Today we're going to look at a series of players and ask the knights which they would prefer for the rest of the season. Sometimes it's as important to consider the reason as it is the result so the same line of thinking can be applied to similar situations later in the season.
Evan Gattis or John Buck
Fernandez: tantalizing ... enough?
Perry Van Hook: Before Travis d'Arnaud broke his foot I would have said Gattis, but now I would choose Buck as he will have at least two full months of playing time, maybe more, while Gattis will go to part time duty (but still play 2-3 games per week) when Brian McCann returns.
Brian Walton: Gattis since I will take talent over playing time. Plus, I think the Braves will find a way to keep getting Gattis in the lineup even after McCann's return.
Tim Heaney: Three starts a week, at some position, with Gattis' power at a second catcher spot should be gold, yet I think there's a sound chance that Buck keeps up a percentage of what he's doing, and his playing nearly every day tips the scales in his favor. We talk about late bloomers all the time at catcher, but when someone displays such a breakthrough, we typically write it off. And Buck has always carried pop. Sure, his HR/FB rate is sky-high and will come down, but the vet is displaying more patience (not necessarily via walks, but rate of swings). Plus, he hits well at Citi Field, where righty power has seen a renaissance since they redid the dimensions.
Nicholas Minnix: I might be content with Buck if I'm confident in the rest of my bats because he should hit another 10 or 13 bombs, even if he bats .225, in 350 ABs the rest of the way. I'm sure the Bravos will try to find ways to fit Gattis in there, but if they're healthy, where Gattis fits is in doubt. I'm not sure how good he is defensively elsewhere. Freddie Freeman and the outfielders are everyday players, for (mostly) better or (rarely) worse. I don't think this is an easy choice.
Lawr Michaels: I agree with Perry, Buck since playing time for Gattis is a question in the future.
Ryan Carey: Tough call here, but I am going to go with Gattis. We've likely seen the best Buck is going to give us this year and I'd rather take the chance that Gattis continues to emerge. Jason Heyward's surgery gives him another two weeks of consistent playing time, even after McCann returns.
Todd Zola: I'll take Gattis mostly on the speculation that McCann has another health issue at some point. Buck has had stretches like this before, as well as stints where he struggles.
WINNER: Buck 4-3
Andrew Bailey or Edward Mujica
PVH: Bailey. I don't really think Mujica can hold the job.
BW: Bailey: Although neither one gets my blood boiling.
TH: Bailey, though I'm developing more faith in Mujica than most have. Mujica's K/9, while not outstanding, remains above-average, and he's boasted pristine walk rates. However, I think Trevor Rosenthal is only a few adjustments away from sniping the role should Mujica stumble; he may not even have to lose the gig -- maybe they'll just shift preferences later in the year if Jason Motte remains shelved. The only thing keeping Bailey out of the role, in my opinion, even when Joel Hanrahan returns, is health, and though Bailey has a spotty history there and Boston has ample alternatives, you gotta run with the track record first if you can't own both.
NM: Bailey's skills are superior to Mujica's, so there isn't much question here for me. The Cardinals' situation smells far worse than Boston's. You're at the mercy of Bailey's health history, but at least it's probably almost solely up to him. I didn't have much confidence in Joel Hanrahan coming into 2013, so don't see a reason to reverse course.
LM: Bailey is pitching pretty well right now as the Boston closer, and I don't think that much of Mujica. I do keep thinking "Trevor Rosenthal, Trevor Rosenthal" in that case, but I am also now fearing my man-crush on Trevor may be as frustrating as Jason Grey's like-fixation with Austin Kearns.
RC: I think Bailey is pitching pretty well right now and I think of the two he has the better chance to take the job and run with it. I just don't see the Cards sticking with Mujica long-term.
TZ: I'm going with Bailey with the addendum that I don't think we've seen the last of Hanrahan at closer. I also suspect that Mujica is just a placeholder until the inevitable announcement that Jason Motte is out for the season. On the off-chance Motte is able to return, it's easier that he displace Mujica than Rosenthal. I agree with those speculating that Rosenthal usurps the job.
WINNER: Bailey 7-0
Jose Fernandez or Wandy Rodriguez
Nava preferred 2-1
PVH: On ability you might think Fernandez but in this case Wandy plays for the better team. Plus Fernandez will be capped at 150-170 innings this year.
BW: Again, I will go with the talent. Even with an innings cap, Fernandez's results should be solid.
TH: I'd rather control Fernandez's upside than Wandy's reliability, because you can find more people like Wandy in mixed leagues. Fernandez could be outstanding for the majority of a season. Wandy doesn't have that base.
NM: Which one earns more from here on out? Both are probably going to experience occasional disasters. I don't think Wandy's strikeouts are coming back, so Fernandez makes up some of the edge in projected W's you could attach to Rodriguez. I don't think this one is easy, either. PNC Park's dimensions could mean a 0.5, 0.6 or 0.7 HR/9 for Rodriguez. I tend to opt for K's, though, so I'd probably take Fernandez.
LM: I love Fernandez, but this year, gotta be Wandy.
RC: Fernandez's raw ability is very enticing, and for me I would rather take a chance on getting in on the upside than playing it safe with Rodriguez. Wandy has been stellar to stat the year, but remember, he's never been much of a road warrior. This week's tilt in Philadelphia could illustrate that frustrating point in spades.
TZ: This is the exact scenario that has me flummoxed as a player. My usual answer would mirror Perry and Lawr, but I am warming to the notion that sometimes you need to bet on the come, regardless of what the probabilities and history suggests. To that end, while ultimately the decision is contextual, I'll take Fernandez.
WINNER: Fernandez 5-2
Vernon Wells or Daniel Nava
PVH: Wells might have straightened out his swing, but what happens when Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira come back? I think he goes to part time and I will take Nava.
BW: I will take option C.
TH: I believe in the changes made by the seasoned Wells more than the 30-year-old Nava's statistical run, but both have dodgy mixed value as is due to the moving lineup pieces for both squads.
NM: I'd take Wells. I know some of the info given for his turnaround. He's a good athlete, a talented baseball player in a pretty good environment for fantasy production. Nava is in a decent run environment, but he's cooled tremendously after previous hot streaks. The PT opportunities will be there for both, perhaps unpredictably and intermittently, but the health or age of players ahead of them (or soon to be ahead of them) is always a little in doubt. I've seen Wells have MVP-caliber seasons and believe, at 34, he still has a great enough portion of that ability in there to be a contributor whenever he gets his. I can't say that about an overachiever like Nava.
LM: Nava - Wells is hot. But, like it or not, he is simply not that good. He just seemed it.
RC: I think this one comes down to need. In the short-term, if I am looking for a little more pop, than I am going with Wells. If I want a more balanced player who won't hurt my batting average, then I like Nava. I am not sure either player is a long-term answer, but I think Nava has a better chance to stay in the lineup close to full time all year long than Wells does.
TZ: The real question is which player has a better chance of full time, or at least platoon at bats. Nava is on the good side of a platoon so that's a plus. He's also a better defender than Jonny Gomes and I'm not convinced David Ortiz is back for good which clears DH time for Gomes. On the other hand, Wells will sit once Granderson is back and may see some time at DH, but so long as Travis Hafner is healthy, Wells will only see spotty time when a tough lefty is on the hill. With the caveat that Hafner is not a bastion of health, I'll take Nava on the speculation he plays more going forward.
WINNER: Nava 4-2-1
Lord Zola's Wrap-Up
As suggested, each choice had an underlying decision as well as simply comparing the players.
Gattis versus Buck was a matter of playing time as well as deciding which player had the better chance of keeping up his hot start: a grizzled veteran or an up-and-comer. The prevailing opinion was to go with the youth. Buck is what he is (though Tim may disagree).
Bailey versus Mujica involved looking at the team's situations along with the relative skills. While in general I adhere to the mantra coined by colleague Ron Shandler -- draft skills not roles -- there are times where I make an exception for a closer.
Fernandez versus Rodriguez is the classic battle of up-and-coming versus tried-and-true. Though the composition of the bulk of the staff is integral to the decision, I am warming to the notion that there are times you need to choose the upside, even if the odds are less than 50/50 it manifests.
Nava versus Wells is just a matter of reading tea leaves, something we all have to do on occasion. This was an interesting comparison since the difference could very well be the fact Nava is a switch hitter and Wells is a righty.
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.