Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: Slow ... and Rock Steady

by Lawr Michaels, on April 16, 2013 @ 14:00:00 PDT


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A few years back, at Ron Shandler's First Pitch Arizona (which takes place during the Arizona Fall League, and which is also a must fun time for any serious fantasy player) I did a presentation on the "Zito Condes."

Zito Conde was a player who did time with Havana in 1946, and I only discovered Mr. Conde because I was searching for Barry Zito's numbers and on the Baseball Reference site, both come up with a "Zito" search.

Los Angeles Dodgers 2B Mark Ellis
Ellis: thoroughly unappreciated

The purpose of my Zito research was rooted in looking at players in mixed leagues who simply get no respect; that is, they just never seem to get drafted in NBFC-style formats despite general full-time play and even a body of pretty good statistics.

I actually created a full roster of these players -- that is, players not drafted over the previous three years in the XFL, which is a 15-team setup, although it is also an auction -- to show that one could not only draft a team that was competitive from year to year, but a roster built completely from guys left behind in the free agent pool.

In honor of Mr. Conde, I named these misfits the "Zito Condes," and so this time I want to look at four of the players who made that list and who still have trouble getting the appropriate respect. It also means there is a chance one or two of these guys is still there in your league's free agent pool, which means they are likely worthy of picking up if you can.

Let's start with the source of the team moniker, Barry Zito, who, when he signed with the Giants eight years ago for what was a ridiculous contract, most of the world shook their heads in collective disbelief. In fact, Zito pretty much garnered boos and shaking heads up until his fantastic redemption, last year.

In the XFL draft last November, Zito, as usual, went undrafted despite never missing a start until 2011 when he wrecked his knee. He did have 60-69, 4.41, totals as a Giant over that span over 1,020 innings, and his 2012 regular season 15-8, 4.15, and especially postseason of 2-0, 1.76, where the left-hander put away the Reds and Tigers at just the right time. Suddenly a local hero, Zito still just cannot get any roto respect, although chances might be that based upon his 2-0, 0.00, to start this year probably raised a few eyebrows. Note Zito has largely pitched well in April, then struggled some, but either way, he is, if nothing else, dependable. There is so much to be said for that.

Back when I was first began playing roto ball -- in 1988 -- one of the things I theorized was a team with mostly Randy Bush-type players could be bought basically on the cheap. Augment those say nine "Bush-like" hitters with Kirby Puckett and George Bell, however, and suddenly you have an offensive juggernaut.

I know that my mate Todd just picked up Mark Ellis via a FAAB bid in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association League on Sunday to replace the injured Erick Aybar, who's on the DL. And, I just activated Ellis in my NFBC Draft Champions League to replace Aybar while he is down. Meaning in both leagues Ellis was an afterthought (as in the XFL, where Ellis was a reserve pick).

Well, if ever there was a contemporary player with the Randy Bush skill set it is indeed Mr. Ellis, who has a career mean of .265-13-64 with 10 swipes, and while those numbers might not seem sexy, multiply them by nine or 10, and assume your remaining offensive slots are held by current Puckett counterparts.

If you do that, suddenly your team is an offensive weapon.

I have written a bunch about Mark Buehrle, whom I always seem to grab near the end of mock drafts, or in auction drafts for a few bucks.

Toronto Blue Jays SP Mark Buehrle
Buehrle: no whiz, just results

But, like Zito, while not being a strikeout wizard, Buehrle simply delivers. With 12 straight seasons of more than 200 innings pitched, and a mean of 14-11, 3.83 ERA, with 125 punchouts, the numbers might not scream No. 1 starter, but again, as a fifth or sixth guy over a Justin Masterson gamble, which is the prudent path?

Last on today's list is Ty Wigginton. I actually suggested Wigginton as a player in an article a few weeks back and someone asked if I really considered Wigginton a starter.

Well, the impulse answer is "No, of course not." But, over the course of Wigginton's 12 years in the majors, his average line is .262-21-72, and only three times over that spread of a dozen seasons did the versatile infielder earn less than 360 at-bats, and as a result, double-digit dingers.

So, like it or not, Wigginton just seems to get the playing time one way or another and deliver the goods, for better or worse.

Which is the ultimate point: While it is fun and wonderful to own the next big thing as in a Manny Machado or Jose Fernandez, generally, the guys who are the backbone of your team are the everyday workmen players a la Buehrle, Wigginton, Zito, and Ellis.

Don't make the mistake of dismissing them.

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About Lawr Michaels,

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for as a statistician. Fantasy Baseball

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