Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Join One of Our Opening Day FanDuel Leagues

More than a month away from the start of the regular season, everyone is optimistic when it comes to both real and fake baseball.

One of the great things about daily fantasy sports, however, is that you are never stuck with under-performing and/or injured players.

Imagine if you drafted Curtis Granderson, who will miss 10 weeks, only a few days ago.

In a traditional (full-season) league, you're stuck with him even if it cost you a third- or fourth-round pick. (Not a great value considering the new information: his injury.)  In a daily fantasy league, you're not.  It's easy to alter your roster.

Don't get me wrong.  I love managing my team for the full season (and beyond) as I participate almost exclusively in dynasty and/or keeper leagues.  But the season is long.  Playing in daily leagues adds some extra fun and excitement throughout the course of the year.

Long story short: I have set up three daily leagues that start (and end) on Opening Day (April 1st).  I encourage you to give it a try (by joining one of our leagues, of course):
All of the leagues have a $5 entry.

If you're not interested in one of these three leagues (or you'd like to check out their NBA or college basketball daily leagues), click here.

Good luck!

2013 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings

One of my most tried-and-true draft strategies is to wait as long as possible before drafting my fantasy catcher.

Without question, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey will be the first backstop drafted this year.  In fact, he's a border-line first-round pick using average draft position (ADP) data from Mock Draft Central as he's currently the 13th overall pick, on average, in their mock drafts.

While I would not take Posey with the 13th (or earlier) pick, I would consider using an early-round pick in the unlikely scenario that he slips to Round 3.

Since he's also used at first base, Posey played a league-high 148 games and finished second in at-bats (530) behind Minnesota's Joe Mauer (545) among the catcher-eligible players.  Only six catchers finished the year with 500-plus at-bats and only 14 of them had 400-plus at-bats.

Not only did he get the opportunities (plate appearances), he made the most of the them.

Posey, the reigning N.L. Most Valuable Player, led the majors with a .336 average as he won his first batting title.  Although three catchers had more homers than Posey (24), he was only four off the leader: Colorado's Wilin Rosario (28).  In addition, Posey led all catchers in runs batted in (103) with 15 more than Arizona's Miguel Montero, who finished second.

Unfortunately for Posey and his fantasy owners, he plays in a pitcher's park and the vast majority of his home runs came on the road last year.  While that trend should continue, he actually hit for a higher average at home (.343) than he did on the road (.330) last year.

Barring injury, Posey is the surest of sure things behind the plate.  He may not finish with a line of .336/24/103 again, but .310/20/80 is a more-than-reasonable projection with upside of a much better year.

Salvador Perez: Nice value at ADP of 134

If you speak Spanish, you know that "salvador" translates to savior.

While Kansas City's Salvador Perez will not literally be your team's "savior," he's a really good option at catcher and available relatively late.  With an ADP of 134 (via Mock Draft Central), he's the 11th catcher off the board.

After returning from knee surgery, the 22-year-old hit .301 with 11 homers in 76 games in 2012.  Provided he stays healthy for a full season, Perez has the potential to hit .300 with around 20 home runs and 75 runs batted in this year.

Even though he walked in only 4.7 percent of his at-bats in the second half, only two catchers with at least 100 at-bats had a better (lower) strikeout rate than Perez (9.7 percent).  Using data from FanGraphs, only Cincinnati catcher Ryan Hanigan (8.5 percent) and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina (9.6 percent) had better rates.

Perhaps my projections are a bit too optimistic.  That said, only three catchers hit .300 with 15 home runs last year: Posey, Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz.

Some More Catcher Notes:

This offseason, it was discovered that Red Sox free-agent addition Mike Napoli has avascular necrosis, a degenerative hip condition.  While the player and club initially agreed to a three-year deal, they ultimately settled on a one-year deal loaded with incentives.  The hip injury is less of a concern for folks in re-draft leagues than for those in keeper or dynasty leagues.

No catcher has more homers than Napoli over the past three seasons (80) and he has five consecutive seasons with 20-plus home runs.  In other words, there is a good chance that Napoli will lead all catchers in home runs this season.

Colorado's Wilin Rosario plays half of his games at the hitter-friendly Coors Field and he took advantage last year as a rookie.  While he hit .297 at home (versus .242 on the road), 18 of his position-high 28 homers and 44 of his 71 runs batted in came at home.

After playing only 82 games, the fewest since his rookie season, in 2011, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer played a career-high 147 games last year and had his fourth season with 600-plus plate appearances.  While he's unlikely to ever hit the 28 homers he hit in 2009 again, a .310/80/10/80 line is a very reasonable expectation for Mauer.

Baltimore Orioles backstop Matt Wieters set some career highs in 2012 with 144 games, 593 plate appearances, 23 home runs and 83 runs batted in although he hit below .250 for the second time in the past three seasons.  Wieters finished strong with a .296 average, six homers and 18 RBIs in September and October.

The stars aligned perfectly last year for Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.  Molina set career highs in all of the 5x5 categories: .315 average, 65 runs, 22 home runs, 76 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases.  While I expect a solid line (~ .305/60/15/65/8) for Molina, I don't expect a repeat of those numbers and won't pay for them, which means he likely won't be on any of my teams in 2013.  Based on his current ADP of 37 overall, I'd much rather wait for someone like Perez almost 100 spots later.

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz set career highs in homers (16), RBI (68) and average (.325).  Despite being a much stronger second-half hitter historically, Ruiz got off to a strong start last year: .350 average, 13 HRs and 46 RBI before the All-Star break.  For fantasy owners hoping for another strong start, Ruiz unfortunately will serve a 25-game suspension to begin the season for the use of adderall.

Here are my 2013 fantasy catcher rankings:

1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
2. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
3. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
4. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
5. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
6. Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
7. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
8. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
9. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
10. Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks
11. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners
12. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
13. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Bucks
14. A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers
15. Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
16. Ryan Doumit, Minnesota Twins
17. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox
19. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays
20. Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox

For a second opinion, check out Duncan Sanford's catcher rankings.  (Or view our consensus catcher rankings here.)

Other positions: 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF - SP - RP

To keep track of our updates:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Curtis Granderson (forearm) out for 10 weeks

If you have had any fantasy baseball drafts before Sunday, hopefully you did not use an early-round pick on Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson.

To alter a phrase from John Sterling, "the Grandy Man can't" (at least, for the month of April).

In his first at-bat of spring training, Granderson was hit by a fastball from J.A. Happ in the right forearm, which was fractured.  Unfortunately for the Yankees and his fantasy owners, the injury will keep Granderson out for the next 10 weeks.

Well, it’s not what you want,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “We have plenty of time to figure out what we’re going to do. I mean, Grandy’s not a bat that you’d say is easy to replace, but we’re going to find a way.”

The only good thing is we are more than a month away from the start of the regular season.  As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “If Curtis is going to miss two months, you’d rather have one of the two not count.”

Granderson finished tied for second in baseball with 43 home runs and 11th in runs batted in (106) last year.

In my updated fantasy baseball outfielder rankings, I've dropped Granderson from No. 13 to No. 24.

Andrew McCutchen, Pirates to steal more bases in 2013?

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is one of baseball's elite players and sure to be an early first-round pick in fantasy baseball drafts this year.

Over the past three seasons, however, his base-stealing production has continued to decline: 33 steals (2010), 23 (2011) and 20 (2012).

That said, that trend could very well be reversed in 2013 as McCutchen and the Pirates make a more concerted effort to swipe more bases.  And McCutchen is studying some successful base-stealers that don't have his natural gifts to help make that happen.

"I know that with my speed I should be able to get to the next base without a problem," McCutchen said, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I like to watch the guys who need a little more than just speed to get to the base. You can really see their mechanics and their form."

"His attitude toward us is, 'I want you to go,'" [teammate Alex] Presley said (of manager Clint Hurdle). "'I want you to be aggressive. If you get thrown out, you get thrown out.'"

Although McCutchen stole a career-low 20 bases last year, he set career highs across the board in other categories: .327 batting average, 31 home runs, 107 runs and 96 runs batted in.

Along with Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Angels rookie Mike Trout, McCutchen was one of three 30-20 players last season.

Going into the 2013 season, McCutchen is currently the fifth-ranked player on my overall big board.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five MLB Team Prop Bets from John Trifone

Now that spring training games are under way, the March 31st regular-season opener between the Rangers and Astros will be here before we know it.

With clean slates, 30 MLB teams (and their fan bases) have that new-year optimism.  Not all of them should, however.

Based on team win prop bets from Sportsbook.com, John Trifone came up with five that he likes (or doesn't like, depending on your perspective).  Here they are:
Baltimore Orioles - under 78.5 wins

They were a great story last year and I hate to bet against Buck Showalter, but the AL East is just too tough, and Baltimore way over achieved in close games last year.

Chicago White Sox - over 80.5

The White Sox have a strong offense in a division that is fairly mediocre outside of Detroit.  Chris Sale emerged as a star that can anchor the rotation.  I like this team to be better than .500.

Houston Astros - under 59.5

There's not a lot of good news for the Astros so I'll start with the bad.  A team that won 55 games last year in the NL is moving to the AL West with the Rangers, Angels, A's, and Mariners.  I can't see them winning five more games in a tougher league and one of the most competitive divisions in baseball.

Los Angeles Dodgers - over 91.5

The Dodgers did not finish strong after all of their big acquisitions last year.  However, starting fresh, I believe they're going to be a force to be reckoned with.  They are one of the most balanced teams in baseball and are a legitimate threat to win it all.

Philadelphia Phillies - over 83.5

A few years ago the Phillies were dubbed to be perennial favorites behind an incredible pitching staff.  After an injury-plagued season last year, look for Philly to bounce back.  They have three aces on the staff, and with lower expectations and a lot less pressure this year, I think they'll thrive.
Thoughts on John's picks?  Other teams?

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), who also contributes at our NFL site: Eat, Drink and Sleep Football (see John's archives).  Throughout the MLB season, John will be handicapping some games and you'll be able to follow his picks throughout the season this year.]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Felix Hernandez, Mariners finalize 7-year, $175M deal

The Seattle Mariners and staff ace Felix Hernandez had agreed to a seven-year deal worth $175 million last week, but some concerns about the long-term risks of King Felix's elbow held the deal up.

With some protective language added, the deal was finalized today.

"I would send along my congratulations to [Hernandez's agents] Scott Pucino and Wil Polidor. They were very professional in working this agreement with us. I think it's a great thing for the Seattle Mariners and it's a great thing for Felix Hernandez. We're looking forward to this guy being here for a long time, obviously," said GM Jack Zduriencik, per Greg Johns of MLB.com.

Although Hernandez had two years remaining on his existing contract, this deal will replace those two years and he is now under contract through the 2019 season.

Now the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history, Hernandez is my fourth-ranked fantasy starter in my 2013 fantasy baseball rankings.

A workhorse and a model of consistency, Hernandez has struck out 217-plus batters in four consecutive seasons.  Despite posting a cumulative ERA of 2.92 over the past three seasons, however, Hernandez is only five games above .500 during that span (40-35) and lack of run support is only real concern from a fantasy perspective.

2005 19 4 4 2.67 0 0 84.1 77 0.996 6.5 0.5 2.5 8.2 3.35
2006 20 12 14 4.52 2 1 191.0 176 1.335 9.2 1.1 2.8 8.3 2.93
2007 21 14 7 3.92 1 1 190.1 165 1.377 9.9 0.9 2.5 7.8 3.11
2008 22 9 11 3.45 2 0 200.2 175 1.385 8.9 0.8 3.6 7.8 2.19
2009 23 19 5 2.49 2 1 238.2 217 1.135 7.5 0.6 2.7 8.2 3.06
2010 24 13 12 2.27 6 1 249.2 232 1.057 7.0 0.6 2.5 8.4 3.31
2011 25 14 14 3.47 5 0 233.2 222 1.220 8.4 0.7 2.6 8.6 3.31
2012 26 13 9 3.06 5 5 232.0 223 1.142 8.1 0.5 2.2 8.7 3.98
8 Yrs 98 76 3.22 23 9 1620.1 1487 1.212 8.2 0.7 2.7 8.3 3.10