Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thoughts on Fantasy Baseball

I've got the first of my two fantasy drafts coming up on Monday night. First and foremost, I admit that I am a total obsessive in regards to fantasy baseball. I cannot get enough. Secondly, well there is no secondly. My annual fantasy baseball draft for my daily, roto league is consistently one of my favorite moments of each year. My Monday draft is for a weekly H2H league that I am doing this year and my first time doing it with that group of guys. It will be good, but has nothing on my "real" draft which happens on Saturday, 3/29. (And BTW, next Saturday after my draft I have a bachelor party to attend. Is there a better possible Man-Day than that?)

So why am I telling you all this? To talk endlessly about my team? No, I wouldn't do that to you. Instead, I want to give you a list of a few players that I really like this year. Nope, I won't pull a Brandon Funston and tell you that A-Rod should have a big year. Instead I'm going to give out a few guys who I thik will outperform their common "rankings" by preseason fantasy sites.

1) Bobby Abreu
This is my big one here. From most rankings I have seen, Abreu is placed in the mid 40s-late 50s range. This seems about right upon face value. However, when considering that he will hit between 15-20 homers, steal about 25 bases, score 120+ runs, and probably drive in 100+ all while hitting in the .280 range with a high OBP (if that counts in your league like it does in mine) it seems to me like he is an absolute steal in the 5th or 6th round. Believe me, I understand how maddening the guy can be with his streaks - a proud owner of him from last year - but his skill set is so relatively unique that he can carry your team for long stretches when he is going well. Believe you me when I say that if he is still on the board when I'm making my 5th round pick I will absolutely be drafting him.

2) Nick Swisher
Swisher has been popping up in the 100-115 range from what I can see which seems about right on face value. However, he will be hitting in the heart of what could be a very good Chicago offense along with Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye and he is moving from an extreme pitcher's park to an extreme hitter's park.

Last year was supposed to be his big breakout but it did not happen. This year, I think is his time. If he goes for 35/120 this year I really would not be shocked. Sign me up for him in the 10/11 round range.

3) Chone Figgins/Brian Roberts
Well these guys are not really sleepers and both are ranked about where they should be - in the 40s per most sites. However, these two guys are two guys that I am absolutely going to go after because these are guys that can get you 40-50 steals and help out in other categories that you will be able to draft after the first two or three rounds. Once Ichiro is off the board, these guys are really it as far as I am concerned for high steals guys that won't kill you in other categories. That's also my cardinal rule for drafting offensive players - adopted after a few months of suffering through Juan Pierre - do not draft a steals only guy on offense; instead draft a number of guys that will get you 15-25 steals along with other categories, not one that will get you 60+ but nothing else. And that is why I love Figgins and Roberts so much. They'll get you the huge steals numbers but also help you in other categories. And they'll give you the steals from an infield position! What's not to love?! Oh, and PS,I hate drafting outfielders without power.

4) Aaron Harang/Javier Vazquez
I love starting pitchers that strike out a high amount of players while keeping their WHIP down. Both of these guys fit the bill. As long as they make 30 starts, they are each a shoo-in to K 200+. Once all the big name pitchers are off the board, these guys are the next great get.

5) Lastings Milledge
Here is a guy I am probably going to "reach" for in the 20th round or so. My thought process here is that just a few years ago, this guy was to be the centerpiece of the Manny Ramirez trade. Then, he does a few stupid things on the Mets, cuts a rap album, and all of a sudden he's getting traded to the Nats for a fourth outfieler and a crappy catcher. Um, okay. It's not like he had a precipitous skill decline, murdered a prostitute, or started soliciting sex at the Boys Club in Queens, it's just that he somehow fell out of favor with his team for being kind of an idiot. Whatever. He could easily be a 25/25 guy if he gets his act together this year. Or he could be a lot worse. Who cares though. after the 17th or 18th round you've got to roll the dice on people. There's always good waiver wire fodder anyway if the guy is a bust. For some reason I don't think he will be though. Count me as the captain of the Lastings Milledge Bandwagon.

Two Big Name Players That You'll Need to Draft Relatively Early but Should Bounce-back Big Time:

1) Manny Ramirez
It's really tough to call Manny a sleeper, but I can certainly see the circumstance where everybody is scared off of him after his mediocre - for him - campaign last year. Sure, it could be a harbinger of things to come. Or it could be that like he said he never felt comfortable last year until the postseason when you may recall him crushing the ball for the month of October. Whatever the risk, I'm rolling the dice with Manny. I just love the guy too much to let him pass if he is on the board in the late third or early fourth round. Plus, he seems legitimately happy this year to be playing baseball and playing baseball in Boston. Shouldn't that count for something good? I'd like to think yes.

2) Lance Berkman
I should hate Lance Berkman with every fiber of my being. You see, last year at my draft I ended up making a last second switch and took Lance Berkman over the guy I wanted to draft with my pick in the round all along, Matt Holiday. Berkman of course has a down year, Holliday wins the MVP, and that decision most likely cost me first place in my league. It still haunts me. No matter though. I think Berkman is bouncing back this year with a 40/130 year, and if you get that out of a third round pick then you are doing really well for yourself. I know it's not like he's a "steal" going that early but you should be getting an early to mid second round player at the end of the third round, and early in the draft getting that extra push from your third round pick is always a nice plus.

OK, so there you have it. I'll give you the lowdown, post draft on Tuesday. You probably don't care that much but I'll want to do it so you may not have a choice. Sorry. If you're lucky you may even hear about my fantasy basketball team which has made my eyes tear up and swell with pride all winter long.

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