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Thursday 18th Jan 2018

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

“How could they have taken Anthony Rizzo over Carlos Gomez?”

“They should have waited on Evan Gattis.”

“For a guy that preaches to ignore scarcity, Zola sure drafted scarcity early.”

“The Mastersball team is a train wreck.”

“Zola and Michaels reached for too many, especially early.”

And my personal favorite…

“Whoever Mastersball is, they must have been looking to make a name for themselves with some look-at-me picks.”

This is just a taste of the commentary posted on the web, said on the radio or uttered live at the recent Fantasy Sports Trade Association draft as pertains to the squad Lawr and I drafted. Upon reading and hearing all this, I’m going to be honest. After going back and reviewing the team, I like it even more now than before.

Lawr already did a pick-by-pick analysis. What follows is an explanation of the strategy we employed and why the aforementioned opinions are a bit myopic.

Before every draft where we partner, Lawr and I always go through the same routine. Well, actually this time it was a little different. We usually take a trek down the Strip and strategize over a pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. But this year, I donned some nicer clothes and since I usually consume half of my sandwich and wear the other half, I asked my mate if it was OK if we skipped Carnegie this time and lunch on something that has less of a chance of staining my tie.

The discussion, however, was the same as usual.

  • Derive an overall plan and narrow down our first round choice accordingly
  • Decide how we want to attack pitching
  • Go through the inventory looking for the players we agree will have a solid season
  • Neither of us are married to an overall plan, though we did agree to really focus on counting stats and pay less heed to batting average early. If necessary, we would address average later.

    We concurred not to take Clayton Kershaw if he fell to us at seven. We'd then approach pitching on a round-by round basis. The idea was to identify the pitchers we were willing to take if they made it to the next pick, otherwise we’d take a hitter. Even if this meant we were among the last to select an arm, we’re confident in our ability to draft then manage as necessary to get the pitching points needed to compete.

    The common names we rattled off included Yoenis Cespedes, George Springer, Kole Calhoun, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, A.J. Pollock, Rusney Castillo, Dalton Pompey and Angel Pagan. See a pattern? The shared list was almost exclusively outfielders. Furthermore, the majority had steals as part of their arsenal.

    Before proceeding any further, I need to take a step back and elucidate a bit where I’m personally at in terms of philosophy and draft theory. In full disclosure, I didn’t discuss this directly with Lawr since I knew he would be on board with it and ultimately we would be landing at the same place - my path being more analytical with his employing more subjective views sprinkled with Zen.

    The bottom line is I didn’t really care to try to gauge the market and time the room on most of our picks. The only available average draft position (ADP) comes from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship’s early leagues, which are all of the 15-team, 50-player draft-and-hold variety. The FSTA league has 13 teams with trading, albeit limited to one deal with each team.

    Instead, I used the results from a process I call graph-a-draft. (Note – I don’t use the term value anymore, substituting the more apropos word potential). By taking the potential of each player and assigning it to a corresponding draft spot from top to bottom, you can get a rough idea of the production expected from each spot. By means of example, when making the 100th pick of a draft, ideally the players would be in my top-100.

    There are exceptions as what’s most important is the intrinsic potential of the player, which is a function of team construct and plan for in-season management. For instance, if you draft Jose Altuve, then Dee Gordon’s intrinsic value to your team is diminished greatly. If you plan on liberally streaming starting pitchers with favorable home match-ups, someone like Tyson Ross is more useful than where his rank places him based on both home and away games.

    I’m not naïve. I’d be a fool if I didn’t take the market into consideration. But quite frankly, I think too many are too much of a slave to how they perceive the market. Picks aren’t made in a vacuum. The idea is to finish the draft with the squad with the most potential. Looking for the best value (arghh) at each turn is not necessarily the way to go about the process. As such, my primary concern isn’t playing cat-and-mouse or chicken with my competitors but rather working my way towards a goal by choosing players I expect to out-produce the expectation defined by their draft spot. I don’t care if I could have waited since I plan on drafting another edge at that later spot as well. I see no advantage of taking a player the market likes more than me to push a player I like into a lower draft spot. What if someone else takes the player? Now I have forfeited the chance to gain an edge with the earlier pick while in turn letting an opponent get a big edge with that player. No thanks. I’d rather focus on what I can control and that’s taking a player at every turn that exceeds that spot’s expectation regardless if I possibly could have waited.

    With that as a backdrop, let’s circle back to Lawr and I discussing our first pick. We were fairly certain that the first six picks would be Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Kershaw and Jose Abreu in some order – and we were correct. That meant we had to at least broach the possibility of rolling the dice Miguel Cabrera comes back somewhat early and is as effective as normal. We mutually opted to pass. That left Gomez, Adam Jones, Rizzo and Edwin Encarnacion as viable options. Now remember:

  • We want to focus on counting stats
  • There are a plethora of speedy outfielders we both covet
  • We decided to cross off the outfielders, desiring to leave as many spots open as possible, rendering Rizzo or Encarnacion as the candidates. We favored the youth and upside of Rizzo, so unless something unexpected occurred, we were fully prepared to initialize our squad with the Cubs’ first baseman.

    What follows is a table displaying our picks and where I ranked them at the time of selection. The rest of the discussion will refer to this table.

    Round Pick Rank Diff
    1 Rizzo, Anthony 7 17 -10
    2 Donaldson, Josh 20 21 -1
    3 Springer, George 33 28 5
    4 Cespedes, Yoenis 46 23 23
    5 Gattis, Evan 59 13 46
    6 Calhoun, Kole 72 33 39
    7 Wong, Kolten 85 79 6
    8 Melancon, Mark 98 88 10
    9 Cashner, Andrew 111 105 6
    10 Martin, Leonys 124 73 51
    11 Ventura, Yordano 137 183 -46
    12 Sanchez, Anibal 150 132 18
    13 Smyly, Drew 163 130 33
    14 Aybar, Erick 176 118 58
    15 Jaso, John 189 66 123
    16 Duffy, Danny 202 215 -13
    17 Boxberger, Brad 215 154 61
    18 Pompey, Dalton 228 156 72
    19 Reddick, Josh 241 187 54
    19 Morse, Michael 254 279 -25
    20 Peavy, Jake 267 237 30
    21 Kazmir, Scott 280 213 67
    22 Pagan, Angel 293 227 66
    23 Tillman, Chris 306 180 126
    24 Heaney, Andrew 319 246 73
    25 Semien, Marcus 332 253 79
    26 Napoli, Mike 345 421 -76
    27 Quackenbush, Kevin 358 304 54
    28 Panik, Joe 371 251 120
    29 Jones, Garrett 384 362 22

    Let’s concentrate on the questionable picks according to the table. The explanations will call into play the philosophy and game theory explained earlier.

    We took a ton of flak for Rizzo and according to the table it may be deserved. But that’s looking at things in a vacuum. Sure, ten players were ranked ahead of Rizzo with reference to the draft spot but three of them were pitchers and three more catchers (more in a minute), so we’re now taking my 11th best non-catcher or pitcher in the 7th spot which softens but doesn’t eliminate the blow. More importantly, Rizzo doesn’t take away a valuable outfield spot and should produce a ton of homers, RBI and runs. He fits the team construct without sacrificing the opportunity cost of taking an outfielder.

    Speaking of which, the plan requires that we in fact grabbed a bunch of the outfielders we yearned after at an efficient cost. Well, look at that. Springer, Cespedes, Calhoun, Martin and Pompey were all selected at a potential profit according to my ranks.

    The pick that raised even more eyebrows than Rizzo was Gattis in the fifth. There are several factors in play here. Even before the deal to Houston, I had Gattis behind only Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy at the receiver spot, figuring on about 30 homers. Without going too deep into the gory details, my rankings entail looking at replacement by position and the catcher bump this season is huge. Chances are much of the consternation over this pick was rooted in valuation with some differences in production. Though, talking to others at the draft table, many actually projected Gattis for mid-30 bombs.

    As mentioned, not only did I not have a feel for where the market slotted Gattis, even if I did I don’t care. He’s my 13th ranked overall player. Lawr and I talked about it and decided since Gattis was the third backstop on our list, we would draft him the pick after Lucroy was drafted, feeling fairly certain he would follow Posey off the board. Lucroy went early in the fifth, so we jumped on Gattis. Could we have waited? Perhaps, but we would have taken Calhoun in his stead, the player we got next. Early or not, Gattis provides us with considerable potential profit while really boosting the counting stats we drool over.

    The next player drafted at a perceived loss is Yordano Ventura. Some of this is my conservative projection but regardless, the reasoning is the same. We faded pitching. It wasn’t by design but no satisfactory arms were there for us when we were on the clock. As such, it was necessary to take a hurler with serious upside. Ventura was the most attractive option so we jumped on him. A static ranking does not reflect downside, risk and potential upside. We felt we needed to draft the upside.

    Ironically, the next player with a negative difference is Ventura’s teammate, Danny Duffy. One way to mitigate the lack of an ace is to play the match-up game with the back end of your fantasy staff. This means avoiding the poor starts so the stats actually added to your team total are better than projected. Kauffman Stadium actually inflates runs a tad but it is death to home runs, which is Duffy’s primary crutch, hence his numbers should benefit from home tilts.

    A couple other players, Michael Morse and Mike Napoli, were taken at an apparent loss. Both are power hitting corner infielders, fitting the team mold, but both also have injury concerns. The thing is, if they’re hurt, we’ll backfill with a similar player. This is another weakness of static ranks – not accounting for the replacement stats when the original player is hurt.

    Are Lawr and I going to recapture the title we won in 2013? Who knows, it’s still January. But I feel very good about our chances irrespective of how others may think.

    That’s because Lawr and I did it our way.

    I’ll be honest. This time of year is just another couple of weeks for me. It’s not that I’m against being festive or even feeling a bit melancholy that my parents are no longer with us. These days are just no different for me, that’s all.

    Though, there is something about the week between Christmas and New Year’s that drives me goofy. I can’t stand all the end-of-the-year reviews or top-ten-of-the-year lists. I was here, I lived through it. If I cared in the first place and it was worth remembering, I still remember it.

    I don’t need to be reminded about the top ten news stories or the ten most influential people. I don’t care to rehash the ten most exciting Monday Night Raw moments or even the top ten best defensive plays of the 2014 MLB season. And, I certainly don’t want to hear the top ten songs of 2014 or see the top ten nude movie scenes.

    OK, I can use a refresher here and there.

    So as a means to get even with everyone that feels the need to subject us to the year in review (I’m looking at everyone that opted to make public the presentation Facebook put together for all their users), I’m going to present my best non-baseball tweets from 2014.

    Some fat guy wearing a red suit just came out of my chimney, saw a plate of potato latkes and glass of milk and said, "sorry, wrong address"

    I don’t have a chimney and I realize sour cream and not milk is the preferred dairy accompaniment but I’m willing to fib for a chuckle.

    Does anyone know the protocol for live tweeting a Bar Mitzvah rehearsal?

    For those unaware, cell phones aren’t allowed in a synagogue so this employs a little irony to take a shot at those who feel they need to live tweet their entire day.

    OK, let me get this straight. A fictional movie has been pulled from five theater chains but the Thursday night football game is still on?

    For the record, this was Tennessee versus Jacksonville, which turned out to be a decent game so the joke is on me.

    Holy cow is gas cheap! I just drove around for 3 hours just so I could fill up my tank.

    Those who know me, know the truth. I wasn’t just driving around, I was lost.

    This whole eating healthy thing would be so much easier if someone invented a vegetable that tasted like pizza....and another like chocolate

    You’ll soon notice a common theme.

    Food should either be universally liked or easy to pick out of a dish. Peas are both gross and a pain in the ass to completely remove.

    I admit, I often dine with those allegedly healthy microwave dinners. Five or six of them and I’m full (remember that fib thing).

    Developing a serious mid-life crush on Liz Phair....

    There’s no attempt at humor or social commentary here. She’s seriously adorable in a hot and sultry way. As opposed to Nell from NCIS LA who’s incredibly adorable in a girl-next-door sort of way.

    There has to be a way for me to stop ruining keyboards by getting food stuck under the keys. I mean, other than not eating over my keyboard.

    I’ve been known to snack on what’s under the space bar.

    Retweet this if you feel trolling for retweets is cool. Favorite if you think it is self-serving and disingenuous.

    If you’re not familiar with Twitter, people can choose to follow you. For some, followers are a way of keeping score. They feel like they’re a better person because they have more followers. It’s really not important to me. When I hang out with my friends, we don’t whip out our Twitter followers to see who has the biggest….following. Anyway, having an entry retweeted or favorited exposes you to the followers of the person that retweeted or favorited and this often results in more followers. Some will troll for followers by posing a question in the above manner.

    Have I mentioned my Twitter handle is @ToddZola?

    I wonder how long being a thing will be a thing....

    See what I did there?

    Vote NO on allowing waving of political signs at busy intersections and hanging over a bridge on a busy road.

    I don’t often offer political or social commentary but when I do, I reserve it for the most important issues.

    Really not sure I want to exist in a society in which cray cray has become an accepted part of its lexicon.

    And while we’re at it, who decided that prolly is an acceptable proxy for probably? Is probably really that hard to spell? You’re saving two freaking keystrokes. That’s just cray cray.

    I don't have a couch because I can rarely sit there. But on those occasions I could, I really wish I had a couch.

    For those concerned, since this tweet, I have purchased a nice recliner (that I’ve sat in all of about six times since I bought it four months ago).

    I'm a grown-ass man but that little blonde kid in the Toaster Strudel commercials creeps the shit out of me.

    toaster-strudel-now-with-more-fruitI am seriously not kidding. The little SOB freaks the hell out of me. I haven’t had the heebee-jeebies like that since the doll in Magic with Anthony Hopkins.

    The problem with cleaning your glasses if you really need glasses is you can't tell if they're clean, without, you know, your glasses.

    Sometimes I tailor my tweets to those who smoke weed. You know, for medicinal purposes.

     The only thing that bothers me more than being called an expert is being called an "expert."

    Actually, the use of quotation marks when you’re not actually denoting a quote bothers me. It’s as if you’re too much of a “wuss” and “hiding behind” the words as if you’re not really "saying" them. Kind of like a ventriloquist getting away with some stuff he wouldn’t say directly but can do it through the dummy. If you want to say something, SAY IT. Don’t pretend using quotes absolves you from accountability or softens the blow.

    If fruit were always as good as it is right now I'd eat more fruit. My problem is pizza is always good.

    This was mid-summer. I still don’t understand why there isn’t a country somewhere that can grow a decent peach, plum or nectarine during our winter. It’s summer somewhere, right?

    White chocolate is just a way of tricking fat people into eating vanilla

    Be honest, if you have the option of choosing regular chocolate or that white crap, you’re going brown every time.

    I'm pretty sure we can knock off half the national debt if supermarkets put more items into those plastic bags.

    And not just that, they double bag some stuff for no reason.

    Even Bobby McFerrin has had enough of Pharrell Williams' "Happy"

    Anyone that tells me “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” will have their account disconnected.

    So, is "now with kale" really supposed to entice me to want to try it?

    I actually forget what this was in reference to, I just don’t get how adding kale makes anything better. Change that to bacon and we’ll talk.

    Looking forward to spending a week in New York City. Just hope I can find somewhere to get a good bagel and decent slice of pizza.

    Don’t worry, I did.

    Fat people get made fun of for drinking diet soda. Well, invent 1-calorie pizza and I promise we'd eat that too.

    It can be inferred by now that I eat a lot of pizza. Not saying whether I do or don’t, but when I say I haven’t had a slice for awhile, that usually means since breakfast (re: fib = giggle). But, you’ll be happy to know I make it a point to include at least one vegetable on every slice (which is actually mostly true).

    If you're going to sit in one of the airport gate chairs where you can charge something, you know...CHARGE SOMETHING!!!!!

    Just another reason being allowed to carry a stun gun should be legal.

    I think I’ve taken enough of your time. Thanks for your indulgence and have a great new year.

    The past couple of weeks, I’ve shared my initial view of how I will draft the first and second round of standard snake drafts. This isn’t how the 2015 Platinum projections will rank the players in terms of dollar potential but rather my meshing expectations with risk and overall drafting philosophy.

    We’ll finish this series with some comments on players I left out that others will at least consider if not draft in the first two rounds. This shouldn’t be considered my third round, though admittedly they would certainly be on my radar.

    Hunter Pence – Let’s start with a confession. The more I thought about it, the more I rued not including Pence in the second round with Charlie Blackmon and Yasiel Puig the most likely to be booted. Pence may not finish with second round value but he has a very high floor. Taking Pence late in the second would allow taking a chance early in the third and as will soon be evident, there’s a whole lot of high-risk, high-reward players available.

    Ryan Braun – The narrative will likely be a healthy Braun is close to the player he was pre-nonsense. I’m not convinced, let alone confident he’ll ever be healthy enough to prove me wrong. His fly ball percent has always been low for a power hitter which means he’ll need to carry an elevated HR/FB and I don’t see it returning to past levels. He’ll run but not like before. I’m not saying Braun isn’t still solid, I just don’t trust him enough to be a foundation piece in an era where you can’t afford to mess up with a top hitting pick.

    Bryce Harper – Same old story, the talent isn’t the question. Promise me Harper will play 150 games and he’s late first/early second round material with top-10 upside. If I started my draft with two solid hitters, I would seriously consider adding the risky Harper, but I doubt he’ll be available.

    Buster Posey – I’ve done the first run of hitting projections and I can safely say Posey will be ranked in the first 15 hitters. He’s aided by the replacement catcher bump but since he plays so many games, he would still be ranked very highly if he were, as an example, first base only. The reason I’m passing on Posey until at least the third round and probably not taking the plunge even then has to do with the confidence I can get catchers I like later at a price where I can get some profit. I don’t feel catchers are priced properly so I can get an edge whenever I decide to grab a receiver – it doesn’t have to be early. Alternatively, it’s viable to completely punt the position and troll for emerging backstops. Many will scoff at this, especially in the high-stakes arena, but the reality is not much is needed from the last two roster spots to be worthy of that spot. The catcher pool is so homogenous at the end that I can just take the best two available really late and look to upgrade as the season progresses with the buffer that I need very little production to justify a 20th round pick.

    Nelson Cruz – I’d feel the same way even if Cruz ends up returning to Baltimore. He’s too risky. The assumption is by playing designated hitter he will remain healthy but he played 70 games in the outfield last season and prefers to play defense so he’ll likely be chasing flies again in 2015. Plus, there’s gravity. He’s not likely to repeat a HR/FB of 20.4 percent. It will still be well above league average but between power regression and injury risk, I’ll pass early.

    Victor Martinez – Speaking of gravity, V-Mart set a career high in HR/FB at 16 percent, which followed seasons of less than half of that. During his salad days, his HR/FB was about league average. He’ll be 36 on opening day and while David Ortiz has set the precedent of being able to reach and sustain a new skill level later in one’s career, I’ll take the under on just about everyone’s 2015 HR projection for Martinez.

    Freddie Freeman – This one is tough for me because so many people I respect are Freeman believers. Considering that his HR/FB rate dropped in 2014 aside, unless he makes a mechanical adjustment to loft more fly balls, he’ll be a glorified John Olerud/Mark Grace/Sean Casey. Yeah, he’ll be better than that trio – so even glorified is a hyperbolic understatement, but Freeman is not on course to be a perennial 30-HR guy. Hmm, maybe a beefed up Don Mattingly is a better comp. Regardless, without the bump in fly balls necessary to hit more homers, I’m not willing to bet on him like some of my brethren.

    Adrian Gonzalez – Actually, maybe A-Gonz is the best present day comp for Freeman. In fact, I’d have a real hard time deciding between the two if it came to that. Gonzalez is a bit like Pence but without the steals. His upside is limited but his downside is minimal. It really comes down to mindset. Some will look at the drop in hitting and want reliability. Others will say screw it, players are going to get hurt, may as well just go for it and see what happens. Gonzalez is a candidate for the former.

    Max Scherzer – This is all subjective and has nothing to do with the numbers. Scherzer has been the exact same guy for three years – 3.00 ERA with a ton of whiffs. There’s nothing in his skill set that suggests a decline. I’m just concerned that he’s thrown well over 1000 innings the past five seasons. If I can’t get Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner or Felix Hernandez, I’d rather wait and jump in a bit (but not too much) later. Sometimes I wish I didn’t do this for a living but that ship sailed a long time ago. My 2015 pitching strategy is likely MadBum in the third and if he’s gone, Cole Hamels a couple rounds later, depending on the flow.

    Prince Fielder – This is all about risk. The best hitters in 2015 are mostly first basemen and outfielders. I’m not comfortable taking a chance at one of the few positions where there’s a reasonable level of reliability, especially early.

    Thus concludes a little 2015 teaser. If there’s a player you’d like me to comment on, please feel free to ask below.

    In honor of the full 2015 Mastersball Platinum launch on December 1, here's a sneak peak at the initial rankings. We launched our first set of projections on November 15 and after a bit of tweaking, what follows is the top-30 by way of projected dollar potential for a 15-team mixed league.

    Please keep in mind that a ranking by dollars and a draft list based on these rankings often do not match. In other words, there are some players on this list I personally wouldn't take in this range and there are some I might jump up a bit based on reliability or upside.

    30) Troy Tulowitzki - Skills still solid, it's all about the playing time. The good news is all his injuries are independent and not likely to recur. The bad news is a sentence containing the phrase "all his injuries" is necessary. Keep in mind you can always use a replacement when Tulo is hurt.

    29) Ian Desmond - Desmond is the only player to have three 20/20 seasons the past three years. His batting average drops him down these ranks but he'll no doubt be off the board by this point.

    28) Freddie Freeman - I'm doing an NFBC DC draft currently and Freeman was taken in the middle of the third. I say this because some may feel this is a low rank for Freeman. Truth be told, Freeman will be taken in the early second in some leagues as some will still be betting on the power. I'm more third round than I am second.

    27) Max Scherzer - Once Scherzer signs, his relative rank will change. For me, he's firmly in the 1A tier. Clayton Kershaw is in a tier by himself with Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and the pitchers yet to be revealed joining Scherzer in 1A. If Scherzer signs with a team having a pitcher-friendly venue, he could jump as high as #2 overall. Keep in mind Comerica has the rep of a pitcher's park but it really plays neutral.

    26) Jose Abreu - Others are going to rank Abreu much higher but I see a whole lot of hinkyness to Abreu's rookie stat line. And yes, I am watching the NCIS marathon as I compose this hence pulling out the hinky card.

    25) Jose Bautista - Joey Bats will be long gone by this point. The lower than expected rank is a health hedge. His skills are still strong though there is some evidence of the beginning of a decline.

    24) Albert Pujols - Pujols is also an injury risk but with the ability to play DH, he has a good chance to match last season's plethora of playing time.

    23) Yoenis Cespedes - With the note that it's very likely Cespedes is moved for pitching, the thought of him peppering the Green Monster all summer is quite enticing.

    22) Victor Martinez - No one expects a repeat of last season's power. The question is where the fall lands. Obviously, the projection says pretty high; I'm not willing to take the chance. There's players with either more upside or longer track records available in this range.

    21) Jacoby Ellsbury - Last year, I wrote that Ellsbury isn't injury prone, he's accident prone. And I've seen others quote it. I still feel the same way. Something to note, small sample size warnings apply, but Ellsbury hit 10 HR after the All-Star break last season.

    20) Hanley Ramirez - Moving to Boston helped a bit but with Ramirez it's not about the park but his health. You're betting on at-bats, not skills.

    19) Robinson Cano - Here's an example of a player I'd draft earlier than this based on reliability and durability.

    18) Edwin Encarnacion - Some variance with batting average drops Encarnacion below where he'll likely be drafted.

    17) Jose Altuve - Altuve's BABIP was on the lucky side and should fall, bringing with it fewer steals. But keep in mind Altuve was the top player in fantasy last season. There's only one direction he could go.

    16) Jonathan Lucroy - This really isn't the place but catchers get a pretty significant position bump so it's best to think of this relative to other catchers as opposed to non-catchers. The real take-home message is Lucroy is closer to Posey than he is the next tier. The main reason is volume as he plays a ton and hits high in the Milwaukee order.

    15) Matt Kemp - Cue the Monkees, "I'm a Believer."

    14) Adam Jones - Once again, Jones baffled the camp that contends you can't maintain his level of consistent production with his plate skills.

    13) Anthony Rendon - The key is going to be where Rendon hits in the order. If he sticks in the two-hole, this is warranted. If he drops to sixth or seventh, his production will fall and his rank will slide a bit.

    12) Josh Donaldson - Park Factor, meet Josh Donaldson. Josh Donaldson, this is Park Factor. You two should get along famously.

    NOTE TO MY TWITTER FOLLOWERS: Yeah, I plagiarized my own tweet. If you don't follow me @toddzola you're missing out on oodles of pithiness just like that.

    11) Anthony Rizzo - If you insist on avoiding injury risks or require a two-year track record of elevated success, this is not the year for you. The bet here is Rizzo will maintain the huge power.

    10) Chris Sale - Basal skills as good as Kershaw, just can't be relied upon to throw as many innings.

    9) Buster Posey - By the numbers, Posey deserves this rank. It's a matter of your game theory and drafting philosophy whether you want to take the plunge this early.

    8) Felix Hernandez - Lots of innings, lots of whiffs, lots of potential. He was drafted ninth in the draft alluded to above so this isn't a stretch.

    7) Carlos Gomez - I know my editor just cringed but the numbers don't lie. Gomez has sustained a very productive level for several years and there's no indication it was luck or any sign of decline. Sorry Lawr.

    6) Giancarlo Stanton - I've seen a lot of comments about Stanton's $325M contract and high fantasy rating with respect to his ability to stay healthy. I'm not going to comment on the money - that's out of my realm. But from a fantasy sense, a notion I need to embrace is in order to win a draft league, you need to draft to win and as opposed not to lose. It's subtle and a difficult concept to grasp for those of us weaned on auctions and have been programmed to be risk averse. I'm drafting Stanton third overall because he can hit 50 homers. I'm not fading him because he has trouble playing 150 games. All that said, I am fading him in auctions.

    5) Miguel Cabrera - The news at the end of last season is worrisome. Cabrera's ankle was hurt worse than expected. This ranking is in flux, depending on the reports in the spring.

    4) Paul Goldschmidt - Pre-injury Goldschmidt was up to his usual tricks. His hand should fully heel so another stellar season is on the docket.

    3) Andrew McCutchen - Pretty rare you get consistency, reliability and durability AND UPSIDE this high in the draft.

    2) Clayton Kershaw - Some systems may even rank Kershaw at the top. I have him a tick below. Taking him this early is defensible. I'm just not doing it.

    1) Mike Trout - Like you expected someone else?

    Mastersball Platinum was an integral information source for two of the last three National Fantasy Baseball Championship Main Event winners. Dave Potts won 100K in 2012 and our own Greg Morgan, along with his father Dale, split 125K and are the defending champions. In addition, Potts earned another 40K by winning one of the two 2014 NFBC Ultimate Auction Championships. The other was taken down by site subscriber Sam Botnick and your humble pundit.

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    For those who missed it, here’s a review of my personal 2015 first round. Keep in mind this is what I would do if all the previous players were taken. It is not how I expect the rankings generated from projections to unfold.

    Blech. That’s pretty much how I feel about the second round, at least as of this writing. Maybe after delving into the numbers I’ll change my mind, but as of now, just about every option will require going against one of my personal drafting doctrines. The choices will all be either injury risks or players with a limited track record at this level of success.

    2.01 Jose Altuve - I’ll spare the regression narrative as there’s no way Altuve will repeat last season’s batting average. But here’s the thing. He’s still going to hit in the neighborhood of .300 and be among the league leaders in steals. He’s also going to score a ton of runs in an improving lineup (George Springer, Jon Singleton and Chris Carter). What separates Altuve from other stolen base artists like Billy Hamilton, Ben Revere and Dee Gordon is more pop and hitting atop an American League lineup so he’ll have a reasonable number of RBI – at least relative to the aforementioned troika. Circling back to the regression, there’s a very steep decline in dollars earned in the first round. The difference between the first pick overall and this pick is about 15 auction dollars. So yeah, Altuve won’t repeat but he has 15 dollars worth of buffer to work with. After all, he did lead all players in 2014 earnings.

    2.02 Anthony Rizzo – While I’d be more confident if Rizzo had one more season under his belt, there are signs 2014 can be his expected baseline. There weren’t any metrics that spiked. Rizzo just put the best of 2012 and 2013 together. His contact is good but not great in today’s landscape of elevated strikeouts. His biggest improvement is the manner he handled southpaws. One concern is a career high in fly ball rate, so if there’s any regression, it will be fewer homers as a result of a drop in fly balls. That said, Rizzo missed time but should be healthy entering 2015 with the expectation of a full season. A full season of Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and possibly Kris Bryant should result in a bump in runs and RBI.

    2.03 Charlie Blackmon – Yeah, Blackmon is a figment of Coors Feld, but last I checked, he’ll be manning center again in Colorado which means another run at 20 homers with even more steals.

    2.04 Todd Frazier – This pick takes a leap of faith but perhaps not where you might assume. Frazier’s power spike wasn’t all that unexpected, considering his age and home park. What’s eye-popping is 20 steals as that’s what compensates for a lower average than others in this tier. It’s a bit disconcerting that 12 of the swipes came from April through June (eight in May) but it does appear like the Reds will run, which should mean at least double digits, hopefully high teens.

    2.05 Adrian Beltre – Promise me he’ll stay healthy and I’ll bump Beltre up since I still believe in the skills.

    2.06 Troy Tulowitzki – At what point does the injury risk fall behind the performance reward? That’s the question we’ll all have to ask ourselves and this is my answer. While I’m not going to use the same line as I did with Jacoby Ellsbury – he’s not injury prone, he’s accident prone – Tulo has missed enough time that he has to be considered a health risk. But at least nothing is chronic and he’s expected to fully recover from the hip procedure that cut his 2014 short.

    2.07 Clayton Kershaw – As I mentioned last time, by the numbers Kershaw is worthy of the first overall pick and I expect an ADP between 3 and 5. It’s just that I believe in drafting to my strength and I’m confident in my ability to put together a competitive pitching staff without Kershaw. That said, there comes a time where the risk of the remaining hitters is too much. Realistically, it’s not going to come to this, but I’m listing my choices as if 15 Zola-clones were picking and the draft went chalk. Man, that’s a scary thought – 15 me’s. Whoever’s in charge of making Diet Mountain Dew would get a ton of overtime, that’s for sure.

    2.08 Justin Upton – I’m not expecting the uber-stud we all thought was in store for Upton. But he’s now at the point where .270 with high 20s homers is bankable along with 180 runs plus RBI and a handful of bags. I’m paying for his floor, not his ceiling, which is exactly opposite of what many did a few years ago. There’s a good chance I use this exact same analysis in a couple of years, subbing in Bryce Harper.

    2.09 Felix Hernandez – Again, I don’t love taking an arm this early but the reliability of The King trumps what’s left. I doubt I’ll have to make this pick since there aren’t 14 more of me populating the planet (I can’t speak for other galaxies) so someone already discussed will be available here.

    2.10 Chris Sale – Sale may actually possess better skills than Hernandez but I feel the injury risk with the lanky southpaw is enough to drop him down a notch.

    2.11 Madison Bumgarner – Check the numbers; he belongs in the tier below Kershaw, perhaps even at the top of it but I still like the preceding two guys a tad more.

    2.12 Michael Brantley – Brantley’s numbers are awfully close to Blackmon’s but he’s dropped several spots since he’s more likely to incur a power drop. I can just as easily see Brantley hitting 10 homers as challenging 20 again.

    2.13 Carlos Gonzalez – I’ll be honest, if I were to write this piece again, the order of the last three could be different. You know the narrative; CarGo is a stud between disabled list visits.

    2.14 Hanley Ramirez – Similar to Gonzalez except Ramirez isn’t quite as consistent. His highs are higher than CarGo but his lows are also lower.

    2.15 Yasiel Puig – Actually, not only could the order have been different, the names may also have varied. I considered Ryan Braun, Harper, Adrian Gonzalez and Max Scherzer – all of which will be discussed in the final installment of this series. Puig went through some down spells but the signs are there if he can mature and exhibit some consistency.

    NEXT TIME – Notable omissions


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