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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Good Value, Bad Value: Sleepers and Busts

By David Brandt

Sometimes sleepers are unheard of and busts are all of the big names... sometimes we're just talking about good value and bad value.  Check out this list to find some sleeper gems and some reasons to avoid a few other guys:


Sleepers:

 

Ben Zobrist - I will start off with an oldie but a goody.  Zobrist has always had appeal in fantasy leagues due to his position versatility.  His ability to play nearly every position assured him a spot nearly every day in Joe Maddon's lineup while in Tampa.  He averaged 153 games and 562 AB/season from 2009, when he burst on the scene, through 2014, his final season with the Rays.  Zobrist is now reunited with Joe Maddon and is expected to bat near the top of a powerhouse Cubs Lineup. Bottom line: Zobrist is an on-base machine projecting to bat in the top third of one of the most prolific lineups in baseball.  He also plays half his games in a hitters park.  He should exceed projected totals of R, HR, RBI, and even SB.  Draft confidently as your starting 2B.

Brandon Belt - Brandon Belt is coming off probably his most productive season in his career.  Limited to 137 games because of various injuries, Belt was still able to put a 73/18/68 slash while batting .280.  Belt is slated to bat 6th in a loaded giants lineup, so there should be no shortage of RBI opportunities.  Pair that with the fact that he is 28 years old and should be in his prime years-there is a very high ceiling here.  There is no reason he cannot produce similar numbers to Freddie Freeman or Prince Fielder, but he can be had nearly 50 picks later. The Giants missed the playoffs last year, and they spent a ton to make sure that didn't happen again.  Expect Belt to be a catalyst in this explosive offense.  No need to invest in aging first basemen who are potentially on the downturn of their careers, go for the upside!

Denard Span - Speaking of the Giants spending spree, Denard Span is an addition to this powerful lineup that is clearly flying under the radar.  I mentioned how powerful this offense can be, and of course it all starts at the top.  Span gets on base consistently (he has a career OBP of .352) and if his career stats hold true, it should turn into a beautifully productive season.  Span is just a season removed from 30 steals, so the man has some serious wheels.  He can put up more productive fantasy seasons than Ben Revere and Billy Hamilton and he can be yours 80 picks later.

Andrew Heaney - Heaney is a former top 10 pick who was the key piece of the trade that brought Dee Gordon to Miami.  He was then traded to the other side of town where he will try to make a name for himself.  Heaney finished the season very strong, allowing 2 ER or fewer in 9 of his last 10 starts.  This offseason, the Halos added Andrelton Simmons, which should only help Heaney improve on last year's impressive 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  Heaney is going largely undrafted in leagues, so invest a late round pick in this pitcher who has the potential to provide a great ROI.  

Luke Gregerson - When you make your last couple of picks, you are usually trying to find diamonds in the rough.  These are guys that may not have an immediate role or may not have the clearest path to stardom, but if the stars align, big things can happen.  Gregerson is a great example of this.  He was a top 100 overall player last year with 31 saves as the Astros stopper.  Yes, the Astros traded for Ken Giles from Philly, but he's no sure thing to be their closer.  Giles has pitched terrible this Spring, which doesn't always hold much weight, but you would like to at least see some production outings out of him. He was closing for a team in the NL in weakest division in baseball.  He was a dominant setup man and may be best served in that role to help solidify the backend for a championship contending team.  I guess this could be as much a Gregerson sleeper pick as it is a Giles bust pick, but I will certainly be grabbing Gregerson as a late flier.

Busts:

 

Giancarlo Stanton - Giancarlo Stanton is a sexy name that is coveted early in drafts.  His tremendous power potential makes owners salivate.  To me, Stanton is merely a three category player with a history of injury problems.  In fact, he has averaged only 122 games per season since 2011.  I am not saying Stanton is bad by any means, but I would rather draft Machado, Rizzo, Correa, Bryant, or Altuve all day.  I can then scoop up Chris Davis a round or two later and get very similar numbers.  Stanton is a major injury risk for a team that doesn't expect to compete.  It is very likely he won't be around while you chase down a championship.  

Jose Fernandez - Not to pile on Miami or anything, but Jose Fernandez is in a very similar situation.  There is already speculation that he is going to be on an innings limit, and rightfully so.  This kid is a stud, undeniably.  The problem with Fernandez is that you are drafting him as one of the first pitchers off the board, but it is extremely likely that he won't be around for you during the fantasy playoffs.  Maybe he can pitch you into first place in the regular season, and that usually brings home a few shekels, but if you want to win a championship, you may want to look elsewhere.  There are plenty of stud arms in a similar tier to Fernandez that are far more likely to be around come playoff time.  

Jacob deGrom - Speaking of other arms in a similar tier, something about deGrom is rubbing me the wrong way. He just pitched 191 innings in the regular season with the playoffs on top of that, up from just 140 the year before.  Add to that the fact that he has "had trouble" finding his velocity this Spring.  I take minimal note of Spring Training statistics, but when someone comes off such a substantial workload and can't find that velocity that helped him dominate, it sends up a red flag.  Maybe deGrom is fine and he will pitch another dominating campaign this season.  That is not a risk I am willing to take on a guy I could be potentially drafting to be my ace.  Just like Fernandez, there are plenty of other good arms in that tier that don't carry cloudiness like deGrom.

Ryan Braun - Listing Braun as a bust has nothing to do with his off-field lifestyle choices.  This is a man on the wrong side of 30 who had off-season back surgery, and is already sitting out with back soreness.  This reminds me a little of a Derrick Rose-like situation.  It is a smart move to sit out as a precaution in the spring, when games don't count.  When you are coming off surgery and you are feeling sore with the season right around the corner, it tell me you may not be completely ready to come back.  If Braun tries to prove the naysayers wrong by coming back prematurely, he puts himself at a high risk of re-injuring his bad back which has caused him to miss significant time throughout the last two seasons.  Very much like D-Rose.  Couple that with the fact that his team looks awful and it has the potential to be a situation in which Braun misses more time this year.  His price tag is too high for someone battling a back injury.  For me, I'll pass.

Jordan Zimmerman - Zimmerman took a major step back in his last season for the Nats.  His ERA jumped an entire run and his WHIP was also up to a pedestrian 1.20.  He has never really been a strikeout guy, moreso a guy relying on his command, which was clearly off last year.   The Nats were a bit of a mess last year, and Zimmermann is now pitching for a team with a dominant lineup.  Unfortunately, he is pitching in arguably the most competitive division in baseball.  Plus, pitchers rarely transition well from the NL to the AL.  Unless Zimmerman regains that control, he really doesn't bring much to the table.  He will have a mediocre WHIP and ERA, without enough Ks to make an impact.  He is just a name from a couple years ago, and I feel his best years are behind him.  Let some other amateur in your league take the familiar name while you capitalize on some of the young, high upside guys in his tier like Matz, Odorizzi, Smyly, Rodon, and Corbin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

FSIC AL-Only Draft

Last Saturday I took part in the venerable and long-standing FSIC Expert Draft.  I'm in the AL-Only league, which is a great honor.  I even took home the trophy (literally, this thing is like four feet tall) back in 2013.  2013 seems like a long time ago now, and I need to get another one.

It's a really tough group of competitors, but we did have a last minute dropout so that makes things a little more streamlined.  I'm not saying 'easier' because it ain't easy.  But a nine team "only" league is still fairly shallow and good players will still be hard to pick up.

In the draft my plan was to load up on hitters, particularly middle infield and outfield.  I was betting that I could find starting pitching later, though I did want to grab two strong closers to handle saves and bring down my ratios just a touch overall.  I thought that catcher went about eight deep in the AL and corner infielders could be had later.

The math is pretty easy in the outfield in particular.  There are roughly 45 AL outfielder starters.  15 teams times three starters plus a few DH's minus some platoons.  Since this league has nine teams and five starting OF slots every one of those outfielders will be required.  If I can get six good ones I'm ahead of the game.

Middles and corners?  There are about 30 each (a little more for corners playing DH) and our league starts about 27 each.  I do see supply a little heavier at the corner for DH's and outfielders who qualify there, but I also see a smoother quality curve for corners.

Pitchers?  Well, there are 75 or so starting pitchers in the AL and basically 15 closers.  Not all of either list is quality.  My plan was to wait on starters and get some upside guys in pitchers parks in the middle rounds.  For closers, every team with two is ahead of the game.  If you have two of the top six or seven you are way ahead.

So, on to the draft.  My strategy played out almost exactly as I detailed above.

In round one I was hoping for the 'go big' pick of Carlos Correa at #6.  He went #5... but that meant Jose Altuve fell to #6.  Fine by me.  Pairing him with an outfield-eligible Chris Davis at #13 gives me a lot of everything.

Adam Jones at 24 gives me another great outfielder as I build my stockpile.  Xander Bogaerts at 31 completes my double play combo and really anchors my batting average.

Hosmer is a good value at 42 though a little earlier than I wanted to go for a 1B.  He slipped for a reason.  At 49 I reached a bit on Cody Allen since he was the last of the stud closers.  Adrian Beltre fell to 60 and couldn't pass him up, even with the injury.  Adam Eaton should deliver value with the next pick.  Some might criticize Shawn Tolleson with pick #78, but I think he is a fantastic closer and paired with Allen should give me an unfair advantage.  Don't pay for saves?  It's a shallow league and I paid for saves.  Sixth and ninth round picks is a sizable investment, but I've got a full infield plus Davis and Jones in the outfield. 

I had hoped I'd have more outfielders by now, but starting pitching is empty!  The cupboard is bare.

Yordano Ventura, Collin McHugh, Carlos Rodon, and Kevin Gausman are four of my next five picks.  Boom.  You want upside in a rotation?  I challenge you to find a more boom or bust rotation in all of the fantasy world.  Later in the draft I added Chris Tillman, Chris Bassitt, Hector Santiago, and Henderson Alvarez.  I don't love the parks in Baltimore or Chicago for pitchers but I did grab a Royal and a couple A's.  Mission accomplished?  Meh.  I do have considerable upside though.  Add to that group the K's and ratios from Allen, Tolleson, and also Darren O'Day and maybe I'll do okay.

But the outfield tho.  I thought you were going to prioritize OF?  Well, Davis, Jones, and Eaton right?  Ahem.  Okay, three more spots to fill plus at least one bench spot.  Funny thing about that.  You see, Austin Jackson signed with the White Sox on Sunday and on Saturday I drafted Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Avisail Garcia.  Garcia is the one in jeopardy here, but I do wonder how the DH situation works out if Adam LaRoche is done.  Besides, Jackson is really a platoon guy at this point.  Right?  I supplemented my Windy City outfield with Byron Buxton in the middle rounds.  Enormous upside if the light goes on.  I also grabbed Seth Smith very late.  He's the definition of replacement player, but he should get AB's in Seattle and be average across the board.  Pretty good for an OF7, actually.

I also took Trevor Plouffe as Beltre insurance plus Didi Gregorius.  I like to have a utility guy as well and Eduardo Escobar is another completely average guy, but he qualifies all over the place which is helpful in a shallow league.  It's more helpful in a daily league and this one is weekly, but it's still nice to have a Swiss Army knife in the drawer.

Oh yeah, did I mention Pablo Sandoval?  Yeah, him too.  I know, I know... Panda's fallen on hard times.  Nevertheless, he works into my 20/20 drafting strategy that I describe in my book.  I needed a high upside guy for cheap, and I took Pablo in the 18th round.

The only player I haven't mentioned is my catcher.  Robinson Chirinos in the 15th round.  I could have pushed it and gotten him later, but I did say catcher is about eight deep in the AL and Chirinos is #8.  Plus I like him.  He could do what Matt Wieters often does - .238 BA with 23 home runs.  That kind of power at catcher at this point is pretty good value, so I didn't wait any longer.

The auto-generated CBS draft scorecard had me third.  I never know if I want those computer rankings to rate me highly since the idea is to go against the site on which you are drafting to find value.  Maybe I played it safe enough to get #3 and my upside will carry me to another four-foot trophy.

Getting a Grip

Many years ago before I had a wife and kids I had a roommate to help pay the bills.  One day we went to a state park with some friends and we spied this ledge near a canyon.  Now, the ledge was about four feet up from the ground but if you looked at it from the right angle it looked for all the world as if it was the edge of the canyon and a 500 foot drop.

So, my buddy got down under the ledge, reached up and grasped the edge, looked at the camera in terror, and hilarity ensued.  We snapped the picture and put it on our refrigerator.  Priceless.

This year, like last, I'm having to work hard to get a grasp on the fantasy landscape.  I can't say I have a look of terror yet but sometimes I wonder about certain players, especially at the top end of the draft.

I wonder what $161 million does to Chris Davis.  I wonder what a $150 million demand from an aging Jose Bautista does to him.  Speaking of big deals, how much are Greinke and Price affected by their new ballparks?  Can Giancarlo Stanton play a full year?  Will McCutchen's speed return?  He's only 29 years old.

I suppose it's the same every year.  And truly, questions abound all the way down the list.  I mean, is Pablo Sandoval worth drafting?

It goes to show that homework is as important as it ever has been.  I suggest you either do all of the exhaustive work yourself and make up your own mind about each player from a vacuum... or you access multiple sources of information and generate a consensus.

One of the very best tools for this is FantasyPros.com.  This isn't a commercial for those guys, but I find the slicing and dicing of many expert opinions to be exceptionally helpful.  It's free and fast.  You can pick the experts you want to include and who you want to exclude.  There are even site rankings from some of the big guys on there.  You can also see how accurate each expert was last year.

If you do head over there and create a customized composite of the most accurate experts, I do recommend you include at least the top 19 in your list.  19?  Why such a specific number?  Well, I just think that #19 is particularly talented.

Good luck in your drafts, Brainiacs.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Keepers, Sleepers, and Jeepers: Week Seventeen

By Adam Filadelfo (@FNTSYArchitect)

Alright fantasy football enthusiasts, this is the last week for NFL football and fantasy football. If you won a championship already, congratulations. If this is the week the championship is decided, best of luck. If you didn't compete for a championship, maybe you participate in a keeper league and want to make a few moves before rosters are locked for the season. Whatever your situation is heading into week 17, I hope you enjoyed playing this season and if you're looking to make some moves on the waiver wire, take a look below. See you again for the 2016 fantasy football season.

Keepers

Kyle Rudolph- Tight End- Minnesota Vikings- While Kyle Rudolph may not be a model of consistency for fantasy owners, he has been playing better as of late. He may have had only three targets on Sunday but he did score a touchdown. He's an extremely touchdown dependent player but fantasy owners looking for a tight end in week 17 may want to take a look at the Minnesota tight end.

Dontrelle Inman- Wide Receiver- San Diego Chargers- Coming off of a game where Inman saw 13 targets, he's become a steady option in the passing game and has scored double digit fantasy points in two of his last four games.

Sleepers

Keshawn Martin- Wide Receiver- New England Patriots- The recently acquired Martin will more than likely have little to no value once Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola return from their injuries but until then, he may be the receiver to own in New England not named Rob Gronkowski. Week 16 saw Martin with a season high 11 targets tossed his way as he hauled in seven balls for 68 yards. Once the Patriots offense is at full strength, Martin may be nothing more than a special teams guy but for now, he could be a sneaky play for week 17.

Jermaine Kearse- Wide Receiver- Seattle Seahawks- With 21 targets over the last three games and the Seattle offense hitting on all cylinders, fantasy owners will want to own a piece of the Seahawks passing game. Sunday saw Kearse catch three passes for 38 yards and a score and just miss posting double digit fantasy points for the second time in as many weeks. Owners looking for receiver help will want to take a look at Kearse for week 17.

Jeepers

Andre Ellington- Running Back- Arizona Cardinals- At this point, is there any doubt as to David Johnson being the man in Arizona? Being reduced to a change of pace back, Ellington scored less than five fantasy points in week 16 and can not be counted on for week 17 if you're playing for anything meaningful.

Will Tye- Tight End- New York Giants- Through no fault of his own, Tye has become less of a fantasy stud the last couple of weeks since making a name for himself. The Giants offense is so inconsistent that it's difficult to trust anyone not named Odell Beckham Jr. Tye had three catches for 28 yards in week 16 and will be hard to start in week 17 with anything on the line.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Keepers, Sleepers, and Jeepers: Week Sixteen

By Adam Filadelfo (@FNTSYArchitect)

Congratulations to all owners playing for a fantasy football championship this week. As always with fantasy football, injuries are yet again part of the story heading into what is probably your championship week. Like so many other owners, it's time once again to look towards the waiver wire for help.

Keepers

Kirk Cousins- Quarterback- Washington Redskins- If you are one of the lucky ones to still have the Washington signal caller sitting on your waiver wire, now is the time to pick him up. Drew Brees owners may need to grab a quarterback this week with the Saints captain questionable heading into week 16. Cousins is averaging over 21 fantasy points per game this season and has 15 touchdowns to ten interceptions while tossing only three interceptions in his last eight starts.

Reuben Randle- Wide Receiver- New York Giants- With the suspension of number one wideout Odell Beckham Jr, Randle figures to see more targets in week 16. He has found the end zone in three of the last four games and has back to back games with a touchdown. Fantasy owners looking to replace Beckham Jr may only need to look at his teammate for receiving help this week.

Sleepers

Jerick McKinnon- Running Back- Minnesota Vikings- Should AP miss this week, McKinnon should be a viable replacement for fantasy owners. McKinnon scored a touchdown in week 15 while totaling 87 yards. His real value comes in the passing game where he hauled in all four of his targets. It's possible he splits time with Matt Asiata in the absence of Adrian Peterson but in PPR formats, McKinnon could end up shining.

Mike Gillislee- Running Back- Buffalo Bills- With Karlos Williams banged up what seems like almost every week and fantasy owners already knowing LeSean McCoy is done for the season, Gillislee could be a fantasy savior for owners in need of a running back. Gillislee has found pay dirt in back to back games and scored a 60 yard touchdown last week. While it's likely Gillislee and Williams split time in week 16, Gillislee has an arrow pointing up.

Jeepers

Stefon Diggs- Wide Receiver- Minnesota Vikings- There has finally been a Stefon Diggs sighting. Not since week eight have fantasy owners heard the name Stefon Diggs brought up. After scoring twice in week 15, Diggs put himself back on fantasy owners radars but those owners looking at Diggs shouldn't get too excited. Before last week, Diggs has gone six straight weeks without a touchdown and just isn't reliable on a week to week basis.

Donald Brown- Running Back- San Diego Chargers- With rookie Melvin Gordon hurt, Brown and Woodhead split the load in week 15 but yet again, fantasy owners should not get too excited for Donald Brown. With 90 yards to his name last week, Brown isn't consistent enough to warrant starting in your championship week. His four targets give him a glimmer of hope but Donald Brown has been known to let down fantasy owners when they expected him to perform in the past.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Keepers, Sleepers, and Jeepers: Week Fifteen

By Adam Filadelfo (@FNTSYArchitect)

So if you still have something to play for in fantasy football, you are planning on making some moves this week on your waiver wire.  Especially since so many more names went down just in time for the fantasy playoffs. Fantasy football can be so cruel sometimes but as owners, we press on and use the waiver wire to our advantage. Heading into week 15 is no different. Take a good look at the waiver wire because with only a week or two left until the fantasy football season is over, there isn't much time left to make moves. Good luck to all owners in their playoffs and contending for a championship.

Keepers

Denard Robinson- Running Back- Jacksonville Jaguars- With the injury to rookie T.J Yeldon, "Shoelace" made the most of his opportunity and should be added with the rash of running backs that went down in week 14. The former Michigan product totaled 87 yards versus the Colts and could be a fantasy asset these next few weeks for running back needy owners.

Isaiah Crowell- Running Back- Cleveland Browns- Finally someone worth owning from the Browns. Isaiah Crowell had himself a game in week 14 scoring over 27 fantasy points on his way to rushing for 145 yards and two scores. Isaiah Crowell could very well be the fantasy MVP of the playoffs.

Sleepers

Bryce Brown- Running Back- Seattle Seahawks- Surprise surprise, another running back went down in week 14. Rookie Thomas Rawls went down with a broken ankle and now it appears Bryce Brown will get the rock in Seattle. Over the years, Brown has been more of a disappointment than not but with the commitment to running the ball in Seattle and the offense playing at a whole other level over the last few weeks, running back starved fantasy owners may want to take a look at Bryce Brown.

Will Tye- Tight End- New York Giants- Hey what do you know? A player to look at on the waiver wire that isn't a running back. By scoring his first career touchdown in week 14, Tye put himself on the fantasy radar heading into week 15. He's filled in admirably for the injured Larry Donnell and could see an uptick in targets moving forward. Eli Manning likes to utilize his tight end and since catching all five targets tossed his way on Monday night, Tye may get the chance to shine again. If you need an upgrade at tight end, Will Tye is worth a flyer.

Jeepers

A.J. McCarron- Quarterback- Cincinnati Bengals- Now that the Red Rifle Andy Dalton is going to miss some time with his thumb injury, the former Alabama signal caller gets the chance to show what he can do under center. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions versus Pittsburgh in week 14, but with all the weapons around him, could end up proving to be valuable to fantasy owners. It will be difficult for fantasy owners to pull the trigger on McCarron seeing how there hasn't been much in the way of injuries to quarterbacks.

Montee Ball- Running Back- New England Patriots- Recently signed to the practice squad, Montee Ball will probably not see any action for the defending Super Bowl champions since Brandon Bolden and James White have been doing just fine. If you're truly starved for a running back and want to try to outsmart the other owners in your league, maybe Montee Ball is worth a look but don't get too excited. There's a better chance he gets cut before he sees any action in a Patriots jersey.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Keepers, Sleepers, and Jeepers: Week Fourteen

By Adam Filadelfo (@FNTSYArchitect)

Well it's week 14 and that means that some fantasy football leagues have started their playoffs. If your playoffs haven't started yet, then they will be in the next week or two and that means your team has to be in win now mode if you haven't clinched a playoff spot already. Even teams that are not making a playoff push this season may still want to play for pride or in keeper leagues, start thinking about next season. Whatever your situation, if you plan on checking out your waiver wire, here's a list of players that will be available.

Keepers

Tyler Lockett - Wide Receiver- Seattle Seahawks- Not just a return man anymore, the rookie is getting a chance to shine on offense with the injury to Jimmy Graham and he appears to be making the most of it. With seven catches for 90 yards in week 13 and a breakout game three weeks ago where he scored over 17 fantasy points, Tyler Lockett could be a sneaky play heading into the playoffs with the Seahawks offense suddenly looking like the Seahawks offense from the last two seasons.

Ryan Mathews - Running Back- Philadelphia Eagles- After being shelved the last few weeks with a concussion, Mathews appears to be on track for a week 14 return which is good news for any fantasy owner that grabs him off of the waiver wire seeing how DeMarco Murray has been a major disappointment this season. He has 427 yards and five touchdowns on 76 carries and is averaging over ten fantasy points per game. He's a must add heading into the fantasy playoffs.

Sleepers

Dorial Green- Beckham- Wide Receiver- Tennessee Titans- With Marcus Mariota playing above what any fantasy owner imagined in his rookie season, now may be the time for another rookie to shine with him. Green- Beckham has been almost a non factor up until this point but with a breakout game coming in week 13 where he posted almost 18 fantasy points, now is the time for fantasy owners to jump on him before he has another big game. The combination of Mariota and Green-Beckham could pay dividends in the fantasy playoffs.

Detroit D/ST- While fantasy defenses aren't talked about much in this article, for the sake of the fantasy playoffs, owners may want to stream week to week and the Detroit Lions defense seems to be playing much better as of late. They have allowed under 200 passing yards per game in the last four weeks and get a weak Rams offense in week 14. If you are playing the matchup with defenses, Detroit should be high on your list.

Jeepers

Johnny Manziel- Quarterback- Cleveland Browns- With news that Johnny Manziel will be under center for the Browns for the remainder of the season, owners needing help at the quarterback position may want to take a look at him. While he doesn't have much to work with in Cleveland, he could still end up being an asset to owners heading into their playoffs. He's averaging under 13 fantasy points per game so don't expect too much but with his dual threat, there's a chance Manziel could do something for owners from week 14 on.