Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday morning, ESPN.com fantasy expert Tristan Cockcroft will drop by to take your questions and analyze all the latest baseball news from a fantasy perspective.
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Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:02 AM)
Good morning everyone! Pitchers and catchers reporting dates are finally here, which means it's officially 2013 fantasy baseball season. I'm sure plenty of you have questions, so let's get to as many of those as possible in the next hour. Here we go!
What's your opinion on J.Altuve - still a viable keep based on him & nobody else now is that Astros lineup? 2nd base is weak, and I should still view him as a decent keep right?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:04 AM)
He boosted his walk rate last season, which is a plus because his primary weakness was a flair for swinging freely, hurting his on-base percentage and with it his number of potential stolen-base opportunities. I believe in Altuve within the range of his 2012; I'm not sure he'll make a big step forward from that but that's still a top-eight capable second baseman, and a keeper in most larger formats.
Can you please explain why J Upton has an overall rank of #12 in ESPN's current rankings? Every year he seems average at best. Thanks.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:06 AM)
His career is -- or at least should be -- on an upward trajectory and his stats during the latter stages of last season returned to the range of his 2010-11 numbers, and there's an explanation for his early struggles: Injuries had been limiting him. He's got a fresh start on a new team freed from the trade rumors that have bothered him for more than a year. This is what fantasy baseball is about: You don't draft last year's stats, you project the next year's numbers and then base your draft plans on those. And we see Upton taking a step forward in 2013. He's too good not to.
Dayan Viciedo (South Side Chicago)
Name game. Compare me against two players: one showing my floor and one showing my ceiling for 2013.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:09 AM)
I've historically stressed how I don't like player comparables: They're usually unfair and they set unrealistic expectations. Still, you asked, I'll take a top-of-my-head stab at this: I think he's somewhat Mark Trumbo on the high end, and maybe Brett Wallace on the low end. Thinking 2012 stats that is.
Pete the Meat (Philly)
Do you think Jay Bruce still has more potential? Seems like he's old knews at this point but he's only 25. What do you project for him during his peak years?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:10 AM)
I think he's got a little more power growth and is a 40-homer candidate, perhaps as early as this year. He's a darkhorse candidate for the National League homer crown, in my book. As for a peak-years expectation, a guy with 40-plus-homer power threatens pitchers enough to boost his walk rate (IBBs, pitching around), and that might be enough to make him as much as a .280 hitter in his best year. Problem is, it might be in 2015, not 2013.
Big Ben (Spring Training)
If Ben Revere steals 50 bases and hits .300 and scores 100 runs in front of a rejuvenated Phillies lineup, why isn't he an overall top 50 player like Michael Bourn?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:12 AM)
Well, of course he would be then! Revere's weakness is a monstrous ground-ball rate, around 65 percent, and he has to use his speed to drive batting average then. It's awfully difficult for a player like this to bat .300-plus; think Juan Pierre as one of the more successful examples in recent history. Even .290 isn't easy, though possible. I'd bank on maybe .280, and that's not necessarily enough for him to bat first in that lineup. Maybe he should; it sounds like he won't.
Alex (Dover, DE)
Seems like everyone has a different opinion about Ryan Dempster pitching in Boston. How do you think he does this year?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:15 AM)
I think it's one of the worst spots he could've landed, because there isn't an "easy" matchup within the division ... and division rivals generally play each other 18-19 times (I believe it's 72 games for AL East teams within the division this year). That's nearly half the schedule, and Dempster really struggled, especially after his trade to the Rangers, with the tougher matchups. Decent late-rounder but he requires matchups management, and some people don't have the patience for that.
Would you be ok with Sherzer and Moore leading your staff in a 8 Team AL only league?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:16 AM)
Kind of. I'd tell you that I'd want you to lean a little more on pitching sleepers in the mid-to-late rounds, building the depth to give you a fallback in case either or both disappoints. But I'm a believer in those two pitchers; I think you can make it work. I'm merely not endorsing your "getting cozy" after getting those two.
Need to pick two keepers in a head to head points league. Carlos Santana in the 17th, Eric Hosmer in the 19th or Kris Medlan in the 23rd?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:18 AM)
I hate to let any of those three go, but based on it being head-to-head and points, there isn't a chance Santana can go. He's an unquestioned top-100 player in that format and I'd make a case he's top-75 at the very least, and I'm being quite conservative even listing the 75 number. And I've said to Medlen's owners who have him at this cheap a price that you have to take the chance on his ceiling for 2013. The guy could be top-10 if all falls right, and if he does, you'd feel like a fool to let a go guy for as cheap as a 23rd-rounder. You could fill first base a heck of a lot more easily.
How far away is Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez? Do you think he is worth drafting in a dynasty format right now? Will he hit?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:20 AM)
I think at least two years. I think a little less of him than I did Jesus Montero at a similar stage -- though I was big on Montero, for the record -- but I think similarly of the two: Bat will succeed, but I'm not so sure he's a catcher long-term. Think 2015 season he debuts, which makes him worth in dynasty only if you have farm spots to stash him, or keep a lot of players each year.
Dave (Woonsocket, RI)
There seems to be a ton of hype surrounding Jurickson Profar this year. I can absolutely understand how he could be so valuable in actual baseball (great defense, switch hitter and solid OBP) but for those of us in standard 5x5 leagues, will he really be as valuable as some have made it seem? What type of player is he expected to compare to in his prime? Is this really a potential first round pick down the road?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:24 AM)
I've been cautioning the dangers of falling prey to the hype surrounding the 2013 rookie class; we were spoiled by guys like Trout and Harper last year. The truth is that impact rookies at those levels are exceptionally rare, so let's not get crazy here and project Profar for top-25 overall value. If everything goes his way -- capital "E" there -- I suppose he could. But I can't see him making the team, and even when he does, I'm not sure he'll hit for a high average right away, being more of a 12-15 homer, 25-steal type.I haven't considered player comparables for Profar. Not really my thing. I'd guess his annual stats might look something like Barry Larkin's, though maybe slightly lower average and more power.
Thoughts on Bauer this season? Do you have him making the Cleveland rotation, and what sort of numbers are you expecting? I noticed he isn't anywhere near the top 300.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:26 AM)
I'm still one of the few Bauer backers, though even in my own rankings I've taken a step back. He'll have to earn a rotation spot this spring but he'll begin camp with one his to lose, and I think making adjustments with his command as well as against big-league hitters will make him a shaky first-half pitcher. I'm thinking he's a high-threes ERA pitcher who you pick for K's and have to manage matchups. Maybe his second half will get on the mixed radar?
what are your thoughts on King Felix's situation, is there a possibility of a Wainwright/Madson type situation where TJ is needed after mid/spring training and a lot of drafts already in the books???, Thanks,...
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:28 AM)
Well, something like that is as likely to happen to Felix Hernandez as it is to CC Sabathia or Madison Bumgarner or Tommy Hanson or ... gasp ... Justin Verlander! This whole elbow thing is overblown, and I like the Sabathia comparison, in that the result might merely be contract language about Felix's 2017 and beyond, that if he breaks down there's an out clause. For 2013, I believe the Mariners, there's no imminent concern. Sounds like your typical "pending physical" where the physical turned up normal wear and tear you'd find in any pitcher. I'm not adjusting my rankings.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:28 AM)
By the way, that's not trying to kick-start a panic that Verlander will get hurt. The point is that any pitcher could suffer an unexpected Tommy John surgery, really. We simply don't know when it's going to happen with some guys.
Jack (White Plains)
Hi Tristan, seeing Johan and McDonald way under valued in the ESPN pre-pop rankings for the fantasy leagues. They were both in the 200's after such names as Brandon McCarthy and Marco Estrada! Am I missing something??
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:31 AM)
James McDonald was awful the second half of last year, completely unusable in any fantasy league, and those who pick him are hoping that it was related to fatigue more than anything. Problem: He pitched the exact same innings in 2012 as 2011 (171), so it's a flimsy argument.Johan Santana also had a miserable finish to last year, and he has been far more injury worry than productive fantasy starter the past three years. I think anyone who picks him is hoping he'll give them 15 or so productive starts over a small portion of the year, but I can't count on much more than that. And I can't rank that kind of pitcher high.
Bill (Athens, GA)
Are you any more worried about CC's elbow, his offseason surgery, and the fact that the Yankees are not planning on having him be the staff workhorse, going every 5 days? If CC throws 180-200 IP instead of his customary 220-240, how less valuable is he?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:32 AM)
I am. It's why I have him ranked closer to 20th among starters than his traditional top-10 spot. No panic-button pressing here but he'll be one I watch closely in the spring, and I worry about your projection, that he's closer to a 200 inning than 230 inning guy.
Do spring stats matter? Do you read the spring box scores?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:34 AM)
I read the spring box scores for largely one reason: Batting orders. Starting pitchers' command numbers also catch my eye, but outside of that, I almost entirely ignore them. I watch the games to see if there's anything that strikes me, but box scores tell little.
Brian (Albany, NY)
Thoughts on dumping SAVES as a category and replacing it with LOSSES? I hate the volatility of saves.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:36 AM)
I'm not a fan in the slightest of "reverse" categories: Quantitative categories where the goal is to score the least. If you can play zero active players in a game, week or season and lead in the category, I just consider it wrong ... and I don't believe in innings minimums or maximums if that'd be a follow-up.Also, I feel about the same about losses as I do wins: They don't tell you much about pitching talent. Not that I'm saying saves do, but I don't like making changes and not improving anything.
Given his throwing motion, are you concerned about Chris Sale this season? May just be me, but i feel like you could schedule the Tommy John surgergy now
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:37 AM)
Some, yes. I'm more concerned that, a year after people doubted Sale and drafted him late, now they'll all chase his 2012 stats and overdraft him. His second half was rather ordinary and he experienced one of the largest innings bumps in the game. I just think he's more top-25 than top-12 starter for 2013. And while it's possible he could get hurt this year, I wonder whether it'll take a few years first.
who would you consider to be your "flag planted" players for this upcoming season?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:38 AM)
I'll have a column on that in the coming weeks. I was just scribbling down some names this weekend. It's a topic where I want to carefully pick the names rather than do a top-of-my-head thing.
jack (White Plains)
But Marco Estrada? I'd take the high end potential of those two over a bland pitcher who won't help (or hurt) anyday.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:39 AM)
So a pitcher with a 9.3 K/9 and 4.93 K/BB ratio in 29 games/23 starts is "bland"? OK then. I won't say that I think Estrada has fabulous stuff, but he has made tremendous strides in terms of his command and I'm not as sure as you are that he has nothing left to offer. More likely to make 30 starts than Johan, and a heck of a lot more polished in command than McDonald.
Karl Welzein (Grand Blanc, Michigan)
Is Yadier really a top 3 catcher? I know he was amazing last year but he's also 30 and you know how catchers can be from one year to the next.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:40 AM)
Why wouldn't he be? Catchers are often late bloomers as Molina was, and the only thing that was a bit out of the norm was his HR/FB%, which even if it corrects itself this year makes him, say, an 18-homer source. He was trending up for awhile and I think you need to believe now.
Danny (Louisville, KY)
If Ryan Ludwick struggles offensively and/or Choo can't handle CF how long would a Billy Hamilton call-up take?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:42 AM)
I'd be stunned if Hamilton is up before the All-Star break. It'd mean he both excelled at the plate and in the field -- and adapting to his new position of center field will be the key. It's not an overnight thing and I think the idea is to give him as much of the year as possible to master it.
How does the move to Houston affect Chris Carter? What value would you put on him in a 12 team AL only auction league?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:43 AM)
Maybe $10-12? Honestly I haven't run those numbers quite yet, Mike, I'll do that when prepping for LABR, but he should be priced in the range of a starter with some upside, and I've seen players like that go for as little as $5 and as high as $15-17.I think Carter is going to be a streaky, frustrating type, but he's also a pretty good bet for 20-25 homers because the Astros might as well play him regularly.
Is Adrian Gonzalez and Shields a fair offer for Cano? We keep 3 hitters and 3 pitchers in our league. His best pitching options are Lester and CJ Wilson
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:46 AM)
Sure, that sounds about right.
Hi Tristan - I wanted to get your thoughts on a strategy of 'punting BA.' Aside from being anti punting a category generally, One could spend a low amount on hitting and buy a team of low BA types (but accumulate all the counting stats) such as Uggla, Dunn, Espinosa, BJ Upton, etc. Then spend a lot on pitching and do well in all five pitching categories. Essentially be very competitive in nine of ten categories. Do you know if this has been tried before and what the results have been?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:49 AM)
I know of several people who endorse that strategy, and I'm fine with it because if you're going to pinpoint the Rotisserie 5x5 category with the greatest amount of random variance, that's it. You could fall into a couple points just by being lucky.That said, I'd be careful not to just specifically target awful batting average guys coming off bad years. There might be a reason those players struggled to that extent. Adam Dunn's 2011 comes to mind. Draft guys like that -- Espinosa is one of those for me, of the ones you list -- and the downside is great in the other hitting categories, too. It means more work checking whether the player has a skills flaw rather than is just a "low-average guy."
Bob B (Fla.)
Karabell claims there are numerous Astros hitters worth watching in fantasy, but I think he's crazy. What do you think?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:51 AM)
I think he's crazy because he hasn't come to me offering the world for new Phillie Ben Revere in our longtime sim league.But seriously, I think he's right that the Astros shouldn't be laughed off as simply as they are. Jose Altuve, mentioned earlier, is a very good player. And there could be value yet, in the lower tiers, in Carlos Pena, the aforementioned Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, Matt Dominguez...
Danny (Louisville, KY)
If Chapman throws 170 innings he could very well strike out 200 plus. He seems like a lottery ticket this year for fantasy owners. What do you think boom or bust?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:52 AM)
I think Chapman is a "boom," because he's got skills to rival most any pitcher's and he made tremendous strides with his control in 2012. I see no reason he can't succeed as a starter.Frankly, the only significant "bust" possibility I see is that he's restored to the closer role. Based on potential there, I don't think his fantasy owners would be upset with that.
Keeper question - already definitely keeping Goldschmidt - remaining options are Rizzo, Rosario, Middlebrooks and Altuve for last picks in the draft... Can keep two on top of Goldy, who you got?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:53 AM)
I'm probably going best player here rather than addressing positions, and keeping Jose Altuve and Anthony Rizzo. I might be tempted, in your shoes, to trade Rizzo and Will Middlebrooks for a better keeper.
Trout has to regress some in the power department right? And ave. Espn projections seem a little low though. You agree?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:57 AM)
I think he'll regress in terms of batting average and homers but improve in terms of stolen bases. Trout is actually impossible to fully read; he's a once-in-a-generation player so there's no statistical comparison to make. Our projection regressed his past stats -- 2012 and 2010-12 minors -- and it also accounted what he did the second half of last year. It might be slightly conservative, a point I've been making. If you believe in more than that, he's really a strong No. 1 overall candidate.
You've mentioned your favorite categories for a new keeper league before, but I can't find the chat you mentioned them in. What were they again?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:58 AM)
6x6: OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, SB, R, QS, SV, ERA, WHIP, IP, K/9. I'm actually working up the column about it this week.
Bust or boom for Mike Moustakas?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:59 AM)
I think "boom" -- and it sure seemed my colleagues agreed with me at our summit. His swing is suited to power, so understand you're shooting for 30 homers but at the possible expense of a .260 batting average.
Brian (San Diego)
Help me decide my last keeper in a deep league. Should I go with Brett Anderson and his injury risk or Bauer control's issues?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:01 PM)
Anderson. Extreme risk/reward, yes, but he sure looked like the pitcher pre-surgery after his return from it last year. Also a big-time ground-baller, so risk when he's active is pretty low.
Peanut the Cat (Catonsville)
Do you see any value in drafting Vance Worley fir a few bucks late in AL only? The twins are so bad though.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:02 PM)
I'd take a chance, sure. He's a capable strikeout source and he has a cutter to minimize his lefty split, meaning that he could be more than just a matchups type. If he's cheap enough -- let's say $8 at the absolute maximum in 12-team AL-only -- I'd take a look.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:03 PM)
OK, time to wrap things up for today. Thank you for all your questions, and sorry if I couldn't get to yours. Take care everyone!