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One recurring question regarding my 2011 fantasy baseball rankings is why do I have so and so above so and so if I say I like the second so and so better than the first so and so?  Okay, so I’ve never received that exact question, because that’s massively confusing.   Here’s a variation of the so and so question that you might actually recognize.  If you look at my top 60 starters for 2011 fantasy baseball post, I have Ricky Romero below Brett Myers.  But I also say in that post how I wouldn’t own Myers.   So I’d take Romero before Myers? Yes and no.  I’d wait until Myers was drafted, then I’d draft Romero.  Why exactly?  That late in a draft I’m going with upside over the predictable.  Then why not just put Romero above Myers?  A few reasons:  1) If I only ranked players I’d own, there would be maybe a 100 total guys across all rankings.  2) Myers does have value because he has less risk, but, as previously mentioned, I don’t want less risk that late.   Some drafters may.  3) Romero may not even have the value I’m giving him there.  I’m being optimistic with his projections.  He’s a risky upside pick.   I’m putting flashing lights around a player’s name in the player blurb.

There was more I wanted to say on point 3, but I was beaten by Ron Shandler. And, hey, when you’re beaten by Shandler, you take your noogies. This article he wrote two years ago has so many great points I suggest you read it yourself, but I’m going to highlight a quote that I think pertains:

“…when our projection says $27, it is intended solely to make you say $22 when the bidding stops at $21 (assuming the context of normal market conditions). If we had published a projection of $23 or $24, that’s not enough of a psychological push for you to take that last leap of faith.”

This is what I’m doing with certain projections.  I’m attempting to push you towards certain players.  It’s why you see my Edinson Volquez projections are way above any other ‘perts.  I might be wrong on Volquez, but I’m pushing you towards him. But then Ricky Nolasco is above Volquez in the rankings? Yeah, random italicized voice, but he’s in a tier called, “Some ‘perts are drafting these guys.  I’m not.”  My commentary is as important as the actual rankings.  So do you want boring or risk and upside and maybe downside?  These are decisions you have to make for your own team.  (Oh, and you’ll see Volquez’s actually above Nolasco in the top 300.  How’s that for further confusion?)

It’s why I have Danny Espinosa ranked below Martin Prado but his projections say he’ll be better.  I think Espinosa will be better, but he has more risk.  It’s a limb.  You need to know how many limbs you’re going out on.  A few per team is fine. If every player on your team is a limb, your team is tipping over.

As said in the rankings post, there’s latitude amongst the rankings.  I’d say the top 20 have a latitude of around a +/- 2.  The top 50 around a +/- 10; the top 100 around a +/- 20, the top 150 with a +/- 40.  And so on.  The most important part of the rankings is my commentary.  If I like a guy, I’d reach for him in certain circumstances.  If I need an outfielder who gives me a 10/30 year, then I’m taking Peter Bourjos.  I would draft him 180th overall even though I have him at 229th. Each team is different.  The rankings are meant to be a jumping off point with my commentary and projections telling you where I stand.

Lots of people may not want to hear this, but there are no rankings on the planet that will tell exactly how to draft.  As soon as you draft your first player, you’re now drafting for your own team and every team is different.  If you draft Tulo and Carl Crawford with your first two picks, you shouldn’t draft Jacoby Ellsbury or Reyes unless they drop 100 picks and you plan on trading them for half their value.

107 Responses

  1. Mike from Jersey says:
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    Well written. Great start to the new year, look forward to more. keep it comin’.

  2. Steve says:
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    I read that Shandler article. Had to lie down about halfway through.

    Maybe it was his head that was spinning when he did that mock we talked about a couple of weeks back:

    1.02 Braun, Ryan
    2.12 Ethier, Andre
    3.02 Bautista, Jose
    4.12 Jimenez, Ubaldo
    5.02 Konerko, Paul
    6.12 Johnson, Kelly

    I’m sure he has a law to explain it, but it’s not immediately obvious.

  3. Joe says:
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    “If I only ranked players I’d own, there would be maybe a 100 total guys across all rankings. ”

    Is it just me or does everyone want you to write “players i’d own” ? I’m kidding, kinda. Keep up the great work man, you are a fantasy god.

  4. Stosh says:
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    Have to say, this has became about the only site I need for fantasy baseball strategy. I subscribe to many of your theories anyway, which I suppose is reason enough to read all this stuff. The other reason is that the content is not only on the mark but excellent fun to read as well. Always looking forward to see a new post.

  5. Malacoda says:
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    B-b-b-b-but Grey, if a monkey bites me what kind of medicine would the doctor prescribe?

  6. Tony says:
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    fantasy baseball’s a tricky booger….

    I get where you’re coming from grey, always have, I guess thats why I am still here and others read about your fantasy baseball degree, wors like shizz and SAGNOF, say WTF, and move on to their next google search….

    From your commentary I could about pick your top 100. Don’t ever write it up literally… LOL thats just too easy.

    -Logged into my Yahoo! league last night, Posey is in the 40′s, carlos santana in the 70′s? then weiters in early 100′s? That makes sense!

  7. NewBVick says:
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    @Steve: Whoa, is that draft for real? AJ Mass must have hacked into Shandler’s account.

  8. Cain Fan says:
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    I love draft analysis. Perfect timing to help me with what is on my mind.

    I am in a shallow 6×6 league (OBP, Ks for bats AND H/9 for SPs). 3 OF, 1 UT, 1450 IP.

    I went with you suggestion and decided to keep Teix, Phillips, Kemp, Dunn, Pence, McCann. And Lester and Felix. What stat’s would you say I need most urgently? I decided to go with the steady, reliable guys so I am guessing upside.

    Since we are in the 9th and 10th rounds of the draft would you suggest grabbing a SP (like Wandy, Dempster, Scherzer) or should I stock up on two more bats (I envision Alvarez, Aramis, Young, Sandoval available at 3B and guys like Victorino, Ichiro, Rios at OF). As always your input is gold. Oh and I will probably have to change my name this yr.

  9. Mike says:
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    Steve I don’t understand your second pick, I would be looking for a 1st baseman or a 3rd baseman.

  10. The Giant Brain says:
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    Hey Grey is the 2011 War Room going to be coming out soon? I used it last year and was so freaking helpful. Thanks!

  11. sean says:
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    Excellent commentary. As a guy who has been fantasy baseballin for the better part of 15 years, I have to admit that the lessons in this post were some of my last to grasp, and they were even harder to consistently practice. As sports fans, we sometimes want to just accumulate players on our team like we are on the ridiculous sports car segment of Cribs. For your team to be successful, you have to weigh risk and reward. You can’t be all sparkle and no substance, and you have to draft for YOUR team. You win if you finish in the top three in all categories. There aren’t bonus points for being right on every risky pitcher you drafted if you went for the same level of risk on offense and fell short of the mark and vice versa. You have to draft, or compile, a complete team.

  12. sean says:
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    @The Giant Brain: I think another user created that for the site.

  13. carlos marmLOL says:
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    Great writeup and I think corollary to all of this is the importance of using a spreadsheet on draft day where you can quickly paste in players you’ve just drafted and automate the process of matching their projections to your target goals in each category — as a rule of thumb coming in 2 1/2th in each category takes the league. I do it in Excel but I believe the War Room document does something similar.

    It’s critical to load balance your team and take your needs into account as the draft progresses. Towards the end of the draft you address needs and grab upside AFTER you have stat balance.

  14. The Vaporizers says:
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    @ Joe, I think a lot of people would love that list of 100!
    @ Grey, (hint, hint), lol

  15. Tony says:
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    @grey: you kinda hinted you think Bruce will be the cargo of this year, and some of us thought that last year, who do you think will be that pitcher in rounds 7-10 that will take a huge leap forward? If I’m guessing what greys thinking its Hommy Tanson? anyone else or ?

  16. wilsoniam says:
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    please dont ever say thses are teh 100 players id draft this year. its good to give people help, but give them the farm!

  17. wilsoniam says:
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    would you trade cliff lee for bruce in a keeper league? or is that just a dumb move. lol

  18. BKK says:
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    It occurred to me, reading Shandler’s article and then pondering yesterday’s post about Bautista, that Jose could be the next 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Andruw Jones. If he does manage to hit 40 HR this year like Druw did after his 51 HR season, everyone will be totally on-board with Jose and then he could very easily fall to mid 20′s to nothing. If you look at their career numbers, Jones was a much more consistent 25-35 HR guy with a better batting average than Bautista.

    Not really good signs for Bautista pundits!

  19. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Tony: Yup, Hommy.

    @wilsoniam: It’s a fair trade. It’s a bit of a high price for Bruce.

    @BKK: Only problem is Andruw Jones was doing it when he was 21, not 31.

  20. wilsoniam says:
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    thanks…i am just trying to get the jump on landing him b4 he hits his first 30hr season…

    what do you think is ellsbury’s power peak? 10 hr?

  21. wilsoniam says:
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    meaning over his career. not just this year

  22. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @wilsoniam: Ten sounds about right. Plus, minus 2.

  23. JoeC says:
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    @Malacoda: WD-40. It works on *everything*.

  24. SDPete says:
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    @Grey: Why do you have so and so above so and so if you say you like the second so and so better than the first so and so?

    Now you’ve been asked that question. You’re welcome.

  25. Dingo says:
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    Good explanation, Grey. I’m still not sure I follow you in one area, though:

    “So I’d take Romero before Myers? Yes and no. I’d wait until Myers was drafted, then I’d draft Romero.”

    This part depends inherently on other people valuing Myers over Romero. Right now that’s the case at Mockdraftcentral, but it probably won’t be that way for long. Now that the Yahoo rankings are out, their “experts’” consensus has Romero as the 32nd-ranked pitcher and Myers as the 55th. So even if the rest of your league is Razzball-ignorant and just goes by what Yahoo tells them, they’re going to target Romero before Myers. If that’s the case, then I’d think that having them reversed in your rankings only makes sense if you really think that it’s justified by the difference in risk.

    Then again, it looks like Romero is way ahead of Myers on the top 300, so now I’m just confused.

  26. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Stosh: Thanks for the kind words!

    @SDPete: Thanks!

  27. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Dingo: I wouldn’t reach Romero if he moves too far up draft sheets. Still has decent amount of risk.

  28. Dingo says:
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    @Dingo: Maybe a better example would be Shaun Marcum and Clay Buchholz: Your projections like Marcum more than Buchholz, and the Yahoo guys like Marcum more than Buchholz (26th pitcher vs. 36th), but Buchholz is at #126 on the top 300, while Marcum is at #150.

  29. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Dingo: Marcum has more risk.

  30. BookieBob says:
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    @wilsoniam:

    I’d trade Cliff Lee for Bruce Lee; then target Chuck Norris in Round 1.

    I might not win the championship, but I’d lead the league in roundhouse kicks to the face!

  31. wilsoniam says:
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    @ bookiebob: lol – im a little slow – does that mean you def wouldnt do that deal?

  32. wilsoniam says:
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    wait. i get it. hahahaha

  33. BKK says:
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    @Grey: Agreed. Just another indication of what an outlier last year was for Bautista. The warning signs are blinking in Neon!

  34. RemDog Whisperer says:
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    Very interesting post. I always do a ranking of players by where “I think they should be ranked” and another of “where I think they will be drafted.” Then cross reference the two to see where there is value and where there are guys who simply won’t get to me because pthers like him more than me. or I.

    @Rabbit

    I enjoyed reading your post. I, too, am a fan of the research and homework. I, too, don’t like to shoot fish in a barrel. But, rather play against people who are better than you, since it is the only way to really be challenged and improve. I, too, like to dive into the numbers. But, sometimes when you dive too deep you are not left with enough air to resurface. The numbers do not explain so many things in the game, that it is important to strike a balance.

  35. Jake in Columbus says:
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    If you’ve got a toss up of fliers or are just looking to maximize games played, there are a few teams with odd schedules in Week 1 for H2H; assuming your provider groups the March games with the first week of April like Yahoo does. Braves, Brewers, Twins, Yankers (not a typo) and Pirates play 10 while Padres play only 8. Everyone else appears to play 9.

  36. Tony says:
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    @Jake in Columbus: i dont think i’d choose my fliers by the “extra game or two” they’d play in april? they all play 162 it will balance out… Cust Kayin’…..

  37. Cole says:
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    I had a mock last weekend for my big(ish) money league. 12 tm, 5×5

    C C. Iannetta
    1B J. Votto
    2B B. Phillips
    SS A. Escobar
    3B R. Zimmerman
    OF J. Upton
    OF J. Heyward
    OF Krispy
    OF C. Rasmus
    OF B. Gardner
    CI Ga. Sanchez
    MI A. Hill
    P Y. Gallardo
    P W. Rodriguez
    P R. Dempster
    P I. Kennedy
    P J. Chachin
    P E. Jackson
    P J. Hanrahan
    P D. Storen
    P F. Rodney
    BN Jigga Zimmerman

    I like most of the team, but it seems upsidey…

  38. Jake in Columbus says:
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    @Tony:
    Maybe not fliers you value as season-long investments, but if you’re going to be adding and dropping guys to maximize GP, there’s not much investment necessary for some potential extra counting stats in the first week-plus.

  39. Tony says:
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    @Jake in Columbus: I guess. I take guys in the LATE rounds that I’m planning on MAYBE panning out and being a keeper for the whole year tho. I take every player I guess you could say with that idea in mind. Kelly Johnson in the 25th last year worked out very nicely. I just dont see my last few guys as a revolving door…..

  40. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @BKK: Yup

    @Jake in Columbus: I agree with Tony. I’d want a guy that could actually break out for the year rather a guy who’s going to play in 2 extra games.

    @Cole: Team looks real solid to me. Maybe a bit too upsidey on pitching, but Wandy and Dempster should balance that a bit.

  41. Swagger Jackers says:
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    @Cole: @Cole: Your hitting seems a bit too strong at the expense of your pitching. Especially your closer situation. However, I like the team overall.

    @Grey/anyone: I’m considering adding a games started cap to my roto league this year. What is the typical number of games started that leagues use so you can’t just load up on SPs and completely punt saves? We have 9 pitcher slots.

  42. RemDog Whisperer says:
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    @Swagger Jackers: Why not just put an IP cap and let people use SP or RP as they like?

  43. Jake in Columbus says:
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    @Tony: @Grey:
    Guess it’s just me. There are enough guys I’d consider for late upside that I don’t worry too much about someone else pouncing in a couple days like that. I’d just assume get a few extra AB and still pick up some of them. I’m also a pitching streamer and DL stasher, so it’s become a habit, good or bad. I know Grey’s not a big DL “stache-er” either. If you’re sold on a guy as “your guy” though, by all means.

  44. Buschfan51 says:
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    I have 2nd pick in 10 team roto. I saw you took hanley in the espn mock draft at two. I’m assuming you took him over Cabrera because of position even though you ranked Cabrera higher? What do you think about taking Cabrera and settling for one of the lesser SS?

  45. Tony says:
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    @Jake in Columbus: I see what you’re saying. I just take every guy with a purpose. HOPING they pan out as a guy thats on my team when the year ends. In the past 4-5 years I’d say I have a guy every year from rounds 20-25 that ends up panning out and I keep all year. As a rule I really try to not dump anyone I draft for a week or so…. Only exception is if someone else makes a drop and I want that guy or some player emerges quickly that wasn’t drafted.

  46. Swagger Jackers says:
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    @RemDog Whisperer: I don’t want to penalize guys who draft solid workhorse starters like Halladay, Lee and F-Her. Games started seems to accomplish what I’m looking for. If there is a convincing reason against this though, I’m all ears.

  47. Tony says:
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    @Buschfan51: pheww reading your comment the more I think about it Hanley/1B later or Miggy/and another SS? Makes it tough not taking Hanley…. SS’s such a crap position. At that position you could take Reyes in the 2nd/3rd tho and still probably be fine with Miggy.

  48. Tony says:
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    @Swagger Jackers: you also have to set an innings MIN with a games started limit. So if you do it like the RCL’s which I mentioned I think was 180 then you also HAD TO HIT 1100 innings…. I think. That way a guy can’t throw one starter, then bench for the entire season? Make sense?

  49. Harley says:
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    @Grey: I think I remember you doing an article last year where you imagined you had something like the 4th pick in a 12 team draft and used ADP to create a full team. Any chance you can do something like that again this year, but instead of just imagining 1 draft slot, do a combo of 1st overall, 4th overall, 8th overall and 12th overall to give different ideas?

  50. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Harley: I’ll do one of them definitely. I’m not convinced doing multiple makes sense though. Once you’re out of the 1st few rounds, you can have just about anyone if you’re willing to reach.

  51. Steve says:
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    @Mike: It’s not my team, it’s Shandler’s.
    @Buschfan51: That was Jason Grey in that mock, not Albright, Grey.

  52. Buschfan51 says:
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    My error. Well then let me ask the smart Grey. What would you think about taking Cabrera second and shooting for someone like Andrus later?

  53. cubbies299 says:
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    Hey, I’m trying to be cheeky in my dynasty league and grab some prospects in the minor league draft that will be like next year’s Bryce Harper. Who would you draft between Brandon Belt, Anthony Rendon, and Yu Darvish? I can also go more conservatively with Machado, Chissenhal, Miguel Sano, or maybe Nishioka. Could you rank your 3 favorites?

  54. RemDog Whisperer says:
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    @Swagger Jackers: I don’t think anyone gets “penalized” if all the rules are established before the draft starts. I guess I’m just more a fan of everyone getting a chance to use any strategy they want. If someone feels penalized for taking Halladay, then they probably took him too early or didn’t understand the rules of your league thoroughly.

  55. Harley says:
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    @Grey: Agreed that once you are out of the 1st 4 rounds you can reach and have anyone you want, but it’d be interesting because drafting at pick 1 you might have Pujols, 4 you might have Longoria, 8 you might have Tulowitzki and 12 you might have Utley so the dynamics of who you might take when could change. Maybe don’t do 4, but 2 or 3 with different players at the top could be interesting…just a thought.

  56. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Buschfan51: I like it, assuming it’s not Daniel Cabrera.

    @cubbies299: Nishioka, Belt, Lonnie…

  57. Rhymenoceros says:
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    @Tony: That’s a great question. I did a mock last night on MDC (12-team 5×5) and just reviewed rounds 7-10 to see what answer I could come up with. Here is a list of SP’s taken during those rounds:

    Mat Latos (RD 7)
    Matt Cain (RD 8)
    Chris Carpenter (RD 9)
    Roy Oswalt (RD 9)
    Clay Buchholz (RD 9)
    Tommy Hanson (RD 9)
    Colby Lewis (RD 10)
    Trevor Cahill (RD 10)
    Shawn Marcum (RD 10)

    My conclusion is that nobody on that list besides Hanson and Marcum has a legitimate shot at outperforming their draft position. Of those two dudes, Hanson definitely has the most potential to go from 9th round (BTW, WTF? Latos of Hanson? Wait…Latos in the 6th) to the 2nd or 3rd round.

    What pisses me off is that Heyward and Hanson are in the same boat. If I don’t own them this year, I don’t know if I’ll ever get good value out of them. Blech!

  58. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Harley: I do pairings posts that explains what to do with different first picks.

  59. Rhymenoceros says:
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    @Rhymenoceros: Damn emoticons! Cain was taken in round 8.

  60. Stephen

    Stephen says:
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    @cubbies299: Brandon Belt should be playing this year. Yu Darvish isn’t in the minors yet, and I haven’t heard solidified rumors that he is definitely coming to America. Chissenhal’s bat reminds me of Adrian Beltre during non-contract years 20 to 25 home runs and a .280 to .300 average. Miguel Sano is several years (2-3 year) from making the majors. Are there other prospects you’re willing to draft? Are you trying to target someone with the power potential of Harper or just his hype?

  61. Tony says:
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    @Rhymenoceros: yeah those names aren’t jumping off the page at me, obviously hanson is the one glowing a little…. I’d love latos but he’s too risky this year, and the rest have issues or just dont have the stuff to be elite.

    I agree on heyward and hanson…. they’re those guys that after this year you’ll be spending a high pick to get them.

  62. dsimon says:
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    In a 12 team h2h league with 9 hitting and 9 pitching categories we keep 20 guys. (you MUST remember me from last year…)

    at SP I have Greinke, Verlander, Sabathia, Felix, Gio, Colby Lewis, Jordan Zimmermann, etc. My closers are Francisco Cordero and Ryan Franklin.

    On offense I have C Napoli, 1B Teix, 2B phillips, 3B zimmerman, SS ??, IF kelly johnson, 4 OF: Cruz, CarGo, Hart, Pence. 2 UTIL- michael young and ??.

    I also have Desmond Jennings on the bench or UTIL.

    I have two offers out to me. 1) trade Jennings and SP Zimmermann for Joakim Soria 2) trade Sabathia and my worst closer for Adam Dunn.

    Who do you think is my worst closer? Franklin is by the rankings, but Cordero could lose his job to Aroldis, right?

    And… Jennings alone seems like a lot to give up for Soria. Thoughts? I’ve always thought about punting closer…

  63. Nuke LaLoosh says:
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    I’m enjoying your thoughts. Keep up the great work!

    Maybe this is a column idea: everybody has their own take on rankings, but it seems worthwhile to consider whether there is a consensus on any of my current players and how to evaluate players about whom there is a great difference of opinion.

    I compared my roster to the rankings of Mr. Cockroft at the WWL (hereafter, simply “ESPN”) and Mr. Grey here at Razzball. You both believe that my team has about 3-4 players in the top 50 and about 6-7 players in the top 100, but there is a pretty big difference in opinion about who exactly those players are.

    There is consensus that Longoria, Dunn, and Wainwright are top 50, while Bruce fits somewhere between 50-100. On many others, however, there is a huge difference of opinion:

    Tommy Hanson (#44 ESPN; #102 Razzball)

    Martin Prado (#64 ESPN, #272 Razzball)

    Dan Haren (#69 ESPN, #101 Razzball)

    Kelly Johnson (#101 ESPN, #144 Razzball)

    Pablo Sandoval (#113 ESPN, #85 Razzball)

    Adam Lind (#121 ESPN, #89 Razzball)

    Stark differences of opinion are no surprise but I am still quite interested in your thoughts regarding those players who are ranked so differently.

    If you would rather not compare your rankings to those of ESPN or other sites (and who could blame you?) perhaps you could highlight a few instances where your opinion differs most from your learned colleague, the intelligent and kind Mr. Rudy.

    Thanks again, and keep up the great work!

  64. BKK says:
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    @Tony: I think you should draft Bautista on the turn as your 3rd baseman in rd 2. He is going to have a career year. You can take Howard with your 1st pick or Teix.

  65. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @dsimon: Hey, man. Long time no see. I’d want Dunn and the Jennings side.

    @Nuke LaLoosh: I’ll go over big differences of opinion in rankings. Prado at 64 is insane.

  66. dsimon says:
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    @Grey:

    Thanks Grey. Which closer do I give up for Dunn? Franklin or Cordero?

    And yeah, I’m with you RE: jennings.

  67. Nuke LaLoosh says:
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    Thank you, Grey.

    Also, any good suggestions on a source for rankings that include extra categories? My 7×6 league includes OBP, SLG, and HLD. I use some 5×5 rankings as a starting place but really kind of make my own magic based on other projections.

  68. Benny says:
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    @Grey – What would be you’re top 3 guys to target in trades in a dynasty league you think wil break out in the next year or two? I’m trying to aquire some under 25 and under guys.

  69. OaktownSteve says:
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    @Grey: New to your site. Been playing rotisserie since 1984. A lot of what you say confirms my own experience in how the draft is won. It also strikes me as being knowledge that is intuitive but not fully explained. You and Rudy have got me thinking about the actual theory behind what seems like common rotosense. Wanted to share a couple thoughts.

    Suppose we were to hold a 12 team, 23 player snake draft right now using last year’s statistics for each player. Something like game theory would tell us that, once you modeled it out, there would be an optimal, predictable result. That is, if you played out every possible drafting scenario, with every player in the talent pool being picked at every possible draft position, there would emerge one in which each owner would have an optimal pick at every turn starting with the very first and no player could do any better or any worse than making that pick.

    If you had one or more “irrational” pickers in the mix (those that did not optimize their value on each pick) then the optimal pickers would need to re-run their algorithm each time the irrational pickers pick to adjust for the new conditions and so on and come up with a new optimal scenario. You’d need some pretty good programming and a fast computer to do this but it’s definitely do-able. (By the way, one thing that would be pretty interesting would be to see what draft position came out as optimal. My guess is it would be tied to that season’s data set and would change from year to year).

    What does this tell us about drafting for the season coming up? If you think about the theoretical draft above, what factors are going into the computer algorithm at each choice point? I think there are 4 key variables: value of the players available, remaining total value available at each position (scarcity), positional dispersal on your own team and others (roster composition), stat dispersal on your team and others (relative to victory targets in each category).

    Here’s where the intuition comes in. Basically what we are doing in our drafts is the same as what the computer is doing (our brains are pretty good computers after all); we’re weighing each of these factors and trying to optimize our picks. There’s also some additional complexity when drafting for a future season as opposed to a past: playing time, injury risk, deviation from projections, trade potential.

    So you’re taxing your supercomputer brain pretty hard at this point. You can’t actually do the math in your head like the computer would so your brain has to have some shortcuts. I think there are a few really good ways to give yourself a leg up on those shortcuts: preparation and draft materials, practice (mock drafting), knowledge (specifically of how player performance contributes to overall winning), and experience. Ideally, given all that, you’re faced with an unbelievably large set of data and yet you manage to make a remarkably rational choice. The best drafters are the ones whose innate mental calculus most closely resembles the optimal computer model. Unless of course you write the program and run your model on the computer during your draft!

    Of course nobody would be able to draft optimally just because of straight processing power. However, I also think it’s helpful to think of the biases that give the computer other advantages and try to guard against them. Obviously there can be a bias against certain player (like ‘em, don’t like ‘em, hate the Dodgers, etc.), there’s pride (tendency to overvalue upside players so you can look smart later, for instance).

    Another interesting bias is tendency to overvalue or undervalue a particular stat in general (saves, steals for instance) as a rule. Every stat has a particular value at each particular place in the draft depending upon the state of the 4 key relative factors listed above.

    I’ll give special attention to positional scarcity. I think it’s a mistake to factor positional scarcity into the value of the player (your overall rankings). It’s a separate factor and, like stats, scarcity becomes more or less important relative to the position in the draft. One way to think of scarcity as being independent of value is that once the draft is over, scarcity becomes almost meaningless. If somebody offers you a trade of good catcher and bad outfielder for bad catcher and good outfielder during the season you think about total value and not scarcity at this point. Scarcity matters very little because during the season a homer is a homer is a homer whether a catcher hits it or an outfielder.

    It does matter when drafting however because you must draft a catcher at some point and for every player, there becomes a point where it’s optimal to draft him based on the current state. If you go in with a rule of thumb like “increase catcher value for scarcity” or “punt catcher” you actually miss the point, which is to be aware that there will be a right moment to draft a catcher.

    Wordy…I know. Apologies. So long, not even sure it this will post when I hit commit.

  70. Waldo says:
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    Hey Grey — I just did my first mock. What do you think of this squad? I couldn’t resist taking Kemp, Holliday, and Heyward back-to-back-to-back in rounds 2 through 4. Thanks as always for your help and insight.

    C: Napoli
    1B: Pujols
    2B: Hill
    SS: Andrus
    3B: Alvarez
    OF: Kemp
    OF: Holliday
    OF: Heyward
    Util: Lind
    Util: Tabata
    SP: Gallardo
    SP: Haren
    RP: Valverde
    RP: Nunez
    P: Dan Hudson
    P: Ed Jackson
    P: Storen
    P: Venters
    BN: Sale
    BN: Uehara
    BN: Niese
    BN: Fowler
    BN: Johan

  71. Wilsonian says:
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    Mr. Grey, sir. I’ve got 6 more picks left in my 16 team H2H draft. Here are our categories:

    H, R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OBPS
    W, L, SV, K, ERA, WHIP, Ks/9

    Here’s my squad:

    C. Mike Napoli
    1B. Adam Dunn
    2B. Aaron Hill
    3B. David Wright
    SS. Elvis Andrus
    OF. Josh Hamilton
    OF. Jayson Heyward
    OF. Jose Tabata
    Util. Ryan Raburn
    Util.

    SP. Jon Lester
    SP. Shaun Marcum
    SP. Gio Gonzalez
    RP. Craig Kimbrell
    RP. Joel Hanrahan
    P. Johnny Cueto
    P. Edwin Jackson

    5 Bench spots

    Overall I’m very happy with this team in a 16 team league, but can you see any definite holes? I know I’m probably going to have a shizz AVG, but I’m ok with that because I feel like I have a decent combo of speed, power and OBPS. I’m looking at snagging some decent handcuffs/high Ks per 9 guys with my last couple of picks, but what other holes do you see, or specific needs I should target with my last few picks. Thanks man.

  72. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @OaktownSteve: Wow, you beat Rudy and earned the longest comment award. I agree there is a right moment for everyone. I don’t like Ichiro, for example, but there’s a right time to draft him. Or anyone. Great comment!

    @Waldo: No idea how many teams. But assuming it’s 12 teams, looks real solid. It is a pretty shallow league though with only three OFs and no MI or CI.

  73. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Wilsonian: You’re a little average and speed light. See if you can grab Span. Or someone along those lines. Your pitching looks fine, wouldn’t be bad to get a boring guy in there to balance some of your upside.

  74. Wilsonian says:
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    @Grey: yeah, I was looking at drafting someone like an Arroyo late, or someone along those lines to help out with the pitching. Span is gone, just went a few picks ago. But people like Cain, Pennington, Pods, Kalish, Crisp, EY Jr. are still available, and I’d assume at least one of them would be there by my next pick or later.

    Thanks again.

  75. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Wilsonian: Arroyo’s okay, kinda meh. Pods isn’t bad for now to see if he lands somewhere advantageous. The relaity is your last UTIL spot with probably be a carousel of hot hitters.

  76. Steve says:
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    @Grey: Pods lands somewhere advantageous every single night. Boo-yeah!

  77. Wilsonian says:
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    @Grey: oh I definitely agree about Arroyo, but on your top 300 he’s the 3rd best SP available (we’re on roughly the 240th pick right now), and I was just using him as a “for instance.” And in a league this large I’m comfortable with that last UTIL spot being a revolving door, I make about 5-10 moves a week in this league as it is. Much obliged.

    @Steve: ZING! Excellent comment, sir!!

  78. BKK says:
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    @Steve: Will the Lisa Dergen jokes ever stop? Hey what’s Hippo up to, I haven’t seem him loitering around the site in a while.

  79. Steve says:
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    @BKK: Not if I have anything to do with it!

    Hippo is working every hour that (insert deity of your choice here) sends, so doesn’t have much time for FBB or the Razz. He pops up every now and then, though.

  80. SotoMojo says:
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    I’m in a keeper league where we keep 5 guys, and we lose the round they were drafted in. What 5 do u think is the best combo….

    ..HanRam (1st), Votto (3rd), Cano (4th), Cruz (6th), Ubaldo (7th), Marmol (10th), Cargo (14th..Def Keeping), Scherzer (19th), Delmon (22nd)

  81. chata says:
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    @Wilsonian:

    as it is , if tabata hits .250 , you risk losing SB’s every week .

  82. Steve says:
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    @Grey: I’d love one, but I’m off the drink right now (sad face).

  83. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Steve: Your sponsor finally caught up to you?

  84. Steve says:
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    @Grey: More like the festive season.

    Though it’s starting to turn into one of those “proving to myself that I can actually do it” things.

    Don’t feel much different – don’t even feel morally superior.

  85. Wilsonian says:
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    @chata: valid point. I’m also taking into consideration that it’s a huge league, and with Andrus, Wright, Heyward (he’ll get a few here and there), and Tabata (even hitting .265-ish), that I’ve got a good amount of speed and could be OK with SBs. I’m definitely looking into those other guys that I listed to try to steal some, er, steals. I also noticed that all-around good guy, Nyjer Morgan is still there, and so is Bourjos. So there is a decent amount of speed still on the board.

  86. Dingo says:
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    @Nuke LaLoosh: Check out the price guide at last player picked.

  87. Francis says:
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    Looking for keeper help. 14 team mixed league $260. 1C, 4OFs, everything else standard. I can keep 3 of these:

    Victor Martinez – $20
    Kendry Morales – $6
    David Wright – $35
    Derek Jeter – $21
    Nelson Cruz – $20
    Jose Bautista – $13
    Josh Johnson – $8
    Felix Hernandez – $26
    Kelly Johnson – $12

    Thanks!

  88. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Steve: Festive season? You mean you gave it up for Lent?

    @Francis: Johnson, Kendry and Wright. Not great choices…

  89. Hennessey says:
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    Hi Grey,

    Mock
    Yahoo-style
    10 teams

    C-(R15 P3)-Wieters, Matt
    1B-(R1 P3)-Cabrera, Miguel
    2B-(R6 P8)-Kinsler, Ian
    3B-(R12 P8)-McGehee, Casey (was targeting Reynolds)
    SS-(R14 P8)-Drew, Stephen (considered waiting and taking Alcides)
    OF-(R4 P8)-Upton, Justin
    OF-(R9 P3)-Pence, Hunter
    OF-(R10 P8)-Young, Krispie
    UTIL-(R2 P8)-Howard, Ryan
    UTIL-(R3 P3)-Fielder, Prince (passed on A-Rod)
    BENCH/OF-(R16 P8)-Victorino, Shane
    BENCH/OF-(R18 P8)-Gardner, Brett
    BENCH/OF-(R21 P3)-Quentin, Carlos

    SP-(R5 P3)-Wainwright, Adam (missed Dread Pirate here by 1 pick)
    SP-(R7 P3)-Gallardo, Yovani
    SP-(R8 P8)-Johnson, Josh
    SP-(R11 P3)-Rodriguez, Wandy
    SP-(R13 P3)-Hudson, Dan
    SP-(R19 P3)-Kuroda, Hiroki
    SP-(R23 P3)-Kennedy, Ian
    RP-(R17 P3)-Rodriguez, Francisco
    RP-(R20 P8)-Hanrahan, Joel
    RP-(R22 P8)-Francisco, Frank

    I know you’re not a big fan of taking back-to-back 1B (let alone back-to-back-to-back), but I wanted to experiment.

    In my opinion, I was still able to get some solid OFs, and SP looks good. I’m not sure I’d pass on A-Rod there in a real draft, but I wanted to continue with the experiment and see what happened. Also, pretty light on speed in the starting lineup.

    What do you think about this approach/team overall?

  90. Steve says:
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    @Grey: Nah, nothing like that (don’t kick with the left foot). Festive season = Christmas etc.

    Just giving it a bit of a rest is all.

  91. Grey

    Grey says:
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    @Hennessey: Your team is kinda insane, but you’re mocking an insanely shallow league. Every team is going to look good there. Anytime you’re getting Victorino in the 16th your league is too shallow. Mock something deeper. To nitpick, your team wouldn’t do well on average.

    @Steve: Christmas? I feel like I remember you being hungover some time in January.

  92. Steve says:
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    @Grey: Nah – that was the week before Christmas. Started in on the mojitos at like 1am. Got completely plastered.

  93. Hennessey says:
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    @Grey: Yeah, I’m going to try a similar approach in a 12 team/ESPN-style mock and see what happens–I’ll let ya know how it turns out and see what you think. And yeah, mockdraftcentral has Victorino pre-ranked horribly, couldn’t believe I got him there.

  94. Dr. Orlando Schadenfreude says:
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    @Hennessey: That team is pretty insane really. But the way the ESPN rankings are shaping up, with a #1 pick you could have Pujols, Fielder and Tex on a team easy.

  95. BballFuries says:
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    @Grey: Recently discovered your site and can’t get enough. Thanks. I play in a standard 5×5 12-team mixed roto league. Was set on keeping Hanley, Howard, Kemp and Cliff Lee. Starting to think about keeping J-Upton instead of Lee. The top 10 or so pitchers will be protected and I pick 10th. I don’t think Lee would fall to my pick where Upton might. If I ditch Lee am I taking a big risk of having a week staff lead by Jered Weaver or Cole Hamels? I know I need to play for this season, but will I regret losing Upton in the long run?

  96. JoeC says:
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    @OaktownSteve: Interesting post. But I didn’t see anything in there about player rankings. Those are the most important inputs into your computer program, as they would determine who your program would pick at each juncture. And if your rankings are crap… well, as they say, garbage in, garbage out.

    So how do you, programatically, come up with the best set of rankings?

  97. JoeC says:
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    @Wilsonian: To determine if you have enough speed, what I would do is to look at your league standings from past years (assuming the format hasn’t changed) and determine what it took to finish in 3rd each year in stolen bases. Average that out and compare it to what your current team is sporting and then you’ll have a good idea whether or not you’re light in speed.

  98. OaktownSteve says:
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    @JoeC: You’re right, the rankings are the most important consideration. When I listed my 4 key variables, the first on the list was the value of the remaining players. Probably should have used rank or appraisal or point shares or whatever instead of value, but I meant what you said. Of course, the three other variables being equal you would always choose the highest ranked player first and that’s the most important input to your algorithm. When I talk about optimizing in the draft, I’m talking about optimizing against your own projections.

    As to how you come up with the best set of rankings, that is a great question. I think you start here:

    http://tangotiger.net/forecast/results2010.html

    But more to the point, I don’t think it really matters because there’s not a lot to really seperate PECOTA from Marcel from Chone. They’re all systems that make mathematical forecasting sense. I try not pick one forecasting system and then look for outliers in that system that are contradicted by the other systems to see if I agree that the system I’ve chosen is doing better or has a blind spot. I try not to make too many adjustments because I feel like I’m usually building in biases rather than knowledge. But for the most part, I pick one and trust it because there are a lot smart people out there forecasting and I don’t see the need to reinvent the wheel.

    The one exception is that I tend to make adjustments around teams that I see a lot. I have had very good luck over the years moving A’s, Rangers, Mariners and Angels around in the rankings because I follow the AL West (A’s fan). Have to be really careful about biases here as a fan, but it’s pretty easy to separate out and then you get to take advantage of an area where you have relatively deeper knowledge than your competition.

  99. Francis says:
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    @Grey: Grey, can you share you reasoning why you would keep Wright at $35 over Bautista (3B eligible) at $13? If Bautista can go 30/90/90 that’s close to Wright at almost 1/3 of the price. Plust Wright will probably go for about $35 at auction whereas Bautista will probably go for about $20. (14 team mixed, 6×6 using OPS and QS, 1C, 4 OF, everything else standard)

  100. Nuke LaLoosh says:
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    @Francis:

    “If Bautista can go 30/90/90 . . .”

    That is the heart of it, eh?

    While you can find several projection systems that put JB down for a 30/90/90 year, Grey predicts a 25/70/80 year from him plus a .240 average. In my view, Grey’s projection seems more in line with JB’s true talent level, but if you are more optimistic, then yo are right.

    Wright, by the way, seems much more capable of hitting the numbers you are talking about — 25-30 HR /90-100 R /90-100 RBI with a .285 BA average or better. I think that Wright’s track record makes it far more likely that Wright will deliver those numbers than JB. That (relatively) higher degree of certainty is what you are paying for with that extra $22.

  101. Nuke LaLoosh says:
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    @Francis:

    Also, because you are in an OPS league, I’m sure you have noted that even the optimistic projections about JB put his OBP at least 25 points lower than Wright. That counts for something.

  102. Titan says:
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    Thanks for the rankings Grey! Nice job…

    are these guys just outside the top 300 or are the bums this year?

    P: Jurrjens, Floyd, Pineiro, Kuo, Wolf, Garland, Westbrook, Baker, Braden, Slowey, Dickey, Porcello, Happ, Drabek, Stauffer

    B: Aybar, Encarnacion, Loney, Thome, Matsui, Joyce, Seth Smith, Mclouth, Maybin, Wiggington, JD Drew, Mags

    Just curious if you had 2 cents worth on any of this group?

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