Monday, February 28, 2011

Andrew Bilbo - Head-to-Head Player Comparison - Troy Tulowitzki vs. Robinson Cano

In head-to-head leagues, consistency throughout the year is king. The other day I was involved in a mock draft where I observed something I have heard of people doing but had yet to actually see. I watched Troy Tulowitzki be selected before Hanley Ramirez. They went second and third respectively. Picking near the back of the first round (pick 9 of a 10 team draft) I decided to go with Joey Votto. I then turned around and took Robinson Cano. That got me thinking. Looking past the fact that they play different positions who would I rather take if given the choice between Cano who's ADP is 10.3 and Tulo who's ADP is 4.75.

Troy Tulowitzki: .315/27/95/89/11

Shortstop seems to be my albatross in head-to-head leagues almost every year. Last year Elvis Andrus was one of my sleepers and I ended up starting him all season on a batter heavy team. While he proved me right in many ways, I must say I expected more in the stolen base and batting average categories not to mention his goose egg for homeruns. I mention all of this to say that I would rather have Tulo in a standard 5x5 roto league because of the scarcity of the position along with Tulo's consistently high power numbers.

Robinson Cano: .319/29/109/103/3

Since I am bragging about my teams from last year I definitely shouldn't stop here. Cano was my pick at second base in every one of my head-to-head leagues last season. Boy did I cash in! Cano is my top second baseman and he should be everyone's. He is still young, plays on a great offensive team, and hasn't had a rash of injuries over the last few seasons (see Chase Utley). Although I would take Tulo over Cano in 5x5 roto leagues, I still love Cano.

Now lets get to the problem of head-to-head leagues....

Troy Tulowitzki: .315/27/95/89/11/48/78/.381/.568/32
Robinson Cano: .319/29/109/103/3/57/77/.381/.534/41

They are still very similar players. One thing I have not mentioned is that Cano had 156 more at-bats than Tulo. This more than makes up for the difference in a few categories and would have put Tulo over the top in homeruns had they had an equal number of opportunities. But this all continues to overshadow the real problem for head-to-head owners which is consistency. Every play has ups and downs or highs and lows. But not like Tulo. His highs can be very high., while his lows will kill you in head-to-head leagues. If you made it to your league's playoffs with Tulo on your team (which is a big if !) you were happy as he hit 15 homeruns with 40 RBI's in September alone. The reason you may not be happy is that he ruined your team for 4 of the 5 months before that. He had only 1 dinger in April, looked good with 5 in May, and then slipped to combine for only 6 homers in a 3 month stretch from June-August. He was out for most of the month of July.

In head-to-head leagues players who perform best in the last few month of the season are extremely important, but players who can't get you to the playoffs are not. Players are only as good as they are from week to week in head-to-head leagues and Tulo showed last season that you should handle him with care.

Andrew Bilbo

NL King - 2011 Fantasy Baseball Spotlight - Carlos Beltran

Beltran is one of those fantasy baseball wild card players for 2011. Coming of knee surgery last off-season Beltran's 2010 was severely compromised as Beltran did not return until after the all-star break. Upon his return, Beltran wore a full knee brace and performed no where near his old self. Beltran in 220 AB's had 7HR, 27RBI, 21R, 3SB and a .255 Avg. So what do expect from Beltran in 2011?

Scenario 1 - Beltran Bounces Back
Let's assume that Beltran, in his walk year, comes back with a solid season. Beltran plays in Citi Field and given that even if he bounces back strong this is going to hurt his power numbers such as HR and RBI. In 2009 the first season of Citi Field Beltran was having an excellent season before his knee situation came up. In 308 AB's he was batting .325 with strong numbers across the board except he only had 10HR's in that time frame. So basically what I am saying is Beltran even bouncing back will probably be a guy who hits in the low 20's in HR's in that ballpark, maybe even less.  Beltran's knee situation aside, he turns 34 at the end of April and the older a player gets, the less they will steal. It's just too much wear and tear on their bodies and basically will only steal in a crucial situation or if they can steal the bag easily because pitcher is not paying attention. Beltran is also in his walk year and I guarantee you his super agent Scott Boras has told Beltran do everything you can to protect your body. So even Beltran bounces back it will be with reduced power and big reduction in steals. But here is the kicker, even if Beltran has a strong first half, as everyone knows, the Mets are a mess. On top of that, the Mets are using 2011 as a transition year based on their actions this off-season. Given Beltran's age and contract and in his walk year, I can guarantee, unless the Mets shock everyone and become a wild card contender, Beltran will be moved come July for the best package the Mets can get. Given his age and his knee situation an AL team would make a lot more sense than an NL team.

Scenario 2 - Beltran Does Not Bounce Back
As we saw him play in the second half last year it was tough to watch sometimes. Beltran was limping very noticeably which is not uncommon consider this huge brace he is wearing. The second scenario is Beltran is quite simply 60% of his old self which now includes hardly any steals and playing in a gigantic ballpark. Still a risk in this scenario to be traded as maybe an AL team takes a chance on Beltran on the cheap and has him be their DH.

There is just too many bad variables in play here. Beltran's health, the team his plays on, Citi Field, his reduced SB production, the possibility of him getting traded to the AL come July, do I need to continue? Either scenario Beltran can wind up not being an asset for you. Before the knee injury most people would consider Beltran for close to 30HR's, 100+ R's and RBI's and 20+ SB's with an average between .275 - .285. In most NL only leagues auction style he would have been considered a $30+ hitter. My recommendation is if you want to spend some dollars on a wild card player who can bounce back with a big year do it on Cameron Maybin or Nate McLouth even. I wouldn't recommend Beltran for even around $15. If he went $10 then i'd splurge, but given his name and the belief by someone he could bounce back that will happen in very few leagues. NL King advice is spend your draft dollars else where.

NL King - C.Lizza

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brian Haines - 2011 Fantasy Baseball A.L. Only Catchers Rankings

1. Victor Martinez , Tigers: In almost every other list of rankings, Joe Mauer sits atop American League catchers, but I find myself unable to justify passing on Martinez. Over the last seven seasons, he has averaged 18 homeruns and 88 RBIs and his eligibility at first base in some leagues makes him even more valuable.

2. Joe Mauer, Twins: The biggest knock on Mauer is durability. There is no doubt the guy can hit, but batting average is his key contributing stat. Outside from a 28-homer outburst in 2009, he’s never topped 13 in a season. It’s hard to pick him as high as he goes in most drafts and still feel like you got value with your selection.

3. Carlos Santana, Indians: After suffering a gruesome knee injury last year, all reports indicate Santana is ready to go for Opening Day. In just 150 at-bats last year, he knocked six homers and drove in 22 runs. His potential is off the charts, with the only issue being the previous injury and the lack of viable threats in Cleveland’s putrid lineup.

4. Mike Napoli, Rangers: Given 500 plus at-bats, it’s easy to see Napoli hitting 30 homers. The problem is his defense in less than inspiring, but now being in Texas could be a boon to his production. Expected to catch, play first and even DH a bit, Napoli could pile up more at-bats. At any rate, it is almost a certainty that he will hit at least 20 homers and that is not to be undervalued.

5. Matt Wieters, Orioles: Being a Baltimore native, I’ve had plenty of chances to see Wieters play and his swing is impressive. His issue seems to be sustaining consistency. While he previously looked like a monster power source behind the dish, it seems to me that 20 homers is his max right now. If the new-look Orioles lineup stays healthy, the pressure will be off Wieters and perhaps we will finally see him live up to the hype.

6. Jorge Posada, Yankees: He may be on the wrong side of his career, but the switch-hitter can still put up useful stats. Since 2000, he has averaged 21 homers and 80 RBI a season and has hit 40 homers over the last two years combined. With the strain of catching no longer affecting him, Posada could reach 25 homers if he stays healthy and reaches 450-500 at-bats. Don’t let the age fool you as Posada offers great value in the later rounds this year.

7. Kurt Suzuki, Athletics: I wanted to put him higher but the workload scares me a bit. He has averaged 14 homers and 80 RBI the last two seasons, but has also tallied over 1,000 at-bats. Remember what happened to Russell Martin’s numbers after Joe Torre ran him into the ground over the course of a few seasons. But with David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham in the A’s lineup, Suzuki could be a sneaky pick for 80 or more RBI.

8. Miguel Olivo, Mariners: He has been a surprising cheap power source, averaging 16 homers over the past five years, but playing at Safeco Field is never good for power. Olivo will probably approach 15 homers, but temper your expectations for much more.

9. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays: After launching 30 homers in Triple A last year, the Blue Jays have seemingly finally given him a chance to be the full-time catcher. Expect plenty of hot and cold streaks, but when all is said and done, he could hit close to 20 homers with 400 at-bats.

10. Russell Martin, Yankees: The million dollar question is whether Martin’s hip injury played a role in his decline or just general overuse. If healthy, he could hit .270 and offer 8-10 homers, but health is a big question. With Jesus Montero waiting behind him a slow start could doom Martin for the season.

11. John Jaso, Rays: He knows how to get on base and he won’t kill you in the average department. That being said he doesn’t offer much power or RBI potential and is probably better off left on the waiver wire and used as an injury fill-in.

12. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: It will be interesting to see if Boston is really committed to letting him play as their starting catcher. Seemingly over his throwing roles, it is now time to see if he can live up to the hype with the bat in his hands. A fast start will be key because Boston can’t afford to waste at-bats if they are contending.

13. Jeff Mathis, Angels: He has a little bit of gap power and seems to be Mike Sciosca’s favorite catcher. Hank Conger is coming up, but his questionable defense won’t afford him many opportunities right away. Mathis will probably hit around .250 and won’t offer much.

14. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox: Not much to see here for the declining veteran. About the only thing he is doing is blocking prospect Tyler Flowers from gaining meaningful big league at-bats. The only positive is he will get consistent at-bats.

15. Alex Avila, Tigers: Victor Martinez hasn’t always been the picture of perfect health and if needed Avila could provide some upside. With a little bit of power and good contact, he could be a decent fill-in for short periods of time.

16. Jason Kendall, Royals: If he’s your starting catcher, you might want to start thinking about football season.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Norman Homers - Tackling The Fantasy Man's 2011 Pre-season Outfielders Rankings

The outfield is overwhelming in fantasy baseball terms in 2011. Each major league team has at least four outfielders, that’s 120 guys to chose from for those mathematically challenged. Most leagues will draft between 40 and 60 of them. That’s a lot of players to be aware of, but the more guys out there means the more chances to get value late. I’ve done close to a dozen mock drafts on Mock Draft Central in the last week. My strategy this year has been to fill the infield first. The problem is after 4-5 or so rounds of drafting just infielders and maybe a top tier starting pitcher, I realize that I don’t have any outfielders…. Before I launch into a Ronnie-Jersey Shore-esque rage, I just take a deep breath and remember that outfield is deep. I’m confident that I can pull 3-5 outfielders (depending on league requirements) after the first 10-20 have been drafted. Guys like Andre Either, Jason Heyward, Drew Stubbs, Adam Jones, and Carlos Beltran are just a few examples of the power/speed combinations that can be targeted in the middle to late rounds.
Norman Notes: League specifics aside, (bench spots and daily transactions, yada, yada, yada…), I like to take 1-2 extra outfielders so I can rotate those guys in and out depending on off days, pitching matcups, etc.

Now lets break down The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Outfielders Rankings......
1. Carl Crawford
Norman Notes: The stars aligned for Crawford to have a monster year. The Red Sox have arguably the best lineup in baseball; meaning Crawford could score 120 runs. I have to wonder if he’ll steal as much though. Why risk him running with Pedroia, Youkillis and Gonzalez behind him? He’ll be a stud for sure.
2. Carlos Gonzalez
Norman Notes: The Fantasy Man’s Yellow Caution light is up. Norman agrees. The Golden Rule of fantasy is “Don’t Pay for a Career Year.” If you draft Car-Go top 3, that’s exactly what you’re doing. He had a .384 batting average of balls in play (BABIP). That means a decent amount of luck was on his side last year. That’s an unsustainable stat so there’s no question his batting average drops some. I’ll proceed with caution when it comes to Car-Go. Sure the guy is awesome and had phenomenal year in 2010. But the advanced stats indicate he may have over achieved…
3. Ryan Braun
Norman Notes: This is my #1 outfielder. Just an awe-inspiring combination of batting average, power, and speed.
4. Matt Holliday
Norman Notes: If your worried about some of the other names in his draft vicinity, then draft Holliday and put his 25+ homeruns, 100+ rbis, 10 stolen bases, and .310+ batting average and put it in the bank.
5. Josh Hamilton
Norman Notes: Similar to Alex Rodriguez, I have a problem paying for guys with a history of drug use and injuries. The guy may be the best hitter in baseball when healthy, but your guess is as good as mine as to how his body holds and what toll the drug use had. I’m in the guy’s corner after reading about his struggles and pulling himself out of that situation, but he still leaves me with too many questions to draft as an elite player.
6. Matt Kemp
7. Andrew McCutchen
8. Nelson Cruz
9. Shin-Soo Choo
Norman Notes: Hard to argue with that tier of elite outfielders. I’d consider Ichiro around 7 and weary of Kemp at 6. Kemp failed to perform to his hype last year. Fool me once fine, but please don’t fool me twice…
10. Jose Bautista
Norman Notes: more valuable at third base. See my take in the 3B rankings
11. Ichiro Suzuki
Norman Notes: Horrible supporting offense but the guy gets 200 hits every year.
12. Alex Rios
13. Andre Ethier
14. Hunter Pence
Norman Notes: Still trying to figure out why Pence is this high?
15. Justin Upton
Norman Notes: J-Up has the talent to be a top 5 outfielder. I hope he puts it all together but I’m having déjà vu with his brother BJ Upton.
16. Jayson Werth
Norman Notes: Ke$ha might like your beard, but I’m not buying it. I think the Washington Nationals severely overpaid for Werth’s decent (but not elite stats). I wonder if his beard is over compensating for anything in the past?
17. Jay Bruce
Norman Notes: Bruce certainly has the potential to be #17, but he hasn’t earned it yet. If you like him then you’ll have to reach because hes one of this years most hyped players. Let someone else take that risk.
18. Colby Rasmus
19. Jason Heyward
Norman Notes: On my free time I write haikus about Jason Heyward. I like him to finish the year as a top 10 outfielder with the talent to take out a 10 year lease in the top tier.  At only twenty, Heyward showed endless talent, Cooperstown some day.
20. Mike Stanton
Norman Notes: Meet the new Adam Dunn.
21. Jacoby Ellsbury
Norman Notes: Does he qualify for the post hype sleeper tag? He was a top 10 outfielder last year… Injury experts don’t expect any lingering side effects. Hes a serious post hype/post injury target.
22. Grady Sizemore
Norman Notes: Take Grady at 22 with due caution. The guy has shown us talent but more importantly shown us he’s a bum who cant stay healthy.
23. Carlos Quentin
24. Nick Markakis
25. Corey Hart
26. Chris B. Young
27. Curtis Granderson
28. Adam Jones
Norman Notes: He has 5 tool talent but just hasn’t had the year where he puts it together. I like this to be the year. Norman sleeper stamp. I’d take him before at least the six guys above him.
29. Vernon Wells
30. Delmon Young
31. Torii Hunter
32. Jason Bay
33. Bobby Abreu
34. Austin Jackson
Norman Notes: The statistical anomaly of batting average of balls in play (BABIP) award for 2010 go to Car-Go and Austin Jackson. Jackson sported a .396 BABIP. I like his talent but look for a much lower BA.
35. Brett Gardner
Norman Notes: Love the guy in a roto league, but hard to keep in him daily h2h lineups. Too inconsistent between the 1st and 2nd halves.
36. Juan Pierre
37. Carlos Lee
38. Nick Swisher
Norman Notes: Yankee stadium may be his perfect fit.
39. Travis Snider
Norman Notes: I was all in on both Adam Lind and Travis Snider last year, and they both left me under whelmed… I still like Snider but at 39? If I can get him in the 50-60 range then I’m in. He needs to develop more for me.
40. Drew Stubbs
Norman Notes: Nothing frustrates me more than having a guy pegged as your sleeper and then having a big site do the same. I loved Stubbs last year and he came through with a solid roto season. Other sites aside, this is my favorite sleeper regardless of position.
41. B.J. Upton
Norman Notes: I’m still waiting for the Boss Man Junior to put it all together. Don’t hold your breath.
42. Shane Victorino
43. Carlos Beltran
Norman Notes: The perfect post injury sleeper. Could be a Billy Fuccillo “HUGE” value.
44. Magglio Ordonez
45. Denard Span
46. Ben Zobrist
Norman Notes: Ben Zobrist, or Zoby the house elf….yes that was a Harry Potter joke. I play fantasy baseball and have read every Harry Potter book, I’m a cool guy. A classic glass half empty or full guy. Didn’t provide the anticipated power but still managed 24 stolen bases and has second base eligibility. Another classic post hype sleeper.
47. Ryan Ludwick
48. Michael Bourn
49. Jason Kubel
50. Jose Tabata

In summary there is a lot of value to be mined in the outfield.  Next up reviewing The Fantasy Man’s starting pitcher Rankings…

Norman Homers

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mark Steinbach -Fantasy Baseball Express Contributor

I'm scouring the Internet on an hourly basis researching fantasy baseball players and rankings to develop a winning strategy for 2011. I came across The Fantasy Man and Fantasy Baseball Express and thought I could contribute my own quality fantasy baseball advice.  Below I decided to share some thoughts and ideas on players that I'm targeting on draft day, I hope you find these thoughts useful.

I figure my debut feature on the blog shouldn’t be anything too “out there,” so I’ve decided to start off with a post that is hopefully timely and relevant and also gives you a glimspe into how I evaluate players for my fantasy teams. Sure, I’m going to leave many guys off of this list, because I can’t really name everyone I like. The guys (excuse my sexism, ladies) I’ll write about on this list are players I like a bit more than the other schmucks out there. Everyone on here is a target come draft day.

While compiling this list, I realized how many players I don’t like. I’m extremely picky. Most players I come across, I wouldn’t draft, due to some sort of flaw. At the end of the day, even Pujols doesn’t steal enough bases. Until they use eugenics to craft some frighteningly incredible baseball cyborg (who’s a cross between 1996 Brady Anderson and Jesus, most preferably), each ballplayer that comes down the pike will have some flaw that turns you off to them. You just have to find the guys with the fewest flaws and weigh those flaws against the qualities that you value the most or the least. For example, I don’t think average is that important in fantasy. Adam Dunn doesn’t hit for good average. Yet, keeping in mind my thoughts on average’s value, I love Adam Dunn, because, for the type of player he is (a lumbering power hitter), Dunn’s nearly flawless in that he crushes homers and drives in runs.

It is logical to think that my self-proclaimed “close-mindedness” as a fantasy baseball player would be considered a flaw. Maybe it is. And, yeah, it’s bad to be close-minded in everyday life, they don’t have cheesy seminars about “trying new things” and “being spontaneous” for no reason. But, really, I think this pickiness can be a major asset as a roto player. When making your team, you want guys who are “your guys.” Guys you actually believe in, even though others may not. You only have so many picks or so much cash (at an auction draft) to spend. It is a goddamn sin to waste any of that on a player whom you don’t like a whole lot. So in summation: be a picky fantasy owner. Now without further ado, here are some players I like for the 2011 season in not-so-deep mixed leagues...

Carlos Lee:  It got to a point last year where my whole league was watching me...waiting for me. What were they waiting for me? They were waiting for me to drop the powerless, sub-.200 batting average piece of excrement that was taking up space on my team. It’s name is Carlos Lee. But look at the calendar, children - it’s a new year! With it, comes renewed hopes and new expectations. This year fantasy managers understandably hate Carlos Lee. You can get him for 3 or 4 bucks in your auction or very late in your draft. Here’s a guy who has one bad year, that miraculously unwrites almost a decade’s worth of reliable fantasy numbers. His BABIP was way under career norms last year. He could easily hit .280 this year and he’s always a good bet for 25+ homers and rarely misses games. A low-risk, pretty-high-reward pick.

Ian Kinsler:  Second base disgusts me this year. So while it may not mean much, I could very well see Kinsler emerging as the top 2B by the end of the year. Kinsler was certainly underwelming last year, to say the least. But you can look back on his past seasons and it’s clear that this guy has the ability to do many things well, be it hit for average, hit for power, steal bases, etc. He’s in a strong lineup, is healthy and is one of the fews guys who could threaten 30-30 this year if he stays healthy. As my grandmother always said, “You can’t put a price-tag on 30 homers and 30 steals.” (My grandmother never said that and never will.)

Alcides Escobar:  Continuing with the “Middle infield is a total black hole this year” motif...Alcides Escobar. First, I’ll start off with a stupid gut prediction: doesn’t it just seems like Alcides Escobar will “find himself” as a member of the Royals? No? Well, still, I like him. The fact is, you’re not going to find much at shortstop this year. That’s why you want a guy like Escobar who will get his steals and at least contribute to your team in some way. We can drive ourselves red in the face with the whole “Oh, that guy was unlucky last year” game, but...Alcides Escobar was unlucky last year. He put a bunch of line-drives in play last year (22% of balls he hit) yet posted a BABIP that’s lower than what he’s used to (albeit a small sample size for his career). I could see that average creeping up to .280 this year and a boatload of steals (the Royals were eighth in the league in SB last year; they like to run). The lack of power is alarming, sure, but Escobar could still be a top-5 shortstop.

Jason Heyward:  So, sure, Heyward didn’t knock our collective socks off last year. For a rookie, he was merely “very good,” (especially if you’re in an OBP league). I actually foresee an uptick in average and steals this year, and hopefully he can avoid some of those vicious rookie slumps he had last year. He struck out about once a game last year - that’s bound to go down this year as he adjusts to MLB pitching. We can’t forget his power capablities and overall well-roundedness as a hitter. I have a gut feeling the price he’s going for now (about $25) will seem like a bargain months from now.

Jay Bruce:  How can you not love Jay Bruce? Okay, maybe I like him a bit too much. Overall, Bruce was solid last year, posting a decent average (.280) and hitting 25 homers. He hits a bunch of fly balls and his HR/FB (though not a flawless metric) indicates that some of his flyballs are just missing. I could see him easily approaching about 35 homers this year and maintaing a solid average (he hits a bunch of line drives). The Reds lineup is quite good, so the RBIs and runs should be above average (though those are impossible to predict and plain-old dumb statistics). Each year, there always seems to be an outfielder who goes to the next level. Bruce might just be that guy in 2011.

Carlos Pena:  Pena is definitely a Mark-Ball type of player. His average makes little girls cry...but he hits home runs. Maybe this isn’t sound advice, but I totally mean it: his average cannot get any worse. Also, the move to Wrigley is a big bump to his value. I could see his homers coming just shy of 40. I don’t care what you say: a guy hitting a bunch of home runs has a great deal of value, even if he’s topping it off with a morbid average. According to StatCorner (via Fangraphs), “Tropicana Field depresses HR production by 11 percent compared to a neutral park, while Wrigley pumps it up by 19 percent.” There’s no reason he can’t be what Konerko was last year - a great source of cheap, valuable power.

Brett Anderson:  When Brett Anderson pitched last year, Brett Anderson pitched pretty damn well. Don’t let his injury last year make you forget that this guy is a young, rising ace. You can get him for like eight bucks if you league is dumb. Pitchers are oddly shallow this year in terms of reliable aces, though I don’t think many people would agree with that. With a shallow pool of aces this year, Anderson, I feel, could end up being a respectable #1 starter for your rotation.

Justin Upton:  I could see him being a better value than Braun this year, possibly. So he had a crappy year last year. The kid’s 23, he’s still learning and growing. He’s shown he can perform up to his talent level...and he was like 21 when he did that (hitting .300 and getting nearly 30-20). Draft Justin Upton this year and resist the collective amnesia of your leaguemates who think one bad year at the age of 22 undoes a promising career. He’s 23! Did I already mention that?

Mark Reynolds:  Blend together what I’ve written for Pena and Lee and you have my thoughts on Reynolds, basically.

Ricky Romero:  Maybe it’s his name. But I like Romero. He seemed to legitimately improve off of his rookie year, lowering his walks, striking out more guys, letting up fewer home runs and ultimately lowering his xFIP. Even if he is what was he was last year (totally solid and the ace of Toronto’s staff, for what it’s worth), he’s worth dropping two dollars on. Overall a bargain with high reward and not a whole lot of risk.

Okay, so I think I’ve said enough about these guys. No, these aren’t the only players I like, obviously, but they give a good read on what I’m going for this year. There are all comeback candidates this year, guys whose values have dropped after one bad season. Take a chance on them.

Mark Steinbach

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Andrew Bilbo - Head-to-Head Player Comparison - Tim Lincecum vs. Felix Hernandez

Is it me or is H2H fantasy baseball advice tough to find? Right now I'm looking at pitching and I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas which I hope can help you be successful come draft day. What I've found is a starting pitcher on a bad baseball team is not punished as badly in head-to-head leagues as it is in standard 5x5 roto leagues. Roy Halladay is undoubtedly the King of both roto and head-to-head fantasy baseball leagues, but who comes after him?

Tim Lincecum
: 16W/3.43ERA/231K/1.27WHIP

Last year was a bit of a down year for Lincecum. His ADP is one of the highest for pitchers at 20.64 and fantasy players have come to expect an ERA around the mid to upper 2's with something close to 250 strikeouts from him in return. His ERA and WHIP were up this year from the last couple of years, yet he still remained one of the more prolific strikeout pitchers in the game with his 231 K's in 212.1 innings. He is not weak in any of the basic roto categories.

Felix Hernandez: 13W/2.27ERA/232K/1.06WHIP

Lincecum's unexpected slide last season makes Hernandez, whose ADP is 29.41, look like the undisputed better pick on the surface, but those of us who have followed baseball more than just a year or two know that things like that happen every once in a while to young pitchers. Hernandez main problem over the years in standard roto leagues has been his inability to win games because of the anemic lineup fielded by the Mariners. All of this convinces me that Lincecum is the better roto pitcher this upcoming season.
Now to throw in some frequently used head-to-head stats.....

Tim Lincecum: 16-10/3.43/231/1.27/76/9.79/22/1/212.1
Felix Hernandez: 13-12/2.27/232/1.06/70/8.36/30/6/249.2

Pitching categories in head-to-head leagues vary more than batting categories. Losses, quality starts, innings pitched, and complete games are the categories most interchangeable. Some leagues rarely even include shutouts or batting average against among other categories. If your league includes any of quality starts, complete games, or innings pitched i would go with King Felix. While Lincecum has been known to go the distance as well, it is increasingly more likely with the directions the two teams have gone over the last couple of years that Hernandez will pitch more ninth innings than Lincecum. This will also have more of a direct impact on innings pitched where Hernandez will continue to be expected to shoulder a huge load. Then we come to quality starts where King Felix is in fact the King. Hernandez is the most sure thing in the league to pitch 30 quality starts which is how many he pitched in 2010. He also threw 29 in 2009. Both years he led the league which I expect him to do again this season.

If these two pitchers were on similar teams in similar situations I would expect even more identical numbers than they already have. But the fact is that they are not on similar teams at all. Lincecum's team is coming off of a World Series championship where as Hernandez is on a team that has floundered. Both are impressive strikeout pitchers, but where they are different for fantasy owners comes a lot from their surroundings.

Andrew Bilbo

NL King - Adam Wainwright - Out for the Season

It's official, Adam Wainwright is headed for Tommy John surgery. The process can take between 12 and 18 months so it could take him into a good chunk of 2012 before we see Mr.Wainwright take the mound again. Also, the way Wainwright's contract is written, his final two years of his contract 2012 and 2013 may be voided because of this injury, making him a free agent. We'll all have to stay tuned on how that will play out. My guess is the Cardinals and Wainwright will come to some sort of agreement, it's in both parties best interest.

Huge blow for NL only leagues as Wainwright, outside of Tim Mlincecum, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay was probably the next best pitcher in the National League. This injury to Wainwright is going to make all NL Only league starters in your draft cost more come draft day. Simply put, those Wainwright dollars will have to go elsewhere in terms of starting pitching. So any starting pitcher who is a #3 starter on up, you can figure that player will go the higher end of his range and maybe another $2 or $3 more on top that. So if you had a starter in mind for your draft and figured he would go between $15 and $18 that pitcher may now go $20 now.

The way the Cardinals are built, they are very top heavy and this is a huge blow to their chances for 2011. If the Cardinals are out of the race come July, I would not be surprised to see them trade Chris Carpenter for some big prospects. Keep in mind the Cardinals system outside of Shelby Miller and Zack Cox is pretty thin. I have been a big fan of Mr.Wainwright going back to when he was in the Braves organization. I hope he can have a speedy recover and be ready for opening day for 2012.

NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brady Parker - Jose Reyes vs. Troy Tulowitzski vs. Jimmy Rollins

The FantasyMan’s declaration that Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins are bound for bigger seasons than Troy Tulowitzki sparked me to write into the website. I like his bold predictions on many of the other positions, but this one was a stretch.When it comes to the shortstop position this year, and in recent years, it is the weakest position due to its lack of young stars and players who can hit for power. With this in mind, the two best shortstops in fantasy are young and can hit for considerable power. I think we can all agree that Hanley Ramirez is the number 1 shortstop in fantasy, with major contributions in all 5 categories. The number 2 fantasy shortstop is the real debate here, and I think it’s no's Troy Tulowitzki.
Take a look at each of their stat lines from 2010:
Reyes: 563 AB, .282 AVG, 83 R, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 30 SB
Rollins: 350 AB, .243 AVG, 48 R, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 17 SB
Tulowitzki: 470 AB, .315 AVG, 89 R, 27 HR, 95 RBI, 11 SB

What we can take from this is that Tulowitzki is clearly number 2, Reyes a clear 3, and Rollins a distance behind both of them. I’m not ashamed to say that coming into last year, I was high on both and Reyes and Rollins, as I thought they were under the radar players coming off injury filled seasons. In fact, I had all three of these shortstops last year, and I was burned by the inconsistence and amount of missed games from Reyes and Rollins, while Tulowitzki single handedly carried me to the fantasy championship (ultimately losing to Mark). The thing that most worries me about Jose Reyes is the injuries, because when he is at full strength he is a great fantasy contributer. I fell in love with his 2005-2008 outputs, where he averaged 113 R, .287 AVG, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 64 SB a year. His hamstring injury has limited his speed and therefore diminished his value as a fantasy star. Reyes can’t be trusted to play a full season at this point in his career.

Brady's Projection: .279, 90 R, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB

Jimmy Rollins is essentially Jose Reyes with about 5 years more mileage on his body. He was once a perennial all-star but injuries and old age have slowed him down considerably. It goes to show how woefully bad shortstop is this year when we are talking about a player past his prime, who batted .243 with 8 homers last year, as a realistic top 3 player in his respective position. C’mon .243!? What are you drafting him for? Steals? Yeah he will give you 20-30 steals, hopefully, but at the cost of having to start a player who doesn’t have power anymore and seriously hurts your team batting average. Since he’s not projected to bat leadoff this year for the Phillies, a job which has landed in the hands of the Flyin’ Hawaiin Shane Victorino, he will probably not have the same 100 run year owners have come to expect from him. Hope for a bounce back year from Rollins, but expect another decline in an aging star.

Brady's Projection: .250, 78 R, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 26 SB

Finally, the star of the article, Troy Tulowitzki. Rookie of the Year runner up in 2007, Tulo is this year’s second best fantasy shortstop. He may not have the speed that the other top shortstops possess, but he has far more power than any of them. Some may argue Hanley has just as much pop, but I think he’s more of a mid 20s homer guy than the mid 30s that he put up in 2008. The FantasyMan made a good point that Tulo put up the bulk of his numbers at the end of last season. At the beginning of the 2010 season, Tulowitzki struggled to hit homers and he spent some time on the DL. When he was heathly though, he rebounded in a major way and finished with 27 bombs in just 122 games. I think you have to take the season as whole, and not isolate one month as fluky. If you want to use this method, you could say that his first few months were fluky, and do not represent his actual level of talent. In the end, they both even out. Tulo will continue to improve as a hitter and don’t be surprised at the end of 2011 if he nudges his way past Hanley as the preeminent fantasy shortstop.

Brady's Projection: .307, 103 R, 35 HR, 110 RBI, 14 SB

Introducing FBE Contributor Brady Parker

Brady has been playing fantasy sports for about 5 years now and knows more about fantasy sports than anyone he knows. Last year, Brady finished runner up in his fantasy baseball league as he was the defending champion from 2009. One thing is for sure, this guy loves fantasy baseball!

Brady doesn't draft players just for steals or home runs and his favorite stat to bulk up on is batting average. He's from Boston so naturally his favorite team is obviously the Red Sox, with his favorite player being Dustin Pedroia. He hates the Yankees but loves Robinson Cano.  We're looking forward to Brady's contributions at Fantasy Baseball Express.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Andrew Bilbo - Head-to-Head Player Comparison - Crawford vs Holliday

Knowing that you have a scoring category locked down is a great feeling when playing in a roto league. This is a feeling that doesn't exactly translate into head-to-head leagues all that well being that every week is a blank slate. Does this mean that players that do only one or two things really well are not valuable or useless in head-to-head leagues? Absolutely not. However, it does change their value when compared to players who do multiple things well.

One guy who does one thing extremely well is Carl Crawford. Crawford is great on the basepaths which shows in his stolen base and run totals. An argument can be made that Crawford is the most valuable outfielder to own in roto leagues. So lets compare him to another top outfielder Matt Holliday.

Carl Crawford: .307/19/90/110/47
Matt Holliday: .312/28/103/95/9

While Holliday, ADP 22.41, definitely holds his own in this comparison, I would take Crawford, ADP 15.59, in a 5x5 roto league every time given his huge advantage in stolen bases. Holliday is the better power hitter and his spot in the batting order provides him with great RBI potential, yet Crawford is able to put enough stats up in those categories that his shear dominance in swiping bases makes him more valuable as a roto outfielder. Now lets look at what happens when we look at these two players through the eyes of a head-to-head player.
Carl Crawford: .307/19/90/110/47/46/104/.356/.495
Matt Holliday: .312/28/103/95/9/69/93/.390/.532

These category additions are not very helpful to Crawford. You can call strikeouts a push, but Holliday takes all of the new categories which pushes him ahead of Crawford in head-to-head leagues. Some head-to-head leagues also use doubles and triples as additional categories. If this is the case Crawford takes on some additional value as triples are more rare, yet Holliday remains the better pick as his lead in doubles (ensured by Crawford converting many of his into triples) negates some of this benefit.

Ultimately you can not go wrong with either of these players as they are both huge contributors. Depending on your strategy they may have different appeal to you which is why I would like to leave you with one last point. Much of Crawford's value is based on his ability to steal bases. If you look at the last few years he has gone through periods where many of those steals have come in bunches. In 2010, 22 of his steals came in June and July combined while Crawford only stole 3 in all of August. Then in 2009, Crawford stole over half of his 60 bases in May and June. This streaky tendency is discouraged by the weekly nature of head-to-head style fantasy baseball. Keep this in mind.

Andrew Bilbo

The Fantasy Man's 2011 Top 50 Fantasy Baseball Rankings

The 2011 Fantasy Baseball season has begun folks and why not kick it off with The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings. There's no question that the first 3-5 rounds of your fantasy baseball draft are most important as these choosen players provide the foundation of your teams' stats for the season. Muff up a pick here and you can kiss your championship dreams goodbye! Below we'll rank our top 50 fantasy players heading into 2011.

Now, if you've been following The Fantasy Man for a few years, you know my style by now. I like to do things my own way, at my own pace, and usually like to go against the grain. This philosophy has treated me with success over the years whether it's picking closers earlier than everyone else or simply loading up on the two biggest power hitters in the first two rounds from the two most plentiful positions. Whatever the strategy may be, just remember that there are a hundred different ways to win a fantasy baseball league. It takes preparation, research, a plan, and execution.... and that all starts right here with recognizing who is on top!

2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings - Updated 2/22/11 
1. Albert Pujols - Still #1 dominant, reliable, no sign of a drop off yet, CONTRACT YEAR!!!
2. Hanley Ramirez - Somebody help this guy get us 30+HR please!
3. Carl Crawford - Does everything and now in an amazing lineup
4. Carlos Gonzalez - He was out of his mind yet still consistent all year, 5 tool stud, 30/30 potential
5. Joey Votto - Young, on the rise with more upside, great to build a keeper team around
6. Miguel Cabrera - Last year was his best, still just entering prime but DUI charges in back of mind
7. Robinson Cano - I said last year he was top 2, no one believed me. 2nd half tailed what!
8. Alex Rodriguez - You're crazy if you dismiss A-Rod, if he's not in your top 10.... you're crazy!
9. Ryan Braun - Lower than expected performance last year means lots of upside this year and too much hype
10. Josh Hamilton -  Injury risks knock him down a few slots but if healthy, he's top 3
11. Chase Utley - Should have a bit of a comeback year if healthy, "plays like his hair is on fire"
12. Prince Fielder - Load up on power here, CONTRACT YEAR
13. Ryan Howard - Injury hurt performance, will bounce back to expectations, always a slow starter
14. Evan Longoria - On the rise, haven't seen his best season yet
15. David Wright - Better situation, consistent stats every year, less pressure, 5 category player
16. Matt Holliday - Same kind of stats as Wright but more BA and less SB
17. Mark Teixeira - He was "man-down" at the end of 2010, if healthy = bounce back
18. Tim Lincecum - He's ridiculous but prolonged season worries me
19. Roy Halladay - As dominant as they come + the wins
20. Cliff Lee - He'll rack up 18+ wins with a great WHIP and plenty of K's in Philly
21. Jose Reyes - See David Wright. The right situation = better season! He'll drop lower than this spot in drafts which means value
22. Jimmy Rollins - His half season slumps are tough to deal with, but CONTRACT YEAR is nice
23. Troy Tulowitzski - First 5 months of 2010 season = 12 HR/55 RBI, Last month 15HR/45RBI, I'll pass
24. Joe Mauer - If he brings the power back, he's a great value here
25. Matt Kemp - Has potential to be top 5 and 30/30/.300 easy but has to cut down on K's and be patient
26. Adrian Gonzalez - Shoulder injury could hurt his ADP which means value for you
27. Ryan Zimmerman - On the rise, still plenty young, great to build a keeper team around
28. Nelson Cruz - If he stays healthy he'll out grow this rankings easy, he does it all but has hamstring issues
29. Andrew McCutchen - We all expected 20/30/.280, we got 16/33/.286... look for slight upside
30. Ichiro Suzuki - Same output every year, why would you expect less? Age? Nah.
31. Dustin Pedroia - If he's 100% ready, expect to start where he left off
32. Justin Morneau - Same as Pedroia but needs to show he's healthy, could be dominant
33. Victor Martinez - Mr. Consistent from the catcher position
34. Brian McCann - Gives you the quality numbers you want from the 3rd-4th round catcher, just entering prime
35. Buster Posey - Position eligibility and upside has you drooling
36. Jason Heyward - He's more hype than anything but tons of upside, could be top 5 by 2012
37. Shin-Soo Choo - Solid all around stats .300/20+/20+ all day
38. C.C. Sabathia - Don't see any sign of regression, will rack up wins
39. Felix Hernadez - CY Young candidate but wins may suffer again
40. Adam Wainwright - He's just as dominant as Halladay/Lee minus some hype, better value down here
41. Adam Dunn - HR/RBI/R machine with surprising BA in 2010, look for him to build on that
42. Jose Bautista - Bust of 2011?? This one is a crap shoot! Expect a low BA though, I LOVE THIS GUY!
43. Justin Upton - Bounce back could make him top 10 in 2011
44. Jayson Werth - Didn't go contract year crazy as we expected but solid speed/combo output
45. Andre Ethier - Maybe too high but he is a special hitter, let him drop and watch him have a career year
46. Delmon Young - Boom or bust? Was 2010 for real? You'll have to pay to find out
47. Grady Sizemore - Come back player of year, .275/30HR/20SB I'll predict, but hopefully better
48. Alex Rios - I like the power/speed combo here with the solid .280+BA
49. Kevin Youkilis - Always plays with nagging injuries or else he'd rank higher
50. Kendry Morales - Should come back healthy and start where he left off

The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Closers Rankings

"There's magic in this beard! No, you can't touch it!" You couldn't touch Carlos Marmol in 2011 either. Sure, Brian Wilson nailed down 48 saves but Marmol struck out 138 batters in 77 IP. That's almost as sexy as Jennifer Lopez (I'm 32 so I have to stay within my age range) and that's why I like Marmol over Wilson. A solid closer strategy on draft day can make or break your season. Do you draft an elite closer early and get great ERA/WHIP/K along with your saves or do you wait until the end of the draft and get cheap saves with terrible ERA/WHIP/K?  It's always a debate. I prefer drafting a closer earlier rather than later, but that's just me.

Below are my top 30 Closers for 2011. I apologize in advance if I don't go along with the rest of the experts/analysts in the fantasy industry but this is how I am ranking them for my personal drafts. I also separated another group of middle relievers, all of whom have saves opportunity potential, and ranked them.

1. Carlos Marmol - 138 K in 77IP in 2010
2. Brian Wilson - 48 Saves and World Series hero, video game cover, livin' the dream
3. Heath Bell - Traded or not, he'll notch 40+ saves easy
4. Mariano Rivera - He's older but hasn't shown he's hittable yet, always a great value on draft day
5. Joakim Soria - Elite closer on a team that won't win much, so expect about 30 saves but great ERA/WHIP/K
6. Neftali Feliz - Could easily be #1 on this list, could end up starting, high risk/high reward
7. Brad Lidge - iI he stays healthy and his head is right, he'll be fantastic
8. Jose Valverde - The Tigers look solid this year, should rack up 35+ saves easy
9. Jonathan Papelbon - Save opps are there, but ERA/WHIP taking a hit, could be traded but solid draft value this year
10. Andrew Bailey - Needs to stay healthy and could be top 5
11. John Axford - Can he follow up a terrific 2010? he saved 24 of 27 games in the second half!
12. Jonathon Broxton - Down year last year but probably won't repeat 2009, should notch 35+ saves
13. Huston Street - This guy is always hurt and the reason I don't rank him higher, otherwise he's solid
14. Francisco Rodriguez - Should drop late in drafts and should provide excellent value
15. Matt Thornton - Sounds like Ozzie wants him to win job, could be top 10 by end of season, big sleeper
16. Drew Storen - Still unproven, tremendous upside, but possibly tough on save opportunities
17. Joe Nathan - If he's healthy should return to form at a nice value
18. David Aardsma - May miss the first few weeks of the season
19. Fernando Rodney - Should be a serviceable #2 and get you 30-35 saves
20. Leo Nunez - I think he'll get more opportunities considering the pitching staff is intact
21. Ryan Franklin - May retire at end of season, super risky, handcuff with Motte
22. Francisco Cordero - I expect a solid first half actually, then it becomes the Chapman show
23. Octavio Dotel - He's 37, in the A.L. East but on a great staff. I say 30-35 saves but ERA/WHIP could suffer
24. J.J. Putz - If he's healthy, is a sleeper to return to form. Probably in the 30-35 save range
25. Joel Hanrahan - Same as always, tough to get more than 30 or so save opps in Pittsburgh
26. Craig Kimbrel - Pick your poison between Kimbrel and Venters. So much hype here one is bound for disaster
27. Brandon Lyon - I'll pass
28. Koji Uehara - I'll pass
29. Chris Perez - Save opportunities will be limited
30. Kyle Farnsworth - Reminds me of Armando Benitez, cover your eyes and pray!

Saves Potential - The following relievers have an opportunity to wrestle the job away eventually or vulture saves...
31. Aroldis Chapman - if Cordero doesn't last all season
32. Johnny Venters - if Kimbrel craps the bed
33. Matt Capps - if Nathan isn't ready to start seaosn
34. Danial Bard - if Red Sox trade Papelbon
35. Jake McGee - if he beats out Kyle Farnsworth
36. Mike Adams - if Bell gets traded its Adams or Gregerson
37. Luke Gregerson - See Adams
38. Jason Motte - Franklin will retire at end of season (sleeper keeper)
39. Evan Meek - backs up Hanrahan
40. Frank Francisco - Dotel is older, Francisco is insurance
41. Kevin Gregg - he could still beat out Uehara for the job
42. Hung-Chih Kuo - I think Broxton will be fine
43. Takashi Saito - if Axford suffers the sophomore slump
44. Grant Balfour - does Bailey's elbow hold up?
45. Ryan Madson - if Lidge to falters

Monday, February 21, 2011

NL King - The Secret Weapon to an NL Only League Pitching Staff

The Middle Man.  Middle men are one of my secrets weapons to building a solid NL Only league pitching staff. These pitchers don't normally get much consideration but when you think about it, they really should. If you can have 3 middle relievers give you between 60 to 70 innings of strong K's, ERA, Ratio and throw in some wins and a few saves, that in a word is HUGE! That would be 200 innings of strong numbers for players who go between $1 to $5 per player. So for let's say $10 to $12 for the right middle men, they can give you ace starting pitching numbers. As you know aces are very expensive. Now he is the rub a lot of middle relievers can be strong one year and the next year not so good. So we are going to take a look at the top middle men in the NL today because if you can land the right trio it can lead to a very strong pitching staff.

Listed in no particular order...
Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters - ATL - Freddi Gonzalez has said recently that he will use both Kimbrel and Venters in save situations this year. I am sure that Gonzalez is saying this right before Spring Training to take the pressure of both of these young pitchers. As the season progresses my guess is one will emerge as the closer. Venters was a stud in the Braves bullpen last year putting up a 1.95 ERA with a 1.20 Ratio in 83 innings with 93K's. Throw in 4 wins and a save he was great middle man to have, only concern is Bobby Cox pitched him in 79 games for his 83 innings last season. Kimbrel blew hitters away last year, he had 40K's in 20 2/3 IP. Kimbrel had a 0.44 ERA with a 1.21 Ratio and 4 wins. He also walked 16 batters in 20+ innings which is really bad. Two things you don't want to do as both a closer-reliever is give up HR and BB. If Kimbrel can get more command he may just be one of the top relievers in the NL over the next few years. Keep in mind come opening day Kimbrel will just be 22, a lot of times being a closer in addition to the stuff more importantly is can he handle the job mentally. A lot guys fail because of the mental aspect of the job and Kimbrel is just 22. Venters is only 25.

Ryan Webb - FLA - When the Marlins traded Cameron Maybin to land Ryan Webb with Edward Mujica it told me either they must be down on Maybin or they love Ryan Webb. Because of San Diego's depth in their bullpen it's easy to have overlooked Webb but the 25 year old had a real good season last year. His ratio was a bit high at 1.41 but in 59 innings had a 2.90 ERA. Now I like to see his ratio come down and average more K's per inning (44K's in 59 IP) but since Leo Nunez lost his closers role the last couple of months of the season who gets saves in Florida is very much up in the air. Webb could be high on that list.

Bobby Parnell - NYM - Have to love his nearly K per inning stuff and with K-Rod on the last year of his contract and the Mets need to save money Parnell could be auditioning to become the Mets closer of the future sometime this summer. Like to see his ratio come down a bit but only gave up 8 walks in 35 innings last year which is a good sign.

Ryan Madson - PHI - After a horrible April which included breaking his toe after blowing a save (during the time when Lidge was on the DL to start the season), Madson came back with a vengeance the rest of the season. Last two seasons Madson has been one of the strong middle men who gives you excellent numbers in K's and the percentage categories not to mention a few wins and saves. One of the top middle relievers in the NL.

Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett - WSH - Even if Drew Storen shows he is ready for prime time both Clippard and Burnett showed they can help your NL only teams last season. I don't think Clippard will win 11 games again as a middle reliever but should be good for half that as he comes in a lot of tie games late and his 112K's in 91 innings were pretty awesome. Throw in strong ERA and Ratio numbers and Clippard was a stud last year. I like him for 2011 as well. I think Sean Burnett was the best 1-7 pitcher in the history of baseball last year, as he had a 2.14 ERA with a 1.14 Ratio along with 62K's in 63IP. Last two years has been a real good middle man.

Kerry Wood - CHC - Hanging out in the Yankee bullpen last summer Kerry Wood picked up a cutter and quite simply never gave up a run for the Yanks. If he can stay healthy should provide a lot of K's, a few W's, a good ERA and a pretty good ratio.
Aroldis Chapman - CIN - This guys has nasty stuff and with Cordero potential being on the last year of his deal could be the Reds future closer. Can provide huge K, ERA and Ratio numbers this season and may at one point take over the closers job. One of the top middle men to get.

Takashi Saito - MIL - As long as he can hold up old man river can still pitch. Again great numbers across the board but can the 41 year old hold up. Also if John Axford struggles the former closer for the Dodgers would be first in line to get the ball.

Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan - PIT - Both Meek and Hanrahan had strong 2010 and with Dotel now gone it will be a interesting spring training battle to see who the Pirates decide will be the closer to start the season. Besides possible saves both can be great middle men for 2011 as they were last season.

Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan - STL - Ryan Franklin turns 38 this spring and has said he will retire after the 2011 season when his contract ends. That begs the question who will be the Cards closer going forward? Ideally given Matt Holliday's recent contract and having to sign King Albert I am sure the Cards would like to find an in house candidate (that would be a lot cheaper). Both Motte and McClellan pitched well all year last year, Motte throws more gas as he had 54K's in 52+IP last year. Motte's 2.24 ERA and 1.13 Ratio look real good and he has the stuff to be a closer. McClellan in 75 innings had a 2.27 ERA and a 1.07 ratio with 60K's. Saves aside both guys are real good middle men.

Chih-Hung Kuo and Kenley Jansen - LAD - In addition to being stud middle men both Kuo and Jansen may have a chance to get some saves as well as Broxton enters Spring Training as the closer (that's what manager Don Mattingly says) but needless to say early struggles by Broxton or a bad spring and he can lose the job. If Kuo is healthy he is dominant and last year he was ridiculous with a 1.20 ERA and a 0.78 Ratio along with 73K's in 60IP. Jansen came up last summer and was equally as dominant as Kuo, in 27IP Jansen had a 0.67 ERA with a 1.00 Ratio along with 41K's in 27 innings. Jansen did walk 15 batters in that time which was his only flaw. Keep in mind Jansen is only 23. Both guys are bare minimum middle men studs.

Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson - SD - The last 2 years both Adams and Gregerson have been studs. Simply put they have been ERA, Ratio and K machines. Also unless Heath Bell gets an extension sometime this season he will be a free agent come next off-season. Will the Padres keep the 33 year old Bell and have him as their closer the next 3 or so or will they trade him for some much needed young talent come July? One thing is for sure both Adams and Gregerson have the stuff to close.

Santiago Casilla - SF - stud year - All Casilla did last season was go 7W, 2SV, 1.95 ERA, 1.19 Ratio, 56K's in 55+IP. That is the essence of a middle man secret weapon. Hey we talk about how great Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez is but Casilla had more than half of their wins last year. You might think that's a fluke and wins for a middle reliever will fluctuate from year to year but how many times during the season are the Giants in a 3-3 game in the 7th or 8th? So it's no fluke that Casilla had that many wins last year. Great middle man to get.

NL King - C.Lizza

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gregory Smith - 2011 Fantasy Baseball Spotlight - Billy Butler

Today the fantasy baseball spotlight is shining brightly on Kansas City Royals 1B Billy Butler. Will his power develop and can he become a top 10 first baseman this season.

Butler was selected by the Royals in the first round (14th overall) of the 2004 first-year player draft out of high school. Butler is entering his fourth season as an everyday player, at the age of 24 and he turns 25 at the beginning of the 2011 season. Butler currently ranks below the top 10 first basemen, due in large part to his lack of HR's and RBI's.

In 2010 many of us drafted Butler and expected him to take a leap forward, however he regressed a bit. In 2009 Butler batted .301/21/78/93. In 2010 Butler batted .318/15/77/78.

Butler possesses a solid batting eye, gap-to-gap power and showed excellent HR production in the minors. In 2010 his walks increased and his strikeouts decreased, which bodes well for Butler to maintain his batting average. Butler smacked 45 doubles last season, which tied him for fifth in the league. Turning some of those doubles into HR's, will significantly increase Butler's value going forward. Baseball statistician Bill James predicts 540 at-bats, 78 runs, 18 HR's, 89 RBI's, .307 batting average.

My Advice: If Butler falls to you in the 9th or 10th round of your draft then pounce! Keep in mind that first base is a very deep position, so plenty of options exist.

Butler's current ADP on Mock Draft Central is 82, behind Adam Dunn (49) Kendry Morales (59) and Paul Konerko (69).

Gregory's Projection: 600 at-bats, 80 runs, 23 HR's, 90 RBI's, .320 batting average

Friday, February 18, 2011

Andrew Bilbo - Head-to-Head League Player Comparisons

Strategies are not the only difference when comparing how to compete in a head-to-head league as opposed to your common roto league. Another huge, yet often overlooked, aspect is player rankings.
Head-to-head leagues frequently use categories that are not often used in standard 5x5 roto leagues. For hitters some of these categories commonly include (but are not limited to) BB, negative scoring for K's, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, doubles, and triples. Make sure to look at the categories being used in your league before you prepare for the draft to make sure that you are properly assessing each players individual value.
To help you make use of this info lets look at some examples using stats from last season. First is the obvious comparison of Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.

Prince Fielder: .261/32/83/94/1
Ryan Howard: 276/31/108/87/1

Using the 5x5 stats as seen above it would appear, based on stats alone, that Howard is arguably the slightly better pick. Now throw in three categories that head-to-head leagues routinely use and take a better look.

Prince Fielder: .261/32/83/94/1/114/138/.401/.471
Ryan Howard: 276/31/108/87/1/59/157/.353/.505

After adding these categories Fielder becomes more enticing than Howard. It's all about the scoring rules and settings of your league!

Now lets take a look at a different set of players.

Ryan Zimmerman: .307/25/85/85/4
David Wright: .283/29/103/87/19

In this comparison David Wright would be the player usually selected in standard roto leagues, yet when we add the head-to-head categories it becomes a little closer.

Ryan Zimmerman: .307/25/85/85/4/69/98/.388/.510
David Wright: .283/29/103/87/19/69/161/.354/.503

Zimmerman now seems a lot more comparable. However, this argument is not over. While Wright is being drafted at the back end of the first round (ADP 9.95) Zimmerman is being drafted around the mid to late 2nd round and sometimes even in the very early 3rd round (ADP 21.05). In head-to-head leagues using categories such as those listed above, I would much rather use my 1st round pick on someone other than Wright if I knew I could get Zimmerman in the late 2nd round.

Andrew Bilbo

For all you Red Sox Fans....

Manny Ramirez "Bad Man" T-shirt

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Introducing Fantasy Baseball Express Contributor Andrew Bilbo

Andrew has been involved with fantasy sports for just over 10 years with his longest running league going on 6 years in 2011 and  has played almost every fantasy sport at least once, yet fantasy baseball is by far his favorite. He prefers head-to-head mixed leagues (mostly including non-standard scoring such as holds, on base percentage, k/9, etc), but has competed successfully in every format.

Andrew's fantasy baseball philosophy in a quick basic description has always centered around getting big power hitters early while piecing together a pitching staff through the latter half of the draft, trading, and free agency. His strategy on relievers has changed over the years as he will encourage getting can't miss closers early at good value while waiting on all other relievers.

Andrew works as a bankruptcy specialist in Fort Worth, Texas where I have lived for a couple of years. He is originally from Mississippi where he graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor's degree in political science.

Andrew makes a great addition to the team and will strive to bring useful fantasy insight, knowledge and experience to Fantasy Baseball Express.

NL King - Analyzing NL Only League Starting Pitchers Part 4

We wrap up the NL Only starting pitchers rankings with the Wildcards. These guys could have value for 2011 but are there are factors that make them, well, wildcards. However, taking a chance for low dollars on draft day could become very rewarding and possibly lead you to a championship.
Listing in alphabetical order:
Chris Capuano - NYM - Fighting for one of the back end spots in the Mets rotation. He is a former 18 game winner but that was back in 2005. Also hasn't had a healthy season since 2007. If he is available in the taxi squad part of your draft maybe worth a flyer then.

Aaron Cook - COL - Even during his plus years not a great ratio guy and hardly any K's.

Kevin Correia - PIT - Looking for that 09 magic but that was in Petco and now in Pittsburgh.

R.A. Dickey - NYM - The 35 year old made his knuckle ball dance last year. Has Dickey found a new career or is he a one hit wonder? Pitching at Citi Field doesn't hurt.

Tom Gorzelanny - WSH - The Nats gave up 3 minor leaguer's to land Gorzelanny. At times put in some strong outings but over the long haul is a ratio killer.

Jason Hammel - COL - Might get you 10 wins but will hurt your ERA and ratio with mediocre K's.

J.A. Happ - HOU - For parts of a season Happ has shown he can be a very solid starter and at times even better than that. In 2011 we will see what Happ can do for a full season which he has never done before. Houston will give him the ball every 5th day.
Aaron Harang - SD - The last 3 years have been a very rough go for Harang. Before that in 06 and 07 Harang won 16 games each season with a sub 4 ERA and a solid to strong ratio along with 200+K's. Harang hopes that Petco field will help find the magic of those years. Being around Bud Black can't hurt either.
Wade LeBlanc - SD - Could be a great back of the rotation starter if he can bring down his walks and hence his 1.4+ Ratio. Can't live with that ratio as a back end starter.
Kyle Lohse - STL - After his magical 08 season and big contract extension Lohse has been both bad and hurt. I am a huge believer in Dave Duncan but I think Lohse has had his moment in the sun.
Jason Marquis - WSH - Coming back from major surgery so it could take Marquis some time before he finds his stride. Before the injury when on good teams Marquis was a real good win guy who threw you some K's and roughly a league average in ER and Ratio. But now coming back from a big injury and on a sub 500 club.

Dustin Moseley - SD - Could be a great taxi squad - reserve pick as he could be the 5th starter in San Diego. Looked very good at times with the Yankees last year.

Bud Norris - HOU
- His 1st half last year makes his ERA and ratio look unlivable but the potential is there. Norris found his stride in the 2nd half and finished with 158K's in 153+IP. This is a super sleeper, remember he is only 25. Takes time with pitchers often to put it all together.

Ross Ohlendorf - PIT - How bad are the Pirates? In 21 starts Ohlendorf pitched to a 4.07 ERA which is not bad but yet had a 1-11 record. Big reason why you want your depth starters from good teams. Having said that would be a great taxi squad - reserve guy and just maybe Ohlendorf will repeat his 09 production.
Vicente Padilla - LA - Will start the year as the long man in the Dodgers bullpen. If there is an injury to someone in the staff he would join the rotation.

Joe Saunders - ARZ - Won 17 games in 08 and 16 games in 09 but that was for a division winning Angel team, now he is on probably a 70 win D-Backs team. Plus not a great ratio guy the last couple of years and always been a low K guy. I would pass.

Johan Santana - NYM - Johan is out until at least June and there is a good chance you probably won't see Santana until after the all star break. That is just an educational guess because the Mets have a lot invested in Santana over the next few years at roughly 23 million per season so the Mets will be ultra cautious with Santana. So what does this mean for NL only roto owners? I can only see really two scenarios for Santana to give NL only owners real value. The reason I say that because coming off shoulder surgery and pitching for roughly a half year for a sub 500 team at best I see Santana giving owners $10 to $12 worth of value. So you can get Santana for around that price come draft day with the idea of having a big future trade chip come July for a rebuilding team or you will have Santana yourself at a really low price for next season and beyond. This is assuming that after this year Santana going forward will pitch like an ace. If you are in a situation where you have a ton of draft dollars in your league I can see picking up Santana for $10 to $12 and having him as a big future chip but other than that can't see spending the money on him.
Stephen Strasburg - WSH - Well basically what I just said about Santana applies to Strasburg except with Strasburg we know he is out for the 2011 season (Nats hoping he can make a start or two by late September to setup 2012). So how many 2011 draft dollars do you spend given this situation? How much do you think or more importantly the other owners in your league think Strasburg is worth? For arguments sake let's say most people in your league thinks a healthy Strasburg is worth $30, what kind of return can you get from a rebuilding team come early July for Strasburg? Again if you are you in a position where you have a lot of draft dollars on draft day spending $12 or $13 on Strasburg could net a huge return for the 2nd half run, it's risky but could be a very rewarding play.

Chris Young - NYM - I had Chris Young on my team to start the season last year. I had him at $1 I thought it was a good player for a $1 to have Young as one of my depth starters. If Young can stay healthy and pitching in another big ballpark in Citi Field Young can be a really good depth starter for you. But that is a huge if.

Carlos Zambrano - CHC - When Big Z is committed and focus he can be a excellent #3 starter for you. Having said that hard to say Big Z being focused for the majority of the year. If you get him cheap sure it's a good gamble but will you get him cheap in your league based on his 2nd half?
NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gregory Smith - 2011 Fantasy Baseball Spotlight - Jay Bruce

Today the fantasy baseball spotlight is shining brightly on Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce. Do you believe the hype or is this guy ready to explode?

Cincinnati's first-round pick in the 2005 draft (12th), Bruce took a huge step forward in 2010. He hit .281 with 25 homers, 70 RBI and an .846 OPS. Bruce posted the second-lowest BABIP among players with 350-plus plate appearances last season. This suggests an increase in batting average is on the horizon.

Despite his unlucky struggles at the plate last season, Bruce increased his walks and decreased his strikeouts from 2008. Both are very good signs for such a young player.  Strikeouts will continue to be an issue for Bruce and his average will most likely sit around the .260-.280 in the short term.

Bruce turns 24 in early April and it will already be his fourth season in the majors. He has the capabilities, experience and pedigree to surpass last seasons numbers and become a strong second outfielder. Draft with confidence!

What to expect in 2011: POWER POWER POWER... Bruce is slated to bat fifth or sixth in the Cincinnati's power packed lineup, and appears to be on the cusp of eclipsing the 30 HR mark. Baseball statistician Bill James predicts a lofty 38-HR total.  Bruce’s current ADP on Mock Draft Central is 77, and that number seems to be getting lower as we head into our respective drafts. Get this young stud and soon-to-be top 50 keeper before it’s too late.

Gregory's Projection: 550 at-bats, 80 runs, 33 HRs, 90 RBI, 7 stolen bases, .275 batting average

Introducing Fantasy Baseball Express Contributor Gregory Smith

Gregory Smith, is a new contributor to Fantasy Baseball Express and will be providing player insight, analysis and projections.

Gregory is a fantasy baseball fanatic and has been playing fantasy sports for the last 7 years. He has been a champion in multiple baseball, football and basketball leagues. He looks forward to sharing his thoughts and analysis with each of you.

In 2007, he and his good friend Danial Harris formed Playing For Keeps, a 5X5 head-to-head keeper league, which further fueled his passion for fantasy baseball. He will be looking to repeat as champion this upcoming season!

Gregory is a life long Atlanta Braves fan and Muts hater... Go Braves!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Fantasy Man makes the Top 10 for Blogs for Fantasy Baseball League Lovers

I was alerted the other day about an article, “Drafting Like a Pro: Top 50 Blogs for Fantasy League Lovers”  by Matthew Oliver and The Fantasy Man made the top 10 portion of the Fantasy Baseball Blogs listed. Feels good to be recognized.  Take a minute to check it out and maybe even take a peek at some of the other solid blogs out there!

Also, on a side note, I arrived in the 21st century and I added the small little URL icon, so now if you book mark my site, you got the The Fantasy Man shining brightly!

Norman Homers - Tackling The Fantasy Man's Pre-Season Third Base Rankings

I love Super Bowl prop bets. Full disclosure, I lost my bet on how many times Bret Favre would be mentioned during the big game. I would have lost a significant amount more if I was offered a bet on how many times Cameron Diaz would shove a handful of popcorn into A-Rod’s face on national TV. That will never get old. In case you missed it, the Packers’ Gatorade bath was orange and Christina Agulira hit the over on how long she would hold brave….too bad would she forget the lyrics (but I’m sure not many people were watching or anything).

I digress…
So at third base, get a top 6 guy or else...

The Fantasy Man's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

1. Alex Rodriguez
Norman Notes: I’m not an A-Rod hater, I think A-Rod is one of (if not the) the best players of his generation. BUT I 100% don’t endorse drafting him as the #1 third baseman or in the 1st round of a draft…in fact I don’t endorse drafting him as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 5th third baseman. Personally, I’d rather Bautista over A-Rod. That’s probably the biggest digression I have with the Fantasy Man’s rankings this season. As an admitted steroid user, I don’t trust his body to hold up for the full 162 (look at the precedent set by Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, etc). The guy’s so far inside his own head, he could slump for a month the next time he has a milestone to pass. Norman disagrees with ranking A-Rod the #1 third baseman. I could be wrong, but he wont be on any of my teams.

2. David Wright
Norman Notes: When you’re in trouble, you call DW!
His increasing strike out rate and decreased power outage in the cavernous Citi field scare me slightly, but you can still rely on him to produce the usual accounting stats.

3. Evan Longoria
Norman Notes: This is my clear cut #1 guy at third base. The overall talent, upside, and age is scary. He’s improved every year and he’ll improve again. I know he lost the Crawford/Pena lineup protection, but look for Desmond Jennings to step up, and how much did Carlos Pena’s sub .200 help anyway? Watch out for Manny (Man-Ram) Ramirez and Johnny Damon (he gets around the AL East) to help Longo improvement. Trust me; the guy is fantasy gold, GOLD JERRY, GOLD!

4. Ryan Zimmerman
Norman Notes: He can hit .300 with 30 homeruns, and still has more upside. Don’t pass him by.

5. Jose Bautista
Norman Notes: The guy hit 54 home runs last year, FIFTY-FREAKEN-FOUR! Call him a one year wonder, call him Brady Anderson, crikey call him Chumbumbua if you want. But I call him a lock for 35 home runs in 2011, and at third base, that dwarfs the competition in a similar manner to how Kaite Holmes dwarfs Tom Cruise.
6. Kevin Youkilis
Norman Notes: May take some time to gain eligibility at 3B. He’s good and that lineup is better. Could be in line for a monster year.

7. Aramis Ramirez
Norman Notes: He’s one of my favorite sleepers. You usually see him ranked much lower, so props to the Fantasy Man for having him this high. If you do wait for third base, then grab Aramis. On a side note, I personally watched Aramis hit 3 home runs in a game last year leading the Cubs to a 14-7 comeback win vs. the Astros.

8. Pedro Alvarez
Norman Notes: Super hyped sleeper

9. Adrian Beltre
Norman Notes: I don’t know what to expect, but I don’t buy the post contract slump talk. Last time it was in Seattle’s pitcher friendly Safeco Field, this time he’ll be playing in hitter friendly Ranger’s Ballpark in Arlington with a much better lineup.

10. Mark Reynolds
Norman Notes: Mark Reynolds is my most hated player. The guy is fantasy cancer. Rumor has it that Mark Reynolds got confused by the Cash for Clunkers offer and though his batting average was eligible. Norman Avoid Stamp in full effect.

11. Michael Young
Norman Notes: Depends where he lands, but historically I like Young’s career batting average and multi-position eligibility.

12. Pablo Sandoval
Norman Notes: The Kung-Fu Panda reminds me of a fantasy football forecast I once read for LenDale White, it read something like, “If he doesn’t get his diet in check, he’ll eat himself out of the league.” Sandoval either needs to go on Biggest Loser or try White’s Tequila Diet (patent pending).

13. Casey Mcgehee
14. Chris Johnson
Norman Notes: If I don’t land a top 5 guy, this is my favorite late round third base sleeper. He hit .308 with 11 homers in only 341 at-bats as a rookie. Plenty of upside, but the downside is that he plays for Houston.

15. Dayan Viciedo
16. Ian Stewart
17. Scott Rolen
18. Chase Headley
19. Danny Valencia
20. Jose Lopez
Norman Notes: He sucks (click here for further explanation)

21. Jhonny Peralta
22. David Freeze
Norman Notes: Freeze is a huge sleeper for me. When he’s not busy plotting crime against Gotham City, he’ll be batting behind Matt Holiday, Albert Pujols, and Lance Berkman. Its hard not to get behind that.

23. Placido Polanco
24. Jorge Cantu
25. Edwin Encarnacion
26. Chipper Jones
Norman Notes: If you have DL spots, why not…The guy knows how to hit

27. Kevin Kouzmanoff
28. Brandon Inge
29. Casey Blake
30.. Miguel Tejada
31. Alberto Callaspo
32. Mike Moustakas

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NL King - Analyzing NL Only League Starting Pitchers Part 3

The young upside type starting pitchers are the toughest group to analyze in terms of what their production will be for the coming year. Sometimes young starters are coming off a disappointing year and we carelessly write them off and then they emerge with a big season. We will try to illustrate a key point or two and help determining what the young guns will do in the NL for 2011.

List is in alphabetical order....
Homer Bailey - CIN - Bailey is a former top 10 in all MLB prospect by Baseball America. Bailey quietly made some nice improvements last year in terms of cutting down his walks and getting his K's up. This could be the year Bailey takes even the next step. However, Bailey, along with Mike Leake and Travis Wood are in competition for the 4th and 5th rotation spots for the Reds so unless there is an injury someone is starting in AAA.

Madison Bumgarner - SF - Bumgarner showed why he was a top top prospect in all of MLB last year. This kid is going to be really good for the Giants. However, a red flag for 2011 is Bumgarner pitched more innings by far ever in his life in a single season last year with 204 1/3 innings including the post season. That's 97 1/3 innings more than what he did in 2009. Many times when this has happened in the past it has resulted in a tired arm the following season and therefore a disappointing year or an injury.

Johnny Cueto - CIN - Cueto was having a solid season in 2009 before a disastrous summer made his final 09 numbers not look as good as they should have. Quite simply Cueto was solid last year and each season has made a nice improvement over the previous season. Does play in park that is like a softball field and looks like will be a so - so guy when it comes to K's though.

Barry Enright - ARZ - Not a good K guy but was a nice waiver wire pickup last summer for owners looking for some depth to their starting pitching. However you know how I feel about the D-Backs home park and I believe the D-Backs will be a bad team in 2011 that is a not a good formula.

Jamie Garcia - STL - The kid was on a lot of sleeper lists to be a real good depth starter, instead he put up numbers like a number 2 starter. Future is bright for Garcia and having Dave Duncan around does not hurt. I would count on number 3 starter numbers for 2011 and hope he pitched like he did last year.

Daniel Hudson - ARZ - Came over in the Edwin Jackson trade and quite simply pitched like an ace for the D-Backs. The league will adjust to Hudson so what happens then, not to mention again the ballpark and the team.

Jair Jurjens - ATL - I had Jurjens his rookie year (got him in my draft that year for $2) and he was just solid for me back in 08. He did even better in 09 but last year had an injury plagued season and
only pitched 116 innings and his numbers suffered. Follow his spring he should be 100% health wise now and if Jurjens slips in your draft then POUNCE.

Ian Kennedy - ARZ - Despite only getting 9 wins because of the team had a real solid year including a great ratio. But again like I said about Hudson, the league will adjust to him, the ballpark and the fact the team will lose over 90 games.

Mike Leake - CIN - Started off great but then cooled off but all things considering, not a bad rookie year although for fantasy purposes his ratio was a killer ... and not in a good way. Probably got tired down the stretch for the amount of innings he threw. Again in a competition for one of the back end rotation spots.

James McDonald - PIT - I always read that McDonald had real good stuff but the Dodgers did not give him much of a chance to show what he can do. The good news is Pittsburgh will, the bad news is he is pitching for the Pirates.

Chris Narveson - MIL - Very quietly won 12 games last year but it seemed like Narveson was either hot or cold. If Narveson can become a bit more consistent could be a nice sleeper come draft day although in my experience guys who win 10 or more games go higher than they should.

Jonathan Niese - NYM - Have to love Citi Field but I don't like Niese's ratio or the fact he throws way to many pitches which means he is gone after 6 innings or the fact I think the Mets are in for a rough year on the field. Already having a horrible year off it on many fronts. If Niese can make some adjustments can be a really good depth starter for you.

Mike Pelfrey - NYM - Pelfrey bounced back from a horrible 09 but last years final numbers don't tell the whole story. Pelfrey at times pitched like an ace and other times pitched like he doesn't belong in the majors. In the end can be a solid depth starter for you but I don't see Pelfrey emerging as a great starter because never been a great ratio guy (had a 1.38 ratio last year even though had 3.66 ERA), is a poor strikeout guy and I believe he is going to be on a bad team.

Clayton Richard - SD - One of the principles who came over in the Jake Peavy trade had a solid season. But don't overpay this year because his ratio is still a bit too high and I don;t see the Padres having the same year in 2011 with A-Gone gone so his wins will be down as well.

Edison Volquez - CIN - Got him in the same draft with Jurjens back in 08 for $1 (Boy that was a great draft) has electric stuff and came back last summer after missing a year from major surgery. I expect improvement from last year but not ready to say he will duplicate 2008 in 2011. Volquez might be a year away from that.

Chris Volstad - FLA - Made improvements last year but especially since he is a low K guy that ratio has to get a lot better otherwise he is a negative player. He is only 24 though.

Travis Wood - CIN - The left hander was great in his 17 starts last season and that fact along with he is left handed in my opinion would have to have an awful spring not to be in the rotation. I believe Bailey and Leake are fighting for the last spot.

Jordan Zimmerman - WSH - Came back last August after missing a year from Tommy John surgery. Has talent but given the team and it takes time to come back from that injury I see 2011 being a transition year for Zimmerman. Pass on him this year.

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Norman Homers - Tackling The Fantasy Man's 2011 Pre-season Shortstop Rankings

2011 is the Chinese year of the Rabbit. To be clear it is not the year of the shortstop. I would be comfortable with the first 5 names on this list. After that I could talk myself into maybe the next 3. If I can’t land a top 8 shortstop in my drafts, then I’ll be pressing my panic button faster than you can draw a Prophet Muhammad cartoon. In summary, I’ll reach for a top guy so I don’t get stuck with dead weight on my roster.

2011 Fantasy Baseball Shortstops SS Rankings:

1. Hanley Ramirez
Norman Notes: Just the clear cut king of his position. A 5 tool player with the benefit of position scarcity, age, speed, and upside. I love Hanley to crush it this year. I'll take him #1 overall. Just don’t criticize his hustle, he may get you fired.
2. Jose Reyes
Norman Notes: The upside is jersey-licious. The downside is 36 games. Last year was the tipping point of my personal Jose Reyes barometer. Although his historic ability of stealing 60+ bases is there, I don’t think his body holds up. He gets the Norman Avoid Stamp.
3. Jimmy Rollins
Norman Notes: I feel like I’m watching a Lifetime Movie called “A Life in Decline.” The batting average is down, and the age is up. Not a correlation I like to see.
4. Troy Tulowitzski
Norman Notes: In the words of one of America's greatest thinkers, Britney Spears, Tulo at 4 is… CRAZY, CRAZY! I think Tulo is the clear #2 shortstop in the league and could dominate the position for years to come. It’s a huge gamble to draft Reyes or Rollins before him (one that I don’t endorse making).
5. Derek Jeter
Norman Notes: Don't sleep on Jeter, but don’t bank on him either. Jeter is the face of NY baseball but that doesn’t make his body immortal. The guy’s getting old, as much as fans want to deny, its true. There’s a reason that the Yankees didn’t want to pay him this offseason. Its because they know and agree with what I just said.
6. Stephen Drew
Norman Notes: A gamble but has age and health in his pocket. Could be a breakout player in at the baseball prime age of 27.
7. Rafael Furcal
Norman Notes: What do Furcal and Mike Tyson have in common?  Both their backs were broken. I love Furcal if he’s healthy… unfortunately that is never.
8. Elvis Andrus
Norman Notes: President of the overrated club
9. Starlin Castro
10. Alexei Ramirez
11. Yuneal Escobar
12. Jed Lowrie
Norman Notes: Lowrie may have potential, but its hard to draft him as a starting shortstop until he is actually a starting shortstop. Maybe the Red Sox trade Scutaro?
13. Reid Brignac
14. Ian Desmond
Norman Notes: Overlooked in the talented rookie class of 2010. Could jump multiple rankings if he continues the flashes he displayed last year. Don’t led ID fall to 14.
15. Juan Uribe
16. Jason Bartlett
Norman Notes: I know he didn’t produce extremely well last year but if you do miss on SS, then I like his ability at this point in the draft. Just don’t expect power in PETCO Park.
17. Marco Scutaro
Norman Notes: See Jed Lowrie
18. J.J. Hardy
Norman Notes: Not going to find 20+ homerun potential from any of these other guys.
19. Jhonny Peralta
20. Erick Aybar
21. Alcides Escobar
22. Asdrubal Cabrera
23. Alex Gonzalez
24. Clint Barmes:
Norman Notes: On a 1 year deal with Houston, he could improve this year. His bat has pop (at least in 2009 it did) but he has Mark Reynolds syndrome. A 240 batting average is simply unacceptable.
25. Danny Espinoza
26. Miguel Tejada
27. Mike Aviles
28. Evereth Cabrera
29. Cliff Pennington
30. Alexi Casilla
31. Yuniesky Betancourt
32. Josh Wilson

Next up reviewing The Fantasy Man’s Third Base Rankings…

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

NL King - Analyzing NL Only League Starting Pitchers Part 2

Today we look at the starting pitchers who we would classify as middle of the rotation guys or veterans in an NL Only fantasy baseball league. They are not aces but these starting pitchers will help us in a big way in terms of our teams having great success in 2011.

The Vets:
Roy Oswalt - PHI - Despite going 13-13 with both Houston and Philly Oswalt had a border line ace year. Rebounded with a 2.76 ERA (was 4.12 in 09), 1.025 Ratio (was 1.24 in 09) and had 193K's (had 138 in 09). Let's keep in mind though that even though Oswalt is pitching on a top team he is 33 years old has had some injury issues here and there (although for the most part has not stopped him pitching) and over the last ten years Oswalt has thrown 2,015 innings. He would be a great addition to your team for 2011 just don't pay ace money for Oswalt.

Ted Lilly - LAD - This guy is in my opinion the secret weapon of the starting pitchers in the NL. Since coming to the NL in 07 Lilly has won 54 games in those 4 seasons (has had double digit wins every year). His highest ERA was a 4.09 with the other 3 years in the 3's. Has been a great ratio guy with ratio's the last 4 seasons of 1.14, 1.23, 1.06 and 1.08 last year. Has been a solid to strong K guy the last 4 seasons with 174, 184, 151 and 166K's last year. And was traded from the Cubs to the Dodgers last summer and resigned with LA this offseason so now in one of the best pitchers parks in baseball. Lilly did turn 35 this winter and missed the beginning of last season coming back from a shoulder issue. As long as Lilly stays healthy and there is no reason not to think he won't (pitched 193 2/3 innings last year despite missing most of April) Lilly will be an excellent additional to your team.

Tim Hudson - ATL - If we knew Tim Hudson was going to be healthy just like 2010 where he through 228 2/3 innings I would probably put him in the ace category, although Hudson is not a high K guy (only 139 K's last year). But remember Hudson had Tommy John surgery in late summer of 2008 and he will be 36 this summer. I still like Tim Hudson but my problem with him is I believe in most leagues his price come draft day will be solely based on his 2010 production. If that is the case spend your dollars else where.

Matt Garza - CHC - Going from the AL East to the NL is going to seem like heaven for Matt Garza. While I don't expect Garza to turn into an ace he will be his usual work horse self with better ERA and Ratio numbers. I think 15 Wins with an ERA around 3.60, a Ratio in the low 1.20's and K's in the 160's sound about a right. A real solid pitcher.

Wandy Rodriguez - HOU - After a slow start last year Wandy finished with another solid season. He does everything well in the four categories the starting pitchers touches. The only thing is being on Houston do not expect more than 12 or 13 wins.

Shaun Marcum - MIL - Another guy going from the AL East to the NL. The red flag with Marcum is he did miss 09 because of elbow surgery however I don't think the Brewers would have traded one of their top prospects in Brett Lawrie unless they checked Marcum's medical reports up and down, left and right and every other which way before making the trade. Again like Garza not an ace but just solid across the board.

Ryan Dempster - CHC - Since becoming a starter again in 2008 Dempster has been a solid guy across the board. Great # 3 SP to have in an NL only league.

Ricky Nolasco - FLA - Nolasco has the stuff to become an ace. His problems in the past have really been the bad inning syndrome. Basically his ERA is not what it should be because he gives everything up in one bad inning over and over again. In 2009 Nolasco almost did the impossible when he posted a 1.25 Ratio with a 5.06 ERA. This illustrates my point. If Nolasco slips in your league come draft day POUNCE.

Hiroki Kuroda - LAD - Kuroda despite only 11 Wins last year gave his owners a big year. The key with Kuroda is health, as long as Kuroda stays healthy he will be a solid # 3 starting pitcher for you. But Kuroda turns 36 right before Spring Training and keep in mind Kuroda was only able to pitch 117 innings in 2009. Need to get a bit of discount on Kuroda due to his age and the miles on his body to add him to your team.

Chad Billingsley - LAD - After a horrific second half in 2009 Billingsley bounced back last year to have a solid year. Billingsley is more than capable of being a # 2 starter, it's all between the ears for this guy and his belief in himself. Remember he is only 26 years old.

Jon Garland - LAD - Had one of the best years of his career, pitching in Petco certainly didn't hurt. Leaves Petco but Dodger stadium not a bad pitchers park. Should be a solid pitcher this year but remember Garland before last year was a guy who had a ratio in the low 1.4's and last year was at 1.315.

Javier Vazquez - FLA - After finishing 4th in the Cy Young race in the NL in 2009, Vazquez had a rough season in the Bronx last year. As a Yankee fan (Yes the NL King favorite team is in the American League) and someone who saw almost all of Vazquez's starts it seemed to me a combination of trying to hard and lack of confidence. Going back to the NL and pitching in a big ballpark in Florida could be the perfect tonic for a rebound. If Vazquez goes between $10 to $12 in your league then POUNCE!

Derek Lowe - ATL - After a poor start to the season last year especially considering Lowe was coming off a poor 2009 season it looked like Derek Lowe might be on a downward spiral towards the end of his career. But Lowe pitched strong really from June on and finished with solid numbers. I think Lowe can repeat his 2010 production this year.

Brett Myers - HOU - Was one of the comeback stories in 2010 as Myers in his 33 starts last year went at least 6 innings in every start except one which was his last start when he went 5 2/3 innings. One of my few bright spots last year as I drafted Brett Myers in my auction draft last year for $4. Remember Myers is only 30 and last season was his return as a starting pitcher. Houston on paper appears to be a below 500 team but Myers should be a solid pitcher this season although I would expect an ERA in the high 3's instead of last years 3.14.

Bronson Arroyo - CIN - The last two years Arroyo has given his owners two really good years. I am still skeptically of him because I still worry Arroyo will hurt your ratio and has always been a very low strikeout guy and pitches at a softball field. But the last 2 years are hard to argue.

Anibal Sanchez - FLA - Finally stayed healthy for a full season and guess what he had a solid season, go figure. Still would like to see his walks come down, if he can do that Sanchez can get much better. Keep in mind he turns 27 during Spring Training so entering his prime years, so good things could be ahead for Annibal if he can stay healthy.

Jake Westbrook - STL - Anyone who has some talent and then goes to Dave Duncan the pitching coach of the Cardinals it seems only good things happen. For a $10 to $12 investment can give you a solid year.

Randy Wolf - MIL - After a career year for the Dodgers in 2009 things came back to earth for Wolf as he had his usually year with the Brewers. Wolf won 13 games with a 4.17 ERA, 1.39 Ratio and 142K's in 215 2/3 IP. The problem with Wolf is he is going to hurt your ratio somewhat while giving you a push ERA with solid wins and a decent amount of K's. I would look else where.

Jorge De La Rosa - COL - Can be a solid winner and strong K guy for you while giving you league averages in ERA and Ratio.

Joe Blanton - PHI - Blanton had solid seasons in 05, 07 and 09 but not good seasons in 06, 08 and 10. So he is up and down and seems to like the odd years so maybe 2011 will be a solid season. Due to the Phillies top 4 starters and the fact that Blanton is making 8 million dollars as a 5th starter, Philly would love to move his salary.

Randy Wells - CHC - Came back to earth last year but still not bad numbers. Would be a great # 4 starter in an NL only rotation.

Barry Zito - SF - Would be a great # 4 starter in an NL only rotation.

Livan Hernandez - WSH - Old man river had a great season last year. I am skeptical he can do it again especially on a sub .500 team.

Next Up Part 3 of the Starting Pitchers - The Young Guns.

NL King - C.Lizza