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Zach’s Mixed Auction Tout Wars Recap

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/26 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

The MLB.com Fantasy 411 Cheat Sheet is a must-have for all of your drafts

Check out Cory’s Tout Wars recap

And while you’re at it, here’s an article written by MLB.com’s Will Leitch on the evolution of fantasy baseball

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Coming off a third place finish last season, my highest finish since joining the Mixed Auction Tout Wars league back in 2012, I went into Saturday afternoon’s auction determined to do even better. To be honest, however, I had my doubts. I mean, how does a team that drafts Jose Altuve, Nelson Cruz and Chris Carter for a combined $36 while posting the lowest ERA in the league not win it all? I don’t have the answer, but that’s besides the point. I need to let that go.

Anyway, onto 2015, and my auction preparation method was the same as always. I started by sketching out an ideal team that I projected to fit under the $260 cap by assigning dollar values to each starting roster slot with those players in mind. Then, at each of those roster slots, I’d list several lower priced alternative choices, assigning each of those guys a dollar value as well. Missing out on my top target at a certain position and settling on one of my backup options would save me some money, which I could in turn use to upgrade at another position. All in all, I’m fairly pleased with my squad, but like in any auction environment, so much depends on the unique situation, the needs of the other owners and often the nomination order. Although it’s easy to second guess yourself, either for not going the extra dollar to secure one player or overpaying for another, you just can’t do that kind of stuff.

So, without further ado, my 2015 Tout Wars roster:

C – Wilson Ramos ($10) – I’m just going to keep drafting Ramos until he finally stays healthy for a full season and puts up that 20-home run campaign that we’ve been anticipating for awhile now. Ten bucks isn’t exactly a steal, but there is profit potential here.

C – Carlos Ruiz ($1) – His 16-HR 2012 campaign is clearly an anomaly, and Ruiz is in the twilight of his career. But as my second catcher, he won’t hurt me in any category, and with Tout using on-base percentage instead of batting average, he might actually help me in that category (.347 OBP last season).

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago Cubs

1B – Anthony Rizzo ($40) – Yes, I overpaid for Rizzo. But he was my primary target at first base, and with reliable power so hard to find these days, Rizzo is one of the few players in baseball with legit 40-HR potential. And the best part is that he’s only 25 years of age, so he should only improve. Plus, he’s developing into a dominant OBP force.

2B – Kolten Wong ($17) – Wong is another player who’s on the rise. His minor league track record suggests that last season’s .249 AVG and .292 OBP will prove to be the exception rather than the norm. I’m counting on 15-plus homers and roughly 30 steals, though I must admit that uncertainty as to where he will bat in the lineup is concerning. The lower he is in the order, the lower his runs and stolen base potential will be.

SS – Elvis Andrus ($15) – I originally planned on drafting Jean Segura here, but after saving money with some of my other purchases, I opted to go the extra few bucks on Andrus, who should both score more runs than Segura and post a higher OBP in addition to swiping 30-plus bags.

3B – Kyle Seager ($22) – I’m a big fan of Seager, who is fresh off a career year and should benefit from an improved Mariners lineup. I can totally see him duplicating last year’s 25 homers and 96 RBI with the potential for more in his age-27 season.

CI – Kendrys Morales ($3) – I nominated Morales early on, figuring that I could get him at a bargain basement price to fill my CI slot. I was willing to go as high as $8 for him but thankfully heard crickets. Here’s hoping that a fresh start in Kansas City will do him some good. A repeat of his 2013 line (.277 AVG, 23 HR, 80 RBI) is within reach.

MI – Neil Walker ($10) – Walker was actually one of my backup plans at 2B, so I was thrilled to get him as my MI. There aren’t too many middle infielders who can realistically hit 20 home runs. Walker is one of them.

OF – Justin Upton ($27) – Carlos Gomez was the guy I really wanted to fill my OF1 slot but when the bidding got to $38 and I hesitated to say “39”, Tim Heaney beat me to it, and $40 seemed a bit much. I’m not disappointed with Upton, but I’m not pumped up about it either. Hopefully, he can find a way to get to 25 homers despite playing half of his games at Petco. On the bright side, if I had decided to splurge on Gomez, there’s no way I could have afforded Rizzo.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians

OF – Brandon Moss ($17) – Like with Morales, Moss was a player who I wanted to nominate early in hopes of winning him at a discount since my league mates would still be aiming higher. As it turned out, I wasn’t able to draft Moss at a discount, but $17 was exactly the amount I set aside for him. Moss was able to post back-to-back 25-plus HR seasons despite playing half of his games in Oakland. Moving away from the Coliseum certainly can’t hurt as he tries to return to the 30-HR level as a member of the Indians. I think he’ll get there. Adding to Moss’ appeal is his solid walk rate, so he’s not as much of a liability in OBP leagues.

OF – Oswaldo Arcia ($7) – Arcia is young and raw but the power is legit. I’ll be able to stomach the low OBP if it comes with 25 homers. Either way, the price was right.

OF – Denard Span ($4) – Purchasing Span for $1 at last year’s auction proved to be one of my best buys, so why not own him again? He isn’t expected to return from the DL until the beginning of May, but I couldn’t let him go for three bucks. Even with the month lost, I’m figuring I’ll get 20 steals with 75 runs. Add in the replacement player for April and Span is well worth four dollars.

OF – Michael Saunders ($3) – Staying healthy has been an issue for Saunders throughout his big league career, but if he can avoid the DL and receive regular at-bats, 20 homers isn’t a stretch playing his home games in a hitter-friendly park.

UT – Josh Reddick ($1) – Cheap power. That’s all there is to it.

SP – Cole Hamels ($20) - Hamels wasn’t my first choice (I really wanted David Price) but he was the clear fallback option, and I managed to get him at a fair price. He continues to be underrated in fantasy. A legit ace who can be had for a low-end ace price.

SP – Chris Archer ($10) - Again, Archer was not Plan A for my SP2 slot, but I do like the across the board upside. He battled control issues in the first half of 2014 but improved in that area as the season went along.

SP – Lance Lynn ($9) – No, I’m not expecting another sub-3.00 ERA. However, I am expecting an ERA in the mid-3’s to go along with plenty of whiffs, and since the biggest reason why I came up short in Tout last season was my low strikeout total, I made a special effort to emphasize that category.

SP – Ian Kennedy ($8) – See above. Kennedy’s ratios will be OK but not great, but he has a legitimate chance to post his second straight 200-strikeout season.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Texas Rangers

SP – Derek Holland ($2) - One of my main cheap SP targets. Many have forgotten just how good he was two years ago, and he was equally impressive upon his second half return last season. Holland also adds to my group of high-strikeout arms. For two bucks, he’s a steal.

SP – Josh Collmenter ($1) – Posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.89 WHIP at home last season. Collmenter might have fallen to the reserve rounds, and he probably won’t be an every-week starter for me. But he will make for a fine option in the right matchups.

RP – David Robertson ($20) - My relief pitcher formula in auctions consists of drafting one elite closer, one mid-tier closer with a high degree of job security and one setup man who has a good chance of taking over as his team’s closer at some point early in the season. Robertson fits the bill as the elite closer, and he didn’t cost quite as much as the other closers in that group.

RP – Glen Perkins ($12) – Perkins was disappointing last season, particularly in the second half, but a forearm injury probably had something to do with it. He’s only one year removed from being considered a no doubt top-10 closer. With better health, he has the skills to return to that level. And it’s not like the Twins have any other viable ninth inning options.

RP – Sergio Romo ($1) – Call it a hunch, but I think Romo will return to his old closer role sooner rather than later. Santiago Casilla has done a nice job in his place, but the Giants didn’t sign Romo to a new lucrative multi-year contract for him to pitch in the eighth inning. Call it a hunch.

RESERVES

Mike Leake – Still underrated despite back-to-back quality seasons. I’m not so sure he can maintain last year’s 6.9 K/9 but he’s a capable starting alternative in case Collmenter struggles.

Francisco Lindor – Couldn’t resist drafting at least one top prospect. It’s sounding like Lindor could make his big league debut sometime during the first half if he produces at Triple-A.

Colby Rasmus – Cheap power outfielder alternative to Saunders or Reddick. Maybe this will finally be the year for Rasmus?

Dustin Ackley – Post-hype sleeper? Ackley will open the season as the strong side of a left field platoon with Rickie Weeks, but Weeks is always injured and Ackley is steadily improving as a big league hitter.

Mike Moustakas – While we’re on the topic of post-hype sleepers, we might as well throw Moose into the mix. He could very well flop again, but whatever, it’s a fifth-round reserve pick.

Bartolo Colon – Seriously, how many Opening Day starting pitchers can you get in the final round of the reserve draft? OK, I’m not being very serious.

All in all, I think I’ve fielded a competitive team, though my speed is on the weak side, with only Andrus, Wong and Span (when he returns) as my 25-plus SB guys. The good news is that it’s a lot easier to trade for speed than trade for power, and my power shouldn’t be a problem. On the starting pitching side, I really like my front five, which I purchased for a combined $49, and I’m sure I won’t place near the bottom of the standings in strikeouts this time around. As for the bullpen, I accomplished my previously discussed plan. All I need now is a string of blown saves by Santiago Casilla and I’ll be good to go.

Thanks to all of the Tout Wars organizers and of course to our auctioneer Jeff Erickson, who at one point in the middle of the proceedings ran out of the draft room to yell at some noisy fans who were hanging out by the bar and then returned to the room to a round of applause!

CLICK HERE to view the full results of all four Tout Wars drafts.

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Cory’s Mixed Auction Tout Wars Recap

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/19 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

The MLB.com Fantasy 411 Cheat Sheet is a must-have for all of your drafts

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I missed Tout Wars last year due to a scheduling conflict, and while Craig Glaser (@sabometrics) of Bloomberg Sports performed admirably as my stand-in, my team still scuffled to a bottom-three finish for the second straight year. It’s easy to say that finishing near the bottom of the pack is no shame in Tout Wars given the quality of the competition, and that’s true, but it still stings and I want to prove that my 2012 championship was no fluke.

To accomplish that this year, I went into the draft on Saturday looking to load up on power while also protecting my on-base percentage, which Tout Wars uses instead of batting average. I was willing to sacrifice some speed to do this, figuring I’d go for the “cheap speed” route later to fill in the gaps. On the pitching side, I wanted to build a high-quality bullpen without paying for the elite closers, and looked for low-risk, mid-upside starting pitching. Starting pitching emerges all season long so I draft my team with the mindset of making extensive moves in that area throughout the year.

Here’s the recap of who I bought, position by position:

Catchers

Derek Norris ($11 vs. projected $16) – Norris has solid power and will play a lot for the Padres, especially with Tim Federowicz out for a few months, so he should put up worthwhile counting numbers. Most importantly, though, he’s a strong OBP source for a catcher, making him more valuable in this league format. Several catchers went for below what I projected them, and in hindsight I would’ve preferred Yasmani Grandal at $8, but I think I can earn a profit on this pick.

Robinson Chirinos ($1 vs. projected $1) – He has some pop, plays in a good hitters’ park and doesn’t have much competition for playing time. I’ll be satisfied with a repeat of last year’s numbers.

Corner infielders

Edwin Encarnacion ($35 vs. projected $31) – Yes, I chased on this one, and yes there’s tremendous risk with him already battling a sore back during spring training. But I vowed going into the draft to spend for power, and it was expensive in the early going so I had to reach for one of my pet players. In hindsight, I should’ve kept going on Jose Abreu rather than letting him go to Al Melchior (@almelccbs) at $36, exactly what I projected for him, but I’ll never feel bad about bringing E42 back to my team.

Josh Donaldson ($32 vs. projected $27) – Almost every worthwhile third baseman went for several dollars more than I projected, so it’s no surprise I had to overspend here. He’ll have a hard time earning what I paid for him, but like others I’m betting that a move into a better lineup and a great hitters’ park will produce a spike in his numbers.

Yonder Alonso ($1 vs. projected $4) – Nothing special here, but he’ll offer a little pop and a decent OBP. I’m hoping he’ll end up near the top of the Padres’ lineup, since they lack any better table setters.

Middle infielders

Scooter Gennett ($1 vs. projected $3) – He should be the Brewers’ leadoff hitter, which should mean plenty of runs, even if he’s better in AVG leagues than the Tout OBP format. He has a little pop and will steal a base, too. Nothing special, but he won’t be useless. I would’ve loved to get Kolten Wong, but couldn’t afford him after spending so much on my corners and outfielders, especially when he went for $17 vs. the $12 I projected for him.

Jed Lowrie ($4 vs. projected $7) – Yes, I really did think we were bidding on Brett Lawrie. But, in reality they are actually very similar… injury-prone, low-OBP players with above-average pop for their positions. This one is in a better hitters’ park so maybe this mistake will pay off?

Chris Owings ($1 vs. projected $2) – He’ll hurt my OBP but has a little pop, a little speed, and safer playing time this year. I think there’s some upside here and I actually like this as a dollar flier.

Designated hitter

Chris Carter ($20 vs. projected $20) – I’m frankly more concerned about locking up my UT spot with a full-time DH than I am about his ability to earn this bid. His power is obviously legit, and I believe he made enough improvements to his swing that he can maintain a .240-250 average or even better. And, since this is an OBP league, he could end up being a small plus in that category. Now I just have to hope Jonathan Singleton gets sent back to Triple-A so Carter can qualify at 1B and open up my UT spot!

Outfielders

Yasiel Puig ($31 vs. projected $30) – He’s an excellent OBP source, and even small growth in the power and speed could yield plus-plus value. This bid isn’t as risky as it may seem because, even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he has a very high floor. Plus, he’s fun to watch and was one of my target players going into the draft…even if he doesn’t earn this cost I’ll be glad to have him on my team.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Mookie Betts ($18 vs. projected $23) – This was one of my first buys of the draft and I’m surprised he went so inexpensively. I projected him for a nearly full season of at-bats, in which he’ll provide an excellent OBP, 20+ steals and double-digit homers, plus a ton of runs batting atop the reloaded Red Sox offense. I understand the risks here, but he has the skills to earn even more than I projected, never mind what I paid.

Kole Calhoun ($18 vs. projected $13) – He scored 90 runs in 127 games last year, which translates to 110 or so over a full season, which would place him right among the MLB leaders. He hit 17 homers, too, so I’m expecting 20 or more, plus a handful of steals. Calhoun is in his age 27 season, so I think I’ll end up making a profit on this pick, even if he cost me a few dollars more than I had projected.

Jayson Werth ($13 vs. projected $22) – Based on my projections, this was one of the five biggest bargains in the entire draft. I wasn’t projecting him for a full season of at-bats, either, so even if he misses a little time early in the season there’s still plenty of time for him to earn this cost. Werth will produce a high OBP and good power, and approach double-digit steals, providing excellent five-category value. I’m very happy about this buy.

A.J. Pollock ($9 vs. projected $14) – Pollock is easily overlooked due to past injuries and the potential for crowded playing time in the D-Backs outfield, but he’s a very good player and I expect him to be locked in as their centerfielder and leadoff hitter. He has double-digit homer power, should steal 20+ bases and will score plenty of runs.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

Starters

Masahiro Tanaka ($10 vs. projected $14) – I LOVE this pick. Even if he only lasts two months due to his balky elbow, I could still make a nice profit, and if he manages to throw an entire season, this will be the biggest steal of the entire draft. The only pitchers in baseball last year who threw more innings than Tanaka did, with a better ERA, WHIP and K/9, were Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez and Jake Arrieta. That’s it. This is a huge discount on a potentially elite starter, even factoring in the injury risk.

Hyun-Jin Ryu ($6 vs. projected $12) – Another nice discount thanks to a sore shoulder from which he is expected to fully recover. Strong ratios, decent strikeouts, and should get plenty of wins on an improved Dodgers team. There’s not a lot of downside at this cost, and plenty of room for profit if he doesn’t miss too much time to start the season.

(I was hoping for Gerritt Cole ($16 vs. projected $13) or Tyson Ross ($14 vs. projected $12) as my top two starters, but I think Tanaka is better than both and Ryu won’t be a huge step down from either, and I got this tandem for $14 less than the pair I had targeted. If I can get 55+ starts out of my pair, I’ll be very satisfied.)

Brandon McCarthy ($6 vs. projected $7) – I’m a big fan of McCarthy and he was a target coming into the draft. He purposefully put on plenty of weight going into last season in an effort to stay healthy and throw harder, and both goals were met. The Yankees restored his repertoire to full effectiveness after acquiring him last season, and the results were outstanding. If he even approaches that production again, and does it over a full season, there’s room for a big profit here.

Jered Weaver ($5 vs. projected $8) – His velocity continues to drop but he continues to put up #2/3 starter seasons; last year he went 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, with 169 K’s. I’ll make a very tidy profit on this buy.

Henderson Alvarez ($4 vs. projected $7) – He doesn’t strike anyone out, but should produce strong ratios and pick up a dozen or more wins with the improved Marlins. Like Ryu and Weaver, he’s not elite but I’ll make a nice profit on this one too. I would have preferred Danny Salazar ($3 vs. projected $9) and could’ve afforded him, but given the draft dynamics I don’t mind having settled for Alvarez.

Rick Porcello ($1 vs. projected $7) – Like Alvarez, he doesn’t offer much in the way of strikeouts, but he continues to improve and he’s still only 26 years old. He fits in perfectly with the rest of my rotation: a medium-upside starter at a bottom-of-the-barrel price who should produce a solid profit.

Relievers

Mark Melancon ($18 vs. projected $18) – I targeted Melancon coming into the draft, and after the elite guys all went for a couple of dollars more than I projected, I’m very happy to have gotten him for my projected price. He won’t offer the strikeout upside of the elite guys, but his ratios are outstanding and I expect him to approach or even top 40 saves in his first full season as a closer with a very good Pirates team.

Kenley Jansen ($14 vs. projected $17) – I targeted him coming into the draft too, with my price projection factoring in one month of missed time. Over a full season he’s a top-five closer, so I got a nice discount here and expect a strong profit, even after the missed time.

LaTroy Hawkins ($1 vs. projected $1) – Father Time will catch up eventually, so I’m just betting Hawkins will pick up 12-15 or more saves before that happens.

Reserves

Mike Minor gives me a little bit of rotation depth and I’ll stash away Josh Johnson on the DL in hopes he can contribute at some point during the season. Brandon Crawford gives me a middle infield option in case Owings flops, and Shane Victorino is a hedge against Betts struggling. Edward Mujica should steal a few saves early in the season if Koji Uehara can’t ring the bell, and while I’ll probably end up cutting my last reserve pick Melvin Upton Jr. without ever using him, it’ll still be nice to wonder what might have been…

Best bargains:

My projected dollar values produced a .926 correlation with the actual amounts paid for the 345 players picked during the auction, so I feel my projections were very accurate. But, there are always a few players who go for far less or far more than expected, whether due to draft dynamics, or simply not anticipating properly how the table will value the player. Several players went for far more than I projected, but out of respect to those who made the purchases, I’d rather focus on the ones I feel went for the biggest discounts. My Jayson Werth was one, and here are the other top five, based on the biggest net discount between what I projected and what they went for:

Ben Revere to Al Melchior (@almelccbs) ($6 vs. projected $17) – He’s an elite SB source who won’t hurt the OBP. Even a fraction of last year’s production produces a big profit on this pick.

Carl Crawford to Tim Heaney (@Tim_Heaney) ($3 vs. projected $13) – Crawford had a huge finish to last season, and has a much more clear path to playing time this year. I would’ve loved him as an end-game OF. This is almost pure profit for Tim.

Billy Hamilton to Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB) ($16 vs. projected $25) – Like Revere, Hamilton is an elite contributor in steals and could score a ton of runs atop the Reds lineup if Joey Votto returns to health. There is risk here, but upside far beyond what Fred paid.

Evan Gattis to Fred Zinkie ($15 vs. projected $23) – Obviously the wrist injury drove down the price, but if healthy, Gattis could make this a steal. He’ll put up solid OF/1B/DH power numbers while qualifying at catcher.

Jonathan Lucroy to Joe Pisapia (@JoePisapia17) ($20 vs. projected $28) – With decent power and run production, a strong OBP and tons of playing time, Lucroy was one of several catchers who went for what I felt was a discount. Nice snag by Joe at a point late in the draft where very few players of this caliber were available.

# # #

I’m eager to see this team perform. I know I’m short on speed, thin in the starting pitching, and have some injury risks in my offense. But, I think I have a ton of power and a strong team OBP, a potentially elite bullpen, and enough depth to stay afloat while I patch my weaknesses. I was able to execute my plan for the most part, and while I might not be good enough coming out of the draft to consider myself a front-runner, I feel good enough that I’ll be able to outperform the disasters of the last two years. Now, let’s get the season started!

Here’s a full recap of the draft:. Let me know what you think!

Cory

P.S. – Thanks again to the fine folks at @CityCrabNYC for hosting, to @RonShandler, Peter Kreutzer (@kroyte) and @lawrmichaels for their Tout leadership, and to auctioneer @Jeff_Erickson for deftly running the draft. A great day, as always.

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Updated Composite Projections (3/20)

CLICK HERE to listen to our latest podcasts (Thursday, 3/19 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

The MLB.com Fantasy 411 Cheat Sheet is a must-have for all of your drafts

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Here’s the second and final version of the composite projections. Since the last version, I’ve incorporated updated projections from a few of the providers, and a few providers adding projections on some additional players.

Once those all were averaged together, I adjusted projected playing time to my expectations, focusing on likely regulars and key bench players, starting pitchers and key bullpen members. Conversely, playing time projections for lesser bench players, low leverage relievers and Quadruple-A players should not be taken too seriously.

Note that I didn’t project Rasiel Iglesias and Jason Marquis making the Reds rotation, or Brad Penny making the White Sox rotation, so the playing projections on those guys and a few others might not be close to reality. Then again, I doubt many leagues are hanging on Marquis or Penny as difference-makers!

Finally, I put some minor tweaks on the actual performance projections based on past performances, trends, spring training updates, etc. For instance, if a projection came out to 20 homers, I might have bumped it down to 18 or 19, or up to 21 or 22, but there were no drastic changes made.

Good luck in your drafts!

CS

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2015 Listener League Openings

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/19 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

The MLB.com Fantasy 411 Cheat Sheet is a must-have for all of your drafts

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Hey everyone,

Just a heads up that there might be a few available spots in our listener leagues, where you will get to compete against other avid 411 fans. If you’re interested, please e-mail me at zach.steinhorn@mlb.com and explain your qualifications.

2015 Relief Pitcher Preview

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

The MLB.com Fantasy 411 Cheat Sheet is a must-have for all of your drafts

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Zach here for the final positional preview!

As you probably know by now, we at the 411 do not subscribe to the “don’t pay for saves” philosophy. The reality is that elite closers help you in more ways than just racking up saves. They provide elite ratios, and most importantly, at a position that has such a high in-season turnover rate, it’s nice to have at least one closer on your squad who you know you can rely on throughout the year. To tell you the truth, chasing saves is not very fun, especially if you play in a league that uses FAAB. There’s nothing worse than blowing out your FAAB budget on speculative closers who either never get a chance to pitch in the ninth inning or take over as their team’s closer only to get yanked from the role a few weeks later due to poor performance.

MLB: New York Yankees at Texas Rangers

2 UP

Neftali Feliz – Maybe Feliz will never again be the dominant stopper of a few seasons ago, but there seems to be way too much negativity surrounding him this year. Yes, his velocity was down upon his return last July. Yes, his 1.99 ERA was influenced by an unusually low BABIP and unusually high strand rate. But he is the undisputed Rangers closer, and he has yet to struggle in the ninth inning role. Plus, it’s entirely possible that his velocity improves as he will be another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Based on draft results I have seen so far, Feliz can be had for the price of a third closer in 12-team mixed leagues. I’d be more than happy to grab him as a cheap second closer.

Sergio Romo – It’s really a matter of when, not if, Romo reclaims his old closing gig. Santiago Casilla has done nothing yet to lose the job, but I think that the club’s preference is to have Romo pitching in the ninth inning. He was viewed as a top-10 closer at this time last year, so if Casilla even slightly struggles, I can see the Giants making a change sooner rather than later. For this reason, Romo is worth drafting in deeper mixed leagues. He still possesses arguably the nastiest slider in all of baseball.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals

2 DOWN

Trevor Rosenthal – Look, Rosenthal is by no means on my “do not draft” list, but I’d rank him more towards the back end of the top-10 closers as opposed to within the top-5. The strikeout rate remained strong last year, though it wasn’t anywhere near its 2013 level. The biggest concern, however, is that his walk rate more than doubled. At just 24 years of age, Rosenthal certainly has the potential to rejoin the elite class, but I wouldn’t draft him ahead of Mark Melancon, David Robertson, Cody Allen or even Dellin Betances.

Zach Britton – Closers with low strikeout rates generally don’t remain closers for long. Britton relied almost exclusively on his sinker last season to induce a ton of ground balls, which became the key to his success. If his sinker loses its effectiveness in 2015, things could get ugly in a hurry. Like Neftali Feliz, Britton also benefited from a low BABIP. Unlike Feliz, he has less than one year of closing experience under his belt. In a vacuum, I’d still take Britton over Feliz, but when factoring in their expected draft day cost, give me Feliz. And it’s not even close.

2015 Starting Pitcher Preview

***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.

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

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What are the Top 10 position battles that fantasy owners need to be watching? Check out this article

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It’s Zach again,

For quite some time, I have avoided drafting any starting pitcher before the seventh or eighth round in a 12-team mixed league, confident in my ability to identify undervalued hurlers who were poised to outperform their draft day price. Well, with pitching becoming more dominant these days, it has become increasingly important to draft at least one top-tier starter, and that’s what I plan to do in my leagues this year. The target ERA to finish in the top few spots in the category has decreased substantially, meaning that it simply isn’t good enough to have your ace pitch to a 3.40 ERA. Just a few years ago, if your fantasy team finished the season with a 3.80 ERA, you would stand roughly in the middle of the pack. Now, you would be fortunate if you’re not in last place!

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles

3 UP

Jose Quintana - The fantasy community must be paying close attention to the List of 12 this season, because Quintana is garnering a lot more respect of late than he did a few months ago. The bottom line is that he has steadily improved his ERA, strikeout rate and walk rate through his first three big league seasons, and after notching only nine wins last year, Quintana should easily improve that mark, benefiting from a retooled White Sox lineup that added Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to the fold. Even with the increased hype, he’s currently being taken outside of the top-200 in NFBC drafts. Don’t be surprised if he delivers top-100 production. I’d be perfectly happy with Quintana as my SP3 in a 12-team mixed league.

Justin Verlander – So many owners are so terrified to draft this guy that he might actually make for a decent value pick. Yes, last year was a disaster, and his velocity is unlikely to return to what it was a few seasons ago, but I’m willing to give him another chance. He’s earned it. Plus, after struggling to the tune of a 4.88 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in the first half, Verlander improved in the second half, posting a much more acceptable 3.97 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. While it would be a mistake to overvalue him based on the name, it would also be a mistake to dismiss him entirely. Verlander is ranked outside of the top-50 at the position by numerous outlets. That’s harsh. Is it possible that the 2014 version of Verlander is now the real Verlander? Maybe. But at that cost, I’m willing to take a flier on him.

Derek Holland – Upon returning from the DL late last season, Holland picked up right where he left off in 2013, when he registered a 3.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 189 strikeouts. Some owners might forget what he did two years ago and overlook him on draft day. You shouldn’t be one of them. He’s a fine low-end SP4/high-end SP5 in standard mixed leagues who can be had at a bargain price.

MLB: New York Yankees-Workout

3 DOWN

Masahiro Tanaka - It’s only a matter of time before Tanaka will need Tommy John surgery. In fact, every pitch he throws this season could be his last. If you’re willing to deal with that kind of stress all year, fine. I’m not, especially when he’s not even coming at much of a discount, going for $15 in AL LABR. Give me Jeff Samardzija for $18 or even Jose Quintana for $16 instead.

Carlos Carrasco – The off-season sure is long. Just a couple months ago, I, along with many other fantasy scribes, was touting Carrasco as an excellent sleeper target, as some owners might not be fully convinced that the huge strides he made last season are real. Apparently, a lot more owners are convinced than I had thought. When it comes to Carrasco’s outlook for 2015, I’m still more positive than negative. But at the same time, it was only a 14-start sample. An extremely impressive 14-start sample (2.67 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), but a 14-start sample nonetheless. In last night’s Tout Wars Mixed Draft, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs grabbed Carrasco in the seventh round to serve as his ace. In AL LABR, he went for $20, borderline ace price. That’s a bit too risky for my liking.

Andrew Cashner – Despite the favorable home ballpark and the much talked about upside, Cashner isn’t the sure thing that he’s made out to be. When healthy, his numbers have been strong. The only problem is that he’s had a tough time staying healthy, and at 28 years of age, he’s only made 51 career big league starts. Then there’s the mediocre strikeout rate. I wouldn’t mind him as a SP4 in a deep mixed league, but chances are his price tag is going to be higher than that. In the Tout Wars Mixed Draft, Cashner was taken before both Tyson Ross and Yordano Ventura. I’d prefer the latter two.

Tout Wars Mixed Draft Results

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

What are the Top 10 position battles that fantasy owners need to be watching? Check out this article

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres

Zach back with you,

Another day, another experts draft! Last night, 15 fantasy aficionados (some of them also happening to be LABR participants) gathered in front of their computers for the Tout Wars Mixed Draft, a 29-round snake draft (6 reserves). You can view the complete results HERE

A few observations:

-Joey Votto at 1.11 is understandable being that Tout uses OBP instead of AVG, but it’s surprising nonetheless considering his recent injury woes and his power outage. Edwin Encarnacion, taken one pick later, seems like a much safer 1B choice, and having posted OBPs of .384, .370 and .354 over the past three seasons, it’s not like he’s a slouch in the category.

-Note that Adam Jones fell to pick #18, but again, it’s all about OBP. Despite batting at least .280 in each of the last five seasons, Jones has posted an OBP higher than .325 just once. I actually expected him to fall even further. On the other hand, it’s also important to not get so caught up in OBP that you completely avoid a hitter who has been the model of consistency when it comes to the counting stats.

-Best values within the first ten rounds: Matt Kemp (4.08), Greg Holland (5.14), David Ortiz (8.03)

-Biggest reaches within the first four rounds: Jonathan LuCroy (2.10), George Springer (2.13), Kole Calhoun (4.15)

As always, you’re welcome to chime in. What are your picks for best values and biggest reaches?

LABR Auction Results

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

What are the Top 10 position battles that fantasy owners need to be watching? Check out this article

Do spring stats matter? Find out by reading this article

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

Zach here,

With my Tout Wars Mixed Auction draft less than two weeks away, it’s time to get serious. And what better way to kick off the “serious” stage of my draft prep than to study the prices in the LABR auctions! Even though these are non-mixed leagues, at least I now have an idea as to how much certain players on my target list will cost. I’ll shave off a few bucks to adjust to the deeper player pool, but a lot can be learned nonetheless. Here are the results from this past weekend’s AL LABR and NL LABR drafts.

AL LABR Results

NL LABR Results

As always feel free to comment. Do any of these prices seem particularly strange? I wouldn’t spend $40 on any pitcher, even if his name is Clayton Kershaw. But that’s just me.

2015 Outfield Preview

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

Who should you draft at No. 2? Check out this article

Do spring stats matter? Find out by reading this article

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Zach here again,

Some owners prefer to wait on the outfield position on draft day, figuring that due to the large outfield pool, plenty of value picks will be available in the middle rounds. And this is true. It seems like every year, there are a number of guys who enter the season outside of the top-30 yet return top-20 level production. On the other hand, if you fail to choose the right undervalued players, you will end up at a serious disadvantage when compared to the owner who drafted multiple outfielders within the first few rounds. Taking a look at the current NFBC ADP rankings, eight of the top-20 overall players are outfielders, so if you want to build your team around a star player who carries both a high floor and a high ceiling, chances are you will be looking at this position. Personally, I prefer a hybrid approach, drafting one top-10 outfielder in the first or second round before moving on to other positions. This way, I can assure myself the safety net of the one stud while leaving the door open to go discount shopping later on.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres

3 UP

Jay Bruce - Look, Bruce has his flaws. He strikes out way too much and cannot be relied on when it comes to batting average. But with power down throughout the game, there’s plenty to like about him. Prior to last year’s disappointing 18-home run campaign, Bruce had pieced together three straight seasons of at least 30 homers and 97 RBI. Plus, he’s still only 27 years of age (turns 28 in April) and plays in a home run-friendly park. Yet on average, he is being drafted 25th among outfielders in NFBC leagues, behind guys like Charlie Blackmon, Jason Heyward and Kole Calhoun. If you can grab Bruce as a cheap OF2 in a 15-team mixed league, do it!

Brandon Moss – Speaking of power, Moss has slugged a combined 76 home runs over the past three seasons as a member of the A’s, this despite playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. Moss’ home runs were actually split almost evenly last year (13 on the road, 12 at home) though his OPS was .831 on the road compared to .703 at home, so moving out of Oakland certainly can’t hurt. A return to the 30-home run level is well within reach. And in case you’re wondering, Moss is ranked #41 among outfielders on the NFBC ADP list. As a cheap OF3 in a 15-team mixed league, he offers plenty of profit potential. You can even start him at first base too!

Shin-Soo Choo – I guess the best way to describe my expectations for Choo this year is cautiously optimistic. He was so mediocre (and that’s being kind) last season that anyone who tells you they are confident he will return to his 2013 form is either a Rangers fan or a relative. The good news is that he continued to display a strong batting eye, so in OBP leagues, he’s definitely worth targeting. But even in non-OBP formats, I’d lean towards taking a chance on Choo at the reduced price. Assuming he can stay off the DL, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see another 20/20 campaign.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies

3 DOWN

Corey Dickerson – File this under the “Let me see it again” headline. Dickerson boasts an impressive minor league track record, so it’s foolish to completely dismiss his breakout first full season in the Majors as a fluke. But how confident are we that he can once again bat .363 at Coors Field to go along with a 1.099 OPS? On the road, he batted a mere .252 while posting a .736 OPS. The overall AVG of .312 was nice, but a .356 BABIP had at least something to do with it. Dickerson’s NFBC ADP is 46. That’s simply too high. There’s no room for profit and plenty of room for a loss.

Michael Brantley – I’m a fan of Brantley, and it’s clear that he’s made a huge leap forward in his development. But in order for him to earn his current NFBC ADP of 21, he will need to come very close to duplicating last season’s stat line. I’m not willing to take that risk. Note that after belting 15 home runs in the first half last season, Brantley managed only five longballs following the All-Star break.

Bryce Harper - Every year, it’s the same story with Harper. Will this be the year he finally reaches fantasy stud status? We’re still waiting, but in Harper’s favor is the fact that he doesn’t even turn 23 until October. On the other hand, he’s averaged only 109 games played per year over the past two seasons, so staying healthy has been an issue. And as a career .272 hitter, he has yet to be a positive contributor in batting average. I guess it comes down to whether you would rather draft a player a year too early than a year too late. I won’t be avoiding Harper, but I’d be leery of drafting him as my OF1. And unless you take two outfielders with your first two picks, Harper will likely be your OF1. It might work out fine. Or it might not.

2015 Third Base Preview

***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 podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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

CLICK HERE for our 2015 Composite Projections

Who should you draft at No. 2? Check out this article

Do spring stats matter? Find out by reading this article

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.

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