Bret brings home a coveted title in his first Tout Wars competition.
The final day of the season in any league is always a stressful venture when you're both locked in a tight race and hopelessly obsessive about your teams in general. Of course, I believe the latter to be a feature, not a bug. Sunday was the last day of Tout Wars X, yet we had all been strangely prepared for the rush to the finish line, having experienced it five times already. As I wrote when I recapped the auction back in March, this was a series of six four-week contests that would be aggregated together for a final score. As these things tend to go, it ended up being an extraordinarily close race between myself and Patrick Mayo of RotoExperts, as I tried to hold on to a lead I had built over the first five months, and he tried to put the finishing touches on a month (and a comeback) for the ages.
If the entire final month left me seasick, the final weekend made me schizophrenic. In fact, it almost made me jealous of the fantasy writers who cover both baseball and football, as I would have had a healthy distraction. Almost.By the halfway point, Pat had taken the overall lead and I was staring down the barrel of what would easily have been my worst period of the entire contest. A week later, my luck had turned and my offense started hitting--pushing me to a 5.5-point lead overall and a little more comfort, which would hold until the final lineups were set on Friday. From that point on, my team's performance became irrelevant, as Pat's team was absolutely firing on all cylinders. My lead was down to one at the end of the day Friday and gone by the evening games on Saturday. The tenor of my texts to Mike Gianella had gone steadily downhill and reached a level that makes me hope in hindsight that no one from his family saw any of them. Pat's pitching staff had allowed a total of four earned runs in 34 1/3 innings, good for a 1.05 ERA once his pitchers in the 1 p.m. games (Kris Medlen, Stephen Strasburg, and Julio Teheran) were done for the day, prompting me to actually surface on Twitter and send this:
First impressions rule the day, in life and in baseball. I wrote about this fact in a June article about Adam Eaton, explaining how fantasy owners had been slow to recognize his quality due to his horrendous start to the season. A couple of months later, Eaton is a top-40 fantasy outfielder and still has an ownership below 70 percent in ESPN leagues.
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The top four picks in redraft leagues are relatively clear-cut, but whom should you target if your selection is just outside that tier?
Depending on what you value, there’s a distinct separation in 12-team 5x5 draft formats when it comes to the fifth pick. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt,and Andrew McCutchen all deserve to go in the no. 1-4 spots, and I don’t think there can be much debate on that. The big question facing owners picking fifth is a value-based one. I was handed the no. 5 pick in a home league, so let’s take a look at some of the names that I thought about taking there. (Note: I’m concentrating solely on 12-team leagues, so your mileage may vary).
Kershaw is a popular choice here judging by the ADPs across a few different sites. The reasons are obvious: Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now; he’s a good bet to help across four categories again this year; and there’s a decent amount of uncertainty with the position players who would also be the fifth-overall pick.
The fantasy crew tries to peg the top 15 picks and predict breakouts from later picks.
We know from Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster that since 2004, there is a 36 percent success rate in the ADP projecting the top 15. The most in any one year is seven of 15; the least is four. With that in mind, I challenged the fantasy team to try to guess the top 15. In addition to their stab at the top 15, I had them give their answers on the following:
Most fantasy players prefer to invest their top pick in a star hitter, but this spring, one hurler might tempt those picking outside the top five.
I have always been vehemently against taking starting pitchers in the first round of a fantasy draft. The injury risk associated with pitchers is part of it, but honestly it has always been more because I trust myself to find better pitching later—so in a sense, arrogance. It’s just easier to pluck capable arms later than it is to find the out-of-nowhere bats like Josh Donaldson or Jean Segura. As we creep through the dead of winter and start to trickle into mock draft season, I’m warming to the idea of a first-round starting pitcher, or, more specifically, Clayton Kershaw. There are a handful of quality fantasy aces out there, but Kershaw is clearly a cut above the rest.
The top of the draft is relatively well established. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are the unquestioned top pair at this point, with a split camp on which of the two should go first. You can’t really go wrong with either, so having a top-two pick is a prime position this year. The next pair seems to be taking a foothold on the three and four spots in either order, too. Paul Goldschmidt is the easy three for me, but there is a real debate between him and Andrew McCutchen that I would at least listen to before selecting Goldy. Others may have it reversed, but I haven’t been in a mock draft this offseason that didn’t see these four go at the top of the draft.
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez stand out, but Coors Field can breathe fantasy life into just about anyone's bat.
The Colorado Rockies finished with a 74-88 record in 2013, good for last place in the National League West and tied for the fourth-worst record in the National League, and they didn’t add much talent this offseason. Despite the renowned 1-2 punch of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, it’s not unreasonable to take a cursory look at this organization, shake your head, and move on.
That said, Coors Field plays havoc with value in the fantasy world. Average pitchers become players to avoid. Average hitters become players to target. And anyone with even modest power becomes an automatic add on watch lists in just about every league.
Paul updates his mid-season forecast of the top 15 picks in fantasy drafts next spring, with the two usual suspects at the top.
During the summer I did a two-part series (Part I, Part II) taking my first look at the 2014 first round. It’s time to once again take a look at the top 15 and see where we stand with the regular season in the rearview mirror. We also have a pair of industry mock drafts to look at to see how some of the best fantasy baseballers around are mapping out their top picks.
NO CHANGE AT THE TOP Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout remain the top two pick in some form, though my first iteration, both mock drafts, and now this assessment of the top 15 has it with Cabrera first and Trout second. The gap might be larger if Cabrera hadn’t essentially missed September. He played 21 games and only missed 14 the entire season, but he was clearly playing at something well below 100 percent throughout the month. He has just one homer, seven RBI, eight runs scored, and a .278 batting average. That said, he still took the top spot on ESPN’s Player Rater and remains my top choice.
The Nationals started slow, but the Braves should be looking over their shoulders.
The Weekend Takeaway
At the midway point of the regular season, the Nationals were 41-40, and their -19 run differential suggested that they were fortunate to have notched even that mediocre tally. A week earlier, they were a game under .500, at 37-38. And two weeks before that, they were a season-high eight games out of first place in the National League East, a division that, before Opening Day, they were widely expected to win.
Playing a month without Bryce Harper did not help. Neither did the apparent flop of Dan Haren, in whom general manager Mike Rizzo invested $13 million to complete a dominant rotation. And the prolonged slump that befell fellow newcomer Denard Span, who was supposed to be the sparkplug for a potent lineup, rippled through an offense that instead underwhelmed for weeks.
The tater trots for April 16: David Wright's shots in majestic Coors Field, two speedy trots from Heyward and Gomez.
Jackie Robinson Day continued throughout the league on Tuesday, with many ballparks playing "Sweet Caroline" or other Boston staples in support of the city (the Brewers played the theme song from "Cheers", for example). It was a nice gesture from the league and the individual clubs.
The tater trots for July 23 (and the weekend): Mike Napoli hits a bomb, Carlos Gonzalez takes a stroll, and Chase Utley edges out Josh Rutledge.
It's been a few days since the last Tater Trot Tracker post. And though I was able to time each trot over the weekend, I missed highlighting a few special home runs. The biggest homers of note came on Saturday, when Cole Hamels served up a home run to Matt Cain in the top of the third inning and then, in the bottom of the inning, Cain returned the favor to Hamels. It was the first time two starters had hit home runs in the same inning since 1990. Hamels, who had never hit a home run before, won the race between the two pitchers, besting Cain's 21.51 second trot with a 21.13 second trot of his own.
The tater trots for May 30 & 31: Barney's walkoff, Big Papi, and Curtis Granderson.
For some unknown reason, there were only three games in all of baseball on Thursday. Because of that, there were understandably very few home runs hit. Seven to be exact. Thankfully, the Tater Trot Tracker is a day behind, so we have Wednesday's 35 home runs to talk about as well. I planned it that way, I swear!
Carlos Gonzalez's hot streak against the Astros isn't even the best of his career.
The Thursday Takeaway
In the 23-hour period spanning 8:00 p.m. MT on Wednesday and 7:00 p.m. MT on Thursday, it seemed irrelevant who Astros manager Brad Mills put on the mound—Carlos Gonzalez was going to hit a home run regardless.