Anyone who plays fantasy baseball in any format has some skin in the game with regard to the rumored suspensions coming down the pike from Major League Baseball in the wake of the Biogenesis PED investigation. With that in mind, RotoBaller has convened a roundtable discussion to look at some of the questions that these possible suspensions have forced us fantasy leaguers to think about. Be sure to drop us a line @RotoBaller if there are any other PED-related questions you have.
Question 1: Braun is by far the biggest fantasy name here. Is there any way to replace him?
Chris Hawkins: There aren't too many former MVPs on the waiver wire, so first things first; we have to admit we simply cannot fill the void. Braun was 3-for-8 on SB attempts and not having a truly "Braun-esque" season, coming in at around 40th based on wOBA and ESPN's player rater for the season (although that likely means the best was yet to come). Braun's owners' best bet is to treat it like an injury and assess their needs now that they have an empty slot in their lineups. If you don't have any glaring needs, target a Ryan Braun-lite such as a Gerardo Parra. Need SB? Go out and target a Ben Revere-type and then just try and backfill elsewhere to reconstruct your team.
David Polen: Replacing Braun outright is flat-out impossible. He is that good in all five categories. One guy who could be 80% of Braun and may still be available is Dodger sensation Yasiel Puig. But he’s been so good in his first couple of games that it’s likely someone in your league already scooped him up. I got caught owning Melky Cabrera last year, and there was no one out there who could match his output. If you're in a keeper league you are in a tough spot. Braun won’t be DL eligible and depending on your league rules you may need to keep him on a bench spot, taking up space from an active player.
Ryan Rufe: Braun is a pretty irreplaceable player, unless of course you can find someone on waivers that will have a Trout-like impact on your team (Puig?). Not likely. You could replace him via trade, sure, but you wouldn't be getting back anyone near Braun's value. If I were a Braun owner, I would hold onto him. No sense in selling him for pennies on the dollar when there's still a chance he could avoid suspension this year. I just wouldn't want to be the guy who sold Braun for nothing, only to see him avoid the suspension and put up his typical Braun-like numbers. If he does get suspended? Just remember there are far worse things in life than your star fantasy player getting suspended.
Question 2: Aside from Braun, which of these players' absence will be felt the most and what can fantasy GM's do to lessen the hurt?
Chris Hawkins: While it's easy to see that Everth Cabrera was leading the league in SB, what was even more promising was the improvements in his LD%, GB/FB, BB% and K% rates, because all these translate into a higher OBP and more SB opportunities for a guy who always seems to get the green light. Replacing a top-3 SS production will not be an easy task.
Ryan Rufe: Aside from Braun, I think the absence of Everth Cabrera would have the most impact. Not only is he on pace to swipe 67 bags, but he's contributing in the HR and RBI categories as well, which was unexpected. If he is lost to suspension, fantasy owners can turn to Ben Revere, Juan Pierre and Emilio Bonifacio to diminish the pain. All are still widely available in most leagues.
Question 3: If you're playing in a keeper / dynasty league, how does the value of these guys change? Are you more likely to try to trade one of the players that MLB is going after?
Jeff Klein: And as far as looking into trading any of these implicated players, I would get on it NOW. It's possible some of the fringier guys (Yasmani Grandal, et al.), have not trickled down into your competitors' consciousness yet, and you might get away with selling off a guy like that at his full value with no "possible-suspension discount." I would DEFINITELY send out some feelers and try to see what I could get in return for a Melky Cabrera or an Everth Cabrera, because if indeed they are suspended, it will be impossible to recoup much of their value. That said, don't take a write-off just because of a rumor. You're looking to trade away risk, so you should treat these players as you would treat a John Hamilton-- basically, as if the guy is injury-prone, but not yet injured. In other words, don't go trading away any of these guys just for the sake of divesting yourself of the risk, especially if all you can muster in return is waiver fodder. That kind of swap will still be available to you after these suspensions become anything more than hypothetical.
Chris Hawkins: This is a tricky question, because I think suspension appeals may actually take a while, and these guys won't start serving any time until very late this season or early next season. It's all about how you can spin it to your leaguemates, but I think this actually creates a good buying opportunity that could still yield dividends this year at a discounted rate. And if next year you know you don't have one of these guys going into the draft, it's easier to build your team out accordingly. The bigger unknown in my opinion is how much the performances of these players (Jesus Montero notwithstanding) has been amplified by PEDs, as we've seen Melky's production drop this year, but I'm still going to be more of a buyer than a seller.
Ryan Rufe: I'd venture to keep Braun even more in a dynasty league, as it could have a longer-lasting impact on your team. Again, don't sell Braun when his trade value has diminished in the wake of these rumors. You've got to hold on to him and deal with the problem if/when the suspension occurs.