It’s Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Early start to my day as I have this article to write up, my final draft of the year and “The Walking Dead” season finale to squeeze in after I get home. I have been waiting for this draft since my elimination last year. You see, I had the best team and it wasn’t even close.
This 10-team head-to-head league has been in existence since 2004, and my 18 wins last season were a league record. My power ranking of 25.5 on CBSSports.com was also the highest possible score. That doesn’t matter in head-to-head leagues, though, winning in the playoffs does. I lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion.
I have been scheming for quite some time now as to how I am going to attack this draft. With just seven hours until it starts, I finally have my direction. I will target injured pitchers. In head-to-head leagues you don’t need to dominate your league. You just need to make the playoffs. Is this risky?
Sure, but I am confident enough in my drafting that I think I can pull this off. With six bench slots I have plenty of room to grab at least three guys starting the season on the DL without really pigeonholing myself.
Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish are a bit banged up, but neither will really take a tumble in the draft because they will both probably miss just one start. There isn’t a ton of value there. Sure, if one slipped a full two rounds it’s worth the pick. I just don’t see it happening. Where I plan on making my money is on the guys that should miss at least a month; Cole Hamels, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Minor and Doug Fister. I should be able to grab a pair of these guys without issue. Each has fallen outside everyone’s Top25, and if there is one thing I have learned in my two years in this league, it’s that these guys avoid the injured.
Because of this, I expect Mat Latos and Anibal Sanchez to slip a bit as well. I will be keeping my eye on them. The other risky move I plan on going for is getting my hands on Aroldis Chapman. He should begin throwing any day now and his original timetable was six-to-eight weeks. Line drives to the noggin could have lingering effects in terms of mechanics or even just confidence. The risk, however, isn’t that bad when I can get him around the 150 I have seen him fall in recent drafts. High strikeout relievers are worth their weight in gold in head-to-head play.
By avoiding risk early in my draft I will be able to assume greater risk as I head into the middle rounds. In roto leagues taking risk is dangerous because they are a marathon that rewards the season’s best team. In head-to-head leagues you just need to be in it to win it. Who cares if you lose three of your first four matchups. By drafting premium talent you put yourself in the best position to win when in matters most, in the playoffs.
Those of you rotoleaguers out there, who picked up HyunJin Ryu on draft day, have to really be pleased with his performance thus far. He has now tossed 12 innings without giving up a run while striking out 12 and holding opponents to just a .128 batting average. The Korean lefthander wasn’t an afterthought on draft day, but he didn’t exactly command a ton of respect after posting a 148 record with a 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 154 strikeouts over 192 innings last year. When it comes to pitching, Fantasy owners are really starting to overvalue the strikeout. Because of this, Ryu was the 31 more respect. To see a guy like Masahiro Tanaka, who has yet to throw a single regular season pitch, being drafted as the 24 to keep in mind for next season folks; it’s usually better to take the proven option over the shiny new toy. Ryu will prove that to us all this season.
The Cubs reassigned Javier Baez to minor league camp last weekend, so he is destined to start the year in the minors. Let me be the first to tell you not to let this discourage you if you are in a deep mixed league. The Cubs took a really long look at this kid, and it’s hard to blame them for doing so after he smashed 37 homers last year between High and Double-A ball. You can’t teach that. The only thing he really needs to work on is plate discipline. That isn’t exactly a huge deal when you take into consideration that he has arguably the best bat speed in all of baseball. It won’t cure his ills with the strikeout, but it will definitely help him in terms to getting to a few pitches he may have been fooled by. I love the fact that he saw time at second base. It tells me we are just one Darwin Barney slow start or one Starlin Castro injury away from seeing Baez. At the very least, we’ll see him in early June, but if there is any prospect with a chance of beating that timetable, I would throw my money on Baez.
Heading into every season I develop a few solid mancrushes. I assure you that it’s strictly platonic. So Jedd Gyorko, if you happen to be a reader, you have no worries. While digging up information on him the first thing I saw was a guy who put up very strong numbers. His 23 home runs last year ranked second among all second basemen. He did this playing in just 125 games. The man stands a realistic chance at topping 30 homers this year if he remains healthy. Those of you worrying that he plays half his games at Petco should also know that 13 of his 23 homers came at home. His .249 batting average was a bit lackluster, but when you take a look at his career minor league numbers there is plenty of reason to expect some growth as a sophomore. I have no doubt in his ability to pull his batting average up into the .275, .280 range. I believe Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis will be your Top2 second baseman. My money is on Gyorko finishing third. He is the real deal folks.
Last year, only 14 players hit 30 or more homers, and just 15 had over 100 RBI. Obviously, these two categories came at a premium at your draft. When you go one step further and see that just 10 players put together 30 homers and 100 RBI for the season, you really understand the importance of getting your hands on a few of these guys. Batting average isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Only 24 players who had enough atbats to qualify for the batting title managed to hit .300. The moral of this story is simple if you didn’t invest in bats this year, early and often in your draft, chances are you aren’t exactly in love with your squad. If you have a bat-heavy team, do yourself a favor and hold tight. If you ended up with a surplus of pitching, get out ahead of the game and acquire some bats at all costs.
Matt Kemp is eligible to come off the DL on April 4. He is also on the record stating he is back to 100 percent and ready to be activated. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been coy in terms of his disclosure on Kemp. I’m not going to lie about the fact that this makes me nervous. The Dodgers have the luxury of having four very quality options to start in the outfield in the form of Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Various injuries (most of the leg variety) have limited Kemp to playing 179 games over the last two seasons. He also turns 30 in September, not old but not exactly a spring chicken either. I think it’s absolutely crazy to believe Kemp comes back to everyday work. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t play in back-to-back games much at all until he proves he can handle it. I truly believe Fantasy owners should expect a slow start from Kemp, making him a guy that will be tough to use in leagues with weekly lineups.
One of the more polarizing players in Fantasy this preseason has been Mark Trumbo. His power is legit, and playing half his games in Chase Field should help ensure he breaks the 30 home run plateau again this year. My issue is with his batting average. We are talking about a career .250 hitter who changed leagues, and saw his strikeout totals go from 120 in 2011, to 153 in 2012, to a career-worst 184 last season. He profiles very similarly to B.J. Upton, and look what happened to him last season when he moved over to Atlanta. I am fully aware that there is a severe shortage of power in Fantasy baseball, but if I am going to pay for it early in drafts, it will be in the form of a bat that will hit for average as well.