Hear ye, hear ye. We have again assembled the Knights of Lord Zola's Round Table for another year of fantasy baseball discussion. Before we begin, here is the ensemble that will be gracing this space every Wednesday:
- Ryan Carey: Mastersball Columnist
- Don Drooker: Mastersball Columnist
- Tim Heaney: KFFL Managing Editor
- Christopher Kreush: Mastersball Columnist
- Rob Leibowitz: Mastersball Columnist
- Lawr Michaels: Mastersball Managing Partner
- Nick Minnix: KFFL Baseball Editor
- Greg Morgan: Mastersball Columnist
- Zach Steinhorn: Mastersball Editor
- Perry Van Hook: Mastersball Columnist
- Brian Walton: Mastersball Managing Partner
- Todd Zola: Mastersball Managing Partner
Max effort helps, hurts
From time to time, we will be inviting a guest Knight to participate in the debauchery. This week, we are privileged to have Cory Schwartz, Vice President, Stats, MLB Advanced Media, join our merry band of men.
Lost in the Mike Trout hysteria is another young phenom, Bryce Harper. Let's use the Mastersball Platinum projection as a starting point: .268 with 22 HR, 55 RBI, 84 runs, 20 SB in 593 AB.
Are you taking the over or under for average, power and speed? How high are you willing to draft him in a 15 team mixed league? What would you pay in a 15-team mixed auction? What about NL Tout Wars or NL LABR - what's your price?
Tim Heaney: Over on the power, slightly over on the speed; he really found his zone near the end of last year, especially with 13 homers over the final two months. His swing is more readily designed for immediate thump gains. Harper's issues versus lefties will hold back his clip. I actually projected him at .268, as well, but that's generous and I think he could fall a bit below that this year. He and Jason Heyward will have quite similar lines this year with their across-the-board contributions, and despite their BA hindrances are going to have many suitors.
Holding the 13th pick out of 13 teams in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association draft, I considered Harper with one of my first two but passed; that's the top end of my wheelhouse for him, though. I'd drop around $25 in any of those formats, but I probably won't stay in most bidding wars.
Perry Van Hook: Put me down for over on power, speed and batting average.
Look at his numbers from August and September, and while I wouldn't triple them - he will have some minor slumps next year - he is also a year more experienced and will react very well to changes in how they are pitching him. I would easily bet on 25+/25+ and think the average will be over .275 and it could be well over. As one who saw him play in high school and college - okay JC - he is still developing and that is a scary thought. I would take him in the third round in a 15-team mixed and I think he may well be in the second round IF he has a really good spring training. I haven't done any pricing yet but again for 15-team mixed suggest he will earn mid-twenties and I would be comfortable paying all of that because there is upside.
Cory Schwartz: I'll take the over, across the board, assuming that number of at-bats. Consider that Harper posted 22 homers, 59 RBI's, 98 runs and 18 steals last season in only 139 games... prorating those numbers up to a full season, even given the same level of play as in 2012, would allow him to surpass all of your projections for 2013. However, I expect him to improve upon those numbers, for several reasons.
First, all of his rate stats last year were comparable to – and in a few cases better than - what he produced in his brief minor league career, which suggests to me that he has been able to maintain his skills as he's moved up the ladder to the big leagues. Harper's 2012 stats appear to me to be a baseline for 2013, not a ceiling.
Second, consider Harper's fantastic finish to last season, in which he hit .287 with 13 homers after August 1 after a July slump... he made adjustments to Major League pitching and was dominant for an extended period of the season, which suggests to me that any slumps or struggles this season will be minimal, unlike many other young, inexperienced players. A quick review of Harper's minor league career shows that he did struggle upon his initial exposure to each level, but figured out each one very quickly and began to dominate.
Third, Harper will most likely drop down into the #3 spot in the order this year, which – all other things being equal – should provide considerably more RBI opportunities than he saw in 2012. He hit second for most of last year, behind a group of Nationals leadoff hitters that combined for only a .325 OBP, 18th in the Majors. This year he'll probably have Denard Span (.357 career OBP) and Jayson Werth (.362) setting the table for him, which makes 85 or more RBIs much more likely than something in the 50s or 60s.
Finally, consider Harper's pedigree. It's not fair to call him a once-in-a-generation talent, not when we have Ryan Braun and Mike Trout active too, just to name two. But Harper has been viewed as an elite prospect since he was in junior high, and has not done anything at any point to indicate those scouting reports are more hyperbole than reality. And when a player reaches the Major Leagues at the age of 19 and does what Harper did last year, well, you can pretty much assume superstardom is in his not-too-distant future.
I recently took Harper 16th overall – first pick of the second round – in a 15-team mock draft featuring industry experts such as Jason Collette, Ray Flowers, Steve Gardner and of course Lord Zola, among many others. That's not to say I would definitely take him there in a "real" draft in March – not with Justin Upton, Josh Hamilton and Jason Heyward on the board – but it does clearly indicate that I am very bullish on his prospects for this season. I'm a buyer. I'll play the over.
What are the early NFBC indications?
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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