Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NL Only League Auction Draft Tips and Strategies

Fantasy baseball advice these days is plentiful, but when it comes to your auction draft, trying to weed through the best strategies can be overwhelming. Below are thoughts that draftees should consider when preparing for their auction draft.

- Stick to your game plan. When you have needs at a position or category, and a player who fits that criteria is on the board for less than expected, you can deviate from your plan to purchase that value. However, if another player you like goes for less (let's say $5) but is not needed (position or category), let that player slide in the first half of the draft as it could interfere with your overall plan. So if you are strong in speed, I don't care if Ben Revere goes for a few dollars less, that is not your area of need. Stick to your draft plan and get what you need.

- In the second half of the draft when teams have serious money restrictions that is when it's a good time to add to a strength when players go under value and only cost you a few dollars. So using that speed scenario if in the 2nd half of the draft Gregor Blanco goes for a song then grab him and add to your strength.

- Know your other owners tendencies and how that will impact your draft plan. Must size up the competition on who else in your league are possible suitors for your targeted players. In keeper leagues, you can e-mail owners and chat about trade offers which is a great way to collect information.

- You must monitor during the draft the other owners who need the same kind of players as you and where they stand during the draft with their draft dollars.

- Remember steals and saves are like a game of musical chairs, don't be caught at the end of the draft without a chair. If you are chasing these categories late in the draft odds are you will be overpaying for mediocre talent.

- At the end, if you are going to be a little bit short on something, make it a hitter and not a pitcher. A lot more players come through the waiver wire that are at least decent hitters than players who can help you're starting rotation or saves. Also a lot easier to trade for a hitter than a quality pitcher.

- Sometimes you have to overpay in the draft. If the guys on your draft board list start dwindling down, you must make sure you secure the kind of players you need to win. If that means you have to overpay by a few dollars for that player so be it, much better than losing out on the talent.

- Do not put yourself in a position where there is an area of need and there is one guy left that you must have. Reason being you could wind up in a bidding war and the result is you will way overpay.

- Attack the draft with your draft dollars. Most owners increase their bids by $1 or $2 at a time. Do not be afraid to increase the bid by $7 or $8 or even more as long as you're getting the player you want at your estimated price. In any kind of auction there is a psychology to it. Also remember many owners get cautious as you break certain threshold numbers during the draft especially after the first couple of rounds. Take advantage of that. Threshold numbers would be $10, $15, $25 etc., so bid just beyond those thresholds.

- Do everything you can to save a few bucks for roughly your last 6 players so you have purchasing power for those last roster slots. This will be huge as you will be able to get the better secondary players at the end of the draft. Very hard filling out the back of your roster when you have $7 for the last 5 roster spots.

- Target a promising prospect who could be up in 2 months into the season as your 14 hitter for $1. There will be a future article on the prospects who can impact 2013 in the next couple of weeks.

- Don't take too many older players, or too many rookies, or too many injury risks or too many guys trying to bounce back from poor seasons. Pick your spots wisely and use a balanced approach.

- Early on it's a good idea to bring up players that you won't be bidding on to get some of the competition draft dollars drained as soon as possible, especially a manager who could be in the running with you for your primary targets.

- Remember do not draft any player who kills you in the percentage categories - ERA, Ratio and batting average unless those players make strong contributions in the other categories. If you get one of these kind of players keep it to a minimun. Agan coming soon an article on the percentage categories.

- Finally you must be patient with your draft plan. Don't panic. As long as there are players on the board that fit the bill for your open core slots there is no reason to panic. As your lists start to dwindle like I said above you may have to spend a little bit more than you like to secure the talent. Remember every draft is it's own animal.

NL King - C.Lizza


Monday, February 25, 2013

NL Only Draft Prep & Game Planning Strategies

I love playing and providing fantasy baseball advice for NL Only leagues. Listed below are my fantasy baseball strategies and advice which I'd like to share to help you prepare for your draft day. Even though I'm all NL Only, these strategies can help with any type of league.

- You must have a basic draft plan as "winging" it does not work. I know Mike (The Fantasy Man), says he doesn't go into most drafts with a set game plan but he has core beliefs such as buying power, don't buy too much into position scarcity (know where value lies at weak positions), savvy end game etc., You need a basic plan or philosophy going into a draft. In an auction league, it's a must as there are just too many variables to contend with.

- Know your team needs going into the draft -  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the draft and how does this play into my team needs? You must list the various options you have for your team needs. If there are a lot of options it gives you great amount of flexibility on what players to acquire for the various categories. If need outweighs supply, then you must be more aggressive in securing these particular players.

- A contending team is a balanced team - You should never punt a category. Why start the season in a huge hole? If one other component of your team fails, you're sunk. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you'll be able to make trades during the year for certain categories because you're going to wind up short in these particular categories. Remember, it's not easy to make trades and if everyone knows you need to make a trade that will hurt you're bargaining position. Make sure you are not way short in any category after the draft. Must be within striking distance of all categories.

- Your draft plan must respect the percentage categories in Batting Average, ERA and WHIP. There will be a future article on this in the next couple of weeks.

- Do your homework on the late round non-hyped players because that's where the gems lie. Most teams in auction leagues have very little money left to spend on those last few players. This is your chance to strike gold and find huge value and potential returns. Try to anticipate which players who will be available at the end of your draft this year and do your homework on them. Remember the goal here is for your $1 to $4 complimentary players who can give you a $10 year. If you can accomplish this, it will be a big step into building a contending team.

- On your key draft day targets try to figure out who who will be your chief competition for those players. What are these owners tendencies? Is there a way for you to get that owner to spend on other players during the draft so when your targets come up those owners are less of a threat?

- Put together a work sheet of all 23 positions that you have to fill for your team. In a keeper league, slot in your keepers and calculate how many draft dollars you have come draft day. Your first draft of your game plan should be "The Wish List Game Plan". Slot in all high end players you would love to get within reason under your various hitters, starting pitchers and relievers. Then from there see how many players you still need to get, and figure out how much money you could have left. If you still need 10 players and have $40 draft dollars than this particular plan will not work. The Wish List Game Plan on the first draft almost never works but it's a good starting point then you can start scaling back and be more realistic in filling out your potential roster. I believe it's an excellent tool to start with when putting together a draft plan.

Next up,  I will post an article on Auction Draft Tips and Strategies. Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing.

NL King - C.Lizza

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Deep Outfield Part 3 of 3 - Fantasy Baseball Where No Man Has Gone Before

In the event that you missed the first 2 parts, I shall attempt to differentiate some Outfielders in the #25-40 range by comparing them to the Star Trek movies. The basic premise, one sentence about each Trek movie (I haven't seen any film since Kevin Costner's career died, so I haven't seen the newest one) followed by what player I equate that film to.

Star Trek 8: You have time travel, you have assimilation, there's like 5 ways I could look at this movie, but again, it's ultimately not that great.
Player equivalent: Shane Victorino
My first instinct is to apologize for saying I kind of like Victorino. I haven't until this point. Now...I kind of do...I guess?  I really haven't been a fan of his in Fantasy because he's not great at anything, but I've felt that owners were treating him as such. Maybe I'm just being a softy here, but I don't feel as strongly about that now. Maybe it's the move to Boston, maybe it's more experts lowering their opinions on him, but I could consider drafting him this year. On the other side of the coin, he's 32, and I'm concerned he's left his heart in Philadelphia. Call it a hunch if you will, but I couldn't trust him as anything more than maybe a #4 OF, and that's if I feel good about him going into a draft. The BA isn't going to help my teams, but I think the power might be pleasantly surprising this year. I feel like this pick is more therapeutic for me than helpful to you, but if you're like me in your dislike of Victorino, this might be the time to start considering him late, not as a key player, but as part of the supporting cast.

Star Trek 9: The good guys' bosses try to undermine their primary mission.
Player equivalent: Well...
There's a couple of players that concern me. There's Nelson Cruz, oft injured and there's the question of PEDs still lingering. A glance at past year's numbers suggests that he's at his best when he misses time, that he's more efficient if he's out for chunks of the season. It goes without saying, but you don't want to be trying to win with a guy whose availability comes and goes, unless you have a solid backup plan behind him.

Then there's Lorenzo Cain. He's still a popular pick as a #4-5 OF, and as a Brewer fan, I can tell you that I understand why. When he came up, he was an awesome young power/speed combo player. I was looking forward to seeing him in CF and possibly hitting behind Prince Fielder in the lineup. What upside he had! Then we traded him to Kansas City, and he hasn't done much of anything. He was sent to the minors, stayed there for the better part of the last two seasons, and it has me wondering...if he's so good, why hasn't he had his chance to shine yet? He started off well in Milwaukee, but was benched after reporting to a game late. Being traded shortly afterward didn't help matters. KC's OF has been fairly deep lately, but how could they hold a young OF like him down for this long? I feel like they view him as a good Plan B that they're resorting to, but I'm not sure I trust him, even late. Plenty of other fish in the sea. I'm worried he'll end up hosing several of you guys over, and I want to careful. You have been warned.

The movie has grown on me (a bit), and Cain might over time, but I'd have to see the success before I'll believe it. In Cruz's case, I still don't know that I'll bother with him unless I'm confident I have a great backup plan to slide in if he's hurt. Either way, if I had either guy on my team, I'd deal him off before the trade deadline.

Star Trek 10: Sort of a bad remake of Star Trek 2, but the villain is physically coming apart.
Player equivalent: Carlos Beltran
It's like Beltran is good again...but not as complete a player as he used to be, sort of like if “ST2: Wrath of Khan” grew into “ST10: Nemesis.” But it finally dawned on me that Beltran really is like Shinzon from “Nemesis.” Only so much time left to complete his mission, body is breaking down, but he's still got some fight left in him.

Written by David Bobke

Friday, February 22, 2013

2013 NL Only Fantasy Baeball Closers Rankings

Fantasy baseball advice for closers is a bit choppy this year it seems.  We'll breakdown the 16 closers for NL Only leagues. You'll see that this category is a mind field.  If you have one of the four elite closers in the NL consider yourself very lucky.

The Elite:
Craig Kimbrel - ATL - The numbers are beyond ridiculous especially his Ratio and K's.

Jason Motte - STL - Has emerged as an elite closer for a world championship team so he has been through the stress grinder. Real good in ERA, excellent in K's and Ratio and good for 40+ saves.

Jonathan Papelbon - PHI - Similar to Motte just slightly less overall statistics.

Rafael Soriano - WAS - His ratio and less K's then the above 3 is why he is the 4th best closer.

The Rest:
JJ Putz - ARI - Solid across the board, healthy but red flag is he's 35 and has had injury issues in the past.

Jonathan Broxton - CIN - The Reds want Chapman to be a starter. We know that with the 3 year contract the Reds gave Broxton at $7 Mil per.  No longer the elite closer he once was but can be a solid choice.

Sergio Romo - SF - Always put up the numbers to warrant the chance. Have to worry a bit if Romo can handle the job from a physical standpoint, as he has had injuries in the past. If you have Romo, probably be smart to handcuff with Santiago Casilla.

Huston Street - SD - I don't think he'll repeat his ERA and Ratio numbers from last year but Street is an effective closer when healthy. Problem is he always lands on the DL. Handcuffing with Luke Gregerson is a good long term play here.

John Axford - MIL - The K's and Saves were there but his ERA and Ratio show how much he struggled last year.  Gave up 10 HR's as well 39 walks in 69 innings. That's a recipe for a disaster. Big year for Axford to show the Brewers if he's their closer going forward. Risky pick.

Brandon League - LAD - Watch Spring training to see if it's Brandon League or Kenley Jansen. The early word is that League is will start the year as the closer.  Jansen is the one with the great stuff and proved last year he could close as well.  Jansen is a bit of an injury risk and the Dodgers might want to ease him in. League will start the year as the primary closer but there is a chance Jansen could take over the job, just something to keep on the back burner.

Jason Grilli - PIT - Solid as set-up man for the Pirates the last two years and at age 36 gets his chance to close. Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan and signed Grilli to a two year deal so they're believers. He has the stuff to be an effective closer but his inexperience is the question.

Rafael Betancourt - COL - At age 37, put up a solid year and will most likely be a free agent after the season (Mutual 4.25 Option) and the Rockies are in rebuilding mode.  Look for Betancourt to be traded come July and setup somewhere else. Landing Rex Brothers could be a great long term play.

Carlos Marmol - CHI - Marmol was solid in the second half last season but he's undoubtedly the closer because of his nearly $10 million salary. If he struggles, the Cubs won't hesitate to cut their loses and move on and go to free agent signed Kyuji Fujikawa who was a closer in Japan. If Marmol does pitch well, you can be assured the Cubs will move him in July as he's on the last year of his contract.

Steve Cishek - MIA - A bit of a high Ratio which is always worrisome as a closer.  Obviously 2nd tier guy.
The Mets - Frank Francisco was terrible last year and has a bad elbow, the Mets want Bobby Parnell to close but can he handle the job mentally? Has good enough stuff to be a decent closer but I don't know if he has the mind set. Brandon Lyon is in that bullpen and will get a chance if Francisco and Parnell can't get it done.

Next article will be on NL Only Draft Preparation and Game Planning Strategies. This will be posted Monday morning.  You can follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing.

NL King - C.Lizza

Deep Outfield Part 2 of 3 - Fantasy Baseball Where No Man Has Gone Before

For those of you who missed Part 1...I shall attempt to differentiate some Outfielders in the #25-40 range by comparing them to the Star Trek movies. The basic premise, one sentence about each Trek movie (not the JJ Abrams one because I still haven't seen it) followed by what player I equate that film to.

Star Trek 4: The crew goes back in time to save Earth.
Player equivalent: Carl Crawford
Note: Before I started writing this column on Outfielders, I thought about doing the Star Trek idea with pitchers, in which case this movie's summary would've been “Save the whales” and the player would've been Bartolo Colon. I know, easy joke.
Crawford's case is pretty well known already. If you've been trapped under Bartolo Colon for the last couple seasons, all you need to know is he's been hurt. A lot. This may be the year for him to make a grand return though, which is why his name is still relevant to a silly writer like me. There's really only two reasons to draft him in my mind: A) you still believe and you're banking on him for 25+ steals or B) you are desperate and pick him purely for his upside, hoping he will bail you out. I did this in a mock recently, I waited on Outfielders and wound up with him as my third OF. My first? Carlos Beltran. The rest of my team looked fine, but holy Hannah Montana did my Outfield look like crap. If Beltran and Crawford pan out, then I'd at least be competitive, and at that point, I think it's worth a shot.
If Crawford is going to be successful this season, he'll need to go back in time and tap into his Tampa Bay days. If so, you'll probably hear a lot of preachy owners who pull out the “This is why you draft guys who've been successful already” message. Will it be as annoying as the environmental message of Star Trek 4? Maybe. Maybe not.

Star Trek 5: The search for the omnipotent being ends up turning up a false god.
Player equivalent: Wil Myers
This is where people will think I hate Wil Myers. I don't. Truly, I like the guy. I want to make sure you newer players don't invest too much in him. I'm really concerned if he gets off to a hot start in Spring Training. Guys have a hot Spring, their draft status goes up, owners want to count on them to stay hot all season. It's not going to happen. Perhaps he can be a decent #5 OF later in the year, but please don't expect him to save your team. Right now, he is a lottery ticket. He's a good lottery ticket, but he's not a lock to bail you out of a bad draft. A guy like Crawford will cost you more, but he's been there. He's already had the success and we know what we need to look for with him. I'm already starting to preach...I warned you about that, didn't I?

Star Trek 6: Strange and unique circumstances bring a new union.
Player equivalent: Torii Hunter
Yeah, this was the closest comparison I could come up with, but the Angels signing Josh Hamilton after claiming they were in a salary crunch seemed like a good enough comparison to me. I presumed they told Hunter that with the presumption that this money they set aside for Hamilton was already spent, so technically they weren't lying, just withholding part of the truth. But I digress...
I wasn't big on Hunter until I was reminded that he hit second in the Angels' lineup and put up very good numbers between Trout and Pujols (okay, “heard” is more accurate than “reminded”, either I didn't pay enough attention to the Angels last season or my memory is swiss cheese...which is entirely possible.) Austin Jackson ain't Mike Trout, but if Hunter can be good enough...just good enough offensively, hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder...he could be a quietly great pick for you in the draft. He is coming off his worst year in terms of taking walks, and that's a little bothersome, but as a #5 OF, maybe as a #4. I'd be pretty happy with him. His defense will keep him in the lineup regardless and he'll get a handful of RBI's.
If you're still not buying him, consider can draft him as a #5 OF, get some production early in the season to cover your butt until you find someone better. By that point, if he's so decent, you can throw him into a deal later on claiming “he's not bad, I just don't have room for him,” or “money is tight,” if you really want to have fun with it. Hunter and Tigers...not quite Klingons and humans, but that's the best you'll get out of me on that analysis.

Star Trek 7: New and old come together and are ultimately pretty lame, but I like it anyway.
Player equivalent: Emilio Bonifacio
If you're familiar with “Star Trek: Generations”, you know it's not a very good movie. Even I admit that, and I'll watch it anytime it's on cable. I think it's Donald Sutherland that keeps drawing me in...then again, I have no interest in seeing “Tank Girl.” Whatever. Anyway, if you look at any of the quote major unquote fantasy sites, they won't have Bonifacio any higher than a 6th outfielder. Now here's what I don't get about these rankings: the Blue Jays' lineup will likely start off with Reyes, Cabrera, Bautista, Encarnacion with Lind, Rasmus, Lawrie, and Arencibia filling out the lineup with Bonifacio. I don't care where in the lineup he is, he will score runs. If he's 9th, awesome, he just has to get on base. If he's 6 or 7, he'll have guys who can do a decent job of knocking him in coming up behind him. If he's moved up to 2, so much the better.
Here's the best part though...he'll qualify at 2B in no time! In such a lousy crop of Second Basemen, I absolutely love that Bonifacio will have eligibility there. Look at the projected numbers all you want, I see great things for him this year. If I have no need for him at 2B, even I might not bother drafting him, but he'll get great numbers. He's not a popular pick right now and his stock may not rise much, but I'm still going to be tuned in when his name pops up as a “Best Available.”

Written by David Bobke

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deep Outfield Part 1 of 3 ...Fantasy Baseball Where No Man Has Gone Before

As I try to stick with the names that will come up later in your draft, I must forgo the popular names and discussions, such as the Braun vs. Trout. I'll skip over the Top 20-25 (depending on whose list you look at), and focus on the guys who could be your #3 or #4 OF.

Of course, my other job is to be entertaining, if possible. Plus, I try to help out newer players above all others. Therefore, I shall attempt to differentiate some Outfielders in the #25-40 range by comparing them to the Star Trek movies. The basic premise, one sentence about each Trek movie, either the plot or my general feelings about the film are fair game. I'm skipping the JJ Abrams one because I still haven't seen it. Then, I'll equate a player that bears some similarity to the movie.

Yes, I have a strange mind. Just roll with me.

Star Trek 1: A movie which by any other name would be viewed more favorably.
Player equivalent: Mike Morse
So here's the thing...I've determined that the first Trek movie is actually not bad, and if it didn't have the Trek name, people would basically be okay with it. I feel like Morse is in the same situation in Seattle. He's the same guy he was in Washington. RFK Stadium is thought of as a somewhat neutral park, as opposed to the Pitcher's park that he now has in Seattle. I talked about this in my column about 1B's with Kendrys Morales. Between Morales, Morse, and Jesus Montero. Morse should be able to hit better than .275 with 20+ HRs and a good number of RBIs, even in Seattle. As a fourth OF, he's the kind of guy that other people may not feel sure about, but I'm happy to take him and watch Mike Morse be Mike Morse. If I trust the OF's ahead of him to deliver some Runs and Stolen Bases, Morse should be an excellent compliment to them.

Star Trek 2: Awesome.
Player equivalent: Norichika Aoki
Okay, it maybe unfair to compare any non-Top 20 OF to the awesomeness of “Wrath of Khan,” but I'll do my best. Aoki seemed to surprise some people last year, and I'm not sure why. The depth of the Brewers' outfield may have had something to do with that, but this was a WBC player who hit anywhere from 1 to 4 in that lineup, and he could provide the Brewers with a leadoff hitter, the likes of which they haven't had in years. He had speed and just a touch of pop, but he...yes, had a really good Batting Average. I was going to run through some of his projected numbers, but frankly, I go by feel. If my #4 OF is hitting leadoff with Braun two spots behind him, I like his chances for Runs and a few Stolen Bases. I may be asking a bit much for him to be my #3 OF...but then again, I don't know that I am. If I'm drafting my Outfield late, I'd feel pretty good about my team if I wind up with Aoki and Morse occupying those third and fourth slots.

Star Trek 3: Downhill slide after greatness.
Player equivalent: Hunter Pence
So many ways I could go with this description. I could stick the fork in Carl Crawford or Nelson Cruz, but I'm going Pence instead to serve as a warning. I look at him as, it would seem, the Giants #5 hitter, and basically, he's Runs and RBIs. He should be in the peak of his career, but I as I look at his numbers, I don't see the consistency I want in a fantasy player. If he slipped and was my #5 OF, fine. I'll take my chances, but as a #3 or #4, I will pass. He could be fine, but there are so many other options out there. While ST3 wasn't as good as its predecessor, it did have some points in its favor. Christopher Lloyd as Kruge for example. And in that vein, I will give Pence credit, he'll beat Aoki in HR and RBI. If I need that, I have to consider Pence. However...there's still something about him that, to put it bluntly, terrifies me. Not unlike the Pon Farr scene in ST3. Just...awkward.

Written by David Bobke

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

NL Only 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings SP Part 2

NL King (no, I'm not The Fantasy Man) here again!  2013 NL Only Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers Rankings.  This is part 2 of 3 which will consist of Middle-Tier starters, and Back-End Starters.

The middle tier in my opinion consists of solid contributors, second and third type starters with upside potential.  The back-end group consists of the league average types in ERA and WHIP (ratio) which can contribute in W's and K's. These are more your"serviceable" starters.

Middle Tier Starters:
Jeff Samardzija - CHI - Made big strides last year, but beware Cubs are awful and still needs to make progress on his BB rate.

Ryan Vogelsong - SF - Been real solid for last two years and pitches in a great pitchers ballpark.

Homer Bailey - CIN - The former top 10 MLB prospect made big strides last season. Now he just needs to show improvement. Pitches in a hitters park in Great Amercan Ballpark but if he can keep down the gopher ball, he'll provide value.

Jonathan Niese - NYM - Has improved every year and put up solid to good numbers accross the board. He is on a bad offensive team and fences being moved again but should still provide better than average numbers.

Mike Minor - ATL - Really improved over the second half and love the chance for him to break out this season. Hope that league mates remember more the first half than the second ;)

Tim Hudson - ATL - Still strong in the percentage categories and wins but his K's are low and he's an injury risk.

Josh Beckett - LAD - You'd think a move to the NL on team that should compete for a championship he'd easily be an "ace potential" candidate from part 1.  His attitude in Boston last 3 years was awful. Is that as simple as flipping a switch? That's why I have to down grade him to this group. However, the value potential here could be insane. If you buy this guy cheap, this is the type of pick that delivers fantasy baseball championships..... but obviously he'll have to pan out. There's risk here if you over-draft. Get him at a value and you should profit.

Matt Garza - CHI - Garza is a borderline ace starter when everything is pointing in the right direction. However, he's coming off a major injury, he's on an awful team, and he's trade bait. That's a lot of questions to digest so you need a big discount on draft day.

Dan Haren - WAS - Numbers can improve coming back to the NL and pitching for the Nationals BUT will his back and his body hold up?

Trevor Cahill - ARI - Not great but gives you solid value across the board.

Wandy Rodriguez - PIT - Same as Cahill.

Wade Miley - ARI - Talk about a guy coming out of nowhere. Last year was an after thought going into the season. Did not make his first start until late April. Has the talent to produce again but I'm afraid to pay on draft day based on his stats from last year on a season that came out of nowhere.

Jamie Garcia - STL - If he is healthy given how the Cardinals bring players along, his talent, and the fact Garcia is only 26, I like this player. If he goes cheap on draft day then POUNCE!

James McDonald - PIT - Was great the first 4 months and beyond awful the last two. Was that growing pains?  Inconsistency?  Or, did the league figure him out? Questions, questions, questions! Don't spend a lot of money on players with questions like this.

More Questions of the Middle Tier:
The Lincecum Factor - SF - I have no clue where to put Tim Lincecum or how to advise you. I know his numbers were trending downward the last few years but a 5.18 ERA and a nearly a 1.50 Ratio? I don't know what to tell you other than he'll be a free agent after next season and he's still in the prime of his career. You need a strong discount on draft day but could be a very good gamble.

The Chapman Factor - CIN - Aroldis Chapman was a ridiculous closer in 2012 but how will he perform as a starter? He'll be on an innings limit and it seems to me he's best suited as a stud closer. Has huge talent but question is...... starter or a reliever? If you feel he is the latter, don't overpay for the hype!

The Ryu Factor - LAD - We know the Dodgers paid a lot of money for him and he is in the mix for the rotation. Word is his talent is that of a number 3 starter although I expect growing pains his rookie season.

Back-End Starters:
Matt Harvey - NYM - Yes, I know he pitched great in August and September but remember it was just 59 innings and the league will adjust to him. I believe Harvey will be a good pitcher but on a bad team and you CANNOT pay based his small sample last season. The hype is legit, but don't overpay for it!

Chad Billingsley - LAD - The talent is there but even when healthy, he's so inconsistent it will drive you crazy. Bills should be a middle tier starter at worst, in his sleep, but he isn't, due to his incredible lack of consistency and belief in his talent.

Lance Lynn - STL - In a battle for a rotation spot this spring which he should win. Was great in the first half last season and then lost his rotation spot come August. I would call him an excellent back end starter.

Ross Detwiler - WAS - Had a real nice season for Nats, like to see more K's though.

Rickey Nolasco - MIA - Has ability but his whole career has been killed by the big inning and consistency and the Marlins are a horror show. He will be traded come July as he is a free agent after the season.

Brandon McCarthy - ARI - Like Shaun Marcum below, without the trade potential. But this guy can't stay healthy.

Shawn Marcum - NY - If healthy could be a steal come draft day although the Mets will trade him come July if healthy.

Edison Volquez - SD - If he could ever get his walks down he could potentially turn the corner.

Paul Malholm - ATL - I know he's been solid last 2 years but I am a skeptic considering what he was before that. Although pitching for the Braves helps his stock.

Chris Capuano - LAD - Had a real solid season last year but what are the Dodgers going to do with all those starters? Also, Capuano is another guy who surprised last season and has had a ton of injury risk.

AJ Burnett - PIT - Was unbelieveable in the first half and then came back to earth in the second. Still had a real good year but AJ is just so inconsistent I don't see him doing two years in a row.

Clayton Richard - SD - Bounced back to have a real solid year but he is a low K guy.

Bronson Arroyo - CIN - One year he is real solid like last year and one year he is bad like in 2011.

Johan Santana - NYM - Hard to believe Johan is on the back end list. Follow his spring to see how he is doing health wise but even if he is doing well no more than a late draft flyer.

Marco Estrada - MIL - This 30 year old came out of nowhere to have a real good 2/3 of a season. Buyer beware on players who come out of nowhere.

Michael Fiers - MIL - Carbon copy of Estrada just a bit younger.

Wily Peralta - MIL - Pitched well for the Brewers down the stretch but again a small sample and was terrible in AAA last year although is considered a real good prospect.

Jacob Turner - MIA - That team is a mess, has talent but as a rookie on a bad team there will growing pains.

Kyle Kenderick - PHI - Could be a good back end guy but low K's and has been inconsistent in his career as a starter.

Eric Stults - SD - Was great for the amount of innings he pitched but was a small sample.

Edwin Jackson - CHI - Over-rated, has been an ratio killer many seasons and now on an awful team.

Aaron Harang - LAD - I am not a huge fan as his K's have gone down and he'll hurt your ratio. Again, who will be odd man out in Dodger rotation?

Barry Zito - SF - I know he won 15 games last year but overrated in fanatsy, low K's and bad ERA and Ratio.

Drew Pomeranz - COL - Has talent but Coors is not easy to pitch in. Stay away.

Henderson Alvarez - MIA - Young pitcher to go through growing pains on an awful team.

Francisco Liriano - PIT - Hasn't been good for a while and have to worry about his health.

Jake Westbrook - STL - Stay away, ratio killer.

Dillon Gee - NYM - Coming off major injury, bad team, low K guy and slightly negative ERA and Ratio pitcher.

Keep Eyes On:
- Ted Lilly's health
- Shelby Miller (STL) and Tyler Skaggs (ARI) - Have big potential and will probably start the season in the minors. Great reserve  or "grab and stash" picks.
- Is Mike Leake the odd man out of the rotation in Cincinnati?
- Are Colorado starter Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa healthy? If so, even in Colorado, they have shown they can be very solid pitchers. Great sleepers.

Follow me on Twitter @TheNLKing.

NL King - C.Lizza

Saturday, February 16, 2013

NL Only 2013 Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings Part 1

2013 NL Only Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers Rankings.  This is part 1 of 3 which will consist of staff Elite, Ace Value and Ace Potential.

Elite Starting Pitchers:
Clayton Kershaw - LAD - What is there to say other than he's #1 in the NL. The only category that Kershaw did not dominate was Wins which should change this year with the improved Dodger lineup.

Stephen Strasburg - WAS - Will be interesting to see how the Nationals handle Strasburg this season. But obviously he is capable of winning the NL CY Young.

Cole Hamels - PHI - Elite across the board.  Only question is will the offense score enough runs so Hamels can win close to 20 games.

Roy Halladay - PHI - I am still considering Doc an ace but last year was concerning and he will be 36 in May. Halladay is very capable of rebounding to an ace year and he'll go a much cheaper price come draft day.

Cliff Lee - PHI - Yes, a guy with 6 wins can make the aces list. He was still top notch in ERA, WHIP and K's. He was the most unluckiest pitcher in the NL last year. This won't likely happen two years in a row. He is still money in the bank in my opinion.

Ace Value:
Gio Gonzalez - WAS - Made progress with his walks but still a small red flag. If he can cut those BB's slightly his elite potential rises.

Matt Cain - SF - Finally broke 15 wins but through no fault of his own. Great ERA and Ratio numbers and his K's are knocking on the door of 200.

Johnny Cueto - CIN - Every year has improved across the board. Has a great chance to become a true ace this year.

Madison Bumgarner - SF - Needs to trim down his ERA and Ratio to be elite but he is not that far away. Plus, he's still a tick behind Matt Cain.

Zack Grienke - LAD - Capable of the CY Young season he had in KC (09) but has not duplicated that year yet. Last year had an ERA around 3.50 and the year before that 3.83. How will Grienke handle the pressure of a big market like LA after signing that huge contract? This is someone who has suffered from anxiety that effected his performance in the past. Again, capable of winning the CY Young but there are questions.

Ace Potential:
Kris Medlen - ATL - Pitched like Sandy Koufax the last two months of the season but we need to see it over the course of a full season.

Jordan Zimmerman - WAS - Sooner or later will get run support and break 15 wins. Needs to increase K's to a 150 to 160 a season.

Adam Wainwright - STL - Started slow but finished well. Very capable of going back to his elite status. Also a free agent after this season so playing for a huge payday. Remember last season he was coming back after missing the entire 2011 season.

Matt Latos - CIN - Has one year under his belt outside of Petco. Very capable of repeating last year but with numbers 15% better.

Yovani Gallardo - MIL - Strong in W's and K's but just average when it comes to ERA And Ratio.

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Hot Corner aka The Red Light District

As per my usual, I'm skipping over the Top 10 or so fantasy baseball Third Basemen. I still don't get how Evan Longoria goes as high as he does, and I don't know that I'd trust Will Middlebrooks to be all that great this season (now watch that prediction blow up on me,) but I'm not here to talk about them. I'm here to talk about some of the lesser 3-baggers. I'm going to start a little higher on the list, so we could be talking about players you'll have your eyes on if you're among the last to pick up a starter at this position.

David Freese, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Moustakas

Where does one start with these three? To me, they represent three dimensions of fantasy player: quietly consistent, boom and bust, and improving young'un.

If we break them down by category, Freese should easily win Batting Average, unless something inside Moustakas suddenly clicks. Then, perhaps, he could contend with Freese. Maybe.

In Home Runs, Alvarez should...I was going to say “run off,” but I think “walk off” might be more appropriate...with this category. The other two should have their fair share, but unless Alvarez collapses completely, this is a point in his favor.

Runs, RBIs, and Stolen Bases are all basically a crapshoot. None of them will steal much, although I would think Moustakas will get the most opportunities, with Freese in second. The knocks on these guys...Moustakas is young, and some still question him defensively at Third Base. If he struggles defensively, could that get in his head and mess with him offensively? Freese could get nicked up here and there, and those nicks may cost him more than a few games. Alvarez has the ability to be phenomenal for a brief period, then fall off, not unlike an episode from Season 6 of Family Guy.

Odds are, you've probably made your own decision by now, but if you still need me to rank them...I have to say I'd “Love” Freese, “Like” Moustakas, and “Leave” Alvarez. Sometimes I'll take the “boom and bust” guy if I think they could have a hot start and I could trade them off for something, but I don't believe that is the case with Alvarez. He's a desperation play in my opinion, and with these other two on the board, I'm not feeling desperate yet.

I don't play really deep leagues, at least I haven't yet, but if you're looking deeper, here's a few popular names:

Manny Machado, Lonnie Chisenhall, Todd Frazier

You've read it before, but I'll write it again. I like Batting Average. That said, when it comes to sleeper picks, that often goes out the window. Everything I heard about Frazier last year suggested that he has crazy power. Even if he doesn't get his best swing on a ball, he can still put it out at home, and as a later pick, I want to take my chances with a guy like him.

But didn't I just say I didn't want the “boom and bust” guy? Yes. That early, with the (roughly) 12th 3B off the board, I don't want Alvarez. A few picks later, I think I can get a more consistent and longer-streaking guy in Frazier. I may be speculating on the rosy side of things, but an offensive player in Cincinnati stands a pretty good chance of overperforming. I might not even be playing him, but I feel like he's the best possible trade chip later in the season out of these three. It's probably an easy call for a lot of folks, but nonetheless, I'll “Love” Frazier in this group.

Honestly, I'm not that excited about either of these other two. The projections seem better for Machado, but I don't know if Baltimore will repeat the type of season they had last year. I'm not that excited about Chisenhall either, even if Cleveland has the potential to have a very good year (and in the AL Central, anything is possible.)

I might be tempted by Machado for his potential eligibility at SS if Hardy were to get hurt, especially long-term (not that I'm suggesting anyone injure the guy, I'm just saying.) On the other hand, Chisenhall played there back in the day himself. If anything happened to Asdrubal Cabrera, well, let's just say if I had Chisenhall, it would be surprising enough that the FBI might be giving me a call.

It really comes down to whether I believe in the sophomore slump for Machado. If yes, go with the more experienced Chisenhall. Personally, this low in the rankings, I'd rather risk it. I'll “Like” Machado and “Leave” Chisenhall. I really can't argue too much for either over the other though.

Next: Outfielders!

Written by David Bobke