Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Dossier 6.0

"Not a heavyweight but I go twelve rounds."

What's good everyone? Well it's that time of year again. Spring training is under way, and with about a month to go until the start of the regular season, it's time to crack eggs of fantasy knowledge. Hard to believe this is the sixth year of the dossier (at least the 6th year I've recorded it...anyone who knows me when I was a kid probably knows that I've been writing this kind of stuff up for a while...a long while). It never gets old for me though. It's a new year, and like actual baseball, everyone starts off 0-0. The beauty is that no one will be 100% on all of the predictions they make. I like to think I'm decent at fantasy sports, but what I love about the game is that it can make me look like a genius one day and a total dickhead the's such a long season that anything can happen.

Much like I did with my fantasy football draft, I will be taking you round-by-round through a draft that I completed, and along the way, I'll kind of explain what the thought process was in all of it, what trends are starting to emerge, sleepers, prospects, etc. Make sure you continue to check back in throughout the month as I will be updating this column to account for injuries or news from spring training. Again I can't thank you enough for reading this, and hopefully there's a few things that you can take away from this.

Before I get into the analysis, a few shouts, for without the following sites/people I probably couldn't come up with something so mediocre:
  • ESPN Fantasy Baseball Live Draft/Mock Draft Rooms/Average Draft Position (ADP)/the 90% of my column I stole from them (nah, I'm only kidding, it's something much lower like 80-85%)
  • Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball 
  • Google search
  • Really good looking women I can't stop thinking about
  • Yuengling
  • Sports Grill wings
  • Herbal Essence (not the shampoo)
This draft took place on February 26th using on a fucked up laptop. I don't know any of the people participating in this draft, which can kind of screw things up, but really, I'm just using this as a model to bounce ideas off of. In other words, my team is going to be ridiculously nasty, and unless my friends become morons on draft day, I'm probably not going to get it as good as this...results may vary is what I'm getting at. This is based on a 10-team league and we're going to be using ESPN's lineup, which means that there are two infield flex spots, 5 OFs, and all the pitchers are bunched into one category. One thing I have to stress is that you should definitely familiarize yourself with the way your lineup is constructed before you get into the actual draft room. Your strategy should be geared towards that specific format (ex. If you're in a league with two catchers, you may want to think about getting them early because catching is a weak position this year). This is just a model. It's not gospel. This is your team. It's a representation of your knowledge and your abilities. I write these because I want to inform the casual, and perhaps even the hardcore fantasy player. Also right now, I really have nothing better to do, and this actually may count as being productive (at least it does to me).

  • Team Name: HGH In My Pot Braunies (as of right now, you have to say Braun is like our generation's Rafael Palmeiro...speaking of which, how do the writers keep guys out of the Hall of Fame for juicing, yet allow them win MVPs?...ohhhhhh-kaaaayyyy)
  • Draft Order #: 5 (which means no Mike Trout...sad face...does kind of segway into Theory Numero Uno)

Theory #1: Until Proven Otherwise, Mike Trout Is The Tecmo Bo of Fantasy Baseball: I mean we've heard lofty things said about prospects before. Trot Nixon was supposed to be the next Babe Ruth. Was he a good player? Yes. Babe Ruth? No. So there was a little hesitation when people started talking about how Trout is this freak of nature and can't be stopped and on it went...but the thing is I'm not so sure he can be stopped. He is literally too good to be believable. I know Miggy won the Triple Crown, and if you take him #1, I wouldn't blame you, but when did you ever think there would be arguments about who the MVP should be when a guy just won the Triple Crown? That was the case last year. I'm just hoping I get him man. He is just absolutely money in literally any category you want to throw out there. So do what you will, but in one-year drafts, and especially in keeper/franchise leagues, Trout is my guy.

#5: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh: Ryan Braun, despite being the #1 ranked player on ESPN, fell to #4, right before me. I wouldn't take him if he came to me though. I know it shouldn't be a game played on emotions, but my thing is that I need a team that I can root for. There's nothing worse than having to rely on a guy you totally don't like or can't root for...and he totally sucks balls and kills you.

Anyway, back to guys I like. Cutch has it all. When you're drafting in the top 5, you want to look at your team, point to the guy you take, and say "this is the difference maker." Trout, Cabrera, Braun (unless he gets suspended), Cutch, Cano, and Matt can argue Tulo as well...which brings me to my next point (this is just a seamless document right here)...

Theory #2: Troy Tulowitzki Is Worth Taking In The Top 5: I was on here last year saying that Tulo was the most valuable player in fantasy, so this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Simply put, he plays at the weakest position in the game right now and is capable of putting up top 10 numbers. Of course he got hurt as I proclaimed him to be the best player last year, but that would not stop me from taking him if he was there in the middle or late in the first round.

#16: Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami: Of course Tulo went one pick before me...isn't that always how it goes? I will say that Stanton is not a bad consolation prize. All signs are pointing to this year being the year Stanton blows the roof off of the place. He missed 39 games last year, and still hit 37 homers while batting .290. Yes the Marlins suck, and he has no protection...but he really never has, so what's the difference? Stanton could creep into 50 homers this year. This was tough because it was between Stanton and Stephen Strasburg, but I gave the edge to Stanton because he plays every day and his power potential is off the charts.

#25: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington: All outfield so far, but at this point in the draft, it's tough to draft based on position...I mean personally, I'm taking best available and just hope that I can find guys to plug in at positions to make it work. This was brutal because I actually passed on my man Dustin Pedroia for Harper, but as the next theory states...

Theory #3: Despite Being Ranked In The Late 30s, Bryce Harper Will Finish In The Top 15 In Fantasy: If Stanton and Strasburg are gone, and I'm picking in the third round, it comes down to whether King Felix is still there, which he wasn't in this draft. Other than that, the guys that will be around in the mid-to-late 20s do not have nearly the value that Harper has. You can call it reaching, but ultimately, when you look at someone's roster, you're looking at who is on their team, and not where they drafted them. Can you really blame me for orchestrating a McCutchen/Stanton/Harper outfield by the way? I would assume if you're playing head-to-head, or even playing rotisserie, and you come across these three guys on one team, you're not going to be gaining any confidence in winning that matchup.

#36: Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta: After picking Harper, the three guys I was targeting (Pedey, Jered Weaver, and Jason Heyward) all were picked, so staying in character, I went with the best available. You could make cases for both Billy Butler (arguably the most consistent hitter in all of baseball) and Adam Jones (who is the face of a Baltimore team that continues to get better). I went with Kimbrel simply because at his position, he is by far and away the best, and at this point in the draft, all of the starting aces that you would want to front-line a team were gone. As soon as I made this pick, my entire draft philosophy in terms of pitching changed. With Kimbrel now as my #1 pitcher, I decided, as I have been doing a lot recently, to go super heavy on closers.

Theory #4: If Your Team Is Made Up Of A Bunch Of Closers, You're Probably Going To Dominate Every Pitching Category But Wins: Ideally, you are trying to find guys that fill up every stat, but when it comes to pitching, that's not possible, so the thought has always been to have a fairly even amount of both starters and relievers. The more years I do this, the more turned off I get about having a bunch of starting pitchers. Unless you just have aces across the board (which is possible in auction drafts but tough to obtain in a regular snake draft), at some point, someone's going to have a bad night, and if you're playing in a weekly head-to-head league, that could finish you. So I've been trending towards taking relievers because even when they have a bad night, it's not going to ruin you because normally a closer is in the game for an inning, with bad outing usually ending in giving up 2-3 runs, whereas starters can go three or four innings, where the damage could wind up being much more severe (5-6 runs?), so with more innings, it makes it harder to bring your total ERA and WHIP down. As you're going to notice, I have some stud relievers, and it wouldn't be totally out of the question to expect my ERA to be in the low 2's and my WHIP to be around 1, if not under that.

#45: Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland: Adam Jones went right before my pick...that was crushing. Still, in landing Cespedes, I add to my freak outfield. His numbers are only going up because of his experience in the majors last year and also, he missed 33 games due to different injuries (hand/wrist/hamstring), so we have yet to see a full year of production, which I'm thinking will put him around .280/30HR/20SB.

#56: Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox: I had a really tough time with this one. Carlos Santana just went off the board at #53, and Matt Wieters was available, so I hesitated, but then, I remembered this:

Theory #5: Potential 20-Game Winners Are Worth More Than Potential Franchise Catchers Not Named Buster Posey: Chris Sale is an animal people. To say he's a young Randy Johnson is not as completely far-fetched as you might think. Averaging a strikeout an inning last year, Sale could be in the top 25-30 by the end of the season. In my opinion, for elite starting pitching, he is one of the few guys you don't have to spend a top 40 pick on.

#65: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona: This came down to Goldie or Aroldis Chapman, the freak closer-turned-starter. For the record, I think Chapman will be fine this year, but I believe where he is ranked is more a depiction of his value as a closer. We really haven't seen him stretched out yet, so this should be a very interesting season on that front. Goldie had a monster year after starting off very slow (I specifically remember picking him up and dropping him soon thereafter sometime in the first half of the season). Here's a guy who will hit close to .300, is good for around 25-30 homers, and perhaps most importantly, can steal 15-20 bases...very rare to see a first baseman helping in the steals department.

#76: Jason Motte, RP, St. Louis: Right now, I have Motte as the second best closer in baseball, with Papelbon a close third. At this point, it was Motte or Kris Medlen, who was phenomenal down the stretch last year. If you recall, Medlen was on the waiver wire last year, and while I'm not saying that you're going to be able to find a guy who will go 10-1 with a sub-1 ERA in free agency, it's going to be a lot tougher to find saves than it will be to find wins. Update (3/25): Motte suffered a what they're calling a "mild" elbow strain, and the Cards are probably shutting him down for the rest of Spring Training. They're also considering him starting off the season on the DL. Despite the injury, I'm still drafting Motte pretty high, although with this news, he probably comes off the board at least one round later than he was slated to go, if not more. Mitchell Boggs will be the interim closer, but there is no closer controversy in the Lou. Motte will be the 9th inning man whenever he's ready.

#85: Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Much was made about Rizzo's initial debut with the Padres two years ago when he struggled mightily, but once the Cubs traded for him, they waited patiently until they felt Rizzo had developed fully enough to handle a major league workload, and it paid off. Rizzo looks like a natural hitter with lots of power potential, and this will be his first full season in the majors.

#96: Fernando Rodney, RP, Tampa Bay: Rodney had arguably the greatest year for a closer in the history of baseball. A 0.60 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 48 saves later, and he's still available around the 100th pick. I have to believe people are scared away because of his age, but because this is not a dynasty or keeper league, and I only have him for one year, I'm totally happy with this pick. Right now I'm sporting three of the top 5 closers in the game.

#105: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore: Call it a reach, but I believe Machado will wind up at least filling out the value of a top 100 player, if not, more like a top 50-60 player. Machado showed signs of things to come after his surprising call-up from AA Bowie last season. He can hit for contact, power, and run. Like first basemen, when you can get stolen base help from your third baseman, it adds a rare element to your team.

#116: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets: I really like what Harvey showed me last year. His call-up was a lot less surprising than Machado, but I think people didn't expect how well Harvey would perform in his first go-around in the bigs, but he pitched exceptionally well, sporting a sub-3 ERA over ten starts. Harvey racks up the K's as well, so he will certainly help you with that.

#125: Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco: Anytime you can make a guy like Brian Wilson, who was perhaps the best closer in the game as close as two years ago, expendable, you know Romo has the goods. Health is the one issue to look out for here, but when he's taking the ball in the 9th, it's pretty much going to be a done deal.

#136: Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston: So happy how low Middlebrooks is ranked. If you watched the Sox at all last year, you know how dynamic a player Middlebrooks can be. Despite getting hurt and slowing down a bit at the plate after a torrid start, Middlebrooks has the potential to rip 30 homers if he plays a full season. He has reported to Fort Myers at 100% health, so hopefully he can play to his potential because the Sox desperately need his bat in the lineup.

#145: Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh: There's nothing that really jumps out at you about Walker, and I think that's part of the reason I like him here. He's a top 100 talent that is being overlooked because of other "sexier" options. Walker is consistent though, and he won't really hurt you in any category. Also, you have to believe he will produce a bunch of runs hitting towards the top of the Pirates lineup.

#156: Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland: I picked him up almost immediately after his call-up last year, and Parker did not disappoint. Parker is one of two pitchers since 1900 to give up one run or less in 10 of his first 14 major league starts. He was steady for the most part all year, so I really feel like he's a solid pick here.

#165: Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Seattle: After taking the closer's job from Brandon League, Wilhelmsen was a stud, converting 29 of 34 saves, and running his K/9 to nearly 10. He seems like he will be a solid contributor who could close in on 40 saves given a full season of work.

#176: Jurickson Profar, 2B, Texas: The unanimous #1 prospect in baseball sets up our next theory...

Theory #6: Despite Not Having A Starting Job, Draft Jurickson Profar Now: Now I'm not saying when Profar gets the call, he's going to go off like Mike Trout, but he will be as dynamic a middle infielder that will be playing in the coming two to three years. The Rangers are going to have little choice, especially when his arbitration clock runs out towards the end of April, but to bring him up, because they are lacking offense with the departure of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, and the possible suspension of Nelson Cruz as it relates to the ongoing Miami PED case. Profar may have some ups and downs, but his ceiling is so absurdly high that picking him in the 18th round is tremendous value in my opinion. Update (3/29): Profar did get optioned down to the minors, but one would suspect that his call-up time is imminent much like Trout and Harper last year.

#185: Bruce Rondon, RP, Detroit: The reason Rondon ranks so low is because of the unknown factor. What is known is that over three levels last season (A, AA, AAA), Rondon was dominant, and his strikeout numbers are completely absurd (13.1 K/9 in A, 9.6 in AA, 10.1 in AAA). The unknown factor will also lead to immediate dividends, with hitters trying to adjust to a pitcher they only see once a game. I talked about this with Yu Darvish last year, who came from Japan without any of the current major leaguers facing him, and he went 16-9 in his first full season, including a 10-4 mark in his first three months. I expect Rondon to struggle at times, but what he will get you right out of the box will be sparkling. Update (3/29): Rondon has been optioned to the minors, a move that I guess you could see coming after his really shaky spring. It's one thing to have a bad spring and be an established closer (like Craig Kimbrel), but a rookie trying to do the same? It's a much loftier task. Expect Rondon to eventually take over the role in about June when he's rocking it in the minors and the Tigers realize that you can't have a closer-by-committee and expect to be a contender.

#196: Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta: As I mentioned before, shortstop depth is dreadful, so the fact that a talent like Simmons is going this late is kind of surprising. Yes, it's his defense that ultimately sticks with you when you watch him play, but I love his contact, and I love how he's leading off for a lineup that now has B.J. and Justin Upton along with Heyward, McCann, and Freddie Freeman. I just see this kid being an all-around stud.

#205: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay: There is a chance that Tampa waits out his arbitration clock (actually, very likely unless he destroys it this Spring), but the moment the clock is up, Wil Myers will finally be in the majors. It feels like this should have probably happened last year, and because the Royals got greedy and wanted to wait it out to call Myers up, he never got to play for the team, and instead, was traded to the Rays for James Shields (quick sidenote: the entire deal was Shields and Wade Davis to KC for Myers and three prospects including Jake Odorizzi, another stud who is basically on Wil Myers' same career path right now...also Tampa saved $28 million in the deal for the next two seasons). I'm again surprised by this low ranking...just an absolute electric offensive arsenal.

I will say that Ernesto Frieri went the pick before, and despite my gushing about Myers, I would have totally gone with Ernesto here. In terms of the most impressive relievers in baseball last season, his name has to be in the conversation. The man is a strikeout machine.

#216: Bobby Parnell, RP, New York Mets: I feel like the mad scientist..."closers, closers...and MOOORREEEE CLOSERS!!" Parnell is young, has an explosive fastball, and is receiving competition from Frank Francisco who I'm convinced pitched last season on a blown arm and has been slow to recover from it.

#225: Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City: I think this pick is so clutch this late that it needed it's own theory...

Theory #7: Salvador Perez This Late Is The Best Pick Of The Draft: The reason this pick is so critical is because I have purposely avoided catchers knowing that Perez would still be around this late. I will say that it looks like his value is rising (he is right now the 10th catcher off the board, with an ADP of 192.3), so this may be a little trickier to pull off in the future. Here's a guy who could get close to the top 100 if he plays a full year, and getting him at 225 is crazy.

#236: Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado: My "Profar Plan" is complete by taking Rutledge to fill my middle infield flex spot. This isn't bad for a guy I anticipate spending only about a month or two playing before Profar gets the call. Rutledge has 20/20 potential playing in Colorado, and has only played in the majors for about a half a year (73 games). He had eight homers and seven steals during that time, which shows the kind of blend in his game.

#245: Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh: I follow up my "Profar Plan" with my "Wil Myers Plan." Marte had a huge season playing winter ball in the D.R. (he was named MVP of the championship series), and while it's not the majors, it is still encouraging about the direction that Marte could go now that he will be the everyday left fielder in Pittsburgh.

So that wraps up the draft portion. Here is my complete team with positions. I have rosterbated five times already while writing this. Loving it...
  • C: Salvador Perez, KC
  • 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, ARZ
  • 2B: Neil Walker, PIT
  • 3B: Manny Machado, BAL
  • SS: Andrelton Simmons, ATL
  • 1B/3B: Anthony Rizzo, CHC
  • 2B/SS: Jurickson Profar, TEX
  • OF: Andrew McCutchen, PIT
  • OF: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
  • OF: Bryce Harper, WSH
  • OF: Yoenis Cespedes, OAK
  • OF: Wil Myers, TB
  • UTIL: Will Middlebrooks, BOS
  • BN: Josh Rutledge (SS), COL
  • BN: Starling Marte (OF), PIT
  • P: Craig Kimbrel (RP), ATL
  • P: Chris Sale (SP), CWS
  • P: Jason Motte (RP), STL
  • P: Fernando Rodney (RP), TB
  • P: Matt Harvey (SP), NYM
  • P: Sergio Romo (RP), SF
  • P: Jarrod Parker (SP), OAK
  • P: Tom Wilhelmsen (RP), SEA
  • P: Bruce Rondon (RP), DET
  • BN: Bobby Parnell (RP), NYM (who will be in the lineup when Sale, Harvey, or Parker are not starting)
So needless to say I'm extremely happy with how this came out. The beauty of it all is that those contingency plans for Profar and Myers are going to last for about a month (hopefully), so once one or both get called into the majors, I can start pursuing other options if I so choose (maybe another closer...telling you, you can never have too many closers in fantasy baseball). I might have a problem in steals on occasion, and by only having three starters, it limits my wins, but I just can't imagine a scenario where I lose any other category for the bulk of the year. I would say the "worst" contributor to batting average might be Middlebrooks, and he's still going to hit .250-.260. I'm flush in power, which covers homers and RBIs. Love the offense, especially if the two rookies bust loose.

My pitching is crazy. As I mention above, Parnell will be starting when one of the starters isn't going, so there will be upwards of seven closers going at one time. This strategy really does work. I'm not saying that it's going to work every week in your matchups, but being able to produce a ton of K's while keeping the ERA and WHIP to a minimum is really when this works out. Clearly I'll be winning the saves category every week barring some miracle...always nice to be 99% sure you won't get shut out in any week.

Now for my favorite part. I have put together a list of players whose ADP is 260.0, which I have dubbed "The All-Undrafted Team." Some of these guys may not have an impact on the first half of the season, or in 2013 altogether, but it's good to familiarize yourself with a few of these names.

The All-Undrafted Team:
  • Travis d'Arnaud, C, New York Mets: The cornerstone of the R.A. Dickey trade from Toronto, d'Arnaud was blocked in Toronto by J.P. Arrencibia, and as a result, has yet to have a major league at-bat. From his work in the minors, it seems like d'Arnaud could be a classic contact hitter who could get around 15-20 homers given a full year of work. He is not the starter yet for the Mets, but he should be able to beat out John Buck for the honors this Spring. Update (3/29): d'Arnaud will start the year in the minors, which is surprising considering he could beat John Buck out any day of the week.
  • Mike Zunino, C, Seattle: After the Profar/Myers/Dylan Bundy crowd elevate to the majors, Zunino may become the #1 prospect in baseball. He's only played 43 professional games, and already, he has the baseball world buzzing. In Low A Everett, Zunino hit 10 homers and batted .373 in just 29 games. He graduated to AA last year, and could start off in AAA this year. Depending on how the catching situation pans out (Jesus Montero is the only catcher on the current 40-man roster), Zunino could get the call mid-season. If that were to happen, he would be a huge pickup if your catching is a little below par.
  • Chris Carter, 1B, Houston: So Houston moved to the AL, and if you hadn't heard about it, that's okay, I have to keep reminding myself about it anyway. With the move though, the 'Stros pick up a DH spot, meaning Carter, who destroyed the ball for Oakland last year, will have more playing opportunities. He's more of the Adam Dunn/Mark Reynolds all power, no average kind of player, but if you need power, he is a great plug-in source.
  • Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle: This is probably Smoak's last chance to break in with the M's. With the recent acquisition of Kendrys Morales, Smoak is going to have to step up the pace and get back to the mid-to-high .200s as opposed to the dreadful .217 he put up last year. I like his chances though...don't bet against a Gamecock.
  • Christian Yelich, 1B/OF, Miami: Yelich is the Marlins' top prospect despite having yet to crack AA ball. He is converting into an outfielder in the minors, so his eligibility may change as soon as next year. Yelich has an outside chance of making it to Miami this season outside of a September call-up, but with how bad the Marlins are likely going to be this year, anything is possible.
  • Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego: Gyorko is a career .319 hitter in the minors. His natural position is third base, but because of Chase Headley's monster season, and the fact that the Pads did not trade Headley before the deadline last year like a lot of people thought they might do, Gyorko is now transitioning to second base. If he sticks at second and makes the big team, you really want to keep an eye on this guy. He hit 30 homers last year between AA and AAA, and that kind of power coming from the 2B slot is rare. Update (3/29): With Chase Headley expected to be on the DL for upwards of two months, Gyorko can now man third base as well as second, making him eligible in both positions. He is guaranteed to start basically every game.
  • Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis: Wong's path is a lot more crowded than Gyorko's. He's got as many as three guys who could play second in St. Louis, and Wong only has 173 games of experience, meaning he'll likely take a back seat unless the three in front of him (Matt Carpenter, Ronny Cedeno, and Daniel Descalso) are ineffective or injured. Good source of average and steals.
  • Billy Hamilton, SS/OF, Cincinnati: One of the most talked about prospects after his spell-binding season in 2012 where he stole an all-time, single season baseball record of 155 bases over two levels. The likelihood that Hamilton makes the team in 2013 in a large capacity is slim to none. Hamilton is converting to center field, and the Reds will likely have him stay in the minors and develop in the outfield while newly acquired Shin-Soo Choo mans center in Cincy for the time being. Choo is only signed to a one-year deal, so it looks like it's Hamilton's job to lose come 2014. Update (3/14): Hamilton has been struggling so far in camp (as of today, he's 2 for 18 with 8 K's), so I absolutely expect him to spend at least the first half of the season down in the minors. However, he could be a huge weapon for the Reds in September as a pinch-runner, and into the postseason if Cincy makes it that far.
  • Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston: Much like what's happening with the Reds, the Sox signed a veteran (Stephen Drew) to a one-year deal as a stop-gap solution for Bogaerts arrival in '14. However, Drew has been banged up recently, only able to play a half a season for the last two years. Jose Iglesias is certainly in the mix as well, but it looks like his bat is not translating to the next level (at least not yet). Bogaerts represents the total package, and could finally put an end to near decade game of musical chairs at shortstop in Boston.
  • Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis: Taveras had a monster year in AA last season (.321/23HR/94RBI) and there is a possibility that the Cards could call him up after his arbitration clock runs out in April and become a fourth outfielder, with both Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran aging, and Jon Jay, who plays great defense, but can't really hit.
  • Leonys Martin, OF, Texas: Obviously Jurickson Profar is the prospect getting all the attention (this column certainly did nothing to diminish that), but Martin could actually break camp and be in the starting lineup come Opening Day. Martin has a little power and a little speed, but you need to pay attention to the .323 average he has over 128 games.
  • Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston: I can't even help myself. Bradley probably won't be up in the majors until 2014, but it is amazing how he has changed the perception of the future of the Sox. Once Jacoby Ellsbury made the switch to Scott Boras, it became evident that he would not stay in Boston for the so-called "hometown discount." This had me and the rest of Sox nation (or at least some of them) fairly nervous about what was going to happen if Jacoby didn't re-sign. Then all of a sudden, in the midst of the Bruins making a run towards a Stanley Cup, the Sox drafted Jackie Bradley, and everything changed. Of course unless you had watched him play at Carolina, you really had no idea what was about to happen. I saw it, but I mean I think he's exceeding my expectations and they were pretty high knowing what kind of player and person Jackie is. This will be a fascinating season and perhaps even more fascinating off-season for the Sox. Hopefully JBJ will make it up at some point this year. Update (3/14): If you had not heard, JBJ has been the story of Sox camp so far. He seems to get at least two hits every game, and sits at .536 (15 for 28). You have to imagine that with the impact Bradley is having, John Farrell and Co. have to seriously consider starting Bradley in left field on Opening Day. Jonny Gomes projects more like a fourth outfielder, and Ryan Kalish can't seem to stay healthy. There's really no one else to speak of in the outfield, outside of fellow prospect Bryce Brentz, who probably will begin the season in the minors. While the real world likely will keep Jackie in the minors for now, if you look at it with no circumstances other than who is playing the best and should start right now, it's JBJ. A Gamecock tearing it up on the Sox...doesn't get any better.
  • Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland: You have to hope a change of scenery will turn it around for Bauer, who was all over the place in his initial call-up with Arizona last year. His minor league stats were staggering, so there is reason for hope. Would not be the worst call if with a late pick, you roll the dice.
  • Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta: I suspect that much like Bauer, Teheran may have been called up too early because he was too tantalizing a prospect to not at least give a shot. He's 22 right now, and I think with a little job security in hand, he may prosper for the Braves. Update (3/29): Teheran has been electric this spring. He has a 1.04 ERA over 28 innings, and also sports a 12.1 K/9. Of course it's tough to go off of spring stats, but this guy has been a highly-touted prospect for the better part of three years until his flame-out last year. I'm starting to target Teheran towards the end of the draft as he is still considered a "sleeper."
  • Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh: I would have thought that if a Pirate prospect was going to emerge in 2013, it would have been Jameson Taillon, the #3 overall pick from 2010, who has been impressive, but a little inconsistent. Cole has been phenomenal, rising through to AAA in his first year in the minors. His stuff is electric, and he may warrant a mid-season call-up.
  • Luke Gregerson, RP, San Diego: You can call this a "speculative" pick just based on Huston Street's recent injury string, but even if Gregerson is not the man in the ninth, he helps with the ratio categories and can get some pretty decent K numbers.
  • Trevor Rosenthal, RP, St. Louis: While being listed as a reliever, the Cards ultimately want to stretch Rosenthal out into a starter. He was outstanding out of the bullpen, especially in the postseason (0 ER in 8.2 innings), so continue to monitor Rosenthal as well as fellow Cardinal prospect Shelby Miller as they compete for the Cards' 5th spot in the rotation. Update (3/8): The Cards have stopped trying to stretch Rosenthal out, meaning they will use him out of the bullpen. While his strikeout numbers will be great (especially K/9), he won't have the value that he would have if he had claimed the 5th spot in the rotation, which now looks like will go to Shelby Miller.

Well, that pretty much puts a bow on it. Like I said, I will be trying to update this as Spring Training progresses, but until then, I hope everyone out there is staying as positive as you possibly can, and thanks again for reading. Good luck this season! Peace.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

"Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?"

What's happening everybody? So if you were unaware, I just moved to Miami because mother nature had been putting me in the Figure Four for most of my life, and I had about enough of it. So I grabbed the ropes and moved to South Florida, putting all the winter bullshit behind. Some people like the cold...these are the people that should be living in New England. Me? I would get sick for like six months out of the year and couldn't function as a normal human being (as if functioning like one is easy when it's nice out). 

Sooooooooo the question then probably comes down to what I'm going to do for money, and while I don't have one yet (getting close me on this), I have been on Craigslist a bunch lately. While I was there, I came across an ad that talked about a site called Fantasy Football Planet and how the creator wanted people to write for him (of course, no $$ involved...yet). So, I figured I had some time in between sleeping and going to the bars to give him a bit of a sample. Hope you guys enjoy.

On The Defensive: Mock Draft 1.0

By Rich Lyons

If you needed a franchise quarterback, this was not your year to suck.

Sorry to Kansas City, Jacksonville, and perhaps Oakland. Timing in drafting, sports and life en general is everything, and you didn’t have it. It’s okay. Actually every single team goes through this (Yankees fans are rooting for the Wild Card, Red Sox fans like myself are rooting to not be a complete embarrassment, and everything after that would be icing on the Little Debbie cupcake). So, where does a team with this high of a pick go? I don’t mean for any of this to be putting down Geno Smith. He’s a great talent. He was, at times, completely electric operating the WVU offense. The reality of the situation is that these teams are not as gung-ho as they would have been last year about taking a QB this high. So, it’s time to break down the top 3, because in my opinion, three have emerged as locks, with Philly at #4 to break the ice on the next level (or perhaps trade…for a team that was dubbed the “Dream Team” two years ago, they need a bunch of help).

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: This is even worse timing for KC because in my opinion, Lotulelei is probably the best player in the draft. He plays arguably the most important non-QB job in football in being able to have the ability to play the 3-4 nose tackle, but can also play the 4-3. The Chiefs have drafted three top-15 defensive tackles in the last five drafts, including Dontari Poe last year. That’s why I say it’s unfortunate. It seems like they just can’t find the stabilizing guys that you would expect when drafting and spending that high (keep in mind that Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are being paid from their pre-CBA rookie contracts, which were bananas). KC needs a QB, but probably won’t pick Star because of their recent Detroit drafting wide receiver-like spell. So the best player won’t go #1 (it happens…not too often…last time was probably 2007 with JaMarcus Russell being taken over Calvin Johnson and, if you want to look deeper, Adrian Peterson), so who will?

Star Update (2/25): So after the fast 40 times and the saga that was the Manti Te'o press conference, the emerging story of the Combine is Star's heart condition discovered in his physical. Star is scheduled to see a specialist either today or shortly, and right now his status is "pending" for the Combine.

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: Joeckel will go #1 I think…for now. These things can change, especially when there’s no clear-cut answer as to who is going at the top. If you’re the Chiefs, this is probably going to be the easiest to sell. Look for a QB through the trade market (definitely don’t look for the answer in free agency because after Joe Flacco, who doesn’t look like is going anywhere, it gets real bare, real quick), and sell your fans on the fact that this guy not only ranks as the #1 guy on a lot of boards, but protected Johnny Football, and right now, any association with him, and you’re in.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: Going into this season, this guy probably projected as the #1 pick given the value of having a talented outside pass rusher who can, at the very least, divert traffic in the running game. Von Miller went #2 to Denver two years ago…can you really blame them for that move?

Right now, it would seem like it’s Joeckel to KC at 1, Jarvis at 2 to the Jags (and if he isn’t the pick, hopefully someone that can rush the passer), and Star at 3 to Oakland (or something in the defensive realm). Philly is at #4. They need a bunch as was noted earlier. Regardless of if they stay here or they don’t, here are the guys that teams would at least consider trading up to get to:

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Quarterbacks run the world, and quite frankly, if you don’t have a good one, you’re going to be bad, and even if you make the playoffs with a bad quarterback, you will not win the championship, which is the ultimate goal. Seriously, last ten years, the “worst” QB to win a Super Bowl was Roethlisberger (notice I put worst in quotes…and he won two). So, it seems like Geno is the favorite to be, perhaps, a difference maker, with Sean Glennon from N.C. State, Tyler Wilson from Arkansas, and E.J. Manuel as the proverbial dark horse candidates for difference maker (I just don’t know about Matt Barkley…last year did not go so hot).

Clearly KC could go with Geno at #1, and this next argument could be put to bed real quick. So, let’s say that they don’t. Here are teams who could be looking to get into the 4 spot for him:

Arizona (picking 7th): Possibly the best storyteller currently of the need to have a steady QB. The Kevin Kolb/John Skelton/That Other Guy experiment is not working in ‘Zona, and if I’m Larry Fitzgerald, I might be kind of nervous at the legacy-dampening that has been done not only to his career but to his team. I’m sure starting fresh would not be the worst move for the Cards.

Buffalo (picking 8th): The Bills have 180’d on Ryan Fitzpatrick. They gave him a whole bunch of money, and now, as they miss the playoffs year…after year…after year, eventually, you too need to start fresh. I think Buffalo is actually a much more interesting scenario than Arizona because of the C.J. Spiller factor. What you would be doing is narrowing the playbook and focusing on the athleticism. Of course you will need to throw in the pocket at some point, but a Geno/Spiller/Fred Jackson combo could be something else to watch.

Other than that, everyone is either completely set, or delusionally set at QB (“delusionally set” is referring to teams who think they have it figured out but really sort of don’t…Jacksonville, Cleveland, the Jets, and coming soon, Oakland, because Carson Palmer is working…for now). At least the Bills and the Cards have made enough of a ruckus to make it known that they are not entirely satisfied with how things are going.

Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: I will say that unless the Chiefs talk themselves into Geno, Moore is the one guy I could see mixing into the top 3. Again, there’s a huge demand on pass rushers, and unlike franchise QBs, usually a few emerge as stars every year.

Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: People have been flip-flopping on who is the best edge rusher in the draft. Despite what people may say, the fact remains that it’s likely Moore and Werner both go in the top 5.

Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: While the pair of D-Ends are likely guys that teams will trade up to get a crack at, Fisher represents filling an actual need for the Eagles, with their line in complete shambles as Jason Peters tries to return this year from an Achilles injury.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: Seemingly corner is a need that Philly has had for the last decade. They struck out with Nnamdi Asomugha, and when he becomes a cap causality, the Eagles will again be looking for that elusive “shut down” corner they really haven’t had since Asante Samuel.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this isn’t exactly the best draft to be looking for offensive talent in the first round…in fact, this could be one of the worst of all time (there’s one or two QBs (Geno and perhaps Sean Glennon) who will go in the first round, maybe one RB (Eddie Lacy), and two or three WRs (Cordarelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, and Tavon Austin) who could go in the top 30-40 picks). With this lack of talent, I expect there to be a lot of trading towards the end of the first round (which has actually become somewhat of a norm, especially with the emergence lately of skill players taken at the end of the first or sometime in the second round).

So, as you will see, defense reigns supreme in the first round this year. Here’s how I think things will shape up right now. Of course none of this will go according to plan, but it’s a good way of seeing what teams need, the trends of the draft, etc.

Luke Joeckel
Texas A&M
Jarvis Jones
Star Lotulelei
Eric Fisher
Central Michigan
Bjoern Werner
Florida State
Damontre Moore
Texas A&M
Chance Warmack
Geno Smith
West Virginia
Ezekiel Ansah
Dee Milliner
Barkevious Mingo
Shariff Floyd
Lane Johnson
Kenny Vaccaro
Dion Jordan
Cordarelle Patterson
Jonathan Hankins
Ohio State
Sheldon Richardson
Alec Ogletree
Manti Te'o
Notre Dame
Datone Jones
Kevin Minter
Keenan Allen
Jonathan Banks
Mississippi State
Jonathan Cooper
North Carolina
Tyler Eifert
Notre Dame
Xavier Rhodes
Florida State
Desmond Trufant
Tavon Austin
West Virginia
Zach Ertz
Jonathan Jenkins
Sam Montgomery

*St. Louis gets the 22nd pick from the RG3 trade from last year

We’ll be back with more updates as the Combine continues this weekend. There’s still plenty of time for moving and shaking. Plus, free agency will begin shortly, so team needs will be changing by the day.

So that's about all I have for you right now. I will keep working on my draft reports, and also, I will be coming out with my annual fantasy baseball preview shortly. Take care everyone! Peace.