Changes within fantasy baseball do not come quickly. The founders originally went with 4x4 scoring when creating the game over 30 years ago, and it was not until the mid-'90s that 5x5 became a more popular format, adding runs and strikeouts as "new" categories. Further proof of the slow pace of change within the industry is the fact that Tout Wars is dropping the batting average category in favor of on-base percentage in all leagues for the first time in its 17-year history.
The change in scoring categories has taken place more quickly at the local levels as leagues incorporate holds, OPS, stolen base percentage, quality starts and more. Local leagues are also pushing change along in overall league formats. Fantasy baseball has a long history of deciding winners based on points by category over the course of the full season. That marathon-like format has given way to the influence of fantasy football's popular head-to-head format; in fact, head-to-head leagues, both rotisserie-style and points-based, comprise approximately two thirds of all leagues on ESPN.com, with traditional rotisserie scoring comprising the rest.
The draw of head-to-head leagues is that each week is a new matchup, so even a bad three-week run cannot sink your season. This keeps the challenge fresh, and helps prevent the cut-and-run strategy that plagues standard rotisserie league scoring, especially for new players. The challenge with head-to-head points leagues is player evaluation.
In standard roto scoring, Carlos Gomez is a top-20 player; we currently have him ranked as the 17th-best player in the 10-team, mixed league rotisserie format. In head-to-head scoring, Gomez loses quite a bit of value, as our standard 10-team, head-to head points rankings see Gomez as the 155th-best player. The standard scoring for our H2H points leagues is as follows:
• 1 point per total base
• 1 point per runs scored
• 1 point per stolen base
• 1 point per walk
• 1 point per run batted in
• -1 point per strikeout
• 3 points per inning pitched
• 5 points per win
• 5 points per save
• -1 point per hit allowed
• -2 points per earned run allowed
• -5 points per loss
• 1 point per strikeout
• -1 point per walk issued
The most valuable batters in this format are sluggers who can get on base and have low strikeout rates, while those whose games are based on speed are somewhat devalued. Pitching is not quite as volatile, because pitchers on bad teams can make up for the lack of wins by working deeper into games and striking out batters. Your best pitchers in roto leagues will still be the best ones to obtain in H2H leagues, but closers are a bit different. Closers have clear tiers in H2H formats, as the ones that do not get the strikeouts lose quite a bit of value. For example, Craig Kimbrel is ranked 48th in our roto format, and is ranked 52nd in our H2H format because of his lofty strikeout totals. Glen Perkins is ranked 134th in our roto format, but 174th in our H2H leagues as he does not have nearly the strikeout total that Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman have.
Ten of the people who make the magic happen here at ESPN Fantasy gathered earlier this week for a H2H mock: Pierre Becquey, Eric Karabell, Tim Kavanagh, Brendan Roberts, Tristan Cockcroft, Joe Kaiser, Todd Zola, James Quintong, Brian Gramling and yours truly.
These are the round-by-round results of the draft. The data tables reflect the player, their draft spot, where each player is ranked in our H2H rankings, where each player ranks in standard roto scoring, as well as the difference between where the player ranks in our H2H cheatsheets and where he was drafted. There are several instances where there is a substantial difference between where the player is ranked and where he was drafted, but that is the beauty of a mock draft.
The first round saw six of the top 10 players come off the board, while four teams reached for other players. I was responsible for the biggest reach, as I value Ellsbury higher than the projections based on previous history and the change to Yankee Stadium. Ellsbury is projected for 268 total bases, 96 runs, and 45 steals in 2014, which are barely above the totals he posted in Boston in 2013 in 134 games. The change to the short porch in Yankee Stadium should permit Ellsbury to post double-digit home run totals, as he did in 2011 when he focused on pulling pitches with power, and led the league with 364 total bases. A combination of better health and a better ballpark configuration should greatly benefit Ellsbury in 2014.
Adam Jones is coming off of two seasons of consistent production, totaling greater than 320 total bases in each season and posting nearly identical runs and steals totals. Jones is hitting for more power as he is in his peak physical years, but the top of the Baltimore lineup has a different feel to it with Nate McLouth on the other side of the beltway and Manny Machado unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. Jones will need the other consistencies in order to finish where he was drafted.
This round claimed the remaining players ranked in the top 10 who were not taken in the first round, as well as a few more values and reaches. Zola and Kaiser were both able to claim bargains, as they grabbed the third- and fourth-best players in the rankings with the 14th and 15th picks of the draft. Ramirez represented the biggest reach of the draft, as he was the first shortstop to be drafted despite being ranked fourth at the position behind Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist, and Jose Reyes. Over the past five seasons, Ramirez has developed a boom or bust cycle and another boom-type year justifies the selection.
Like Ramirez, Braun is also a wild card. Pre-suspension, Braun was an annual first-round selection, but he has slipped to No. 35 in our overall rankings because nobody really knows what type of player he will be moving forward. Roberts took Braun while passing over the higher-ranked Zobrist, Martin Prado and Shin-Soo Choo.
This round was cleanly split, with five owners getting value while the other five owners took players above their H2H rankings. Pedroia and Wainwright are two stalwarts in the H2H format, and the wrist issues with Pedroia suppressed his value last season; a fully healthy Pedroia is quite productive in this format. Wainwright is an ideal fit for leagues using these scoring settings, as he excels across the board, which is why he is ranked in our top 20.
Choo and Reyes represent the reaches of the round, and each player comes with risk. Choo has the potential to have a strong season, as he will hit leadoff for the Rangers and will have a much better hitter behind him in the lineup. Rangers Ballpark is also tailor-made for his approach. Reyes has played in more than 135 games just once over the past five seasons, and is now at an age where middle infielders begin slowing down.
Karabell scored the best steal of the entire draft in grabbing Ortiz, the No. 11 player on the board, with the No. 39 overall pick. The chatter about the slugger's demise was greatly exaggerated, as he has put up consecutive strong seasons and has played in at least 145 games in four of the past five seasons. His skill set is an ideal fit for H2H scoring, and it is worth taking him despite the fact he takes away in-draft flexibility filling your utility spot.
While there were several teams that found value in this round, Stanton's selection as the 31st overall player was not one of them. Stanton is ranked 19th at his position, and there are valid concerns about whom he will be able to drive in for the Marlins. He has not had any form of lineup protection in the past two seasons, but health concerns and the lineup in front of him pose risks for him in terms of RBI production.
Gramling was able to catch the best profit of the round in Albert Pujols, as he fell 31 spots past his ranking. Pujols is ranked as the No. 6 first baseman, and the No. 19 player overall, but was drafted three rounds past the other first baseman in front of him. The plantar fascia issue should be behind Pujols, and while he may not be as good as he once was, a healthy foot should lead to a productive player in this format.
Carlos Gomez is the No. 35 outfielder in H2H format, but I took him well ahead of his rankings. I feel Gomez will have a better supporting cast around him in 2014, and will move up in the lineup with the departure of Norichika Aoki, allowing more runs as well as stolen base opportunities. There are times in a H2H draft where one's affection for a player in roto format leaks over; this was one of those times.
Most teams reached for players here, with Gramling leading the charge. Jose Fernandez is ranked as the 20th pitcher in our H2H rankings, with 440 projected points, but was the 12th pitcher taken in this draft. The aforementioned issues with the Marlins offense make it very tough to project wins for him.
Becquey grabbed a nice profit with Martinez at the end of the round, especially if he picks up catcher eligibility within the season. As with Karabell's selection of Ortiz, Becquey was willing to grab the profit of Martinez sliding down the board at the risk of sacrificing in-draft flexibility with the loss of his utility spot.
Zola scored yet another value pick in this round, grabbing the versatile Prado. Prado qualifies at three positions, and is projected for the sixth-most points among third basemen. Cockcroft jumped into the profit game grabbing Santana over three rounds past his rankings and in doing so, got the second-best catcher in terms of projected points. He will enjoy more playing time for his pick with Santana getting time at third base this season to add to his C/1B eligibility.
The round had but one large reach, with Roberts taking Cole Hamels with the 64th overall pick. Hamels' projections are affected by the bicep tendinitis he is currently battling in camp. That same issue caused Alexi Ogando to spend two different stints on the disabled list in 2013, and Hamels is already pessimistic about being ready to pitch in early April.
The round was split evenly in terms of pitchers and batters, with each pitcher being drafted several spots ahead of their H2H rankings. Rosenthal was taken well ahead of his overall H2H rank, but is also projected as the No. 5 closer, and at the top of the second tier of closers behind the four strikeout horses in Kimbrel, Chapman, Jansen and Holland.
Weaver is the No. 24 starting pitcher, and is coming off the freakish injury last season that caused him to pitch in fewer than 30 games for the first time in five seasons. Weaver can work deep into games, which has value in this format, but his declining strikeout rates are a concern. Weaver's K rate has dropped each of the past four seasons, from 25.8 percent in 2010 to 21.4 to 19.2 to 18.4 in 2013. Four-year declining rates can be turned around, as Bronson Arroyo and Jon Lester showed last season, but that is something to monitor with Weaver.
There were more reaches than profits in this round, but both profits are interesting cases. Phillips is coming off a career year in terms of run production, but his speed is in decline and now his run production will take a hit as Choo takes his tremendous on-base percentage to Texas. Manager Bryan Price has yet to name a lineup, but Phillips' RBI opportunities could take a major hit.
Atlanta must believe that Simmons is the real deal at the plate to give him the contract extension they just gave him. Given that most of his perceived value is currently tied up in his stellar defense, there was no need to rush to this deal as arbitration hearings are based on error totals and fielding percentage rather than defensive runs saved. The sub-.300 OBP total Simmons had last season was a result of a poor .247 BABIP more than any lack of walks or high strikeout totals. He puts a lot of balls in play, which will lead to some volatility in his outcomes.
This was the round of the pitcher, as seven selections were spent on the position, and each of them were taken above slot. Iwakuma was the biggest reach, as his projections are affected by his preseason finger injury. He is not going to be ready to start the season, and his finger issue may have an effect on how he can throw his split-fingered fastball early on. That pitch is his best weapon, so any decline in its effectiveness as it relates to his finger will drag down his overall production.
Zimmermann was drafted four rounds ahead of his rankings, but represents a safe investment. His opponents' batting average has declined each of the past five seasons, and he is very stingy with walks while able to work deep into games. His only major flaw is that his strikeout rate is slightly below the league average for pitchers.
Round 11 was one of extremes, in that several big bargains were secured while several big reaches were made. Hill, Utley and Butler were all taken more than four rounds past their rankings; Utley and Hill are ranked 10th and 12th at the second base position. Their production, when healthy, is strong, but health has been an issue for both players in recent seasons. Butler is coming off a full-season low of just 240 total bases, which may have played a factor in his drop down the charts.
Cockcroft and Kaiser went well above slot to take Reed and Kemp. Reed showed nice skills growth in Chicago and now goes to Arizona, which is a better park for his type of approach and will permit him to face some pinch hitters late in games rather than opposing DHs. Kemp's situation is clouded both by his return to health as well as a full depth chart. Manager Don Mattingly somehow needs to find equal playing time for Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig or convince one of them that they are a reserve outfielder. Kemp already has said it will not be him.
Only two players were profits in this round, and both play for Baltimore. Hardy is coming off back-to-back consistent seasons with the Orioles while taking just a few days off. He gets plenty of extra-base hits, and his strikeout rate has declined each of the past three seasons. Markakis shares the same contact skills, while walking a bit more and hitting with less power. He has a .351 on-base percentage over the past five seasons and hits in front of Adam Jones and Chris Davis. That spot in the lineup should allow him to score plenty of runs to make up for the extra-base hits.
Cashner is a player I feel is in for a breakout season in 2014, so much so I went well over slot to roster him. He held batters to a .194/.249/.304 slash line in the second half of the season, with a 7.3 K/9, averaging just under seven innings per outing with a 2.14 ERA. Our rankings have him repeating his innings total, with one more win and 12 more strikeouts than 2013. I believe those projections are on the conservative side.
The 13th round was the yin to the previous round's yang, as several values were achieved within it, led by Cockcroft grabbing Sandoval seven rounds past his slot. Sandoval dropped 40 pounds this offseason (which Jesus Montero clearly found) in hopes of staying strong throughout 2014, which coincidentally happens to be his final year before free agency. Abreu represents potential upside in that we know he can hit for power, and we know U.S. Cellular Field fits those types of hitters well.
Kaiser's selection of Segura is a bet that the player is closer to his first-half production from 2013 than his second-half production. Segura went into the All-Star break hitting .325/.363/.487, but crawled to the finish line of the season with a .241/.268/.315 line as he clearly looked tired down the stretch and pitchers started to challenge him up in the zone.
There were several reaches in this round, led by Zola's pick of Cingrani. Cingrani threw 82 percent fastballs last season to pile up his strikeout totals, but a lack of an efficient secondary pitch did not allow him to work deep into games, as he struggled to put away the better batters. Thirteen of the 14 home runs he permitted came off his fastball, and it is unlikely any of his secondary pitches improved dramatically in the offseason, as each had a ways to go.
Karabell made a shrewd move to grab Lawrie four rounds below slot. Some may call him a bust at this point as he has failed to repeat the numbers from his 2011 call-up, which should serve as a reminder of how small sample size evaluations are a fool's errand. Lawrie quietly hit .283/.346/.417 in the second half last season, with a good walk rate and a low strikeout rate. It would not be a surprise to see Lawrie "break out" again in his third full season.
It is tough to overlook the Hamilton selection. He is projected for just 169 points, 56 of which are from steals. The lack of total bases and RBIs will hurt him, and he will have to hit leadoff and get on base at a .320 clip or better to score enough runs to try to close the gap. The remaining closers, after Uehara went off the board, dropped to the next tier. This is why Zola punted saves all together, something you can do in a H2H format and get away with it more so than you can in a standard roto format.
Two catchers, McCann and Lucroy, were strong bargains at this point in the draft. Lucroy's projected points put him as the No. 5 catcher, with McCann one slot behind him and just nine points lower. They were selected as the fifth and sixth catchers off the board, but still well below their overall rankings.
While there were several reaches in this round, the two largest values stand out most. Hunter and Cabrera have slid in many of the standard roto drafts (both real and mock) I have participated in or observed this offseason. Hunter may lack the flash of his younger days, but he projects for more points than the likes of Mark Trumbo and Wil Myers.
Cabrera is the No. 13 shortstop on the board in our projections at 336 points, putting him ahead of the likes of Segura, who was drafted 32 selections earlier in this mock draft. Cabrera certainly had his issues in 2013, as his walk rate declined by two percentage points while his strikeout rate was a career-worst 20.3 percent. His percentage of chasing pitches has gotten worse each of the past five seasons, and that trend will have to end for him to truly be a value here.
There were several strong bargains at this phase of the draft, with a few reaches. Marte is in the class of players whose roto value greatly differs from his H2H value as, by the rankings, he should not have been drafted in a standard 10-team H2H league. Karabell's reach for Wheeler represents a play for upside, as the young Mets hurler has the stuff to dominate games, but his inconsistent control holds him back from working deep into those games, and hurts him this format. Corbin's risk comes in a tale of two halves; he limited batters to a .206/.267/.332 line in the first half, but slipped to a .289/.339/.440 line after the break.
Perez was yet another catching bargain in the one-catcher format, but outfield bargains were plentiful in this round as Reddick, Jackson and Brantley were taken four or more rounds below their rankings. Reddick is particularly interesting, as he returns from a wrist injury that sapped his power. If he can come back as Jayson Werth did from his injury, this is a very strong pick.
The alternating value/reach trends continued at this stage in the draft, which is standard practice in the later rounds. Buchholz excelled in H2H formats last season, with a 12-1 record in 16 starts and strong ratios, but his health problems cut the season short. He made strong strides last season, but he has never made more than 30 starts in a season, and has worked more than 175 innings just once over the past five campaigns.
Aybar and Cabrera represent the boring producers that are often values later in the draft. Aybar is projected for more points than Segura, but was taken 54 picks after him. He rarely walks, but also rarely strikes out. Cabrera is a low ceiling guy, but his floor is also rather high, as his skill set is rather stable.
Ethier is a bargain at this stage of the draft, but one with question marks. Namely, where is he going to play? The Dodgers have the aforementioned logjam in the depth chart, so the lack of clarity with that situation suppresses his value. A change of scenery would benefit him greatly, as he is quietly productive against right-handed pitching.
In the middle of the round, three straight Red Sox players were taken, two of whom were reaches. Peavy represents the largest reach, as well as biggest risk of the trio. Since 2009, Peavy has worked more than 150 innings just once, and has averaged 6.1 innings per start during that span. His home run rate has been on the rise over the past two seasons, while his strikeout and walk rates have remained stable. Stable skills are the draw here, as the health track record is scary.
Pagan's projections have him closer to where he was in 2012 -- his last full season -- than it does to where he was in 2013 before his hamstring injury. He will be 33 years old this season and coming off a major leg injury, which makes his projections seem bullish as the No. 41 outfielder. Lind represents value as long as his time against left-handed pitching is marginalized. He is coming off a career-best walk rate, and his back issues appear to be under control. His strikeout totals are much better when he is facing right-handed pitching.
Morneau's ranking appears to be banking on a benefit from playing at Coors Field. Those projections go against the fact that Morneau's walks are down, and his power is down as his bat looks slower. He could take advantage of the extra real estate in the outfield and pick up more total bases, but they may come just one at a time.
Colon is a tough pitcher to carry in H2H format, especially now that he is in the NL. He has averaged just 6.0 innings an outing since 2009, and now has to worry about being lifted for a pinch hitter. He is very stingy with walks, but does not strike out many batters and is losing the comforts of pitching in Oakland; on the other hand, he will enjoy a nice defensive outfield with the Mets.
Archer represents a different set of risks, in that he has rather drastic splits. He limited right-handed batters to a .176/.237/.218 slash line in 2013, permitting just four extra base hits in 211 plate appearances. When left-handed batters came to the plate, it was a different story, as they hit .261/.329/.471 against him in 314 plate appearances. He lacks an effective third pitch, so is left throwing fastballs and sliders to lefties without being able to put them away with anything offspeed. Last season, Archer went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA against the Yankees, the same Yankees that just loaded up on left-handed batters this offseason.
The Schierholtz acquisition was a shrewd one here. Zola was ahead of the curve last year with Schierholtz as he drafted him in both LABR and Tout, and watched him have a breakout power year. The Cubs did what the Giants would not do: limited his playing time against lefties.
Dozier had 55 extra-base hits and 14 steals from the middle infield last season, and the 51 walks help to offset the strikeouts. It is rare to see a player whose roto and H2H values are identical this late, but he is that guy. He is also falling in many of the drafts this offseason.
Jimenez now has a job in Baltimore, which is a good fit for him in some ways. He will enjoy the infield defense, especially on the left side, as Machado and Hardy saved 44 runs between them last season. Jimenez is not quite the ground ball pitcher he once was, but the fit should apply well. The step up in the divisional talent will limit his upside, as the revamped lineup in New York, the patient Red Sox and Rays as well as the thump in Toronto will pose challenges.
Granderson's four-round slide needed to end here. Much is made of him leaving Yankee Stadium, but in terms of home run totals, he hit 73 at home and 72 on the road over the past five seasons. Last year's injuries were both freakishly bad luck, being hit on the hand by pitches from the same team during the same season.
The one-catcher format provides the biggest catching bargain yet as Ramos falls 14 rounds past his rankings to Kavanagh, and could finish the season as a top-five catcher in any fantasy format. Joyce has added 15 pounds of bulk in the offseason in hopes of staying fresh throughout the season as his production has noticeably dropped off in the second half the past few seasons. Scutaro is a value by his draft pick, but recent news that his back troubles are still not behind him are worrisome, especially at his age.
Note that this draft occurred before Cruz landed with the Orioles; this pick looks like a much better bargain now that we know he has a home.
The selections of Walker and Hudson were puzzling, in that Walker is dealing with a sore arm in camp and Hudson's upside expired a few years ago. Hudson is projected for 266 points, while Walker is projected for 222 points. These are some of the pitchers who went undrafted that are projected for more points:
The one-catcher format allows for owners to wait on catchers, and the H2H format allows you to punt closers and still get plenty of points from other starters if you focus on those with the strikeout potential with good control. Zola did that, as he drafted nine starting pitchers, which allowed him to assemble a strong offensive team while rarely reaching for players.
If you are thinking of switching to the H2H format, or even if you have played in the format before, you should still spend time in ESPN.com's Mock Draft lobby to get as much practice as you can. We have mocks for H2H, snake drafts, auctions, in AL-only, NL-only and mixed leagues. Good luck!