Roto Riteup: March 13, 2013

Everyone loves a feel good story. I’m feeling good, and that is my story.

Today’s agenda:
1. The Oakland A’s Infield Debate
2. David Price: Fantasy Ace and Opening Day Starter
3. Alex Cobb Sleeper Pick

The Oakland A’s Infield Debate
After signing and announcing that Hiroyuki Nakajima would be their shortstop, the Oakland Athletics seems to be back pedaling from that statement. According to some sources, the A’s have been so thoroughly unimpressed with his play that the shortstop position is now open. With recent trade acquisition Jed Lowrie looking for playing time, there A’s may have a positional battle on their hands. Both players are surrounded with question marks; Nakajima has no MLB experience — albeit plenty of experience in his native Japan — and everyone is well aware of Lowrie’s injury history. At this point, with no clear leader, it is best to avoid both altogether. There are a plenty of late round options to be had for you MI slot, such as Jean Segura, Dustin Ackley, and Everth Cabrera.

David Price is a Mighty Fine Pitcher
In an announcement that surprised absolutely no one, the Tampa Bay Rays have let the world know that their 2013 opening day starter will be none other than David Price. With heat, a devastating breaking ball, and strong control, Price is a top five fantasy pitcher this season and is the number one two option in AL-only leagues (over Felix Hernandez and just behind Justin Verlander). In mixed leagues, Price figures to be a fourth round pick with upside if he manages to win 20 games again. He is a bona fide fantasy stud. As deep as pitching is this season — and I believe it is very deep — it lacks in the upper echelon. There seems to be a distinct gap between the seventh and eighth round pitchers, a gap that I personally define by Gio Gonzalez. Gio seems to be the last of the top dozen or so pitchers that I would feel really happy with being my SP1. There are good pitchers to be had after Gio, there are just many more questions marks surrounding them. I’ve actually gotten away from my personal “no pitchers until the eighth” rule and have taken two starters in the fourth and fifth rounds. My target for my first pitcher has always been Price. If this were poker, I’d be pushing all-in with Price.

Alex Cobb Sleeper Pick
In a somewhat pedestrian 2012 season where Cobb made 23 starts and posted an inspired ground ball rate — 58.8% — but a fairly mediocre 18.6% strikeout rate. He probably won’t ever post a 200 strikeout season, his SwStr% just doesn’t allow that, but his ground ball rate keeps him in games and gets him out of trouble. His 3.54 xFIP last season was good for 10th best in the AL with a minimum of 130 innings pitched. Cobb posted a strong FIP despite possessing a slightly elevated home run rate. Last season, major league starters posted an 11.8% HR/FB% whereas Cobb, despite playing in a very pitcher friendly home park, had a 12.8% HR/FB%. His home/away home run split is just three at Tropicana and eight on the road. Some may interpret that as a sign of road troubles, but given his very strong ground ball tendencies, I am more inclined to say that his home run rate will come down a touch. With a league average BABIP and LOB%, I expect Cobb’s ERA to beat his FIP by a healthy amount. His current ADP, via Mock Draft Central, is 250. For a 20+ round draft pick, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value than what Cobb has to offer. Sure, his strikeouts will be less than perfect, but given his relative value, his ERA potential is well worth a late round flier.

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Depends on scoring since he’ll hurt your average but in OBP and points leagues I’d take Lowrie over any of those guys. He’s the best option the A’s have at 3B, SS, 2B, he’s going to get 500 at bats (caveat on him being healthy for 500 abs)
The news about Nakajima only boosts Lowries value even more for me. Could be this years Prado a guy who qualifies at 2B/SS and earns top 7 value