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January 7, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:00 AM)

Good morning everyone! Spring training is now less than six weeks away from starting, and it's never too early to begin preparing for 2013 fantasy baseball. Who's got a question? Let's get started...

Jeff K (Baltimore)

I know there is a "Big 3", but I would argue there is a "Big 7" (with Kemp, Cano, McCutch, and CarGon following the Big 3). In a 14 team 5x5 Roto league, are you going with sure things like Pujols/Verlander at #8? Or are you willing to risk the upside of Hamilton/Votto/Bautista?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:05 AM)

I see where you're going with this, Jeff, and I might argue that you could squeeze Joey Votto in that latter group to comprise a "Big 8," but every bit of analysis I've done has Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout clearly above the McCutchen-Kemp-CarGo-Cano-Votto tier. So let's say there's a "Big 3," then a "Secondary 5," shall we?A couple of key differences between these groups: Braun and Trout are five-category megastuds, Braun with a multi-year track record of it and Trout in a loaded offense. Cabrera has to be a favorite to lead or come close in AVG-HR-RBI yet again. Meanwhile, you've got Kemp coming off surgery, McCutchen with a so-so supporting cast (think RBI/R), CarGo has never been able to play a full schedule (usually tops out at 145 G), Votto had the late-season power swoon......and perhaps thinking about Cano I'm shortchanging him. Prime of career, thin position, contract year. But I look at today's Yankees and have questions, so he remains in this secondary tier. Hmmm, maybe I should move him to the top. I'm doing a lot of ranking analysis this week to fine-tune, so that might come shortly.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:06 AM)

As for your specific inquiry, Jeff, based on what I've just written, I'm going after Votto first of all those options you listed. Certainly over Hamilton, with whom I have health/strikeout/ballpark concerns.

RP (NY)

Alright Tristan, lets cut to the chase. Who ya got #1 overall?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

I have revised my rankings recently to go Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, but I've also said previously that I regard them 1, 1A and 1B, and have no issue with anyone shuffling them on their own based upon personal opinion. To me, that is the correct order, and I have done piles of analysis to come to that conclusion.

Pops (Sin City)

I used your keeper rankings for a beginning 8x8 league and won the championship last year. Thank You, Great Job. I get to keep 8 or 10. Who would you keep? Braun-Cargo-Longoria-Hamilton-Craig-Kipnis-Rios-A Ram-Hart-Cuddyer-Gomez-Aybar-Lucroy. Bumgarner-Zimmerman-Gallardo-Latos-Fister-A Sanchez-AJ Burnett-Niese-Axford and Street.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

You're welcome, Pops, the keeper rankings are a personal favorite of mine, but I'm such a veteran keeper leaguer, it's easy to love.I don't know your additional categories, so this involves a little guesswork. But let's try: Obviously Braun, CarGo, Longoria, Hanley and Bumgarner. I think Hamilton needs to be kept, concerns or not he's still top-25-overall capable, and Craig and Kipnis would make my cut, too. So that's seven. To get to eight, I'm going A-Ram, and then it's a question of whether you <i>want</i> as many as 10. Categories -- you didn't mention them -- matter, as does the speed at which pitching will go in your draft. I'd probably go with two pitchers: Zimmermann, and then it's very, very close between Gallardo and Latos. I'm going Latos.

Brett (Boulder)

How much value do you put on age in a keeper league? Say Trout and Braun, both at the top of their respective game last season. I think trout gets the edge but am i looking too far out, Braun is a safer bet for at least three more years I imagine.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:17 AM)

Brett, you're talking about two of the best talents in any fantasy baseball league, redraft <i>or</i> keeper, so it's not really going to matter which you pick. It's a great question, and what I'd normally advise is that if all else is equal, take the younger player. I also do another thing: I invest in the hitting before the base running skills. Trout is younger and Trout can hit, so it's going to be him (the base running comment pertains more to players whose values are mostly tied to that skill).

Dave (WI)

Lance Berkman a high risk high reward kind of guy for this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:20 AM)

That's about right. Frankly, his signing in Texas was one of the few destinations that would've had me believing in him at all (outside of very deep AL-only leagues, I mean). I'm projecting somewhere in the neighborhood of a .280 average and 20 homers, if he can stay healthy enough.

Austin (Indy)

Will Stasburg be limited on innings again this season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

I think so, in a continuation of the Jordan Zimmermann plan. Zimmermann threw in the neighborhood of 190 regular-season innings and wasn't seriously capped, and I think that's about right for Strasburg in 2013. That's hardly something to sweat in a fantasy league, though.

Mike (Minny)

Any concern about the long term health of RG3 as a keeper? Seeing what happened last night scared me.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:23 AM)

Fair fantasy football question to sneak in. I've always got some concerns about mobile quarterbacks' long-term health, but only to the point that I would never call one a clear, top No. 1, rather than that I'd go out of my way to avoid him. In RGIII's case, I'll probably have a similar opinion as I did Cam Newton this year; some regression in 2013 and greater injury risk than with the average quarterback. I was right about Newton for half a year. Ah well.

jimmy (phi)

Is League really going to be the closer? and is petitte worth 5 bucks in a 12 team mixed?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

Can you believe that, Jimmy? For a while I couldn't believe it myself, but the money the Dodgers are paying Brandon League is "closer bucks," and they've subsequently come out and said that League is the leading candidate. I was saying one year ago at this time that I believed more in the secondary closer competitor, Kenley Jansen, than the leading, Javy Guerra, and I see this as somewhat comparable, that they'll have to battle it out in camp. But to be clear: I felt much more strongly about Jansen's prospects of emerging as "the guy" in 2012 than I do today in 2013. Invest in Jansen.Ad for Andy Pettitte, I'm going to say no, not because it's a poor price but rather because he should cost about that in the auction if you throw him back, and the last thing you need to be doing is locking up <i>roster spots</i> on a keeper list on players like Andy Pettitte.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

The Pettitte thing reminds me something: People tend to think most about price when evaluating keepers. It's locking up the <i>spots</i> that is nearly as important to consider.

Landon (ATL)

Harper or J. Upton for 2013?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:29 AM)

Justin Upton, who again I'll stress is being monstrously underrated both in real and fantasy baseball as a result of all the trade rumors. I'd be floored if he's not in the Player Rater top 25 come season's end, and my shock level would be far greater in that event than if I saw him in the No. 1 spot on that list at year's end.

Alex (NJ)

What are your thoughts on Longoria, Top 5 third baseman?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

I've done additional analysis on Longoria recently, as a key question mark for 2013 as well as one about whom I've been frequently called out for my positive opinion, and I remain pro-Longoria even after a closer look. A lot of his injury issues have been fluky, and the Longoria we saw to begin 2012 was the MVP-caliber performer he can be at his best. He's in the prime of his career and all he needs is a little luck to be a clear top-25 player overall. I'm investing. I mean, geez, I ranked him 20th overall.

Dave (NYC)

Any guys you feel pretty confident won't end up on any of your teams this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:33 AM)

I don't see there being much chance that Josh Hamilton, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Aramis Ramirez or Kyle Lohse will be on my teams, based upon expected draft price.

John (Wisconsin)

What are your general impressions of the upcoming fantasy baseball season? For example, is pitching going to be deeper or more shallow than last year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

Hmmm... I'd say pitching overall isn't much different than it was in 2012, perhaps slightly more shallow but that might merely be a product of rapidly improving analysis rather than the pool itself worsening. For sure I would not invest in a closer, definitely not in a keeper league, other than the absolute studs (guys like Kimbrel). Shortstop is a wasteland, first base is somewhat deep but is extremely interesting on the lower tiers, catcher is awfully bland beyond the upper tiers.

Rob (Philly)

Your stance on Upton change if he's shipped to Seattle or San Diego?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

Not by much, no. "Fresh circumstances" might be as much of a plus for him as the ballpark factors a minus. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote an excellent piece recently about the Upton home/road factors, and I agree with him, they're largely overblown. If anything would be bothersome about his landing in either place, for me it'd be going to the American League and having to learn a new set of pitchers. But that's usually a 1-2 month thing, meaning maybe it'd make him more of a great May 1 trade target than a draft-day bargain.

josh h (canada)

What position eligibility will machado have? What should we expect from him now and in future, for a keeper league?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

Third base-only for 2013, at least initially. And considering J.J. Hardy remains in Baltimore, I think it's third base for Machado all year.Keeper-wise, he'd be among my top 10 third basemen for sure. I'm thinking the kind of guy rooted in power -- think 30s -- but might struggle to get to .300 or above -- think a consistent .280-.290 -- and contributes barely double-digit steals annually but not much more than that.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

This season's Machado projection: .260 AVG, 18 HR.

J (Boston)

when will the first mock draft be completed?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:41 AM)

I'm not sure yet, but we've got some interesting stuff coming up very, very soon, so stay tuned...

Mike (Wisconsin)

Any advice for people who want to start up a keeper league this season? What are a few rules that keeper leagues need to have?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:44 AM)

Detail the keeper structure. I've always found it much more fun to have prices, be it auction dollars or draft rounds, and elevator clauses for those so you're forced to strategically budget. The best keeper league is going to have the most clear, concise rules on how players are retained.Trade rules are critical. The A-number-one complaint of keeper owners is player "dumping." For instance, would you ever allow a team in your league to trade Wil Myers for Ryan Braun, even if the keeper prices justified it? My league has no such rule blocking that, but please do poll your ownership group in advance to see whether the group prefers it. One way to avoid those if you want: Have in-season caps on your auction budget. Say, if you're a $300 auction keeper league, don't allow any team to have more than $350 in players on the roster in-season.

Rob (Philly)

Who's leading the league in taters this year, THC?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:46 AM)

I currently have Giancarlo Stanton projected as the leader. I'll share this nugget: Only five players in the history of baseball have hit as many homers by their 23rd birthdays as him, three are in the Hall of Fame, a fourth is A-Rod and the fifth is Tony Conigliaro. Stanton's power is legit and I think that while his runs/RBIs will suffer on that awful Marlins team, plus he might not see quite as many good pitches to hit, he'll see <i>enough</i> bad offerings to get into the 40s.

Dave (Bellingham)

Thoughts on Andy Pettitte this year? Low walk rate, ground balls, good chance for wins.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:47 AM)

Pettitte was mentioned earlier in a keeper regard, but in terms of his 2013, I like the trends but can't imagine at his age he'll suddenly stay healthy enough to make 30-plus starts. AL-only guy I'd buy for up to $10, but he's pretty much a "use when healthy" guy for whom you might have to fill half a season.

Brandon (Vero Beach)

Are you guys doing a rankings summit again this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:47 AM)

Yes.

Rob (Philly)

Glad your FSWA HoF nom wasn't tainted by your alleged use of PEDs (Parm-Eating-Diet).

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Those are filthy, filthy rumors!But suddenly I'm hungry...

Mitch (Georgia)

Are you going near Bumgarner this year? Normally a guy i LOVE to draft in redrafts but last year's ending still burns.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

Hmmmyes (infamous "hesitant yes"). I don't have a major issue with Madison Bumgarner, but recent analysis has him leaning more on his slider as his fastball has faded -- or at least that was the disturbing late-year pattern -- and that's usually a bad thing for a pitcher. He's the kind of pitcher for whom I'd say "stay away" as camps open, and for every day that you can see him (or in most people's cases, read a report on), you'll warm to. "Watch list" kind of guy I'll monitor closely and <i>want</i> to pick as high as the No. 7 spot I currently have him rank, but need to first see some evidence.

Cory (Mass.)

Hi, Tristan. What are your thoughts on Kendrys Morales this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

Intrigued, in spite of the ballpark switch. It meant a larger number of PAs, at the expense of slightly diminished power/RBI production. I'd buy; he's one of those interesting lower first basemen to which I referred earlier.

Chris (Texas)

Are there any rules in fantasy baseball leagues that are not standard that you think commisioners should use? Maybe a couple things that you like that we should consider adding to our leagues. Thanks!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

My keeper league, beginning last season, switched from standard Rotisserie scoring to better reflect skills in the modern game. We used the 6x6 scoring system that I've frequently cited as a suggestion on the site:OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, SB, R for hittersIP, K/9, ERA, WHIP, SV, QS for pitchersThe league ownership as a whole had a positive reaction to the change and there hasn't been anyone outspoken to change it back. People have been very, very happy to rid wins from the equation, because of how poor a measure it is.

George (Yankee's Front Office)

Tristan, what are some other areas we should address going into the season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

That depends on the Yanks' goal for 2013: A) Contend, B) Rebuild as they try to get under the cap for luxury tax purposes.If it's A, then catcher, power bat preferably right-handed and an outfielder, and one good, mid-range right-handed 3/4 starter. A lefty reliever might help. If it's B -- and I'm completely game for this -- then stay this course, don't waste cash on anything and make some bold moves to get younger. A Justin Upton call should be mandatory.And in either case, a better calzone delivery boy is a definite team need. Costanza won't cut it, nor will Kramer.

Joe (KC)

Medlen had a crazy good year last year. Even with some expected regression, still worth keeping at $15 in NL-only 8 team league? Keep up to 15

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

Yes. My brother and I had a Kris Medlen debate at Christmas -- he owns Medlen in the keeper league I mentioned -- and I made this point: It doesn't really matter what Medlen's mid-range expectation is for 2013. It's that his ceiling is so high -- in the top-20 starters class easily -- that you <i>must</i> keep him on the basis that not every pitcher can be that good at his best. If you're going to make a pitching pick and go bust, that's the kind of guy to get, a high-ceiling player coming off an interesting year like his, because if it doesn't work out at least you can find suitable mid-range replacements. It's not so on the hitting side.

Ben (Brighton)

Is it time to finally completely give up on Mark Teixeira?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:00 PM)

Absolutely not, but I think this is his new expected level of performance. He's currently projected for .260-30-100, which is fine but not the player you used to draft in the top 15 overall.

Bill (Kentucky)

Harper just barely cracked your top 100 at #95, amongst Lance Lynn and Dexter Fowler. Does this mean that you think that Harper will struggle, or that you aren't expecting a major step forward in 2013?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

I think it means a lot that a 20-year-old player coming off a decent albeit hardly extraordinary year is among the top 100 ranked fantasy baseball players at all. That is an extraordinary feat and I expect that ranking to rise each year -- if he's not in my 2014 top 50 I will be shocked because it means he'd have had to have a disappointing 2013.

JC (Boston)

Who will the mets catcher this season? Does D'arnaud have any value/2013?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

John Buck. He's affording the Mets the development time they desire from Travis d'Arnaud in the minors. Draft value-wise, I'd treat d'Arnaud as if he's not coming up until at least June, and even then I think there's an adjustment period coming. Draft him only as a reserve/bench consideration, because anything more than that sets you up for disappointment.

Patrick (Atl)

Great insight on the scoring suggestions. Do you think that changes in a H2H league? Also in regards to getting rid of wins, I completely agree, but do you feel QS is a suitable replacement? I feel like there are some flaws in that stat as well. I'm searching for that right category to measure how well they pitched.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

I don't think wins belong in the equation anywhere. Frankly, I don't think they're even worth being counted by Major League Baseball, not from an individual standpoint.I've heard the anti-quality start argument and to be clear, I've stressed that I've never called it a "perfect" alternative. Far from it. But those who criticize say that the 6 IP/3 ER minimum equals a 4.50 ERA, and a pitcher with that ERA shouldn't get any positive credit for it. What I reply is this: That is the <i>minimum</i> qualification, and the vast majority of pitchers who are receiving credit for a quality start do noticeably better than that. Compare it to wins, where many, many pitchers fail to even meet that minimum yet accrue one. Or a lefty specialist comes on to get one out, give up one run yet gets a cheap win. I don't see why that's better. We're letting bad or meaningless performance drive the category -- that is unquestionably not the case with QS, where you <i>cannot</i> be worse than a specific measure if you want credit.

Champ (DC)

THC - am I reading this right, you have Innings Pitched as a scoring category in a roto league? How do you make that work?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:07 PM)

Innings pitched = outs. Outs rank among the most important assignments for a pitcher, so it's only natural that my league credits for them.I wrote a bit about this in a column a couple years back and if you want more detail than I can provide here about why I picked that scoring, hit me up on Twitter (@SultanofStat) and I'll dig you up the link.I enjoy the chatter about it, though. I'm not about to tell you my system is the best. I'm always looking to improve.

Paul (DC)

Thoughts on Chapman if he is moved to starting rotation this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:09 PM)

Innings cap, and my knowledge of his stuff has me much less concerned than I was with past examples like Neftali Feliz. Think more Chris Sale, less Feliz. ERA likely rises into the 3s because he'll need to dial down the fastball. The WHIP won't help. But even given 160 innings, he's maybe 180 K's in the bank on the conservative side, and that's a pitcher who's kinda Strasburg-like on the value scale.

Joe (Chicago )

As he became one of my favorite players last year what is your expectations for Dayan Viciedo. Had a breakout season and only 23. The power seems legit.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:11 PM)

My current projection is .260 and 22 homers, 75 or so RBI and a ton of K's (135ish) and not many walks (35ish). But I'll stress that Viciedo is among the group I haven't deeply analyzed yet. From my knowledge of him I think he's a bit too free-swinging to expect a big jump forward.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:11 PM)

Ok, time to wrap things up for today. Thank you for all your questions -- so pleased to see so many interested fantasy baseball owners in early January! Take care everyone.