Friday, March 21, 2008

Draft Guide: Top 150, sleepers, busts

The sleeper.

Does this term even make any sense? If someone is sleeping, why would you want a snooze-fest on your fantasy team? And won't the eye-crispies impair his vision? Announcer: "The guy may be drowsy and sleepwalking down to first, but when he's awake can he mash the ball 500 feet."

I've always laughed at that overused term. Maybe, because I enjoy my sleep more than anyone. Give me 10 hours, and I'll have no problem filling it up with ZZZZZZZZ's.

So instead of giving you my 2008 sleepers, I've decided instead to present you with T-Bone's Choice Cuts. T-Bone's? Yeah, some yahoos around the office call me T-Bone, a nickname made famous by the legend of George Castanza. And nothing's better than a choice cut, right? Put these 5 guys on your radar and ride their upside all the way to a fantasy title.


1). Billy Butler, 1B/OF, Royals
Guy can flat out rake. Over 1,400 minor league at-bats, Butler hit .336 with a .416 OBP and 25-HR power. There's a joke among his Royals' teammates that you can't let anything get close to him in the clubhouse, because he'll hit it. His average draft spot in ESPN drafts is 225. With regular playing time, Butler could crack the Top 100 this year.

2). Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds
Hiding in the shadow of Homer Bailey, Cueto's minor league resume would land him an interview with any big league club. The 22-year-old righty sports a 3.28 ERA in three seasons, but more impressively is his 1.10 whip and 358 Ks in 348 innings. Not hurting his cause is a 2.08 ERA this spring. Manager Dusty Baker said last weekend if the camp broke then, Cueto will be in the rotation. "Who's better than him?" Baker said.

3). Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, Cubs
Flying under the radar, picked on average 216th, the Cubs' new leadoff man may be in the best stolen base/run scoring spot in baseball, setting the table for Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. A combination of 35 steals and 110 runs is very possible, which even if he hits .265 again makes him every bit as valuable as the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal, going 73rd in drafts.

4). Ian Kennedy, SP, Yankees
We've heard about Joba-mania and after his near no-hitter, Phil Hughes may never have to pay for a meal in the Big Apple again, but Kennedy may end up with the most fantasy value of the trio in 2008, especially after Chamberlain was sent to the bullpen this week. Kennedy's ERA of 1.89 last year in three starts is no fluke. Over 149 innings in the minors, he boasted a 1.87 ERA, not to mention a 0.97 WHIP. Sure, he's got Boston and Toronto to face a zillion times, but Kennedy may be able to win 15 in his sleep.

5). Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
Particularly hard to write, as a Cubs fan - whose team is still searching for a center fielder - is the name Hamilton. The Cubs drafted the former No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft last year, only to give him away to the Reds, where he became a bit of a cult hero in certain fantasy pockets, who root hard for the underdog to make it. It is a good story, as Hamilton has battled back from drug problems, but a sprained right wrist cost him over a month last year, then he was shipped to Texas despite 19 HR in 300 at-bats. What could he do in a full season in the heart of a lineup, in a park as small as the one in Arlington? How does 40 HR, 100 RBI and 15 SB sound for a guy drafted typically at 122? You could justify him in the 7th round of a mixed league.


1. Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins
I know what you're thinking. Liriano was so good in 2006, even if he only comes back 80 percent, he'll be a steal. Sure. But positive reports are just hard to come by. Forget that he has to shoulder expectations as the Twins ace with Johan Santana gone. A year removed from "Tommy John" surgery and the guy's slider isn't sliding and his velocity is down to the low-90s. There's been whispers Liriano might start at AAA and he's quoted as saying he's going to throw a lot of fastballs this year, which is like trying to pick up girl at a bar, by holding her elbow and saying "what's a joint like this doing in a girl like you." You're just asking for trouble. Save yourself the headache and instead take Gallardo, Lincecum, Shields or Hill, all guys usually taken behind Liriano.

2). Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers
There was a time when Furcal was an elite SS, bringing home 12-15 dingers and 40 SB. Those days may be gone for the 30-year-old after last year's 6 HR, 25 SB and .270 season. More troubling was his walks (55) hit a 6-year low. An average ESPN pick of 73rd overall is way too high; 173 is more like it.

3. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs
Who's partisan now? After watching Ramirez lumber to first in Arizona (and if there was a slower term than lumber, I'd use it), I can only surmise that he is woefully out of shape or is just not trying that hard. Or worse, both. Maybe the Cubs have told him to half-speed it to save him from further leg injuries (he missed 30 games last year). Fine. But after missing significant time two of the past three years, you have to wonder if the 29-year-old will ever play more than 140 games in a season again. Reasonable to expect 120 games, 25 jacks, 95 ribbies and a .295 average, but that doesn't make him an average 34th overall pick.

4. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners
I know, it's only spring training, but an 0-for-21 funk to start the spring for a 34-year-old who makes a living with his legs would make me a little squimish to say the name Ichiro before the 4th round of any draft. Currently, he's been picked on average 19th in mixed-league formats, but when you get a magnifying glass out, you can start to see the wrinkles in Ichiro's game. Homers the last three years have whittled from 15 to 9 to 6 in 2007. Remember 2006 when Ichiro stole 45 bases in 47 attempts. That's smok-and-mirror numbers. Last year, he stole 37, but was gunned down 8 times. The thing that separates Ichiro apart from the Figgins and Roberts of the world is his constant high average. But will you get the 2004 Ichiro (.372) or the 2005 (.303)? Hard to say, but it might be best to let someone else sweat out that answer.

5. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
Two years ago, Mauer carried me to a rousing 5th-place finish in the Observer league, hitting .347. Last year, he was injured again, missed 30-35 games, and hit a disappointing .293. OK, so I'm a little bitter. But how do you fully trust a catcher with quad injury history? Especially when his speed is part of his game. Similar to Carl Crawford, we wait around like devout monks for the power to develop, but a drop from 13 to 7 HR last year is not what the fantasy doctor ordered. Mauer is still young (24) with upside, but he may be hitting 2nd this year and without a true leadoff hitter in front of him, we may be looking at a 10 /60 season. Hard to make him a top 3 catcher with an average that is, well, average.

Top 150 Overall
(10-team, 5x5, mixed league)

1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY
2. Jose Reyes, SS, NYM
3. David Wright, 3B, NYM
4. Matt Holliday, OF, Col
5. Johan Santana, SP, NYM
6. Miguel Cabrera, OF, Det
7. Chase Utley, 2B, Phi
8. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Fla
9. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phi
10. David Ortiz, 1B, Bos
11. Carl Crawford, OF, TB
12. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phi
13. Ryan Braun, 3B, Mil
14. Prince Fielder, 1B, Mil
15. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL
16. Jake Peavy, SP, SD
17. Grady Sizemore, OF, Cle
18. B.J. Upton, OF, TB
19. Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC
20. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Atl
21. Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM
22. Magglio Ordonez, OF, Det
23. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cin
24. Erik Bedard, SP, Sea
25. Carlos Lee, OF, Hou
26. Vladimir Guerrero, OF, LAA
27. Eric Byrnes, OF, Ari
28 Curtis Granderson, OF, Det
29. Lance Berkman, OF, Hou
30. Travis Hafner, 1B, Cle
31. Justin Morneau, 1B, Min
32. Victor Martinez, C/1B, Cle
33. Nick Markakis, OF, Bal
34. Alex Rios, OF, Tor
35. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Sea
36. Robinson Cano, NYY, 2B
37. Manny Ramirez, OF, Bos
38. Chone Figgins, 2B/3B/OF, LAA
39. Brian Roberts, 2B, Bal
40. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Cle
41. Russell Martin, C, LAD
42. Troy Tulowitzki, Col, SS
43. Derek Jeter, SS, NYY
45. Garrett Atkins, 3B, Col
46. Adam Dunn, OF, Cin
47. Carlos Pena, 1B, TB
48. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, CHC
49. Derek Lee, 1B, ChC
51. Brandon Webb, SP, Ari
52. Cole Hamels, SP, Phi
53. Gary Sheffield, OF, Det
54. Bobby Abreu, OF, NYY
55. Dan Haren, SP, Ari
56. Josh Beckett, SP, Bos
57. Justin Verlander, SP, Det
58. Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Bos
59. J.J. Putz, RP, Sea
60. Joe Nathan, RP, Min
61. Tori Hunter, OF, LAA
62. Chris Young, OF, Ari
63. Corey Hart, OF, Mil
64. Hunter Pence, OF, Hou
65. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tex
66. Michael Young, 2B, Tex
67. Chipper Jones, OF, Atl
68. Carlos Zambrano, SP, CHC
69. Vernon Wells, OF, Tor
70. Roy Halladay, SP, Tor
71. Miguel Tejada, SS, Hou
72. Ricky Weeks, 2B, Mil
73. Felix Hernandez, SP, Sea
74. Tim Lincecum, SP, SF
75. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SD
76. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, LAA
77. Mariano Rivera, RP, NYY
78. Billy Wagner, RP, Phi
79. Brian McCann, C, Atl
80. Chipper Jones, C, Atl
81 Paul Konerko, 1B, ChW
82. Scott Kazmir, SP, TB
83. Roy Oswalt, SP, Hou
84. Fauston Carmona, SP, Cle
85. Josh Hamilton, OF, Tex
86. Delmon Young, OF, TB
87. Aaron Harang, SP, Cin
88. Nick Swisher, OF, ChW
89. Jim Thome, DH, ChW
90. Jeff Francoeur, OF, Atl
91. Jorge Posada, C, NYY
92. Jermaine Dye, OF, CHW
93. John Smotz, SP, Atl
94. Billy Butler, OF/1B, KC
95. Jason Bay, OF, Pit
96. Dan Uggla, 2B, Fla
97. Bobby Jenks, RP, CHW
98. Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Bos
99. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Was
100. Edgar Renteria, SS, Det
101. Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA
102. Manny Corpas, RP, Col
103. Brad Hawpe, OF, Col
104. Shane Victorino, OF, Phi
105. Hideki Matsui, OF, NYY
106. Alex Gordon, 1B/OF, KC
107. Jose Valverde, RP, Hou
108. Rafael Soriano, RP, Atl
109. Joe Mauer, C, Minn
110. Todd Helton, 1B, Col
111. James Shields, SP, TB
112. Trevor Hoffman, RP, SD
113. Orlando Cabrera, SS, CHW
114. Jose Valverde, RP, Hou
115. Javier Vazquez, SP, CHW
116. Rich Hill, SP, CHC
117. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Atl
118. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Mil
119. Mike Lowell, 3B, Bos
120. Dustin McGowan, SP, Tor
121. John Lackey, RP, LAA
122 Brett Myers, RP/SP, Phi
123. Huston Street, RP, Oak
124. Francisco Liriano, SP, Min
125. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Sea
126. Joba Chamberlain, RP, NYY
127. Juan Pierre, OF, LAD
128. John Maine, SP, NYM
129. Chien-Ming Wang, NYY
130. Aaron Rowand, SP, SF
131. Tim Hudson, SP, Atl
132. Placido Polanco, 2B, Det
133. Chad Cordero, RP, Was
134. Ryan Garko, 1B, Cle
135. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Bos
136. Aaron Rowan, OF, SF
137. Pedro Martinez, SP, NYM
138. Brett Myers, SP, Phi
139. Pat Burrell, OF, Phi
140. Kelvim Escobar, SP, LAA
141. Kosuke Fukudome, OF, CHC
142. A.J. Burnett, SP, Tor
143. Francisco Cordero, RP, Cin
144. Matt Capps, RP, Pit
145. Joakim Soria, RP, KC
146. Johnny Damon, OF, NYY
147. Chad Billingsley, RP/SP, LAD
148. Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Cin
149. Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, CHC
150. Clay Bucholtz, SP, Bos

Have a beef with these rankings? Lemme hear it.


Anonymous said...

3 mets in the top 5 overall just shows their power. It's going to be a great season for Mr. Met & Co.

Anonymous said...

Jose Contreras should be a sleeper too.
Take 2 and hit to right.

Nick said...

Thanks for telling us about 5 "choice cuts" that are already on everyone's radar, and have been getting much hype and many write ups for the last 3 weeks.

How about an original thought??

bobby valentine said...

how can you say josh hamilton is a top 5 choice cut and then rank him no. 85, hombre?

Adam R. said...

Thanks for a different perspective on your rankings. It's good to get another point of view. I am curious why you ranked Hanley Ramirez so low?

trevfreeze said...

I love Hanley, so it was tough ranking him as low as 8. Last year, I traded away Soriano for Hanley in April and rode him to a third-place finish. Hanley's power/speed combo is truly hard to beat, but taking Cabrera out of that lineup is a big blow to his value. Without much lineup protection, I see his run production dropping from 125 to just around 100 and if the Fish move him to the 3 hole, which is rumored and could happen soon, you'll see his RBI's pick up, but his steals could fall to as low as 30. And as a .297 career minor league hitter, I'm just not buying a repeat on the .332 season. But the margins between picks 2 and 8 are very small, so taking him higher wouldn't be much of a gamble.

elvis said...

In regards to Ian Kennedy, I think he has some good stuff, but I think he might have hit the ceiling as far as how far his stuff can take him. I'd be weary of him, but I guess he may get you 12-15 wins pitching 5th for such a good offense. Hughes stuff is better, but needs to be more consistent. I hope they keep Jaba in the bullpen because I think he's one of those pitchers who will be more effective when batters only get to see him once.

As far as your comment on Hughes and his never happened. He threw a no-hitter through 6 1/3 before leaving with an injury against Texas last May, but has never thrown a 1-hitter. Good stuff though.