March 27, 2012
My league had our MLB fantasy baseball draft recently. As always, I got some of the guys I wanted and missed out on a few as well. But since my draft has come and gone I don’t have to worry about the other guys in my league knowing who I want on my team. Therefore, I will give you a rundown of what my ideal team would look like. It’s not like I had much to worry about, anyway. Chances are none of those guys would have seen this since most of them can barely even read. (Bazinga!) Trash talking your league members is one of the best parts of a fantasy league. Anyway, here’s who I would realistically try to take going by the average draft position on the site my league uses.
Round 1 Miguel Cabrera, 1B
I want my first pick to be a sure thing. Cabrera has put up an average of .320 batting average with 33 home runs, 115 RBI and 102 runs for the last eight years. That’s as much of a sure thing as you will find.
Round 2 Carlos Gonzalez, OF
Again, I want a sure thing if I can get it. Gonzalez has had at least 25 home runs, 20 steals, 90 runs and 90 RBI to go with a .295 average for the last two seasons. He is the real deal.
Round 3 Jose Reyes, SS
Here’s a guy who has led the league in steals and in batting average. Reyes joins a Miami team that has loaded up on talent and brought in Ozzie Guillen to manage. Guillen had the White Sox running a lot and he should do the same in Miami.
Round 4 Michael Bourn, OF
Just in case Reyes isn’t 100 percent healthy and his steals come down again, adding Bourn will make up for it in a hurry. You can pencil him in for 50 steals and he gives you a solid batting average as well.
Round 5 Zack Greinke, SP
Greinke will be nearly as good as the biggest name pitchers in baseball but will cost you a much lower pick to get him.
Round 6 Carlos Santana, C
There aren’t a lot of great catchers so if you get one of them you will have a big advantage at at least one position.
Round 7 Carl Crawford, OF
If Crawford is still available in the 7th round you better jump on him. He had injury problems last year and was a big disappointment. I believe he will bounce back big time.
Round 8 Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Here’s another guy who had a disappointing year in 2011 and should be better in 2012. Youkilis could end up being a steal.
Round 9 Brian Wilson, RP
This guy is awesome. I want Wilson on my team regardless of what he does on the field but it just so happens that he can pitch.
Round 10 Josh Johnson, SP
Because of his injury history this is a high-risk, high-reward pick. Go for it. You aren’t playing for third place are you?
Round 11 Matt Garza, SP
I’m a Cubs fan. I always need a Cub. I choose Garza.
Round 12 Heath Bell, RP
He’s going to a better team which will hopefully translate into more saves.
Round 13 Brandon Beachy, SP
He averaged almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings last year.
Round 14 Torii Hunter, OF
Round 15 Ryan Roberts, 2B
You are going to have a weak spot somewhere. This is mine. And it’s not that bad.
Round 16 Emilio Bonifacio, SS
I love guys that can play multiple positions because they provide lineup flexibility.
Round 17 Josh Willingham, OF
Not a guy people will be desperate to get, but always gives you at least 20 long balls.
From this point on in the draft, grab as many high-upside players as you can. If they don’t pan out, you can always drop them and find someone else.
July 27, 2011
The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, arriving July 31. This time of year, the Hot Stove begins to heat up and players begin changing teams; either to fill a hole for the playoff run or to make a move toward the future. Each team has different interests in mind this time of year. Here are a few types of trades you’ll see.
The Final Piece
This is the most publicized of trades. MLB teams in the playoff hunt that need an extra boost, whether it’s to win the wild card, division, or the World Series, often seek a marquee player to help propel them. In exchange, the seller will either receive prospects, salary relief, or both, depending on the quality of the player.
You’re final piece contestants this year are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. They’re going after Carlos Beltran (likely to be traded), Hunter Pence (not likely to be traded), and Jose Reyes (not likely to be traded).
The Depth Play
Some MLB teams are fortunate enough to have every player they need to win it all (note this is extremely rare – teams can always upgrade at a position, it’s more of a question of whether or not it’s worth it). The better MLB trade deadline deal, then, is to shore up a weaker area of the team. An additional reliever is always a hot commodity, as well as gritty veterans that can come off the bench, play multiple positions, and hold themselves defensively. These transactions go largely unnoticed, but often make a larger impact that you’d expect.
Many playoff teams utilize this method – it’s an easy way to upgrade at a usually low price. Look for cash conscious teams like the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates to seek depth to push their overall player quality higher.
On the opposite end of the final piece and depth play scenarios are the futurists – MLB teams that are well out of the playoff hunt, but have players who would be valuable to playoff contenders. Quality of players will vary, as superstars obviously will make an impact, but specialists and veterans often have more value to a contender than a team in the cellar. The value the player provides the playoff contender usually determines how much the selling team gets in return.
Look for the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays to trade some of their better players at the end of their contracts in exchange for prospects. Tampa Bay is especially good at doing this every year, so look for BJ Upton to potentially be on the move to make way for talent on the farm system. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies has also been rumored, and would bring back very good prospects in return.
The salary dump is another trading strategy on the other of playoff contenders. For whatever reason – be it ownership requests to reduce expenses, player request for trades, etc – teams look at the MLB trade deadline to get rid of their higher priced players. It’s also common for the current team dumping player salary to pick up a portion of the remaining pay, reducing the amount saved but still worthwhile in the end.
Look for the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and really any team out of the playoff race to dump significant salary. Unless they plan on offering an extension, a high priced player is wasted on a team just going through the motions, waiting on next season.
Players to be Named Later
This league rule has always been strange to me. How can you complete a trade with someone when you don’t know what you’re getting in return? The answer to that is this – the teams will agree on a list of players to choose from by a specified date, sometimes based on criteria like performance. These trades often don’t work out for the team receiving PTBNL. If they were that good, they would be demanded up front, right? But recently, I’ve noticed a few promising young MLB players who fall into this category, such as Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians.
July 25, 2011
The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching and with several teams out of contention, expect some key players to be dealt to contending teams. One trade target, the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes, is apparently staying put according to reports. But there are plenty of others on struggling teams that may be traded at the deadline.
Carlos Beltran: Beltran is the biggest name out there expected to be traded. He’s primarily seen as a rental player since his contract is expiring, but at 34, still has a few seasons of productivity left. Often, the sticking point in high-salary players being dealt is the remaining money left on their current contracts. However, the Mets are so desperate to acquire some quality prospects in exchange for the aging outfielder that they are willing to pay most of the remaining money owed on his deal this year. Add it all up and it looks like Beltran could be in a different uniform very soon. The only thing that may keep this deal from getting done is the unwillingness of teams to part with top prospects in return.
Heath Bell: The Padres’ Bell is one of the top relievers in the game this season and his 28 saves and 2.45 ERA would look good in any team’s bullpen. The thing that makes him so desirable is that even clubs with established closers could use him as a setup man. San Diego is going nowhere this season and has little use for Bell, so I expect him to be traded. Bell has never appeared in the playoffs, but at 33, has plenty of experience in the majors and shouldn’t be easily rattled in the postseason.
Carlos Pena: Buried in the NL Central standings, the Chicago Cubs appear to be sellers this season. Carlos Pena is a chip they could use to bring in a few prospects to help them rebuild. The first baseman is batting well below .250, but his 20 home runs would be valuable for a team looking for some extra power in the playoffs. He’s also sound defensively and previously won a Gold Glove in the field. Pena is 33 and unlike Beltran, probably wouldn’t command a top tier prospect.
Chris Iannetta: It’s not often that a player batting under .225 is on the radar of teams at the trade deadline, but Iannetta finds himself in that rare situation. He’s one of the few catchers reportedly on the market and teams in need of a receiver for the stretch run can ignore his low average. He’s solid at his position defensively and with ten home runs this season, has a little pop in his bat. Iannetta is, however, under contract for the next few seasons at a very reasonable cost so the Rockies are in no rush to move him.
Koji Uehara: The Orioles’ Uehara is a setup man, but like Bell, could be used as a closer as well. He’s having the best year of his career with an ERA under 2.00 and is one of bullpen arms being most watched by teams. An attractive aspect to adding Uehara is that he is only in his second year of major league service time, meaning he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2015. At 36, there’s a good possibility that he’ll be retired by then, but teams can have him at a reasonable rate for potentially several more seasons.
April 25, 2011
I know, I get it – the MLB seasonis really just getting underway, and many fans aren’t even paying attention yet with the NBA and NHL playoffs dominating the sports world. But some early season surprises are still worth noting – here are a few:
What’s going on in Beantown? The Sox were picked by many prognosticators to not only reach the playoffs, but win the World Series. Until this recent hot stretch, though, Boston’s lineup of All Star MLB players hasn’t translated into a lot of wins. So why the early struggles? Offseason acquisition Carl Crawford is batting around .150 – about ½ the production at the plate most expected. Another player picked up, Adrian Gonzalez, has only one home run to date after hitting 31 last year. And Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis, both near .300 career hitters, are batting a little over .200. In a nutshell, too few players are contributing far too less.
The verdict: All of the aforementioned MLB players are veterans and likely just off to slow starts. I expect the current hot streak to continue; the Red Sox will turn things around and sneak into the MLB playoffs.
Over in the AL Central, things have been literally upside down. On the bottom of the standings, there are perennial contenders, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royalsare sitting on top and are doing it with offense – both MLB teams are tied for first-place in the league in scoring runs. Neither was expected to do much, but each squad has some young players stepping up, including Indians’ pitchers Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin (a combined 7-0) and the Royals’ Alex Gordon, who looks to be finally cashing in some of his enormous potential, hitting over .350.
The verdict: Neither MLB team has had much trouble scoring runs to date, but the Indians have had some of the best pitching in baseball. Because of that, Cleveland should be able to contend throughout the duration of the season, but I expect the Royals to drop off a bit at some point…especially without former ace Zach Greinke, who went to Milwaukee in the offseason.
After doing little in five seasons in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Kansas City, Bautista slugged a league-leading 54 home runs last year for the Toronto Blue Jays. While his past track record didn’t indicate he was capable of such a year, he proved everyone wrong with a highly-publicized alteration to his swing. Many have been anxious to claim that last year was a mere fluke (a la Brady Anderson circa 1996), but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Bautista is again leading the AL with seven home runs and is batting .360 – more than .100 points over his career average. Jose’s on pace for another 50+ home run season and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
The verdict: Pitchers are starting to catch on to the fact that Bautista is a real threat, as evidenced by his league-leading 19 walks. Because of that, his home runs should dip a bit, but I’m not betting against him for another big year.
The Mediocrity that is the NL Central
It’s early, but the NL Central is looking like it will produce a .500-ish champion. Heading into the Sunday night matchup between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, both were tied for the Division lead at 11-10 with the Milwaukee Brewers. The 10-11 Cubs were only a game back, while the Pirates (9-12) and Astros(8-14) weren’t far behind. With only 3.5 games separating the first- and last-place teams, this is the tightest division in all of baseball. The NL Central appears to be wide open and could be reminiscent of 1997, when the race went right down to the wire with the Astros taking the title with only 84 wins.
The verdict: Predicting a winner in this Division would be akin to predicting when Charlie Sheen will utter another iconic phrase or when Donald Trump will call out another celebrity, but I’ll go with the Reds. I also think that by the MLB season’s end, there will be a clear separation of the top three teams (Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers) and the bottom three (Cubs, Pirates, Astros). There’s also not much pitching in the NL Central, so there will be some big numbers offensively by some of the individual MLB players in the division.
When you look at the Mets’ lineup, consisting of great MLB players like Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay, you expect great things. But so far, this season has looked like the past two when the club finished under .500, despite the big payroll. In all fairness, though, New York has had to deal with some major injury issues. The team is missing staff ace Johan Santana, who is on the disabled list with an elbow injury and not expected to return until June or July. And the aforementioned Bay just began his season, coming off of a DL stint of his own.
The verdict: With so much talent, it’s hard to see the Mets finishing below .500 again. While they don’t have the horses to compete with the Phillies (few teams do), a second-place or even Wild Card chase isn’t out of the question if they can stay healthy and add a pitcher down the stretch.
April 6, 2011
The Major League Baseball season is only a couple days old so if your team is on top of the standings, don’t buy your playoff tickets yet. And if you are rooting for a team that remains winless, don’t push the panic button. It’s still anybody’s ballgame so let’s take a look at some of the issues facing each team.
Can the Braves return to the postseason? If anyone is going to take the East title from the Phillies, it’s probably the Braves. They’ve added Dan Uggla and a healthy Chipper Jones to the lineup. The starting pitching is strong. The biggest question mark is the bullpen. The retirement of Billy Wagner has left an opening at closer. If Atlanta can find the right guy to take his place they can give the Phillies a run for the division title.
Florida has plenty of young talent on its roster. There is a lot of potential on this team, but the Marlins may not have enough to beat out Philadelphia and Atlanta. Guys like Gaby Sanchez, Donnie Murphy, and Annibal Sanchez are going to need big seasons for this team to be playing in October.
The bad news: this team is a mess off the field. The good news: there is no way the Mets can be as bad on the field. Everything will have to go right for New York to win the division. That starts with Johan Santana and Jose Reyes getting healthy and once again being the superstars they have been in the past.
Philadelphia became the favorite to win the N.L crown when Cliff Lee joined the rotation. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels give the Phillies a four-headed monster that can shut down any lineup. The Phillies lineup is not what is used to be, but with those four starters, it won’t have to be.
The Nationals’ hopes in 2011 took a major hit with the loss of Stephen Strasburg. Adding Jason Werth will help the offense, but the Nationals look to be preparing for a run in 2012. If Strasburg comes back healthy in 2012 and top-pick Bryce Harper lives up to the hype, this team has a bright future.
It could be an all or nothing season for the Cubs. If they can stay healthy and get productive seasons from Soriano, Ramirez and Zambrano they could win the Central. If the Cubs struggle under new manager Mike Quade, and the dugout brawls continue, it will be a complete disaster, and the drought will live on for another year.
Cincinnati won the Central in 2010. They have a great chance to repeat that feat in 2011. The Reds had the best offense in the National League. They have the reigning NL MVP. The roster has the fewest holes to fill, and they should be motivated after a dismal performance in the playoffs.
Houston had the worst offense in the NL last season. The defense wasn’t great either. They have a quality starting rotation, but the bullpen needs work. The Astros will have a tough time surpassing last season’s win total of 76.
There is a wide range of expectations for Milwaukee in 2011. They have been picked to win the Central, but they have also been at the bottom in some preseason predictions. Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will bolster the pitching staff. The lineup is built around Prince Fielder, who could have a huge year and lead them to the playoffs. But Fielder is going to be a free agent and could leave town, so the Brewers may decide to throw in the towel and trade the Prince so they don’t lose him for nothing.
.500. That is the goal for the Pirates. They haven’t done it since 1992. That is a long time to wait for Pirate fans. Unfortunately, there is not much reason to believe they will be better than they were in 2010. And they were the worst team in baseball.
The Cards were supposed to win the Central in 2010. They were expected to have a bounce-back season in 2011. Then they didn’t get Albert Pujols signed. And Adam Wainwright went down for the season with an injury. It will be tough for this team to reach the playoffs without their ace and the Pujols questions hovering over them all season.
They finished last in the West in 2010. The offense is weak and they strike out a lot. The starting pitching is OK, but the bullpen has holes. The Diamondbacks have a lot of work to do if they are going to compete for the playoffs in the next couple years. It won’t happen in 2011.
The Rockies will be good in 2011, especially if they play better on the road. Colorado was dominant at home last year and bad on the road. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are stars. The other pieces are in place to make a run at the division crown. They will give the Giants all they can handle in the West.
80 wins was a disappointment for this team in 2010. Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton were great in 2009 when the Dodgers made the playoffs. Not so much in 2010. If those two return to 2009 form and the ownership issues don’t get in the way, Los Angeles will be playing meaningful games in September.
San Diego should have won the West last year. They would have without the 10-game losing streak at the end of the season. They can still pitch, but the loss of Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of that lineup will hurt. They will have to find a way to score to compete in 2011.
The Giants shocked baseball by winning the World Series in 2010. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain led the pitching staff and shut down team after team in the playoffs. The offense was not prolific, but they got the big hits when they needed to. No matter what the offense does in 2011, the starting rotation will keep the Giants in the playoff hunt all season.