Fantasy baseball mailbag

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I'm in a 12 man keeper league, head-to-head points. My options are Ubaldo Jimenez in the 8th or Mat Latos in the 16th. I know Jimenez is a pretty good deal in the eighth, but does the value of Latos eight rounds later make him the guy to protect even though he's not as proven as Jimenez?-- Travis, Austin, Texas

The old keeper conundrum facing so many people at this time of year. Do you go with the more valuable fantasy performer or the better value? First off, let's attack the idea of which pitcher is more valuable.

Jimenez: 19-8, 2.88 ERA, 8.37 K/9, 2.33 K/BB, 1.15 WHIP, .209 BAA in 221.2 IP

M. Latos: 14-10, 2.92 ERA, 9.21 K/9, 3.78 K/BB, 1.08 WHIP, .217 BAAA in 184.2 IP

If we look solely at last seasons numbers, I'd be hard pressed to say that Jimenez was clearly the better pitcher. In fact, if we remove the W-L record from the discussion, it certainly appears that Latos pitched slightly better than Jimenez. Therefore, if that was all the data we had at our disposal it would seem to be a no brainer to keep Latos since his draft day cost would be eight rounds cheaper.

What about the place each hurler pitches? While Coors Field is no longer the launching pad it once was since the introduction of the humidor, it's still a park that heavily favors offense. According to Bill James' Park Indices, Coors was the best park in the NL in 2010 to score a run or hit a home run. Flip the situation over to Petco Park in San Diego, where Latos pitches, and it's almost like we are talking another language. Petco was the second worst park in the NL in terms of runs and it was 12th in homers in the NL. Given that, the advantage clearly goes to Latos -- despite the fact that Jimenez and his "heavy" fastball has always performed well at home (in '10 he posted a 3.19 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 96 Ks in 101.2 innings in Coors).

What about their health, a massive concern with hurlers (consider the case of Adam Wainwright)? We all know that any pitch can send a hurler to the doctor's office, but if we are to simply consider the data with these two hurlers, we'd have to conclude that Jimenez is the "safer" hurler. Ubaldo has thrown at least 198.2 innings each of the past three years, something only four other NL hurlers have been able to do (Bronson Arroyo, Matt Cain, Ryan Dempster and Tim Lincecum). As for Latos, as I related in The Verducci Effect, he has seen his innings increase dramatically the past two years, which is a legitimate concern. He also tanked miserably at the end of last season (1-5, 5.84 ERA, 1.43 WHIP over his last seven starts), perhaps a sign he was worn out. Early reports this year are very positive, however, and for what it's worth, Latos is a pretty big kid (6-foot-6, 225 lbs.) so maybe he'll be just fine.

If I was sitting down at a draft table looking to roster hurlers in a re-draft league, I'd have Jimenez ranked ahead of Latos. At the same time, it would be as tough a decision as it would be deciding between whether I wanted Brooklyn Decker or Irina Shayk to be in my dreams tonight. Given the massive eight-round advantage you pick up in your keeper format, Travis, it's a no brainer that you roster the hurler from the Padres.

What are your thoughts on Yunel Escobar at shortstop for the Blue Jays. Is he going to return to being productive with Toronto?-- Joseph

Escobar was awful last season, kind of like that rancid peach you think you can still eat if you work your way around the bad parts, only to find out you were dead wrong. In 497 at-bats Yunel hit .256 with four homers, 35 RBI and a .655 OPS. It wouldn't take much for him to improve on that effort, but I think there is much more to be mined here than slight improvement. Let me drop some knowledge on you as people seem to have forgotten just how good Yunel already has been.

In '08, Escobar hit .288 with 10 homers, 60 RBI, 71 runs and two steals. In standard 5x5 scoring, that left him as the 143rd best overall hitter and the 12th-most productive shortstop.

In '09 Escobar hit .299 with 14 homers, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored and five steals. That 5x5 fantasy effort left him as the 75th best fantasy hitter in the game, and the seventh-best shortstop.

It's not like Escobar has to do anything other than return to "normal" to produce a massive amount of value given last year's down effort has relegated him to a current ADP mark of about 375.

Is there reason, other than his previously strong performances, to think he will return to relevance this season? Of course.

(1) Escobar is only 29-years old, hardly an age when people lose "it."

(2) Toronto's park is a solid one for offense as it was above average in '11 in batting average, runs and hits, while it was the third best park to go deep, according to Park Indices in the AL.

(3) Escobar really wasn't that bad last year -- honest. Take a look.

2010: 9.9 BB-rate, 11.5 K-rate, 0.98 BB/KCareer: 9.4 BB-rate, 12.1 K-rate, 0.88 BB/K

Huh is right. He was actually better than normal in these three categories.

2010: 1.89 GB/FB, 18.0 LD-rateCareer: 2.02 GB/FB, 18.8 LD-rate

Huh again. His ground ball, fly ball and line drive rates were almost a dead on match for his career levels. So why was he so bad last year?

2010: 3.3 HR/F, .282 BABIP, .251 average vs. rightiesCareer: 7.6 HR/F, .314 BABIP, .293 average vs. righties

Escobar isn't ever going to be a power hitter -- he hits too many balls on the ground -- but he should be able to reach double-digit homers when his HR/F normalizes. You also have to think that he was a bit unlucky last year with a .032 point dip in his BABIP given that his G/F/L rates were the same as "normal." It's also odd to see his batting average drop by more than .040 points against righties. You have to figure that number will rebound.

Escobar will come cheap on draft day, and the numbers seem to indicate that a return to at least his '08 level is possible.

I'm in an auction draft for the first time, and I'm getting pretty nervous. Any advice for a newbie to the format?-- Eric, Los Angeles

Welcome to the world of auctions. Once you get the fever for doing them it's often hard to go back to traditional snake drafts because of the slower pace and the inability to have the same level of control over the players you can choose for your roster. Here are some general tips.

1. Make sure you have a plan, understand the rules and have a working knowledge of the player pool. You will not have time to check a magazine to find out if David DeJesus can help you in the steals department, you will have to know that information.

2. In terms of what strategy to employ, I wrote a simple introduction to the auction format in How to Do an Auction Draft. You'll find a basic review of the simplest ways to attack an auction there.

3. Do some mock auctions if you can. I get made fun of all the time for doing mock drafts by my friends, but they are an invaluable tool if you ask me.

4. I'd also suggest listening in on how the "experts" do it. This Saturday and Sunday, on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, the LABR auction drafts for the AL and NL will be carried live (for programming information see SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio). It can't hurt to hear how the experts work their way through an auction.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 211 and XM 147. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at