Much like the NFL Draft, fantasy baseball can be characterized by one term. When the Minnesota Vikings nabbed Florida State QB Christian Ponder, people maligned and bashed the front office for making the draft pick. They correctly did so not because Ponder isn’t a potential franchise quarterback – if he remains healthy, he’s a solid bet to produce – but rather that Minnesota threw away a top fifteen pick on a second round player. With top defensive linemen (Nick Fairley and Robert Quinn) and #1 cornerback Prince Amukamara on the board, Minnesota should have traded down and snagged their dream player without having to guarantee $15+ million to him, and gotten extra selections to boot. Simply put, by selecting a player too early, you give up the value he could have gotten you if you hung on and took him later.
If this concept is true, what are some ways that we can obtain value? Obviously, the auction usually held in March is a great way to find talented players who will produce. This logic doesn’t mean you should fear grabbing players before their average draft picks on major websites. For the second straight year, I bet that Drew Stubbs would outplay his 100 or so ADP, but that meant I needed to grab him in rounds 9 or 10. During a draft, you and your board need to be fluid that way, aware of accepted norms and cognizant of how to take advantage.
But since it’s nearly June and most leagues won’t be redrafting their squad post All-Star break, we need to find other ways of gaining value and increasing our chances of winning. Trading players at the peak of their performance is a great way of locking up a league. For example, while Jose Bautista clearly looks like the real deal, at some point it has to be time to move the slugging 3B/OF. If another manager offers Alex Rodriguez and Roy Halladay for him and a marginal arm, you should bite the bullet and part with the superstar. (Fantasy Note: Bautista won’t crack the 50 HR mark this year if he continues to hit pitching this way. The Bonds Treatment is fast approaching, and that didn’t translate too well to 5×5 leagues.) Another way to crush opponents that we’ve touched upon is buying low on slumping players. I’m not a believer that Derek Jeter, whose ground ball rate is too high, will bounce back, but he won’t cost much. (Players I do believe in include Dunn, Torres, Vernon Wells, and Albert Pujols.)
Finally, the waiver wire is a great place to obtain worthy players for a stretch run. Matt Joyce is just an example of a quality bat available after the initial draft. Here are just a few bats still available in the majority of 10 and 12 team leagues.
Allen Craig: One example of a versatile bat that can fit in leagues with more lax requirements at positions. Depending on how your league handles positional eligibility, Craig can slide in at OF, 2nd base, and the hot corner. His AVG in the minors exceeded .300 for the past four years as he moved up the minor league chain, and he hit .322 with 26 HR in AAA two years ago. That translates to .280 and at least double digit HR, which to me = value.
Corey Patterson: Once considered a can’t miss talent, Patterson has revived his career yet again. After nabbing 21 SB in only 308 AB in 2010, he is currently leading off for a productive Jays squad that features a smoldering (and according to some, injecting) Jose Bautista. His problem has always been the OBP – he channeled the old axiom of “You can’t steal first base” – but if he gets on base even 32% of the time, he should be a boon to fantasy owners suffering from injuries. He might want to step up his success rate on the bases, though.
Brett Lawrie: So what if he can’t convert ground balls into outs? Brett is the next Canadian superhero, ready to take his place among Canadian athletic superstars such as Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, and curling superstar Russ Howard (along with his unique moose call). And since he’s hitting .350 in AAA with 15 HR and 11 SB, he needs to be stashed ASAP.
Sometimes it’s necessary to realize what exactly has value in your league. For example, in a 7×7 H2H league that uses doubles and triples as separate categories, Jose Reyes isn’t just a top 10 player; he’s brilliant. There isn’t a player in the league who I would accept in a straight up deal, even though he’s likely to be a power outage in HR and marginally useful in RBI. Reorient yourself; remember, the enemy’s gate is down.(Ender’s game was a great book, by the way.)
Until next time, remember the word. And no, it’s not the bird…
The Roundup: Brian Roberts swiped a pair of bases, but immediately hit the disabled list with a concussion. Not surprising…Matt Joyce continues to make me look bad, scoring a pair of three-hit games and a HR over the last week…Carlos Gonzalez didn’t steal a base, but he hit two HR and drove in six. The trek towards .300 begins…Adam Dunn drew eight walks, but he hit only one HR and went 2-19 (.105). He’s popping up balls in play over 16% of the time.
Mike Morse: A Jayson Werth body type, Morse whacked 5 HR since the previous article.
Lebron James: There was no doubt in anyone’s mind at the end of Game 5 who was getting the ball, and the King delivered with clutch buckets. Oh yeah, and he befuddled the MVP in four consecutive 4th quarters.
Jay Bruce: He’s got 8 HR and 20 RBI in the last two weeks. At 24, has he taken the next step?
For any questions, comments, or fantasy advice, reach me @ twitter.com/zomberg