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The Carlos Correa Conundrum

Geez, this guy is really into alliterative blog titles.

That’s part of it. The other is I’m facing an interesting decision in a couple of weeks as I’ve been assigned the fourth pick in the upcoming Mixed LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality) draft.

The four-hole is my least desired spot. Best-case scenario is Paul Goldschmidt slips, which is plausible if I’m drafting behind a couple of Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw fans. My top-two are Goldschmidt then Mike Trout. If I had the third pick, I’d decide between Kershaw and Harper, with the decision revolving around the league size and format. With the fourth, I’d settle for the guy that’s left.

Or Carlos Correa.

Let’s back up a bit. This last happened with Mike Trout and is now occurring with Correa. He’s not being drafted based on how everyone projects he will do but rather how everyone wants him to do.

The number-crunchers look at Correa’s sudden power spike last season, cite an unsustainable home run per fly ball rate in tandem with a high groundball percent and expect a huge power drop – knocking him from first round consideration.

Then there’s an anti-sabermetric faction that hopes Correa knocks fifty out of the yard just to stick it to the quants.

A bunch of fantasy players prefer to watch the games, saw the easy power Correa possesses and could care less about the stupid HR/FB and groundball percentage, this guy’s AWESOME!

And to be fair, there’s some number crunchers that hope Correa falls flat on his face to teach the eye-testers a lesson – don’t ignore the numbers.

Each of these groups WANTS Correa to perform in a certain manner as much (if not more) than they FEEL he will. They’re not drafting their projection; they’re drafting their philosophy.

Confession time: I belong to the quant group that expects Correa to give back a lot of last season’s power. And yeah, a little bit of me hopes he does it to validate my methods.

On the other hand, I watch games too. Correa’s must-see TV. I honestly have not seen as pretty a swing since Freddie Lynn in the mid to late ’70s.

But here’s the thing. Playing DFS has taught me some stuff that’s applicable to my seasonal game play. If you play in just a couple of season-long leagues, this may not apply. However, if you have multiple teams, it makes sense to diversify your portfolio, especially if you’re playing in high stakes leagues or a league like LABR where second place is first loser.

Personally, I am reticent to take Correa in the first round (or pay $30-plus in an auction). The drop in power as well as the lack of a track record worries me. Some assume Correa can handle the rigors of a full 162-game schedule at the big-league level as well as assuming he can avoid injury despite playing the very involved position of shortstop. We honestly don’t KNOW.

But what if he can? What if his HR/FB drops a bit but he ups his fly ball rate by turning on some mistakes?

This guy could be the best player in fantasy baseball!

DFS has taught me it’s OK to occasionally draft what’s plausible as opposed to what’s probable. In fact, sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Like in Mixed LABR.

By opening day, I’m going to need an extra set of hands to count all my teams. I have no clue what my draft spot will be or how much it will cost to buy Correa in an auction. However, I KNOW I have the fourth pick in LABR. This may be my best opportunity to take the chance in a league I really, really want to win. That is, this isn’t just goofy column fodder. I want to win my first LABR or Tout Wars title as much as I want to win a high stakes league. Maybe more.

So don’t be surprised if I’m justifying taking Correa fourth despite ranking him much lower.

Unless, of course, Goldschmidt slides. Because, after all, I really do want to win this league.

Steamer Dollar Values (Hitting)

For part 2 of my baseball prep, I downloaded the Steamer projections from Fangraphs, ran them through my valuation formula, then translated them to dollar values based on a 68/32 hitting/pitching split for a 12-team mixed league with a $260 budget and 14 active hitters. Keep in mind the Steamer projections are conservative by nature and will miss the big breakouts, but it is the most accurate system on Fangraphs over the last couple years and a good resource for creating a baseline, especially for players whose skills are less likely to change abruptly.

Nationals to Run More in 2016

The hiring of Dusty Baker by the Washington Nationals was probably met with a “meh” followed by an outdated joke about running young arms into the ground. He really didn’t show any of that with the Cincinnati Reds and he had plenty of young arms there. However something that should’ve garnered great attention happened two days and may well have been Baker’s first act as manager: he hired Davey Lopes to be the first base coach.

Now I’m not going to pretend I’m the only one in on Lopes. Several of you were definitely nodding right when you saw his name at the end of that first paragraph. Lopes is something of a Baserunning Whisperer. Check that, he is the Baserunning Whisperer. He really made his mark with the Phillies as their first base coach from 2007-2010. In that time, the Phillies were fourth in total stolen bases with 501, but their success rate was far and away tops at 84%!

Jimmy Rollins (136) and Shane Victorino (132) led the charge while Chase Utley (59) and current National Jayson Werth (60) were efficiency monsters. Utley nabbed those 59 bases on just 64 attempts – a 92% success rate. Break-even is 72%. Werth was no slouch at 60-for-68 (88%). By the way, Rollins and Victorino were at an excellent 88% and 82%, respectively. I didn’t intend to snub them as volume-only in that first sentence.

From Philly he went out to LA with the Dodgers. They didn’t burn up the basepaths quite like the Phillies, but they showed substantial improvement from the two years before he arrived.

Period SBs Att. Success
2009-10 (w/o Lopes) 208 306 68%
2011-15 (w/Lopes) 505 701 72%

Although I will note that the 2015 iteration of the Dodgers really fell off the cliff with just 59 steals on 93 attempts (63%) – the total bases and success rate both ranking 26th in the league. The Nationals are primed to reap the benefits of Lopes’ baserunning wisdom. Their 204 attempts the last two seasons are good for 27th in the league, though they have been rather efficient with a 77% success rate (tied for 4th).

A lot of that was built on a 2014 that saw them steal at an 81% clip with 101 SBs (tied for 12th). Health played a big role as Denard Span (31, 82%) and Anthony Rendon (17, 85%) were major factors. Ian Desmond (24, 83%) was great as well and while he was healthy in 2015 – or at least playing which signifies some measure of health – he only stole 13 bases on a 72% success rate. Span and Desmond are gone, but this team has plenty of potential beneficiaries including Rendon.

Let’s just go down the projected lineup and find the guys who could see a Lopes-induced boost:

Ben Revere – He is already a proficient base thief (four 30+ SB seasons, two 40+; 82% success), but ran into a bit of a red light after being traded to Toronto. If Lopes has anything that can actually improve Revere, then we could see the first 70-SB season since Jacoby Ellsbury landed right on the number in 2009. By the way, Revere wasn’t with Philly during the Lopes era.

2016 FSTA Draft Results from the seven-spot: Go big or go home

The FSTA experts’ fantasy baseball draft is the first publicized one of the new year, inspiring much discussion and a reminder that springtime is at our doorstep. It re-invigorates the spark for our beloved pastime and sets the tone for other notable drafts over the next two months. Primarily, LABR and Tout Wars, as well as high-stakes competitions such as the NFBC Main Event. The FSTA inevitably serves as a catalyst for player ranking debates and establishing ADP trends. It’s a notion that is not lost among those who participate.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. Sitting at a table with the best minds in our ‘silly little game’ is truly an honor. And the game is not so little anymore, if you’ve noticed the growth trends and heightened mainstream buzz over the past decade.

Among the participants are the undisputed thought leaders and some of the founders of our industry. A group of people who work for different outlets, but come together every year to catch up with old friends, uninhibitedly share newfound draft strategies, and converge in different ways to make our industry better.

Most importantly, one has to be well-prepared knowing your competitors can and will steal your coveted, sneaky late-round 2B prospect a round before you’re ready to take the plunge. One has to be on-point, even in January. Though pride is the prize, it’s an intangible one that monetary value cannot compensate for.