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I'm in for a huge year.
No, really. It's a contract year for me, so you know I am motivated. Jason Grey is working in the majors now, so my new lineup spot can only help. Plus, the emergence of Todd Zola means I will be seeing better article ideas thrown my way, as they can't pitch them around me anymore. And the plan to use Eric Karabell and Tristan Cockcroft every Friday on the podcast will keep me fresh.
Get on board now, kids. I've got huge upside this year.
In my 100 Facts column, I dealt in facts. Stats. Undeniable, 100 percent provable, no-gray-area pieces of information.
And I talked about how all the stats used are really just opinions in disguise. How they don't tell the whole story. How they are used to distort and push the agenda of whoever is using the stats. I do it; everyone does it. You should read the article. It's pretty good. That's an opinion that has no factual basis, of course.
And it's those kind of opinions I want to talk about right now. Because non-factual opinions get thrown out all the time in fantasy, and they are even more dangerous. Dangerous because when we give opinions too much weight, it messes with our perception, and perception is what we use to make every decision we're confronted with during the draft.
Little-known fact about me: My free time is usually spent reading Proust in original French, going to the opera and participating in deep, soulful reflection among monks in a remote monastery in the farthest reaches of the Himalayas.
But every once in a while, I enjoy the celebrity gossip: reading about the trials and tribulations of the rich, beautiful and famous. And then, right back to the monks, promise. One website I absolutely love is Crazy Days and Nights. Run by a man known only as "Ent Lawyer," the site has stories, photos and news from Hollywood and elsewhere about the deeds (and misdeeds) of the famous. You'd be amazed at how addicting it is.
Among the most popular features of the site are his blind items. I don't mean like the blind items I put in my column from time to time, where I show you Player A's stats and Player B's stats and then reveal who the players are and you act all shocked to find out you've been drinking the wrong diet cola all these years. No, I mean the kind of blind item that I've also dabbled in, where I tell you a salacious story but I don't tell you who it's about. Now, if you've been reading me for a while, the first one that pops into your head is likely to be "The Actress," but the one I'm actually thinking about is one I wrote about in late May 2011.
Here is essentially what I wrote: "My friend has just gotten back from vacation, where he was hanging out with his cousin. His cousin, you see, was a former roommate of a current prominent Major League Baseball player. A current prominent Major League Baseball player who happens to be off to a very poor start this year.
"My friend tells me this: Every single night, his cousin gets a text from the player. It's always a picture, of an attractive girl in various states of undress, and it's always a different girl. My buddy saw all the texts himself, and he was impressed. He also immediately traded the player off his fantasy team."
Now, at the time the article was published, the player was hitting some 75 points below his career batting average. So far, his new team was not happy with its offseason acquisition. Not known for slow starts, so people wondered: Was this guy injured? Was he pressing to try to impress his new teammates? It was just two months, a small sample size, so maybe he was just getting unlucky. He had two more home runs in that time frame than his career average for those two months, so maybe he was trading some batting average (OK, a lot of batting average) to swing for the fences.
And no one speculated that it might be because of what I, my buddy and his cousin "knew": that the guy was going out, skirt chasing (and skirt catching) every single night, partying into the wee hours. Was dumping the guy the right move for my buddy?
We hear soft information like this all the time. He's in the best shape of his career. He's motivated. He had a great offseason. He lost weight. He added muscle. His team just traded for his best friend. He's playing for a contract. He just got paid. He's out of a big market, so now there's no pressure.
Lots of soft information, some of it hard to verify, all of it impossible to analyze in terms of how it affects the player's performance. Evan Longoria has been very public about the fact that his longtime girlfriend, Jaime Edmondson, gave birth to a baby girl a month ago. Congrats to the happy couple and baby Elle. That's awesome.
But I'd be lying if I said I had any idea of how fatherhood will affect him this season. Will it hinder him? Those first few months with a newborn can be rough in terms of sleep and pressure and figuring everything out, especially for first-time parents. But maybe it helps in a great way. Beyond happy with this amazing addition to his life, he crushes because his personal life has never been better. Maybe it has no effect at all, but the big contract he signed in the offseason adds too much pressure. Or relieves it, because he doesn't have to worry about how he'll pay for Elle's college tuition. You never know, but people can (and will) spin it a million different ways.
My buddy interpreted the skirt chaser's behavior as a negative and as the reason for his slow start and dealt him away. But from June 1 on, our party playboy in question turned it around, hit better than his career average the rest of the way and finished with one of the best home run totals of his career.
Did he curb his behavior? Did he learn to deal with it better? Did it have nothing to do with anything? Who knows? Last year the same player had the most disappointing season of his career, with lows in homers, RBIs and a dismal batting average. Since hearing this story, I'm more tuned in when I occasionally see his name in stories that seem to verify this behavior, especially when he is being linked to a female known for, among other things, enjoying spending time with athletes. So I don't doubt the story is true. I just don't know what, if any, weight to give it. My friend thought for sure he knew what weight to give it. He was wrong.
Keep in mind: Before Nov. 27, 2009, Tiger Woods had 71 career PGA wins. Since Nov. 27, 2009: five career wins. There are lots of other factors at play, of course, including injuries and the fact that Tiger started playing in 1996, but the fact remains that when Tiger was out, um, socializing quite a bit, he was also wildly productive. And then the wife found out and, well, things were different. At least on the golf course.
In our little game, every player has value. Whether he is overvalued or undervalued depends on what it costs to acquire said player. And that is largely influenced by the perception -- not the reality, mind you, but the perception of that reality -- that you and everyone in your league have of that player.
Look, there's so much we don't know that adding unsubstantiated perception skews everything even further. How we value a player is dictated by how we perceive that player. It's already tough enough to evaluate a player based on his skills and performance; why complicate it further?
My advice? Ignore everything that isn't provable. Anything that isn't a cold, hard fact. Scouting has its place, and if a source you trust tells you something based on his eyes and you want to believe it -- his new pitch has been very effective, for example -- sure, add it to the mix. But ultimately, sticking with what you know without clouding it with speculation will serve you well. And if your opinion of a player happens to be different from everyone else's because of it, well then, that's when you "love" or "hate" that player.
That's why the annual "Love/Hate" is not, I repeat, not a sleepers and busts column. Rather, it's a market-inefficiency column. With puns. "Loves" are players who I feel are going too late based on our ESPN Live Draft Results. "Hates" are players going too early. It's that simple.
Please use your brain. Just because Buster Posey is a "hate" and Salvador Perez is a "love" does not mean I would take the Royals backstop over the Giants catcher. It does mean, in regard to overall value, that I think Posey in the second round is not the best use of that pick, whereas Perez represents a significant value in the 19th.
I've tried to give you one undervalued guy and one overvalued guy in each round and to tell you where, in a vacuum, I would feel comfortable taking that player. I know, you're expecting a pun about literally drafting in a vacuum here, but I'm gonna make you wait for it just a little longer.
As usual, there are a lot more "loves" than "hates." It's hard to hate a pick in the 17th round. I mean, there's a reason he is going in the 17th, you know, and by this time in a draft, you're looking to address needs rather than wants anyway.
The bulk of this column is based on ESPN standard 10-team mixed leagues, but I threw in a few names for deeper leagues at the end of the "loves." Finally, this may seem like a lot of players, but keep in mind that there are 750 Major League Baseball players on Opening Day rosters, not including the disabled list. Wait. Make that 725 and the Houston Astros.
And with that, with a shout-out as always to the SWAN, Zach Jones of Stats & Information, here are the ...
|We don't "know" if Troy Tulowitzki is really what makes CarGo. (I warned you there were puns). But numbers are numbers and you can't argue that he was worse after Tulo's injury than before.|
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (going in the second, take in the first): You say he had a bad year last season, I say he's the only guy in Major League Baseball to go 20/20 each of the past three years. And while Troy Tulowitzki is a health risk, to be sure, I don't expect him to miss 115 games again. He had played at least 120 games for three straight years prior to last season. And check this out: Tulo played his last game of 2012 on May 30.
Carlos Gonzalez "Tulo" splits, 2012
Until May 30: .323 average, 1.020 OPS, HR every 14.3 AB
From June 1: .292 average, .803 OPS, HR every 37.0 AB
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals (going in second/third, take in second): When I originally did my rankings, I had him in the second round and he was going in the third. His draft stock has risen recently and I'm glad to see everyone getting on board. Not that it's a big stretch to say he's a stud; obviously, he is. But some might think it's a risk to use this high a pick on a pitcher who was babied after a serious injury. Some are wrong. No innings limit this year plus a good team and a stud bullpen; he really only has to get through 6 innings before you get to Clippard/Storen/Soriano. And that's when he's not breezing into the eighth all by himself. He could easily be a 20-game winner and the best pitcher in baseball.
Since Strasburg arrived in 2010, he ranks first in strikeouts per nine (11.2) among pitchers with at least 40 starts. He's seventh in batting average allowed (.223) and 10th in ERA (2.94).
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers (going 19th, I ranked him 14th): Money in the bank for .300/30/100. OK, technically, in 2011, he hit "only" .294, but he still had 32 homers and 105 RBIs despite missing 38 games, so we'll cut him some slack on the three hits he'd have needed to bat .300. He's an obvious name, of course; I'm putting him on this list because I have seen some rank David Wright ahead of him. Wright latest injury should have his supporters reconsidering that ranking, but still, I don't know that Beltre gets the respect he deserves. There are lot of question marks in the first two rounds; I like knowing exactly what I am getting.
David Price, SP, Rays (going in third, take in the second): All that said about Strasburg, Price's ERA over the past three years? It's 2.93, while pitching an average of 214 innings a year. I'm highlighting pitchers early because it goes back to what I was talking about in my Draft Day Pamphlet, you can no longer say "pitching is deep" and expect to compete unless you get really lucky. Given the question marks on offense at the top of the rankings, I'm comfortable taking a stud pitcher in this second, which is what I wanted to hammer home with the Strasburg and Price endorsements.
Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals (going in fourth, take in the late second to mid third): Believe the hype. Actually better as a 19-year-old than Mike Trout. At that age, Trout hit .220 for 40 games with a .281 OBP. Harper hit 22 homers and stole 18 bases with 98 runs in 139 games. Let's pretend he doesn't make the huge leap in his stats from age 19 to 20 the way Trout did. Let's just assume he plateaus, bump him up a little because he'll be there from Opening Day on and give him a 25/25 with 100 runs scored. Not crazy, right? Three more home runs and seven more steals? You know how many players went 25/25 last year? Three. Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, B.J. Upton. That's it. Now add 100 runs and at least a .270 average to that and kick B.J. Upton out of the group. Obviously, Trout and Braun have significantly more than 25 steals and homers respectively, but still. That's the neighborhood we're in, kids. And that's assumes he doesn't improve at all. Will he improve? Clown question, bro. Clown question.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays (going in fourth, take in third): If you've read me for a long time, you know that the first baseman formerly known as E5 has been on the love list for many years now. Last year it finally all came together for him as he earned the most playing time of his career (644 plate appearances). He stayed healthy, changed approach a bit -- Jose Bautista isn't a bad cat to crib off of -- and I don't think this is a fluke.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers (going in fourth/fifth, take in third/fourth): See if you're starting to sense a theme here. Widely considered a disappointment last year, because, well, he was, the truth is he still hit .299 and drove in 108. The power was missing, but his fly ball percentage 38.5 percent, right in line with the 39.4 percent it has been the past four years combined. The HR/FB rate is what betrayed him; last year it was 8.9 percent, it was between 15.8 percent and 18.8 percent the three seasons prior. That's a lot of outs that used to be home runs, and to wit, he batted .277 on fly balls last year after hitting .353 on them the previous three seasons. After being out of Boston and a year removed from sitting next to Stephania Bell in the Weasel Dome, Gonzo should have another triumphant year in the NL West.
Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals (going in fifth, take in the fourth): Nothing sexy here, just a guy who has had at 500 plate appearances and a .295 average every single season since 2004. Only other guy who can say that? Miguel Cabrera. Hasn't hit fewer than 22 home runs since 2004, either.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (going in fifth, take in the fourth): Gut call he stays healthy this year.
|Yu Darvish is an ace in No. 2 pitcher's clothing.|
Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers (Going in the late fifth/early sixth round, take in late third/early fourth): The strikeouts you know about, it's just about the control. Feeling he adjusts to the heat -- his worst two months last year were July and August -- and I'm buying the adjustment he made toward the end of last season. In his first 22 starts, he was 12-8 with a 4.54 ERA while walking batters 12.6 percent of the time. In his final seven starts, he was 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA and got the walk rate down to 5.3 percent.
Remember, it was a new set of umpires for him, and a new league. I'm expecting a nice leap in Year 2. After Darvish got a strike on a batter, only Matt Cain had a lower batting average against. And that also goes back to control. If he takes controls of his, er, control -- and I say he will -- top five, easy.
R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays, Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals and Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants (all going in sixth; no issue taking them in fifth or even late in the fourth): Basically just wanted to say I believe in all these guys in a big way. That Dickey wasn't a fluke, that Wainwright -- two years removed from Tommy John surgery -- gets back into the top 10 and that I'm not worried about the end of Bumgarner's 2012. Like all three more than the pitchers going ahead of them, as you'll see when we get to "Hate."
Michael Bourn, OF, Indians (going in the sixth, take him in the fifth): There is so much uncertainty in fantasy, sometimes there's comfort in knowing exactly what you're going to get. Michael Bourn is 90 runs and 40 steals, in the bank. In the past four years, there have been only 12 seasons where a player has had at least 90 runs and 40 steals. Michael Bourn has three of them, Carl Crawford had two, nobody else has more than one. In general, I will go power over speed this early in draft, but Bourn is someone I make an exception for.
Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Cardinals (going in late sixth/early seventh, take in fifth): It's getting crowded on the Craig bandwagon and with good reason. Real simple; when he gets playing time, he produces. In his career, he's a .300 hitter who averages 25 HR and 64 extra-base hits per 162 games. You know who else had 64 extra-base hits last year? David Wright, Prince Fielder and Buster Posey. He won't play 162 games even if he stays healthy; the Cards are deep and can afford to rest him a little, which is why he's not going higher, but I'm all-in.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks (Going in the eighth, take him in the seventh): Power is scarce and so are good second basemen.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks (Going in the eighth, I'd pull the trigger in the fifth): I believe it all. The decreased strikeout rate, the increased contact rate, the improvement against lefties, the walk rate, the double-digit steals. I believe, during the offseason, he saved 40 children from a runaway school bus using only three toothpicks and fishing wire. I believe they found Osama bin Laden based on intel he provided. I believe his DNA will someday be used to cure cancer. I believe it all.
Kris Medlen, SP, Braves (ninth, seventh): As I mentioned in my 100 Facts article, in 30 career starts, Kris Medlen has averaged 8.0 K/9 IP and 1.8 BB/9 IP. And during Medlen's career, the only pitcher to make at least 20 starts with a K/9 rate of 8-plus and a BB/9 rate under 2 is Cliff Lee.
Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers (ninth, seventh): See Samardzija, Jeff. He's coming up shortly.
Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (10th, late eighth/early ninth): Just think he's the last decent second baseman I'd want as my starter in a 10-team mixed league. I'm OK with others as middle infield types and there are a few I could see putting it together to be top eight second basemen (Espinosa, Weeks, Kendrick), but for draft day, there's a real drop-off after Altuve, so I don't mind reaching a bit for him if I've been waiting on the position.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets (11th, ninth): Tristan H. Cockcroft is all sorts of smart. Also totally agree with him on Austin Jackson and, as you're about to read, Brandon Morrow.
Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays (11th, late ninth/early 10th): Improved his walk rate and his HR rate, I love the team and even with a decreased strikeout rate, he still has a K/9 of almost eight. Needs to stay healthy, but then again, don't we all? BABIP against keeps getting lower from 2010 and 2011
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (12th, ninth): Power and high average are increasingly hard to find these days. Konerko has both. The perfect guy for your corner spot, he has played at least 144 games for four straight seasons; he may be old and might not have had the year you expected last season, but he still had 26 home runs. Which is more than Adrian Gonzalez or Mark Teixeira hit.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs (12th, ninth): Apparently I like Chicago first basemen. The argument for waiting is that the position is deep. My take is that you want both your first baseman and your corner guy to be first basemen and that power is relatively scarce. So that's why I have a lot of first basemen on this list. And, oh yeah, Rizzo can crush.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (12th, ninth/10th): Power, speed and an average that (in this day and age) won't kill you. Did you know he had a higher HR/AB rate than Carlos Gonzalez, among others? That he led the majors in steals the second half? Plus, when you watch him, you can scream Go Gomez Go! Go Gomez Go! Which is fun. Go ahead, try it now, I'll wait. Fun, right? Well, sure, if you're gonna do it from a bathroom stall at the office, that's just awkward.
|'Scuse me, but you see, if he's the old Napoli, that's amore!|
Mike Napoli, C, Red Sox (15th, 13th): The fact Mike Napoli, a year removed from being our No. 1-ranked catcher, can be had in the 15th round should tell you all you need to about the depth of the catcher spot. The DH at-bats will help him stay fresh, Fenway helps with the average -- career .306 hitter in 62 at-bats there; small sample but still, better than .106, no? -- and he doesn't need help in the power department.
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees (15th, 11th): Seems to be healthy, and if he's healthy, he's 90 runs and 40 steals with an average that won't kill you. If you go power early (and you should), this is a nice speed guy to get in the middle rounds.
C.J. Wilson, P, Angels (16th,14th): Guy was money for a long time, then got hurt, wasn't money. Now he's healthy again. His K/9 and BB/9 basically the same last year as in 2010, when he had better results, and in case you didn't notice, he's got a pretty good offense behind him.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs (16th, 13th): You don't have to spell it, you just have to assume he gets more run support this year, which he will. A 9.27 K/9 is what we in the fantasy analysis biz like to call "good." (By comparison, Justin Verlander's last year was 9.03). His BB/9 was 2.89. Here's a list of the pitchers with a K/9 better than 9 and a BB/9 less than 3 last season: Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Samardzija. That's it. The whole list. He's going seven rounds later than the last guy on that list, Scherzer. So how do you spell Samardzija? Y-U-M-M-Y.
Chris Davis, 1B/OF, Orioles (17th, 12th/13th): Wow, another source of cheap power. At the corner spot. And I love him. The odds, I tell you, are unbelievable. After teasing us forever (He made fun of my hairline. What'd he do to you?), Davis finally learned to hit. Oh, there will be times when he's brutal for a week or two and I don't recommend watching him play unless you are very hot, in which case the breeze from his swing can provide a nice relief. But he's only 27 (seems as though he has been around forever), he learned (somewhat) to hit breaking stuff, his average won't hurt (it won't help, but given the state of hitting, it won't hurt) and at the end of the day, he's going to hit 30 home runs with multi-positional eligibility. And that has a lot of value. Especially in round 17.
Salvador Perez, C, Royals (18th, 15th): I'm stealing from myself again but I don't care. I love this stat from 100 Facts. Perez has 463 plate appearances in two seasons (his age-21 and age-22 seasons). Since 1961, the only catchers with a higher OPS than Perez (.810) and as many plate appearances by age 22 were Brian McCann (.898), Johnny Bench (.889) and Joe Mauer (.811). McCann's injured, Bench is retired and Mauer is going 11 rounds sooner.
The ESPN Live Drafts Results page goes through only 200 for "all" but here are some quick hits on other players I like for late-round fliers or deeper leagues. There's a lot of names here, this is merely me going through the depth charts of every team and seeing a name or two of guys I like this year and think are a bit underrated. In no particular order.
Alex Cobb, P, Rays: A 3.40 ERA post All-Star, 3.01 ERA in 11 August, September and October starts.
Billy Hamilton, SS/OF, Reds: Probably won't be up until the All-Star break. Will still finish top 10 in steals, and for this year you can take advantage of his shortstop eligibility, which he earned playing the position before switching to outfield. He won't qualify at short next season.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Fantasy kryptonite for me. I always get sucked in. Argh. They say he's healthy. Super-deep AL-only play, but will earn a profit if he stays healthy.
Peter Bourjos, OF, Angels: Will stay in the lineup for defense, and I feel the power/speed combo he showed off in 2011 (12 HR/22 SB) will resurface with more regular playing time.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves: If I'm being honest, I don't totally see it, but I have gotten more tweets and Facebook questions and statements on him being a sleeper than anyone else this spring. So just know if you like him, so do a lot of other folks.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners: The quietest 20 home runs hit by a player last season, now in the middle of the lineup. I like him even though the fact they're moving in the left- and center-field fences at Safeco isn't going to help him much as a left-handed pull hitter.
Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals: The question isn't talent, it's playing time. Between Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday missed games, he'll get it.
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, Mariners: Supporters say he got unlucky with HR/FB, critics point out he got lucky with strand rate. Truth is in the middle, but he has a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts with a 7.39 K/9 as a starter, with a 2.65 BB/9 and getting ground balls at a 50.9 percent clip. Only qualified starting pitchers with a ground ball rate better than 50 and a K/9 better than 7 and a BB/9 of less than 2.65? David Price, James Shields, Adam Wainwright. That's it. That's the whole list. I'm not saying he's in their league, but I am saying he's worth the extra buck in the end game.
Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: Also from 100 Facts, only three players hit 10 home runs, stole 30 bags and hit .288 or better in 2012: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout and Aoki. Trout and Braun hit a lot more than Aoki's 10 home runs, but they also cost a lot more, too.
Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers: As discussed on the podcast, finally has a full-time gig.
Andrew Cashner, SP, Padres: A K/9 better than 10 and he pitches in Petco. That'll overcome a lot of other flaws and help with the patience when he's hurt.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Rangers: Better chance to stay healthy as a DH, just a year removed from a 31-homer season, never a bad idea to take a late flier on a Texas hitter.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Yankees: He's not "Ichiro!" anymore, but he's being drafted like he's dead. He's not dead.
Brennan Boesch, OF, Yankees: Friend of the podcast! Injuries to his new teammates help keep him in the lineup, short porch helps his home run totals.
Chris Tillman, SP, Orioles: Believe the (renewed) hype.
Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox: Second year as a full-time big league starter, I expect improvements in his control (not crazy amounts, but to a livable area), John Farrell can only help, he's a lefty with a K/9 better than 9 and he's one of the top two starting pitchers named Felix in baseball.
Emilio Bonifacio, OF, Blue Jays: Outfield only to begin with but will eventually qualify all over the field, and on that team, in that offense, I see a lot of opportunity for steals and runs scored.
Homer Bailey, SP, CIN: I've just always liked Homer Bailey.
Andy Dirks, OF, Tigers: Hit .322 with 8 homers in 314 at-bats last year. AL-only for now, mixed-league play if he can get full-time at-bats.
Phil Coke, RP, Tigers: They don't want Coke to be the closer. They may not have a choice.
|Also, his name is Lorenzo. Lorenzo! How can you not love that?|
Erik Bedard, SP, Astros: See Roberts, Brian. Sigh.
Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves: Especially if your league allows you to stash an unlimited number of injured guys.
Dan Haren, SP, Nationals: Of all the "Big name guys who disappointed last year," he's my choice to bounce back. Him and Wilson.
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers: Former Angels. Noticing a trend? Sigh. Nice speed for your middle infield spot.
Matt Harvey. SP, Mets: Two first names. Always a crowd-pleaser. As is a K/9 of 10.62 in 10 starts last year. Legit.
Marco Estrada, SP, Brewers: Had 143 strikeouts and just 29 walks in 138 innings last year. That's a K/9 better than 9 and a BB/9 less than 2. Guys who threw at least 130 innings with a K/9 better than 9 and a BB/9 less than 2? Marco Estrada and that's it. If we loosen the K/9 to "better than 8," Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia make the list.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres: He's a standout. And by standout, I mean he rakes, which on the Padres, stands out.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres: Thought he got unlucky last year. Still just 26, still fast, still on this list.
Any Oakland A's starting pitcher: Can't go wrong with the A's. The team ERA has been in the top 10 in the majors every year but two (11th, 13th) since 2001.
Josh Beckett, SP, Dodgers: Puts down the chicken and beer for Sushi and green tea. Could see him doing well just because it'll annoy the hell out of Red Sox fans.
Tyler Colvin, 1B/OF, Rockies: Now and forever.
Josh Rutledge, SS, Rockies: Nice pop with a little speed and will soon qualify at second base, assuming Tulowitzki can stay healthy for 20 games.
Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals: Na-na-nasty.
And, of course
Big Fat Bartolo Colon, SP, A's: I can't resist. Must be his gravitational pull.
There's nobody I hate in the first round; every player going in the top 10, I have inside my top 13, so can't really "hate" them for that. So I'll give you two guys in the second round, starting with
Buster Posey, C/1B, Giants (second, take in the third): No shock here. If this is a market-value based column, and it is, someone who is going at a much higher cost than his value is going to make the list. He's terrific. Clearly the No. 1 catcher. A franchise player. But in an ESPN standard league, in which you start only one catcher, considering the depth of the position, a second-rounder is hard to justify. With only one catcher, his position doesn't actually help his value. In my mind, it just increases his chance for injury. Besides, we always say never pay for a career year. Well, last year, Buster Posey had himself a career year, hitting .336 with a .957 OPS in 610 plate appearances. In his first three seasons combined (2009-2011), in 645 plate appearances, he hit .294 with an .815 OPS. Still solid, but if that's what you're going to get, is it worth that second-round pick, just because he qualifies at catcher?
Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels (second, third): I am an Angels fan. But the fact remains he is an injury risk, he is going to a much less favorable home park (career .260 hitter in 166 plate appearances there) and, as hot as he was at the start of last season, he was ice-cold the rest of the year; he hit .368 with 21 home runs in April and May, .245 with 22 home runs from June to October, losing 375 points on his OPS along the way. He was essentially cold for twice as many games as he was "Hot Josh." That said, all the numbers count, and it was still a really good season overall, which is why I'd still take him if he dropped to me late in the third, but Tristan Cockcroft and I have the same concern; injury prone and swings at everything (his K rate is up to 25.5 percent from 16.6 percent in 2010).
Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (third, fifth): Obviously, I am not going to own Felix Hernandez this year if I'm not drafting him until the fifth. And if you want to be skeptical, that's very fair, I get it. I was down on him during the middle of last season, too, and obviously he crushed and I was dead wrong. But to me there's too many red flags. It starts with workload. He leads all active pitchers in innings pitched through their age-26 season, and it's not even close; 214 innings more than the second guy, CC Sabathia, having thrown at least 190 innings in each of the past seven seasons. In fact, over the past four seasons, no pitcher in baseball has pitched more regular-season innings than Felix, with 954.
Now, workload in and of itself isn't reason enough to panic. But it is when you combine that with the steady decrease in average velocity of his fastball over the past four seasons (94.0 in 2009, 93.9 in 2010, 93.2 in 2011, 92.1 last season), which also affects the changeup (the mph difference had dropped from 5.1 to 3.3 over that time frame).
We don't know how he'll react now that he's gotten the big payday, nor do we know how much the fences moving in will hurt pitching in Safeco. I'm sure he'll be terrific. He'll just be terrific for someone else, because there's too many red flags for me to make him the fourth pitcher off the board.
|Would you be shocked if I told you that Jered Weaver stuck out only 142 batters last season despite making 30 starts?|
Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (fourth, fifth): I swear, I'm an Angels fan. The good news is that if I'm wrong, at least I'll be happy during baseball season. But my concern on Weaver is these numbers: 9.35, 7.56, 6.77. Those are Jered Weaver's K/9 rates the past three seasons. He had a 2.81 ERA last year but just a 4.18 xFIP. Angel Stadium and the Trout/Bourjos combo will definitely help, but I just sort of feel the big drop in strikeouts makes him a much better real-life pitcher than fantasy star, especially when you see some of the names going after him.
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres (fifth, 10th): I wrote this before his injury was reported, so now I have to re-write it and I'm all annoyed. Because he was a good "hate" name and now the injury just ruined all that. Did I just somehow make a professional athlete's injury and risk to his livelihood all about me and my column? Yes, yes I did. When it comes to my narcissism, I am operating at an elite level. Anyways, it's about the power. He had a HR/FB rate of more than 20 percent after a three-season average of just under 6 percent. Major league average last year was 11 percent. His draft position will drop because of the injury, but it should have been dropping because the power is unsustainable.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals, Matt Wieters, C, Orioles, Joe Mauer, C, Twins (sixth, eighth on average): See Posey, Buster. I want to be one of the last guys in a one-catcher league to fill the position this year.
Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (seventh/10th): The decreased strikeout and ground ball rates, the increased walk and home run rates, the usage (only Sabathia has thrown more regular season innings the past seven years than Halladay), the struggles this spring; it all just gives me the heebie-jeebies. He has crazy upside, of course, but a lot of big-name pitchers off a bad year have that, as well, and I have a bad feeling about Roy, especially when you see the guys you're passing on to take him.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Phillies, and Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals (eighth/10th-11th): I don't really hate anyone in the eighth round, so I choose these two guys as the poster boys for "Never. Pay. For. Saves." Both guys are fine and I think they'll both have good years. But I'd much rather have Paul Goldschmidt or even Aaron Hill than either of these guys, and that's whom you're passing on.
James Shields, SP, Royals (ninth, 12th): Career ERA when pitching in a dome: 3.34. When pitching outdoors: 4.67.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies (10th/14th): Fine, let's forget last year and chalk it up to injury. Forget it. He's still a .255 hitter over the past three years whose slugging percentage has gone down in three straight seasons since 2009. But let's say that rebounds, too. Let's say he hits 30 home runs with a .250 average or so. He's Chris Davis, with a lesser average, more injury risk and he's going six rounds earlier. Paul Konerko is going in the 12th. Anthony Rizzo in the 12th. He's more of a risk and does not have more upside than many of the first basemen going later than him.
Josh Johnson, SP, Blue Jays (11th, 15th): The health risk, the new division, the fact his K rate was at a five-year low last season, his walk rate was at a five-year high and he wasn't even that good last year. Seriously, how many reasons do we need here?
Hunter Pence, OF, Giants (12th, 14th): Worse park, lowest slugging and highest strikeout rate of his career, he doesn't run any more, I don't think the average will be as low as it was last year, but he's also not a lock for 20 home runs, either. Hit just .219 with seven home runs in 248 plate appearances after he was traded. Small sample size, sure, but it doesn't make you feel good. And a friend of mine dated him for a while and doesn't have nice things to say. Two sides to every story and, in fairness, most exes don't have nice things to say. But still. This is my list and I've got my friend's back. Hate Hunter Pence. Someone will pay for the name. Don't make it you.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees (13th, wouldn't draft him): Fans of the 06010 podcast will back me up here. I've "hated" Tex for a while now. Long before the injury. Long before the injury was worse. Long before it was cool. Been less than a fan for a few years now. I'm annoyed, again, because I would have had him low even if he was fully healthy. But the injury and its unknown severity, plus the traditional slow start combined with no spring training and the declining skills (as our player card notes, his OPS has dropped each season since 2007), means Nate Ravitz and I are in agreement on this one: Mark Teixeira is un-draftable in a 10-team standard mixed league.
Torii Hunter, OF, Tigers (13th, 14th-15th): No one I really "hate" in Round 14, so doubling up here. Hunter got pretty lucky last year, (.389 BABIP, .307 for career), his walk and strikeout rate both went in the wrong direction and he doesn't run anymore. And he's 37 years old. Just seven home runs and a .262 average in 337 career plate appearances at Comerica Park, as well, for what that's worth.
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (14th-15th, 18th): I know people are going to accuse me of being a Yankee hater, but I'm not. At least from a fantasy perspective. It's just that there's too many Yankee lovers out there ruining the ADP on these guys. Between the injury recovery and the age, how much speed does he have, really? How many ground balls is he gonna beat out? The runs might take a hit, too; that's not a good lineup hitting behind him to start the year. Had 15 home runs last year, yes, but had a total of 16 the two years prior. How much do you trust the power? I don't think he'll hurt you, but I also don't think he's winning you any leagues. He's "just a guy" in a 10-team mixed league at this point, and why go for "just a guy" here? The same numbers will be available later.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Reds (17th, 20th): I think Aroldis Chapman gets the closer job back. At one point or another. That simple.
And with that, kids, Love/Hate is in the books. Hope you perceived it as worth your time
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- still isn't naming any names, but is willing to say it wasn't Jamie Moyer. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.