Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/23)

CLICK HERE to follow our mini-mock draft for 2015 (in progress)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

World Series Game 1 – Giants @ Royals

-Ever since he broke into the big leagues back in 2007, Hunter Pence (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the game, and his performance this year added yet another positive data point to his already exceptional track record. Expect 20-plus homers, 180 R+RBI and double-digit steals and you won’t be disappointed. Guys like Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig might carry more upside, but there’s nothing wrong with waiting another round and taking Pence instead. In baseball, nothing is for certain, but Hunter Pence is about as close as it gets.

MLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

-Salvador Perez (1-for-3, HR) wasn’t quite as productive this season as he was in his breakout 2013 campaign, but any fantasy owner would be pleased with 17 homers and 70 RBI from their No. 1 backstop. Yeah, his .260 batting average was a bit disappointing, but a rather low .278 BABIP is at least partly to blame. Keep in mind that Perez’s career AVG is .285, so we should see an improvement in that department in 2015. Still just 24 years of age, Perez has plenty of time to take his overall game to the next level.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              World Series Game 2 – Giants @ Royals

-Billy Butler (2-for-3, 2 RBI) is coming off the worst full season of his career, which was preceded by the worst full season of his career. Can Butler reverse this troubling trend in 2015? Who knows, but I find it hard to believe that a player who put up a .313-29-107 line as recently as 2012 can all of a sudden fall off the map like this, though the 29 homers were most certainly a fluke. If I can get Butler for less than five bucks next spring, especially in an OBP league, I might just take the plunge, assuming that he has a starting job. But I’m not overly excited about him. Note that the Royals hold a 12.5 million dollar club option on Butler for 2015, which it’s safe to say they will decline, so there’s a decent chance that Country Breakfast will be donning a different uniform.

-Omar Infante (2-for-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) is a better real-life player than fantasy player, but in a deep mixed league or preferably an AL-only, you could do worse for your starting MI slot. At least there’s double-digit home run and stolen base potential. He’s more of a last-ditch option though.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/17)

CLICK HERE to follow our mini-mock draft for 2015 (in progress)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLCS Game 5 – Cardinals @ Giants

-Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off homer is the one that will be remembered ten years from now, but the game-tying pinch-hit home run by Michael Morse is what made Ishikawa’s heroics possible. Morse has grown quite familiar with the DL over the course of his big league career, as he was limited to 131 games this year after playing only 88 games in 2013. But when healthy, he’s a nice cheap source of power for fantasy owners. Although expecting him to repeat his 2011 career season (.303 AVG, 31 HR, 95 RBI) might be too much to ask, 25 homers and 75-plus RBI is well within the realm of possibility provided he avoids the infirmary. He’s a worthy late-round lottery ticket.

MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants

-Last postseason, Michael Wacha was the talk of baseball. Last night, Wacha again made the postseason headlines, but for the wrong reasons (1/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K). The promising righty was limited to just 19 starts this year due to injury, but he still managed to post a stellar stat line. Yeah, it was an ugly outing, but keep in mind that Wacha had not pitched in nearly three weeks, so he deserves a mulligan. Whereas heading into this season, Wacha might have been a little overrated in fantasy circles, I think he will be underrated at the 2015 draft table. Most fantasy owners have short memories, so don’t forget about this guy.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/16)

CLICK HERE to follow our mini-mock draft for 2015 (in progress)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLCS Game 4 – Cardinals @ Giants

-Buster Posey (2-for-3, 3 RBI) will head into next season as the undisputed top fantasy catcher, and I’m not saying it’s wrong to spend a top-25 pick on him. But I tend to shy away from investing too heavily at catcher, due largely to the wear and tear of playing every day at the position. The good news is that the Giants did a nice job of mixing in some games at first base, 35 to be exact. I could turn out to be completely wrong here. Just a personal preference.

-Gregor Blanco (1-for-4, 2B, RBI, 2 R) isn’t exactly a fantasy force, but he has averaged 19 steals over the last three seasons and owns a career .344 OBP. As a fourth or fifth outfielder in an NL-only league, you could do a lot worse.

ALCS Game 4 – Orioles @ Royals

-Jason Vargas (5 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K) has been a popular Pitch or Ditch choice for several years now. He’s more than just an innings eater. Rather, he’s someone who you can pick up and start in favorable matchups and then drop when the schedule gets tougher. Vargas isn’t worth drafting in mixed leagues, but chances are he will find a spot on a roster at various points during the season.

MLB: ALCS-Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals

-Miguel Gonzalez (5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) is another Orioles starting pitcher (I discussed Wei-Yin Chen yesterday) who I consider very underrated. Bet you didn’t know that through his first three big league seasons, Gonzalez sports a career 3.45 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. In a deep mixed league, I wouldn’t have an issue with drafting him to round out my starting rotation.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/15)

CLICK HERE to follow our mini-mock draft for 2015 (in progress)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLCS Game 3 – Cardinals @ Giants

-Tim Hudson (6 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K) has been one of the more underappreciated starting pitchers in fantasy over the past few years, despite his lack of consistent strikeouts. We’re talking about eight straight seasons of a sub-4.00 ERA and a sub-1.25 WHIP in seven of those eight seasons. Hudson turns 40 next July and his current contract expires at the end of the 2015 season. He could very well decide to retire at that point, and let’s hope that he can hold off Father Time for at least one more year and finish off his career on a high note.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers

-When it comes to Pablo Sandoval (1-for-3, R) we too often focus on the negatives, mainly that he’s injury prone and usually overweight. But the Kung Fu Panda played in a career-high 157 games this season, and though his final stat line was far from elite caliber, the guy can hit, and he’s still only 28. Maybe he will never duplicate his tremendous 2009 numbers, but is a .290 AVG with 20 homers and around 85 RBI too much to ask? I think not. If you decide to pass on the top-tier third basemen this coming spring, there’s nothing wrong with instead grabbing Sandoval at a very reasonable price.

ALCS Game 3 – Orioles @ Royals

-Jeremy Guthrie (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) hasn’t been mixed league relevant in quite some time, and that likely won’t change in 2015. He’s your typical innings eater. Every real-life team needs one of those. Every fantasy team doesn’t.

MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles

-On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Wei-Yin Chen (5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K). Aside from the mediocre strikeout rate, he’s coming off his best season to date (16-6, 3.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP). But the thing I like most about him is that he doesn’t hurt himself with walks (2.3 career BB/9). Chen remains a fine back end of the rotation option in deeper mixed leagues.

2015 Mini-Mock

Zach here,

Yeah, the World Series hasn’t even begun yet, but it’s never too early to kick off the mock draft season, or at least the mini-mock draft season. So I decided to gather 11 of the brightest minds in the industry (12 including me!) to take part in a six-round mock draft for 2015. The league is a standard 5×5 roto, and here’s the list of participants, in draft order:

1. Tim Heaney – USA TODAY

2. Jeff Erickson – Rotowire

3. Paul Sporer – Rotowire/PaintTheBlack.com

4. Todd Zola – Mastersball

5. Fred Zinkie – MLB.com

6. Lawr Michaels – Mastersball

7. Ray Flowers – SiriusXM/Fantasy Alarm

8. Cory Schwartz – MLB.com

9. David Gonos – DavidGonos.com

10. Nando DiFino – FNTSY Sports Network

11. Zach Steinhorn – MLB.com/Mastersball

12. Derek Van Riper – Rotowire

And here are the results. I’ve also asked everyone to include a short comment with each of their picks. I will be updating this list regularly throughout the proceedings but you can also follow along HERE

ROUND 1

1. Mike Trout (Heaney) – He hacked up a storm and “only” stole 16 bases … who cares? He’ll still put up 50ish HR+SB in his five-category onslaught as baseball’s best player.

2. Miguel Cabrera (Erickson)I already know that I don’t like the second spot in the draft. I’m going to take the path of least resistance and go with Miguel Cabrera, but I’m not really happy about it, given his power fade this year. But I don’t think that the cliff is coming yet at age 32, and there’s a better chance he’ll be a 30-100-.300 player again.

3. Andrew McCutchen (Sporer) – I could get cute here, but there’s really no reason for it. He bested his HR total and finished an RBI short of last year’s mark despite missing 11 games (26 fewer PA). The speed dipped, but the efficiency was incredible (18-for-21) and while it may tick down again, he should still be good for at least 15. He’s excellent and in the midst of his prime.

4. Giancarlo Stanton (Zola) – I’ve never questioned Stanton’s power. I had two issues – one being health the other being lack of runs and RBI. I still have a health concern but am willing to take the risk for the edge I can get in power in this power-starved era. My ancillary production concern is in part assuaged by my new bromantic interest (bye bye Kole Calhoun, hello Christian Yelich) as well as some better hitters later in the order.

5. Clayton Kershaw (Zinkie) – The middle of the selection order is a good place to be this year. After Trout, there doesn’t seem to be much consensus in the next 5-6 players. Kershaw may be the player who is most likely to return No. 1 overall value next season, including Trout. Many owners don’t want to draft a pitcher in the first round, but the value with Kershaw is too good to pass up.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

6. Michael Brantley (Michaels) – Well, I must admit, I was all set to take Kershaw as the new Pedro and a dominant first rounder until know it all Fred beat me to the punch. Still, I hate being mainstream, as you all know, so I am going back to the guy I predicted as a break out last spring, and owned on virtually every team I could in Brantley. A 20/20 season with 200 hits, he is now 27 and going into his prime, so I am betting he will indeed hold his own as the AL counterpart to McCutchen.

7. Paul Goldschmidt (Flowers)Followed up his breakout 2013 effort (.302/.401/.551) with a nearly identical slash line in 2014 (.300/.396/.542). He continues to produce thefts as well, an average of 14 a year the past three seasons, to truly set himself apart from other corner infield options.

8. Jose Abreu (Schwartz) – With power in freefall across Major League Baseball, you better get it early in your fantasy drafts or you might not get it at all, so I’m going to take Jose Abreu. Twin Jays Joey Bats and E42 have longer track records, but are also older and injury-prone. Abreu significantly improved his plate discipline in the second half, even though his power declined, so I’m guessing the net effect will be a similar result in 2015: 30-35 homers and a .300+ average. That’s gold these days.

9. Carlos Gomez (Gonos) – Gomez proved his breakout 2013 season was no fluke. For the past two seasons, he has averaged 87 runs scored, 23 home runs, 73 RBI, 37 stolen bases and a slash line of:  .284/.347/.491. He’ll still be just 29 years old, so we probably have a year or two before we can expect a dropoff in speed/steals.

10. Adam Jones (DiFino) – It was Hanley Ramirez or Adam Jones here, and I decided to go with the underrated consistency in pretty much every category (and a little bonus for his health). He’s a virtual lock for .280 and 25 home runs, with the upside of 12 steals.

11. Jose Bautista (Steinhorn) – The main risk is health but he avoided the DL in 2014 and the result was an elite stat line. Despite averaging only 105 games played per season from 2012-2013, he still averaged 28 homers and 69 RBI. He’s arguably the safest power source in fantasy.

12. Jacoby Ellsbury (Van Riper) – The Yankees’ lineup should improve between now and Opening Day 2015, improving Ellsbury’s R-RBI totals. I look at 10 HR as a floor in that park, 12-15 being more likely and 30+ steals as a nice investment here. Further exploration is needed to determine the cause of his decline against RHP this season, but his overall BB% and K% are steady.

ROUND 2

1. Edwin Encarnacion (Van Riper) – Encarnacion just completed this third consecutive season with a .900+ OPS. In an era where home runs are increasingly difficult to come by, he should provide another 35-40 with steady RBI/R totals. Cory’s E5 prose is better than my own.

2. Jose Altuve (Steinhorn) – I’m not expecting a .341 AVG again but I think he has a pretty safe floor as a guy who will bat .300 to go along with 40 steals and around 100 runs, hitting in a young and improving Astros lineup.

3. Hanley Ramirez (DiFino) – In the popular “Hanley vs Tulo” game, I go Hanley. Health is thrown out the window with both, but I think Hanley has just a little bit more value as an overall fantasy asset.

4. Justin Upton (Gonos) – The younger Upton had an excellent season on a team that was having anything but an excellent season — only the Padres scored fewer runs than the Braves in 2014. Yet, Justin still .270 with 29 home runs and over 100 RBI. The Braves won’t be as bad as 2014, and Upton is only turning 28 years old next summer. If he can just dial back his strikeout rate a skosh.

5. Matt Kemp (Schwartz)Los Anthonys (Rizzo and Rendon) are very tempting here but I want power over balance, and already have a first baseman, so I’ll wager that Kemp’s second-half explosion signals a resurgence to his peak form, rather than just being a nice three-month run. Assuming his shoulder is finally healthy again and the Matt Kemp of old is back, this is a slam-dunk .300-30-100 pick, even if he doesn’t run anymore.

6. Robinson Cano (Flowers) – Was tempted to go Billy Hamilton here… come on, no I wasn’t. I’ll go with Cano who has hit .300 for six straight years to tie Miguel Cabrera for the longest run in baseball. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the 14 homers climb back up to 20, but I’ll take a repeat of the 82 RBIs and 77 runs scored, even if they are both six-year lows. Cano and A-Gone are also the only two players in baseball to have appeared in 157 games each of the past eight years.

7. Anthony Rendon (Michaels) – I have seen that Cory and I are largely of a like mind since I met him over a decade ago (amazing, huh Cory?). Since Kemp had dropped so heavily last year, I thought he might still be mistrusted despite what as Cory noted was a fine year (comparable to Brantley and McCutchen). (So much for that, Cory, thank you.) If not, I was going straight for Rendon, whom Cory also likes. The kid is going into his third season which is usually where guys kick it in coming off 21 homers, 87 knocks, 17 swipes and he qualifies at second and third. Oh to have a dynasty core of Rendon and Brantley!

8. Ian Desmond (Zinkie) – After I took Kershaw, I thought I would take a masher 1B/OF-type in round two, but I don’t like any of those options as much as Desmond.  Getting a 20-20 SS in round two is a nice way to start a hitting lineup, as it leaves all the deepest positions open for later rounds.  I thought about Tulo, but with no hitter in round one, I can’t afford to get fewer than 100 games from my hitter in round two.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets

9. Anthony Rizzo (Zola) – I loathe the second round this year. It goes against everything I hold near and dear to me. The second round requires drafting either (A) an injury prone player, (B) a player coming off a great season with a limited track record of that level, (C) a pitcher or (D) Justin Upton. I’ll take B — there’s ample support behind Anthony Rizzo’s 2014 campaign to expect a baseline similar (with a drop in power due to a smidge fewer fly balls as 2014 had a spike in FB%).

10. Yasiel Puig (Sporer) – Really got snaked by that Desmond pick as I really believed he’d make it back to me. In lieu of that, I will instead bet on Yasiel Puig. I don’t think we saw a peak performance and yet he was 11th in wRC+ and an all-category contributor in fantasy. The expectations were higher (too high, to be quite honest) based on his 104 games in 2013, but the regression-infused 2014 is perfectly acceptable as a baseline. I think the potential is there for much more, particularly in the power categories which are scarcest in these Grapes of Wrathian offensive days.

11. Bryce Harper (Erickson)Maybe Matt Williams will leave him higher in the order this year. At any rate, five homers in September plus his dominant playoff performance indicates that he’s at least fully recovered from the injuries that waylaid his season. Can he avoid outfield walls and third base bags? If so, I’m happy to take the chance here.

12. Evan Longoria (Heaney) – Considered the ageless Adrian Beltre, but you have to wonder when he’ll really start slowing down. Even with a slight power dip, Longo kept producing runs, as well. How the heck is he only 29? Either way, I don’t see a big difference between the outfielders that are left, save maybe for one risky venture. Longo, at a scarier 3B lot, is a warm blanket.

ROUND 3

1. Troy Tulowitzki (Heaney) – The lowest I’ve been able to draft him in a long time. For the 400-ish AB in which he’s healthy, there’s no better shorstop in fantasy.

2. Chris Sale (Erickson) – Debated going with Beltre or King Felix, but I don’t want to be a year too late on Beltre and I’m marginally more confident in Sale.

3. Josh Donaldson (Sporer) – He had a fantastic follow-up season even with the big AVG drop. If he’d have just had an average June, he probably would’ve topped 30 HR and 100 RBI with something closer to a .265-.270 AVG. I’d take a 2014 repeat, but I think there is still room for a bit more.

4. Adrian Beltre (Zola) – The age and health concerns aside, the pertinent question to me is the drop in HR. Beltre’s HR/FB fell for the second straight season – will it rebound? Additionally, his 2014 FB% dropped to a career low. To earn this draft spot, either his HR/FB or FB% has to bounce-back as well as the Rangers in general (to jack up run and RBI). If both happen, there’s some profit potential. I may go in a different direction come the spring, but today I’m willing to take the chance.

5. Hunter Pence (Zinkie)Pence has played in at least 154 games in seven straight seasons. He hit at least 20 homers in all those seasons, and he surpassed 10 steals in five of them.  Other than 2012, he has been a solid source of batting average too.  He won’t win anyone their pool, but he is less likely to be a bust than just about any other player available at this point.

6. Buster Posey (Michaels) – .348-11-41 with a .941 OPS over the second half as he has helped, once again, lead his team to the Series for the third time in five years. Fred might be right that Hunter is steady, but i am not sure Buster is more of a potential bust. It is nice that he catches, and that I can move him to first, but I simply think he might be among the best and steadiest hitters still on the board. And, he is just going into his peak years.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Corey Dickerson (Flowers) – So tempting to go with an arm here, but I’ll stick to my waiting on arms philosophy. Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez seem like must adds at this point, but with the injury concerns both are carrying I’ll go with a bit of a stretch and take Corey Dickerson who was basically what those guys used to be in 2014 (.312-24-76-74-8).

8. Nelson Cruz (Schwartz) – Over the last three seasons Cruz has played in 97.7% of his team’s games when not suspended, a 158-games-played pace; he’s become durable. He’ll turn 35 next season, but there’s been no decline whatsoever in his key indicators; age is not a concern. And, his power numbers in 2014 were even better than before his suspension; he’s not a creation of PED’s. Overall, he’s averaged 37 HR and 107 RBI per 162 games over the past six seasons, and 35-104 over the last three, so he’s a legitimate big-time power bat and I intended to stock up on those.

9. Todd Frazier (Gonos) – Frazier blew up in 2014 the way we hope for in 2013. He brought his power and average up a bit, and he’s one of very few 20/20 players, much less at the third base position. Even if his speed dips 25 percent, he’s still a quality all-around player that I hope keeps it up in his fourth full season — at age 29.

10. Carlos Gonzalez (DiFino) – He’s pretty much a lock for .290/25/20, even with the usual 20+ games missed. With three surgeries in 2014 behind him, I’ll take the first-round talent here in the third.

11. Yoenis Cespedes (Steinhorn) - Played in a career-high 152 games in 2014, so the injury-prone label is wearing off. I’m expecting big things from Cespedes as he heads into his first full season playing his home games at Fenway Park. 30 homers and 100-plus RBI are well within reach. Oh, and if you’re a believer in the contract year thing, there’s that too.

12. Felix Hernandez (Van Riper) – I love the value here with Hernandez. There are no signs of decline, he’ll turn 29 in April, and the Mariners are gradually improving the team around him, which may give him a chance to exceed the 15 wins he piled up this season. His three-year ERA (2.73) is third only to Kershaw and Johnny Cueto (fewer innings), while his 2.67 FIP is second. K’s, few BB’s, and a lot of IP’s, what else is there?

ROUND 4

1. Stephen Strasburg (Van Riper) – Was 2014 the year that he completely turned the corner with control (1.8 BB/9)? He was outstanding down the stretch (79:13 K:BB, 2.20 ERA and 0.88 WHIP L60 days) and proved capable of handling a full workload (215 IP). The kid gloves are finally off, and Strasburg will head up the rotation for the best club in the National League again next season.

2. Prince Fielder (Steinhorn) - Remember him? Fielder was a borderline first rounder last year, so what has changed? Yeah, there’s some risk involved here but Prince is expected to be fully healthy for spring training. I’ll gladly take the risk at a cost that is three rounds cheaper.

3. Billy Hamilton (DiFino) – The ugly .200 second half batting average will likely be avoided in his sophomore season. The 50+ steals should be 70+ in 2015. I can now focus on power hitter speculation with my bats instead of trying to pick up steals here and there.

4. Ian Kinsler (Gonos) – Kinsler’s entering his age-33 season, coming off a successful first season in Detroit. While he surpassed highs in some of his counting stats last season (RBI, hits, at-bats), he also played a career-high 161 games, which likely won’t happen again. Even at 150 games, he does enough in multiple categories to be a great Fantasy benefit as my second baseman.

5. Jose Reyes (Schwartz)Now’s the time of the draft when I’d like to be working off real rankings or projections, since I feel like I have a sufficient power base and want to start layering in other categories and positions. There are seven or eight players I’m considering, but I’ll take Jose Reyes… hey, I said I wanted a strong power base, not that I was punting speed! Reyes is always an injury risk, averaging only 132 games over three seasons, but he’s productive when he plays: .289-13-60 with 35 SB and 98 runs per 162 games over that time. This feels like fair value for that risk/reward profile.

6. Freddie Freeman (Flowers) – Do I go pitching – there are some great arms, or hitting? Ryan Braun is tempting, but we just don’t know about his thumb yet. Jason Kipnis was terrible last season and I already have Cano anyways. I’m going to go with stability instead, something that is becoming harder to find these days than it should be. I’ll take Freedie Freeman. It locks me up at the corner field spot since I already have Goldschmidt, but I’ll take the certainty that is Freeman.

7. Corey Kluber (Michaels) – I remember grabbing Kluber in the magazine draft Rotoman does each year around the sixth or seventh round and getting a bunch of “damn” responses, which is always a good thing in drafts (well, almost always as it depends upon performance). Anyway, Kluber certainly justified both the pick, and the responses as he climbed into the top tier of both AL and MLB hurlers last year with over a whiff a frame, and a terrific 1.095 WHIP over 235.6 frames. Kluber is just 28, going into those peak years, so as long as he can avoid the deadly TJ, I think he is a nice grab here.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

8. Jason Kipnis (Zinkie) – He can’t be as bad as he was last season, right?  Right?!  I went with safety when I took Pence last round, so I will go with upside here.  Kipnis was a second-round pick in most leagues last year, and he is still in his prime, so I will take the chance that he won’t have two down years in a row.

9. Dee Gordon (Zola) – Similar to Cory, I like my foundation of power, but I’m woefully devoid of steals. I don’t care if he’s a one-trick pony, my team needs more tricks and fewer treats. Gordon showed enough that he’ll be a regular in 2015, either staying at 2B of moving to SS in the event Guerrero takes 2B and Hanley moves to 3B.

10. Brian Dozier (Sporer) – A four-category guy who’s fifth you’re willing to trade because it yields the power in return (43% FB rate tied for highest among 2B w/Kinsler; t9th in MLB). I’m not sure many realize that he scored the 2nd-most runs in baseball to only Trout. He does that by walking a ton and mitigating the modest AVG. I buy the 20-20 and I think we could see the R-RBI jump as that Minnesota offense grows. They have already had an infusion of young talent in the form of three 23-year olds (Arcia, Santana, and Vargas) even before getting so much as a major league AB from the guys drawing all the attention in their system: Buxton and Sano.

11. Brett Gardner (Erickson)Let’s go with a little bit of speed, a little bit of power with this pick. I’ll find a scarce position player maybe in the 8th or 9th round, but I’m not going to sweat the 2B run.

12. Starling Marte (Heaney)I’ll follow Jeff’s theme and go with a power-speed fly-catcher. Marte responded to his midseason slump with authority over the final two months. I believe in that polar end of skills more confidently. .270-15-70-80-30? Nice.

ROUND 5

1. Victor Martinez (Heaney)Instead of taking my age risk with Beltre in Round 3, it’s more comfortable here. Even at age 36, he’ll sustain elite contact peripherals as DH in a fine run-producing lineup. Something around 25 homers still makes this price worth it, but I have enough top-end power in tow to account for fewer.

2. Max Scherzer (Erickson)250 strikeouts are good, right? I’m a little surprised he was still available – just think what he could do if he lands in the NL.

3. Adrian Gonzalez (Sporer) – 20-something homers and 100-something RBIs feels bankable at this point and I’m still not ruling out another 30-homer season, even at 33 years old. Although that .588 OPS v. LHP would have to change drastically for that to come through.

4. Madison Bumgarner (Zola) – If this were a real draft, and I was physically capable, I would be doing cartwheels and somersaults right about now. Kershaw is obviously in a tier by himself. Then I think there are four equal arms — Sale, Felix, Scherzer and MadBum. Getting Bumgarner as the 7th SP off the board makes me very happy. With a starter this early, I want to be relatively certain of 220 quality innings. I get that here. Truth be told, I was ruing going with Gordon last round and not taking Bumgarner and hoping Gordon dropped to me in the 5th. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

5. George Springer (Zinkie) – The power is there, and I think the steals will come soon. I’m not expecting a great batting average right away.

6. Leonys Martin (Michaels) – Joining the speed fray with a guy I have loved for a few years (the AL Marte?) who swiped 31 last year and who seems to have some power potential, and on a team that likes to score runs. He will be just 27 going into 2015, and goes into that magical third full season with a pretty stable two-year mean that seems to point to kicking up his game.

7. David Price (Flowers) – Ryan Braun or Adam Wainwright? Both are elite players when healthy. Are either going to be healthy at the start of 2015? At this point we just don’t know. Same could be said about a guy like Yu Darvish. Given all that I’ll go with the safest elite level arm that is left.

8. Kyle Seager (Schwartz) – Awfully tempting to take Braun or CarGo here and I doubt I’ll be able to pass on them here when we do this for real in March. For today though I’ll take Kyle Seager… more solid power production at an unsettled position. My draft day projection for him this year was for .262-23-87 with 11 SB and 85 runs, and he pretty much delivered on that value albeit with a slightly different shape. I’m going to bet there’s room for more growth as he enters his age-27 season.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals

9. Ryan Braun (Gonos) – Braun dealt with a thumb injury all last season, which understandably affected his ability at the plate. He underwent a procedure involving cryotherapy in October, and he began swinging a bat a couple weeks later. If he doesn’t rebound after this procedure, I’ll be needing some cry-otherapy myself.

10. Albert Pujols (DiFino) – He hit almost .280 with 28 home runs and 37 doubles, quietly adding five steals. Plus, 105 RBI. He’s healthy and has a perennially good lineup to help with the counting stats.

11. Craig Kimbrel (Steinhorn) – Since I’m having a hard time finding a hitter who is a no doubt pick here, I was all set to take an SP. But since DVR already has two SPs and there are a few starters who I’d feel comfortable taking, I’ll go on a 411 themed tangent and grab Kimbrel instead to anchor my bullpen.

12. Shin-Soo Choo (Van Riper) – I’ll take Ralph Wiggum’s favorite player at the end of Round 5. The ankle injury surfaced so early that it’s easy to see how his productivity fell off so much from 2013. Further, the likely improved health of the lineup around him should enable the counting stats to return to near-elite levels. Even if he’s .280/.390/.450 instead of the crazy OBP from CIN, Choo should be a very good five category player again in 2015.

ROUND 6

1. Aroldis Chapman (Van Riper) – I don’t often invest much in closers, but this seems like the appropriate spot to jump in on Chapman. Job security is a non-issue, and the extra strikeouts he provides compared to second-tier closers will also enable me to focus on offense a bit longer in the middle round before rounding out the staff foundation of Felix and Strasburg.

2. Adam Wainwright (Steinhorn) – I’m somewhat surprised that he’s still available. Maybe it’s due to concerns over his recent elbow issues, but it sounds like it’s nothing serious and I’m not about to downgrade him on my cheat sheet until I hear otherwise.

3. Julio Teheran (DiFino) – I wasn’t really a believer coming into last season, and now I’m going to overcompensate and hope nobody notices me grasping on the back of the bandwagon. He produced a sub-3.00 ERA after his 2013 surprise, held a decent K rate (7.6 k/9), and gave his owners a 1.08 WHIP in 220+ innings. I thought he might take a step back from 2013; he instead brought his game up to the next level. He’s now my staff ace, and the low ratios allow me to go strikeout hunting later in the draft.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/13)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

ALCS Game 1 – Royals @ Orioles

-Alex Gordon (3-for-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI) doesn’t excel in any one category, but he does everything well, and there’s value in that. Gordon will be 31 on Opening Day 2015, so it’s not out of the question to think that a 25-home run season is in his immediate future, but for now, bank on 15-20 homers, at least 160 R+RBI and double-digit steals. In other words, he offers a comfortable floor.

-James Shields (5 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) is sure to make a lot of money as a free agent this winter, and though his postseason performance has been erratic, I’m not too concerned about him heading into 2015. What I would be concerned about is signing the veteran righty, who turns 33 in December, to a long-term contract. Shields has eclipsed the 200 IP mark in each of his last eight seasons. Sooner or later, all of those innings are bound to catch up with him. For now though, he remains a fine SP2 in mixed leagues.

-Chris Tillman (4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) has been far from impressive this postseason, but there’s still a lot to like about him as he approaches his age-27 season. Draft him as a back end of the rotation guy and don’t be surprised if he delivers mid-rotation value.

NLCS Game 1 – Giants @ Cardinals

-Not a whole lot to say about this game other than that Madison Bumgarner (7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) is a pretty good pitcher and keeper league owners of Adam Wainwright (4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) should not panic. Wainwright insists that his postseason struggles are not injury-related, and at this point, we need to take him at his word.

MLB: ALCS-Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles

ALCS Game 2 – Royals @ Orioles

-We have waited awhile for Lorenzo Cain (4-for-5, 2B, RBI, 2 R, SB) to become a household name, and his performance this postseason has certainly helped. But don’t overlook his stellar regular season stat line. Cain should once again serve as a valuable contributor in the batting average and stolen base departments, and hitting in a young and improving Royals lineup, I also expect his runs total to rise. Next year might be the last time you will be able to draft Cain at a reasonable discount.

-Adam Jones (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI) might just be the most underrated first round talent in fantasy. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged 30 homers and 92 RBI while batting at least .280. Beware, however, that his lack of walks hurts his value in OBP leagues.

NLCS Game 2 – Giants @ Cardinals

-I’ve already discussed most of the top performers here (Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong) in previous posts, so let’s first give a shout out to Oscar Taveras, whose pinch-hit solo home run in the 7th inning at the time tied the game. Taveras enjoyed a strong finish to the regular season, hitting .295 with one homer, six RBI and five runs scored in 44 September at-bats, and should open 2015 as an everyday player for the Cards. I expect him to seize the opportunity.

-Lance Lynn (5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) has now posted back-to-back 200-plus inning seasons, and outside of a not too drastic dip in strikeouts (8.8 K/9 to 8.0 K/9), this year was far better than last year. And last year wasn’t all that bad! Don’t forget about Lynn on draft day as a quality mid-rotation starter with upside.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/8)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLDS Game 4 – Nationals @ Giants

-Bryce Harper (2-for-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) performed well in the postseason, with three homers, four RBI and four runs scored in four games. Combine that with a strong finish to the regular season (.288 AVG, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 29 R across 229 at-bats in the second half) and there’s every reason to believe that with better luck in the health department, Bryce can take a huge step forward in 2015, his age-22 season. Over the past two years, I felt that Harper was a bit overvalued in drafts. That’s no longer the case. Next spring could very well be the last time that you will be able to draft him at somewhat of a discount.

-Although Ryan Vogelsong (5 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) clearly isn’t the same pitcher who strung together two consecutive All Star type seasons in 2011 and 2012, he’s still a serviceable mixed league fantasy option when the matchups are right. The bad news is that he enters free agency this winter and the odds of the Giants re-signing the 37-year-old are probably less than 50-50. There are few ballparks that are more pitcher-friendly than AT&T Park, so a change of address likely means a drop in fantasy value. In that case, you will be better off looking elsewhere in mixed leagues.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

NLDS Game 4 – Dodgers @ Cardinals

-Matt Adams (1-for-3, HR, 3 RBI) finally got the opportunity to play every day this year, and though the .288 average was nice, his fantasy owners had to be disappointed with the 15 homers and 68 RBI in 142 games. The .321 OBP also left a lot to be desired. That said, Adams has shown enough promise at the big league level to suggest that a bounce back campaign is in store. Keep in mind that this is a guy who slugged 17 home runs in just 108 games in 2013. Also keep in mind that he turns 27 next August, so he’s still relatively young. I wouldn’t hesitate to draft Adams as a low-cost starting CI in mixed leagues with plenty of upside.

-A year ago, Shelby Miller (5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) looked like he was on the cusp of stardom, but he battled inconsistency for much of this season, even getting dropped in my Tout Wars league, a 15-team mixed. Well, I’m glad I picked him up. Miller closed out the regular season in impressive fashion, recording quality starts in six of his last seven outings. While it would be unwise to rely on him for strikeouts, Miller did whiff nearly a batter per inning in 2013, so he’s bound to improve upon this year’s 6.2 K/9. There isn’t much downside in taking a flier on Shelby at the deflated price.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/7)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLDS Game 3 – Nationals @ Giants

-Doug Fister (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) continues to be one of the most underrated yet reliable starting pitchers in the game. With his move to the NL this year, I expected more strikeouts, figure around 160. But he came nowhere close to that, even factoring in that he spent the first five-plus weeks of the season on the DL Aside from the low strikeout rate, however, Fister owners had absolutely nothing to complain about, as he earned the win in 16 of his 25 starts while posting a miniscule 2.41 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. The two stats that I pay the most attention to when drafting pitchers are strikeout rate and walk rate. I remain hopeful that Fister can significantly raise his strikeout rate in 2015. After all, we did see him fan 159 batters in 2013 while with the Tigers. As for the walk rate, that shouldn’t be a problem being that his career BB/9 stands at 1.73. Fister is a perfect #3 type fantasy SP as long as you first build a solid foundation in strikeouts.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

NLDS Game 3 – Dodgers @ Cardinals

-John Lackey (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) didn’t exactly make a seamless transition to the NL, registering a 4.30 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in ten starts following his mid-season trade to the Cardinals. But a closer look at his game log reveals that those stats are somewhat skewed by a disaster outing against the Orioles in which he allowed nine earned runs on 13 hits over five innings. Seven of Lackey’s ten starts as a member of the Cardinals resulted in at least six innings pitched and no more than two earned runs. He turns 36 later this month, so age is a concern along with his health history. That said, after missing the entire 2012 campaign due to Tommy John surgery, Lackey has averaged 194 innings pitched over the past two seasons. He made $15.25 million this year but the interesting quirk in his contract is the $500K club option for 2015, which the Cards will surely pick up. I expect his first full season in the Senior Circuit to be a successful one and would feel comfortable drafting Lackey as a back end of the rotation starter in standard mixed leagues.

-Kolten Wong (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) is here to stay. He still needs to improve his batting average and on-base percentage but his exemplary minor league track record strongly suggests that he will do just that. A career .305 hitter in the Minors, Wong certainly has the ability to raise his batting average considerably next year. How does a .275 average with 12-15 homers and 25 steals sound? Draft him with confidence as your starting MI in mixed leagues and don’t be surprised if he produces like a top-10 fantasy second baseman.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/6)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLDS Game 1 – Giants @ Nationals

-Moving back to the NL seems to have done the trick for Jake Peavy (5 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), who went 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 20 starts for the Red Sox this year before posting a 6-4 record, 2.17 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 12 regular season starts for the Giants. Peavy has a $15 million player option for 2015, which he will likely exercise, that is unless he thinks he can secure a multi-year deal for a slightly lower annual rate. But no matter what he decides regarding the contract, staying in the Senior Circuit is probably a good idea.

NLDS Game 1 – Cardinals @ Dodgers

-What was the difference between Matt Carpenter’s 2013 and 2014 seasons? Three homers, 19 RBI, 27 runs and 46 points in batting average. Carpenter was a one-category player this year, and 99 runs isn’t enough of a reason to once again draft him in the early rounds. And the 2-for-5, HR, 4 RBI performance here isn’t going to change my mind. Also note that he’s no longer eligible at multiple positions, and a third baseman who isn’t even a lock for double-digit homers simply doesn’t cut it in fantasy. Stay away.

-Some pitcher’s duel! Don’t worry about Clayton Kershaw or Adam Wainwright. Both will be fine.

MLB: ALDS-Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles

ALDS Game 2 – Tigers @ Orioles

-Nick Markakis (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) is more valuable in real baseball than fantasy baseball, as he doesn’t excel in any one area. But he rarely disappoints and rarely misses games. I wouldn’t get too excited about owning him, but if he’s still available in the last few rounds of your 12-team mixed league draft, he’s a pretty safe pick as a fifth outfielder, especially in OBP leagues.

-After closing out the regular season in dominant fashion (2.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 29 K in 31 1/3 IP), Kevin Gausman (3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) looked good in his relief outing. The former top prospect is a prime 2015 breakout candidate as he enters his age-24 season.

ALDS Game 2 – Royals @ Angels

-Eric Hosmer (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) has yet to live up to expectations, but he was a much more consistent producer in the second half and only turns 25 later this month. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a power boost in 2015, perhaps up to the 25-home run level. Drafting him in the mid-rounds next spring to fill your CI slot is a low risk/high reward gamble.

NLDS Game 2 – Giants @ Nationals

-The obvious MVP of the longest (at least in terms of time) postseason game in history was Brandon Belt, who hit the go-ahead and eventual game-winning homer in the top of the 18th. The not so obvious but even more important MVP was the guy who earned the victory, Yusmeiro Petit (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K). The 29-year-old righty is coming off a career-best season in which he registered a 3.69 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 in 117 innings split between the starting rotation and the bullpen. What I like most about Petit is his low walk rate (2.5 career BB/9), and I truly believe that he can have a great deal of success as a full-time starter. Ryan Vogelsong will become a free agent this winter, so don’t be surprised if the Giants give Petit an opportunity to start in 2015. In that case, Yusmeiro would make for an appealing bargain basement option in NL-only leagues and deeper mixed formats.

MLB: NLDS-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers

NLDS Game 2 – Cardinals @ Dodgers

-Although Matt Kemp (2-for-4, HR, RBI) is no longer a threat to annually steal 30-plus bases, 2014 was a huge step in the right direction. He played in 150 games, this after averaging only 90 games per year from 2012-2013, while batting .287 with 25 homers and 89 RBI. Kemp was selected at 2.10 in a 12-team mixed league industry mock that I am participating in, and chances are he will be around well into the third round and maybe even the fourth round in many 2015 drafts. I won’t be reaching for him, but there will be a point (perhaps if he lasts past the top-40) where the temptation will win out over my usually conservative approach.

ALDS Game 3 – Orioles @ Tigers

-Bud Norris (6 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) has very quietly put together a fine season. But the strange thing about Bud is that his main appeal from a fantasy standpoint used to be his high strikeout rate. Since the beginning of last season, however, his strikeouts have plummeted, and he finished this year sporting a pedestrian 7.6 K/9. The good news though is that his career-low 2.8 BB/9 contributed heavily towards his career-high 2.67 K/BB. If Norris can raise his strikeout rate even to the 8.0 K/9 level while maintaining his improved control, he could deliver a nice profit in 2015 for those in very deep mixed/AL-only leagues. There are still enough doubters out there to keep his draft day price low.

ALDS Game 3 – Angels @ Royals

-Kansas City’s pair of homegrown corner infielders, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, continued to rake in this game, each picking up their second home run of the postseason. As I’ve mentioned previously, don’t forget about either of these guys next spring. Hosmer could finally be ready to break out while Moustakas is a post-hype sleeper.

-What happened to C.J. Wilson, not only in this game (2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) but this season? I drafted Wilson in multiple leagues this year, considering him a lock for 170 strikeouts and a sub-4.00 ERA. But as we are reminded time and time again, starting pitchers are never locks for anything. What can we expect from Wilson in 2015? Well, things can’t get much worse. The veteran southpaw continues to be extremely durable (at least 31 starts in each of his five seasons as a full-time starter) and remains an above average contributor in the strikeouts category. I’ll gladly take another chance on him at the severely reduced price.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/3)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

ALDS Game 1 – Tigers @ Orioles

-When I drafted Nelson Cruz to fill my OF3 spot in the Mixed Tout Wars auction this season, I was hoping for around 25 homers and 85 RBI. Instead, I got a career year from him, and if I had to name an MVP of my third place squad, he would be the guy, edging out Jose Altuve. Anyway, Cruz got the scoring started for the Orioles yesterday, taking Max Scherzer deep for a two-run homer. I think it’s safe to say that Cruz will cost more than $10 to roster next season. How much more is anyone’s guess, but it will probably be too much for my liking.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays

-J.J. Hardy is coming off his most disappointing season in quite some time, managing only nine homers. But the good news is that six of those nine homers came in the second half, including a red-hot month of August in which he posted a .322-5-18 line, and he homered yesterday. An impending free agent, Hardy’s fantasy stock might take a hit should he leave Baltimore, but a middle infielder with legitimate 20-plus home run power is plenty valuable. I like him as a late-round bounce back candidate.

-J.D. Martinez’s breakout season has to be considered one of the bigger surprises of 2014. After hitting a combined 24 homers over his first three big league seasons, he swatted 23 longballs this season before homering yesterday. The natural reaction would be to dismiss this year’s performance as fluky, but he has shown decent power in the past and is still just 27 years old. For now, consider him a fourth or fifth outfielder in mixed leagues. Let’s see if the Tigers decide to bring him back next year.

ALDS Game 1 – Royals @ Angels

-Very quietly, Jason Vargas posted a stellar stat line this season. He’s not a big strikeout guy, but at the same time, he won’t get himself into trouble via the walk (1.97 BB/9 this year). The Royals’ lefty was solid last night and is the perfect middle of the rotation innings-eater type. Unfortunately, his value is greater in real life than it is in fantasy. He remains strictly a Pitch or Ditch option when the matchup is right.

MLB: ALDS-Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels

-We’ve been waiting a long time for Mike Moustakas to reach his potential. We’re still waiting. “Moose” batted a miserable .212 this season but did rack up 15 home runs and hit a huge go-ahead homer last night. Is a breakout 30-home run campaign in his immediate future? Maybe. But I need to see more consistency before I can comfortably draft him in a mixed league.

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