BY ROB SHAW
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.
by Eno Sarris
We close out our post-hype infield with Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta. Just to recap, that was Chris Davis at first base, Rickie Weeks at second base, Stephen Drew at shortstop, and Alex Gordon at third base.
As I mentioned before, this is not a strategy to try at home. I was
hoping to find one or two good, young and cost-controlled infielders in
a league with contracts and 15 keepers, so I had to try something. (Gotta love Weeks’ huge first week.)
Iannetta presents a mixed bag of positive and negative indicators. Yes, he has a slightly worrisome fellow backstop in Miguel Olivo. But Olivo has established himself as a prolific outmaker throughout his career.
As evidence that the team still believes in their young catcher, the Rockies gave Iannetta a three-year contract in January.
Iannetta came tearing through
the Rockies’ minor league system and has held the Catcher of the Future
title there for a while now. An accomplished college catcher that was around average age at each level of the minor leagues, his .303/.409/.511 career
line there was still impressive. After struggling to hit for power or
batting average in his first two attempts at the majors, he
had a breakout 2008, hitting .264/.390/.505 with 18 home runs in
407 plate appearances. So, in fact, Iannetta has already been a
post-hype sleeper before and come through with a great year. Now, after
a less impressive .228/.344/.460 and just 350 PAs last season, he’s once again
undervalued. Take a look at the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tool, which shows how cheap he is compared to other possible top-10 catchers this year – increasing the likelihood that he could be available on the waiver wire in your shallow league.
what changed in 2009? Why did Iannetta’s batting average suddenly plunge the year after establishing himself? Once again, the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tool,
with some recently added stats, gives us great insight into his 2009
struggles. As you can see from this screen shot, Iannetta suffered from
terrible luck on the balls in play last year. He walked with about the same
frequency as he did the year before, struck out a little less, had a similar
isolated slugging percentage (.241 in 2008, .232 in 2009) and looked
like the same hitter in general. However, he had a .245 batting average
on balls in play (BABIP) in 2009, and his career number in that
category is .283.
Even though BABIP holds steady around .300 across all of baseball, each player has their own true level. Ichiro Suzuki‘s
BABIP (.357) is a great example of this. Using a players’ batted ball
profile and speed, however, we can estimate a player’s BABIP.
Iannetta’s xBABIP last year? .303. It seems that Iannetta had some
rotten luck last year.
Given that Iannetta held his power
steady in both 2008 and 2009, and showed the same control of the strike
zone both years, it seems to follow that he can put in another campaign
that looks like 2008, once the BABIP normalizes. With an
acceptable batting average (for a catcher, a position where the average
line was .253/.320/.394 last year), fantasy owners will benefit from
getting his above-average power cheaply.
And yet, there’s that pesky timeshare. If you’re an optimist, though, you can look at the current situation this way: Iannetta’s lack of playing time means he might not be owned in many shallow leagues. So if you’re a Miguel Montero owner and you’re looking for a replacement at catcher, don’t chase first-week stats by proven mediocrities like Rod Barajas. Take a shot on someone with real upside. Someone like Chris Iannetta.
For more information on Chris Iannetta and other underrated catchers this year, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit for yourself.