- Albert Pujols homered. Sore elbow or not, this guy is the goods. Only thing I worry about is St. Louis shutting him down on Aug. 15 after the Cards are eliminated.
- Juan Pierre benched. Word out of L.A. is Andre Ethier won the leftfield job, quite a shocker considering the Dodgers are paying Pierre $36 million over the next 4 years and new coach Joe Torre loves his veterans. Don't bail on Pierre if you have bench spots, but otherwise it's not looking good.
- Troy Tulowizki stole a base. His speed may just tick up a little from 7 last year. If that happens, Tulo is a major player in 5x5 leagues (he hit 6 HR this spring).
- Johan Santana has thrown 3 scoreless innings, striking out 2. This guy is the Mets meal ticket, but he could turn in a fantasy pitching season for the ages. Fantasy studs Reyes and Wright are both 0-for-2, but Castillo is 1-for-2 with a SB.
- Carlos Gomez, the biggest chip the Twins received for Santana, is leading off and playing CF (the 7 p.m. lineup has been posted). Reyes says Gomez is the only guy faster than him. That's 50 SB, if Gomez can just hit .250 and stay in the bigs all year.
- Zambrano (5 Ks) and Sheets (7 Ks) are still dueling in their 0-0 game. It's now in the 7th and Bill Hall just missed the basket, but got a standup double. Big Z just picked him off 2nd. Threat averted.
- Jimmy Rollins homered to tie the Nats 6-6.
- The Rockies-Cardinals are now in a rain delay.
Monday, March 31, 2008
The news keeps flowing from Cleveland.
Denny Bautista may be the Tigers savior.
Lots of action happening right now.
- Carlos Guillen ties the game at 4 with a long blast off Brett Tomko. Remember when Tomko was fantasy relevant?
- The tarps are out at Wrigley in the 3rd. Not before Kosuke Fukudome doubled to center to start his MLB career. If this delay goes longer than about 45 minutes, starters Carlos Zambrano and Ben Sheets may not return.
- Chris Young and Eric Byrnes have each hit a solo shot off Aaron Harang, a notorious slow starter. Reds up 3-0 in the 3rd.
- Sleeper Mark Buehrle has already hit the showers after 1 2/3 innings. HR by Gutierrez and Sizemore, along with a Hafner double contributed to the early hook. Tribe up 7-2.
- Steals already for Crawford, Roberts and Markakis in the Rays-O's game. Upton has a single for 2 of what will probably be 115 RBI this year.
- Phillies up 1-0 on an Utley sac-fly. That's hardly worth a post, but I'm sure there's a couple Philly fans looking for some love.
- Unorthodox K.C. reliever Leo Nunez handled the top of Detroit's lineup with relative ease and we're headed to extras.
Now, we're cooking.
After a 40-minute delay at Wrigley...let's play ball.
The best part about Opening Day?
Sunday, March 30, 2008
And Fukudome, as in foo-koo-DOUGH-may.
There will be a test. And it involves being able to pronounce the newest Japanese import for the Chicago Cubs at your fantasy draft.
There's probably a draft somewhere, happening today even, where an owner looks down at his list of available outfielders and thinks, to himself, I'd like to take this Japanese guy but don't have a clue on how to say either name .... um, yeah, I'll take Aaron Rowand.
But besides questions about what emphasis to put on which syllable, there are plenty of other questions surrounding the Cubs' 4-year, $48 million import, charged with roaming the craziness that is right field at Wrigley Field.
For starters, Fukudome is not a big guy. At all. He's listed at 6 feet tall, 187 pounds. But in person, his build is so slight, he looks like a guy who needs to move around in the shower to get wet.
There's been plenty of buzz this offseason, and you know that only half of what you hear is probably true.
- You've heard him compared to the Yankees' Hideki Matsui.
- You've heard people say he's an Ichiro-type, with better power, but less speed.
- You've heard about the two batting titles and the four Gold Gloves with the Chunichi Dragons.
- You've heard he's an on-base machine, with a .397 lifetime OBP and over .430 the past three seasons.
- You've heard about his 31 HR and 11 SB in 2006 and elbow surgery that cut his 2007 short.
- And by now, you've heard of Fukudome's struggles this spring. It took him awhile to get comfortable, but he raised his .224 average to .270 by hitting safely in every game this past week (6-for-14, .429) and finished with 8 RBI.
Basically, you can either buy into the hype, how the Cubs think he'll steal 30 this year and hit over .300, per his career average (.305). Or you can concentrate on that elbow surgery and the fact that most Japanese players struggle to repeat their power numbers.
Like anything, Fukudome-mania will take hold in Chicago's north side this summer, but not always because of a game-winning HR.
It might be a diving catch. Or throwing a guy out at the plate.
He'll likely win Rookie of the Year but fall short of finishing in the top 20 OF rankings, so don't take him too high unless you're in a league that counts OBP.
But in the meantime, keep practicing that pronunciation, because when Round 14 comes around and he's still available, you'll wanna be able to say in confidence, "I'll take KOH-skay, foo-koo-DOUGH-may," while looking around the room, nodding with a smile.
Someone will be impressed.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Eric Byrnes has one speed.
The Arizona OF goes all out, all the time. He's a fan favorite. And he's one of the nicest guy in any clubhouse.
Oh yeah, and he also put up ridiculous numbers last year: 21 HR, 50 SB, 103 runs, 83 RBI and a .283 average.
So why is Byrnes selected on average late fourth/early fifth round in drafts this year? Could it be that prior to last year, he never stole more than 25 bases?
I caught up to Byrnes (or Bern-zee, as he's known to his fans), before a Cubs-Dbacks game in 'Zona earlier this month, where he signed autographs for a solid 45 minutes, posed with any fan who wanted to get a snapshot and joked around with just about anyone who would engage him.
So, Eric, how many steals you thinking this year? I asked, trying to dig up a scoop to deliver to you fantasy faithful out there.
"Well," he said, pausing as he chose his words carefully. "Fifty again sounds good to me."
Now, before you go penciling in Byrnes for a half-century bags, there's a good chance manager Bob Melvin will be hitting Byrnes cleanup most of the year, which could cut into those numbers. With Melvin, you never know. He penciled 146 different lineups out of 162 games in 2007.
But Melvin said just over a week ago that he's looking at Byrnes as his cleanup this year, and he's been hitting either third or fourth most of the spring.
The thing with Byrnes is, he's so versatile with speed and power - no matter where he hits -that he'll be a valuable addition to any roster. Almost as much as Brandon Phillips, who's usually drafted 2 full rounds higher. You just don't know if it'll be 50 steals and 100 runs from the No. 2 hole or 30 steals and 100 RBI at cleanup.
Either way, if Byrnes is available in the fourth round, grab him.
You not only will get across-the-board numbers, you get a guy who's fun to cheer for, a guy who was so popular in Oakland that the contingent in the leftfield bleachers started the Eric Byrnes Fan Club.
Byrnes, as you may remember, also worked the All-Star game as a guest commentator with his dog from a kayak in McCovey's Cove. And he also has a weekly show on XM radio, which is pretty entertaining.
"People listen to that show?" Byrnes joked.
Good things happen when you steal 50 bases.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The jokes must be endless with this guy.
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's third baseman of the future, has the same name, minus one tiny letter "n" from "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria (pictured, right).
"I have fun with it," Longoria said during his first stint of minor league ball with the Hudson Valley Renegades. "There's already a picture of Eva Longoria in my locker so the jokes continue."
Only, the joke, this week, turns out to be the Tampa Bay Rays, who decided that saving a few bucks is more important than putting their best product on the field and demoted Longoria, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft, to AAA Durham.
"It's a tough thing to swallow," Longoria said. "There's a lot of reasons for it, but it's not really my say on that. It's what the front office has to say and they made the decision."
It's the exact situation why the Brewers demoted Ryan Braun, after hitting .350 in spring training last year and it's the same reason the St. Louis Cardinals sent back CF Colby Rasmus this year: Money.
By waiting at least 7 weeks to bring up a player, it extends that player's arbitration clock a year, so instead of control through 2013, the Rays will have until after the 2014 season before Longoria can bolt in free agency.
How'd it work out for the Brewers last year?
They finished 2 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central and lost 10 games by 3 runs or less during the first 7 weeks while Braun was in AAA. And his fill-in? A combination of Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell combined to hit .200 with 1 HR in those 7 weeks. Braun hit .324 with 34 HR in 113 games after being called up and won the Rookie of the Year award.
According to Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman, the business aspect had "very little" impact on Longoria's demotion.
And when athletes hold out for a bigger contract, or jump around in free agency, it's never about the money. Yeah, right.
For those of you fantasy owners who drafted Longoria, please, do not drop him if you are in a league with bench spots. He'll be back up within the first two months. It's almost a guarantee.
Check out his smooth, David Wright-like swing during batting practice below:
Everywhere he's been, he's impressed. In that first stint of low-A ball, Longoria smacked 4 HR in 8 games and was promptly sent to high-A ball and hit .327 and finished the year in AA.
Last year, at AA Montgomery, he hit .307 with 21 HR in 105 games and was promoted to AAA Durham.
Whether it's his name or his swing or his high draft status, Longoria's been under the microscope for two years now and has performed everywhere he's been - and he's had to listen to all the inevitable "Desperate Housewives" jokes along the way.
Only this time, it's the Rays organization that's the punch line.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
All Fields did was hit 23 HR in 100 games last year, but when it was time for the White Sox to make their 25-man roster cuts, Fields was sent packing, back here to play for the AAA Charlotte.
Good for Knights fans. Bad for Fields.
The reason: 2006 Silver Slugger award-winner Joe Crede ahead of him on the depth chart.
“I mean to a certain extent, there isn’t much I could do because Joe is established,” Fields said over the weekend.
But the real reason Fields will be playing at Knights Castle this April instead of U.S. Cellular is two-fold.
- Crede is making $5 million this year.
- The White Sox have been unable to find a suitable trade partner for Crede.
So until that happens, Fields, who's hitting .270 this spring, will get regular at-bats in the International League. Crede, meanwhile, has a .185 spring average, and needs to prove he's all the way back after back surgery to increase his trade value.
For those of you who have either Crede or Fields on your team already, ouch. This is quite the sticky situation. Even if he's traded, Crede's value is safe, unless you play in an AL-only league. The Dodgers and Giants are the teams most often mentioned in his trade rumors.
Now, if you drafted Fields and can't decide what to do, the simple answer is store him, if you're in a league with bench spots, and drop him if you don't. We could be looking at a month or longer before Fields is riding planes, instead of buses, between parks.
But for those of you whose draft is this weekend, I'd stay away from this hot corner, if possible. Third base is a deep position and there's always a Pedro Feliz or Casey Blake that you can snag late.
And for all you baseball fans in Charlotte, Fields is just another reason to visit the Castle this spring.
Other last-minute updates, to make you look smart at your draft:
- Kelvim Escobar: Don't be the guy who says his name in the first half of the draft, only to hear under-the-breath comments or worse, have someone ask you if you've actually done any homework for the draft. The news has gone from bad to worse this week, as Escobar told reporters his shoulder injury is a tear and he may need surgery of either the season-ending or career-ending variety. Draft advice: Stay away. Nothing about this sounds good.
- Curtis Granderson: The Tigers 20-20-20-20 phenom broke his right middle finger when he was hit by a pitch Saturday. Granderson says it's a 3-week deal. He'll start the season the DL. Draft advice: Even if Grandy's timetable is accurate, he misses the first two weeks, or roughly 12 games, but these finger injuries can really mess up a swing (remember Chone Figgins) and it may take weeks after he comes back, before he hits a groove. This could mean a 10-20 percent hit on Granderson's output, so I'd move him down a full round or round and a half.
- Kerry Wood: Surprise, surprise. After the kiss of death, an endorsement to make him a top closer by yours truly, Wood came down with back spasms hours later. But that appears to be just a blip as Lou Piniella named Wood his closer, after he struck out 10 and walked none in 10 innings. "He's thrown the ball exceedingly well," Piniella said. Draft advice: Nobody's got better seats on the Wood bandwagon than I, but his injury history, be it shoulder or back, means you should proceed with caution. Sticking to my guns, still rank him in the top 15, but not quite top 10. And to help you sleep easier, stash Carlos Marmol away late, if you can.
- Brian Roberts: No deal. Still. All you Cubs fans out there, salivating over adding Baltimore's 2B to the top of the lineup since December, it just not looking good. Not now, anyway. Said Orioles GM Andy McPhail on Wednesday: "We worked at it this long and hard and we don't have a deal." Draft advice: Particularly dicey in AL-only drafts, it's looking safer that Roberts will at least give you half a season before a mid-season trade could develop, but still plan on losing him at some point. His mixed-league value goes unchanged.
- Scott Kazmir: The ace of the Rays (remember they dropped the Devil this year) is starting the season on the DL, but the good news is he's throwing on flat ground. Not really sure if this constitutes good news. Looks like the earliest he'll be back is April 15. Draft advice: There's just something about elbow injuries that hits my funny bone wrong. Kazmir has battled arm problems in his past, so use extra caution. I wouldn't think about him in double digits of a mixed draft, but if he's still around in the 12th round, it might just be business time.
- Jarod Saltalamacchia: The Rangers catcher, who was a key piece in the Mark Teixeira deal in July and mispronounced more than T.J. Houshmandzadeh was at your football draft, was sent to AAA Oklahoma Wednesday. Draft advice: Salty landed high on many breakout lists and it still may happen, but unless your league has a bench spot, it's time to look elsewhere. Plenty of depth at backstop, with guys like Chris Snyder, Mike Napoli, Kurt Suzuki and Dioner Navarro, who all should be around in the twilight hours of your draft.
- Evan Longoria: Tampa Bay's hot 3B prospect has been sent down to Durham. See Salty for advice. More about this troubling move tomorrow.
- The Cardinals rotation: St. Louis starters Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder Matt Clement and Joel Pineiero are all starting the season on the DL, recovering from various shoulder and arm injuries, causing the Cardinals to sign free agent Kyle Lohse. And the rest of the NL Central chuckles sinisterly under its breath. Anthony Reyes is now a long reliever. Draft advice: Only Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper are ownable Cardinal starters right now and be weary of Looper, the converted reliever who was pitching on fumes the last two months of the season.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
It's the old girlfriend calling you up in the middle of the night.
She misses you. She's sorry. What was she thinking ... she was so young and immature.
Blah, blah, blah ...
Rich Harden, please don't break our hearts again.
Wednesday morning was that magical first date, all over again. Dinner at that Italian restaurant. Holding hands in the park. A walk through the fountain.
Early this morning, Harden pitched six masterful innings in Tokyo, striking out 9, giving up just 3 hits and one run, a solo shot to Manny Ramirez.
The knee-jerk reaction is to move him way up on your draft board, but for your own sanity, I beg of you, please do not take Harden too high.
Only you can be the judge, but whether it's the 15th round in mixed leagues, or the 9th round in an AL-only draft, make sure to examine all the other available pitching options, before taking Mr. Harden out for a spin. There's a good chance it could all end in tears.
- In 2007's opener, Harden dazzled us with a 7-inning shutout performance at Seattle, striking out 7. He made just 7 starts last year, shut down with a shoulder injury.
- In 2006, Harden opened by throwing a strong 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees, giving up 3 runs, then followed with 3 consecutive wins against the Mariners, Rangers and Angels. But he started just 9 games that season, with strained ligaments in his right elbow.
- In 2005, Harden started the season, looking like Cy Young, allowing just 1 ER in his first 3 games (Devil Rays, Angels, Seattle) but made his last start Aug. 19 after a strained muscle in his right shoulder, and tried later to make a comeback out of the bullpen.
This relationship's likely not to end well.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
- For those of you who tuned in before the game, you caught the tail end of ESPN's fantasy draft show. Two thoughts came to mind: 1). Fantasy baseball has grown to the point where ESPN has a draft show. 2). Fantasy baseball is still getting that lucrative 5 a.m. slot.
- Did anyone catch Steve Phillips' reference to fantasy baseball in the early innings? Good to hear a former GM talk to us fantasy GMs.
- Remember when Keith Foulke was a saves machine?
- The Bud Selig interview. What was that? ESPN did its best not to ask the tough questions about all the offseason steroid stuff. And Selig kept stroking how great baseball is doing, with all the attendance records, going global, etc. Didn't hear Selig say anything about how baseball's ratings were down last year.
- Do you think the concession stands carry California rolls?
- Daric Barton has been everyone's sleeper after he hit 4 HR and .347 in 18 games last year, but Jack Hannahan, filling in for Eric Chavez, hit the go-ahead HR. File away Hannahan's name for those in AL-only and deep mixed leagues. Chavez is so brittle, he makes Scott Rolen look like Cal Ripken Jr.
- In 2005, he showed major promise: a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
- In 2006, he was a popular sleeper pick, only to reward owners with a 4.82 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. Many owners, present company included, sweared to never own Blanton again.
- In 2007, Blanton did another turnabout, and turned in solid numbers of 3.95 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a career-high 140 K's.
Monday, March 24, 2008
It's the morning after and your bracket is busted.
March Madness has never been better, especially if you're a Davidson fan. Or Western Kentucky alumni. You've gotta be out there somewhere.
But as we watched a stretch on Sunday afternoon, where Davidson came back from the dead to stun Georgetown and Tennessee edge Butler in a pulse-pounding overtime affair, just moments after Texas nearly suffered a monumental collapse against Miami, two thoughts came to mind.
1). Why doesn't CBS use split screen?
2). Is March Madness better than fantasy baseball?
The games are completely different. You fill out that bracket and for 3 weekends in March (or April), you find yourself cheering for teams that make no sense. One minute, Villanova is your sugar daddy. The next, you hate the Drake.
But as exhilarating as the NCAA Tourney can be, does it match 6 months of high's and low's that the fantasy baseball season provides?
- We all held our breath as Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers nailed a 26-foot 3-pointer as time expired. But that reminds you of that 2006 season, when everyone at the draft groaned when you picked The Gambler, Kenny Rogers, who led you to the championship with 17 wins and a 3.84 ERA.
- You were an emotional wreck at the end of the Stanford-Marquette game, as Brook Lopez got that amazing roll on the baseline leaner with 1.3 seconds left in overtime. This brings back memories of your 2003 team that rode Javy Lopez's 43 home run season to your first fantasy title.
- You couldn't help but jump off your couch as Stephen Curry drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer, then sliced through traffic with the underhanded scoop layup to lead Davidson to a stunning Sweet 16 berth. But that takes you back to June 10 last year, when, on a hunch, you put Stephen Drew in at SS in your daily head-to-head league, and with two-out in the ninth, he hammers a Trevor Hoffman pitch for the game-winner HR.
Maybe there is no right answer. The highs are higher in March Madness, sure, but the lows are lower.
In fantasy baseball, you learn to temper the agony, but when things go your way, you usually stay seated on your couch.
So, which is better in your opinion?
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Your beverage of choice is lukewarm.
It's that time of the draft. Somewhere between rounds 8 and 14, where the obvious guys have been crossed off your list.
You're flipping to page 2, maybe even page 3 of your personal Big Board and you notice guys like John Lackey and Scott Kazmir are suspiciously hanging around, like the last kid on the playground waiting to get picked.
You're not 100 percent sure of their status. Lackey has a strained triceps muscle and will be out 'til late April or mid-May, depending on who you believe. Kazmir is on the shelf with a strained left elbow and is expected to start the season out on the DL. The cloud of uncertainty hovers around both like smoke in a room of old-time sportswriters.
A healthy Lackey is ranked 59th overall by Yahoo. Kazmir 78th.
It's now the 9th round in your mixed-league draft and you're on the clock with the 89th pick and you need a starting pitcher.
You shuffle through a few lists and you see names like Tim Lincecum, Javier Vazquez and Brett Myers. Nobody jumps out at you. And like sheet metal to a giant magnet in a tornado, your eyes keep snapping back to two names: Lackey and Kazmir.
On one side of your brain, you drool at the upside, especially this late in the draft. On the other, you envision week after week of constantly clicking on the tiny red and yellow Yahoo update box, only to find that the guy is throwing on flat ground or maybe had a setback in his latest rehab.
My advice to you is simple: Wait two rounds after you start thinking about taking him, and if he's still there, pull the trigger.
And yet we keep coming back.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Oh, to be an innings-eater.
Exibit A: Carlos Silva.
The 28-year-old former Twins pitcher signed a 4-year, $48 million offseason deal with the Mariners with a lifetime ERA of 4.31 and career 1.37 WHIP.
In theory, going from the hitter-friendly Metrodome to spaceous Safeco Park, not to mention moving from the AL Central to the AL West should make Silva a perfect late-round draft choice, as the 6th or 7th pitcher on your staff.
But, I'm telling you, he doesn't pass the eye test. Listed generously at 246-pounds, the burly righty nearly suffered whiplash in a preseason game against the Cubs two weeks ago. Second-stringers Mike Fontenot, Matt Murton and Henry Blanco were teeing off so many times on Silva's offerings, they may have canceled their afternoon tee times at the local desert course.
But what if he can improve on last year's 4.19 ERA and 1.31 WHIP?
If so, he's got a funny way of showing it.
So far, he's sporting a 9.20 ERA this spring after giving up 9 ER and 13 hits in 4 1/3 innings in his last outing earlier this week.
And even if he can somehow get that ERA and WHIP under control, he only struck out 89 last year in 202 innings, which was 13 more than his previous career-high of 76 (2004). That strikeout rate makes Mark Buerhle look like Nolan Ryan.
Do yourself a favor and practice not saying Silva's name. Regardless of the format or round. There's plenty of Carlos' to go around: Beltran. Pena. Delgado. And if by chance, you start saying Silva's name, do a quick change to Marmol.
But ERA- and WHIP-eater is more like it.
Friday, March 21, 2008
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.
T-BONE'S TOP 5 CHOICE CUTS
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.
TOP 5 OVERCOOKED
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
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
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Where to pick Adam Jones?
For anyone out there looking for a late-round steal, the biggest question surrounding Baltimore's newest CF may be how much will he steal.
"As much as I can," Jones told me as he walked off the field at Fort Lauderdale Stadium earlier this month.
Upon further questioning, he declined to put a numeral value on his comment, further leaving us fantasy freaks in the draft-room dark. He did, however look up long enough to flash a knowing smile about what fans might be in store this summer. "As much as I can."
But he did swipe 16 bases on 21 attempts in two levels in 2006 and has noticeably above-average speed roaming center. He stole twice in 65 at-bats in last year's cup of coffee with Seattle and he took off for second on two different occasions the day I saw him play, both times foiled by an Orioles hit.
So why is Jones' speed potential so important?
I say his ceiling is 15 bags, with 18-20 HR power and a .280 average. But unless the Orioles move him up from the eighth spot, where he's hit all spring, his RBI and run production won't make him worth more than a last-round pick in a mixed league. Think Gary Matthews Jr. numbers, but in a worse spot in a worse lineup.
Unless you're in a keeper league, you can probably do better.