Fantasy Mailbag: Catcher strategy, trade vetoes, James Shields

Tim Dierkes writes a daily fantasy baseball blog called RotoAuthority. If you enjoy this column, check it out.

Time to bust out the ol’ mailbag once again. I love answering random reader questions. Feel free to send one here, but please don’t make it specific to your fantasy team. Let’s dive in.

What do you think of not drafting a catcher until one of the latest rounds in a two-catcher 12-man league? Would this be a wise strategy if I do not draft one of the top four catchers?—Michael

I recently did a league where I drafted both Russell Martin and Joe Mauer, because I thought they had slipped further than they should have. While this strategy may work out, I mostly regret it. At most, I’d recommend shooting for one of the top three—Martin, Mauer, McCann—and then filling the other slot with a fairly cheap guy.

Note that “fairly cheap” does not imply “Johnny Estrada.” Geovany Soto in the 14th round, J.R. Towles in the 17th, Carlos Ruiz in the 25th and Ryan Doumit in the 26th are what I had in mind. And the idea of Dioner Navarro as an undrafted mixed league sleeper is definitely starting to grow on me, looking at his last two months.

We have a keeper league where two players of relatively equal values were swapped. Fair trade, right? Well, what if that trade was right before the trade deadline and one owner had no intention of keeping the player received? He called it an “owner courtesy trade” and as it was otherwise a fair trade he thought it reasonable to do as he wasn’t keeping his player anyways. Some owners in our league are fine with it while others are calling foul—with the reasoning being that something was given for “nothing.” We resolved the issue already, but I’m curious to hear what would you would say: fair or foul?—Eldestson

Foul. I am very much opposed to vetoing trades because they seem unbalanced. The one reason I will object to a trade is if I see it as one owner doing another a favor. As soon as it happens (often between family members) the integrity of the league is shot. In this case, you know it was a favor because he basically said so. Owners in good competitive leagues do not aid other teams with no benefit to themselves. Usually if you do a $50-100 buy-in you’ll eliminate this issue.

How legit was James Shields of Tampa Bay last year? Was last a year a career year or the start of an amazing run? How much injury risk do you see?—Dan B.

I consider Shields’ 2007 quite legit, though I don’t think he’ll replicate it. I’m calling for a 4.03 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 179 strikeouts in 218 innings, a $17 value. Shields could be Aaron Harang and then some in the NL, but remember he’s in the AL East. As a ninth rounder Shields is being drafted about where he should be. But Tim Lincecum is going later and I’d prefer him.

As for injury risk, Shields’ 29-inning increase last year doesn’t worry me; 14.9 pitchers per inning is definitely on the efficient side (same as C.C. Sabathia in ’07).

A friend of mine told me last week that he could win a roto league drafting all pitching first, so we made a wager of it. The deal is, in an ESPN public roto league, he drafted pitching until all the roster spots were full, and I drafted hitting until all I had a full complement. After that we’re free to do whatever except that we’re not allowed to trade or drop our initial set of pitchers and hitters, respectively. The question is: Which of the two following teams do you prefer, and do you consider either of these all-or-nothing draft strategies to be reasonable? My draft is even more avant-garde, as I over-drafted an army of b-list closers to fill out my pitching.—Fletcher

In a good competitive league (ie, the exact opposite of an ESPN public league), this strategy would be highly unlikely to work. I can almost guarantee that drafting all pitchers will bomb, probably even in a crappy league. However, a savvy player could make the all hitters approach work. If you won all the hitting categories you’d have 60 points. That means you’d need maybe 30 pitching points, for which a completely average staff would be needed. You could assemble an average or slightly above average staff on the waiver wire.

I have begun to lean toward the hitting-heavy approach, which is of course conventional wisdom. But if you’re good at picking pitchers, you can definitely wait until the 10th round for them and assemble a reliable offense.

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