Phantasy Impact: “Keepers, Sleepers and Weepers”

March 11, 2009
There are whispers that Matt Kemp could be baseballs next 40/40 guy (Malingering/Flickr).

There are whispers that Matt Kemp could be baseball's next 40/40 guy (Malingering/Flickr).

Last season I began a series entitled “Phantasy Impact” where I would discuss, well you guessed it, fantasy baseball. Clever title I know.

I received a lot of feedback from readers that they enjoyed it and so I decided to bring it back again for 2009. This year won’t be as sticky for me since my main league is a dynasty league and I won’t have to worry about tipping off any of my draft secrets. So I can share with you whilst not showing my hand to the league. Everybody wins.

Normally this series will cover a main fantasy article along with people you should add, drop or keep an eye on as well as other little tips and tricks of the trade that hopefully will help you win your league. Or at the very least help you beat your rival team so you can rub it in their face. Think of it as a consolation prize.

To start off our fantasy coverage I figured I’d give everyone a list of players I love and hate and players I think are ready for breakouts or breakdowns. I hope you enjoy this and if you feel so inclined, share your fantasy rosters or draft day wins in the comments section below.

Let’s do this.

The Keepers/Sleepers (who I love and think will shine)

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: No, not the psychotic Adam Jones with the goofy nickname, this Adam Jones actually has a lot of potential. Jones was thrust into a spot last season and given a chance to run. While his numbers weren’t captivating, he learned a lot. I see Jones taking the next step and possibly reaching his 20/20 status. Plus he’s working with Brian Roberts on his steals. Not a bad mentor.

In the Red Sox 17 man rotation, Lester is the true ace (keithallisonphoto.com)

In the Red Sox 17 man rotation, Lester is the true ace (keithallisonphoto.com)

Jon Lester, P, Red Sox: This man right here is Boston’s real ace. Look for him to take the reigns in 2009 with 15+ wins and an ERA hovering above 3.

Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: It’s funny no one knows who he is since he’s not flashy and plays on a bad team. He’ll give you .295/20/80 at a shallow position. Remember the name. Draft the name.

Xavier Nady, OF, Yankees: Want to know who is going to benefit most from A-Rod’s boo-boo? Yup, this guy. Nady will most likely get bumped up in the order and is their second best offensive weapon after Tex. I’m looking at a .300/25/100 year from him if he doesn’t lose time due to the old guys getting play in the outfield (which I don’t see happening). I really hope he gets dealt at some point since I like him and hate the Yanks.

Gil Meche/Zack Greinke, P, Royals: Meche over Greinke, but both pitchers quietly had fantastic years last season for a mediocre team. Now that the Royals are better, these two will be better in turn. You’ll get wins, ERA and K’s which are extremely valuable.

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: I liked him BEFORE Manny signed, but I LOVE him after (that’s a lot of capitals so you know I mean business). He has grown a lot and now doesn’t have the weight of the team on his shoulders with Manny in town. He will he give you a 30/30 season (with 40/40 potential someday) and a .300 average. He’s a stud and to prove my dedication to him, I just completed a trade in my dynasty league for him. I can’t afford to be wrong!

Travis Snider/Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Both are young. Both are Blue Jay outfielders. Both will give you a .280 average, 20 homers and 80+ RBI this year. Both are awesome. That’s all.

Alexei Ramirez, 2B, White Sox: Second base is a very shallow position and Ramirez had a very impressive start to his career last season. I personally don’t see him getting much better that his nice line last season, but I don’t see him getting worse either.

Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Should automatically be taken after Hanley and Reyes are off the board. No questions asked. If you draft Jeter over him you should have your fantasy card taken away from you. .310/25/80 is realistic. Plus he’s not a wuss like his brother.

Francisco Liriano/Scott Baker/Kevin Slowey/Nick Blackburn/Glen Perkins, P, Twins: In that order. I’ve said it before, I see Liriano competing for the Cy Young this year and Baker putting up 16+ wins. All have the potential to have double digits in wins and below 4 ERAs. One of the best top to bottom rotations in baseball.

Giambi has his smile back now that hes back home in Oakland (scatterbrained/Flickr).

Giambi has his smile back now that he's back home in Oakland (scatterbrained/Flickr).

Jason Giambi, 1B, A’s: In case you don’t get a first baseman until late, he’s a great option. He’s back home in Oakland and out of New York. How could that hurt him?

Chris Davis, 1B, Rangers: Another guy who not many people really realize how good he’s going to be. He’ll give you 30+ homers and 100+ RBI. Plus he’ll be eligible at both first and third base. Love him.

Ricky Nolasco/Josh Johnson/Chris Volstad, P, Marlins: They will be pitching their club into the post season. Will they do the same for your team? If you draft them they will.

Rich Harden, P, Cubs: Damn it, one of these years he’ll stay healthy. When he is, he’s a top five pitcher in baseball. Take a chance as he’ll drop pretty low.

Yovani Gallardo, P, Brewers: In the next couple of years you’ll be debating whether to take him or Lincecum. He’s that good and some people are afraid to draft him due to his injury last season. An injury to his non-driving knee from a freak accident. Thankfully people are dumb which enables the rest of us to get players like this.

Manny Parra, P, Brewers: I somehow was able to add him as a free agent this off season. He’ll get you some wins and will get you a lot more strikeouts.

The Upton Brothers, OF, Diamondbacks/Rays: Look out kids, they are ready to pop. Justin will give you 25+ homers with increased plate discipline and BJ will give you 40+ stolen bases with increased power.

David DeJesus, OF, Royals: You probably think I’m nuts for this one and are ready to close your browser, but wait! He’s not going to explode for any ridiculous numbers, but if you are in a deep league and need some depth in the outfield, this guy will give you a .300ish average, double digits in homers and stolen bases as well as 120+ runs created. Sure that’s not going to make the papers, but wouldn’t you want a guy like this on your team to fill the gaps?

The Weepers (players I’m not fond of and will disappoint)

Cliff Lee, P, Indians: Do you really see Lee putting up 22 wins and posting a 2.54 ERA again? I sure don’t. I’m not saying he’s not a good pitcher, but he’s not 22 wins good, more like 14 or so. Plus I’m annoyed with him for wussing out and faking an injury for list last start of the season just so he could keep his ERA crown. Pretty low if you ask me.

Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: When Bradley’s healthy, he’s an incredible hitter. The problem is he’s never healthy and I don’t see how a move to the NL where he will be forced to play in the field everyday will be a good thing. He’ll hit .330 this year but you won’t get 100 games out of him so draft him with caution.

Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets: Blah.

Gavin Floyd, P, White Sox: Talk about lucky. This guy somehow skirted by last season with stuff that got hit around a lot. I don’t see him doing anything this year other than getting crushed all over the place. Stay away especially if your league counts WHIP.

Perfect example of someone drafted based on their name (keithallisonphoto.com).

Perfect example of someone drafted based on their name (keithallisonphoto.com).

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: I just don’t get why people continue to draft him so high every year. The only thing he brings to the table is batting average and even that has been on a steady decline (he’ll hit .280 this year). I don’t like him and I think he is an overrated fantasy player and an overrated baseball player. I hate Derek Jeter. There I said it.

Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals: Ugh, a guy who will get you double digits in homers but hit in the low .200’s. Might as well throw Richie Sexson out there.

AJ Burnett, P, Yankees: Chronically injuried. A ton of money. Small market pitcher to the biggest market of them all. This has disaster written all over it. Wasn’t Mike Hampton available?

Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: Bad signing for the Giants, bad draft pick for you. He’ll get you a .265 average with 8 homers.

Jon Garland, P, Diamondbacks: See Gavin Floyd.

Travis “Pronk” Hafner, DH, Indians: Plagued by injury and a loss of power. I don’t like using the “s” word to accuse players but it seems fitting here of someone who was on it and is now off it. I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with “pteroids.”

Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees: The only reason I say Swisher is because he doesn’t seem to have anywhere to play. The outfield is overcrowded by big names and big contracts and first base is out of the question now since the Tex signing. It’s like they signed him and then forgot about it until after their spending spree. I honestly can’t predict any stats for him because I don’t know how often he will see action and it’s too bad. Maybe he can learn third base to fill in for The Liar until his return.

Is Ortiz still a fantasy All-Star? Not really (Amado Deras/Flickr).

Is Ortiz still a fantasy All-Star? Not really (Amado Deras/Flickr).

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: For starters, I don’t know how healthy he’ll be. But the main reason is his numbers are declining and is only eligible at DH. Most leagues use a utility position over a DH spot so really you can plug anyone in there. Another guy not to draft too high.

Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves: I honestly can’t tell you if he remembers how to hit or not. He could hit a line of .220/.290/.350 with 10 homers and 60 RBI just as easily as he could hit .280/.330/.450 with 30 homers and 100 RBI. The problem is I don’t think there’s much of a happy medium here and it will be one extreme or another. Let’s hope it’s not another Andruw Jones situation. Speaking of…

Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: I know some of you are trying to catch lightening in a bottle, but look elsewhere because his career is done. He can’t hit anything at the plate as his approach has gone from bad to worse. You won’t see him in the majors this season so don’t waste the roster spot.

Any Detroit Tigers Pitchers: I don’t like any of their starters and I don’t like any of their relievers. Don’t agree? Prove me wrong. Good luck as not one has done anything in the past year and a half worth owning. Go on, try it.

Barry Zito, P, Giants: Because a.) he sucks and b.) he is/was dating Paris Hilton. I honestly don’t know which reason is a better one for you to keep him off your team. But either works.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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2009 Preview: AL Starting Pitchers

February 26, 2009
Halladay looks to continue his AL East dominance (ben lei/Flickr).

Halladay looks to continue his AL East dominance (ben lei/Flickr).

In my continuing quest to preview the 2009 season, today’s edition will take a look at the top five pitchers in the American League. Not only will this help preview the upcoming season, but also is a nice little fantasy baseball preview if you have an upcoming draft (or as we call it here, “Phantasy Impact”). Below you will find the top five pitchers ranked along with their 2008 stats, my projections for their 2009 stats, a condensed scouting report of mine and a last word on each. As always please share your thoughts on this list or a ranking of your own in the comments section.

[1] C.C. Sabathia, LHP – New York Yankees
2008 Stats: 17-10, 2.70 ERA, 251 K, 1.11 WHIP
2009 Projections: 19-8, 3.55 ERA, 215 K, 1.18 WHIP
Scouting Report: Sabathia has a monstrous, imposing physical presence on the mound. He comes at hitters with a high 3/4 arm action with a slight hesitation in the middle of his delivery. Hides the ball well and unleashes a bevy of pitches including a fasatball (92-96 mph) with good life, a sliding-cutter he jams in on righties, a slurve to lefties and a circle change with an arm speed similar to his fastball. A workhorse that is an ace of aces.
Last Word: Despite having pitched over 500 innings over the past two years combined, Sabathia doesn’t seem to be the type to slow down. I don’t think he will tire out but his stats won’t be quite a strong as he leaves the AL/NL Central and moves to the very powerful AL East where he will have to contend with the lineups of Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto. He is an incredible competitor and can handle the Big Apple and the sideshow that is the Yankees.

[2] Roy Halladay, RHP – Toronto Blue Jays
2008 Stats: 20-11, 2.78 ERA, 206 K, 1.05 WHIP
2009 Projections: 18-9, 3.18 ERA, 198 K, 1.10 WHIP
Scouting Report: Halladay has a smooth, repeatable delivery with a low 3/4 arm slot. He has incredible command of his pitches including a low-90’s tailing fastball, very original change up and a tight curve with a huge bite that can be thrown at any point in the count. Halladay is a workhorse who has thrived in the toughest division in baseball for many, many years.
Last Word: The American League East was Halladay’s division until the Yankees brought in Sabathia. Now Sabathia is the best of the best and it’s up to Halladay to prove otherwise. He has thrown over 220 innings each of the past three years so some worry about his stability. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to worry, so let’s just assume he’ll be the same Halladay we have come to know and love.

[3] Francisco Liriano, LHP – Minnesota Twins
2008 Stats: 6-4, 3.91 ERA, 67 K, 1.39 WHIP
2009 Projections: 20-6, 2.75 ERA, 225 K, 1.10 WHIP
Scouting Report: Liriano is a strong, athletic lefty with a high 3/4 arm angle. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery from back in 2006 and this year looks to recover his same dominant stuff from back then. He showed signs of it last season and holds an arsenal of a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, a hard, slanted slider with bite that hitters can’t touch. His return last year saw his pitch quality and command return.
Last Word: With the amount of time passed since his surgery, Liriano should see his success really start returning this season. It usually takes about a year and a half to start really seeing your pitches return and that’s right about where we are. The only reason he isn’t ranked higher is that the two above him have been more consistent. With how good the Twins rotation is, this right here is their ace and will return to the top of his game in 2009. Look for a serious Cy Young calibur season.

[4] John Lackey, RHP – Los Angeles Angels
2008 Stats: 12-5, 3.75 ERA, 130 K, 1.23 ERA
2009 Projections: 15-11, 3.50 ERA, 170 K, 1.26 WHIP
Scouting Report: Lackey has a sound delivery with a loose 3/4 arm action. He possess an 89-92 mph fastball with good late life that cuts in on lefties, a sharp, late-biting slider and a tight sweeping curveball. Has the ability to throw his breaking stuff at any point in the count. Unlike most, he tends to change speeds off his curveball rather than his change.
Last Word: Lackey isn’t as exciting as Sabathia, as reliable as Halladay or as sexy as Liriano, but he is a very consistent pitcher who will get the job done. Missed the first six weeks of the season last year with a tricep injury, but looks to return to form in 2009 as the ace of the Angels. And with the lack of offense they will provide him, he will need to be on top of his game.

[5] Felix Hernandez, RHP – Seattle Mariners
2008 Stats: 9-11, 3.45 ERA, 175 K, 1.39 WHIP
2009 Projections: 16-11, 3.10 ERA, 190 K, 1.30 WHIP
Scouting Report: Hernandez has an incredible arm and dominating, electric stuff. He attacks hitters with an over the top arm action with an arsenal including a two and four seam fastball (92-97 mph), a powerful slider, two different curves and a well placed change. Uses his four seamer as his predominant strikeout pitch. Has been wildly inconsistent and hasn’t lived up to the “King” billing he received as a rookie. For some reason he doesn’t seem to get up for the lesser teams as he does for the best in the league. Needs to change that before becoming elite.
Last Word: I don’t know what Hernandez’s problem is, but he needs to find his competitive side and unleash it. When he faces the tough teams he comes guns blazing but when he faces the bottom of the barrel it’s almost as if he, as much as I don’t want to say it, doesn’t try as hard. Has the weapons to be one of the best but will struggle to get run support with the anemic Seattle offense.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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2009 Preview: Baseball’s Top Bullpens

February 21, 2009
Where do the Twins and baseballs best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Where do the Twins and baseball's best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Often the most overlooked part of a team’s success is also often the most valuable. In this case, it’s usually the bullpen.

The bullpen isn’t as sexy as a powerful or fast lineup and it’s not as glamorous as a dominating rotation. But in this day in age where starting pitchers have become coddled and pitch fewer innings each game, bullpens have had to get 9-12 outs per game now and having it loaded with reliable arms is more important than ever.

With that being said, I figured the best way to start our 2009 Preview series (one of this site’s most popular series) is to take a look at the top five bullpens in all of baseball.

[5] Chicago Cubs
With the Cubs not bringing back their closer Kerry Wood, the spot has been seemingly opened up for hard throwing right hander, Carlos Marmol. But the winter addition of Florida Marlins closer Kevin Gregg has added some competition for the ninth inning gig. These two will battle this spring, one with power on his side and the other with experience, with the winner getting the nod from skipper Lou Pinella. Don’t be surprised if Gregg wins this job with Pinella’s track record favoring veterans. Also make sure to keep an eye on the youngster Jeff Samardzija this season as he could be the closer in the making.
Closer: Kevin Gregg (R)/Carlos Marmol (R)
Set-up: Carlos Marmol (R)/Kevin Gregg (R)
Impact Arm: Jeff Samardzija (R)
The Rest: Aaron Heilman (R), Luis Vizcaino (R), Neal Cotts (L), Chad Gaudin (R)

[4] Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard not to put these guys in the top five considering they had one of the best set-up men in baseball (Ryan Madson) and a closer who was perfect right up until the final pitch of the World Series (Brad Lidge) last season. Lidge seems to have gotten over the Pujols shot heard round the world that seemingly crushed his confidence back in the 2005 NLCS and was able to become the most reliable closer in the game. The Phillies had inklings of making Madson a starter until he became an indispensable 8th inning guy. The Phillies pulled in the number four spot even without the cheater JC Romero who won’t be back until mid season due to his suspension.
Closer: Brad Lidge (R)
Set-up: Ryan Madson (R)
Impact Arm: JC Romero (L) (if he’s still good without the juice)
The Rest: Chad Durbin (R), Scott Eyre (L), Clay Condrey (R), Adam Eaton (R)

[3] New York Mets
I haven’t had too many kind words for the choke artists over the years, but I will say they have put together a pretty good bullpen. Going out and getting the best closer available in Francisco Rodriguez was something they had to do with Billy Wagner being out for a long, long time. Then they went out and acquired another solid closer in JJ Putz to be their set-up man. Pretty good start. I do however have a bad feeling about Rodriguez. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just have the feeling Rodriguez is on the verge of completely burning out. His strikeout total took a big drop last and I just don’t know how much longer he has as an elite closer. His 62 saves last season was miraculous but I see troubles possibly late this season.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (R)
Set-up: JJ Putz (R)
Impact Arm: JJ Putz (R)
The Rest: Pedro Feliciano (L), Sean Green (R), Bobby Parnell (R), Duaner Sanchez (R)

[2] Minnesota Twins
Those on the outside looking in may not be very impressed with the Twins’ bullpen. Granted they don’t have the big arms they once had (Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek, etc), they do have some good young arms that can hold their own. They have Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain ready to take the 7th and 8th innings as well as newly added Luis Ayala available to get hitters out. But the impact arm may be left handed rookie Jose Mijares who had a spectacular September call up last season posting a 0.87 ERA and 0.29 WHIP in 10 games and holding hitters to a .088 batting average. Oh and there’s always that Nathan guy who happens to be the best closer in baseball.
Closer: Joe Nathan (R)
Set-up: Jesse Crain (R)
Impact Arm: Jose Mijares (L)
The Rest: Matt Guerrier (R), Craig Breslow (L), Luis Ayala (R), Phil Humber (R)

[1] Boston Red Sox
We all know the intensity of Jonathan Papelbon and how lights out he has been. But it’s the rest of the group that can make or break them. The addition of Takashi Saito was huge as he gives the Sox a right handed set-up guy. This is especially important after Francona backed off using Hideki Okajima in close and late games down the stretch last season after a rough first half. Of course the wild card in all of this is the man who would be starting for most other teams in Justin Masterson if not for the Red Sox 19 veteran starting pitchers they have to choose between. If Okajima can bounce back, look out.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (R)
Set-up: Takashi Saito (R)
Impact Arm: Justin Masterson (R)
The Rest: Hideki Okajima (L), Manny Delcarmen (R), Javier Lopez (R), Ramon Ramirez (R)

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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2009 ESPN Prediction Questions

January 6, 2009

I stumbled across this article in ESPN’s fantasy baseball section (we hold our dynasty league in ESPN as I feel they do the best job of the “free” sites) where fantasy columnist Jason Grey answered a list of questions, fill in the blanks and predictions for the upcoming season (click here for his answers). While I do have a fantasy baseball segment on this site, I figured I would center this more on baseball predictions than fantasy predictions (those will come closer to the season).

So below is my answers to the exact questions he was asked. If you have time, I’d love to see your answers to these same questions in the comments section or comments regarding mine. Here goes…

(click here to continue reading this article…)