March 2012

2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Breakdown, Rounds 19-28

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

Bloomberg Sports Host Julie Alexandria is joined by Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw to break down an expert’s fantasy baseball draft. The draft, which included fantasy experts from CBS, Yahoo!, and ESPN was a 28-round draft that consisted of additional positions such as Middle Infielder, Corner Infielder, and five outfielder positions.  Additionally, the league includes more advanced statistics such as OBP and slugging rather than the typical batting average.

 

Here’s a look at the first 18 picks by Shaw:

1) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

2) Roy Halladay, Phillies

3) Cliff Lee, Phillies

4) Eric Hosmer, Royals

5) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

6) Adam Jones, Orioles

7) Howie Kendrick, Angels

8) Drew Stubbs, Reds

9) Derek Jeter, Yankees

10) Josh Johnson, Marlins

11) Adam Dunn, White Sox

12) Danny Espinosa, Nationals

13) Nick Markakis, Orioles

14) Salvador Perez, Royals

15) Sergio Santos, Blue Jays

16) Joe Nathan, Rangers

17) Chris Iannetta, Angels

18) Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

 

Let’s pick up in the 19th round, already with Sergio Santos and Joe Nathan taken within the past four rounds, I added yet another closer in new Mets hurler Frank Francisco.  It’s not that I see Francisco having much upside, but again the idea here is to merely win the saves category.  With three closers I am now in a decent position to do so since I am usually quick acting off the waiver wire in the regular season.

 

Next, in the 20th round, I drafted Bryce Harper.  Even though Harper will open the season in the minor Leagues, he is the exact type of high potential player to target in the later rounds of a fantasy baseball draft.

 

Additionally, in the late rounds you should target players with multiple position eligibility.  Again, the point of late round picks is that they are backups for your fantasy team.  A player like Ryan Raburn is an insurance policy at several positions.  Furthermore, he also has some real potential and if he can finally get off to a hot start, he can put together a great season with 25 home runs and a .280 average.

 

In the next round, I drafted Braves southpaw bullpen ace Jonny Venters.  Though he may not get many saves with Craig Kimbrel locked in at closer, Venters can certainly contribute in all other categories while picking up vulture wins.

 

In the 23rd round I added Andres Torres, who now plays with the Mets.  I was looking to simply add a versatile outfielder who can offer some steals, but the problem here is that Torres has not been healthy and his production has taken a major dive, particularly against southpaws.  He might end up getting dropped before the season even opens.

 

In round 24, I again made an investment in upside by drafting Mike Trout.  The Angels phenom was not ready for the Big Leagues last season, but 2012 may be the year his career takes off.  With Albert Pujols in the lineup there is a great opportunity for some serious run production.

 

Next, I brought in an extra arm for my starting rotation.  Edwin Jackson is durable and is a cinch for 10 wins every season.  I’m thinking that he may do a lot better than that this season.  Now a full-time National Leaguer in a pitcher-friendly stadium, Jackson has the ability to approach 200 strikeouts with respectable all-around numbers.

 

In the 26th round, I was pleased to see Gordon Beckham still available.  People have forgotten about his upside, but Beckham is a former top prospect with some power and speed who calls home to the middle infield in a hitter’s park.

 

Next, I picked up Blue Jays prospect Travis Snider.  The power is real, but the consistency is lacking, which explains why he will open the season in the Minor Leagues.  I’ll likely keep him stashed on my bench considering his upside.

 

Finally, in the last round of my fantasy draft I picked up A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington.  Even in the last round of the draft, this was not a wasted pick.  In fact, Pennington is one of the top shortstops in baseball when he escapes the Oakland Coliseum.  He is a player to consider platooning for his road games.

 

Here’s a look at my 2012 Experts League Fantasy Squad broken down by position:

 

C: Josh Thole, Mets

C: Chris Iannetta, Angels

1B: Eric Hosmer, Royals

2B: Howie Kendrick, Angels

SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees

3B: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

MI: Danny Espinosa, Nationals

CI: Adam Dunn, White Sox

OF: Adam Jones, Orioles

OF: Nick Markakis, Orioles

OF: Drew Stubbs, Reds

OF: Ryan Raburn, Tigers

OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

UT: Gordon Beckham, White Sox

Bench: Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Cliff Pennington, Travis Snider, Andres Torres

DL: Salvador Perez, Royals

P: Roy Halladay, Phillies

P: Cliff Lee, Phillies

P: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

P: Josh Johnson, Marlins

P: Edwin Jackson, Nationals

P: Jonny Venters, Braves

P: Joe Nathan, Rangers

P: Sergio Santos, Blue Jays

P: Frank Francisco, Mets

 

For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com

 

2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Breakdown, Rounds 10-18

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

Bloomberg Sports Host Julie Alexandria is joined by Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw to break down an expert’s fantasy baseball draft. The draft, which included fantasy experts from CBS, Yahoo!, and ESPN was a 28-round draft that consisted of additional positions such as Middle Infielder, Corner Infielder, and five outfielder positions.  Additionally, the league includes more advanced statistics such as OBP and slugging rather than the typical batting average.

 

Here’s a look at the first nine picks by Shaw:

1) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

2) Roy Halladay, Phillies

3) Cliff Lee, Phillies

4) Eric Hosmer, Royals

5) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

6) Adam Jones, Orioles

7) Howie Kendrick, Angels

8) Drew Stubbs, Reds

9) Derek Jeter, Yankees

 

Picking up with the 10th round pick, I drafted Josh Johnson, who similar to Stephen Strasburg has the ability to dominate on the hill, while also carrying serious health concerns.  Again, having both Halladay and Lee as durable aces on his staff allows for these high upside gambles.  The best case scenario would be incredible with Halladay, Lee, Strasburg, and Johnson all on the team. 

 

Speaking of gambles, in the 11th round I took a chance that Adam Dunn will bounce back from one of the worst all-time seasons in fantasy baseball.  Dunn has extra upside in this league as he is known for his high on base percentage as well as his slugging.  Immediately after the draft I even received two offers for Dunn.

 

In the 12th round I drafted Danny Espinosa.  There are concerns that he’s a free swinger who lacks consistency and will hit for a low average.  On the other hand, he has a great combination of power and speed for a middle infielder.  Plus, as a sophomore, it is rational to expect significant improvement this season. 

 

I opted for a steady option in the 13th round drafting Nick Markakis.  It is clear that his power will never materialize into 30-plus home runs, but he does reach base consistently and has some speed and pop too.  Considering all the risks I’ve taken, this is a pick I had

 

The 14th round was a disaster for me.  This league requires that we start two catchers and I thought Salvador Perez was a fine hitter with decent run production.  Alas, he is injured and is expected to miss the first few months of the season.  I will have to find an option off the waiver wire.  Josh Thole, though limited in power, may be the safe bet since he will start and does have a respectable OBP. 

 

I finally deployed by strategy to pick up closers in the later rounds with the selection of Sergio Santos.  The hard-thrower gets a ton of strikeouts and should pick up 30-plus saves in Toronto.  I followed with Joe Nathan in the following round.  He dominated late last season and should have plenty of save opportunities with the Rangers.

 

I picked up my second catcher in the following round with Chris Iannetta.  I see him as a potential Mike Napoli-type slugger who at best can slam 20 bombs with a .250 average.  He does offer a nice OBP, which is rare for a catcher.  Maybe he’ll even surprise me the way Napoli did last season on my fantasy team. 

 

I grabbed another power bat in the 18th round with Edwin Encarnacion.  He was tremendous in the second half of last season, seemingly changing his approach at the plate to become more of a patient hitter.  The Blue Jays likely won’t tolerate another one of his trademark slow starts, so hopefully, this is the year that he puts it all together. 

 

For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.

 

Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

Every season a different strategy has to be utilized in fantasy baseball drafts in order to appropriately take into account positional depth and player rankings.  In general, a unique strategy can be utilized on a round-by-round basis.  Here’s a breakdown of Bloomberg Sports recommended Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition:

 

In the early rounds, the focus is finding the best available player while also taking into account the disparity between the best player and the next best option at each position.  For example, there is a plateau in excellence for starting pitchers as Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw can all be claimed as the best of the bunch.  On the other hand, Troy Tulowitzki stands alone amongst fellow shortstops. 

 

If your fantasy league includes slugging percentage and on base percentage as statistical categories, there is no competition for Jose Bautista in the outfield while there are several stars at first base including Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto.  The best strategy is to pick up the best talent at a position where there is a large enough disparity that when the next player is drafted from that position there is a decisive advantage in your favor. 

 

In the early middle rounds, it’s not a bad idea to scoop up a fine hurler who has the potential to rank amongst the best.  Players such as Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, and Danny Haren as well as Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg make sense in these rounds.  These hurlers have the ability to dominate and enjoy a Cy Young caliber season thanks to their enormous upside. 

 

Having two high potential and consistent hurlers is more valuable than having just one dominant ace.  Therefore, by drafting where there is greater disparity in the early rounds with a focus on position players, then nabbing a couple of pitchers with sky high potential fantasy managers can enjoy the best of both worlds. 

 

In the later middle rounds you can draft a closer and many of them.  Closers are often overrated in fantasy leagues since they only contribute 70 innings, which means saves are all that matters.  Second-tier closers still get the job done and players such as Joe Nathan could end up as bargains.  In fact, rather than selecting a Jonathan Papelbon in the sixth or seventh round, you can grab a Gio Gonzalez or a Drew Stubbs, someone who will have a much greater impact on your fantasy team. 

 

Then five rounds later go ahead and draft three closers in a row: Sergio Santos, Jason Motte, and Frank Francisco.  Plus, usually about 10 closers become available on the waiver wire each season.  In fact, all three of the pitchers just mentioned did not start the season as closers for their respective teams last season. 

 

Finally, in the later rounds, it’s not a bad idea to focus on young talents with great potential as well as players with multiple position eligibility.  This allows you to pick up some big time prospects while also enjoying depth.  Consider top prospects such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  There is no telling if the precocious sluggers will develop into stars as soon as this season. 

 

On the other hand, drafting veteran players such as Ryan Raburn and Daniel Murphy is also a key strategy in the later rounds since they cover multiple positions, providing depth to your fantasy teams.  This way if a player on your team gets injured, a single bench player can fill multiple holes. 

 

For more fantasy insight turn to BloombergSports.com.

The Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Factors Part 2

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

With more than 20 of the Major League Baseball teams turning to Bloomberg Sports as a business solution, fantasy managers can rest assured that their fantasy teams are in good hands.

 

Offering a trade analyzer, lineup manager, and projections for every single player in the Big Leagues, Bloomberg Sports uses an algorithm that takes into account nine Fantasy Factors.

 

In a previous article, we focused on ballpark, durability, age, and contract status.  Now the focus is on the remaining five Fantasy Factors.

 

In fantasy baseball, career trends are an important aspect to be considered when evaluating players.  In essence, fantasy managers like investors have to know what’s a growing stock and what’s a mature stock.  A player on the rise would be a growing stock and two examples are Baltimore Orioles rising stars Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.  Both players are in their mid-20s and have been improving their statistics consistently over the last few seasons.

 

On the other hand, Yankees veteran Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are far from their prime and have recently suffered their worst seasons of their legendary careers.  It’s perfectly fine to invest in a player on the decline, as long as you are realistic about what they can produce in the upcoming season.

 

Next, luck is a Fantasy Factor that can help forecast performance.  Using an advanced statistic: BABIP, it is possible for baseball fans to find out if a player had luck on their side or if it worked against him over a given period.

 

BABIP is the batting average for balls in play and takes into account whether a player enjoyed a higher percentage than usual of balls in play falling for hits.  For instance, if a player offers a BABIP that is significantly higher than their career norm, it is often a safe bet that in the following period his performance will regress to the previous rate.

 

On the other hand, if the BABIP is abnormally low, it is safe to assume the player will have better luck ahead and his batting average and other statistics will improve.  The statistic can also be used for pitchers when looking at BABIP against the opposition.

 

Next, team support is an important fantasy factor for hitters and pitchers.  For hitters, it is a matter of whether they have players around them in the lineup that they can drive in and players who will drive them in.  In other words, team support has a direct impact with RBI and runs.  For pitchers, it’s a matter of having run support to earn wins, plus a solid defense behind them to keep runs off the board.

 

Strength of schedule is the next factor, and this is all about what ballparks and teams an opponent faces.  Pitching in the AL East is no easy task for pitchers who have to deal with the Red Sox offense in Fenway Park, the Yankees offense in Yankees Stadium, and additional hitters parks in Toronto and Baltimore.  On the other hand, the NL West calls home to several pitcher parks and limited offenses including in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

 

Consistency is a fantasy factor, as fantasy managers have to decide whether to gamble on a player who has great potential, but also great volatility.   A player like Geovany Soto seems to alternate between good years, while Torii Hunter and Yadier Molina are examples of players who seem to produce consistent numbers every given season.

 

To see the Fantasy Factors in action visit BloombergSports.com.

 

The Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Factors Part 1

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

When it comes to evaluating player performance and creating projections for the upcoming season, Bloomberg Sports takes several factors into account.  Here’s a breakdown of four of the nine factors that allow Bloomberg Sports to offer the most accurate projections in fantasy sports while attracting more than 20 Major League teams to turn to the company for scouting and advanced analytical solutions.

 

The first factor to consider is ballpark.  Over the last five years it seems like we have shifted back to the big ballparks that favor pitchers.  That is certainly the case for Citi Field, PETCO Park, and Target Field.  As a result, just about any Mets, Padres, or Twins hurler performs better at home than on the road.

 

On the other hand, there are power alleys in Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, and most definitely the Ballpark in Arlington.  Fantasy managers want to invest in the pitchers from the large cavernous and the hitters in the bandboxes.

 

On that note, be wary of pitchers who thrived in pitcher’s parks such as Mat Latos and Heath Bell who now join more hitter-friendly confines and definitely invest in hitters such as Michael Cuddyer making the move from Target Field to Coors this season.

 

The next fantasy factor to keep in mind is durability.  Fantasy managers expecting full seasons from Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, and Chipper Jones are playing against the odds.  There are durable hitters out there such as Yadier Molina and Roy Halladay.  Their durability is a fantasy asset since you know what to expect from them on a day-to-day basis.

 

Next, fantasy managers should consider the age of their players.  Bloomberg Sports has found 26-31 to be the prime age for baseball players.  A younger player should be approaching his peak, while older players are typically on the decline.  It should not shock you that Ichiro, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez are slowing down with age.

 

Finally, fantasy managers should consider the impact of a long-term deal.  It is very rare that the player delivers shortly after signing such a deal.  While we hate to question motivation, we have noticed that stars such as Jason Bay, John Lackey, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth were not nearly as productive after signing long-term deals compared to the season prior to the negotiation.  On that note, Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols may not be as safe as you thought.

 

For all nine Fantasy Factors visit BloombergSports.com.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2012 Preview: Top Five Catchers

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

There are often a few catchers who stand out as the finest of their generation.  In the 1980s it was Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk.  The 1990s brought us Mike Piazza and Pudge Rodriguez.  The 2000s were dominated by archrivals Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada.  Now in the ’10s we have a fresh generation of talent.

 

The fifth best backstop this season will be Giants masked marvel Buster Posey.  After a stellar rookie season that included 18 home runs and a .305 average, Posey was again enjoying some success last season while showing a little more plate discipline.  This season Bloomberg Sports projects Posey to return to prominence after a nasty collision at home plate ended his sophomore season prematurely.  Expect 17 home runs, 76 RBI, and a .282 batting clip.

 

Coming in at number four is the player with perhaps the most upside on this list, Carlos Santana.  As a rookie last season, Santana powered 27 home runs with 79 RBI and 84 runs.  Though he hit just .234, Santana’s 97 walks are a tremendous total for such a young player.  Bloomberg Sports projects 25 home runs with 89 RBI and even five stolen bases for Santana this season.

 

The third best catcher this season is also the steadiest: Brian McCann.  The Braves star has 20-plus home runs in five of the last six seasons.  While he does not offer any speed on the base paths, he does have a great deal of power and usually hits for a high average.  Expect 24 home runs with 85 RBI form the 28-year-old veteran.

 

Coming in as the second best catcher is Twins sensation Joe Mauer.  Fantasy managers have to come to grips with what Mauer now offers.  Since the move to Target Field, Mauer does not pack much pop.  He also lacks speed due to the many leg injuries he has suffered behind the plate.  On the other hand, Mauer is a high average option with solid run production.  Expect 13 home runs with a .306 batting clip for the former MVP contender.

 

Finally, the top-hitting catcher in fantasy baseball is Mike Napoli.  The Rangers slugger became a household name in Texas last season thanks to his 30 home runs and .319 average.  Napoli proved his worth on the offensive and defensive side of the diamond and after going in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts last season he now ranks at the top of his position.  Expect him to offer a repeat performance with 30 home runs and 87 RBI.

 

For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.

Fantasy Value Reassessment: Carl Crawford, Alex Rodriguez, Ubaldo Jimenez

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

There is no question about it, 2011 was a stinker for Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford.  Acquiring the best player from the rival team was supposed to assure that the Red Sox would surpass the Rays in the AL East, but instead Crawford’s disappointment was amongst many others for Boston as they failed to make the playoffs.

 

What followed was a tumultuous off-season that saw the departure of the manager and general manager.  However, Crawford remains.

 

While last year’s struggles can be tied to Crawford’s acclimation to a major market for the first time in his career plus some nagging injuries, don’t forget the reason why fantasy managers liked him so much heading into last season.  He is a line drive machine who should be able to use the Green Monster as a weapon, while adding speed to the top of the lineup.

 

Part of the issue for Crawford’s poor numbers was the fact that he was pushed down to the seventh spot of the Red Sox lineup.  As a result his runs took a major hit.  Always interested in the psyche of his players, expect Bobby Valentine to give Crawford every chance to succeed towards the top of the order.

 

Bloomberg Sports Front Office expects a decent bounce back from Crawford.  He should blast 14 home runs with 35 stolen bases and a respectable .281 batting clip.  Of course, this can only happen if he stays healthy.  Crawford is currently dealing with a sore wrist that is threatening his ability to be a part of the Red Sox lineup on Opening Day.

 

Expectations have never been lower, which makes him a decent middle round sleeper considering his sky-high potential that made him a bust last season.

 

For many years we have come to expect 30 home runs and 100 RBI from Alex Rodriguez.  Those benchmarks also came with great run production, solid stolen base totals, and a batting average north of .300.  Not anymore.

 

Last season we saw that even the great ones are mortal.  A-Rod managed just 16 home runs as he was hampered by injuries all season.  Though he looks to be in great shape entering the spring and had some medical procedures done during the off-season, the big question in the Bronx is whether it’s even possible for A-Rod to return to prominence as an elite slugger.

 

The answer is probably no.  There is a very well known pattern for players entering their late 30s tailing off in production.  It is also clear that Rodriguez is not as healthy as he was when he was younger.  It was five years ago that he last played 140 games in a season.

 

Bloomberg Sports does anticipate a mild bounce back.  A-Rod should pound 23 home runs with 82 RBI.  That would mean he finishes the season with an astounding 652 career home runs.  Unfortunately, we are at the point in A-Rod’s career where we will celebrate what he’s accomplished over time rather than on a day-to-day basis.

 

It was shocking enough that an ace would tame Coors Field, it’s even more mesmerizing that he actually regressed when traded to a far more pitcher-friendly ballpark.

 

Ubaldo Jimenez was an elite pitcher in 2010.  He finished that season with a 19-8 record, but was even more dazzling at the All-Star break with a 15-1 record and 2.20 ERA.  Since then, Jimenez has regressed to being a barely above average hurler.

 

In the second half of the memorable 2010 season, Jimenez went 4-7 with a 3.80 ERA.  He then struggled out of the gate in 2011 and was traded to the Indians when his record was 6-9.  Things went from bad to worse, as his ERA soared to 5.10 during his 11 starts with the Indians.

 

Jimenez will try to start from scratch this season, and while his results in his first two spring training starts are not very promising, the good news is that his fastball is back over 95 MPH for the first time since 2010.  Regardless, Jimenez remains a risky pick for fantasy managers.

 

He should offer plenty of strikeouts, Bloomberg Sports projects 208, but his lack of control could lead to a WHIP and ERA well above what he’s offered when he was at his past two seasons ago.

 

MLB Sluggers on the Rise: Eric Hosmer, Jay Bruce, and Paul Goldschmidt

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

When it comes to sleepers fantasy managers are often looking for late round picks that could contribute throughout the season.  A more valuable sleeper is the talent who is already drafted in the middle rounds, but has the ability to reach superstar potential.  Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer happens to fit that mold of sleeper.

 

The 22-year-old talent was the third overall pick of the 2008 draft.  Last year he earned his first taste of Big League action and he found immediate success.  The Miami native did it all.  He blasted 19 home runs, swiped 11 bases, and offered a .293 average.

 

While Hosmer may be the Royals top young talent, he is not alone.  After several years of struggles, the Royals finally have the making of a top-notch lineup with veterans such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon joined by Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, amongst others.

 

This season Hosmer should take another step forward and fantasy managers considering drafting Mark Texeira in the first or second rounds are better off scooping Hosmer in the fourth or fifth rounds.  He is more well-rounded than Texeira and could end up offering similar power production as well.  Hosmer is one of the top sleepers in baseball even if you have to draft him in the middle rounds.

 

The Reds already have one megastar in the form of Joey Votto, but there may be another in the lineup.  Jay Bruce actually had more buzz around him when he made his debut than Votto.  The 12th pick of the 2005 draft, Bruce has been in the Big Leagues since he was 21-years old.  While there have been some growing pains over the last few seasons, he has improved, and at 25-years old he should be closer to his prime this season.

 

Bruce has always possessed power.  He already has 100 career home runs before he even turned 25.  Last season was his first reaching the 30-home run plateau, as he slammed 32 round-trippers.  More impressive for his sabermetric fans, Bruce offered great patience at the plate with 71 walks, which made up for his .256 batting clip.

 

One of the streakiest hitters in the game, Bruce blasted 12 home runs with a .342 average in May, but then hit less than .240 in three of the next four months.  Fantasy managers are hoping that another year under his belt will lead to some maturity and consistency at the plate.  Bruce is one of the rare talents who can slam 40 home runs with a .280-plus average.  However, that’s just talk of potential, and when drafting you need to take more into account.

 

He’s already in his mid-20s, but Paul Goldschmidt could end up being a fantasy star as soon as this season.  An eighth round pick out of Texas State, Goldschmidt has been a pleasant surprise in the Diamondbacks farm system.

 

Goldschmidt’s power is legit, as he has slammed 73 round-trippers over the last two seasons.  He also has cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks the last few seasons.  In his Big League debut, Goldschmidt slammed eight home runs in 48 games.  He also swiped four bases, which is a pleasant surprise for a slugger.

 

While sluggers often take some time to develop in the Big Leagues, Goldschmidt is expected to produce as soon as this season.  BloombergSports.com Front Office projects 30 home runs this season, which could land the Diamondbacks right back in the thick of the hunt for the Division Title.

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Edwin Jackson, Erik Bedard, and Yu Darvish

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons.  The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.

 

The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either.  He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.

 

One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years.  His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable.  Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him.  The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.

 

The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years.  However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value.  The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.

 

Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.  After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.

 

Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Bedard was a disaster in Seattle.  Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.

 

The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now.  He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.

 

A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers.  Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts.  Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.

 

BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.

 

The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers.  Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time.  First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies.  Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.

 

The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan.  With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.

 

As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler.   That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.

 

Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers.  After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league.  He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.

 

For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Jhoulys Chacin, Mat Latos, Matt Moore

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

There was once a time when drafting a Colorado Rockies pitcher in your fantasy league was nothing but trouble, but after we saw Ubaldo Jimenez not just tame the altitude, but dominate in it, fantasy managers are willing to invest in a Rockies hurler.  One pitcher who is drawing a great deal of interest is Jhoulys Chacin.

The 24-year-old hurler was hurt last season by a lack of defensive and offensive support as his record was just 11-14 and more than 10% of runs scored against him were unearned.  However, some of his struggles were self-inflicted.  Chacin walked 87 batters and surrendered 20 home runs.  Though he still managed a solid 3.62 ERA, he was flirting with danger despite the stellar .231 average against.

What makes Chacin so effective in Coors is that he keeps the ball on the ground.  In fact, of all pitchers in the Majors last season with at least 100 innings pitched, Chacin ranked seventh with a 57% ground ball rate.

While Chacin is a solid pitcher the question is whether he will become a great pitcher.  In order to do so he has to improve his control, which would result in a lower WHIP, better ERA, and a career-high in wins.  At 24 years old, there is a great deal of upside for Chacin and it is fair to assume that he’ll take a step in the right direction this season.

Typically pitching in a pitcher’s park is more advantageous than a hitter’s bandbox.  There is an argument to the contrary for Reds hurler Mat Latos who makes his way from San Diego’s PETCO Park to Cincinnati.  The greatest liability in Latos statistics last season was the 9-14 record.  Otherwise, the second-year hurler was stellar with a 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

The idea here is that Latos could use a little run support.  With Adrian Gonzalez having left the west coast for Boston last season, Latos had few batters to offer the run support needed for a winning record.  That should not be an issue this season as he once again will have an MVP candidate manning first base with Joey Votto, plus the presence of Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce among others in the lineup.

Expect a rise in the ERA as the hitter-friendly ballpark can’t be ignored, but it will come with nearly 200 strikeouts and around 15 wins.

The Rays will compete once again in the AL East thanks to the fine young talent making up their starting rotation.  While the Yankees and Red Sox acquire talent in trades and via free agency, the Rays secure their stars via drafts.

The next top prospect to follow the path of David Price and Jeremy Hellickson as prospects turned stars is rookie Matt Moore.  In his first taste of the Big Leagues, Moore actually pitched more post-season innings than he did in the regular season.  In 19.1 combined innings, Moore fanned 23 batters compared to just six walks.

In the minor leagues, Moore dominated while fanning batters at a shocking rate.  The sunshine state southpaw surpassed 200 strikeouts in both seasons despite pitching 155 innings or fewer.  Similar to Hellickson last season, Moore will likely make an immediate fantasy impact, though with more K’s.  On the other hand, the Rays will likely play it safe and limit him to around 180 innings.

While most fantasy managers prefer proven commodities when it comes to fantasy drafts, there are very few hurlers with the upside of Moore’s, and yet you can likely nab him as late as the 10th round.  For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com.

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