Hey Todd, I have the top waiver priority in my 12-team keeper league. I missed out on Eric Hosmer. Should I burn it on Brett Lawrie or wait for Mike Moustakas, Desmond Jennings or someone else? I am in the middle of the pack so while I could use some help for this season, I am more thinking of the future. - Jackson Richards. Mobile, AL
With the disclaimer that all three are outstanding prospects and any of the three could be valuable fantasy contributors, they are still prospects and nothing is guaranteed. It was not that long ago we were debating who would hit more homers, Delmon Young or Prince Fielder.
I will start from the back and eliminate Moustakas. He has two strikes against him. The first is, unlike Lawrie and Jennings, stolen bases are not part of his skill set, which negatively impacts his fantasy value. While it is true that you cannot steal first base, speed never slumps so even if a player struggles, especially a young one with fresh legs, he will usually swipe some bases, so there will be some modicum of fantasy value. The other factor working against Moustakas is his walk rate is the lowest of the three and in general, is rather poor. That said, his contact rate is the best of the trio, but remember, we are talking about three elite prospects, he has to do something well. It is just that all things being equal, I prefer a player with a good walk rate who learns to make better contact than a player with good contact that needs to learn patience.
Padilla: the best bet?
That leaves us with Lawrie and Jennings. I am going to do something a little different, skipping to the end eliminating the suspense to suggest that if this season carries more weight than the future, I prefer Lawrie, but if the future is more important, I would hold out for Jennings.
Lawrie is more likely to be called up earlier and offers the incredibly desirable power-speed combination we fantasy enthusiasts drool over. He will play for a team that will permit him to swing for the fences, but also run. Toronto could be the perfect organization to showcase his talents and hit the ground running, double pun intended. But, he does carry a high BABIP which may not translate to the majors. He is going to be prone to slumps, but will rack up the counting stats.
If you have been reading previous mailbags, you know I am a sucker for high walk rates and Jennings has the most advanced patience of the troika. Since Jennings' primary asset is speed, the ability to get on base is obviously a plus. Knowing you have a cheap source of bountiful steals heading into a season allows you to really plan your draft accordingly, but getting an injection of steals mid-season may or may not be as beneficial. That said, if Jackson is an influx of steals away from a championship, holding out for Jennings is justifiable.
So to sum up, I like Lawrie a little more for this season since he will contribute across the board but Jennings more for next season as you can go into the season banking a good number of inexpensive steals and build the rest of your team around that.
Lord Zola, can you gaze into your crystal ball and handicap the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen. - James Gold, Ithica, NY
This reminds me of that old joke. A guy finds a bottle, rubs it and out pops a Genie who agrees to grant the guy one wish. The guys says he has never been to Hawaii because he is afraid to fly, and asks for a highway to drive from California to Hawaii. The Genie says that is going to require some serious engineering and more concrete and steel than is available. He asks the guy to reconsider. The guy agrees and asks the Genie to handicap the Dodgers bullpen. The Genie asks if the guy wants a two or four lane highway.
The bottom line is RUN!!!! Honestly, it really does not matter how much you need saves, it is not cost efficient to chase saves in this bullpen. In recent weeks, Matt Guerrier, Javy Guerra and even Rubby De La Rosa have all been the flavor of the week. But between uneven performances, inconsistent usage patterns and some odd late inning scenarios, it is difficult to identify a pecking order. If forced to choose, as much as it feels dirty, I would sit on Vicente Padilla as he is the only guy that seems to have Don Mattingly's trust when healthy.
Speaking of De La Rosa, there has been an interesting discussion on the KFFL Facebook page, comparing De La Rosa to Jordan Lyles, the Houston Astro's exciting youngster. For what it is worth, I agree with the consensus that Lyles is the better choice, at least short term. I need to see more from De La Rosa before making a long term call.
Todd, I have a strategy question for you. What is the optimum distribution of starters and closers in mixed leagues? - Gary Robertson, Laurel, MD
We are still a little early in the season to suggest playing towards your league's category distribution so my personal rule of thumb is never to pass on what seems like a strong matchup for my starters, but if there is any doubt, I will break the tie with the closer. I start with a seven starter, two closer base and go from there. If there are not seven starters I am comfortable with, I do not hesitate to use three closers. On the other hand, if I have eight starters with very good matchups, I will go with one closer that week. At some point in the next month, it may be time to bite the bullet and use the extra closer more frequently since there will always be starters available to pick up if you need wins and strikeouts, but it may be harder to scavenge saves later in the season. Then, for the last couple of months, I will manage to the category distribution. There will come a time where the standings dictate what to do.
When Todd is butchering old jokes, you can find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball.
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.