Monday, March 26, 2012

Diving the Depths: Fantasy Baseball Value

That's the look of a man that got some good draft day value!

The key to fantasy sports is one thing: value. Where you draft a player compared to what they're output is during the season. If every player you picked lived up to their o-rank or ADP (average draft position) fantasy sports would be rather dull. Instead, the keys to victory come from where true value lies. Taking Ryan Braun #3 overall last year and having him finish around there is all well and good, but if you can draft Matt Kemp or Curtis Granderson at their respective o-ranks last year and get a top 10 player, then sir, you are in the driver's seat to fantasy glory.

There are a couple of players I like to make leaps this year, and perhaps I'll get to them, but I wanted to start with compiling a team of players that should out perform their ADP and are currently available in more than half of Yahoo! public leagues.

C - Ryan Doumit, MIN (16% owned)

Doumit recently signed in Minnesota after some up and down years in the Steel City. The good news is that catching isn't Doumit's strong suit, but he is eligible there. The Twins have over $100M invested in their everyday starting catcher Joe Mauer, and they expect to play him there most of the time. Doumit is positioned nicely as DH or corner outfield. The currently healthy Justin Morneau may start snagging some at bats at DH due to his lingering (and I mean lingering) concussion issues, but the Twins still plan on having Doumit in the line-up everyday. The league is new and the ballpark is big, but getting a player that's in the line-up card everyday at catcher is a big value. Also, not for nothing, Doumit has shown he can rake at a high average if he gets the playing time.

1B - John Mayberry, PHI (20% owned)

Opportunity is knocking for Mayberry.
With the injuries and age that are plaguing the 2012 Phillies, there will be spots available. What Mayberry does to earn playing time is being position flexible (he also plays OF), being a right handed bat (valuable in the Phils line-up), and also bringing the kind of power that can serve as an adequate replacement until Ryan Howard returns from injury. Often underutilized by Charlie Manual, Mayberry can show flashes of his first round talent, but overexposure could be his downfall. The potential is there, and in a league where 20 HR power is a valuable commodity, Mayberry could solidify an everday gig with a strong performance in the first couple of months.

2B - Allen Craig, STL (25% owned)

If there is a fantasy downside to winning a championship, it's inflated draft day prices the following year. David Freese is the most obvious case for the defending World Series champs, and while Freese's inflation might be a tad overblown, Craig has not seen a similar rise. That's a good thing. Craig registered a 1.013 OPS in October last year, and while power out of 2B is rare and a treat, Craig also hits for average and can swipe double digit bags. He is injured but on track to be ready right around opening day.

Alvarez looking to start producing.
3B - Pick a fallen star (9% and below)

Third base is a tricky position. Generally regarded as shallow in fantasy formats, if you look far enough down the list there is a multitude of former or should have been mega stars that just never panned out. The list is vast, and depending on the situation there's a chance some of these guys could come through. Pedro Alvarez, Ian Stewart, Chris Davis, Casey McGeehee, Chone Figgins, and Wilson Betemit are all players looking to get to where their career should be.

SS - Zack Cozart, CIN (25%)

The talented Cozart came out firing in his first 37 plate appearances. The 26-year-old batted .324 in a potent Reds line-up. His first big league taste would end after 11 games due to a wrist injury that put him out for the year. While wrist injuries and hitters are scary, Cozart answered the bell this spring going 9-for-12 over a 5 game stretch. He should play everyday and depending where he falls in the musical chairs line-up between Drew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips should be good for him.

OF - Lorenzo Cain, KC (38%), Chris Heisey, CIN (36%), Brandon Belt, SF (46%)

Of all of these players, Cain is the only one that was able to secure status as an everyday player during Spring Training. Cain will lead off with 10 HR/20 steal potential, and getting on base in front of the suddenly productive KC line-up could equate to near 100 runs scored. Hey, it happened to Melky Cabrera.

Heisey is subject to manager Dusty Baker's whims on his playing time, and while Belt is the Giants top prospect, he can't sniff the majors due to a log jam at 1B and corner OF. Injuries or lack of production by some Giants could open a spot for Belt, but after destroying AAA Belt needs to keep his development going in the majors ASAP.

Peavy needs to stay healthy.
SP - Mike Minor, ATL (46%), Erik Bedard, PIT (39%), Jake Peavy, CWS (22%)

I am being a little coy with these offerings as my dynasty league is pitching heavy, and therefore, I am used to delving the James Cameron like depths of the pitching pool for value. So, I don't want to go too far with the info I'm putting out. But what we have is a nice tasting menu of what value from an SP looks like. We have the fresh new rookie on the market, Mike Minor. Highly rated in his own right along side Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado, and Julio Tehran in the Bravo's stable of young arms. Erik Bedard is still a K per inning guy, it's just that he's injured so much it's hard to throw that many innings. Another move to another low pressure locale should suit him nicely. Maybe Primanti Bros is good for a sore shoulder. And last is former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. He too has had a multitude of injuries since his hey day. He comes into the season healthy and although he had a rough spring maybe can turn it around once the games start counting.

RP - Brett Myers, HOU (46%), Greg Holland, KC (38%)

Don't pay for saves has become more and more popular over the years. When I first started playing fantasy, I'd take 2 closers in the first 6 rounds because their perceived value is greater than what it actually is. Some myths: there's only 1 closer per team, they are consistent, they rack up stats in Saves, WHIP, and ERA. Closers in fact are extremely volatile. Some of the greatest closers in fantasy history haven't just regressed, they've been pushed off a steep cliff and painfully bounced all the way down. So unless you're Mariano Rivera, no closer is untouchable. Segue to the two closers I have highlighted. Two top closers have already been lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery. One, Ryan Madson of the Reds has been replaced most likely by Sean Marshall (63% owned) and the other is Joakim Soria who will be replaced by Greg Holland, Jonathon Broxton, or Aaron Crow. My money is on Holland as he's already closer of the future material and Broxton has looked just eh, OK this spring. Myers was just announced the everyday closer because Houston basically doesn't care about baseball anymore, but hey, saves are saves.

There is value there. There always is. Stay vigilant on the waiver wire, don't get stuck on people's names, but also be sure to make the distinction between adding a player on a hot streak and one that can actually sustain his production. It's all about value.

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