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March 9, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Draft Day Favorites

by Craig Brown

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Sure we all want Hanley Ramirez. And my admiration for Evan Longoria has been documented on this site.  And while fantasy baseball is all about winning—and dominating—your league, it’s also about fun. While everyone has their own idea of how to play the game for fun, for me it’s about having one or more of my favorite players on my roster. Because what’s better than having one of your favorite real life baseball players piloting your fantasy baseball team to the pennant?

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Jason Collette named several players who were dead to him… Guys he wouldn’t select if they were the only player remaining in the draft pool. We all have those players we avoid at all costs, but for this article, I’m taking the counter point like Marc Normandin did and listing some of my favorite fantasy players. Guys who may not necessarily make the biggest impact, but players who are on my team basically because I like the way they play the game.

Brandon MorrowWhen you are a writer of all things fantasy and asked to present your preseason picks, you’re using your analytical skills and knowledge to make the selections, but in the end you’re really just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Win some and lose some, although I’m reminded of the losses much more frequently than the winning picks for some reason. That’s why when one of my picks hits, and does so in spectacular fashion, he becomes my guy.

PECOTA has him projected at a 4.04 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP for the upcoming season. Not eye popping numbers by any stretch, but that ERA would actually be almost a half-run improvement over the 4.49 he posted last season, and the WHIP is right in line with his number from 2010. That’s certainly not enough to motivate me to buy, but what I do love is the fact that Morrow is a K machine.

And for Morrow, it’s all about the strikeouts. He whiffed 10.9 batters per nine and struck out an astounding 28.3 percent of all hitters who dared to step in the box against him. And he did that despite throwing just 62 percent of all his pitchers for strikes. I say just because that was below the major league average for strikes, which was 63 percent. To me, that makes his strikeout total all the more impressive.

His 2010 SIERA of 3.15 and his .342 BABIP point to a pitcher who should have much better rates for the upcoming season. Yes, I know… I write about fantasy, so for me to ignore a control issue is like Charlie Sheen ignoring an interview request—it's not supposed to happen. Morrow issued 4.1 free passes per nine innings last year, and had he qualified for the pitching leaderboards, he would have ranked right with Gio Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson for the worst control among AL starters. It was that lack of command that held him back, and until he can harness his wildness, he will never be able to parlay the strikeout rate into its fullest value. 

Year

IP

K/9

BB/9

2007

63.1

9.4

7.1

2008

64.2

10.4

4.7

2009

69.2

8.1

5.7

2010

146.1

10.9

4.1

Still, he’s on my team because of the strikeout rate. For him to take the next step in establishing his value as a top starter, he’ll need to find his control and he’ll also need to prove his durability. The Jays shut him down at the beginning of September to limit his innings. He finished throwing a total of 146 frames, almost 75 more innings than he had ever thrown in a major league season.

He’ll be 26 next season and I firmly believe he’s ready to take the leap to the next level.

Kila Ka’ahuie: This is my hometown pick and it’s something I try to do in every league. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a baseball fan since well before a group of guys sat around Le Rotisserie in New York, hatching plans for a game that would consume me. It just doesn’t feel right for me unless I have a player from my real team on my fantasy team. And, since I’m a Royals fan, that’s incredibly difficult to do. In my local league, I made an early play for Alex Gordon prior to his debut in 2006. I’m still trying to live that one down.

Though the team has been in the dumps for the last several (as in 25) years, there have been a few gems to be found from time to time, although I’ve tended to shy away from pitchers. It can be argued Zack Greinke established himself as one of the best starters in the game before being shipped to Milwaukee and Joakim Soria belongs in discussion for the best closers in the game. Unfortunately, their fantasy performance is dependent upon things like wins and save opportunities, something that has been in short supply in Kansas City. So when I’m looking for a Royal to roster on my team, I have to turn to hitters. Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney (when not spending time on the DL) all provided a modest amount of fantasy value while with the Royals at different times of their careers.

This year, my focus has shifted to the man I call Kila Monster. With good reason: PECOTA projects big things. For instance, 30 projected home runs and a .262 batting average (with a TAv in the .300 range). While that sounds a little optimistic to me from a power standpoint, I’m not standing on the sidelines with the off chance he could explode this season. Even with the Royals looking at 95 losses, this would be a win-win for me. Last year in Triple-A, Ka’aihue finished with a line of .319/.463/.598 with 24 home runs. The knock on him (from the Royals perspective) is that he’s been too patient at the plate, letting hittable pitches pass and committing (for the Royals) the sin of working the count. There are also questions about his ability to hit a major league fastball with the club mentioning his “slider bat speed” on more than one occasion. Both claims are nothing more than an ignorant front office trying to justify the playing time of vagabonds and stiffs. Ka’aihue is a good hitter. Period. End of story. That he finally appears to be in line for playing time means he’s ready for solid production as a fantasy player.

Ka’ahuie will be on my team. (Except on my AL Scoresheet team where Gary Huckabay blew my plans by name checking him in the league chat about four picks ahead of me while Ka’ahuie was at the top of my draft queue. I’m not going to forget this, Huckabay.)

Carlos Beltran: He was my former hometown go-to player who has morphed into simply one of my must-haves on draft day. I just flat love to watch him play the game. Unfortunately, injuries cost him the better part of the last two seasons and have most likely robbed him of one of his best assets… speed. I know the guy has been incredibly frustrating for Met fans (who hasn’t once they join the Mets?) but he provided some great value once he got past his rocky 2005 debut and before injuries got the best of him.

Year

XBH%

AB/HR

ISO

TAv

2006

13.0%

12.4

.320

.327

2007

10.9%

16.8

.249

.306

2008

10.2%

22.4

.216

.311

2009

9.2%

30.8

.175

.329

2010

8.2%

31.4

.173

.283

Unfortunately, the trend to glean from the above table is that his power has been in decline since he bashed those 41 home runs in 2006. And at his age, (he will turn 34 in April), in Citi Field, and with his injury history, it’s not going to return.

PECOTA projects 16 home runs with a .268 batting average and .294 TAv for Beltran in 2011. That's not horrible, but a far cry from those peak fantasy years. The decline in production combined with the recent injury history represents a sizable fantasy risk. To me, that means he will be available on the cheap. Sure, I’ll probably have him in my DL spot more than my active roster and this may be the last year I can count him among my “favorites” but old habits die hard… If I can get him at the right price.

So now the proverbial cat is out of the bag… I’m sure my email will start burning up with trade offers in a couple of my leagues where I don’t happen to own Morrow, Beltran or Ka’aihue. And I just may make a questionable trade or two to get one of those players on my team. Hey, it wouldn’t the be the first time and it won’t be the last. And I’m sure I’m not alone in gunning for my favorites… Who are yours?

Craig Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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14 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Rusty Pecker

I usually do this too! I also try and throw in a guy or two that grew up in my area which usually means one of the uptons, david wright, dan hudson, cuddyer or Justin Verlander.

Mar 09, 2011 04:46 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Kila's a guy I've got pegged to reach at least 8 rounds on, considering where he's ranked. Can't risk him winding up on somebody else's roster.

Mar 09, 2011 06:01 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I wouldn't use a pick on Kila unless it was a league that factored in OBP. He's not guaranteed to start all year with the Royals (especially with how fickle the Royals can be). In addition, his potential rotisserie stat categories are pretty average for a first baseman. Maybe if he gets lucky, he'll go .300/25/100.. but I'd like to think I could pick him up off the waiver wire once he's established himself and there are other players to gamble a roster spot on.

Mar 09, 2011 10:21 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Brown
BP staff

Kila is the most polarizing player I've come across in draft prep this season. Some guys love him, some... Not so much.

Still, at this point, he's pretty much guaranteed playing time, so he's going to get his chance. And Richard, I agree with your assessment comparing him to other first basemen. I think he can be a solid contributor, though. I have a difficult time thinking he'll go undrafted, unless you're in something like a 10 team mixed league.

We will definitely revisit this at the end of the year.

Mar 09, 2011 11:17 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think he'd remain undrafted in a 12 team mixed or 10 team AL league, but he's worth drafting in leagues deeper than that.

Mar 09, 2011 16:42 PM
rating: 0
 
dantroy

Huckabay is a bastard.

Mar 09, 2011 06:44 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Brown
BP staff

Should probably clarify that you're in the league, too. :) Don't want those negative marks...

But yes... Huckabay will need to make this up to me. Maybe a draft pick. Or better yet, Brandon Morrow!

Mar 09, 2011 07:36 AM
 
dantroy

I prefer the ambiguity, but as you wish. ;)

In terms of being marked down, I tend to to always get negative marks, even for the most innocuous of comments, so I may as well go out an earn some!

Mar 09, 2011 08:54 AM
rating: -3
 
Edwincnelson

Took Kila @ round 16 in my AL only Scoresheet draft (14 keepers so 2nd round) and I know some people must have been scratching their heads.

Here's the best part about Kila (and Matt Holliday in Oakland 2 years ago). KC obviously wants Hosmer at first base and Butler at DH, so it is inevitable that if Kila hits lights out they will move him before the deadline or earlier. KC is a tough park for LH power hitters and if Kila were moved to a more favorable park (Colorado needs a new 1B don't they?) his value could really skyrocket.

Mar 09, 2011 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Here's the thing. If Kila doesn't do well,he goes back to AAA or gets released outright and Hosmer or Butler take his place. If Kila was a vet, he'd be more likely to be traded or resigned by another team and put on their major league roster. It's just too easy for Kila to be discarded and since he's an older first baseman, he's not the kind of part that other teams go out of their way to pick up. The best case scenario for Kila is if he hits lights out, then gets flipped to a full-time gig in Oakland or Baltimore or some other team looking for a cheap solid first baseman/DH.. but even Oakland and Baltimore have options there.

And btw, Colorado has Giambi and Helton, both left-handed hitting 1B, so he won't end up there.

Mar 09, 2011 16:46 PM
rating: 0
 
Edwincnelson

Well I disagree. First he's not old, he's 26. Second he's already been given the job to split DH and 1B with Butler and they have no intention of calling up Hosmer until July so they don't start his (Hosmer's) arb clock earlier then they have to. So all Kila has to do is hit.

.300 is never going to happen with him but if he hits .265 .385 .495, in that park, he'll be in demand. Then Pittsburgh, Colorado, San Diego, Los Angeles (NL), Cleveland, Texas, Baltimore, and Seattle are all looking for cost controlled 1B or DH either now, or for the future. Do you think Colorado has long term plans for Helton and Giambi? If Helton get's hurt they will be desperate.
The gamble here, as far as taking him high, is twofold. Will he hit? I think he will. More problematic is that his value is in walks and homers and his home park will have an impact on that. Texas, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Seattle, LA, and Baltimore would all be fine. San Diego and Cleveland not so much.

If he goes to a good park you have a guy who may be somewhere between Adam Dunn and Jack Cust, but who can run the bases and is athletic enough to play above average 1B. Not bad IMO.

Mar 09, 2011 18:48 PM
rating: 0
 
D1Johnson

Mine is Alex Rodriguez. In 2009 in the final game of the season, he had 7 RBI's in the last regular game of the season. I didn't have him on my team, but he was on the team I was playing for the league championship, and as a result my comfortable lead going into the final day disappeared and I lost.

As a result, I have vowed to make certain it does not happen again by having him on my team.

Mar 09, 2011 12:05 PM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

My version of playing faves is, each year, to try to take over a bad, abandoned team in a deep, established league and then rebuild with youth. Because I'm trying to get ahead of the curve, I don't have to worry so much about taking the best player on the board with each and every pick. Instead I can over-reach for prospects I like more than I should, take guys I just like 'cause I like 'em, compile a sort of mutual fund of high-upsides and then let the upcoming season decide which ones were mistakes. It's fun.

Mar 09, 2011 19:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Edwincnelson

I completely agree. Some of my best seasons (most fun) have been seasons where I finished close to last place.

Mar 09, 2011 21:15 PM
rating: -1
 
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The Payoff Pitch: Cont... (03/08)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: The Art ... (03/08)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Pi... (03/09)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: My Beef... (03/09)

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