2015 Fantasy Baseball, Industry Roundtable: Players to Reach For and Avoid On Draft Day

Opening Day is is approaching quickly, so we wanted to get some of the best analysts in the fantasy baseball industry together for a quick roundtable session to provide those with drafts in the next two weeks some last minute insight. We used to do a lot of these because they’re super fun and useful, so I think we’ll be bringing them back again more often this season.

Here’s the first question:

Identify a hitter currently outside of FantasyPros Top 100 ADP that you’re most likely to pull the trigger on a few rounds early to make sure he’s on your roster?
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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Mixed Tout Wars Review, Rounds 1-3

Spring Training is here. That means all of us baseball nutsos get to travel to Arizona or Florida to get an early look at our favorite teams and players. It also means that we get to dive head first into numbers to try and sort out what happened last season, who went where in the offseason and what will happen this coming season. But what it really means is that the fantasy baseball community kicks into full gear with some of the more famous leagues with some of the more credible participants in the fantasy baseball community: Tout Wars and LABR.

For the purpose of this reflection piece we’ll be focusing on Tout Wars. If you’re not familiar with this league, here’s an excerpt from their WikiPedia page:

“Tout Wars is the most high-profile fantasy baseball experts league and was the focus of the 2006 best selling book Fantasyland. It was created in 1997 by Ron Shandler who was fed up with the lack of promotion USA Today gave its annual LABR fantasy baseball experts league. The drafts are conducted each year in late March shortly before the MLB season and include a 12 team AL-only league, a 13-team NL-only league and a 12-team mixed league (added in 2005). Tout Wars was featured as the subject of a 2010 documentary called “Fantasyland” based on the book.”
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2015 Fantasy Baseball: 30 Prospects in 30 Days — Jorge Alfaro

Welcome to the Jorge Alfaro edition of our 2015 “30 Prospects in 30 Days” series. We’ve decided to review some of the top prospects ranked by some of our favorite prospect analysts for fantasy baseball purposes. You can see some of the other recent prospects discussed here: Corey Seager, Miguel Sano, Addison Russell, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Gray, Noah Syndergaard, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa.
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2015 Fantasy Baseball: 30 Prospects in 30 Days — Austin Hedges

Welcome to the Austin Hedges edition of our 2015 “30 Prospects in 30 Days” series. We’ve decided to review some of the top prospects ranked by some of our favorite prospect analysts for fantasy baseball purposes. You can see some of the other recent prospects discussed here: Corey Seager, Miguel Sano, Addison Russell, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Gray, Noah Syndergaard, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa.

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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Staff Consensus Rankings

Fantasy Baseball Rankings powered by FantasyPros

2015 Fantasy Baseball Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

The following is a team preview for the Pittsburgh Pirates from a fantasy baseball perspective, contributed by Brian Dunshee.

Offseason Overview

The Pittsburgh Pirates enter the 2015 campaign as one of the few standout NL powers, having two MVP caliber players on their team in Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. Though they lost the productive Russell Martin to free agency, the Pirates are confident that this could finally be their year. After years of mediocrity, they appear to have the firepower to take home the first NL Central division title in team history.
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2015 Fantasy Baseball Team Preview: Kansas City Royals


hosmer land

The following is a team preview for the Kansas City Royals from a fantasy baseball perspective, contributed by Brian Dunshee.

Offseason Review

It would be an understatement to say that the Royals made their franchise relevant again last year. For the first time since 1985, the Royals made the playoffs and they took advantage of it; ultimately coming within one game of taking home the World Series trophy. After losing their ace James Shields and fan favorite Billy Butler, the Royals need to find a way to fill those voids and try to stay relevant in what could be the best division in baseball.

Top Draft Picks

There is a good chance that the first Royal player you see taken off the board in your fantasy draft is closer Greg Holland, and that may not be until round 7. The Royals don’t have any superstars on their roster, as they’re now famous for combining great defense and a shutdown bullpen to win ballgames. Right around the same time Holland goes off the board, you can expect that outfielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez will be taken as well.

High Upside

Fortunately, the Royals are packed with players that could break out at any moment and fill the fantasy superstar the team is lacking. Twenty four year old fireballer Yordano Ventura is ready to become the ace of the rotation now that James Shields has headed to the NL west. Last season, during his rookie campaign, Ventura put up solid numbers behind Shields, winning 14 games while posting a 3.20 ERA and logging 183 innings. You should be able to draft Ventura around the same time or for the same bid that you would get more seasoned pitchers like Justin Verlander, Anibel Sanchez and Scott Kazmir. His upside is that of at least a number 2 starter on your staff.

There are reasons to believe that this year could be the year we’ve all been waiting for; the year that Eric Hosmer finally lives up to the lofty expectations and becomes a 20 home run first baseman. It seems like Hosmer has been in the show forever, but he is still just 25 years old. The Royals have been extremely patient during his development, and the patience is beginning to pay off, as Hosmer hit .351 with 2 homers and 12 RBI during the Royals’ postseason run. If there were an opportune time for him to break out, this would be the season to do it. There are some serious questions surrounding this team going into the season, and the importance of Hosmer having a breakout season cannot be overstated.

High Downside

The Royals signed right-hander Edinson Volquez in December with hopes that he will be able to repeat his 2014 success in what was a resurgent year with the Pirates. Once the headliner of a deal that sent Josh Hamilton from the Reds to the Rangers, Volquez was never able to repeat his breakout rookie season in 2008, in which he posted a 3.21 ERA with 206 strikeouts in 196 innings. Though he was able to post solid numbers last season in Pittsburgh, statistics show that much of his success was attributable to luck. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) was a whole run higher than his actual ERA, suggesting that his fixed ERA would be a 4.15. Three years since 2011 his era has been 5.71 or higher. Let someone else take a chance on this risky right-hander this season.

Closer Situation

The bullpen certainly was not an area of concern for the Royals last year, and had they won the World Series, we would have been talking about this bullpen being one of the best of all time. The anchor of the bullpen is Greg Holland; who has become one of the best shutdown relievers in all of baseball over the past two seasons. Like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, it seems like Holland strikes out every batter he faces. He is a top three reliever in all formats, and unless he gets injured, he is a safe bet to repeat his success.

Impact Minor Leaguers

The Royals Minor League System is bare with so many of their top prospects reaching the majors the last few seasons (Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez), There is not a lot of help on the way, with the team whiffing on top picks Aaron Crow, Christian Colon and Bubba Startling picking at or near the top of the MLB draft from 2009-2011.

Brandon Finnegan, the team’s 2014 first round pick, made his major league debut late in the season and got his first taste of playoff baseball. He pitched in 7 games in the post season, including two in the World Series. The Royals will likely stretch him out in the minors to being the season as they hope he can become an effective starter. If he is effective the smallish (5’11 – 185 lbs) lefty may get the call early in the season.

The player that may have the most upside impact this year is starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer, but he comes with a huge injury risk. Zimmer has struck out 11 batters per nine innings during his minor league career, but pitched only 4 innings in 2014 due to shoulder problems. The Royals sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he was among the most impressive pitchers, striking out 11 batters in a five-inning start before he was shut down with shoulder soreness again. The Royals have chosen rest over surgery, which can be a dangerous road. Just ask the Texas Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, who will miss the entire season after missing 2104 and opting against surgery. Watch medical reports on Zimmer closely this spring.

Surprising Stat

Not a single player on the Royals roster hit 20 home runs, drove in 80 or more RBIs, scored 100 runs, or won more than 14 games pitching and they were one win away from the World Series title.

2015 Fantasy Baseball: 30 Prospects in 30 Days — Julio Urias

Welcome to the Julio Urias edition of our 2015 “30 Prospects in 30 Days” series. We’ve decided to review some of the top prospects ranked by some of our favorite prospect analysts for fantasy baseball purposes. You can see some of the other recent prospects discussed here: Corey Seager, Miguel Sano, Addison Russell, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Gray, Noah Syndergaard, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa.


Julio Urias is an 18-year-old Mexican-born, left-handed pitcher that sits atop most of the the credible prospect lists entering 2015. The young southpaw stands five-foot-eleven and weighs approximately 160 pounds. He was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers back in August of 2012 at the age of sixteen along with a group of other prospects from the Diablos Rojos del Mexico out of the Mexican League.
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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Catchers with Multiple Position Eligibility


Targeting players that carry multiple position eligibility in your fantasy baseball draft will provide your fake team with flexibility throughout the season. These players are typically helpful in formats that feature two catchers, a corner or middle infield slot and even with relief and starting pitchers.

It’s important to note that different sites use different formulas to determine if players will be eligible at multiple positions. Here’s how ESPN/Yahoo! determine:

Yahoo! – A player will gain eligibility at a new position after five starts at that position, or 10 total appearances at that position. Pitchers need to make three starts to be eligible as a starter, or five relief appearances to qualify as a reliever.

ESPN – A player will gain/retain eligibility with 20 appearances at that position in the previous season, but may add eligibility at that position with 10 total appearances at that position.

Buster Posey | Giants | C/1B | ESPN & Y!
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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Diving into an Ottoneu Dynasty League, Part I


Dead in the middle of football season I received an email gauging my interest in taking over a dynasty fantasy baseball team. Although I was knee deep in targets and yards per carry type metrics, the idea of diving back into fake baseball in December appealed to me. So I took the plunge by accepting the invite to the FanGraphs Experts Ottoneu League with sharks (respected colleagues in the fantasy baseball community) like Eno Sarris, Jeff Erickson, Andy Behrens, Tim Heaney, Chad Young, Andy Andres, Neil Fitzgerald and others. Sharks I tell you — and I was fresh blood.

For those unfamiliar with the Ottoneu game, let me give you a quick overview. Our particular version is a 12-team, old school 5×5 (runs, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, average, wins, strikeouts, saves, ERA and WHIP) with 40-man rosters and a $400 salary cap. We start one at each position, including five outfielders, a middle infielder and a utility man.

Where everything gets hairy is the offseason. The league uses an arbitration process for inflation. The allocation system gives a $25 budget to each team in the league. The team can allocate this budget towards players on other teams. Each team must allocate at least one dollar to every other team, and no team can allocate more than $3 to any other team. At the end of the allocation period, all players have their salary increased by the amount allocated towards them. Allocations take place after the initial offseason salary increase, so any allocations will be in addition to the $1 or $2 increase each player gets at the end of the season. For example: The team I took over drafted Anthony Rendon last season for $9, but during arbitration owners allocated $12, pushing the third baseman’s salary for the upcoming season to $21.

Naturally, this arbitration process will push many teams over the salary cap forcing teams to make cuts or trades during the offseason. The team I inherited was about $20 over the cap, so I needed to make some moves in order to get under $400 by the January 31st deadline.

But jumping into a 12-team dynasty league with 40-man rosters following its fifth season isn’t exactly the easiest task. Being the new guy on the block, you don’t really have a feel for the nuances of the game, the value of the players or the tendencies of the owners.

So after some quick analysis, I just dove in. Here is what I started with:

Right away I knew I needed to cut salary and cut some players at their current costs. Carlos Gonzalez at $60, Shin-Soo Choo at $37 and Jayson Werth at $30 are three players that I assumed I wouldn’t be able to trade, so I would simply have to cut them. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try, though…

A few other goals I wanted to achieve: I needed my team to get younger; I needed to get cheaper, controllable players and I didn’t want to “play for the future”, so I would try to do all of this while giving myself a real shot to compete this year.

I’ll simply show you the trades I made and the look of my roster before we head to our auction. I don’t want to divulge too much information here to give my competitors an edge on me during the auction.

The deals:

1. I dealt my $8 Denard Span for Eno Sarris’ $11 Doug Fister.

2. I dealt my $20 Brett Gardner, $16 Daniel Murphy & $3 Michael Foltynewicz to Andy Behrens for $17 Jose Fernandez and $24 Yoenis Cespedes.

3. I dealt my $9 Yasmani Grandal, $5 John Lackey & $3 Jake Marisnick to Chad Young for his $35 Jason Heyward, $6 Drew Pomeranz & $2 Hunter Renfroe.

4. I dealt my $4 Trevor Bauer to Jeff Erickson/Peter Schoenke for their $9 Javier Baez.

After the trades and a bunch of cuts, here is what the team looks like now:

Ottoneu2I’ll leave this as it is for now. Will add some of the trade analysis in a bit. If you have any questions or comments about Ottoneu, the players I cut or targeted or just want to know what the hell I was thinking, drop me a note in the comments.