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Wednesday 16th Aug 2017

 Once again, it was indeed Tout Time, and Saturday I bought my team for the the American League, as many of you know from the blitz of Tweets and great coverage on Sirius XM Fantasy Radio.

Of course, part of the addition of social media to the crazy electronic world in which we live, is that everyone is now an expert at everything. Mind you, as I have noted for the last 23 years, I am not an expert at much of anything.

With respect to fantasy baseball, I can play pretty well, and I can write a little better than I play, but surely there are a lot of humans out there who probably play better than me. If I do have a strength, it is--I hope--in being as fearless as possible in trying things, which as we know works pretty well sometimes, but also can fail majestically just as often.

But, I do sort of liken criticisms to how any of us might draft to parenting: That is, everyone I know who doesn't have kids always knows exactly how to handle other people's children.

Not that I feel defensive. After my $40 experiment on Clayton Kershaw in NL LABR, for Tout I felt like going back to my roto-roots, and simply draft a somewhat quiet, steady team featuring a roster full of good everyday players. I tried to avoid superstars and paying more than $25 on any player.

That said, I had pegged two guys--Chris Sale and Yoenis Cespedes--for that $25 tag, and did get the Detroit outfielder, but Sale went over, so I adjusted.

But essentially I was looking for a cost bottom line that in the context of the respective player's skill set would turn a profit of a couple of bucks.

Anyway, here is my team with basic thoughts. You can review the entire league here

C Josh Phegley ($3): Athletics back-up should get some time behind the versatile Stephen Vogt and has some good pop. A .255-5-32 line will do it.

C Mike Zunino ($9): You know I like his 22 homers last year: I am guessing his minor league .365 will push the average up.

1B Billy Butler ($15): Because 2014 was a down year, we tend to dismiss that it was still pretty good. Bounceback with a new team!

2B Micah Johnson ($9): Speedster looks like he has the Keystone slot locked going into the season.

3B Brett Lawrie ($15): New environ, playing on grass, and some position flexibility.

SS Alexei Ramirez ($22): Power/Speed/Generally healthy.

MI Eduardo Escobar ($1): The perfect MI, Escobar qualifies at second, third, short and even outfield in some leagues. .275-6-37 line last year.

CI Nick Castellanos ($16): Sophomore campaign on a good hitting team should pay off.

OF Kole Calhoun ($23): Everyone knows I love this guy: I thought he would cost a few bucks more.

OF Dustin Ackley ($8): Raked in college, raked in the Minors, and I think this year he will rake in the Majors.

OF Allen Craig ($7): Forgotten man could surprise us all. Or better, get traded somewhere and get a new start.

SW Marco Estrada ($2): In line to be the fifth starter in Toronto, Estrada has good WHIP/strikeout potential. Plugging him at swing gives me an extra potential starter, as you can never have enough.

OF Yoenis Cespedes ($21): Cheaper than I imagined, love him hitting behind Miguel Cabrera.

U Collin Cowgill ($2): Should get some nice playing time with Josh Hamilton down. I think if he gets 350-plus at-bats he will flourish.

P Yordano Ventura ($16): Adjusted after Sale, Ventura has enormous K and ace potential.

P Chris Archer ($17): Another up-and-comer, with big upside, going into his third season.

P Ervin Santana ($10): Ervin misses a lot of bats, and is very steady for the price.

P Chris Tillman ($14): Another steady hurler who still has his best years ahead.

P Kendall Graveman ($4): Looks like he has a spot in the rotation, along with a lot of upside in a pitcher's park.

P Jesse Hahn ($7): In the Oakland rotation, I think Hahn has very good things ahead.

P Tyler Clippard ($10): At best, he gets me saves and a surplus: at worst, he gets me innings, WHIP, and maybe some wins.

P Joe Nathan ($9): Iffy, but I don't think as iffy as everyone else. Should be good for at least 15 conversions.

RES Brock Holt: Versatile bat to plug in just about anywhere.

RES Carlos Sanchez: Handcuff to Johnson.

RES Grant Green: Like Ackley, Green has hit everywhere so far. If he can do it in the Majors, he has a job.

RES Barry Zito: Sentimental, but I still think he could be the new Jamie Moyer.

Rototour 2015 continues this Saturday with the great and fun Tout Wars Weekend in New York City. In fact, this season the drafts will be open to the public, held at City Crab in Manhattan. Further information is available at the Tout Wars Site. Also note the auctions will be broadcast live on Sirius-XM Fantasy Sports Radio.

Anyway, as I completed a list of players I was looking towards as potential bargains prior to last week's LABR auction, here is a compendium of American Leaguers I am looking at for this coming Saturday's auction.

Jesse Hahn (SP, Athletics): I confess, this list will indeed be Oakland friendly, but the reason for this is two-fold: First, I do tend to agree with Billy Beane's assessment of players, and two, because the team is sort of re-engineering, I think many of their players are under-appreciated. Hahn performed very well with the Padres (7-4, 3.07 over 73.3 MLB frames) before he was shut down to avoid overuse. Traded to Oakland as part of the Derek Norris deal, he is slated for the rotation in a pitchers park, with pretty good defense, and his skills point to some pretty good success. Maybe $5 or so?

Josh Phegley (C, Athletics): This time the trade was with the Sox, and Phegley had a great (.274-23-75) Triple-A season last year. He will share some backstop duties with Stephen Vogt, but Vogt will also spend some time at first and in the outfield. I am guessing he would be a $1-$3 investment and should return a little profit.

Billy Butler (1B/DH, Athletics): Coming off a .271-9-66 year, Butler, who is just 28, has seen his stock drop. Just two years ago, he hit .313-23-107, and while he will spend a lot of time at DH, I will bet he hits between 35-40 doubles at the Coliseum. Homers might drop, but the guy can hit, and I think for around $14.

Steve Pearce (1B/OF, Orioles): The American League's version of Scott Van Slyke, Pearce should get another 350-plus at-bats and be good for .270-15-70 or so totals, and a modest ($7-$10) price. If he gets 400 at-bats, Pearce can do even better.

Nick Castellanos (3B, Tigers): Castellanos had a good enough rookie campaign (.259-11-66) and will step it up as a Sophomore, surrounded by a lot of pop (as in Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Kinsler, and when he returns, Victor Martinez). .265-20-70 is what I see in the mid-teens dollars.

Allen Craig (1B/OF, Red Sox): Good example of lost luster after one down season, coupled with being on a team with a lot of prospects. Craig can seriously rake, as witnessed by his solid 2012-13 seasons, and there should be enough positional chairs as the Red Sox settle into some kind of lineup, that either gives Craig a shot at 450 at-bats, or forces a trade where his offensive skills can be exploited. I am guessing he will be less than $5.

Emilio Bonifacio (OF/3B): Three teams over three years suggests Bonfacio wears out his use and welcome, but he does offer some position flexibility and has swped in excess of 25 bags each of the last three years as well. He starts out hot, so a good April might mean dealing him, especially if the price tag is low (I am guessing $4 or so).

Dustin Ackley (OF, Mariners): Is Ackley the most obscure big leaguer of 2014 to hit 14 homers? Seems like, but as another third-year guy, I am guessing the line drive hitting Ackley will kick it up from his .245-14-65 line. I hope he goes for around $6.

Chris Archer (P, Rays): Has a 3.28 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP over 356.6 innings, with 310 strikeouts as a Major Leaguer, again, going into his third full season, ideally as the team's #1 starter. I hope I can grab Archer for $12 or so.

Back in mid-January, I wrote a Hotpage The Kershaw Report (Part I) in which I noted a few things.

1) First is that over the first seven seasons of their respective Major League careers, Pedro Martinez' and Clayton Kershaw's numbers were nearly identical.

2) That back in Martinez' heyday of dominance, John Hunt opened with a $50 bid on Pedro, heard crickets, and won the league.

I decided back then I would see just what the impact of having Kershaw under similar circumstances would be. So, knowing the LABR NL auction was coming up, I decided to road test this poser.

Although, since pitching has improved (or hitting has gotten worse, or some combo therein) between the two aces, I decided that when Kershaw was nominated in LABR, I would jump the bid to $40, and that if the Dodger southpaw made to my nomination turn, I would simply say "Kershaw, $40," and hope for crickets.

I did decide that if someone upped my bid to $41, he (or she) bought him, in that I did not want a bidding war, but I did want to make a statement.

So, that is what I did, and as a result I assembled my team around the Dodgers ace. Note that after the draft, I was told by my league mates that had I opened at $35, they would have bid up to $40, and I was also asked if someone had bid $41, would I go to $42? The answer was "No."

So, my instincts were correct, and, after the rights to Kershaw was cast, I got to build a hopefully successful supporting cast.

But, before we look quickly at my roster and brief thoughts, I would again like to look at Kershaw and his impact on your team and position in your league.

So, if you would be willing to participate, can you send:

-The cost/draft position of Kershaw in your league.

-Your league format (# of teams, scoring system, etc).

-During the first month of the season, we will look at those preliminary results, then collect the mid-season numbers for review, and once again as a post-mortem after the season to see the results, and if we learned anything from the exercise.

Send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and thanks for your participation! (Please note the subject of the missive as "Keshaw Report.")

As for the rest of my team:

C: Derek Norris ($12): Coming into his own on an improving team.

C: Andrew Susac ($3): Think he emerges as Buster Posey's solid back-up and doesn't hurt me as a #2 backstop.

1B: Lucas Duda ($21): Hit 32 homers last year. If he can hit 25 this year, I will make a few bucks.

2B: Kolten Wong ($25): Cost a little more than I thought, but I had the money, and he has 15/25 potential.

3B: Josh Harrison ($22): Power/Speed and position flexibility. And, he plays hard.

SS: Brandon Crawford ($8): I swear he has a .270-15-70 season living in him somewhere.

MI: Jung-Ho Kang ($8): A crap-shoot, but one I like.

CI: Martin Prado ($15): I think Prado returns to big productivity on a fun young team with some big sticks.

OF: Marcell Ozuna ($25): Part of that productive young Marlins team.

OF: Joc Pederson ($17): Big power/speed potential. I just hope he is ready.

OF: Scott Van Slyke ($7): Kills lefties, should get 250 at-bats, and if Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier (or Pederson) miss time, his at-bats go up.

OF: Chris Heisey ($1): Has power and speed also. He needs to show he can deliver, but for a buck, he need not deliver too much.

OF: John Mayberry, Jr. ($1): Kind of like Heisey. And, in a tough deep league, well, you need $1 gambles coming out of the draft.

UT: Tommy La Stella ($1): He can get on, and even has a little bang. Although, I should have grabbed Dilson Herrera for this slot (I thought Herrera would fall to the reserve rounds).

SP: Clayton Kershaw ($40): 'Nuff said.

SP: Brandon McCarthy ($14): I think he is poised for his best season ever.

SP: Gio Gonzalez ($13): Couldn't let him get by at that cost.

SP: Mike Fiers ($13): Big talent, coming off a killer second half.

SP: Brett Anderson ($2): Big talent, big injury risk, but not much of a gamble.

SP: Patrick Corbin ($1): Out till June, but I can DL Corbin and stream some of the starters from my reserve list nicely within LABR rules.

RP: Sergio Romo ($3): Think he is the closer by May. Still has the best slider in the league.

RP: Kevin Quackenbush ($6): K's and potential saves.

RP: Jonathan Broxton ($1):  K's and maybe a couple of saves.

RES: Jeremy Hellickson: I will drop him into Corbin's slot to start.

RES: Robbie Erlin: Another starter chance to stream on a rising team in a pitcher's park. He strikes guys out, too.

RES: Kyle Schwarber: .344-1-53 with five swipes over 79 games after being drafted #1 by the Cubs.

RES: Chris Heston: Think he sees time with the Giants this year.

RES: Junior Lake: Has power and could see at-bats if some of the young Cubs are not ready.

RES: Joaquin Arias: Infield bench support, just in case.

This coming weekend will again send us the League of Alternative Reality (LABR) American and National League auctions, and once again I will be duking it out with the likes of Greg Ambrosius, Steve Gardner and Steve Moyer, team Rick Wolf & Glenn Colton, and others in the industry.

It is always a great weekend--in fact I will indeed be hitting up games over five days, and reporting/tweeting (@lawrmichaels) what I see, and the live drafts will be broadcast live on SiriusXM.

There are indeed players I am looking to cop for my roster, but rather than suggest those players specifically, I would more like to change the context of some more of our thinking.

The term "fantasy sleeper" gets tossed around as freely and indiscriminately as does the term "value." Sleeper has been construed to be predicting a breakout no one else has seen. As in, say Charlie Blackmon, at least through the first six weeks of last season. There are not really minor leaguers who are that much of a sleeper any longer since we all mine so deeply for names like Jose Fernandez and Dilson Herrera

However, Blackmon--like Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar--proved to be sleepers when the season was done, not so much because there were rivers of talent oozing in their blood, but rather because we all (and I mean all) dismissed them, at least on draft day.

So, what sleeper really means is plucking value--and the occasional big year--out of a player that everyone else has dismissed. For, let's face it, if you were in a fairly deep mixed league last year, and grabbed the troika of Blackmon, Escobar and Santana out of the free agent pool, you either had a good team, or there was never any hope for your squad in the first place.

Anyway, with that context, here are some players I think could provide that nice little profit at a minimum investment, for load up a team where every player earns $3-$4, and you will have a competitive team.

Note that the players suggested really allude to NL-only, and deep Mixed formats, but irrespective, I think they are worth following during the season.

Andrew Susac (C, Giants): Former #2 selection in 2011, Susac advanced quickly through the ranks, posting .251-31-130 totals over 249 minor league games, with a .362 OBP (131 walks to 218 K) with excellent OPS numbers (.825) after being promoted from Class-A following the 2012 season. Susac hit .273-3-19 over 35 games last year. Now mind you, we all know Buster Posey is the Giants backstop, as well as the best catcher in the business at this moment in time and space, but the Giants want to keep Buster healthy. That means days either of rest, or even spelling Brandon Belt, depending upon how his season goes. And, should Casey McGehee flounder, I would not think it outrageous to consider Buster for that spot. For a $1 catcher who seems to understand hitting and might have some opportunities, well, should Susac simply give you $4 of value for that, it would be huge.

Brandon McCarthy (P, Dodgers): Pitching is indeed very very deep, so, it is easy to overlook McCarthy with the likes of Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke and Matt Harvey floating around the pool. But, McCarthy, who does not turn 32 until the All-Star Break (and seems like he has been around always) is definitely relegated to the lower levels of the starting pitchers. True, he has struggled some since his return from being beaned in Oakland a few years back (I was there, it was brutal), but last year, especially after his trade to the Yankees, McCarthy both regained his composure and command, but also became a pitcher as a result of that age and experience. McCarthy was 3-10 with Arizona before being swapped, and then went 7-5, 2.89 over 14 starts in the Bronx. And, after arriving in the Apple, McCarthy's strikeout-to-walk rate improved from 4.65 to 6.31, while his WHIP went from 1.377 to 1.151. Now he goes to a team that has always been good with pitchers, and settles into a third/fourth starter role. That seems like a harmonic convergence for big-time success.

Brandon Maurer (P, Padres): Hard thrower (close to 100), who really only has two pitches, the move to the pen for Maurer in Seattle last year is what settled him down. He was 1-4, 7.52 over 32.3 frames as a starter, but 0-0, 2.71, with an 0.964 WHIP and 7.60 strikeout-to-walk rate (1.21 as a starter) after moving to the pen and twirling 37.3 innings. I had thought he was the sort of dark horse heir apparent closer in Seattle: Now I think he is in that role in San Diego.

Brandon Crawford (SS, Giants): I actually think the Bay Area teams have a lot of under-the-radar potential values, but I truly think Crawford has a .269-15-75-8 season in his bones. Maybe even better than that. But, since becoming a starter, his OPS has improved from .584 to .653 to .674 to .714, while his OBP has gone from .288 to .304 to .311 to .324. Now 28, and arguably the best defensive shortstop in the league, I think Crawford will understand he is a big leaguer, and rise to the occasion (while his stats rise with him).

Kolten Wong (2B, Cardinals): Not really much of a sleeper anymore, but 12 homers and 20 swipes last year over 402 at-bats, as Wong even struggled some handling everyday work at Busch, the new. He has 20/20 potential at second base, which is sweet indeed.

Scott Van Slyke (1B/OF, Dodgers): There is so much talk about the Dodgers and their outfielders, but Van Slyke kind of gets lost in the shuffle. As a minor leaguer, Van Slyke hit .295-98-476 over 791 minor league contests, with a .371 OBP and .858 OPS. Last year, as a fourth flychaser/first sacker, he went .298-11-29, with a .910 OPS over 246 at-bats. Say Joc Pederson struggles, or Carl Crawford cannot hit lefties, or Alex Gonzalez gets hurt? I like Van Slyke (the National League's Steve Pearce).

Josh Collmenter (P, Diamondbacks): I remember seeing Collmenter and his odd delivery in the fall league, and liking it then, so I guess I have always been a fan. He is not overpowering, but he pitches smart (11-9, 3.46, and a 1.13 WHIP last year over 179.3 innings) and he is not taken any more seriously than Mark Buehrle (his AL doppleganger). A great fifth or sixth starter option in a deep format. Not even a bad fourth in many instances.

Mike Morse (1B/OF, Marlins): Yes, he is still injury prone (438 at-bats last year) but he similarly can still deliver some pop (Who had a higher OPS last year, Morse or Albert Pujols?). Morse should slide right into the Fish lineup, and get some nice pitches and opportunities hitting under the radar of the Marlins hot young outfield. He could give you $15-plus in return for maybe a $5 investment.

Alberto Callaspo (1B/2B/3B, Braves): He is versatile in the field, and he can do a little bit of everything, and on an Atlanta team in some form of transition, he should continue to get the 400 or so at-bats he has garnered over the past four years. True, his .290 OBP is really bad, as was his .223 average (career OBP is .330, and average is .267) so for sure those numbers can be considered a blip. Add in that Callaspo really had a great eye (40 walks to 50 whiffs) last year says he knows the zone and just couldn't buy a hit. He will cost a buck. He could post a .265-9-50-5 line, which would be worth five-plus.

How much fun is it that players are at camp and Barry Zito and Matt Harvey are both throwing the ball? And, that knowing in a couple of weeks the first spring match-ups will take place? Meaning all these mock drafts will fall by the wayside, in deference to our actual drafts and auctions?

If you are like me, you have been doing a bunch of mocks, which again, is a really great exercise for several reasons. First, it gives you a feel for the player pool at large. Second, it gives you a feel for how others might value players, especially the players you like.

However, it is possible to fall under a false sense of security by going through those motions, so let me offer a few thoughts to keep us all grounded.

Pooh pooh on value. As we keep hammering, value means nothing: it is potential, and the player's ability to realize that potential that matters. Furthermore, once the draft, or especially auction begins, all those ADP numbers fly out the window like a New Year's Resolution to go to the gym four times a week. Focus on what a reasonable cost for the potential you hope your players and team will produce. But, it is a team you are obtaining, and there are a zillion combinations that can become a winner in just about any format and configuration. So, stay fluid.

Win the league, not the draft. One of the things that kills me about drafts is coming out of them being happy because you have a top projected team. Well, unless you are Larry Schechter--who is better disciplined in pricing, but then drafting to support those projections than anyone else--post-draft rankings mean nothing. In fact, personally, the lower I am in those league projections, the happier I am. That is because the teams with the higher production tend to dismiss us crappy teams. Either way, the objective is to be in first in October, not March.

Do your best to disrupt your opponents. We all have players we covet, and players we eschew, and a lot of the time our league-mates know not just who we like, but what we like to do. So, mix it up. Change paths and draft or nominate or purchase players at strategic times to force the hand of your opponents. It might mess your league-mates up, and that means an advantage for you.

Never nominate a player you are not willing to roster. These last couple of thoughts work in concert with the disruption of your fellow owners. But, we all can get too clever sometimes, and try and not overthink a player or strategy. Throwing others off is one thing, but thinking you can outsmart 11 other guys on a regular basis by nominating Robinson Chirinos for $10, knowing someone will bid $11, really means you are going to hear crickets. Meaning you better be sure you targeted $10 for a catcher slot, and that you are cool with the Texas backstop.

Take advantage of what the others give you. Invariably during the draft, Alex Gordon will still be out there in Round 11, or Lorenzo Cain (and 25-plus steals) will be available for $3. Grab them. Never let a bargain pass, no matter how you feel about a player. That is, even if you hate Cain, imagine trying to scrounge up 15 swipes in August via trade or FAAB, and how easy that might be.

One of the mocks I participated in a week back was the Rotoworld auction, hosted by Seth Trachtman.

The league setup was 12-team mixed league, with a $260 Salary Cap, meaning there would be some over-spending to begin with, and some bargains at the end.

Such auctions can be tricky animals, and would seem to favor the "stars and scrubs" approach, where allocating $150 for three absolute top players, and then meting out a buck here and there to fill out a roster is the way to go. Truth is, when there are $1 deals, like Billy Butler and Chris Tillman, at the bottom of the nominations, that strategy does make sense.

And, the one thing taking such an approach means is that you probably will indeed spend all your money, which ostensibly is a good thing.

Among the participants, our host, Mr. Trachtman, came the closest to going with the stars, bagging three (Clayton Kershaw, $37; Jose Abreu, $35; and Jose Altuve, $32) high-priced players, although of course Mike Trout drew the most bids and bucks, at $50. Note that Kershaw was the second most costly player.

Where the conundrum of auctions like this lies, is that while it is considered a sin to leave money on the table, doing so is not such a death knell. While it is true, you do want to use all your financial resources as efficiently as permits, but if I think that Marcell Ozuna will produce as well as Justin Upton--and thus have targeted Ozuna--should I try to grab Upton if the price is right?

Well, in this mock, Upton went for $22, while I grabbed Ozuna later for $11, and then Leonys Martin for another $11, meaning I filled two slots more efficiently with respect to total offensive production, at the same cost as Upton alone.

Personally, I prefer to try and split the middle of stars and scrubs by doing just that, although what this means is not being afraid to push a player or two for more than you perceive the dollar cost should be.

On my team, I spent big on Josh Donaldson ($34), Chris Sale ($29) and Freddie Freeman ($28), but coupled with Butler and Tillman (I did get them, too), that gives me a good balance.

The trick is such money management has to be handled with a lot of focus during your auction. And, you should have some guidelines, such as:

-Have a mythical roster of players and ideal set of projected costs for them ready before the draft.

-Make a split decision as soon as players are nominated as to whether you are serious about acquiring the nominated player.

-Bearing in mind the previous suggestion, always be prepared to jump on a bargain, even if you had not originally intended on rostering the nominee.

-Don't wait too long to get players. I have a tendency in single-league auctions to wait a spell for some money to be spent, but that approach will not work in a mixed format. Go ahead and get players, even if the first few are $5 or so more than you projected. By the end rounds, things should balance out.

-Get an ace--in my case Sale--but target about $6 for all your remaining starting pitchers on average. If a few cost a bit more, again, that will balance out (as in Tillman for $1 and Tanner Roark for $4).

-After you have filled out roughly two-thirds of your roster, try to sit on money, holding out $30-$35 for your last handful of players. This will allow you to control the board, and get the guys you want. 

-Remember, closer is a deep slot in such a league. I got Fernando Rodney and Joe Nathan for a collective $6, and while I realize these might not be your first choices to close, both have the job going into camp, got 83 saves last year collectively, and cost me almost nothing. By contrast, Craig Kimbrel cost Rick Wolf $19.

-Don't freak if you don't spend all your money. In such a shallow format, if you get the players you targeted, that should do it. That is because if the players you prefer produce as you anticipate, it won't matter what they cost.

Auctions are tricky animals, but they are indeed a lot of fun. The results and analysis will be part of the Rotoworld Draft Kit.

Todd and I both keep harping on the fact that we run from ADP, as in "Average Draft Position."

I don't know about Z, but I get a lot of arguments back saying that it is useful in gauging what your opponents might do. Fair enough.

I cannot speak for Todd, but to me in a nutshell, ADP tells us when the masses like a player, and that determines a superficial form of value. But, again, as Todd has so eloquently noted, don't draft based upon value: rather draft upon the projection you have for the player. 

In other words, if Dustin Pedroia has an ADP of 8 among second sackers, and Kolten Wong 12, logically Pedroia is perceived to have a higher value. However, while Pedey might have that great body of stats behind him to buoy that worth, Wong is a solid potential 20/20 player who is just coming into his own, and that means if I can get him in the eighth round instead of Pedroia, I probably have a better pick. Better, if I can get him in the 9th or 10th round, that too ensures good numbers and the potential profit that goes with Kolten's stat base. 

Further, the longer I can wait to draft him, the higher the profit. However, if Wong is indeed #12 at second, once round 11 comes, I should not be surprised to see him snatched up before I get my pick again.

However, Wong is just one piece of the whole of a team, and it is the potential--again to use the Lord's vernacular--that you want to draft to, as part of that aggregate, not the value. For, ideally realized potential is what becomes true value, as opposed to the perceived value of when a player is selected.

As an example, Todd and I agreed to draft Anthony Rizzo as our first pick--#7 overall--in the FSTA draft, something that apparently caused some controversy.

But, for the most part, that is what we were thinking when push came to shove: that among the available choices offered as first rounders, Rizzo offered the possibilities of taking the biggest leap to the next step based upon his age, his experience, now his team, and line of stats established in 2014.

So, the question for me is not when are people in general drafting Rizzo, but rather, when I get him--or any other player--in line with filling out my roster while also realizing that potential as part of the team?

Got it? 

What that means to me is that I don't care when the masses slate Rizzo for selection, adjudging it "too early" should he be grabbed prior to the ADP baseline: What matters to me is when I can reasonably grab him ahead of that curve, for if I do and my perceptions are correct, I will at worst turn a profit on all my players.

If that is the case--even if the profit is marginal--I should have a competitive team.

So, instead of an Average Draft Position, what is of more interest to me is Adjusted Draft Position, with that adjustment being when should I jump on a guy?

With that in mind, I want to look at some of the players in the Mocks I have completed, focusing on players I indeed like, to see exactly when a good time to nab them is.

Miguel Cabrera: One of the guys we passed up in order to get Rizzo has slipped to the second round in a couple of mocks, which means good for you if you grab Miggy there. The truth is, Miggy would have been fine as our number seven pick as well, for improving upon his .313-25-109 total really only needs a bump of five to eight homers to confirm his bona fide first round status. Our concern was injury, and well, it was fun to pick Rizzo and cause a bit of a fuss. But, Miggy is still a fine grab, and should indeed give you that profit margin anytime after 1.5. If you can get him as a second rounder, woo hoo.

Evan Gattis: Again, Z and I raised eyebrows by grabbing Gattis when we did, in the fifth round. Gattis has generally been snatched up between rounds 8-10, so we may have been a little premature, but not much, especially when you consider he will play in the outfield, meaning the injury risk is reduced. We think he can pop 30 out of the yard, so a fifth round pick is totally reasonable. Tenth round? A bloody steal for a catcher who won't catch and can club 30-plus homers.

Leonys Martin: I am bigger on Martin than just about anyone, and for over a year I have been asking why Starling Marte gets so much love, and Martin is seven rounds lower on the hug scale? Marte went .291-13-56 with 30 swipes, while Martin was .274-7-40 with 31 steals, while Marte scored five more runs at 73. I will concede Marte had a better season, but not seven rounds worth, and with Texas willing to let Martin run, taking him Round 6 is totally reasonable.

Marcell Ozuna: I like to pair Ozuna with Martin, snatching the Marlin round 5 or so. No one seems to challenge that, and again, if he just increases his .269-22-85 totals by 10%, that would mean numbers that could be considered for the top three rounds. Ozuna has some nice things going for him in the coming year: it is his third season, he is on an improving team, and with Giancarlo Stanton as the stud outfielder, and Christian Yelich as the next big thing, Marcell kind of slides right on through, almost as an afterthought. Take advantage.

Yordano Ventura: Again, I like Ventura better than a lot of guys, and I am totally happy with him as a #2 or #3 starter. He has gone in general around round 12 or so, but he is young, durable and throws hard. Very hard. His hits to IP did go up second half of last year, but his strikeout-to-walk numbers improved over the same span, so I am thinking he is well on the path to pitching, not throwing. A guy who throws 100 and has command? I want him on my team.

Brandon McCarthy: Hard to believe McCarthy is just 32, but he turned in solid numbers last year, and is lasting till Rounds 16-17, sometimes later. Meaning I am happy to bag him as a #4 or #5 starter around the 15th round. He struck out 175 last year over 200 innings and with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke locking up the ace slots, McCarthy is much like Ozuna: the kind of guy you can ideally slip by under the radar, or at least before your mates realized they might have made a mistake dismissing him as such.

Jorge Soler: He was nabbed in the ninth round of a few mocks I did, which is ok, and means maybe a .275-15-70 line would be pretty good for round 13, but he needs to steal to justify a ninth round pick with an outfield that is so deep at this juncture. For sure, Soler can indeed hit the totals baselined above, at that does make him a decent gamble; however, part of the trick of grabbing players who can deliver upon potential ahead of the rest is to not gamble too much. There is a difference between a crapshoot and a calculated risk, after all.

Rusney Castillo: The American League's version of Soler, though Castillo is 28, with a lot more experience. And, we know how well in general the Cuban imports have fared in the Bigs. I would take Castillo over Soler for just that reason, in fact eighth or ninth round, depending upon needs and the league makeup, is a perfect time. 

Well, football is over thanks to some play calling that reminds me of Brian Sipe trying to beat the Raiders back in 1979, I think it was.

Which means bring on baseball, full speed.

If you really want to do some prep work for the coming season, I suggest you participate in Mock Drafts.

Mocks are a lot of fun, but more important, they give you an idea of the depth of the player pool, as well as the perceived value of the drafters of players (not to be confused with ADP, although oddly, mocks do set ADP).

The other thing about Mocks is they allow you to try things; that is, to draft a different roster, in different slots, and in different formats to get a feel of what might work, and what won't.

A few of the things I would suggest you think about while mocking are:

--If you are in a mixed format, try to resist drafting Clayton Kershaw in the first round. No doubt Kershaw is great, but pitching is so deep this year that it is better to load up with counting stats first.

--Similarly, outfield is deliciously deep. Not that I wouldn't take Giancarlo Stanton in the first round, but if there is a question, there are a lot of outfielder speed/power options that are mid-range selections.

--Again, if in a 12-team format, see about letting go of Closer till the end. Think of it this way: if there are 12 teams, and each grabs a pair of closers, there still should be six left. In the drafts I have done, I have saved my final three slots for closers, and grabbed a combo of Joe Nathan, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Fernando Rodney and Casey Janssen. Now, I realize these guys are not Craig Kimbrel, but, at least one of them will keep his closer gig, and perhaps all three. But, while other guys are snatching up Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen in the middle rounds, you can indeed grab one of those speedy outfielders, or some other hitter figuring in a normal scheme, you can always grab a second closer via the waiver wire.

Just for fun, here are the two mocks I completed last week, with the players I grabbed in the appropriate round (my pick slot is in parenthesis).

By the way, you can go to RealTime Sports and CouchManagers to sign up for free mocks.

1. Miguel Cabrera (7)/Anthony Rizzo (12)

2. Josh Donaldson/Anthony Rendon

3. Yoenis Cespedes/Madison Bumgarner

4. Matt Kemp/George Springer

5. Zack Greinke/Kole Calhoun

6. Kolten Wong/Zack Greinke

7. Sonny Gray/Leonys Martin

8. Marcell Ozuna/Alex Wood

9. Andrew Cashner/Rusney Castillo

10. Yordano Ventura/Gio Gonzalez

11. Leonys Martin/Matt Carpenter

12. Rusney Castillo/Lucas Duda

13. Gio Gonzalez/Mike Zunino

14. Erick Aybar/Lorenzo Cain

15. Mike Zunino/Alcides Escobar

16. Brandon Belt/Mike Fiers

17. Anibal Sanchez/Chase Utley

18. Eric Hosmer/John Jaso

19. John Jaso/Wily Peralta

20. Jedd Gyorko/Kris Bryant

21. Joe Nathan/Joe Nathan

22. Sergio Romo/Sean Doolittle

23. Tyler Clippard/Sergio Romo

Early in the Mesozoic period of fantasy baseball (with the advent of Daily Games, we are now in the Cenozoic Phase), Pedro Martinez was the Zeus of all pitchers.

From 1997-2003, Pedro was beyond dominant. Martinez was so much better than the next levels of pitchers that it was like comparing Rickey Henderson to Rich Becker.

As an example, during the middle of that seven-year spread (2000), Martinez, now deservedly a member of the Hall of Fame, went 18-6, 1.74, with 284 strikeouts over 217 innings and an 0.737 WHIP. The Major League average ERA that season was 4.76. (In contrast, this past season--Clayton Kershaw's seventh in the Majors--the Dodger Southpaw was 21-3, 1.77 with 239 punch outs over 193.3 innings, while the MLB average ERA was 3.74.)

During that '97-03 span, owned by Pedro, several strategies specifically designed around obtaining the slender hurler were concocted. My favorite was John Hunt--formerly the USA Today's "fantasy guru"--opening the bidding for Martinez' services at $50, a strategy previously unheard of. When Hunt tried it, his LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) mates were certainly caught off guard, for Hunt got crickets, got Pedro, and if memory serves, got a title.

Well, as we can see from the numbers above, pitching overall is now more than a run improved from 2000 (4.76 to 3.74), so though Kershaw is much better than the bulk of his counterparts, the gap is not as much as it was between Pedro and his respective colleagues.

However, the reality is both hurler's first seven Big League seasons, the numbers of Martinez and Kershaw are remarkably close, as you can see below:

Martinez 107 49 0.686 2.84 247 181 11 1351.3 1044 409 1526 1.080
Kershaw 98 49 0.667 2.48 211 209 9 1378.3 1035 424 1445 1.059

Going into the 2015 season, Kershaw, 27, is one year younger than Pedro was going into his eighth season of play, and all these thoughts and comparisons made me wonder just how much of an impact building a team around the Dodger's lefty would pose? Could there be the same impact in 2015 as there was with Martinez in 1998?

I think this could be both fun and interesting to track, so, much like I did the Pedro Report in 1999, during which we tracked the impact/cost of Mr. Martinez on his team and roster, we will look at Kershaw's impact on his leagues--ostensibly 15-team draft, mixed auction, and NL-only auction, and perhaps a couple of other formats where we can get some stats--in the coming year.

I am anticipating one piece on this just prior to the draft, one during the All-Star break, once going into September call-ups, and then one final entry to wrap up the season (though note some of these articles might appear under "Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down" once the season starts).

When I solicit data, I hope you will be kind enough to share your parameters as a Kershaw owner.

Welcome back to the Hotpage, holiday edition.

We are busy completing the final Top 250 Prospect scrub, and the full list will be available as part of our Platinum Package some time over the next week.

But, just to add to the fun, this week let's look at a few of the players I like as sleepers on the list. In other words, maybe not so well known, but maybe worth tracking.

Jose Peraza (#108, 2B, Braves): .339-2-44 for the 20-year-old, split between Lynchberg and Double-A Mississippi. Peraza swiped 60 bags over 114 games, and though he may begin 2015 in the Southern League, continued success means nowhere to go but up.

Daniel Robertson (#12, SS, Athletics): Oakland's first-round pick in 2012, Robertson went .310-15-60 with 37 doubles for Stockton with 72 walks to 94 whiffs, good for a .402 OBP and .873 OPS. That is exactly the kind of line the Athletics love. He is headed to Double-A, so bullet hitting bone time, but Robertson, who will be 22 just before Opening Day, definitely made a mark this year.

Cheslor Cuthbert (#75, 3B, Royals): As a 21-year-old, he went .274-12-64 with ten steals, split between Double-A and Triple-A Omaha. A little bit of a free-swinger (174 walks to 347 whiffs), too much talent being realized so quickly must be tracked.

Lucas Giolito (#14, P, Nationals): Giolito, who will turn 21 come the next break, is young, but his numbers are close to scary in that he is 12-3, 2.17, with 150 strikeouts over 136.6 innings. Just 42 walks and 100 hits over that span mean a 1.03 WHIP, but more interesting is Giolito is a 6'6", 255 pounder. Imagine what he could be when he fills out and gains a little experience.

Robert Whalen (#53, P, Mets): 9-2, 1.94 over 69.6 innings mostly at Savannah last year. He struck out 63, walked 21, and surrendered 48 hits (0.990 WHIP), just two of them homers. Whalen gets his feet wet at High-A to start next year.

Aaron Blair (#60, P, D-Backs): A first round pick in 2013, Blair, 22, shot through three levels, finishing at Double-A Mobile, where he went 4-1, 1.94 over eight starts and 46.3 innings. Blair has whiffed 212 over 203 minor league innings, allowing 68 walks (1.167 WHIP). He is another big guy, at 6'5", 230 pounds.

Jose De Leon (#82, P, Dodgers): 7-0, 2.22 mark over 77 innings, mostly at Rookie ball. De Leon whiffed 119 hitters, walked just 21, and allowed just three homers of the 58 hits collected off the 22-year-old right-hander. High-A looms to start 2015.

It is the holiday season, and what better gift can a fantasy owner get than a shot at the potential next big thing?

Well, now for the 17th year, we are happy to present the Mastersball Top 250 Prospects, although in fairness, when I did my first list in 1998, it was just a Top 100.

Still, over the years, we have done pretty well at projecting successful prospects, for though there are names who are familiar, but sometimes we identify players a little ahead of the curve, like Joc Pederson (#8 in 2014), Yordano Ventura (#51 in 2013) and Wilmer Flores (#16 in 2013) which can be a good thing in keeper leagues.

For the archives, while all players are rated based upon age and relative level of success, pitchers are valued for displaying a combination of dominance and control, while hitters are graded on power and an ability to control the strike zone.

The entire Top 250 will be available mid-December as part of our Platinum Package but today, we are happy to announce the Top 10 names for 2015.

So, here goes:

1. Dilson Herrera (2B, Mets): The keystone player who won't turn 21 until next August, Herrera hit .323-13-71 with 33 doubles and 23 swipes split between St. Lucie and Binghamton last year, before getting a September call-up. At Citi he hit a respectable .220-3-11 over 18 games. Bear in mind he was just 20, and weighs just 150 pounds (Herrera is 5'10"), so when he fills out, more pop should ensue.

2. Victor Sanchez (P, Mariners): Sanchez does not turn 20 until January, but at 6'0", he outweighs Herrera by 55 pounds. He spent all of 2014 at Jackson, and went 7-6, 4.19 over 124.6 frames, with 97 whiffs to 36 walks, good for a 1.291 WHIP. Sanchez did get hurt by the long ball last year (17 allowed) but again, he is very young and that is pretty good success adjusting to the toughest jump in the Minors.

3. Carlos Correa (SS, Astros): Sought after in 2014, Correa hit a fine .325-6-57 over 62 games, with 16 doubles, 20 steals and a good .379 OBP (36 walks to 45 strikeouts). A broken fibula is the reason Correa's season was cut short, but expect him to appear at Minute Maid soon, helping lead the charge to the Astros resurgence.

4. Joc Pederson (OF, Dodgers): Pederson was, as noted, #8 last year, and #18 on our list in 2013, and now his presence likely spells the end of time for one among Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. He hit .303-33-71 at Albuquerque last year before the Bums advanced the outfielder, where he only hit .143-0-0, but walked nine times to 11 strikeouts. Time to show what he can do at the Show.

5. Jose Berrios (P, Twins): Minnesota has some nice young hitting, but, what the team needs are arms, and perhaps Berrios will help that search. Berrios, who turns 21 in May, shot through three levels within the Twins system last year, putting together a 12-8, 2.76 record over 140 innings, with 140 strikeouts to 38 walks (1.114 WHIP). The right-hander's time at Triple-A was brief (one game, three innings), so expect Berrios to start the season back at Rochester, but keep an eye open for him.

6. Henry Owens (P, Red Sox): A big (6'6", 205 lbs.) Southpaw, out of Huntington Beach, Owens was 17-5, 2.94 over 159 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Owens notched 170 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.132, and should see time at Fenway in 2015. Owens, who will be 22 on Opening Day, logged in at #25 on our list in 2014.

7. Wendell Rijo (2B, Red Sox): As an 18-year-old, Rijo put up a solid .254-9-46 with 27 doubles and 16 swipes at Class-A level Greenville in the Sally League last year, with 56 walks to 103 strikeouts (.348 OBP). Boston has some nice stuff happening in their infield, and it is reasonable to expect Rijo to finish 2015 at Double-A Portland. He is just the kind of guy to stash on the back end of your Ultra reserve list at least for one season. 

8. Eduardo Rodriguez (P, Red Sox): Got that? Three BoSox in a row? On a team that already has Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Garin Cecchini, and now Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Rodriguez, who was a 2014 trade deadline acquisition from the Orioles (in exchange for Andrew Miller), was 3-1, 0.96 after the swap at Portland, and had a total 3-7, 4.79 mark over 120 innings last year, including time at Bowie before the swap. The lefty was #2 on our list last year after a 10-7, 3.41 record in the Baltimore chain as a 20-year-old.

9. German Marquez (P, Rays): The 19-year-old was 5-7, 3.21 last year over 98 innings for Bowling Green. Marquez struck out 95 while walking just 29, and notched a 1.143 WHIP. As with Rijo, look for a jump to Double-A by the end of 2015 and that should tell a lot as to whether Marquez has "it" or not, but for now it looks like he does.

10. Kris Bryant (3B, Cubs): A monster .325-43-110 2014 split between Tennessee and Iowa, Bryant also swiped 15 bags and walked 86 times to 162 whiffs with a 1.098 OPS over 138 games. I saw him at the Fall League, and while I am not sure if Bryant is a third sacker at Wrigley, he is going to be playing somewhere on the north side next year, and will be part of a cluster of Cubs that will be good by the end of 2015, and contenders in 2016.

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