March 06, 2009
runaway success begrudging reader acceptance of the Tip Drill series last summer, we've decided to bring it back for the baseball draft season. Look for a couple of TDs every week, and as always your intelligent disagreement is most welcome.
If I give you a set of overrated and underrated players, you draft well today. If I show you how to construct your own set of overrated and underrated players, you draft well every day. Here are some of the types of players likely to be mispriced in your circles this spring.
Types of players likely to be undervalued
• Slumdog closers: Every major league club is capable of supporting a 30-plus save guy, it's just a matter of someone taking control of the job and getting plugged into all those easy save assignments. Brian Wilson was good to us last year. Trevor Hoffman might be chucking in the 80s but he's still getting the ninth-inning call. It's not that difficult to get those final three outs, friends, especially when you're working with a multiple-run lead and no one's on base. Possible targets for this year: Chad Qualls, Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon.
• Small-market heroes: There's a reward for paying attention in Pittsburgh or Kansas City – you get to roster big-profit guys like Nate McLouth and Joakim Soria. Their stats count too, you know. Make sure you know San Diego's pitching staff forwards and backwards, big stadium and all. Make sure you audit every player to come down the pipe in Colorado, thin air and all. It's not about the names, it's about the numbers.
• Boring but reliable veterans: No one ever throws a Mexican Hat Dance after landing Raul Ibanez, but he's been a profit player more often than not for the balance of the decade. When's the last time you saw a bidding war over Randy Winn, or Torii Hunter, or Ty Wigginton? When's the last time someone lost money on Derek Lowe?
• Post-hype sleepers: A well-known concept but it's always worth discussing: the time to buy in on a prospect is after he messes up for a few seasons and pisses a few people off. Go ahead and take a mid-to-late round flier on a Jeremy Hermida, or an Alex Gordon, or a Phil Hughes. The premium has been knocked off the price, you now have room for profit.
• Universally-panned players: Everyone has something negative to say about Willy Taveras but he did swipe 68 bases last year and the Reds are going to play him, at least for a while. No one seems to expect Aubrey Huff to repeat last year's surprising career season, but at the current price, he doesn't have to match it for you to make a profit (same goes for Cliff Lee, by the way). Worry about Mike Lowell's hip all you want, but remember he already had the surgery and he still plays in a wonderful park for hitters. There's been a lot said about the Garrett Atkins slide of late, but geesh, what's so terrible about the .286-86-21-99 line he posted last year? If that's the floor, I'll still take it.
Types of players likely to be overvalued
• Hot-shot rookies: It's been my experience that the more sophisticated a league is, the more willing the league will be to attack buzz rookies, even at a crazy price. I was in one mock draft this winter where Matt Wieters went in the fourth round and David Price went in the fifth. I get that it's cute to be "first" on a player and all that, but this is a game of values. If you find yourself drafting with a group of owners who want to race for the highly-touted kids, it's an easy play – let them have them.
• Set-up sizzlers: It's easy to get seduced by what Grant Balfour did last year, or Hong-Chih Kuo. It doesn't mean either guy is going to match those numbers, or get a shot to close in 2009. If there's one position where it pays to have your memory wiped clean and you don't want to chase what happened last year, it's middle relief. Also be careful not to fall into the trap of bidding on what you want a players role to be – wishing-it-were-so error runs rampart in fantasy at this time of year.
• Contract-year players: Look, motivation is different for everyone, that's the bottom line. Some guys get max motivation when they're playing for a new deal (see A.J. Burnett last year), some guys get their best push when they're out to prove someone wrong (see Roger Clemens's first season in Toronto). They've run the numbers and there's nothing concrete that says a contract-year carrot will result in a better season. Take it on a case-by-case basis.
• Slow-pitch softball players: I'll never understand why it's so, but in a lot of leagues you'll find this obsession with home runs and RBIs, while runs scored and batting average don't get the same affection. There's a reason why I don't draft Adam Dunn or Richie Sexson types. Stat biases will vary from league to league, but when in doubt, assume the other guy loves the RBI.
Heck, I'm still peeved that the founding fathers of Rotisserie didn't include runs scored in their basic 4x4 scoring system. Above all else, isn't baseball about runs?
That's all I got on my page, over to you. Where's the path to value, and where are the sirens singing?