Ask Rotoman: The Next Step to Winning

Hello,
I’m writing because I read your article in your magazine. It’s great it’s been around for 20 years.  Typically I print out a cheat sheet and try to study it and overstudy but can’t beat having a magazine with insights and tips.  I’m also writing because I am the commissioner of my league.  This will be the 10th anniversary of it!  It’s been 10 years and I still haven’t won a championship.  My league is with Yahoo 5×5 Head to Head.  I rack my brains out every year.  I’ve gotten better over the years, making the playoffs, but I can’t get over the hump.  Any suggestions or advice you may have, besides walking away with my sanity while it’s still intact?  I laugh buts it’s true.  Every year I try a different strategy but never seems to pan out.  Oh and it’s not a keeper league.  Which I think makes it a lot more difficult.  Thanks for reading my plea for help.  Hopefully I’ll be able to hear from you soon. Keep up the great work!
“Bridesmaid”

Dear B:
In my day (which is a long one) I’ve won a fair number of league titles, but I’ve been playing in Tout Wars for 20 years and not won a title. Second place a few times, in the money some, but never a first. So I know where you’re coming from. The fact is, however, that there is no one-size fits all answer to the question. Here’s why.
If everyone in your league was equally talented, equally smart, made an equal effort, in 10 years at least two teams, despite doing everything right, would not have won titles. In 2o years the odds would be that one or two equally talented teams would not have a title. So the fact is that we’re really looking at a sample size that’s too small to accurately judge what’s going on based on the results. The challenge for you is to analyze what’s happening in your league, and then come up with a strategy that will give you an edge, because the keys to winning are three: Knowing the values of players, knowing how other teams value players, and working hard to always get the edge in value.
Here are a few places to look:
Knowing the value of players: Of first importance is knowing your scoring system. How many points hitters and pitchers score, and when, makes a huge difference, and will determine how valuable players are. In shallow mixed leagues nearly all the value is found in the more better best most extraordinary players. While everyone knows these players, they’re the first ones to go in the draft. Then, at every pick later in the draft you’re going to have to choose between a player who is 30 years old, a solid regular with unspectacular production and a player who is younger, more athletic, but with perhaps injury or playing time issues. In other words, $10 in the bank versus the possibility of buying $20 with the risk of getting only $1. What you need to remember is that in a shallow mixed league the value of $10 in the bank is less than the riskier player, because if your riskier pick fails there will be other players available on waivers who are almost as good as the safe pick.
Knowing how other teams value players: One of the things I like about drafts is that bad players can totally screw up picks if they don’t know how the room values players. One of the things I don’t like about drafts is that I can screw up picks, too, if I don’t get the room right. The way to get familiar with what other people do in the draft room is to participate in Mock Drafts. It only takes a few, played by your league’s rules, to get a feel for the types of players taking Adelberto Mondesi and Vlad Jr. in the second or third round. There is variation in every mock, but seeing the highs and lows for players will give you an idea about when you need to reach for the guys you value highly, and not reach too early. (It’s also an opportunity to try out different approaches to your draft, to see how the opposition reacts.)
Working hard to always get the edge in value: Working harder means working effectively. I think your first order of business should be to figure out if there is a reason other teams have won your league. If it’s just one or two guys winning, what are they doing? If it’s a different team winning every year, and they’re all doing different things, what are all the things they’re doing? And what can you do to find the bargains they leave behind. Then, work hard in season to stay on top of matchups, player health and slumps, and pursuing creative trades that can earn you extra points bit by bit. Extra points lead to extra wins.
You may or may not solve this thing this year. Head to Head can get pretty random, especially in the playoffs, so the best team doesn’t always win. But having the best team will give you the best chance. If you execute this year and honestly evaluate after the season about what went right and what went wrong, you’ll be able to hone your approach the following year so that you get better. Consistently working in a framework of evaluation and experimentation is the way to improve, so that when you get lucky you’ll find the championship you long for.
Good luck!

Ask Rotoman: Should I Trade Mookie Betts?

Dear Rotoman:

I’m in a dynasty H2H total points based. Got a trade offer.

Juan Soto. Jon Lester. Blake Snell. Pick 29 and Pick 53 for

Mookie Betts. Mike Clevinger and Pick 42.

It’s a 12 team league on we are on year eight. My starting line up is:

Bats…S Perez C…J Bell 1B…Baez 2B…J Rameriz 3B…Machado SS…Betts. Acuna. Braun OF… N Cruz DH
Pitchers…Tanaka. Bumgarner. Clevinger. Buehler. Porcello

I dont have much depth and close to the cap. I’ll drop braun and I have Cueto I can easily drop to make room. Thoughts on the deal, I could use the advice on this one please.

“Blockbuster Made or Averted?”

Dear Blockbuster:

This is a big deal, and without knowing your categories, how big your roster is, how weak your depth actually is, and if that matters, it’s hard to be definitive. What I know is this:

  1. Juan Soto is not as valuable as Mookie Betts, because he won’t run as much, and because he’s had one amazing partial season, while Mookie has proven he’s a Top 5 player.
  2. Blake Snell is probably equally better than Mike Clevinger as Mookie is better than Soto. So these two pieces wash. If you had enough hitting and needed pitching, that’s a deal you might do reasonably. Since it looks like you have hitting and need pitching, that’s an argument for it.

The rest of the trade has you giving up Pick 42 and getting Pick 29 and Pick 53 plus Jon Lester, who is not a sure thing to be excellent, but has a decent chance of it. In a league with as many keepers as your teams seem to have, there is very little difference between picks 29, 42 and 53, and you get two for the price of one. Since Lester is better than Cueto, who is going to miss the whole year, he’s a bonus.

Could you lose this trade? Certainly. My rule of thumb is don’t give up the best player in a deal in return for depth, especially in shallow leagues, where only the very best players are much above replacement level, but I like Snell enough this year (I like Clevinger, too, but not quite as much) that the core is a solid pitching for hitting deal, and the add ins are a bonus.

Go forth and multiply,
rotomansignature

Rotoman

ASK ROTOMAN: Keeper Question

Ask Rotoman:

I can hold 8 in a $260 NL only auction league. Which 8 do u think?

Jose Peraza $8 Starlin Castro 8 Yasmani Grandal 6 Jeff McNeil 1 Lorenzo Cain 29 Eric Lauer 1 Stephen Matz 6 Trevor Williams 3 Alen Hanson 1 Hector Neris 1 Yoshi Hirano 5 Pablo Lopez 1 Franchy Cordero 10 Koda Glover 2.

Thanks
Eight is Enough

Dear Eight:

I don’t usually answer such open-ended questions on the site because, well, it seems to me you should do most of the work. That’s why you play. And then hit me with the hard question I might contribute something to. For you, that’s determining your No. 7 and 8 picks.

But today is launch day of the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2017 and your question does let me highlight how to decide who to keep.

Make a list of your players and their prices. Then add their big prices from the Guide (or whatever reputable source you have for prices, including your own), and do the math:

Jose Peraza $8 $25 = +$17
Starlin Castro 8 $18 = +$10
Yasmani Grandal 6 $10 = +$3
Jeff McNeil 1 $12 = +$11
Lorenzo Cain 29 $24 = -$5
Eric Lauer 1 $2 = +$1
Stephen Matz 6 $8 = +$2
Trevor Williams 3 $12 = +$9
Alen Hanson 1 $5 = +$4
Hector Neris 1 $1 = E
Yoshi Hirano 5 $3 = -$2
Pablo Lopez 1 $1 = E
Franchy Cordero 10 $5 = -$5
Koda Glover 2 $0 = -$2

First thing first, there are the big winners: Peraza, Castro, McNeil, and Trevor Williams are obvious keeps. That’s four.

Picking off the other four gets more complicated. First off, Yasmani Grandal is at a good price and is looking at a change of scene that might give him a boost. That’s five.

Of the remainders, Alen Hanson is cheap. He’s not a great hitter, doesn’t have much power or speed, but he could get a fair number of at bats, and he has some power and maybe a little speed. That’s six.

To get to the final two you have to evaluate my prices and your expectations.

For instance, if you think Glover or Hirano might close, you have to consider them. At present I do not.

If you’re in a pinch you can keep Lopez and Lauer, because they are arms with some talent who might get a chance to play this year. The problem is they’re not going for more than a buck or two on auction day, so these are plays of last resort.

Lorenzo Cain is costly, and should go for less than $29 in startup leagues, but what is the inflation rate in your league? If it’s more than 20-percent he becomes something like a  bargain. Heck, you might think he’s going to go for $29 in your league, which definitely makes him a bargain. You have to decide if you want to park that money in him, or go after a different outfielder to anchor your offense. He could be your seventh keeper. Or not. I’m personally wary of $33 year old outfielders whose games rely on speed. With each year, the risk of a big failure goes up.

Which brings us to Steven Matz or Franchy Cordero. I think $10 is too much for Cordero, but others love him and if you love him you might want to take a chance. FWIW Baseball HQ has him earning $15 this year. I think his contact skills are so bad that, while he could earn $15, he could also be back in the minors in a hurry. Especially because he’s coming off a wrist injury.

Which leave us with Matz, who has been injury prone and not that good since his dazzling debut in 2015. I think he’s no riskier than Cordero and cheaper, with the same sort of upside, which is why I would make him my eighth.

When you have to make these decisions matters a lot. Health issues and playing time issues will become clearer than mud as the preseason approaches. The longer you can wait the more clarity you’ll bring to your final decisions. But it doesn’t hurt to start exploring the possibilities early.

Best,

rotomansignature

Rotoman

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational

Justin Mason, of Fantasy Friends With Benefits, did a good big thing. He got Fantrax to host a bunch of 15 team leagues full of fantasy experts, plus put up a grand in prize money.

The rules are pretty normal, except there is that looming consolidated standings.

I landed in League 9, which included some folks I knew, like Adam Ronis and Tim Heaney, some I’d heard of, especially Doug Thorburn and Rob Silver, and a bunch of other foes who proved to be formidable, too.

This was a tough draft. There was no finessing picks. You had to take who you wanted, because they were not going to be there next turn.

Picking from the 13th spot afforded opportunity, I landed Blackmon and Bryant as my first two picks, but meant it was a long time to get back to my third pick, when all the stud pitchers were gone. Six of them in a row preceding my pick of Edwin Encarnacion. Okay, mostly gone. I could have made it seven by taking Yu Darvish.

This is also a league with one catcher. I like two catchers. Most catchers share time, two catcher rosters recognize this, and force decisions about how to allocate budget to backstops. One catcher diminishes the importance of almost all catchers. The 15th catcher isn’t a stud, but he’s not a waste. And if he turns out to be a waste, for whatever reason, the short roster means there will be options. Two catchers means you have to commit, and you have to work hard to recover if something goes wrong. I think that’s a tougher play.

In this league I have a pretty strong offense. That’s because I didn’t take a pitcher until the sixth round. And I then proceeded to make a mostly risk pitching staff. Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb had yet to sign. Eduardo Rodriguez is hurt. Brad Peacock is a swing man in a deep staff. Kyle Hendricks wasn’t all he was supposed to be last year.

We can argue pitching all day. What I surely didn’t do was buy saves. This was a function of trying to buy high-skills pitchers who were still available. Guys like Hendricks, Jameson Taillon, and even Zack Wheeler. Did I want Fernando Rodney or Shane Green instead? No.

But not having two closers is a problem in a broad contest with many many scores of teams. As I said to Justin in an email the other day, I might easily win this league and not do well at all in the overall. To fix that I’m going to have to find some saves.

Fortunately, that’s possible. My Team (Five reserve picks are pitchers):

Pos Player Team
C Posey, Buster SF
1B Encarnacion, Edwin CLE
2B Merrifield, Whit KC
3B Bryant, Kris CHC
SS Gregorius, Didi NYY
CI Bird, Greg NYY
MI Anderson, Tim CHW
OF Blackmon, Charlie COL
OF Fowler, Dustin OAK
OF Hicks, Aaron NYY
OF Pillar, Kevin TOR
OF Souza Jr., Steven ARI
UT Cruz, Nelson SEA
UT Duffy, Matt TB
Totals
Pitching
Pos Player Team
P Arrieta, Jake PHI
P Givens, Mychal BAL
P Hendricks, Kyle CHC
P Hildenberger, Trevor MIN
P Kahnle, Tommy NYY
P Madson, Ryan WAS
P Peacock, Brad HOU
P Taillon, Jameson PIT
P Wheeler, Zack NYM
P Cobb, Alex (N/A)
P Lyons, Tyler STL
P O’Day, Darren BAL
P Rodriguez, Eduardo BOS
P Stroman, Marcus TOR

 

 

 

Ask Rotoman: Donde Esta Julio Urias?

Rotoman:

Julio Urias is missing. He seems to be the most significant NL omission from this year’s Fantasy Baseball Guide.

I’m in an NL-only league

Who gets into the Guide, and who doesn’t, is a laborious process.

Most all players who played the preceding year get in, though there are some exceptions. For instance, older relief pitchers who had only a few innings, aren’t on the 40-man roster and have little chance for a significant role, are often chopped. Same thing with hitters dropped from the 40-man roster, though these feel like tougher calls. The goal is to get everyone in the magazine we can anticipate contributing in the majors in some way.

I then go through all the guys we didn’t put in the previous year’s Guide to see if their injuries are better, or they’re returning from Japan or Korea. This is unbelievably tedious, but thanks to RotoWire and RotoWorld it isn’t usually hard. Just tedious, and sometimes rewarding. Some of the best stories in any year’s Guide are there because of reading so many accounts of lost years.

julio uras throwsA player like Urias, who pitched 23.3 innings last year, making five weak starts before going down in May, could go either way. Urias was a top prospect as a 19 year old and made his major league debut months before his 20th birthday, but he didn’t have Tommy John surgery until late June last year.

While the timeline for TJ recovery for starters is roughly a year, many do not make it back in a year, and many more are not effective their first bit after coming back. Because of this, it was my guess that Urias, if he does make it back this coming summer, is going to mostly pitch in Triple-A, strengthening his arm, and getting healthy for the 2019 campaign.

So, I gave Urias the boot. He’s not in the Guide. I’m okay with that decision, but since you asked I’ve come up with one reason I should have included him:

Let’s say you play in a keeper league in which Urias is a free agent. You don’t expect much from him this year, but if you add him for cheap you’ll get to reserve him this year and have him for cheap in 2019. There are too many questions about recovery, and his stamina, to assume a full return to his 2016 standard in 2019, but if he’s cheap he’s certainly worth a shot.

Don’t forget about him.

Rotoman’s Perfect Pitching Staff 2017

I’ve been writing about how to put together the perfect pitching staff the last few years, both here and in the Fantasy Baseball Guide. The word “perfect” should be in quotes, this is a high-risk strategy this is going to fail until it works, but the idea is simple.

There are $1 starters and relievers who are out there who can help win you a pennant. But you have no idea who they are. If you did, everyone else would, too, and those $1 (or $3) pitchers would cost $8 or $10. So, you have to get lucky to have the perfect staff. You also have to plan.

Build your perfect staff with:

1 Ace

1 Closer

Lots and lots of cheap starters and closers in waiting. If you play in a league in which strikeouts count, try to buy strikeouts, though that is hard.

In Tout Wars Head 2 Head this year I devised a plan in which I would buy Runs, OBP, and Stolen Bases on the Hitting side, and ERA, WHIP and K/9 on the pitching side. The idea is to win these six categories each week and have a perfect season.

That probably isn’t going to happen. Even with lots of steals and on base guys, I’m sure there will be weeks I play against high powered HR oriented offenses that score more runs. I’m going to lose a few there.

But on the pitching side I put together a staff that could be perfect for my mission. My pitchers are:

strasshawClayton Kershaw
Stephen Strasburg
Rich Hill
Jose De Leon
Carter Capps
Grant Dayton
Kyle Barraclough
Sean Doolittle
Shawn Kelley

with Tyler Glasnow, Corey Knebel, Brett Cecil, Luke Weaver, and Hunter Strickland on reserve.

The goal is to get to the league minimum 900 innings exactly, with as high a K/9 as possible, and with ERA and Ratio falling into place behind.

In the American Dream League, an AL only 4×4 keeper league, which auctions on Sunday, I’m set up to put together a perfect staff a different way. I have as keepers:

Matt Shoemaker 1, Trevor Bauer 1, James Paxton 10, Sean Manaea 10 and Nate Jones 2.

If I’m able to add an ace and a closer I should have a powerhouse staff for less than $75.

The problem is that in a keeper league many of the best pitchers are already gone. Of the top starters, Sale, Darvish and Tanaka are being kept (so is Porcello), which leaves a lot of teams fighting over Kluber, Archer, Verlander, Carrasco, Quintana, and Hamels.

Quintana might be devalued because he’s so likely to be traded. But then he’s worth less because he might be dealt.

This is a league that often bids up top starters, so my path to perfection is not necessarily clear, but there may be a way to get there. I’ll find out Sunday.

ASK ROTOMAN: Can the DJ Save My Life This Year?

Hey Rotoman!

I am new to a 14 team 6×6 roto. With the standard 5×5 categories plus OBP and K/9. I get to take 8 keepers into the next year. I am one of 3 new owners in this league who got to draft from the abandoned teams. I have DJ LeMahieu for $1, I can put him on contract before this year for a new salary of $6 as contracts add $5 every year. I want to know if I should keep him this year only and no contract for $1 or put him on a 2 or 3 year contract. A two year contract would put his last year of his contract at $11. I am worried that he could get moved out of Coors if Brenden Rodgers comes up next year.

Thanks for your help!
Stagesetting

Here’s the piece of information you need. Last year, LeMahieu went for $10 in Tout Wars mixed auction. That was coming off his breakout season. Now that he’s done it again, his price will go up some, but how much? And does it make it worth the risk of extending him?

First we look at his home road splits. He was great at home last year, and pretty good on the road. In 2015, he was fine at home and not quite so good, but not bad on the road either. That makes the trade talk less worrisome for me.

Still, he’s a guy whose main value is his outsized batting average. While he hit for more power last year, it wasn’t that much more. He could grow in that area, but he might not.

So, I wouldn’t extend him for two years, because that raises his cost too close to his draft day price.

I think you could justify not extending him at all, take the one-year benefit of his cheap price, and move on.

But I think extending him one year gets you the best of both worlds. He’s inexpensive at $6, likely to earn a profit, and maybe a nice profit if he can pull off a third straight career year. And if things go sour, as they sometimes do, you’re not on the line for that much.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Ask Rotoman: Take Two and Get Ready for the Season

Dear Rotoman:

Question for you regarding a couple guys in a Rotisserie Keeper league. 

H=OBP, SLG, R, HR, RBI, SB   P=WHIP, ERA, QS, W, K, SV

10 team league, have two more spots to keep guys. Who would you go with?

Wade Davis-19th round

Billy Hamilton-21st round

Byron Buxton-10th

Joc Pederson-14th

Kevin Gausman-21st

Danny Duffy-19th

Javy Baez-18th

Already keeping

Stras, Thor, Bogaerts, C Seager, Sano. All good value.

Thanks, Rich

Dear Rich,

Mansa_MusaYou are Midas, you are Croesus, you are Gates. You are Tut, you are Mansa Musa, you are Mugabe. You are Buffett, you are Goldman, you are Sachs.

Of course, because you can only keep two of the seven you will be taking a hair cut. Let’s see how these guys are going. I look at Tout Wars, because it was recent and I know where it is. It’s a 15 team league, but that doesn’t really make a big difference in the draft order of major league regulars (though it does in the endgame).

Wade Davis (117), Billy Hamilton (86), Byron Buxton (147), Joc Pederson (161), Kevin Gausman (179), Danny Duffy (109), Javier Baez (113).

How many rounds up do you get?

Wade Davis (+8), Billy Hamilton (+13), Byron Buxton (-4), Joc Pederson (+2), Kevin Gausman (+3), Danny Duffy (+9), Javier Baez (+7).

This is pretty clear cut. Billy Hamilton is a great price. And you have to choose between a starter, Duffy, and a reliever, Davis. I think I’d take Duffy, because he’s going earlier and good starters are harder to find than relievers. But if you decide you need a reliever more than a starter at this point, that’s a fair way to go.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Ask Rotoman: Keepers Extreme Vetting

Dear Rotoman:

As for now my fantasy baseball keepers are

Josh Donaldson, Tor 3B K

Francisco Lindor, Cle SS K

Carlos Gonzalez, Col OF K

Jonathan Villar, Mil SS, 3B K

Joey Votto, Cin 1B K

But I also have A.J. Pollock, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Peraza, Jason Hammel, J.A. Happ and Jacob deGrom.

Just wondering if I’ve chosen the best 5 out of my keepers.

“Top Five”

Dear TF:

A quick glance tells me you have the right guys.

Donaldson is a first round pick. Votto a second rounder. Lindor a third round pick. Cargo and Villar are also third round values.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t have options. AJ Pollock is a third rounder probably, so if you decided to go for him over Cargo no one could blame you. I have Cargo ranked a little higher, mostly because Pollock is just coming back from a lost year, his second in the last three, which adds a bit of risk.

Jonathan Villar in Houston, before being traded to the Brewers
Jonathan Villar in Houston, before being traded to the Brewers

More interestingly, while Jonathan Villar is going in the third round, Jose Peraza is going in the ninth. Villar has his spectacular 2016 season under his belt, but Peraza looks to be similar type of player. Until the Brandon Phillips trade it was hard to see where he would get full time at bats, but all of sudden his way is cleared.

Steamer has Jonathan Villar projected to hit .255 with 15 homers and 54 steals. My projection is for .250 with 15 homers and 48 steals. So we’re in the same ballpark certainly.

Steamer has Peraza projected to hit .282 with six homers and 42 steals. My projection is for him to hit .300 with seven homers and 38 steals. So, again, similar, as I suppose we should be. We’re working off similar inputs.

Clearly, unless you value batting average a lot, and you shouldn’t, Villar is the better keep for you, but it is possible to see how in a BA league that Peraza could conceivably outperform Villar this year. That’s not a reason not to keep Villar, but in a league where both are available it is a reason not to reach too much for Villar. If someone else grabs him you can get a somewhat similar player about 50 picks later.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

First Base Fantasy Tiers of a Rotoman

Tiers help us group players who are close enough alike in value so we can better see where the talent lies during our fantasy baseball drafts. They’re also a way to talk about player values without relying on draft dollars amounts, which vary depending on a league’s rules.

I’m going through the positions these days, one by one, looking for places where my rankings and prices can be improved. And I share them in hopes they help you, and that if you see something that you think looks wrong you write it up on that player’s page at pattonandco.com.

Or in the comments here. Thanks.

TOP TIER (The best players in the game)

D-backs_first_baseman_Paul_Goldschmidt_takes_batting_practice_on_Gatorade_All-Star_Workout_Day._(28042717673)Paul Goldschmidt is here because he’s always the most valuable first baseman in fantasy leagues. And always will be forever more, or until he gets older and stops running so much and someone better comes along. That’s what happens. A thirty year old can stop running at any time, almost certainly will stop running sometime soon, especially when he’s hauling around 225 pounds or so and some fair height, as Goldschmidt does. Which is a reason to try to lowball, as it were, on him. He’s dropped out of the Top 4 in draft leagues for that reason, which is not a reason to avoid him. But the quality that gives him extra value, the steals, can’t be counted on this year (though it can still be hoped for).

SECOND TIER (Solid players who in any given year might be the best at their position)

It’s very hard to downgrade Miguel Cabrera to the second tier, but that’s the goon squad calling. He’s a marvelous hitter, arguably the best we’ve ever seen, but he’s at an age where the bat has to start a little sooner, or will in short order, and his hitting smarts can only take him so far to offset that.

Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Jose Abreu, and Freddie Freeman are all professional hitters with great on base skills, decent power and (except for Votto) primetime on their side. Votto is older, for sure, but he also has the most stable skill on the planet: He knows when to swing, or not, more often than not. Which makes him an OBP god, and first tier in leagues that use OBP instead of BA. These guys will all be expensive, because they’re reliable as well as good, and they’re most likely worth it. Um, because they’re reliable.

THIRD TIER (Solid, but not quite as accomplished as the tier above)

Most of these guys are boring, fairly reliable but not immune to the occasional bad year. Once upon a time Eric Hosmer looked like he might have the kind of career Freddie Freeman is having, but Hosmer hasn’t quite reached that height. He’s young enough to still have a big career-year type of season in the next few years.

Hanley Ramirez is coming off a fine season, one that followed a disaster, and another that followed what looked like a down year but turned out to be his cue to descend from the superstar stratosphere. He’s got a good high ceiling, but we know how slippery his floor can be.

Wil Myers has one good season under his belt in his so far disappointing career. Though not if you owned him last year. There’s ample reason to suspect that he’s going to have a hard time repeating that, but if he doesn’t there is good reason to think he’ll slot into this group easily.

Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis, and Carlos Santana are all solid veteran hitters. Gonzalez is getting old, Davis has a whole lot of whiff (and power), and Santana makes more contact than Davis but has a lot less power. I’ve got Brandon Belt in this group, too, though he could easily be in the next one. Injuries have made him unreliable, even if his power is real.

FOURTH TIER (If they’re solid, they’re flawed, if they’re less flawed they’re flaky)

Tommy Joseph is flaky. He was called up, played 101 games last year, and hit for power. As a prospect he was a hit-first catcher whose career as a backstop was derailed by shady defense and too many concussions, which cost him playing and development time. I think he’s going to hit for power and be able to make enough contact to be solid, but there is a decent chance he’s got a hole somewhere in his swing that ML pitchers are going to figure out how to exploit, and that could be a problem. But for right now, he’s the Phillies full-time power-hitting first baseman.

Chris Carter, and Lucas Duda are big guys with lumbering games and some dark clouds in their recent pasts. Solid enough, but not to pay up for. These are guys to settle for if the best first basemen are too expensive. This is assuming that Carter will play regularly, either for the Yankees or someone else this year. As the reigning home run champ he’s be a lock, but see, he’s flawed.

Josh Bell is also somewhat big and lumbering, but he’s young and coming instead of desperately trying to tread water. He showed last summer that he belongs in the major leagues as a hitter, but he is plagued by lack of defensive value, to say the least, and lack of a home run stroke, to hit the nail on the head. He should play this year, he’s a top prospect, and he should produce a fine batting average, but right now he looks a little like James Loney without the good glove. Hard to see how that plays in the long run.

TIER FIVE (Limited expectations from platoonists, the contact challenged, the unknown)

In a 12-team mixed league, these guys don’t get rostered. In a 15-team mixed you hope to get your choice for a buck. But in an AL or NL only league, these guys can be gold, because they don’t cost much and they might earn a profit. In order of slight preference:

Justin Bour, Eric Thames, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, CJ Cron, and Mitch Moreland are professional hitters with successes in their past (though Thames’ were mostly in Korea), who will help in a deep league if they’re not paid too much. And have little chance of a big season, which should motivate you to stay cheap. Cron would be a Tier Four guy, if he wasn’t blocked by Luis Valbuena at first base and Albert Pujols at DH. Napoli had his huge season last year. Thames is intriguing because of the giant numbers he put up in Korea.

TIER SIX (The crummy and the unproven)

Matt Adams, John Jaso, Kennys Vargas, Marwin Gonzalez, Yonder Alonso, Adam Lind, Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Rodriguez, Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds, James Loney, Justin Smoak. These guys are crummy. They occasionally have a good year, as Mark Reynolds did last year, but generally they struggle for playing time, they pop an occasional homer, and then struggle for playing time anew. Even when they’re decent, as Marwin Gonzalez has been the last two seasons, they are always in danger of being replaced, have to scrap for playing time, and may not get it. Sean Rodriguez is out for the season after labrum surgery.

AJ Reed, Greg Bird, Jefry Marte, Dae-ho Lee, Dan Vogelbach. These guys are unproven. Each has a story.

Reed was supposed to break out last year and win a regular job, but was instead superseded by Alex Bregman and struggled in the chance he got. The Astros now have Yulieski Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez at first, as well as Tyler White. I’m still a believer, but at least some of that thinking is magical.

Bird missed all of last year after shoulder surgery, and struggled in the AFL, which is understandable given his rust. The Yankees have now signed Chris Carter, who would seem to slot in ahead of Bird at first this year, probably, and may mean Bird will start the year in Triple-A working to regain his game. He will be a major league regular, eventually, with some chance that he’ll be a contributor this year.

Marte did a good job last season hitting for power in limited at bats, but starts this year behind Yunel Escobar at third base. Even if Escobar were to go down, Luis Valbuena might move across to third from first, and block Marte again. He could conceivable see few at bats, or spend time in the minors, but still, I sense deep sleeper potential here on a bad team that has no reason not to try to develop their future.

Lee is old, and is looking for a job in his second major league season. The Korean import seemed to show excellent platoon power and contact abilities, on the short side, but the Mariners kept finding ways to bench him. He’s here so that we don’t forget him, in case he does sign with a team that really has a need for a good bat against lefties.

Vogelbach is the guy who pushed Lee to the curb in Seattle. He has the terrific ability to draw walks and the corresponding ability to strike out. Alas, he doesn’t have a big power stroke, though some believe that will develop. A good spring could drive his price up, a bad one could knock him from the board.

Names for reserve lists, or guys you might like to move ahead of some listed above are Mark Canha, Tyler Austin, Chris Parmelee. Or not.

You can read about Catchers here.