The Fantasy Reporter

I know you all come here for your Cubs fix and I don't pretend to be some sort of fantasty baseball expert (that would be readers "The Joe" and "JD"), but my fantasy draft is Saturday and I feel like sharing. I much prefer a points league over the traditional 5x5 roto leagues, but mostly the same advice applies. If anything, the points league is a bettter reflection of the reality of baseball and our playing fantasy baseball gives us a better understanding of the sport itself. If you do play in a roto league, you need to be more worried about stolen bases than I am.

And just so you know that I'm not completely full of it, I have been playing since 1999 and besides one very unfortunate injury-riddled season, I usually finish "in the money" so to speak. I don't alway take the league, but I'm almost always in contention. Once again, not trying to pass myself off as some fantasy baseball expert, but you could do worse. If anything, I hope to convince you to acquire Troy Tulowitzki if you're in a keeper league. He's going to be a monster for the next six seasons.

So here's some general draft strategies and ideas on a handful of players. Those who play in a league with me are probably going to be wondering why there are so many players mentioned that are on my current team or have been recently or I've inquired about. Well, I liked them for a reason, so there you go.

Draft Strategy

I don't have any fancy system with some trademarked name that I follow or some strict regiment of who to draft in which slot. I do have some guidelines though.

1-5: Offense, Offense, Offense - no time for risk-taking and pitchers are inherently a risk.

6-10: Start looking for pitching and watch for the inevitable run on closers that is going to happen. There will still be some value offensive picks though on position players that people have forgotton about.

11-20: A lovely song and dance to fill out your roster with a mix of value picks and need.

21-25: High Risk, High Reward and Catchers...fill out the roster if needed, but I usually start looking for prospects or troubled assets and injury risks here.

- Other than a few select pitchers, I generally try to land what I
consider sure thing offensive players in the first 5 rounds. Those
few select pitchers this year are Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels and Roy
Halladay. There's plenty of other good to great pitchers, but I'm
worried about Johan and Webb's arm issues, C.C's fatness and the lack
of run support that Jake Peavy will get this year. Everyone else you
can flip a coin if they'll be effective or healthy in my opinion, so
don't waste a top pick on them.  There's a good chance you can find just as good a pitcher in round 10-20 as the top 5.

- Joe Mauer, Geovany Soto, Brian McCann and Russ Martin are the only catchers worth taking in the top 10 rounds. Don't talk yourself into anyone else. Victor Martinez and Jorge Posada are in the discussion, but you have to really worry about their injury risks. Otherwise, I'll pass until Round 20 or later (we have 25 rounds) and grab whatever is left and play the waiver wire over the year. The second tier of catchers are Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta and a Chris Snyder/Miguel Montero combo from the Dbacks. Everyone else is completely interchangeable over the year and you're probably better off just trying to play the hot-hand.

- I'm a big fan of good players that had a down year usually due to injury or unexplained phenomenon. Some examples from 2008 include Fausto Carmona, Justin Verlander, Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Rios, Alfonso Soriano, Howie Kendrick and Aaron Hill.

- I'm thoroughly intrigued by Adam Dunn this season. I think he feels he has something to prove and - as a bonus - qualifies at 1B and LF. He also had an extremely low BABIP last season.

- Never underestimate the Coors factor or the Ballpark factor for left-handed hitters in Texas. Matt Murton, Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Stewart are worth watching in Colorado, just keep an eye out for who might be winning the job out of spring training. Everyone knows about Josh Hamilton by now, but Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltamacchia are good high upside guys..

- I constantly fight myself over closers. In our points league which has an innings limit, relievers and closers are quite valuable as they offer a much higher innings per points average than a starter. In a roto league, you'll get the benefit of more strikeouts per inning pitched. On the other hand, closers are always available during the year and you'll particularly want to pay attention to the Tigers, Mariners and Cardinals this season. So I'm never sure how early I should start picking closers, but I will say that if you don't get stuck with a complete dud, they're always tradeable during the season. Papelbon, Rivera and K-Rod are pretty much sure things this year and I'm quite high on Jonathon Broxton taking the role in Los Angeles.

- I'm pretty good at picking players a year too early from their breakout season. For example, keep an eye out for Alex Gordon and Kelly Johnson this season.

- An easy way to look for overrated versus underrated is their BABIP or batting average in balls in play. Couple it with line drive percentage and you have a good idea of players to watch out for, whether on the rebound or to slump. From Fangraphs, the top 10 highest BABIP last year, if they're in bold, they had a line drive percentage below 20% which means I'd avoid them unless everyone else in your league is reading the same thing. A BABIP over .330 is usually tough to sustain, anything over .360 is virtually impossible to sustain, unless you're Ichiro Suzuki.

  1. M. Bradley (.396)
  2. C. Jones (.388)
  3. M. Ramirez (.373)
  4. F. Lewis (.367)
  5. Matt Kemp (.363)
  6. M. Holliday (.361)
  7. N. Markakis (.351)
  8. B.J. Upton (.351)
  9. J. Mauer (.350)
  10. R. Ludwick (.349)

Now the flip-side, 10 lowest BABIP hitters:

  1.  P. Konerko (.247)
  2. K. Millar (.249)
  3. M. Ellis (.249)
  4. N. Swisher (.251)
  5. J. Giambi (.257)
  6. A. Dunn (.262)
  7. M. Jacobs (.264)
  8. J. Kendall (.267)
  9. E. Encarnacion (.267)
  10. R. Hernandez (.269)

I wouldn't take a chance on all those guys, but Konerko, Dunn, Swisher, Giambi and Jacobs are certainly very interesting.

The BABIP numbers are even more reliable when it comes to pitchers. The top 10 unluckiest last year, where league average is about .290.

  1. K. Millwood(.366)
  2. I. Snell (.358)
  3. L. Hernandez (.345)
  4. N. Robertson (.343)
  5. A. Petitte (.339)
  6. M. Parra (.337)
  7. A.J. Burnett (.328)
  8. J. Vazquez (.328)
  9. Z. Duke (.327)
  10. J. Beckett  (.327)

I'd still avoid Livan Hernandez and Kevin Millwod, but they should be slightly better for next year. Everyone else is probably being underrated in your drafts. And now the flipside, the 10 luckiest pitchers last year.

  1. D. Bush (.245)
  2. T. Wakefield (.247) 
  3. A. Galarraga (.247)
  4. G. Smith (.258)
  5. S. Olsen (.266)
  6. D. Matsuzaka (.267)
  7. J. Guthrie (.267)
  8. J. Saunders (.267)
  9. G. Floyd (.267)
  10. C. Hamels (.270)

Now pitchers with knuckleballs and really good change-ups have been able to beat the league average BABIP consistently so I wouldn't worry much about Wakefield or Hamels. Smith and Saunders throw a healthy amount of change-ups, but I can't speak to their quality and their minor league numbers don't suggest they can maintain that level of luck.

I'll come back Wednesday with a more thorough positional breakdown.

Please take a moment today to vote on the best Cubs Season Ever.


Hey Rob is it too late to join a fantasy baseball league? Are there beginner leagues? I got talked into fantasy football a couple years ago (even though I like baseball better) and won back to back! Now, I'm thinking I ought to be spending that time on my favorite sport. Just wonderin

you can probably join a league up to a week before the season starts. Unfortunately there will be no more TCR-sponsored leagues, but if you're a reader and looking for people you have my full permission to advertise here.

Yahoo is my favorite set-up, the MLB Open League we played last year was a nice simple points league with little time involvement if you want to just get started. Weekly lineup changes only and you draft an entire pitching staff rather than individual pitchers, nice way to get into fantasy baseball. I'm not a fan of head-to-head leagues, but a lot of people like them. Most leagues let you sign up and find a league with open spots.



Thanks Rob. Sounds fun. Troy Tulowitzki, you say?

Thanks for the Roto v Points soapbox. TCR2 (or the WTCR, if you will :)) is in discussions on what to use

i dont wanna call roto "training wheels" or etc...but roto is generally a great one for casual or mixed-skill fans.

even if you make the stats tracked complex pretty much everyone can "get" and properly weigh how player 1 vs. player 2 vs...player 10 might compare to each other on a linear value scale.

it involves treating a SB the same as a HR, but it also involves a whole lot less time for roster/player management.

well most all of the "expert" leagues are roto based. NFBC, Tout Wars, Jail etc are all standard vanilla 5x5 roto. Points leagues are fine too, I don't see them much differently if you expand the categories between roto or points to 8x8 at least. I try to use rate stats as opposed to counting stats as often as possible in my roto leagues. H2H leagues are flukish but can be fun if you don't mind getting beat by teams with inferior rosters in a handful of weeks over the season.

whatever works for people, but roto league and managing categories doesn't seem very baseball-like to me and I prefer something that resembles the game. Obviously you don't have to have stolen bases as a category, but having it equal to a home run and then fighting over Joey Gathright coming into the league is kind of silly to me.



I've annoyed everyone in the Yahoo TCR league with my roto babble, so I'll post it here too. Because this is American, and it's a free country damnit!

Roto to me requires to be a more skillful manager. You have to weight your surplus and fill your shortages without giving too much of your excess away. In points-based leagues you just need points. It doesn't matter where or how. Also, HR's are inevitable worth more, despite actually being more common than SBs. That's like making RBI's worth more than triples. Or a W more than a complete game.

In roto all stats are created equal. You have to be aware of your teams skills and deficiencies and address them as so. Points to me is the "well, player A has more points than player B, I'll add him" (granted you have to take into account what they'll do in the future, but you get the point) you don't have to consider "well, I need to address this category. Is the marginal increase in category X worth losing some of my surplus in category Y". Roto requires you to be more aware of your team and the league as a whole, where in points you just need to amass points, it doesn't matter what anyone else si doing because you're just trying to get as many points as possible. Roto makes you compete against someone, not just numbers.

Points leagues are dumb.

only problem i have with points leagues is how they break the points out and how much importance is placed on specific categories.

i gave up bitching about it long ago when i play points leagues...i just check out how the points are laid out and where the weaknesses/strengths are. bitching about it just ends up being arguments over +/- 5 to 20 points in a category vs. what you'd prefer to weigh the value of point category.

I agree, no matter what with points some categories are favored. They'll never be a perfect point system..except in roto where all stats are equal. I think MLK would have preferred roto.

you're clearly a communist...

I guess I see some of your point, but a HR is worth more because well it's worth more in baseball. Stolen bases, especially if you don't account for getting caught stealing, being on the same value as a HR or a run scored or an RBI is just kind of dumb...and anti-American. But I harp about stolen bases when it's easy to set-up a roto league that doesn't have stolen bases.

I've never felt like playing a points league was easy to manage, that's for sure.  On the other hand, I've played roto league and felt like, "gosh, this is really dumb".  We have an innings limit in our league which definitely makes the
pitching side a challenge on what type of players you need to acquire. Yes, ultimately total bases is the biggest factor in a points league on the offensive side, but we do account marginally for defense and other factors. 

God, defense in fantasy baseball. YUCK!

I heard the devil just started a fantasy baseball's a points based league...with defensive categories...anyone else see Rob and Devil in the same room?....didn't think so...

I'm just using SB's as an example. If you weren't a racist you'd enjoy treating all categories equal in roto.

Points leagues are never fair. There is always some category/type of player that gets too much love in the points that shouldn't. There is never a perfect points system, but roto is the definition of perfect. So it's your call.

That being said it's not difficult to see which players are a little overvalued in whatever setup the points system has and get those guys.

Life...and baseball are not fair my friend.

Enjoy your equal-opportunity picket-fence faux baseball league. :)

"God, defense in fantasy baseball. YUCK!"


matt vagbag just called the WBC the "world baseball event"

maybe he shouldnt host 20 hours of shows a day for the mlb network.

I shall take your advice and pick up all of the guys you like, one round before you would have picked them. Unfortunately, I don't really understand all that stat stuff. Usually, I just pick the guys who I think are the prettiest...and also Chone Figgins. He's actually quite bugly.

Bud, I'd suggest going to Yahoo Sports. You can sign up for a league, and I imagine they're still available. Yahoo is probably the best.

Rob hates pitchers.

Anyone catch this?
Looks like Hoffpauir has picked up where Izturis left off...

it was a previous comment in one of the older posts...

Sorry, been out about a week...

delivery confirmation on callahan...

I have a great deal of fondness for the guys who way overpay on the second tier 2B and SS in like the 6th-9th rounds while I load up on pitching. They're taking guys like Tulowitski and Stephen Drew while you COULD get a guy like Hardy or Orlando Cabrera 4 or 5 rounds later for close to the same production:

Drew: 291/333 44 2B 21HR 67RBI 41BB 109K
Hardy: 283/344 30 2B 24HR 74RBI 55B 98K
Cabrera: 281/334 332B 8HR 57 RBI 56BB 71K

You take Drew, I'll follow that with Volquez, Gallardo, or Cain and then still get Hardy 4 rounds later. I've won my keeper league full of those suckers 4 years in a row. I think it's great.

I'll be thoroughly suprised if Drew or Hardy go that late this year. And there's nothing second-tier about Tulowitzki. He's gold,

We do our keepers weird. So yeah, probably 4th round or so if you're scoring at home.

MLB network's 30clubs/30days program covers the cubs tomorrow (tuesday).

they show it a few times per evening/night.

I'm sure I missed this in an AZ Phil post, but

C Tony Richie released.

Also, Scott Eyre is broke

this nederlands vs. PR game is goods...

bernie williams (yes, that one) just blew tieing the 1-0 game in the bottom 3rd getting thrown out at home.

I am not a complete fan of our points league but i do like our keeper system. If a player has a down year/injured you got a chance to keep him at a very low draft round. For example Rafael Furcal is atleast a 6th round pick on draft day. In our league, Furcal is being kept on a 25th round pick. That is a hell of a bargain.

new MLB player for quality looks better, we'll see what it's like on Opening Day though.

Netherlands nailed Bernie Williams at the plate, up 1-0 in the 4th over Puerto Rico.

italy up 3-0 on Canada...koskie will be with the Cubs soon enough.

Netherlands! Netherlands!

1st/3rd with one out, pitching change and they get the double play...still up 1-0 in the 4th.

one of those announcers is hyping this nederlands 1-run-lead and their last win as the biggest thing in baseball since kirk gibson's gimpy ass limped a homer for the dodgers.

Recent comments

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  • Lester will probably be all right.

    I think Arrieta might have added too much muscle preparing for that butt-naked ESPN photo shoot. Pitchers are supposed to be loose, not muscled up.


    VirginiaPhil 5 min 25 sec ago view
  • I have basically written off Heyward for this year -- if you are working on major swing changes in late July, you are going to struggle. Hopefully, he can be more productive at the plate next year. It will be interesting to see what they do with him if the Cardinals keep winning and close the gap. Heyward is dead last in the NL in slugging and in the bottom 5 in OPS -- yet still has a positive WAR. Hunh.

    billybucks 8 min 57 sec ago view
  • Has anybody in a Cub uniform ever thrown a ball 103 before?

    VirginiaPhil 12 min 33 sec ago view
  • He certainly looks better, no doubt, and is a different player than what we saw when he first came up. Full credit to him for changing his approach and saving his career.

    But he has zero walks in 35AB since the break, and 10 in 251 AB all year. He does seem to be able to hit some pitches out of the zone, but, a guy with his pop should be drawing more walks. However, it's easy to forget he is still only 23, and probably trying to make an impact to prove he should be an everyday player.

    billybucks 21 min 29 sec ago view
  • The usual suspects, Molina and Wong. Gyorko drew a walk with two outs, none on. I recall us (particularly Szczur and Bryant) swinging at everything Familia threw.

    VirginiaPhil 23 min 21 sec ago view
  • Yup. Thanks Q

    The E-Man 29 min 7 sec ago view
  • QuietMan 37 min 5 sec ago view
  • I for one hope that Sosa comes back soon.

    Rob Richardson 56 min 14 sec ago view
  • O/B interesting you should mention that. Google ESPN Science Aroldis Chapman and you'll be treated to how his mechanics and delivery are possibly historic. It's the 120% of his body stretch plus the torque. They compare him to the Unit and NRyan.

    The E-Man 1 hour 34 min ago view
  • Amazing how much lower the production gets when Bryant runs into a mini-cold streak. He doesn't stay cold for long. If just one of Zobrist or, gulp, Heyward, gets hot, they oughta have one more really nice winning streak in them. Having a closer that you have absolute confidence in can't hurt.

    Old and Blue 2 hours 18 min ago view
  • I hope they hold onto Jimenez. Outfield depth is questionable, especially with McKinney, who struggled this year but still, gone.

    Old and Blue 2 hours 29 min ago view
  • You don't think he's improved? He looks completely different out there than he did when he first came up. The last I checked his K rate was in the low 20% range - 22-23 or so. When he came up it was 40%+.

    To me, what is scary about him if I'm the other guy is that he IS learning the strike zone. This guy could easily be the MVP someday.

    Old and Blue 2 hours 30 min ago view
  • So, playing .500 for the rest of the year puts them at 91 wins. You would think there is enough talent to do a little better than that, right?

    The E-Man 2 hours 49 min ago view
  • First team to 60 wins! Onward to 70, 80, 90 and 100!

    billybucks 11 hours 19 min ago view
  • I. Hate. The. Mets.

    billybucks 11 hours 48 min ago view
  • OK Marlins -- take 'em down. Fernandez, at home, tomorrow for the Fish.

    Gotta say, though -- as much as I can't stand them, the Cardinals have had some very impressive late-inning wins against premier closers.

    billybucks 11 hours 48 min ago view