Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Lord Zola assembles his knights

by Todd Zola, on January 9, 2012 @ 09:10:18 PDT


Hey everyone, long time no cyber-see. It is great to be back, teaming up for another season with our friends at KFFL. And when I say teaming up, I mean it literally as well as figuratively. We have an exciting announcement for you. We all got together and decided every Lord needs his own roundtable, so we are pleased to unveil a brand new feature for the 2012 fantasy baseball campaign: Lord Zola's Roundtable.

Every week, the staff at along with KFFL's Nicholas Minnix and Tim Heaney and some special guests are going to offer their insights, opinions, comments, advice or just simply wax poetic about a designated topic. Then every Monday, we will share that with you in this space. We will reveal each week's topic via Facebook and Twitter so who knows, if you reply in a pithy manner, you may even be included in the discussion. Not to mention, if you want to suggest a topic for the following week's Roundtable, we will be glad to consider it.

Miami Marlins OF Mike Stanton
Stanton worth the plunge

Since I am the Lord, it is only fitting that I get the last word. So at the conclusion of each week's commentary, I will share some personal commentary. Most of the time it will be related to the topic at hand, but I have been known to stray tangentially on occasion so you never know what I may have to say.

With that in mind, before I go to assemble my initial roundtable, I thought I would provide some early observations from a bunch of mock drafts and leagues that I have already drafted. Yes, I have already completed drafts that count, along with the usual plethora of industry magazine mocks in which I am privileged to participate.

Last season's suggestion that pitching will be drafted earlier and earlier has come to fruition. The top hurlers still leave the board as usual, but there is much less of a gap before the next tier begins to disappear. You can no longer wait for the fifth or sixth round if you want to start your staff with someone in the second tier. The likes of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Cole Hamels, CC Sabathia, etc. will cost you a third or perhaps fourth round pick.

On the surface, the inventory available in 2012 drafts is a bit uncomforting. That is, the rule of thumb is to be fairly conservative with your first couple of picks, build a solid foundation and then take your chances later. But the problem is the players that seem to be second round fodder, at least according to early ADP, are more risky than in previous seasons. The risk ranges from youngsters with limited track records to stud players with injury concerns to star players coming off a down campaign.

I find myself more comfortable taking a player I know I can get a round or two later. But since trades are not allowed, I am forced to make a second round pick. The manner I have decided to approach this conundrum is to do one of two things. If I am picking towards the back off the second and Felix Hernandez is available, Lord welcomes the King. If not, my feeling is if I am going to take a chance, I may as well swing for the fences with a player with considerable upside.

So far, I have selected Carl Crawford, Nelson Cruz and Mike Stanton with that dictum in mind. I have since learned that I could have waited another round or two for Cruz, but I initially thought his post season success may outpoint the injury concern. Of all the options, my favorite has been rostering Hernandez, since I can now take the same hitter I wanted at his spot anyway, while starting my staff with a guy I think is going to bounce back from a slightly down year and reclaim his spot amongst the best in the game.

The final observation for this week will please those of you not shy about drafting catchers early. I do not usually like to do this, but there are three receivers that pique my interest because even though they qualify at catcher, they will spend the majority of their time elsewhere, reducing the injury risk and keeping them fresher. The trio is of course Victor Martinez who will get the lion's share of his at bats at designated hitter for the Detroit Tigers; Carlos Santana who will often don a first baseman's mitt for the Cleveland Indians; and Mike Napoli, who will do a little of both for the Texas Rangers.

Of the three, Napoli is my favorite as he seems to be slipping the most, probably because his playing time is not as secure as Martinez's or Santana's. I just feel as though Texas is going to do everything they can to keep his potent bat in the lineup. If you are in a league where someone takes a chance on the returning Buster Posey, Joe Mauer or Brian McCann, there is a chance one of the above troika may fall to you. Not only will you get an advantage at the position over your opponents and enjoy a little less injury risk, but based on the flat nature of the hitting pool, you are not sacrificing anything to procure this positional advantage. What I mean by this is the delta in talent between players this season once you get past the very top tier is rather small. Usually, when it is your turn, you haggle between two of three players you consider to be equal. This season, you will likely find that number to be much larger, so much so, in fact that if your next pick is not too far away, you can end up with two from that list.

Next week we will return with our inaugural round table discussion. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for the announcement of the topic later this week.

Todd is the Content Manager for the Mastersball Platinum Subscription product, featuring frequently updated player projections, values, rankings and profiles along with unique Excel tools, Minor League rankings and cutting edge strategy essays. Click HERE for details.

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About Todd Zola,

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, 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 and, 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. Fantasy Baseball

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