With the MLB All Star game tonight, it’s a good time to see who the Fantasy all-stars are.
One simple thing is to use RotoValue to see who’s having the best seasons so far. My site has demo lists for deep AL-only 4×4 and 5×5 leagues, and these are indeed the most valuable players under those scoring conditions. But whether you use an auction (which I prefer) or a draft for allocation, what makes a fantasy all star is not merely on-field performance, but performance relative to expectations. To create this team, I compared RotoValue prices of players based on first half statistics with RotoValue prices calculated from the Consensus of the forecast systems I have available on my site, both 4×4 and 5×5. A player’s “profit” is his RotoValue based on actual stats minus his RotoValue based on projected stats. So what matters here is not merely playing well, but also playing better than projections, because those projected to play well were likely early draft picks or high priced auction players whom we expected to do well. While you need some people meeting high expectations on a championship team, what usually drives fantasy titles is getting stellar performances from players not expected to be stars.
So without further ado, here’s my AL fantasy all-star team.
1B: Chris Davis heads the fantasy all star team in both formats, as he hits the break leading the AL with 37 HR, and is ranked 2nd with 70 runs scored and 95 RBI. Oh, and he’s batting .315. No SB, but those numbers have been worth $49.77 in 4×4 and $47.42 in 5×5, second overall in overall value behind only Miguel Cabrera, who tops the league in Runs, RBI, and Average. Davis was a highly touted prospect who had been missing in earlier chances with Texas before finding a home in Baltimore and breaking out last year with 33 HR and 85 RBI in 139 games. Most projection systems, however, tempered expectations because of his earlier struggles, so his consensus projection was just .266 with 22 HR, 60 R, and 65 RBI, worth just $15.03 in 4×4 and $14.49 in 5×5. So Davis has returned three times expected value. If you have him on your team, you’re probably in first, or close to it.
2B: This was a close split decision, highlighting expected versus actual value. Jason Kipnis leads in 4×4, as his consensus expected RotoValue was $21.43, based on .261, 15 HR, 81 RBI, and 21 SB stats. But the Indians’ star has been much better, batting .301 with 13 HR, 53 R, 57 RBI, and 21 SB by the break, giving him a $36.27 4×4 RotoValue, and a profit of $15.21. In 5×5, however, Kipnis’s stats earned $34.08, compared to a $22.37 expectation, for a profit of $11.71. That was quite good, but was edged out by Twins’ 2B Brian Dozier, who was expected to be worth $-0.02 based on a .249, 6 HR, 34 R, 31 RBI 7 SB consensus projection, but who has basically matched those totals by the All-Star break. His average is down, at .235, but he’s hit 8 HR, scored 38 runs, driven in 35, and stolen 8 bases. These aren’t great stats, but in 5×5 they’ve earned $11.98 so far. If you got Dozier cheap, or as a very late pick or even a free-agent add, you’ve gotten some decent cumulative value at the middle infield at low cost. Kipnis is the overall RotoValue leader in both 4×4 and 5×5, just ahead of Robinson Cano. But Kipnis owners probably got him later, or at least cheaper, than Cano’s owners, so he’s been the clearly more valuable fantasy player.
3B: Josh Donaldson is a clear choice here in both formats, as he’s had a huge first half, batting .310 with 16 HR, 50 R, 61 RBI, and 2 SB, good for a $27.78 5×5 RotoValue, and $28.24 in 4×4. Donaldson was not expected to do much by any of the systems – none projected more than 319 AB, and the consensus worked out to .246, 9 HR, 32 R, 33 RBI, 3 SB in 250 AB, which was a little below $0 in RotoValue in these 10 team leagues, so all of his positive RotoValue counts as profit. Indeed Donaldson has the 2nd highest profit in 5×5, behind only Davis, and 3rd highest in 4×4. Miguel Cabrera leads in overall RotoValue, and indeed has done even better than his already high expectations. The triple-crown winner may do it again, as he leads the AL with a .365 average, 73 runs, and 95 RBI. His 30 HR do trail Chris Davis by 7, so he’s got some ground to make up there. But his fantasy value is up from projections, just nowhere near as much as Donaldson’s. So while Cabrera is clearly the more valuable player, Donaldson has been the better fantasy choice.
SS: This brings another split decision. In 4×4, Jhonny Peralta hit .303 with 8 HR, 40 R, 46 RBI, and 3 SB to earn $18.70, compared to Consensus projections of .258, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 68 RBI, and 2 SB, which would be worth $9.96. In 5×5, the nod goes to Mike Aviles, who was expected to earn just $0.58 based on a .257, 6, 32, 30, 8 line, but has so far earned $10.31 on a .259, 5, 37, 26, 7 line. Aviles’s case shows the importance of playing time, as his per-AB production is not far off projections, but he’s playing much more than predicted, so his cumulative numbers so far are already about at the full year projected values, and thus his value is higher than predicted. Peralta leads AL shortstops in overall RotoValue in both formats, as pre-season projection leader Jose Reyes spent most of the first half on the disabled list, while Elvis Andrus has slumped, and Erick Aybar has only 4 SB after being projected for 20.
C: Jason Castro takes this fantasy spot, as he’s hit .269 with 12 HR, 40 R, 31 RBI, and 2 SB for Houston, earning $16.73 in 5×5, and $14.58 in 4×4. Similar to Aviles, Castro is not playing that much better than expected – consensus projections were .251, 9 HR, 45 R, 40 RBI, 2 SB in 372 AB – but he is playing more, as he has 297 AB at the break. Castro has been the third most valuable catcher, behind Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana, but he was surely cheaper than both.
OF: The all-fantasy outfield is populated by three players not expected to be owned. While the ordering depends on scoring format, the top three are the same, Nate McLouth, Raul Ibanez, and Daniel Nava. Like teammate Chris Davis, McLouth has revived his career in Baltimore, and his second half last year showed signs of it, as he stole 12 bases and scored 39 runs in 89 games after being released by Pittsburgh and inking a minor league deal with the Orioles. This year he’s improved from that, batting .275 with 6 HR, 53 R, 16 RBI, and 24 SB to earn $19.29 in 5×5 and $17.46 in 4×4. Projections were just .237, 9 HR, 44 R, 31 RBI, and 9 SB. Ibanez returned to Seattle, and is playing like he did during his last tenure there, batting .267 with 24 HR, 38 R, and 56 RBI, to earn $22.03 in 4×4 and $18.99 in 5×5, where the low runs scored relatively hurt him.
The 41 year old Ibanez was not expected to do much, just .245 with 11 HR, 40 R and 46 RBI consensus projections, so his owners should be quite pleased.
Nava locked up the starting LF job in Boston, and has produced, batting .288 with 10 HR, 52 R, and 52 RBI, earning $14.84 in 4×4 and $17.22 in 5×5. He’s already surpassed year-long consensus projections of .249, 5 HR, 31 R, and 29 RBI, but none of the projection systems predicted more than 310 AB, so he gets an added boost by playing full-time (he now is at 312 AB).
The outfield is one position where fantasy all-stars differ greatly from the most productive fantasy players. Mike Trout leads all outfielders in RotoValue, followed by Adam Jones in 5×5 and Jacoby Ellsbury in 4×4 (with Ellsbury 3rd in 5×5, and Jones 3rd in 4×4). The three chosen as fantasy all stars all would have been late round, or cheap, picks, costing little, but who have produced quite well. The overall leaders are better players, but would have cost more, and thus been less profitable to own.
DH: David Ortiz leads both in total RotoValue and in profit, as rather than slowing down with age, as projection systems would predict, he’s showing no signs of slowing, batting .317 with 19 HR, 49 R, and 65 RBI despite spending the first 3 weeks of the year on the disabled list. He’s even matched his career high of 3 SB to boot, giving him a $24.57 4×4 RotoValue and a $21.23 5×5 RotoValue. Projection systems tend to get quite cautious as players age, both in rate statistics and in playing time, as Ortiz’s consensus projections were just 19 HR, 60 R, 63 RBI, and 1 SB in 365 AB, and no system projected more than 422 AB. So Ortiz probably would not have been as cheap in most leagues as the $5-$6 RotoValue prices derived from projections. But he’s continued to produce, and I doubt too many of his owners are disappointed.
SP: Bartolo Colon heads the starting pitchers, as he’s posted 12 wins, a 1.113 WHIP, 2.70 ERA, and 70 Ks in 126.67 IP, good for a $31.52 4×4 RotoValue, and a $24.67 5×5 RotoValue. The projections for a 40 year old pitcher were poor, averaging just 90 IP, a 3.88 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, and 5 wins, numbers he’s already easily surpassed. He may still be at risk of breaking down – he’s on pace for 216 innings, but hasn’t pitched more than 165 since 2005, but his owners are clearly happy so far. For a guy who was available late or cheap, he’s been a great pickup. Colon was the 2nd best value in 4×4 scoring, trailing only Chris Davis, and 3rd best in 5×5.
Hisashi Iwakuma came over from Japan last season, moving from the bullpen at first into the rotation late last year. This year, he’s been an ace, with 8 wins, 113 Ks, a 3.02 ERA, and a microscopic 0.937 WHIP in 131.33 IP, earning $28.46 in 4×4 and $27.20 in 5×5. He’s been going through a rough patch recently, giving up 3 or more ER in each of his past 6 starts, after doing so just twice in his first 14, but overall Iwakuma has been excellent, easily surpassing projections of 9 wins, 3.87 ERA, and 1.314 WHIP.
Clay Buchholz is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, which should understandably leave his owners nervous, but they can’t complain at all about how well he’s pitched this year. Buchholz has 9 wins, a 1.020 WHIP, a 1.71 ERA, and 81 Ks in just 84.33 IP (12 starts), giving him a $27.24 RotoValue in 4×4, and a $22.86 RotoValue in 5×5, where the lower strikeout total hurts more. His production has been even better than his outstanding 2010 campaign, but his weaker years in between led to consensus projections of just 11 wins, 4.31 ERA, 1.343 WHIP, and 119 Ks in 170 IP, for a $5.47 RotoValue in 4×4, and $7.18 in 5×5.
Max Scherzer is the AL starter for tonight’s game, and also the most valuable RotoValue pitcher in both 4×4 and 5×5 formats. He’s posted 13 wins, a 3.19 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, and 152 Ks in just 129.67 IP, earning $35.87 in 5×5 RotoValue, and $34.76 in 4×4 RotoValue, ahead of runner-up Felix Hernandez in both formats. But where Hernandez was one of the costliest pitchers coming into the year, a proven ace and past Cy Young award winner, expectations for Scherzer were more muted. The consensus forecast was 12 wins, 3.84 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, and 178 Ks in 175 IP, a $13.59 4×4 RotoValue, and $17.28 in 5×5. So while Scherzer was not cheap, he should have been much less expensive than Hernandez (or the relatively slumping teammate Justin Verlander).
John Lackey rounds out the fantasy all-star rotation. He missed 3 weeks in April with a biceps injury, but has otherwise been quite good: 7 wins, 2.78 ERA, 1.136 WHIP, and 91 Ks in 100.33 IP, earning $17.64 in 4×4 and $17.42 in 5×5. He’s not been an elite starter, but he’s been quite good, and recent struggles (a 6.41 ERA and 1.619 WHIP last year, after 4.40/1.419 the year before) left him with poor consensus projections: 8 wins, 4.70 ERA, 1.445 WHIP, and 93 Ks in 133 IP, numbers which would hurt more in ERA/WHIP than they woud help in wins and Ks.
RP: In 5×5 scoring, Koji Uehara was the biggest surprise, as he’s both pitched even better than already good expectations, and he’s also become the Red Sox closer, adding saves to his value. Uehara has 2 wins, 8 saves, 60 Ks, a 0.756 WHIP and 1.70 ERA in 42.33 IP, worth $11.34 in 5×5 and $14.09 in 4×4. The consensus projections were already good – 2 wins, 4 saves, 0.968 WHIP, 2.78 ERA, and 53 Ks in 47 IP, but the 38-year old has stayed healthy and pitched even better than projected. Addison Reed has also done well, with 4 wins, 24 saves, a 1.073 WHIP, 3.95 ERA, and 42 Ks in 41.33 IP. For a time it was unclear if Reed would keep the closer’s job, and while he has been somewhat shaky recently (two terrible outings helped raise his ERA from 1.96 on June 1 to 3.95 today), he’s 5th in the league in saves.
The biggest 4×4 profits came from middle relievers, which is not all that surprising. Middle relievers who pitch effectively can have a big positive impact on ERA and WHIP, especially in 4×4 leagues. Aaron Loup has 46.33 IP with a 0.971 WHIP and 1.94 ERA, with 4 wins, 2 saves, and 33 Ks, which has been worth $11.23. Tommy Hunter posted a 0.898 WHIP and 2.41 ERA in 52.33 IP, with 3 wins, 2 saves, and 39 Ks, earning $10.27.
Of my fantasy All-Stars, only three, Chris Davis, David Ortiz, and Max Scherzer, are starting in tonight’s game. But Clay Buchholz, Hisashi Iwakuma, Bartolo Colon, Jason Castro, Jhonny Peralta, and Jason Kipnis all made the roster for the actual game.