2015 Third Base Preview

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CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

Zach here,

Rather than identifying players who I like, I tend to begin my draft preparation by making a list of players who I have little interest in owning, whether it be because I expect a drop-off in production from the previous season or simply because I feel they are being overvalued to the point where it is unlikely that I can get an equal return, let alone a profit, out of my investment. This year, the third base pool includes a number of these guys, so as of now, I’m strongly leaning towards shelling out the necessary dough in order to secure one of the top-tier options, saving my bargain hunting for other positions.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

3 UP

Xander Bogaerts – At this time last year, the fantasy world was drooling over Bogaerts, but a largely disappointing 2014 campaign has resulted in him being on average the 14th third base-eligible player off the board in NFBC drafts. So, Bogaerts certainly fits the “post-hype sleeper” description. Note that he batted .313 with four homers and 16 RBI in September. Also note that he doesn’t turn 23 until October. The 3B/SS dual eligibility is an added bonus, as Bogaerts owners will probably end up starting him at shortstop anyway.

Chase Headley – If you decide to wait awhile before drafting your third baseman (something that I do not plan on doing), take a long look at Headley. At this point, his 2012 season can safely be written off as an outlier. But following his trade to the Yankees last season, the 30-year-old batted a respectable .262 with six homers, 17 RBI and a .769 OPS across 58 games. Nothing special, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a full season playing half of his games at Yankee Stadium yields a stat line in the neighborhood of .270-18-75 to go along with double-digit steals. Although Headley shouldn’t be a draft day target, there’s nothing wrong with settling on him in deeper leagues if you want to prioritize other positions.

Brett Lawrie – I value Lawrie similarly to Headley, that is as a low risk/medium reward third sacker. And like Bogaerts, he’s an intriguing post-hype sleeper. Maybe a fresh start in Oakland will do the trick, and maybe getting away from the artificial turf in Toronto will help him finally stay healthy. Lawrie managed to hit 12 home runs in just 70 games last season, and although he did not record any stolen bases, his myriad of injuries, particularly the oblique strain, probably had something to do with it. A DL-free season could translate to double-digit swipes and 20 homers, despite the move away from hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Oh, and he also qualifies at 2B. In 12-team mixed leagues, he’s a strong starting MI.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees-Game Two

3 DOWN

Josh Harrison – Harrison came out of nowhere last season to enjoy a career year, and the dual 3B/OF eligibility is nice. But take a closer look at his 2014 numbers. Aside from the .315 AVG, there’s little that stands out. We’re talking 13 homers, 18 steals and 77 runs scored. Not much to get overly excited about, especially considering that it was his only fantasy-relevant season to date. I need to see more. Why is he being drafted ahead of David Wright and Pablo Sandoval in NFBC? I have no clue.

Evan Longoria – I’d happily take Longoria if I can get him at a discount. In fact, I drafted him towards the end of the fifth round (#71 overall) in NFBC. The problem, however, is that he’s being valued much higher than that in most of the mocks and early drafts that I’ve seen. It is true that Longo has now turned in two straight fully healthy seasons, but the Rays lineup is likely to struggle this year, which will limit his RBI and run-scoring opportunities. Plus, he won’t be of much help in the batting average department. Again, I wouldn’t necessarily avoid him if the price is right, but be careful not to overpay due to the name recognition.

Matt Carpenter – Sorry, but I can’t figure out why this guy continues to be valued so highly in fantasy. Perhaps if he was still second base-eligible, I could understand it. But he isn’t, and a third baseman who failed to muster double-digit home runs last season and saw a 46-point drop in batting average is of no interest to me. Can he get his AVG back up to maybe the .290-.300 range? Possibly. But even then, he would be only a two-category player. He’s currently the #12 third baseman in NFBC ADP rankings. In a 12-team mixed leagues, there’s no way I’d draft him as my starting 3B.

2015 Shortstop Preview

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CLICK HERE to listen to our latest podcast from Thursday, 2/19

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CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

Zach back with you,

Like second base, the shortstop position isn’t exactly full of ultra-appealing options this year, so I wouldn’t wait too long to fill the position. Go ahead and spend that extra dollar on Ian Desmond or Hanley Ramirez. I think it will be worth it. Troy Tulowitzki? He’s a top-5 fantasy player when healthy, but those last two words are key. Honestly, I’d let him be someone else’s problem.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates

2 UP

Jean Segura

Yeah, the 11 homers he launched in the first half of the 2013 season proved to be an anomaly, so don’t mistake Segura for a definite double-digit home run contributor. But his speed is legit, and I’m expecting better from him than what we saw last year. Segura dealt with injuries in addition to a family tragedy in 2014, so maybe that had something to do with his disappointing stat line. As he embarks upon his age-25 season, count on 30-plus steals, and it would not be surprising to see him improve in the other categories as well. If you miss out on the top-tier shortstops and are reluctant to invest in guys like Elvis Andrus and Alexei Ramirez, who carry some risk relative to their expected draft day price, there’s nothing wrong with settling for Segura and using the savings to address another position.

Jimmy Rollins

For quite some time now, Rollins has been a popular “fantasy bust” pick, but he just keeps putting together quality seasons, and he’s one of only a few shortstops who offers that all-important power/speed combination. Joining the Dodgers should be a good thing for his overall fantasy value. Maybe he loses a few home runs, but he will likely score more runs hitting atop a superior lineup, and age certainly hasn’t slowed him down on the basepaths. The batting average is unlikely to rebound much, but there’s still plenty of value in a shortstop who can post 15 homers, 25 steals and 80-plus runs, especially when you can draft him outside of the top-150 (current NFBC ADP is 164).

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs

2 DOWN

Starlin Castro

Is Castro a valuable fantasy commodity? Sure. But is he a top-5 option at the shortstop position? I’m not so sure. The 24-year-old is coming off a strong 2014 campaign in which he batted .292 with 14 home runs, but four steals? Really? That’s now two straight seasons of single-digit stolen bases, and prior to last year’s .292 average, Castro batted a measly .245 in 2013, so consistency hasn’t exactly been his thing. I wouldn’t particularly mind drafting Castro if he fell to me. I just wouldn’t reach for him assuming that he’s going to break out. Give me one of the lower-ranked shortstops (like the two discussed above) for a fraction of the cost.

Ben Zobrist

The position versatility is nice, but the bottom line is that Zobrist has averaged just 11 homers, 62 RBI and 80 runs scored per year over the past two seasons and his stolen base production has steadily declined since he swiped 24 bags back in 2010. Too many owners seem to be drafting him based on what he has done as opposed to what he will do. Zobrist is currently ranked 154th overall in the NFBC ADP rankings, ahead of fellow shortstop-eligible players Xander Bogaerts, Jimmy Rollins, Alcides Escobar and Jhonny Peralta. In a non-OBP league, a case could be made for taking any one of those guys before Zobrist.

2015 Composite Projections Have Arrived!

***NOTE: If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to this blog by hitting the Follow button on the right panel. You will then get an e-mail as soon as each new post goes up.

CLICK HERE to listen to our latest podcast from Thursday, 2/19

CLICK HERE for the results of our now completed 12-team mixed league expert mock draft

Hey gang,

Attached is the first draft of this year’s composite projections, representing the average projection from 12 different providers. This is fewer than last year, when we had 14, and we’ve had as many as 16 in a season. However, in looking over these numbers, and reading recent research on the topic, it’s clear that more and more systems are converging in their projections, so there’s really very little value to be found by scraping up another few sets of numbers.

2015_comp_projections_022015

Please read the release notes from last season and previous years, for an explanation of how these are created, and the resulting caveats and limitations, BEFORE asking any questions in the comments area!

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2014/02/18/2014-composite-projections/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2013/02/19/composite-projections-are-here-2/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2012/02/18/composite-projections-have-arrived-2/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2011/03/03/2011-composite-projections-update/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2011/02/19/2011-composite-projections-1-0/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2010/03/07/updated-projections-372010/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2009/12/22/building-better-player-projections/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2009/02/19/2008-gxp-and-2009-projections/

http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2008/02/15/composite-projections-are-here/

A few other notes beyond what’s explained in those posts:

* This includes only those players who were included in at least half (6) of the 12 projection systems. The PROJ column indicates how many projections were averaged for each player; the more projections, the more confidence you should have in those numbers.

* The POS column is based on NFBC position eligibility rules: http://nfbc.stats.com/baseball/leagues/rules/nfbcclassic.asp?id=1300. I’ve also included a tab with games by position for MLB and minor leagues (totals), with columns for positional eligibility based on 20, 15 and 10-game minimums.

* Teams listed are as of February 17 (for hitters) and February 18 (for pitchers), and free agents are indicated with “FA” in the team and league columns.

* I included dates of birth this year rather than ages; be mindful of recent research which indicates that hitters are peaking later than the traditional age-27 season!

* Playing time is NOT adjusted, and as such, the games values may not make much sense in some cases because not all systems include those categories. For instance, Mookie Betts is projected here for only 78 games, but 447 at-bats. As such, I suggest you ignore the games columns and do your playing time adjustments based on at-bats and innings pitched.

* Runs, RBI’s, steals and saves are presented as projected by the various systems. As detailed in previous posts, I use my own calculations for those categories, but these are the raw numbers taken straight from the projections.

* Please don’t ask which projection systems are included in these averages. Some of them are free but some are for-pay, so I’d rather not dilute the value of their offering by “outing” them here.

Finally and most importantly, please keep in mind that these are not predictions, and they are not “my” projections… they are averages of projections provided by multiple other systems. So if you think the numbers are too high or too low for any given player, that’s your prerogative, but don’t complain about it here!

I hope everyone finds this useful on a cold winter day…only a few more days before spring training games start!

Thanks,

Cory

Friday Twitter Chat

CLICK HERE to listen to our latest podcast from Thursday, 2/19

CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress

Zach here,

This is just a heads up that fellow MLB.com writer and Mixed Auction Tout Wars member Fred Zinkie will be hosting a live Twitter chat tomorrow (Friday) at 3 PM ET. So go ahead and send in your questions now to @fantasy411 and use #Fantasy411. Fred has won Mixed Auction Tout twice in the last four years, so he clearly knows his stuff!

***For a sampling of the best questions and answers from Friday’s chat, CLICK HERE

2015 Second Base Preview

CLICK HERE to listen to our special podcast from Friday. Topics include MLB.com Fantasy Preview Rankings, the recently unveiled List of 12 and our slow mock draft.

CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress

Zach here,

In past years, a key component of my draft day strategy has been to pay particular attention to position scarcity, which usually meant that I would draft an elite middle infield. Although I’m beginning to shift away from that approach, the second base position scares me this year. Are there 12-15 startable options? Yes. But I’ll be avoiding several of the guys at the back end of the group, so I have a rather short list of second basemen on my radar, and almost all of them are from that upper-tier class.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians

2 UP

Jason Kipnis – If I miss out on the Cano/Altuve/Rendon trio, Kipnis will be my primary target, and if I have to reach a bit to get him, so be it. Just a year ago, Kipnis was a no doubt top-25 pick, but a disappointing and injury-plagued 2014 season has resulted in him dropping all the way down to Round 6-7 territory in 12-team mixed leagues (he was drafted at 7.06 in our slow mock). I refuse to give up hope that a 20 HR/30 SB season is in his future, and who knows, it might happen in 2015, his age-27 season. At his current price tag, I’d be more than happy to take that chance.

Jedd Gyorko – Trusting Gyorko to serve as your starting 2B is a stretch, but as a late-round MI investment, he’s an intriguing option. His home ballpark will scare off many owners, but this is a guy who launched 23 homers two seasons ago, and in this era of dwindling power numbers, it’s rare to find a middle infielder with Gyorko’s home run potential. On the whole, his 2014 campaign was a disaster, but keep in mind that he played through plantar fasciitus for a portion of the season, and after finally being shut down, he looked a lot better upon his return. Gyorko’s second half line of .260-5-27 offers some optimism that a bounce back could be in store.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers

2 DOWN

Dee Gordon – Simply put, I’m not a fan of stolen base specialists, particularly stolen base specialists who will cost an early-round pick and carry a limited track record of early-round level production. Gordon could very well steal 64 bases again, but matching last season’s .289 batting average will be a tall order given his high K/BB ratio. Also note that Gordon’s OBP dropped from .344 in the first half to .300 following the All-Star break. But let’s get back to the topic of stolen base specialists. By drafting one of these guys, you are building your roster in a way that if your stolen base specialist misses significant time, you’re likely in big trouble since you counted on him to swipe a certain number of bags and didn’t bother to supplement him with multiple 15-20 SB type contributors. Someone in every league will be willing to reach for Gordon. Make sure that someone isn’t you.

Javier Baez – Sure, Baez has a great deal of long-term upside. But the bottom line is that he strikes out a ton. At 22 years of age, he has plenty of time to figure things out at the big league level, but unless you’re in a keeper league, you’re better off letting another owner suffer through the adjustment period after paying an inflated price thanks to all the hype. Save your gambles for less expensive players.

Mixed LABR Draft Results

CLICK HERE to listen to our special podcast from Friday. Topics include MLB.com Fantasy Preview Rankings, the recently unveiled List of 12 and our slow mock draft.

CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress

Hey everyone,

Studying expert mock drafts is a great way to prepare for your real drafts. Studying expert real drafts is even better. Last night, LABR kicked off its 2015 draft season with the mixed league draft (AL and NL auctions still to come). Mixed LABR is a 15-team league with 29-man rosters (6 bench), and it’s safe to say that this draft did not follow the book in terms of the pick-by-pick results, the most prominent example being the #3 overall selection. CLICK HERE for the complete results. And as always, feel free to chime in with your own comments. Unfortunately, as a member of the Tout Wars Mixed Auction league, these results don’t do a whole lot for me. Oh well.

-Zach

2015 List of 12

CLICK HERE to listen to our special podcast from Friday. Topics include MLB.com Fantasy Preview Rankings, the recently unveiled List of 12 and our slow mock draft.

CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress

Zach back with you,

The long anticipated 2015 List of 12 has arrived! If you’re not familiar with the principles of the List of 12, check out the opening portion of this post from a few years ago.

Now I’ll hand things over to Cory:

The List of 12 comes out to 14 names this year. See the attached spreadsheet for career stats on the entire gang. Here’s how I rank them for 2015:

Darvish, Yu – Assuming his elbow checks out healthy he should be a top-5 fantasy pitcher again in 2015. Keep an eye on his rapidly increasing fly ball rate though; that could portend a few more homers in hitter-friendly Arlington and a mild bump in his ERA.

Cobb, Alex - A variety of injuries have limited his innings over the past three seasons, and may make him a little under-the-radar, but none are arm-related. In his last 56 starts going back to August 23, 2012, he has a 2.78 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a 321-106 K-BB ratio in 353 IP. That’s not just fun with selective end dates, that’s a borderline ace in fantasy. Strong buy.

Iwakuma, Hisashi – He slumped at the end of last season but his overall numbers were exceptional once again. He has a 2.97 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 417-to-91 K-BB ratio in 493.2 IP since joining the Mariners rotation in July of 2012 and there’s no reason to expect any sudden decline this year.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
Quintana, Jose – This is why we don’t chase wins: Quintana is only 24-24 despite a solid 3.50 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in his first three seasons. If he can maintain last season’s decreased home run rate, he could be line for a big step forward this year, and major improvements to the White Sox offense and bullpen should help bring more wins.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Alvarez, Henderson – His ERA’s done seem to match his relatively pedestrian strikeout numbers, but it doesn’t hurt at all that he’s extremely stingy allowing walks and homers. The truth is probably somewhere in between his last two seasons, with an ERA in the low 3’s and a WHIP around 1.15. Only the weak strikeouts keep him from being a #2 in fantasy.

Collmenter, Josh – In his last 22 home starts going back to June 22, 2012, he is 9-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 89-24 K-BB in 131.1 IP. He’s not that good of course, but let this serve as your reminder to not forget him on Draft Day… and particularly in Pitch-or-Ditch friendly formats!

Chen, Wei-Yin – His ERA dropped by a half run last year, but the home run and strikeout rates suggest to next expect a repeat. He’s end-of-rotation material, but useful.

Simon, Alfredo – Started out surprisingly well, and faded somewhat predictably, in his first full season as a starter. Moving from Great American Ballpark to Comerica Park will help mitigate his gopheritis somewhat, but the deeper AL lineups won’t do him any favors. Don’t expect a repeat.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates
Anderson, Brett – He’s generally effective when he pitches, with a 2.91 ERA last season, but doesn’t pitch that often, making only eight starts due to finger and back problems. He’ll compete for a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation and could be a sneaky end-game play if he breaks camp with a regular turn.

                                                                                                                                                                                           Medlen, Kris – Remember him? He looked like a budding ace in 2012-13 before needing Tommy John surgery; the Royals think he’ll be able to contribute by the second half of this season. Keep that in the back of your mind.

Nova, Ivan – He’s expected to return from Tommy John surgery at some point in the first half, and hopefully will show the form that led to a 3.10 ERA in 139.1 IP in 2013. If the strikeout rate holds, don’t rule out some end-of-rotation value.

Milone, Tommy – He pitched exceptionally well in 16 spot starts with the A’s last year but was awful after coming to the Twins. He’s a homer-prone soft-tosser who can be useful when he’s on his game, but there’s probably no upside to look forward to.

Lyles, Jordan – He’s on this list by virtue of crossing the 500 IP mark last year, not by virtue of his 5.09 career ERA. He might be worth a few Pitch or Ditch looks though if and when the matchups are friendly enough.

Estrada, Marco – His 2013 and 2014 seasons were very similar, except for the spike in his HR/FB rate last year that resulted in his banishment to the bullpen. Working long relief in the Rogers Centre homer palace won’t lead to a rebound.

SP Strategy Roundtable

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

Hey everyone,

As we move along in our 12-team, 23-round industry slow mock draft, I just wanted to share with 411 Nation the e-mail responses to a draft-related question that Cory posed to the group. Below is Cory’s original question followed by replies from a number of the participants.

Cory says:

Strategy question for the room. I’ve noticed a couple of teams that took “elite” SP’s early on, then waited a bit to take their SP2, particularly:

EMack: Kershaw (1), Harvey (10)

Zach: Price (4), Shields (10)

Ray: Hamels (5), Archer (10)

Compare that to a couple of other teams who clearly went the “dual aces” route:

Jeff: Sale (3), Cueto (5)

Gonos: Darvish (4), Waino (6)

Seems to me that taking the former route somewhat defeats the purpose. If you take an early SP, but then wait for your SP2, doesn’t that somewhat “dilute” the ace? Whereas in the second approach, you essentially get two guys who, in the sum, are comparable/better than the diluted approach.

In other words, if you don’t back up the ace with a strong #2, does that somewhat defeat the purpose, and argue in favor of waiting to take two less expensive but comparable starters, more of a 1a/1b approach?

You can probably tell which way I lean based on how I’m framing the question, but I’m curious what the group thinks. I was the last team in this draft to take my SP1, and still only have that one, so obviously my approach is the outlier…curious what is viewed as the optimal approach based on a more traditional approach to drafting SP.

Thoughts?

And the replies:

David Gonos says: My preference is to wait a round or two from the top starters, then get a couple — since they’re NOT the very top — and then I benefit from two very good starters, while also using that very early pick for a very good hitter.

Todd Zola says: I don’t think you can look at SP in a vacuum as CL add more to a fantasy staff than many realize — especially now with top-to-bottom stats being bunched tighter and a few closers providing off-the-chart ratios. That said, I don’t think you can do the draft equivalent of Pedro and 6 $1 starters but you don’t have to necessarily follow up with your second SP the first 5 rounds either. It also depends on how many pitching points you want versus hitting points. A winning team can be constructed an infinite number of ways but I do feel your margin of error is lessened when taking an ace in the first two rounds. You can still assemble a staunch offense without a top pick, but you can’t miss on too many of the following picks.

Zach Steinhorn says: I used to be of the mindset to wait as long as possible (like Round 7-8) to draft my SP1 but have gradually shifted towards drafting one elite SP if I can get him at a fair cost. It just protects me against possible SP mistakes later on. As for the SP2, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get an impact bat (like Fielder in Round 5) to draft a 1A type SP (like Zimmermann) after already spending my previous pick on an SP. I guess I go more by the “spread the risk” philosophy. But like Todd said, I don’t think you can go into any draft with a set plan.

Jeff Erickson says: It somewhat depends for me. For the NFBC, it’s really difficult to get two aces unless you’re willing to take them in the first three rounds. Last year, my top tier had 12 pitchers, and they were all gone by the 40th pick – 3.10. I wimped out on Kershaw in the first round because the draft came after his first start in Australia and his subsequent injury. I then opted against taking the second starter in the draft at 2.4. By the time I picked again at 3.12, they were gone. In this format, it was purposeful for me to grab two aces. But Lester fell all the way to 8.12, and he is in my first tier, so that sort of backfired.

Ray Flowers says: For me, it’s more about the team you construct. I also try to build my rotation in the middle. I don’t target a top-10 arm. Instead, I like to have 3-4 of the top-35 arms. I often find myself going heavy pitchers in the 7-13 rounds. At that point, others tend to be targeting some positional weaknesses as the hitters grow scarce, an issue I don’t have to deal with since I’ve been adding bats while others were going pitching. As Todd said, it’s always league dependent. I also think that predicting success with arms isn’t difficult. In a few leagues last year, I had Cueto, Ross, Kluber – two of the three – as my outside the first 10 round selections. Add the right guys and you don’t have to go super early for starters. I like to try and find the value.

Tim Heaney says: I think you still can have an ace, then wait to find someone that could put up ace-like numbers. But as Ray said, you have to be confident the middle-rounder’s journey up toward acehood is a near lock. And with the top-end pitching numbers standing out more and more for those with a track record, that gap is actually widening a bit. I considered Lester the last of SP1s for whom I’d reach, and to land him as a SP2 in Round 8 was enjoyable. I hold Cobb, Teheran and Gray in a similar tier and planned to grab one a bit later — more than probable because it’s a 12-teamer. The flow of this draft made it possible; I can’t guarantee it would be like this elsewhere.

Lawr Michaels says: I guess my taking Madbum/Greinke 3/4 (with only your two picks in between, Cory) slipped your eyeballs? I do always bust up when asked not just what my strategy is going into a draft, especially the first rounds. The truth is, I don’t have a clue what I am going to do 99% of the time (#1 pick, when a Trout or Pujols or a healthy Miggy are out there makes up the 1% balance). However, I do know that first pick largely dictates what direction I take from there. We all know that pitching is deep this year, so waiting on starting pitching is not only fashionable, but it makes sense. Well, one thing I do try to do when drafting is select based upon what the guys in the league give/leave for me. Since I knew, or suspected that for a large part most of you guys would indeed fade pitching, I decided to grab two aces right there for a baseline, then pick a bunch of hitters, and then go back to pitching (which I kind of have been), then fill out. As to Cory’s point, I think it does seem to split the two (eg Kershaw 1, Harvey 10) defeats the purpose. Though again, pitching is so seemingly abundant that it is hard to wreck a pitching strategy up aside from taking everyone thinking of Marco Estrada in 2013, and getting Marco Estrada 2014.

Eric Mack says: I pick players when it makes sense based on their value…re: average draft position. I tend to pick pitchers very late in analyst leagues, because analysts don’t pick pitchers. I decided Kershaw was better than the alternatives when I picked, also the case in Chapman and Harvey. I think I picked the best three pitchers in baseball—Kershaw, Chapman and Harvey—regardless of where I picked them. Suggesting Harvey should drag on Kershaw is a farce. Unless you are a tiny cell in Harvey’s elbow that knows it’s not going to prove healed or you have some super advanced pitching metrics that suggests Harvey isn’t the pitcher he had shown before surgery. I know of neither. To me, he is an ace, albeit on a Mets team that might not have enough offense to win yet.

Well, that does it. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.

-Zach

2015 Player Preview Is Here!

CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress

Hey everyone,

Just in case you missed it (and it’s kind of hard to miss it via the homepage), the 2015 MLB.com Player Preview has officially launched, with outlooks, projections and rankings for over 800 players. So even if you’re in a 20-team AL-only league, chances are there’s a profile to read on someone you might be thinking about drafting in the 23rd round. Also note that you can sort by position ranking, team ranking and projected stat. There’s also a link on the top panel that will take you to a separate page of prospect rankings.

So delve right in. Pitchers and catchers begin to report in 16 days.

-Zach

2015 First Base Preview

CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress

Zach back with you,

There was a time when first base was a deep fantasy position. Not anymore. This year, even the top-tier guys come with varying degrees of risk. Is Miguel Cabrera healthy? Is Paul Goldschmidt healthy? Can Jose Abreu repeat what he did last year? Should we be concerned about Freddie Freeman’s disappointing 2014 home run total of 18, this after it was looking like he had 30-home run upside? Honestly, I have yet to decide how I will go about addressing this position. As of now, I’m leaning towards targeting someone in that 6-10 group. I think the profit potential is greatest there, but of course a lot depends on how the individual draft plays out. After all, it is important to be flexible.

OK, let’s now turn our attention to the specific players.

3 UP

Prince Fielder

It was only one year ago that Fielder was a borderline first round pick. It looked like a return to the 35-plus home run level was well within reach now that he would be playing half of his games in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball, this after posting a somewhat disappointing 25 homers in 2013. But unfortunately, a neck injury that required season-ending surgery ruined his 2014 campaign. And even before being shut down, Prince was struggling, batting .247 with three homers and 16 RBI through 42 games. That said, all of this will deflate his draft day price tag to the point where he could be an absolute steal. Fielder is expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training, and he will still be playing half of his games in Texas. Sure, drafting Prince is far from a risk-free move, but the reward is first round caliber production that you can get much later. I grabbed him at 5.10 in our 12-team mock, an absolute steal in my view.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Minnesota Twins

Mark Trumbo

Power is hard to find these days, and Trumbo has a lot of it. Like Fielder, Trumbo is coming off an injury-plagued season, but he’s not injury-prone, having averaged nearly 151 games played from 2011-2013 before being limited to 88 games last year. Plus, he did launch 14 longballs in those 88 games. Also like Fielder, Trumbo will benefit from a cozy home park. The batting average might be ugly, but he’s the cheapest 40-home run candidate you will be able to find. Don’t sleep on him this spring.

Kendrys Morales

There’s no way around it. Morales’ 2014 season was an absolute disaster. After holding out until June in hopes of landing a more lucrative contract, Kendrys got off to an awful start with the Twins and never quite recovered. He improved a bit following his trade to Seattle, however, swatting seven homers in 59 games. Getting such a late start to the season certainly played a role in his struggles, and I really like this signing for the Royals. Kauffman Stadium won’t do him any favors, but Safeco Field isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise and Morales put up a fine .277-23-80 line for the Mariners in 2013, with 12 of those home runs coming at Safeco. There’s plenty of upside in drafting Morales as your CI in a deep mixed league.

3 DOWN

Eric Hosmer

Will Hosmer ever reach the superstar status many had predicted? At this point, I have my doubts. Don’t let his impressive postseason fool you into overpaying for him on draft day. The reality is that Hosmer’s 2014 was a big time disappointment, even taking into account the missed time due to injury. The Kansas City first baseman recorded career-lows in home runs, RBI, runs scored and steals while seeing his OPS drop by 85 points from its 2013 level. At 25 years of age, Hosmer still has time to get his big league career back on track, but the bottom line is that it’s going in the wrong direction. In a 12-team mixed league, I’d let him be someone else’s problem. Instead, give me Morales at the cheaper cost.

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

Billy Butler

Perhaps the most puzzling free agent signing of the off-season, Butler somehow managed to parlay a .271-9-66 season into a three-year, $30 million contract with the A’s. I think it’s safe to say that Billy Beane places a high value on OBP. The only problem is that Butler registered a career-low .323 OBP last year. Look, it’s obvious now that his 29-homer 2012 campaign was an outlier, so what does this guy really bring to the table, other than a Country Breakfast? (Lame joke, I know.) Not much. The newfound 1B eligibility helps a little, but outside of deep mixed leagues (greater than 12 teams), Butler should be off your radar.

Lucas Duda

Duda is what he is, a low batting average/high strikeout hitter who has power. He does walk quite a bit, so in an OBP league, I’d be more open to drafting him. But in a standard 5×5, he will need to approach 30 home runs again to maintain 12-team mixed league value. I could be wrong here, but with just one season as an everyday player under his belt, I’m not ready to pencil him in for another 30 longballs. Look, I wouldn’t completely avoid Duda if the price turns out to be reasonable, but simply assuming that he can duplicate his 2014 stat line in 2015 would be a mistake. In other words, be careful.

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