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2013 Draft Prep: Luck indicator targets to pursue or avoid

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When a young player takes a huge step forward, we call it a breakout, and when an older veteran takes a nosedive, we call it decline. Sometimes, though, a player experiences a notable change in production for no discernable reason. That presents a challenge for Fantasy owners trying to make sense of that player's value for the following season.

A certain portion of a player's stat line is the result of random fluctuations -- just simple luck. Some stats are more prone to random shifts than others, and when those shifts are large, they can be indications of a coming regression. For batters, batting average on balls in play (BABIP) can be used as an indicator of luck, and to a lesser extent, changes in home run-to-flyball ratio (HR/FB) can be a sign of good or bad fortune. For pitchers, BABIP is also a good luck indicator, as is strand rate.

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Understanding luck indicators can be a help on Draft Day, steering you away from players due to for a fall and towards players poised to surge. For example, a year ago, Hunter Pence was 13th among outfielders with an average draft position (ADP) of 59 in mixed Rotisserie leagues, but his 2011 BABIP of .365 looked too good to be true, especially since his rates usually hovered just above .300. Pence failed to deliver on the value of his ADP, winding up as the 59th most productive outfielder. Conversely, a .239 BABIP in 2011 left Alex Rios as the 58th most-popular outfielder (231 ADP) in Roto, yet he finished as the fifth-most productive player at the position in 2012.

While these are extreme examples, BABIP rates and other luck indicators can be useful tools for judging a player's true value for the coming year when they were out of line with career or major league norms during the previous season. Even if your drafts for this year are over, you can use luck indicators to your advantage to trade away over-valued players or acquire under-valued ones. Below are 10 players who are currently being over- or under-valued because many owners are ignoring the impact that luck had on their 2012 seasons. I've omitted players (e.g., A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Wainwright) whose unexpected 2012 performances are already being discounted by Fantasy owners. The 10 featured here could genuinely surprise Fantasy owners, though those aware of their luck indicators can get a step ahead of the coming regression.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates

Impact of luck in 2012: McCutchen posted a .379 BABIP, thanks to an other-worldly .348 batting average on grounders. McCutchen did not make progress as a contact hitter, and jumping from 23 home runs in 2011 to 31 last year does not account for his career-high .327 batting average.

Forecast for 2013: McCutchen's average may not crack .290, and at that level, he doesn't warrant being drafted among the top five outfielders in Rotisserie, though he is currently fourth in ADP. He is not making it to the second round in many 12-team leagues, but let another owner reach for him in the first round.

Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks

Impact of luck in 2012: Montero's longer plate appearances resulted in more walks but also more strikeouts. Those got masked by a .364 BABIP that left his batting average at .286, even though he struck out 33 more times in seven fewer at-bats.

Forecast for 2013: Montero is at risk of losing 20 points or more off his batting average, leading him to be drafted at least two rounds too early (current 145 ADP) in Rotisserie leagues.

Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners

Impact of luck in 2012: As a rookie, Ackley overachieved with a .343 BABIP, but last season's regression to a .265 mark from last season was overkill. His .050 BABIP on flyballs in particular is sure to improve.

Forecast for 2013: Because Ackley got shortchanged on flyballs, he should not only be able to raise his overall batting average, but also provide a big boost to his doubles and triples totals. Last season's bad luck on balls in play could be a factor in Ackley being drafted too late in both Roto (197 ADP) and Head-to-Head (174 ADP).

Drew Stubbs, OF, Indians

Impact of luck in 2012: As Stubbs has become more of a ground ball hitter over the last two seasons, he has lost value to be sure, but he's better than a .213 hitter. His 30 stolen bases show that he didn't become slow, yet his batting average on grounders fell by 80 points, from .327 to .247.

Forecast for 2013: Stubbs may only rebound into the .230s, but that should be enough to make him a viable late-rounder in Rotisserie leagues, due to his potential for a fourth-straight 30-plus steals season. He has been largely overlooked outside of deeper leagues up to this point.

B.J. Upton, OF, Braves

Impact of luck in 2012: Upton increased his HR/FB ratio for the third straight season, raising it from 12 to 16 percent, but he needed a red-hot month-and-a-half at the end of the season to do that. Given how dependent he was on a hot streak to boost his numbers, Upton's outsized power gains look more than a little suspicious.

Forecast for 2013: Especially with Upton settling into the peak phase of his career, it's more plausible that he will finish with a home run total in the low 20s, rather than build on his late 2012 "breakout." His propensity for strikeouts may be causing Head-to-Head owners to put the brakes on drafting him, but Upton is going far too early (79 ADP) in Roto leagues.

Mark Reynolds, 1B, Indians

Impact of luck in 2012: Over the previous three seasons, Reynolds had launched roughly 20 percent of his flyballs for home runs, but last year that ratio dropped to 16 percent. He hit for his typical power in the second half, which further suggests that Reynolds' HR/FB dip was the artifact of a protracted slump and not a long-term decline in his power skills.

Forecast for 2013: With his move to Cleveland, Reynolds traded in a good hitting environment in Baltimore for a stadium that is tough on righties. Then again, he hasn't relied on gaudy home splits, either as an Oriole or as a Diamondback, to put up big power numbers. With his HR/FB due to rebound, Reynolds should be a 30-homer threat yet again, but he's not being drafted like one.

Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees

Impact of luck in 2012: Nova didn't do himself any favors last season in posting a nondescript 46 percent ground ball rate, but that alone shouldn't have resulted in him allowing 28 home runs over 170 1/3 innings. Former teammate A.J. Burnett was notorious for his troubles with the long ball when he was a Yankee, but even he typically posted HR/FB ratios lower than Nova's 14 percent from last year. Nova also posted a .337 BABIP which is highly likely to shrink this season.

Forecast for 2013: Nova may correct his problems by reverting to a higher ground ball rate, but even if he doesn't, he should be able to do a better job of limiting homers and hits in general and lowering his ERA and WHIP. While Nova will have to fend off David Phelps for the fifth starter's job once Phil Hughes (back) returns from the disabled list, he is worth a flyer as one of the top 100 starting pitchers -- a distinction he does not currently own in Rotisserie drafts.

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Mike Minor, SP, Braves

Impact of luck in 2012: As a flyball pitcher, owners can expect Minor to record a lower-than-average BABIP, but his .260 mark from last year was too far from the majors' .297 norm to be credible. A 1.15 WHIP that resulted from that low hit rate allowed Minor to finish among the top 50 starting pitchers in Rotisserie last season.

Forecast for 2013: This year, Minor is clocking in as a top 40 starting pitcher in mixed Rotisserie drafts, but with some WHIP regression likely in his future, he could frustrate owners looking for a repeat of or improvement over last season.

Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals

Impact of luck in 2012: There is no question that Zimmermann has great control and is highly efficient, and owners can trust his back-to-back sub-1.20 WHIPs. However, his 2.94 ERA was far lower than his 3.87 xFIP suggests it should have been. A 78 percent strand rate was at the heart of the discrepancy, and not many pitchers can replicate a rate that high in consecutive seasons.

Forecast for 2013: Owners may expect Zimmermann to have a third straight season with an ERA close to 3.00, but he may not benefit from an unusually-low HR/FB ratio like he had in 2011 or a low strand rate like he had last year. Look for Zimmermann to finish with a mid-3.00s ERA to go along with a low WHIP.

Scott Feldman, SP, Cubs

Impact of luck in 2012: Feldman has always had problems with stranding baserunners, but last season's 64 percent rate with the Rangers was low, even for him. He posted a career-high 7.0 K/9 rate while walking only 2.3 batters per nine innings, but his reward was a 5.09 ERA.

Forecast for 2013: Because of the lack of upside for strikeouts, Feldman is not a solid option for standard mixed leagues, but in deeper mixed leagues, he deserves more consideration. He has been hit hard this spring, which will further depress his value, but Feldman is worth a late-round pickup in deeper formats, as he could put up a better ERA and WHIP than his recent track record would indicate.

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 e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:26 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


Report: MLB split on whether Josh Hamilton should go to rehab
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:24 pm ET) Major League Baseball is split over whether Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton should go to rehab, according to the Los Angeles Times

The four person panel assigned to Hamilton's case are deadlocked, and the group will have to bring in an arbitrator in order to break the tie. The panel first must decide whether Hamilton violated any rules, and then must agree on a course of treatment. The panel has not been able to agree on the latter of those conditions, which is why an arbitrator is necessary. 

If Hamilton is sent to rehab, he would receive his full salary for 30 days, and then half his salary over the next 30 days. If he's suspended, but does not have to attend rehab, Hamilton would not be paid during the suspension. 

MLB is also trying to determine whether Hamilton should be charged as a fourth-time offender of the drug policy. If that's the case, Hamilton could be suspended for the entire season.

Hamilton, 33, admitted to MLB that he experienced a relapse a few months ago, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Hamilton has dealt with drug and alcohol issues throughout his career, and was suspended for three seasons after failing drug tests as a minor-leaguer. He met with officials in New York in February regarding the incident. 


Mets' Curtis Granderson re-working his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:06 pm ET) Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson is re-working his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long, according to the New York Post

Granderson and Long have a history. The two worked together with the Yankees. Long rebuilt Granderson's swing, turning him into a massive home run hitter from 2011 to 2012. Now, they are looking to repeat the process.

"This is actually very similar to the first time we started making adjustments," Granderson said. "The idea is we want to get to the strongest position as consistently as possible with as little movement as possible."

Long went into detail, saying he's trying to get Granderson to "preset" his hands. "Get him in the perfect hitting position so the hands are ready to fire and he can go as efficiently as possible from point A to point B," Long said.

Granderson said everything is "still a work in progress," but he feels like Long's drills are getting through to him.

The 33-year-old Granderson hit .227/.326/.388 over 564 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Yunel Escobar ahead of schedule in position transition
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:02 pm ET) Nationals infielder Yunel Escobar was informed when he was traded from the Athletics he was switching from shortstop to second base for this season. Escobar has put in extra work to get himself ready for live action this spring at second, the position he's played since 2007, reports MLB.com.

"He is a big man and has real light feet. He is very bouncy, live body," defensive coordinator and advance coach Mark Weidemaier said. "He has taken to the footwork well, as far as turning double plays. There are things we have to polish a little bit, but he is way ahead of the game for me. He has taken to it like a duck to water. It's very natural to him."

Manager Matt Williams is planning to start Escobar at second Thursday.

"He is going to play. He needs to play games and get game experience and get back in the flow of [being on] the other side of the diamond," Williams said. "He is ready to go, I know that."


Athletics' Marcus Semien stays hot on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:54 pm ET) Athletics infielder Marcus Semien cannot be stopped this spring.

After going 3 for 3 with two home runs on Tuesday, Semien again reached in all his plate appearances on Wednesday. He wasted no time getting to work, singling in two runs in the first inning. Semien would walk in his next appearance before driving in another run on a single in his final at-bat. 

Semien, who has yet to make an out this spring, downplayed his success, saying "I'm just getting good pitches to hit right now." The 24-year-old hit .234/.300/.372 over 231 at-bats last season. 


Rockies pitcher Brooks Brown set to make spring debut Thursday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:54 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Brooks Brown is considered one of Colorado's top options this season. What has many people excited is the velocity Brown has on his fastball. But what he wants to work on the most this spring, and the pitch that kept hitters on their toes, is his changeup.

"The more success I was having with it, the more aggressiveness I had with it," said Brown. "It was a pitch I'd always had, but by the All-Star break last year, I found I could throw it to right-handed and left-handed hitters. It became a put-away pitch."

Rockies pitching coach Darren Holmes thinks his changeup should be considered as good as his fastball.

"Brooks came up last year and did a great job," Rockies bullpen coach Darren Holmes said. "When you look at guys that don't throw as hard, for me, my good secondary pitch is a changeup. That's a complete equalizer, I don't care if you throw 85 or you throw 105."


Yankees' Andrew Miller 'happy' with scoreless inning Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:53 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Andrew Miller made his Grapefruit League debut wednesday, giving up one hit in a scoreless inning against the Phillies while striking out two.

"I'm really happy with the way I was throwing the ball," Miller said after the outing, per MLB.com. "I'm not too concerned with things right now. It could have been absolutely horrendous and there's nothing to worry about. It's just going out there and getting it going. I felt my breaking ball was really good, so it's always nice to come back and realize it's still there after the offseason."

Miller signed a four-year, $36-million deal with the Yankees this offseason after going 5-5 with a 2.02 ERA and 103:17 K:BB ratio in 62 1/3 innings.


Rockies pitcher Jon Gray throws two scoreless innings Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:48 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Jon Gray was able to work two scoreless innings in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks. The prospect was able to get something to work off of as well: a strikeout on slugger Paul Goldschmidt.

Gray burned a 97 mph fastball past the power hitter and felt great afterward.

"I was saving that one for him," Gray said. "I knew I was going to need it. I was thinking 'grip and rip' on this one."

Gray also got back to what he knew best in his outing.

"I kind of went to the basics and focused on the target," Gray said. "At first, I was seeing the batter, the catcher, the plate, everything. But after that, I focused on the glove, got my deep breath in and threw."


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson tosses two scoreless innings
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:42 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Chase Anderson tossed two scoreless innings on Wednesday against the Rockies. 

Anderson came into camp competing for a spot in the team's rotation, though manager Chip Hale recently said Anderson is probably set in his spot. If he has to prove himself, he got off on the right foot on Wednesday. Anderson tossed two scoreless frames, giving up two hits and a walk. He struck out two during the outing. 

Anderson, 27, posted a 4.01 ERA over 114 1/3 innings last year.


Rays sign Jim Miller to minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Rays have signed pitcher Jim Miller to a minor-league deal, according to SBNation.

Miller will report to major-league spring training as part of the contract. The 32-year-old tossed just 2 2/3 innings in the majors last season. 


 
 
 
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