Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/16)

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Daniel Murphy

NLDS Game 5 – Mets @ Dodgers

I’m trying to avoid discussing any one player more than once in this Musings series, but it’s impossible to talk about this game without mentioning Daniel Murphy (3-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, SB), who is the biggest reason why the Mets are moving on to the NLCS. While I still don’t consider Murphy anything more than a decent starting MI in 12-team mixed leagues, it is a bummer that the Mets will likely let him walk in free agency this winter. Expect Wilmer Flores to slide over to second base in 2016 with Ruben Tejada manning shortstop.

David Wright (0-for-4, 2 K) picked up a two-RBI single in Game 1, but that turned out to be the only hit he would record in this entire series (1-for-16, 7 K). I wouldn’t pay too much attention to his NLDS struggles, however, as he was productive down the stretch in the regular season upon his return from injury. He’s actually an intriguing value pick if you wait on drafting your third baseman. There’s obviously injury risk here, but .280-20-85 isn’t out of the question if he can avoid the DL, though that line will be influenced by what the Mets do this winter with their offense.

It’s hard to believe that Jeurys Familia (2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, SV) began the 2015 season on the waiver wire in almost all fantasy leagues. The Mets righty rewarded his owners with a top-5 closer season, and while the case of Familia does support the “don’t pay for saves” philosophy, it’s important to realize that there are plenty of waiver wire closer cases that don’t work out well. Brett Cecil, anyone?

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/15)

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Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

ALDS Game 5 – Rangers @ Blue Jays

Roberto Osuna (1 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, SV) has now tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the postseason after finishing the regular season in somewhat shaky fashion. This is an encouraging sign from a guy who restored order to what was a dicey closer situation in Toronto this year, and I think the 20-year-old has done more than enough to open 2016 as the club’s unquestioned stopper. If you’re the type of fantasy owner who doesn’t like to spend big on closers, Osuna is someone who you can draft at a low-end CL2/high-end CL3 price but could pitch more like a high-end CL2.

Although Jose Bautista (2-for-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI) has been inconsistent from year to year in the batting average department, he now boasts averages of 38 homers, 97 RBI and 95 runs scored over the past six seasons. More importantly, he’s avoided the DL in each of the past two seasons, this after averaging only 105 games played from 2012-2013. He’s a safe investment in the first half of the second round in a 12-team mixed league draft.

Shin-Soo Choo (1-for-4, solo HR) was a huge fantasy disappointment last year and his struggles continued through the first half of this season. It was an entirely different story in the second half, however, as he batted .343 with 11 homers, 44 RBI, 56 runs scored and a .455 OBP. Choo doesn’t run much anymore, but aside from the steals, his final 2015 stat line looks a lot like the numbers he posted during his days with the Indians and Reds. I wouldn’t be afraid to draft him next season as my OF3 in standard 12-team mixed leagues or OF2 in OBP leagues.

ALDS Game 5 – Astros @ Royals

Alex Rios (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI) used to be a top-20 fantasy outfielder, and I honestly cannot figure out what has happened to him, especially this season, as he batted just .255 with four homers, 32 RBI, 40 runs scored and nine steals in 105 games. A free agent this winter, Rios will head into 2016 looking to revitalize his career, almost certainly with a new team. While a bounce back isn’t out of the question, I’d still avoid him in all mixed leagues. He hasn’t given us a reason to be optimistic.

Luis Valbuena (1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) launched a career-high 25 home runs this season. He also batted .224, and his career AVG of .228 isn’t a whole lot better. I can live with a .224 AVG if it comes along with 40 homers, but 25 homers isn’t enough, especially from a player who almost always takes a seat versus left-handed pitching. And there’s a good chance he doesn’t hit 25 home runs again. Even in AL-only leagues, Valbuena will not be on my fantasy radar next year.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/14)

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Kevin Pillar

ALDS Game 4 – Blue Jays @ Rangers

Kevin Pillar (3-for-4, HR, 3 RBI), who went undrafted in the vast majority of mixed leagues this year, quietly turned in a solid 2015 campaign, proving to be a reliable source of steals and runs while chipping in 12 homers. I think there’s still room for improvement being that this was only his first full season in the big leagues, and I would not hesitate to draft Pillar in the late rounds in mixed leagues as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Derek Holland (2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 3 HR allowed, L) really struggled in September (6.60 ERA,1.63 WHIP) after pitching well upon his long-awaited return from injury, and his struggles have continued into the postseason. Holland was one of my favorite cheap SP targets for 2015 and I refuse to give up on him. Inconsistency should have been expected coming off a four and a half month absence, and I’m expecting better overall results in 2016. Remember that this is a guy who posted a 3.42 ERA to go along with 189 strikeouts back in 2013. There’s some injury risk here, but there’s not a lot of downside in grabbing him in the final round or two of your mixed league draft.

ALDS Game 4 – Royals @ Astros

Eric Hosmer (2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI) enjoyed a career-best season in 2015 and it’s hard to believe that he will be only 26 on Opening Day 2016. It seems like he’s been around for awhile. There’s no denying that Hosmer carries plenty of fantasy value, but the problem I have with him is that I need more power from my starting first baseman, and Hosmer has yet to hit more than 19 home runs in a season. Sure, if he can duplicate the .297-18-93-98-7 line he posted this year, he will be worthy of mixed league starting 1B status. But the lack of homers allows little margin for decline in the batting average, RBI and Runs departments.

Carlos Correa (4-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI) is already a fantasy stud. The only question is how early he will be taken in 2016 drafts. I’m thinking top-25, even in non-keeper formats. And that’s being conservative.

Javier Baez

NLDS Game 4 – Cardinals @ Cubs

Javier Baez (2-for-3, HR, 3 RBI) batted .328 with 13 home runs, 62 RBI, 52 runs scored and 18 steals in 74 minor league games this season and performed fairly well in his 28 games with the Cubs. He still strikes out a bit too much but is making some improvement in that area. Baez doesn’t really have anything left to prove in the Minors, so my guess is that he will open next season with the big league club. It will be interesting to see how the Cubs solve their three-man 2B/SS logjam. Trading Starlin Castro seems like the most likely move.

After pitching to a 2.86 ERA prior to the All-Star break, Jason Hammel (3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) faded badly in the second half, registering a 5.10 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. But despite the poor second half and disappointing performance here, Hammel remains a serviceable SP5/SP6 in mixed leagues.

NLDS Game 4 – Dodgers @ Mets

Justin Turner (1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI) turned out to be a nice early-season waiver wire find as he went on to enjoy a career year. Unfortunately for his fantasy value, however, he will only be eligible at first base and third base in most leagues next season after starting only five games at second base in 2015. Even if we assume that Turner’s power surge is for real, there’s nothing too special about a first baseman or third baseman who can hit 16 home runs, even if he bats close to .300 again. Looking ahead to 2016, he’s not someone to target in mixed leagues.

One bad inning was all it took for Steven Matz (5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, L) to lose his matchup with Clayton Kershaw last night. Despite the small big league sample size of seven starts, there’s already a lot to like about the 24-year-old lefty, who went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in six regular season outings. Even in non-keeper mixed leagues, fantasy owners should feel good about drafting Matz as their fourth or fifth starter next spring.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/13)

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Chris Carter

ALDS Game 3 – Royals @ Astros

Chris Carter (3-for-3, 2B, solo HR) was a huge disappointment in 2015 coming off a 37-home run campaign in 2014, batting just .199 and losing his role as an everyday player by mid-season. There’s nothing wrong with 24 homers, but mixed league owners need more than that in order to justify absorbing the terrible batting average. At this point, Carter’s role for 2016 is very much up in the air as the Astros have a number of alternative options to fill the 1B and DH slots. I’d pass on him entirely in all mixed leagues.

Lorenzo Cain (1-for-4, solo HR) hasn’t exactly been the model of health over the course of his big league career, but he enjoyed a career year in 2015 in which he set single-season highs in games played (140), homers (16), RBI (72), runs scored (101) and batting average (.307) while matching last year’s 28 steals. Although I wouldn’t necessarily expect another 16-home run season in 2016, Cain has clearly established himself as a fine low-end OF2/high-end OF3 in 12-team mixed leagues thanks to his across the board contributions.

ALDS Game 3 – Blue Jays @ Rangers

Marco Estrada (6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, W) is fresh off a career-best season despite a career-low K/9 rate (6.5). The bottom line is that he has become a more complete pitcher, and the run support the Blue Jays offense has provided him certainly doesn’t hurt. Estrada, who enters free agency this winter, should serve as a quality back end of the rotation mixed league starter in 2016 regardless of which team he plays for.

By now, we know the deal with Troy Tulowitzki (2-for-3, HR, 4 RBI). When healthy, he’s the top fantasy shortstop. But when he’s injured, he creates a massive hole in fantasy lineups that were constructed with the idea that he would provide nearly a full season of elite-level production. The problem is that the 128 games he appeared in this season marked his highest games played total since 2011. The other problem is that it seems like his draft day price has never been discounted to reflect the injury risk. When choosing my starting shortstop, I’ll be looking elsewhere.

Michael Wacha

NLDS Game 3 – Cardinals @ Cubs

Michael Wacha (4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, L) wasn’t sharp at all on Monday as his poor September (7.88 ERA) has carried over into the postseason. But keep in mind that this is a guy who won 17 games this season while registering a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and is still just 24 years of age. If Wacha’s sluggish finish to the season results in any sort of draft price discount in your leagues, take advantage of the opportunity.

Among the six players who hit home runs for the Cubs in this game, Starlin Castro (2-for-4, solo HR) was the most unlikely. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that Castro batted .369 with five homers, 21 RBI and 14 runs scored from the beginning of September through the end of the regular season. Still, with Javier Baez expected to open the 2016 season on the big league roster along with Addison Russell, Castro appears to be the odd man out going forward. The issue here is that he is signed through 2019 with a club option for 2020. A trade over the winter seems like a very real possibility. Assuming he gets regular playing time wherever he lands, consider Castro an adequate starting MI in 12-team mixed leagues.

NLDS Game 3 – Dodgers @ Mets

Yoenis Cespedes (3-for-5, HR, 3 RBI) is in line for a big payday this winter, and considering his .291-35-105 line this season and his enormous impact on the Mets down the stretch, it’s well deserved. But is Cespedes a true OF1 in 12-team mixed leagues for 2016? He will almost certainly be drafted as a top-12 outfielder, but I’m not so sure it’s a wise choice. 2015 was by far his best season to date and expecting a repeat seems a bit optimistic. Let’s see where he signs though. That could impact my stance.

Travis d’Arnaud (3-for-5, HR, 3 RBI) was limited to just 67 games this season due to injury but still managed to hit 12 home runs to go along with a respectable .268 batting average and a strong .340 OBP. Better luck in the health department in 2016 could result in a top-12 catcher season.

***Division Series Game 4 Musings coming tomorrow

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/12)

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Josh Donaldson, Chris Gimenez

ALDS Game 2 – Rangers @ Blue Jays

Although Cole Hamels (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) did not post fantasy ace numbers this season and struggled at times since his trade to Texas, he’s delivered when the Rangers have needed him the most. After pitching a gem against the Angels on the final day of the regular season, he did a fine job against the Blue Jays here. Especially over the past few years, Hamels hasn’t been getting the respect he deserves in fantasy circles and remains one of those pitchers with ace upside who you can draft after the true top-tier starters go off the board. Heading into his first full season in the AL, it’s understandable to be weary of drafting him as your ace, but being that I’m not a believer in spending top dollar on a starting pitcher, he will probably find a home on at least one of my teams next season.

Marcus Stroman (7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) has pitched exceptionally well since returning from Tommy John surgery, and I’ll be interested to see how highly the market values him in mock drafts over the winter and real drafts in the spring. Remember that we’re talking about a former elite prospect who is still just 24 years of age. Even in non-keeper formats, he can serve as an upper end of the rotation starter as soon as next season.

ALDS Game 2 – Astros @ Royals

Johnny Cueto (6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) hasn’t been the lockdown ace the Royals thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Reds at the deadline, going 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 13 regular season starts and pitching OK but not great in his first postseason start for Kansas City. I expect that the mediocre second half will lower his 2016 fantasy price to a level (low end SP1/high-end SP2) where he offers some profit potential, especially if he signs with an NL team this winter.

Salvador Perez (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) has shown steady improvement in the power department but wasn’t a big help in batting average this season. That said, he won’t even turn 26 until next May and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the average back up to at least the .270-.275 level. Catchers with 20-home run power who will not negatively affect your batting average are hard to come by. Perez remains a quality No. 1 backstop in all formats.

NLDS Game 1 – Cubs @ Cardinals

Stephen Piscotty (2-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) had little trouble adjusting to the big leagues, batting .305 with seven homers and 39 RBI in 63 games this season. Piscotty’s minor league numbers suggest that this is a player who could be a serviceable OF4 type in 12-team mixed leagues going forward due to a good batting average, some power and some speed. But I also get the sense that he might turn out to be one of those players who is a better real-life player than fantasy player.

John Lackey (7 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, W) continues to be one of the more reliable yet underrated starting pitchers in the game. In his age-36 season, Lackey posted the lowest ERA of his career (2.77) and his highest strikeout total (175) since 2007. A free agent this winter, he figures to receive several multi-year contract offers, and fantasy owners in mixed leagues should not be shy to draft him as a back end of the rotation starter.

NLDS Mets Dodgers Baseball

NLDS Game 1 – Mets @ Dodgers

Jacob deGrom (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, W) could not have pitched much better on Friday night. He’s been the most consistent Mets pitcher all season and has proved that his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign was no fluke. I wouldn’t have any problem drafting deGrom as my fantasy ace in 2016.

After batting .286 with 13 home runs, 78 RBI, 92 runs scored and 23 steals in his 2013 breakout campaign, Daniel Murphy (1-for-4, solo HR) hasn’t been quite as productive from a fantasy standpoint over the past two years. In mixed leagues, he’s more of a quality starting MI than starting 2B.

NLDS Game 2 – Cubs @ Cardinals

2015 turned out to be somewhat of a lost season for Jorge Soler (2-for-2, HR, 2 RBI) as he was limited to just 101 games due to injury. But the 23-year-old remains an elite prospect with legitimate 30-plus home run potential over the course of a full and healthy season. Even in non-keeper leagues, he’s well worth a mid-round pick. Next year might be the last time that you won’t need to spend an early-round pick for his services.

I thought Matt Carpenter (1-for-4, solo HR) was overrated heading into this year as he was coming off a season in which he scored 99 runs but batted only .272 with eight homers. No way did I expect 28 home runs, including 19 in the second half. Being that his previous single-season high in homers was 11 and taking into account his unusually high 10.1% HR/FB ratio this season, fantasy owners should be very careful not to expect similar power production in 2016. There’s just too much downside in drafting Carpenter at what figures to be a considerable cost.

NLDS Game 2 – Mets @ Dodgers 

While Noah Syndergaard (6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, L) wasn’t nearly as dominant as Jacob deGrom, he gave his team a chance to win the game before everything fell apart for the Mets in the seventh inning. Syndergaard has been shaky at times this season but the overall numbers are plenty impressive, especially the 5.4 K/BB ratio and 1.9 BB/9 rate. For now, consider him a solid SP3 in standard mixed leagues, though he can make a run at ace status sooner rather than later.

With 12 homers and a .372 OBP in 91 minor league games this season followed by nine home runs and 26 RBI in 56 games (174 at-bats) with the Mets, Michael Conforto (1-for-3, solo HR) looks like he will be a quality fantasy asset for years to come, and there’s a good chance he sees everyday at-bats in 2016. Draft him in the late rounds and you might just get more than you paid for.

***Division Series Game 3 Musings coming tomorrow

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/9)

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ALDS Game 1 – Rangers @ Blue Jays

Yovani Gallardo (5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, W) got off to an outstanding start this season, pitching to a 2.62 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 19 first half outings. He faded considerably following the All-Star break, registering a 4.69 ERA and 1.72 WHIP across 14 starts. Having struck out only 121 batters in 184 1/3 innings this season, it’s hard to believe that this is a guy who recorded 200-plus strikeouts in four straight seasons. Gallardo is still fantasy relevant in deeper mixed leagues, but he’s more of a matchup-based waiver wire option than someone who you should target on draft day.

Rougned Odor

Rougned Odor (1-for-2, solo HR, 3 R) is only 21 years of age, but he’s already made a significant big league impact. Note that Odor is coming off a highly productive second half that included 12 home runs, 37 RBI, 38 runs scored and a .833 OPS. He’s clearly the Rangers second baseman of both the present and the future and is looking like a solid starting MI selection in mixed league drafts next spring.

Robinson Chirinos (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) spent the majority of the second half on the DL but still managed to hit 10 home runs in 78 games. Although the batting average won’t be pretty, there’s some deep mixed league value in a catcher with mid-teens home run power. Assuming that he opens 2016 in a starting role, he’s an acceptable second catcher who can be drafted in the final round or two.

ALDS Game 1 – Astros @ Royals

Colin McHugh (6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, W) won 19 games this year but his peripherals were far from dominant. However, he did lower his ERA from 4.50 at the All-Star break to 3.89, so maybe we will see better consistency from him in 2016, though the 2.73 ERA and 1.02 WHIP he posted in 2014 is almost surely an anomaly.

George Springer (2-for-4, solo HR, 2 R) combined with the red-hot Colby Rasmus (1-for-3, solo HR, 2 RBI) to provide the majority of the scoring for the Astros. Springer, who missed a good chunk of the season due to injury, did not come close to meeting the expectations of his fantasy owners who spent an early-round pick to secure his services. But how could they have known that he would be limited to just 102 games? Projecting his final stat line over 162 games gives us 25 homers, 25 steals and 94 runs. Even in non-keeper leagues, Springer is a player worth drafting in the early rounds next spring, and he might even be available at a discount this time around.

Kendrys Morales

Kendrys Morales (2-for-4, 2 solo HRs) was the entire Royals offense last night, and it’s only fitting considering his tremendous bounce back season. Purchasing Morales for $3 at the Tout Wars Mixed Auction draft proved to be arguably my best buy, and though I remain a big fan of Kendrys and wouldn’t be shocked if he finishes 2016 with a similar stat line, that is asking a lot. I’m not sure I will be willing to pay the price it will take to draft him again.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/8)

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Jake Arrieta

NL Wild Card Game – Cubs @ Pirates

Jake Arrieta, fresh off an absolutely dominant second half in which he went 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 113 strikeouts across 107 1/3 innings, turned in a near flawless performance last night (9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, W). The Cubs righty is pretty much a lock to win the NL Cy Young award, and his ascent to ace status is even more impressive when taking into account his prolonged struggles during his first few years in the big leagues. I’ve seen enough from Arrieta over the course of this season and last season to convince me that he’s a legit fantasy ace going forward, and his draft day price still won’t be as high as the established aces, so there’s still some room for profit here. I think it’s safe to say that the Orioles wish they had not made the July 2013 trade that sent Arrieta along with Pedro Strop to the Cubs in exchange for Scott Feldman.

Gerrit Cole (5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, L) uncharacteristically served up two homers last night, this after allowing just 11 longballs over 32 starts this year. Still just 25 years of age, Cole is coming off his finest season to date, and since I’m not one to take a starting pitcher in the first few rounds, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft Cole as my ace in the fifth or sixth round of a 12-team mixed league.

Kyle Schwarber (2-for-3, HR, 3 RBI) batted a mediocre .246 while with the Cubs this season, but 16 homers in 69 games will get your attention. The power is for real (34 home runs in 147 career Minor League games) and a significant improvement in the AVG department would not be surprising being that he batted .333 in the Minors. Of particular interest to fantasy owners, however, will be whether he catches enough games next season to maintain his catcher eligibility for future seasons. While that doesn’t affect his 2016 value, it is something that Schwarber owners in keeper leagues need to be aware of, especially since his trade stock is so high right now.

Dexter Fowler (3-for-4, solo HR, 3 R, SB) might not be a star, but his power/speed contributions make him a valuable fantasy commodity, and his career .363 OBP suggests that he will continue to serve as a reliable source of runs as long as he remains in the leadoff spot. Consider him a quality OF3/OF4 in 12-team mixed leagues and a high-end OF3 in leagues that use OBP instead of AVG.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/7)

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Hey everyone,

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on the notable performers in each game. It’s never too early to start thinking about next season, and being that a particularly strong or particularly weak postseason performance tends to have an impact (although it really shouldn’t) on ADP for the following year, it’s important to decide whether or not you will be targeting a certain player taking into account that his draft day price might be skewed, either negatively or positively, based on his October production.

Let’s get started.

Dallas Keuchel

AL Wild Card Game – Astros @ Yankees

Dallas Keuchel (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W) clearly had no trouble pitching on short rest, though the Yankee lineup has been in such a funk lately that it’s hard to say if he would have been nearly as effective against any other playoff team. Regardless, he will probably win the AL Cy Young award and deserves a ton of credit for an outstanding season. Still, I’m not quite ready to place him in that fantasy ace tier until he puts together one more 200-strikeout season. Note that his K/9 in the first half was only 7.5 compared to a 9.7 K/9 following the All-Star break. Will Keuchel be just as dominant next season? Possibly. But his lack of an ace-level track record combined with an expected ace-level price tag is why he won’t be on any of my 2016 fantasy squads.

Masahiro Tanaka (5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, L) hasn’t been the same pitcher since last year’s injury, and chances are he will eventually need Tommy John surgery. Whether that day will come next season or 2-3 years down the road is anyone’s guess, but I don’t want to be the owner with Tanaka on my roster when that day does come. Yeah, you’ll be able to draft him at a discount due to the injury concerns and his inconsistent performance this season, but I’d rather avoid this situation entirely.

Carlos Gomez (1-for-3, solo HR) was a major disappointment this season but injuries played a key role, as he was limited to just 115 games. In fact, if we project his stats over a full season, we get 17 homers, 24 steals and 86 runs. While those numbers do fall short of what we have come to expect from Gomez, they are still solid, and it’s likely that he was playing hurt all year. This is a guy who still has 20 HR/40 SB potential, and he should be available next year at a considerable discount. I’ll be a buyer.

Colby Rasmus (1-for-3, solo HR) continues to be one of the more frustrating players to own in fantasy due to his streaky hitting and consistently mediocre batting averages, but he rather quietly had a decent year this season in tallying a single-season high of 25 home runs. Rasmus almost always takes a seat versus lefty pitchers, but in deeper mixed leagues, especially those that allow daily lineup changes, he carries some appeal as a late-round pick.

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Zinkie’s Mixed Auction Tout Wars Wrap

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Zach here,

For the third time in the last five years, Fred Zinkie is the Mixed Auction Tout Wars champ. Here’s Fred’s end-of-season review. As he notes, it was an impressive showing by the MLB.com representatives, though I still cannot comprehend how my 20-plus point lead in late-June turned into a double-digit point deficit. I guess fourth place isn’t too bad though.

Fred writes:

What a great showing for MLB.com in the 2015 Tout Wars Mixed Auction League! The three representatives from our site — Cory Schwartz, Zach Steinhorn and myself — all finished among the top-five teams in this 15-team league. I do not want to speak on behalf of Cory and Zach in terms of how they reached their impressive point totals. But I am happy to share some big-picture takeaways on how I managed to make a late run to the top spot.

I was flexible

Elite closers are always a staple of my rosters. Like Cory, I have always believed that the road to fifth place is paved with closers of the future. When the top-tier stoppers demanded a loftier price than I anticipated at the auction, I reluctantly opened the season with Hector Rondon and Addison Reed as my sole sources of saves. Reed proved to be even less productive than I expected, and in May I knew I needed to change course. I traded Rondon, punted saves and finished second-to-last in that category. But my use of eight or nine starters per week across the final four months of the season allowed me to slowly climb to the top of the league in both wins and strikeouts.

I was persistent

The next time your fantasy squad gets off to a slow start, remember this article. My club sat in 14th place at one point in the second half of May. At that moment, it would have been easy for me to give up on the 2015 season and settle for a bottom-half finish. But I continued to dedicate the same amount of time to weekly trade talks and free-agent analysis. Eventually, my hitters started to come around and I began my ascent up the standings.

I had fun

I love to talk about trades with my fellow owners. The discussions allow us all to be more closely connected, and they enhance our experience in the league. When I saw the opportunity to make a deal this season, I rarely passed it up. By my count, I finalized 32 trades across a five-month stretch. Most of the trades involved multiple high-end players. When my team was struggling, I made trades. When they were surging, I made trades. I also hit the waiver wire hard all season. Over the course of the season, 93 players were part of my active lineup. I made some really poor trades, and I made some really good ones. I found some terrific producers on waivers, and I also plucked several lemons off that tree. But I was active, and I made the moves that felt right at the time. The Tout Wars Mixed Auction League owners are an extremely active group, and it is fun to be part of that action.

I did not get attached

Brian McCann, Lucas Duda Chase Headley and David Freese were the only players from my original 29-man roster to remain on the squad throughout the season. When attempting to better my team, no player was ever off limits. I have always been determined to never miss an opportunity to improve because of my own attachment to a certain player. It was not easy to part with certain stalwarts, but being open-minded was a key aspect to my success this season.

I got lucky

My team finished the season with 112.5 points, which is a fairly low total for the top spot in a 15-team league. To put that point total in perspective, I finished second in the LABR Mixed League despite totaling 123.5 points. If one of my Tout competitors had been able to build a massive point total, my slow start to the season would have doomed me a consolation prize. In such a competitive league, it is not unusual to see the teams tightly-clustered. But my 2015 point total was the lowest of any champion in my five years with this group.

I am already looking forward to meeting up with this terrific cast of characters when we participate in the 2016 auction in March! It is an honor to be part of an esteemed group in an ultra-competitive league. I lost many hours of sleep in the second half of September, as I watched Scott Swanay and Tim Heaney make major strides towards the top spot. I have tremendous respect for Scott, Tim and all the competitors in this 15-owner group.

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Pitch or Ditch for Saturday-Sunday, October 3-4

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J.A. Happ

ZACH’S PICKS

SATURDAY

Ventura @ Milone – Ventura pitching well lately. I’ll go for it.

Santiago @ Lewis – Not trusting either in this matchup.

Rusin @ Peavy – Peavy finishing out the season strong.

Estrada @ Archer – Archer limping to the finish line but you still have to pitch him.

Finnegan @ Burnett – Burnett has a 3.68 ERA since his return.

Koehler @ TBD (PHI) – Koehler not a bad deep league option due to favorable matchup.

TBD (NYY) @ Jimenez – Ubaldo purely a chasing wins/K’s play.

Breslow @ Kluber

Hendricks @ Wagner – Hendricks coming off outstanding performance vs. Royals and this matchup is far from scary.

Verlander @ E. Johnson – Johnson a toss-up but he’s been solid through five starts this season.

Lackey @ Miller – Miller fading but Cards will likely rest many of their regulars over the weekend.

Scherzer @ Harvey

McHugh @ Hellickspn – McHugh has been a bit too inconsistent of late.

Nolin @ Elias – Elias worth considering in deeper leagues though.

Erlin @ Greinke

SUNDAY

Smith @ Happ – Happ is 6-3 with a 3.20 ERA since the All-Star break.

Bergman @ Petit – Petit a sneaky play here.

Tropeano @ Hamels – I don’t like the matchup for Tropeano.

Conley @ Buchanan – Conley a fine option, especially if you’re chasing K’s.

Pineda @ Tillman – Yanks might use a B lineup here, which would make Tillman worth a look in deeper leagues.

Lynn @ Wisler

Porcello @ Salazar

Haren @ Lopez – Haren a viable chasing wins/K’s pick.

D. Norris @ Montas

McCullers @ Ray – Ray a borderline call but I’m not in love with this matchup, especially if Astros have something to play for on Sunday.

Cueto @ TBD (MIN)

TBD (OAK) @ Nuno

Shields @ Kershaw

TBD (TOR) @ Moore

Roark @ deGrom – Roark another decent chasing wins option, though he’s the least appealing of the bunch.

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