Coors Field has unconsciously driven my fantasy strategy for years. What I mean by that is that I'm used to seeing roughly 20% more offense when I go to Rockies games than the average fan sees at their home park. I'm prejudiced towards hitting, always have been. After all, almost all the Rockies worth drafting this year (and most years) are on the offensive side of the game - some because of the home park, and some because they're legitimately good.
Everyone's a bit of a homer when it comes to drafting their fantasy team, so you're likely to want at least one Rockies player on your team. I'll go over the Yahoo! rankings of some Rockies players in a minute, but first I've got some tips for drafting Rockies players (the analysis is geared toward standard leagues). For those of you who are drafting with me tomorrow, you're welcome. I'm totally blaming this if I end up losing.
Pro Tip #1 - Don't draft any Rockies starting pitchers
Seriously. Advanced stats like WAR and ERA- might make an adjustment for pitching in extreme hitting environments, but the standard pitching stats in fantasy baseball (Wins, ERA, WHIP, Saves, Ks) sure don't.
Jhoulys Chacin might be a better pitcher than Homer Bailey in a neutral environment, but Chacin is undraftable given Coors' propensity for inflating ERA and WHIP and the Rockies' propensity for pulling their pitchers a little earlier in games. Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa might have great bounceback years for the Rockies this season, but it's not likely to be anything more than a middling fantasy outcome.
When I think about it, the only Rockies pitcher really worth your consideration in a standard league is closer Rafael Betancourt, whose saves will obviously help - and so will his great ERA/WHIP and K/inning rates. If you have to get a Rockies pitcher, Betancourt's your best bet. With that said...
Pro Tip #2 - Don't pay for saves,
This applies to an auction or snake draft format. Every single year there's a few guys who go undrafted that end up in the top 10 in the league for saves (Jim Johnson comes to mind from last year) - they're going to be freely available to you if you're paying attention on the waiver wire. I know that wasn't related specifically towards Rockies, but the over-emphasis on the saves stat is why real-life MLB teams pay their closer 5x what they pay an often more effective set-up man.
Pro Tip #3 - Coors Field makes some Rockies worth drafting who wouldn't otherwise get picked
Given a run environment that enhances the production of four of the five standard fantasy stats (R, RBI, Average, HR, not Steals) by 20%, a middling offense talent-wise like the Rockies becomes a top tier squad in terms of counting and rate stats - especially if you only play those Rockies in their Coors Field match-ups.
Players like Chris Nelson, Jordan Pacheco, Tyler Colvin, or even Nolan Arenado might not be drafted if they played their home games elsewhere, but at Coors Field they're all worth late round looks as bench players. Meanwhile, otherwise marginal fantasy producers like Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, and Josh Rutledge become players worth inserting into your starting line-up.
Okay, so I probably didn't tell you too much you already didn't know. Here's the list of Rockies in order of their Yahoo! overall rank (I listed all players who appeared on the positional lists as well):
|Player||Overall Rank||Position||Top Position Rank|
|Michael Cuddyer||175||1B, OF||27 (1B)|
|Josh Rutledge||195||2B, SS||15 (SS)|
|Tyler Colvin||314||1B, OF||35 (1B)|
|Jordan Pacheco||332||C, 1B, 3B||25 (C)|
|Chris Nelson||NR||2B, 3B||36 (2B)|
|Jorge De La Rosa||NR||SP||94|
So what can we learn from the list above?
- Tulo and Cargo are well worth those early round picks or high auction bids - yes there's some injury risk with Tulo, but he'll be far and away the best fantasy (and real life) SS in the game if healthy.
- Rosario could really reward you with a power explosion out of the catcher position, though there are a lot of catchers out there who will provide decent production at a lower price or later round.
- Betancourt's job is safe and he's a great reliever, though when you're 38 that's always an injury flag. Rex Brothers is the handcuff in this situation.
- Fowler won't kill you in any category and he'll be particularly useful in runs, but his game is not really built fo the fantasy game, given that a lot of his slugging is with 2B and 3B. I'd have him slotted as my 4th or 5th outfielder.
- Cuddyer will get consistent playing time and will hit in a spot in the order (right behind Cargo and Tulo) that will be conducive to getting lots of RBIs and he's got some decent power potential, which makes him a better fantasy option than Fowler in my opinion - still a fringe starter in fantasy though. If he were eligible at 2B, as he was last year, Cuddyer would be a good starter at that position.
- Rutledge is the kind of player who is great for a Rockies fan to draft. He'll score a lot of runs and he's got some decent pop, plus he plays a weak offensive position. It remains to be seen if he can make some adjustments to major league pitching after cooling off at the end of the year, but Rutledge is a second-tier starter at either middle infield position.
- Arenado isn't worth drafting in my opinion - when he gets a call-up, you can grab him off the waiver wire for free, and even when that occurs I'm wary of prospects getting their first taste of the big leagues. Heck, Mike Trout wasn't even very good during his MLB time in 2011.
- Colvin's strengths in fantasy are very similar to Cuddyer's, though Colvin's playing time will be a little less predictable, which is why he's more of a bench player despite his ability to contribute in all 5 categories.
- Pacheco isn't a terrible option if you look up at the end of your draft and realize you don't have a catcher, but otherwise he's the guy you pick up when your starter gets injured. He won't be playing everyday, and when he does play he'll only really help you in average.
- Nelson's a 3rd tier 3rd baseman, but I like him as a fantasy player in 2013 more than either Arenado or Pacheco simply because he'll get regular playing time and he has 2B eligibility. He also will probably hit the most home runs of any of the three.
- For De La Rosa, see Pro Tip #1
- In addition to the players above, a last round pick or waiver wire guy to keep in mind from the Rockies is Eric Young. If his 2012 hot streak is real and translates into more 2013 playing, EY becomes a guy who gets you steals in bunches while hitting lead-off in the lineup that will probably score a bunch of runs this year.
So there you have it, a Rockies-centric fantasy guide. Good luck, Godspeed, and may the Force be with you.
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