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Chat: Jeff Erickson

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 31, 2005 3:30 PM ET chat session with Jeff Erickson.

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Jeff Erickson is the senior editor at Rotowire, and the host of XM Radio's "Fantasy Focus," heard every weekday at 2 p.m. ET on XM Channel 175.

Jeff Erickson: Greetings folks - chiming in a few minutes early. Hope everyone is doing well.

JR (Utica, NY): Do you think any young pitchers will make a Sheets-like improvement this year?

Jeff Erickson: JR,

A couple of guys come to mind. It's almost trendy to talk him up at this point, but I really like what Jeremy Bonderman did towards the end of last season. Obviously run support might remain an issue for him, but I think he's ready to take the next step. In the NL, I think Adam Eaton is a guy to target. Strangely enough, he didn't benefit from his home park last year. I think that changes in 2005.

Diane (Brooklyn): Hi Jeff: How negative an impact will Willie Randolph's decision to bat Daivd Wright 8th have on Wright's stats this year?

Jeff Erickson: Diane,

Keep in mind that it's a long season, and a decision like this isn't necessarily going to last. That said, it's going to give him fewer plate appearances, meaning fewer counting stats. Other than that, I don't necessarily see his position in the batting order changing his rate stats.

ajcdice (Boston): Hi Jeff How do you see the Aurilia/Lopez SS situation shaking out in Cincinnati? Thanks!

Jeff Erickson: ajcdice,

Right now Aurilia is getting the extent of the playing time at short in spring training, and I suspect that he'll do so in April as well. Long-term, I don't see any reason why we should expect much production from Aurilia at the plate, and as such wouldn't be surprised if Lopez played a bigger role as the season progresses.

Josh E. (Atlanta, GA): Hey Jeff. I'm in a Yahoo free fantasy league, one where basically every stat you can think of gives you a certain number of points (ER's, K's, BB's, W's, etc etc) added up at the end. After the draft, the following three pitchers were available to be my fifth/reserve starter: David Wells, Zack Greinke, Brandon Webb. Which one should I take? Everybody seems to be totally down on Wells this year, Greinke isn't going to get any wins without run support and may have a sophomore slump, and PECOTA seems to be the only one who thinks Brandon Webb is going to be one of the best instead of one of the worst. Thanks.

Jeff Erickson: Josh,

I'd go with Greinke, but I'll admit that I'm higher on him than most, having just bought him in Tout Wars over the weekend. Regarding Webb, I want proof that he's regained his command before I invest much faith in him. He'll have a better defense behind him this year, but that doesn't necessarily imply a causal effect.

Andy (Raleigh): What sort of pitcher mix should I be carrying in my 8 team league? I can start two SP, two RP, and two P of either stripe. Should I go three and three or stick with the four SP and two RP that I've got?

Jeff Erickson: Andy,

You're best off mixing and matching, depending on the matchups and who has two starts in a given week. Don't go into the season with the hardfast mentality that you have to have one breakdown and stick with it.

dbhedges (nashville, tn): Your XM Show rocks! I have a 5x5 head to head league and decided to go cheap on SB's and punt Saves. What type of stategies would you employ in a 10 team mixed 5x5 head to head league? And how much stock should I put into projections and forcasts when drafting? Thanks!

Jeff Erickson: Flattery will get you everywhere...

In a 10-team mixed league, the player pool is going to be wide open. There's always going to be help available on the waiver wire, especially in terms of starting pitching and at common offensive positions. I don't always advise playing up the positional scarcity angle, but this is precisely the scenario where it makes sense.

Projections and forecasts are best applied in context. If you have a lot of faith in who is doing the projecting, it can help you spot a few outliers. At the end of the day, however, you're going to have to trust your own judgment when it comes to your turn.

Scott Simon (Mount Vernon, NY): Jeff, BP's Player Forecast Manager lists Roger Clemens and Josh Beckett as the top available starters in year 2 of my keeper league. But there are nine pitchers above them - all closers! Should I ignore these rankings and take starters at my first opporunity, or should I go for closers (note: I already kept Chad Cordero and Bob Wickman from last year). Thanks!

Jeff Erickson: Scott,

Again, context is key. Is this a 5x5 league? How many teams are in the league? You have two closers already, albeit somewhat on the shaky side with Wickman, but I'd sense that there's more value in taking Beckett first. More importantly, make sure that you have your offensive ducks in a row before you go nuts on adding a third closer.

dangor (New York): In 5x5 auction, people have smartened up to strategies like position scarcity, spending less on starting pitching, etc. What are some of the non-conventional things that you've found? Are you a Stars and Scrubs or spread it around advocate? Who's the player that will earn $15 more than his average auction price? Who's the bust?

Jeff Erickson: I'm only a Stars & Scrubs advocate in leagues where the FA pool is pretty deep. In other words, if you're in a 12-team AL-only league with sharp owners in your league, I'd go more with a spread-the-risk philosophy. If you're in a 10-team Yahoo mixed league, by all means, be creative - try Stars & Scrubs, or an extreme offense-heavy budget allocation.

I'm finding that there's so little advantage in finding "sleepers" in deeper leagues - your sleepers are everyone's sleepers, and they generally go overpriced. Better to take a chance on guys with a little bit of injury risk, or guys coming off of bad seasons. We often advise against chasing after last year's stats, but usually that only applies to players coming off of exceptionally good seasons. The same should apply to players coming off an aberrational bad season.

DrLivy (West Virginia): Bill Pulsipher! Should I pick him up? Can I pick up Mitch Williams while I'm at it? How about Glenn Brummer?

Jeff Erickson: WWDGD? (What Would Dallas Green Do?)

Suffice to say, I think that there are safer options out there to fill out your roster.

John W (Pisa (Italy)): Keeper league (MLB, 14 teams), standard 5 pitching categories. Can you please rank/comment on these young pitchers: Scott Kazmir, Jerome Williams, Cliff Lee, David Bush? Do you think Lee and Williams can be solid fantasy options?

Jeff Erickson: John,

Here's how I'd rank them for the short-term:

1. Lee
2. Williams
3. Bush
4. Kazmir

Long term I think Kazmir has the highest upside, but I think the Devil Rays over-promoted him last year and would do well to give him at least a half-season at Triple-A. I'm a pretty strong believer in giving pitchers substantial time at each level, particularly the upper levels of the minors. There's too much potential for variance this year to rely heavily upon him.

thejewishkid (Simi Valley Ca): With A-Rod slated to hit in the two hole, will that adversely affect his "counting stats"( HRs RBIs)?

Jeff Erickson: In that lineup? Not really. Especially since the Yanks have divested themselves of the silly idea that Tony Womack should be batting leadoff.

MCibula (still Madison): Oh and talk to me about Ryan Freel. (I'm in a 20-team league!)

Jeff Erickson: I'm a token Reds fan, so I'm contractually obligated to love Freel as a player. That said, he's going to have a hard time getting his share of at-bats this year, at least in comparison to last year. He's blocked at second by Jimenez, at third by Randa, and in the outfield by four players. Granted, I have May 12th for the Ken Griffey Jr. DL Pool, but even then, Freel is not next in line to play. I think that if you can get him for a buck or two in the endgame, he'll be worth it, but if you pay full-price for his 37 SB's from last year, you'll walk away at a deficit.

JR (Utica, NY): How do you think the Rockies OF playing time works out?

Jeff Erickson: JR,

I wouldn't be surprised if Cory Sullivan lucked his way into 250 at-bats, either by hook (a relapse of Preston Wilson's knee injury) or crook (Wilson getting traded). Matt Holliday will start most everyday in left field - if the Rockies weren't convinced that he was exposed on the road last year, they're not going to change their tune this year. I suspect that Brad Hawpe and Dustan Mohr will split time fairly evenly in right field.

tcfwine (New York): According to Baseball Prospectus PECOTA-fueled "Forcast Manager", my fantasy team will win my league in a landlside. But according to Rotowire projections, I'm in the middle of the pack, at best. Who's gonna be correct?

Jeff Erickson: Can't touch that one with a 10-foot pole. I suspect that Nate believes in what PECOTA projects, and I'm confident in my projections. User mileage may vary.

FlyingPolack (Lansing, MI): Who are some of the solid middle relief pitchers who will help a teams ERA, WHIP and K's. I'm not looking for backup closers, but the '04 Otsuka or '03 Lidge. Thank you!

Jeff Erickson: Here are my favorite non-closer relievers:

1. Mike Gonzalez - if you read my closers piece earlier this spring, you know how I feel about Jose Mesa. Gonzalez has the best stat set to replace him - it's a matter of whether McClendon will go with Gonzalez or Torres as the first to replace Mesa.

2. Yhency Brazoban
3. Ryan Madson
4. Luis Ayala
5. Jesus Colome

Suraj (NY, NY): How high are you on Josh Beckett? Do you see him having a Cy Young type year? Also, does the absence of Barry Bonds decrease the value of Jason Schmidt, in terms of W-L?

Jeff Erickson: It's all about health for Beckett. There's a monster year coming up for him somewhere, just a matter of when. If he can stay healthy for a full season, he'll have that breakout.

Sure, Schmidt's chances of getting run support decrease dramatically without Bonds in the lineup. I think that's an angle that hasn't been played up enough yet - the performance of the ancillary parts of the Giants lineup could decline significantly without Bonds, namely Pedro Feliz and JT Snow.

Scott Simon (Mount Vernon, NY): Jeff, thank you for answering our fantasy questions. What round of the draft do you think Barry Bonds should go in, in year 2 of a keeper league that uses the regular 5x5 categories, plus OPS?

Jeff Erickson: Bonds is now the toughest player to project this season. Do you take his words at face value and project just half a season? Do you put much stock in the progress reports from the Giants' medical staff that he could be ready by May? How much of an impact will the BALCO/mistress fallout have? The fact that you use OPS makes it a question that you have to answer, rather than just letting someone else take the chance on him, but I wouldn't spend more than $15 in a traditional $260 auction league, and I wouldn't take him before the 7th or 8th round.

MCibula (Madison, Wisconsin): I've read the BP entries about Dewon Brazelton and Scott Kazmir. Why are the Rays rating Brazelton so highly? Is Kazmir really that amazing?

Jeff Erickson: The Rays are rating Brazelton so highly in part because they always have. They need to him to succeed to justify their selection of him as the #3 pick overall in the 2001 draft. He does have a pretty incredible recent track record in his home starts, but there's a huge sample size issue there. He has plenty of raw talent - it's open question whether he'll harness that talent.

Diane (Brooklyn): One more qeustion from me: I'm in a 5x5 non-keeper mixed league with 15 (!) teams (23 roster slots plus 6 reserves ... total 435 players to be drafted!). I have the 7th pick in the 1st round (and won't see another pick till pick 23). I've valued healthy stud starting pitchers as extremely scarce given these league criteria. I know Johnson and Santana will most likely be gone by pick 7. Am I crazy to go after Sheets or Schmidt with the 7th pick (I prefer Sheets)

Jeff Erickson: Yeah, I think that's a reach. I understand the appeal of going with a starting pitcher there, but I've always been a proponent of building your offense first in a draft league, unless you can command two of the top four starters in the first two rounds. I'd rather go with Crawford, Abreu, Helton or Tejada with that pick, in that order.

BT (MD): How long do you see LaTroy Hawkins hanging onto the closer job in Chicago? It seems like he could take it and run with it, or Jim Hendry could take the first blown save as proof that he doesn't have the goatee for the job, or something, and make a trade.

Jeff Erickson: I think he'll hold onto it until Joe Borowski returns from the DL. The Cubs would really prefer to use Hawkins in a set-up capacity and Borowski to close, and there might be some justification to that. Blown saves don't always beget blown saves, but in multiple trials with multiple teams now, Hawkins has proven to be far more effective in the 7th and 8th innings than the 9th.

BT (MD): Don't know if this is your bailiwick (or even what a "bailiwick" is), but the inflation system in the BP Player Forecast Manager is smoking some pretty wild Thai sticks. It seems to apply inflation in a category-specific manner. I.e., if you tell it that all but one closer is taken in your league, the remaining one will be "worth" in the 60s or 70s. Meanwhile other types of players are only inflated by the expected 10-20%.

Jeff Erickson: Direct your concerns there to Nate Silver - he can best explain how the Forecast Manager operates.

lepetitbleu (philadelphia): In a 17 team, 5x5 league, would you focus on starting pitching, saves and stolen bases (areas of positional scarcity) and worry about finding real offense in the middle rounds?

Jeff Erickson: I'd actually consider punting or waiting on saves, and focus more on building your offense. Let's face it, it's a lot easier to find a closer on the waiver wire over the course of the season (paging Mr. Aquino) than it is to find a three or four category offensive player. I would focus perhaps more on scarce positions, at least after the first couple of rounds.

Deric (Boston): What can we expect from Jason Bartlett? Would he be a better pick over aone- year wonder like Jack Wilson?

Jeff Erickson: As much as I like Bartlett's game, I think Wilson is the safer pick in a one-year (non-keeper) league. Yes, Wilson performed well above his level last year, but at the same token, he had shown signs in the past that he would improve. I'd like it if he took an extra walk here and there, but I think he's one player whose offensive game is more valuable in fantasy than in real life baseball.

MCibula (Madison): Based on your earlier recommendation, I need more pitching. Who would you keep/dump to pick up Cliff Lee: David DeJesus or Brady Clark?

Jeff Erickson: Clark - it's close, but I think DeJesus has the potential to do a lot more than Clark, and Clark has to worry eventually about Dave Krynzel cutting into his playing time.

geer08 (Birmingham, AL): Any printable, family-friendly reaction to Perry Van Hook's no-innings-pitched strategy in the NFBC draft?

Jeff Erickson: I haven't heard much of it yet - do you have a link to check it out?

I will say this - with the NFBC being a no-trade league, any sort of strategy that incorporates punting of a category will leave you with a much thinner margin for error.

Scott Simon (Mount Vernon, NY): Keeper league using 5x5 plus OPS: Jeff Bagwell in Juicy Park or Carlos Delgado in spacious PP Stadium?

Jeff Erickson: Delgado, by a wide margin. Check out Bagwell's power and batting eye trends. It's not pretty. I'm still worried a little about Delgado's health concerns, but even in a down year like last year, he outpaced Bagwell.

Andy (Raleigh): Who do you expect to have more outfield fantasy value: Brian Giles or Chipper Jones?

Jeff Erickson: Giles. Both are in decline, but I'm particularly concerned about Chipper's three-year decline in power; granted last year's stats were injury impacted, but I don't think he'll ever get back to 2001 levels.

JR (Utica, NY): Which pitching staff do you like better for NL-only 5x5? Pedro, Sheets, Eaton, JWilliams, Lawrence, Wolf, Myers, Ohka or Prior, Peavy, Burnett, Beckett, Carpenter, Loaiza, Capuano, Francis

Jeff Erickson: There's a lot to like with both, but I'd rather have the first pitching staff. There's an awful lot of risk in the second staff, both in terms of health and in ballpark with Francis.

Deric (Boston): Is Jason Bartlett going to bat 2nd?

Jeff Erickson: I don't think that Gardenhire will stick with Bartlett in the second spot, but he's surprised so far by showing that confidence in him. I think a more likely scenario has him moving down to seventh or eighth in the order.

Josh E. (Atlanta, GA): Hey, another question. I have spots for two closers, I currently have Chad Cordero and BJ Ryan. Danys Baez is still available. Do I drop either of those guys for him? Thanks!

Jeff Erickson: No, stick tight with your two current closers. Baez is a trade risk as well as a performance risk, with a healthy Jesus Colome behind him.

mitch (las vegas): what do you expect from andruw jones? the wider stance, an improved body, his amazing spring. . .do you think there's a good chance he'll have a career season?

Jeff Erickson: Generally speaking, I try to not put too much credence in spring training results. That said, we've been waiting for a while for Jones to take that leap. He's young enough (he turns 28 in April) that it could happen. Right now I have him projected for 33 homers - I think his upside potential is 40.

BT (MD): Predictions on how long Graves holds onto the closing job in Cincinnati - and ranking his line of succession: Wagner, Valentine and Todd Coffey (others?)...

Jeff Erickson: Graves could lose his job by June, maybe July. Unfortunately, of the alternatives currently in the pen, only Wagner stands out as a positive alternative. Valentine walks far too many hitters to be effective in the role, the veterans that they picked up really aren't closer-worthy. Coffey is intriguing, but he really needs to work on a second pitch.

JR (Utica, NY): Do you think Wily Mo Pena gets traded? I don't think Bowden will be able to control himself and will give up way too much for him.

Jeff Erickson: I don't think it'll happen anytime soon - Reds GM Dan O'Brien has been pretty adamant about not trading away their outfield depth, given what happened last season when both Kearns and Griffey were hurt. It would have to take the Nationals to cough up someone on the level of Livan Hernandez for it to happen.

Jeff Erickson: Sorry I couldn't get to each question, but I have to sign off. Good luck in your respective leagues this season!


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