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 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
BY ROB SHAW
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.
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Carlos Beltran, OF, Giants
The numbers don’t do Carlos Beltran justice this season. Sure, he only has 15 home runs, but he also has 30 doubles. That tells me in a more favorable ballpark he’d have closer to 20 home runs. He may only have 3 steals, but he has scored 61 runs, that tells me he is not lagging on the basepaths. His on base percentage is .391, which is 30 points better than his career mark. His average, slugging, and OPS are all better than his season average as well. Now he is moving to San Francisco, which should have a minor impact on his production. The ballpark remains tough, but worse than that, he does not have Jose Reyes hitting in front of him. This might not be a bad time for fantasy managers to sell high on the veteran All-Star.
Lucas Duda, OF, Mets
In his first game as the Mets regular right-fielder, Lucas Duda sent one over the fence. There should be many more coming. The 6’4, 254 lbs. California native is a slugger. He may only boast two home runs this season, but he has 10 doubles and three triples despite just 123 at bats so far this season. His average is at a healthy .276 and the OBP of .350 is stellar. Duda will have every chance of earning the Mets starting right-field job next season, though honestly, what they should consider is moving him to left and Jason Bay off the roster.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays
A former first round pick who simply did not get along with Tony LaRussa, Rasmus is a five-tool talent who still has plenty of room for improvement. After blasting 23 home runs last season with 12 stolen bases, Rasmus has just 11 dingers this season. On that note, his numbers should progress quite well once he leaves St. Louis. He’ll have Jose Bautista instead of Albert Pujols providing protection, and also the Rogers Centre is a very favorable hitting environment. Rasmus is a popular buy-low option.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Cardinals
A winner of three of the last four starts, Edwin Jackson is having a fine season despite the 7-7 record, his ERA is 3.92 and he has surrendered just eight home runs in 121.2 innings of work. The big concern with him is the high WHIP. This season it’s because he’s getting hit a bit too often to the tune of a .283 average. The good news for him is that he will now be under the tutelage of Dave Duncan. One of the best pitching coaches in the game, this can have a great impact on Jackson’s career.
Marc Rzepczynski, RP, Cardinals
Another winner in the big deal between the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Cardinals is Rzepczynski. Just 26 years old, this southpaw boasts a 2.97 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this season. I would also love to see how he handles starting. He was very promising a few years back and he can really miss some bats. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Rzepczynski in the Cardinals starting rotation next season. He has star potential.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Edwin Jackson
Ever the tease with his talents, Edwin Jackson looked like a top pitcher in his time with the White Sox. In 11 starts on the south side, E-Jax went 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA. Even more impressive, he struck out 77 batters and walked just 18 in 75 innings. Without many fluky stats, and under Don Cooper’s instruction, maybe, just maybe, Jackson is finally living up to the hype.
Biggest Bust: Bobby Jenks
Since saving a career-best 41 games in 2006, Jenks has seen his saves and innings totals drop in each subsequent season. This year he saved just 27 games and tossed 53.1 innings. He dealt with injuries and landed in Ozzie Guillen’s doghouse throughout the season on his way to a career-worst 4.44 ERA.
2011 Keeper Alert: Chris Sale
When the 2010 season started Sale was a starting pitcher for Florida Gulf Coast College. He ended it as a relief pitcher in the Chicago White Sox bullpen. Chicago’s first-round pick in this June’s draft made just 11 minor league appearances before his call-up. The tall, lanky lefty was impressive in 21 appearances – going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA and four saves. With a mid-90s heater, he struck out 32 batters in just 23 innings. His role for 2011 has yet to be determined (the White Sox drafted him as a starter), but he has a chance to thrive in either role.
2011 Regression Alert: Bobby Jenks
Despite mediocre traditional stats, Jenks had a good season in several peripheral categories. He struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings while walking just 3.1. With favorable control rates, he allowed just three home runs in over 50 innings. Jenks was extremely unlucky on batting average on balls in play: His .368 BABIP was well above the league average of .302 as well as his career number of .306. His future in Chicago is uncertain, but Jenks is a prime bounceback candidate in 2011, assuming he hasn’t lost the faith of his manager.
For more on Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
In 2007, Jackson suffered through a seemingly miserable season, posting a 5-15 record and 5.76 ERA, the kind of stats that will torpedo a fantasy season. Turns out Jackson was the victim of bad luck and especially bad defense that year. Pitching in front of noted defensive sieves such as Delmon Young and Brendan Harris, Jackson yielded a stratospheric batting average on plays in play of .351. His xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that runs along a similar scale to ERA, but strips out the impact of defense, park effects and other factors outside a pitcher’s control) was nearly a run lower than his ERA, at 4.95. This was a roughly league average pitcher thrust into the worst situation.
In 2008, Jackson appeared to take a huge step forward. The big right-hander upped his record to 14-11, with a 4.42 ERA, delighting fantasy owners who gambled a late-round pick on him. But a closer look revealed that he hadn’t changed at all. Jackson owed most of the improvement in his superficial stats to a vast improvement in the Rays’ defense. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat which tracks fielders’ ability to make plays in and around their assigned positions, the Rays moved from dead last in baseball in 2007 with a mark of -57.7 to first in 2008, at 74.2. Put another way: Every 10 positive UZR points add up to roughly one more win in the standings for a given team.
So Tampa Bay’s defense went from costing the team nearly six wins in 2007 to adding more than seven wins to the ledger in 2008. That’s a gigantic, 13-win improvement – one of the biggest year-to-year changes in MLB history – before any Rays pitcher made a pitch or any Rays batter took a swing. Indeed, Jackson’s xFIP actually rose from 4.95 in 2007 to 5.03 in 2008, as some of Jackson’s peripheral stats, including his strikeout rate, got worse. It seems impossible to believe that a pitcher could go from 5-15 to 14-11 and actually prove slightly less valuable to his team on a per-inning basis – but Jackson turned the trick.
After the ’08 season, Rays management saw a chance to trade a pitcher whose perceived value likely outshone his actual value, and that’s exactly what the team did – shipping Jackson to Detroit for promising outfielder Matt Joyce.
At first glance, Jackson’s debut season in Motown
could be seen as a major breakout: His ERA dropped nearly another full run to 3.62 (7th in the American League), his strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped over the key 2:1 mark, and Jackson gave the Tigers a career-high 214 innings pitched (also 7th in the AL). His xFIP slid to 4.39. Combine his increased innings total with his improved performance, and FanGraphs estimates that Jackson’s season was worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement — or three-and-a-half more wins than a fringe major league pitcher — for Detroit.
Even in a very good season, Jackson still showed his share of flaws. First, Jackson’s season reveals a massive chasm between his first and second
half numbers. In the first half he was one of the American League’s
top pitchers, walking just 35 batters in 121.2 IP and compiling a 2.52 ERA. The
second half wasn’t as kind, as Jackson allowed more hits, runs, and
home runs while walking the same number of batters in nearly 30 fewer
innings. His full season marked of 1.14 homers allowed per nine innings was higher than average among qualified starters, a puzzling and troubling sign at Comerica Park, which suppressed homers by 2.6% compared to league average in 2009, and rates as a pitcher-friendly park compared to other MLB stadiums.
This off-season, Jackson was involved in another trade, this one sending him to Arizona. So, which Edwin Jackson should we expect to see in 2010?
Here are some factors to consider when drafting Jackson:
1. He’s moving to Chase Field.
While moving out of the American League is generally a good thing for a pitcher due to lower run-scoring totals in the NL,
moving into one of baseball’s best hitters parks is not. Chase
Field consistently ranks among the leaders in run factor – it boosted offenses by 19.3% in 2009 and 13.5% in 2008. A mistake
pitch that may found a glove in the outfield of Comerica Park last
season may not have the same fate at Chase.
2. The defense playing behind him is good, though maybe not as good. Detroit had one of the league’s top defensive units playing behind
Jackson last season, ranking fifth in team UZR at 43.6; Tigers starters Adam Everett, Placido Polanco, Brandon Inge,
and Curtis Granderson all ranked among the best defenders at their respective
positions. As was the case with Tampa Bay in 2008, the stellar defense
gobbled up many of the mistakes Jackson may have made and helped to lower his
batting average on balls in play, which in turn saved runs and lowered his ERA. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, ranked a solid 9th in team UZR in 2009, though just 23rd in 2008, while not making many changes to their everyday lineup.
3. The offense supporting him isn’t very good. Yes, Mark Reynolds is a big time power threat (44 homers in 2009), Justin Upton is a star
in the making, and Adam LaRoche’s bat should help stabilize the first
base position. Beyond those three, the DBacks trot out a group of 20-something hitters high on potential and low on results (to date). According to our Competitive Factors tool (see image below) the Diamondbacks ranked 19th
in batting in 2009, scoring just 720 runs despite playing in a great park for hitters. Jackson isn’t a good enough
pitcher to win many games by himself, like Zack Greinke had to do last
season playing for the hapless Royals. Jackson’s going to need help, and unless Chris Young and Stephen
Drew can finally live up to their outstanding potential, Jackson will
struggle to receive enough run support to match his win totals from the
previous two seasons.
4. The NL West. This factor could work out in Jackson’s favor. Thanks to an unbalanced schedule,
Jackson will get to face the Padres and Giants a lot. Those two
teams’ offenses finished 29th and 30th in our Competitive Factor batting rankings last
season, due to both their pitcher-friendly ballparks and talent-deficient lineups. Facing those offenses adds some instant value to a pitcher’s
worth, as will traveling to Petco Park and AT&T Park, as well as Dodger Stadium (Coors Field will be the one road park in the NL West that could significantly hurt Jackson’s performance).
Jackson currently owns a B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking of all players) of 55 among starting pitchers. This
number looks high to me, artificially inflated by one stellar
half of baseball. You’re more likely to find better value in someone
like Carlos Zambrano, who is ranked only a few places behind Jackson. Choose wisely, my friends.
For more information on Edwin Jackson and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg
Sports’ fantasy kits.