Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

April 8, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:02 AM)

Good morning everyone! Don't forget, there are early games today, first pitch of fantasy's Week 2 is at 2:05 p.m. ET. So who's got a question? Lineups, trades, add/drops, whatever you like. Let's get started!

JJ (Boston)

Good morning Tristan, looking for some sneaky pitchers to grab. What do you think of N. Tepesch? Does he have any long-term value this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:04 AM)

If it's an AL-only league I'd add him simply based upon his being a committed starter on a team that will provide him good run support. But I've got questions about his skills: 7.4 K's per nine and a 3.77 ERA in his minors career? Those might not play that well at Rangers Ballpark -- though in his defense he seems a little more ground-ball than fly-ball. I'd say matchups guy. Won't start him this week, no way. Bench and evaluate.

Kevin (Halifax, NS)

Jose Fernandez... I'm in a keeper league where I can keep 6 guys... is he the real deal, worth a pick up?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:06 AM)

"Real deal" in terms of being a top-shelf prospect with the potential to contend for Rookie of the Year honors, yes, absolutely. In fact, his debut stat line looked almost spot-on to the trend of such caliber prospects (if you read my last "Sixty Feet Six Inches"). I won't forecast a top-30 SP season -- not <i>yet</i> -- though, being that he's so young with so little experience at the upper tiers, plus pitch efficiency could be a question. A lottery ticket to add, a guy who matters already in NL-only and mixed of 12 teams and greater.

Dan (NYC)

You activating Freese today? have to meet early games deadline

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

My hunch is that most fantasy owners do not have a clearly more talented player rostered at third base than David Freese, so I say yes, the blanket statement is everyone should start him.

Evan (Iowa)

Just read Karabell's article highlighting Will Middlebrooks.. take him over Frazier the rest of the year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

No, but I know I'm more pro-Todd Frazier than Eric was in the preseason. To be fair, I did have a concern about Jack Hannahan's presence potentially affecting Frazier's playing time, but I just think Frazier is a more complete hitter at their respective stages of their careers. Middlebrooks never, ever walks. I've got a real problem with that.

Stephen (Los Angeles)

Jose Fernandez (again) ... do you think he's going to get yanked in the 5th inning every time? That's kind of a game changer in leagues that count QS ...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:11 AM)

No, being that he was on a pitch count of what, 80? (I think it was about 80 that he threw.) My previous comment about pitch efficiency was directed more at young pitchers' mandatory adjustment periods; I think as he's adapting he's going to find it difficult to consistently reach the six-inning plateau each time out. So yes, it's worth keeping in mind in QS leagues. I'd say a "sell" there.

Ben (NYC)

Any word on the closer situation in KC? Who would you add first from their pen?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

I haven't heard a specific report yet that Greg Holland's job is in jeopardy, nor do I think that it <i>should</i> be just yet. He should be in the "watch" class, where another poor outing (or two) makes the Royals second-guess. But I'll be clear: I'd be adding Kelvim Herrera as a handcuff right now if my league format affords me the luxury of handcuffs. He's got outstanding stuff.

Chris Sabo (Eye Doctor)

You must have some totally unbiased thoughts about Vernon Wells, right? Do tell.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

In that I watch a lot of Yankees games? I suppose. I wasn't remotely a fan of the move, I'm sure most people know that by now. But it did boost his power stock -- ballpark factor so much better in New York -- and playing time improved as well. At this stage of his career, I see Vernon Wells as the Yankees' "Andruw Jones" type, if you recall what Jones was for the team in 2011. (Though I'll point out, a little less raw power than Jones.) So that means kills lefties, so-so/mediocre against righties. AL-only asset, maybe 14-team-plus mixed, and you need to pick your spots.That <i>is</i> a bit better prognosis than I had for Wells at the time of the deal.

BK (Howard Beach)

Need to set lineup for week today. Is it safe to start Braun? Also..thoughts on Kuroda-2 starts with finger issue

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:17 AM)

Ryan Braun: Still day-to-day and I see nothing to guarantee him an appearance on Monday. I'd say project his week assuming four games played out of the six, but he's still a player who probably belongs in the lineup for almost everyone.Hiroki Kuroda: All reports on his side sessions were fine and he was cleared to make the two starts well in advance of your lineup deadline. I'd say start him, as I ranked him accounting for any injury concern in the Forecaster.

Tom (NJ)

THC... what are your thought on all the blown saves and aces getting crushed??? Ever seen anything like yesterday happen before??

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:19 AM)

I recall multiple seasons where closers were utterly brutal statistically during the season's first week; if I can collect the data to prove it I'll put it in this week's "Sixty Feet." (Please feel free to request any research ideas for the weekly column, if you've got 'em!)As for starters, no, not necessarily, but then I tend not to worry too much about aces struggling in Week 1. I probably have forgotten.

Jeff (ME)

Any concerns with Yu's blisters or Brett's thumb?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

Yu Darvish's owners should read effectively zero into his Sunday performance. He was worked deep into the near-perfecto, and it was inevitable that there'd be some sort of letdown in the follow-up game. Blisters always bear watching -- Josh Beckett's history -- but I'm not changing my Darvish ranking (not lowering him, at least).As for Brett Anderson's thumb, the X-rays were negative, and he's not scheduled to work again until Saturday. That it's a game against the Tigers has me saying play it conservatively and bench him, if you're in our standard mixed league. Beyond that? Unconcerned.

Tom (Calif)

Over/under of 14 wins for Alex Cobb?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

Over. Love Cobb.

Brandon (Simi Valley, CA)

When do you think Jose Valverde takes over as close in DET?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

May 1, <i>if</i> he does. Odds that he does are certainly over 50 percent, but I'm not remotely saying they're nearly 100. Not sure why anyone considers Valverde a guarantee of anything; his fastball velocity and effectiveness was noticeably down in 2012.

Jordan (Boulder)

Limiting acquisitions to 3 per week is as great an injustice as I feel like it is right? I can barely stream at all.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:24 AM)

I'm notorious for being anti-cap of any kind: Transactions, innings, starts, whatever. So I might not be the guy to ask. But what I'd say to a three-acquisition cap is, what about the team that suffers the misfortune of 4-5 injuries in a given week? Pretty harsh if you ask me.

Nando (Boston)

Good morning THC, who's your pick out of these SPs: Jaime Garcia, J. Masterson, A. Ogando or B. Anderson? Thank you.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

For the season, I've got them ranked Brett Anderson, Jaime Garcia, Alexi Ogando, Justin Masterson, but I will point out this: If I had a promise of a full, healthy season from all four, I'm taking Jaime Garcia, <i>barely</i> ahead of Anderson. Remember that I put heavy weight in rankings on "per-game" performers; they're two good examples.

Drew (Franklin, VA)

I know its crazy early but the Marlins look pretty rough. Is it possible we underestimated the effect this lineup would have on Stanton?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

It's possible. I tweeted the other day the next-level stats related to pitchers working around him. The sample remains minuscule but I'm surely keeping an eye on it.

Frank (ABQ)

Is M. Morse the real deal or should I try to sell high?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

As a .270-hitting, 30-homer candidate? I say he's the real deal.

Brian (NY)

Garcia isn't half the SP of a healthy Brett Anderson.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:28 AM)

He's every bit as valuable statistically, I'd argue has a little more strikeout potential and he's also got the less checkered health history of the two.

Rob (Campus)

Seems like every article on starting pitchers is talking 'velocity'. It's the reason for all the ups and downs. Has velocity taken over from BABIP and xFIP for analysts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:31 AM)

Apparently. I'm trying to resist it, because I think it's being exaggerated by many analysts. To pick a good analyst approach to the velocity question, I liked Eric Karabell's angle on CC Sabathia -- check that one out from last week if you haven't, because it was a good approach to the topic -- but the number I keep citing when it comes to velocity is that last year, Felix Hernandez was the one being raked over the coals for "diminished velocity," and he was, um, pretty good the final five months of the season.

Patrick (Chicago)

Hey Tristan, I know last season in your weekly forecast, you would highlight the top streaming options for each day. Will those be making a comeback this year? I noticed they haven't been included so far...thanks!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:32 AM)

Sorry to say, Patrick, that I don't plan to do the "Streamer's Delight" feature this season, though I'm trying to throw some names out there on Twitter (@SultanofStat) as I can. It was too difficult to keep up with on the update front; I'd make picks one day and then have to change them as rotations shuffled the next.

Stephen (Los Angeles)

Trumbo looks good early! Do you believe in him at all this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:32 AM)

Mark Trumbo always looks good early.Though for the record, I'm on board that last year was about right for him. It's just that he's got a two-year track record of strong first halves and poor second halves. Know that if you own him.

Erik (Boston)

Hi Tristan. If you owned both Herrera and Holland, which would you start this week? Thanks,

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:33 AM)

Neither.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:34 AM)

And if it's an AL-only league, I'd say that I'm probably starting both of them. Just the way league formats dictate; mixed (other than 14-plus-team, which pretty much puts you close to AL-only class) pushes both these guys beneath "active" status for now.

John (New Hampshire)

Hi Tristan, I do refer to your Fantasy Forecaster column weekly, but I'm looking for explanations on how a team's Hitters can be ranked as a "10", yet when I see through the week that both their Left &#x26; Right Handed hitters don't come close to averaging 10?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:37 AM)

OK, I'm assuming this is regarding the Yankees receiving a 10 for the weekly number, but not a single 10 going by day? To explain, ratings are relative; this means that every team's strength of schedule is compared to one another daily, then that week's total rating is compared to one another. Worst team (by day <i>or</i> week) gets a 1, best team gets a 10. And in the Yankees' case, having seven games (one of only six teams out of 30 to play that many) is an advantage, as is the fact that not one day has a hitting rating beneath 5.

Dave (Chicago)

Buy or sell - Stream any starter available that pitches against the Astros?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:39 AM)

I think I've been asked this question more than any other all week -- though it's a good question for sure. I'm on board with the "stream against Astros" strategy, but blanket statements are dangerous, please remember that. It was either a year or two ago that "start everyone at Petco" was the rule, except that I've run the numbers; I believe it was 20-25 pitchers who failed to record the quality start at Petco (though to be fair, that's a ridiculous success rate if you do the math).And then I ask: Are you really just going to say, "Oh, I'll start Freddy Garcia against the Astros," if some team (say, the Twins) signs him off the street for a spot start? Of course not.

Politeness (Always Wins)

TC, Thank you for taking my question. Someone dropped Lohse in my league, would you drop J. Masterson or Vogelsong for him? Thanks again.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

I project Kyle Lohse for a better season than Justin Masterson. In other words, I'm on board with that, Week 1 stats be damned.

Jhoulys Chacin (Colorado)

Do you think owners can begin to trust me in standard H2H Mixed Leagues yet? Two good outings &#x26; if my mind serves me correctly, you wrote an article prior to last season saying I had front-of-the-rotation caliber type stuff...Thoughts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:43 AM)

I did, and that skills description is the truth. The reason Chacin stunk last year was location, specifically his slider. Through two starts, he sure appears to have improved, so I'm on board with him as an intriguing stash in 12-plus-team mixed (and anything larger).Don't mistake it for an overnight fix, though. You're buying a lottery ticket on a guy whose skills present a reasonably high ceiling (top-40 SP, let's say), but who has considerable work to do.

Yager (NYC)

When do you assume Reddick comes back?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:46 AM)

Unclear, he's day-to-day much like Ryan Braun from the earlier question. Having seen the injury, I'd estimate he'll miss at least a game; let's go for the four-of-six schedule and prepare accordingly.Mixed league owners: Be aware that he's got @LAA-3, DET-3, as his schedule, and he's not necessarily elite, so this is a good time to play it conservatively if you can.

Dave (NYC)

Any thoughts on Konerko's struggles this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Quick glance reveals nothing specific of grave concern, but I was anti-Paul Konerko in the preseason and pointed out that I expected another small step backward in terms of his 2013 stats. Good chance he's now a "ride the streak" player rather than a must-start weekly guy, which would provide all the explanation you need.

Trish (MI)

I'll make it simple... If Saunders were on your team, which his schedule and home games vs righties, would you get him in the lineup in a 5x5?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Yeah, sure I would. Said in the Forecaster that I think there's a sneaky good week potentially afoot in Seattle, where Safeco opens to smaller dimensions this week.

Anthony (Miami)

How do you feel about Buccholz tonight, and for his start later this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

Though I don't really think of him as a top-25 SP even at his peak level, Clay Buchholz is effectively a must-start for me for the foreseeable future. He has looked great every time I have seen him the past 2-3 weeks, so I'd ride that.

Brian (WA)

What are you thoughts on Tillman this year? Had a rough first outing but has high upside. Hang onto him long term or streamer weekly?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

Shorter spring due to injury, and I'd chalk most of it up to that. Bench him until he proves his worth to you, but if I could possibly afford to keep him stashed, I would. He was in my "Twenty" from the preseason; check that to find out why I'd keep him around.

Jeff S. (Vermont)

Tristan, do I have "the touch", last year I picked Timmy Lincecum early, this year I picked Cole Hamels early, is there something amiss with Hamels that I do not see? Also, who do you want me to avoid in 2014?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:52 AM)

Hamels was one of the five most consistent pitchers in all of baseball the past 2-3 seasons; one week's time isn't going to change my opinion of him.

Terry (Pitts)

Tristan - People say I'm crazy all the time, so I'm ok if you agree. Am I crazy? If Dan Murphy can hit 12-15 HR he might be the #2 2b in the NL after Phillips...or at least in the conversation.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:54 AM)

The homer projection might be somewhat generous, but the thought that those stats could drive him into the No. 2 spot isn't "crazy"; all you're recognizing is that second base is a dreadful position in the National League. (For the record, I'd go Aaron Hill for No. 2 second baseman, and I think Rickie Weeks has a great shot at third.)

Kyle (Austin)

With 7 favorable starts for Yankees, do you start Ichiro or Markakis this week? Playing with 5 batting categories, with OBP instead of AVG.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

The OBP/AVG thing has me going Nick Markakis. Ichiro is not the kind of guy to get in your format.

Jack ! (Lehigh Valley)

Where were James McDonald's sliders in his 1st start? That's the pitch that led to his 1st half success last year and was missing in game 1? Any insight?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

Astute observation there, Jack, and you are correct -- though you should also keep in mind that McDonald's aggressiveness within the strike zone helped spawn that solid first half. (Statistically speaking, you could've seen it by his percentage of pitches in the strike zone.)Quick stat glance for you: 37% curves (some debate in the pitch tracking between curve/slider), which is about in line with his 35% of 2012), and 51% in the strike zone (was 51% last year). Hmmm... interesting.

Joseph (School)

What should we look for to know if Ubaldo Jiminez has turned things around? How is his velocity

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

His fastball averaged 91.9 mph in that first start, which was actually <i>down</i> from his 2012 average (92.4). In other words, I'm not changing my stance on Ubaldo yet.

Tony (Cafeteria)

What do you want for lunch?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

Got leftover pizza today.

joe (Smithtown)

tony cingrani thoughts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:00 PM)

Intriguing lottery ticket for NL-only owners. The Reds' decision to restore Aroldis Chapman to the closer role opened up a tremendous opportunity for Cingrani, who is probably the team's No. 6 starter now.

Brian (RI)

Believe in Tommy Hanson or stay away?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:00 PM)

Only the matchup against the Astros. Being perfectly frank, Brian, I want Hanson nowhere near any of my fantasy teams otherwise. Way too much downside.

Billa (Bong)

Rasmus has parked 2 in the bleachers so far; what do you see for him this season? Deep 5x5 useful?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

Both of 'em came off fastballs right over the middle of the plate and slightly outside. Predictable. Rasmus looked awful the few times I saw him this spring and his 2012 second half was poor. I'd say sell, if you can.

Joseph (Recess)

Thoughts on Henderson possibly replacing Axford in Mil? Drop Cischek for him?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:03 PM)

I haven't examined Steve Cishek closely enough yet, but his WHIP projected high so it's something to watch. I wouldn't drop him just yet, not even for Jim Henderson.

Todd (DC)

Yovani Gallardo has to drop in the 60 feet rankings correct?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

I wouldn't say "has to." My opinion hasn't radically changed; maybe he slides 2-4 spots among starters.

Stephen (Los Angeles)

Where is Howie Kendrick in your final 2b ranks?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

I think I had him about 12th? I'm OK with him as a mixed-league middle infielder. Could crack the top 10; wasn't that far from that class in the first place.

Tommy Hanson (LAA)

Downside!? What about my upside? I can strike people out with the best of them!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

You can? Only 4 in 6 innings in your first start, and a sub-9-per-nine last year. How's that "with the best"?

jimmy (Ottawa, ON)

Cuddyer or Reddick? Who do you believe in more?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

Josh Reddick. Skills over ballpark.

Joe (RICHMOND)

Dexter Fowler break out, or sell high?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:07 PM)

I was pro-Fowler in the preseason, remain pro-Fowler. The "breakout" already happened, in 2012, but I think it was pretty legit.

mike (SLC)

On Axford. Would you muck him for Fujikawa now that he has been named the closer?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

Yes. But, for the record, I loved the Kyuji Fujikawa signing this winter, and ranked him high among RPs from Day 1. WHIP specialist in Japan, so I saw him as a potentially low-risk closer bargain.

Jim (Saratoga Falls)

In a H2H Mixed Keeper--Got offered a blockbuster = I'd give McCutchen &#x26; I'd get Matt Kemp. Which side would you want?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

The McCutchen side.

jorge (CO)

Pick one Phillie to start this week. R. Howard or D. Brown.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:09 PM)

Ryan Howard.

Chick Parm (lunch)

who is the closer in Detroit, time to drop Coke?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:10 PM)

It sure sounds like Joaquin Benoit is next up for a save chance, and if you were watching the Saturday game, you noticed that Benoit was the one preserved for the ninth inning of a game the Tigers led. Not that I'd expect Benoit to get every save the rest of the year; I just say if you must take one for Week 2, he's it.

Eric (Oxford, MA)

My # 5 and 6 pitchers on my roto team are Fister and Harvey.Alex Cobb, Jose Fernandez, and Mike Minor are available via the waivers. Would you make a move or stand pat?Do you like any of these pitchers better than Doug Fister for the season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:11 PM)

<i>Maybe</i> Alex Cobb, but that's really going out on a limb if you're making it a full-season investment. You're in a mix-and-match situation where right now I'd prefer Cobb -- Fister doesn't look quite right in terms of his command -- but for the year, I'm ranking Fister higher. Pick what you need most, right-now or all-year.

Steve (WA)

Do you like Teheran? Do you believe the spring numbers or his first start more?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:12 PM)

First start, because it's the one that actually counted.

Craig (St. Paul, MN)

I've got Wil Myers and J. Profar stashed as minor leaguers. Any guesses when I'll start to be able to use them?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:12 PM)

They're guesses, but I still think around May 1 for Wil Myers, and at least June 1 for Jurickson Profar (I might be tempted to guess mid-to-late July).

Max (Utah)

What do you look for when picking a pitcher to stream?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:14 PM)

If I had to whittle it down to stats, past 21 days (if you're willing to consider normalizing stats like BABIP, HR/FB%, etc.) for the pitcher in question, as well as the matchup (both ballpark and the opponent's recent hitting performance).

Joe (Seattle)

Do you think Samardzija will develop into a fantasy ace?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:15 PM)

Yes I do, with the exception of his win total. WHIP might also not classify as "elite." Love him for strikeouts.

Joseph (Lunch)

Thanks for staying late!!! Neil Walker or Howie Kendrick? (Better be ready to grab Profar right)

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:16 PM)

I rank Walker higher, but that's a personal-preference thing. And yes, be ready.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:16 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, and best of luck to you this week!