Monday, January 31, 2011

Norman Homers: Tackling The Fantasy Man’s 2011 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings

I love fantasy baseball advice and I’m not here to judge, just to add an extra opinion to The Fantasy Man’s 2011 Fantasy Baseball rankings. Producing fantasy baseball rankings alone is hard…really hard. All those big corporate sites have big brain trusts of really smart dudes making their rankings. The problem with that? No outside-the-box thinking. All the outliers, breakout or busts, good or bad, right or wrong, get diluted into the big corporate player pool. If a mediocre season is your goal then go use a major site. Their rankings will help you…except they’ll also help everyone else in your league. No risk, no reward. The Fantasy Man does his rankings without any outside influence. That’s a winning strategy in my opinion.

I’m not here to criticize the ranking or to knit pick each player’s individual rank. My goal is to call out a select few that drew my eye (or ear – check out The Fantasy Man's catchers rankings podcast if you haven’t yet).

1. Joe Mauer
2. Victor Martinez 
3. Brain McCann

Norman Notes: Brian McCann is 26 and now has Dan Uggla’s power stick behind him. If Jason Heyward takes off like I think he will, then Mccann could easily finish as the #1 catcher. Pass on Mauer (seeing it seems he forgot how to hit for power) and V-Mart (age + injuries) and take McCann a round or so later.

4. Buster Posey

Norman Notes: Sophomore slump or comeback of the year? My money is on slump. Unless it’s a keeper league I’d let someone else pay for Posey. Just look at Matt Weiters last year. He was last year’s can’t miss guy.

5. Miguel Montero
6. Matt Wieters

Norman Notes: Post Hype Sleeper Alert!

7. Carlos Santana
8. Geovany Soto
9. Jorge Posada

Norman Notes: I know it’s hard for some to admit this but Jorge is 39. Looking rationally, the Yankees have too many DH options. We all know the guy can hit (but he could hit a lot better 10 years ago). 2008 – 51 games, 2009 - 111 games, 2010 - 120 games. I want more than an average of 94 games/season from my catcher. The Yankees are looking to get younger and trotting out a nearly 40 year old catcher isn’t the way to do it. Look for them to faze him out this year. Rumor has it someone from the Posada Family has made several calls to Sunny Side Communities inquiring about availability.

10. Mike Napoli

Norman Notes: Get out your highlighter because this is the sleeper catcher of the year. Napoli gets traded to the Blue Jays, and then before he can even unpack his suitcase, gets traded to the Rangers, thus vaulting his fantasy value in a similar manner to Apple releasing the iPhone. In my own personal rankings, Napoli checks in around #4-6. His 25+ homerun talent and new location in a hitter friendly park give him sleeper of the year potential.

11. John Buck
12. Russell Martin

Norman Notes: If you like a sub .250 BA with no power and a bad knee then he’s your guy. Otherwise pretend he’s a Lady Gaga-esque (note, I forgot her name and just googled “meat dress”) car accident, I’m the traffic cop waiving you on…”Nothing to see here folks…move along.” Trust me; you won’t regret skipping Russell on draft day.

13. Kurt Suzuki
14. Yadier Molina
15. Ryan Doumit
16. Carlos Ruiz
17. Jesus Montero
18. J.P. Arencibia

Norman Notes: Keep your eye on Arencibia. He strikes out too much but that power potential is hard to ignore as the starting catcher for America Jr’s Jays.

19. John Jaso
20. Jason Castro
21. Chris Ianetta

Norman Notes: Every year I think its Ianetta’s year and ever year I’m disappointed…Is this the year? I’m guessing history repeats itself.

22. Ramon Hernandez
23. Wilson Ramos
24. Jonathon LuCroy
25. Josh Thole
26. Chris Snyder
27. A.J. Pierzynski
28. Miguel Olivo
29. Alex Avila
30. Bengie Molina
31. Adam Moore
32. Rod Barajas

Norman and Red Sox Nation wonder where Jarrod Saltalamacchia (nicknamed Carpal Tunnel for making me type his stupidly long name) fits on this list. In that loaded Sox lineup, he needs to be considered as an AL only catcher option with mixed league upside. Especially since Varitek is battling Posada for that newly available townhouse at Sunny Side Communities. I’d slot Salty in around the mid 20’s.

Next up reviewing The Fantasy Man’s 1B Rankings…

Friday, January 28, 2011

NL King - Analyzing NL Only Third Base 3B Rankings

The Hot Corner isn't looking so hot anymore in NL only leagues in my opinion. These Third Base 3B rankings offer a lot of question marks in terms of veterans and potential/risk of the young players. Also, here are The Fantasy Man's Mixed League 3B Rankings. Let's break it down.

David Wright - NYM - Have to love the power and speed combo. Good for high 20's in HR's and give or take 20 steals. Last years average of . 283 was the first full season Wright didn't hit .300 so one would think he can bounce back and break .300 this year.

Ryan Zimmerman - WSH - Missed 20 games last season but still went 25HR with 85 Runs and RBI's while batting .307. He doesn't steal any bags but Zimmerman is a strong bat and he is only 26 so he is entering his prime years.

Veterans with Questions - In alphabetical order
Casey Blake - LAD - Now 37, plays in a pitchers park in Dodger Stadium and at this point, Blake is a guy who gives you around 15HR's and 60 Runs and RBI's and hitting around .250. So figure last years numbers but a few drops less.

Chipper Jones - ATL - One of my favorite players of all time but the fact is Chipper is now 38 and it's unlikely Chipper can hold up even for one last season. To best illustrate this, I heard Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and the MLB Network tell a story that in the summer of 2009 Heyman was interviewing Chipper after the game at his locker. While putting his shirt on during the interview Chipper hurt himself. I will be rooting for one last special season from Chipper and if his body could hold up he is more than capable but hard to see that happening.

Jose Lopez - COL - Had a bad 2010 but remember was a good player between 2006 through 2009 so he can easily bounce back. However, Lopez is competeing for a job with Ian Stewart, Eric Young Jr, Ty Wigginton, Todd Helton , etc.  It helps that Lopez is a multi positional type player so he should see plenty of action even if its in a platoon/utility role.

Casey McGehee - MIL - Since coming to the Brewers McGehee has been given a chance to play and after a nice 2009 season McGehee broke through last year with 23HR, 104RBI's, 70R's with a .285 Avg. In that lineup no reason why McGehee can't be a real solid power bat for you this year. Only negative on McGehee is before we can call him a given, we have to see him do it again.

Melvin Mora - ARZ - Had a solid year as a super utility player for the Rockies last year. But he does turn 39 in spring and the D-Backs are going to ask Mora to play more so can his body hold up? He would be a great guy to get towards the end of the draft for a few dollars and slot him as your 3rd corner, as he qualifies for both 1B and 3B.

Martin Prado - ATL - Mentioned in my 2B NL rankings, I should have mentioned that he is the starting Left Fielder for the Braves. So in most leagues after the first week of the season Prado will qualify for 2B, 3B and OF. Real solid player to have on your squad who gives you great flexibility.

Placido Polanco - PHI - Loved him last year when he qualified as a 2B but now only qualifies at 3B only. That coupled with the fact that Polanco is now 35 (missed 30 games last season due to injury) so unless you get Polanco on the cheap pass on him on draft day.

Aramis Ramirez - CHC - Finished with great numbers considering how awful he was in the first half last year. Turns 33 in late June and on a last year of a contract. Ramirez only played in 124 games last year which is major theme for Aramis through his career. In his ten full seasons Ramirez has played 150 or more games just three times.

Scott Rolen - CIN - If Rolen can stay healthy enough he can be a real solid power bat for you at 3B. However, Rolen turns 36 the first week of April and has had injury issues in his career including an achy back. So buyer beware.

Pablo Sandoval - SF - One of the biggest disappointments in the 2010 season. However Sandoval is only 24 and supposedly has made a commitment this off-season to getting in shape as he has lost around 20lbs per the last update. Sandoval had a sophomore slump (hmmm didn't I mention that happens to young players) so now the question is can he rebound? A bit of a gamble of draft day but for the right price could be a steal. Watch his spring training closely.

Miguel Tejada - SF - Mentioned in my SS NL Rankings and obviously like him better in that slot than 3B. Again age is a factor but if he can stay healthy Tejada can be a solid bat for you this year with roster flexibility.

Juan Uribe - LAD - In the 2B and SS NL rankings but multipositional with 20+HR power and a lower BA.

Ready to Emerge - In alphabetical order
Pedro Alvarez - PIT - The top prospect showed a lot of good things last year hitting 16 bombs with 64 RBI's in just 95 games. But 119K's in 347 AB's is scary high. Good bet for 25HR's with over 80RBI's, his K rate with determine his average which was .256 last season.

David Freese - STL - Going into the season from what I read people were saying he is going to hit HR's but not sure of his overall game. Instead Freese was solid through late June before an ankle injury ended his season hitting .295 but only had 4HR's in 240 AB's. Freese had surgery on both ankles so see how his health is in the spring. Probably going to hit towards the bottom of the lineup.

Chase Headley - SD - Turns 27 early in the season so entering peak years but given his power and the ballpark looks like a low double digit HR guy. Had 17 steals last year so can give you some good speed with a little bit of pop and help compile numbers in R's and RBI's with a push average. Might go more than he should in a lot of drafts due to the scarcity of stolen bases though.

Chris Johnson - HOU - Came out of nowhere to have one of the best 2nd half's of any NL hitter last year. Was that a fluke? Well, we are going to find out because with a thin farm system 3B is Chris Johnson's job for the Astros in 2011. Johnson is only 26.

Ian Stewart - COL - Love the power potential and like the improvement in the batting average from 09 to 10 (went from .228 to .256) BUT if Stewart is going to break through those K's have to come down. Was slightly better last year with 110K's in 386 AB's vs 138K's in 425AB's in 09. Still has a ways to go in that regard. Only turns 26 the first week of the season, however.

Minor Leagues and Prospects:
Matt Dominguez - FLA - The 21 year old enters spring training with a good chance to be the opening day 3B for the Marlins. Has an awesome glove which helps very few owners in fantasy baseball. Dominguez showed significant improvement last summer and finished with 14HR's, 81RBI's with a .252 average at AA. Dominguez is compared to Mike Lowell a lot with a bit less power (only projects to have average power, thin 15HR's). A must to watch during Spring Training.

Keep an eye out on Juan Francisco (age 23) and Todd Frazier (age 25), both in the Reds system this Spring Training. Both were at AAA last year with Francisco getting a cup of coffee with the Reds last year (55 AB's). In AAA Francisco had 18HR's, 59RBI's while batting .286 in 308 AB's. Frazier who plays OF, 1B and 3B had 17HR's and 14 SB's in a full season in AAA but also had 127K's. Some people compare Frazier to a Ben Zobrist. Frazier can wind up being a super utility player for the Reds. With Rolen being a health risk and the Reds never to be in love with Johnny Gomes both Francisco and Frazier could get a chance this season to show their stuff.
NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NL King - Analyzing NL Only Shortstops Rankings

NL King - NL Only Shortstops Rankings

The Shortstop position in the National League has many questions marks. Will Hanley Ramirez bounce back and be a top 3 fantasy player? Will Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins be great again? Can a young guy like Ian Desmond or Starlin Castro break through and become a big time roto player? Let's break it down.

Tier 1: The Elite:
Hanley Ramirez - FLA - How Good is Hanley Ramirez? When you go 21HR, 76RBI, 92R, 32SB and hit .300 and it's considered a disappointment that's when you know you are great. Hanley did miss 20 games last season so keep that in mind in terms of his numbers last year and the whole Fredi Gonzalez saga couldn't have helped. I would expect Hanley to bounce back in 2011 and be one of the top 5 hitters in the NL. I would expect more power and less speed in 2011.

Troy Tulowitzki - COL - Some "experts" might knock down Tulowitzki and tell you be careful of him because he had a crazy September and that's why he had great numbers. I disagree.  First, it is not uncommon for a hitter to have a big year as a result of a monster four to six week stretch. Secondly, in his four year career Tulowitzki has been a $30+ player every year other than his sophomore season (Remember what I said about sophomore slumps in talking about Buster Posey). Finally due to injury, Tulowitzki missed 40 games last season. At the end of the day Tulowitzki is a stud.  I wouldn't count on 20 steals like in 2009 but he is still good for low double digit steals with huge numbers across the rest of the board.

Tier 2: Can They Be Great Again?:
Jose Reyes - NYM - Earlier this off-season wrote a whole article on Reyes. Again in the prime of his career and playing for a monster contract. Can he stay healthy ? I wouldn't count on 50 plus steals anymore but good bet for low 40's.

Jimmy Rollins - PHI - Coming off a poor injury plagued season. Rollins turned 32 in the off-season so you are going to hear a lot about wear and tear for Mr.Rollins. Rollins is in the last year of his contract so big financial incentive involved for him just like Reyes. I believe the 2007 MVP season for Rollins are a thing of the past but keep in mind in 2009 Rollins did have 21HR, 77RBI, 100R, 31 SB but did hit . 250 (last 2 years has hit .250 and .243). So IF Rollins can stay healthy in that lineup in that ballpark no reason he can't hit high teens in HR's, 100 runs scored, close to 70 RBI's and 25 steals while hitting somewhere between .250 and .270. The problem with guys like Rollins on draft day in an auction draft is because of his name they very rarely go their true value and usually go for $5 to $7 more than they should. A gamble but for the right price one worth taking. Follow his spring training closely in terms of his health.

Tier 3:
Stephen Drew - ARZ - Was a poor man's 5 category player last year. Not bad for a shortstop. Gives you good numbers across the board but not great in any one category but can help compile numbers for you.

Rafael Furcal - LAD - I know he had 22 steals in just 97 games last year but I don't trust him. He is now 33 so there is a bit of wear and tear in him plus in 08 just played in 36 games and last year played in 97 games. If you can get a bit of a discount okay I can see it but to a lesser degree like Rollins because of name recognition always goes a few ticks higher than he should in most leagues.

Ian Desmond - WSH - Finished the season strong but I would like to see those K's come down (109 last year in 525 AB's). The last couple of months hit at the top of the lineup which helped his numbers immensely. If Desmond is going to hit in the two spot again and can make strides bringing those K's down his numbers can drastically improve.

Starlin Castro - CHC - Was rushed to the majors in my opinion as he was just 20 years old last year (turns 21 at the end of the spring training). While his numbers where not eye popping again he was just 20 years old and for a while was hitting towards the bottom of the lineup last season. I love the fact the kid hit .300 and 71K's in 125 games all things considering is really good sign. I expect Castro to hit towards the top of the lineup all season and therefore I believe Castro will be a $20 player this coming season. I see low double digit HR's with 20 steals, a good average and strong amount of runs. In a couple of years Castro could be one of the NL studs.

Miguel Tejada - SF - Qualifies at 3B as well. He is going to be 37 in May so that is a red flag for me but if Tejada is in a good spot in the lineup no reason he can't do what he did last year which was 15HR, 70 R and RBI and hitting around .270.

Juan Uribe - LAD - Was in the 2B article, again as long as he doesn't get complacent from his new fat contract and you can live with his average, gives you really good pop and great roster flexibility.

Tier 4:
Clint Barmes - HOU - Again in the 2B article he is inconsistent year to year but at $10 a worth while gamble.

Alex Gonzalez - ATL - Forget his overall numbers last year as a lot of those power numbers came while he was in Toronto. When Gonzalez was in the NL before was a solid $10 SS in an NL only league and that is what I would expect this year.

Yuniesky Betancourt - MIL - The NL King is not an expert on AL guys but based on his numbers the last few years you can do worse for $10.

Ryan Theriot - STL - Mentioned him in the 2B article I think he is one of the most overrated NL hitters.

Bargain Bin - Don't spend more than $2 - $3 on these guys and they should be your 3rd middle infielder
Jason Bartlett - SD
Edgar Renteria - CIN
Ronny Cedeno - PIT

Minor League Prospects:
Zack Cozart - CIN - Had a real good year at AAA last season (17HR, 67RBI, 91R, 30SB, .255 Avg, .310 OBP, 107K's in 553 AB's). I am not a believer that Edgar Renteria or Paul Janish long term are starting shortstops. Personally I think Renteria is shot and found lightning in the bottle for the World Series. Watch this kid progress in the spring, I am sure the Reds would like to see Cozart's K's come down first but come Memorial Day Cozart maybe the starting shortstop for the Red Legs.

Chase d'Arnaud - PIT - Had a bit of disappointing year in AA (hit . 247) and may start 2011 there again. But when Ronny Cedeno is the starting SS a strong 1st half in the minors by d'Arnaud could mean a call to the show after the all star break.
NL King - C.Lizza

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Rankings

The Fantasy Man's free fantasy baseball advice offering 2011 fantasy baseball second base 2B rankings. . After my top 6 every player listed is a question mark for sure. I like Gordon Beckham, Sean Rodriguez, Neil Walker and Eric Young Jr. to emerge but they're just so risky. This might be one of those years where even The Fantasy Man has to go for position scarcity in the first 2-3 rounds! Listen to The Fantasy Man Show 2B Rankings Podcast by clicking the arrow below.

2011 Second Base Rankings:
1. Robinson Cano - 2011 Batting Champion
2. Chase Utley - If healthy, should get back to the usual .300/30/100/100/15
3. Dustin Pedroia - Should be back healthy
4. Ian Kinsler - 9 HR and 15 SB was a nice BUST season, but if he's healthy, he'll be a great value
5. Dan Uggla - 30+ HR machine, increased BA last season and was a bit more consistent
6. Brandon Phillips - 20/20 or 30/30? Probably closer to 20/20 with a crap shoot in the BA and RBI departments
7. Brian Roberts - Battle injury all year, big bounce back coming for a veteran player you can rely on
8. Rickie Weeks - Finally broke out last season, look to build on that but high K's means low BA
9. Martin Prado - High BA is attractive
10. Gordon Beckham - So young and talented, will quietly take a huge step forward this season
11. Ben Zobrist - Huge BUST lasy year, multi-position eligibility plus high OBP potential makes Zobrist serviceable
12. Aaron Hill - BA should increase, power is legit but last year was a huge BUST so he's risky
13. Chone Figgins - Stolen base machine, you'll get the same stats you get every year
14. Howie Kendrick - He is what he is, look at teh stats the last few years
15. Kelly Johnson - Has BUST written all over him
16. Eric Young Jr. - Sleeper for big time SB's and a decent BA
17. Neil Walker - If he stays on the same path, he should build on 2010 success
18. Sean Rodriquez - Has 15/15 potential, multi-position eligible but not sure he is dependable enough to be an everyday player
19. Jed Lowrie - Hit 9 HR in 350+AB last season and has 2B/SS eligibility, nice SLEEPER
20. Freddie Sanchez - Serviceable for BA and 75+RBI in a full season
21. Danny Espinoza - Could be a nice 20+SB guy with a few dingers sprinkled in
22. Dustin Ackley - Top prospect, watch his development through spring training, could make the big splash by midseason
23. Tsuyoshi Nishioka - Batted .293 in Japan, probably will lack power, BA is a crap shoot in America
24. Mike Aviles - Serviceable for deep leagues but doesn't do enough of any one thing to get excited about
25. Omar Infante - Can hit for BA but lacks power and speed
26. Orlando Hudson - Great defense doesn't count in fantasy, scores runs, solid OBP
27. Jose Lopez - Fell off the map in 2010 but is 26 years old so we could see a break out....or not
28. Ryan Theriot - .280/20+SB but he's light hitting as well
29. Jeff Keppinger - Are you really drafting these guys after the top 22? Seriously...
30. Blake DeWitt - Light hitting NL Only option
31. Luis Castillo - Can steal 15-20 bases if he gets a chance to play everyday somewhere
32. Daniel Murphy - Could steal Castillo's spot with a solid spring. Defense blows but he can hit

Fantasy Man 2B Sleepers:
Eric Young Jr - It's possible I ranked him too high and not sure he can sustain a .270 ish BA but he definitely has 40+ SB potential and that's what your drafting him for. However, if you stretch, you may regret it.
Dustin Ackley - He's got big time talent in the Seattle Mariner system and there can be a spot for him out of spring training. Or, he comes up mid-year. Either way, Ackley could be an Utley/Kinsler/Pedroia type player meaning he posseses all the tools.
Jose Lopez - WOW! This guy fell off the face of the earth last year and Seattle declined his option. Whether he ends up back in Seattle or somewhere else, if he plays everyday, could be a huge super sleeper but its a crap shoot!

Fantasy Man 2B Busts:
Aaron Hill - In 2009, Hill broke out with a huge season and he was consistent with his HR from month to month which made us believe he was legit for a nice 2010 season. Nope. Instead, Hill was a bust.  Actually, he was a consistent bust.... consistent at not hitting all season! Throw in a few dingers here and there and you have Aaron Hill's season. I';m not sure what some people are getting so excited about this year. Maybe he has a slight bounce back but if he hits 20 HR and .250+ that would be a bounce back for me.
Ben Zobrist - See Aaron Hill. Zobrist came out and was also consistent at not hitting. Actually, he had some base hits here and there, walked a ton and stole a few bases but that's about it. Not quite what you'd expect out of your 5th round draft pick in 2010 after hitting 25+HR in 2009. So what to expect in 2011? Probably the same that you got in 2010 but hopefully your nabbing Zobrist after the 12th round instead of the 5th round.  I'm not sure I see any kind of huge bounce back. Everyone is expecting the bounce back and when that doesn't happen, he's busted!

The Fantasy Man's 2011 2B Strategy:
Now that I have written all of this out, I might have to ensure that I grab one of my top 8 early in the draft or close to where the ADP dictates. There's a good chance I drop a power guy early and grab Cano/Utley/Pedroia instead in one of the first 2 rounds. This position is so weak it makes me just want to skip over it. It's one of the least exciting positions to draft in fantasy baseball history.  If I am looking late however, I am hoping Gordon Beckham drops, Eric Young Jr, drops or Chone Figgins drops and maybe I use 2B as a position to stock up on that one category like SB's.  I just don't want to be in a position where I have to draft a guy who doesn't do any one thing well like a Mike Aviles, Orlando Hudson, Omar Infante, etc.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NL King - Fantasy Baseball Trade Advice to Seal the Deal

Now that your fantasy football season is complete, this is the time fantasy baseball owners start to strategize and rough draft their off-season plans. We're looking at potential trades in keeper leagues and starting dialogue with other managers to see if they can get some trades done. Below are six points of advice to follow in trade talks which can be applied anytime during the year.

Point 1 - Respect Your Fellow Owner
I know there is a segment of fantasy baseball owners who feel they should start with a low ball offer. Personally, if you're in a competitive league I don't see how you can expect a low ball offer to be accepted or close to being accepted. Furthermore, a vast majority of owners get very upset and insulted when you present them a low ball offer. Also, not only will they not accept the offer, but most likely they will not counter back with a dialogue. In the future they will remember your poor offer and say to themselves ... "why am I going to contact that owner?" Knowing this, always send an offer that you can honestly say is at least fair.

Point 2 - Interest Level
Has he communicated to you in the past ... "I really like so & so." Or has the owner had the player you are offering in the past... and did that player do well for that owner? If you got the player in the most recent draft, was that owner involved in the bidding towards the end? The reason I am asking these questions is because if we can establish the other owners on a specific player or players, you are heading in the right direction to get a deal done.

Point 3 - The Smell Test
Before sending an offer over to that particular owner, review it one final time and ask yourself ... Does it pass the smell test? The trade works for me but how does it work for the other owner? Now everyone has different values on players and opinions and different philosophies on putting their team together. If you can look at the offer honestly and say this is a fair offer, then it passed the smell test.

Point 4 - CommunicationWhen the owner gets back to you and let's say declines the offer, try to establish a dialogue and find out why they turned down the deal and see if it's possible to change some of the parameters around to get a deal done. You need to effectively communicate to get deals done.

Point 5 - Strike while the Iron is HotIf a deal is close and the difference is very slight, do everything you can to get that deal over the finish line. Many owners sometimes become inflexible when it's 1st and goal to get a deal done. Then either a week later they decide to take the deal or just simply decline. Also, you allow the opportunity for other owners to communicate with the person you are close to a deal with and then that owner makes a deal with someone else and you lose out. Again when you are close do everything you can to get it done. Keep the lines of communication open.

Point 6 - AttitudeAlways keep it friendly and positive. Good attitude and camaraderie helps gets deals done in my experience.

Final Point
Even if you cannot get a deal done and if you followed these points, the next go around with that same owner on a possible trade could work to your advantage. You have established a positive rapport and given yourself a better chance to get a deal done.

NL King - C.Lizza

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NL King - Analyzes NL Only Second Basemen Rankings

Now this is what you call a NL Only 2B Ranking! This list, in my opinion, is probably one of the strongest 2B rankings going into a season in the NL in years. Click here to get The Fantasy Man's 2B mixed league rankings.  Let's break it down....

Chase Utley - PHI - Turned 32 over the winter and is coming off his worst statistically season mainly due to missing most of the summer to a thumb injury. Since Utley is getting older he may be more of a 15 SB guy but should produce big numbers across the board. If Utley goes a bit less on draft day because of last years numbers, pounce!

Dan Uggla - ATL - Turns 31 in the Spring and signed with the Atlanta Braves for five years and big $$$. Will Uggla become complacent? I always thought of Uggla as a mistake hitter going into last season but he put everything together. It's a very short list regardless of position of any NL hitter who has put up better power numbers the last five years then Dan Uggla.

Brandon Phillips - CIN - Turns 30 during the season and last year went from the cleanup hitter to the lead off hitter. Phillips runs went up and his RBI's went down which is natural but SB's took a dip and one would think batting leadoff would create opportunities to run.

Rickie Weeks - MIL - In the prime of his career coming off his best season and just one year away from free agency. Weeks broke 130 games played last season for the first time in his career (played 160). Only had 11 steals but 29 HR's and 112 Runs scored is eye popping. It's all about health for Weeks.

Kelly Johnson - ARI - Diamondbacks got Johnson off the scrap heap after a horrible 2009. Johnson before 2009 was known as a poor man's 5-category player at a weak position. Last year was huge in HR's, R's and threw in 13 steals. Remember the ball flies in Arizona. How many times have I said that in these articles?

Juan Uribe - LAD - Coming off one of his best seasons, was a world champion and left SF to go to the Dodgers for a sweet three year deal. If Uribe is not complacent and you can live with his average (has hit .252 or less five of the last six years) gives you strong pop and qualifies at 2B, SS and 3B..... Hello roster flexibility.

Clint Barmes - HOU - It seems like Barmes either has a strong year or a poor one. 2010 was poor but a change of scenery and his multipositional eligibility at 2B and SS offer some value. Good chance Barmes slips in a lot of drafts and could be a good gamble. Houston has no farm system so no one knocking on the door.

Jose Lopez - COL - Was a solid to strong option at 2B for Seattle from 06 through 09. 2010 was not a good year for Lopez but he can easily bounce back and can play 1B, 2B or 3B (only played 3B in 2010 for Seattle). So Ian Stewart better be on high alert!

Bill Hall - HOU - If Hall can hit around .250 can give you some nice pop and maybe low double digit steals for a cheap price on draft day. Also qualifies for OF.

Martin Prado - ATL - Gives you strong average and runs and really good power especially at 2B. However with the arrival of Uggla, Prado could be a utility player for the Braves but with all the positions Prado can play and Chipper's health should get good amount of AB's. That fact could bring Prado's price down come draft day. Also qualifies at 3B.

Ty Wigginton - COL - Mentioned him in the 1B article, Wigginton much more valuable at 2B. Again position flexibility.

Ryan Theriot - STL - I know he gets some steals and is decent in runs but low average and gives you zero power. Always goes a few ticks more than he should.

Young Guns:
Neil Walker - PIT - The former top prospect finally arrived in 2010, spent six and half years in the minors. Will Walker show that 2010 was no fluke and not put too much pressure on himself?

Danny Espinosa - WAS - There is plenty of pop in that bat but if Espinosa is going to be the starting 2B and be a good roto player those K's must come way down.

EricYoung Jr - COL - Has to beat out Jose Lopez and make sure the Rockies view Ty Wigginton as a utility player. Needs a strong spring to show the Rockies he can be the every day 2B. If he wins the job has huge SB potential. Had 17 steals last year in just 172 AB's last year.

Under $10 Bin:
These guys can help your team compile numbers and if they go less than $10
Orlando Hudson
Omar Infante
Blake DeWitt
Freddie Sanchez
Skip Schumaker

Mets 2B - Luis Castillo, Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, Luis Hernandez & Reuben Tejada:
One of these players will be the Mets starting 2B. To quote the great John McEnroe "You Cannot Be Serious". Spring Training battle if you will.....

Down on the Farm:
There appears to be no top 2B prospects in the NL that will make an impact in 2011.

NL King - C.Lizza

Monday, January 17, 2011

NL King - Analyzes NL Only First Basemen Rankings

Today I will analyze the first base position for NL Only leagues. First base is pound-for-pound the deepest position in all of fantasy baseball. Click here for The Fantasy Man's First Basemen mixed league rankings.  Let's break it down....

Albert Pujols - STL - What's there to say? Since his rookie year, pretty much every year has been the best player in all of fantasy baseball. Just turned 31 and is on the last year of his contract with the Cardinals. So on top of being great throw in financial motivation as well.

Joey Votto - CIN - Won the MVP last year and the guy does it all. Hits for power, average and throws in 15 plus steals to boot. Will be the Reds #3 hitter for a long time as he doesn't turn 28 until the end of the season.

Ryan Howard - PHI - I know for the first time since 2005 he did not hit 40HR but Howard is only 31 and I expect him to bounce back to the levels of 40+HR and 125+RBI's. I do like the fact for the second year in a row he hit above .275.

Prince Fielder - MIL - I have to tell you to me it's debatable if Prince is an elite player. Reason I see that is because Fielder in his five full seasons has had two monster seasons, one strong season and two seasons that I would not call elite. Fielder turns 27 in May and is playing for a monster contract himself as he is a free agent after the season. With the moves the Brewers have made, everyone in Milwaukee is fired up that Fielder is playing for a big contract and it is a good bet that 2011 will be Fielder's third monster season.

Solid and Steady:
Ike Davis - NYM - K's and Citi field will mean low 20's in HR's with close to 80 RBI's and hitting around .260. One big warning sign is Davis will probably hit 6th in the lineup with the Mets Catchers (Thole or Paulino) and 2B (Castillo, Murphy etc) hitting behind him which could mean Davis in RBI situations could get nothing to hit.

Aubrey Huff - SF - The bounce back player of 2010 resigned with the Giants on a two year deal. Eligible at 1B and OF, I don't know if he will give you the $25 year he gave fantasy owners last year but I think he is a good bet to be a $15 to $17 player in an NL only league in 2011.

Garrett Jones - PIT - I like to see the batting average get to .260 but will give you 20HR, 75RBI and close to 10 steals.

Adam LaRoche - WAS - If you think about it this is the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy baseball especially in NL only leagues. Not only is LaRoche coming off a 25HR, 100RBI season but LaRoche has hit at least 20HR with 78RBI's the last 6 seasons. However LaRoche has left the D-Backs so going from that ballpark where the ball flies to Nationals probably will have some effect. Still I would expect low 20HR's with close to 80RBI's and avg between 260 & 270.

Carlos Lee - HOU - Qualifies for both 1B and OF, had an awful first half and that is a big reason why Lee finished with a .246 average but still had 24HR and 89RBI. Maybe the days of Lee hitting .300 are over (he is now 34) but no reason why he can't hit 25HR's with close to 100 RBI's and his .246 average from last year could drastically bring down his price come draft day making him a bargain.

James Loney - LAD - I almost had to make a special list for Loney. The last couple of years you kept hearing.... "wait until Loney learns to turn on the ball and those doubles become HR's and he becomes a 25HR guy". It's not happening folks. Still, if he goes for the right price in the draft which needs to be around $10 can be a guy who helps you with R's and RBI's and hit in the .280's.

Gaby Sanchez - FLA - Keep in mind the first month Sanchez was batting 8th which made it very difficult for him to put up numbers. Not a HR guy but will hit high teens but if hits towards the top of the lineup for the full season can give you strong R and RBI.

Ty Wigginton - COL - Qualifies at 1B, 2B and 3B and because of his versatile Wigginton should get plenty of AB's and give you great roster flexibility. Four of the last five years Wigginton has had at least 20HR's and just about 70 RBI's per season. Should get at least 400 AB's in Colorado and his roster flexibility makes him a great addition to your team.

Getting Older:
Lance Berkman - STL - Only played 1B last year but for STL will play the OF which means early on in the season will give you roster flexibility that Berkman qualifies for 1B and OF. The injuries have added up these last couple of years and last year Berkman could not hit from the right side at all. I am rooting for him as I drafted him in my league back in the late 90's in the farm system part of our draft. There is a report that Berkman has lost 20lbs this off-season and is the best shape of his life. Still given his age and all the bumps and bruises cannot expect more than a $15 year.

Todd Helton - COL - Helton is now 37 and I think father time and his body are nearing the end. I know he had a strong 2009 but the fact is 2008 and 2010 were miserable and I don't think he has even another $15 year left in him. If he goes for a song on draft day and you slide him in as your third corner I can somewhat see taking him and keep your fingers crossed he has 1 more healthy season.

Lyle Overbay - PIT - Turns 34 right before spring training and when Overbay was hitting around .270 and giving you mid teens in HR's with Runs and RBI's around 70 for each I can see the value of Overbay at the right price. But last year Overbay hit .243 and that is just to poor given what he puts up. Also goes from Toronto where the ball seems to carry to Pittsburgh and does anything ever go right for the Pirates?

Wild Card Young Guns:
Brandon Allen - ARI - Shown some pop in the minors and a solid spring and the 1B job in Arizona is his to start the season. Remember the ball does fly in that ballpark. May not be a bad gamble for $5 as your third corner.

Kyle Blanks - SD - Hawpe will start the season at 1B, would need a great spring to make the team. Has big power potential but K's a ridiculous amount and that must change if Blanks is going to be a player.
Juan Miranda - ARI - Was acquired from the Yankeess to give the D-Backs a little depth at the position. Can hit a mistake but that's about it.
Brett Wallace - HOU - Only had 2HR's in 222 AB's for Houston last year while hitting .222 and got to play every day from August 1st on. Late round gamble for a couple bucks as your third corner.

Bounce Back Candidate:
Carlos Pena - CHC - I know he hit .196 last year for the Rays but still hit 28HR's with 84 RBI's if Pena can bounce back (with old hitting coach with the Cubs) and hit around .250 Pena could be the bounce back player of the year and give NL owners 40 HR's and close to 120 RBI's. I know I am a big advocate of staying away from low average hitters but I do make exceptions if the player can put up big numbers in other categories. If your roster is strong in average and Pena slips on draft day pounce on him.

Rookie Watch:
Freddie Freeman - ATL - Freeman in the minors has shown to be a solid on base guy with not a lot of K's good power and a doubles machine. Probably not in 2010 but in the next couple of years some of those doubles will turn into HR's. Would have to have an awful spring not to be the opening day 1B for the Braves, plus he is a great glove. I would expect a solid year for Freeman and if you can get him for $10 or less on draft day grab him.

Sleeper Candidate:
Brad Hawpe - SD - Very quietly the Padres signed Brad Hawpe to a 1 year deal to be their 1B for 2011. While 2010 was a lost year for Hawpe, keep in mind the four seasons between 2006 and 2009 Hawpe had at least 22HR, 84RBI and hit no worst than .283 in a season. But the fact that Hawpe had a lost year in 2010 & is playing in Petco I believe in most drafts Hawpe will go for around $7 and could easily give you a $15 year in 2011. Hawpe will probably hit 5th in that lineup.

In the Minor Leagues:
Brandon Belt - SF - Had a huge year in the minors in 2010 and played at high A, AA and even 13 games at AAA. Only negative about last year was that Belt had 99K's in 136 games but on base & extra base hit machine with pop. Unless Belt has beyond a ridiculous spring and even then he would probably start the year in AAA but come June you could see Brandon Belt being the Giants every day 1B for years to come and Huff will move to the OF.
NL King - C.Lizza

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NL King - Analyzes NL Only Catchers Rankings

Today I'd like to take a closer look at the Catcher position in the National League Only leagues. For mixed league rankings, check out The Fantasy Man's 2011 fantasy baseball mixed league catchers rankings.  I would like to break down the NL catchers by tiers and tried to give the best advice depending on your potential strategy.
The Elite:
Right now the only sure fire guys I would call elite fantasy catchers in the NL are Brian McCann and Buster Posey. I call them elite fantasy NL catchers but they are not elite fantasy hitters when you look at their stats. Keep this in mind when bidding on McCann or Posey in an auction draft or where to draft them in a snake draft.

Brian McCann - Atl - Turns 27 in Spring Training, and in five full seasons McCann has 107 HR. The lowest of any season was 18 and the other four seasons he hit between 21 - 24 HR. Last years RBI total of 77 was the lowest in his five years as a starter with the other four years between 87 - 94. McCann has scored in the low 60's in runs four of his first five years as a starter and is a lifetime .289 hitter and usually throws in five steals a year. Other than a fact a catcher takes a lot of pounding really no red flags with McCann.  He is a very consistent and solid fantasy hitter at a bleak position. Figure on McCann for 2011 continuing to put up his usual numbers.

Buster Posey - SF - Turns 24 in Spring Training, had sensational rookie year across the board minus stolen bases of course. The thing to watch for with Posey is the old "Sophomore Slump" which has effected many talented young baseball players in their career. The league will adjust to Posey, as well a lot of times a talented player puts way too much pressure on himself for his second season and often times gets off to a slow start. Also talented young players when they get in their first real big slump they have a hard time handling it and usually takes them longer to get out of it. Having said all that, I expect Posey to be a solid plus hitter for 2011 but expecting Posey to continue at the 2010 pace is a bit aggressive in my eyes and remember plays in a very big ball park.

Potential to Break Out:
Geovany Soto - Cubs - Will be 28 right before Spring Training, rebounded from his horrific 2009 last year. When you consider Soto had 17HR and 53 RBI's in just 322 AB's you have to be impressed. If Soto can stay healthy and get 400 AB's no reason why he cannot hit 20HR's and drive in 70 Runs and hit .280 again (2 of the last 3 years hit between .280 and .285). Soto is very capable of putting up numbers very similar to McCann but yet go a few dollars less on draft day.

Miguel Montero - Arz - Turns 28 at the all-star break, Montero who had a lot of people predicted would break out last year didn't because of missing nearly two and half months due to a freak knee injury first week
of the season. Montero knee has responded well and plays in Arizona where the ball flies and the guy can flat out hit. As The Fantasy Man pointed out in his Catcher rankings podcast, I am really recommending Montero come draft day because I think as long as he stays healthy, Montero has an excellent chance to break through this year.  Based on the fact his 2010 numbers were just okay in most NL only drafts, you will get a really good price on Montero come draft day. I believe it's very possible Montero can put up McCann numbers this year, if Montero goes less than $15 in your draft pounce on it and make him your #1 catcher.

Solid But Don't Over Spend:
These guys can give you good numbers and can be good players for you but don't spend more than the average salary of $11 on these guys.

John Buck - Fla - Don't expect another 20HR and 66 RBI season from Buck especially going to the Marlins. Still can give you a 12HR and 50RBI and hitting in the .260's.

Ryan Doumit - Pitt - Always winds up on the DL for a good stint but this year will get the majority of his AB's playing in the OF or maybe even1B so that could help.

Carlos Ruiz - Don't expect another .300 avg but can hit in the .260's and give you decent numbers for a catcher in HR, R and RBI.

Stay Away - These players will kill your batting average:
While these guys can give you some pop they will murder your batting average and hurt you in the standings.
Rod Barajas - 36HR last 2 years but hit .240 in 2010 and .226 in 2009
Jason Castro - I don't care if he is a starter, will hit low in the lineup and kill your average
Nick Hundley - Last 2 years has hit .249 (livable) but hit .238 in 2009
Chris Ianetta - I know he has power but career .234 hitter and hit .197 last year
George Kottaras - Has pop but looks like a low average hitter
Chris Snyder - Had 15HR last year while hitting .207

Cheap Contributors:
These guys will go just a few dollars or in some cases just a couple of dollars on draft day and while they don't put up sexy numbers, they will make a contribution at a very low cost and allow you to spend your draft dollars else where. This work-man like bunch includes...
Ryan Hanigan
Ramon Hernandez
Jonathan LuCroy
Yadier Molina
Ronny Paulino
Ivan Rodriguez
Josh Thole.

Rookie Watch:
Wilin Ramos - Was - Prior to 2010 season Baseball America had Ramos ranked as the #58 overall prospect on the spring training top 100 list. Can be a solid hitter but don't expect him to become a stud right away. Washington gave up Matt Capps to get Ramos and they have Derek Norris in their system so it tells you the Nats must be high on him.

Deep Sleeper:
Dionar Navarro - LAD - With Rod Barajas being the starter and Navarro hitting .194 and .218 for the Rays the last two years, in most drafts Navarro will probably be picked after the main draft in the reserves portion. If you can get Navarro in this part of the draft and stash him on your reserves / taxi squad that would be a really good play. I think you can tell from above I am not the biggest Barajas guy and remember Navarro in 08 for the Rays had a real solid year and hit .295.

Down on the Farm:
Wilin Rosario - Col - Keep an eye on him during the spring, even if he starts the year in AAA, the Rockies could get tired of Ianetta quickly if he continues to hit poorly. Rosario hit .285 in AA last year with 19HR and 52RBI's in just 270 AB's.

NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NL King - Analyzing National League West Closers

Arizona:  JJ Putz
The D-Backs started the reclamation project of fixing their bullpen. It's going to be a process as the 2010 D-Backs bullpen, I believe, statistically was the worst bullpen in the history of baseball. The signing of JJ Putz to a two year contract is a good start. Putz had a solid year in 2010 for the White Sox as a setup man and now goes back to closing. Putz hasn't closed since 2008 in Seattle but remember Putz had 76 saves in 06 and 07 combined. As long as Putz stays healthy (has had been bit by the injury bug) Putz can be a solid option for you come draft day and will come a lot cheaper than Brian Wilson, Brad Lidge or Carlos Marmol.
Sleeper Save Candidates - Your guess is as good as mine as no one stands out in that bullpen.

Colorado: Houston StreetWhile 2010 was a battle of injuries for Street he still managed to save 20 games. Keep in mind Street has had a couple of big seasons as he saved 35 games in 09 for the Rocks and 37 saves in 06 for the A's. The Rocks signed Street to a 3 year deal before last season so they are committed to him. If his 2010 injuries
are behind him he can be considered in the top group of NL closers and because of last years drop in stats you probably will get significant savings on Street over a Wilson / Marmol come draft day.
Sleeper Save Candidates - The Rockies traded for Matt Lindstrom in late December. If Lindstrom is past his injuries he can be very dominant. The key to Lindstrom is keeping the walks down. Lindstrom had a great 1st 3 months in 2010 as the Astros closer as Lindstrom had 23 saves last year. If you draft Street as your closer save a slot for Lindstrom as insurance late in the draft

Los Angeles:  Jonathan Broxton??
New skipper Don Mattingly says Broxton will close for the Dodgers as we get ready for Spring Training. Broxton can be dominant but keep in mind as I warned you about Broxton in last years off-season article on the NL closers, Broxton throughout his career has struggled on the road and another failed post season by Broxton could start effecting his overall game. Broxton lost the closers job in early August. If the Dodgers can get Broxton going again there is no reason why he can't regain his form from 08 and 09. It's all between the ears for Broxton which makes him a risk for 2011.
Sleeper Save Candidates - Chih-Hong Kuo / Kenley Jansen. Kuo was finally healthy for a season and you saw what he is capable of doing when healthy. In 60 IP last year had a 1.20 ERA with 0.78 Ratio and 73K's. Throw in 3W and 12 saves and Kuo gave great value to NL only owners. Again the key with Kuo is staying healthy and if Broxton struggles he will get the first shot at closing (only blew 1 save in 13 chances last year). Kenley Jansen was extremely impressive as he got called up last July. Jansen had a 0.67 ERA in 27IP with 41K's and a 1.00 Ratio. Jansan did walk 15 batters in 27IP but he is a kid so let's cut him some slack. To me it's just a matter of when Jansen will get a chance to show he is the Dodger closer of the future. Great guy to get on draft day as a potential future keeper.

San Diego:  Heath Bell
The last two years, Bell has been the best closer in the NL in my opinion. Last two years has 89 saves along with great numbers across the board. Bell is on the last year of his contract and will become a free agent after the season unless he is signed to an extension. Bell turns 34 during the season but it sounds like he wants to stay in San Diego but will the Padres pay Bell the going rate to Bell as a top closer for the next 2-3 years? Or will the Pads move Bell for a prospect package? Don't expect Bell to be traded until after the all star break but because of this Bell is a risk. Makes it very hard to spend huge dollars on draft day for Bell in an NL only league. Again if Bell gets traded to the AL that will kill your NL only team.
Sleeper Save Candidates - Mike Adams / Luke Gregerson - Both have been sensationally the last couple of years, if Bell is moved I expect Adams to get the 1st shot at closing in 2011 however long term if Bell is traded I expect Gregerson to be the closer of the future.

San Francisco:  Brian Wilson
Wilson has 86 saves the last two seasons who along with Heath Bell are in my opinion are the two best closers in the NL not to mention the most reliable closers by a country mile. In fact, the last three seasons, Wilson has 127 saves. The last two seasons, Wilson has put up strong ERA numbers (1.81 in 10 and 2.74 in 09) and Ratio numbers (1.18 in 10 and 1.20 in 09). Not to mention Wilson is an excellent K guy as well and now he is a world champion as well which can only help his confidence. Wilson turns 29 in the spring and I see no reason why Wilson will not continue to be a top closer over the next 5 years
Sleeper Save Candidates - Wilson has an extremely long leash so the one someone else on the Giants staff gets significant saves in 2011 is if Wilson goes on the DL for a while. First in line would be Santiago Casilla who had an excellent 2010 season.

NL King - C.Lizza

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

NL King - Matt Garza Traded to the National League Chicago Cubs

The NL landed another good starting pitcher today with the Tampa Rays shipping Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a bunch of prospects. Garza who just turned 27, should benefit on his ERA & Ratio numbers going from the AL East to the NL. Garza last season had 15W, 3.91 ERA, 1.25 Ratio and 150K's in 204 2/3 IP. Since becoming a full time starter in 2008 Garza has shown to be a very reliable pitcher in the very difficult AL East. I would say for 2011 Matt Garza you can write down as a solid # 3 starter for your NL Only league pitching staffs. The NL is getting loaded with arms and will be interesting to see the effect on the NL hitting stats with all this influx of starting pitching.

NL King - C.Lizza

Saturday, January 08, 2011

NL King - Analyzing National League Central Closers

Chicago Cubs:  Carlos Marmol
Marmol put up ridiculous numbers in 2010. On top of his 38 saves, Marmol had 138K's in 77 2/3 IP and only gave up 40 hits. But, and this is a big but, Marmol walked 52 batters in 77 2/3 IP. Because Marmol gives up so few hits his ratio was still strong (1.18) however if Marmol's control problems get worse those blown saves could start piling up. On the other hand, if Marmol starts to make more in roads with his control which he did from 2009 to 2010 (walks went down from 65 to 52 in 3 2/3 more IP) then Marmol can become the best closer in the NL. His stuff is that wicked.

Sleeper Saves Candidates - The Cubs brought back Kerry Wood who was fantastic from late July through the playoffs for the Yankees. If he can stay healthy and the opportunity present itself Wood is capable of still closing.

Cincinnati Reds:  Francisco Cordero
I know if I told you that Cordero is one of the top closers in the NL you would call me crazy. I understand thinking that way because a few times throughout the season Cordero really struggled and in most save situations he is an adventure. Plus, Cordero will turn 36 in early June. However, Cordero had 40 saves in 2010, has 290 career saves and since coming to the NL in 2006, Cordero has compiled 179 saves. Cordero is also on the last year of his contract so has a lot at stake to have a solid year.

Sleeper Save Candidates - The Reds brought up Aroldis Chapman late in August for their bullpen and he was electric. As of now the Reds plan to start the season with Chapman in the bullpen which is hard to
believe considering the contract the Reds gave him. One would think that Chapman has a chance to be an ace starter, hence the dollars the Reds gave him and would have him heading in that direction. But if Chapman is in the bullpen he is a possibility of succeeding Cordero as the closer if Cordero struggles.

Houston Astros:  Brandon Lyon
Lyon took over the closers job in the second half last season due to Matt Lindstrom being injured and ineffectiveness. Lyon pitched real strong in the second half, in fact Houston feels so good about Lyon that they traded Matt Lindstrom to Colorado around the holidays. This was not Lyon's first go around as a closer as he saved 26 games in 2008 for Arizona although had a 4.70 ERA. But last season Lyon gave his NL only fantasy owners big value with 6W, 20SV, 3.12 ERA, 1.27 Ratio, 54K in 78 IP. Lyon is not a sure fire closer but keep in mind the Astros have signed for 10 million dollars over the next 2 years and you can do a lot worse in the NL in terms of a closer. If you can get Lyon for a nice price on draft day and couple him with another closer in his value range, you could have 2 closers for the price of a Marmol or Wilson. More risk involved but if it works out you have two closers for the price of one.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Your guess is as good as mine. Very pedestrian bullpen.

Milwaukee Brewers:  John Axford
After Trevor Hoffman beyond imploded last year killing many NL owners including myself, John Axford came out of nowhere and became the Brewers closer in late May. When you look at Axford minor league numbers this was a shock considering his control problems in 08 and 09. In 2008, at A ball Axford
had 73 walks in 95 IP and in 09 Axford pitched 67 1/3 IP at A, AA and AAA and had 38 walks. That was much better but still high. Something must have clicked as Axford had 24 saves and only 3 blown saves and his walks were 27 in 58 IP but also having 76K's. As long as Axford doesn't let the walks eat him alive he has the stuff to be a successful closer. It will be interesting to see now how Axford reacts going into the season expected to be a reliable closer.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Takashi Saito signed a 1 year deal with the Brewers a few days ago which was a very smart move by Doug Melvin giving him a strong 8th inning man and a great insurance policy in
case Axford struggles. Saito turns 41 in February (I won't be making any comments that he is an old man as I turn 41 in 2011 as well) but as long as Saito can stay healthy he can pitch at a high level. In 54IP last year for the Braves Saito had a 2.83 ERA, 1.07 Ratio and 69K's in 54IP. If you own Axford you must get Saito on your roster. Even if Axford succeeds as the closer, Saito will be a great middle man for you in terms of ERA, Ratio and K's.

Pittsburgh Pirates:  Joel Hanrahan or Evan MeekThis will be one of the more interesting spring training battles in the NL who will be the closer for the Pirates. Maybe though the Pirates will go with co closers I mean we are talking about the Pirates. Hanrahan is 29, was 4-1 in 2010 with 6 saves, 3.62 ERA, 1.20 Ratio and 100K's in 69 2/3 IP. Hanrahan closed for a period of time for the Nationals in late 08 and beginning of 09 but eventually lost the job. Hanrahan has 20 career saves. Evan Meek is 27 and made the all star team last year and while having a few less K's was more dominant than Hanrahan.  Meek's 2010 stats were 5-4 record, 4 Saves, 2.14 ERA, 1.05 Ratio and 70K's in 80IP. Meek only has 4 career saves. This is a spring training battle all NL only owners must be on top of.

Sleeper Save Candidates - As of now it's a battle between Hanrahan and Meek.

St. Louis Cardinals:  Ryan Franklin
Franklin is like old man river but while Franklin doesn't have killer stuff, he gets the job done. Franklin had
27 saves in 2010 with a 3.46 ERA but the key to Franklin is he doesn't walk anyone. Franklin only gave up 10 walks in 65 IP last season. Franklin will turn 38 in spring training and this is the last year of his contract. Franklin said last year that after the 2011 season he will retire. Franklin of course could change his mind but that could mean the Cards at some point in 2010 could look to replace Franklin as the closer with the future in mind.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan
Motte had his break through year in 2010. Motte had a 2.24 ERA in 52 1/3IP with 54K's and only gave up 18 walks. Motte turns 29 in June and has the stuff physically to be a closer but can he handle it mentally?
McClellan was also a main stay in the Cards bullpen in 2010, as he had a 2.27 ERA in 75 1/3IP. McClellan turns 27 in June.

Next article will be on the NL Closers - The West

NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

NL King - Analyzing National League East Closers

Probably one of the most difficult positions to draft in fantasy baseball is the Closer position. If your league counts saves as a category, there are a hundred different strategies you can use to draft closers. Half the battle though is knowing who to draft and when. Below you'll find the first bunch of potential closers we'll analyze in the National League. First up, the NL East.....

Atlanta:  Craig Kimbrel or Jonny Venters
With the retirement of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito going to Milwaukee the Braves closer situation is wide open. The early co- favorites are Kimbrel and Venters but both are young so in addition to do they have the tools physically, but more importantly, do they have what it takes to be a closer mentally? In just 20 2/3 IP Kimbrel had a 0.44 ERA with 40K's. Can't get much more dominant than that right? However, Kimbrel walked 16 batters in 20 2/3 IP and had control issues in the minors. If Kimbrel can keep the walks down he should be a big favorite to win the closers job. Venters had a great 2010 with a 1.95 ERA in 83 IP along with 93K's. However his walks were a bit high at 39 although Kimbrel would kill for a walk every 2 innings probably. Venters was used a tremendous amount in 2010 so one has to wonder if physically that will effect him in 2011.

Sleeper Save Candidates - If the young kids falter, Freddi Gonzalez might have to turn to veteran relievers such as Scott Linebrink, Peter Moylan or George Sherrill. Remember, Sherill had 51 saves for the Baltimore Orioles in a season and a half in 2008 and 2009. Also, keep an eye on hard throwing youngsters Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy because if they can't win the 5th starters job, they might wind up in the bullpen.

Florida:  Leo Nunez?
Nunez had 30 saves last season but struggled from August on and in fact had 8 blown saves. After August 25th, Nunez only had one save the rest of the season which was actually the third to last game of the season. Nunez will need a solid spring to show everyone he is capable of being the closer for the entire year.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Ryan Webb and Clay Hensley
Hensley did a real good job of closing for the Marlins in September and overall was really solid the entire year for the Fish with a 2.16 ERA in 75IP. Ryan Webb came over in Cameron Maybin trade and was sort of over looked due to the fact the San Diego Padres had so many good arms in that bullpen. Webb, like Hensley, had a solid 2010 and from what I read, the Fish just maybe got their closer of the future.

NY Mets: Francisco Rodriguez
Considering K-Rod's season ended on August 14th, his 25 saves seem really good. However, there are a few red flags with K-Rod and I am not even taking into consideration his arrest at the ballpark last August. K-Rod is on the last year of his deal and the Mets will most likely love to take his 12+ million dollar salary and use it elsewhere. The Mets like some of their other high salary players are hoping that K-Rod can have a big 1st half so they can trade him and get a couple of really good prospects come late July. Remember the Mets are viewing 2011 as a transition year so unless the expected happens they will not even be in the wild card hunt come July and veterans especially guys on their last year of their deals will be big time trade bait. K-Rod getting traded to an AL team will kill his NL only owner.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Bobby ParnellThrows hard had a solid half a season with the Mets (2.83 ERA in 35 IP) and we love Parnell's K to walk ratio (33 to 8).

Philadelphia:  Brad Lidge
Considering Lidge missed all of April coming back from an injury and the disastrous 2009 Lidge had, 2010 was a big success. Lidge had 27 saves with a sub 3 ERA and strong K's. Lidge is also on the last year of his contract so he is either playing for to become a free agent or for the Phillies to pick up his 2012 option at $12 million. That's a big incentive however Lidge has shown he is capable of fantastic years and dreadful years.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Ryan Madson
After a poor April and coming off the DL in late June for his own stupidity, Madson had a dominant 2nd half. If Lidge gets injured or has another dreadful season, Madson will get the ball come the 9th inning.

Washington:  Drew Storen
The former #10 overall pick in the 2009 draft had a solid rookie campaign and with Matt Capps traded to the Twins last season, the closers job is all there for Drew Storen. Storen had a 3.58 ERA in 55 1/3 IP along with 52K's and 22 walks. Storen only allowed 3 HR's last season. There is not much in the way of competition for the closer spot for Storen and he was drafted that high because the Nats thought of him as being their closer for years to come. That means Storen will get a very long leash.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard
Both were very reliable work horses for the Nats last season putting up solid seasons. If Storen shows he is either incapable or just not ready yet to be the closer either Burnett or Clippard will become the Nats closer for the short term.

Next article will be on the Closers for the NL Central.

NL King - C.Lizza