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2013 Draft Prep: Al Melchior's Roto strategies

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More Rotisserie strategies: Scott White | Nando Di Fino

Rotisserie leagues have their own flavor, and with the focus on a limited number of categories, certain stats take on added importance. Home runs, stolen bases and pitcher strikeouts, for example, have just a little more weight.

What implications does this have for a draft strategy? While having (in most formats) a relatively small set of categories may simplify the process of ranking and evaluating players, some aspects of this style of play are not as simple as they may seem on the surface.

Here are four guidelines that can smooth your way through a Rotisserie draft. While every draft is unique, these principles are aimed at helping you to find the best value for your roster, regardless of the size and rules of your league.

1. Target closers-in-waiting

In standard 12-team leagues, nearly every owner should be able to get two reliable closers, but getting a third productive reliever could really put your team ahead of the curve. However, the bottom of the closer barrel doesn't offer the most appetizing options. Whether you're in this situation or you're an owner in a deeper league just trying to get a decent second reliever, your best alternative is probably to target a pitcher who hasn't yet been annointed as a closer. Recall that three of last season's best closers -- Fernando Rodney, Aroldis Chapman and Rafael Soriano -- did not enter the regular season as their team's ninth-inning specialist. Several of this season's opening day closers are likely to lose their roles due to injuries or ineffectiveness, and that opens the door for a "closer-in-waiting" to emerge from the setup ranks. Not only does it pay to identify teams with shaky closer situations, but to find the relievers on those teams who post closer-like ERAs, WHIPs and strikeout rates. (Paging Kenley Jansen, Ernesto Frieri and Joaquin Benoit ...)

2. Power/speed threats come at a premium

Potentially Exclusive Company
Projected to Reach or Come Near 20/20
HR SB
Mike Trout, OF, Angels 31 45
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers 23 35
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox 17 34
B.J. Upton, OF, Braves 22 32
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers 38 29
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers 35 27
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers 24 27
Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals 22 26
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies 20 26
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians 17 26
Andrew McCuthen, OF, Pirates 28 24
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves 30 22
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies 28 22
Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals 26 22
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox 18 22
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals 17 22
Alex Rios, OF, White Sox 21 21
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals 20 21
Justin Ruggiano, OF, Marlins 17 20
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics 27 19
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers 23 19
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners 23 18
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals 21 18
Justin Upton, OF, Braves 26 17
Ben Zobrist, OF, Rays 21 18

After declining in four of the last five seasons, home runs made a comeback in 2012, as major leaguers swatted a total of 4,934 of them, up from 4,552 a year before. They also maintained most of the spike in stolen bases they created in 2011, but these trends didn't generate an explosion of speed/power threats for Fantasy. Only 10 players made the 20/20 club in 2012, as compared with 12 from the prior season. In other words, despite the recent uptick in homers and steals, there are still just a handful of players who can be counted on to make a sizeable impact in both categories. We are currently projecting 14 players with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the 2013 season, and on Draft Day, owners should keep an eye on the remaining members of this list as the draft progresses. Players like Carlos Gomez and Danny Espinosa may just be middle-round options due to their questionable ability to help with batting average, but both are worth keeping in your draft queue because of their unique speed/power combination. Also, bear in mind that if you plan on targeting spots on your roster for these players, you will most likely be using outfield, second base or shortstop slots on them.

3. Don't chase wins

It's true that pitchers on teams that win tend to do better in the Wins category than their counterparts on losing teams. That doesn't mean that it's a good idea to target pitchers based on which uniform they wear or their history in the category. For one thing, it's not always easy to tell which teams will be "good," as the Orioles, Athletics and Red Sox showed last year. Also, a team can lack wins due to the quality of their pitchers (and not the other way around), and as we saw with R.A. Dickey, A.J. Burnett and Jason Vargas last season, an able pitcher can post a good record on a team that doesn't score many runs. Then there are always the hard-luck losers, like Cliff Lee and Jeremy Hellickson in 2012, who suffer from unexpectedly poor run support and are saddled with losing records despite low ERAs. Owners are best off to draft pitchers who do well in the other categories, and typically, the wins will follow. Then you won't make the mistake of drafting someone like Tim Hudson (16 wins in 2012, current 223 ADP) or Matt Harrison (18 wins, 237 ADP) a couple of rounds earlier than you need to.

4. Strikeouts for hitters may be more relevant than you think

While standard Rotisserie formats don't include strikeouts as a category for hitters, that doesn't mean that strikeout trends are something that Roto owners can ignore. Of course, an increase in strikeouts puts a hitter at risk of losing points on his batting average (unless he manages to get more hits on balls in play), and you can't hit for extra-base power when you don't make contact with the ball. Last season, Kendrys Morales provided an example of the domino effect of a surging strikeout rate. Though he experienced only minor decreases in his flyball and home run per flyball rates, Morales' at-bat per home run ratio increased from 17.5 in his injury-shortened 2010 campaign (his most recent season) to 22.0 in 2012. He also lost 17 points on his batting average, and his RBI and runs scored per at-bat dropped precipitously, and all of this can be linked -- either directly or indirectly -- to Morales' strikeout rate jumping by nearly 50 percent. Owners in standard and shallow leagues may not be that concerned about a middle-round option like Morales, but high-end batters like Josh Hamilton and Curtis Granderson, whose strikeout rates are trending in the wrong direction, come with risks that all Rotisserie owners should note.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send us an email us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Orioles' Showalter indicates Gonzalez might be ready for 200 innings
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Orioles manager Buck Showalter said starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is in good shape at the start of spring training, per MASNsports.com.

"I don't know if you all tapped on him, but he's like a rock," Showalter said. "He's got a goal of pitching 200 innings this year because that's been the one kind of bugaboo on him. Miggy's not the type of guy to talk about this, but his whole offseason he spent a lot of time with (vice president of baseball operations) Brady (Anderson). I hit him the other day and it was like hitting a rock. His body fat is actually down and his weight's up.

"The wear and tear, he's always had a couple spots where he's needed a DL period or miss a start. He's very upfront. If you know Miggy's personality, it's not like he's shirking a responsibility. If we can stay away from that, he could go to another level physically. He's done everything he can to be there for us every fifth day.

"He was pretty good last year, but the one thing he's missing is that durability."


Orioles P Bud Norris gunning for 200 innings in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris has set a goal of pitching 200 innings for the first time in his career, according to MLB.com. 

Monday marked Norris' 30th birthday and he's yet to reach that benchmark in his career. A year ago, Norris notched 165 1/3 innings a year ago. 

"I felt I was in the best shape of my life last year, and I can say the same thing this year," Norris said. "I feel a little bit better, actually. Going out there consistently every five days and putting up innings is really what it's all about."


White Sox P Nate Jones still progressing through Tommy John rehab
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:50 pm ET) Still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, White Sox pitcher Nate Jones is now throwing from 120 feet on flat ground, according to ESPN Chicago. 

Jones had Tommy John surgery last summer and has taken a patient approach to the rehab process. He won't be able to throw a bullpen session, though, until he begins to throw from 150 feet away. 

Likely to stay in extended spring training through May, Jones is taking his continued recovery day by day. 

“You get out of it what you put into it so boom, from the first day I’ve been getting after it for that day and just making sure I get through that day healthy and check it off and move to the next,” Jones said. “[But] you can’t get going too quickly, that’s when problems start. You have to let the biology of the healing of the body take over when you’re going through this rehab. They talked about that too, just stay the course and not get too far ahead of myself.” 


Big Papi working at 1B in prep for season-opening series in NL park
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:50 pm ET) Red Sox DH David Ortiz is working at first base early in spring training in an effort to be prepared for the season-opening series at Philadelphia.

“We don’t want to not cover that and limit his availability to us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said, per the Boston Herald. “So three games in Philly in the National League, there’s going to be some time at first base.”

Ortiz, who usually plays less than 10 games per season at first base, hasn't made an error since 2009.

“It's something I'm not really thinking about right now,” Ortiz said. “All I'm worrying about now is timing and hitting. First base is something I do occasionally. Mike Napoli's our first baseman. We all know he's getting ready to play first base. Me in my case, it's just a few times. The basic thing that I do when I play first base, everyone knows, that's why you see me out there a few days doing drills but it's nothing we have to worry about.”


Twins' Molitor receiving good reports on Miguel Sano
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:42 pm ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor hasn't watched much batting practice thus far in spring training, but he keeps hearing good reports about prospect Miguel Sano, per the Pioneer Press.

“I just keep hearing how far balls are going,” Molitor said after Monday’s workout. “It’s fun for people to see. I hope he’s working on his whole game.

“He’s a young kid. But he’s doing fine. It’s good to see him healthy. He hasn’t had any issues with that (surgically repaired) elbow, and that’s what we’re trying to make sure we protect against as spring unfolds.”

While Molitor is pleased with how Sano is doing offensively, he really wants to see how Sano is progressing in the field.

“I was working today on the bunt defenses; he’s trying,” Molitor said. “There are things that are going to be a challenge for him. We’ve got to keep an eye on him. He’s a big boy. He carries it pretty well, but you’ve got to have some athleticism. He’s got to keep that … if he wants to play a corner-infield position in the big leagues, especially third base.”


Phillies' Ben Revere learning to bunt for base hits
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:38 pm ET) Phillies outfielder and leadoff hitter Ben Revere has been practicing bunting for base hits, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Manager Ryne Sandberg said the goal is for Revere to notch 10-to-15 base hits from bunts this upcoming season. A year ago, Revere posted a career-best .306 batting average. Both Revere and Sandberg are hoping if this skill develops that his numbers can increase even more. 

"Just having that is going to put more pressure on the defense," Revere said. "Are we going to come up or are we going to stay back? Because I can slap a line drive right by them that could be for a base hit or a double. The infield won't know what to do."


Kang doesn't see big difference between MLB and KBO pitchers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:32 pm ET) Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang played three innings at shortstop during Monday's intrasquad game, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He got a putout assist on his one fielding chance and grounded out in his lone plate appearance.

“Step by step, I'm still getting used to it,” Kang said through translator H.K. Kim. “I'm having fun. It'll get better as the spring goes on.”

Kang added he did not see "a big difference" between the pitchers he's hit against in camp compared to those he played against in the Korea Baseball Organization.


Mariners P Jordan Pries impresses manager Lloyd McClendon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:22 pm ET) Though Mariners pitcher Jordan Pries isn't expected to break with the club out of camp, manager Lloyd McClendon had some positive things to say about his start to spring training

“I’ve been impressed,” McClendon said, via The News Tribune. “He’s been a strike-thrower. He shows a lot of poise. I’m excited about him being at the Triple-A level.”

Pries is expected to head to Triple-A Tacoma when spring training is over. In the minors a year ago, Pries went 9-8 and posted a 4.06 ERA.




Mets' Warthen: Matt Harvey could have pitched at end of last year
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:22 pm ET) Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen admitted Monday starting pitcher Matt Harvey could have returned from Tommy John surgery last season, per NJ.com. But the team kept him out all year because there was no point in activating him off the disabled list late in the year.

"I thought that he could have even pitched at the end of last year and I think that Matt thought he was ready," Warthen said. "I think that we made the right decision. It would have done us no good but he was ready to pitch then."

Harvey, who had Tommy John surgery in Oct. 2013, will make his spring debut Friday against the Tigers. He is slated to throw 35-40 pitches.

"That's the best possible time to a little bit longer," Warthen said of a 17 1/2-month timeframe for a return from Tommy John surgery. "And that has to draw into it as well because the guys that have waited for 17 and a half months have been able to go 200 innings and not been hurt the next year and go 200 the next year and the next year and the next year. So that was part of our thinking. And also, we weren't going anywhere. We weren't going to win anything. Don't take a chance."


Mariners P Hisashi Iwakuma hits OF Gabriel Guerrero in batting practice
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:16 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma was forced to throw a modified batting practice since rain canceled a scheduled intrasquad scrimmage. Iwakuma got his work in by throwing to batters that were not allowed to swing since they were in a confined area.

However, Iwakuma didn't live up to his end of the bargain as he accidentally hit outfielder Gabriel Guerrero with a pitch during the session

“It was a split-finger [fastball] that just kind of slipped out of my finger,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki, via The News Tribune. “I felt kind of bad for [Guerrero].”

Iwakuma's first scheduled start of spring training is slated for this Saturday against the Diamondbacks. 


 
 
 
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