Special thanks to Sparta for providing the music for this episode.
“Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell.”
The word “worth” means to be good or important enough to justify. Is this worth my time? Or He isn’t worth his weight in gold. Or It’s worth looking into. Retired NASA astronaut Frank Borman can teach us all a little something about worth. In 1968, he, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders orbited the moon in Apollo 8, the first of 24 humans ever to do so. That was a worthwhile experience. A year earlier, Borman was selected as the only astronaut to sit on the AS-204 Accident Review Board during the investigation of the Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed three astronauts. If you were to ask him today about that preventable fire, surely he would say that mission was not worth the lives of those three men.
Fantasy sports, like exploration, and like capitalism, are about taking risks. Those who make the best calculations, however, risk less. In exploration, the difference between a calculated risk and an uncalculated risk is life and death. And needless to say, if you die during exploration, it wasn’t worth your time. In capitalism, it’s the difference between success and bankruptcy. In fantasy sports, it’s between winning and losing.
But if you focus your lens even more, it’s the difference between overpaying for a player and getting a player at a discount. Is it worth drafting a catcher in the second round? Or I think this player will be worth more by season’s end. And when we’re talking about value of individual players unequivocally we’re talking about sleepers and busts.
A sleeper, according to this writer, is a player outside the top 150 (Average Draft Position) whose actual value is greater than the price you pay. A bust is any player whose ADP is greater than his actual value. To give an example of both: drafting Buster Posey, a catcher, in the second round would be an example of a bust and drafting Lonnie Chisenhall, a starting third baseman in the final round would be an example of a sleeper.
Long after his astronaut career was over, Borman said this: “Had that rocket not fired, I’d still be orbiting the moon. Forever. And I really didn’t want to do that.”
Neither do you.
Relief pitchers are often thought of as the “kickers” of baseball, and there is a reason for this theory. For one, there are 30 closers in the league (maybe even more if you count “by committee” bullpens). If you’re in a 10 team league, there will be a throng of closers to be had, even into the late rounds (not every closer will be owned by the end of the draft). Closers also only (really) fulfill one stat category (Saves), which means if you draft a closer with one of your top 10 picks, you’re going to be losing out on a lot of other categories.
That being said, I like to own one of the more renown closers as to avoid the headache of “chasing saves.” I won’t ever go out and draft the best closer, or the second best for that matter, but I like to have a guy on my team who is going to get me at least 30 saves and won’t be in jeopardy of losing his job.
There’s a reason I leave these rankings until last: without fail, every year, one or two closers lose their starting gigs in spring training due to injury or ineptitude. Already Chris Perez and Grant Balfour have injuries. Guys like Jonathan Broxton, Brandon League, and Ernesto Frieri don’t have solid ground beneath them and could begin the season as eighth inning hurlers. The reason most leagues hold their drafts at the end of March is to avoid wasting picks on dead end closers.
The World Baseball Classic is a flawed tournament (ridiculous pitch counts, missing stars, too much risk to MLB franchises for the players who do participate, and a cockamamie run differential rule that led to the horrendous brawl in Saturday’s Canada-Mexico showdown). That being said, it is still enjoyable to see baseball on your TV screen that means (a little) more than the typical, yawn-inducing spring training games you’d otherwise be watching this time of year. It’s also fun to watch from a fantasy perspective, as it can serve as sort of crystal ball for what we should expect in the coming season from some of the biggest stars in the game.
Let’s have a look at five players who followed their turns in the WBC with monster seasons and five who probably should have done what Russell Martin did this season: stayed home.
Five Who Starred:
(stats in bold were for the MLB season immediately following that year’s WBC tournament)
19-6 (1st in league); 2.77 ERA (1st); 245 K (1st); 233.2 IP; .997 WHIP; Cy Young Award
Santana had already won a Cy Young award in 2004 and was widely regarded as baseball’s best pitcher at the time he laced ‘em up for his native Venezuela in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Although the Venezuela squad didn’t advance past the second round and Santana tied for the tourney lead with two losses, it certainly was by no fault of his own. Santana averaged 8.2 innings in his two starts and maintained a tidy 2.16 ERA. He went on to win the pitching equivalent of the Triple Crown and collect his second Cy Young Award in three years.
So after a grueling process of ranking and re-ranking, we bring you the Top 100 players for 2013 from Rotobrian, SDWooden, Backdoor Jared, Madbank Thaller, Shorty, and Smuggling Plums Butler. These rankings were made with a 5×5 rotisserie league in mind. On the right side of the table are the Composite Ranks. Use the comments section to air your praise or grievances. -rotobrian
They say when you’re doing an auction draft, you should spend $180 on hitting, leaving only $80 for pitching. And the reasoning is simple: your hitters play everyday, while your starting pitchers are only going to pitch twice a week at most. In a head-to-head league, where a pitcher is only giving you between 6-15 innings a week, the impact isn’t very significant. Conversely, in a rotisserie league, where you’re compiling numbers all year round, and pitcher stats are valuable due to an innings limit, top-shelf pitchers are a hotter commodity. Regardless of the style of gameplay, there will always be pitching late in a draft. Not listed below are fantasy nuggets like Dan Haren, Derek Holland, Johan Santana, Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Ryan Vogelsong, and Chris Capuano, all of whom will be available near the end of your draft. Because of this ability to get talent late, you won’t need to get seven or eight of these top-37 pitchers. But it should be noted that ending a draft without at least two to three would be a detriment to your team. Having a few mainstays, a few sure things, is without question, the way you’ll win a championship.
Even after going over my rankings, there are a few players who have questions marks, at least for me.
Last year, the Washington Nationals had Stephen Strasburg on an innings limit, but in 2013 apparently they’re taking off the kid gloves. Word to the wise: he’s still going to be on an innings limit, just a higher one. Don’t kid yourself. I can’t see the executives in D.C. letting their prized youngster throw over 200 innings. But the amount of strikeouts he can get with that many innings will outweigh any ball and chain tied to him.
Another player who I worry about is Chris Sale and his paper thin body. In 2012, Sale threw 192 innings, 121 more than his previous high. The work load increase frightens me. He seems like a DL stint waiting to happen. And throw in a post all-star break ERA of 4.03 and I wonder if I have him ranked too high.
Roll the dice, my friends. Starting pitchers always seem to be the most risky picks.
I was rereading my outfield rankings for the 2012 season and, while I had a few players pegged perfectly, overall I’d missed the mark on many occasions. I wasn’t high enough on guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (but who really saw two 20 and unders taking the league by storm?). I didn’t give Andrew McCutchen enough credit (I won’t make the same mistake this year). I was bullish on Justin Upton’s ascension, but he regressed instead. I was a mess.
Because there are so many outfielders, it’s tremendously difficult to calculate. In the following rankings, I’m sure some players near the bottom of my rankings will have career years, while some players near the top will have lamentable seasons. As a fantasy manager, you can’t project those occurrences. All you can do is look at track record (most recent stats being most important) and cross your fingers.
Even though I have Trout as my number two outfielder (and in a few weeks he’ll be ranked pretty highly in my top-100), you can’t expect him to have the same stats from last year. His peripherals suggest a decline, mainly in his power and batting average. Some super fanatics will suggest that Trout should be the number one outfielder off the board, but I’ll take the more projectable Ryan Braun in every draft.
This is supposed to be the year that Jason Heyward becomes “fantasy elite,” and he’s got a great chance to do it (he’s surrounded by outstanding talent). But Heyward still hasn’t shown that he can drive in runs consistently. I’d much rather have Adam Jones a round or two later.