Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fantasy Baseball's 5th Richest Player: Alfonso Soriano - 40/40 or Bust?

As Alfonso Soriano inked an 8 year $136 million contract with the Chicago Cubs to play the outfield and hit lead off, my heart sank to the floor, I felt a chill, and I began a long journey to the bathroom to get a towel to wipe the cold seat off my face and neck. It was that same nervous feeling that the Three Amigos felt upon meeting El Guapo and realizing he wasn't really an actor!

Having trouble deciding what Keepers to Keep???

You see, coming up on two years ago, with my $200 league entry fee in one hand, and a Fantasy Baseball magazine full of "Experts" in the other, I went ahead and bid close to 25% of my salary cap on one player...... yep, you guess it, Carlos Beltran! At the time, Beltran just signed a $100 Million+ contract with the Mets after coming off a tremendous post-season with the Astros where Sir Carlos went "Homer Happy"! After Manny, Vlad, Ortiz, Cabrera, Pujols, Sheffield all flew off the board before I could get a reasonable bid in, I had to get someone I thought was solid to build my team around, and I thought that would be Carlos Beltran, the last top flight player on the board...or so I thought!

Did I think he would be a bust? No. Did any of the experts? Nope. At the time, some were predicting that Beltran was a #1 draft pick in fantasy leagues due to his upside and 40/40 potential, despite having a .270 something career average. Well, we all know what happened and lets just say, I did not win any dough in that league. I might add however, it was that very single event, choosing Beltran and getting burned, that propelled The Fantasy Man persona and Fantasy Baseball Express in 2006! If you've ever questioned where my motivation has come from, there you have it!

Anyway, back to Soriano. Soriano has that same stigma around him in my opinion. I love Soriano and always had since I am a die-hard Yankee fan and have been loyal to him the last few years! However, this year I am staying clear because I cannot let the "Beltran Debacle" happen to me twice. Obviously, if within some miracle Soriano slips past the top 6 or 7, then its not much of a risk. I'm simply saying that Pujols, Howard, Reyes, Beltran, Ortiz and even ARod or possibly even Berkman could be better sure-fire picks before Soriano..... but that's just me! I am an "average" guy, no pun intended, along with the power/speed combo that I love so much. I still think Soriano is top 5 and I'll stand by that, but that does not necessarily mean I have to pick him (because of his lower average). Lets think about this rationally.....

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The Pros: Soriano will lead off a lineup that consists of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez hitting behind him. The fact that the Cubs are committed to winning this year and spending their money only helps Soriano and his chances of having a superb year. He's playing in a better hitters park and will score plenty of runs with ARam and Lee hitting behind him. Last year, everyone killed Soriano because he was traded to Washington where it was reported he really did not want to play. He had to move to left field, and he was now in the worst hitters park in the majors. So what does Mr. Soriano do??? He joins the 40/40 club and is now considered a top 5 pick and a top 1 in some fantasy drafts, not to mention scoring 119 runs and driving in 95 RBI's.

The Cons: His 40/40 season moves Soriano into the elite. HOWEVER, and this is a big one, he's still only hit .276 with an OBP of .351 in 647 at bats. Yikes! I realize as a fantasy expert that the idea of 40/40 is top notch, but a .275 average and a .351 OBP just does not sit well with my stomach....thus, the cold sweats and the Ned Nederlander type nervousness! Beltran had similar potential, was thought to be 40/40 although hadn't proved it yet but with that same .270 something average and that ridiculous new contract. Basically you are buying Soriano high strictly for his homers and stolen bases, and that's okay. I'm just not sure if that is okay as one of my top 5 fantasy draft picks. Plus, think about this..... Soriano will still be hitting lead off, so his ability to drive in 100+ runs is could be tough and also remember that with the home runs he hits, he'll leave less men on base for Lee and Ramirez which could possibly lower their RBI potential as well. So this move can not only affect Soriano, but it could have a slight affect on ARam and DLee.

Now, let me just clarify, I love Soriano and I love his potential. He is a great candidate to hit 40/40 again this season. Actually he is even more of a candidate due to the smaller park and the lineup he is in. I also stand by the fact that I have Soriano ranked #3 behind Ryan Howard on my 2007 Fantasy Man's Top 25, but I just think that me personally, I will pass up on Soriano this year if I have a top 4 pick, only because of the scar Beltran left on me. If he slips past 4, then I have no choice but to take him. I just don't want to take the risk of another Beltran-like 2005. Those of you who don't really take the time to read into what I am saying here will say that I don't think Soriano is a top 4 pick. He is, I'm just scared he may do what we don't want him to do....change his game, press at the plate, and BUST because of the huge contract! I don't think I will be picking him if I have picks 1-4, but that doesn't mean that you should not! Just take some of the tips into consideration before making your pick, thats all! Be careful! Pick Soriano if you believe in him. Don't pick him strictly on potential.


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