|2013 Early Staff Rankings|
|Theory and Strategy - Platinum|
|Written by Todd Zola|
|Monday, 31 December 2012 12:04|
It’s amazing how early some fantasy baseball fanatics start drafting. Before the calendar turned to 2013, I had personally completed three drafts that count (one NFBC, one private and the XFL). I also participated in three magazine mocks. With that in mind, we asked the staff for their early positional rankings based on mixed leagues with 5x5 rotisserie scoring. These will be presented then compared to the rankings derived from the site projections as well as the early NFBC ADP and the ADP of the trio of magazine mocks.
A few things need to be kept in mind as you peruse the ensuing lists. A ranking list should be transient, not static. For example, if you draft a stolen base guy early, your ranking for Michael Bourn is likely to drop. Conversely, if you are devoid of steals through the first half of the draft, you may bump Juan Pierre up several spots. But everyone has to start somewhere and that is what we have done.
We all have personal philosophies that bias the lists. Some play it safe at the top while others like to go for the grand slam and embrace risk. The manner we all treat injury-prone players is different. Some are more inclined to trust youngsters. Some put more or less credence on last season’s performance as compared to the previous couple of seasons.
At the end of the day, this divergent thinking is the most important message of this presentation. The next time you are drafting and you strategize using the ADP of your choice, remember the A is for average, not absolute. The following lists are fantastic examples to hammer this home.
At the end of each position, there will be some narrative discussing individual players. If you have a question pertaining to an individual ranking, please feel free to post your question in the comments section or better yet, on the site forum where it is easier to have a back and forth on the player.
A little context with respect to the NFBC ADP is necessary. For those not familiar, the National Fantasy Baseball Championship has popularized a format they call Draft Champions. The leagues have 15 teams with each owner drafting 50 players. There is no player acquisition during the season but you are allowed to make weekly changes to your active lineup. While this may alter the strategy a little, it is a pretty good representation of how some diehards rank players in a general sense.
Contributors are Perry Van Hook, Greg Morgan, Ryan Carey and Chris Kreush. Well, me too.
CATCHER - Pocketful of Posey's
It's no surprise that Buster Posey is the unanimous top pick after his 2012 MVP campaign. Granted, this is based on a small sample of five, but some interesting tiering is apparent. Posey is in a class by himself, then V-Mart and Joe Mauer followed by the quartet of Yadier Molina, Carlos Santana, Matt Wieters and Mike Napoli. Napoli's situation is in flux so he could rise or fall depending on whether he signs with Boston and how concern about his hip influences opinions going forward.
Two interesting receivers are Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz, both lower since they won't be playing opening day. Ruiz will be serving a 25-game suspension while McCann's recovering from off-season labrum surgery. But here's the thing -- you can use someone in their stead while they are inactive. This is the difference between ranking according to projections versus draft strategy. What if you pick up John Buck, slated for regular at bats with the Mets while they delay Travis D'Arnaud's service time clock from ticking. About the time Buck's at bats dwindle, they should kick in for Ruiz and McCann. As a tease, there will be a forthcoming Platinum essay focusing on this very ploy.
Letting you behind the fourth wall for a moment, there is an inherent flaw with early drafts conducted in draft rooms using rankings based on last year's numbers (which is often the case) as injured players are ranked lower and often slip through the cracks. This is probably true for Victor Martinez in both the NFBC and magazine drafts. As these rankings catch up, I would expect V-Mart to crack the top-5 in the NFBC, knocking Wilin Rosario out.
FIRST BASE - Don't Feel Sorry for Uncle Albert (yet)
Well, it wasn't unanimous, but Albert Pujols is still the king of the mountain according to the staff. Coordinating lists of this nature requires some level of conformity with respect to positions so you may question some of the eligibilities. For example, we ranked Corey Hart, Allen Craig and Mark Trumbo with the first baseman. There was no specific reason first was chosen over outfield. We also included David Ortriz here, but the possibility exists that he was missed by my colleagues. Or maybe they don't think he belongs. Speaking of eligibility, Billy Butler sneaks in with 20 games after a late season stretch playing the field.
The two players I am personally most curious about are Edwin Encarnacion and Eric Hosmer. It appears the consensus is Encarnacion is for real as we all put him right below the Big-3. I believe Hosmer will bounce back and will likely target him to be my corner in a handful of leagues. The only problem with that is the reticence I have to use my corner infield spot on a speculative pick as early as it is going to take to draft Hosmer. There will be a few more reliable player available, also with upside. And by taking him, that blocks that roster spot for a late round dice throw, unless I want to use my utility for another corner, which is viable.
Well lookey here, my magazine brethren prefer Votto over Pujols. For the record, this was the case in all three mocks. In full disclosure, I have publicly suggested I would take Votto in my top-5 overall. However, the more I thought about it, the more concerned I am about some yellow flags (durability, maintaining steals, relying so heavily on BABIP) that I dropped him a tad and he is barely a first rounder for me. Truth be told, push comes to shove and I may take Fielder ahead of Votto.
Looking at the pair I have my eye on, so far everyone is putting Encarnacion fourth, right after the studs. This is interesting when you consider he's had one outstanding year yet is trusted more than Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira, who are trending downward but have a longer track record. I bet one of them has a better year than Encarnacion, but since I have no idea which one, I'd likely take Encarnacion.
My concern about Hosmer appears to be coming to fruition as the sage NFBCers have him barely outside the top-10 at the position. In fact, put Hart and Craig in the outfield and the NFBC rates Hosmer as a top-10 first baseman. This makes for an interesting conundrum. Chase the upside, leaving the reliable but aging Paul Konerko on the table or perhaps splitting the difference with the still young Freddie Freeman?
SECOND BASE - And Here's to You, Mr. Robinson
Imagine how good a fantasy player Robinson Cano would be if he stole bases? Ben Zobrist and Danny Espinosa were ranked here even though they qualify elsewhere as well.
In the Rotowire Magazine Mock, I opened my draft with three outfielders and in the analysis section, I was asked if I regretted the strategy. My reply was something like position scarcity is a myth, it simply does not exist. By reaching for a perceived scarce player, you're leaving stats on the table. The earlier you reach, the more you leave. I promise that if you are patient, there will be a point in the draft where a player at a perceived scarce position is ranked at the top of your board. These rankings do a good job of illustrating that point. Greg has Danny Espinosa ranked higher than the rest. Perry could wait and get Dustin Ackley. Ryan would have to debate between Chase Utley and Dan Uggla. Though, Chris may have something to say about Uggla. I'd be able to snag Marco Scutaro late. The point is, there will almost always be a player you favor more than your competition making reaching for a scarce position at the top unnecessary.
If we redo this later in the spring, it would not shock me if Kelly Johnson fares better if he lands in a good situation.
Ben Zobrist is an interesting example of ranking versus draft strategy. I'd be willing to bet that if asked, a majority of those that took Zobrist in the NFBC and mag mocks would cite his multiple position eligibility. This is especially useful in the NFBC Draft Champions format since the ability to move players around is very useful when you can't replace injured players with free agents.
These rankings also illustrate a point about risk. Brandon Phillips and Neil Walker are boring veterans. They're both reliable, consistent but they're what you see is what you get sort of players. Contrast that to Jason Kipnis and Danny Espinosa. They both had seasons better than expected and at least early on, drafters are presuming it was real.
THIRD BASE - Miguel Row Your MVP Ashore
Number one was a foregone conclusion, the fun starts with the second-ranked third baseman. I was among the first pundits to point out that Evan Longoria is routinely drafted in the first round without having ever returned first round value for a full season. When he's been healthy, he's been unlucky. When he's playing well, he gets hurt. Remember that tease about handling rankings for injured players? Longoria is a great example of someone that needs to be considered in a different light. When he's out, he's usually out - which means you can put someone else in. He's not like Kevin Youkilis that misses a couple games here and there and thus is a nightmare for weekly lineups. For that reason, I'm still going to keep him ahead of Adrian Beltre. Actually, here's a cool way to think about it. Whoever has more at bats between Beltre and Longoria is going to have the better season - are you really sure Beltre will have more at bats than Longoria? I'm not.
In recent years, third base has been perceived as scarce so let's see if the staff would have a target if someone at the top was not already selected. Greg would take Will Middlebrooks without much resistance. Perry would get the always reliable Martin Prado. Ryan would add Mike Moustakas to his squad. Chris would take the plunge with Brett Lawrie while I would do a cartwheel after taking Kyle Seager. I'll give Lawr Michaels full credit for turning me onto Seager. We know someone in the Mariners' front office that sung the praises of Seager last spring training. At the time I was skeptical, but largely because I love watching King Felix pitch and ended up with the entire Seattle pitching staff on an NFBC team, I watched a ton of Mariner games and I love Seager's approach. He's a line drive machine and liners will play in any park, but he will also benefit with the closer and lower fences.
I blew it, I should have had Hanley Ramirez with the shortstops as he no doubt will be slotted there on most fantasy teams. This is the reason the NFBC has him as number two here.
I'm going to be honest, I think my industry brethren are too down on Aramis Ramirez. He's actually played more games than any other third baseman the past couple of seasons. So why didn't I draft him in the mocks? Well duh, I was saving the spot for Kyle Seager. Jokes aside, I wasn't aware that I may be able to exploit a soft market for Ramirez. Going forward, I'm going to see if I can time things so I get Ramirez in a good spot without my impacting my ability to do the other stuff I like to do. Again, sample size alert, but these are the market deficiencies you need to exploit to take advantage of those over-drafting scarce positions, leaving you higher ranked outfielders at the top.
SHORTSTOP - Jose Can You See, Ay?
Keep in mind Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist and Danny Espinosa all qualify at shortstop which would alter the bottom part of the rankings if we opted to include them here. The two players that catch my eye are Josh Rutledge and Jean Segura. Presently I am at opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm on board with Rutledge and love him as my middle infielder. On the other hand, I have not completely warmed to the likelihood Segura is the starter for Milwaukee. This is reflected in my ranking as well as the projections.
Continuing our scarcity is a myth theme, if Greg does not get Troy Tulowitzki (more on him later), he could end up with Ian Desmond, Asdrubal Cabrera or wait for Everth Cabrera. Perry has a clear shot at Erick Aybar while Ryan fancies J.J. Hardy. Chris will battle me for Rutledge, tangle with Greg over Everth or settle for Jhonny Peralta. I'd very likely jump Rutledge up a bit (note the projection ranking next).
OK, time to talk Tulowitzki. The projections obviously dock him points for playing time concern. The NFBC and magazine mocks both are afraid that this is the year he finally plays close to a full 162. Based on the Longoria analysis, the same should hold true for Tulo - when he's out, he's out and you have someone else in. But I'm personally not willing to go that route unless I am at the wheel and I can pair him up with someone more reliable. If you believe in park factors, Jose Reyes should kick serious ass in Toronto.
Based on these results, I am beginning to rethink my playing time projection for Jimmy Rollins which will drop him a few spots in the projections. Presently, I have him almost matching last season's at bats, which were his highest in three years. He was hurt in 2010 and missed 20 games in 2011 (only 6 last year). Maybe I'll split the difference between '11 and '12.
Rutledge could be a victim of being a bit hidden in the draft room rankings. Though, I admit, I may be guilty of a man-crush, but my guess is as the information pyramid starts working its way down, Rutledge will rise in the NFBC ADP.
OUTFIELD - What Can Braun Do For You?
The thing that strikes me the most is we asked for everyone to pick their top-40 and only eight outfielders were chosen by only one staffer. I expected there to be a few more. On the other hand, only 29 were consensus top-40. Sample size warnings abound, but this suggests that for the first two or three rounds, there won't be much straying from the ADP. This corroborates my strategy of leaving two outfield spots open late for outfieders I like more than others. In the magazine mock I referenced earlier, after starting with three outfielders (Braun, Granderson, Ellsbury) I topped it off with Rasmus and Justin Maxwell so at least on paper I was pleased since I love Maxwell as a 5th OF/UT guy.
I'll spare you the Braun versus Trout diatribe here, there will be plenty of time for that, but it does not surprise me that the NFBC favors Trout.
Early on, the biggest eye-catcher is Josh Hamilton as the projections have him ranked much lower than he has been picked. The injury issue aside, the biggest concern is the change in venue as park factors appear to hinder Hamilton's power. However, looking at ESPN's Home Run tracker, Hamilton may not lose as many dingers as strict conversion suggests. I am looking into getting more data to decide if I want to override the park factor adjustment and give Hamilton some additional homers. Chances are I will - not enough to propel him into the top-10, but rather mid teens.
The opposite of Hamilton in terms of park factors is Melky Cabrera. Since leaving the Bronx, Cabrera has taken up residence in a couple of poor hitting parks where he put up excellent numbers. Take this to Toronto, a favorable venue, and the translation is very optimistic. Personally, other than the PED issue (more so his acceptance into the clubhouse as opposed to on field boost) I have always been wary that Melky has strung together a couple of seasons of good fortune mixed with a good but not great skill set. There are 750 MLB players at any given time, well over 1000 appear over the course of a season. Probability alone dictates that a couple will enjoy consecutive seasons of good fortune. We regress the element of a projection that is luck-based, but there is no way of telling of we regress it enough. At a position as plush as outfield, I have been a bit shy about throwing a dart at my third outfielder, preferring to save those for the end. On the other hand, it's not like my third outfielder has led me to any championships, so maybe it is time to embrace more risk and Cabrera looks to be a viable target in that regard.
STARTING PITCHER - Justin Credible
As will be detailed in an upcoming feature, for me drafting pitching is all about tiering then determining how many and from what tier you want to build your staff. There is definitely some striation among the starters. Most drafts have a cat and mouse game when the first arm comes off the board, then the second and third follow. At this point the floodgates open until the tier runs dry and there is a break again.. This is illustrated pretty well via the staff rankings. The trick is being able to jump in and get your pitching when the desired tier is being drafted, without negatively influencing the quality of your sticks.
I thought I was high on Yu Darvish, but apparently not high enough. This shows me I am not alone in my opinion that he is in line for a jump up this season. The same can be said for Adam Wainwright. At least now, I am underestimating the market for both. But that's why we start doing this now, so we're ready come March.
It is going to be fun to watch R.A. Dickey in his new digs. While I prefer he isn't one of my top-2 starters, I'd gladly take him as my number three.
I'm the first to admit my NFBC record in drafts does not live up to my reputation so who am I to call anyone out, but I'm sorry, first with Trout and now with Stephen Strasburg, come on!
There's a lot of the shiny new toy versus old stand-by dichotomy among the pitching ranks as evidenced by Strasburg, David Price and Gio Gonzales versus Cliff Lee.
Maybe it's time to rethink the projection on Jered Weaver?
Looks like I have a better chance of getting Wainwright than Dickey in the NFBC. I'm OK with that.
RELIEF PITCHING - Craig's List
What does it say about the position (and the individual) that a 43 year old guy that coming off major surgery that did not throw a single pitch in anger in 2012 is ranked the solid fourth best at his position?
There are just so many situations in flux it is almost not worth discussing, but since there are some NFBC Draft Champions drafts going on and you can't pick up the in-season emerging closer, it is necessary to come up with a plan of attack now. Perhaps the best use of the data is to identify the closers that most consider to be safe. I suppose I can count ten (Kimbrel, Motte, Papelbon, Rivera, Nathan, Rodney, Romo, Balfour, Storen and Holland) but truth be told, I am only truly confident that Kimbrel, Motte and Papelbon are "sure things". The rest have warts. In early drafts, I have been looking to get Motte and if I miss, I settle for two of the later options that I consider to be a bit more stable than the rest, with Balfour, Reed and Wilhelmsen the primary targets. That said, the guy that is piquing my interest is Greg Holland, as illustrated by my lofty rank.
The primary utility of this data may be to discern how some are reading the team leaves with respect to some of the more jumbled situations.
LA Dodgers - The NFBC is not buying Brandon League over Kenley Jensen. Obviously getting them both is the best plan for the Draft Champions format, if you can pull it off. One thing is apparent and that is like last season, Jensen is going to have to earn the job in-season which means League will get some early saves. Assuming you are not in a format where there is no waivers or FAAB in-season, League is a great target since his price will be minimal. Think of it this way - how much energy (and assets) do you spend chasing saves during the season just to get the same 10 or so League will provide? It may be more cost efficient to get those 10 saves cheaply now.
Washington - Most are sure Storen is the guy. I'm not convinced...yet.
Cincinnati - Not exactly an abundance of confidence with Broxton
San Francisco - Somewhat surprisingly, the NFBC is luke-warm on Romo. I'm a bit tentative myself as he is significantly more successful facing RHB and the percentage of LHB he will face as closer will rise considerably. Plus, he is a little brittle so I see Bruce Bochy keeping him fresh for a hopeful September into October push.
The situation in Boston took place after the bulk of drafts and rankings so we can't discern anything yet. That will be quite interesting to track going forward. If Boston can get Joel Hanrahan to cut back on the walks, don't be surprised if Andrew Bailey is traded.
And finally, I'm all over picking Rafael Soriano, feeling he will get a closing gig somewhere (Detroit, Toronto).
That does it for the early 2013 Mastersball staff rankings. Schedules permitting, we'll do it again in early March to capture the changes as the information pyramid kicks into gear.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 January 2013 15:54|