Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on January 24, 2011 @ 11:39:00 PDT


So I hear there were a couple of games this past weekend and the winners meet in some sort of championship game or something. Were they any good? I was a little busy trying to figure out the repercussions of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Toronto Blue Jays deal along with the Tampa Bay Rays signings. Am I the only one that hopes the opponents allow Tampa to use a softball-like outfield and play both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon in left field? The relay throws alone are worth it in entertainment value. For more deep insight, please send us your questions via e-mail to lordzola@kffl.com, post on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_baseball.

Let's see what was in Lord Zola's inbox this week.

6x6 (OPS & Holds), head to head, 14-team keeper league. Players can only be kept a maximum of 3 years after being drafted. Once a player gets thrown back into the draft his contract regenerates to his first of his three years. My dilemma: my fifth keeper is Evan Longoria in his third and final season or Ryan Howard in his first season. I already own Albert Pujols, first season as well, so Howard would be my DH. If I throw Longoria back, he most likely becomes either the first or second pick in the draft with Ryan Braun the first pick. Longoria's status would regenerate to year 1. Howard, on the other hand, would probably go 4 or 5 behind Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and maybe CC Sabathia. I'm trying to move down in the drafts but others are looking to rip me off. One team offered Ubaldo Jimenez for BOTH Howard and Longoria. - Chuck

Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria
Make the right decision

Well Chuck, if I am reading this right, you like Ryan Howard and you are trying to figure out a way to drop him and pick him back up in the draft by trading for a better pick. Obviously, the Jimenez offer does not make sense, but the best thing to do is just thank him for the offer but respectfully decline. I am sure at some point in future mailbags, someone will ask about how to deal with lowball offers, so we will save that soapbox speech for a later date.

Let's go back to the dilemma at hand. While it seems you like Howard, and why not, especially since he has even more value in a league counting OPS, the best play for winning this season is to release him and keep Longoria. Third base has less talent than normal, and after the trio of Longoria, David Wright and Alex Rodriguez, there is a precipitous drop to the next tier so entering the season with Longoria and Pujols assures you of having the top rated player at two positions, not a bad start. And, if Howard or Longoria is your fifth keeper, that means you have a heck of a group after Pujols, taking up spots two, three and four.

Another reason not to sweat dropping Howard is, like you say, he fills your utility spot. This hinders you in two fashions. First, it is real handy to keep your utility spot open since you can fill it with any position, giving you a better chance to draft someone that falls. You do not have to be bummed that a valuable player was available but you did not have an open spot to put him. And second, in head to head, you may want some roster flexibility, based on your opponent for the week. If you can bounce a speed guy or a power guy into your utility that may improve your matchup and chance you can win more categories.

And if that is not enough to make Chuck sleep easy after dropping Howard, the Phillies slugger is likely older than you think, this may not be as good a three-year keeper as perceived. Howard turned 31 last November, so he will be in the decline phase of his career before his keeper tenure expires. While last season may turn out to be a blip, his power dropped considerably. If Howard's power drops at all, his value takes a big hit since he doesn't run. And since Howard's strikeout rate is very high, his margin of error is less than most sluggers and his decline could be more rapid than most.

Tell me, how does it feel to be considered ahead of your time, to be so critically acclaimed despite tempered initial commercial success? How does it feel to be banned in many school systems even though the symbolism and allegorical nature of your work is so deep? And especially, how does it feel to have many of your story lines borrowed by one of the more popular television shows of the past several years? - Billy Golding

I really need to talk to KFFL about this. Apparently the name of the column is causing a bit of confusion. My apologies Billy, but you obviously have this column confused with the Lord of the Flies, a novel by William Golding, perhaps he is a relative? The book was banned in several school systems for its language and violence, but that did not deter the TV show Lost from patterning some episodes after parts of the story.

Hi Todd, how do you see the playing time shaking out and the fantasy winners and losers after the big Vernon Wells/Mike Napoli - Jimmy Christopher, Allentown, PA

Thanks for asking, Jimmy, at least I get to put the time spent looking at this all weekend to good use.

Let's start with the Toronto Blue Jays, who shipped Vernon Wells westward to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, acquiring Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Rajai Davis is the regular center fielder, but those that play in deep leagues should note that Davis set his career high in games last season with 143 and should not be expected to play much more than that, making Corey Patterson fantasy relevant as an end gamer. While the exact positions are a bit unclear, Travis Snider, Adam Lind, Rivera, Napoli and Edwin Encarnacion are all likely to be slated for 500-600 plate appearances. Since the Jays lost Lyle Overbay, they were short one hitter, so no one is really losing any playing time except perhaps J.P. Arencibia, who actually compares a bit to Napoli in that his power potential is outstanding, but he struggles making contact. But though not great, his defense is better than Napoli's. The big winner in the deal is Napoli, who will catch a little, but also play some first and designated hitter. The extra playing time and swing for the fences style of the Blue Jays should result in 30-something homers, making Napoli a top-five receiver. Davis is also now assured of near full time at bats while Encarnacion is also in line for regular playing time.

The Angels, on the other hand, have a bit more ambiguity with their lineup. They are likely to acquire one more bat. And while a power hitter makes the most sense, the chatter is a leadoff type that can play left field with the name Scott Podsednik being bandied about. If a leadoff type is signed, that does not bode well for Peter Bourjos, a speedy outfielder who was targeted for center field before Wells came on board. However, if a speed-type player is signed, that will lead to a bump in playing time for top catcher prospect Hank Conger, who already benefits from Napoli leaving town. He could see some extra at bats at DH if Podsednik is signed. Bobby Abreu would be the primary DH, with Wells in center and Torii Hunter in right. If the Halos turn back to old friend Vladimir Guerrero, that would push Abreu back into the outfield with Wells and Hunter. In this scenario, Bourjos benefits more than Conger, as he will be a defensive replacement for Abreu and Conger's stick won't be as necessary with Guerrero filling the DH role. From a performance perspective, Wells is going to lose a couple of homers going to a bigger park. The biggest winner should be Conger, whose path to playing time is easier without Napoli taking up some catcher at bats.

When Todd Zola is not playing musical chairs with the Angels and Blue Jays outfield, you can usually find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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