Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on February 21, 2011 @ 18:31:17 PDT


Pitchers and catchers have reported, all is right with the world. Fantasy baseball enthusiasts everywhere are looking at their keeper lists and hoping for a good season. But those wanting to win their leagues are sending their questions to lordzola@kffl.com, posting them on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

5x5 10 team keeper league, I'm keeping David Wright, Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez, and Adam Wainwright. Should my last keeper be Josh M. Johnson, Roy Oswalt, Francisco Liriano, Mat LatosMariano Rivera, Carlos Santana, Jason Heyward or Joe Nathan? Also, would you keep any of those over any of my first four? Thanks. - Keith

Wow, with choices like that, maybe I should be asking Keith for advice. OK, let's start at the end and say that I agree with Keith's first four. He has arguably three of the top 12 or so overall hitters and a top-5 starting pitcher. My first option for the fifth would be packaging as many of the others as it took to get a second baseman if trades are allowed. Someone infatuated with prospects may bite on Santana and Heyward. Short of that, I would keep the Braves exciting right-fielder.

Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler
Kinsler the better man at 2B

Let's use process of elimination. Closers are too easy to find in this format so Rivera and Nathan are given the boot. I prefer to stock my keepers with hitters and uber-ace pitchers. Wainwright fits. Johnson, Oswalt, Liriano and Latos, while very good, all fall short and can be drafted back. That leaves the Indians' rookie receiver and Heyward. Santana has a great future and while it would be very good to lock up a stud at a scarce position, Heyward is a special talent and you usually only get one shot at special talent.

The thing that makes Heyward so special is his outstanding plate discipline for such a young hitter. While it is not universally true that hitters with high walk rates also make average to above average contact, the exceptions like Adam Dunn are few and far between. A high walk rate is usually an indicator a batter swings at strikes, leading to more solid contact and greater power. Slumps and down seasons are less of a risk for players with above average patience.

Now factor in the fact that Heyward has outstanding power and can run, and you have the makings of a fantasy stud. It may not occur this season, but assuming Keith gets to keep players in perpetuity, I would prefer the more reliable outfielder with the chance to be a perennial first or second rounder over a riskier, albeit very talented in his own right catcher.

Trade question - 12 team standard Yahoo roto league: Ian Kinsler and Jair Jurrjens for Rickie Weeks and Hiroki Kuroda. Which side wins here, and why? - Simon Gilliam

Kinsler and Jurrjens, because I say so. Sorry, I don't have any kids and I have always wanted to say that.

I hate to be cliche, but there is a saying in fantasy baseball that you always want to be on the side of the trade receiving the best player. While I do not always believe that, in this instance, it is the deciding factor.

Value for value, the trade is actually dead even. Kinsler is better than Weeks while Kuroda is better than Jurrjens and the differences cancel each other out. In fact, if this question were posed in season and Simon said he was looking to upgrade his pitching staff, I would give the thumbs up to the Weeks and Kuroda side. But it is February so the likely intent of the deal is to put together the best set of keepers.

In a standard 12-team Yahoo league, Jurrjens is a back end starter, someone you deploy during favorable matchups. He is not keeper material. Kuroda, while better than Jurrjens, is not keeper worthy either, unless you can freeze 10 or 12 players. So in reality, the deal is Kinsler for Weeks and I prefer Kinsler. They both carry injury risk, so that is a wash. They both have power and speed, but Kinsler makes better contact so his average should be higher. Weeks should hit more homers, but Kinsler will steal more bases. Though, with Ken Macha no longer at the helm in Milwaukee, Weeks should run more. The combined runs and RBI should be close to a wash. That gives Kinsler a two to one advantage, average and steals trump Weeks' homers.

If I am wrong and this is a dynasty league where you keep everyone, I may change my tune. The reason being that Weeks has more upside than Jurrjens and if the deal is even on paper, there is a better chance that Weeks produces better than expected and tips the balance in his side's direction.

When Todd is not drooling over Jason Heyward's potential, 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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