Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Preseason prognistications in review

by Todd Zola, on April 16, 2012 @ 14:12:46 PDT


Believe it or not, drafts are still not over, but the overwhelming majority of leagues have in fact begun. I thought I would give the assembled knights the chance to vent a bit; let's see if they took the bait.

Now that drafts are mostly over and the season has begun, are there any players you regret downgrading or avoiding this spring? In trading leagues, are you considering making a play for them now?

Nick Minnix, to the point:

I'm learning not to regret much of anything, so no, and no. How the season has begun wouldn't affect it at this point, anyway. And I'm not just saying that because I'm about to board a plane and trying to keep my answer short.

Brian Walton, prefers early waivers over early trades:

Just nine or ten games aren't enough to indicate much of anything to me. In terms of trades, I give any offer presented fair consideration, because you never know when you might want to propose a deal yourself. (Some people don't follow this common courtesy, yet are dumbfounded when no one answers their trade queries.) Anyway, back to the subject. I don't initiate trades this early, either. Pushing for deals now generally indicates panic and/or weak league mates, IMO.

A much more successful April approach for me is to watch the waiver wire for good players that others have given up on as they hop onto players hot out of the gate. This weekend I am hoping to snag Tim Hudson off the waiver wire in my local mixed league as I would be happy to stash him and wait. The owner that drafted Hudson dumped him in favor of Jeff Samardzija just before the Cubs' new starter faced the Cardinals. He got a win, but it was an expensive one - five ER in 5 IP and a WHIP over 2.00.

Tim Heaney seconds Brian's sentiments:

It's too early to say so. I'm sticking to my guns and not being blinded by a small sample size. I won't consider making a trade play for someone for at least another few weeks.

I concur with Brian about seeing which underappreciated assets people have already given up on. One man's trash, etc.

Greg Morgan does have one regret:

Agree with everyone about the small sample size. However, there is at least one I'd take off of the no draft list. My roto bitterness towards Austin Jackson had not subsided on draft day. His terrible plate approach last season was still too fresh in my mind. Just too many times I saw him swing for the fences regardless of the situation in 2011. Down 10-0, 0-2 count, it didn't matter. It was HR or bust all too often, leading me to scream too many expletives at my television set.

I heard that Lloyd McClendon was working with him on altering his approach during the spring, focusing on more contact. I said I'll believe it when I see it. Well, I've seen it the first week of the season. Why they waited so long for such a simple and obvious change is a mystery, but the early returns indicate that Austin has finally wised up and accepted the fact that he's not Babe Ruth. Obviously pitchers will adjust and Austin will have to adjust as well, but given the positive change I'd draft him in the right spot since he's leading off in a great lineup and the talent is there for a bounce-back.

Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs
Lawr wishes he had this one back

Perry Van Hook with another vote for combing the free agent wire:

In my AL keeper league we adopted a rule for NO trades in April. This let's everything settle from the draft and people to not make rash decisions. It was born from a guy who many years ago was disillusioned with his draft and flipped what would have been a team in the money for some shiny new beads.

In general my philosophy is to wait on trades but attack the free-agent pool vigorously - some of the early good performers won't last long so even if I don't have the immediate need due to injury or demotion, if I have the room I want to grab someone who may be more valuable than we thought on draft day and at the same time keep them off my opponents' rosters.

Lawr Michaels is in an agreeable mood:

Agree in a couple of veins. First, it is way too early to derive much of anything about anything. And, Brian reminds that I had Jeff Samardzija in the XFL as a prospect a couple of years ago. I do wish I had not dropped him. Not that I would trade much to get him back, but he is worth the gamble as a reserve.

Ryan Carey continues the theme:

I would say I fall in line with what everyone else has said. I looked back on all my drafts, and the only name I saw that really fit the bill in terms of being downgraded on draft day was perhaps Corey Hart. He was being downgraded and was a bargain in many of my drafts, and I passed on him more than once due to the questions about his health coming into the season. That aside, I likewise try to stay patient and trust in the guys I drafted. I'll obviously deal with my injured players and, like Brian, pay particular attention to whom my opponents are dropping. While many chase the early-season heroes, there often is a reason those guys weren't drafted while others were.

I don't play in too many trading leagues anymore, but even in those, I am not one to try and make deals this early in the season.

Zach Steinhorn adds:

Kelly Johnson has given me fits over the past few years. Every time I draft him he disappoints and every time I pass on him he puts up big numbers. So after owning him last season in a number of leagues, I decided this year that I've had enough and avoided him completely, despite the popular opinion that he would thrive in his first full season with the Jays. Well, through nine games K-Jo has three homers, nine runs scored and a respectable .270 average. I'm not going to blow nine games out of proportion but it's frustrating nonetheless! I agree with everyone else that it's important to avoid making panic moves this early in the season, whether they be trades or premature drops, but I have to admit that it's tough to control your emotions, take a step back and realize that it's only two weeks.

Lord Zola's Wrap up:

Come on, you really didn't think they would take the bait, did you? Before I add my two cents, I want to thank Lawr for dropping Samardzija back into the XFL pool as I am the lucky one that took a chance. And, for what it's worth, trading for him, while not impossible, will not be that easy, either.

OK, onto the question. I must come clean and admit I sort of set up the Knights this week, anticipating their collective responses in an effort to segue into a couple of points I feel are sometimes lost among my fantasy brethren. In short, I feel there are times my fellow fantasy analysts and I are too myopic, in an effort to adhere to the mythical So-Called Experts Manual. I must stress that the theme of the above responses, that it is far too small a sample to waver on expected player performance is mostly true. However, I humbly believe there are a couple of exceptions.

Something I like to remind fantasy enthusiasts is expected player performance consists of two elements: rate of performance and amount of performance. The rate of performance is the skills to which the Knights allude. It is indeed far too early to draw any significant conclusions with respect to player performance. For example, I am fairly certain that come September, Albert Pujols will have about 25 more homers than Omar Infante. That said, I do not feel it is too early to alter our thinking on playing time, which is the amount of performance. Some players that come to mind that I underestimated with respect to plate appearances are Kyle Seager, Daric Barton, Daniel Descalso, Chris D. Johnson and Juan Rivera. Granted, none of these guys are difference makers in shallower mixed leagues, but in deeper leagues, they will all likely to play more than I originally expected, so I will not hesitate to look to upgrade a position where I feel my present player is slated for fewer at bats. I don't regret not ranking them higher on my cheat sheets, since the playing decisions were all sound based on available information at the time. But that does not mean I should not adjust my expectations in terms of more performance.

The second point I would like to make speaks more towards my ruing not following through on a particular credo I wanted to implement this drafting season. To address the larger point here, while it is too early to change one's opinion on a player's skills, it is never too early to review one's draft in terms of adhering to general philosophy, in an effort to back-burner something for next season. The specific point is my intention was to incur more risk in my squads, especially those in snake draft leagues.

My particular regret is not even considering the plethora of players with injury concerns, not even for roster spots that could be considered fungible. The list of players includes Kendrys Morales, Justin Morneau, Chase Utley, Stephen Drew and Ryan Howard. The key here is fungible roster spots, meaning if these players were to fail, it would not be that difficult to find a suitable replacement. Granted, insuring I had an adequate substitute may have cost me a backend starting pitcher, speculative closer or delayed filling out my outfield, but these are also fungible positions and I underestimated my ability to be able to upgrade these spots as the season progresses. For the record, my belief has nothing to do with some of this group looking pretty good so far. How they end up playing is irrelevant. I feel I passed on some golden opportunities to add some reward at the expense or risk, at a point where the reward trumped the risk. In that vein, however, I think Morales is safe to target. I'm not so sure about Morneau.

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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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