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Charging the Mound: The Ones That Got Away

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 10:29am
To: liss@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


Hey Chris, the long run-up to the season is nearly over. I'm still doing some last minute changes to my rankings and projection changes, some more interesting (Evan Gattis, Leonys Martin, Christian Yelich) than others (Kevin Slowey, Jon Garland in Colorado for crying out loud). But we're finally, finally starting to shift out of draft and projections mode and into actual games mode. It's about time.

This is always a good time to take stock of our inventory - who do you have in your portfolio? I'm most interested in who you have multiple shares of, both by design (I know you have Giancarlo Stanton everywhere) and by happenstance - sometimes that can be even more revealing, as it demonstrates who you fell back on when left with a mid-level set of choices. Who are those that got away - the guys that you targeted/liked but for whatever reason don't own?

I'll start off with one player I haven't gotten yet and have just one more shot at getting - Jason Heyward. I haven't been willing to quite elevate him to that elite tier of NL outfielders - slotting him below the likes of Stanton, Harper, McCutchen and Justin Upton. I'm unlikely to get him in my last draft this weekend in the NFBC either. I draft 14th of 15, and he's not in a spot in my rankings where I'd reach to get him at 2.2, and there's no way he comes back to me in the third round. He's just 23 years old despite this being his fourth season in the majors, and the track record of guys hitting the majors and being productive at his age is really strong. He hasn't yet hit for great average, but his batting eye is solid. The power potential is clearly evident, but for some reason I'm not willing to project that monster power season that would propel him into that spot. Do I have a blind spot here in being willing to give Bryce Harper that leap and not Heyward?

One other question I have for you - who are you sticking your neck out by avoiding them? I have passed up multiple opportunities to grab Jered Weaver when he's been available at or below market value, and in one case when I needed an elite starting pitcher, and he was the last of those in the projected pool. This despite underestimating him in the past. But I see the declining strikeout rate (if you prefer K/9, it's gone from 9.35, to 7.56, to 6.77; if you prefer K%, it's gone from 25.8%, to 21.4%, to 19.2%), the declining fastball velocity (average fastball was 87.8 MPH last year) and the late arm soreness last season, and I've been staying away.

We're trying to take a more streamlined approach to this article this year, so I'll leave the floor to you. Feel free to add any other burning questions you might have.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 11:13pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging

I always like to double down rather than diversify my portfolio whenever possible and this year I've been able to do that to an unprecedented extent. I'm in seven leagues (NFBC online, RotoWire Staff Keeper, FSTA, AL LABR, NL Tout, home league and Yahoo Friends and Family), and I got Stanton in all five where he was available (all but AL LABR and the Staff Keeper). Maybe that's because I was crazy enough to go as high as $37 on him in Tout and No. 5 overall in Yahoo!, but it's great knowing if one player has a monster year, it's going to benefit so many of my teams. (The opposite is also true, of course).

Other players I went big on were Bryce Harper and Justin Morneau, both of whom I have in four leagues. Of course, those three were all targets, as were players like Devin Mesoraco, Mariano Rivera, Dustin Ackley, Billy Hamilton and Carl Crawford, who I have in three. You can click on the link to see the full list - some of it isn't pretty (I have Jonathan Broxton in two leagues, for example, before he lost the job).

But a couple of my overlap players like Starlin Castro (2), Aramis Ramirez (3), Jake Peavy (2) and Jeff Samardzija (2) were the guys I took given how the draft shook out. That's also the case with C.C. Sabathia who I have in three leagues, but never seriously targeted. He just seemed to come at the right price.

As for the ones that got away, I'm particularly bummed I have no shares in Justin Upton - I expect him to have a monster year now that he's healthy, has another year of experience and is away from a toxic situation in Arizona and playing with his brother in Atlanta. I wanted him in NL Tout, but when Lenny Melnick went to 35, I couldn't do it, given how much I had spent on my core already. I settled for Troy Tulowitzki at 32 instead. Of course, I'd love to have gotten the third pick somewhere and landed Mike Trout. It's too bad not to have a rooting interest in him. Other players on whom I regret missing out: Chase Utley (think he'll pull a Carlos Beltran now that he's healthy again) and Rick Porcello (who I might still be able to FAAB).

There are a few players I have on only one team of whom I wish I owned more: Brandon Belt, Matt Moore, Adam Lind, Oscar Taveras and David Price.

I have Heyward in one league, and given his physical skills and pedigree, his upside is as high as Harper's. It just seems like Harper's more on a mission and less likely to be derailed by a nagging injury or extended slump. But I'm not sure I have the most solid basis for thinking that.

Finally, here are some of the guys on whom I simply could not pull the trigger: Carlos Gonzalez (where did he go in the second half, and why can't he produce for 150 games ever?), Albert Pujols (he probably won't run much or hit .300 again and plays in a pitcher's park as he enters his mid-40s), Andrew McCutchen (low SB and HR ceilings, and the average should come way down), Prince Fielder (talk about aiming low in the first round), Hanley Ramirez (before the injury - why is he better than Jimmy Rollins?), David Wright (like McCutchen, low SB and HR ceilings), Adam Jones (see Wright, David and McCutchen, Andrew), Yoenis Cespedes (too jacked - seems like he's about to pull a muscle any second), Jay Bruce (why is he better than Ike or Chris Davis?), Michael Bourn (give me Juan Pierre or Brett Gardner much later), Melky Cabrera (came out of nowhere after roiding, could go back to nowhere quickly), Gio Gonzalez (too many walks), Adam Dunn (can't stomach that batting average), to name a few.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2013 1:26pm
To: liss@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


I have Upton in a handful of spots, and pretty happy to have done so. In fact, I might add one more entry to the ledger this weekend at the NFBC. It's not just for the reasons why he underachieved - though the fact that he played with a splint/wrap on his thumb until a point in August speaks volumes for me. It's also what he's capable of doing. He's already had a 30-homer season at age 23, and he's had four 18-plus stolen base seasons in a row. There's a monster season coming somewhere down the line, and I want to be there when it happens.

I've been shut out so far on Price, Moore and Belt. Price frequently is a function of my drafting style - I'm usually hesitant to pay for the elite starter, unless it's the top tier (Kershaw/Verlander/Strasburg). Price is close, but falls just short of those three for me. I'd rather take a hitter more often than not where he goes. So ... the Price is wrong for me. (And this is where I show myself out the door.)

Belt has been a function more of the deep inventory of first basemen in the second tier - all too often I'm getting guys above him both at 1B and CR - guys like Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo. That, and I'm not willing to elevate Belt into that class, and increasingly he's costing that thanks to his huge spring. He's just not there for me yet.

I'm not sure why I'm not all over Matt Moore - I was last year, and while he didn't match expectations, he showed plenty of glimpses at his potential. Maybe I should give him more of a bump - I guess it's been Joe Maddon's tendency to pull him early that's held me off a smidge. I might revisit him before Saturday.

Yoenis Cespedes is an interesting case. I'm not a believer in his ability to hit for a decent average - if anything, his stats suggested that he might even regress some. But then I read our man Bernie Pleskoff's tweet that Cespedes is no longer chasing those sliders away - and that was his concern in spring training in 2012. Maybe I'm wrong about that. At any rate, once again, I don't think I'll be in a position to act on that. I'm not going to take him 17th, and he won't be there at the 44th pick. That's the negative aspect of drafting on the ends - much of your draft is dictated to you - 27 picks is a pretty big gap to traverse, especially in the first three sets of picks. Later in the draft, that won't matter as much, because what you're giving up to land your guy isn't as costly. Go ahead and take a guy 20 spots ahead of the ADP when you're in the 8th round - it takes a lot more courage in the 2nd and 4th, to be sure.

Some of those that you avoided I have in a couple of places - McCutchen, Adam Jones and Melky Cabrera. Cabrera in particular is interesting to me - his 2011 season was his original breakout - 2012 was taking the next step off that breakout. I don't expect his 2012 numbers - I don't think anyone does. But what was he doing in 2011 to avoid getting caught that he got nailed with last year? What's his true level? My gamble is that he's around 2011, but in a better ballpark and in a great lineup.

OK, I'm off to Vegas. Glad to get started on this with you again.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2013 7:16pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging

I don't know what Cabrera was on in 2011, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't on anything in 2010.

Do me a favor and check out the odds for Harper or Upton leading the majors in homers. If it's 40 to 1 or better for either, I want in - seriously. (Two years ago Upton was 100:1).

Good luck in the NFBC - and at the poker tables.

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