To kick off the fourth season of my fantasy baseball career, I am writing this article to explain the reasoning behind why I picked the players that I did. It’s the same thing I say to my future fiancée every time I cook a delicious dinner for us: “It’s all about balance and timing, honey.”
The major difference between my last article two years ago and now is that I have been blessed with helpful support from my peers. I am truly convinced that although it can be hard work — I frankly like this stuff. Helping other fantasy owners by providing tips and insight regarding fantasy has proven joyous and personally fulfilling for me. Sure, I love to study the sabermetrics and follow trends in performance, but the thing that ultimately keeps me hungry and itching for more is the sheer satisfaction of sharing my thoughts with you.
If there is one thing life has taught me, it’s that the greatest success stories are derived from the greatest failures. The same principle directly applies to my experience here in this roller-coaster world of fantasy sports throughout my past three seasons. To build on this principle, judging from an expert’s perspective, I had suffered and constructively learned from ridiculous mistakes starting out my first set of drafts. Then, over time, I acquired a sense of what works best when and why.
As far as your offensive lineup, it’s typically in your best interest to draft your middle infielders early (very fast talent drop-off), your catcher later (a historically hefty risk for injuries and low-deviated production across all rounds of the draft), as well as your corner infielders later (generally durable and ideally combining to hit at least 90 HRs and 300 RBI, with a recommended minimum .285 AVG). So what about the outfielders? Well, about half of the first round in this year’s draft consists of outfielders who have shown a notable degree of potential to hit 20 home runs and steal at least 20 bases. Keep in mind: an outfielder’s durability has historically varied because there are always so many of them. This position is deeply talented every season and you’re practically guaranteed an upcoming hot commodity to select off the free-agent wire. There are outfielders who present raw power (Giancarlo Stanton), raw speed (Michael Bourn) or a balance of both (Shane Victorino), so it’s up to you to choose the best mishmash.
Next up is your pitching rotation and bullpen. Although it’s humanly possible, no starting pitcher is going to ever post a 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, and 27.00 K/9. If that were the case, offensive numbers would become hugely underwhelming and the whole game would be completely different. Don’t fret over dominating every single category. If you try to do that, you’ll be sacrifice far too much offense.
You would have to target one or two of the top 12 pitchers this season to keep yourself relevant among your pitching categories. The ceiling for starting pitchers tends to drop off on a tier-by-tier basis (think of a downward staircase and every step represents a group of starting pitchers). Four key statistics when carefully building your rotation are K/9 (longevity), K:BB ratio (equity), BABIP (fluke detection) and 4-seam fastball velocity. Top tier pitchers must give you 200 strikeouts. In my opinion, it all starts with Ks, because healthy ERA and WHIP numbers always tend to marry the ones who post extreme strikeout numbers. Collecting wins are a whole other challenge. I don’t like wins but I do like the overlooked and slackly unspoken WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Wins obviously depend on run support. I personally am a big fan of drafting National League pitchers supported by a strong offensive cast (Nationals, Dodgers, Phillies) or a spacious ballpark (Giants).
The following list of players is a sharp design of an efficiently drafted Rotisserie league. In a Rotisserie league, I was sure to be aware of the limit to start pitchers (200 starts) as well as the short-term disadvantages of drafting a high upside player starting the season on the disabled list:
ESPN Standard Live Snake 10-team Mixed 5×5 category Rotisserie format:
C – Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
One could argue the intriguing notion that Wilin Rosario has now established himself as the “Mike Trout of catchers” after his breakout rookie performance last season. Consider this: He hit 28 HRs (led the majors among all catchers) and also posted a maybe-not-excellent but still quite noteworthy .843 OPS through only 396 at-bats.
If he had qualified, his stellar 14.1 AB/HR ratio would have legitimately placed first among all catchers. This includes placing ahead of both A.J. Pierzynski (17.7) and the overpriced Buster Posey (22.1). (Yeah, I said it.) Listen, catchers are the riskiest most injury-prone gamble you could toy around with, so do yourself a favor and go later on them. Rosario is great because he is still a growing talent with many more plate appearances to come.
1B – Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
I like to draft my first basemen late because power at this position is so affluent in the middle rounds. He appears to be 100% this spring and ready to get started on the right foot (or Achilles) after having his second off-season to heal. My gut feeling is that because he is still in his prime he should have little difficulty getting to 30 home runs and 100 RBI again within the heart of the Phillies order.
2B – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Depth at second base is absolutely atrocious this year, admittedly worse than shortstop by a bit. Although Cano will hardly steal any bases, he makes up for it with his over-the-top durability as well as his consistency to produce like the archetype first baseman. He shows no signs of slowing down and the strong drop-off at second base after Brandon Phillips is all the more reason to feel good about this choice. To make a long story short, Cano appears to be the only player at his position to safely hit 30 home runs and drive in 100.
3B – Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Rant about Miguel Cabrera all you want. Beltre is my favorite third baseman for one reason. He is totally capable of competing with Miguel Cabrera for the Triple Crown and you’re getting him two rounds later! Awesome deal. Neither one of them can buy a base, so why not wait a couple rounds for your third base slugger? He is the only other 3B right now other than Miggy that can hit for consistent, explosive power at a high average clip.
SS – Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
When healthy, Hanley Ramirez represents the shallow pool of shortstops as the next best thing after Troy Tulowitzki as one of the only shortstops able to produce in multiple categories. My goal this year is to take care of the middles early and quite frankly I did not have to reach too far to acquire him. He’ll be stuck on your DL while he recovers but should give your offense a big boost by late May (and potentially provide you with trade bait). I almost forgot to mention that he is batting in a lineup that consists of guys we have never-ever-ever heard of like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez.
2B/SS – Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
Do you see how potent my infield is already? Ian Kinsler has proven he can play a full season and that is all that matters to me. By drafting Kinsler, I was able to plug up the third of three middle infield spots early and take into consideration that the Major League batting average last season was .265 approximately. Therefore, Kinsler’s projected average is not as much of a liability as initially perceived. He will give 20 home runs and 20 steals at what I view to be the shallowest position. Welcome aboard, Ian!
1B/3B – Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers
A late-round flier that should only be drafted between the 20th and 25th (final) rounds due to his alarming injury concerns. So far this spring, he is not batting up to mixed-league standards and I understand how disconcerting this is however I still have faith. I like him stems from the fact that he is It is only spring training and I’m sure Lance is still getting a feel for his new home in Arlington. He won’t be playing the field every day, which can only ensure his longevity this season.
OF1 – Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
Since I decided to draft infield early, I needed to do what I could starting off my outfield. Only two years ago, he proved that he can produce in multiple categories. He will still be batting at the top of a revitalized Red Sox batting order now consisting of Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.
OF2 – Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks
I like safe picks. Prado is very durable with 3B eligibility and I was able to snag him at a bargain (about a whole round late). How sneaky!
OF3 – Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers
In the past I’ve noticed that Nelson Cruz has been a 30-home run threat over the past couple of years … on other fantasy teams. I won’t let that happen this year.
OF4 – Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
Speed has risen to become the most abundant it’s been since the late ’90s. A lot of outfielders and shortstops in the middle rounds have the propensity to steal at least 20 bags. At this point in the draft, between Ramirez, Kinsler, Ellsbury and Prado, I felt the need for one more player that can help me get that “edge” in the SB category. Gardner really knows how to run with a high efficiency clip and should easily steal 30.
OF5 – Adam Eaton, Arizona Diamondbacks
Dubbed the hottest prospect this spring among expert analysts, has been increasingly making his way to the last outfielder spot of fantasy leagues. He is slated to bat leadoff for the Diamondbacks once he returns from injury in six weeks or so.
UTIL – Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
Another 30-home run threat to round off my power necessity. His first base and outfield eligibility is youthful insurance against injury prone players like Howard, Berkman, Ellsbury, Cruz and Gardner.
SP1 – Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
Top 10 pitcher. At least one is required to compete in multiple pitching categories. 2012 NL Cy Young candidate. Young, healthy, with heavy run support.
SP2 – Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
I’ll admit that he isn’t doing so well this spring and that his velocity is down a bit, but he ceiling is so high and when the opportunity to draft him for a bargain became a reality, I couldn’t resist. Just last season he was drafted within the top five starting pitchers.
SP3 – Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
This pick is one of my rare, high-risk, high-reward potential candidates. Another bargain at that.
SP4 – Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
Wasn’t he a top 10 starting pitcher two years in a row? He is the bona fide ace in Boston and besides, the names around him don’t look any better. Predict a bounce-back season.
SP5 – Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants
After reentering the majors in 2010 as an integral cog of San Francisco’s rotation, fantasy owners were appreciative with his ability to produce results worthy of helping mixed leagues. He was 100 percent owned in all leagues for a great length of time. Although recognized as an older veteran, I would still bet my chips on him pitching another healthy amount of innings.
RP1 – Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
RP2 – Huston Street, San Diego Padres
RP3 – Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
RP4 – Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners
Rivera is going to pitch his brains out with only one season remaining for him to extend his already epic legacy. Street, Grilli and Wilhelmsen all have solidified their jobs as closers. I am aware that the constant lack of security goes left unspoken more times than not. Don’t believe for one second that you won’t be working the waiver wire for a new closer throughout the course of the year.
SP6 – Johan Santana, New York Mets
SP7 – Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays
SP8 – Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
The three pitchers above will serve as primarily match-up plays or spot starts. They are not “must-start” pitchers until they earn the right by performing well against a couple of the stronger (even elite) lineups. Santana won’t pitch on Opening Day but should still provide nice fantasy value when he returns, Cobb is pitching a stellar spring, and Iwakuma will be the No. 2 for the Mariners after Felix Hernandez in their rotation.
Anthony Clawson graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor's degree of Arts in Economics. Although he is involved in all fantasy sports Anthony specializes in baseball and currently manages over twenty leagues on ESPN.com. You can catch up with Anthony in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of jmanfredi.
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