For the ninth time in their illustrious history, the braintrust of the Yahoo! Friends and Family League convened for a draft last week, with Yahoo! Andy Behrens looking to defend last year's runaway title. It was Behrens' second career F&F championship, and it gave the Family a historical 5-3 record over the Friends.
This year's list of F&F contenders, 14 strong, include a Yahoo! contingent of myself, Andy Behrens, Scott Pianowski, Brad Evans, (former Friend) Dalton Del Don and Michael Salfino/RobSteingall; and for the "Friends," RotoWire's Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss , Rotoworld triumvirate Drew Silva, Ryan Boyer and D.J. Short; The Hardball Times' Paul Singman; Baseball Prospectus' Derek Carty; and Razzball's combo pack of Grey Albright and Rudy Gamble.
• Here's a complete list, by team, of the Y! Friends and Family League draft results.
After the draft, I asked each participant two pointed questions about their draft and also which pick(s) they deem to be the biggest reach and steal of the draft. And, not to be left out, I had colleague Andy Behrens fire a couple questions my way.
MEET THE FAMILY
Yahoo! – Brandon Funston (Previous F&F finishes: 13th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 9th, 7th, 9th, 1st)
Q: Your draft had two really interesting sequences: First, in the opening three rounds, you went OF-OF-OF. That's the all-time anti-scarcity move. And secondly, between Rounds 7 and 12, you selected pitchers with five of your six picks. What was the downstream impact of those sequences? Did they cause trouble in the late rounds? Anything you'd do differently at the top of the draft?
A: I did take OFs with the first three picks, but I then addressed depth-thin spots by picking my 2B (Aaron Hill), SS (Martin Prado) and 3B (Brett Lawrie) in the next three rounds, and I was happy to land them, so I don't feel taking three outfielders off the top hurt me too bad. And the reason I took those outfielders is because I love their ceiling potential. If Kemp and Hamilton stay healthy, and Cespedes picks up where he left off in the second-half of last season, those guys will absolutely carry my offense.
And after addressing offense with my first six picks, I had to go heavy on the pitching side to catch back up. The one development that has thrown a monkey wrench into my pitching situation is that I drafted Aroldis Chapman as my first starter, but it's starting to feel like he's headed back to a closing role. Which means I've ended up a little heavy on the closer side of things and a little light on starters. But, as your (Andy) starting pitching primer illustrates, there's plenty of good starting pitching to be had late, or even outside of the draft.
Q: With your Round 19 pick, you snagged Leonys Martin, a 25-year-old who's clearly played well enough this spring to earn a starting assignment in Texas' outfield. What's your projection on Martin?
A: Martin's hot spring, nice combination of pop and speed and starting opportunity made him an easy dice roll at pick No. 258 overall. He hit .359 with 12 homers and 10 steals in 55 games for Triple-A Round Rock last season. Obviously, the PCL inflates offense to a high degree, but at least Martin will move up to one of the friendlier MLB parks in Texas. I think .275/12/50/70/18 is a reasonable expectation. That may or may not be good enough for me to keep him around the whole year. But I drafted him for his potential to do more than that. And if he doesn't pan out, it's not going to have a catastrophic impact on my team since he was but a 19th rounder.
Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?
ROD: Honestly, I had Chase Headley in my head as the reach of the draft before he hurt his thumb. I thought No. 45 overall was too high, as I had him at No. 81 on my overall list. There's plenty of solid third basemen this year, and when your HR/FB rate jumps from 4.3% to 21.4% in one season while the rest of your batted ball profile remains pretty much the same, you have to seriously question the ability to repeat 30 home runs for a second straight season. I was actually taking the under on 25 home runs from Headley before the thumb injury. No question Headley is a good hitter, I just don't think he's a true power hitter.
SOD: This was a draft that paid those who waited for catching. Carty grabbing Miguel Montero in Round 15 was a gift, as was Jesus Montero in Round 16 to Razzball.
Q: There's a good chance that two of your picks, top prospects Wil Myers and Nolan Arenado, will open the season in the minors (Myers is already in minor league camp). In this shallow bench league, how long are you willing to wait for their arrival. And what are your ultimate fantasy expectations for them?
A: Myers will be stashed until he arrives, which I'd expect to happen in mid or late-May. He's a potential high-impact bat, a guy who should hit for power immediately. Tampa Bay's lineup isn't exactly impossible to crack. I'm not saying I wouldn't entertain offers for Myers, but my plan is definitely to keep him around.
I can't say I feel quite as committed to Arenado, although he's not blocked by anyone intimidating in Colorado. If he doesn't open the season in the big leagues, he'll get there soon enough. But as you point out, we have short benches in the F&F, so holding a collection of prospects isn't really all that practical. And it's not like I signed the kid for five years at guaranteed money. I'll make a bunch of drops throughout the season, and he could be one of 'em. Heck, I've already made three transactions in that league.
Q: Man cannot live off bread alone, but can a fantasy team survive the SB category with Everth Cabrera alone? Nobody else on your squad stole more than 14 bases last season. I take it you are expecting a big SB contribution from rookie Adam Eaton? Even if that's the case, do you have any concerns about your overall team speed?
A: Well, for starters, Adam Eaton is going to reach base at a terrific clip, and he'll run when he gets there. He'll be a major asset in stolen bases. I've heard all the names that I'm supposed to like as late-round alternatives to Eaton — Aoki, Pierre, et al — and I don't think any of them belong in his tier.
But even with Everth and Eaton on my roster, no, I don't think I drafted nearly enough steals for this league. Of course I didn't draft enough last year either, but I was able to acquire them during the season, via trade and free agency. In a mixed league that's as transaction-heavy as the F&F, stolen bases won't be impossible to add. If you're gonna go light on a category at the draft table, make it saves or steals, stats that are typically delivered by specialists.
Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?
ROD: When Liss took Giancarlo Stanton fifth overall, it almost seemed like a cry for help. Like, I wondered if his entire draft was some sort of desperate coded message to the rest of us.
There's no way an accomplished professional like Chris would intentionally select a three-category fantasy asset like Stanton so early. I mean...my second-rounder is better than Stanton. Something's up. That pick was either a mistake, or the result of sabotage, or Liss is in need of rescue. As commissioner, Brandon, it's your job to figure out what's up. I just hope the dude is OK.
SOD: Homer Bailey at No. 230 makes me sick. Physically ill. I whiffed badly in the previous round, failing to queue him up. Bailey was a monster at the end of the 2012 season (playoffs included), and I think there's a great chance he carries it into 2013. It would not surprise me at all if he makes a multi-tier jump in our ranks next year.
Q: The league gave you every opportunity to pick your long-touted man-crush Nelson Cruz, but you let him slide to Andy Behrens in Round 12. You could have had Cruz at pick No. 147 in Round 11, but you obviously passed. All out of love for Cruz this year? What kind of season are you expecting from him?
A: Long walks at sunset, rose bouquets, backrubs – it’s been a whirlwind bromance between Nelly and I in recent years. However, all good things eventually come to an end.
Cruz, when healthy, is an excellent fantasy contributor. Though his stolen base production has dropped off, he offers plus value in homers and RBI. If he could actually string together 550 at-bats, I’m thoroughly convinced he would eclipse 35 bombs. But he’s extremely volatile, to say the least.
Yes, I had ample opportunities to grab him, but other needs pulled me away. Plus, his durability concerns and links to Biogenesis, the company that allegedly supplied PEDs to several big leaguers, swayed me to look elsewhere.
I’m sure Behrens will try to package him in a deal down the road, which I will definitely entertain, but, for now, I’m comfortable with my decision. Sorry, sweet Nelly.
Q: You drafted minor league speed demon Billy Hamilton in Round 22. Given the shallow bench format of this league, how long are you willing to roster him while you wait for him to get an in-season call up?
A: Because benches are extremely thin in this league, the over/under date on me cutting Hamilton is probably June 1. If early season injuries torch my squad, he will be sipping pina coladas in the free agent pool in short order. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the F&F beast.
For those in luxurious leagues where caddy rosters are deep, Hamilton is worth drafting and stashing. If Shin-Soo Choo struggles defensively and/or Ryan Ludwick fails to produce, the speedster could earn a quick promotion. That happens and whoever owns the lottery ticket will strike it rich. Singlehandedly, he will win people the steals category.
Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?
ROD: Craig Kimbrel, Round 3, Pick 42 – Compared to ADP values, Erickson didn’t reach, but drafting a closer early in mixed leagues is rather silly, especially when considering quality bats like Jason Kipnis, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist are still on the board and the fact we raised the innings cap.
SOD: Todd Frazier, Round 10, Pick 128 – Per Yahoo! tracked ADP data, this was a major reach (196.4), but in “expert” circles it was actually a great value. He’s a solid bat with 25-homer upside who’s eligible at multiple positions. Useful.
Q: Let's start with a review of your '12 season because you've been one of the most successful franchises in F&F history. But last year you finished 11th despite making 345 moves, easily an all-time F&F record and the kind of roster juggling we haven't come close to seeing since the days of "Average Joe" Craig Falzone. So is there a cautionary tale to be derived from last year that you can share with our readership?
A: First and foremost, I'm downright embarrassed by last year's showing. I take a lot of pride in my work here and to have that bad a finish is not acceptable. But I don't think it really had anything to do with the heavy roster churning. I've been first or second in F&F transactions in every year of the league's existence. In many of my good years, it was my ally. But last year I dealt myself a hand that couldn't be fixed at the flea market. Very early in my 2012 season, it was too late.
Sometimes I just like changing players for the fun of it. A lot of industry owners are reluctant to deal. I like kicking the tires on new players. Sometimes it works - see Carlos Gomez mid-summer - and sometimes it doesn't (Trevor Bauer, thanks for nothing). I had R.A. Dickey for perhaps his one bad turn in the first half. So it goes.
Truth be told, the FCFS free-agent rules are not my preferred ones. I much prefer the setup we use in F&F Football, with a weekly bidding system followed by limited FCFS. The 24/7 race to the computer doesn't really appeal to me, and I think it favors the dual-ownership groups in the league (looking at you, Razzball). I'd be fine with a transaction cap, if it came to that (maybe 125 or so). But at the end of the day you simply tell me the rules and the date of the draft and I'm game, I'm ready to go. There's no such thing as a bad roto setup.
Q: Three of your players jump out at me as being drafted a fair bit ahead of their Yahoo! ADP. Those players are Freddie Freeman, Emilio Bonifacio, and Tyler Colvin. Can you give us the quick sell on each of those players?
A: I'm most sold on Freeman, who had a super sophomore year despite a finger problem and an eye issue. I like the lineup, I like the growth pattern, I like the floor and I like the upside. I'm sure he would have gone in the fifth round to someone, it just happened to be to me.
Bonifacio I probably took too early and Mike Salfino blasted the pick (not my pick, specifically; the idea of the pick) in our weekend Twitter volley. I'll accept taking Bonifacio too early, but the plausible upside remains - a position-versatile player with a monstrous steal upside.
Colvin I might be chasing a little bit since I know there's 35-homer potential there if the silly Rockies simply let him play. But when we hit the 17th round in a deep mixer, the concept of ADP is pretty much out the window with me. If I see a guy I like, I'm grabbing him. I heard some Colvin groaning in the room after my pick, so I guess I acted at the right time - that is, if 2013 Colvin will be worth something. Don't go away mad, Todd Helton . . . just go away.
A: The best pick of the draft was any selection Derek Carty made in under 60 seconds. I think there were maybe two of them. (I kid because I care, Derek. You can razz me back at Tout Wars.)
ROD: I'm a Panda Sandoval fan, but I wonder if he gets hurt too often to justify a fourth-round tag. Other potential reaches: Michael Bourn at 5.08 (locks you out of cheap speed later), Jose Altuve at 5.13, Angel Pagan at 7.14 and Adam Eaton at 9.11.
SOD: Homer Bailey had the best road stats of any roto arm last year (hat tip, Baseball Monster). Throw in the upcoming age-27 season and he's a steal at 17.06. Other potential pilfers: Cameron Maybin 14.01, Norichika Aoki 12.08, Johnny Cueto 8.08 and Trevor Cahill 18.03.
Q: Dan Uggla was U-G-L-Y last season. Apparently his alibi was good enough that you were willing to take him in Round 10, a pick before Kyle Seager and a few rounds before Dustin Ackley and Howie Kendrick. Uggla was also taken right after you selected Chase Utley. So explain your feelings for Uggla in '13, and why did you decide to double up on your 2B in those middle rounds?
A: After taking Hanley Ramirez in round two, I ended up waiting on addressing 2B and middle infield, although that wasn't by plan. Frankly, I'm happy how that turned out, getting Utley at pick No. 120 and Uggla at No. 133. There's no question Uggla has been a horrible batting average drain since joining Atlanta two years ago, but he’s averaged 27.5 homers, 87 runs scored and 80 RBI during a time in which home runs are down across the league. Batting average is so volatile, it also wouldn’t be out of the question for him to return to the .250-270 range this season. Uggla is 33 years old, so I'm not ready to write his obituary just yet. And Utley's knees apparently are feeling better than they have in a few years. There's absolutely the chance I'm dead wrong here when it comes to betting on such recent bums, but I'm not unhappy about how my waiting on 2B/MI strategy played out.
Q: You drafted a couple players that are looking to rebound from disappointing '12 campaigns in a new locale. What kind of expectations do you have for Dan Haren in Washington and Chris Young in Oakland?
A: Haren is just one season removed from posting a 5.8:1 K:BB ratio (which was second best in baseball) with a 1.02 WHIP, and he’ll now be moving back to the National League. Projecting wins can be tricky, but it certainly helps that the Nationals’ lineup looks like one of the best in the league, and they also possess what appears to be an elite back-end to their bullpen (and having Denard Span playing center field doesn’t hurt either). Even during last year’s struggles (thanks mostly to giving up too many homers), Haren had a 142:38 K:BB ratio. Assuming he’s back healthy (and remember, it wasn’t an arm injury), the former fantasy ace could be a huge profit.
Chris Young had five homers with a .410/.500/.897 line during April last season before crashing into an outfield wall, and his shoulder was never really right the rest of the year. He averaged 23.2 home runs and 20.4 steals over the previous five seasons and is terrific defensively. Young is leaving an extreme hitter's park and looks like a platoon player entering 2013, but part of my taking him was Coco Crisp insurance, and who knows, maybe the adjustment in his swing that led to such a hot start last year before getting injured (over a miniscule sample, admittedly) is a sign of things to come for the 29-year-old.
ROD: I love Jeff Erickson, but I would never even consider taking a closer in round three (or rounds four or five or six or seven). Craig Kimbrel just had (arguably) the best relief season in the history of baseball, and yet he still wasn't a top-15 fantasy asset. Good luck expecting something even close to resembling that, when Kimbrel allowed one double on the season and one hit with runners in scoring position all year. Maybe I'm being a hypocrite here though, as Kimbrel was a top-20 fantasy player last year, and I'm someone who thinks Mike Trout should be drafted first in 2013.
SOD: Juan Pierre at pick No. 276. He stole 37 bases last year in 394 at-bats and now has a full-time job in Miami. This was frustrating to see as someone who drafted Michael Bourn, Carlos Gomez and Coco Crisp aggressively.
Q: You failed to draft a reliever with an assured closer role to open the season, and you really only draft one that has a shot for that (Bruce Rondon). I know that closers always emerge on the wire during the season, but are you prepared for taking on Scott Pianowski when it comes to vulturing saves off the wire? Or are you considering punting the category altogether?
A: With the150 extra innings to our cap this year, closers are less valuable -- though how much less remains to be seen. But punting a category is always a very bad idea in a competitive league like this one. Really, it was the cost of drafting Strasburg in the 2nd round. I always felt like I was a hitter behind and didn't want to draft one-category guys in the middle rounds. It's also a product of being in the middle, where you can be victimized by runs, as I was. Even when I was content to set my sights lower with the next tier with my next pick I ended up getting shut out. But would I feel better now with Bobby Parnell instead of Dustin Ackley or Kyuji Fujikawa over Alfonso Soriano? No. I'd just have different problems. I also figured I'd get either Ernesto Frieri or Ryan Madson, but they both went in the same round. If Rondon doesn't close, I'll have no choice but to punt. But his stuff is so good and the job is so easy... even if Jim Leyland has to be dragged kicking and screaming. If my team stays healthy, I can hunt around for all the closers in waiting who were drafted and who will quickly be released.
Q: I'm interested in hearing your take on your two shortstops. You took Ian Desmond at No. 48 overall. I'm high on him as well, but certainly not everyone is buying what he was selling last season. What kind of follow-up do you envision coming off a '12 breakout? As for your second SS (Derek Jeter), with the Yankees drooping like flies and Jeter coming back from ankle surgery, how much are you expecting from the soon-to-be 39-year-old?
A: I don't see Desmond as controversial at all. He earned $27 in 5x5 last year in just 130 games and this is his age 27 season. I guess the plate discipline guys don't like him, but there are many players in history who hit well in roto despite poor K/BB. Even if Desmond regresses 10-to-20 percent, he should play 10-to-20 percent more games. So I feel really good about him returning $25 of value without even adjusting for the positional value.
Jeter is no slam dunk. But then I didn't pay near a slam dunk price. He should be aided by playing DH for 30 or 40 games once Travis Hafner goes down. I see a .300 average with double digits in homers and steals. The runs will be tricky because of all the Yankees injuries. But he'll have good hitters behind him again by June at the latest. The next MI to be drafted after Jeter was Ackley by me 23 picks later. I guess Howie Kendrick is comparable. And I thought hard about taking Alcides Escobar. But I needed average certainty given that I was already targeting Ackley.
ROD: Matt Moore in the seventh round at pick 88. I think that's paying for something he has yet to achieve. Matt Harvey, who I drafted three rounds later, is at least as much projectable upside and also has the benefit of actually pitching up to that kind of price in the majors (though the sample size for him was admittedly small).
SOD: Dickey as the 11th SP overall in the sixth round is a steal. The AL East is no longer so big and scary and being a good hitter doesn't really matter against Dickey because the things that make hitters good don't have much to do with hitting the knuckleball well. So Dickey can defy matchups like no other pitcher. I think his growth last year is the result of mastering the knuckler like no one has. I see nothing fluky about it. While I understand that most expect major regression, I recognize that those same people expected it last year, too. If they're so likely to be right now, why were they so wrong then?
MEET THE FRIENDS
Q: You have a serious Giancarlo Stanton man-crush. You've been all over this guy since he broke into the league. You took him at No. 5 overall. I'm curious what kind of roto line you envision from him that is going to deliver that kind of ROI.
A: I reject the term "man-crush," and all it implies. Brad Evans has "man-crushes" - I simply draft the player I think will get me the best numbers as long as he's not coming back to me in Round 2. While Stanton might have lasted another 5-9 more picks, he wasn't going to be there on the way back. If he plays 155 games, I'd give him 48 HR, 115 RBI, 95 runs, a .285 average and 8 SB. No one hits the ball with that velocity or power, and so he's going to hit for a much higher average than the average player who strikes out as much as he does.
Q: You are banking on two reclamation projects (Justin Morneau and Brian Roberts) and two post-hypers (Justin smoak and Dom Brown). uickly give me something to believe in for all of those guys.
A: Roberts was my last pick as I punted 2B, so he might or might not stay on my roster. I do like that he was concussed because of the symmetry it provides with the Morneau pick, and I think the brain is overrated as an organ generally - for example, you hear of people getting heart transplants or their spleens removed, but never brain transplants or their brains removed.
I love post-hype prospects as the talent was there at one time, and for whatever reason, it didn't develop right away. As long as the player (and the organization) sticks with it, usually it comes around - at least for hitters. Plus both Smoak and Brown have altered their approaches with good success this spring, and Smoak also raked down the stretch last year.
ROD: Elvis Andrus - Round 5. What does he bring to the table that Alcides Escobar (Round 13) doesn't? Brett Lawrie (oblique) in Round 4 was curious, too.
SOD: I liked Granderson in Round 9 - he'll be 100 percent healthy in mid-May, and you'll still get six weeks of someone's at-bats to add on to whatever Granderson does. A SS-eligible Martin Prado in Round 6 was pretty ridiculous, too. (Had I realize his eligibility I would have taken him in Round 5).
Q: You already know what the first question is. You raised some eyebrows by taking closer Craig Kimbrel in Round 3 at No. 42 overall. Have you ever selected a closer higher in a relatively similar formatted league? And did the fact that the league move from a 1250 IP cap to a 1400 IP cap give you any pause in making this selection?
A: I've never drafted a closer this high in *any* league, let alone this one. In fact, this league's format is the only type where I'd consider it. And yes, the change in the innings cap gave me some pause, but the way the rest of the third round went, and the fact that I was drafting on the wheel pushed me in that direction. Here's what I wrote about Kimbrel when I blogged my team:
"While it's nice to double-up picks, damn, in a 14-team league with knowledgeable owners, it's a really long wait between picks, and nowhere is this felt more than in the third and fifth rounds. The efficiency of the draft in terms of grabbing those hitters that I wanted was devastating, yet expected. All along I planned on taking Kimbrel here - and I wouldn't do so in really any other format. The innings cap is higher than the last few years, but it's still a cap, and there's still going to be all sorts of streaming going on with starting pitching. Taking Kimbrel here and Kershaw earlier allowed me to load up on hitters for the next few rounds and avoid taking too many starters later on in the draft. This is a daily moves league, and I plan to stream like crazy, especially in the second half of the season when the weak offenses are better defined. When I set up our draft tool on the iPad for this draft, I added K's/9ip as a category. I also added AB's (though played around with OPS) so as to not dilute the hitters. Kimbrel came up in the top 20 in my rankings doing so. In fact, he would have rated the highest among available players even if I hadn't made that modification."
Q: In Round 5 and Round 6, you drafted two players (Melky Cabrera, Eric Hosmer) that, for different reasons, are coming off of dubious 2012 campaigns. What do you expect from a presumably PED-free Melky Cabrera in Toronto, and where do you think the batting average and home run numbers will finish at for Eric Hosmer this season?
A: Melky presumably passed multiple tests in 2011 and early 2012 before his suspension last year, so I don't think his production is fully a result of PED's (and one of the big unknowns about this thorny issue is that we don't have a really good idea about the degree of help that they provide a player, just that they are of some help). My guess is that he'll produce something slightly better than his 2011 campaign with the Royals, with a bonus in the counting stats because he's in a better park and in a better lineup than he was with the Royals and the Giants.
Hosmer I view as a perfect Last Year's Bum - a talented player that is coming off of a down season, discounted significantly from last year's price. The other first basemen in his tier had all been taken, including Anthony Rizzo, in a league that gives an extra bump to corner infielders. We're projecting Hosmer to hit .282-20-87 with 14 stolen bases last year - and I think many overlook the impact of his stolen bases.
ROD: The entirety of Liss's roster is reach-central. It's one thing to go for your own guys, but seriously, no need to separate a shoulder while reaching for them. Ok, I may or may not have a sidebet with him and could be egging him on. But Roy Halladay's diminished velocity earlier that day certainly bodes ill for him. Others I thought might have been a little early included Erick Aybar, Josh Rutledge and Pablo Sandoval. I try not to emphasize positional scarcity all that much, and Sandoval's possible durability issues keep well behind the pack on him.
SOD: Derek Carty properly nailed the one-catcher dynamic in this league, nabbing Miguel Montero in the 15th round. While he deserves to be ranked behind the likes of Carlos Santana, Joe Mauer (both taken in the sixth round), Yadier Molina (ninth) and arguably Mike Napoli (seventh), it's dubious that he's 6-to-9 rounds worse than them.
Q: Let's talk No. 1 overall pick, since it's a highly debatable topic that involves your selection (Mike Trout) and Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera. Tell us your reasons for taking Trout over the veteran establishment.
A: As great as Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera are, they simply don’t offer the ceiling that Mike Trout does as a fantasy performer. I’m not silly enough to think that Trout will repeat or exceed his rookie season numbers, but don’t forget that he wasn’t called up until late April last year. In his worst month from a fantasy perspective last season, he still hit .289 with five homers and seven stolen bases. Even if Trout experiences a bit of a drop-off, he’s still going to provide owners with terrific five-category production. I believe his downside in 2013 is still a first-round level fantasy player. His upside is the no-questions-asked No. 1 overall player. I’m willing to sacrifice some certainty for that kind of performance range.
Q: You've invested in a couple rookies as offensive starters in Jedd Gyorko and Aaron Hicks. What are your expectations for those two, and how much patience will you have for them if they start April off in a slump?
A: I have little doubt that Jedd Gyorko will hit. He’s done it throughout the minor leagues with consistency, sporting a .319/.385/.529 batting line across 334 games. That includes a robust .311/.373/.547 line with 30 homers and 100 RBI between Double- and Triple-A last season. Gyorko has also scorched the ball this spring and shown enough defensively at second base that he’s all but locked up the starting job there (though he could fill in some at third while Chase Headley is out). I’ll have to wait a bit for Gyorko to gain second base eligibility in Yahoo! leagues, but the wait is worth it since he has top-10 upside at the position.
Aaron Hicks is more of a gamble than Gyorko in my mind because he doesn’t have nearly the track record of consistency in the minors, and it’s why I’ll probably cut bait on him sooner if it looks early on like he’s not ready. Hicks was terrific last year at Double-A, batting .286/.384/.460 with 13 homers and 32 steals, but that was after he hit only .242/.354/.368 with five homers and 17 steals at High-A the year before. I’m not counting on much from him in the way of average and power in 2013, but his on-base skills and speed will lead to runs, and he has definite 30+ steals upside.
ROD: Like everyone else, I love Giancarlo Stanton. But there’s no way I’m taking him with a top-five pick this season. If fact, I would argue that he’s probably not worthy of coming off the board in the first round at all. While as good a bet as any to lead the league in home runs, he still doesn’t look like a high-average hitter to me, and the woeful Marlins lineup will lead to depressed RBI and runs totals.
SOD: Carl Crawford’s setback during spring training was discouraging, but it also might have helped to provide a nice buying opportunity. The Dodgers outfielder is playing games again and looks like he’ll only miss the first couple weeks of the season as long as he can avoid another speed bump. Let us not forget that this was a first-round pick just a couple years ago. Getting him in the 11th round could wind up being highway robbery.
Q: You invested more heavily in starters early on than anyone else, taking one in Round 4 (Adam Wainwright), Round 5 (Yu Darvish) and Round 7 (Matt Moore). Since none of those pitchers were ranked in the top 115 in the Yahoo! Game, you are obviously looking at all of them greatly improving in '13. What do you think those three can do for you this year? And was it a plan to go heavy on starters early?
A: I rarely enter snake-style drafts with a plan, because when you can't really target specific players it's difficult to adhere to much of a strategy. So my picks are mostly reactionary -- based on what's available and roster fit. I had two elite power sources (Cano, Wright) and an elite speed guy (Ellsbury) when my fourth-round turn came up so I decided to grab an ace. Or, a potential ace. Wainwright should be much better now that he's a whole two years removed from Tommy John surgery and when he's at his best it means a sub-3.00 ERA and 200-plus strikeouts. I expect both Darvish and Moore to improve as sophomores because the talent is so clearly there.
Q: You have six players on offense slated to start for you that hit .238 or less last season. How much of a concern is batting average and, for that matter, first base, where only Adam Dunn and Kevin Youkilis are eligible among your roster?
A: The batting average thing is a concern, but like any stat it can fluctuate and I'll always side with the power numbers because they cover more fantasy scoring categories. I do expect most of the players on my roster to improve in the batting average department in 2013. I'm not uncomfortable only having two first basemen on the roster. I thought getting Dunn at 137th overall was great. He hit 41 home runs with 96 RBI and 87 runs scored in 2012.
ROD: The biggest reach of the draft was probably Paul Goldschmidt at 35th overall. I get the love -- he has great raw slugging ability and plays in a power-friendly home park -- but he'll have to hit 35 homers to justify that pick. I don't know that Goldschmidt, who hit 20 home runs in 2012, is ready to make that leap.
SOD: At the time of the pick, I thought it was Chase Headley at No. 45. If he produces like he did last year (31 homers, 17 steals, 95 runs, 115 RBI) he will be a really good value there. If he tops those numbers, the value is outstanding.
Q: Community wisdom (Yahoo! ADP) has Jayson Werth going on average at 226.5 overall. You drafted him at No. 159. Can you share those bullish thoughts for Werth that have you so much higher on Werth than most others?
A: I actually think that Werth is underrated after the past two seasons. His power was likely sapped due to the wrist injury last season, but I'm optimistic that it will return a year removed from surgery. He's also making more contact these days, so I'm not worried about a repeat of his .232 batting average from 2011. There's a chance for him to approach a 20-20 season and with his healthy walk rate, he should score a lot of runs hitting No. 2 in a deep and talented Nationals' lineup. For what it's worth, Rotoworld has him ranked a bit higher than the Yahoo! ADP.
Q: Looking at your offense, you don't have anyone that hit more than 30 home runs in '12, and only two that topped 22, and one of those players is Corey Hart (expected to return sometime in May from a knee injury). Obviously, a healthy Evan Longoria and V-Mart will help, but do you have any concerns about your power supply heading into the season?
A: I am a bit concerned about the power in my lineup, as I'm relying on players returning from injury or with a reputation of being injury-prone (Carlos Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Victor Martinez, Corey Hart, etc.) to bounce back and supply most of it. However, I'm hopeful that Josh Rutledge can build on the promise that he showed in a small sample as a rookie last year, which could potentially give me excellent value from the shortstop position. I'm also hopeful that the dimension changes at PETCO Park will help the likes Will Venable and Yonder Alonso. Gambles all around, but I'm optimistic that I can hang in there.
ROD: I was surprised to see Giancarlo Stanton go No. 5 overall, but beyond that, I wasn't a big fan of Ben Revere in the 10th round. The speed should be there, but I'd prefer to take a more well-round player at that point. Speed can be found late (see: Juan Pierre in Miami) and often off the waiver wire during the season.
SOD: Hands down, Martin Prado in the sixth round. Going in, I knew he qualified at shortstop and I was gunning for him, but Funston snagged him before I had a chance. His numbers play really well at that position and he should get a nice boost on offense playing in Arizona.
Baseball Prospectus – Derek Carty (Previous F&F finishes: 9th, 13th)
Q: Looking at your starting staff, it's loaded with question marks. Jered Weaver saw a big drop in velocity last season, as did Tim Lincecum. Zack Greinke is dealing with a sore elbow. Josh Beckett looked good in his short time in LA, but he finished the season with a 4.65 ERA. Any concerns about your starters? And tell us which of those guys you are least worried about, and which one causes you the most stress right now.
A: I do have some concerns about my starters, but I think most of the concerns are relatively small. Overall, I really like my staff, especially since those small concerns led to good values on most of them. I'm most concerned with Greinke, but I just couldn't pass on him any longer than I did. Lincecum's velo is reportedly up this spring, and I think the league change and some evening of luck is going to help Beckett. Weaver has never needed velocity to succeed, and even with the tick he lost last year he was still excellent.
Q: Someone mentioned in chat that your Tyler Greene pick was predictable. And since he was your only SS taken, and it was in Round 19, it seems almost like you were planning to skip on shortstop and target Greene late. Is that the case, and what are your expectations for Greene this season?
A: Ha, I must have missed that. My chat box was acting up during the draft. Who said it? I wasn't necessarily waiting on Greene, but I knew that if a shortstop never wound up at the top of my draft board when my pick rolled around that I'd be comfortable getting Greene late. I've always loved his power/speed combo, and while the batting average will hurt, I feel like he's in a situation now where his other tools could have a chance to shine. Minute Maid is a relatively hitter-friendly park, and new manager Bo Porter has stated his intention to run wild on the bases. Marwin Gonzalez is Greene's only real competition for the starting shortstop job (and I use the word "real" loosely), and Porter has also stated that he'd like his shortstop to lead off, with his description of the desired skillset for such a job very closely matching Greene's. A shortstop who can make a heavy contribution in homers, steals, and runs in the 19th round? I'm cool with that.
ROD: Matt Harvey 10.6
SOD: Justin Ruggiano 18.13
The Hardball Times – Paul Singman (Previous F&F finishes: 6th, 12th, 4th, 4th)
Q: I'm seeing a potential power shortage here, as you drafted only one player that had more than 24 home runs last season, and that player (Chase Headley) had a HR/FB rate spike that has many questioning his ability to duplicate. So, that said, which players on your roster are you banking on to eclipse 24 home runs in '13 and help carry your power categories?
A: I won't lie and say I see myself as one of the top power teams, especially since power was targeted aggressively in this draft. However, on my team I see lots of bounce-back candidates in the power department starting with Adrian Gonzalez, who I envisage returning to his 30-homer season ways. Justin Upton isn't necessarily thought of as a big power guy, but there's reason for optimism regarding his output. Mike Morse is still a 30-homer guy if healthy, although his health is always somewhat of an "if". Finally Alex Gordon had a surprisingly down year last season, but I like him to return close to 25 homers this year. When coupling these guys with Nick Swisher and Rickie Weeks, I'm not overly concerned with my squad's power numbers, though with the Headley injury news it looks like I'll be relying on these guys to step up more than I originally thought.
Q: You'll be leaning on some buzzy youngster in Jean Segura and Manny Machado. What kind of fantasy line are you counting on from each of those players this season?
A: Segura and Machado weren't two guys I was necessarily targeting coming into the draft, but at the turn of rounds 15 and 16 I saw the opportunity to fill my last two starting hitting spots with upside players and went for it. In Segura I'm hoping for a .280 hitter with 5 homers and 30 steals. Especially if he can push his way up the Brewers lineup and boost his run and RBI totals, this pick looks like a steal. I'll admit, I'm not really sure what to expect from Machado. But the 20 year-old is supremely talented and if he offers a .260/15/15 season, I'll be pleased. Bonus points if he gains SS eligibility.
ROD: Erick Aybar 8.11
SOD: Denard Span 21.3
Razzball – Grey Albright/Rudy Gamble (Previous F&F finishes: 10th, 10th, 3rd)
Q: Bryce Harper, Round 1, Pick 13 … That's about 20 picks higher than the brilliant minds that compose the Yahoo! ADP. Would you please tell our constituents why they are selling Boy wonder short? What is a realistic best-case roto line for Harper in '13?
A: That's a cl....nah, can't type it. Too played out. There is little consensus this year on players worthy of being picked in the late 1st round/early 2nd round. Just about every player comes with (usually health-related) question marks - Tulo, Longoria, Reyes, Bautista. We decided (well, Rudy decided) to take a chance on Harper who was further down both our published rankings but has the upside for a top 15 season. Now that it appears he will be hitting 3rd in a stacked Nats lineup, upside could be 100/35/100/25/.275. No one else available at that point has that type of upside.
Q: You went heavy on outfielders and pitching early, and had to settle for Howie Kendrick, Yunel Escobar and Jed Lowrie for your SS and MI spots (Jose Altuve is at 2B). So, which of these players are going to make you look like a genius for abstaining from MI help until late?
A: We punt middle infield most of the time so this is a common position for this to be in. It is doubtful that Kendrick or Yunel will make us look like geniuses but both can deliver boringly effective seasons - delivering at least average performance for their positions in R/HR/RBI/AVG. Yunel is ending up on a number of our teams with the hope that he gets the Tampa bump that Casey Kotchman got in his one year in Rayland. Lowrie is more of a flier at this point but having a SS/3B provides some nice roster flexibility.
ROD: On first glance, want to fault Liss's 3rd round pick of Starlin Castro but Castro finished in the top 70 last year on our Player Rater (http://razzball.com/playerrater) and should improve. Let's say Funston's Brett Lawrie pick in the 4th round. Like the upside there but it feels early given he has yet to have a full year of health or breakthrough performance.
SOD: Assuming speedy recoveries, Greinke in the 6th round by Carty and Corey Hart in the 15th round by DJ Short. Cliff Lee in the middle of the 4th round by Del Don looks like a full round bargain.
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