Bryce Harper, Mariano Rivera and 5 Lessons MLB Fantasy Owners Learned in 2012

Nathan PalatskyCorrespondent IISeptember 20, 2012

Bryce Harper, Mariano Rivera and 5 Lessons MLB Fantasy Owners Learned in 2012

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    Every year, fantasy owners look back and wonder what in the world just happened. They had all the rankings memorized, all the sleepers and busts listed, and they had a foolproof plan in place to win their fantasy leagues.

    Of course, then the season started and it all went kaput. Now, owners look at the smoldering heap that is left from their seasons and wonder what happened. In the coming slides, there will be a few lessons to take away from 2012, as well as the constant reminder that every rule comes with exceptions. Embrace the chaos. 

Rookies Cannot Be Trusted

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    All the preseason hype was on Bryce Harper and Matt Moore. Harper is batting .262 with 19 HR and 13 SB. Those are not bad numbers by any means, but also not worthy of a starter in many standard-sized leagues. Moore is 10-11 with a 3.88 ERA and a WHIP over 1.30. 

    Neither player has been terrible. Harper's power and Moore's strikeouts have been very useful. But these were expected to be almost immediate impact players in baseball. 

    Other impact prospects who were hyped coming into 2012 include Jesus Montero (.261, 15 HR, nothing else of consequence), Yu Darvish (ERA over 4.00, WHIP over 1.30), Tyler Pastornicky (.244, 2 HR, 2 SB) and Yonder Alonso (.276, 8 HR). 

    Of course, Mike Trout is the exception to this lesson, but it needs to be emphasized that Trout is a once-in-a-generation player. Do not use his example as cause to take a rookie early in your 2013 draft.

Closers Can Be Found Cheap

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    Closers are for saves, so consider the current MLB saves leaders. 

    1. Jim Johnson (45) – Outside most people's top 10 due to Baltimore's expected struggles. 
    2. Fernando Rodney (43) – Undrafted. Kyle Farnsworth was expected to close in TB.
    3. Rafael Soriano (42) – Undrafted. Thought to be behind both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson.
    4. Craig Kimbrel (38) – No real surprise there.
    5. Jason Motte (37) – Widely drafted after the top-10 closers due to his lack of experience. 

    Meanwhile, Ryan Madson, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, and the aforementioned Rivera were all elite closers who disappointed regularly. Whether due to injury or performance, it is impossible to predict who will lose their jobs. Wait to take closers until the end, and scour the waiver wire as roles change hands.

Power Is More Valuable Than Speed

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    This is not merely comparing home runs to stolen bases.

    Currently, there are 11 players in MLB that have over 30 HR. They have an average of 86 runs scored and 101 RBI. Assuming normal 5x5 rotisserie categories, they help you significantly in three of them, not taking into account steals and batting average.

    There are 12 players with over 30 steals. They average 68 runs scored and 41 RBI. Some people will cry foul at that comparison, saying, "Well, home runs come with RBI and runs scored attached," and that is the point. Mere power can aid a fantasy team in more than half of the desired categories. 

    Finally, in 2011, eight players stole 40-plus bases. Two hit 40-plus HR. In 2010, eight players stole 40-plus bases. Two hit 40-plus HR. 

Aces Are Never Safe

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    Tim Lincecum, who turned 28 during the 2012 season, was thought to be peaking after coming off a 2.74 ERA, 220 strikeout season. He is now 10-14 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Roy Halladay was thought to be money in the bank, but injuries and inconsistency have left him at 10-7 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.16 WHIP (both numbers are his worst since 2004). 

    CC Sabathia's 3.63 ERA is his worst since 2005, and he is on pace to win less than 17 games for the first time since 2006. Cliff Lee is 6-7, Dan Haren is 11-11 with a 4.41 ERA and 1.31 WHIP (his worst since 2004). It only gets worse...Jon Lester (9-12, 4.95 ERA), Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.72 ERA)...the list goes on.

    The lesson here is not to invest too heavily in a position where injuries and aging both happen more frequently and unpredictably than any other. Early draft picks should be spent predominantly on bats. 

Old Does Not Mean Done

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    Derek Jeter is 38, batting .322, has collected his 200th hit for the eighth time, is on pace to score over 100 runs for the 14th time and has 15 HR and nine SB to boot. People have been writing him off for the last three years, but The Captain keeps proving doubters wrong. 

    R.A. Dickey is 18-6 with a 2.67 ERA and 205 strikeouts at 37 years old. Dickey is the current favorite to win the Cy Young Award, posting an 8.7 K/9, unheard of from a knuckleballer. He has also managed to win on a regular basis despite the offensive woes of the New York Mets. 

    Both of these players were available late in drafts and have proved most valuable to the savvy owners who took advantage. While one does need to consider a player's age when weighing risk, there are bargains to be had.