Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on January 10, 2011 @ 09:00:00 PDT


Hi friends. Just a quick reminder before we dig into this week's queries. We have 3 different means for you to submit your questions. You can send an e-mail to lordzola@kffl.com, post on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_baseball.

Now that Adrian Beltre has signed with the Texas Rangers, where do you think Vladimir Guerrero will end up? - Burt Adams, Topeka, Kansas

Before answering Burt's question, I would like to personally thank Adam LaRoche, Derek Lee and Beltre and their agents. Trust me, it makes life so much easier for those of us in the business of producing fantasy baseball projections.

As Burt implies, the chain reaction instigated by the Beltre signing pushes Michael Young to being the Rangers' primary designated hitter, the spot occupied by Vladimir Guerrero in 2010. It goes without saying, yet, I am going to say it anyway, Guerrero is best suited to remain in the American League. While there are a few teams that could use his still potent bat, two stick out as the most logical landing place for the possible Hall of Famer.

The first is the Tampa Bay Rays, who need to replace the offense lost due to the departures of Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena. Sorry, but Desmond Jennings, Reid Brignac and Dan Johnson do not give Rays fans the warm and fuzzies, even in what is being termed a rebuilding year. Guerrero slots in nicely as Tampa's designated hitter. Assuming Jennings breaks camp with the club, which is by no means a sure thing, that puts Matt Joyce at designated hitter. And if it is decided to give Jennings more seasoning at Triple-A, Joyce will likely play left field, leaving no viable option at designated hitter.

Carl Crawford
Will BoSox hurt Crawford's SBs?

While on the topic of the Rays, it would not be shocking if they invested in a cost-effective platoon partner for Johnson at first base. The two likeliest candidates are Troy Glaus and Jorge Cantu, who both swing from the right side and could help bolster the Rays' attack. And after the trade sending Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs, some budget has been freed up to afford some offensive reinforcements.

The other sensible destination for Guerrero is his old haunt, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If opening day were today, the Angels' outfield would be Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter with Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli at designated hitter. Bourjos is unproven and the possibility exists that Hunter stays in center with Rivera and Abreu in the corners, but this is scary weak defensively. The point is, even if Bourjos sticks, you do not pass on Guerrero because of the presence of Juan Rivera.

Lord Zola/Todd, I have a keeper question in my head to head league with points scoring. The system really favors power for hitters and innings for pitchers. Both Carlos Gomez and Dallas Braden are borderline keepers and I am wondering if it better to keep them at $1 or drop them and have the extra roster spot. - Henry

I have a feeling Henry knows the answer to this question because he pretty much supplied the answer in his question. But it highlights an important point in constructing freeze lists, so we will look at the question in a general strategic sense.

The bottom line answer is it is better to toss both Gomez and Braden back into the draft available pool. While it is true that the trade sending Lorenzo Cain to the Kansas City Royals as part of the package for Zack Greinke opens up center field for Gomez in Milwaukee, he does not profile well in Henry's scoring system as he is mainly a speed guy and points leagues devalue stolen bases in comparison to rotisserie scoring. If he played a middle infield position, freezing Gomez may be justified, but not as an outfielder. It is much better to have that open spot to snag a more powerful end game flier. As for Braden, while he will rack up a good amount of innings, they will be empty in terms of some of the other categories like strikeouts and wins. Year after year, surprise pitching emerges from the free agent ranks and it is a better idea to drop Braden and save the roster spot for someone with more upside, confident in that fact that if the pitcher does not work out, there will be ample other candidates to fill what amounts to a fungible spot.

In a general sense, when you are filling your end game, $1 roster spots, it is best to lean to players with some upside. Upside can come in the form of improved skills, a role change or more playing time than expected. Neither Gomez nor Braden fit that profile.

Hi Lord. I am your biggest fan. Your stuff is so funny, even if you are not that well known. Did I mention how funny I think you are? Here is my question. Looking at your bio photo, you cut off your pompadour, what gives? - Your Biggest Fan

Strange, this keeps happening. Sorry to break this to you, but you obviously have me confused with comedian Lord Carrett, famous for his pompadour haircut and love for rockabilly music.

Lord Zola, where do you think Carl Crawford will hit and how will that affect his steals? - James Fitzpatrick, Quincy, MA

While I do not know this for sure, I am willing to bet James' buddies call him Fitzy. But I will call him James. What I am not willing to bet is that Crawford will hit in the 3-hole, as has been suggested by Boston Red Sox skipper Terry Francona. Chalk this up to winter manager-speak, since it is quite likely Crawford hits atop the order, pushing Jacoby Ellsbury all the way down to the 9-hole. In fact, Crawford has stated he will hit wherever management puts him, despite being vocal about his preference for hitting lower while with the Rays.

There are three chief reasons it makes the most sense to hit Crawford leadoff. Let's look at each.

First, Boston is acutely aware of the more advanced means of quantifying player value, so they are no doubt aware that some of his defensive value is negated playing half his games in front of the Green Monster. Sure, he could possibly play shallower in Fenway since he has the speed to go back to The Wall, but he is not going to prevent ample singles from falling to completely compensate for the lost defensive value. If he hits third, his offensive value takes a serious hit, as his stolen bases will be tempered since he is already in scoring position, even if he is at first base, when teammates Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz stroll to the dish.

Second, Francona really likes to alternate lefties and righties, forcing opposing managers to burn more relievers to maximize matchups. After the lefty Crawford, a logical order could be righty Dustin Pedroia, lefty Gonzalez, righty Youkilis then lefty Ortiz. And if Jed Lowrie unseats Marco Scutaro, he is a switch-hitter that could settle in the 6-hole. This order would really deplete opponents' middle relievers if they wanted to play the matchup game.

The final reason is something often overlooked, but is really quite basic. With Crawford leading off and Ellsbury hitting ninth, this will net Gonzalez and Youkilis an extra 15 or so plate appearances over the course of a season, not to mention an additional 30 or so for Crawford himself. Granted, this will cost Ellsbury about 100 trips to the plate, but this is a small price to pay to get their run producers more chances.

So while it is better to slightly temper expectations and not assume 50 bags from Crawford, 40-something is a reasonable expectation.

When Todd Zola is not ROFLHAO listening to his favorite comedians, 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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