When it comes to fantasy drafts these days, there's too much information out there. Every sleeper has been uncovered. Every bust has been busted. And every projection has been dissected, defended, criticized and crucified. What's left?
Well, you still have to go out and draft and the players have to go out and perform. And no one can predict how things will turn out. Therein lies the rub.
Take Edwin Encarnacion as a representative example. In 2011, every expert, every sports fan, every four-year old girl knew that Edwin Encarnacion sucked. He was awful and would never amount to anything in reality, let alone fantasy, sports. He never hit more than 75 Runs, 26 HRs, 76 RBIs, 8 SBs and most of those stats came when he was 24 and 25. So of course, in 2012, at the age of 29, when he should be beginning nature's inevitable decline, he ends up with a line of 93-42-110-13. Makes sense.
Either his 'new approach at the plate' is code for 'roids, or it really is a new approach at the plate. Either way, I doubt that lightning strikes twice.
This year, ESPN ranks E5 as the #31 player on the board. There's no value there. The cat is out of the bag. If you draft Encarnacion, you need him to put up similar numbers. And if he falls back down to earth (entirely possible), you're left holding the bill.
When it comes to drafting, it's all about value. This is nothing you probably haven't heard before. And it's really simple. There are only a few reasons why a guy is valuable:
1. Bounceback year - A talented player has a bad year, and a track record for good ones, the natural return to the mean means he'll probably have a better year (i.e., Adam Dunn last year)
2. Injury-free - A talented player underperformed because of injury, now he's healthy (similar to bounceback year)
3. Post-hype sleeper - Last year everyone wanted him, but he didn't perform to those high expectations. Now the shine's off and you can get him at a discount.
4. Grandpa - No one likes drafting the old guy whose skills are in decline. But even Billy Beane knows there usually a little bit of juice left to squeeze out.
5. Shitty team - No one wants to draft the clean-up hitter on a team that will score no runs. What's he going to clean up?
6. When all else fails, the guy no one's talking about - If no one's talking about him, there's usually a reason, but that's where the value lies.
And always avoid a guy after a career year.
8 VALUE GUYS TO DRAFT:
1. Alex Avila (C) - In 2011, he was a marvel. Out of nowhere. in 2012, he got hurt and underperformed. No one expects much from him, but if he performs close to 2011 you got a steal at the end of your draft where you should be drafting your catcher anyway because catchers don't win you championships. On the other hand, drafting Posey or Mauer in the first 4 rounds can lose you your league.
2. Michael Cuddyer (1B/OF) - No one wants Michael Cuddyer on their team. He's been around so long he makes Paul Konerko look like Anthony Rizzo. It's funny, you'd think Konerko would be the value guy because he's old and everyone thinks he's just about done, but now the hate has gone too far that way and people are sneaky in on Konerko. People love Rizzo and his potential, too. No one love Cuddyer. His name is also difficult to pronounce. Is it Cu-die-er, is it Cuddy-er. Does anyone care? He'll give you 70-24-80-.270 and you'll get him years after Freddie Freeman is off the board.
3. Gordon Beckham (2B) - There's post-hype and then there's post-hype to the tenth power. Gordon Beckham was supposed to do big things and he hasn't even done small things. He's been atrocious. But if there's one guy who could somehow become this year's Edwin Encarnacion, it's him. And if it's not, who cares, he was one of your last picks. At 26, he's poised to hit at least 20 HRs and 75-80 RBIs. If you're lucky, he'll hit over .250.
4. Trevor Plouffe (3B) - Another in the lame name category. But, hey, if people are petty and let names keep them from drafting a guy, then enjoy the value. Cheap power at an infield position, always tasty. Now, I'm not saying he's good, but you can get a guy like Plouffe late and stack up on studs earlier. It's all about risk vs. reward, baby.
5. Josh Reddick (OF) - This guy went from castoff to fantasy hero and now no one believes in him at all. He went 85-32-85-11. That's crazy valuable. Will he hit 32 HRs again, probably not, but the As are going to score runs. They always do and he's in his prime. Everyone loves Cespedes (ESPN #53) who has zero track record in the US and here's a former top prospect finally getting some run and everyone's running the other way. If you have a choice between Cespedes and Reddick, take Reddick. That's the value pick.
6. Ernesto Frieri (RP) - The guy throws heat and did great in the closer role last year. But now the Angels bring in Ryan Madson and there goes all of the love. I like Madson and thought he'd be good for the Reds, but injury stole his season. Whose to say he won't get injured again. Guess who steps right back into the role when/if that happens. If not, you still have a solid MR. Hey, could be worse.
7. Felix Doubront (SP) - Last year, someone in my league drafted him and I laughed at them. Who???? It's called research and I didn't do any. Like most rookies. Doubront was up and down. The guy dropped him, I picked him up and he was...up and down. Great. Nothing new there. But he showed me something. He can strike people out and if I had to choose between Lester and Doubront, I'm taking Doubront. The Red Sox will win games, he's got a year under his belt, I think he improves and the asking price is nothing. Every year a guy like this goes off. This isn't rocket science.
8. Sean Marshall (RP) - The last few years, Marshall has transformed himself into a great pitcher. A few people noticed, but with Aroldis Chapman making waves last season few people cared. Chapman's now in the rotation and Broxton is an injury-risk waiting to happen. Insert Marshall. Simple enough.
It's all about the value. Take the unhyped, unheralded guys late and load up on studs earlier. That's what I'm going to do.