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January 14, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:01 AM)

Good morning everyone! Baseball is inching ever closer, but your 2013 draft prep should be underway. Time to help you out; who's got a question?

Nick (Pittsburgh)

More likely to have a huge breakout season:Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:06 AM)

Didn't Heyward just <i>have</i> a breakout season? I'm pro-Heyward to the point where I consider him an unquestioned top 25 player overall in mixed leagues, pointing out that he's one of the few players with legitimate 30/20 potential. To me, that's going to trump anything Freeman could do, though I do regard Freeman a borderline top-10 first baseman who could get to the 30-homer plateau.

Jason (Michigan)

What's your favorite format Tristan?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

Probably my 12-team, retain-12 (plus 5 minor leaguers) keeper league, which migrated to 6x6 scoring last season (OBP and SLG replaced AVG; IP, K/9 and QS replaced W and K). But -- while none of my leagues have yet to do this -- I'd probably most prefer an AL- or NL-only league that used that scoring or something similar. I'm a fan of the deeper leagues, because it challenges your knowledge more.That said, I've got a 14-team mixed points league that I greatly enjoy, and there aren't many formats I genuinely <i>dislike</i>.

mark (va)

Will kendry morales return to form this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

Most people's instincts will be to shy from Morales in Seattle, accounting for ballpark and supporting cast, but I actually regarded it a positive -- you can read more of my in-depth thoughts in my archives on the fantasy baseball page.Pluses: More at-bats, more prominent lineup spot, Safeco not as scary a venue as before now that the fences are being drawn in.Minuses: It's still Safeco, a more pitching-friendly park than L.A.'s, and it's a considerably weaker lineup, meaning a runs/RBIs hit.The sum: More at-bats wins this, pushes his value up slightly. Could be a great late-round mixed first base value if you wait on the position.

kris (pittsburgh)

What do you think about middlebrooks this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:14 AM)

I'm going to want to see how he fares this spring, and he's an example about whom I've got some adjustment concerns -- he didn't appear to endure such a period in his rookie year, and they do tend to come for everyone, even the studs. But I'd be OK with him either at or just outside the top-10 third base cutoff. He's my No. 14 third baseman, but I'd be tempted to move him ahead of Prado (11), Freese (12) and Alvarez (13) if he's raking in March.

AK (Milwaukee)

What round are you looking to take Brandon Morrow? Always seems undervalued to me and I love having him on my team.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

You're risking it every second you wait beyond the ninth. I ranked him 117th -- that's 12th round in standard ESPN mixed -- but I'm prepared to reach by as many as 20-25 spots. I'm <i>very</i> pro-Morrow, the only reason I wouldn't advise grabbing him sooner plus the reason he's not in my top 100 being the injury history. On a per-game basis, he's a huge breakout candidate for 2013, though.

MeisterNJ (Mendham)

Josh Rutledge: Flash in the pan, or a little something there?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

I think there's a little something there. Ballpark drives up his stats, and he was already rooted in a nice balance of power and speed (think 15/15 potential). Consider him an excellent late-round value in mixed leagues.

Rob (Philly)

If Justin Upton leaves Arizona is that better or worse for Paul Goldschmidt?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:18 AM)

Worse, but anytime we're talking about lineup losses, we're highly unlikely discussing variations of greater than 10 runs/RBIs over a full season. That's maybe a two-round value difference, except that in Goldschmidt's case, he was trending up anyway, has 30-homer potential and I can't see him dropping from where I currently have him (72nd overall) even if Upton leaves (which I think he will).

Ted (Buffalo)

I have the 5th pick in a slow pace email draft...Trout, Braun, Kemp,and Cano are gone...I think I'm going to go with Votto, any issues with this?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:19 AM)

Not really, but I'd take Miguel Cabrera before him and it's not that close.

Nick Davies (Modesto, CA)

Hey Tristan, help a fellow 06010 cousin out! 12 team H2H points league cvan keep up to 5 and lose the corresponding pick - Braun 1st, Pedroia 1st, Votto 2nd, J. Upton 2nd, Stanton 3rd, Andrus 6th, Latos 8th. R. Soriano 23rd

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

See, the tough thing here is that I gravitate to three outfielders: Braun and Stanton are obvious, and I'm sorely tempted to go Upton in the second. But I've got Votto ranked higher of the two and it balances your positions better; Braun-Votto-Stanton for your first three rounds. And I'd keep Elvis Andrus, again for balance. The rest, throw back.

Armand (Oregon)

Tristan, glad to be talking baseball again. You on board with Schoenfield on Latos Cy Young candidate this season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:23 AM)

No. I don't think he'll regress substantially, but it's difficult to ignore that he's in a three-year downward trend in terms of his strikeout rate, and he calls home a ballpark that hurts his ratios besides. I think he'll be on the outside of that race, though in the top 25 starters for fantasy. Think a "spins-his-wheels" kind of year like 2012.

deshawn (south beach)

yo man who yo cy young winners dis year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:24 AM)

I prefer to go with the "bold choices" when asked this, because it's pinpointing fantasy values: Let's go Yu Darvish in the AL, Adam Wainwright in the NL. Naturally, the obvious choices for me would be Felix Hernandez in the AL, Stephen Strasburg in the NL.

taylor (evansville)

Whos this years madison bumgarner?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

I dislike player comparables because it sets our expectations too specifically. But if you're looking for a similar, young-guy-gets-better bump, I could see Jarrod Parker taking that step. He cut his walk rate considerably -- a point colleague Todd Zola recently shared -- last year.

Bryan (Springdale, AR)

Do you play fantasy baseball like you do fantasy football, with no ethics and solely out to win at all costs?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

Might you have me confused with someone else, Bryan? I'm not sure where you got the impression I don't believe in ethics in fantasy sports. I most certainly do. Win, win, win, but do it properly and respectfully. I've never said anything to the contrary.

Mike (San Diego)

Do you agree with Karabell that the Trout/Braun/Cabrera tier stands pretty clearly above the rest and then it gets really clustered for about the next 10 spots or so?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:28 AM)

Yes. It's a 1-1A-1B thing, then the "2" group is expansive. Depending upon your valuation of the elite starting pitching group -- I've got a few of them in my second round -- I can make the case that anyone between 4 and 18 in my top 250 could shuffle arbitrarily based upon personal opinion.

Frank (idaho)

Chances rizzo hits 30 bombs this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:30 AM)

Decent. I think he's bound to disappoint in terms of batting average, as he has always had a reputation as a pro of being more strikeout-prone than he showed in the majors in 2012. He also cooled a bit down the stretch. I'd probably set my expectation around a .265 average, 25 homers. Fair range to draft.

Marc (Work)

Does your ranking of Wright over Longoria have to do with Longo's injury concern? It seems like he would more power over a full season.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

Yes. I originally had Longoria higher, but I've thoroughly analyzed him this winter and it's impossible to ignore the great chance he'll endure at least one DL stint, meaning any projection greater than 140 games is simply foolish. I <i>love</i> the guy, and would be happy to take the chance ... in the third round.

Fred (Ohio)

What is your projection for Cespedes going to look like this year? The 300 ave legit?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

It's going to be awfully similar to his 2012, except that I'd shave a bit of the batting average and boost his steals slightly. I think the guy isn't quite as sound a hitter as that .292 average showed -- he's got a long swing and I bet his strikeout rate increases in Year 2 -- but he's also quick enough to reach the 20-steal plateau. Let's say a .280 hitter, 25 homers, 20 steals.

brad (harrisburg, pa)

your thoughts on Encarnacion's encore? you have him ranked top 20, but any chance he finishes there?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:37 AM)

Absolutely. The Jose Bautista parallel is completely legit, though I'd say more in the "Bautista three-year average" category than specifically Bautista's Big Year 2. Encarnacion might struggle to hit much higher than .270, but I think he's 30 homers in the bank, with upside to 40-plus again.

Dan (Vermont)

AL Only League...thinking of keeping M.Olt. Will he still BE in the AL on Opening Day, do you think? Assuming he is, what do you think of him? Thanks for chatting!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

This is just personal opinion, but I think Jurickson Profar has a greater chance of making the Rangers' roster than Mike Olt, both on skills and opportunity. Lance Berkman's signing was a <i>big</i> negative for Olt. I probably won't be drafting Olt at all, except for maybe a few bucks in a deeper AL-only league.

Marc (Work)

Ignoring the awful wording, do you really think Dunn is done? He did hit 40 HRs last year and his average has to get better.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

Um, it does? Why's that, Marc? He batted .159 two years ago and the .204 represented about the expected amount of regression to the mean considering his propensity for strikeouts.I think Dunn is about 90 percent of the player he was last season, <i>the</i> prototypical three-true-outcomes player. If you're expecting anything more than a .210 average (and I'd argue maybe not even .200) and 30-32 homers, I think you're taking a huge risk.

Andrew (SF)

Who are your other "leap" candidates for pitchers other than Parker? Niese? Samardzija?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:42 AM)

I've got Morrow, Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Vargas, Maholm and Porcello as candidates to make as much as 10-spot leaps at the position, doing a very quick, rough run-through of my starting pitching rankings.

Big Mike (hoosiertown)

For fantasy purposes is it significant that someone like Lohse will be joining this team very late in offseason, having no time to work with his new catcher?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:44 AM)

I think that'd only matter if he lingers as a free agent deep into spring training. Begin the discounting, say, around Feb. 15. And if he's not on a team by the start of the exhibition season, yes, I'd worry.For now, the greater concern was that he was in a pretty good place in St. Louis, he's unlikely to return there and if he migrates to the American League, I think his ERA/WHIP will inevitably suffer.

Ken (Ohio)

Your ranking of CJ Wilson speaks for itself right? Meaning not much of a chance to get back in the top 25 pitchers?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:45 AM)

Sure he's got a chance, but I'm worried about his mediocre finish to 2012. He was worked fairly hard as a starter the past few years -- remember the additional innings accrued in the postseason -- and I need to see some sort of evidence in March that he's back to his old form before I'd move him back in that group.

Flip (frisco)

Jed Lowrie ?Will we finally see what he could be?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Boy, I hope so. Lowrie's problem has always been an inability to stay on the field. He couldn't ask for a better situation in which to play a maximum number of games, if he could just stay healthy. He's one of the Astros' few high-upside youngsters who is major-league ready, and I'd never project much more than 120 games for him, but he's a player I'd target in the late rounds in mixed.

Andrew (SF)

Where do you have Medlen?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

All of my 2013 rankings can be found <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=2013_ranks_250" target="_new">right here</a>.

Ryan (Minnesota)

Hi Tristan-What do you expect from Jacoby this year? Stellar 2011 and forgettable 2012. What will 2013 bring?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

An ultimate grab bag. Only the doctors could provide you that answer and I'm not even sure they could. I recommend expecting about 130 games, being <i>very</i> cautious about locking up too much of your draft resources even at that level, except that he's plenty capable of a .290 average, 15 homers, 30 steals or so if he can play that much or more. Ultimate risk/reward player. Love the guy ... if he can just stay healthy.

Mike (San Diego)

In addition to your overall rankings, it looks like your SP rankings have a clear top tier too. am I right in thinking the Felix/Verlander/Kershaw/Strasburg is a cut above the rest and then everyone down to about Darvish are somewhat jumbled together?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:52 AM)

It's kind of like that, except that I'd regard it as more of a four-man top tier -- I value those four so closely -- then David Price is somewhat in his own tier, then Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Gio Gonzalez are in their own quartet, and <i>then</i> I think personal preference can take hold in that 10-20 Weaver-Sale group.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:53 AM)

I would advise everyone to be very, <i>very</i> careful not to let more than about 15 starting pitchers slip by before locking in your ace. It's fine as a strategy to take one elite starter, then wait awhile, but I consider it dangerous to wait until beyond someone like Yu Darvish (18) before getting a "leading man."

Matt (NJ)

I partially sacrificed my chances for this year by trading draft picks to make a run last year. I need to hit a homerun with my keepers, so with that in mind, which 2 of these 4 do you keep: Hamels, Halladay, Wainwright, and Greinke?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

If you must make that decision today, it's Hamels and Greinke, who provide you the most stable starting point of that quartet. (In your shoes, stability is going to be critical for a starting point, because you're going to need to take some serious chances late.)I'd argue that if you could wait on your keepers to see how Wainwright is throwing this spring -- I anticipate he'll have a lot more zip on his curve -- you might want him over Greinke.

Andrew (SF)

Is Safeco the only park with fences moved in? Petco not this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

The fences were also moved in at Petco, and to a greater degree last I checked than at Safeco. But keep in mind that Petco was canyonesque in right, so even drawing that fence in 10 feet isn't going to make a massive difference in player valuation.

Jon (Hoboken)

Keep one. Dickey (15th round), Sale (18th round) or Cueto (21st round)?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

I'd keep Johnny Cueto. Besides it being the cheapest keeper price, he's also the player with the smallest risk of statistical regression.

John (Cleveland)

Keep one. Moore (6th Round), Lester (24th Round), Salvador Perez (25th Round), Brett Gardner (26th Round).

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

I'm going to keep Salvador Perez. It's difficult to get a meaningful -- read: non-train-wreck -- catcher that late in your draft, so I think that's the smartest move to untie your hands in the earlier rounds.

Rob (DC)

What do think Haren's ceiling is this season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

<i>Ceiling</i>? Something in the neighborhood of his 2011. Though I'd say a more realistic high-end projection would have him with a 3.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 180 K's and on that team probably 16 wins. I'd be careful not to expect more.

Donnie Sadler (Pawtucket, RI)

Keeper question: Sale for a 20th or Medlen for a 25th? Thanks!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

Kris Medlen. I think I've made this case previously, but in case not I'll remind: Medlen's <i>ceiling</i> is far too valuable to let him go unless you're paying that kind of premium -- that's near-top-10 starter, I mean -- and if you're spending a mere 25th rounder for him it's a brilliant risk to take.

Kevin (Chicago)

Was Strasburg's hard innings cap last year a one-year thing, or does he get a hard cap again?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

I refuse to project any line for Stephen Strasburg that includes an innings total higher than 190.

Franklin (ME)

Hi Tristan - any plans for keeper and/or auction rankings? When might those be available?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

We've got some things in the works with that -- and I mean soon -- so stay tuned. Unfortunately I'm not positive the exact publishing date, so no promises, but don't worry, I've heard everyone's requests for keeper ranks/advice.

Ken (Boston)

14-team roto league, 7x5 (OPS and hits are the extra categories). Better keepers: Altuve or J. Montero in round 15, and T. Bauer or W. Chen in 20th?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

Ugh, I don't trust either pitcher in that round. I ranked Chen higher of the two, but frankly, I'm going to take an upside shot on Bauer if I'm locking them in higher than where I've ranked them.As for the hitters, the extra categories kind of cancel one another out when you're talking about those two -- Montero helped by OPS, but Altuve by hits -- so I'm sticking to my original rank of Altuve higher.If you can keep these players forever, I'd probably keep Montero, though.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

OK, time to wrap things up for the day. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I couldn't get to yours. Take care everyone, and have a great week!