Monday, March 31, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Happy Recap - Opening Night 3/30/08

After months of anticipation, the first full slate of Major League games is finally upon us kicking fantasy baseball season into high gear. Given the fast-paced nature of fantasy baseball, we would like to introduce our newest daily column, the Happy Recap. Here, we will revisit the previous day’s action pointing out the best and worst performances, developing trends and emerging fantasy options.

There was only one game played last night so this edition will be a treat for all you Braves and Nationals fans out there. The new look Nationals won a 3-2 thriller on a Ryan Zimmerman walk off in the bottom of the ninth to christen their new 600 million dollar stadium in style.

Bat Of The Night

Ryan Zimmerman – 1/4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI

Zimmerman’s only hit of the night was a walk off bomb to left center to give the Nat’s a dramatic opening night victory. Zimmerman will benefit from the friendlier hitting confines of Nationals’ park and could be in line for a solid 30 HR, 100 RBI plus season.

Arm Of The Night

Tim Hudson – 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (ND)

Hudson was razor sharp last night, pitching a perfect final 6 innings after surrendering 2 runs and 3 hits in the first inning. Unfortunately, the Braves couldn’t muster much offense and he was left with an impressive no decision.

Bottom Line

Peter Moylan – 1 IP, 1H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (L)

Moylan mowed down the first 2 batter to face him on strike before giving up the game winning homer to Ryan Zimmerman. Moylan is the Braves primary 8th inning setup man and will be in line for plenty of holds this season. He could even see save chances if Rafael Soriano goes down. Forget about last night and move on with Moylan; short memory folks!

Honorable Mentions

The Good

Chipper Jones – 1/4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI

Chipper welcomed Washington’s new stadium in his own way by becoming the first man to hitting a homer at Nationals’ Park. When healthy, Chipper is an offensive stud hitting in a choice spot in a potent lineup.

Nick Johnson – 1/3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI

Johnson legged out a double then scored on an Austin Kearns single showing fantasy owners that he is fully recovered from a broken leg that sidelined him in 2007.

Odalis Perez – 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Perez turned back the clock last night, pitching an efficient 5 innings in his 2008 debut. I wouldn’t go to crazy here because remember at the end of the day he’s still Odalis Perez.

Saul Rivera – 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

It’s not secret that we love our middle relievers and setup men here at FSE. Rivera was dominant in notching his first hold of the season and could be used more in the 8th inning if Chad Cordero were to miss time and Jon Rauch became the Nats’ interim closer.

The Bad

Elijah Dukes – 0/2, left game with hamstring injury

Dukes didn’t do much in his two at bats and now might be out a while with a hamstring injury.

Lastings Milledge – 0/4, 1 K

Milledge’s debut in Washington was forgettable as he put up a big donut at the plate. The youngster will have better days and is a decent 15-15 candidate.

Paul LoDuca – 0/3

Tough night for former Mets! Loduca did nothing at the plate and then gave up a pass ball which tied the game at 2 in the top of the ninth.

Jon Rauch – 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (BS, W)

Rauch got a save opportunity after Cordero couldn’t go and promptly blew it. He could see some more save opportunities if The Chief misses time with shoulder tendonitis.

Making A Case…

Nick Johnson – He proved healthy last night and looked comfortable at the plate. Right now he is only owned in 50% of CBS leagues, grab him while you can.

Carl Pavano Jersey Burning Video

Last Opening day, we decided that in order to exercise the demons from the previous season, we would erase all the bad memories and get a fresh start. Therefore, the man chosen to shoulder the blame was Carl Pavano, the softest, waste of skin in the MLB. As you watch the Pavano jersey burn, imagine it is 40 million dollars the Yanks wasted on this loser.

Enjoy opening day and stay tuned to FSE as there is a good chance I will be burning the jersey of another waste of money in hopes that it brings the Yankees a championship!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fantasy Basketball Playoff Adds & Hired Guns - Semifinal Week

If you are reading this, that means you survived quarterfinal week or were fortunate enough to have earned a first round bye. The pickings are getting mighty slim at this juncture and the viable fantasy options on the waiver wire are few and far between among the frenzy of lineup shuffling that you are undoubtedly seeing on a nightly basis in leagues that allow daily lineup changes.

Building upon the initial edition of Playoff Adds & Hired Guns posted Friday and our Playoff Cram Session article, here are some players that can help you this week as you battle for the right to play for a championship.

Adds

Joakim Noah - Games This Week: 3 - Tuesday Boston, Thursday At Cleveland and Saturday Washington 

For every bad game, Noah has 3-4 solid games and one breakout performance that shows his true potential like his 18 points 15 rebound effort on Saturday night against Milwaukee. If he is still floating around your waiver wire grab him and hold on to him. He will be a good source of rebounds, puts up decent defensive statistics and can score in the mid teens which is an added bonus.

Michael Finley - Games This Week: 3 - Tuesday Golden State, Friday At Utah and Sunday At Portland

In the spirit of Jerry Stackhouse, Michael Finley is experiencing a mini renaissance. He is coming off a solid week averaging around 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 three pointers a game over his last four. On Sunday, Finley had one of his better games of the season pouring home 22 points to go along with 6 rebounds. He is seeing around 25-30 minutes a night lately and can be a solid contributor in points and three pointers while helping out in rebounds. 

Nate Robinson - Games This Week: 4 - Tuesday At Milwaukee, Wednesday At Memphis, Friday At New Orleans and Sunday Orlando

Nate returned to action Sunday after missing the last four games with a sprained right knee. In only 18 minutes, Nate put up 12 points and 3 assists, picking up where he left off before being sidelined. It appears the Knicks will choose to play him the rest of the way if he is healthy, making him a steal off the waiver wire at this juncture. Nate can score points in bunches and contribute across the board in three pointers, assists, steals and to a lesser extent rebounds.
Also keep notice that the Knicks are among the few teams that play 4 games this week adding to Robinson's immediate value.

Hired Guns

Leon Powe - Games This Week: 3 - Tuesday At Chicago, Wednesday Indiana and Saturday At Charlotte

With the season winding down and the Celtics all but a lock for the #1 seed in the East, Powe is slowly starting to see increased playing time in frontcourt as the Celtics begin to look towards the playoffs. The big man is a good source of rebounds and can put up point total in the low to mid teens when given 25 minutes a night which seems very feasible going forward. He is a decent start in any of the Celtics 3 games this week.

Brevin Knight - Games This Week: 4 - Monday Dallas, Wednesday At Seattle, Thursday At Sacramento and Sunday Houston.

Knight is always being added and dropped and there is a good chance he is available in your league right now. Knight isn't much of a scorer; however, if you are looking for assists he on the better guys to roll the dice on. In his last game against Memphis Saturday, Knight had 11 assists to go along with 14 points showing fantasy owners that he can be a good play given the right matchup. He is a good play on Wednesday and Thursday this week in road games versus the Sonics and Kings. Grab him Tuesday and milk out two starts.

Quentin Richardson - Games This Week: 4 - Tuesday At Milwaukee, Wednesday At Memphis, Friday At New Orleans and Sunday Orlando

Q is far from a sexy option; however, he is seeing ample playing time (46 minutes in his return Friday night and 30 minutes Sunday) and has the ability to help across multiple categories. Friday night he had a great game putting up 20 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 three pointers. Although I don't trust Q on a regular basis, he can have great fantasy upside against poor defensive clubs. I recommend using him on Tuesday At Milwaukee and Wednesday At Memphis.

Francisco Garcia - Games This Week: 4 - Tuesday Houston, Thursday LA Clippers, Saturday At Denver, Sunday LA Lakers

Garcia has been very up and down this season due to inconsistent playing time. Over his last 4 games he has seen between 27-30 minutes and is averaging around 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 three pointers a game. Sunday against Seattle Garcia put up 21 points, 5 rebounds and 2 three pointers in 29 minutes of play. If he continues to see 27+ minutes a night, Garcia can be a solid regular contributor down the stretch. He is a good play against the Clippers Thursday and At Denver Saturday.

Chad Cordero Injured: Fantasy Impact

Washington National's closer Chad Cordero missed his first potential save opportunity for the 2008 season because he was sore warming up. ESPN's Peter Gammons reported that Cordero has suffered from stiffness and a loss in velocity all spring and it looks like he has brought that into the regular season. There was no word on how much this will effect Cordero or how much time, if any, he will miss now that the season has started. We can infer that there must be something to the injury for Cordero not to try to effort through the injury, considering it was opening day, in a new ballpark, on a nationally televised game.

FANTASY IMPACT

Primary set-up man Jon Rauch got the call for the save Sunday night and despite the fact he promptly blew the save, he should be the closer going forward if Cordero gets shut down and misses a lot of time. Luis Ayala could also be inline for some saves if Rauch struggles or cannot get the job done on a consistent enough basis. Go out and grab Rauch immediately if he is available in your league, and keep an eye on Ayala to see how this situation works out.

FSE 2008 MLB Predictions

What would the upcoming Major League Baseball season be without a few predictions from your friends at FSE! We submit to you our Playoff Picks, MVPs, CY Young award winners, Rookies of the Year and 2008 World Series Champs.


Phil

Division Winners & Wildcards

American League

East - Boston Red Sox
Central - Detroit Tigers
West - Seattle Mariners
Wildcard - Cleveland Indians

National League

East - New York Mets
Central - Milwaukee Brewers
West - Arizona Diamondbacks
Wildcard - Chicago Cubs

Playoffs

ALDS

Boston over Cleveland
Detroit over Seattle

ALCS

Boston over Detroit

NLDS

New York Mets over Chicago
Milwaukee over Arizona

NLCS

New York Mets over Milwaukee

World Series

New York Mets over Boston

Award Winners

MVP

AL - Alex Rodriguez
NL - Prince Fielder

CY Young

AL - Josh Beckett
NL - Johan Santana

Rookie Of The Year

AL - Kazuo Fukumori
NL - JR Towles

VelardeWasInnocent

Division Winners & Wildcards

American League

East - New York Yankees
Central - Cleveland Indians
West - Anaheim Angels
Wildcard - Boston Red Sox

National League

East - New York Mets
Central - Milwaukee Brewers
West - Arizona Diamondbacks
Wildcard - Phildelphia Phillies

Playoffs

ALDS

Boston over Cleveland
New York Yankees over Anaheim

ALCS

New York Yankees over Boston

NLDS

New York Mets over Milwaukee
Arizona over Philadelphia

NLCS

Arizona over New York Mets

World Series

New York Yankees over Arizona

Award Winners

MVP

AL - Alex Rodriguez
NL - Prince Fielder

CY Young

AL - CC Sabathia
NL - Johan Santana

Rookie Of The Year

AL - Joba Chamberlain
NL - Cameron Maybin

Ben

Division Winners & Wildcards

American League

East - Boston Red Sox
Central - Detroit Tigers
West - Seattle Mariners
Wildcard - New York Yankees

National League

East - New York Mets
Central - Chicago Cubs
West - Arizona Diamondbacks
Wildcard - Philadelphia Phillies

Playoffs

ALDS

Boston over Seattle
Detroit over New York Yankees

ALCS

Detroit over Boston

NLDS

New York Mets over Chicago
Philadelphia over Arizona

NLCS

New York Mets over Philadelphia Phillies

World Series

New York Mets over Detroit Tigers

Award Winners

MVP

AL - Miguel Cabrera
NL - Derrek Lee

CY Young

AL - Erik Bedard
NL -Johan Santana

Rookie Of The Year

AL - Evan Longoria
NL- Kosuke Fukudome

FSE Staff Picks - Top 2008 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

We have ranked all of the studs and even given you some sleepers to keep any eye on at each position. With the first regular season pitch in the states scheduled to be thrown in less than 8 hours, each member of the FSE staff highlights their favorite sleeper picks entering the 2008 season. 

Phil

Joey Votto - 1B Cincinnati Reds
Jorge Cantu - 1B/3B Florida Marlins
Franklin Gutierrez - OF Cleveland Indians
Pedro Feliz - 3B Philadelphia Phillies
Julio Lugo - SS Boston Red Sox
Scott Baker - SP Minnesota Twins
Troy Percival - RP Tampa Bay Rays

Deep Sleeper Special: JR Towles - C Houston Astros

VelardeWasInnocent

Billy Butler - 1B/DH Kansas City Royals
Kelly Johnson - 2B Atlanta Braves
Adam Jones - OF Baltimore Orioles
Elijah Dukes - OF Washington Nationals
Brendan Harris - 2B/SS Minnesota Twins
Gerald Laird - C Texas Rangers
Andrew Miller - SP Florida Marlins

Deep Sleeper Special: Nyjer Morgan, OF Pittsburgh Pirates

Ben

Conor Jackson - 1B Arizona Diamondbacks
Nick Johnson - 1B Washington Nationals
Nate McLouth - OF Pittsburgh Pirates
Ryan Church - OF New York Mets
Aaron Hill - 2B Toronto Blue Jays
Ubaldo Jimenez - SP Colorado Rockies
Zack Greinke - SP Kansas City Royals
Manny Delcarmen - RP Boston Red Sox

Deep Sleeper Special: Emil Brown - OF Oakland A's

Scot Shields to the DL

For a team whose pitching staff has already been decimated by injuries, the LA Angels of Anaheim got more bad news as they placed ace setup man, Scot Shields on the DL with forearm soreness to start the season. Shields has led the AL in holds over the last 2 seasons and is the primary bridge to closer Francisco Rodriguez.

FANTASY IMPACT

Shields was hurt for parts of last season as well and would go a long way to explain why he struggled so badly in the second half of the 2007 season. Avoid drafting Shields if your league counts holds. While this is speculation on my part it looks as if, there is something wrong with his arm, that will need surgery at some point. It is the only thing that explains the struggles last season and why an entire off season of rest has not corrected the problem. If your league counts holds go out and grab Justin Speier who should take on the majority of Shields hold opportunities in his absence.

Spring Training Injury Impact - Pitchers

Earlier, we discussed the fantasy impact of injuries sustained by position players during spring training. Now, let's take a look at the pitchers.

Key Injuries

Kelvim Escobar SP - Tear In Pitching Shoulder, Out Until At Least June - Very Possible He Is Done For The Season

Fantasy Impact - Coming off a strong 18 win campaign, Escobar has a serious tear in his pitching shoulder which might not only end his season but could be career threatening. The Angels insist there is a chance he could be back in June, but we wouldn't put much faith in the 32 year old returning this season. 

John Lackey SP - Strained Right Triceps,  Out Until Mid-May

Fantasy Impact - The injuries to Lackey and Escobar puts a lot more pressure on Jered Weaver who is now the Angels' opening day starter and newly acquired Jon Garland who will serve as the number two in the rotation. The bump to defacto ace forces Weaver into more difficult matchups and hurts his fantasy value a bit, while Garland is more or less unphased and should be a decent fantasy option. Rounding out the rotation are Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders who will now work out of the 3 and 4 holes with either Dustin Moseley or top prospect Nick Adenhart claiming the 5th starter role. Our money is on the more experienced Moseley who has been effective as a long reliever and pitched well in a few spot starters over the past couple of years. 

Scott Kazmir SP - Elbow, Out Up To 3 Weeks

Fantasy Impact - With Kazmir missing 2-3 turns in the rotation, the Rays will shift everyone up a slot with James Shields pitching opening day followed by Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel. Edwin Jackson pitched well this spring and the former top prospect has shown a good amount of promise since arriving in Tampa. He has been notoriously inconsistent from start to start in the past, however, he has decent sleeper potential entering 2008. Jason Hammel will likely be dropped from the rotation once Kazmir is ready.

BJ Ryan CL - Shoulder Pain, Out 1-2 Weeks - Scheduled to return 4/11

Fantasy Impact - Ryan was shut down after experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the Jays are going to play it safe with their high priced closer. In the meantime, Jeremy Accardo who saved 30 games last season will work the ninth inning and is an excellent option over the first 2 weeks of the season. Although Ryan should get healthy and accumulate a decent amount of saves this season, his owners should definately handcuff the promising Accardo. If Ryan goes down, Accardo immediately becomes a top 10-15 closer.

Yovani Gallardo SP - Knee, Out Until Mid-April - Might Only Miss 1 Start

Fantasy Impact - We discussed the Gallardo's injury in-depth back in February. He is recovering on schedule and may only miss one start. In his absence Carlos Villanueva will pitch in the 4 hole with Manny Parra being the 5th starter. The two will essentially be battling for the final rotation spot behind Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush. Our money is on Villanueva holding a roster spot after a sparkling spring and Parra working out of the pen in a middle/long relief role until the inevitable Ben Sheets injury.

Noah Lowry - Left Forearm, Out Until Late April - Early May

Fantasy Impact - Lowry was having an awful spring before requiring surgery on his left forearm that will keep him out for the first 4 weeks of the season. He is a notorious second half pitcher and perhaps this surgery will save owners some early season frustrations with the 27 year old left hander. With Lowry out, promising youngster Jonathan Sanchez will battle with newly converted starter Kevin Correia for the final rotation spot behind Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Sanchez has looked strong this spring and although Correia has reportedly earned his spot in the rotation for the season, don't be surprised if Sanchez squeezes him out at some point.

Fernando Rodney MR - Shoulder, Out Until Mid to Late April

Fantasy Impact - The absences of Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney have left the Tigers bullpen especially thin. Zumaya is out until at least July, leaving Rodney as the Tigers clear cut choice to work the 8th inning or fill in at closer upon his return. 

Casey Jannsen MR - Shoulder, Out For The Season

Fantasy Impact - Jannsen was great last season and was slated to begin the season as Toronto's primary setup man with Accardo closing. Those duties will now go to Scott Downs, but keep an eye on Brandon League who looks healthy and has been throwing well this spring.

Minor Injuries

John Smoltz SP - Will make first start on April 6th. Tim Hudson will be the Braves opening day starter with Smoltz pushed back.

Andy Pettitte SP -  Season debut pushed back to April 5th. Pettitte will be the Yankees number 2 starter this season.

DL Stash Candidates

Chris Carpenter SP - Elbow, Out Until Late July - Don't forget about the former CY Young award winner. He could be a difference maker in the second half if healthy.

Curt Schilling SP - Shoulder, Out Until Late July - Schilling's shoulder is in bad shape and will require surgery at some point to correct. Limit your expectations for the former Red Sox ace this season.

Mark Mulder SP - Shoulder, Out Until Early May - On schedule, threw batting practice to minor leaguers and will begin a minor league rehab assignment later in April.

Mark Prior SP - Shoulder, Out Until Early June - Faced live hitter for the first time in a year on Thursday and felt fine after. Now in San Diego, Prior is a nice sleeper candidate pitching in cavernous Petco Park. 

Mike Gonzalez - Shoulder, Out Until Early May - Currently throwing live batting practice and is ahead of schedule on his return. Initial reports had him out until June.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Training Wrap Up - Prospect Watch

It seems like there have been an inordinate amount of highly touted prospects competing for starting jobs this spring training. In this article, we take a look at where some of baseball's top prospects will start the season and what to expect from them in 2008.

Sent Back To The Farm

Cameron Maybin, OF Florida Marlins

Maybin, the highly touted prospect acquired in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade to the Tigers, is going to start the season in AAA. While in the short-term this is bad for fantasy owners, later in the season and in future years, the benefit of having more seasoning in the minors will help Maybin become a better player. In his time in the majors, he has shown that he is not entirely ready for The Show. 

By this time, he has already been drafted in many leagues so it might be worth holding on to him. In a keeper league this is definitely a guy worth stashing, despite the fact he might not help your active roster for the first month or so of the season. Florida is currently going to run out a tandem of Cody Ross and Alejandro De Aza to patrol centerfield, and neither has shown themselves to have the potential of Maybin.

Evan Longoria, 3B Tampa Bay Rays

Probably the most major league ready player on this list. Longoria played well enough in the spring to warrant making the team. As players like B.J. Upton and Delmon Young can attest, the Rays have always been cautious as an organization when it comes to bringing along prospects into the majors due mostly to financial concerns. That being said, I'd be shocked if Longoria spent more than a month in the minors, fine tuning his swing and preparing for his call up. In an earlier post, we discussed the importance of young players beginning the season in the minor leagues. If you already drafted Longoria stash him on your pine and use a stop gap guy with upside like Pedro Feliz until he gets recalled. The Rays plan to use a tandem of Willy Aybar and Eric Hinske at 3B, and they will get sick of that old gag sooner rather than later.

Luke Hochevar, SP Kansas City Royals

It is clear that the Royals are looking to protect their young investment and gradually bring their future ace along appropriately. Hochevar did have 4 appearances in the majors last year and looked good going 0-1 with a 2.13 ERA. However, his minor league stats last season show that this might have been a fluke and that his numbers were more indicative of a pitcher throwing against September call ups and playing against hitters who had never seen him before. Hochevar is probably still another season away from being an effective major leaguer.

While all of this makes sense now, keep 2 things in mind: 1) The Royals 5th starter is currently Brett Tomko, no further comment is needed 2) Come August or September the Royals might decide to take another flier on Hochevar to see how he developed. Keep an eye on him for late in the season, but until then don't bother to draft or even stash him

Jay Bruce, OF Cincinnati Reds

Bruce is the Reds centerfielder of the future; however, he will begin the season in AAA with newly acquired Corey Patterson patrolling the outfield. Dusty Baker has said on several occasions he thinks the stud prospect is real close and did nothing to change that with a solid showing in spring training. Bruce is a potential offensive stud with the ability to hit for average and power and swipe a bag here and there. While we think Patterson will play well enough to keep his job this year, pounce on Bruce if he gets called up. The kid has the abilty to do some damage in Cincy's super hitter friendly ball park.

Wlad Balentien, OF Seattle Mariners

The future right fielder of the Mariners has hit 20+ HR his last 3 seasons in the minor leagues. He has great power potential but the Mariners want him to work on his plate discipline before they entrust him with an everyday job. The good thing for people who are eyeing him in their leagues is that last season in AAA he managed to raise his OBP to .361, which isn't great, but is very respectable and shows his growth as a hitter. The Mariners will probably want to see some more consistency from him this season to make sure the adjustments he made last year were for real. Another positive for Balentien is that the Mariners have multiple positions with question marks. DH, 1B and RF, all have potential problems being manned by Jose Vidro, Richie Sexson and Brad Wilkerson respectively. All 3 players are injury prone, and have a regressing skill set.

Homer Bailey, SP Cincinnati Reds

What a difference a season makes. Last year Homer Bailey was mentioned in the same breath as Phil Hughes and other top pitching prospects. Now, Bailey is quickly losing his elite prospect status and many are questioning his ability to pitch on the major league level. Bailey is quickly becoming a AAAA player in the eyes of some, as he he consistently put up solid AAA numbers but continues to struggle at the major league level.

By July of this season it might come time for the Reds to just throw him in with the big boys and force him to sink or swim and work out any kinks on the major league level. It generally takes young pitchers 3 years to establish themselves as consistent major league players, so even if he pitches well, there will always be an imaginary ceiling on how much he will be able to produce. Please do not bother to draft Bailey or keep an eye on him during the season. Let some other sucker in your league take him.

Francisco Liriano, SP Minnesota Twins

We all know who he is and what he can do. Draft him and stash him on the bench, the Twins are looking at a mid-April call up for him. Twins officials want Liriano to get a couple more starts under his belt to make sure the fastball is there consistently and he is spotting it where it needs to be. He will be back up in the majors sooner rather than later and has the potential to dominate lineups when he is on. He will have ups and downs this season, and might spend some time on the DL or or  just miss the occasional start as he continues to return from TJ surgery.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C/1B Texas Rangers 

We discussed Salty's demotion in an earlier post.

Clayton Kershaw, SP Los Angeles Dodgers

The lefty made a name for himself in spring training by wowing Dodgers personnel with his looping curve and high strikeout rates. In addition, did I mention he is a lefty? Kershaw is still only 20 and some more seasoning in the minor leagues should only help him more when he is called upon at the major league level. The Dodgers have some of the best pitching depth in the major leagues so they can wait and let Kershaw build up his arm strength and become more major league ready. He is a must have in keeper leagues, but in year to year rotisserie leagues, don't expect anything until September at the earliest.

Prospects Who Won Starting Roles

Carlos Gomez, OF Minnesota Twins

Plenty of steals, not much power or batting average. The Twins will play Gomez everyday due to his excellent defensive ability which can compensate for possible struggles at the plate. If he sticks around for the full season, Gomez is a solid candidate for 40 steals.

Adam Jones, OF Baltimore Orioles

He and Nick Markakis are the only reasons for Oriole fans to be excited for the future. Jones is a 20/20 threat in the waiting. Don't expect him to reach his full potential this season, but he has definite 15/15 potential, because he'll play everyday for a team that won't be that good, and will play in an excellent hitter's park.

Johnny Cueto & Edinson Volquez, SP Cincinnati Reds
 
Cueto tossed like gang busters to impress new Reds skipper Dusty Baker enough to give him a major league spot. Volquez was the centerpiece of the Josh Hamilton trade that left many wondering why the Reds didn't get more for the young talented center fielder. Volquez came into spring training and silenced his critics by demonstrating a change up that many called one of the best in the game. Both came in with someone to prove. Both proved something, now all they have to do is pitch for an entire season at the major league level in one of the worst pitcher's parks in the game. Draft both late, they both have great potential and while the ballpark will be rough, the offense will help them win the occasional game they shouldn't.

Manny Parra, SP Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewer's lefty was the benficiary of some good numbers of his own this spring and some key injuries to other members of the starting staff, that allowed him to make the starting staff. He is young and will struggle at times, but he is a power, left handed arm and there is always room for those at the major league level. He has toiled in the minors for a few seasons now, but looks ready and primed to be a major league player. He has great sleeper potential and should be drafted late in your league. He has a dynamic offense that will score plenty of runs for him.

Splitting Time

Joey Votto, 1B Cincinnati Reds

Votto will be splitting time at first with Scott Hatteberg, limiting his fantasy value until he wins the job outright. Votto has 20/20 potential, something that is truly unique from a 1B. Manager Dusty Baker wanted to hand him the 1B job, but a poor spring performance cost him the everyday starting gig. Scott Hatteberg is 38, past his prime, doesn't hit for great power and is no longer an everyday 1B. What he does do well is get on base and hit well enough to stay productive and not hurt his team.

Don't bother to draft Hatteberg, as his playing time is bound to decrease throughout the course of the season. Votto on the other hand is likely to see more at bats and consistent playing time as the season wears on. He is younger, has more potential and can do numerous things on the ball field. He is the closest thing to a 5 tool player as one can expect to find playing 1B.

On The Fence

Nick Adenhart, SP Los Angeles Angels

With Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey going down with injuries, more and more people were looking at the young prospect to claim one of the spots in the Angel's rotation. It looks like Adenhart will start the season in AAA for more seasoning, and so he can continue to develop as a pitcher. The Angel's are a team that takes it slowly with their prospects so don't expect to see him any time soon. That being said, another injury to the Angel's pitching staff and they maybe forced to give the young hurler a turn in the rotation.

Don't bother to draft him. His minor league numbers aren't all that overwhelming and part of the hype might come from being a decent pitcher on a team with a history of developing solid pitchers. It is because of this and the good spring he had, that he is being overrated in many circles. Ignore him and if you are desperate for pitching, take a look at a veteran like El Duque or Mike Mussina.

Latest Matt Murton Trade Rumors - Possible Destinations

Matt Murton has been told by Cubs officials that he will be traded or sent to AAA Iowa by the time the season begins Monday. Either move would more or less mark the end of Murton's career that has been marred by unfortunate injury, lack of playing time and consistently being passed over by unproven or mediocre talent.  Murton is capable of putting up a .290AVG and 20HR; however it seems like the Cubs were always trying to find something better.

Possible Destinations, Fantasy Projections 

San Diego Padres

San Diego is like the guy who is parading around with any girl he can find in order to make the girl he likes jealous. Jody Gerut, Scott Hairston, and Paul McAnulty are currently the Padres LF options. It is clear that Murton could be had for pennies on the dollar and he would be a fine fit for SD and his line drive approach is primed for that ballpark. Given ample playing time, Murton could duplicate numbers similar to those of Brian Giles during the peak of his tenure with the Padres.

Tampa Bay Rays

GM Andrew Friedman has said the Rays will aggressively shop for a corner outfielder before Monday's opener and Murton might be a great fit for the young squad. The team would prefer to keep the injury prone Cliff Floyd at DH and platoon him with Jonny Gomes who is brutal in the field. With Delmon Young traded in the offseason and Rocco Baldelli hitting the 60 day DL, this leaves the once overcrowded Rays' outfield understocked entering the 2008 campaign. Don't be surprised if Friedman moves quickly on Murton and gets something done Sunday or Monday using one of the team's extra starting pitchers.

New York Mets

Another good fit might be the Mets, who could use a younger player to bolster an aging outfield. He would get plenty of playing time given the teams cavalcade of injury prone 
outfielders lead by Moises Alou.

Texas Rangers

There have also been plenty of rumors of Murton possibly going to the Rangers for Marlon Byrd, but those look all but dead with the Cubs recent acquisition of Reed Johnson. 

Spring Training Injury Impact - Hitters


Earlier in the week, we highlighted winners and losers of Spring Training positional battles and discussed the fantasy impact. Now, we turn our attention to the impact key Spring Training injuries will have on the upcoming fantasy baseball season. In this piece, we focus on the hitters with pitchers to follow.

Injuries

Curtis Granderson OF - Broken Finger, Out 4-6 Weeks

Fantasy Impact - With Granderson missing time, Brandon Inge will assume the starting centerfield duties in Detroit. Inge will likely bat ninth but benefit from the powerful Detroit lineup around him. He should be a fairly productive fantasy option, with decent pop and RBI potential, however, don't expect much in terms of batting average. In addition, Ivan Rodriguez will hit leadoff, improving his fantasy value given the powerful bats behind him. 

Scott Rolen 3B - Broken Finger, Out 4-6 Weeks

Fantasy Impact - What a surprise, Rolen's stint in Toronto is on hold before it even began. A broken finger will sideline the injury prone 3B for up to 6 weeks giving Marco Scutaro the starting gig for the time being. Scutaro doesn't do anything particularly well so you can ignore him in fantasy circles.

Moises Alou OF - Hernia, Out 4-6 Weeks. Hopes to be back by the end of April.

Fantasy Impact - At 41, Alou can still rake as evidence by his .341 average in 328 ABs last season. Unfortunately, you can't rely on him for more than 400 ABs. Alou hopes to return by the end of April and is on schedule. He has been cleared to do bike work and should start jogging in early April. In his place, spring sensation Angel Pagan should see ample time in left along with Endy Chavez. Both have little fantasy value but offer some stolen base upside. Pagan has shown some potential and would be the player to watch of the pair. Also keep on a eye out for the Mets adding an outfielder via trade.

Kaz Matsui 2B - Anal Fissures, Out 1-2 Weeks

Fantasy Impact - Kaz is scheduled to return April 5th but could miss an additional week as he recovers from Anal Fissure surgery (ouch). Mark Loretta will start in his place and should only be considered as a spot starter in fantasy in case he comes out of the gate hot.

Eric Chavez 3B - Shoulder, Out Up To a Week

Fantasy Impact - Chavez is eligible to return April 1st in the opener but you can expect Oakland to be careful with the injury prone 3B. We wouldn't be surprised if he is out or misses time over the first week of the season. Jack Hannahan will start in his place and has filled in admirably thus far, homer in the season opener. The 28 year old is a contact hitter with limited value as a spot starter at best.

Wily Mo Pena OF - Torn Left Oblique - Out 4 Weeks

Fantasy Impact - We discussed the impact of Wily Mo's injury in detail in an earlier post. Elijah Dukes will open as the Nationals' left fielder and we are betting he doesn't relinquish that spot upon Pena's return.

Rocco Baldelli OF - Chronic Fatigue, 60 Day DL Out Indefinitely

Fantasy Impact - We described the nature of Rocco Baldelli's rare mitochondrial condition which prevents his body from recovering after a workout or strenuous activity. With Baldelli out indefinitely, the Rays have actively searching for an outfielder on the trade market with Matt Murton being a possibility. In house options include Jonny Gomes and the newly acquired Cliff Floyd. Expect Gomes to play the outfield while injury prone Floyd slides into the DH role. Both are streaky hitters with Gomes having the better upside and fantasy value.

Key Suspensions

Jose Guillen OF - HGH, 15 Games (Put on hold for 10 days)

Fantasy Impact - Guillen's 15 game suspension has been pushed back 10 days and will now start on April 9th. Guillen should have a nice season in Kansas City providing solid homerun RBI and run numbers while putting up a respectable batting average. 

Mike Cameron OF - Stimulants, 25 Games

Fantasy Impact - Cameron will be hitting in a powerful Milwaukee lineup and a more favorable ballpark in 2008. Despite the 25 game suspension a 20+ homer and 15-20 stolen base season is not out of Cameron's reach.

Melky Cabrera OF - Fighting, 3 Games

Fantasy Impact - We love Melky's upside in the potent Yankees offense. He is a legitimate 15-15 candidate and can also help you in runs scored and while putting up a respectable batting average in the .280 - .290 range. 

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jose Gullien's Suspension Put On Hold - Fantasy Impact


ESPN.com is reporting that Jose Gullien and Jay Gibbons suspensions will be put on hold for ten days to givelawyers for players and owners more time to reach an agreement on tougher drug rules and testing.

Fantasy Impact

The good news is that if you have Jose Gullien on your roster he will be available for you on opening day. Those owners who picked up Joey Gaithright as a fill in for Gullien will be disappointed since he will not see any time if Gullien is in the line up. The KC outfield which includes Dejesus, Gullien and Teahan gives Gaithright little chance to play everyday. 

Gullien had a stellar season last season hitting 23 HRs to go along with 99 RBIs. He was linked to performance enhancing drugs and was suspended on December 6. The suspension will be delayed for ten days and may now start on April 9 so plan accordingly.

Fantasy Basketball Playoff Adds & Hired Guns – Quarterfinal Weekend

In the spirit of FSE’s comprehensive Fantasy Basketball Playoff Cram Session piece, we introduce the Playoff Adds & Hired Guns series. Every Sunday and Friday the rest of the way, we will highlight the best long-term add options to use during your playoff run as well as some hired guns that can get you key crunch time stats.

Adds

JR SmithWeekend Game: Saturday, Golden State


This guy absolutely fills it up on the offensive end and can go off for a huge night without notice or even significant playing time. In 21 minutes Monday night, Smith scored 27 points and hit 7 three pointers. Over his last four games he is averaging 16 points a game and has knocked home 11 three pointers. There is a good chance he is already snatched up, but if you can grab this human microwave, by all means do it.

Chris QuinnWeekend Game: Sunday, At Boston

Amongst Miami’s myriad of NBDL all-stars and castaways, Quinn is seeing big minutes (35+ a night). He can bang threes, put up modest point totals in the low to mid teens and get you a few assists. He may end up being a more consistent option than former fantasy heart throb Daequan Cook.

Martell WebsterWeekend Game: Saturday, Charlotte

We discussed Webster’s excellent late season potential in an earlier piece regarding Brandon Roy’s injury. With Roy now officially out at least 4 games, jump on Webster as he’s been putting up solid point and rebounding numbers and can shoot the lights out behind the three point arc.

Jerry Stackhouse - Weekend Game: Sunday, At Golden State

Stack is enjoying a great week and has given many a fantasy team a huge boost. In his last 4 games he is averaging over 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 three pointers a contest. With Dirk out for at least 2 weeks, Stack will continue to see big minutes and plenty of touches on offense. Grab him immediately if you still can.

Thad Young - Weekend Game: Sunday, At Cleveland

The Sixers surge has been sparked by a variety of factors, not the least of which is the infusion of youth. Rookie Thad Young has been solid contributor for Philly and is playing well at this critical juncture in the season. He is having himself a big quarterfinal week averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds and I think he can offer good value in these two categories down the stretch.

Roll The Dice, Take A Chance

Thabo SefoloshaWeekend Game: Saturday, Milwaukee

Thabo reintroduced himself to fantasy owners Wednesday night with an excellent all-around performance putting up 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and hitting on 4 three pointers. He continues to be bothered by a groin injury; however, the team insists they will let him play through. If he can consistently get 25+ minutes, you have a guy that can fill up the stat sheet and be a difference maker. For more on Thabo, check out our buddies over at Fantasy Basketball Pros who are also believers.

Daniel GibsonWeekend Games: Saturday, At Detroit & Sunday, Philadelphia

Boobie has missed over a month with a severe ankle sprain and last saw game action way back on February 20th. He is scheduled to return tomorrow night against Detroit and is an excellent option from behind the arc averaging over 2 three pointers a game this season. If he proves healthy, Gibson can be a difference maker in the three point category, provide point totals in the mid teens and help out in assists and steals. In addition, the Cavs play both Saturday and Sunday.

Jarrett JackWeekend Game: Saturday, Charlotte

With Brandon Roy out, Jack should see big minutes at point guard as the Blazers showcase him for a possible offseason trade. He has scored 17 and 19 points respectively over his last two games and can also help your team in the assist and three point department. Our only concern with Jack is that he will lose time and numbers to Steve Blake.

Louis WilliamsWeekend Game: Sunday, At Cleveland

Williams’ inconsistency throughout the season has lead to him being added and dropped countless times and leaves a good chance you can add him as we speak. He has been playing well of late and is coming off a 23 point effort Wednesday in which he hit 5 three pointers. Williams can help you in points, three pointers, assists and steals; however, be prepared for a stinker from the youngster every three games or so.

Hired Guns

Jannero PargoWeekend Game: Sunday, At Toronto

One of Chris Paul’s favorite wingmen, Pargo can fill it up from three point land, score in bunches and shoot a high percentage from the free throw line.

Sasha VujacicWeekend Game: Sunday, Washington

Has come on a bit of late but still does not receive significant minutes on a consistent basis. Despite only getting 17-18 minutes a night, Vujacic is a sniper averaging 1.5 three pointers a game and is a good bet to score in double digits.

Matt CarrollWeekend Game: Saturday, At Portland

Carroll has seen his minutes drop to the mid twenties of late, landing him back on many a waiver wire. However, over his last 4 games he has scored in double digits three times including two 18 point games and has banged home 7 three pointers. Grab him for an offensive boost.

Erick DampierWeekend Game: Sunday, At Golden State

Dampier has been a hot add since Dirk went down but I am not sold on him as a consistent fantasy option. He has a tendency to beat up on bad teams - 19 points, 17 rebounds against the Clippers - and disappear against the good ones – 5 points, 9 rebounds against Denver and 4 points, 6 rebounds against the Spurs. If you are desperate for rebounds and blocks then Dampier is a pretty good fit. Otherwise, play the matchups with this guy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

FSE Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings - Setup Men & Middle Relievers

We wanted to stop the FSE Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings series with the closers, we really did. However, the urge to write a middle reliever breakdown won out in the end. Here, we rank the top 40 middle relievers, grouping them in a variety of categories that speak to their potential in 2008. In addition, we highlight a few sleepers to keep an eye on.

Future Closers

1 - Jonathan Broxton
2 - Jeremy Accardo (Currently closing in Toronto, will setup when BJ Ryan returns)
3 - Joba Chamberlain 
4 - Tony Pena
5 - Jon Rauch
6 - Carlos Marmol

Cream Of The 8th Inning Crop

7 - Rafael Betancourt
8 - Hideki Okajima
9 - Heath Bell
10 - Scot Shields
11 - Joaquin Benoit

On The Brink...

12 - Justin Speier
13 - Peter Moylan
14 - Ryan Franklin
15 - Scott Downs

Shaky Hold Magnets

16 - Derrick Turnbow
17 - Aaron Heilman
18 - Fernando Rodney
19 - Juan Rincon
20 - Brandon Morrow

Many Holds, No Pub 

21 - Bob Howry
22 - JC Romero
23 - Pat Neshek
24 - David Weathers
25 - Taylor Tankersley
26 - Alan Embree
27 - Rafael Perez

Risky, Risky

28 - Scott Linebrink
29 - Brian Fuentes
30 - Tom Gordon
31 - Jamie Walker

Coming On Fast

32 - Manny Delcarmen
33 - Juan Cruz
34 - Duaner Sanchez
35 - Matt Guerrier

Holds Guys On Bad Teams

36 - Justin Miller
37 - Chad Bradford
38 - Damaso Marte
39 - Brad Hennessey
40 - Dan Wheeler

Sleepers
 
Chad Qualls
David Riske
Oscar Villarreal 
Brandon League
Yasuhiko Yabuta
Jimmy Gobble
Doug Brocail
Mike Gonzalez (Returns in May)
John Grabow

Jarrod Saltalamacchia to AAA: Fantasy Impact


In a move that was not a huge surprise Gerald Laird beat out Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the Texas Rangers starting catchers job. In what many could call a surprise move, Salty was then optioned to AAA. The Rangers could, for the first time in a while, struggle to score runs and a player like Salty could have been the type of bat that does make a difference in the middle of that line up.

Going into camp, Salty was in an impossible situation. The Rangers want him to catch, but they already have Laird behind the dish who threw 40% of would be basestealers last season. The Rangers could also put Salty at firstbase, but they want him to catch. The Rangers might also have a spot in the DH hole, but they already have Jason Botts to occupy that spot and for Botts its time to show he belongs in the majors, and this could be his last chance to impress.

Laird could be an interesting name here as a sleeper at catcher. Up until last season, he could handle the bat a bit and actually do some some stuff (for a catcher) on the basepaths. Perhaps after a full season of catching on the major league level he now has a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for the rigors of a major league season.

FANTASY IMPACT

Hold off on drafting Salty for right now. He might be worth stashing on the bench in deeper leagues, as it is highly unlikely that he'll spend that much time in AAA. At some point in time the Rangers have to realize Ben Broussard is their starting firstbaseman, and they have a collection of aging AAAA players crowing spots in their entire outfield and DH.

Keep a close on his AAA numbers, as Salty will have catcher eligibility when his eventually recalled. He has the definite potential to put up numbers similar to that of Brian McCann if he can the experience that goes along with consistent playing time.

Rich Harden Dominates The Red Sox - Time To Sell High?

Rich Harden was phenomenal in his first start of the 2008 season, putting up this dazzling line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K - in leading the A's to a 5-1 win over the powerful Boston Red Sox. Harden was throwing hard and was simply overpowering at times just ask Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez who account for 7 of Harden's 9 punch outs on the day. To his credit, Manny also accounted for the Red Sox only run with a solo shot in the 6th.


Back in late January, FSE did a piece on Harden discussing his injury history and outlook for the 2008 season. Here is what we wrote regarding Harden's fantasy value:

"Harden is a stud, in Mark Prior clothing. The bad thing about Harden is that every time out, you will worry if he'll get hurt and miss 2 months. The good thing is that he might become an afterthought in your draft and be a decent sleeper pick late. His injuries and lack of stats might make people forget about him, turning him into one of those guys taken in the last 5 rounds causing others to say things like "Oh, I totally forgot about him."

Sure enough Harden has gone late in most drafts, but today those who were savvy enough to snatch him up were rewarded. There is no denying the guy's ability on the mound. Heck, he arguably has one of the 10 best arms in all of baseball. However, Harden is almost guaranteed at least one DL stint this season and 5+ missed starts. Remember, he hasn't pitched more than 50 innings in a season since 2005 and has never reached the 200 innings mark, topping out at 189 in 2004.

Additionally, the A's held a serious fire sale this winter and will not be competitive in 2008. This will seriously limit Harden's ability to provide wins on a consistent basis and could end up making him a bit overvalued in fantasy.

Thus, I feel it is essential that Harden owners effectively spin him into a valuable piece before he inevitably goes down. I wouldn't trade Harden just yet as yes, this was just one start. However, if he were to string together a series of good April starts and maintain his health, I believe late April - early May is the perfect time to trade Harden for an impact bat or bullpen help.

Brandon Roy Injures Groin - Martell Webster Emerging As A Hot Fantasy Option

Brandon Roy injured his groin last night attempting to block Caron Butler's shot at the end of the first quarter. He returned to the game in the second quarter but was limping noticeably and left for good after two minutes. Blazers' head coach Nate McMillan had this to say after the game regarding Roy's injury - "That [injury] can sit you down for a month."


Roy will be evaluated today by the Blazer's medical staff but given the nature of groin injuries and the ominous quote from his head coach, I expect Portland to be very careful with their franchise guard. Roy is a tough kid so a return is certainly not out of the question; however, he will not be 100% again this season and fantasy owners must temper their expectations if he is to come back this season.

Fantasy Impact

This is a tough blow to Roy owners as the 2007 Rookie Of The Year contributes in fantasy categories across the board. Travis Outlaw and Jarrett Jack will be asked take on more of the scoring burden in Roy's absence and with rumors swirling that those two might be traded this offseason, it might be in Portland's best interest to feature both guys the rest of the way.

Jack and Outlaw are both good options with Roy out; however, the Blazer I like most going forward is Martell Webster. Over the last 2 months, Webster has played well when given the minutes. In 12 games where he has seen 30+ minutes, Webster is averaging 15.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 three pointers. With Roy on the sidelines, Webster should see 30 or more minutes on a consistent basis the rest of the way.

Webster has topped 20 points in each of his last two games and poured home 9 threes in that time. I added him earlier in the week and suggest you do the same as he is a good source of points and rebounds as well as a difference maker in the the three point department.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

FSE Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings - Closers

Our final installment of the FSE Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings focuses on the closers. Here, we rank the 30 closers and break them down into seven groups - some more lonely than others. For a more detailed look at the bullpens around the majors, check out our ongoing Fantasy Bullpen Breakdowns series which highlights closers, setup men and sleeper middle relievers for each team.

The Elite

1 - Joe Nathan
2 - Francisco Rodriguez
3 - Jonathon Papelbon
4 - JJ Putz

A Notch Below

5 - Bobby Jenks
6 - Billy Wagner
7 - Mariano Rivera
8 - Takashi Saito

Steady Vets & Closers On The Brink

9 - Jason Isringhausen
10 - Matt Capps
11 - Joe Borowski
12 - Joakim Soria
13 - Trevor Hoffman
14 - Rafael Soriano
15 - Manny Corpas

The Show Me Closers

16 - Francisco Cordero
17 - Jose Valverde
18 - Brad Lidge
19 - Eric Gagne
20 - Chad Cordero
21 - Todd Jones

Please Stay Healthy

22 - Kerry Wood
23 - Brandon Lyon
24 - BJ Ryan
25 - Huston Street

Good Arms, Bad Teams

26 - Brian Wilson
27 - CJ Wilson
28 - Kevin Gregg
29 - Troy Percival  

Sorry, Your Closing For Baltimore

30 - George Sherrill

Elton Brand Scheduled To Return For Championship Week

Like Willis Reed beating the odds and hobbling onto the Madison Square Garden court before game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Elton Brand will reward his owners by playing in the final 5-6 games of the season. His return is tentatively scheduled for either Sunday April 6th versus Houston or Tuesday April 8th against Denver. Both are Clippers' home games and an April 6th return will give you one Brand start during the semifinal round, an added bonus.


Fantasy Impact

Brand's return would hurt the value of Chris Kaman - who is targeting a March 31st return from his own injuries -reducing his offensive touches and taking away rebounds from the big man who has enjoyed a fine season. Further, it would end the cinderella run of the Clippers current center, Josh Powell, who has been averaging nearly 12 points and 9 rebounds over the last week or so.

We all know the great things Brand can do for a fantasy basketball team. He is a double-double threat on a nightly basis and one of the finest scoring big men in the game today. Upon his return following a long layoff, he will most certainly be rusty and might even play inconsistent minutes as he is not in prime game shape. Regardless, even at 75%, he will be a solid option in all leagues.

I would not advise sacrificing a roster spot to add Brand right now in smaller leagues. Remember people, to use him in 2 weeks, you still need to be in the playoffs! It's crunch time, use your moves wisely...

Shocker! J.D. Drew Scratched Before Tuesday's Opener

Before the opening day extravaganza J.D. Drew was scratched from the starting line up with stiffness in his back. Drew's absence allowed replacement outfielder Brandon Moss to hit the game tying home run in the 9th inning.

Fantasy Impact

Before you drafted Drew you realized he is injury prone so don't panic. Drew is questionable for tomorrow's game but should be ready by the time the Red Sox start play in the states. The team may have just been playing it cool by keeping him off the Tokyo Dome's hard turf. Put it this way fantasy owners, his nickname is Nancy Drew, would you expect anything less?

Spring Training Position Battles - Winners, Losers, Fantasy Impact

The Red Sox exciting 6-5 win over the A's this morning in Japan officially kicked off the 2008 season. With Spring Training winding down and opening day for you favorite club less than a week off, teams are starting to set their final lineups, rotations and bullpens.


Over the past few days, several hotly contested position battles have been settled. In this piece, we will highlight the winners and losers and provide the fantasy impact.

Winners

Nick Johnson - Beat out Dmitri Young for the Nationals' starting first base job and appears as healthy as he has been over the last two years. Johnson is a solid, disciplined hitter with 20 homerun power and the ability to put up a high batting average and on base percentage. He will be hitting in a choice spot (probably in the 3 hole) in an improving Nationals' lineup and can be very productive if he can stay on the field.

Matt Diaz - Diaz is the Braves' answer to Ryan Church - a guy who has been productive in limited at bats but never gotten his chance as an everyday starter. Bobby Cox has named the Diaz the everyday starter in LF and he has great potential to be a consistent fantasy contributor. Diaz has shown he can hit for average (.338 in 358 ABs last season) and has the ability to hit 15-20 homeruns and drive in 80 in a strong Braves lineup.

Kerry Wood - We dedicated a post to analyzing the fantasy impact of Wood winning the Cubs closer role yesterday. Frankly we are still surprised sweet Lou, a huge proponent of veteran experience, chose him over Bob Howry. Regardless, if healthy Wood should put up big save totals and strike out a good amount of batters.

Jorge Cantu - Cantu has been killing the ball this spring and was named the Marlins' starting 3B. Cantu had a monster 2005 season hitting 28 homers and driving in 117 runs but has since been derailed by injury - butchering his fantasy value. He will get every chance to succeed on a young Florida team and could even hit in the middle of a Marlins lineup that is much better than people realize.

Losers

Dmitri Young - After putting together a strong comeback season in 2007 which saw Da Meat Hook hit .319 and drive in 74 runs, he now finds himself on the trading block. Young can be a decent fantasy contributor; however, he has no value until he finds a starting gig.

Erick Aybar & Maicer Izturis - These two youngsters have been battling for the starting SS role in Anaheim and it now appears they will most likely split time, hurting their value in the short-term. Both guys are stolen base threats and have shown some sneaky pop. They could see also see some time at second base but I wouldn't consider either guy until they are guaranteed playing time.

Francisco Liriano - Despite proving to be healthy in spring training and showing electric stuff in his last outing, it appears Liriano will be opening the season in AAA. Liriano has been inconsistent this spring posting a high 8.10 ERA and the Twins cannot be blamed for handling their young stud with kid gloves. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, they may be without Liriano for much of April.

Clay Buchholz - Buchholz has struggled this spring and it appears he will open the 2008 campaign in AAA. This will allow Buchholz to get some added seasoning and work on his control which has been erratic thus far. Bartolo Colon will assume 5th starter duties and most likely make his first start in mid April. Despite the demotion, don't forget about Buchholz. The kid pitched a no-hitter last season and is one of the best pitching prospects in the game. He could be backup as early as May or June and could be a strong fantasy option later in the season.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia - The centerpiece of last summer's blockbuster Mark Texiera trade, Salty lost out on the starting catching job in Texas to Gerald Laird and is now in danger of opening the season in AAA. He will split time between 1B and DH this season and shouldn't spend a lot of time in the minors if he is demoted. However, the lack of a true role out of spring training raises many doubts as Salty might be relegated to part-time duty in the majors limiting his fantasy value.

Other Winners

Jody Gerut - Will start in LF for the San Diego Padres

Manny Parra - Opening the season as the Brewers' #5 starter after a fine spring, beating out Carlos Villanueva who will open in AAA.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brad Lidge To Start Season On DL - Tom Gordon To Close

The Phillies have placed Brad Lidge on the 15 day DL as he rehabs from athroscopic knee surgery performed last month. Lidge has looked good while rehabbing in the minors and hadn't experienced any notable setbacks; however, the Phillies don't want to take any chances with their newly acquired closer. 

Fantasy Impact

Lidge will be unavailable for at least the first 4 games of the season as he is eligible to come off the DL no sooner than April 5th at Cincinnati. In his absence, setup man Tom Gordon will work the ninth inning for the Phillies when they host a three game series with the Nationals and at minimum the first game of the aforementioned Reds series. The forty year old veteran reliever has plenty of prior closing experience and should do an adequate job in Lidge's absence. Add Flash immediately if he is available in your league. 

If you are a Brad Lidge owner do not panic. All indications are that this is merely a precautionary move to ensure the former Astros closer is around for the long haul. Lidge will be back sometime in the second week of the season at the very latest and is in line for a fine season with a strong Phillies club that should get him plenty of save opportunities. 

One final note. Those of you in leagues which count holds should take note that JC Romero will be the Phillies primary setup man and best holds option while Gordon fills in at closer.

FSE Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings - Outfield

The finish line is near for the FSE Positional Rankings. With the infielders and starting pitchers complete, we now analyze the outfielders, breaking them down into three tiers while highlighting some honorable mentions and sleepers.

The Elite

This grouping is composed of some of the most steady and consistent outfield talent in baseball. The majority of them have great pop and can steal the occasional base, as well. Most of these guys are healthy contributors who have spent little to any time on the DL over the course of their careers. Cannot stress this enough, you need healthy players to win in fantasy.

1 Alfonso Soriano
2 Carl Crawford
3 Matt Holliday
4 Grady Sizemore
5 Vlad Guerrero
6 Carlos Lee
7 Adam Dunn
8 Nick Markakis
9 Magglio Ordonez
10 Curtis Granderson

The Show Me Players

This is an interesting mix of veterans with something to prove and younger guys who are simply trying to prove they belong. Anyone one of these guys could take that next step, or even regress and it wouldn't be much of a surprise.

11 Ichiro Suzuki
12 Carlos Beltran
13 Manny Ramirez
14 Chris B Young
15 Delmon Young
16 Alex Rios
17 Jeff Francoeur
18 Bobby Abreu
19 Torii Hunter
20 Andruw Jones

Savvy Vets & The Next Wave

A lof of younger players here who need to show they can do it at the major league level for another season. A bunch of talent here, and all are guys worth drafting. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they can actually repeat their 2007 numbers. Toward the bottom are vets like Jermaine Dye and Gary Sheffield who will be out to show they can still play at an elite level, despite either injuries or inconsistencies in '07.

21 Corey Hart
22 Eric Byrnes
23 Hunter Pence
24 Brad Hawpe
25 Josh Hamilton
26 Jermaine Dye
27 Kosuke Fukudome 
28 Gary Sheffield
29 Nick Swisher
30 Matt Kemp

Honorable Mentions 

This is where we get to the riskier picks. A few of these guys really need to have strong 2008 seasons to show they actually still have it. A guy like Michael Cuddyer makes it because his numbers don't warrant a higher ranking, however his consistency deserves mention. 

Jason Bay
Josh Willingham
Vernon Wells
Michael Cuddyer
Pat Burrell

Sleepers 

An interesting mix here of guys who are "cheap power," "young speedsters," and "injury plagued." These are the guys who you should take a flier on later on in the draft. They could go on to have good seasons, or they could be a disaster. You can draft players like this, just don't bank on them carrying your team at any time, and expect some drastic hot and cold streaks,

Jack Cust
Jeremy Hermida
Franklin Guiterrez
Lastings Milledge
Rick Ankiel
Garrett Anderson
Cameron Maybin
Adam Jones