Since “Gr33nazn’s 2011 Fantasy Baseball Guide” was incredibly popular with all 3 of our loyal readers, I felt compelled to do another one. Actually, that does not mean that I’m doing another 2011 guide, because that would be silly. No, I’m updating the guide for 2012, and this time there will indeed be more cowbell. Once again, the temptation is there to title this “World’s Worst 5×5 Fantasy League Baseball Guide for Spork Users”, but that still seems a bit wordy. Instead, this guide will have a title that will hopefully make it Google friendly.
Assumptions Made: You cannot possibly remember every single pertinent statistic about every single player of interest in MLB. Also, you would make fun of anyone who did possess that information. If this assumption does not apply to you, then feel free to skip to the bottom where I remind you that nobody cares about your fantasy league team. Also, this guide is based on the premise that you are interested in reading a bunch of words about a subject that a bunch of other people have already written thousands of words about on the interwebz. What separates this guide from the others is all the handy little cheat sheets in the form of fancy graphics.
The Method: I use Excel. I use Excel far more than anybody should use Excel. Also, I’m participating in a 5×5 league that uses OPS, Home Runs, RBI, and Stolen Bases for the 5 offensive categories. That means that this guide is basically a over-sized cheat sheet for me. Anyhow, the spreadsheet used for this guide basically contains the relevant statistics for each player of interest from 2011. I filled in the spreadsheet with a column for each of the 5 categories and a column next to each category column used for rankings. I then sorted the data in descending order by OPS and ranked the players 1-25. I then re-sorted the data in descending order by “Runs” and ranked the players again. This process is repeated for HR, RBI, and SB. The last column in the row is “TOTAL” which is the cumulative of all the player’s rankings for the 5 categories. I then sorted the data in ascending order on “TOTAL” to determine which player had the lowest overall ranking, thereby indicating to me which player was the best choice based on raw data at the given position. Naturally, the end result just tells us about how players performed in the most recent season. The next step is projecting performance. Instead of using fancy sabermetric calculations and all that, I just use relevant information to move players up and down the rankings. Why do it that way? Because I don’t see many people having much luck predicting how many home runs or rbi a particular player will have, even when they take into account home park adjustments, injury history, average games played, and what the player typically eats for breakfast.
1B: Based on the raw data, Albert Pujols came out ranked ahead of Miguel Cabrera, and that doesn’t even factor in the potential for Pujols to rest a bit on days that he is the DH for the Angels. Just consider the final ranking totals: 27, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 44, 44, 53, and 57 make up the top 10. The implication is that the depth at 1B is pretty significant. Truly, it really is a deep position even without Ryan Howard.
Final 1B Rankings: Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Alex Gordon, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Lance Berkman, Eric Hosmer, Mark Teixeira, and Mark Reynolds. While you probably can’t go wrong with any of the first 6 guys on the list, not many people would hassle you about taking any of the first 3 with one of your first picks. Then again, you shouldn’t care who hassles you anyway. That doesn’t mean that you should go out and scream for Adam Dunn just 2 seconds after you are on the clock for the first time.
2B: This position probably represents the weakest position in most drafts, because there are maybe 5 premiere offensive players at this position, and the rest are pretty good. Of course, that perception may be based on the fact that Rickie Weeks and Chase Utley failed to put up great numbers in 2011. Playing only 118 and 103 games respectively has a lot to do with that. Can you count on both players to bounce back? Maybe. There are a multitude of reasons to believe that Weeks will be better than the 13th best at his position in 2012. The hard part is projecting just how much better.
Final 2B Rankings: Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Rickie Weeks, Ben Zobrist, Dan Uggla, Brandon Phillips, Howie Kendrick, Ryan Roberts, and Danny Espinosa. Your selection here may be a function of what you need most for your team. If you need some power numbers at 2B, then Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, or Dan Uggla seem like obvious choices. If you need a bit of everything, then Pedroia, Kinsler, and Weeks fit the bill. If you just feel like going off the reservation entirely, then go for the “Evolutionary Dinosaur”, Darwin Barney. Actually, just draft Darwin Barney, so I can keep snickering about the image in my head of a purple and green dinosaur playing the middle infield for the Cubs.
SS: Do not get completely fixated on the great year that Jose Reyes had, and do no worry about whether or not Hanley Ramirez is going to make the transition to third base. Instead, ask yourself why you don’t know more about Asdrubal Cabrera or Erick Aybar. Seriously.
Final SS Rankings: Troy Tulowitzki and then everybody else. Honestly, that has basically been my policy for a few years. If you can’t get Tulo, then hope for AsdrubAl Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Erick Aybar, Jhonny Peralta, JJ Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, or Jimmy Rollins (in that order possibly). Rollins probably desires to be rankEd Higher than 10th here, but I just don’t have a lot of faith that he can get through 2012 without a slight drop off in his numbers.
3B: If you are in a league with fewer than 10 players, you may want to consider waiting a while to draft a 3B. It’s not that you don’t want a great 3B, but the statistical difference between the top 2-3 players at this position and the ones around 10-11 isn’t enough to get excited about in my unsolicited opinion.
Final 3B Rankings: Don’t be fooled. I don’t know anybody who has Mark Reynolds rated as the top choice at 3B. However, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, and Ryan Roberts can’t quite push him out of the top 5. Just for his potential power numbers, Reynolds falls into line between Youk and RR for me. The rest of the top 10 consists of Pablo Sandoval, David Wright, David Freese, and Evan Longoria.
C: When I think about the top offensive catchers in the game, some obvious names like Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, and Brian McCann immediately come to mind. That’s too bad, because it means that I’m skipping right past guys like Carlos Santana, Alex Avila, and Matt Wieters. More importantly, it means that I’ve somehow pushed Buster Posey to the recesses of my mind. That’s probably because he was my starting catcher last year, and we all know how that worked out.
OF: Perhaps Matt Kemp will be unable to duplicate his 2011 numbers. Even if he doesn’t, he is still likely one of the top outfielders in the game. He will likely go among the top 3 picks in a lot of drafts. Not here. What about Ryan Braun? With his alleged MLB violation still in question, it would be difficult for some to justify selecting him in the early rounds, because 50 games is a lot to miss.
P: Selecting a whole set of starting pitchers seems an easy task at first. Then you realize that you are not just picking a starting rotation of just 5 guys. Depending on the number of players in your league, you may want to know the top 100 starting pitchers and their stats. Really? Go look them up, if you are that motivated. Otherwise, just try to stock your rotation with as many out of the top 75-80 as you can. Take a flyer or two, but be sensible. For example, Adam Wainwright coming off of Tommy John surgery makes sense after you have 3-4 starters. Adding Dallas Braden may make sense as a flyer, but he probably does not warrant a slot as your 4th starter.
Final P Rankings: If Justin Verlander is not the first pitcher selected in your draft, then I’m not sure we can play in the same sandbox anymore. Sure Clayton Kershaw, Halladay, King Felix and several others are worthy of consideration, but c’mon. The top 10? Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Cliff Lee, James Shields, C.J. Wilson, Josh Beckett, and Tim Lincecum. Completely sure about this one…..except for the order and whether or not Ian Kennedy deserves to be left out. Probably not. Too late, though.
Closers: Strange things can happen to closers. Generally speaking, it is usually a good idea to go with a guy who is definitely the closer on a team that will likely win a lot of games. The major flaw in that approach is that some of the better teams win games by large margins on a fairly regular basis. If it makes you feel any better, just draw a name out of a hat for this one. Picking a top 10 guy usually works fine. It’s getting that 2nd closer that is usually problematic.
Final Closer Rankings: Craig Kimbrel, JJ Putz, Jose Valverde, Mariano Rivera, Joel Hanrahan, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Motte, Brian Wilson, John Axford, and Sergio Santos. Stick with guys who play for teams with good enough starting pitching to keep games close (then ignore Hanrahan, if the Pirates trade for AJ Burnett).
The Madness: Since this whole thing is more art (luck) than science (meh), there are some adjustments worth making just based on gut feeling, instinct, or how well your dog can do the Dougie.
- Vance Worley – Moves up. A 3.01 ERA and 119 strikeouts in just 131 2/3 innings pitched? Pretty nice for a guy who only started 21 games (11-3). Give him a full season and see what happens.
- Hanley Ramirez – Moves up cautiously. Will “Angry Hanley” be the guy at 3rd base? Hope not for anybody who drafts him in hopes of getting “Good Hanley”. After playing only 92 games in 2011, one would hope that Hanley would be excited to get back on the field. Then again, this is Hanley.
- Jose Reyes – Moves down slightly. Why? Well,, do you really think he will repeat his .337/.384/.493/.877 line again (or anything close)? A lot hinges on where Reyes ultimately ends up batting in the lineup. If he spends less time as a leadoff, he could increase his RBI total without sacrificing too many runs scored.
It Sure Feels Drafty In Here: Some people have a method to how they draft. Some even go so far as to use a set of guidelines or a Magic 8 Ball. I use a slightly different approach that won’t guarantee anything, except that you probably have a different draft strategy than anybody else in your league.
- In round 1, I don’t automatically take the best player available. Okay, I lied. I usually go for the best player available at the weakest position.
- In the 2nd round, I usually opt to go after the best available player at the 2nd weakest position.
- In round 3, I try to grab an “ace” starting pitcher.
- Round 4? You need an outfielder. Preferably a sleeper pick that everybody else has overlooked. Unfortunately, it’s possible that everyone in the @STLDraftTB league I’m in will read this long before we finish our draft. In that case, I might as well tell you where the troops are and allow you to go and count them.
TIDBIT: I don’t actually have any troops. If I did, I would allow the competition to go and count them, though. Also, it is worth noting that I don’t care what other people say about Stephen Strasburg. Until I see him go 100 pitches without using an ice sculpture on his arm/elbow/shoulder, I’m not buying the hype.
Disclaimers, Caveats, and Lame Excuses: The player lists are by no means comprehensive, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information on them. Actually, I probably could, but then I’d feel obligated to make new screenshots if somebody reports an error. That’s just not going to happen, because this post was authored for informational purposes and was not intended to be a all-encompassing primer on 5×5 mixed league fantasy baseball. If that were the case, I’d probably be really good at this, and we’d find a way to hide this content behind a paywall. Besides, I’ve already typed over 2400 words. Just keep in mind that the clickeable spreadsheet screenshots are only EXAMPLES.
You’ll notice that I didn’t opt for the 3-year history approach to ranking players. Why not? I don’t consider it any more accurate at predicting the future than I do the 1 year approach. There is no such thing as a “sure thing”, and that’s the attitude that I take into drafting.
Like it? Wish you had written your own “World’s Worst 5×5 Fantasy Baseball Guide for Spork Users”? Follow gr33nazn on Twitter and submit your ideas for the next one!
UPDATED BITS OF TID: I’m once again participating in the fantasy baseball league held by @STLDraftTB. Last year wasn’t the greatest as I finished 4th, but I am totally blaming Buster Posey and David Wright for getting injured. Also, I blame the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers for beating me soundly with good picks and timely moves.
PENULTIMATE BIT OF TID: I’ll be updating this post with my draft picks, so please bookmark this post to learn more about my future bad decisions.
- Robinson Cano – 2B