Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on December 27, 2010 @ 09:30:00 PDT


A fridge full of Perdue's pre-cooked chicken packages? Check.

Two jars of half sour pickles? Check.

A 12-pack of Diet Mountain Dew? Check.

A box of sugar free fudgsicles? Check.

A neighbor with a snow plow? Check.

Bring it on, Mother Nature. Lord Zola is ready!!!

And, I am also ready to compose the first real Lord Zola's Fantasy Mailbag. This is your chance to have your fantasy baseball question answered by a grizzled fantasy baseball vet, just send your query to lordzola@kffl.com, include your name and where you live and check back on Monday to see if your question made the cut. Feel free to ask about anything from player analysis to game strategy to league administration. Let me help you choose your keeper list or whether to pull the trigger on a trade.

So, without further ado…

Greetings your Eminence! I look forward to reading your column every Monday! Okay, now a question. How do you think the Chicago White Sox infield will look now with both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko in the fold? I ask because I have Dayan Viciedo and I'm wondering if there's any room for him now. Thank you, O Gifted One! - Greg Yandell, Moline, Il

Thanks for the kind words, Greg. And thanks even more for being the first to send in a question.

It may be hard to believe that Dayan Viciedo is still just 21 years old, not turning 22 until next March. This is important to keep in mind, as the rest of the story may be a bit of a buzz kill for those counting on Viciedo to make a fantasy impact this season.

Chicago White Sox 1B Paul Konerko
Konerko: Doom for Dayan Viciedo?

As Greg implies, Viciedo is no longer being groomed as the Chicago White Sox third baseman of the future, but rather a first baseman or perhaps designated hitter. Physically, he is reminiscent of the San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval, that is to say a little heavy for his height. But while Sandoval is still going to give it a go at the hot corner, Viciedo was shifted to first base last season at Triple-A Charlotte. And even there, his defense is a work in progress as he committed 8 errors in only 59 games.

Other than his own glove woes, the rapid ascent of Brent Morel through the White Sox system helped push Viciedo's move across the diamond. The third base job is Morel's to lose, with veteran Mark Teahen there in the event Morel is not yet up to the task.

Some expected Viciedo to already be an established big leaguer, as his power was quite prodigious as a teenager in Cuba. This is not unlike how some felt about another Cuban import a few years back, Kendry Morales. Actually, this is something else for Viciedo's owners to hand their hat upon as there is precedent for Cuban youngsters to take a bit to transition to the Major Leagues, regardless of their pedigree.

With respect to Viciedo, considering Paul Konerko is signed up for another three years and Adam Dunn the next four, his future may be in another organization. To that end, there are whisperings Viciedo could be available for some bullpen help. As a hitter, Viciedo displayed some of the anticipated power last summer, hitting 20 homers in 386 Triple-A at bats. While it could use some improvement, he made decent contact for a 21-year-old at his level, but walking only 11 times is poor at any level. And while Ozzie Guillen's squads are not known for their plate patience, he has talked to Viciedo about his need to improve that aspect of his game.

Sorry Greg, I wish I had better news. But I am still high on Viciedo as a prospect as that power is certainly intriguing. And he would not be the first youngster to improve his contact skills and plate discipline. It just looks like it will be later than sooner and somewhere other than the south side of Chicago, which is the baddest part of town. And if you go down there, you better just beware. Sorry, got carried away there. What can I say; I used to love the cartoon version of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" on the Sonny and Cher Show.

Lord, there is something I have always wanted to ask you. How does it feel that the greatness of your writing is overshadowed by the scandalous life you lead? It is a shame that instead of history recognizing your great body of work, you are known more for your questionable taste in women and lascivious nature. - John Keats, London, England

My apologies John, you obviously have me confused with your fellow 19th-century Romantic poet, Lord Byron.

I am in a keeper league (6 teams) and my first three picks have been given up (I kept Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, and Joe Mauer). When Round 4 comes along, should I focus on filling out my starting rotation, or take the best offensive players? Thanks for the input....& Happy Holidays! - Brian Myers

Happy holidays to you to, Brian, and to the rest of my gracious readers as well. Let us make 2011 our most successful fantasy season ever!

I must say, that is a great start as you have three of the top fantasy contributors already locked up. The advice I am going to give will come in two parts. The first is going to be something I preach ad nauseum and that is a little saying I have coined: draft the pitcher, not the round. The second part is also going to be a common theme, and that is to know your format and adjust your planning accordingly.

But first, what exactly is meant by "draft the pitcher, not the round?" Perhaps the biggest mistake made in drafts is to preset the round to take your first pitcher. The ebb and flow of each draft is unique, be it keeper or redraft. It is a bad idea to have a preconceived plan with respect to when you will first draft a pitcher. It is much better to decide on whom you want to draft, and time your selection accordingly. And by whom, I do not mean a specific hurler, but rather the level or tier you desire. No matter the situation, it always recommended having multiple targets in mind, but that is a story for another question.

My preferred strategy when it comes to pitching is to look at the starters in terms of tiers, placing eight to 10 arms in each. I then decide what I want my staff to look like at the end of the draft, not focusing so much on specific names, but rather two guys from this tier, nobody from this tier, one from this one, etc. The trick is to time your picks to fill out the staff as planned. Ideally, when it is your turn, some of the pitchers in a tier have begun to come off the board, signaling it is time to jump in. The difficulty lies between runs, especially if you choose near the wheel, making the time between picks longer than from the middle. If you miss out on a tier, just be prepared to adjust and take a better pitcher or two than planned later in the draft. But if you are comfortable with the quality of your hitters, do not be shy about taking the top pitcher in your tier if you feel others will follow suit.

The most difficult part of this strategy is remaining disciplined if pitching, as a whole, is slow to come off the board and your plan was to eschew the top tier and focus on the next couple. Often, there will be a top-tier guy or two available later than expected and the temptation is to pick one because of the perceived value. But the key is patience and sticking to your plan. The reason the aces have fallen is because pitching in general is being bypassed for hitting, which is your strategy if you too are waiting on pitching. If you give in and take the arm, your offense will now be a beat behind, which is doubly bad because your original plan was to build a strong attack and finesse pitching without a stud. You can still do just that by staying the course and pick another stick until the tier of pitchers you covet begins to go. Of course, the exception is when someone you value as a top-tier guy is still available when the players in the tier below begin to be drafted. In this instance, by all means draft the pitcher and be extra happy that you are sticking to your plan and could end up with a stronger staff than initially anticipated. If this happens, the door is also now open to adjust and alter your plans later, perhaps instead of aiming for a pair of 3rd tier options, only take one and take an extra arm from the 4th tier. This makes the overall composition of your staff just the way you originally planned, but frees up the pick intended for the 3rd tier pitcher to use for a better hitter tan expected or even a better closer. Drafts are quite fluid, always be ready to adjust to the situation at hand.

Let us quickly address the second part; know thy format. Brian points out there are six teams in his league. This means the penetration of the player pool is quite shallow and there will always be emerging talent to fortify your roster. History suggests that pitching is more volatile than hitting, both in terms of performance and health risk. As such, personally, in a league of this nature, my lean would be to bypass the top pitchers, but instead focus of a bunch of arms in the next couple of tiers, confident in my ability to choose a couple that will produce better than expected, in essence drafting an ace in a later round. In fact, the only pitchers I would consider freezing or drafting early in this format are Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. That is it, no one else. Brian, your mileage may vary, depending on your confidence with respect to recognizing latent pitching talent, but my advice would be to stay with hitting at least one more round, especially if one of the top third baseman are on the board, as the third base pool is surprisingly weak and I would do all I can to secure a top level performer at the hot corner. My present top-5 is Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman, with Kevin Youkilis making the list as soon as he is eligible. After that, there is a precipitous drop, even in a 6-team league.

Well friends, that will do it for this edition of Lord Zola's mailbag. Once the questions really begin rolling in, the answers will be shorter to allow more of you to see your names published in bolded italics. Thanks for reading and have a safe New Year's Eve.

When Todd Zola is not listening to the 70's playlist on his I-Pod, you can usually find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball.

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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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