Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who to Target & Downgrade?

Everyone knows that Alex Rodriguez is a great pick in any fantasy baseball draft format. But figuring out who the next breakout player will be is a more difficult challenge. In this entry, I profile players who should provide good value in 2008.

Good Value Players
1. Nick Markakis - Only 24 & still improving. Solid five category player.
2. Chad Billingsley - Full year in the rotation should lead to mega K's, good wins.
3. Brett Myers - Back in the rotation on a winning team. 16 wins + with K's is realistic.
4. Adrian Beltre - Three year trend looks good, still only 28 and entering his prime.
5. Carlos Gomez - Starting for the Twins. Cheap source of speed in AL only leagues.
6. Derek Lee - Two years removed from broken wrist could lead to return to 30+ homers.
7. Jermaine Dye - Second half shows power is still there. Expect ~31 homers, .275 BA.
8. Corey Patterson - Starting for the Reds. Bandbox of a park, could lead to 20-30 season.
9. Ian Kinsler - 20-20 last year and at age 25, only going to get better.
10. Jeremy Hermida - Terrific second half, could finally reach potential scouts drooled over.
11. Ty Wigginton - Journeyman is undervalued and should provide 25 homers at 2B or 3B.
12. Mike Mussina - Terrible '08, but 1 yr ago had 15 W, 3.51 ERA season. May be worth the risk.
13. Jason Bay - Only 29, top contender for comeback player of the year.
14. Richie Weeks - 9 homers, 10 steals in 98 September at-bats. Could have break-out season.
15. Alex Gordon - Solid second-half overcome atrocious start. Will breakout, question is when.
16. Rafael Furcal - Played injured through first half of '07. Stats from '06 more likely for '08.
17. Troy Tulowitski - No trouble adjusting to the majors. 23 years old, will continue to develop.
18. Delmon Young - Solid '07, should lead to further power development in '08.
19. Austin Kearns - Moving to a new ballpark will help. If stays healthy, ready for breakout year
20. Felix Hernandez - Only 21, ready to become a star. Good source of K's and wins.
21. Yovani Gollardo - Injured now, but this kid is for real. Mega source of K's.
22. Randy Johnson - Don't forget about this strikeout king. Out til mid-April, but late pick
23. Travis Hafner - Not nearly as bad as '07, not as good as '06. Expect '05 stats - 305-33-108
24. Alex Rios - Improved in each of the past three years, entering prime at age 27.
25. Vernon Wells - Much better than '07, but don't count on SB. At age 29, expect .275-27-97

Players on the Decline
1. Dontrelle Willis - Atrocious spring, atrocious '07 and now has to face DH. Yikes.
2. Manny Ramirez - Decline in '07 was no fluke. Still good, but at 35 best days are behind him.
3. Barry Zito - Bad spring, and declining 3 year trend. Terrible team, no opportunity for wins.
4. Magglio Ordonez - Great player, but not as good as '07 performance. Likely to be overvalued.
5. Hanley Ramirez - Great player but won't put up '07 numbers. FL wants him to steal less in 08
6. Carlos Zambrano - Look at his three year trend. 'Nuff said.
7. Aaron Rowand - Leaving good hitters park, always an injury risk. Expect a decline.
8. Ted Lilly - Good pitcher, also not as good as '07. Expect wins to stay same, but ERA to go up.
9. Brian Bannister - Stats are better than his talent level. Expect higher ERA in '08.
10. Carlos Pena - Overvalued. 30 homers - yes. 46 - no.
11. Mike Lowell - Fenway is good fit for him, but decline expected at age 34.
12. Jay Bruce & Homer Bailey - Dusty Baker is anti-rookie. Both were sent down to minors.
13. Dave Roberts - Good source of SB, but injury risk and R. Davis, F. Lewis, & E. Velez on deck
14. Joba Chamberlain - Boatloads of talent, but not as good as '07. Starting in the 'pen.
15. Eric Gagne - Major Injury risk, got shelled in Boston last year. Time as elite closer is over.
16. Jose Valverde - Great in '07, but look at '06 stats. Cannot be trusted, so overvalued.
17. Chad Cordero - Solid pick, but contract year. If (when) Nats fall out of race, he's trade bait.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Boatload of Updates

With the start of the season just hours away, here are some updates on position battles, demotions to the minors, and performance appraisals.

1. Manager Lou Pinella has named Kerry Wood the closer for the Cubs. Wood beat out Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry for the job.

2. John Smoltz has tightness in his shoulder and may begin the season on the DL.

3. Mike Hampton has worked his way back from several injury-plagued seasons and appears to be set to start the season as part of Atlanta's rotation. Hampton has looked sharp this spring, compiling a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings pitched.

4. Cameron Maybin, expected by many to begin the season as the Marlins starting centerfielder, may end up being demoted to triple A. He is hitting an infinitesimal .188 this spring.

5. Brandon Lyon, the Diamondbacks' closer, is having a miserable spring and may lose his job to Chad Qualls or Tony Pena. In 6 2/3 innings pitched Lyon has only one strikeout and has given up 12 runs and 16 hits.

6. Fantasy Baseball owners expecting to get a bunch of steals from Lastings Milledge or Felipe Lopez should think again. According to manager Manny Acta, stolen base attempts lead to too many unnecessary outs. After taking over for Frank Robinson, one of Acta's first acts (pardon the pun) was to significantly reduced the number of stolen bases attempts. Expect more of the same this season.

7. John Maine has looked awesome this spring. He now has thrown 25 1/3 innings, accumulating 28 strikeouts and a 1.78 ERA.

8. Carlos Gomez, obtained in the Johan Santana trade from the Mets, has won the starting centerfield job. But many scouts believe Gomez could use more seasoning in the minors. Expect Gomez to have a relatively low batting average, but rack up the stolen bases.

9. Evan Longoria, widely assumed to be the opening day third basemen for the Rays, has been sent down to triple A. Apparently, Longoria's demotion was less to do with performance issues and more to do with the Rays being able to retain rights to him for an additional year.

10. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a favorite sleeper candidate for many Roto players, thinks his demotion to triple A is imminent. Salty was quoted as saying that he will be sent down if the Rangers hold onto Gerald Laird.

11. Francisco Liriano is back and lookin' good! In his last outing he tossed a no-hitter for five innings against the Orioles, and struck out five.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Who to Draft?

So, 24 hours before draft day you find out you have the second overall pick in your 5x5 mixed league draft. Who do you take?

The first overall pick will assuredly be Alex Rodriguez. If you are so lucky that ARod falls to #2, draft him and immediately run to the local grocery store to buy a lottery ticket.

More realistically, the choice is between the following stars: Chase Utley, Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, and the trio of shorstops, Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes.

It is a daunting task to choose between such amazing fantasy players. But lets analyze each to come up with an answer. First, let's start with the premise that your first round pick should anchor your team. He should be reliable, consistent, and put up huge numbers. Second, all other things being equal, it is preferable to draft a player at a weak position. Third, are there any causes of concern (e.g. injury risk, less playing time, weaker lineup protection, etc.) for the upcoming season. We review each in turn.

Chase Utley: Over the past three seasons Utley has averaged .310-27-103-109-13. Pretty impressive, especially for a second basemen. Utley has to be a consideration because he plays in a hitter's ballpark, and at age 29 he is entering the prime of his career. With a tantalizing ability to help your team in all five categories, Utley is a definite first round pick.

Matt Holliday: Holliday has morphed from a platoon player to a genuine fantasy baseball stud. He has improved in every year of his big-league career, and is still in his prime at age 29. Last season, Holliday hit .339-36-137-120-11. Moreover, there is every reason to think Holliday can replicate, or dare I say, exceed his '07 performance. Compared to Utley, Holliday is a better overall player, but Utley has the advantage of playing at a weak position.

Albert Pujols: Perhaps the most talented player on this list, Pujols only hit .327 with 32 homers and 103 rbi's. Bothered by an elbow problem all season, Pujols opted to rest it rather than undergo surgery. Early reports from this spring suggest that the elbow could break down at any minute. Reports like this make Pujols a risky gambit in the first round. Even if his elbow holds up, manager Tony LaRussa is sure to rest him more often, which should impact his statistics. If healthy, however, Pujols is a leading contender for second overall pick, and could put up numbers like he did in 2006, when he hit .330-49-137-119-7.

David Wright: Too often the New York media over-hypes players on the Mets and Yankees. But for Wright the hype is justified. After all, how many third basemen are capable of swiping 30 bags? Wright is still young -- only 25 -- and has room to grow. Last season, Wright had his best year yet, hitting .325-30-107-113-34. We expect Wright to put up similar numbers in '08.

Miguel Cabrera: Unheralded while playing for the Marlins, Cabrera is one of the best hitters in the game today. Over the past three seasons Cabrera has averaged: .328-31-103-116-4. The amazing thing about those stats is that he had virtually no lineup protection in Florida. Having moved to Detroit, a ballpark whose configurations should positively affect his stats, he now has players like Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield to protect him. Cabrera will be turning 25 in mid-April and could have a monster offensive season in '08. The hot corner is not a particularly strong position, so Cabrera warrants consideration as a top draft pick. But he's probably not as valuable as some of the other players on this list, so perhaps a mid to late first round pick for him would be better.

Jimmy Rollins: Rollins seems to have pulled a Willie Mays Hayes the past few seasons. Originally a slap hitter with a ton of speed, Rollins has developed into a legitimate power threat. Last season was the best of his career; he hit .296-30-94-139-41. Playing in a hitter's ballpark, and only 29 years old, there is every reason to believe Rollins can repeat his '07 performance in '08. Although lacking batting average compared to other players on this list, the runs and stolen bases he gets more than make up for it. Rollins plays shortstop, a traditionally weak position, that is deeper than usual this season. His ability to contribute in all five categories makes Rollins a strong consideration for second overall. Also note that if you are in a points league that counts triples, Rollins is an outstanding pick in that format too.

Hanley Ramirez: Admired by many fantasy baseball "experts" for his dominant 2007 season, Hanley has been picked second overall in many roto leagues this winter/spring. Building off an impressive debut season in 2006, Ramirez astounded many with his 2008 performance of: .332-29-81-125-51. Clearly, if Ramirez replicates that performance in '08 he is an outstanding second overall pick. But unlike many experts, we do not believe Ramirez warrants a high first round pick. There are too many question marks for our liking. First, he had off season shoulder surgery which could impact his performance. Second, he no longer has Miguel Cabrera in the lineup offering protection. Pitchers will not be surprised by his capability and will be more likely to pitch around him in '08. Third, as good as he is, Ramirez has only one season of dominance under his belt. Who is to know whether Ramirez's '07 performance will be the norm, or if he will revert back to his '06 season, which was good, but certainly not worthy of the second overall pick? Our bet is for somewhere in between.

Jose Reyes: The best overall speedster in baseball, Reyes has averaged .284-13-65-113-67 over the past three seasons. The benefit of having Reyes on your team is that you do not need to worry about steals for the rest of the draft. Reyes also has the ability to hit for power, as illustrated by the 19 homers he hit in '06. At only 24 years of age, most scouts believe Reyes has yet to reach his peak. If Reyes continues to steal 70+ bases and increases his power numbers, he could eventually be the number one player drafted overall. But he's not there yet. 2008 is an atypical year in that there are many players capable of stealing 20 bases or more. Thus, speed is not at a premium that it usually is, and as a consequence, Reyes is not as valuable as other players on this list.

So, who should you take? Just about any of the players listed above will be good bets and be a boon to your team. But for our team, we prefer Wright or Rollins.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corey Patterson: Rebirth of Slick?

Corey Patterson is hitting .474 this spring, mostly in the leadoff spot.
"I always thought he'd be a good leadoff man," Baker said. "He's got all the tangibles to be a leadoff man. Maybe sometime you're not ready. When he came up, he didn't know how to bunt. They said he was going to be a 30-30 man and it got in his head."

In Great American ballpark I think it would be hard to ignore the potential sleeper that is Corey Patterson. Fantasy GM's are getting a bargain for him thus far as he has dropped to bargain basement level in drafts and is selling for pennies on the dollar at auction. Patterson should be on everyone's radar by now and those who shy away for fear of Jay Bruce are forgetting who is at the helm for Cincinnati: Dusty Baker - Mr. Veteran. Draft or buy Patterson NOW.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

News, Notes, and More

Now that we've come to the middle of March, fantasy baseball owners across the nation are sitting in their makeshift war rooms preparing for their draft. Last minute injuries, demotions to the minors, etc. can thwart the best made strategies. Here's a quick update from the Spring to ensure that you do not accidentally draft someone who just got hit by an 18-wheeler.

1. Willy Mo Pena tore his oblique muscle. Kind of hard to swing with authority when you have a torn oblique, so Pena is expected to be on the shelf for up to eight weeks. This leaves a hole in the Nationals outfield, as Elijah Dukes has been swinging like a little leaguer, and Dmitri Young is considered too heavy to patrol the outfield.

2. BJ Ryan made his first appearance of the Spring and looked sharp. Ryan should resume his role as closer for the Blue Jays.

3. Brad Lidge, returning from knee surgery, threw 35 pitches yesterday and is expected to make his debut late this week. If things go well, he could be ready for opening day. If not, expect Flash Gordon to get the bulk of the work out of the pen.

4. Kaz Matsui, I kid you not, had surgery to repair an anal fissure. I don't even know what that means, but it cannot be good. While not a major injury, Matsui is expected to miss opening day which increases Mark Loretta's value for the first week or two of the season.

5. Since returning from a thumb injury that he suffered a few weeks ago, Adrian Beltre has been strong, going 6-16 with a homer.

1. John Maine is looking good, after a shaky second half in '07. Maine shutout the Marlins for five innings, striking out six.

2. Ryan Dempster got shelled in his last start for the Cubs. He let up five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched. Fantasy baseball managers should stay far away from Dempster. In recent years Dempster has been terrible as a closer where he only had to pitch one inning a game. Now, the Cubs somehow think Dempster will excel when he has to pitch 5-7 innings a game. Ummm, good luck with that.

3. Franklin Morales, who came on strong as a rookie in 2007, is struggling thus far this Spring. Yesterday, Morales let up five earned runs, and ten hits in two and two-third innings pitched. Scouts say Morales's velocity is down from last year, and believe he could struggle if it does not come back.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AL & NL Only Update

There are certain players that are non-factors in mixed leagues with a deep free agent pool. In those leagues few care about the fourth outfielder, bench players, or even the fifth pitcher on a team's starting rotation. In AL and NL only leagues, however, good teams are separated by their in-depth knowledge of bench players, role players, and platoons. Here are several updates from Spring Training that are geared toward those AL and NL only owners.

1. Reggie Willits - Fantasy baseball owners banking on Willits repeating his impressive rookie season which saw him hit .293 with 27 steals, should think again. The Angels are toying with the idea of sending Willits down to AAA to start the season so that he can get regular at-bats.,1,628049.story

2. Cameron Maybin - Most pre-season publications list Maybin as the hands-down favorite to win the starting centerfield job for the Marlins. Obtained from the Tigers in the Dontrelle Willis/Miguel Cabrera deal, Maybin is battling mega stars Cody Ross and Alejandra de Aza for the starting job. Just seeing if you're paying attention with the mega stars comment. Maybin is off to a good start, hitting .304 in 23 spring at-bats. But even if he wins the job as expected, Maybin is likely to struggle against major league pitching.

3. A.J. Burnett - A star pitcher when healthy, Burnett let up one run in four innings pitched on Wednesday against the Pirates, and appears to be in good health. Betting he'll stay that way is like eating a big mac and supersized fries every day, and betting you'll lose weight.

4. Johnny Cuerto - Cureto pitched four shutout innings in his last spring start, and is making a strong case for a starting job behind rotation fixtures Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.

5. Rocco Baldelli - Baldelli is out indefinitely due a medical condition that leaves him extremely fatigued. In his press conference, Baldelii raised the possibility of retirement if a cure could not be found.

6. Albert Pujols - Okay, clearly Pujols is a key player in every league format. But we thought an update was warranted since he just hit his fourth homer of the spring. Although reports suggest his elbow could blow out at any time, his performance does not appear to be suffering.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring Update - Stolen Base Edition

Several more updates from Spring Training:

1. Rickie Weeks stole his 5th base of the Spring, starting right where he left off after a monster September.

2. Scott Podsednek, vying for a spot on Colorado's roster, stole his 5th base of the Spring. From 2003 to 2006 Pods averaged 53 steals a season, but after an injury-plagued 2007 caused him to miss 90 games, the White Sox decided to part ways with him. Even with a good Spring, fantasy baseball owners should be cautious as Podsednek will be a fourth outfielder at best on a team stacked in the outfield with Matt Holliday, Willie "Mays Hayes" Tavares, and Brad Hawpe.

3. Eugenio Velez, competing for a roster spot with the Giants, stole his 7th base earlier today. Velez, who had 49 steals and a .299 BA in 376 double-A at-bats in 2007, is unlikely to earn a starting job. The Giants have a crowded outfield, many of whom are similar in what they bring to the table. Dave Roberts, Randy Winn, Rajai Davis, and Velez will all be competing for corner outfield spots. Velez, a centerfielder by trade, is unlikely to beat out any of those veterans. Moreover, centerfield is the one position where there is no competition as Aaron Rowand is a lock to start on opening day. Our advice is to pay attention to the waiver wire and if Roberts and/or Winn get injured, as they are apt to do, Velez could find himself thrust into the lineup and could be a source of extra steals.

4. Colby Rasmus, likely to start in the Cardinals outfield, stole his third base of the Spring. Although he is a top prospect, Rasmus has never played a game above double A, so he could struggle in 2008 as he adapts to major league pitching. Even if he struggles at the plate, Rasmus still has the wheels to swipe 15-20 bags if he wins the job.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who Do You Rank Higher?

Here at Fantasy Baseball 101 Inter-Galactic Headquarters we are in the midst of drafting our pre-season rankings. Even for experienced roto junkies like ourselves, there are some rankings difficult to formulate. Throughout the spring we will tackle some tough examples. Here's one for our first segment.

Who is the better shortstop for 2008: Rafael Furcal, J.J. Hardy, or Khalil Greene?

It is a tougher call than one may initially expect. Each of these players have their own pros/cons that a fantasy baseball owner must take into consideration when constructing their own rankings. Let's start with an analysis of J.J. Hardy.

Hardy hit .277 with 26 homers and 80 rbi's last year. His hr/Ab have improved in each of the past three seasons, and at 25 years of age, should only get better. Surprisingly, Hardy had the best batting average of the three players, and he should continue to have protection in the loaded Milwaukee Brewers lineup. But there are several cons to be think about. For instance, he hit only eight homers in the second half. Moreover, Hardy has little history of power in previous years so it is possible that '07 was a fluke.

Khalil Greene was remarkably consistent before his 2007 statistical explosion. After hitting exactly 15 homers for three years in a row, Greene hit 27 homers last year, to go along with 97 rbi's and a .254 batting average. Unlike Hardy, Greene was consistent throughout the season, smacking 13 long balls in the first half and 14 in the second. At 28 years of age, Greene is in the prime of his career. But Greene has an abysmal OBP% and will hurt your team's batting average. It is also possible that Greene can revert to a 15 home run hitter in 2008.

Furcal, probably the best known of the three, had an off-year in 2007 due, in part, to injury. In 581 at-bats, Furcal hit .270 with 8 homers, 47 rbi's and 25 steals. But to fully appreciate Furcal's potential, one must look at his 2006 season when he hit .300-15-63-113-37. This raises the question of whether his 2007 season was due to injury, erosion of skill, or some combination thereof. Complicating matters further, Furcal has been bothered by hamstring ailments in the early part of Spring Training. His stolen bases may also influenced on whether he bats leadoff for the Dodgers instead of Juan Pierre.

So, how should these three middle-men be ranked? It depends on the strengths and weaknesses of your roster. If you are building a team from scratch, Furcal is probably your best bet because, when healthy, he can contribute solid stats in all five traditional categories. If, however, your team needs help in the power categories and can afford to take a hit in batting average, Greene is your man. Conversely, if you have several Andruw Jones types, and do not want to jeopardize your batting average further, Furcal or Hardy are the logical choices. Finally, if you are in a keeper league and are looking for a young, improving shortstop, Hardy is the guy to get.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spring Box Scores

It's only early March, yet there are already some strong -- and not so strong -- performances in Spring Training. Let's take a look at a few players:

Juan Pierre - Stole his 4th base of the Spring.

Troy Tulowitzki - Hit his third homer of the Spring.

Steve Pearce - the Pittsburgh Pirate rookie already has three homers this Spring and could be a sleeper candidate. At four levels last year (A ball - Majors) he combined for 31 homers, 117 rbis, 16 stolen bases and a batting average well over .300.

Albert Pujols - Went 2-3 with his second homer yesterday. Elbow is holding up so far.

Jared Weaver - 2-0 so far. Pitched three innings yesterday, letting up one run and striking out four.

Adam Eaton - Got shelled on Thursday, and is now 0-2. Let up 5 hits and 4 runs in 2 innings of work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Down and Out?

What hope do the new-look Mets have of recapturing the hearts of their disenchanted fans with such poor fortune so early in the season? Having lost Orlando Hernandez, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Moises Alou, and Carlos Delgado in the spring, fantasy free-agent Mets are quickly becoming draft-day flat-tires.

1. Moises Alou was declared out for 4-6 weeks today with a hernia.
2. Delgado is coping with a right hip imingement, proving the recalcitrance of his hip woes and giving fantasy owners little hope of seeing him surmount 500 at-bats.
3. Carlos Beltran is having issues with his surgically repaired knees - so don't hold your breath on a return to 30 steals.
4. Ryan Church suffered a "grade 2" concussion after a spring training collusion chasing a fly ball.
5. Orlando Hernandez had foot surgery and is still not season-ready at this point in spring.

There are a bevy of additional Mets of lesser fantasy interest following suit and riding the pine, injured. While not an advocate of avoiding an entire team because of the misfortune of a few - it si hard to imagine a fast start for David Wright or Jose Reyes with little else around them that qualifies as protection. Exercise caution in drafting presently injured Mets since players like Alou, Delgado, and Beltran may miss considerably more time than anticipated throughout the season. Happy drafting and auctioning.

Injury Notes

Injuries are the kryptonite of every fantasy baseball team. Nothing can sabatoge a winning season faster. Here's a quick update on several players with injury histories:

1. On Tuesday, Randy Johnson pitched a two-inning simulated game and had no back pain or discomfort. RJ is scheduled for another simulated game over the weekend and if things go well, will get his first live action start next week.

2. Francisco Liriano threw batting practice on Tuesday and will get his first start of the spring on Friday.

3. Jason Schmidt, recovering from shoulder surgery, played catch on Monday. Schmidt has complained of fatigue and soreness and may not be ready for opening day.

4. Flame thrower Yovani Gollardo is likely to begin the season on the DL after minor knee surgery, but his return could be quicker than initially anticipated. Tomorrow he is expected to throw off a mound for the first time since the surgery.

5. This one may shock you, but Moises Alou is hurt. Apparently, he has a sore groin. We do not expect him to miss much time, but Alou cycles through more injuries than Roman gladiator.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring Trainings Happenings

A few more updates on news from Spring Training camps.

1. Carlos Marmol appears to be the front runner to be the Chicago Cubs's closer. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Marmol has been strong in his two outings, while Howry has struggled (three runs, five hits in one inning of work on Monday), and Wood has made only one appearance. Chicago Sun-Times

2. The Reds signed outfield Corey Patterson to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Patterson had an atrocious year in 2007, but in previous years has been a fantasy baseball dynamo. For example, in 2006 Patterson hit .276 with 16 homers, 53 rbi's and 45 steals. With Patterson, Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper all vying for a starting centerfield job, we expect manager Dusty Baker will stay true to his preference for veterans and send rookie phenom Jay Bruce down to AAA for the start of the season.

3. Working his way back from an array of shoulder maladies, Rich Harden made his first appearance of the spring on Monday against the Angels. He let up two runs in three innings and appears to be in good health. Keep a closer eye on him because if he remains healthy he has the talent to be an elite fantasy baseball pitcher.

4. Mike Mussina was tagged for five runs in just over two innings pitched on Monday. Mussina, who did not have a single strikeout, started right where he left off in 2007. Roto owners banking on a comeback year may be disappointed if Mussina cannot adjust to his age, the way fellow AARP card holders like Greg Maddux and John Smoltz did.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Position Battles

Throughout Spring Training we will follow many position battles. Here's an update on a few:

1. Red Sox, 5th Spot in Rotation

Many assumed that the 5th spot in Boston's rotation was Clay Buccholz's to lose after Curt Schilling went down with an injury. But the Sox signed former Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon to compete for the job. Colon, who is coming back from several injury plaguedseasons, threw 42 fastballs in his latest bullpen session, reaching 90 mph on the gun. Conversely Buccholz was lit up for four runs and five hits in two innings of work against the Twins on Sunday. One start means very little, but this is a great competition to keep track of, as any starter in the Red Sox rotation is sure to win a lot of ball games.

2. Arizona, 3B.

Chad Tracy and Mark Reynolds were expected to battle it out for rights to the hot corner in Arizona. Tracy, previously a solid player with a good batting average and some pop in his bat, was troubled by injuries throughout '07. Reynolds, an unheralded prospect, was called up from the minors and pleasantly surprised the Diamondbacks with 17 homers and 62 rbis in only 366 at-bats.

We expect Reynolds to be the starter on opening day because Tracy is still only doing agility drills after September surgery on his right knee. All bets are off, however, once Tracy is back to full health. It may be difficult for Reynolds to retain the starting job if his BB:K ratio is the same as last season -- an unhealthy 37:129 (not that Tracy's is historically much better).

3. White Sox, outfield

The battle between Carlos Quentin and Jerry Owens is on. Quentin, formerly one of the tops prospects in the Diamondbacks system, doubled and scored a run on Sunday. For fantasy baseball owners, the key to this battle is whether there will be extra stolen bases or homers available on draft day. If Owens wins the job, expect him to steal 30+ bases with less rbi's than your typical little leaguer. If, Quentin is the starter expect about 15 homers, 60 rbi's and a good OBP%. This one is too early to call.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Comeback players?

People banking on Mark Prior having a huge comeback year now that he's playing in a pitcher's ballpark, should dampen their expectations. According to the North County Times, Prior's rehab is going well, but he is not expected to make it back to the majors until June. In a recent bullpen session he only threw fastballs. Prior is stilll a decent sleeper pick, but with his injury history it is too risky to him even in the middle rounds of a draft.

The A's shelled Barry Zito on Saturday. Zito, a former ace for the A's, let us eight runs in 2/3 of an inning. Many Roto fans thought Zito would excel after leaving the A's to pitch in the DH-less National League, but Zito struggled all year. A quick look at Zito's three year trend, with particular attention to his strikeout numbers, suggests that he is not poised for a major comeback.

Chan Ho Park, a non roster invitee to the Dodgers camp, is trying to make the team as a middle reliever. Although a long shot, Park is off to a good start as he pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday against the Mets.

John Patterson made his spring debut for the Nationals on Saturday, and appears to be in good health. But buyer beware: Fantasy managers expecting Patterson to repeat his 2005 season (3.13 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) may find that Patterson's stats will not hold up as well now that the Nats are leaving pitcher-friendly RFK.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Welcome to the Fantasy Baseball 101 Blog!

This blog will provide updates on recent news as well as analysis on trades, transactions, injuries and other events that may have an impact on your fantasy baseball team.

A few quick items for our first entry:

(1) Two things out of the Atlanta Braves camp: First, Javy Lopez has been signed and may be the favorite to backup Brian McCann. In shallow NL-only leagues, Lopez may be a decent pick for a second catcher spot. Although older than Yoda, Lopez can still hit a few out of the park if he gets some playing time. Second, pay close attention to Jair Jurrjens, competing for a rotation spot. Although he got roughed up on Friday, he has a good chance to earn the 5th spot in the rotation and scouts rave about his “stuff”. In fact, USA Today ranked him number 48 on a list of 100 names to know for 2008. (Sports Weekly’s 100 Names You Need to Know in 2008 -

(2) Juan Gonzalez – Yes, THAT, Juan Gonzalez, is attempting a comeback with the Cardinals. Although a long shot, the Cardinals offensive roster is not what it was the past few seasons. Gonzalez is off to a good start, hitting a three-run homer off Johan Santana on Friday.

(3) The Washington Post quoted Ryan Zimmerman making the following statement in Spring Training: Management has “done a good job of turning the whole organization around in about two years. We got a lot better and a lot younger at the same time," Ryan Zimmerman said. In a new ballpark, "we have six or seven guys who may become 30-homer hitters. Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns and I think we can. You watch Lastings Milledge and his hands are unbelievable. Elijah Dukes is Lastings with more pop. Wily Mo Pena may hit the ball further than anybody. We got two good-hitting catchers now. Felipe Lopez hit (23) homers in Cincinnati. Right now, we might have as much potential as any team in the league."

Nick Johnson hitting 30 home runs, especially after his injuries, seems a bit far fetched. But do not be surprised if the Nationals hitting is better than expected. Pena, Milledge, and Kearns have been highly touted for years. Accordingly, feel free to draft hitters from the Nats, but steer far away from their pitching staff. Individual ERA’s were frightening in a pitcher’s park; this year they could be astronomical.

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