Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spring Training Do's and Don'ts

With the Grapefruit League under way, here are a few friendly reminders for navigating the beast that is spring training. These notes are applicable for fantasy baseball, reality baseball, and life in general...

Do: Pay attention to position battles and playing time (with a special emphasis on positional eligibility if you are a fantasy player.) Make sure your sleepers are set up to get regular at-bats, and watch out for platoon situations brewing!!!!

Don't: Pay attention to the stats for the first few weeks or fall in . Most pitchers are trying to locate fastballs and won't mix in many off-speed pitches until later. Veterans honestly don't care about spring training until about March 28th.... Also, younger position players typically start fast because they started workouts a week or two earlier and are looking to make a name for themselves. The fact that Brandon Allen is batting 1.000 means very little for your fantasy team. I promise.

Do: Enjoy the return of baseball after a grueling off season of scores, the crack of the bat, checking out the new faces on your team...

Don't: Believe the spring hype and optimism. Everyone is in the best shape of their life. Literally everyone had corrective eye surgery. Everyone throws a new pitch, and 90% of them or a cutter or a slurve that you will never see once the real games start. Everyone is feeling ten years younger and a step quicker. Everyone will lie to your face.

Do: Pay attention to manager's statements regarding the lineup or running philosophy. If Matheny says the Cardinals are going to run more often, watch for this in spring. If Ichiro is expected to bat 3rd, watch to see if he'll stick there.

Don't: Get carried away. It's a marathon not a sprint, and most of your draft preparation should be done by this point. Don't adjust your fantasy rankings daily and the only adjustments should be injuries/questions regarding playing time as stated above. Do not fret. Sit back and relax.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Shortstops

The shortstop position seems better than it has been the last few years due to power boosts from Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, and the emergence of Starlin Castro. There's seems to be a plateau after the first three, so if you don't jump in early you would be best served waiting for value later on. Also...Hanley Ramirez might be an incredible value this year, but I personally wouldn't touch him unless he falls in my lap. He doesn't seem to care at all about playing baseball it's hard to know how much of his talent will actually show up.

1. Troy Tulowitzki
1. Troy Tulowitzki
2. Jose Reyes
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Hanley Ramirez
3. Jose Reyes
4. Starlin Castro
4. Asdrubal Cabrera
5. Jimmy Rollins
5. Jimmy Rollins
6. Asdrubal Cabrera
6. Starlin Castro
7. JJ Hardy
7. Elvis Andrus
8. Elvis Andrus
8. Alexei Ramirez
9. Derek Jeter
9. J.J. Hardy
10. Alexei Ramirez
10. Jhonny Peralta
11. Jhonny Peralta
11. Derek Jeter
12. Stephen Drew
12. Dee Gordon

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Second Basemen

Good morning, baseball enthusiasts.  We are only a few short weeks away from Spring Training, and with March as the un-official beginning of the fantasy baseball draft season, let's get to the second basemen.  By the way, the second base position feels deeper that it has in the past, when it was sort-of "Chase Utley or bust!"  And as you will see in our (and some other experts) rankings, there is some instability regarding how all of these guys will filter out in 2012.  But this is how we do it (shout out to Montell Jordan):

1.      Robinson Cano
1.      Ian Kinsler
2.      Dustin Pedroia
2.      Robinson Cano
3.      Ian Kinsler
3.      Chase Utley
4.      Ben Zobrist
4.      Brandon Phillips
5.      Brandon Phillips
5.      Dan Uggla
6.      Michael Young
6.      Michael Cuddyer
7.      Dan Uggla
7.      Dustin Pedroia
8.      Rickie Weeks
8.      Michael Young
9.      Chase Utley
9.      Ben Zobrist
10.  Howie Kendrick
10.  Rickie Weeks
11.  Danny Espinosa
11.  Aaron Hill
12.  Aaron Hill
12.  Howie Kendrick

Some Quick Comments:  I'm really going against the grain by having Kinsler in the top spot rather than Cano.  In doing this, I'm betting (probably stupidly) that a guy who went 30-30 last year will have a relatively healthy season.  Cano is the safer play, but I think that Kinser is the better all-around fantasy player, when healthy (which I think he will be).

You can tell by our rankings, that I still think Utley has got it, placing him at #3, while ADR sees him a bit more in decline, dropping him to #9.  

Additionally, both of our top twelves feature guys who probably won't be seeing much, if any time at second base, but who will qualify there by virtue of last season--Michael Young (#6 for ADR and #8 for me) and Michael Cuddyer (#6 for me).  I actually think Cuddyer could be a tremendous value this year, especially if you've got him at second base, as he is moving from a pitchers park in Minnesota, to the rarefied air of Coors Field.  Wouldn't be surprised at all by 30 bombs and sneaky double-digit steals.

By the way, do you remember how it felt like Dan Uggla couldn't figure it out in Atlanta at the beginning of the season last year?  He still finished with 36 jacks.  Expect big things.    

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Pick to Click" Series: NL West

Diamondbacks: Justin Upton
  • I know, I know... He's already clicked. But I'm dreaming of another huge step forward, and your eventual National League MVP. How does a slash line of .309/.390/.560 with about 25 stolen bases sound? Good? Good.
Dodgers: Kenley Jansen
  • Honestly, this is everyone in the world's pick to click unless you're the mother of incumbent closer Javy Guerra. Even Guerra's mother is probably impressed by Jansen's k/9 rate from last year. For those of you who was 16.10!

Giants: Madison Bumgarner
  • I absolutely love his control...and 2011 peripherals don't indicate any type of fluke. 200 more solid innings...
  • I expect Bumgarner to be better than Tim Lincecum in 2012. In my book, Bumgarner gets slightly better and Lincecum regresses a bit more in 2012.
Padres: Edinson Volquez
  • Moving from a tiny ballpark to a huge ballpark will "cure what ails ya". This is especially true when you have particularly nasty stuff.
  • Volquez had trouble throwing strikes last year. However, he has so much movement on his pitches that he could build a ton of confidence by throwing to the middle of the plate in San Diego and seeing what happens. Once he figures out that the ball stays in the yard, he's going to look a lot more like the ace everyone in Cincinnati expected. (And might make the Latos trade look pretty silly in the process.)

Rockies: Tyler Colvin

  • The tough part will be getting enough plate appearances....but Tyler Colvin is sitting on a huge seaon, as soon as he ca get some regular playing time. The Coors effect will keep his average high enough so he stays in the lineup. I don't think .270 with 25 home runs is unreasonable.
  • Here's how I see it playing out: Casey Blake gets injured right away, Cuddyer moves to 3rd, and Colvin takes the job in left and starts mashing the ball. Worst case scenario......pencil in Colvin for a big year off the bench and a starting spot next year.

"Pick to Click" Series: AL Central

Sorry we haven't been posting frequently lately... We're back at it with our "Pick to Click" series in which wewill be looking at every team and naming a player that is our "pick to click."  When we say that we think a player is going to "click," what we mean is that we think he is going to have everything fall into place in 2012 for a season of unexpected, and perhaps unprecedented, success.  (By the way, if you are fantasy baseball enthusiasts, like we are, you might term these guys as "sleepers"... Do with the info what you will.)

Today, the American League Central teams!

Chicago White Sox

  • Pick to Click: Adam Dunn
  • A lot of folks think that Dunn fell of a cliff last year, never to return.  Keep in mind, though, that up until last year, this was a guy that was a picture of consistency, hitting 38+ home runs for seven straight years.  Dunn is going to come into 2012 looking tor prove to everyone that at age 32 (past-prime, but not dead yet...), he can still pull a tree out of the ground with his bare hands.  Remember also that Dunn is playing in one of the best power-hitter's parks in baseball.  Back when I made my "Twelve Bold Predictions for 2012," I said I thought Dunn would "lead the majors in home runs."  I see no reason to change that prediction.  Adam Dunn... Pick to Click!

Cleveland Indians

  • Pick to Click: Grady Sizemore
  • Oh, Grady!  Why can't I quit you?  It seems like so long ago that you were the epitome of the perfect five-tool major league player... But this is the last time I'm betting on you... I swear... As a free agent this past offseason, Grady turned down potential multi-year contracts to sign a one-year deal.  Which means only one thing: he believes he can dramatically increase his value with a big year this year.  Grady is betting his financial future on 2012, so he must be relatively healthy and ready to roll.  The Indians, for one, expect him to be a full-time starter.   (Maybe you can tell I'm trying to talk myself into this one...)  Grady Sizemore... Pick to Click!

Detroit Tigers

  • Pick to Click: Max Scherzer 
  • Though he feels like he has been around for a while, Max is still only 27 years old.  A talented pitcher with annually high strikeout rates (8.03 last year), Scherzer has struggled with consistency, vacillating back and forth between being unhittable, and a meatball.  So why do I think this is the year he figures it out?  Call it a gut feeling, I guess.  Though not quite as dominant, Scherzer reminds me in some respects of his teammate Justin Verlander of a couple years ago, another high talent pitcher who struggled with consistency.  Verlander's big breakthrough season happened at age 27.  Max Scherzer... Pick to Click!
Kansas City Royals

  • Pick to Click: Eric Hosmer
  • Eric Hosmer is going to be a superstar.  He is going to be a stud this year, and is only going to get more studly every year for the next 5-8 years.  In terms of comparison, think of Hosmer as a young Joey Votto (really young... only 22!)  This former top prospect graduated to the bigs in 2011, and came out with a bang, posting a slash line of .293/.334/.465, while dropping 19 bombs and swiping 11 bases.  Look for all of those numbers to get better in 2012--I'm expecting at least a .300 average, 25 jacks, and 10-15 stolen bases.  The power numbers will continue to grow, as Hosmer develops physically.  Eric Hosmer... Pick to Click! (2012-2015)

Minnesota Twins

  • Pick to Click: Joe Mauer
  • Since he broke into the Major League in 2004, do you know how many times Mauer has hit under .290?  Once.  Since he broke into the Major League in 2004, do you know how many times Mauer has slugged under .400?  Once.  Both of those incidents occurred last year, in an injury-plagued season.  I still believe in Joe as an elite big-league hitter, and I think there are a number of factors that form a perfect storm that will validate his appearance in all those Head and Shoulders commercials.  (1) Unlike last year, Mauer will be entering 2012 healthy.  Before the 2011 season, Mauer had arthroscopic knee surgery, and tried to come back too quickly, causing lingering problems throughout the season.  Now, however, Mauer has told reporters that he feels as if his knee, and rest of his body, are back to 100%.  (2) In order to keep him healthy, the Twins will look to avoid overworking him behind the plate, giving Joe some playing time at first base and designated hitter. (3) Mauer began a big-money, long-term contract last year with a dud of a season, and will likely come into 2012 feeling as if he has something to prove with his home town team.  (4) There has long been a recognition that age 27 is something of a magical age for peak offensive performance.  Mauer missed much of his age 27 season last year, so I'm betting that spike in production has just been delayed until his age 28 season--this year.  I'm not necessarily expecting enormous power numbers from Joe, playing in power-suppressing Target Field, but I am otherwise expecting big time offensive production.  Joe Mauer... Pick to Click!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve First Basemen

This year’s crop of first basemen offers a lot of intriguing youngsters… it will be interesting to see which ones emerge as legit fantasy producers. (Neither list even includes the likes of Ike Davis, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Mat Gamel, Justin Smoak, Mark Trumbo, or Paul Goldshmidt). There is a lot of potential value here if you can grab the right guys for cheap early on. ***Bonus points if you grab a young one that starts out hot and then flip him for a more valuable first baseman later on.



1. Miguel Cabrera

1. Miguel Cabrera

2. Albert Pujols

2. Adrian Gonzalez

3. Adrian Gonzalez

3. Albert Pujols

4. Joey Votto

4. Prince Fielder

5. Mark Texiera

5. Joey Votto

6. Prince Fielder

6. Mark Texiera

7. Lance Berkman

7. Lance Berkman

8. Paul Konerko

8. Paul Konerko

9. Michael Morse

9. Adam Lind

10. Eric Hosmer

10. Eric Hosmer

11. Adam Lind

11. Michael Morse

12. Mitch Moreland

12. Adam Dunn

A few quick comments:

-You’ll notice that Miguel Cabrera got a boost due to his third base eligibility and new partner in crime, Prince Fielder. However, Fielder takes a plunge because of moving from a great hitter’s park to the unfriendly dimensions of Comerica Park. According to Hit Tracker, NINE of Prince’s home runs in Milwaukee from last year would not have left the ballpark in Detroit. (Thanks to Fantasy Focus podcast for that tidbit.)

-AG has Adam Dunn at #12. That’s a great pick. You can’t find 35+ homer upside this late in a draft…..unless a player is coming off one of the strangest and worst seasons of all time. AG and I both fully expect a bounce back for Dunn, and there’s no harm in taking a flier.

-And my #12….Mitch Moreland?? He’s still only 26, and what if Nolan Ryan was onto something when he passed on Fielder and said…..”No thanks, we really like Moreland.” (I was going to ask Nolan whether or not he was serious about these comments but then I remembered that video of him beating the crap out of Robin Ventura. I’m going to take him at his word.) In addition, Moreland plays in a launching pad, and will be stationed toward the back of one of the most potent lineups in baseball. Lastly, he hit some of the longest home runs of 2011, so you know the power is there if he can show it consistently.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Catchers

Good afternoon, friends.  Sorry for the long layover between posts.  We were caught in the McD's drive-through behind the Detroit Tigers corner infielders (Wocka Wocka! Ok...sorry...)  Anyhow, let's not waste anymore time!  Here are our Top Twelve Catcher rankings for 2012:



1. Matt Wieters

1. Mike Napoli

2. Mike Napoli

2. Brian McCann

3. Brian McCann

3. Carlos Santana

4. Carlos Santana

4. Buster Posey

5. Joe Mauer

5. Joe Mauer

6. Buster Posey

6. Matt Wieters

7. Miguel Montero

7. Miguel Montero

8. Yadier Molina

8. J.P. Arencebia

9. Jesus Montero

9. Jesus Montero

10. Russell Martin 

10. Alex Avila

11. Geovany Soto

11. Yadier Molina

12. Wilson Ramos

12. Russell Martin

A Few Quick Comments: Overall, the field at catcher seems to be noticeably deeper than it has in recent years.  I remember in recent years feeling as if I needed to try for one of the top three or four guys, or forget about it, because there was such a steep drop-off.  This year, however, I would honestly be fine going into the season with any of my top twelve.  In terms of draft strategy, that means I'm not reaching (or overpaying, in an auction setting) for a catcher.  I have my guys I'd like to get, but only if they fall to me at my price.  

ADR has Wieters in his top spot.  I like Wieters, but not quite that much.  Though maybe this is the breakout year everyone has been waiting for... I've got Napoli there because last year he hit 30 home runs in 432 at-bats, and I'm betting this year the Rangers find a lineup spot for him everyday after he was one out away from being the World Series MVP.  Remember that opposite field bomb he hit off Carpenter in the World Series? Yikes!  

ADR has two players in his top twelve that aren't in mine:  Geovany Soto and Wilson Ramos.  In their places, I've got J.P. Arencebia and Alex Avila.  A lot of folks are down on J.P. because of the batting average, but the guy mashes in a very potent lineup, and held a decent batting average most of his minor league career.  

We both have Jesus Montero in the nine spot.  Even though he plays in power-suppressing Safeco Field, he has the offensive pedigree that could very easily jump him to the top of the rankings.  Then again, he could be a huge bust.  Someone will roll the dice... And speaking of roll the dice, Joe Mauer is scary this year!  He is a tremendous player, in his prime, IF he is able to stay healthy.   

Anyhow, we'd love to interact further on our rankings in the "comments" section below, so post away!

Up next, Top Twelve First Baseman!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Transaction Reaction: Prince Fielder

The Detroit Tigers paid $214 million for 9 years of mash potential and androgyny. I tried to pay an artist for a rendering of Prince wearing a Tigers uniform, but it was hard to make out with all of the purple sequins and whatnot.... so I asked the artist to stop. All that to say, I paid a guy $17 to be the artist who was formerly going to draw Prince.
  • This signing seems like a great story, right? Prince Fielder returns to Detroit where his father Cecil played, and where he grew up taking batting practice as a young boy. Quite a fairy tale. Here's the real story....all that happened, AND THEN his dad started gambling and didn't stop until he had run through his entire career's major league earnings and started stealing from Prince later in life. The two are not on speaking terms, so it strikes me as odd that Prince would want to draw these comparisons. However, I can think of 214 million reasons he might bury the hatchet and embrace his father's legacy in Detroit.
  • At least from the Tiger's perspective it makes sense, right? Nope. In baseball, the rosters have only enough room for MAYBE two overweight players on each team, assuming they are both good enough to play regularly. The Detroit Tigers already have THREE other fatties under team control for two years or more, and all of them are good enough to play everyday. Victor Martinez is a DH who is injured this year, but will be paid handsomely for 2012 and 2013 when he comes back healthy. Alex Avila is a good young player, but one that is big enough that he can only play catcher or DH. Miguel Cabrera is notorious for his incredible performance and his weight. He can only reasonably play first. (Breaking news: The Tigers have just said Miguel Cabrera will be moved to third base to make room for Prince. Just for context, Miguel was very bad at first base....which is approximately 50 times easier and less athletic than third base.)
  • So, it appears that the Tigers have dramatically added to their offense by subtracting from their defense in TWO different spots (1st base and 3rd base, because Prince is even worse than Cabrera!) Their reward for this maneuver is a bill for $214 million dollars, and a very pissed off Justin Verlander. This honestly might end up being the worst defensive infield ever created.
  • Lastly, if the Tigers are expecting Prince to play baseball similar to how his father used to, wouldn't they pay attention to how his father aged? Cecil was a beast until age 32 when he hit 39 home runs, and then his production fell off a cliff. He was so terrible that he was out of baseball completely by age 34. Fangraphs ran an article in October regarding how "heavy" players age. Prince is 27 now, and the results of the article definitely do not support a 9-year deal. According to the Fangraphs analysis, heavy players peak at age 23 or 24 and decline quickly. By the age of 31-32, most heavy sluggers have lost more than 30% of their production.... At the age of 33, Prince will still have 4 years left on his deal and the Tigers will owe him approximately $100 million dollars. Do you know how many Raspberry Berets that could buy???? This is an exciting deal for Tigers fans for 2012....but let's check back with them in 2017.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Overall

Good morning, friends. Recently, ADR and I were talking about the upcoming 2012 fantasy baseball season (we both love fantasy baseball, by the way), and were discussing some stupid rankings given by the so-called fantasy baseball "experts." In the course of our conversation, we decided that we should be fantasy "experts," and just like that, it happened. We are now fantasy baseball "experts." (Seriously... I think that's all it takes...) In fact, we are already in the process of having "Fantasy Baseball Expert" business cards printed up. Anyhow, given our new expert status, ADR and I will be posting fantasy baseball articles in addition to our normal baseball commentary.

More specifically, beginning this week we will releasing our series of "Top Twelves," as we give first our Top Twelve overall for 2012, and then our position-by-position top twelves, all of which will be a part of our Hottest Stove 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. (We are going with twelve, by the way, because that should cover both ten and twelve team leagues.)

Now, if for some reason you are not into fantasy baseball (which, I think, you really should be...), no need to fret, because in addition to our fantasy baseball content, we will be continuing with our "Pick to Click" Series, and regular baseball musings.

With all that being said, here are our Top Twelve Overall Rankings:



1. Matt Kemp

1. Jose Bautista

2. Jose Bautista

2. Matt Kemp

3. Albert Pujols

3. Miguel Cabrera

4. Troy Tulowitzki

4. Adrian Gonzalez

5. Miguel Cabrera

5. Albert Pujols

6. Adrian Gonzalez

6. Troy Tulowitzki

(This is where Ryan Braun goes for me if he beats the P.E.D. rap)

7. Justin Upton

7. Evan Longoria

8. Curtis Granderson

8. Justin Upton

9. Prince Fielder

9. Prince Fielder (Because he hasn’t signed yet, this is a team-neutral ranking. If he signs with Texas, I bump him up to #3. If he signs with Seattle, I drop him out of the Top 12.)

10. Robinson Cano

10. Roy Halladay

11. Matt Holliday

11. Joey Votto

12. Jose Reyes

12. Robinson Cano

A Few Quick Comments: People can always squabble with first round orders, but frankly its hard to miss with any of these guys. That's why they are being taken in the first round of fantasy drafts. There few notable differences between ADR and I. While we agree on the first two guys (Bautista and Kemp), we have them flip-flopped. Pujols, who has long been #1 overall has dropped in both of our rankings. Granderson, Holliday, and Reyes, whom ADR has in his Top Twelve, do not appear in mine. In their place, I have Longoria, Halladay--the only pitcher in either Top Twelve, and Votto. The only spot that we both have exactly the same is the Purple Rain at #9.

By the way, either of us are happy to defend our respective rankings in the comments section below. Up next, the Top Twelve Catchers!