2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: League of Extraordinary Expert GMs Recap

Edwin Encarnacion Fantasy Baseball
Photo credit: pquinn65

While browsing Twitter a little over a week ago, I came upon a tweet from Vicarious Sports that indicated they were looking for a fellow baseball contributor to join a fantasy baseball league in its inaugural year. After emailing Mick Wayne, the owner of the new startup website VicariousSports.com, he was gracious enough to reserve me a spot in the League of Extraordinary Expert GMs. Being a 15-team league, the challenge of competing against 14 other bright fantasy baseball writers very much intrigued me.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide

On Sunday, we selected 450 players in the 30-Round snake draft over the course of three grueling hours. The LEEG league has a standard 5×5 rotisserie scoring format with a starting lineup consisting of 14 hitters and 9 pitchers. Additionally, each team is afforded 7 bench spots. I ended up with the 15th overall pick in the draft (lucky me) but believe I made the most of my perilous draft position.

The objective of this article is to detail why certain selections were made and how the players fantasy value looks for the upcoming 2014 fantasy baseball season. My entire roster is listed below and the number in parentheses indicates the round each player was selected in.

C – Wilin Rosario (5); Dioner Navarro (20)

1B – Edwin Encarnacion (1)

2B – Matt Carpenter (6)

3B – Will Middlebrooks (13)

SS – Jed Lowrie (11)

2B/SS – Dustin Ackley (23)

1B/3B – Adam Dunn (21)

OF – Starling Marte (3); Matt Holliday (4); Shane Victorino (9); B.J. Upton (12); Peter Bourjos (17)

UTIL – Michael Morse (19)

P – Yu Darvish (2); Mike Minor (7); Trevor Rosenthal (8); Kris Medlen (10); Fernando Rodney (14); Neftali Feliz (15); Tim Lincecum (16); Jose Veras (18); Carlos Martinez (22)

BN – Kevin Gausman (24); Ricky Nolasco (25); Grady Sizemore (26); Rafael Furcal (27); Dan Uggla (28); Byron Buxton (29); Kelvin Herrera (30)

Round-by-Round Recap

Pick

Player

Owner

Website

1

Mike Trout

Jon Williams

AdvancedFantasyBaseball.com

2

Miguel Cabrera

Dan Schwartz

RotoBanter.com

3

Paul Goldschmidt

Smokey

Razzball.com

4

Andrew McCutchen

Doug Anderson

MyFantasyLinks.com

5

Carlos Gonzalez

Devin Jordan

DavidGonos.com

6

Hanley Ramirez

Gregory Jewett

RotoAnalysis.com

7

Chris Davis

Rich Migliorsi

TheFantasyFix.com

8

Adam Jones

Brent Richard

VicariousSports.com

9

Clayton Kershaw

Timothy Kolar

RotoBanter.com

10

Adrian Beltre

Pat Donovan

WarRoomTalk.com

11

Bryce Harper

Mick Wayne

VicariousSports.com

12

Robinson Cano

Tommy Landseadel

FantasyAssembly.com

13

Ryan Braun

Nick Ligotino

WarRoomTalk.com

14

Jacoby Ellsbury

Robert Burghardt

TGFantasyBaseball.com

15

Edwin Encarnacion

Matt Moczygemba

TheFantasyFix.com

The table above shows how the first round of our draft went and there really wasn’t many shocking selections. With the league being 15 teams deep, it’s tough to criticize selections unless they are especially outlandish. I will say the one pick that most surprised me was Hanley Ramirez at sixth overall. Ramirez was phenomenal when he was on the field last year and has been pretty durable throughout his career, but he’s a bit riskier considering the lofty draft position. In my opinion, the best value of the first round was Ryan Braun at 13, if he slipped to me that was going to be my selection.

As you can see, my selection was Edwin Encarnacion, the first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays. My decision between Encarnacion and Prince Fielder was very tough, but since their HR/RBI/R totals should be very similar, Encarnacion’s ability to post 8-12 steals gave him the slight edge for me since Fielder isn’t a base stealer at all. Encarnacion also posted a career-high BB% (13.2%) and a career-low K% (10.0%), which was 4.6% lower than any strikeout rate he had in his entire career. A .370-.380 OBP rate is definitely within reach.

Since breaking down picks from other teams and my own over all 30 rounds would take way too long, I’m going to evaluate  all my picks from Rounds 1-15, and my evaluation of Rounds 16-30 will consist of a few of my selections and why I like their value at where they were selected. If you would like to check out how the whole LEEG turned out, you can do so right here.

Round 2/16th overall: With the first pick of the second round, Yu Darvish was my selection. I usually wait until round 4 or so to select the ace of my pitching staff, but no other batters really stood out at this point of the draft besides Fielder. In hindsight, Fielder may have been the best selection for my team as my projections suggest I’ll be a below average to average team in RBIs. The Encarnacion/Fielder combination would have locked up 75-80 home runs and 200+ RBIs, but I wanted some variety for my team and Encarnacion/Fielder are very similar players in terms of the statistics they will produce. Nothing wrong with landing a pitcher who more than likely will compile a sub-3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 250+ strikeouts and 15+ wins though. Additionally, his NFBC ADP is 17 so the selection of Darvish wasn’t exactly a reach.

Round 3/45th: After picking Darvish in the second round, this essentially meant my next few selections would be spent on hitters. Starling Marte ended up being my selection and was happy to acquire the services of a player who has the potential for 15 bombs and 50 steals. In only 135 games last year, Marte scored 83 runs and swiped 41 bases. If Marte can manage to play 150+ games, he has the speed to reach 50 steals and 90-100 runs seems like a good bet as well. His .280 batting average is sure to fall though, as he posted an abysmal 24.4 K% in 2013 while also having an absurd .363 BABIP.

Round 4/46th: With the league being 15 teams deep and requiring five outfielders to start, having two studs was important to me. This is why I ended up picking Matt Holliday, an especially reliable outfielder. With Holliday you know you’re likely to get a .300 average, 20+ homers, 100 RBIs, 90-100 runs, and a few steals to boot. Hunter Pence was also a consideration, but his career-best year as a 30-year-old in 2013 has me thinking he has nowhere to go but down in 2014. He certainly won’t be catching teams off-guard on the base-paths as often, which enabled him to steal 22 bases, another career-high number.

On a side note, I will say that two of the most surprising selections of the entire draft occurred in round four. Jose Abreu was picked 57th overall and only two picks later was Jedd Gyorko flying off the board at 59! Notable fantasy stalwarts like David Ortiz, Allen Craig, Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, and Alex Gordon were all selected after these two. Certainly surprising picks, but just goes to show that you can never know what to expect from draft-to-draft, each differs in how high and low players will be selected.

Round 5/75th: Catchers started flying off the board in round five and with this league requiring two catchers to start, Wilin Rosario was a fairly easy pick for me. With an ADP of 66, Rosario was a nice little coup at the position I selected him at. Additionally, the news that the Colorado Rockies intend to use Rosario at first base more often in 2014 when he needs a break from catching only adds to his fantasy value. With the added likelihood of playing in 130-140 games, Rosario could certainly break the 30 home run threshold with his gargantuan power in the hitters goldmine that is known as Coors Field.

Round 6/76th: With no middle infielders yet on my roster, Matt Carpenter was the choice for me with the first pick of the sixth round. With an ADP of 54, Carpenter seemed like another nice get. He certainly won’t score 126 runs again and his RBIs are likely to go down as well, but as long as he remains the leadoff hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals, he has as good of a chance as anyone to post 100+ runs in their star-studded lineup. 10 home runs, 65 RBI, and a .300 batting average all seem like reasonable expectations for Carpenter in 2014. Carpenter doesn’t mind drawing walks either (10.0 BB%) and he posted a stellar .392 OBP in 2013. The man knows how to hit, as evidenced by his career 25.5 LD% and 85.8% contact rate.

Round 7/105th: Mike Minor was my pick and although I was happy to get him, he’s not who I was targeting when the round began. Gio Gonzalez and Everth Cabrera were my main targets and you can imagine my disappointment when they were selected ahead of me. There isn’t a more helpless feeling than getting one of your picks “stolen” from you right before you’re about to select and that’s why I tend to prefer auction drafts. Minor has been dealing with some shoulder soreness and is a bit behind other Atlanta Braves pitchers which is a bit worrisome. Minor is targeting the end of the second week of the regular season to rejoin the Braves rotation which isn’t the worst news as he’ll likely only miss a start or two. Minor should make for a quality second starter for my staff behind Darvish.

Round 8/106th: With an ADP of 82, the first pick of the eighth round seemed like an appropriate place to select Trevor Rosenthal, the first closer for my squad. Rosenthal only had three saves in the regular season last year because Edward Mujica held down the job for most of the season, but once Rosenthal got the chance he never relinquished it. He was dynamite for the Cardinals in the playoffs and was a key factor in them making it to the World Series. In 75.1 IP, Rosenthal struck out 108 batters for a dazzling 12.9 K/9 rate. On an uber-talented Cardinals squad, Rosenthal should get 35-40 saves and end up as a top five closer by the end of the season.

Round 9/135th: Shane Victorino fell to me and I was ecstatic to get him as my OF3. In only 122 games last year, Victorino walloped 15 home runs, scored 82 runs, and stole 21 bases. He always seems to be dealing with an assortment of nagging injuries but he’s extremely productive when on the field. If he can manage to play 145+ games, 15 HR/30 SB with 90+ runs and a solid average will turn out to be great value at pick 135.

Round 10/136th: Considered the ace of the Braves pitching staff coupled with the fact he has an ADP of 115, I was pleasantly surprised Kris Medlen fell so far and was more than happy to get him as my SP3. Although his 7.5 K/9 rate over the last two seasons is nothing special, a 2.34 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 12.5 wins is certainly nothing to scoff at. Medlen should be an excellent SP3.

Round 11/165th: Having missed out on Everth Cabrera in Round 7, it was time for me to select a shortstop, Jed Lowrie. Lowrie’s biggest bugaboo throughout his career has been his penchant for getting injured, but he managed to stay healthy for the Oakland Athletics in 2013 as he played in a career-high 154 games. I’m obviously banking on the fact that he can stay healthy again and would consider anything over 140 games a success. Lowrie batted .290 with 15 home runs, 80 runs, and 75 RBIs last season and at pick 165 the reward certainly outweighed the risk. After the stud shortstops get taken it’s pretty hard to find a decent one but Lowrie certainly fits the bill at this point of the draft.

Round 12/166th: Speaking of risk, perhaps my biggest gamble of the whole draft happened in this round with the selection of Braves outfielder B.J. Upton. Describing Upton’s 2013 season as catastrophic might be an understatement. After signing a monster contract of the Braves, Upton suffered through one of the worst seasons in Major League Baseball history. Some of the ghastly numbers include a .184 average, .268 OBP, .289 SLG%, 33.9 K%, 26 RBIs, and 12 steals in 126 games. Whether it was the pressure of trying to live up to his contract or the many flaws in his swing, probably a combination of both, fantasy owners who spent a high draft pick on Upton were sorely disappointed to say the least.

Now for the positives. Upton is only 29 and seemingly still has a lot of good years ahead of him. After his season last year he has nowhere to go but up and there have been positive reports coming out of Braves camp regarding his improved swing mechanics. At the point of the draft where I selected Upton, I’m aiming for upside and Upton possesses a very high ceiling. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got back to his old ways and posted something like 17 HR/60 RBI/70 R/30 SB, albeit it’s going to come with an average in the .230-.240 range. As Emile Hirsch says in the movie The Girl Next Door, the juice is worth the squeeze.

Round 13/195th: Since I missed out on Pablo Sandoval to be my third baseman earlier in the draft, it was about time for me to fill my need at the hot corner. Will Middlebrooks was the pick. Middlebrooks is slated to be the everyday third baseman for the Boston Red Sox and although he won’t hit for a great average, he has great pop and should have no trouble launching 20+ homers with solid RBI totals in a stacked Red Sox lineup.

Round 14/196th: Needing another closer, Fernando Rodney was my choice for the first pick of the 14th round. Rodney predictably reverted back to his old ways in 2013 as he posted a 4.86 BB/9 rate and 3.38 ERA after he defied the odds in 2012 with a 1.81 BB/9 rate and 0.60 ERA with 48 saves in one of the best seasons ever by a closer. This offseason, Rodney signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Seattle Mariners and will immediately step in as the closer. Rodney should benefit from pitching in the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and with an improved Mariners squad, he is a good bet to post over 30 saves. Rodney will be shooting a lot of imaginary arrows into the Seattle sky.

Round 15/225th: The plan was to take Ryan Howard to solidify my HR/RBI numbers, but he was selected two picks ahead of me so that ruined the plan. I eventually settled on Texas Rangers probable closer Neftali Feliz. Feliz struggled in his Cactus League debut and Joakim Soria has a chance to be the closer, but one bad outing isn’t going to sway the decision in his favor and Feliz should still be considered the favorite for the job. With a good Rangers squad behind him, Feliz should have no trouble posting at least 30 saves if he maintains the job all year. A sub-3.00 ERA, WHIP in the 1-1.15 range, and almost a strikeout per inning are all enticing and reasonable numbers to expect from Feliz.

Round 16/226th: At this point of the draft, things get pretty hazy as most of the marquee players are already long gone. There are plenty of risks to be taken from this point on but it’s all about the upside at this point. That’s why I chose Tim Lincecum, the pitcher formerly known as “The Freak” to be my SP4. Although he did throw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres that included a whopping 148 pitches, Lincecum generally struggled throughout the 2013 season. Lincecum surrendered 21 long balls and had a disappointing 4.37 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Lincecum can no longer throw gas like he used too, as his fastball generally sits in the 90-93 mph range so he has to rely more on his off-speed pitches.

Lincecum can still strikeout hitters when need be, as evidenced by his 193 punchouts in 197.2 IP. Another positive sign is Lincecum ditched his normal offseason routine and started his throwing program to work on his mechanics much earlier in the offseason than usual. Although Lincecum has already has a lot of mileage on his arm, he’s only 29 and still has good baseball left ahead of him. I see Lincecum posting an ERA in the 3.7-3.9 range with a 1.25 WHIP. As long as Lincecum can decrease his home runs allowed to around 15 or so and avoid huge innings in terms of ER allowed, Lincecum should be in line for a rebound season.

Round 17/255th: Peter Bourjos was the pick at this juncture of the draft and his ability to steal bags is what most intrigued me. Bourjos is the heavy favorite to be the Cardinals starting center fielder in 2014 mainly because of his stellar defense. Bourjos is aiming to steal 40 bases this season, which seems awfully optimistic, but the Cardinals need his infusion of speed in their lineup since their .330 average with RISP is sure to go down and his ability to take extra bases will help. Bourjos should be able to hit over .270 and with the chance to hit 10+ home runs and swipe 20+ bases, makes for a fine late-round selection as my OF5.

Round 19/285th: In need of home run and RBI help at the utility position, Michael Morse was my pick here. Morse has had trouble staying on the field the last couple seasons due to various injuries, but he’s only two seasons removed from hitting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI in 146 games for the Washington Nationals. He surely won’t replicate those phenomenal numbers, but he’s a talented hitter with loads of power. Functioning as the everyday left fielder for the San Francisco Giants, Morse should have no trouble hitting .275 with 20+ homers and 75+ RBI as long as he can stay on the field for at least 140 games. Power hitters aren’t nearly as abundant now as they used to be but Morse will certainly provide an ample amount of power.

Round 22/316th: With the recent news that Jaime Garcia is once again dealing with shoulder issues, the fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation seems to be a two-man race between Joe Kelly and 22-year-old Carlos Martinez. Martinez ended up being my selection due to his huge upside. Although Kelly probably has the edge based on his 2013 season that saw him post a 2.28 ERA in 15 starts, Martinez certainly has a shot. If Martinez ends up losing out on the starting job, I can still keep Martinez on my team as a quality relief pitcher who will give me a good amount of strikeouts and could vulture a few saves from Trevor Rosenthal when he needs a rest since Martinez will likely be the eighth inning bridge to Rosenthal. Additionally, if Jason Motte returns to form sometime in April or May, he could take over the eighth-inning role which could mean Martinez moving to the starting rotation.

Round 24/346th: A couple rounds after picking Martinez, I took another gamble and selected Kevin Gausman of the Baltimore Orioles. After being the fourth pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, Gausman rose quickly through the Orioles minor league system and made his MLB debut last season. Although Gausman had a rough go of it as a starter, he did much better in relief. Gausman will likely begin the season in a relief role, but if the O’s have any injuries in their rotation he will surely get a chance to step into a starting role. Gausman has an electric fastball that routinely tops 95 mph and also has a good changeup. His K/9 ratio of 9.25 indicates he has no problem making hitters miss and bodes well for his chances to make it as a starter or at worst a high-impact relief pitcher.

Round 30:/436th: News broke yesterday that Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Hochevar will miss at least the first two months of the season due to a sprained ligament in his right elbow. This makes my selection of Kelvin Herrera look a tad bit nicer. Herrera should be the favorite to be the bridge to Greg Holland in an eighth-inning role now and he will more than likely garner a few save chances when Holland needs a rest. Herrera had an up-and-down season in 2013 which saw him reassigned to the minor leagues on two separate occasions, but once he got the call back up after the All Star break, Herrera flourished. Herrera had a 11.42 K/9 in 2013 and with a fastball that averages over 98 mph, Herrera should be a nice source of strikeouts with a sub-3.00 ERA and solid WHIP.

I believe my squad has the makings of a team with a chance to finish at the top of the pack. A couple factors that will determine this is health, whether my top selections produce at an acceptable level, and if I’m able to hit a few home runs so to speak on late-round gambles like B.J. UptonMichael MorsePeter BourjosTim Lincecum and Carlos Martinez.

My projections suggest that my team will be just fine in HR/RBI/R but may need some help in both AVG/RBI. Additonally, W/K/ERA/SV all look to be statistics that my team will excel in, although my overall WHIP may be pretty average. The fantasy baseball season is a marathon and by making the proper free agent pickups and exploring trades to offset the aforementioned deficiencies, fixing these problems should be doable. I already have some players in mind on the free agent list that may be able to help my squad. My pitching depth should provide me ample opportunities in finding the proper trade partner to execute a trade that fills my needs.

Feel free to leave comments below on the picks you agree and disagree with. Thanks for reading and thanks to FanGraphs and NFBC for the statistical data. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m always willing to answer any questions you may have.

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2 Comments

  1. March 6, 2014 at 11:14 pm — Reply

    Matt,

    Nice write up! You did well in our LEEG draft from the 15-spot. I thought you did especially nice work in pairing a power bat in Encarnacion with a decent all around speed guy in Marte. Big Marte fan this year! Rosario was certainly a nice value in a 2-catcher league and while I’m not the biggest Matt Carpenter fan, I actually think you snagged him at an appropriate time. He usually goes much earlier than when you got him. Good work on getting Rosenthal as late as you did, I complimented you on this during the Fantasy and Reality podcast we recorded tonight with Patrick and Nick from WarRoomTalk.com. All in all from the 15 spot, I think you took the value when it was there and made the most of it.

    Mick

    • March 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm — Reply

      Mick,

      Thanks for the compliments. In hindsight, I probably should have used my first two selections on Edwin/Prince instead of Edwin/Yu and still could have selected Marte in Round 3 and then picked Bumgarner or Felix as my stud pitcher in Round 4 which would have been a great first four picks. Still believe the results of this draft will help me make better selections in the future. It was my first real draft of the season though and I was generally pleased with how it turned out.

      Rosario-Carpenter-Rosenthal were definitely my three favorite picks of the draft. Mauer, Yadi, and McCann were all selected before Rosario in Round 5 and I believe Rosario could easily end up being the most valuable of the four by seasons end. I was also very surprised Carpenter fell to 76th overall since he has been going much earlier in drafts like you said. Couldn’t pass up on the great value he will supply at that point. It was also nice to be rewarded for waiting to get my first RP with Rosenthal in Round 8. Especially since Kimbrel (4th), Jansen (5th), Chapman/Holland (6th) all went a couple rounds earlier than him and he will provide similar ERA/K/WHIP/SV. Have him ranked as the fifth best RP so it worked out perfectly.

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