Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on February 14, 2011 @ 09:34:42 PDT


Welcome to the special Valentine Day's edition of Lord Zola's fantasy baseball mailbag. I know you did not come here for relationship advice, but I do have suggestion for all those afraid to approach their secret Valentine and let them know how you feel. Find a guy and ask him how many gals he did not ask out because he was afraid of ruining such a great friendship. Then ask him how many of those females he is still friends with today. After that, send in your fantasy baseball questions to via e-mail to lordzola@kffl.com, post on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

Who should I freeze between Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria and between Josh M. Johnson and Ubaldo Jimenez? I can protect one hitter and one pitcher. Thanks in advance. - Undecided

Let's help Undecided change his name to Decided. We'll start with the easy one and that is the pitching side of things.

San Francisco Giants C Buster Posey
Posey just posing as safe choice?

While there is a health risk, Johnson is the choice. That said, if you are concerned about the injury factor, it is close enough that Jimenez is not a bad choice. In fact, their peripherals are extremely close, save one. Johnson and Jimenez should have nearly identical hit, strikeout and home run rates. Johnson, however, will walk fewer batters, giving him the edge. For those concerned with the fact Johnson was shut down in September last season due to back and shoulder woes, he is already throwing bullpen sessions and is reporting no lingering pain.

I don't think anyone could have asked about another pair of hitters so evenly matched as Tulowitzki and Longoria. Truth be told, I have them ranked right next to each other with virtually the same value. Factor in they both play positions with a significant drop off in talent after the top tier of talent and deciding between the two is basically a coin flip. When faced with this situation, I ask myself a question. Instead of asking which player I like better, I ask what other players at those positions do I like later in the draft and which am I more likely to be able to draft? If I can identify more desirable shortstops, I keep Longoria and if there are more third sackers that tickle my fancy, I freeze Tulowitzki.

Actually though, before we discuss some of the other players at each position, there is another important factor to consider and that is your first draft slot and who may be available when you pick. Assuming each team can only freeze one hitter, there should be some premier sticks available in the first round. If your goal is to roster a top 3B and top SS, then keeping Tulowitzki is the smarter play, since you will likely be in a position to draft Longoria, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Zimmerman or Kevin Youkilis, who will gain third base eligibility early in the season. The only shortstop even in the discussion here is Jose Reyes who is an injury risk, though I am confident he will play regularly and run. That said, building an attack starting with Tulowitzki and any of those third basemen is an enticing scenario.

But if you feel you will be shut out of the aforementioned third basemen figuring they are protected or drafted previous to your turn, my lean would be to keep Longoria, as there are more shortstops I like later than third basemen. Reyes was just mentioned, but Jimmy Rollins should also bounce back from last season. So should Derek Jeter who still has something left in the tank. Another familiar name is Rafael Furcal who is healthy and quietly running again. Please realize I am not suggesting taking these players early. I am advising these players may be undervalued because they are coming off of down seasons and many fantasy players prefer fresh fruit as opposed to dried, wrinkly fruit. But in this case, the raisin may be cheaper than the grape, and even better for you.

Hey Lord Zola, I saw your picture on the web site and I think you're really cute. Will you be my valentine? - Bashful

Bashful, while I thank you for the thought, you obviously have my picture confused with KFFL Managing Editor Nick Minnix.

Todd, please rank these catchers: Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, Matt Wieters and Geovany Soto and is there anyone else you would consider in this tier? - Curious

This is a very interesting question and really highlights the difference between the part of me that believes in an objective player performance model and the part that plays the game with a touch of gut feel.

Going solely by my projections, I would order them McCann, Posey, Soto, Santana and Wieters. As suggested, my projection model is a very objective measure of player skills based on their history. The problem is, there is no way to take into consideration we are talking about catchers and there are other factors that often result in receivers not following the same growth curves exhibited by regular position players. And since this is not consistent amongst catchers, it is not really possible to incorporate this in the model.

As such, my personal ranking with respect to drafting is McCann, Soto and Wieters, since I am not willing to pull the trigger at the spot necessary to roster either Posey or Santana. Don't get me wrong, both are wonderful players and are likely to backstop their league's All-Star squads for many years to come, but they are catchers and I am reticent to invest in a rookie or sophomore playing the position at the draft spot required to own them. I would much prefer to either take McCann early or wait for Soto and Wieters. And if they are taken, I am perfectly fine with Jorge Posada or Mike Napoli, as both should benefit from being slotted in as designated hitter much of the time.

Lord Zola, I heard a rumor that you and the gang at Mastersball have a big surprise planned, can you give us a hint? - Anxious

Geez, did the Seven Dwarfs all get e-mail accounts? The rumors are true, we at Mastersball are quite excited as we are proud to announce we have been working with a professional web developer and have a brand new look, which we think is cleaner and will make it easier for you to find all the great content we produce on a daily basis. It is a lot closer to a facelift than reconstructive surgery, but we are indeed looking forward to the fresh look and invite everyone to drop by after they finish checking out all the wonderful content on KFFL.

When Todd is not trying to comb his hair to look like Nick, 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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