed from the revolutionary book series entitled “Eat This, Not That!” or ETNT. The books compare seemingly similar foods and, in each case, reveals the one that’s healthier (eat this) than the other (not that). This simplistic approach has allowed ETNT to become wildly popular. In fact, ETNT has already helped over six million people believe they can lose weight by eating thin crust pizza and French fries with sea salt. Recently, the ETNT franchise has expanded to include titles such as “Cook This, Not That,” “Drink This, Not That,” and the controversial “Smoke This, Not That!” Still, something is missing. Nutrition is important, but what does it have to do with baseball? (Not even through the first paragraph and I’m already quoting Pablo Sandoval). ETNT has done a nice job with respect to diet, but it’s undoubtedly dropped the ball when it comes to fantasy baseball. So, without further ado, here’s “Draft Him, Not Him!” for 2011.

Round 1

Draft Him – Ryan Braun. I continue to see Braun fall to the early second round and it’s a mistake. Last year, he “disappointed” with 25 home runs, but the rest of his numbers held up nicely. Braun hit over .300 with over 100 RBIs and 100 runs. He also threw in 14 steals, ranking him as the 13th best fantasy player under standard scoring systems. If that’s a bad season, any improvement would have him back it the middle of the first round. More importantly, it means his baseline production is basically that of an early second rounder. With such a limited downside, Braun is the poster boy for those who subscribe to the saying, “You can’t win your league in the round one; you can only lose it.” It takes a lot late-round “hits” to make up for a first round “miss” and the odds of Braun truly being a disappointment are as long as any player in baseball.

Not Him – Carlos Gonzalez. CarGo was fantasy baseball’s most valuable player last year. You could argue that he was fortunate based on his .384 BABIP, but that would be nitpicking. Even with normal “luck,” Gonzalez is still capable of having another great season in 2011. So why is he in the “Not Him” section? Because of all the players being drafted in Round 1, he’s the most likely to lay a proverbial egg. This doesn’t mean I expect Gonzalez to have a bad year, just that it wouldn’t shock me. How will he handle success? Will he be able to cut down on his strikeouts? Will pitchers adjust? How will he respond? Round 1 is for reliability, not question marks. Gonzalez had a great year, but it was one year. Let someone else wager on a repeat. The smart bet is not to gamble in the first round.

Round 2

Draft Him – Matt Holliday. Should you miss out on Ryan Braun in the first round, you’ll likely get another chance in Round 2. Well, almost. Holliday is a consistently productive outfielder who contributes in every category and has a limited downside. He’s basically Braun without the 45 home run upside. In Round 2, that’s more than okay. Let your opponents chase upside this early. They’ll be doing you a favor. The winning strategy is to gamble late and play it safe in the first few rounds. With that in mind, Holliday’s track record certainly fits the bill. Over the last five years, he’s averaged 30 home runs, never hit below .310, and never drove in fewer than 100 runs. There aren’t many safer.

Not Him – Ryan Howard. Howard stole eight bases in 2009. Last year? Just one. What the hell happened? I’m not sure, but it’s tough to simply dismiss an 87.5% drop in any category. Okay, I might be burying the lead here. Besides, even if Howard’s wheels come back, I still can’t draft him this early. Why? Like most base-stealing corner infielders, Howard used to quietly pitch in with around 45–50 home runs. Last year, that number dropped to 31. Considering the depth at first base this year, he would likely have to increase his home run total by 10 to justify a second round selection. Considering his age (over 30), his body type (big), and his contract (bigger), I’m betting Howard’s power numbers won’t increase at all. Fortunately, the real decline is still a couple of years away. For 2011, he’s still a useful player, just not an elite one.

Drew is a born Yankees fan who, not surprisingly, doesn’t particularly care for the Red Sox or Mets. He does, however, have a soft spot in his heart for most small market franchises. He gets an uneasy feeling every time the Yankees overpay for latest big name, and fears they may someday begin to acquire whole teams. Drew has been playing both fantasy baseball and football for 10 years. You can catch up with Drew in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name Case Ace.
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12 Responses to “Draft Him, Not Him! Rounds 1-2”

  1. uhhhjboy says:

    Howard is not a “base-stealing” corner infielder. He’s 6′4″ 245 and has had 1 season with 8 steals. I wouldn’t say him dropping back to the 1-3 range is going to drop his draft position very much. Dude hits 40-50 hrs for 4 seasons and has a bad year (30 hr is bad?) and you want him in the third round? Sure he doesn’t have the upside of a young up-and-comer but he’s still a very valuable option (100/40/100/.275) for your second pick of the draft.

  2. User avatar DaSh 1s says:

    You are nit picking on Howard’s ability to steal bases?

    Howard, Teix, Miggy, Prince have quite the wheels I guess.

  3. User avatar chris8 says:

    I like the idea for this column and look forward to seeing more of them.

    That said, I have to agree with uhhhjboy in that Howard was an odd choice of a ‘not him’ for Round 2, for the same reasons. And I do wonder about the drafts where you’re seeing Braun fall to the 2nd Round! He’s gone top 6 or 7 (at worst) in the ones I’ve seen!

  4. User avatar Case Ace says:

    I’m confident the Howard stolen base thing is a joke.
    I doubt Howard gets back to 40 HR this year and I’d think he’d have to hit that many in order to justify a 2nd round selection. It isn’t that 30 HR is bad, just that 1B is very deep and his numbers would be considerably more valuable at any other position.

  5. User avatar MaudDib says:

    I agree that Howard is not a guy I would want in round 2, I wouldn’t even draft him in round 3 but there were so many better things to hit on then his wheels. Anyone drafting Howard for 8 SB (one per month, really?) is not a guy I want in my league.

    Things to worry about:

    ISO has been falling since 2006
    BB% has been falling since 2007 and is now in single digits plus had only 59 BB last year which is way too low for a guy with his kind of power.
    HR/FB has been in steady decline since 2007
    O-Swing % (% of pitches a batter swings at outside the zone) steady increase which is not a good thing

    I probably could go on here but there is little to like and little reason to expect a resurgence to 40 HR which many people think is still possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t break 30 HR this year whether it is injury or just decline in skills.

  6. User avatar LMack says:

    Pretty sure the Howard steals thing was a joke, after the ["quietly"] pitch in around 45–50 home runs.
    I chuckled.

  7. I don’t believe you draft Howard in the 2nd round because he’s a solid bet to hit 40+ HR. You draft him because he can reasonably slug 35 HR to go with 110 R/RBI and a fairly decent average (.270ish). Also, Howard’s ISO was bound to take a dip from his career year. Take ‘06 and ‘10 out of the equation and he had an ISO middling around .290-.316. The career-low .229 ISO is likely an outlier.

    In addition, I don’t buy the theory about 1B being “very deep”.

  8. User avatar Scooter1027 says:

    Agree with TAD on all fronts. I don’t love Howard, but besides the HR he’s got a very good chance at 100+ R and big RBI numbers. Heck, he averaged 143 RBI over the 4 seasons prior to last.

    And 1B isn’t as deep as people like to say, in my opinion. You’ve got your top 7, which are almost universally going in the first 2 rounds, and then it gets shakier. Dunn should be an asset in the Cell, but Morales is an injury risk who will likely start on the DL, and Morneau isn’t quite a sure thing at this point either. If you don’t want to take either of those chances, what’s next? Hope Butler can pop 20+ and have at least respectable R and RBI numbers despite an iffy offense? Hope Konerko or Huff manages to repeat last year’s unlikely season? Hope Pena can crack the Mendoza line this year? I don’t know, I really like getting one of those first 7 1B.

  9. User avatar Case Ace says:

    For those who feel 1B isn’t deep, what positions do you think are deeper? I don’t think there are any other than starting pitching.

  10. The Howard base stealing was a joke. Some people just don’t understand sarcasm.

  11. Padsin05 says:

    his point is very valid about Howard, why draft Howard in the 2nd, when you can draft Dunn in the 3rd-4th or Konerko in the 6th+

  12. @ Case Ace

    Scooter wrapped it up nicely with regards to why I don’t believe 1B is that deep. It’s deep in reasonable options, but after the top 7-8, the dropoff in quality is a big one.

    I can’t say for certain which other positions are deeper, but I will say that scarcity in 2B, 3B, and C is overstated. The quality in OF and 1B is scarcer than what most people think.


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