Fantasy Fiesta: Dipping Into the Mailbag

Mike TroutMailbag time! If you’ve got a question for a future Fantasy Fiesta, e-mail, or do as these fine folks did by tweeting questions to me here: @jonahkeri.

If you were punting one category like BA or wins who would you target?
— @jmm060708

Here’s a list of players I’d target for categories you can reasonably punt in a standard 5×5 league (for instance, not ERA and WHIP, since they’re usually intertwined and punting two categories doesn’t work):

Wins: Ryan Dempster — 0-3, 2.14 ERA, 3.3 K/BB, terrible run support from a lousy team, but peripherals are great, and there’s always the chance Dempster goes to a winning team too.

Saves: Craig Stammen — 3-0, 1.33 ERA, 4.9 K/BB, plus the Nationals might change closers seven more times this year anyway, so you might luck your way into saves regardless.

Batting Average: J.P. Arencibia — .245, 26.5% K rate, 9 HR, 29 RBI, especially recommended for leagues that start two catchers.

Steals: Pick your undervalued power guy … I like Eric Hosmer and his .204 BABIP as a buy-low.

What kind of impact can we expect from minor league players for the rest of the season, and which minor leaguers should we target? (Note: Question edited for clarity)
— @cvandeest

Kevin Goldstein writes a regular column for ESPN Insider that ranks all minor league prospects based on 2012 fantasy value — it’s a must-read. The player at the top of Kevin’s most recent list, the Royals’ Wil Myers, qualifies at catcher in some leagues. Not coincidentally, I’ve been hoarding him lately, anticipating a call-up.

What is an appropriate keeper trade (i.e. Altuve for Kinsler?) and when is it appropriate to make them?
— @scottdsimon

One of the challenges of writing a fantasy advice column is that many questions require specificity to answer (I’d need to know a lot about your team, league format, and opponents to form an answer on when it’s best to punt saves), but too much specificity limits the scope of a question (Is Rafael Furcal going to regress? Yes. Next question.)

There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this one, either, given the many factors that go into deciding on keeper trades (How far out are you in the standings? Do you have a realistic chance to come back? How good does your team look for the future?). But there is a framework you can follow, sure. The ideal keeper trade would have you still in the mix for this year, offer a non-zero chance that the keeper you’re getting could perform as well this year as the veteran you’re giving up, and still make your team clearly better for the future. For instance, one current contender asked about trading Carlos Beltran for Mike Trout. That’s a perfect scenario: Beltran’s hitting like a fantasy and real-life MVP candidate, but he’s also 35 and injury-prone; while Trout’s probably going to pull back after his torrid start, there’s a chance he keeps it up too. Failing that juicy an offer, the best course of action is to be realistic about your team’s chances for this season. If your team’s struggling, and you’re relying on, say, Chris Carpenter and Ryan Howard to bail you out later in the year, you’re probably not coming back. If that’s the case, be as aggressive as you can in selling off veterans for prospects, and do it ASAFP. From your opponents’ perspective, a four-month rental on an elite slugger or a dominant closer is more valuable than two months, so they’ll likely be inclined to spend more in prospect value to make the deal work.

What if fantasy baseball teams were not made of players but positions (i.e., “Dodgers CF” instead of Kemp)?
— @suss2hyphens

Interesting! If fantasy football can have Team Defense as a scoring position, why not Team CF? One of the questions that didn’t make the cut this week asked if right-minded fantasy players should do away altogether with saves — given half the Opening Day closers no longer hold the job, saves aren’t as good a measure of player quality as, say, ERA or home runs, and the practice of saving your best relief pitcher for save situations is often detrimental to a team’s fortunes and thus shouldn’t be celebrated. Given the random and infuriating practice of chasing saves in fantasy baseball, if I were going to use a team position in lieu of a single player for scoring, I’d do it by closers. Ozzie Guillen’s daily struggles with Heath Bell would become much more angsty if you owned Marlins Closer and wanted anyone but Heath Bell to win the job.

I’m in last place, non-keeper. How do I stay motivated?
— @davejhenderson

Second-half prize. We use this in one of my leagues, and it’s an excellent motivator for struggling teams. For instance, if you’re stuck in or near your league’s cellar but have Evan Longoria, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Roy Halladay coming back sometime in June or July, you have real reason for optimism. You can even game the system to your favor by trading a lesser player who can help an opponent now for an Ellsbury type who could help you even more later, figuring you can’t win the overall prize, but you can make a run at the second-half cup. In rotisserie-style leagues that compete for substantial amounts of gummi bears, awarding 10 percent of the pot to the team that makes the biggest jump in total points from the All-Star break to season’s end offers a wrinkle that will keep a lot more people engaged in a non-keeper league.

What can I expect from Roy Oswalt with the Rangers?
— Everyone

You have to use your no. 1 waiver priority or a big chunk of your FAAB on Oswalt, only because you won’t find many, if any, players who suddenly become available and have his potential. But if you already own Oswalt, shop the hell out of him. His 2011 season was cut short by a back injury, a condition that had bothered him before, even though he’d pitched through it in the past. Oswalt turns 35 in August. His fastball velocity (94.0 mph in 2004, 91.4 mph last year) and strikeout rate (career-worst 6.0 K/9 last year) have been falling. He’ll get ample run support and defensive support with the Rangers, but he’ll also pitch against tougher AL competition, in one of the worst parks in the majors for pitchers. There’s no way to know exactly how long it’ll take him to get fully stretched out and back into peak game shape, and he may well disappoint even when he does reach that point. Eight or nine wins and an ERA a smidge under 4.00 are possible if things break right. But that’s probably an optimistic projection, and your pitching-starved leaguemates might be envisioning something even better. Sell now.

Filed Under: Fantasy Baseball, Jonah Keri

Jonah Keri is a staff writer for Grantland. His book The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First is a New York Times best seller. The paperback edition of his new book, Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available.

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