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March 18, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

Good morning everyone! My apologies for the delay, a little network trouble, but don't worry, I'll always make the time up to you. Anyway, it's the peak of fantasy baseball draft season, so let's get right to your questions...

Mike (Malden)

Which Tigers SP do you think has the chance to have a big year...A. Sanchez or D.Fister?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

See, I like the way you asked that, because it means you're recognizing the difference between expectation/most likely outcome versus ceiling. I ranked Doug Fister higher, and I'd draft him first. That said, I've been arguing that Anibal Sanchez's ceiling is higher. The difference is WHIP; Sanchez needs to make strides there if he's to realize his high-end expectation. But I think a boost in wins alone gives him a solid shot at matching, or exceeding, Fister in fantasy value, if you need to take some shots on cheaper, upside guys.

Evan (Columbus, OH)

Head to head points league...only start 3 outfield...who you taking first overall?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

Probably Miguel Cabrera.

MeisterNJ (Mendham)

Machado or Desmond for this year in a keeper?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:10 AM)

If you want to win now and the future isn't especially relevant, it's Ian Desmond. I firmly believe in the adjustments he made -- mostly a more aggressive approach at the plate -- and have him ranked several rounds higher for 2013.

Mark (Chicago)

What position have you been seeing dry up very quickly in drafts? Which one can I not afford to keep waiting on?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

Second base, and second base, but that doesn't mean you should overdraft. The last thing you need to be doing is taking Ian Kinsler with the 15th overall pick, or worse, Howard Kendrick with the 90th pick. I've ranked the position accounting for "depth" -- or in this case lack thereof -- so I'd still stick close to my ranks.

Mike G (Herndon, VA)

12 Team Mixed H2H keeper league. Who are you keeping: Halladay in the 5th, Alcides Escobar in the 21st, or Carlos Gomez in the 23rd? Already keeping Prince, Cano, Verlander, and Beltre in the first four rounds and Anthony Rizzo in the 25th.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

Carlos Gomez. Not remotely close.

Mark (Chicago)

Valverde. Where do you feel comfortable taking a flier on him? One of the more reliable closers of the last few years has to get a job somewhere soon, right?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

A $1 bid in a singular (AL- or NL-only league) or reserve pick; nothing that would cost a meaningful draft resource or lock him into my lineup regularly (e.g. tie-your-hands rule in LABR where you can't bench a guy who is on an active roster if you bought him in the auction).I agree that there are still enough teams out there who believe in "closer makeup" that Jose Valverde should find work, likely in a spot that's weak in the ninth, but his peripherals were not good in either of the last two years, certainly not to the point that they strongly supported his primary Rotisserie numbers. That's why I'm not making any bold bids. The only free agent I'd take a meaningful chance on is Kyle Lohse.

Rob (Philly)

What are the chances Gerrit Cole breaks camp with the Buccos?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

None. Demoted yesterday, if I read correctly. I could see him up by June, however, so you're right to keep tabs on him in April and May.

Cliff (Ontario)

Is S.Santos our closer?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

I get the impression from all that I read that Casey Janssen has that job if he's healthy, and he should -- he pitches more than adequately enough not to be demoted. But I'll say this: Sergio Santos is a small step ahead of Janssen in his rehab, so it might take only one setback by Janssen, or a big final two spring weeks by Santos, for there to be a switch. It's a must-have-handcuff bullpen, one of the few, and I'm endorsing AL-only owners speculating on Santos as a cheap saves source.

Brian (NY)

Think Dominic Brown breaks out this season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:18 AM)

I could see it. Don't take his spring stats literally, but the 3-4 times I've watched him he has looked pretty good. And I was among those who argued that, at the time Brown first reached the majors, that he looked a tad awkward physically, like a player who needed to grow into his frame and who might require a lengthy adjustment at the top level. He's kind of following that plan, albeit a little slower than expected.Will note that Brown was a $8-9 player (forget which) in LABR-NL. I expect he'll be more like $11-13 in next weekend's Tout Wars, and I'd argue that he <i>should</i> increase in price by about that much.

Johnson (Jacksonville)

THC - 6x6 league with OBP and offensive Ks - Braun, Miggy, Trout to go 1-2-3 - who's your 4 and 5?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:19 AM)

Roughly, I'd say it's Cano, Votto, McCutchen, in that order. Can make a case for Pujols.I want to point out that the more "creative" Rotisserie formats, as well as point-based, tend to boost Joey Votto's stock the most noticeably in the first two rounds.

Ryan (Flag City, OH)

What are your strategies for nominating players during an in-person auction draft?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

Be unpredictable. There is no more important piece of advice I could give you than that, especially these days when there's <i>so</i> much lazy auction analysis to the effect of, "Show up an hour late because there are never bargains early," or, "Never nominate anyone you want early, and nominate everyone you want late." If you follow any discernible pattern, your competition will read you and have a greater chance of saddling you with a bid you didn't want. Bargains come at any time, and you should be as apt to nominate a player you want as one you don't. I'd say 30-40 percent of all your bids should be players you want, counting start to finish. Never, <i>ever</i> bid anything you are not willing to take as a purchase, either.

Landon (ATL)

First year keeper league draft coming up with your new 6x6 settings. If a player is kept you lose that round draft pick in the next draft and you are able to keep for 5 years. How early do you reach for guys like Profar or Taveras?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:24 AM)

I'd say that Oscar Taveras belongs a little higher in ranks than Jurickson Profar, in that format at least, and I wouldn't stick to my keeper top 250 rankings quite as firmly in a league that locks in rounds. (Those are more of a "price guide," and a sense of where to pick players if there are no dollar values or rounds to lock in.)A good exercise: Collect my personal top 250 and my keeper top 250 and average them; that's a smarter pricing method than using either one alone. So I'd say Taveras is maybe a 14-15th rounder, Profar a round or two later than that?

Jay (CT)

For now and the future: Lawrie in the 18th or Bautista in the 11th? I would have to give up a future 3rd rd pick if you chose Bautista...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

I don't have a major issue with Jose Bautista at that price -- unless what you're saying is that you lose that third-round pick for 2014, gone, period, you get no player in exchange either. I'd probably play it more conservatively in that event and go with the reasonably priced Brett Lawrie.

Ryan (Flag City, OH)

Who are some $1 guys (both bats and arms) that you really like this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

Find out tomorrow, writing an entire column on it. Does much more justice than I could in the quick-hitting chat.

Mike (Nashville (with hot wife))

Trist: I hope you'd agree closers and long relievers are different animals...any reason why we can't get separate rankings on those, instead of just "RP" and having to filter ourselves?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:28 AM)

It's a fair point, Mike, and yes, I'd agree with you. That said, it's difficult to differentiate roles for a couple guys: Where do Kenley Jansen, Ernesto Frieri and Sergio Santos fit?

Jon (Illinois)

What is your outlook this season for Julio Teheran in the Braves rotation? He has been lights out...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:29 AM)

The kid's still 22 years old and I've been a huge fan for years, so I'm still a believer. I've seen enough spotty command from him that I'm not going much more than final-rounds/$1 bid in any 12-team mixed, or $4-6 in an NL-only 12-teamer, but I'm still keeping him on a list of preferred choices at those price levels in either.

Brendan (Braintree)

is Chapman possibly more valuable as a closer since know what going to get?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

I don't think that's the reason why he is; I think it's that his stuff is so, so much more difficult to hit in short stints as a closer than in the six-or-so innings he'd endure as a starter. Think of it like this: 100-plus-mph heat for an inning, or 95-mph heat for six; and if you recall how he threw in those couple games where he was throwing closer to the latter, hitters caught up to him a little more. I've been 100 percent on board with Chapman as a starter -- top-25 talent at the position -- but he's the No. 2 closer in fantasy, period, if that's his role.Either way, you're getting a guy who belongs in the top 75 players overall. I wouldn't quibble.

Brian (NY)

Do you think Bonifacio becomes the Toronto everyday 2B?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:32 AM)

No, only because he's not the defender that Izturis is. That said, I think Bonifacio gets a good 450-500 PAs playing all over the diamond as well as second base eligibility by May.

Dick (Idaho)

I've got a feeling that Aaron Hicks is going to have a big year based on ADP. What say you?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:34 AM)

He is not going to hit for the kind of power that he has this spring, period. You're buying Hicks for the steals -- think in the 20s -- and perhaps runs scored, but I think the guy hits about .260 and maybe hits 6-7 homers. That's marginally useful in mixed; more an AL-only target, think $8-9 in the format.

Fred (Buxton County)

Thoughts on the rockies considering Arenado at third to start the year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:35 AM)

I saw two games of Nolan Arenado's in Phoenix earlier this month, so it's a tiny sample I don't want to excessively judge off, but the ball did jump off his bat and he appeared fine in the field to me. Looked like a capable regular to me. I think they <i>should</i> consider it; Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson appear more bench bats to me, valuable shuffled all over the diamond to provide days off.

Steve (State Farm)

Any chance see Christian Yelich this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:37 AM)

The way he's hitting? Yes, I'm getting more on board with the idea by the day. That said, I think any projection that has him enjoying more than a half-season in the majors is setting up potential disappointment. Late-round speculative pick more in NL-only; keeper-league target.

Mike (Malden)

How worried are you about Halladay?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:39 AM)

Growing very much so, if for no more compelling reason than that the guy needs to get on the mound and build up arm strength desperately, and waiting until next Saturday for his next outing only fuels further questions. I cannot help but wonder if he's currently injured if he shows no improvement in the next 10 days or so. As you'll see, he's plummeting in my ranks; quickly morphing into a guy barely in the top-40 cut.

Tom (Chicago)

Your personal projections on Chris Carter, OBP instead of AVG

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:42 AM)

Unfortunately, neither AVG nor OBP is a strength of Carter's, though in his defense he's slightly more attractive in your format. I've projected him for about 540 PAs, 26 HR, .315-.320 OBP.

Matthew Berry (Bristol)

What do you think of my boyfriend Carlos Quentin with the Petco fences coming in??

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:44 AM)

Huh, hadn't known you liked Quentin that much, Matthew, but I suppose I have no choice but to take your word for it? The Petco fence adjustments are a plus for any Padre, sure, but I'll stress that they are <i>far</i> more meaningful for power to right and right-center field, where the fences came in a solid 11 feet for a huge span. In left they're scarcely changed; only in the left-center alley. I wrote about this in our Draft Kit, which you should check out, but I'm not that big on Quentin because of his injury risk. Still only mid-to-late-round material in NL-only.

Chris Liss (Los Angeles)

Shandler's version of Trout or mine?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:45 AM)

Apologies, Chris, I don't know your version of Mike Trout, but I know Ron's, and while I understand and respect his opinion on it, I think he's exaggerating it a bit too much, to the point that a disservice is done to Trout's true value. Let's face it, if Trout steals 45-50 bags, considering his low-end AVG/HR expectations, he's <i>going</i> to be in the top five players overall for 2013. I've got my doubts -- I put Trout a firm third -- but I just can't see dropping him to the back of or out of the first round.

Ricardo (El Paso)

Are you a believer what i'm calling a "misnomer" of pitching depth? I mean its all relative, right? The top ten guys are still the top ten guys, and if i can get two of them while only sacrificing two top five picks... its better than grabbing the 15th best outfielder or the 12th best corner infielder.... right?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:47 AM)

Bingo. Todd Zola wrote an excellent piece on this -- it's Insider, to caution, but I strongly endorse signing up as you'll also get the uber-useful dollar value generator among so many other helpful draft tools -- that illustrated a similar point. And I've been on this bandwagon for years; value is value. Period.

Ike Davis (Queens)

1st base seems super deep. Wait for me in 25th round?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:47 AM)

Twenty-fifth round! Wow. That's highway robbery.

Mike (San Diego)

What do you consider Trout's low end average projection? I think his speed puts his floor around .290.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Lowest expectation using my projections method has a .270, <i>maybe</i> a couple points beneath. I think .290 is perfectly fair -- let us not forget the possibility that he makes a higher rate of contact this year which would drive the average up even if BABIP regresses.

Luke (Minnesota)

Ortiz a big health risk? Saw his rehab is behind schedule....

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

I say yes. When your team is talking up the merits of Jackie Bradley Jr., who might find a half-season more in the minors helpful, as a regular to begin the season, you have to wonder whether the team has serious long-term doubts about David Ortiz.Interesting: I've found that Ortiz slips beneath the cracks more often in 2013 because he's the lone "impact" name on the DH page of your draft sheet, but at the same time I'm more OK with it because of the injury risk.

Brian (NY)

Thooughts on Yonder Alonso this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

Ballpark adjustments are actually a plus more for him than most anyone on the team, and while that doesn't mean I see 20-plus homers coming, it means that in NL-only leagues, he's a smart, cheap, speculative pick for a corner infield spot.

Thaddeus (Denver)

In the points league mock, Stanton fell far from his typical drafting spot for a roto league. if strikeouts are not counted against hitters, does he make it back to the top 20 for you in a points league?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:52 AM)

Actually a very, very important thing to remember about points-based league is that upside potential in the counting categories -- specifically runs and RBIs here -- drives value. Giancarlo's problem in points-based isn't only the strikeouts, it's that he's really not a potential 125-RBI guy on that team, meaning that if you run our projections through your scoring system, I'd tell you that you shouldn't be expecting much more than the number it spits out. It is a critical exercise to estimate what kind of upside potential any player has in the format; I do it every year before my biggest auction, which is a points-based mixed league.

Samson (The Bible)

How do you see the Orioles rotation shaking out?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:54 AM)

I believe that the first turn through will be Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta. And there's an excellent chance that Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Dylan Bundy will each get at least eight starts during the year. I will say that, at least among current men on the roster, I don't project anyone else to start as often as eight times.

Christian (Turkey)

Are you at all concerned about MadBum's increased reliance of the slider? FB/Slider pitchers scare me slightly with regard to injury, and I'm worried his late season breakdown could be related to the pitch, and could portend for the future. I also read that he is working on a new fastball, maybe the Giants are concerned too? Only worried about this year in a non-keeper.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

Astute observation, Christian, and one I've had my eyes on. He was among my "spring watch list" players for this very reason and, while I intend to closely watch and track at least one more Bumgarner start this spring, I will say that my notes have nothing but positives about his work so far. I moved him back into my top 10 starters for this reason, up one spot to exactly 10th.

Bob (Chicago)

Keep 2: Darvish $11, Weaver $9, Sale $5. $130 cap league.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

Chris Sale is a given, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm going Yu Darvish over Jered Weaver, even though I have Weaver ranked higher and he's $2 cheaper. The reason? Darvish's ceiling is higher; I think at these prices you're smarter to take the chance at the home run. You'd have a heck of a starting point in strikeouts, for one.

jack (white plains)

And is doc the person who dropped out of your top ten? If not, who?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

Jered Weaver, and to be clear about this, that's the way rankings work. Dropping out of the top 10 does <i>not</i> necessarily mean I'm down on Weaver; in this case it's entirely about warming more to Bumgarner. Move someone up, someone has to move down, even if it's not because you like them any less.

Jazzy (Munster)

Is Dustin Ackley in the 10th round too early?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:00 PM)

Unquestionably. Ackley was one of the worst hitters in baseball the second half of last season. Frankly, I think it's absurd for anyone to look at him before, say, the 175th pick overall in any mixed-league draft. Heck, the only reason he's even draft-worthy is "potential" -- and I reply that so many youngsters have had potential and flopped miserably, and Ackley, thus far, has flopped miserably.

Mark (Chicago)

I'm insanely high on Scherzer and Darvish this year and think they are going at great values. Give me a voice of reason. Do you think either of them are not as close to the ace I think they are?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

Well, Mark, define "insanely high." If you're saying you're picking Yu Darvish as one of your first eight starting pitchers off the mixed-league board, or Max Scherzer in the top 15, I'd say, yes, that seems a tad excessive. After those benchmarks pass, though, I wouldn't argue with you taking a chance a couple rounds early. Ceilings are immensely high; only hesitations for me are Darvish's command -- oddly out of whack with Japan performance -- and Scherzer's stamina -- hard to project 200-plus innings.

Bill (Athens, GA)

Thoughts on Tom Wilhelmsen? His K rate was spectacular last year, but the ESPN projections have them dropping substantially. Was there a red flag somewhere in the underlying numbers?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

The K/9 drop might've been driven a bit by MLEs, which are part of the projections formula, but one thing I'll add is that Wilhelmsen's command numbers did drop from otherworldly early last year to merely very good after the All-Star break, which I wonder whether is the better indicator.

Shelby Miller (St. Louis)

How do you see the Shelby Miller vs. Joe Kelly rotation spot battle shaking out?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

OK, so I'll preface this as a wild, wild guess, but I sincerely wonder whether Miller's starting assignment, followed by Kelly in relief, in their next game -- Tuesday, if I recall -- is the Cardinals desperately clinging to a desire to see Miller, who has a substantially higher ceiling, win that job. I watched their last outing; what I saw was a battle that, sadly, should result in Kelly winning the gig. If you want your answer, watch Tuesday's game closely. Bet it decides it once and for all.

Tim (New York)

What do you think of these guys NL only Auction/Keeper: Solano (2)/ Nelson (4)/ Casilla (1)/ Wily Peralta (2)/ Travis Wood (2)

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:07 PM)

Every one is a "fair" price, in which case I next lean on skills to decide. Let's rank these Santiago Casilla, Peralta, Nelson, Solano, Wood.

Shelby Miller (St. Louis)

Is Matt Carpenter a solid late round flier with the news the Cardinals plan to use his solid bat in the lineup everyday + him gaining 2B eligibility?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

Oh, absolutely. There isn't a ton of power upside in Carpenter's bat, but as I said in "Tristan's Twenty," he has a low, low downside in terms of AVG/OBP. Love guys like this to round out a roster.

Mark (Chicago)

I grabbed Rivera as my first closer in my roto league. Do you see 35 saves in his future?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

Can't see why not.

Josh (MD)

ESPN seems to be lower on Paul Goldschmidt than other fantasy sites. Any reason in particular to worry last year was a fluke?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:10 PM)

Being perfectly honest with you, Josh, no, I see no reason, and I actually thought we were pretty high on him. Guessing: Other sites are higher on Goldschmidt because they assume he's 15-plus steals in the bank. That's not necessarily true, I'd say he might range 8-12. But he has massive power potential and made critical adjustments to his approach to the plate -- hit breaking/offspeed stuff much, much more without it being at great expense to his ability to crush fastballs. I think any 30-homer projection for Goldy is a smart one; has that upside.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:11 PM)

OK, three more...

Chicken Parm (Lunch)

Hey its your old pal chicken parm...Moustakas a decent breakout candidate for this season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:12 PM)

Absolutely. I put in my notes that his performance last year hinted that he's really advancing in terms of power, albeit probably at expense of AVG; I'm thinking this is a possible .270/30 guy in the best-case scenario. Big-time fly-baller.

Matt (Chicago)

Think Trevor Rosenthal is worth hiding as a keeper if I have the extra roster spot?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:13 PM)

It depends upon the depth of your league -- probably 16-plus-mixed or NL-only -- but Rosenthal will be in my "deep sleepers" column, due up on the site tomorrow.

Deek (Chi Town)

Projections for Scott Baker please...Thanks

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:14 PM)

Sneaky late-round pick, though more so in NL-only, and I'd say sub-four ERA (let's say 3.80) with a WHIP in the 1.20 range. Problem is, I'd project something like 20-25 starts, and without a lofty strikeout rate, meaning he's probably more matchups material than ride-every-time.

Mike (Malden)

When do you consider yoru lunch options? Night before? Morning? Gametime decision?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:17 PM)

Varies, though rarely, rarely the night before, unless leftovers are involved. I probably find I have a lunch craving more often than not, like right before the chat, and I just go with that. Trust your gut! Both with food and fantasy.And with that, time to wrap up for the day. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I couldn't get to yours. Take care everyone, and best of luck to you in your drafts in the upcoming week. And to my readers and followers in the St. Louis area, hope to see you tonight for 101ESPN's Fantasy Baseball Party at the Park -- check their site for more information.