Posts Tagged ‘Sleepers’

h2h Corner ~ Winning a League in a Low Maintenance Way

Since a lot of us are semi-evolved from the Brits, let’s think about how one wins a league with a laissez-faire attitude. I’m speaking mostly about daily h2h leagues with unlimited moves. However most of the advice should place across league types.

First, I want to address a stigma that it takes considerable amount of time per day to monitor your fantasy team. It simply doesn’t. Certainly it takes more than football because there are more players and more potential moves and no waiver period. There is simply more thinking involved – going way beyond simply putting in a couple of waiver claims and hoping you got the player you wanted in the morning.

You can actively manage your team by spending just five minutes a day for the low, low price of $19.99. The best way to do so is to look at your league at 7:00 pm on weekdays and 1:00 pm on weekends. This way you will know which of your players are starting for the day and see what moves have been made. In addition, check out the Fantasy Baseball 101 home page for all the latest news. You can gather all the intelligence you need by reading the headlines and our player news in one minute or less.

In addition, you can set your lineup weeks in advance. When you have free time, scroll ahead in your roster and plug in those who are starting on given days. This will assure you are, at the least, maximizing your lineup potential.

Aside from this, you can set up Google alerts for your closers (or setup an RSS feed to Fantasy Baseball 101). That way you know if your guy recorded/blew a save and if there is a closer controversy or injury you need to pay attention to. If you don’t get an e-mail, you don’t have to worry.

You also can typically win trades by being lazy. The best stance to take on a trade is apathy. If someone approaches you with a trade, respond that you are interested and ask them to make a proposal. They’ll come back with an idea, which is less than what they would actually pay. So, you take your time – be cool. Your trading partner will wonder where your response is and might even propose a better trade before you respond. To win a trade, all you have to do is be cool and be nice.

In addition to winning your trade via benign neglect (not the Moynihan version), you should elicit the help of your friends who might be more knowledgeable or diligent when it comes to fantasy baseball. Quite simply the amount of quality free fantasy advice out there is astronomical. While this was called plagiarism in high school, it’s simply due diligence in the post-collegiate world. Think of this as me volunteering to answer any question you may have.

By using others, you can have your team assessed by friends and receive an honest valuation of any trade or roster move without having to do any of the research yourself. All you have to do is shoot them an e-mail or send me a tweet or post a comment on this thread (or any thread).

Lastly, I see twitter as a great resource for everyone. Some people use it to talk to friends, some use it as a news aggregator and some use it to project themselves out into the world. The astute fantasy player should use twitter (or set up a feed) to follow club beat writers and fantasy “experts.” I knew Joe Nathan was injured last year before it was on any web site, because it was tweeted. If you’re someone who enjoys social media, this is a great advantage.

So, through the wonders of 35 minutes of roster maintenance a week, Google alerts/RSS feeds and ignoring trade requests, you’ll be in a good spot to compete in your league with little muss and fuss.

You can follow me on twitter at

h2h Corner ~ 2011 Outfield Fantasy Baseball head-2-head Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

How to Use my Fantasy Baseball head-to-head Rankings

I’ve sort of been dreading my OF ranks analysis because I knew it had to be an opus – there is simply too many dynamic things happening with a multitude of players that keeping this short will be impossible. Because I’m lazy, I’ve put the outfielders in three easy categories – no muss no fuss!

Players people will think I’m too high on:

Over the last three seasons (including an injury shortened 2008), Carl Crawford (OF rank: 1, overall rank: 3) has averaged a .297 AVG, 14 HRs, and 44 SBs. He has moved to a hitter friendly ballpark and line-up. While he has stolen a ton of bases against the inept Red Sox backstops, I think Crawford will be a 20-50 player next season with a good average, 100 runs and upside to 70 SBs. He has the ability to be an absolute star in two categories (SBs and Runs), above average performer in two others (AVG and RBIs) and can hold his own in HRs. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t in the top 5 come the end of the season.

After winning his way out of conscriptionShin-Soo Choo (5, 15) is poised to take the fantasy world by storm. Choo has averaged 79 runs, 19 HRs, 16 SBs, 81 RBIs and a .302 average over the last three years. Oh and he’s also posted a sterling .397 OBP. I don’t think the Indians can be as bad as they were last year. Given Choo’s skills, if he is surrounded by average players he should hit/walk his way to 90-100 runs/RBIs, all the while going 20/20 and posting a .300 AVG. Seems like the current version of Bobby Abreu to me.

One of the greatest things ever happened to me on twitter – Hunter Pence (11, 24) responded to a tweet of mine. Pence has hit 25 HRs on the dot the last three years and has improved his SB rate and frequency each season. He’s also hit .282 on the dot the last two years and is entering his age-28 season. He seems like a shoo-in for a 90 run/RBIs season with 25+ HRs, 15+ steals and a .280 average. I’m not sure why he would be the 81st person off the board in early mocks.

I’m guessing you’re noticing a power/speed combo trend in my rankings. If so, it should come as no surprise that I’m high on Bobby Abreu (24, 50). Since 2007, Abreu has averaged 18 HRs and 25 SBs a year. Sure, his average dipped a ton last year (from .293 to .255), however his BABip was about .040 points lower than his career. While his LD% was a bit lower than normal, he didn’t hit anymore ground balls than usual, so I expect his average to rebound somewhat. I’m pretty confident that he can hit near .270, approach 20 HRs and steal 20+. With his OBP, he’ll be a threat to post 90+ runs and could knock in another 90. Something tells me Abreu will be on a lot of my teams, again.

I’m going to be the grand marshal at the Nick Swisher (25, 54) pimp parade. I will grant you that Swisher’s .335 BABip and thus .288 AVG is not sustainable (his career BABip is just .286). However, he is a legitimate 30 HR player nestled in a powerful line-up who knows how to get on base. He seems like a sure 90 run/RBI bet with a near .260 average. He won’t steal you a base, but the HRs/runs/RBIs will be more than helpful to most teams as a top tier third outfielder. In reality, he is Adam Dunn-lite.

Slight Sleepers

Last year, in just 108 games, Nelson Cruz (10, 22) hit 22 HRs and stole 17 bases – that’s astounding. The year before, in 128 games, he hit 33 HRs and stole 20 bases. Quite simply, if Cruz can play 150 games or so he’ll be a top five fantasy contributor. Unfortunately, you can’t really make that bet. Typically, someone with his injury history would be knocked down a bunch in my rankings. However, even if you get 110 games from Cruz, you’re looking at a very similar player to Shin-Soo Choo. If you’re a gambling man and love to go after upside, I suggest you grab Cruz. While he’s a bit old (30), he still should have a few great years hitting in Texas.

I almost didn’t include Drew Stubbs (17, 41) because I figured everyone would talk about him. However, as the guy who called Carlos Gonzalez an 8th rounder last year, I think Stubbs has that kind of ability to overpay his draft slot. Currently the 155th player off the board at Mock Draft central, I have him comfortably in the top five-six rounds. Owing to his near 30% k-rate, I don’t think we can expect much of an average over .260. However, he could, legitimately, go 20-40, or 20-50. I think the floor is 20-30 (which he did last season). At only 26, Stubbs sure seems to have a bright future ahead of him. Given his ballpark and batting mates, he has good run/RBIs upside as well.

I don’t know what to make of Colby Rasmus (26, 57). He seems to be the predominant answer to “who is 2011’s CarGo?” However, I’m not quite sure the 24-year-old is ready to make that kind of leap. That said, I do think he will outperform his current ADP (91). Still, I just don’t see his career trajectory as that of Gonzalez. He reminds me a lot more of Jay Bruce. At 21, Bruce showed all the promise in the world, hitting 21 HRs in just 108 games. However his sophomore campaign would not go as expected – he’d bat .223, battle injuries/demotions and appear in just 101 games. Of course a fair amount of bad luck (.221 BABip) played a part in that disappointing season. Nevertheless, I see some warning signs with Rasmus – last season he had a .354 BABip – it was .280 the year before. He didn’t hit anymore line drives, but did significantly increase his HR/Fb% (from 9.4 to 14.8). Given those two things and a k-rate that will be north of 24%, I don’t think he has the exceptional power upside people think. I see Rasmus more as a .260 hitter with 20 HRs – i.e., a slightly better version of Bruce’s sophomore campaign. So, I’m in the odd position of both calling Rasmus a sleeper but trying to guard against a fair amount of hype that thinks he can be a top 20 performer.

Deep Cover

Logan Morrison (76, 164): I must admit that this is slightly fueled my LoMo’s interesting twitter presence. I also own him late in my long-term keeper league. That said, LoMo has a career .383 OBP in the minors – and has basically posted .400+ OBPs at AAA and AA. In just 287 PAs last year, Morrison posted a .280 AVG and .390 OBP. LoMo is clearly a much stronger play in OBP leagues. That said, he could score 80+ runs given that OBP and post a decent average. He won’t steal any bases and might not hit double digit homers, but he’ll get on base and score – something that is useful later in drafts.

David Murphy (87, 194): Remember how injury-prone Nelson Cruz is? Well, the main beneficiary of his brittleness is Murphy. In 471 PAs last year, Murphy went .291/.358/.449 with 12 HRs and 14 SBs. I see no reason why he can’t put up those numbers again this year, even as only the fourth outfielder. However, if someone in that outfield (ahem Hamilton) gets hurt, Murphy could be in for a lot of at bats, which would bring power and speed. In deeper leagues, he’s a cheap grab already. In more shallow leagues, if anyone in the Rangers outfield gets hurt, Murphy should be immediately plucked from the wire.

Seth Smith (105, 233): I bet it’d surprise you to learn that Smith appeared in 133 games for the Rockies last year and slugged 17 HRs. He also went just .246/.314/.469 (a year after posting a .293/.378/.469 in similar at bats). Last year, Smith had a .256 BABip – for his career that number is much closer to .300. He did hit fewer line drives in what appears to be an attempt to increase fly balls (they went up 6%). However his HR/FB% went down a point. In short, it’s hard to tell exactly what Smith is doing with his swing. However, if his BABip goes back to where it is typically, he should be a near .280 hitter with 15-20 HRs. That’s not bad for the price tag.

What did I get wrong? Post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ 2011 Third Base Fantasy Baseball head-2-head Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

How to Use my Fantasy Baseball head-to-head Rankings

Maybe because it’s called the hot corner (and I riff on that in my column name) – or maybe because I grew up knowing Brooks Robinson was a wizard – I simply love the third base position. This year is no different as it is staffed by some young bucks, consistent performers, and is considerably deep compared to the middle infield slots.

The ranks and files:

The Greek God of WalksKevin Youkilis comes in as my #3 third baseman and 17th overall – ahead of the likes of Alex Rodriguez (5, 23) and Ryan Zimmerman (4, 18). I see this as a real strong ranking and statement about the value Youkilis brings. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 25 HRs a year, 90 RBI, 89 runs, a .308 AVG and .404 OBP. That includes last season in which he appeared in only 102 games – that’s crazy poppycock talk numbers. Inserted in an ever-improving line-up, he should be a lock for 100 runs/RBIs, 25 – 30 HRs and a near .300 AVG. Given his consistency, he is an easy late second rounder in my book.

Re: Zimmerman (not Robert), last year, I wrote the following:

Zimmerman is only 24, yet he has played four full seasons in the majors. In those seasons (including just 106 games in 2008), Zimmerman has averaged 86 runs, 23 HRs, 90 RBIs, a .282 AVE and a .345 OBP. The more I look at it, the more I think Zimmerman is the second coming of Aramis Ramirez. Look at the obvious comparisons: Ramirez starred for a crappy team (the Pirates) and played four full seasons by his 25th birthday in which he averaged 77 runs, 29 HRs, 98 RBIs, a .282 AVE and a .332 OBP. I think Zimmerman has a tad more upside than 2004 Aramis, and could be in for a great year.

At age 26, Aramis Ramirez hit 36 HRs, while I don’t think Zimmerman will do that, I think he has a chance. Conservatively, Zimmerman is almost identical to Youkilis, but with slightly less run/RBIs potential. Given his career trajectory, Zimmerman should be a top 20 batter for years to come.

I wanted to put Alex Rodriguez lower (a decent amount lower, say the 40s) but I didn’t. While I am a Yankee hater, I have written glowingly about Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner in the past – so this is not subjective blind hatred. Over the last three seasons, AROD has averaged just 133 games a season (that’s about what you get from a starting catcher). Of course, he has been productive in that time: .286 AVG, 32 HRs, 109 RBIs and 85 runs. One of the most disconcerting things I see with AROD is that his steals have fallen from 24 in 2007 to 18, then 14, then just four last year. In addition, last year he walked just 9.9% of the time compared to a career mark near 12%. I’m simply concerned that he doesn’t have the run or SB upside that he use to have. Without that he becomes a somewhat pedestrian third base option. You pair that with a slight injury risk and I’ll take the batting averages of Youkilis and Zimmerman (spread over 25 more games) over him.

Time to get to one of my favorite players (although I don’t know how that happened),  Aramis Ramirez (8, 70). While he had a down year last season (batting just .241) he did manage 25 HRs in just 124 games. He has also only averaged 118 games played over the last three seasons and has been striking out more over that span. That said, he did have a .245 BABip last year compared to .287 for his career. While some of that is due to a decline in LD% (15.8% in 2010; 21.3% in 2009; 19.6% for his career), he should see some bounce back in the average category – potentially to somewhere in the .270s. If you pair that with 25+ HRs and 90 or so RBIs, you have a third baseman who will have slightly worse numbers than the top tier. In all, he should represent a decent value on draft day.

If Michael Young (9, 75) gets traded, please disregard the rest of this paragraph. Young is a .322/.372/.487 hitter at home and just a .279/.322/.411 hitter on the road. In the same amount of games, he has hit 22 more HRs at home than on the road. That said, if he stays in Arlington and gets ABs, he has been a steady performer. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 18 HRs, 92 runs, 80 RBIs and a .295 AVG. I like him as a decent third base option in 2011 if he remains a Ranger.

For some reason, most likely his adroit glove work, I like Scott Rolen (11, 85). Last year, I wrote:

You may have missed it, but Rolen played in more games last year (128) than in any season since 2006 (142). In that 2006 season, Rolen scored 94 runs, hit 22 HRs, knocked in 95 and posted a .296/.369 AVE/OBP. Last year, Rolen split time between Toronto and Cincinnati , but posted respectable ratios (.305/.368). Sure he only managed 76 runs, 11 HRs and 67 RBIs. However his numbers are bound to improve this year, as he will be playing full time in one of the league’s most hitter-friendly parks. And, when Rolen is healthy, he hits – it’s that simple. If he avoids the injury bug, Rolen could have a mini-renaissance and approach 90 runs/RBIs, 20 HRs and a respectable AVE/OBP. That’s not bad for a guy likely to be an afterthought on most draft boards.

All Rolen did in 2010 was hit .285 with 20 HRs and 83 RBIs – but that’s the past. Will he earn my 2011 ranking? I think so. If he gets 130+ games, he’ll hit .280, add 17 HRs, and be a decent source of runs/RBIs parked in a very nice Reds line-up. Basically, I think 2010 Rolen is who he is – draft accordingly.

Be careful, because after Rolen the position gets a tad sketchy.

Sleeper Sofa

Pedro Alvarez (16, 149): In just 386 PAs (a little more than half a season), Alvarez socked 16 HRs. Sure he posted an astronomical strike-out rate (34.3%) but he put up massive minor league power numbers while posting similarly poor K-rates. Alvarez is really a power pick – if he hits above .250 you should be stoked. Still, the power is clearly real, and he is a legitimate 30+ HR threat. He could be one of the sneakier 25/100 guys at third base and a definite mid- to late-round selection.

David Freese (25, 196): Freese appeared in just 70 games last year, yet sort of held his own: .296/.361/.404. While he struck-out a decent amount (24.6%) and had an inflated BABip (.376), the youngster has shown the ability to get on base in the minors. If La Russa lets him play, Freese should hit 15 or so HRs and, depending on where he hits in the line-up, score a decent amount of runs or knock in a bunch. He should also bat north of .290. He seems to have some decent promise for someone not getting a lot of pub.

Jose Lopez (30, 235): Certainly, the Rockies infield is a crowded one, but I think Jose Lopez bounces back in a decent way: he’s switched from a crappy hitter’s park to a hitter’s haven and he’s moved from the hard league to the easier league. While he has never walked, his .254 BABip last season is partly the culprit for his miserable average. In addition, his HR/FB% last year was just 4.9% compared to his career average of 7.2%. I think he can get back to a .260+ AVG and 15+ HRs. That’s not at all sexy, but there is some upside – who knows what the Coors effect will have on him. I wouldn’t mind gambling on Lopez at the end of my draft.

What did I get wrong? Post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ 2011 Shortstop Fantasy Baseball head-2-head Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

For a position that has two guys arguably inside the top five in fantasy circles, things get ugly fast. In reality, it’s Hanley, Tulo or bust.

Sure, Jose Reyes (#3 shortstop, 34 overall) can provide some runs and steals and won’t hurt your batting average – but there doesn’t appear to be anything dynamic attached to that third round price tag. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent pick in the third/fourth round, but not an altogether sexy one. As questions abound in the Mets line-up, it’s unclear how many runs Reyes will score. I’m pegging him at around 90, which would put him amongst the top 35 or so hitters. However, if Reyes continues to post OBPs in the .320-.335 range, it’ll be hard for him to accumulate much more than 30 SBs. I’m very confident he’ll be the number three shortstop next season – I just don’t see a case where he can improve upon that much.

That’s about where my confidence ends with the wretched position. I have Alexei Ramirez (4, 60), Derek Jeter (5, 61) and Rafael Furcal (5, 62) in the next bunch – and boy are they bunched.

Ramirez can’t really take a pitch, which limits a lot of his potential upside (runs, OBP/AVG, etc.). Still, he’ll clearly out-homer his two closest ranks and has 20-HR upside – something the others don’t posses. He’ll also add double digit steals (although probably not more than 15), which gives him an added boost. While he could be prone to prolonged slumps (given a sub-6% walk rate and 13+% K-rate), he represents a nice 20-15 player.

While I pray nightly for Derek Jeter to meet his demise, I don’t think we’re there yet. While his K-rate went up a bit last year, the real batting average damage was due to an interesting BABip. For his career, Jeter has a .356 BABip and hasn’t had one lower than .333 (other than last year’s abysmal .307) since 2004. His 2010 line drive percentage was the lowest of his career, so he clearly made worse and less contact last year. However, I think there will be a positive correction there and I see him approaching a .290-.300 AVG again, which would help boost his OBP, which should make him a decent lock for 100 runs. He’ll also out-steal Ramirez. Basically, if you need power take Sexy Alexei; if you need runs/speed go after Jeter.

If Rafael Furcal gets in 130 games, he’ll score at least 80 runs, hit double digits HRs, and swipe 20 bases. If, somehow, he stays healthy, all those numbers go up and he can become the third or fourth best shortstop in the game. You know what you’re getting with Furcal. If you select him, be sure to grab a comparable back-up. While you’re tying up a roster spot, Furcal + SS X production should combine to give you a top performer at the position. Chipper Jones has, for a long while, needed a caddy for your make-believe club, Furcal is no different.

I see Stephen Drew’s (7, 74) name floated as a potential top performer, but I don’t really buy it (even though he’s in my top 10). There is simply no consistency from Drew – I don’t think he has put two solid half seasons together. In fact, he tends to perform better in the second half (when it gets warmer and he gets to face September call-ups): .261/.321/.420 in the first half versus .282/.342/.475. Not surprisingly, his best months are August, September and October. He also plays far better at home. It seems like I’ve gone to great lengths to make my #7 shortstop look real bad. That all being said, he’ll be 28 (in his prime) and should be good for 15+ HRs, and a reasonable batting average (think .270s). It’s not great or anything, but, that’s shortstop for you.

At one point in time, you couldn’t find a person more in love with Elvis Andrus (8, 90). Well, things have certainly changed. While he, thankfully, learned to take a few more pitches (walk rate increased from 7.4% to 9.5%), he continued to strike-out a lot (16.3%) and make weak contact (19.3% LD rate, 61.1% ground ball rate). In short, that really zapped his average and, to a lesser extent, OBP. If Andrus can’t get on base, he has zero value. While I see a slight improvement in average coming as he matures, I’m not sure it will greatly affect his OBP, unless he can take more walks. Until that occurs, I don’t see him stealing much more than 30 bags, which makes him look pretty pedestrian.

Speaking of someone I use to love with all my heart and now wish to die: Jimmy Rollins (10, 113). Things have not gone well for Rollins since his MVP season. His average has dropped from .296 to .277 to .250 to .243 (the last being in only 88 games). During that four-year trek to the dregs, his line drive percentage has tanked, his ground ball percentage has gone up, and his HR/FB rate has gone down. At this point, there is very little AVG/OBP upside. He still could push 15-20 HRs, but will likely rest on the low end of the spectrum. In short, he has become quite a poor man’s Alexei Ramirez.

Sleeper Sofas:

J.J. Hardy (16, 151): Come on, I had to profile the first viable Orioles shortstop since Miguel Tejada. From 2007-08, Hardy averaged 25 HRs, a .280 average and 84 runs. Over the two years since those seasons, he averaged eight HRs and a .247 AVG and accumulated just 85 RBIs total. He’s been pretty bad the last two year, however he’s still only 28 and he missed some time to injury last season. I think Hardy should be able to push 20 HRs next year, and potentially a .270 AVG. Does he, likely, fall short of those? Yes. But, for his price tag, the chance that he makes those numbers gives him pretty decent value. Depending on how the Orioles perform, he could also score or knock in a bunch of runs.

Jason Bartlett (17, 154): You know what kind of player Petco doesn’t hurt (and somewhat could help)? Bartlett, someone who has no power but will join an offense that needs to get runs by any means. That means, when he gets on base, he should be allowed to steal a good bit. He was just 11/17 last year in the SB department, but the Padres will have to let him run. I also think he’ll get back to his .275 hitting ways, which should make him a decent lock for 20 SBs, with upside to 30+. With the league switch, his numbers could look a lot like Elvis Andrus next year.

Erick Aybar (18, 155): Like Bartlett, Aybar had a season to forget in 2010. However, while his AVG and OBP dropped precipitously, his SB numbers went up by eight. Never one to take a walk (5% BB rate) or hit for power (never more than five HRs), his value comes with runs and SBs. If he can post a reasonable average (say .265+), he should be able to reach 20+ SBs again. For someone barely in the top 20 at the position, he could provide some very cheap speed, and, potentially, some runs scored.

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ 2011 Second Basemen Fantasy Baseball head-2-head Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

When you look at the top of my rankings, the power shift has occurred (as I predicted last year). Robinson Cano (ranked: #4 overall, #1 second base) is in the midst of his prime and entrenched as a top fantasy option. Unfortunately, because I love slick-backed hair and smooth-yet-underrated-fielding, Chase Utley (13, 2) seems to be going in the other direction. However, he’s still ranked in the top 15, and likely could squeak into the top 10 by playing 145+ games. I’m still very confident that Utley can post a typical .285/.380/.500 line.

I don’t usually spend a lot of time with the tops of the ranks because there is, quite simply, such small windows separating players that an argument can be made either way based on philosophy. However, I want to talk a bit about my continued love for Dan Uggla (25, 3). I loved him last year and only see peachy things for his future in Atlanta. For his career (1,657 PAs), Uggla put up a .261/.357/.485 line at spacious and documented hitter-hate Dolphin Stadium. In 199 PAs at Turner Field (his new home), Uggla has a .354/.399/.652 line. That’s an incredibly small sample size and something you can’t expect. However, even the average of those two ballparks makes Uggla a fantasy behemoth. Over the last three years, Uggla has averaged 32 HRs per season and a .264/.361/.493 line. That’s pretty tasty at second base. I really think he is in for a monster year and am confident he will finish inside the top 25 performers this season.

In years past, it has appeared that second base was one of the weaker positions in fantasy. However, I don’t think 2011 will be the case. If you look at players like Martin Prado (52, 7) (my sleeper special from last year) and Kelly Johnson (51, 6) (another sleeper of mine), you see there is depth there. I believe both Johnson and Prado can replicate last year. I think Johnson is due for a batting average regression – but nothing miserable. I think he’ll hit .270 with near 20 HRs. Meanwhile I don’t think there is any doubt that Prado is the new Placido Polanco – great runs, great average, with potentially great position flexibility.

Then there is Brandon Phillips all the way down at #56 and eighth in the position. All Phillips has done over the last three years is average 20 HRs, 21 SBs and a .271/.325/.438 line. Now, his SBs have declined and I don’t think reaching 20 is a lock – however, he should eclipse 15, add 20 HRs and post a decent batting average. Depending on where he hits in the Reds line-up he could also add a ton of runs or RBIs.

The above is all by way of saying that I think there is a real strong top 10 second base group. This means I believe in a Chone Figgins (67, 10) bounce back. Figgins had a .314 BABip last year, his career is usually around .335. His walk rate was also a little down – so, quite clearly, he wasn’t getting on base at his normal clip, and subsequently, wasn’t stealing a ton of bases. That said, he did end up with 42 swipes. I think he is a lock for 35+ this year (with significant upside) and a similar average to Phillips – somewhere in the .270s.

Sleeper Sofa:

Brian Roberts (84, 11): Roberts is included because, quite frankly, people are a little scared of sleeper sofas (you know, that whole bad back-inducing thing). His health is a huge question mark, and, in addition, his SBs have been declining since his massive 2007 campaign. However, if he plays a full season, we could see a return to 30+ steals to go along with double-digit HRs and decent ratios. I’d count on him appearing in 135 games at most though, which would depress those numbers. He’s a good guy to gamble on and could well repay his draft position.

Danny Espinosa (159, 18): Espinosa can be what everyone hoped Sean Rodriguez was last year – i.e., a solid, under-the-radar, power source. He could, quite possibly, put up a non-lethal average (think .250s) with 20+ HRs. He did hit six long bombs in 112 MLB PAs last season, and 22 across AA and AAA last year. However, he does come with some risk as he posted a 29.1% K rate in the majors last year and never struck out less than 23.2% of the time in the minors. Still, for those in deeper leagues, Espinosa could provide some really cheap power.

Mark Ellis (171, 21): The impeccably fielding (yet underrated) Ellis really only needs to stay healthy to be a legitimate fantasy asset. In his only real full season (150 games in 2007), Ellis hit 19 HRs, stole 9 bases and batted .276. If you can get 140+ games out of him, he’ll almost certainly deposit 15 balls over the fence for you.

Sean Rodriguez (227, 27): Speaking of Sean Rodriguez, the Rays will give him a shot to secure full-time MLB ABs in 2011. He will never be a ratio asset (think .260 AVG and .330 OBP), however his power potential is intoxicating. Like Espinosa, he strikes out a ton (29.7% in the majors) but if he can just stay afloat, he should smack his way to 15+ HRs. He is another late option that could provide some cheap power from the middle infield.

Eric Young, Jr. (295, 37): If Young was assured ABs, he’d be a lot higher – but, right now, the Rockies have a lot of serviceable infielders and outfielders which could make Young a glorified pinch-runner. Another problem I have with Eric Young is his inability to take a pitch (just 8.4% walk rate in 250 MLB PAs, and not much better in the minors). While his K-rate (19% or so) wont be as bad as Rodriguez or Espinosa, his value is tied to him getting on base and swiping bags, not hitting the ball far. If he gets full-time ABs and posts modest ratios (think .255 AVG, .330 OBP), he could steal 40+ bases. There seem to be a lot of ‘ifs’ surrounding him, but there is also the right amount of upside given his price.

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ How to Use my Fantasy Baseball head-to-head Rankings

For all of our rankings, please visit here.

The first point: while the rankings can be modified/used for Roto/Points leagues, they are specifically (and you’ll see how/why) tailored to the 5×5 standard h2h fantasy baseball game.

The second point: I separate hitters and pitchers in my fantasy baseball rankings because they are wholly different animals. If you don’t know me, I greatly devalue pitchers and unpredictability. To win week-in and week-out in an h2h league you need to maximize the categories that will impact other categories and avoid risk.

I split my rankings between hitters and pitchers because I have a distinct strategy for drafting in an h2h league. Out of my first 10 picks, I like to use at least eight nine of them on hitters (don’t worry about catchers), and then I binge on pitchers from 10-17 or so and try to grab sleepers where I think appropriate. Statistically, hitters are easier to track and project; pitchers, on the other hand, can be dominant one year, and completely worthless or injured the next (Right, Dr. Faustus?). Quite simply, you can get pitchers who end up in the top 10 late in your draft (Vazquez, Greinke, and Verlander to name three from years past); you can rarely do so with hitters.

The third point: My typical 5×5 h2h draft goes heavy on steady non-catcher hitters first. While it’s not sexy, this means you typically avoid young heartthrobs like Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, etc. For every Heyward and Longoria, there are a plethora of Dallas McPhersons. In addition, I eschew one-hit wonders and injury risks. For that reason, I won’t own guys like Mark Reynolds, Jose Bautista (even though I sort of believe in him) and, most notably, Josh Hamilton. You simply cannot whiff on your first four-to-five draft picks and be competitive.

When I look at hitters for fantasy baseball, I tend to emphasize HRs and SBs and, to a lesser extent, average. That is why guys like Drew Stubbs and Bobby Abreu appear higher in my rankings – the ability to contribute in both HRs and SBs should help in RBIs and Runs – while there will never be a direct correlation, at least by emphasizing HRs/SBs I’m betting on something batters can control (whereas they require people to either knock them in or be on base to get runs/RBIs). Consequently, I love power-speed combo players.

  • Why I (generally) Avoid Catchers: Given the lack of consistent at bats and injury concerns at the position, I tend to hate drafting catchers early (so they are typically inordinately low on my board – although not the case in 2011). In years past, I’ve built around Russell Martin (2007), Soto (2008) and other similarly priced backstops. It’s not hard to get top 5-10 catchers at the end of the draft (Miguel Olivo, John Buck, etc.) or even off the wire. I don’t think I’ve ever owned Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez (aside form his under-the-radar breakout year in 2004).

The fourth point gets back to the second point: The LIMA strategy (slightly modified) is butter to a fantasy baseball h2h manager’s bread. For several years, I used a furry creature, rarely drafted in the top nine rounds, called Aaron Harang as my staff ace. Then people got on the Harang bandwagon and I jumped on the Atlanta Braves version of Javy Vazquez. He didn’t get a ton of buzz, yet I had him as a top 10 pitcher. Knowing he wouldn’t go early in drafts, I could wait on selecting a pitcher and get a staff ace after I’ve filled most of my hitting positions.

As you’ve no doubt noted, I approach pitchers a tad different from other fantasy writers when creating my ranks for h2h leagues. Most notably, I completely disregard wins. Wins are too unpredictable; some of the best fantasy pitchers this year will undoubtedly be guys with low win totals because they play on crummy teams or are flat-out unlucky. Devaluing these guys for such arbitrary reasons is ludicrous. Second, two-start pitchers have a huge advantage in a week, I’d rather have two starts from an average pitcher than one start by Roy Halladay. Third, I don’t think about trying to sweep the pitching categories each week when creating my draft board. During the season, I let my Monday/Tuesday starters do the talking. If they post good ratio performances, I hold my borderline starters back. If they have poor early week outings, I release the hounds and try to win strike-outs and wins. You can manage a pitching staff on the fly: good match-ups will always be out there and two-start pitchers are always changing. That is why you don’t grab pitchers early.

So, what do I like in a pitcher? Good ratios and strikeouts. I love Ks because, even if a pitcher has a bad outing, he’ll likely get a good amount of Ks, so there is some certainty there. When you are looking at week-to-week fluctuations, anything you can be certain of is incredibly valuable.

The fifth point: Now, let’s talk about closers. People tend to devalue closers in h2h fantasy baseball leagues, viewing them as one-category wonders that can’t be trusted to either retain their job or finish games consistently from week to week. While the latter half of that statement might be true, that doesn’t mean closers lack value. Every week you have to maximize your results in the pitching categories. If you lock up saves, all you have to do is win four of the remaining nine categories for a tie or five of nine for a nifty .600 winning percentage. Five/nine is about 55%, whereas six/ten is 60%, so you increase your odds of winning by loading up on closers (roster permitting). This works because most h2h players eschew a bulk closer strategy and usually only have at most three. If you double that amount, you’re in good shape.

It ain’t pretty, but that’s how trophy…let me finish, wives are earned. With closers, it’s important to remember that there is always safety in numbers. However many RP or P spots you have, you should have a closer for each of those spots. So long as you have at least one great closer and several fringe closers, you can pretty much guarantee your team will win at least one category and add 20 – 40 Ks.

In a nutshell, that is how I approach a head-to-head fantasy baseball league. Let me know if you have questions, disagreements or need anything else!

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ 2011 head-2-head Catcher Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

Not since my little league hay-day, when I was a switch-hitting catcher like Mickey Tettleton (before he left the Orioles, cause afterward I hated him – I didn’t understand free agency) with the speed of Craig Biggio, has the catching position been manned by so many interesting specimens.

As my twitter followers know, I have, again, become obsessed with baseball cards. I’ve bought a number of 2010 Topps packs and have been blessed with a few Buster Posey (ranked: #2 catcher, 45 overall) rookie cards. I’m as shocked as you are by Posey’s immodest ranking, to be honest. Usually, my rankings really deflate catchers. Posey is that special. I honestly believe Posey will finish in the top 5 among catchers in four of the five main categories. You can’t make that same claim with Mauer, given his schizophrenic power numbers. The only thing that hasn’t forced me to push Posey higher is his relative lack of at bats and Mauer’s awesome average potential. This is such an atypical rank for me (I am also typically way down on sophomore phenoms) that I’m more confused than anything else. So, let’s move on.

While Posey, Mauer and Carlos Santana seem to be claiming all the catcher fantasy headlines, I’ve become a big Geovany Soto (6, 107) fan. Clearly, his abysmal 2009 burned many-a fantasy owner. But his 2010 (.280/.393/.497) showed me enough to put him back in my good graces (especially in OBP leagues). As a backstop who won’t kill your ratios (think .270 AVG, .370 OBP) and has 20+ HR upside, he’s a very good low-risk selection. Honestly, I was tempted to put him higher and could see arguments for tabbing him over Posada, but I’d be confident with him as my backstop.

Going into 2010, the only concern with Miguel Montero (7, 115) was how much playing time Chris Snyder would take – well Snyder’s been exiled to Pittsburgh and Montero is healthy. While he doesn’t possess the 20 HR upside of Soto and those catchers above him, Montero should settle into the 14 – 18 range and provide a non-life-threatening average in the .270s. He is, by no means, a sexy pick, but I think a relatively safe one.

In the past, I have been concerned about young players with relatively little track record (Chris Davis, Dallas McPherson, Brandon Wood, etc.) who are getting tons of hype and picked high without much major league experience to back that up. I do not think Carlos Santana (8, 128) fits in there; however I also don’t see him as a surefire top 5 catcher. I like him at number eight and in the 12th round or so because there is very little risk. If you are picking him in the top seven rounds, you’re likely passing on a 200+ K pitcher or a solid contributing outfielder for a guy with 192 MLB PAs who might go .260/.380/.440. In OBP leagues, he gets a huge bump. But in AVG leagues, I don’t see his 20+ HR potential making up for the real batting average risk. Quite simply, Posada, Soto and Montero are safer and likely cheaper options.

Mike Napoli (9, 150) might be too low on my rankings. He did receive a significant bump after the trades, but I’m worried my significant bump might be too cautious. A perennial 20+ HR threat (if given the PAs), Napoli is moving to an incredibly hitter friendly ballpark and away from a not so offensive-healthy environment. He could really push 30 HRs, but probably will struggle to bat above .250. He is definitely a needs-based selection – if you can forego batting average and need power, he should be your catcher.

Sleeper sofas:

Chris Iannetta (#15 catcher, 215 overall): he was a sleeper last year until, somehow, Miguel Olivo posted the best first half of his life. However, that didn’t sway the interesting and clearly intelligent Rockies front office as they continue to believe in the underlying statistics for Iannetta. As the Rockies have brought in career backstop back-ups, Iannetta will be the starting catcher. I think his floor could be a Miguel Montero-lite: .245-.255 AVG, 15+ HRs. I also think there is upside here, potentially to 22-25 HRs and a .270 AVG.

Ryan Hanigan (20, 224): never has Hanigan seen over 300 PAs in a season. However, he should be the “starting” catcher for the Reds this year, which should earn him around 100 games and the near 400 PAs that go along with it. I don’t think there will be much counting numbers with him (think single-digit HRs), but he could provide nice, non-painful ratios. I see him capable of hitting .275 at the least with upside to .300. He should also post a very good OBP (has a career 12.6% walk rate). At the end of drafts, or two-catcher leagues, he makes a lot of sense.

Josh Thole (23, 239): If you are looking for power, Thole (who never had a SLG% higher than .430 in the minors) isn’t your guy. However, he has shown a keen eye at the plate (11.5% walk rate in AAA) and 10.6% in 227 MLB PAs last year. It’s unclear how much playing time he will get – he might only see spot duty (think 70 games and 270 PAs), but he will put up decent ratios: .280 AVG and .360 OBP. If he could luck into full time duty, you’d have a catcher with good peripherals and 8-10 HRs.

A.J. Ellis (24, 248): With the corpse that is Russell Martin in New York, Ellis could finally get the chance he deserves. Ellis, who will be 30 in April, has just 141 career MLB PAs, yet has consistently posted .380+ OBPs in the minor leagues. Sure he hasn’t added any pop whatsoever, but I think we can see a low-teens walk rate and a .275 AVG if he gets to play. Rod Barajas is no good.

I think the moral of the sleeper story is to get one of the top nine catchers.

You can get full catcher ranks here.

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ Keep, Trade or Drop: Ian Stewart, Martin Prado, Chris Davis?

Ian Stewart’s 2008 season left fantasy owners begging for full time ABs – over only 81 games/266 ABs, Stewart socked ten HRs. Well, he got those ABs in 2009 and didn’t disappoint much in the power department (25 HRs). His ratios, however, left him almost completely unusable (.228 AVE, .322 OBP). Luckily, those dismal numbers are completely outside his minor league trajectory (six seasons: .293 AVE, .374 OBP). Furthermore, though BAbip isn’t as great a determinant for hitters as it is for pitchers, Stewart’s wildly diverging numbers in 2008 and 2009 warrant at least a glance. In 2009, his BABIP was just .270; in 2008, it was .362. Though far from exact science, this, at least, suggests he is capable of having a few more balls in play drop this coming season. To me, Stewart has the capability to be a .260 hitter with a .350 OBP. I think those numbers are readily attainable. If he gets there, 30 HRs and 90 runs/RBIs should well be within reach. I would love taking a chance on Stewart late in drafts. He is still a young guy and won’t be 25 until April. Continue reading

h2h Corner ~ The David Wooderson All-Stars (III)

Regardless of your league’s format, knowing the hot up-and-coming prospects is super important to fantasy success. In keeper leagues, these players, often taken in the later rounds, typically form the foundation of fantasy dynasties. In single season leagues, smartly grabbing young players in the draft or shortly after their call-up is essential to success. Any way you look at it, it pays to know something about these general unknowns while they are still unknown. If you wait too long, you’ll be watching as they contribute meaningfully to your buddy’s team as he wins the league. Continue reading

h2h Corner ~ Keep, Trade or Drop: Jonathan Sanchez, Jorge de la Rosa, John Danks?

Jonathan Sanchez has put together periods of brilliance in his short four season career. In March/April of 2008, Sanchez threw 33.2 IPs, posted a 3.48 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, while striking out 40 batters. In 40.2 IPs in June 2008, he posted a 3.10 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, while striking out 39 batters. Of course, his 2008 wasn’t altogether useful, as he ended up with a 5.01 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Still, he was a tad unlucky (.323 BAbip). Still, those brief pockets of success shouldn’t make his 2009 all that astounding (4.24 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 177 Ks). However, his 2009 was blessed with a .278 BAbip. These two BAbips suggest we can average out 2008 and 2009 and crystal ball Sanchez’s 2010. Magic eight ball says: 4.50 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 167 Ks). There is a lot to like in his ability to K a batter per inning. Continue reading