First rounders often don't perform like first rounders - Sports Illustrated

MLB fantasy mailbag: Rare are first rounders who play as expected

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I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

Head to head, ninth pick, 12 teams. Robinson Cano, Justin Upton, Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Jacoby Ellsbury, Prince Fielder. Top 2 in order please?-- @Quinn8585

Here's the dirty little secret of fantasy baseball -- no one really knows the answer to this question. We all obsess over whom to take in the first and second rounds as if the answer matters more than air. In truth, no one knows. According to a study in the 2012 Baseball Forecaster by Baseball HQ, over the past eight years you have a 37.5 percent chance of drafting someone in the Top-15 who finishes the year inside the Top-15. That means you have roughly a one in three chance of "hitting" on your first-round selection. On the flip side, that means two-thirds of the players drafted in the first round this year will not return first-round value when the 2012 season is complete. Remember that next time you're biting your fingernails trying to figure out who the best guy is to draft in Round 1. If it was my team I'd take CarGo and Robinson Cano.

I was offered a trade: Joey Votto for Prince Fielder. Maybe I'm splitting hairs but I don't see a big difference, do you?-- @AtlFan23

In a standard 5x5 fantasy league I think there is a difference, and it's twofold. First, Fielder has hit .282 for his career. In two of the past four years he's failed to reach that mark, and he's never hit .300 in a season (he fell one hit short last year, finishing at .299). Votto has hit .313 for his career, has hit at least .309 each of the past three years, and in four full big league seasons he has never hit lower than .297. Votto is clearly the better play in batting average. The second area in which he is a step up on Fielder is in the steals category. Votto likely isn't going to steal 16 bases again as he did in 2010, but he did flash enough speed to swipe eight bags last year, giving him a two year average of 12 steals a season. Fielder has a mere 16 steals in his career, including two the past two seasons. An eight-steal different doesn't sound like much, but it's a huge fantasy boost in value for Votto. One last point that tips things in the favor of Votto: Fielder has been the slightly better power bat with bigger homer totals, but this season he moves from a park in Milwaukee that was the second best homer park in the NL the past three years for lefties (according to Park Indices), to one in Detroit that was only 10th best in the AL for lefties. It's quite possible that the homer gap between the two disappears this season.

I was offered Kendrys Morales for Michael Young straight up -- would you accept that offer?-- @Jpetermon

Hype always amazes me. Every year we see rookies and youngsters driven up to the point that they are being drafted as if they were five time All-Stars (Hello, Brett Lawrie and Matt Moore). We also see players who excel in spring training being drafted way too early (I'm thinking Lorenzo Cain might fit into this category this year). A player who certainly fits into this second group is Morales. Yes, he is 11-for-26 (. 423) with two homers but where is this hysteria coming from? How many at-bats did Morales have last year? Zero. How many at-bats has Morales had since the All-Star break in 2010? Zero? In fact, over the past 22 months Morales has zero big league at-bats (he last appeared in a game on May 29, 2010). Not just that, we're talking about 26 spring training at-bats as well; that's the definition of small sample size. Sure he's looked great this spring, and he was a 34-homer, 108-RBI bat who hit .306 in '09, but Carlos Lee hit .300 with 26 homers and 102 RBI in '09 (not exactly a great comparison. I know, but hopefully you get my point). Morales might again be a Top-10 first basemen this season, but there is no way I'd take him in a deal straight up for Michael Young, one of the most consistent hitters in baseball the past decade. No thanks.

Jonathan Broxton and uncertainty in Kansas City, or Mark Melancon and uncertainty in Boston?-- @mrlcpbra

I have probably, and I'm not exaggerating, received 150 questions about the Red Sox and Royals bullpen situations over the past 10 days. And my answer? When a team doesn't know who they are going to turn to in the ninth inning, how in the world am I supposed to know what the "right" answer is? The answer to this question basically comes down to your philosophy on relievers. Some • How will a manager handle the ninth inning? Will he choose to go with experience, guile, stuff, matchups?

• Teams don't always go with their best pitcher in the ninth inning, and that makes answering this issue, from a fantasy baseball perspective, maddening. Think of the Nationals. Their best reliever is Tyler Clippard, so he should be the first choice to fill in for the injured Drew Storen. However, the Nats think Clippard is far too important in his setup role to handle the ninth inning, so it looks like the save chances will be given to Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, who are inferior pitchers to Clippard.

• If closer No. 1 is out of commission, how long a leash will the "backup" closer have? If he blows two saves will the manager flip to Option 3?

• Given all of that, I target skills, not role. That's my choice. In the end,skills win out. Teams tire quickly -- unless you're Kevin Gregg -- of seeing their closers struggle to close out games. Eventually the most skilled players should, notice I say should, gravitate to the ninth inning (it's why I have recommended Kenley Jansen over Javy Guerra even though Guerra will close to start the year for the Dodgers). If you go with the skills, eventually you will be rewarded. However, that does not mean you will always make the "right" fantasy choice. The fact is that you need saves, and if Guerra gives you 29 saves with a 4.43 ERA he's still going to provide more fantasy value than Jansen and his six saves and 2.13 ERA. Those are the breaks in the standard 5x5 fantasy game.

Given all of that, I'd go with Greg Holland and Mark Melancon if I was deciding on whom to add from the Royals and Red Sox bullpens, respectively.

Thirteen-team 7x7 roto. Closer neglect left me with just Andrew Bailey. Free agent list dry. OK to punt? Can it be done? -- @FearNLoathinNyc

I don't ever recommend punting a category, but you can do it and win (it stands an even better chance of being successful in a head-to-head league than a roto league). For a breakdown of this strategy see Punting Categories -- A Good Idea?

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.