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2013 Draft Prep: Al Melchior's Head-to-Head strategies

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More Head-to-Head strategies: Scott White | Nando Di Fino

Head-to-Head leagues don't have the tradition or the purist appeal of Rotisserie. What it does have is the thrill of actual, you know, head-to-head competition on a weekly basis.

Not only does the format offer a chance to create and build rivalries with each scoring period, but as in real baseball, all kinds of player contributions count. Doubles, triples, walks, innings pitched ... these things matter in the real game and they matter in Head-to-Head. So if realism is what you want, Head-to-Head gets you closer to it than Rotisserie.

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The broader array of categories that goes into standard Head-to-Head point totals creates very different markets for players than standard Rotisserie drafts and auctions do. Doubles hitter Alex Gordon may not have the home run clout of Adam Jones or Jay Bruce, but he could actually be more valuable than either of them as long as he continues to hit 45 or more two-baggers per year. Similarly, Martin Prado is a top 10 third baseman in Head-to-Head due to his stinginess with strikeouts, but that skill doesn't take him nearly as far in Rotisserie leagues.

The 16-player roster, as compared to the 23-player version found in Rotisserie, also impacts players' values. For example, with three outfield spots to fill instead of five, there is less urgency to the get that position filled. However, the same logic does not apply to catchers, even though there is only one spot for them instead of two (more on this below).

For those more familiar with Rotisserie, the world of Head-to-Head may seem bewildering, but a few simple rules of thumb will help you to navigate the myriad of scoring categories and scaled-down rosters. The adjustment may seem awkward at first, and life without MI and CI spots will feel strange and unfamiliar, but you'll gain the satisfaction of having a chance to emerge the victor of a one-on-one battle week after week.

1. Look for innings eaters

In any Fantasy format, there is a benefit to drafting pitchers who tend to work deep into games. After all, a high innings count is indicative of avoiding crooked innings and pitching effectively on regular basis. In Head-to-Head, the knack for piling up innings takes a pitcher even further. For example, Bronson Arroyo put up a nice 1.21 WHIP last season, but with otherwise underwhelming numbers, he was no one's idea of a Rotisserie stud. Because he avoids walks and pitches to contact, Arroyo has been one of the majors' more efficient hurlers in recent years. The lack of strikeouts and mediocre ERAs may make him an afterthought for many Fantasy owners, but Arroyo's ability to consistently deliver 200-plus innings makes him viable in Head-to-Head. Tim Hudson, Ervin Santana, Mark Buehrle, Wandy Rodriguez, Hiroki Kuroda and Jason Vargas also deserve extra consideration in this format, as each has placed among the top 25 pitchers in numbers of starts equalling or exceeding six innings over the last three seasons.

In deeper Head-to-Head formats, the strategy of identifying pitchers who provide high innings totals works for relievers as well. Can't find a reliever who has even a remote chance at getting saves? Try for a middle or long reliever with a track record of 75-plus inning seasons. Durable types like Matt Belisle, Alfredo Aceves and Craig Stammen are rare among relievers, and those of their ilk are worth rostering in deep leagues as long as their other stats are reasonably good.

2. Find pitching sleepers by using unorthodox stats

A by-product of Head-to-Head's emphasis on innings is that pitchers can reward their owners by getting outs through means other than the strikeout. The K is still the most productive way for a pitcher to record an out for Head-to-Head owners, but having a special knack for avoiding baserunners in other ways can also enhance a pitcher's value. Pitchers like Jered Weaver and Mike Minor, who have had success in getting popouts at a high rate, can give Head-to-Head owners a little extra value. The same is true for pitchers who are able to get outs on balls in play at a higher rate due to the quality of their team's defense. The Nationals sport some solid gloves in their infield, and while that should benefit their whole staff, sinkerballer Ross Detwiler should get an especially pronounced boost. With the additions of Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs, the Indians upgraded their outfield defense, and that can only help their starting pitchers -- and Ubaldo Jimenez (38 percent flyball rate in 2012) and Zach McAllister (39 percent) in particular -- in Head-to-Head.

3. Get to know ISO

Just as batted ball rates and defensive metrics have their place in identifying pitching sleepers, Isolated Power is a stat that goes a long way in finding hidden gems among hitters. Also known as ISO, the stat measures the rate at which a hitter gets extra bases per at-bat. You can use the formula SLG-AVG to calculate it, and because it treats all extra bases the same, it's a way to spotlight players with extra-base power, regardless of whether it's skewed toward home runs, triples or doubles. Owners accustomed to equating power with homers may view Shin-Soo Choo as being miles ahead of Angel Pagan in terms of value, but last season Choo (.159 ISO) was only marginally better than Pagan (.152) at accruing extra bases. ISO appreciates Pagan's triples power and helps to present a clearer reflection of the two players' relative value in Head-to-Head. Ben Zobrist, Alex Rios, Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino are among the hitters who have registered an ISO greater than .165 over the last three seasons but hit no more than 60 home runs over at least 1,500 at-bats. While they shouldn't be mistaken for major power sources, the reliance that each has placed on doubles and/or triples to create power may still leave them underrated in some Head-to-Head leagues.

4. Make catcher a bigger priority

With the possible exception of Buster Posey, even the best catchers in Fantasy come loaded with risk and question marks. There still is good reason to target Posey, Carlos Santana or Joe Mauer within the early rounds, but if you miss out on them, don't wait too long to fill your one-and-only catcher spot. At least in Rotisserie, if you wait to draft your first catcher, you can balance out the value you lose by passing over the catching elite by getting a high-end No. 2 catcher. In standard Head-to-Head leagues, you don't have that luxury, so if you wait too long, your options will come down to someone like Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Doumit or Alex Avila. Those are fine alternatives in Rotisserie, but each could represent a loss of more than 100 Fantasy points as compared to the Big Three, and that gap could be hard to make up at other positions.

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

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Player News
Angels pitcher Huston Street surrenders four runs in outing Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) Angels pitcher Huston Street gave up four runs on three hits, including two home runs, in just one inning of work Tuesday against the Athletics.

Street, who is hoping to finish a contract extension before the start of the season next week, pushed his ERA to 8.10 in seven appearances this spring.


Athletics' Coco Crisp feels soreness in elbow Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp felt some soreness in his injured elbow while taking swings Tuesday, Comcast SportsNet California reports.

Crisp was playing in an intrasquad game Tuesday after missing time with the elbow injury, and he appears likely to be shut down again to give the elbow time to heal. Crisp is a candidate to open the season on the disabled list.


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson gives up six runs vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:00 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Chase Anderson allowed six earned runs on 11 hits and one walk in four innings while striking out in his final Cactus League start in Tuesday's 8-7 win over the Rangers.

Anderson had put together a nice spring coming into Tuesday's start but fell flat, watching his Cactus League ERA jump from 1.84 to 4.34. He has posted an 11:5 K:BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings this spring. Anderson was recently named to the starting rotation, and his schedule lines him up to make his regular-season debut April 10 against the Dodgers.


Athletics pitcher Barry Zito touched for seven runs in outing Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:59 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Barry Zito gave up seven runs on eight hits, including three home runs, over four innings in his final spring training start Tuesday against the Angels.

Zito added two strikeouts and one walk to his totals. He finishes spring training with a 5.03 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings over six appearances.


Cubs' Maddon: Injured Chris Denorfia down to last day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Cubs outfielder Chris Denorfia took batting practice on Tuesday, but he still hasn't been cleared to play. 

Denorfia has not played since March 17, due to a hamstring injury, and time is running out. 

"Opening Day is still in jeopardy," manager Joe Maddon said, per MLB.com. "You have to figure that out when you fill out the roster, too."

"We have to get some real clarity by [Wednesday]," Maddon said.


Rangers' Nick Martinez struggles in final spring outing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez gave up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two and serving up two home runs in his team's 8-7 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Martinez was making his final start of the Cactus League season after winning the fifth spot in the rotation. He made it through just one scoreless inning Tuesday, and his ERA jumped from 0.84 to 4.20 over the course of one afternoon. Martinez will likely be on the mound for the team's home opener on April 10 against the Astros.


Rangers' Gallo, Alfaro, Manzara to start season in Double-A
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:54 pm ET) Rangers prospects Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara will open the season with Double-A Frisco, reports MLB.com. 

Gallo, who was the team's first-round draft pick in 2012, hit .250 in 15 games this spring with two home runs and six RBI. Alfaro hit .313 with four RBI in 16 plate appearances while Mazara hit .286 in seven at-bats.


Joey Terdoslavich hopes to return to Braves lineup Wednesday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) Joey Terdoslavich took batting practice on Tuesday and hopes to return to the field Wednesday, after missing 10 days with a wrist injury. 

Terdoslavich sprained his left wrist while diving to make a tag on March 21. 

"It’s just weird the way it happened, just kind of a freak thing," Terdoslavich said, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "But a wrist and hand with a hitter is just like a pitcher with a (sore) elbow or shoulder. You don’t want to have it linger all year."

Terdoslavich is hitting .278 this spring. He's competing with Kelly Johnson for a bench spot on the Braves' roster. 


Giants add Justin Maxwell to 40-man roster, DFA Gary Brown
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:37 pm ET) The Giants announced Tuesday that outfielder Justin Maxwell has been added to the team's 40-man roster while outfielder Gary Brown has been designated for assignment.

The Giants had plenty of time to look at Maxwell in camp, and he delivered a .317/.359/.517 line with two home runs, 11 RBI and two stolen bases in 60 at-bats before going 3 for 3 at the plate with three RBI Tuesday.

Brown hit .154/.250/.256 in 39 spring at-bats.


Brandon Moss hits fourth spring homer for Indians
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Indians outfielder Brandon Moss hit his fourth home run of the spring on Tuesday, hitting a two-run shot off Felix Hernandez. 

Moss went two for three with three RBI. The performance raised his spring average to .297. He has eight RBI on the spring.  


 
 
 
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