Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: The Not #Want Team

There's still somethings about Freddie Freeman that stops me from embracing him. (lovemybraves.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Oh yes, fantasy baseball is coming. The ESPN rankings summit has taken place, Yahoo announced the game will launch this Thursday, and I even received my precious Baseball Prospectus in the mail Friday evening. The planning stage for serious fantasy gamers is well underway.

Last year, I did a round by round breakdown of players I liked, and that worked pretty well. At this point though, I'm not sure if I'm ready to dive that deep just yet, but I did spout out my Top 25 back on November 1st. While that list has changed, I think I will still need some time to break down the elite of the fantasy baseball world, then round up some sleeper/value picks, and then I will be ready to go round for round. 

With all this positivity going around, it's only natural that for every positive there needs to be a negative. So using ESPN's rankings by position, why not fill out a fantasy line-up of players that I don't want? These are all players that ESPN did rank that I will not be drafting in 2014. Harsh to make those judgments at this point, but whether I think a player will regress or if it's just that I don't trust him, these players all will have a red flag next to their names in my 2014 Drafting Bible (not for sale). Let's spread some hostility, shall we?

C - BUSTER POSEY, SF (ESPN FANTASY SUMMIT RANK: 1)
Nothing against Buster, but spending on catchers just isn't my thing. The position has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years accruing players that can hit for average, power, and drive in some runs in the process. Along with those that can (Posey, Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer, Brian McCann) the position is also buoyed by players that we think can do this at some point (Matt Wieters, Salvador Perez, Carlos Santana). All in all there are at least 10 servicable catchers in fantasy. You could even make a push for 12 if you wanted to. This shows me that while every position and player has a value, it's not worth being the first to dip your hand in the pot. The only exception would be if you need a player that brings a certain asset to the table. If you need average (Mauer, Perez), a couple SB's (Molina), or  pop (Santana, McCann) then it is a strategic advantage to make a push for a player that can fulfill these needs, but if you have a balanced squad, then feel free to fill up the rest of your roster first. 

1B - FREDDIE FREEMAN, ATL (RANK: 6)
The process of Freddie Freeman winning me over is a slow one, but it is happening. I still can't fully trust the 4th year Brave. For as steady as Freeman has been his last two years, it's that steadiness that causes me unrest. You can basically jot him down for 20-25 homers, but everything beyond that can go either way. He does make steady contact with the ball. He's slightly improved his LD% and his GB% each year, but that hasn't really translated much to his numbers. His high BABIP gives me pause in that he could hit over .300 again in 2014 or fall in line around .270. Thus far in Freeman's career it has been tough to tell if he's treading water or gaining steam, but as the 1B position continues to evolve in baseball if Freeman can't produce those power numbers he isn't worth his rank. 

The main thing I can say about Freeman is that a year ago I read someone say he's a better hitter than Jason Heyward. I laughed. As I sit here today, I can't say whoever wrote that is all that wrong. 

2B - BRANDON PHILLIPS, CIN (RANK: 5)
Brandon Phillips. Eighteen home runs and 103 RBI last year. He'll have to battle to be a top 10 2B in 2014. As a Phillips owner last year in my main money league, he certainly was a bright spot, but it was pretty clear how he was getting his numbers. After being dropped to 4th in the Reds' line-up, he had the 2nd and 4th ranked players in OBP ahead of him in Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo which put him in the enviable position of having to just put the ball in play to pump up his stats. 

Aside from Choo departing for Texas this off-season and Votto vowing to work on driving in more runs, Phillips' more advanced numbers show a player continuing to decline. You can basically go down the line. His failed to reach double digit steals for the first time since he came to Cincy, his K% was his highest in 5 years, his ISO is the lowest it has been since he was a full-time player, and his wOBA was a horrid .307. His hope is that he can get similar opportunities in 2014, but that's a lot of risk for such a high ranked 2B.

SS - JEAN SEGURA, MIL (RANK: 7)
Segura was one of the bigger fantasy surprises last year. After coming over from the Angels in the Zack Grienke deal, Segura has certainly made Jerry Dipoto look foolish. Greinke hopped a bus to the Dodgers and Segura looks to be one of the best young shortstops in baseball. The trade really didn't make any waves when it happened, but Dipoto would certainly want a mulligan on this one. 

For Segura, his hot start was only overshadowed by his stat line gradually declining month after month after month. It might be fatigue or it might be the league figuring out Segura. The power was never sustanable, but the kid can steal 40+ bases and score 100 runs with an average that can skip up to .300. That's rare enough, but if those are the only stats I'm gunning for, I'd wait for Everth Cabrera ranked one spot lower. Overall though, shortstop is one of the positions I'd like to be more aggressive at in 2014. Unless I need speed, I'd be looking to secure Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, or Ian Desmond far above Segura. So while the 7th overall SS ranking isn't far off, I doubt I'll be trying the waters with Segura. 

3B - BRETT LAWRIE, TOR (RANK: 10)
This is just a no with Lawire. He has the talent, but as a Top 10 3B? Zero chance I end up with him in virtually any league. He is mildly intriguing as a 2B, but I feel there are plenty of players out there at 3B that can contribute all Lawrie can and you won't be spending as much money or drafting as early. His numbers last year, when he was healthy, mirror his disappointing 2012 season. There's obvious room for growth, but I would not be pleased to have Lawrie in my starting line-up. 

OF - CARLOS GONZALEZ (RANK: 3)
We have all read the Cargo narrative at this point. When he's healthy he's dominant. One of the best fantasy players in the game. But his nagging injuries always sprout up and the DL soon follows. We also know that in this advanced, big picture world we live in that when drafting Cargo you factor in his stats along with the replacement level stats of the player you'll be adding to fill up all those DL trips. So Cargo is still certainly a Top 10 overall talent, but I can't value him that much higher than the oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury, or more "unknown" quantities like Yasiel Puig, Carlos Gomez, or 2014 NL MVP Bryce Harper. Also, that Braun guy is back in the mix. What Cargo brings to the fantasy field makes him elite, but his doctor's bill keeps me away from investing heavily in him.

SP - DAVID PRICE (RANK: 8)
This was the hardest player to pick for me. I didn't want to go too far down the list of starting pitchers, so I dug my feet in against Price. What this really boils down to is a small portion of concern about Price's health and the large portion having to do with him pitching in the AL East. Stupid, I know, as Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past several years and has resided in the AL East. For my SP1, I'd always prefer to go for an NL pitcher, and there are comparable players to Price in that regard. 

For more about Price himself, he did sustain his first significant injury last year with a triceps injury. Price came back and pitched great with 3 CG after the injury. The triceps is a pitching injury of note as that ties to the elbow and forearm, which is a big uh-oh for pitchers. The Rays certainly didn't seem to have any issues tossing him out there, so my apprehension is quelled a little bit. 

The biggest question with Price is that for him to get the value you need from the 8th overall pitcher, you need the 200 K's, you need the low 3 ERA and the low WHIP with a baker's dozen or more of wins. Price's K/9 did drop from 8.74 to 7.28 which correlated to a drop in his overall velocity compared to the past two years. On the flip side, he had an amazing 1.30 BB/9, which puts him right near the top of the leader board. Is this a change in how Price throws? Will he try to be the old Price and blow away hitters, only to realize he doesn't have that same zip anymore? Or is he in the process of becoming the next Cliff Lee? How Price has changed as a pitcher will play a big role in 2014, but as of right now, I'm not sure what guy I'm going to get. 

RP - CRAIG KIMBREL (RANK: 1)
Let me just say that it is hard for me to say if I pay for saves or not. I'm not a fan of investing heavily in closers, but I also realize there is value to every player in fantasy. Craig Kimbrel is the lone closer I can confidently say I would consider taking early on, but my early probably isn't as early as another guy's early. It's not a stretch to say that Kimbrel was not only the most valuable reliever in the game, but also the 12th most valuable pitcher in the game. He is young, strong, and has been brought along the right way by Atlanta. While it's easy to nit-pick the other elite closers: Kenley Jansen (health) and Aroldis Champman (walk rate), Kimbrel's main concern is his odd track record of starting slowly (meaning an xFIP of over 2.20 and a K/9 under 15). With the questionable offensive talent this year, along with the depth of starting pitching, I think sure thing players like Clayton Kershaw and Craig Kimbrel will be drafted higher than ever. Probably higher than their value warrants. So while I love Kimbrel, he won't be around for when I'm ready to take him. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

FAABulous: 2013 Fantasy Football Season Review

Peyton Manning had you covered this year in fantasy football. (blog.fitmarkbags.com)
Imagine two years ago when Peyton Manning wasn't playing professional football. While the cynics among us might have taken some sick pleasure in no longer having to deal with the media falling all overthemselves in Manning praise and attention, let's be honest, football in both reality and fantasy is more enjoyable with Peyton around.

Remember, when Manning came back last year, we were amazed that he was able to stay healthy and return to his previous heights. So to expect a career defining, record breaking season this year is quite amazing. We know the big and bold numbers: 55 TD passes to 10 INT, 5,477 yards, the 7 TD game to go along with another 10 games with 3+ TD passes. That's a lot of points. In the not so bold numbers, Peyton easily bested the rest of football in DVOA, especially when you only look at the starters who played the entire season. It was truly a historic year.

When it comes to the value of any fantasy football player, Jamaal Charles certainly deserves mention. In fact, it's not too hard to say he was the best individual player in fantasy in 2013. But what I want to shine a light on with Manning is that while Charles, yes, arguably was a better value for what he was able to give fantasy owners in 2013, what Manning was able to do as a quarterback is something that Charles can't replicate: spreading the fantasy love.

With Manning dispersing hog hide all over the football field, his success was directly tied to a lot of other fantasy owners' success. Overall, the Denver Broncos had six players in the Top 100 of Yahoo! Ranks (including Manning), and they all made strong contributions.

Player Fantasy Points
Peyton Manning 419.98
Knowshon Moreno 236.60
Demariyus Thomas 227.00
Eric Decker 192.80
Julius Thomas 150.80
Wes Welker 135.80

You could even say Montee Ball and his #154 rank contributed nicely near the end of the year. Sure it wasn't always easy to keep a steady amount of fantasy points flowing through the veins of these players, but Manning orchestrated it all. 

Now time to put a bow on this fantasy football season with a rundown of what I did right, and what I did wrong.

Matt Forte was one of my better calls of the year. (rantsports.com)
This was the first year I did preseason rankings, so I wanted to take a moment to quickly glance through those. For the complete rundown, the links are below. I broke down each position into tiers, so I'll focus on a tier or player I hit and a tier or player I missed on.

2013 FAABulous Ranks: QBWRRBTE

RANKED WHERE THEY OUGHTA BE

QB - TIER WILL THEY-WON'T THEY & TIER JUMP STREET
Both of these tiers really worked out the best. Tier Will They-Won't They was cleared up across the board with the exception of, maybe, Andy Dalton. Although, I have an opinion on matters with the Red Rocket.

Tier Jump Street did just that, jumped over the group ahead of it (except for Cam Newton). Tier Worthy of the Hype all had reasons for sub par seasons (again except for Cam). Russell Wilson actually probably performed better in a real football sense, but failed to take the next step fantasy wise. 
Honorable Mention: Cam Newton still delivering and my multi-week coverage of Nick Foles in Philly

RB - MATT FORTE
Here was my hope for Forte this season:
"Out of any RB outside of the Top 10, Forte has the chance to break into the top 5 this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened."
Forte finished as the 3rd overall RB in fantasy, and he was also one of the most consistent fantasy players of the year. Lots of value for Forte investors. 
Honorable Mention: Dropping Ray Rice down in my ranks, Tier Barry Sanders (LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles), questioning the job security of both Montee Ball and David Wilson.

WR - JOSH GORDON & TIER WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?
A two game ban meant nothing for me when it came to Josh Gordon. I can't say I had him as fantasy's #1 overall receiver, but #34with a kind note? I'll take it. 

All of Tier What Are We Doing Here? underperformed with the exception of some quick flashes from Andre Johnson. 
Honorable Mention: My tri-cycle theory with WR. Win!

TE - TONY GONZALEZ
Most of my TE success came in my week to week ranks. There was a lot of turnover and decent players that emerged. Not many victories to take, and I certainly wouldn't count a win for trusting Tony Gonzalez, but that's where we are at. Assuming Gonzalez does retire, it's a fond farewell to the greatest TE ever and a player that played consistently at an high level.
Honorable Mention: Not trusting Jermichael Finley - although I wish him the best in his recovery.

JUST A BIT OUTSIDE

QB - TONY ROMO
Like most people, it's more fun to remember the bad times for Romo than the good. His 31 TDs and 10 INTs was one of the best ratios in football, and while he didn't always perform spectacularly, he should have been ranked higher.

RB - EDDIE LACY
I told Green Bay to prove me wrong. To become a running football team, and the did just that. How much Aaron Rodgers' injury played into that, I don't know, but Lacy is here to stay. He's a top 6 back with a healthy Rodgers under center.

WR - ALSHON JEFFERY



TE - JULIUS THOMAS
Biggest miss of the year. Julius Thomas wasn't on my radar at all. Looking back at Week 1, Thomas could have been my 1% and been an excellent call, but I just had no idea who he was or what he could do. The first time I heard about him was from Andy Beherens. Thomas was dinged up a bit, but proved to be a major weapon for Manning, and a likely reason Denver will let Eric Decker go this off season.

As a nice segue, let's move to the notable hits and misses for the actual FAABulous column. Much like last year, I feel like there were a lot more successes than failures (including the ability to insert Twitter comments and GIFs), but I think I may have stretched my player pool a bit thin with too many recommendations. Something I might have to keep in mind for next year. Also, Week 14, 15 & 16 were playoff match-up editions, so no add/drops for those weeks. Anyways, onward!

After some back and forth, it's hard to doubt Nick Foles moving foward. (rantsports.com)

TROPHY KIDS: I MEASURE MY SUCCESSES VICARIOUSLY THROUGH YOU

WEEK 1
KNOWSHON MORENO (41% OWNED) 
CHRISTINE MICHAEL (26%) 
I'm pretty sure this is the last year I'l be able to pick Moreno as an underrated pick. Hey, remember when Christine Michael was a thing this year?

WEEK 2
HARRY DOUGLAS (1%) 
JULIAN EDELMAN (25%) 
Solid week. I was skeptical of Roddy White's health all year, and later in the season when Julio Jones went down, Douglas became the top WR option in Atlanta. He got 1,000 yards, but only 2 TD. I was less bullish on Edelman, but since Danny Amendola completely no-showed this year and Rob Gronkowski was out for a while, Edelman got a chance to shine. After he signs his free agent contract this off season he should tweet a thanks to Tom Brady.

WEEK 3
ANDRE ELLINGTON (1%) 
Showed off his explosiveness and increased his touches as the season went on. Finished 80th overall.

WEEK 5
CHARLES CLAY (48%) 
He really impressed this year. Built a strong connection with Ryan Tannehill.

WEEK 6
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON (17%) 
ZAC STACY (17%) 
KEENAN ALLEN (6%) 
This is an all-star week. Stacy was a beast when healthy this year, and Keenan Allen is an offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Patterson came on later, but he's a target to keep an eye on next year.

WEEK 7
NICK FOLES (12%) 
JARRETT BOYKIN (3%)
Oh, that Nick Foles. He cured what ailed a lot of teams struggling at QB. Boykin had his moments in the sun, but his opportunities set near the last quarter of the season. With James Jones on the way out, Boykin laid some groundwork for next season.

WEEK 8 
DONALD BROWN (8%)
MARVIN JONES (2%)
JOSH MCCOWN (1%)
Donald Brown was just better than Trent Richardson. Marvin Jones scored 4 TD's if you added him this week. Josh McCown went on an absolute tear subbing for Jay Cutler. 

WEEK 10 
ANDRE BROWN (37%)
RILEY COOPER (9%)
Always liked me some Andre Brown. Cooper emerged from controversy and had a career year (#72 overall).

WEEK 11
SHANE VEREEN (49%)
RASHAD JENNINGS (49%)
BOBBY RAINEY (4%)
Three solid rushers to help you along the way. Rainey had a huge game this week, when most were opting for Brian Leonard.


Percy Harvin couldn't escape the grasp of the inactive list in 2013. (seahawks.com)

TROPHY KIDS: YOU BLEW IT!



WEEK 2
TERELLE PRYOR (12% OWNED) 
What's that, future me? Pryor would lose his job to Matt McGloin? Oh ... thanks.

WEEK 3
EDDIE ROYAL (23%) 
PERCY HARVIN (31%) 
No dice with these receivers. Harvin's best opportunity to help any fantasy owners comes this weekend for those that play playoff fantasy football. I wouldn't count on him.

WEEK 5
ROBERT WOODS (13%) 
Let's just say I had higher hopes for Woods and E.J. Manuel this year.

WEEK 7
AARON DOBSON (15%) 
Rolled the dice with Bill Belichick's offense and lost.

WEEK 8
GENO SMITH (13%)


WEEK 9
DANIEL THOMAS (16%)
DEXTER MCCLUSTER (5%)
PEYTON HILLIS (40%)
I refuse to believe I felt good writing about any of these guys in Week 9.

WEEK 10 
ANDREW HAWKINS (1%)
I still really do like Hawkins. Just not Andy Dalton.

WEEK 11
TAVON AUSTIN (44%)
DENNIS JOHNSON (21%)
Week late on Austin, but didn't miss much. Dennis Johnson is this year's Ahmad Bradshaw Award winner for RB you hold onto assuming the RB ahead of him on the depth chart surely can't play (Ben Tate with broken ribs).

WEEK 12 
CHRIS OGBONNAYA (1%)
It honestly wasn't worth trying to figure out how to spell his name for how little value he provided.

WEEK 13
ALL BALTIMORE RAVENS
Damn you, Joe Flacco.

That's the rundown in all it's beauty and bruises. It's been another fun year, and I even got a one-time sponsorship from Fan Duel. So I can officially say I earned money from this! Exciting times, and this will likely be back next year. As for what's next ... well, it's fantasy baseball season, folks. See you soon.