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.
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Second to None!
The Best: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
After breaking out last season with 29 home runs, 112 runs, and 11 steals many baseball fans expected Rickie Weeks to take a small step back this season. I’m not really sure why expectations were so low.
The second overall pick of the 2003 draft is finally healthy and at 28 years old he should be in his prime. Plus, he is surrounded by sluggers such as Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Corey Hart, all who guarantee that Weeks will rack up plenty of runs. Weeks has managed to cut down on his strikeouts this season, while improving his batting average to .286. Considering the drastic difference in expectations, Weeks gets the edge as the best second baseman over Yankees star Robinson Cano.
The Surprise: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Coming into the season, Danny Espinosa had been called the poor man’s version of Dan Uggla. While the expectations have been met with Espinosa blasting 15 home runs despite just a .238 average, it turns out that Espinosa has actually outperformed Uggla.
At 24 years old, Espinosa is a building block for the Nationals. The 2008 third round pick out of Long Beach State has also impressed with a keen ability to draw walks. Plus, something that he offers that Uggla never has is his speed on the base paths. Pretty soon, baseball fans will have to compare Espinosa to Rangers star second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The Bust: Dan Uggla, Braves
After belting 33 home runs with 105 RBI and a .287 last season, Dan Uggla was sought by several teams and ended up joining his long-time rival Atlanta Braves. As it turns out, Uggla is not done punishing the Braves. This time the damage is not a result of his power, but instead an unsuspecting power outage.
Sure, Uggla does have 12 home runs, which still ranks amongst the top second basemen. The problem is that his .178 average is more than 100 points off last year’s batting clip, as his home runs make up 22% of his total hits. There have been no signs of a let-up either, as Uggla hit just .179 in June.
The 2nd Half Sleeper: Howie Kendrick, Angels
Riding a nine-game hit streak, it looks like Howie Kendrick is on the verge of a bounce back season. After hitting just .279 last season, his average is up to .305 plus he has shown signs of power and speed. The good news is that Angels fans can expect even better for the second half of the season.
Kendrick missed some time in the first half due to a injury that forced him out of the lineup for two weeks and when he did return, Kendrick was hitless in his first ten at bats. Now that he is healthy, Kendrick should surpass his first half production culminating in what could be his best season so far.
By R.J. Anderson //
The Washington Nationals have played Ian Desmond at shortstop for most of the season. A high error rate notwithstanding, Desmond appears to be a fixture in the Nationals’ plan for the next three-to-five seasons. September’s roster expansion has brought it with the man who could be his double play partner for that time frame. But with Desmond battling injuries, Danny Espinosa has filled in at shortstop, instead of his projected position of second base.
So far, he’s been a revelation. Espinosa has gone 9-for-16 in his first exposure to the majors. He’ll likely remember his Labor Day performance for the rest of his life: two home runs (including a grand slam), and six RBI.
Espinosa played shortstop for Long Beach State University. In terms of recent infield professional production, not many colleges can match LBSU. Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki, and Evan Longoria represent the most recent of Dirtbag shortstops to make the leap from collegiate competition to the major leagues. Espinosa doesn’t carry with him quite the prospect billing that those three did. For one, he doesn’t have the build of those players, who each stand around 6’3″ — whereas Espinosa is listed at an even 6′. His minor league career comes up short by comparison too:
Nevertheless, Espinosa figures to get regular playing time for the rest of the Nationals’ season, whether at shortstop or second base. Veteran Adam Kennedy, signed in the off-season, has underachieved, hitting only .252/.322/.336. Other Nats middle infielders, like the now-departed Cristian Guzman also failed to hit; the collective .679 OPS from second base ranks as the Nationals’ worst non-center field or catcher position.
Espinosa is no guarantee to outperform that during the final month, but it’s hard to see him doing much worse – especially if his early returns are any indication. The only question that remains now is whether this will be a flash in the pan or the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Either way, Espinosa is worth a long in keeper leagues. And if you’re trying to nail down a championship in your deep league this year, he’s also worth a shot.