MLB Barometer: Russian Roulette

MLB Barometer: Russian Roulette

This article is part of our MLB Barometer series.

If plate discipline were bankroll management, I'd be Rob Deer.

There's a reason I do well in season-long fantasy, but not so well in DFS. And it's one of the most important rules in daily fantasy sports - self-discipline. It's a fairly simple lesson you'll read about here at RotoWire, across all daily games websites and it's probably the first rule at these newly forming DFS Boot Camps. Start with a relatively small deposit, play 50/50s and cash games, keep building the bankroll and never spend more than 10 to 15 percent of your bankroll on any given day of action. If you want to play the GPPs (large field tournaments), play the smaller ones, but continue playing mostly 50/50s and cash games.

I don't roll that way.

I'm from Southern California, but I don't care for anything 'Hollywood'. I like nice things, but I'm not a squanderer. I like to take risks, but I'm not a gambler. I grew up in a family where risks were always worth taking. My father took the ultimate risk 36 years ago, moving to a foreign country with a young wife, a future roto-holic son and very few rubles in his pockets. My father's first job in America was cleaning bathrooms in a mental hospital while attending dental school (ironically, he's a germaphobe). In my teenage years, my dad took big gambles in business, the stock market and in real estate - and was hit just as hard as many others during the

If plate discipline were bankroll management, I'd be Rob Deer.

There's a reason I do well in season-long fantasy, but not so well in DFS. And it's one of the most important rules in daily fantasy sports - self-discipline. It's a fairly simple lesson you'll read about here at RotoWire, across all daily games websites and it's probably the first rule at these newly forming DFS Boot Camps. Start with a relatively small deposit, play 50/50s and cash games, keep building the bankroll and never spend more than 10 to 15 percent of your bankroll on any given day of action. If you want to play the GPPs (large field tournaments), play the smaller ones, but continue playing mostly 50/50s and cash games.

I don't roll that way.

I'm from Southern California, but I don't care for anything 'Hollywood'. I like nice things, but I'm not a squanderer. I like to take risks, but I'm not a gambler. I grew up in a family where risks were always worth taking. My father took the ultimate risk 36 years ago, moving to a foreign country with a young wife, a future roto-holic son and very few rubles in his pockets. My father's first job in America was cleaning bathrooms in a mental hospital while attending dental school (ironically, he's a germaphobe). In my teenage years, my dad took big gambles in business, the stock market and in real estate - and was hit just as hard as many others during the economic down-turn a half decade ago. I grew up trying not to live by his example because I believed that slow and steady wins the race. That it would serve me best to be more frugal, more conservative... to take less risks.

But the Russian blood pumps deep in my veins and I constantly struggle to find a balance between the two extremes. Not everything in life has to be a first round Bryce Harper pick. But it doesn't have to be Adam Jones either (unless we're talking about his past week's performance). Quite often in my intros here, I discuss some of my friends in the industry. The motivation is not to brag how cool the fantasy super friends are because I'm some name-dropping Angeleno. It's because I respect the traits they possess that I know I lack - traits that will help me improve on shortcomings in my fantasy game - primarily, patience, discipline and thoroughness - they all go hand in hand.

Patience is key, and we discussed it last week. You're not going to drop your seventh round Evan Gattis because he had a rough first week. You also don't have to make a trade for the sake of making a trade. Thoroughness is looking ahead to the next two weeks' game and rotation schedules to get a jump on free agents before the competition does. You need to fill a UT spot, have an easy drop, and Yonder Alonso is at Coors Field - pick him up. Mark Melancon's velocity drop is concerning you and you believe Arquimedes Caminero is the closer of the future and that future is now? Spend three bucks on the triple-digit-hurling Domincan now before the price flies to 300. Most importantly, set your bench up so that you never have to take a zero at any position. Sure, you've got to keep Carlos Rodon and Hunter Pence stashed, but what if you're MI gets hurt and you don't have someone to sub in? Every stat matters. Ask numerous fantasy players out there who have lost leagues and mucho dinero by a run, stolen base or strikeout.

But even the most conservative season-long fantasy players take risks. For me, it's about absorbing the conservative tenets I've learned from great minds over the years and blending it with my style which includes putting myself out there on players I have a strong intuition on that can provide a profit at their ADP or FAAB bid.

As for my DFS game, that's a whole different story. Cash games and 50/50s provide me with very little excitement. I'd rather play several small entry, impossible-to-win tourneys with boom-or-bust hitters trying to beat 57,000 others. It's why I cash so infrequently, and why Scott Jenstad hasn't had to re-deposit in several years. I tell him he's boring, playing the same single lineup, with his Matt Holliday, Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano. Hey, maybe slow and steady does indeed win the race.

Risers
Steven Souza Jr. (OF, TB) - Souza had an exemplary Week 2 including a mammoth 463-foot blast to dead center on Wednesday - until the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez stole his thunder two days later with the season's longest home run. Souza is an old rookie - he turns 26 this week - which makes some wonder what took so long. He was blocked by more mature talents in the Nationals' outfield, managing just 26 plate appearances last season. Coming to the Rays via trade in the off-season, Souza instantly became one of Tampa Bay's most intriguing hitters due to high expectations and the potential for 20 HR / 20 SB seasons. Last week, Souza hit .379 (11-for-29), blasting three bombs and snagging three bases - a good start to that 20/20 campaign. Overlooked is the fact that he struck out 11 times in those 29 at-bats. Though, Souza did improve on his strikeout-rate as he worked his way up the minor league. Because of a cold pre-season, Souza's ADP fell ever so slightly where he was drafted more as an OF4/5 rather than an OF3/4. Hitting second with nice power and plenty of speed, 20/20 with 80 runs and 75 RBI is certainly in play, though expect cold streaks and a batting average that may sting.

Lorenzo Cain (OF, KC) - Believe it or not, Cain is already 29-years-old. Unless you knew this for a fact, you probably thought him to be a bit younger - exactly the opposite notion when I remind you that Delmon Young is 29 as well, though it may feel like Crazy Del is well into his 30's. Cain has been hobbled by various injuries throughout his career and never lived up to the hype as a member of the Brewers. He broke out nicely with the Royals last year, though he missed a few, playing in 133 games. His lack of pop and propensity for injury led to Cain getting drafted at a position where he could well exceed his draft spot value. He has not disappointed thus far - hitting .413 in 46 at-bats, 12 R, 12 RBI, 2 HR and 4 SB. Most notably, Cain looks to have entrenched himself in the valuable three-spot in the Royals lineup - a very valuable position to be in considering how well the Royals hit as a team. A exorbitant.491 OBP will surely stabilize, as will the batting average, but those numbers won't fall as hard as some may expect. If the early BB-rate (10%) and K-rate (14%) is any indication, Cain is a candidate to stay among the league leaders in batting average - somewhere in the .300 - .325 range. Note his career batting average is .284. Cain has looked very comfortable and mature at the plate. If he can stay on the field for 133 or more games again, he should easily blow his ADP value out of the water this year. Fifteen homers is in the cards as well.

Danny Salazar (SP, CLE) - Salazar is likely the hottest name in the free agent bidding game this week, and for good reason. Just one year removed from being drafted as a top 30 starting pitcher, Salazar's fantasy stock took a drop in the final week of spring training with the demotion to Triple-A. The demotion turned out to be short-lived as Salazar was called up for a Saturday start against the Twins, where he twirled six innings of six-hit ball, striking out 10 - and officially supplanting Zack McAllister in the rotation where he will most likely stick. The Indians have been making mountains out of molehills over the past year and now boast one of the most dynamic rotations in the big leagues. Salazar was supposed to be the most dynamic of them all, but struggles with control and the long-ball led to a two month stay at Triple-A from the middle of May to the middle of June last year. Upon return, Salazar managed 73 K in 69.1 IP with a decent 3.50 ERA and 5-4 record. Salazar may not be as polished as Cy Young winning teammate Corey Kluber, but he could very well led the team in strikeouts and push close to 200 this season. His fastball was topping out at 95.8 mph - more than a full mile-per-hour than any time last season - and though the Twins aren't the ideal opponent, this probably isn't the last game we see Salazar hit close to 96 and secure double-digit strikeouts. Salazar will have his share of rough outings, but I'm sure we won't be surprised to see Salazar finally earn that top-30 SP ranking we drafted him at in 2014.

Adam Ottavino (RP, COL) - The Ottavino Era has finally arrived in Colorado, and it's going to be a long and fruitful period. The writing was on the wall for the 20-year veteran, LaTroy Hawkins after a mediocre season as the Rockies' closer (1.20 WHIP, 5.3 K/9) and those clairvoyant enough to see that writing in March drafts were rewarded. It was only a matter of time before Ottavino - the St. Louis Cardinals' first round pick from 2006 - would take over. This time last week, there were rumblings of keeping Ottavino in the setup role with veterans Rafael Betancourt or John Axford stepping in. Betancourt got the first save of the week, and then nature took its due course. Ottavinodominated the ninth inning against the Giants on Tuesday, blowing all three batters away on strikeouts using a mix of his wickedly insane sliders. He then stepped in for another save the very next day. Ottavino appears to have conquered his struggles against left-handed batters, has seen an increase in velocity and has nearly abandoned the change-up. Those who had the opportunity to pick him up in the free agent pool, ran to do so, and rightfully so. He's in a great division for saves and could be drafted as a top 10 closer one year from now. It's great to see Ottavino in the role he was destined for. Sometimes better late than never.

Honorable Mentions

Not Buying It

Fallers
Chris Carter (1B, HOU) - Performances don't get much worse than what we've seen from Carter over the first two weeks - just 3-for-40 with one run scored and nothing else. He has walked just four times and struck out 17 times. It's not shocking for a streaky power guy like Carter, and it's not beyond the realm of possibility to see Carter get sent down to Triple-A for a bit if the struggles continue. The comparable but inferior Jon Singleton looms. The Astros do have a slew of hitters with similar big power / high strikeout profiles and one of those, catcher Evan Gattis, finally showed a pulse after a wretched first week. It's much more likely that the Astros remain patient with Carter as they were last year. Carter hit .153 with 37 strikeouts in 85 at-bats last April and had a cold May as well - just 8 HR and 21 RBI over those months. June was subpar (.164/.243/.388), and then Carter exploded hitting 20 of his 37 homers over July and August. The year-end result was a .227 BA, which hurts fantasy squads, but that's the price that is paid sometimes when chasing power. It will be interesting to track Carter this year to assess where the trade-off is. Is 450 at-bats of .215 "worth it" to you if he hits 35 homers? 30 homers? A lot depends on the construction of your squad. Perhaps Carter is simply a younger, more expensive Mark Teixeira (drafted about 12 rounds later). If Teixeira stays relatively healthy all year and continues to hit middle of the lineup, couldn't Teix potentially put up similar or even better numbers? Nevertheless, if you drafted Carter, you're married to him - for better or for worse. Because you know exactly what he will do when you bench him. Sleep on the couch? No, I meant hit home runs.

Curtis Granderson (OF, NYM) - The Grandy Man is another streaky all-or-nothing guy like Carter, but with a few big differences. On the plus side, Granderson leads off for the Mets and does a better job getting on base (.340 OBP, 12 BB in this miniscule sample), but he is six years older than Carter and hits in the NL against tougher pitchers. Grandy hit 40-plus home runs just three years ago, but that was in his power prime and hitting half of his games in power-friendly Yankee Stadium. Through his first 13 games, Granderson has scored eight runs but no homers nor RBI. They will come - and 20 HR or more if he stays healthy is a pretty good bet - but if he continues to struggle, it won't be long before up-and-coming Juan Lagares takes over at the top of the lineup. Granderson has hit over .250 just once in the last six seasons, including .227, .229 and .232 over the last three. Lindy and I drafted him as our fifth outfielder in our NFBC Vegas Primetime league and have no choice but to keep running him out there, although Lindy is admittedly a bigger fan of his - Granderson was instrumental in his two NFBC overall titles in those beastly seasons. You can't drop him in deeper leagues, especially if he continues to lead off. You know how it is with these home run hitters - when it rains, it pours - so make sure you're not out there without your umbrella when it does. If that makes sense.

Anibal Sanchez (SP, DET), Jose Quintana (SP, CHW) - These two have a few similarities - both are AL Central arms, had similar March ADPs (Quintana 184, Sanchez 194 - 15th round in 12-teamers) and both have been rocked in two of their first three starts. Sanchez gave up three homers and five earned runs to the Pirates in the first week and got torched for nine earnies against the White Sox on Saturday. Quintana had a gem in between his two blow ups - 14 ER to the Royals and Tigers in his first and third starts of the season. Heading into 2015, Sanchez has a longer career and better track record including a no-hitter in 2006 and a sparking 2.57 ERA with the Tigers in 2013. He dealt with shoulder inflammation, a strained pectoral muscle and a finger laceration last year, but appeared to be healthy going into this year. Perhaps there is some injury news that comes to the forefront as the blowups are not indicative of a healthy Anibal. Meanwhile, Quintana is coming off back-to-back 200 IP seasons and improved across the board from 2013 - better ERA, K-rate, BB-rate and cut his home runs by more than half from 23 to 10. Quintana is four years younger and healthier. If forced to pick one for the remainder of the year, it would be Quintana.

Drew Hutchison (SP, TOR) - Hutch was a spring training darling whose price continued to rise heading into the final week of drafts. In fact, his price skyrocketed even higher when it was announced he would be the Blue Jays' Opening Day starter, which speaks more to the lack of depth in their rotation (especially with Marcus Stroman out for the year) than to Hutchison's ace status aspirations. Don't get me wrong - I think Hutch has filthy stuff and worthy of being owned in 12 and 15-team leagues - my concern stems from his inconsistency (from start to start) and in the division he plays in. The last thing I would ever say is 'I told you so' as he has most of the season to prove me wrong, but any pitchers that have to see @ BOS, @ NYY, @ BAL on their schedule fairly often scare me. And it's not like he is someone you can try to time. He held the Orioles to a .188 average, striking out 44 in 39 innings last year. In last week's start against the Orioles, he gave up 7 ER in 4.1. It's just that given the choice in that ADP range, I would rather target starters like Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Drew Smyly in better pitcher parks. Hutchison's strikeout-per-inning definitely is top-notch, but if you're in a league where you can make trades, wait for a couple of back-to-back dominant outings and look to move him so you can sleep better at night.

Dishonorable Mentions
Ben Revere (OF, PHI), Oswaldo Arcia (OF, MIN), Evan Longoria (3B, TB), Taijuan Walker (SP, SEA), Addison Reed (RP, ARI)

Reed is the one guy from this list who I don't have much faith in. Though Evan Marshall or Randall Delgado appear next in line, submariner Brad Ziegler is their best option. Revere gets no love from his manager, and would benefit from a trade - an outcome that is certainly possible. Arcia is someone I'm picking up if dropped in my 12-teamer - you may just have to wait until the summer for that power surge and the home park does him no favors. Walker has looked shaky early, but I'm not jumping ship. Now is the time to buy.

Not Buying It
Christian Yelich (OF, MIA), Adrian Beltre (3B, TEX), Cole Hamels (SP, PHI)

Hamels is the perfect buy-low candidate. A notoriously slow starter, Hamels had a 4.05 ERA before the 2013 All-Star break and a 2.97 after. Last season, after missing the first couple weeks due to injury, Hamels had a 6.75 ERA in April and a 3.71 in May. In June and July he posted a 1.50 ERA in 85 IP and was one of the top performers among starting pitchers in the second half. Consider the fact that there is still a good chance he gets traded to a better team, and you've got yourself the ideal buy-low.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vlad Sedler
Vlad Sedler covers baseball and football for RotoWire. He is a veteran NFBC player and CDM Hall of Famer, winning the Football Super Challenge in 2013. A native Angeleno, Vlad loves the Dodgers and Kings and is quite possibly the world's only Packers/Raiders fan. You can follow him @RotoGut.
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