Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Your 2nd-half Top 5 Batters, Top SP

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on July 4, 2012 @ 12:59:28 PDT

 


The All-Star break looms and some of our teams are not faring as well as anticipated. So why not join a second-half league? Fantasy football can wait.

In a second-half league drafting at the All-Star break, what is your top 5?

Who is the first starting pitcher you take and about where do you consider taking him?

Nick Minnix needs more of a challenge:

All easy answers, in my book. In no particular order: Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez.

First pitcher on my board: R.A. Dickey! No? Bet he gets less roto respect than he deserves. I'd go with Justin Verlander as top pitcher, though. And I was one of those expecting a little regression to the mean this year, but man, he's definitely on another (new) level, at least in terms of this generation.

Lawr Michaels is willing to go fishing

Hmmm.

I cannot believe I am writing this, but...

Mike Trout, CarGo, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, and Andrew McCutchen

And, well, I would take Dickey. Over the last year he is 16-7, 2.47 ERA, with 179 whiffs over 219 innings, and a WHIP of 0.986. Who is better? And, well, as a knuckleballer, the chance he blows his arm -- or body -- out, like say Halladay, Holland, Morrow, Luebke, Hultzen, Hudson, McCarthy, Sabathia, Marcum, Luebke, et al. is minimal.

Greg Morgan has put some thought into this:

Gutsy pick with Trout. I like it. No doubt his rate stats justify it.

For me pinpointing the top five is difficult. I've vacillated over this a lot the last couple of weeks. 

In an auction format: Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen.

In a snake draft: Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, and Jose Bautista.

The fact that I can't control anything in a serpentine draft pushes Bautista and his third base/outfield eligibility into the top 5.

I probably wouldn't take a pitcher until the third round, which means I won't get R.A. Dickey or Justin Verlander. It's hard to argue with anyone putting Dickey at the top of their list.

Lord Zola has question:

Let me throw a name out there - where does David Wright go? His first half so far is .351 with 10 HR, 8 SB, 54 RBI and 54 runs - worthy of top-5 consideration or is the average going to fall too much?

Lawr responds:

David who?

Actually, had he not been plagued with inconsistent numbers and injuries since 2008, I would consider him.

 If I lobbied for someone else, it would be Tulo, who hit .344-16-55 second half of 2009, .323-18-61 the second half of 2010, and .356-13-56 the second half last year, arguably making him one of the best second half picks in the universe. But, sigh, he is hurt and that scares me away (even though he was pretty much hurt at some juncture all three of those seasons as well).

Ryan Carey agrees:

Yeah I think the others have put the right names out there for the Top 5. Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto would be my picks. Bautista, Cano and even Trout are all picks that that I wouldn't really argue with if you chose any of them at No 5.

I think David Wright's lack of power drops him down to the 1st/2nd round turn, which is where he often resided prior to this year.

For pitching, can't argue with Verlander or Dickey going 1-2, but like Greg, I would not even consider an arm until at least the third round, so for me that means I'm hoping for Matt Cain or Clayton Kershaw to make it around to me.

Tim Heaney with his take:

In some order: Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Joey Votto, if his knee ailment clears up. Jose Bautista if it doesn't. Depends on when the draft is. Wright will probably suffer a bit of BA regression, and, yeah, the injuries and stuff. I think Trout tapers off a bit but remains a top-12ish type. McCutchen is close, too.

Give me Justin Verlander as the top SP, as well. Still wouldn't take a starting pitcher until the fourth round or so unless I felt inspired. In these half-season drafts, we already have a great idea of the statistical foundations of most significant SPs - who looks like they'll improve, who's lined up for a correction - so you can probably still snag plenty of midrange values there while building up on bats.

Nick embellishes:

Los Angeles Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw: top 2nd-half hurler?

I echo the feelings on Wright, because of his injury history and the modest home run total.

I tend to avoid pitchers in the first first few rounds, so I probably wouldn't get one of the top two pitchers mentioned, but I'm a lot more certain that I wouldn't get Verlander. Depending on who makes up the competition, I'd be willing to bet that I still had a shot at Dickey. Just last week we debated what to do with him, and there were certainly a few votes for "sell high." Why wouldn't that skepticism spill into a midseason draft? If the room is made up mostly of doubters, I'm pretty sure that I could be the first believer to nab him, if I wanted.

I'm a bit surprised that Cain hasn't received more support for the top group - especially from Mr. Michaels! I'd consider him there, too, and figure that he might go before Dickey more often than not. And I believe that Kershaw almost certainly would, and he deserves consideration as well.

I can't get behind a Trout pick yet. Waaay too much track record for the other players I could choose. Definitely McCutchen (whom I didn't have in my top five, because I had Cano, I guess) ahead of him, several others, likely. Not that I discount what he's done or anything like that. Just have to side with experience in the first round: They've seen it, and they've adapted; they've seen something else, and they've adapted again. Not sure if Trout will have to do that, but the odds aren't in his favor, I imagine. As much as I love Trout, in such a draft, I see myself as likelier to end up with Bryce Harper in it, depending on how he's valued.

And finally, have to bring up a couple of players who spark my curiosity: Josh Hamilton and David Ortiz. We know why no one is considering them in the top five, but has anything that happened in the first half (or prior to that) changed someone's mind about them? Is either at least a first-rounder? In Tout and LABR, Big Papi earned 1B eligibility, and let me tell you, I'm a believer that he's a changed hitter. His numbers are worthy of a choice in the top 12 at this point, so do you doubt that he'll finish there? I peg him as an undervalued target of mine in this draft, so let's fire her up!

Lawr says Cain is able:

Well, I do love Cain. He has been steady. He was my pre-season Cy Young selection in the NL.

And, he has not been as effective since his perfecto. A little worried that he may have burnt out a tad as a result of that complete game. 125 pitches is a ton for a perfecto. Braden's for example, was 109 (77 strikes). That 16 differential might not seem like much. In a great game, it is almost two innings. In a tougher game, it is one. But, an inning late in the game is more taxing than the third inning. Or, Bumgarner's one-hitter (with two walks) last Thursday was 107 pitches.

Not saying Cain is hurt or bad. Just want to see a couple of solid starts. And, ideally the break will help him back on that path.

Lord Zola's Wrap-Up:

I'll start off with my top 5: Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista and Joey Votto.

My criteria are a combination of a high level of production along with reliability in terms of health. In a full season, I may take the chance on Carlos Gonzalez. If he misses a month, you still get five more. I'm not willing to put about a third of his production in jeopardy. My quintet reflects what I feel is the best plus safest production.

Trout is an interesting "play to win" pick, which is something my personal game playing lacks. I feel I don't take enough chances in the present fantasy landscape where playing it safe is no longer as effective as five years ago, but that's a roundtable for another day. That said, I am not going to pass on one of the above for a player whose primary contribution is steals, when I can get bags elsewhere.

Conspicuous by their absence is Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp. I suspect Pujols' power will be fine but his average will not be enough to propel him into the top 5. Kemp is too much of an injury risk, not to mention is not likely to run nearly as much.

My inclusion of Wright was more a knee-jerk reaction to his high average. Perhaps due to the comfort of having the Citi Field fences moved in, Wright's strikeout rate is a career low 12.9%, a marked improvement from the past three seasons. As Ryan suggests, Wright is back to being a wheel pick and is someone I would love to start my team with if I picked toward the end of the first.

Speaking of better contact, that is the reason for the resurgence of David Ortiz, along with some weight loss and heeding some advice from Adrian Gonzalez with respect to going the other way and using The Wall to his advantage.

With respect to pitching Kershaw is still my top ranked arm. I don't think he would be there, but I'd take him in the third.

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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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