Saturday, December 29, 2012
Melts all your memories, change into gold.
His eyes are like angels, his heart is cold."
Clearly something needed to be done, and as the last out of the 2012 Red Sox was being recorded in Yankee Stadium, on the heels of an eight-game losing streak, one of the most critical off-seasons in the history of this franchise begun.
After the worst season for the Red Sox since the Vietnam War era, the prophecy of ownership trying to run the Red Sox was finally realized. After labeling the hated Yankees as the "Evil Empire," they became the very same enterprise. Ten years ago, after winning the first world title in 86 years for the franchise, it was thought that this ownership group was almost sent from the divine. Fearless entrepreneurs who would stop at no cost to resurrect a team who always had the fans, but couldn't muster the resources ($$).
Now, if you ask a Sox fan what they think of the ownership group, they will sing a much different tune. No more are their names heralded in the same regard as other ownership tycoons like Tom Yawkey or Bob Kraft. Fans will tell you that they have become out of touch with what the fans want in their team/organization. That they have become more concerned with their newest child in the Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool. Or, they will liken them to money-grubby capitalists looking to pry every dollar they can until they decide to sell the team (to put this into perspective, the team was bought by the John Henry-led group in 2002 for $660 million, and last year, a investing group led by Magic Johnson bought the Dodgers for $2 billion...needless to say the profit margin for if/when Henry does decide to sell the team will be massive).
So what is there to be done about this situation? First, what needed to be done on the part of the ownership group, especially by its head baseball official Larry Lucchino, was to trust the people that they put into their respective positions to do their respective jobs, and while reserving the right to have the last say on matters dealing with the team, they would allow their baseball people to do their jobs without any interference. Clearly this was not the case on arguably the biggest and worst decision that was made by giving Bobby Valentine, someone Lucchino anointed because of his lack of trust in the post-Theo Epstein regime that was led by rookie GM Ben Cherington (he was co-GM with Jed Hoyer in December of '08, but that only lasted until January of '06).
Cherington had been groomed to become the GM before he was a co-GM and in the six years leading up to Theo Epstein becoming the president of the Cubs. If he couldn't be trusted to find a manager, then why was he put in charge as the general manager? That question still remains a mystery, but if anyone was a winner after last season, it was Cherington, who watched as Lucchino's guy deep-sixed any chance of the Sox contending, and also masterminded a deal with the free-spending Dodgers to rid themselves of close to a quarter of a billion dollars in future contract dollars.
As this off-season continues to make its way into 2013, not all of the pieces of the puzzle have been put into place, but after the few moves they have made, one common denominator seems to be a constant: Character.
The so-called "toxic" clubhouse that first reared its head to the general public at the end of the 2011 collapse went into full gear under Valentine's watch, leading to him eventually not caring about his position or what people thought of the job he was doing altogether. The first step in this process was the aforementioned Dodgers trade, ridding themselves not only of money, but also Josh Beckett, one of the patriarchs of the "chicken and beer" scandal, and someone who many believe were steering their two young franchise pitchers (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) towards the dark side, i.e. the chicken eating, beer-drinking side. While Beckett was integral in not only his first World Series title with the Marlins in '03, and as a dominant ace in the Sox' 2007 crown, his legacy has forever been tainted by this controversy, and while it's not steroids, this, and his demeanor en general, was plenty to get him run out of town.
The Sox cast their first stone in their re-building process by hiring manager John Farrell. Farrell of course was the pitching coach for the Sox up until 2011, when he was hired by Toronto to become their manager. Boston, and most notably, Cherington, have been trying to get him for the past two seasons. Farrell was reluctant to join up last year (probably citing how horrible the 2011 season ended and how bad it looked like 2012 was going to be), but the Sox finally got their man (although it cost them Mike Aviles, which continues the seemingly never-ending revolving door at shortstop). Farrell is a player's manager...not a 1980s player, but a 2013 player, and that's extremely important. What became apparent almost from the start was that Bobby V was over his head in terms of responsibility and in terms of how to handle the current and future major leaguers. He was simply out of touch and couldn't find, or didn't want to find, a way to right that ship. Farrell should be a breath of fresh air given his aforementioned compatibility with players in the clubhouse, and also for his knowledge of how things not only run behind the scenes in Boston, but also on the back pages of papers and on sports radio, an underrated tool that has shipped many a player and manager alike out of town. Once they found a manager, the Sox then went out to re-tool
What the Sox set themselves up to do this winter was to try and recoup similar talent at the positions left by the three big names they traded (first base, outfield, #3 pitcher). Their first signing was Jonny Gomes from Oakland for two years/$10 million. While Gomes is a serviceable player who has been more known as a platoon player in recent history, what seems to be a unanimous view about Gomes is this: He's got character, he's great in the clubhouse, he's not going to cause any problems...this seemed to be the theme of the off-season.
The length of contract also seemed to be a driving point this year when it came to free agents, as no player signed has received over a three year pact. After signing David Ross to both be a backup catcher, and to make it plausible to move either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway via trade, the Sox made their first real "splashes" by signing Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino within a week of each other to three year deals worth almost identical money (Napoli was 3 years/$39 million, Victorino: 3 years/$38 million).
Update (2/14): Because of a hip injury that doesn't seem to be completely healed, the Napoli deal went from 3 years and $39 million to 1 year and $5 million...quite the fall-off)
Napoli was supposed to be a major get for the Sox. A right-sided hitter with a proclivity to pull the ball, almost a must for any righty playing 81 games at Fenway. Napoli also is a catcher in addition to being a first baseman, further solidifying the depth at that position. As of right now though, Napoli hasn't been officially introduced yet due to a lingering hip issue that was brought up during his physical. While this continues to linger, the Sox have been linked to Adam LaRoche in case Napoli doesn't end up working out. LaRoche would not be a bad consolation prize at all, coming off of a season where he had a career high 34 homers and his second career 100 RBI season and won a gold glove at first. What the Sox are likely to do is to offer the three year contract Napoli is supposed to get to LaRoche, who has made it clear that while he wants to stay in Washington where he has played the last two seasons, but he also is seeking three years, something the Nationals have seemed to be unwilling to do thus far.
Perhaps an even better example of paying for character was the signing of Victorino. The "Flyin' Hawaiian's" deal was almost laughed at by baseball executives, saying that after one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, he would have been able to command maybe $7-8 million a year at best, but almost $13 million? What were they thinking? Well, it's called paying for character. The Sox needed to woo Victorino by throwing a little more money at him than other teams could or would be willing to. Sure, it's a Yankee philosophy to throw money at a problem, but I feel like because $13 million is not as giant of a piece of the payroll pie as it would be to a team like, say, Oakland, and because the Sox are at least attempting to patch together a team that was engulfed in dissension within the ranks and bring some energy to a club that sorely needs it, fans will not be as quick to complain about Victorino as they were to Carl Crawford, who, while never really getting a chance to settle into left field in Boston, made $40 million over the last two years, and while showing flashes of the brilliance we saw in Tampa, was generally sub-par by Crawford's standards, and mostly injury-plagued.
With the signing of Ryan Dempster, the Sox may have put the last touches on their free agency bonanza. Yet another high character guy, the Sox needed to add an additional $1.5 million to their original $25 million, two year deal in order to get him away from the Royals (yes, we're having to outbid the Royals now...these are crazy times). Dempster stabilizes the middle of the rotation so the Sox will have at least a presentable 1-2-3. John Lackey was deemed to be that #3 that they are currently receiving in Dempster, but his first tenure with the Sox has been nothing short of a train wreck.
Last week, the Sox traded for Joel Hanrahan (and likely fleeced Pittsburgh in the process), and from day one, he will be the closer despite having a healthy (or at least as healthy as he's going to be) Andrew Bailey. Hanrahan is known for his high 90s fastball and has effective in the closer role for the Pirates, with 76 saves combined in the two seasons he served as the 9th inning man. Once again, low ego wins the race. One could argue that Alfredo Aceves should have had a chance to compete for the closer role if he didn't talk and complain so much. Do your job and shut up about it...that could be the team motto of the 2013 Red Sox (and probably should be every year really).
Are the Sox going to win the AL East and make the World Series? Probably not (although that would be an incredible story), but you will see and hear about less drama going on with this team, which plagued this team for a season and a month. What Sox fans need to just hope is that our collective fate with this team is determined on the field and not off of it, and really, then we can just get back to enjoying baseball, and not concern ourselves with all the other crap that has been unearthed about this team.
Go Sox! Peace.
Friday, August 10, 2012
Ahhhhhh...football. The spirit of pro football is reaching an apex right now in New England...and had it not been for a threat of a lockout last year, probably would have started this much sooner (that and the Gronk party, which while beginning in 2010, never really got into full gear until about halfway through 2011). So I'm real stoked and am falling in love with this team by the hour (by the way sports radio, why do I want to hear about Gronk having drops in practice?...is he like fighting for his job?...at last check, he obliterated every single season tight end record last year...I think he'll be okay...just a hunch). I'm so excited I can't even stand myself, so rather than be preoccupied by the preseason, I'm going to just dive in right now.
So in doing something a little different than what we've done in the past, I'm going to lead you down a draft that I was actually able to pull off today. Now granted, the level of those drafting may be in question (sorry if I can't get an "experts" league going on a Wednesday afternoon), but I think I'll be able to run you through exactly what's going on out there...
...and so here goes:
Team Name: Nobody Move, Nobody Get Burned (I've been listening to that Easy-E song like five times a day lately)
Opening Draft Position: #9 of 12
#9: Tom Brady, QB, Your New England Patriots: Just want to throw this out there: Peyton Manning went 5th...now I know he has high expectations this year...but come on. Anyway, this brings me to my first theory:
Theory #1: If You Don't Draft A QB in the Top 30, You Will Be Holding Out For RG3 and Andrew Luck: Now I have nothing against those two in the least bit, but just know that if you're looking for a QB who is going to be a difference maker, you're likely going to have to make a decision on that pretty early...like the first three rounds early. The breakdown goes a little like this:
- Tom Brady, NE
- Aaron Rodgers, GB
- Drew Brees, NO
- Matthew Stafford, DET (and he might go in the 1st round as well)
- Cam Newton, CAR
- Michael Vick, PHI (you can justify all three of these guys going in the first round really)
- Eli Manning, NYG
- Peyton Manning, DEN
- Philip Rivers, SD
Update (8/15): Cedric Benson has officially signed with Green Bay, and while he will not play in the next preseason game against Cleveland, certainly makes the RB situation in Green Bay a little more interesting...Benson is ranked in the 100s right now?...I think we may be underestimating the kind of impact this guy could have (this could go both ways...like how Randy Moss went in the first two years (un-f___ing-believable) or how it went the last two years (un-f___ing believably dramatic)...oh, and if that wasn't enough, James Starks has a turf toe injury...lotta dudes getting roughed up in the preseason...telling you, make it a 17-game regular season and have two preseason games (one home, one away)...sure, hurts the bottom line a little, but I will trade two preseason games for one regular season one...wouldn't you?
- King George III: We would be sipping tea and eating crumpets right now if our Fore Fathers didn't hate this son of a bitch so much (not that tea and crumpets is a bad thing...it's actually quite a delicious combo). Fun fact: He got the throne because his brother got whacked in the chest with a cricket ball...can you believe that?...cricket paved the way for America.
- Wrestlemania III: When you look back at the history of wrestling in the sports and entertainment sense, this was the watershed moment. There was nothing about this that was small in any regard. Wrestlemania I was at Madison Square Garden, which holds roughly 20,000 for special events. Wrestlemania III was held at the Pontiac Silverdome, which housed roughly 93,000 people for the event. Second, in a watershed moment inside of a watershed moment, Hulk Hogan completed a body slam of Andre The Giant, perhaps the biggest moment in the history of wrestling. Finally, you had arguably the greatest match in modern wrestling history with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat defeating The "Macho Man" Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Title...just thinking about this gives me the chills everytime.
- Ali vs. Frazier III (The "Thrilla in Manilla"): In what is now known as "The Fight of the Century," Muhammad Ali reclaimed the heavyweight championship from Joe Frazier in the Phillipines. What has to be noted was that Frazier was integral in getting Ali his boxing license back before the fight was scheduled, as he had been stripped of it for refusing to serve in Vietnam.
- Grand Theft Auto III: This was on the ground-breaking levels of games like Goldeneye, Final Fantasy (also a good III), and Halo 2 to name a few. Yes, there was violence and all the raunchy stuff (which was amazing), but more importantly, the worlds that were created and the number of missions and all other kinds of stuff that you could do to continue to make the game "playable" was mind-blowing. That game made the GTA franchise probably the most successful one since like Sonic probably.
- Robert Griffin III: Won a Heisman Trophy and went #2 in the draft...he's off to a good start to get to #2 on this list.
- Rocky III: While being a classic, it's like the third or fourth best Rocky, and in a series of just six (five really if you don't count Rocky V which I still contest never happened), in that context, that's not so hot...still, Rocky vs. Clubber Lang (Mr. T)...good stuff.
- Davis Love III: Had it not been for his tough luck in the majors (only one win in the '97 PGA Chqmpionship...more commonly referred to as "the other major"...it's the Australian Open of golf), he would probably have cracked the list...he was on the '99 Ryder Cup team that played at Brookline...so he's got that going for him...which is nice).
- Godfather III: Think about this like the 2012 Red Sox...all the talent is there, but the product they put on the field sucks major dick...it's exactly like that...
#105: Jon Baldwin, WR, Kansas City: Baldwin is the poor man's Antonio Brown in that he is a big-play guy, and right now, his stock can only go up because the #1's contract situation (in this case Dwayne Bowe) is in flux. I think my only question about Baldwin is Matt Cassel...hopefully the return of Jamaal Charles will help him because he looked absolutely dreadful last year (so dreadful he got replaced by Kyle Orton...Kyle Orton is stealing jobs?...this is a mad world Gary Jules haha).
#112: Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee: I defy you to draft a better set of tight ends. In a position that is taking over the passing game, Gronk, Hernandez, and Cook are all in the top 10 for TEs, and by the end of this season, could perhaps all drift into the top 5. Cook is a Gamecock, which makes the pick easy, but what made a decision about Cook even easier is that his measurables are off the chart (he has the same body as Jermichael Finley, but jumps six inches higher and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash) and he will also be catching balls from a first-year starter (Jake Locker), meaning he should see a lot of looks (especially with Kenny Britt getting himself into off the field problems at will now). GAMECOCKS BABY!!!
#129: Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona: This is now becoming fish in a barrel. Most of the people who were in the draft room are gone, and now it's like I have a pick every 30 seconds. Williams lost his entire season last year due to a ruptured patella in his knee. With Beanie Wells' health also a gigantic red flag, this brings Williams' value up even more.
...anddddd it's around this point that I probably need to drive something home...
Theory #8: Draft Rashard Mendenhall and Pray It Works Out For You: This is advice that I for some reason didn't take (he actually went twenty picks after this). Sure, Mendy will start the year on the PUP list (meaning he automatically misses the first six games, no matter if he's healthy or not), but consider this: At this point in the draft, you are picking backups and guys that have a 10-15% chance of playing for your team on an every week basis, so based on that logic...how can you lose taking Mendenhall? Sure, he may not play at all this year, and that would be a bummer, but here's a guy who is telling everyone he would have been healthy for Week 1. The doctors won't clear him for football activity that soon, but if he gets over a month to get fully healed, and he can return in Week 7, you're talking about a top-10 back in this league. So stashing him on your bench seems like a smart play right now...although I have to say everything I did in this draft and everything I'm saying right now seems about right to me, so factor that in while you're dissecting this.
Update (8/20): Sorry I didn't update this like two days ago when I found out about this, but Mendy has officially been activated off the PUP list, meaning he's eligible to play, uh...now. So having said this, I'm still thinking you're going to miss him in the preseason or working out in any public matter until Week 1...people, I'm still drafting him in a heartbeat...honestly, I really don't need to see anything. The guy says he's ready, the Steelers think he's ready...and they're not the Red Sox training staff (who apparently thought it was okay to bring a guy back (Carl Crawford) who, likely today, will ask permission to get Tommy John surgery...wowwww...let's skip spending money on free agents and try getting some f___in' doctors man). So, the question now becomes at what point to get him at. As of today, he is the 49th RB off the board...okay that is ridiculous even if he missed six weeks!...as of right now he is still ranked 170 on ESPN...again, I would monitor this as the story unfolds, but 10th round?...there's little risk and gigantic reward.
#136: Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee: So as I documented earlier, someone already snatched up RG3, then Luck went soon there after (#83), so now I find myself in no man's land full of QBs who could put up a 30 point week and then get benched the next...it's a cruel system. So, in lieu of that, I went for the one QB who continues to stay off the radar. I hailed Locker last year, and went so far as to put him in his own theory and titled it "Jake Locker Is Going To Go All Tebow On Us." Well, he did kind of right? Sure he only played in five games and had the bulk of the throws in just three, but I think in that abbreviated window, we kind of got a feel as to what he is all about. His first game at Atlanta, he was only 9-19, but had two TD throws. Against the Saints, he threw for 282 yards and a score, and also ran for 36 yards, adding another TD on the ground. Finally, he had his most efficient day as an NFL passer against Indy, going 11-16 for 108 yards and a score. All this with no INTs mind you. Hopefully the Titans will let this kid play. I love Matt Hasselbeck (Norfolk, MA, Xaverian Brothers High School, BC, you get the idea), but he's f___ing old man. Locker has the potential to be special if given the opportunity I think.
#153: Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee: Boy I am all about the Titans this year I guess. They're going to have a shitty team, but that actually translates into fantasy gold (especially in dealing with guys directly related to the passing game...in my case, I have Locker/Cook/Wright, which is great...anyway, the worse they are, the more often they are going to be behind in games, meaning they will be opting to pass more to try and get back into the game...hopefully that makes sense). Wright is being compared to DeSean Jackson, and while we have no real proof of that, and we have yet to see him catch any balls from someone not named Robert Griffin III, the initial word out of Nashville is that this kid has massive upside, but after missing the first week of training camp, is still trying to figure things out. With Kenny Britt's situation in a state of mass chaos, not only recovering from three knee surgeries and an ACL replacement, but also just racking up arrest #8, a DUI which will likely suspend him for at least a third of the season, Wright could figure into getting a lot of balls thrown his way alongside Nate Washington. Also, he may factor into the kick and punt return game as he has been splitting reps with Damian Williams, so there's yet another wrinkle.
#160: Bills D/ST: I know this was close to the end of the draft...close...
Theory #9: Anyone Who Says You Should Wait Until The Final Two Picks To Take A Kicker and a Defense Is a F___ing Douche: I find it to be almost at the point of being relieving if I have a good kicker and good defense...it's just one less thing to worry about. Sure, my final pick (spoiler) of the draft was a kicker, but I'm not telling you that you have to wait that long. Now I'm also not saying draft a kicker in the 5th round, but 11th, 12th? Why not? Again, this is a guy who will likely play pretty much every single week for you...you may want to think about investing something a little more than your last pick on him.
As far as defenses go, I would say there are four to consider drafting before the 10th round:
- 49ers D/ST (Average Draft Position: 71.0)
- Ravens D/ST (84.3)
- Texans (90.7)
- Bears (96.4)
#177: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Chicago: At this point in the draft, I knew I was close to something special. Yes there was literally no one left in the draft room, and I did kind of whiff on Mendenhall, but in my mind, that was like giving up a walk during a perfect game. It's not perfect, but I was still throwing a no-hitter at this point, so why the hell would I leave now? That's like giving the ball to the manager in the 8th inning...I've come so far, now let's finish what we started right? For my last skill position player, I went with a homer pick and took another former Gamecock...but hey, it's like taking Patriots...if they're good, and you like rooting for them, where is the harm? Jay Cutler will probably throw close to 20 picks this year, but he's also going to shatter 3,000 yards passing (I would say something close to 4,000 for him), and Alshon has been appointed the #2 receiver in Chicago...so giddy up...Gamecocks baby! August 30 vs. Vandy. Y'all know what's up!
#184: Matt Prater, K, Denver: That's a Verlander 100 MPH fastball for strike three to end the game. Outside of Janikowski, Prater has the biggest leg in the game, and it also doesn't hurt that he kicks in Denver, and he will be also kicking for a team QB'd by Peyton Manning...ask Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt before he became a basket case how that works...good times.
So again, results will vary, and by that I mean in no way will I ever be able to re-construct this and get that many breaks. However, I just felt extremely confident going through the process that I would have a Plan A, B, C, etc. for every single pick and that I wouldn't panic. Sure there were times were I was scrolling up and down and debating between players, but more often than not, I was getting my pick in after like two seconds (you should have seen how quick I drafted Brady haha).
There are tons of previews out there dissecting sleepers and telling you who to stay away from. The bottom line is this: It's your team. All I can do for you is tell you about one that I did and kind of help you follow the trends of what has been happening in draft rooms. When you do about ten of these (which I'm sure I have), there are definite outliers (Peyton going #5 here is an obvious one), but really, the results start to come towards the middle and you can get a feel for players everyone is all about (Trent Richardson) and those not getting much love (which has recently been Mike Wallace with the speculation he could be traded to the Dolphins...I have to say that would not be the best career move he's ever made...have fun with Ryan Tannehill...yikes). Update (8/21): Mike Wallace is returning to the Steelers...this is incredible news for him, fantasy players, Pittsburgh...but again, it makes you wonder why a team like Miami, with Tannehill, who like it or not, is their franchise guy (for the time being), and Reggie, who is by far and away their best offensive weapon, would not pull the trigger on two first rounders for Wallace...news flash Miami, you need an exceptional...and I mean exceptional passing game to keep pace in the AFC East, and while I like Devone (huge in Hawaii) and Legedu, you are trying to make 1's and 2's out of complimentary receivers who excel in being called on at the right moment, and not all the time...that's where Wallace would come in...to me, this makes me think Miami is like "we're gonna suck for an immediate period, so we can't give up picks that high"...how does that make you feel Miami?...you know I'm right.
Again though, it's your team. No player is a "reach" if he's good. Once the draft is over and the rosters are in place, you don't see where you drafted each player...all you see is who you have, and that's an important point that I can't stress enough. All these rankings are based off of the past and have no real impact on the present or future. Gronk and Cam Newton went undrafted in my league and now they will both be in the top two rounds of this year's draft. The draft is big, but what is even bigger is being happy with the players you have on your team and being able to make adjustments as the season progresses.
With that, I will say adieu. Good luck, have fun, draft Patriots and Gamecocks early and often. I'll be seeing you, this side or the other ("The Town" could be one of the most underrated movies of the last decade...that, "The Other Guys," and "Hot Tub Time Machine" to name a few). Later y'all.
Monday, July 23, 2012
What is happening in your area everybody? I feel like I need a warm-up for my fantasy football guide (which I'll start to work feverishly on pretty soon). Also, as the title of this column suggests, I think we need something else to pontificate about other than...you know...
Stuff Happening In The G.B.: As horrible as this sounds, I was not at all surprised that Adam Scott blew his load on the back 9 on Sunday. It's unfortunate, but you can do really well in the regular season, and then just not show up when it matters (I'm looking at you Vancouver). The guy is a hell of a talent, but his time simply isn't now...he definitely has the ability to overcome this. Hopefully he takes this all as motivation...he's not like Van de Velde...the guy will be back.
Big Ern is once again above the law. Four birdies on the back 9, shooting mid 60s when everyone else was going mid 70s. Also, he has one of the more appropriate nicknames of all time...let me see if I can turn this into a list...
The Top 10 Most Appropriate Sports Nicknames...We'll Say Of The Past Like Twenty To Thirty Years:
- "Primetime" - Deion Sanders: As far as I'm concerned, this will never be topped...ever.
- "Showtime" - Lakers: Yes, I'm including teams...this way there will be less names of individuals that I'll leave out because while attempting to do the best I can, I'll probably leave someone out...anywho...with Magic running the show, everyone in Hollywood had to be there...but much like many of the celebrities that go to Fenway, they were really into the shit...they weren't "pink-hatting" it as we like to say (that is a common misconception...that celebrities want to be there because it's the place to be...not really...the pink hats are the ones who want to go a game because it's the thing to do...you look at people like Affleck and Eliza Dushku (beyond strikingly beautiful), they actually know their shit...it's like Jack and Whoopi back in the day in LA).
- "The Great One" - Wayne Gretzky: He is and will always be the greatest ever.
- "The Bad Boys" - Pistons: When you watch the film of these guys, it reminds you that there was a time when you could get away with some wild shit in the NBA.
- "The Human Highlight Reel" - Dominique Wilkins: There is the possibility that because 'Nique had some "average" years at the end of his career, he is not as highly regarded as he should be. His numbers are amazing, and he is the only guy who could ever take Jordan when he was in his prime.
- "The Big Easy" - Ernie Els: Luke Donald is attempting to take Els off of the throne of "best mechanical, powerful, and yet extremely effortless looking swings" platform, but after this stunning comeback and a fourth major, the Big Easy is back.
- "Big Papi" - David Ortiz: Call me a homer, but you look at the guy...I mean who even calls him David Ortiz anymore? I go for Papi or Big Papi like every time.
- "White Chocolate"/"The Professor" - Jason Williams/Grayson Boucher: I had to get an And 1 Mixtape reference in here somehow...why ESPN2 decided to stop running those in the afternoon I'll never know. Anyway, what you have is the exact same player, except one was in the NBA, and one was on the playground...and when they were both on, they were electric.
- "Megatron" - Calvin Johnson: In spoiling my fantasy preview a little bit, receivers and, yes, tight ends are going higher in fantasy drafts than we have ever seen...it speaks to how much elite pass-catchers are regarded.
- "The Wizard" - Ozzie Smith: You have to give it up for this one. First off, Ozzie Smith was a literal wizard in the field...probably the slickest defensive shortstop to ever live. Then, when you factor in that you can combo it into "The Wizard of Oz," that puts it over the top in my opinion.
Honorable Mentions: "The Truth" - Paul Pierce, "The Answer" - Allen Iverson, "The Mailman" - Karl Malone, "The Excellence of Execution"/"The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be" - Bret Hart, "The Big Ticket" - Kevin Garnett, "Playmaker" - Michael Irvin, "Joey Bats" - Jose Bautista...and all the other cool ones I'm missing.
So the Open Championship is over, now it's time for the Olympics. I'm really surprised how intrigued people have been about the U.S. Olympic tryouts. I'm at parties on a Saturday night and seeing people huddled around a TV watching swimming and track and field, barber shops full of guys watching the men's gymnastic qualifiers...it's fascinating...but in a good way.
I will say this: I don't know a whole lot about many of the athletes in it, but I will say that there is an interesting occurrence happening with Michael Phelps, in that the story of Ryan Lochte is trumping him...and I don't think anyone ever thought Phelps would ever be topped, but don't you find yourself secretly hoping that Lochte breaks out this year? Other than that, I'm hoping the US does well, and if they lose, its because some guy/girl/team from some other country did some crazy good shit to win.
Why The Red Sox Are Not Doing Well: I understand that the locker room is bad...I get that, but the game is not played in the locker room. Baseball is the most 1-on-1 of all the major sports if you think about it, and while team chemistry and feeling good about your teammates is important, it's not going to necessarily mean that you can't win games. Let's do a short analysis here...
- You Still Know Exactly When They Are Going To Blow A Game: The new look Sox that were winning championships were winning games we have never seen the Red Sox win (most notably Games 4 and 5 of the '04 ALCS and Game 6 of the '07 ALCS...I know those were a little more important than the regular season, but it's always a good time to bring them up). So if you're sitting at home, and you know they're going to blow it, you can probably imagine the guys in the dugout know too.
- They Have Tons Of Talent, But They Can't Seem To Catch Fire At The Same Time: This was also the case last year outside of one month give or take.
- Consistent Starting Pitching: Could you even imagine if John Lackey was healthy how much more obvious this section would be?
- Trading Josh Reddick and Letting Jonathan Papelbon Go: While Cody Ross has been brilliant as of late, the fact remains that Reddick would have brought some stability to a position that has been a revolving door that has included the likes of Adrian Gonzalez. Then there's Papelbon...the fact that they just f___ed with him one too many times and he was not about to let the team run him (this is now being referred to as getting Ray Allen'd). While Aceves has been great now, the fact remains that because they let Pap go, they felt compelled to trade for Andrew Bailey, and thus, trading Reddick (and we come full circle).
- Lack Of Pitching Coming Through The Minors: This is tough because I feel like it's tougher to make the transition from minor league pitcher to major league than it is hitting-wise (just ask Trevor Bauer), but even so, the last guy to really break through was Clay Buchholz and he debuted like five years ago (you may recall Felix Doubront actually debuted before Clay and he is just coming on now). Hopefully Matt Barnes will be ready to see some action next year as he is by far and away the best we have right now with Anthony Ranaudo coming undone in AA (he's actually now on the DL with a "dead arm"...no good).
- The Media Pounds The Shit Out Of This Team Like It's Their Job: It seems like now these guys are looking for something, anything totally negative to talk about all the time. We're not talking about Will Middlebrooks breaking out, or Jacoby Ellsbury returning to the lineup a year removed from being 2nd in the MVP vote, the fact that Scott Atchinson has been brilliant after being the "dude we bring in to eat up innings in a blowout" guy last year...no...we just hear the clubhouse sucks and no one's happy...and you wonder why they're not happy? These guys are well compensated yes, but there is also the emotional element of the job. I know personally, I have been in positions when working when I felt like there was absolutely no way of pleasing my superiors and was almost under the impression that they were rooting against me...I bet like a few of these guys are feeling the same way right about now.
- Health: Pedroia and Ellsbury have been the big ones, but we would have really liked to see Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey because in both cases, the return has yet to be seen, and while Crawford played for us last year, he only showed flashes of what he brings to the table. Bailey is likely the eighth inning guy that we have been lacking now that Aceves has blossomed into a closer this year.
- Daniel Bard: Speaking of eighth inning guys, Bard's present career has tanked due to his and the team's indecisiveness on how to use him. He wanted to be a starter, but I think what he failed to realize is that on this team, his best use was a set-up man, so in putting his personal aspirations of starting ahead of the team, he probably cost himself this season and the Sox 8-10 games because of it. While I get why he wants to do it (you make more money and he apparently is more comfortable doing it), he picked the wrong time to do it (he was very effective, then became very shaky at the end of last season...unless someone is proving they should be given a promotion, you can't let them call the shots like that).
So, there's basically what I think of that. They actually have a chance to make the postseason based on the personnel, but I would really expect them to go after a good set-up man (Aaron Crow from the Royals comes to mind), because that's the last of the chinks in the armor that can be fixed (no one is trading for Jon Lester and especially Josh Beckett unless they get them for nothing, and right now, you're going to have to trade big pieces of the future to get a Cole Hamels or a Zack Greinke, so forget about fixing the pitching staff, which is the only other thing they need).
Fantasy Baseball In The Second Half: For all those who had Mike Trout from Day 1 (which includes me in my Lynchburg league), congratulations...you're probably at least close to the top just because of that. If not, here are some things to watch out for in the coming months:
- Wil Myers: What I am learning: The youth movement has been pushed by hitters, and not pitchers. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper...yes...Trevor Bauer?...not so much. So, the next big thing is Myers, who should be in KC already if they weren't paying Francoeur so much money (sorry Jeff, you were recruited to be a QB at Clemson...I'm not the most sympathetic guy when it comes to those in the orange and purple). In Yahoo, he's eligible at catcher...so when he finally does come up, he will be eligible at catcher AND outfield, a combo that to my knowledge has never been seen before. There is going to be a literal mutiny in and around Kaufman Stadium if he's not out there soon.
- Trade Deadline: What this mostly means is tracking closers. We just had a deal that shifted Francisco Cordero from a set-up man in Toronto to a closer in Houston, and Brett Myers moved to Chicago to be their set-up man after a sub-par first half closing for the 'Stros. Other deals could include Jonathan Broxton and J.J. Putz, so look out for Greg Holland in KC and David Hernandez in 'Zona if any deals with those guys go down.
- The Slow Starting Bunch: Albert Pujols is the pied-piper here, and others to follow will include Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Upton, and Tim Lincecum. All of these guys are too good to keep down, and if there was ever a time to buy low on them, it's now.
- If You Have R.A. Dickey or Yu Darvish, Trade Them Now: It would take something historic for them to match their first half against anything they could do in the second half, so I'm banking against that happening.
If I think of anything else, I'll let you know. Mock draft rooms are in my future for the rest of the day as I'm spending my last day of vacation once again being as unproductive to the "real world" as possible. Take care everyone. Good to be back. Peace.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
- Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: My only question is why haven't they just given this guy a contract already and get those jerseys printed right now? Do they realize they could be making a shitload of money right now if they just announced what could possibly the most pain-stakingly obvious #1 pick perhaps in the history of the draft?
- Washington (via St. Louis): RG3, QB, Baylor: Dude's never going to go by his full name anyway, so let's stick with the abridged version.
- Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal: He's supposed to be better than his brother...and his brother is a Pro-Bowler...questions, comments, concerns?
- Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: This is the only spot where there is a slight chance I could be wrong. Maybe the Browns go with corner Morris Claiborne here, but when they let Peyton Hillis, a 1,000 yard back who was derailed by the Madden curse, just get up and go to KC, this had to be the backup plan right? Also, anytime literally everyone when they talk about Richardson says he's "the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson," that has to mean something right?
- Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: What has happened to Aqib Talib? Man, it's like receivers and corners, the guys who line up away from the line, are always the guys getting nabbed by the coppers for some kind of tomfoolery. In any event, Talib is looking more Pac Man Jones right now...and it took him like five years to steer his life right (one of the best draft moments in recent memory was when he was drafted...they flashed to him and his family in West Virginia, and he had a diamond encrusted Pac Man medallion necklace...that was amazing haha). Anyway, who knows what the dilly is with Talib right now, so Claiborne is the obvious choice here. What's great about where the Bucs are drafting is that they are guaranteed either Claiborne or Richardson here, which would fill a big need for them either way.
- St. Louis (via Washington): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Clearly the biggest pre-draft winners are the Rams, who have now turned their fans into Redskin haters (their next two first rounders will go to St. Louis). Blackmon was clearly the best receiver in the nation. There are apparent concerns about his measurables and being smaller than what was originally thought, but if you watch him in game action, this guy could really be special, and the Rams desperately need a big-play receiver now that Brandon Lloyd has moved on (to Foxboro baby!!!)
- Jacksonville: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: This is the only pick thus far that I've made a slight hesitation about. Floyd, like Blackmon, is clearly a special athlete and player, and owns pretty much every receiving record at Notre Dame possible. The reason for the hesitation is the Melvin Ingram factor...it's tough for me to not put him here because a top 10 Gamecock is long overdue (I want to say (Pastor) Troy Williamson was the last one).
- Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: I feel like Tannehill is this year's Christian Ponder...he's gonna go way, WAY too high because he's a QB, and teams whose QB situation is even a little in flux are overcompensating like whoa to get one in. The Dolphins, like the Brownies, completely wiffed on the Manning/Matt Flynn/RG3 sweepstakes, and now are totally screwed...this makes me happy. What would make me even happier is if they get Tannehill, because I really think he's going to suck big time...so yeah Miami...make it happen!
- Carolina: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: Okay now it's getting kinda interesting. To me, the Panthers have to go DT here, but will it be Poe, the Combine beast, or Fletcher Cox from Miss St., the beast on film, here? Ever so slight advantage to Poe because I honestly think the freak athlete branding that came with Cam Newton will follow up here on this pick.
- Buffalo: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: The Bills clearly made pass-rushing a priority in the offseason by getting Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, so now they will look to protect newly-annointed franchise QB Ryan Fitzpatrick by going tackle here.
- Kansas City: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: There is waaaayyyyy too much buzz about Cox for him to slip anywhere past here. He's a guy teams will be burning the phone lines looking to move up to take him. Lots of different ways the Chiefs could go here. This team isn't nearly as bad as their record from last year indicates. Lose your best offensive (Jamaal Charles) and defensive (Eric Berry) players before the season really even starts, and tell me how good you're going to end up?
- Seattle: David DeCastro, G, Stanford: First off, he's a Pac-10 (sorry...Pac-12...wow does that sound stupid) guy, and Pete Carroll clearly still has a a soft spot for west coast guys. Second, like Trent Richardson, DeCastro is simply summed up universally as "the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson." If you're making a list of guys who will be almost sure-fire Pro-Bowlers, he has to be in the top three or four coming out of this draft. The importance of interior linemen is finally getting first round play in the draft...you can thank Bill Belichick for that one when he shocked the world and took Logan Mankins at the end of the first round in '05 following our third Super Bowl victory (I know we're 0-2 in Super Bowls since then, but I can't see any way that Bill and Tom Brady don't win another one...I think quite frankly that's an impossibility).
- Arizona: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College: Kuechly could possibly be a target of both KC and Seattle, and there is no way he gets past Philly at 15. This guy is an absolute tackle machine, and will probably start posting 100+ tackle seasons immediately.
- Dallas: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: I'm under the impression that unfortunately, Coples is higher on Dallas' board than Ingram due to Coples sack ability, whereas Melvin is much more of an all-around outside linebacker. If Coples did not have the character issues that he does, he would definitely be in the top 10.
- Philadelphia: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: Word is that Philly is looking at DTs here, and while they hope Poe or Cox falls this far, Brockers is still an excellent value pick for the Eagles in the middle of the first round.
- New York Jets: Melvin Ingram, DE, THE University of South Carolina: After the signing of LaRon Landry, the Jets' biggest need, safety, was addressed. Now I think they will look to adding an outside presence,whcih unfortunately means that Melvin will wind up in Jersey, and I have to root against him basically all the time...please don't make this a reality. Ingram could be another guy teams may be looking to move up to snag, sooooooo please do that...don't let him go to the Jets!
- Cincinnati (via Oakland): Stephon Gilmore, CB, THE University of South Carolina: Back to back Gamecocks baby! This is going to be a very interesting race to see which CB goes off the board after Claiborne. It will be between Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Janoris Jenkins, and all three can make equal cases here. Give the advantage to Gilmore based on his size and how smooth he is coming off the breaks.
- San Diego: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama: The Chargers had absolutely no pass rush last season, so what's going to happen most likely is that they are going for the top-rated outside guy, which would be Upshaw. This is yet another excellent value pick in the middle of the first.
- Chicago: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: It seems like the Bears are attempting to overhaul their entire offense, which may even include cutting Matt Forte loose if they can't get a long-term deal done with him. They added Brandon Marshall, but still really don't have a wealth of other passing options. Wright is being projected as DeSean Jackson-like, so the Bears will be able to build around him and Marshall on the outside for the next five years.
- Tennessee: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Not sure how the rest of the league feels about him, but Jenkins would have been in the top 10 if he stayed at Florida. Again, the whole "character concerns" issue rears its ugly head. You know, sometimes this concern is legit, but honestly, these kids are like 18 or 19 when most of this stuff goes down...they're still basically kids even though technically, they are adults. Also, if you were the king of a school that had like 25,000 kids, you're saying you wouldn't start some static just because you can?
- Cincinnati: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia: After a breakout combine, I will be stunned if Glenn falls any further than this. Again, there is a renewed dedication to developing interior linemen and it's now the norm to go guard in the first round. Cincy has been rumored to perhaps be on the move with one of their first round picks in order to get Mike Wallace from the Steelers...imagine a scenario with A.J. Green AND Mike Wallace...that kind of firepower would give Pittsburgh and Baltimore a run for their collective money in the AFC North.
- Cleveland: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Does anyone know if Colt McCoy is going to be okay? I mean they have to be feeling semi-confident about his chances after attempting to low ball the Rams to move up to #2 to get RG3. They may stun people and go Tannehill at #4, but even if they do that, you would have to believe the line needs an upgrade opposite of Joe Thomas.
- Detroit: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Lions' secondary was simply atrocious last year...and actually were a big reason why Matt Flynn was able to cash in this offseason. If the Lions are lucky, one of these mid-first round corners will fall to them here.
- Pittsburgh: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: Can you remember the last time the Steelers struck out drafting a linebacker?
- Denver: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin: This seems to be a consensus choice especially now that it's clear that Jeff Saturday will not be joining Peyton Manning in Denver. Konz is the best center prosepct, and Denver needs to do anything in its power to protect the new face of the franchise.
- Houston: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: The only concern about drafting a GA Tech receiver is that they never get enough reps in school (a la Demaryius Thomas). Hill only had 49 catches for his entire career, but he has all the tools, plenty of size, and keep in mind last year, despite only having 28 catches, he had 820 yards, good for a 29.3 yards/reception clip.
- New England (via New Orleans): Devon Still, DE/DT, Penn State: Everyone has him going here to us...I've seen the film, and I am completely comfortable taking this guy. Big 10 defensive lineman of the year.
- Green Bay: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois: We all know about Clay Matthews, but can you name the other starting OLB for the Packers?...I didn't think so (it's Erik Walden if you were curious...yeah I never heard of him either).
- Baltimore: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU: Randle has unfortunately leap-frogged over THE University of South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey as the #4 receiver in the draft. Baltimore would love to have Konz to upgrade at the center position, but once again, the Ravens are also in the market for a receiver. Torrey Smith has been the closest thing to a receiver that they have drafted who has panned out for them in basically the history of their franchise.
- San Francisco: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford: It seems like a lot of people are believing that with Alex Smith coming back, Harbaugh is going to really start to focus his attention up the middle, which could bring on investing in a 2-TE system, especially considering Vernon Davis is probably going to receive all the attention from opposing defenses. Again, copying the way the Pats do things is just the way to go in my humble opinion.
- New England: Mark Barron, S, Alabama: This would be a dream scenario for the Pats, who would be drafting two elite players at the bottom end of the first round. Unfortunately, I don't think it will happen because a.) Barron is the best safety in the draft, which is sure to attract attention from other teams, meaning it's highly unlikely he slips this far, and b.) I just cannot envision a scenario where the Pats are going to stay put and use both picks...they never have, and I don't think this year will be any exception unless this scenario plays out exactly.
- New York Giants: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Despite winning a Super Bowl, the G-Men have no real talent at offensive tackle to speak of. While teams at the end of the first usually have most of their ducks in a row in terms of their team's talent, and tend to go for the next best available player, I'll be shocked if the tackle position is not addressed here.
- Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
- Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
- Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
- Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
- Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
- Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
- LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
- Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
- Brandon Taylor, S, LSU
- Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
- Tank Carder, OLB, TCU
Monday, March 19, 2012
"I get juice when I let loose a little of my cleverness."
Alright, so here's how to dominate...
who needs intros?
Troy Tulowitzki is the #1 Fantasy Player Available: Besides him just being a beast, Tulo plays at a position where value starts to go down very quickly save one or two sleepers (which I'll totally be getting to in a bit). Batting in Colorado will never go out of style...that is the hooded sweatshirt of baseball if you will (when will hoodies not be a good idea...retractable covering for your head!). And yes, this is probably biased because I don't particularly care for Miguel Cabrera's sudden position change to 3rd and Albert Pujols, who effectively LeBron'd St. Louis to go to Anaheim...that was kinda cold by Pujols. Actually, he kind of Manny'd them like when he basically turned down the same money from Cleveland that the Sox were offering. Plus, Ryan Braun? It's like I want to believe it because he's nasty, but...it's not like he was 100% innocent right? I mean test results like that in testosterone don't just happen right? So...I don't know (as you can tell, I let my heart get into this more than my head, but I do like really good players, so that can't hurt me too much...just no Yankees).
How To Pay For Saves And Not Pay For Saves At The Same Time:
Closers Who Are Valued Just Right or Are Perhaps A Little Undervalued That You're Going To Pay A Lot For:
Craig Kimbrel, ATL: Right now he is the #1 closer and he's going around the start of the 5th round. In auctions, he's going for around $21...actually, let's just try this...
Craig Kimbrel, ATL (50.0, $20.5...thanks Yahoo): So my thinking is that Kimbrel is most definitely #1 and projects to have the best season of all closers...am I saying in a snake draft I'm taking closers in the 5th round? Probably not unless Papelbon comes back to the Sox. In an auction draft though? Absolutely.
Jonathan Papelbon, PHI (68.0, $15): If Kimbrel does not get to the top of the list for closers, this guy will. Pap always pitched like he had a chip on his shoulder because the Sox would never lock him up to a long-term deal, and now that he has the deal, I feel like the chip will still be there to prove the Sox were wrong to let him walk, plus I'm under the impression Philly will be in line to win a few games this year, so the opportunities will be there.
Drew Storen, WSH (87.7, $13.1): I'm just going to go ahead and point out that I have team crushes on the Nationals and the Royals and all I want is like all of their players. Having said that, Storen proved he was elite last year, and will probably be in this part of the column for a while to come.
Jose Valverde, DET (108.8, $8.3): When I mentioned before about the "perhaps undervalued" guys, this was the guy I really had in mind. This is almost astonishing low to me, especially his auction value. He's in the discussion for best closer in the game, yet is $12 cheaper than Kimbrel?
Closers That Are Either Unproven, Undervalued, or Are Being Completely Slept On:
Jordan Walden, LAA (138.7, $7.2): I can't even start to tell you how low this is for Walden. I was just checking Closer Watch on Hardball Times and it said Walden's hold on the closer spot is shaky? Are you serious? I get that he had ten blown saves, but have you seen his stuff? I don't want him showing up in the 9th of a Sox game anytime soon.
Carlos Marmol, CHC (140.1, $6.4): This is even crazier. Like Valverde, Marmol has to be in the discussion for the best closer in all of baseball right now, so for him to be close to the 10th or 11th closer off the board is amazing.
Kenley Jansen, LAD (166.6, $3.2): I'm kind of cheating here, because Jansen is technically the 8th inning man to Javy Guerra, but it says something when the set up guy is getting picked higher (166.6 vs. 199.9) and is going for higher in auctions ($3.2 vs. $2.3) than the closer. Worst case scenario: He's the NL version of Daniel Bard as a set-up guy...not bad.
Brandon League, SEA (167.8, $4.1): This guy just looks like a closer. He throws gas, and has a lock on his spot in Seattle. He is projecting to get as many saves as Papelbon and Valverde.
Jim Johnson, BAL (217.1, $1.5): I'm assuming this is because he's on a really bad team that his value is under two bucks. Look, if you're at least 75-80% sure a guy will be a closer for the entire season, he should be worth five bucks strictly on principle.
If You Do An Auction Draft, Load Up On Pitching: I thoroughly enjoy auction drafts because you have the ability to assemble "dream teams" that you would in no way have any chance of forming in snake drafts, like getting Pedey, Gonzo, and Jacoby on one team (which I've successfully done twice), but upon further examination, the dream team you nay want to be after may consist of five aces and four lights out closers.
The cost of the top 10 hitters combined: $464.1
The cost of the top 10 pitchers combined: $333.2
While it's probably going to be impossible to get either of those two scenarios on your team, you can see that you save a whole bunch of money going after the best pitchers rather than best hitters. Here's a team I made using the approximate retail prices from Yahoo:
P Justin Verlander, $39.1
P Clayton Kershaw, $37.8
P Jered Weaver, $29.7
P Jon Lester, $24.1
P Craig Kimbrel, $20.5
P Ian Kennedy, $17.1
P Jonathan Papelbon, $16.9
P J.J. Putz, $10.6
P Jose Valverde, $9.3
BN Carlos Zambrano, $1.3
BN Brandon McCarthy, $1.3
BN Tim Stauffer, $1.0
Pitching Budget: $209.7
C Wilson Ramos, $1.5
1B Gaby Sanchez, $1.8
2B Jason Kipnis, $2.4
3B Mike Moustakas, $3
SS J.J. Hardy, $6.5
1B/3B Eric Hosmer, $16.2
2B/SS Ryan Roberts, $2.5
OF Yoenis Cespedes, $4.6
OF Austin Jackson, $1.5
OF Jose Tabata, $1.4
OF Michael Brantley, $1.3
OF Brandon Belt, $1.2
UTIL Jemile Weeks, $4.8
BN Mike Carp (1B/OF), $1.1
Hitting Budget: $48.6
Total: $258.30 out of $260
So as you can probably see, in drafting nine of the top 20 pitchers, you should be in good shape to not only dominate the wins and K's, but also having four of the top closers in the fold to get you on top of the SV, ERA, WHIP categories as well. The offense is not made of top tier guys outside of perhaps Hosmer, because, well, you definitely want to have someone you're almost completely positive will have a big year, which is my thoughts on Hosmer's potential (and I don't want to say any more and jinx it...my apologies to Steve Slaton, Ryan Mathews, Josh Freeman and Pedro Alvarez for doing that). I may have wanted to enlist some more speed, but even still, you're going to be at least middle of the pack with this basic collection of $5 or less sleepers I have.
Sleepers By Position:
- J.P. Arencibia, TOR (175.2, $3.4): He had major power surges last year, which makes me kind of curious as to why he's so far down. He strikes out a lot, but he still had 23 homers in 129 games in his first full season in the bigs. Him and Lawrie look like potential foundations of the future in Toronto.
- Wilson Ramos, WSH (214.0, $1.5): Another guy entering his second full season with his power numbers projected to be slightly less than Arencibia but with a better average. He's the poor man's Matt Wieters. Also, how messed is it that you have to consider how much getting kidnapped will have an effect on his career?
- Ryan Howard, PHI (88.0, $14.3): Howard makes the sleep column strictly based on the bargain you're getting for 2/3 a season from him (especially in auctions, where normally, he is a mid $30 player). The protective boot, not starting on Opening Day thing doesn't exactly settle completely well with me, but people have injuries, sometimes they come back like nothing happened, and sometimes it gets pushed, which normally doesn't end up well. I think the Phils can still have a potent offense with John Mayberry and Ty Wigginton filling in. Also, he makes way too much money for either of those two to take too many starting reps from him once he's back.
- Paul Goldschmidt, ARZ (127.0, $8.5): Perhaps an even bigger bargain here considering the power he's being projected out as (Bill James is going 32HR, 99RBI, and most others have him at least in the mid 20's in homers, 80+ in RBI).
- Freddie Freeman, ATL (142.0, $6.5): I don't think enough is being made about how well Freeman did in his first full season as a starter (played in 157 games, .281-21-76, that's impressive).
- Mike Trumbo, LAA (191.8, $3.1)/Kendrys Morales, LAA (194.8, $3.2): Two guys giving you the exact same thing from the exact same position...it's tough to really separate the two, so for now, you might as well take your pick as both will get reps from first and DH, with Trumbo possibly gaining 3B eligibility as the season progresses.
- Gaby Sanchez, MIA (230.6, $1.5): Two consecutive solid seasons and now they have Reyes table-setting at the top of the lineup...what's not to like?
- Mitch Moreland, TEX (244.5, $1.3): Another guy who will have a solid season which you can base on his rookie campaign last year, and playing in the park and lineup that he plays in.
- Brandon Belt, SF (245.2, $1.2): Belt could be a potential game-changer. He showed his power last year, a season that started in AAA, went to the majors, saw a DL stint with a fractured wrist, back to AAA, then winding up in San Fran by the end of the year. His power projects higher than Sanchez and Moreland and is on or clear of Goldschmidt's power. Also, Belt is healthy and is eligible at both first and outfield, meaning he will have all the opportunities to stay in the bigs and make a big impact this season. This is super-low for a guy who could potentially have close to 30 homers this season.
- Mike Carp, SEA (259.8, $1.1): Plain and simply, the AL version of Brandon Belt. Big lefty who is eligible at first and the OF. Carp had 12 homers in under a half a season last year.
- Jemile Weeks, OAK (158.3, $4.8): By the end of this season, he may get on the same level as his brother Rickie. Great speed potential (upwards of 30 SBs) and a tremendous contact rate keeping his average right around .300 where it was in the minors and in his first action last year.
- Jason Kipnis, CLE (206.6, $2.4): Kipnis has some exciting potential and a 20/20 season is certainly within the realm.
- Danny Espinosa, WSH (207.4, $2.2): He's not going to do you a ton of favors in terms of batting average, but consider that he was close to a 20/20 season in his rookie season, and potentially reaching the 25/25 level this season.
- Ryan Roberts, ARZ (212.2, $2.5): Roberts has the rare "2B/3B" eligibility (I think Casey McGahee was the last one I've seen that is eligible at both). Roberts is projected to repeat his performance from last year, which is both nice (because he was a near 20/20) and semi-discouraging at the same time (his potential is capped after his rookie season?).
- Allen Craig, STL (228.9, $1.7): He is coming off knee surgery, but should be in line to return to action either on Opening Day or close to it. Good guy to take a chance on this low coming off of a great postseason and eligible to play in the outfield as well.
- Martin Prado, ATL (152.2, $4.6): Prado was an all-star last season, has OF eligibility, and hits very well for average (has a very low strikeout rate as well).
- Mike Moustakas, KC (188.3, $2.9): His numbers may have not broken glass like they were expected to, but Moose still has a long way to go until the book is fully written on him. There's a very real possibility he has a 20-80 season in his first full year.
- Pedro Alvarez, PIT (240.5, $1.4): I'm still not giving up on Alvarez even though he kinda-sorta tanked last year after getting injured very early in the season. He's still got raw power, and has had a good spring. Again, you're looking at a guy who may be close to the last few picks in your draft, so a good gamble here.
- Dee Gordon, LAD (127.2, $9.2): While Gordon is close to the top-10 in most SS ranks, I still believe he is a sleeper based on the fact that he could steal 50-60 bases this year and hit close to .280 or .290, so this is probably the last draft where you'll be able to get him in the 100s.
- J.J. Hardy, BAL (130.5, $7.6): Hardy is in the rarest of breeds right now. A shortstop with proven 30+ homer ability. If you can get speed somewhere else, drafting Hardy will give you a power boost from a position known to be lacking homers.
- Zack Cosart, CIN (234.8, $1.5): Some projectors are feeling that Cosart, once healthy and fully implanted in the Reds' lineup, could break into the "elite" category either this year or next year. Tremendous value.
- Tyler Pastornicky, ATL (237.4, $1.6): There has been no official word on who will be the starting SS this year for the Braves, but Pastornicky could be a very sneaky source for steals, with his full-year projections putting him around the 25-30 mark.
- Andre Ethier, LAD (134.6, $6.1...by the way I switched to ESPN's rankings...no offense Yahoo, but they have their auction and snake rankings on the same page and I'm kinda lazy like that): If Ken Griffey, Jr. and Luke Donald (#1 golfer in the world if you do not know who that is) have taught us anything, stick to guys that have a smooth stroke.
- Drew Stubbs, CIN (122.4, $7.5): 30/30 is not gonna go out of style anytime soon...who cares if he hits .250?
- Yoenis Cespedes, OAK (201.5, $2.1): There is a decent chance that you will not get the opportunity to draft him this low for the next five or so years, so with that, I'm REALLY excited to see what this guy can do in his first year in the MLB.
- Brennan Boesch, DET (216.6, $1.8): A lot of people have this year as his potential breakout season, and even if it doesn't happen, he's still going to get you at least 20 homers. Outfield is surprisingly weak this year, so guys like Boesch and Cespedes will be great finds late in the draft.
- Lorenzo Cain, KC (226.1, $0): Arguably the best name in baseball right now, Cain has been fuego this spring, and again...I love the Royals...LOVE!
- Jeremy Hellickson, TB (101.2, $9.1): All of the rage is about Matt Moore coming out of the Devil Rays' staff, and with good reason. David Price probably receives the rest of it, but Hellickson continues to fly under the radar despite being the anchor of that staff last year when they made their epic playoff push.
- Yu Darvish, TEX (119.1, $9.6): I'm sure there are some people, especially those who are from around here, who are a little skeptical about the whole Japanese import thing after the Dice-K experiment (which, while having not been the greatest results ever, still could have been a lot worse...see: Irabu, Hideki). You have to understand he's getting 10 wins easily because no one has seen him before and he's going to make a lot of people miss his first go-around. What happens in the second half of the season is anyone's guess, but for the first two or three months, this guy will probably be close to the top production-wise of starting pitchers in the game.
- Brandon Beachy, ATL (135.0, $6.3): Beachy showed a lot of promise last season, coming right out of the gate with one of the highest K/9 ratios in the history of baseball. You're looking at 12-13 wins and 200 Ks as perhaps his floor, so buy low on him.
- Cory Luebke, SD (147.5, $5.2): Luebke is now the man in San Diego after the trading of Mat Latos to the Reds. He came on basically halfway through last year and ended up being one of the best second-half pitchers in baseball. You have to like him pitching half his starts at Petco Park as well.
- Brandon Morrow, TOR (173.8, $3.1)/Wandy Rodriguez, HOU (188.3, $2.3): Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts.
- Brandon McCarthy, OAK (187.8, $2.2): I thought after the ESPN the Mag cover story they did on him, the cover was blown on his anonymity, and while they may be true in real life, in fantasy, we haven't really seen any sort of major jump is price, which is nice because you have the opportunity to spend a double-digit round pick on a potential playoff contender (watch out for Oakland this year).
- Ivan Nova, NYY (212.6, $2.0): So he's a Yankee, which I understand means that he's evil, but he did go 16-4 last year...I repeat: Ivan Nova, in his first full season in the bigs, went 16-4! I mean I can't have any part of the Yankees, but if you're not as headstrong as someone like myself, I would suggest giving this guy a look.
Closers kind of already had their own segment, so let's move right on to the next topic at hand:
Draft Bryce Harper NOW!!!: I know the guy is polarizing because apparently he's kind of arrogant or whatever, but he is worth all of the hype going around on him. The reason the Nats are keeping him in AAA is to push his arbitration eligibility back a year. Don't be surprised if Washington does attempt to offer him a long-term deal once he does make it to the bigs. He's got the whole package, and will be the starting centerfielder by probably June. If you don't get him now, someone's going to get him the second it's announced that he's coming up. Harper's prospect hype is perhaps only surpassed by one man who happens to be his teammate (Strasburg). Right now, he is the 48th ranked OF with an ADP of 214.6 and auction value of $2.5...if he isn't one of the top outfielders of the board next year when the draft goes, I don't even know what to tell you. Desmond Jennings had a huge impact on the Rays when he was finally called up full-time (took them waaaayyyyy too long to do that by the way), and he was last year's #1 prospect heading into the season. Harper projects out at 15 homers and 25 steals, but if you're in a keeper league or you have an extra spot on the bench, you can do some second-half damage with this kid in the fold. So, like many others, I'm basically drooling over the chance of Harper getting the call-up in a few months...let's see if there are any more prospects who could make that kind of potential splash (which I refer to as The Jacoby Effect).
- Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN: Ryan Hanigan currently stands in the way of Mesoraco being a full-time catcher for the Reds, but the fact that a timeshare has already been put into place means Mesoraco has the chance to overtake Hanigan based on production and will get a decent amount of ABs to prove it.
- Travis d'Arnaud, C, TOR: The problem here is that Arrencibia, who is going into just his second full season, is in his way, and while d'Arnaud could potentially be better, Arrencibia is coming off an impressive rookie season which makes me believe the only way d'Arnaud breaks into the majors is (knock on wood) injury, or via trade, where he would be an extremely valuable commodity.
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC: Sox fans are familiar with Rizzo as he was one of the centerpieces in the Gonzo trade with San Diego. He has a huge bat, but Bryan LaHair, who is becoming a trendy pick, is ahead of him on the depth chart. There's a reason Theo made the move to get him back into his organization, because Rizzo is projecting out as a 30-100 guy at first.
- Yonder Alonzo, 1B, SD: Alonzo will most likely be the starting first baseman on opening day, so you will be able to gauge his impact fairly quickly. He has some opposite field power it seems, which makes people wonder if he can be Gonzo-like in San Diego.
- Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL: With only Casey Blake in his way, Arenado could be in Denver by the All-Star break depending on how he fares in AA or AAA. He led all of minor league baseball last year with 122 RBIs.
- Miguel Sano, 3B, MIN: Sano is still growing, which is scary considering he's 6'3 and over 200 pounds already. He plays both short and third, but again, it seems like he's gonna be too big to play at the 6, so he projects out as a third baseman or first baseman. There really is no position stability for either of those spots, with Danny Valencia at third and the now oft-injured Justin Morneau at first.
- Jurickson Profar, SS, TEX: You can't beat that name. If you need more, he's just 19 right now, and already has a full year of minor league ball under his belt (in which he went .286/.390/.883 with 12 HR, 65 RBI, and 23 steals).
- Mike Trout, OF, LAA: Trout broke into the majors last year and played 40 games, where he started off very slow, but managed to turn it all around very quickly at the end of the season. He projects to be a guy who could potentially hit 20 homers and steal 40 bases. If there is any prospect who right now can perhaps have a bigger impact than Bryce Harper, it's Trout.
- Matt Moore, SP, TB: I honestly forgot to mention Moore in this category the first time around because he is being ranked amongst the top 100 players drafted this year, and yet he only has about fifteen innings of major league pitching under his belt. However, if those fifteen innings are any indication, the learning curve for Moore this season is going to be exceptionally brief (three words: high 90s fastball).
- Trevor Bauer, SP, ARZ: I'm very anxious to see what Bauer can do in the majors. He has amazing stuff, and his use of long-toss as a means to stretch his arm out have been well-documented.
- Manny Banuelos, SP, NYY: Banuelos is like a lot of pitchers who are hard throwers: They strike out a lot of guys, but their control is an issue. They are saying that Banuelos is working on getting the old WHIP and BB/9 stats down, and there is a very real chance that he may start the season on the Yankees instead of starting in the minors.
- Shelby Miller, SP, STL: Huuuggggeeee curveball, and he has a plus-fastball. Starting off in AAA, but the Cards may need a spark if they encounter a World Series/losing Pujols hangover.
- Addison Reed, RP, CHW: While Matt Thornton will start the year closing for the ChiSox, Reed will be pushing the action all year long. After Chris Sale's incredible season while not succeeding Thornton as closer though, be advised that Reed may just be a nasty 8th inning guy this year.
And now, for some parting words of advice:
- The Depth At Outfield Totally Sucks: I think Carl Crawford or Adam Jones is at the tipping point, and they are ranked 17 and 19 respectively on ESPN. Remember you need at least three, if not more of these guys on your team, and the breaking point is very high in terms of when production starts to fall off. I hope I'm right about my sleepers, but I would be all over the top 8 when they come out (Kemp, Braun, Jacoby, Justin Upton, Car-Go (who is really underrated this season), Grandy Man, Stanton, and McCutchen).
- The Depth At Second Base is Amazing: On the contrary, you only need one second baseman (two if you use one for your 2B/SS slot), and the tipping point is right around 16 with Danny Espinosa. Sleepers abound here. I love Espinosa, Jemile Weeks, Ryan Roberts, and Jason Kipnis late too.
- Don't Draft Ryan Madson or Joakim Soria: Both are done for the year. Jonathan Broxton becomes a steal for the Royals who were figuring they were just going to use him in a set-up role, or perhaps they knew more than we did about Soria's arm. Sean Marshall now becomes the man in Cincy with Aroldis Chapman being a huge wild card at this point.
- The Most Important Waiver Claim Time Is Right Now and In September: Anyone who does anything remotely good the first week of the season is going to get picked up, which means two things. 1.) They may have a huge season or they may bust...of course it's up to your knowledge of the player as whether to jump on him or let someone else grab him, in which case 2.) they drop someone who they either don't like, don't know, or is off to a slow start. When this happens, you may be able to buy low on a guy slumping, but has a track record that suggests the slump won't continue for too long. I was able to trade for both Dustin Pedroia and Evan Longoria last year using guys who were at their peak, but I was also wary that they might do a 180 and tank, which is what a lot of them ended up doing (Dillon Gee is a perfect example of this). In September, you have minor league call-ups, which is a perfect way to fill a hole in your lineup.
If I think of anything else, perhaps I can make an appendix of some sort, but that's pretty much it for the most part. As with all drafts, I suggest you get players you enjoy rooting for. While that may take away the chance to take a good player (or in my case, an entire team), if you load up on players you genuinely like, I've found that it's just a much better way to go about things. There's less anxiety about should I/shouldn't I pick up or drop someone. My fantasy hockey team is rocking this year and I honestly know about 10% of the players in the league, but the players I drafted were, for the most part, in that 10%, and it's working out for me. I actually drafted Austin Jackson in a league I drafted in last Sunday...but I really don't like the guy...he's a former Yankee, he strikes out a ton...I'm not a fan. I had to drop him because I honestly was losing sleep being like "if freggin' Austin Jackson doesn't work out, I'm going to feel like a complete asshole." So now I have Lorenzo Cain, and I'm feeling a lot more at ease about where my team is headed.
If you take anything from all of this: Draft a team you like. Have fun dominating everyone. Peace.