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November 12, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
The Value Picks We Got Right
A couple weeks ago, I looked back over my best and worst predictions of the 2012 season, but I held off on examining the guys I singled out in my preseason Fantasy Tier Rankings as “value picks.” I thought it would be interesting to look at them separately, which I’ll take the time to do today. I’ll focus solely on guys from the one-, two-, and three-star tiers; that’s where you’re going to find the most value, since everyone knows that Albert Pujols is good, even if he was technically one of my “value picks.”
In each of the tables below, you’ll find my value picks along with their stats, their final value in mixed and AL-/NL-only leagues according to our PFM, what the player cost in Tout Wars (Mixed for three stars and AL/NL for one and two stars), and how they performed relative to their Tout Wars price. Keep in mind that when making these tiers I wasn’t attempting to beat Tout’s prices. Tout Wars is made up of some of the smartest fantasy baseball players on the planet and is a rigorous standard to hold oneself to. Instead, I was calling a player a “value” based on my subjective notion of how they would be valued in a normal, non-expert league. I’m using Tout Wars because it’s the only objective standard I have to compare to (and because I love challenges), so keep in mind that in a non-expert league, it’s likely some of these players would have cost less on draft day (and the profit margin would have been higher).
Overall, my three-star tier was phenomenal. Despite the intelligence of Tout Wars drafters, every single one of the players I selected for this tier managed to outperform their Tout Wars price. That wasn’t my intention, but a very encouraging result nonetheless.
I noted, “while some will be scared away by Target Field, the move from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is basically a lateral one” for Doumit. Indeed, he posted a 32.9 PA/HR with the Pirates and a 29.5 PA/HR with the Twins.
I was surprised so few people were onto Viciedo this year. I said that he “made big strides [at Triple-A] in 2011, improving his patience and cutting down on his strikeouts (and upping his walks), and if that carries over to the big leagues, he’s in terrific shape. He’s always had outstanding raw power, and if he can be selective about what he swings at, he stands a good chance of having a breakout season.” His plate discipline was still a little iffy, but it was sufficiently improved to keep him in the lineup enough to show off that pop. I love finding cheap power, and Viciedo was the perfect embodiment of that philosophy this year.
“Up and In” listeners heard a lot about Altuve last year, and I liked him as well for his combination of fantasy-worthy skills: “Great speed, can hit for some average, and actually a little pop from such a slight guy. He hits at the top of the order (albeit a poor one), but this in sum is worth quite a lot.”
(I already discussed E5—who I liked enough to make the “value pick” in both the first-base and third-base rankings—in my previous “best predictions” article, so I won’t bother rehashing here.)
While these guys out-produced their Tout Wars values by an average of just $1, that number is dragged down by two big whiffs. Kansas City’s Yuniesky Betancourt infatuation and Chris Getz’s surprisingly adequate season kept Giavotella from much big-league playing time, and injuries did the same for Mike Carp (though to be fair, neither played very well when healthy and in the majors). At least both were easily replaceable for mixed leaguers since they began April in the minors and on the DL, respectively.
Lowrie was a loss due to injuries, which I noted could be “a major mitigating factor to his 2012 fantasy value.” However, “the thought of what he might be able to do, power-wise, in Minute Maid Park… between shallower fences down the right-field line and a similarly shallow left-field wall in Boston without the height of the Monster” was too much for me to pass up. On a per-PA basis he did exceptionally and would have been an easy win had he played a full year. So it goes. At least if you drafted him, you understood the risks going in.
On the bright side, the other four were all solid wins, even over Tout Wars’ stringent standards. (Also note that I won both Jay and Jones in Tout Wars NL and likely did a good job of driving their prices up as high as they were.)
I noted that Chipper “gets no love as an aging, injury-prone corner infielder. But he is still very talented, if unspectacular, when on the field, and for the low price he’ll command in NL-only leagues, I’m all over him.” He did exactly as expected and turned a small profit for me (and likely a larger one for you).
Murphy turned an enormous profit. Me, before the season: “He’s kind of boring and is technically a fourth outfielder, but he’s the best fourth outfielder in baseball on a team with Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. Over/under on 75 DL days between them? I may take the over. Plus, Texas’ third starting outfielder isn’t settled right now, and Murphy could well take a starting spot.” He had plenty of paths to playing time, and though Cruz and Hamilton both were the healthiest they’ve been in years, that unsettled final spot afforded Murphy plenty of at-bats, which he made the most of.
(Jay already got examined in my “biggest hits” article.)
Here I was all over the board when compared to Tout Wars values, but remember that these are more late-round flier types for mixed leagues anyway, and in AL/NL-only leagues, they’re the kinds of players most likely to have an inflated price as drafters approach the end rounds and realize they need to spend their money. More telling, I think, is that despite being billed as AL/NL-only values, Marlon Byrd was the only one who didn’t wind up having mixed-league value too.
Ibanez was arguably my best pick of the group (and, at the very least, is my favorite because of the way I lust after cheap power). I noted that “if there’s ever a place for him to bounce back, it’s Yankee Stadium. His pull power will play very well to New York’s shallow right field. And with DH at-bats pretty wide open, good early play should cement Ibanez a lot of playing time.” Indeed, all of his power was to the pull field, and 14 of his 19 round-trippers came at home. Should he sign elsewhere for 2013, Ibanez may wind up overvalued.
Callaspo’s value was always going to be based on playing time. I said, “We have him down for a tepid 401 plate appearances, but he secured 536 last year and could approach that number again in 2012. If Mark Trumbo fails as a third baseman, as most scouts expect him to, Callaspo would only have to share a little time with Maicer Izturis.” He did a great job approximating that PA total and was his usual steady self.
We knew the pickings were slim for NL-only shortstops, but I said “I’d be satisfied with Ruben Tejada for $2 or $3 in an NL-only league. While there’s little upside with any part of his game, he can at least post a batting average that won’t kill you with a handful of steals. Ronny Cedeno is his only form of competition, and in a year in which it would take a divinely sympathetic child with a dickhole of a father for the Mets to have even a chance of competing, the team figures to give Tejada lots of at-bats to see if he can be a usable piece in the future.” Maybe not quite a handful of steals, but the batting average and playing time were there.
Second base was equally thin, but I said, “you could do worse than getting double-digit value for potentially half the price in AL-only leagues” by drafting either Carroll or Casilla. Both fell a hair short of that $10 benchmark, though Casilla didn’t come at the kind of bargain I suggested in Tout Wars. Carroll did and wound up nearly doubling his purchase price.
If you’re interested in reading everything I had to say, here are links to all 10 of my lists: closers, AL starting pitchers, NL starting pitchers, catchers, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, NL outfielders, and AL outfielders.