Articles by James Anderson

James Anderson is a University of Minnesota graduate, with allegiances to the Packers, Brewers, Bucks (sigh) and Gophers (double sigh). He is an editor and scribe at, primarily focused on basketball and baseball. In 2013 he was a FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year.

Fantasy 101: H2H Points Leagues

I would hate to be labeled the resident points league expert at Rotowire, because I am well aware that these leagues require the least “skill” of any common format. However, I play in two head-to-head points leagues with friends from college, which is probably two more than the majority of the writers at the site, so the shoe, in this case, may fit. These leagues are quite honestly the lowest form of fantasy baseball. If you are thinking of starting a serious fantasy baseball league, I would strongly urge you to start a rotisserie league, or at least a head-to-head roto (sometimes called head-to-head category) league. Andrew Fiorentino did a great job breaking down the strategy for these leagues on Thursday.

If you do not heed my advice, or if you are already in a points league, then the rest of this blog post should give you a leg up on the competition. Saying that points leagues require less skill is perhaps not the right phrasing. Instead it should be said that points leagues require the least knowledge and the least amount of effort on the part of the owner. This is because you can simply sort by points when analyzing the past performance of a hitter or pitcher. It does not matter if you know that Chris Carter hits for a low average but gets on base at a reasonable clip. You just need to know which players Carter will outscore on a per game basis.

These leagues were invented (I assume) for people who found the transition from fantasy football to fantasy baseball too confusing or challenging.

SKL 2.0 Auction Strategy – Going With The Flow

The great Clay Link already shared his thoughts on the Staff Keeper League 2.0 Auction, which took place Wednesday night, but since this is always my favorite fantasy baseball night of the year, I also wanted to get in on breaking down what turned out to be a very eventful auction.

First, a little background about my state of mind heading into this auction:

SKL 2.0 is a 17-team mixed keeper league where teams can keep up to 15 big league contracts and 10 minor league players. After a fruitful hot stove season, I had what I deemed a solid group of pitchers to keep in Matt Harvey, Marcus Stroman, Jose Quintana, Ken Giles and Jake McGee for a combined $28 of my $260 total budget. Pitching would be a priority for me, but not a major weakness heading into the auction. Then tragedy struck Tuesday as it was announced Stroman would miss the entire season with a torn left ACL. Obviously I felt bad for Stroman personally and sad because he had become one of my favorite pitchers to watch dating back to last season, but it would be a straight up lie if I denied that the No. 1 thing that came to my mind was my team in SKL 2.0, the 80-Grade Bat Flips. I was officially on tilt. Sure, it could have been worse, I could have been Andrew Martinez and kept Yu Darvish for $31, but I wasn’t in the mood for glass-half-full life commentary.

The Unsexy Sleepers

The question I get asked the most this time of year other than “who should I keep?” is, “who are some sleepers you like?” Well, we all have guys we like more than the rest of the room, but at this point calling a guy like Marcus Stroman a sleeper is completely useless. If it requires a top-150 pick to get a guy, they are clearly no longer sleepers.  A real sleeper is a guy you don’t have to reach on. Clay Link and I were lamenting the fact that for a day or two Avisail Garcia was in the free agent pool in our Staff Keeper League 2.0 because of some sore of clerical error. When we found out that he was actually getting kept, we noted that there was no longer any sex appeal in the player pool.

The guys who are available are primarily veterans who did not live up to their contracts last year like Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Jay Bruce, etc… Of course, Bryce Harper got thrown back, so the comment about sex appeal is not entirely true, but the sentiment remains. The point is, there’s nothing exciting about Pujols. He’ll go for exactly what he should go for in American League LABR this week, and the same will hold true in most drafts/auctions. By this logic, the best way to find significant value is to take a guy with little to no hype surrounding him who is going for dirt cheap but could actually return a nice profit. Pujols could go for $25 and return $28 in value, but that won’t win any leagues. If you take a guy for $1 and he earns $8, or better yet, take a few guys who outperform their price by 500-900 percent, then you’re cooking. These are the unsexy sleepers…

The Search For The Next Dellin Betances

Nobody drafted Dellin Betances last year, but a lot of people, myself included, were able to ride him to championships. By definition, this year’s Betances — a set-up ace who can be picked up off waivers — will go undrafted, and likely won’t be pegged by me in this blog post. But if you want to structure your pitching staff around a handful of trustworthy starters and about five relievers, including one or two set-up aces who can be taken among your last four or five picks, here are some guys to consider:

The Best (Fake) Trade Haul For Hamels

Every team wants Cole Hamels, but he does not want to pitch for every team. Perhaps most importantly, not every team he is willing to pitch for has the trade chips to land him. Jeff Sullivan recently wrote an excellent article breaking down the Padres’ latest offer that was denied by the Phillies’ “brain” trust. San Diego reportedly offered Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges for Hamels, and Ruben Amaro turned that offer down. This got us thinking (I’m actually jacking this blog post idea from Derek VanRiper), what would an acceptable offer for Hamels look like?

There are reportedly nine teams that are not on Hamels’ no-trade list. In this exercise, I will go team by team, offering up a proposal for Hamels that both sides might reasonably agree to. Here is the acceptability zone I will operate in:

Renfroe + Hedges < potential for mutual acceptance < Mookie Betts.

For your consideration: Hamels, 31, is owed $94 million over the next four seasons and has a $20 million team/vesting option for the 2019 season. He has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP and has been worth 5.6 wins above replacement on average over the last five seasons according to Baseball Reference.

On to the fake trade proposals…

Fishing For Aces

The first 10 starting pitchers off the board this year are Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, David Price, Corey Kluber, Johnny Cueto and Yu Darvish, according to NFBC ADP Data. On average, they are coming off the board in the first 44 picks. It’s hard to argue with any of those names, and the only guy who is not in my personal top-10 is Bumgarner (I have Cole Hamels ranked as my No. 10 starter). However, it is safe to say those won’t be the top-10 earners at the end of the season. Last year Cueto, Kluber and Jon Lester all finished as top-10 earners at the position, and they went outside the top-10 on draft day.

Figuring out who will be this year’s handful of starting pitchers to pitch their way to fantasy ace status in 2015 without carrying that price tag on draft day is a tricky proposition, but there are seven names that jump out to me as prime candidates to provide ace-level performance who are going in the middle rounds of drafts. I’m going to skip the guys going in the 11-15 ADP range — Zack GreinkeAdam Wainwright, Lester, Hamels and Jordan Zimmermann — because they are essentially getting treated like No. 1 starters in fantasy, and nobody would be surprised if they finished as top-10 starting pitchers.

Here are my picks:

Matt Harvey (ADP: 69, SP16) – 2014 Stats: N/A (Tommy John surgery)

The case for Harvey is pretty obvious. He was one of the three or four best pitchers in baseball prior to his elbow surgery, and is now 17 months removed from said surgery. A likely innings cap around 180 or so would be the top draw back in rating Harvey as an ace in 2015, but he had a 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings in 2013, so clearly 200-plus innings are not needed to qualify as a fantasy ace. Steamer thinks Harvey will have a 3.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 175 strikeouts while PECOTA thinks he will have a 2.91 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 153 strikeouts, although neither projection system has Harvey reaching 165 innings. Harvey is especially appealing in 10 and 12-team leagues because when he does get shut down, a replacement level pitcher can be subbed in, possibly a top prospect who gets called up in September. This means you will still get 200-plus innings out of that roster spot, and the combined numbers should equate to at least a No. 2 starter, with the upside for more.

Round Tripper – Friday 2/6

Earlier this week I finished my top-350 rankings, which will contribute to the Round Table composite rankings that will be released next week, and it feels like quite an accomplishment. Full disclosure: I’ve never done a big board that went 350 players deep before. This is not because I have never put this much time into fantasy baseball preparation, but because I have found such a list for personal use to be unnecessary, as I already know which players I am higher on than everybody else, and I inevitably end up with some mixture of those guys in most of my redraft leagues. However, the idea of our subscribers getting a look at how I have guys valued before the season interested me, so I was happy to work up a top-350 to go with the lists from Jeff Erickson, Derek VanRiper, Clay Link and Michael Rusignola.

There are a few things worth noting about how I went about the process before I give out some spoilers.

First, I ranked 24 players who will be eligible at catcher this season, with the intent of offering enough backstops to start in a 12-team two-catcher league. This may not be something my colleague’s factored in, and perhaps some users would prefer simply a true-talent top-350, but it was a conscious decision on my part. Had i not felt the need to fit 24 catchers on the list, Wilin Rosario, Josmil Pinto, Chris Iannetta, Tyler Flowers, Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia would have been left on the cutting room floor.

Similarly, I stopped valuing scarce positions after I had ranked enough players to start at said positions in a standard 12-team league. So since I did not think Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Phillips or Jose Ramirez were top-36 middle infielders, I did not give them a rankings boost based on the fact that they qualify there, and I left Andrelton Simmons, Nick Franklin and Arismendy Alcantara off the list for the same reason.

Now, here are some spoilers from my top-350, which is subject to change prior to next Thursday.