I've already seen the movie Moneyball (as most of you probably have, too), and I'm in the process of reading the book written by Michael Lewis. Fantastic reading, especially since it touches upon the whole background of sabermetric research in relation to its founding father, Bill James.
Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics turned baseball upside down because they went against conventional wisdom when it came to evaluating, scouting and drafting baseball players. They haven't won championships, but they've been pretty darn competitive given their budget.
In essence, this is what you, the fantasy baseball manager, should strive for. When others zig in your drafts, you should be zagging. Before going into your drafts, you should always have an idea of the strategy that you're going to implement by targeting specific players that will help you achieve this.
Can he figure it out?
Will you follow Tim Heaney's FIRST strategy or go with your own plan? It's up to you based on the players that you value. That's the beauty of fantasy baseball.
In my opinion, those that are the most successful in drafts are the ones - like Billy Beane - that pick out the players that the majority of other owners aren't looking at at all. These players may be undervalued due to past injuries or flat out terrible performances. While the early part of drafts likely won't yield many of these cases, rounds 10-20 and beyond provide plenty of opportunity.
Many times the skills are still there, they're just being masked by injuries or bad luck. A player that fits the bill this year that I'm increasingly eager to draft (although I haven't been fortunate enough yet) is Francisco Liriano.
Liriano's durability and reliability have been major concerns throughout his six-year career despite tantalizing talent that accompanies the lefty. At this point in his career, I think it's safe to say he's on the island of misfit fantasy baseball toys.
Not many people are willing to take the chance on him anymore, even at the low price he comes with, and I guess I can't blame them.
But why not? Injuries have hampered his potential for the majority of his campaigns, including a shoulder ailment that left him largely erratic last year, but he still has never had a K/9 ratio under seven. As recent as 2010, he struck out 9.44 per nine. The walks per nine, yeah, that's a whole 'nother issue. A 260th ADP, per Mock Draft Central, screams huge bargain and profit potential to me.
Other developments have me more encouraged; he has 26 K's and only four BBs this spring. That's huge for Liriano. Whether he can keep it up when it matters is a different story, but I'm willing to take a chance and find out with the 260th overall pick.
He's focused more on location than whiffing hitters now. Another huge development. Too often he's been worried about missing bats, which has caused him to rush his delivery and throw his mechanics out of whack, leading to balls outside the zone and thus, walks. Poor mechanics also lead to injuries. If he can avoid those and keep his mechanics sound, look out.
There are still useable fantasy skills in this Dominican's arm and now is the best time to buy. Of course he's a risk, but the risk is mitigated at the point he's being taken. And after all, it's merely impossible to win a fantasy baseball championship if you don't put your neck on the line occasionally. Billy Beane would do it.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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