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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
Pirates 1B/OF Corey Hart to begin rehab assignment Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:14 pm ET) Pirates outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday, the team announced.

Hart was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder impingement on June 24. The team has not announced a clear timetable for Hart's return to the club. 


Padres P Cory Luebke to move rehab assignment to Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:57 pm ET) Padres left-hander Cory Luebke continues to progress from a pair of Tommy John surgeries, and he is moving his rehab assignment to Triple-A El Paso, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Luebke, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012, has made six rehab appearances so far in Class A and Double-A. He has allowed two hits and three runs, and owns a 4.50 ERA.


Could Giants SP Tim Hudson lose spot in rotation?
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) The Giants will activate starting pitchers Matt Cain and Jake Peavy off the disabled list later this week, manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday. 

To clear one spot in the rotation, Tim Lincecum will go on the disabled list. However, it is not certain what the other move will be to clear the second spot in the rotation.

Bochy wouldn't say what will happen to veteran starting pitcher Tim Hudson, but he said the team will not use a six-man rotation.

Hudson is 5-7 with a 4.68 ERA through 15 starts.


Giants will place Tim Lincecum on 15-day DL on Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:51 pm ET) Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (forearm) will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday to create a roster spot for Matt Cain, who is coming off the disabled list to start against the Marlins on Thursday, manager Bruce Bochy said.

Orioles INF Jonathan Schoop taking rehab to Class A on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:51 pm ET) After working out with the team in Baltimore, Orioles infielder Jonathan Schoop will head to Class A Frederick later on Thursday to continue his rehab assignment. Schoop has been on the shelf since mid-April with a sprained knee, and will not join the Orioles on their upcoming trip to Chicago, according to MASNSports.com.

The Orioles will need to decide Schoop's fate in short order, as the clock on his rehab assignment runs out on Friday.

"Obviously, he can be optioned. There are a lot of things there for us," said manager Buck Showalter.

Schoop was batting .259 (7 for 27) with three home runs before is injury. 


Giants' Hunter Pence making progress from wrist injury
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence will begin swinging a bat Tuesday, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Pence will initially swing a fungo bat off a tee before taking live batting practice. He has been sidelined since June 2 with a wrist injury.


Giants' Bochy confirms Cain starting Thursday, Peavy starting Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:47 pm ET) Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed Tuesday starting pitcher Matt Cain (forearm) will return from the disabled list Thursday at Miami. One day later, Jake Peavy (back) will come off the disabled list to start Friday against the Nationals.

Astros P Scott Feldman (knee) could get rehab start Saturday
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Astros pitcher Scott Feldman's rehab assignment is likely to begin this Saturday, according to the Houston Chronicle

Before Feldman gets the go-ahead for his rehab assignment he will throw a bullpen. Once he's on assignment, it will be a matter of building up his innings pitched. Feldman has been on the disabled list with a torn meniscus in his right knee. 

This season, Feldman has a 4.80 ERA. 


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman goes through full workout Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (foot) went through a full workout Tuesday, which included fielding grounds, hitting and light running.

He will do the same thing Wednesday. If all goes well, then the next step will be a rehab assignment.


Nationals' Anthony Rendon (quad) takes batting practice Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:41 pm ET) Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon took batting practice on Tuesday, the first time he has done such since landing on the disabled list with quad injury on Friday. Rendon already missed the first two months of the season with knee and oblique injuries.

He has not started running yet, but he can participate in baseball activities, according to MASNSports.com.


 
 
 
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