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The Z Files

Recent Articles from this Column

The Z Files: Common Post-Break Mistakes

Todd Zola lists four common strategic errors fantasy GMs can make coming out of the All-Star break, including underestimating the impact an ace like Chris Sale can have on your ratios.

The Z Files: NL Rotation Overview

Todd Zola concludes his tour of big-league depth charts with a look at rotations in the National League, including a more charitable view of the Rockies' recent demotion of Jon Gray.

The Z Files: AL Rotation Overview

Todd Zola shifts back to the American League for a look at each team's rotation situation, where Ervin Santana might finally be closing in on his 2018 debut for the Twins.

The Z Files: NL Playing Time Overview

Todd Zola examines playing time situations in the Senior Circuit, where Ryan Braun is one of a number of players caught in crowded outfields.

The Z Files: AL Playing Time Overview

Todd Zola checks out the playing time situations across the American League and wonders when Tigers prospect Christin Stewart will make his big-league debut.

The Z Files: Looking Back At Preseason Expectations, Part Three

Todd Zola concludes his comparison of preseason projections to June reality with the pitchers, as the Astros' Charlie Morton continues to exceed expectations..

The Z Files: Looking Back At Preseason Expectations, Part Two

Todd Zola continues his comparison of current production to spring projections and doesn't see much regression ahead for Michael Brantley if he can stay healthy.

The Z Files: Looking Back at Preseason Expectations, Part One

Todd Zola compares the top fantasy producers around the infield to preseason projections and is still kicking himself for not grabbing more Freddie Freeman shares when he had the chance.

The Z Files: Taking a Second Look

Todd Zola explains the underlying skills or approach changes that have caused him to re-evaluate some surprising pitchers, including Boston's Rick Porcello.

The Z Files: Contact Rate Risers

Todd Zola examines hitters who have seen a spike in their contact rate but isn't yet convinced Javier Baez's gains are for real.

The Z Files: The Curious Case of Curtailed Contact Rates

Todd Zola looks at some hitters off to disappointing starts due to a lagging contact rate, including the A's Matt Olson.

The Z Files: What, Me Worry?

Todd Zola takes a look at some pitchers off to poor starts that he's heavily invested in, such as Robbie Ray, and explains why he's willing to be patient with them.

The Z Files: Buying High

Todd Zola explains the concept of buying high on a player and identifies some trade targets he expects to regress less than you might think, including White Sox speedster Tim Anderson.

The Z Files: Early Season Ponderings

Todd Zola extols the virtues of DFS leagues and wonders if we correctly account for the effect of cold weather on young players like Luis Castillo.

The Z Files: Early Season Approach

Todd Zola takes a look at how the fantasy landscape has changed from its early days and why early season trends and hot starts from players like Matt Davidson can't simply be ignored.

The Z Files: Weekly Rankings Primer

Todd Zola explains how he generates the Weekly Pitcher and Hitter Rankings and why his methods can quickly spot a breakout hurler like Chase Anderson.

The Z Files: Pitching Tiers

Todd Zola offers up his pitching tiers for 2018 and explains how to approach assembling a roster topped by an ace like Chris Sale.

The Z Files: Auction Trends

Todd Zola looks at the recently completed NL -- where Trea Turner was surprisingly the priciest hitter -- and AL LABR auctions to try and find trends that can guide your bidding strategies.

The Z Files: Reading the Market

Todd Zola follows up on last week's column by looking further at how to adjust to an auction that's devoting more resources than expected to top pitchers like Max Scherzer.

The Z Files: Auction Dynamics and Budget Splits

Todd Zola looks at the spending trends from recent NFBC auctions, which have featured more money than ever going towards top pitchers like Clayton Kershaw.

The Z Files: Points League Pointers

Todd Zola explains how best to adjust your rankings for points leagues and why catchers like Willson Contreras merit special consideration.

The Z Files: Playing Time Trends Part Two

Todd Zola follows up last week's article by looking at some specific names who have seen playing-time bumps in recent years and spots a surprising pattern with Mike Trout.

The Z Files: Playing Time Trends

Todd Zola digs into league-wide trends for playing time, and sounds a note of caution on pitchers who are coming off their first 200-inning campaign such as Carlos Carrasco.

The Z Files: Saving Grace

Todd Zola disputes the idea that save totals for closers like Craig Kimbrel can't be projected objectively, and provides a framework for projecting saves that goes beyond guesswork.

The Z Files: Early Draft Thoughts & Observations

Todd Zola reviews the results from early NFBC drafts and doubts he'll be walking away with many shares in Shohei Ohtani at his current ADP.

The Z Files: The Cole Park Facts

Todd Zola defends his conclusion that Gerrit Cole's numbers should improve after his trade to the Astros, but in the process finds himself wondering just how different the talent pool in each league actually is.

The Z Files: NL West Playing Time Preview

Todd Zola concludes his tour of playing-time situations in the league with the NL West and wonders what role Archie Bradley will fill in the Diamondbacks' bullpen.

The Z Files: NL Central Playing Time Preview

Todd Zola puts NL Central position battles under the microscope and expects the Cards to bring Alex Reyes along slowly as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery.

The Z Files: NL East Playing Time Preview

Todd Zola continues his look at playing time battles with the NL East and thinks Noah Syndergaard's health and performance will be one of the biggest questions to answer heading into 2018.

The Z Files: AL West Playing Time Preview

Todd Zola takes an early look at the job battles in the AL West and doesn't expect the A's to force top prospect Franklin Barreto into a starting role before he's ready.

The Z Files: AL Central Playing Time Preview

Todd Zola checks out the roster situations in the AL Central and wonders why the White Sox seem so anxious to deal Jose Abreu.

The Z Files: AL East Playing Time Preview

Todd Zola begins his look at playing time situations with the AL East and wonders if Aaron Hicks is up to the task of being the Yankees' everyday center fielder.

The Z Files: NFBC Draft Championship Strategy Tips

Todd Zola offers some insight into one of his favorite formats, the draft-and-hold NFBC Draft Championship, and stresses the value of rostering top middle relievers like the Astros' Chris Devenski.

The Z Files: The Ohtani Dilemma

Todd Zola considers different ways for fantasy leagues to handle a true two-way player like Shohei Ohtani, and he finds himself wondering if it'll even be worth it for an MLB team to give him regular at-bats in 2018.

The Z Files: 2018 Pitching Tiers

Todd Zola gives a peek at his initial pitching tiers for next season and discusses whether Madison Bumgarner still belongs among the elite.

The Z Files: By the Time I Get Back From Phoenix

Todd Zola recaps some of his thoughts and takeaways from this year's First Pitch Forum, including whether speedsters like Dee Gordon are more valuable in the new power-saturated landscape.

The Z Files: Batter's Brigade, Part Two

Todd Zola concludes his look at potential 2018 impact rookies with catchers and outfielders, including Nationals phenom Victor Robles.

The Z Files: Batter's Brigade, Part One

Todd Zola looks at some young infielders who could begin to make their mark in 2018, and notes that the Yankees' prospect pipeline hasn't run dry yet with Gleyber Torres waiting in the wings.

The Z Files: The Problem With Early Projedictions

Todd Zola is resigned to having to generate next year's projections far earlier than he'd like, but that won't stop him from digging into the factors that fueled Scooter Gennett's power surge.

The Z Files: Making My Pitch For KDS Draft Slots

Todd Zola looks at data from the 2017 NFBC Main Event leagues to determine his optimal draft slots. and finds that Corey Kluber was on a lot of championship rosters.

The Z Files: Arms and the Man

Todd Zola offers different strategies for assembling a competitive pitching staff as he preps for his first 2018 draft, and notes that Clayton Kershaw can no longer be considered in a tier of his own.

The Z Files: With the 12th Pick...

Todd Zola looks ahead to his first 2018 draft and the wealth of options he and DVR have on the table for their first two picks, potentially including oft-injured superstar Bryce Harper.

The Z Files: 20 More September Darts

Todd Zola digs even deeper into September rosters looking for every scrap of value, and thinks Rio Ruiz's platoon role at third base for Atlanta could provide a modest power boost for fantasy rosters.

The Z Files: 20 September Darts

Todd Zola looks at some under-the-radar players who may see enough playing time to contribute in September, including young Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford.

The Z Files: Waiting for the Cavalry

Todd Zola looks at some injured players set to return in September and examines how the Astros will fit Carlos Correa back into their stacked lineup.

The Z Files: The Little Things

Todd Zola looks at a couple of small factors that might have big impacts down the stretch, including the fact that Daniel Murphy and the Nationals have more games left on their schedule than any other team.

The Z Files: Pitching Category Surprises

Todd Zola follows up last week's column with a look at pitchers who are defying expectations in specific categories, including Zack Greinke and his impressive strikeout rate,

The Z Files: Hitting Category Surprises

Todd Zola looks at some hitters whose production (or lack thereof) in a specific category has caught him off guard, including Miguel Cabrera's sudden decline in batting average.

The Z Files: Post-Trade Deadline Thoughts

Todd Zola muses on the fantasy landscape following the trade deadline, and isn't sure what to make of Jonathan Lucroy now that he calls Coors Field home.

The Z Files: Making the Pitch

Todd Zola shares some of his rebuilding strategies in keeper leagues, including the arguments needed to convince a league-mate gunning for a title to part with a young stud like James Paxton.

The Z Files: The Value of a Two-Start Week

Todd Zola digs into his pitcher ranking methodology to determine just how much impact a two-start week can have in place of a single start from a pitcher producing league-average numbers, such as Jake Arrieta.

The Z Files: Reviewing Rest-of-Season Pitcher Projections

Todd Zola follows up last week's column with a look at second-half projections for some top pitchers, including an expectation that better days are ahead for Justin Verlander.

The Z Files: Reviewing Rest-of-Season Hitter Projections

Todd Zola takes a look at some rest-of-season projections for top hitters and tips his cap to fantasy GMs who weren't put off by Andrew McCutchen's 2016 performance.

The Z Files: Revamping the Weekly Hitting Rankings

Todd Zola breaks down the fine-tuning planned for the Weekly Hitting Rankings including accounting for pitchers who have difficulty keeping runners at first base, such as the Cubs' Jake Arrieta.

The Z Files: Closing Time

Todd Zola looks at the factors that go into projecting second-half save totals, and whether Kenley Jansen's numbers in that category will catch up to the rest of his performance.

The Z Files: Are All Fly Balls Created Equal?

Todd Zola wonders whether the elevated home run rates of pitchers such as Masahiro Tanaka are a result of more than just bad luck.

The Z Files: Rest-of-Season Risers, Pitching Edition

Todd Zola completes his look at players whose projected value has changed the most since the beginning of the year, including the suddenly dominant Jeff Samardzija.

The Z Files: Rest-of-Season Risers, Hitting Edition

Todd Zola takes a look at the hitters whose outlook for the rest of the year has improved the most from his initial projections, including Mets outfielder Michael Conforto.

The Z Files: Recalibrating Expectations, Pitching Edition

Todd Zola looks at pitchers whose rest-of-season earnings projection has dropped the most from Opening Day, including Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.

The Z Files: Early Season Hitting Disappointments

Todd Zola updates his rest-of-season projections and looks at some of the biggest disappointments, including Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista.

The Z Files: Strikeout Rate Outliers Part Two

Todd Zola switches focus to pitchers who are striking out more or fewer batters than expected this season and is pessimistic about Danny Duffy's chances of rebounding.

The Z Files: Strikeout Rate Surgers and Sliders

Todd Zola looks at hitters who have significantly changed their strikeout rates so far in 2017, and offers a surprising recommendation for those invested in Jose Altuve.

The Z Files: Just a Little Patience

Todd Zola cautions against the misuse of new-fangled stats.

The Z Files: Showing Your Work

Todd Zola explains how he's trying to develop a more objective approach to the Weekly Pitcher Rankings, and why Kevin Gausman's early-season struggles might not drop him as much as you'd expect.

The Z Files: Navigating FAAB

Todd Zola offers some strategy tips for analyzing your league's weekly FAAB bidding, and reminds you not to lose track of an early drop who might have value later in the season, such as Delino DeShields.

The Z Files: The Necessary Evil of Park Factors

Todd Zola analyzes park factors for all 30 clubs, and thinks pitching in Great American Ballpark might not be such a handicap for young Reds hurlers like Brandon Finnegan.

The Z Files: The Truth About Inflation

Todd Zola explains why he doesn't bother calculating inflation rate in keeper leagues, and why it's often better to protect or trade for a stud like Mike Trout than pay up for him at the auction.

The Z Files: Money Management and Auction Strategy

Todd Zola offers his views on how to manage your resources effectively at the auction table, and how to budget properly for an ace pitcher like Madison Bumgarner.

The Z Files: Fantasy Impact of the WBC

Todd Zola takes a look to see if playing in the WBC has an impact, positive or negative, on the regular season performances of its participants, including Team USA hero Adam Jones.

The Z Files: An Interview With... Me

Todd Zola interviews noted fantasy expert Todd Zola about the results of the AL and NL LABR auctions, and explains why he wasn't surprised that Jose Altuve went for more than Mike Trout.

The Z Files: Optimizing Your Draft with KDS

Todd Zola looks at the Kentucky Derby System for assigning draft slots, and admits that Nolan Arendado is one of the few players he likes more than drafting at the wheel.

The Z Files: Composite Rankings Update

Todd Zola uses the recent update of Rotowire's Composite Rankings to examine players he's higher or lower on than the consensus, including Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Z Files: The Art and Science of Draft Strategy

Todd Zola delves into his process when it comes to draft prep and strategy, and explains why Trea Turner isn't likely to land on any of his rosters.

The Z Files: The Truth About Mocks and ADP

Todd Zola has little time for the idea that mock drafts and ADP lists are only useful if they're based on money leagues, and explains why he's willing to fade elite second basemen such as Brian Dozier.

The Z Files: Early Auction Trends

Todd Zola reviews some data from early NFBC auctions, and recommends spending what it takes to lock up a high-strikeout ace like Max Scherzer.

The Z Files: Win the League, Not the Draft

Todd Zola has some buyer's remorse after taking Dustin Pedroia in a recent industry league, but argues it's more important to acquire value than worry about hitting statistical targets during your draft.

The Z Files: Finders Keepers

Todd Zola looks at the decisions that go into compiling your freeze list in keeper leagues, and whether it's worth extending the contracts of young players like Jackie Bradley.

The Z Files: Closing Arguments

Todd Zola examines different approaches for handling saves, and wonders if most fantasy owners are properly pricing the production of elite closers like Kenley Jansen.

The Z Files: The Need For Speed

Todd Zola looks at the various strategies you can employ at your draft or auction to stay competitive if you plan on stocking up in stolen bases by investing in a top base stealer like Jose Altuve.

The Z Files: Looking For Breakouts

Todd Zola examines the overall trends for how many players actually break out in home runs and steals every season, and likes Nick Castellanos' chances of taking another step forward in 2017.

The Z Files: Panning For Late Round Pitching Gold

Todd Zola looks at some pitchers selected in the later rounds of a recent NFBC draft who might turn out to be gems, such as the Angels' Tyler Skaggs.

The Z Files: The Dirty Dozen

Todd Zola examines 12 hitters who are being drafted later than their Top 350 ranking, and notes that trade rumors have made Carlos Gonzalez a potential steal if he does stay in Colorado.

The Z Files: The Eric Thames Conundrum

Todd Zola walks back his knee-jerk reaction to putting Eric Thames in the top 350, as the former Mariner makes his return to MLB with the Brewers and brings some very impressive numbers with him from Korea.

The Z Files: Early Thoughts

Todd Zola ponders some draft strategies for 2017, including whether Nolan Arenado's elite counting stats make him a viable first overall pick.

The Z Files: Top 350 Pitching Outliers

Todd Zola looks at some pitchers he has ranked differently than the consensus, and suspects this will be another season in which Yu Darvish is long gone before he's willing to pull the trigger.

The Z Files: Top 350 Hitting Outliers

Todd Zola compares his own rankings to the composite 2017 Top 350, and thinks that Robinson Cano's fly ball luck last year isn't being properly accounted for.

The Z Files: First Draft, Part Three

Todd Zola recounts how he and Derek Van Riper continued filling out their roster in the 2017 season's first draft, including waiting until the 19th round to fill first base with the Astros' A.J. Reed.

The Z Files: Calculated Risks

Todd Zola continues analyzing the strategy behind the picks he and Derek Van Riper have made in the first draft of the 2017 season, and gets out of his comfort zone with young slugger Miguel Sano.

The Z Files: Is It 2017 Already?

Todd Zola recaps some of the decisions he and Derek Van Riper have made as they take part in the very first draft of the 2017 season, but nabbing Mike Trout with the first overall pick was one of the easiest ones.

The Z Files: DVR, Todd, You're On the Clock

Todd Zola ponders what to do with the first pick in the very first draft of the 2017 season, and how the market will value a breakout player like Jonathan Villar.

The Z Files: Notes To Self For 2017

Todd Zola leaves some notes to himself for his 2017 drafts, including a reminder to focus more on hitting early given his knack for consistently finding valuable arms like Brandon Finnegan in the late rounds.

The Z Files: Stealing a Category

Todd Zola looks for an edge in the stolen base category over the final weeks of the season, and recommends focusing on exploitable teams and pitchers such as Noah Syndergaard.

The Z Files: Let Me Check My Schedule

Todd Zola dissects the remaining schedule for every major league team to find players to pick up down the stretch who could mean the difference between winning and losing your league.

The Z Files: Category Math

Todd Zola looks at how feasible it is to make up ground this late in the season in the hitting counting stats and why easier to find extra power than speed when players like Billy Hamilton dominate that category.

The Z Files: Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity

Todd Zola stresses the importance of playing time over talent down the stretch and examines the factors that could impact the September promotion of prospects like Manuel Margot.

The Z Files: The Truth About Ratios

Todd Zola makes the case for not giving up on improving in the ratio categories this late in the season and why it's still worth adding a player who can give you a boost in those areas, such as KC's Danny Duffy.

The Z Files: Thinking About 2017

Todd Zola looks ahead to next season and wonders whether Mookie Betts will be overvalued at the draft table based on the likely swoon in the offense around him.

The Z Files: Trade Deadline FAAB Strategies

Todd Zola examines how to handle the aftermath of a busy trade deadline and warns that there's more to post-deadline FAAB bidding than just throwing max money at Jonathan Lucroy.

The Z Files: The Calm Before the Storm

Todd Zola shares some thoughts that have been rattling around in his head, including how much of an impact Dee Gordon will have down the stretch.

The Z Files: Are In-Season Park Factors Reliable?

Todd Zola breaks down the idea of using in-season park factors to gain an edge and suggests that the huge change in Marlins Park for left-handed hitters (such as division rival Bryce Harper) may not be what it seems.

The Z Files: I Reserve the Right to Change My Mind

Todd Zola discusses some adjustments he made to his top 350 but still finds himself lagging behind the consensus ranking when it comes to Diamondbacks slugger Jake Lamb.

The Z Files: Second Half Top 350 Update

Todd Zola discusses some of the tough decisions he had in assembling his second half Top 350 rankings as well as the factors that led Jose Altuve to the No. 1 spot.

The Z Files: A wOBA Primer

Todd Zola looks under the hood of wOBA, a metric that's becoming increasingly popular in both DFS and seasonal analysis, and notes it doesn't fully capture the value of base stealers like Jonathan Villar.

The Z Files: Top 10 Surprising Pitchers

Todd Zola finishes his review of surprising starts with a group of pitchers headlined by Jon Lester, who's been providing elite numbers despite a preseason label as an SP2.

The Z Files: Top 10 Surprising Hitters

Todd Zola looks at the rest-of-season projections for 10 hitters off to surprisingly good starts and doesn't like Eduardo Nunez's chances of keeping up his current pace.

The Z Files: Updated Top 20 Pitchers

Todd Zola unveils his updated pitcher rankings, including a surprise appearance in the top 20 by Rays' left-hander Drew Smyly.

The Z Files: Hey Todd!

Todd Zola answers some questions stemming from his updated top 20 hitters and explains why he isn't nuts for leaving out Mookie Betts.

The Z Files: Updated Top 20 Hitters

Todd Zola revises his rest-of-season projections based on changing contact rates and run-scoring environments, resulting in a big drop for his preseason top pick, Paul Goldschmidt.

The Z Files: Contact Rate Risers and Fallers

Todd Zola looks at big changes in player contact rates to determine whether we should change our expectations for some early over-achievers and under-performers, including the Royals' Alex Gordon.

The Z Files: Upon Further Review

Todd Zola takes another look at some pitchers he dismissed as scrubs before Opening Day, and touts the value of keeping an open mind.

The Z Files: Todd's Tricks of the Trade

Todd Zola puts the spreadsheets down and looks at the human element of making deals, and why it might sometimes make sense to trade a speedster like Jose Altuve for a lesser slugger

The Z Files: DFS Do's and Don'ts

Todd Zola looks at some common rules of thumb used in assembling DFS lineups and whether they are worthwhile from a statistical standpoint, including the reverse platoon split of players like Yoenis Cespedes

The Z Files: Early Season Do's and Don'ts

Todd Zola offers some pointers on early season roster management, and notes that a lesser base stealer may not be the best replacement for A.J. Pollock

The Z Files: Finding Viable DFS Pitchers

Todd Zola explores the kinds of pitchers to use in DFS cash games, and why it makes sense to pay up for top-shelf hurlers like Chris Archer

The Z Files: Budget Plans and Money Management

Todd Zola shares his approach for handling auction budgets and giving himself the flexibility to land a star like Giancarlo Stanton even if he goes for a little more than his target bid

The Z Files: A New Look At Pitching Tiers

Todd Zola breaks down how NFBC historical data led him to focus on ERA when assembling his pitching tiers, putting Clayton Kershaw in a tier all by himself

The Z Files: Making the Sausage Part Two, Pitcher Projections

Todd Zola looks at projecting pitcher performance and whether last year's unexpected performances, like that of Chris Sale, can expected again.

The Z Files: Making the Sausage Part One, Hitter Projections

Todd Zola gets into the weeds on projecting hitter performance, and finds a lot of volatility in Carlos Correa's range of plausible outcomes for 2016

The Z Files: Auction Dynamics and You

Todd Zola pulls back for a big-picture look at auction dynamics and the tendencies that drive the bidding on elite players like Paul Goldschmidt

The Z Files: Five Things Learned From DFS

Todd Zola examines some full-season fantasy lessons he's learned from playing DFS, including how much their spot in the batting order can impact the value of players like Kolten Wong

The Z Files: Victims of Misfortune

Todd Zola uses metrics outside a pitcher's control to find hurlers due for better luck and better numbers in 2016, including Indians ace Corey Kluber

The Z Files: Can They Do It Again?

Todd Zola breaks down a few key stats to try to baseline three players for the upcoming season, including whether Dee Gordon's BABIP could come close to last year's .383 average.

The Z Files: Not What You Think It Means

Todd Zola discusses his unease with how regression is often cited by fantasy analysts and players, while explaining the term that really should be used for players returning to the mean.

The Z Files: How to Utilize Rankings

In his debut column for RotoWire, Todd Zola explains how he did his top-350 rankings and explains why his spot for A.J. Pollock - fifth overall - may not be where he would draft him.