Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fantasy Baseball Dossier 4.0

"It doesn't matter if it's yours or mine."

With the draft lobby windows at ESPN officially open, it's still clearly too early to be talking about fantasy baseball, but I blame NESN. They do an hour from Fort Myers every day. It's baseball entrapment. I'm sitting at my house looking at snowbanks that have been there for a month, and then I turn on the TV, and there's Peter Gammons talking up Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Iglesias (#1 Red Sox prospect) in a polo shirt and probably sandals...I'm a little jealous I guess. In any event, the baseball preview definitely tipped my hand in terms of guys I'm really big on going into the 2011 season, but here's the rest of it...

The "I Should Have Never Flip-Flopped On The Fact That Albert Pujols Is The Best Player Of Our Lifetimes" Theory:

A-Rod killed me. I think it was the fact that he had a 40/40 season that made me think that perhaps he is the best player in baseball. Maybe the two mega-deals he signed too. All the while, Albert Pujols has made a laughing stock out of pitching like no one has since Ted Williams. I know that all of this is obvious, and you're probably wondering why I am highlighting it. Basically, this guy needed a section...he's a "section" guy. The gap from #1 to #2 (Hanley Ramirez or Miguel Cabrera depending on who's rankings you check out) is staggering. This will be his 11th year, and there is no letting up in sight. I would also like to use this space to say to the entire St. Louis organization that, while it totally sucks when an employee has a lot of leverage in negotiations, you have got to give Albert Pujols whatever he wants...anything. If he wants ten years and $300 million, just do it. The amount of money this guy generates for the Cardinals just from gate sales alone will justify it and fund itself. It will be a travesty if a deal can't get done here, and the longer this drags out, the more of a waste of film, analysts' opinions, and minor blog-writing space it will be.

The "I Didn't Get Pujols, So Now I Have Some Semi-Heavy Thinking To Do" Theory:

This issue got even more sticky today with the news that Miguel Cabrera was arrested on a DUI. I almost feel like that was bound to happen though. I saw the "breaking news" announcement, read it, said "hmm," and moved on with my day. What can stem from this is prosecution though, and it's definitely an issue for fantasy owners if the Tigers have a three-game set against the Royals and Miguel Cabrera is in court, or perhaps even worse. I think you have to consider Cabrera in the top 5 regardless. He should remain there until there is certainty that he will miss a significant amount of time from this, or that his status on the Tigers and baseball in general has been altered.

However, all of this makes me think Cabrera is not the #2 guy, so let's break down how this is going to go:

The Obvious Contenders:
  • Hanley Ramirez: Yes, he's still known as the reason why the Sox won the World Series in '07 for me, but Ramirez has developed into a very rare .300/30HR/30SB player. A consistent .300 hitter is hard to find, a 30/30 guy even harder...and this guy does them both? Also, he plays a position that is notoriously weak and has been since whenever A-Rod moved to third and Nomar's unfortunate demise (he also had a huge hand in getting the Sox a World Series title). However, if you look at the player rankings from last year, he was 12th, and with no Dan Uggla, it's going to be even tougher for Ramirez to put up similar numbers. Even with that though, he's at least in the top 5 if not the top 3.
  • Carl Crawford: Clearly the move to Boston is going to help all parties involved (including this guy), but you have to wonder about how much the transition of being an individual who has had to put up monster year after monster year in Tampa, to now coming to a team whose sole purpose is to win games by any means necessary, which might not require Carl Crawford every time. I think Crawford has a monster year (by the way, everyone in the Sox lineup outside of Marco Scutaro will have monster years), but I'm not sure that his year will be as...monstrous (?) as his 2010 campaign where he finished the season 2nd on the Player Rater (tied with Albert Pujols) to the next guy on the list...
The Guys Who Are Worthy Of #2 But You're Not Supposed To Be Believing That:
  • Carlos Gonzalez: The biggest non-New England related sports-crush I have is for Carlos Gonzalez. His numbers last season stretched the imagination for what is possible in baseball. How often to players come along they make you wonder the possibilities of how a sport is played? This guy can be in the hunt for a batting title, and could potentially move into the 40/40 realm. Hanley Ramirez is outstanding, but the potential of Gonzalez to me is just too much. He's my #2 this season.
  • Troy Tulowitzki: Cargo's teammate will likely be battling him for MVP of the NL this season. Again, shortstop is very weak, and Tulo's value only goes up with that.
  • Joey Votto: What does Votto have to do to get into this discussion? He wins an MVP, and he's ranked 7th? Trust me, this guy was one of the cornerstones on my team last year, and every time you needed a hit...even a home run, it seemed like he came through. He's outstanding, and you could absolutely make the case for him against Cabrera for runner-up to the Albert Pujols lifetime best first baseman award.
  • Robinson Cano: I basically made a pledge to myself, and just to keep the dignity of the allegiance to New England sports I've made (everyone except Yale...sorry), I would never have a Yankee on my team...ever. This is the first time that I've ever even pondered, or even questioned it. I'm pretty sure that's enough of an endorsement for Cano (who also plays at a desperately weak position).
Right now, here's how the top seven is looking:
  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Carlos Gonzalez
  3. Hanley Ramirez
  4. Troy Tulowitzki
  5. Robinson Cano
  6. Joey Votto
  7. Carl Crawford
On The Fringe Of The Top Seven:
  • Adrian Gonzalez: I changed my pick for MVP from Cano to Gonzalez basically to service my own agenda of Boston is #1, and everyone else are basically suckers (except Philly), but we really will not know how this move is going to work until Gonzalez actually starts attempting to destroy the Green Monster, which, by all accounts, he will do. The question now is how much of this destruction will translate into fantasy? He stays on the fringe for now because of the unknown factor. I will say this, Gonzalez's numbers could go up, whereas I think Crawford's will even out, so if you're asking who is the best Boston fantasy player, I'll go with Gonzalez, but I'm just a huge, huge Carl Crawford fan, and his transition to Boston will be by far smoother than Gonzalez's.
  • Evan Longoria: The franchise guy at the hot corner. Fortunately for Longoria, the Rays were able to beef their lineup with Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, and while both are on the back-nines of their careers, they will be able to get on base and create run-scoring opportunities. Longoria probably has the sweetest stroke in baseball today.
  • Ryan Braun: .300/25/100/20 years are not supposed to be "ho-hum," but in Ryan Braun's case, that's where we're headed. I guess the reason Braun is not mentioned in the top 5 like he once was is due to the fact that his homers went down. Braun continues to be a mainstay in the first round, and you could potentially get some value on him this year, especially in an auction draft (right now, his ARV (approximate retail value) is $32...I feel like you will not have to spend more than $40 to get him, and only overpaying by a few dollars to get a top 10 player is a great deal).
The Best Of The Rest In The First Round:
  1. Adrian Gonzalez
  2. Evan Longoria
  3. Miguel Cabrera
  4. Ryan Braun
  5. David Wright
The "I Know I Was Wrong About Roy Halladay Last Year, But You Still Shouldn't Draft A Starting Pitcher In The First Round" Theory:

Again, couldn't have been more wrong about Halladay. Everyone thought he would destroy the NL. I was under the impression that there would be some kind of statute of limitations as to how long he could be good for, and I was wrong big time. Okay, so I'm done apologizing for that, and now, it's time for me to somehow sway you from taking Halladay, who is the heavy, heavy favorite to win the NL Cy Young, in the first round. Basically, it all comes down to supply and demand. Roy Halladay will likely be the best pitcher in baseball again this year, but his numbers, when put up against a guy like Adam Wainwright, are quite comparable:
  • Halladay: 20 W's, 2.66 ERA, 206 K's
  • Wainwright: 19 W's, 2.68 ERA, 191 K's
Wainwright is projected as the sixth best starting pitcher, and you can probably get him in the mid to late 3rd round. Here's a look at who the sixth best at each position and the best at each position:

1. Joe Mauer: .327/9HR/75RBI/88R/1SB
6. Matt Wieters: .249/11/55/37/0

First Baseman:
1. Albert Pujols: .312/42/118/115/14
6. Ryan Howard: .269/36/123/93/3

Second Baseman:
1. Robinson Cano: .319/29/109/103/3
6. Brandon Phillips: .275/18/59/100/16

Third Baseman:
1. Evan Longoria: .294/22/104/96/15
6. Pedro Alvarez: .256/16/64/42/0 (in 95 games)

1. Hanley Ramirez: .300/21/76/92/32
6. Starlin Castro: .300/3/41/53/10

1. Carlos Gonzalez: .336/34/117/111/26
6. Nelson Cruz: .318/22/78/60/17

So, yeah, it's a bit more of a drop-off from 1 to 6 for the position players than it is for starting pitching, and the need to get that #1 or #2 guy is just much higher. Therefore, I think starting pitching is something that you probably shouldn't even concern yourself with until at least the third or fourth round when all of those big name position players are off the board.

The "These Guys Are Filthy, You Know It, I Know It, Yet They're Going For Cheaper Than They Probably Should" Theory:
  • Nelson Cruz, TEX ($26 auction value)
  • Shin Soo-Choo, CLE ($25)
  • Justin Upton, ARZ ($23): These three are together because they're all five-tool right fielders, a position that used to have only one or two of that type of player (Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu dominated the top spot for most of the last decade), but you have three chances in a snake draft within the first two or three rounds. I have to single out Shin Soo though...I'm pretty sure we're going to be seeing a .300/30/30 season from Choo.
  • Andrew McCutchen, PIT ($22): McCutchen had a solid rookie season, but is only going to get better this year, as will a lot of the guys in the Pittsburgh lineup. Expect an average in the .300s and 35-40 steals.
  • Jose Bautista, TOR ($22): He likely won't get to 50 homers again, but Bautista is a great player to have because he'll probably hit at least 35 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored, and as an added bonus, he's eligible at both third and in the outfield. A tremendous asset to have on your team.
  • Clayton Kershaw, LAD ($21): Kershaw had a great year last season worthy of being a top-5 starter, yet you can get him about $7-8 cheaper than where he should be going. Huge strikeout potential here.
  • Hunter Pence, HOU ($19): Pence is so good that if he's the first outfielder you take, you may actually be in pretty good shape. The way I've been drafting though, I almost like to load up on outfielders early, and Pence has been in the mix on several occasions.
  • Buster Posey, SF ($18): We haven't even seen Posey for a full season, and yet right now, only Joe Mauer is in front of him in terms of offensive potential. Posey is fully capable of hitting in the .320s while getting a 25/90 clip along the way. Catching is weak this year too, so the premium is even higher for Posey, who is also eligible at first.
  • Cole Hamels, PHI ($16): He is the poor man's Clayton Kershaw, and considering he will be going up against the #4's from each team, and in looking through the different rotations, there is no one even on par with Hamels in terms of #4 starters around the league.
  • Josh Johnson, FLA ($16): Josh Johnson is only owned by 62% of all teams? This has to speak to some injury concerns that are out there. I have to say I would totally risk it on Johnson. I mean when SI ran a cover story about the rise of the pitcher last year, they had Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, and...Josh Johnson on the cover. That right there should lead you to believe that this guy is absolutely an elite pitcher.
  • David Price, TB ($15): He's like Randy Johnson without the Randy Johnson aura if that makes any sense.
  • Yovani Gallardo, MIL ($14): And what made this even better was when the Brewers traded for Grienke. There is an undeniable hunger in Milwaukee right now and it seems like the Brewers will be this year's Rangers, loading up for a deep postseason run. Gallardo now gets to pitch against the opposition's #2 rather than their ace. He's great, but that fact adds at least three or four wins to his total. Also, he might lead the NL in strikeouts (hit 200 Ks last year, 31 back from Lincecum)
  • Francisco Liriano, MIN ($14): Another tall lefty that racks up the strikeouts. The faith in Liriano last year was on the fritz after Tommy John surgery in '07 followed by two down years. Then, last season, Liriano showed off the form that had everyone talking after his rookie season. Expect another 200 K season and 15-17 wins.
The "Guys Who Have Been There, And We'll Definitely Know Them Once This Year Gets Out" Theory:

I kind of had to throw a non-household names who are getting ready for breakout years section. Is there anything better than buying low on a guy's first really big season (Brian Wilson last year for me...huge!!!).
  • Mike Stanton, FLA (owned in 67.9% of all leagues, $16)
  • Pedro Alvarez, PIT (58.2%, $10): I put these two together because these are the two guys I plot and scheme for after that initial wave of elite players in the first two or so rounds. Just have to have both of them. Stanton is projected at 36 homers, and I'm thinking higher. Alvarez is Prince Fielder of third basemen. He comes to the plate, and it's like "I want the really big guy to totally crush this." I'm thinking Prince's dad, Cecil, started that phenomenon (on second thought, maybe Babe Ruth). Still, it's good to have a really big guy that hits homers...Alvarez, Big Papi, Adam Dunn, you get the idea.
  • Ian Desmond, WSH (28.5%, $10): All about the Desmond/Espinoza combination in DC. Get 'em both. Desmond has his rookie year under his belt, and he's primed for a big one this year. Think Khalil Greene defense but with actual hitting involved.
  • Clay Buchholz, BOS (93.7%, $9): Call me a homer, but he should be going for $18 at least. Guy is in the top 5 in ERA and just got Gonzalez and Crawford in the lineup, and you're betting against 20 wins? He is the attainable Jon Lester, and while I think Lester wins the Cy Young this year, Buchholz will be right behind him stat-wise.
  • Daniel Hudson, ARZ (54.4%, $9): I had Hudson last year, and every time I clicked on his game logs, I was stunned looking at the strikeout numbers. It was a minimum of eight it seemed every time. This is a guy unlike the aforementioned pitchers because Hudson doesn't even have a year of experience under his belt. This is the time to get in on him. I would go at least $16-17 in an auction.
  • John Axford, MIL (89.8%, $8): First of all, a guy who is a closer on a pennant contender with no competition and is not owned by 100% is kind of baffling. Second, Axford is absolutely the Brian Wilson of this year. Again, on a team that is going to win at least 90 games I'm thinking (that lineup, Grienke/Gallardo/Marcum the 1-2-3, Axford in the 9th...if not now Milwaukee, when?). Plus, he's ranked 153rd, meaning you potentially could get him about five rounds after he probably should be going.
  • Neil Walker, PIT (85.7%, $7): Lots of pop coming from a middle infielder here. To get the all around production you should expect to see from Walker at second base, you will have to spend a minimum of $20 to get a guy like Brandon Phillips. The guys immediately following Walker present a huge risk too, so he's pretty much the threshold point of second basemen, meaning that if you don't have one and Walker goes, you're in major trouble.
  • Gaby Sanchez, FLA (67%, $7): As weird as this may sound, no one benefited more from the Dan Uggla trade in terms of future dividends than Sanchez. He no longer will have Uggla in front of him constantly hitting home runs and driving Hanley Ramirez in. Now, Ramirez will have a higher chance of still being on base, and coming of a 2010 season where he had 85 RBIs, I'm fully expecting him to crack the 100 barrier.
  • Madison Bumgarner, SF (32.2%, $6): Bumgarner was a major factor in the Giants outlasting San Diego to win the NL West title. Without Bumgarner anchoring the bottom of the rotation, they probably don't win the division, meaning their title run would never have happened. Again, he's under the radar, and again, the NL West is pretty terrible. He is the NL's Clay Buchholz in terms of a guy who people believed would have durability issues, only to not only survive, but be extremely effective late into the season.
  • Matt Wieters, BAL (59.4%, $4): Wieters will experience a huge boost to his RBI opportunities with the acquisitions of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero. The only concern would be where Mark Reynolds is in the order, because he either hits a homer or strikes out. I think a lot of people somehow forgot that Wieters, not Buster Posey or Carlos Santana, was supposed to be the best catching prospect in the game, and I think Wieters' potential still needs to be tapped into. Along with J.P. Arencibia, Wieters also represents the threshold mark for catcher.
  • Ricky Romero, TOR (74%, $4): Romero is perhaps the most drastically mispriced player in all of fantasy baseball. The ace of even an average team should be going for around $12, and in Romero's case, he probably should be closer to 20. He gets the big strikeout numbers and should be hovering around 17 wins with a sub-3.5 ERA.
  • Trevor Cahill, OAK (79.9%, $4): How can you go wrong taking Cahill this late after he just won 18 games and had a sub-3 ERA on a .500 Oakland team?
  • Brian Matusz, BAL (51.7%, $4): Matusz was a guy I was huge on last year, and while the first half of his season was horrendous, he showed encouraging signs in the second half of the season, and he will also benefit like Wieters from the new and improved lineup.
  • Ryan Raburn, DET (92.4%, $2): Raburn was able to hit 15 homers in just 371 at-bats. With a full season, you're looking at a 25 homer season. Raburn can only benefit from Miguel Cabrera as well. If he's on the team, he's got a .330 hitter in front of him, and if Cabrera is not there, he will get all those RBI opportunities Cabrera would have gotten.
  • Evan Meek, PIT (19.7%, $1)
  • Chris Sale, CWS (13.1%, $1): I put these two together because both are set-up men who are both primed to become dominant young closers. Also, the two guys currently in that role for their respective teams (Joel Hanrahan for Pittsburgh, Matt Thornton for Chicago) are far from being locks. Look for Sale to beat out Thornton before Meek gets there though, as it seems like Hanrahan has a bit longer of a leash than Thornton.
  • Tyler Colvin (8.1%, $1): The Cubs won't be great this year, but Colvin has a huge chance to have a breakout season with very few other offensive options for the Cubbies. Really liking Colvin this year because he already established himself as a big-league hitter last season, and will only progress this year.
The "Why Have We Forgotten About These Guys?" Theory:

Simply put, there's no talk about these guys whether it be because of an injury last year, or because they may be coming off of a let-down season, or maybe fantasy pundits are morons.
  • Brian Roberts, BAL (80%, $9)
  • Nick Markakis, BAL (99.1%, $9): Two guys from Baltimore who have been doing it their entire careers, and yet both are available right around the 10-11th round. Roberts missed basically the entire season, but upon his return and the arrival of Buck Showalter as manager, the O's were a completely different team. Roberts should have a really nice bounce-back season. Markakis simply had no one to drive in once Roberts was shelved, as despite being in the top 10 in the AL in hits, managed just 60 RBI last year. Expect this season that he gets back to the 90-100 RBI platform.
  • Brett Myers, HOU (67.2%, $8)
  • Brandon Morrow, TOR (19.9%, $8): Two strikeout artists who found their ways in the second half of last season. Myers started off being a very effective starter in Philly, but gradually lost favor there and wound up in Houston, and due to the Roy Oswalt trade, became the team's ace. Morrow was a mediocre reliever in Seattle for three years before becoming a full-time starter for the first time in Toronto last year. After a few shaky outings, Morrow went crazy down the stretch, including a one-hit, 17-strikeout performance against Tampa. Both should come close to having 15-win, 200K seasons.
  • Grady Sizemore, CLE (31.6%, $7): Swinging and missing on Sizemore is a lot different this year than it was last year, when you had to get him in the 3rd round. Now, you can wait until the 12-13th round and stash him on your bench. Really the only question is staying healthy for an entire season. If he makes that happen, he could be back to being a $20 player next year.
  • Joe Nathan, MIN (3.6%, $5): Nathan seems to have fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and is throwing as hard as he ever has so far in his early testing. If this all holds up, you can get a top-10 closer for the price of a middle reliever.
  • C.J. Wilson, TEX (84.2%, $3): Wilson will return to his role as ace of the Texas staff after having to relinquish at least a little of the responsibilities to Cliff Lee mid-season in 2010. Wilson pitches in a fairly easy division too, so there's no reason he can't improve on his 15 wins and 3.35 ERA from last season.
  • Frank Francisco, TOR (27.1%, $3): Francisco was the closer in Texas before Neftali Feliz took his job. It looks like he has the closer job as long as he can beat out Octavio Dotel. Francisco is poised to return to the 30-save plateau on a re-tooled Toronto team.
  • Edinson Volquez, CIN (39.8%, $2): Volquez missed most of '09 and '10 due to TJ surgery, but pitched very strong when he came back last year. He also turned down an extension and settled on a one-year pact with Cincy. This just means that he believes he can command a big contract after this season, so look for a big "contract year" performance.
The "Next Big Things" Theory:

I am huge on finding young guys before they really pop in the majors. We saw it happen last year with Jason Heyward and especially Buster Posey. Both of those guys were available way late in the draft last year, and are both in the top 60 this year. So, there is a premium on getting players you can stash on your bench and wait until they are getting regular playing time, or are putting up consistent numbers before you insert them into the starting lineup. Here are the young guys you need to be focusing on this year:
  • Domonic Brown, PHI (2.4%): No rookie will be under as much scrutiny as Brown. The Phillies really didn't even get into any kind of bidding war over Jayson Werth based solely on the fact that they are convinced Brown can be a suitable replacement from the get-go. You can kind of see why everyone in Philly is excited about this guy though. From his numbers in the minors, he's projecting as a .300/20/90/90/20 guy. The best news? He's currently owned in 2.4% of all leagues. What's funny is that everyone knows about this guy, and yet they're not taking him. Speaking of outfield prospects not getting any love...
  • Desmond Jennings, TB (0.4%): Jennings is only owned in 0.4% of all leagues! Here's a guy who is the #1 prospect in all of baseball, playing on a team that is going to play him in at least 150 games, batting leadoff on a team that will allow him to run at me, this is a no-brainer. He's stolen 171 bases in three and a half years! That projects out to almost 50 a year. Also, he hit .300 over the same stretch, and has shown some pop...once again, you have a team in Tampa who were prepared for a star, in this case, Carl Crawford, to leave town and have their replacement be ready to step in from day one.
  • J.P. Arencibia, TOR (1.2%): Arencibia is the savior of late-round catchers. After him, it's the wild west and there is no hope in sight (it's not a good situation when you're debating taking Miguel Olivo or John Jaso). This guy could have the biggest impact of any rookie this season, and his rookie breakout campaign was nearly derailed when the Jays traded for Mike Napoli, but a week later, they shipped him off to Texas, and Arencibia reclaimed the starting spot. When his average dipped to .236 in '09 at AAA, there were concerns, and then 2010 came along, and he went .301/32/85...and there went the concerns.
  • Danny Espinosa, WSH (3.5%): All you have to do with Espinosa is look at the guy playing next to him at shortstop, Ian Desmond, and check out his rookie year. You basically have a carbon copy of Desmond in Espinosa, and if anything, he may give you even more pop and more steals (hit 22 homers last year, stole over 25 bases in his two full seasons).
  • Michael Brantley, CLE (1.8%): Here's another burner, and much like Desmond Jennings, he hits at a .300 clip. Love the Indians this year...these guys are the Browns of baseball...they're not going to win divisions, but they may alter how the playoff picture pans out, especially in a very weak AL Central.
  • Mitch Moreland, TEX (1.8%): A proven .300+ hitter in the minors, with all of the firepower in the Ranger lineup, I'll be stunned if he doesn't get at least 85-90 RBIs. I would project him out this year to be a .290/25/90 guy.
  • Freddie Freeman, ATL (0.3%): In keeping with the alliteration theme, Freeman is a guy who could put up Moreland-like numbers, but he's even more raw than Moreland is (only 24 at-bats last year), meaning he's flying even further under the radar and sometimes can be gotten after the draft in the free agent pool. If you need a backup first baseman, or just a good hitter in general on your bench, I wouldn't wait until he hit waivers.
  • Kyle Drabek, TOR (0.7%): You know his dad, but it's time you knew who Kyle is. It didn't take long for the Jays to plug him into the rotation, as Drabek looks like the #4 pitcher in the Toronto rotation. He won 14 games last year with a sub-3 ERA. With news that Drabek in tinkering with a change-up in Spring Training, look for a double-digit win total and a whole bunch of strikeouts (Toronto's pitching staff may lead not just the AL but all of baseball in K's by starting pitchers).
  • Jake McGee, TB (0.1%): For now, Kyle Farnsworth is the closer, but I would stash McGee on your bench if you have room because I'll be stunned if he's not eventually the closer this year, and while Tampa isn't what it used to be, McGee has the stuff necessary to earn those saves when the opportunities are there.

And now, boring rankings with my personalized auction values (note: the values are probably what you should be maxing out at to get the particular player)...

  1. Joe Mauer, MIN ($28)
  2. Buster Posey (C/1B), SF ($23)
  3. Brian McCann, ATL ($19)
  4. Victor Martinez, DET ($18)
  5. Carlos Santana, CLE ($13)
  6. Matt Wieters, BAL ($10)
  7. Miguel Montero, ARZ ($9)
  8. Mike Napoli (C/1B), TEX ($7)
  9. J.P. Arencibia, TOR ($6)
  10. Kurt Suzuki, OAK ($3)
First Basemen:
  1. Albert Pujols, STL ($50)
  2. Joey Votto, CIN ($42)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DET ($38)
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS ($38)
  5. Prince Fielder, MIL ($30)
  6. Ryan Howard, PHI ($28)
  7. Mark Teixeira, NYY ($27)
  8. Justin Morneau, MIN ($25)
  9. Kendry Morales, LAA ($24)
  10. Billy Butler, KC ($21)
  11. Adam Dunn, CWS ($19)
  12. Paul Konerko, CWS ($19)
  13. Gaby Sanchez ($15)
  14. Aubrey Huff, SF ($13)
  15. Mitch Moreland, TEX ($13)
  16. Adam LaRoche, WSH ($12)
  17. Carlos Lee, HOU ($8)
  18. Derrek Lee, BAL ($8)
  19. Freddie Freeman, ATL ($6)
  20. Ike Davis, NYM ($6)
Second Basemen
  1. Robinson Cano, NYY ($44)
  2. Chase Utley, PHI ($35)
  3. Dustin Pedroia, BOS ($32)
  4. Rickie Weeks, MIL ($25)
  5. Dan Uggla, ATL ($24)
  6. Brandon Phillips, CIN ($23)
  7. Ian Kinsler, TEX ($17)
  8. Brian Roberts, BAL ($16)
  9. Neil Walker, PIT ($14)
  10. Ben Zobrist, TB ($13)
  11. Kelly Johnson, ARZ ($11)
  12. Martin Prado (2B/3B), ATL ($11)
  13. Aaron Hill, TOR ($11)
  14. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, MIN ($8)
  15. Ty Wigginton (2B/1B/3B), COL ($7)
  16. Gordon Beckham, CWS ($6)
  17. Chone Figgins, SEA ($6)
  18. Howie Kendrick, LAA ($6)
  19. Danny Espinoza, WSH ($5)
  20. Sean Rodriguez (2B/OF), TB ($5)
Third Basemen:
  1. Evan Longoria, TB ($43)
  2. David Wright, NYM ($37)
  3. Ryan Zimmerman, WSH ($36)
  4. Jose Bautista (3B/OF), TOR ($34)
  5. Alex Rodriguez, NYY ($33)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, PIT ($24)
  7. Casey McGehee, MIL ($23)
  8. Adrian Beltre, TEX ($19)
  9. Chase Headley, SD ($15)
  10. Aramis Ramirez, CHC ($15)
  11. Michael Young, TEX ($12)
  12. Pablo Sandoval, SF ($12)
  13. Mark Reynolds, BAL ($11)
  14. Kevin Kouzmanoff, OAK ($9)
  15. Placido Polanco, PHI ($8)
  16. Scott Rolen, CIN ($6)
  17. Ian Stewart, COL ($5)
  18. Chris Johnson, HOU ($5)
  19. David Freese, STL ($3)
  20. Matt Domniguez, FLA ($2)
  1. Hanley Ramirez, FLA ($45)
  2. Troy Tulowitzki, COL ($44)
  3. Jose Reyes, NYM ($27)
  4. Ian Desmond, WSH ($18)
  5. Stephen Drew, ARZ ($17)
  6. Starlin Castro, CHC ($14)
  7. Derek Jeter, NYY ($14)
  8. Alexei Ramirez, CWS ($13)
  9. Elvis Andrus, TEX ($12)
  10. Jimmy Rollins, PHI ($12)
  11. Rafael Furcal, LAD ($8)
  12. Jhonny Peralta (SS/3B), DET ($8)
  13. Alex Gonzalez, ATL ($6)
  14. Reid Brignac (SS/2B), TB ($6)
  15. Erick Aybar, LAA ($6)
  16. Juan Uribe (SS/2B/3B), LAD ($6)
  17. Yunel Escobar, TOR ($4)
  18. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE ($4)
  19. Alcides Escobar, KC ($2)
  20. Cliff Pennington, OAK ($2)
  1. Carlos Gonzalez, COL ($44)
  2. Carl Crawford, BOS ($44)
  3. Ryan Braun, MIL ($42)
  4. Shin Soo-Choo, CLE ($41)
  5. Justin Upton, ARZ ($38)
  6. Nelson Cruz, TEX ($38)
  7. Josh Hamilton, TEX ($35)
  8. Andrew McCutchen, PIT ($35)
  9. Mike Stanton, FLA ($34)
  10. Matt Kemp, LAD ($33)
  11. Hunter Pence, HOU ($32)
  12. Matt Holliday, STL ($32)
  13. Jason Heyward, ATL ($32)
  14. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS ($30)
  15. Jayson Werth, WSH ($28)
  16. Andre Ethier, LAD ($28)
  17. Corey Hart, MIL ($26)
  18. Ichiro, SEA ($24)
  19. Jay Bruce, CIN ($23)
  20. Delmon Young, MIN ($23)
  21. Shane Victorino, PHI ($22)
  22. Colby Rasmus, STL ($22)
  23. Alex Rios, CWS ($20)
  24. Curtis Granderson, NYY ($20)
  25. B.J. Upton, TB ($19)
  26. Nick Markakis, BAL ($17)
  27. Grady Sizemore, CLE ($16)
  28. Angel Pagan, NYM ($15)
  29. Torii Hunter, LAA ($15)
  30. Brett Gardner, NYY ($14)
  31. Vernon Wells, LAA ($13)
  32. Michael Bourn, HOU ($11)
  33. Chris Young, ARZ ($11)
  34. Rajai Davis, OAK ($10)
  35. Juan Pierre, CWS ($9)
  36. Drew Stubbs, CIN ($9)
  37. Adam Jones, BAL ($9)
  38. Carlos Quentin, CWS ($9)
  39. Ryan Raburn, DET ($9)
  40. Andres Torres, SF ($8)
  41. Domonic Brown, PHI ($8) (update: broken hand, out first 4 weeks of the season)
  42. Bobby Abreu, LAA ($8)
  43. Jason Kubel, MIN ($6)
  44. Nick Swisher, NYY ($6)
  45. Denard Span, MIN ($5)
  46. Franklin Guiterrez, SEA ($5)
  47. Garrett Jones (OF/1B), PIT ($5)
  48. Tyler Colvin, CHC ($4)
  49. Travis Snider, TOR ($3)
  50. Desmond Jennings, TB ($3)
Starting Pitchers:
  1. Roy Halladay, PHI ($41)
  2. Felix Hernandez, SEA ($36)
  3. Tim Lincecum ($35)
  4. Jon Lester, BOS ($34)
  5. Clayton Kershaw, LAD ($33)
  6. Zack Greinke, MIL ($33)
  7. Adam Wainwright, STL ($32) (update: Tommy John surgery, out until mid-2012)
  8. Cliff Lee, PHI ($32)
  9. C.C. Sabathia, NYY ($28)
  10. Jered Weaver, LAA ($28)
  11. Josh Johnson, FLA ($27)
  12. Ubaldo Jimenez, COL ($27)
  13. Justin Verlander, DET ($25)
  14. David Price, TB ($25)
  15. Yovani Gallardo, MIL ($25)
  16. Francisco Liriano, MIN ($24)
  17. Chris Carpenter, STL ($24)
  18. Clay Buchholz, BOS ($21)
  19. Mat Latos, SD ($21)
  20. Cole Hamels ($20)
  21. Tommy Hanson, ATL ($19)
  22. Matt Cain, SF ($19)
  23. Dan Haren, ARZ ($18)
  24. Roy Oswalt, PHI ($17)
  25. Daniel Hudson, ARZ ($17)
  26. Brett Myers, HOU ($17)
  27. Trevor Cahill, OAK ($16)
  28. Ricky Romero, TOR ($16)
  29. Brandon Morrow, TOR ($14)
  30. Shaun Marcum, MIL ($13)
  31. C.J. Wilson, TEX ($13)
  32. Neftali Feliz, TEX ($13)
  33. Chad Billingsley, LAD ($12)
  34. Matt Garza, CHC ($10)
  35. Madison Bumgarner, SF ($8)
  36. Jeremy Hellickson, TB, ($8)
  37. Jonathan Sanchez, SF ($8)
  38. Wandy Rodriguez, HOU ($8)
  39. Jaime Garcia, STL ($8)
  40. Brett Anderson, OAK ($7)
  41. Max Scherzer, DET ($6)
  42. Brian Matusz, BAL ($6)
  43. Edinson Volquez, CIN ($6)
  44. Colby Lewis, TEX ($5)
  45. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD ($4)
  46. Ted Lilly, LAD ($4)
  47. John Danks, CWS ($4)
  48. Tim Hudson, ATL ($4)
  49. Anibal Sanchez, FLA ($3)
  50. Phil Hughes, NYY ($2)
Relief Pitchers:
  1. Joakim Soria, KC ($23)
  2. Brian Wilson, SF ($21)
  3. Carlos Marmol, CHC ($20)
  4. Heath Bell, SD ($18)
  5. Jonathan Papelbon, BOS ($18)
  6. Chris Perez, CLE ($17)
  7. Andrew Bailey, OAK ($16)
  8. John Axford, MIL ($16)
  9. Francisco Cordero, CIN ($14)
  10. Jose Valverde, DET ($14)
  11. Joe Nathan, MIN ($14)
  12. Jonathan Broxton, LAD ($13)
  13. Drew Storen, WSH ($12)
  14. Brad Lidge, PHI ($10)
  15. Mariano Rivera, NYY ($10)
  16. J.J. Putz, ARZ ($6)
  17. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM ($9)
  18. Frank Francisco, TOR ($9)
  19. Huston Street, COL ($8)
  20. Craig Kimbrel, ATL ($8)
So, there's pretty much everything I have for you in 2011. I hope this will help you sort through the madness of the pre-draft stage of the fantasy baseball season. The draft is a big part of creating your team, but the best team is a team that can be configured via the draft, trades, and the waiver wire to keep up with the current times, which is why fantasy baseball is the biggest grind of them all. Good luck this year everyone, and as always, GO SOX!!! Haha. Peace.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

"I don't know about yourself or what you plan to be yeah
When we gamble with our time, we choose our destiny."

Again, the way the Pats' season ended was dreadful, but at least the football season itself ended on a high note, as Aaron Rodgers had one of the better performances by a QB ever in the Super Bowl, helping Green Bay knock off the Steelers en route to being named MVP of the game. I was very pro-Pack heading into the game because I really like the way that team is set up and I have to say...not so big on Pittsburgh at all (I respect they probably have the best fan base in football, but that fan base happens to hate the Pats, so good luck getting support from this guy...also, unless you're a Steelers fan, how can you possibly root for Ben Roethlisberger objectionably at this point?).

So, thankfully, this season is over, but before I completely switch over into Sox mode (three days 'til pitchers and catchers!), let's take a quick peak at how the draft is shaping up right now. With the Pats holding two picks in each of the first four rounds, I expect to at least be getting this mock into the three-round territory within the coming weeks. For now, we're going to focus in on the first round. So, let's get right into it...

  1. Carolina- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: The consensus right now is that Fairley will be the top pick. Of course, the combine, pro days, and other factors may change this up, but it seems fairly locked in. The Panthers were desperately hoping that Andrew Luck would declare this year, as it's evident the Panthers have no faith in both Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen. The Panther brass still contests that QB is the #1 need, and while that may be true, there is no way a QB goes #1 this year. The Panthers really have needs everywhere except running back and middle linebacker. What I don't understand is why Da'Quan Bowers is not going here. Bowers fills out very similarly to Julius Peppers, who they are obviously missing tremendously in Charlotte. Also, with the Clemson connection, I would have figured that would be a slam dunk. The reasoning behind Fairley going here is consistency. There seems to be some lingering questions out there about how consistently Bowers can bring it (not from this journalist of record though), so I guess we're going with the "safe" play here. Again, this is all subject to change, but Fairley seems to have a big lead on Bowers for #1.
  2. Denver- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: This pick almost becomes a lock with Fairley off the board. Denver was able to jump off to such a fast start in 2009 largely in part to how well they were able to put pressure on the quarterback and force mistakes. In 2010, with an early, season-ending injury to Elvis Dumervil, who led the team and the entire NFL with 17 sacks, the Broncos finished last in the NFL in sacks. They get Dumervil back, but clearly, this is a pressing need, and there is no way you can pass on a talent like Bowers here. Also, remember who just took over in Denver. John Fox just saw what happens when you take a guy like Julius Peppers off a team. Keep an eye on Patrick Peterson here as well. While corner doesn't appear to be an issue for now, Champ Bailey is a free agent, and if they can't get a deal done, there will be a glaring hole in the D-backfield.
  3. Buffalo- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: The Bills are yet another team that just has needs all over the field. At this point, it is tough to say which direction they will be going here, and it will be clearer come April, but as of right now, I'm thinking they go with Green over Peterson purely due to the fact that Lee Evans will likely be a cap causality heading into 2011, meaning there will be a hole opposite Steve Johnson at receiver. Green is getting a ton of praise, and some are even heralding him as "one of the best receiving prospects since Randy Moss"...okay, can I say something real quick? I think A.J. Green is a tremendous talent, and in saying that, in the time since Randy Moss and now, we've had Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, and a plethora of other elite receivers go through the draft process, and Green's talent doesn't stack up nearly as well as those I just listed...he's a great talent, but he's getting a little too much love here.
  4. Cincinnati- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: This pick is contingent on the rumor that Carson Palmer will be traded after he has come out and has voiced his displeasure with the current situation in Cincy. If you look right now at draft grades, Newton is probably a mid-first rounder at best. However, the Combine is a mother in terms of sliding guys up and down the draft board based on physical attributes, and I have to say that the Combine will be Cam Newton's playground. Unless I'm way off, he's going to be turning heads all week long, much like Tim Tebow did last year (who was graded as a 3rd round pick to start the process). If Palmer is traded, the Bengals will need a franchise-like QB to get in right away. In this year's draft, you have two chances to draft a franchise QB, and that's with Newton and Ryan Mallett.
  5. Arizona- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Generally, when you let your entire defense hit the free agency market, you're probably going to be doomed. Such was the case for 'Zona last year, who despite playing in a horrible division, managed to outperform the suckiness of their counterparts. If secondary is what you need, this is your guy. You can make the case that Peterson is the best corner to come out since Darrelle Revis, and like Revis, can contribute in the return game as well.
  6. Cleveland- Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: Miller has launched his draft status into the top 10 thanks to a fine senior season and perhaps an even more impressive Senior Bowl. You can never have enough of those "hybrid" defensive ends in a 3-4. Arizona will also have interest in Miller, and if he does go #5, look for the Browns to still go defensive end with Robert Quinn, or perhaps shift inside and take tackle Marcell Dareus.
  7. San Francisco- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: If you're looking for numbers on Quinn from last season, good luck with all that. Quinn was suspended for his entire senior season after coming into contact with an agent. However, looking back on his '09 highlights, Quinn could have easily been in the discussion with Bowers in terms of who would be the best pure pass-rushing D-End of the draft.
  8. Tennessee- Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama: If the Titans can somehow navigate past the Blaine Gabbert QB pitfall, they could end up with a solid addition to their D-line with Dareus. I'm not sure though that the Titans can get by without taking a QB here. They have been scorned by Vince Young, and unless they can convince Donovan McNabb to sign with them, they are going to have a glaring hole at the most important position heading into the draft (right now, Tennessee, 'Zona, Oakland and Minnesota look like the most favorable landing spots for McNabb). Blaine Gabbert, simply put, could be the most overrated QB to enter the draft since Alex Smith (note: the guy who should have gone #1 in that draft just won a Super Bowl MVP...these are the facts).
  9. Dallas- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: He is being overshadowed by Peterson at the moment (which will happen), but Amukamara could easily have the better career. I'm going by the Ndomakung Suh principle of a guy from Nebraska with an interesting name and a game that simply cannot be quantified at his current level. This guy is so good that the Big 12 basically stopped collectively throwing to him. Think of him as the college Nnamdi Asomugha.
  10. Washington- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Someone's going to take the bait, and right now, there doesn't seem to be another team that is more vulnerable of taking it than the 'Skins. They have struck out on quarterbacks as often as Oakland has, but this streak of incompetence has gone a little below the radar. Heath Shuler, Patrick Ramsey, J-Camp...unless someone shows them this page (and please do because I need all the exposure I can get), it might happen again.
  11. Houston- Cameron Jordan, DE, California: The Texans will be switching to the 3-4 with Wade Phillips now at the defensive helm. Jordan will compliment Mario Williams at the other end, and with Okoye at the nose, Houston could have one of the best and youngest fronts in the league.
  12. Minnesota- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: If you're trying to think of a team that might be moving up the board to get Cam Newton, think Minnesota. Solder is an absolute monster (6'9, 313), and is by far and away the best offensive line prospect in the draft, but I feel like the Vikings, above basically any team, needs Cam Newton. The lineage of Brett Favre replacements includes Aaron Rodgers and Mark need a "name" to come in after that guy.
  13. Detroit- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: The Lions will also be a team on the move, but their need will be to get one of the top two corners available. This team needs a corner more than the two teams I have taking Peterson and Amukamara, so look for Detroit to make an attempt to enter the top 6 or 7. If they do stay here, they will be thinking either Ayers or Aldon Smith, two big outside linebackers whose games are quite comparable.
  14. St. Louis- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Sam Bradford did an even better job than anyone could have thought last year especially considering his best deep threat (Donnie Avery) missed the entire '10 season. Jones will be able to start immediately opposite of Danny Amendola and provide that deep threat that could expand Bradford's game even more.
  15. Miami- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will both be free agents in 2011, and clearly, the Dolphins are a team that needs two featured running backs regardless of who they keep. Ingram also has wildcat experience from playing at 'Bama.
  16. Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: The Jags attempted to fill their need at D-end via free agency last year with Aaron Kampman, but he suffered yet another season-ending knee injury, and J-ville will be looking to move on from him with their first round pick this year. Look for Kerrigan or J.J. Watt here.
  17. The New England Patriots (from OAK)- Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: This is probably the highest I have seen Houston go, but I was doing my first round mock, and there is simply no way he gets to them at 28, so unless they move up from there (possible) or move down from here (extremely possible), they will lose out on the Justin Houston sweepstakes. This is my guy this year. Every year, there's one guy I would kill to see play for the Pats. All of a sudden, you have a top-10 talent in Houston who can rush the passer, and for some reason is being given a 20-25 grade. You have to believe me here. A Cunningham/Mayo/Spikes/Houston linebacking core will look really good for the next decade.
  18. San Diego- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Watt would be a fine pickup for the Chargers, as they will be looking for a "five technique" D-end for their scheme (five technique means that, in a 3-4 formation, the defensive end will be responsible for the gap between the tackle and the guard (the "B" gap), and the gap between the tackle and space or the tight end (the "C" gap), while lining up towards the outside of the tackle (Richard Seymour seems to come up as the most common example of this)).
  19. New York Giants- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal: You could make the case that the Giants could use this pick to bolster their pass rush, but when breaking down the offensive line, it seems like Smith is the more logical choice. David Diehl looks to project better as a guard than a tackle, so the G-Men could bump him inside and have Smith or Will Beatty become their starting left tackle.
  20. Tampa Bay- Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: The Bucs clearly need to continue to stock up along the defensive side of the ball. Their pass rush was horrendous last year, and Smith's stock may get an uptick once his workouts and the Combine come along. He may very well get a top-10 stamp when all is said and done.
  21. Kansas City- Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: The Chiefs will want to express their pass-rush linebacker need here, but there is simply no value on any of those players once Smith is off the board. So, the thought has to go to Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel wanting to get that Vince Wilfork kind of guy to devour blockers up the middle. It seems like Taylor would fit that mold, entering the draft tipping the scales at around 340 lbs.
  22. Indianapolis- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Colts' O-line is getting incredibly old, and they really have to be regretting not taking a tackle in the first round last year. I think that Indy is almost going to be forced to rectify that mistake and take a tackle here, whether it be Carimi or Anthony Castonzo.
  23. Philadelphia- Brandon Harris, CB, The U: Philly could be in trouble secondary-wise as it doesn't appear like they have anyone to line-up opposite Asante Samuel as a starting cornerback. Miami has produced some big talent from the corner position recently, and it's being said that Harris may be the best of all of them at this point in his career.
  24. New Orleans- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn was thought to be in the top 10, perhaps top 5 of this class before last season, but a lackluster senior campaign has brough his stock back down to Earth. Will Smith is great for the Saints, but they have no one else at the end position who can get to the quarterback.
  25. Seattle- Jake Locker, QB, Washington: This was the toughest pick I've had to make so far. The Seahawks are in desperate need to find a replacement for Matt Hasselbeck, and it comes down to either Locker or Ryan Mallett. For me, this is an absolute "homer" pick because while Mallett is a better all-around QB right now, Locker will come in with a ton of support from the Seahawk fan-base, who were watching him last year decide to come back to school rather than enter the draft where he would have been the #1 overall pick.
  26. Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: I don't even know if the Ravens have a corner that they will be calling a "lock" to start next season, so this seems to be the most glaring need. I've been very interested to see a lot of mocks going with guys like Titus Young and Randall Cobb, two undersized but speedy receivers, going here. That may be something to keep an eye on.
  27. Atlanta- Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland: Smith's name keeps popping up on the Atlanta radar because it seems like he's a "Belichick" guy, and with a former Pats personnel man running the show (Thomas Dimitroff), this doesn't seem very far off at all. Also, they do need something more consistent than what Michael Jenkins has given them.
  28. The New England Patriots- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: You have to look at the Matt Light situation and really wonder how far the Pats will go to bring him back. I've always thought Light was very good, but he has shown a lot of inconsistency, which makes me wonder if the Pats, who are notoriously thrifty when it comes to keeping their own guys, will make the kind of concessions they haven't made in the past to keep Light, and I keep thinking they won't.
  29. Chicago- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: The Bears need O-line help and they need a big receiver. Baldwin will help their red zone offense because when you look at what the Bears have right now, they don't have the big target for Cutler to hit down the field.
  30. New York Jets- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: There are a lot of questions about the future of Kris Jenkins, as there have been for the bulk of his career, so spending a first rounder on his eventual replacement would seem to be a wise option here. The only problem will be if Liuget can be in the middle of the 3-4, as he was mostly used in the 4-3 at Illinois.
  31. Pittsburgh- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: All throughout the year, the most talked about area of concern for the Steelers was their offensive line, whether it be injuries or just plain ineffectiveness. This has got to be the primary target going into the first few rounds of the draft this year.
  32. Green Bay- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: I think at this point, Green Bay will be looking to draft for value and not so much for need. Heyward is the best player on the board at this point, and is probably a top-20 talent.
At #33, the Pats will be picking again. I'm looking for them to continue to cash-in on their recent Florida Gator crop and take Mike Pouncey (OG). Pouncey will provide some insurance just in case the Pats do not tender Logan Mankins this year. Of course, there will be plenty more mock drafts to come, so stay tuned. Glad to be writing semi-regularly again by the way. Hopefully it's up to whatever caliber you have sports writing and opinion making at. Take care everyone. Peace.