2015 Relief Pitcher Preview

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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

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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

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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

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CLICK HERE to listen to our latest podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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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

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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

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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.

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!

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CLICK HERE to listen to our latest podcasts (Thursday, 3/5 is most recent)

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Check out the 2015 MLB.com Player Preview

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

Do spring stats matter? Find out by reading this article

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.

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