Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on April 4, 2011 @ 11:26:32 PDT


Every team has completed their first series so you know what that means: a barrage of "Don't panic, it's a marathon, not a sprint" advice. Just so you know, Chapter 2 of the "So-Called Expert's Manual" requires all fantasy pundits to say this so I may as well get it out of the way.

Don't panic, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

There, I can retain my so-called expert's card another season.

Obviously, there is a great deal of merit to the axiom. But that does not mean you should sit idly on your hands. Early in the season, you should consider waivers and free agents to be an extension of the draft or auction. Do not worry about your team's strength and weakness, just focus on having the strongest players on your active and reserve rosters. You have six months to manage the categories to maximize points. If there is someone available you consider being better than someone you presently own, make the move regardless if you have a perceived need. With one of three players finding their way to the disabled list, there is a good chance you will eventually utilize everyone on your roster. Trust me when I say the quality of available players is much superior now as compared to how it will be in a few weeks and months when your injuries begin to mount. In essence, what you are doing is maximizing the quality of replacement for an injury that may not occur for several weeks or even months.

Seattle Mariners OF Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez: worth a reserve spot

There is another side benefit to being active on the waiver wire early on. I am willing to bet that last year, the vast majority of Jose Bautista owners picked him up off of waivers. In fact, I will take that a step further and contend that in a great deal of leagues, Bautista was added and dropped multiple times in some leagues until someone finally held him and reaped serious benefits.

Speaking of injury replacements, that is the theme of today's queries as a couple of high profile hitters are hurt. Let us see if we can find a stop-gap for these unfortunate owners. If you need some advice on an injury replacement or a trade, all you have to do is send an e-mail to lordzola@kffl.com, post your question on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

Dear Lord, I drafted Evan Longoria with my first pick and am sick after reading he could be out over three weeks. I need some help. Who do you recommend I use? I have Placido Polanco on reserve or can pick up Jed Lowrie, Jack Hannahan or Casey Blake. - Goeff Robertson

Geoff, I think your in-house alternative is the best. While Polanco is an injury risk, at present he is healthy and playing every day. He had off-season surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, then hyper-extended it and is at risk to aggravate the condition in-season. But when healthy, Polanco will hit for a good average, score some runs and knock in a few teammates. His power is limited and he does not run, but if either were better, he would be on someone's active roster and not on reserve.

Blake would be next even though he is on the disabled list. He is on a minor league rehab assignment and could come back as early as Thursday. It may not be a bad idea to use Polanco and pick up Blake and stash him on reserve in case something happens to Polanco. Blake has some pop but his skills are definitely on the decline.

Lowrie is interesting as a future play and will see a decent amount of playing time now, but even though many feel he is going to replace Marco Scutaro as Boston's shortstop sooner than later, the Red Sox love his versatility and are content to give him playing time all over the infield. They also want some assurance he can stay healthy before counting on his for full time at bats. But when he does play, he is the best player of the group, hitting for both average and power in a stacked lineup.

When you look at your free agent list at the hot corner, Hannahan shows up and catches your eye since he homered the first weekend. However, he has the job by default and is known for his slick glove and not potent bat.

Hi Todd. I could not believe it when I heard about Matt Holliday. I thought it was an April Fool's joke or something. The main reason I drafted him was his durability. ARGHHHHH!!!! I need your help. Can you rank the following possible replacements? Available are Matt Diaz, Matt Joyce, Jon Jay, Allen Craig and someone dropped Franklin Gutierrez. Thanks Lord. - Jeremy Stone

Let us start with Gutierrez. I would not pick him up as a potential Holliday replacement, but if I had an available reserve spot, he is the type of player that can help down the road. For those unaware, Gutierrez has a stomach ailment but the cause is unknown. If it clears up soon, he could be a decent back-end outfielder. He is the sort of player you pick up even if you do not have a hole in your outfield at this time. If the news turns worse, you can drop Gutierrez.

Of the available players, Joyce is atop my list. At least initially, he will be picking up extra at bats due to the injury to Longoria referenced above. Joyce struggles against southpaws and Tampa has a ton of movable parts to cover all positions, leaving Joyce in a platoon, albeit on the good side. Joyce has good pop and his average should be aided by the fact he will be spared facing lefties, at least for now.

Next is Diaz who is sharing right field duties in Pittsburgh with Garrett Jones. While there is not a strict platoon, it is unclear how the playing time is going to be divided and he will not play as much as Joyce. Diaz will not hit for as much power as Joyce, though his average should be better.

Craig and Jay are the replacements for Holliday in St. Louis. Since they will split time, neither is as viable a target as Joyce. That said, Craig is an interesting play as he will also see some time at third base when David Freese needs a respite and no one expects Lance Berkman to make it through the next six months without a booboo. Craig is the more powerful hitter with the greater upside. Jay hit into some good fortune last year so his stock is a little higher than it deserves to be so Craig is the better option of the two.

I realize Jeremy did not include Juan Rivera on his list, but I want to give him a mention as someone to look at for other's in the same boat. For whatever reason, Rivera was seriously overlooked in almost every draft I was in this spring. The guy is going to play full time in a hitter's park for a team that feeds into his free style approach. If he is available, even if you do not have a need for a power hitting outfielder, be sure to give Rivera a glance.

When Todd is not boning up on the So-Called Experts Manual, you can find him hanging out at the forums 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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