Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

January 21, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:01 AM)

Good morning everyone! The 2013 baseball season is inching ever closer, so let's help get you ready for your upcoming drafts. Who's got a question?

Alex (Anaheim)

How many Angels go off the board in the first round of a draft?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:02 AM)

Two and only two: Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Trout is part of the "Big Three" right at the top, and Pujols is deserving of the No. 1 spot among first basemen, as well as top-10 overall consideration.

Daniel (Texas)

What do you think of Josh Rutledge

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:05 AM)

I think he's a natural power/speed type, with double-digit potential in either category, he has a mostly wide-open path to everyday at-bats, and he calls home a ballpark that can only help his cause offensively. But there's a reason he's not high in my shortstop rankings, and it's that he's still a free swinger with risk in batting average as well as the chance that such a weakness will lead to him being exploited to the point that he loses a starting job. He walked only three percent of the time last year; that was fifth-worst of more than 300 players who came to the plate at least 250 times. This is not a guy you buy for batting average, and certainly not for on-base percentage.

Chris (Chicago, IL)

When should I pick a SP?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:06 AM)

The blanket advice I'd have is that you do want a member of the starting pitching elite -- that being one of the top 12 or so -- and that means probably having to spend a pick between Rounds 2 and 4. I'd advise waiting a little bit after that before going hard after starting pitchers, though.

Paul (Southern California)

I'm in a first year keeper league. standard roster size, 16 teams, h2h cat. in what round should I try to draft a player like Profar, Taveras, or Bundy?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:08 AM)

If hoarding the blue-chip prospects is your strategy, I can say that a player like Jurickson Profar went very, very early (Round 5?) of our recent dynasty mock, Oscar Taveras went in about Rounds 13-14, and Dylan Bundy maybe a round after that. Another set of 10 rounds will be posted soon, so you can see the specific spots, but I had all of those players ranked a little bit lower. I had Profar around 90th, because I don't see him making the team out of camp, and I had Bundy maybe 160th because I think he'll also spend a lot of time in the minors.

Wodie (Houston)

Who's a bigger bust candidate: Chase Headley or Edwin Encarnacion?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:10 AM)

Headley, if only because of the outrageous home run/fly ball percentage (20.5%), unlikely repeatable because of his spacious home ballpark (even accounting for the smaller dimensions in 2013). But I've got both players coming within reasonable range of their 2013 output, so I wouldn't call either a clear "bust" pick of mine. I just see Encarnacion's dead-on-repeat prospects being a little higher.

Jon (Colorado)

Is it unrealistic to expect a line of .290 25 90 for Anthony Rizzo?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:11 AM)

Yes, the batting average is unrealistic. I think Rizzo's drafting owners are investing in the chance at 30 homers, while accepting a near-fantasy-league-average batting average in the .270 range. And I'd argue that the proper projection might have him batting in the .265 range with 26 homers or so.

Chad (OKC)

Are the M's really going into the season with Jesus at C? Where will he rank at the position?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:13 AM)

Sure, why not? Did you know he batted 83 points higher with twice as many home runs in 90 fewer plate appearances as a catcher than a DH? Maybe it'd be good for him to catch somewhere in the range of 90-100 games, with the Mariners bringing in a somewhat more durable backup to him.You can see my specific rankings on the site, but I've argued that Montero absolutely has top-10 catcher potential for 2013.

Anthony (NYC)

Tristan - please clarify - you say you have Profar ranked 90th but in your rankings i see he is no. 242. Also, if someone is not going to make the team out of camp, how can you rank him No. 90?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:13 AM)

Keepers. Rankings on the site are redraft (2013 only). My keeper rankings will be published in the coming weeks, but my first draft has him in the 90 range.

Daniel (Texas)

Rosario or Lucroy?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

This is going to be a "needs" answer, but my bet on higher 2013 Player Rater finish -- meaning more overall draft value in my book -- is Wilin Rosario, simply on the massive power potential. He's a serious power hitter with a ballpark that inflates homer totals, though I'll be clear that I see Lucroy as a major sleeper just outside the top 10 catcher group.

Mike (San Diego)

If John Jaso gets the everyday job, he falls into the "You could definitely do worse with a late round pick" category, right?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

Correct, especially in leagues that substitute on-base percentage for batting average.I tend to call such players "can't-hurt-you" types.

Justin (Madison)

Which closers are you looking to avoid on Draft Day?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:19 AM)

I have little to no interest in Ryan Madson, Brandon League, Carlos Marmol or any of the Mets. Most of that -- specifically the three names I listed -- has to do with the obvious fact that the men setting them up have superior skills that hint at an in-season takeover. (Meaning Ernesto Frieri, Kenley Jansen, Kyuji Fujikawa.)

Andrew B. (Kansas City)

Can Kris Medlen repeat his second half dominance?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

He has effectively zero chance of that, but I point you to Daniel Hudson's late-season dominance in what, 2010, as a fair comparison point. Hudson regressed as everyone should've expected, but to a range that still kept him high in the starting pitching rankings. It's the kind of thing where the player is a top-10 starter on a per-start basis in the past year, but in the upcoming year he's a guy who makes <i>more</i> starts, but the sum is more of a top-25 guy. That's Medlen to me. More innings, higher ratios. But tremendous skills.

Tom (Chicago)

Did I make a horrible mistake trading Bautista for Pedroia this offseason in a keeper league?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

No. You purged the greater risk and received the player at the thinner position, and I'm fine with that. I actually have Pedroia about five spots higher in my (keeper) rankings right now.

Nick (Pittsburgh)

What is the earliest that you would take a pitcher?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

Tenth overall at the absolute earliest.

Nick (Pittsburgh)

Is waiting for a catcher like Lucroy, Rosario, or Perez in the later rounds a good strategy?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:23 AM)

It's a <i>great</i> strategy. I see scads of value in players like Lucroy and Perez, and in a 10-catchers-start league like ESPN's standard game, they'll cost you next to nothing.

Chad (OKC)

What are your expectations for V-Mart this season? Where do you see him going in drafts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

Let's say I'll be monitoring him very carefully once camps open -- and as a catcher and a player fresh off injury he'll surely be reporting early -- but I'm cautiously optimistic for now. I'm shaving maybe 10-15 percent of his value off the top based on the missed year, but as a middle-of-the-order hitter for a solid Tigers lineup, I think he might instantly become a top-five catcher again. I think he belongs in the discussion as the 100th overall pick of the draft approaches. I ranked him 110th, but I'll be thinking about him a little before that.

MeisterNJ (Mendham)

Where did Wil Myers go in your dynasty draft?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:29 AM)

Seventy-ninth overall, to me.You can see all of the first 10 rounds of our dynasty mock <a href="http://espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/page/dynasty2013_round1-10/rounds-1-10-mike-trout-ryan-braun-stephen-strasburg-lead-way" target="_new">right here</a>.

Jon (PA)

How can you have heyward ranked so high and Harper almost 70 spots behind him with pretty much similar numbers and Harper has more potential.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

Fair question, Jon. For me, much of it is tied to age (Heyward being three years older) and experience (Heyward having two years' additional). But I'm pretty pro-Harper. If you want to make me a case that he's a top-50 pick, I'd have a difficult time disputing it. My strongest case is that he could hit an adjustment period as so many sophomores have done, and his downside is in my opinion greater for 2013.

Josh (Brooklyn)

Thanks for the chat time Tristan, always appreciate your insights. Do you buy into Fielder's odd-year success? Looking to land a big bat at first but wondering if I can target some less pricey guys like Butler, Ike, Hosmer...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:33 AM)

No. Odd-even year patterns are ridiculous analysis, even though I know there's the temptation to believe in them because of a few isolated examples in the history books. Fielder's chances of repeating are outstanding considering the Tigers have added Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter to further bolster the lineup behind him, so I cannot see how that pattern holds up. First-round pick, pretty easy call.I do think the other three are fine choices late if you prefer to wait, but "reaching" for Fielder at the end of the first doesn't bother me one bit.

Andrew (Vegas)

You're not pro-Harper at all. He's going in the 2nd round in NFBC.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:34 AM)

Ok.Anyone who picks Bryce Harper in the second round of a non-NL-only draft leaves him or herself with effectively zero chance at profit potential.

Bob (Bismark ND)

Can we Inaugurate you in the fantasy HOF today? What can we expect about J Kipnis? Somewhere in between the 1st half &#x26; 2nd half of his season last yr? Been offered Trumbo for him and both seem in the same boat.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

"Somewhere in between" feels like a lame answer most of the time, but for examples like Kipnis it's the truth. I cite the fact that his stats show clear extremes on both sides of the "luck" measures, and he has all of the look of a player in the midst of his early-career adjustment period. But he's such a good power/speed guy at a weak position, give me him over the mostly power-driven Trumbo.

Bryce Harper (Washington, DC)

How dare you, Tristan H. Crockcroft.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

It's a clown ranking, bro.

avey (oregon)

Tristan, what happened to Tommy Hanson? Does Anaheim help him at all?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

His average fastball velocity has dropped in each of the past two years to the point it's regularly beneath 90 mph, it has become considerably more hittable as a result, and he's leaning way too much on his slider (which increases the chance of further injury in my opinion). There's a very real chance of statistical implosion; like you pick him as the third or fourth starter on your team, get a month or two of poor production and then he misses much of the rest of the year. I'm avoiding him wherever possible, just because he's trending downward badly.

Mike (Virginia Beach)

Will Ian Desmond retain his power in the 2013 season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

I say yes. He's hitting an increasing number of balls in the air by year, making more solid contact with them and getting increasingly aggressive, especially against fastballs and pitches on the inner third of the plate. Desmond looks like he's coming into his own, and I'm a firm believer in him for 2013. Buy!

Eric (Harrisonburg Va)

In our league, a player needs 25 games at a position to be eligible. Do you think Butler has a chance of attaining that with a few more interleague games on the schedule?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:41 AM)

Anyone who roots for that must be rooting for Eric Hosmer to far no better than he did in 2012. Certainly possible, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. I anticipate the Royals will be quite patient with Hosmer.

Nate (MI)

Tristan, Where does Jed Lawrie rank at SS if you ignore the injury concerns? (For sake of argument).

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:42 AM)

If I had the promise he'd play, say, 150 games? I think he'd be one of the 10 best shortstops in fantasy baseball.That said, 150 games for Lowrie is one of the largest leaps to make of any individual player in the game.

Cain (Huntington WV)

Is Kyle Lohse a good keeper option in a deep league? For such an unsexy name he keeps putting together good years for the Cardinals.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:43 AM)

Way too much of a chance he ends up in a situation terrible for his fantasy prospects. Age and track record -- thinking pre-2012 -- has me saying he's a must-wait-until-he-signs keeper consideration. Unless you're either an uber-deep keeper league (20-plus players kept, for an example) or have a keeper spot to burn.

Steve (Ontario)

Do any blue jays pitchers have solid upside this year? Or at least any more than they had on their previous teams.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:43 AM)

If he stays healthy, I love Josh Johnson in Toronto.Brandon Morrow is my Blue Jays value pick of 2013.

Justin (Madison)

Mike Moustakas' ADP of around 180 seems a substantially better value than Ryan Zimmerman's ADP, which currently is about 50. Is that crazy talk?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:45 AM)

Narrowing the ADPs to near-equal levels is crazy talk. "I'd rather have Moustakas in the 18th round than Zimmerman in the fifth" is not remotely crazy talk. Remember, I'd ranked Zimmerman about a round and a half lower than your quoted ADP, so I'm on board that he's being overrated if that his number.

Jason (On the Argo)

In a salary-cap keeper H2H points league where owners have the option to reset one rookie to a salary of zero, would you (i) keep Headley at a low salary and reset Harper or (ii) keep Harper at a low salary and reset Moore?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:47 AM)

Difficult to judge such a situation without full knowledge of your league specs, but in my experience in these instances you <i>always</i> reset the most valuable long-term keeper on your roster when given the chance. I would much, much rather have Harper effectively forever if this reset promises that.

Rob PA [via mobile]

Any chance Wil Myers breaks into Tampa's opening day line up? Is he worth a late round pick

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

The Rays could agree to some sort of long-term deal with him a la Evan Longoria during his rookie year, or he could be so fantastic during spring training that the Rays have no choice but to keep him on the roster, but as things stand today I consider his odds stacked much more against than for him. Best projection has maybe a May 15 debut.

Kevin (Inland Empire, CA)

I would be stoked to get David Ortiz in the 12th round, but I don't see it happening. What are your concerns?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

Injuries, and that's about it. I'd consider him higher if I knew he looked like the David Ortiz of old on March 1.

Bob (Bismark ND)

You seem to be of the notion to wait on C unless you get Posey? Maur to early in 5th rnd?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

I just about never, never, <i>ever</i> draft a catcher early. It's as simple as that catchers do not accrue an equal number of plate appearances to players at other positions, plus they suffer more wear and tear than players at other positions. I'll spend if the player is going to sneak in additional time elsewhere -- like Posey's occasional first base at-bats (also applies to Mauer and Santana, and V-Mart this year), but otherwise, you'll find my catcher rankings are notoriously conservative.

Justin (Ottawa)

With all the new additions, do you think Brett Lawrie is a bit of an under the radar player right now, especially coming off an underwhelming 2012? Is .290 20HR/80RBI/20SB realistic? Also, where should I target him in a keeper league?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:53 AM)

He's another player whose next-level statistics wildly fluctuate, and considering age/experience with players like this I take that as the player is in the midst of his adjustment period. Lawrie has the skills to put up the numbers you cite, and I'm ranking him as if I'm cautiously optimistic he'll get there (with some luck in the health department). But watch him closely in March!Ranked 89th for redraft, tentatively 37th for keeper.

Tom (Eugene, OR) [via mobile]

Keeper question!? I'm already keeping A. Beltre and G. Stanton. Need to keep 2 more between D. Price, C. Camels, J. Cueto, M. Moore, C. Sale, J. Upton, E. Andrus. Who do I keep? Thanks for the help!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:54 AM)

David Price and Justin Upton for me. But I'd scarcely debate you that feverishly if you wanted Hamels over Price, or Andrus over Upton.

Harrison (New Jersey)

Dexter Fowler and Chris Young (OF) are battling it out for my final keeper spot. Who wins?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

Fowler. Breakout season, prime-age, has Coors helping him, and he's more assured everyday at-bats of the two. It's a "why not" speculative pick, that he keeps up the good 2012.

Will (NY)

When will mock drafts open? i want to get a feel of the rankings

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

Unsure of that, but will let you know as soon as I know.

Joe (St. Louis)

Better keeper, Medlen or Middlebrooks, both same round value (25th)?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

Kris Medlen. Not that close.

Steve (Ontario)

Hamels over Price? why

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:58 AM)

Put aside 2012 wins totals and postseason hardware, the latter being entirely irrelevant to draft-day evaluation, and tell me what's so different about their performances? Price had a little on Hamels in the ERA column -- to be fair, their FIPs weren't quite as far apart -- but let's not forget that Price plays in the more hitter-oriented league of the two.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

I also never <i>specifically</i> said "Hamels over Price." You will see in my rankings I have Price two spots higher. But as a debate between the two? Absolutely, bring it on. It's a worthy one.

Tyler (Iowa)

Are you keeping Olt over Chisenhall? I'm leaving towards Chisenhall with more guaranteed ABs...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:00 PM)

I'd need some sort of hint that the structure of your league skews things to keeping the promised 2013 PAs, because I'm keeping Mike Olt if I'm choosing between the two on the lower tiers. His ceiling, even for 2013, is considerably higher.

Connor (Kansas)

Keep 1 out of Matt Cain, Brett Lawrie, Matt Wieters, or Desmond Jennings

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

Cain, unless that leaves you with a ton of pitching on your list.

Nick (Pittsburgh)

Why isn't Ryan Doumit in your top 250? Decent numbers last year and multiple position eligibility.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

Health history, not the best ballpark for left-handed power (and his larger sample is always going to come as a lefty), rich group of catchers in that 8-15 rankings range. I'm actually a very big fan of Ryan Doumit's and have been for awhile, but I must be realistic about the player who might play 75 percent as many games as, say, Jonathan Lucroy.

Dan (Seattle)

Where do you have Aroldis Chapman among SPs?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

Looks like 17th, and I've been on board with him being a top-20 capable starter all winter.

Dan (Vermont)

Deep AL Only League. QS and IP instead of W and Whip. Rank these keepers (can keep them all for under $5 each): W-Y.Chen, J.Vargas, W.Davis. THANKS!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

Ugh, innings over WHIP? I don't recommend that.Jason Vargas. If you want to know the newest Angels starter who I think has the best year, it's Vargas over Hanson and Blanton. Heck, no one should be entirely shocked if Vargas ends up the team's second-most valuable fantasy starter. (Not saying draft that way, saying that he has a nonzero, and actually a bit higher than that, chance of it.)

Kevin (Inland Empire, CA)

I'm thinking of trying your 6x6 suggestion: OBP and SLG instead of BA, K/9 and QS for K and W, and add IP. Or something like that. What's the biggest change in your draft strategy for this compared to a regular 5x5?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

Draft pitchers, not teams. Do <i>not</i> fall victim to the misconception that streaming actually works in the format. It does not. A blow-up streamer outing will ruin you.Draft walks and homers on the hitting side.The 6x6 -- which will have an upcoming column -- is OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, R, SB for hitters, QS, IP, SV, ERA, WHIP, K/9 for pitchers.

Tim (Chicago)

I fall for the Jay Bruce/Dan Uggla types every year. How can I stop this?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:07 PM)

You commend yourself for the Bruce half, and remind yourself with the Uggla half that as such players age, there's a greater chance of steep, unexpected declines (like Dunn's 2011). Go young with these guys wherever possible.

Joe (CA)

I'm keeping Cameron Maybin for 5 bucks. \ and boom goes the dynamite

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

Solid price, but that's not a league-winner off the top. He hits a <i>slew</i> of ground balls and calls Petco his home. If you see a .280-hitting, 20-homer kind of outburst coming, I think you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Doesn't have great odds. You're investing in his speed, period.

Atticus (Portland)

Where should Stephen Strasburg be drafted

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:09 PM)

Second round.

Brian (Raleigh, NC)

I noticed you neglected to rank Yonder Alonso anywhere in the Top 25 First Baseman. I'm guessing it's due to his low HR output last year. Do you not see him outperforming his stats from last year? and is he close to cracking your Top 25?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:10 PM)

One of the problems with the first base rankings -- and an explanation for why I recently expanded them from 25 to 30 -- is all the multi-position qualifiers, who push down the first base-exclusively players. I like Alonso as a low-end sleeper -- think NL-only leagues -- but he simply lacks the power (and the ballpark to boost his power) of the good 30-plus players ranked ahead of him. I think he was 32nd for me, last I checked.

Kevin (CT)

13 team keeper league with a $290 budget. Already keeping Stanton ($31), VMart ($2), Goldschmidt ($9), Freese ($12), and Reddick ($5). Can't decide who to dump between Rios ($10), Aramis Ramirez ($19), and Pedro Alvarez ($1). Help Please!!!!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:12 PM)

You know, Kevin, I would actually shed David Freese, rather than one of those three. You're fine with A-Ram for seven bucks more, and you're even protecting him with a risk/reward power source at the low, low price of a buck in Alvarez. Frankly, I think Freese shouldn't cost all that much more than $12.

Nick (Pittsburgh)

Freddie Freeman or Anthony Rizzo, this year and long-term?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:13 PM)

Freeman for this year, and you know, despite these guys being oh-so-close in my keeper rankings, I've still got Freeman about a half-round to a round higher of the two.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:14 PM)

OK, time to wrap things up for today. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I couldn't get to yours. Take care everyone!