Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who Were The Least Valuable Fantasy Baseball Players of 2007?

By Senior Corresponding Writer Rudy Gamble

In a previous article, I set forth the basic rules and strategy behind Razzball – a fantasy baseball game where the aim is to compile the worst roster of MLB players. Here we will explore the game further by analyzing the results of our Razzball Player Rater. (For our standard FLB 5x5 Player Rater as well – download here).

Quick note: One challenge I had in the first article was coming up with adjectives that properly reflected the paradoxical nature of a player’s negative performance being a positive in Razzball. I’ve since hit upon the perfect word for it – invaluable – as it sounds like a negative but really is a positive. (The German word schadenfreude – taking joy in others’ misfortune – might be more appropriate, but I think the only German words that have a place in baseball are bratwurst, sauerkraut, and lager.)

So what makes a player truly invaluable in Razzball? All it takes are two simple things – opportunity and poor performance. The challenge is finding those magical players who both underperform vs. their baseball brethren and keep their role for a significant percent of the season.

The Razzball 6x6 format aims to reflect this opportunity/underperformance balance. Common hitting stats R/HR/RBI/AVG where (like golf) your goal is to score lower than your opponents are complemented by ABs (an opportunity measure) and K’s (a measure that credits both opportunity and underperformance). To ensure incompetence is rewarded instead of inactivity, teams with less than 5200 team ABs (400 per roster spot) receive All-Star prorated stats for those missing ABs.

Common pitching stats K/ERA/WHIP reward pitchers who can’t miss bats and are complemented by Losses (the inversion of Wins), Innings Pitched (a measure of opportunity) and HRs allowed (like the hitter’s K, the ultimate measure of a failed AB). Gone for the purposes of the game are the niche stats – SBs and SVs – as it’s too easy not to compile them and their inversions (CS and Blown SV) do not happen frequently enough.

Here is a brief explanation behind our Razzball Player Rater methodology. If you have any questions, please post on the board:

We carried over our regular Player Rater methodology which credits players for their performance vs. the Best Available Option (BAO) – i.e., the best option on the free agent wire in a 10 team, MLB league. Points are awarded based on the difference between the player’s stats and that of the BAO for each category. These increments for Razzball were created using some fancy math and some less fancy trial and error. Definitions for each category are in the attached player rater.

Half a player’s stats are based on the BAO for their position and half for the BAO hitter/pitcher. This factors in position scarcity without overvaluing as, at the end of the day, a HR is a HR no matter who hit it on your team.

The hitter BAO stats for Razzball are remarkably similar to those we had for regular FLB. It’s as if the BAO serves as the top of a bell curve and Razzball and FLB draft on either side of it (with the exception of no-hit/good speed guys like Juan Pierre who are equally valuable in both formats albeit for different reasons). Note the Razzball BAOs factor in that slightly weaker hitting positions like C, 2B, and SS will dominate the UTIL category where 1B/OF usually do in FLB.

The pitcher BAO stats for Razzball are higher in ERA/WHIP but, otherwise, not that far off from FLB BAOs.

A last note is that if a player’s stats exceed the BAO’s in a category, the player receives negative points. Some Player Raters, like ESPN, have a floor of zero. Not in ours. So a guy like Mike Cameron will gain points in average and K’s but will give back those points in HRs and RBIs.

So without further ado, let’s look at the top 20 most invaluable Razzballers of 2007:

1. Nick Punto – 3B/SS – Minn
2. Scott Olsen – SP – Fla
3. Livan Hernandez – SP – Ariz
4. Woody Williams – SP – Hou
5. Casey Fossum – SP – TB
6. Adam Eaton – SP – Phi
7. Nook Logan – OF – Was
8. Mike Maroth – SP – Stl
9. Dontrelle Willis – SP – Fla
10. Jerry Owens – OF – CWS
11. Felipe Lopez – 2B/SS – Was
12. Jose Contreras – SP – CWS
13. Daniel Cabrera – SP – Bal
14. Marcus Giles – 2B – SD
15. Trot Nixon – OF – Cle
16. Jeff Weaver – SP – Sea
17. Alfredo Amezaga – OF/SS – Fla
18. Kyle Davies – SP – KC
19. Dave Roberts – OF – SF
20. Nelson Cruz – OF – Tex

Similar to our standard 5x5 Player Rater, pitchers dominate at the top. Seven of the first 10 and 11 of the top 20 are pitchers. The reason behind this is also similar to our regular Player Rater – when pitchers are good or bad, they tend to be good or bad across the board. Scott Olsen’s 5.81 ERA and 1.77 WHIP over 176.2 poorly pitched IP couldn’t have happened without a higher HR rate (29), a healthy number of losses (15) and a strikeout rate that’s only a hair above average (133 Ks). Only Ron Shandler’s $19 folly Nick Punto was able to put together a hitting season that consistently invaluable.

Let’s analyze pitchers and hitters separately to better understand invaluable performance:

Like in the best books/movies, the pitchers who resonate in Razzball are rarely one-dimensional villains. They aren’t purely bad – there’s always something about them that holds out promise of rehabilitation. Is it that they are young and have good arms (Scott Olsen, Adam Eaton, Daniel Cabrera, Kyle Davies)? Is it that they were once all star caliber pitchers (Livan Hernandez, Dontrelle Willis, Jose Contreras, Jeff Weaver)? Maybe they seem solidly mediocre like Mike Maroth? Whatever that promise may be, it serves the purpose of instilling faith in their manager to keep handing them the ball every 5 days.

The most common aspect across these pitchers is a tragic inability to keep baserunners off the base paths and touching home plate. The average ERA and WHIP among these 11 pitchers is a 5.82 ERA and a 1.61 ERA over about 160 IP.

Losses are an interesting stat to analyze. While 36 pitchers had 14+ wins in 2007, only 17 had 14+ losses. These top 11 Razzball pitchers represent 7 of them but they also have some pitchers with downright mediocre Loss totals. Let’s look at two factors that seem to play a role on a pitcher’s loss totals:

1) Their Team – The better their team, the more they get bailed out.
2) Their Home Park – The more hitter-friendly the park, the more likely they get bailed out (and the less egregious their pitching truly is)

Adam Eaton and Livan Hernandez are examples of good team / good hitting park. These two somehow managed to sport .500 records (10-10 and 11-11, respectively) with WHIPs at 1.60 or better. Eaton owes Rollins/Utley/Howard some cheese steaks. Livan’s 2007 season puts the defect in defector.

Mike Maroth had a good team (Tigers) / average park for most of his 20 starts and 7 relief appearances which could explain how he went 5-7 while sporting a ghastly 6.89 ERA/1.88 WHIP. The Cardinal trifecta of Mike Maroth, Kip Wells (17 Losses, 5.70/1.63) and Anthony Reyes (2-14, 6.04 ERA) proved once and for all that if there’s an honorary Razzball manager, it’s Tony Larussa (also see the 721 total ABs gifted to Aaron Miles and So Taguchi which netted 5 HRs).

Dontrelle Willis and Scott Olsen had bad teams / bad hitting parks and managed identical 10-15 records in 35 and 33 starts, respectively, showing racial equality exists when it comes to left-handed Marlin pitchers.

Woody Williams, Jose Contreras, and Daniel Cabrera had bad teams / good hitting parks and stacked up some awful W-L records: 8-15, 10-17, 9-18.

Based on this sample, I’d say finding a bad pitcher on a bad team is the most important thing for Losses. Home park might play a role for their ERA and WHIP but probably not a big factor for Losses.

HRs allowed, on the other hand, definitely skews on home park. Of this cheap baker’s dozen, the trio that topped 30 HRs allowed all played in the hitter parks (W. Williams, L. Hernandez, A. Eaton). Jose Contreras’s 21 HRs was the exception – a gift to the small-ball loving Ozzie Guillen.

Strikeouts and IP don’t have much in terms of interesting stories. Daniel Cabrera is probably the only plus-K guy in the group and he more than makes up for it by walking so many hitters. Throwing 175+ IP isn’t the only way to near the top of the Razzball Player Rater for a pitcher but it helps. Tampa Bay’s Casey Fossum – the one-time Red Sox ‘prospect’ – had a bucket list kind of year, cramming all sorts of experiences within his 76 innings that led to an eye-popping 7.70 ERA and 1.79 ERA.

Stepping away from the top 20, the lessons we see in the Player Rater when it comes to pitchers are going to sound like bizarro FLB advice:

1) Look for starters with bad WHIP, average to bad K rates, and, preferably, bad teams.
2) Look for some positive story that assures them some role security – whether it be they once were good, they have ‘potential’, they are ‘workhorses’, they are the best a team has, etc. No use picking a stinker who gets demoted after 3 bad starts.
3) For relievers, you really want to stick to pitchers on bad teams. This provides a boon to both Losses and, potentially, innings pitched. Amazing that the 6 most invaluable relievers pitched for either Tampa Bay or Baltimore. Generally avoid closers – even the bad ones – as they don’t pitch as many innings.

The net-net on pitchers – predicting a bad pitcher is even harder than predicting a good pitcher. Draft conservatively and keep an eye on the FA wire for the next worst thing.

What makes a good Razzball hitter? If you had to boil it down to one thing it would be this: little power. Besides minimizing HRs, low power guys are kept out of the meat of the lineup which reduces R and RBI opportunities (leadoff hitters would be less Run challenged) Of the 7 hitters to make the top 20, only Felipe Lopez made an honest run at double digit HRs (9).

The value of low power guys’ minimal R/HR/RBI per AB goes beyond their stats alone. With a team minimum of 5200 AB, the more AB you receive from low power guys, the less you need to invest in guys with medium/high power. Despite hitting for a measly .245, Felipe Lopez’s greatest value was his 603 AB that could allow you to carry a platooning 300 AB 1B and OF and still average 400 AB per hitter.

But a team can’t be built on little power guys alone as they tend to hit for higher averages, are less likely to strike out, and may be AB-challenged b/c of benching or platooning. In fact, only 9 players were able to hit the pick-six – being worse than the BAO in all six hitting categories (first number is their total player rater rank):

1. Nick Punto – 3B/SS – Min
14. Marcus Giles – 2B – SD
21. Tony F. Pena – SS – KC
24. Josh Barfield – 2B – Cle
30. Craig Biggio – 2B – Hou
44. Bill Hall – OF/SS – Mil
48. Lyle Overbay – 1B – Tor
51. Gerald Laird – C – Tex
66. Tadahito Iguchi – Phi

Strikeouts are a particularly vexing category as the top K guys often have a lot of power. Brandon Inge was the only player in the top 10 in K’s who didn’t have 20 HRs. Outfielders like Jason Bay, Chris B. Young, Mike Cameron, and Jack Cust are invaluable Razzball players as their power is compensated by high K’s, generally low average, and above average ABs.

An interesting twist to Razzball is that multi-position players are more invaluable for their more offensive-minded position. Nick Punto on the hot corner beats Nick Punto at MI. Guys like Rich Aurilia warrant a look at 1B. Alfredo Amezaga is a find at OF (forget the SS eligibility). Darin Erstad is an embarrassment of riches with 1B and OF eligibility (luckily, Erstad’s valuable team spirit and punting skills don’t factor into Razzball.)

So here are some Razzball lessons we see in the Player Rater:

1) Invaluable Razzball hitters are more predictable than pitchers. Concentrate on hitters during the early parts of the draft.

2) Find high AB, low power guys – no matter what the position.

3) Avoid starters at key power positions like 1B, 3B, or 5th OF in favor of platoon players or multi-position eligibility players.

4) Consider job security/opportunity. Nook Logan is a Razzball god but how many ABs will he get?

5) Try to find positive K guys with somewhat minimized power potential – i.e., a power hitter in San Diego. At the very least, hopefully they contribute low AVG and ABs. It may pay to draft a R/HR/RBI killer like Adam Dunn or Dan Uggla and save them for bad pitching matchups or bad hitter parks – say when they go on an NL West road trip to SF, LAD, and SD.

6) Gamble on the young ones – top rookies in 2007 include Alex Gordon, Tony Pena, and Stephen Drew. Look at minor league K rate as Gordon and Drew were particularly invaluable in this category. Figure their average will be hurt because of their greenness. Even partial successes like Delmon Young are worth it – his 65/13/93/.288 earned him a #67 on the player rater because of the 127 Ks and 645 ABs.

If you’re interested in joining the inaugural Razzball league, please send an e-mail to info[at] Special preference to fellow bloggers.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Johan Santana Traded to the Mets

Holy heffin’ hey, could arguably the best pitcher in baseball just get better? Well, yeah. Talked to a friend that is a Mets fan. This was his reaction, “We just got ourselves to the World Series. Who beats us? The Rockies? The Phillies? The Cubs? Padres? Please, their best hitter is Gonzalez. Maine/Santana, with our offense… Bring on October.” There’s a case to be made that he was right. I have a few random thoughts on the trade that sends Santana to the Mets.

--Johan Santana moves to a park where he has lifetime .60 ERA. This changes in ’09, but until then it’s a pitcher’s park.

--One thing that bothered me about Santana (and, frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot), he didn’t dominant the Indians, a team he faced a lot. He will now face hitters that are not as familiar with him.

--In the NL, marginal pitchers seem appealing. I found room for Brett Tomko when he was on the Dodgers and Padres. Great pitchers… They’re first rounders.

--I’m absolutely giddy to see how much Santana will go for in my NL-only auction. $40? $45? $50? Sold!

--I still like Peavy more. Before it was clear cut. Now it’s a tossup and I can see an argument that they’re interchangeable. The Padres face two weak divisional teams, Giants and Dodgers with the D-Backs a bit of a challenge but not much. Then there’s one offensive juggernaut in an offensive stadium, the Rockies. The Mets face the Nats and the Marlins, which is akin to the Dodgers and Giants. The Phillies are equal to the Rockies. The Braves are a bit of a challenge, akin to the D-Backs.

--Santana will now face pitchers and he doesn’t have to face Dontrelle. I’m Tivo’ing Santana pitching to Brett Myers.

--Santana in the NL…. This all seems unfair for the Senior Circuit’s junior batsmen, right?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where to draft Pujols in 2008?

Previously, we went through the top ten overall fantasy baseball draft list for 2008 and the top twenty first basemen. Well, an interesting thing happened on the way to spring training. Last Friday, while Pujols was bitching about how his accomplishments aren't tainted, he also reported something else that was going on last year. The papers reported this:

Pujols said he decided against offseason surgery on his right elbow, a trouble spot for several years, because he would have had to miss a significant portion if not all the 2008 season. Pujols still is unable to straighten his arm, but team doctors concluded that because he plays first base, an operation can be postponed. He said his elbow bothered him the second half of last season, and said if that happens again he wouldn't try to soldier through it.

If we can be armchair psychologists real fast, Pujols was upset that no one was giving him credit for his stellar seasons and whispering that steroids were involved. So to silence the critics, he said he’s not only been fantastic, but he’s been playing with a non-functioning arm. Then Pujols threatens to no longer play with a crooked elbow and will hang up his spikes, if he doesn’t get the proper love from said jackass critics.

Either way, Pujols’s elbow was hurting him and this isn’t good for Pujols’s owners. The elbow might be the reason for the down year in 2007. If the same pain continues in the 2008, Pujols might fight through it or he might elect for surgery. These draft lists are in no way set in stone, and Pujols draft spot needs to be corrected. Does this drop Pujols out of the top twenty overall? Are you better off drafting Lyle Overbay? No and don’t be stupid. I would move Pujols to late in the first round, right after Miguel Cabrera, or number eight on the top ten 2008 draft list.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Overrated and Underrated for Fantasy Baseball

When you’re looking at your 2008 fantasy baseball draft board, it will be imperative to locate the players where you are going to get the best value. Whether it’s in the first round or the tenth. You want to avoid the overrated players, because they will invariably go too high and focus in on the underrated ones. Or simply the rated ones. If this reads vaguely familiar, it’s because I’m cribbing Chuck Klosterman’s Spin magazine article from 2004:

If you are the kind of person who talks about music too much, there are two words that undoubtedly play an integral role in your workaday lexicon: “overrated” and “underrated.” This is because those two sentiments pop up in 90 percent of all musical discussions.

He goes on to list bands that are overrated (Wilco, Sonic Youth) or underrated (Duran Duran, Tortoise), coming finally to bands that simply rated, which are no more or less than their reviews (The Beatles). Klosterman’s sentiment also applies for fantasy baseball. Let’s look at some overrated, underrated and rated players.

Every New York Yankee, except Arod, Robinson Cano and Melky, is overrated. Arod is simply rated, he should go first and, on average, he will. Cano is more interesting example. I think because he tends not to steal and his average was fluky two years ago, he gets overlooked. As pointed out in the top twenty 2nd basemen to draft, he should be going slightly higher than he will. Melky Cabrera tends to get overlooked. Perhaps after this year that will change. Jeter, Posada, Hughes, Wang, Abreu, Damon, Chamberlain, et al are overrated.

Carl Crawford went from overrated in 2007 to underrated this year. People got sick of waiting for the 25/50 season forgetting that he still is very much in his prime.

Ryan Braun is the most overrated player heading into the 2008 season. Why he’s being hailed as the Messiah’s first born is dissected here.

Delmon Young is underrated on his way to being overrated. After this season, people will remember what a talent he is and forget his B.A.

Jonathan Papelbon
is oddly rated. I say oddly because he’s the best closer in the game, he’s on the Red Sox (a hype machine) and he’s young. I would think he’d be overrated. Perhaps it’s because people underrate closers than overrate Papelbon making him rated. Maybe people don’t like his dance moves.

Aaron Harang took three years to get rated. Previously, he was underrated. I see no way he ever becomes overrated. His numbers on a contender would have had him overrated two years ago.

Every Japanese player is overrated.

Dave Roberts has been overrated for many years now (maybe because he was born in Japan). He’s oft-injured, pushing fifty years old and won’t get you the kind of steals you need for him to be a worthwhile draft pick.

The Padres pitching staff is underrated, even Peavy. Except home games in Coors, there’s no scary offense in the division. Two offenses (Giants, Dodgers) that are lacking and one offense that strikeouts at Dave Kingman rates (D-Backs). Then throw in home games in Petco, two other divisional pitching parks and facing the pitcher.

Mike Lowell went from rated to underrated to not rated at all to overrated in four years.

Every Rangers hitter is overrated. The ballpark is good, but the lineup is not. Josh Hamilton looks like he might be good, but he’s an injury risk. (Aside, Hamilton looks like he would know how to funnel a beer, but he doesn’t look like he’d smoke crack. Do frat boys smoke crack now? This wasn’t the case when I was in college. Weed -- sure, blow -- perhaps, heroin – figuratively I could see it, crack -- not a chance. But I digress.)

Ryan Zimmerman is in for a lifetime of overrated-ness. I can feel it in my bones.

Every centerfielder who plays a great defense
is overrated. Aaron Rowand, it was two years ago he slammed into the centerfield fence. We get it; he hustles. Torii Hunter is injury-prone and doesn’t bat .300. Andruw Jones, nothing else needs to be written.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Team Names

People obsess over what to call their fantasy baseball team as this list by Brock for Broglio proves. And, I must say, time well spent! Please take a look at the list; it’s ridiculously wonderful. My favorite team names from the list include, Funky Cold Mussina and Hip-Hop Jorge, but I have fond memories of early '90s rap. My additions (in no particular order, although, technically, it is in an order):

The Neil Diamondbacks
Luis Polonia’s Home For Wayward Teens
Descarte Before The Horse (this might only work for a philosophers’ pickup game)
Four Baggers And Beer Goggles
Urbina Just Poured Gasoline On Your Title Hopes
Joe Torreabla Is My Hybrid
How’s The View From Not First?
Tracy Sheckle is a Whore (If you knew her, you would get it. All of it. But I digress.)
Steal This Team!
In Soviet Russia Fantasy Baseball Plays You
Covet Thy Neighbor’s Middle Reliever
Moises Alou’s Pee-Stained Hands
Prince Fielder and Umaga’s Hoagie Shop
Mitt Happens (not the Republican Mormon)
System of the Scott Downs
Alfonseca’s Four-Fingered Salute


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Will Ryan Braun Suck in 2008?

Hype gets a bad rap or, to put it into a confusing pun, hype is hype-less even for the hyper. That’s not to say hype isn’t understood to a degree. Most notably, Gartner, a technology research company out of Stamford, Conn., figured out what all the hype was about, coining the term "hype cycle." The "Hype Cycle" explains the over-enthusiasm or "hype" and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. It’s not too far out on a limb to say, new technologies aren’t the only things hyped. Right now, Ryan Braun is more hyped than any other player going into 2008 drafts. There are 5 steps to the Gartner hype cycle. Let’s crib it and put it towards Ryan Braun, shall we?

1. "Technology Trigger" — Or in this case, Ryan Braun’s emergence as a fantasy stud last year.

2. "Peak of Inflated Expectations" — In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. Or in this case, “Ryan Braun is going 50/50 in 2008 and will begin dating Gisele Bundchen by the All-Star break.” This is the cycle phase we're currently in.

3. "Trough of Disillusionment"
— Ryan Braun will enter the "trough of disillusionment" because he will fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, fantasy baseball players will trade him for Lyle Overbay and a bag of shelled pecans.

4. "Slope of Enlightenment"
— Although fantasy baseball players may write off Ryan Braun, some players continue through the "slope of enlightenment" and understand the benefits and practical application of Ryan Braun. Or in this case, stick Braun at the corner infield spot and sit him against tough righties.

5. "Plateau of Productivity" — Ryan Braun reaches the "plateau of productivity" as his benefits become widely demonstrated and accepted. He learns to take a walk in the second half of ’08 and he’s drafted on average in the fourth round in ’09. He becomes increasingly stable and evolves in his third and fourth years. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether Ryan Braun is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

All of this is broken down in this lovely chart. (Since I’m sans photoshop and wouldn’t know how to use it even if I had it, Ryan Braun’s arrow was added by a friend of the site,


So you see, Ryan Braun will be broadly applicable one day, but that day is not now. Don’t get caught up in the hype cycle. You're welcome.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Around the Majors

The handsomely knowing (or is it knowingly handsome?) Bob Taylor over at Fantasy Hurler put together a list of Beasts and Busts for 2008. Can’t say I agree with some of his choices, cause I actually agree with all of his choices. If he read my mind, I’d like to know what I ate for lunch yesterday, because I can’t remember for the life of me. Was it tuna? As stated in earlier posts on this site, Pujols is coming back, Alex Gordon is going to be special, Hanley might lay a turd the size of Lichtenstein, and Ryan Braun is so overhyped he might be coming around to underhyped now.

The Sox and Pinstripes blog, which manages to balance the Yanks and the Sox all under one blog, takes a look at the opening month of ’08 for the Sox. They open in Japan (I wonder if Dice K’s translator gets a paid vacation) against the A’s then take on contender after contender and the Rangers.

Finally, if you have some time to kill, the first look at the The House That Zimmerman Built (at least it’s not narrated by Don Sutton):


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Sleepers

Last year, you didn’t win your fantasy baseball league because you drafted Alex Rodriguez first. You won your league because someone you pegged as a sleeper in a later round paid off. You were looking at Brandon Phillips and saw the speed/power combo that could make him valuable. You took one look at Kevin Gregg and thought he could get some saves and use some contacts. Or you saw Josh Hamilton and thought, “I like to have at least one drug addict on my team to honor the '86 Mets.” This is not the final sleeper list for 2008, but will continue to be updated.

Michael Bourn – If Juan Pierre confuses you as much as for his Spanish first name, French surname and African-American ancestry as for his draft position, you're not alone. Bourn’s going to get you Juan Pierre numbers ten rounds after Pierre. My Bourn adoration was already cited here.

Alex Gordon – In his first major league season, he hit 2 home runs and had 8 steals. Not Alex Gordon, George Brett. Gordon’s a 20/20 hitter waiting to happen. His projections for 2008 can be found here.

Casey Kotchman – So what if Kotchman had mono longer than Magic Johnson had AIDS. He’s going to be twenty-five this year and he’s ready to break out. 2008 projections can be found here.

Carlos Marmol – 96 Ks in 69.1 innings. Do I have to say more? Piniella will probably start Howry at closer in April. Be patient. Remember Gregg didn’t start as the Marlins closer last year. Also, if Marmol can’t get the closer job, he will be worthwhile to own as a middle reliever, but I do see him leading the Cubs in saves by season end. Projections for 2008 here.

Adam Wainwright – He was a mess in the first half of ’07, but in the second half, he cut his runs allowed in the by almost half, his home runs allowed by more than half and he showed stamina. With a year of starting at the major league level under his belt, he’s due for a step in the right direction. Projections: 15-9/160/3.30/1.25 and he’s considered the ace of the staff.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Top Twenty Closers For 2008

We’ve covered the top twenty draft lists for catchers, 1st basemen, 2nd basemen, shortstops, 3rd basemen, outfielders and starting pitchers for ’08. Finally, the top twenty closers 2008. I can’t stress this enough, don’t take any closer before the 7th round. Saves are a category, so you should draft at least three closers, but they don’t pitch enough innings to make a solid dent in your pitching ratios. The good ones give a nice push to the stats outside of saves. Like J.J. Putz, for instance. But he was drafted in the 7th round last year according to the ESPN average, so you see they’re unpredictable, as well. Don’t go drafting him in the fourth round this year. It ain’t worth it. For some prospective, take a look at our ’07 player rater.

1. Jonathan Papelbon – He’s unhittable and on a 95 win team. That, my friends, is a recipe for a stud closer. Odd, since his dancing is very unstudlike. If he saved 55 games with 100 Ks and a .90 ERA in 60 innings, it wouldn’t surprise me. Projections: 5-0/90/1.10/.75/45 saves

2. Joe Nathan – Phenomenal peripheral stats, year in and year out. He can fluctuate from 35 saves to 50 saves in any given year, depending on chances. He’s starting to get up there in age (33), but he doesn’t seem to be slowing just yet. Projections: 6-1/80/1.90/1.00/40 saves

3. J.J. Putz – He can strikeout any hitter at any given time, which makes things easier for a closer. (I’m talking to you, Todd Jones.) He’s not prone to injury and his team will probably be in a lot of close games. Very solid number #1 closer for any fantasy team. Projections: 4-2/80/2.00/.90/40 saves

4. Francisco Rodriguez – K-Rod’s pitching motion scares the bejeezus out of me, but he still puts up sick stats every year. Sick meaning well, not sick meaning sick. Projections: 6-2/90/3.00/1.25/45 saves

5. Mariano Rivera – Until he can’t close, he’s going to be on the list. Look at Hoffman, he’s still doing it. Projections: 5-2/70/2.75/1.10/40 saves

6. Francisco Cordero – To be honest, I don’t trust him. His time closing for the Brew Crew was solid, but I can’t help shaking that year in Texas when he lost the job. Although, that was a hitter’s park. Wait, so is Cincinnati. Projections: 2-5/65/3.50/1.20/35 saves and the Reds fans call for Bill Bray to take over by June.

7. Trevor Hoffman – His entrance music “Hells Bells” was released two years before Adrian Gonzalez was born. Hoff’s old. No doubt, but as long as he keeps doing the same thing every year, kind of hard to find fault. Projections: 3-2/40/3.50/1.15/40 saves

8. Takashi Saito – He’s 38 years old for the ’08 season, but his ‘07 season was proof American hitters still haven’t figured him out. I’m pretty confident Torre will stay with the elder, but for fear of Broxton, I won’t be drafting Saito. Then again, I’ve also feared Shields for the last three years and not drafted K-Rod. I'm an idiot. Projections: 4-1/75/1.75/.90/40 saves

9. Bobby Jenks – Raise your hand if you saw his last season coming. Okay, now lower your hand if you’re lying. Okay, now lower your hand, if you’re still lying. Projections: 5-2/65/3.00/1.00/40 saves

10. Brad Lidge – The park could send Lidge into fits if he gives up too many long balls, but, I have to say, his stock is so low, I’m buying. He strikes out hitters by the boatloads and he’s another year removed from the Poo-holes ass-reaming. Projections: 3-3/90/3.25/1.20/40 saves

11. Billy Wagner – Ok, I know what you’re thinking and it’s true. His collapse towards the end of last year has me very nervous. I’m going to pass on Wagner this year, but he could be better than fine. You’ve been warned. Projections: 2-3/70/3.75/1.35/25 saves and Heilman takes over in August and gets 15 saves.

12. Joe Borowski – He’s on a great team for saves and…. Um…. I can’t think of anything else positive. Here’s hoping Betancourt hurts himself playing Guitar Hero. Projections: 2-5/50/4.25/1.35/35 saves

13. Todd Jones – He had more saves than strikeouts last year. Seriously. Yet, I’ll still probably draft him. You want saves and he looks like the man for a team that could win 90 games. Though watch Rodney in the rearview. Projections: 4-4/30/4.50/1.30/35 saves

14. Jose Valverde – Last year, after he started off good, I anticipated a collapse and traded him away. He got better. So, what now? I still don’t trust him. I might draft him, but I doubt I keep him the whole year. He loses his shit and, before you know it, he’s given up five runs in a third of an inning. Projections: 2-6/65/4.00/1.25/30 saves and loses the closing job three times in ’08.

15. Chad Cordero – Is it me or does he simultaneously look like he’s twelve years old and a child molester? Might be the low-hat-wearing-brim-thing. Anyway, the team sucks, so saves may not be plentiful and talk of a trade will invariably happen in July, but he’s solid for what he is. Projections: 2-3/60/3.50/1.35/30 saves

16. Jason Isringhausen – IS-ring-how-zin instills no confidence in me, but he’ll probably end up on a few of my teams because he doesn’t instill confidence in anyone, except his manager. In other words, he’ll be cheap at drafts and get the saves. Projections: 2-4/50/3.75/1.15/30 saves

17. Matt Capps – Got the kind of stuff that could propel him into the top ten closers for ’09. He’s not going to get many opportunities, but hopefully with Tracy out he’ll get the ball and hold onto it. Projections: 2-5/75/2.25/1.00/25 saves

18. Manny Corpas – Not thrilled about the fact that Fuentes is still there. I feel like the slightest hiccup and Corpas will be looking over his shoulder. Projections: 3-3/70/2.50/1.15/25 saves and Fuentes picks up 15 saves.

19. Brian Wilson – The genius behind Pet Sounds! Oh, no, wait a minute. Bochy has stated that Wilson will be the Giants closer, which means he’ll have nothing to close, because they’ll suck this year. When he pitches, he can be lights out. Hopefully, he doesn’t come into too many games to ‘just get work.’ Projections: 2-6/65/2.50/1.05/20 saves

20. Carlos Marmol – Or I could have just said, whoever the hell is closing for the Cubs in 2008. Kerry Wood, Howry, Marmol… They have to decide on someone (at least I hope they do) and whoever gets the ball in the ninth will get lots of opportunities. This is something that needs to be watched in spring training. 2008 Cubs Closer Projections: Nice stats/boatload of saves

After the top twenty there are lots of options, obviously, but one that really stands out:

Rafael Soriano – His stuff is overpowering. Absolutely filthy and he’s got the Braves job all to himself this year. He’ll probably be in the top ten next year when the rankings come out. Projections: 3-4/85/1.25/1.00/35 saves

One name I don’t want any part of:

Huston Street – Injuries and lack of offense for the A’s have me pretty down on Street. If he gets traded to the Braves, I’ll be disappointed to say the least. Maybe Rafael Soriano slept with Bobby Cox’s wife.

Once Spring Training gets underway, we’ll break down what every team is going to do for a closer.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Top Twenty Starting Pitchers For 2008

We’ve tackled where to draft the top twenty catchers, 1st basemen, 2nd basemen, 3rd basemen, shortstops and outfielders. It’s time to toe the rubber and try and make sense of the starting pitchers for ‘08. Pitching always rates as the most valuable category for fantasy baseball and also the least predictable. You build your dream house overlooking the ocean. Every accouterment you can imagine; Sub-Zero refrigerator, 50” wall-mounted plasma and a top-of-the-line hibachi grill. Unfortunately, the cost for the personal Benihana chef forced you to skimp on plumbing and you end up with a river of feces running through your living room. A fantasy team is similar. You don’t want to build your dream team by splurging on offense, because then you’ll have to skimp on pitching, leaving you with a river of feces in the form of Kip Wells.

Without further ado, the top twenty pitchers to draft for ’08. If you want to see how the pitchers did fantasy-wise for ‘07, here’s our player rater.

1. Jake Peavy – See our top ten overall for projections.

2. Johan Santana – See our top twenty overall for projections.

3. Brandon Webb
– Full disclosure: I got burned on Webb the year he was simply average (‘04) and I haven’t gone near him since. I’ve seen him garner top twenty overall status for ’08 drafts and, at this point, I can’t really argue. I would never draft a pitcher in the first or second rounds unless Peavy or Santana fell to me at the end of the 2nd round, but, with that said, Webb’s looking more and more solid. Only injury can stop him. Projections: 19-7/190/3.10/1.20

4. C.C. Sabathia – I’ve never had the fat Dontrelle on any team ever, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t. He’s in his prime and his numbers are peaking. Carrying around that extra poundage can’t be great for his legs, but he’s still young. Projections: 20-9/210/3.40/1.15

5. Erik Bedard – Filthy stuff, awful division to be a pitcher in. Not sure he can build on his ’07, but if he can maintain the torso, he’s easily a top ten pitcher. Projections: 16-10/230/3.30/1.10

6. Aaron Harang – Maybe this will be the year he gets draft early by flb-ers or maybe not, but I definitely will. He’s a workhorse that only struggles in the win department, and that can’t really be helped by him. One caveat: Dusty might have him averaging 140 pitches/game. Projections: 17-10/220/3.75/1.15

7. Cole Hamels
– The future has arrived for the Phillies ace. If he stays away from injury, he battles Peavy for the Cy Young. Not sure how early I’m going to draft him, but he’ll be on one of my ’08 teams. (Conservative bet, I’ll probably have to draft him in the fourth round overall.) Projections: 20-7/210/3.20/1.10

8. Dan Haren
– He was dominant before the trade and going to the NL is a boon to his value. He’s a bit prone to the longball and now that he’s in a hitter’s park has me a bit concerned. Projections: 17-9/210/3.60/1.20

9. Josh Beckett – Everything broke right last year for Beckett. He only walked forty batters all year. 40! He’s still an injury risk, but he can win seventeen games for the Sox with a 4.50 ERA (No arrigato, Dice-K), and I think his ERA will be better than that. Projections: 19-9/190/3.90/1.20

10. Roy Oswalt
– Wins might be a problem for him, but getting hitters out has never been. His strikeouts have begun to decline and he’s said himself that he’s just trying to get hitters out, no matter how. Seems like he’s treading close to the NL version of Roy Halladay. Projections: 15-7/150/3.60/1.22

11. John Lackey – This is my preseason pick for ’08 AL Cy Young. (Remember, Cy Young doesn’t always equate to best pitcher.) The Angels have some more experience for their younger players and Torii Hunter. They should get Lackey the wins and he can do the rest. Projections: 20-5/180/3.00/1.20

12. Carlos Zambrano – He was out of his mind wild at times last year and he was still a quality starter to have on a fantasy team. If he got through Dusty and Barrett, the rest is icing and he obviously loves icing. Projections: 16-7/210/3.60/1.30

13. Roy Halladay – Is it me or is he starting to seem like he’s getting old? He no longer strikes out hitters at a good enough rate to rank him higher, but he doesn’t walk hitters either. Unfortunately, he does give up a lot of hits. I’m worried about Halladay and won’t be drafting him this year. You can do what you do. Projections: 15-7/120/4.00/1.25

14. Chris Young – He’s a flyball pitcher in the best flyball pitcher park. His division is light-hitting and he’s on a contender. What more do you need to know? Oh, I know. His height causes him to have back pain and his height is not going away. Projections: 15-5/160/3.00/1.10 and he only pitches in a 150 innings.

15. John Maine
– He’ll be 27 in ’08, he’s got the experience under his belt from the last two years and he’s on a team that will score for him. He can easily be in the top ten for the ’09 preseason, act accordingly. Projections: 18-9/210/3.60/1.20

16. Justin Verlander
– I was surprised by his ’07 season. There’s was no letdown from his ’06 campaign. If he continues to top his numbers, Lackey may have company for the AL Cy Young. Projections: 19-7/200/3.75/1.20

17. John Smoltz – At some point, he’s going to get old, right? I mean, he has to, doesn’t he? You don’t want to be there when it happens. If you can get him at a bargain rate, take the gamble. Projections: 16-7/160/3.75/1.22

18. James Shields
– Kazmir gets the attention and Shields will win you your league. He had 184 Ks to 36 walks last year. Phenomenal. His wins may not be great on the Rays, but his ratios and Ks will be outstanding. Projections: 14-6/185/3.75/1.10

19. Felix Hernandez – Don’t forget about F-Her just because you want to forget about his ‘07 season. With nasty stuff and only turning 22 this year. He could shoot to the top five pitchers by as early as next year. This may be the last time you’ll be able to get him at a bargain for a decade. Projections: 16-5/185/3.50/1.15

20. Rich Hill
– This year will be a great year to have Hill. He doesn’t seem to be too high on anyone’s radar. Reach in and grab him in the middle rounds and you will have what Hamels did last year, this year. Projections: 18-7/200/3.60/1.15

After the top twenty obviously a ton of pitchers (we’ll be putting together the draft list of 21-40 soon), but here’s one name people are giddy about and I’m not:

Fausto Carmona – K/9 was 5.74 and his K/BB was 2.25 in ’07. He’s not going to come at a bargain this year, so take a pass on him and see how he does. Not saying he’ll be egregious, but he may not be what he was last year. Projections: 15-9/120/4.25/1.22 and he has people scratching their heads wondering what happened.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the top twenty closers to draft in ’08.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Top Twenty Outfielders for 2008

You want to know where to draft the top twenty catchers – here. While you’re at it, here’s the top twenty 1st basemen, 2nd basemen, 3rd basemen and shortstops. Also, our Player Rater for 2007 is here to give you some prospective. But, really, the position that has you here is the top twenty outfielders for 2008. Without further ado:

1. Matt Holliday – See our top ten overall where Holliday ranked fourth.

2. Grady Sizemore
– See our top twenty overall where Sizemore ranked 13th.

3. Carl Crawford – See our top twenty overall where Crawford ranked 14th.

4. Alfonso Soriano – He’s 16th overall, see his projections here.

5. Carlos Lee – 17th overall, see his projections here.

6. Alexis Rios – I went out on a limb and placed him 18th overall, see why here.

7. Vladimir Guerrero – 19th overall, see why here.

8. Nick Markakis – I obviously love Markakis as I admitted here. Miguel Tejada left the Greek God of Roto, so what now? Well, he didn’t have him for thirty games last year and actually hit better during that time. Projections: 100/27/115/.300/20 with the skill set to go above and beyond these numbers.

9. Carlos Beltran – I don’t know how he’s been able to make everyone look the other way, but Beltran is a .270 hitter with 25/20 skills. Good, but he’s not a top twenty overall player where he usually gets drafted. Maybe it’s his resemblance to Ricky from My So Called Life. Projections: 100/27/110/.270/18

10. B.J. Upton – See the top twenty 2nd basemen for his projections.

11. Ichiro Suzuki – The new manager of the Mariners, John McLaren, challenged Ichiro to hit .400, steal 80 bases and a staring contest. Ok, I made up the staring contest. I’ve never had Ichiro on a team. I stay away from guys whose number one benefit is a high average. More than likely, you only need a .280 average for your team to finish in the top three in your league. What, are you gonna turn your average points up to an eleven? But there is a place for Ichiro on a fantasy team, if coupled with Adam Dunn, Troy Glaus and Chris B. Young. Projections: 110/10/65/.330/45

12. Lance Berkman – See the top twenty 1st basemen for his projections.

13. Bobby Abreu – I rode Abreu’s second half last year to a title in one of my more important leagues, so maybe I’m prejudice. Then again, I rode Braun, Peavy and a host of others. Anyway, Abreu’s in a good lineup for runs and RBIs and won’t kill you in home runs and average while chipping in decent steals. I’m a believer. Projections: 120/15/110/.310/20

14. Curtis Granderson – In the same post about why I like Markakis, I broke down why I didn’t like Granderson. He’s too much of a free swinger for my taste, so I won’t have him on my teams, unless he falls way down from where I’ve been seeing him get drafted. Projections: 115/27/85/.280/25

15. Adam Dunn
– Go ahead and guess Dunn’s age? Wrong, he’s only 28 for the ’08 season. It’s the 320 lbs. that confuses people. I’ll probably get reamed for putting Dunn this high, but follow along, he’s got a great eye and he’s hitting 40 homers and getting 100 runs and RBIs without question and he chips in some steals. Also, as players get older, their averages tend to get better. Projections: 100/45/110/.265/7

16. Eric Byrnes – Let me start by saying, I’m not drafting Byrnes this year. He’ll be overvalued/rated. But if the hype gets high enough on him, maybe the tide will shift and he’ll be underrated by draft time. (I’m seeing this begin with Braun in the reverse direction. Everyone started very high on Braun for ’08, and now people have begun to get cold on him.) I think Byrnes can get you decent numbers, just don’t draft him thinking you’re getting more than last year. You will get less. Projections: 90/20/75/.270/20

17. Torii Hunter – Torii landed on a good team for running and a crappy team for offense. (Celebrity Deathmatch: Billy Beane (the straight one) vs. Mike Scioscia) The word on the streets of The OC is Torii is going to be protecting Vlad. Well, who’s going to be protecting Double I? The Rally Monkey? Either way, I think Torii’s good for 20/20, act accordingly. Projections: 85/25/100/.275/20

18. Magglio Ordonez – Saw something the other day about Mags. It said he won his 1st batting title in ’07. Thought it was weird it said “1st” as if he’s going to win a second. He’s not a bad hitter; he’s just not going to hit .363 again. Since so much of his value last year was tied to his high average, be very careful drafting him. Projections: 100/30/110/.300

19. Corey Hart – He ran like a demonfish in the first half (mostly against righties) and kept consistent power and average throughout. As much as I feel weird saying it, I think Mr. Hart is here to stay. His OBP against righties is kinda icky, but you know who else is like that, Double I. That’s right, Corey Hart is the white man Torii Hunter. Projections: 95/22/75/.280/25

20. Brad Hawpe/Ryan Spilborghs – With only twenty outfielders listed (will do a second half to the outfielders at a later date), I wanted to reach a bit for number 20. Hawpe will be sensational this year and not hit lefties. He sported a .418 OBP last year against righties. Grab Spilborghs for next to nothing and platoon them yourself, cause Spilborghs had a .426 OBP against lefties. Hawpe/Spilborghs combo projections: 105/35/110/.300/5

After the top twenty, many obviously, but one name to absolutely avoid:

Jason Bay – I broke down various reasons to avoid him here. You may feel like he’s a bargain coming off a bad year, but he’s doesn’t run anymore, his lineup protection is from hunger and he compares to Bobby Higginson. Do I have to say more? Projections: crap/crap/and more crap.

But let’s end on a positive note. Someone I’m absolutely giddy about:

Shane Victorino – Last month I wrote about Victorino here. He’s Eric Byrnes seven rounds later. You’re welcome. Projections: 115/15/60/.280/40

Tomorrow, the top twenty starting pitchers to draft.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Top Twenty Shortstops For 2008

Where to draft the top twenty catchers, first basemen, second basemen and third basemen are all in the books, so now we move onto the shortstops. Top twenty shortstops isn’t as shallow as you might think. For an interesting article on why shortstops are almost as deep outfield, check this out. It’s a great read provided by Lou from Baseball Lab. Unfortunately, Lou is no longer with us. Not dead, just ain’t blogging anymore. His archives are there, and you should check them out some time. Also, our Player Rater for 2007 is here. Onto to the shortstops.

1. Jose Reyes – Check out our top ten overall for projections.

2. Hanley Ramirez – Check out our top ten overall for projections. Also, if you're so inclined, check out why you should NOT draft Hanley 1st overall.

3. Jimmy Rollins – Check out our top twenty overall for projections.

4. Troy Tulowitzki – Tulo’ll hit second in ’08, which means he scores at least a 110 times if he doesn’t try and carry any deer meat down any stairs. His OBP worries me, but his park excites me. His tendency to strikeout worries me, but the Poles are hard-workers. Projections: 115/25/80/.280/10

5. Derek Jeter – Jeter proves my point that you can’t have an ugly mulatto child. Roseanne Barr and George Foster can give birth to a swimsuit model. Jeter always gets drafted higher than he should, probably because he’s notched Jessicas -- Alba, Biel and Rabbit. Projections: 110/15/70/.315/15 and you're the envy of any girl that is in your league.

6. Miguel Tejada
– His consecutive game streak that he fought so hard for makes me think he’s gonna want to shut up anybody who has linked him to steroids. I say he comes back like a potato sack of dragons. Then again, his age and no steroids may not cooperate with his intention. Projections:

7. Carlos Guillen – He’ll be over at 1st this year, but as long as he has shortstop eligibility, you’re good to go. See what was said about him at top twenty 1st basemen. For those too lazy to look, I’m not a huge fan.

8. Rafael Furcal – ’07 was a bad year for Furcal, but his ankle injury in the beginning of the year seemed to be to blame. He was overrated last year, but will be underrated this year (then overrated next year, do you see how this goes?). You have my permission to draft him. Projections: 110/15/65/.285/35

9. Michael Young – Young reminds me a lot of Carlos Guillen. You get a little bit of everything and nothing that wonderful. Young is a better bet to hit you .300; Guillen has an outside shot at 17/17 (I refuse to write 20/20 next to his name, when it's soooo not going to happen.) Projections: 95/12/95/.310/10

10. Jhonny Peralta – He looked a lot better in the first half last year, but he’s still only going to be 26 this year. He’s a definite buy. Projections: 85/32/105/.270/3

11. Edgar Renteria – I likey Renteria. He’ll get you some decent numbers when he’s out there and then when he’s banged up, you fill in with a hot hitter off waivers. Unless you’re in an AL-Only league, then you can’t fill in as easily. Projections: 95/10/75/.295/15

12. Khalil Greene – Don’t think Khalil will ever hit above .275, so act accordingly. Projections: 85/27/100/.260

13. J.J. Hardy – I almost put J.J. above Guillen, but his OBP was a bit atrocious and his pre- and post- All-Star game splits were worse. He sees very few balls he doesn’t like and even fewer strikes. Projections: 85/20/80/.260

14. Ryan Theriot – Great strike-zone discipline and speed. He’s a great buy towards the end of drafts for some cheap speed. Forgo Juan Pierre-types and grab Theriot. Projections: 105/3/50/.290/45

15. Orlando Cabrera – He was not as good last year as you might think considering some experts draft lists. His stats were: 101/8/86/.301/20. Rex “The Hud” Hudler loved him, but he also loves Garrett Anderson. You don’t have to draft Cabrera just because everyone seems to be high on him. Projections: 100/9/65/.280/20

16. Julio Lugo – Here’s what I said at the top twenty 2nd basemen, “The steals were a bit of a surprise on Boston last year. Don’t think the average will be as bad as last year…” Projections: 80/7/65/.270/25

17. Stephen Drew – He’ll be better than he was last year soon, just not sure if you should count on it being in 2008. His OBP was a mess, but he’s only 25 this year. Projections: 65/20/75/.270/15

18. Yunel Escobar – I’m pretty high on Yunel. Well, as high as someone could be and still place him 18th overall at his position. His OBP hovered around .380 for his career in pro ball and he has decent speed and power. He could easily be a poor man’s Renteria. I know, that doesn’t sound that enticing, but there’s a place for that. Projections: 80/10/55/.285/15

19. Jason Bartlett– He’s a poor man’s Theriot. It just keeps getting better and better, huh? You’ll get cheap steals here, and maybe nothing else. Projections: 70/5/45/.270/25

20. Erick Aybar
– A poor man’s Jason Bartlett. Projections: 65/2/35/.265/20

Just after the top twenty, obviously many, but I couldn’t fail to mention:

Brandon Wood
– He will be a monster slugger one day soon, but his K/BB ratio is just plain ugly. Hopefully he becomes something other than a young Troy Glaus. Projections: sticks with the club out of spring training, then rides the bench on and off for three months totally screwing up his progress. Draft him in ’09.

Tomorrow, we move to the top twenty outfielders for 2008.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Top Twenty Third Basemen For 2008

Previously, we covered the top ten and twenty overall draft picks. Then we went onto the top twenty 1st basemen and 2nd basemen to draft. Now, we cover the top twenty third basemen. 3rd base is stacked with talent, Pete Nice and MC Serch notwithstanding. To contrast and compare, you can look at our 2007 Player Rater here.

1. Alex Rodriguez – See our top ten overall.

2. David Wright – See our top ten overall.

3. Miguel Cabrera – See our top ten overall.

4. B.J. Upton – (Here’s what I said about B.J. when he placed 3rd overall for the top twenty 2nd basemen.) ...His BABIP was leprechaunian so the average will drop a bit, but he’s a young Soriano. Speed, power, quick wrists. Projections: 100/30/85/.280/27

5. Ryan Braun
– Here’s what I said when not placing Braun in the top twenty overall: He’ll probably go before “after 20,” but that’s fine. You don’t want him in ’08. For every McGwire Rookie of the Year, there’s a dozen woulda-shouldas. Let someone else deal with the possible headache, because as stated here by The Baseball Analysts:

The only disconcerting split involves (Braun's) BB/SO totals against righties. He has drawn five more walks vs. LHP in 151 fewer AB while striking out just 13% of the time as compared to 24% vs. RHP.
As you can see, I’m not completely down on Braun, because I am placing him fifth overall at 3rd base. Just be careful about overvaluing him. Since the top twenty overall was written, he will now play outfield. This will give him position flexibility, so he’s a bit more valuable. I still wouldn’t go overboard. Projections: 100/27/105/.280/12

6. Aramis Ramirez – As I wrote here, he’s in for a big rebound. To summarize what was written, he had wrist problems for half the season and then started clubbing homers in September as he started to feel well. Projections: 95/37/120/.305

7. Garrett Atkins – Those buckteeth are magnificent, aren’t they? His pre- and post-All-Star splits were bad for average(.259/.349), but they were pretty even for power(13/12). He didn’t take it to the next level in ’07 like some predicted, but he’s still only 28. Projections: 85/34/115/.300

8. Mike Lowell – Everything broke right for Mr. Lowell last year. Every time he came up with runners on, he was dyn-o-mite. .406 average with men on first and second. .615 average with men on second and third. .318 average with the bases loaded. He batted forty points above his career average on the season at the age of 33 (He looks like he might be in his 40s.). The Green Mawnster is a haven for a rightie doubles hitter, so maybe the drop off won’t be that bad, but expect a drop off. Projections: 75/20/105/.290/3

9. Chipper Jones
– Not sure I understand the allure of Chipper. Feel he gets some sort of boost on name value. He’s long past the days of hitting 30 home runs and you’re begging for 100 RBIs. His eye is impeccable, so you’re getting someone that will avoid prolonged slumps, but you’re not getting any upside whatsoever. Projections: 85/25/85/.315/5

10. Alex Gordon – Member what you thought Zimmerman would do last year? Well, Gordon’s gonna do it this year. I think the hype Braun’s getting this offseason, Gordon will be getting in ’09. You missed Braun last year; don’t miss Gordon this year. Projections: 80/25/90/.280/20

11. Adrian Beltre – I had him on one team when he had his I’m-playing-for-a-contract season. I will never have him again. He’s a nightmare of inconsistency. Six homers one month, 1 homer and a below .200 average another month. He’ll drive you mad. Projections: 85/25/85/.260/7

12. Kevin Kouzmanoff
– He really seemed to figure it out in the 2nd half of last year and he’s hitting third this year (as long as he doesn’t repeat his 1st half from last year). He always knew how to take a walk in the minors, and I think he can do the same in the bigs. Here’s to high hopes. Projections: 90/27/105/.285

13. Ryan Zimmerman – He had wrist surgery in November of ’07. His team is better offensively this year than last, but… He had wrist surgery. Do you really wanna be messin’ with this? Come back to him in ’09, he’ll still only be 25. Projections: 90/18/90/.275/5

14. Chone Figgins – You want Juan Pierre at 3rd base? Follow along, if you have five home runs from your 3rd baseman, you better have someone hitting 50 home runs elsewhere. Also, last year’s average was an aberration. There’s a time and a place for Figgins. You find yourself falling behind in steals. Trade for him, get a boost in steals and then trade him away. Projections: 105/5/60/.290/45

15. Edwin Encarncion – Maybe I’m effin’ crazy, but I like Encarncion. He’s not winning a batting title or the Roberto Clemente Award. The Cincinnati Reds may trade him because he sucks at being a teammate and Dusty may get fed up, but if he gets his ABs he could surprise you. Projections: 75/25/85/.275/15

16. Kevin Youlikis – See top twenty 1st basemen.

17. Troy Glaus – A pothole at 3rd base. I was going to leave him off completely, but I thought people would rise up in revolt. Avoid Glaus at all costs, especially if he ends up on the Cardinals. A switch of leagues could mean a .240 average. Projections: 65/22/70/.255 and LaRussa offers to be his designated driver by the All-Star break.

18. Ty Wigginton
– If you’re taking Wiggs, you’re not trying hard enough. This late into a position, go for a high upside guy. Such as #19 or #20. Ty’s Projections: 70/20/70/.270

19. Evan Longoria – Iwamura’s going to 2nd base and Morgan Ensberg’s gonna play 3rd. Or Evan Longoria. Let’s see, who will be playing there, Ensberg or Longoria? Now think about how the Rays bungled Upton and Young in the minors. Leaving them there about a season too long. So Longoria might not be playing in the majors this year, but this is a spring training decision for you to make. If you’re drafting now, you have to take a flyer. Projections: 70/20/75/.285 and he’s manning 3rd base from May until October.

20. Andy LaRoche – He’s done all there is to do in the minors by the age of 23. It’s him or Nomar. Please, Torre, put Nomar out to pasture. Mia needs help with the kids. Projections: 60/22/75/.310/5

After the “top twenty,” plenty obviously, but one I like that there was no room for is:

Casey Blake – He’ll come super cheap and you can do a lot worse. He’s on a good offensive team and his manager knows how to use him. Don’t expect the world, but in AL-only, you draft him. Projections: 75/20/75/.270/5

Who I don’t like after the top twenty – Scott Rolen. It was a fine career. It’s over. Now go wrap yourself in an endangered mongoose coat and drive slowly by LaRussa’s home.

Tomorrow we finish the infield with the top twenty shortstops.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Around The Majors

People over at the Brew Crew Ball quote Fox Sports’ on Ryan Braun moving to the outfield with the addition of Mike Cameron. The Brewers this offseason said to George Mitchell, "Here's spit in your eye." Gagne, Cameron, Mota... Maybe they can coax Canseco out of retirement?

Over in Sun Devil territory, the Arizona Republic reports that Brandon Lyon is the leading candidate for D-backs saves with Tony Pena available for one or more innings. This makes sense, since rarely the best pitcher is the one chosen to close games. Obviously, this is not the final say on this. I think Lyon or Pena could work, and when drafting a Diamondbacks closer, you may have to take both. Lyon could get 25 saves and Pena 15. Or vice versa.

The Cardinals’ Blog, Viva El Birdos, do an excellent job of breaking down Matt Clement projections. I love Matt Clement as much as the next guy, which is to say slightly more than Livan Hernandez and way more than Kip Wells, but the rotator cuff surgery is tough one to return from. In an NL-only league, I would bid on him. Could get you 100Ks and a four and a half ERA in a little over twenty games. In a mixed league, you have to pass.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Top Twenty 2nd Basemen For 2008

So far we’ve looked at the overall top ten and the top twenty, the top twenty catchers and 1st basemen. Today we look at where to draft the top twenty 2nd basemen for 2008. Second base has been historically weak for fantasy, with some experts saying at last year’s draft that 2nd base was weaker than catcher. Well, that turned out to be a wrong. In 2008, experts have changed their tune dramatically. So when people start amping up hype on a position is when you need to tone your excitement down. Sure, there’s some quality 2nd basemen in this year’s draft, just know a lot of them come with caveats. If you want to see how they stacked up on our 2007 Player Rater, click here.

1. Chase Utley – I’m unabashedly a fan. See the top ten for his projections.

2. Robinson Cano
– Granted, the pre/post All-Star splits are an unpleasant trend, but who cares if at season’s end the numbers are there. Plus, I love the increase on his HRs and RBIs from '06 to '07. He’s not going to hit .342 like he did in ’06, but at his young age and in the Yankees lineup, I see the absolute safest 2nd basemen after Chase. You won’t have to draft him insanely high and you can still get numbers. If you need speed, you’ll have to look elsewhere though. Projections: 100/25/100/.295/3

3. B.J. Upton – The most upside on this list with the ability to jump to the late 1st round next year. His BABIP was leprechaunian so the average will drop a bit, but he’s a young Soriano. Speed, power, quick wrists. Projections: 100/30/85/.280/27

4. Brandon Phillips
– I kind of wanted to drop him down even more to emphasize how much caution you need to take with Phillips. I’m just going to point out one negative. In 650 ABs, he walked 33 times and struck out 109 times. He’s got speed; he’s in a great hitting park. He will not hit .288 again. At the first sign of struggle, he starts swinging for the fences and he goes into a deep funk. Hitters who don’t take walks fall into slumps. Do yourself a favor and let someone else draft Phillips. Projections: 80/19/75/.240/25 and is benched in July because his slump is “all in his head.”

5. Brian Roberts – Honestly, I don’t like him. Never have had him on a team. His numbers are too erratic for my taste. One year 4 homers, next year 18. Career average 29 steals, last year 50. This year he’ll be 30 years old, next year he’ll be 42. His average being in the .290s is about the only thing I would count on. I don’t think 50 steals are coming again. Projections: 105/10/55/.290/30

6. Ian Kinsler
– I’m very high on Kinsler. As he moves into the prime of his career, he enters the final year you can grab him at a bargain price. His swing is a bit too upper-cutty for a .300 average but in his park and with his speed, he’s getting you 20/20 by August. Projections (assuming he’s at the top of the order and not at the bottom): 110/25/70/.270/25

7. Rickie Weeks
– Too many injuries? Actually, same injury, long time to heal. When you flap your bat like Sheff, a wrist injury is bad news. Hopefully, a year and a half after the wrist surgery will set things right because he could still be a power and speed monster. This is the year he gets himself right. Aside, if Clint Barmes, Rocco Baldelli and Rickie Weeks board your cross-country flight, do you get off? Projections: 100/20/60/.260/30

8. Jeff Kent – Might be the last time you can draft Jeff Kent as the swan song approaches. Luckily, he’s too much of a conceited prick to play past the point he can contribute, so the fact he’s playing in ’08 means he’s going to give his best. With the Dodgers rookies having one more year of experience, I could see a bit of a boon to all of their numbers. Projections: 80/25/90/.300

9. Dan Uggla – Strong candidate to repeat his numbers from last year, minus ten to fifteen runs with the depleted Marlins’ lineup. Unfortunately, one of those numbers he’ll repeat is a sub-.250 average. Average that low over 600 ABs is too taxing on your team. You should try and avoid. Projections: 95/30/80/.245

10. Aaron Hill – I get the sneaky suspicious that Aaron Hill’s Fan Club meetings are not well-attended. Does anyone care about Aaron Hill? I think he’s probably his Mom’s third favorite after her two cats. Anyway, he does have pop in his bat and just now entering his prime years. He could jump five spots by next year or his low OBP could foreshadow a disappointment. Usually I side with the low OBP as a sign of trouble, but I say closer to the former. He’s a young Jeff Kent, I tell ya. Projections: 90/24/85/.280/5

11. Kelly Johnson
– It’s disturbing that Bobby Cox benched Johnson against a majority of lefties, because when Cox gets set on something he’s slow to change. Johnson will be sitting there in the later rounds and has an outside shot at 15/15, plus he’s only 26 heading into ‘08. Projections: 85/17/65/.275/12

12. Placido Polanco
– If you draft PP, you’re just not trying hard enough. His upside is non-existent. He’s 32 and his best, oft-injured days are behind him. He’ll hit you .310 with nothing else. You’re honestly better off taking Kelly Johnson against righties and filling in Yunel Escobar when the Braves play lefties. It’ll be more productive. The people over at usually run a great site, but they have Polanco in the fifth position. Peyote? Perhaps. Then again, they have Marcus Giles at 20 and 21. He’s so bad we gotta list him twice! At least they didn’t list Ray Durham. Oh, wait, they did. At #15. Anyway, PP’s Projections: 90/7/65/.310/7 and you're coming in fifth in your league.

13. Howie Kendrick
– Can’t say I’m fully aboard the Kendrick love boat just yet. He tore up a half-season of AAA in ’06. He’s got upside, no doubt. My concern is 21 walks in over 500 at-bats in ’06 and 9 base on balls in ‘07. Scioscia loves to run, or as Rex “The Hud” Hudler says, “Shose plays aggressive!” So playing for Shose could lead to 20 steals for Howie and there’s potential for 15-20 homers, but I’d be very careful. People are loving themselves some Kendrick and he’s going higher than I would take him. I say ’09 is his year to shine. Projections: 70/12/55/.290/15

14. Dustin Pedroia – He’s about as safe as a pick can be without getting anything that exciting. He’ll be driven in plenty and get his share of RBIs because the Sox lineup is Shirley Hemphill-thick. Just don’t ask for too much. Projections: 105/12/60/.300/12

15. Orlando Hudson – O-Dog, as Gracie likes to say, can sure “Pick ‘em.” But if your league doesn’t count putouts, then you’re getting an offensive player about as dull as Jimmy Fallon as a leading man. Orlando seems like a really nice guy though. Nice finishes fifteenth. Projections: 90/10/60/.280/10

16. Kaz Matsui – The Astros will give Matsui the green light when he’s healthy. Last season was a great contract year, don’t bank a return to form, but for cheap steals, you’ll find some here. Projections: 75/3/30/.275/25

17. Mark Ellis
– He avoided injuries last year, but the two seasons before, not so much. The A’s decided to make a run for last place with this offseason's moves and I don’t see Mark Ellis being the guy to lead them back to respectability. He’s barely average with the bat eight-tenths of the year, and he gets hot for two-tenths as the summer heats up. Don’t draft him, then grab him late May from his owner, who by that point, absolutely hates him. You’re welcome. Projections: 75/17/70/.270/7

18. Freddy Sanchez
– Senior Contributing Writer Rudy Gamble said the Pittsburgh reporters were dying for Freddy to be mentioned in the Mitchell Report so they could use the headline, “Dirty Sanchez.” That made me giggle. Projections: 75/10/75/.310

19. Asdrubal Cabrera – Really, I could’ve put DeRosa, Vidro or Iguchi at #19, but when you’re drafting this low into a position it’s worth taking a gamble on a young guy. In a half-season of Double A in ’07, Droobs hit 8 HRs and swiped 23 bases. Also, he has strike zone discipline by walking more than he struck out leading to a .383 OBP. What’s not to love? Someone taking DeRosa cause he’s safer. The final rounds is not the time to be safe. You should have been safe early on. Projections: 85/7/50/.300/15

20. Felipe Lopez/Luis Castillo/Julio Lugo – Felipe, Manny Acta doesn’t believe in costing his team an out with a steal. Ugh. Castillo, You’ll get runs and a decent limp. Now that I think about it, I kinda like him more than Polanco. Lugo, The steals were a bit of a surprise on Boston last year. Don’t think the average will be as bad as last year. Hmm, maybe he’s better than Polanco too. Projections: These guys will get you cheap runs and steals. Not much else. Act accordingly.

Tomorrow, the top twenty 3rd basemen.