After eleven weeks and fifteen fantasy games played, it is now time for the second edition of the 2011 Power Rankings for the Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”). The OBFBL is an 18-team, non-keeper, head to head, points, mixed NL/AL fantasy baseball league that has existed since 1999 and is currently in its 13th season. We will rank each team in the league based on their overall record, points scored, roster trends, significant transactions, and other general criteria. Without further adieu, here is the second edition of the power rankings through the middle of May 2011.
1. Mets in 2011 (12-3, 1st place AL East, Previous Rank – #5)
Jordan has been on fire since the last rankings winning seven in a row and bludgeoning opponents with lopsided scores. Joey Votto, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton continue to produce big numbers. Free agent acquisition Eric Hosmer has been steady and consistent asJordan’s utility player. His pitching staff has also been dominant with Josh Beckett throwing multiple shutouts, Tim Hudson and Jaime Garcia consistently winning, and the closer duo of Brian Wilson and Ryan Madson racking up saves. Jordanhas already won three weekly money prizes for having the highest scores in the league. That should help him stockpile diapers which he will need.
2. The Ewok Rebellion (12-3, 1st place AL Central, Previous Rank – #1)
Abe has backed up his words by maintaining a torrid pace. He has gone 5-2 since the last rankings and is only bumped from the top spot due to the amount of points the Mets in 2011 have produced. His pitching staff has been surprisingly good despite losing Bartolo Colon. Dan Haren is a lock, but recent acquisitions Bud Norris and Ryan Vogelsong have stepped in and produced. David Ortiz regained his old form and has carried Abe’s offense, which is still waiting for Ryan Howard to go on a hot streak. First round pick Robinson Cano hasn’t hit his stride yet either. The loss of Derek Jeter has made no impact on Abe because Jeter sucks at this point. HA!
3. Benny Enjoys the Moment Being My Bee-otch (12-3, 1st place NL East, Previous Rank – #2)
Marc has opened up an impressive six game lead in the division and looks to be running away with things. He has also gone 5-2 since the last rankings and recently acquired Alex Rodriguez in a trade. This could be huge for Marc as the health of outfielder Hunter Pence is now in question. Marc’s dynamic pitching duo of Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw has justified their positions as his first two draft picks. The multiple closer theory has been up and down as Joakim Soria has been very inconsistent. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brennan Boesch have provided solid numbers all year.
4. Fellowship of the Orange Veal Cutlets (10-5, 1st place NL West, Previous Rank – #3)
Maury has been able to hang onto first place in the league’s most competitive division. He has Justin Verlander to thank for that as the Tigers’ ace put up 94 points in the most recent double-header week giving the Veal Cutlets a sweep. The OBFBL veteran has little patience for non-production as youngsters Ian Kennedy and Jonathan Sanchez have been relegated to the bench. His managerial style has worked thus far as he relies on waiver wire pickups to piece together a pitching staff around Verlander. Ryan Braun and Brian McCann continue to be studs on offense. The return of Adam Lind also gives Maury another potent bat to rely on.
5. Madoff’s Marauders (9-6, 1st place NL Central, Previous Rank – #4)
Joey I. has only gone 3-4 since the last rankings yet still remains tied for first place in the division. The great Roy Halladay has been his usual dominant self. Combine that with Yovani Gallardo and Craig Kimbrel, the Marauders have one of the more formidable pitching staffs in the league. Credit Joey I. for his scouting team as he landed highly touted prospects Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy who were recently called up by the Royals. Despite being without Ike Davis since April, free agent Mike Morse has filled in nicely at first base. Ryan Zimmerman recently returned from injury which is a huge boost. He also has pitching depth with closers Jordan Walden and Sergio Santos sitting on his bench. .
6. Blue Horseshoe Loves Giant Douche (9-6, 2nd place NL West, Previous Rank – #13)
The Commish has gone 6-1 since the last rankings and jumped up seven spots on this hot streak. Several of his big bats got hot at the same time, including Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes and Miguel Cabrera. Josh Hamilton returned from injury to provide even more offensive output. The Commish also made another trade acquiring Dustin Pedroia and Logan Morrison who have produced nicely. Plus, the Phillies called up rookie Domonic Brown who was plugged into the Commish’s lineup as well. Mark Reynolds finally started hitting some homeruns and even went a few at bats in a row without striking out. The Commish’s pitching staff is still a work in progress, but the return of Wandy Rodriguez and acquisition of John Danks will help complement Cliff Lee.
7. Pap Smears (9-6, 1st place AL West, Previous Rank – #9)
Jared has gone 5-2 since the last rankings and has created some distance between him and the other teams in his division. Now owning a three game lead, the Pap Smears have been on a hot streak despite being without ace pitcher Josh Johnson who has been sidelined with an arm injury and isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break. Other pitching woes have forced Jared to rely on his offense as Jair Jurrjens has cooled off slightly and Shaun Marcum is injured again. First round pick and pending free agent Prince Fielder has been dominant in terms of his power and run production. Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre have also been consistent run producers when they are healthy. The issue will be whether Jared can maintain his lead while waiting for Johnson to return.
8. Jewish Mafia (9-6, 2nd place NL Central, Previous Rank – #7)
If you look at Randy’s roster and see who has been injured or a complete bust, you would be amazed that he is 9-6 and tied for the NL Wild Card. First round pick Carlos Gonzalez has picked it up lately, but overall he has not lived up to the expectations created from his monstrous 2010 season. Rockies’ pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has arguably been the biggest fantasy bust in terms of pitchers. He has battled injuries and ineffectiveness all season, and only just recently won his first game of the season. He has not been the same since the second half of 2010 began. Brandon Phillips and Mat Latos have put up very pedestrian numbers compared to what was expected of them. And Jason Heyward has been ineffective and injured most of the season. Yet somehow, the Mafia has continued winning. Maybe Randy drinks a lot of tiger’s blood.
9. Len Tuckwilla’s Nuts Over My Chin (7-8, 3rd place NL West, Previous Rank – #6)
The final sentence in the analysis of Craig’s team in the first edition of the Power Rankings was: “Craig is known for fading in the second half, so hopefully he has built up some OBFBL endurance.” Sure enough, he has gone 2-5 since those rankings and now finds himself in last place in his division. Granted there is still plenty of time left in the season, but Craig must adjust to the trends that present themselves. Troy Tulowitzki has cooled off considerably, and no one else has stepped up to be a constant offensive threat with the exception of Gaby Sanchez (until the Marlins’ recent slide). Carlos Beltran and Todd Helton do not provide the same type of offensive dominance they once did, and Carlos Santana may be too young to be counted on for such a thing now. Craig’s pitching will keep him competitive and in the race as he relies on Jered Weaver, Max Scherzer, Michael Pineda, and Gio Gonzalez.
10. RAD (7-8, 2nd place AL Central, Previous Rank – #8)
Amazingly, Matt has scored the fourth most points in the league yet is 7-8 and five games behind in the division. During the weeks he has won, he has won big. Other weeks, not so much. Adrian Gonzalez has been outstanding and Andrew McCutcheon is blossoming into a star. From a pitching perspective, James Shields, Jordan Zimmerman and Carlos Carrasco have all overachieved and provided superb numbers in all respects. Unfortunately, Matt has not been able to consistently put it all together week after week. Matt lacks a big power bat, so perhaps he should look into making a deal with someone as we get closer to the All-Star break. He proved last year that he can come on strong down the stretch, so this is one team to definitely keep your eyes on. The points scored thus far demonstrate what Matt can do.
11. Cole Hamels Adopted Charlie Sheen’s Kids (6-9, 3rd place AL Central, Previous Rank – #15)
In an interesting twist, the Philadelphia boys actually starter producing better after Buster Posey sustained his season-ending injury in a horrific collision at home plate with Scott Cousins. While they cooled off in the most recent double-header week, Jeff and Mike exploded right after Posey went down partially due to the fact Chase Utley is back. Mark Teixeira got hot again as April became a distant memory, and some of their pitchers had huge weeks including Cole Hamels, Alexi Ogando, Mike Leake and Huston Street. They are still waiting for Jayson Werth to actually do something other than wash dishes with the excess cash he has sitting around from his ridiculous contract. Andre Ethier has cooled off considerably since his hitting streak ended. They should take advantage of having Utley, Rickie Weeks and Danny Espinosa at second base and trade one of them.
12. It’s Gotta Be Mooses…or Meese (6-9, 2nd place AL West, Previous Rank – #10)
The strength of Cory’s team, on paper, is his pitching staff. However, C.C. Sabathia has won nine games but hasn’t put up dominant numbers such as strikeouts and complete games. Chris Carpenter has pitched better lately but is still 1-7 with a 4.40 ERA. Chad Billingsley is only 6-6 with a 4.49 ERA and questions from his manager and team about his heart and desire (and Cory moved him to the bench this week). And Ricky Romero has pitched better than anyone but is only 6-7 because the Blue Jays do not provide run support. These pitching woes, along with more injuries to Matt Holliday, have caused Cory much grief and angst as he has gone 2-5 since the last rankings and fallen three games out of first place.
13. This is the Business We’ve Chosen (6-9, 2nd place NL East, Previous Rank – #11)
It has been an ongoing struggle for Mr. Tuvel as he agonizes over selecting Hanley Ramirez in the first round. It may be Monday morning quarterbacking, but Hanley has been a complete bust thus far and has also missed significant time due to injury. Newly hired interim manager Jack McKeon put Hanley in the cleanup spot. It is unknown whether he will remain there, but something needed to be done to kick start some production from the fantasy stud. Evan Longoria looks to be back in his old form as he missed significant time with an injury. Now after getting Hanley back, Jason has lost Clay Buchholz to injury. At six games back in the division, it is getting close to the time where Jason will have to start focusing on the Wild Card where he is only three games out.
14. Admiral Ackbar (6-9, 2nd place AL East, Previous Rank – #18)
After starting the season 1-7 and ranking dead last in the previous rankings, OBFBL sophomoreMario Portillahas stormed back to respectability by going 5-2 over the last five weeks. Even after trading away Cliff Lee, he is still getting strong pitching contributions from Francisco Liriano, Anibal Sanchez and Jason Vargas. He now gets Joe Mauer back in his lineup after missing most of the season, so look for a continued upward trend in the standings as Mario digs himself out of a hole. However, he must overcome the injury bug as players such as Rafael Furcal, Brian Roberts, Aaron Harang and Phil Hughes remain on the DL.
15. Montreal Espos (5-10, 3rd place AL West, Previous Rank – #12)
The first edition of the Power Rankings were done the week David Wright was placed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back. Instead of panicking and make a desperate trade for another third baseman, Pat kept his cool and simply added someone off the waiver wire. That someone is Greg Dobbs on the Marlins. While he has not exactly torn it up for Espo, it demonstrates the type of fantasy baseball player Espo is. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out very well as Espo has gone 2-5 since then. He does have some solid pitching with Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, Carlos Zambrano and Dillon Gee (until this week’s game against Oakland). Curtis Granderson has been one of the top players in both real and fantasy baseball thus far, but Espo doesn’t have too much on offense beyond that. Shin Soo Choo has been a major disappointment and Billy Butler hasn’t developed the kind of power I thought he would.
16. Dawg Eat Dawg (5-10, 3rd place NL Central, Previous Rank – #14)
Things are not looking good at the moment for the defending OBFBL champion to become the first ever repeat champion in league history. Injuries to Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Justin Morneau, coupled with the horrendous numbers put up by Vladmir Guerrero and Jason Bay, have rendered Benny a low point machine. He also became so disenchanted with A-Rod’s lack of power that he dealt him away in exchange for Alex Gordon and two mediocre pitchers. David Price has been a solid ace and Erik Bedard has been a pleasant surprise, but Roy Oswalt has been a disappointment as his projected #2 starter. Benny has always been a creative and intense league member, so expect maximum effort in his attempts to climb back into the race. He better do it soon as he has a lot of ground to make up chasing two teams ahead of him that are 9-6.
17. It Byrnes When I Peavy (3-12, 3rd place NL East, Previous Rank – #16)
Did you ever just have one of those years where nothing goes right for your team at all? That pretty much sums up the Co-Commish’s season thus far. Besides having the second worst record in the league and going 1-6 since the last rankings, now Ari has lost Albert Pujols for 4-6 weeks with a fractured wrist. On top of that, he has to replace Pujols with Adam Dunn at first base. Few hitters have struggled as bad as Dunn has in his first year in the American League. In addition, Ari’s ace pitcher Tommy Hanson missed a start but should be back next week. Ari should be commended though because no matter what the status of his team was, it has not affected his ability to be a leader and sounding board during various league issues that have arisen.
18. Sharks With Frickin’ Laser Beams (2-13, 3rd place AL East, Previous Rank – #17)
For proof that the number of points you score is not nearly as important as when you score them, just take a look at this: Jim has scored 3,477 points and is 2-13. Compare that to the Jewish Mafia who has scored a total of 11 more points (3,488) but has a record of 9-6. The Sharks are on life support as they currently have the worst record in the league and sit 10 games behind in the division. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is the fact they are only five games out of the wild card, and Jim does have a history of going on lengthy winning streaks. The acquisition of Jhoulys Chacin has given Jim a solid #2 pitcher behind Tim Lincecum, but it hasn’t proven to be enough to overcome some large point totals accumulated by his opponents.
Don’t adjust your calendars and put down that phone before you make an appointment with your in-network eye doctor. It is not Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compile a special list of fantasy baseball headlines and newsworthy events on other days of the week. Please join me for a special edition of my featured lists. Because I know how much you and everyone else loves alliteration, this edition will be slightly truncated to due to the alphabet. So without further adieu, here is a Special Saturday Night Spectacular Six fantasy baseball headlines.
6. Hall of an Opportunity – The San Francisco Giants suffered another devastating injury to one of their starters. This time, second baseman Freddy Sanchez sustained a serious shoulder injury which created an immediate need. Enter veteran Bill Hall, who was released by the Astros earlier this season. Hall should not be mistaken for anything resembling the Hall of Fame, or even Mel Hall for that matter. But in terms of fantasy value, Hall could provide some power to a relatively weak and shallow position. He will get most of the at bats going forward, and the Giants do have a history of plucking discarded veterans off the waiver wire and rejuvenating their careers (see Pat Burrell and Cody Ross in 2010). If you have issues at 2B or MI and need a quick fix, Hall could be your man.
5. Colon Cleansing – The New York Yankees are dropping like flies. Just after it was announced that Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery next Thursday, Yankees’ starter Bartolo Colon had to be removed from Saturday’s game due to tightness in his left hamstring sustained when he was running to cover first base. He was pitching a shutout at the time and has been one of baseball’s great comeback stories of the year thus far. MRI results are forthcoming, but the Yankees will likely be cautious with the portly veteran. He could still be a valuable pickup in your fantasy league, so monitor the situation and his prognosis.
4. Final-Lee - After signing a huge contract to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies, Cliff Lee was expected to be the 1A of the Phillies star-studded pitching staff. He was also considered a lock as a stud fantasy pitcher due to his contributions in all relevant categories. However, Lee has not produced the results that were anticipated thus far. Not all of it was his fault as the Phillies struggled to score runs due to several injuries to key offensive players. But he had failed to pitch in a manner that was commensurate with such a free agent contract – until this week. In a two start Week 10, Lee dominated the Nationals and Cubs allowing a total of one run in 15 innings while striking out 17. He is now above.500 at 6-5 and he leads the majors in total strikeouts with 107. If you can still manage to buy low on him, do it now because that train is about to leave the station.
3. Six Pence All the Richer – After being removed from Friday’s game for cautionary reasons, Astros’ outfielder Hunter Pence was back in the lineup on Saturday and extended his hitting streak to 22 games. In those 22 games, Pence is batting .391 with 3 homeruns and 15 RBI. He has literally carried Houston’s lineup by himself this year as he has emerged into one of the elite outfielders in baseball. His overall average is up to .318 which is unfamiliar territory for the free-swinger. With his ability to keep a good batting average, Pence now becomes even more valuable in roto leagues due to his contributions in all categories.
2. Happy Anniversary, Mike Stanton – Earlier this week, Marlins’ young stud outfielder Mike Stanton celebrated the one year anniversary of his call-up to the big leagues. In the 365 days since he arrived in Florida, Stanton has hit 37 homeruns which is the 7th most in the majors, and 97 RBI which is 25th overall in that time span. Stanton is emerging as a true power threat, which could likely affect his batting average and total strikeouts. But there is no denying his homerun and RBI output as he remains someone to actively target in all fantasy baseball formats. Just make sure you don’t mistaken him for the retired white, left-handed relief pitcher
1. Boston Tea Party – After a horrendous 0-6 and 2-8 start to the season, the Boston Red Sox have finally clicked and are the hottest team in all of baseball lately. They sit two games ahead of the Yankees in 1st place in the AL East thanks in part to their tremendous lineup and starting pitching. The recommendation at this point is to acquire anyone you can from the Red Sox’s lineup or roster because everyone is hitting. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have begun living up to expectations and proving why they were worth $148 million. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz have been locked in for quite some time and should be targeted via trade in your fantasy league. As for the pitching, the top 3 of Lester, Beckett and Buccholz should have plenty of run support this year and will contribute in all categories except saves
I do not hide the fact that I am a Mets’ fan who also happens to despise the Yankees. My friends and family know full well how much I dislike the Bronx Bombers, but maybe everyone else needs to be made aware of my hatred (or jealousy). In 2001, I celebrated Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single to win the World Series as if it had been the Mets playing. This, just two months after I survived being in the World Trade Center on September 11 and the entire country was emotionally rooting for New York to win the championship. Bear in mind, I do not dislike the Yankee players (aside from Alex Rodriguez), and I do not dislike my friends and family that are Yankees’ fans. I need to point this out because I actually do have a lot of respect and admiration for several Yankees…none more than for the great Mariano Rivera.
On May 25, 2011, Rivera appeared in his 1,000th career game…all as a member of the Yankees. He became just the 15th pitcher to ever make 1,000 appearances, and the first to ever do it all with one team. In an era of free agency and constant player movement, this is a remarkable achievement. Sixteen years ago, not many people would have predicted such a journey for Rivera, then an inconsistent and relatively ineffective starting pitcher on an up and coming Yankees team. The Buck Showalter regime saw something else in Rivera and moved him to the bullpen at the end of 1995 where he would remain as the Joe Torre administration took over in 1996. Rivera became the set-up man for John Wetteland as the Yankees went on to win their first of five recent championships. After Wetteland departed via free agency to Texas, Rivera was annointed the new closer and has never looked back.
It goes without any debate that Rivera is a first ballot, unanimous Hall of Famer. He is second all time with 572 saves (and should overtake Trevor Hoffman later this year or next year), and is the greatest post-season pitcher in the history of baseball. Yes, I said that. I realize he is a relief pitcher, but when the most important games were on the line, he came through almost every time. I would even go so far as to say that he is the most IMPORTANT player of this entire generation. The Yankees success since 1996 is not solely because of him, but it would not have happened without him.
What makes Rivera so good? How has he been so dominant? As we all know, he primarily throws one pitch…the cut fastball. It eats left-handed hitters alive as it moves towards their hands creating more broken wood than the cast of Ax Men. It sails away from right-handed hitters making them look more foolish than Donald Trump discussing his platform for a presidential candidacy. He generally throws it at the same speed and doesn’t possess any off-speed pitches to provide a contrast. Even though the batters know what is coming, they still can’t hit it. At 41 years old, Rivera is still the most effective closer in baseball. He will blow his fair share of games, including three thus far in 2011. He will probably blow a few more during the rest of the season. However, once the calendar turns to October, Rivera becomes a different player.
Eventually the day will come when Rivera hangs up his cleats and “Enter Sandman” will turn to Exit Sandman. That means that someone else, whether they are in the organization or not at the time, will have the unenviable task of trying to fill some very large shoes. So for now, Yankees fans, appreciate what you have in Rivera. Because as a someone who strongly dislikes the Yankees, I can sure appreciate Rivera’s greatness and dominance.
It was a busy and eventful day in baseball, both real and fantasy. Every Tuesday night, I write a column for Fantasy Alarm (www.fantasyalarm.com) doing a Top Ten list of newsworthy events happening in baseball and analyzing any potential fantasy impact. You can view the full article at http://www.fantasyalarm.com/may-17-2011-fantasy-baseball-tuesday-top-ten/. Here are some of the headlines that I selected with my writeups:
Jose, Can You See? – I am man enough to admit when I am wrong. I have been dead wrong about Jose Bautista since the 2010 All-Star Game. At that time, I bet my father that Bautista wouldn’t even end up the season with 30 homeruns because I felt he was a fluke and the law of averages would catch up. I ended up taking my father for a nice dinner because Bautista would go on to hit 54 homeruns. Coming into 2011, I didn’t even put Bautista on any of my draft lists, scout teams, or draft room queues. I figured he had a Brady Anderson-type season and would revert back to being the pedestrian hitter he always was. But I was wrong again. Bautista is coming off a weekend where he hit five more homeruns, including three in one game. He currently leads all of baseball with 16 homeruns and is on pace to shatter his record from last year. Whether it’s steroids, human growth hormone, maturity, or even just natural talent, Bautista is a fantasy stud and can be relied upon for maximum production across the board.
Vin-dictive – Royals pitcher Vin Mazzaro redefined what it means to take one for the team. On Monday, Mazzaro entered the game against the Indians in the first inning after Kyle Davies was removed due to injury. Mazzaro proceeded to give up 14 runs in two and a third innings. According to STATS LLC, he has the distinction of being only the third pitcher since 1947 to allow that many runs in a game. As a result of this historic performance, Mazzaro’s ERA ballooned to 22.47. To reward him for his efforts, the Royals promptly demoted him to Triple-A following the game. If Mazzaro was on your fantasy team in the first place, then you probably have many other problems to worry about. Just remember, the next time a pitcher has to take a beating for the good of the team, you can say he is taking a “Mazzaro.”
There’s Something About A-Rod – When he is not having popcorn shoved down his throat by Cameron Diaz, Alex Rodriguez moonlights as the third baseman for the New York Yankees. A-Rod has been struggling since he returned from his oblique injury a few weeks ago, and as A-Rod goes, so go the Yankees. On Tuesday night, A-Rod slugged two solo homeruns in helping the Yankees end their six-game losing streak. Could this be the beginning of a hot streak for A-Rod? He is certainly due, and if he is feeling more comfortable at the plate, then he could be on the brink of a major tear. Buy low on A-Rod and expect first class results.
Hanley’s Horrors – The proverbial god of roto baseball players, Hanley Ramirez is consistently one of the top five fantasy players drafted due to his unique combination of high average, power, and speed. However, none of that is working for him in 2011. He is currently hitting .204 with two homeruns, fourteen RBI, twenty runs scored, and eight stolen bases. This is not the production anticipated with such a high draft pick. He looks lost at the plate and is letting his emotions get the best of him at times. Fantasy owners should start inquiring with fellow league members what trade possibilities may exist for Hanley. Granted, he is slumping mightily, but just mentioning his name in trade talks should elicit some real offers. It is surprising that he has struggled so much given the firepower in the Marlins’ lineup, including Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton.
Save the Drama for Posada – They don’t call baseball players the “boys of summer” for no reason. Yankees’ designated hitter Jorge Posada pulled a cardinal no-no in baseball acumen by asking out of the lineup on Saturday when he was scheduled to bat ninth in Joe Girardi’s lineup. Posada, a 16-year veteran, came into that game batting .165 and without any indications of being able to find his stroke. Posada apologized to Girardi the next day, but the damage was done as the Yankee veteran suffered from some impulsive and momentary Little League-like tantrum. Posada was viewed as a steal in fantasy drafts this year because he was eligible at catcher but would be a full-time DH in a powerful lineup. Things haven’t worked out that way thus far. Girardi has demonstrated his loyalty to the man who ironically took Girardi’s starting catcher job in 1998. Posada was used as a pinch hitter on Sunday, and then he was back in the lineup on Tuesday night where he collected two hits. Maybe he needed to hit rock bottom before getting back to the Mendoza Line. Buy low on Posada and bank on some of that Yankee magic.
We’ll be Wright Back – As if things couldn’t get any worse for the New York Mets, it was revealed on Monday that all-star third baseman David Wright has a stress fracture in his lower back. It does make sense considering how poorly Wright has performed thus far in 2011. While he refuses to use the diagnosis as an excuse for his lack of production, the reality is that it likely affected every facet of his game. Wright’s batting average has been uncharacteristically low and he has struck out at an alarming rate (even compared to his strikeout totals from 2009 and 2010). He will spend some time on the disabled list doing absolutely nothing, so at a minimum he will be out for a month, and maybe longer. This does not bode well for fantasy owners who spent a lot of auction dollars or a high draft pick on the second best third baseman on the board. Stash Wright on your disabled list and start looking for a replacement because it is possible you aren’t going to get much out of Wright the rest of the year.
Remembering a Legend – This isn’t relevant to fantasy baseball, but I would be remiss as a baseball fan if I didn’t acknowledge the unfortunate passing of Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. “The Killer” lost his battle with cancer today just days after he announced he was stopping treatment for his esophageal cancer. The former Minnesota Twin was always one of the most popular players of his time and all future generations. He was a great ambassador for the game of baseball and will be greatly missed. In his career, he produced statistics commensurate with a first round pick in any fantasy baseball draft format. RIP Harmon Killebrew.
Tuesday Night Top Ten – May 3, 2011
According to reliable sources such as the internet and high school students, Tuesday is the least popular day of the week. In an effort to bring some respect, credibility and entertainment back to Tuesdays, I will be paying homage to David Letterman and provide a weekly Top 10 list for newsworthy fantasy baseball events that take place. Each event will have a brief description including what, if any, impact it has on fantasy baseball. The ranking is completely subjective so do not even think of challenging my authority. In fact, in the words of Eric Cartman, you will respect my authority! Without further adieu, here is the debut of the new Tuesday Top Ten List (as of 10:15 PM EST):
10. Phil is ill, but with what? – Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes apparently doesn’t have thoracic outlet syndrome, which is good news, but it also leaves many questions unanswered. Doctors and experts are still trying to figure out what is ailing the Yankees’ young hurler. Regardless, it doesn’t look like Hughes is going to contribute much to the Yankees or fantasy owners this year. His velocity is down and his stuff is flat. There is very likely a physical reason why, but thus far no one can provide an answer. For now, stash him on the DL if you have the room. But don’t expect anything from him in 2011. On a side note, going back to all of the trade discussions between the Mets, Yankees and Twins for Johan Santana in 2008, it is sadly bizarre and ironic that former Mets prospect and current White Sox starter Philip Humber is likely to be the best pitcher of them all this season.
9. D-Choo-I – Yet another major league baseball player has been arrested for driving while under the influence. Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo is the most recent drunk driver pulled over in what seems like a weekly occurrence. Choo had one too many Cheongju before he got behind the wheel. No one ever accused baseball players of being smart, but come on…this is getting a little ridonculous. Assuming his situation is like every other offender, he shouldn’t miss any time so there will not likely be any effect on his fantasy status. That is, unless, he shows up drunk at a game and starts referring to himself as Kim Jong Il.
8. Oh Jenrry – Mets prospect Jenrry Mejia will likely need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair an injured ligament in his elbow. Mejia was being groomed to become a starter in the Mets rotation of the future, but this will have to be put on hold for at least a year assuming he goes under the knife soon. Mejia has electric stuff and is a popular keeper in roto fantasy leagues due to his potential to either start or relieve. If recent history is any indication, there is no reason Mejia can’t come back and be an effective pitcher within 18 months of the operation. He is only 22 so there is still plenty of time for him to make an impact. But those of you who are stashing him in keepe leagues, you might as well clear the roster space.
7. Not Werth the Money – Jayson Werth made his long awaited return to Philadelphia in a Nationals’ uniform and was met with a mixture of ovations and boos. This is not surprising because Werth’s decision to sign with Washington is understandable, but his comments after he left were unnecessary. No one could argue with Werth agreeing to that ludacris contract, because let’s be honest, any one of us would take the money and run. But when Werth later came out and made some disparaging remarks about the Phillies and their lack of attempts to bring him back, it soured the fans’ feelings towards him. Werth should thank the Phillies for giving him the opportunity to put up great numbers as the team’s fourth offensive weapon. Now he is the focal point of the Nationals’ lineup and will soon realize Adam LaRoche is not Ryan Howard and Danny Espinosa is not Chase Utley.
6. Goose Eggs and Hamels – It is common knowledge at this point that the Phillies have the greatest starting pitching in baseball, and arguably one of the greatest staffs in the history of baseball (the 2005 Mets are in that conversation as well with Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson). Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee seem to get most of the attention, and deservingly so. But Cole Hamels is on the brink of becoming truly an elite pitcher in real and fantasy baseball. There has never been an issue with his talent. The biggest question mark with Hamels has always been his maturity and mental strength. After what he pulled in the 2009 World Series, he has clearly grown up and emerged as a potential Cy Young candidate. He threw a complete game gem against the Washington Nationals and continues to make people vomit at the thought he is the Phillies number three or four starter.
5. Pain in the Neck – Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista will miss some time this week with an injured neck. He must have strained it from looking up at all the homeruns he has hit since the beginning of 2010. I will admit that I was wrong about him being a fluke. He will probably not come close to hitting 54 homeruns again, but he is clearly an established slugger who knows how to hit. It seems as though he is consistently befelled by nagging injuries. I recently had a nagging injury. My wife wouldn’t stop nagging me, so I hit my head against the wall and sustained a laceration to my forehead. I looked like Ric Flair in a steel cage match.
4. Bay-bee Daddy – Mets outfielder Jason Bay is on paternity leave for a couple days to be with his wife who is expected to give birth to the couple’s third child. Bay sustained a concussion in July 2010 and missed the rest of the season. Then, just days before Opening Day, he sustained a strain to his oblique muscle requiring him to miss the first three weeks of the 2011 season. After playing in 10 games, it was clear he needed some time off. Oh calm down, I am kidding. It is great the MLB has implemented a new paternity leave program for players so they can be with their wives when children are born. Given the baby is due in the beginning of May, that means it was likely conceived in July or August 2010. Hmmm, didn’t Bay sustain his concussion around that time? I guess he wasn’t injured enough to knock up his wife when he clearly couldn’t knock any balls over the fence.
3. Celebrity Rehab – American League MVP Josh Hamilton is in rehab once again. No silly, not for smoking crack or building meth labs. Hamilton is recovering from a fractured arm when he inexplicably was sent home to score on a foul popup and dove into home plate. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to swing a bat for the first time since the injury which means he is at least one week ahead of schedule in his recovery. It was originally anticipated that Hamilton would miss 6-8 weeks and not swing a bat for the first four weeks. He was injured three weeks ago, so do the math. What? You were told there would be no math? Just use a calculator. In fact, type the number 55378008 and turn your calculator upside down. The result answers the question “How would you describe Gwyneth Paltrow?”
2. Battle of Wounded Knee – Chase Utley may not be far from returning to the Phillies. The all star second baseman has been bothered by an ailing knee for months and has yet to see any game time in spring training, the minor leagues, or the major leagues. Reports out of Philadelphia are that Utley may be sent to Clearwater to play in some extended spring training games which would enable him to face live pitching for the first time since 2010. This bodes well for fantasy owners who drafted Utley and have stashed him on the DL in the hopes he would return sooner than later. If he is healthy, the Phillies should look into possibly trading him because they clearly can win with the “talented” duo of Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr playing second base. Just FYI, the quotation marks were meant to indicate sarcasm font.
1. LIRIANOOOOOO! - Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox in Chicago tonight. There is no debating Liriano’s talent, but he has been atrocious thus far in 2011 and his starting job was in jeopardy with Kevin Slowey being considered to take his place in the Twins’ rotation. That debate has been quelled for now as Liriano threw his first career complete game in the no-hit effort. He walked six and only struck out two which indicates he relied on his defense instead of trying to strike every batter out. Perhaps this is a sign that he has turned the corner and is on his way to reclaiming his status as a top tier fantasy pitcher. Or it could just be a fluke and he will get bombed in three innings next time out. That is the problem with Liriano – he is so inconsistent and almost impossible to predict. Those of you in points leagues where no-hitters are credited had a good night if Liriano was in your lineup.
The 13th annual Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”) draft is now officially in the books. The OBFBL is an 18-team, mixed, H2H points league with no keepers. The point scoring system is set up to balance the value of hitters and pitchers. Arguably, the upper eschalon of pitchers are more valuable than most hitters not named Pujols. The theory has always been that a good offense will get you into the playoffs, but a good pitching staff is what wins championships. This was proven last year when the 2010 OBFBL champion had a pitching staff the included Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Roy Oswalt, Brett Myers and Billy Wagner.
To demonstrate why pitchers are so heavily revered, here some examples of point value for various pitching statistics: win (10), save (10), quality start (5), complete game (10), shutout (15), strikeout (2), no-hitter (50), perfect game (50), loss (-5), blown save (-5), earned run (-1), walk (-1).
This year, there were seven pitchers taken in the first round (Halladay, Lincecum, F. Hernandez, Sabathia, Lester, C. Lee, and J. Johnson) , which ties an all-time OBFBL record. I had the third overall pick in the first round and was tormeted for weeks on who to pick if Pujols and Halladay were both gone. I have never been a positional scarcity guy, so Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tuolowitski were not on my radar. Here is a breakdown of the team I drafted with some additional thoughts and commentary:
1. Miguel Cabrera-1B-DET. With Pujols and Halladay off the board, I decided to take the second best pure hitter in all of baseball. Despite Cabrera’s off-season alcohol problems, there is no reason to think he won’t be his awesome self again hitting in a better lineup with Victor Martinez providing some protection. Cabrera is a lock for .325, 35 HR, 120 RBI, and 100 runs, so I opted for him rather than go with a scarcer position like SS or 2B. Besides, I regretted not taking Cabrera last year so I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.
2. Josh Hamilton-OF-TEX. I was surprised the 2010 AL MVP made it all the way back up to me in the second round, so I grabbed him without hesitation. I soon realized I had a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser with my first two picks, so I’ll have to be very careful about the parties I throw in my team’s clubhouse. Hamilton’s health is the only question mark as he gets banged up quite easily. His shift from center field should help alleviate some of the danger. Assuming he plays 145-150 games, he should have no problems repeating his MVP performance.
3. Jose Reyes-SS-NYM. I debated taking Ryan Howard here and loading up on the homerun power, but then I would be locked into my Utility Position rather quickly. Plus, with Reyes still on the board, I had to get my Met and reap the benefits of him playing extra motivated as he approaches his first free agency. Reyes is a health risk as we have seen over the years, but he does seem far removed from the leg ailments that have plagued him since 2009. He will be playing for a $100 million contract next year, so look for him to be explosive. This pick truly vindicated me towards anyone who thought I should have taken Hanley or Tulowitzki in the first round.
4. Carlos Marmol-RP-CHC. The OBFBL amended its scoring system to make saves worth 10 points, which is equal to the points given for a win. This made closers very valuable commodities and justifies me taking one as my first pitcher. At this point, all of the top starting pitchers were off the board so I went for arguably one of the top closer options. Marmol just signed a big contract and is the official closer of the Cubs. His electric stuff is erratic at times, but he should have no problem saving 40 games and striking out at least a batter or two every time he is out there.
5. Heath Bell-RP-SD. Once I took Marmol, I decided to go with the multiple closer strategy. This is something I have rarely done in the previous 12 OBFBL seasons. But Bell is arguably one of the top closer options and pairing him with Marmol is akin to having two good starting pitchers. The Padres should have solid pitching and play in a lot of close games, so Bell should have plenty of opportunities to amass 40+ saves again. Just FYI, if we used the new current scoring system with last year’s statistics, Bell placed in the top five overall. And to think the Mets traded him away for nothing (sorry, sour grapes).
6. Jay Bruce-OF-CIN. This was the first pick of the guys I was targeting beforehand. I have been very high on Bruce all winter, trying to take him in the mock drafts I have done. Bruce is entering his third year in the big leagues already and could be on the cusp of breaking out into a star. He has already put up impressive power numbers since 2009, but he needed to work on his plate discipline and approach. Assuming he is batting in the middle of the order (please Dusty, don’t waste him leading off), Bruce should be good for .275, 30 HR, 100 RBI.
7. Brett Myers-SP-HOU. I also targeted Myers beforehand because he is a second or third tier pitcher with top tier talent and point potential. He proved he was healthy in 2010 and the Astros rewarded him with an extension. Now he looks to build on that and return to his 200+ strikeout days. He is essentially my third pitcher behind my closers.
8. Mark Reynolds-3B-BAL. Before I begin my analysis, let me alert you that in the OBFBL, batter strikeouts are -1 point. I was fully aware of the risk in taking Reynolds given that he is a lock for at least 175 strikeouts. But the move to Baltimore convinced me that this could turn out to be one of my better picks. Camden Yards is a hitters’ park and the Orioles have put together an impressive lineup. Reynolds should have no problems reaching 40 HR’s and 100 RBI, and he was one of only a couple other viable 3B options left at this time.
9. Ted Lilly-SP-LAD. I have never had Lilly on any of my teams over the years, but he has always been a thorn in my side. He doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers, but the guy is good for 12-15 wins and over 175 strikeouts every year it seems. He is pitching in the weak-hitting NL West for the entire season which is enticing. I was satisfied with this pick as my 4th pitcher.
10. Ryan Franklin-RP-STL. After taking two closers earlier in the draft, I decided to go all in and grab another one. Franklin is nowhere near the level of Marmol or Bell, but he can be relied on for 30-35 saves. The Cardinals should be involved in a lot of close games, and Tony LaRussa-led teams always rely on their closers heavily. The only thing that bothers me about this pick is Franklin’s goatee. Only Jim “The Anvil” Nedihart can pull that look off.
11. Jorge Posada-C-NYY. This pick elicited the biggest reaction amongst my fellow league members drafting live in the same room. In most of the mock drafts I have done this season, I ended up getting Posada with one of the last picks because people forgot about him since he will be a full-time DH. But there is a real “Yankee fan effect” in the OBFBL as most Yankees’ players are highly overvalued by the league’s resident Yankee fans. I decided this was the right time to take Posada since I didn’t think he would last another round…and it turns out I was right. Posada isn’t the hitter he used to be, but now playing everyday without the burden of catching might rejuvenate his bat. Regardless, he will be one of the more productive players at the catcher position in terms of fantasy value.
12. Javier Vazquez-SP-FLA. This was another one of my long-time fantasy baseball favorites. Coming off of his second failed stint with the Yankees, Vazquez is primed for a comeback season now that he has returned to the National League East where he had prior success on the Expos and Braves. Vazquez has been one of the most consistent fantasy performers due to his high strikeout potential and double-digit wins. He may not win 15 games due to the Marlins lack of offense and questionable bullpen, but I expect quality starts and 7-8 strikeouts per game.
13. Jhoulys Chacin-SP-COL. Besides having a cool first name, Chacin is one of the top young arms in the National League. He pitched very well down the stretch for the Rockies in 2010 and is now being relied upon from the beginning in 2011. Chacin has nasty stuff and high strikeout potential. He may suffer some sophomore slumps at times, but it looks like he has the tools and make-up to be a relevant fantasy pitcher.
14. Lance Berkman-1B-STL. Former perennial first round pick Lance Berkman has seen Father Time and nagging injuries sap him of his power and batting average the last couple years. 2010 was a lost season for Berkman as he struggled mightily in Houston before being traded to the Yankees and struggling there too until the playoffs. Now Berkman appears to be healthy and will be starting in the outfield for the Cardinals. I like his bounce-back potential hitting behind Pujols and Holliday. He may not put up his old school Berkman numbers, but 20 HR and 75 RBI is a reasonable expectation.
15. Nate McLouth-OF-ATL. I am excited about this pick because McLouth may have more bounce-back potential than anyone else in the league. The former All-Star had an atrocious season in 2010 and is poised to rebound. He has the ability to hit 25 HR, knock in 80 RBI, and also steal 30+ bases. He will be playing everyday, and unless he has a repeat of 2010, he will be a fixture in the Braves’ lineup with every opportunity to amass solid statistics across the board. There was very little risk in making this pick in the 15th round and as my third outfielder.
16. Tsuyoshi Nishioka-2B-MIN. I love sushi. It is my favorite thing to eat…ever. But I didn’t always like sushi. In fact, I was adament against it until I was finally convinced to give it a chance before judging it. That was a good call because now I am obsessed with sushi. My point is that I don’t know much about Nishioka at all. But from everything I have read about him, he seems like a good risk to take. The Twins are one of the smartest organizations in all of baseball, so I trust their ability to scout talent and invest money. If Nishioka turns out to be a great pick, then I will go spend some money at Target as my thanks.
17. Ivan Nova-SP-NYY. His friends call him “Nova.” No, not as in “Casa-nova” but because that is his name. I have a history of taking young Yankees’ pitchers in these drafts, and this year is no different. Nova showed a lot of poise last year in his stint with the Yankees, and he earned the #4 spot in their rotation this year. With the Yankees great offense and solid bullpen, Nova should win 12-15 games. Plus, he is good trade bait for all of the Yankees fans in the league.
18. Matt LaPorta-1B-CLE. I am completely indifferent about this pick. LaPorta has been a big prospect for several years (not as many as Brandon Wood) and should be getting his first opportunity to play everyday this year. He has big time power potential, but there are many flaws in his swing and his mechanics. I wouldn’t be surprised if he fizzles out and doesn’t amount to much. That would be a shame because then the Indians really wouldn’t have anything to show for the C.C. Sabathia trade in 2008.
19. Aaron Harang-SP-SD. The former fantasy stud has fallen on hard times due to injuries and ineffectiveness. I like Harang’s upside in San Diego if he stays healthy. He has always been a good strikeout pitcher, and Petco Park is a great pitchers’ park to keep his ERA down. The Padres got tremendous starting pitching from everyone last year, so there is no reason to think it can’t happen again. Harang has a lot of experience on his side, and with Heath Bell closing games, he should return to double-digit wins.
20. Domonic Brown-OF-PHI. With my final pick of the draft, I took the Phillies’ rookie who will start the year on the disabled list. When Browns does come back, he should likely take over in right field unless Ben Francisco is lighting it up against both righties and lefties. Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel worked on a lot of things with Brown’s swing and plate approach, so it will be interesting to see how he applies that knowledge on the field. If he gets 300+ at bats this year, he should reach double-digits in HR’s and SB’s.
So that is my team. Overall I am pretty happy with it. I like my offense led by Cabrera, Hamilton, Reyes, Bruce and Reynolds. My pitching staff lacks a dominant starter, but I made up for that with two elite closers. That is the key thing I will watch for this year is comparing the value of the closers versus the starters.
Let me know what you think of my team. If you want a copy of the draft board, just shoot me an email to email@example.com. You can also find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FantasyJudgment and Twitter at www.twitter.com/FantasyJudgment.
On February 21, 2011, I participated in another fantasy baseball expert mock draft hosted by Charlie Saponara of FantasyBaseball365.com. This was a standard 5 x 5 mixed Roto league format (you know, the format where Carl Crawford is revered as the next messiah). The other expert participants included Andrew Holm of MillionDollarSleeper.com, Matt Dewoskin of FantasyPros911.com, Tyler Becker of TheFantasyFix.com, Bryan Curley of BaseballProf.com, Ivar Anderson of FGD.net, Justin Occhionero of TheFantasyGeek.com, Josh Shepardson of HardballTimes.com, Eric Yeomans of mister52pickup.wordpress.com, Dave Gawron of RotoExperts.com, and a representative of FantasyBaseballHotStove.com. The results of this mock draft will be published in the FantasyBaseball365 draft guide, so be sure to look out for that.
The draft started with Andrew Holm selecting Hanley Ramirez as the first overall pick. This was the first mock draft I have seen in a couple years where Albert Pujols was not the first overall pick. I do understand the rationale behind this. If you are concerned about position scarcity, then this makes a lot of sense because shortstop is very thin and Ramirez produces significantly in all five categories. Plus, first base is extremely deep in talent so Andrew could easily find a suitable fit later on. Personally, I would take Pujols first under any circumstances. That being said, he was selected second overall. I had the third pick, and for a split second I thought Pujols might fall to me if Matt Dewoskin joined the shortstop bandwagon and selected Troy Tulowitzki. But it wasn’t to be as Pujols went off the board. I then selected Miguel Cabrera third overall. Despite his alcohol problems (I will not be hitching any rides home from him after my team meetings), Cabrera is arguably the second best hitter in baseball behind Pujols. He hits for a very high average, is reaching his peak years in terms of power, and is always a lock for 115-120 RBI’s. Assuming he is sober and not in rehab, I expect another big year from Cabrera. Next went Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Gonzalez. None of these picks were surprising as Tulowitzki is clearly the next best available shortstop and the only other with elite status going into 2011 (meaning he is as good as a lock for a monster season, not that he is a member of Continental Airlines One Pass program). Longoria is a step above David Wright as the top third baseman, which is a position that uncharacteristically lacks depth and star power. CarGo is coming off a monster break-out season and fresh off of a new long-term contract extension. He is not even in his prime yet and is already established as one of the best fantasy options in the game. Next went Ryan Braun, David Wright and Adrian Gonzalez. Braun has officially commanded the respect of being considered a lock for achieving certain statistics every season. He is entering his prime years and should have no problems once again reaching .300, 30 HR, and 110 RBI. He also scores runs and can steal bases, so he is arguably one of the top two or three outfield options. Wright is just below Longoria at third base and is coming off a season that saw his power return. He should put up good numbers despite having problems hitting the ball out of Citi Field. Remember, he does play 81 games on the road. A-Gone was a little surprising here ahead of Joey Votto and Mark Teixeira. He put up great numbers in a pitchers’ park in San Diego and without any protection in the lineup. Now he is in the haven of Fenway Park and surrounded by stars, so it is logical to translate his historical numbers into a tremendous season. However, I think there are safer options with more upside that should have been considered before A-Gone. Finishing up the first round were Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira. These three went pretty much where they should have gone. Votto is coming off an MVP season, and Cano has emerged as the prominent choice at second base in fantasy baseball. Teixeira is coming back from a relatively disappointing 2010 that saw his season end with an ugly hamstring injury in the playoffs. Despite his likely usual slow start, he should be back to where his career numbers are with a .290 batting average, 35 HR, and 120 RBI.
If anyone wants a copy of the whole draft board, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rather than go through each pick of every round, I will now give a review and analysis of my picks. If you have questions about a specific player that was either drafted by me or not, you can email me about that as well.
1st Round: Miguel Cabrera-1B-DET. What is not to like about the Pujols-esque Cabrera? Assuming he works out his drinking problem and is healthy, he is a lock for his normal numbers, which seem to be increasing over the years as he enters his prime. Cabrera is one of those rare hitters, like Pujols, who can hit for tremendous power and also maintain a prolific batting average. He now has Victor Martinez hitting in the lineup, so hopefully he sees more pitches to hit. Regardless, I don’t think there is any pitch that Cabrera can’t find a way to hit.
2nd Round: Jose Reyes-SS-NYM. Being a Mets’ fan, I have mixed emotions about this. Reyes is clearly loaded with talent and natural ability that could make him a top 3 pick like he was a couple years ago. But a myriad of injuries have kept him off the field for significant time since 2009. Now he is entering a contract year and appears to be fully recovered from his leg maladies and thyroid issues. But there is something about Reyes that seems to hold him back from being elevated to the next level of greatness. He is worth a second round pick here, especially with the lack of depth at the position and his potential for significant contribution in batting average, runs and stolen bases.
3rd Round: Tim Lincecum-SP-SF. When an ace pitcher of this caliber falls in my lap in the third round, I will jump at the opportunity to grab him. Lincecum had a sub-par year in comparison to his previous Cy Young seasons, but he clearly became a better pitcher as he helped lead the Giants to the World Series championship. He has thrown a lot of innings in his short career, so there is some risk involved with taking a pitcher of his slight build and all of that mileage. But he has proven to be a durable workhorse and there is no reason to think he won’t put up 18 wins with a 3.00 ERA and 200+ strikeouts.
4th Round: Brandon Phillips-2B-CIN. I really like Phillips this year as a top candidate to bounce back after a mediocre 2010 season. He has 30-30 capabilities in a high octane Cincinnati offense and plays a premium position where the drop-off after him is significant. He has shown some maturity and will be looked upon to help lead the Reds and their young offensive stars. Phillips will likely bat cleanup or somewhere in the middle of the order to break up Votto and Bruce, so look for lots of run scoring and RBI chances this season. He also plays in a bandbox so returning to 30+ homeruns is realistic.
5th Round: Justin Morneau-1B-MIN. The former AL MVP is coming back after a concussion ended his season last July. His slow recovery which lingered into February has caused many people to question his ability to return to his old self. I am a believer because Morneau possesses all of the tools necessary to ascend into the elite category at first base. While I already have Cabrera, it was too hard to pass on Morneau to fill my utility spot and offer significant production in batting average, homeruns and RBI’s.
6th Round: Jayson Werth-OF-WAS. While the Washington Nationals were the laughingstock of baseball for giving Werth a ridiculous contract (see my article about this at http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/nationals-will-not-get-their-moneys-werth/), he should still provide good value as a sixth round pick here and as my first outfielder. Werth will be the focal point of the Nationals’ lineup, and barring injury, he should still be good for .275, 25 HR, and 85 RBI. His impact will seem minimized because he is on a terrible team, but those are essentially his career averages over the last three years when he has stayed healthy.
7th Round: Cole Hamels-SP-PHI. Despite my hatred for the Phillies, there is no denying the ridiculous starting rotation they have which includes Hamels as their #4. He has grown into a very good pitcher after maturing from his 2009 World Series debacle. Coming into a contract year, Hamels will have the benefit of pitching against other teams’ back end of the rotation starters which should increase his win total. He should easily keep his ERA in the low 3.00′s and reaching 200 strikeouts is not beyond the realm of possibility. I like him a lot as my #2 pitcher behind Lincecum.
8th Round: Heath Bell-RP-SD. While Bell doesn’t have as a cool a beard as Brian Wilson, he is arguably the best closer in baseball right now. All indications are that the Padres want to lock him up to a contract extension, so he is pitching with extra motivation to justify that. Because the Padres have surprisingly good pitching and no offense, they are in close games all the time which bodes well for Bell getting save opportunities. He strikes out batters at a tremendous rate and should keep his WHIP at or below 1.00.
9th Round: Curtis Granderson-OF-NYY. The Grandy Man is entering his second season in the Bronx and is set to take his game to another level. You could see at the end of 2010 and in the playoffs that he finally figured it out. He will likely hit down at the bottom of the Yankees’ potent batting lineup which means he could see lots of RBI chances. But with the deep order they have, he will also score a fair share of runs, especially if they let him steal bases like he used to. He won’t hit for a high average, but he will produce in every other category.
10th Round: Tim Hudson-SP-ATL. I have always been a Tim Hudson fan, so I didn’t hesitate to take the ace of the Braves staff. He proved last year that he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery as he won 17 games and had an ERA well under 3.00. I would look for much of the same this season from Hudson, who doesn’t have the ability to strike many hitters out, but knows how to win games and not give up runs.
11th Round: Carlos Lee-OF-HOU. I was accused of taking El Caballo too early in another mock draft, so I tested out that theory and it paid off here. Lee is coming off of a very poor 2010 season that saw his batting average and power numbers decrease significantly. However, I think he is a prime candidate to have a huge bounceback season. He is only 34 and has always hovered around .300 with 30+ homeruns and close to 100 RBI. The Astros don’t have a great offense so he will have to carry the load, which I think he will be able to do.
12th Round: Scott Rolen-3B-CIN. As I said before, third base is not a very deep position in terms of fantasy options. That being said, I decided to hold off on drafting a third baseman until later because none of the available options warranted such a pick at the time. I felt the time was right to take Rolen here despite his injury risks. He had one of his best and healthiest seasons last year, so maybe he can replicate that again this year. He is the other right-handed bat in the middle of the Reds’ order, so hopefully his pairing with Brandon Phillips could lead to some magic for me.
13th Round: Carlos Beltran-OF-NYM. Keep in mind, this is my fourth outfielder before making any judgments. Beltran is in the last year of his contract with the Mets, and is also trying to prove he is completely healthy so he can secure another long-term contract next winter. The rumor is that Terry Collins may move Beltran to right field to decrease the running he would have to do. This bodes well for Beltran who is no longer much of a contributor in terms of stolen bases, but he can still hit a ton when healthy. He is playing for dollars, and we all remember how he did the last time he was playing for a contract in 2004.
14th Round: Brett Myers-SP-HOU. Myers was a pleasant surprise for Houston in 2010 as he led the Astros rotation all year. His performance earned him a contract extension and now he is out to prove last year was no fluke. Myers has always been a talented pitcher who could never put it all together. Now he seems like a pitcher who can win 15 games and strike out 200+ people every year. Plus he can play mind games with opponents, much like he did when he stuck his tongue out at Jayson Werth leading off second base and then Werth got picked off during an intentional walk.
15th Round: Brad Lidge-RP-PHI. In sticking with my Phillies and ex-Phillies players, I grabbed Lidge as my second closer. I am a believer in Lidge that he is more of the second half of 2010 version as opposed to the first half. Lidge was lights out at the end of 2010 and should be in great position to save 40 games this year with the quality of Philadelphia’s starting rotation and the propensity for the offense to keep them in close games.
16th Round: Jorge Posada-C-NYY. My strategy with catchers has always been to wait until the end to take one, except for Mike Piazza in his prime. Here, Posada fell off of everyone’s radar because he is going to be a full-time DH this season. Without the rigors of catching, Posada will be able to stay healthy and in the lineup everyday with his still productive bat. Barring injuries, Posada can still be counted on for .275, 15 homeruns and 70 RBI. Those are fine numbers for a catcher, especially one taken in the 16th round.
17th Round: Javier Vazquez-SP-FLA. After proving for a second time that he cannot pitch for the Yankees, Vazquez signed as a free agent with the Marlins to provide a solid duo with Josh Johnson. Vazquez has always been a better National League pitcher, and now back in the NL East, he will get to face some lineups that swing at everything. He may not win 15 games because the Marlins’ offense looks anemic and the bullpen is questionable. But he should have no problem striking out 200 batters and keeping his ERA under 4.00.
18th Round: Lance Berkman-1B-STL. In keeping with the 2003 All-Stars, I took Berkman with the same belief that he was a big bounceback candidate as well. He was marred with injuries last year until Houston traded him to the Yankees before the trade deadline. While he struggled mightily down the stretch as the Yankees’ primary DH, he picked it up in the playoffs and was arguably the Yankees most consistent hitter in the postseason. Now he is in St. Louis with a starting job in the outfield and hitting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. If he can stay healthy and regain his power stroke, Berkman could be a steal at this point in the draft.
19th Round: Angel Pagan-OF-NYM. With the rumors of Carlos Beltran moving to right field, that means that Angel Pagan would be shifting to center field. Pagan had a very solid 2010 season which marked the first time he has had an extended period of time playing everyday. Pagan showed he can hit any type of pitching and had some great extra base hit power using the caverous gaps at Citi Field to become Mr. Triple. He is also a big time stolen base threat and should continue running as he hits in between Jose Reyes and David Wright.
20th Round: Johnny Cueto-SP-CIN. I was surprised to see him down here so late, so I grabbed him while I could. Cueto is a solid pitcher who has loads of potential. He just needs to learn how to pitch first and the rest will fall into place. He has increased his win total and decreased his ERA in each of his first three seasons. I look for continued progress, especially with the Reds being able to provide consistent run support and having a solid back end of the bullpen with Francisco Cordero and Aroldis Chapman.
21st Round: John Lackey-SP-BOS. After shedding twenty pounds, Lackey enters camp this year in better shape with the hopes of living up to the enormous contract he signed last year. Lackey’s debut with Boston was underwhelming at best as he battled injuries and ineffectiveness. But Lackey is a proven workhorse who knows how to win games and strike people out. He should receive ample run support and will also have the benefit of facing opposing teams’ number 3 or 4 starter. I expect 15 wins with a 3.50 ERA and 175 strikeouts in Lackey’s sophomore season in Boston.
22nd Round: Reid Brignac-SS-TB. These next two picks were hunches and gambles on young Tampa Bay infielders. Brignac showed some pop last year with 8 homeruns and 45 RBI in limited playing time. He should have the chance to play more this season in a lineup that now features Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to go along with Longoria and B.J. Upton. For a MI option, I could have done worse than this in the second to last round. I would not be surprised to see Brignac hit well and be used as trade bait later on.
23rd Round: Sean Rodriguez-2B-TB. Much of the same said about Brignac can be said about Rodriguez, who has more upside and potential than his teammate. Rodriguez should get the bulk of the playing time at second base, which could be a huge deal if he performs well at that thin position. Rodriguez also showed some pop in his bat in limited playing time. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and learn to be more patient. There is no reason he can’t hit .280 if he matures. All in all, I was satsified to land such a player with upside and a starting job in the last round.
And there you have it. Please feel free to send your comments or questions to email@example.com, post them on Facebook at www.goo.gl/xF0pt, or find us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FantasyJudgment. If you want a copy of the draft board, just let me know.
On February 9, 2011, I participated in the second Fantasy Alarm expert fantasy baseball mock draft with 11 of the brightest minds in the fantasy baseball industry. My fellow draftees included Mike Harmon (Fox Sports), Nick Gleichman (RotoSports), Ryan Hallam (Fantasy Alarm), Chris Carbonell (Roto Experts), Keith Hernandez (KFFL), Nate Stephens (Roto World), Rich Wilson (FantasyPros911), Cory Schwartz (MLB.com), Steve Gardner (USA Today), Jeff Mans (Fantasy Alarm), and Geoff Stein (Fanball). Once again, the format for the mock draft was a 12-team mixed Roto league with the standard 5 x 5 categories. I had the 11th pick overall and I vowed to not select Carl Crawford in the 1st round. I was also drafting next to my distant cousin, Geoff Stein, as I had done in the last mock draft.
In a surprise to no one, some guy named Albert Pujols was taken with the first pick. Then, the principle of position scarcity took over as Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez went second and third, respectively. This was the first mock draft I have seen with Tulowitzki going second overall. His monster September last season has fantasy owners setting high expectations for the new hundred million dollar man. Next went Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Braun. None of these picks were surprising except that Longoria going 4th overall is likely because third base is a relatively weak position compared to first base and outfield. Next went NL MVP Joey Votto, Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez. Cano has definitely established himself as the premiere second baseman in fantasy baseball so he is well worth a first round pick. Votto and Gonzalez are solid picks at a very deep first base position. Because first base has lots of solid options, I chose David Wright with the 11th pick overall instead of Mark Teixeira. Third base is not what it used to be in terms of depth, so I went with Wright who can contribute in all five categories. Next in the wrap-around went Carl Crawford and Teixeira before I took Josh Hamilton in the second round. Hamilton is coming off an MVP season and just recently signed a two-year contract, so I am looking for him to continue his offensive onslaught now that he can focus without the specter of arbitration or free agency. Hamilton is a five-category stud in the outfield, and I like the combination of him and Wright leading my offense.
Rather than write out what every pick was after this, I will go through each of my picks with some comments and analysis. If anyone would like to see the whole draft board, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3rd Round: Jon Lester-SP-BOS. My first pitcher is the ace of the Boston Red Sox and one of the best young starting pitchers in all of baseball. Lester has asserted himself into the elite category with his tremendous 2010 season that saw him post 19 wins, an ERA of 3.25, and 225 strikeouts. These numbers should easily be attainable again, and I would even look for him to crack the 20-win demarcation with an improved offense and a better Jonathan Papelbon closing games. Lester is a top five starting pitcher so there was no hesitation grabbing him here at the end of the 3rd round.
4th Round: Adam Wainwright-SP-STL. After Geoff Stein decided to forego pitching and take Jason Heyward and Adrian Beltre in the wrap-around, I decided to double up on the starting pitching by selecting Wainwright. He is the National League version of Lester as he also has emerged into the elite of fantasy starting pitchers. Wainwright reached 20 wins and had an amazing 2.42 ERA with 213 strikeouts. He has consistently put up numbers like this for a couple years now, so I fully expect him to do the same in 2011. Having Lester and Wainwright as my 1-2 combination sets me up nicely in the pitching categories.
5th Round: Dan Uggla-2B-ATL. In almost every other mock draft I have done, I bypassed second basemen until the end of the drafts because after the top tier they were pretty much all the same. Here, I couldn’t let Uggla slip by in the 5th round. Now in Atlanta, I don’t see any change in Uggla’s normal offensive output. If anything, he could improve a little by hitting in a better lineup. To get 30 homeruns, 100 RBI, and 100 runs scored from my second baseman in the 5th round could be a steal.
6th Round: Justin Morneau-1B-MIN. This is a potential risk as Morneau is just starting to come back from his concussion that prematurely ended his 2010 season. But all signs are pointing towards the former AL MVP being ready for Opening Day. When healthy, Morneau is a lock for a .300+ average, 35 HR, and 110 RBI. People were clearly concerned about his health because there is no reason he should have fallen to me in the 6th round. That is fine with me as my infield now consists of Morneau, Uggla and Wright. I’ll take that against anyone else.
7th Round: Jonathan Papelbon-RP-BOS. I will admit that this pick was a bit of a stretch. I probably could have waited another round or two, but the closers were going off the board and I wanted to make sure I grabbed one. With Bell, Wilson, Rivera, Marmol, and Feliz off the board, I took Papelbon expecting that he will be better in 2011 now that he facing free agency. The Red Sox will be very good this year which means lots of save opportunities. He is a competitive guy so I look for him to be extra motivated to prove that 2010 was a fluke in terms of his meltdowns.
8th Round: Carlos Lee-OF-HOU. This pick also received some criticism as being too early for El Caballo. True, I probably could have waited another round or two. But given there would be 21 picks before I selected again, I wanted to grab Lee here and bank on a huge comeback season. Lee had a miserable 2010 season that saw his average and power numbers drop considerably. But the Astros were horrible for most of 2010 and he had no protection in the lineup. His career numbers are impressive across the board, and he is still only 34 so there should be plenty of gas left in the tank. Plus, he is my second outfielder so I am not relying on him to carry my team.
9th Round: Jason Bay-OF-NYM. I can basically repeat everything I said about Carlos Lee above. Bay’s 2010 season with the Mets was an outright disaster. Before his season-ending concussion, Bay struggled mightily hitting for any kind of power. He is still young and his career averages show that he should bounce back to at least 25 HR and 90 RBI. The downside to Bay is hitting in the cavernous Citi Field. But he is a smart enough hitter to modify his approach and find a way to utilize his power and hit for average taking advantage of the spacious gaps.
10th Round: Roy Oswalt-SP-PHI. Despite what team he plays for now, Oswalt has always been one of my favorite pitchers. I added him onto my fantasy team during his rookie season in 2001 and rode his wave into the semi-finals that year. He has always been one of the most talented pitchers in baseball and has had some misfortune with health, poor run support, and shaky bullpens. That seemed to changed once he was traded to the Phillies in 2010. Now the #3 starter in one of the greatest rotations in baseball history, I look for Oswalt to have a monster season pitching for a contract and being matched up against other teams’ third starters. Plus, he is also my third starter behind Lester and Wainwright. Not bad.
11th Round: Corey Hart-OF-MIL. I wear my sunglasses at night…so I can…Sorry, I got carried away. Despite eliciting memories of that great 80′s song, Hart had a great year in 2010 which earned him a contract extension from the Brewers in mid-season. He reached career highs in homeruns (31), RBI (102), and runs scored (91) hitting in a potent Brewers lineup. With Milwaukee now poised to make a playoff run thanks to the pitching they acquired, I foresee Hart being a major complement to Prince Fielder in terms of run production in support of the pitching. If Hart replicates his 2010 season as my 4th outfielder, that would be nice. AS he says, never surrender.
12th Round: Brad Lidge-RP-PHI. While Lidge is often pulling a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde routine with his reliability, I am high on him this year as the closer for the Phillies’ insane rotation. They should be playing in lots of close games because of their pitching and the fact they are not as offensively reliant. Lidge had a tremendous second half of the 2010 season, so I look for him to continue that trend. Oh by the way, he is still waiting for Pujols’ homerun from the 2005 playoffs to land.
13th Round: Starlin Castro-SS-CHC. This 20-year old stud fills out my infield which makes me very happy. Castro came up in mid-season last year and showed that he was ready for the big leagues. He does not have much power at this point in his career, but he should hover around .290 and steal lots of bases. Depending on where the Cubs bat him in the order, he could also score 100 runs if he learns how to be patient and get on base. Big upside here with Castro.
14th Round: Vernon Wells-OF-LAA. With my four outfield spots filled, I decided to take Wells as my Utility Player because of what he provides in terms of power production. He also gives me some flexibility in the outfield in case Bay or Lee struggle to return to pre-2010 form. Wells and his albatross of a contract were traded to the Angels this winter, which should benefit him in several ways. He now is playing for a team with a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, and he doesn’t have to face the pitching of the AL East as often. The Angels’ lineup will hinge on the health of Kendry Morales, but Wells should fit in nicely with Abreu and Hunter.
15th Round: Brett Myers-SP-HOU. Myers is another fantasy favorite of mine dating back to his early years as a starter for the Phillies. He had a very solid 2010 season which earned him a contract extension from the Astros. Myers has always been a good strikeout pitcher so he will help in that category. It is debatable how many wins he will earn because the Astros are not very good and don’t have the most reliable bullpen. But based on how I drafted, Myers is on my bench and ready to fill in if an injury to Lester, Wainwright or Oswalt happens.
16th Round: Josh Beckett-SP-BOS. How the mighty have fallen. Beckett’s horrible 2010 season has landed him off the radar in terms of fantasy relevance. He is projected to be Boston’s fourth starter, so if healthy, this could be a big bounce-back season for him. Beckett obviously has all the talent in the world, but he just cannot seem to stay healthy. With some of the pressure off of him due to the emergence of Lester and Buchholz, Beckett can ease his way back into relevance by pitching against other teams’ fourth starters and by being smart with his approach. He gives me depth on my bench and could be good trade bait if he performs well.
17th Round: Lance Berkman-1B-STL. Continuing my trend of drafting players who had awful 2010 seasons, Berkman is another guy looking to bounce back. He was never healthy in Houston as his power was depleted and his average sunk to new lows. He was traded to the Yankees for the pennant stretch and did not perform well as their primary DH. However, he did hit well in the playoffs which was good enough for St. Louis to sign him and give him a starting job in right field and hitting behind Pujols and Holliday. Now appearing to be healthy, Berkman should have something left in the tank and will have plenty of opportunities hitting in a very good Cardinals’ lineup. Look for a return to .300 with 20 HR and 80 RBI.
18th Round: Scott Rolen-3B-CIN. Rolen had a solid 2010 season where he stayed healthy for the most part, something he has not customarily done over the years. He was a leader on a young Reds’ team that won the NL Central and is poised to defend their title. He is hitting in a great hitters’ park in Cincinnati and has a loaded lineup around him with Phillips, Votto, Bruce and Stubbs. Assuming he can stay on the field, Rolen makes a nice back-up at third base and could also be trade bait for someone looking to upgrade at a relatively weak position.
19th Round: Kurt Suzuki-C-OAK. My strategy is always to wait until the end to take my catcher. Except for when Mike Piazza was in his prime, I have never thought it was a good idea to draft a catcher early on regardless of the position scarcity. Even Joe Mauer, who is the best catcher on the board, is not worth such an early pick because his numbers don’t equate to draft position value. Yes, Mauer is much better than the 2nd best catcher, but I don’t think he is worth such an early pick. Suzuki is a solid offensive player for Oakland and has put up respectable numbers in terms of batting average and run production over the last couple years. He plays everyday and won’t hurt me, which is well worth the 19th round pick.
20th Round: Magglio Ordonez-OF-DET. Once regarded as a fantasy stud, Magglio Ordonez has seen father time and nagging injuries take its toll. He is still a productive hitter when healthy, and he is hitting in the middle of a solid batting lineup with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. He provides me with additional depth and flexibility in the outfield, and could also be trade bait for a team looking for a bat down the stretch. For his value and potential, it is hard to argue with this pick in the 20th round.
21st Round: Ryan Raburn-2B-DET. This is my sleeper pick of the draft. Raburn has shown he can hit major league pitching and be a productive everyday player. Detroit just needs to find a position for him. His eligibility at second base also makes him attractive. I’ll have to see how things play out in spring training, but it would behoove the Tigers to find a way to keep Raburn’s bat in the lineup everyday.
22nd Round: Carlos Zambrano-SP-CHC. My team’s psychological experts are on notice as Big Z joins my rotation. While he is bat-shit crazy, he is also extremely talented when he can stay sane and keep his head in the game. Zambrano’s rollercoaster 2010 season ended on a very positive note as he was borderline dominant down the stretch after he returned from his hiatus. With Lou Piniella gone, Zambrano should be much calmer and seems motivated to perform as indicated by his desire to pitch on Opening Day. Again, he is 3rd on my bench depth chart and was my last pick of the draft. How many potential 15-game winners with 200 strikeouts can you find in the last round? Not many, so I took the Big Z with a big upside.
So here is my team broken down by positions:
C – Kurt Suzuki-OAK
1B – Justin Morneau-MIN
2B – Dan Uggla-ATL
3B – David Wright-NYM
SS – Starlin Castro-CHC
OF – Josh Hamilton-TEX
OF – Carlos Lee-HOU
OF – Jason Bay-NYM
OF – Corey Hart-MIL
UT – Vernon Wells-LAA
CI – Lance Berkman-STL
MI – Ryan Raburn-DET
B – Scott Rolen-CIN
B – Magglio Ordonez-DET
SP – Jon Lester-BOS
SP – Adam Wainwright-STL
SP – Roy Oswalt-PHI
RP – Jonathan Papelbon-BOS
RP – Brad Lidge
P – Brett Myers-HOU
P – Josh Beckett-BOS
P – Carlos Zambrano-CHC
So that is my team in a nutshell. Feel free to share your thoughts, comments and questions by emailing me at email@example.com. If you want a copy of the whole draft grid, send me an email and let me know. Also, you can comment on the draft on Fantasy Judgment’s Facebook page located at http://goo.gl/xF0pt or by tweeting me at www.twitter.com/FantasyJudgment (@FantasyJudgment).
Historically the month of February is viewed as the worst month of the year by sports fans because the Super Bowl is over and baseball has yet to start. But with recent changes to the NFL schedule, the Super Bowl is now a fixture for the first week of February. And without fail, within two weeks of the Super Bowl is the day when pitchers and catchers start reporting. So now, February doesn’t seem so bad. After all, there really isn’t a true “offseason” anymore with free agency, trades, general manager meetings, arbitration deadlines, and of course endless coverage and programming on TV, radio, and the web.
We are now just days away from the first day that pitchers and catchers are required to report to Spring Training in either Florida or Arizona. A lot of players have voluntarily been working out at their facilities well before they were required to do so. That just tells you that players are as anxious to get going as we the fans are to see it.
While there is drastic disparity in payroll between the upper eschalon teams and the bottom, there is one common thread that all 30 teams have right now: hope. Right now, the Yankees and Pirates have the same record. Right now, the Red Sox and Royals are tied for first place in their divisions. Right now, the Phillies and Orioles are no better or worse than the other. Of course, we can evaluate and rank teams based on their rosters and projected performances. No one expects the Pirates, Royals or Orioles to compete for a playoff spot because they do not have the requisite talent on their roster. But going into Spring Training, those teams and all others are at the very least hopeful and optomistic that they can be victorious.
Players, coaches, management and fans are not completely naive. They have to know in their hearts and brains whether they will realistically be able to compete. But what other choice do they have? Pedro Alvarez, the young third baseman on the Pirates, has been projected to be a breakout star this year by experts. While he possesses enormous talent and will very likely be a productive player, what hope does he have to experience success in terms of wins and losses? Probably not much hope. But if you talk to anyone associated with the Pirates, there is optomism in the air that maybe the team can be competitive. But this song and dance is done every year. It is like this for other teams too. Take the New York Mets for example. This big market team is in as bad shape as any other franchise in baseball. With the Fred Wilpon/Bernie Madoff lawsuit pending, lack of money to make significant moves, transition into a new management regime, loss of Johan Santana for half the season, and the lingering stench of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez on the roster, the Mets are a complete mess. But if you listen to what David Wright said earlier this week, he expects the Mets to win this year, and win a lot. He expects that the Mets will be one of the best teams in baseball. Now, I am a Mets fan and I wouldn’t want to hear David Wright say that the Mets aren’t going to be good this season. But Wright has essentially waxed poetic about his team alomost verbatim for the past three seasons, and we all know how those seasons turned out. Objectively, what basis does Wright have to proclaim that the Mets will be a very good team this year? They have relatively the same roster as last season with a few minor additions and subtractions. They were a .500 team last year with this team, and now they don’t even have Johan Santana for several months. The pitching staff is a laundry list of “Who in the blue hell is that?” and the bullpen is a joke. Offensively, the Mets can be respectable with Reyes, Pagan, Wright, Beltran, Bay and Ike Davis. But Reyes and Beltran are question marks with their health and Bay has to prove he can hit more than 6 homeruns. The bottom third of the order are automatic outs. So if the Mets cannot bludgeon teams to death with offense, they will be in for a LONG season contrary to David Wright’s prognostication.
The point of this is that despite whatever reality awaits all 30 teams, right now they are all on equal footing. Right now, every team has the same chance of winning the World Series. Right now, every fan of every team has hope. That is what makes this time of year so special and exciting. So when it is cold, dark and snowy, just say these three words and a smile will come to your face: “Pitchers and Catchers.”
With Spring Training just days away, I thought I would make my official predictions for the 2011 season now without the benefit of seeing how things play out at camp in Florida and Arizona. I didn’t do too bad with my 2010 predictions in terms of picking playoff teams and actual records (http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/2010-mlb-preview/), but I hope to do better this year with my prognosticating. I will provide my predictions on every teams’ record, playoff matchups, World Series champion, and some individual awards. But first, some general commentary.
As usual, this was a very active and busy off-season. The clear winners of this off-season are the Boston Red Sox who added two superstars to their already impressive lineup in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crwaford. After a season decimated by injuries, the Red Sox still were in the hunt for the AL Wild Card down to the final week of the 2010 season. They have now retooled and are healthy. A lineup consisting of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew should have no problems scoring runs. That, coupled with their talented starting rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buccholz, John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Diasuke Matsuzaka, should propel the Red Sox back to the top of the American League East. The biggest question for the Sox, besides staying healthy, is the mental and physical status of Jonathan Papelbon. Paps clearly had a down year in 2010, and now in a contract year, he has been shopped around the league as potential trade bait. Look for Papelbon to be extra motivated to close out games effectively as he tries to impress potential suitors when he hits the open market next year. The additions of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler should complement Daniel Bard as effective late inning relievers bridging the gap to Paplebon. And in a worst case scenario, those three all have experience closing games in the event Papelbon Irish Jigs himself out of his 9th inning responsibilities.
This offseason also saw the already deep and talented Philadelphia Phillies emerge as the clear favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Despite losing Jayson Werth to a ridiculous contract in Washington, the Phillies signed Cliff Lee to join a rotation that already included Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Lee, who had tremendous success in Philadelphia during the end of the 2009 season, gives the Phillies four aces and arguably the greatest pitching staff in many years.
Lee’s departure from Texas leaves the AL champions with a major void in their starting rotation. With former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb signed this winter, the Rangers are looking to catch lightning in their attempt to replace Lee at the top of the rotation. Also gone from Texas is designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero who departed for Baltimore. The Rangers did sign Adrian Beltre, who should make up for Vlad’s numbers, but this has left long-standing Ranger Michael Young in limbo. After moving from 2B to SS to 3B over the years, Young is now forced to be a super-utility/DH player which has not sat well with him (he has subsequently asked to be traded).
In a surprising development, the New York Yankees were actually shut out of the free agent market for marquis players as Cliff Lee went to Philadelphia and Carl Crawford went to Boston. In an effort to appease the fan base by spending money, the Yankees signed former Rays’ closer Rafael Soriano to serve as Mariano Rivera’s primary set up man. If Soriano can re-adjust to setting up, this could prove to be very beneficial for the Yankees by essentially shortening the game even more – especially if Joba Chamberlain regains his form for 7th inning duties (and doesn’t become Jabba the Hut). The biggest question mark for the Yankees is what they will get out of their 3-4-5 spots in the rotation. After C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes, there are major question marks. A.J. Burnett had a horrible 2010 season, but he has the talent and ability to be a top pitcher in the league if he can straighten himself out mentally. After that, there are several candidates that will audition for the last two rotation spots, including Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddie Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and possibly Mark Prior. It is clear that the Yankees will have to depend on their offense and bullpen to pull them through many games this year.
The defending AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays saw several major pieces of their puzzle leave via free agency or trades. Gone are Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, and Grant Balfour. It is unlikely that the Rays will be much more than a .500 team this year, but they accumulated 12 first round draft picks for June and should be able to re-tool relatively quickly.
The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants were not overly active this winter outside of signing veteran drug user Miguel Tejada to replace World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. They did re-sign a few spare parts, including Cody Ross and Pat Burrell. The Giants’ starting pitching is the cornerstone of the team, and that in itself will keep them competitive all season. Their magical run to the championship was a great story, hut it will not likely materialize again this year as they struggle to put runs on the board.
The Cincinnati Reds will continue their ascension to the upper eschalon of the league as they defend their NL Central crown. The development of young stars like MVP Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs should have the Reds in the playoff mix for years to come. The pitching staff is also very talented with Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey (yes, he will justify his billing as a top prospect). The wild card will be fireballer Aroldis Chapman and whether he makes his impact as a starter, set-up man, or closer.
Staying in the NL Central, all eyes will be on the Albert Pujols – St. Louis Cardinals situation as it develops. With an upcoming deadline to get a deal done before Pujols halts negotiations, it is looking more and more like King Albert will hit the open market next winter. This is outrageous if it happens because there is no justification for the Cardinals not to give Pujols what he wants – a long contract that makes him the highest paid player in the league. For a decade now, Pujols has established himself as the best hitter in baseball and deserves to be paid accordingly. The Cardinals shelled out mega-bucks last year to re-sign Matt Holliday knowing full well that Pujols’ contract was coming up this year. It was reported that Holliday has even offered to defer some of his money to help the Cardinals afford Pujols. They do well attendance-wise and have an owner who is financially stable. If it is a matter of not wanting to give a 31-year old player a 10-year contract, then at least offer him 7 years/$210M which would make him the highest paid player in the game.
Now without further adieu, here are my official predictions for the 2011 Major League Baseball season.
American League East W L GB
Boston Red Sox 97 65 —
New York Yankees 93 69 4
Tampa Bay Rays 84 78 13
Toronto Blue Jays 80 82 17
Baltimore Orioles 77 85 20
American League Central W L GB
Chicago White Sox 93 69 —
Minnesota Twins 91 71 2
Detroit Tigers 86 76 7
Cleveland Indians 75 87 18
Kansas City Royals 68 94 25
American League West W L GB
Los Angeles Angels 94 68 —
Texas Rangers 90 72 4
Oakland Athletics 81 81 13
Seattle Mariners 77 85 17
National League East W L GB
Philadelphia Phillies 102 60 —
Atlanta Braves 86 76 16
Florida Marlins 82 80 20
New York Mets 70 92 32
Washington Nationals 69 93 33
National League Central W L GB
Cincinnati Reds 96 66 —
Milwaukee Brewers 93 69 3
St. Louis Cardinals 88 74 6
Chicago Cubs 85 77 9
Houston Astros 80 82 14
Pittsburgh Pirates 72 90 22
National League West W L GB
Colorado Rockies 93 69 —
Los Angeles Dodgers 90 72 3
San Francisco Giants 90 72 3
San Diego Padres 84 78 9
Arizona Diamondbacks 76 86 17
Wild Card Round
Boston Red Sox def. Chicago White Sox
New York Yankees def. Los Angeles Angels
Philadelphia Phillies def. Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds def. Colorado Rockies
League Championship Series
Boston Red Sox def. New York Yankees
Philadelphia Phillies def. Cincinnati Reds
Philadelphia Phillies def. Boston Red Sox
AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL Cy Young – Jon Lester
NL Cy Young – Adam Wainwright