Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the best teams in baseball right now and checks in with some of their top players at the All-Star Game.
Coming into the season it seemed like everyone was high on the Angels and Tigers, two of the more active teams in the off-season. It turns out that the Yankees are the best in baseball and the Nationals are not far behind.
The All-Star break provided a chance to check in with some of the top players from contending teams, and one player we got to chat with was Ian Kinsler, the 42nd-best fantasy player accoring to Bloomberg Sports with 65 runs, 10 home runs and 15 steals. He was one of eight All-Stars from the Rangers, a franchise that has made it to back-to-back World Series.
“It was a good first half,” Kinsler said. “I think as a team we played well. We went through a lot more ups and downs than we wanted to but we played well and we’re in first place right now. And we have eight guys here at the All-Star Game, so we’re happy.”
Another team expected to contend for the title is the Detroit Tigers. Prince Fielder was the major off-season acquisition, but this is Miguel Cabrera’s team. Cabrera is enjoying an MVP-caliber season and right now ranks as the seventh-best fantasy player. He made it clear that the start to the second half will be big.
“We feel okay, you know. We want to feel more comfortable at the end of the season, like win the division, get into first place,” Cabrera said. “I think we’re in good position. I think we’re feeling good right now. We want to start good in the second half, start to be more aggressive and win more games.”
Finally, the Angels are putting some heat on the Tigers. Jered Weaver has pitched like an ace and Albert Pujols has turned things around. While everyone is talking about the superstar rookie Mike Trout, it’s the second-year star Mark Trumbo who ranks as the top surprise. He’s batting .305 with 26 home runs and 65 RBI.
“It’s been really special,” Trumbo said. “The first month of the season is probably forgettable. We were out there competing, just the results weren’t coming in. Sometimes that happens. But since then we’ve been rolling pretty well. People are playing to their capabilities and we’ve had a lot more wins to show for it.”
The Tigers, Angels and Rangers were supposed to be the teams competing for an AL pennant this season and so far they have. If the season ended today, all three would advance to the postseason thanks to the multiple Wild Card spots. However, there is still a lot of baseball to play and several surprise teams are still out there, including the A’s, White Sox and Indians. A big move at the trade deadline or even a key promotion could make the difference.
For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
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.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Jered Weaver
Can it be considered a “good” surprise when a 16-game winner drops to 13 wins? In the case of Weaver, yes. Although his win total dropped, the righty was at his best in 2010. His strikeout rate was a career best 9.35 per nine innings, while his walk and home run rates dropped to career-low levels. He also made a career-high 34 starts and threw 224 innings. Once the owner of ace potential, Weaver has now reached ace status.
Biggest Bust: Scott Kazmir
Once upon a time, Kazmir had that ace status. Now, he’s more like a soft-tossing 35-year-old than a 26-year-old former foundation player. Making matters worse, he spent a total of 42 days on the DL with shoulder issues. When healthy, Kazmir made 28 starts going 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA in his first full season with the Angels. He struck out fewer than six batters per nine innings while walking nearly five per nine. Many cried foul when the Rays traded Kazmir last August, but it looks like Andrew Friedman made the deal just in time.
2011 Keeper Alert: Jered Weaver
It will be interesting to see if Weaver can maintain his high strikeout rate from this season. Even if it falls back to his career rate of 7.82 per nine, Weaver is one of the better pitchers in the American League. With nothing suggesting his 3.01 ERA was a product of luck, the 28-year-old appears to be entering the prime of his career.
2011 Regression Alert: Dan Haren
When the Angels acquired Haren, he was 7-8 with 4.60 ERA in 21 starts for Arizona. However, we informed you that Haren was due for some positive regression. With an above-average strikeout rate (9.0 K/9) and a minuscule walk rate (1.85 BB/9), the righty was getting some ridiculous bad luck on BABIP (.350) and home runs (1.47 HR/9). Although his Ks dropped (7.18 K/9) and his walks increased a bit (2.39 BB/9) as a member of the Angels, his home run rate was lowered to 0.77 per nine while his BABIP dropped to a manageable .286. The normalization of those two stats gave him a 2.87 ERA in 14 starts with the Angels. You can expect more of the same in 2011, even while others balk at his inflated overall numbers.
For more on Jered Weaver and the Angels pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.