Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

Tout Wish List 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 22 March 2014 05:50

It is Tout Wars weekend: the weekend of the fantasy draft season that culminates with the convergence of the Touts in New York City.

Perhaps because we do draft in midtown Manhattan, and the joy of spending five days in the Big Apple is the catalyst. It always means some time with my cousin Richard, which is great, and it means some great food. Wings at Virgil’s, for sure, and usually great deli with Gene McCaffrey. Of course, it also means time with Brian Walton and Lord Z.

The weekend also means that I get to draft in what may indeed be the toughest league of all, AL Tout Wars.

Since the season begins Saturday night, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, the Tout schedule was juggled so that instead of kicking things off with the American League, we will finish things off on Sunday while the NL and Mixed auctions take place later today (note you can listen to all the drafts live on Sirius/XM, channels 87/210).

Since I have made it a tradition to put my wish list out there each season just before the draft, this year will be no different. So, here are some of the guys I am looking at, and how much I think they will cost.

Chris Sale ($25): I love having a pitching anchor—and I mean stabilizer, and not dead weight—and I think Sale is getting close to being the American League’s version of Clayton Kershaw. Well, maybe not quite so dominant, but close. I want him stabilizing me.

Colby Rasmus ($12): I wouldn’t say I have man-love for Rasmus nearly as much as I think he is both talented, and will grow up someday. I think today is someday, and he will be a tad undervalued.

Michael Brantley ($14): Kind of the same as Rasmus, though younger, more consistent, and ready to put it together. Potential 20/20, though.

Alberto Callaspo ($5): Versatile Athletic will give some on-base numbers with a little pop, while also providing position flexibity.

Yordano Ventura ($6): Perhaps Ventura will be the best barometer of the flow of the draft, depending upon when the Royals' young fireballer is nominated. I realize he could indeed go for the $6 I think he is worth, but that just as likely, Ventura could go in the $15 range. If that is the case, my mates can take the gamble.

Adrian Nieto ($1): I think I can fill my #2 catcher spot with the Rule 5 pick who is the back-up to Tyler Flowers. That means Nieto, with a .346 minor league OBP, should stay on the roster and if he can hit with more consistency than Flowers, could steal the starting job.

Luke Gregerson ($2): Perfect #3 reliever, and he might even cop a few saves.

Ian Kinsler ($15): Make or break for Kinsler as an over $10 player. I am hoping that being on the Tigers and hitting around Miguel Cabrera will help rebuild his game to the $20 range.

Dan Straily ($12): Would be solid as a #2. I think Straily is underrated still, but not for long. This is a guy with 592 minor league punch outs over 551.3 innings, to go with a 1.221 WHIP.

Leonys Martin ($15): Would love to get Martin, who along with Brantley and Rasmus will give me a nice power/speed outfield base without costing too much.

Of course, there are others I covet, but for one thing, I would hate my competitors to know everything I am thinking, and for two, well, it gives if you dial into Sirius/XM Sunday, you can hear for yourselves.
Tracing Tommy John's Elbow PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00
When I was reading the tributes to Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away last week, I kept thinking about the trade of Tommy John to the Dodgers.

When John was swapped to the Dodgers in 1971, I was as hardcore a Dodgers fan as you could find. 

As I have noted before, I didn't realize as a ten-year old in 1962, when I adopted the Dodgers as a Northern California boy, that I was contrary. Part of the deal was everyone else loved the Giants, but I would like to also think that I had some subliminal attachment to the Bums and Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson that appealed to me: Me, a supporter of the underdog and, well, lifelong happy bearer of all things Berkeley Hippie.

By '72 I was already in my third year of college, and as much into Pink Floyd and the Who as the Dodger rotation of Bill Singer, Al Downing, Claude Osteen, Don Sutton and the newly added John.

When the Bums traded the great and wrongly maligned hitter, Dick Allen to the White Sox for John after the 1971 year, I was sort of shocked, kind of like I was when the Dodgers copped Osteen for Frank Howard in 1964. However, that trade really worked out well for the Bums, and over the years I learned to trust their front office and moves.

Sure enough, TJ was very good. At age 29, in '72 he was 11-5, 2.89 (186.6 innings), and 16-7, 3.10 (218 innings) in 1973, before really killing it at 13-3, 2.59 over 153 innings in 1974, when the lefty blew out his elbow.

By then, Sutton and Downing were still in the rotation, joined by Doug Rau and Andy Messersmith and TJ, whose career looked like it was suddenly over. (When you think about it, that was a rather storied rotation, for in addition to John's narrative, Messersmith was amongst the first players to be declared a free agent, Downing gave up Hank Aaron's 715th homer and Sutton went on to become a Hall of Famer.)

Enter Dr. Frank Jobe, who grafted a ligament from John's right elbow to his left, resurrecting his career in an amazing fashion.

For John, 164 more wins over the 14 seasons after he returned to the lineup from the pioneering operation that was performed by the good doctor were the results, and according to the Los Angeles Times, over 1000 such surgeries have been performed on Major Leaguers since TJ was the guinea pig.

When all of this transpired 40 years ago, it seemed such a miracle (it really was) that John recovered and was able to pitch again. At least I remember being skeptical at the time about the process, but John's recovery, and the now standard use of the procedure, clearly shows Dr. Jobe knew what he was doing. In fact, it seems that most pitchers who undergo the surgery actually throw a bit harder post operative than they did prior to the operation.

Dr. Jobe, who died at age 88 on March 7, was the man with this vision, and to whom so many arms and players attached owe their livelihood.

As a case in poin: below is the list of players who are currently under contract and are recovering from TJ Surgery.

  • Luke Hochevar
  • Eric O'Flaherty
  • Fernando Rodriguez
  • Matt Reynolds
  • Gavin Floyd
  • Jonny Venters
  • Kyuji Fujikawa
  • Chad Billingsley
  • Scott Elbert
  • Matt Harvey
  • Casey Kelly
  • Jason Motte
  • That is quite a legacy, Dr. Jobe. I am sure all those ballplayers--and others who have undergone the operation for whatever reason--thank you so much.

    I certainly do.

    Freeze Time Trades and Stuff PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00

    It is that time of year, whereby if you are in a keeper league, you have to pare your team down--or sometimes even fill spots-- to meet freeze requirements prior to drafting.

    And, while I am making decisions about my own freeze lists, I also get questions about who to keep, who to trade, and who to dump.

    Well, Shaune Beatty sent a real poser last week, so I want to take a look at Shaune's offers.

    First, and this is the most important aspect of thinking about any trade, Shaune gave me some league parameters.

    14-Team League.

    Head to Head.

    Over ten-year league.

    This year we keep 9-12 players. Contracts are 3 years only. 

    Contracts renew when traded. Expire Yr in ( ).
    Compete in following 6x6 areas:

    On top of that, Shaune says he expects to go into the draft protecting 9 hitters and 3 starting pitchers.

    Who would you rather keep out of the following deals? I would have either for two more years.
    Zack Greinke or Wil Myers?

    Well, to start, I would keep Myers under just about all circumstances.

    TRADE 1:

    TRADE: Cliff Lee (must trade), Jose Bautista (one year left), Craig Kimbrel (must trade), Zack Greinke OR Wil Myers (both two years left)
    GET: Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez
    * I could likely keep Greinke/Myers if I pull Jose.

    TRADE 2:

    TRADE: Cliff Lee (must trade), Joey Bats (one year left), Craig Kimbrel (must trade), Zack Greinke OR Wil Myers (both two years left)
    GET: Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander.

    Now, I have to say these are both really great offers, but the set-up of Shaune's league makes me go in a different manner.

    Normally, I would edge towards the troika of Votto, Stanton and Fernandez, looking for the youth and contracts that would help me this year and make me more than competitive in coming years with, in particular, Stanton and Fernandez both moving towards peak years, but also as the Marlins improve.

    However, with the league only allowing for three years before having to toss players back into the pool, I would opt for Miggy, Braun and Verlander as established pros in the throes of those peak years now.

    So, as much as I--as I guess we all do--love having those wonderful up-and-coming prospects, Shaune would be looking at Myers, Bautista, Cabrera, Braun and Verlander as the core of his keepers. Were that an NFBC format, that is a pair of first rounders, with possibly four second rounders, and that is a core that should be seriously competitive in 2014, and 2015.

    Furthermore, while it might be tough to pass on Fernandez and Stanton, they too would be back in the player pool in 2016 as established veterans, ideally as masters of their craft to the degree that Verlander and Cabrera are now.

    At least that is how I would approach this deal.

    Looking at a different Head-to-Head situation, I had to decide whether to keep Alex Gordon or Erick Aybar in my Scoresheet League this weekend. In most instances, that seems like a no-brainer since offensively, Gordon is a lot more productive.


    But, in the Scoresheet format, where defense counts, and with the Head-to-Head spin which only allows for playing nine hitters (DH is used) each game, making sure the entire roster is fleshed out is critical.

    Meaning the decision is not so much of a no-brainer as it seems.

    In the end, I did keep Gordon because of his run production skills, but, believe me, I am targeting Aybar as my first selection next Saturday, when we draft in the 24-team format. I just hope he is still out there (I know Gordon would not be).

    Note that if you have a question, feel free to tweet it to me @lawrmichaels

    Thoughts From the Best: Winning Fantasy Baseball PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:00

    These days, within the industry, it is pretty common knowledge that Larry Schechter is the best fantasy baseball player around. 

    That is because Larry has won at pretty much every level, including CDM and Challenge Leagues, as well as LABR, and between the Mixed and American League Tout Wars Leagues, he has six titles.

    In his recently published book, Winning Fantasy Baseball, Schechter plots out his methodologies for success in a fairly straightforward--much like Larry himself--manner that is generally easy for the reader to grasp.

    As an insider who has played in leagues against Larry for the best part of the last decade, I have always wondered what his real secret to success has been, and the real bottom line is that, for better or worse, he works harder at it than I.

    Not that I mean to dismiss Larry's judiciousness. Rather, as a student of British Literature in graduate school, I ran from math classes and formulas with as much haste as possible.

    However, there are two points in that notion of my educational background that should provide comfort to most fantasy players.

    The first is that Larry was not a mathematician either. The second--and this is conjecture on my behalf--is that like me, Larry finds simply looking at and thinking about the numbers associated with the game of baseball not just fascinating, but as the source of some kind of secret to a number of riddles we encounter in life. 

    The truth is I have never been one to go that much into stats beyond righty/lefty splits, OBP, walks-to-strikeouts for both pitchers and batters, WHIP, and in younger players a percentage of extra-base hits to hits.

    BABIP, ball park factors, minor league equivalencies, and a number of other stats the Schechter discusses--and sometimes debunks rather logically--never really mattered to me.

    Rather, I have always tried to look at career statistical means, age, the previous season, and most important, what is needed to win a respective league relative to the format. That is, the approach one would take to win a head-to-head competition would be different than to win an American League-only 5x5 league.

    Well, certainly Larry digs into all of the above, and for the most part sticks with the baseline of statistics that I embrace, and validates my thoughts. But, Larry is also a hard worker, and he does dive deep beneath the numbers to show us how he can use those statistics to confirm the players he likes and wishes to target, or even dismiss players who he believes are over-rated as he prepares for his drafts and auctions.

    The real bottom line where Larry and I are on exactly the same page is that winning in fantasy is exclusively about turning over a profit with as many players on your roster as you can. Meaning if you buy Joey Votto for $45 in a National League-only setup, it will be a loftier goal to break even with the investment than it will to turn a profit on a $1 Hector Sanchez simply because Sanchez hitting .275-4-25 will return $3. On the other hand, Votto will have to have a .320-35-120 year to return the $45, and that is no easy row to hoe for any hitter.

    The conundrum is that you cannot win without at least a couple of Vottos on your team, so Larry probes the numeric depths of how to identify those players at both ends of the player pool specturm who will indeed give you the best shot at a profitable return in the coming season.

    I must say though, if you read carefully, the real subtext of what Larry presents is both simple and easy to grasp: Use common sense.

    As in it is unlikely that Sanchez will hit ten homers because he is not the starter and will not get the opportunity. And, even if he did play every day, only once since 2007, when he became a professional, has Sanchez belted more than ten big flies over the course of a season.

    Larry does spend a fair amount of time drilling down into how to create projections, and again to couple with that common sense he regularly reminds us to simply be realistic, which is again, a path I have always followed. In fact, rarely do I project a player to provide more than say a .290-25-85 line for a hitter, or 14 wins, a 3.00 ERA, 150 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP for a pitcher who will toil 200 innings. Not that there will not be a cluster of players who will exceed these numbers, but I try to factor conservatively, purchase as much on the low end of the bidding spectrum as I can, and let the chips fall.

    And again, for the most part, Larry does the same. The difference is that he really goes through the process of crunching the numbers and theoretical values for all the players in preparation for each season, while I simply write profiles and for the most part can remember who each player is and in general what they have done and realistically will do.

    However, the one aspect to Larry's approach that I do find both interesting, as well as the slant that gives him some edge aside from his doggedness in number crunching, is that he indeed factors out dollar values down to the penny. 

    That is, I might factor that Hunter Pence is an $18 player, and, depending upon when in the auction Pence is nominated, and who needs what, I might be willing to go as high as $20 for Pence before deciding the investment is not worth the potential payoff. 

    Not so Larry. For, if he believes the value of Pence is $18.40, once $19 becomes the bid, Schechter folds, and that subtle difference is likely a large part of what makes the difference between his five Tout wins and my pair of them.

    In general, Winning Fantasy Baseball is a lot more readable than I feared a formula-based book might be, and it is all presented in a logical and graspable fashion.

    In the end, stats or not, as we enter the heights of the 2014 draft season, Larry's thoughts, coupled with his clear success, make the book a great planning tool for all all fantasy players who are simply interested in winning.

    And, well, simply reading about fantasy baseball is enough to jazz most of us anyway.


    Auction Do's and Don'ts PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 22 February 2014 00:00

    I was on The Drive the other day with my buds Kyle Elfrink and Ray Flowers, talking about auction leagues. Of course, the time with them always shoots by, and I am never sure if we cover one-fourth of the topics out there. It sure feels like if I have ten things I want to remember to say, maybe we hit a couple of them.

    Well, I knew we were going to discuss auctions before I went on the air Thursday, so I made a list of basic guidelines I try to follow. And, since I only really hit on a few of the bullets, here are said guidelines, in no particular order.

    Be patient. One of the reasons that players nominated first generate higher salaries is that folks have the money to burn. So, the prudent way to make your initial player investment more effective is to wait at least a couple of rounds before jumping in. That is because there are values to be found once your league mates have spent 25% of their proceeds. As an example, I did not purchase a player in NL LABR last year until the fourth round (Sergio Romo for $19). I didn't get any stars, but I finished fourth with the best pitching, and well, had I adjusted $2 and purchased Paul Goldschmidt instead of Ike Davis, I would have won. Plain and simple.

    Once those prices have indeed fallen a bit flat, act fast. For, aside from the sleepers late in the game, that is where you will find your bargains. As in right after Romo, I nabbed Gio Gonzalez ($19) and Jordan Zimmermann ($17), bargains both. Unfortunately, after Goldie and Freddie Freeman both went for around $25, I copped Davis, who was certainly comparable at the time, for $23. So, even the price was right. Not the player, however.

    Don't target a single player as the guy you have to get, as in if you focus too much on one guy, the team balance will fall off. It is ok during an auction to have a couple of dollars of variance. That means if you think Clayton Kershaw is worth $31, you can go to $33, but draw a line and don't cross it. Rather, let your opponents commit. You can find the points elsewhere. And, that guy who got Clayton now has 34 fewer dollars in his budget, meaning you got board control over him.

    Stay flexible. I always have a basic plan, but that plan is largely rooted upon the first round of players and amount of money spent. And, you can spend a lot of money and get major production--like Kershaw for $34--or get similar numbers and fill two slots with Zimmermann and Gonzalez for virtually the same amount of money. Of course, pairing Kershaw with a $2 Nathan Eovaldi could well give the same, or even better overall results, but the point is there are many ways to use your money. So, make sure you have a basic path, but a secondary and tertiary path you can adjust to on the fly. Having contingencies is the only way to survive.

    Never let a bargain pass by. If, as noted above, you pegged Kershaw for $31, and the bidding slows down around $28, and you can get him at less than projected, do it.

    Don't get caught short. If you do hold out for those first few rounds, suddenly you have $260 or so, and everyone else has between $175 and $200, meaning you can easily get who you want and probably still have the dollar edge. But, it is easy when the prices do come your way to overspend, and suddenly that edge is lost. So, try to hold out $30-$40 for your last six-to-eight players. Having the buying power over the other players is everything, for that angle allows you to choose a team, rather than to simply wind up with one.

    Neil Walker Here We Go! PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:00

    My mate Lord Zola and I spend a lot of time talking about players and strategies and such.

    But, it is not like we are baseball geeks in the classic sense.

    True, like all of our buds who are lucky enough to write about baseball, we do love the game, but, all of us have other interests for certain.

    Z and I, though discuss positions and scarcity and formats more as a matter of fact, kind of like an old married couple talking about their grown up kids, the state of national affairs and the price of Metamucil. In fact, if you have ever ridden in a car with the two of us--and Todd usually drives--you will understand just how true the domestic simile is.

    During our dialogues, usually conveyed via the miracle of G-Chat, we have drafted teams (don't forget that the country separates Todd, who lives in Boston, and me, a San Francisco Bay Area resident), confirmed the value of Alex Rios, and the lack thereof for Rick Porcello, and dealt with the horrors of draft quandaries Position Scarcity and ADP.

    I think though that position scarcity is a misnomer, as Todd has discussed, although I think we would both agree with the world that we would always want to get the best possible player for each position on any team.

    As we all know, however, in any draft or auction league, no one is going to get the best players, and we will always have those holes to fill.

    But, as Lord Z has so simply and eloquently put it, "So, I don't get Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia at second. I'll get my numbers somewhere else at the time and take Neil Walker later."

    Well, he is right.

    Furthermore, and we both I believe are down with this, how you draft a team doesn't matter as long as the resulting numbers make for a competitive squad.

    Now, while this surely dictates that during the first rounds, obviously the Mike Trouts and Miguel Cabreras are the guys to take first--simply because they do produce, along with giving very little indication of dropping off. Once we do indeed get into the middle and later rounds, drafts are truly an exercise in trying to fill in the best fit for the position, relative to statistical need.

    Meaning if you can bag Trout, Rios and Jose Fernandez over the first few rounds and augment with a few solid outfielders and relievers, then taking Walker in the 18th round (he does have a .273-16-80 average over 162 games) might seem boring, but it sure as hell is not going to hurt your team going in.

    So, what I have also determined is that if you covet the likes of Kole Calhoun, Corey Kluber, Starling Marte or Leonys Martin, to name a few of the experts favorites I like this year, then grab them when you can.

    Of course, it is true that you always want to get the upside skill of any player rostered. And, to correlate, I also believe that we win to a large degree with dull players who all hit career baselines, but for some reason are not valued by the rest of your league.

    I think though, what this all boils down to is there is no specific formula (aside from the judiciousness of a Larry Schechter, who approaches his craft with the meticulousness of a NASA scientist, and whose tome, Winning Fantasy Baseball, I am moving through at present) that will guide you to a fantasy title.

    What I am saying is that you pick a team of guys you like, theoretically who are or have been healthy, and are on successful teams. 

    Now, I am not saying to lose objectivity, but as we are on the verge of spring training and real drafts, select a team that will be fun to manage.

    Because, we do play this game for fun.

    And, well, as long as you know what you need to win, and can assemble a roster that will match that going into the season, that is the best you can hope for.

    A National League Lonely Mock? PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 08 February 2014 02:32

    Ok, I don't want to go on and on about mock drafts, but, as I wrote last week, mocks are so revealing in so many ways.

    So, when I joined the 12-team NL mock Pasko Varnica moderated along with Howard Bender Wednesday, I wasn't sure exactly what tack I would take.

    Of course, sometimes I don't really know for sure till the last minute. And, often even in real-time drafts and auctions I am not sure which way I am going to go till I indeed fetch my first player.

    So, with the fourth selection in the arguably lean National League, I just decided to exploit pitching to start, and grabbed Clayton Kershaw with my first pick, following up with Yasiel Puig as selection #2.

    However, pick three was Jose Fernandez, and then I went hurlers with #6 (Sergio Romo), #7 (Jonathan Papelbon), #8 (Michael Wacha) and #9 (Andrew Cashner).

    From there, no pitchers till the 20th round, and then I was able to close with Robbie Erlin (#20), Jacob Turner (#21) and Nick Vincent (#22).

    What that did tell me is there was actually some pretty good pitching out there at the end, but, what I liked was that even though I have a lot of junk players in my infield, so does everyone else.

    In fact, in looking at the other teams in the mock, no team came even close to filling out a full-time roster. Worse, if we pick the bottom feeder players just within the infield, it is clear just how offensive offense is in the NL.

    1 2 3 4 5 6
    Owings McGehee Scutaro Arias Johnson Wong
    Francisco Rutledge Furcal Chavez Cozart Gennett
    Frazier Baez Mercer Barney Drew Asche
    7 8 9 10 11 12
    Ellis Sanchez Alonso LaRoche Hill Morales
    Descalso LeMahieu Abreu Franco Walker Uggla
    Pacheco Prado Guerrero Hechevarria Peralta Solano

    Now, there is no question Team 11 has got it going the best with Aaron Hill, Neil Walker and Jhonny Peralta.

    But, the rest of us are full of junk.

    Which, though it might seem distressing, is actually kind of reassuring.

    What it means is that every team in such a format will have to deal with that crap, hoping for some meaningful at-bats out of the likes of Joaquin Arias.

    But, it also makes the middle infield analogous to relief pitcher in that if you play the waiver wire carefully, you can pick up at-bats and the related numbers out of the free agent pool if you work said pool diligently.

    What is kind of strange is that I really love the challenge of playing in a deep league, having the challenge of trying to win with the likes of Tim Federowicz and maybe Junior Lake.

    For, even if the numbers, or players may never set a league record, winning is always satisfying. And, it is especially so when your team comes through with a hodgepodge of surprises.

    Back to the topic at hand, however, I am not sure I would have noticed just how really lean the NL in particular is.

    Sure, the lack of the DH removes one more than average bat from the National League player pool (and mind you some of the players selected out of the pool were the free agent ultimate gambles, like Morales).

    But, a lot of expectations going into the draft can be baselined—in a realistic fashion—by going through the motions of those goofy mocks.

    Like I said: I cannot recommend it enough.

    By the way, we have one more mock coming up this Wednesday, February 12 at 5 PM PST. Check with This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

    The Best Possible Draft Prep PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 01 February 2014 00:00

    If you are reading this, then theoretically you are doing your draft preparation for the 2014 Fantasy Baseball season.

    That means maybe you bought The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2014, "Professional Edition,"  in which Mastersball is not only featured, but which I think has the most player profiles, and its wonderful "Picks and Pans."

    And, though I digress--and shill a little--the point is studying for the draft is critical to success in fantasy ball (it is also a lot of fun).

    I always do a few things to get ready for mine, the most important of which is to know the player pool.

    That means knowing who all the players on the 40-man rosters for certain, and depending upon the depth and rules of your league, the newbie prospects who are just filtering up from last year's June draft.

    But, I think the next best thing a player can do to prep for the draft season is to participate in mock drafts.

    Now, you might dismiss mocks as a point of self-validation for ADP, but truly, the two really have nothing in common save a data base by which to pull a statistical mean.

    Truth is I don't really care about ADP: I am more of the opinion of drafting the player who best suits the needs of your team, not so much individually, but as part of a whole that will assemble a body of competitive statistics.

    For me, mocks afford an opportunity to simply try things.

    For example, in all five of the mocks I have done so far, I have waited as long as possible to draft pitching, usually until the fifth, or even sixth round, and as a result have been able to bag the likes of Mike Minor and Jordan Zimmermann pretty regularly as the core of my staffs. Which tells me that though pitching is always the danger zone, it is also deep enough that you can wait a bit to build a staff and still grab a solid pair of arms to anchor.

    In an American League mock, I simply tried to not worry about a closer, again focusing on starting pitching, and in a league that produces offense, hitting.

    So, my relief staff consists of Luke Gregerson, Bruce Rondon and Luke Hochevar, three arms who might get ten conversions at best, but in avoiding a closer, I learned first how my opponents did value closers. But, I also know in auctions, for example, I should be able to bag any of these three for a buck. And, I know that in the event of an injury or ineffectiveness, any of the three could be in line to close.

    Additionally, as I see how my mates are drafting, I can see not just who they value and the players they think can be sneaked through (for ideally everyone in the mock is road testing ideas as well, and that affords yet another learning opportunity).

    But, what I have really learned, especially in this year's spate of mocks, is that if you fancy a player, take him, no matter when.

    Sure, there are those first rounders--like Carlos Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw--who are uber-talented and can provide the foundation for a team. But, even though the star players we grab can set us up, that is not where we win leagues.

    That happens in later rounds, where ideally the overlooked, undervalued and/or dismissed can come through and give your squad a boost.

    What playing out a mock does, though, is help you identify how fantasy players value Corey Kluber, Kole Calhoun and Michael Brantley (three guys I really like this year, all of whom have gone after the 12th round in the mocks I have done.

    But, what this tells me is to go ahead and grab these guys in the 10th or 11th round, not only because I like them, but because most other players have made similar evaluations and observations, but also think those guys will slide. So, taking them--and Kluber, Calhoun and Brantley are just examples of players we might have our eye on--aggressively ensures that the players will be on our roster. And, as a secondary strategy, it forces our opponents to have to look elsewhere for those perceived sleepers/bargains.

    Because, ADP and position scracity don't really matter once the draft starts: what matters is making sure you have a squad that will produce competitive numbers. So, who you think will help, or when those players are picked does not matter, as long as the aggregate provides the needed numbers.

    To continue, by playing out as many mocks as you can, three goals can be accomplished. They are:

    • You can familiarize yourself with the depth of the player pool at large.
    • You can get a feel for how other fantasy players value that pool.
    • Most important, you can practce. For, mocks are really just a rehearsal, and what better way to feel comfortable than to prep by mimicking reality? 

    That final bullet is the key, for like practicing a speech, or a song, or a presentation, what you are really doing is preparing for the real thing, and that means simply being comfortable and relaxed while drafting. For, if you are comfortable at the draft table, that is half the battle to success.

    If you are looking to do some mocks, look to the following sites, try Mock Draft Central, Real Time Sports, or the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), who run mocks regularly this time of year. (Note that NFBC participants are pointed to Mock Draft Central, but get mock access.)

    By the way, Mastersball's This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it is hosting mocks for the site next Wednesday (NL, 12-team, snake) at 5 PM Pacific Time, and again February 12 (AL, 12-team, snake). If you are interested in participating, send This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it a note. 

    Sugar Cane Sweet PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 25 January 2014 00:00

    Though I have been thinking about this for awhile, it really came to light after last week's Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) draft, while Todd and I were on the morning radio show hosted by Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss (who also had drafted the night before).

    As part of our team, Todd and I drafted Jose Abreu, the former Cuban home run king and new first sacker for the White Sox, and seriously coveted Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin (snatched from under our collective noses by our mates Steve Gardner and Howard Bender of USA Today in the ninth round).

    So, in reviewing our squad with Chris and Jeff, I noted not so much how we both liked Abreu, but how it seems Cuban players just seem to adapt and adjust more readily to the American Major Leagues than any other group.

    Mind you, I am not talking ethnicity here. I am talking Nationality, College, state of origin, cloning, galaxy, universe, you name it.

    But, relative to the amount of time worked anywhere prior to the Majors, our Cuban friends just seem to adjust to playing, and then succeeding in the States with such a larger relative efficiency than those of the Orient, or Central America, or Rosenblatt Stadium that I just have to wonder what is so different about the way the Cubans play ball as opposed to the rest of the world that fosters not just success, but success so quickly?

    A case in point is former Athletic Hiroyuki Nakajima, whom the Athletics signed a little over a year ago to, at the time, man the shortstop spot. In fact, I remember being in the hospital after my last Crohns surgery and my Gastroenterologist Dr. Morton asking me about Nakajima, and I shook my head and said that for the most part, Japanese imports--especially middle infielders--have a tough time adjusting and succeeding in the states.

    In fact, after signing Nakajima in December of 2012, the shortstop who notched .302-168-738 totals with 141 steals over 12 seasons with Seibu and was an eight-time All Star was dropped from the Athletics 40-man roster by August of 2013.

    Mind you, there have been players, like Kazuo Matsui (who hit .267 over seven seasons and 630 games), outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, and pitchers Hideo Nomo and Yu Darvish who have had strong careers and seasons.

    However, how many other hyped and erratic players have we had from the Land of the Rising Sun?

    Well, the opposite side of the coin are Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Irabu, Akinori Iwamura, and locally Kensuke Tanaka (who no longer is a Giant) are among the 42 Japanese players to have made it to the Show since 1995 (Masanori Murakami debuted with the local Giants in 1965, but there was a 30-year drought after that).

    Since Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959, 82 Cuban-born ballplayers have signed with Big League teams (not all made the Majors), and though there have been flops such as Ariel Prieto and Jorge Toca, if we just look at the list over the past five years, the difference is truly astounding.

    As in since 2007, 12 emgirees have spent time in the Major Leagues, and here are their names:

    Right there we have enough promise and production to make imports from anywhere (are there more potential stars from LSU or Arizona State or Stanford looming?) to drive the point home. And, though surely the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and Venezuela have given us some really great players, the number of successful men, relative to the number of contracts signed, is so heavily weighted towards the Cubans it is crazy.

    Now, with the signing of Abreu, and potenial inking now of Rusney Castillo, there is even more speculative talent for both the Majors and our fantasy teams.

    But, I will ask you this: Would you rather have Masahiro Tanaka, a 24-year-old with seven professional seasons in Japan under his belt, or Jose Fernandez, a 20-year-old with three professional seasons, on your team?

    And, well, Yu Darvish is good, but I would rather have Fernandez than him as well. Wouldn't you?


    FSTA Draft: Lawr and Todd Defend Their Crown in Vegas PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 18 January 2014 00:00

    As has now apparently been well advertised, Z and I drafted our Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) team Wednesday evening in Las Vegas. And, though we are indeed the defending champs of the league, the lottery gave us the #1 selection (it was karma).

    So, for the record, a quick review of my take on who we took, and why. Z--whom we must all congratulate for winning the FSWA Web Baseball Article of the Year award--will likely comment here, or respond in his own space. 

    But, rest assured, we get on pretty well teaming in this way. Players are in selection order.

    Mike Trout (#1): Z and I did not really discuss this, but when we knew where we were picking there was really no question.

    Alex Rios (#2): It took a few discussions, well before the 1/15 draft, about Rios for Todd to molify the feeling that Rios was a lot more erratic than he actually is. We had our eyes on other players we thought would fall here, but none did. Z prefaced Rios' name to me with a rationale, but I cut him short and said it was no problem, I was well on board with Rios' skills on the Rangers. For those in the world who think it was early, well, if you care about numbers, look at them more closely. Rios is really good.

    Ian Desmond (#3): Again, Z did not have to convince me about this selection at all. I must say that I am hoping Desmond can kick his game up even a little higher, but a repeat is also fine.

    Chris Sale (#4): I wasn't so sure we needed a starter just yet, but were we to take one, this is who I would have wanted. Todd, OTOH, wanted a serious strikeout arm, and I understand needing a strong base for the rotation. So, pretty unanimous.

    Ian Kinsler (#5): Again, we were both in sync that should Kinsler drop this low, as he had in other drafts, we were happy to have him show us his skill set is still strong.

    Mike Minor (#6): I took Minor at this point in the mock, and just love him and his potential. 

    Gio Gonzalez (#7): I like doubling picks at a slot when at a wheel spot, and this gave us a solid troika with some whiffs and great WHIP atop our staff.

    Jose Abreu (#8): Former Cuban National, now a White Sox, again, Z and I both really like this guy, and as I will present in a column in a few weeks on emigres from the Island south of Florida who just seem to adjust to play at the Show more readily than any other like sample of players from any other venue, domestic or not.

    Kyle Seager (#9): I was huge on Seager in 2012, to the doubt of the world, and Z was equally huge last year (I was not so certain). We are both huge now.

    Sergio Romo (#10): Again, my ploy to double up here, and we were both hoping it would be Trevor Rosenthal and Romo, but Romo and...

    Glen Perkins (#11): ...Perkins were fine. Now the guys with no closers have to at least think about grabbing one before our next selection, and that clears the path a little for us elsewhere.

    Drew Smyly (#12): Z and I both love our #4 starter and now Detroit's #5 on their depth chart so much more than the Tigers' #4 guy (Rick Porcello) it is sad. Smyly was deadly last year in the pen (6-0, 2.37, 81 K over 76 innings, with a 1.039 WHIP) that we see him taking a huge step in 2014.

    Jason Castro (#13): Always been a fan, and with a full and solid season under his belt, and a team that looks to be a lot better, we both think Castro will step his game up.

    Xander Bogaerts (#14): Obviously, Z loves--we can all be homers--but I have no problem. In fact, I like Bogaerts, who will have shortstop eligibility soon it appears, and well, I love having promising prospects picked this late. Though, I confess, even later would be better.

    Dan Straily (#15): I was leaning towards Jarrod Parker, who was gone by the time the next pick came back to us, but Z's projections had Straily higher. I have seen a bunch of Straily myself, and consider him Jack Morris light, at least thus far in his career, in that Straily surrenders homers, but not too many baserunners. 

    Erick Aybar (#16): Though everyone in the world knows I am always a big fan of Aybar and his middle-mate Howie Kendrick, Todd was the impetus behind this choice. Obviously, I did not argue.

    Avisail Garcia (#17): We both love him, though I do worry about his plate discipline (12 walks to 69 strikeouts) but I think he can definitely whack the ball. Z too.

    Alex Wood (#18): Wood's numbers suffered the second half as he became a starter, for though he was 3-1, 3.40, his WHIP went from 1.091 to 1.400. Still, 77 strikeouts over 77.6 innings bodes well for the guy.

    Justin Masterson (#19): 14-10, 3.45, 195 punchouts over 193 innings, with a 1.202 WHIP in the 19th round? What the hell did Masterson do to piss off the rest of the league to this extent?

    Nick Markakis (#20): Boy, has this guy fallen in the eyes of the world. Meaning he is a perfect gamble as a fourth outfielder. And, as low as Markakis' stock has fallen, he did still hit .271-10-59, and if he can up that just a little it should be profit city. It is hard to believe we trust Garcia more than Markakis, but, well...

    Derek Norris (#21): I think Norris will get 400 at-bats this time, and hit Markakis numbers of last year (around .270-10-50) with ten steals. (Check it out: he has ten over his 158 major league games, and has only been caught once).

    Kole Calhoun (#22): Again, both Todd and I were in sync with a hitter we think is a huge step-up from Peter Bourjos. Calhoun did post an .808 OPS last year over 195 at-bats, and in the Minors, Calhoun copped 45 swipes, so some speed is there as well.

    Matt Joyce (#23): Joyce is streaky, but he has averaged 17 dingers a season over the past three years and this late in the fesitivities, he could pay off nicely.

    Mike Zunino (#24): I like to have a back-up catcher in case one of them gets hurt, and Z likes Zunino. 

    Josh Rutledge (#25): Rutledge was a darling a year ago, so now we are eager to see if he can settle in. He did hit .371 at Colorado Springs after a demotion, meaning it is time to prove it at the big league level. And, we get some depth up the middle.

    Brett Oberholtzer (#26): It is almost a running joke between Z and me at this juncture, although I am neither sure why, let alone how it started. Maybe there is something about "Oberholtzer" being a sort of "Steven Wright dead-pan sounding funny name for a jock" kind of surname. And, though not a huge strikeout machine (45 over 71.6 innings) but, 4-5, 2.76 over ten starts on a bad team suggests some Mark Buehrle-like numbers.

    Brad Peacock (#27): Another Astro with some potential, I liked Peacock when the Athletics got him as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal, and was a little bummed when they traded him to get Jed Lowrie (though I liked the Lowrie acquisition). Again, some whiffs (77 over 83.3 innings) though the walks are a little high (37). But, we were both down with a strikeout gamble at this juncture.

    Nate Schierholtz (#28): Like it or not still a platoon guy, but one with 20-homer capabilities, and to fill a slot or better pair with Joyce during hot-and-cold periods, Schierholtz could be a nice boost.

    Hector Santiago (#29): If Santiago can control his walks (72 over 149 innings), he will be very good. He did whiff 137 and manages to keep his hits under innings (192 over 224.6 innings), and we both like that promise.

    Mocking Away January... PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 11 January 2014 00:00

    This time of year gets to be big fun. I have indeed finished all my magazine pieces and player profiles for 2014, and though the cycle of weekly pieces is rapidly picking up, these days it is Mock Draft City. And, that usually means a league with a bunch of guys who have been my friends for years now.

    Add in the Roto Tour 2014, which starts next week when my mate Lord Z and I defend our Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Fantasy Baseball title (Z previews in The Return of Zen and Now) in Las Vegas. Then First Pitch rumbles through the Bay Area in February, and right after that is LABR in Phoenix. The wild ride culminates with Tout Wars in the Big Apple at the end of March. And, sure the drafting is fun, but just as wonderful is seeing my league mates: those same pals I am at present mocking with.

    Earlier this week, Zach Steinhorn, who doubles as a Mastersballer when he is not driving the Fantasy 411 Blog, kicked off their annual Mock Draft.

    I really like mocks, partially because it gives me a sense of how my peers value players, but more because mocks are a time we are truly free to draft on the fringe. 

    As we are almost through seven rounds of the Fantasy 411 Mock, I thought I would relate some of my thoughts, on top of what my league mates included, for the first cluster of picks:

    #6: Jason Collette – Clayton Kershaw – As if taking Gomez 5th overall in our last draft wasn’t crazy enough, I’ll take Sandy Koufax Jr. I cannot remember a starting pitcher being taken this early since the days of Pedro Martinez. Kershaw is surely good, and pretty healthy so far, and if he sets the tone for strikeouts and WHIP for a team, as Jason seems to think he will, more than worth the high choice.

    #15: Derek VanRiper – Ryan Braun – Can’t pass him up here. Braun hit .306/.396/.579 with 8 HR, 26 RBI in his first 32 games last season (40 HR pace) before a thumb injury surfaced in mid-May. I am attributing his pre-suspension power outage to playing through that injury rather than some post-PED issue. Contact trends even during that early-season stretch of production hint at potential decline in AVG. He can hit, for sure, and I think he will have something to prove. I agree with Derek: Can't pass him up here.

    #28: Tim Heaney – Matt Kemp – Abundance of options for my next pick. Ample risk, yet the waning pay-off of top-flight bats justifies this gamble. A healthy Kemp should go 20-20, or at least 20-15. I dream of his stud upside, though. Success in fantasy is largely stilted to gambles paying off. If Kemp is healthy for 150 games, this is as good a gamble as it gets (though the truth is, this is so for all of our picks, mock or not).  

    #35: Nando DiFinoAlbert Pujols – I’m chalking up his 2013 shortcomings to playing a full season with injury, after pushing too hard, too fast to get back for the early part. I do think Albert returns to some form, but somehow I don't think he will ever be what he was. I am guessing .280-25-85 which is fine, but, do I think he can outproduce Eric Hosmer (#67 to Ryan Carey) or Adrian Gonzalez (#76 to Derek Van Riper)? Not any longer.

     #62: Lawr Michaels – Ian Kinsler – New park, new season, new division, and Miggy hitting behind him (I am guessing). Dude is due to play full and healthy season. Just please deliver. I have really been having fun grabbing Jedd Gyorko around now in all the other mocks I have done so far, but this time Kinsler was still there. A major drop from last year, when Kinsler was a second round favorite, but I like the risk here.

       #70: Joe Sheehan – Billy Hamilton – I punted speed (and protected against downside) for four rounds, so while I probably can wait a little longer, the downside risk of doing so is high. I took Hamilton here in the October mock, and the Reds have done nothing to dissuade me from the idea that he’s going to play, and probably bat leadoff. If he plays, it’s 80 steals and 100 runs, even at a .300 OBP. If Hamilton can get on to the tune of the .300 OBP Joe suggests, he should indeed bring 15 SB points and be a boost to runs as well. I am not so sure he will get on base enough to justify a job. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the world values Hamilton going into the 2014 season.  

    # 83: Todd Zola - Jose Dariel Abreu - Need some power and since I've been quite conservative so far and it's time to let what's left of my hair down and take a chance. Especially with the help of The Cell, Abreu's power should translate, so it comes down to contact and patience. There's some other intriguing options at this point but I'll refrain from dropping names. Such an interesting pick. As noted, not that far down from the likes of A-Gone and Hosmer, and this for a guy who has yet to see a Major League pitch. A bold pick by partner Todd, and the kind that makes for success.

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