Mets-Yankees Viewing Party and Fantasy Baseball Draft at Strawberry’s Grill

On Tuesday April 3rd, beginning at 2pm ET, Gotham Baseball is hosting an event at Strawberry’s Grill in Douglastion, NY.

It is going to be a party all day long in the grill! SeatCrew will be on hand giving away Mets tickets. Bloomberg Sports will be joining us to give away FREE Front Office 2012 log-ins during our Fantasy draft.

We’re kicking things off during the Yankees/Mets Exhibition game at 2:10 PM. Come for our lunch special, stay for the $10 pitchers.

At 5 PM we’ll be playing baseball trivia with tons of prizes and giveaways.

Next up, Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball will be hosting our Live Fantasy Baseball Draft (7 pm start). The league will be a head-to-head, 5×5 mixed league with owners picking players in a snake draft. Grab a beer, a bar stool and meet the teams from SeatCrew and Bloomberg Sports to snag Mets tickets and Front Office 2012 log-ins, respectively.

Mark Healey is the Editor-in-Chief of Going 9 Baseball and the host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio. He is also the Founder of Gotham Baseball magazine, and has been covering NYC baseball since 1998.

It’s bound to be an exciting day in the grill! For dinner reservations during the draft, reservations are highly recommended. Call 718 517 8787.

Clearing The Bases: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball: Ranking The Third Basemen

Time to get to the left side of our infield, starting with the hot corner, third base. Most major league teams believe 3B is a position where power is required, and fantasy teams are no different. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this position is pretty deep, with at least 12-14 I could live with starting at third or my corner infield spot.

That being said I was also surprised at how many of these players seem to have some kind of injury history outside of Bautista. Beltre has played less than 125 games two of the past three seasons, Longoria missed 29 games last season and had off-season surgery on his foot, Wright missed 60 games last season, we all know about ARod’s injury history the past couple of seasons, Sandoval 45 games, Zimmerman 61 games, Youkilis has missed 42, 60, and 26 games the last three seasons, although he only missed 13 last year Aramis Ramirez missed 38 the year before, and the only thing keeping Freese out of the top ten 3B is his inability to stay on the field throughout his career. Anyone else noticing a pattern here?

As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues. When it comes to whom I would select for 3B, it may not come down to the best player, but who I think is going to play the most games. You can’t accrue the statistics I need if you’re on the DL and down in AAA rehabbing injuries. The good news, with the depth at this position and first base, there should be plenty of good to decent players available to fill your CI and DH/UT spots.

1. Jose Bautista, Toronto: Bautista is the 5th overall player on my personal rankings and someone I would have no quarrels with if he was on my team. The fact that he is eligible at 3B in most leagues only enhances his value, once again I love players with multi-position eligibility. There are some who still doubt Bautista, choosing to believe he is not the real deal. Not sure what more you can ask of him, he has hit 97 HRs the past two seasons combined and that doesn’t count the big September he had in 2009 that seemed to ignite his potential. I guess if you’re looking for a reason not to draft Bautista you can point to the fact that he only hit 12 round trippers in the second half of last season, still I’ll take him, 40+ HRs this season seems almost guaranteed.

2. Adrian Beltre, Texas: I know most rankings have Beltre third but I just can’t pass up on a player hitting in that ballpark and batting cleanup in that lineup. The Rangers could score 1000 runs this season if everyone stays healthy (Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz). As mentioned above that has been a problem for Beltre, but even though me missed 38 games he still had 32 HRs, 105 RBI, and a .296 AVG. Just imagine the numbers he could put up if he plays 145+ games. I’m definitely looking upside here with Beltre.

3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay: I’m someone who believes that Longoria is a little overrated when it comes to fantasy. He’s a great player, no doubt, and the Rays offense seems to be better this season than it was last season, but still, it doesn’t compare to the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rangers. The main reason for taking him over Beltre would be that he could steal double digit bases, but only stole three last season. His average also took a tumble, down to .244, perhaps he was feeling the pressure of trying to do to much for an anemic offense. Perhaps it was the oblique injury suffered early last season. Either way, when it comes to injuries, Longoria is not immune, he is currently dealing with a hand injury and had off-season surgery to repair a nerve condition in his left foot, just to many red flags for me. I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him, just not as high as some others want to.

4. David Wright, Mets: This should be an interesting season for Wright. The Mets have moved the fences in at Citi Field, this should help his HR production (14 last season in 102 games). Perhaps he can approach the 29 he hit in 2010. Biggest concern could be who the Mets will bat in the one and two holes, the table setters, can they get on base enough to allow Wright to drive in over 100 runs? Unless you have been living in a cave, you know the Mets are having financial problems thanks to the Bernie Madoff scandal and that crisis became worse Monday when the court ruled that the Wilpons must pay $83+ million right now and a possible 350+ million at trial. The Mets have a $16 million option on Wright for next season, but could he be traded due to financial concerns by the trade deadline in July? Remember, the Mets didn’t even try to re-sign Jose Reyes.

5. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Last year ARod was a first round pick, this year no one seems to trust him. I don’t trust him either, but not so much as I can put to many players above him. They all seem to have the same problem, can’t stay on the field. ARod has gotten off to a hot start in spring training but then again he did last year as well, and that was before he hit a career low 16 HR, 62 RBI, .823 OPS and 67 runs scored. Can he rebound? To a certain degree yes. Gone are the days where he was a threat to hit 40+ HRs, many of his fly balls seem to die on the track now, but 28-30 HRs with 100 RBIs or so is certainly doable. The Yankees will rest ARod as often as possible to keep him fresh, that won’t always mean a spot on the bench, the Yanks cleared the DH spot so they could give players like ARod and Jeter a half day off but keep their bat in the lineup.

6. Brett Lawrie, Toronto: The only question with Lawrie is when does he put it together? If this is the year than he should be a spot or two higher on this list. It looks like he’s going to begin the season batting 7th, but if he gets off to a hot start or Adam Lind a slow one, he could end up hitting behind Bautista and that’s a place we would all love to be. In 43 games last season Lawrie hit .293 with nine HRs, 25 RBIs, seven SBs, with an OPS of .953. We can all do the math and would love to prorate those numbers over a full season this year, but that just may be the tip of the iceberg as eventually Lawrie may be capable of so much more.

7. Michael Young, Texas: If young only had power he’d be a top player but even in Texas, hitting in one of the best lineups in baseball, he still only had 11 HRs. Still though, 106 RBIs and a .338 AVG will ease the pain a bit. Doesn’t hurt that he may be eligible to play as many as four positions in some leagues, and he’s almost a lock to play 155+ games.

8. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco: I can see why there are some fantasy owners who are big on Sandoval this season. He missed 45 games last season yet still hit 23 HRs, 70 RBIs with an average of .315 and an OPS of over .900. Prorate those numbers and wow, pretty good year. Still though, I’m not a fan of that lineup, if manager Bruce Bochy refuses to put Brandon Belt in the lineup on a regular basis than it is hard to see this unit making a big improvement and you still have to worry about that ballpark. Sandoval also has that 11th commandment rule, thou shall not pass without being swung at. If he ever learns the strike zone and practices patience, watch out. It’s good to see he took the game more seriously last season and reported to camp 40 pounds lighter, let’s just hope he keeps that regime up.

9. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington: Don’t get me wrong, I like Zimmerman as a player, and apparently so do the Nationals after guaranteeing him $126 million through the 2019 season. Have to ask myself though, how can you pay that much money to a player that is great when he is on the field, but misses an awful lot of games and may have a chronic shoulder injury that will force him to play first before long. In the past four seasons Zimmerman has missed 142 games, that’s almost a full season, I can’t take that many DNPs as a fantasy owner, not as my starting 3B, but I know someone will, his is definitely a name I would throw out early in an auction as there are many owners who will take the chance that this will be the year he stays healthy.

10. Kevin Youkilis, Boston: Continuing the theme of this column we bring u Youkilis he who has never played more than 147 games in season, and hasn’t played in more than 135 since 2009. His OPS, HRs, Rs, and even SBs have declined in three straight seasons. Now he does have upside as he plays in a great hitter’s ballpark and in a stacked lineup, but there still have to be worries that at age 33 his skills are declining and he may never be the player he once was.

11. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee: Now Aramis had a good season last year, 26 HRs, 93 RBIs, .306 AVG, and .871 OPS, are solid numbers for any fantasy player, but if you look closer at the number you see quite a home/road split. It looks like he was a product of Wrigley Field where we all know the ball flies out of the ballpark on a regular basis. Now hitting behind Ryan Braun will help and Milwaukee is far from a pitcher’s paradise but his numbers could certainly regress.

12. Mark Reynolds, Baltimore: What more is there to say about Reynolds? He’s going to hit a ton of HRs, probably in the 35-40 range, but his average will leave much to be desired and he’s going to whip up a hurricane with the amount of times he will swing and miss. At least you know what you’re getting.

13. David Freese, St. Louis: The World Series hero could be the next hot thing at third if he can just stay healthy. His slash line in the playoffs .397/.465/.794 along with five HRs is quite impressive. You can probably still get him on the cheap, and he could be very well worth the price, but you better have a reserve just in case the injury bug bites once again.

14. Ryan Roberts, Arizona: We already wrote about Roberts in the 2B rankings, not much has changed, he could be a one year wonder, or he could be a solid player who can play 2B, 3B, MI, and CI on your fantasy team.

15. Martin Prado, Atlanta: Prado was talked about all winter as possibly being on the move but in the end it’s back to Atlanta he goes. He doesn’t really do anything well. Might hit 15-18 HRs, might steal a little less than 10 SBs, could bat in the .280 range, but in the end, he’s just a CI if you’re going to play him in the infield.

Clearing The Bases: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball: Ranking The Second Basemen

Today we will complete the right side of our infield with rankings for second base.  Position scarcity comes into play at 2B as some owners will move players up their draft board a couple of slots because they are worried about selecting an undesirable player that will hurt their team, therefore they take one of the top 2B perhaps as much as a round earlier than they normally would.  I’ll admit I sometimes do this as well, but only if the value of such players are close, I won’t take the best 2B on my board if he is clearly inferior to an outfielder or a CI, that will come back to bite you in the end.

That being said, while there is clearly a top three at 2B, it’s not as shallow as one might think.  Four through seven and maybe even nine will give you good value and won’t have to be taken with a high draft pick.  The last tire of players (10-15) all have warts, but have some upside as well.  What I’m trying to say is there can be value found late in your draft at 2B, this isn’t shortstop, I wouldn’t break the bank to get a Cano, Pedroia, or Kinsler, position scarcity has its place in a draft, but 2B isn’t it.

As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues.   While I believe 2B is deep enough not to over reach for a player, when it comes to selecting a MI, that is where it will get tricky.  Shortstop is extremely shallow and most teams will use a 2B for their MI, which means you can’t wait forever to take your starting 2B or else teams will start to snatch up their MIs leaving you with nothing but bones to pick at.  When I made up the 1B rankings, there were definitely quite a few players that I felt like I couldn’t put on that list, 2B, not so much.  You could make an argument for Aaron Hill, Brian Roberts, or maybe even a Gordon Beckham, but it gets pretty desperate after that.

  1. Robinson Cano, Yankees:  Cano has been bordering on superstar status for a couple of seasons now and the Yankees seem to realize it as well.  They are planning on batting him third this season which would make sense as he is the best hitter in that lineup, and that’s saying quite a bit.  The only knock on Cano is his lack of stolen bases but he did have a career high eight last season.  Now as we all saw in last year’s HR derby, Cano has the power to hit 40+ HRs but would probably have to sacrifice some AVG to do that.  Somehow I don’t think fantasy owners want him changing his swing.  Cano is a definite first round pick, can’t put him in the top five, but anywhere after that sounds good.
  2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston:  The little engine that could.  Since Pedroia has come into MLB I have averaged playing in 6-8 fantasy leagues, yet have never had him on my team.  Why?  Because he is generously listed at 5’9″, 180 pounds.  I just find it hard to believe that a player that size can survive the long, grueling baseball season, but Pedroia has proven me wrong time and time again.  He did only play 75 games in 2010 due to injury, but has played in at least 154 games in 2008, 09, and 11.  Last season he hit the most HRs (21), RBI (91), and stolen bases (26), of his career.  All this while still batting .307.  You win Dustin, I’m playing in 10-12 leagues this season, I guarantee you will be on at least one team.
  3. Ian Kinsler, Texas:  Whereas Pedroia seems to almost always play 155+ games, Kinsler has only done it once in his career, granted it was last season, but that is the lone reason why Kinsler ranks third on this list.  In his last two full seasons (2011, 2009) Kinsler has hit 31 and 32 HRs and stolen 30 and 31 bases, hard not to love that as a fantasy owner.  Of course those numbers come along with a batting average of .255 and .253, hard not to hate that.  What it comes down to is Kinsler has as much power as Cano and more speed than Pedroia, but his injury history and batting average place him clearly behind those two.  Kinsler is however the last of the top tier second basemen.
  4. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati:  Phillips is the type of player that always leaves me wanting more.  He is loaded with talent, plays in a good lineup, and bats in a hitters ballpark.  Perhaps I’m being hard on Brandon expecting him to have the type of year he had in (30 HR, 94 RBI, 32 SB, .288 AVG), but that just goes to show you the talent he possesses, yet he has never come within nine of those HRs and seems to have problems putting together a solid season in all categories.  One year he’ll drive in 98 RBIs (2009) but with only 20 HRs, another season he’ll hit .300 (2011) but with only 18 HRs and 14 SBs.  I’m just waiting for that next great season, but I have a feeling it’s never going to come.
  5. Chase Utley, Philadelphia:  Some will argue that Utley should be a couple of spots lower but I’m a believer that his second season after patellar tendinitis will return Utley to prominence.  Now he won’t be the superstar he once was but even with a bad knee last season he still managed to steal 14 bases which tells me the knee was feeling better as the season wore on.  He should be 100% healthy this season and although he won’t have Ryan Howard until at least May the Phils are still going to score some runs.  The .259 average from last season seems to be an aberration as his BABIP was a career low, I’m not saying he’s going to bat .320 again or hit 30+ HRs, but just have a feeling that he will give you good bang for your buck and shouldn’t be forgotten about come draft day.
  6. Dan Uggla, Atlanta:  Uggla may have been one of the most frustrating fantasy players in the game last season.  If you look at his final numbers, outside of average, they look similar to what he has done in the past (36HR, 82RBI), but most of those numbers took place in the second half of the season where his fantasy owners may have already been eliminated from contention or traded him away.  That may be the price you pay for a player who changes teams.  They take some time to comfortable in their new surroundings and play like their capable of.  This season promises to be a better one, at least in the average department, not sure we can ask for more than 36 HRs and he’s never been much of a stolen base threat.  If Uggla can bat in the .275 range he deserves the fourth spot on this list.
  7. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee:  Weeks is ranked this low for a couple of reasons.  1-no more Prince Fielder puts more pressure on everyone to perform from the get go.  2-Weeks is slated to bat clean up, will he change his swing and approach at the plate to try and make up for Fielder’s missing power.  3-anyone who saw Weeks come back last season after breaking his ankle knows that he wasn’t anywhere near full strength.  Will that ankle be a problem this season?  Will it stop him from stealing as many bases?  Just to many questions for me to take a shot at him to early in my draft, but hey, at least the Brewers didn’t lose Ryan Braun for 50 games.
  8. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay:  I admit it, I simply have no love for Zobrist, and I really don’t know why.  Perhaps it’s because he seems to be an every other year player.  In 2009 he hit .297 with 27 HR, 91 RBI and 17 SB.  In 2010 it was .238/10/75/24, 2011 .269/20/91/19.  Those numbers seem to be all over the place, outside of the stolen bases.  I’m just not sure what I’m going to get in 2012 and we all know with that Rays pitching staff possibly being one of the more dominant in MLB, there will be pressure on the hitters to score runs to support the staff.  Consistency is what I’m looking for when I select a player in the 1st third of my draft, and up until now Zobrist doesn’t have it.  Granted, if he has a season like he did in 09, than he is way to low on this list, but it’s hard to see that one coming again.
  9. Howie Kendrick, Angels:  Kendrick looked like he was going to put up a career season in 2011 and he did in HRs (18) but injuries once again derailed him.  If Kendrick bats in the number two slot this season he could once again be in for a big season as free agent addition Albert Pujols could be batting directly behind him.  That would seem to lead to quite a few pitchers challenging Kendrick, not wanting to face Sir Albert with men on base.  Kendrick has all the tools to be a solid fantasy 2B, and this could be his big breakout season.
  10. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh:  Walker is a solid baseball player, but just an average fantasy one.  He won’t hurt you in AVG, batting .273 and .296 his first two seasons in the majors, but he has only hit 12 HRs each season and has stolen a total of 11 bases, just not much upside here.
  11. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland:  Kipnis showed promise in 36 games (150 ABs) for the Indians last season.  He hit 7 HRs, 5 SB, .272 AVG, and .841 OPS, you do the math, over a full season those would be fantastic numbers.  The question is can he do it for a full season.  Can he make the adjustments that will surely be needed as more teams view video of his swing and identify his weaknesses.  That is always the question with young players, just ask Braves outfielder Jason Heyward.
  12. Ryan Roberts, Arizona:  Roberts will play 3B for the Dbacks this season but still has 2B eligibility in most leagues.  Roberts wasn’t even supposed to start for Arizona last season but the decline of Melvin Mora forced the team’s hand and Roberts responded with a season that few expected, 19 HRs, 65 RBIs, 18 SB.  Solid numbers indeed although his AVG of .249 certainly leaves something to be desired.  I have my doubts if he can duplicate these numbers, he is a free swinger, but having eligibility at MI and CI certainly gives him extra value.
  13. Dustin Ackley, Seattle:  There are a couple of questions when it comes to Ackley.  Now he is one of the top offensive prospect in the Mariners system and they delayed calling him up last season so his arbitration clock slows down a bit.  He still had a solid season and did nothing to disprove the Mariners faith in him.  The questions are as follows.  Where will Ackley bat?  There has been some thought that he could be the new leadoff batter now that it looks like Ichiro will bat third.  Although he had a solid rookie season, he did slump at the end, batting .164 over his last 20 games leading one to ask, was it because of the long season and he was tired, or was it because the league caught up to him and he hadn’t made the adjustment yet.  I wouldn’t mind taking him as an MI, but his value is much higher in keeper or dynasty leagues.
  14. Danny Espinosa, Washington:  Espinosa put up pretty good numbers last season, the problem is the batting AVG of .236 is a killer, and that may be something you have to live with as his owner, even in the minor leagues, he always had pop, but the average always left something to be desired.  That being said, you could certainly do worse and the possibility of 20 SBs can lessen the pain a little bit.
  15. Kelly Johnson, Toronto:  I debated between Johnson and the player he was traded for, Aaron Hill in this spot.  Chose Johnson because of Hill’s injury history (concussion), those things just always seem to pop up again, just ask Justin Morneau.  Johnson may not have the speed that Hill does, but he has more pop as of now as 20+ HRs is certainly a possibility, and he seemed to have little problems adjusting to the AL as he batted .270 in 33 games.  If Johnson keeps up the power potential and can bat around .275 where he doesn’t hurt your average, than the value is there and would be worth a late pick in your draft.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

Clearing The Bases: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball: Ranking The First Basemen

It’s time for the third in our series of player rankings, first base.  In the past I have refused to spend a top pick or top money on a 1B because of the depth of the position.  The depth remains strong, I listed 15 players below, and didn’t include players like Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana who are eligible at 1B, but I have written about in their main position, catcher.  If I was to rank Napoli at 1B, he would place 11th, Santana, 14th.

There were also a slew of other players who I left off that I expect to have good fantasy seasons: Adam Lind, Carlos Lee, Gaby Sanchez, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Pena, Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Belt, Justin Smoak, and Justin Morneau all have warts, but all should have some value to fantasy teams.  First base is that deep.

That being said, I have decided that this year I will take a first baseman early regardless of the depth.  My reasoning, the numbers are just to good to pass up.  If I had the first pick overall, I would select Cabrera.  He just puts up consistent numbers and the possibility of third base eligibility certainly doesn’t hurt.  In an NL only league draft that occurred before we found out Ryan Braun wouldn’t be suspended I had the third pick overall.  Told myself before the draft that I would select Votto, with the loss of Pujols, Fielder, and Pena, the NL is thin at 1B to put it nicely.  Things went my way, I was able to draft Votto.

In a mixed auction league that took place last weekend, I won Fielder with a bid of $28, so I’m practicing what I preach.  Now I won’t reach for a 1B.  In my home league I have the 5th overall pick.  I’m assuming Cabrera and Pujols are gone by then.  As much as I like A. Gonzalez and Votto, I won’t take them with the 5th pick, I’ll hope someone like Fielder or Teixeira falls to me in the 2nd round.   With the 5th pick I’m going to take Jose Bautista.  Different strategy this season, we’ll see how the results turn out.

As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues.   First base is a loaded position and it seems that most CIs will come from first rather than third base, just another reason I’m not going to wait this year on selecting the guy I want.

  1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit:  What’s not to like about Miggy?  He’s hit at least 30 HRs for five straight seasons, driven in over 100 RBIs every full season he’s been in the majors, only season he didn’t bat at least .320 was his first in the American League (2008), scored 111 runs each of the last two seasons, and had an OPS of over 1.033 each of the past two seasons as well.  Oh yeah, he also may have third base eligibility if that experiment goes well in spring training.  First overall pick for me.
  2. Albert Pujols, Angels:  Now I can’t really argue with anyone who wants to take Pujols over Cabrera.  His numbers don’t lie, but I would like to point out that it could take him a time through the league to feel comfortable with the opposing pitchers.  He may feel the pressure of that huge contract he signed and press a little bit.  Am I shying away from Pujols, no, he’s still a top four overall player for me.  I believe he will make the adjustment to the American League without much of a problem, although I do wonder if teams will pitch around him a bit and force a Torii Hunter or Vernon Wells to beat them.
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston:  Speaking of players who came over from the National League, we all had some doubts last season about Gonzalez.  He was traded from the Padres to the Sox and had off-season surgery to boot, causing him to slip in some drafts.  Now Gonzalez may not have provided the power last season that some were expecting, 27 HRs, but 117 RBIs, .338 AVG, 108 runs, and a .958 OPS more than make up for a slight dip in his home run potential.  Would anyone be surprised if all of his numbers remain the same this season but he hits 30+ HRs, I know I wouldn’t be.
  4. Joey Votto, Cincinnati:  Here is an interesting stat about Votto:  for a players considered to be a HR threat, his fly ball rate the past two seasons has been 34.8% and 33.4%.  in 2010 25% of those fly balls went out of the park, last season, only 18.2%.  Not the kind of numbers you want to see from a HR hitter.  The good news is that his ground ball rate was also lowered in 2011, which means that he hit an awful lot of line drives, now if he can only get a little more loft on those line drives, than he could possibly hit 35+ HRs once again.
  5. Prince Fielder, Detroit:  Like Pujols, Fielder goes from the NL to the AL.  Unlike Pujols however Fielder goes from a hitters park in Milwaukee to a pitchers park in Detroit.  He can forget about hitting HRs to centerfield, would take a bazooka to get one out there.  He will situated in the lineup similar to Milwaukee.  With the Brewers, Ryan Braun hit third while Fielder hit cleanup, with Detroit, Miguel Cabrera will hit third, Fielder clean up.  Fielder has averaged 40 HRs over the past five seasons.  Hard to see him hitting 40 this year, but low 30s seems about right with the rest of his peripherals remaining the same.
  6. Mark Teixeira, Yankees:  Seems fantasy owners are a little down on Tex going into this season, mainly because of his .248 batting average last season.  One has to remember that Mark only bated .256 the season before yet still hit 39 HRs with 111 RBIs.  Now he is likely to bat fifth this season as the Yankees will swap him and Robinson Cano in the lineup.  Could this have an effect on Teixeira, too soon to tell.  Tex has also let it be known that he might try to lay down a bunt or two to combat the shift that teams employ in the infield.  That shift has certainly cost him some hits, don’t know if a bunt is the answer, perhaps just hitting a couple of ground balls to the left side would do the trick.
  7. Paul Konerko, White Sox:  That’s three straight seasons with 28+ HRs for Konerko, not to mention two straight seasons with 105+ RBIs and .300 average or better.  Not bad for a player who some of us wrote off a couple of years ago.  Now Konerko will be 36 years old this season and time has to catch up to him eventually, but he does still play in Cellular Field, where fly balls tend to leave the yard on a regular basis.
  8. Lance Berkman, St. Louis:  First the bad news for Berkman, and every other Cardinals batter.  Albert Pujols is no longer with the team.  Now the good news, Berkman can now play first base on an everyday basis which should take some of the stress off of his legs.  Berkman was left for dead after the 2010 season, but got himself in great shape and had a bounce back season in 2011.  Question is, can he do it again.  I have my doubts he can hit 30+ HRs again, but 25 to go along with 85 RBIs and a batting average around .290 is nothing to sneeze at.
  9. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City:  Hosmer’s rookie season was a success as he hit 19 HRs, 78 RBIs, .293 average, and even stole 11 bases in 128 games.  This kid is only going to get better as he gains experience and learns the league.  In keeper or dynasty leagues he deserves to be 3-4 spots higher.  If you decide you want to wait to draft a 1B, he’s a player to target later, but not to much later, we all know about him and his potential.
  10. Michael Morse, Washington:  Raise your hand if you knew who Morse was before last season.  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  31 HRs, 95 RBIs, .303 average, .910 OPS certainly put him on the map for this season.  Morse may not play as much 1B this season with the return of Adam Laroche and is a defensive liability in the outfield, but his power is legit.  Some people don’t believe his average is as his BABIP was .344 last season, incredibly high, but his career BABIP is .346 so perhaps his average is not that out of line.
  11. Michael Young, Texas:  Not your prototypical 1B as Young only hit 11 HRs last season but he also drove in 106 runs and batted .338.  Sure you will have to find some power elsewhere, but Young still has value as he is the definition of a professional hitter.  He also may have 3B eligibility in some leagues, which certainly can’t hurt.
  12. Ike Davis, Mets:  Perhaps I shouldn’t have put Davis so high on this list, but give him a full season at 1B and he will produce numbers worthy of this spot.  Davis has power, enough power where he really didn’t need the fences to be brought in at CitiField, but doing so can only help him.  Don’t forget about him come draft time because he plays for the Mets.
  13. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta:  Another successful rookie season.  Freeman hit 21 HRs, drove in 76 RBIs and batted .282.  Now he plays in a pitchers ballpark but a 10%-15% rise in his numbers wouldn’t shock anyone.  He knows the league better, the Braves should have more talent around him with Michael Bourne there for a full season and the return to health of Jason Heyward.  Once again, I wouldn’t want him starting for my fantasy team, but would love him as my CI or utility player.
  14. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia:  Howard would certainly be much higher on this list if not for the Achilles injury suffered at the end of last season.  Howard is certain to begin this season on the DL.  The question is when he will return.  If Howard only misses a few weeks, than this ranking is about right, however if he is out a few months, a distinct possibility, than he belongs nowhere on this list.  According to some, Howard did suffer a setback this week, others say it’s just part of the process.  Either way, it’s buyer beware in fantasy drafts.
  15. Adam Dunn, White Sox:  How does a player who has averaged pretty close to 40 HRs for eight straight seasons all of a sudden forget how to hit?  Was it a change of leagues?  Possible, but that doesn’t explain why he looked like he couldn’t catch up to a fastball.  I admit I only have him on this list because he’s only 32, can skills erode that quick.  Perhaps he just needed a year to get accustomed to the new league.  I like the value I think I may be able to get with Dunn.  Fantasy players are going to shy away, but if I can get him late as my CI or UT, I’ll take my chances, and if it doesn’t work out, I have no one to blame but myself.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

Clearing The Bases: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball: Ranking The Catchers

It’s time for the second in our series of player rankings, catchers.  Catchers don’t necessarily get much love in fantasy leagues because they just don’t seem to be able to put up the offensive numbers that other positions can.  Why is that?

There is an old saying in baseball about playing catcher, “tools of ignorance”.  Where else do you take foul tips off different parts of your body, thrown your body in front of pitched ball that are in the dirt, and purposely stand in the path of an oncoming runner who wouldn’t mind planting you in the 15th row if that mean separating the ball from your glove.  Tools of ignorance indeed.  All of these reasons can lead to a catcher missing game action, not to mention they just need a day off more than most players.  Not easy kneeling for nine innings day after day with all that equipment on, especially once the weather starts to heat up.

As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues, not that they would really change all that much in deeper leagues.  Unless I’m playing in a league that starts two catchers, I generally wait to select one, preferring to load up on my outfielders, positions that generally offer more power and upside than the guy behind the plate, and away we go.

 

  1. Mike Napoli, Texas:  Hard not to take the catcher first who hit 30 HRs with an OPS of 1.045.  Those numbers might have even been better if not for a slow first two months of the season.  Now he’s only done it for a half season, so there is reason to be cautious, plus the ankle injury that Napoli suffered during the World Series is still bothering him, and with all those home runs he still only drove in 75 runs, but still, with the numbers that catchers generally put up, it’s hard not to have Napoli atop this list.
  2. Carlos Santana, Cleveland:  Did you know that Santana hit 27 HRs last season?  I actually had to check that twice when I first saw it.  What I did remember was that Carlos also batted a pathetic .239.  That has to improve.  Santana is to good a hitter to be an all or nothing kind of batter.  One has to wonder if he sacrificed average in order to build up the power numbers.
  3. Brian McCann, Atlanta:  McCann was well on his way to what might have been a career season before suffering an oblique injury shortly after the All-Star break.  Injuries that you hate to see batters have, wrists and obliques.  Those injuries have a tendency to hang on a while and never fully heal during the season.  Still McCann hit 24 round trippers, 18 pre injury, and is fully healthy this season and ready to do good things for your fantasy team.
  4. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners:  Okay, now I admit I’m high on Montero, but this kid is a monster in the making.  Sure playing in Safeco instead of Yankee Stadium will hinder his power production but at least his playing time won’t be curtailed by veterans needed a day off.  This may be the last season that Montero has catcher eligibility depending upon your league setup as it shouldn’t take Seattle long to figure out that Montero is not a good defensive player and belongs at DH, not that having a great full-time DH should bother Seattle, they had one of the best ever in Edgar Martinez.
  5. Buster Posey, San Francisco:  Posey might be a bit higher on this list if not for the gruesome ankle injury suffered last season, an injury that has many thinking in the industry to disallow collisions at home plate.  Ironic thing is that according to the rules you’re not allowed to block any base, it’s just not enforced.  One has to remember when it comes to Posey that he has yet to play a full season in the majors, sure he’s a good player and may even be a great one, but it would be nice to see him play a full campaign before we anoint him one of the best and lord knows playing in San Francisco is not conducive to big fantasy numbers.
  6. Joe Mauer, Minnesota:  Wow, how the mighty have fallen.  I placed Mauer sixth, but could’ve easily placed in 9th as I believe the next 3-4 catchers are pretty much interchangeable.  Mauer has missed half of last season due to injury and that has to be a big concern for fantasy owners.  You can’t put up fantasy statistics if you’re not playing, but what has to be of equal concern is Mauer’s lack of power since the Twins moved to Target Field.  After hitting 28 bombs the last season in the homerdome, Mauer has only hit 12 total HRs in the last two seasons combined, ouch.  Where oh where has the power gone Joe?  If Mauer does end up just being a singles hitter, his value is diminished in fantasy unless he’s going to bat in the .330 range, it’s not like there will be a bunch of stolen bases that will come along with those singles.
  7. Matt Wieters, Baltimore:  Wieters finally had the season many were expecting of him when he came into the league as his numbers were pretty good across the board.  22 HRs and 68 RBIs are passable for a catcher, sure we’d like to see more, especially in the average category where a .262 is nothing to get excited about, but perhaps last season was the start of Wieters becoming a true offensive threat behind the plate.
  8. Miguel Montero, Arizona:  I have to admit I’m having second thoughts about placing Montero this low.  18 HRs, 86 RBIs and an .820 OPS is quite good especially for a catcher.  Not like I can see any reason why Montero couldn’t put up the same numbers again, maybe even better power numbers.  He plays in a good lineup in a home ballpark extremely favorable for hitters.  Hmmm, maybe he should be 6th.
  9. Geovany Soto, Cubs:  If you’re like me, than you’re still waiting for Soto to approach the season he had in 2008 (23 HR, 86 RBI).  Time to realize that’s not going to happen again but that doesn’t mean Soto can’t give you some bang for your buck, especially if you waited until late in your draft to select him.  Soto is more than capable of hitting 20+ HRs and batting .275, just not sure he can do both in the same season.
  10. Wilson Ramos, Washington:  It’s at this point where I start to get worried if I still haven’t selected a catcher.  The sure things for the most part are gone.  Now you’re just looking for someone with an upside or someone who won’t hurt you.  Ramos will have the full-time job this season and did hit 15 HRs in 113 games in 2011.  The lineup is pretty good around him and he may have the best combination of upside and not hurting your average category.
  11. JP Arencibia, Toronto:  Arencibia however will hurt your average category as his .219 from last season will attest to.  If you’re taking Arencibia you want the 25 HRs he could possibly hit and the RBIs that come with it, but remember, if that average doesn’t improve the Jays have another young catcher pushing for playing time in Travis d’Arnaud, someone who could take playing time away from Arencibia.
  12. Russell Martin, Yankees:  Some would think Martin should be higher on this list just because he plays in the potent Yankee lineup, truth is that may be why he is on this list at all, well that and the potential for double digit stolen bases to go along with 20 HR potential.  Martin did report to camp in great shape, doesn’t have a true threat for his job, and knows what it takes to stay at full strength for an entire season, you could do worse.
  13. Yadier Molina, St. Louis:  Molina actually had the best season of his career last year.  14 HRs was almost double his career best, 65 RBIs was his career best as well as a .305 average and .814 OPS.  Whether or not he can do it again is a big question, and if he can’t than he’s just another backstop.
  14. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee:  Everyone in the Brewers lineup gets a bump now that we know that Ryan Braun won’t be suspended for steroid use.  That being said, there is not a ton to like here.  Seems to be the definition of someone who won’t hurt you with his .270 average and 12-15 home runs.
  15. Kurt Suzuki, Oakland:  Suzuki used to find himself 4-5 spots higher on this list but nowadays just seems to come in as another catcher.  Perhaps it’s playing in Oakland, which seems to bring the value of just about every player down, but the .237 and .242 average the past two games certainly doesn’t help matters any.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

Clearing The Bases: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball: Top 25 Starting Pitchers

This may be my favorite time of the season. Pitchers and catcher have reported. Instead of the anticipation, we have actual baseball action. We can start to dream about warm summer days watching a ballgame in the backyard and having a barbecue. Some of my favorite times. Speaking of favorite times, draft day. For me it’s like Christmas morning, when I draft a player, that is my gift. With that in mind we’re going to rank my each position starting with my top 25 starting pitchers. Now these rankings are designed for 5×5 mixed leagues, since those are the ones the majority of fantasy owners play in.

Mark Healey and I spoke to Jim Duquette, (MLB Network Radio) about the Marlins, on “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” this past Saturday and he let us know that while Miami ace Josh Johnson should be healthy going into the season, he may not be the horse he used to be in past years.

On Sunday, we spoke to Bill Ivie of I70Baseball.com who relayed news that Adam Wainwright, he who had Tommy John surgery last season, was considered healthy enough to be activated last September 1 so he could be placed on the post-season roster. Should tell you all you need to know about his health going into this season.

These are the kind of nuggets fantasy owners should be dying to find out. I know that I would certainly feel more comfortable drafting Wainwright now. Whether or not he makes my top 25, you will have to keep reading.

1. Justin Verlander, Detroit: Not much more can be said about Verlander’s 2011 season. Simply magnificent. While I may be worried about the defense around him, his 250Ks in 250.1 IP eases those concerns somewhat. It’s unlikely that he can approach the same gaudy numbers, 24 wins, .920 WHIP, but would anyone really be surprised if he does?

2. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia: Halladay is the definition of consistency. He’s had four straight seasons of at least 17 wins, an ERA of less than 2.80, 200 plus Ks, and a WHIP less than 1.127. All of this while pitching in hitter’s ballparks. Imagine what he might do if the deck was stacked in his favor.

3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: We’ve known that Kershaw was a good pitcher for a couple of seasons, well in 2011 Kershaw let it be known that he can be great. 21 wins for the Dodgers to go along with a 2.28 ERA and .977 WHIP has fantasy owners salivating for an encore performance.

4. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia: Lee’s first full season in the National League was even better than his half season in 2009. His ERA was lowered by almost a run, WHIP by .103, even his strikeout rate was higher. No wonder why he finished third in the CY Young voting.

5. Jered Weaver, Angels: What else can be asked of Weaver? For the third straight season his ERA, WHIP, and BAA all went down. He had 18 wins to go along with 200 Ks and the addition of Albert Pujols to the lineup could make life even easier for him this year.

6. Felix Hernandez, Seattle: Kudos for the BBWAA for giving the Cy Young to Hernandez in 2010 and not holding his lack of wins against him, problem is as fantasy owners we can’t do the same. King Felix is certainly one of the best pitchers in MLB, but starting pitchers already only hit four o the five categories we need (no saves) and his lack of wins now make him a 3.5 cat player.

7. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco: I’ve never had Lincecum on any fantasy team of mine and although it’s true that I usually wait until later in my drafts to select pitchers, I’m also waiting for Lincecum’s arm to fall off with that delivery of his. That being said it wouldn’t really bother me if I did end up with him on a team or two this season.

8. Dan Haren, Angels: Haren posted the best numbers he ever had in the American League last season. With a WHIP of 1.024, 3.17 ERA, 16 wins and 192 strikeouts there is even room for improvement.

9. CC Sabathia, Yankees: With the Yankee lineup you know the wins will be there for CC, 18 is almost guaranteed, it’s the peripheral numbers we will look at. Sabathia’s ERA of 3.00 was the lowest he’s had as a Yankee but his WHIP of 1.226 the highest as CC was good at wriggling out of trouble. Sometimes it looks like Sabathia gets bored on the mound as the Yanks can give him plenty of run support to work with and he pitches to the score. This is good for the Yankees, but sometimes not to good for fantasy owners.

10. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia: This is a contract year for Hamels, one that could net him a nine figure contract. Will he rise to the occasion? I’m betting yes. Hamels K/9 slightly declined last season but that could also be the reason why his control improved as he seems to have learned that you don’t need to strike everyone out, it’s okay to let them hit the ball from time to time.

11. Jon Lester, Boston: Insert chicken and beer one-liner here. Lester will be primed to rebound off a porous September. New manager Bobby Valentine will see to that. Like with the Yankees, we know he will get the run support, just be nice to see Lester find the 40 plus Ks he lost last season.

12. David Price, Tampa Bay: The second half of this list is dominated by Rays. Price is the ace now, as well he should be. Price’s ERA of 3.49 was higher than expected, but his WHIP of 1.137 is right in line, he’s walking less, striking out more, and pitched the most innings of his career, me likey.

13. Matt Cain, San Francisco: Cain, like Hamels, is pitching for a contract, one with lots of zeroes. Cain, unlike Hamels, pitches in the grand canyon, and can afford to make mistakes. Out of all of Cain’s numbers, the one he can’t control is getting the W. The Giants don’t score many runs and seem to score even less with Cain on the mound. No real statistical reason, just bad luck.

14. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee: For all intensive purposes Gallardo had the best season of his career in 2011. Best WHIP 1.215, ERA 3.52, Wins 17, Ks 207, IP 207.3, even his fastball averaged the highest velocity 92.69. I’m worried about the Brewers offense though, losing Prince Fielder for the entire season and Ryan Braun for a possible 50 games, put more pressure on the entire pitching staff.

15. James Shields, Tampa Bay: Big game James pitched well in more than just big games last season. Shields had career best numbers across the board last season including a ridiculous 11 complete games. Why do I still have my doubts about him?

16. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee: It should come as no surprise that Greinke’s first season in the National League was a positive one. His 3.83 ERA leaves something to be desired but it’s hard to complain about any of his other peripherals.

17. C.J. Wilson, Angels: You have to think a change from pitching in Texas, where the ball flies out of the park to a more pitcher friendly environment in Los Angeles, should only help Wilson. This converted reliever has proven most of wrong. Who would’ve thought he would become one of the better starters in baseball?

18. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis: Carpenter has averaged 221 IP over the past three seasons and that seems to be a concern to the Cards “new” management team this season as they have already let it be known that they will limit his pitches this spring training and could limit his innings this season.

19. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay: Hellickson had an impressive rookie season with a 2.95 ERA, 1.153 WHIP to go along with 13 wins. His strikeout totals are never going to impress but that shouldn’t stop you from drafting him.

20. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis: Without that comment from Bill Ivie there is no way I would’ve placed him on this list. Now I do so confidently.

21. Michael Pineda, Yankees: Joining the Yankees will surely cause his ERA and WHIP to rise slightly, but the added Ws should more than make up for it. The trade to New York also puts him in the top 25.

22. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay: If not that the Rays usually handle their young pitchers with kid gloves and could limit his innings or shut him down in September he would be much higher on this list and most likely will be next season. Moore throws 95 MPH plus with ease. He will K a ton and not be afraid of the AL East competition.

23. Stephen Strasburg, Washington: Everything I just wrote about Moore could be placed in this spot as well. Next season he will be much higher on this list, I’m just wary of the Nats having a pitch count on Strasburg, and how I expect them to shut him down after 160IP.

24. Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds: Line Pineda, Latos goes from a major hitters ballpark to one of the best hitter’s park in the majors. How will this affect his performance? We know his ERA and WHIP will jump, but will he win enough games to make up for it?

25. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers: I know many rankings have him much higher, but I’ve yet to see a Japanese pitching import come over and dominate, and until I do, I’ll advise caution.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.