Fantasy New Year’s Resolutions

In the spirit of making resolutions that people don’t usually keep beyond six weeks anyway, I thought I’d post my goals for the next year. These range from draft strategies to players to general fantasy.

(1) I will not give away too much MLB talent in order to acquire Cubs prospects.

This one is turning out to be harder than I thought, especially because Paul himself is tempting me with Kris Bryant in a deep keeper league. Our faithful readers will know how much I distrust prospects, especially hitters in their year one and year two production. I’m a big Cubs fan, and it’s exciting to see them build their team for the long-term. I also love seeing the homegrown talent in Bryant, Soler, Schwarber, and Edwards. However, Cubs history suggests that I don’t get too excited about these guys. There have been plenty of prospect burns in my lifetime, such as Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters in recent memory, then Corey Patterson (okay career, but not for CHC), to eighties guys like Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith. Even in leagues that put great value on prospects (via cheap salaries, or because keepers are so deep), I simply can’t trade top-30 players for a top-10 prospect unless I’m getting big MLB pieces in return. This strategy has worked in the past, and I should continue with it even though my Cubbie blue blood screams otherwise.

(2) I will make an effort to acquire big power hitters.

In today’s pitching-rich environment, it’s more important than ever to collect top hitters in general, but especially players who have a legitimate chance to hit 30+ HR. The roids era of half the league hitting over 20 HR is gone. If you put Andrew McCutchen or Anthony Rizzo into a 2001 fantasy league, they wouldn’t look as great. However, Cutch is the #2-3 OF and a first-round draft pick, and Rizzo is arguably a top-5 1B for 2015. Times have changed, and we have to adjust our expectations and strategies accordingly.

(3) I will not let ignoramuses in my leagues annoy me — and if anything, I’ll take advantage of them.

Managers who send out crazy, lopsided trades can be annoying, though sometimes I’ll start with a low-ball offer with a comment of “Here’s who I want on your team, counter or let’s talk.” However, most leagues have that special manager who truly thinks his bad offers are fair, or that you’re too stupid to notice how horrendous they are. In the past I have often shut the door firmly and permanently with these managers. However, this year I resolve to work through the initial gut reflex and see if I can’t work out a decent deal. I’ve done it once this offseason already, with a manager whom 80% of the league refuses to deal with, and it turned out to my advantage.

(4) I will read more fantasy baseball articles, and from more sites.

Everyone has their go-to sites for information, and sometimes we get stuck in a rut by clicking on those common bookmarks instead of branching out to new sources and perspectives. As much as I love sites like FanGraphs and Baseball HQ, I will seek new places to mine for information. (Maybe everyone who reads this should post in the comments one link that isn’t as mainstream. Let’s expand our fantasy base together.)

(5) I will reduce the number of my leagues, and pay better attention to the ones I play in all season long.

When I was younger and had more free time, I would play in many leagues. I mean many, many leagues. “Hello, my name is Kevin, and I’m a fantasy addict.” As I’ve matured (and spent more time doing all that real-world stuff, like working), I found myself letting some leagues slide in terms of the effort I put into them. I would play all year, but I wouldn’t make as many FA moves or trades. Even though some of these are very casual friends and family leagues, I hate slacking like that. I’ve cut one league each year for the last few years, and this year I’ve removed three… but added one. It’s still trending in the right direction, at least, so this resolution has already come true.

(6) I will believe in breakouts from 2014.

After a player has a breakout season, my gut reaction is to assume he will fall back some because it was a career year. Or, perhaps I never believed in the player in the first place. Two good examples are Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve. Brantley hit too many grounders for me to believe he’d produce 15+ HR, but he went from below league average power to a bit above, and there’s reason to hope that his success can continue, especially if he ever gets his fly balls above 35%. His BA was high due to his lucky BABIP, but his contact rate is high enough to keep him in the .290 range moving forward, and BA is becoming quite valuable in 5×5 formats. As for Altuve, I simply never expected that many SB or that high a BA. He improved his contact and had even more of a green light. The BA should come down, but even a .300 hitter with 35 SB (closer to his 2013 stats) has value.

(7) I will target high BA players and give them more value in my drafts.

Just like power is becoming a thing of the past, batting average has been on the decline as well. As such, those hitters with high contact rates and strong BABIP floors deserve a bump up in the rankings. Ben Revere, Altuve, Brantley, and Denard Span are some of the names on my target list. You’ll note that all of them possess speed: Brantley has the lowest projected SB, but even he could net 20 SB again. Speed does help hitters get on base, but there are batters with a high contact rate and the ability to hit 20+ HR, such as Beltre, Pujols, and V-Mart. Don’t discount someone like Beltre simply because he didn’t hit 30 HR in 2014. A high BA floor with 20 HR and 80+ R and RBI is quite elite in today’s offense rankings.

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.
Kevin Jebens

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