Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw discuss whether the fans’ selections for the National League All-Star team were right and who should be starting the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
Buster Posey was not the right choice for the All-Star team. Phillies backstop Carlos Ruiz is having a sensational season, hitting .357 with 13 home runs, 46 RBI and a surprising three stolen bases. He has definitely been the best catcher in baseball this season.
The fans got this one right by selecting Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is probably the MVP of the first half of the season. He’s batting .350 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI.
Brandon Phillips of the Reds should be starting rather than Dan Uggla. Phillips has a .279 average, 10 home runs and 47 RBI. He is also a good defensive player, which Uggla is not.
The fans made the wrong choice by selecting Pablo Sandoval, who has missed plenty of time this season due to injury. David Wright of the Mets should have been the pick, as he has been an MVP candidate so far this year with a .350 average, 10 home runs, 55 RBI and eight stolen bases.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro should be starting in place of Rafael Furcal. Castro is batting .291 with six home runs, 40 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Despite those numbers, he can be frustrating because he makes a lot of boneheaded plays but he is young and will hopefully grow out of that.
Not one of the three outfielders chosen by the fans was the right pick. Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies should be starting instead of Melky Cabrera. Gonzalez is batting .340 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI and 10 stolen bases, though he is helped out by playing at Coors Field.
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun should have been selected over Matt Kemp. Braun is once again putting up MVP numbers with a .309 average, 23 home runs, 59 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
Finally, Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen should have been chosen rather than Carlos Beltran. McCutchen is batting .360 with 16 home runs, 54 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Beltran would have been a good selection if the National League had a designated hitter. He has a .304 average, 20 home runs, 63 RBI and eight stolen bases this season.
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 ROB SHAW
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.
BY ROB SHAW
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.
By Tommy Rancel //
For years, Albert Pujols has reigned over the first base position in fantasy baseball. Sure, there are plenty of productive players at the position, but the order on most draft boards usually goes something like Albert Pujols…and no one else until several spots later. After posting a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .312/.414/.596 with 42 home runs and 118 RBI last year, Pujols is showing no signs of slowing down.
But a new challenger arrived in 2010. Playing the same position and battling for the same division title, Joey Votto exploded last season, hitting .324/.424/.600 with 37 home runs and 113 RBI. He took home the National League MVP – edging out the second-place Pujols in the process. Votto’s performance was so impressive that the Reds just signed him to a three-year, $38 million contract, despite him being years away from free agency.
The showdown for supremacy at the position will be a battle for years to come. Though it seems like he’s been around forever, Pujols will be just 31 this season. Votto, 27, will be entering his fourth major league season and likely hitting the prime years of his career.
So who’s the better choice headed into 2011?
If you’re lucky enough to be faced with the dilemma of choosing between the two, there is no wrong answer. Both players will give your team a ridiculous amount of production in power, run production, and runs scored. They’ll each swipe a few bases and have proven to be durable, even with Pujols’ recent injury scares. There are a few non-traditional categories that might tip the scale just a bit toward one side, though.
As mentioned, both hitters’ slash lines, home runs, RBI, and runs scored were pretty close to a push last year. This will likely be the case going forward, but while we know Pujols can sustain these gaudy numbers on an annual basis, Votto will be looking to repeat his MVP performance for the first time. In addition to the questions about duplicating his numbers from a season ago, Votto also had a bit more luck in 2010 than Pujols did.
First, Votto’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last year of .361 was well above the league average of around .300, as well as Pujols’ BABIP of .297. The good news is Votto’s line drive rate of 20% supports at least some of that spike. On the other hand, the fact that he held such a high BABIP with a high percentage of groundballs (45%) – without the speed of Carl Crawford – is a concern. His average could hover around the .300 mark going forward, but probably not as close to .330 as it was in 2010.
Also helping Votto in 2010 was a ridiculous home run-to-flyball rate (HR/FB). Though he hit a relatively low number of flyballs (under 35%), a full quarter of them found their way over the fence. This type of outcome is not impossible, but only four players (including Votto) had a HR/FB rate over 20% in the NL, and he was the only player with a rate above 22%. Playing in one of the most home run-friendly ballparks works in his favor, but Pujols’ 18.3% HR/FB is a number that is much more likely to be repeated.
Choosing between Votto and Pujols is like picking between a Mercedes Benz or a BMW as your mode of transportation. Each is a luxury item and each is almost guaranteed to produce at a high level. However, even though Votto is poised to make a run at the throne, Pujols is a safer bet to keep the crown.
Long live the king!
By Eriq Gardner //
Pretend we’re in the middle of the first round and an owner has the choice between Votto and Tulowitzki. A week ago, the consensus would be for Votto. Now? Does a drafter choose Votto when his competition can take the roughly equal Gonzo a few picks later? Does choosing Votto make sense when other 1B like Teixeira and Ryan Howard may now be available in the 2nd round, as a result of being pushed down in the rankings? Tulo’s edge over other shortstops should be given more credit given the increased strength and depth at first base.
By R.J Anderson //
Biggest Surprise & 2011 Keeper Alert: Joey Votto
Votto has consistently been underrated. He hit .322/.414/.567 last season, yet nobody seemed to notice (he finished 22nd in Most Valuable Player voting). The Reds’ surge to the playoffs this season (combined with an even more impressive .324/.424/.600 line. Votto increased his homer output to 37, runs scored to 106 to RBI to 113, while stealing an eye-opening 16 bases. He was the best first baseman in the National League by both real life and fantasy standards and is an auto-keep for next season.
Biggest Bust: Orlando Cabrera
It’s hard to point to a 35-year-old’s decline as a bust, but Cabrera continued to slip toward a permanent state of unrosterability. His experience managed to trick Dusty Baker into hitting him leadoff for far too long, and then number-two for too long, even though his .303 on-base percentage screamed for a demotion. The Reds and Cabrera hold a mutual option for 2011. There’s a chance he returns, but he could end up backing up Paul Janish or someone else in 2011. Avoid.
2011 Regression Alert: Jonny Gomes
Not because he overplayed his means, but because he provides a perfect example of what regression to the mean looks like. In the first half, Gomes hit .277/.330/.471 with 11 home runs in 278 at-bats. He overplayed himself then with a .330 batting average on balls in play. In the second half his BABIP dropped to .294 (essentially his career average) and Gomes saw his line drop to .251/.324/.383. Gomes’ home run rate actually nosedived in 2010, and his awful defense makes him a long shot for an everyday job next year. Look elsewhere.